DrumBeat: February 23, 2008

Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind

Texas, once the oil capital of North America, is rapidly turning into the capital of wind power. After breakneck growth the last three years, Texas has reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines.

Texans are even turning tapped-out oil fields into wind farms, and no less an oilman than Boone Pickens is getting into alternative energy.

“I have the same feelings about wind,” Mr. Pickens said in an interview, “as I had about the best oil field I ever found.” He is planning to build the biggest wind farm in the world, a $10 billion behemoth that could power a small city by itself.

Yergin: Climate Change and Energy are Converging into New Era of Clean Energy

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“High energy prices, climate change and energy security are converging as the new engine driving the development of clean energy,” Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and executive vice president, IHS Inc., said today in Washington, D.C. “There is a major shift in public opinion towards clean energy, which is being bolstered by the growing conviction that new carbon policies will reshape the competitive landscape of the global energy business.”

South America gas crisis solution fails

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia failed to resolve a natural gas dispute Saturday, but agreed to study how to divide Bolivian supplies to avoid an energy crunch, an official said.

Bolivian Energy Minister Carlos Villegas said the three leaders amicably discussed ways to divide up limited Bolivian supplies, but reached no immediate solution during talks at Argentine President Cristina Fernandez's suburban residence.

US Senate Panel To Review Strategic Oil Reserve Policies

A U.S. Senate panel will next week review how the government uses the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a spokesman for the committee said Friday.

Some of the current administration's policies for filling and using reserves from the SPR, an emergency crude stockpile, have come under harsh criticism from some Democratic leaders in Congress.

In particular, the Bush administration's plan to fill the SPR at a time of record oil prices has prompted angry reactions from Capitol Hill.

High Diesel Prices Have a Troubling Ripple Effect

Sharp and sustained rises in diesel prices are squeezing New Hampshire businesses that rely on trucks, especially companies who are locked into fixed contracts with their customers, such as loggers.

"I can't charge a surcharge," said Chris Crowe, owner of CR Crowe in Littleton, who delivers logs and chips to mills and wood-to-energy plants throughout northern New England. "I'm getting paid the same price as ayear ago, and in some cases, the price has gone down."

Auditor: Roads suffering as funds fall

According to the legislative auditor, the value of the state’s existing gas tax has fallen 16 percent since 2003, due to the effects of inflation. The state’s gas tax has remained at 20 cents per gallon since 1988, but the increasing amount of fuel usage in the state generally helped offset the losses to inflation, until 2003. That’s when higher fuel prices began to prompt the state’s drivers to change their behavior.

That loss of effective revenue has forced MnDOT to rely more heavily on borrowing to cover its costs. As recently as 1998, the auditor found that the gas tax funded about two-thirds of the department’s operations. By last year, however, that had fallen to about half.

Aramco splits Jubail contracts to minimise risk of cost rises

Saudi Aramco is seeking to minimise the impact of rising costs at its new refinery in Jubail by splitting the contracts into smaller, more manageable packages and asking contractors to submit fixed-price bids.

Saudi Arabia shuts down Ras Tanura hydrocracker

Singapore: Saudi Aramco has shut a 44,000 barrels per day (bpd) hydrocracker at its Ras Tanura refinery for one to two weeks, following an outage at the problem-ridden unit, industry sources said on Friday.

Coal stocks still low at two Indonesia power plants

JAKARTA – Two big power plants on Java, Indonesia's most crowded island, which suffered severe blackouts this week, have enough coal for just one to three days, the state utility said on Friday, raising fears of further outages.

Oil Futures Hit $137 for 2015

Barclays Capital, a division of Barclays Bank PLC located in the U.K., has upped its projected oil cost for the year 2015 from $93 a barrel to $137 a barrel after record high prices in oil futures this week.

Zambia targets 2nd bank for $1.2 bln crude oil deal

"The talks are headed for collapse unless the bank relents on its conditions which include demand for collateral from the government before it can release the funds. This stance has displeased the government and it's a matter of days before these talks collpase," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Conoco: It Could Take Years for Settlement with Venezuela

ConocoPhillips anticipates it could take years to obtain any negotiated or arbitrated settlement in the dispute the company has with Venezuela for the assets that the Chavez government expropriated last year, the company said Friday in its annual report.

"The timing of any negotiated or arbitrated settlement is not known at this time, but we anticipate it could take years," according to the report.

Chavez Gets Arab, Latin Countries' Backing Versus ExxonMobil

A conglomerate of Arab and Latin American countries are putting their support behind Venezuela in the ExxonMobil row, claimed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Feb. 22.

GM exec stands by calling global warming a 'crock'

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a "total crock of [crap]," saying his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles.

Lutz, GM's outspoken product development chief, has been under fire from Internet bloggers since last month when he was quoted as making the remark to reporters in Texas.

In New Mexico, storm gathers over Texas firm's hopes for oil find

This hilly swath of high desert about 20 miles south of artsy, touristy Santa Fe has never been oil-and-gas country: That distinction belongs to the pumpjack-dotted landscape of the faraway southeastern and northwestern corners of New Mexico.

Over the past couple of years, however, a Texas company has quietly leased the mineral rights to some 65,000 acres in the Galisteo Basin.

Stockholm bourse ends week down

Oil firm Lundin Petroleum was near the top of the winners list of major Swedish firms amid further gains in oil prices and renewed speculation that global oil production has reached its peak. Dagens Industri reports that according to Kjell Aleklett, a professor at Uppsala University and chairman of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, global production has remained at 84.5 million barrels per day over the last three years despite increasing global demand. Peak production is unlikely to ever climb above 90 million barrels per day, Aleklett forecast.

Immense and untapped: Iraq's oil

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq has a vast and untapped oil wealth, perhaps 100 billion barrels worth. That's enough, industry experts say, to boost world oil supplies and trigger a decline in prices.

Australia: Search on for new oil fields

MASSIVE oil and gas reserves lie undiscovered across Australia's vast sedimentary basins, the country's peak oil exploration body says.

A new report by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has concluded that only a quarter of Australia's oil and gas reserves have been explored.

Without further oil discoveries, Australia faces a crippling trade and energy crisis.

Iran Says May Get 10 Percent of Global Gas Market in 20 Years

(Bloomberg) -- Iran could supply 10 percent of the world's natural gas demand within 20 years as the country ramps up production at new fields, according to Seyed Reza Kasaeizadeh, head of the National Iranian Gas Co.

Iran currently produces about 1 percent of world gas demand, Kasaeizadeh told the official Shana news agency.

US help for African energy crisis

The United States signed an agreement Friday designed to promote the role of the private sector in helping southern African countries overcome an energy crisis.

S.Africa power crunch may benefit coal sector

LONDON (Reuters) - South Africa's electricity crisis has cost its economy dearly but it also offers the country a chance to revitalise its vital coal industry.

German Government Could Jettison Higher Biofuel Target

The German government has said it might scrap plans for a 5 percent rise in the amount of biofuel added to gasoline. The move has been prompted by concerns about motorists with cars that are not biofuel compatible.

Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

Trials of biofuels for airliners will use conventional, controversial feedstocks, it has been reported. Virgin Atlantic and Boeing had hoped to employ so-called "second-generation" biofuel feedstocks such as algae which wouldn't threaten food production or biodiversity. The news comes as the UK government has announced a review of potential downsides to biofuel use.

Eurostar: climate change concerns drive double-digit rise in high-speed rail travel

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The head of Eurostar, the high-speed rail service linking London to Paris and Brussels, said Friday that climate change worries helped make 2007 a banner year and urged the EU to rein in the "unsustainable" growth of airline carbon emissions.

Global shortage of commodities looming

Our peak oil thesis gained some new respect this week as oil prices hit yet another record, the first close over US$100 per barrel. Demand fluctuates, but it is all about supply, and supply concerns this week showed how tight the market really is.

Peak oil has lots of press, but what about peak copper? Peak zinc? Peak gold? Sounds preposterous, but maybe it's not so far-fetched. Nearly every commodity is experiencing some supply issues, for a host of reasons. Add it all up, and it means potential supply shortages in the future. Demand may slacken this year, but in the next 10 years today's high commodity prices may actually look like a bargain.

Iran backs OPEC production cut in March

TEHRAN – Iran will back a cut in production by OPEC when it meets in March and expects the group to take such action, the country's oil minister said in remarks published on Saturday.

Peak oil holds enormous consequences for our lives

All across the world, people are starting to grasp the concept of peak oil.

First cargo of Norwegian gas to the US

The first cargo of gas from the Norwegian continental shelf arrived in the USA his week. This shipment of Snøhvit LNG is the first delivery of LNG gas from Europe to the world's largest energy market.

Iraq's Kurds move in on oil stronghold Kirkuk

Iraq's Kurds are moving towards taking control of the vital oil city of Kirkuk as one of the most explosive disputes bequeathed by Saddam Hussein nears a resolution.

Indonesia to cut oil imports

JAKARTA (UPI) -- Indonesia's state-run Pertamina said it will reduce its monthly crude oil imports by 1.5 million barrels starting in April because of surging prices.

"Crude oil is so expensive we will cut imports by 1.5 million barrels in April," said production director Suroso Atmomartoyo.

Palm oil at new peak

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures surged to record highs for the seventh consecutive session on Friday on hopes China will buy more palm oil to replenish its vegetable oil reserves.

Energy storage nears its day in the sun

MONACO (Reuters) - Energy storage is an unglamorous pillar of an expected revolution to clean up the world's energy supply but will soon vie for investors attention with more alluring sources of energy like solar panels, manufacturers say.

UN says warming threatens fish stocks

PARIS - Major world commercial fish stocks could collapse within decades as global warming compounds damage from pollution and overfishing, U.N. officials said Friday.

A U.N. Environment Program report details new research on how rising ocean surface temperature and other climate changes are affecting the fishing industry. It says that more than 2.6 billion people get most of their protein from fish.

"You overlay all of this and you are potentially putting a death nail in the coffin of the world fisheries," Achim Steiner, head of the program, said in a telephone news conference from Monaco.

Trams 57% the cost of Urban Highways
(and with higher capacity and without oil too :-)

This is the amount needed for building the 19.7 km of the TramTrain urban network, i.e. 17.2 million Euros per kilometre. (One kilometre of urban highway costs 30 million Euros.) This investment covers rolling stock, trackbed, depot and control centre, road surfacing, upgrading of public space, urban furniture, road signage, etc.


Best Hopes for Americans Learning to Work with the Speed & Efficiency of French Bureaucrats,


In a world of trains, planes and automobiles, trains have taken a back seat. The day may not be too far away when trains will find their place again in the front and in the driver's seat.

Not b/c of any burning nostalgia or changing consumer preferences, but b/c of good old fashioned cost benefit factors in supply and demand.

Mr. Kunstler may have his vision of future rail fulfilled after all.

Thanks Alan for figures. Makes comparisons so much easier to see.

The recent announcement in France of building 1,500 km of trams in a decade had an estimated cost of 21 billion euros, or 14 million euros/km (vs. the 17.2 million euros/km in Mulhouse).

With some adjustment factors (2nd and 3rd lines cost less than 1st lines, mass production of standardized trams, tram-train lines are cheaper/km) the goal is possible, if a bit low for my taste.

Best Hopes for cost-effective Urban Rail,


That's not efficiency, it's dirigisme, statism infused with a dose of arrogance. It does have the strong advantage that they don't always bow down to every two-bit nebbich NIMBY, but extrapolating French conditions to the USA may still be a bit of a political stretch. Imagine Joe Sixpack screaming and yelling and railing to highest heaven about the elitist impositions of vexatious énarques; it's just not on.

The good news is that building stuff like that might promote long-term social and real-estate investment that would never occur based on here-today, probably-gone-tomorrow bus lines.

But the bad news is that France is only the size of three or four typical US states, yet packed full of 60 million people, most crammed like sardines into lower-altitude metropolitan regions. With that magnitude of overcrowding, a tram line even in a small city may add connectivity, for example to the national rail network. And it need not go very far, so it provides many rides per km (the heavy lines of the Paris Metro are very short; on the whole, even the suburban RER trains don't really go very far.) In most of the far less crowded U.S., only the highway would benefit society by adding network connectivity. The tram line would stand apart in splendid uneconomic isolation, connecting to nothing much, traveling a far greater distance (more capital, more wear and tear) to provide the same number of rides, serving mostly the very few who just happen to live and work along the line, and costing everyone else huge subsidies for no benefit.

The other bad news is that highways have the advantage of not forcing constant public contact with hideously expensive, shiftless, surly, schedule-disregarding, strike-prone vehicle operators. One really wants to have a car or something to use when they're on strike, when they simply don't feel like showing up, when the wrong kind of leaves have fallen on the line, when an inch or two of snow have effectively shut them down, or when one simply needs or wants to escape the cloistered confines of town. And once one has that vehicle, well, then except in Manhattan and the Chicago Loop, what use is the tram? IOW when one has two competing capital-intensive technologies, one eventually wins out. Since most of the USA utterly lacks "masses", at least compared to Europe or Japan, it should be no surprise that "mass" transport was the loser here.

So this might all be tilting at windmills. Stay tuned, eventually we shall see...

Yeah, when someone mentions 'public transport' I can literally feel my heart sink.
Somehow in the UK you just know that is never going to mean a fast, smooth and efficient service, but waiting in the cold for a bus that does not turn up for no obvious reason, or being crammed on to a commuter train when the staff happen to have nothing better to do and turn up.

Looks like we will be lucky to still have that though, never mind a car.

From your comments it is obvious that you don't ride rail transit systems, nor have you travelled much in major US population centers. I have worked for short periods of time in over twenty five major metropolitan areas of the US and the traffic in many of them is congested enough to warrent the development of light rail systems. Just because most states don't have the population density of France does not mean that many major metro areas can't support rail transit.
Look at California with over 40 million people (including illegals) and condsider their traffic congestion problems. California needs dozens of rail transit lines beyond the few systems that are now running and well patronized.
And about those transit drivers being surly and strike prone: please elaborate on that regarding US rail transit sytems. All the US rail transit systems I have ridden (over 20) don't have direct rider to operator contact.
Let's see some facts or real life experiences, PaulS, to back up your arguement.

don't have direct rider to operator contact.

I like the operator contact on the New Orleans streetcars. 80+% of them are friendly and helpful.

Most touching are examples like a streetcar operator getting out and helping a blind person across the street when it was messed up by construction.

Best Hopes for People,


You are right about US density. One can see vineyards and cows grazing from some French tram lines. These are NOT super dense cities, but smaller towns (112,000 is not big) surrounded by villages, connected by trams.

This is a map of the 2011 Mulhouse tram system (pdf)

Google some of the village names and they are 1,000 or so people.


There was a time when Iowa had a network of self powered passenger rail cars which connected the many small towns and villages with nearby cities. The last one shut down in the early 1960s as better roads and more reliable autos became affordable.

AlanfromBigEasy -

Dumb question: I know there is a Desire St. in New Orleans, but is there now, or has there even been an actual streetcare with that name on its route indicator?

As ask because I have always been a big fan of Tennessee Williams.


The original Desire Line ran up Royal Street and down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter (one representing fine antiques, art, jewelers, etc and the other more carnal desires).

A city civil engineer and I came up with a plan for the new Desire Streetcar line (on Rampart Street) that everyone liked and Mayor Nagin was going to announce in October, 2005 (as part of his re-election bid). Then Katrina hit and the federal levees failed.

Widen the neutral ground from 20' to 36', put a streetcar between two rows of lamps (like CBD section of Canal Line, but grass running), go from two to one traffic lanes on either side, bicycle lanes on either side. To preserve parking (and make everything fit), encroach on sidewalk about 10" where there is not an overhanging balcony. Where there is an balcony create a 6' wide mini-garden in what would had been parking and require bicycle parking to replace lost auto parking.

AlanfromBigEasy -

Thanks much for the info re Desire Street street car.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

and I suppose it's been noted many times, but "A Desire Named Streetcar" would make a good website name...

Look at California with over 40 million people (including illegals) and condsider their traffic congestion problems. California needs dozens of rail transit lines beyond the few systems that are now running and well patronized.

Well patronized or not, San Diego has cut back service on their trolley system recently due to lack of funds and, for the line in question, lack of riders at night (which was the service that was cut.)

California is right now in a state funds crises, which will find its way into the local mass transportation budgets.

LA is of course the poster child for automobile inspired development, yet gasoline @$3.5/gal is not such a big deal when a dumpy old house costs $500,000. Will an effective rail system ever be built in the greater LA area, as a peak-oil adaptation strategy? I doubt it.

Well, yes, point taken - technically, on the heavy lines as opposed to small trams, one might have contact with a surly strike-prone conductor rather than driver. But the lingering memories are still of the New York subway strikes, and WNEW-TV running hidden camera footage of nothing much besides card games going on at the maintenance shops, and seeing subway cars traveling the NY Thruway on truck trailers to go elsewhere get fixed because nothing went on at the shops, and seeing - just recently - a New York City bus on the Indiana Toll Road for the same reason, and after everybody walked to work for days on end, New York mayors caving in and giving 'em everything they wanted and more, and bonuses on top of that. And don't get me started on the antics of William Ronan, or the infamous 7:55 from Babylon, Long Island, that made the news as canceled, most days. In other words, a veritable cesspit of cronyism, incompetence, shiftlessness, sloth, stupidity and corruption.

Oh, and the moronic excuses on the Washington DC Metro over hard-to-get electrical relays, as if the lazy, slothful, dozing supply bureaucracy shouldn't have seen that one coming years in advance. And the perpetual construction and bus bypasses on the Chicago CTA - no project in Chicago ever gets finished, not rail, not highway. And lest one think that fecklessness and utter indiscipline on the part of public agencies and their jobsworth staffs are limited to the USA, consider the fantastic excuses for execrable service from London out to the Cotswolds (British example: "the leaves on the line are 'bigger and juicier' than last year)". So you're right, I'm happy not to be obliged these days to rely every day on these unreliable contraptions; that the problems are entirely sociological rather than technical makes them essentially impossible to fix once they have set in.

And yes, Manhattan and the Chicago Loop are among the few places in the USA that can support rail transit. Perhaps, also, downtown Washington DC and San Francisco. And yet, oddly enough, the Dulles extension has apparently just gone down in flames, although, if I recall correctly, that's where the local highway is so congested that the lights only allow it to be crossed briefly once every twelve minutes (sorry, didn't find a link.) Likewise, Chicago is a solid clot of traffic most rush hours, and yet they have a big project also apparently going down in flames. OTOH, maybe people figure that with a highway they'd at least get an additional connection, something they might actually use.

I think I'll leave the last word to The Onion: Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others, which we might as well treat as if it were a real news report, since the intractable administrative, social and political realities are almost beyond even Onion satire.


