Green Jobs

What Matters

Like many of you, I want to "make a difference." I have felt this way as long as I can remember. After my first child was born, it became almost an obsession to make a better future for the generations that follow. When I see children enduring hardship, I internalize that by imagining my own children in that situation (this is why I avoid the news, as well as any discussions of “Die-Off”). Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel this way as it is often depressing, but this is the way my brain is wired. I strongly feel that we are making choices today that are setting up future generations for just the kind of hardship that troubles me. This, above all else, is what motivates me. And while I may fail to make a difference, I am compelled to try.

A big concern for me is that quality of life for a large segment of the world’s population - never good to begin with - is poised for further deterioration as fossil fuel supplies deplete. Quality of life to me starts with the basics: People have enough food and clean water, they have shelter, they live and work in safe conditions, and they have adequate access to affordable energy. At various stages of my life I have had involvement in projects in all of these areas, but most of my career has been focused on the energy portion – both in providing adequate supplies, and in urging conservation efforts to stretch our supplies.

The affordable energy piece is becoming more challenging, and we need more people working on this issue. Conservation must continue to be central to the solution, but we will still need a variety of energy options. As I transition into my new “green” job, I intend to step up my efforts on the sustainable energy front. There are a number of ways I can do this. First, my new job directly impacts on this. The technology we are engaged in – described briefly in the final section – promises significant environmental and sustainability benefits. But that isn't the sole contribution I can make. I can also help bring promising sustainable technologies together with highly-motivated and talented people to enhance the odds of success. Up to this point I have done this by calling attention to technologies that I felt were promising, as well as by providing technical advice for some projects on an ad hoc basis.

With this essay, I am attempting to marry talent/passion with need by publicizing vacancies for some specific “green jobs.” I have had a series of conversations over the past year or so with Choren, a renewable diesel company that is now looking to scale up. Google contacted me last week to inform me of some of their vacancies in their new renewable energy efforts. Vinod Khosla has informed me several times that many of the companies he is involved with are looking for talent. And my new company is recruiting as well. I don’t think these jobs will be competing for exactly the same talent pool, because the job locations are geographically diverse. So, if you are looking for a green future and decent job stability (a recent story from Yahoo identified jobs in the energy and environmental sectors as "recession proof") – here are some opportunities of which I am currently aware.


I have had a series of discussions over the past year or so with some of the Choren staff, including the president of Choren USA, Dr. David Henson. During the course of these discussions, I formed the opinion that Choren is ideally positioned for long term success in the renewable energy sphere. I think they are focusing on the right technology (biomass-to-liquids) for sustainable liquid fuel production, and they are on the leading edge of that technology. Dr. Henson will be hosting me at Choren's new BTL plant in Germany in a month or so, and hope to make a report on the visit.

Their opportunities are described from their website as follows:

For the expansion to "world"-scale 600 MWth "Sigma" production facilities and the exploration of additional applications of CHOREN’s technologies we are now seeking highly motivated engineering specialists in the areas of Mechanical Engineering, Process/Chemical Engineering and Energy Technology, preferably with long or short-term experience in any of the fields of gasification, Fischer Tropsch Fuel Synthesis and/or in the Petrochemical Industry.

Choren is looking to fill the following positions in Houston:

Project Manager CHOREN USA, Job Description

Senior Process Engineer CHOREN USA, Job Description

Process Engineer CHOREN USA, Job Description

You can learn more information about the job opportunities at Choren by visiting their Employment Opportunities USA page.


I have admired Google for a long time. They seem genuinely motivated by a desire to help humanity. You may also be aware that they have topped CNN Money's list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for the second year in a row.

Recently, they announced their intent to help power a clean energy revolution. I was aware of, and supportive of their efforts, and in a different time and place I might jump at the opportunity to work for them. Recently, they contacted me about just that, and I replied that while the timing is not right for me, I would help them publicize their vacancies.

Here is a short description of their vision, and what they are looking for:

Our thinking is that business as usual will not deliver low-cost, clean energy fast enough to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change. We need a clean energy revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than carbon-intensive alternatives such as coal. Google is launching an R&D group to develop electricity from renewable energy sources at a cost less than coal.

We are looking for extraordinarily creative, motivated and talented engineers with significant experience in developing complex engineering designs to join our newly-created renewable energy group. This group is tasked with developing the most cost-effective and scalable forms of renewable energy generation, and these people will play a key role in developing new technologies and systems.

...if you know other outstanding engineers who may be interested, I encourage you to pass along this information as we are hiring for multiple positions. If you prefer that I reach out to them directly, I am more than happy to do so.

Their specific job opportunities at the moment, mostly at their Mountain View, California site:

Renewable Energy Engineer
Head of Renewable Energy Engineering
Director, Green Business Strategy & Operations
Director of Other
Investments Manager, Renewable Energy

They are also asking for people with the following experience:

If you have relevant expertise in other areas beyond these specific positions, please send an email with your resume to . Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

• regulatory issues
• land acquisition and management
• construction
• energy project development
• mechanical and electrical engineering
• thermodynamics and control systems
• physics and chemistry
• materials science

Khosla Ventures

Vinod Khosla has built quite a renewable energy portfolio. See this PowerPoint presentation for his complete (or at least what's public) renewable portfolio. Opportunities range from corn ethanol (which I don't recommend) to cellulosic ethanol (some promising opportunities there) to advanced biofuels, electrical power, and even water desalinization. There are far too many companies to give details on all of the job vacancies, so I will just pick out one of the most interesting (to me), LS9. They describe themselves as the Renewable Petroleum Company™, and have this description on their website:

LS9 DesignerBiofuels™ products are customized to closely resemble petroleum fuels, engineered to be clean, renewable, domestically produced, and cost competitive with crude oil.

LS9 is the market leader for hydrocarbon biofuels and is rapidly commercializing and scaling up DesignerBiofuels™ products to meet market demands, including construction of a pilot facility leading to commercial availability. While initially focusing on fuels, LS9 will also develop sustainable industrial chemicals for specialty applications.

They are looking for the following for their South San Francisco location:

Current openings at LS9 are listed below. Please submit your resume stating qualifications and relevant experience to and include the job title in the subject line. We look forward to hearing from you.


Director, Bioprocess Development
Scientist, Fermentation
Scientist, Fermentation
Associate Scientist, Fermentation
Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Fermentation
Downstream Recovery Scientist


Biochemist / Bio-organic Chemist Scientist
Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Biochemistry


Automation Laboratory Specialist

Metabolic Engineering

Scientist, Metabolic Engineering
Associate Scientist, Microbiology
Senior Research Associate, Microbiology

Corporate Development

Corporate Planning Analyst

What LS9 is attempting is Holy Grail stuff, but what they are trying to do should be technically feasible. However, it won't be easy and it's going to take some very talented people.

Don't forget that this is only one of the Khosla Ventures' companies. There are numerous job opportunities there if you dig a little.

Accsys Technologies

As I have mentioned previously, I left the oil industry on March 1, 2008 to become the Engineering Director (note the TOD plug in my profile) for Accsys Technologies. While we are not producing energy as was the case with the previous companies I described, we are saving energy, sequestering carbon emissions, and attacking the problem of rainforest destruction. Here is a brief summary of what appealed to me about the company and my desire to make a difference:

Growing concerns about the destruction of tropical rainforests, a declining world stock of high quality timber and increasingly restrictive government regulations regarding the use of wood treated using toxic chemicals have created an exceptional market opportunity for the Company. Accsys believes that its technology will transform the use of wood in existing applications where durability and dimensional stability are valued, both halting the decline in the use of wood in outdoor applications and substituting plastics and metals.

Wood acetylation is a process which increases the amount of 'acetyl' molecules in wood, thereby changing its physical properties. The process protects wood from rot by making it "inedible" to most micro-organisms and insects, without - unlike conventional treatments - making it toxic.

I think you can see why that might appeal to me - this technology enables a sustainable replacement for tropical hardwoods, and can replace plastics and metals – which are energy intensive to produce - in some applications. What that means is that we have one of the best – if not the best – carbon sequestration technologies in existence. Carbon dioxide is pulled from the atmosphere as the (fast-growing) trees are developing, and then tied up for a much longer period of time because the durability of the wood has been greatly increased. Throw in the fact that you can use the wood for some applications currently dominated by metals (window frames, for instance), and you have sequestered even more CO2, and avoided the CO2 emissions from the producing the metals.

We are filling a wide variety of positions at our plant in Arnhem, in the Netherlands (where I am presently working) and in Dallas (where I will be based). If you are a citizen of an EU country, I believe you are eligible to work in the Netherlands. You can see the current listing of jobs at our Titan Wood site (Titan Wood is a subsidiary of Accsys).

We are also filling jobs in our new Dallas office that are global in nature. For Dallas we are looking for a Global Process Improvement Manager (reports to me), Global Procurement Manager (reports to CEO), and a Panel Products Manager (reports to Panel Products Director). These positions require travel (got to break a few eggs to make a cake) to places like the Netherlands, New Zealand, Chile, and China (where we are building a large facility in Nanjing). Required qualifications for these jobs include an engineering or chemistry degree, 7-10 years of relevant experience, and a preference for an MBA. Further, I want my Global Process Improvement Manager to share my passion for making the world a better place.

