DrumBeat: January 13, 2008

Oil and the looming threat to Iraq

Access to and control of Middle East oil has figured prominently in the strategic thinking of American policy makers. In the Bush administration, State Department policy planners discussed scenarios for taking over by force the oilfields of the Middle East and internationalising them.

Jane Mayer revealed in the New Yorker that a secret Bush National Security Council (NSC) document dated February 3, 2001, instructed NSC members to cooperate with Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force for "reviewing international policy towards rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields."

Iran warns Turkmenistan to resume gas supplies soon

Iran will stop buying Turkmen gas altogether if its neighbour does not resume supplies cut off two weeks ago, oil minister Gholamhossein Nozari was quoted as saying on Sunday.

KazMunaiGas reaches deal with Kashagan partners

Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGas has reached a deal with an Eni-led consortium over developing the giant Kashagan oil field which will give it an equal share in the project with the largest shareholders.

New Zealand: Oil firms feel heat as crude price drops

Pressure is mounting on petrol companies to cut near record prices after the cost of crude oil dropped to US$92.69 a barrel.

But relief for motorists is far from assured, with fuel companies expected to reassess current costs this week and warning world oil prices remain volatile.

Speculators drive oil price rise - OPEC sec-gen

Speculators have driven oil prices to record highs rather than any supply shortage and OPEC is ready to boost output when the market needs more, OPEC's secretary-general said in an interview published on Sunday.

A slowing global economy would not impact demand in the short term or lead to a price collapse, OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told Cyprus's Phileleftheros newspaper.

Iran Darkhovin oil field at 100k bpd output-report

Oil production from Iran's Darkhovin field has been doubled to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), an Iranian official said on Sunday, referring to part of a plan to hike output from OPEC's second biggest producer.

Sarkozy Confirms Plans For UAE Nuclear Deal: Paper

French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed on Sunday plans to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates amid reports French firms could construct up to two nuclear reactors there.

Sarkozy in Saudi Arabia to deepen 'strategic partnership'

With nuclear ambitions, lucrative business opportunities and ballooning petro-dollar budgets, the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia is attracting world leaders from US President George Bush to his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia - a potentate with increasing regional and international clout - will play host to Sarkozy later on Sunday and to Bush on Monday.

Bet your bottom dollar

Vanity, not catastrophe, led to the sale of the first $100 barrel of oil. But what is really causing price increases, and how bad will it get?

Nigerian militant group offers cease-fire for release of imprisoned leader

The main Nigerian militant group in the country's oil region offered Sunday to halt attacks if one of its leaders is released from prison in Angola, where he is being held on arms smuggling charges.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it would immediately halt hostilities if freedom was given to Henry Okah, who the Nigerian government is seeking to put on trial.

Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs

The puzzling site in Syria that Israeli jets bombed in September grew more curious on Friday with the release of a satellite photograph showing new construction there that resembles the site’s former main building.

Israel’s air attack was directed against what Israeli and American intelligence analysts had judged to be a partly constructed nuclear reactor. The Syrians vigorously denied the atomic claim.

Joe Kennedy, Hugo Chavez and that free heating oil

So what if Joe Kennedy and Hugo Chavez get a propaganda bonanza, you may say, so long as poor people are benefiting ? Kennedy himself has defended the program as "righteous."

So let's see; the poor should accept charity from a would-be dictator who has formed an alliance with Iran and Cuba, who has denounced the United States as the greatest threat to peace and security in the world and called the U. S. president "the devil"and "a genocidal murderer. "They should permit themselves to be used by a man who attempted to subvert his country's constitution, proclaimed his goal as "socialism or death," and launched the most comprehensive assault on freedom of the press in Latin America this side of Castro?

Iran Encounter Grimly Echoes ’02 War Game

There is a reason American military officers express grim concern over the tactics used by Iranian sailors last weekend: a classified, $250 million war game in which small, agile speedboats swarmed a naval convoy to inflict devastating damage on more powerful warships.

Bush: Iran threatens world security

President Bush said Sunday that Iran is threatening the security of the world, and that the United States and Arab allies must join together to confront the danger "before it's too late."

Bush said Iran funds terrorist extremists, undermines peace in Lebanon, sends arms to the Taliban, seeks to intimidate its neighbors with alarming rhetoric, defies the United Nations and destabilizes the entire region by refusing to be open about its nuclear program.

Lives of Poverty, Untouched by China’s Boom

When she gets sick, Li Enlan, 78, picks herbs from the woods that grow nearby instead of buying modern medicines. That is not a result of some philosophical choice, though. She has never seen a doctor and, like many residents of this area, lives in a meager barter economy, seldom coming into contact with cash.

“We eat somehow, but it’s never enough,” Ms. Li said. “At least we’re not starving.”

A Long-Dry California River Gets, and Gives, New Life

The river, 2 to 3 feet deep and 15 to 20 feet across, will not be mistaken for the mighty Mississippi. And an economic boon promised to accompany the restoration has yet to materialize.

Yet the mere fact that water is present and flowing in the Lower Owens River enthralls residents nearly 100 years after Los Angeles diverted the river into an aqueduct and sent it 200 miles south to slake its growing thirst.

A Spot Check of Global Warming

If you’ve got any thoughts on how to interpret the results on Dr. Pielke’s graph — or how to look for other indicators — let me know. I’d be glad to hear suggestions from scientists at the popular Real Climate blog on a short list of variables (beyond temperature and sea ice) that might be used to compare with specific IPCC predictions and point interested readers to where data on them can be found.

The Moral Instinct

Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it’s an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of death, has been decapitated in effigy in “I Hate Gates” Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug?

Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history. Gates, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers and determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria, diarrhea and parasites. Mother Teresa, for her part, extolled the virtue of suffering and ran her well-financed missions accordingly: their sick patrons were offered plenty of prayer but harsh conditions, few analgesics and dangerously primitive medical care.

Moving Billions of People on a Still-Green Planet?

A century or more is the rational time for conceiving a transport system. The infrastructures last for centuries. They take 50-100 years to build, in part because they also require complementary infrastructures. Railroads needed telegraphs, and paved roads needed oil delivery systems so that gasoline would be available to fill empty car tanks. Moreover, the new systems take 100 years to penetrate fully at the level of the consumer. Railroads began in the 1820s and peaked with consumers in the 1920s.

Fortunately, during the next century we may be able to afford green mobility. In fact, we can clearly see its elements: cars, powered by fuels cells; aeroplanes, powered by hydrogen; and maglevs, powered by electricity, probably nuclear. The future looks clean, fast, and green.

Pincer movement has Britain in grip of an energy crisis

UK consumers are feeling the pinch from soaring electricity bills as the nation is hit by a double whammy of sky-high oil prices and dwindling North Sea supplies. Richard Wachman explains how it happened.

Residents are forced to make difficult choices to keep their homes heated

With the costs of home heating fuel skyrocketing, Bangor Daily News reporters set out to discover the actual difficulties those costs are creating. Many alarming stories emerged, some of which will be told in more detail next week. Some are not being told at all because the victims of $100-a-barrel oil feel too embarrassed by their circumstances to let us reveal them. Here are some vignettes of Mainers in Crisis.

Which bills do I pay?

The rising cost of energy is one factor increasingly putting families into the red.

Gasoline prices bumping up against $3 a gallon are hurting virtually anyone who has to drive. The cost of natural gas, propane and heating oil continues to rise, making it tough to keep the thermostat up. Residential customers of Delmarva Power in Delaware, who saw electricity bills spike 59 percent after the state removed price caps in May 2006, are finding it harder to pay their bills. By the end of 2007, 11 percent of Delmarva's 467,000 residential customers in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia had fallen behind in their monthly payments, said utility spokeswoman Bridget Shelton.

Iran: Oil minister due in Majlis today

Iran's Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Goudarzi will attend Majlis on Sunday to brief MPs on measures taken by his ministry to supply necessary fuel for people trapped by spreading wave of cold weather, Majlis speaker said.

Pakistan: Rickshaw drivers consider switching back to petrol

Twenty-seven-year-old Nasir came to Karachi three years ago, lured by the stories his friends told him about the city being the “Dubai” for auto rickshaw drivers. He bought a rickshaw and had it converted from petrol to LPG just before gas prices increased to Rs 70 per kg, making him reconsider running his rickshaw on petrol.

Work on Kenya-Uganda Oil Pipeline will Begin in May

Construction work on a Kenya-Uganda oil pipeline will begin in May, as Uganda seeks to end its over-reliance on road and rail for importing fuel products from Kenya, the Ugandan president said late Sunday.

This has been my perfect week

A couple of weeks ago, plans for a wonderful new coal-fired power station in Kent were given the green light and I was very pleased.

This will reduce our dependency on Vladimir’s gas and Osama’s oil and, as a bonus, new technology being developed to burn the coal more efficiently will be exported to China and exchanged for plastic novelty items to make our lives a little brighter.

With nuclear rebirth come new worries

Global warming and rocketing oil prices are making nuclear power fashionable, drawing a once demonized industry out of the shadows of the Chernobyl disaster as a potential shining knight of clean energy.

...However, some countries hopping on the nuclear bandwagon have abysmal industrial safety records and corrupt ways that give many pause for thought.

Author takes on oil dependence, U.S. policy

The next “Da Vinci Code”? That is Steve Alten’s goal.

With his new book, the author is looking to impact the presidential election and, he says, “change the world.”

Alten figures if his political novel “The Shell Game” is a success, he’ll accomplish both of those goals.

Energy proposal falls short: West Virginia ignoring sensible solutions

The “plan” totally avoids any mention of the influence of fossil fuel exploitation upon our climate. It has been suggested that the scientific consensus around atmospheric carbon emissions is rivaled only by the consensus on gravity. It is increasingly recognized worldwide — and increasingly experienced locally — that humans are having significant, potentially dangerous effects on their atmospheric and hydrologic environment. We must all make serious adjustments. Rather than going after 15 percent more coal, West Virginia needs to sign on to the Oil Depletion Protocol, which calls for a 2 percent a year reduction in carbon emissions through 2050.

Sustainable Futures

The stance of the 'mainstream' is logical and, understandable. They must assume that they will have to give up their positions of privilege under the "new" dispensation. Therefore, it makes sense to gamble on the perpetuation of the existing order for a little longer rather than lose everything now. Notwithstanding all the planning for the future (insurance, savings, etc) that the current world order has engendered, it is essentially a culture based on short term thinking. Thus, even the "long term" thinkers among us rarely think of the future beyond the life of our children till their middle age. Therefore, so long as it seems to them that the current world order can be perpetuated for another 50 years or so there is no (or very little) incentive to abandon it.

Countless debates (and actions) on a host of issues, including, global warming, the mid east conflict, ecological degradation, peak oil, all reflect this mindset. Each of them (debates) ultimately centres around the problem of how to "manage" the perceived crisis. Of course, the overt assumption is that technology will come up with a solution in the meanwhile: solar power, wind energy, hydroponic farming, genetic engineering, and so on. However, it is increasingly obvious that this assumption is fallacious. It is also obvious that even assuming that we will be able to carry on for another 100-200 years by adopting these methods, the price that the inhabitants of this earth (I don't mean humans only) will pay for this perpetuation will be horrendous and, from my point of view, unacceptable.

Duality on display at Detroit auto show: Alternative-fuel-powered cars and gas-guzzling trucks

There will be no shortage of alternative-fuel-powered cars, crossovers and compact trucks among the more than 50 new production and concept vehicles being introduced this week.

But high-performance vehicles and big, gas-guzzling trucks will be seen in abundance on the show floor at Cobo Center.

Trucks deliver pedal power

As a former bike messenger and onetime taxi driver, Andrew O. Brown knows how frustrating city driving can be.

And as a practicing psychiatrist, Brown also knows that too much stress and too little exercise can lead to some very unhealthy people.

With his business, The New Amsterdam Project, which uses people-powered “TriCycle Trucks,” instead of gas-guzzling cars and trucks, to move merchandise around the city, Brown is trying to curb city driving and improve people’s health.

Kabul gets only 3 hours of electricity a day, despite millions in U.S. and global aid

Gul Hussein was standing under a pale street lamp in a poor section of east Kabul when the entire neighborhood suddenly went black.

"As you can see, it is dark everywhere," the 62-year-old man said, adding that his family would light a costly kerosene lamp for dinner that evening. «Some of our neighbors are using candles, but candles are expensive, too.

More than five years after the fall of the Taliban - and despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid - dinner by candlelight remains common in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Nationwide, only 6 percent of Afghans have electricity, the Asian Development Bank says.

Israel: An incompetent bungle from start to finish

After making a dramatic, albeit meaningless, announcement in September that it was declaring Gaza a "hostile territory," the cabinet declared on October 28 that it would cut the exports of regular diesel, industrial diesel and gasoline - paid for by the European Union - and reduce Israel's direct supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.

More than two months later, it has restored the cuts it made in regular and industrial diesel to pre-October 28 levels and has been unable to implement the electricity cuts at all.

Libraries Digging Deep for Geothermal Savings

Nine months after the library opened to great acclaim, staff members are keeping an eye on the geothermal system, which uses the earth’s constant temperature below the frost line to heat and cool the airy 47,000-square-foot building. During a cold spell this month, they had to reduce the intake of fresh air that gets heated by the system because it could not warm up the frigid air fast enough.

Global warming is not just about temperature

The world facing such consequences of a globally warmed surface will also be facing another (geological) complication: at some point in our future we can expect the demand for oil to irreversibly exceed worldwide production, as that non-renewable resource is finally and irrevocably depleted. Though the timing of this so-called "peak oil" crisis is disputed -- with some believing it is decades or more away, and others claiming it has already occurred (did you ever wonder why oil-rich countries in the Mideast are building nuclear power plants?) -- the point is that peak oil will represent a tough economic context within which to deal with all the consequences of global warming.

Study Says Glaciers Formed During a Very Warm Period

Giant glaciers formed about 90 million years ago during a warm period when alligators thrived in the Arctic, researchers said Thursday, calling into question the belief that all ice melts in a “super greenhouse” climate.

One technical note. There was an active debate on the "New nukes for the UK" article by a handful of people when it was cut off by the "No new comments may be added" a several days ago.

I agree that comments typically fall off significantly when an article goes to page 2, but sometimes there is still viable, and worthwhile debate.

In the case in point, the ultra# pro-nuke side was stating that nuclear reactors immersed in a pool of 500 C hot sodium was perfectly safe, and that uprating existing nukes by 50% by using doughnut fuel with water flow up the middle (think straws) was technically and economically feasible. And they ascribed all of the reasons for teh past collapse of the nuke building industry to outside factors, while I see it as hari-kari. IMO, the last Rush to Nukes destroyed the demand for new nukes due to internal industrial faults (massive cost over-runs, delays and almost complete plants that were denied operating certificates).

I was wondering what technical constraints required this cut-off of debate and if an exception policy could be instated ?



# I consider myself pro-nuke, but with a skeptics eye to the possibilities and problems.

As someone that has observed the results of water coming into contact with sodium, the very idea of surrounding a nuclear reactor with a pool of liquid sodium makes me more than a little nervous. Yes, I know that there are all sorts of precautions in place to prevent just this sort of thing from happening. It is the contingencies that were not anticipated that worry me.

Some high-end cars used to use sodium-filled exhaust valves to keep the seats from burning. As exciting as the reaction of sodium and water is, it's still a managable engineering problem.
How do you feel about that sodium azide detonator pointing at your face as you sit in front of your airbag?

I am glad that my car does not have them.

An earlier car sent me to hospital (ER visit & discharged same day) when they went off in a "fender bender".

Front airbags are not much better than a properly secured seatbelt.
But we accept 40,000 auto deaths and 100,000s of lafe altering injuries from cars & SUVs every year.


And you're questioning that? You have a problem with a Vietnam War's worth of death and maimings yearly? What are you, some kind of Un-American scum? Honestly, I'm being sarcastic here but it's Un-American to think or talk about this. Just think of the cars as the lions who used to "harvest" humans on the African veldt a million years ago.

Hi fleam,

re: "Just think of the cars as the lions who used to "harvest" humans on the African veldt a million years ago."

I had this same exact thought a while back.

The machine-animals - (they do, after all, require food and care)- can sometimes be deadly.

Some are even designed deliberately to be so.

LIke many Japanese people used to living in train-based cities, my wife didn't know how to drive until she learned at the age of 31 upon moving to a suburb in the US.

To an adult accustomed to the relative safety of trains, cars seem outrageously perilous. Short of jumping onto the tracks of an oncoming train, it is pretty hard to hurt yourself on a train even if you are stumbling drunk. In a car, however, a few seconds of inattention can mean a quick death or injury. Indeed, it is probably the only thing that most people do, during a day, that has that potential for instant death.

The idea of two multi-ton masses of metal speeding toward each other at up to 55 mph with nothing more than a yellow line of paint on the pavement to separate them does seem incredibly foolish and reckless. (But not wreck-less!)

The idea of two multi-ton masses of metal speeding toward each other at up to 55 mph

Where do you live where people obey the speed limit? Driving at 55 in most places that are not heavily patroled or known speed traps will get you run over. Most stretches of I57 between Chicago and my home you need to do 75 just to keep up with traffic.

I was wondering what technical constraints required this cut-off of debate and if an exception policy could be instated ?

The reason is spam prevention. Spammers like to target threads that are no longer active, and add their blocks of links. No one notices...until you link to it as a reference and find a thousand porn links appended.

If a discussion that is still on-topic and productive has "timed out," feel free to continue it in a new DrumBeat.

And I have seen this elsewhere.

You're doing a great job here, Leanan


Whatever the merits -- safe, clean, available, etc. -- nuclear power was an economic disaster in the Pacific Northwest. Taxpayers and ratepayers have not yet forgotten the hit they took from WPPS in Washington and Trojan near Portland.

Granted, no one died. But plenty of people lied in trying to bring these projects on line-- some of them were abandoned before they were completed-- and all of them are gone now.

It doesn't seem likely that nuclear power could ever be "viable" without massive government subsidies. There are, of course, massive hidden subsidies in our hydrocarbon and hydroelectric infrastructure -- and in any rational world, the subsidies would all be put on a spread sheet and a rational decision made about supporting them for the "public good." But of course, only TOD is "rational." Everything else is homo politicus

The disaster which befell nuclear power was mostly caused elsewhere.  To list some of the exogenous causes:

  1. Erroneous projections of near-term electric demand.  They had been made during a period of rapid growth, which had not continued.
  2. Rampant inflation.  Interest rates peaked over 20% per year.  This combined with...
  3. Government regulation of utility financial practices.  Utilities had to put the cost on credit instead of paying for it out of revenues.
  4. Government mis-regulation of the nuclear industry in particular.  Regulators demanded changes to parts of plants which had already been completed, to list just one egregious practice.  This ran up costs and pushed back schedules, adding to the woes caused by #2 and #3.
  5. Courts allowed "environmental" (Luddite) groups to block construction, also driving up costs.

Add to this the paranoia pushed on a scientifically-illiterate public by propagandists claiming that American PWR's, Soviet RMBK's and nuclear weapons are all the same, and the industry couldn't keep up.

See Selafield UK on what all nukes have to look forward to.

And Yucca Mt after you've seen Selafield.

The waste problem will always be with us.

Just cutting off water flow thru a nuke waste site is mega death.

The waste problem will always be with us.

Just cutting off water flow thru a nuke waste site is mega death.

That's a misunderstanding that tends to perpetuate carbon monoxide poisonings, each of which has associated with it a few tens of millions of dollars in fossil fuel tax revenue.

When spent fuel is old enough to leave its cooling pools and go into dry casks -- minimum five years, I think -- it no longer requires any cooling water.

Our year-2108 descendants will inherit lands in which, buried a kilometre deep or a little less, are 250 billion watts of radioactivity. This may include, halfway down or a little further, our radioactive legacy to them, now approaching 0.3 billion year-2108 watts, in sturdy containers. The rest will be natural; it's there now.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I've been protesting nukes since TU's Matagorda Plant.

I've neglected in depth studies to concentrate on other matters.

I'll engage you across the board on this, but note that we'll be decommissioning
these plants faster than we can get new ones up and running.

I note you didn't bring up Sellafield and Yucca.
We can start at 1998:

Friends of the Earth: Press Release: BNFL/WESTINGHOUSE DEAL ...
The NII has urged British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which runs Sellafield, ... including Sellafield (also Yucca Mountain in the US, and a site each in East Asia ...

Then 2000:

Crisis deepens over British nuclear reprocessing plant
Before the approval of the Yucca site, BNFL had expressed interest in transporting waste materials from the US for storage in Sellafield. ...
www.wsws.org/articles/2000/apr2000/nuc-a03.shtml - 20k


[Jan 15, 2004] Irish MEP Nuala Ahern has called for a team of international experts to investigate possible contamination at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Britain. Ms Ahern said yesterday that a study conducted by the British Ministry of Health found higher levels of plutonium in people living close to ...


Sellafield 'not fit' for nuclear waste disposal | Business | The ...
It was last updated at 09:54 on November 02 2007. The government has been warned that it would be "wrong" and possibly illegal to use Sellafield in West ...
www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/nov/02/nuclearindustry.greenpolitics - 60k

And do Yucca Mt the same way.

If you so desire.

Sounds like you're changing your ground.

The Matagorda nuclear plant? Do you think you made a difference?

Not at all.

Just establishing my postion/bona fides.

And yes I did.
(3 Mile Island/Chernobyl did it and cost over runs)

As much as protesters brought VietNam to an end.
(Mutiny in the ranks did it and cost over runs).

I'll stay with Sellafield and Yucca.

" But lingering resentment over cost overruns, concerns over spent fuel storage and fear of terrorist attacks or human error that could cause catastrophic destruction means California's major utilities may have to look outside the state to build a nuclear power plant -- at least initially, Mr. Wan says."

And it seems no one has talked about Matagorda in awhile.

I asked, "The Matagorda nuclear plant? Do you think you made a difference?".

'mcgowanmc' answered,

... yes I did.

Then we agree.

... it seems no one has talked about Matagorda in awhile.

That's what I figured, since I hadn't heard of a Matagorda plant.

We agree you made a difference. Has anyone died, in the region that might have been powered by the plant you stopped, from domestic carbon monoxide poisoning? From natural gas explosion?

That is the sort of difference I believe you have made. Also, government has made a lot of money taxing fossil fuel that might, but for you, have stayed in the ground.

If no-one's talking about the Matagorda plant any more, maybe you should restart the talk. It is not impossible for a traitor to mend, but time is limited.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

Senator Reid has done an excellent job delaying Yucca Mountain.

And dont forget a million tones of radioactive gloves, packaging, pipe lagging, floor sweepings, nose blowings - the sort of stuff piling up at places like Drigg near Sellafield [300 metres from the sea incidentally].

We are going to be diverting enough energy cleaning up non-radioactive landfill.

Name all the people who have died from civilian nuclear waste in the last 10 years.

Didn't 160 people or so get fried in one single platform (piper alpha) in the North Sea?

Name all the people who have died from civilian nuclear waste in the last 10 years.

Just on the death certificate, or is it OK if the life was shorten because of processing material that ended up in in some manner that a civilian paid for the kWh?

If there were any statistical evidence for this, fine.
the fact is that studies have now confirmed that the standards which were set for radioactivity were based on a false premise - that from the amount which would outright kill you straight off, down through a dose which would make you really sick, and then right down to tiny amounts they thought might affect some future generation, there was a straight line function - IOW any dose at all of radiation was harmful.
It is now apparent that we had (rightly) been over-conservative, and that below certain levels it was impossible to show any ill effects - I am not just making that up, that is now standard knowledge for medical treatment, radiation assessment and so on.
This means that you don't need to worry about living in Denver! - no excess deaths are detectable there due to the mile-high location!
It also means that all the talk of so many millions dying, mostly in fact hypothesised for future generations, were in fact based on this mistaken notion.
Don't go eating tritium sandwiches, but most radioactive material is a lot less harmful than mercury, released by the bucketload by the coal industry, and with a half-life of forever!

The discussion is the waste, not radiation. The waste is:
Tailings from the mines
The heavy metals
In short - things not U-235

Iraq, Kosovo and other places have some of 'civilian waste' as fine dust. When some of that dust was a sabot, said sabot did kill someone.....is that dead wo/man to be included in the body count requested?

