DrumBeat: February 22, 2008

Brazil dances with OPEC

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- OPEC, the 13-nation cartel that has a huge influence over oil prices, may be expanding further into South America.

News that the second largest economy in Latin America was considering joining OPEC began to swirl late last year shortly after Brazil announced the discovery of huge offshore oil and gas deposits that could turn the country into a major oil exporter.

...Analysts say Brazil is serious about joining, and its membership could push crude prices higher as more oil would be under OPEC control, but that membership and significant crude exports from the country won't happen anytime soon.

China's Peak Oil Debate Still In Its Infancy

Peak oil remains a "distant" idea in China, industry sources say. Many Beijing policymakers still subscribe to the traditional view that oil reserves are plentiful, and that the main difficulty is resource access -- a geopolitical rather than a geological problem. So, aside from token shifts in the country's energy mix toward more environmentally friendly fuels, the Chinese leadership is prioritizing security of oil supply over curbing oil demand.

Peak Oil Passnotes: China Has Spoken

The market has spoken. For once the machinations of the market are being based not on herd mentality, software, technicals or the whims of the mass media. Instead the worrying thing is the moves to $100 oil are based on reality, demand. Chinese demand.

It has not mattered a jot to China as oil has risen in price. Some people might want to buy a house because they think they may make money, other people buy a house because they love someone and they want to live in the city without renting. China is the latter. China is not interested in a few billion dollars this way or that every month, it wants to live in the city called 21st century prosperity and it is going to do everything in its power to stay there. And it ain’t gonna rent.

Arab nations back Venezuela in Exxon row: Chavez

CARACAS (Reuters) - Arab nations have backed Venezuela in its conflict with Exxon Mobil, President Hugo Chavez said on Friday, amid Exxon's continuing legal assault that has frozen up to $12 billion in Venezuelan assets.

Exxon gets extension of Venezuelan asset freeze

Exxon Mobil, the world's biggest oil company, was granted a temporary extension of a U.K. court order freezing $12 billion-worth of assets held by Venezuela's state oil company until a court hearing next week.

Venezuelan oil price hits unprecedented level

Venezuela' crude oil export price soared USD 3.84 to a weekly average of USD 90.13 (compared to USD 86.29 last week), thus hitting a new record, said the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum on Friday.

Confidence Frays In Saudi Gas Prospects

When France's Total officially pulled the plug on its gas exploration adventure in Saudi Arabia last week, it was the first overt sign of disaffection with the ongoing gas program undertaken by four international joint ventures in the remote Rub al-Khali desert. But the news isn't much better from the other ventures, and concern is spreading that this public-private initiative may do little to solve the kingdom's internal gas supply problems -- much less provide gas for export.

Shell sees potential in U.S. Arctic

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc is looking for oil and gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the coast of Alaska, but the finds will have to be significant to justify the huge cost of development, a senior Shell executive said Friday.

Shell surprised many in the oil industry when it bid $2.1 billion for acreage in this month's controversial auction of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, a large polar bear habitat, and one of the least explored areas in U.S. federal waters.

However, after conducting two years of seismic surveys in the Chukchi ahead of its bid, Shell is confident the area is one of the most promising exploratory basins in its portfolio.

Saudi Arabia urges rich countries not to use oil as weapon

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and president of the Arab Summit Thursday urged wealthy countries not to use the rising oil prices as a weapon to obtain an advantage over poorer countries.

"Oil is an important and strategic resource for the world economy. It must not be used as a weapon," Prince Saud al-Faisal told the South American and Arab Countries' foreign ministers meeting here.

Oil Prices: It's Not About the Oil

What's driving oil prices? Economics 101 says price is determined by the balance of supply and demand. But when it comes to the oil market, fears and expectations have been trumping economic rules and carrying the day. "These movements have nothing to do with supply or demand, or with oil for that matter," says Fadel Gheit, senior analyst with Oppenheimer (OPY) in New York. "There is more exaggeration than ever before in this market."

Gas prices jump, but may not stay high

NEW YORK - Gas prices jumped Friday to their highest level since June, a possible preview of what many analysts believe will be a record spike in pump prices this spring.

But the current price surge could be short-lived. While gas prices have risen sharply in recent days in response to oil's dramatic climb to a new record above $101 a barrel, gasoline supplies have quietly grown to their highest level in 14 years.

Montana senator: BP proposal dropped

Potential British Columbia natural-gas work that raised environmental alarms in Montana is being dropped, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Thursday.

Energy giant BP and British Columbia officials decided that extraction of coal-bed methane, a type of natural gas, will not be pursued on the Canadian side of the Flathead River Basin, Baucus told The Associated Press. BP Canada spokeswoman Anita Perry said the possibility of coal-bed methane development in the Canadian Flathead has been withdrawn from provincial evaluation of a larger area where BP remains interested in potential coal-bed methane work.

"You made a mistake about us," Pdvsa CEO warns Exxon Mobil

Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum and CEO of state-run oil conglomerate Pdvsa Rafael Ramírez Friday referred to the legal dispute between Pdvsa and US oil major Exxon Mobil in connection with the nationalization last year of oil upgrader Cerro Negro, and said the Venezuelan government would not recoil in the defense of the country's interests and would continue efforts to regain full sovereignty over oil resources.

"They made a mistake about us. It is important for these multinational corporations to know that we will not fear or give in," Ramírez declared before oil workers during a rally on Tía Juana dock in oil-rich northwestern Zulia state.

US official: Europe needs alternatives to overpriced Russian gas

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Europe needs alternatives to overpriced Russian natural gas that enriches "shady middlemen," a U.S. official said Friday, putting forward the idea of Iraq and Azerbaijan as new suppliers.

Matthew Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state, took a swipe at Russia's state-owned OAO Gazprom, saying the United States wasn't fond of energy monopolies.

''We especially don't like them when they threaten at least the economic security of our most important allies,'' he said, criticizing the company for charging too much and trying to undermine Europe's efforts to seek new sources and routes for more gas.

House to vote next week on energy tax bill

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives will vote next week on legislation that would levy $18 billion in taxes on big oil companies to help pay for extending renewable energy tax credits, Democratic leaders said on Thursday.

The legislation includes tax credits to promote renewable energy production from wind, solar, geothermal, cellulosic ethanol, biofuels and other sources. Many of the tax credits will expire at the end of this year.

Gazprom to Trade Up to 100 Million Tons of Emissions by 2011

(Bloomberg) -- Gazprom Marketing and Trading Ltd., the global trading arm of the Russian gas export monopoly, plans to trade to as much as 100 million tons of emissions credits by 2011, about 5 percent of the European Union's total yearly grant.

BP aims for billions more barrels from Alaska

ANCHORAGE - Operator BP expects to wring at least 2 billion barrels more crude from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield, even after the aging giant has yielded over 11 billion barrels, far more than thought possible when it was discovered.

In addition to coaxing more medium sour crude out of the most productive field in the United States, BP is eyeing the once worthless shallow reservoirs of heavier oil that have become valuable as oil prices have surged to above $100 a barrel.

“No field the size of Prudhoe Bay has ever been shut in,” said Gordon Pospisil, a senior BP petroleum engineer who is leading the effort to tap the field’s heavy oil reservoirs.

Oil refinery alerted to intruder

Police are searching the site of the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire after receiving reports of an intruder.

Judge says ‘hot fuel’ lawsuit can proceed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A potential class-action lawsuit claiming U.S. oil companies have knowingly overcharged customers when gas station fuel temperatures rise passed its first hurdle Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil rejected a motion from the oil companies to dismiss the lawsuit, saying they had not proven the plaintiffs wouldn't prevail in court.

Depression + Inflation + Famine = Chaos!

Oftentimes it seems so inconceivable that we could have come to this place, yet here is exactly what we are facing, right now: Depression in the housing market; retail inflation (due entirely to the price of oil and the plummeting dollar), credit availability all but shut down, and today we discover that grain stores are at their lowest point since they began measuring in 1960: 53 days. According to the CEO of Potash Corp., the Canadian fertilizer giant, if there is any disruption to this year’s grain harvest, the world will be facing famine in 2009. And this is not a question of the rock-concert-for-third-world-countries famine, folks. He is describing global shortages of wheat. Food prices are already on the rise; with grain shortages, will surely come hoarding and hyperinflation in food.

Just how expensive is our wheat in reality?

To put it simply, the last couple of centuries, probably since the opening up of the Americas, have seen the price of food fall to unprecedented levels.

Compared to our ancestors either we are unbelievably, fabulously rich, or the price of food is so incredibly cheap as to be incomprehensible to anyone born before 1500 AD.

Grassroots: Greenery from the bottom up

A MULTI-STOREY car park in Woking, a commuter town just south of London, makes an unlikely totem for environmentalism. Only the chimney on the roof and the faint smell of burnt hydrocarbons betray its status as the centrepiece of Britain's greenest local council. Besides parking spaces, the building contains a 1.3MW gas-fired combined heat-and-power (CHP) plant that supplies electricity and heat (the latter a waste product in ordinary power stations) to council offices, a hotel and several other city-centre businesses. With help from solar-powered parking meters, another CHP plant at the municipal swimming pool and an energy-efficiency drive, Woking has cut its carbon emissions by 21% since 1990, nine percentage points more than the national target.

We’ll Save the Planet Only if We’re Forced To

Do you check every item you buy to make sure it is green and planet-friendly? Do you buy carbon offsets every time you fly? Stop. It is time to be honest: green consumerism is at best a draining distraction, and at worst a con. While the planet’s fever gets worse by the week, we are guzzling down green-coloured placebos and calling it action. There is another way. Our reaction to global warming has gone in waves. First we were in blank denial: how can releasing an odourless, colourless gas change the climate so dramatically? Now we are in a phase of displacement: we assume we can shop our way out of global warming, by shovelling a few new lightbulbs and some carbon offsets into our shopping basket.

This is a self-harming delusion. It’s hard to give a sense of the contrast today between the magnitude of our problem, and the weediness of our response so far. But the best way is offered by the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen.

Dire new warning on climate

RECENT work by scientists suggests climate change is advancing more rapidly and more dangerously than previously thought, according to Canberra's top adviser on the issue.

In a dire warning to the Rudd Government, Ross Garnaut has declared that existing targets for cuts in greenhouse emissions may be too modest and too late to halt environmentally damaging rises in temperature.

Hunters, anglers join global-warming outcry

Nearly 700 hunting, fishing and sporting groups, including several from Arizona, recently sent letters urging lawmakers to support a bill to curb the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change.

These are not your typical environmentalists, but they are increasingly interested in environmental issues.

UK: Brakes come on over biofuel commitment

The Government may retreat from its commitment to make all drivers use an increasing proportion of biofuel in their fuel tanks.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, announced a study into the impact that the production of biofuels has on the environment. The Department for Transport (DfT) said that it would not support a European plan to increase the proportion of biofuel in petrol and diesel to 10 per cent by 2020 unless it could be proved that it reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Growing world aircraft fleet and increasing pollution

As competition among airlines around the world intensifies, more and more people find it convenient to travel by air for business and leisure. But the rapid growth of commercial aviation is having a significant impact on global warming and the Asia-Pacific region, the world's fastest expanding market for air travel, is starting to feel the heat.

Shell President: America's Energy Security a 'Mess'

Shell President John Hofmeister addressed U.S. policy makers on Feb. 21 to proffer suggestions for energy policy changes. Hofmeister urged policy shapers to extend the rights of U.S. companies by allowing them to drill the outer continental shelf of the U.S., which is currently illegal.

Hofmeister said that the U.S.'s energy consumption, along with outdated policy, have led to a failure in energy security.

"During the course of today, the U.S. will consume 10,000 gallons of oil a second," said Hoffmeister. "That equivalent is 21 million barrels of oil a day ... that's a swimming pool full of oil every second of every minute of every hour throughout the day."

Libya's Ghanem sees oil prices rising further

TRIPOLI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Oil prices are likely to keep rising but OPEC has no plan to increase production for now, the head of Libya's National Oil Corporation, Shokri Ghanem, said on Thursday.

"I believe the oil price will continue rising and this is because of speculation and political issues," Ghanem told Reuters in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Power blackout in Java and Bali due to coal disruption

JAKARTA: Large parts of Indonesia's most crowded island, Java, and the resort haven of Bali are hit by severe blackouts as bad weather at ports hampered coal delivery to power plants, but mining operations are unaffected, officials said yesterday.

The power crunch in Java and Bali, which started late on Wednesday, was the result of an electricity deficit of about 1,000MW , an official at the state power monopoly said. The outages are continuing yesterday, even though the power deficit has been halved but the blackout could spread to other areas in Java if coal supplies do not pick up soon, said Mulyo Adji, PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara's (PLN) spokesman.

Macedonia: Bulgaria Can Save Us From Energy Crisis

The newspaper analyzes the situation in Macedonia and concludes that the domestic reserves are running out and that the situation is additionally complicated by the proclaiming of Kosovo's independence and Setbia's threats for imposing an embargo.

In searching for a solution the newspaper points out that what can be done fast is the building of a 400- kilovolt power transmission line from Shtip to Chervena mogila with a total length of 140 km, 40 km of which will be in Macedonia. The construction of the lines was started in 2006 but should be ready the coming summer.

UN agency seeks $8 million to feed Tajiks hit by record low temperatures

The harshest winter Tajikistan has seen in decades has prompted a food and energy crisis leaving some 200,000 in need of emergency aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today as it appealed for $8.3 million to help those affected.

The funds requested by WFP – part of a wider $25 million joint appeal made earlier this week by the UN – will be used to buy and distribute three months worth of emergency food rations for 200,000 of the most vulnerable people, most of whom live in rural areas. The agency's non-governmental partners will help another 60,000 people.

Finance panel transfers funds for patrol fuel

The Commission’s Finance Committee, with assistance from Sheriff Tim Gobble and his staff, is making some progress in coping with the current fuel shortage for law enforcement vehicles.

Famines May Occur Without Record Crops This Year, Potash Says

Grain farmers will need to harvest record crops every year to meet increasing global food demand and avoid famine, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. Chief Executive Officer William Doyle said.

People and livestock are consuming more grain than ever, draining world inventories and increasing the likelihood of shortages, Doyle said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Global grain stockpiles fell to about 53 days of supply last year, the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1960, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Food price threat as council 'squanders' farmland

Sunshine Coast residents could face even higher food prices if the new council continues to 'squander farmland', a council candidate has warned.

"This very real threat is foreshadowed in a Queensland Government report, 'Queensland's Vulnerability to Rising Oil Prices,'" Division 9 (Coolum and hinterland) candidate Vivien Griffin said.

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Claims Breakthrough in Russo-Ukraine Gas Talks

Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday claimed a wide-reaching breakthrough in talks with Russia on natural gas, making possible a stabilization of energy supplies to Europe.

Tymoshenko, speaking to reporters in Kiev's Boryspil airport, said executives from the Russian natural gas monopolist Gazprom had agreed to key conditions long disputed between Ukraine and Moscow, setting the stage for an end to years of acrimony and even gas-supply cut- offs.

Deepwater Troubles

Last week, Pemex declined an invitation to join Petrobras as a minority partner in a deepwater exploration in the U.S. side of the Gulf of Mexico. This despite Pemex’s twin problems of declining production and limited exploration capacity to tap large oil reserves in deeper waters. The conundrum rests now in how to get to those reserves without the technical ability and with constitutional hurdles barring privatization of the government’s energy monopoly.

Iran Q4 oil export to N.Asia up a third, China leads

SINGAPORE, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Iran's crude oil exports to North Asia surged by 31 percent in the last quarter, driven by China and outstripping increases from other major Middle Eastern producers after OPEC raised output from November.

Quarterly exports from Iran rose 325,000 barrels per day (bpd), taking its annual total to the region to 1.255 million bpd, up 10 percent on-year, despite OPEC supply curbs for most of 2007 and fears Western sanctions over Tehran's nuclear work could hit sales.

Gazprom, Total, StatoilHydro Form JV to Develop Shtokman Field

Gazprom, Total and StatoilHydro signed a Shareholder Agreement for the creation of Shtokman Development AG for phase one of the Shtokman field.

The agreement was signed at the central office of Gazprom by Alexey Miller, Chairman of the company's Management Committee, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, and Helge Lund, CEO of StatoilHydro.

Philippines mulls opening shelved nuclear plant

MANILA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government is considering to open the country's only nuke plant, which has been shelved for over 20 years over safety reasons, local media reported Friday.

Could blue jean dye and white house paint solve the energy crisis?

Imagine coating the roof of your house with a paint that absorbs energy from the sun – and lets you use that energy to power your television, computer or toaster.

Northwestern chemistry professor Mark Ratner hopes that one day you’ll be able to do just that with a can of paint he calls “a battery in a jar.”

British Gas looks at $136 billion - 33 gigawatt off-shore wind project

British Gas is looking to make a $136 billion dollar investment in offshore wind power- a gambit sufficient to power every British home with 33 gigawatts of electricity by 2020. The investment would be world's most intensive wind power development to date.

Kurzweil: 'Exponential' change ahead for games, people

Kurzweil also believes that nanotechnology will solve the world's energy crisis within two decades. Solar panels are hard to manufacture, heavy, inefficient, and expensive, but Kurzweil said the advent of nanoengineered solar panels will change that.

Within five years, he believes that those high-tech solar panels will become less expensive per watt of energy produced than oil, taking away the financial incentive for people to burn through nonrenewable natural resources. Within 20 years, they will have largely replaced fossil fuels as the primary source of the world's energy.

Switzerland: Greenhouse gas plans cause political fallout

Cabinet proposals to delay the introduction of a levy on carbon dioxide emissions from petrol have prompted a mixed response.

The centre-left said the government's climate and energy policy was disastrous while the centre-right as well as the business community criticised the lack of measures to address an anticipated electricity shortage.

Shell Asks SEC to Allow Inclusion of Canadian Sands in Reserves

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe's largest oil company by market value, urged U.S. regulators to ease rules on how petroleum reserves are counted to allow the inclusion of Canada's oil sands.

"The current exclusion of reserves not reported for crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids that may be recovered from tar sands, oil shale, and other in-place hydrocarbons should be removed," The Hague-based Shell said in a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated Feb. 19.

Thousands of Turkish troops cross into Iraq

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — Turkish troops have launched a ground incursion across the border into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels, the military said Friday — a move that dramatically escalates Turkey's conflict with the militants.

It is the first confirmed ground operation by the Turkish military into Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. It also raised concerns that it could trigger a wider conflict with the U.S.-backed Iraqi Kurds, despite Turkish assurances that its only target was the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

Alberta's Oilsands Ambivalence

I was amused to discover in Tuesday's Financial Post that Canadian petroleum producers are awakening to the fact that the oilsands extraction operations of northern Alberta have something of an image problem. The main reason I was amused is that if you've lived in Alberta, you know that the oilsands actually have about eight or nine different image problems. The environmental one is just the one that gets talked about the most -- particularly now, as prize-mongering journalists reinvent themselves as experts on the energy business and flock to Fort McMurray to bring back word of the supposed slow-motion tragedy in progress there.

Russian rail hopes to ship oil to China post-2010

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's state railway hopes to keep some crude oil volumes for shipments to China after 2010, when Russia builds its first pipeline to Asia, the firm's head said on Friday.

"In 2010 oil will go to the pipeline except for expensive crude brands, whose owners will not want to mix them up with heavy crude," Vladimir Yakunin told reporters.

Michelin Hikes Tire Prices as Raw Materials Rise

PARIS (Reuters) - French tyremaker Michelin kicked off a fresh round of price rises in Europe on Friday, passing on a spike in raw materials such as natural rubber, synthetic rubber, steel and oil.

The increases, to take effect between March 15 and July 1, will hit both consumers and businesses, likely adding to price inflation and possibly slowing economic growth.

Solar panels a 'loser,' professor says

Installing solar panels on homes is an economic "loser" with the costs far outweighing the financial benefit, a respected University of California-Berkeley business professor said Wednesday.

The technology, using photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, is not economically competitive with fossil fuels and costs more than other renewable fuels, said Severin Borenstein, who also directs the UC Energy Institute.

"We are throwing away money by installing the current solar PV technology," he said.

What is Canada doing about peak oil?

I have been researching the topic of energy security/peak oil for the National Farmers Union for almost two years (although my interest in the oil depletion issue goes back to 1972).

The results of this research are increasingly worrisome for many reasons, but one of our greatest concerns is the position of Natural Resources Canada's Oil Division with respect to peak oil.

Bankers Fouling Their Own Nests On Energy Issues

Add to the list of challenges to the survival of industrial society our once-proud financial sector. At a time that demands the immediate launch of a transition to clean and renewable (not merely alternative) forms of energy, Wall Street seems capable only of serving up a greenwashed version of business as usual.

Governors try to advance clean energy

Governors who want clean energy to be a national priority are trying to bring together states with wildly different ways of producing power, like tapping ocean temperature differences off Hawaii and mining coal in West Virginia.

But a souring economy has tightened state budgets and forced spending cuts that could temporarily short circuit renewable energy development.

Seen on a bumper sticker:

How did our oil get under their sand?!

If the sticker was American he is lucky. Over here having our oil under their sand has been involving us in strife and headaches since the 1920's. At least the one good thing about peak oil is the end of our involvement in the Middle East is in sight.

weatherman, I appreciate your input on TOD, but can you please inform us where you got the idea PO means the end of our presence in the ME is in sight?

On the contrary, I would say. Remember that "the war on terror" will not end in our lifetimes.

If the sticker was American he is lucky.

Yes indeed, right in the breadbasket of the USA (Oklahoma). I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions...

I saw the slogan on a placard in NYC at the huge demonstration opposing the upcoming invasion of Iraq war. I'll never forget either the demonstration or the slogan -- and I've been to many over the decades.

Another more macabre one to be seen in a couple years

Hungry? Dress Out a Bankster for the Barbi

Shell's comments should be taken as confirmation that (1) peak discovery was long ago, and they can't hide it anymore and (2) the IOC's should be preparing to wind up and pay out like royalty trusts. I love the quote that Shell should be allowed to include ounconventional oil that its engineers haven't yet figured out how to tap. I am going across the street to my bank for a loan, pledging as collateral money i haven't yet figured out how to earn.

i don't see including tar sands in the reserves as the big problem, as i understand it, the process is proven economical. calling it oil is ?-able.
shell is apparently asking investor's to buy snake oil(shale oil) as well.

beware slippery slope ahead.

Shell's oil sands operations are less marginal than the new comers, but more marginal than those of Syncrude, which is already built. Allowing them to book reserves which are uneconomic at oil prices below $150/bbl, or which require nuclear power after the natural gas runs out, is just another signal of where things are going.

This is inevitable, right? As Oil companies re-position themselves as energy companies their portfolios will increasingly include far out stuff. The regulators and the markets will need to adjust.

It's also highly probable that more of these far out (and low EROEI) sources are going to be tapped, no matter the societal costs to keep the energy flowing.

Oh, I think they are preparing the groundwork for one last big push offshore. They know that when the lines at the gas pumps get long enough, a full tank cost triple digits, and the body bags are coming back from the middle east by the hundreds daily, drilling offshore is going to start looking a lot less objectionable to a lot more people.

The end game for this might even include underwater platforms deep offshore, serviced by submarines. This will be when oil is in the high triple digits or maybe even quadruple digits, of course, and even then they won't be able to afford much of such stuff. But it might be in the final chapter.

