DrumBeat: April 12, 2008

Gas is only the starter fluid: As cost of driving jumps, car-buying, vacation plans take a hit

PRINCETON, N.J. (MarketWatch) -- Owning a car is more expensive than ever. Record prices at the pump for gasoline -- and its main ingredient crude oil -- will lift the cost of driving to 54 cents per mile this year or an annual average of $8,121, according to a new report from the motorist group AAA.

"While the cost of some driving expenses declined since the start of 2007, higher gasoline prices have more than offset these savings and pushed the overall cost of vehicle ownership and operation higher this year," said John Nielson, director of AAA's Approved Auto Repair network

Gas prices set record, oil moves higher

NEW YORK - Gas and diesel pump prices jumped to yet another record Friday, piling on the costs for motorists as well as consumers reliant on trucks, trains and ships that deliver goods to market.

Kuwait's new refinery cost rises to $19b

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Kuwait's giant new Al Zour refinery could cost as much as $19bn, $5bn more than previously budgeted, as the country considers adding more units to the plant, a company official said yesterday.

Rapidly rising costs in the energy industry have hit projects worldwide and already delayed the start-up date for the 615,000 barrels per day Kuwait refinery by more than a year.

Oil firm, foes strike major deal

A Houston oil company has agreed to shut down its offshore oil production off Santa Barbara County decades early in exchange for approval this year to drill into untapped undersea reserves and cash in on the nation's record oil prices.

High diesel prices squeeze truckers

Gary, Ind. - Bob Campbell no longer idles his truck while he sleeps to keep the heat or air conditioning on: The fuel it burns is too valuable. "You either freeze or you burn up," he says with a shrug.

Still, he's getting by, which is more than Richard Wood, who's eating fried chicken near Mr. Campbell at the Flying J Truck Stop in Gary, Ind., can say.

Mr. Wood lost his truck last month when he could no longer afford the payments due to the spike in diesel prices. Now he's back to driving for a company.

Russian oil supply takes a dip

Russian oil supply in the first quarter of the year averaged 10 million barrels per day, a 90,000 bpd drop on the same period in 2007 and the first year-on-year fall this decade, the International Energy Aagency (IEA) said today.

Kudrin Says Russia's Economy Will Grow Faster on Oil

(Bloomberg) -- Russia's economy will expand faster than initially forecast this year, even as growth in the U.S. slows in the next two quarters, said Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

The Russian economy probably will grow 7.1 percent this year, compared with an earlier forecast of 6.5 percent, helped by high prices for oil, Russia's major export, Kudrin told reporters in Washington D.C., where he is attending meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Oil refining surplus may bring UK, US plant closure

DUBAI: Older oil refineries in Britain and the United States could soon face the threat of closure as a wave of new plants start up in Asia and the Middle East and flood the market with gasoline.

Oily Words

Clinton and Obama shade the truth as each claims to be tougher on oil companies than the other.

New Zealand: Increasing pain on the forecourt

Along with sunshine wages, higher transport and travel costs and community facilities that compare less than favourably with some other centres, the high cost of fuel in far-flung parts of the region is another debit on the ledger. Looked at pragmatically, the difference between $1.99 and $2 a litre petrol is, well, minimal adding less than $1 to the cost of filling even a large fuel tank. But symbolically, it's a biggie.

Govt policy shielding Kuwait economy from ‘swaying’ oil

KUWAIT CITY (KUNA): The conservative policy of the Kuwaiti government in dealing with the oil prices swinging, from 1992 to 2007, protected the state’s economy from the negative impact of such fluctuation, an economist said. Speaking on the findings of his PhD research, economy specialist Dr Anwar Al-Shryaan told KUNA that the Kuwaiti government’s policy was successful because it stabilized the oil price at $30 per barrel when estimating the state’s public expenses and incomes.

Mr. Gore you are robbing Peter, paying Paul

More people are expected to die of famine in Africa than imprinting a larger CO2 footprint. 'Al Gore Environmental policies' are aimed at 'Robbing Peter paying Paul.' Green based priorities are creating severe food shortages.

Monbiot piqued by peak oil planning

George Monbiot last night declared recent environmental developments as cause for great concern. In over twenty years of activism, he said that he had fought against becoming too pessimistic and had always thought that although Government rarely did much to tackle problems directly, he was comforted by the thought that should a ‘serious problem’ arise then the Government would work out what needed to be done and do it. No longer.

What appears to have pushed Monbiot over the edge is the Government’s lack of planning for the end of oil.

Calif. OKs think tank on global warming

LOS ANGELES - California will create a $600 million think tank to fight global warming, funded by a 25- or 30-cent surcharge on customers' electrical and gas bills, the state Public Utilities Commission has decided.

Market alone can't halt CO2 emissions: British climate official

PARIS (AFP) - A top British climate change official backed an embattled European Union scheme Friday to tax industrial carbon emissions, but also allowed for exceptions in highly competitive sectors.

Adair Turner, the newly-appointed head of Britain's Climate Change Committee, also expressed skepticism toward the reliance on industry-wide agreements and new technology favoured by the United States for reducing the greenhouse gases that drive global warning.

What is required to displace Heavy Trucks (and some Air Freight) in the USA ?

Ton-mile capacity is one issue, but speed and reliability is as important to get shippers to switch from road to rail. Until almost every shipper relocates to a rail spur, local and regional inter-modal service will allow "last mile" delivery by trucks.

ATM, I am looking at electrifying 65,000 of the 178,000 miles of US railroads, upgrading 25,000 miles with better signals, double tracks (or much enhanced single tracks) plus the almost 8,500 miles illustrated below.

CSX Railroad has proposed an upgrade on their East Coast Line, from Washington DC to Miami. Grade separated for 1,200 miles with 3 tracks (4 tracks from Richmond to DC).

Two tracks for regular freight operating at 60 to 79 mph, and one track (2 DC-Richmond) for passengers and express freight (low and medium density) at 100 to 110 mph.

This appeals to me for relative cost effectiveness and the ability to beat trucking for speed and reliability and even take some air modal share. At speeds above 125 mph, the ability to operate medium density freight and passenger trains on the same tracks diminishes.

I would open up and upgrade Amtrak's NorthEast Corridor (Washington DC to Boston) so it is not on the map of new tracks.

I have looked for what corridors in the USA could support enough traffic to justify "CSX" single tracks of semi-High Speed Rail. Passengers, freight or a combination. Vegetables and fruit would be major sources of freight for these lines.

Another 25,000 miles of railroads would be upgraded with double tracks, better signals and comparable upgrades, so express freight should operate at 50 to 60 mph when off one of the red lines.

I did not make a connection between Tuscon AZ and San Antonio TX, despite the heavy shipments of California fruits and vegetables to the East, because a section of 60 to 79 mph will not lead to excessive spoilage (much of this route is across flat desert). Not enough long distance passenger service either. (Most people will, IMHO, pay 2.5x as much to travel by air for distances of 1,000+ miles. And those that prefer rail will accept a stretch at lower speeds).

I would like constructive criticism on my choices, both those routes missed and "Why do you have one there ?"

Again, this is for both passengers and freight at 100 to 110 mph as a part of a roughly $400 billion electrified railroad upgrade (electrify 65,000 of 178,000 miles, 25,000 miles of double track or much enhanced single track and the below "CSX" type track).

I see speeds above 125 mph for passenger & package only service as a luxury that the USA should build "later".

If the economy of the USA alters as the system outlined is being built, adjustments can be made (I wonder about the two rail lines to Detroit myself, but they are also a connection to Ontario). And although I recognize the value of local production, I also see no practical way of supplying 5 different locally grown fruits and vegetables (dietary recommendation) to Northeast residents in February. And the fruit and vegetable capacity of California and Florida far exceeds local needs.

One of the roles of transportation is to transfer goods from areas of surplus to areas of shortage.

Once built, they should require relatively little maintenance for a half century or so.

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation,


Alan, have you got any idea of where the trade-off points between diesel trains and electrifying the track come in?
Obviously it is a moving target, depending on the price of diesel or synfuel or whatever vs the cost of the electric and installation, but there must be indicators of how dense traffic needs to be to make electrification worthwhile for any given traffic level.

Even though it is relatively inefficient I am wondering if non-electric trains running on synfuel of some sort might not be a better option than electrification for remote rural areas - I know that on some lines in the UK which are lightly used it is actually more fuel efficient to travel by car with a couple of people in it than to catch the train, so it is obviously horses for courses.

That is why I propose electrifying only 65,000 of 178,000 miles of US railroads. A difficult determination to make exactly without extensive knowledge of specific railroad operations. At $120/barrel, perhaps 4 trains/day might be break even (MANY variables !)

OTOH, there are operating savings to an all electrified railroad. No loco switching, no fuel storage & handling, no diesel maintenance.

After Phase I of electrifying 65,000 miles of main lines and heavy spur lines, I think that regions will switch to 100% electrification. West Coast first IMHO.

Best Hopes,


And as the discretionary side of the economy continues to implode, we are going to need the jobs.

QUITE true !

And investing in long lived energy efficient infrastructure rather than consumerism has many benefits for us and those that come after us.

Best Hopes for Making a Virtue of Necessity,


Yes, there will be plenty of work to do, but how will the people be paid?

We're looking at local currencies as the federal dollar likely implodes.

One interesting new development in locomotive power is the hybrid diesel/electric locomotive. GE has developed a main haul hybrid locomotive and Canadian manufacturer Railpower has a switching hybrid locomotive. Since most conventional diesel/electric locomotives are already essentially series hybrid vehicles without the batteries, the technology is pretty simple to add. Just replace the resistance banks currently used for dynamic braking with batteries. They usually put in smaller diesel generators, since the batteries contribute significantly to the power. Railpower also has developed a hybrid rubber-tired gantry crane for handling large shipping containers.

Hybrid switchers could become essentially the equivalent to a Chevy Volt with overnight battery re-charging stations, further reducing diesel fuel requirements and emissions. Also, by adding electrical overhead pickups, main haul hybrid locomotives could be flex-fuel vehicles, running as pure electric locomotives where electrical distribution allows for overhead lines and switching to their diesel generators where the lines aren’t economic.

Dave, if you get a chance check out an article in the current issue of 'The Railway' magazine in the UK on how "Green are the railways".

All types of railway locomotion are compared via thermal efficiency with some interesting conclusions, ie for passenger transport a diesel loco with coaching stock is deemed the most efficient.

Now I know why when in Berlin last year the DB were running regional services with diesel, double decker coaches, and driving unit on the end. All the advantages of multiple unit operation without a required loco run around at the turn around point but with all the efficiences of single loco operation.

Since living most of my life in the Mid West, I have seen a large number of track systems lay dead (not maintained) from years of back country motorcycle riding, and in every small town thru out the Mid West there are rail lines and sidings not used for decades. The Mid West was built on rail, Chicago a perfect example of underutilized track systems.

My question is, why is there a need to build new systems from scratch, when the ramp up time would be very short taking over the old systems and is the information available from the current rail companies as to where they are?

My grandfather worked as a switchman for 50 years on the Missouri Pacific Line out of Dupo Ill. He told me as a youth, "this country was built on Steel Rail and will always need the Trains".


With some minor exceptions, the red lines are on operating rail lines .

There are enough abandoned rail lines for the rest. The San Diego-Phoenix section would be built largely on abandoned or unused ROW for example.

I can see the reuse of abandoned rail lines on a large scale as spur lines. OTOH, only a few new main lines are needed.

Ownership and operation of the rail lines is an open question. I would prefer the existing railroads to own these "red lines" but with public trackage rights (just as any licensed airline can operate out of any airport) with regulated fees paid to the owner.#

An underlying theme is to build not "just enough" rail capacity, with frequent bottlenecks, but to overwhelm the demand with capacity. This is, IMHO, needed to beat truck speeds and capacity.

Best Hopes for Speed an Reliability,


# This is the new model in the EU, and it seems to be working reasonably well. French TGV trains on German tracks, Swiss trains on Italian tracks, etc.

Just read where Norfolk is demanding the US pay for
infrastructure out building, improvements.

When the US does this, then either Big Rail is
cut up into regional or the whole thing is nationalized.


This is similar to my philosophy on mass transit. If the goal is taking vehicles off the road (and reducing car ownership), then having every bus/train full (in order to maximize fares etc) is a failure. In order to be as convenient as a car, you have to run the nearly-empty seats at 3AM. If this requires automation or grade separation or quadruple-tracking or multiple unit cars, so be it, but it has to be available in order to replace cars. And ideally, so long as it's using high-efficiency electric motors, it should ENCOURAGE ridership, by not giving regular riders a per-ride fare to pay. DC Metro does not have a monthly unlimited-ride pass, and that frustrates me.

More liberal countries have mass transit systems that we can only dream of, and sometimes even do it free - IMO profit has been a somewhat corrupting influence over here(as compared to the heavily subsidized airports and roads). If a subsidized mass transit system costs 1 billion a year to run, and gets back 200 million in fares from 10 million riders(w/ the balance in subsidies) - we really need to look at what would happen if we reduces fares to zero. If 30 million riders still cost the same 1 billion dollars (no fare-collection inefficiency, much fuller seats, and a few vehicles added to peak times)... Somebody has to ask themselves - is increasing the budget by 25% and reducing the number of cars on the road worthy of attempting that course?

Alan, do you know of any systems that fit this description?

Toll roads (ones which are actually required to pay for themselves) can be quite unpopular. Tokyo has a giant, spectacular bridge/tunnel into the bay that remains little-used all day because of the $30 toll(which was reduced from $50(where the bridge was completely empty) after firing the guy that coordinates income estimates with traffic flow estimates, who made a $12B mistake) - free roads have the opposite effect. I posit that this effect is seen in transit as well, and that maximizing profit is a distinctly different course than trying to reduce traffic & car ownership.

I agree with a lot of what you're saying here -- I can never understand why people in LA constantly complain about traffic while at the same time the MTA has to raise fares because it is so underfunded. Make transit FREE and it could have a lot more impact on traffic.

No. Make transit FREE and it will become so infested with vagrants and gangbangers that no regular citizen will dare to ride it except maybe at the height of the rush hour, and maybe not even then. The Staten Island Railway has had problems of this sort for years, ever since they stopped collecting fares except at the ferry (last, northernmost stop). IIRC we discussed this issue here a week or two ago, in connection with one of the European cities.

What about a system similar to aircraft now?

Economy (near free), and Business (the bulk of the train), so that commuters can buy their way away from most of the vagrants.

The new Dubai Metro will have three car trains.

One for women and children, one "VIP" with leather seats and one Economy car.

AFAIK, the only "class" system Urban Rail.


It still leaves the problem of intimidation and muggings at the stations. And subsidized buses and railcars are a hellishly expensive way to provide free heat and A/C for the vagrants and gangbangers.

And anyway, with the cost of energy going ever upward, it seems very, very foolish to subsidize energy-intensive services, especially when the subsidized purpose - riding around and around for no reason at all - is no purpose at all.

In Sweden, sometimes the social services pay the bus fare for homeless people so they can ride a bus all night during winter.

Hello PaulS,
We have free buses here in Chapel Hill, NC. It's a college town so if every college student drove it would overwhelm the road system. The bus is free. There are all kinds of people that use the buses: Students and UNC workers, families with children, some homeless, mexican workers...perhaps because this is a small town that it works. Even grade school students use it. There is also a carrier for bikes so you can use your bike and take it with you. We have a good bicycle pathway system which is improving year to year. It works for us.

"...perhaps because this is a small town that it works. Even grade school students use it." Yes indeed.

In bigger places, many parents will not allow their grade school kids to walk anywhere on their own, much less use a city bus on their own, even though IMO the objective risk in the cases I see is much less than it was where and when I grew up doing things like that. But times have changed - these days, putting the kids on a city bus might almost be counted as reckless endangerment. Even if it doesn't earn a hostile visit from Social Services, it will draw the opprobrium of aunts and uncles, of friends and neighbors. So the kids get chauffeured to and from school, or, failing that, a parent (usually the mother, it seems) waits with them every morning at the school bus stop, and waits again every afternoon until the school bus arrives.