How much harm has non-nuclear power oriented mine tailings done? Enormously more.

The comparative benefit from nuclear power relative to costs is very high.

In Iraq the deaths from uranium quite pretty insignificant from the deaths from fast moving lead and steel.

"When some of that dust was a sabot, said sabot did kill someone.....is that dead wo/man to be included in the body count requested?"

Sure, once you add up consider the many more thousands killed by petroleum powered bombers as oil deaths.

I.e. "no".

The question is civilian nuclear power, operated in a regulated environment.

Not weaponry designed to kill efficiently.

Is this magical thinking which applies only to things nuclear? That there is a vicious and essentialist spiritual contamination from clearly horrible nuclear weapons and uranium-containing missiles?

So, how many people have died from nuclear waste from civilian power in the last 10 years?

A few hundred to thousand coal miners die in China, the pollution undoubtably kills many, many more. Nuclear power directly replaces coal, or it ought to.

This is like banning vaccinations because there is a tiny chance somebody will get sick from the vaccine instead of the much larger chance of harm from the wild-type disease itself.

People die mining coal every month. People get killed driving cars every month. Thousands of people die each year due to accidental electrocution in the home, falling off ladders, building site accidents etc. Farmers get run over by their own tractors a few times a year.
Pretty much everything is dangerous to some degree.

On the other hand, the French seem to be able to manage to generate most of their power from nuclear reactors without poisoning their population. And there are plenty of reactors operating in the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Japan without problems.

The dangers associated with nuclear power are exagerated for emotional effect.

As for waste, it's waste now. Sometime within the next 200 years we are likely to figure out how to reprocess it to extract the remaining radioactivity for energy. Building a facility that will last 200 years isn't that hard - the Romans could do it.

I really don't see it doing any harm while it sits out in the desert a thousand miles from anyone.

Compared to the current fossil fuel setup, nuclear is a clean option. As an alternative to the anarchy of a poorly managed global powerdown and rapid population decrease, it looks pretty good.

Talk to the tens of thousand of sub-mariners who spent years to careers within 50 yards of an active nuclear power plant. They don't seem to be dying early. And, as their job involves possible Armageddon, any psychiatric effects and we probably wouldn't be here to talk about it. Consider the French countryside. Nuclear power is safe. Realize there is no net increase in radioactivity, rather a concentrating of natural radioactivity and a hastened and harnessed decay to less radioactive elements. Yes, there are problems. No I don't think it can entirely solve PO issues, but until someone gives me a well reasoned argument otherwise I see it as part of the (possibly temporary) solution. Ever hear of miner's black lung disease? I am open to other views but perspective is needed.

One further point, and understand that I am not rabidly pro-nuclear but this occurred to me after I just posted. The net radioactivity of the Earth decreases from nuclear power. U235, or is it 238, decays in a chain reaction through an elaborate decay scheme basically to mostly lead I believe (to bad for the alchemists;) The point is radioactivity from nuclear power cannot somehow (easily) poison the whole world. It is less than what was input as starting material. If it leaks from Yucca Mountain and distributes to an area equal to what it was gathered from it has returned to a natural state. It is only the concentration of radioactive elements that is problematic. If you want to avoid radiation exposure, and this no joke, avoid unnecessary whole body CT scans done with current equipment.

No doubt this is all true. But what is remembered is how much it cost, and the visible bones of dead nuclear plants, commemorate a vast swindle. I'm not really sure safety was the main issue -- I lived in Oregon when all that was going on, and a friend of mine was on the WPPS board. We mostly thought it was just a con game. After all, the really toxic nuclear stuff was /is upriver at Hanford -- and WPPS is small potatoes compared to that.

It was pigs at the trough then, just as now. I'm really surprised anything at all ever gets done constructively. It certainly is easier to tear things apart than to build them.

The Rancho Seco nuclear power plant near Sacramento, California was shut down decades ago because they could never get the plant to produce anywhere near its rated capacity reliably. There are now fields of solar panels on the property that produce electricity cleanly from the sun. While the panels do not produce anywhere hear the output of the nuclear plant when it was operating, it serves as a symbol of what can be done.

That seems to sum it all up right there. The nuclear power plant didn't work perfectly as advertised (over-hyped?), so therefore it makes more sense to do even less with these solar panels. The whole argument with the anti-nuke types is full of this sort of idiocy.

To speek,

And, ironically, you display your own inability to think logically.

One tech uses horrible poisonous materials that are radioactive for millennia. We have to use extra-special measures to protect us and the rest of the environment from these wastes for thousands of years. Therefore, we want these processes to be as safe as possible, if not perfect. The potential harm is so great from a "minor" slip-up that we must think in terms of perfection.

On the other hand, solar, which is far less dangerous and requires no millennia long interment efforts, does not require such safeguards. If you screw up with solar, you simply get less power.

So, anyone with the thinking power of an eight year old can see that your argument is so flawed as to suggest you have recently suffered a brain injury.

I'm just asking: How much chemical waste gets generated by solar photovoltaics production? It is my impression that the semiconductor industry generates a lot of waste. Yes? No?

Thin film solar cells that are not used for concentrated solar photovoltaic can use small amounts of toxic materials, much smaller than are emitted by coal burning power plants per KWHr. Much smaller.
But crystal silicon concentrated solar photovoltaic emits mostly dirty silica.
Computer chips also use small amounts of toxic material. These have nothing to do with solar power except for some silicon circuits and power frequency controllers and stuff.
Solar photovoltaic is cleaner than the alternatives, even wind. Wind power uses carbon and plastic resin blades that put some organic chemicals into the air.
I would put solar, wind, nuclear, gas, oil, and coal as polluting in about that order. Hydro and geo are situation dependent. Some hydro plants produce essentially no pollution, some produce lots of methane from drowned vegetation. Most geo is clean, some dumps sulfur compounds. Depends on the geothermal field involved.

Here is a link to the EU's estimate of the external costs of different forms of energy - the link gives a discussion, and there is a link to a pdf by the EU itself there - might be a bit boring for some, so I will leave it to fellow geeks to click through! :-)
Boils down to fairly small externalities for most things non-fossil, although use of stuff like copper in, for instance, windmills is not trivial if you are building a lot.

I would gladly take the "horrible poisonous materials" from nuclear reactors, all of it neatly stored at the plant, over the relentless spewing of mercury and radioactivity and CO2 from the coal plants we have, where the harm isn't just potential. And, I'll take having my lights working over not working, thank you, which is what happens when we find out solar can't scale up fast enough.

I would gladly take the "horrible poisonous materials" from nuclear reactors, all of it neatly stored at the plant,


I took a course at the Armed Forces Radiological Institute (AFRI). Along with building a thermonuclear weapon (just kidding :0) I remember an exercise in calculating the energy content from Uranium 235 present in the coal. The U235 provided about an additional 50% energy content if harvested from the coal and used in a nuclear power plant.

People seldom have a conception of the sheer amount of coal used in a coal burning plant. It is on the order of two long trainloads every day. The corollary to this exercise, as I think about it now, would be the venting of half the radioactivity from a nuclear power plant. If I get the time I will try and recreate the numbers and give some basis for comparing nuclear and coal based power. Nuclear power is not a great solution, coal kills thousands each year and exposes us to far more radioactivity, not to mention possible global warming.


re: "If I get the time I will try and recreate the numbers and give some basis for comparing nuclear and coal based power."

This is a great idea. To have a separate article and discussion.

Once we hit Peak Natural Gas (and we already have in North America) and Peak Coal then symbols aren't going to keep our lights on and heat blowing on cold nights.

I'm not interested in symbolism. I'm interested in avoiding a massive deep economic depression. I think we are headed toward such a depression right now. A few hundred more nukes could make that depression far less severe.

Government mis-regulation of the nuclear industry in particular.

Right, cuz when the government passes a law, all comply with that law.

Or, did you mean there should be no laws, and let 'the market' act?

You are not clear in your writing on this.

Yeah, damned "Luddite" groups. What is it with them people what want unpolluted soil, air, and water. Who do they think they are? Don't they know they just need to get converted? All they need to do is get themselves an engineering degree and they will become enlightened!

That means they will get these special blinders where all tech appears good and all people opposing tech appear to be damned Luddites.

Rinse and repeat.

The list of poisonous activities started by the engineers and which they promised would not hurt anyone is so long that we would not have the trees to print the list.

What is it with these damned luddite groups, who seem to prefer soil, air and water to civilisation and would rather civilisation collapses and billions die than to develope the energy we need?
Don't you know that nothing is perfect, and if you keep shooting down every alternative to fossil fuels, you'll end up with people remaining on fossil fuels due to their being.... no alternative. And civilisation will collapse as they peak. And your soil, air and water will be destroyed anyway. We must do something
And for now we need nuclear, it's the best technology out there are the moment, we must be practical about this, you don't look for perfect solutions if you ever want to get something done, you look for what is there and what will work. Nuclear works and is plentiful in supply and low in impact on climate. It's cheap, clean and low risk.

I can only hope that when starvation becomes the order of the day that we first starve every BANANA who blocked a sensible renewable project.

I've got to answer to dipshits (industry term) about bird mortality with wind projects. They know that there is a problem, despite the fact that I have hundreds of wind turbines around me in what is basically a 3,000 square mile Super 8 for migrating arctic waterfowl and I've never personally seen nor have I heard any stories of troubles here. We have a little bat mortality problem and I cringe to write that, because the Friends of the Bat, an NGO a thousand miles from here, will cause immense waste and delay just as soon as they find out, despite the fact that the creatures aren't endangered.

The Altamont Pass site has a lot of older, smaller turbines. They're low to the ground and smaller means faster blade speed. They're eagle choppers and no mistake about that - the birds stoop on prey and get clipped on the approach. Why this one poorly placed system which would not be a problem if it had modern turbines continues to be used to block wind projects just amazes me.

You see that is one great example.
It's simply crazy, that people value birds, more than they value getting us off fossil fuels. It's so crazy and irrational.

Hello Morn,

re: "It's simply crazy, that people value birds, more than they value getting us off fossil fuels."

Or else, it's evidence of a sane skepticism and shows progress in people at least thinking about the environment.

Why do I use the word "sane"?

Because the argument of "what is more valuable" has been used to justify a host of "improvements" and has arguably led us to the present, cliff-hanging moment humanity finds itself in.

Of course, I could say a "worry about birds" also shows a lack of understanding about the magnitude and scale of energy resources we currently enjoy.

But then again, this is where education comes into it.

It's good that we're able to enjoy this present scale of energy resources. It benefits humanity immensely.
There is no rational person who'd want to give it up and stop efforts to maintain it, to save some birds, is what I meant.
The real issue is the complete lack of long term planning for how to deal with fossil fuels. Responsible usage of fossil fuels would have been fine, they'd just sit in the earth and go to waste if they weren't used. But it has to be responsible use.
Automobiles were a pretty bad idea from the start, they're a dangerous technology that have killed more people than wars and consumed fossil resources in a inefficient wasteful manner. There should have been more of a focus on mass transit, electric trains etc. Now you have an economy reliant on petrol cars for transport, no body even made an effort to get us onto say electric cars, no planning was made for resource depleteion of oil, completely irresponsible.
Fossil fuel consumption in general should have been keep at lower levels to keep co2 production to acceptable levels, with a focus on nuclear energy for power production. There are a few areas were fossil fuels can not be avoided though, like aviation. It would have made the most sense, to limit oil usage to aviation, shipping and large diesel industrial vehicles, while using trains or electric vehicles for mass transit powered by nuclear energy.
But people were thinking about short term quarterly profits, and not long term risks.... And that's the bane of capitalism, it's short sightedness.
The problem is not simply that we use energy on such a scale. Energy is good, it would infact be completely idiotic to not use it if you have it.
It's like this analogy, you have rich parents and receive a large inheritance. A stupid person will spend the money away in parties and fun and end up poor by the time they're 60. A smart person, would use the inheritance to make investments in property, stock market, use the money to found a business of their own, end up a lot richer by the time they're 60.
We're the stupid person and we'll end up in a great depression if this stupidity goes on.


This is off-topic, but I was wondering...since I've been away from TOD (esp. DB)...how is Bob Ebersole? You said you'd been in touch w. him - yes? (did you list your email at some point?) I'm afraid to ask but wanted to send best wishes.

I've been meaning to call him - he was supposed to be back on here. I thought of it tonight, but at 23:00 and I figured he was in bed already. I'll call tomorrow and find out how he is doing.

I tried to call him the other day and the cell phone did not ring. Before I called and left messages.

Best Hopes for Bob,


I can only hope that when starvation becomes the order of the day that we first starve every BANANA who blocked a sensible renewable project.

No need to starve them ..

Just turn off their power when the rolling blackouts occur ..
Never mind .. These are the smug folks that are off grid
and driving hybrids ..

We're going to need all the sensible solutions and then some ..

Triff ..

#1 and #2 applied for a few years in the 1980s, thats all. Arguments for not starting a new nuke for a few years, and perhaps even slowing or mothballing a recently started new nuke, but hardly the cause of the multi-decade shutdown !

#3 applies to all power plants. Regulated and unregulated. No MWh, no $. Hardly a cause for the phase shift from a "Rush to Nuke" to "No New Nukes" !

#4 was an internal construction problem, a MAJOR point made in the DoE study on how many nukes the USA could build (answer 8 in 10 years) was the industry practice of starting construction before detailed design was complete. This lead to massive cost overruns & delays and torn out work !

Only a "lessons learned" reaction to TMI could be tied to nuke regulation. And that regulation was required only because of faulty design of TMI (a reaction to bad practices by the nuke building industry). If they nuke building industry built good nukes from the beginning, no regulatory problem, no rework !

#5 is a scape goat with little validity. Lawyers are cheap (and a renewable resource in abundant supply) and the delays almost always happened before construction started (delays to start construction, but not after permit issued). Only serious issue post-construction start that I remember was Seabrook & one on Long Island (no way to evac Long Island although utility said there was in application. Utility lied and got caught).

Utilities take longer to get transmission line permits than new nuke permits, and they plan around that delay.


--and all of them are gone now

Not so. Plant 2 is still operating according to this:


the ultra# pro-nuke side was stating that nuclear reactors immersed in a pool of 500 C hot sodium was perfectly safe ...

We of the ultra pro-nuke side are not monolithic. If true, the above suggests we include innocents who can be stampeded into foolish claims of perfect safety, when in fact we defeat oil and gas advocates with an obviously true claim of relative safety. Greenpeace contractors who get on nuclear icebreakers understand relative safety, or at least, the motor nerves that control their legs do.

The virtue of liquid sodium is that it doesn't slow down neutrons much. It's an overrated virtue, in my opinion, but if one must have it, liquid lead is a nice alternative. Its reaction with hot water is endothermic, and with air, not sufficiently exothermic to break up a droplet, i.e., it doesn't ignite.

Unslowed neutrons are necessary, but not sufficient, if a uranium-tonne-equivalent in natural gas is (at current prices) to cost $400 million rather than just $4 million. You also need reprocessing plants. It's more complex, and a uranium-tonne-equivalent in actual uranium, for use with neither enrichment nor reprocessing, costs $0.24 million. The cost of finding new deposits has been vanishingly small, 300 times less than the cost of finding oil according to one exploration VP; and he said it when those deposits had to promise significantly cheaper extraction than they do now.

Governments have some history of trying to shepherd nuclear people in the breeding-and-reprocessing direction, but then, governments always seem to have their eye on that $4 million.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I am glad the the ultra pro-nukes are not monolithic :-)

As I noted in the original thread, if graphite (pure carbon) is a bad thing inside a reactor (as both pro & anti-nukes seem to agree after Chernobyl, although pre-Chernobyl some ultra pro-nukes could point to the "perfect safety record" of RBMK reactors) then very hot sodium (with a sodium-water heat transfer exchanger) with a nuke inside is an even worse idea.

I had a hard time following your units and their meaning.

if a uranium-tonne-equivalent in natural gas is (at current prices) to cost $400 million rather than just $4 million... a uranium-tonne-equivalent in actual uranium, for use with neither enrichment nor reprocessing, costs $0.24 million


... if graphite (pure carbon) is a bad thing inside a reactor (as both pro & anti-nukes seem to agree after Chernobyl, although pre-Chernobyl some ultra pro-nukes could point to the "perfect safety record" of RBMK reactors) then very hot sodium (with a sodium-water heat transfer exchanger) with a nuke inside is an even worse idea.

Perhaps, pre-Chernobyl, some nuclear advocates could point to RBMKs' then-perfect safety record, but as far as I know none did. And there was one who, very influentially, did not. As I like to say, outside the former USSR, we learned the lessons of Chernobyl in 1950.

Pure carbon in a fission reactor core is not a bad thing. If you read the above link, it will teach you that the combination of light water and carbon in the same core was the mistake. Had the USSR been such that a Hungarian native escaping that country might have thought, even for a moment, of going to it rather than to the West, the whole world might have learned the lesson the easy way, as we did.

If you Google "fast reactors" you will probably find a history of 10 or 20 liquid sodium reactor prototypes. All have had sodium-water heat exchangers, so all of their designers have had to assume that large leaks through the partitions would occur, and provide defenses. 'WNC observer' commented as if they had done no more than try to prevent such faults, but in fact they have striven to make the plants tolerate them. Not safe from failure, but safe during failure.

As best I recall these defenses always include subdivision of the sodium-water heat exchange capacity into three or more heat exchangers, far apart. In those liquid sodium reactors that were parts of power plants, the sodium-water heat exchangers are also, of course, steam generators.

They all have sodium-sodium heat exchangers, so that the sodium that might contact water in the event of steam generator failure is sodium that has not been in the reactor.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

The real world experience with controlled sodium (elevated temperatures)- water fires is minimal at best.

Yes theory is there for engineers to work with, but unexpected things can happen. Hydrogen from disassociated water is entrained into the circulating sodium/sodium oxide is one that comes to mind "off the cuff".

When it comes to nuclear safety, I prefer LOTS of experience under a variety of conditions.


I had a hard time following your units and their meaning.

if a uranium-tonne-equivalent in natural gas is (at current prices) to cost $400 million $640 million rather than just $4 million $4.5 million... a uranium-tonne-equivalent in actual uranium, for use with neither enrichment nor reprocessing, costs $0.24 million $0.234 million

At the nuclear plant nearest me ... or anyway nearest me by road, maybe some across Lake Ontario are closer as the crow flies ... a tonne of uranium gives 164,000 thermal MWh, i.e. 559591 mmBTU. According to http://money.cnn.com/data/commodities/ the natural gas price is near $8/mmBTU, so 559591 mmBTU from natural gas costs $4.5 million. However, according to http://uxc.com/ a pound of U3O8 costs $90, and converting that to a price for a tonne of U gives $0.234 million.

The nuclear power station nearest me is part of a very simple system: no enrichment, no reprocessing. Add reprocessing plants, and replace the power station with one cooled by something other than water, and the tonne U could be entirely or almost entirely fissioned, yielding all or most of 23,600,000 thermal MWh, 80 million mmBTU. From natural gas, that many mmBTU would cost $640 million.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

In an earlier life, in 1971, I was a graduate civil engineer. My first assignment was to the construction site of the Dungeness B nuclear power station

At that time, the construction had been underway for 6 years. I was repeatedly told that the project was delayed and that completion would be within 4 years. In fact, it was not completed until 14 years later! Construction lasted from 1965 until 1985.

I am not a nuclear physicist, or a materials scientist. However, I am a realist. If, in the UK, the experts tell us that such a project will take 10 years to build, make it 10 years. If they say 15 years, make it 30 years and so on.

When this realist time-scale is combined with the knowledge that:

  • North Sea gas is in decline (I was project planner for the Britannia gas platform in another life)
  • we have successfully screwed up our foreign policy in the Middle East, Russia and West Africa
  • The population of the UK has a grossly inflated opinion of its worth to the rest of humanity

It is hardly surprising that I am seriously investigating the options for moving to a warmer climate.

On Mother Gaia, warmer climate moves to you!

... in 1971, I was a graduate civil engineer. My first assignment was to the construction site of the Dungeness B nuclear power station

At that time, the construction had been underway for 6 years. I was repeatedly told that the project was delayed and that completion would be within 4 years. In fact, it was not completed until 14 years later! Construction lasted from 1965 until 1985.

I am not a nuclear physicist, or a materials scientist. However, I am a realist. If, in the UK, the experts tell us that such a project will take 10 years to build, make it 10 years. If they say 15 years, make it 30 years and so on.

Isn't it true that much of that delay was at the behest of a government that had reason to anticipate a significant loss of fossil fuel income upon Dungeness B's startup? This must have been frequently remarked at the time.

An oil and/or gas well that supports 1,000 oil and gas workers -- including explorers looking for its successor, including people who make the mined stuff into retailable fuel, including the retailers, including, even, managers for those people -- won't always be able to support, in addition, 500 or 1,000 or 3,000 civil servants. The future is likely to differ significantly from the past. That's a theme here, I believe.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I believe that the problems were very largely technical. A lot of work had to be torn down and redone repeatedly as the required tolerances were a lot higher than anyone, in the UK, had worked to before. Physicists and civil engineers operate in very different worlds and what is acceptable to a civil engineer may not be acceptable to a mathematician or physicist.

As is usual with large projects, there were a lot of changes that came along at a late point which also necessitated unravelling existing structures. As any programmer who has worked on a large project knows, the specification tends to be a moving target.

Also, industrial relations were abysmal and it was not unknown for large metal nuts to "accidentally" fall close to managers and engineers who were walking a long way below the reactor's roof. Don't forget, these are gigantic structures.

On the other hand, the UK had a huge pool of highly qualified and experienced professional engineers and skilled workers at that time. Today, I doubt if bringing in "Polish plumbers" would be of much help.

If anyone out there wants a bet, I will wager that some of the important structures and facilities for London's 2012 Olympics will not be ready on time. Many thought the Greeks cut it rather fine, I think the British will outdo them.

40 years later and where are we?

The latest and the greatest in nuclear power plants being built in Finland, is already two years late from it's original schedule and one would have to be an extreme optimist to believe the delays stop here.

The reasons, just as in Alfred's tale:

- construction not made to spec
- dismantling of already constructed pieces
- re-testing/re-certifying pieces
- changing sub-contractors
- etc

Now, two years is still fairly short and one should not read this as a general bash against nuclear on my part.

It's just that the construction timetables do slip, regardless whether we are speaking 1960s or today.

* The population of the UK has a grossly inflated opinion of its worth to the rest of humanity


The only reason that can be is that they've carefully studied the United States ...

Nah, I think it's universal. The same goes for us Finns.

Yes, but the difference is that the world desperately needs Finland !


I agree with Alan that cost overruns torpedoed the nuclear industry. Though part of those cost overruns came from permitting delays as political opponents fought construction projects in the many step permitting process.

I'm becoming even more pro-nuke as the story about Peak Coal starts looking nearly as bad as the story about Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas.

I've also become more pro-wind. I still want to see mountain vistas which are natural. But I think we are entering desparate straits and wind can be scaled up more quickly than nuclear power. At the same time, solar is a lot more expensive. Though solar unfortunately might become cost competitive even without its price doesn't fall any further.

We are in deep trouble.

wind can be scaled up more quickly than nuclear power.

Based on purely engineering and technical issues, that seems unlikely. For the French, in any case, it would seem nuclear would be faster to build than wind. Politically here in the idiot-filled US, you may be right, but it's nothing to trumpet.

To paraphrase a famous American leader:
"When you go to build yourself out of an energy crisis hole, you build with the idiots you've got not the idiots you wish you had."

From the time you place an order for a wind tower to when first electricity is generated is much shorter than for a nuke.

Granted, if you want more electric power 7 years from now then nukes can get it to you as reliable base load capacity.

Nuke time from order to first day of operation is going to probably shrink down to 4 years in a few years. But we aren't there yet.

Since we can get wind sooner than nukes more wind is good. But we need more nukes too. Our coal is going to peak. Our natural gas has probably already peaked in North America. Russia's natural gas might have peaked. Certainly Europe's has.

Again, we are in deep trouble. We need multiple non-fossil fuels energy sources.