How about a the fact that transit ridership has climbed to the highest level in 49 years, and many cities that would like to initiate rail transit programs can't becaus their is no federal matching funds available.

And How about the fact that over 90% of federal funding for surface transportation has gone for highways over the last 50 years. (visit www.narprail.org for the facts on transportation spending). No wonder 98% of US commuters have chosen to drive to work, because fast & convenient transit does not exist for most. And how about the article you cited that over 40% of those surveyed think investment in transit is a good idea to help get cars off the road.

Your whining about misinvestment would be better spent on wasteful defense spending, not transit spending.

I love it when wingnuts confuse their political lunacy with physics.

Generally, you'll see one of those middle-aged white guy engineers(MAWGEs), who would burn down fifty orphanages and butt-rape Mother Teresa in order to keep their beloved perks, whine and whine about those pesky public servants who dare to strike for better wages. Never mind that the oil is running out, that he may have to make other arrangements. It is far, far better that the MAWGE get to burn up the last of the oil transporting his whiny butt to and fro from his mortgage to his defense job than to use energy while it is cheap in order to do the heavy lifting of transfiguring the infrastructure towards a more sensible and egalitarian paradigm.

Can't have that. No. I can hear their nasal back country twangs right now.... "Keep those pesky streetcars away from Merkins, cause they ain't a gonna take it a no more. Why we got whatcha call a BIG cuntry fulla BIG people a drivin BIG FAT SUVs. How can you in your right mind even a consider takin away mah freedoms that state I can do whatever the hell I want and screw you. HUH? HUH? This cuntry wasn't a built on no liberal commie pansie ass sharin. WE DON'T SHARE. If you get kicked to the curb, that's a your own danged fault. You shoulda kicked me to the curb, but you didn't.

"Gosh darned buriecrats. Next thing you know they's gonna be a demanding that we keep glass outta baby food. I should have the danged right to do whatever the hell I want and screw you!

"God, I love Amerka."

I work in the defense industry, and this comment is an eerily dead-on description of many of my co-workers.

I am desperately trying NOT to turn into a MAWGE myself.

Cherenkov as usual hit the nail on the head. A blending of Joe Bageant, Kunstler, and George Carlin (Short video on Human Nature, Myth of noble Savage, and Olduvai). (Warning: Carlin clip VERY unpolitically correct & potentially offensive language.)

Anyway, best part of Cherenkov's writing is that accuracy is not sacrificed at the expense of satire.


But these middle-aged white guy engineers do you the favor of giving you higher status people who you can derisively comment on in order to assert your even higher status with your superior intellect and understanding. That's how they exist for you.

The people living "packed like sardines" in Paris have no interest in living in your shitty suburb.

I think I rode on that car in 1960. My dad was invited to a biology professors' confab at Tulane, and we spent the summer there. I captured anoles off the poinsettia bushes and kept them in a terrarium (and separated several others from their tails).

Mom would drag me down to the Quarter to nosh on begniets and chickory coffee (hot chocolate for me) and look at antiques. Seems there was this other street with a lot of interesting noises and lights that Mom never took me to...

* sigh *

Replying to myself, to Paulus, etc.

Switzerland - impressive efforts that are being made in some towns to do everything possible to augment public transport, including wild and painful territorial transformations, forcing businesses to thrash parking places, making public street parking impossible, etc.


In Switzerland, the % of private (a difficult definition particularly over 50 years) travellers-kms in 1950, was *only* 56% by public transport: 52% by rail + 3.7% by road vs. 43% by private conveyance, which included for some small proportion, but the numbers don’t say, horse, donkey, bike. (other such as boat/plane are left off.)

In 2005, 21% by public transport: 15% by rail, plus 3% by road. (skipping 'other', again.)

78% by private vehicle. Today, a pie chart for the challenged (language free) shows:


Public transport kms. (network and use) rose regularly 1950-2000, the public transport network expanded. They came close to tripling in both terms of route kms and traveller kms. (very rough!)

However, private vehicle kms were multiplied by a bit more than 14. (my calc from the tables)

The flowering of the oil age. Rising population; rapid construction of road infrastructure; cities and small urban centers that grow, villages and small outposts, and scattered habitations that die out.

Switzerland’s history would tend to make Gvmt. planning and public transport a priority; at the same time, its libertarian spirit and laws, as well as very local Gvmt. saw to it that multiple private initiatives that became possible with the combustion engine /oil flourished. The car/truck was easier and in a way more fun to develop as multiple different actors could get a finger in the pie, and personal initiatives could be implemented. Hundreds of choices opened up - in agriculture, in territorial arrangement, in the planning of industry, housing, etc. All could be uncoupled from the set routes of the public transport, train, and branch out, literally so....Boom times...Switz went post ww2 from the poorest county in Europe to the richest in the world in the 70s and now is usually amongst the top 10, always below Ireland and the US, depending how one counts, etc.

Numbers from LITRA. http://www.litra.ch/Les_transports_en_chiffres.htm

Thanks for the great links, Noizette. I've always loved visiting the city of Berne (my father & I importing scenic Swiss calendars since 1970). Gruessen!

Beyond Design parameters :-)

Where was this ?

Best Hopes for abused trams,


No idea, but it sure was funny.

Another train related flash mob video.


Many of us on this list have talked about when peak oil will overtake global warming as the most talked about disaster. Well, ESPN has gotten into the discussion and dubbed this battle between the two as


There are two schools of thought on how civilization will destroy itself. Al Gore's polar bears have gotten most of the pub, but coming up fast is Peak Oil, which says petroleum production is only going downhill with disastrous repercussions. We thought it might be fun to run the two doomsday scenarioshead to head, based on a mostly random reading of current events. What can we say? We like competition.

I am putting my money on Peak Oil.

Ron Patterson

We've known about Peak Oil for a long time. What we haven't known is when the peak will be passed, if that hasn't already happened. The real problem with Global Climate Change is what happens next. Do we just keep on keeping on and burn more fossil fuel, either coal. tar sands or oil shale, or do we actually change the way we live?

I think human civilization will survive Peak Oil, given the many alternatives. I don't have any idea whether civilization as we know it can survive Global Climate Change if we keep on keeping on the way we are going.

I was reminded last night yet again how difficult it will be. Some young college age folks were talking after a local dance. One described his parents' latest trip, a vacation to Tahiti by air. Everyone seemed to think this was a great idea. Considering that the local pump price of gasoline just went up about $0.20 in a week, one might think they would take notice the oil problem, i.e., the massive amount of fuel required to move two people plus luggage from here to there.

E. Swanson

Ithink that a lot rides on this election in the US. We have a choice between one camp, which wants to establish control over the last remaining oil supplies by force, and one which does not. A firm rejection of the former, combined with a national commitment to light rail, renewables, and domestic porduction of the products needed to make both those things happen, could make the difference.
But resource wars have occurred in the past. And can anyone point to a time in history when scarce and dwindling necessary resources were divided up, on an international basis, by peaceful means? I can point to plenty of examples where humans used force to divide up scarce resourses. But not negotiation. If we have a template for how this happens, I wish someone could show us.

I wish I could believe that there were really two "sides" and that one of them does not propose establishing control over oil supplies by force. But I don't, and I think that is wishful thinking. The political argument, to the extent there is one, consists of contention over the details of the occupation of the world by the U.S. military. When did the Democrats suggest withdrawing troops from Japan, Korea, Germany or any of the other 700 U.S. bases around the world? America's Empire of Bases (Chalmers Johnson)

As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

The "Empire" is bipartisan, oil is only a part of it, and Iraq is a chapter, neither the beginning nor (but perhaps the begining of) the end.

NeverLNG -

You've hit the nail right on the head .... and in a most articulate manner, I might add.

The major US corporate and financial interests, i.e., the ones who really determine whom the two candidates we are allowed to choose between, have a much bigger role in running the US than most US citizens know about (or would like to know about). These entities have no intention of allowing the US to 'abandon' Iraq, or in any way relenquish it's hard-won outpost in the midst of Middle East oil country. We are here for the long haul, come hell or high water. (And it will most probably be 'hell' rather than 'high water'.)

As such, as long as this crowd is calling the shots, we will be emeshed in a long, dreary, and extremely draining resource war, though it will always be disguised as something other than what it really is. I despair that this is where the US is going to be expending its resources during the next decade.

I wish I could believe that there were really two "sides" and that one of them does not propose establishing control over oil supplies by force.

Exactly. As Noam Chomsky says, the U.S. is basically a one-party state -- with 2 factions, the Republicans and Democrats. These two factions generally have the same goals, and really only differ in how they go about achieving them.

...there's only one party in the United States. It's the business party, it has two factions. And the two factions are different: The Bush faction is much more extreme and much more dangerous. I mean, they're a real danger - to the country and the world. The Democrats are not that different. The same polls that I mentioned ... [showed] that in just about every major issue that you could think of, the two parties are far to the right of the general population. And that's across the board."

So what do we "enlightened" ones do? (semi-sarcastic; I'm not sure I'm really much more enlightened than anyone else caught in this industrial machine).

However, I think the world has a great future at a lower energy regime. Some of the best of our technology may survive, and human beings do really have some likable qualities-- they merely need to be encouraged. Most likely the population will be a lot smaller in the near future -- everyone now living will die, of course. Some sooner than they thought they should.

I'm developing my local community-- that is, a number of us in the area who feel pretty much the same way are trying to become better at thinking about and solving common problems at the local level. I'm also trying to make my own place as nice as possible. I don't have a lot of use for large-scale politics.

Mr. Obama appears to be a more attractive individual than Mr. McCain -- but I don't think he is an opponent of the American Empire.

So what do we do?... I don't have a lot of use for large-scale politics.

The question is, unfortunately, will large-scale politics affect you? And unless you are staked out in the boondocks, the answer is most certainly yes.

The most likely scenario, at least in my opinion, goes something like this: The U.S. economy falls into a deflationary spiral within the next few years. However, skyrocketing energy and other commodity prices exacerbate an already volatile situation. The result: accelerating rates of home foreclosures, massive unemployment, and further elimination of social services programs.

With 300 million hungry mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, expect unprecedented social upheaval in urban areas.

In this scenario the state/private police are probably not to be able to hold things together for very long without some kind official police state and/or martial law. If things get this far, all bets are off. There are just too many variables.

BUT, we can look back for historical comparisons. And many respectable analysts, included Chomsky, have noted that certain societal circumstances seem to pave the way for extreme political fanaticism and/or racist ideology. I see no reason why our culture would be immune.

For the time being, I believe it is important to vote -- always locally, almost always on the federal level.

I always push for the lesser of two liars, which in this case, appears to be Mr. Obama (IMHO). Little as the differences between presidential candidates may be, in large systems of concentrated power (e.g., the U.S. military-industrial complex) even relatively small differences can have very real and significant consequences (for the Iraqi population, for example).

I think human civilization will survive Peak Oil, given the many alternatives.

It is not just oil that will virtually disappear this century but all fossil fuels. When in about 20 or 30 years when we are well on the downslope of oil extraction, there will be a huge movement toward coal liquidification. Having learned our lesson about exporting our natural resources, all coal exports all over the world will come to a halt.

But even in the USA, the country with by far the most coal, there will not be enough to run our transportation and other infrastructure very long. And countries like Japan and North Korea will face total collapse. They will have no energy to run anything.

The world depends on coal for all its mining and smelting operations. You can smelt aluminum with the power from electricity, but not iron or steel. You need coke, or some other fuel for the blast furnace. Charcoal, which the ancients used, would do but that would strip the world of trees in short notice. The whole world would look like Haiti in a couple of years or less. And you cannot build anything sturdy without steel, not even a wind turbine. You cannot even build the equipment to smelt aluminum without harder metals.

Bottom line, there are no long term alternatives to fossil fuels. Peak oil will be followed, in short order, by peak natural gas and peak coal. And it's downhill for civilization after that. And it all begins in the first half of this century. And, in my opinion anyway, that will be well before we begin to feel the devastating effects of global warming.

Ron Patterson

Dang it, Ron, I gotta respond to that. There certainly IS a long term alternative to fossil fuels-- a very very long term alternative- and it has been preached here and elsewhere for years by powerful potentates like Nate Lewis at Caltech and other unimpeachable brains.

The deserts of this planet get solar energy in superabundance, and we know how to turn it into electricity by a bunch of different ways, not by any means just PV And we know how to ship it anywhere by high voltage DC transmission lines, and we know how to store it with pumped hydro, and we know how to fund it by just transferring assets from idiotic things like soda pop and obese automobiles to the things we need to make it happen.

I guess I gotta do what Alan does - and I incidentally totally approve of- just keep repeating a good story and never let it go fade away from the collective mind of TOD. Trouble is, I am too lazy. Would somebody with more zap please step forward to sing this lovely song?

Now, if any of you good people want to nit-pik this idea, please go do your homework and look at all the words and numbers that have been gound out and published already by all those popes alluded to above. Your questions have been asked, and answered.

Wimbi, there may be alternatives to fossil fuels for perhaps half a billion people, no more.

I repeat, you cannot smelt iron or steel without fossil fuel. The infrastructure you talk about requires massive amounts of iron and steel. You cannot plow, plant, cultivate, harvest and transport massive amounts of food without fossil fuel or without the iron and steel produced with fossil fuel.

Hundreds of millions of people are employed, using fossil fuel to make things out of fossil fuel and things that use fossil fuel to operate. All that will disappear and the vast majority of people employed today will have no means of support.

Modern urbanization is the product of massive amounts of fossil fuel. You may think all these people can migrate back to the farm, build a house of straw or whatever, dig a well, get a few pigs and chickens and live happily ever after. That is a total myth. Most people don't have a clue as to how to survive if thrust out onto the land with no means of support. The vast majority would not survive the first winter.

The idea that PV can replace fossil fuel is just absurd. You cannot plant, plow or harvest massive amounts of food with PV. Hell, you cannot even build PV with only the energy from PV just as you cannot build a wind generator with only the power of wind.

On this earth we have a huge surplus of people. These people are the result of a huge surplus of food. This food is a result of a huge surplus of fossil energy. And this surplus of fossil energy and surplus fossil oil feedstock has created billions of jobs that supply people with a means of support. PV produces electricity and but is a feedstock for absolutely no other product.

Ron Patterson

Yep, IMHO all the survivalist stuff and localisation talk here is just not going to cut it.

Without power and lots of it billions die, simple as that.

Renewables are not nearly ready to take up the slack, and a fast enough nuclear build would be difficult.

I understand your point about using FF for steel and so on, but had assumed that you could substitute process heat for most of it, with perhaps charcoal filling in for the needed chemical reactions, but I may be mistaken in my assumptions.

We don't have the technology we need to get by deployed.

I understand your point about using FF for steel and so on, but had assumed that you could substitute process heat for most of it, with perhaps charcoal filling in for the needed chemical reactions, but I may be mistaken in my assumptions.

Dave, I assume you are talking about burning when you say "chemical reactions". And of course what we are talking about here is heat. From electricity we get resistive heat. That is electricity passed through a tungsten filament to generate heat because of the resistance of the tungsten. You simply cannot generate enough heat via this method to smelt harder metals.

Charcoal? Sure you can smelt iron with charcoal but 500 years ago the civilized world was almost stripped of timber because it was used for fuel. The population then was less than half a billion. Now we use timber for everything from building homes for almost seven billion people to making books and papers for them to read. And with only that, we are stripping the world of timber. Imagine what would happen if we started using wood for a other uses such as heating and cooking, not to mention for use in blast furnaces.

But all this discussion is just a sidebar. The real story will be the collapse. What nations will be hit first and hit worse. I say Japan, North Korea and other nations with little or no coal or oil. It will not be pretty.

Ron Patterson

I was just interested in what you said from a technical point of view - wasn't sure whether any source of heat would do, or if it had to be FF.
Bear in mind I am no engineer!

Alan has given a way below to melt iron and so on - I wonder, is there anything that we have to have some unique property of FF to do, or could it in theory at least be done by other means?

We may be all doomed, but in that case there is no reason we shouldn't put up the best fight we can! - it is bad manners just to give in!

Alan's comment below is correct. One can make steel using electric arc furnaces, not use resistance heating you mention.

For example here's one of NUCOR's efforts:

Steel isn't the only product recycled at Nucor's Auburn plant. The steelmaker replaces coal with old tires when producing its batches of carbon steel. Steel scrap and whole tires are heated to 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit in Nucor's electric-arc furnace, producing recycled carbon steel without consuming coal. Though the tires are consumed during the process, Nucor doesn't bum tires as a fuel source. The company has recycled more than 500,000 tires, saving $500,000 per year and replacing 4,000 tons of coal.

E. Swanson

What about such things as Brown's gas? Burning salt water? Are we sure we've used up all the possibilities?

That aside, I say we a mechanized barabarian culture. We've not reached anywhere near where we might. Maintaining current scientific achievement while living in a more pastoral setting and continuing to use technology but with the caveat that it only may be used to enhance our enjoyment of life, each other and to maintain our relationship with nature while also keeping us prepared for any and all eventualities - say, taking out a killer asteroid or something - is a nice picture of the future.

I think getting there means localizing, becoming self-sufficient at the individual and/or community level, coming to some universal conclusions about what we value, throwing off centralized authority of all kinds, absolutely doing away with fractional banking and central banks, ending taxation (if the people themselves don't decree it and come together to afford it, it shouldn't be done), etc.

Fantasy? 99% likelihood.


you cannot smelt iron or steel without fossil fuel

Icelandic Alloys have 3 semi-closed, submerged electric arc furnaces. The capacity of furnace 1 and 2 is approx. 36 MW while furnace 3 has a capacity of approx. 47 MW. Icelandic Alloys produce 120.000MT FeSi on basis of 75% and 24.000MT microsilica.


Ancient steel production used charcoal.


Alan, FeSi is cast iron and MgFeSi is another cast iron alloy (or iron alloy). Cast iron has the ability to be pored into molds because of its low melting point, hence the name. Cast iron is very brittle and its melting temperature of 1150 to 1200 °C is about 300 degrees lower than the melting point of pure iron.

I have never heard of electrical iron smelting and doubt I ever will, however I have been mistaken before. And I most certainly will never hear of steel smelting with electricity.

Yes, I know ancient hard metals were produced with charcoal. I pointed that out in my original post on the subject. But I think you for repeating my claim in your post.

Ron Patterson

Darwinian -

While I don't know exactly what the Icelanders are doing with the FeSi they are making, I can assure you that it is not conventional cast iron. Cast iron in its various forms contains only a few percent silicon (but enough to give it some undesireable properties compared to steel). As such, I tend to think that the FeSi produced by Iceland is used as an alloying agent in the making of certain types of steels. Ditto for MgFeSi.