That's when I hope that we can make the big push towards different methods of transportation, living locations, etc. I've become spoiled walking to work every day, and I honestly never want to have a daily commute ever again that involves driving.

Oh, I think they are preparing the groundwork for one last big push offshore. They know that when the lines at the gas pumps get long enough, a full tank cost triple digits, and the body bags are coming back from the middle east by the hundreds daily, drilling offshore is going to start looking a lot less objectionable to a lot more people

I hope so. If They don't start work on these projects soon, they'll likely never get done because am economic collapse or worse. It takes considerable capital and engineer to tap these resources. If the dollar tanks, we won't be able to afford to import steel, critical equipment and skilled workers necessary to for these projects. And there will be no energy available either.

Considering whats happening with credit, its probably already too late. Credit is drying up faster than acetone on a hot sunny day. Even Multinational Oil companies need access to credit to start up large scale offshore drilling projects.

techguy- The oil companies will be the one's with the money to start these projects. when the dollar tanks the prices of oil will go up as it has been. the oil companies will be rich as well an oil company.

Exxon shatters profit records
Oil giant makes corporate history by booking $11.7 billion in quarterly profit; earns $1,300 a second in 2007.


Wait a few years after they deplete their reserves and the cash flow disapears.

The IOC's, and every other producer, who is responsible for actual operations of producing oil, gas, or geothermal wells, are far different from any royalty analogy. When you wind down the operations, you are just as ressponsible for environmental concerns as you are during the operating life of whatever you are producing. And, of course, that applies to coal, tar sands, and oil shales as well. As an operator, I have to be ever mindful of the impacts I make. I have a very environmetally conscious friend who is also an operator and has been close to getting out of the business because of those problems, and probably would if he, and myself as well, hadn't seen what happens if someone who is not environmentally sensitive and responsible is operating oil and gas wells. But the plugging and clean-up after the party is over are real and are not included in any valuation I have ever seen for any publicly held company. I am sure engineers put in something to account for the end-game or final solution to production problems, and I doubt that any of the majors have made proper provision for that in their financial statements.

Sorry for the ramble, but I do think considering this is important.

"But the plugging and clean-up after the party is over are real and are not included in any valuation I have ever seen for any publicly held company. I am sure engineers put in something to account for the end-game or final solution to production problems, and I doubt that any of the majors have made proper provision for that in their financial statements."

If this is true, then those companies are opening themselves up to shareholder lawsuits for not accurately detailing the risks involved in doing business.

North sea rigs have to be costed for disassembly, I believe, and nuclear plant costs have a built-in charge in their electric rates - around £0.05MW, form memory.

I can assure you that all IOC's operating under US GAAP have liabilities on their books for the plugging and environmental remediation for every single well they operate.

Moneyman, I am a former CPA, and worked with one of the then "Big 8", and never saw anything on any financial statement reflecting any future contingencies like P&A costs. I owned and operated my own firm, with no partners and a specialty in oil and gas for 17 years, selling out in about 1990. I do not profess to be an expert in SEC-level accounting standards today, but do read financial statements before I buy any stocks, and have never seen any footnote or other explanation or anticipation of any such future liability such as I have referred to. In fact, I would be interested in knowing just where that liability might be reflected. You certainly do not book anything when you drill a well, although I can see how you might when you buy a project. Any info you could provide me would be greatly appreciated.

It's been a couple years since I was directly involved....I beleive FASB 143 dictates the process...this is only public companies. Basically, you record the present value of the future liability. A few years ago, it ran $25-40k tp P&A a well in west Texas. Discounted 10-20 years.....there probably isn't much to see. But it is recorded when the well is drilled, or at least in the same quarter. As for where they hide it on the balance sheet.... it will probably be tucked into "other" liabilities. The bottom line is, public companies are not hiding massive liabilities from investors.... they are accounting for them as mandated. From an investors POV, it's not something that warrants too much attention. Even a poor well will pull in that kind of cash flow in a month.

Old, second hand platforms are pretty much like old, second hand cars.

You want to make sure you are the second to last owner.

Or you end up stuck with the drayage costs to the breakers yard.


I would just topple them, that they may then form reefs and bio-diverse marine habitats. And put a bouy on top to warn shipping.

But, as usual, the wierd-beards are against this (yawn)

I agree with Mudlogger. Let 'em be interesting reefs.

But this is my only, and it's a huge one, objection to the proposals to ramp-up fission power. By the time the last owner takes charge of the average pile of non-serviceable fission products, the accountants will have borrowed against those clean-up accounts, and either 1) there won't be anything in the piggybank; 2) inflation will have reduced the account to a trifle; or 3) both. How's the cleanup at TMI coming, by the way?

From WikiPedia:

The damaged and deactivated TMI-2 remained under GPUN ownership until 2001, when GPUN was acquired and absorbed by First Energy Corporation. First Energy continues to own TMI-2, but has subcontracted the maintenance and management of the site to AmerGen Energy from 2001-2003, and Exelon Nuclear from 2003-present.

People talk about a million, or a thousand, years into the future for fission products but I'd say about fifty is plenty for something to be forgotten (but not gone in this case). There are plenty of other really big expensive messes going un-cleaned-up these days (like Chernobyl?). And as we slide down the backslope, there will be even less enthusiasm for such work.

Mining and nuclear companies, like many other companies dealing in toxic waste, have always taken short cuts with safetly and clean up to save money. More widespread financial difficulty will only exacerbate this...


It appears that, at present, one of out every six US homeowners with mortgages owes more than their house is worth:

I think a better number would be the percent of owner occupied homes with mortgages: 8.8 million underwater of the 51.2 million owner occupied homes with mortgages (see here) is about 17% of homeowners with mortgages are underwater according to Economy.com.

The only solution to this problem is to reverse what two things that Greenspan recommended: turn short term adjustable rate mortgages into long term mortgages, and then reduce the worker's portion of the social security tax dramatically. The first will bring payments back into line, and the second will give workign stiffs the ability to make those payments, long term. The way to pay for this is more difficult, but on a macro level if we can bring our total health care expenditures down to the level of France, we can afford it. This does not take into account the massive out-flow of dollars from consumers and the US to pay for increasing energy costs, or the shrinkage in the economy that is likely to occur as we "power down." But hey, I can only offer simple solutions to complex problems one at a time.

Health care costs in the US can be reduced to about 1/3 of what they currently are, without seriously affecting the health of the population. The only problem is that such a reduction will seriously affect the giant, and growing healthcare-industrial complex that underpins so much of what is left of our economy.

It's my not so humble opinion that we spend too much $$ trying to keep people alive that are dying of old age or disease that is self-induced. It's the $50,000 operations to do XYZ that make it so much more expensive to set a few broken bones in the ER. One is subsidizing the other, because that $50,000 operation either never gets paid, or it gets paid by insurance.

I could be described as cold-hearted by a large percentage of people, however.

The current generation of young kids is the fattest ever.

"Bleeding gums, impacted teeth and rotting teeth are routine matters for the children I have interviewed in the South Bronx."

Bismarck did Social Welfare in order to field a capable army.

DoD take note.

It's not just Bismark. In Britain about 100 years ago Asquith's government introduced social welfare after 40% of army recruits for the Boar War had to rejected as unfit.

weatherman -

As an amateur naval buff, I'd like to share a bit of trivia re your comment about unfit army recruits.

For a long time, up to and including WW I, in the Royal Navy the mainstay armament for light cruisers and the for the secondary battery of many battleship was the 6-inch naval gun. It was the largest completely hand-loaded gun in the Navy at the time and fired a shell weighing about 100 lbs (the propellant cartridge being loaded separately). Needless to say, it took a fairly strapping young lad to lift, carry, and push such a heavy shell into the breech, particularly if the ship is rolling heavily.

If I recall correctly, sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s the Royal Naval introduced the 5.5-inch gun, which fired a shell weighing about 80 lbs. One of the reasons cited (perhaps apocryphal) was that it was getting increasingly hard to find recruits robust enough to handle the 100-lb six-inch shell, and that was blamed on the rampant poverty among the working class in GB following WW I.

If this is indeed true, I find it to be a rather interesting example of exceedingly indirect cause and effect, something I think we will see a lot more of in time to come.

It may be true, but not because of growing poverty in the '20s, but because of the transfer of population from agricultural to industrial work. Farm work just has a lot of lifting involved, and no handy overhead winches outdoors. Also, I've noticed that the cutoff point for anti-aircraft guns in all the navies is about 5 inches. The rate of fire for an anti-aircraft gun must be higher than that of the anti-ship 6-inchers traditionally used in cruisers. Also the recoil forces must be held down if some form of semi-automatic action is used, though I don't know about that in this case. 5-inchers are often referred to as "dual-purpose guns". Check the British 6-incher's rate of fire versus the 5.25, and also its elevation capability, to confirm this.

super390 -

I know of what you speak regarding the relative requirements of AA guns versus anti-ship guns. But in this case the 5.5-incher I was referring to was definitely an anti-ship gun designed to replace the 6-incher for certain applications. It was an entirely different gun from the 5.25 AA gun.

Now that my memory on the subject has been jogged, it wasn't just the lifting of the shells that was a hinderance with the old 6-incher but also its slowness in being manually trained and elevated. The 5.5-incher was several tons lighter.

Also, I was a bit off in it's introduction into the Royal Navy, as it was more like the early 1920s, as the newly launched HMS Hood was furnished with the new 5.5-incher for its secondary battery.

Actually, the gun came out just before WW I but was initially only used for Great Britain's export market, being sold (I think to both Japan and Greece). Evidently, the idea was that the lighter 5.5-incher would be more suitable for the smaller Japanese sailors, and I think this consideration got carried over when the Navy found that it's recruits weren't as sturdy as they used to be. I think it's still an interesting example of social conditions affecting military technology.

One reason the Romans eventually went down the crapper relates to this. They taxed their peasants - the source of recruits for the army, their source of power - so heavily that eventually they produced mainly half-starved weaklings and retards. Remember that taxes, for peasants, were in kind: basically food and labour, and getting the sh*t kicked out of you if you didn't pay. Prior to the advent of industrialism and the wiping out of the peasant class in 'advanced' nations, enlightened rulers of all ages (Frederick the Great amongst them) had long realized that the health of the peasantry needed to be preserved if decent soldiers were to be produced.

The reason the Romans went the way they did, like most other empires, they ran out of pillage material. Call it "peak wood" or "peak turnips" or whatever. The empire ran on stuff it could steal from Europe and having reached its boundaries, found that Rome was no longer self-sustaining. (in hind sight we can see that it never was)

That was the Idea behind the Boy Scouts: Next generation of NCO's.

Baden Powell - Boer War Hero started them up when it became obvious that recruits from the cities were in such poor health that they could not expand their chests to the minimum requirement for the Army.

About 10 years ago, the British Army started complaining about the effect that spending a life in trainers and rarely walking was having on recruit's feet.

Britain had the same problem in WW2 when they first encountered Nazi troops that were the product of years of training in the 'Hitler Youth'. The German troops were extremely fit, tanned, and well disciplined and the Brits were not. Neither did the American troops that first encountered battle proven and fit Nazi troops in North Africa fair well. See: 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich'.

Good thing their rulers improved their health in time to get massacred in 1914. Based on the similar trajectory of establishment support for welfare in the US (peaking in 1945-70 when war was most manpower intensive, then declining in the supposed age of high-tech warfare, just like the draft), I guess the only thing that has ever made the health of the poor a concern to anyone not poor was the current demand for cannon fodder.

super390 -

Aye, tis all sad but true!

Well, if you are going to advocate that approach, at least have the human decency to provide people with effective pain relief. Pain meds CAN be very cheap (we're mostly talking opiates, here), especially if we would get into the business of growing them domestically.

You might be surprised how many people would willingly opt for minimal rather than heroic treatments if they could be assured that their remaining days would be comfortable and pain free. More than a few people go to great lengths to fight cancer to the bitter end, for example, because they know that given the miserly pain medication they'll be given by a$$-covering medical personnel, those last few days will otherwise be pure hell.

Of course, we all know why that won't happen. Three letters: WOD. Can't be "sending the wrong message" now, can we?

Of course. Pain meds are cheap compared to an expensive operation. I also feel that social opinions regarding suicide for those with terminal illness to change. Clean, painless, effective death should be available to those who are terminally ill and desire to pursue such a path. I've personally told all of my family and friends, if I'm ever reduced to vegetable status via some sort of accident, annurism, etc, that I want them to end my life via any means possible. That includes both passive AND ACTIVE means.

After witnessing my grandfather die a very slow painful death due to emphysema, the prolonged mourning of my family due to him being near death for so long, and the extensive medical bills that resulted, I swore that I would never let myself do that to my family if I came down with a terminal illness.

People's deep-seated fear of death is what causes all of this, and oddly enough it doesn't seem to disappear in the most religious who think there is a shiny afterlife. Death is the completion of the cycle, and fretting over it doesn't get us any where.

On the other hand, I think that medicine should be used readily for those who have succumbed to accidents or acts of violence. A gun-shot victim should most certainly receive treatment to save his/her life, as an example. Surely my opinion conflicts itself in many ways that others could point out, but just like arses, everybody's got an opinion, and they all stink. ;)

I have had many friends pass away. I dont know about other states but Florida has 'hospices' that take terminally ill patients and load them up on morophine. I will not say they over dose the patients but I have visited friends in hospices that were so drugged that they did not recongize me...or anyone else for that matter. Within a few days these patients are gone. In my opinion this is a very good thing because the patients are in terrible pain and they are given so much morophine that they no longer feel anything, soon their central nervous system shuts down and they pass away painlessly. This subject is rarely discussed and the hospices are doing a commendable job with mostly volunteer staff. I would certainly choose the hospice route over lenghty and expensive treatment that might leave a remaining spouse poor and destitute.

Like everything else today, even suicide is made out to be something requiring technology. In reality, all a person has to do is stop taking fluids. We've had one familiy member choose this course and know of other families where their members did it. It usually takes less than a week - the person begins to drift off into a semi-coma, then coma and, finally, death as the organs shut down.

In addition, some physicians will provide a certain medication (I won't mention it here) that will put the person down quite quickly. They'll do this so long as they have cover from the underlying illness. In other words, they have a legal rationale for the death certificate that doesn't implicate the prescription.


Dying of thirst is no fun; my brush with that possibility did not leave fond memories. Opening a vein or artery is nearly painless and quick, also from personal experience (involuntary). Sharp piece of broken glass would probably do it. Of course, if you have a lot of opiates available, that's the way to go. Probably not all that long before someone in authority realizes that this 'fix' to social security would save a lot of tax dollars.

I also feel that social opinions regarding suicide for those with terminal illness to change. Clean, painless, effective death should be available to those who are terminally ill and desire to pursue such a path.

I remember a scene in the movie Soylent Green where the person who was going to die could chose the music, movies(wall scenes) and drugs of their choice. A very comfortable ending.

Yes, I believe the 'Art' of dying will undergo some changes in the near future. And "Youth In Asia" will be spelled correctly and actually talked about and planned in mixed company.

The longer you live, the more your healthcare costs. Smoking, obesity, and other "discretionary" health problems actually save the system money.

They also move the terminal health problems earlier in life, often into one's working years. This costs employers money, which is why you're hearing so much about it. But an obese smoker drops over dead from a heart attack at age 55, it is cheap, cheap, cheap compared to him living to 97 with his last 5-10 years in a nursing home.

Yeah, that's kinda my joke: Subsist on nothing but lettuce your whole life so that you can waste away for three years in the nursing home instead of three months. Great deal, that.

You really should read "Good Calories, Bad Calories"

Eat the hamburger, throw away the bun.

Actually, I eat grass-fed free range, locally-raised bison burgers, without the bun. I eat very good calories, probably a bit too many of them though.

Thats why the anti smoking lobby are off the mark when they complain about the cost of smoking. Smokers contribute to pensions they often don't live to collect. They don't suffer the deseases of old age, which cost the system greatly.

Well, allocating resources that way was good enough for the Pentagon, so it sounded good enough for our bodies.

Health care costs in the US can be reduced to about 1/3 of what they currently are, without seriously affecting the health of the population.

That is funny. I laugh whenever I hear some politician pontificating about his/her "health plan". It always includes "reducing cost". Like all they have to do is add it to their web site and voila! costs are reduced!!!

That statement is a stupid as me saying that the cost of gasoline could be reduced by 1/3.

Mr NeverLNG, please give us some details of how you propose to reduce the cost of the healthcare in this or any other country without affecting quality. If that is too tough, pick any industry. Say, agriculture. Food is too expensive. Let's reduce the cost of it by 1/3. How about education? That's too expensive too. Let's reduce that by 1/3. Oh, this is fun. Mr. NeverLNG is going to save us all.

Many studies detail the savings gained by eliminating many administrative functions and profit in comparison to singlepayer. You can read what Krugman says about it, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/why-not-single-payer/ A paper by the American Medical Students Association, http://www.amsa.org/uhc/SinglePayer101.pdf And Physicians for National Health Care, http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php

There are many many more if you google like I just did. Why don't you try it?

Krugman?? Single Payer?? Why don't we dig up Karl Marx and have him run our healthcare system?

For that matter, why don't we nationalize all the energy companies.
We could call it Single Big Oil.
Imagine all the money we could save by reducing admin costs. And let's reduce the cost by eliminating all the profits.

The govt is so much more efficient than the private sector. That will solve everything.

Christ, what stupidity.

Typical comment from someone too lazy to do their own research.

Typical comment from someone too lazy to do their own research.

Can't resist this one. I've spent 25 years working in healthcare finance. The crap I see spewed by the likes of socialists like Krugman is mind boggling.

I do my "research" every day. And I don't mean reading that dopes blog like you do.

SeanTOD, your replies reminds me of the old Upton Sinclair quote: "It is impossible to make a man understand something his salary depends on him not understanding"

I assume you are defending "free market" health care...good luck with that. Most free marketeers can not actually define a "free market". To paraphrase Adam invisible hand Smith: for a market to be free, it must have a seller who may refuse to sell and a buyer who can decline to buy.

The reason medical care inflation is running 2-5 times the rate of inflation in the rest of the economy is that health care is NOT a free market. The seller of health care cannot decline to sell, nor can the buyer refuse to buy.

It is always a good idea to challenge core assumptions

"The seller of health care cannot decline to sell, nor can the buyer refuse to buy."

so why are $40 million people uninsured?

Have you visited any emergency rooms lately, especially in public hospitals...lots of uninsured people getting care from sellers who cannot refuse to sell. Their care may be poor and too late, but doctors and nurses don't turn many people in need of care away.

The poor don't stay home and die instead of seeking care they cannot afford.

the hospitals get paid for the care they provide but often because they can't afford it the poor don't get medical care UNTIL they show up at the emergency room.

my friend put off shoulder surgery for years until he got a health plan.

The govt is so much more efficient than the private sector.

Study after study shows that gov't healthcare in the industrialized world is more efficient. Look at the rankings of who has the best health care system. we rank well behind the rest of the industrialized world.

When it comes to your health who do you want to make you decisions? A faceless cubicle dweller trying to get a bonus for denying you coverage because his bosses want to beat the street's number or your doctor?

the market is not more efficient when it comes to health care. that is clearly demonstrated.

You ought to come to England. Our healthcare systmem is fully state owned, designed by a marxist and based on the soviet model. It is widely regarded as the most inefficiant in the developed world. Expenditure in the last 10 years has doubled but it hasn't improved and management is chaotic. words like crisis are continually used to describe it.

How about removing the portion that goes to corporate profit?

*clap* *clap*

Yup, something the braying animals who are wanting to play El Jefe are talking about.

IIRC the health insurance started out as community based non-profit. Unfortunately politicians saw all the money changing hands and thought they could get a piece of the action if they removed the non-profit status.

Sean: The number often quoted is that 50% of the revenue is taken by the insurance industry (a glorifed middleman). Where do you draw the line? Would it be OK if 95% of health care costs went to the connected middlemen and 5% to the actual health care providers?

Sean: The number often quoted is that 50% of the revenue is taken by the insurance industry

Yes. I just bought tix to an NBA game. The damn owner of the team took 100% of the revenue. That bastard. He's just a middleman. All I want to do is see the 24 players for christ sake. Why can't I just pay the players?

I bet that ticket would cost 50% less if I could just cut a deal directly with the players.

The key is whether similar countries - Canada and the EU - are getting lower costs. Which is not true for food or oil, but does seem to be true for routine medical care. Medical markets are highly artificial.

The key is whether similar countries - Canada and the EU - are getting lower costs. Which is not true for food or oil, but does seem to be true for routine medical care. Medical markets are highly artificial.

My last post on this. One of the most profitable markets for US Hospitals is Canadian patients. The Northern Tier hospitals have them coming over the border for care thay have to wait in line for in Canada. They pay cash. In Canada there was a case of a man going to a Vet to get an MRI because he had such a long wait at his hospital. And my favorite story is the Canuck from one of the maritime provinces who committed an armed robbery in Toronto so he could be put into the prison system and receive care he was having to wait for at home.

The Canadian govt has made it illegal to provide care for a fee. They know that if people are able to choose better care they will be willing to pay for it and that will undermine their whole socialist workers paradise house of cards.

Bad care for all, even the rich. At least the rich who don't come to the US for care. You get what you pay for in Canada.

Indeed, and you don't get what you don't pay for in the states.
Children going without health and dental care in a country that so pompously pronounces it's glory to the rest of the world is an amazing testament.

As a Canadian, let me tell you that this is sheer nonsense. There are indeed instances where patients are sent to US hospitals, and other cases where patients themselves want to "jump the queue" and get preferential treatment they can pay for, and so head south. It's also true that people complain about the system, as they do in every country.

But virtually no Canadians would trade our healthcare system for the US system, and health care is one of the things Canadians like best about Canada. Even the most right-wing of Canadian politicians vows to defend the system from US-style medicine.

And anyone who can describe Canada as a "socialist workers paradise house of cards" is clearly a complete ignoramus.

Laurie: IMO, Sean is not an ignoramus-he has existed as a parasite for 25 years and he is fiercely defending his turf.

Laurie, very well said.

Medical costs in Canada are balooning owing to increase prices in medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and administrative wages. However, most Canadians look south and wonder how such a insurance-riddled, private-user paid, and publicly subsidized (federal and state) monstrosity that consumes 14% of GDP yet leaves 40 million citizens without coverage can ever be justified. The US does many things well, but Americans can keep their healthcare system. It is not the envy of the industrialized world.

Yes there are waiting times in Canada but this is in large part due to medicare's universal application. Everybody uses the services provided, period. If you're ill, you seek treatment.

In some areas of economic life, less government is not best, it's anarchy. Taxes are the price one pays to be a member of a civilized society.

And ditto, Laurie, about any delusions of Canada being a "socialist workers house of cards".

Canadian live 2 years longer that people in the USA, and have a lower infant mortality rate.
These are the 2 standards of judging the health of a Nation, and US fails miserably against almost any first wold democracy, and many third world countries.

Laurie, I don't know where in Canada you are from but from my perspective in western Canada we may not want the US system but the current system is not something to defend. In Calgary last weekend there was a 24 hour wait in the emergency room. Our system should not be the measuring stick

ergman, east coast perspective here.

Alberta is undergoing a chronic shortage of healthcare professionals as well as practically all other service sector workers as the incoming stream of residents outpaces services. It does not surprise me to hear about 24 hour waits in emergency rooms in Calgary.

My sister has been an emergency room nurse in northern Alberta (Grande Prairie) for years. Keeping up a supply of skilled medical staff is an ongoing problem.

