DrumBeat: August 4, 2008

Falling oil prices: The downside

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Oil prices are falling sharply, and that's good news. But not nearly as good as you might think.

No doubt the drop, down to $120 by mid-day Monday, gives strapped consumers relief at the gas pump. Prices have dropped below $4 a gallon and could be headed toward $3.50, going by trading in wholesale futures markets. Any decline will be welcomed by Americans struggling under the burden of falling house prices, rising layoffs and stagnant wages.

But falling oil prices also suggest that the recession the U.S. has so far avoided is well on its way, as consumers pull back from the spending spree that drove economic growth earlier this decade. A weakening economy will mean more layoffs, further pressuring already reduced spending.

U.S. Gulf Independence Hub gas platform still shut

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The huge Independence Hub natural gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico remained shut on Monday after planned maintenance work on an associated pipeline was delayed due to a storm, the platform's majority owner Enterprise Products Partners LP said Monday.

Energy operations buckle down ahead of storm

Energy companies with Gulf Coast operations were rushing this morning to prepare for Tropical Storm Edouard after the surprise storm drifted closer to the Texas and Louisiana coastline.

Oil companies including Shell, BP and Chevron said they were evacuating workers from offshore platforms in the western and central Gulf of Mexico but did not expect the moves to affect production.

Oil falls to 3-month low as OPEC output rises

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil fell to a three-month low on Monday, pressured by evidence of rising OPEC output in the midst of declining demand in the United States and Europe.

The losses extended a steep slide from the mid-July peak above $147 a barrel and came despite a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that was curbing oil output, shipping and refining.

"Crude futures are down despite a brewing storm and that shows you how momentum has shifted in this market," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

Venezuela navy to explore for oil and gas

PDVSA will buy two seismic and three oceanographic exploration ships for the Venezuelan navy, giving the armed forces the ability to seek out offshore oil and gas.

Brazil oil workers nix strike plans

Oil workers in Brazil's Campos basin have called off plans to strike at Petrobras facilities after the state-run energy company agreed to renegotiate contracts for its staff at offshore platforms, a union official said.

The problematic future of U. S. energy investment

Can the current financial system in America help us make the energy infrastructure investment we need for a transition away from fossil fuels?

First, let's look at how things are going right now. As investors have watched like deer in headlights while their stock portfolios melted down in recent months, the many flaws of America's peculiar form of cowboy capitalism have been revealed. Perhaps most telling is that we now know that the swashbuckling traders and bankers of America's new era financial system are not the rugged individualists they purported to be. Instead, they are pampered members of America's ruling teenager class who, having received no ethical guidance or discipline during the boom years, are now being coddled by regulators and bailed out by the country's central bank and the U. S. Treasury Department. All this comes after they have gambled away investors' money on what amounts to a Ponzi scheme in mortgages.

Noble Evacuating Two Rigs Off Louisiana Coast Ahead of Storm

(Bloomberg) -- Noble Corp., the third-largest U.S. offshore oil driller, said it's evacuating two jack-up rigs in shallow water off the coast of Louisiana because of the threat of Tropical Storm Edouard.

BP's Russian venture rocked by financial chief's resignation

The turmoil at the top of BP's Russian joint venture intensified today when James Owen, the chief financial officer at TNK-BP, resigned without warning.

U.S. Oil, Imported Workers

Oil staffing and service companies are accused of illegally employing non-U.S. workers on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico -- and displacing American workers.

Iran Tests Anti-Ship Weapon, Repeats Stance on Hormuz

(Bloomberg) -- Iran's military tested a new anti- ship weapon, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said as he repeated a warning that his forces could respond to any attack by closing the Strait of Hormuz, an oil transit point.

The weapon relies on technology that hasn't been used by other nations, Brigadier General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari said today in comments carried by state-run news services including Press TV and the Islamic Republic News Agency. The weapon has a range of more than 300 kilometers (185 miles), IRNA said without giving details of the type of armament tested.

June consumer spending falls as prices surge

WASHINGTON - Consumer spending, after adjusting for inflation, fell in June as shoppers were hit with the biggest increase in prices in nearly three decades.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that consumer spending dipped by 0.2 percent in June, after removing the effects of higher prices, the poorest showing since a similar drop in February. The higher prices reflected a big surge in gasoline costs and helped to drive an inflation gauge tied to consumer spending up by 0.8 percent in June, the biggest increase since a 1 percent rise in February 1981.

Nissan readies fuel-saving gas pedal

TOKYO (AP) -- Nissan Motor Co. will soon sell cars that push back when drivers try to put the pedal to the metal.

The Japanese carmaker Monday announced its new "ECO Pedal" system, which makes the gas pedal press upward when it senses motorists are speeding up too quickly.

Can You Give Up Your Car?: New auto-sharing services bet that you can

When Sherri Fuselier recently learned she was losing her job as a paralegal, she realized she had to cut the family budget--fast. One excessive expense seemed ripe: the $700 a month she and her husband spends filling up their pickup truck and SUV. But living in suburban Atlanta 30 miles away from work left Fuselier with few options. That is until she ran into a marketing exec from Zipcar, an eight-year-old car-sharing service that rents wheels by the hour. He offered her a free trial membership if she would try to give up her car as part of Zipcar's "low-car diet" promotion.

Organic food becomes latest casualty of the credit crunch

Dairy farmers are turning their backs on Britain's organic milk market as economic pessimism dents consumers' previously buoyant demand for organic produce. The organic goods market at large is being "credit crunched", particularly among new products like organic ready meals and home-delivery vegetable boxes.

Figures show there has been a dramatic reversal in the numbers of dairy farmers converting to organic farming from conventional methods.

Pickens, Gore Sidestep Differences in Alternative-Energy Quest

(Bloomberg) -- The most unlikely alliance in this election year hasn't come out of any political campaign. It's in the convergence of interests between billionaire oilman and Republican Party backer T. Boone Pickens and former vice president turned environmentalist Al Gore.

Obama unveils energy plan, new attacks on McCain

(CNN) -- Barack Obama's campaign released a television ad Monday that calls for a windfall profits tax and accuses John McCain of being in the pocket of big oil.

The ad charges that major oil companies have donated $2 million to McCain's campaign and says that "after one president in the pocket of big oil, we can't afford another."

The final countdown

If you shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, when there is none, you understand that you might be arrested for irresponsible behaviour and breach of the peace. But from today, I smell smoke, I see flames and I think it is time to shout. I don't want you to panic, but I do think it would be a good idea to form an orderly queue to leave the building.

Because in just 100 months' time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change. That said, among people working on global warming, there are countless models, scenarios, and different iterations of all those models and scenarios. So, let us be clear from the outset about exactly what we mean.

Global warming - myth, threat or opportunity

The most critical problem we now confront is not global warming or how to tax emissions, but providing enough affordable fuel to avoid severe recession before alternative energy can become reality.

The Scientific Case for Modern Anthropogenic Global Warming

Most climate scientists believe that the human contribution to today’s global warming is important, and cannot by any means be dismissed as negligible. The consequences of global warming are potentially very dangerous. In view of the importance of the issue, and in view of Cockburn’s prominent (and well-deserved) role as a left intellectual and his formidable powers of persuasion, it is worthwhile restating the scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming.

Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Shuts Because of Tropical Storm

(Bloomberg) -- The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the biggest U.S. oil import terminal, suspended marine operations late yesterday as Tropical Storm Edouard strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico.

``We're not offloading any tanker at this time,'' said Barb Hestermann, a spokeswoman for the LOOP, as the port is known. ``We are continuing to make pipeline deliveries to our customers. We don't anticipate being shut down very long. As soon as sea conditions improve, we will start offloading.''

Valero says storm shipping halts may affect output

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Leading U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp said Monday that interruptions to shipping along the Houston Ship Channel and the Sabine Pass ship channel serving Port Arthur, Texas, may affect production at its refineries.

'Reduction of diesel quota will not affect supply to fishermen'

The 10 per cent reduction in diesel quota has not led to fishermen in Kuala Perlis facing supply problems, Perlis agricultural committee secretary Sabry Ahmad said today.

Colombian Army Rescues 5 Kidnapped Oil Workers

A total of five Colombian oil workers, kidnapped earlier this week by leftist rebels in a northeastern province, were rescued Saturday safe and sound in an army operation, a high-ranking military chief announced.

Gen. Paulino Coronado, commander of the army's 30th Brigade, confirmed the freeing of five oil workers including an engineer and two topographers, and said that it was the result of "a commando operation."

India: Diesel shortage spawns kerosene crisis

NAGPUR: The unofficial rationing of diesel by public sector oil companies is now giving rise to another crisis — shortage and blackmarketing of kerosene. With its official sale price kept artificially low, kerosene has always been a favourite fuel of adulterators and blackmarketers.

S. Korea May Boost Energy Efforts in Disputed Area

South Korea is likely to step up efforts to develop energy resources near a cluster of rocks at the center of a diplomatic dispute between Seoul and Tokyo, Seoul's energy ministry said on Friday.

The move could heighten tensions over the islands, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, which lie about halfway between the two countries' mainlands.

Gas shortage rocks WA wine vintage

In the midst of bottling its 2008 whites, the Western Australian wine industry was sideswiped by a gas crisis, leaving local wineries short of gas for tanks and bottles.

A pipeline failure and explosion at the Varanus Island gas processing plant in the north of the state in early June resulted in total loss of supply from the source.

Richard Heinberg: Coal and Climate

Since coal is the most significant source of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, releasing about twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced as natural gas, the news that there may be much less coal available to be burned than commonly thought should be heartening to climate scientists and environmental activists, and to policy makers and citizens concerned about the fate of the planet. Reduced estimates of future coal supplies should be factored into climate models—which typically assume that there is enough coal available to permit continued expansion of usage well into the next century.

At the same time, because global warming has emerged as the central environmental issue of our era, climate concerns will inevitably impact how much coal we continue to burn and how we burn it—whether these concerns come to be expressed through caps on emissions, carbon taxes, cancellation of orders for new coal-fired power plants, or the promotion of new carbon sequestration technologies. In any case, the coal industry will be—indeed, already is being—forced to change.

These two trends are surely destined to interact, and the uncertain result will shape climate and energy policy in the years to come.

Can $4 Gasoline Drive McCain Campaign?

The conventional wisdom is that $4 gasoline raises the odds that Sen. Barack Obama will become the nation’s next president.

This may well turn out to be the case, since history suggests an ailing economy, in this case hurt by high energy prices, works to the advantage of the political party that does not hold the White House.

Yet, the American people are undergoing a change of opinion when it comes to all things energy that might actually provide a useful campaign opportunity for Sen. John McCain.

How to Get the Biggest Bang for $10 Billion -- II

The notion that Washington can spend its way out of any problem does not pass what I call "the straight-face test." Rather than parceling taxpayer dollars out to fund a laundry list of government programs that will only paper over the problems facing our nation and the world, let the American people keep the $10 billion. They can use it far more wisely than Congress. Instead, let's unleash America's ingenuity to address the world's challenges and improve the quality of life for every American, as we have throughout our history. And to do that, let's begin by unlocking America's vast energy resources -- from our natural resources like coal, oil and gas to emerging technologies like alternative and renewable fuels.

Losing Focus on High Speed Rail

The loss of cheap oil and the shortage of cheap credit together will lessen sprawl dramatically in the coming decades. I fully support land use changes to further kill off sprawl, but it's not worth holding HSR hostage to produce the changes that need to happen anyway at the state and local level.

Hawaii fluorescent bulb sales fall

The popularity of the heavily marketed compact fluorescent light bulbs appears to have dropped dramatically this year on O'ahu — at least by one measure — even as energy customers face higher monthly bills.

Beware 'Peak Price Oil'

Rationing by price has its limits. Oil demand is only partly elastic – beyond a certain level, cutbacks are impossible. If war or terrorism make oil and gas unattainable for the average consumer (by price or availability), will our global economy collapse? For those 3 billion people living on one or two dollars a day, will they be able to afford to eat?

Peak Oil has been much discussed, but it is a gradual process, only known for certain in the rearview mirror. By contrast, Peak Price Oil occurs without warning and can't be controlled. Our economic system may be far more fragile and vulnerable, and less resilient than we thought. Think of Peak Oil as a struggle with shortages, supply disruptions and price volatility; as a race for new energy alternatives. By contrast, Peak Price Oil is a sudden crippling or killing blow, price shocks threatening our way of life.

Moving to a Trans-Industrial Paradigm: Depression..or Collapse of Industrial System?

What is happening to the economy is not a ‘depression’ and it is not the ‘end of the world.’ It is a major generational, historic shift from an industrial economy to a post-industrial economy. The industrial economy is not sustainable, and it is collapsing. Post-industrial life will flourish more and more as the industrial world collapses.

Form an orderly line here for your rent-free cardboard box

In housing-poor Australia, flogging the house wouldn't be a problem for the bank, not with new immigrants driving up our housing prices.

But in the US, with its huge population and huger housing stock, selling the millions of houses that have suddenly come on the market is a problem. And so is the reason for all those defaulters: peak oil.

Obama, McCain Differ On Energy Policy

Even people in the oil industry say drilling won't ease the oil pinch. Matthew Simmons is head of Simmons and Company, among the largest banks investing in energy. "We basically wasted away 20 years," he said. "Now, basically, it's a terrific idea, but we ran out the clock. It's really misleading to hold that out as a panacea. It won't work. It might work for our grandchildren."