While 60,000 tons/yr sounds like a lot, it is really a drop in the bucket compared to the output of even a modest steel mill. This is why I think the stuff they are making is not run-of-the-mill cast iron (which is typically made in mini blast furnaces called 'cupolas') but rather an alloying agent for steel. That would also make sense, considering that Iceland is not exactly in the mainstream of major iron and steel production and would need a higher value-added product than plain ol' cast iron, which to me would make no economic sense at all.

What do you think?

Joule, I think you are exactly correct. Thanks for the information.

Ron Patterson

The primary use is in transformers and electric motors/generators. Reduced hysteresis and higher resistance absorbs induced eddy currents. Low oxygen, nitrogen and very low (< 0.25%) carbon steel.

Sells for a high premium over carbon steel.


Ron wrote:

I have never heard of electrical iron smelting and doubt I ever will, however I have been mistaken before. And I most certainly will never hear of steel smelting with electricity.

As has been mentioned upthread, electric arc furnaces are widely used in steelmaking.


And there are electric blast furnaces:

Variations of the blast furnace, such as the Swedish electric blast furnace, have been developed in countries which have no native coal resources.


The above named Swedes have been doing this for a long time:


The above link says that they got their first electric blast furnace (for iron production) in 1910.

The following link makes mention of an electric blast furnace for steel production in China in the '30s and '40s.


AlanfromBigEasy -

Well, you can melt metallic iron using renewable energy alone, but you cannot actually smelt iron from the ore (either in the form of ferric oxide or ferric sulfide) without the use of some sort of reducing agent. And for large-scale smelting operations the reducing agent of choice is coke, which is largely the carbon fraction of coal after the more volative fractions have been pyrolyzed out.

You can also smelt iron from the ore using 'direct reduction' using hydrogen as the reducting agent, but the most commonly used source of hydrogen is natural gas. However, if you have a good source of electrical power you could manufacture the hydrogen through the electrolysis of water (though not that easy, not that efficient, and not that cheap).

To clarify a bit of metal-making nomenclature: a blast furnace does not produce steel; it produces raw 'pig iron', which is a solution of iron heavily saturated with carbon, silicon, and phosphorus. To make steel these impurities must be removed down to some acceptable level, and this is done in a downstream step, typically using either an open hearth furnace, basic oxygen furnace, or electric furnace. Hence, what is called 'carbon steel' typically contains much less carbon than the pig iron that comes out of the blast furnace.

Regardless of how you do it, the making of iron and steel is inherently a very energy-intensive process. So, I would think that the limiting thing in future steel production is not going to be unavailability of iron ore and steel scrap, but rather the energy needed to transform these materials into finished product.

Amazing what you learn here! As I understand it what you are saying is that FF is nice to have, and greatly reduces costs, but is not essential.
Is that a fair summation?

I believe anthracite is the coal of choice for some steel making. Is it substitutable?
Any use of FF which is not substitutable?
Is that enough questions? :-)

You can always use a direct reduction furnace and eliminate the need for coke. You still need natural gas or some equivalent, but it is definitely an alternative to blast furnaces.


Geothermal gases are mildly reducing and thought (in Iceland) has been to put them into an electric arc furnace with iron ore.

Don't really know the details, just"gossip".


DaveMart -

To answer your questions:

1) To smelt iron from the ore (which is mostly iron oxide), it is necessary to have a reducing agent. Generally, the most economical reducing agent has been some form of elemental carbon, such as charcoal or coke. Alternatively, you can also use a reducing gas such as hydrogen or even carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, most of these come from fossil fuels, but charcoal can be gotten from wood (as was done in the past). As I pointed out above, if you can make hydrogen electrolytically by means of wind or solar power, then you can do without a source of elemental carbon. But it ain't easy and it ain't cheap.

Theoretically, there are other ways of getting metallic iron from the ore, but these are hardly suitable for large scale industrial operations.

2) Antracite coal is the preferred choice for making blast furnace coke, largely because it has certain desireable mechanical properties. Other sources of carbon can be used in a pinch.

3) So, theoretically, as long as we have a source of carbon that can be made into a form of charcoal or char, we can still make steel. Of course, going this route will make steel several times more expensive and greatly more limited in volume. Which is why in the old days steel was reserved for making the likes of swords, which were also very expensive. The making of steel back in those days was almost an alchemist's black art. And that tradition is carried on to this very day by makers of classic samuri swords, the better examples of which can command six-figure prices.

Chances are that iron ore and Fossil-coking-coal run out at the same time. Plenty of finished steel out there though and it can be recycled in electric arc furnaces.

Steel is incredibly cheap - for e.g. who repairs at $30 toaster these days - and is therefore is wasted and used generously.

chemE, iron ore is never going to run out. It will just be harder to find, extract and transport. After all, the core of the earth is molten iron, which some earth geologists now believe is wrapped around a smaller core of molten gold. In any case, the amount of iron actually available to us is infinite from out point of view; as always, the question 'At what cost?' rules

Thank you for that bit of doomer porn. It just shows your ignorance of not only what is possible with renewables but what has already been demonstrated. Electric tractors are on the market and amateur tinkerers have converted old tractors to electric power that are charged by PV on farm buildings as well as on the tractor. Agriculture can also be more than adequately fueled by biodiesel from soy. The beans can be grown as part of a regular crop rotation plan with each acre of beans providing enough oil to farm seven acres of other crops. Peak Oil need not mean Peak Food as long as ignorant doomers don't dominate the conversation.

Occasionally I become saturated with optomist porn. Listening to a bunch of people debating the faults and merits of various batteries gets old. Listening to people discuss the half life of anything gets old fast.
No amount of optomisim is going to change the fact that there is no viable substitute for FFs that will support the current population of the earth...and, even if there were some viable alternatives how would nations fund the projects with contracting economies and quickly expanding populations?
I am not a doomer, I am a realist.

Sorry River, prognostications are not 'reality'. For the most part, we don't really know what will happen.

You are a 'self-described Realist'


Sorry jokuhl but we are surrounded by 'reality'. If one chooses to look at the reality of the human situation on earth and remain in denial about the most likely outcomes, that is their option.

You are an optimist...fine. Perhaps a dose of world history might cure you.

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was just taking issue with your calling yourself a 'Realist', which to me is the epitome of dangerous self-aggrandizement. Show some humility, because that label is one of the most limiting kinds of blinders you can have. Every school, religion and philosophy claims to be able to offer us 'Truth'..

"We're surrounded by reality.." Sure, whatever, we also have to look at that reality through the filters of our language, our cultural assumptions, our personal fears and resentments, the limits of our perception, the expectations that we have become attached to..

Who around you would not say that they make their decisions based on 'reality'? While every demagogue in history expounds dramatically on their 'Love of Peace'..

Just asking for a little humility.

'I refuse to say I know something, because then I'll stop thinking about it..'
-attrib to Einstein


WHOA ....

"Electric tractors are on the market .... etc"

Where is a link to this ....

OK, I give up. Why bother, I got more fun things to do.

I said that PV was BY NO MEANS the only way to turn sun into electricity. What i was talking about was solar thermal, which is now and will be much cheaper than PV. But then all the chat following my comment was about PV and how there was no way it would do the job. Nuts!

And, by the way, you give me electricity, and I sure will be able to do anything fossil fuels can do. After all, electricity is pure available energy, and with that, you can do anything. Sez right here in my pchem book.

And go read Nate Lewis in Engineering and Science on the Caltech web site. Powering the Planet. Tell him solar can't replace fossil fuels-- and get ready to duck!

And, by the way, you give me electricity, and I sure will be able to do anything fossil fuels can do.

Okay make me a plastic cup with electricity, or any of the thousands of other products from tires to asphalt that are made with petroleum. Or just make me some liquid fertilizer with that contains nitrogen, or pesticides or any of the other agricultural products made from natural gas or petroleum. Unlike oil and natural gas electricity cannot be used as a feedstock for anything.

Even only pure energy is all that is required, I think you will play hell flying a plane on batteries. You can sail a ship with wind power but you will be only able to transport a tiny fraction of the goods that are transported by sea today, and at a fraction of the speed.

No, electricity will never replace fossil fuel, it is just impossible.

Ron Patterson

No, electricity will never replace fossil fuel, it is just impossible.

absolute statements amuse absolutly!

Anti, please do not just make snide remarks. Please show how non matter, (electricity), can replace matter, (fossil fuels) as feedstock. That is all Anti, just do that and of you are successful I will kiss your ass on the courthouse square and give you thirty minutes to draw a crowd.

Ron Patterson

These people claim to be able to make renewable plastics (petroleum content greatly reduced):


For what absolutely necessary process do you think fossil fuels are a necessary feedstock with no workarounds possible?

I'm no expert, but wikipedia seems to have a good article on bioplastics.


George, plastic from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch or microbiota, is not plastic from electricity! That was the point of contention.

We have can debate biofuels and bioplastics, (I just coined a new word), if you choose but that was not the debate here. The statement was made:

you give me electricity, and I sure will be able to do anything fossil fuels can do.

That is nothing but exaggerated hyperbole without an ounce of truth in it. The cornucopians, antidoomers if you please, must stop such gross exaggeration if they are ever to be taken seriously. Electricity can not possibly be feedstock for plastics or nitrogen fertilizer or any other product.

The debate over biological products is another debate entirely. There we are discussing how much land it takes, the effect upon the land and how much food it takes from the mouths of starving people. But that is not the debate on this thread. This thread is about turning energy into matter.

Ron Patterson

Ron, let's say for assumption purposes that Bussard Fusion works (I understand that its not a given, but let's assume they are successful). In this case we have plentiful fuel (boron) that could be used to produce very cheap electricity which could in turn used to produce cheap hydrogen, or be used to convert co2 until fossil fuels or etc etc. You constantly state that there is a 0% chance anything will replace fossil fuels, and I think that is absolutely false. Now if you said there's a 75% chance that a solution won't be found before fossil fuels or renewable catch up, while I wouldn't agree with you, I would at least respect your opinion, but these absolute statements you make on a daily basis are nonsense.

Anti, when Bussard Fusion becomes a reality then I agree with you. Unfortunately I suspect when that day comes we will all be dead.

Nevertheless you still, even with fusion energy, create matter from energy. So there is still no possibility that electricity from fusion energy, or whatever, will replace fossil fuels as feedstock.

You speak of fossil fuels or renewables "catching up". Did you mis-speak there? Fossil fuels are what we have now, they do not need to catch up. Assuming that you only meant that renewables need to "catch up", I will address that proposition.

We are currently, in an attempt to support 6.5 billion people, virtually destroying the earth. We are already deep into overshoot even with fossil fuels. But if fossil fuels were to go away, even slowly, the destruction would accelerate dramatically. We cannot possibly feed the world from the land and replace fossil fuels with products from the land also. Well, we might, for awhile if we cut down all the forest. But then where would we get timber? And what would happen to the animals that depend upon those last few remaining wild places for survival?

No Anti, renewables cannot possibly "catch up" because when they catch up on producing fuel we fall behind on producing food. And that is totally the anthroprocentric position. That is the position that only humans matter. But of course that has been the position for centuries, so what is new.

Ron Patterson

Or just make me some liquid fertilizer with that contains nitrogen

Electricity plus air & water = ammonia. Done commercially in Norway & Iceland.


We need a link to that story Alan, and details as to how it is accomplished. You are saying they are creating ammonium nitrate, NH4NO3, out of thin air, (oxygen and nitrogen) and water, (h2O), or hydrogen bonded with oxygen (hydrogen oxide).

Hell, if we can do that then perhaps we can create hydrocarbons out air and water also.


You can make hydrocarbons from air, water and power - solar or nuclear.
Heck, that is what plants do.

Here is the way Los Alamos plan to make fuels from air - I have chosen this link because it gives the chemical equations:

There are other ways being investigated too

The question is of course how much it costs. Los Alamos gives their costings in the pdf.

It's funny how these processes always show so much promise until the Engineers get at them.

Of course we can. Just a rearrangement of molecular bonds. Done every day in every refinery and chem plant in the world to turn the crude feedstock into products more useful.

The term "Hydrocarbon" should be a clue. Take any source of these molecules and energy and voila, you can make the products of your choice.

Now if you need to replace a 85 mpd habit, that of course is another matter, lol. Which is what I suspect you were really meaning.

That scale thingie is a real killer.

Thanks, Alan, and keep up The good work. Now I am going to bed and dream about millions of solar thermal machines in the desert, all made from recycled SUV's and cooled by floods of soda pop.

BTW, I spent formative years in Covington, just across the lake, and remember being sent to the bayou to buy oysters, and eating them all on the walk home. BAD little boy!

I think you will play hell flying a plane on batteries.

Been there, done that. And this isn't the only example. http://www.electraflyer.com/

Don't you give up. Darwinian will take any argument he can, just to find some infinitive like 'Impossible' or 'Inevitable' to conclude it with. There is just a massive amount that we can do to both reduce our wasteful USE of energy, and to supplant a great amount of FF use with electricity and other sources.

But ANYTIME this claim is made that there are possibilities out there, someone in a habitually cranky mood like Ron today will have to extrapolate this as a promise that we are supposed to be able to match everything that is using energy now, and sail on through without a bump. Even the population or civilization arguments are essentially beside the point. The point is that we see tools that need to be built up, tools that will help, tools that we can work with during and after we can't get our tanks filled at any affordable rate any more.

Who knows what size of a population we will be able to feed? At worst, we are trying to set things up for the survivors.. while at best, WE get to be among them. "Impossible" is Ron's hopelessness, it is not the definition of the future of the whole Human Gene pool. A lot of things ARE possible, and I will keep most of my focus on them.. and just a little on these defeatist missives. Focus on the water, not the rocks. (Rapids advice for canoers)

Bob Fiske.

You're right, we do not know what is going to happen, how many people the Earth can support sustainably, what the ripple effects of Peak Oil will end up being, the actual consequences of climate change, etc.

But we can make educated guesses. And the precautionary principle would seem to dictate we take serious notice of the more "doomer-ish" predictions (unless you really believe there is no chance they are possible). The problem with not assuming they are likely is that f-all will get done... we'll make half-hearted gestures.

Bob, I think you would agree that while an all electric society would be feasible that it would also look vastly different and be of differing size and scope than the present fossil-fuel based civilization. Is that a fair statement?

Hi GreyZone;
(Ah, the Ambivalence of continuing a day-old thread.. gets hard to keep a line of thought going.)

I was Not predicting that we could, would or should create an All-electric society, while electricity is an enormously powerful and versatile energy source (EDIT 'Energy Carrier'), and can be generated from all sorts of physical sources, and SHOULD and WILL be developed in all directions, because it can and it has to...

I was responding to the sort-of dual argument that 'Electricity couldn't replace FF'.. while Ron had apparently become focused in his laser-beam way on the Plastics Feedstocks question, where I was arguing that Electricity could replace FF 'in all sorts of ways', (Including extremely High Heat processes, and plastics formulation, while not being the 'matter' that comprises the polymers.. there is a very developed science of BioPlastics .. check this out for a pedestrian's view.. http://www.amazon.com/Green-Plastics-Introduction-Biodegradable-Plastics...)

.. but to the main point of your question, and words that I have typed repeatedly here at TOD..

Yes, it will all look different, and the scale of human presence will in all probability be getting smaller and smaller, as I expect population will simply track our available energy supply, and that 'process' will be like death is always like, somewhere between 'Arrgh, this is horrible!' to 'Where am I? What hit me? Did I just die?' But we won't ALL die(EDIT 2 - Humans 'Won't DIE OUT'), and those who make it are my kids, cousins, neighbors and descendants, and as their forebear, I love them, and want them to have a fighting chance.

So when I say we should 'replace' our FF use with electricity where we can, I get furiously bored by arguments that suggest that I'm saying that the change is therefore supposed to be invisible, painless or will mean a world of Electric SUV's, Electric MCDONALD'S, Electric 'American Excesses', Electrically produced Megatons of Plastic Waste Products etc,..

But your question started out with an Extreme Assumption, 'All Electric', which is where these discussions all so quickly stray into extreme predictions, and hence absolute denials..

Moderation in all things..


Native American Saying
'Right after dying, the first thing most people say to themselves is "Why was I so serious so much of the time?"

Bob, I am at a loss trying to figure out exactly what you are trying to say. Yes, it is impossible to replace petroleum and natural gas feedstock with electricity. You try to philosophies without denying a word I wrote! Do you think that electricity can replace, as feedstock, oil and natural gas? Or is that impossible? Just answer yes it is impossible or no it is not impossible. Then if your answer is no tell us how electricity can be converted into matter. After the Big Bang energy was converted into matter but we have not duplicated that feat in the laboratory. It is absolutely impossible, (in human terms), end of story. And you wrote:

At worst, we are trying to set things up for the survivors.. while at best, WE get to be among them. "Impossible" is Ron's hopelessness, it is not the definition of the future of the whole Human Gene pool.

God, how could you get my argument so wrong? I agree that there will be survivors and we must set up things for them. That is not hopelessness. What is hopeless is trying to set up things for 6.6 billion survivors. That many people will not survive without fossil fuel.

I know not what the future of the human gene pool will be. I have never once discussed that on this list. I have opinions, or guesses, as to what characteristics the survivors will possess. But I have never once expressed any opinions of that nature on this list.

Tell me Bob, exactly what in the hell are you talking about?

Ron Patterson

Just a week ago, a US National Lab proposed using nuclear power to extract carbon from the air and make syngasoline with it (really, link on TOD! And no, I have not been sipping some fine sarconol).

In reality (semi), with low cost fusion power, one could do a lot with biomass of various types. Plastic bags at the grocery may disappear, wood may return to some applications, etc. but at just 10x to 100x the cost (SWAG) many plastics could still be made in considerable quantity.


Los Alamos, and here is a link:
Green Car Congress: Los Alamos Developing Process for CO2 Capture and Stripping from Air for Synthetic Fuels Production

And the pdf:

Sandia have a different approach using solar energy:
Technology Review: Turning Carbon Dioxide into Fuel

There are other approaches knocking around too

If you used petroleum only as feedstock for high-value goods, you wouldn't need very much. Maybe 0.5% of today's production.

Fertilizer is actually a rather low-value good. Stuff grows without fertilizer. If the total grain output of the United States fell by half, the only real result would be that meat prices would be higher.

You make an extreme, blanket statement..
"No, electricity will never replace fossil fuel, it is just impossible. "

-and then turn to the detail level and make the argument about whether you can make polymer chains out of electrons. There are all sorts of specific uses of the chemicals in crude oil and natural gas that are not reproducible 'with just electrons'.. you make this become the argument, when it had actually derived from Wimbi's -

"And, by the way, you give me electricity, and I sure will be able to do anything fossil fuels can do."