I agree with your principles, but I question the quickness with which new nukes can be built now in the USA or UK (I think more than 7 years unfortunately). And building new nukes in large numbers is a decade+ away IMO. See the delays for the new Finnish nuke.

But we need to start building a handful of new nukes in the USA (and UK) ASAP ! (And finish Watts Bar 2 and uprate existing nukes as much as we can).



Calder Hall was the world's first commercial nuclear power station. The design was codenamed PIPPA (Pressurised Pile Producing Power and Plutonium) by the UKAEA to denote the plant's dual commercial and military role. Construction started in 1953.[6] First connection to the grid was on 27 August 1956, and the plant was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 October 1956.[7] When the station closed on 31 March 2003, the first reactor had been in use for nearly 47 years.[8]

Calder Hall had 4 Magnox reactors capable of generating 50 MWe of power each.

Ok, small by today's standards but 3 years from start of construction to first grid power might be a target to aim for in future.

Alan, I'm counting on necessity to generate an awful lot of innovations in construction.

Think about it. As the oil production starts shrinking we'll have plenty of unemployed pipe fitters, welders, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, electrical engineers, truck drivers, and a large assortment of other occupations. You tell them "Hey, figure out how to build nukes fast or go hungry". I figure that'll speed up things a lot.

I work in engineering environments. I coordinate people working in a few countries. I know how much faster things can go if people really really really want to get something done. Things don't fall between the cracks. People find out how to get unstuck rather than just say they've hit a problem that is someone else's responsibility.

Think people who build luxury high rises are going to be busy in 2015? I figure the best construction project supervisors are going to be begging to supervise nuclear sites and wind turbine sites. I also expect the construction companies to offer big bonuses for those who put in the longer hours to get the stuff done.

Alan, If decision to finish times on nukes run at 7 years in the 2010s then we are in for an economic depression. We are probably in for one anyway even with 4 year build times. But the depression will last a lot longer if we have 7 year build times.

The Finnish nuke: I read a good account of that. They had problems with fabrications of certain pieces that they think they can prevent the next time around. Delays due to redesigns and obstacles in permitting processes like in the 70s don't seem to have been the problem in Finland.

I'm hoping better computer systems to do design, parts management, and construction management will make large construction projects faster.

But I may be excessively optimistic. Could be Grapes Of Wrath The Sequel coming up.

Anyone ever wonder whether global warming might, err ... screw up wind farm siting? Just a thought.

Not very likely. Additional turbulence from storms reducing yields, yes, additional yield loss from more hot, windless summer days, yes, but no thought that wind would cease entirely - favorable locations will almost certainly remain favorable.

Siting at a micro level is based on prevailing wind direction - you want to be on top of a ridge with a nice gentle slope leading up to the turbine and you can have a steeper grade on the back side. If wind directions were to suddenly shift so that more of it were coming from what was previously the back side you'd get a reduced yield also.

The Arctic Ocean will still be colder than the Gulf of Mexico and no new mountain ranges will spring up between them.

The plains between these two bodies of water (little more than a barbed wire fence) is the source of most of America's wind.


with the polar high regions shrinking and tropical low expanding, the Hadley cells can shift and, along with them, the wind/rain patterns. if THC weakens further or comes to a stop, many if not all bets are off. another reason to consider vessel based wind harvesters.

From the time you place an order for a wind tower to when first electricity is generated is much shorter than for a nuke.

Granted, if you want more electric power 7 years from now then nukes can get it to you as reliable base load capacity.

I guess the obvious needed belaboring.

I don't really think that wind power does anything very useful.
I base that comment on these figures from Europe, which show that high utilisation of wind made almost no difference to the carbon emissions, and that the nations with the lowest emissions were Sweden, 50% nuclear, 50% hydroelectric, and France, 75% nuclear.
Germany and Denmark were both towards the top of the list of emitters.
Part of that has to do with the need to use less efficient gas turbines when the wind is not blowing - the efficient ones are cost effective only if used more often.
So all you get with most wind power is a lot of expense and energy when you don't particularly want it, not when it is needed.
Since they cut the subsidies in Denmark no more wind turbines have been built,I believe.
So much for seed capital - all you have is a drag on the economy for the 25 years their rates are guaranteed.
Here is a link - I hope it is working, I had some difficulty getting through:

Combined cycle gas turbines (the efficient ones), hydroelectric power, pumped storage and coal plants can all load follow (nuke cannot) as wind and demand both vary. Wind tends to arrive in large multi-hour blocks and, with geographic diversity is not more of a challenge than 6 PM vs. 3 AM demand.

Most of the wind in Denmark is in Jutland (the peninsula) and most of the demand is around Copenhagen, and there is NO direct electrical connection between the two parts of Denmark, so national statistics used to disprove Danish wind power, etc. are generally useless and invalid due to this technical fact.


I don't know where in the world you got the idea that nuclear can't follow demand, it surely can.
It is just rarely used in this fashion as the fuel costs so little you might as well carry on and sell the electricity cheaply.
You are correct that other resources like, in Denmark's case, hydropower in Scandanavia is more usually used.
I am also unsure where you got the idea that wind tends to arrive in multi-hour blocks.
It exhibits all sorts of variability, from the period of seconds (which incidentally has led to larger than expected maintenance requirements on many windmills), to periods of days at a time when the wind hardly blows.
Of course, the larger the grid (expensive and unsightly)the easier it is to accommodate those swings.
As for your point about direct connection and so on, the point of the whole Danish experiment was to reduce emissions, and they are still one of the highest in Europe,as are those for Germany which presumably does not suffer from the same issues and has also spent billions on renewables with no prospect of a return.
I am not against windmills in all circumstances and in areas where there is a good enough wind resource to justify it economically and you are not messing up wild and beautiful places, fine.
This has not been the case in Europe and the UK, where vast amounts of money are expended to destroy some of our most lovely landscapes, not just with the mill but with access roads etc.
Any protest is treated as Nimbyism, when one nuclear station in Britain would produce power when you need it and more than all the messing around cluttering up our limited countryside.
At the moment they are seriously suggesting that even more expensive massive off-shore wind should be developed, mostly in areas where we least need it, and that transmission lines should be built straight across one of our National parks in Scotland!
I would encourage anyone who is inconvenienced by one of these monsters in their vicinity to remove the copper from the transmission cables and sell it - it somewhat compensates for the inconvenience of the noisy and useless object, and more importantly reduces the amount of subsidy going out for every kilowatt hour it produces when it happens to feel like it! :-)

See the irreducible minimum of coal & natural gas power in France because nuke cannot load follow.


I can see that you are one of the rabidly anti-wind NIMBYs that has stifled wind in the UK (which has one of the best wind resources in the EU but little development). May you freeze in the dark, bankrupt, until enough nukes are finished (circa 2030 or so). And then find that there is no NG left for 6 PM demand (see France).


There is nothing irreducible about that - it is just all about cost.
The link you gave, incidentally, does not say that the nuclear component can't be throttled - I'm not sure if in the reactors they use in France they have bothered to design much part-load capacity, as it is not often so used, but there is nothing about a reactor itself which says you can't - nuclear submarines have no difficulty in accelerating!
As for the irreducible bit, we are always told that all that solar and wind need is better storage.
You can also store nuclear energy to shave the peak, and nuclear has the advantage of being very predictable, especially if there are a large number of reactors in the system - not cloud cover, or weeks of the doldrums.
So if you really wanted to do without fossil fuel you could do so, and in France's case you would not need to build another 25% more reactors as even in winter not every hour is a peak hour, so with a little storage, possibly pumped water or compressed air, you could reduce that to perhaps another 15% more reactors, or whatever depending on the precise calculations, geography and so on.
In practise of course they don't bother at the moment as there is plenty of fossil fuel power in the European grid.
So although it is not very economic, you surely could run a nuclear system without fossil fuels.
Many of the renewable proposals are in contrast heavily dependent on fossil fuels, as they need buckets of cheap peaking capacity for when the sun don't shine and the wind don't blow.
CAES proposals are also heavily dependent on fossil fuels to heat the compressed air.

Nuclear submarine cores are removed very frequently. Nuclear reactors are expected to last ten times longer. I would rather throw away the electricity from a nuclear reactor at night than turn it off and watch all the metal bits fatigue from thermal stresses.
I support nuclear power. I think we should build lots and lots of reactors, as quickly as possible. I do not think we should turn those reactors off and on every day. I am willing to turn them off and on once every year for refuelling.

There is no wasted electricity, only wasteful societies.

You can always sink the extra juice into hydrogen production, then resurrect it later by burning it with NG if that is the generation method. NG acts better at up to 10% H2 concentrations from what I've read.

Actually, the French do often turn some of their reactors off during the summer at weekends when there is no market, so they must have determined that they are pretty resistant to that.
I take your point though.

You are creating new types of nuclear reactors which do not currently operate in commercial grids. Time to massive commercial operation in the UK, perhaps 40 years ?

The UK could build large amounts of wind in 5 years (more in 8, 10, 12 years) if they wanted to, and this could stretch NG supplies until a dozen new nukes are operational in the UK (IMHO, the UK should ask EdF to build three and not 1 new 1.6 GW nuke in France, opposite the southern English coast to supply the UK market, these will be first to completion IMHO).

A "Wait for Nuke" strategy for the UK will be a long, cold, dark and too expensive wait. New Nukes are the second, supplemental wave to get away from coal & NG, a massive Rush to Wind (with pumped storage) should be the first wave.

And when enough new nukes are on-line circa 2030, the Wind Turbines will be ready to take down the first generation on the towers and put up a second generation on those towers. If you like, buy and scrap the towers then.


Hmm, missed the second part of your rather excitable post.
As for Nimbyism, I am quite happy with Hinkley point nuclear station, which is about 15 miles from my house, and produces more power than all the on-shore windmills in the country.
I will also support its expansion with a second reactor.

I don't really think that wind power does anything very useful.

I live in a village of less than a thousand. We've got 220 wind turbines going up within a six miles radius of which I'm aware. You're suggesting that this approximately half a billion dollar investment is ... not useful? I'm curious to hear how you arrived at this determination.

I gave my reasons earlier in this thread - perhaps you missed it, I will duplicate it for your convenience here:
I don't really think that wind power does anything very useful.
I base that comment on these figures from Europe, which show that high utilisation of wind made almost no difference to the carbon emissions, and that the nations with the lowest emissions were Sweden, 50% nuclear, 50% hydroelectric, and France, 75% nuclear.
Germany and Denmark were both towards the top of the list of emitters.
Part of that has to do with the need to use less efficient gas turbines when the wind is not blowing - the efficient ones are cost effective only if used more often.
So all you get with most wind power is a lot of expense and energy when you don't particularly want it, not when it is needed.
Since they cut the subsidies in Denmark no more wind turbines have been built,I believe.
So much for seed capital - all you have is a drag on the economy for the 25 years their rates are guaranteed.
Here is a link - I hope it is working, I had some difficulty getting through:
At any rate at the level the wind blows in Germany and Denmark, this seems to me a totally wasted investment.
Of course, if your area has much better resources that could be very different.
In the UK I am against it for different reasons - we don't have much land on this crowded island, and they are damaging a lot of beauty spots and peat bogs for comparatively small amounts of power.
I really do not believe the economics of off-shore wind.

Word salad - use of wind makes no difference in carbon emissions? Nonsense! If electricity is made from wind it isn't being made from fossil fuel. No need to examine the source, that is just flat wrong. What this has to do with the emissions in Sweden and France is unclear. They've chosen another path and thats very good for them, but how this supports the logically incorrect statement preceding it escapes me.

The Danes are very big into wind power. If there is any slowing of uptake its like Germany, where they're running out of resources to develop. The long term guaranteed rates drive renewable uptake.

I'll modify my above statement - instead of starving the BANANAs first we need to serve them slices of fried NIMBY when food supplies are tight. You don't want it in your back yard? Fine ... so long as we're damned sure the consequences of not having renewable power available land there, too.

If you chose to make a different judgement based on the facts I have given, fine, but to pretend that they haven't given and lead to a repost is a different matter - not too nice, actually.
Bearing in mind that the difference is so marginal and the costs large, what is the matter with deciding that it is not worth doing, and that the money would be better spent in an alternative..
And as for the comment that if France and Sweden have chosen a different path then that has nothing to do with it, how about that the rest of us should be considering which path offers the best return for the money and chosing something which is effective, rather than chucking resources at eco-bling.
As for the rather disparaging remarks about NIMBY's, on the same level and with about an equal degree of charity the argument might be made that the self-appointed 'greens' have delayed choices and imposed costs to make an effective response to power requirements far more difficult.
It also happens to be factually inaccurate, as there are no windfarms or proposals for one in my area - but maybe you are so green that you do not care if beauty spots are devastated with access roads and so on, and peat bogs destroyed.
And to correct the more glaring innaccuracies in your post, I did not say that windfarms made no difference to carbon emissions, rather that they made little difference and that for the same money more effective measures should be taken.
In addition, you have obviously not taken the trouble to research the subjects on which you pontificate, present windfarms in Denmark will continue to get a subsidy for donkey's years and provide a drag upon the economy, however new windmills are not eligible for the same subsidy, so confronted by the true economics no-one wants to build any.
I will even give you an example of a way the money could be better spent than on windfarms which is not nuclear.
Residential solar panels are of proven effectiveness and are near economic even at northerly latitudes.
If combined with heat pumps they would greatly contribute to reducing consumption and reducing CO2.
However, don't let facts get in the your way - you haven't bothered doing so in the discussion so far, or troubled to answer the arguments given, preferring to fight straw-men of your own invention.

Word salad - use of wind makes no difference in carbon emissions? Nonsense! If electricity is made from wind it isn't being made from fossil fuel.

The misleadingly named 'SacredCowTipper' seems unable to understand the part about lower efficiency in natural gas turbines that can respond quickly to wind turbine production drops compared to other, more complex natural gas turbines that cannot respond in that way.

If electricity is made from wind, it is entirely conceivable the combustion turbines backing it up use as much or more fossil fuel as other, more efficient combustion turbines would have used, had no electricity been made from wind.

Governments' willingness to subsidize wind power makes sense if they are confident that their natural gas revenues will not be hurt by it.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

Load following combined cycle NG plants (the efficient ones) can adapt to both fluctuating demand and geographically diverse wind generation quite well. So can hydropower plants.


Load following combined cycle NG plants (the efficient ones) can adapt to both fluctuating demand and geographically diverse wind generation quite well.

OK, load following combined cycle NG plants can follow load, including negative load due to wind turbines. If they also exist, then indeed, producing electricity with wind turbines can save fossil fuel.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I'm remembering back over all the problems with nuclear power that I read about as they happened over the years. The sense I got from the news was that the industry was more incompetent than dishonest. And their PR was terrible. Alfred expresses a concern that today the technical competence will be worse that it was decades ago. This is in line with Heading Out in his Turning an Oil Tanker where he expressed a concern for our future supply of trained scientists and engineers and got back from TOD audience a litany of complaints about the current condition of our technical competence. We talk about peak oil, peak gas, peak coal, etc. Perhaps we also have a peak engineer problem with the peak having been back around the time of the moon landing (1969).

If there is any merit at all to this observation, we should not be hoping that newly constructed nuclear power plants will help us deal with peak oil. We no longer have the technical competence to build new nuclear power plants. Some of the people reading this have the competence to contribute to a well run construction project, but who will, for example, fill the role of Adm. Rickover? I think we should really try to stay clear of nuclear power. Today we will really make a mess of it.

What I know about state of the art nukes is small, I did like the idea that when we had Maine Yankee we produced 80% of the power needed in Maine. I have two other experiences. I had an oceanographer friend
who worked on the impact statement for millstone in Connecticut. Two days before the report was required all the hard drives failed. Went in one morning and the tech staff said sorry. All data was lost, all data on the temp change created by the out flow of warm water was gone. It was deemed unnecessary by the PTB, to redo the survey. The locals were thrilled, a huge change in the fishing. I had a great time using the plant boats to sail out there.

Now he builds boats, gave up on the hypocrisy.

2'nd is not so nice, brother in law joined the navy. Ended up on a nuke sub in power plant. Died at 32, two young kids, lukemia. When we tried to find shipmates in his working group to come to the funeral, only 2 out of 16 were still alive.

I guess I'm not thrilled with it and like most of everything else I have sincere doubts we are seeing accurate info. But the little deaths get glossed over in the big picture.

I really don't have any other way to to think about things, than my own personal experience, time and again people lie, and cover up for money. I can look at big pictures, and because I'm me I enjoy it, but we are a missing the small stuff, and its the small stuff that will tell us when the shit is really going to hit the fan.

I still want to see mountain vistas which are natural.

Man is part of nature, ergo what man modifies is then part of nature.

(besides - most mountains have been modified by man's footprint already. Getting the hardware to the mountain and servicing it will make mountain placement in many places hard. A 400 foot high erection is not simple.)

We are in deep trouble.

So then, in the interest of NOT being in trouble, does that not make a 5 MW wind machine not beautiful?

Kayaking to my favorite island, with beautiful Suzlon 2.0MW turbines in the background. I wish they were more plentiful and larger, but this was a private development - corn farmers decided they like to raise some wind, too.

Virgin Lake south shore wind turbines

Good morning, all. I would like to ask a favor. I am in the process of finishing up an ethanol FAQ to be placed here at TOD. Could I ask readers to take a quick look and see if they feel like I have missed major themes? We have discussed the FAQ here previously, and the final version draft has incorporated a number of comments. But I don't intend for this to be a constant work in progress, so would like to catch little issues before it is posted. Also, if you note any errors or have other comments, please let me know. I am hoping to have this finished up this week. (Yes, I know I said that a month ago.)

Here is the first draft (much rougher than the final draft that I am working on):




Most of the time you distinguish between things that are specifically true just for corn ethanol and things that are applicable for ethanol across-the-board, but there are a few places where it wasn't clear to me which you were referring to.

I just did a quick skim, but did I miss a discussion about such issues as the small percentage of flex-fuel vehicles in the US fleet, the lack of availability of E-85 (especially outside the midwest), and what would be required ramp up ethanol IN ADDITION to corn acreage and ethanol production facilities?

The inherent and inevitable competition between using agricultural production for food or fuel is very important and deserves a little more attention than you gave to it.

I've mentioned to you before that corn and sugar cane are not the only possible ethanol feedstocks, and I'm not even talking about celluosic. Cane sorghum is also a perfectly viable ethanol feedstock. It can be grown everywhere that corn can be grown. It requires fewer inputs of water, fertilizers and pesticides. It must have an EROI intermediate between corn and sugar cane (which means it is much better than corn). I realize that presently cane sorghum is NOT being used as an ethanol feedstock; I chalk that up to a failure of vision and leadership. It would be helpful if you would at least mention it as a possibility.

I agree on the need to heavily state the trade off in ag practices vs corn ethanol.

There is a misconception floating around that seems to be accepted by most.

It is that: Farmers are good stewards of the land.

In my observations and experiences this is a totally false statement.

IMO the farmers will totally rape the land given a profit motive. In fact they are doing it right now and will continue to do so encouraged by the huge runups in grain prices.

They will cut all the trees. They believe that trees remove moisture and nutrients from the soil and therefore need to go. The will install irrigation equip where they can in order to increase yields. They will put every single piece of tillable land in production whether it be HEL(highly erodabe land) or not. They will spend less and less on conservation measures as well.

The 'grassy strips' will be planted. The hillsides will be also(since they now can be profitable where with $2 corn they previously were not.

With the trees gone the wind erosion will rapidly increase but they do not consider this at all.

We are looking at a burn down of our natural heritage and all to chase the greed just exactly as their brothers the CEOs and Execs of big business do/did.

Most big farmers own earth moving equipment. Trackhoes , dozers and dirt pans. They use them to alter the land.

We are eating our 'seed corn' and raping our childrens heritage.

Ethanol is going to assist in this. Massively.

The word needs should be gotten out. We are robbing our lands.

Now driving along the highways and back country one sees trees and some woodlands. What is not recognized is that these are 'trash trees' of absolutely little value. They are not hardwoods usually. The loggers have taken out all the good wood. Whats left the farmers will remove.

Here is what they do. They dig a big hole, push the trees over. Push them in a pile and burn them. No wood heat to be gotten here!
The stumps and left over from the pushup piles are shoved in the holes they made earlier and then dozed over to level the ground.

I see it every day and its accelerating. Tears come to my eyes as I drive by and remember who it once was over on that farm. Farms I played near. Land I knew intimately. Land that loving families once lived on. Houses that withstood the test of time are shoved over rudely and burned.

Our past is going up in smoke. Why? To keep the yuppie soccermomism dream alive for a little while longer.



I have heard the same thing and it pains me. When I was a kid I grew up on a farm, but it was comparatively low-tech. No irrigation, and lots of trees all over the place.

The profits that they can get due to the ethanol boom have blinded many of them as they rush to raise as much corn as possible. I suppose part of it may be due to years of financial struggles on the part of farmers - now they have an opportunity to get some of it back as they don't know how long the gravy train is going to last.

Thanks airdale.

That sums it up. The ethanol question is not a question. It is a restatement of the dominant paradigm, the paradigm of infinite growth and the destruction of the environment in order to save tech. The same can be said about the nuclear question.

What the engineers and scientists fail to see is that the desired outcome is not a tech-mediated or tech-dominated environment but an environment. The point is not to save electricity or cars or nukes or the Internet. The point is to save the planet, the unified ecosystem, and thus save ourselves.

The planet can take care of itself. In other words, the tech interventions administered by the engineers and scientists will cause the planet to go into septic shock. The infestation of destructive tech will poison the flesh of the planet much like the flesh-eating bug that eats humans. When that happens, the planet will kill off the infection and begin the process of healing itself.

The only real question is: Do we want to keep up the poisonous process and essentially murder all of humanity, or do we want to be part of the environment--one very, very tiny part of the environment--and work with it to save all of humanity?

I'd say organic farmers, as in using NOTHING modern, subsistence farmers, might be good stewards of the land because it's that or die. Of course over history they've generally chosen to die - that's what gave us the great deserts of the Middle East, where there was once lush green land.

We might have lost our ability to be good stewards of the land when we learned to talk. Zerzan may be right.


Only for a very small 'slice' of time did the farmers , at least in my area, turn big time to conservation practices.

Why did they? Becuase the evidence was all around them. I remember huge gullies. I mean big enough to put a barn in and cover it completely.

Our soil here is loess. Plow and disc it and with a big rain it just turns to butter and erodes in a matter of days, not weeks.

So the farmers, including one of my uncles, had farmed it wrong and now coming out of the depression and WWII still dying down..they were looking at ravaged land. They found that the USDA and its university land grant colleges were telling them 'exactly' what needed to be done.

Don't cut tree lines. Contour plow. Leave residue on the top. Stop plowing. Use chisel plows. Plant grassy strips in the run off areas. Build farm ponds to gather the water and stop its effects. Grow good ground cover crops. Rotate your fields. And far more.

Reading the US Ag books and many many others from that 'slice' of time its obvious that they saw the problems and responded. Now the gullies are gone but with the runups in prices? I'll tell you what I think.

I think the USDA and Dept of Ag and Sec of AG are throwing all the rules and rule books out the window and letting the farmers do exactly as they please.

I see ground that was never in the last 20 yrs cultivated. "New Ground" so to speak and there was some rule and regulation about 'Sod busting' new ground..yet they are very very busy bringing on new ground. Ground that had been in soil bank programs for ever.

Every where I look I see dozer 'push up ' piles. Old houses being dozed down.

I speak with farmers daily and this is there attitude:
"Everyone has been feeding at the money trough except us farmers but now finally our time has come around at last and By God I will take all that I can get and scream for more."

They don't say it in those words of course but its right there , almost palpable in the air. You get the drift right off.

They will do what it takes to get as much of what they have missed out on all these many years.

Witness: I bet the sales of big 3/4 ton 4WD pickups is increasing out in the farmland. I see these monsters at the local coffee shops all the time. One guy came by in his Lincoln Pickup!!!