In Nova Scotia, the waiting times for non-life threatening triaged patients is several hours. I've heard of people waiting as long as six hours for a cold, but anyone having chest or radiating pain is seen in minutes.

The Canadian system is not perfect... I'm one of the first to rail against hospital and medical top-heavy administration and speedy bed rotations, there is definite room for improvement... and other industrial countries have far more extensive coverage for fewer public funds, but in comparison with the US system, I'll take our publicly funded system any day.

ZTP, I appreciate your perspective but what bothers me her in Canada is that we consider any new ideas in the health care system as a non starter or immediately dismiss anybody who suggests any changes to our system. Suggesting changes or improvements in our system is like calling someone a racist. The discussion is over and we are no longer in a rational conversation. Often the conversation proceeds exactly like this thread ..." We dont want to end up like the America system" rather than trying to make real improvements.


I don't wish to diminish Canada's fine reputation (or lack of it) to others, but I share with you the frustration over the pervasive "political corrective" that colours a wide range of debate over various issues in Canada. My perspective on our much (and sometimes too much) lauded medical system is from a somewhat pragmatic attitude. Keep the parts that work, reform the parts that don't. There is always, and I mean always, room for improvement.

I was attending a Capital Health (fancy word for Halifax area hospital administration) meeting and I mused out loud that there should be allowances made in the system for not-for-profit and private innovations to help cover escalating costs. I might as well have said we should reintroduce slavery. But then again, I'm not paid by the medical system so my paycheque doesn't depend on maintaining the status quo.

Whenever anyone is up against entrenched vested interests - and not all of them are as benign or ultruistic as they fool themselves into believing - then alternative voices are going to be silenced.

I don't like to be silenced.

A few years back, I was perusing my late Dad's wallet and came across the hospital receipt for when I was born in 1961. It was for $7. He worked for the coal company and the local hospital was run by the Coal Miners' Union. Most other hospitals in the area were run by churches. Non-union members had to pay substantially more in fees for baby delivery coverage - in some cases over $100.

But I shudder to think how much that bill would be today. And I shudder to think how much more inequitable the system would have become without medicare.

I am thankful that the Canada Health Act was introduced when it was. But it's certainly not, IMO, the end of an evolving story.

What I'm pondering is what the system will look like if TSHTF. Advances in medicine over the past few decades have been almost entirely depended on industrial development and large system growth. With financial markets in turmoil, with oil prices racing to new heights, and pending potential inflationary/deflationary pressures on both the private and public sectors, it may yet again be time for not-for-profit organizations and private or community players to be active.

How does one plan for a future that will be different than now? How ready are any of us for the challenges facing us on the horizon?

All food for thought and all worthwhile topics for serious reflection.

I live in east coast Canada and almost everyone I know, including me, think that our medical system has worked very well as Zadok described. There are some people who need extensive medical, and the waiting times are not good, but there are good efforts to get the treatments for them. They don't loose their life's savings, or insurability, as in some other countries.

By the way, Zadok_the_Priest , I am in Sydney. Can you tell me whereabouts you are, or email ??


I'm in Windsor, but originally from the Industrial Cape Breton area. Born in Sydney Mines, grew up in Sydney.


Well it looks like the great divide that is Canada is alive in healthcare. My experience is from Alberta and Saskatchewan and I do not recall anyone giving our healthcare system a satisfactory or better grading -either those in it the system or being served by it.

Sean TOd- do you have any numbers on how many americans leave the US for treatment? there is a term for it. it's called medical tourism. Americans are flying to India for surgery.


That bit abour Carnouks in the US reminds me of something that happens in Britain. You get reports about British patiants going to India and South Africa for operations. German hospitals are touting for British business. Recently a cancer patiant who wanted to buy a certain drug was told she would forfeit NHS treatment if she did so. Canada's surely better.

The only solution to this problem is to reverse what two things that Greenspan recommended: turn short term adjustable rate mortgages into long term mortgages, and then reduce the worker's portion of the social security tax dramatically

That wouldn't work because:

1. Credit is drying up, and the mortage rates (even for AAA borrowers) are soaring. In a few months its likely Mortages will be into the high 8% to low 9% range. the GSE's are in trouble as the loan dequiencies and defaults are soaring. We also have rising unemployment that will execerbate the problem as more people are unemployed or under employed. Consumer spending is cooling of very fast as the source of credit that fueled spending is dissapearing. Not only are consumers unable to tap credit to spend, they now need to starting paying down debt (even less money avail. for spending).

2. Homes are over prices and so are the property taxes. People will continue to walk away because, its no longer a sound investment. Citys and Towns will be reluctant to cut taxes because they too went on a debt binge and have bond payments to make. There were a lot of folks that also purchase second homes or investment properties speculating ever increasing home prices. No matter what happens rental charges will remain low simply because of the enormous excess supply of housing. Those with secondary or investment properties will dump them, because there is no point on keeping them if they can't make money.

3. Social Security outlays are now rising much faster because the boomers are now retiring. Costs will continue to rise and sometime between 2012 and 2014, Outlays will exceed revenues. The gov't will need to raise SS revenue. For the last 8 years, the SS cap has been rising steadity for 2008 the cap is $102K. in 1999, the cap was about $65K. Which means anyone making over $100K (including married couples) has seen their SS tax payments rise by about 40%.

The US (as well as the EU and most industrialized nations) face a "triple wammy" (thats a technical term for we're all screwed).

1. Loss of Credit do to the world wide housing\commerical real estate bubble\Leverage Buy outs\etc. Credit is drying up and the risks for loans is soaring. No matter what investors are going to demand much, much higher interest premiums for the loans the make. This is going to crush consumers and businesses that depend on credit.

2. Aging populations. Every old industrialized nation has a large workforce that is approuching retirement. These folks have been promised huge gov't and non-gov't (pensions) entitlements. Every nation is going to face a burden as these folks start tapping into thier entitlements. Younger workers will face a double burden of paying much higher taxes to pay for these entitlements as well as save for thier own retirement because gov'ts around the world are raising the minimum retirement age. Anyone born after 1960 in the US is screwed because they will never be elegible for entitlements as gov't continue to raise the minimum retirement age.

3. Global shortages. We are already facing severe shortages of food, water, and energy as a combination of climate change, increasing population and depleting resources puts a crimp. These will continue to worsen as energy shortages become worse because of depletion and climate change.

4. Rise of malnutrition and disease in the poorest regions of the world. The high cost of food, energy and water is already driving some regions over the edge. People in these regions will become refugees, carrying with them disease and destabilizing forces as other regions are unable to cope with a large influx of refugees. Eventually the refugees will reach the industrialized nations.

5. Destabilizing Geopolitical forces caused by resource shortages. Lack of food, energy, and water resources will drive gov'ts to use any means to get for their population. Internal political disputes will create internal destablizing forces as minor parties take to the streets and gain support. Some of theses parties will not have the knowledge and skill required to address resource shortages. They will be quick to act on ill-planed schemes that only worsen the problems. Other regions may turn clanish as groups try to secure resources for their own group at the expense of others groups. This will lead to civil war (see the former Yugosalvic states). We will likely see militaristic gov'ts rise as some nations turn to marshall law in order to bring about domestic order. Some will will these types of gov't also lack the knowledge and skills to solve problems and will likely turn to force to bring about order or make poor decisions that worsen the conditions. Its also likely that these militaristic nations will go to war with neighbors to obtain resources or simple invade them to prevent refugees or insurgents operating beyond the nations borders.

".....social security outlays are now rising ...."
why cant we pay for it the same way bush has paid for most everything else, ............more debt ?

There's a story in today's NYT on the same subject:


E. Swanson

From the NYT story:

“People can’t believe this is happening to them,” said Robert Moulton, president of the Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset, N.Y.

I guess those would be the people who believed Yergin, et al, and didn't believe the guys in "End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion & the Collapse of the American Dream."

KARE UPDATE 1-GMAC, ResCap cut deeper into junk status by S&P - 1 hour ago
NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters) - GMAC LLC and its Residential Capital LLC mortgage unit were downgraded several notches deeper into junk status by Standard ...

GM and Ford might as well liquidate now.

A number of my friends were affected by the most recent layoffs announced this week by GMAC. Amazingly enough, they're relieved, as finally they know whether or not they're going to go.. It's all been up in the air for some time now.

An army of attorneys is on the move to keep home owners from foreclosure and in their homes...Predicated on the fact that lots of paperwork concerning mortagages and assignments cannot physically be found and placed before judges at foreclosure hearings. This trend by judges to dismiss claims by mortgage holders without the proper paperwork to support thier claims is spreading quickly. Guess who is making tons of money? Could a law firm bubble be the next big one? :)


'Banks Lose to Deadbeat Homeowners as Loans Sold in Bonds Vanish

By Bob Ivry

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Joe Lents hasn't made a payment on his $1.5 million mortgage since 2002.

That's when Washington Mutual Inc. first tried to foreclose on his home in Boca Raton, Florida. The Seattle-based lender failed to prove that it owned Lents's mortgage note and dropped attempts to take his house. Subsequent efforts to foreclose have stalled because no one has produced the paperwork.

``If you're going to take my house away from me, you better own the note,'' said Lents, 63, the former chief executive officer of a now-defunct voice recognition software company.'...snip...

Absolutely brilliant!

One would think those who bought the mortgage bundles would have been more careful about the paperwork. Being careful about paperwork means hiring people to actually check the details which would cut the rate of return. What happened is they played the percentages that default rates would be low and few people would challenge them in court. When gas prices were $1.50/gal and unemployment rates low it was a winning bet. Gas at $3/gal, rising unemployment, and rising interest rates paying that ARM is no longer that likely. With good paying manufacturing jobs and now construction jobs disappearing there are even fewer folks to sell a house to. This is a situation where good government regulations could have helped investors but with the GOP the enemy of good government those regulations were never implemented.

Lenders fighting mortgage rewrite

WASHINGTON - The nation's largest lending institutions are lobbying hard to block a proposal in Congress that would give bankruptcy judges greater latitude to rewrite mortgages held by financially strapped homeowners.

...The legislation would allow bankruptcy judges for the first time to alter the terms of mortgages for primary residences. Under the proposal, borrowers could declare bankruptcy, and a judge would be able to reduce the amount they owe as part of resolving their debts.

So who ends up owning the houses?

Lets pretend for a moment that peak oil is real. Price inflation cuts budgets. Cut budgets means smaller and smaller portion that can be applied to mortgages. Thus housing prices must fall as oil declines. (I think we all agree on that bit). Say the ELP 50% drop in income happens. Eventually everyone who has not paid off their home gets forced into foreclosure.

So who ends up owning the houses? Does the bank finally give up on the mortgage business and settle down to become a landlord over thousands of properties it has no chance of selling for decades?

Or do prices crash until they are way below value and people buy in then? If they slowly sink, then anyone who tries to buy in at the "bottom" discovers they were actually at the "top" and loses investment and is eventually forced out.

Anyone who is an owner (fully paid) and needs to move to get near work has to sell into a declining market.

Hmmm. Can we work out the dynamic forces that will be present?

Borrowers underwater on loans will not be able to sell until foreclosed (keeps home price up, market freeze).
Increasing price inflation pushes more borrowers into foreclosure. (pushes home prices down).
Oil rationing forces borrowers and owners to sell homes to stay near work. (pushes home prices down).
Buyers refuse to buy into a falling market (pushes home prices down, market freeze).
New homes cannot be built for cost lower than materials (keeps home prices up) End of new construction.
Splitting homes allows purchase by multiple parties (keeps home prices up by doubling # buyers).
Empty homes are damaged or salvaged (keeps home prices up as home come off market).
Foreclosed borrowers need to rent(rent prices go up).
Price inflation cuts budgets of renters (rent prices go down).
Price inflation cuts savings of renters, fewer can make down payment (home prices down).

Can anyone think of other dynamics?

The banks have still not made known how much and which bad assets they are holding...True, the banks have written down a bit of junk... but bankruptcy judges writing down home mortages to keep people in their homes would force the banks to mark their junk to market...while banks are still waiting for the tooth fairy to arrive and save their butts. Link is to an interesting interview between Maria Bartalomo at squeek blab and Meredith Whitney (Oppenheimer economist that made first call on Citi dividend cut). Interview can be read or watched. Ms Whitney calls em like she sees em.


...snip...'If these assets were truly marked to market banks would be indifferent to whether they hold them or sold them. Obviously they are not indifferent. THE FACT THEY ARE HOLDING IT MEANS THEY HAVE SOME HOPE THAT THESE ASSETS WILL RECOVER. (caps mine)

If they had sold these assets 6 months ago they probably would have gotten 50-75% more than they can sell these assets for today. When they do finally come up for sale there is going to be a supply jam that will drive these prices even lower.

That is just one part of banks problem. The other part of the problem is loss curves. Loans they have on balance sheets are accelerating in terms of losses and these banks are under reserved for those loans. So capital issues surround these banks all over the place and a couple of banks are at particular risk'...snip...

Having self installed a 2kW PV array, it will still take at least 14 years to pay off, presuming moderate utility rate increases. If I had paid an installer and designer...well, that's why there aren't any PV systems anywhere else in my neighborhood.

This is with an approximate 40% subsidy from various sources. My system was sized to only prevent me from reaching the top tier energy rates, clearly not to offset all my energy needs. Somewhat perverse, I am forced to be a strong consumer of energy to make PV financially viable. If I consumed under the baseline, paying (and getting paid) $0.08-$0.09 a kWh, PV would never pay itself off.

Note that the smaller (and more efficient) your dwelling is, the lower your energy needs--whether it is from conventional energy sources or from PV, wind, etc.

I wrote a missive last year about "Tiny Houses," in the 100 to 200 square foot range. They are looking more and more attractive as time goes on. Think of it in terms of the living space in the typical sailboat that one would use for an extended cruise. Of course, in a lot of areas zoning restrictions would interfere, but zoning is one of the many things that will be changing.

in the 100 to 200 square foot range.

Sound like the size of the old miners cottages here and they had large families in those days. Of course they also had a large living room ... it just had no walls, a dirt floor and the ceiling leaked very badly when it rained:)

Micro cottage. future peak oil housing?


Can't remember if I mentioned this before, Jeffrey, but my living space is 120 square feet. It's the smaller of my two boats. The big one doubles as my bad-weather workshop. The energy demand for living in this space is minute, compared even to my partner's house, and that's on the modest size, even by British standards.

All through this Winter (such as it was here) I've kept the cabin toasty warm by going out with the dogs once a day into one of the local woods and bringing back about 15 to 20 pounds of dead wood for my woodstove. I cook on that too. That amount keeps the stove fed for 24 hours. This is my older design of stove. My newer design, based on a conflation of the rocket stove design variants of Larry Winiarski and Ianto Evans, will at least halve the fuel demand, and keep a lot more of the flue-gas heat stored within the cabin, rather than vented. Even at my present rate of Winter usage, I'm never going to even catch up with the amount of firewood the woods here produce spontaneously: constant superabundance.

My total electricity usage is one low-energy bulb, computer, radio, electric kettle, high-efficiency washing machine, welder and a range of hand-held power tools which get used intermittently. The bill comes to pennies a week -- literally -- and is collected by the boatyard manager once every couple of years.

Sure, this is an atypical lifestyle. But my point is not to suggest that everyone should live like this, but to be assured that living at this modest level is comfortable, satisfying, and fully-provided with all the things I really need to be at ease (oddly enough, the washing machine, which I got finally eighteen months back, is the real boon). It's also dirt-cheap, compared to my friends, who have to find all the costs of running houses where virtuallly every one of them has to service more floor space -- and therefore heated volume -- than they really need.

Another great thing about living in this level of compact space is that there's still plenty of stowage for absolutely everything that you really need, and you get into a settled habit of ruthless triage about what are needs and what are just wants. I wouldn't change it.

For everyone contemplating either a forced or a voluntary drastic down-sizing of your living space, don't worry! The end result is a considerable sense of liberation from unnecessary burdens, and no genuine loss of the real needs of life at all.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from SNS--Spousal Nesting Syndrome--which places a current lower limit on our square footage, but hope springs eternal.

As I have previously (and not originally) discussed, the US housing bubble had a lot of similarities to Tulipomania, in that vast sums of money were spent on ornamental consumption. Once one has the essentials taken care of, excess living space is a consumption item, a want instead of a need, and more and more people are beginning to realize it.

For those of us with non-tiny-houses, it probably would be a good idea to have a contingency plan for remodeling to carve out an apartment or something that could be rented. There apparently isn't going to be much of anything done to keep foreclosed people in their homes, and eventually all those vacant houses are not going to be rented out, they are just going to be stripped and trashed, and probably burned. (Arson to collect insurance is going to be the next big thing, look for the headlines this summer. You heard it here first.) People are going to need someplace they can rent. This could be a real lifesaver for those that are trying to hold on to their houses.

I'd size up a little for two people. But it is easy to make a 350 square foot house, with a sleeping loft. That's pretty roomy, actually.

I've posted this design before:


I don't know if it was clear the first time that the walls are normally plastered with either a natural plaster (cob) or something you buy at Home Depot. This uses a shed roof, but I'd make a peaked roof to create a sleeping loft space. You can then use the roof to collect rainwater for a cistern.

This is larger than a sailboat, but considering the superinsulation (R-40+ walls) it would be as easy to easier to heat.

You could then add a storage shed for extra stuff. $1200 buys you a pretty nice shed.

I lived for three years in a 250 square foot studio in Tokyo that I shared with my girlfriend (now wife), and I believe it was the best place I've ever lived. Fabulous neighborhood, and like you say liberation from all the crap. My rent was $300 a month (my girlfriend paid the other half), plus $100 for utilities, plus another $100 or so for a monthly subway pass. State health care. Thus, for $500 a month all my living and transport expenses were paid for. Everything else was just food and fun money. We had a lot of fun!

This was in one of the best neighborhoods of one of the most expensive cities in the world.

About 5.5x15=83sq ft with shared bath and loft bed, girl friend and I mid-1970s in Los Angeles neighborhood near everything we needed. Both worked, studied and kept busy into wee hours.
The old aristocratic house had been divided into about 8 apts on 2 floors and attic. Ours was on 1st floor off kitchen in former "butler's pantry". Our own copper basin, coffee pot and hot plate were luxuries.

We split $75 rent and year later split apart. Still a loving memory of what's possible.

btw, we saved and always had money in pocket to buy whatever was needed at anytime, even repairs on the ol' Dodge wagon. The "butler's pantry" was for studying, sleeping and loving. We were busy, expanding our lives, helping others and very happy.
Be it clearly noted that our individual health and happiness dominated all other considerations.

you know, it occurs to me, and I'm sure this is not an original idea, that it is past time for American housing (at least in suburban, exurban, and rural areas)to bifurcate--one space for humans and one for our 'stuff'...stuff really does have minimal heating and air circulation needs, no light requirements, etc. Actual living space could rather easily be dramatically reduced if people weren't factoring in closets, hallways, attics, basements, crawl-spaces, etc. 200 sq ft could be made acceptable to millions of people if they had a secure, detached or semi-detached 1200 sq ft garage/closet/pantry/library/laundryroom. I mean, let's face it, that's what the future holds for many of us anyway, huddled up in 2 rooms with the rest of the house sealed off and the central heating turned on only occasionally to prevent mildew. So why not little 'stuff houses', additional carbuncles to the visual blight of American suburbia?

Perfect idea. My wife and I have friends who have a small immaculate house to live in, and a couple unheated barns for their "stuff". Energetically, it's perfect. Well, it'd be better for the planet not to have so much stuff, but it's actually more efficient to 'save' stuff than to constantly consume it.

Where we are now, in Hawaii, is a bit different. The constrainin factor is really the amount of land you are allowed to enclose, since neither heating nor cooling is required... just keeping the rain off. Still, I wish we were zoned for a barn.

Greenish, Where in Hawaii? We are on Kauai

Tiny houses sounds like those in Hoovervilles from the 30s. I guess they would be called Bushvilles today.

I think it was souperman who coined the term shruburbs

Now 100 to 200 sq ft is a bit much (I don't mean that literally). Realistically a 1000 sq ft home could be very doable for most folks. I think that there's a real market for high quality, energy efficent small homes that has yet to be tapped in the US. And as mentioned, even that is not up to the required footage in most communities. My place is 1088 sq ft and more than I need (but paid for).

A few years back I picked up a very interesting book with the imaginative title of "More Small Homes" by, I believe, Tauton Press (or something like that). The homes were typically around 1000 sq ft and ranged from beautiful to the totally weird. One house was around 900 sq ft and had three floors.

For people already on the grid, often the biggest economic advantage is from behaving AS IF you have a 1kW-2kW system, which is to say, reducing daily consumption to about 3-6 kwh/day.

Well, how long will it take to pay off granite countertops in your kitchen, compared say with Formica?

There is something very good about building a small, comfortable, efficient home and powering it as much as possible with energy that is locally produced. The "payback" time is really sort of irrelevant in the overall scheme of things -- monetary systems will come and go as we are seeing right now in the meltdown of the global "western" economies.

I don't thing you can measure that "goodness" in dollars -- if something just feels right, it is right.


The payback question would only be sensible if it was also applied to all our other purchases, both necessary AND frivolous. Did they calculate the payback on upgrading our TV's to digital and suggest that 'the economics just aren't there'.. Unless you're renting out freezer-space or bartering your vacuum cleaner for food, is there ANYTHING in our houses that ever actually pays for itself, or is it simply an expense you accepted? (I rent out 2/3 of my building, so the answer is, of course more nuanced..)

The gas generator might be the first to be weighed for its comparative payback potential. In a blackout, are you going to be comparing the cost of the gas you siphoned from the car to keep the Gennie running? Probably not, since you are just trying to 'keep things going' ("Priceless") .. while to extend the comparison, you would never or VERY rarely use that generator just for day to day power, right? I think PV's cost benefits as both daily and emergency power could get counted in more 'credit' columns than they currently are..


This is not a fair comparison. Granite countertops bring their owner additional value in terms of aesthetics or comfort. You may claim that these are not essential values, but this would be within your value system, not their owners.

On the other hand installing a pricey PV system does not bring any additional value to its owner other than the feel-good notion that you are producing clean energy by yourself. It can be asked though, aren't there better ways to spend those 10 or 20K (plus a good chunk of taxpayers money) than for PV? Insulating your house or even paying a surcharge to your utility for using renewable energy is likely to have many times greater impact.

But you can not show those to your neighbors, can you?

So you can defend the expense of a Granite countertop (which of course you can also 'show to your neighbors'... and maybe get a better resale on your home perhaps) because of 'Aesthetics and Comfort' and such intangibles in one's value system, but those froofy 'Style-points' don't count as 'feel-good' elements as much as a piece of equipment that is primarily functional, regardless of how gratifying it might also be to know that you've preempted a bunch of polluting and energy dependency that you had before?

The choice to do insulation instead is a false choice. Every installer I ever hear from insists on people looking at their efficiency first. They know they will have a better chance at selling a $15k system than a $50K system, and they are generally strong advocates of wise energy use, as well. This is clearly a Both/And.. not an Either/Or.


related article..
"Home systems are still rare, so their value is difficult to assess, but home appraisers follow this general rule of thumb: Half the gross cost can be recouped in the home sales price as soon as it is installed. True, that's well below the recovery rates for kitchens and bathrooms (which range from 70 to 90 percent), but your kitchen doesn't pay the power bills."