For now, you may send a cover letter and your resume or CV to JOBSUSA "at" accoya "dot" info (edited to slow the spambots) for positions in the U.S., or JOBSEurope "at" accoya "dot" info for positions in Europe. (Accoya® is what we call the wood we are producing). You may want to indicate that you are responding to this essay, and then the resume may be circulated to me.


While I am not going to get in the habit of using my writing as a platform for promoting my new company, it is directly topical to what I like to write about. I plan to do one post in the future about the technology, particularly on the potential for carbon sequestration. However, most of my posts will be as they have been in the past: Broad coverage of energy, sustainability, and environmental responsibility. I do plan to focus more on "problem solving", and this post was one aspect of that. It is an attempt to bring together talent and passion with a critical need, and it also will hopefully provide needed job stability in a fragile economy.

I am really interested in writing more about promising technologies, especially those that haven't received much attention, but I first have to figure out a way to manage this. I tend to get about 19 bad or unworkable ideas e-mailed to me for every 1 that shows promise. I can't afford the time at present to work my way through that sort of volume (and some of the proposals I see are very extensive), so I will continue to focus for now on those that are already on the radar.

'When I see children enduring hardship, I internalize that by imagining my own children in that situation '.....

" share my passion for making the world a better place.'

good for u robert. i have always sensed you heart was is the right place even though i sometimes disagree with you.

re green jobs my wife just took an administrator job [ better $] so my unemployment/po prep/gardening can be continue!!! a very green job!

I really respect the drive and vision people have about changing the nature of business systems to protect the environment and create a sustainable future but until people attack the root of the problem we are simply digging a deeper grave. Human population growth.

Thomas Malthus said almost two hundred years ago:
"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race."

Consider the case of the International Planned Parenthood movement in Mexico. They made a valiant effort to establish clinics in the 60's and 70's and the conservative politicians in league with the Catholic Church pulled it out by the root and basically told the population to be "fruitful and multiply", which they most certainly did. Now we wonder about a nation that encourages illegal immigration to relieve some of the misery that their population overshoot has brought on themselves.

How do we get population growth under control without becoming a fascist state? If we don't address this then the three sisters, Famine, Pestilence and War will.

Our local group in Estes Park, Sustainable Mountain Living, is providing a series of lectures to the town on peak oil,population, global warming, and localization. Last week, we had John Feeney, who has written on TOD, speak on population. The talk was well attended, but unfortunately mostly by people who are well past child bearing age. In any event, he clearly reminded me that if population is not reduced significantly, all our other attempts to become more efficient and cut back on energy and resource use will be for naught.

Dieoff will occur if we don't find a way to cut way back on births. The only uncertainty is exactly when this will occur. Thanks for bringing this issue up.

I in no way am trying to detract from or ridicule those who are trying to find alternatives to fossil fuels. But we still need to keep the population issue at the forefront whenever possible.

We had a sustainable development discussion in Portland Maine yesterday, with the Mayor and the most recent State Energy 'czar' (!!??) in attendance. Keynote by [Charlie Stephens
Adjuvant Consulting, Oak Grove, Oregon ] , who spoke very directly about PO, Rail Efficiencies, etc..

His comment when he was posed the population question was first, that the best effects we've had on fertility rates are happening where educational and international efforts are raising the status and education of women in their societies, citing Mexico's fertility going from around 6 down to 2.6 after such changes (another poster at Drumbeat? today said the Church had cancelled out such gains.. not sure which is right.)

His second was the incongruity of the US consumption of 25% of the gross energy, with 4%(?) of the global pop, and so that for him this discrepancy was actually his priority.

I don't dismiss the importance of Population overall, but I wonder if the US Birthrate would make this our key issue in terms of Stateside changes needed.

Bob Fiske

I was the poster that cited the Catholic Church shutting down Planned Parenthood Centers in Mexico during the 60's and 70's. That was when their fertility rate was almost 10% annually. Even if we could herald the "good news" of 2.5% that still means a net gain annually of more than 3,000,000 people. Even at a 2.5% annual fertility rate it takes only 28 years for that population to double.

We better make that fence high...

We need to drastically cut back immigration and only let in high skilled engineers and scientists.

Also, we need to fund more research into birth control methods.

Also, we need to shift our foreign aid more toward birth control. Poor women in the Third World should be able to get free contraceptives and should be taught family planning.

Also, girls should be encouraged to stay in school since the greater the number of years of education the fewer babies women have. The poor teen girls should have their high school education funded and get free lunches in Africa and other super poor places.

'only let in high skilled engineers and scientists...'

Cause they will take jobs that most Americans won't (train for).

BTW, will that wall help to keep OUR engineers from leaving?


Where would our engineers go? Where in the post-peak world will be better off? France maybe?

I can tell you I'm not going to China for the same reason I do not smoke cigarettes.

Jobs we won't train for: I can say as someone who has a lot of software developers reporting to me that the limit isn't how many people will get training but how smart the average person is. I have a very hard time using someone with less than 120 IQ because they can't follow the complex chains of thought and can't picture all the interacting pieces. Mind you, there are simpler forms of software development like web page scripting. But for the stuff I do I need smarties.

Some of the best software developers I know do not have C.S. degrees. One of the absolutely best ones I know never went to college. Training? Thinking is the hard part.

" But we still need to keep the population issue at the forefront whenever possible."

I think just making it a part of the discussion would be a big improvement. What will probably end population growth is a lack of resources (not just oil, but coal and natural gas and probably water and minerals). In the 1980's in the San Francisco Bay Area they had two years of drought. In the second year they put a moratorium on issuing building permits. That is, for a brief period of time the beaurocrats saw a relationship between population and a resource. They realized that adding more people to the area would cause an even greater decrease in the amount of water each person could use (at the time there was some limitation on yard watering and on using a hose to clean the driveway). Once oil production begins declining, people will start to realize that each and every immigrant, each and every new born, means that the remaining oil must be divided into even smaller junks. And that the remaining coal and natural gas will be even less able to meet the electricty and heating needs of the entire population.

"How do we get population growth under control without becoming a fascist state? "

Our population control would be in pretty good shape had not Teddy Kennedy and his team gotten Congress to turn on the immigration spigot once again in 1965. Now it appears that the immigration valve can only turn in one direction.

Would it be a fascist state to end immigration? Would it be a fascist state to, instead of giving a tax deduction for children, give a tax increase? Would it be a fascist state to, insteading of giving a tax deduction for all children, only give one for the first two children a woman has?

Imagine if someone came up with various ways to reduce oil/natural gas, and coal consumption in the United States by 33% without any changes at all in the current lifestyle, including the type of car driven, size of house lived in, light bulbs, used, etc. Seems like a pipe dream, and yet if we went back in time and just kept population constant from the time oil production peaked in the United States, we would be using 33% less fossil fuels in this country today, without any sacrifice in lifestyle.

The fascist method of reducing population is to 1) vilify and marginalize a certain segment of the population especially one identified by non-majority race, foreign immigrant status and poverty and 2) create separate laws for them, reducing their rights to property, equal paying jobs, and freedom of movement 3) create a virtual slave labor class out of them and 4) ethnic cleansing, forced relocation, and so-called 'final solution' state violence.

Some of those methods are already in progress here: Is it Fascism yet?

Simultaneously, a fascist state would do everything it could to domestically increase the majority race, including reducing the rights of majority race women to limit their offspring by limiting birth control and abortion access; publicly celebrate majority race women who have had double digit numbers of offspring; and offer tax breaks for having children.

Those methods are already in progress: Is it fascism yet?

I think we live in a fascist state quite apart from whether or not certain views on illegal immigration are signs of fascism.

Regardless, all attempts to reduce population, whether internally or through immigration restrictions should be applied across the board regardless of the race or ethnicity of the person having the child or the person immigrating.

In any event, we have a world problem and cannot solve the population problem by just focusing on the United States. Some European countries, fearing a loss in population, have pro natal policies with mixed motivations. There is an element of racism there since part of the push to have more "native" children is a response to immigration of non-native or non white persons. Having children to try to boost one's own race or ethnicity is a self defeating, stupid, and dangerous policy. We all sink and suffer from overpopulation.

One big concern is that population reduction will decrease the ratio between young income earners and old retirees. That is a concern but is dwarfed by the results of a world population grown beyond its carrying capacity and entering an era of overshoot and mass death. That is a "solution" too, but clearly not solution preferred by most of us.

If it's racist to encourage native births in order to counteract the immigrants of a different race YOU ARE ALLOWING TO COME IN, then surely you would admit that the most racist countries on the planet, are those like China and India, which don't even allow other races in at all.

Hello FiniteQuantity,

I am not sure why you include India in that. You see, there is absolutely no race called Indian. If you have travelled to India, you will know this. Every racial feature on this planet can be found in the populace of the sub-continent. There are millions who cannot be distinguished from Africans, there are millions who can easily melt into the crowds of south-western China, there are millions who will not look out of place in Spain or Italy. And the vast majority falls somewhere in between all these. Even within the same family, siblings may look like they are from different "races"!

