DrumBeat: January 18, 2008

Pressure to pump: Saudi Aramco struggles to boost oil production

No encounter between the US president, George W Bush, and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia in recent years has been complete without a plea from the American leader for OPEC to furnish more oil to the world market in the interest of moderating prices. Mr Bush's mid-January visit to an unusually chilly Saudi Arabia was no exception, and, according to the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, King Abdullah showed some sympathy, expressing concern about the impact of rising oil prices on the world economy. Saudi Arabia is doing its best to ensure that there is sufficient new production capacity coming on stream to keep pace with the anticipated 1-2% annual increases in demand. However, Saudi Aramco, in common with most other major oil companies, whether national or international, is facing mounting difficulty in completing new oilfield projects on time and within budget.

Canadian Factory Shipments Climbed 1.1% in November

(Bloomberg) -- Canada's factory shipments rose twice as much as forecast in November on rising prices for petroleum and coal products. Excluding price increases, manufacturing sales fell.

Profit seen in pipeline expansion

CALGARY - Oilsands plants will net price premiums of up to $20 a barrel by extending exports to the Gulf of Mexico coast, TransCanada Corp. president Harold Kvisle predicted Thursday.

Thirsty Texas and Louisiana refineries routinely pay more than crowded markets closer to the Alberta bitumen belt.

TransCanada is poised to build new southbound links to the Gulf facilities.

Mexico govt says closing in on energy reform deal

Mexico, a top three supplier of crude oil to the United States, saw oil exports slip last year to their lowest level since 2002 because of pounding storms and sagging output at the massive Cantarell oil field.

Mourino did not mention details on the reform in the works, but the opposition says it will block any attempt to lift a constitutional ban on private investment in crude oil production. Lawmakers are discussing tweaks to give state oil company Pemex more operational and budgetary autonomy.

Pakistan delegation to visit Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia for oil

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani delegation will visit Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia to seek uninterrupted oil imports on deferred payments, and reduced rates for public sector consumers to counter the current energy crisis.

EU: Kozloduy Units to Stay Shut Down

European energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has slammed Bulgaria's plans to restart two older reactors at its Kozloduy nuclear power plant, state news agency BTA said on Thursday.

UK: Inertia is no way to deal with our energy crisis

On 10 January, the Government unveiled its new energy policy, the centrepiece of which was support for new nuclear power stations.

The Government says it won’t subsidise nuclear plants, but many doubt the numbers stack up for private firms, says Ruth Sunderland in The Observer. Nuclear power stations have huge up-front costs coupled with uncertain revenues, as they are vulnerable to fluctuations in power prices.

Bumpy ride for biofuels

TWO technological trends, both unimaginable a year ago, dominated last week’s motor show in Detroit, the premier showcase for carmakers worldwide. One was the U-turn in the past decade’s headlong pursuit of horsepower and size. The other, less apparent but possibly more significant, was the industry’s wholehearted embrace of biofuels.

Congress Can Alleviate Growing Pains

Global warming, geopolitical instability, peak oil concerns and the instability of crude oil prices have greatly increased the sense of urgency with which governments now pursue renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

To successfully harvest renewable energy, we must adopt public policy that first plants the seed of viable new technologies and, more importantly, nurtures their growth to full potential. As we look at supporting promising “new-generation” technologies such as cellulosic ethanol and the like, we must remain vigilant that we not—through neglect—undercut the solutions we already have at hand.

Biodiesel uncertainty slows German rapeseed trade

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Uncertainty about the future of Germany's huge biodiesel industry slowed trade in the country's rapeseed market this week, traders said on Thursday.

"The biodiesel industry has been the largest consumer of rapeseed in Germany for the past two years or so but it is in a crisis and no one really knows what is going to happen to our largest user," one rapeseed trader said.

BP signs clean energy and wind power generation agreements with China

BEIJING (Xinhua) - British Petroleum (BP) announced it had signed a series of agreements with China on Friday, including those in clean energy and wind power generation, during British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to China.

Germany attacks green energy scheme

Plans for a European system for trading renewable energy came under attack from Germany on Thursday, just days before Brussels unveils proposals to fight climate change.

Sigmar Gabriel, the environment minister, hit out at the scheme, which aims to boost green energy, arguing that it would "endanger" his country's "successful" approach to promoting solar and wind power.

Saudi Inflation Blamed on Falling Dollar (audio)

In oil-rich Saudi Arabia the price of food is rising, and so is discontent. Ordinary residents of the monarchy are circulating text-messages on mobile phones, urging a boycott of milk. And, the inflation has some economists calling on Saudi Arabia to revalue its currency.

China steps up inflation fight

HONG KONG - The Chinese government now appears to see inflation as public enemy No 1 as it continues to take various measures to curb price increases with an eye to recent history that shows public discontent can soon grow to crisis proportions if the cost of daily necessities gets out of hand.

Iraq: Oil fields hit by fuel shortage

BAGHDAD: The halt of Turkish exports of electricity to Iraq and a lack of fuel for power stations is to blame for the blackouts hitting Iraq's northern oil fields, the Electricity Ministry said yesterday.

The power cuts have forced Iraq to stop pumping crude oil along its northern pipeline to Turkey and knocked out its largest refinery, at Baiji.

Iran says western sanctions could hurt crude supply

Tehran: Iran's Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) governor has warned that any western sanctions on investments in its energy sector could endanger security of supply and also hit consumer countries, an Iranian daily reported on Thursday.

Massachusetts: Soaring electricity prices leave state's manufacturers struggling

State lawmakers will soon finalize energy legislation that aims to promote efficiency and alternatives to fossil fuels. But as legislators iron out differences between recently passed House and Senate bills, businesses say they need to pay closer attention to what many firms consider the real energy crisis: spiraling electricity costs.

The Coal Question Revisited

Many people believe the world has enough coal to last hundreds of years. Recent assessments now suggest that coal production could actually start to decline as early as 2025.

China Drought Underlines Hydropower Reliance Risks

BEIJING - A major drought has squeezed electricity output at big dams across southwest China, highlighting the risks of Beijing's massive hydropower expansion plans on coal and oil markets in a warmer, drier world.

Rising Sea Levels Threaten China Cities

BEIJING (AP) — Sea levels off Shanghai and other Chinese coastal cities are rising at an alarming rate, leading to contamination of drinking water supplies and other threats, China's State Oceanic Administration reported Thursday.

Waters off the industrial port city of Tianjin, 60 miles southeast of Beijing, rose by 7.72 inches over the past three decades, the administration said.

Seas off the business hub of Shanghai have risen by 4.53 inches over the same period, the report said.

Climate Talk’s Cancellation Splits a Town

CHOTEAU, Mont. — School authorities’ cancellation of a talk that a Nobel laureate climate researcher was to have given to high school students has deeply divided this small farming and ranching town at the base of the east side of the Rocky Mountains.

The scholar, Steven W. Running, a professor of ecology at the University of Montana, was scheduled to speak to about 130 students here last Thursday about his career and the global changes occurring because of the earth’s warming.

Dr. Running was a lead author of a global warming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 400-member United Nations body that shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. But when some residents complained that his presentation here would be one-sided because no opposing view would be offered, the superintendent of Choteau School District No. 1, Kevin St. John, canceled it.

McMansions: Unsustainable Housing Meets Unsustainable Finance

James Howard Kunstler is thought of by some as a profit of doom and by others as realistically prescient. Whatever angle you take away from his philosophy one thing is clear: according to Kunstler suburbia in America is unsustainable. I read his book The Long Emergency last year and there is no doubt that Kunstler’s outlook is “sobering” (mildly put). While his views may be too pessimistic for many, he has some valid points, I believe, on how much of our built community and human landscapes have become unsustainable and undesirable. An interesting discussion regarding Kunstler, the “end of suburbia”, and our future energy economy is found at ClimateProgress.org. In any case, some may find his talk at the TED conference interesting.

Perhaps the silver lining in this dark cloud of the “McMansion Meltdown” is the impetus to do better – the real American Dream.

Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow

A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing.

That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled.

Energy bill promises lower-cost biz loans

This time around, Congress added deadlines to its legislation, something the 2005 energy act lacked. The SBA has until Dec. 31, 2008, to submit to Congress a plan to implement programs for assisting small-businesses in adopting energy efficient building fixtures and equipment.

Climate change forces car manufacturing rethink

The head of car giant General Motors has publicly warned the switch to biofuels such as ethanol and electric cars is now inevitable and with oil prices at record highs, motorists may soon become familiar with the phrase "peak oil".

New Fields May Offset Oil Drop

CERA has drawn fire among skeptics for being one of the most optimistic forecasters in the industry. The company predicted in June that world oil production, now at just above 85 million barrels a day, could hit 112 million barrels a day by 2017.

The task of reaching that mark appears daunting. According to CERA's own rate of decline, the world's existing fields by 2017 will be producing about 33 million fewer barrels a day than they are now. So hitting a production level of 112 million barrels a day within a decade would require adding 59 million barrels a day in new capacity -- or more than six times today's daily output from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.

CERA argues that nearly half of that output will come from nonconventional sources such as biofuels and natural-gas liquids.

"However you spin it, a 4.5% decline rate is a very sobering fact," says Thomas Petrie, a veteran Denver-based oil banker and Merrill Lynch & Co. vice president. "People are running hard to find new sources of oil, and that's just to keep even. When was the last time we discovered another Iran?"

Gloomy outlook for oil disputed

Matthew Simmons, a Houston energy industry investment banker and a proponent of the peak oil theory, called Cambridge Energy's numbers "sketchy," its conclusions "glib."

Simmons argued that the Gulf of Mexico alone has 717 fields producing oil.

"Studying 811 fields is nothing," said Simmons, chairman of Houston-based Simmons & Company International.

OPEC Needs Proof of Demand Before Supply Increase, Khelil Says

OPEC will raise production provided there is genuine need for extra barrels among consuming nations, said Chakib Khelil, Algerian Oil Minister and President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

OPEC, which meets to review production on Feb. 1, is ready to produce more oil ``if consumer countries' demand is real,'' Khelil said in comments run by national news agency Algerie Presse Service.

President Bush Questions Saudi Ability to Raise Oil Supply, According to TheOilDrum.com

In an ABC Nightline interview, President Bush recently said of Saudi Arabia, "If they don't have a lot of additional oil to put on the market, it is hard to ask somebody to do something they may not be able to do." According to TheOilDrum.com, this statement seems to indicate that George W. Bush, like many others, is skeptical of Saudi oil production claims. Forecasts of future world oil production by official organization like the IEA and the EIA assume OPEC can increase production by any desired amount; if OPEC's capability is limited, official production forecasts are optimistic because they are based on false assumptions.

Putin clinches key European pipeline deal

SOFIA (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin clinched a key pipeline deal with Bulgaria on Friday that strengthens Moscow's grip on European gas markets before issuing a stern warning about the future status of Kosovo.

Bulgaria and Russia agreed to build the so-called South Stream pipeline project, which will cross the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then split in two arms, one going northwest to Austria and the other south to Greece and then west to southern Italy.

It will strengthen Moscow's grip as the leading supplier of gas to Europe and will rival EU plans for its own pipeline project, Nabucco, aimed at reducing the bloc's dependence on Russian gas.

Transneft halts Russian oil flows via CPC pipeline

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft has halted Russian oil flows via the Caspian Pipeline (CPC), which ships mainly Kazakh crude, citing maintenance work at a rail loading terminal, industry sources said on Friday.

CPC is able to replace any lost Russian oil with Kazakh barrels to ensure there is no loss to the market, the sources said.

Schlumberger profit rises, but misses forecasts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the world's largest oilfield services company, posted a 22 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on Friday, but said weaker prices in the United States and the effects of seasonal weather hurt margins.

Ecuador to Invest $2 Billion in Oil Industry

Ecuador will invest U.S. $2 billion in its oil industry this year in a bid to increase production by 11 percent, Energy Minister Galo Chiriboga said Wednesday.

Some $1.7 billion will be used to increase production at state oil company Petroecuador and another $300 million will be used to revamp the Esmeraldas refinery, Ecuador's largest, Chiriboga told Ecuador Inmediato radio.

The end of oil is just a game

New combat videogame depicts a world at war over rapidly dwindling crude supplies. But what's the message players walk away with?

Canada: No 'perfect solution' for heating costs, MLAs told

Forcing oil companies to reduce the minimum amount of heating oil they deliver won't change the overall cost to the consumer, P.E.I.'s standing committee on social development was told Thursday.

The committee is looking at the high cost of heating oil, and one of the problems it's dealing with is the cost of a minimum delivery. The Salvation Army in Charlottetown has complained a minimum delivery costs $400, and even more in rural areas.

San Francisco Mayor Issues Roadmap to a Greener City

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom Tuesday released SForward, the roadmap to achieve his environmental goal of a 20 percent decrease in emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide below 1990 levels by 2010.

The plan also aims to achieve carbon neutrality for city government by 2020.

Overpopulation and peak oil: The perfect storm

For a variety of reasons, humans usually don’t react to problems until they become crises. All these crises are semi-connected, where one will trigger one or more of the others. However, there are two crises marching toward us now, shoulder-to-shoulder, that will trigger every other, both large and small. At best, they will end our industrial civilization. At worst, they may depopulate most of our species. These two comrades-in-arms, overpopulation and peak oil, are of such complex magnitude, no amount of financial or scientific commitment may stop them. They are creating the perfect storm of which there may be no survival.

Japan's Fukuda vows action but braces for fight

TOKYO (AFP) - Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pledged Friday to make Japan more active in fighting global warming and maintaining global security, but braced for a showdown in the fractured parliament's new session.

Fukuda, who a day earlier said his party was in its worst-ever crisis, is expected to face fierce resistance from the opposition, which has vowed to scuttle his agenda since winning one of the houses of parliament last year.

Bush officials say oil drilling will not harm polar bears

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US officials defended plans for oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska, telling lawmakers that it would not harm polar bears, already threatened by global warming.

Cheap and cheerful: Venezuelans cling to right for petrol at 42p a tank
Cost borne by environment and the poor as government remains wedded to subsidy

At a Caracas petrol station last week, Gloria Padron, a paediatrician, ticked off items that would cost about the same as the 60 litres of fuel gurgling into her Land Cruiser.

"Let me think. A Magnum ice cream. A cup of coffee. A cheese and ham arepa [sandwich]. Small stuff like that. Can't say I've ever really thought about the price. Why would you?". . . Even under the artificially overvalued official exchange rate, petrol is 45 times cheaper than in Britain.

Texas Is Biggest Carbon Polluter
April Castro, Associated Press 

Debbie Howden, an Austin real estate agent, said her family of six has two pickup trucks, three SUVs, and no apologies. "I would definitely put size and safety over the emissions thing," said Howden, 55. She calls their high fuel bills a "necessary evil."
(16 January 2008)

Leanan ..

Just an FYI ..

My daughter recently downloaded Google Desktop v5.5
to her computer .. There are a number of add-ons to the
desktop that Google calls "gadgets" .. One aggregates
PO related news items ( might make your job easier :o) )
and another is TOD !!! Should bring lots of new eyeballs
to the site .. Apologies in advance if this is known to all

Triff ..

Fascinating. I looked for it and found the link:


Please be aware that this software was not produced in consultation with The Oil Drum. You should always be cautious when installing third-party software on your computer.

I loves me some Super G (in that completely Platonic manly way...).

Folks, you really ought to thank him every day...I can tell you that as someone who sees the battles he has to fight (and that he has to put up with me.)


re: "Folks, you really ought to thank him every day..."

I thank you every day, Super G.

With this newfound popularity what will happen? Will it go to TOD's head? Will the masses destroy TOD's great comments section? Could it be, "Peak TOD" ! The ramifications of this may change the world, hope it does.

Thanks again to all of you for all you do here on TOD.

I think size will be especially important for those who will end up living in their SUVs. As for Venezuela, they are just living in a parallel universe and cannot be contacted.

I wish Debbie Howden zero real estate sales for 2008. Yes, Debbie, what you are doing is evil but not necessary. So emissions are just a "thing". I hope your many children enjoy their future deep fried planet. Their response, of course, will to just be to turn up the AC. Nature be damned.

Maybe it is possible to contact them when they find out that you can't eat the airco, and that the tires of the 5 cars need quite a lot of garlic. By then we are way of the cliff of PG (Peak Garlic)too, if y'll ask me...

Peak garlic? Not where I'm at! I have over 3000 (guesstimate) cloves planted in my field. Many heirloom varieties. But I'm not eating tires either.

Saudi Arabia, like many oil exporting countries, subsidizes domestic energy, which is creating the positive feedback loop that we have discussed. The article on Venezuela discusses how difficult it is to curtail domestic subsidies. IMO, this is especially true when the cash flow from oil exports is rising (because of higher oil prices), even as export volumes fall.

Then we have "richer" countries like the US, where the prevailing opinion is that you can have their keys to their pickups and SUV's when you pry them out of their cold dead fingers (actually a woman interviewed a year or so ago in the Dallas paper said precisely that).

I think that consumption is going to be a difficult beast to kill, but my view for some time has been that we have to kill consumption before consumption kills us. However, our glorious leaders in Washington are getting a plan together to try to boost short term consumption. It is our patriotic duty, as Americans, to continue to borrow and spend.

In any case, for those of us who believe in evolution and finite energy resources, this is at least an opportunity to continue to unload highly energy dependent assets on true believers in the Yerginite community.

It is times like this that demonstrate that there isn't much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to the addiction to growth. My God!!! We might actually experience a few quarters of lower growth or, gasp!, a reduction in GDP? Let's roll out the consumption machine. Regardless, I wonder how effective this stimulus package is going to be if it is all about consuming more crap from China. Have these people ever heard of "leakage"? The part of that dollar going to China will do nothing to boost our GDP.