This may be a symptom of a larger issue as Mike M downthread posits, but all the same, it is what parents do. And, after all, once in a blue moon something bad does indeed happen. When it does, it's hyped up in scary bright yellow lettering on freeway signs, and retold endlessly in breathless TV reports, all across the entire country. Under those circumstances, and after more than 40 years of the "consumer" movement browbeating people and scaring them out of their wits about even the most utterly insignificant risks, parents will not be handling the issue differently anytime soon.

I lived in Austin Texas when they did a 1 year no fare experiment. generally considered a failure. Homeless rode to get free a/c and heat and napped in the back. Gangs of kids rode just to do something and were rowdy. "Choice" riders (those that owned a car) dropped.

Miami's gadgetbahn, the MetroMover, went fare free a few years ago with minimal problems. Perhaps because it is an elevated system connecting downtown office buildings.

Portland has a "fareless square" that seems to work OK, (some conflict with rowdy kids etc. riding and some related crime).

DC Metro does not have an unlimited ride pass because it would encourage more ridership and they are capacity limited. They want to allocate that capacity to the highest use (off peak fares are cheap, peak expensive).

My priorities would be a well built, well maintained and clean system first, and subsidized fares second. Targeted DEEP discounts for handicapped, elderly (off hours at least), children, disabled, those on food stamps, etc. is a better approach IMHO than broad based cheap to everyone.

New Orleans has free rides to all handicapped residents and school children going to school, and 60% discounts for elderly for example.


Seniors ride the Seoul subway for free. They go to the ticket window for a free ticket and the start of each ride. Seems like a good idea - driving in Seoul can be tough at any age, and it helps give seniors a little more independence and one less financial worry. It would be good to see the AARP and their non-American equivalents push for this; maybe they already are.

Alan It would seem to me that the issue of "muggings" and "rowdies" is a symptom of a bigger issue than the transportation of a "displaced car using society". I do think that as we move forward we need to seriously re-think why we need to move around so much. The whole notion of "Time is Money" seems to be at the root of much of this issue. I do think that a return to a more intergrated and improved rail system for the transport of required goods and services is needed. When the "Disaster Capitalists" see a way to make more money than they are currently making in places like Iraq, New Orleans, Atlanta, Sri Lanka, etc then you will see a return of the rails courtesy of KBR, Halliburton, CH2M Hill, Lockheed Martin, et al and they will use the same taxpayers money that have been using all along.

Check out the book The shock Doctrine by "Naomi Klein" to get a more complete picture of the way I see it developing.

Vouchers could always be provided to those that are too poor to afford the transport fares that they legitimately need. We do the same thing now with food stamps and other things. The vouchers could be configured to enable people to get where they really need to go, while not being enough to just give people with anti-social behavior issues unlimited free rides.

Alternatively, we could provide free passes to everyone subject to revocation for criminal, rowdy, other anti social behavior, or using the transit vehicle as a way of loitering.

Regardless, there are many people who are just offended by having to share any form of transportation with those who don't rise to their class standards. Taking the bus is just simply beneath most people as it is associated with the transit choice of the poor and non white.

If the goal is taking vehicles off the road (and reducing car ownership), then having every bus/train full (in order to maximize fares etc) is a failure. In order to be as convenient as a car, you have to run the nearly-empty seats at 3AM.

When push comes to shove and people have no choice, lives will be re-arranged to accommodate what the transport industry is capable of offering.

I have heard so many times the refrain, "Oh, but people are not going to be willing to give up their cars."

When having a car is simply no longer viable, they will be given up in spite of the inconvenience of using whatever the locally prevailing best option is.

In 1970, public buses had 4% of commuters in Washington DC,

Last year more people took public transit to work in DC than drove alone in their cars & SUVs. (Cars with 1 or more people still outnumber transit pax).

I use that as proof that people can be lured out of their cars by reasonably good (not great) Urban Rail.

Best Hopes for Better and More Urban Rail,



April 11, 2008, 2:23 pm
When Cheap Housing Isn’t: How Transportation Changes the Equation
Posted by Keith Johnson
Ana Campoy reports:

Ballooning gasoline prices aren’t just changing how people drive—they may soon change where people live. With gas stuck above $3.00 a gallon, those cheaper houses in the suburbs can be a money-losing proposition in the end. That’s one of the takeaways from the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, a new web tool created by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology together with The Brookings Institution. The map tool shows how much housing costs in neighborhoods in 52 U.S. metropolitan areas—and how much the total bill comes to when transportation costs are included.

Take Wilmer, Texas, a town about 16 miles south of downtown Dallas. Housing is cheap indeed: less than 20% of the area’s median income. But add in transportation costs and the bill skyrockets to just over 60% of median income. A neighborhood just north of downtown costs more in housing—34% of area income—but being near a light-rail line helps cut transportation costs to 12%. That makes the total monthly bill less than the suburbs.

I've recently noticed that in Asheville NC they have an Emergency Ride Home program.

The Emergency Ride Home (ERH) program provides commuters who regularly vanpool, carpool, bike, walk or take transit with a reliable ride home when life’s unexpected emergencies arise. Concerns about immediate transportation, in the event of an emergency or schedule conflict, often hinders commuters from using an alternative to driving alone.

This program will provide an “emergency ride home” to any registered participant in a case of emergency on the day the employee has used an alternative mode of transportation to get to work.

This program makes wonderfully good sense, and should be a real "winner" when it comes to encouraging people to consider alternatives to driving for their daily commute.

I am so impressed with this idea, I wish I could research it further and develop it into an article for TOD:Local, but I'm afraid I just don't have the time.

Subsidies are bad. The effect here in Sweden from subsidized mass transit and heavily taxed gasoline is that as oil has risen in price, the ticket price for mass transit has risen a lot faster than the gasoline at the pump, due to the leverage.

Assume fuel costs being 33%, wages 33% and capital costs (the buses and stations etc) 33%. Close enough to reality.

If the bus company get 75 SEK for every customer, and 25 SEK from the customer (roughly correct figures) and the price of diesel at the pump increases by 10%, but not the subsidy, then the bus company need to increase the ticket price by 3.3 SEK or 13.2%.

But the driver of a car has costs where fuel is only 20-25% of the total cost of the car per mile. A 10% increase in the cost of diesel (or gasoline) will only increase what he pays per mile by 2%.

So what has happened in Sweden as the fuel price has risen, is that the cost of mass transit has risen more than the price of gasoline. If a driver only looks at the cost of fuel, and ignores service, insurance, capital costs etc (which many do), they immediately see that mass transit has risen more than car fuel, so they stick to their cars.

Subsidized mass transit is doomed.

And anyway, the politicians does not want to pay more to mass transit. Sometimes they have "free mass transit day" here in Sweden, but they won't increase the number of busses, so you end up with a full bus and people being left at the bus stop, cursing. If it even stops, might just drive past unless someone is getting off.

I really don't see any solution, unless we see oil in four figures, which I belive we will eventually. But then the solution won't be mass transit, it will be massive unemployment so fewer people will go to work.

Unfortunately once a government subsidized transit system is implemented you are doomed to a high cost monopoly. Now that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco California, has a strangle hold on the Bay Area the union monopoly wants a total compensation per person of about $125,000 per year. This for train operators whose only job is to prevent the doors from trying to close if someone is standing in it. The trains were designed to run fully automated, but the union insists that thousands of employes are needed to keep it “safe”.
A monopoly by any other name is still a monopoly.

The reason they are striking for that much total compensation is that you need a salary that large to buy a house in Silicon Valley, or to rent an apartment for that matter. My sister ran an apartment complex ten years ago and she simply wouldn't rent to anybody that didn't have a family income of 65 thousand, which means a total compensation of 90 thousand, which is counting taxes and benefits. I understand that this seems high to you, but it really is expensive real estate around here.
The union isn't going to get the raise though. We're broke, we are running very large deficits statewide. Figure on a rollback in salaries as soon as house prices go back to normal.

You have touched on reasons why both government and corporate ownership and operation of toll goods does not work very well. The corporations just want to maximize profits, which means jam-packed mass transit during peak hours and no service at all when and where the riders are few. Governments tend to either pour in subsidies to the systems (resulting in better service when and where riders are few) but creating a black hole in their budgets, or they end up having to starve their systems in order to milk them for revenues to subsidize other projects and programs.

There is a better alternative, but to my knowledge it has rarely if ever been tried anywhere: public ownership of toll goods.

By public ownership, I mean that the toll good (mass transit system in this case) is owned and operated by a board of trustees, directly elected by the population of the service district and NOT appointed by the government. This point is crucial. Only by having the trustees b eing directly elected do you establish an effective feedback loop to assure that the right balance is maintained between fare prices and service extent and quality. If fares are rising too high, people have another alterntive than just driving their cars - they can vote for trustees that will run the system more efficiently and lower fares. If service quality is getting too poor and inconvenient, people have another alternative than just driving their cars - they can vote for trustees that will improve service quality, extend lines out to serve more people, and extend service schedules.

This is the only sure answer I know of to the problems you raise. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to make it happen. Obviously, corporations hate this and want everyone to think it is the most evil thing in the world. Less obviously, governments and politicians also hate this, because it reduces their power a little. The only ones that might like this are the ordinary people that have to continue to suffer, but we all know how much THEY (we) count.

There are enough abandoned rail lines for the rest. The San Diego-Phoenix section would be built largely on abandoned or unused ROW for example.

Don't know how familiar you are with the geography of southern California, but the history of rail into San Diego is fraught with problems trying to overcome what I may euphemistically call the elevation challenge. The easiest solution (for E-W) was to go through Mexico, and therein lay an additional challenge, especially if the US ever decides to build a truly secure border wall/fence.

As far as connecting California is concerned I doubt that the port of San Diego is that important (it is primarily a military asset.) Rather, connecting the agricultural output areas of the central valley, and perhaps the "inland empire", to the high speed network should take priority IMO.

Also, wonder if you have considered that one reason to continue the high speed rail from central AZ into west TX would be to handle the product going from the ports of LA/LB eastward? On any given day the string of Evergreen/Cosco containers going east is impressive.

I have limited knowledge of San Diego geography (never been there).

Going from Los Angeles to Phoenix was problematic, and San Diego has enough people to justify a link.

Union Pacific has an unused, but not abandoned, ROW from Yuma (CA border) to Phoenix. There is also (from memory) an abandoned RR ROW just north of the border (it may go south ?) out of San Diego.

Overall, I have budgeted over $100 billion (about $120) for about 8,500 miles. Thus the pressure to cut (a real world issue BTW).

I think that 60 to 79 mph transport through most of the West is doable (even when 100 mph freight service is available, many container shippers would prefer cheaper 60 mph service).

This is also true of many veggies and fruits that keep well. Onions and apples should not be expressed IMHO.

Would savings in time sensitives veggies pay the cost for 98% express travel vs. 75% express ? The passenger loads from LA to Houston and beyond would not be large, as long as flying is a higher cost option. So the economics would have to come from freight.

Would loads from California to Chicago go south or just head towards Kansas City at slower speeds ? Given the reduced miles from a direct route and the higher costs of higher speed (even @ 100 mph from LA to Chicago via San Antonio), most would take the shorter, slower route IMVHO. The fewer miles would reduce the time penalty.

Difficult questions, and perhaps delayed until Phase II.


One would think that Southern California with its roughly 20 million people would make for an excellent place to which to run high-ish speed rail, but the geographic challenges are large.

San Diego county is beautiful but the mountains are almost impassable even for autos, into the desert. There are only a couple of routes in and out of the county that handle all the traffic. The history of rail into San Diego is one of frustration - that is why today's major rail line follows the coast up into Orange county.

Here is the route that the San Diego and Arizona Eastern RR tried, going through Mexico:
In modern times the Metropolitan Transit District took over the remaining ROW (one of the few smart things they've done, IMO) and leases some of the capacity to a couple of small freight companies. To give you an idea of what you are dealing with, here is the Wikipedia photo of one small portion of the route:

Getting out of LA going east... you likely will need to follow the valley as created by the San Andreas fault (earthquakes be damned....), as in I-10 (through Riverside county). To go NE, as towards Vegas, one runs into mountain troubles again but there is a rail line that winds through the mountains - I've watched the trains meander slowly through the passages on my (driving) trips to Vegas (as the rail line is close to I-15 in some spots.)

Residents/businesses in SB, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernadino counties would have to use that one passage above.

So there you go, the irony of it all... a region of 20 million people, and thus a large need for transportation, but no obvious route out for high speed rail. Second irony - lots of sunshine (for solar generated electricity) but unlikely to find an electric rail road out of the place...

As for connecting the line all the way through to TX, I was not thinking so much about fresh produce but rather in servicing the needs of the Chinese companies whose ships land in LA or LB, and who wish to ship eastward to the mountain states.

I wonder if, as far as spending capital on electrifying rail, it would be better to concentrate on the portions of the US east of the Rockies initially, and let the Californians deal with building a regional network to get people/goods from SF to SD.

I wish I knew more of the topography of Southern CA (I may call some people involved in S Cal rail).

I note that the $60 billion California High Speed Rail project plans some large and long tunnels.

TBM driven tunnels have been decreasing in price by about 3%/year (inflation adjusted, i.e. flat costs in recent years).

Lower speeds allow smaller tunnels (and/or less fuel consumption).

Overall, I am budgeting about $14 million/mile. Some flat and easy stretches at $3 or $4 million/mile allow for more expensive sections.

BTW, there is an existing plan to double track and increase speeds to 110 mph from Los Angeles to San Diego just for "local" traffic. $4.2 billion for that section (2002 $).

If it was not such a high value market (freight and people) I would cut it from the list. Note that most of the "red lines" are east of the Mississippi.


Also, most of the containers from LA/Long Beach are heading east of the Mississippi River. The Panama Canal will be expanded in 2014 (new Pananmax ships = 2.5x old Panamax) and this will unclog a major bottleneck.


Only East of LA is there a fairly level passage through to the East side of the Sierra, Yuma and into Arizona. San Diego to Yuma is blocked by the Cuyamaca range, and everything north of Bakersfield is blocked by the much higher Sierra. I don't remember the elevation of the pass between San Diego and El Centro but it is probably 3500 ft or more. I think LA to Barstow, Yuma, then Gila Bend, and Mesa is the better path, then North to Phoenix and South to Tucson. East from Tuscon through to Albequerque should also be possible, but on the other side of Albequerque there is another range.

I grew up in San Diego and Tucson and have vivid memories of laboring uphill with the AC off and the windows open, and then enjoying the downhill half. There were always older cars stopped by the road with radiators billowing steam.

It's funny how we have isolated ourselves from the elements with climate control and high horsepower engines. With electric vehicles, even trains, we'll need to again recognize the immense amount of energy required to ascend mountains or to keep cool in the hot desert. Travel at night can be wonderful, as is travel by train.

Keep up your crusade for reviving train travel. It makes a lot of sense.


I think LA to Barstow, Yuma, then Gila Bend, and Mesa is the better path, then North to Phoenix and South to Tucson.

Why in the name of all that is holy would you go up over the hills to Barstow first when you have a nice flat (relative to the I5 corridor) straight line out along the I10 all the way to Florida?

Take her straight along/above/below the I10 from LA through San Berdoo, Palm Springs an on to the Arizona border. Hell, the way things are going you may not even need a bridge to cross the Colorado River.


Sorry, forgot about those hills. I only went that way a few times because we usually went by car between San Diego and Tucson.

Just out of curiousity, are the Sierras the main reason gasoline is so much more expensive in California? California isn't that much further from the Gulf than New England is, but our gas in the Northeast is a lot less than in CA.

FWIW, you can see some of the topography with Google Earth. Turn the thing down so you are looking from the side, and exaggerate the vertical scale a bit, and the mountains really show up well.


My brother's buddy contacted you via e-mail. My bro and I came from So Cal. He can give you some quick pointers. The line I pointed out in another post on this sub-thread is the most direct. The only reason I can think of to need so many tunnels is if they are planning on going through the high desert vs. the low desert. The only reason I can think of to do that is avoid riding along the San Andreas. But, you have to go over it no matter what you do, unless the terminal is well east of LA and then burrows through the mountains.

You could also go south through Orange County then loop down and over to the temecula area or north into Riverside... but both would likely require some tunneling.

Going due East from LA would require no tunnel I can think of unless you want to avoid any gradient at all and tunnel through the small rise at the Redlands/Yucaipa border.


I found a history of the San Diego and Arizona Railroad,


With several billion dollars, this section could be tunneled (and they did find an "All American" route, but more $), but the costs outweigh any advantages.