The “Consumer Economy” Was Always a Mockery

At a speech in Vancouver, James Kunstler seemed positively delighted. Finally, gasoline over $4 a gallon was going to do what generations of artistic scorn could not - destroy Fannie and Freddie's collateral. Kunstler's critique of American suburban vernacular architecture is that its products are not real houses at all - but "cartoon houses." They have porches that look like real porches from a distance, but they are too narrow to sit on. They have shutters too - nailed to the wall, making them completely useless. They may have "picture" windows...looking out on nothing...or no windows at all. And they wouldn't exist at all were it not for cheap credit and cheap gasoline.

Of course, the same may be said of America's - and Britain's - entire economies during the last 20 years. The loose credit that built cartoon houses also constructed cartoon economies; they look like real economies, but they are essentially perverse, consuming wealth rather than creating it.

GCC demand for gas growing faster than for oil

GCC demand for gas is growing faster than the region's demand for oil, with projections that it could increase to the oil equivalent of more than 4 million bpd by 2010 and to 5.1 million bpd in 2015 and 6.4 million bpd to 2020.

Aluminum's 12% Summer Swoon Masks Looming Shortage

(Bloomberg) -- Aluminum, after plunging 12 percent in the past three weeks, may be poised to rebound.

Higher gas prices are curbing production that is already failing to keep pace with demand for the metal used in jetliners, drink cans and foil wrap. Abu Dhabi and Bahrain scuttled plans for smelters, and Chinese plants cut output by 10 percent. Alcoa Inc. plans to idle capacity in Texas, and 120,000 metric tons of production will be lost in southern Africa. Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG predict a supply deficit through 2010. Barclays Capital estimates a 70 percent jump in the average aluminum price through 2009.

OPEC output up for third month in July - survey

LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC oil supply rose for a third consecutive month in July, mainly due to higher output from the world's top exporter Saudi Arabia, a Reuters survey showed on Monday.

Supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed to 32.58 million barrels per day in July from 32.33 million bpd in June, according to the survey of oil firms, OPEC officials and analysts.

Will fares go so high that only the rich can fly?

Deregulation of the airline industry 30 years ago made air travel affordable to most Americans. Rising airfares threaten to again make flying a service for the affluent.

Airfares have risen this summer more than any year in the past quarter century, new studies by airfare experts show. The studies, done by Travelocity, FareCompare.com and Harrell Associates at USA TODAY's request, show that domestic fares this summer are up 12% to 15%, and on some routes, more than 200%.

Iran able to close Strait of Hormuz easily

TEHERAN - Iran would easily be able to close the key oil shipping route of Strait of Hormuz if the country were attacked over its nuclear programme, the head of the Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Monday.

Iran has ‘the possibility of closing the Strait of Hormuz easily and on an unlimited basis,’ state radio quoted Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari as telling a news conference.

Iran war may prompt $300 oil

American political analyst George Friedman says an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be 'cataclysmic to the global economy'.

The chances of a US or Israeli attack on Iran are remote because the risks to the world economy far outweigh potential benefits of such action, Friedman told Barron's on Sunday.

Kuwait mulls oil storage plans to allay Iran threat

KUWAIT, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Rising international tension between Iran and the West has prompted OPEC-member Kuwait to consider long-term plans to increase storage of its oil abroad, oil industry sources and diplomats said.

Weak dollar caused 30 percent of oil price rise: Iran

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The falling value of the dollar is to blame for around a third of the rise in the price of oil, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday.

"Thirty percent of the increase (in the price) of oil is because of the decrease in the value of the dollar," he said on the sidelines of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

'Psychology Of Shortage' Remains In Oil Markets (audio)

l prices are down from record highs that they reached earlier this year. But there's still a "psychology of shortage" in the oil markets. Renee Montagne turns to Daniel Yergin, head of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, to talk more about this concept.

This theft at the pump is no myth

The gas you pump is coming from an underground, double-walled tank that acts like a thermos.

Unfortunately, that gas starts warm at the refinery and stays warm until it's burned in your engine.

We say unfortunately because in California – whether you pump morning, afternoon or night – it means you likely are paying for 1 percent more gas than you are getting.

Candidates’ surrogates spar over drilling issue

McCain surrogates contended on the Sunday news programs that the Arizona Republican's turn toward drilling, which he had once opposed, showed how McCain would respond decisively to a crisis. Obama's supporters argued that his willingness to consider a bipartisan proposal including more drilling showed how the Illinois Democrat would pursue compromise to achieve results.

Who's to Blame for Oil Profits?

Two years ago the online magazine Slate (a sister Washington Post publication) published a Michael Kinsley piece about taxing oil companies that touched on the subject. Kinsley noted that oil wells that could be profitably operated at $46 a barrel (the price a year before his column) could be even more profitably operated at $70 a barrel. Kinsley wrote:

To get this windfall, the oil companies didn't have to conspire with the Bush administration to start a war in Iraq. They didn't have to conspire among themselves to raise prices at the pump. If you own oil anywhere in the world, you didn't have to do a damned thing. Just close your eyes, make a wish, open them, and - surprise - you're getting an extra $25 a barrel.

Naturally, those same wells can be tapped more profitably still at $120 or more a barrel today.

Expert: Foreclosures forcing commuters from San Joaquin Valley back to Bay Area

"We believe that there is going to be a tremendous shift back to urban areas, led by those who bought homes in the outlying areas who lose their homes to foreclosure. They will choose to rent near work to save money," wrote John Burns, a national real estate consultant in his July building market analysis.

"The high price of gas is playing a very important part in home buyer decisions. The phrase 'drive until you qualify' has less meaning these days as each mile becomes more expensive," Burns said.

Deep Green: peak oil changes everything

As the era of cheap liquid fuels draws to an end, everything about modern consumer society will change. Likewise, developing societies pursuing the benefits of globalization will struggle to grow economies in an era of scarce liquid fuels. The most localized, self-reliant communities will experience the least disruption.

Experts clash over viability of biofuels, alternative energy

Tad Patzek, an outspoken critic of the biofuels industry and a geo-engineering professor who's leaving Cal to take a post at the University of Texas at Austin, said biofuels are vastly overhyped. He asked the members of the audience to imagine themselves as proponents of the notion that 2+2=22, rather than 4.

"That would make you biofuel enthusiasts," he said to laughter. "You have money and media access, and now everybody believes that 2+2=22."

More homeowners embracing conservation

CHICAGO - The bathroom tiles are recycled wine bottles. The hardwood floors are sustainable bamboo. And the sprawling garden gets sprinkled with rainwater collected in 300-gallon barrels.

From its recycled plastic deck to its solar-paneled roof, everything in and about the 2,500-square-foot home on exhibit just outside of the Museum of Science and Industry has been designed to show the public how easy it can be to incorporate environmental sustainability into their own abodes.

Thomas Friedman: The Iceman Cometh

The change was so abrupt that it warmed the Northern Hemisphere over Greenland by 10 degrees Celsius in just 50 years — a dramatic increase.

“It shows that our climate system has the ability to make very abrupt changes all by itself,” said Dahl-Jensen.

Some climate-change deniers would say that this proves that mankind is not important in changing the climate. Climate change experts, like Dahl-Jensen, say it’s not so simple: The climate is always changing, sometimes very abruptly, so the last thing that mankind should be doing is adding its own forcing actions — like pumping unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because you never know — you never know — what will tip the balance and send us hurdling into another abrupt change ... and into another era.

This article promises a "breakthrough" in solar energy storage...just wondering what our experts here thought of it. Apologies if it's already been posted.


I think it was posted and discussed last Friday. My impression was that all they have done is swapped one of the platinum electrodes for a cheaper material. Otherwise its standard electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

I somehow knew I wasn't going to beat the folks on this forum to something like this...thanks.

My impression was that all they have done is swapped one of the platinum electrodes for a cheaper material.

The reason we know that it's likely there is some real substance to this development is that it is featured in the journal, Science. This is one of the most prestigious scientific periodicals in the world.

They don't publish trivial improvements/advances in technology.

Science would probably want to see a significant scientific contribution, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the advance is of imminent importance to society at large or relevant to the kinds of issues TOD readers care about.

We'll see...

Here's an example of what this TOD reader cares about ;-)

Recently announced.....

ITM Power Showcases Hydrogen Home Refuelling Station

2008-08-04 - A British company ITM Power has shown a hydrogen-powered Ford Focus and a hydrogen home refuelling station. The station, which is capable of producing gas from water and electricity, is said to overcome one of the fundamental stumbling blocks to a hydrogen economy, the lack of a suitable refuelling infrastructure.

ITM's patented electrolyser-based station uses a low-cost polymer, which dispenses with the need for expensive platinum and can be manufactured at one percent of the cost of traditional membrane materials. Scientists and chemists at the company's Sheffield research facility - Europe's largest electrolyser and fuel cell development centre - have spent eight years seeking a means of low cost hydrogen manufacture.

The Focus that is being used to demonstrate this is capable of running on petrol if the hydrogen supply is exhausted. It can travel 25 miles on a single recharge from the refuelling station. If the hydrogen is compressed this range can be extended to 100 miles.

Hmmmmm..... I wonder if there is any relevance? :-)

Some additional links:


Sigh, not another stupid hydrogen demonstration.

Hydrogen through electrolysis -> hydrogen compressed storage -> electricity -> electric motor (+ICM for gasoline) -> conventional car.

What a stupid energy wasting idea, esp. when combined with a 'home hydrogen recharging station'.

Ulf Bossel has way too many times calculated hydrogen cycle as a total non-starter. There is a thermodynamic ceiling which cannot be bypassed and after which the hydrogen cycle is at best half as efficient as best of battery technology.

Chris Rhodes has some back of the envelope calculations for the electricity needed for such a hydrogen folly.

I don't understand why smart people keep on jammering about hydrogen powered vehicles for personal transport. It's brain dead considering there are so much better alternatives for short-distance road transport.

It would be believable if the advocates had some real numbers to show, why hydrogen makes sense, but they have none.

It's important to remember though that technologies ultimately compete on the basis of price. What if the materials that make up batteries become too expensive because of scarcity issues?

Also, "Thermodynamic ceiling" might not have overwhelming relevance outside of the lab. For instance, the world record for fuel efficiency is held by the hydrogen fueled Pac-Car II

Although utterly impractical, it gets 12,666 mpg


How close is this vehicle to the thermodynamic ceiling?

Indeed, they compete on price.

And how much do you think energy costs in a world of increasing energy scarcity risk?

How much does it cost, when you waste twice the amount compared to batteries?

Costs creep up pretty fast and carry through the whole lifetime of the system.

As for your example (which is indeed silly), the same could be achieved with batteries, except the unit would have roughly twice the mpg.

So, again: what is the point in hydrogen powered vehicles, when better alternatives exist today?

Here's another reason why I think hydrogen should continue to be pursued in addition to battery technology:

At the extreme limit, we know there are some applications for which batteries are not feasible. The space shuttle for instance whose main engines burn hydrogen and oxygen.

What about other heavy vehicles that need a lot of power? Transport trucks, earth moving machinery etc.

In addition, as mentioned above, good batteries are very expensive and don't last forever as they need to be replaced. Who knows how it will turn out in the long run?

Yes, for some other than short-term personal commuting, hydrogen powered vehicles may make sense.

On that we agree.

But hydrogen Ford Focus using a personal refuelling station? That's just way stupid (and my point all along).

"How close is this vehicle to the thermodynamic ceiling?"

Infinitely far away. The theoretical "ceiling" for a round trip is clearly zero (0) joules. This is old news: IIRC a fast vacuum subway operating with no air resistance figured in an early Arthur C. Clarke short story.

But this car-ette is operating in air, so theoretically it should usually yield energy, and in practice at least not consume it. This is also old news: thousands of years ago, the "sailboat" was invented. It can even go upwind, by "tacking".

So we see - as long as we stipulate that practicality is not a factor - that this example actually demonstrates failure. For some bizarre reason, the team did not include a sail of any kind. That's disappointing, because one might expect that the garishly colored symbolic seashell on the side should have triggered appropriately nautical thoughts...

SamuM says,
"There is a thermodynamic ceiling which cannot be bypassed and after which the hydrogen cycle is at best half as efficient as best of battery technology."

That may be true, and I have read Ulf Bossel's work and been persuaded that hydrogen is for the time being not competitive with plug hybrid, BUT, "half as efficient as best of battery technology" is still better than gasoline upon which a whole world industry has been built, and for a transportable (albeit not easily) fuel that is clean and can be produced locally and by renewables (the ONLY way it would make sense to produce it)hydrogen should not be completely dismissed.

Hydrogen for personal transportation almost certainly does not make sense now, but it is far better than a "stupid energy wasting idea" and research should not be dismissed or halted IF one accepts the validity of personal transport at all (we are leaving aside other applications for which hydrogen may be about the only option, as mentioned up string). At the end of the day, a battery can only be asked to do so much.


There is a thermodynamic ceiling which cannot be bypassed and after which the hydrogen cycle is at best half as efficient as best of battery technology.

I agree with everything Ulf Bossel says.

But there is no thermodynamic ceiling.
This is not the carnot cycle.
You can always find a better catalyst and improve your processes.