If we're going to have stimulus, do it in a way that directs spending towards investments in our energy future. Even if people buy a few CFLs and put in some installation, at least they will get a return on their dollars and not just more crap that they will end up throwing in the trash in a couple of years.

So, give something directly to consumers in the form of energy vouchers. Put the rest in incentives for more fuel efficient autos and transporation systems. Put some money into planning for more compact cities. Invest in mass rail based transit. Provide free transit fares. Invest in renewable energy.

So, if this is a crisis, let us be like the neocons and take advantage of the crisis to invest in our future, not just consume more crap.

The best way to kill consumption, is to kill the consumers. ;)

I got their short term consumption. Whatever $ they decide to 'give me to consume with' will promptly be invested in commodities...But, not those despensed at the gas pumps. :) BTW, anyone with 4 SUVs needs some professional help, imo.

...anyone with 4 SUVs needs some professional help, imo.

Then there is Governator Schwarzenneger who in a fit of Californian eco-consciousness cut his hummer fleet from 7 down to 4.

BTW, anyone with 4 SUVs needs some professional help, imo.

I don't see how 4 SUVs is much worse than 1 - they can't possibly drive all 4 at the same time, so the total miles driven should be about the same. Driving an SUV to begin with is likely an indicator of needing some professional help, though.

I don't see how 4 SUVs is much worse than 1 - they can't possibly drive all 4 at the same time

Sure, they can. It's a family of six.

IME, most families with multiple vehicles have a variety, rather than all trucks/SUVs. My parents have a Ford Explorer, and a little Subaru. If gasoline gets insanely expensive, they can drive the Subaru and park the Explorer.

You missed the part of my point about total miles traveled. Are the VMT for the family larger because they have more SUVs, or would they still drive the same distance, just not simultaneously, if they had just one SUV? I'd guess the VMT would be about the same, unless they convoy to go to Applebee's for some fine dining or something.

I think VMT would be higher. If you have only one car, you learn to share rides, combine trips, etc.

Which is what we did in my family. We had two cars and four drivers when I was a teen, so my sister and I often went places together, or we hitched a ride with one of our parents, even if it meant hanging around at their office or at the mall waiting for them to get done. We also caught rides with friends. I know if I had my own car, I would have driven it, rather than hitchhike with friends and family.

There's also the fact that not all VMT are equal. If they had a Prius instead of one of the SUVs, they could save gas and save money. Do they really all need trucks or SUVs every day? One of each is probably enough. Whoever needs the people mover or the cargo hauler could use it, while the others drive smaller cars.

I suspect very few SUV owners really *need* them. I really wish government regulations didn't favor SUVs - better tax treatment for business owners, along with more lenient crash and emission standards. I absolutely loathe SUVs.

I'm perpetually amazed at the number of people who run off to buy an SUV or a minivan when they have their first or second kid. That and the fact that people think 25 highway MPG is 'good mileage'.

Lastly, let me express my gratitude for the content on this site. I'm learning a lot from the community here and appreciate the effort being made to educate the masses (myself included).


Oddly, I think the new safety rules encourage families to buy minivans or SUVs. Kids need to be carseats now; you can't just pack them all in the backseat like grandma used to.

When I was a kid, we had a station wagon, and if necessary, we kids sat in the cargo area in back. That would be child abuse now.

My boss has three kids and a minivan. He's also got a smaller car, but three carseats really don't fit in it very well. And his mother-in-law lives with them, so they just don't fit in a normal car. In the old days, baby could sit in mommy's or grandma's lap, but not now. Before they got the minivan, they used to take two cars everywhere.

And my parents need an SUV because they live an area where many roads are still 4-wheel drive only. (Especially the farms my dad works on.) Everyone used to have Scouts or Range Rovers before Explorers became so popular. An SUV or pickup is also handy for taking trash to the dump, because there's no curbside pickup.

Yep...this is why I have a Pruis and a RAV4. We use the Pruis as much as possible, but there are frequent times I need to transport the kids, the dog, luggage and or presents all at once. I can't do that in the Pruis so the RAV4 is the most fuel economic, reliable, small SUV out there. I could have gotten Ford's hybrid SUV (Escape?), but it was slightly bigger, more expensive, and the gas mileage was only a little better than the SUV. Plus, Ford is going in the tank and Toyota is not. Service has always been exceptional at my local Toyota dealer, while Ford service is horrible.

There are decent wagons out there (used to have a Subaru Legacy wagon), but the gas mileage is lacking.

Until there are better options out there for vehicles that can haul some things AND have decent mileage, some smaller SUVs are my only options. I DON'T think the humongous SUVs are necessary to around things and they are overkill, but not SUVs are created equal. I hate it when people lump SUVs together as EVIL.

I hate it when people lump SUVs together as EVIL

The reason I think SUVs are evil is the fact that the bumper height is high enough that anyone in a car is put at risk in a collision, even for the smaller SUVs. The highway mileage also suffers from the extra ride height and frontal area. A lot of the smaller SUVs could just be station wagons, with beneficial results. I have yet to see a small SUV that offers any advantage over a station wagon. Unfortunately, SUVs are often the only option if you want a practical wagon-like vehicle, as wagons are fairly hard to come by in the US market (though there are some good roomy ones - we love our 2000 passat wagon).

Saudi Arabia, like many oil exporting countries, subsidizes domestic energy

Do they? ... or are their costs of production so low they don't need to charge much for it to make a profit in their domestic market?

The price we pay in importing countries balances the supply and demand of the 'net exports' marginal barrels on the world market.

The essence of the Export Land Model is that for political reasons the home market always takes precedence for any commodity, not just oil - and that most definitely includes the USA judging by the way corn is converted to ethanol rather than export it for food.

Don't expect the KSA to act in anybody's best interests other than their own - and don't expect them to take a short term view.

Right, xeroid. I've also seen those who insist that they have to sell "some" oil even if it means turmoil at home. I point everyone who makes that assertion to Great Britain and Indonesia as ELM examples. They have foregone all the revenue from potential oil exports in order to satisfy consumers at home. Why? Because if the elected powers did not do this, they would no longer be the elected powers.

KSA is a monarchy, so in a slightly different situation, but the House of Saud knows that their grasp on power in KSA relies upon either keeping the populace happy or resorting once again to tribal warfare which King Ibn Saud used to reunify Saudi Arabia in the early part of the 20th century. I strongly suspect that the House of Saud will attempt to buy off competitors as long as possible before choosing to deal with them directly via warfare which was the traditional means of choosing succession in that part of the world for a long time.

While it is possible that KSA may choose to sell some oil at the expense of domestic consumers, I would argue that it is extremely unwise for us to base our national policies on that hope, and that instead we should argue for drastic reductions in petroleum usage. Lacking such reductions in petroleum usage, all else is just smoke and mirrors before we go over the ultimate cliff. So we have a choice - the technology already exists and is sitting right in front of us. Do we grasp it or go like lemmings over that cliff instead? So far I still see the lemming march in full force.


Citizens in OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia pay just 12 cents a litre. The average prices in Iran and Venezuela, OPEC's second and fifth largest producers, were 11 cents and 3 cents a litre, respectively. Sharply lower prices in the survey reflect government subsidies.

Well, I guess it turns on the definition of subsidy. In any case, the Saudis are selling gasoline for about 50¢ per gallon, that would sell for about $2.25 (wholesale) in New York.

The idea that people generally act in their own self interest is a principle of society. Without it we could not have traffic racing in opposite directions at the speed limit. I find it odd when some posters think that it is somehow immoral when people, or countries for that matter, act in their own self interest. When someone says they are just in it for the scientific intellectual inquiry and not for the money, I hang on to my wallet. Those who sacrifice their own enlightened self interest are a menace to society and dangerous. They could just be nut jobs or religious fanatics, but they are still outside of the norm required for a functioning society and should be suspected of ulterior motives.

Self interest has implications for the mitigation of peak oil. Proposed actions that ignore it will fail IMO.

Self-interest is not an inherent principle of society. It may be an inherent principle of this society but not necessarily of all societies. Self-interest is always present in the individual and that's a natural outgrowth of natural selection itself. But societies (collections of individuals) do not have to organize along that particular line and have not in the past.

The problem with a society organized along self-interest is that when the tide is rising, most of the self-interest action tends to (at least in the short term) benefit other people. But what happens in a society where resource availability is declining, where arable land is declining, where water tables are declining, where concentrated energy sources are becoming scarcer and harder to reach? Will self-interest guarantee that individual actions will also benefit society as a whole? Clearly, in small scale cases we have seen both situations where self-interest still assisted others but also where self-interest caused active harm to others and on a much larger scale than in societies where energy, food, water, and other resource availability was still growing.

Thus your assertion is refuted by both recent and longer term history. In fact, that is one of the dangers of self-interest in times of trouble and exactly why societies make laws against such actions based on self-interest. Take for example the anti-gouging laws used in Georgia after Rita-Katrina. Clearly it was in the station owner's self-interest to get the most that they could for their fuel. But laws were used as a means to discourage that self-interested behavior. And even in times when resource availability was climbing, society still enacted and enforced laws against pure self-interest. Look at labor unions as a response to the pure greed (aka self-interest) of the wealthiest families in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Your assumption, sir, is balderdash which makes your conclusion equally absurd.

In times when the pie is static or declining, it is in the self-interest of everyone to restrain any excessive self-interested behavior. If you try to grab more than your fair share, you'll be very likely to see everyone else gang up against you - it is in the self-interest of everyone else to do so. Most normal people (but significantly excluding sociopaths) understand and anticipate this, and thus perceive it to be in their self-interest to not behave in an excessively self-interested manner. This is counterintuitive, but most normal people get it (and maybe are even "hard wired" to get it).

"enlightened" self-interest...
enlightened is the key word here. My self interest is to have crime-free streets. My enlightened self-interest is to pay taxes to support the local police, to get involved in citizen-police education programs, to get involved in neighborhood watch, etc. Simple principles but seemingly beyond the ken of many supposedly intelligent people.

WT -- what struck me about the two links you posted was the identical attitudes of the person in Caracas and the person in Austin.

Both exhibited the same glib intentional ignorance and the same sense of self-satisfied entitlement.

This is a very dangerous situation. People like this are easily led to finding scapegoats when things get difficult.

The right sequence of misleading headlines and suggestions for violent action in the Disinfotainment sector and these same people -- who believe absurdities -- can be made to demand that the worst atrocities be committed in order to maintain their bubble of unreality.

Of course this has been going on in the USA for well over 50 years, and so we lately lead in the category of committing atrocities based upon absurdities.

(Voltaire: "As long as people believe absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.")

In the sub-zero temperatures of Minneapolis today living in Caracas sounds good, though!

Great articles!

The second is an extremely effective exposition on JHK's recurring idea that the majority of people in this country will pursue their current way of life by any means necessary until that way of life is no longer possible.

The SLB report today is a strong signal of peak oil. It's also a window into part of the reason for the global inventory decline. Essentially, what's happening--and this is truly disturbing--is that the price of oil is not high enough to make additional expenditures economic for very, very pricey SLB services. SLB services are of course pricey, because the globe has got its teeth now into the pricey fields, and the hard to get oil. As one example, SLB has a flattish outlook for 2008 in part because there cannot be any new rig additions to the global fleet because, yikes, there aren't enough rigs in existence. This is real, crack-up boom stuff we are seeing here. What the world needs is in fact 2-3 more SLBs, and alot more rigs. They don't really exist. The world needs about 30% more companies than what currently exists in the OSX, from Weatherford, to Baker Hughes, to DO, and RIG.

What's happening to SLB's outlook is precisely the kind of counter-intuitive effect that peak oil will create. Accordingly, hardly anyone on Wall Street--except the handful that get it--understand what's going on. If a person does not get oil in general, they certainly are not going to understand a derivative signal, from Schlumberger.

Amazing stuff. It looks to me like oil is going to have to more consistently average 100, and likely 125. Of course, those figures are in "dollars."


Gregor: i agree. Also, over the last 3-4 months China has started to become increasingly willing to let the Yuan strengthen. No one knows how strong the Yuan can get, but at a certain point China is not going to restrain its climb very much at all (the point where the global bidding war for oil really begins). As far as I know, this factor-the artificially undervalued Yuan-is not factored into the oil futures at all.It definitely should be.

Thank you gregor, that's a perspective that had not occurred to me.

Errol in Miami

Hi gregor,

Thanks and I risk looking foolish to better understand, hence my questions.

re: "...is that the price of oil is not high enough to make additional expenditures economic for very, very pricey SLB services."

So, is this in line w. the argument of "aging rigs and workers" along the lines of Simmons?

Or, does this refer to the "at higher prices, 'they' will find more" market-always-works type argument?

Why is this "disturbing"?

Is it disturbing from the point of view of overall conservation? (Something wrong w. leaving more in the ground, to be extracted at a slower rate?)

Or, do you mean, it's disturbing in that it brings less oil on the market? (Or, causes indefinite delays w. same?)

And, if the latter, is it the uncertainty in the ability to later bring oil online that you see as the problem? (Or...?)

Is there something wrong? TOD is very slow here since yesterday.

BTW I very much enjoyed reading the discussion in yesterdays' DB on the BS put forward by CERA, and the exposing of this by TODers. Thanks.

Yes, we're having technical difficulties. SuperG says the database is corrupt. He's working on it.

Very unfortunate timing, since we just put out another press release. :-(

Well noted. Look forward to the press release.

This is another link to the Press Release. It is called "President Bush Questions Saudi Ability to Raise Oil Supply, According to TheOilDrum.com".

If people can link to the press release in their blogs, it would be helpful. The more and better links, the higher the Google rating the press release will get.

Gotcha, featured and linked at http://mainelyenergy.com

I suspected something like this was the culprit...

You do have regular backups of the site, right?

I am told we have nightly backups of the database and that copies are kept in Boston and San Francisco.

Speaking of backups and Tainterian Complexity Cascading Blowback,

or a more simple explanation:

When a CLOGGED TOILET caused a $500 million repair bill.

Shortly after midnight on a cold winter morning in the midwestern United States, an extraordinary sequence of unfortunate events culminated in an explosion that destroyed the boiler of a 450MW coal- and gas-fired power plant, resulting in physical damages and lost revenues estimated to be in excess of $500 million.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

My apologies to everyone for the site's slowness since yesterday. Our partners at GAIA Host have been working to solve the problem. It seems that we are making progress.

It's running very speedily right now. :-)

"GAIA host". Very appropriate. And yes, it's much better already.

I've said it before and will do it again now: I would like to make a modest donation. Send me an e-mail if you're interested.

I make a point to click on advertisements on sites that I enjoy. On the other hand, I NEVER click on ads at sites such as Faux News, if I have the misfortune of showing up there somehow to begin with.

Thanks Super G. No apologies necessary.

Ditto and, as encouraged by PG,
I thank you every day. (Could you refer to this as necessary?:)

Peak TOD?

No, not peak TOD, but there will likely be Peak Leanan Displeasure at some point, and Peak Trolls just moments after that :-)

Putin clinches key European pipeline deal

SOFIA (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin clinched a key pipeline deal with Bulgaria on Friday that strengthens Moscow's grip on European gas markets before issuing a stern warning about the future status of Kosovo.

Bulgaria and Russia agreed to build the so-called South Stream pipeline project, which will cross the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then split in two arms, one going northwest to Austria and the other south to Greece and then west to southern Italy.

It will strengthen Moscow's grip as the leading supplier of gas to Europe and will rival EU plans for its own pipeline project, Nabucco, aimed at reducing the bloc's dependence on Russian gas.

Transneft halts Russian oil flows via CPC pipeline

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft has halted Russian oil flows via the Caspian Pipeline (CPC), which ships mainly Kazakh crude, citing maintenance work at a rail loading terminal, industry sources said on Friday.

CPC is able to replace any lost Russian oil with Kazakh barrels to ensure there is no loss to the market, the sources said.

These two events are NOT, connected.

And anyone trying to find one is a tin foiled hat CT'er.

BTW-Want to watch the PPT in action?

Look at the Markets this AM.

If you read the first article in full, you'll note that the Russians will also construct a new Nuclear Power plant in Bulgaria, EU. Matter of fact is, the EU forced Bulgaria to close several of their reactors, due to safety concerns, as a condition for becoming EU member. This just to point out that Russia's grip on Europe is increasing. Personally I wonder why the existing plants were not upgraded to higher safety levels. I can't imagine that's more expensive then building new.

I didn't read the article in full because i'm familiar with the

The Bulgarian nukes were shut down because they were/are past rehab.

" Last year, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Croatia asked the EU to allow Bulgaria to reopen the two units at Kozloduy to avoid what they said was a power crisis in the region.

The European Commission, the EU executive, has ruled this out, saying there is no clear evidence the reactors can meet the bloc's safety standards and arguing that that power shortages in the region had not been proved to be due to the shutdown.

Stanishev said Bulgaria was aware how difficult it would be to convince all other 26 EU member countries to sign deals with Sofia to let it reopen the reactors. He added that the government would rely on the wave of nuclear revival in Europe.

Bulgaria also plans a second 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in the Danube town of Belene. On Friday, it will sign a contract with Russia's Atomstroiexport, controlled by gas company Gazprom, to build the 4 billion euro plant.


Evidently one Chernobyl was not enough.

Thanks. For several reasons I'm opposed to nuclear anyway. Most important being the utter reliance of nuclear energy on an underlying FF infrastructure (mining, transport, construction, demolishion, electrical infrastructure which also depends on all this, etc.). But that wouldn't lead me to conclude that Atomstroiexport couldn't deliver in accordance with the safety standards. And I don't know what exactly went wrong at Chernobyl, but IIRC human errors played a big role. These could occur anywhere, and do.