.. from which, of course you can cite plastics, lubricants and solvents that are derived from petroleum that cannot be created from whole cloth with pure electricity, but that's not what Wimbi was really talking about, was it? He was saying that 'we can make it work, we can use that energy, and find a way to get by..' (And between THOSE lines is the pretty clear understanding, if it's Wimbi you're talking to, that 'This doesn't promise that the planet will still magically supprt 6.5 billion people, just that Electricity is a tool that we must take all advantage of..')

But You have to take statements as literally as you can, as if that is the most truthful level of language, and you quickly find ways to disprove the letter, but not the point. As has been the case with the way you frequently don't get my posts, you are completely unwilling to look at the intention of the author, to read between the lines, because you get to win the argument if you simply find the word choice or the exception that you can niggle over, because you take his loose application of an absolute ('do anything fossil fuels can do..') .. and win your point, but don't help to discover the workable solution.

I know engineers who go 'we'll try to make it work', and others who look for every reason to say 'nope, it can't be done.'

I know people who spend years and years arguing about the 'proof' or 'disproof' of God (people on both sides of the argument), when the language of Religion and Mythos is not about 'reproducible experiments that can prove a hypothesis'.. it's psychology, it's pattern, and it's ALL between the lines, and even the absolutes in there are negotiable.

Respectfully separated by a common language,

- A woman goes into a fabric shop, asks for a couple yards for a shirt for her husband, and some 12 yards of material for a new Nightgown. The shop-owner looks at her and says 'You're not a large lady, why do you need so much material for a nightgown?' .. She replies "See, my husband is a Unitarian, he likes Searching for the Truth, but he doesn't really care if he finds it."

One more set of 'Between the lines' assumptions I am willing to attribute to Wimbi's initial comment, if I may.

" "And, by the way, you give me electricity, and I sure will be able to do anything fossil fuels can do."

1) That Peak Oil doesn't mean that there's no more Petrol left for specialized refined products.. just that the lion's share (of the future need, at future population levels) of tasks done today by oil can be substituted SOMEHOW..

2) That we aren't trying to recreate this wasteful reality of today.. that this goes hand in hand with reduced 'wasteful consumption', redundant shipping and commuting, etc, etc...

-- but do those things really need to be spelled out, again and again?


At worst, we are trying to set things up for the survivors.

Under almost any scenario, an improved rail system will help.

In Cambodia & Liberia, they used the rails with hand made carts (in Liberia the villages valued this primitive transportation enough to protect the rails from "salvage").

In slightly better scenarios, improved rail helps too.

Best Hopes for a Not Quite as Bad Future,


I agree. People living "off the grid" (effectively with higher energy prices) have shown that you can live an essentially contemporary lifestyle with 10% of today's average household electricity usage. Statistically, passenger trains are 90% more energy-efficient than automobiles. That is in today's energy-abundant world. If there were REAL energy problems, people could wring out even more energy reductions than that. I think you could have what amounts to today's contemporary lifestyle with 10% or less of today's energy usage. Considering that about 40% of today's electricity generation already comes from non-FF sources, it seems to me that you could easily power a contemporary lifestyle with the non-FF energy that is already being created.

When I mean "contemporary," I mean electric lights, refrigerators, computers and internet, and abundant local transportation via trains etc. The Great Age of Trains (1870-1930) took place at a time when fossil fuel and electricity production was a tiny fraction of today's levels. Nevertheless, New Yorkers could zip around town no problem. Things like airplanes would continue to exist, but would be much more rarely used, as they were in the 1950s for example. Energy efficient transport like ships would be more common (for high value uses like personal transport, not necessarily for transporting low-value goods.) Relatively low-value uses of energy, like most air conditioning or making drink containers out of electricity-intensive aluminum, would disappear, basically through higher prices. Things that add a lot of value but aren't energy-intensive, like restaurants, spa therapy, jazz clubs, a good bakery, custom tailored clothes, private elementary schools, marriage counselors or financial advice, would thrive.

I know there are those here who consider their suburban lifestyle to be "non-negotiable", in Dick Cheney's words. Well: I used to live in a 2500 square foot house on two acres in one of the best suburbs of New York City. Martha Stewart lived down the street. (She really did.) It had its charms, yes. But let me tell you something: it wasn't all that great.

"I think you could have what amounts to today's contemporary lifestyle with 10% or less of today's energy usage. Considering that about 40% of today's electricity generation already comes from non-FF sources, it seems to me that you could easily power a contemporary lifestyle with the non-FF energy that is already being created."

I think you could have an early 20th century transportation lifestyle combined with the rest of the high tech that we enjoy today with purely electricity.

The reason I say this is that though mass transit is doable it's not a 1:1 substitute.
It is for example, impossible to substitute the following with mass transit in one day: Drive downtown, go to a half hour meeting, drive uptown, do a two hour meeting, drive downtown, do a half hour meeting, drive back uptown to finish off the day and then drive home 50 miles away.

The question, however, is whether or not the mass transit version is acceptable and I offer an answer:
I think that it will be difficult for people who have been used to the driving version of "comtemporary society" to come to terms with the reduced flexibility of having to do everything via mass transit.
Those without that mindset (i.e. new immigrants or else the next generation who will grow up *without* cars) will have no problem adapting to a mass-transit all-electric system. It will simply be the way things are and the economy will reconfigure around this new (old?) way of doing things.

I will be doing something comparable in Baltimore-DC area next week.

Free bed in Baltimore, catch bus to Rail station (proposed streetcar :-), MARC to DC, Red->Orange Line for meetings, then back to Red for other meetings. All DC meetings within 3 blocks of Metro station. Back to DC Union Station, MARC to Baltimore, meet host and dinner via Light Rail, Light Rail & bus to bed.

Fairly long hard day, but doable. I prefer New Orleans.

Best Hopes for Urban Rail,


.... you cannot smelt iron or steel without fossil fuel.

You can have electric arc furnaces


I repeat, you cannot smelt iron or steel without fossil fuel.

Not absolutely true. You could do it on a small scale with charcoal (from renewable wood). Iron and steel could probably also be recycled using CSP for the most part. Again, we're talking small-scale here. By the time we're down to just these, we've better have the infrastructure in place to support whatever sustainable economy we want to have, because we'll pretty much be down to just recycling metals at that point, and we'll need to minimize waste to the point where there won't need to be very much of that on an annual basis.

nit-pik this idea

Peak Phosphorous? The most important energy source is food.

I think human civilization will survive ... I don't have any idea whether civilization as we know it can survive Global Climate Change if we keep on keeping on the way we are going.

Not too sure why we should have an infatuation with preserving a civilization that does not have the competency to solve its problems.

Civilizations come and civilizations go.

Consider the idea of keeping ones greatly aged parent or grandparent on life support ... forever?

One described his parents' latest trip, a vacation to Tahiti by air. Everyone seemed to think this was a great idea.

This exemplifies what the current civilization is primarily concerned with, instrumentality in the advancement of consumption. How can there be a solution to the problem (of a limited energy flow) when the 'mechanism' can't, by its very structure, allow a solution.

Aw, go on. Can anybody doubt that the collapse of humanity would do anything but good for the planet? What we need is the next step past us. We have flunked. Next up, please, and the sooner, the better.

I don't see how any sensible person can put energy shortage- a thing we brought on ourselves by sheer stupidity, and that in itself is meaningless to the rest of creation- in the same ballpark as climate change which affects everything everywhere, including whoever follows us, for a hell of a long time.

Yea, I know, you say I myself should volunteer to disappear first. No problem- totally outa my hands, anyhow.

Aw, go on. Can anybody doubt that the collapse of humanity would do anything but good for the planet?

Of course this is true. But what is good for the planet is not the same thing as what is good for civilization. We are talking about the disappearance of Civilization As We Know It.

But there is one thing those "world will be better off without us" folks have not thought about. As the population starts to starve and freeze, due to the disappearance of fossil fuels, people will cut every tree standing for fuel and kill every animal they possibly can for food. Virtually all mega fauna will disappear. We will even eat the songbirds out of the trees.

I am not saying the world will not recover, it will. But just as it took millions of years to recover from past great extinctions, it will take millions of years for the world to recover from this one. And the recovery this time will be exacerbated by the human survivors. And there will be survivors I believe.

Ron Patterson

As Fred Hoyle said an advanced technological civilisation is a one-shot deal.

Next time around, no fossil fuels or easily mined mineral resources - iron working for instance started by using meteoric material, easier to get at- no civilisation.

Hokay, so why not try for an ethical civilization instead of a technological one, could be interesting siting naked, chatting all philosophical while eating unpolluted clams on a beach. SURFS UP GUYS! :)

The dolphins have got that one covered! :-)

Well then "What Me Worry":)

world will be better off without us

Not exactly, it would be better off without our current civilization. That may be rather tough on the 'inhabitants' of this civilization though.

As the population starts to starve and freeze, due to the disappearance of fossil fuels, people will cut every tree standing for fuel and kill every animal they possibly can for food. Virtually all mega fauna will disappear. We will even eat the songbirds out of the trees.

Our power to destroy involves the leverage that energy provides through the mechanism of this civilization, without the civilization that power would vanish as quickly as the civilization does. The best outcome (for the planet) would be in a bang and not a whimpering end. If you can see a solution that does not involve the end of this civilization and dieoff please put it up for examination, I think it WOULD be welcomed:)

This guy thinks it will be possible if we use the ancient technology of mushrooms:

Sounds plausible enough considering it was these organisms which were instrumental in spawning diverse life following the previous mass extinctions. The title of his latest book is: "Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World".

'And the recovery this time will be exacerbated by the human survivors. And their will be survivors I believe.' Pure crystal ball speculation. A good example of one 'wanting' instead of one reasoning.
If the earth turns to a solid ball of ice for a few hundred or thousand or million years there will be no humans left. If the methane hydrates and other methane in all permafrost melt, driving global temps way up, there will be no humans left. No one can rule out either of these possibilities. In fact, scientists have found evidence that both above scenarios have happened in the past.
Of a more immediate concern is that the rest of the world is beginning to shy away from the dollar, and the Fed is doing nothing to prop it up...In fact, just the opposite. If the dollar loses its status as the world reserve currency many Americans will perish...without factoring in FF depletion or GW.
Lets face the fact that human nature is what it is and human nature is not going to change. We are all freakin' doomed regardless of all the magic batteries and wind power that is discussed here daily. PV is a non starter at this stage and needs much more development. Nukes are a proven technology and could extend our existance a bit longer...but, once again the rediculousness of human nature intervenes...NIMBY...plus, we will not copy the French model that has been so successful using nuke power. Nope, too proud...keep eating those freedom fries. Nope, didnt need the Dutch and their expertise to help with the levys in NO after Katrina. We are Merkins and no one knows more than us!
The US dollar is falling in real purchasing power. Our Fed, along with other central banks, is the tail attempting to wag the dog of $630 Trillion of off balance sheet high tech derivitives that the SEC, Fed and other central banks allowed to be created. Our economy is in very bad shape, making me wonder: Where is all the financing going to come from to build all the PV, wind turbines, light/heavy rail needed? Investors are fleeing into perceived safety...they are not lining up in droves to invest in risky start ups or even proven companies. GE is a proven company and is big in wind turbines...anyone check the price of GE stock recently? BTW, GE now does more than 50% of their biz overseas.
ELM is going to kick our butts in more than FFs. ELM is going to be exacerbated by the falling dollar in every commodity and manufactured product, just as the price of gas at the pump in the US has been partially driven by the falling dollar. Importing cheap PV, wind turbines or anything else from abroad is going to get much more expensive because of the falling dollar combined with 'peak almost everything'.
But...its ok. I see no more harm in depending on the ideology of technology than the ideology of religion to pull our fat out of the fire...and, if one needs an ideology to lean on I think technology is the better choice.
Leanan probably has the best plan that I have seen on this board for survival...stay flexible.

It's pretty simple for me personally.

No meds = no me.

No power = no meds.

Thanks greens! for not letting me risk the dangers of nuclear power!

Hi Dave,

First of all, I hope your lights continue to stay on and that you'll enjoy good health for many more years to come. FWIW, I'm somewhat ambivalent about nuclear power given our own experience with CANDU reactors. Their high capital cost, the "lumpiness" of their output, their somewhat checkered operating performance and, more recently, the costly retrofits that have been required to keep them in service are a few of the reasons why I'm not a strong advocate of this technology.

Here's a little background. The original estimate for the Darlington NGS, the last nuclear facility built in Ontario, was $2.5 billion (later doubled to $5 billion). Fifteen years later when work was finally completed, the final price had ballooned to $14.4 billion. It should be noted that the cost overruns associated with this plant very nearly bankrupt the second largest utility in North America at the time and that when the plant was added to the rate base electricity prices in Ontario exploded, figuratively-speaking.

Not to single-out Ontario Hydro, Hydro Quebec's Gentilly-2 went four times over budget and due to cost guarantees extended on behalf of the federal government, Canadian taxpayers were forced to pick up half the tab. Interestingly, its predecessor, Gentilly-1, produced power for only 180-days of its seven year operation when the decision was made to remove it from life support. Likewise, NB Power's Point Lepreau was originally expected to cost $400 million and the final numbers for it came to $1.4 billion, not including interest charges.

And as mentioned, these reactors seem to be aging a lot faster than anyone expected and so ratepayers have been stung yet again with multi-billion dollar refurbishments.

Ontario Hydro's Pickering A, commissioned in 1971, began its refurbishment in 1997 at a then estimated cost of $780 million, and by the time the work was completed in 2005 -- five and a half years past its original schedule -- the final price tag came in FIVE times higher. Prior to this, the station underwent a $1 billion emergency repair as the result of a pressure tube rupture in the summer of 1983. No decision has been reached as yet as to what to do with Pickering B's four reactors that are in similar need of overhaul. Two of the eight reactors at Bruce are also undergoing refurbishment and their costs are now expected to exceed $3 billion; we'll have to see how the final numbers turn out for them and the six more that will follow. NB Power's Point Lepreau's refurbishment, which has yet to get underway, was originally pegged a few years ago at $500 million; today, that estimate has tripled to $1.4 billion and they haven't even loosened the first bolt. It just seems to go from bad to worse.

Anyway, nuclear power seems like a financial quagmire and Canadian taxpayers and utility ratepayers are the ones stuck footing the bill. I can't say it's been wholly pleasant journey thus far.


Shame - the CANDU design has many attractions, not least the ability to burn thorium.

The French seem to be the only ones to have really got the hang of nuclear power - I posted on another thread that I hope the imbeciles who work in the British civil service at least have the good sense to just hand the keys over to them, ask them to run our power system and clear off.

Not that they will.

I'll risk the wrath of the editors here by linking this one more time, Paul - this is an assessment by the Times of the energy situation in the UK:


As you can see, the situation here in the UK is pretty desperate, and it is more a case of can we keep the lights on at all than looking for an ideal solution.

You have to remember that the Times is not Peak oil aware, and this assessment will have been made on the assumption that plenty of oil is available.

Tough times ahead, here and in the US, I think.

I'm guessing a fall in living standards of 50% - and the dollar will loose it's main reserve currency status.

Thanks for the link. I recall the story but I'll read it once more.

I'd likely be a tad less critical had I not witnessed some of the hubris first hand. At a time when I was working hard to promote the responsible use of electricity, my political masters were banging heads with the provincial utility dreaming up new ways for consumers to use even more, simply to keep the utility's expansion plans intact ("Stamp out cold feet, go electric heat" being one of the slogans I remember from those days). We could have done so many things differently and many more a whole lot better but, instead, we continually made things worse; even Scott Adams would have a hard time comprehending the insanity. Anyway, that's all in the past and I've moved on.


The Times article was timely. That's why I posted a few days ago suggesting emergency building of coal to oil plants. Seems to Britain's only hope.

I simply do not understand this at all. According to the EIA the UK imports far more coal than it produces. It produces 685 trillion BTU, imports another 831 trillion BTU and consumes 1,558 trillion BTU.

How can coal possibly be Britain's only hope when they do not produce enough to supply their current needs?

Ron Patterson

According to the article coal production could be increased quite a bit, and there are coal eserves in Poland and Germany. The coal to oil would have to be on a continant wide basis.

I thought the writer got completely lost.

The interest in the article was that even without putting in any shortage from Peak Oil, The Times found a wide and growing gap in supply by 2015.

Other than that, the article was pretty confused:

Top of the “need to” list by around 2015 is finding another 30-35 gigawatts of power. If electricity were a solid substance you could visualise, you’d be looking at a mountain. A gigawatt is 1,000m watts – enough to meet the peak load of 130,000 average British households. Simple arithmetic says we’ll be short of 4.55m homes’ worth if nothing is done in time.

The last I heard the British did not consume the output of a 1GW power station in 130,000 homes, but in around 400,000, at an occupancy of around 2.2 per home, if that is the right guess for occupancy, in any case, it is around 1kwph per person.

Some 75GW actually power the 24 million homes in Britain, so why you would need 30-35 GW for 4.55million I can't imagine.

Statistics thud like dough into the brain, impossible to digest.

And the statistics certainly seem to have thudded into the dough of the reporter's brain.

The comments about gas appear to be well judged, AFAIK.

And then the reporter really looses the plot, and ends with some scheme from a coal-guy to gassify coal in situ.

Now the problem the reporter has identified is running out by 2015, and it is clear that there is a gap and the article does a good job of identifying it.

It is also clear that at the moment Government thinking, so far as it thinks at all, is for later supplies to come from a mixture of wind and nuclear, which could ramp up post 2015.

What in the name of Ned does the reporter imagine that some almost untested scheme to gassify coal in situ has to do with supplies in 2015?

It is probably true that there are large resources of coal that might be extracted by this method, that it appears to minimise CO2 emissions and would be indigenous, so it is a worthwhile longer term research project, but the reporter seems to have become as confused and directionless as the Government.

Perhaps anyone who tried to make sense of British energy policy would.

'Perhaps anyone who tried to make sense of British energy policy would.'

If we look back at 2001-2 and Tony Blair jumping on the Iraq bandwagon bigtime, maybe we can better understand 'British energy policy.'

The 'policy' was a quick win over Iraq and cheap Iraqi oil flowing to 'the co-alition of the willing.'

Obviously, there was no plan B.

The UK coal mines were shut down for "geopolitical" reasons. There's a lot more coal in the UK which can be mined.

There's a lot more coal in the UK which can be mined.

True, but not all of it is minable reserves - as always, the important bit is it has to be produced at a PROFIT. Reserves are what can be profitably mined at today's prices with today's technology!

The UK only produces a fraction of the coal it consumes because deep mining coal for energy is no longer profitable.

As your link correctly states, the mines were closed because they were Government subsidised and many were no longer profitable - Maggie Thatcher just happened to be the politician strong enough to stand up to the miners who thought the world owed them a 'free lunch'.