The handwriting is on the wall. Unless the gov steps in and holds up the rule book ,,the gloves are off. From what I see out and about..the gloves are laying in the ditch and rotting.

airdale-could be wrong,been wrong before..so show me how

Similar story in Europe with setaside land. There is now no longer any EU requirement for it, so now the UK government is exhorting farmers to think about 'the environmental value as well as the economic value of permanent set-aside land before returning it to production.' (link)

Much of UK agriculture is either in hock to the banks or rented from the landed gentry in the UK so unless grain prices suddenly turn down again the land will all be put under the plough and the sprayer.

Thanks for the reply Lanterne,

But I notice how few did reply or make a salient comment or point.

Fact is that agriculture, I prefer growing food from the soil or farming and gardening,since ag is a deathword.....

Ag is not farming. Farming is holistic. Not sure if thats the correct term but I imply a spiritual meaning tying man to the soil and bringing forth sustaining food from it yet nuturing it at the same time instead of destroying it for greeds sake.

So not many add to this thread then. Perhaps they realize the belief that growing food is right near the end of our civilization and will be the last and only means we have for survival on any meaningful type.

We will be reduced to planting seeds we have with great pains preserved. Digging in the soil with rude instruments and slowly coaxing life giving food from that soil. Not a happy picture is it?

Yet, yet back in my childhood on my grandparents farm we knew that the garden HAD to be grown and stored. There were NO welfare programs back then. No 'safety nets' to catch anyone. You grew your food, raised the hogs, set out a smallish field of corn for the animals and cut hay and stacked it loose. Sawed much wood and stacked it carefully. Fed the chickens that ran free all day. Milked the cows for butter and milk for the table.

YOUR very lives depended upon it. Slack off and get lazy and you had to go steal or suffer in silence.

This was the way it was back in the late 30's and early 40's. My childhood on the farm. This is maybe the way it will be again. Maybe before I pass on.

All we will have left is our soil, if it hasn't been rendered lifeless already by that time in the near future.


Which means we'll probably get a Dust Bowl replay in just a few years from now. That's all we need!

Those who fail to learn the lessions of history are doomed. . .(not just to repeat it, just plain doomed)

OK, do you really think it is the "engineers and scientists" who are driving the demand for electricity or cars or nukes or the Internet?

You do have some valid points, many of which I agree with completely, but your comments always degenerate into axe-grinding against engineers, leading you to make silly and stupid statements like that one. Clearly it is the energy and resource use of the population as a whole which is causing the damage and destruction of our environment. There are not really all that many engineers - if engineers were the only ones driving cars and using fossil fuels, the oil would last for thousands of years, and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere would not be an issue for anyone.

So you hate engineers - no one cares, and your persistent efforts to twist every theme into some way to blame engineers for every problem is tiresome and makes you look foolish. You may be surprised to learn that some engineers are actually humans, and well tuned into the the problems we face and where we are heading. Far more than most journalists and English instructors I'd wager, but that does not mean that one can categorize the latter groups either.

We need technology, it makes lives better, increases human ability and potential. What is more noble? It is the main element of change and therefore as important to humanity as evolution and natural selection is to nature.
How to run technology in a way that has low impact on the planet as we kind of need the planet to survive, is a technological and engineering problem, simple as that. If biology can figure out how to operate and use up so much energy in a sustainable way so can we, it does it by using the available energy in the environment and implementing excellent recycling systems, it's figured it out already. It even has growth, as natural selection and evolution develop better more efficient creatures, biomass can increase, remember one time the only life that exists, was in the oceans.
What we have is a technological problem. Give us a few hundred years, and we'll figure it out too.
Nature has had it's fair share of mass extinctions, boom and bust cycles, to wipe out the unsustainable creatures and inefficient habbits. I hope humanity won't have to under go the same things to get there, if we're smart we'll take the necessary measures to avoid them.

A few thoughts:

Possible additional questions:

Q. Are there possibilities of unintended consequences in ramping up corn ethanol production?

(Water aquifer problems; food prices; erosion; pollution; rapid fallback in production in drought years)

One link:

Another - Stuart's food ethanol post

Q. Won't cellulosic ethanol solve all of our problems?

(Only 20% of need maximum; not yet perfected; timing)

Q. What do recent studies on NOX say with respect to corn ethanol's environmental effects?

(Perhaps something to add to an existing question - may make corn ethanol worse than gasoline)

Q. What do governmental studies show?

(One I like to link to is http://collinpeterson.house.gov/PDF/ethanol.pdf )


With respect to dependence on foreign oil, to the extent ethanol replaces MTBE, it is replacing a US made product (produced from natural gas), so it is not really replacing imports.

Good point about MTBE. However, I was under the assumption that MTBE is a trace additive like tetraethyl lead whereas ethanol needs to be in much higher proportions to have a noticeable effect. Also, I was under the impression that most if not all the MTBE came from Canada, where we don't use it, and exported to the US! There was a rather large as in multi billion dollar lawsuit in which the company that produced it was suing California for banning it under NAFTA related rules. It was a wacky case. Maybe some poster remembers this better than I, and knows the relative percentages of addition involved.

Regardless, MTBE is bad news. I'm no fan of ethanol, but given what I'd rather have traces of in my drinking water...

It is the reverse: MTBE is added in larger quantities (up to 15%) than ethanol. When MTBE was discontinued, it caused a reduction in the available fuel supply, since ethanol could only go to 10%, and was not as widely available.

Sorry, I got confused with MMT which is a methyl manganese octane booster which is similar in properties to tetraethyl lead. All these pesky acronyms. It was MMT that California had the big fight over when Canada banned it in 1996.

When you consider what's in gasoline, it's a wonder that otherwise intelligent people tailgate.

RR, I detect some movement in that you say that EROEI matters sometimes. It matters when one is comparing apples and apples. If all energy were the same, EROEI would be a valid technique in allocating resources. As I have often pointed out with my Metal Return on Metal Invested (MROMI) analogy, producing a pound of gold that consumed 10 pounds of iron in it's mining would be precluded using MRORI. Price matters. If the critical factor of price is omitted from the allocation of resources, the result is nonsense. Electricity with it's low EROEI is the prime example. Electricity is the platinum of energy and it does not matter that it's EROEI is below one because it is a super valuable form of energy. Similarly, ethanol with a somewhat higher but still low EROEI is a liquid fuel for transport. Liquid fuel for transport is the gold of energy. It does not matter that the EROEI is low. Omitting a critcal factor like price does not tell us anything about how resources should be allocated in the production of premium metals or in the production of premium forms of energy.

It does not matter that the EROEI is low

Electricity is a conversion from energy in a less useful form (coal, wind, hydroelectric, etc) to a more useful form. In that case, as you state, the EROEI doesn't matter.

However, EROEI does matter for liquid fuels when you are replacing one liquid fuel (oil) with another liquid fuel (ethanol). In that case EROEI is all that matters. The new form is not more useful than the old form, so there is no value added by the conversion.

I have a simple test for ethanol. When it can be produced profitably with no oil inputs at all, then I will accept it as a reasonable energy source. Until then it is just a boondoggle that is piggybacking on the versatility and value of oil.

Right, like using electricity to drive electrical motors to drive electrical generators.

Hey! I think I just came up with another infinite motion machine!

Perhaps someone can help me with this very issue, because it causes me great confusion.

In my untutored, lay opinion, this analogy (metal-energy) could be a poster child for the False Analogy fallacy.

That means the following statement is nonsense:

As I have often pointed out with my Metal Return on Metal Invested (MROMI) analogy, producing a pound of gold that consumed 10 pounds of iron in it's [sic] mining would be precluded using MRORI.

One never "consumes" iron to get gold, for one cannot convert iron to gold the way one can convert the chemical energy in coal into a flow of electrons. The statement above is more akin to Alchemy than physics.

Likewise, one never "converts" coal to electricity: as I said, one converts one form of energy--chemical--into another--heat--then another--motion--then another--electricity, and along the way it's all diminishing returns. But everything's fine as long as you have an abundant source of coal. There will come a time, though, when GROWING the electricity will become impossible, no matter its value compared to a lump of coal.

In other words, it doesn't matter how "valuable" or "superior" electricity is compared to other so-called forms of energy. You're still losing, you will continue to lose, and eventually you'll just be plain lost.

Electricity is the platinum of energy and it does not matter that it's EROEI is below one because it is a super valuable form of energy.

Am I correct to say the preceding statement is a red herring?

I think he might of worded it wrong. he probably meant that it takes ten pounds of iron(in the form of equipment etc) to get that 1 pound of gold. the iron isn't used up like a consumable but is still needed and thus the needed stuff to make that 10 pound's of iron equipment is part of the cost of getting that 1 pound of gold.

It doesn't matter what the EROEI is for electricity, because electricity is a carrier for energy produced by some other source. It seems to me that what matters in the case of electricity is the EROEI of the whole "supply chain".

Hello R-squared,

I would hope your FAQ will also include the link to EB's 'Peak Phosphorus' article by Anderson and Dery. The faster we burn through depleting P & K mining reserves, especially with no countervailing global effort to urban recycle organic P & K, the faster we head into serious overall decline in all harvest yields. My feeble two cents.

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

Personally, I think you've just done us a huge favor.


The RFA's page on industry statistics shows that ethanol production in 2006 was 4.86 billion gallons. This is 116 million barrels. Oil has a BTU value of 138,000 BTUs/gal, versus 76,000 BTUs/gal for ethanol; therefore 116 million barrels of ethanol contain the BTU equivalent of 64 million barrels of oil. (Source: ORNL). The claim then is that 64 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) displaced 170 million barrels of oil.

As ethanol is used as a fuel for transportation, not for heating, maybe we should compare fuel economy instead of BTUs. How much gasoline does a litre of ethanol displace in order to create a mix, that when burned makes a car move the same distance as it would on a no-ethanol mix?

A number I came across recently that provides some perspective regarding the food vs. fuel discussion: 90 million acres were harvested in 1920 to provide fuel for transportation and farm machinery (mules and horses) this figure doesn't include pasture.

Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, series K 496-501

Robert - as you no doubt have observed, Zubrin's book is being pushed by various interests. As such, I expect there to be a growing discussion on ethanol and... methanol. Perhaps you might want to expand your ethanol discussion by taking a whack at these questions:

- What is the difference between ethanol and methanol?
- If the US can't make enough ethanol out of corn and switchgrass, can't we just make methanol out of various things?

On the limits to ethanol production... even though true, does that mean we still don't want to do it? For example, what is wrong with the vision of the future where vehicles are PHEV, with the combustions part coming from alcohol rather than gasoline?

Hi Robert,

Thanks and good luck w. the book.

In case you haven't seen it, you might want to check out the article I posted below, as well as the AFT website and newsletter (I was trying to see if the newsletter is actually accessible via the site and it doesn't seem to be. There were a couple of items of interest in it - related to your topic.)

re: The topic of biofuel feedstock sources - apparently there's a new study out - (unfortunately, I don't have time to look for it right now)- on the benefits of "no-till" agriculture. This might relate.

Coskata Energy has patented a process to gasify carbon based materials they stated can produce ethanol for under $1.00 a gallon. The process uses bacteria to ferment syngas and produce ethanol. I think that their statement of $1.00 a gallon gasoline does not include all of the costs, including plant and equipment + feedstock, but I have no proof of this. Syngas was(CO + H2 and impurities).

There is another technology being developed that uses metal catalysts to convert syngas to ethanol. The enzyme approach to cellulosic ethanol was not being discussed as viable.

It is too early to tell if this process will be efficient enough to replace substantial amounts of gasoline demand. The world needs more farmland to replace major crop losses from existing ethanol production. Deforestation and successive losses of old growth forests make wood less available.

Based on a Coskata projection for a small amount of ethanol production in 2011 it is unlikely the new process will be in time to provide the amount of ethanol required by Federal legislation. The Federal ethanol legislation might have the effect of turning the world's largest grain exporter into the largest grain importer without solving the energy crisis by 2020.

RE: Moving Billions of People article

Fortunately, during the next century we may be able to afford green mobility. In fact, we can clearly see its elements: cars, powered by fuels cells; aeroplanes, powered by hydrogen; and maglevs, powered by electricity, probably nuclear. The future looks clean, fast, and green.

Actually, I think it more likely that the future will be all about people staying put and moving themselves and stuff around as little as possible. In an energy-scarce world, conserving energy will be our obsession. Not moving anyone or anything unless absolutely necessary, and no farther or faster than absolutely necessary, will become transportation rule #1. Cheap, abundant fossil fuels has given us the luxury of not having to live under such constraints. Peak Oil also means Peak Luxury and Peak Transportation, and we're going to have to become re-acquainted with the constraints that have pretty much ruled humankind for most of our history.

My crystal ball gets very hazy when I go much past 30 years into the future (much depends upon the choices made today), but I agree that for the next 30 years, minimizing transportation demand and efficiency of transportation is absolutely vital.

That is why I am against 300 kph (180 mph) high speed trains in the USA in the next 30 years. They use way too much capital and way too much electricity (not all renewable in next 30 years) and one cannot run medium density freight on HSR tracks..

Instead I favor CSX's proposal to grade separate from Washington Dc to Miami, two tracks to run regular freight @ 2 tracks at 60 to 70 mph and one track for passenger and priority freight at 100 to 110 mph (two 110 mph tracks between DC & Richmond).

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation running off Renewable electricity,


I'm currently reading "The Black Swan". One of the big ideas is the distinction between domains where things are distributed so as to be somewhat "predictable" - like heights and weights of people - and domains where they are not at all - like income. In the first case, adding even the tallest and heaviest person will not change the averages in any meaningful way. In the latter, adding the largest incomes makes all the difference. In a winner-take-all world - which falls into the second domain - it is not possible to plan meaningfully. What the empty suits end up doing is predicting as if it belonged to the first domain and then excluding every event that invalidates that process. Those are the "above the ground" factors we hear about as the reason why oil isn't $30 a barrel.

One of the anecdotes has to do with predicting a bouncing ball. To predict the ninth bounce, one must take into consideration the effect of the gravitational pull of the person standing next to the table. [Degree of accuracy book doesn't detail.]

The Black Swan asymmetry allows you to be confident about what is wrong, not about what you believe is right. [p192]

We aren't going to see that nytimes version of a nuclear powered future. Of that I am certain - if only because it is impossible to predict, if only because there is a whole universe of events that will guarantee the future will not be like today. Today's world is so interconnected that a single event changes it enormously; it is winner-take-all. 100 years ago, before winner-take-all, planning had more of a chance of success. I don't need to posit my vision of the future to know we are not going to have green-powered maglev monorails moving billions of people.

My thoughts return then to resiliency, diversity and to maximizing possibilities. But long-term planning becomes pointless - at least until the world can be brought out of the winner-take-all mode. Ouch. Scale matters.

cfm in Gray, ME

"Green powered maglev monorails" might seem some like some kind of floating-castle fantasy in the US, but most of the world lives like this already. Shanghai just built a high-speed rail line that links the airport and the central city. It reduced travel time from 90 minutes to 11.

Maglev might be fun, but for the most part a decent, cheap, durable system that goes at 90mph is fine. Elevated monorails are touted by some as a cheaper alternative to traditional two-track. Especially in areas where there is already a lot of existing building, it is often expedient to build elevated trains anyway. The Japanese bullet trains are elevated until they get out of Tokyo (and from then they are effectively elevated, since it's 100% bridges and tunnels through the mountains). It is easy to see that you could build a high-speed elevated track using the middle strip of an existing expressway, for example. If you're going to build elevated anyway, monorails might be cheaper and easier. I don't know if there are cost advantages to maglev, or if it is some kind of superexpensive techno-toy like the supersonic Concorde (as I imagine is the case). (Note most monorails run on rubber tires rather than steel wheels on steel rails, so maglev might be a way to get a more efficient, frictionless system. Existing monorails might be speed constrained as well.) "Green power" might just be the default power source when fossil fuels run down. For example, since trains are a high-value use of electricity, and air conditioning a low-value use, if a reduction in overall electricity use by 50% meant much less use of air conditioning, and that remaining 50% was provided by hydro, wind and nuclear (entirely possible), then the trains would be run on "green power" by default. As it is, I remember that about 20% of existing worldwide electricity is provided by hydro and 20% by nuclear today. The "other alternatives," mainly wind and solar, could fill the 10% gap, the 50% provided by coal/gas/diesel would disappear, and then you'd have a 100% "green" electrical system (to the extent that nuclear is "green" of course).

As I've argued, the electrical system of the future may be already built! Just turn off the coal plants (voluntarily or involuntarily), and let the market adjust prices so that demand matches supply.

This hypothesized 50% reduction in electricity usage is not all that difficult, and would be quickly accomplished by (much) higher prices. We have already seen that typical "off grid" solar-powered houses use literally 90% less -- 90% less! -- electricity than the typical US home (about 3 kwh/d vs 30 kwh/d), but they have all the usual conveniences including refrigeration, electric lights, kitchen appliances, computers and so forth. If grid electricity were the same price as off-grid electricity, this would be normal everywhere.

Here's to simple, cheap monorail systems running on hydro/wind power!

One of the great things about maglev is that it might get people out of aeroplanes.
They can travel at nearly the same speed, and city centre to city centre.
I am never keen on the idea some seem to have that the urge to travel is some kind of moral degeneracy, and that we should give it up.
Just the same, not only is fossil fuel use in aeroplanes concerning, but the vapour trails have notable affects.
A lot of people have to put up with a heck of a din from aeroplanes too.
The use of maglev would move a lot of people relatively efficiently energetically at minimal cost to the environment.
I'd sooner have that to get me to the Continent than Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

No need for maglev !

TODAY, there is 100 mph non-stop service from Paddington Station, London to Heathrow.


And there is high speed (several speeds, 180 kph to 300 kph I think) service from St. Pancreas Station, London (no more bringing the French into Waterloo Station >:-) to Paris and Brussels. And from either capital, an EU HSR network growing across "the Continent".

EU HSR by 2020 (they ignore almost HSR in Sweden & Denmark and the Chunnel is fast but not true HSR).


Best Hopes for EU & Japanese & Taiwan & Korean & ... High Speed Rail,


I think travelling quickly is good, if it can be done at reasonable cost to the environment.
It is also great if you live in chilly northern Europe to be able to take a break for the weekend.
People just ain't gonna give that up, and will continue to travel by air unless better alternatives are found.
Maglev would do the trick, and draw people away form more environmentally unfriendly airtravel without coercing them.

People will travel by air as long as the cost is only a few hundred dollars. Once the tickets are priced in the thousands of dollars rather than hundreds, you'll see people flying only for absolutely essential trips. Furthermore, what seems "absolutely essential" now will seem less so when it becomes that expensive. People won't like it, but they will really have no other choice.

With the use of a little bit of brainpower no such choice may be needed.

I am never keen on the idea some seem to have that the urge to travel is some kind of moral degeneracy, and that we should give it up.

Not a moral quesstion, just a matter of adjusting to the inevitable reality. As energy becomes more scarce and expensive, non-essential travel is going to be eliminated. A few of us have already faced up to that reality, have let go, and are adjusting. Most people still have that to go through.

And what in the world makes you think it is inevitable?
The main reason why I differ from those who dislike nuclear power is because it is here now, it works and concerns over it are greatly exaggerated.
However, even if you ignore that rather easy way of providing all the power billions in an industrial society would need for millions of years, I have no serious doubts that given 50 years of progress solar energy would provide all the power needed.
It is just that there is a lot of money going out at the moment on an immature technology, and there are cheaper ways of doing things.
So your statement that a low energy future is 'inevitable' is a best debatable, and your pretension to be looking down from some superior height on the struggles of mere mortals to catch up with your lofty reasoning ludicrous.
If it is inevitable, prove it!
Warning: proofs of impossibility are tricky, and usually backfire.
To take another example, there are proposals to investigate fusion by the Bussard method - now this mafy or may not work, but they are spending a few million dollars to find out.
And you somehow 'know' that those experiments will fail?
This kind of 'reasoning' might lead many impartial observers to question your powers of judgement.

I would be very happy with a steady 60mph from Amtrak. If there were just a few more trains, and if they ran something close to predictably on time, then ground transportation would be more than satisfactory for almost any purpose. It wouldn't even cost very much, compared to all these pie-in-the-sky schemes.

Once again, rational allocation of resources is a pipe dream. The human rational faculty appears to function only to rationalize decisions made previously at a different level. It is merely an adjunct to a far more adaptive function (for survival, that is) -- deception.

Locke and the boys had it all wrong -- but they fooled us for 300 years.

Once again, rational allocation of resources is a pipe dream. The human rational faculty appears to function only to rationalize decisions made previously at a different level. It is merely an adjunct to a far more adaptive function (for survival, that is) -- deception.

advertiser's learned this post ww2 from the german propaganda minister's who in turn learned it from us propaganda people after ww1. It's something that everyone should know too.

Certainly lowering the cost to use rail travel in the US would help. 2 years ago I planned a trip for 3 people from near the end of Long Island NY to north of Boston MA. The total cost was just under $300. We ended up using a diesel MB for a cost of $74 for 4 people including the ferry cost from NY to Conn. The price difference will have to change before rail becomes popular. Also there needs to be improvements to the rail stock to achieve near European standards, some of the trains we took were in rough condition.

I would be very happy with a steady 60mph from Amtrak. If there were just a few more trains, and if they ran something close to predictably on time, then ground transportation would be more than satisfactory for almost any purpose. It wouldn't even cost very much, compared to all these pie-in-the-sky schemes.

Amtrak has it all wrong. They are focused mostly on long-haul cross-continental routes. This puts them in direct competition with the airlines (which can get people there much more quickly, and more likely on time, and for very little if any additional cost). It means that many communities are not served at all, and all but a few communities on the route are only served at odd times (middle of the night). It is a sure recipe for failure.

A better approach would be to focus on inter-city routes in the range of up to a few hundred miles. In this range, rail could compete very effectively against air in terms of total time from city center to city center. It would also enable them to schedule all of their runs during daytime hours, thus increasing their ridership considerably.

Such an approach would attract state governments into partnership with Amtrak in order to subsidize intra-state rail service. (As we already have here in NC and in a few other states like VT, CA, and a couple of others.)

It might still be possible to travel by rail across the country in this way, but it would be necessary to change trains several times, and probably stay overnight in a hotel severl times rather than ride in a sleeping car.

The overdone and hackneyed political meme for this election season is "change". The change we need,however, is within the human psyche. While we need vast improvements in our mass transportation systems, these will largely remain unused without an order of magnitude change in misery associated with personal auto mobility or an order of magnitude change in our attitudes. Higher oil prices will help a bit, but our love for our automobiles will trump changes in oil prices up to at least the $300 level.

Best hopes for greater utility with less mobility.

I would love to know at what price of oil does electrifying rail become cost effective. The answer obviously depends on how much a given rail line is used. The northeast corridor of the United States would become cost effective to electrify before, say, a rail line running across Montana for example.

Has anyone come across a good report on the web about rail electrification economics from an energy perspective?

A map of railroad studies of electrification in the 1970s


Missing from the map is the KATY from Dallas to Houston and Mexican Railways. When Mexican railways were sold (mainly to Kansas City Southern), electrification equipment already bought was scrapped/sold elsewhere.

At much lower oil prices, Russia finished electrification of the Trans-Siberian in 2002 and electrified to Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean in 2005.

"Officially" property taxes (electrification infrastructure is taxed, RR diesel is not) are the reason for North American RRs not electrifying. Personally, I think it is because RRs have devolved into duopoly's and have no incentive to compete or even lower costs (just pass on fuel cost surcharges, and pad them a bit according to reports).

Best Hopes for breaking the logjam,



Way too much capital? Putting down HSR tracks for the entire US (except the desolate parts) should cost something like a quarter of a trillion dollars (shamelessly extrapolated bu multiplying the cost of the postulated Swedish track costs by 30). That's peanuts for a $13 trillion a year economy.

That's a 50 cent a gallon tax for 8 years, or a year in Iraq, or the kind of money you'd get by nationalizing the fortunes of the 10 richest Americans (patriot tax, yay!).

But the most reasonable, nay ideal, way of getting the money is sovereign debt financing. Dirt cheap rates, repayed over say 40 years. Would raise the US national debt from 8.4 to 8.7 trillion dollars. Who cares? Especially as it's not spending but investment, that is, the things will make money, not be giant sucking holes in the Arabian desert, vaporizing the money away for no use, never to be seen again.