Chernobyl was being stress tested, believe it or not.

safety system were intentionally taken off line.


Bulgarian Nuclear Power Plant KOZLODUY

VVER 440-230, developed by the Soviets before 1970.

Excellent overview and history. Gives both sides.

Mighty interesting, thanks.

Nice link, thanks.

Grigori Medvedev, an engineer at the ill-fated Chernobyl reactor, wrote an excellent minute by minute account of the disaster in his book "The Truth About Chernobyl"

Here's the google link for all sorts of book reviews and related stuff.

I still have my book and it was an excellent read. If anything, it let me know the plight of an engineer - knowing the laws of physics - but working under management orders - is the same in other places.

Same thing we see here when we can see the inevitable trajectory of the oil supply curves, but are incapable of communicating the urgency to others.

I have always been a big supporter of nuclear power but yesterday something happened that made me turn on a dime. I was listening to a Global Public Media audio by Jason Bradford and Alan Weisman The World Without Us about the book by Weisman with the same title. I am currently reading the book but I am only on about page 50 and haven’t yet gotten to the part about nuclear power.

What Weisman was talking about was what if something happens that causes all nuke power plants to be abandoned? They have diesel emergency power to keep the cooling water running but only enough diesel to last about one week. Then what? They either melt down or have a Chernobyl type explosion. Either way, the radioactive waste is dumped on the ground and into the atmosphere. If this happened to all nukes, or even a small percentage of them, then it would be a disaster. Several hundred Chernobyls all over the world. Damn! I had never thought of that!

Perhaps nuclear power poses a much greater risk than I ever imagined. I have no fear of manned nuke plants or nuclear waste properly handled. But if they are ever abandoned……there may be no survivors.


Ron Patterson

Nuclear is a rich world's energy source; since we are likely to become poorer, they aren't for us.

I wonder, actually, how many will get built. Given that when PO realization hits home, people won't want to fund long term projects because they will fear not getting their money back, and given the way nuclear investments work:

The Government says it won’t subsidise nuclear plants, but many doubt the numbers stack up for private firms, says Ruth Sunderland in The Observer. Nuclear power stations have huge up-front costs coupled with uncertain revenues, as they are vulnerable to fluctuations in power prices.

(from one of the drumbeat articles above)

I wonder what the chances are that construction will start but not be completed.

Does anyone know the rough time period before a nuclear power station begins to generate a profit?


Long before the situation ever gets so bad that every nuclear power station is abandoned the ICBMs will start flying and then it really is all over.

We need nuclear power as a stop-gap as an emergency measure to just keep the world hobbling along while we try and make the needed renewable changes. It won't be enough but it might just help us stay below the threshold for all out thermo-nuclear war.

No new nuclear power equals guaranteed nuclear holocaust in a resource war - that's how I see it anyway.

Glad someone else has considered this problem.

Nuclear is a short term solution and a long term horrific nightmare.

This horrific nightmare is only in your head.

I'm always amazed at people, who in order to prove their preconceptions start seriously contemplating a total societal breakdown - and then focus on some problem we "could" have then.

Well, no. Even a temporary, partial societal breakdown would do. Even an intact society with a string of bad luck.. (6 week diesel outage, big storm) could well be enough to overwhelm the so-called security measures that keep Nuclear Energy Harbored away from the Darker Fates.

It means 'What's the worst thing that could happen?'
It doesn't mean 'Chin Up, don't be so gloomy! Everything MIGHT just hold together and be fine!'

I won't 'Predict' that it will all fall apart, but if that's a risk that's likely to emerge within the lifespan of the Dangers created by this source, then it HAS TO be considered in the calculations.

What's the longest any Human Civilization, much less any individual Nation has held together peacably, in a state that would be necessary to protect and maintain this kind of technology?


So... how's that "Peaceful Atom" program going?

How's that Iranian power plant working out on the global stage?

Why even bother with the risks associated with nuclear power when we can obtain clean power through solar/wind/hydro/etc? Oh sure, intermittance.. I would argue that power leveling devices either on the supply side or on the demand side would become more prevelant if our power was more intermittant.

If I gave you the option of having $9,000 without condition, or having $11,000 with the condition that you have to play one round of Russian roulette, which would you choose?

Simply because we can't even begin to do what's needed with renewables in anything like the time. I really wish that wasn't the case but I've not seen anything to convince me it's remotely possible in time - even on a "war-footing" type economy. I'm not a deep doomer but I do believe we now have little choice but to play Russian roulette with our survival and that of the planet given where we are now. We've already loaded the gun and pointed it at our heads.

I'm not a deep doomer but I do believe we now have little choice but to play Russian roulette with our survival and that of the planet given where we are now.

A statement that sums up how many feel, IMHO. This, of course, assumes that "we" are worth saving, at some cost to the rest of life on this planet.

As to the human race. There are many pretty and winning things about the human race. It is perhaps the poorest of all the inventions of all the gods but it has never suspected it once. There is nothing prettier than its naive and complacent appreciation of itself. It comes out frankly and proclaims without bashfulness or any sign of a blush that it is the noblest work of God. It has had a billion opportunities to know better, but all signs fail with this ass. I could say harsh things about it but I cannot bring myself to do it - it is like hitting a child.

- Mark Twain, Autobiographical dictation

Why even bother with the risks associated with nuclear power when we can obtain clean power through solar/wind/hydro/etc?

Sir, talking about why fission power is bad plan is not allowed.

Its all about 'magic'. At least the message of 'failure mode' gets through the smoke and mirrors once in a while.

Note how not *ONE* of the pro-nuke posters have bothered to defend the "Peaceful Atom" program, a program that would allow Iran to fisszle the drizzle for civilian power.

'Course with rhetorical skills of lying about fission power safety - they don't have the chops to do the job.

(Frankly, it would take someone who had written their PHD paper on the worldwide discussion of 'the peaceful atom' to attempt to do the subject justice - and other than some policy wonks at the UN and deep in the bowles of various governments - its just not all that an interesting a subject. Well, 'till someone blows someone else up over said topic.)

Sorry I'm not too sure what you're talking about but I personally believe Iran should be allowed its own nuclear power stations.

Could you expand a little on what you mean by "the worldwide discussion of 'the peaceful atom' "?

Could you expand a little on what you mean by "the worldwide discussion of 'the peaceful atom' "?

Sure. Back in the 1950's the idea was put forth - if you want to build civilian fission power stations you can. It was called 'the peaceful atom' and thus UN rules were created.


I know of no one who's made the various arguments of the 1950's on-line or on some low cost electronic medium.

Just like "grid parity" the power leveling devices you are talking about have been always in the future for as far back as I can remember. There are two problems to be addressed - intermittency and cost, and neither one has been resolved yet.

Half a solution plus a promise for the other half does not make a complete solution. If your car is without an engine it is not a car, and you can not try selling it with the argument: "we are going to have plenty of engines in the future".

Given that, the more appropriate example would be the following:
You receive two letters:
"We have that gold mine in Nigeria and you will be making 10K a month, after you send us the check for $XXX of dollars so that we win the court for the ownership"
"We have a profitable business in USA, which has been working for 50 years now, here are the books"
Which one do you respond?

Intermittence is becoming less and less of a concern regarding renewable energy sources. There are lots of ideas how to "store" wind and solar. Creating compressed air storage, storing heat underground in boreholes, and storing liquid sodium are some ideas. Others include creating a vast network of wind generators across the US, the idea being when it's not blowing in one part, it's blowing in another. The post the other day of creating flying wind generators where the wind is much more consistent is another. The intermittency argument loses ground everyday.

Bill Leighty from the Leighty Foundation has worked long and hard on what he calls "firming" of renewables. This stuff deserves a much broader hearing than it has been given thus far, although it is apparently well received in certain policy circles. I think popular support is going to be required to make such things really move.


If something can break, it will break. It's basic reality. Nothing lasts forever, except radioactive materials. (At least on the timescales of human beings.) If you don't have a solution to the problem you are creating, you should think twice about creating it.

The "solutions" for nuclear waste extend no further than a goodly number of generations, while the problem actually lasts for years beyond our real ability to comprehend. Claiming to know, for example, what conditions will be like at Yucca Mountain in even ten generations, let alone a hundred, is pure hyperbole, nee, BS.

I can't make it any simpler than this.

When you add in the huge costs, the limits on locations, etc., nuclear is no more than, and should not be considered more than, a bandaid on the problem of energy.


"If something can break, it will break"

If you researched nuclear power, you will discover that most of the reactor complex is designed exactly for this eventuality - if the reactor breaks. Excluding Chernobyl type reactors, all NPRs have containment buildings, designed to contain eventual nuclear meltdown or even a steam explosion of the Chernobyl type. Nobody knows if this one "can" break, as there is only one instance this has happened - TMI, when it worked as expected and radiation was contained. Of course the reactor can break (see TMI or Chernobyl), but the overall failure mode is not the one which you seem to be assuming.

As for nuclear waste: our civilization is using or disposing toxic chemicals which will last forever, and noone contemplates who will take care of them several generations ahead or so. It is simply assumed there will be people to do it, and it does not require a high tech simply to safeguard some hazardous material.

Radioactive material has the advantage that its hazardness reduces in time, so it is reasonable to say that even if our grandkids are unable to safeguard it for some reason it won't be a real problem (like it has never been by now - ever heard someone hurt by radioactive waste??). Personally I think the responsible way to go is to process it and reduce and burn the long-living isotopes in burners. What is left will be harmless in only several generations.

like it has never been by now - ever heard someone hurt by radioactive waste??)

There was a MASSIVE steam driven explosion of waste in the Ural mountains, several villages affected.

And smaller issues.


If terrorists blow off the local dam many thousands of people would die... If they take over the central command they can get us a nuclear war... If the Sun explodes... If the sky falls...

Seriously, you can not purposefully melt down a NPP without turning off the safety systems, or somehow make them fail simultaneously. If a NPP is "abandoned", they will simply shutdown the reactor. There is a nice little "SCRAM" button, and it takes 5 seconds to stop the nuclear reaction. I can not imagine any scenario this will not happen - except maybe terrorists taking over the reactor, damaging the safety systems and then restarting it - it is hard to imagine noone will have it shut down during the event. But then again, many things "could" happen and you should spend your whole life in a hole underground if you decide you need to avoid them all... there are simply unreasonable and reasonable risks to worry about.

From memory, residual heat after a nuke is shut down (emergency, from full power) is 7% of original about 10 minutes later. That is a 1,000 MWe (3,400 MWth) nuke is still generating 238 MW of heat 10 minutes after SCRAM.

However, one week later (again from memory) the residual heat is down to 1% of 7% or 2.4 MW (2,400 kW). Think of a 1.5 kW electric heater, then 1,587 of them (with several shutting off every hour). Not good as the heat begins to build up and steam vents let go, but hardly the end of civilization or life itself till the steam venting stabilizes.

Compared to the mercury spewed out by the average coal plant in normal operation, not a big deal IMO.

But let us insist on 2 months, not one week, of diesel on site at all nukes !


From memory, residual heat after a nuke is shut down (emergency, from full power) is 7% of original about 10 minutes later. That is a 1,000 MWe (3,400 MWth) nuke is still generating 238 MW of heat 10 minutes after SCRAM.

Alan, you have it all very wrong! The 7% applies to the decay of radioactive isotopes from the fission, not the fission itself. There is still fission going on even after the SCRAM. All a SCRAM can do is cut off neutrons from other neighboring rods. As someone pointed out yesterday, that is only a small percentage of neutrons being fired due to fission. After you have a SCRAM you still have fission, lots of fission, going on inside each individual rod.

The rods, without cooling water melt down after a SCRAM. They would need to be cooled for months, perhaps years, after a SCRAM to prevent meltdown. You would have another Chernobyl for every nuke abandoned.

If the nukes get abandoned, they meltdown or blow themselves apart after the cooling water stops flowing.

Ron Patterson

After SCRAM residual fission should drop rapidly within minutes AFAIK. The chain reaction stops. After one week, I would like an estimate.

Best Hopes,


Okay, my apologies, I had it wrong also. Here is what Weisman says in his book, "The World Without Us", page 212:

Suppose its inhabitants had to evacuate. Suppose they had enough advance warning to shut down by jamming all the moderating rods into each reactor core to stop the reaction and cease generating electricity. Once Palo Verde was unmanned, its connection to the power grid would automatically be cut. Emergency generators with a seven-day diesel supply would kick in to keep the coolant water circulating, because even if fission in the core is stopped, uranium would continue to decay, generating about 7 percent as much heat as an active reactor. That heat would be enough to keep pressurizing the cooling water looping through the reactor core. At times, a reliev valve would open to release overheating water, then close again when the pressure dropped. But the heat and pressure would build again, and the relief valve would have to repeat its cycle.

At some point, it becomes a question of whether the water supply is depleted, a valve sticks, or the diesel pumps cut out first. In any case, cooling water will cease being replenished. Meanwhile, the uranium fuel, which takes 704 million years to lose just half its radioactivity, is still hot. It keeps boiling off the 45 feet of water in which it sits. In a few weeks at most, the top of the reactor will explode, and the meltdown will begin.

Okay, is that correct or do you have a problem with Weisman's sceneario?

Ron Patterson

I appreciate his desire to create some interesting scenario to impress uninformed peoples minds, but at least he could have done a bit more research before writing ignorant things like this:

uranium would continue to decay, generating about 7 percent as much heat as an active reactor

Uranium does not decay!!! It is the radioactive isotopes that decay. Like Alan said in a week they will produce just 1% of the full power. I have no idea if the decay heat left could cause meltdown if cooling fails, but my guess is no. After all they have to depressurize the reactor within several days of shut down for refueling, and if the 3 or 5% left of the power would not do it I don't think 7% would do it either.

Uranium does not decay!!!

Oh my God! Do you really believe that? Gads! If Uranium does not decay then what does it do? It Decays! Uranium 238 has a half life of 760 million years. Here is a short primer you need to read Levin:


Google "Uranium Decay" and you will get over 300,000 hits. The term "half life" means how long it will take half a given amount of radioactive atoms to decay. After the earth was 760 million years old, half the original Uranium 238 atoms had decayed. In another 760 million years half those atoms had decayed. And in another 760 million years half those remaining atoms had decayed and so on. Get a good primer on radioactive decay Levin and perhaps you will not make such dumb statements in the future.

Ron Patterson

Let's make it clear once again:

U-238 decays. It's half life is 4.5 bln. years, not 760mln.years.
U-235 - the one burnt in the chain reaction fissions (as a matter of fact it sometimes decays to Th, but this reaction is insignificant relative to fissioning). It's half life is 708mln. years.

Both isotopes are insignificantly radioactive when found in nature or after fissioning in the nuclear reactor stops. You will get more radiation from holding your smoke detector than holding a piece of U.

Sorry, got my 8s and 5s crossed.

2. Uranium 235 decays into Lead 207 plus 7 helium atoms.

Now if you are incapable of understanding that then you are incapable of understanding anything.

By the way, do you know what caused the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island? It was a cooling water problem.

This lack of emergency feed water for eight minutes did not have a significant effect on the outcome of the accident, but did add to the confusion faced by the operators.[3][5] The restoration of feedwater did not return cooling capability, however, as steam voids (areas where there is no water present) had formed in the primary loop and prevented heat transfer from the reactor to the secondary loop via the steam generator. This problem hampered efforts to cool the reactor for days.

Days mind you! Hell, I thought that after 80 seconds everything was cool enough. ;-)

This is my last post on this subject.....today.

Ron Patterson

You refuse to comprehend what I say:

The decay of the U isotopes is irrelevant!

It happens in such a small pace that it is unable even to heat the material.

It is fission that accounts for 93% of the reaction power, the rest 7% being the result of the decay of byproducts of fission.

As for TMI: it looks you are right, and residual heat is enough to cause a meltdown. However there are backup systems even when the primary cooling system fails. The failure of those systems and the inadequate reaction by the plant operators caused the TMI incident.

Certainly if a plant is evacuated in a hurry it is a worrisome, whether cooling will automatically continue for the days needed for the heat to come down. However if it fails, there are those safety valves. Then, one has to imagine that if NPP has to be evacuated by emergency, the people will have to be facing much higher danger than the possible release of some radioactivity. In the end noone died or even got harmed in TMI. Comparison with Chernobyl is unadequate as it was a steam explosion as a result of powering up the reactor during their experiment (while having all safety systems turned off).

I wonder what kind of credible scenarious does the author envision that won't allow for those 3-4 days. A nuclear war? A meteorite impact?

the author doesn't theorize on why humans disappear -- just what happens afterward like Manhattan streets becoming rivers once again. it's a very interesting book.

Radioactive decay of U238 creates very little heat. when it decays is gives of an alpha (helium), but the thermal energy is very very small. Even when U235 decays it does not generate any significant heat. for U235 to produce heat an neutron emission must high another U235 to cause fission. This generated abundant heat. if a neutron hits a U238 it and if its absorbed it converts into plutonium. but this doesn't generate heat either.

The three mile island incident occured because the operators manually prevented the safety system from shutting down the reactor. The problem was compounded when the water level in the core dropped exposing the rods, and the operators didn't take an action to correct this. After several hours of exposure, the top of the rods began to melt, which made it difficult for them to put in the control rods later on. They also couldn't simply flood the reactor with water because when it hit the exposed rod tops, it would have instantly flashed to steam causing pressure in the reactor to soar and exceed its pressure limits. Rapidly squelching them with water would caused further distortion of the rods and the reactor core. So they had to slowly add water to cool down the rods to avoid it from flashing to steam and avoid distortion and metal fractures.

Had the reactor been permitted to automatically scram, none of this would have happened. The biggest problem with LWR reactors is they cannot be made idiot proof. Another issue is the lack of easily minable uranium to make any large scale buildup of nuclear power.