Current UK coal production is around 6% of peak - back to levels last seen around 1800, a classic peak and decline of an extracted substance - the overall production decline has nothing to do with politics, it is how the world works for all extractive industries.

Most of the UK coal that remains is just a deeply buried black rock, probably never to see the light of day.

First the UK coal production fell to almost zero, then it will be oil and then natural gas - all are in rapid decline - the general public (and the Government, it seems) just don't realise the severity of the imminent problem!

Th/Thorium...not just CANDUs but most LWRs can also burn thorium if tweaked enough. The key is to use liquid fueled molten salt reactors that can reprocess all fuel on line. VERY nice. 1/1000 the amount of waste of a standard LWR.

CANDUs are they WERE built in Canada are expensive. Interestingly, the later ones built in Japan and S. Korea ALL came in UNDER BUDGET and on time. I expect the newer, yet-to-be-built but ready-for-prome time ACR-1000s will be cheaper build.

Comparing constuction costs of modern Gen III nukes to the old Gen II ones from 30 years ago is really silly.


Comparing constuction costs of modern Gen III nukes to the old Gen II ones from 30 years ago is really silly.

Hi David,

Maybe so, but it doesn't change the fact that we're stuck with what we have now and will be presumably for many more years to come. These costs (i.e., accumulated debt and plant refurbishment) are not going away and will likely continue to expand over time, sucking even more money out of our collective pockets. And as much as I would like to believe this latest Gen III+ is truly the cat's rear end, in light of our past track record I'd like something more than simple assurances that, yes indeed, this time things will be different.


Here's a little background. Nova Scotia generates 75% of its electric power with imported coal.

I'll take my Ontario nuclear electric power (about 50% of total generation) at the equivalent kilowatt hour price any day.

Hi marmico,

That would be 75 per cent and falling. As stated here, NSP will more than quadruple the amount of electricity generated by wind in just the next two years (from 60 to 240 MW).

Source: http://www.nspower.ca/about_nspi/in_the_news/2008/02052008.shtml

And I can assure you it won't stop there. In addition, NSP is now ready to kick their energy conservation and DSM efforts into high gear.

See: http://www.nspower.ca/about_nspi/rates_regs/regulatory_initiatives/DSM/J...

I can also tell you this utility is fully committed to reducing its dependence on coal as quickly as it can; they can read the writing on the wall and now that these other alternatives are cost competitive there's all the more reason to accelerate the pace.

Moreover, Nova Scotians can purchase 100 per cent renewable energy, if so inclined, through NSP's Green Power programme. I, myself, buy three 125-kWh blocks per month at $5.00 each which covers a little less than half my total consumption now that I heat my home with a heat pump. At some point I might bump it up to six or seven blocks a month so that 100 per cent of my electricity is carbon free but, for now, I'll take some comfort in knowing the 1,100 litres in fuel oil I save each year reduces my home's annual CO2 emissions by 2.8 metric tonnes and that those savings go some way to cover-off my additional electricity consumption.

In any event, as of March 2007, Ontario tax and ratepayers were still on the hook for $31.6 billion of the $38.1 billion in debt Ontario Hydro racked-up largely as the result of their nuclear expansion programme; one way or the other, that debt has to be paid back. And I wonder how many tens of billions of dollars of debt will be added back as more OPG reactors undergo refurbished. Trust me, your pain is not going away anytime soon.

Source: http://www.oefc.on.ca/debtmanage.html


Well that's great that the Bay of Fundy will be a tidal source of electric power. I did my recent whale watching on Cape Breton (where the appalachia coal is disembarked at the Canso Strait). Does the province have transmission lines to Halifax/Dartmouth? I thought everything in Nova Scotia passed through Truro.

Ya, I have been paying 0.7 cents per kilowatt hour for almost nine years for the prior stranded debt. The unique thing about nominal debt is that it inflates away and the per capita real debt has been cut in half in 9 years. So the fear mongering is misplaced financially.

Yes, Ontario consumers can pay a premium for "green power" if they so choose, they have time of use optional billing, and they even encourage conservation via threshhold pricing.

Now how many dollars do I transfer to you?

Hi marmico,

I thought everything in Nova Scotia passed through Truro.

For the most part, it does. See: http://www.nspower.ca/about_nspi/t_d/line_map.shtml

I have been paying 0.7 cents per kilowatt hour for almost nine years for the prior stranded debt.

That charge, while seemingly small, sucked $991 million out of consumer's pockets in FY06/07. And if it were only $0.007 per kWh, we'd all be having a good chuckle. Historically speaking, Ontario had some of the lowest electricity rates in North America and, as we know, that's no longer the case. Between 1990 and 1994 as Darlington was brought online and the plant was added to the rate base, electricity rates increased 40 per cent and yet Ontario Hydro still lost $3.6 billion in 1993 alone.

The unique thing about nominal debt is that it inflates away...

Well, I may not be as versed in world of economics, but I can tell you interest charges on this debt last year amounted to just over $1.8 billion and various other related expenses added a further $256 million; clearly debt comes at some cost and it would seem these carrying costs exceed the rate of inflation.

Now how many dollars do I transfer to you?

Not nearly enough if you consider that I, like so many of my contemporaries, were raised and educated here in Nova Scotia (at considerable expense to the province) only to move to Ontario where we spent all or the bulk of our earning years paying taxes and contributing to the local economy, only to then move back to our native province to retire so that we could be a further burden on our provincial health care system and spare Ontario this added expense. And bear in mind these transfer payments are in large part the result of federal programs that require Nova Scotia to deliver various services such as universal health care to specific national standards. C'est la vie.


Historically speaking, Ontario had some of the lowest electricity rates in North America and, as we know, that's no longer the case.

And as a consequence of low electrical rates in the past, we know that Ontario has low electrical productivity levels as measured by GDP. For example, electricity consumption per capita is 60% greater than that of New York state.

I don't particularly find a $75.00 annual charge in perpetuity for the typical householder to service the stranded debt to be onerous. Maybe the debt will be retired in 30 years. Each to their own, I suppose.

Hi marmico,

And as a consequence of low electrical rates in the past, we know that Ontario has low electrical productivity levels as measured by GDP. For example, electricity consumption per capita is 60% greater than that of New York state.

Which underscores my point. If we had invested this money more wisely, our economy could have been stronger and our industries far more competitive. Instead, we squandered our opportunities and saddled ourselves with an enormous debt that will continue to suck more money out of our economy year after year.

I don't particularly find a $75.00 annual charge in perpetuity for the typical householder to service the stranded debt to be onerous.

Assuming the typical Ontario household consumes some 10,700 kWh/year, that number sounds about right. But that's not the whole story, is it? According Statistics Canada, there were 4.55 million Ontario households at the time of the 2006 census, so that $75.00/year accounts for only $340 million of the $2+ billion that is spent each year just to service this debt.

Maybe the debt will be retired in 30 years.

I wouldn't count on it. In terms of upcoming plant refurbishments we have Pickering B's four reactors, another six at Bruce A & B, then four more at Darlington. At $1.5 billion per reactor (and that's being wildly optimistic) that's another $21 billion to throw down the hole. My advice is to grab a shovel and start digging fast.



Yeah. We need to build a huge infrastructure that is radioactive, hugely polluting (especially in CO2), powered by a fuel that has peaked, and takes too long to develop and too much material to build to ever be cost effective, all in order to keep your butt alive.

If ever there were a more weepy, self-centered bozo, willing to rape the planet and thus doom millions for their personal survival and then have the unmitigated gall to try to use this selfish, brain-dead logic in order to guilt people who want to save more than just one selfish crybaby, I couldn't find them.

YOU WIN, DAVEMART. You are the cheesiest, most uncaring creep I have ever met.

Sounds balanced, fair and mature to me!

Say, you mention we met!

Aren't you that strikingly good looking chap, always walks around with his underpants on his head?

Give my regards to Napoleon!

- and I am sure that you didn't take the meds, no matter what you were advised!

Sorry to hear you have a predicament there. You don't mention what meds and it's not my business. In my case I would have been on blood pressure things as well as cholesterol reducing stuff since I was 27, and that was 39 years ago (very high readings in both areas) but when I found at 29 that the cholesterol drug I had been taking had been found to be carcinogenic I began to look at pharmaceuticals along that light and began exercise and dietary changes especially in the hydrogenated and saturated fat area.

Many apoplectic Drs. later I have trained a Dr. as far as talking of drugs in terms of cost/benefit and say things like " all drugs are poison to some degree" but I still can't break him of the habit of trying to write as many prescriptions as possible. So sad to see tears well in his eyes as his current miracle restorative cum snake-oil flutters to the ground.

One other big thing for me was finding that I am possibly more sensitive to salt than many and as long as I don't eat processed foods I have a BP that runs 130/70. As far as the cholesterol I have listened to good arguments that cholesterol is an innocent bystander. I haven't had even a murmur from my heart or a single stroke or other headbone neurological event (though some may say that is a matter of my opinion only).

Good wishes in getting what best fits your needs.
I see Cherenkov has abruptly entered the scene, I love to hear from him as he speaks his mind and his heart and usually both are in the right places. Today, a bonus, he also gave you a chance to give as good as given, great repartee DaveMart ... and now Cherenkov you must go to the blackboard and write whatever the hell you want to write in big and bold maybe 100 times.

Thanks, Crystal!

I asked for a comeback really from folk who don't support nuclear power, and doubtless they would retort that it is not the lack of nuclear power, but our lifestyles which cause the problem.

My play on words though, was designed to remind us that for many, maybe a third of the population, who are old or sick or the very young, then shortage of power might swiftly destroy them, and that in those circumstances their not being exposed to any risks from nuclear power is a deadly safety indeed.

A failure to reduce CO2 emissions by using more nuclear power over the last 30 years might prove a poor bargain, too.

I am sorry to hear you are not in the best of health. I have the contrary policy to medications, and always take them, when I remember, and indeed supplement them with cider, which I never forget! ;-)

Ah! that BP of 130/70, more than ill ... likely dead! Must be the strong ale that protected the vasculars :)

As far as Nuclear I think Cherenkov does go a bit far on nuclear IMO if we could replace FF with it that would be a good.

On the other hand I am right with Cherenkov in that it does not look likely we'll to reduce our FF use, so any additional energy use no matter how 'alternate' only adds to the problems. It is not just the CO2 that is a worry but how we are using energy. As an instance, the sea is not only hit by CO2 but overfishing, an energy issue, as well.

Gotta go now, it is getting dark and I have a compost bucket my wife wants emptied before I sleep.

You do have fun!
Actually, my own health is not too bad under normal circumstances, I want to add to reassure my friends here, I am 57 years old with some breathing difficulties.
Any thought that I would be one of the survivors for very long in a situation with low power, where I was often cold and had difficulty obtaining medications though is absurd.

That is by no means peculiar to myself, but out of the greater Bristol area's population of 1 million probably applies to 200,000 or so at a guess.

We are around 15 miles from Hinckley point nuclear power station, where there are proposals to build tow of the new French Areva reactors.

These would provide roughly 3GW of power, IOW with a bit of common sense enough to power the greater Bristol area if we got rid of fossil fuels and used technology like heat pumps instead of the present natural gas burn.

Of course, near Bristol we also have the Severn estuary with it's high tidal flow and potential to produce power, and also very good off-shore wind resources, and I certainly would not discourage their development.

However, in this area we are much more favourably placed than most of the country for renewable resources, and they are very expensive relative to nuclear power, so in a situation where resources are as tight as in a post Peak world would be difficult to build rapidly.

The risks to the Bristol population from any interruption of power supply would be immeasurably greater than any conceivable risk from building nuclear power to supply their needs.

A 'principled' opposition to a nuclear build runs a high risk of killing a lot of people.

There is also the little matter that this would be essentially CO2 free.

Cherenkov is right in his assertion that a LOT of crybabies hang on this board.
If people would begin an exercise routine, including walking, most would not be on meds of any kind. It is never too late to begin exercise. Start with a walk around the block each day and expand it gradually to several miles every day or every other day. You might find that you need no meds. When walking dont look at the road as much as your surroundings. Look at flora and fauna, not the damn road. You will very quickly feel better mentally and physically.
The fact is most are too lazy to get off their ass and go for a walk...they would rather whine about their condition.
BTW, when out walking and a Hummer or other rediculous vehicle drives by make a point of not looking at the vehicle...look at a tree, birds, etc,...the driver of the vehicle will almost invariably step down on the gas to draw the walkers attention...Sort of like 'look at me, I'm driving a beheamoth and you are walking'...Keep watching the birds because you have solid health and that vehicle driver is probably taking meds. Just one more example of the foolishness of humans.

Delightful! I actually mentioned some health problems purely as an example of the condition many are in.

For you to have the gall to presume to lecture on health to someone you have never met shows the sort of person you are to perfection.

And that is without the slightest knowledge of what is wrong!

'A brisk walk will set you malingerers up, you say'

So pensioners really have no right to die of hypothermia when they should just exercise more?

I suppose the 84 year old lady who lives in these flats is suffering from laziness? Sufferers from cancer? The child of my friends who is blind and partly deaf? Diabetics don't really need their insulin?

All of these people are likely to die quickly if they have no power.

But that is their own fault of course, and will not stop you giving moral lectures.

One hopes that in due course you will be called upon to show how superior you are to pain or disability.

No-one who had ever had very much of either could ever be so grossly insensitive, nor anyone who was not a complete fool who had not.

Contemptible, quite contemptible.


Methinks you hit on a few key points.

One of the more interesting things about a blog is that none of us know much about anybody else on line. There's safety in anonymity.

We may all be modelled good-looking, athleticly inclined, slim, trim, and in perfect health and wealth. Really smart, too! Then again, may be not.

What I appreciate about TOD is that this is a forum where ideas can be expressed, reflected on, and examined.

As someone wisely pointed out in the last few days, wisdom is a combination of knowledge, empathy, and reflection.

Some people are wiser than others. We can learn from each other's wisdom.

Some people are more perfect than others. My question is why on earth would they be here?

Perhaps we stumbled across one of the great mysteries of life. Who knows?

Ahh the "Great mysteries of life", the stars at night, the wind in the trees , and learning how to breath... slowly, deeply, calmly, with every fiber of your being.

I'm pleased to report I have solved the great mystery of life!

At one stage I was misled by 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' into believing that the answer was 42!

However, we are now reliably informed it is 10 to the power 122!

The 'Guide' though is a reliable indicator of the next question after this satori -

'What's for lunch?' :-)


I'll take a guess. It's the number of bytes in the computer simulation we all live in :-)

For you to have the gall to presume to lecture on health to someone you have never met shows the sort of person you are


Forgive them,
for they are young (& superbly healthy as we were at their age)
and know not of what they speak.

Until you have walked in the other guy's shoes you really don't know about his bunions.

At my age I ain't got much choice but to forgive them!

When I was younger I would have socked them , and then forgiven them! :-)

It would be interesting to see how that invigorating walk would go with a pick-axe handle protruding from uncomfortable places - but no doubt our hero would overcome.

Sounds like I hit a nerve, DaveMart. I am six years older than you, according to your stated age.

I have some aquaintence with pain and I never give lectures on morality. The three lower discs in my back are mush, causing pressure on the psyatic (sp?) nerves exiting the lower discs to eliminate most feeling in my feet and ankles and severe back and upper leg pain. I have crawled to the bathroom more than once because to stand up from sleep is too painful. At times it takes a couple of hours in the morning to begin walking normally...but, I still go for my daily walk. If I stop the walking routine I begin to feel worse, mentally and physically, within a few days. Medically and legally I am 100% handicapped but I have never parked in a handicapped parking space and I still ride motorcycles daily.

IMO, it is you that are the fool to presume that I would be thoughtless enough to 'lecture' while having no physical problems. I am offering advice about what has helped me and many others. Because you are too lazy or guilty to accept the advice doesnt give you leeway for a personal attack on me.

And, it is you that are contemptible for sitting around whining about your problems and being sucked in by big pharma when a bit of exercise would probably help you more than all the pills in the world.

We were discussing our problems, not those of an 84 year old woman with cancer...and, would the diabetic be a diabetic if he/she had been a bit more active and eaten less sweets and fast food garbage? Hypothermia? I doubt it will kill you while out for a brisk walk if you are dressed properly. I lived in Newfoundland for a few years and we played all sports, including tobaggoning during white-outs...no one got frost bite, much less hypothermia. Of course, if one wishes to die of hypothermia I have no problem with that...but why should they come on this board whinning about it?

Your whine doesnt cut it with me...but, perhaps you were looking for sympathy from the twenty-somethings? I have no sympathy for you or anyone else that sits around idle till they develop handicaps. There are lots of quack doctors pushing lots of pills for big pharma and most people are dumb enough to believe that there is a pill to cure anything, but there are no magic pills. Use it or lose it, that is what works.

and most people are dumb enough to believe that there is a pill to cure anything

Well River, you're young at heart ... and obviously are still convinced you are "special". Other people are dumb. You are smart. You are better. You will win the game.

I used to think like that too. So I understand. After a lot of introspection I came to realize that I am no better than any other little-haired monkey on this planet. We are all irrational. 90% of us believe we are in the upper 50% of humanity. We are all "special". The others (the "lazy", the "cry babies", the stupid and infirmed) deserve to die. But "we" will live forever in superb health and without aid of any artificial "pills".

That includes vitamin pills and that holisitic stuff. Hope you're not a hypocrite and are popping any of those artificial vitamin pills or pain pills for sciatica. :-)

P.S. I do take a walk everyday I can. I find it incredibly refreshing to the mind. Somehow I can think much better and clearer when taking a walk. That said, I don't knock anyone who has medical problems and can't take a walk. You can't possibly understand until you are in their shoes.

Er..I wasn't talking about my particular problems anyway!

Dim and with physical handicaps! Fair play!

My word, you ARE dim, aren't you?
It should be obvious that regardless of your or mine own particular position, there are many to whom a loss of power would be fatal.

It would be clear to anyone of normal intelligence that I was presenting the case that a lot of people who have physical difficulties would soon die in the event of power shortages - I am sorry to find you have problems in more than one area.



Translation: You have dared to challenge my worldview.

Bite me!

What were we all talking about?


Excuse my French here.

But lets just get seriously real here:

UK population 62 million ( estimated). 67 million by 2020 (underestimate IMO)

UK food production: 52% home grown. And falling, decade by decade.

UK Power GAP: 33% within 10 years (based on needs of 62 m , not 67 m). - Cause - reduction in coal fired power, Nuclear Shutdown program.

Actually, this is over optimistic: It assumes we can buy Norwegian , Russian and Algerian gas. Quite what they will want to buy from us has not been entirely explained.