And the power? The consumption should not be to big. Say 3000 trains (France has 500), 10 MW each, with a "capacity factor" of maybe 50 %. That's 15 000 MW so add 10 big nukes for another $50 billion. It's nothing.

Let's build the damn things and get it all over with.

But the most reasonable, nay ideal, way of getting the money is sovereign debt financing.

Hurt myself laughing - after the ARM scam unwinds nobody is going to give us a nickel unless we've go five pennies visible in our collective fist.

The US loans several hundred billions of dollars a year, something the ARM stuff is not going to change, or haven't changed.

Just make sure you don't lose the AAA rating. ;)

Har! $250 billion for the whole thing! A one-time cost that will pay benefits for decades? That's peanuts. People have no concept of the US economy. We're spending almost that much EVERY YEAR to destroy infrastructure in Iraq, for no good reason except that it gives Dick Cheney a hard-on.

Just to give you an example, there's about $2,000 billion spent EVERY YEAR on health care. $250 billion is probably Americans' potato-chip budget.

Some really flashy, high speed (300+ kph) trains in the Boston-DC corridor would be wonderful, and should be built just for the wow factor. Taiwan just put in some spiffy high-speed lines -- and Taiwan is very mountainous. You'd think we could have a high-speed system as good as Taiwan's. However, train systems are really based on lots and lots and lots of fairly mundane lines connecting hundreds if not thousands of local stations. It's the thousands of local stations that make the high-speed "trunk lines" valuable -- the ability to walk out your door to the local station without using a car, go to the main station, and then blast off over long distances.

CSX has estimated the cost for a Washington DC to Miami upgrade (1,200 Miles) at $20 to $25 billion.

Upgrades include complete grade separation, 3 tracks from Richmond to Miami (two regular freight @ 60 to 70 mph, one passenger, express freight at 100 to 110 mph) and 2 freight + 2 pax tracks from Richmond to DC.

The DoD has selected 33,000 miles of railroads as being of strategic importance.

Just to wrap your arms around the scope of what can/needs to be done.

IMO cheaper than the Interstate Highway system.

Best Hopes for Starting Work on a Solution,



You know I am totally on your side and cheering you on wrt EOT. Unfortunately, I've come to the sad conclusion that we in the USA are unlikely to EVER have it as good as the Europeans have it right now when it comes to rail transport. I just don't see our political and business leadership getting their act together anywhere near soon enough to make everything happen that needs to happen. Hopefully, through your efforts and others maybe at least some of it will come on line.

I expect to live another 30 years or so. I do NOT expect to live long enough to see rail service (Urban & Intercity) the equal of France, Germany or Switzerland TODAY in my lifetime (by 2020 all 3 nations will have much more).

None-the-less, I can see an "adequate" level of service developing.

Best Hopes for "A Journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step",


The future is here now. We just have to know where to look.

A ratttlesnake has self organized criticality features like this.

My crystal ball gets very hazy when I go much past 30 years into the future (much depends upon the choices made today), but I agree that for the next 30 years, minimizing transportation demand and efficiency of transportation is absolutely vital.

That is why I am against 300 kph (180 mph) high speed trains in the USA in the next 30 years. They use way too much capital and way too much electricity (not all renewable in next 30 years) and one cannot run medium density freight on HSR tracks..

Instead I favor CSX's proposal to grade separate from Washington Dc to Miami, two tracks to run regular freight @ 2 tracks at 60 to 70 mph and one track for passenger and priority freight at 100 to 110 mph (two 110 mph tracks between DC & Richmond).

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation running off Renewable electricity,


The author is enamored of the idea that we can have BAU with the automobile as the centerpiece of our transportation system forever. Just can't wait until India ramps up to millions of new mini cars. Yeh, that's the ticket? Will these be all hydrogen? Yeh, no doubt the India population will have no trouble affording those.

Personally, if I can satisfy a need without driving, I will go with that every time. And that was also true, when in 1982 I traded in my car for a bicycle. I lived in Frankfurt, Germany, where a car was absolutely not necessary and was more a hindrance than a help in getting around. In a hurry? Take the U Bahn.

The key change needed will be the de brain washing of the world's people who believe that the car is the ticket to modernity and happiness. Quite the contrary. The car is a symbol of primitivism and lack of concern for one's well being and that of others, including non human species.

Until we can be in a position to say, "Beam me up, Scotty", personal motorized transportation is an abomination.

Until we can be in a position to say, "Beam me up, Scotty", personal motorized transportation is an abomination.

I just said it. We're cool now.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

In an energy-scarce world, conserving energy will be our obsession. Not moving anyone or anything unless absolutely necessary, and no farther or faster than absolutely necessary, will become transportation rule #1.

Well since I have family all over the globe I figured I'd learn how to sail despite the fact that I'm a bit past the half century mark. BTW my instructor is in his late 60's. My relatives in Europe routinely do 60 km bike rides and I've started to build up my stamina by doing 20 mi. Just because we won't have easy access to air travel and automobiles doesn't mean we all have to stay put. I for one kind of like the idea of living in a world where we can take a month off to sail across the pond.

I learned to sail in my twenties but couldn't afford to keep it up. Many years later I picked it up again. There are many many great sailors who learned later in life. And there are many sailors who sailed well into their eighties (and beyond). Sailing requires only love of the sea and a willingness to know and accept that she is unforgiving.

Sailing is wonderful. I was down at the marina today to check my little Cal 20. That boat is powered by a 2 hp Honda and last season I might have used about 12 litres of fuel for about 300nm of sailing. One could put oars on the boat and do away with the engine entirely. A Cal 20 called "Chalupa" went to Hawaii from San Francisco. KP Chin used oars for navigating around the islands:


What sort of boat are you learning on?

Sailing requires only love of the sea and a willingness to know and accept that she is unforgiving

I've started out on an 18 ft. sloop rigged dinghie, no motor. It's lots of fun.

I'm a newcomer to being the skipper on a sailboat but I've had the good fortune to have friends who are experienced sailors and have taken me aboard their boats upon occasion. I have also spent considerable time on the water, I've worked as a deep sea commercial diver on oil rigs back in the late 70's off of Brazil, Was a scuba instructor for a while and currently scuba dive off of a kayak on our local reefs in Hollywood Florida. www.kayuba.org

Three hours a day of electricity in Kabul? No wonder there's relatively little grassroots support for Hamid Karzai. This is the first order of business in winning political support -- electricity, hospitals and roads. When I visited Kabul over the years, during the Soviet-backed era, Kabul had electricity around the clock. When the mujahedin took over in 1992, service plummeted, and it's not gotten better under U.S.-backed rule. One wonders what the diplomatic and NGO communities are thinking about.

Steve LeVine, author
The Oil and the Glory

What does Kabul and Baghdad have in common.

No electricity.

Here's a more complete list of countries facing ongoing electricity shortages and blackouts per the Energy Shortage Blog:

Northern Marianas
Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
South Africa
Sri Lanka

As we get further into fossil fuel depletion, electricity shortages and blackouts will become the rule, not the exception, for much of the world.

This year Brazil risks getting into this list. 2007 was very dry, and Bolivia doesn't have as much natural gas as they said to us.

Many thanks for this list Solaris. Interesting that Nova Scotia and North Dakota are on the same page with Sierra Leone and Rwanda.


They left off the Dominican Republic, for one. Severe shortages much of the time. I'm sure Haiti is worse.

Oh well. Unfortunately, "They" is just one person. If you search for the DR you will see some stories from last year. After a big hurricane passed they had some disruptions and were reporting shortages. I usually knock spot things off after a couple of months (Nova Scotia will go away, but Ontario will likely stay because there is a systemic energy issue in that Province).

If the DR is a more systemic problem I would appreciate a reference. Or leave a comment on ES, as comments are very much appreciated. I am sure many things escape my notice.

I should also like to thank Solaris for posting the link. Lot's of traffic today. Normally I only receive a few visitors.

My son lives there. Believe me I know of what I speak. It is worse in the rural areas but all parts of the country experience blackouts daily, with the possible exception of Santo Domingo, where the politocos abide, and have for at least the last 5 years. All the tourist areas have there own back up power.

No doubt this is the case in the DR and many other places too. The problem I'm faced with is that when it is systemic and part of the fabric of life the press seems to stop reporting it. Until the problem becomes acute (as it did in the DR after last year's hurricane season), it seems to be ignored.

Also, I don't really use an operational definition of "energy shortage." For example, Uganda only has about 5% of its population connected to the electricity grid so it would be assumed that that country would have a permanent energy shortage. While it is on the list, the recent stories are mostly because of fuel issues stemming from the political situation in Kenya. There are some electricity stories from last year but they are reported because New Vision (a Ugandan news site) reports on load shedding affecting that very 5%. It would be the same thing if Santo Domingo was experiencing daily power cuts. Then I would probably, but not certainly, catch it.

ES is not meant to be scientific, inclusive, or even representative; however, on occasion I reference it to others when discussing energy issues. Doing the blog has been interesting and incredibly educational for me and has solidified my view that the world has a very big problem on its hands.

Piggly, you do an excellent job on your Energy Shortage blog. I check it regularly.


Thanks very much for the kind words, there are very much appreciated.

And plenty of Bush.

Disaster capitalism in action.

You're right. And yet the Soviets lost. Apparently the westernized elite types running Kabul are of little strategic value. The hillbillies are the real power in the "country", whether fighting each other or the latest foreign meddler. Hell, many of them might feel they're better off now than under the Soviets because of the opium rackets.

On the other hand, it's amusing to consider that this might be the final revenge of the world's poor. If their attempts at leftist solutions have all been crushed, then they can wreck the rich by moving all the way to the religious fanatic right, thus destroying the scientific and technological basis of capitalist power while seeming to support its love of inequality and tax cuts. Good Soldier Schweik rules.

One could argue the Soviets had already won but then their helicopters started falling from the sky as some previously unavailable (to the Mujahideen) weapons appeared on the scene.

Good Soldier Schweik needs to be disseminated. Looked a year ago for a good English translation and learned it was a work in progress. Read part of a poor trans and was a great read. Please Super300, where can I find a good English translation.

Penguin Classics did a good copy back in the 70's.

All the original drawings by Josef Lada as well.

They followed through with 'Red Commissar' - a re-created book from Hachecks notes after Schwiek was captured by the Russians - Hilarious, but not quite the same thing as the original.

Lent my copy out 20 years ago. (mistake).

Martí taught us that "all of the world's glory fits in a kernel of corn". Many times have I said and repeated this phrase, which carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.

F.Castro speech 12-2008

The Upcoming Student Loan Revolt?

2008 and later college graduates are, I assume, the most indebted group of college graduates in US history--graduating into what can chairtably be described as "challenging" conditions. Their parents can be classifed in many cases as the FWO group--Formerly Well Off's.

I have a new term for the Baby Boom Echo generation, NWO's--Never (to be) Well Off's. For many (most?) of them, the SUV/suburban American Way of Life will be nothing more than a receding illusion on the horizon.

In addition to the extremely difficult job environment, they are going to be facing a huge tax burden in the years ahead because of the unfunded Social Security/Medicare system while trying to pay off massive student loans, which I understand can't be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

The NWO's are not going to be happy campers. I expect to see something like a march on Washington by heavily indebted NWO's.

If your kid is just now looking at college, I would think long and hard about either one of you assuming large amounts of debt and about their choice of major.

From: ELP Plan (April, 2007)

ELP: Produce

Jim Kunstler has suggested that we should not celebrate being largely a nation of consumers. I agree with Jim. We need to once again become a nation of producers. I recommend that you try to become, or work for, a provider of essential goods and services.

Key recommended sectors are obviously energy--conventional, non conventional and alternative energy production and energy conservation--as well as food production, especially local organic farming close to towns and cities.

Other sectors to consider are repair and maintenance, low cost energy efficient housing, low cost transportation, basic health care, etc.

The biggest risk to family finances is trying to maintain the SUV, suburban mortgage way of life in a period of contracting energy supplies. Beyond that, one of the next biggest risks in my opinion, is excessive and unwise spending--especially debt financed spending--on college education costs.

While we will desperately need engineers and many other technically qualified graduates, we are seeing wave upon wave of college graduates entering the work force with degrees that very poorly prepare them for work in a post-Peak Oil environment. We may ultimately see college graduates competing with illegal immigrants for agricultural jobs.

Perhaps the best education investment that many young people could make is a two year associate degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area, perhaps with summer jobs in the agricultural sector.

I would especially recommend that you consider buying, perhaps with a joint venture group, a small farm, either currently organic, or that can be converted to an organic farm. In the short term, if nothing else you could lease it out to an organic farmer. Longer term, you might consider building or moving a prefab, small energy efficient house to the farm. If nothing else, this plan may provide a place of work for your unemployed college graduate.

I'd send my kids to Community Colleges for 2 years.

"degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area, perhaps with summer jobs in the agricultural sector."

Most are now aligned with VoTechs, specifically designed
to produce workers for local jobs.

Ammonia refrigeration is the highest paying job in poultry country.

The kid aces it, gets a scholarship to
Land Grant U. With needed skills to compete.

VoTech is the way to go, and if it were available I I'd have gone that way myself. Becoming an engineer, doctor, etc is a hopeless quest in the US unless you come from at least a certain class level. If you're not a member of the comfortable bourgeousie, forget it. Go vo tech!

I managed to pay off my student loans, I think I was in for about $10k, and paid them off on my $11 an hour bench tech job. However I was much richer then than I am now, and I'd not take on ANY debt for college now.

Sometimes I think the impossibility of getting a degree for most Americans is a way to force more to join the military, where there are a lot of promises made in this area (and actually the number of vets getting a degree after they're done serving is very low, it's turned out to be much more profitable for the powers that be than the old WWII GI Bill which catapulted many working-class Americans into the middle class.)

Becoming an engineer, doctor, etc is a hopeless quest in the US unless you come from at least a certain class level.

Difficult but not impossible. A friend left high school and took local course for massage therapist (1 year, I am unsure). Her single mom worked as temp mainly.

She decided to go to medical school and took two years in CA junior college, and two years in college. Got into medical school and out with a mountain of loans. Now close to finishing her residency at age 3x, older than most by a decade.


The way you word that is strange. I'm assuming her single mom kicked her out at age 18 to sink or swim, so it would not matter what her single mom did..... unless the addition of the type of employment her single mom had, has some connotation that her single mom actually let her stay at home while she attended school, a HUGE advantage.

I've long said and will say it again, that if a student's family will (a) let them keep the money they earn from age 13 or 14 on to save for school, (b) let them sleep in the garage or in a doghouse on the lawn while in college, and (c) let them have the table scraps, the kid can get through college in style!

But most American kids don't have these advantages. Any money they make is taken from them. They are kicked out to sink or swim at age 18, and it's all they can do to survive much less go to college.

But most American kids don't have these advantages. Any money they make is taken from them. They are kicked out to sink or swim at age 18, and it's all they can do to survive much less go to college.

That is simply not true. Perhaps it was true in your family, but according to the US census, most college age American kids live with their parents.

FWIW, I knew only one family when I was a teen who kicked their kids out at age 18, and everyone thought they were really weird.

Where I grew up, the way I grew up, the families with a coherent family structure were the weirdos. And rare. And always very religious.

Me, I pray for Pat Buchanan or some rabid Mormon or other God's Country type for President, I'd like to see divorce become illegal, kids to all learn the Bible*, etc. I was not raised religious and damn it, the religious types have it right - it's either them or the Religion Of Fuck You, and that's a horrible thing to subject kids to.

*at least there are some interesting stories and examples/parables in there. And Jesus seems to have been a decent guy, a better role model than one's absent father. The story of the fishes and loaves seems tailor-made for the half-starved kid of an exploded family run under "mutual fuck-you" principles.

And what I describe is how millions of American kids grow up.

Well, my family is atheist, my parents are still together, and I wasn't kicked out. I left because I wanted to leave. I could go back even now, if I wanted to.

In fact, I've been thinking about it. Not now, but eventually. When my parents can no longer live alone, I plan to be there for them.

fleam: I left because I found a job in another state. Went mom got cancer the family took turns taking care of her, till she died. I was able to take several months off to stay with her during the process. I then offered to let dad move in with me. He decide to keep his job since it was all he knew. When dad had to have bypass surgery I took several week off to help him through it.

You obviously had a different experience, but my experience is that it is not the norm.

Another old coot checking in, I left the day after I turned 18, no hard feelings I just wanted to have my own rules. I'd been working since I was 15 so I had some $$ saved. Paid my own way from then on.
School etc. I was the only son of 3 children and the baby.

Recently, in the past 6 months, my mother has taken some bad falls and had borderline dementia. I dropped everything I had going on to travel 400 miles twice and stay with my dad, as my mom went through rehab. They are both 86. It was not very good at times as you can imagine, but it was the right thing to do. Maybe we've lost that sense of what is right and wrong, it does seem to go along with the predicament we face and with the decisions we need to make. Knowing deep inside your gut what the right thing to do is.

She left home at age 17 and has provided more financial help for her mother than her mother has given her. Her father is NA.

AFAIK, the only help was a great aunt her gave her $10,000 upon graduation from medical school to get started on her residency (badly needed BTW).


At my community college there are recruiters somewhere on campus nearly every day.


If one wants a career in science or engineering, then one really does need to go to university. On the other hand, if one merely needs a BA as a credential, there are much less expensive ways to get it.

1) Students should be encouraged to take advantage of whatever advanced placement courses they can get in high school. They are not going to learn very much in the standard high school classes anyway, they might as well be using their time more productively.

2) Community College is a great deal. Considering that in many universities, much of the instruction in the first two years is going to be by TAs, the quality of instruction in community colleges is unlikely to be inferior. It is likely to be considerably less expensive - plus, the student can continue living at home and saving a ton of money. Community colleges also offer more flexible scheduling, allowing students to pursue an eduction while working full or part time. As they are not in university towns, the work opportunities are likely to be a little better.

3) Students could also take advantage of credit by examination. Spend a little time at the local library and on the internet, buy or borrow a used textbook, and one can likely learn enough to pass the exam. Some libraries have even acquired a lot of The Teaching Company course recording that can be checked out.

4) There are also lots of correspondence, television, and internet-based distance learning courses now available. Complete programs can actually be rather expensive, but one can earn credits in a wide variety of courses from many different universities.

5) Most state universities have articulation agreements with the community colleges in their state, so one can complete a two year AA degree at the community college and then transfer to university to complete the final two years. They should also accept the credits earned by examination and distance learning (check first). Most only require a semester or two of actual residence on campus and a minimum number of credits to be earned on campus; you might be able to get by with only being on campus for a year or so.

6) Another alternative is a degree-completion program. There are a number of colleges that will give you credit for "life experience" (a good reason for working your way through college) as well as that odd assortment of AP, community college, credit by examination, and distance learning courses. They'll package the whole lot together, and identify a small set of courses you need to take to end up with a degree. ONLY ENROLL IN ONE OF THESE PROGRAMS IF THEY ARE REGIONALLY ACCREDITED.

Some combination of the above can earn one a BA from an accredited institution for a fraction of the cost of a 4-year stay at university -- let alone a private college. Of course, what one gets for this is a credential, not an education. The thing is, though, that one really is not getting much of an eduction in the traditional 4-year programs either. By taking charge of one's educational process and not just taking what is dished out by a single university, it might actually be possible to truly educate oneself to a far better extent than is likely to occur in the typical university.

There are a few elite, highly selective colleges, to which the few highly intelligent elite students can and should go. These institutions and students are superior, and a superior education does happen there. When it comes to mass education, though, the program I have outlined above would probably serve most students a lot better than loading them up with huge amounts of debt.

There is, of course, something missing from my suggested plan of action: no college football or basketball games, no frat parties, no late night bull sessions, etc. All away from the parents for the first time. College can be fun. It is expensive fun, though. Some people (fewer, in the future) can afford it, but increasing numbers cannot not. They have been told that they really have no choice, they have to take the whole package and pay the price, whether they can afford it or not (and increasing numbers cannot). That's not true, though, there are alternatives.

As an Adult Ed Instructor I concur.

"1) Students should be encouraged to take advantage of whatever advanced placement courses they can get in high school. They are not going to learn very much in the standard high school classes anyway, they might as well be using their time more productively."

The path is still there. And IMHO, "advanced placement" is
the "world avg". Standard has been dumbed down.

Also, while in CC, look to get a job or parent/spouse in the Land Grant U. Hours
are then 1/2 price. And anything over 15 hrs is "free".

Anything over 9 is free in Summer.

Yes and the AP level classes and the several hours of homework every night will train them young'uns that it's all about busting ass, just doing the work, repetition, do what your told, BS that will make them ideal fodder which the mega multi-national corps will be hireing by the droves to meet the huge demand and exponential growth of the rosie future.

Sometimes you guys can be so hypocritical.

I believe that the exceptional ones will find other ways and it is up to us to offer and provide options.

There are a few elite, highly selective colleges, to which the few highly intelligent elite students can and should go. These institutions and students are superior, and a superior education does happen there.

I would add...keep in mind that with many of these elite colleges, the superior eduction happens in the graduate program, not the undergraduate.

As a Professor at a Community College in upstate NY, I concur with WNC. Most classes are taught by practitioners in his/her field and TEACHING is why most of us work at a CC. In addition, there is a tremendous infrastructure to help students succeed. One of our most important "metrics" is retention so most of us work very hard to connect with students and help them make it to graduation.

In addition, one trend here in my neck of the woods is for CCs to build dorms/residence halls (RH being the PC term these days). So, it is even possible to have more of the traditional college experiences - for better or for worse. I do support the idea of RHs being a great chance to try living "independently" and learning to get along with other homo sapiens. We are going to need this skill to get through the coming times.

One problem is that too many students in my classes don't have a clue as to why they are in college. This, shall we say, "lack of purpose" distracts from the learning opportunity (I don't think I really teach - students have more responsibility to grasp the opportunity than we think) and the more purposeful students are not well served by these distractors. Thus, I would encourage more serious learners to apply to CCs and (hopefully) displace the students who don't know why they are there.

If I could change one thing about higher eduction, I would allow almost no one to go directly to college from high school. Like most graduate MBA programs, I would require everyone to have some other experience for at least a year. Community Service, military, making pizza at the beach, working at SprawlMart, anything.


I concur with the folks pushing community college. I went to UC Santa Cruz myself and studied computer science. While I was fascinated with UNIX at the time and to some extent continue to be, I feel this may not have been optimal. The reason is that I do like sitting in a cube programming all day and, in fact, have trouble focusing in such circumstances. Instead, I like being out on the computer lab floor doing system administration type tasks. These do not require a CS degree.

While I like math, after all what what else can you learn that is intrinsically true, I might have served myself better by getting a technical degree to pay the bills while persuing visual art more seriously. Like fleam, I see more honesty in music than painting,
but I enjoy painting and I cannot carry a tune. I don't think you should follow your passion and not worry about earning an income, but getting a graduate or even a four year degree, may ultimately be essential for neither.

Ultimately, I don't think there's an ideal solution, but I'd be wary of assuming high school to college to graduate school is the way to go even if you can afford it.

I actually have an evil plan in the back of my head to finagle, somehow, my way into the local junior college which actually teaches medical "stuff" including having a 4-year nursing program.

In a mad max future, those who can stitch up wounds etc and keep warriors alive to fight again will be useful.

There are dorms at this college, and I'm likely to face far less discrimination than on the coast, where going back to college is simply unattainable.

When the balloon goes up, as they say, they're not going to care that I went to some horse'n'cow college, they're going to care that I can do my job.

And if I can wangle my way in somehow, the downtown area has many busking and dish-washing opportunities, so I'll be able to scare up some work year-round, not like now where I'm isolated and unable to work due to cold weather and travel difficulty for at least 4 months of the year.

fleam et al...perhaps your situations might allow apprenticing as electrician?

The IBEW* locals around the country have 4 to 6 year apprenticeships to journeyman status. Open to all. Pay starts on Day #1 about half-journeyman wage and rises to full-scale in steps until Journeyman status. As journeyman free to travel anywhere and your credentials are fairly well established by the fact of a recognized apprenticeship. The education and skills are valued by enquiring individuals.