It is a big deal. The summary is crappy, but here's what's going on in English.

To break down water into hydrogen and oxygen at a reasonable rate you usually need to apply a voltage considerably in excess of the voltage that you would expect based on the strength of the bonds (there's no mystery to this, it's common for processes to be very slow when there's not a lot of excess energy around). In the past, people have tried to get around this by using very basic solutions and platinum electrodes. This helps but you still end up wasting a lot of energy (and generating a lot of heat) making the reaction proceed at a reasonable rate. What Nocera has done is come up with a clever catalyst that lets the reaction proceed quickly with a tiny (60 mV) overvoltage (that is the voltage over the 1.23V that you need according to thermodynamics to break up water). It also eliminates the need for the water to be at a very high pH which makes the process more convenient as well.

My really rough, back of the envelope calculations (and I'm not really an expert in electrochemistry) say that his process should be about 95% efficient. This is a big improvement over existing technology and really could make hydrogen energy storage a winner. This is especially true if he or someone else can come up with a similarly efficient fuel cell, which is a very related problem to electrolyzing water.

Very good summary, thanks.

it might be a big deal. but certainly not in efficiency: StatoilHydro's 4000 amp atmospheric electrolysers are rated at 4.1 kWh/Nm3 H2 which means a close to 90% efficiency. please do show us your back of envelope calculation for the 95% number.

a point worthy repeating: the whole problem of hydrogen energy storage is in the storage of hydrogen.

nh3 says,
"a point worthy repeating: the whole problem of hydrogen energy storage is in the storage of hydrogen."

Very true, but that is a tautological argument that does not only apply to hydrogen. The whole problem with energy in general is energy storage. Crack that nut and you’ve opened up a whole new world of energy options!


It has been done before without any expensive materials, just with plain Stailess Steel at voltages between 1.5V and 2.0V :



Around same 95% efficiency. So, it's old news.

Old news..

See the July 31 and August 1 DrumBeats.

There might be a key post on this, just because there's so much interest. Personally, I don't think it will amount to much.

The breakthrough is that they can substitute cheaper materials for the very expensive platinum electrodes now used.

But it appears that they can only get it to work at very low current densities. This is not currently practical for industrial purposes and whether it ever will be is open to question.

Well, let's see.

"storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient"

Pumped storage, liquid salt, and batteries, our existing storage technology, are expensive and inefficient, check.

"we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon"

Cornucopian delusions about limitless resources, check.

"an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases"

Where the "unprecedented process" is actually widely generally known as electrolysis, just not to the general public, further providing reassurance of the imminent arrival of the techno-messiah, check.

"The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate ... "

Naively assumes that existing resources are actually plentiful and have no expected future supply crunches, as with NPK, check.

It's pretty standard fare for keeping BAU going for as long as we can.

It's pretty standard fare for keeping BAU going for as long as we can

I think we are being a tad too pessimistic here. The fundamental problem with using electrolysis to store energy in the form of hydrogen, has been the low efficiency (25%ish IIRC). If my brief read was correct, the paper claims they can get something like 80-90%.

Practical use would mean several problems need to be solved:

(1) Being able to build decent capacity for low capital cost.
(2) Being able to keep operations and maintenance low enough.
(3) Having a significance source of time varying power to store (or time varying demand to satisfy). Presumably wind and/or solar.
(4) Being able to utilize the hydrogen to generate dispatchable power competitively.

The first two conditionals are the big ones. We will see. I don't think any one of us is holding our breath.

see the reply to WinstonK above.

This "revolutionary discovery" is pretty much feel good bunkum, similar to the "wireless power coils" and "solar focusing dish" that were trumpeted by MIT and the media a few months ago.

Says wolverine,
"This "revolutionary discovery" is pretty much feel good bunkum, similar to the "wireless power coils" and "solar focusing dish" that were trumpeted by MIT and the media a few months ago."

I myself have fallen in and out of being fascinated by hydrogen about six times in my life, going back to my teenage years, but leaving the narrow discussion of the hydrogen option aside for the moment, I have to ask, is there ANY OPTION other than oil and natural gas that would be considered by folks here here as anything other than "feel good bunkum"?

It would have been great if you folks had been around at the end of the 19th century, all of these fossil fuel consuming "feel good bunkum" toys such as automobiles and airplanes would have been dismissed out of hand and we could still be standing in horse dung!

By the way, I am not sure that the phrase "feel good bunkum" would be considered a technical appraisal by most science journals... :-)


Invest in it, Roger. If you are so sure of it, put your own money on the line. Become a billionaire and come back here and laugh at everyone.

Go for it. Prove us all wrong. Not that I expect you will. You never do.

There are dozens of sources on the Internet for the basic math behind the principle of mutual inductance that the "revolutionary" wireless coil uses.

This math can easily be done by anyone familiar with the sine and cosine functions.

After doing it, one realizes that MIT's stated claims that their system is "omnidirectional" are basically a lie. Frankly, persons associated with MIT should be embarrassed at the stream of garbage MIT has been producing of late.

To show that I am not completely pessimistic, I will provide a link to a far more productive solar water heater project being done by Cal-Berkeley students that has already been tested in the field. Their design is already being refined based upon those field trials:

Building affordable solar water heaters

Disclosure: I have ZERO affiliation with Cal-Berkeley or MIT.

Have a pleasant evening.


MIT's claims and the media's claims regarding the wireless coil were two entirely different things. You can't blame MIT for what sausage the J-school grads make of MIT's press releases.

Although, someone in the MIT news office needs a talking-to over this press release:


The important thing about this development is that it makes the hydrolysis both energy-efficient and materially cheap (cobalt and phosphorous are cheaper than platinum). That lowers an important hurdle for the use of hydrogen as an energy storage medium. Other hurdles remain, especially in storing the H2 gas, but if you can make it cheaply from any scrap of electricity you get, you can afford to lose some in your storage.

So when it comes to scaling up a hydrogen infrastructure, this really does change things. (Still, only a twit will think we can all get ourselves hydrogen fuel cell cars.)

(Still, only a twit will think we can all get ourselves hydrogen fuel cell cars.)

Awwwwwwah! you just dissed datamunger.

MIT did not trumpet either of these. THe media did.

Way too many adjectives. Total fluff piece. Keep your money in your pocket.



Russian oil production continues to hold at about 1 percent less than last year in spite of propaganda out of Russia claiming that they will have a slight increase in 2008.

Russian 7 month oil output falls

Production was down 1.1 percent versus July 2007, when it stood at 9.89 million bpd. In the first seven months of the year, output was 9.76 million bpd, also down by 1 percent versus the same period of last year.

Exports via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium from Russia and Kazakhstan fell 10.8 percent from June to July. This pipeline accounts for less than 10 percent of Russian exports however. That being said, a drop of 75,000 barrels per day, in just one month, from this one area is very significant in my opinion.

Caspian CPC July oil exports fall 10.8 pct vs June

MOSCOW, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Kazakh and Russian oil exports via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) to the Black Sea fell to 616,675 barrels per day in July, down by 10.8 percent from 691,716 bpd in June, the consortium said on its website on Monday.

Ron Patterson

Russian Oil Production and Exports corrected consumption #s

Per above, Russian Oil production is down -1.1% y-o-y. Russian domestic consumption is growing at 6%/year, and was 28.9% of Russian production in 2007.

Assume 2007 Russian oil production was 100 and 2007 consumption was 28.9 and exports were 71.1.

2008 production is 98.9, consumption grows to 30.6, leaving 69.4 for exports. 69.4/71.1 = 0.976. ELM means that Russian Oil Exports decline by 2.4% in 2008 (approx).


Being the brilliant analyst I am (cough), I note this agrees with my eyeball analysis of WT/Kheb's numbers for various ELM plots that ELM runs at 2 to 3 times the rate of decline.

I thus declare the numbers presented infallible and irrefutable!



Re: OPEC Consumption

It would appear that OPEC 11 consumption in 2005 (including Iraq, but excluding net importer Indonesia) was 6.3 mbpd in 2005 (total liquids, EIA). In 2007, it was 7.4 mbpd, an 8%/year rate of increase in consumption and a two year volumetric increase of 1.1 mbpd.

Using the 8%/year number, OPEC 11 consumption would probably be up by another 600,000 bpd in 2008. At 8%/year, OPEC 11 consumption in 10 years would increase by 9.1 mbpd. In other words, at their current rate of increase it would take 100% of all of Saudi Arabia's 2005 net export rate of 9.1 mbpd to meet the increase in OPEC 11 consumption. Or, OPEC 11 consumption alone, at their current rate of increase, would cause total world net oil exports 10 years hence to fall by about 20% from their 2005 peak rate.

Have I mentioned that we foresee problems with net oil exports?

Edit: Left Iran off the list (should be OPEC 12). 2005 consumption was 7.9 mbpd. 2007 was 9.1 mbpd, a two year volumetric rate of increase of 1.2 mbpd, and an annual rate of increase of about 7.1% per year.

On the basis of the news this morning about prime mortgage exploding defaults, it looks like US oil exports might help alleviate the problem you foresee.


And according to OPEC, their production is up over 2 million bpd since early 2007. World production according to OPEC is now up close to 3 million barrels per day since June 2007.

Add to that graph a reported addition (from Reuters toplink above) of 250k bpd from OPEC in July.

But where is it all going as Matt Simmons says? He, for one, doesn't believe OPEC.

My expectation is that the annual EIA data will show 2008 total liquids to be right around 85 mbpd, with another year of annual C+C production below the 2005 rate. And the key benchmark for OPEC is annual 2005 production versus the dramatic increase in consumption.

Seems to me a total liquids average 85 mbpd from the EIA is only possible if either reported production crashes between now and the end of the year or else the EIA calls OPEC liars. OPEC's projected world total liquids is 86.81 mbpd for 2008 - July world production looks to be about 87.12 mbpd based on June OPEC report and July preliminary figures.

Again, it looks to me anyway that, according to OPEC February, June and July 2008 have all set new records for C+C (never mind total liquids) surpassing the previous monthly peak in 2005. I realise that's still not high enough to overcome net export decline since 2005 but is enough to reverse it for the last year or two if the figures are true.

Note that the current OPEC data, like the preliminary IEA data, are just that--preliminary.

EIA year to date total liquids through April is 85.6 mbpd. I think the four horsemen of the 2008 net export decline are Russia; Norway, Venezuela & Mexico. I suspect that Saudi Arabia will resume a production decline next year, but time will tell.

The Oil Thug States are a real problem. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, KSA, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela -- rotten luck. There is plenty of oil, but who controls it? A trillion barrel in Venezuel, and 20 percent extractable at $1 a barrel, says Rigzone.
That being said, look at oil prices. They are falling sharply today. The spec run-up has pooped out. Peak Demand is becoming a reality at any price higher than $90 a barrel. The longer prices stay up over $100, the more conservation becomes deep and permanent.
No reason why the USA could not reduce consumption by 9 mbd through EVs, scooters, higher mig trucks.
The price mechanism works wonders in the commodities markets (even when being manipulated).
And if we are going to install puppet governments, shouldn't they be in Venezuela, and not Iraq? And shouldn't they do what we say?

'Oil-Thug States'? I think you missed at least Two of the biggest ones.. don't let the well-pressed shirts fool you.

Yes, today the prices are tumbling, Friday there was a big jolt up, as on Wednesday, Thursday supports your premise, however. I do hope conservation becomes deep and permanent.. but be careful reading a trend from a day or a month of data.


Millard Fillmore writes:

The Oil Thug States are a real problem. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, KSA, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela -- rotten luck.

I know your statement is rhetorical. But rotten luck? We consumed most of our own oil, are consuming most of our friends crude, and now have only unfriendly relations to seek new oil from. How is that unlucky? It seems we are willingly complicit in how we are running our foreign policy. We're doing this on purpose. Disagree?

I suspect that past administrations since Carter have chosen this course. I think because all the other choices seem worse than BAU. I don't think it's bad luck. I suspect we chose this route for compelling reasons.

The 4%/year decline in Texas, because of the Midland, Texas based Communist takeover of production facilities in the Seventies, and the 4.5%/year decline in the North Sea, because of the radical Vegan terrorist takeovers of production platforms, show what happens when private oil companies, using the best available technology, with virtually no restrictions on drilling are not in charge of production.

EIA year to date total liquids through April is 85.6 mbpd.

And I guess it will be about 85.8 mbpd by the time they get to releasing the July figures and about 86.95 m bpd (currently year to end May 86.82) according to the IEA. That's assuming reported monthly preliminary incremental changes are included approximately as is in these figures.

2007 84.55 (EIA) and 85.41 (IEA)
2008 85.80 (EIA) and 86.95 (IEA) (ytd extrapolated preliminary July figures- no guarantees of correctness!!)

So on a first approximation on very preliminary data the first 7 months of 2008 have shown an average production 1.4 mbpd above the 2007 average (increase of 1.6%). It's difficult to see how you can get an EIA 2008 figure about 85 mbpd without some very major revisions,. Although a war with Iran or a few major hurricanes would do it.

Again all this depends on the accuracy of the data and my guesswork

So, let's wait and see what the annual EIA data look like, but in the mean time, depletion marches on, as does rising consumption in most oil exporting countries.

How depleted is Venezuela, or the shale oil fields of the American Midwest? 1.8 trillion barrels. We suffer from ourselves, not geology.