Quite why Russians should deal with nations like us who ass-fuck Serbia is also not explained... We now got ourselves our very own Islamic, drug baron, white slaver, criminal state. Right in the heart of Europe. (sing it to 'Right in the heart of Texas' - it sounds better..)

Still, makes life much easier for Terrorists to get into Europe and hence the US...

UK Peak oil: 2005.

UK Peak Gas: 2006.

UK Peak food: 1942 - We have 'depended on the kindness of strangers' since this time. (BTW: We had 40 million at this time, not 62 million)

Time to start thinking about real-politik.

A few 'off-the-cuff' predictions:

1. Half of the 35% of voters who routinely visit the BNP website (the most visted website of all political parties) get off the fence by the next election.

2. BNP deliver 5 MPs in 2012

3. The next parliament is hung: Tories, Libdems scrounge a semi-working majority, kept alive by 3 on 2 (the latter two are so off the wall far right that Himmler would have been embarrased) of the BNP members. Labour is more or less in the wilderness in England, but still strong in Scotland and Wales. Though the SNP are now the only party in UK Politics with a serious working majority and able thereby to order a referendum on Scottish Nationhood.

4. Oil hits 250 US / bbl in 2012. The Olympics are a national humiliation, Fuel and food rationing are now on the cards. Fuel poverty now hits the working lower middle class. Costs are so high in general that the upper middle class are getting stung. Blackouts are becoming common.

5. Shell and BP pull stumps in the UKCS hitting 35000 jobs with immediate effect. Grampian region is immediately thrown into severe recession. This impacts the referendum, but the the SNP struggle through with a working majority with the help of the greens.

6. The SNP win and immediately nationalise all UKCS oil and gas fields North of Shell AUK.

7. A stunned England closes the border for the first time in 400 years.

8. Scotland hits back by closing off water supplies to drought-stricken England. (England his been benighted by repeated droughts in each summer from 2009 -2012)











Dorme Bien.

Quite what they will want to buy from us has not been entirely explained.

Just a technical note. They don't actually have to buy anything from you. But it is necessary that you export something to some other nations. They in turn would have something the Norwegians want or be exporting in turn to somebody who does.

We are not back in a barter economy quite yet! :=)

1. Half of the 35% of voters who routinely visit the BNP website (the most visted website of all political parties) get off the fence by the next election.

That percentage is so astonishing I simply don't believe it. Convince me.

[Edit: A quick look at Alexa stats suggest to me that most of the visitors to the UK BNP site were actually looking for BNP Paribas Bank]

6. The SNP win and immediately nationalise all UKCS oil and gas fields North of Shell AUK.

7. A stunned England closes the border for the first time in 400 years.

8. Scotland hits back by closing off water supplies to drought-stricken England. (England his been benighted by repeated droughts in each summer from 2009 -2012)

I think Alex Salmond's intelligence will ultimately over-ride his ego. England and Scotland (and Wales/N. Ireland) face this together.

You forgot the civil war in the UK and Europe with the muslim minority, incensed with events in the middle east.

Gee River is stay flexible. a message to invest in gyms and exercise equipment instead of alt energy? Thanks, off to see my broker, will chat on the beach later, save me a clam.

Seriously though if everyone felt it was as hopeless as you describe our position, we might be ready for change, but got to get hopeless first, IMO. (my friends consider my thinking pretty hopeless already, boy, wait till they see me after I get flexible as well:)

HAW ... a sudden laugh off of CNN: the south Sandwich Islands were described as UNINHIBITED:)

CrystalRadio...you are going to get me in Dutch with Leanan. It was her idea to 'stay flexible'...but I agree with her strategy. Hey, it worked for the Gypsies (sort of) for a long time. I believe that those on 'little farms that are more or less self sustaining' will simply become targets. Thousands of hungry people wandering onto ones farm will leave it looking as if a herd of locusts have visited.

Humans are in a hopeless situation because of human nature. Can you propose a solution?...Can human nature be modified?...Can our spending on the US Military be changed by the votes of US Citizens? I find our situation as much humorous as hopeless. Think about it...Humans could sustain in a miserable existence for most untill the industrial revolution. At this point of the industrial revolution good times are in sight for all that wish to purchase a $2,500 Tata automobile from India yet what we now have is not sustainable for the 6.5 billion people on earth. Is it not human nature to reproduce? Was it not a 'guide to living a good life', sometimes known as the bible, that exhorted us to go forth and multiply and stomp any and all beasts in the way? Well, we have followed 'the guide' plus our own human nature and we have landed precisely where we now find ourselves. You see no humor in this?
'Seriously though if everyone felt it ws as hopeless as you describe our position, we might be ready for change...' and I contend that we would not be ready for change because human nature has not been modified by PO, GW, or the economy...In fact, Countrywide and others continue to issue sub prime loans. You see no humor in that?
Once it dawns on you that human nature is not going to change then I think you will see the humor...and hopelessness.

'And the recovery this time will be exacerbated by the human survivors. And their will be survivors I believe.' Pure crystal ball speculation. A good example of one 'wanting' instead of one reasoning.

Geeze, and I thought I was a doomer. First of all River, I am not wanting anything for I will not be around then. But just plain common sense dictates that there will be survivors. Homo sapiens are the most dominate animal on earth. We have occupied every habital niche on earth. Even if 99.9 of all the people on earth were wiped out that would still leave almost 7 million people living.

Of course if the earth turns into a ball of ice or a has a temperature of 200 degrees, there will be no life left at all. But none of these things has happened since well before the Cambrian era, over 600 million years ago. Even the great Permian extinction did not wipe out everything and the temperatures during that extinction are estimated to be the most extreme ever.

But of course we cannot know that such a once in a billion year catastrophe will not happen. But we could be very safe in saying that it is highly unlikely. And if any animal survives this great extinction it will be Homo sapiens, but probably not many other large animals will survive.

I have no crystal ball but I think the odds are at least one thousand to one that at least a few million people will survive the coming demise of fossil fuels. Though I am sure River will call me a wide eyed optimist. ;-)

Ron Patterson

Human civilization has been a very brief phenomenon on the world's geological and biological record.

If one takes the 4.5 billion years of the world's past and condense it into a period of one year of 365 days, every second represents about 140 years. If we're now at midnight, New Year's Eve, the American Civil War ended at 11:59:59 PM, Columbus' expedition took place just a little over 3 seconds ago, the time of Christ is 13 seconds ago, and people began to inhabit villages at about 11:58:25 PM. The extinction of the dinosaurs took place on Christmas Day, the first flowering plants only a couple of days before that, and the first fossils of birds date back to December 16th.

Human beings have wrecked havoc for a very short period. It's simply amazing how much we've squandered, especially since the industrial era began merely seconds ago.

Gazing into the future, it's difficult to see how this can be sustained. Unless something fundamentally changes, our great experiment with civilization will last only a minute or two on the earth's overall record. Some of our own species will survive yes, but not in the "lifestyle to which we have become accustomed".

A cheery thought to think about on a chilly winter's day.

Ron, so good to see you as the wide eyed optimist you really are!! Keep this up and we'll welcome you into the Polyanna Club;-)

Zadok_the_Priest -

I fear that within the next 100 years or so (or maybe less) the human race is going to actually re-enact the script of some bad science fiction movie. We will probably never become extinct, but I fear that the timers are going to reset to a period equivalent to several thousand years in the past. Then things will progress, as before.

Maybe this is one of those big never-ending cycles that New Age types are so fond of? Damned if I know.



Or really HOT (if you prefer)

hmmmm... let's see here:

Catholic apocalypse: The Great Chastisement
Jewish apocalypse: The Day of the Lord
Fundamentalist apocalypse: Armageddon / The Rapture (if you prefer)
Norse apocalypse: Ragnarok

Feel free to add more. These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

What is it about human nature that we seem to understand instinctively that we're programmed to self-destruct?

As the rock band Trooper said long ago: "We're here for a good time, not a long time."

Always been a big Ragnarok fan. The Norse have the best mythology.
But the fundamentalist have a near real time web site:

Rapture Ready's sidebar says it all: " The prophetic speedometer of end-time activity"

If you're a fundamentalist Christian, this is very important to know. After all, you don't want to be caught off guard. Just think about it. There you are driving along on the freeway in your Hummer and "poof", your cherished vehicle goes careening all over the road b/c now it's driverless. In the melee, your piece of armour has now killed several bystanders.

So much for your track record on the Big Ten, particularly "Thou shalt not kill."

How's that going to look to the Big Guy upstairs? Not good for the needed browny points. May even qualify you for the booby prize: a nice trip south to someplace warm.

As the Boy Scout's motto says: Be Prepared!

The archaeology of the previous cycles of civilisation has been covered remarkably well if we are part of some mystic cycle of civilisations.
Ours will be detectable for umpteen million years, probably going up to a billion.

What if those civilisations are now underwater? Very little has been investigated, and the sea is pretty good at eroding evidence.

Certainly since the last glacial maximum, civilisations arising in the premium coastal regions have been subject to repeated flooding, which has driven them back inland. It's quite probable that there were civilisations of some sort in coastal areas all the way back to the previous glacial max, 120,000 years ago.

I don't buy the idea that these civilisations were very advanced, and had great knowledge that has been lost. Agrarian communities with oral culture, but probably extensive sea travel and trade along coastal routes.

Ron, I agree that 'some humans...maybe 8 million will survive' but find it a stretch to say that they will exacerbate the return of the earth to 'normal'...All though their is no 'normal' for the earth. The climate record clearly indicates that the past ten thousand years of relatively stable climate is an aberation. Those 8 million survivors will be struggling to eat and avoid being eaten...much as their ancient ancestors did. As far as a return to a technology based society...that will depend to a large degree upon another climate stabilization. We might be remembered in legend like Atlanteans.
I dont agree that no other large fauna will survive because they have come through past 'bottle necks', as have humans.
A very rugged and well adapted human population of several million was reduced (by genetic estimate) to just a few thousand survivors by a seemingly innocous volcanic eruption in the middle of nowhere about 75 thousand years ago. All that read this board should examine what that volcano did and compare the outcome to the end of FFs on a population of 6.5 billion people. We, all 6.5 billion of us, excepting a few remote populations, by comparison, are not well adapted to survival without the grid, FFs, homes, super markets, modern medicine, transportation, etc. If we are suddenly thrown back into the arena of survival of the fittest, I contend that the bears and lions will be the fittest...at least, until we readapt and relearn the fine art of flint knapping... :)

River, if only 8 million survive then they will not exacerbate the return of earth to normal. It will be the billions trying to survive that devastate the earth. Only if as many as half a billion survive will the recovery of the earth be exacerbated.

Humans, in a desperate search for food, will turn to what is in Africa called bushmeat. That is Chimps, Gorillas, antelopes and every other wild animal. When these animals are gone, and they will be gone, then the predators will starve.

When humans came through the bottleneck of Toba, food was not the problem, it was the climate. The bottleneck of peak oil will not be remotely related to Toba and we cannot possibly compare the two. The super volcano of Toba changed the climate and had an equal effect on all mega fauna. The demise of fossil fuels will leave billions of humans struggling to find food and they will have a distinct advantage over other animals, totally unlike the bottleneck of Toba. You are totally mistaken when you try to equate Toba with the coming bottleneck of the demise of fossil fuels. They are not remotely connected.

Bears and lions may indeed be fit. But their prey are not so fit. And their prey will also be our prey. Who will be more able to capture that prey, humans or bears and lions? I contend it will be humans.

Ron Patterson

Ron, this is purely conjectural, so who knows, but...I strongly suspect that a couple of your basic premises there are flawed. In an era of severely constrained FF, human will once again find it difficult to hunt the remaining prey species at all, let alone to extinction.
For example,deer are wily, elusive creatures, and the energy payback for an extended deer-hunt would be hard to justify...if your premise is that there will be no deer-habitat left, I find that also to be questionable. The frequently quoted factoid about there being more deer in North America now than at the time of Columbus certainly has the ring of truth for harried landowners.
The kind of mass deforestation that you suggest is possible I also find to be highly unlikely. We do still have vast tracts of timber on the North American continent and even using industrialized, extremely fossil-fuel intensive methods of harvest it would take us a long time to ruin that much habitat. Much of it is high elevation and steep slope that is nearly impossible to harvest without heavy equipment.
I think the social organization and energy to accomplish such a feat will not be forthcoming. I agree with you that populations will drop, even crash might not be too strong a term, but I suspect that the mass migrations postulated by people like Bob Shaw won't occur, most people will choose to starve at home.
There have been quite a few 20th Century famines that were not accompanied by mass migrations. I suspect hungry masses will simply not have the opportunity to disperse enough to totally devastate whole ecosystems. That's my hope, anyway.

The end of civilization is hardly the end of human control of this planet. We conquered the planet with wood and stone clubs.

Also although most of the ore deposits have been mined, the metal hasn't disappeared. It is in landfills and assorted trash sites, awaiting the point where it is profitable to mine them for raw material.

We also don't have to rediscover how to build and advance civilization from scratch. At the very least we can revert to animal and steam power. Computers, telecommunication and long range transportation will simply once again become the realm of the rich and powerful.

There wasn't always electricity, a computer, car, tv, phone and radio in every home. When those items first appeared they were strictly for the rich. The TVA put electricity in many homes for the first time.

The Stanley steamer's final incarnation was a perfectly good car.

Here is a guy selling books on how to build a civilization from scratch.

You have a good point about the minerals - an that steam car is fascinating!

I wonder about not having readily accessible fossil fuels in high grade ores though? They have been used up.

Would there be work-around.

Yeah, there would be work around...survival. Alternatively you could go to a land fill and build the 'final incarnation of the Stanley Steamer' from trash. Then you could build a string of race tracks for your Steamers to race on. You could call it...um...BARNEYCAR? :)

Another thing to consider is the demographics of the USA, about 30% are 50 and over. The baby boomer may be alive and consuming vast resources, but for many of them, continued survival is dependent on a network of pharmaceutical products, meals on wheels, and assorted electricity powered medical devices.

May of their lives are hanging by a thread. Civilization doesn't have to end to kill them off, all it has to do is get a case of the hiccups.


Bitter one, steam cars surely worked, but they are not as energy efficient as IC engines. Even gasoline IC's are better. The steam cycle is simply not as good at converting thermal energy into rotary motion. Besides, the typical steam car used some sort of liquid fuel. While a steam car could be built which used solid fuel, like coal or wood, the basic problem for a small vehicle, such as a car, is still going to be that of liquid fuel availability. That said, one must realize that most of our electricity is being made with steam power, as coal and nuclear electric power plants use steam cycles.

I found all this out myself back in the early 1970's when I attempted to build a compact steam engine for a car. At the time, before the OPEC Oil Embargo, my concern was reduction of air pollution. My original idea was to use vegetable oil as fuel. I gave up after about 6 months of play in a machine shop at a junior college, during which I managed to build a burner that I tried out using diesel fuel. It didn't work very well and the school year was over by then. I still have the burner can in my junk collection.

Here's another, more recent excursion into the world of steam cars:


E. Swanson

Here is a guy selling books on how to build a civilization from scratch.

Thanks for the Lindsay links.

Let me guess...the book is titled 'Just Add Oil and Stir'... :)

I think peak oil will a much more immediate (and devastating) impact. But climate change be very, very serious as we move deeper into the century. In the the end, of course, the two are very much intertwined. Peak oil and gas means moving to coal. Coal means global warming. There are a bunch of interconnected peakings that are converging: soil, water, energy, all affected by and affecting climate change. Bottom line: our planetary footprint has grown way too large. One way or another it is going to scale back. Not just this century, but the first half.

Neither will end the world first, because it's not an either/or scenario, just like the ages-old question, "Nature vs. Nurture".

It's not either/or, because it's both, in concert, continually, in a nonlinear system with constant feedback.

But then again, it's not really "both", either. Any system that been:
* designed, screwed with, and interacted with
* beginning with millions and then billions of people
* using hierarchical, top-down management in a world that is fundamentally self-organizing from the bottom-up ...

... was due to collapse from unmanageable complexity.

For instance, mass extinctions, nuclear war, and civilization's reliance on monocultured food crops also have the possibility of collapsing civilization AWKI.

Neither will end the world first, because it's not an either/or scenario, just like the ages-old question, "Nature vs. Nurture".

Of course this is correct, but I don't think a lot of people are saying that ONLY peak oil or global warming will cause the demise of civilization as we know it. There are also falling water tables, disappearing rain forest, disappearing dry forest, disappearing lakes and rivers, top soil either washing or blowing away, air pollution and a hundred other things, all on top of peak oil and global warming. As Lester Brown put it, it is the synchronicity of all these things that is frightening.

Ron Patterson

Tram-Train to operate on Freight Railroad and City Streets

A commuter like service will make 15 stops over 36 km of freight track and then switch over to the tram system and make another 12 stops on the tram system.

AFAIK, Karlsruhe Germany (expat's home) was the first to do this.

A similar plan is underway for the French Island of Reunion (in the Indian Ocean, pop 780,000), 70 km of new track to service trams and freight trains. Service every 5 minutes at rush hour.


In 2011, Mulhouse, pop 112,000 will have more miles of Light Rail/tram operating than either Houston or Phoenix (both pop. 4+ million) and more frequent rush hour service (every 6 to 8 minutes on the two urban lines) than our big cities.

Additional line extensions are being discussed for Mulhouse after the first 3 lines (two urban 19.7 km, one tram-train 36 km) are built. I have noted that the schedule has slipped (from 2012 to 2011, are the French Peak Oil aware ?)

Best Hopes for France post-Peak Oil,


BT: I picked Mulhouse to concentrate on, it is late to get it's first tram (2006) but seems determined to catch up. Some small French towns get one tram line and stop (they are being asked to rethink and plan for more trams). Others plan massive expansion plans (Grenoble comes to mind).

Interesting opening line in the article, "Global shortage of commodities looming",

Our peak oil thesis gained some new respect this week as oil prices hit yet another record, the first close over US$100 per barrel. Demand fluctuates, but it is all about supply, and supply concerns this week showed how tight the market really is.

And this inside the Financial Post! Wow! Newspapers are starting to take notice.

Forget the competitive race between PO & GW. This may even give Britney Spears a run for her money with the public's attention. One can always hope.

Imagine, reality TV that actually talks about reality.

I prefer Madonna to Peak Oil.

'Twin Peaks', as we call her!

Here is another reminder of how grotesque the disparity is between the scale of US military spending and spending on renewable energy infrastructure.

I just learned that yesterday a B-2 Stealth bomber crashed in Guam. Fortunately the crew safely ejected. These planes cost $1.2 billion a piece.

By way of comparison, the proposed 150-turbine offshore windfarm currently being wrangled over in Delaware has a total estimated cost of $1.6 billion. So, for a third more than the cost of a single B-2 Stealth bomber one can build 300 MW wind farm.