I am recently retired J'man [Journeyman Wireman]. Been doing mostly nuclear-power generation refuelling "outages" since 2000.There is shortage of journeymen in many locales in both maintenance and construction, commercial and industrial.

*International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers

Unfortunately, most people don't understand why they go to college until well after they leave college. This is true at the CC level and also the Ivy Leagues.

Most college students would be happy to do something in the "real world." If you're 18 years old, able to vote and kill people in foreign countries, then you want to begin to participate in the world of adults. I wouldn't necessarily suggest flipping burgers, but rather real professional work, something like an apprenticeship for example -- whether that be as a financial analyst, piano teacher or a marine diesel mechanic. Excepting some technical fields, most 18 year old have as much preparation for real professional work as most 21 yo college graduates, which is to say, not a whole lot. Speaking from personal experience, the LAST thing most 18-21yos want to do is be stuck in a concentration camp with a bunch of other 18-21yos and their loony camp counselors (professors) while the adult world continues on in some parallel universe.

To some degree, I think college is a fantasy of middle-aged professional adults (i.e. the people that pay for it).

I sure am glad I don't have any kids. That was the best decision I ever made.

Maybe my 85 year old father felt the same way.

But then he needed someone to be there for him (and pull him through) a difficult time in the geriatric hospital recently.

And no... he would not have died. But he wouldn't have made it back to self sufficiency either. Instead... he would have been promoted to the "6th floor" where care means a diaper and a happy pill twice a day.

If you don't have children, and I respect that, please don't be without a neighbor, a friend, a companion... to
advocate for you, protect you, when you cannot do it yourself.

By the time I'm into old age we'll be well past Peak Everything and well into collapse and die-off. So I am not the least bit concerned about having someone to take care of me in my old age.

People really need to get a clue and think long and hard before bringing any new humans into the world right now.

Will: Where does this modern American mentality of living your life according to how you want your personal circumstances at age 85 to be? It appears to be another example of the "feminization" of America. Realistically, age 85 sucks for almost everyone-expending a lot of energy or living your life so it won't happen to you is like planning to win the lottery, IMO.

And where do people get the crazy idea that family will give a shit about you when you're old/poor? I mean, WTF??

I don't know what planet you guys live on, but in the Empire, no one cares about anyone if it doesn't pay, and family won't give a shit about you if you can't buy their loyalty. So if you can't pay some Mexican home nurse, your family if any are sure as hell not going to bail you out.

That whole family-giving-a-shit thing died decades ago.

I'm glad I'm not part of your family.

I know some families like that.
And plenty more where there's just no money so they end up behaving that way.
Go see a movie, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, and then consider that what is shown is the medical care given to EVERYONE in France. Or at least the care is close enough so that audiences don't laugh.
In America no amount of money, none, could buy that.
The Empire robs even the masters of the universe of their humanity.

Yet, even in France, thousands of elderly died because there was nobody to open the window for them on a hot day.

BUT fleam my man,

If you have diligently saved some scheckles for thy oldense dayses. If you have lived within your means. If you now have a bunch of money...
then the kiddiekins will be constantly kissing your arse and playing those good ole suck up games.

Your choice then is to play the game wisely and never give anything away but dangle it in front of them.

This was my father-in-law's game plan but he was too stupid and married a one-legged ex-nun,after having his first (of four) marriage annulled so my wife was then considered a bastard by her church(RCC).

He now will die badly and be shat upon by his children. They won't get a dime for he promised it all to her if she would marry him.

You play the game and the merry-go-round keeps time with it. You win or you lose. Honesty doesn't come up. Its all lies,greased owl shit and charades.

Myself? I live alone and have good men friends. I have some toys to give them when its 'checkout' time. I told my own kids to act decent about it all but they now have more money than me.

Thats ok for I can now do exactly what I wish and right now thats a good nightcap and some Edy's icecream then a good book and my pipe in the bed. Book? "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" second time around.

I ken QM. It says..."you create reality with your own consciousness". Good enough for me.

Airdale that's the pisser about it isn't it?

Our culture is a completely commodified culture, everything including friendship etc is a commodity to be bought or sold.

In the US everything is based on money. Our better artists whether jazzmen or cartoonists or satirists etc., have to leave the Empire to stay sane. A good R. Crumb cartoon or a Chet Baker solo can't compete in our system against mass-marketed anime junk or some computer generated synthesizer concoction called "music". The Europeans are backward and primitive to us, they actually believe some things can't be bought with money.

They also understand the value of their cultural patrimony and expend effort in preserving it and passing it on to future generations. Most Americans don't even understand the term "cultural patrimony", let alone attach any value to it.

I've seen inheritance mess up so many family relationships!

I've told my parents that I consider my upbringing and education to be my inheritance, and not to worry about whether or not I'm left anything. Just focus on taking care of themselves as best as they can, and I'll be there to try to help to the extent that they can't take care of themselves. I'm not COUNTING on getting anything from them; anything I do happen to end up with will be a nice windfall, but I can live without it.

I am frequently grateful that all of my cousins here are from my mom's side - no one connects my fairly unique last name with their antics. Even so, they're nicer than yours - when people here get old they get "company". Nieces and nephews stop when passing by, the neighbor will pull in for a few minutes every couple of days, and so forth. The younger folks start doing this around fifty ... its just expected.

It's just statistical probability. The more likely you are to live to 85, the more you tend to plan for it. The odds used to be 100 to 1 against your pulling it off, now it's maybe 3 to 1. In fact if we'd known average lifespans would be extended so long - and that so much of that time would be spent chronically ill - we might have been more hesitant to break up the extended family arrangements of the past.

Even if you live to 85, it is questionable whether it is logical to limit your life satisfaction so that your life at 85 will be less miserable. The poster above said he was happy that he didn't have kids, he got the response that he should have them so they can take care of him at 85-doesn't make a lot of sense even though you hear that comment all the time.

No... that's not what I said.

I don't think children are for everyone and I also think overpopulation is our biggest challenge... more than P.O. and G.W..

If you ever spend time in a geriatric facility, you're going to see a lot of very old folks who never planned to get senile or be unable to walk or to talk or whatever. I was amazed at the number of highly educated people I met: PhD.s. MD's, folks with big careers that ended 25 years ago. Now they are getting wheeled to meals and someone is changing diapers. It's very sobering. We don't live grandly and die with grace. The end game for 90% of us isn't written in a Hemingway novel. We don't marvel at Mt. Kilimanjaro and die facing the last lion.

You will eventually need someone to care for you because the odds are you will live that long. The seniors I saw doing the best in a bad situation were the ones who had family and friends.

My point is: if you choose not to have family (and I respect that), you'd better damn well have friends.

You're talking about philosophy and choices. Your choice is to focus your life energy around the main goal of being the 85 year old sick guy, senile in diapers who is having the most fun of the bunch. That doesn't seem logical to myself, but good luck anyway.

I have a perfect age-85-in-terrible-health insurance policy. It's a shotgun. This is not a joke.

Hello Mamba,

Just a word, in case it applies. (Of course, better health is best. So, I'm not speaking, really, of "terrible", which is a different discussion.)

"A man is useful so long as he lives." - Lao Tsu.

Sometimes the value of an elder's life is not fully appreciated by the elder him/herself.

The younger generation(s) need more than one might think. Sometimes it's understanding...or, perhaps, listening.

I'm with you, Mamba, only mine is a Colt Cobra 38. When it's over, it's over, and no amount of nursing makes it worth while.


I am 69. For the last 8 weeks I have been going to the hematologist and having my blood drained at 600cc each time. I have been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and its incurable.

Last week the cause was diagnosed as cancer. Yep the BIG C.
On the kidney and now I have had more CAT scans showing something on the lung/spine area.

I have been unalarmed except for a few very bad nights.

I will shortly have it removed along with one of my kidneys and continue on with my life but attempting to enjoy it more fully. The cancer once removed will cure the polycythemia. I believe I can run about 10 more years and perhaps more if the cancer is removed and no metastasis is seen and so far there is none. My navy days working on large airborne radar might have a lot to do with the late age cancer due to high levels of electromagnetic radiation.

My family is shattered due to the proclivities of my wife and her psychosis created by her worthless father and stepmother. My marriage still exists but at a distance and with legal bindings to ensure my freedom and hers as well and the remaining farm land being totally in my ownership.

My wife will surely not live much longer. I am not sure about myself. But I intend to keep at it while I have the will and the energy. My garden and my land is my inspiration and my saving grace and the two Jack Russells keep me company while I am at it.

I still have plenty of dreams to fulfill yet time is slowly running on.

I don't intend to 'eat' the barrel. I hope to go lay down under the big oak some day and just not get up.

airdale-your consciousness creates your reality and the eyes of God keep the world in existence for us to experience it


Sorry for your bad news. Best of luck with your treatment.

second that.

looking at the bright side: you are lucky that the C is on a kidney and you can live a perfectly normal life with the other one you have.

Thanks guys.

I thought long before saying anything on TOD but decided that some may need to realize how precious life is when you see it hanging in the balance.

Now my wife has open heart surgery tonite or tomorrow. I will be having my surgery this week. Glad its in the winter so I can be fully ready to go by spring planting time. I will be chopping wood again before long .

airdale-never before hospitalized, take no medicine

Hi airdale,

I appreciate your sharing this - best wishes.

My girlfriends father has a similar solution. He reckons that if he ever gets to the stage where he can't wipe his own arse, he's taking a pill.


Thank you for speaking to this point! I turn 30 this year. I was fortunate enough to have my engineering degree paid for as I went by my parents and a part-time job that provided some assistance with utilities and rent.

I've also been fortunate enough to land a job that allows me to live comfortably with quite a bit left over for saving. However, as I look around, society's expectation for my future seems radically different from the reality.

I just visited my mother over the holidays, and she is redoing her bathroom due to some water damage and growing accessibility needs. This is going to cost her $7-$8k all said and done!! That is what I spend to RENT a good sized 1-bedroom apt. + storage + garage for one YEAR!! Things like this really cause me to pause when thinking about houses.

Marriage is another societal institution that also vexes my financial views. I am simply not willing to spend $28k on one day for the "average" American wedding. Totally unjustifiable in my mind.

This will not be popular, but I consider Social Security outright theft. I never asked to be robbed, and I consider the generational compact broken by a leadership that has repeatedly refused to fund their future promises. I want my money, and I want it NOW to hide under the mattress or buy gold to bury in the backyard.

This will not be popular, but I consider Social Security outright theft

What we could do is just take the old people who were not smart enough to invest, or suffered some of life's misfortunes and execute them so they won't burden young people like you. It will be interesting to see ho you feel when you’re 55, if you live that long. Remember, life doesn't always turn out the way you planned.

One of the central frauds of the whole Enron debacle was that Enron frequently was on both sides of "transactions," as a buyer and a seller.

The federal government is on both sides of the Social Security Trust Fund, as a debtor and a creditor, so of course there is no "trust fund." It has all been spent on other government programs. It was basically a very well disguised increase in the income tax on lower and middle income workers.

I think that those of us in and approaching retirement deserve what it is going to happen to us, for allowing the biggest fraud in history to continue unchecked for decades.

To the extent it is not already a blood sport, politics in the years ahead will increasingly be a very bloody sport, since there will basically be no real winners. It's a question of deciding who loses the least.

Having said of this, if I could dictate policy, I would abolish the Payroll (Social Security/Medicare) Tax and replace with an energy consumption tax to fund Social Security/Medicare on some kind of sliding scale need basis.

A sliding scale would be the way to go, and would be more fair, but those who paid into the system and would recieve less benefits because of higher earnings would never go for it.

Norway (I think) abolished social security. They did it by maintaining benefits for those who were already of retirement age, and giving a pro-rated benefit to the middle-aged, who were near retirement. Young people didn't get any benefit, but didn't have to pay in any more.

Not likely to happen in the US, though. Social Security is the Third Rail, and will be as long as the elderly vote in higher numbers than the young.

Norway did not abolish it but made significant reforms to encourage later retirement.



I'm glad to hear that, but I wonder how much longer countries can stretch out retirement age to prop up pension schemes.

Then again, I think that most people at the Oil Drum realize that the flawed concept behind all public and private retirement schemes is that rapid economic growth will guarantee large real returns on "conservative" investments. It was only a matter of time before clever politicians and businessmen figured out ways to rob all existing pension schemes in the name of short-term gain. Which is exactly what appears to be happening in the United States. Even if that hadn't happened, how can there be safe investments in a no-growth future?

I'm not going to need significant reforms to encourage later retirement. I plan to work for as long as I am able and allowed to.

I am well aware life doesn't turn out as one plans, and already said I have no expectation for taxpayer support later in life.

I don't expect anything to be left when I retire either, and I'm just a few years away. I don't expect my Carpenter's Union pension to be there either, as they probably invested it in the housing bubble. I don't ever expect to be able to retire, not that that's a bad thing.

Social Security was instituted for valid historical reasons which have not disappeared because the Republicans decided to rob the future.
You may "have no expectation for taxpayer support" but are you willing to live in a society which allows the poor and unfortunate to die miserably in the street? Such societies exist today and in my opinion are not pleasant places for either the rich or poor. The US has plenty of resources to provide adequate housing and medical care to everyone, but of course these resources are increasingly inequitably distributed. Countries as poor as Costa Rica with less than 20% of US GNP can provide their citizens with medical care and pensions, one reason that Costa Rica is such a peaceful place.

Am I willing to live in a society which allows the poor and the unfortunate to die miserably in the street?

In my experience the dying poor are most considerate and go to the alley to die. I've been there to help John Doe and Jesus and an old man who couldn't speak end their days.
And when Jesus died got arrested for attempting to dump my father(?!) on the County.

No, I'm not willing to live here. Not like this. And not able to change it.

You must tell this story of arrest ... quite intriguing.

Short version. I took out my garbage and found a man who had lain down to die in my dumpster. Talked to him a while and he agreed to go to Cook County Hospital. Drove him to ER, sat and waited with him. He died sitting in a chair waiting.
Police found this story implausible. Decided I was trying to get away with something.
The part that really got them ticked off was I asked to be notified when the funeral happened. They just weren't buying that I would do that if I were not a relative.
It was more like I was detained for 14 hours, booked, printed, photoed, intimidated, and then they changed their minds and sent me home. They made up a bunch of BS I was to be charged with but finally realized I was not afraid of their BS.

He was never ID'ed and I take Him at His word that He was Jesus.

Hi oldhippie and thanks for asking for more, SCT,

I'm glad you shared this. It's validating, too.

Tip O'Neil was not a Republican. The WWII generation systematically and bipartisanly stole the boomers taxes for themselves. It was the Democrats that turned Social Security into a Ponzi scheme.

There are a lot of old people in America and they vote. Lots more old people than rich people. I expect to get rich off my inventions and then have it all taken away to pay for your social security and medicare.
The idea that the powers that be would default on the army's pensions AND social security at the same time is kind of funny. No votes, no guns, no chance.

I am simply not willing to spend $28k on one day for the "average" American wedding

The wedding "industry" likes to talk about $28K "average" weddings. What this number takes in are all the multi-hundred thousand to multi-million dollar weddings. For example, assume 10 people with an average income of $100,000. One guy makes one million; everyone else makes zero. The average is $100,000, but that has no bearing on what 90% of the group earns. I think that the median amount of money spent on weddings is more like $7,500.

In regard to the overall economy, the NWO's--faced with ruinous taxation rates to pay for the Boomers' retirement costs and escalating welfare costs + ruinous student loan payments + escalating food & energy costs--may increasing elect to say "screw it" and decide to join the cash/barter side of the economy.

I got married in a little church outside of Knoxville. I also think big weddings are Stoopid and hope my daughters don't talk my husband into paying for one. They aren't fun, they aren't necessary, and my kidlets can do fine with them.

After carefully considering their options, my daughter and son-in-law had a very romantic combination wedding/honeymoon by themselves in Hawaii (the Big Island) on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We had a relaxed, casual reception for them upon their return at a local Spanish restaurant. Everyone had a great time--lots of Tapas, Sangria and dancing. The money I saved on the wedding was spent on helping them get started--and moved into a small rented townhouse in a New Urbanism community along a mass transit line. The other option would have been a small wedding in a little white church somewhere.

One of my coworkers has a solution. He offers his marrying daughters $20,000 to use as they wish. So far, none of them have chosen to use it on a wedding.

Most of them chose to use it as a down payment on a house, though, so who knows how that's going to turn out...

Strangely, my dad, who is usually eminently practical, has warned me that he will be most upset if I ever elope. He feels it's a social obligation to have a big wedding.

Did you just admit being single?
Be careful, there are available men on this page.

You wrote "available men" when you meant "hopeless energy nerds" :-)

There are no women on the Internet. ;)


The wedding "industry" likes to talk about $28K "average" weddings. What this number takes in are all the multi-hundred thousand to multi-million dollar weddings. For example, assume 10 people with an average income of $100,000. One guy makes one million; everyone else makes zero. The average is $100,000, but that has no bearing on what 90% of the group earns. I think that the median amount of money spent on weddings is more like $7,500.

Given my background I probably should've mentioned something about the distorted average wedding cost number. I've never seen the $7.5k median number in the wild, but that does sound much more reasonable. $7.5k is still not an insignificant chunk of change though.

In regard to the overall economy, the NWO's--faced with ruinous taxation rates to pay for the Boomers' retirement costs and escalating welfare costs + ruinous student loan payments + escalating food & energy costs--may increasing elect to say "screw it" and decide to join the cash/barter side of the economy.

Couldn't agree more. The other, much less practical, option for NWO's will be to move somewhere where there is a chance for less ruinous tax rates. I'm not sure where that place is anymore due to the sheer scale of the economic problems facing the world.

Our wedding was DIY and very frugal. Total cost: <$1K (mid '70s).

We've known lots of couples that had the big expensive bash for their weddings and are now divorced. We like to joke about the duration of the marriage being inversely proportional to the cost of the wedding.

Jim Jubak over on MSN Money is talking about energy: 5 stocks for the US energy crisis

"In my Jan. 8 column, "Profit from a stupid energy policy," I explained how the new Energy Independence and Security Act delays meaningful action on energy issues until 2014, all but guaranteeing oil prices will stay north of $80 a barrel this year, and I picked five stocks that will be winners because of that delay.

Delay long enough and you can't adopt low-cost, gradual solutions to an energy or environmental problem. Instead you have to launch a budget-busting crash project to fix a problem that has reached crisis dimensions. "

He then goes to talk about how water usage is going to adversely affect things.


Re: "Fortunately, during the next century we may be able to afford green mobility. In fact, we can clearly see its elements: cars, powered by fuels cells; aeroplanes, powered by hydrogen; and maglevs, powered by electricity, probably nuclear. The future looks clean, fast, and green."

MY RESPONSE: What a load of bollocks! Where does the energy for all of this come from? Thermodynamic analysis of our energy future is quite clear: we will be lucky (unlikely) to feed 8 billion people in a scaled-back, drastically different use of a limited pool of largely renewable energy resources--if indeed we have any future on this planet whatsoever.

The NY Times can print whatever nonsense they please with impunity at present. But someday I hope we have trials for those in the media who knowingly misled and deceived the populace....

I have little doubt that Human population will track the supply of calories, pretty much in an ever-so-slightly-delayed lockstep. (The amount of delay depending on whether you are looking at food calories or fuel calories.) That said, and while some of it might be just horrible.. life will continue. There will be people who dodge the bullets, and will/must continue on.

I've never lost much love on the NY Times. When I lived in NY, I could hardly force myself to bother with the thing. I would find the CS Monitor when I could, and doted on C-SPAN otherwise. There was some flavor present in the whole NYT presentation that I couldn't take.. some kind of Smirking, Urbane Drollness that gave me hives. But as for trials, I want to see some fine, new solar courthouses set up in Nurenberg, where the Bushes, Mugabes, and Milosevics can be fighting for the top bunks and trying to bribe the guards for the best PingPong Paddles..

Green Transport? Yes. The article up top about Pedaling Trikes in Cambridge got the biggest grin of the day. Hope BEGGAR is taking notes. No, these won't replace 18wheelers.. life will change a lot. But we have a lot of new combinations of old tools that we can be encouraged by.


Bob -- yes, I did see the article on those pedal trike trucks.

Great stuff!

May I note that the person founding the company had both the vision and the financial resources to get the thing going. Years of work as a psychiatrist left him well-prepared to do this.

I also want to note that it takes a willingness to risk at least some of one's alleged financial security to invest in starting such a venture. I commend the venture capitalist psychiatrist for that.

We see too little of this combination: enough capital to start such a venture with the vision and willingness to do so.

My cargo triking experience in Minneapolis has shown me that it is very hard work. The electric assist is a very good idea, IMHO.

With achy knees and hips, I've gone to an all-electric vehicle for most of my work. After 7+ years of heavy hauling, and at 49 yrs old, I need to begin to preserve the body parts for future use! I need also to conserve energy between trips to actually do the chores I've arrived to do.

That said, I still encourage the bike option -- it works superbly in a great variety of settings and with a great variety of tasks. Many people can do it, and the advent of electric assist makes biking more do-able for more people and more kinds of transportation chores.

My city is not quite ready for bike cargo delivery -- say within neighborhoods from neighborhood stores to homes and businesses nearby. But that will come soon, I think. A great, great job for high school and college students for starters.

We do need to see our cities as a cluster of sustainable neighborhoods -- walkable and bike-able -- connected by efficient transit and highways mostly for moving heavy and larger loads around this cluster of neighborhoods.

Thermodynamics must be different in your neck of the woods.
There is plenty of energy flux to support 15 billion people at a high energy level - just do an analysis for solar incidence on a small part of the Sahara at, say, 10% efficiency.
We might struggle with the technology now, but in 50years we should be able to do it fine, if that is the optimum solution.
Of course, the fact that we can do it does not indicate that we will, or that we may not mess up the organisation to do so.
Thermodynamics though has nothing to do with it.

There is plenty of energy flux to support 15 billion people at a high energy level - just do an analysis for solar incidence on a small part of the Sahara at, say, 10% efficiency.

Sure, all we have to do is genetically modify humans to become aquatic and photosynthetic and let them live like plankton out in the ocean.

Can't live by bread alone, Dave. (or Kcals, as the case may be) I doubt the natural and manmade systems will even allow Pop. to grow as far a 10. Water Supply will probably not hold us at 6.5/7 much longer. I think we're heading back down soon.. though I don't predict the rate or the quality of that move.


I was replying to a post which asserted that it was against the laws of thermodynamics to provide power at industrial levels for people.
I took that up to the extreme case of 15 billion to show that this is not so.
Really, I don't want to get into an argument about other resources, I was interested in the limited case of power.
Actually though, the reason I am interested in power is that if you ain't got it, you can't do much.
With enough power you can solve most things.
For instance you can mine ores at lower concentrations, or pump or desalinate water.
If you go through on a case by case basis, looking at different resources, and postulate that you have fairly cheap power, it is surprisingly difficult to specify exactly what is going to run out or bring the show to a halt.
Not that I am advocating going to 15 billion people!

This has been my perfect week

Do we really need Clarkson on the Drum Beat? He's not educational, not particularly funny, and every click helps him and the reactionary message he stands for. There must be thousands of Talk Radio type websites coming out with exactly the same drivel. They're not newsworthy, and neither is he.

Clarkson is welcome on drum beat. He should be Prime Minister.

I second that:


Hell of a lot funnier than the assorted weird beards, eco nazis, stone age advocates and assorted pratts that are against just about everything that will keep the lights on.

How can a man famous for being filmed driving big inefficient cars be taken seriously?

Because he is witty and charming, sane and sensible - unlike 99% of all greens who appear charmless, humourless and obsessed. (And a few could take a bath more often).

And he gets straight to the point of the matter.

I think he also knows that keeping the lights on in a country of 60+ millions may just be important enough to merit some attention. He also realises that a few windmills aint going to cut it.

Unlike the eco-nazis and fellow travellers, who hate him - mostly because he is right. But also because he is a technophile. And that is anathema to the Bilbos and Bombadils.

10 nukes are not enough though, we really need to think about 25 , and very fast.

Even so there will be a power generation gap.

Courtesy of the 'greens'.

Funny, How come France can sort this and the UK cannot?