Actually according Wikipedia the reactor did SCRAM, the meltdown that followed was a result of the decay heat, and the operators not letting water in until too late - this was a result of multiple simultaneous reactor flows and operator errors, most notable of which was a lack of indicator what is the current level of coolant in the reactor. Basically they thought the reactor was properly cooled all the time.

After the fuel melted it went to the floor of the reactor and some of it froze, blocking the valves that were supposed to let emergency cooling in - another critical design fault which was realized after the incident.

All of this is impossible to happen in a working reactor. If loss of coolant happens (like it did in TMI), first the fuel rods are inserted automatically to shut it down (they did in TMI), but if this step fails the steam pressure rises and the steam escapes from the safety valves into the containment. With the loss of moderator nuclear reaction stops almost instantaneously.

It is notable to say that even in this severe incident the passive barriers against radioactive material release worked as expected, and as a result no significant amount of radiation got into the environment and no member of the plant personel or the public was hurt.


Weisman is wrong, if what you quoted is correct. The residual power from the reactor core is due almost entirely to the decay of lighter elements with short half lives. Once the control rods are fully inserted, fission stops almost immediately. The decay of U235 and U238 contribute almost nothing to power output from the core.

I think there is confusion here about decay and fission. Like you say, U238 and U235 have half lives, but these are very long. This means that very few uranium atoms in a sample decay in a second, giving off energy. For U235, about 80 million atoms decay per second for every kilogram of U235. This sounds like alot, but it isn't energywise. Each decay is good for about 4.4 MeV, where MeV is millions of electron volts, a unit of eneryg particle physicists like to use. 4.4 MeV per second is about one trillionth of a watt. Even with 80,000,000 decays per second, this means one kilogram of U235 emits about 0.05 milliwatts of power. If a reactor had 100 tons of U235 (it has about 5 tons actually, and 95 tons of the weaker decaying U238), then that fuel (100,000 kilograms) emits just 5 watts of power, about as much as a night light, due to the natural decay.

The only way uranium can generate significant power is through fission, and the only way to get significant fission is to have moderated neutrons (at least in present commercial reactors). Almost all of the neutrons in a reactor originate from fission, very few other reaction chains will emit neutrons. The control rods are very good at absorbing neutrons before they can collide with uranium atoms to produce more neutrons, so fission stops in a fraction of a second once the control rods are scramed.

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but the scenario of a nuclear reactor running without anyone around to attend to it HAS ALREADY HAPPENED!! Courtesy of Mother Nature.

Natural Nuclear Fission Reactors


That occur more than a billion years ago, when the amount of Fissible U235 was much higher in concentration. Today its imposible for a Natural uranium to sustain a reaction because the U235 has decayed to the point that there isn't enough to sustain a reaction. 1.5 Billion years ago the percentage of U235 in natural uranium was significantly higher than it is today.

I know that, but I thought that the irony was rather amusing.

His scenario is basically wrong.

It has been a while, but nuke normal internal operating temperature is higher than 1000 F. Nothing melts or fails at that high temperature.

After the diesel runs out after 1 week, there are two modes of cooling, venting steam and passive cooling via conduction through the pressure vessel.

After 7 days of cooling pumps running, the temperature should be very depressed (100% cooling water, 1/100th of 7% or .07% of the heat), so lets say 150 to 200 F (if summer time).

2.38 MW (dropping 0.01 MW every few hours) first has to heat the reactor vessel back up to operating temperatures (zero venting). The thermal mass of 1 foot (30 cm) of steel and 3 feet (90 cm) of concrete, plus ALL of that water has to be heated 800 F. Meanwhile the outside of the concrete is radiating heat (1000+ F is HOT and will radiate a lot of heat) as the heat source slowly fades. Once the heat builds up to high enough temp & pressure to vent, some heat will be let out that way (I kind of doubt that it will EVER vent).

Meanwhile that 2.38 MW of heat drops to 1 MW in a few weeks.

Used fuel is kept in cooling ponds for several years till the residual radiation decays to where only air cooling is required. An inclosed cask, without ventilation, radiates enough heat into the air (with a quadruple safety factor) to keep from overheating then. I would like the #s but we are talking a few kW (could one 1.5 kW electric heater be inclosed in a cask and left on for months without overheating the cask ? I suspect borderline).

These are uncooled, atmospheric pressure ponds for the first years. Extra water has to be added periodically to make up for evaporation losses but that is all that is required.

The inside of the reactor is a PRESSURIZED cooling pond that cools by conduction, and is 99.9999% safe just sitting there at 800 F or so. then 750 F, then 700 F, etc.

Hope this helps,

Alan (well known for my skepticism of the ultra pro-nukes).

Weisman's scenario is wrong, at least for a reactor in which water plays some moderating role. As several people have mentioned, the longer an isotope's half life, the less radioactive it is. Natural thorium has a half life of 1.405×10^10 years, and without careful measurement few would suspect it isn't stable. Gives off a handful of alpha particles here and there. Fission products on the other hand, have a crazy distribution of half lives, from milliseconds to centuries.

To shut down such a reactor control rods might be inserted, but without water the core would go farther below criticality, not increase. And once it is less than 1.0 critical, the chain reaction stops very quickly. The useful heat from a running reactor is from very short-lived ultrahot fission products, and from neutrons slamming into stuff. I'm not sure how long it takes to get down to the 7% figure, but its heat production would continue to rapidly decline from there. I doubt that it would get into a meltdown by itself.

Among the medium-lived fission products, there are maybe a half dozen isotopes that remain biologically dangerous, of course — the abandoned reactor would be a radioactive mess for centuries. But a Chernobyl-style graphite moderated reactor is another beast altogether: it's basically a fission bomb with some controls attached. The graphite doesn't evaporate quickly enough when an excess of criticality develops.

There is still fission going on even after the SCRAM. All a SCRAM can do is cut off neutrons from other neighboring rods. As someone pointed out yesterday, that is only a small percentage of neutrons being fired due to fission. After you have a SCRAM you still have fission, lots of fission, going on inside each individual rod.

The rods, without cooling water melt down after a SCRAM. They would need to be cooled for months, perhaps years,

Your "months, perhaps years" last exactly 80 seconds:

Reactor Response

Most neutrons in a reactor are prompt neutrons; that is, neutrons produced directly by a fission reaction. On average, these neutrons live for about 0.1 ms, which allows the insertion of neutron absorbers to affect the reactor quickly. As a result, once the reactor has been scrammed, the reactor power will drop significantly almost instantaneously. However, a small fraction (about .7%) of neutrons in a typical power reactor come from the radioactive decay of a fission product. These delayed neutrons mean that a reactor cannot be fully shut down until all of the fission products that produce neutrons (or precursors) have decayed; effectively, this takes about 80 seconds[3].


Why don't you think logically first before posting crap? If the control rods needed to be cooled down for "months" how exactly do you think they are refueling nuclear reactor for several weeks, including stopping it, removing the fuel assembly and putting the new assembly in?

Levin, why don't you think logically before posting your CRAP! Please read my post above. The uranium would continue to decay with a half life of seven million years. Yes, the reactor does drop significantly almost instantaneously! Yes, and that significant amount is about 93%! It will continue to generate about 7% of its original heat for many, many years!

If it only took 80 seconds for the rods to cool then there would be no need for cooling ponds or even cooling water after the reactor was shut down. But they do keep the cooling water flowing. They have emergency diesel powered pumps to do that. Then even after the spent rods are removed they must be placed in a huge pool of cooling water to keep them cool?

Why do nuke plants spend millions to do this if the rods cool to safe levels in 80 seconds?


Ron Patterson

Oh my God.

Uranium does not decay! It fissions!
It is the radioactive isotopes that decay.

If U was producing 7% of the energy of a full power reactor how could we hold a piece of highly enriched U with bare hands?

It takes 80 seconds for the fissioning to stop completely. The residual isotope decay produces ~7% of initial power and quickly goes down with time as more active elements decay to more stable ones.

It takes 80 seconds for the fissioning to stop completely. The residual isotope decay produces ~7% of initial power and quickly goes down with time as more active elements decay to more stable ones.

He he, this is getting comical. First, uranium does decay. Google (with quotation marks) "Uranium 238 decays into" and you will get 62 hits:

For instance uranium-238 decays into thorium-234 with a half-life of almost 4.5 billion years by emitting an alpha particle.

Question Levin; how long must the reactor be cooled after shutdown to prevent a meltdown? 80 seconds? I think not. Another question; what does the nuclear plant do with removed spent rods? Look that one up and you will really be in for a shock. They must still be kept cool to avoid overheating and rupturing and thereby spilling radioactive waste everywhere, including the atmosphere.

Ron Patterson

U-235 does not decay. It spontaneously fissions. Both the decay and fissioning of the two isotopes produce insignificant energy and radiation when U is in its natural state. Natural U is radiologically harmless material and once fissioning in reactors stops, it is only the radioactive isotope decay left as an energy source.

how long must the reactor be cooled after shutdown to prevent a meltdown? 80 seconds? I think not.

Franky I don't know, and I could not find any sources for that. I think reactors are calculated for such occasion - for example what happens if bombing destroys all cooling systems?

I can only guess that decay heat would never be enough to cause a meltdown and my argument is that if they are able to depressurize the vessel within several days for refueling (while this heat is still there) then it is not serious to expect that the same heat would be able to melt down the control rods nonetheless cause the reactor to rapture.

Don't waste your time arguing with LevinK. He's already been shown to lie when it comes to nuclear fission plant safety, anything he says should be considered suspect.


Think about what Darwin is saying,

It will continue to generate about 7% of its original heat for many, many years!

Wow, those scramed reactors are just the thing. They can't melt down, and give off oodles of heat. If this were true, then we could just shutdown our 700 MWatt nuclear plant, adjust the size of the heat exchangers and steam turbines to 100 MWatts, and get a free ride (no uranium burnup) for years. ;-)

One thing hasn't been made clear. The more radioactive something is the quicker it decays. Something that takes millions of years to decay is virtually harmless. If it was really radioactive it would a few hundred years at most.

it only took 80 seconds for the rods to cool then there would be no need for cooling ponds or even cooling water after the reactor was shut down.

Cooling pools has more to do with the amount of radiativity given off by the rods than the temperature. When spend rods are pulled from the core they give off lots and lots of "non-neutron" radiation (Alpha, beta & gamma). They would be hot to human touch but not enough to melt metal or other inorganic materials. You could store them in lockers. In fact some reactors cooling pools have become packed so they store them is special lockers (dry). The primary use of water in the cooling pool is to shield radiation. Water is a very good radiation shield. There is no cooling system required for a cooling pond.

FYI: Nuclear engineers off refer to radiative materials as "hot" meaning dangerous as touching something thermally hot. Radiative "hot" materials are also dangerous from radiation exposure.

The primary use of "cooling pools" is to let the radiative daughters decay to the point where they are giving off considerable less radiation and its safe to transport them (ideally to a resprocessing plant, or to long term storage). Another words its refering not to temperture of the rods, but the amount of radiativity giving off.

The biggest danger for US nuclear plants is the cooling pond. If a plane was to crash into a cooling pool it would likely expose all those spend rod into the enviroment. Unlike the reactor core. the Cooling pools don't have a reinforced concrete roof to protect them. And because spent rods have been collecting on some sites for more than 30 years they have to store tons of spent rods in above ground lockers.

Compared to the mercury spewed out by the average coal plant

Don't forget the other heavy metals like Uranium. (That would be the radioactive and non radioactive stuff, now in small easy to breath particle size!)

Much of the rest of the thread under your post is so far away into parallel universes that it doesn't even rise to the level of being wrong. And it doesn't even seem to matter where the items lie on the cornucopian to doomer spectrum or the let's-risk-anything to let's-all-die-because-the-tiniest-risk-is-unacceptable spectrum.

This brief description of decay heat at Wikipedia is sensible, as far as it goes. The references go into details. this PDF goes into as much detail as anybody could want.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a guide with extensive tables.

A simple summary is found here. Some may not like the politics, but the physics is reasonable, as far as it goes.

Random comments, for those folks in that thread whose emotions drove their typing fingers far faster than their comprehension processes:

Natural uranium (both major isotopes) spontaneously fissions, but that is a very rare decay path. Mostly it is an alpha decay, which is at the head of a series that usually ends at lead. The heat produced will be on the order of 100 milliwatts per ton, slightly greater as the decay series comes into equilibrium. Purified samples haven't been available long enough for any to come into equilibrium. This rate of heat generation is utterly insignificant in the context of a reactor.

The fission chain - even the delayed part - will all but shut down almost as soon as the rods have gone in.

In the first minutes after shutting down, heat generation will be about 7% of the original operating value prior to the shutdown. This will vary somewhat if operation hadn't been steady. It will be 1% of the original value after an hour or so. That original operating value will be very roughly 3 times the electricity output.

A small-ish reactor that puts out 1GW of heat will not put out 70MW for 700 million years after shutdown. The 70MW will continue for a few minutes. In the very very long term it might put out 5 or 10 watts after the short-lived isotopes are gone, if it is still in one piece.

The fission products do not themselves fission. They do decay.

Oh, and life is not 100% free of risk. Only the dead are free of risk. If you don't like it, that's tough, because there's no parallel universe to go to. So deal with this one.

And most people, if they think about it - something that seems to be a huge "if" these days - will probably choose to incur a risk that shortens life expectancy by a few seconds, rather than live in a "simple" world where life expectancy is shortened by 50 years to Roman-era values. With such a large population as exists now, that will require systems that are somewhat complex and breakable. That may mean taking harsh measures to get the terrorists and psychopaths under control once again; for a while, cheap fossil fuels have enabled everyone to wear politically-correct blinders and pretend that the problem didn't exist. And it will most likely mean continuing to have systems too large to mesh well with romantic twaddle about mom-and-pop survivalism. So deal with it.

Much of the rest of the thread under your post is so far away into parallel universes that it doesn't even rise to the level of being wrong.

I was starting to think the whole user database had been hijacked and a bunch of juvenile net.bandits had decided to have a play day coming up with unsupportable theories on nuclear reactor operations.

Best hopes for sensible conversation tomorrow

As I am sure you realize, the basic premise of the book is that people disappear. Then what happens? Obviously, Nuclear is one of a whole host of problems that will pose problems for whatever species are left. I think, however, that the supposition that the entire human species disappears is probably not a reasonable way to look at nuclear safety.

Dont' get me wrong,though. This is an extremely interesting, educational, and thought provoking book. We all have different takeaways. One is that we should get over the human species as the end all and be all.

Regardless, the earth will recover without us; it just may take thousands of years. But that's ok. And, of course, eventually both the earth and the sun disappear.

Best hopes for better mutations.

And, of course, eventually both the earth and the sun disappear.

We've got a hydrogen cloud to pass through 1st, followed by a collision with another galaxy to contened with.

I can't believe we are sitting here and discussing that.

If peopled "somehow", "disappeared"... probably the Mother Nature will be much happier. We won't be there to observe the consequences, will we?

It will be likely even happier that we happened to built nuclear power plants during our short existence on Earth. After all the exclusion zone around Chernobyl shows a remarkable thriving of wild species, showing that unlike humans wild species don't fear threats that are not there and choose just to live and thrive instead.

The lie that species are thriving around Chernobyl has been debunked repeatedly. That you would bring that lie up here speaks volumes of your intent.

1) It is not a simple lie.
2) It has not really been debunked.
3) The common lie by Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups that hundreds of thousands of people will die from Chernobyl has been debunked by empirical observation of the death rates.

The reasons why the exclusion zone is not full of mutants and their remains are complex. The distribution of the radiation is not a smooth field coating the exclusion zone. Large dust fragments and grains are the most lethal but at the same time they can't cover even 0.01% of the exclusion zone. The reactor core did not vapourize but melted into the subfloors of the reactor building. The explosion that occurred did and could not produce homogeneous fine particles that would be ideal for coating the countryside with radiation. Cold war hysterics about a menacing radiation cloud over Europe and North America are total rubbish concoctions. The explosion did not release gas! It released particles, the vast majority of the fraction that was small enough to be lofted over long distances by air (i.e. several microns and smaller) sedimented out over Belorus (where BTW, most of the radiation victims are). The fine scale reactor debris did not make it into the stratosphere where it could be carried across oceans without being washed out by convection (convective clouds trap not only particles but even gases and dump them on the surface). There was and is no steady easterly wind blowing air westward in the troposphere outside the tropics. Some westward excursions occurred but were evanescent and with negligible radioactive impact.

The initial reactor debris that fell/sedimented into the exclusion zone does not stay ideally on the surface exposing all life to maximal radiation levels. Rain and frost action have buried it just below the surface (this is why mushrooms are so dangerous to eat even though the mycelium is buried). I am sure somewhere there are chunks that are several tens or hundreds of grams in size but animals would have to loiter around them for no apparent reason. The movement of the debris into deeper layers is progressive, it is very much like a diffusion into the ground. Some fraction is flushed out of the exclusion zone by ground water and streams.

The most dangerous radiation comes from gamma and beta emitters. Once beta emitters like Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 (the most important isotopes spewed by the reactor with roughly 30 year half-lives) are obscured by a soil layer they are basically harmless unless you dig them up. The following page compares Chernobyl to Hiroshima:


Hiroshima did not get turned into a permanent exclusion zone.

One would expect that in the short term the buried isotopes would work their way into the animal population via certain food sources but the empirical evidence does not indicate a pattern of damage like DDT of progressive accumulation. It should be a death trap but where are the bodies. The only conclusion is that there is not that much radiation in the zone aside from a few scattered hotspots.

Here are a couple of links to articles somewhat less sanguine about the after effects of Chernobyl:



Less Sanguine, indeed.

From the Guardian Article..

