Drumbeat: April 20, 2009

Oil below $46 as stocks tumble ahead of earnings

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – (AP) — Oil prices plunged to their lowest levels in more than a month Monday as investors, nervous about a week chock-full of corporate earnings reports, sought safer havens in gold and the dollar.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell $4.45 to settle at $45.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. With trading on the May contract ending Tuesday, most of the trading has shifted to the June contract. Benchmark crude for June delivery dropped $3.96 to settle at $48.51 a barrel.

Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp., said the oil markets are reacting to weakness in the stock markets and strength in the dollar.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. Further Trims Natural Gas Production in Current Low Price Environment

Chesapeake Energy Corp. announced it has elected to curtail approximately 400 million cubic feet (mmcf) per day of its gross natural gas production due to continued low wellhead prices.

...The company's 400 mmcf per day curtailment represents approximately 13 percent of Chesapeake's current gross operated natural gas production capacity. The wells that have been curtailed are primarily located in the Mid-Continent and Barnett Shale regions. Until natural gas prices strengthen, the company plans to limit production from most newly completed wells in the Barnett and Fayetteville shales to 2 mmcf per day and in the Marcellus and Haynesville shales to 5 and 10 mmcf per day, respectively, in addition to the approximate 400 mmcf per day curtailment. "

Court: water from gas drilling must be regulated

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that water produced during coal-bed methane drilling is subject to state water law and companies extracting the natural gas must get water well permits or replace the water.

The decision issued Monday stems from a lawsuit by landowners in southwest Colorado who say their water supplies are threatened by companies pumping groundwater to free the natural gas in coal seams. They say companies should defer to water users with older water rights and replace water they use when it belongs to others.

Agriculture is up to global productivity challenge, says DuPont leader

Science will enable farmers to produce enough grain to meet the growing demand for food, biofuels and materials if public and private agriculture enterprises, regulators and policymakers from around the globe take a more holistic approach to the solution, William S. Niebur, vice president – DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development, said here today.

Speaking to agricultural leaders at the Informa Economics 17th Annual Food & Agricultural Policy Conference, Niebur said that emerging opportunities for the use of biomass to replace petroleum coupled with the specter of hunger have raised questions about whether farmers can produce enough grain to feed the world and meet the demand for biofuels and biomaterials.

GE, Cisco, Florida Power to Create Miami ‘Smart Grid’

(Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co., Cisco Systems Inc. and FPL Group Inc.’s Florida Power & Light Co. plan to create a “smart grid” system that will help Miami residents conserve electricity and create as many as 1,000 jobs.

The proposed project would cost $200 million and the companies will apply for U.S. federal stimulus funding. The Miami program will serve as a model for other cities, the group said today in a statement.

Interview with Matt Simmons, Part 3

We didn’t have a “price spike;” we had a decade-long rise of 15-fold in oil prices. During the entire decade, we have every lame-brain excuse you can imagine as to why oil prices were temporarily artificially high: the war premium, the risk premium, the labor unrest in Venezuela, the militant unrest in Nigeria, the lack of a quick response from Iraq when the war ended, all the projects that should have been done a decade ago that are just coming on stream, the weak dollar, hedge funds, speculators, abnormal growth in China. The only thing people forgot to look at is fundamental supply and demand. And what they should have looked at is the fact that, from 1997 through 2007, petroleum demand grew by just a shade under 13 million barrels a day and crude oil supply only grew by about 7 mb/d; and most of the growth was in the first half of the decade. So, we created a very tight market. And too often we topped up the market with stock withdrawals…and the price went up 15 fold. But the 15-fold rise didn’t really trigger an intense reexamination of our whole oil system. About 1 millionth as many people are worried about peak oil as those worried about climate change.

Commodities to return: Rogers

The global commodities market is about to make a comeback after years of price declines, which have devastated the food and metal markets around the world, according to billionaire American investor Jim Rogers.

Rogers, in an e-mail interview with the JoongAng Ilbo from Singapore, where he has recently moved to teach his children Chinese, stressed now is time for investors to return to commodities, and warned them to stay away from U.S. currency.

Crude production up, Russia says

MOSCOW (UPI) -- Crude oil production from Russia is expected to boast modest gains in 2009 despite earlier forecasts of a decline in the industry, officials said.

The output of crude oil from Russia for 2008 and the first two months of 2009 fell about 1 percent, but March output saw a modest increase of 0.4 percent to 9.76 million barrels per day.

The Russian Energy Ministry said it expects that trend to continue for the rest of the year, with an increase of as much as 2 percent, the Platts news service reports.

Russia plans to gain shares in liquefied gas market: official

MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Russia is planning to increase its shares in the liquefied gas market, Russian news agencies reported on Monday citing First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov.

"Our energy strategy aims to increase the share of liquefied gas in Russia's exports. Fields in the Arctic region, in the northern seas and in the Far East will become a basis for the production of liquefied gas," Denisov said when interviewed by the VIP-Premier magazine.

UK agrees to gas storage site tax relief -Centrica

LONDON (Reuters) - UK tax authorities have agreed to gas storage operator calls for tax relief which should spur investment in new facilities and boost energy security, the owner of Britain's biggest gas store said on Monday.

HM Revenue and Customs has accepted Centrica's request to allow operators to claim tax relief on the "cushion gas" used to maintain the right pressure in a storage site by treating it as part of the capital cost of development.