While people here are agonizing over the cost of the such a wind farm, I'm sure no one in the federal government is going to bat an eyelash over $1.2 billion worth of military hardware going up in a puff of smoke. It's like we are operating under two different currencies: Defense Dollars, and Civilian Dollars, and one bears no relation to the other.

It's like we are operating under two different currencies: Defense Dollars, and Civilian Dollars, and one bears no relation to the other.

In the minds of many, it's not a choice between guns and butter. Guns mean butter.

May be Dwight Eisenhower was on to something when he mused aloud about "the military industrial complex". That was nearly fifty years ago. Couldn't be still relevant today, could it?

Sad part, joule, is that America could be well on the road to PO preparation if there was a consensus and the will to do so.

What did Churchill say, "you can always count on the Americans doing the right thing after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

Zadok_the_Priest -

Yeah, the $1.2 billion spent on that B-2 bomber sure represented a lot of butter for some people, namely defense contractors. And if that B-2 is replaced, there is going to be even more butter for the same people.

Of course that $1.2 billion will eventually circulate through the economy through various pathways (as often argued by defense industry apologists). But the exact same argument holds if that $1.2 billion were instead spent on some wind or solar project.

So, what it all gets down to is the old economic concept of 'opportunity costs'. And that, in turn, gets into national priorities and value systems. To some people of a neoncon persuasion a $1.2 billion B-2 bomber is more valuable to the US than a $1.2 billion wind farm. Unfortunately, these people have a great deal to say where and how government (i.e., taxpayer) money gets spent.

Until the absurb US defense budget gets reined in, I serious doubt we are ever going to see an expenditure of government revenues on alternative energy that is even within the same order of magnitude of defense spending. It just ain't gonna happen.


The U.S. spends more money and resources on its military than all other countries combined. And I remember seeing several bloggers using a figure (from the early 1990s I believe) that something like 83% of American manufacturing is tied to defense. (I'm going by memory so please let me know if I'm misrepresenting the numbers.)

For better or worse, military spending is embedded in American economic reality and on its people's psyche. You're right. To turn that around would be akin to turning the Queen Mary in a bathtub of water. It's just not going to happen.

The good news is that b/c defense is such an overwhelming force in American life, the U.S. could trim a sizeable chunk off its military budget and still be top dog. And rather than being offered as a peace dividend, an investment in renewable infrastructure and alternative energy could be sold as "reducing American dependency on outside oil" and thereby a "security dividend".

What is needed is someone to make it happen.

I'm not sure if this is wholly good or bad, but after several years working in the defense industry it's become pretty clear to me that at *LEAST* $0.50 of every dollar spent is applied to red-tape, markups, gifts, or outright bribes. If this mess could somehow be streamlined we could easily cut back our defense expenditures and maintain a more than sufficient defensively-oriented military.

He who goes to war shall need deep pockets.


From The Times
February 23, 2008

The three trillion dollar war

The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.
The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion (that's $5 million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

'One can say without exaggeration that inflation is an indispensable intellectual means of militarism. Without it, the repercussions of war on welfare would become obvious much more quickly and penetratingly; war-weariness would set in much earlier.'

Ludwig von Mises

the following is from AS WE GO MARCHING by john t flynn and was written in 1943 as right wing critique of america under president roosevelt:

part 3 chapter 5 american imperialism

"....We have now managed to acquire bases all over the world, islands as distant as the Australian Archipelago which President Roosevelt seized in 1938 without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress.

There is no part of the world where trouble can break out where we do not have bases of some sort in which, if we wish to use the pretension, we cannot claim our interests are menaced.

Thus menaced there must remain when the war is over a continuing argument in the hands of the imperialists for a vast naval establishment and a huge army ready to attack anywhere or to resist an attack from all the enemies we shall be obliged to have.

Because always the most powerful argument for a huge army maintained for economic reasons is that we have enemies. We must have enemies. They will become an economic necessity for us."

available at www.mises.org in pdf

So Bush and company dismissed efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions since they would cost the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars. But spending trillions to occupy Iraq and maintain the oil crack dependence is perfectly reasonable. Truly the thinking of nitwits decoupled from reality.

Common misconception-they would be nitwits if it were their trillions-it isn't-it is your money.

Re: SPR article up top.

It's a good thing that oil is not subsidized like the devil's brew. The Senate Democrats should know that buying at the top is the way to lower the price since when I do it the price always goes down.

Military expenditures of 3 Trillion in Iraq and Afganistan have nothing to do with subsidies for oil and are necessary because Afganistan and Iraq are "evil doers". Sarcasm off.

What? Were you born yesterday? The Military in the U.S. runs this country (ALWAYS HAS) and we Munchkins have been given a little slice of the pie for a number of years, now you will begin to see the true colors of the U.S......so many people ignore the obvious, because they choose to not see.....Where do you think the first priority of any FF inventory will be given? Where do you think the first supply of food will be rationed? The list is endless.

And you can throw all the conspiracy BS out the window, this will be the future.


I don't think it's as cut and dried as that Kayak, tho' the defense budget is always going to be notoriously hard to challenge because it's championed by fear, and America seems to have a special relationship with deepseated fears.

Some 70's mob movie:

"You're in Organized Crime?"

"To tell you the truth, we ain't that organized.."


AH..But it is really that cut and dried. As most in life really is. Truly look around and see the world, not as you want it to be, but as it is. The time for play is at an end in this country, not out of any "fear", but born out of the reality of the world smothered by Homo Sapiens. Mommy and Daddy are not here to hold our little hand and protect us from the Boogyman. We are the Boogyman.

The World turns, with or without U.S.

Devil's Dictionary Definition -

Realist: a blackgard who's faulty vision allows him to see things as they are, rather than as they should be.


Always remember, knowledge and wisdom are two very different things, and very seldom sleep together.


I find Ambrose a comfort in my dotage...nice to see others basking in the glow of his wisdom.

Bierce is one of my heroes, too. But knowledge and wisdom are cousins, distant cousins for most people.

Knowledge plus empathy plus experience plus reflection equals wisdom.

Glad the crew was able to eject safely.

Hopefully the downfall of this symbol of technological prowess and military dominance will temper some of the casual imperialistic enthusiasm that was reignited by the allegedly successful satellite intercept and destruction.

Hey, the Chinese intercepted and destroyed a satellite in space last year...so, the morons running our country felt compelled to do the same. Did it occur to said morons that 'the worlds only super power' was following the lead of the Chinese?

The morons would probably phrase it as, "Anything they can do, we can do better!"

Speaking of which, they are now working on legislation to help the FBI and CIA catch terrorists the the online RPG World of Warcraft.

read Chalmers Johnson's books - the sorrows of empire and nemesis. or watch the interviews:
conversations with history: http://youtube.com/watch?v=sQi4-97GXrI
bases are loaded: http://youtube.com/watch?v=GQHeo-CMQyc
oil wars and overreach: http://youtube.com/watch?v=j5SoE9vBc6I
sign of decay: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q2CCs-x9q9U

As you can guess from my handle, I don't exactly see eye to eye with my government. We are
estimating that 2009 will bring the first $1T defense budget (all agencies, this doesn't appear as a single category in the budget). But Luntz style polling shows that "America should be strong" polls very well, so I don't expect us to come to our senses in time. The trajectory from there depends
somewhat upon the election, a Dem win would probably reduce the growth rate -but the Dems -especially Hillary
are too scared of being called weak to attempt a proper cut. But maybe the sovereign wealth funds
will balk at continued lending. That will be the likely trigger for the long overdue rethink. Once
the upper classes are given the option of drastic cuts in defense, or drastically higher taxes, I
think the era will change. God help the world if we try to get out of debt via conquest!

And all of this is coming at nearly the same time as peak oil, debt meltdown, and medical
care system costs reaching catastrophic levels. At least we are living in interesting times.

I came across this today in the Times - it is from October, but if anyone has missed it I thought it might be of interest:

it’s hardly more preposterous than the government’s faith in miracles. Somehow, it seems to think, by native genius, good luck and the glad hand of beneficent world markets, the looming energy deficit will not take so much as a kettle off the boil. It invites us to have faith in the power of prayer. North Sea oil and gas are running out and world oil stocks are falling. The UK’s last few nuclear plants are of interest only to demolition contractors; so are its older coal-fired power stations. A third of the UK’s current generating capacity will be out of use by the middle of the next decade.


So it is official - the Times thinks we are stuffed, with a massive energy gap and no way of filling it.
And they are not Peak Oilers.

So it is official - the Times thinks we are stuffed, with a massive energy gap and no way of filling it. And they are not Peak Oilers.

The Times and The Financial Post all in one day.

Gazelles ignore lions, too, until the lions wake up.

The best approach for the UK is obviously the current one: attack Europe's largest natural gas supplier as "unreliable" and out "rule Europe". The UK will fully deserve what it gets around 2015.

Usa your vote wisely at general election time!

Using your passport wisely might be a better idea.

Use your vote wisely at general election time!

Economic Indicators site to continue after all.


The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) has decided to continue the economicindicators.gov website. Featuring the economic releases from ESA’s Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the site was started by this Administration in 2002 to give greater awareness to these economic statistics. ESA initially planned to discontinue the service due to cost concerns but given the feedback ESA received, the decision has been made to continue the site and improve its functionality.


Thank you for your responses to last week’s notice. We look forward to continuing to provide economic indicators, in the most efficient way possible.

When buying bread at my bakery (Ottawa, Canada) I found this in my bag:


Due to unstable food and wheat market, the price of flour and baking goods have increased dramatically.
In order for us to keep up with these prices, we have no choice but to increase our prices again.
We are very sorry for this inconvenience but until this food and wheat idustry stablilizes, our hands are tied.

Luckily we have enough stock to keep our old prices in effect for another 2 weeks.
Starting February 25/2008 however the prices will change.
(...list of new prices about 30% higher...)

Our flour cost increases:
August/2007 - $23.92
December/07- $27.78
January/08 - $37.00
February/08 - $60.48

These prices are for a 40kg bag of flour

holly macaroni , and actually I noticed this myself the other day at my local breadshop.

My favorite bread had jumped from 17 NOK up to 22 NOK (norwegian crowns), I went for a different bread closer to my normal pricerange. These "things" are actually happening,in Norway there has been some delays since the rising wholesale prices were reported, untill I saw any effect of those - now it's comming ...


Thanks for the eye-opener!

I say this because I live just south of Ontario in western NY state.

I work in the defense industry, and I have to say that the commodity run up has done little to affect my finances or quality of life.

Your report seems to indicate that may be changing soon...

These prices are for a 40kg bag of flour

That doesn't make sense since we have 10kg flour for $7.99 at Loblaws here in Toronto. (not on special)

So flour retails here less than they are paying wholesale.

That has to be some type of specialty flour.

The price of flour has exploded in the last few weeks. Recently $7.99/Kg was profitable for Loblaws. It isn't now. Watch that 10Kg of flour jump to $14.99 over the next month or so.


I've done this job for 30 years and I've never seen wheat prices this high before," he said. "Flour didn't really fluctuate much over the last 10 years and suddenly it's skyrocketing."

Increased wheat prices hit Fox hardest with his last flour shipment. "We get flour shipped to us and fed into our silos every two weeks," Fox said. "Last year, it cost me 41 cents per kilo of flour and took less than $5,000 to fill the silos.

"With our last flour shipment two weeks ago, it jumped to over one dollar per kilo and cost over $11,000," he added, shaking his head. The spike in price has kept Fox glued to his computer screen each day.

"Now, I watch the wheat prices every day online," Fox said. "We also called the flour mill (on Wednesday) and they expect the increases to continue until July."

Fox's Bakery has already been kneading its prices and operations to make due with the higher price tag of flour.

"It's going to be tight for a while and we have to be extra careful of our waste level," he said.

"We'll have to be more efficient and cut back on baking extra goods each day.

"Unfortunately, we've had to raise our prices, too," he added. "A loaf of bread I was selling for $1.27 before I'm now selling for $1.49, but we have to do it."

It already did move up from $5.99.


That article from a few days ago in the Ottawa Sun quotes 20kg at $18.

I think your bakery is pulling your leg.

The article you reference quotes $1 per kg which is inline with Ottawa Sun article (and much lower than your bakery).

You've just quoted another "shop" price. The cost increases are still working their way through the supply chain. That shop price will be around $30 for 20Kg very soon.

Check this Google news search for Flour Price

The article you reference quotes $1 per kg which is inline with Ottawa Sun article (and much lower than your bakery).

That was his last delivery and he states in the article that the price has risen since then and he now watches it on a daily basis. The volatility is such that the price has surged 50% in weeks. I know that's astonishing but that's what all time record low world wheat stocks means.

I've been looking online and I still can't find a quoted Canadian wholesale price of more than $1.10 per kg.

>>I know that's astonishing but that's what all time record low world wheat stocks means.

It's not that it's astonishing. The reason I raised the issue is that businesses have been known to use rising commodity prices to sneak in price increases of their own.

The effect of the wheat runnup on Canadian consumer's budgets is very small (even if it doubles or triples from here). What I'm interested in is whether businesses will pass on more than the raw material price increase, because that has inflation implications.

For some historical perspective, here is a chart of wheat prices for the last half century. Note that it is not adjusted for inflation.

Using this inflation calculator...


...it turns out that we have to multiply prices from the early '70s by roughly 5 to get a price comparison. (4.75)

Some Americans doubt their government's inflation calculations and believe them to be understated. Folks in that camp would have to multiply the old prices by even more. So, the more you doubt the official CPI figures, the more you believe current wheat prices are lower in comparison with historical prices.

If we go by official CPI and multiply the 1970's high of roughly $5.80 x 4.75 = $27.55.

So, todays price of $10.50 is a good deal less than half the old record.

Could go much higher, of course, but currently we are still deep in old territory.

math corrected.

This actually raises an interesting point. Oil is at it's old highs. Wheat is less than half way there.

During the Arab oil embargo (just eyeballing it) the 2 commodities seemed to move by roughly the same amount during that shock. Afterwards wheat backed off very quickly while oil did not.

Check www.mgex.com for prices on a variety of wheats. Hard wheat, necessary for bread, is twice the price of the soft wheat quoted on CBOT. Anyone know if there was that kind of spread back in '73?

The price of a kilo of durum wheat to make pasta has risen to $1.35 from 48 cents seven or eight months ago.

From Feb 21 article at Edmonton Journal.

That quote is quite consistent with my local bakery's claim.

I bought a 10 kilo sack of Robin Hood All purpose flour yesterday in Regina, Saskatchewan (a major wheat growing region)for $10.99 (cheapest I could find) at the local supermarket. I believe the person in Ottawa. Maybe I should go buy another sack. Fortunately, we like potato bread.

I posted an article about that a couple of days ago. It's not just Canada. Across the US, bakeries have seen flour jump from $35 a bag to $65 or thereabouts. There's even talk of shortages.

Look on the "bright" side. Prices are so high that the poorer buyers will be starved out of the market and prices should level off. At least we now know what Ben's helicopter money will be spent on. It's not Plasma TVs - it's the weekly shop!

Here in Honolulu I bought a fantastic large apple pie for $5.99 at the local grocery store-don't know how they make a profit.

It's likely a "loss leader" or "key value item".

I bet the apples cost less than the wheat.

A couple of interesting links about inflation:

Pdf warning. Price of basic commodities 1890 to 1970 (including flour), page 31 of the pdf or 213 from the original book.
For 6 lb. of flour 1970=58.9 cents, 1892=14.0 cents.
Hat tip: food time line :

Also here is the latest data on flour prices from BLS:
(Java generated link weirdness)

Series Id: APU0000701111
Area: U.S. city average
Item: Flour, white, all purpose, per lb. (453.6 gm)

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2007 0.346 0.356 0.357 0.354 0.351 0.350 0.353 0.355 0.360 0.355 0.388 0.398
2008 0.421

Available here is the price of silver from 1792 to 1999.

oil prices from 1861 to 2006

the oil embargo

While here is a list of wars.

The price tracks nicely. Also you can see the oil embargo and Iraq-Iran war.

Russian government is very concerned about declining oil production

February 23, 2008, 6:03
Russia’s oil taxation to be reformed

Erik Depoy of Alfa-Capital says for oil giants like Rosneft or Lukoil taxes are weighted towards upstream production. He says they make massive profits on their downstream refining. Even so, if the Ministry implements proposals to cut duties, the stocks of the majors may rocket by 15%.

For now, he says, it's just talk. Nabiullina’s brief statement was short on details. However, for Depoy the fact that she is talking about it publicly shows promise. “The government is very concerned about the oil industry and declining production. Nabiulina’s out just shows they're aware and are ready to take some steps to ensure the vitality of the Russian oil industry,” Depoy observed.

Russia is talking about declining production. Add to that a colossal domestic consumption surge amid 9% plus economic growth. Russia is going to be a very wealthy country within 3 to 5 years. Across Europe, Russian tourists are called "the new Saudis". They buy just everything.

Russia is on track, within a couple of years, to become the #1 market for new cars in Europe.

Did anybody notice that in the current article on Oildrum Europe: Oilwatch Monthly that there's a discontinuity in the oil production graphs, first quarter of 2006. Before that date, the IEA oil production data tended to fall below the EIA production data but after that IEA is generally above the EIA.

What do you supposed happened then?

(I haven't registered there so I put my comment here. Maybe more people will see it)

You shouldn't have to register separately at TOD:Europe. Register once, and you can post at all the different flavors of TOD. You shouldn't have to log in separately, either.

Did anybody notice that in the current article on Oildrum Europe: Oilwatch Monthly that there's a discontinuity in the oil production graphs, first quarter of 2006. Before that date, the IEA oil production data tended to fall below the EIA production data but after that IEA is generally above the EIA.

Yes, it's been noticed. It's even more obvious in Stuart's graph.

Not sure what the reason is, but IIRC, the IEA uses "all liquids" while the EIA uses C+C. So they're counting different kinds of "oil."

My observations:

It looks like the IEA figures predicting demand growth have been seriously wrong (undershooting) for three years or so.
They are paid a lot of money for that and it must be embarassing if they are so wrong, year after year.

The IEA admits the statistics they produce are not 100% accurate and are subject to revision (and nobody complains if the figures are subsequently quiety lowered) ... and nobody knows for sure what the real figures are anyway!

In late 2007 the amount supplied allegedly went up by >2% in just two months, an amount that might be expected (on the IEAs own admission) for a WHOLE YEAR.
Normal economics says this should have brought the price down - but, actually and undeniably, during that same period the price of Brent crude, for example, went UP ~20% from ~$75 to ~$90. Something here maybe doesn't add up!

The IEA is a political organisation of the OECD.

There is a major financial problem still unfolding in the OECD countries.