You should do more reading on Shale Oil (not shale, not oil) before you set your hopes on it. The EROI is likely to be so low as to never be exploited. Venezuela is decades past a 1970's peak.


Absolute bullcrap, and frankly I am so very tired of this "shale oil" argument that posts like yours very nearly make me puke.

In case you are unaware, the oil companies have been promising shale oil miracles since the 1890s. Never, ever have they found a way to produce this stuff in a useful fashion.

Maybe the fact that it isn't even oil anyway might be part of the problem? It's kerogen and if you don't know what that is, go look it up.

Shale oil was supposed to become economical at $10 per barrel. Didn't happen. At $20. No go. At $30. Nope. At $40. Again, not happening. After we got past $40, the shale oil boys shut up about price, simply insisting that somehow, some magic fairy tale way, this HAD to work!!! You gotta believe, right? Gotta have faith, man! Gotta believe in the unicorns, fairies, and shale oil, right?

I strongly recommend that you educate yourself about these topics before posting foolish statements that have been refuted dozens (if not hundreds) of times before on this blog alone.

Ghengis Khan supposedly had a system of only ten laws, the penalty for each was death, right? I swear sometimes I think we should go that route: you lie, you die.

I mean, how the heck did propaganda and B.S. get to be the norm?


"...you lie, you die."

or I would say;

"you have been marketed to".

One sure cure for over population !


I agree and I totally appreciate all you do to publicise what's happening. You're probably well read in OPEC circles. Did you know TOD is apparently more popular in Iran than Germany,Spain or Japan for example?

1 in 200 TOD readers come from Iran - according to Alexa stats anyway. Other tracking sites vary a bit but TOD staff probably have a more accurate breakdown.

One of us read this wrong. It does not appear that Iran is more read in Germany, Spain, or Japan. But I nitpick.

I corrected the wording before your reply. I meant to say it's more popular (by per country website rankings) not more read according to Alexa.

Iran 62,148
Germany 99,176

Germany obviously has far more internet users so, of course, has far more readers numerically. I would take the figures with a pinch of salt though without better confirmation.

It looks like the top column of numbers is a ranking, where a lower number is a higher place (you want to be in the "top 10" not "99000")

I'm always curious when I get blog hits from these countries; in my blog's case it is very informative to look at what the person was searching for when they found me.

The problem with charts like that is that they don't take net energy into account. That chart counts a barrel of ethanol as equivalent to a barrel of oil (which it is not), and it effectively double counts the energy from oil used in the production of ethanol. It doesn't take into account the lower EROEI of tar sands or heavy sour oil as those "liquids" displace high EROEI light sweet oil.

What is important is not gross barrels of liquid. It is Joules of energy that are available to run the world economy. If, over time, we go from an EROEI of 20:1 to 10:1, we are going to need to double gross production to yield the same amount of net energy. 86 million barrels of oil yielded more net energy in August 2006 than the same amount of oil will in August 2008. How much less is unknown, but it does limit the usefulness of gross production data.

Yes, I understand the EROEI decline but unless OPEC have started to count water in total liquids then their reported production increases over the last year will, for now, overwhelm that and ELM put together. Looks like there have been three new preliminary world C+C production rates so far this year according to OPEC.

These figures are going to be thrown in people's faces by anti-peak oil economists and the like when(if?) they are reflected in upcoming EIA and IEA numbers. Matt Simmons had it thrown at him in the CNBC interview and that's when he retorted by calling the OPEC figures false (repeating his send in auditors call).

These figures are going to be thrown in people's faces by anti-peak oil economists and the like

When a leaf falls from a tree, a passing breeze may lift it into the air for a short time, but it will in the end land on the ground.

"Oh but oil is cheap this week, so there's no peak oil," is just the same as "oh but it rained yesterday, so there's no climate change." It's like saying that because $1,000 landed in my bank account yesterday, I must be rich - even though $500 is going out for rent, $200 for the credit car debt, and so on.

It's confusing the ups and downs of day-to-day life with long-term trends.

It's confusing the ups and downs of day-to-day life with long-term trends.

That won't wash. They'll just point out that with 2008 figures the long term growth trend has returned and the 2005-2007 decline was a blip. These aren't "ups and downs of day-to-day" they represent (if believed) a very considerable and sustained OPEC increase over the last year with the graph still heading up.

Edit: WTI just dipped below $120. It's a sunny day - hurricane, what hurricane?

In more conspirational moments I wonder whether OPEC read TOD and then figure out how to massage the figures to obfuscate the arguments.

"If, over time, we go from an EROEI of 20:1 to 10:1, we are going to need to double gross production to yield the same amount of net energy."

Um, no--if we go from EROEI of 20:1 to 10:1, we will need about 5% more gross production to yield the same amount of net energy.

Mark Folsom

The correction is mathmatically right, but it makes it sound so nice and easy, when meanwhile you've still doubled your energy costs just to stay in the same place (yield-wise), which is I think what the original poster was attempting to say. Add to that the overriding issue that gross production seems to be heading in the other direction. Red Queen, checkmate.

I think our credibility is helped by correcting howlers ourselves.

The best criterion for judging the quality of expert opinion is whether it proves to be right or wrong.

Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World

I saw this video on CNNMoney.com and believed its author, Janet Tavakoli, to be one of the most incisive and articulate spokespersons I have recently seen in regards to the economy...

"Bank's Mysterious Securities"

which can be found here...


Even though she is speaking of investment banks, what she is saying certainly applies to OPEC and other vested oil interests as well:

"What does that mean? It means it's a black box where we are asked to trust management's assumptions. And we can't observe those assumptions. It's the blackest of black boxes. And if you had trusted management's assumptions in the CDO area, in the area that's having all these triple-A problems, you would have been very disappointed, so why should we trust that now? More than that these earnings releases are mysterious. They don't give you much information to go on... So no one can really trust the accountring of those in investment banks."

Enron nation. As far as I can see, Enron's maneuvers were basically identical to what these guys are doing-they didn't have the Fed (taxpayer) to bail them out. If they were better connected, maybe Skilling and Fastow could still be running that scam right now.

The link above: 'Psychology Of Shortage' Remains In Oil Markets (audio) is really a hoot. Yergin says it is all about psychology. He says there it is: "the specter of tens of millions of Chinese buying SUVs in 2012 or 2013 that has been the kind of underlying image in the oil market."

In other words it is not about supply and demand at all, it is about the specter of a coming shortage in 2012 or 2013 that is causing the high price of oil.

Ron Patterson

Yeah - with all due credit to Phil (It's a Mental Recesssion You Whiners) Gramm this appears to be a Mental Shortage.

Now as to who has the Mental Shortage, I digress...


What the hell - why are thoughts on future supply and demand by 'speculators' suddenly 'psychology' that doesn't count, yet allegedly 'hardnosed' estimates of current and future supply and demand balance by the likes of Yergin and the oil majors are all hunky-dory?

All opinions are equal...but some are more equal than others I guess.

Just one more example why mainstream neoclassical economics is a sham posing as scholarship.

Just for kicks - I haven't posted this in a long time:



I WANT one of those can openers! It's BEUTEEFUL.

I wonder how much positive psychology Yergin could rally for himself if he were dehydrating or starving.

Shortage certainly is a temporary state of mind. Temporary until it kills you.

Leanan posts some of the goofiest stuff -- the one above from the San Franciso Chronicle takes the cake today:

Chris Somerville heads the university's new Energy Biosciences Institute

Somerville said all the world's transportation fuel needs could be met by plants growing on just 1 percent of the Earth's surface, and he said there's plenty of abandoned farmland to make that feasible. He said the strategy would also substantially reduce greenhouse gases.

This from a prestigious university -- the Sun must be a lot brighter in California than it is in Oregon!

I guess the world could spare the land, all right. For example, 1% of surface area of Earth is about 1/2 of Canada's land and water surface -- and there is hardly anyone up there! Also, it's pretty close to the USA for easy transport of the biofuel.

What, exactly, are we waiting for?

Actually abandoned farmland does exist. Around southern CA there are lots of places where developers bought up farmland (or chaparral) scraped it and then went bust leaving the land vacant. I wonder if there is any source of statistics as to how much land is in limbo this way?

1% of the Earth's surface could indeed meet all the world's transport fuel needs ... since celulosic ethanol doesn't exist yet (if ever)it looks like he is assuming almost no liquid fueled transport in the future ... and he may not be far wrong!

Also, as usual with all these proposed miracle fuel alternatives, 1% of the world's surface is the 'reserves', while we all know that what is important is the 'flows' ... which must be adequate for our needs, profitable for the producers, and affordable for the consumers.

He makes no mention of the flow rates or the price expected or how it's going to be done ... so it's hype, of absolutely no interest (yet) to any sensible person. BP and San Francisco Chronicle seem to have been suckered-in though!

Let's see: Land is 29.2% of earth surface. Out of that land c. 13.3% is arable.

That makes it 3.9% of the earth surface.

So, he's willing to dedicate more than 1/4 of the total arable land for cultivating biofuels?

The guy is a little lost, if that is what he believes. Or he is using some really odd statistical sources that I'm not aware of.

According to David Tilman we are using 5 billion hectares of land for food production. If (and only IF) we can continue to grow crop yields on current rate, then we are going to need 1.7 billion extra cultivated land to feed the increasing population AND increases in food consumption.

The trouble is, that we have 2.7 billion hectares easily available land, most of that forest. There goes the rainforest, puf! That's going to be an unmitigated ecological disaster, whether one cares about AGW or not.

So, if we are going to feed the world, where is the biofuel land going to come from?

We should further keep in mind that he was referring to land based cellulosic biofuels.

The increasing tension w/Iran has me spooked.As bad as everything is in the financial world,the collapsing dollar,and the housing mess,a attack would give bush the unique claim to fame as the only president to have wrecked a whole country's future

We're down to one storm, one bank, one conflict
breaking the financial world's back.


"Logic and history dictate that prices must come down by 50% in the US and over 60% in the UK, just to get back to where they came from. However, that is still not the whole story: a large trendline-breaking upswing in a system is typically followed by an even larger downswing.

But let’s forget about the oscillation factor for a moment. Respective real estate value declines of 50% and 60% can only lead to one outcome: the complete destruction of the US and UK economies. In systems terminology: there is no flexibility or resilience left in the economic and financial systems. They have been stretched to the limit, and are about to snap."


There's a story in today's NYT about the continuing mess in the banking world due to the mortgage mess.

Housing Lenders Fear Bigger Wave of Loan Defaults

The story sounds like something which might have appeared on theautomaticearth many months ago. The next question is, can the U.S. economy survive this mess?

E. Swanson

"The next question is, can the U.S. economy survive this mess?"


The next question is, what are you doing NOW to prepare to survive, perhaps even thrive or prosper, in the coming economic / energy depletion / overpopulation avalanche?

Because the avalanche has already begun, and it's too late for us pebbles to vote on it.

I'm building my totally off-grid house in the middle of nowhere with 5 acres of land suitable for growing food on, and another 15 for timber. :) I have no illusion that I could survive 100% without other people to trade with and such, but I'm pretty certain that whatever I can't do/make, I can trade locally for.

~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com)

This pebble found the beginning work started during the y2k scare very helpful...changing my lifestyle to accept the reality,that in fact,our government plan was to hit peak oil,and the resulting "discontinuity"...head on..full speed,with no prep,trusting god and "the market" to see us through...knowing that disaster capitalism will make possible things that otherwise would not be dreamed of...the destruction of social security,medicare,as well as all social programs.A return to the 19th century rule by capital...all you had to do was smash and loot the banks and home mortgage system...and watch the destruction of what had been the best hope for the world
Prove me wrong..please.

I'm just curious if some of those increased defauts on the Alt-A morgages are not middle class people pissed off with their depreciating asset and delibarately defaulting/mailing keys in?

After all they are watching defaults happening in the lower bracket and people just walking away from their negative equity - all debt wiped. Whilst they still have to pay it back if they stay!

Just a thought - I may be way off base.


Middle class people pissed off and taking a lesson from "lower brackets"? And those "lower brackets" took their lesson from who, certainly not the likes of Bear Stearns and all the well-heeled bankers. You are probably not off base; it just took the middle class that much longer to realize how they were being ripped off. The middle class tends to throw in with the masters, so it must be terribly traumatic.

cfm in Gray, ME

There is likely a whole lot of resentment building in the system along the lines of "how come they get federal help?" or "how come they can just walk away from their debt?"

I suspect thats why a lot of people are sceptical over rescue packages - as the ones diligently paying their morgages on time don't get any haelp - again leading to resentment building up.


"Oh! What a surprise! More people will default! The contagion is spreading! OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOD!"

I repeat my Ghengis Khan reference. If I have known about additional resets coming '09 to '11, and the subsequent contin ued crash of the housing sector, not to mention the common sense that those reliant on the economy MUST suffer as it falls, how the hell can these banks and analysts NOT?

Lying liars.


Some of the Alt-A loans are resetting early:

Cool housing market spurs unconventional means

Originally, it was estimated that the five-year loans would not begin resetting until March 2009. That's not the case anymore, Churchill said.

"If the value of the home falls beneath what's owed on it, the lender has the right to immediately adjust the interest rate and demand that you pay full price," he said.