Saving cash, saving lives

Lowering defence spending around the world has always been a utopian dream for idealists. Yet growing numbers of mainstream politicians from around the world believe they have finally come up with a way of making it possible.

The argument is a simple one – with money, unsurprisingly, at its heart. Defence spending is a huge commitment to the public purse; recent military interventionists in Iraq and Afghanistan are cases in point. It would be much more attractive not having to spend the money in the first place.

Is this plausible? Perhaps. It's certainly the rationale behind conflict prevention, which seeks to pour money into preventing conflicts before they begin. With the world's resources getting more and more stretched efforts towards mediation and dialogue can prevent situations spiralling out of control.

Australia: Red Oil (TV show)

VENEZUELA has a lot of oil. Oodles of the stuff. For a world facing the potential disaster of peak oil, that's good news - unless you were an oil company executive in Venezuela before Hugo Chavez took over in 1999.

China to build 5 nuclear power plants this year

BEIJING - China is planning to build five nuclear power stations this year to reduce the country’s reliance on coal and oil, state media reported Monday.

The plants will be built in China’s eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Shandong, as well as Guangdong and Hainan in the south, the official Xinhua News Agency cited the National Energy Administration as saying.

Thrifty is the new frugal

Consumers will plan purchases more carefully. 70% say they won't delay if it will save them money in the long run, like socially or environmentally conscious products. We're seeing no reduction in the purchase of environmentally-friendly products.

10% of consumers are spending less on green products, but 35% are spending more. 65% of consumers say they are spending more on products that they know will benefit a good cause.

It's not about price. It's about the whole value proposition. And that result is true for consumers who say they have a lot economic anxiety, too.

Consultant to check out newly ‘walkable’ Main Street

At the beginning of 2002, the state DOT was planning to make Main Street a two-lane highway with parking, with turn lanes likely at the intersections of Lake, Center and Buffalo streets. The state was trying to decide whether Buffalo should be three or four lanes.

Around that time, former Mayor John S. Thomas and other officials brought in Burden, the founder and head of Walkable Communities, a nonprofit organization formed to promote “walkability.” Burden presented his ideas about ways to calm traffic and make areas more pedestrian- friendly. His ideas got a warm reception from the community, and the DOT’s consultant hired Burden to work on more in-depth plans for Hamburg.

It was a turning point for the community.

“Suddenly, in the spring of 2002, not only are they changing their mind, but paying for the guy we like,” recalled Village Trustee Michael Cerrone, who was not on the Village Board at the time.

Why Antarctic ice is growing despite global warming

It's the southern ozone hole whatdunit. That's why Antarctic sea ice is growing while at the other pole, Arctic ice is shrinking at record rates. It seems CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals have given the South Pole respite from global warming.

But only temporarily. According to John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey, the effect will last roughly another decade before Antarctic sea ice starts to decline as well.

Carbon trading won't stop climate change

ONE day renewable energy looks like a sunrise industry, the next, tumbleweeds are blowing around a setting solar panel. What has changed? The price of emitting carbon dioxide.

Kurt Cobb: Does Rick Perry see the future?

Many of my acquaintances kept telling me during the Bush Administration that America was on the verge of becoming a fascist state and that (according to a few) President George W. Bush would not step down when his term ended. I, on the other hand, have long feared the anarchical tendencies in American life: the states' rights ideology, the vigilantism often seen in the pre-civil rights South, the secessionist movements and every kind of centrifugal political force pursued in the name of localism, but really a pretext for 1) undermining the rights of unionized workers, women, ethnic and racial minorities, and gays and lesbians and 2) destroying the environment in contravention of federal law.

The need for relocalization of the economy in the wake of peak oil and climate change is forcing me to re-examine my views. I am of the belief, however, that should relocalization become a widespread adaptation strategy or simply be forced upon us, the locale where one lives in the United States will become of increasing importance--not only because the availability of basic resources needed for human survival differs from place to place, but also because retrograde notions of human rights, governance and education are likely to be reinstituted (probably gradually) in some areas of the country, particularly the South and West.

Petrobras to Order as Many as 7 Drill Ships, CFO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, plans to order five to seven drill ships, or semi-submersibles, in the near term as part of its $174.4 billion investment plan by 2013.

The company will seek more than 240 vessels including drill ships, tankers, production platforms and supply vessels in the next five or six years, Chief Financial Officer Almir Guilherme Barbassa said on the sidelines of a conference in Seoul today.

Kazakhstan excludes refinery from China oil deal

KazMunaiGas had earlier said it wanted full control of the refinery, one of Kazakhstan's three. It already controls the two other refineries.

The government is keen to curb inflation, forecast at 11 percent this year, and sees control over fuel prices as one of its key tools.

Importance of energy-saving Standard 90.1

Standard 90.1 provides minimum requirements for the energy-efficient design of buildings in the US, except low-rise residential buildings. Written during the 1970s energy crisis, ASHRAE Standard 90.1 first was published in 1975 as an effort to cut energy use in buildings. The 2004 version of the standard is referenced in the US Energy Policy Act, which requires states to adopt commercial building codes that meet or exceed the standard’s requirements.

ASHRAE has set a goal of making the standard 30% more stringent over the 2004 version by the 2010 publication. The stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, focuses on economic stimulus through both tax credits and public-sector spending, with a heavy focus on infrastructure and energy.

Will Obama rail plan get U.S. back on track?

I'VE LONG believed that one of the biggest policy blunders in modern U.S. history was and is disproportionate investment since the 1950s in the interstate highway system.