As an Indian, when I first came to Singapore to work more than a decade ago, I was puzzled by the Immigration form which had the field "Race". I wondered what I should write: "Dravidian", "Indo-Aryan", "Mixed", or just plain "Human"? I found out later that they expected me to write "Indian". And, by the way, they expect all white-skinned people to write "Caucasian" - how about that?

Anyway, the sad thing is that all newspaper articles in Singapore about racial issues start with stories about "Indians". I have written time and again to editors and authors, as I am replying to you now, that there is no single race called "Indian". I have never got a reply (although two of my letters related to other issues have been published in the Straits Times here).

I suspect the reasons for other nationalities finding it difficult to enter India are totally different and not connected to "race" :-)

I have definitely seen Indians who appeared to have a lot of the Mongoloid race in them. But I don't know that I have seen any that looked like they were 100 percent Mongoloid. Well, maybe one. But I have not seen one who looked like he was Negroid. I have seen very dark skinned Indians but they did not have the hair or facial features of the Negroid race. When I was a child there was some class where we were taught that there were three races - Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid (this thinking may have changed). Indians were supposed to be Caucasoid, but I would definitely agree that there is Mongoloid in the mix as well. And if you say there is Negroid as well, then they cannot be ridiculed for having an immigration policy that is biased against races other than their own.

I was actually being facetious when I made my original statement, trying to rebut some charge of the US being racist for some reason. To me China and India are obviously too overpopulated for a politician to even remotely justify immigration. However, I may be wrong about that assumption as China appears to have abandoned its "1 child" policy. Given how long ago they instituted it, with only 1 child per woman, by now their population would have shrunk. With 2 (or is it 2.1) per woman it would have stayed even. And yet, their population is increasing. Someone I know with relatives in China says that the recent increases in prosperity there has caused the government to believe that it's OK for the population to grow again. If their unemployment can get low enough, and their standard of living high enough, you might see some politicians or businessmen over there calling for immigrants from some poorer country. I don't know what Indias official policy is on their large population. If they are cornucopians they too may try for immigrants if the standard of living gets high enough and the unemployment rate low enough.

"The fascist method of reducing population is to 1) vilify and marginalize a certain segment of the population especially one identified by non-majority race, foreign immigrant status and poverty and 2) create separate laws for them, reducing their rights to property, equal paying jobs, and freedom of movement 3) create a virtual slave labor class out of them and 4) ethnic cleansing, forced relocation, and so-called 'final solution' state violence.

Some of those methods are already in progress here: Is it Fascism yet?"

Can you point out what of that paragraph you claim is in progress in this country? One of the problems with talking about population control is that those against it will try and squelch debate by playing the Hitler card.

"Simultaneously, a fascist state would do everything it could to domestically increase the majority race, including reducing the rights of majority race women to limit their offspring by limiting birth control and abortion access; publicly celebrate majority race women who have had double digit numbers of offspring; and offer tax breaks for having children.

Those methods are already in progress: Is it fascism yet?"

The same right wing politicians that are against abortion are also in favor of immigration and most of them are even in favor of illegal immigration. There just is not any unified group against legal immigration, and hardly any resistance to illegal immigration. Just about everyone cheers births and large families and have since the beginning of time. Calling the US, a country that loves immigration more than any other in the world, and is happy to increase its population in the face of pending resource shortages, fascist, based on the right pushing for abortion and longstanding tax credits for children, just doesn't work for me. Bush would love to be dictator and has no problem curbing individual rights. But make no mistake about it - he wanted to sponsor another amnesty for illegals in a big way. Conservatives do not believe in conserving. They are cornucopians and population growth is nothing to them. They know that it keeps wages down and see that as the only consequence. Only a minority of them are against illegal immigration. Which is why you saw no crackdown on employers who hire illegals during a period when Republicans controlled Congress and the Executive Branch.

How do we get population growth under control without becoming a fascist state?

Last week I attended a lecture by Mary Evelyn Tucker, a founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology and a member of the Yale faculty with joint appointments to the Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her talk began with a statement of the population problem, then went on to discuss some of the work that theologians are doing to re-integrate religion and ecology with a focus on sustainability.

I thought it was a fascinating talk. Progressive thinkers across the spectrum of religion are becoming more and more aware that if their traditions do not update themselves and become strong advocates for value-centric thinking in sustainability, that they face their own irrelevance and obsolescence.

Those who are interested in this angle might want to check out this essay: Daring to Dream: Religion and the Future of Earth by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim.

How do we get population growth under control without becoming a fascist state?

False dichotomy.

The flood of immigrants into the USA is a threat to the standard of living of most of the population, and has cost not a few lives.  This is the sort of threat which, combined with the demonization of those who dare to voice their concerns, drives people to extremism.  If you want to eviscerate the threat of fascism, seal the border and send all the illegals back home.  The collective sigh of relief will deflate the extremists overnight, and the demand for workers will eliminate the idle hands who become brownshirts.

For a sobering view of what will happen if we fail to reverse the ill-advised 1965 changes, see Immigration By The Numbers.

I was gonna say "great presentation" until it occurred to me that he was still advocating immigration. Around 175,000 I believe it was. So if California builds 1 school a day to adapt to the current immigration, it will be OK to build 1 every 5, 6 or 7 days? Why any immigration at all. His own chart showed that even with no immigration after 1965 the US population would still be peaking in 2030. He seemed to put a good connection between wages and smaller immigration. Imagine how good wages and working conditions would be with no immigration. I agree with him immigration must go down, I disagree on how low it should go. For some reason he also did not mention or include in his numbers, illegal immigration which is at a bare minimum, 300,000 a year.

The US has roughly that amount of emigration, so the level proposed would net out at approximately zero.

A near-cessation of illegal immigration is implicit.

"When I see children enduring hardship, I internalize that by imagining my own children in that situation (this is why I avoid the news, as well as any discussions of “Die-Off”). Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel this way as it is often depressing, but this is the way my brain is wired."

Robert, this is indeed tough. No human is meant to face the trauma of overshoot and collapse or the calamities of peak oil, mass extinction, and climate chaos. Concerning these things, there's a good documentary you may want to check out:

What a Way To Go: Life At the End of Empire


Thanks very much for the link. I ordered the film and I intend on doing local screenings in Encinitas.

Very interesting project Robert. I worked on a project many years ago combining wood waste and polyethylene waste. It is a viable product and I used a lot of it in building Soup Shop, but that industry has reached some limitations both economically and functionally.

I am very curious as to Fastening (it always seems to come down to fastening in fabrication) the end product as both plastic and metal are weldable, and if the product is formable at any stage of the process?

I understand your motivations. Whenever I spend time with my children I can't help but project into the future they will live in. I don't have any kind of clear image but one thing is for certain, it will not be as carefree and abundant as my own.

The good news I am a bit of a hero in town with them and their friends as they all say Soup Shop is the best place to eat (not really saying much).

I also find I have little tolerance for people who don't care about the future.

Thank you for your work and let me know if there is an opening for a good Chef;-}

Humans already appropriate ~40% of global primary productivity to their own "needs," nearly halving the amount available for the maintenence of ecosystems. Growing food for fuel in a world where hunger exists is patently immoral. Some would say that biomass conversions are viable, since they produce fuel from "waste" materials humans don't eat. But these biomass materials should be rotting into the soil, maintaining soil health while sequestering carbon as humus. Large scale celluosic biofuel production will diminish soil texture and fertility while increasing the amount of primary productivity the ecocidal ape appropriates, allowing the species to further inflate its population beyond the carrying capacity of the biosphere. As human population swells and fossil fuel production diminishes, biofuel conversion technology will doom remaining forests. How "green" is that?

The Ocean Planet currently supports 6.7 billion apes, nearly all of them Anthropus ecocidus, and this species' population is growing exponentially despite the "demographic transition" that has taken place in some "developed" (i.e., heavily fossil fuels dependent) nations. All the bandaid remedies, "green" and otherwise, recommended for dealing with peak petroleum production and for mitigation of climatic warming, presume a "business as usual" (industry and machine transport) model for the future. It should be plain to see that "business as usual" is what got the ape into the mess it's in in the first place. Instead of promoting "green" industry, we should be working towards the end of industry, the drastic reduction (preferably via a consensual decrease in birthrate rather that thru war and famine) of the cannibal apes's inflated census number, and an end to the prevasive human assault on the biosphere.

Depending on the "quality of life" or "standard of living" one is willing to tolerate, the carrying capacity (K) of the biosphere for apes is somewhere between .5 and 2 billion. Only by means of the crafty ape trick of extracting and oxidizing fossil carbon has Anthropus ecocidus managed to inflate its population approximately an order of magnitude beyond K. Fortunately fossil carbon supplies are finite; the fossil fueling of ape population growth and poisoning of the atmosphere and surface ocean with oxidized carbon, will come to an end. Regretting the end of this unsustainable madness and working to forestall it, strikes me as being desperately counterproductive. It would be nice if the cannibal ape could decimate its population by peaceful means and forge an ecologically viable way of life, but does history offer any hope that this outcome will ensue? Species persist on average about a million years. Anthropus ecocidus has been around between 1/8 and 1/4 of that time. It's own cleverness has doomed it to persistence considerably short of the mean. Why should that fact matter to any given individual? Don't fret the prospect of human extinction. The biosphere will recover and biodiversity become reestablished within about 10 million years.