Best Hopes,


You talk about two levels of service - a premium (and faster service) for perishable stuff, and a standard service for stuff that doesn't need it. But isn't there additional cost in maintaining two different levels of service? What would be the extra cost in having just one level of service (at least in terms of the speed of the trains when going from one city to another)?

You could provide different levels of service at the switchyard. You could arrange things such that premium freight is unloaded first (perhaps putting all of the premium cars at the head of the train??).

Today's USA RRs have assorted capacity constraints, which prevent RRs from competing on speed and reliability with truck freight. And many cargoes cannot ship with today's RR speed and reliability.

Rule of thumb is that a single track with good sidings can handle 36 trains/day, double track 110 trains/day. Add 15% for electrification (faster acceleration & braking).

Look at the CSX proposal. 1,200 miles of grade separation. Three tracks, two regular, one high speed (two high speed trains, one N bound, the other S bound) can pass with one pulling over onto a slow track for several miles).

I think that one corridor could carry 100% of the East Coast rail and truck traffic without congestion. Perhaps 170 to 200 trains/day. Add a second corridor converging from the West and I have no doubts about capacity > demand.

CSX can reliably deliver cargoes at lower cost than trucks along the US East Coast (DC to Miami) and beyond to Boston with access to Amtrak's NEC (Note NEC congested at rush hour and needs some new tunnels under Baltimore and in Connecticut).

I see operational advantages more than disadvantages with the 3rd track being higher speed rather than a just interchangeable track (there are advantages the other way too).

Being able to cruise at 110 mph from, say, Charlotte to Atlanta or to Richmond/DC would attract passengers that 60 or 70 mph would not attract. Not as good as 180 mph, but still, IMHO, quite attractive vs. driving or flying.

And a dual use semi-high speed rail track can be justified by passengers PLUS express freight.

Best Hopes,


Supposing that your 110mph option was built, would it be possible to upgrade later to 180mph at any reasonable cost?

Otherwise the US will end up with a more or less permanently inferior and slower rail network to Europe - that may be the way it will go, but it would be nice to know if there are other options that could be utilised after we have got other energy sources up and running, assuming that we manage that without breakdown.


95% or so of US RR ROWs are 100' (30 m) wide. CSX proposes separating them enough (30' on one side from memory) that one track can be worked on and the other two kept open.

Only by violating that restriction can a 4th track be added to a 100' ROW. And expanding the radius of curves significantly means major ROW additions for curves.

Tilting trains add perhaps 30 mph (USA rail standard are different from EU and this # is not firm) at the price of much more expensive rolling stock (with higher maintenance as well).

I suspect that a Slow-Fast-Slow type upgrade would be possible, but with the number of express freights (SBB, SwissRail has designed special freight cars for 160 kph/100 mph service, not faster) fast A to B times will be "constrained".

Once established, express freights will not be dislodged (nor should they be).

There is a problem with physics and the "super elevation" (ramping) on curves for different weight/axle load cars with varying centers of gravity (pax has low center of gravity).

Upgrade tracks for 300 kph service and try to run freight on the same track (see under construction 44 km link between Spain & France) and it only works on straights or VERY large radius curves.

I can only see service above 140 mph (maybe 150 mph) on a separate track with mainly new ROW. I am not confident above 125 mph on the semi-HSR I have proposed with "reasonable" upgrades.

Best Hopes for One Day Cursing My Name for Clogging up All the Good ROWs with these Damm Slow 110 mph trains,


Our passenger service might be inferior, but our freight RR service would be the best in the world :-)


What is the difference between high speed track and low speed track?
How is the track used by bullet trains like Shinkansen different from regular tracks?

Besides tie spacing and methods of affixing rail to maintain precise gauge (I am NOT an expert here), the biggest issue is super elevation. This is how much the outboard rail is raised above the inboard rail and angled away from horizontal.

Heavy freight cars with high center of gravity will derail on HSR track curves and their high super elevations.

HSR can handle MUCH steeper grades than freight rail (Frankfurt-Koln has 4% grades for example) and regular freight likes grades no more than 1.2% and begins to fail below 2% (all sorts of issues in those #s, extreme cases can handle almost 3%). Being able to handle terrain without digging or elevating is a cost saver for HSR.

HSR requires MUCH larger radius curves than freight rail.

Coal trains and the like beat the rail and rail bed severely and make it unsuitable for high speed rail. Those my caveat of light and medium density express freight.

Hopes that Helps,


BTW, mixed use is possible, as long as extremely large radius curves are used. Mixed freight and HSR on Frankfurt-Koln required

* maximum grade of 1.25% (occasionally 2.0%)
* curves with small superelevation and minimum radii of 4,800 m to 7,000 m
* maximum line speed of 250 to 300 km/h

HSR only required

* maximum grade : 4.0%
* minimum radius : 3,350 m
* maximum speed : 300 km/h (186 mph)

Building for mixed use costs significantly more if there are many curves required and/or in hilly terrain.

EU axle loads for freight are slightly over half of US axle loads and the EU does not (AFAIK) run double stack containers (higher center of gravity). USA figures for mixed freight & HSR would be more extreme.


My solution is to build "improved freight" quality tracks and run at lower, but still fast, speeds. 110 mph leaves a small cushion (as does excluding high density/high axle load freight), 125 mph pax service appears to be about the limit for economical mixed use IMHO.

The main difference is the turning radius of the tracks, the straight forward parts are the same. To have different speeds you need enough parallell tracks and thus it becomes a right of way isses. Make the straight parts wide enough, buy areas for wide curves when it is cheap and plan for building new parts with greater turning radius.

Large turning radius and low steepness of the track are cost drivers since they drive the ammont of cuts and embankments, tunnels and bridges and also makes it harder to round obstacles and NIMBY areas.

High speed railways for light trains like passanger only trains can accept steeper tracks by using stronger engines and accepting a slow down travelling upwards and this can save significant money. This has been used in France but the intrest of using it in Sweden where we only can afford to build high speed rail in small increments is low since most of the tracs will carry some cargo traffic or be backup for cargo carring tracs. One non high speed example for this kind of trade off is the new commuter train station in central Stockholm that has started building for wich the new commuter trains has gotten stronger engines to make it easier to thread the train tunnels thru the swiss cheese bedrock in central Stockholm.

The central question for high speed passanger rail in the US is probably your economical strenght in about 2015-2035. You ought to be able to afford all new high speed rail lines, incremental improvements in your current infrastructure should help this since it is good for your economy.

One thing to remember Magnus is that US rail axle loads are extreme and we ship double stack containers, which makes the center of gravity higher.

Do not underestimate the issues of super elevation (Swedish tilting trains were invented to compensate for low super elevations of freight track).

Best Hopes,


Double stacking would not be a good idea on our electrified railways ;-) But we have a slowly moving project to enlarge the free space to handle a 3,6 x 3,6 m containers, the pioneer customer were Stora-Enso oversize paper containers.

I should have thought about it since specialized wagons for outsize heavy cargo like high voltage transformers use a system for sideways displacement of the load to handle the elevation in curves and obstacels on one side. I read some more about them when one such wagon capsized this winter wreacking itself and a very big transformer.

Alan, your California route looks like it runs: San Francisco > Bakersfield > L.A. > San Diego. Is this right? What about the central valley (Sacramento to Bakersfield), or are you classifying this an upgrade case like the northeast corridor?

I ALMOST included a spur from San Jose to Sacramento, but thought the cost for the few saved minutes perhaps not worth it. That is an expensive and built up area. Even 100 mph service requires a wider buffer zone (180 mph even more).

These are straight lines between urban areas, so subtleties of routing may not show. I foresee vegetables being trucked (smaller trucks) from field to central depot on rail siding. Two, three, or four times/day during harvest a small loco comes by and picks up full refrigerated rail cars, which are brought to a switchyard. And every few hours a refrigerated unit train leaves the switchyard (high value means that trains can be as short as 20 and 30 cars, but longer is better).

Should that unit train leave on 60 or 110 mph tracks ?

How far till the unit train reaches the semi-HSR tracks is part of the equation, and I do not know the California tracks well enough.

Let me investigate.

But I hope that this illustrates my thought process.


I also see no practical way of supplying 5 different locally grown fruits and vegetables (dietary recommendation) to Northeast residents in February. And the fruit and vegetable capacity of California and Florida far exceeds local needs.

I wonder what the tipping point for large scale greenhousing becomes feasible? Eastern NC, the DelMarVa peninsula and Southern NJ all have lots of open space, good soil, and relative proximity to large eastern markets. Being close to the ocean, none of them has terribly harsh winters. NC has a hurricane problem, but AFAIK, NJ and the DelMarVa have never had a direct hit.

Florida could benefit from ocean transport, as it's the cheapest way to move things, and would only be slower than trucks to the Northeast market by a day. California may have a real problem. The Imperial Valley is a natural desert, but is only productive through massive irrigation.

Anyone remember how to store food in Mason jars? My mom did it in the 60's and 70's. Maybe it will make a comeback. . .

Well, some of us still can food. Besides vegetables and fruit juice-we have a juice press-(hot water bath canning mostly) we also can meats (pressure canning). However, it's clear a lot of people have stopped canning. A neighbor offered us a lot of canning jars from his mom and we were the only people he knew who still canned. Interestingly, our local, boondocks store still carries canning supplies.

We also dehydrate and freeze vegetables. Our dehydrator holds 2 bushels of stuff and we'll have close to 40 cubic feet of freezer space once we get our small freezer back from my MIL.


My wife & I have been canning food for 30+ years. Maintaining constant pressure in a pressure canner on a woodburning stove requires practice & attention. We eat virtually no meat (turkey on T'giving or a goose for Yule, some years) so do not can it. Giving up meat is one of the best things you can do, for your health & for the environment. We do eat eggs from our own hens, but do not keep a rooster. In the past we had dairy goats but no longer. Dehydrating food is a good way to preserve it, but you really should use the sun rather than an electric food dryer. Freezing food is not a good way of preserving it. Freezers use electricity & food may spoil during a power outage. We do have a small freezer inside the refrigerator but when the compressor on the big chest freezer died we decided not to replace it. I applaud your food preservation efforts. You could gain even more efficiency by giving up meat & by reducing your reliance on electricity.

I do a lot of canning (both hot water pack and pressure), and am planning to do a lot more. I suppose it is a lot of work, given how cheap one can buy a can of whatever at the store. Of course, if those prices in the store suddenly go through the roof, or if the cans are simply not available on the store shelves any more, that is a different matter. Sure, one can stockpile, but then what do you do when the stockpile is used up? By growing your own food and canning it, you establish a sustainable system. (Well, you might need to stockpile canning lids, but that is a much smaller propsition.)

Haven't really tried juice, seems like a lot of trouble for something that is, after all, mostly water. If I had more land with more production, and more time, then I could see the sense of it.

I don't have a freezer, so I do very limited freezing. I can't see the wisdom of buying a separate freezer unless one is already set up with PV or wind so that they can stay up even when the grid is down.

I do a little cold storage, but unfortunately I don't have a proper root cellar. I'm going to try to improvise burying some insulated containers along the north side of the house. I might try using a "clamp" to store some potatoes in the garden next winter. Some vegies (parsnips, carrots, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, kale & collards, chard) will winter over in the garden with a heavy mulch protection or cold frame over them. I might see how long I can keep lettuce and spinach going under a cold frame as well.

Dehydration and salting/anaerobic lacto-fermentation are next on the to do list.

An adequately insulated submerged root cellar (dirt is cheap) is amazingly fun to design, because you can use lots of different materials, and it can even be used as a refrigerator or freezer if you rip out the circuitry/compressor from one and build it right. The sky's the limit (or at least, the lawn).

"Staying up" isn't the same as "staying cold." Freeze a swimming pool half-full of ice with the right circuitry, plop a platform down to keep things in, cover it and insulate it adequately, and you can run it off minimal renewables without needing constant power, because it won't melt for weeks or months.

Abandon Norfolk to Jacksonville line because of
Intracoastal Waterway.

Huh ?

14 mph is pushing it for barges.

I cannot see people taking a week to get to from Miami to DC, and Florida produce will spoil at those speeds,

And besides, barges burn diesel and trains can "burn" renewable electricity.


Barges take all non perishables/bulk. As efficient as trains. Then trains on trunklines. Then trucks/mules.

No exceptions. Except for people and what they can carry
with them.

Sail will make a comeback.

And Florida's Coastline will disappear to 25 miles inland.
Like NOLA.

On a 20 year timeline.

And truck is always the last leg. Once something gets on a truck it doesn't go back.

Perishables will only be for the wealthy anyway. Or
to transport within, say, 120 Klicks.

I don't think "speed" is the sine quo non here, IMHO.

Electricity will be found to be non renewable.

Wind/Solar Farms, maybe produce 5%.

I do like your grid from a geo political viewpoint.

Thank you for responding. Geaux NOLAGC!

Barges currently run on diesel, but might be converted to emulsified coal (emulsified in water or something burnable) with a decade + changeover.

Barges, and to a lesser extent railroads, suffer from circuity. That is the distance traveled from A to B is longer than a straight line between those points. And barges are EXTREMELY fuel efficient coming down-river, less so going upriver. Slack water in between. Some barges come down-river on the Mississippi and then take the slack water return trip back via the Tenn-Tom Canal to save on fuel during the spring (when currents are higher).


Good map of Lower Mississippi waterways.

Switching freight from truck to electrified rail trades 17 to 20 BTUs of diesel for 1 BTU of electricity (perhaps 3 BTUs for express service).

Switching from electrified rail to diesel barges might trade (it varies) 2 to 5 BTUs of electricity for 1 BTU of diesel.

Speed does have value.

My approach is less forcing people out of oil burning modes and more about creating a superior non-oil transportation alternative.

Where the economic benefits drive the transfer and "non-oil" is just a nice extra to the user.

Just my approach,


I don't think transporting most of the NE's vegetables would be at all necessary - or wise, given California's growing water constraints. The California to NE route essentially amounts to transporting tons of water from a dry, water limited place to a wet one. Far better to combine this with a system of widespread gardening and local farming and produce most of the Northeast's winter produce there.

Fresh greens can be fairly easily produced without supplemental heat in hoop houses - the only really unsustainable components being 8 mil plastic or something similar that has to be replaced every 5-10 years. Double layered with spun floating row covers, fresh salad greens, collards, kale, scallions, etc... Add in root cellared (could be done in large scale dug cold storage) cabbage, apples, potatoes, onions, turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac, etc..., forced turnip and beet greens, carrots and parsnips mulched and kept in the ground, sprouting seeds and locally/home preserved food, and you've got it covered. The problem will be enabling people to make such a radical dietary change - one of the reasons I consistently argue that agricultural changes have to follow dietary ones. Moderate transport, perhaps by ship, of citrus and bananas from Florida could supplement this.


"The problem will be enabling people to make such a radical dietary change - one of the reasons I consistently argue that agricultural changes have to follow dietary ones. Moderate transport, perhaps by ship, of citrus and bananas from Florida could supplement this."

Spot on.

Love your work.


grain/fiber production will move from mule/truck to
barge to rail (or seagoing sail).

You know Sharon, five years ago I was right with you. I live in the northeast and have a solar greenhouse for supposedly year round food production. Since then I've concluded the problems are insurmountable, namely:

1. Climate change/unpredictablility. This winter has been unbelievable. Record snow levels that still haven't dissipated. Normally I would have plenty of spring greens by now but due to record cold and snow in March I don't have much at all right now and my garden still is covered with snow. Whether this is due to man-made global warming or not things certainly are getting screwed up.

2. Overpopulation. There are just way too many people to feed by local food production even if everything were going right, which it isn't. Obviously, our population problem isn't going to be solved by voluntary birth control measures, wouldn't you agree?

3. Widespread apathy/indifference. Most people I am acquainted with don't have any intention of learning to grow and preserve their own food, let alone cut and spit their own fire wood, compost their own humanure, or any of their other countless activities they would need to engage in a post-petroleum world.

We all have a lot to learn. We live in a small town in in eastern Massachusetts and there are just a handful of "farmers" left, but most are retired or part time. But we've seen a groundswell of newcomers who want to learn how to be more self sufficient. Building community skills seems better than individual ones or giving up. I've come to think that the apathetic ones will either change or leave, if the worst happens. Shoving global warming or peak oil down people's throats doesn't work too well, but consistency and patience might work.