As a result, some homeowners with five-year adjustable rate mortgages saw their payments begin to skyrocket as early as last April, Churchill said. The high water mark is now expected to come in January 2010, when $10 billion worth of mortgages will reset nationwide.

Even the wealthy are cutting back.

Loved the line about the wealthy having to instruct their private shoppers to look for deals. What a tough life.


Factory orders rise at fastest rate in months

That's more than double what was expected. But is it good news?

The government says orders to U.S. factories shot up at the fastest pace in six months in June, reflecting big increases in petroleum prices and heavy demand for military equipment.

It seems the fine print reveals the increase in factory orders is just about all military related--and to be paid for by borrowing still more money from abroad.

Interesting stuff on the automotive front....

The automakers obviously have to do many thing differently and they are beginning to. (Ford substantially reduced it's design dept in Detroit last week as part of its intent to bring European models to the US) There are signs of more big changes ahead.

New developments: Ford may get access to the tech behind the Volt.

From the Detroit News:

Ford, GM explore joint engines

Ailing automakers look to save costs of developing powertrains

General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are discussing a possible collaboration to develop new engines and other powertrain technologies, according to sources at both companies.

The rival automakers are keen to find ways to reduce research-and-development costs even as they struggle to respond to a dramatic shift in consumer demand from big trucks and sport utility vehicles toward smaller, more economical cars and crossovers.

A deal could give Ford access to GM's Volt technology -- if it becomes commercially viable. It could also help GM offset cuts to its product development budget.

Nissan readies fuel-saving gas pedal

caveat: drivers in the BAU crowd can also opt to switch the system off.

Hi C02,

I have visions of passing a car, then spotting a fast approaching vehicle, followed by me arguing with the gas pedal as to just how quickly I can merge back into my own lane. =:-O

Somehow, this doesn't seem right.


Try a M-B 240D, especially with an automatic transmission. It is a "diesel pedal" with us.


Hi Alan,

Your doors routinely blown off by Chevettes you say? ;-)

Well, then, this song's for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns0EnXNoNXk



I guess MB 240D are more popular than I thought.

Mine got stolen last night in downtown Atlanta.


Didn't read the article but it gave me an idea so I cut a chunk of 2X4 and taped it to the back side of the gas pedal. WOW!

It cuts down on gas consumption.

I'm off to the patent office, see ya.

A simple feature might have an even greater impact. My car (2004 Toyota Camry)
has a simple trip meter that shows instantaneous and cumulative fuel consumption
which can be reset. I find that if I keep the trip meter set to display to
fuel consumption, I definitely use less fuel. Its startling how much fuel is
consumed when accelerating rapidly.

From the hypermiling web sites, I see that addon fuel consumption meters
are available for most modern cars.

What a Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire.

For anyone interested, the directors of the film are now posting extended interviews from some of the contributors on youtube.
It seems to be a new addition each week or so.


Thank you very much for this!

'Peak Oil debunked in 4 minutes.'

Apologies if you've already seen this, but for some light relief watch this guy.

Oh and his follow up the snappily titled 'Global Warming debunked in 3 minutes.'

If you watch both you can see where this is going.
Oh God, I don't know if I should laugh or cry seeing how close to the knuckle this satire is.

At least that's satire, this is supposed to be real.

Did you know scores of giant oilfields are found all over the planet on a monthly basis? No, then Alex Jones will put you right.
Alex Jones declares war on The Peak Oil Scammers

"Praise Jesus!" :D

Hi, everyone. Today is the first of our Peak Oil Town Hall Meetings. We have some extra capacity if you'd like to join in. I'm presenting today at noon and 7pm (PST). I'll also be doing the Keeping Healthy in a Post Peak World. Dr. Barson is helping immensely with that presentation.

San Francisco Peak Oil Town Hall Meetings

The San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force is committed to educating the people of San Francisco about oil depletion and how they can prepare.

We have teamed up with students from the Presidio School of Management (home of a well-regarded sustainability MBA) to host a series of six town hall meetings this August on preparing for peak oil.

The town hall meetings are open to anyone but have been designed specially for the people of San Francisco.

The meetings will take place entirely online.

You will need a computer connected to the Internet and a telephone that can call a conference call service (long distance will apply but is otherwise free). For inexpensive long distance calls, consider www.skype.com, www.jajah.com or www.gizmoproject.com.

Here are the topics:
* August 4 — What's Happening With Oil?
* August 6 — Growing Food in an Urban Environment
* August 11 — Creating Communities and Local Economies
* August 13 —Transportation in a Post Peak World
* August 19 — (Please note the date change) Personal Preparation for Peak Oil
* August 20 — Keeping Healthy in a Post Peak World

There are two presentations each day, which are identical to each other. Choose the one that works best for your schedule:
* 12 noon until 1pm (Pacific)
* 7 pm until 8pm (Pacific)

These presentations are designed to help answer the question, "Where do I start to prepare for peak oil?" Each meeting incudes about 20 minutes of content followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.

You can register here:

It's official: Obama has changed his mind about tapping the SPR.

I had thought that Obama was at least as rational as most of the other Washingtonites when it comes to oil. But this doesn't make any sense, does it?

He doesn't have to be rational. He has say what the people want to hear as they "CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH" - I forgot what film that was from!


It makes perfect sense to a politician.

I find this interesting because it's evidence that energy prices are very important to voters.

And also that they see the problem in entirely the wrong way. The problem is high prices, so the solution is "lower the prices."

Prepare for full-scale pandering. We're freakin' doomed.

You got it exactly right Leanan. As a nation, Americans don't care how you do it, just give us our cheap gasoline back. Repercussions be damned.

They might care if they actually had to pay up front for the full cost of that oil. If the U.S. economy continues down the tubes and the rest of the world decides not to buy U.S. Treasury Bonds, then we won't be able to pay for that massive military establishment we now use to "capture" oil from uncooperative nations. When that happens, we may need to raise the gas tax to pay for the mercenaries in our "volunteer" army. Or, we may just bring back the Draft to gather up enough young bodies to fight those in other nations that think that they should be the ones to burn their oil.

Hey all you right wingnuts out there, it's your patriotic duty to send your kids into battle with the hoards of third worlders who want to drive cars and live in McMansions just like us! You should be happy that your kids return in pieces shoveled into body bags! And, don't forget, all those families torn apart on the other side aren't just collateral damage, they're demand destruction too! Just think, you and your redneck buddies could ride around in your Hummer/Suburban/Expeditions for another day or so for each kid or family wasted in battle!

Sorry for the rant, I think I'm having a Vietnam era flashback...

E. Swanson

Economy going down the tubes? Nahh, in today's news they said that factory orders are up - mostly orders for military equipment for the wars. So everything is fine. If the orders are still not enough to keep the economy humming, we can always start another war or two and fix it right up.


Higgins: It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

Joe Turner: Ask them?

Higgins: Not now - then! Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!

A very good insight into this is from Adam Curtis' 'The Century of the Self - Part IV : Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering'.

It details how political opinion making since the first Clinton presidential campaign has been based on very short-sighted, but also effective focus group tactics in order to cater to swing voters' emotional demands.

Recommended watching for anyone interested in public opinion and how it is shaped. The whole series that is.

Virtually every so-called "solution" coming from the powers that be will make matters worse.

Prepare for full-scale pandering, yes. But don't be so uncharitable; think what this does for the quality of the political debate overall!

cfm in Gray, ME

Prepare for full-scale pandering. We're freakin' doomed...

Leanan, that was my initial reaction. But the flip side of this might be good. That reserve is there for military purposes. Adjusting that priority suggests that bigger things are in motion. The politicians are competing with the military-industrial complex for that oil.

It suggests a tipping point might be closer than we appreciate.

I don't see any change. The SPR is not solely for military purposes. They've even sold oil from the SPR for "deficit reduction."

Ah, so sad. Obama is just another pol. And that's the key, isn't it? This decision by Obama buys votes so it is completely rational from his perspective. The primary purpose of a politician is to get (re)elected. Couple that with the short term focus of most voters (save my pension, save my house, gimme cheaper oil, gimme cheaper food, and do it all right now) and it becomes very apparent why democracies devolve into bread-and-circus lunatic asylums.

For politicians to care about longer term issues requires that voters care. Hoping for the white knight will simply get you the dark knight instead, especially when the voters approve of kidnap-and-torture, throwing out habeus corpus, domestic spying, and illegal wars that we can't afford anyway.

But this doesn't make any sense, does it?

Depends... it you connect the oil reserve to social and political priorities then military initiatives are compromised.

Based on past events I would argue that this country will attempt to have its cake and eat it until it can't.

This time the outcome will be much worse than LBJs shot at "guns and butter".

Here's the gist of his proposal...

From the article:

Obama supports releasing light oil from the emergency oil stockpile now and replacing it later with heavier crude more suited to the country's long-term needs, according to a campaign fact sheet. Light crude oil is easier to refine into gasoline than heavier oil.

There is actually evidence that there is a surplus of heavy sour oil. Selling the light sweet and replacing it with heavy sour might make sense.

Eventually, as more refineries retool for heavy sour, it will be worth more and the surplus will disappear.

The air industry proposed this a few weeks back.


Oil analyst Phil Verleger has said a swap of sweet for sour crude could quickly cut oil prices because a broad range of oil refineries are thirsty for the high-quality crude, while global crude producers are having a hard time selling heavy crude.

I think a light sweet for heavy sour trade makes LOTS of sense right now.

Today, SPR crude is 60% light sweet & 40% medium heavy sour crude.(<1% refined heating oil stored in the NE)

Given changes in global oil quality and refineries (currently behind the curve) a mix of 45% light sweet, 47% medium heavy and 8% heavy oil would be appropriate.

New space is being built at a new 5th SPR depot in Mississippi, so mix and match strategies can be executed.


PS Any new buys of crude should be cheapest gunk we can find.

I think it's the other way around:


We have a lot more sour than sweet in the SPR.

I stand corrected, the SPR is 59.9% heavy sour (medium heavy might be a better term(.


So at least there is some logic to this proposal?

What kind of time frame are we talking about for expanding the capacity to refine sour crude?

We have enough in place now and more coming. SPR is NOT meant to keep soccer moms in their SUVs, it is mainly to keep the military going, plus crucial bits & pieces of civilian infrastructure (farming, food distribution, garbage pick-up, etc.) Many refineries will be idled or operating at low capacity as the SPR is drained to the last drop.


Disagree. That may be what it should be used for, but that's not what it's actually used for. We have opened up the SPR before - to keep soccer moms in their SUVs.

The point of disagreement among our politicians is whether the SPR can be used to lower prices if there's no supply disruption (such as a hurricane).

And we are also supposed to offer Israel emergency oil if they need it.

There have been small SPR drawdowns to supply refineries when a barge accident closed the Intercoastal Canal.

However, when an supply shortfall serious enough to draw down the SPR more than half way, enough to "see the bottom of the barrel", oil use patterns in the USA will change.

Perhaps politicians will be craven enough to push BAU until the very last drop, but I doubt it. I think we can count on reduced refinery runs for teh bottom 80% of the SPR.


Leanan is correct. Politicians say that the SPR is for one thing but the actions of politicians prove that the SPR is for something else - buying votes.

I am a doomer not because of technology. Hell, we have the technology. What we cannot fix is public attitudes like these that lead to using the SPR to keep soccer moms in their SUVs. A civilization this stupid (and the US is not the only nation this stupid) is going to kill itself one way or another.

I agree--- Never underestimate the stupidity of the US populace.
They vote against their own interests on a consistent basis, prefer story and myth to critical thinking, and are essentially historically and scientifically illiterate.
And I'm only referring to the one's who can read.

To this I would add that people have become fundamentally lazy, and looking for an angle or a gimmick to get rich quick rather than being willing to work hard. Previous generations were willing to bust their tails in order to raise their kids well. Current generations just act like they are entitled and seem to be surprised when others don't view them this way.

These are the things that keep pushing me towards being a doomer.

Hightrekker, I think you underestimate the abilities of most Yanks. They can nearly all read (because if they didn't they wouldn't be able to follow the pictures of Brangelina and the other celebs in trashy magazines).

RE: Alexander Cockburn.

As well as being an AGW denier, he is also a peak-oil denier, preferring to believe in abiotic oil. (sorry, no links). He should stick to political commentary.

Pretty impressive to see Al Gore putting (slimeball) T Boone Pickens' slander aside to deal with environmental problems...

Obama just gave a speech on Energy in Michigan...

4 years - double renewable energy to 10%, and reduce electricity use by 15%
Create 5 million new jobs.
6 years - 1 million plug in hybrid cars in America.
10 years - off of all oil imports from mid-east and Venezuela. $150 billion investment in
Battery technology and other renewables.

Nice goals, and much better than McCain's ideas. McCain continues to support Big Oil.

However, as Obama says "This will not be easy!"

The new term now may be Big Lithium!
When is Peak Lithium????

Well, he's set some milestones - was there a plan to go with these dates? Or is it time to get out the magic wand?

Covered by TOD, as usual:

Peak Minerals

Peak Lithium or Lithium in abundance?

There are tons more, just use the TOD search :)

When is Peak Lithium????

Who knows? ... but you can be sure of one thing ... it will not have anything to do with the claimed reserves of lithium!

Like peak oil, peak lithium will be determined by it's price and how affordable it is.