Indesputeable! Can we as a species honor non-reproduction? There is a web-site that is quite good called: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

The interesting thing is the movements founder, Les Knight, (a soft spoken, articulate man) is no ugly Misanthrope suggesting abortion, suicide, sodomy or cannibilism. Instead he is a math schoolteacher and he just keeps doing the math and keeps coming up with the same answer.

Consider China who has gotten their reproduction down to 1.3% still manages to add 10 million people a year.

The web site is translated into 11 languages and it's long standing motto: "Live Long and Die Out". is about as mean spirited as they get.


The current hype about renewable fuels seems to gloss over the unpleasant fact that they, while preferable to FFs in many ways, are likely to be sustainable only at a much lower average world population density or a much lower standard of living (or both) than currently exists.

Repeat 10 times: "renewable" IS NOT THE SAME AS "sustainable"

We as a culture remind me of that aging athelete who cannot let go of the memories of youth and glory and who cannot accept inevitable decline in ability, and so is looking for some HGH to shoot up with to make it all last just...a...little...bit...longer.

I am much encouraged by Robert's article, especially by the work of CHOREN. They seem to be expecting to make a profit making liquid fuels from biomass in competition with fossil fuel *at today's prices*. If (When?) they succeed, there will be enormous economic incentive to convert all liquid fuel usage to their kind of biofuel and shutdown petroleum production. Prior reports on biofuels were not nearly so optimistic.

Competition of biofuels and food production for land is not a serious problem because CHOREN uses biomass that can be any plant that grows. They don't need prime corn acreage or wheat acreage. They don't need clean water. They could grow their stuff in tertiary waste water treatment ponds. The trouble with treatment ponds is that we don't currently have enough human sewage to meet their needs. But we do have lots of pig poop, which is currently causing some environmental problems.

Whatever happens in the way of technology development, eventually we will get all our fuel from biomass of one kind or another. What kind it of biomass it will actually be and what size population it will support we can't predict now. But surely the sooner we start working on biomass, the better the technology will be, come the time when we really need it.

I don't find interesting arguments that attempt to demonstrate that the problem is so big that we can't possibly solve it. I won't be around to see what the real outcome will be. I don't believe that 'Anthropus ecocidus' will suffer extinction.

I think there are things that we can do to give future generations a body of theoretical knowledge and experiential data. That knowledge and data will help them deal with their problems. If we can put in place a technology that replaces petroleum before petroleum runs out, then petroleum won't run out because we will have stopped using it, and that would be good, in my opinion.

Is biodiversity more important than the life of a child? I wonder. Perhaps, if one could show that some level of diversity is required or else the whole biosphere collapses and takes mankind with it, and that letting that on child die would somehow keep biodiversity above that critical level. I think we are a long way from being able to show that. We don't yet have an order of magnitude number for current biodiversity. We have almost no idea of what biodiversity was 10 million years ago. We have no reason whatsoever to believe that there is a critical level. Each species is responsible for its own population level. /rant

robert I became familiar with this fish, the Menhaden on this podcast. It's demise is the end of the atlantic fisheries. But it also digests cellulose, apparently quite well. Just wondering if you or your community were aware of it. Good luck to you

The collapse of the worlds fish stocks is probably one of the most under reported problems we face.
Especially for Asia.

Very true. I know people who talk about how they can fly in fresh fish every day from around the world like it is an amazing advance of some sort. Or how we get canned crabmeat from Indonesia or China. To me it seems like a last gasp...

They wouldn't be doing this if they could get something closer to home..

I remember reading a story in the paper about how boats fishing for tuna would arrive back at the dock higher in the water than when they left. They burned more diesel fuel (by weight) than the tuna that they caught.

I've hoped that the decline of Cantarell and thus Pemex might mean the end of subsidized low fuel prices for the eastpac purse-seine fleet which is knocking off the remaining dolphins (and regional yellowfin tuna); the fleet is primarily Mexican, and if it had to pay full world rates for fuel, might not be able to put out as many ships. In general, peak oil will be good news for fish, though "too little too late". And unfortunately, the mexican ships, many of them, are owned by cocaine cartels who carry more than tuna in them... so that subsidy will continue...

Pelagic food webs tend to be "top down" regulated. Removal of top predators cascades down thru the trophic levels, dysregulating the entire oceanic ecosystem. Tuna and billfish are top predators. Eating them contributes not only to the decline in dolphin populations due to bycatch, it also profoundly effects the integrity of the entire pelagic foodweb. On top of that, one poisons oneself with Hg, which bioaccumulates up the foodchain, by eating them. Enjoy that tuna salad sandwich!

If you put a fragrant wood into your autoclave like pine or juniper, does it retain its fragrance after acetylation?
a fan of terpenoids

Some extraction occurs, so the fragrance ends up being milder. Need to find a good use for the extract of terpenes.

When I look at the challenges of sustainability and environmental limitations, I see that the fundamental problem is the growth imperative, as addressed in Jeff Vail's recent piece. I think renewable energy is a fantastic thing, but even if it is technically possible to make great strides in energy production and efficiency, it seems we are just running on the treadmill if we can't address the growth imperative. How does the growing renewable energy industry tie into the effort to transition from a growth economy to a steady-state economy?

I believe taking the world view with all its misery and stupidity will ultimately lead to paralysis, depression and burn out. That is one reason my former incarnation was "practical". The emotional response is what professionals have to fight. Doctors, I suspect, have learned that it accomplishes little. Progress is made by tackling the situation one case at a time right where you are. Do not worry too much about about the big picture since one person can not change it anyway. If you take the world view, you will burn out in the end.

The world view is one the many errors of EROEI that is keeping the United States from doing the right thing about oil. EROEI takes the world view that all oil is the same, that price is not relevant and it is permissible to compare unlike and unlike.

But from an American point of view all oil is not alike. There is domestic extraction and then there is imported oil which is the larger share. Imported oil does not have the same EROEI that the American extracted oil does. Why? Because its energy value must be paid for when it is imported. This is what the producer receives as his share of the oil's value. What do Americans receive as the gain in the transaction? They get the economic value of the energy since clearly no energy is added after it comes off the ship. Refining, distribution and consumption are all clearly energy users. Therefore imported oil must have a negative EROEI from an American point of view.

In contrast American extracted oil probably does have the EROEI often cited if it is compared to other similar oil. It is a logic error of the first order to count things twice. Since the energy value clearly went to the foreign extractor as his share we can not count it again after we Americans purchase it. From the world point of view it makes no difference where oil is extracted or consumed, but from the American point of view it does. When the United States buys foreign oil the dollars expended represent economic gain from energy consumption since there was no energy gain on the imported oil. Thus the economic gain is being used to by oil and the energy gain from extraction goes to the foreign seller.

This is a vicious circle where the economy is being drained of economic gain to pay for new energy imports. High oil tax countries well understand this. Together with globalization (another fantasy post Peak Oil), the fantasy of nation building in Iraq and wars for oil security plus the maintaining of 1 million military overseas, the American economy is crumbling under the load. The Fed is creating funny money to make up for the energy loss which causes world inflation since the dollar in international currency. Oil prices rise and the thing repeats.

A valid analysis would put logic first. Numbers are a servant of logic and not the other way around. EROEI of oil is probably negative from an American point of view since over half of our oil is imported and must be paid for out of economic gain since there is no energy gain at all once foreign oil arrives here. The smaller American extracted oil probably does have the high EROEI because the United States collects both the energy gain when it is extracted and the economic gain when it is consumed.

My point is that taking the world view can lead to bad decisions. Logic is the boss of numbers and not the other way around. When EROEI compares unlike and unlike and when price is deemed irrelevant, the result is bad policy such as the condemnation of ethanol production.


I would very much like to speak with you in detail on these things, as it's become a burning issue for us in the last week or so.


Oh, sorry to be so obtuse - we've exchanged email once, I just sent you another note from my address.

RR - thanks for the post on this topic!

I appreciate very much your willingness to talk about your personal motivation and efforts.

I feel like our lives and our ideas are shaped by these very powerful personal motivations, especially the "Generative" motivation that involves parenting and providing for the next generation.

Folks who have children and folks who do not can all be very much involved in this generative part of human life. I guess that every one has an impact on the next generation whether thoughtful or intentional or not.

I identify strongly with the motivations and thoughts you've expressed. I hope that your next venture is rewarding at many levels.

I'll bet you will get to be a part of some very positive developments on the sustainable energy scene!

I agree our personal motivations are involved, but for our children there is also advice from adults and peers. My daughter is a sophomore in high school and is just starting the 'career investigation' process. She quickly found out that farming isn't "cool". Nobody she knows is considering anything in the farming, agriculture, or sustainability area, and nobody wants to get their hands dirty manufacturing anything. Instead, the talk is about how to get accepted to an Ivy; the state universities (where Ag majors go) are only considered as "safety" schools.