And without being religious or sappy, faith and hope seem to have a place here.

How do we transition from being in the fringe to mainstream? Maybe through books? Sharon, your writings are wonderful. I know it's hard to do, but I hope you're writing a book or two in your copious free time while farming and raising a family.


- the only really unsustainable components being 8 mil plastic or something similar that has to be replaced every 5-10 years.

I'm lucky to get 3-4 years out of the 6 mil UV treated PE sheeting I cover the hoophouse with. Untreated PE won't even last a single growing season. Where are we going to get polyethylene sheeting in the years to come? This might be a good thing to consider stockpiling.

Elliot Coleman (author of Four Season Harvest would disagree. He grows and sells a wide range of stuff year round in New England. Salad greens, cabages, broccoli & caulifower, kale & collards, spinach, chard, other potherbs, root vegies all can be grown and made available fresh during the winter. Winter squashes & onoins can be stored and sold throughout the winter as well. Lots of good eating there.

Apples can be stored & sold fresh throughout most of the winter as well, although they do tend to start looking not so good by late winter. That's the time to crak open the applesauce and canned apples for baking!

As far as greenhouse production goes, protection from frost is only part of it, and that alone does little more for you than simple cold frames. The other big issue is sunlight -- there is simply too little of it to ripen most summertime crops in the wintertime. So what you would need to grow summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squashes, cukes, sweet corn & green beans are not only greenhouses, but greenhouses that also have artificial lighting. Now you are really talking expense and much higher energy inputs. Compare that with the expense and energy inputs of transport from Florida and I'm not sure that it is worth trying. Of course, tomatoes & corn can be canned or dried, peppers canned or frozen (ditto with summer squash, but mainly good only in casserole recipes), cukes pickled. Green beans can be canned or dried or frozen or even salted. Most local fruits really must be fresh on a seasonal basis only, and then it is canned or frozen (or in a few cases dehydrated) the rest of the year. Citrus from Florida makes a nice change from that, and should continue if at all possible.

Thus, in summary, it is quite feasible for people living anywhere in the northeast (or really anwhere north of Florida for that matter) to have at least 4-5 servings per day or more just of locally grown fresh vegetables, plus a local fresh or canned apple or two a day, plus several servings of canned or frozen or dehydrated local vegies or fruits. All this without even resorting to a serving of Florida citrus, which would be a nice "icing on the cake" so to speak. From a purely nutritional point of view, there is no real need to transport in anything except Florida citrus during the winter months.

Anyone remember how to store food in Mason jars?

Yup. Wisconsin Aluminum foundry makes a gasket-less pressure cooker.

The local Goodwill sells the empty jars at $.99 cents (do the math VS new jars)

You must have a line between either Dallas to KC,
or Dallas to StL.

Any node thru So LA must go N of Lake Ponchartrain.

Or be column elevated.

Forget Florida.

"Latest delay of Boeing 787 pushes back first delivery to third quarter of 2009
By Dominic Gates

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing now expects to deliver the 787 Dreamliner between 14 and 16 months late — yet industry analysts greeted the plan as good news, saying the company Tuesday finally gave them a schedule they could believe."

I believe not.

I had a Dallas-Ft. Worth > OKC > Tulsa > Kansas City connector, but I erased it. I cannot see enough people or express freight to make it worth doing faster than 60 to 70 mph. The travel market is not large enough for people to justify semi-HSR. What freight do you see ?

New Orleans has a double track, unlimited capacity RR bridge over the Mississippi River. Once the busiest RR bridge in the world (perhaps it still is). Replacement cost ? Perhaps $10 billion.

New Orleans is also served by 6 of the 7 Class I RRs in North America, so it is a natural rail transfer point (including regular to semi-HSR rail).

New Orleans is also the closest Gulf port to the Panama Canal, so container etc. traffic should expand when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014.


Any of the lower elavation spots need to be looked at for the possibility of being underwater in about 10 years or so? Florida will be half the size? What about the LA Gulf basin?


As we still have houses in Jacksonville and my inlaws have homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, I thought it would be prudent to have a look at the effects of sea level rise on the map at the University of Arizona (sorry lost the link, SE it). Our historical house in Jax will fare well - there was a reason they built on high ground in the old days. (Take a hint developers, ever seen Plantation, FL? gurgle, gurgle).

With 3m sea level rise the east coast of Florida turns into "Key Daytona". Ft. Lauderdale returns to the brackish marshland it was always meant to be. The Keys will once again be a great diving location with all the interesting structures underwater. "Look Bob, Hemingway's house! Let's swim down the street to Sloppy Joes."

Note about the Intracostal from Norfolk to Jax, ever try it even in a pleasure boat? I can't see bidirectional barge traffic managing that waterway too well.

I think you are conflating, will have emitted enough CO2 to be committed to X amount of sea level rise after Y years, with in Y years we will have sea level rise of X. The later is not true, as the ice caps will take hundreds of years to adjust to the hotter climate. Currently IIRC sea level rise is about 4mm/year, which is about an inch and a half per decade. Of course that rate is likely to increase, but the land won't be disappearing all that rapidly.

...sea level rise is about 4mm/year, which is about an inch and a half per decade. Of course that rate is likely to increase, but the land won't be disappearing all that rapidly.

Baring collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, that is.

The best parts of Florida are the parts that are already underwater, I'm figuring to get some plankton nets to drag behind my kayak to supplement my diet ;-)

I've got to go. I'll reply to this though. And later.

There's entirely too much traffic from Dallas thru
KC/StL/Memphis to ignore. See the NAFTA Corridor for ex.

And NOLA will have to move. It becomes more vulnerable by the day.

The Bridge over Bay St Louis for ex.

Best regards,

I looked again at an extension from Dallas to Okla City > Tulsa > Kansas City > St Louis.

The distance from San Antonio to St. Louis would be about 100 miles shorter than SA > StL via New Orleans. OKC and Tulsa are not major cities, so this is a toss-up as to whether it is worth while. Marginal or Phase II at best.


"The distance from San Antonio to St. Louis would be about 100 miles shorter than SA > StL via New Orleans."

At the very least you're creating a bottleneck thru
the increasingly vulnerable NOLA.

"OKC and Tulsa are not major cities,..."

But they are major commodity producers (oil/gas).

And the area controlled by Dallas/KC/StL/Memphis
is a key commodity producing/freight moving area.

And the key, IMHO, for the future will be reliant, steady,
constant flow, not speed and power.

But any advanced tech, like electric trains, will
be used to facilitate this commodity movement.

Or your electric train grid will not be viable.

More if wanted.

Again. Thank you for your reply. I think your grid
points out the fracturing pullback of our system, BTW.

Best, Always,

The "red lines" are NOT the totality of the electrified rail grid, but the premium semi-High Speed minority (perhaps 13% of all electrified lines) of the electrified system (as I wrote above).

About 8,500 miles out of 65,000 electrified rail miles would offer premium, higher speed service.

And electrified trains are hardly "advanced tech". San Antonio shut down an local electrified line to Pearl Brewery a decade ago and donated a 1907 electric locomotive to a museum. All railroads in Switzerland are electrified except one tourist line.

Partially for passengers, partially for express freight (mail, packages, fish, fruit & vegetables, priority inventory).

Commodities do not need premium service, 60 mph service is more than "good enough".

In order to attract freight from trucking, I believe that railroads have to meet or beat trucking speed and reliability. That means excess RR capacity (with alternative routes, see 65K miles electrified) so that congestion rarely if ever slows down shipments as well as some limited premium service.

The idea of major cities having several inter-modal centers and very short trains shuttling from the central switch yard to the dispersed inter-modal facilities is a good one.

Best Hopes,


Don't get me wrong, Alan.

No one wants you to succeed more than I do.

And I did realize that Your grid was/is "step up".

Entirely doable.

"In order to attract freight from trucking, I believe that railroads have to meet or beat trucking speed and reliability. "

My uncle loves to tell of how bread was delivered from Little Rock changed over at a hub and delivered to our small town
80 miles away by 7:30AM daily.

We've just got to change personnel and their mental paradigm to return to that.

Best Always,


Slightly off topic, but this new book may be a useful resource.

Transport Revolutions by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl.

The complete Chapter One -- I have only skimmed this but look forward to reading in full. It is an excellent historical review of cases when enormous and rapid shifts occurred in transportation patterns and mode share.

Presentation PDF: Transport Revolutions in Calgary's Future

Transport revolutions that can address future oil depletion include:

GREATER use of electric motors rather than internal combustion engines
GREATER use of rail and water rather than road and air
GREATER use of collectively managed rather than personally managed transport

Presentation PDF: Preparing Transport for Oil Depletion: Focus on U.S. and China

From the book description:

Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil sets out challenges to industrialized societies growing dependence on transport fuelled by low-priced oil. One challenge is the possible imminence of the peak in world oil production. ...

The high oil prices in particular could give rise to two or more revolutions in land transport during the first half of the 21st century. One would involve the replacement of internal combustion engines by electric motors. Another would involve widespread powering of these motors directly from the electric grid rather than from on-board fuel. Together, and with necessary organizational innovations, these transformations would allow considerable movement of people and freight by land in an era of severe energy constraints and concerns about carbon emissions.

Marine transport and aviation will be constrained by continued dependence on portable fuels. Movement by water can be assisted by wind, but there is no such relief for movement by air, which could require profound transformation to ensure commercial viability. ...

We conclude that 2008 and 2009 could be pivotal years in preparing transport for the era of oil depletion, the many decades after about 2012 when world oil production could well decline gradually and unavoidably. ... Transport revolutions should be well under way by 2025, but far from complete.

I am suprised you do not have an East Coast-West Coast connection for your 100-110mph system. My estimate is that 100-110mph will only save about 9 hours in travel time from San Francisco to Kansas City over a 60-79mph system. However the savings in time might be larger depending on the difficulty in tranfering freight between the two speed regimes. When I travel Interstate 80 the traffic in heavy trucks appears heavy enough to justify rail upgrades and this system may attract traffic presently on other east-west Interstates.

Electrification costs and rail upgrade costs are outside my expertise and may outweigh potential savings.

Mountains in the way will escalate costs dramatically. The faster the train, the wider the radius of the turns. Quite an issue in rugged mountains.

Only the Gadson Purchase (Southern 1/4th of Arizona) avoids major tunnels, twisty routes, etc. Which is precisely why the USA bought that section of land from Mexico.

Also, true high speed rail (180 mph) is not attracting significant market share for trips of 500+ miles in the EU or Japan today. The Brits rarely travel to Spain via Chunnel and TGV. Likewise Berliners and Italy.

If experience shows that "things have changed", then a Phase II may be in order. Connecting Tuscon to San Antonio seems to be the most cost effective first link. Shorter and over good terrain.


You are probably correct about the cost and Tucson to San Antonio being a better route. My observations are further north and may not apply to a wider area.

My last trip along HWY 30 in western Iowa paralleled a rail line and those trains weren't going anywhere near 60 mph that day. I do know that some of the loss of freight from rail to trucks 40 years or so ago was because of excessive delays from the trains.

Your ideas about electrified rail to replace heavy trucks is one of the few bright spots I see in an environment of potential fuel shortages and of higher fuel prices.

The biggest cause of "slow orders" on track is deferred maintenance/track quality. Primitive signals can also slow trains.

Shunting to sidings for bi-directional travel on single tracks is another.

Besides the 8,500 miles of 110 mph service, I also plan 25,000 miles of improved double track (or very high quality single track). Almost all of these 25K miles would be capable of at least 60 mph and much of it 79 mph (unlike today).

Over 100,000 miles of US railroads would not be electrified or improved in any way (other than no more deferred maintenance). Later, as demand and resources allow, more could be done. And more abandoned rail lines reopened, etc.

I am trying to be practical and see what is needed to transfer about 85% of truck ton-miles to rail. Ed Tennyson came up with a less aggressive plan that he thought could displace 67% of trucks for $250 billion (no 110 mph service among other differences with my plan).

BTW, Tilting trains can run at higher speeds over tight curves, but there are other issues (meeting US safety regs with tilting is not easy, rolling stock becomes much more expensive, etc.)

There are "fuzzy edges" to these plans, it is difficult to do everything exactly and optimally while facing an uncertain future.

I wanted to give a general cost (and rough time schedule) for making a fundamental transition to Non-Oil Transportation. Hopefully a worthwhile addition to the debate.

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

Also, true high speed rail (180 mph) is not attracting significant market share for trips of 500+ miles in the EU or Japan today. The Brits rarely travel to Spain via Chunnel and TGV. Likewise Berliners and Italy.

Rising fuel costs impacting aviation should alter that, and provide the incentive for a large build of high-speed rail in Europe to improve international connections.

The thing is, though, that one alternative to increasingly expensive airlines for long distance trips is to simply not take the trip. Thus long-distance high speed rail is not just competing against airlines, it is also competing against not taking the trip at all. That is a tough competition to win.

A bit of both, I would have thought. If air fares are too expensive, then those who have the cash for a holiday are likely to make use of the excellent French TGV, and holiday closer to home - there is then huge incentive for the Italians and Spanish to improve their links.

France is also one of the few places that will be able to make sure that the electricity is on, so I would see it becoming an even more popular holiday destination, whilst places like Turkey, Croatia and Bulgaria loose a heck of a lot of business.

Of course, if we do suffer a massive financial collapse then none of this would apply.

Several comments from former RR employee that worked in midwest, TX and California:

1. Much produce is grown on irrigated land in TX and northern Mexico and shipped to midwest. This has been going on since the 1930's when RRs introduced refrigerated cars using block ice for cooling. Today I bought organic tomatos grown in TX and they probably came to St Louis by truck.

Friend that works for BNSF says they run 40 or more freight trains per day from TX to KC, STL and Chicago. UP RR runs another 40 or so per day so combined traffic is at least 80 trains per day (40 each way). Add in new traffic shifted from trucks and you get 60 each way per day and could go on three different routes through Oklahoma City, OK, McCalister, OK and Little Rock, Arkansas.

2. We don't need sidings at ever industry, but we do need intermodal yards at several locations, maybe three to eight, in each metro area so that trucks can be marshalled at several points and not have them going across every city adding to traffic, pollution, expense. These several intermodal yards could then assemble a short train which would pick up more cars at a second yard then head to the next major city.

3. Intercity passenger trains need not travel faster than 110 mph max (80mph average)to attract people from their cars. Some short distance corridors can justify 135 mph or 150mph trains where passenger volume is huge, but these require great investments so only apply in maybe 12 or 15 corridors in the US.

4.Any corridor that has more than 10 or 12 freight trains and 6 to 8 passenger trains should be electrified. I think your milage figure of 65,000 is about right. As more lines are electrified the cost per mile will come down as parts are mass produced and companies compete for the construction contracts. Over a ten year period this program could easily provide 1 million good paying new jobs. We should be spending at least $50 billion per year on this program of electrifying our RRs and building new rail transit.

I see 4 cities in Louisiana linked to the network but none in Mississippi or Arkansas. Gee I wonder where you're from.

The four cities along they Louisiana coast were to prevent the line from crossing too much water. A limitation of the software used. It will draw straight lines between designated cities/airports and compute the straight-line miles. I added a rough guess on circuity depending upon terrain.


OTOH, there is not too much in Arkansas or Mississippi to either originate express freight or passengers or as a destination for either.

I do not consider gambling (a major industry in MS) to be worth long term capital investment to attract gamblers. So neither Las Vegas or the Casino Coast (or Atlantic City) got new rail lines.


Just one recommendation/observation:

Why not a DC-Baltimore-Wilmington (DEL)-New York City-Boston line? The region from Norfolk, VA to Boston on the east coast is a 2 trillion per annum economy. I think it would benefit from an interlinking line of the type you're proposing.

Of course I have zero expertise in rail so I leave the question to you.



That line already exists :-), the one major line Amtrak owns, the NorthEast Corridor or NEC.

Electrified from Boston to Washington DC (you missed Philadelphia), with almost high speed rail (150 mph), Acela.

I think Acela was poorly engineered, and the tracks could certainly be improved in places, but it is not on the map because it already exists. Good catch though.