"More than 500km from Chernobyl, the peasant farmers of the village of Boudimca, one of the most affected in Ukraine, refuse to leave, despite the fact that many of their children are suffering from acute radiation diseases. Every child in Boudimca has a thyroid problem - known as the "Chernobyl necklace". The villagers are attached to the land. "We would prefer to die in our own land rather than go somewhere else and not survive," says Valentina Molchanovich, one of whose daughters is in hospital in Vilne with radiation sickness. "We understand the paradox, but we prefer to stay." "

LevinK and others play it down, no doubt because there seem to be huge discrepancies on what news has actually gotten out. Who in the power-structures of any of our countries can afford to let Nuclear Power take such a bashing?


I mean, if someone wants to say that these are lies or are being spun, better make it convincing.

"Though they live simple lives - each family has a cow, ducks and a few chickens - they suffer all the ailments of stressed out western executives: high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes and respiratory problems. They know that the berries and the mushrooms they have always lived on are contaminated. "We are just so used to living here," says Molchanovich. "My parents lived here. We build our houses together. We are a very tight community."

But others are, literally, dying to leave the village. Mikola Molchanovich, a distant relation, is the father of Sasha, a 12- year-old girl who this month was also being treated for constant stomach aches in a children's hospital in Rivne. He says: "My wife is in hospital giving birth, my son is in another hospital being treated for radiation sickness. My sister has 30,000 becquerels [units of radioactivity] in her body. Some people have 80,000, or more.

"This is our community; my parents lived and died here. We used to be able to collect 100kg of mushrooms a day - the whole village would collect them. Some of our cows have leukaemia. The people who moved away from the village are healthier and better. I would go if I had the chance. But I am trapped. I cannot sell my house because it is contaminated. People are becoming weaker. We cannot feel it, we cannot see it, yet we are not afraid of it. "

People seem to have a really hard time to keep on subject. The subject is not "No impact of radiation from Chernobyl: true or false". This village is 500 km from the core and there are dozens of other villages even closer to the core that are not this afflicted or even noticeably afflicted. The Red Forest is full of deformed trees but that does not equate to every square meter being contaminated at this level. The radiation is and will continue to decline faster than the half-lives of the isotopes involved. The isotopes are being transported into the ground and distributed over a larger area.

Here is a link describing what radiation in the exclusion zone is like today:


Note how in the village Zalesye inside the zone the radiation is within norms (i.e. less than 0.3 mSv). So we have people suffering in a contaminated village outside the zone and a safe village sits empty inside the zone. This is a failure of the decision makers and not merely the fault of radiation.

The BBC article is really weak. Instead of doing indirect guesstimate studies, the exclusion zone researchers should characterize the radioactive contamination of the insect population (rather easy to do) and to measure the soil contamination. If the exclusion zone was lethal it would become a sink for birds and animals (they do not have to die right away, it can be years). Based on the mortality of limited range animals one could get a bound on the damage being done by the zone. Both Cesium and Strontium will be accumulated in bones so they can measure this as well. The BBC has presented two opposing studies both of which are more qualitative than quantitative and so not really substantial. So I am still waiting for debunking or confirmation.

The Guardian article is much better. The impact on the clean up crews is by no means small but that is not the subject of the post I am replying to. The description of the village is fully consistent with what I am talking about: the extremely heterogeneous fallout distribution. There is a case of significant accumulations of radioactive particles in parts of Kiev (even though the winds blew most of the fallout north). The article does play a game with numbers, however. It claims 400 times the radiation of the Hiroshima bomb. The link I provided gives a more realistic evaluation. About 6 tons of debris was ejected from the reactor and most of this was large enough to fall out in the immediate vicinity.

I watched a movie showing all kinds of wild animals living, nesting or breding in the area around the reactor. I have also seen studies about it. By everything it looked that the mere presence of humans was much bigger deterrent to natural life than the radioactivity around.

So, where is your debunking?

I could imagine a dystopian sci fi story set thousands of years in the future where instead of a virginal young maden jumping into a volcano to placate the gods, she instead is sent into the hulk of a decaying abandonded NPP.

Ron ..

Don't panic .. We've got what ~450 nuke plants worldwide ??

Get yourself a DVD of Beyond Trinity - The Atomic Bomb Movie
I'm amazed that we aren't all glowing in the dark ..
Between the air tests, underground tests, underwater tests
and atmospheric tests conducted by the US/USSR/Brits/French
and Chinese ie over 1500 multi megaton blasts ....
We've already experienced Global Thermonuclear War ..
We just didn't drop them on population centers except for the
two WWII drops on Japan ( and those had yields in the kiloton range )

Triff ..

Triffen -

The only thing I can add to this incredibly contentious thread re the dangers of nulcear power plants is to suggest that the opponents of nuclear power just look at the operating history of nuclear power plants.

While we've accumulated many millions of hours of completely safe operation, there has been only one truly catastrophic accident, i.e., Chernobyl. But Chernobyl was a poorly designed, poorly constructed, and incompetently operated plant that should never have been built in the first place. A sad relic of the Soviet era. If the Chernobyl plant were a car, it would be something like a badly neglected, high-mileage Yugo that was used as a taxi in some backwater town in Honduras. In other words, a total piece of crap.

How many accidents has France had? Japan?

Clearly, nuclear power plants and the disposal of their wastes are not without risk. But then again, what is? I say that if you really want to worry about dying from radiation poisoning, you'd be far better off worrying about being killed in a nuclear exchange from a resource war that got out of control. As I see it, that prospect is many orders of magnitude more likely than some nuclear plant suddenly being abandoned and allowed to meld down.

joule, you are correct that Western nuclear power plants have had a good safety record.

Please consider that this safety record was achieved during the most prosperous period in the history (and probably future) of humanity.

My fear is that once we are well downslope of Hubbert's Peak (let's say 2050), there won't be the resources available to properly decomission these monsters. In fact, if the Egyptian pyramids can be used for reference, we can expect looters to laboriously knock a hidden hole in a containment building in order to loot the stainless tubing and copper wire. What's left may well be broken apart by tidal action during hurricanes, scattering hot debris through nearby etuaries, less than 100 years from now (considering sea level rise from AGW).

Implausable? About 50 miles South of my home sits FPL's Turkey Point nuclear plant, a few feet above mean high tide, right on the coast in order to utilize sea water cooling.

I fear that we are leaving our children a grim legacy: not only cities abandoned to the breakers, but improperly decomissioned nuclear power plants as well.

Errol in Miami

What Weisman was talking about was what if something happens that causes all nuke power plants to be abandoned? They have diesel emergency power to keep the cooling water running but only enough diesel to last about one week.

That would only happen if the turbines unexpectly shutdown or if the generator fails (ie excessive load trip). If such an event did occur, the reactor would be shutdown, the control rods are pushed in causing the reactor to cool down. At best we are talking about a couple of hours for the reactor to cool down to a safe level before the backup generator can be turned off. The rods can be manually pushed in if necessary.

As long as the shutdown procedure is followed there shouldn't be a problem. For a meltdown to occur, the plant must loss all power (loss of three backup generators), and the operators must avoid a manual shutdown. If none of the backup generators can be started, the operators would manually push in the control rods, If they act too late it could cause a steam buildup that would need to be released into the atmosphere (most likely not of significant quantity -- A coal fired plant probably releases more radioactiving in a day burning coal containated with uranium).

In the long term, all of the fuel rods can be pulled and stored. They may run hot depending on there state, but the pulled rods would never get hot enough to cause a meltdown. The only way for a meltdown is for the fuel rods to remain in a sub-critical state. The rods can also remain in the reactor core for decades as long as the control rods are pushed in. Although the may surcome to corrosion over time can become difficult to extract if they sit too long.

The reactors are designed to automatically shutdown in the event of a power loss or if the some abnormal event occurs. The partial meltdown at three mile island occured because the operators manually overrode and disabled the safety systems. Of course its impossible to idiot proof them, hence Chernobyl, three-mile island, and other reactor failures. So if all of the workers abandon the plants without shutting them down first, the plant would automatically scram (shutdown when an unforseen event occurs). I suspose of the workers abandon the plants, leaving them running and disabling the automated shutdown and backup generators then you have a serious problem.

The biggest danger is from reactors that breed or convert uranium into plutonium ,such as Chernobyl. Chernobyl was boiling water reactor, if they are near the end of the fuel cycle (rich in Plutonium) and the water flashes to steam the can rapidly meltdown. The water in Chernobyl style reactors is a neutron moderator and when if flashes to steam the reactor rate can suddenly soar. Plutonium fission has a very short neutron emission delay, which can cause rapid acceleration in the reaction rate.

I did a google search for nuclear accidents and go t a ot of interesting links for an afternoon's worth of reading.


http://spb.org.ru/bellona/ehome/russia/nfl/nfl8.htm russian submarine accidents list
http://www.cdi.org/Issues/NukeAccidents/accidents.htm nuke weapons accidents
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/en/02/02-10-03.html kyoto prefecture what to do
http://www.stormingmedia.us/11/1135/A113592.html health effects
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1079/is_v86/ai_4368772 official US govt. statement on Chernobyl

Hi Ron,

"...what if something happens..."

You mean, something like this?

The primary reason Russia was chosen to build Belene is they are offering a turnkey plant and complete fuel lifecycle services.

For a small country like Bulgaria it is unfeasible to build fuel reprocessing or final disposal storage facilities, and complete fuel cycle services are the perfect option.

In addition to that, they started building the plant 20 years ago and some of the buildings and equipment can be reused. Also they offered to buy back the equipment that could not be reused, including a complete nuclear reactor, whose design is now too old to be deployed.

To say that building the Belene NPP "tightens the grip of Russia on EU" is a complete misstatement. Yes, Atomexportstroy is building the plant, but the safety and control systems are supplied by Siemens and Areva. Then after the plant is completed the fuel cycle services can always be switched to another supplier if Russia turns to be unreliable one - which it has never been so far. They were simply the best option.

Closing the units 3 and 4 was a big hit for a relatively poor country like Bulgaria. Moreover it came on top of the premature closure of two more reactors - units 1 and 2 in 2004. Units 1 and 2 are of an older design with just a partial containment building but 3 and 4 were more modern, identical to the units in the Lovitsa
in Finland. There were number of safety improvements in these reactors too. Closing them was never justified technically, it was a pure political decision by the EU commission. It is speculated that much of the pressure was from France, which is interested in building the NPP in Romania and this way eliminated competition.

The immediate result is that the country can no longer export electricity, or exports much smaller amounts, when it can. This made the situation much worse in countries in the region, that relied on imports like Albania. At the height of electricity consumption which is now in winter, the electricity system is pretty much maxed out. This was the primary justification of ordering the Belene NPP - with the rapid economic growth in the region it is expected that in 5-10 years the growth in consumption can not be met without significant new capacity.

I just want to add that this is a great day for my country (I'm from Bulgaria).

History has shown - if you are a small country, the only way to survive and prosper is to balance between the interests of the big guys, while not turning into a slave of anyone of them.

The agreement for the South Stream pipline gives 50% stake for the Bulgarian side on our part of the route - something unprecedented for Gazprom contracts. When you add the building the second NPP, this puts us in a position of a full-scale energetic hub on the Balkans. The growing economies of Greece, Serbia and Turkey, Albania and even Italy will rely on energy and logistic services from Bulgaria and this promises economic growth, and hopefully improving the lives of the people there.

If some people see that as "EU is getting into the grips of the Bulgarian energy industry", then so be it :)

Speaking of Bulgaria...

Bulgarians protest Russia's energy policy

SOFIA, Bulgaria: Hundreds of Bulgarians protested on Friday against Russia's energy policy, which they fear will make their country completely dependent on Russian oil and gas sources.

Carrying posters reading "Stop Soviet imperialism" and "Putin - out of Bulgaria," demonstrators marched in central Sofia to oppose energy agreements between Bulgaria's Socialist-led government and Russia that were signed during President Vladimir Putin's two-day visit to the Balkan country.

Hundreds of Bulgarians protested on Friday against Russia's energy policy, which they fear will make their country completely dependent on Russian oil and gas sources.

Perhaps those Bulgarian protesters should stop burning Russian natural gas in their apartments and Russian gasoline in their cars first before they start protesting. Where else are they going to get their energy from? The United States?

"You can look at this problem from any angle, but in all cases you see stupidity". (c) Vladimir Putin

What gets me is that these sanctimonious hypocrites are getting Russian fossil fuels at discounted prices. Russia should be charging over $650 per tcm for natural gas and should stop discounting Urals crude by over $10 per barrel. It is in Russia's interests to reserve its fossil fuels for itself. The whinging foreigners should see this as a win-win scenario, they spare themselves the servitude to Russia (LOL) and Russia gets these whiners off its case (but more likely they will find another theme to harp on).

I'm ashamed to say, but in my country there are many people who tend to go to the extremes... either to completely embrace Russia or hate the guts of it; same thing goes to the attitudes to the West and US - either uncritical endorsement or denial. I'm afraid we won't be able to have normal business relations with other countries if these people are always given their way.

(BTW the Bulgarian site I read said there were only 30 protesters, which could be well seen on the photo - unless this one is reporting another event)

The Bulgarians have an energy policy that America would be ashamed of!

As opposed to our corrupt relationship with Saudi Arabia?

They have more than one supplier. Oh the humanity!

If you want a boycott of Russian fossil fuels by all means get one going. Russia has much more to benefit from this than you.


Opium Fields Spread Across Iraq
January 18th, 2008

Do you get it yet?

Via: Independent:

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.

Leanan. TOD was down for me yesterday, so if this has been posted, my apologies. ;}

"General Kenobi. Years ago, you helped my father during the 'War on Drugs'. Turns out, funny thing, really.. but our 'Global War on Terror' has turned back into.. didja guess? Yes! 'The War on Drugs' all over again! Small World, innit? So would you mind appearing at a Senate Hearing on our behalf? Congress is all in a snit over 'What does WAR really mean?', and 'How can you effectively wage War against an abstraction?' "

"Oh, yes. Sorry to hear about the Diabetes. I guess that "War on Obesity" has kind of taken a back seat, eh?"

Well, mcgowanmc, most people very clearly refuse to "get it" and further, will actively reject "it" if you say "it" in a straightforward manner.

If true, this would be terrible news for the Afgani farmers.

Not necessarily. Although the sponsors of the Afghani government and the sponsors of the Iraqi government had best get busy creating new markets.

The War on Drugs has been a big success: it succeeded in denying an entire generation of black males the right to vote. Since they tend to vote Democrat, it was enough to tip more than one close election to Dark Lord Cheney's party.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

From Overpopulation and peak oil: The perfect storm :

Knowing so much about a near future of mass migration, epidemics, famines, society collapse and die-offs of biblical proportions, one should ask: Why are we not making population and oil conservation the primary issues? I always wonder why towns are proud welcoming in the first born of the year when, in the overall scope of things, having a baby is the most selfish thing a person can do. Why encourage our species to breed ourselves toward extinction?

I feel to this day that this thinking is a little backwards, that humans can be encouraged to produce less children voluntarily. As a general population, I don't think that it is possible, and that food supply problems will have to do the heavy lifting in this issue, as opposed to voluntary reductions. Humans require no encouragement to produce children, and preventing quality breeding stock from continuing its genetic line (meaning the most intelligent among us will be among the first to voluntarily stop producing children), aren't we creating even more problems for the species later on?

Given that I have seen the arguments about global carrying capacity here, I'm wondering if people here agree with this assessment.

With respect to your intelligence argument, I don't know. However, your approach seems to guarantee an even more overly populated planet and everyone racing to outproduce every one else.

As for intelligence, it might be a bit overrated. With all our intelligence, look how well we've done in screwing the planet.

As I've said before to friends, the problem with birth control is that only the people who are smart enough to use it are the people that use it. The ones who can't figure out how to use birth control properly are the ones making babies. That's why I consider education so important, especially relating to items such as birth control.

Of course, discussions such as these often fall down a slippery slope into discussions regarding forced sterilization or eugenics, etc, etc. As much as I would love to have population growth end and possibly have a soft (natural death instead of disease/war induced) population decline, I'm not for any sort of forced sterilization or such.

I think the easiest way to have poor people to use birth control is to offer free birth control options. Free vasectomies, condoms, spermicidal lube, etc, etc.

Of course, it also requires cultural changes to where a doctor doesn't REFUSE to perform a vasectomy just because you haven't had kids yet. What if I NEVER WANT KIDS? Even if I do, I could adopt for crying out loud. WTF?

Having a baby isn't selfish at all. If every couple woman on the planet only had one child, the human population would hit zero in five generations or less. Say there were 'only' 2 billion people on the planet; you would still need a birth rate of more than 2.1 children per female simply to maintain the population.

Humanity's "crime", if it is one, seems to be (a) reducing infant mortality so that "too many" new arrivals survive into adulthood and (b) increasing longevity so that not enough of us oldies drop off our perches to leave room for succeeding generations.

Both of these factors seem to be outcomes of higher food production and more advanced medicine. Earth's only 'defence' (which it appears to have exercised in the past when necessary) is to trash human civilisation so that we have to start over again from scratch.

I'm not a doomster but when it comes to Peak Oil and overpopulation it does seem that if the right one don't get you then the left one will.

within five generations? No, take out your calculator...
Having one child means that each generation is approximately half the size of the previous one, so starting with 6 billion (6x10e9) we would get to around 6 million after 10 generations and 6000 after twenty generations or 600 years.

"...that humans can be encouraged to produce less children voluntarily."

The third rail cannot be touched.