We need a huge attitude adjustment (maybe coming in the form of PO) before our youth will accept there is a future in any of these areas.

Back in the good old days an attitude adjustment was "Daddy Took Her T-Bird Away". I think P.O. and climate change is one mean Daddy nobody deserves.

Hi Robert

JPods needs help also. We have plenty of equity but no cash yet. So if anyone is willing to work for equity, we have plenty. We are also looking for industrial partners that can sell their products to change the lifeblood of our economy from oil to ingenuity.

Here is a summary:

Market niche: High repetitive, congested transport.
Mission: Increase energy efficiency from 4% to 70%.
Time to Market: Raising capital for first deployment at the Mall of America.
Machanism: Network of "Horizontal-Elevators", integrate computer networks with roller coaster mechanics. Modernize the success of Morgantown

Details available at My phone and email are listed under Contacts.

That first photo is awesome - the track doesn't go anywhere - it's as if it's a metaphor for something.....

The Wright Brothers first flight did not go anywhere either. The answe to Peak Oil is not a solution, but a process. A process open to adapting to changing circumstances. JPods may not be a significant part of the next step, but it is a step. They radically increase efficiency. I believe that is a step in the right direction.

This demon is only 20 feet long. It has 4 addresses, Home, Mall, School and Work. Touching the computer screen causes the pod to move to that address on the rail. There are no switches.

It is simple, but it can be setup in half an hour. It pleases most people to experience how simple it is to touch a computer screen to direct horizontal mobility. It amazes people that the mechanical structures can be so simple and can be setup by a single person.

The systems will get more complex, but they can be functional at an incredibly simple level.

After my first child was born, it became almost an obsession to make a better future for the generations that follow. When I see children enduring hardship, I internalize that by imagining my own children in that situation (this is why I avoid the news, as well as any discussions of “Die-Off”). Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel this way as it is often depressing, but this is the way my brain is wired.

Robert you are being very pessimistic, things are not that bad really. Basic human needs are water, food, clothing and shelter. 99% of humanity had worked for these all through history till 20th century and even today 90% of world's population work for only that. These needs are little and resources in world are large enough to provide for that.

In short average human's food requirements are 2000 calories per day when taking average for entire population including all ages and sex. For a balanced diet for that every human on average needs just 100 kg grains (wheat, rice, pulses etc), 100 kg fruits, 100 kg milk, 25 kg meat (birds, fish, goat, beef etc), 25 kg vegetable, 12.5 kg oil, 12.5 kg spices, 12.5 kg dry fruits/butter, 12.5 kg sugar. Some of these like meat, milk, oil, spices, dry fruits and butter requires more land than others so on average each person needs as much land as is needed to grow 320 kg grains.

Traditionally, that is before green revolution world's average grain yield was 400 kg per acre per year, that was when no chemicals were put in soil and bio diversity was retained by growing a variety of each of the crops even the low productive ones too. With introduction of green revolution plus two crops per year instead of one plus increase in agricultural productivity till 1980s results in as much as 6400 kg grains production per acre per year. In some parts of world like europe and usa the production is even 8000 kg grains per acre per year but lets take a world average 6400 kg per acre per year.

Ofcourse that come at an energy cost (energy input being more than energy output) and environmental costs due to excess use of fertilizers so we can't continue with this kind of food production for long. But it not mean that we have to go back to 400 kg per acre productivity. We can very well settle down in between which I calculate as 1600 kg per acre. That is twice per crop output than traditional agriculture and two crops per year instead of one.

In absence of that cheap flow of energy we can recycle animal and human wastes as fertilizers so there is in reality no shortage of fertilizers. To pump extra water from ground using fertilizers we can burn crop residues to get energy which grow equal in mass and energy to the grain output. We already have a very good structure of dams and canals already in place so that can last for some time to come.

With rate of 1600 kg per acre per year each human needs only 800 sq meters of fertile land. World currently have about 10,000 sq meters of fertile land per human. So, even taking in consideration that some countries are heavily populated than others and we have to keep aside some land for wild life we still have enough land and water to sustain the current human population.

"Robert you are being very pessimistic, things are not that bad really."

Oh really? Optimism is a drug. It is not only addicting but it severely clouds your judgement. With human populations overwhelming the earth and arable land shrinking do you honestly think people will consider "wildlife"?

There is a story this morning reporting on the fact that the Bush administration has hampered the ability of the Interior Department to enforce Wildlife Preservation laws for the last 7 years.

Chris Rock (comedian) was asked the other day: Is America is ready for a black President?
"Sure why not", he replied,"they've had a retard for the last seven".

Hello R-squared,

For your kids this Easter:
Although I am not an engineer, my postPeak hope is that human-powered SpiderWebRiding Networks can be an efficient, easily built, and cheaply maintained 'silver bb'.

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

While we are on the topic of Easter eggs, a little more of my thinking:

Say you are a chicken farmer 10 miles from a town, and you need to get a hundred-dozen fresh eggs to market. You may have only two postPeak choices:

1. Big pasture for your horses or oxen, plus all the other costs this entails such as vet bills, steel for stalls & watering trough, barbwire, harness equipment for the wagon, tires & bearings for the wagon, etc.

You most likely will be traversing badly potholed, rutted, snowy, icy, or muddied paths--how many eggs will break on this trip? Will the animals be too tired to haul a load of urban I/O-NPK, or other essentials back? If the animals spook for some reason, you might have a total egg loss, wrecked wagon, and/or injury to the animals and yourself. If you cannot even afford a wagon: how many eggs can a carefully pack onto a horse?

2. In just the time required to round-up, then harness up these animals to the wagon: you might have already covered a couple of miles on your railbike. The railpath is very smooth and the pedaling is easy--minimal possibility of the eggs being broken. Your railbike even has less total steel than the steel devoted to animal pasturage, stalls, wagon, etc. No saddle sores as you are just comfortably pedaling away in a plush recumbent seat, shifting gearing to match the terrain slope, then enjoying the fresh breeze as you glide the downslope sections.

Say you are a chicken farmer 10 miles from a town, and you need to get a hundred-dozen fresh eggs to market. You may have only two postPeak choices...

If you are farming on the scale where you are producing eggs in Hundred Dozen quantities you will be able to afford a wagon and horse.

Use of horse and wagon / sleigh to perform these sort of tasks is a problem that has been solved in pre-oil days

Hello John Milton,

Thxs for responding. Yes, but is my proposal more efficient overall when all costs are entailed? I have no idea; hoping those with far greater expertise will help carry the ball.

If one just considers that the railpath is only elevated a few feet above ground in most places by the elevated pipelines, then the narrow gauge, lightweight rail strapped atop: most snow and floodwater can't stop the show versus seasonal weather now causing huge traffic shutdowns or tragic pileups on conventional roads.

A few people shoveling snow is much, much cheaper than trying to run snowplows, apply salt, moving snow with dumptrucks and front-end loaders. In my 'railbike over narrow canal' version posted earlier [see archives]: the snow and ice will provide easy heavy transport of laden canoes on skates for much longer precisely because the sun will have a harder time melting the ice.

Pipeline and/or canal leaks are immediately obvious and easily repaired because they are above ground-- no need for heavy equipment or laborious pick and shovel labor for maintenance [Google images of underground water & sewage, oil & natgas for mind-boggling comparison]. The infrastructure concentration of my SpiderWebRiding networks makes it easy to protect because lots and lots of people will be traveling upon it; they won't tolerate someone wrecking their basic means of postPeak supply of liquids, movement of goods, and cheap and easy transportation and sightseeing.

... a couple of miles on your railbike. The railpath is very smooth ...

This presupposes the existence of a rail infrastructure. Somehow I doubt that it will happen; humans (in the aggragate) are not smarter than yeast.

Hello DIYer,

Thxs for responding. That is why I am a fast-crash realist: I too think we will not get our act together in time, but who knows? If the huddled masses suddenly awaken and really push for the thousands of good ideas here on TOD, other websites, books, etc, good things could happen fast. All I can do is try to further Peak Outreach while I can. Maybe after I cannot afford the internet any longer: my ideas, plus the other TOD ideas, might prove useful to those that can still access the archives. Time will tell.

A little more food for thought: just imagine how many petrol-based tires, for all uses such as bicycles, wheelbarrows, vehicles, heavy-construction, etc, that people have worn out over their lifetimes.

Now imagine the steel-wheels of a railbike: one set may last a lifetime as long as you replace the bearings before they wreck the bearing race of the wheel!

You're on a red herring in your thinking about Post Peak Oil. There is going to be oil or other forms of energy for the forseeable future. The difference is it won't be cheap nor abundant. A farmer getting eggs to market will still have transport but he will combine those trips and learn by necessity to be far more efficient with his use of energy. Farmers are practical people, they'll adjust.

The larger adjustment will be for the suburbanite. This will be the end of the soccer mom picking the kids up from the mall and stopping off at KFC for a cheap family meal. Kids will discover that a bike with a basket is more useful than a skateboard. You won't have to remind Jr. to turn off the light though...It will be seared into his brain.

So then you won't be able to use photovoltaics or wind turbines or nuclear electric to charge up your small electric pick-up truck for the 20 mile round trip?