Best Hopes,


Ah! I should have known better! I've ridden the Acela! So they're able to mix cargo transport on that line as well?

Also, something I wanted to mention... I know it's off topic. Please forgive me Alan, but I thought it was an important bit of news if you guys haven't seen it yet:

From the IEA...


"Global oil supply fell by 100 kb/d in March to 87.3 mb/d, led by lower supplies last month from OPEC, the North Sea and non-OPEC Africa."

This has got to be monumental. The world is scrambling to produce every liquid an engine or generator can burn. Prices are as high or higher than they ever were. Demand is still pushing forward. And the IEA reports a supply backslide?

Better get those electric lines up, Alan. With the way things are going, we'll probably need them sooner rather than later.

I doubt Alan does. Stupid game. I like badminton.

Ever play football? or soccer? or chess? Or 'Call of Duty 4'? What game will satisfy you?

Baseball. How bout 'Hunt for IED's in Anbar Province'? WTF, dude?

Let's play another game.

What province is Ramadi located in?

Double or nothing?

Who's the 7th biggest producer in OPEC?

Working on another ban OilCEO?

Never even heard of it. Interesting concept.

However, I prefer to play with the rules set by reality :=)

Best Hopes,


Oh well, your post made me think of it.

Fun game BTW

Going though Mobile between NOLA and Atlanta instead of Birmingham might make more sense.
I think Mobile might be a top 10 US port once they open their containerized cargo port.

You may consider moving the Atlanta to Chicago line approx 100 miles west to include the large Norfolk Southern railyard in Chattanooga and to better avoid the rough terrain of the Appalachians. Chattanooga also provides access to the Tennessee River which links to the mighty Mississip.




Alan - RE: 1st mile/last mile intermodal

I see several things that need to be worked on.

While it is possible to load and carry semi cargo box trailers on railroad flatcars, the standard intermodal shipping container works a lot better. One of the big things we need to do is to speed up and facilitate replacement of the installed base of semi cargo box trailers to flatbed trailers configured to haul standard intermodal shipping containers.

Compared to the cost of building out a wide web of spur rails or relocating a large number of plants adjacent to existing rail spurs, the cost of building small-scale local intermodal container loading/unloading facilities might be considerably lower. I'm talking here of handling equipment in transfer yards that is all considerably scaled down from what we've all seen at the major ports - something that would handle just hundreds of containers per day instead of thousands. Remember that the container has to be loaded and unloaded somewhere. If each plant is located next to a rail spur, then each plant needs its own handling equipment -- equipment which might not be utilized continuously enough to be very cost-effective. Centralized, shared facilities might be a much more economic approach.

As far as refrigeration is concerned, I see no reason why refrigeration units could not be built into a standard shipping container. Perhaps it has already been done. Supplying power to these by truck tractors would work exactly the same as for the existing refrigerated trailers. Providing power while on trains would be a bit tricky, but I assume that there is way to do it; again, it is probably already being done.

A far as transferring power from one car to another from a single pantograph pickup, I got detailed real world info from Ed Tennyson (SEPTA in Philly uses a single pantograph to transfer power from 1 EMU to the rest of the train, when EMUs are joined together).

Rubber covered jumpers work fine, but people cut them off for the copper. Several brands for transfer via the coupler, he recommended Ohio Brass.

I like the idea of a major Metro area having several inter-modal transfer points (say four to six in Dallas-Ft Worth area). Short trains are shuttled 1 to 3 times per day from central switch yard to each transfer point. If someone is in a hurry they can pick up at central switchyard. In the case of Dallas, containers could be xfered to DART and run on their rails off-peak as trolley freight.

Such a system would significantly reduce truck miles on Urban highways.

But such a transition will be step by step. However, it helps to know where you are going when you start :-)

Best Hopes,


How fast are the costs of electrification rising? We read of such large increases in the costs of nuclear and coal power plants. I wonder to what extent the same trend is hitting electrification.

Any idea how many pounds or tons of steel, copper, etc are needed per mile of electrified rail for a single track? How much additional material is needed per mile when there are multiple tracks?

2004 numbers were $2 million/mile for single track and $2.5 million/mile for double track.

Labor is a significant component. Cheap electrification can be done with wooden poles (Ed Tennyson used 18" diameter treated poles that may still be in service for SEPTA).

Typically the carrier wire is stranded aluminum & steel (Al for conductivity and Fe for strength) and only the contact wire is copper (a very low % silver alloy# is preferred for wear resistance and additional mechanical strength). Other train trolley wire designs are in common use as well.

# Measured in troy ounces of silver per ton. 1 troy ounce has exactly the same electrical properties as pure copper, but improved physical properties. From distance memory I liked 3 or 4 troy ounces of silver per ton.

Best Hopes,


That's really cheap in the bigger scheme of things. Electrify double track 3000 miles from coast to coast for $7.5 billion.

Any idea what price of diesel makes electrification cost justified for at least some sections of freight track? When (I originally typed "if") we start seeing $6, $8, $10 diesel will we see track electrification?

I assume Warren Buffett knows when he'll want BNSF to start electrifying.

Leanan, spring training must have been good for you. You have batting practice going early here .. :))
There is a growing rattle in the Canadian MSM about peak oil. Here is another strait forward presentation of JKs views on CTV on-line linked through the MSN website.
Intentionally or not the public is being gradually prepared for the bad news on energy and the economy.

re AAA: the aaa says $0.54/ mile, the irs says $ 0.485/ mile to operate a vehicle.

this includes amortization of the purchase price, maintenance, insurance, taxes and fuel.
i can probably cut that in half by buying used vehicles, doing my own maintenance, maintaining minimum insurance and driving carefully. ok so lets say $0.25/ mile for an individual consumer. if a person is travelling 40 miles rt to work, that still works out to $ 10/day.

driving fewer miles means higher amortization, insurance and taxes per mile.
my conclusion: shoot your car............

and come 2/19/09, you can probably shoot your tv too.

Yes, and less taxes means...

Many cities struggling to fill potholes

In East St. Louis, the city is filling only the deepest and largest holes — leaving behind some that are large enough to break axles and puncture the tires of vehicles, including city ambulances, police cars and fire trucks.

Petroleum is a key ingredient in the asphalt that gets spread on roads and poured into potholes. Mixed with sand or gravel, the oil serves as the glue that holds the other materials together.

It's the same story in Madison County, Iowa, where gas costs about $1 more than last year, causing officials to spend $90,000 to $100,000 more than they planned.

"We'll just keep doing it (repairing roads) until we run out of money," said Todd Hagan, the county engineer.

In Milwaukee, the number of pothole reports this winter nearly doubled, to 5,500. Seasonal crews had to be brought in as much as two months early to fill the potholes.

That cost the city an additional $440,000, and forced officials to postpone construction projects.

For now, road departments say a major concern is what will happen if next winter is as severe as this last one and oil prices continue to climb.

As costs of operating a vehicle skyrockets, I expect many will drive less miles. Won't this result in less wear and tear on the roads?

Do these trends graph as opposite and canceling zero sum games? Or does road maintenance deteriorate at a much faster pace than the drop in wear-miles on the road infrastructure?

The article mentions Frost heave. Winter freezing/thawing does a lot of the damage with or without vehicles(which only makes them worse).

Being from the northeast, I rememeber this well.

Once a pot hole appears traffic will make it worse quickly.

But if you don't have pot holes cars don't do much damage to a modern road. Trucks are another matter. From the Wikipedia entry on "Pavement Deterioration:"

As pavement systems primarily fail due to fatigue (in a manner similar to metals), the damage done to pavement increases with the fourth power of the axle load of the vehicles traveling on it. Civil Engineers consider truck axle load, current and projected truck traffic volume, supporting soil properties and sub-grade drainage in design. Passenger cars are considered to have no practical effect on a pavement's service life, from a fatigue perspective.

I can't remember where I saw it, but I read a report from South Africa not long ago which noted that road maintenence is a reliable barometer of crisis levels - eventually it becomes impossible to drive whether you've got gas or not.


It's amazing what people can drive on in poor regions; they haven't got a lot of choice in the matter. Still, it can be fatal (scroll to end). And one might need to consider pothole insurance :-O

Regarding potholes and receding horisons for Norway, "the world’s richest and most blindfolded land per capita", and as for roads it starts to go like this:

E10 may be converted into gravel-road (sample article for picture)

That E indicates it will maintain the EU standards and is part of the European highway system …. Norway is a bad place to construct and maintain roads, large and rugged and very few people (!)
It is propper to say that this area is very far north and sparsely populated, so that you don’t get a very wrong impression here.

There have been reports on re-graveling several district and other roads lately here. Last summer there was a tunnel roof which caved in thus rendering some detours along that road. BUT the funny thing was: that incident “consumed the whole summer and long into the autumn” in the Norwegian media, for God’s sake some boulders loosened and suddenly that was “all our concerns” …. Jeez. Suddenly all our road/tunnel/bridge-systems were in for a full scrutiny and that should happen f_a_s_t…, B/C another tunnel could cave in tomorrow.

My reality is very different from theirs.

I'm a little puzzled by that picture. (I'm not finding a way that actually works to get a translation of the article.) The road in the picture looks like it is already made of mud.

Either that, or heavy traffic has traversed it after a recent slushy snowfall, but the photographer waited for a break. If there's enough traffic to blacken the slush that dark before it gets the chance to melt, then it seems preposterous to think that a country so rich as Norway can't afford to maintain the road for the time being, especially with the krone still supported by oil exports. Is it part of the main (and apparently only) really long north-south road, or is it something else?

When this happens in a prosperous part of the USA (n.b. East St. Louis, in one of the keypost articles, is not prosperous) it's usually an issue of priorities. There's never a shortage of money for sports stadiums, nor a shortage of cities applying to spend themselves into oblivion on the Olympics, nor a shortage of other expensive, expendable nonsense. After all, for a politician seeking votes, vacuous entertainment is one thing, but vital infrastructure is quite another and so boring as to be beyond mentioning. So I wonder what would be Norway's sacred cow - something expensive and of no importance that, all the same, comes before vital infrastructure?

PaulS, that picture you refer to is just a sample-picture to illustrate a gravel road. The article discusses whether to convert an important main road in northern Norway into gravel or not. The condition of that road is not meeting any running standards as it is disintegrating year on year. Something has to be done, but there are no monies at present in the budgets-
The director of roads says it's an embarrassing situation!

All present Norwegian major road projects (in progress/drawingboard) are put on hold for the rest of this political-term (sitting government). Only precious maintenance will be undertaken. There is something in the air…

Here is a fellow trying to make his argument another place in rural Norway, he tells he knows where to put the potatoes this year ... :-)

Thanks, that clarifies it partly. But taxes in Norway are enormous, just look at the petrol price. I can understand using gravel for little-used rural side roads, we do that even in the USA. But if there's nothing in the budgets to clear up an embarrassing situation or to pave the one and only north-south through road, then what on earth do they do with all the money they collect in taxes? It still begs my question about what is the sacred cow that gets all that it can eat, at the expense of vital infrastructure? I don't see that Norway's road kilometers-vs-population would be any worse than, say, Canada.

There is significant norwegian north-south traffic thru Sweden.

The sacred cow's name is salary (!) Everyone cries for more and since we are at the top of some sort of conjuncture, the strain on the work-force is at maximum. We’re at "all time low" unemployment rate here thus salary has to rise … (and it does)

A spiraling building boom has lasted for about 5 years now, but it is stalling as we speak. Due to this the government has idled or stalled several large undertakings in recent years, due to lack of builders and contractors. These projects will again be considered IMO probably alongside road-works..

**) edit: that is true Magnus, you have the nicer and speedier roads , thx

Norway has almost unlimited funds but is short on manpower and their moral hinders them from exploiting guest workers.

I have not followed Norway in detail but they are increasing their grid investments.

IRS is actually now 50.5 cents a mile. It's a moving target...

Interesting comment from someone I know trying to get wells drilled in a remote non-USA area:

Not drilling much here lately as the last two wildcats ran over budget AFEs by 100% and did not even get a DST on good shows due to incompetence ( lack of experienced personnel) and poor management.

DST= Drill Stem Test, a way to sample what a formation will deliver to the wellbore.

I'd be interested in reading more about this DST. I must confess profound ignorance of the petroleum business before 2005.

Is the DST the source of cylindrical rock samples I've seen on the desks of some chemistry professors?

Most wells are drilled overbalanced, i.e., the hydrostatic weight of the drilling mud exceeds the formation pressure. To test an oil and gas show, we come out of the hole, take off the drillbit and we attach a test assembly on to the end of the drill pipe that uses packers to shut off the drilling fluid from the formation, to allow formation fluids to come in to the drillpipe. An exciting test is one that flows oil to surface, or gas to surface in large volumes, not terribly common for me in my little corner of the oil patch, but it does happen.

In any case, we evaluate the fluid recovery, flow and static pressures in order to determine, along with other data, if the wellbore warrants a completion attempt.

On a recent shallow oil discovery at a depth of 1,300', about a year ago, we didn't have to run a DST, because of the steady oil flow, because the formation pressure exceeded the hydrostatic pressure. We actually had to shut down and run pipe because of the oil flow. With luck, the cumulative production from this new field discovery (over a couple of decades or so) will meet world demand for an hour or so.

Coincidentally, the wellsite geologist on one of our wells called me at 4:00 A.M. with a show report and wanted to know if we wanted to run a DST (yes, awaiting results).

This is ironic. The operator just called regarding the DST we are running. We tested gas to surface in about five minutes, with oil about two minutes later, flowing at 450 psi on a 1/2'' surface choke. This was the seventh well that I had drilled on this prospect--after two noncommercial completions and four dry holes. Trying to do my part to slow the Texas decline.

Those are called core samples, usually retrieved with a coring gun. A long cylinder with 50-100 (it has been many years and taking cores was by far my least favorite task so my count may be exaggerated) cylinders attached by a wire to the main cylinder that get shot off into the wall of the borehole with some of the rock getting trapped in it. When you haul it back to the surface you pop the core and voila you have samples of the subsurface rock.

Tell us more (if you can).

Inexperience is costing money here as well.

Not only are rates for kit and people expensive, but wells are taking longer to drill.

The ramping oil price has in many circumstances been off set by rising costs eating into exp and appraisal budgets.

Not good news in a mature province.

It's a country in the southern hemisphere. But, as you pointed out, it's endemic across the whole industry worldwide, and it is one of the key flaws regarding nonconventional production, especially these very tight nonconventional oil and gas shale plays.

It takes a lot of nonconventional wells to equal the output from a high flowing, conventional well, which requires a lot more personnel and equipment, when, as you know, we have an aging workforce and aging equipment.

IMO, the permanent energy boom/crisis really started around October 1, 2007--whether it's a boom or a crisis depends on which side of the producer/consumer equation one is located.

Here in the UKCS we started to see the effects of lack of equipment and key personnel in the Autumn of 2005. It became acute in 2006 and therefter, chronic and still is. But I wont disagree with your date of 2007 - Seems to me we are ''chronically in an acute crisis...''

There are a whole bunch of real experts due to retire very soon and the impact will be very significant. Many may be tempted back as highly paid consultants - for a while at least.

Computerisation and Real Time Operating Centres etc help, but a huge cohort of Wellsite Geologists, DE's and others are ready to go.

You cannot compensate for hard won field experience easily. This is what we are finding out.

I recommend to read the entire Monbiot article at peopleandplanet. It is highly disturbing in illustrating how much we are on our own and cannot count on government to help us prepare for a post peak world.

Here's best hopes for Monbiot never giving up.

Now I think of it, it is WORSE than that as governments around the world are very well informed about PO. Many governments (not all) appear not to be interested in preventing catastrophe.

Edit: the last statement is an oversimplification of complex political processes.

What you imply is the Achilles heel of democracy. Most governments are elected for four short years (or so). And a political party cannot start their campaigns in telling there will be “doom and gloom” during the next term … if you choose us …

There is only one way and that is if all political parties stepped forward and reckoned that PO is real, and it will come soon and it will hurt … An inter-political-party statement, like “we’re all in on this PO-acceptance..that would wake up folks“…IMO during the next few years there is little likelihood for such since PO is not visible enough , yet. One more reason for this not taking place today, PO will render some politicians into oblivion in a split second.