Even after the '70s' "energy crisis," we continued to ignore the obvious alternative of greatly improved rail service to reduce growing reliance on foreign oil.

Pakistan: PM says energy crisis hurting economy

KARACHI - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday formally inaugurated Pakistan’s first wind power project at Jhampir in Thatta district, which will have the generating capacity of 50 megawatt.

Blips #85: From The Martian Desk

Just imagine what would happen if President Obama kept saying that the country and the world were so far over the cliff that they had nowhere to go but fall into the abyss. I am sure it would invigorate Rush Limbaugh and his cohort of demagogues as well as the millenarian prophets of doom who merrily applaud the forthcoming ineluctable collapse of "civilization" -- you know, the folks I covered in my Blips #81: Dmitry Orlov, James Howard Kunstler, Jay Hanson, Jan Lunberg, Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Michael Ruppert, Matt Savinar, and I could have added, among quite a few others, Bart Anderson of Energy Bulletin or the congenial Jason Bradford -- but it would not do the rest of us much good, would it?

China to Boost Commodity Stockpiling Storage Capacity

(Bloomberg) -- China will give priority to boosting its storage capacity for resources such as oil and grains to ensure supply and smooth price volatility, a senior government official said.

China is also likely to further ease state controls on oil prices to reflect the market value of the fuel and encourage energy saving, said Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

“We need to improve and strengthen our permanent commodity storage,” said Zhang at the Boao meeting of business and political leaders in southern China. “We should also deepen our reform of the oil price system,” he said.

China's Banks Ease Foreign Energy Deals

HONG KONG -- China is making a push to lock up energy reserves across the globe by offering much-needed credit to governments. Kazakhstan announced a $10 billion oil-for-loan deal with China Friday during its president's state visit to Beijing.

Kazakhstan gets cash for new investment projects and China gets a 50% stake in a major Kazakhstan oil producer and priority on future energy cooperation.

China has already struck similar deals this year with state oil producers in Russia, Brazil and Venezuela. In February, China Development Bank extended a $25 billion financing package to Russia's state-owned OAO Rosneft, its biggest oil producer, and OAO Transneft, its oil pipeline operator, in exchange for Russia sending about 300,000 barrels a day to China through a pipeline under construction.

Tankers store fuel at sea as demand sinks

A deep drop in demand has forced many oil companies to use tankers floating at sea to store surplus refined products, with the volume off Europe equating to more than a quarter of the world’s daily fuel use.

Shipbrokers and oil traders said at least 24 million barrels of gas oil, used for diesel or heating oil, and jet fuel were being stored on more than 30 floating long-range tankers in Europe. Some traders said the stored volume might be even larger and would add to the pressure on bearish products markets.

Oil falls below $50 as investors eye US earnings

VIENNA – Expectations that a slew of new U.S. corporate earnings reports could temper optimism about global economic recovery pushed oil prices below $50 a barrel Monday.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell $2.06 to $48.27 a barrel by noon in European electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract Friday rose 35 cents to settle at $50.33.

U.A.E. Says $50 Oil Will Help Economy Recover Fast

(Bloomberg) -- Crude prices around $50 a barrel will help the economy recover while supporting investment, the oil minister of the United Arab Emirates said today.

A price of “$50 provides support for the global economy while sustaining investment,” Mohamed al-Hamli said in Dubai. “Maintaining crude prices at reasonable levels is vital.”

Raymond J. Learsy: President Obama's Pledge To End "The Tyranny Of Oil"; "Peak Oil" Mutating To "Peak Consumption"

A multiplicity of factors are in play that for the first time will begin to end the oil cabal's long and painful hegemony over our lives. The government is undertaking important initiatives to increase energy efficiency and the usage of biofuels . The recently passed economic stimulus program has significant new loan guarantees to help renewable energy businesses to get financing and to start up new projects. Mass transportation will return to focus and new high speed rail initiatives will change the American landscape of rail travel. The administration is working assiduously to toughen the average 35 miles a gallon standard for vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2020 as mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

'We'll pay price for spare capacity'

Spare capacity in oil markets could weigh on the price for years to come, BP's chief economist said today.

Lower inventories later this year would support the oil price, but the supply cushion would prevent a sharp rally even if the world economy returns to growth, Christof Ruhl told Reuters in an interview.

"Would that mean prices will shoot up again? I don't think so," Ruhl said ahead of an energy conference in Dubai.

"Even if we went back to the demand growth rates of the past few years, it would take three years to get back to a market that was as tight as last year. And global growth is unlikely to return to the stellar levels of the last few years."

UK terminal problem stops Norwegian gas

LONDON (Reuters) - A technical problem at the Easington gas import terminal in eastern England stopped gas from Norway's Langeled pipeline from flowing into Britain early on Monday, according to the terminal and pipeline operators.

Langeled, the longest subsea gas pipeline in the world, had been supplying nearly a fifth of Britain's gas before the shutdown in the early hours of Monday morning.

Aramco, Total refinery to start by early 2013-exec

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco's joint venture oil refinery with France's Total would be commissioned by early 2013, an Aramco executive said on Monday.

'Yes definitely in 2012, beginning 2013, the refinery will be up and running,' Samir al-Tubayyeb, vice president for marketing and joint venture coordination at Saudi Aramco, told Reuters.