You won't be able to use plain old lead acid batteries or Lithium batteries to store the electricity?

Just gotta use oxen?

Oh, and no one will convert coal to liquid?

How come?

I hope my kids have a green future too. They have about ten years till they are grown up. Unfortunately the crash shouldhappenin the meantime. at least they will become teenies without these funny illusions about a hitech future.

When my children came along I changed radically. Instead of thinking about 'me' I began to think about 'we'. Intellectually I remained the same, deeply sceptical about our current economic/social paradigm, but emotionally I became an optimist, because I just could accept in my heart what my head was telling me, that the 'system' was highly unstable and heading for 'collapse' in the not too distant future.

In Western societies the model of development we adhere to is clearly unsustainable in the longer term, already we are banging our heads against a ceiling, economic growth is literally destroying the environment that sustains us, this is a bizarre road to choose to go down. It seems to defy logic and intelligence, pursue a course leading inexorably towards disaster.

The intellectual "filters" through which people perceive and "understand" the world are literacy, numeracy and ecolacy. As the late eminent ecologist Professor Garret Hardin wrote, "The three filters operate through these particular questions: Literacy: What are the words? Numeracy: What are the numbers? Ecolacy: And then what?"

My impression is that most of the proponents of "green-technology-will-save-us-ism" are of two kinds (1) engineers and other specialists in scientific disciplines heavily grounded in mathematics, (2) lay people that are not trained in the sciences, believe in the fundamental concept of progress, and likewise believe that trend is destiny. I respect the derived benefits of quantification and implementation, however I have great concern that the proponents of "green-technology-will-save-us-ism", of either kind, lack fundamental knowledge in ecology -- human and biological sans human -- and are therefore incapable of positing and answering the very important question -- "And then what."

My impression is that most of the proponents of "green-technology-will-save-us-ism" are of two kinds (1) engineers and other specialists in scientific disciplines heavily grounded in mathematics, (2) lay people that are not trained in the sciences, believe in the fundamental concept of progress, and likewise believe that trend is destiny.

Numerate people understand the Laws of Thermodynamics and can follow the stochiometrics of scaling up to the level of the entire biosphere. Proponents of "green-technology-will-save-us-ism," as you call it, have a faith-based belief that some unspecified technological innovation will violate the stochiometric realities of the situation, much as supernaturalists believe that Jesus - or benevolent aliens - will come & save us. This "Deus ex machina" mindset has great psychological appeal. Fortunately (or not) some are too inherently honest to allow themself such comfortable self-delusion. Optimism and pessimism are two ends of a continuum. My question is: How does one polarize this continuum?

I don't believe that any technology will save "us", if by "us" you mean the billions of people that currently inhabit the Earth and the billions more that will inhabit it prior to the dieoff. However, it may be that alternative technology and renewables will be useful in maintaining some semblance of civilization for the few hundred million that are left standing.

Mankind has clearly shown that it cannot restrain itself from destroying every ecological niche and cranny and that it has no intention of avoiding overshoot. The mass of humanity couldn't care less that we are in the process of destroying millions of species and are on the way to destroying ourselves.

Our footprint is just too large and cannot possibly be reduced sufficiently to stave off disaster given current population and current upward trends. We must both reduce our footprint and reduce population, not something that will occur before dieoff.

So, the best case scenario seems to be that development of new technologies may still be a useful exercise if the few remaining souls are able to deploy and maintain it.

People who solve a lot of technological problems tend to view technological problems as solvable. Are they wrong?

I do not see how the rules of physics prevent us from solving our energy problems. I see lots of ways these energy problems can be solved. I know extremely bright physicists and other scientists who agree with me. I tend to view pessimism on this subject skeptically unless the pessimists have the scientific and technical chops to explain why assorted problems are unsolvable.

Others may be thinking this but have refrained from saying it; the implication seems to be that an engineer earns a higher place in green heaven than a lowly vegetable gardener. In other words reinforce the current hierarchy by creating new but still centralised systems of high flows of energy and materials. The insurance clerk facing layoff either keeps his job (we think) or goes to work full time for the new high powered green business. Maybe the system needs to change whereby the employee could work a couple of days then do home gardening or relax for the rest of the week.

Let's take the case of Choren's Sundiesel product. It appears to require large high tech facilities with dedicated transport infrastructure. Why can't we make Sundiesel in the next suburb? If it's not a universal solution then maybe we need some other kind of product that helps more people. So I ask whether some of these high powered green jobs are the way to go.

Others may be thinking this but have refrained from saying it; the implication seems to be that an engineer earns a higher place in green heaven than a lowly vegetable gardener.

There is no green heaven, but a brown hell awaits if we don't start to come up with some solutions. I saw glimpses of it in India, and believe me, you don't want to fall that far.

I have always been a strong advocate of people learning how to garden; I love to garden myself. But if we are to maintain any semblance of civilization, we are going to need some solutions. We are going to need transport options, and we are going to need energy to power those transport options.

If it's not a universal solution then maybe we need some other kind of product that helps more people.

There are no universal solutions, but we do need to come up with a lot of silver BBs. That's the point here. If you read that as an attempt to reinforce the current hierarchy, well, it's not like that hierarchy is going to disappear overnight. That is reality. I want to see us transition to a different sort of hierarchy, but if we don't have transition options, there will be no transition - only collapse.

"...if we are to maintain any semblance of civilization..."

Robert, I have quoted your post out of context because I believe we have a fundamental disagreement. Do the math. 7 billion people is way past overshoot. Every record of human collapse is in direct relation to environmental degradation. The probelem is for the first time in human history the collapse will not merely be regional but global. We are presently pushing toward that conclusion at a frightening pace. If you believe that we can continue indefinitely with a few mechanical adjustments then we live on different planets.

The time for optimism is over. It is now time to pay heed to pessimism because in that darkness lay the seeds of hope.

You're telling RR to do the math? Could you show us some math, then?
When did Robert ever suggest that we could 'Continue indefinitely with a few mechanical adjustments'?

Those seed of hope of yours need light to grow, and anybody who is nurturing seeds to grow is not doing it from 'pessimism'.


The time for optimism is over. It is now time to pay heed to pessimism because in that darkness lay the seeds of hope.

Once again, how do you polarize the optimism/pessimism continuum? What the person with the anthropocentric worldview regards as pessimistic, those with the ecocentric viewpoint may see as optimistic.

But if we are to maintain any semblance of civilization, we are going to need some solutions. We are going to need transport options, and we are going to need energy to power those transport options.

Where I sit I see only an endless stream of automobiles. No flickering tree leaves or blades of grass. No flutter of a butterfly, whip of a bird in flight, galloping horse. No pasture. No shining clear water. I don't glance on a town, or farm fields, or friendly faces. I can't see clouds leisurely pass in the sky. I see offices and megastores, metal and plastic.

I just came from southern california. That coldness has now carpeted an entire corner of our great nation. There is only gasoline, fast food, sterile homes. The desert is chopped up and covered in weeds and the birds quiet and the coyotes leaving. The farms are are surrounded by sprawl and the two compete for water, drying out the rest. The fields are selenium salting. Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge. We live in a tar and metallic hell, not a brown one. This is where your food comes from. This is the California Eden.

How can we "maintain" this automocivilization when it means starving people, destroying soil, wearing out this single ecosystem. This is a life out of balance-Koyaanisqatsi. We must understand ecology and dieoff because we are not gods!

Its not a "green job" as such, but ASPO USA is looking for an Executive Director, to live in the Denver area. They may be fairly far along on this process - the posting has been out for a month or two.

Job Title: Executive Director

ASPO-USA seeks a qualified individual as a full-time Executive Director to take a young, influential non-profit, with rising national recognition, to the next level. The Executive Director will start with a largely volunteer group and grow it into a staffed organization conducting education/outreach programs about America’s energy challenge. It is expected that within a year the Executive Director will become the recognized public voice for ASPO-USA. Further, it is hoped that eventually the Executive Director will become one of the leading voices nationally on the subjects of peak oil and gas in particular and on our broader energy challenges in general.

Hello Gail,

I nominate Tiger Woods for this position! If he would only lead the charge to plow the golf courses into veggie gardens-->Peak Outreach would be almost instantaneous to everyone.

He still could make big bucks endorsing Nike-brand gardening tools, Buick-brand Spider railbikes, bicycles & wheelbarrows, etc. Picture Tiger, Erin, and child excitedly picking their vine-ripened tomatoes wearing fashionable Nike coveralls.

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

"Nearly two years ago we first learned of the $38 million home Tiger Woods bought on Jupiter Island in Florida. Now Tiger has torn down his 13-year-old mansion to create a new and more grand home. Tiger's architects have created a 10,000-square-foot two-story home with a glass elevator, a wine cellar, home theater and a games area. Tiger also bulldozed three other large houses, two swimming pools, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts and a mini-golf course on the property. These will be replaced by a boat house, golf training studio, three-car garage and guest house. There will also be a tennis court, gym, pool, lap lane and a small golf course and a pair of boat docks where Tiger can dock his 155-foot yacht, Privacy. The redevelopment is expected to cost in the $15-$20 million range. The home should be ready for Tiger, his wife Elin and their baby daughter Sam in 18 months. Meanwhile the family can enjoy their other homes, they have another one in Orlando, Florida as well as in California, Wyoming and Sweden."