STIRPAT is an acronym that refers to a statistical model for assessing environmental impacts at virtually any scale and to a research program in structural human ecology (SHE). The STIRPAT model was recently utilized by the research team in an article titled "Driving the Ecological Footprint" (Frontiers in Ecology and The Environment 2007; 5(1): 13–18). This comparative analysis shows that population size and affluence are the principal drivers of anthropogenic environmental stressors, while other widely postulated drivers (e.g. urbanization, economic structure, age distribution) have little effect...


Bad mcgowanmc! Bad boy! No pointing at the elephant in the room allowed here!

What! There's an elephant as well? Can't see nothin in here for all the damn gorillas :)

The real elephant is that human overpopulation is the third world's fault, but we don't like casting stones at them. In the industrialised world, including the US the population would be stable if not for immigration from the said third world. They have to fix it.

I don't think you understand the dynamic.

The US is less than 5% of the world's population, and uses over 25% of the resources. Generates over 25% of the CO2. Etc. So one of "us" is not the same as one of "them".

That's why the whole "demographic transition" fantasy is crap. It seems the only way to lower fertility is by making each person orders of magnitude more of stress on the global system.

The only major countries that have ever "fixed" their overpopulation problem have been:

The US
The Western European states
Its nicer European satellites

All industrialized. All wealthier than the Third World states before 1990.

And all of them have had systems of state interference that eliminate the incentive for people to have more children to take care of them in old age. Social Security, socialized medicene, or sufficient affluence to afford private medical insurance. The Communist states also encouraged abortion on a massive scale, completely at odds with the victory-thru-reproduction ethos of the successful religions that dominate life today: Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Islam.

So the Third World has to fix it by not being the Third World. Which miracle would require a vast increase in energy consumption. Catch 22.

Probably poverty rather than religion is the cause. In Europe the catholic states such as Spain and Italy have the lowest birth rates.

"Legal rights of women".

Things like this dont help though

Pope rejects condoms for Africa

The MSM needs to start joining some dots between GW, PO, overpopulation, trade deficits, inflation, energy costs.

I agree somewhat..

We do have some choice in our personal effect on population, and some will make it part of their family-plan..(We have 1 child, for a bevy of reasons) But it IS natural to reproduce, just as it is natural to die. We are wired to clone ourselves, and numerous benefits grow with the company of the next generation. If one really thinks that 'Love' and 'Spirit' are just empty aphorisms, I would guess that they don't have kids. Who knows whether the BabyBoom Crash will leave us seriously 'understaffed' in a couple decades, or whether the great jobs we will have in transitioning out of oil will require that many MORE hands on deck, since the energy from oil isn't there any more to do the work. Surely hunger will define the walls of this room, and we can't support more people than we can feed.. but this will vary from place to place.

I don't buy necessarily that the 'literate' who will hear and act on these warnings are definitively the 'most intelligent', or that this is singularly a genetic trait. I see a great range of types of intelligence, sensibility and ability-to-learn that are quite distinct from the 'Social or Academic Success' which sometimes gets conflated with the definition of intelligence.. so 'being fit to survive' involves traits that are most likely far more subtle than our understanding can grasp.

In the spirit of the 'Serenity Prayer'.. POPULATION is one of those things I can accept that I don't have the ability to change, while developing ways for a Household to live with less 'imported' energy is one that I CAN affect. We can reduce energy there, produce it by other means, and then share and multiply that effort, then we can support that many more people than we could before..


We are wired to clone ourselves, and numerous benefits grow with the company of the next generation.

Perhaps not as much as you think. We are wired to like sex. We are wired to nurture the cute and helpless. But those two don't have to be connected. You can adopt, or care for other people's children.

Perhaps some people do want clones of themselves, but that's not what you get when you have children. It's a crapshoot. Academic coneheads can give birth to jockstrap kids. Bible-thumping parents can end up with an atheist in the nest. A close friend of mine, a total jock who looked forward to teaching his son football, ended up with a kid who hates sports and wants to be a hairdresser. (Yes, he's gay. Dad's handling it well, but mom isn't.)

The birthrate is slowly globally...basically because it's now possible to not have kids. That suggests that the desire to reproduce is not as strong as you might think. At the very least, people seem willing to have fewer children.

A close friend of mine, a total jock who looked forward to teaching his son football, ended up with a kid who hates sports and wants to be a hairdresser. (Yes, he's gay. Dad's handling it well, but mom isn't.)


The dad could teach him how to play football and then the kid will MAYBE play 2 years of JUCO ball at some crap school, then ride the bench at some third rate D-III school for another 2 years. Then graduate with a communications degree and become fat and broke while living out his broken dream via fantasy football pools.

Or the dad could put up some money to get the boy into the top hairdressing school, the son can move to WEst Hollywood and become a "hairdresser to the stars", make millions, and buy dad a big home. (OR whatever)

Option #2, while not likely, is much more attainable than Option #1 since so many boys want to play football, the competiion is much fiercer. NOt saying competition to be a gay hairdresser isn't fierce, but it's not like every other boy grows up hoping to be one.


My older daughter takes ballet. Fortunately, she doesn't imagine turning pro. If she was a boy, I'd encourage her to as the chances of at least a short pro career would be much higher, though still less than %50.

To bring this back to peak oil, I'm not a doomer but I'd like her and myself to learn some the skills doomers talk about. Do you know a good place to learn gardening and food preservation in the Sf Bay area (her dad can take care of marksmanship :-).)

Once our children have returned to subsistence agriculture and abandoned Growth God for prayers to nature spirits, there may be a great demand for temple dancers. Gotta keep that rain coming.

It is easy to reduce population, and works cross cultures.
As soon as women achieve equal political and economic rights, the birth rate falls, and often goes negative (as in the case of many European countries). Of course, minor items like religion would need to discarded to the waste bin of bad survival strategies.
But so far, even over authoritarian control, equality works the best.

But will equal rights survive peak oil?

That is what worries me the most: that the advances we've made in population control will unwind in the post-carbon age. The trends that have led to lowered birth rates - education for women, readily available birth control, better healthcare (so children are more likely to survive), and urbanization - might well reverse in the aftermath of peak oil.

I am not totally hopeless, though. Japan might be an example to watch. Women's equality is decades behind the west, but they nevertheless have negative population growth. Despite having among the longest life expectancies in the world.

They are very dependent on oil now, but they have a long history of sustainability, as detailed in Collapse. And that very much included population control.

But will equal rights survive peak oil?

If you were to 'promise' that such would result in the lights staying on and the bellies would be full, then yuppers.

But will equal rights survive peak oil?

Leannan, much of what we do is contingent on having most of us able to work away from the farms. We have become so accustomed to professionals at our disposal - shrinks, counsellors, tax accountants, professors, lawyers, doctors, nurses, etc. - all able to do what they do b/c oil makes possible the growing of food by a small percentage of the population. Our entire service sector - by this I mean not just retail - is dependent on oil.

On farms, the general rule is that families matter. Children are an indespensible part of the supply of labour. They are also the ones who will look after you once you're too old to work.

PO will probably put a lot of our assumptions about what it means to be a member of society in the dumpster. I suspect how most people view rights will change as these assumptions change. What is important or not important will take on a different meaning. In so doing, so will our values.

This may not necessarily be a bad thing.

If this means depending more on one's family and neighbour, working out relationships where genders have to support one another for survival, and sharing/giving instead of always receiving, then decency may become more commonplace than now.

IMHO, "rights" are a very small part of what makes daily life worth living. Having people around to encourage and support you, and likewise encouraging and supporting others, is far more crucial.

One word, Leanan: Kerala.

Kerala's Demographics

Kerala is home to 3.44% of India's people; at 819 persons per km², its land is three times as densely settled as the rest of India.[81] Kerala's rate of population growth is India's lowest,[82] and Kerala's decadal growth (9.42% in 2001) is less than half the all-India average of 21.34%.[83] Whereas Kerala's population more than doubled between 1951 and 1991 by adding 15.6 million people to reach 29.1 million residents in 1991, the population stood at less than 32 million by 2001. Kerala's coastal regions are the most densely settled, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.[32]

Women compose 51.42% of the population.[84] Kerala's principal religions are Hinduism (56.1%), Islam (24.7%), and Christianity (19%).[85] Remnants of a once substantial Cochin Jewish population also practice Judaism. In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism.[86]

Kerala's society is less patriarchical than the rest of the Third World.[3][87] Gender relations are among the most equitable in India and the Third World[88], despite discrepancies among low caste men and women.[89] Certain Hindu communities (such as the Nairs), Travancore Ezhavas and the Muslims around Kannur used to follow a traditional matrilineal system known as marumakkathayam, although this practice ended in the years after Indian independence. Other Muslims, Christians, and some Hindu castes such as the Namboothiris and the Ezhavas follow makkathayam, a patrilineal system.[90]

Kerala's human development indices—elimination of poverty, primary level education, and health care—are among the best in India. Kerala's literacy rate (91%) and life expectancy (73 years) are now the highest in India.[91] Literacy is 88% among females and 94% among males according to the 2001 census. Kerala's rural poverty rate fell from 69% (1970–1971) to 19% (1993–1994); the overall (urban and rural) rate fell 36% between the 1970s and 1980s.[92] By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively.[93] These changes stem largely from efforts begun in the late 19th century by the kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore to boost social welfare.[94][95] This focus was maintained by Kerala's post-independence government.[60][62]

So it's not a sure bet, but it's possible.

I was going to mention Kerala---
A society based on equity of wealth. Less stress, lower birth rate.
The Netherlands has the greatest equality of wealth on earth--
as a side note, they have increased 6" in height from the social and political arrangements, and are now the tallest people on earth. Second? Sweden--
Anyone see a pattern here?

You've just asked one of the most important questions, and it's the reason why I keep coming here to be a leftist heckler. If we use powerdown as an excuse to bring back the inequalities of the past, the tragedy will become complete. That's why I've commented on the danger of the re-introduction of human slavery, attacked Gilded Age economics, ridiculed neo-Confederates, championed the rights of Native Americas, warned against new forms of feudalism, etc, etc.

Going back to the past won't work. If the past was so great, our forebears would have stayed there. We can't return to feudal arrangements with a population of even one billion. Ancient survival relied heavily on traditional knowledge passed down within families; this has all been lost. The replacement for that is education. But educated people do not tolerate the absurd patriarchy of title, faith, race and gender once foisted on peasants. That's why the era from 1776 to 1979 saw so many movements against inherited wealth and status. It's going to be the same for educated women.

If white male property owners think they can revert to zero-growth economics, they fail to see how much their necks at home and abroad depend on the bribe of growth. Poor people like me tend to tolerate inequality of wealth and power because we will settle for growth, and capitalist theology implies that only white businessmen can create it. Take that away, and all the radical movements of the past will be back with a vengeance. Even if we must all become farmers, we will not go back to patriarchy. Which I think is what a lot of men at this site want.

Going back to the past won't work. If the past was so great, our forebears would have stayed there.

Not necessarily. Sometimes, you don't have a choice. You either keep up with the neighbors, or get conquered.

The replacement for that is education.

I think education will be one of the first things thrown overboard when TSHTF. (Right after environmental laws.) It was only a few generations ago that going to school was seen by many as a waste of time. The kids were needed to work. I think we'll be swinging back to that viewpoint. Especially as it becomes increasingly clear that education is no longer the ticket to the good life.

If white male property owners think they can revert to zero-growth economics, they fail to see how much their necks at home and abroad depend on the bribe of growth.

I agree with you there. The infinite-growth pyramid scheme is what makes inequality acceptable.

And I suspect most Americans (of all colors) do not even understand how much their standard of living depends on a broad base of poor people.

I used 'clone' a little loosely, I admit. Didn't mean to imply that the desire is ultimately about getting someone who is 'just like me'.. while your examples are certainly familiar stories about how offspring might often be more 'reaction than reflection'..

I still think we are wired to 'Raise Children'.. but that should be quickly ammended with 'Some of us..' , since there are surely different types of people, some want kids, some don't, some straight, some gay etc.. and as a parent might tell you, it can be apparent right from the start 'how the second one was different from the first..', etc.


"Every turnip green!
Every kidney bean!
Every plant grows according to the plot!

While with progeny,
It's hodge-podgenee.
For as soon as you think you know what kind you've got,
It's what they're not!

Plant a cabbage.
Get a cabbage.
Not a sauerkraut!
That's why I love vegetables.
You know what you're about!"

- from 'The Fantasticks' , Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones

I would agree that we are wired to raise children, but that doesn't mean they have to be our own.

Curiously, this may be an artifact of our historically high infant mortality rates. If parents bond instantly with their children, there's the possibility that they will be devastated if the kid dies. As was all too likely. (In Hawai`i, it's still customary to have a big party for a baby on its first birthday - because there was a good chance it would live if it reached that age.)

So the bond between parent and child grows slowly, over weeks, months, even years. (Many parents feel ashamed to admit that they don't immediately love their babies, but it's not that uncommon.)

That slow bonding also means we are prone to falling in love with any child that's left in our laps long enough. Not to mention our tendency to adopt substitutes, such as pets.

Narr we aint wired to raise have kids we are wired to have sex...
Kids are just a byproduct...
Take away birth control and see what happens to the first world birth rates....

We are pack animals slow bonding, strong loyalty (generally excluding CEO's and psychopaths).

From the same article:

In 1974, the government released a study (NSSM 200) that concluded the world population needed to be decreased drastically for humans to survive after peak oil without dire consequences. This was followed by the Carter administration’s Global 2000 document that said an immediate goal of less than 2 billion worldwide is necessary. Others suggest a world of no more than 500 million is more realistic.

Paul, I agree one hundred percent. The idea that the population level can be reduced by persuasion is totally absurd and only advocated by people who know absolutely nothing about human nature.

Of course some nations have a negative population growth but this is not due to any propaganda put out by the government or any other group. Some people have fewer children for purely selfish reasons. And those same selfish reasons are what causes people to desire more children.

Some nations, like Russia and other FSU nations, have a negative population growth for totally different reasons, they have come upon hard times. The Population Decline in Russia is caused largely by soaring death rates, 15 per 1000 as compared to 8 per 1000 in the USA. Alcohol related deaths in Russia is also a contributor. Misery loves the drink. Alcohol also contributes to the low birth rate. Alcoholics have far less sex than sober people.

The primary causes of Russia's population decrease and loss of about 700,000 to 800,000 citizens each year are a high death rate, low birth rate, high rate of abortions, and a low level of immigration.

When the world’s death rate rises to that of Russia, and higher, then the world will have a negative population growth. Of course birth rates will plunge as well because very hungry people who often struggle for every morsel of food have far fewer children. Nothing drives down fertility rates like severe malnutrition. This is the primary reason fertility rates in Sub-Sahara Africa are dropping. Well, that and AIDS.

Ron Patterson

Perhaps obesity will replace alcohol's role in the Soviet Union > Russia era during the coming decades for the United States ?

Obesity > diabetes, heart disease, strokes. Without intense medical care and good public health care, significantly shorter life spans (shorter life spans even with superb medical care, but MUCH shorter without).

And when FWOs stop driving to their exercise gyms (so they work out on the treadmill while watching TV), the obesity rate may well increase as incomes and employment drops (food stamps can buy "comfort food").

Best Hopes for Walkable Communities,


Hi Ron,

re: "The idea that the population level can be reduced by persuasion is totally absurd and only advocated by people who know absolutely nothing about human nature."

Legal rights of women.

Can men be persuaded?

Is the possibility within their human nature?


This might be interesting to some:

Why Tinkering Won't Fix It

When most people look around the world today they see a set of problems. They see energy/technology problems. They see ecological/environmental problems. They see economic problems. If they are slightly deeper thinkers they may see population problems. I believe they are all suffering from vision problems.

What most people see as "technological problems" are, in my estimation, more correctly seen as the set of symptoms of the real underlying problem, symptoms that are that are manifesting themselves in the technological arena.

In the same sense, what people interpret as "ecological problems" are the set of symptoms that are manifesting in the world's ecology.

And what people call "economic problems" are merely the set of symptoms that are manifesting in the world's economy.

The underlying problem is the same in all three cases. Humanity is an overly successful species with no effective predators, the ability to manipulate its environment on a planetary scale, and the perception that it is apart from that environment.

I actually disagree with the spreading perception that the core environmental problem is human population growth. I used to think it was, but I now realize that population growth is just another symptom of that same problem. You can prove this to yourself with a simple thought experiment:

Imagine that we miraculously stabilized our population tomorrow, at our current 6.6 billion people. Would that fix the problems of resource depletion, ecological devastation and the economic instability caused by our insistence on continual material growth? I maintain it wouldn't. After all, those problems are still worsening in places where populations have already stabilized, or are even in outright decline.

Addressing any one of the problem areas - energy/technological, ecological, economic or population - would still leave us with problems in the other three. We can (and will) tinker around in each of these areas, because that's our Buddha-nature -- human beings are innate tinkerers. We will inevitably do things to ease the situation in each of those symptom domains, but none of that tinkering will, or even can, address the fundamental problem:

Humanity appears to have evolved without a crucial internal self-restraint mechanism. That happened because, as is the case for every other species, those restraints were readily available within the environment - mainly resource scarcity, predation and disease. Because those external restraints were available, selection didn't endow us with internal restraints. They simply weren't needed. In fact, during our early time as a species, any internal self-restraint mechanism acting in addition to the external restraints would have been counter-productive, and so would have been actively selected out of our makeup.

However, as we developed the intellectual ability to circumvent those external restraints -- through extinguishing all large predators, and developing agriculture, mining and medicine -- we outfoxed ourselves. In the absence of either internal or external restraints we are left with no effective way to reign in our genetic urge for expansion. All that remains is our intellectual capacity to foresee outcomes and to regulate our behaviour through reason. As far as I can tell, mere reason is not a strong enough counterbalance to our innate behavioural tendencies. The evidence of this is no further away than the $2500 Tata Nano.