"And solar's ability to lower energy costs also adds value. A study in Appraisal Journal found that for every utility-bill dollar saved annually because of an improvement, you gain $10 to $20 in property value. So if you can zero out a $1,000 annual electric tab by installing solar, you'll get back $10,000 to $20,000 in home value. "

No I do not defend anything and I'm not explaining mine value system here.

I am just trying to show how the majority of people would approach this problem - this is what matters here and you don't have the right to impose your value judgments on others. If for you the self-awareness that you eliminate some pollution is more important than aesthetics and comfort, then go for it and buy those panels. But 99% of the people won't make this choice - not because they don't care about the environment but because they can't justify the expense within their limited budget.

You of course are right that insulation should come first, but again most people are on budget. It is easy to joggle high moral values around, but we seem to be forgetting that most people can not afford neither PV, nor insulation nor granite table tops (BTW those will also increase your house value, so there is no apparent PV advantage here).

Conservation is a good thing, but paying a surcharge for green energy depends on my believing that a utility corporation isn't a lying pack of Enronistas who are actually turning only 10-20% of what I contribute to actual wind turbines. I'm paying on a wind energy plan with Reliant in Houston now, but I know perfectly well that the wind is all in West Texas, and there are no power lines to seriously exploit it. It's just greenwashing, in a state run by people who will never change. PV is an act of rebellion against those people and their system.

What they most likely do is buying ROCs with your money. I think you may be relatively certain than this wind power is produced somewhere. I don't believe they would risk the law suits if such a fraud is revealed.

That's some pretty funny reasoning there, LevinK. "Granite countertops bring their owner additional value in terms of aesthetics or comfort" but feeling good about producing your own energy does not? Knowing that you're not contributing (as much) to GW does not?

By the same token, you ask if insulation or buying green power aren't a better use of funds than PV, but you do not ask if there is a better use of funds than granite countertops that are oftentimes rarely used?

First point: Adding a good PV system does increase the value of a house.
Second point: Power failures do occur and these days it also means losing heat because gas, propane, and oil furnaces need electricity to operate. I have designed a solar heating system for the house I am buying which I can build myself for under $1000. I doubt I could add a wood burner for that price.

Having self installed a 2kW PV array, it will still take at least 14 years to pay off, presuming moderate utility rate increases.

Are you selling your RECs yet?

The professor's report sounds like he's trying to drum up $ for his institute. His words are pathetic in my opinion.

PV is financially viable today.

Do you have anything to back your claims other than calling him "pathetic"?

There was a long thread in yesterday's Drumbeat with the bottom line being that even with all the subsidies (where available), PV is long way from being financially viable.

Unless people put money into it before it is viable, it will never become viable.

At the point fossil fuels drop back to EROI of 5-10 (roughly where solar is today) they will be nearly exhausted and there will be no time for a switch. The problem is the market does not look forward 30 years and say, "we will need 11 Quads of solar so the price needs to change now". No, it will gladly lead you down a path to dependence and self destruction.

Stuart's post on a bright solar future was totally dependent on getting more megawatts of solar installed to push us further down the learning curve toward truly cheap solar power.

Unless people put money into it before it is viable, it will never become viable.

So how much needs to be put in? This argument has been used for decades now and we are already seeing billions spent to improve technology, which may very well turn a dead end. I am all out for supporting an emerging technology, but before the public starts fueling money in commercializing it, it must be proven that it at least has the potential to live through its promises. The other way leads very quickly to corruption on a very large scale.

"PV ...[Not] financially viable." If you had no electricity, how much would you be willing to pay to have it? Or would you be willing to live 100% without it? I was once too poor to afford my rent, food and electric bill en toto; so, I lived without electricity for 3 months so I could save enough to allow me to afford it. As a result, to be able to refrigerate and freeze foodstuffs and cook them, IMO, is priceless, along with its ability to run the small machines that greatly increase human productivity in any cottage industry. And the older I get, the more important having electricity becomes.

Remember, there's a reason the road to Olduvai Gorge begins with electrical power failures.

Like someone else said - if the grid fails, the fact you will not have electricity will be the least of your problems. If this was my primary concern and I assigned close to 1 probability for it happening in the foreseeable future, there would be one hundred things on my list prior to PV - finding closed nit community, buying food, fuel, arms, ammunitions and all the rest on the survivalist list.

But of course people have the right to choose what to worry about.

Hmm.... Already have close-nit community, grow food and fuel feedstock, own arms and ammo., Having electricity allows for the continuance of community, enhances food and feedstock growth and processing, and allows for the construction of arms and manufacture of ammo. And yes, I have chosen what to worry about.

The grid actually did fail in the NE US a couple years ago. Some people were without power for something like two weeks. The last time our local corner of the grid failed (for 44 hours), the neighbors all got together to help each other. Those with generators filled water containers for those without. People who had functioning freezers stored perishables for others.

To portray the grid as either up or a massive catastrophe is the fallacy of the excluded middle. The grid won't collapse completely one day and never come back. What we will see is a slow deterioration of the grid over a period of years.

I am in the process of downsizing my life. However, I still want water and some electricity, and I don't think the fossil fuel supply is going to be reliable enough for a fossil fuel generator. Today, I think your only alternative is local generation through solar, wind, and water. Most of us don't have water, and a lot of us don't have much wind.

Most of US does not have too good insulation either, so solar is hardly the best option ever.

If your worry indeed is a deteoriating grid the most rational thing to do is buy a diesel generator and store substantial amount of fuel. You can then incrementally complement it with solar panels and batteries in case FF supply indeed turns out unreliable. Or you can buy large enough UPS to get you through the outages - the most straightforward solution.

Consider the cost of self-sufficient solar-only alternative - the panels will be 10-20K and the batteries will weight on pretty much the same amount. You will also find it hard to get by in prolonged outages in winters, when in most places you may rely on maximum a quarter of the summer peak output. Producing your own electricity makes as much sense as producing your own water or food - it's good, but you must be willing to invest a lot of your time/money etc. in it. Hardly worthed nowadays IMO and I am humble enough to admit that my utility will be much better at it.

Hooray LevinK for stone counter tops, be they of granite or cement/aggregate. Though Fee Hi say sum, They store the heat to warm my bones. (and cool them in summer).

There was a long thread in yesterday's Drumbeat with the bottom line being that even with all the subsidies (where available), PV is long way from being financially viable.

Did you read my comments in yesterday's DrumBeat?


Why do you have an agenda against solar electric systems? Is it because of your pro-nuclear agenda?

I have as much anti-PV agenda as you have a pro-PV agenda.

I simply happen to agree that rooftop PVs currently are financial losers. I've looked at the numbers and they don't add. I also happen to oppose heavily subsidized solutions. I don't live in a good solar insulation area and I can't currently afford PV. Why should I pay through my taxes for someone else's "increase of house value"?

As far as my agenda - I support anything that is pollution free and it works. Yes, this puts nuclear on the top of my list but it is definitely not the only one. For example solar through systems with thermal storage are an order of magnitude more practical than rooftop PVs.

RE Solar power as economic loser.

This seems hardly relevant. Depending on an outdated grid which is certain to go down at one point is more relevant. Solar may just keep your private lights on. (Yes I know, you're easy to point out by the angry hoards, but you could blind the windows)

Solar panels draw less attention to your powered home than a loud generator. *grin*

Borenstein's paper, "The Market Value and Cost of Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Product" is available HERE.

As for the angry hoards, they are already at work. It's just that they haven't knocked on your front door yet.

Seven people tied up in South San Jose home invasion robbery

E. Swanson

These robbers weren't coming for the food or the seeds. If they knock on my door I wish them well stealing the piano.

Any robbers looking to get lots of heavy-weighted metals from me won't get any gold, but will get a lot of lead instead!

He's talking about current solar PV technology, not solar power in general. If you're worried about the grid going down, buy a generator. It's still cheaper with a better payoff than solar. If you're worried about people stealing your generator, put it in a locked cabinet. If you're worried about "zombie hordes" targeting you for using a generator, buy a good muffler for it. It's still a better payoff than current solar PV. Climate change? Put in better insulation, better appliances, and compact fluorescents - still a better payoff.

Borenstein is calling for more research, so he isn't saying that the whole concept is a waste of money, just that investing in current PV equipment isn't a good use of money. Kurzweil is saying essentially the same thing. Spend the extra money on research instead and we'll have the expense problem solved in a few years.

What if you're worried about the grid going down and gas being horribly scarce and expensive or just unavailable? Does that make one an idiot, or just ahead of the curve? And what would be the prudent investment under those circumstances?

If you can afford to pay for a decent solar setup, and you really expect the world to fall apart like that, you'd probably be better off buying some land in the country and a bunch of guns. If things get so bad that the electrical grid goes down, you have much more important things to worry about than keeping your computer running, don't you? "I can't buy food, but I can use my solar roof to keep my empty refrigerator running!"

It is funny that people all the times cite "grid failure" as a reason for buying solar PV, while the overwhelming majority of the systems installed are grid-tied. The fact that such system will switch off if the grid indeed fails does not stop them to go on rationalizing their decision with the same argument.

I feel them, because they spend a good chunk of money on this investment - but let's face it, at this point of time a rooftop PV is more a status symbol or a statement if you wish than something that would make a difference. Just think about how many people worldwide could afford it at all... 1-2%? Don't the rest 98-99% need energy too?

"let's face it, at this point of time a rooftop PV is more a status symbol or a statement"

Says you! None of my solar customers would agree with that, and neither do I. (Seriously: do you really think that GW Bush and Dick Cheney have installed solar on their homes because they want it as a status symbol or a statement? If so, you're really kidding yourself.)

Speaking as a former solar system designer and salesperson, I can tell you that the best reason for installing a grid-tied solar system IS economic. With available incentives, most systems pay for themselves within 14-17 years. The systems themselves will produce power for at least 50 years (indeed, they'll still produce a trickle after 100 years, and are warranted for 25), and will return 2x-3x their cost over their lifespans.

But that calculation assumes that grid power costs grow more or less at the historical rate. As the peak-oil aware crowd knows, within 15 years we'll see the peaks of oil, gas, and probably coal and nuclear power as well. This will inevitably cause grid power prices to rise much faster than they have historically. Those with no energy generation will have no choice but to pay or go without power. While those who have bought a solar system will have paid it off and enjoy FREE power.

Write this down: The #1 reason to install solar on your home is COST INSURANCE. You're effectively buying all your power for, say, 50 years up front, and amortizing that cost over a long period of time using a low-interest rate mortgage. While solar may look expensive to some now, a mere one-third of the way through the system's lifespan it will look very cheap indeed.

Solar pays for itself several times over. You can't say that about granite countertops or most other things people choose to invest in for their homes!

Also we should take care to distinguish what we mean by "solar." Grid powered solar is primarily and increasingly provided by CSP, not PV...and the economics are radically better than for residential sized PV systems.

Seriously: do you really think that GW Bush and Dick Cheney have installed solar on their homes because they want it as a status symbol or a statement?

I would say yes, if they actually did install solar on their homes. Well, I don't know about Cheney, but Bush does not have solar power. His house is "passive solar." At one time, they considered solar panels to generate power to run the swimming pool. But they ended up using regular grid electricity for the pool, because solar wasn't feasible.

Thanks for the correction, Leanan. I went from memory on that one. The Bush 41 home in Kennebunkport is the one with solar panels (and I doubt that he did it for prestige even more!). Bush 43 has passive solar, a geothermal heat pump, cistern, etc., and is apparently proud of his energy-conserving home. I wasn't able to confirm that Cheney's home has solar just now but that is my recall, along with lots of other energy-conserving features.

Amazing that this thread about household renewable energy is so negative. Are the people who invest in renewables as part of their personal plan to cut their GHG emissions and increase their energy security all idiots?

Since 2000, I have spent well over $50k on solar PV, wind turbine, batteries, and wood energy, as well as the costs of cutting our electrical consumption by around 90%. We (my spouse and I) didn't go into this thinking we would save any money or that there would be any sort of reasonable pay back period. I treat it as part hobby and part experiment and I can report that it is one of the most rewarding and educational projects I've ever tackled. See:

I don't regret the time and money spent at all. Unlike most of the slick ads for solar panels and wind turbines, my experience is that installing a full set of renewable energy equipment for a house is very messy. It is a lot of work and lots of mistakes get made along the way. It is hard to find reliable professional help, so it feels more like an experiment than a simple turn-key operation.

You can think I'm an idiot if you like, but for an expenditure about the same as for a luxury SUV, we now have intimate knowledge of what it takes to power a household, which in my opinion is much more valuable than the smug opinion that renewables don't make economic sense, while staying plugged into an increasingly unreliable and corrupt grid system.

Actually, you and clifman used the word "idiot", I didn't, and I don't think someone who buys solar PV now is an idiot. I think they are forward-thinking and altruistic, but if they bought solar for a return on investment there were better options. If they bought it as a way to deal with collapse, I doubt it was the best investment as well. OTOH, if you think energy is going to get very expensive but still be available, and you bought it to reduce your GHG emissions, and you live in an area with decent solar resource, I appreciate your contribution. If we had a decent solar resource here, I'd be doing the same thing. I already bike to work and heat my house with wood (we have excellent wood resources here).

Note that Prof. Borenstein isn't calling people who buy solar PV "idiots" either. He's just pointing out that financially it's not a good expenditure at this time.

Hi cutnrun,

I put in a wood stove, chimney installed for 1400 dollars and have saved many dollars as well as a halo for being carbon neutral. Now if I follow your lead I would put in another 48 to 49 thousand? I don't see where that would be of much $ value (leave out good guy and aesthetics attributes here)at a healthy savings rate of 3.5% one would obtain about 1700 dollars a year or about 4 year supply of wood for me, or half my monthly food budget. Now if things don't get too greasy, in the financial world, I could easily double that figure, but if I didn't and instead only cut back on my wood usage from using a four years supply every year to a rather miserly one year supply per the old annum, then that would allow not only my wife and I to keep warm and cozy, but she would get to eat too:)

If things get so bad that the electrical grid goes down, you have much more important things to worry about than keeping your computer running, don't you?

The obvious fact being ignored is that permanent grid failure will most assuredly mean lack of any place to buy replacement parts for the home PV system. How are your skills at building a rectifier in your workshop, or a bank of batteries? It would only be a matter of time before the 'home grid' went down too.

I can see having an off-grid PV system for some reasons. Inability to get grid to a remote location, for example. But mostly it makes sense to be grid tied, possibly with enough battery backup to weather the outages when they occur.

If you're worried about "zombie hordes" targeting you for using a generator, buy a good muffler for it.

What you want to do is to always be just a little bit poorer than your average neighbors in ways that are highly visible yet not really important (AKA "Cheap Chic"), while being just a little bit better off than them in ways that are highly invisible but really quite important. It is foolish to think that you are going to be able to maintain a BAU lifestyle while society is collapsing all around you, I don't care how much firepower and ammo you have stored up.

How can an Indian billionaire get away with building a $1 billion house in India without fear of zombie hordes? Is it a cultural thing?


In poor countries, hired goons are cheap. What's this guy's security force?

Plenty of people have been starving throughout Indian history until recently, and it didn't stop the conspicuous consumption.

The Moghuls were hardly symbols of abstinence, nor the British Raj.

Plenty of famines during both.

The Indian upper class are still tough, and would keep the rabble down.

Having said that, there is a limit, but it is surprisingly high by modern standards - you can actually follow the history of social unrest in times of famine leading to changes of dynasty in the far better records of the Chinese.

Until the Communist revolution most of the rich managed to hang on to their money though through thick and thin,a nd if you look at the party cadres I would guess it would be surprising how many came from relatively well-off backgrounds.

I reckon Donald Trumph feels quite stupid rigth now :-)

My big problem with solar panels is that they don't keep your private lights on, unless you run your private lights in the day time, when the sun is shining.

If you are connected to the grid, the benefit of your solar panels comes during the day time. At night, you are just as dependent on the grid as before. If the grid goes down at night, your lights are out.

Battery back up has lots of difficulties. I understand it approximately doubles the cost of the system. The batteries take quite a bit of space and require lots of maintenance (check water levels once a week). Batteries need to be replaced fairly often -- every eight years, if I remember correctly. I would expect that backup batteries for solar would have some of the same problems as for cars, in terms of not scaling up adequately because of the need for scarce materials. The cost of the batteries would tend to get increasingly high over time.

You can do the batteries cheaper and better than that Gail!

All you need to do is get a bunch of folk together with solar panels, and buy some of those nice vanadium batteries, which are bulky but more cost effective and last longer. You could then do a far better job of smoothing power use than you could on your own!

You could think of some fancy new name for your community based system ...say, a grid!

Not a very good grid of course, as you are running it from a single power source, still have trouble getting much power at night for anything less than a fortune, and are still paying quite staggering amounts of money for not a lot of power, but a grid!

Do you think it will catch on? :-)

I will have to admit my knowledge level of exactly what one needs for battery back up is pretty limited.

When I first learned about peak oil, I thought to myself: This is easy. All I need to do is go out and buy some solar panels and some batteries, and replace the electricity that I am currently using. We use quite a lot of electricity, because we have central air conditioning, electric range, large refrigerator, electric clothes dryer, and an air-source heat pump, among other things. I quickly discovered that it really wasn't feasible to use solar panels and batteries to substitute for what I was currently using.

Finding a spot that was not shaded by neighbors trees and that would get sun from the correct direction would be the first challenge. Then I would need enough total square footage. This could not be accomplished without taking up most of the front yard, and even this would be shaded for part of the day.

The other challenge was the batteries. When I read Q and A's about batteries, I heard what seemed to me to be a lot of problems. People were also talking about much smaller systems than what I would need.

Also, the total cost would be very high. In Georgia, there is little in the way of subsidy available. The battery would make the whole cost even higher. At that time, the rule of thumb I heard was to double the cost, if you were using battery back-up. The back-up would have to be more than overnight--it would also have to last through extended cloudy periods.

A few panels plus a small amount of batteries to power a few lights at night, a portable computer, and perhaps a small refrigerator is probably do-able, in a sunny area without too many trees. Once you start getting into replacing what we have currently, you suddenly run into a large number of problems.

Gail: there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about battery backup, mainly because it's a complex question that involves MANY details.

But just to give you a fr'instance, here are some numbers for a grid-tied solar system with battery backup on a large luxury home that I did last year here in CA.

Total installed system cost: $119K
Rebates: $30K
Net: ~89K
Battery backup system: $9K

The battery backup supports only a subpanel where the "critical loads" are wired, which includes a few circuits in the kitchen for the appliances and some lighting, a circuit to run the furnace fan, a circuit to support the security system, and a couple of other low-amp circuits to run reading lights etc. (e.g., cell phone charger) elsewhere in the house. This is because it makes no sense economically to try to run the whole house on battery backup.

The batteries should be able to support the critical loads for two or three days without any sun. When the sun comes out again, it will recharge the battery backup.

It is anticipated that the battery backup system will be used perhaps two or three times a year for short-term grid interruptions. With so few cycles of the battery system (I believe it was an AGM battery but it might have been gel) it should last 15 years or so. At that point, it should be something that can be replaced for perhaps half of its initial cost, due to vastly improved performance and lower costs over that time period.

The important thing to remember is that there is a world of difference between an off-grid solar system and a grid-connected solar system with battery backup.

Hope that helps!

We use quite a lot of electricity, because we have central air conditioning, electric range, large refrigerator, electric clothes dryer, and an air-source heat pump, among other things.

Gail you provide a perfect example of where we're at.

It's our EXPECTATIONS that will have to change.

Your example is like I have a V8 HUMMER, How am I going to fuel that with ethanol...

You CAN'T provide the electricity you are currently using via PV etc. Alternative Energy by and large means No More;

Electric Clothes dryers
Central Air Conditioning (3000+ sq ft house)
Electric Stove

and other common stuff. We will have to FIRST down scale our needs and uses, THEN find what we can use to power it.

NOT, "Here's what I currently use, how can I power it".

Storage of Energy is THE BIG problem. How can I collect "Energy" and store it WITHOUT loss for extended periods of time. Not Batteries, Not Flywheels etc.

As an example, if I have batteries and they are charged, how can I store my surplus generation without loss. (And NO I don't mean adding more batteries, or sending it to the grid, or heating my hot tub).

I agree. But the catch is we are one place now, and we would need to make a huge change. We can't easily make our homes a whole lot smaller (except by subdividing some, and abandoning others).

When I suggest (in some of my articles) that 20 years from now, the grid will probably will not be capable of supporting all of the stuff that we have now, plus rechargeable cars, there are quite a few folks that say no--electricity will not be a problem. Just switch our gasoline driven economy to electric, and we are all set.

I think there is a disconnect somewhere.

I think there is a disconnect somewhere.

Find me a study that says we can't plug-in our cars because I've linked studies that have said we can if we charge them at night.

1. not everyone will have a PHEV for years.

2. even when everyone has one not everyone will plug it in at the same time and need to fully charge. some may plug in every day or every 3 days. PHEVs have a back up gas engine. I think that most people who get a PHEV at first will have their own power sources like solar.

3. some may plug in during the day at work or at the mall.

4. there is still enormous amounts of conservation to be done. if I need to turn off everything else in the house to charge my PHEV I will. how much power can be saved at night by using smart power strips?


5. most studies about our power supply probably just use electricity growth of the last 10-20 years and then extrapolate that use into the future. however our over consumption society is a large part of that increase in use because of all the do-dads we've bought on the mastercard. I doubt that is a good benchmark for future demand.

My impression is that the studies of power supply assume that our problems are basically with liquid fuels. If our electrical system continues to look like today, I would agree that we can charge cars at night. Some of the base capacity is unused, and we could burn more fuel at night, to bring the total supply up, if we needed to.

If, long term, we need to cut way back on electricity utilization, because we have decided we are not going to burn much coal, or because natural gas supplies are way down, or because there are grid transmission problems (perhaps related to wind), then all bets are off. Whatever electric supply we do have will be heavily used whenever it is available (perhaps by industries working at night). There might be extra supply at night, but I don't think we can count on it.

Right you are Gail.

There would appear to be relatively few people who actually think in terms of energy. Most think in terms of dollars, which is why the price of gasoline has such an impact on the public. After all, who actually sees the gasoline put into the tank on their vehicle. Do they know it weighs about 6# per gallon and 20 gallons adds 120# to the load? Do they understand what a kilowatt is and how much each appliance uses? Since I was a child at the end of WW II, the U.S. economy has been growing ever larger and people's energy consumption has also increased steadily. Why would anyone think the future would be different from the past?

As you note, changing your energy consumption implies many changes in the things around you, such as the size of the house or the way it's built. Adding an extra 6 inches of insulation to a wall is no easy task and likely would require that one moved out of the house, if the insulation were added to the inside walls. Similarly, finding a space for another 12 inches of insulation in the attic is no easy feat either. Yesterday's luxuries are today's essentials. Worrying about what sort of counter top material to use in the kitchen of your McMansion while you can't pay the mortgage is just another example of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

A neighbor of mine has just purchased a small car to replace the big Toyota Tundra they've been driving. He wants to get his money out of the PU, trying to sell it for $20k. Would they (or any other dollar thinker) consider junking such a vehicle while it would appear to still be useful? No, let someone else pay to drive the gas guzzler, let someone else freeze in some foreign country, let someone else starve because the cost of fertilizer has become beyond the reach of the poor. People in the U.S. won't change until they have no other choice and by then, we will be seeing TSHTF.