Yeh,the perfect spokesman.

Hello Tstreet,

Thxs for responding. He still could do a Richard Rainwater mindset conversion, unload this stuff on some other remaining Yerginite, then buy a survival Eco-tech Farm/bunker as Bilionaire Richard Rainwater did years earlier. Time will tell.

Recall my earlier postings where I asked all TODers to email the PGA, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson websites using my easy cut & paste forms.

Purely hypothetical: Imagine Pres. Barack Obama [or Clinton or McCain] having secret Peak Outreach discussions with Tiger, then at some future time when Obama has to give a 'Sweater Speech', he trots out Tiger, and Tiger says he will drive the lead tractor to plow Augusta National [site of the Master's Tournament]. My bet is that Tiger will value his wife and children far more than his trophy case. Wouldn't you do the same thing?

He just dropped another $65 million for an estate in the
Hamptons ..

Triff ..

I was at a dinner party yesterday with a group of highly educated, liberal, balanced, kindly, well-read, wealthy, green-orientated professionals; people who've done amazingly well out of our system. We began talking about some of the challenges we currently face as a society.

I didn't mention Peak Oil as previously this has led to much sighing and rolling of eyes!

Instead I touched on the subject of the possible financial/economic meltdown we are perhaps facing in the Western world and how incredibly unstable and unsustainable the system had become and some of the consequences for our lives of a partial collapse of Capitalism. In short the biggest economic bubble in all human history is bursting.

What shocked me was how unaware my friends were of the scale, depth and consequences of such a scenario unfolding in the coming months and years ahead. It really is comparable to Peak Oil. One almost feels guilty about having all this 'secret' knowledge which is in striking contrast to most other people. I'm starting to feel that the movie the Matrix is actually true!

I'm starting to feel that the movie the Matrix is actually true!

The movie's popularity is probably owed to the many chords of resonance it strikes with our real life world.

One almost feels guilty about having all this 'secret' knowledge which is in striking contrast to most other people.

Don't get all Neo on us. Knowledge is not power, especially if your name is Cassandra.

Instead I touched on the subject of the possible financial/economic meltdown we are perhaps facing ... dinner party yesterday with a group of highly educated, liberal, ... people who've done amazingly well out of our system.

What do you mean by "we" kimosabee? (A joke involving the Lone Ranger and his loyal Native American friend as they are surrounded by Indians and the end appears near.)


Do any of your friend ever ask you "If you have all of this inside information, that you know is absolutely correct, then why aren't you rich?"

I ran into that one back in the day when I used to preach the absoluteness of my correctness to friends, and had trouble answering the question convincingly. Of course, you may be rich, so not have to deal with the issue, but I sadly was not!


If you have all of this inside information, that you know is absolutely correct, then why aren't you rich?

This is a summary I wrote two years ago about two Peak Oil aware Texas billionaires, Pickens & Rainwater, who have done quite well investing based on an assumption that we were at or close to Peak Oil, but who also felt that they had an obligation to speak out:

From "The Rainwater Prophecy," (Fortune, December, 2005):

His (Rainwater's) instincts tell him that another enormous moneymaking opportunity is about to present itself, what he calls a "slow pitch down the middle." But, at 61, wealthier and happier than ever before, Rainwater finds himself reacting differently this time. He's focused more on staying rich than on getting richer. But there's something else too: a sort of billionaire-style civic duty he feels to get a conversation started. Why couldn't energy prices skyrocket, with grave repercussions, not just economic but political? As industry analysts debate whether the world's oil production is destined to decline, the prospect makes him itchy.

"This is a nonrecurring event," he says. "The 100-year flood in Houston real estate was one, the ability to buy oil and gas really cheap was another, and now there's the opportunity to do something based on a shortage of natural resources. Can you make money? Well, yeah. One way is to just stay long domestic oil. But there may be something more important than making money. This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind. I don't want the world to wake up one day and say, 'How come some doofus billionaire in Texas made all this money by being aware of this, and why didn't someone tell us?'"

Does Rainwater really believe this?

This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind.

Humans existed before oil. Humans will exist after oil. Even if we lost 9/10ths of humanity we'd still have 660 million people. Survivability? That's ridiculous.

Of course, we don't know if he was talking about every last person, or "mankind" as we know it, i.e., stable to increasing population versus a Richard Duncan type net dieoff. In any case, Rainwater has been uncannily accurate in the past, and it's interesting to to back and read the December, 2005 Fortune article in light of how events have progressed since then. The concluding paragraphs from the article follow. A reminder, this is a multibillionaire.

Back on the farm that night, he and Moore discuss future projects with their landscaper, Jenks Farmer, over a glass of wine. Farmer, who has a master's in horticulture and lives on the property, maintains Moore's extensive gardens, including vegetable beds that produce all year round. That morning Rainwater had been surfing the web, researching greenhouses in his quest to further ensure a steady flow of food through the winter. At his prodding, Moore has installed an emergency generator and 500-gallon storage tanks for diesel fuel and water. When Rainwater says that he's thinking about opening a for-profit survivability center, it's not entirely clear that he's joking.

Later in the night Rainwater returns to musing on how different his lot is from the residents of Lake City. And then, returning to the debate in his head, he gets a serious look on his face and says: "This is going to get a little religious. I ask why I was blessed with this insightfulness. Everyone who has achieved something, scientists, ballplayers, thinks they were given their talent for a reason. Why me? Was I given this insightfulness at this particular time? Or was I just given this insightfulness?" He pauses. "I just want people to look out. 'Cause it could be bad."

WT: A few months ago I went looking for an update on what Rainwater has been up to since this well-publicized Fortune article, and I could come up with little-to-nothing (it seems his wife has a far more public persona than he does at this point). Does anybody know what he's doing now, esp. in terms of sustainability projects?

"If you have all of this inside information, that you know is absolutely correct, then why aren't you rich?"

1) One of the many false myths in our society is that knowledge is power ....
2) or that being rich means you earned it through hard work and pure smarts.

Those are nice theories.

However, as to number 1, there are dumb people who are rich.
As to number 2, there are plenty of smart talented actors, singers, etc. who never make it.

That's because getting rich depends on luck as much as everything else. For some people the coin does come up heads 10 times in a row. Then you attribute their fortune to hard work. But the guy who had the coin come up tails 10 times in a row worked just as hard. He just wasn't as lucky. Becoming rich is due to a complex set of factors. It's helps to be born rich in the first place.

And then there are smart people for whom getting rich is not a priority.

One almost feels guilty about having all this 'secret' knowledge which is in striking contrast to most other people. I'm starting to feel that the movie the Matrix is actually true!

None of us has an unique insights into the future. The level of economic doom on TOD has far overshot any basis it may have had in knowledge and is deep into apocalypic fantasy land. I work in finance and read TOD daily. And while I suspect that the US will have a pretty rough recession that will somewhat slow global growth,there is no real evidence of an epic threat to the global economy or economic system. Capitalism is alive and well. I don't have much doubt that within twelve months this whole thing will have past and the impact on global economic growth will be in the range of negative one percent for one year.

When you say that we are seeing a "...partial collapse of capitalism" and "..the bursting of the biggest economic bubble in human history", I suspect your fears or desires have outpaced your perspective. Maybe you should listen to the wisdom of that "group of highly educated, liberal, balanced, kindly, well-read, wealthy, green-orientated professionals; people who've done amazingly well out of our system." They seem pretty smart.

We don't have special knowledge, just strong opinions, like a lot of other people.

I work in finance and read TOD daily. And while I suspect that the US will have a pretty rough recession ... there is no real evidence of an epic threat to the global economy or economic system.

Capitalism is alive and well.


I too work in the paper-pushing end of the economy. So I'm not going to give you a holier than though rant.

But I suspect that this is a problem. Too many of us are in the financial or other fiction pumping areas of the economy and too few of us are in the "real" part of the economy.

Capitalism is not alive and well. This is so because it encourages people to shift into the more lucrative, fiction-pumping areas of economic endeavor (i.e., accounting, financial analysts, system operations experts, lawyers, real estate brokers, etc.).

After a while the system becomes an empty shell game with hardly anybody doing any of the real work and everybody generating pure "data".

We get away for now with this in large part due to the unseen energy slaves working for us. But we'll be in for a big shock when the slaves go on strike due to lack of fuel. This is going to hit world wide, not just in the USA.

The machine is taking us on a comfy ride toward the cliff and we're all happy riders.

The distinction that you make between real and unreal segments of the economy is artificial, in my view. What you see as a shell game, I see as an efficient parceling out of components of work to those best able to do them.

In a broader sense, I do think that capitalism is able to create value above the level of inputs (energy, labor, etc) through effective systems (laws, courts, contracts, etc.) and support for innovation. You seem to think this is all a waste of time.

If one accepts your version, than this has all been a bubble and will collapse. If one accepts mine, then this is a typical cyclical event and we will bounce back.