"Because he is witty and charming, sane and sensible -"

Well with all due respect, there's no accounting for taste.

This guy is a clown. He scores easy points by targeting everybody's favorite whiners, but works the same Tough Guy stance as Limbaugh and O'Reilly.

Mudlogger, there WILL be a power generation gap, with or without the greens. Fission won't stop it, neither will wind. Peak Oil and Peak Gas are the guarantees of that. Blame who you like, but please don't confuse his High-schoolish snipefests as the comedy-antidote for a bunch of tragically un-funny birdwatchers. I don't look to them for yuks, and I don't look to George Carlin or Steven Colbert to try to safeguard my drinking water or hold Union-Carbide accountable for mass-murder.

'How many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb?'
'That's not funny!'


Mudlogger, there WILL be a power generation gap, with or without the greens. Fission won't stop it, neither will wind. Peak Oil and Peak Gas are the guarantees of that.

Little oil is used in developed countries for electrical power.

And certainly fission will lessen the gap a significant amount.

Doing something isn't a binary function.

Fission relies enormously on continuous access to petroleum infrastructure. It's dependent on employees showing up at the plant, for parts, maintenance, fuel processing, roadways.. for pretty much every stage in the process. Oil, Gas and Diesel supply interruptions can put a wrench in Fission in far too many ways.

It could shut down a PV or Wind Turbine MFR facility just as well, but the existing, installed equipment is far less dependent on day-to-day fuel keeping all the other wheels turning.

I guess we will have to use one tenth of one percent of the energy of a nuclear reactor to make the methanol (from water and CO2 from air) to get all the employees of the mines and refineries and centrifuge plants and reactor fabrication factories and employees to work.
A reactor produces 10,000,000 light bulbs worth of power 24/7.

Well good luck with that, WK.

I'm suggesting that the vast amounts of power available from a reactor will not be able to fill all the complicated gaps that make up the full fuel cycle. There is a broad array of specialized and expensive equipment required, and keeping the facilities staffed might ~or might not~ be solely held up by the gas tank alone.

Reminds me of the 'Bribe' on the deck of the Titanic.
'You can keep your money, Locksley. It'll no more save me than it'll save you, now.'

Time to divest from the complex and topheavy..


In practise, you would not have to fill in every 'hole' in the system.
Although fossil fuels may become more limited, and possibly unwise to burn in great quantity because of carbon dioxide, they will still be available for centuries at low rates of use, so you don't have to perfectly cover everything with a renewable or nuclear system - you've got several centuries to thiink about it before you have to do that! :-)

Hi Dave;
I don't want to suggest that the oil and its derivatives will all be gone, just that the Fission setup has been running on a very well-oiled system, so far.

As complex as it is, how many little absences (repl parts, labor, services, support systems, comms) would make a reactor in a given location start to become unstable, get hung up repeatedly on 'diesel outage this week', a production run of essential parts falling into backorder, labor shortage, whatever. This is the complexity that makes nuclear very troublesome to me.. it not only 'promises' baseload energy, but it also demands it, in a not-so-different sense.

As for your 'several centuries to think about it'.. that's a very flimsy safety net, if you're really predicating it on that 'low rate of use' being somehow relative to the kind of refined-products availability we enjoy at the moment. Some of the specialized materials that come out of oil (and are in everything around you, as I'm sure you know) are products not just of 'Oil', but of 'Cheap Oil' and the economy that it so generously maintains. Fission is made up of just dozens of achilles' heels.


'Well-Oiled!' - Very good!
Actually, I always try to make my case on the most conservative basis possible, and assume only pretty mundane improvements in what we can do anyway, so for instance I am comfortable predicting that we will be able to do at least as well as this compact Fuji reactor within a few years:
Note that building this is mainly an issue of licensing, although there are some developments needed in materials too.
The performance of this reactor would outperform present reactors vastly, having very few easily handled wastes and burning up 50% of the fuel, as against the present 1%
I still wouldn't be happy to base anything on the success of this one technology, but we have multiple other ways of getting to much the same place, for instance in the development of advanced CANDU reactors burning thorium.
However, none of this represents what I think is actually likely, just the conservative case for assessing the feasibility of a high-energy society.
Actually, the rate of progress in PV is likely to make much of this moot:
Here is one potential advance:
This may not work out of course, but again the point is that we already have a track record of rapid improvement, and many other ways in which we are attempting low costs and high output.
Multiple other safety nets also exist, both more conservative (hot rock geothermal energy) and more speculative (high altitude wind)
Algae production of biofuel is feasible would also greatly alter capability, and reduce pressure on land use, as would vertical farms.
So overall I am comfortable in predicting the security of a high energy future, at least potentially as there are multiple avenues which would help.
None of which indicates that we may not screw up, of course, and end up having a nuclear war or some such, but it seems to me that the potential is clearly there to have a high energy society in the future.

weird beards, eco nazis, stone age advocates and assorted pratts...

This sort of name-calling is deplorable. Not only does it not help your case, it undermines it.

My guess is that the excesses of the "greens" are no match for the excesses of population growth worldwide and the excesses of energy use in the developed world.

get a life.

UK YouGov poll for the Sunday times today:




The times, they are a changin...

Insults and name-calling aren't adding to the debate here.

Well... You posted the link to Clarkson :-)

I reckon the debate has been won anyway. UKPop knows that Nukes are vital to our survival as a Nation. Hence the poll results. (Brits are quite sensible people when given the facts)

Now, perhaps it would be easier if the Greens told us exactly what they are FOR.

We know what they are AGAINST:

No Nukes
No Carbon Capture Coal fired Power Stations
No Severn Barrage Tidal Power

What, exactly are they FOR?

And please bear in mind that whatever other problems are coming down the pipe, keeping the lights on for 60 + million souls may be a) important and b) achievable.

You know what we're for.

Responsible development of clean power technologies.
Reduction in wasteful uses of power (ie, redundant shipping, unnecessary packaging, wasteful lifestyle habits), to try to meet the gap somewhere 'in the middle', as dead-end supplies dry up or are proven uneconomical, unsafe and ultimately unreliable..

''Responsible development of clean power technologies''.

So am I

''Reduction in wasteful uses of power (ie, redundant shipping, unnecessary packaging, wasteful lifestyle habits),''

Ditto, 'bin turning lights off, wearing sweaters, combining journeys, avoiding flying (big time) , not buying gadgets, driving a car half the weight of my contemporaries, turning down thermostats for about 10 years now. I was brought up by an Energy Engineer in the old CEGB and was taught it was worth more than gold you see.

We will still need nukes.

Just to survive.

Anything else, windmills, solar, Severn barage is nice... very nice but it simply does not add up. And it certainly dont work for 60 million +.

Sometimes you have to sup with the devil. Just bring along a long spoon.

If by "the debate has been won" you mean you can guess what energy policies will happen, I would probably guess the same outcome.

There never was going to be a debate to win.

who is "we" "us" and "the greens"?

So a poll in a paper that takes about 2 trees to print gives you everyones view...

I have seen a sensible suggestion for scalable tidal lagoons by F O the Earth. It does unfortunately need a lot of concrete/earth moving.

There's are things about the use of language and 'humour' by Jeremy Clarkson and his admirers that really, seriously, reminds me of the style of the Fascists in the Nazi press in Hitler's Germany. Try substituting the word 'Jew' for the individuals and groups that irk him and raise his ire, and the similarities, spite, invective and style are striking and very unpleasant. Not only unpleasant, but disturbing too.

But isn't Clarkson just a rather tiresome fool a man not to be taken seriously? I wonder about this attitude a lot. What about the ideas and ideology he represents. Clearly he feels threatened by a vague group of 'others' who he seems to believe are out to destroy his way of life and, by extention, him too. Fear, bordering on paranoia, is mixed with his malice.

There's also this odd idea that 'humour' and being 'funny' somehow gives one carte blanche to insult people one doesn't like or approve of. That 'humour' makes everything all right. That humour is somehow neutral and harmless 'fun'. The Nazies were not without 'humour' strange as this idea may seem to many. In fact they used 'humour' skilfully to ridicule their opponents and ethnic minorities. It was part of a process of gradual dehumanization.

There's something odd about his car programmes. Here we have grown men, adults, playing with 'toy' cars like little boys. There is very little actual information about the vehicles, but lots of jokes and smiles all round. So we've got a comedy show with cars and not much else. It's extraordinarily infantile, but then most popular is like this. We are being encouraged and socialized into remaining in childish state of wonder, like sheep at the mercy of malign sheppards.

well... If you want to bring up Nazism and Clarkson , 1) His Father in Law won the VC at Arnhem by knocking out Panzers with a PIAT, 2) He and his wife kick started a charity drive for wounded Iraq/Afghan Vets that were simply let down by the government that sent them there and 3) here is a chunk of Green Fascism and assorted Green bollix:

In "Understanding Nazi Animal Protection and the Holocaust" (published in a 1992 issue of Anthrozoos), Dr. Arnold Arluke, Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University, and Boria Sax, Ph.D., coauthor of Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust (Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2000), stated that the Nazis "exalted synthesis against analysis . . . and Volk legend against scientific truth. . . . Life . . . had an organic unity . . . . the invisible force that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts."
Nazism was very complex and is not reducible to a single group of beliefs, particularly in terms of the aforementioned theories. But within the Nazi movement of the early 20th century were influential figures who publicly subscribed to tenets remarkably similar to the prevalent antiscience claims of today's advocates of postmodernism, deconstructionism, and/or ecofeminism. Indeed, some of the antiscience canons of postmodernism were enunciated by key members of the Nazi regime. This alone casts doubt on the assertion of a causal relationship between science and Nazism and/or the Holocaust. Furthermore, except for Germany, no crisis in any of those countries that during the 20th century were capitalistic and highly industrialized has resulted in anything of a sort even approaching that of the Holocaust.

"The influence of the metropolis has grown overwhelmingly strong. Its asphalt culture is destroying peasant thinking, the rural lifestyle and [national] strength." - Nazi newspaper in 1938



The BNP Website:
ENVIRONMENT - a cleaner, greener future!
Our ideal for Britain is that of a clean, beautiful country, free of pollution in all its forms. We will enforce standards to curb those practices, whether by business or the individual, which cause environmental damage. “The polluter pays to clean up the mess” must become a fact of life, not an electioneering slogan. In towns we would work to replace the brutalist modernism of 1960s-style-architecture with a blend of traditional local styles and materials and ensure that developments take place on a more human scale.

Against the tidal barrier:
Against Carbon capture:
Against Nukes:
Against fusion research:

Pro – Death:
"If radical environmentalists were to invent a disease to bring human populations back to sanity, it would probably be something like AIDS. It [AIDS] has the potential to end industrialism, which is the main force behind the environmental crises."

And How very charming:
-Earth First! newsletter
"We in the Green movement, aspire to a cultural model in which the killing of a forest will be considered more contemptible and more criminal than the sale of 6-year-old children to Asian brothels."
-Carl Amery, Green Party of West Germany

Some more on kids:
"Childbearing [should be] a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license.... All potential parents [should be] required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing."
-David Brower, Friends of the Earth

"The right to have children should be a marketable commodity, bought and traded by individuals but absolutely limited by the state."
-Keith Boulding, originator of the "Spaceship Earth" concept

Oh and OMG GLOBAL COOLING , err sorry, warming (MUYFM)
Global 'cooling':
The continued rapid cooling of the earth since WWII is in accord with the increase in global air pollution associated with industrialisation, mechanisation, urbanisation and exploding population."

- Reid Bryson, "Global Ecology; Readings towards a rational strategy for Man", 1971

The rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased air pollution associated with industrialization, and an exploding population.

- Reid Bryson, "Environmental Roulette", 1971
An increase by only a factor of 4 in the global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age. - S.I Rasool and S.H. Schneider
Science, v173, p138, 9/7/1971.

"This [cooling] trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century"
- Peter Gwynne, Newsweek 1976

"This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000."
- Lowell Ponte "The Cooling", 1976

I'd bet there's always been a solid majority in favour of nuclear power in the UK - although maybe wavered a bit after Chernobyl. To quote Sir Bernard Ingham (very close associate of Margaret Thatcher and head of the government press office under that administration) on BBC Newsnight last week, the only reason we didn't build more nuclear powers stations was because "we were awash with oil and gas. It was coming out of our ears".

If you somehow think that it was Green pressure groups that prevented new builds then I think you are mistaken. It simply was not seen to be the most economic way of generating electricity at the time and mainstream politicians could claim they were not in favour of nuclear (especially after Chernobyl) because the question was irrelevant.

Yes the times are changing but that's because the North Sea depletion (and global warming which "conveniently" requires us to start making the changes now that Peak Oil will mean anyway) is forcing a change - not politics.

Mudlogger, You Wrote re Clarkson:-

"Because he is witty and charming, sane and sensible"

BBC News Story http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7174760.stm

TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson has lost money after publishing his bank details in his newspaper column.

The Top Gear host revealed his account numbers after rubbishing the furore over the loss of 25 million people's personal details on two computer discs.

He wanted to prove the story was a fuss about nothing.

But Clarkson admitted he was "wrong" after he discovered a reader had used the details to create a £500 direct debit to the charity Diabetes UK.

I was wrong and I have been punished said Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson published details of his Barclays account in the Sun newspaper, including his account number and sort code. He even told people how to find out his address.

"All you'll be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I've never known such a palaver about nothing," he told readers.

But he was proved wrong, as the 47-year-old wrote in his Sunday Times column.

"I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account," he said.



I'd never heard of this guy, and immediately dismissed him after reading the article. Your link re-enforces my first impression. Yet another media type with a big mouth and little understanding of how technology works.

Having him on the pro-nuke side doesn't seem like an asset.

Like him or not, Clarkson is one of the best known journalists/tv presenters in the UK. He happily describes himself as a "petrol-head" and makes a fortune from politically incorrect journalism. He's also (in my opinion) highly intelligent, does understand basic physics and is genuinely witty and not afraid to appear in comedy shows ridiculing him ("Have I Got News For You"). I've got a funny feeling he knows the game is up deep down...

He's also the same need for speed petrol-head who astonished BMW (I think it was) by setting efficiency records for mile per gallon (Clarkson would never use metric) by driving the car with minimum fuel consumption as the goal on a near 1000 mile round trip. There are clearly two sides to Clarkson otherwise he wouldn't get away with it. It's at least partially an act.

A lot of us resent a bunch of middle class wierdo's trying to control our lifestyle, telling us what to eat and not to go on holiday etc. Polititans treat them like royalty wheras they are a bubch of class warriors, making sure the lower orders don't get aspirational.

Excuse me, but in America these right-wing propagandists have tricked working Americans into accepting a massive redistribution of wealth in favor of executives, stock scammers, oil companies, Christian megachurches, the Pentagon, and of course right-wing propagandists. Now ordinary Americans are beginning to wake up to their bankruptcy. Your turn is next.

Heh Heh,

Boy did this start a fight :-)

Clarkson for Prime Minister.

BTW: Recent article Times or Telegraph or whatever.. - Eco Warriors use more juice, drive more cars, take more flights than the hoi poloi

'Dont do as I do, do as I say' - or so the saying goes...

"witty and charming, sane and sensible" NOT
In the linked article he makes claims that are verifiably untrue, even when he is not trying to be funny..
"But since they came on line not a single one of Denmark’s normal power stations has been decommissioned. They are all running at full capacity because, while the wind turbines are theoretically capable of meeting nearly a fifth of the country’s demands, they produce nothing at all when the wind drops. "
Does anyone really believe that Denmark's "normal power stations" are "all running at full capacity"?
Do power stations run at full capacity in any country in the world?
Does anyone believe that Denmark can produce 19% of its' power from wind and not reduce capacity at "normal power stations"?
If Clarkson is the best advocate for nuclear power, then the nuclear cause is doomed.

Actually, the windpower in Denmark do remarkably little to reduce emissions, their supposed point:
'“Germany has spent billions of euros subsidising wind and solar, marching to the greens’ drum. They have not succeeded in reducing their CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, which remain among the highest per capita in Europe [10.4 tonnes/capita/ year, up from 9.5 in 2,000. That is because wind and solar are intermittent and unreliable. Every solar panel and every wind machine must be backed up by reliable power for when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing,” he said.

Moore said Sweden had the lowest per capita CO2 emissions in Europe (6.3 tonnes/capita/year) and France had the second lowest (6.8 tonnes/ person/year). Sweden is 50% hydroelectric and 50% nuclear. France is 80% nuclear, 10% hydroelectric and uses only 10% fossil fuel. Denmark has the highest CO2 per capita at 11.0 tonnes/capita/year “because their mix is 18% wind and 82% fossil fuel. It is clear to see that the more hydroelectric and nuclear in the mix the lower the carbon emissions will be. Wind has a minor role to play and solar is not even worth the investment,” said Moore.
It's pretty clear that unless you are lucky enough to have access to hydropower, nuclear is the way to go if you are serious about reducing emissions.
One of the problems with wind is that because it is intermittent, you have to back up with fossil fuels, although the problem is reduced for Denmark as it has access to Scandanavian hydro for matching demand.
This fossil fuel when it is used for peaking is not very efficient, so your saving in fuel is much less than you would imagine.
Denmark became the leader in wind power under feed in tariffs, guaranteed for years, on the theory that costs would drop and it would become economic with mass-production - well, subsidies for new windmills has now stopped, and so has building new windmills in Denmark, and costs have not dropped.
Danes will continue paying extra for these windmills for years.
Denmark has around 5 million people, so one nuclear plant would produce more power than the 18% of the Danish electricity provided by wind, at economic rates and with a substantial reduction in CO2.
So it seems to me that Clarkson's comment was not entirely without foundation.

Nuke cannot load follow although the French have had problematic success with getting a few reactors (4 of 58 from memory) to do this as an experiment.

Thermal stresses from daily cycling work against nukes for much more than 50% of generation. France sells surplus nuke power all night long to their neighbors at giveaway prices and then buys make peak power at premium prices. And they still cannot get away from ~10% coal & gas fired power.

The Danish #s, given their split system (explained on another post this thread), are basically irrelevant.


You are rather cherry picking arguments.
If you contend that we should ignore the failure of Denmark to reduce CO2 in spite of massive spend on wind, why do you ignore the similar terrible record of Germany?
If you wish to rebut, please deal with all the points, not the bits you fancy.
As for the rest of your argument about peaking, I seem to remember that you started by arguing that you could not do it at all.
Putting that to one side, you have entirely ignored the argument that if the economics were right you could certainly use storage instead of coal or gas.
The fact is that in practise France is part of a partial European grid, a substantial part of which is presently fossil fired, and so there is simply no reason to attempt the things that you say are impossible.
For instance, France is encouraging the installation of air heat pumps.
Powering these on the off-peak will reduce peaking and reduce to one extent or another what you state is an irreducible minimum.
When more countries in Europe get to similar levels of nuclear power as France, then we might start to think about optimisation.

Thermal stresses from daily cycling work against nukes for much more than 50% of generation.

Why would daily cycling impose any thermal stress at all? As I understand it, when you want the steam generators to have a diminishing rate of steam generation, you feed less cool water to the reactor. Its temperature rises minutely ... OK, thermal stress could occur then, but very little ... and this suppresses fission enough to bring the power down, without necessarily any control rod movement, and now you've got hot water coming back at nearly the same temperature as before, but at a lower flow speed. Less power, less steam.

Clarkson is one of those people who can pick holes in someone's arguments in a very entertaining way and he doesn't mind exhorting with great gusto unpopular opinions. Both of these are great ways to stand out from the crowd and I find him immensely entertaining. But he's not the sort of person who can develop his own policies in a rigorous way, thinking things through. As an example, see his approach to bank identity theft:


It was almost certainly worth 500 GBP to him for the publicity he got, but I wouldn't want someone with such an entertainment oriented mindset running the UK.

From Drudge:

Bush Says US, Allies Must Confront Iran
Jan 13, 9:41 AM (ET)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - President Bush said Sunday that Iran is threatening the security of the world, and that the United States and Arab allies must join together to confront the danger "before it's too late."

As I noted a couple of days ago regarding the Gulf of Persia incident, the key question was what Bush/Cheney planned to do. I find it interesting that the US Navy appears to be trying to send the message that incident was no big deal.

BTW, do you recall the statement from the Saudi King that Saudi Arabia would not be used a staging area for an attack on Iran? Makes you wonder who asked him about using Saudi Arabia as a staging area.

This is all shadowboxing. I personally don't think this site should be used to comment on the motives of these lying jerks-- though I am guilty of it myself, of course.

In any case, the US Navy, like the rest of the US Government, hardly speaks with one voice. There are multiple voices coming from all different directions-- and saying totally opposing things all at the same time. It may be the result of confusion in the government itself -- or it may be a pattern of deliberate deception to confuse and demoralize the American Public.

Judging by the results, the latter is the intended purpose of these "news" emissions. Much of the public is demoralized, anesthetized-- and fit only to eat fast food and watch football reruns.

'Bush Says US, Allies Must Confront Iran'...Just how many 'allies' stood up and said "count me in!" ???

As I mentioned long ago Gates was put in the Pentagon by the 'old guard' to dump or disable the neo-cons that remained there. Now the fight is between the military 'realists' (an oxymoron, I realize) that know that an attack on Iran would be fruitless, and the Cheney faction, which have, for the most part, been relegated to sniping from various right wing 'think tanks'...( I really have to grit my teeth when using the phrase 'think tank' in the same sentence as neo-con :)

For more about Gates and his CNO Admiral Mike Mullen and CENTCOM Commander Admiral Fallon (yes, the one that said an attack on Iran would not happen on his watch) vs. the neo-cons see the links below.


'A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch". Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box." '


IMO, the primary reason the US has not--so far--attacked Iran is because of active resistance from some factions within the military, which is a scary enough thought--that we have been reduced to talking about "factions" in the US military. For anyone who thinks I have my tinfoil hat on, I suggest that you read, or reread, retired three star general Greg Newbold's essay in Time from a couple of years ago--where he implied that active duty uniformed officers have a duty to disobey some orders from Bush.

Don't forget Mike Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's activities with regard to the Air Force Academy.

The mere thought that evangelicals within the AFA are actively trying to expand their ranks and influence is chilling.

I believe that the testimony given by General Odom before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sums up very well what the situation in our military is. There are the good soldiers that are attempting to do their duty to protect their country and there are the butt kissers, such as the one Admiral Mullen fired upon taking charge of CENTCOM. This testimony is also a grading of the Bush administration and their neo-conservative backers in the wars against Afganistan, Iraq and possibly, their new mission to provoke Iran to war. Yes, Virginia, this is all oil related.

January 26, 2007
Strategic Errors of Monumental Proportions
What Can Be Done in Iraq?
by Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.)
Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 January 2007

'Good afternoon, Senator Biden, and members of the committee. It is a grave responsibility to testify before you today because the issue, the war in Iraq, is of such monumental importance'...snip...

'1. Confusion about war aims and US interests. The president stated three war aims clearly and repeatedly:

* the destruction of Iraqi WMD;
* the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and
* the creation of a liberal democratic Iraq.

The first war aim is moot because Iraq had no WMD. The second was achieved by late Spring 2003. Today, people are waking up to what was obvious before the war -- the third aim has no real prospects of being achieved even in ten or twenty years, much less in the short time anticipated by the war planners. Implicit in that aim was the belief that a pro-American, post-Saddam regime could be established. This too, it should now be clear, is most unlikely. Finally, is it in the US interest to have launched a war in pursuit of any of these aims? And is it in the US interest to continue pursuing the third? Or is it time to redefine our aims? And, concomitantly, to redefine what constitutes victory?'...snip...

'2. The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al-Qaeda, not American interests.'...snip...

'3. On the international level, the war has effectively paralyzed the United States militarily and strategically, denying it any prospect of revising its strategy toward an attainable goal.

As long as US forces remained engaged in Iraq, not only will the military costs go up, but also the incentives will decline for other states to cooperate with Washington to find a constructive outcome. This includes not only countries contiguous to Iraq but also Russia and key American allies in Europe. In their view, we deserve the pain we are suffering for our arrogance and unilateralism.'...snip...