As an example there is a party (extreme right) in Norway who will have 4 lane highways all over the country as of next year ….. but reality in Norway (the world’s richest land per capita) as for roads is this:

E10 may be converted into gravel-road (sample article for picture)
That E indicates it will maintain the EU standards and is part of the European highway system …. Norway is a bad place to construct and maintain roads, large and rugged and very few people (!)
It is propper to say that this area is very far north and sparsely populated, so that you don’t get a very wrong impression here.

I don't think governments are uninterested in preventing catastrophe.

I think the problem is that governments will only endorse solutions that leave them at the top (or close to it) and this severely limits their options.

I suspect that many solutions will come from the ground up rendering many government departments/initiatives/programs irrelevant.

The article about Gore and biofuels seems a little odd. Gore is a democrat not a green but he has warned about problems with th competition between food and fuel. The 2004 GP platform says this: http://gp.org/platform/2004/ecology.html#761292

We oppose the development of environmentally-destructive "alternative" fuels produced from unsustainable or toxic feedstocks, such as genetically-engineered crops, coal, or waste streams contaminated with persistent toxins.

which pretty much rules out corn ethanol owing to the growing use of BT corn. So, greens don't support it. I expect the 2008 platform will be even more strongly against it.


"The article about Gore and biofuels seems a little odd."

Not when viewed through the lens of al gore being blamed for everything having to do with the environment or global warming.

I have just reread yesterdays thread from Nate on the EIA production numbers. There was a good useful level of discussion in the comments, one of the best being Robert Marston’s piece.
In part he noted:
“This greater influx of lower EROEI fuel may well push the total liquids 'peak' up or extend the plateau. In my opinion, it's really not possible to exactly predict how many months or years this trend may continue.”
Robert alluded to the real difficulty (impossibility?) of accurately defining EROEI for any particular energy source. Like the three body problem we know there is a solution we just lack the resources to do the detailed work. So for practical purposes let’s assume there is a real EROEI for each grade of FF and that this return is getting worse over time and not worry about the actual value. Jeff may have already mentioned this in the ELM but as EROEI declines it means that each producer is now using more oil to extract oil and this would impact what is available for export. It becomes part of local consumption. It may seem like a small contribution to export decline but like immeasurable changes in the flow rate of a glacier over time there is a significant impact. If we assume an ER of ten for crude over all grades world wide it takes 8.5 MBD to produce our daily volume. If ER changes by just one percent it adds a need for 85 KBD additional to produce the daily. This is 85 KBD in the long run not available for export. If this is all crude oil or NG or whatever really doesn’t matter in the end. As well the actual number may be of interest to owners and academics but to the rest of us it is enough to know that each drip off the snow bank contributes to the flow of the river whether it is 1 or .1 percent. In the long run it is export energy off the table. As Robert noted we will push to produce more and more with a lower ER and this will only accelerate the ELM impact even if we can bump along a production plateau. I think the production curve is important for each producer but worldwide the one we net consumers should be following is the export curve. Unfortunately no one seems to be able to produce one.

It's an interesting analysis to link ELM and EROEI. But even if it's just 40% oil going into the energy cost of extraction, with a diminishing EROEI, more oil stays local. I think this is most visible in Canada where there is a direct relationship between very high energy extraction and increasing demands on Canadian natural gas.

Some very interesting thoughts here and West Texas should get major Kudos for his work in that regard.

Just one thing I'd like to add -- in my opinion, net cost of extraction in currency and net cost of extraction in energy will loosely correlate so that low EROEI (I don't know how low) oil will become too expensive to extract. Someone mentioned it before, but to a certain degree money = energy/work trading units.

"I think the production curve is important for each producer but worldwide the one we net consumers should be following is the export curve. Unfortunately no one seems to be able to produce one."

Do we have a long set of valid data points for exports (West Texas)? If so, it wouldn't be too difficult to graph a trend. I agree. This would be a very valuable tool and help us understand the complex relationship between price, net energy, depletion and oil available to markets (as opposed to oil captured in local regions).

Do we have a long set of valid data points for exports ?

TOD contributor Rembrandt issues the Oilwatch Monthly - March 2008 (PDF)

On page 6 you'll se an attempt at an export-overview

Maximum export td. 48 mb/d , newyearsday 2006/2007 .... and down 1+ million last newyearsday or so

Rembrandt is doing a great job.
How do they actually monitor the export one can ask ? Well there is a Swiss firm having spies at ports,terminals and harbours around ... tracking oil-tankers in real-time, at least thats what I've heard (or read that is)

McCain: Stop Filling the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve)



I hate to agree with Sen. McCain on anything, but I do in this case.

The SPR is an oil subsidy as I have pointed out in the past. Imagine the outrage of those who criticise ethanol subsidies if ethanol had a comparable Strategic Ethanol Reserve.

Adding to the SPR when prices are making new highs only adds pressure to prices. The oil companies love it, just as farmers would love to have a Strategic Ethanol Reserve to hold up ethanol and corn prices.

The government should have a back up plan to allocate oil in a national emergency. Add to the SPR on price pull backs which haven't been happening much lately I know, but with recession who knows? There could still be periods of softness in oil prices.

I think the "who knows" is key there. This is an insurance policy, yes a potentially expensive one, but if the price is not coming down then it is no longer "expensive" and may be as cheap as it will ever be. The peace of mind that essential services can be provided for (I am not confident that would actually happen)when needed in the case of some import crisis justifies the premium.

I hate to agree with GW Bush (sound of gagging), but it strikes me that filling the SPR is a rational act.

For one thing RE "who knows?" I think he and Lord Vader know quite well, and there may be stuff they plan to do that will make $110 oil cheap in retrospect, as well as less-available to the US in the short term.

They also know it because they're oil industry connected, and even if GWB blew out his frontal lobes snorting coke out of the navels of drunken sorority girls at the "skull & bones" parties, Cheney bloody well understands peak oil. However, if they admitted oil was gonna get more expensive forever, a whole lotta things would happen very quickly.

So saying, we have a better SPR system... leaving all US oil in the ground for awhile! As Hubbert suggested, it would be in the US' interest to burn the oil of others first. Of course, putting an extra tax on domestic oil to keep it there for strategic reasons would not only be politically unpopular, but would send an interesting message abroad.... a 'sauce for the goose' sorta thing...

(Disclaimer - I don't think the US 'deserves' to burn the oil of others, I'm just commenting on the problem as it is generally framed within the USA. ) However, taking it out of holes in some places and pouring it down holes in another place is a thermodynamically questionable concept, seems like.

Finally, the USA and the world needs high oil prices. That sidesteps jevons' paradox and actually sends 'conserve' signals, and signals to build railroads, etc. To the insignificant extent filling the SPR helps that, good. Kind of a razz on the humans who can thus no longer afford food, and I'm not unmindful of them, but overshoot is overshoot on a planetary basis.

An energy tax would be the sane way, but there's that "dumber than yeast" thing to contend with, particular ly in 'murrika. Buying oil and pumping it into the ground is one of the few options not politically foreclosed.

Might as well fill the SPR as do anything, for all the good it will do.

The most environmentally responsible thing to do is to take oil out of one hole in the ground (low porosity) and put it down another hole in the ground (underground cavern).

So far, oil in the SPR has been kept out of the atmosphere for 20 to 30 years (most of it, about 600 million barrels when GWB took over, 700 million today).

Even if the SPR is used, as long as it is refilled, it is an environmental positive. And an extra 800 million barrels os over 9 days of world wide oil use "taken out".

Higher prices due to reduced supply (<$1 IMHO) do add to conservation.

Best Hopes for Keeping Oil Underground,


The most environmentally responsible thing to do is to take oil out of one hole in the ground (low porosity) and put it down another hole in the ground (underground cavern).

I heartily agree, except for leaving it in it's original location in the ground and then fudging the data about where it is. Not that I have ever done that, it would be wrong... particularly under a wildlife reserve.... that's for sure...

Even if the SPR is used, as long as it is refilled, it is an environmental positive. And an extra 800 million barrels os over 9 days of world wide oil use "taken out".

Again, strongly agree. That thing's negative carbon footprint is nearly as big as mine. (grin)

Best Hopes for Keeping Oil Underground


(greenish: oil-seismologist-turned-unrepentant-treehugger)

I highly recommend listening to Prof. Cattons presentation from the Environmental Crises series. They are all great but his was some masterful use of metaphor to give perspective.

I loved it.


Also check out his book;

Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

This guy is a treasure!

There was a live speaker around 2 pm who was speaking from notes on a pad on his lap. He spoke about carrying capacities, and ended his presentation by enumerating the main 5 or 6 components of our perfect storm. His presentation isn't included in the conference archives. Does anyone know his name?

Thanks a lot, that was FANTASTIC!

He is, as you put it, a treasure.

I will read his book "OVERSHOOT" for the third time this summer.

Saudi cuts output
12 April 2008

LONDON: Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has trimmed its output to about nine million barrels per day (bpd), a Saudi oil source said yesterday. The level is slightly lower than the 9.2m bpd that Saudi Arabia had been producing until now and reflects lower customer demand, the source said.

"Saudi oil production currently is around nine million barrels per day, which reflects the demand from our customers," the Saudi oil source said. He reiterated the kingdom's production capacity stands at 11.3m bpd and will rise to 12.5m bpd by next year. At its meeting last month, Opec agreed to leave output unchanged.

I too have voluntarily elected to keep the production from my oil fields at a reduced rate--somewhere below one mbpd--because of a recurring problem finding buyers for all of our oil, even our light/sweet oil.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has quietly begun to reduce its oil production despite calls from the US and Europe for the group to pump more so that prices fall.

Output from the core countries of the 13-member cartel last month fell to 27.3m barrels a day, down from the 27.6m b/d they produced in February and 27.8m b/d in January, the International Energy Agency, the western countries’ watchdog, said on Friday in its monthly report.

Royal Dutch Shell

I guess that new record might be in error?

Our family, too is reducing its output of crude, but not so much due to reduced demand (which is skyrocketing for New York local oil), but because of an aging population of field developers and lack of infrastructure investment. As my children get old enough that they are no longer utterly fascinated by endlessly digging in the garden, we're voluntarily decreasing our vast supply of oil producing holes, in hopes of expanding our production of a new biofuel - food - we believe this new fuel has enormous potential to power our infrastructure, with low overhead costs (chewing and swallowing are externalized onto the customer), who can then use this new biofuel to power transport technologies (bike) or grow more of this remarkable new biofuel.


Thanks for that article, westexas!

Here is Saudi's updated forecast C&C production chart. Forecast Saudi output for 2008 is just over 9 mbd, followed by involuntary decline to 2080.

click to enlarge

Here is an updated Saudi HL plot estimating URR C&C of 185 Gb (incl half of Neutral Zone).

click to enlarge

For more info please see
World Oil Forecasts Including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE - Update Feb 2008

Ern? No demand? Are they smoking the extra 2.1 mbpd capacity?

Finally ,1st general autobahn speed limit

State environment minister Rainer Loske is saying Monday that cars will have to keep to 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour) for environmental reasons. The measure takes effect Wednesday.

That is welcome

About one third of the German Autobahnen is permanently limited; limits range from 100 to 140 kph. Another third is limited temporarily, the last third is unlimited.
Germany has appr. 20,000 km of Autobahn, so those 60 km in Bremen are 3/1000.
Not really worth all that media attention if you ask me.

I don't know radlafari, but this quote is from the article and this info was relayed in other media as well. Are you talking of autobahn or AUTOBAHN ?

BREMEN, Germany: Bremen officials say the northern city-state will be Germany's first to impose a general speed limit on its autobahn.

From wikipedia : The recommended speed of the German autobahn is 130 km/h (81 mph), but there is no speed limit.

Bremen is a city. This is as exciting as if Albany, NY would introduce a general speed limit of 55 mph after 99% of its roads already have a 55 mph speed limit.

Yeah I know, it’s a little bit like one more AM _state banned the death penalty. Hardly even making a dent (!) and on top of that the job description of an executioner would be obsolete.

the speed limits in albany are 65 if you're tlkaing about the highway.

Hi folks. I really need your advice. I need to know if you think copper prices are a bubble, or if our little town of Bisbee, Arizona is going to be bulldozed by Phelps Dodge (now Freeport MacMoRan) in its search for more copper.

Phelps Dodge got its start as a mining company here in the 1880s, and when the open pit closed in 1975 our little town was in danger of becoming a ghost town. But it was saved by a wave of hippies and artists like my wife, who moved here in 1979. I moved here in 1991, and both our extended families followed us here. Thanksgiving and other holidays are difficult to stage due to all the family members, and we have a rich layer of friends.

The copper ore that was too low to be economically feasible in the 70s is now considered rich – though rather small. There is an estimated 2 billion pounds of copper, and a lot of gold and other associated minerals (which may or may not be recoverable using solvent extraction, electrowinning or a variety of biological means being tested). Sounds like a lot, but it costs a quarter billion dollars and 8 years of permitting to start a mine, and this one would only last maybe 8 years before being played out for good.

Thus, I was skeptical that it would ever happen until very recently. In fact, my sources inside PD a year ago told me they planned to mothball the old mine workings and finish their environmental remediation.

But now, with the price in the stratosphere, Freeport has ramped up a lot of exploratory drilling to further determine the exact size of the ore body. If prices stay this way, I have little doubt they will reopen, and after lot of fighting, they'll double the size of the pit and devastate our town. Many of my friends and family will leave, the character of this charming town will be trounced, and after the mine closes again it will be flat on its back again.

Which brings me to whether copper prices are a bubble. Supply is expanding (mines are opening up all over the world) and demand is falling (400 lbs of copper in a McMansion, 40 lbs in an SUV – which are not being made any more; stock markets in Asia are crashing), and yet the price of copper still climbs. It climbs even as the larger economy crumbles.

I figure hedge funds desperate for yield are buying and stockpiling the red metal, they are using borrowed money, highly leveraged, and when the bubble breaks the price will fall and Bisbee might be saved. This is Mish's view at Global economic analysis He calculates that one hedge fund, Red Kite, might have stockpiled as much as 750,000 tons of copper.

I would really appreciate your opinions on this matter.

Copper is like the veins our our entire technical infrasctructure. As long as population increases we will now nearly always be trying to outstrip demand.

I call no bubble. With Russia, China, India, Pakistan posting huge 7+% growth rates I would say we will only reach a ceiling when that F**king moron starts WW3.


Chile is 40% of world production. Their hydropower shortage (drought & glacial melt) is permanent. Their natgas supply problem is permamnent. Copper only goes up from here, except in a Depression so bad you won't be thinking about this.

The best copper mines in the world are Land fill sites.

As a private investor in base metal stocks (which I regard as the cheapest way to play the PO/resource scarcity theme) I´ve followed the fundamentals of the copper industry intensely. Putting it short, I see no bubble:

-Adjusting for inflation and using a currency basket instead of US$ pricing copper prices has been flat for two years now.
-In the mean time the forward curve which had been in steep backwardation has flattened:
-Falling cumulative inventories in the LME/NYMEX/Shanghai warehouses indicate a small deficit in the refined market.
-There is an additional estimated deficit of ca. 300ktpa in the concentrate market which should trickle down into the refined market in the second half of this year once the refinery inventories will have been run down.

Contrary to popular belief there has been no large rush to build new mines. Most of the increase of the last three years stems from brownfield expansion of existing operations and recommissioning of mines abandoned when prices were low. This type of expansion on average costs only half the money of a same-size greenfield project. In effect ore resources of existing operations are depleted accordingly faster.

The juniors scramble to arrange funding in the current risk-averse financial environment and the majors prefer "bolt-on" acquisitions vs. greenfield projects. At the same time investment funds are run by complete idiots which valuate companies on a long-term copper average price of 1.50$/lbs (which would be comparable to a return to 25$/bbl oil).

On the demand side copper consumption in the US is already in recession mode with numbers declining 20% since the beginning of the decade. In the emerging countries copper is badly needed for infrastructure,
so barring a global recession demand should remain healthy. Rio Tinto puts the long-term CAGR at about 4%.

Concerning the hedge funds - I don´t believe that conspiracy theory because of lack of evidence. You can´t hide 750kt (equivalent to 7 bln $ at today´s prices) below your bed frame as it may be practicable with precious metals. And distorting prices from the equilibrium price is a risky game when prices swing back.