Like peak oil, peak lithium will be determined by it's price and how affordable it is.

Eh, care to explain?

Peak Oil is maximum volumetric flow rate. As in flow volume in a unit of time.

Yes, best available technology has a minuscule (say 10%) overall effect on the max flow rate, but that's it.

The rest of the max flow rate is determined by geology. The downside is ruled by above ground factors.

Lithium could in turn be different, because unlike oil, it can be recycled (at least in theory).

The flow rate of an individual well is determined by geology.

World oil flow rates are determined by the balance of supply and demand - which is determined by the price. Supply (and the total number of wells) is limited by the need to make a profit and demand is limited by the need to afford the price.

There are still probably at least a million million (a trillion!) barrels of crude oil in the world, but it is only profitable to extract about 75 million barrels per day - the daily flow rate (and any peak rate) is so small in relation to the total volume of the resource (~13,500 days supply?) that the two are not directly related.

If an oil company spends, say, $1 million drilling a well it has to wait for $1 million worth of oil to come out of the hole before it makes any profit - it is the need to make a profit that limits the flow-rates/number-of-wells. At any particular price for oil only so many holes can be put in a reservoir and still make a profit. However, if it is profitable enough oil CAN BE (and IS) recycled from CO2 and water with substances like bio-ethanol or bio-diesel.

The same is true of any 'mined' resource like lithium (or herrings, uranium, topsoil, phosphorous, lead, wind, sunlight, etc), it doesn't matter whether the 'lode' is lithium chloride or a pile of worn out lithium batteries. The balanced flow of supply and demand will be determined by price, just like the oil. The most profitable, easy/cheap lithium (or other substance) will be produced first, eventually more and more costly 'lodes' are mined resulting in a peak flow of supply (or demand, since the two are equal).

World oil flow rates are determined by the balance of supply and demand - which is determined by the price.

We are talking past each other.

The maximum possible flow rate is determined for the whole world by geology.

That's the max you can pump, if demand is high enough.

The actual world flow rate keeps growing due to demand growth and eventually meets at maximum flow rate.

This is the issue we are talking about with peak oil - maximum flow rate.

Actual flow rate is a function of supply/demand (aka price and costs), but max rate is mostly not (hence my 10% boost from best tech). Max rate is ruled by geology on the upside and above ground factors on the downside.

I do agree that for initial production lithium (and mined minerals) model roughly the same, but lithium can be recycled, unlike oil. In that way lithium is potentially very different in term of it's flow rate development.

The actual world flow rate keeps growing due to demand growth and eventually meets at maximum flow rate.

That is true as long as supply is constrained and demand is trying to grow (as now) - but there is another possibility, the peak is caused because demand is constrained (in this situation prices and supply would be constantly falling as we saw in the 1970s).

Constrained demand is KSA's and Big Oil's big fear (either because of viable alternates or ongoing recession), they were nearly ruined by it in earlier decades.

I am not sure that lithium production from recycling is any different from using recycling oil using bio-ethanol or bio-diesel.

All this, universal health care, more tax rebates, an increase in military troop strength, offshore drilling, and no tax increases except those over $300,000. Just pull all that out of the debt machine.

We are in a financial crisis and the national debt is going to get way worse without any of these initiatives. I wouldn't be surprised to see us incurring a trillion dollars of additional debt per year before O's first term is over.

Regardless of who you support, it's all lies and stupid promises from here on out. I am voting for Obama but am pretty disgusted with both candidates. But I get it. The American people cannot handle the truth. And so it goes.

Your vote does not matter anyway. Once you realize that and really accept that, you can feel free to vote for a third party candidate as a form of protest. I am voting for Ron Paul, not because I agree with him on every issue, but because I agree with him on the financial issues. For me, a vote for Paul is a way to tell the major parties "It's the economy, stupid!"

For you, someone else may be more appropriate so choose someone whose position matters to you. But I urge you to not vote for either of the corporate shills (Democrat or Republican) because they are just two sides of the same coin, no matter who runs under either banner.

I tend to agree. I'm voting for Cynthia McKinney and the Greens. She promises to get all troops out of Iraq AND Afghanistan as well as the 150 other countries they occupy. That will cut the budget deficit drastically. She is also for a single payer health care system; the only candidate other than Kucinich to say that, I think. I am seeing less and less difference between McCain and Obama on these and other issues

It is amazing how the mainstream media can simply ignore the fact that there are other candidates on the ballot. Besides McKinney, there is also Bob Barr and Ralph Nader.

I think his plan is doable. Remember, current public debt is high; however, it's nowhere near what it was during WWII. It's currently less than half what is was then, as a % of GDP.

The actual debt or the publicly admitted debt? Because if we take all the "off book" items and add them up, the US debt is pushing global annual GDP in scope. And no, we have never had debt that bad before.

Regardless of who you support, it's all lies and stupid promises from here on out. I am voting for Obama but am pretty disgusted with both candidates. But I get it. The American people cannot handle the truth. And so it goes."

You realise that both candidates are being supported by the same bunch of people? The ones causing the problem...

US Hybrid sales down 6% in July

The financial-crunch-to-become-economic-crunch doesn't seem to be making the transition to hybrids any easier.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the economic decision regarding what vehicle to buy is working against Hybrids. Clearly, there are many people who are willing to buy a hybrid and pay the premium on these cars simply as an effort to address climate issues. However, most people make their car buying decisions not on gas mileage alone, but on total cost of ownership.

My commute takes me by a used pickup/SUV dealer and if I were to be in the market for a new vehicle today here is the calculation I'd be looking at. A New Prius or Civic is going to cost me around 22K. A 5 year old F150 I can get for Under 10K. That extra 12K in price at $4 a gallon gas and 15MPG buys my first 45000 miles worth of gas.

That's why I bought a Corolla, instead of a Prius. I'd love to own a Prius...but not enough to pay $8,000 more for one. Might be worth it if I drove a lot, but I don't.

How about the next 45,000 miles and the next $4 per gallon, and differences in maintenance costs? Why not buy a 10-year old Civic and save the up-front cost AND the gas, and save on maintenance besides?

For the used-car buyer, there is merit to your analysis but it hastens the destructive end of oil and leaves the secondary buyers vulnerable to price spikes. Who would willingly own a low-reliability, low-resale, high-consumption vehicle that is at 5-year cost parity with an industry-leading-resale, industry-leading-reliability, industry-leading-efficiency vehicle? Turn the argument over and convince yourself the extra cost is worth it, with future upsides instead!

Really, the new Prius buyer is betting long on oil while the used F150 buyer is betting short.

Even better, buy a used VW TDI and get better mileage than a Prius (especially highway), for way less up-front cost.

And, for bonus points, burn biodiesel made from recycled veggie oil for an ultimately low-impact personal transportation solution!

(Now, if we could just get some of those 4 cylinder, 4-door, 4WD pickups like they have in the rest of the world, we might even be able to sell the Eco-soccer moms and dads on the idea. Too bad M&M is the only auto maker listening...)

The one thing you are missing is that for the average buyer the prestige value of the VW TDI (or Corolla as suggested above) is so low as to make the purchase a last resort. Remember, we are not talking about people who are interested in saving the world. Their calculation is part economic and part social. A Prius (or any hybrid) holds a certain cache that makes it a suitable substitute for a big vehicle. They are, in essence, on the same level of desirability. 10 year old compacts simply don't rate, no matter how cheap.

For the used-car buyer, there is merit to your analysis but it hastens the destructive end of oil and leaves the secondary buyers vulnerable to price spikes.

Ah, so you got the point!

This is more of a supply problem rather than a demand problem. The car companies underestimated the demand for Hybrid Vehicles. Expect sales for these vehicles to increase as more hybrid production is brought online.

Honda Civic hybrids (according to the link) are way up in sales, Toyota can't keep up with the demand.

Car dealers can't help themselves, and I'm sure they are charging a premium for the in-demand cars. This is nothing new, of course. About ten years ago we were in the market for a Honda Odyssey (just redesigned) and there were long wait lists and "MSRP plus X" pricing everywhere we tried to get one.

Some people may put off buying a hybrid until they sell their existing vehicle, and it's hard to move used SUVs at a good price (perhaps depending on geographic location)

If you read between the lines, though, the crappy GM mild-hybrids, the too-expensive, too-powerful GM truck hybrids, the Ford SUV hybrids, and the pricey Nissan hybrid suffered, while the highest-efficiency Civic and Prius did quite well. It's hard to tell how the Prius would have done if they weren't short battery production and if true-believers weren't already holding off for the new 2009 model.

I wonder how the Civic CNG is doing?

Deleted do to looking more carefully at the facts.

This hybrid problem relates to the availability of batteries. There is no evidence that it is a financial problem.

Hybrid sales 2% of all car sales in US in 2007. Some say due to price hybrid cars will remain elite vehicles for quite some time.

Ford says another 5 years before plug-in hybrids will be mass-market.

I wonder if people start to realize, that their favorite paper, lab and even mass-manufacture technologies take a long time before they have a big impact on the market.

6 years - 1 million plug in hybrid cars in America.

Must... keep.... driving.... must.... keep.......driv....

10 years - off of all oil imports from mid-east and Venezuela. $150 billion investment in

Does he not realize oil is sold on markets?


I'm an Obama supporter but must agree that when it comes to energy he is almost as clueless as that white haired guy who had all his grey matter sucked out while in POW camp. Still, I'd rather have someone who can work a computer in the white facade house than a total Neanderthal. Drill drill drill is something that sergeants and old soldiers do. At least Obama gets it that drill drill drill simply marches us in circles around the same old parade grounds.

The problematic future of U. S. energy investment

Really great article!

Thanks for posting it.

Thus far, there are few signs that would make one optimistic that the U.S. political and financial system will be able to sucessfully deal with the energy problems confronting the country.

Re: Experts clash over viability of biofuels, alternative energy. Up top.

Tad Patzek of UC Berkeley thinks that it is funny that, in his view, ethanol supporters are saying that 2+2=22 rather than 4.

As usual Tad Patzek plays fast and loose with numbers and logic. He has no comprehension that numbers can add up properly and still be totally wrong. And I think that is funny.

I am a grain farmer and grow corn and soybeans. Suppose my goal is to produce the most grain on my farm. That is the equivalent of what EROEI proposes as the proper goal of energy policy.

I can grow either soybeans or corn since that is what the market offers a good price on. If my goal is the most grain I will grow only corn. The grain return on grain invested is far superior to soybeans. One kernel of corn produces about 400-500 kernels on an ear of corn per plant. One soybean seed produces about 40-50 pods with about 3 beans in each pod or about 150 beans total.

The weights of corn and beans are 56 pounds and 60 pounds respectively which is close enough for this argument that it can be disregarded.

Following EROEI logic for GROGI only corn should be produced since it yields 400 kernels compared to 150 beans. Why then do farmers grow beans at all?

Of course the answer is there are important outside factors that are being left out of the argument. This is what EROEI does. It leaves out important factors like prices, costs, unique characteristics and utility.

In the case of soybeans the seed is much cheaper than corn, less fertilizer is required, the price of beans is higher than corn, beans add nitrogen to the soil and contribute to higher corn yields the following year, and the smaller yield means lower storage and transportation costs. And there are other reasons like machinery and time utilization which are more efficient when beans as well as corn are produced.

The same goes for energy. Maximizing the total amount of energy should not be the goal of energy policy which EROEI implies because
other important factors are ignored. Energy is not like money where every dollar is identical.

Forms of energy have characteristics just like forms of grain have characteristics. If I go to the local elevator and say I want to sell some grain, they will say "Which one?". There is no market for grain, there are only markets for individual grains like corn, beans, wheat etc..

The same is true for energy. If we go to an energy supplier and say we want to buy some energy, he will say "Which one?" We can say electricity, natural gas or wood pellets. But we have to pick one. We can not buy the general group "energy" but only individual forms of energy.

Each of these forms have characteristics there make them unique. They can not be grouped together as though they were all the same.
This is what EROEI attempts to do and it is impossible.

This is basic stuff. We learn about alike and unlike in first grade.
Things that are not alike can not be compared, added, subtracted, divided, or multiplied. They are different.

Forms of energy are different just as forms of grain are different. If I bring in a mixed load of corn and beans to the elevator it will be rejected. This is the great fear of elevator operators: that they will mix corn and beans by mistake.

But EROEI proponents and ethanol critics are fearless. They mix energy forms with total abandon and think they are smart doing it. First graders would be appalled.

I live on a sugar cane producing island and I disagree. EROEI is extremely important. Apart from a smidgen of solar, wind and hydro, we have to import every drop of energy we use. We also have to import every drop of transportation fuel. If we are to engage in production of corn, sugar cane, coconuts, oil palm, soya beans, jatropha or algae, the EROEi has to be decidedly positive or we are wasting our time.

I think my situation gives me a perspective that you, living on a continent with considerable energy resources, would be hard fought to come up with. For us, TANFL. If we are to use precious imported transportation fuel and fertilizer to produce fuel we had better be getting back more energy than we put in. There is no point in subsidizing energy production with energy. The other thing is that for decades energy from oil has been practically free, as stated by Matt Simmons and Matt Savinar. You wait until you have to start paying for the actual energy content of a gallon of diesel for your farm equipment and see if you'll be as willing to accept a low EROEI.

Energy is not like money where every dollar is identical.