Halliburton Profit Tumbles 35%, sees more weakness ahead

HOUSTON (AP) -- Halliburton Co. said Monday its first-quarter earnings tumbled 35 percent as oil and natural gas producers, stung by low prices, cut back on exploration and drilling. It also provided a poor industry outlook for the coming quarters.

The oilfield services company, which has corporate headquarters in Houston and Dubai, said its net income in the January-March period fell to $378 million, or 42 cents per share. That compared with $580 million, or 63 cents a share, during the same period a year ago.

Nigeria: Oil Derivation - Who's Fooling Who?

Ever since the oil bearing states took their position on increasing the derivation formula from 13 to 50 per cent (not that this would solve their problems), the wave of insecurity and wanton destruction of oil industry infrastructure in the region has grown to unimaginable proportions. What once started out as a worthy cause to agitate against 50 years of underdevelopment in the region, has been taken over by criminals who kidnap innocent people and steal oil for personal gains.

Putin’s Tariffs Stall Russian Growth for Caterpillar

Deere and Caterpillar, reeling from the longest U.S. recession in a quarter century, were the companies most affected by loan restrictions and tariffs of as much as 25 percent that Putin imposed this year, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey of the top 50 American businesses operating in Russia.

Putin is trying to boost Russian industries with tariffs on everything from drugs to farm equipment as declining oil revenue saps the nation’s economy. The policies are hurting sales by Caterpillar, Deere and Agco Corp. in a market where revenue was forecast to rise as much as sixfold in the next decade.

Rubber to Decline 35% as Tire Sales Signal Slump

(Bloomberg) -- The 42 percent, four-month rebound in rubber prices may be coming to an end as global tire demand plunges the most in three decades.

EU policy is an 'aberration', says fisheries group

According to Mr Aston, last year’s fuel price crisis was a reminder of the advent of peak oil and a warning that “there can be no economic or social stability until the stranglehold of oil-dependence is broken”.

He is proposing research into sail and hydrogen-powered fishing vessels, using lines to fish for tuna, mackerel and pollack. Germany has already developed vessels powered by fuel cells, drawing on recombined hydrogen and oxygen.

Response to the consultation on "The Future of Transport": Passenger transport in urban areas

More than 70% of the economic wealth in Europe is created in urban areas. Cities are the places where business is done and investments are made. At the same time they face high congestion and pollution levels and approximately 7% of this wealth is wasted on the external costs of accidents, congestion, health and environmental damage linked to transport.

However, the current development model of cities is not viable and the severity of climate change, the looming prospect of “peak oil” and the heightening of social tensions mean that we can procrastinate no longer.

Why I retired to 'green' my detached 1970s house

I'm Rob Veck, 54, father of two and recently retired from a demanding project manager job at IBM. My wife Sue is also a project manager and initially thought I was mad to embark on retrofitting our house to get as near to a carbon zero home as possible, with minimal energy usage. She no longer thinks I'm mad - just eccentric.

It took me two years to read a book that had a significant impact on my thinking on environmental issues – The Party's Over by Richard Hienberg, about the connection between population growth, energy supply, and peak oil. It took two years because it was difficult to accept the consequences of what could happen when demand exceeds a diminishing supply.

Congress to pass energy bill this year: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers will pass major energy legislation, possibly including measures to address climate change, by the end of this year, a top White House official said on Sunday.

"I do know this, at the end of this first year of Congress there will be an energy bill on the president's desk," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Palestinians face dire water shortage: World Bank

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Palestinians face dire water shortages because of both bad Palestinian management and Israeli restrictions, the World Bank said in a report on Monday.

The report, the first of its kind, noted the "complete dependence" of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip "on scarce water resources shared and largely controlled by Israel."

Consumers start feeling higher costs of clean fuel

Clean energy has a dirty secret.

It isn't cheap.

Consumers already are starting to feel at least a modest pinch in their electric bills. The impact is expected to grow in the next few years as utilities accelerate their investments to meet state quotas requiring a portion of clean energy in their generation mix. And bills in Congress would impose a similar national quota, an idea President Obama supports.

The cost is one reason electric rates have been fairly stable as oil and natural gas prices have plunged.

"There are offsetting costs — renewables is one — that are keeping power prices up," says Larry Makovich of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

Controversies Continue to Swirl over Corn Ethanol

Rising corn prices and slack demand have hurt producers. And biofuel makers face a limit on how much ethanol can be blended with gas.

Agreement reached on common plug for electric cars

BERLIN (AFP) – Leading automotive and energy companies have reached agreement on a common "plug" to recharge electric cars, a spokeswoman for German energy company RWE said Sunday.

The three-point, 400-volt plug, which will allow electric cars to be recharged anywhere in a matter of minutes, is set to be unveiled Monday at the world's biggest industrial technology fair in Hanover, northern Germany.

UN atomic chief warns of nuclear power dangers

BEIJING (AFP) – The head of the UN atomic watchdog warned here Monday that the world's growing appetite for nuclear energy could lead to dangers associated with unsafe technology and weapons proliferation.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said more than 60 countries were considering going nuclear amid an energy crunch and global warming concerns, adding to the 30 countries with existing programmes.

Beyond Fossil Fuels: Eric McAfee on Biofuels

What technical obstacles currently most curtail the growth of biofuels? What are the prospects for overcoming them in the near future and the longer-term?

The conversion and commercialization of cellulose inputs into fuel ethanol is a significant technology obstacle to the growth of the ethanol industry as a mainstream fuel. A number of companies are currently working on cellulosic technologies, and great strides have been made, but a gap remains between technology advances and full commercial deployment. Much of this challenge exists around two factors—scalability and cost. Science is no longer the primary gating issue—it's now a matter of investment and resource allocation.