If you were a political leader would you want voters to realise we are at peak oil as well as in financial difficulties?

It looks like the IEA figures predicting demand growth have been seriously wrong (undershooting) for three years or so.

Really? Let's check the December reports for predictions, and the most recent December for actual demand:

  • 2005 prediction: 83.8Mb/d; 2005 demand: 83.9Mb/d
  • 2006 prediction: 85.2Mb/d; 2006 demand: 84.7Mb/d
  • 2007 prediction: 85.9Mb/d; 2007 demand: 85.7Mb/d

i.e., the IEA has been generally overshooting demand with its predictions, by an average of 0.2Mb/d.

Normal economics says this should have brought the price down

Why? Supply is estimated at 87.2Mb/d; demand is estimated at 88.2Mb/d. Supply was lower in 4Q07, but so was demand. Couple that with the hints from OPEC that they're thinking of cutting production in March, and it's not clear that prices should be dropping.

Something here maybe doesn't add up!

Well, yes - your beliefs about the IEA's demand predictions being understatements, for one. It may be that a substantial portion of your confusion is simply you misremembering the data.

The original question was about the reliabilty/veracity of IEA data since it tells a different story to other sources - you just quoting their data to show how internally accurate they are is the point being queried.

Supply and demand are equal and interchangable - if you think differently I can't help you. The IEA says we need to produce another 1.5% to 2% of crude oil a year for BAU - the reason? ... because that is historically what has been required at any price.

Since the IEA figures tell a different story from undenaiable market prices and, say, EIA data and nobody ever questions their figures maybe they aren't correct - just telling the story their political masters want to hear? Maybe they are correct and everybody else is wrong - who knows? Data from other sources indicates that the IEA predictions are undershooting actual supply (or demnand) increases since 2005 by some 5% or so.

The only true data we have is for crude prices, the recent $100 price is for light sweet crude - the price indicates supply of that, at least, is constrained and not likely to be rising at 2% in just two months at all. Other data http://www.eni.it/wogr_2007/oil_production_quality-world-18.htm indictes light sweet peaked in 1997 so maybe there's no surprise it's price has gone to $100.

The IEA reported recent supply increases of 1% a month (12% a year) indicates truly explosive (and intuitively wrong?) world growth.

Since demand for crude should have been slowed by the 20% increase in price (120% a year) the unmet demand implied by the recent IEA figures would be truly staggering - much greater than the 12% annual rate.

Believe their figures if you must, I have no idea whether they are true or not, but no reason to believe them either.

The original question was about the reliabilty/veracity of IEA data since it tells a different story to other sources

You misunderstand.

I wasn't addressing the question of whether IEA's data is reliable or not; I was simply pointing out that your "observation" was exactly the opposite of the facts.

However, on that question, it appears as if the IEA's data is more in line with other data sources than the EIA's data. The primary difference between the two is their figures for OPEC data (at least for recent months), and for the month I checked (latest for which all three have data), the IEA and OPEC agreed very closely, and EIA was the odd one out.

The IEA says we need to produce another 1.5% to 2% of crude oil a year for BAU

Sort of. They expect demand to increase by 2% per year over the next few years, but they don't suggest the economy will be unable to adapt if it doesn't appear. In particular, they note that prices appear to have been having an effect on demand, which would tend to lower demand in a relatively painless way. Indeed, their demand estimates have tended to be overestimates recently, perhaps for that very reason.

- the reason? ... because that is historically what has been required at any price.

Average annual rate of consumption growth (world-wide) since 1980 has been 1.14% (EIA data), so world history doesn't support the claim that 1.5-2% is necessary.

During that time, oil consumption in the UK has grown by just 0.23% per year, so the history of developed nations doesn't support that claim either.

There's simply no historical evidence that 1.5-2% annual growth rate in oil consumption is necessary for business as usual.

Since the IEA figures tell a different story from undenaiable market prices

They don't, though. Market prices simply say that demand has been increasing faster than production, so prices have risen to curtail demand. That in no way contradicts the IEA's data.

Your whole argument appears to be based on the assumption that the IEA's figures say the price should be low, but that's just your interpretation, and it doesn't seem to be one many people share. Far simpler than suggesting shady political conspiracies is simply considering that your interpretation might be wrong.

The IEA reported recent supply increases of 1% a month (12% a year) indicates truly explosive (and intuitively wrong?) world growth.

The IEA report indicates nothing of the sort. That's just your interpretation, and it's a very strange one. It's doubtful that anyone else in the world has looked at the latest IEA report and imagined it's suggesting 12% growth in a year.

Take a look at the IEA's September and November reports - they explain this 2Mb/d increase you're so excited about. Roughly speaking, half of it was OPEC increasing its quotas, and much of the rest was simply measuring from an artificially-low August (due to hurricane Dean in Mexico and maintenance in the North Sea). It's the end of summer interruptions and the raising of OPEC quotas; I'm not sure why you're making a big deal about it.

Basically, you're making all kinds of assumptions and then complaining that the IEA figures don't meet those assumptions. Go figure.

Oh, I hope you are correct and that I am wrong since my pension depends upon that. You trust their data, I don't. Time will tell.

I am not hopeful though, as I note you have manipulated data to back your argument - so, it would not surprise me if the IEA did the same. In order to work out if they have retrospectively altered their data (which they do often) you would normally have to do your own calculation which is IMO the IEA being 'economical with the truth' for some reason.

The IEA is a political organisation, they do what is right for them not what is right for all of us - it is the way they make their living.

By the way I was talking about world growth and total production of crude oil - saying UK growth wasn't 2% so my argument must be wrong is completely futile. You can always find a specific data point to counter a general trend (ie: the average - do you understand what an average is?) and is normal practise for denialists (of peak oil, ACC, or whatever!) I suspect you would find that the oil energy embedded in UK imports of manufactured goods and food makes up a good chunk of your claimed shortfall.

Peak oil is about the peak of sustained production of CRUDE OIL - that means the data points you call artificially low - and not the high points which for the last three years or so are never sustained because as I say, they are intuitively wrong if you look at them in combination with other world data - the world is not growing at 12% a year or 1% a month so I doubt supply/demand of crude oil is either.

Judging by published net export figures most of the net importer countries must be struggling to achieve BAU growth.

You trust their data, I don't.

The question is not whether I trust their data; the question is whether I trust your interpretation of how their data interacts with price data.

The IEA's data might indeed be wrong; you just haven't supported your argument that it is.

I note you have manipulated data to back your argument

I've done nothing of the sort. Given how frequently you appear to have misunderstood what I've written, though, it doesn't seem unlikely that you've done so again.

By the way I was talking about world growth and total production of crude oil - saying UK growth wasn't 2% so my argument must be wrong is completely futile.

You misunderstand.

You were saying that oil growth of 1.5-2% is necessary to continue business as usual. I used historical world consumption growth to point out that that's not true

i.e., your claim contradicts history.

The point of noting UK consumption growth was simply to head off the argument that the world is more oil dependent now - advanced economies can clearly thrive with much lower rates of oil consumption growth - and to show that historical world oil consumption growth rates are by no means a lower bound - history demonstrates that countries which decide to curb their oil consumption (such as through high petrol taxes) can certainly do so.

i.e., not only does history contradict your claim, it did so with most countries hardly even trying.

You can always find a specific data point to counter a general trend

How is "world oil consumption data over the last 25 years" a "specific data point" when talking about "world oil consumption"?

How about this: instead of suggesting that I'm cherry-picking data to demolish your flimsy argument, how about you provide some numbers to support your argument? Because, right now, your "argument" is nothing more than your opinion, and all the data we've seen disagrees with it.

Judging by published net export figures most of the net importer countries must be struggling to achieve BAU growth.

Unfortunately, the real world disagrees with you - real GDP growth was very strong right up until the US's housing bubble burst, which was 90% of the way through the period you're worrying about.

You appear to have concocted a theory for the way the world should work, but the world just hasn't been working according to your theory. Instead of stamping your foot and insulting people who point out that the data doesn't agree with your beliefs, you'd do a whole lot better simply looking at the data and formulating a new theory based on that updated information.

Or you could stay deluded, I guess. That's marginally easier than the scientific method, although rather less useful.

IIRC, the IEA uses "all liquids" while the EIA uses C+C.

No - both use all liquids for their "total oil supply" numbers. The EIA's definition is:

"Oil Supply: The production of crude oil (including lease condensate), natural gas plant liquids, and other liquids, and refinery processing gain (loss)."

Crisis in Mexico Is Headed North

New Mexico National Guard

The perfect storm for social upheaval is now brewing in Mexico - and in particular Mexico's northern states along the U.S. border.

The first storm front is to the east at a place called Cantarell. Long a blessing, Cantarell is Mexico's largest oil field - and largest source of government funds. Output from Cantarell is down more than 15 percent from last year and many believe the field is now in irreversible decline. Thus, government budgets are being strained.

Edited to remove excessive quoting.

Please do not post entire articles. Post a couple of a paragraphs or a summary in your own words, and a link to the original source.

I'm confident President McCain can handle it. Being from Arizona he is experienced in stopping illegal immigration and corruption. Bombing the immigrants preemptively just before they cross the border seems the surest way to end it. Sarcasm off.

The whole John Mccain thing seems surreal to those outside the USA. Here is a guy that says out loud that GWB has done a great job and he is going to do basically more of the same and he is a likely President. Absolutely surreal-I would have thought he would have distanced himself and called GWB a failure but obviously he understands the American public.

Jeez. I almost feel guilty for laughing so much.

I think that McCain is basically a tragic figure. He showed incredible courage and integrity while a POW in Vietnam, but he has, IMO, been sucked into supporting a war that Bush started.

I suspect that McCain, if he had been nominated and elected in 2000, would not have launched the unilateral attack on Iraq.

The true tragedy for the US and the world was that McCain, who was clearly more qualified than Bush, was not nominated in 2000.

I wouldn't worry about McCain.

Obama will be the next US president.

Within a few months he will be the least popular president in American history, not through any fault of his own, but when the present financial and energy situation unwinds, he will be holding the bag.

The border with Mexico also looks chaotic.

Don't worry though, anything you can screw up, we can do better in Europe.

We have just encouraged Kosovo to declare independence, when they should just have kept the autonomous status going.

Russia is not pleased, and that is not wise when we are dependent for energy.

I'm supporting Obama, but as I said I think we are electing the captain of the Titanic.

Obama= we are electing the captain of the Titanic

Yeah, but will he have the Audacity of Reality,
and inform the American people about Peak Oil and Peak Prosperity?

Obama will be the next US president.

Report: Security relaxed at Obama speech

Lawrence said he was concerned about the large number of people being let in without being screened, but that the crowd seemed "friendly," the newspaper said.

Several Dallas police officers -- speaking on condition of anonymity because the order came from federal officers -- told the newspaper it was worrying to see so many people get it without even a cursory inspection.

Well, Caroline Kennedy did say Obama reminded her of her father...

Dave_Mart -

The only possible way that McCain can win is i) if there is domestic terrorist attack at least on the scale of 9-11, or ii) if the US gets itself involved in another major war.

That is why I am VERY worried about the time period between now and November.

was clearly more qualified than Bush

The list of people that meet that criteria is exceedingly long, and it includes Al Gore.

Best Hopes for Obama,


Best Hopes for Obama

Alan, on that we agree. I think he is our best hope for healing the rifts we have created with the rest of the world.

TPTB want another sock puppet and becoming one is the only way McCain could get support for a run at the presidency. Very sad, how far McCain has fallen.
I have supported Obama but I fear that his destiny might be that of JFK. TPTB do not want a populist that might do some of the things to correct the course of America...in fact, the American people might not want a populist...They are used to their consumer roll and will fight to avoid awareness.
WT has it right, next pres will be captain of the Titanic...unless shrub manages to sink the ship in his remaining months.

I live in Santa Fe myself. I am not looking forward to this breaking out. I dont think New Mexico has the capacity to absorb a large influx of refugees seeing as many hispanic families here live with several relatives in one home. I know of some families that have upwards of 6 people sharing a one bedroom apartment due to the cost of living in Santa Fe being so high.

A very interesting article. Another quote from it

The third storm front is food. America's well-intentioned but misguided emphasis on ethanol has caused food prices to rise beyond the poor's income. Corn prices have tripled and tortilla prices have soared. Food riots and protests are now common throughout Mexico and confidence in the government is eroding.
The result is this: income flows to Mexico are falling while social unrest is rising.
Predictably, this storm is now manifesting in violence in Mexico's northern states and it is becoming apparent that Mexico is having difficulties maintaining stability. Meanwhile, drug cartels are having no such monetary problems.
Well-financed and well-armed drug cartels effectively compete with Mexican police and army units for control of large sections of the border. Open shoot-outs between government forces and drug gangs are becoming more common.
When the power shifts enough, the drug cartel effectively becomes the ruling government.

Leanan - posted this bit before I saw your excessive quoting post. Hope this is ok as it fitted in with the food price thread.

mexico is essentially a failed state.

remember when former president vicente fox demanded that america open its border to mexician immigrants? it was a great humiliation to admit that mexico can no longer support its population.

whats occurring now is only the start of things to come.

Hello TODers,

My thxs to Leanan for the toplink article, "US Senate Panel To Review Strategic Oil Reserve Policies". Too bad they didn't fill the SPR back when crude was cheap.

Just as we may have missed the chance to build a I-NPK Strategic Reserve. Recall my earlier postings advocating legislation to accomplish this. The more we import on a JIT basis from afar, the more likely that some farmers and gardeners will be unable to secure the fertilizer in time to critically synchronize with optimal planting periods.

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. plans to replace 15 percent of gasoline consumption with crop-based fuels including ethanol are already leading to some unintended consequences as food prices and fertilizer costs increase.

Increased planting has caused some fertilizer costs to double. Diammonium phosphate, a nutrient used on corn fields, reached $792.50 a ton on Feb. 15 from $297 a year earlier, USDA data show.
Going forward, does this mean that grain prices will more than double again to help recoup the input costs?

A hedge fund could have made a huge pile of cash very quickly if they had stockpiled I-NPK back when it was cheap.

I think the double whammy of rising energy prices from oil & natgas depletion plus the increasing mining effort to go farther afield in depleting P & K mining and Haber-Bosch Nitrogen generation basicly guarantees that I-NPK will never get dramatically cheaper going forward; more likely is more price increases. It still boggles my mind when I think about the thousands of miles of potash mining tunnels 3300 ft underground in Saskatchewan.

Let's hope that a strong tectonic Saskatchewan earthquake is a far distant possibility, and also that the potash miners don't inadvertently bring the tunnels down on their own heads like the poor coalminers in Utah last year.

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

never mind

Sorry if it was posted before
The Futurist predicts

1. The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025. Globalization and technological innovation are driving this increased prosperity. But challenges to prosperity will also become more acute, such as water shortages that will affect two-thirds of world population by 2025. --James Canton, author of "The Extreme Future," reviewed in THE FUTURIST May-June 2007, p. 54


Yergin must be on the editorial committee

oh,oh... is the Furturist predicting prosperity or dollar devaluation/hyper-inflation?

There was no shortage of millionaires in 1920s Germany (if denominated in marks) or even in Zimbawe today.

So far, there has been a relatively high negative correlation between world oil supply growth and the fortunes of the top 1% of the global population. Not that this will hold, but it stands in stark contrast to what has happened to the American middle class. The Futurist is simply extrapolating without analyzing.

Wow! thirsty millionaires!

Is this a prediction of increasing wealth, or increasing inflation?

Zimbabwe leads the way!

Plenty of billionairees there!

The Futurist has always tended to supply their readers with a good bit of fantasy. During the 90's Buz Ivanhoe was invited to speak at their meeting. He was unfamiliar with the organization and later mentioned that he was disappointed with the meeting and the reaction to his presentation. He did get published in their magazine.


Buz did not own a computer or use the internet. He planned to distribute the Hubbert Center Newsletter http://hubbert.mines.edu by snail mail. By default I became his volunteer internet liaison. His earliest internet publications were at Jay Hanson's dieoff site.

Re: the New York Times article on wind that quotes Pickens

Not to be outdone, Mr. Pickens is planning his own 150,000-acre Panhandle wind farm of 4,000 megawatts that would be even larger and cost him $10 billion.

“I like wind because it’s renewable and it’s clean and you know you are not going to be dealing with a production decline curve,” Mr. Pickens said. “Decline curves finally wore me out in the oil business.”

4 gigwatts is some serious power. My home province of Ontario has a population of about 13 million and total generating capacity (from all sources - mostly nuke and hydro) of about 23 gigawatts.

So, Picken's windfarm is a heckuva project. I guess it's that sort of thing that gives Texas it's reputation.

Just a note that capacity factors are always important in wind power output calculations - they have a good wind power resource, so they might get around 35% of the rated capacity.

If you think of it as 1,400MW, not 4,000MW you won't go too far wrong.

At $10bn , that works out at around $7 kw

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo). Boone was one of my basketball mentors. Our high school AHS teams were called the Sandies because of all that blowing sand. I once played a high school tennis tournament in a blowing sandstorm. Had to hit the ball around the net. Will the sand eventually cause the windfarms to deplete? Could Boone be blowing sand? If not will his investment depend on massive subsidies?

There are a lot of things in wind-power which are new and can only be estimated.
Windmills are getting bigger and bigger, and need different more heavy-duty gearboxes, and how much maintenance is needed in different environments is a matter of estimation, not experience.

On top of that there is a rush to wind-power, so that the needed research is not always thoroughly carried out.
One hopes that the sealings around gearboxes and so on have been adapted to the Texan environment, but they may have just had to take what was available and hope for the best.

It will need another 25 years before the technology is fairly mature, when they start upgrading and replacing the ones in the first wave.

My home province of Ontario has a population of about 13 million and total generating capacity (from all sources - mostly nuke and hydro) of about 23 gigawatts.

Ontario used 150TWh of electricity in 2006. With a capacity factor of 35%, 4GW of (nameplate) capacity would result in 12,000GWh over the year, or 12TWh.

So the planned wind farm would generate about 8% of Ontario's electricity needs, or electricity for a million people (work&residential).

Excessive quoting?

Sunset magazine presented corp msm liberal-art written article.

Is this okay?

Are we all to take mist showers and read under cfls while new construction continues?

Cheers from the cats.

They're learning:

Homeowners Losing Equity Lines
As House Values Fall, Some Banks Withdraw Credit

In one brief phone call, Nancy Corazzi's lender yanked away what was left of the $95,000 home equity line of credit that she and her husband took out five months ago.

The lender informed her that her Howard County home had plummeted in value and the company did not want the risk that she would owe more than the house was worth.

"I got off the phone and I was shaking," said Corazzi, who was using the money to pay preschool tuition for her twins ."I was near tears. We needed this credit line to get us through some tough times."