That above statement is where I find a giant hole in your arguments. What if it were? Suppose we were to dispense with fiat currencies and start trading on the basis of BTU equivalent notes instead of FRNs. Who do you think is going to offer you 10,000,0000 BTU equivalent notes for 900,000 BTU equivalent of corn? Think about it. IMHO there had better be considerably more energy content in what you are trying to sell than what the buyer is willing to pay or you can forget it.

Alan from the islands

islandboy -

Well put!

As I see it, ethanol is essentially nothing more than Hamburger Helper for gasoline.

Makes what you started out with seem go a little bit further, but you know it ain't really meat.

By the way, instead of,

Who do you think is going to offer you 10,000,0000 BTU equivalent notes for 900,000 BTU equivalent of corn?

I meant to say, Who do you think is going to offer you 10,000,0000 BTU equivalent notes for 9,000,000 BTU equivalent of corn? I could have even said 10,000,000 BTE ENs for 10,000,000 BTU eqiuivalant of corn. The point is that, if the purachaser wants the corn for it's energy and not for food, by the time they have transported the corn to wherever they are going to process it, they'd be in a loss position.

Alan from the islands

But his point was that even allowing for BTU content not all forms of energy are interchangeable. You can't power a flashlight with coal or an airplane with batteries. Many forms of energy must be converted to be usable. A power plant makes coal or NG into electricity. An ethanol plant makes NG int automotive fuel. Arguing that only EREI matters would argue that there should never be a coal fired electric plant.

An ethanol plant makes NG int automotive fuel.

I guess that's why T. Boone Pickens came up with the "Pickens Plan". No need to expend any energy making fertilizer from NG, burn diesel in farm equipment to produce corn and process corn into ethanol. Just burn the NG directly as transportation fuel. Brilliant!

Only problem is that X now has to sell his crops to be used as food. What a drag.

Whenever this subject comes up, I always remember the chart titled "How green are biofuels", from this post. Just about says it all.

The problem with the EROEI of bio-fuels is that you are taking transportation fuels and NG (Pickens' transportation fuel) to make .....wait......transportation fuels! Now, if we could only figure out a way to make fertilizer from electricity without any FF input and drive farm equipment with electricity......

Alan from the islands

Right next to our property was to be a development of 212 acres with about 7 houses per acre (~1400). They started the dirt work and hugh dirt moving equipment were digging holes. The soil was supposedly unable to pass compaction tests. Our house a hundred feet away has been here for over twenty years and has not sunk into the soil. So they moved the lower dirt to the top or at least mixed it all up. Then they compacted the dirt so it would pass compaction tests. I estimated they spent about three million in dirt work from 2003-2006. They finally built a few houses of which 10 (~half) are occupied before the project went tits up. These houses are about 500 feet from our place. They are definitely NOT McMansions, 1500-2400 sq ft.

We have about 8 inches of moisture right in our area though we have many feet of moisture in the surrounding mountains. With the couple rains we have had since spring the weeds have grown over the land. I went out there and dug around. The soil is terrible. It will take several years of humus to make the soil productive and with limited water there will not be much to turn under so it will be back to desert sage brush in a couple years.

Our place is much better and our garden areas are OK. We have a well and are assembling our caca for some PV power, years worth of food, etc.

About politicians: I am a doomer and I see nothing in the present to change my mind because the people who control the money have to be re-elected and that means pandering to the lowest possible denomination, the 'ME' generation IMHO.

I am most worried about the chaos time when this 'ME' generation gets hungry.

So, 2,400 sq ft is NOT a McMansion?

Of course 2400 sq feet is big but not a Mc Mansion. Here in the Reno/Tahoe area many many are 4500 sq feet and up, three story affairs (million $ plus), with two people rattling around in them. I work for them occasionally. Our house is much smaller but then again I have an 800 sq foot furniture woodworking shop with about a 50 foot commute. I don't even have to bicycle :-)

Private property vs. getting things done

In the second decade of the twentieth century, it was almost impossible to build an airplane in the United States. That was the result of a chaotic legal battle among the dozens of companies — including one owned by Orville Wright — that held patents on the various components that made a plane go.

No one could manufacture aircraft without fear of being hauled into court. The First World War got the industry started again, because Congress realized that something needed to be done to get planes in the air. It created a “patent pool,” putting all the aircraft patents under the control of a new association and letting manufacturers license them for a fee. Had Congress not stepped in, we might still be flying around in blimps.

The situation that grounded the U.S. aircraft industry is an example of what the Columbia law professor Michael Heller, in his new book, “The Gridlock Economy,” calls the “anticommons.” We hear a lot about the “tragedy of the commons”: if a valuable asset (a grazing field, say) is held in common, each individual will try to exploit as much of it as possible. Villagers will send all their cows out to graze at the same time, and soon the field will be useless.

When there’s no ownership, the pursuit of individual self-interest can make everyone worse off. But Heller shows that having too much ownership creates its own problems. If too many people own individual parts of a valuable asset, it’s easy to end up with gridlock, since any one person can simply veto the use of the asset.

"Tragedy of the Anticommons"

Me too, me too. Stupid f****** patents. They are a [expletive] minefield. DMX on a boat! LEDs in a toilet! Remote addressing and RDM. F*** color kinetics and their lawyers.

Hopefully the US market dries up to the extent that it's not worth working in. If we can sell to Europe, Asia, and sane people elsewhere, we can maybe ignore US paper promises and actually get something accomplished.

Not that the below patent is relevant to my personal plans, but it illustrates how [expletive] stupid the US patent office is.

Method of exercising a cat
Document Type and Number:
United States Patent 5443036

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.

I thought you were joking about this...it's worse than I even imagined.

Referring to the drawings, a light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser) apparatus 10 for exercising cats, in the hands of a cat owner 12, emits an invisible beam 14 of light from and along the longitudinal axis of the device barrel 16. Activation of the laser cat exerciser 10 is controlled by spring-loaded trigger 18 energizing the laser mechanism by completing a battery power circuit. A cat 20 reacts to the bright pattern of light 22 occurring at the intersection of the laser beam and an opaque surface, for example, the floor or wall of a room.

The involuntary and almost imperceptibly slight movements of the hand holding the laser device of the present invention creates a jittery animated effect in the light pattern at the opaque intersection appealing to cats even when the device is held essentially steady.

Intentional movements of the hand-held cat exerciser cause angular changes in the direction of the beam 14 and consequently the light pattern 22 moves unpredictably about the intersecting surfaces. The cat 20, intrigued by the jumpy movement of the light pattern, experiences a playful and healthy chase impulse and follows the irregularly moving light pattern around the room to the cardio-vascular, respiratory, weight control, and muscle tone benefit of the animal.

Release of trigger 18 interrupts the power circuit and extinguishes the laser beam, whereupon the cat can return to more traditionally feline time passing until cat owner 12 re-initiates the laser cat exerciser.

Question: What's the difference between a dead lawyer on a street and a dead dog on the street?
Answer: There are skid marks in front of the dog.

Question: What do you have if you've got 10 lawyers buried up to their necks in sand?

Answer: Not enough sand.

A traveler comes across a small shop in a small town and sees a large finely carved wooden statue of a rat in the corner of the shop without a price tag. He asks the shopkeeper how much for the statue and the owner tells him it is not for sale because it is always returned. He persists in wanting to buy the statue and the shopkeeper sells it to him under the condition that in no way he will take the statue back. He leaves the shop with the statue and notices that rats are starting to follow him. Before long thousands of rats are following him as he is running down the road. He comes to a cliff by the ocean throws the statue off and the rats follow it drowning to their deaths. He then returns to the shop and the shopkeeper sees him and exclaims “no! I’m not taking it back!” The traveler says that’s not why he returned, but asks “do you have a similar statue of a lawyer?”

Being a law school graduate I have heard them all.

I guess this one must have been the companion to yours, then.

'Many lab scientists have recently switched from using Rats for their experiments to using Lawyers. It seems that many of the scientists found they would get too attached to the Rats when working with them for any period of time.. and then also, there are some things that Rats simply won't do.'

(As told by Robin Williams in the movie 'Hook')

I only included that joke because as I was reading that patent I thought to myself, "Only a lawyer would have the chutzpah to patent something like this as a 'method'." I googled the guy's name who took out this patent and sure enough, he's a lawyer. My dad was a lawyer too.

What do you call 100 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?

A good start!

I'm sure you have. The only reason that I was motivated to gather lawyer jokes was to hassle my bro-in-law. He is a great guy - environmental lawyer, does good work. But still had to hassle him. :-)

I've done several patent searches on my ideas over the years. Recently, I did a search on vertical axis wind generators. Going back decades as usual, the art work was often all that was required to understand the invention. That's because the art work was usually done as an engineering type of drawing with special requirements from the patent office.

Then I hit on this new one: Patent 7,381,030
Take a look at the figures, and you might be shocked at the hand drawn sketches, 10 pages of them, as was I. Looks like the old quality work required in earlier years is out the window. Maybe we have another issue here about failure of government since The Shrub became The Decider...

E. Swanson

I think a few years ago, in order to save money, the USPTO fired all their draftsmen (the people who check drawings for compliance with the rules).

p.s. for those who want to view the drawings under "images", you'll need a TIFF viewer like alterantiff.com.

I have question for everybody about stirling engines. Does anybody here have any experience building these? I'm curious about the realities of building stirling engines that could produce a total of 100 or more watts. I am not looking for a way to make 24/7/365 power, but san diego has a long sunny season, and the ability to produce this much power in a way that i can build and maintain seems to have a lot of practical use. I am also not particularly concerned with storing this power either (though i have some ideas on how to do it). My main concern is space, and as such a bunch of little ones would probably be better than one big one. Is the idea of producing 100 watts of power during the day in sunny weather from home made stirling engines a pipe dream, or a possibility?

Also, am i right to assume that one of the major problems with the stirling engine is getting stable volts/amps/Hz? Would DC be easier than AC because you wouldn't have to worry about the Hz? I'm sure i can google this, but i am interested to hear if anybody has personal experience.

My Mech-E majoring classmates at MIT built many of these.

The big catch with Solar-Stirling is that you have to use moving sun contentrators to use them, and that immediately ups the cost, maintenance and risk (wind!) beyond what's reasonable for the average single homeowner.

If you could build a farm of these in your back yard and get the neighbors to sign up for the juice, then it's a different story. There are a lot of designs out there, and they rely on a concentrator heating an absorber and then moving the heat to the engine. The absorber can store the heat for hours, making solar stirling practical for the early evening.

But if you're a beginner at this stuff, just the sun-following motors might be a non-starter, never mind the other issues with Stirling engines.

that makes a lot of sense. The logistics of tracking both the sun across the sky during the day, but also the angle of the sun over time seems to be a dozy. It gets a lot worse when you put it in the context of an energy crisis that would be likely to have black outs, making the trackers have to be able to find the sun after a cold restart. What is the margin of error for tracking these? Is it the type of thing you could adjust ever 15 minutes, or is it something you have to do in real time?

I mean, the two ways i can think of tracking the sun are:
1) Placing photovoltaic/resistive cells around the condenser and use them to triangulate the position of the sun
2) the sun moves in a predictable way, so you could make a table for the movements for each day of the year.

the problem with these ideas is that i wouldn't know how to do them without a computer, or at least a whole bunch of logic gates. Based on the idea of unreliable external power, it seem like i'd have to align these manually after the winter and set the date. I'm sure that I'm missing a lot of logistical problems were as well.

Do you know anything about the margin of error for the angles?

I don't see why, with GPS technology, that solar tracking can't be a fairly simple and reliable technology.

You can buy a telescope with the built in ability to focus on a chosen stellar target and track that target. Doing the same with the sun has got to be a simple thing.

i don't think that GPS really applies to this, but i could be wrong. The way that those telescopes track is by manually picking a spot, and servos move to adjust for the rotation of the earth. The sun is not only dictated by the rotation of the earth, which is an arch movement like a body in space would appear in one night. The sun also has a vertical movement across the sky that causes the days to get longer/shorter between summer and winter. This is due to our tilted axis and the effect that has on the angle of the sun as we orbit it. Also, last i checked, tracking servos for telescopes are really expensive, and if they break, i doubt they are user serviceable, which makes it less desirable to me.

The GPS would determine the exact latitude and longitude of the setup, enabling the tracking mechanism to track properly, exactly as an astronomical telescope would do. I haven't looked into how these telescopes work, but I don't see why a GPS/tracking system wouldn't work for that as well as for a solar tracking system.

Zomeworks has had a 'passive' tracking system for years that uses evaporation of a volatile liquid to keep a solar array aimed properly. I believe it only works along one axis, but it might be able to be modified to track both daily and seasonally. In any case, the seasonal tracking would be very simple.

First, here is a page of tracker circuits that I've posted here from time to time. There's enough description to get a good sense of the (fairly simple) electronics involved, and the practical approaches to mounting and troubleshooting such rigs.


It's a nice long page with multiple circuits, boards for sale, and photos of folks and their application of these circuits.

Here is the same site's page on Heat Engines (Including Sterlings)..

and just a sick amount of links and fun stuff at the homesite..

But finally, if you're looking for a simple, space-saving source of a hundred watts or so, with no moving parts to have to tend to, you might consider this as well.. $616
(This is the panel I have two of.. if you want to experiment, try putting some thermally conductive backing and piping on the rear of the panel to keep it cooler and producing optimal watts, while you prewarm some water!)