Lawn Mowing: Get Reel, Go Gas-free

Gasoline-powered lawnmowers will soon have to be dramatically cleaner under new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The long-awaited regulation requires a 35 percent reduction in emissions from new lawn and garden equipment beginning in 2011. The reductions will be the equivalent of removing one out of every five cars and trucks on the road, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

In 2009, Earth Day is for everybody, every day

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental consciousness has become part of the economic and political mainstream, Cohen says. One example: President Obama's call for investment in renewable energy as a way to boost the economy, he says. Now "it's no longer an issue of liberal versus conservative," he says. "It's a mainstream issue."

Indigenous groups hold climate summit in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Indigenous people from around the world are gathering in Anchorage this week for a conference on climate change, a subject participants say disproportionately affects them though they share relatively little responsibility for it.

Patricia Cochran, chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said the United Nations-affiliated conference intends to provide "a unified voice, to be able to have more influence over the political and other decisions that are being made that impact our communities."

Grizzly bears spreading through yellowstone region

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Hunters are killing grizzly bears in record numbers around Yellowstone National Park and researchers say the once-endangered predator is expanding across the region.

Bears are being seen — and killed — in places where they were absent for decades. Researchers suspect climate change is wiping out one of the bear's food sources and they worry the trend will continue as the animals roam farther in search of food.

Barendrechters Stand Up to Shell’s Plan to Bury CO2

(Bloomberg) -- The Dutch town of Barendrecht has a message for Royal Dutch Shell Plc: Not under my backyard.

The oil company and the Netherlands government intend to build the first of a new generation of carbon-dioxide storage facilities in two depleted natural-gas fields in Barendrecht. The plan is to capture emissions from a gasification hydrogen plant at Shell’s nearby Pernis refinery and then store the CO2 more than a mile below area homes, preventing the greenhouse gas from reaching the air and harming the environment.

Japan approves "exceptional" coal plant plan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan Environment Ministry on Monday backed plans to enlarge a coal-fired power plant, saying it would not greatly affect Japan's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050.

'It's an exceptional case, so we should make it clear why it can go ahead with the coal thermal plan,' said Yoshihiro Yamamoto, head of the environment ministry's assessment office.

Carbon emissions fuelled by high rates of obesity

High rates of obesity in richer countries cause up to 1bn extra tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year, compared with countries with leaner populations, according to a study that assesses the additional food and fuel requirements of the overweight. The finding is particularly worrying, scientists say, because obesity is on the rise in many rich nations.

"Population fatness has an environmental impact," said Phil Edwards, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We're all being told to stay fit and keep our weight down because it's good for our health. The important thing is that staying slim is good for your health and for the health of the planet."

China Warned It May Face Priced Carbon Emissions

BEIJING – The International Energy Agency warned Monday that China must clean up its coal sector or face dire environmental consequences for itself and the world, outlining a series of steps to mitigate pollution including tougher enforcement of regulations, more foreign investment and an eventual price on carbon emissions.

"Without strong action, CO2 emissions could rise in an unsustainable way," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said at a briefing to launch a new report on clean coal technology in China. The report was done in cooperation with the Chinese government, reflecting growing awareness in Beijing of the hazards of current energy trends.

This got a brief mention late in yesterday's DB, but I'll risk throwing the read meat out to the Monday AM crowd. Please do not shoot the piano player - me.

Cold Fusion Is Hot Again

(CBS) Twenty years ago it appeared, for a moment, that all our energy problems could be solved. It was the announcement of cold fusion - nuclear energy like that which powers the sun - but at room temperature on a table top. It promised to be cheap, limitless and clean. Cold fusion would end our dependence on the Middle East and stop those greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. It would change everything.

But then, just as quickly as it was announced, it was discredited. So thoroughly, that cold fusion became a catch phrase for junk science. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion - for many scientists today, cold fusion is hot again.


"We can yield the power of nuclear physics on a tabletop. The potential is unlimited. That is the most powerful energy source known to man," researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.

In the same vein, Did anyone catch the "Simpsons" last night? It appears that Gronig is as usual ahead of the curve.

View online for free (commercials, though)

Lisa is assigned to write a report on what Springfield will look like in 50 years. When she discovers of the soon-to-be famine of the future, she becomes depressed and terrifies her classmates with her dark visions of their future. Homer and Marge take her to a psychiatrist, who prescribes Lisa "happy pills" known as "Ignoritol". Lisa is initially skeptical, but after taking her first pill she loses touch with reality and sees the entire world as smiley faces.

-from Wikipedia

Everything Old is New Again!

"Brain Candy" Your Happiest Memory!

Nuclear Energy, Our Misunderstood Friend!

who prescribes Lisa "happy pills" known as "Ignoritol".

IGNORANCE: It's amazing how much easier it is for a team to work together when no one has any idea where they are going...

Our world is entering the "Bargaining Phase" grasping for straws.

But grandiosity is just another way that we lie to ourselves about where we're at and what is really possible.

Surely Mr. Obama knows that hope fades where the light of truth doesn't shine. He is a charming fellow.

I don't especially want to see Newt Gingrich chop his head off.


Mr. Chu should "take note" and pay special Attention to Kunstler's post today.