The Chinese SRB has reportedly meddled in the market in the past but they rather can be found on the short side as China is the world´s largest copper importer by a wide margin.

Overall I esteem that peak copper will occur around 2020.

If you want the project stopped I would rather look into the environmental permitting process which has scuppered many US mining projects. Just this week the Lucky Jack/Mount Emmons moly project in Colorado has been put on hold permanently.

thank you for your excellent, in depth reply. For new projects, permitting generally takes 8 years -- I don't know what "brownfield extensions" take; but since Bisbee is full of environmentalists and wealthy retirees who've sunk a fortune into renovating old mining shacks, I figure whatever the typical length is will be doubled.

Our engineering company has been working with PD in Arizona and Colorado and other mining companies in Canada. Matter of fact, I'll be on site at one this coming week. Some mining companies are finding it economical to recycle through their waste piles to recover the metals. I think Copper will tend to follow oil in price elevation and oscillation due to threads like Alan from The Big Easy. Everywhere I look for solutions for changing modes in a peak oil constrained infrastructure it recommends electrification.

Now hold on there pard'ner! As an EE I should be dancing a jig around the room anytime anyone mentions further electrification, but that is just more of the cornucopian fantasy. If we keep on this tack we will soon realize peak oil is going to be trumped by peak natural gas. An easy calculation based on the Laherrerre graph shows the U.S. will have 10% electrical generation shortfall by 2020. (NG generation is 21.5%, NG production decline 45% by 2020). This is a simplistic linear extrapolation, however it serves as a guidepost in quantifying the magnitude of the problem.

I don't think wind power, CSP, or other alternative electrical generation methods are going to fill the gap. Pipeline delivery of NG from the Mackenzie Delta and Alaska could end up in Ft. MacMurray if were not any smarter than yeast. In the end, I think the only technology that will have impact is the Western Alternative Life Kinetics (W.A.L.K.), or otherwise known as walking. Not only do we need to move away from the car as a primary mode of transport, (as he ironically drives off to the supermarket after writing this message - last hurrah), but it will serve to change our expectations about the immediacy of product and availability. Then, rail and ocean transport for goods and people will start to seem plausible.

We're not going to move past the highly energy intensive transportation modes until we accept traveling from Dallas to Chicago taking two days is normal and expected (or even overnight on high speed). This will tend to change our remuneration structure as the high value of employment time will have to adjust, but it's a sacrifice I'm certainly willing to make.

Another reason to postpone High Speed Rail is that it is an electricity hog (figure square of speed). I even pulled back a little from 125 mph to 110 mph for passengers (and unstated I figure 90 to 100 mph for express freight). Each corridor varies a bit in the optimum.

During a recent electricity shortage DC Metro slowed down to 45 mph, to reduce demand (in tunnel aerodynamic friction is higher than open space).

Overall, I would be estastic if electrified rail, inter-city & freight plus Urban used 4% of current US electricity. We could easily conserve more than that (and may have to). (France uses 2.3% today for transportation, USA 0.19%).

I just returned from walking to the grocery store, and will take the streetcar down the the French Quarter Festival tomorrow.

Bicycling is in many ways the best way to travel in a city.

Best Hopes,



I think that one thing that would be very revealing and helpful would be to superimpose an outline map of France with their TGV network over an outline map of the US. People would suddenly realize that all of those TGV lines moved to a US context would only cross two or three state lines, for the most part.

Something like a TGV might make good sense for, say, Dallas/Houston or Cinci/Columbus/Cleveland. As a nationwide, cross-continental system, it is a pipe dream, and probably always will be.

See the map of all European rail lines capable of high speed travel. The extent of the contiguous system is about 1,500 miles, equivalent to the eastern U.S. from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. When the LGV Perpignan-Figueres line is completed in 2009, the extent of the contiguous system will be closer to 2,000 miles -- the approximate U.S. equivalent is the Eastern seaboard to the Rockies.

Which is one of the major reasons that I shied away from the true HSR and went for dual use tracks, passengers at a nominal 110 mph (could be up to 125 mph, etc.) and express freight at 90 to 100 mph.

This is significantly cheaper than TGV lines and can fit into existing RR ROW with adjustments (note that I am piggy backing on a Real World proposal for 1,200 miles by a Class I RR).

Adding a third, higher speed track with two good regular tracks has certain capacity and operational advantages. Yes, slivers of new ROW will be needed on curves (think 8' out of Farmer Brown's pasture, move the fence and cut him a check).

Eliminating at grade crossings is the big $ part, and will certainly increase capacity for all 3 tracks, and benefit the communities near-by.

$25 billion for 1,200 miles in a fairly densely populated strip (US East Coast) is expensive but affordable. Lower costs/mile in less densely populated areas and higher in mountains (which I try to avoid).

Can the USA afford 8,500 miles of grade separated, electrified 3 track ROW, with fairly wide radius curves ?

IMO, yes.

The value of higher speeds is for longer distances for freight and shorter distances for passengers (modal share drops past 500 km in EU & Japan today) . I tried to combine these two conflicting economic pressures in my routes.

<250 miles major city pairs (some exceptions) with viable high density express freight corridors of >500 miles (and better >1,000 miles) was my goal.

Now, is the cost worth the advantages ?

IMVHO, yes, but I am NOT 100% sure that it is. Part of my uncertainty has to do with what the future will look like.

Best Hopes,


The value of higher speeds is for longer distances for freight and shorter distances for passengers (modal share drops past 500 km in EU & Japan today) .

Surely this is dependent on the relative costs of alternatives? Rising fuel prices should mean that the trade-off point rises, as air travel becomes less competitive.

BTW, thanks for a great series of posts on railways and their potential.

Which is why I used the caveat of "today".

However, I am unwilling to advocate spending tens of billions supporting hypothetical consumer behavior in a future without a consensus on just what the future will be.

Yes, perhaps "one day" more than half of the passenger travel between the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast will be by rail. But that day is too far over the horizon for me. In any case, I have tried to outline the best corridors regardless of the future.

Do these as Phase I and then plan a Phase II. Just as the French are just now finishing up their TGV plans of 30 years ago (the last 100 km are under construction) and have announced plans for several new TGV lines (and are working on 2 TGV lines not in the original plan).

Perhaps I shall be cursed in 2058 because I advocated clogging up all the good ROWs with these damm slow mixed freight & pax tracks that cannot be pushed past 210 to 250 kph even with tilting trains, etc. Entirely new ROWs are being required for the 400 kph mag-lev trans-continental networks.

Best Hopes for Doing SOMETHING worthwhile,


Um, I did not intend a critique of your idea, I was just seeking clarification - given where the rail system in the States starts from, your ideas sound eminently reasonable and financially affordable.


I did not take umbrage, I was just explaining my philosophy.

Best Hopes for doing What Makes Sense Today,


thanks for the in depth remarks. PD has been leaching/bio processing the old dumps here in Bisbee for several years, but I think they may have reached their limits. My understanding from just last summer was that the operation was destined to be mothballed; but with copper nearly $4, who can resist? I hope that there is at least some element of bubble, so that it will spare us; but if we can delay the permitting for a decade or two, perhaps peak natural gas, and the coal moratoriums to come will cut back on electricity enough that it becomes more clear to policy makers that the massive electrification of transport is a dead end.

Stopping this thing will be challenging, and in truth I pin my hopes on a deep and prolonged deflationary recession to keep the 360 ton trucks from carrying away my beloved red mountains.

But the use of the copper in the red mountains could be the difference between powerty and prosperity for manny thousands of people.

Clearly we must eat the planet.

massive electrification of transport is a dead end

Since my dreams could be accomplished with 4% of USA electricity, I doubt it.

I also wonder (without knowing) about the viability of a retiree/artistic community in the deserts of Southern Arizona post-Peak Oil. Retirees do have a fairly high turn-over rate, and new ones need to replace lost ones.

Art is likely to suffer considerably (economically) post-Peak Oil.


ole! I agree the tourism business here will probably eat it, and there is a fair amount of turnover in population. nonetheless my wife and I are attempting a permaculture haven, and don't really want to have the pit to reopen next door. One must really spend some time watching an open pit mine operation to really comprehend the magnitude of the devastation.

By "large scale electrification of transportation" I don't mean rail. I mean electric cars, using batteries, charging up on the grid, eating up energy from coal, nukes and natural gas. I can easily imagine a big push in that direction, heavily subsidized by the government., resulting in hundreds of thousands, even millions of electrical cars. It would at the least require major beefing up of the grid in every respect, and would probably cause it to crash.

So no Alan, I'm not referring to your rail projects. I wish you all the luck.

Cheers, jim

You might be interested in the Warren-Bisbee Streetcar line (1908-1928), 8 or 12 miles of streetcar lines when Bisbee had fewer than 10,000 people. Maximum 7% grade.


Best Hopes with your Permaculture,


thanks for the link, Alan.

Yes, little Bisbee (20,000 people in 1920, same as Tucson and Phoenix) had a very efficient public transport system, with electric trolleys going up and down the canyons, and that elevated streetcar that went 4 miles around the mine workings to the newer suburb of Warren.

Then in the '20s, enough people had cars that the trains didn' t pay for itself anymore, and it got in the way of the new cars on the narrow canyon roads. So they dismantled the systems (some of the rails are still visible through the tarmac).

Old Bisbee was an extremely densely populated urban area in the howling wilderness, and it might be possible to bring back the mass transit -- but unfortunately so much infrastructure has changed. All the downtown businesses are long gone (replaced by tourist shops and antique dealers). Most locals do their shopping at the Army town of Sierra Vista; 30 miles away. And the Safeway is in the new town 5 miles away.

It is very unfortunate, but it will be very difficult to get back to how things were once run; perhaps impossible. So I suppose that once people are faced with the idea of peak oil (any decade now), we will presumably develop new modes. I haven't a clue what those will resemble, even though Bisbee is as well placed as anyplace in the West to try them out.

That's why I don't want to see the tight community that has developed get torn up by the resumption of open pit mining.


If you are talking about electric cars that are going to be just like the ICE cars on the road now, with same capacity and range, then you are absolutely right. There is no future in that. On the other hand, if we are talking about NEVs with very limited capacity and range, and rechargable with PV panels, then that might be a different story. Those, I believe, are the only viable future that exists for motoring in private passenger vehicles. Even that is probably going to be somewhat limited, with many people being able or simply having to live without them altogether (except for the occasional cab ride or maybe an occasional rental).

For a few years electric cars will certainly have limited range and so on compared to petrol cars.
A whole raft of advances on a broad front seem to show that, technically at least, this limitation is not likely to last for very long.
Here is one of them:

The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

To get the full potential of this battery the cathode would also need to be improved, but the researcher in another article, which unfortunately I have misplaced, indicated that even without that you would get a several-fold improvement over present batteries.

You could also use zinc batteries to get similar range to petrol cars.

Since most journeys are relatively short it would also not require a great increase in power needs over a system of plug-in hybrids.

Other factors such as economic difficulties or power shortages might prevent widespread adoption of electric vehicles, but it seems to be probable that the battery side of things is technically soluble.


My two cents worth:
About two and a half years ago I started watching the metals prices because our company had some projects that produced a lot of scrap metal, especially stainless steel. The scrap price of stainless steel is largely dependent on the prices for chrome and nickel. As these went higher, especially nickel, the spot price for stainless steel rose. Nickel went from $23,000 per ton to $53,000 per ton in a little more than a year's time, and likewise stainless steel scrap went from $0.56 to $1.80 per pound.

Then all of a sudden the buyers stopped buying and the futures price for nickel dropped by half in less than two months. Many speculators got burned, but I had sold 90% of our tonnage of stainless between $1.00 and the $1.80 price so we made a good profit. Others who were hoarding the metal got burned. Today nickel is $28,000 per ton and stainless steel scrap goes for $1.00 per puond.

I think copper will also follow the same trend although not as severly to the downside. Much copper scrap is coming on the market as the price goes high and eventually with more scrap supply and a softening world economy (maybe permanently softening), this current $4.00 per pound copper futures price will retreat. Then the adjusted down price will slowly rise again, perhaps a little faster than inflation. Remember that as oil prices go higher, so do the extraction costs of metals, yet the recovery cost from scrap operations tend to be stable and not determined much by the price of oil. I hear that nearly 90% of copper is now recylced.

So, I would have my doubts about the completion of that mine in your town.

thanks for the insight. That pretty much dovetails with my thinking. It's hard to figure out why copper would dip down to $2.40 in Feb., then jump to nearly $4, a record. Why wasn't it this high a year ago, or three years ago, when the economy was really hopping? It would make sense that speculation would be part of it, even if it is hard to pinpoint. The article I referenced above does show that Red Kite has stockpiled huge amounts of copper, and one could assume that other hedge funds are doing the same.

Also, silver is in the same boat, and I've been tracking that metal four 35 years, since before the Hunt bros tried to corner the market. One asks the same question; why should silver be so high now? Could it bear a relationship with teh tens of billions of dollars pumped into "commodities" by yield hungry investors?

"why should silver be so high now?"

we are in a bull market in commodities. your question should be why is silver still so low? it's way way below it's inflation adjusted top in 1980.

Short speculative general answer: Bisbee is history unless you can mount legal delaying actions until after the US infrastructure largely collapses. Then it may be history unless you have local food & water sufficient to your needs, and if not the folks who live there will start lobbying FOR mining and perhaps hanging or running off those who oppose it. If that doesn't happen, it may get a reprieve for awhile pending the level of plague/famine/dieoff, mushroom clouds, etc. Ultimately if the USA or a fragmented version of it is still around in 20-30 years, the concentration of the Bisbee ore VS the cost of ripping copper out of abandoned suburbs may determine it. There will be some ore of all kinds which is currently valuable which will ultimately simply be beyond complexity thresholds and energy expense to utilize, and that horizon is invisibly receding already & will continue.

Best of luck. Whatever that might consist of.

I need to know if you think... our little town of Bisbee, Arizona is going to be bulldozed... in search for more copper.

You know what happened to the town of Santa Rita, New Mexico, don't you? It was engulfed by Kennicott's pit. An astronaut was "born in space" - in the Santa Rita hospital the site of which is now several hundred meters out from the wall of the pit and up from its bottom. If there's still copper ore around the Lavender pit, Bisbee is doomed. The heyday of Bisbee was in the late '60s / early '70s anyway. I'd move to the Cliff/Gila area if I was you.

Posted a reply in the wrong place!

Texas Study: Benefits of Wind Transmission Outweigh Costs

A long-awaited study identifying the transmission infrastructure needed to link wind-rich areas in western Texas with population centers in the central and eastern parts of the state concludes that such transmission could be built at modest cost to ratepayers.

I am coming to the conclusion that windpower in the States is a very different kettle of fish to in Europe, and the superb resources are likely to make this a very viable and large resource.

I'll take the opportunity to re-post this link which eric gave - the potential of this technology could make a real difference:

6000 watts at 32.5 mph when corrected for sea level (right). Raw data is at left. Sea level data are: 5400 watts at 30 mph; 4000 watts at 25 mph, over 2000 watts at 20 mph, and over 1000 watts at 16 mph. Data was taken at one minute averages at 5000 feet elevation at windtesting.com in Tehachapi, CA in July 2004. Diameter is 7 feet. Tower height is 60 feet. Anemometer placed at height of 3rd rotor from the front, on a separate tower about 50 feet from prototype tower. Note that even uncorrected for sea level, we get a solid average 4000 watts at 27 mph at 5000 feet elevation. Low windspeed performance is superb. We get the same power at half the windspeed of a normal turbine, for the same diameter, because we have more rotors. At the same speed, we get six (6) times the power(!), by adding six additional rotors behind the first. Rotors are placed out of the wake of preceding rotors in order to receive fresh wind. A total of 21 blades are well placed to receive fresh wind and turn a common generator - Total moving parts: 1

I didn't know how seriously to take this - and then I saw the inventor, who is a top, top man.
The performance at low windspeed might even drag some of the sites in Europe up to a more respectable performance.

I didn't read the entire site but I question who this wind generator is aimed at. If it for home owners, their idea of "low wind speed" (20-30mph) is actually pretty high for many locations. I used to have a 1.5kW Whisperwatt wind generator but got rid of it because it didn't perform even though I'm in the mountains.

If it is for large commercial applications, I don't see how it scales.

What is needed for home owners is a generator that does well at really low wind speeds like 10+mph.