But I don't blame you for wanting to make the gadgety-stuff.. I'm all over that, too!

Bob Fiske

I have a 12V digital timer from Flexcharge that activates 8 times per day to rotate my solar panels via a tiny DC motor.

Timer costs $75 and motor and mount cost$30.

Keep it simple, guys

Yup. Years ago I found some folks who were making solar trackers for solar ovens. Same idea.


One approach I've toyed with would key the movement to the hourhand of a clock, perhaps one in a 24-hour face, so the action matched the earth's rotation angle 1 to 1. Writing a program for a Time-o-day based movement on a small computer or microcontroller wouldn't be that tough, either, but I think the approaches at Redrok that I linked above are pretty elegant.


The sensor arrays are the easy part. Homing in on the sun is an easy negative feedback problem in 2D. The hard part is making the assembly sturdy enough to resist the wind (even in San Diego, it will be an issue), and with motors.

These will take daily maintenance. If you work at home, it can make sense.

Would it be possible to condense the sunlight with magnifying lenses instead of a parabolic dish? What i am thinking is like half a golf ball, where each little dent is a lens. The only movement you would need is an up/down focusing, like an autofocus camera lens. The lenses would focus on a the black surface of the hot side of the engine, and the dome will be thick and insulating. This would cut down on the complexity, and all you'd really need is a spot that didn't get shade.

It would, but the surface area has to be the same and mirrors are lighter than lenses.

that was a lot of great info, thank you Apuleius, ET, and r4ndom. Seems like I've got a lot more thinking/researching to do, but this is a great help in focusing my efforts.

I have a generator design in mind using a stirling base. It is similar to Infinia's design, but much simpler.

Sadly, I am not an engineer, do not have access to a machine shop and have not yet located someone who could actually put one together and test it for me. Assuming Infinia's design works, so would mine. Actually, I have several design variations, some with Stirling components, some without. If you're an engineer or know you way around a machine shop, let me know. ;)


You might want to take a look at a liquid piston Stirling. Incredibly simple and easy to make technology, not terribly useful for generating electricity themselves, but they can pump water.





The benefit of the fluid piston is that you don't have any engineering tolerances to work out or manufacture.

Or, for a self starting Stirling engine:


So...all that is needed to get oil prices down is create an impending disaster and then conclude it really is not going to be a disaster.

Crude down near 120$ today as you know:


Crude oil prices fell this afternoon and helped limit the stock market's losses after traders concluded that Tropical Storm Edouard would not pose a major threat to domestic oil supplies.

hahaha, we should claim that we accidentally launched a nuke at SA, then say "just kidding". If this disaster trick works, that should put us into the double digit range =).

Is the hurricane season about over or something? Why would this hurricane miss mean that prices should go below the pre-tropical depression stage? I take it that this is just stupid over-reaction.

OPEC raises output...

Duh, I wonder why? It just may be that 145 a barrel, which is now at 120, initiated political posturing to move in the direction of energy independence with the people ardently behind it.

But alas, people forget so quickly and as fuel prices fall, the political will to change course will also probably whither. Even after the Middle East oil embargo of 78 when Carter was prez, Reagen pulled the solar panels off the roof of the White House, eliminated tax credits for renewable energy and we all went back to business as usual.

The question now is; will history repeat itself once again, or will we remain determined to reduce as much as possible our dependence on oil imports? McCain's energy plan includes 'Encouraging' wind and solar. I never did understand how urging or encouraging actually achieves anything, but Bush got elected twice with that Motus Apparandi with wind and solar, so I suppose we can try another 4 years of it, right? With the polls moving in McCain's direction from extremist negative campaigning, I suppose that's what we'll be doing. More nuclear, oil, etc..........................................................................................................................ad infinitum........................

We can't get action in a crisis. I guarantee no action if oil prices continue to slide. Tomorrow is for dreamers.

Some think it is better to give everyone a $1000 to offset the additional cost of oil this winter rather than say, “quit using so much oil.” All politicians want to get elected (re-elected) so they appeal to the lowest common denominator; money to the proletariat. The voters love it ... just eat it up and put down on a new SUV.

Lobbyist’ buy politicians and politicians buy voters. It all works in a booming economy but won’t work long.

Hello TODers,

U.S. Farmland Values Reach Record on High Crop Prices (Update2)

...Expensive New England

The most expensive farmland in the U.S. was in Massachusetts at $12,200 an acre, followed by Rhode Island and Connecticut. The least expensive was in New Mexico, where land prices averaged $630 an acre. Northeast states were the most expensive of the 10 regions in the lower 48 states tracked by the USDA, with an average price of $5,080 an acre.

The least-expensive area remained the Northern Plains, at $1,110 an acre. Values grew fastest in South Dakota, where prices jumped 21 percent to $990 an acre.
It would be interesting to know if this trend is based on proximity to short distance supply chains and nearby markets when food prices get real high postPeak.

For example, a pumped aquifer irrigation dependent, high altitude, far inland I-NPK-only farmer in New Mexico will be at a decided disadvantage to a I/O-NPK New England farmer at a low altitude, close to seaport, river, or RR, who gets plentiful rainfall, and is close to major markets.

Recall my posting series on Nepal and how distance, altitude, and poor transport infrastructure make it difficult to get I-NPK from sealevel up to the lofty Himalayan agro-plateau and the higher altitude arable and pasture acres.

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

Another quick way to look at this brief example is:

New Mexico Farmer = Shale oil field far from markets with high input costs.

New England Farmer = light, sweet oilfield close to markets and lower input costs.

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

Not today, but I did yesterday! I was checking out a few local yard/garage/moving sales and managed to find someone selling a 10lb bag of I-NPK for $2. Looks like they had only used a cup or so, the rest in perfect condition. No garden in the yard, they must have used it on the lawn and bushes. Brought it home and gave it a quick hug before putting it in the garage with my other gardening supplies. Like good how-to books and tools, NPK is now on my "watch for list" when I hit the sales.

I hug my bag of O-NPK every single day, because she is big and beautiful and very huggable. In fact, I'm going out right now to close up my barn for the night and say good-night to my bag of O-NPK! I mean, my horse. :-)

I think a bucket full of humanure waiting to be composted counts as O-NPK, but I am going to fore go the hug...perhaps a gentlemanly pat on the lid.

My thxs to all that reply to my postings!

In keeping with my theory that I-NPK price increases should always be greater than FF price increases:

IRELAND: Food Input Costs Rocket

The cost of fertiliser, energy and feeding stuffs has rocketed in the past year, according to latest figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office show.

Fertiliser prices have climbed 61.1% since last year while the cost of energy and feeding stuffs increased by 22.8% and 20.9% respectively. Seeds, veterinary expenses and plant production products were up 10.7%, 2.3% and 1.9% respectively.
This is due to the double whammy effect and the FF/I-NPK latency effect as explained in earlier postings. If O-NPK recycling becomes widespread, then possibly FF price increases could outpace I-NPK price increases, but remember that most O-NPK is very bulky and generally less chemically concentrated than I-NPK, therefore the viable transport distance is more energetically constrained.

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

Falling fuel demand in Europe is evidenced by a recent 7% drop in European auto sales:


For the first time in 14 years Egypt has increased oil production and increased reserves of crude and condensates:


Obama boasted of being able to end United States dependence on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil in ten years with a 150 billion dollar spending program may not be carefully thought through. Not sure he can fix Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with that amount of money, much less end dependence on oil imports.

In 1970 the United States had 39 billion barrels of oil reserves. Some 38 years later, the United States has 21 billion barrels of oil in reserves and less than half the crude production of 1970. The marked decline of oil production took decades, not a few weeks during the summer.


Wind power is supplying about one percent of the world's power. That is electric power, not auto transport energy. There are electric grids as close to overloads that new transmission lines are being planned to keep up with current growth, without many cars being plugged in to the circuit.

How much grain would it take to replace all the oil being used in the world in a year with ethanol? Many times more than the entire grain harvest of the world for sure.

T Boone Pickens on CNN Larry King this evening.
I thought it was a good program.

The statement about needing $150 billion to fix the mortgage giants might be an exagerration. The U.S. mortgage market is about 10 trillion dollars of an almost 20 trillion dollar residential real estate market net worth. Americans on average owe more on their homes than they have equity on their homes. The economic stimulus package cost $150 billion. The U.S. national government debt may be approaching ten trillion dollars. Tax deductions for borrowing money to buy real estate and the elimination of capital gains taxes on the sale of owner occupied real estate may have set up the speculative scenario.

Spain, England, and the United States were involved in rampant real estate speculation. This triggered a massive housing crisis.

Japan, Germany, and Italy, and France have lower risk.

A previous housing bubble in Japan burst deflating real estate prices for more than a decade.

Median income adjusted for inflation is declining in America. Job losses continue.

Benjamin Frnaklin was out of debt and preached thrift and savings, he owned much property, businesses, and lent to others. He lacked nothing.

Rich People Flock to Inner City, Poor Move to Suburbs

We've had reports of the poorer people buying SUV's as status symbols, while the more affluent are buying hybrids or getting away from SUV's. Now it appears that whites are moving into the cities while poorer blacks are moving towards the Chicago suburbs. I doubt many will recognize why this trend is taking place.

Downtown condo market and construction still really strong in TO-for how much longer I have no idea.

It's wacky ain't it Brian? Here in Central KY we have had a "housing crisis", or so it was said, and houses would have to be sold cheap...yeah right.

Recently we had a "Homerama" in which new model homes were shown...the brag was that 8 or so houses this year were cheaper, down from last years range of 1.2 to 1.5 milion bucks down this year a range of $850,000 to $1.2 million!

Out in the countryside, the change in home prices is lucky to have been even a 5% drop, and the sale signs are disappearing as these are sold. At least 3 people I know personally have recently closed on homes, one woman getting essentially a "no down payment" deal, and when it was realized she was about $2,000 short on the title search and closing costs, the bank extended her another small "bridge loan" to keep the deal from falling through! The banks seem to have money and are willing to loan, with one of our major area banks being up over double and a half on share price, recently striking an all time high share price (RBCAA) Republic Bankcorp if you want to check out the chart...it is a pretty thing to look at, and forward earnings are still showing nothing but up...

I commute about 44 miles round trip and had thought about moving closer to the city to save fuel costs, but the difference between a house closer to the city and where I live is almost $100,000 for an equal quality home. You can buy a lot of fuel for a hundred grand!


ThatsItImout wrote:

...the difference between a house closer to the city and where I live is almost $100,000 for an equal quality home. You can buy a lot of fuel for a hundred grand!

That's why the U.S. needs to INCREASE the price of gasoline. It's still too cheap in terms of it's impact on consumer lifestyle choices (as you mention), thus the demand destruction at present is not large enough to offset the potential decline in supply which is looming in front of us. Of course, the big problem with increasing the price (perhaps thru a large step upward in taxes), is that many poorer people who are just hanging on would be destroyed. The same would happen in other countries which still subsidize transport fuels, keeping the prices to the public very low compared with the world markets.

I think many people think the present "crisis" is just a short term blip in price and that soon the price will drop and everything will go back to normal. Indeed, there appears to be a slight decline in the price of gasoline at the pump these days. No worries, folks, gotta keep that economy MOVING.

These problems are just another reminder of the need for rationing. Once it's known that the world production for oil has peaked, rationing will be the only viable solution to slowly reduce the demand without a massive, persistent price shock. Otherwise, the market can be expected to force the price for oil products to astronomical levels, with the result being unimaginable hardship for consumers with a combination of high inflation and fewer jobs. While most people suffer, the richest few would continue to bask in easy living within their gated communities.

E. Swanson

Air France-KLM profit drops 59% on oil bill

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Air France-KLM on Tuesday reported a 59% profit decline for its fiscal first quarter, as fuel surcharges weren't nearly enough to counter a sky-high fuel bill.
The last of the major European airlines to report earnings, Air France-KLM (FR:003112: news, chart, profile) said its profit fell to 168 million euros from 415 million euros.

British Airways profit slumps 90% on surging fuel

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- British Airways on Friday reported a 90% fall in fiscal first-quarter net profit due to soaring fuel costs and warned revenue for the year will be lower than previously forecast as demand weakens.
Europe's third-largest flag carrier said net profit for the quarter slumped to 27 million pounds ($53.5 million) from 274 million pounds a year earlier, while revenue grew 2.8% to 2.26 billion pounds.
Fuel costs leapt 49% to 706 million pounds and would have doubled if it weren't for the airline's hedging program. For the year, British Airways (UK:BAY: news, chart, profile) is expecting its fuel bill to rise by 1 billion pounds.

Along the same lines.

Ryanair (a large Irish budget airline) saw profits during the first quarter fall 85% to €21m (£16.6m) and chief executive Michael O’Leary said at best Ryanair would only break even this year.

I know that back in February their "conservative" projection for oil was around $85 and optimistic was $75.

For those who don't know Ryanair are just about the least "frills" airline in the business, e.g. they don't have a complaints department. Also their fleet is one of the youngest around with an average age of about three years so very fuel efficient.

Also today British airport authority BAA has started legal action against Ryanair over its refusal to pay a 15 percent increase in charges. Apparently they owe several millions. Note I only have this on "good authority".