'4. Overthrowing the Iraqi regime in 2003 insured that the country would fragment into at least three groups; Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds. In other words, the invasion made it inevitable that a civil war would be required to create a new central government able to control all of Iraq. Yet a civil war does not insure it. No faction may win the struggle. A lengthy stalemate, or a permanent breakup of the country is possible. The invasion also insured that outside countries and groups would become involved. Al-Qaeda and Iran are the most conspicuous participants so far, Turkey and Syria less so. If some of the wealthy oil-producing countries on the Arabian Peninsula are not already involved, they are most likely to support with resources any force in Iraq that opposes Iranian influence.

Many critics argue that, had the invasion been done "right," such as sending in much larger forces for reestablishing security and government services, the war would have been a success. This argument is not convincing. Such actions might have delayed a civil war but could not have prevented it.'...snip...

'Let me now turn to key aspects of the president's revised approach to the war, as well as several other proposals.

In addition to the president, a number of people and groups have supported increased US force levels. As General Colin Powell has said, before we consider sending additional US troops, we must examine what missions they will have. I would add that we ask precisely what those troops must do to reverse any of these four present realities created by the invasion. I cannot conceive of any achievable missions they could be given to cause a reversal...snip...

'I never cease to be amazed at our military commanders' apparent belief that the "order of battle" of the opposition forces they face are limited to Iraq. I say "apparent" because those commanders may be constrained by the administration's policies from correcting this mistaken view.'...snip...

'It is a strategic error of monumental proportions to view the war as confined to Iraq. Yet this is the implicit assumption on which the president's new strategy is based.'...snip...

This is a small portion of the testimony given by Gen Odom to the Senate...the remainder is available at the link above.

Except that the "factions" in the military speak for the interests of the US, while the neo cons / neo libs speak for the Likud party.

I (insert name), having been appointed a (insert rank) in the U.S. Army under the conditions indicated in this document, do accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.


As you can see only the enlisted oath includes the president and superior officers.

That was General Newbold's point in this essay:


I can't say I disagree. I wish that I could. When the executive branch of government is being restrained not by the courts, the press, the people and Congress, but only the sensible factions of the military, we are in deep do-do.

WT...I believe you are spot on. There have been several recent odd events (i.e., unauthorized nuclear missle movements) that have made me wonder if the military elite are all behind Bush and Cheney. Although, this thought is a bit scary, I thank God if there are people not blindly following the orders handed down from the "Chief".

From that right royal twãt, Clarkson, to the crypto-fascist queen, Matt Drudge! You guys need to get your news from better sources, man!

I used to access the Oildrum occassionally at work until a few months ago when the corporate firewall started to blocked the site for being 'political'.

In discussion with a collegue the other day about an article written by George Monbiot, I discovered Monbiot.com is now blocked for the same reason. On talking briefly with one of our IT guys I have acertained that it is the software provider that allocates site blocking automatically. Nothing new there to many I am sure, but doesn't this now smack of an era of back-door censorship.

Be interesting to know the extent of this kind of big brother censorship across the net.

IME, it's very common for political sites to be blocked. Also blogs, sports, entertainment, and the usual sex and gambling sites.

That is why I link to Energy Bulletin when possible, instead of, say, Grist or Blogger. A lot of corporate filters block Grist and Blogger, but do not block EB.

The ancient Athenians would have found the idea of blocking political sites, even at work, to be very offensive. There was no separation between a citizen's economic life and political role; it seems to be all they talked about.

in ancient athen's if you had to work you were not part of the political process anyway. the democracy they had was only for the elite.

That was in 5th century Athens, before the reactionaries took over after the Peloponnesian War (their version of the Reagan Revolution).
A culture that brought the world democracy, medical ethics, atomic theory, the dialectic, drama, the Olympics, etc, along with the active citizen is much different from the one that cannot find Iraq on a map, but can tell you sports scores.
Not a fair comparison.

TOD is blocked at my hosptal. MSN is not.

TOD is not blocked at my workplace, they just insist we not use production machines for internet usage.

RE: Which Bills Do I Pay?

These unfortunate folks up in Maine and other northern climes, suffering in the cold, would probably take issue with the authors of the following op/ed piece. I did.

This interesting, if unenlightening, column appeared in todays Daytona Beach News Journal and originated in the Baltimore Sun. The title is 'Oil prices hurt but aren't crippling' and its authors are Steve Yetiv (author of Crude Awakenings) and Lowell Feld who is said to have worked for the US Dept of Energy for 17 years. I did web and google searches for this article at the online sites for the Sun and the News Journal, AP, and Reuters, with no results. If anyone finds a link to this blather please feel free to post it.

I am calling bs on 90% of this feel good article and will cite a few passages.

...snip...'Is an oil-induced recession on the way? Probably not. For starters, the 1970s oil price shocks were triggered by severe supply disruptions generated by "geopolitical events" - wars, embargoes, revolutions. In contrast oil prices over the past year have spiked despite no significant supply disruption' (glad they 'splained that one!)...snip...

'Monetary policy has also changed. The Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates, and that has helped stem the influence of high oil prices. (a stunning revelation? are these guys just visiting this planet?) Also, the IEA, which did not exist during the 1970s Arab oil embargo, now has rules, norms and the experience for managing oil crisis. (how can the IEA manage a resource of unknown quantity and that their only means of control over is 'jawboning'?)

'At the global level, world economic growth is stronger today than during previous oil price spikes, and that appears to be buttressing the American economy. (really glad to hear our economy is buttressed...a word that I normally associate with architecture) We also need less oil today to produce the same amount of economic output. We have become more efficient in using this resource, so price spikes hurt less today than in the past'...snip...(I feel certain that those folks up north, suffering the cold and not having enough money to pay their heating (and other) bills, would feel comforted by this notion.)

"Iron Triangle" in action. The underlying message: continue with the SUV/suburban way of life.

The Bangor article has me near to tears today.

I'm working on some 'How To' vids with my local Cable Access channel (Portland, ME) .. but am now thinking of going more direct and trying to use some of our neighborhood orgs like 'TimeDollar' and 'Freecycle' to identify friends and neighbors who are struggling with cold this winter, and setting up work-parties to help tighten and insulate homes, maybe combined with an over-supplied potluck with the leftovers all offered to the household..

The how-to vids will proceed, however.. building some very simple Solar Heaters that can hang below South-facing Windows, etc.. use recycled materials like the bounty of old Storm-windows&frames that get replaced with double-layer vinyls these days... Simple 'solar trough' designs (non-moving versions) using discarded mirrors, tinfoil,glass, etc..


Bob, if you know anyone who needs fuel assistance check this out, 100 gallons for free.


Thanks, Don.
I'll check that out.

Is there a move on to get them to double up? This is how the housing consolidation starts ... the poorest go first.

Mom fusses over me ... "You're feeling better, you're working quite a bit, so ... are you looking for an apartment yet?"

I don't think its clicked that we might get to fill up the one remaining empty bedroom, perhaps with my baby brother, should factory hog farming fall upon hard times.

One of the houses in the Bangor article used 10 gallons of heating oil a day when the heater was run only at night and at 50 Fahrenheit on the thermostat.

My conclusion: Either the houses need to get properly insulated or abandoned.

More generally: We are going to need to move the poor people from the colder states southward. Buying them heating oil in the winter is not a viable long term solution. In fact, those subsidies make energy more expensive for everyone else.

Yes we will move the poorer people southward. My mom retired to Florida. Now we have to produce the electricity to keep her cool in the summer instead.

You mean to the southeast, where they can pick up a place in Atlanta after the current residents evacuate when they run out of water?

We're going to see housing going empty as people move in together to share the burdens. If energy doubles in price those on the edge are going to have to either take in or become a room mate.

Wouldn't it be a better idea to scrap the oil fired heating and re-equip their houses with ground source heat pumps. Probably cheaper too.

I know Lowell - he actively blogs at http://www.raisingkaine.com. We have had discussions about Peak Oil - here is an article from last May where we were discussing something from Yergin:


Here is a link to the article in the Baltimore Sun:


An alternative view of Norman Borlaug’s contributions to the planet as cited above in the New York Times article “The Moral Instinct”.


I googled “Norman Balraug” and "overpopulation" and came up with a slew of sites that presented his works as proof that overpopulation will never be the burden theorized by writers such as Paul Ehrlich and Malthus. We’ll see. It also seems Borlaug is pushing bio technology and GM crops to the third world. It looks like the law of receeding horizons kicking in.

..and didn't he also drag Gandalf into Mt Moriah?


LOL, I almost mispelled his name as balrog.

I found that article fascinating. It argues that human morality is hard-wired, and not rational. And that differences in human moral reactions are due to the way we rank five innate moral elements.

If human hard-wired morals were illogical in terms of survival, we'd have not survived.

They are logical in terms of survival.

I know he's Un-American and all, but Richard Dawkins is well worth reading.

I meant not rational in terms of individual situations. That's what happens when decisions are made based on hard-wiring rather than logic.

One thing that has come out in MRI studies: we have a visceral resistance to killing someone with our own hands, but not to doing so remotely (pressing a button or flipping a switch). Our brains evolved in our Stone Age past, when it wasn't possible to kill someone remotely, so when we think about it, we weigh it with the logical part of our minds. The part that engages when we're deciding whether to go to the grocery store or the post office first. Not so if we think about killing someone with our own hands. The reaction then is visceral, and no matter how "logical" it seems, we resist it.

But is this visceral reaction to killing a result of hardwiring we are born with, or hardwired into us by experience and cultural indoctrination. If the first, we are doomed to a deterministic outcome that would be impossible to change. If the second, we can possibly change our behavior to favor a desired outcome. Personally, I lean towards the former, although I do not think the prohibition of killing fits. In any case, David Hume was right when he said reason is the slave of the passions. Every rational decision must follow some type of value judgment.

But is this visceral reaction to killing a result of hardwiring we are born with, or hardwired into us by experience and cultural indoctrination.

Both. It's inborn - because it's found cross-culturally. However, the way it is expressed is modulated by culture. Cleanliness/purity is a universal value, but whether you consider pork unclean depends on your upbringing. Similarly, almost everyone will kill, in the right circumstances - and those circumstances are dictated by cultural indoctrination.

The article argues that there are five elements of morality: harm, fairness, community/loyalty, authority and purity. Now, some people are just psychopaths. The moral equivalent of tone-deaf. But for most people, when they disagree about moral issues, it's because they rank those five elements differently. So, for example, people who rank respect for authority over not causing harm may well decide that naming a teddy bear "Mohammed" is a death-penalty offense. And the difference between a liberal and a conservative is a liberal ranks harm and fairness as more important than the others, while a conservative ranks all five about equally.

Cross-culturally doesn't prove anything. It could just as easily prove the utility in having a rule against murder in preserving order. Also, given that the migration of humans came from common areas this could have been a value that has been handed down. Witness the similarity of religious myths. I read the article when first posted and I was not impressed. After taking many philosophy courses in college and reading Kant, Rawls, etc. I have become agnostic on the subject. Too much metaphysical nonsense mostly used to justify one’s own culture. I’ll stick with empiricism. Humans have tendency to act a certain way and history and literature indicates we have not changed.

OK, I’ve been giving this a little more thought (Damn, I hate when I trod down this thicket) and a strong case can be made for an instinct against prohibition of killing against immediate family members and tribe that arises through social imprinting.

I think cross-culturally matters. That is what tells you what is nature, what is nurture.

IMO, this is far more than philosophy (which is not a topic I'm much interested in). What makes it fascinating for me is the science behind it.

I'm quite dubious about calling it "science" yet. Too much conjecture and not enough facts, which is why I mentioned philosophy - the ultimate mental masturbation.

It's the neuroscience that interests me. And yes, I do think it's science.

I'm not impressed with your example. If you contemplate killing someone with your on hands, you are likely to have a thought as to what might happen if they fight back and win. They, of course, have a visceral, hard-wired response to your attack.

If you contemplate killing someone by the press of a button, there is much less concern to your on personal safety.

Sometimes it is hard to interpret the results of psychology laboratory research, and particularly dangerous to trust the experimenters judgment about the relevance of their work to life outside the laboratory.

If you contemplate killing someone by the press of a button, there is much less concern to your on personal safety.

They have other examples where your personal safety wouldn't enter into it. (Where the victim is a lone baby, for example, who could not possible pose a threat.)

I think the use of 'visceral' vs. 'logical' is largely misleading, and the distinction is largely the fault of research psychologists. Logical is certainly 'built-in' in humans, in the sense that humans have a natural ability to reason about the natural world that far exceeds that of any other species, at least so far as we can tell with our limited ability to observe nature in an unbiased way. Also, both 'fight' and 'flight' are built-in behaviors, and both can be triggered by either logical or visceral neural patterns.

Concerning a lone baby who could not possibly be a threat - think of King Herod. Was the baby a threat? Did the experimenters control for subjects who were unaware of his story? It doesn't really matter whether you believe Herod really existed, or Jesus either. It is a well known story that illustrates a point.

I think this line of research is still too new for us to use it to justify or condemn behavior relating to peak oil. And yet we have a built-in need to speculate.

"The Selfish Gene" is a very good read (as is "The God Delusion").

I'd have appreciated the article a lot more if Prof. Pinker's "rational conclusions" didn't mostly strike me rationally as complete BS. Smoking floors in hotel rooms are there because even smoking residues make some of us physically gag. The industry has finally come around to the idea that non-smokers shouldn't have to gag while staying in the hotel. Bill Gates is worse than Mother Teresa because she did good without injuring others to the extent Gates has. Borlaug has just set us up to fall a billion people harder.

The Climate Change conclusion is just as ridiculous. In our world commons, the rich west has inadvertently been taking more than its fair share, but now that we know we're ruining it for everyone, according to Prof. Pinker, it doesn't make any sense for us to abide by the same rules as everyone else, since they might cheat someday too. What a creative solution to the problem. I stopped paying attention to the Times "Ethicist" when he pulled some similar lousy logic.

I have not seen this posted. Snip:

Oil Crisis As Barrels Go Missing, According to Audit

Share January 10, 2008 4:19 PM

Marcus Baram Reports:

How do you not notice when 308,000 barrels of oil go missing?

That's the question government auditors were asking after they looked into the Department of Energy's management of oil received for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a critical program to assure energy stability in the U.S. in case of an oil crisis.


Well, that's embarrassing...

$4,400 per square foot in London. . .

Europe, too, being hit by subprime housing woes
By Shelley Emling | Cox News Service
January 11, 2008

LONDON - Once upon a time, a former storage room the size of a walk-in closet went on the market in London's exclusive Knightsbridge neighborhood for $335,000. With only 77 square feet of space and no electricity, the dilapidated "home" drew multiple offers.

Those were the heady days of 2006, when property sellers and their agents could pretty much name their price.

But now, home prices are slumping and fears of a recession in Britain are rising.

A moderately funny tv satire:

Operation Change For the Better.

Redeem your old coins for new ones denominated in gallons of oil...which makes sense because that's where most of your money goes anyway.

Sadly, though, not peak oil aware.

A good article in the New York Times about the new Extreme Hybrid of AFS Trinity Power:


Very smart design, it looks like a great solution for short commutes (<40 miles).

Put that in the body of the tata nano and they might be getting somewhere.

The panic in the financial markets seems to be continuing.

The latest prediction chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, is showing the odds are becoming about even, that the fed will cut the prime rate to 3.75% or 3.5%. The current rate is 4.25%

Note: "The charts below show what markets believe the most likely outcome of upcoming FOMC meetings will be. The charts are updated every business day and reflect the most recent data released by the Chicago Board of Trade."


Also and interesting link about "nationalization of the U.S. banking system"

Clearly it's Sunday. There seems to be a lot of almost religious ferver in the discussions relating to nuclear power. There's also a lot of invective, sectarianism, and mean-spiritedness, and what seems like spite thrown in too.

People who are critical or sceptical about the blessings of nuclear power aren't morons or evil. The true financial cost of nuclear power is one area of contention which requires careful examination. Obviously the cost of nuclear isn't the price of building a plant, or maintaining it over a forty year life-cycle. One needs to consider the cost of decomissioning the site afterwards, and what to do with the radioactive waste produced. Currently the cost of decomissioning the sites seems to have been dramatically and deliberately, underestimated, and underestimated for a reason, it would frighten investors off such projects.

In Britain the plan for the socalled Sellafield reprocessing plant is estimated to cost in excess of 100 billion dollars and last for a century. This is a long time. Are we really sure society will have the resources to carrry out such a gargantuan task in the years ahead?

Then there's the question of what to do with the radioactive waste. In a way we shouldn't talk about 'waste' or 'disposal' at all, because this inplies that we can somehow get rid of the stuff and forget about it, it's gone. This is an over-simplification, if not a gross distortion. The surpless radioactive by-products of the nuclear industry have to be stored and cared for and watched. This is an ongoing process requiring expensive oversight probably for centuries. This will be time-consuming and expensive.

I don't have time to get into the whole debate about security or safety in relation to the nuclear industry, but this is also an area bursting with problems and substantial challanges.

But clearly the UK government feels it has no choice but to go nuclear. This is unfortunate. The UK hasn't had a real energy policy for at least twenty-five years. The politicians took an ideological decision to let the 'free-market' direct Britain's energy policy and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Because of the UK governments criminally short-sighted lack of an energy policy the available options have been substantially reduced. Nuclear is going to make a big comeback, and this time the oposition to nuclear power will be dealt with far more harshly than in the past.

this might be a good reason.
nuclear reactions(fusion) power the sun, the sun has since the beginning of civilization has been worshiped as a god in many many forms up till now so going against nuclear power is like going against god :P heh just a little humor for 'sun'day.

There seems to be a lot of almost religious ferver in the discussions relating to nuclear power. There's also a lot of invective, sectarianism, and mean-spiritedness, and what seems like spite thrown in too.

Are you referring to discussions other than this one?

Then there's the question of what to do with the radioactive waste. In a way we shouldn't talk about 'waste' or 'disposal' at all, because this inplies that we can somehow get rid of the stuff and forget about it, it's gone. This is an over-simplification, if not a gross distortion.

Consider the perspective I gave here. Do you agree?

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

Letting markets make some decisions is not a lack of policy. For the vast majority of decisions it is actually the best policy.

As for nuclear's costs: A lot of people have debated and calculated costs and come to different conclusions.

Sellafield: I don't know much about it. Was it only a civilian plant? What all did it do? Some of America's military nuclear facilities have expensive clean-ups associated with them. I've not heard of a figure as high as $100 billion to clean up a single pure civilian nuclear facility in the States.

It is a reprocessing plant, and most of it's work is to do with Britain's military facilities and the early reactors which were basically a thin cover for a way of turning out plutonium for nuclear weapons.
They had safety hassles, mainly because the politicians overode the technicians on occasion to keep up production, and covered up with the official secrets act.
Building 20 new reactors to continue generating nuclear energy would add only marginally to waste volumes, as the early reactors were so inefficient.
Because decommissioning happens at the end of the plants lifetime, normal accounting provisions mean that only a few million needs to be put away every year to generate funds for a multi-billion clean-up - it amount to £0.50 per MEGAWATT of generated power, I believe.
Anti-nuclear folk contend that this does not allow for the possible costs if a disaster happened.
But neither does the insurance premium on a natural gas terminal, which would cause a lot more damage if it went bang, and that is much more likely than a melt-down with substantial release as the safety environment is much more relaxed as people for some weird reason seem to imagine that a floating tanker of LNG is safer!
There is nowt so queer as folk!

So, the rate is already functional negative given that it doesn't keep up with real inflation, and now they're going to take the rate below the government's published inflation numbers? That is giving money away, no?

I don't expect them to stop there. I think there will be more rate cuts after this one, and I also expect the federal government will start handing out money by way of rebates and tax cuts. But don't worry. They won't be cutting spending after giving out rebates and tax cuts; they'll almost certainly boost spending to act as a stimulus.

It is the "hair of the dog that bit you" school of economics. If cheap credit and loose spending screws up your economy, well the solution is obviously even more cheap credit and loose spending. And if that doesn't work, you obviously didn't make credit cheap enough or loosen your spending up enough.

People aren't going to go for a $100 gas rebate next October in exchange for not beating the stuffing out of the politicians currently in office. It is going to be a long, hot summer ...

That is giving money away, no?

who gives cash to whom? or who takes what from whom? one things is for sure, someone is taking the real purchasing power away from those who holds a fixed amount of cash or cash equivalent.

On money:


Klaus Bender, the author of Moneymakers: The Secret World of Banknote Printing, said the phony $100 bill is “not a fake anymore. It’s an illegal parallel print of a genuine note.” He claims that the supernotes are of such high quality and are updated so frequently that they could be produced only by a U.S. government agency such as the CIA.

As unsubstantiated as the allegation is, there is a precedent. An expert on the CIA, journalist Tim Weiner, has written how the agency tried to undermine the Soviet Union’s economy by counterfeiting its currency.

Weren't US Mint plates and printing presses exported to some nation in the Middle East to allow them to print their own USD notes to fund various things?

I'm going to say this and I dare anyone on here to prove me wrong. It happened.

The presses (not plates) were exported to Iran under the Shah.

There is a unique "feel" to fresh US $ lacking in other currency.

And the numbers reported for the super counterfeits do NOT represent the # in circulation. As a former bank teller (6 of the 7 years working my way through college), EVERY counterfeit I found was by touch.

Really good ones (as described in article) would not be found in quantity. In fact, just how do the find them ?

$100 bills circulate less than other notes and many super counterfeits will end up torn & worn and sent in to the feds for destruction as "mutes".

May I suggest new $50 bills for anyone stockpiling under the mattress.


May I suggest new $50 bills for anyone stockpiling

Why not $20's?

More counterfeit $20 bills, and 2.5x the volume :-)


Reasonable. Thanks

Many wartime countries have counterfeited their enemies' currencies. We counterfeited North Vietnamese money, the British and Germans counterfeited each others', etc. However, when a government counterfeits its own money, we have to ask whom they are waging war against.

Body Heat To Power Cell Phones? Nanowires Enable Recovery Of Waste Heat Energy

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2008) — Energy now lost as heat during the production of electricity could be harnessed through the use of silicon nanowires synthesized via a technique developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. The far-ranging potential applications of this technology include DOE’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered “Freedom CAR,” and personal power-jackets that could use heat from the human body to recharge cell-phones and other electronic devices.


A lot of "coulds"... count 'em

The recent surge in corn prices is demand driven (as portrayed in the second illustration below) and possesses some critical ramifications for cattle feeders. A one-dollar increase in corn prices represents approximately $55/head in additional feeding costs, basis yearling steer. And from a calf standpoint $1/bu mandates an additional $70/head. As a result, buyers are forced to bid the replacement market lower to protect deferred closeouts: $7-8/cwt and $12-13/cwt for yearlings and calves, respectively. Meanwhile, some analysts are talking about corn going as high as $6.50 by next December.


My father has noted that heavier yearlings no longer sell at a discount/lb. He has a herd of ~400 cattle in the Kentucky Bluegrass (he retired when my grandfather died and took over the farm) and is contemplating how to work this market change to his advantage.

Best Hopes for Grass Feed Beef,


Ah Kentucky!
Beautiful countryside, best of luck to him on how to make it more advantageous. Perhaps bottle the methane? haha!
I recently moved to KY, and I love it!

I went to buy some ribeye steaks last week and got sticker shock at the prices, but after reading that article about the push for ethanol and the ratio of a bushel of corn and cattle feeding costs, it all became clear.

From the America's Farmland Trust newsletter, in case it wasn't in DB:


Scientists at the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute are suggesting a link between fires and deforestation of the Amazon, and U.S. farm subsidies paid for the production of corn that eventually is processed into ethanol. Their new study, published in the British journal Science, calculates the relative merits of 26 different biofuels, looking at the reduction of greenhouse-gasses and an environmental impact index for each.



Years ago the clerk at the store would say "paper? or plastic?" Sometimes I'd just freeze up, not sure which one to pick. BTW plastic is being banned in some countries as of recent.

I think of corn as food, yet it could be used as fuel, and if someone held out some corn, and I had to pick one or the other, and said to me "food or fuel?", I'd probably have a vapor lock, but if I were hungry, I'd pick food and if I wasn't hungry I'd pick fuel!

Hey dude....
There are Alligators in this permafrost.