I suggest we talk in one year and reverse engineer the whole thing. If the system collapses, then maybe you were right. If it is renewed, my theory looks pretty good and capitalism appears robust, useful and here to stay.

What you see as a shell game,
I see as an efficient parceling out
of components of work
to those best able to do them.

Jack, thanks for writing back. Interesting point of view.

I can make the same rationalization about my job.
And I like that train of thought because it implies that I'm indispensable.
(just as indispensable as all the other people in the cemetery ...)

I suggest we talk in one year and reverse engineer the whole thing. If the system collapses, then maybe you were right. If it is renewed, my theory looks pretty good and capitalism appears robust, useful and here to stay.

Funny you should say all that.
I'm in the midst of reading Nassim N. Taleb's "Black Swan".
You talk like a character right out of his book. (It's not your fault. You were trained to talk like that. So was I.)

NNT, by the way, lambastes the whole notion of being able to learn from history. He gives as one example, a turkey who concludes that mankind is benevolent because everyday of the turkey's life (thus far), man has been consistently good to him. Every day of the past 3 years of history confirms the theory. Well, 2.8 years, cause it's now November 15th and all systems still look like a go for the it's-all-good theory.

I generally agree with what you say here, and in fact can see both sides of the overall capitalism argument.

However, I am not saying that we can learn from history or that anything happening now ensures any future outcome. In fact, I think if you follow the thread upwards a bit, you will see that my argument is that we can not forecast the future, no matter how smart we are.

The move to ethanol is independent of whether or not it has bad EROIE.

The industry is subsidized and forced by government policy regardless of whether or not it may be supported by a free market society. It is more akin to movements in a fascist or socialist regime, not a free market oreinted democracy.

A new ethanol credit exchange has been set up to allow companies to meet ethanol requirements by trading ethanol credits:

A podcast about ethanol's affect on food prices:


I enjoyed your post. A single coal-fired powerplant puts out a huge number of metric tons of CO2. Could you provide an estimate of how much CO2 sequestration your company's approach can provide, in intuitive units? Please account for the energy input from the acetylation reaction (acetic anhydride?).



We have an LCA in progress. I have seen the draft of it, and we look good stacked up against the competition. But, I can't give specific information until it is released.

However, I can share some of my own thoughts and calculations. First off, anhydride can be produced from acetic acid, which can be extracted from the wood. It is cheaper at the moment to make it from natural gas, but there are other options. And while it is true that at present natural gas goes into the process via the anhydride, that same natural gas ends up embedded back into the wood as attached acetyl molecules. In other words, 1). Most of the natural gas that is used to make the anhydride gets resequestered; and 2). There are other options for the anhydride.

On the coal-fired powerplant, I haven't done that calculation. However, I have done another calculation, which I will elaborate on at some point. The annual output of one of our reactors, when used to replace steel or aluminum, will sequester the emissions of more than 10,000 cars per year based on EU driving statistics. This ignores the preliminary findings of the LCA that it also takes less energy to produce our wood than it does to produce aluminum or steel, which means that in addition to sequestration, there is also potential for the avoidance of emissions.

There are limits of course, but I think what we have could provide an important component to carbon sequestration solutions. The Dutch government is in the process of building two very heavy traffic bridges out of our wood instead of from steel. I think this will demonstrate to many the potential we have in this space.

More info on the bridge project:

This one has an artist's concept of what the bridges will look like:


Thanks for the links. From my perspective, life-cycle analysis is one of the more intellectually challenging areas in the energy arena, and could impact policy in a serious way. We need more folks trained in LCA to go into public policy.


A question that is pertinent:  How well does the acetylated wood accept glues?

That concept bridge is beautiful:

I'd suggest this for projects like the I-35W replacement!

EP, it's not my area, but the FAQ does address the glue issue:

Does Accoya® wood have different machinability and gluability?

Accoya® wood can be machined in the same way as unmodified wood. Because, however, acetylated wood is more dimensionally stable and has lower water uptake than unmodified wood, its gluing parameters are the same as for hardwoods. Most commercially available glues can be used with Accoya® wood.

Can acetylated wood be glue laminated or finger-jointed?

Yes, acetylated wood can be glue laminated and finger-jointed. Wood cannot, however, be acetylated after it has been laminated or finger-jointed as the process would damage glue lines and result in de-lamination.

Green jobs has preoccupied me as a general question.

I meet/see many young ppl who are idealistic, what can they do, they want to make a difference, etc.

Encouraging them to free darfur, free tibet or support kosovo independence and so on, is ridiculous, they will become minor pawns surfing the Zeitgeist.

If they go into humanitarian work, principally at NGOs, they either become blinded and cynical (some are so before they ‘enlist’), or become disgusted and quit, which does no one any good. International careers (I live in Geneva, Switz.) such as at Red Cross, Global Funds (Bill Gates), or even more politically oriented are possible for the keen and well educated, but can one really recommend that? I do sometimes.. I am also wary of Greenpeace, WWF, etc. They have their own narrow agendas and are suspect in many ways - I mention these only because that is the kind of thing that young people bring up.

Finally - I advise them to involve themselves locally (possible in Switz.), study a topic or an issue that interests them without clear return, or, if they can hack it, go into politics. This last often surprises them - they consider that all the pol. parties are dodos or besides the point, and there MUST be something to be done outside of that sphere. I try to explain, and tell them, that within the present arrangements they can accomplish a lot (hopefully), but they should look at where the power actually is, etc..

I find it hard. My generation has nothing much to offer except apologies. I only offer those when it seems appropriate or energizing.

Of course, they all want to earn to have a family, two children, and double, at least, the housing space people had here in 65, as well as at least one car, or maybe just a 'mobility' vehicle (temp rental), foreign vacations, Nespresso machines. There are exception: these tend to be politically, anarchists, neo-nazis, communists, others from the fringes. I mention the politics, because here that is very important.

So if we can’t even offer young, strong, idealistic, caring ppl a reasonable way to work to the future, then what?

I have a few questions about Accoya that I could not answer from reviewing the materials at the web site(s). It sounds really intriguing for wood steamed in vinegar.

First, where can I get some to try it? Will it be available to the little guy through regular lumber yards? I live in Seattle, WA, USA.

I'm interested in using it to make raised beds for growing food, compost containment, worm bins and garden furniture.

Second, I often dispose of woodworking sawdust / scraps by composting or on rare occasions in my old-fashioned fireplace. Can Accoya shavings be composted or burned?

First, I don't know that you can get Accoya® commercially in the U.S. yet. There are samples floating around, but right now all of our commercial production ends up in Europe. As you can see, we are on a hiring binge so we can expand into other markets, including the U.S. Eventually Accoya will be available in the U.S. (most likely through a licensee), but I can't say for sure on the timing.

The applications you mention are ideal. We have data from many years of testing in wet, outdoor environments, and Accoya is virtually immune to biological attack. (And as a matter of fact, when I move to Dallas I want to get a hold of some for some applications similar to those you mentioned).

On disposal, I think because of the near immunity to biological attack, I wouldn't guess that it would break down in a composter. Although composters get pretty hot, so I can't say that for certain as I doubt this has been tested. But the sawdust can definitely be burned, as it is non-toxic. The acetyl molecules that are in the wood are already naturally there, we just put a lot of more them in there.

The Dutch government is in the process of building two very heavy traffic bridges out of our wood instead of from steel.

But the sawdust can definitely be burned, as it is non-toxic.

Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "burning your bridges behind you," doesn't it?

Hello Robert,

I happened to come across your comment, "There is no green heaven, but a brown hell awaits if we don't start to come up with some solutions. I saw glimpses of it in India, and believe me, you don't want to fall that far."

If it doesn't take too much effort, could you elaborate on that? As a citizen of that country (although working and living in Singapore for the last decade), I am curious to know.

There is a lot of talk around here about collapse. I saw what life is like for people at the bottom of Indian society; those who struggle each day to live. They have no money or access to energy. I asked an Indian friend who was with me what happens to someone in the slums if they have a medical emergency. He said "If they have money, they live. If not, they die."

I don't think most people in the West can imagine such a hell, but I have seen it. And we certainly want to work hard to avoid such a collapse that ends up sending people into those kinds of conditions. Yet this is the sort of thing that many believe awaits if our society collapses when oil peaks. I am fighting against such a hell by working toward solutions.


I have being reading and enjoying yours and others posts on oil drum for more then a year now. What a great resource!

I have been thinking of making same career move, but did not know where to start.

I have education background in oil and gas processing equipment, but worked as a product design engineering lead for more then a decade now.(no one needed plant engineers in the nineties…). RAZR is just one of my product designs.

I would be more then willing to jump into something new and exiting in the field of alternative energy and fuels.

I work for Motorola and live in IL. Having family with kids, I would like to stay where I am. Consulting is also an option.

Is there anything in IL you could recommend?

All the best and good luck with your ventures!

My response to your e-mail (since I got an out of office auto-reply):

In Illinois, I think your options are going to come down to ethanol or coal gasification. Maybe some wind power stuff going on there as well. Not sure about solar, but I have seen solar plants popping up in some unlikely locations. Your background would seem like a good fit for the wind or solar industries.