E. Swanson


I agree that we are in one place and need to be in another.

I wasn't pushing fault with you at all. It is what everybody thinks. I live the same way right now. I am currently renting(sold in 2004-5) waiting to buy a "Farm".

The housing developments around me(Richmond va) can't be salvaged I think. Small lots, in woods, not orientated to south exposure, no wind, etc. Like the one I live in and the one you live in.

But, what I mentioned WILL be the reality needed. Personally, where most people seem to worrying about what the price will be in the future for Gas or Electric. I see the real threat is availablity not price.

THAT will be a shock to the body politic in the US. Most think the worst it can get is expensive. NOT doing without.

SO, I plan to use PV, Microhydro, wind, Passive solar, Solar Hot Water, and Farm made biodiesel. As much low tech as I can make it. And help everyone around me to do the same.

Like the folks at www.otherpower.com and www.fieldlines.com

Small Steam engines to alternators, etc

In the future, if you don't make it on your property, whatever it is, It's availability may be in question.

Respectfully ,


My wish list would contain a widely available small Briggs-Straton sized Stirling engine and same sized diesel engine.

Hi Gail,
a sunny area without too many trees

We don't have a sunny area but we do have too many trees. I heat with wood and all I would need for that wood stove, to go solar, is a small steam engine connected to a automobile generator and one 12 volt lead battery. This would run the lights and fridge which I would rip out of my rather elderly VW Vanagan. (oh and I'd be able to power my lap top as well) All's I needs is to have a small and humble steam engine running on the large supply of wood batteries that I have piled on my porch.


After a lifetime in the PV industry I long ago stopped trying to change client lifestyle to accommodate alternative energy. It was a hard sell. Instead,I concentrated on the top end of the market where money was of less importance.

However, in your situation I would recommend a modest emergency PV/Battery system that would allow you to operate essential water, lighting, refrigeration and communications circuits in a grid-down situation. That scenario will require life-style changes. To run all your existing house systems would require the addition of a large diesel or propane generator, which is doable but is also the weak link for various reasons.

For more considerations, see my February 21 reply here to neon9, seeking comment on his PV plans in Florida.

Best regards,

I long ago stopped trying to change client lifestyle to accommodate alternative energy

And I guess that statement says it ... use the FF, add alternative energy and end up even more hooped!


Yes, more bread and circuses and let them use FF + alternative energy, more Hummers and McMansions.

I have found that changing the behavior of other people is very problematic. People change when they are ripe for change or when forced to change by the result of personal actions and reactions or by manipulation. Human nature is at once quite Darwinian and Pavlovian.

IMO, it is better to first change one's self and then help others to make the informed free-will decisions that will alleviate the vicissitudes of the times ahead.

The consequences of profligate lifestyles are well on their way. People are experiencing the result of their actions with more soon to come.

We are all a product of the time we were born into. Who among us have not made prodigal decisions at one time or the other?

Best regards,


Most people ignore the fact that a large number of "RVers" already live on solar energy and their private energy comes from the sun, not the grid. Their solar systems require a set of batteries in which they store the watts produced by the solar panels during the day so they can run their toys and lights during the night. PV without batteries actually does not make sense.

A key to using solar is to reduce the amount of electricity you are using (or just wasting), like getting rid of incandescent lights and using LEDs, turning off the TV and router when you don't need them, putting on a sweater rather than turning on an electric heater, don't go where A/C is required, or learn to live with a hand-powered fan.

I have 240W of solar panels, originally costing me about $1,000 (35% cheaper now), a $350 solar boost controller, and four AGM batteries (costing $480 two years ago -- AGMs are nice because they require no maintenance). I use a $200 1KW inverter to produce the AC required by my electronics (TV, satellite DVR, satellite Internet w/modem and router, 2 laptops, netdisk, and battery chargers). Total out of pocket cost: $2,030. Cost to plug in at an RV resort: about $2 per day. Long, long time at that rate to pay off my system.

The nice thing about my system is that I have power even if the electricity goes off, or is simply not available. I have power even if I am sitting in the middle of a city. I have not "saved" enough money with my system to "pay" for my investment because the price of energy is so highly subsidized I can get it almost for free, at least as long as the supplies last. But when TSHTF, I will still be reading and seeing while those who have not done something to prepare will be sitting in the dark.

I don't think the current models for computing payback are correct, because they assume things will be the same as in the past. In particular, they do not take into account the inflation in the price of energy and the rapid depletion in supplies. The value of the USD is going down. Why not spend it today on something that will prove invaluable in the future.

Sam Penny
the Prudent RVer

Sam, I just hope that you are sitting in a great location when the "grid goes down" and you are sitting in your RV with the lights on! Or do you also plan on moving around under the solar power as well, because all those pumps that bring up the gas/diesel from the storage tanks underground at the gas stations will have trouble filling your tanks without power.:-)

Not to forget that PV is highly modular and movable.. if Prudent decides to move into a Cabin or an Earthship, it's not that hard to unscrew the panels and get some strong kid to pick up the batteries for a few bucks.

As for those warning us that the 'Hordes' will be coveting our assets, if you're the guy on the block with PV today, you are probably showing and teaching your neighbors about them, and for my part, I expect to offer my lit living room and some battery charging, etc.. to my neighbors, if we find ourselves in the dark. Instead of going 'MINE!' and hugging your stuff tight, it might make more sense to look at all this stuff as 'tools to get us all through in a pinch.'..


A key to using solar is to reduce the amount of electricity you are using (or just wasting), like getting rid of incandescent lights and using LEDs...

Hi Sam,

I don't want to sound argumentative, but I haven't found any LED lamps that are more energy efficient that compact fluorescent or even incandescent sources as it pertains to general lighting. A couple days ago I spoke of Osram Sylvania's replacement LED MR16s that are only half as bright and, more shockingly, no more efficient than a 7-watt incandescent night light (i.e., 24 lumens at 2.8 watts = 8.6 lumens per watt). I would hate to give folks the impression that Osram is somehow responsible for these poor results, so I'd like to bring Philips into the picture. In this case, the Philips equivalent consumes 4.9 watts and produces 36 lumens at 2,700K (7.3 lumens/watt) or 47 lumens at 4,200K (9.6 lumens/watt). The CRI for these two lamps is 70 and 76 respectively, which again underscores my previous comment that if you think you look bad under fluorescent lighting, you're certainly not going to be happy with these! [The CRI for most CFLs falls between 82 to 86 and incandescent lamps are rated at 97 to 100, higher numbers being better.]

The Philips specs can be found here: http://www.colorkinetics.com/support/datasheets/eW_MR.pdf

For those who would prefer to stick with an incandescent source, a 70-watt Philips Halogena Energy Saver A19 produces 1,600 lumens, which works out to be 22.8 lumens per watt. That means this particular lamp is two to three times more energy efficient than any of the LEDs mentioned here.

See: http://www.nam.lighting.philips.com/us/consumer/hes/display.php?mode=1

For even better performance, a CFL is pretty tough to beat. A 5 watt Philip Mini Twist CFL produces 250 lumens -- 50 lumens/watt -- and where more light may be required, their 32 watt version produces 2,200 lumens -- 69 lumens/watt. Watt for watt, one of these CFLs will provide five to ten times more light than any of these LEDs.

If there are any other commercially available products that perform better than either of these two major brands, please let me know.


[Addendum: I should have noted the efficiency of the Philips LEDs is slighting better at a 25 degree beam angle -- 40 lumens @ 2,700K (8.2 lumens/watt) and 66 lumens at 4,200K (13.5 lumens/watt). To get a sense of the brightness of these lamps, a 7-watt incandescent night light produces approximately 50 lumens.]

LEDs are most useful for

1) Low watt applications (the USB LED lighting by keyboard ATM as an example. also the 0.7 watt edison base LED that replaces a 7.5 watt incandescent, night lights). No CFL < 3 watts AFAIK, and 3 & 4 watt CFLs are hard to find.

2) Frequent off/on lights such as closet, refrigerator (not oven, they do not like heat)

3) Colored lights (exit signs, running lights on car, amber outside lamp, Christmas or other decorative lights)

4) High Vibration/Rough Use applications (Unsure if CFLs work well with fans)

Maybe 5) Narrow angle spot lights outdoors (LEDs have a wider operating temperature range)

My favorite source in USA


Best Hopes for Energy Efficency,


Hi Alan,

LEDs can perform well in the various niche applications you describe, especially where a limited amount of light is required, but in terms of general room illumination I haven't found anything that comes even remotely close to matching the performance of either an incandescent or compact fluorescent light source.

As previously noted, the Philips 45-watt MR16 halogen lamps I currently use in my home produce 1,180 lumens (26.2 lumens/watt) and the above mentioned LED replacements -- which 1) cannot be used with enclosed fixtures due to heat constraints, 2) are incompatible with my electronic transformers, 3) cannot be dimmed, 4) noticeably distort colours and 5) are *a lot* more expensive -- produce just 24 to 66 lumens each and, lumen for lumen, use two to three times more electricity. In addition, at 66 lumens I would need eighteen 5-watt LEDs to match the light output of just one halogen and at 24 lumens per lamp that number increases to forty-nine! Clearly, the numbers are not adding up.

Here's my challenge. Let's say I have an average sized living room illuminated by two table lamps and that I require roughly 3,000 lumens of light in total. Two 70-watt Halogena Energy Savers will provide me with 3,200 lumens at a combined draw of 140-watts; alternatively, I could obtain the same amount of light from two 23-watt CFLs for a total of 46-watts. So, with that said, are there any LED products that I can purchase today that will provide me with this amount of light, with a CCT between 2,700K and 3,000K, a CRI of 82 or better and that would consume less than 46-watts?(*) And if two 23-watt CFLs set me back $10.00 say, how much would I expect to pay for two of these LED alternatives?


(*) And at 46-watts would I really care? If I pay $0.10 per kWh, the operating cost of these two CFLs is $0.0046 per hour -- that's less than $0.02 per day if operated an average of 4 hours per evening.

matching the performance of either an incandescent or compact fluorescent light source.


Regular 4' T8 fluorescents with specular reflectors (silvered aluminum I believe, 95% reflective) to focus light where needed.

High end bulbs coupled with high end ballasts can get to about 90 lumens/watt (from memory). CRI 89 to 92.

One key with LEDs is move them closer to need/task. My computer area has 5 watt CFL for general illumination (small area) and USB LED over keyboard and can swivel (2 light levels) for wider work area as needed.

I use just a 0.7 watt LED for a quick run to bathroom, and a 7 watt CFL to shave, bath, etc. 2 minute off/on cycles are deadly for CFLs.

Best Hopes for energy efficiency,


Hi Alan,

No question, a good quality T8 fluorescent driven by an electronic ballast will kick efficiency up to a whole new level. And in terms of longevity, some of the new lamps from Philips have a rated life of up to 46,000 hours when operated on program start ballasts and continue to crank out 94 per cent of their original lumens when they finally do pack it in. These new Alto II lamps also have the smallest dose of Hg in the industry at just 1.7 mg (by comparison, my three Honeywell thermostats contain some 3,000 mg each!).

A Philips F32T8 produces 3,100 lumens @ 0.87 BF, so a two tube fixture with a standard IS ballast will provide a total of 6,200 lumens with a current draw of approximately 58-watts; that's almost 107 lumens per watt (CCT = 3,000K or higher / CRI = 85). Retail cost: approximately $3.00.

Generally speaking, a CRI of 85 is perfectly acceptable for most people, but for those incredibly annoying PITA fuss-buckets like myself who demand the very best light quality possible, a Philips TL900 series lamp has a CRI of 95 at 3,000K and an incredible 98 CRI at 5,000K. These lamps are normally used only in colour critical applications and to obtain that "full spectrum" you'll have to forego one-third of the lumens. That said, you get truly mind-blowing light quality and lamp efficacy still exceeds that of a CFL.

Home Depot sells a fairly basic T8/electronic ballast fixture with a wrap around prismatic lens, made by Lithonia, for about $20.00. It's not something I'd want in my own living room, but for anyone who needs a good amount of light at a very reasonable cost and doesn't really care about fixture appearance, it can't be beat.

[Edit: Just in case I wasn't clear, when I said "I haven't found anything that comes even remotely close to matching the performance of either an incandescent or compact fluorescent light source, that comment was in reference to LEDs and not other light sources.]


No CFL < 3 watts AFAIK, and 3 & 4 watt CFLs are hard to find.

3 watt dimmable flame-style candelabra-base CFLs at Home Depot.  $6.47 plus tax where I am.  You can buy them on-line too.

What I'm looking for is a major retail chain which carries 3-way socket extenders to put CFLs in lamps designed for long-neck 3-way bulbs.

Hi EP,

I didn't mention this to Alan at the time, but these CFLs are rated at just TWO-watts. The TCP product produces 150 lumens for a respectable 75 lumens per watt, rated life is said to be 8,000 hours and it retails for less than $6.00. The Micro Brite lamp produces a little over half the lumens but in this case service life is 25,000 hours. I don't recognize the Micro Brite name, but I can tell you that TCP has a fairly decent reputation in the industry and since this particular offering is Energy Star certified and therefore meets their testing standards, I'm confident it would perform well.

See: http://www.1000bulbs.com/2-to-3-Compact-Fluorescents/

BTW, I understand federal safety regulations require all of these low-wattage lamps to come equipped with white canes so that you can safely move about your home without tripping over the furniture. ;-)

I should also note that TCP offers cold cathode CFLs with a rated life of 25,000 hours, but they start at 3-watts and up. The big advantage of cold cathode is that you can switch these lamps on and off until your arm falls off and it won't have any impact on their life. Their extended life and more compact T2 construction (i.e., smaller diameter tube) also vastly reduces the amount of Hg that would potentially enter the waste stream -- up to 90 per cent, in fact. Some CCFLs are dimmable and work happily over a wide temperature range (e.g., -20C to +85C). And they're "instant on" for the I-can't-wait-all-day-I've-got-important-things-to-do crowd.


Grid-tied systems can have batteries.. this has been mentioned repeatedly. It is another feature, so it adds to the cost, but you can determine how many KWatt/Hours you want to keep in your battery storage, and pick that cost accordingly.

With the simplicity overall of Solar Electric, homeowners report that the need to keep an eye on battery maintenance is a reasonable demand, and your Charger and Inverter do a lion's-share of that these days, preventing overcharging or over-discharging. We use batteries in every part of our lives these days.. they are not all that mysterious, and they do work very hard for us. Listen to the people here who have PV and have reached payback or are otherwise satisfied. If we do hit the wall on storage, that doesn't mean that the PV is flawed.. it turns on with the Sun.. if necessary, it could use the daylight hours to 'precompress' an extra load of refrigerant to keep a freezer running through the night, it could spin up flywheels, pump storage.. or at the very least, we could use the power when it's there, and sleep at night..

I've heard nothing that convinces me that this isn't one of our most flexible and stable generating sources. For the simplicity and space it takes up, there is nothing that does what it does..

Bob Fiske

I got a 3KW grid-tied system because with Austin rebates and federal tax credits the net cost was only $5K. We were in need of a new car and rather than a Prius, for roughly the same outlay got a Honda Fit and the PV system for the house.

I didn't look at it purely in financial terms - Austin's electric rates are pretty low, so the payback is very long. And I see the risk of frequent, extended grid power outages as fairly low (at least in the short term future), so didn't think it worth either the financial or environmental cost of adding batteries.

We are constantly looking for ways to conserve and use less, did not view the PV system as a license to freely use electricity - it still does not cover our total usage, especially AC in the summer months. And we are still considering whether to stay in the city or relocate, but figured that the PV system will be a selling point on the house if we move - not necessarily a cost recovery, but a plus over comparable non-solar homes.

We've gotten spoiled by that on/off switch. In a solar-powered future, we're going to have to adjust our lifestyles so that we can live WITH solar power.

That means making the most of daylight hours. Businesses and employers will have to operate just during daylight hours, allowing time for their employees and customers to get to work after sunup and to get home before sundown. Industry will need to re-engineer itself to utilize batch processing powered by daily solar maximums. Evenings will be for eating, socializing and relaxing around a fire or low-level lighting at home - returning to an earlier, and arguably better pattern - for a few hours, then it is off to bed for a good night's sleep before getting up at the crack of dawn.

That means using solar hot water heaters, and scheduling laundry, dishwashing, and showers when you have a full hot tank at the end of the day, spread out over the course of a week so that you don't need more than a tank full of hot water each day.

That means that we all use things like crock pots or solar ovens to cook our meals, so that they are ready for evening suppers.

We might have batteries in our homes to provide overnight power for things like refrigerators (but these are going to have to become super energy efficient, and thus probably smaller), but most people are going to have no choice but to live a nightime lifestyle that uses very little electricity. The battery capacity will simply be too expensive for most people to afford more than an absolute bare minimum at best.

The whole purpose of todays civilisation is to give you an on/off switch. Meaning that you are provided with goods/services whenever you need/want them. If this is compromised this will be definitely a step back - ask the people in Baghdad how is it to live without. I would yield that such event will cause some rethinking over our spoiled consumerist behavior, but personally I would prefer to make other goods and services less available, rather than electricity - what about starting with crap shows, lifestyle magazines or soap operas. But I guess this is my taste only.

Of course it is a step back. You don't think that the right side of the peak oil curve is heading upwards, do you?

The accomplishment will be in keeping SOME of what we've got, as opposed to seeing it all go.

And I am not saying that it will be impossible for anyone to flip on switches at will after dark. I am just saying that there will be a cost involved, and that cost will be too much for most people. They will have to adjust, and yes, it will be a step back, and yes, they won't like it, but they'll have to do what they have to do.


Back in the '70s, toaster ovens and crock pots were popular items and were often touted as good substitutes to conventional ovens. I have a crock pot that draws a maximum of 275-watts, a far cry from the 5,200-watts of my convection oven. By my estimates, I can cook an entire meal with less electricity than what it takes to pre-heat my oven in the first twenty minutes of its operation. And in hot climates, you can move the crock pot outdoors to keep the kitchen cooler and, where applicable, reduce a/c loads. For those who wish, keep the glass top covered with a towel to help retain the heat inside the cooking vessel and you can reduce energy demands even further.

I also use a 1930's vintage flip down toaster that is rated at 440-watts; although this would likely be of interest to off-grid users only, the current draw of a manual toaster is less than half that of a conventional pop-up model and it can do the job in less time, plus I actually prefer the results (just don't turn your back on the sucker).


Mickey Mouse turns grey as Japan runs out of children for its theme parks

With Japan's birthrate in decline, Disney has accepted the stark economics of the new market: the largest group of customers with the money and the time to spend a day on Splash Mountain or Pooh's Hunny Hunt is mostly retired.

To entice this burgeoning segment of society on to the rides the company is offering a cut-price season ticket for the over-60s and has made older people the park's new “core target”.

I really like this project:

The people of Cameroon, Africa will soon learn how to construct their own wind turbines and hydroelectric plants using local materials in a pilot project organized by Munich, Germany-based Green Step. The organization will teach the 7,000-person town of M'muock how to build and operate small renewable energy plants out of wood and old car and radio parts.


I do hope this one works out - windmill blades from wood takes up back a bit!

VS this device that is alledged to NOT be supported by the 'get these ppl outta poverty/help themselves' groups.


That's a real shame, Eric - I sometimes uncharitably wonder about the real agenda of some of these pwople.
Looks like a great idea.

If one listens to what I lovingly refer to as 'wack job radio' (mp3s on my player from air America to we the people network/rbn) a claim exists that not empowering the poor 3rd world is part of some Satan plot to kill humans because of overpopulation/callowness/business profits/whatever the lens one chooses to see the world.

Personally, I don't know the why. I just observe the effects, and look to what is being suggested for the 3rd world as 'there is the bottom - how much of that can I live with/survive with' Bug eating, solar ovens, small battery lights, make sure I have water treatment, efficient wood burning via the works of Reed - all frameworks I can work in.

3rd world countries are doing a LOT on the Alternative Energy front. Microhydro, wind etc.

Get some NeFeB magnets, some coil wire and start building some.



Energy Security is a mess you say?

More examples of the failure modes of fission. Guards to keep the plants safe from evil-do'ers asleep and how the people who watch over the plants have handled it.

(Meanwhile if one sleeps on the job defending a solar panel or wind turbine, what is the worst case?)

a respected University of California-Berkeley business professor said Wednesday.

A respected BUSINESS professor? Oh, how cute.

Says that fossil fuels is cheaper.

As a RESPECTED business professor, I'm sure he has more than hand waving bluster behind him. Ones that show the external costs of the fossil fuels that are not charged to the price of the fuel to be oxidized.

Things like the air pollution. Or military to protect/obtain the fossil fuels as 2 simple examples.

I look forward to his post on the front page of TOD. Where questions can be asked VS the papers here.
Simple questions like - if money has a 'time value', what is the 'time value' of the fossil fuel raw input millions of years ago?

Because a REAL analysis of the systems involved would start with photons, not money.

In order to elicit improvements in the economics of solar power, it is necessary to have a robust market in order to encourage innovators like Nanosolar to decrease the costs of the product through efficiency or low cost mass produced thin film panels. Those installing panels now are voting for the future. Fossil fuels, even though they are cheaper now represent a strategy investing in a depleting and polluting resource, a resource which, when released, will disastrously reduce the quality of life for both human and nonhuman species. Placing our bets on fossil fuels is investing in scarcity, not a good long term survival strategy.

It could very well be, of course, that PV will never become truly economical, excluding externalities. It is a virtual certainty, however, that a strategy just relying on limited fossil fuels will result in disaster for all species.

In short, there are two paths. One if fraught with uncertainty and possible failure. The other is fraught with certainty and definite failure. I am certain that an overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels will end badly. I would rather go with an uncertain future which has hope and a certain future which has none.

Respected professor? Not.

tstrett -

In all of these economic comparisons of life-cycle cost of solar/wind versus fossil-fuel generated electricity, the person doing the estimate has to make a projection of how the price of electricity will rise over the time frame in question. Aye, there's the rub!

As one gets past a few years out, projections become more and more the nature of flat-out guesses. That is the weak link in all these comparisons, and one greatly at the mercy of the biases of the person doing the projecting. I very much doubt that 10 years ago anyone would have projected that my electric bill in 2008 would be anything close to what I am now actually paying.

If one is doing a life-cycle cost comparison going say 25 years out, no matter how much fansy math you decorate the thing with, there is no getting around the simple fact that it is still essentially one big guess.

So, ultimately, it is a gamble, and attempt to predict the future. If you think that electricity prices are going to go through the roof and that PV cost will come down, you bet one way. But if you think that electricity prices will undergo only modest increases and that PV costs will stay pretty much flat, you bet the opposite way. Only one thing is for certain: one of the gamblers is going to be wrong.

My bet is that Grid power will go up, steadily or otherwise. I also suspect that PV will go UP, just with the demand for it, and the costs of the energy/labor/materials required to make it.. With those in mind, it seems to me that a safe bet is to get what I can now, as an expensive 'Ounce of Prevention'..

My other consideration is the extreme variability in 'What is a Watt Worth?'.. We pay a lot more per KWH when we buy AA batt's than when we get it from the grid.. and Watch Batteries, forget it! (which is why Solar Calculators have been economical for so long..) similarly, as we hit more energy distress, I think the portability of PV will put it into arenas that make it economical faster than the rooftop setup, even tho' homeowners regularly are testifying that their investment has paid off, too, and then continues to pay them.. but of course when you are isolated from central power, whether it's a grid problem, or a disconnected rural home or village, then the value has already proven itself.