So I hold out no hope whatever that our tinkering will solve the "real" dilemma of humanity. We are behaving exactly as our evolution intended, and it's unlikely that we will stop. What we need to do is to figure out ways in which our feeble reason can create the necessary conditions for the continued survival of our species (and perhaps some of our civilization), despite both our unconstrained, innate urge to grow and our glorious but ultimately tragic ability to reason.

These aspects of our nature that are at the root of all our troubles however, and we will need to be enormously cunning to outmaneuver them.

Paul, I agree completely with your assessment, with a single caveat. I've only recently discovered your site, and begun reading it. I think Population Decline, Red Herrings and Hope is one of the better overviews of the Problematique that I've read. It's one to use to educate folks. Your recommended reading list matches mine quite well. I tell folks that Catton's "Overshoot", Al Barlett's presentation on Arithmetic, Population and Energy and What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire are the three key sources for grokking the problem. The caveat I speak of regards the work of Daniel Quinn, among others. As you note in your review of WAWTG movie this film tells the whole story. Quinn points out that industrial civilization is not humanity. The remaining fragments of human societies that live within the bounds of their local environment are just that - fragments - but they are there, and serve as models for how those who survive the bottleneck must live, not necessarily in detail, but in concept. As Quinn says, there is no one right way to live, there may be thousands of right ways. We just need to dump this devastatingly wrong way that 99% of us have wound up living within. Humanity is not the problem. Humanity lived for a couple million years on the planet without destroying it. Industrial civilization is the problem. Can we kick that habit and re-strike a balance? Damned if I know. That's part of what makes this interesting, rather than utterly depressing.

Thanks for the kind words. I think "Red Herrings and Hope" has stood up rather well, and I'm still happy with it. I saw where you found that WAWTG review. Are you a DU regular?

I'm a huge proponent of "resilience through diversity" in all things, including post-peak living arrangements. We don't have a clue what will work best, and obviously what might work in one set of circumstances may turn out to be fatal in others. What we do know is that some communities will survive (extinction is not in the cards just yet), so axiomatically some social arrangements will work. Since we can't predict successful strategies, IMO the best thing we can do is a bit of everything. Given the number of people out there, it's inevitable that all approaches to building communities, from the most planned to the most anarchic, from the purely conventional to the most outrageous, will be tried somewhere. That's a very reassuring thought. I may have a preference for anarchy, but that's only one approach to the problem.

Is anyone familiar with the research that indicates that reproductive drive is primarily influenced (across species) by environmental stress? I don't have any references handy, but I have come across that statement in numerous places. There seems plenty of historical anecdotal evidence to support the claim that the observation applies to humans as well.

If so we have real problems because as we become poorer (resources are constrained) we will also have more children. Many may not live that long - but it isn't difficult to envision a return to lower lifespans as the elderly and infirm die and are replaced with one of the mass of new children arising out of the stress induced reproduction.

I probably doesn't need to be mentioned tat this would be catastrophically destabilizing to the culture/society/economy...

It is maybe a common perception that if 'we get poorer' we will 'have more children.' IMO this is incorrect. Resource restrictions will lead to fewer children.

It's complicated.

The "poor" traditionally were tenant farmers who owned little but the labor of their family members. They had high infant mortality rates which they countered with high birth rates.

When the potato was introduced into Europe it sparked a great population explosion. Now more peasant babies were surviving. But the parents were much poorer than Americans today. The Green Revolution a few decades ago seems to have caused a similar effect.

Part of the problem is that "getting poorer" is practically the same as "time flowing backwards" in the eyes of Westerners accustomed to affluence. But if we go backwards economically, we won't just necessarily reverse the behavior of our ancestors. People have to be socialized into the idea that more children are not an asset, and that seems to take time. So if new slum denizens of the 3rd World were forced back into rural areas they wouldn't necessarily reduce their birth rates.

What matters is whether people think they can (and must) exploit their own children to survive.

It's complicated.

The "poor" traditionally were tenant farmers who owned little but the labor of their family members. They had high infant mortality rates which they countered with high birth rates.

When the potato was introduced into Europe it sparked a great population explosion. Now more peasant babies were surviving. But the parents were much poorer than Americans today. The Green Revolution a few decades ago seems to have caused a similar effect.

Yes, it is complicated. It is not a simple matter of poor = more babies, rich = fewer babies.

The Green revolution, contrary to what you are saying, seems to be very strongly negatively correlated with birth rate and total fertility:



While there may be a 'wealth affect' in that the richer countries show the lowest birthrates and TFR, it is, IMO, not at all the case that this can simply be run backwards, that is, take away the wealth and birthrate and tfr will go up. It is also true that in terms of trends, as you can see from the data, birthrates and total fertility are dropping worldwide regardless of wealth, politics, religion, etc.

If one more or less accepts the 'Benign Demographic Transition' theory, there is a direct contradiction between the graphs showing the correlation between food and population rise and the graphs showing the drop in birthrates and fertility correlated with wealth. If one accepts the simple premise that adequate food = wealth then more wealth = fewer babies by the simplistic way of looking at it. Can't have it both ways.... unless the picture is more complicated, which, IMO, it obviously is.

What I find significant is the universality of the current trends. I don't have the time or energy to research the subject, but I suspect these worldwide trends (dropping birthrate and TFR) are unprecedented in human history.

Hi ET,

I'm a little speechless this evening.

Just a note on:

"...unprecedented in human history."

Legal rights of women.

Bob, this one is for you!

Whereas the losses officially calculated by central banks are already tremendous, in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, the real write-off concerns some $3 trillion, the source said. That is what is starting to emerge now.

Oil supply disruptions over the past three decades have cost the U.S. economy about $4 trillion, so supply shortfalls associated with the approach of peaking could cost the U.S. as much as all of the oil supply disruptions since the early 1970s combined.

-- The Hirsch Report.

Oil supply disruptions over the past three decades have cost the U.S. economy about $4 trillion,...

This kind of accounting is IMO highly suspect. It posits a fantasy figure of what 'could have been' if certain things had happened differently. The same kind of thinking takes hold in different areas to make certain financial accountings seem more inflated and important than they are. For examples:

Law enforcement people bust a pot dealer and estimate the 'street value' of the kilo of pot based on, say, $50 per rolled joint, inflating the value of the kilo by several hundred fold. 'Pot Dealer Busted With $10,000 Stash!'

Microsoft claims that piracy is costing it $XX billions per year. Every computer geek I know has tons of what they call 'shelf ware' that is, stuff they have pirated just to tinker with, then put on the shelf and forget about. If every geek was faced with the prospect of paying full price for this stuff or getting rid of it, I'd estimate at least 95% of it would disappear.

Of course the inverse of this inflated accounting is evident in govt. CPI figures....

A trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you're going to be talking about some real money.

We interrupt this blog for a message from The Government

Hello HP'ers(TOD'ers). We're your elected leaders, The Government of the United States. The ones with the little flag pins. And we feel your pain.

We understand people are upset by crashing house and stock prices.

We understand people are upset that the dollar is being destroyed and inflation is roaring.

We understand that people are upset that we've lost our manufacturing base.

We understand that people are upset that we're not prosecuting the mortgage fraudsters and insider-trading CEOs.

So we're going to do something about it.

Your $500 check will be in the mail soon.

So shut the f*ck up.


The Government.

Posted by keith at 1/17/2008


Too funny.

Onward Consumption Soldiers!

Onward, Consumption soldiers,
Marching as to war.
With the banner of Paris (Hilton)
Going on before!
Paris, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See Her banner go!

No, No, Westexas, It's see her Hummer go. John


Well WT you just may have something there

< /tinfoil hat>

You forgot the main line.

Now go shopping! And spend your new found money on something useful like a LCD TV or a Wii.

And spend your new found money on something useful like a LCD TV or a Wii.

LCD + Wii = Gooood Times. :) Anyone else addicted to Wii Tennis?

Yep, have you tossed your controller at the TV yet?

'Wii warm-up' good for surgeons

Interesting premise, but gameplay not great, passable. I was on Beta.

They, of course, went the high tech direction. ie. the army has AMAZING high tech weapons, while everyone else is starving.

Somehow, I think this may not be the way it works out.

Why can't anyone accept the idea that the poor will have high tech weapons too?

After all, the poor BUILD the high technology in Americans' lives, not Americans.

A cell phone-triggered bomb or a computer virus is a high tech weapon that can be mass-produced, unlike a Stealth bomber. Our military-industrial complex wants to create exotic weapons that can't be mass-produced, so the rulers of the poor will be dependent on America for supplies, or completely helpless.

Sometimes the generals are proven horribly wrong.

There's a phrase that goes:

The revolution starts with all the weapons on one side and ends with all the weapons on the other.

And/or- the invader will bring all the weapons to the battle that
the defender needs.

Just another mindless shoot-em-up game.

What I'd really like to see is something that models an individual household or a small town wrt various decisions made and how those play out in various scenarios. For example, let's say I've got $5,000 to invest; what would happen if I put it in PV pannels vs. a more energy efficient car vs. buying gold?

Oh, I totally agree it is a mindless shoot-em-up kind of game. However, it was a delight to see the words "Peak Oil" on the front page of CNN.com. So, 2008 is the year that Peak Oil gets mentioned on CNN.com, one way or another!

That sounds like an excellent idea for exploration by the folks that used to develop all the SimCity and SimEarth games.

Unfortunately I think that they currently have their hands full with the fairly inane looking, digitized suburban-life Sims titles.

What timing, the original SimCity source code was recently released under GPL v3 under the name Micropolis.

Slashdot SimCity Open Source article

Fischer dies. I thought it was interesting how he ended up in Iceland.
Always thinking ahead.

Yes, an amazing mind he had.

Ugh...looks (at this moment) like the markets are not going to make today a positive one.

Triple digits down as I write.

75 basis points...ya think. Intermeeting...hmmm.

The stimulus plan will do nothing except increase inflation.

Glad I am cash and gold. Would hate to ride out another one of these.

PeakTO, how are you buying your gold? Every year for the past three, I send out my yearly predictions regarding energy, automotive, and the economy to a close group of friends. For the past 3 years I have been saying BUY GOLD, but I never actually do it myself and I am kicking myself because I could have easily doubled my money.

Lots of ways...but I know my banker pretty good. So, for my bars(oz) , I get them from the bank.

Coins (maples, etc) I get them from a local coin guy I have been using for years.

You have to love buying when it was 250, too. :D

Personal, I found it easier to hold some gold instead of the commodites such as oil futures - because I can hold them (physically).

BTW, silver is still a GREAT buy! And gold is probably good for $1200-1500 this year.

My 2008 predictions said anything under $1200 was a bargain. Good idea about the silver - more affordable. Let me check with my accountant, who is on the banks board of directors and see if he can get me an in on silver and gold. Thanks.

I can vouch for these guys. They are sometimes a bit slow with shipments especially now but thats due to the huge demand. People are friendly and their inventory is usually pretty good quality.


Uh, actually I've been waiting for 9 weeks for an order of silver maple leaves from Northwest Territorial Mint. They claim they will ship next week, but I'm starting to worry, especially with the owner Ross Hanson purportedly having served jail time.



I waited over 3 months for an order from nwt mint. It arrived (after 4 phone calls), and their prices are low, but who needs the anxiety? I won't order from them again. I have dealt with Kitco for years with good results and I'm sure there are others out there. Do some research.

Gold ETFs have really taken off over the last 5 years. According the the article below, the StreetTracks ETF now has over 600 tonnes in a vault in London:

More gold than Russia,China..

Personally I prefer the higher risk/rewards of junior gold mining shares, which so far have gone absolutely nowhere.

Theses guys are good. Price over phone confirmed, personal check, Fedx. Maples and Eagles, Au & Ag. 1, 1/2,1/4, 1/10

From web site.

Trading Desk
Extension 100


IEA World oil supply averaged 87.0 mb/d in December, up 870 kb/d from November on increases in OPEC-10, North America, the FSU, Brazil and China. Global supply in 4Q was more than 1.0 mb/d higher than a year earlier, having averaged at or below levels of a year ago in the previous three quarters.

Is not the 87 mb/d a new record for supply ? A new peak that some at the oildrum said would not get reached ?

I don't think there are many that think NEW *ALL LIQUIDS* peaks may be reached between NOW and 2Q2009.

After that, I would wager on never seeing anything higher.

Until then, everything that is liquid and can burn will be thrown into the numbers.

Maybe even, Monkey pee!

Doesn't change the other fundamental problems with crude and growth(the world wanted more than 88 MMBPD in December).

Demand exceeding supply is just peak lite.


If all liquids peak gets pushed off for a decade or two that would mean high prices during a extended peak lite period. High prices that would help motivate efficiency and policy changes and development of alternative technologies. But there would not be the doomer downward spiral and could actually help avoid the doomer downward spiral with a long adjustment period of manageable economic strain.

A little demand destruction and demand and supply get into balance.

As I mentioned above, we may be on an All Liquids Plateau for a couple more years (+/- 6 months).

But decades, nope.

Peak lite - all liquids - no doubt.

Peak Crude - past.

IMO, not enough time for meaningful mitigation. But, I always hold a strand of hope.

According to Simmons (circa 2005) KSA has around 70 million barrels of storage and it may have increased since then. The Saudi's alone could jump world oil supply by the mythical 2 million barrerls per day for an entire month without pumping any more oil out of the ground.

We really need to take year on year figures not month by month to see whether there is really any production growth.

Maybe there is some true additional capacity coming online but that's not out of line with main-stream peak oil. As Simmons says we'll only really know when we've hit it from the rear-view mirror.

Yes...the annual average is very important. If it is only a short term burst, nothing meaningful can be inferred.


World oil supply averaged 87.0 mb/d in December, up 870 kb/d from November on increases in OPEC-10, North America, the FSU, Brazil and China. Global supply in 4Q was more than 1.0 mb/d higher than a year earlier, having averaged at or below levels of a year ago in the previous three quarters.

December OPEC crude supply rose by 825 kb/d to 32.0 mb/d, following the inclusion of 500 kb/d from Ecuador and the remaining 325 kb/d coming from restored UAE production and higher Iranian exports. Nigerian supply was stable below 2.2 mb/d, despite threats of further rebel attacks. Effective OPEC spare capacity fell to 2.2 mb/d, of which 80% was held by Saudi Arabia.

If this divergence is sustained then would that not invalidate some of the previous more pessimistic projections ?

You really got to strip out the Ethanol from your numbers if you want to talk about oil.

peak liquids lite

And it will be interesting to see what happens to total liquids when some fields like the Brent Field--which is blowing down its gas cap and thus boosting natural gas and NGL's--are totally depleted. It might also be a good idea to see what the final EIA data show.

In any case, while fourth quarter crude + condensate will certainly be close to the May, 2005 rate, the 2006 and 2007 to date data suggest that net exports by the top five are dropping at about one mbpd per day per year.

Do you have any feel for when that 'when' will start to be realised, if that makes sense?

I mean, does it take four months or four years to typically 'blow down a gas cap'? (obviously, it'll vary, but it'd be nice to have some vague predictions to watch for from the hypothesis)

Cheers, --J

I don't have any data, but probably the best way to get a handle on the outlook would be to take a look at the Brent Field. BTW, the gas cap/NGL point was first made by Matt Simmons.

Best I can gather from a bit of googling and not alot of understanding

the Brent redevelopment project was the largest offshore field depressurisation ever taken, helping to prolong the life of the Brent Field.


the "Brent Blowdown" project - according to this item from Nov 2005

A quick hitory:
1971 discovered
1976 production
1984 production peaking
1992 decision taken to depressurise
1997 Preparation complete
1998 water injection switched off (pressure drops from 80 to 30 bar)
2001 peak gas production
2003 an incident on the Bravo platform
2005/6 operating pressure to be reduced to 8 bar [which I infer to be the final stage]

So for a really big field, that's almost 10 years - From other sites I got the impression other North Sea fields at end of life were to have their caps blown in a single year (inferred, because they just stated a single year, rather than explicitly as a start year.

I infer there are alot of smaller North Sea fields getting close to this point.


Aussie UltraBattery sets new standards

According to the project leader David Lamb, the UltraBattery "has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50 per cent more power than conventional battery systems, and is about 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries currently used in HEVs." Currently, Ni-MH batteries tend to be standard in most HEVs.

At 70% cheaper i would imagine it wouldn't make sense to make a non-hybrid car even at the low 3$ a gallon gas prices.

I have some other details on the CSIRO (Australian national research center work)

The capacitor / battery combination improvement in battery life, lower battery drain, higher vehicle performance, allowance for cheaper batteries seems to work with many battery / capacitor combinations. This would mean less supply constraints around say only lithium ion batteries being workable for efficient plug in hybrids.

Firefly's carbon graphite foam lead battery seems like an excellent and scalable fit. [this was noted by daveMart, who comments here as well, in my comments] Using Firefly's 3D2 technology to attain, as we have seen, up to three to four times the energy density of conventional lead acid can put this type of battery chemistry "back in the game" for these applications.

Firefly Energy claims to be on a path to raise the energy density of lead acid batteries closer to the their theoretical limit at 170 Watt-hours per kilogram, a 4 fold increase over conventional lead acid batteries.

Noting that a flooded, lead-acid battery would cost somewhere around US$50/kWh, while a VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) like that being used in the BMW 100 Series micro-hybrids will come in around US$150/kWh, Firefly is aiming to have their batteries priced in the US$250-300/kWh range in volume production. (20-25% of the cost of nickel or lithium batteries)

I have details of lithium ion batteries and ultracapacitors used to make a plug in SUV with 150 mpg They modified a Saturn SUV and think they can get the production price differential to $8700.

the new generation of lithium-ion batteries, which offer high energy densities (130-200 Watt hours/kilogram).