If I had the wind resource, I would look at this:

Wow! Who would have thought that you could get 6x more power by putting 6x as many turbine blades on it!


It is a smart idea from a manufacturing standpoint. With this system you would only have to manufacture one generator for ever 6 or 7 rotors, and it only requires one tower.

It's not quite so obvious as you think, the blades can shadow each other.

To mitigate that problem, they're quite far apart on that long, long shaft. So I do wonder what that contraption would look like after a good thunderstorm.

The blades behind will swirl in the turbulente wakes from the first rotor. One more thing as the wind hits the rotor the air leaving the catch-area of the rotor will expand and slow down a little this slowdown effect will multipple as it's proppagated via more blades on the same shaft ... and alot of strange things happen. I cant see this be more efficient over a wide range of windspeeds.
There is a reason why conventional WTs are recommended to be 1000 meters apart !

I'd say use the extra monies spent (on that carbon pipe and extra blades) and make one finetuned and larger rotor, for the same monies ...

got a ? (for anyone)

can someone explain what happens to the air (thermodynamically) as it rotates the blades?

"All you need to know about WTs."
This is a briliant site with a lot of good explanations ...
(keep in mind this is a very pro windpower site, so you will not get much negative stuff)

This link show some of what I tried to say . The aerodynamics is explained if you click around here.

Well a turbine is really extracting kinetic energy from an air flow. When the air flows past the turbine, it collides with the surface of the blade and transfers some of its momentum. The blades are shaped to direct the airflow off to its side, thus producing a torque in the opposite direction.

Really, not all that much happens (thermodynamically) to the air as it passes over the blade. The main effect is that it simply looses some of its momentum.

From an aerodynamic standpoint, yes the turbine creates some turbulent flow which can result in a swirling vortex, especially with smaller, faster rotation setups, and that disturbance in the air flow can interfere with the operation of the other blades.

The reason I poked fun at the setup initially was because they seemed to be toting it as haveing some energy producing advantage over simply using each set of blades as it's own turbine. Like I said, the main advantage would be manufacturing, since it only requires 1 generator and 1 tower for all those blades. But I think that having a standard 3 blade setup with the same blade area as all those combined would probably have the same or better performance.

And as others have said, it's probably more fragile than other turbines.

There was a lot of bend to that central axle.

My guess is this idea will be relegated to the same bin as the 'eggbeater' vertical axis designs.

Way way back Umass had a towards tomorrow fair 70's 80's it's not quite clear. Shortly after the oil embargo. Helen and Scott Nearing did the keynote, and everywhere you turned there were egg beaters. They were impressive to watch. But the homegrown savonis roaters cranked out much more power.

I always loved the little graphic on this site's main page:


I'd like one on my roof, just because they're pretty.

Peak Water?

An informative and quite scary 1hr interview on US water supplies, conducted by George Kenney.

One of the topics of discussion on TOD has been the rising cost of asphalt, along with the idea that as we past peak, economic downturns will reduce available funds for infrastructure repair on asphalt roads. Here's a link on that subject from today's news: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080411/ap_on_re_us/pothole_woes;_ylt=AoXEVd...

Hello TODers,

An interesting article with good stats:

A Lot More than Wheat

Potash Corp. may be the darling of the stock market, but Saskatchewan is riding more than just soaring commodities prices. Smart government policy and a new entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the province's economy - and some say the boom has just begun.

Price Control

The key challenge for Potash, from the start of its public life, was to exert influence on the price of its principal product to escape the boom-bust cycle. The fertilizer game is one played by only a few players. So Potash, already a heavyweight, began to consolidate available assets in Canada and picked up stakes in foreign producers in Israel, Jordan and Chile and a key potash distributor in China.

With every bit of additional girth - 13 deals worth about $1-billion over a decade and a half - Potash's price-controlling muscle grew. Instead of producing as much as possible during booms, the company sought to influence price by matching its output to demand by carrying excess capacity or idling existing capacity.

Reminds you of a certain Arab oil producer?
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

ISLAMABAD, April 10: President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday called upon lawyers to stop spreading anarchy as tensions flared in the country just days after a new government took office.
This is worrying news to me: I would have thought the lawyers would automatically go for bicycles and wheelbarrows instead of machete' moshpits.

I am certainly no expert on Pakistan, but are these lawyers the Fomerly Well Offs [FWOs] who are losing it?

When the lawyers in the US lose their McMansions and fancy vehicles--will they be just like these Pakistani lawyers? Will US lawyers be the first group of FWOs to lead us into national anarchy or will these former lawyers embrace paradigm shift? Recall that the US has more lawyers than any other country.

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

Hello TODers,

I went to the American Bar Association [ABA] website, and used their search engine to see if they are aware of Peakoil--yes, they are:


Copy of my email just sent to the ABA [askaba@abanet.org]:

Hello ABA,

Title: Long term goals of US legal profession as we go postPeak?

Thank you for your awareness of Peak Oil, in fact, Peak Everything is occurring.

I would suggest your members read websites such as TheOilDrum.com, EnergyBulletin.net, and LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net to get the latest news. IMO, Dieoff.com and googling the Thermo/Gene Collision will greatly help any newcomers who wish to get up to speed quickly.

My concern is if the US legal profession in the postPeak Era will act like the Pakistani legal profession, or if you are embracing powerdown strategies to increase the prospects for national peace and cooperation as we adjust our Population Overshoot to depleting resources. Thxs for any reply.

I hope this link concisely expresses my concern:


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

Feel free to cut & paste any part of this letter above if you wish to encourage our lawyers to lobby for mitigation instead of anarchy. Thxs!

Hello TODers,

If you are curious: I also posed this minithread over on LATOC too. I think it would be nice if next Monday morning the ABA found that their inbox is totally jammed.

Too bad I need to sign off to get other things done, but I hope the TODers & LATOCers carry on. :)

I have a question on EROEI.

Suppose we have something whose EROEI is 2. I'll measure energy in barrels for concreteness. So the 2 barrels we produced used 1 barrel. But that 1 barrel needed 1/2 a barrel. And that 1/2 a barrel needed 1/4 of a barrel. Etc.

Now 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 +... makes 2. So we actually just break even, and anything with an EROEI of less than 2 is a loss. Correct?

No, not correct! EROEI is for a process, not for a quantity.

Using your example, if process A has an EROEI = 2, then Eout/Ein = 2. The Ein (in your case = 1) is not described, as far as source. It could have been sitting in a barrel as oil for 10 years, for all we know.

However, your example does show the difficulty of bootstrapping an energy system if that system has low EROEI. Using your example, if one starts with 1 unit of energy then after one time through the process one has 2 units of energy, thus only a net gain of 1. The problem is the net gain can not be all reinvested into the process as that energy was produced for the purpose of accomplishing other tasks (such as eating or pumping water, etc.)

It is a mistake to think that old resources should be valued at their cost of production . They should always be valued at their current cost of replacement. Otherwise you go out backwards while your account tells you you are making money. Suppose you have a business where you get $100 of raw material, spend a month improving it, then sell for $105. Then when you get your next batch of raw material the price has gone up to $110. You didn't make $5, you lost $5.

I'd say it's a mistake not to explicitly value irreplaceable resource concentrations and evolved beneficial stable systems as nearly infinite, before any extraction even begins. That's not a very human notion, admittedly, but it's how a hypothetical intelligent species might handle things.

I realize that's not what this particular back-and-forth is about, I just stuck it in here gratuitously.

he he smart !

try it again, this time start with One and look foreward ...

one, gives two , use one for whatever , save one for more extraction , REPEAT !

OK, I'm convinced that I must be wrong. But can anyone explain why my previous argument is wrong.

MEMO to self: must change my alias due to unfortunate surname.

Robert, there is nothing wrong in your assessment, apart from the fact that you completely Left-Out (ignored, forgot) that OTHER ½ barrels existence ( which added up to a one FULL barrel ... at your ½ barrel-level). The ½ barrel you derived backward is correct, so if you add another ½ barrel (the one we use for something) then it all make sense, and we have an EROEI at 2:1

Maybe difficult put from my side, but you skip one branch going downwards ...

Of course the problem was that in the 2 for 1, I later took the 1 away from the 2 a 2nd time. Hopefully someone will delete this thread :-).

Hopefully someone will delete this thread

To err is human.
Don't knock yourself down. Welcome to the club.

Your post brings up another interesting issue, namely the idea that an infinite series of additions actually can be carried out in the real world like 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + ....

However, if time is consumed for each addition (& energy), we actually don't have infinite time in the real Universe.

I noticed in the recent movie "21" that Kevin Spacey had on the blackboard behind him the infinite regression of 1/(2+x) where x= 1/(2+x). That kind of stuff used to thrill me in high school about how some infinite series of fractions gives you an apparently finite answer.

I think the assumption of a constant EROEI is shaky. Usually, we start with the high EROEI somethings and then work our way down. So start with a 100 EROEI something and get the 1 barrel to invest in the 2 EROEI something from that. For 100 EROEI, the series sums to 100/99 barrels to bootstrap up to the 1 barrel.
Moral?: Invest your early, high EROEI energy resources wisely so that you don't need to start from zero with a low EROEI resource later on.

I have an exelent idea on how to help fund efficency improvments.

Two huge problems that we have in terms of energy efficency that can be pretty easily fixed is (1) the use of old, inefficent airplanes and (2) the use of trucks for freight transportation instead of rail.

Airlines use old planes that are highly inefficent not because new planes don't offer an attractive return on investment from fuel savings, but because they basically don't have access to capital for investment in planes because they've gone bankrupt so many times.

Railroads aren't used as much as they could be because a lack of investment in new rail infrastructure. This lack of supply of rail capacity has been shown in the rapid rise of rates for rail. Railroads are discouraged from investing in new rail because the return on investment is low, not because the marginal cost of using the new rail is too high, but because railroads are one of the most capital intensive industries in the world.

In both these cases, the government could easily help both these industries improve national energy efficency by giving access to and cost of capital. I propose that the federal government offer loans to both industries with interest rates equal to the interest rates of treasury bonds--essentially, the loans would be no cost to the government (if ignoring the risk of default, of course). Also, this could reduce the long-term cost to the government of the airline industry because buying new planes would increase their earnings, making it less likely that they'd need a government bailout (which they often do). The increasing use of railroads that would ensue from this could also reduce long term costs to the government by reducing the cost of maintenance on highways and reducing the need for new road infrastructure).

I can see this for the railroads, but not the airliens. The risks of default are *WAY* too high, and they need fewer rather than more aircraft.

A reasonable number of the latest generation or most fuel efficient a/c are flying, they are in the process of scrapping most of the oldest, least efficient a/c (DC-9s and 737-200s and soon 737-300s, DC-10s and L-1011s are gone, etc.).

A better air traffic control system would help save fuel.

Best Hopes,


For the airlines, some of them fly the newest high-efficency planes, but the big legacy carriers don't--some of them have fleets that average almost 30 years old. It would be highly profitable for them to replace the planes, but they don't have access to the capital they need to replace them. Yes, these carriers are at a high risk of default, but then the government has had to bail them out over and over again anyway. If the airlines were making enough money that they weren't going into bankrupcy every decade or so by buying new planes, the government could make money off this deal (or, more accurately, loose less money) even with a relatively high rate of default.

I would also imagine Boeing would be more than a little happy with this to.....

Say, Alan, you may have thought about this and have the answer, being a dang smart guy interested in transportation... and if not, perhaps someone else on here.

In terms of the future of air transport, I've seen stuff posted here (yesterday?) noting that most airlines as currently operated could not hang together at $120 oil. Inasmuch as I expect that to be passed this summer, and live in Hawaii, EEK. Just because I've been telling people about it for years doesn't mean I won't complain about being stranded, and Hawaii will likely be the first state to have its economy collapse for that reason. If old Dan Inouye is still alive then, we'll probably get a federal subsidy, otherwise I don't think Hawaii is gonna get a lot of sympathy from people getting cold toes in the winter.

But back to my point: there's not much that can be done to really improve upon the efficiency of today's .9 Mach jets, since it's a mature technology with high-efficiency turbines pushing a very streamlined plane at sub-mach speed through very thin air. There are economies of scale due to cube/square volume/drag relationships as you make planes bigger, but that limits the routes and thus the number which can be built and thus the efficiency of volume construction. I guess the A380 will probably be the max there. The new 787 should be about it in terms of pushing the tech and materials as far as they will go... problem is, in the time between now and its rollout, the price of oil will almost surely rise more than the incremental efficiency increase, so a 787 in 2010 probably will be less affordable to operate than a 737 is now. This means a lot of parked planes, and restructuring of airlines away from hub-and-spoke, and ultimately parking all of them except for the private planes and military planes probably. Most airlines now count on keeping planes aloft a good percentage of the time, I think, to make ends meed. This may be less of a concern once jets are dirt cheap to lease; the fuel when full may ultimately be worth what the plane is. (and lotsa luck on the maintenance then...)

The last to go will presumbably be the big point-to-point long-haulers; that are cheapest per seat-mile and easy to fill up with people even at a high ticket price. Efficient turboprops may last awhile too on the other routes.

But that got me wondering: how would one engineer a plane specifically for a $300 oil world? Would a longer wing and a slower speed operating at high altitudes, like a U-2, offer any advantages?

And what is the most efficient airplane? A wide turboprop flying wing operating in ground effect just above the trees? That'd be exciting, wouldn't need an in-flight movie, people would either be quaking on the floor or glued to the windows. Or a 'way-high-bypass turbine with external fan blades pushing a flying wing at 80,000 feet at .9 mach?

A high-G suborbital might actually burn less fuel to go halfway around the world than current jets, but exotic materials and a higher level of complexity than society will have would be required.

Hmmm... how about hyrodogen dirigibles (plenty safe if you don't dope with rocket fuel) powered by tethered kite sails?

Alas, I like flying. Railroads are the way to bet, though.

The flying wing is the next "big step". Think thicker B-2 bomber. Maybe 20% to 30% fuel savings over 787, and could be well adapted to high altitude Mach 0.5 or 0.6 speeds for even more savings.

Better air traffic control, trying to run everyone at optimum efficiency is another significant step (5% fuel savings).

Surface effects flight has "issues" with safety.

Unducted fan engines (naked jet engines, with exposed fans) are another 10% savings (7J7 was supposed to have these before cancellation in 1970s). Safety when blades let go is an issue.

Best Hopes for SOME commercial flying,


BTW, the A380 is not that efficient.

The wing for the A380-800 is over-sized so that it can be used on the proposed (one decade) A380-900.

In order to fit inside the 80m x 80m box, the wings are shorter and stubbier than they should have been. Long thin wings are more efficient, but all commercial a/c must be no wider (or longer) than 80 m.

There are claims that the internal structure requirements of double decks add excess weight to the design.

4 engines are less efficient.

Whilst I'm a big fan of flying wings, It seems to me they are the aeroplane of the future, perhaps they'll be fusion powered!

Thanks for the reply Alan, I figured you'd be on top of it.

And it sounds like my guesses weren't that far afield. I wonder what the theoretical best is you could do with a half-million-pound flying wing at 80,000 feet at .5 mach? Pretty efficient, I'd guess... but I dunno if they'd ever be built; it'd take a lot of front money, at a time existing jets will be going for pennies on the dollar, glutting the market.

Unducted fans are cool, I've been surprised nobody has pushed them lately. Seems like there are design ways to minimize blade failure modes.

I've also wondered idly about single-engine systems for cargo and I think we'll see such retrofits (even if they are structurally suspect) in some markets, but that's just idle speculation about what will happen with older planes.

As far as air traffic control goes, there will be a built-in advantage with 95% of the traffic parked on the ground. The control system of the future could be transponders, cheap inertial nav & flying the shortest distance, and "luck", particularly if the long-haulers are on relatively few routes and quite high.

Interesting to hear about the A380, makes one wonder how many will be built once the flying-arab-palace market is saturated.

Jetstream dirigibles could haul ass, but it'd be tough to schedule 'em. There could be a real art to it, though, and you could replenish hydrogen and provide onboard power by dropping a wind turbine on a tether into the slower, denser air below.

A world of wheelbarrows will definitely curtail my "popular science cover" tendencies, nurtured through the '50's and '60's....


Reminds me of the line, "The future is here it is just not widely distributed yet."