We pay a lot more per KWH when we buy AA batt's than when we get it from the grid.. and Watch Batteries, forget it!

I was delighted to find LED upgrade flashlight lamps at Sears.

This let me retrofit my older D-cell flashlights. Its my hope that these will get me through an earthquake.

I have a question about grain stocks. These are the lowest on record since 1960.

Are the grain inventories the lowest in absolute terms, or in relative terms, i.e. per head? Is it measured in days of supply only? in that case it's calculated relative to population, and not in absolute terms.

It is days of supply! We are simply consuming a lot more grain these days because we are using so much of it for fuel.

The global grain harvest has nearly tripled since 1961, during a time when world population doubled. As a result, the amount of grain produced per person grew from 285 kilograms in 1961 to a peak of 376 kilograms in 1986. In recent decades, as the growth in grain production has matched population growth, per capita production has hovered around 350 kilograms.

Grain production dropped in 2006 but surged in 2007 due to much higher prices.

In 2006, world grain production dropped to 1,994 million tons—a fall of about 55 million tons, or some 2.7 percent, from the previous year.

It is now a fertilizer problem and a price problem. With much of the world's grain production going for fuel, the price is simply way out of many people's budget and they are going hungry.

Ron Patterson

2007 was less than 2006.

At the current rate of export the US will run out before
Summer harvest is finished.

2007 was less than 2006.

I am afraid we will need a source for that bit of information McGowanmc. I gave sources and quotes that say that say grain production fell in 2006 but reached an all time record high in 2007. But you simply say: "No, that ain't so" without any source whatsoever. You simply cannot do that Mc. When will you ever learn that? Such statements will cause you to lose all credibility unless you can back up what you say.

Ron Patterson

"I gave sources and quotes that say that say grain production fell in 2006 but reached an all time record high in 2007. "

No. You. Did. Not.

"You simply cannot do that Mc."

I simply followed your example, Ron.

You can't know because those 2007 figures haven't been tabulated.

All ad hoc sources indicate that 2007 worldwide
was worse than 2006.

Below 50 day supply. You won't find that either.

But my mission is accomplished. I knew you'd come back
and are now engaged.

Good luck on your sources.

Mine to follow. ;D

"Such statements will cause you to lose all credibility unless you can back up what you say.

Ron Patterson"


Apparently you cannot read. My link: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5539

Following several years of declining harvests, the world’s farmers reaped a record 2.316 billion tons of grain in 2007. Despite this jump of 95 million tons, or about 4 percent, over the previous year, commodity analysts estimate that voracious global demand will consume all of this increase and prevent governments from replenishing cereal stocks that are at their lowest level in 30 years.

You just make crap up Mc, crap that has no basis in truth whatsoever. Everyone on this list knows that and it is getting embarrassing.

Ron Patterson

"World wheat production for 2007/2008 was decreased by 1.0 million tonnes because of inferior projected output for Argentina, Canada, and the EU-27. Production for Canada went down by 0.6 million tonnes in line with the latest crop estimates from Statistics Canada."


There is no break out of those WW figures except behind a pay wall.

Amazing how people have all kinds of doubts about oil producers and how honest they are with their reserve figures, but absolutely
God's Honest Truth from their Ag Ministers.

"Total cereal output in the EU is now estimated at 256.1Mt, compared to 261.5Mt in 2006/07, as a result of drought in spring and heavy rains during harvest. Cereal stocks in July 2007 totaled 32Mt, down from 47.2M in July 2006. "


"Everyone on this list knows that..."

Just an aside here.

Like a T/F test, when you use all inclusive terms, the answer is
always false.



Just found this current status report with a quick search.


Current Market Outlook
February / March 2008

World market prices for cereals have remained high, repeatedly breaking record levels. The market has been supported by a tight global balance sheet for 07/08. The 2006/07 season was dominated by crop problems in the USA, the Black Sea, and Australia, and although high prices in the Autumn led to increased plantings, the 2007/08 crop has also suffered from adverse weather, particularly in Europe remained.

Despite an increase in plantings, global production is now below last year, and stocks of wheat and maize remain low, while world demand is generally flat or increasing. Growing maize use for ethanol in the USA is drawing on previously record stock levels, but also encourages increased planting and possibly imports. Attention is now shifting to the 2008/09 crop, however despite a reported increase in crop area, any disruption to the spring weather could still affect production.

We can start here:

2/14/08 The U.S. is importing wheat?? According to Dow Jones Newswire a million bushels of German wheat has been bought by a U.S. firm (Cargill?)for blending with other U.S. wheat.

2/10/08 Wheat Stocks to Use Ratios appear to be:
SRW 7.2%
HRS 13.7%
Durum 17.5%.
White 11%.

2/8/08 The USDA's estimate of 2007-2008 world ending stocks of Wheat was lowered from 110.9 to 109.7 million tons.

2/8/08 The USDA's estimate of 2007-2008 U.S. ending stocks of Wheat was lowered from 292 to 272 million bushels.

2/8/08 There are rumors that Brazil may start buying US wheat as soon as April.

2/5/08 Canada’s wheat stocks fell 30% YoY. Corn stocks rose15%, and Canola stocks fell 9% YoY.

2/1/08 Another concern for farmers in the northern Plains is finding enough spring-wheat seed to plant. Supplies are low because some growers who normally grow seed wheat sold their crop as prices rose, said Louise Gartner, owner of Spectrum Commodities in Beavercreek, Ohio.

1/13/08 Food shortages and rising prices in Pakistan are increasing pressure on President Pervez Musharraf's government, which is trying to control civil unrest and a surge in terrorist attacks. Wheat prices in the world's sixth-largest consumer of the grain climbed 23 percent in a 15-day period until Jan 8.

1/3/08 The Philippines, the world's biggest importer of rice, plan to buy 550,000 metric tons. Global stockpiles of rice are forecast by the USDA to fall to 72.2 million tons by July, the lowest since 1984.

12/13/07 Since cumulative wheat sales have reached an amazing 89.6% of the USDA forecast as compared to 66.7% on average, there is now talk, that stocks will at some point be wiped out and the US may be forced to curtail or embargo further sales.

12/6/07 Statistics Canada estimates Canada's 2007 wheat production at 20.05 million tons, down 21% YoY and down 587,000 tons from their September guess.


more coming.

Mc, you are going to have to do better than that. We all know stocks are falling, my link above confirms that. What we are talking about is world grain production! Grain production may be down in Canada and it was down slightly in China also, but worldwide grain production was up 95 million tons, or 4 percent, 2007 over 2006.

Please don't post piecemeal stuff. Post something that directly refutes what the Worldwatch Institute has posted in the link above.

Put up or shut up!

Ron Patterson

"Please don't post piecemeal stuff. Post something that directly refutes what the Worldwatch Institute has posted in the link above.

Put up or shut up!"

OK. Let's get positive here. We're here to increase our knowledge.

I will give you your due. As far as WW knows, the 07/08
crop has outperformed the 06/07 crop by 2% or 10 MMT.

604 MMT in 07/08 from 593 MMT in 06/07.

What I'm saying is that this number is not final and
is easily fudged (kinda like EIA/API/CERA). ;}

Therein lies the rub.

Here are the sites I'll live with for the time being:


A PDF gateway.

World Wheat Supply and
Demand in MMT:
05/06 06/07 07/08

151 148 125 SUPPLY: Beginning Stocks
621 593 604 Production

772 741 729 Supply Total

The key here, IMHO, even if the 604 number is correct,
is the supply number. Down 12 MMT

Despite an estimated (my caveat already stated) 2 per cent increase in global wheat production in 2007-08, low opening wheat stocks mean that total supplies are an estimated 1 per cent lower than in the previous year. With demand remaining strong and end of season stocks forecast to fall by 8 per cent to a relatively low 109 million tonnes, prices have risen substantially since midyear."



Let us now proceed in harmony.

Okie Dokie?


I'm sure your are aware of ELM. ELM can also be used for agriculturals. And reg. production volumes, the US is still TOP. But the US decided (rightly) to use this production in first place domestically. What's wrong with that? It is your (the Americans) land. Also important: The higher the prices of corn etc., the fewer direct subsidies farmers get. So, that money goes back to the taxpayer, or should at least. Taxpayers pay more for their food, but less to subsidy the farmers. And the US is less dependent of the Arab nations. There are no other solutions.

Euro, there is no argument that exports of grain are down and stocks are down. But production is up and it is likely that grain production will be up slightly this year, given the record prices.

The government expects a record food grain production of 219.32 million tonnes in 2007-08.

Of course the above prediction is only for the US but the same thing is happening worldwide. Grain prices are at an all time high and people everywhere are planting grain instead of cotton or other crops. Here is a great link with a graph that shows world grain production peaked in 2004 but fell off in 2005 and 2006. 2007 production is not shown but when it is it will show 2007 up 4% over 2006 and setting a new record.

The old record, set in 2004 was 2.044 billion tons. The new record, set in 2007, was 2.316 billion tons.

Ron Patterson

McGowan is a farmer. It's who he is, it's what he does. He is his own authority. He has ability to read and appraise data that a punter will not have and what he says, at least on certain topics, has intrinsic interest.

Unlike a certain punter who once thought world grain production had instantaneously dropped 500 million tons and nobody else had noticed and famine/dieoff was imminent. But who had a source.

Thank you for those kind words, friend.



It is now a fertilizer problem and a price problem. With much of the world's grain production going for fuel, the price is simply way out of many people's budget and they are going hungry.

Its also a drought problems since the US, Australia, and parts of Asia and Africa are also suffering drought conditions.

Ethanol Woes

AgriView - Increase in Corn Harvest, Forecast Total U.S. corn supplies are projected to be a record 14.6 billion bushels. .... Global wheat production for 2007-08 is projected down 5.8 million tons this ... www.agriview.com/articles/2007/10/18/crop_news/crops01.txt

Ethanol and other fuels now consume 17 percent of the world’s grain harvest:

24% of the 2007 corn harvest will be used to make ethanol:

With 24% of the corn harvest going to grain based ethanol; after the recently passed energy bill to boost ethanol production, half of the entire United States corn harvest might be needed to satisfy the new law by 2022. http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA564.html. About 20% of the United States corn harvest was exported. http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA564.html. The United States was responsible for about 50 percent of all corn in the world export market(estimates vary) http://www.peclimited.com/agricultural_soyabean.htm. The portion of United States corn harvest that was exported accounted for 25% of all world grain exports. Whatever the intent of the energy bill's authors had, the consequences may be foreseen as having potential to precipitate a worldwide disaster not sparing United States citizens. If 50% of the corn harvest is diverted to ethanol production as might occur under the auspices of Federal energy mandates, it is likely the United States will cease to export corn and need to import corn in amounts very hard to come by.

Increasing use of grain for production of biofuels worldwide is a contributing factor to rising grain prices. In the United States increased production of corn may have contributed in a large drop in acres of soybean production. Increased acreage devoted to corn production may have also caused noted decreases in acreage reserved for spring wheat, hay, cotton, beans, and pea production.

If the entire United States grain harvest was diverted to ethanol production it would produce about 16% of our gasoline needs (Earth Policy Institute).

Demand for Biodiesel Disappearing

As acreage previously sown with soybeans was switched to corn to meet increased Federal ethanol requirements, the price of soybean oil futures almost doubled.


Carryover x 100 = Stocks To Use Ratio
Total Use

The worst in 60 years. Maybe 100.


For historical stock comparison purposes, go here:


Since the early seventies, our world production per person has seemed to stabilize around 310 kg/person. As population keeps increasing, stocks decline.

For the recent USDA material, go here:


Somewhere in the labyrinth of USDA pubs, I know they have historical stock tables, but can't find them now. As the earth-policy group uses USDA stats, I think they are close to each other.

Those cost figures from Centrica for off-shore wind in Britain are horrible. I costed against Government figures and came up with around $80bn - and many here thought I was being absurdly pessimistic.

At $136bn for 33GW that comes to around $4.12bn GW - but that is nameplate, British off-shore plans are for close in-shore where the winds aren't that much stronger than on-shore and connection and build costs lower, and again from Government figures you get a utilisation rate of just under 30% - that's around $13.7bn GW

For a similar nuclear build based on the experience so far for the Finnish plant, they have spent $4bn so far, so I estimated $6bn total - since costs for everything are rocketing, let's say it costs $8bn, for a 1.6GW plant that is $5bn GW, actual output at the typical 90% for a nuclear plant, around $5.5 bn GW

Interest rates on the nuclear build are going to be higher, and fuel will cost, although that is not a heavy cost for nuclear.

Britain uses around 20GW at the lowest point on a summer day, and around 75GW peak period in the winter.
Wind has excellent load following characteristics in this country, it is around 2.5 times as high in the winter as in June, so for back of the envelope purposes we could call it about 5GW in the summer, a quarter of demand, and 15GW in the winter, around one fifth of total demand.

For basically the same kind of price - remember I have allowed nothing at all for cost reductions in a series build - you would be able to get around 20GW of power, 100% of our base load, and around a quarter of peak winter load.

Which is going to turn out less CO2 for the money?

How many decades to build 20 GW of new nukes in Britain ?

Your last one took 15 years (from memory).

And, without extensive pumped storage (or connections abroad to sell your summer 3 Am surplus) you cannot use more than 22 GW of nukes.

And you could use both wind and nukes in the winter.

So why not build both ? Wind first while you are recreating the ability to build nuclear power plants and slow building wind once you have a handful of new nukes on-line and another handful under construction.


And slow building nukes means they will be safer and gives the world time to hunt around for more high grade uranium deposits to see how much is really there.

The ex-chief scientist of the UK says we could run a fleet the size of our present one for the next 60 years on so-called 'waste' we have in stock in Britain without using any uranium.

Or we could choose the Canadian CANDU reactor, which can burn thorium, which is 4 times as abundant, or...you get the idea, some concerns about nuclear reactors are right and proper, to be sure that they are safe enough, for instance, but personally I feel that the idea that we are going to run out of fuel is way off base -it isn't a hydrocarbon, which were formed in very rare and specialised circumstances, it is a commonly available and abundant element, which is so energetic that you would get a real rate of return on energy expended if we extracted if from plain granite - not that we will need to, as we simply haven't been looking for it for years, as the price was so low.

Don't get me wrong, if they can do the job reasonably economically I have nothing against renewables, but call me mean but a $56bn cost increase before you even start the build is a bit rich for my blood - perhaps someone could give me a fleet of off-shore wind turbines for Christmas! :-)

I'm still waiting to find out a guess as to how many engineers etc will be around in 20-40 years to take them apart.

What if things DO go down hill fast. Who the heck is going to be around to dismantle them?

Don't live down wind/stream from one it would seem.

I think it's another Let's just get a bunch built, we will worry about who will run/dismantle them years from now
Kind of thing.

Samsara, I understand your concern, and think that you have a good point which well merits thinking about.
However, if we take it apart a bit perhaps it will help us get a handle on how big a problem it is.

At the moment, as a rich society should, we have very, very high standards for how we want to dispose of the waste, the people who want to do it permanently instead of hanging onto it to re-use as fuel in more advanced reactors (as I do, I think we should treat the waste as a resource, even if it costs a wee bit more), favour vitrifying it and putting it in cannisters deep in very stable geological formations to prevent leakage to groundwater.

The likelihood of seepage is then reckoned to be very very small.
Remember two things, that the risk decrease with time a lot - the most active elements have the shortest half lives, and so rapidly decay, although there is also the matter of how easily different substances are absorbed by plants ans animals.
The other thing is that nature has huge amounts of radioactive materials, distributed entirely without regard to whether it is likely to seep into groundwater, and in fact the problem is tiny.

However, you are arguing that we won't have the technology to dispose of it that well.
So let us think of the very worst thing we could do with the waste.
Well, Chernobyl would be a good example. That crazy Russian design had absolutely no containment vessel - the one on Three Mile Island did it's job, and aside from some venting of noble gasses contained releases - no-one at all died.
So it just distributed radioactivity over the environment, throwing it out where it was most harmful, and the Russian authorities did not advise people to stay in out of harm's way for a couple of days until most of it was settled.

Even so it was hardly the end of all life.
Greenpeace argue that eventual mortality from this will be up to 60,000.
Well, I leave you to determine how credible you find Greenpeace information, but will just note that they never, ever have a good word to say about things nuclear, and if they had come out with a report lower than any of the others I would have eaten it!

The World Health Organisation, OTOH, which is the body who sets the radiological standards, and in it's field is the reference source, as much so as the IPCC is in saying what will happen about climate change, gives a figure of deaths of around 100!

The reason for the discrepancy is how the body reacts to low radiation doses.
It used to be felt that from instant death at huge doses down to the smallest x-ray when you get your chest done, damage dropped off in a linear fashion, and a lot of imputed deaths tend to be slight losses of life expectancy in future generations and so on.

However, it is now clear that in fact the body has a tolerance level for radiation, not surprising really as it is naturally occurring, and there is no measurable effect at very low doses, and in fact very little up to extremely high doses - that data is now the one the medical profession uses.

Greenpeace chose not to, and stuck with the old model.

So even if you throw away the waste in the worst possible way, you are not going to kill everyone.

So let us look at the possibilities for disposal in a resource constrained world, which is breaking down.

You could simply put it in a deep mine, hopefully one which was relatively free from groundwater.

It would not be nearly as good a solution as the ones proposed in the modern, pre-collapse world, but it would not be a bad one either.

In fact, due to the fact that they have enormously larger bulk, other industrial waste would be much trickier to dispose of, and mercury for instance has a half-life of infinity.

Anyway, we have the problem at the present time - there are still plenty of wastes around, and funnily enough a new build would add little to them by most metrics - the old stockpile decays, new reactors are vastly more efficient than the old, most waste is from the weapons industry anyway, - around 10% extra by volume, for the proposed new nuclear build, if my memory serves.

The collapse you hypothesise would also be having other effects- fertiliser would be unobtainable, agriculture would collapse and warfare for the remaining resources would likely be endemic.

In countries like Britain a 90% population collapse would be at the very lowest range of possible estimates.

The relative risks from the radioactive material would therefore be vanishingly small - affecting maybe a few hundred people, over a long period of time, not countless millions from famine,disease and war.

It seems a shame then, to reject a technology which by providing abundant cheap energy might help to prevent that collapse in order to prevent such a relatively small problem.

If we had unlimited money, Alan, well and good.

We haven't, and must choose our spending to get the best results we can, and the need to reduce CO2 sounds pretty urgent to me, not to mention the need to get some security in our energy supply.

We already discussed this, and alternatives included doing a part build of off-shore wind, getting the French to build a couple of reactors and ship us all the energy, and funding a heavy conservation program to fill in the gap in energy supplies.

However, it is not my intention here to determine what others should feel is the best set of options, but, although my own feeling and choices are apparent, to lay out the real cost of different options as fairly as I can so that others can decide what they think.

I wanted to make explicit some of the choices available, and some of the costs - particularly since there is often such confusion, not so much here as in the public newspapers and TV, IOW the media people get their information from, about the true costs - just the other day I saw in 'The Guardian' that the 33GW of nameplate power off-shore wind 'would be enough to power all the homes in Britain' - oh no it won't save when everything happens to be operating at peak for a little while.

I know you support an energy mix anyway, Alan, but just to get an idea of the scale of the problem in a switch to renewables here is an article about Portugal, which is one of the countries at the very top of the renewables use tree, and has a relatively small population, large hydroelectric, wind, wave and solar resources:

It illustrates how Portugal has embraced renewable energy, pushing it near the top of the European league. The UK only gets 5% of its electricity from renewables, while Portugal already gets 39%. The UK target for 2010 is just 10%.

Portugal has been spurred into action by its lack of conventional fuels such as coal and oil. The country has to import 85% of its needs.

That is still a lot of it's needs not covered, but OTOH they seem to have held the costs down, but they do have hydroelectric, the cheapest renewable resource.

In interesting to see how they are doing, anyway.

If we had unlimited money, Alan, well and good

One of the first principles in utility planning is that the MOST expensive electricity is no electricity. Just look to South Africa to see what happens when electricity becomes unreliable. That is the cost that IMVHO, the UK is facing. By comparison, the other costs are trivial.

That said, the UK needs to start tomorrow morning with a massive energy conservation program as well as renewables, etc.

The time to have chosen the nuke build-out option was 1995. In 2008, nuke is a secondary, follow-up response to a crisis that will arrive before 10 GW of new nukes will.

Best Hopes,


1995 would certainly have been better, Alan!

We dont actually have much potential for pump storage in the UK.

Its nukes Alan.

That is the shortest route to the most EROEI.

But it wont happen. We can underwrite a fooked bank for 110 billion - to save 6000 Geordie non-jobs in an area occupied by labour MPs in marginal seats. But we cannot underwrite 15 nukes and 150 thousand high grade, high skilled, high paying, un-offshoreable jobs.

We are fooked. That is the short and the long of it.


We are out of time.

We dont actually have much potential for pump storage in the UK.

In Scotland and Wales, you have the basics. Rises of 80 m or more in fairly short distances. Any rise of much over 400 m is not so useful.

Its nukes Alan.

*IF* you have time to build enough, which you (IMHO) do not have.

That is the shortest route to the most EROEI.

Insulation and other conservation & efficiency are the quickest (with excellent EROEI) with wind a close second. New build nuke in the UK will likely be S*L*O*W, but unless you start soon (next week ?) who will not know if they can be built faster this time around. And however long it takes, the sooner you start, the sooner it will be finished (typically).

Best Hopes for Keeping the Lights On,


I have been thinking about our discussions, and realised that they always came down to cost.
Then I realised that it is not surprising!
After all, you are an engineer, and you are the guy that we can turn to and ask to keep our lights on.
You then come back and say,'Fine, you have a good off-shore wind resource, we need it soon so I will build you those'

Now in a previous life I was involved in cost and works accountancy, and Gail is a numbers kind of gal.

We are always the people who have been coming up to you all your professional life and saying 'What the heck are those costs? We can't afford that!' :-)

Interestingly, when I said that you immediately came up with another plan, getting the French to build reactors over the channel and ship in the electricity, as that is the way a good engineer thinks! - you are used to having to rethink for cost reasons.

It seems to me this puts our discussions into perspective, and hopefully shows that we can both bring different things to the party, although I never knew an engineer who was not miffed when told he couldn't have the money for his project! ;-)

I was trying to think about the best strategies to fill in the gap in UK generation between the old nuclear build and new coming on line.

Off-shore wind is unfortunately looking very expensive. As a start I would alter my position on on-shore, and where it is acceptable usually go for that in preference for off-shore - costs have to be contained somehow.

How much would be practical though is open to question, given Scottish sensibilities and the still very high costs.

I also don't think we should abandon off shore totally, as if we can get the costs under control that would offer an excellent resource - how likely that is I will come back to in a later post.

My suggestion would be to combine it with a proposal for the construction of polders in the Severn Estuary, where it is proposed to use tidal energy to generate power in a vast man-made area in that tidal zone, which would generate energy most of the time.

It also happens to be within 50 miles of an excellent off-shore wind site, so it seems to me that the two projects could be linked, using the wind power to pump additional water into the polder, and releasing it when the tidal energy flow was low or as required, so mitigating one of the weaknesses of wind and getting real operating experience of off-shore wind, to assess reliability properly and get a better handle on costs - so far the wind industry has operated on the assumption that if you build enough, costs will come down, unlike in a normal industry where before you can start mass production you have to be competitive.
It is easier to control costs with a more pragmatic approach.