Great essay by Kunstler today-IMO his views on Obama aren't especially popular on TOD-possibly those who disagree with him on this one could write their rebuttals.

I agree mostly with Kunstler's recent essay that the Obama administration is "just not getting it". But really now, who actually expected mainstream America and her leadership to actually embrace "burying the corpse" of the old FF based economy and work toward "walkable neighborhoods" and an economy based upon sustainability? Come on, let's be realistic. Us who see real dislocations coming in the world and anything looking like "The Long Emergency" are in the tinniest minority. This elephant is SO BIG that no one wants to see it. If life as we know it (all linked to practically free Fossil Fuels) is coming to an end, everyone else will be dragged there kicking and screaming, denying reality at all costs. Frankly I'm amazed that Kunstler even had a hope that Obama understood our real situation. Elected officials are in place to preserve our American way of life... they aren't going to lead us into a sustainable future... no way, no how. It will take an Armageddon of financial and ecological systems before it is even considered.
Yes we've only just begun...

I think that the best strategy is to just ignore them, disconnect and insulate oneself from them the best that one can, and get on with doing what has to be done in one's local community to the greatest extent possible.

They will cease to be "leaders" when they discover that there is no one left following them any more.

ptoemmes -

If one reads the entire article, it becomes evident that no one really know what's going on in these so-called 'cold fusion' experiments. In fact, some of the scientists involved think that the very term cold-fusion is not quite justified at this stage of research and that it would be far better to call what's taking place 'anomalous excess energy'. But at least it's now become clear that something real is happening in these reactions that is producing excess energy and that these results are not just analytical artifacts.

It is the technically illiterate journalists and media people who have been touting this up as the answer to our prayers. If it does pan out as a practical, economically feasible means of producing energy, it would be wonderful. If it doesn't, then so what? We've pissed away millions of times more money on all sorts of unproductive defense R & D, and I could sure think of worse things to spend R & D resources on than cold fusion.

One thing that I myself am unclear about is what happens to the palladium in this reaction. It wasn't made clear whether the palladium is somehow oxidized or otherwise consumed, or rather just acts as a catalyst or matrix for the reaction to take place. If the palladium is indeed consumed, then I could see that as a major limitation. If it is just there for the ride, then so much the better.

This is an area certainly worth following.

Yes, several times they referred to "it" as a "nuclear effect" instead of cold fusion. But, as you point out, 60 Minutes in this case headlined it as cold fusion.

Interesting, too, in the interview with Fleischman it was mentioned that it was the University of Utah that wanted the big spash announcement 20 years ago.

We've pissed away millions of times more money on all sorts of unproductive defense R & D, and I could sure think of worse things to spend R & D resources on than cold fusion.

...and on bank bailouts.


For physics/chemistry... measuring I, V, R, temperature is so basic that after 20 years there are still arguments. Doesn't that make you wonder what the heck is going on?

You would hope that they have ENOUGH design of experiments to really put a nail in this one and for all. But I guess not -- even the ones that report excess heat, do they have an idea of how current affect the generated heat? how V? etc... I think Toyota was funding the two scientists that "discover" this phenomena for 10 more years but later gave up.

I think we can get pretty pure Paladium (5 9s may be even 6 9s) if we want. So the source should be not an issue unless we want to dope it w/ something else and this "something else" we have no clue about.
The guys from SRI (in 60 min piece) is just way too optimistic -- running a car for 3-4 years -- with what? a heater bath? the possibility of running cold fusion or hot fusion in my car is pretty much the same.

Or could it just be that even this late in the game, there are a few things out there that we still don't know about? Might it be that these "cold fusion" experiments are occasionally stumbling across something that falls completely outside our current paradigm? Leaping to the conclusion that this phenomenon is definitely "cold fusion" might be a mistake, but leaping to the conclusion that it is nothing at all might equally be a mistake. Maybe it is something, but we do not yet really know what. Further open-minded investigation is warranted.

Agreed -- we need to keep our minds opened about what is going on. But for those that worked on this, trying to sell the idea of running a car with 3-4 year worth of fuel is just baloney.

I would prefer the guy be a bit modest: "we got some extra heat, we have no clue where, something like EROEI of 2, and the last time we got that kind of EROEI was 5 years ago" -- hehehe -- something like that.

Now, how much money do they need to make some technological breakthrough, a billion? I think it's reasonable to spend the money on that instead of two F22s. Cases like this is where "perspiration is needed more than inspiration." -- so a lot of people working on "cold fusion" is better than bankers swap money about.

I could be that the lottery ticket in my wallet pays off tomorrow. I'm open-minded about the possibility but I'm not quitting my day job.

The 60 minutes presentation on 'cold fusion' was new but a google search suggests that Michael McKubre has been touting this fantasy for some time. Below is a link to an old article from Wired.


I think the article you link to above Consumers start feeling higher costs of clean fuel (and others like it) are important for the American public.

I don't think that people realize that switching to clean fuel is likely to be expensive. There are really several costs involved:

-The differential in price of the wind or solar generation above the price of fossil fuels.
-The fact that new construction is being built, when in many cases none (or very much less) would be needed, if there were no renewable energy mandates. With the recession, total consumption is flat or declining, not increasing.
-The cost of upgrading the grid and storage, to accommodate renewable resources.

We have already seen what high oil prices do to the economy. If electric prices rise, this could be an issue in the same way.

I agree with you that this issue is coming to a head. Expansion of renewable energy needs to align with conservation & demand management. Otherwise, our electricity policy will continue to be in a constant lurch-and-react mode.