NiMH batteries have a range of energy densities from 30-80 Watt-hours/kilogram

Electrovaya, a battery manufacturer largely for electronic goods, claims an energy density of 470 Wh/l and 330 Wh/kg for its SuperPolymer batteries.

What makes sense is not to buy a new car at all, because you are in hock up past your eyeballs and cannot make the payments on your home or your existing car, all while the cost of food and fuel are rising much faster than your paycheck (which does not look likely to continue for long). I know it's all bright and sunny in there, but you gotta look around and consider reality once in a while Sunshine.

not all people are bankrupt. some do have money.

Just a question John,

What do you do for a living? I ask because I'm curious how recession/depression proof your job is.

As for me I'm an engineer designing consumer electronics (previously digital camera image sensors and now gps car navigation systems). I feel after the airlines/travel industry my job will be the next to go.

All this talk of die off and collapse is rather academic to me at the moment. I'm just trying to avoid the soup lines and providing for the family.

Would make battery electric trains more realistic, then you would only have to electrify around the stations where the train was accelerating / braking.

I like the idea of light weight hybrid road train with the same idea as a diesel electric loco. Diesel engine and generator on the front vehicle connected to a battery and super capacitor, then each carriage has electric motors driving it controlled by the cab.

Energy storage technology is vital for PO/GW 'mitigation'

One application of energy storage that I constantly see being missed by many, many people is as a means of riding over the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources, not only in vehicles but in non-moving structures like buildings. Imagine these batteries or various other energy storage technologies being used as an energy sink for surplus production from solar cells and wind generators. With sufficient energy storage, such a solution can provide consistent power. There is tremendous focus on vehicle power but I suspect that a market is being missed and that market will become more apparent once we begin to see declines in oil production globally.

Also providing peak and emergency / backup power is many times more expensive, the technologies will be able to be implemented in these areas. As it seems energy costs are going to rise by 10-25% a year (guess) I reckon in a few years time the cheapest electricity will come from the wind turbines we are installing today.

In these interesting times, the relative prices of different energy sources keep shuffling. I was recently surprised to find out that here in Vermont the price of propane has risen so high that, per BTU of heating, it is as expensive as electricity. (Download the PDF from there for details.) That ratio will likely change drastically in a few years when the current multi-year fixed-rate electricity contracts (some hydro, some nuke) will expire.

VT installed a multimillion dollar state of the art fish hatchery near Burlington in the early 90's, I believe, based on cheap propane. Water is withdrawn from different depths of Lake Champlaign and mixed for optimum temperature and growth. Cold winter water was heated by propane, originally at a contracted price of .19/gal I recall. A while back, I wondered what happened and found via web search the hatchery appears to be still operating, but based on its fish growth rates, it looks they've abandoned heating. An early casualty of increasing FF costs.

Home storage of electrical energy has a lot to commend it if it weren't so expensive. Right now electricity suppliers have to guarantee voltage, frequency and sinusoidal wave forms with small error margins. If the house had say a 20 kwh long life battery and a 'smart box' it could charge up from wherever including a less regulated grid because the appliances in the home would only get the smoothed output. Inputs would be solar when sun shines, wind when the wind blows, backyard steam engines, whatever. A backup battery could be the electric car sitting in the garage.

An analogy (without so many problems) is that of rainwater tanks now compulsory in new homes built in certain areas. The piped water system merely 'tops up'.

Up here in maine, we're not exactly at the ends of the earth but if I climb the hill across the street I can see it from here. Power disruptions are a way of life at the end of the line. We use two banks of 4 AGM deep cycle batteries, that are topped off by the grid and the inverters switch to battery automatically with loss of power. The system works great and its a real comfort knowing its just sitting there on standby. In the event of a longer outage , again pretty normal up here, we have a generator and 40 gals of fuel stored (treated of course) when the battery banks get low, we can charge from the generator as well as power the needed devices, thereby raising the efficiency of the generator significantly. Long term we have a small Air X wind generator in storage which could charge the system and looking into a few solar panels as well. I think home storage is a real viable concept and I urge everyone I talk to to set up even a small system. The AGM batteries are nice, maintenance free, and can be shipped UPS. If you can jump start a car you can build one of these easily. Obviously first and foremost live in a design that cuts your overall usage. we live in a small 24X24 saltbox, bastard post beam so its wide open, so a single 75watt cf will light the whole ground floor nicely. We heat with wood so electricity is not required to power a heating system. Self reliance.

Today's Washington Post has a story about campaign spending by the coal industry, Coal Industry Plugs Into the Campaign.

A group backed by the coal industry and its utility allies is waging a $35 million campaign in primary and caucus states to rally public support for coal-fired electricity and to fuel opposition to legislation that Congress is crafting to slow climate change.

The group, called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, has spent $1.3 million on billboard, newspaper, television and radio ads in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.

As might be expected, concerns about Climate Change are going to be glossed over with scary warnings about the electricity supply. As if coal were the only source of that electricity and, besides, what's the problem with a few degrees of warming anyway?

E. Swanson


CIA Confirms Cyber Attack Caused Multi-City Power Outage
On Wednesday, in New Orleans, US Central Intelligence Agency senior
analyst Tom Donohue told a gathering of 300 US, UK, Swedish, and Dutch
government officials and engineers and security managers from electric,
water, oil & gas and other critical industry asset owners from all
across North America, that "We have information, from multiple regions
outside the United States, of cyber intrusions into utilities, followed
by extortion demands. We suspect, but cannot confirm, that some of
these attackers had the benefit of inside knowledge. We have
information that cyber attacks have been used to disrupt power equipment
in several regions outside the United States. In at least one case, the
disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities. We do not
know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions
through the Internet."

A search provided these two articles from Forbes:

Hackers Cut Cities' Power

This article overlaps quite a bit with the quote above. It goes on to say:

In recent months, security researchers have emphasized long-standing security vulnerabilities in the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that control U.S. critical infrastructure systems ranging from power plants to dams to public transit (See " America's Hackable Backbone").

In the past two years, hackers have in fact successfully penetrated and extorted multiple utility companies that use SCADA systems, says Alan Paller, director of the SANS Institute, an organization that hosts a crisis center for hacked companies. "Hundreds of millions of dollars have been extorted, and possibly more. It's difficult to know, because they pay to keep it a secret," Paller says. "This kind of extortion is the biggest untold story of the cybercrime industry."

America's Hackable Backbone

The first time Scott Lunsford offered to hack into a nuclear power station, he was told it would be impossible. There was no way, the plant's owners claimed, that their critical components could be accessed from the Internet. Lunsford, a researcher for IBM's Internet Security Systems, found otherwise.

"It turned out to be one of the easiest penetration tests I'd ever done," he says. "By the first day, we had penetrated the network. Within a week, we were controlling a nuclear power plant. I thought, 'Gosh. This is a big problem.'"

The disturbingly vulnerable system that Lunsford hijacked is powered by Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition software, or SCADA, a type of software made by companies including Siemens (nyse: SI - news - people ), ABB (nyse: ABB - news - people ), Rockwell Automation (nyse: ROK - news - people ) and Emerson.

You might remember a laptop in UK going missing with data on all the population. I saw on the news that another laptop got stolen with all the data on military recrutis.

Hi Eric,

I'm just curious...

Do you believe this?

Do I believe that SANS was told 'terrorists' are 'planning' a computer attack, yea.
Do I believe that some computers in power plants have been attacked, yea.
Do I believe that what was presented is a potentional threat, yea.

Are things exactly the way as presented? Given the track record on other threats - why should believe be given?

Hello TODers,

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) document says Zimbabwe's inflation for January has galloped to about 150,000% as the economy continues to crumble.

This is the same rate reached by Germany during the Weimar Republic in the 1920s in the post-First World War era.
Billionaires starving to death

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

the Weimar inflation is better known in some parts of the world but is in pale comparison with some other greater inflations of the last century: the inflation in China between 1937-1949 was about 150 times greater. the greatest of all by far - 15 orders of magnitude higher than the Chinese one, AFAIK, is the Hungarian inflation of 1945-46. the ratio of the price index at the end of the inflation vs. at the beginning is close to 4.0E29.

Did Zimbabwe just issue a 10,000,000 unit bank note? Though I saw that on another news site.

And some people still think inflation and economic collapse are mutually exclusive...

CIBC World Markets points out that the USA currently only accounts for 10% of Global Economic Growth, down from 30% in the early 1990s. Strong argument for high oil and commodity prices while the USA slides down the economic slope.

CIBC World Markets, Friday, January 18th:

Mr. Rubin notes that U.S. consumption of core commodities is flat or declining and represents an increasing smaller part of the global market. "While the U.S. is still by far the largest oil-consuming economy in the world, guzzling 21 million barrels per day, its contribution to global demand growth for oil over the last two years has been nil. In fact, oil consumption has fallen modestly over that time frame, and that was during a period of reasonably robust economic growth."

He notes that the U.S. economy has also made no contribution to the surge in global metal demand over the last half decade. American consumption of zinc and copper has actually fallen over the last five years and consumption of aluminum and nickel has been basically flat over the same period. "Contrast that with 20 per cent-plus annual growth rates in metals demand in China and it's suddenly easy to see why prices for key base metals like copper remain in the stratosphere even if the U.S. economy is going into the toilet."

So what's being said here. If the U.S. economy tanks, it's business as usual elsewhere?

Globalization has brought about the Midas touch or perhaps the fulfillment of an Alchemists' Dream. Base commodities like copper and zinc are tranformed into gold (or gold prices). Black gold has acquired a new luster.

American consumption of zinc and copper has actually fallen over the last five years and consumption of aluminum and nickel has been basically flat over the same period.

Could there be any clearer acknowledgement of the fact that US growth in the Bush years is a joke, and that the economy has been slowly shrinking all that time? This site (http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data) calculates inflation the old fashioned way, and then subtracts it from GDP to get a "real" rate of economic growth.

In real terms (and commidities are very real), the US economy has been shrinking ever since Bush took office. The fact is just masked by the administration's fake inflation numbers.

If his claims are true, that's a very depressing website.

Look around my friend, paid 4.29 for a half gallon of oj recently. Almost crapped my drawers. (Don't remember hearing about any frost in Florida)

ShadowStats is awesome, and very revealing.

It is going to be very hard for the rest of the world to avoid sliding down after us. Both Japan and Britain have worse debt-to-GDP ratios than the US. Japan is already in a long-term economic slowdown, which will only intensify as US imports dry up. Britain basically is a US clone economically. And nearly everybody from China to northern Norwegian villages bought pieces of America's Big Shitpile. And most of the rest of the world has a trade surpluses with the US.

I really hope much of the rest of the world can weather the coming economic troubles, but I'm skeptical. Pretty much entire world has fiat currency with fractional reserve systems, and many of the reserve systems require even fewer reserves than the US (as low as 0 in some countries).

Watch China. If China pulls through, the world has a shot. If not, it is going to get really ugly.

This I agree with entirely. Not just China, but Russia, Brasil too(but China's the big boy). Gut feeling that China has some considerable ability to increase internal consumption. They have, like 42% savings. And they still have the Communist Party running things.

I think Russia, Brasil, Canada are the countries most likely to come out okay over the next couple decades. They produce all their own food and all their own energy. Not too many big countries in this list.

Russia's problem is it has a lot of nukes aimed at it, if things get as hairy as most of us predict. But maybe Canada has the same problem.

Although China is the world's second largest oil importer now, she still derives most of her energy from coal, so what percentage of her total energy budget is oil imports?(WAG--6-8%) She may be able to weather the storm with some strong central leadership. That is the biggie.

BTW--I have a lot of Brasilian friends, so insist on spelling it the correct way :-)

Brazil has a wee problem with electric largely tied to hydro. This is not good given the drying of the Amazon. Could be they'll end up like our southeast appears to be ... dried out and under the gun. They are ahead of us on liquid fuel freedom, but that doesn't fix the electricity problem.

"The task of reaching that mark appears daunting. According to CERA's own rate of decline, the world's existing fields by 2017 will be producing about 33 million fewer barrels a day than they are now. So hitting a production level of 112 million barrels a day within a decade would require adding 59 million barrels a day in new capacity -- or more than six times today's daily output from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter."

This from the WSJ article about the recent CERA study that found, according to an analysis of 811 wells, an average 4.5 percent world depletion rate.

I just wanted to make an observation based on this 'rosey' CERA statement. If we take the 4.5 percent decline rate as a given and a constant, then we are - 33 million barrels a day by 2017. That puts us at around 53 million barrels per day. But CERA thinks 59 million barrels per day of new production will come on line.

OK, fine. I can accept that CERA who is chief among oil optimists would make this claim. But then my eyes hit:

"CERA argues that nearly half of that output will come from nonconventional sources such as biofuels and natural-gas liquids."

Woah! CERA needs nearly 30 mbpd in NGL and biofuels to meet its liquid fuels gain by 2017. Does anyone else find this to be an extraordinary figure?

PNM Reeves natural gas-fired electric generation plant in operation. viz.

As Reality overpowers delusion, the screaming starts----
Virtual wealth starting to disappear, consequences below:

Mortgage Company Exec Jumps to Death
Friday, January 18, 2008

(01-18) 17:20 PST Marlton, N.J. (AP) --
An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday, shortly after his wife's body was found inside their New Jersey home, authorities said.
The deaths of Walter Buczynski, 59, and his wife, Marci, 37 — the parents of two boys — were being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.
Prosecutor Robert Bernardi said Evesham Township police went to the couple's home in the Marlton section of the township around noon after a male caller asked them to check on Marci Buczynski. Her body was found in a bedroom.
Authorities would not provide further details on her death, saying only that she was pronounced dead at the scene and that the county medical examiner's office would perform an autopsy Saturday.
About 20 minutes after her body was found, officers from the Delaware River and Bay Authority Police Department received reports that a man — later identified as Walter Buczynski — had parked his car on Delaware Memorial Bridge and jumped from the span.
Crews were searching for his body Friday night.
Bernardi said a motive for the apparent murder-suicide was not immediately clear. The couple's children were being cared for by family members, Bernardi said.
Walter Buczynski was a vice president of Columbia, Md.-based Fieldstone Mortgage Co., a high-flying subprime mortgage lender that made $5.5 billion in mortgage loans and employed about 1,000 people as late as 2006.
However, it has since filed for bankruptcy and now has fewer than 20 employees. The company had recently filed court papers seeking approval to pay about $1.1 million in bonuses that would be divided among Buczynski and other staffers so the company could wind down its lending operations and go out of business.

"An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday"

It's a good start...

When's Ben gonna jump?, or does he need a little help...

FWIW, with all the financial turmoil going on right now, I really miss Stoneleigh's and Ilargi's Financial Roundup--and the discussions that followed. With the exception of Stuart's stunningly good work and Khebab's graphs, I've learned the most at TOD by following the back-and-forth discussions.

Weighing in on the issue of the Financial Roundups, Nate writes at http://canada.theoildrum.com/node/3461/286683:

But we will never be a go-to finance site. We don't have the credentials.

I wonder if this is taking the notion of credentials a little too far. As far as I know, Stuart's credentials are in computer science.... I'm not making wild claims that Stuart shouldn't post--or that anyone should post. The volunteer TOD editors are doing an amazing job in the most valuable public internet site I know. What I am wondering, though, is who does have credentials to discuss the "energy problems and solutions" in a real world containing geology, business, finance, economics, climate, physics, psychology, and who knows what other needed disciplines that arise that might help us chart our way? Again--the volunteer TOD editors do an extraordinary job keeping TOD focussed, civil, and informed. It's in the combined brilliance, though, of all the participants that I find TOD's great value.

Perhaps some editors are concerned about TOD building and maintaining credibility with potential policy makers. If there is an editorial debate about whether to emphasize awareness on PO issues with public policy makers or with individuals responsible for a family, I can only hope the emphasis lean toward raising the awareness of individuals--as it seems to me it's the public policy makers who have gotten us into this unsustainable position and I don't really expect this to change. I apologise for bringing up such a sore subject. It's just that I read the financial news and I miss the intelligent TOD debate about it--as this is one of the only sites that understands the impact of energy on finance. My two cents.

I miss them too. Apparently they will be set up with their own site in short order. Too bad their hiatus was at such an interesting time. I guess it's like PO! It's never a good time to run out of the good stuff, all the other sites seem like lesser substitutes.

I thought the Finance Roundups were appropriate and necessary because we seem to be sliding rapidly into what may turn out to be a terminal decline of global finance if it coincides with peak oil. I look forward to Stoneleigh's website and hope it will be linked here if not included (as I believe it should be.)

The world is using more oil than it has been finding.


The decline of oil production in the United States over the past 35 years has been about one-two percent per annum. This decline rate was not the same as the decline rate for Texas. If one were to look at an even smaller area, such as an individual oil field in the North Sea, then the decline rates were higher, 8 percent or greater for some fields.

One cannot see the future by looking into the past, yet one who has knowledge of the past may be able to project what the future might bring. The United States was able to find new oil after peak due to newer technology that allowed deep offshore production, enhanced recovery (CO2) in the Permian Basin, heavy oil recovery (California), and the nation's largest oil field at Prudhoe Bay was brought into production after oil production had peaked.

There were yet large oilfield discoveries being announced such as the GOM Lower Tertiary (2006), Brazil Subsalt (2007). Enhanced recovery of oil in tight sands by hydro-sand fracture was discovered to be of value in the Williston Basin of Montana earlier this decade. Enhanced recovery of heavy oil in Alberta and Venezuela is underway. More deep sea drilling rigs are under construction, yet there is a backlog of drilling projects and will not be enough rigs for some years to come. Peak oil is inevitable. According to the EIA, Malaysia and Ecuador may be recent additions to the list of nations who have peaked in oil production. More data will be needed to confirm this.