Conservation and importing electricity form France should also help.

Lastly, we already have gas fired capacity available.
Peak oil is not peak gas, although it has been pointed out on this forum that supplies should be tight and prices high.

Rather than spending the whole £66bn on a off shore wind build it seems reasonable then to put some of that money into paying extra for gas to help fill the gap.

Will costs for wind-power rise or fall relative to nuclear in the future?

Over the last couple of years the price of wind power has risen hugely.
What are the reasons for this rise?
Three things are important:
Supply shortages.
Energy costs.
Materials costs.

The first, supply constraints, may ease as supply catches up with demand, either through increased capacity or people not being able to afford the turbines.
How important is this? My guess, although I would like others input who have better data, is that it is not critical, obviously prices are higher than would be the case were demand lower, but AFAIK there is no evidence of massive excess profits available to drastically reduce prices.

The second, energy prices, is critical in my view, as it also feeds into every other cost. I need not rehearse for TOD'ers the reasons why it seems unlikely that this will fall, and very likely that cost pressures will increase greatly in the future.
This will in my view be the driving force for even greater increases in turbine costs.

Materials costs are in great measure driven by energy costs, it is a very energy intensive process, and cost pressures will be even higher.
The other factor driving materials prices is demand, and demand from India and China is likely to get even higher, whilst satisfying it will be difficult due to high energy costs amongst other constraints.

Technical progress will help to hold down costs, but how much? With the other factors at work you are already running up a down staircase, and we are mainly talking about incremental improvement, nothing game-changing.
You can make turbines bigger, but watch out for reliability issues, as it gets tougher as they get bigger.
Gearboxes and bearings can be improved, and greater quantities may help keep costs down.
It all sounds very modest against the upward pressure on costs, and must be to some extent balanced by the fact that in some areas of the world where there are a lot of turbines like Germany most of the best sites are taken, so for the best resources you would often be talking about replacing an existing smaller turbine.

How does this compare with nuclear?
To start with, at least two of the factors for rising cost, materials and labour would also impact nuclear, and the third, supply shortages would kick in in the event of a nuclear build.

The big difference though is that nuclear uses vastly less materials than wind turbines - nuclear costs are much more heavily influenced by labour costs, as it is a much more sophisticated build.

This is exactly the thing which is likely to fall relative to materials if we are correct at TOD.

A final consideration here is that the prospects for better technology leading to large cost reductions are far better than in wind-power.
All the incremental measures which apply to wind also apply to nuclear, but in addition nuclear has good prospects of major cost reductions in several respects.
Annular fuel, which is not a real stretch to bring in, would massively impact costs by around 50% and could be used on existing reactors:

The main cost issue with nuclear reactors is the high upfront cost and custom build.
Newer smaller designs would allow series production and give a quicker time to market, thus greatly reducing costs.
Here is one I particularly like which also has the incidental benefits of enormously reducing wastes and means you would need 50 times less fuel! - Not bad for an efficiency increase! - It should be possible to buy these in around 2023, there are no major technical issues and a molten salt reactor was in operation in the US in the 60's:
advanced nanotechnology: thorium

My conclusion then is that nuclear is not only two to three times cheaper now that the proposed off-shore build, but that as the years go by the cost difference is likely to widen greatly.

I disagree with your analysis (surprise :-)

Shortages are the primary driving factor in costs for WTs having an uptick. One does not get 30% and 40% compound growth without an uptick in both costs to manufacture and manufacturer margins.

Before there was a fairly smooth cost decline curve. Improved experience/maturation alone will cause warranty costs to decline.

WTs generate their energy to manufacture in XX months, quite frankly not a big deal. If a cow has a calf every year, and the price of cows triple, so will the price of calves. (It is just that damm breed of cattle that take 15 years to mature, instead of 2 or 3 years ! >:-)

An energy induced (with the help of Northern Rock et al) slowdown in OECD and Chindia demand seems quite likely. This quality of steel and concrete can be used directly in WTs, but not in nukes (except administration buildings, access roads).

A separate bottleneck exists for nuke grade components (UK had to derate ALL of their 1st generation reactors because they used common carbon steel nuts from memory).

Best Hopes for Lower Costs,


I sure hope you are right Alan, as things are getting pretty desperate.
I did not give figures for how much demand was causing higher prices, and how much was materials inflation - ie, how much cost there is in the chain that could be knocked out because I did not have them.

I am not challenging what you are saying, Alan, but I just wondered if you had any access to some figures that might give us a handle on how the two factors stack up?

Did you notice in my rather long posts today that I have changed my position on off-shore wind?
I think it is no use debating unless one is willing to learn and change oneself- costs are so high for off-shore, and the situation is so grave that something has to give.

I also accepted your argument that conservation/insulation/efficiency is the fastest, and best investment for the UK. Just not enough.

But no, I have not read all that you have written recently.



We have good and productive debates, Alan - and I certainly would not expect you to read all I have written today!
I just wrote them down to get my own thoughts straight, and on the off-chance someone else might be interested in some of it.

I just wrote them down to get my own thoughts straight, and on the off-chance someone else might be interested in some of it.

Dave. I, for one, am really glad to you do.

And yes, there are many out here who are interested in what you say and the discussions that follow. To you and Alan both (and others), keep the ideas coming.


That is most kind of you, Zadok! - likewise it is a pleasure to read your insights!

I have to fight a little against my rottweiler tendencies, and Alan can get a little tart - I wish I could, but it is really out of the question at my age - but we 'keep it honest' as the phrase is, so the interchange can be fruitful, and certainly is to me.

I have found this place a real resource, with some really thought provoking articles and comments.

TOD gives me hope that if some future alien or archeologist digs up this blog, they may be inclined to say, "Yep, there is signs of intelligent life down here!!"

As you so aptly say, "I found this place a real resource, with some really thought provoking articles and comments." I agree full heartedly.

Some cost trends, page 15 of this pdf

Factor in declining US $ value as well.


Yes, the debate has been productive :-)

And yes, I would like to read all of your posts...

TOD is a meat grinder, I do not take challenges to policy personally (exception New Orleans). The standards are high, and the comments can be sharp. But a more benign atmosphere would not be as productive IMVHO.


Thanks for the link, Alan - I tend to steer clear of the US debate, as it is a whole different ball-game with different costs and resources.

It is difficult enough to try to stay a bit on top of the UK situation.

I think I might be gradually, and reluctantly, coming round to more of your view - we just seem to have got ourselves in such a mess that we have to do anything, regardless of cost.

The lethargy and incompetence of the British Government is quite staggering, and it seems that they intend no steps of any substance at all towards conservation.

We will be lucky if the cost stops at £66bn though - the British cost projections I based my figures on did not think they would climb to the levels they have, but projected rising prices out to 2012 at least.

this is going to hit people here hard - the old and poor especially.

Cost estimates for wind depend very much on how long the wind turbines will last and how much maintenance they will require (also, how costly the maintenance will be). One of the TOD readers has been sending me links on the reliability of wind. One would expect that offshore wind facilities would have much more of a corrosion problem than onshore, so if there are problems onshore, there would be even more offshore.

This is a quote from a BusinessWeek article:

After the industry's recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers' promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.

Some other links on reliability and other issues:

Wind Energy: Facts and Fiction by J.A. Halkema, an electrical engineer who has been involved with many aspects of wind technology.

Reliability Performance and Maintenance: A survey of failures in wind power systems Masters Thesis by Johan Ribrant

Wind turbines are NOT a mature industry. They have been forcefully expanded at a rapid rate and theory more than real world experience has driven the first designs in each size class.

The problems of the first 1 MW & 2 MW WTs are now feeding back into design changes for the latest models (often without changing the designation).

One of the most important things that Denmark did to promote WT development in the early days was to survey owners of different WT models and publish a tabulation of experience. This needs to be done on a large scale again, worldwide.

Early aircraft had a HORRIBLE safety record, but today they are extraordinarily safe. The technology has matured.

Wind Turbines are maturing rapidly, it is a process.

Best Hopes for Maturing Technology,


That was the link I was looking for a while back and couldn't find, Gail.

They are going to be doing two new things at the same time in these proposals for off-shore wind, moving it into a marine environment with all the risks and wear that entails, whilst trying to build the turbines bigger than ever for the best cost efficiency.

They came unstuck once before on upsizing, and couldn't get reliablity from the bigger models, they had to go back down from 5MW prototypes to 2-3W is my memory serves.

They are saying they expect a lifetime of around 25 years for these turbines, but I have my doubts.

Although replacing them should be cheaper than an all new build, over the 60year(with quite a lot of maintenance) expectancy of a nuclear plant you might be talking about spending in the region of 4 times as much for off-shore wind over the 60 years as for the equivalent nuclear build.

Here are my sources for UK costs:


I was thinking we might be looking at $80bn, which was bad enough, now the people who will pay are saying $136bn - and that is aside from any potential reliability issue.

Thanks for the links, Gail - this is financial suicide, as far as I am concerned.

I thought the Halkema link was especially informative, showing just how many turbines we would have to have to power Britain.

If abandoning this would advance a nuclear build by six months, then it needs doing.

In the West we seem to be determined to regulate the energy industry from the perspective of fantasy, not real world costs and possibilities.

I had some sympathy at one time for people who were anti-nuclear, indeed was as concerned as anyone to ensure that we are all safe, but with insecurity of supply and carbon dioxide emissions we are now headed for disaster if we don't do something realistic soon.


gotta hand it to you.

You keep arguing away with the no nuke crowd.

Its simple.

Either UKGov do nukes or we die.(Therefore we die)

And forget the CO2 argument: China and India will dwarf our emissions pretty soon.

UK does about 1% of global emissions. Sure , we feel 'guilty' about our earth-raping colonial past. Who wouldnt? - if you listen to teachers in schools today? We are responsible for all the worlds problems.

So, why bother arguing? - it is a waste of electrons.

60+ million souls in these islands. And there is no fookin way we can cope with the lights off.

And that is before we even deal with the food problem. And the last time we had a food problem, there were 40 million AND WE STILL NEEDED USA, CANADA, ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND TO BAIL US OUT.

Before we die off, we will build some of the biggest white elephants ever created by man under the direction of the high priests of climate change and 'renewable' energy.

Dorme Bien.

Hasty, hasty, Mudlogger!

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) estimates that Britain could generate 25 percent of the country’s electricity from wind alone by 2020, increasing its number of onshore turbines from around 1,800 today to 5,000, and its offshore turbines from around 150 today to 7,000. (Source Source). This would increase Britain’s wind capacity 13-fold, from 2.5 GW to 33 GW.(Source)

And that's just wind. Scotland has emerged as a world leader in marine energy technology, which is only just getting started. And geothermal power, again a nascent industry, can be (in theory) developed anywhere, according to last year's MIT report on enhanced geothermal.

The RE industry as a whole is growing by around 30% a year, and it's not because the world is in the thrall of some "high priests." It's because unlike nukes, we can build it quickly, and in the case of wind, because it's already cheaper than nukes, without creating toxic spent fuel, national security hazards, or externalizing the costs of decomissioning upon the public.



Have you really sharpened your pencil and looked at the potential for RE in the UK vs. traditional fuels? Because it looks to me like you're dismissing them out of hand, while grinding your ax about how nukes are the only answer.

Well Chris, in the stock tips biz, if wind power is as cheap and wonderful as you say, how come the guys who would actually buy the stuff, Centrica, say that it is going to cost us a whopping $136bn for 33GW peak, 10-11GW per hour average according to the DTI?

That comes out to a cost of around $1.5kw, amortised over 8 years - EVEN WITHOUT INTEREST and without anything at all for maintenance that is around $0.19kwh

Then you add the distribution cost, costs for back up of an intermittent source and so on- what does it work out, no really, on real figures, in real money - $0.35 kwh? $0.40kwh? - to the customer, that is.

So perhaps we can see how it eats up such huge amounts of subsidy.

Weird that your lovely cost graph's don't go as far as the huge rise in costs over the last couple of year too - and levelised costs are such wonderful things, you can make then look however you want if you just play with the assumptions a bit.

But of course you are bound to be impartial, as you are in the energy tips business! :-)

Buy one Brooklyn bridge in wind, and you have a second one in wave technology all ready to buy, and it is going to start being profitable soon, real soon, just after the initial few tens of billions of dollars in subsidies is gone.

Did you bother looking at Gail's reliability data, or the estimates from her link of how many turbines you would need to make a substantial contribution to the UK's power?
Or would that interfere with your pitch, and that of the Wind Energy Association?

Sorry, I don't find your tip worth buying.

Dave, I'm not even sure I want to get into this with you if you're going to be so snarky, but for now I'll play along. I scanned through three or four PDFs linked above and did not find any reference to the $136 bn number you cite. Please provide a specific reference so I can see what you're talking about.

Not sure what you mean by "10-11GW per hour."

No, it's not at all strange that those reports don't show the cost increases over the last couple of years, because they were using (as I recall) 2005 data. In any case, according to the dti report linked above, "As it can be seen from the graph above the CAPEX cost rises until 2010 and from then
onwards decreases by 30% until the year 2018."

Gail's data on cost was from 2002...a bit too old given the immense growth & improvement of the industry in the last five years. But I surmise that you are only citing data for the offshore wind projects, which are the most expensive sort of wind power. In any case, all projections I have seen indicate that wind power costs will continue to fall over time...whereas nuke costs can only go up from here, thanks to declining ore quality.

Nor have I offered any stock tips here regarding wind--only market projections (??)

The reliability issue, as Alan noted upthread, is a fast-moving target. Older turbines had lots of problems, as did all the early solar technology. To that I say: give it time. The newest turbines have record low maintenance costs due to many innovations in materials and technology, e.g., maglev bearings and carbon fiber. Plus, as the BW article Gail linked noted, part of the problem is simple growing pains: not having the luxury of a proper amount of time to develop and test will certainly produce a few bad designs. C'est la vie. If only we had started on this in earnest 30 years ago when we did have the luxury of that time...but I suspect you would have been arguing against it just as vehemently then.

As usual, the devil's in the details. I can offer you some data on that but at this point I'm not yet convinced that you're prepared to have a serious discussion of the data about renewables. You seem to be more inclined to argue. Perhaps if you could cite more specific references.


Fair enough, I do want to discuss sensibly, the reason for my attitude was precisely because both myself and Gail have extensively referenced our data in this thread a few posts back, so I thought you were attempting to sail past them, and the links you gave were very light on how the figures were arrived at.
But it looks as though you just missed them, and were responding to Mudlogger.

Gail actually did not just reference cost, but also reliability, and in Hakema's post here gives not just reliability data but also indicates the immense size of the undertaking to replace even a fraction of Britain's total energy needs, of which electricity is only a sixth:

I will also reference here the $136bn, although that is in the news stories at the head of this Drumbeat, and was in fact the reason why I am feeling somewhat jaundiced about windpower costs - I had costed it against Government figures at 'only' $80bn:
Cherry Creek News - British Gas looks at $136 billion -- 33 gigawatt off-shore wind project - Peak Oil-Renewable energy

Looking at it again though, it doesn;t look too authoritative, so I will check further.
Yeah, it is now £2bn GW, $4bn, :

The two other links I gave just upthread I will repeat for your convenience:
Government figures, on which I based my (conservative) $80bn estimate.
The 10-11GW for average hourly output I give in this form as I find the TW hours a year too huge to be easily grasped, but are based on the 33GW installed capacity at the governments figures for average load of just under 30% off-shore - they will be close off-shore, not further out where it is windier, to reduce maintenance and transmission costs.
Wherever in doubt I have referenced the most favourable cost for wind, although my understanding is that it is the off-shore build which is projected to be 33GW.
Here are my figures worked in more detail:

And a government sponsored recent report:
Offshore Wind Cost Study (ODE Ltd) - RAB Forum

which is very favourable to wind, as it shows that in the UK it has excellent load-tracking capabilities- I have not updated my blog figures or text to take account of this, as it came to light later.

I could not really do much with the links you gave, which do not give the basis on which they calculate their graphs, refer to the US mainly not off-shore in the UK, and really do not give much to work on.

They also do not cover the last two years, when costs have rocketed.

Hence my somewhat irked response - it looked like promotional material, and the references we gave on this thread are extremely good quality- I get a bit tired of the number of things that are endless buckets for swallowing taxpayers and bill-payers money in renewables

I have to go to bed now, but will look forward to your response with interest- nothing could please me more than to feel that we have a reasonably priced alternative for the UK, until we can do our nuclear build - I prefer mixed resources, as long as the cost is not prohibitive.

Thanks Dave, I will study up on that stuff and respond. No time left tonight though and tomorrow is already toast (I'm pouring concrete all day) so my studied reply will come later....or perhaps we can take it up in another thread.

Apologies anyway Chris - I thought I was dealing with someone trying to sell me a line when I looked at the leaflet stuff from BWEA!

In fairness, in this little corner of this thread, there are no anti-nuke folk, AFAIK.

Alan is certainly not anti-nuke - he is just pro-wind too, and thinks we ought to get on with that if we can't turn out nukes to fill the energy gap we have opening after the last nuclear build starts phasing out and when oil runs short.

I think that wind is a boondoggle, at any rate in this country, and we would be far better off spending our money on conservation until nukes kick in, or as Alan suggested getting the French to build two or three dedicated reactors on their side of the channel for us.

As for keeping arguing, most people on boards like this do not actually post, so it seems important to me to keep fighting for a rational assessment, and anyway do not think giving up is an option it is right to consider.

The thing is anyway, there are a whole variety of reasons why people have a particular viewpoint, and some objections to nuclear power are more reasonable than others - if someone had said to me just after Chernobyl should we build any more reactors until we had sorted out exactly what went wrong, I would have said 'no way'.

I never have a problem with a rational objection, what I dislike is when the mind of the person I am talking to is closed, and there is no conceivable argument that they will accept, for instance, if someone says that 'no-one has solved the waste problem' - that is fine if they are prepared to look at the alternatives, and live in the real, imperfect world where nothing is everything you would ideally like it to be.

OTOH I dislike it when it is obvious that no conceivable answer will satisfy, that in fact the whole argument and objection is a red herring, and the decision has already been taken on a philosophical level or whatever.

Alan will confirm, when the facts change, I change my mind. I have an expectation that others should do likewise.

In any case, it is obvious, to me at least, that some time before long when shortages start to bite then people will start to get in touch with reality again, and the debate will decisively and rapidly swing, since there is no way on God's earth that renewables can provide the energy for any reasonable standard of living.

How many will have to die from the product of these twin stupidities, which allows people to stave in a vain attempt to feed their SUVs, whilst their opponents fantasise about solutions which we just can't make work I don't know.

It seems sad.

RE changing ones mind.
I have, over the past couple of years become cautiously pro-nuke. I like Alan's arguments for a reasonably slow initial build out of nuke power until we gain the experience in design and the experience in construction and maintenance work force.

Having said that, I have strong suspicions that there will be more problems with nukes than the nuke optimists think. I suspect they will not be of the spectacular Chernobyl type, but rather of the 'death by a thousand cuts' type of problems with lots of waffling on how to deal with waste, covered up releases of radioactive gasses, etc. etc. But I recognize that we had better get on with it and try our best to deal with the problems as they arise. The biggest problem in any potentially polluting industry, I would say, is denial (look at coal). That is, the denial of those unwilling to allow that there are any problems with their pet baby at all. This is why we need the 'weirdo beardos' to help keep an eye on things.

My actual biggest objection to nuclear in the UK is that I would not trust the administration in this country with charge of a tea-trolley, let alone a nuclear reactor!

They intend to faff around for four years certifying for this country designs which have already been certified by countries like Canada, Finland and France, none of them exactly third world countries, whilst in my view fuel supplies will get ever more precarious - they have a whacking great gap due to appear in energy supply as they phase out the present reactors, and the cost of the proposed wind build has actually shocked me.

I would like, but don't expect, them to simply hand over the keys to the French and get them to build and run our nuclear system - they have run theirs successfully for many years.

As regards people turning against nuclear power, and the 'death by a thousand cuts', my fears run in the opposite direction.
After messing around for years, and people being misled as to real risks, so that we had a build and were well on our way to ensuring energy security and reducing CO2 - France has about half our emissions per capita - it seems likely to me that we will be in a desperate fix, and will plunge in over-riding safety considerations - a release a Windscale was for years blamed on the technologists there, but in fact they informed the Government of their safety concerns and were ordered to carry on regardless, as otherwise it would have delayed the weapons program.

The new designs are fantastically safe - check out the passive safety features, for instance, I find good design beautiful, so it is more extending the life of current reactors past their safe point in an emergency fuel situation that worries me.

Here is a brief intro to the new designs under consideration, in case you haven't banged into them before:
New generation of nuclear reactors promises ‘greener and safer’ energy - Times Online

So I agree, I don't think everything in the garden is rosy, but we have got ourselves in a real mess with fuel supplies and CO2 emissions and had better get a grip fast with a technology we know how to do - it is not on the cards to hope, like Mr McCawber, that 'something will turn up' in the form of breakthroughs that at the moment we can't do in a cost effective manner - and with energy costs, food costs and so on likely to bite hard I don't think we will be able to afford gold-plated solutions.

If you stop and think about it, we have at least two groups that benefit by putting in wind turbines.

1. The legislators look like they are doing something, whether they are or not.

2. The people manufacturing the wind turbines, since they will make a profit.

Investors also will think that they will make money from wind turbines -- and they may if there are enough subsidies. In the absence of good data as to how long the wind turbines will last, manufacturers will assume the best. Even if early turbines had bad results, the story can always be that the early turbines had problems, but we have them solved now.

The article I quoted above indicates that insurers are selling coverage on wind turbines. This may bring some sense into the market. According to the Business Week article:

Many insurance companies have learned their lessons and are now writing maintenance requirements—requiring wind farmers to replace vulnerable components such as gearboxes every five years—directly into their contracts. But a gearbox replacement can cost up to 10 percent of the original construction price tag, enough to cut deep into anticipated profits. Indeed, many investors may be in for a nasty surprise. "Between 3,000 and 4,000 older facilities are currently due for new insurance policies," says Holger Martsfeld, head of technical insurance at Germany's leading wind turbine insurer Gothaer. "We know that many of these facilities have flaws."

I would expect that besides the required maintenance, insurance premiums for wind turbine damage will be going up as well, to better reflect the risk involved. These higher premiums, together with required maintenance agreements will start waking up people to the real costs involved.

Looks like the biggest scam since ethanol to me....

No. When natural gas prices here in the US spiked, electrical prices on the coal/nuke/gas grid jumped. Consumers piled into wind. It was cheaper to buy wind energy with the extra "renewable" charge than it was to buy standard fossil fueled electricity. The local utility had to form a waiting list to stop people from joining the wind purchasing agreement (and paying "extra").

I am in no position to comment properly on US wind costs, and the US anyway has far better resources of relatively cheap on-shore winds in many locations than in Europe.

I would note two things though: it is often a nightmare to work out the 'true' cost of renewables - there is a complex web of subsidies, so the fact it was cheaper to the consumer does not really tell us much about costs - that is true of other energy resources as well, BTW - costing them is complex and difficult, and the reason I do not want to get involved in looking too deeply at the US situation - keeping a handle on the UK is difficult enough.

The other is that the cost of new builds has rocketed in the last couple of years - wind turbines are very material intensive, and as you will know they have gone up vastly, so the costs they got may have been based on historic costs, not new build.