Retraction in demand puts upward pressure on rates (fewer MWhs to share fixed costs), and this effect is stronger if we are financing the building of a lot of new stuff (like clean wind and solar). Under the regime in place in most states, higher prices will send a signal to conserve, but it just reinforces upward pressure on rates.

California has mitigated this effect to a degree through its revenue decoupling mechanisms. Electric utilities are at least made whole by the potential revenue-eroding effects of conservation, allowing them to deliver this service. California's electricity growth rate is lower than it otherwise would have been, although its rates are still comparatively high.

Whether it is through the electric utilities or a maturing industry of private providers, policies need to bring the 'energy service' model to the market. Consumers will need to take part in learning more about their energy use because it will help them manage the costs. But, as you indicate, it may not lower consumer's rates.

This are a couple of graphs I put together using EIA data.

Total electricity generation had been growing rapidly, until 2008, when it declined by 1%. Industrial use has been flat to declining, as use for other purposes (homes, stores, and offices) has grown. The past history of rising use, even when petroleum use was flat or declining, has helped keep the standard of living high. If the recession continues (as I expect it will), I expect future use to be flat to declining, as industrial demand continues to drop, stores and offices close, and people move together into fewer houses.

Since 2004, EIA data shows that the average retail price of electricity has been rising faster than inflation (as measured by the GNP deflator). Adding renewable generation capacity without increasing the amount of electricity sold will result in higher costs, unless somehow the cost of fuel saved exceeds costs related to the expanded capacity. (I am sure the arithmetic is much fancier, but one cannot just let electric utilities fail because the stranded cost of coal capacity has been replaced by something else.)

Total electricity generation had been growing rapidly, until 2008, when it declined by 1%. Industrial use has been flat to declining, as use for other purposes (homes, stores, and offices) has grown.

These are useful charts (at a high level). You can see how prices jumped in 2001, and we had a demand inflection point that year as well. After that time, demand grew in the non-industrial classes due to expansion of electric-driven technology (computers, plasma TVs, electric heat pumps) while the industrial sector went flat, being more price sensitive.

Prices began their uptick in 2004, as natural gas started its big run (and oil about the same time). The deregulated electric business had decided to ride the natural gas horse, with investments in gas-fired generation leading up to 2004. But instead of delivering big savings (nat gas was expected cheap when the generation was built) the build-out brought escalating retail prices.

I share your concern about a similar outcome with renewable energy. Putting zero (incremental) cost energy on the grid makes us less vulnerable to fuel price shocks -- in principle -- but if it is deployed into the teeth of flat demand, consumers will nevertheless see rates go higher still. SmartGrid has the same problem, by the way. There is already a lot of cynicism about the failure of these efforts to conrol costs, and the cynicism muddies the debate about what to do next.

This is why I think we need to go big on electrified transport, along with renewable energy. We build load (MWhs for cars and rail) along with build-out of renewable generation. This reduces our reliance on fossil fuels in two steps: in step 1 we go after fossil in our transport fuels; in step 2 we go after fossil in our electricity generation. In this way, fossil generation helps us get off oil, before we give coal and nat gas the shove.

None of it comes cheap. But if we retool transport first, where there are efficiency gains to be had, we can perhaps manage the cost a bit better.

I won't comment on your posts about your beliefs about the price of oil and the economic crisis. I typically won't respond to other posts about weirdo economics either unless I'm drawn in by a deceptive title or some such. You told me to stay clear and I respect that.

But please don't use that argument against policies that would lower consumption of fossil fuels. Misinformation regarding the cause of an economic crisis is fairly harmless as long as one is not blaming jews or whatnot. But this is serious business. There's a lot of industry-funded propaganda around already and you apparently feel the need to pile on.

Coal-fired generation in particular has serious externalities. Unless you're willing to quantify both costs and benefits, may I call BS?
Actually, if you just quantified the costs of switching to renewable generation in a way that's not deceptive it would already be pretty good. You'd stay clear of scare-mongering that way.
Myself, I've not quantified the costs but I'm not making any controversial points about it either. I can tell you that my electricity's dirt cheap even though the utility says there's no coal, oil or gas in the generation mix. It may be more expensive than yours (what do I know?) but it could be twice as expensive and still be cheap.

Maybe we could agree that there are more important issues in the balance than the price of electricity and that the responsible choice is to stop burning the stuff.

Great Depression vs. 'Great Recession'

  Great Depression ‘Great Recession’
Bank failures 9,096 – 50% of banks
(Jan. 1930 – March 1933)
47 – 0.5% of banks
(Dec. 2007 – March 2009)
Unemployment rate 25% 8.1%
Economic decline -26.5%
(1929 - 1933)
(Second quarter 2008 - fourth quarter 2008)
Biggest decline in Dow Jones industrial average -89.2%
(Sept. 3, 1929 – July 8, 1932)
(Oct. 9, 2007- March 9, 2009)
Change in prices -25%
(1929 – 1933)
(Dec. 2007-Feb. 2009)
Emergency spending programs 1.5% of GDP for 1 year
(Increase in 1934 budget deficit)
3% of GDP for 2 years
(2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act)
States’ response Raise taxes, cut spending Federal stimulus plan gives fiscal relief to states to lessen impact of tax increases
Increase in money supply by Federal Reserve 17%
(September 2008 – March 2009)

Side note- Sorry about prev. post... I guess I should preview my HTML before I post...