Just a thought for your consideration - I certainly hope that windpower is a good and economic alternative for the States, but I would look very carefully at what is actually going into the pricing before being too confident.
You might want to take a look at this reliability report Gail linked, too:

Using wind for a substantial proportion of generation sounds daunting, to say the least.

Country Guardian is an extremely biased anti-wind site (blame them for NG shortages and blackouts in the UK, because they have NIMBYed out on-shore wind).

The two "reports" I have read from them were so biased as to be untrue. I no longer click on their links.

Any source from Country Guardian is not worth downloading and they have no credibility. One wastes time seeing how they have distorted and perverted data.

Worse than the worst anti-nukes in my judgment.


Yeah, I didn''t care for the tone myself, Alan, but a couple of the points especially about scale seemed worth taking on board - although that doesn't really apply to you, as you have no problems with combining it with a nuclear build.

I had come across some of the concerns on reliability before though, and feel that they need keeping an eye on.

Point taken, though.

Actually , I first came across the idea that the offshore build would cost £66bn in The Telegraph, but that sounded so fantastic that I assumes it biased and tried my own costing with Government figures from 2006, and came up with just over £40bn.

The Telegraph obviously knew what they were talking about though, but I do try to avoid sources which I think might be biased.

Charles Barton just posted giving the figures for the off-shore proposal at long Island - the estimate was $800million for 140MW peak power, apparently, before it was abandoned.

That works out at a stunning $5.7million MW.

There is nothing, but nothing that is cheaper in the UK than the US, our whole cost base is higher, energy, transport, materials, even a lot of labour, is all dearer.

So plugging the figures in for the 33GW build we come out with a figure of $188bn!

I knew I should have picked one up when they were only $136bn!

Our beloved leaders are obviously insane, and it will never be built, but they are going to waste a lot of money before they give up.

My friend Ian posted his peak oil film project from college onto YouTube. It's chopped up into several parts.

How the End Began.

You can see a bunch of us from Maine parroting other people's ideas. (I'm the hairless one with suspenders he interviews.) The footage of Stan Goff at USM was filmed right over my shoulder!

What's most interesting is the archival footage Ian assembled from places like C-span. I especially enjoy watching Professor Deffeyes.

It's old hat for most of us here at TOD, but I think it's a good effort for a 21 year old college kid.

I respectfully disagree with his take on 9/11, though.

Looks real good but you started it with part 3. At least that is the way it came up when I clicked on your link. Here is part 1.

Thanks. At least it begins with Deffeyes that way and not me!

What a disappointment! What a freaking disappointment. Starts off good but then he turns out to be just another conspiracy theory wingnut. It really pisses me off when someone hijacks peak oil just to get an audience for their very stupid conspiracy theory.

You may reply to this post but I will not reply. I refuse to give conspiracy theory nut cases any more of my valuable time.

Ron Patterson


I predict that one of these days you are going to take a hard look at your fellow doom-sayers and see a little more clearly their level of intellectual development. You may then become a little more open to other possibilities for our future other than the end of all things.

Scratch a doomer and you usually find utterly bizarre notions on a whole host of topics. They left the building long before Elvis did.

Come out of the cold, Ron! Join those of us who suspect that the future contains many options good and bad. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to bring rationality to your co-doomers!

George, I know I said I would not reply but since your reply did not address my complaint at all, but was all about the future instead of the past, I feel compelled.

Come out of the cold, Ron! Join those of us who suspect that the future contains many options good and bad. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to bring rationality to your co-doomers!

I am sure that is exactly true George. I am not even contemplating what the future may hold. I am sure life will eventually get better for the survivors. But between now and then, perhaps a hundred years from now, things will be a literal hell on earth. But what on earth has all this to do with hijacking peak oil just to get an audience for your favorite stupid conspiracy theory? Nothing!

Ron Patterson

Come out of the cold, Ron! Join those of us who suspect that the future contains many options good and bad. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to bring rationality to your co-doomers!

Darth Vader discovers Prozac.

I learned about Peak Oil from 9/11 conspiracy sites, months before The Oil Drum appeared.

Anyone alive in the 1970's "knew" about "peak oil".

All 9/11 did was to say 'this big event and the reaction is because of "peak oil"'.

(And I'm still waiting for *ANY* of the 'theories about conspiracies are nuts' to show how there in no basis for conspiracies in the past)

Ya don't need a conspiracy.

Just ask "What happens if the world opts to not accept the US Dollar" (being how no nation is going to do well VS the US in a war. Or find a court. But say "your money is no good here" - there is an option.)

I did say:

I respectfully disagree with his take on 9/11, though.

"Take what you can use, and let the rest rot." --Flannery O'Connor


The U.S. Geological Survey is nearing completion of a research project that is attempting to quantify how much oil is contained in the Bakken shales formation and how much of it is recoverable.

The study is expected to be completed by late April, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who along with other state officials, pushed the federal agency to finish the research started by scientist Leigh Price.

Price estimated the Bakken formation may hold as many as 400 billion barrels of oil. But Price died in 2000 before the study could be published or peer reviewed.

Last I heard, USGS was saying they would not publish the Price report: http://www.undeerc.org/price/

Looks like there has been some pressure applied.


Nissan boss: U.S. auto market in recession

Ghosn said the cost of raw materials, increasing for the fourth straight year, must come down.

Earlier, Ghosn told students at Seoul’s Korea University that global automakers need to focus on emerging markets. During a visit to South Korea to meet local Nissan and Renault officials, Ghosn said growth in countries such as Russia, China, India and Brazil will be key.

General Motors and Ford are targeting 75% and 60% of their sales respectively to be outside the North American market.

With the last 2-3 days (certainly this week) someone posted a "stock tip" here regarding 4 companies in the fertilizer/potash biz, all skyrocketing over the past 2 years. I didn't link or make enough note of it to find it now. Can anyone point me back to it? Thanks.

Just off the top of my had there is Potash and Monstanto I believe. I am pretty sure those are fertizlier companies. I didn't read that post so I don't have the link.

that of course is not a recommendation.

The two companies to watch are POT and CF (disclaimer- I am invested in CF)--
Both have made huge runs, and are still gaining.
But virtual markets can collapse at any time, even if they control needed materials.
So if (and a big if) the current superstition based economic model persists, both companies are worth a look.

Hi clifman, that was me. (I'm in the energy stock tips biz, see Energy and Capital.) The ones I posted in the fertilizer biz are MOS (Mosaic Co., the world's largest producer of phosphate fertilizer) and DBA (PowerShares DB Multi-Sector Commodity Trust) which is more of a play on metals but does have ag exposure.

Check out this article, if you haven't already:
Famines May Occur Without Record Crops This Year, Potash Says

Try these ..


Triff ..

Thx all

Compared to our ancestors either we are unbelievably, fabulously rich, or the price of food is so incredibly cheap as to be incomprehensible to anyone born before 1500 AD.

Wow! It sure is comforting to know wheat is still cheaper than back when they first discovered 3-field crop rotation.

Re Stanlow refinery, Cheshire - I used to work there in '98-2000. A major UK refinery, it was at the time processing 26,000 litres of North Sea and Russian crude per minute.

When I was there, Shell management were tearing their hair out - at low teens dollar/barrel the North Sea extraction operations were losing money like there was no tomorrow - and remember that's about the same time that N Sea output was peaking.

If only they'd left it there for another decade, eh? The benefits of 20:20 hindsight......

regards Chris

Hello TODers,

Some TODers have posted that farmers will always be able to get the input resources they need; that they can easily outbid others.

Although I am no expert, I have speculatively suggested before that the above sentence is not necessarily true. Does the following posting hint that my speculation has merit?

South Africa: Wheat Price

...Farmers, no matter how vitally important the produce may be, must abandon unprofitable crops.

This is precisely what happened in wheat farming. As input prices rose faster than farm-gate prices, farmers abandoned wheat production.

...What we cannot afford is to allow factors such as land reform to slow production. Organised agriculture says production on farms handed over under land reform has fallen an average of 90%.
My rough guess is that the new owners of this handed-over land are unable to afford I-NPK, and O-NPK cannot be economically moved to their land, therefore they must accept greatly reduced yields until 5 years of crop rotation help stabilize output, but it is very easy to go broke during this interim period [especially if non-FF SpiderWebRiding networks to distribute O-NPK composts and manures from the cities back to the massively geographically dispersed farms & gardens fail to materialize].

Recall my previous posting asking the reader to imagine every homeowner rushing to buy and hoard as much I-NPK as possible for home gardening, hoarding, and/or as barter currency. Even though they would be buying small amounts, relative to an avg. ag-farm--the combined effect of all these small buyers would send I-NPK prices through the roof. The planet really needs to get moving towards Victory Compost Pits to avert machete' moshpits. ArchDruid Greer has an excellent text on the need for composting:

A Theology of Compost

If O-NPK is wildly insufficient: I-NPK as a barter item could be especially powerful WTSHTF: Imagine trading just 200 lbs of I-NPK to a farmer for a year's supply of raw Durum wheat. Recall my posting where potash hit $10,500/ton in 1914: wouldn't $1,050 of I-NPK be a fair trade to help keep your family from starving?

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

Recall my posting where potash hit $10,500/ton in 1914: wouldn't $1,050 of I-NPK be a fair trade to help keep your family from starving?

And where shall one keep it? Many people lack land and outbuildings for such.

Hello Eric Blair,

Thxs for responding. That is my problem--I own no real estate, just renting a room from someone in total Peak Denial. But if the poo-poo hits the oscillator, I hope to have sufficient future time & money to buy and then hoard some I-NPK in my bedroom: I will just throw my mattress on top of the pile to protect my one ton $10,500 [and rising fast] investment.

I really hope things don't get this bad, but who knows?

In an earlier post you said -
"I will be an early American victim"


I missed the earlier post that you refer to.
Can you give me the link of the earlier post ??

Also, is there any chance that you would put a contact email in your profile ??


totoneila I hope you are on floor 0 if you are going to stick 1+ tons over 2 joists..


A wealthy owner of thousands of acres can easily get credit for seeds, fuel, and fertilizer. Poor farmers of a handful of acres each cannot get credit for seeds, fuel, and fertilizer. Perhaps that is why productivity fell.

Hello Thomas Deplume,

Thxs for responding with a good point--Hopefully Govts are examining ways to modify this system to goose relocalized permaculture before the 3,000 miles lettuce, wheat, and bananas fail to arrive.

This link posits that it is now more important for these local Philipinos to walk/bike so that a tramline can be converted exclusively to hauling seeds and NPK uphill, and harvested crops back downhill:

One factor which needs to be seriously studied is the fact that the tramline is supposed to carry fertilizer, seeds and other inputs up to the mountains, with the return trip to haul vegetables, fruits and other products. Another is that the tramline is not supposed to transport people and other moving loads like animals, presumably to prevent accidents. Then the system should earn income so that the government or farmers group can use the funds to maintain and repair the tramline.
I must admit I am impressed with this advanced thinking as we head postPeak. I could easily see Phoenix's light-rail [still building]being forbidden to passengers--the railcars would be hauling vital goods only to try to reduce the scale and duration of machete' moshpits. Hopefully, this would also eliminate the mob's desire to burn the railcars and steal the copper wiring, as has occurred in South Africa.

Call me a conspiracy head, but . . .

Ralph Nader received something like a 100,000 votes in Florida, when the "winning" margin for Bush was something like 500 votes. IMO, Gore would have won without Nader. I've always wondered what motivated Nader to run and to hurt the chances of probably the greenest presidential candidate in US history. Other than Bush, the biggest beneficiary of Nader's run was Hillary (and Bill) Clinton. If Gore had won, HIllary would have been running after up to 16 years of Clinton/Gore.

Note the implication from Hillary at the end of last night's debate that she might be willing to retire gracefully from the scene. If she withdraws, wouldn't it be to her benefit to have McCain win in 2008?

Care to guess who is apparently going to announce Sunday that he is running for president?

Nader is a Red-Herring, WT.

You can find all sorts of actual nonsense that helps to show why Bush and Gore were a statistical dead-heat to begin with, and look at Gore's performance in the Debates.. he had to WORK to lose that campaign, including distancing himself from Bill Clinton.

TinFoil hats can be very stylish , but really look in the mirror before wearing any of them in public..


So you think that the 100,000 people in Florida who voted for Nader would have stayed home, or voted for Bush if Nader had not run?


Nader received some 97,000 votes in Florida. According to the Washington Post, exit polls there showed that "47 percent of Nader voters would have gone for Gore if it had been a two-man race, and only 21 percent for Bush," which would have given Gore a margin of some 24,000 votes over Bush.

The problem with that question is 'If Nader had not run..'

Nader is a US citizen, and has every right to run.

Those 97,OOO people did not have their votes 'stolen' from the party candidates.. they went to the polls, and they consciously voted their choice.

Your suggestion disrespects all of them, because of the errors, lies and crimes of this President. Pinning it on the one guy who had anything real or reasonable to say during the '00 and '04 campaigns is a level of denial that is beneath you.

Nader supports instant runoff and publicly funded campaigns, both of which would have solved this issue, if you want to propose a 'what if' for the recent elections. But eclipsing the third party candidates, where we would likely be finally getting the new ideas that our Gov't so desperately needs at this point, is just a fear-based reaction that would help to propel us into a proper tyranny.

If Nader does announce this weekend, see if you can't make yourself listen to a complete C-span interview or a speech, and tell me he is not talking about the various elephants in the room that we know we will never hear about from 'Supported by Coal Obama and Clinton'..


My ex-fiance was a Naderite in 2000.

That should've been the first red flag.

She was also a total peak oil denier.


This question has been eating away at me for a long time, and discussion today about PV installations has brought it back. My state (Mass) has had a grant/rebate program, for homeowners served by investor-owned utilities only, towards purchase and installation of grid-tied PV. Our town utility is a municipal, so we don't qualify.

But my question is this: In today's context, why would *anyone* want to buy a grid-tied PV system without storage?

"In today's context, why would *anyone* want to buy a grid-tied PV system without storage?"

Well...the additional expense, for one thing. A small solar system might come in around $15K after incentives, but the battery backup might add a third or more to that.

Second, batteries need a dry, well-ventilated space, typicially on a concrete floor, and not far from either the main service panel or the solar system. This isn't always easy to do.

Third, they do need occasional monitoring and maintenance, unlike the solar system, which needs basically no attention (other than hosing the panels off once or twice a year).

For some people--again, the devil is in the details--this is more than they want to deal with for only a day or two a year without power.

All true. My question was more aimed at all the off-grid folks who posted today. With the oil & gas depletion trend, coal increasing in price, and the looming dropoff just a few years out (if not sooner) I was looking for a more general sense of whether being "on grid" is going to be of value for much longer. Here in the US things seem stable, and quiet, but if I was in any of 42 other countries I'd answer differently.

I read one poster yesterday who installed the batteries and inverter first, before even thinking of PV. Are there others?


Here are the details Chris, one 1.5kw inverter/charger http://www.invertersrus.com/inv1500wc.html

4 Lifeline deep cycle agm batteries. http://www.invertersrus.com/gpl-27t.html
AGM batteries are sealed so the is no maint. and can easily be shipped by UPS.

This system works great for us, we use very little power anyway, I can light the whole downstairs with a single 75 watt cfl. small post and beam house {24'X 24'}. We heat with wood and cook with propane.

The system just sits and keeps the batteries topped off and will automatically switch to the batteries
on the loss of grid power.

We also have a small 2.5kw gasoline generator, with 30 gallons of treated fuel stored and secured. In the event of an extented outage I can feed the inverter/battery bank a charge and maintain any household uses which really increases the generator efficiency.

I do have an Air X wind generator in storage we could pop up and add to the system easily this is for a really long term event and I could easily add some PVC panels which I plan to.

So yes, to me the battery bank is actually the heart of the system and I can arrange all sorts of ways to get them a charge, but it's their charge that is important to me.


Thanks, Don.

So $1500 or so buys an inverter/charger (nice combo box) and 400 AH x 12V worth of AGMs - 4800 WH, one helluva big UPS. You could buy that in a box from APC for about twice as much, though it might include pure sine wave output.

That's a nice backup solution for the typical night-long type of outage we see occasionally. Something to think about. Thanks!


Grid-intertied solar systems are great but the big drawback has always been that when the grid has a blackout so do you! Without batteries there is nowhere for all that solar power to go so it shuts down until the grid comes back. Now you can have your meter turn backwards AND power when the neighbors are without!


RE: Hunters, anglers join global-warming outcry

'The hunting and angling community is becoming more aware of global climate change and the problems associated with that, especially how it affects fish and wildlife," said Rod Mondt... 'They see it more readily because they're out in the field more.'

Surprise, surprise.

This touches on something that I find a little more than ironic. In my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who deny AGW, rarely spend time outside of their city and/or suburban shells . Being totally disconnected with nature, they have no way of obtaining any meaningful sensory experience of what's happening to our climate.

Conversely, people who hunt, hike, angle, farm, or anyone else who still has some kind of regular connection with the natural world (or happen to have visited a GW 'hotspot'), tend not to be as sanguine as their AGW-denying, computer-warrior brethren. This outdoor experience doesn't necessarily make their views automatically correct... I just think it's important to recognize the differences.

Matthew -

You've recognized one of the mega-trends that does not bode well for human kind. It's much much bigger than just AGW denial. We are dependent on the natural world, and as we become ever more estranged from it, collectively, our decisions become less likely to sustain us.

More people now live in urban settings than rural. So there: the majority has no idea of reality-based reality.

My not-so-limited experience is that the pillagers, the hard-core hunters and fishers, are the ones who become the most strident conservationists. My concern has been how do we skip the part where they kill everything and get on with the part where they want to conserve stuff.

This touches on something that I find a little more than ironic. In my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who deny AGW, rarely spend time outside of their city and/or suburban shells . Being totally disconnected with nature, they have no way of obtaining any meaningful sensory experience of what's happening to our climate.

Right. It also helps a lot to spend a significant amount of time in one area. I spent over 30 years in the Asheville NC area of the southern Appalachian Mts. and witnessed the changes in climate as well as the initially creeping and then galloping development that was destroying the forests. Climate change in my perception is accelerating from the progress it made in the 1970 - 2003 timespan I spent in western NC. Who knows where it will lead?

In this supposedly credit constrained world Tesla raised $40 million.


Hello TODers,

I have posted before how Peak Outreach should make us gladly accept the nightly darkness in exchange for food. Sadly, Tajikistan has not practiced timely Peak Outreach and mitigation; they are now sitting in the cold & dark, and without much food:

...Days-long blackouts in cities and towns have chilled residents who rely on electricity to heat their homes, putting the most vulnerable residents — as well as patients at urban hospitals — at risk. And burst pipes and frozen water mains have forced urban dwellers to collect water from unsafe sources.

"With the cost of food at the market skyrocketing, and dairy production hampered by the cold weather, people are forced to rely more on their own stocks," explains Rich Ormond, program officer for Central Asia. "And people in rural Tajikistan depend on food that they've stored from the fall harvest, and many of these stores have been spoiled or damaged by the freeze."
I sure hope US Peak Outreach spreads faster than our economy collapses from ELM, bad financial practices, and other blowback effects. My guess is that the average Tajik is much more self-sustaining and resource-resilient than the average American. Time will tell.

My greatest fear is that blackouts affecting the P & K mines will drastically reduce industrial fertilizers [I-NPK] for industrial agriculture. If the topdogs decide that we simply must build huge, new nuke, wind, tide, and solar genplants-- perhaps Saskatchewan [K] and Morocco [P] will be near the top of the list.

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

Yo Toto - Big Ugly Tod Troll here.

Since I have condensed the issues down to one of $, as in;

Money, or the lack there of has become (some would argue it always has been) the determining factor in life or death of humans on planet earth.

Can you point me to Jay Hansons addressing this subject?

...or any other references anyone cares to contribute that will help in understanding this most complex of issues?

thanks in advance

jef (1f)

P.S. have you heard from graywolf as I would like to psaa some info on to him but can not connect currently?

Hey big Ugly,

what gives asking:

or any other references anyone cares to contribute that will help in understanding this most complex of issues?

this in the company of scientific minds, you will get no answer. Not a question for science but for common sense, and definitely not for big bad restrictive references.

You touch, you hear, you see, you taste you have a sense of balance, use them all together, use senses in common. This is what you need for a question, not chopped up bits and pieces, not examine the bits like a science mind drooling over disected frog guts. Forget broken frogs,this is a question for big bold SUPER TROLL who uses all senses in common, who does not refer but experiences.

Above you state an answer and are running about to confirm it, is it what your experience of life tells you? Don't think so, don't need experts for confirmation then. Use senses the way they were meant, maybe arrive at different answer than above, one that needs no confirmation, only what senses tell.

Science is okay but common sense kicks ass. Mostly science lives here.

Quite off topic other than it being Friday.

Does anybody subscribe to the podcast via rss or something for Financial Sense Newshour?

I have found it has become weekly listening for me but downloading each section is a bit tedious, but really not THAT bad. Just curious about a subscription link, as I can't find one on the site.


I'm pretty sure our DrumBeat Mod listens to the show every now and then.

I use itunes
Download itunes, Go to itunes store, punch it in, then subscribe. Itunes sucks, but I own a mac hence... I'd also recommend electric politics, I really appreciate what this guy is doing

Thanks, I subscribed to EP too.

I realized that firefox was formating the xml podcast subscription link for me from:


South American, Arab nations condemn US

South American and Arab countries on Thursday condemned the attempt of any superpower or country to control Venezuela or any other South American country's resources.

In a statement issued at the end of a two-day meeting in the Argentine capital which drew foreign ministers from over 30 South American and Arabian countries, the participants said countries, while abiding to the UN charter and the international law principles, have "the sovereign rights to exploit their resources under their own laws and their own development policies."

The statement is regarded as a condemnation to the United States as Venezuela has accused Washington of attempting to overtake Venezuela's oil resources by such oil giants as the ExxonMobil.


This Also---
Ecuador highlights oil and gas integration with Venezuela
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa outlined Thursday his country's oil and gas integration with Venezuela at the inauguration of an oil rig rented from its neighbor.

Under the agreement between the two countries, Venezuela will rent two oil rigs to Ecuador. The first one started to operate Thursday in the Guanto Dureno well, operated by Petroproduccion, a branch company of Petroecuador, in Lago Agrio, a province of Sucumbios. The second rig was expected to arrive in March.

Correa pledged that the crude oil production of Petroecuador would increase from 173,000 to 190,000 barrels per day and he expected oil and gas extraction to increase by 15,000 barrels this year.

The Ecuadorian leader highlighted Chavez's solidarity in offering Ecuador two rigs and technicians at a discounted price, which covered maintenance, operation and administrative expenses.

The rent charge of the rig is 7,976 U.S. dollars per day, while in the international market it would be over 30,000 dollars, said Correa.

Petroecuador and Venezuela's oil company Petroleos de Venezuela(PDVSA) will also create a joint company for the exploitation of the Sacha field, in the Amazon rainforest region and build an oil refinery in June in the province of Manabi, which will produce 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Some stats on UK power generation from 2001.
Natural gas 37 Gw, coal 34 Gw, Nukes 23 Gw, Petroleum 2Gw, Others 3Gw. Total electricity=386 Twh

UK onshore wind potential=11.5 Gw
UK offshore wind=70Gw
Total cost $100 billion US??

Total wind ~269 Twh
23 Gw nukes~184 Twh
Non-fossil ~453 Twh

Get building those windfarms!