Like the Carpenters used to say...we've only just begun.

When we can compare 1929-1933 to 2008-2012, it will be worth making comparisons.

One gigantic difference seldom mentioned is the government and monopoly employment (e.g. Fannie and Freddie) today compared to in the 1930s. The unemployment rate outside of government and monopoly probably exceeds the 1930s levels-the economy is sliding toward an Eastern Europe vague fascist/socialist mix.

Yep, government jobs are #1 and inceasing the most... (Click here for graph)

Now, look at how many jobs actually involve making something or producing something, how many are just white-collar or service jobs, and then how many jobs are directly or indirectly supported by gov't.

Great post here...

If we cut it by sector, recent job losses in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services are striking. Over this same time period, we've added roughly 4.5 million jobs in education and health and another 2.5 million in government jobs...

Manufacturing has fallen precipitously with this bust, we are now seeing marked declines in other goods-supporting industries: wholesale trade and transportation and warehousing.

Again, institutional sectors of Government (up 12%) and eds and meds (up 30%) lead the way. The other fastest growing sector since 1999? Leisure and hospitality.

Since we are putting so much money in banks -- we might consider all financial sector jobs are governmental.

Appaerntly one big difference was that in the 1930's the US had a large proportion of its population on living and working on the farm, where border between employment and unemployment was less clear cut. In the 1930's non farm unemployment was 37%.

Oh, and remember- after the depression of the 1930's, the world had the vast majority of FF endowment to consume... Now, we're looking at only half of it (best case scenario) with triple the population (and growing).

we ain't seem nothin' yet, right. well maybe, what does the future hold ? and who knows ? i agree that it is way early to issue a report card, but, imo, the current hysteria marinated report card is out there too.

Real unemployment is between 16 and 20 percent. Given the methods of calculating such numbers as unemployment, GDP, etc., have been changed to make the numbers prettier (I.e., lie.), I'm comfortable that the numbers used by Shadow Government Stats (previous US government methods) are much closer to reality in comparison with the time period you are comparing for.


Worst-case scenario survival guide

(Money Magazine) -- So is this just a really, really bad year? Or the end of capitalism as we know it? These days it's all too easy to imagine almost anything happening to the economy. And to you.

Of course, a lot of people here can think of scenarios that are a lot worser...

Financial Greater Recession > Energy Greater Depression...

I do think that Blog sites and the Internet make the whole thing sound far worse than it really is. I always remind myself that even in the Greta Depression 75%+ of people went about their daily working lives...


25% unemployment doesn't mean that there was 75% employment.

Nick, I was looking at your peak oil timeline over the weekend. I think it's very good but the version I saw shows several events still in the future that appear to have already happened. Were you thinking of making a revision? One thing in particular it shows is the price of oil going up in price unremittingly, but perhaps the collapse of the economy will prevent it from ever getting to $1000+/barrel.


BTW, I think I saw in an old post that you had asked me a question about it that I had missed at the time. Do you remember what that was?

Land of the free, home of the brave...

Memo: Two al Qaeda leaders waterboarded 266 times

CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on two top al Qaeda suspects, according to a Bush-era Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration.

The controversial technique that simulates drowning -- and which President Obama calls torture -- was used at least 83 times in August 2002 on suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, according to the memo.

Interrogators also waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Obama released the memo Thursday, saying that "exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release."

Meanwhile, I'm sure Al-Jazeera is crawling all over this. Nothing like torturing civilians to tell the Middle East that we appreciate the oil they sell us...

High speed rail is mighty seductive. Who wouldn’t fall for the glamour and glory and jobs and other general delights of fast trains in North America in the face of Peak Oil and everything else? Given the spot we are in I think I’d settle for a loose-limbed, innovative approach to faster trains as opposed to a massive, decades-away-from-results approach to high speed trains.

Either way it looks like rail is back on the agenda and that is a good thing. New trackage will have to be built in places (at enormous cost) but does Obama's new money have to be applied to euro-style high speed trains? 65mph is actually a pretty sweet speed if you are going downtown to downtown, the train leaves on time, is nice and clean and reliable and doesn't stop all the time because the right-of-way or the signal system is a shambles. To wit:


Doubt we'll be counting on the 8 big freight railways for a lot of vision about this. They shrugged off passenger service decades ago and their expertise with it is long, long gone. CN for example recently walked away from millions of dollars worth of commuter rail business in greater Toronto. So much for vision. The big freight players like BNSF and UP are so deep into the corporate/Wal-Mart economy and the fossil fuel economy that they could not climb out even under the guidance of the late Sir Edmund Hilary. Container traffic (ie cheap shyte made in China) is an enormous part of their business as is coal from Wyoming, sulphuric acid for oil refineries, auto-racks, military vehicles. The crews typically commute to freight yards in large pickup trucks which are also important tools to railways. When all that starts to melt down the big railways will go with it rather than become our flexible, heroic, eco-friendly saviours. They are already laying off.

Railways are hamstrung by conservatism much the same way that military organizations can be. The internal tension between forces that advocate adapting and those that advocate tradition tend to favour the latter. According to their online annual report CN alone spends something like $800m dollars a year on diesel fuel. That alone very much makes them wedded to things as they are. The dinosaur railways might want to suck up some gov't subsidies for some sexy fast trains here and there but they are not soon going into the type of sensible, down-to-earth, regional commuter rail needed post cheap oil.

Fancy fast trains are very, very expensive and few municipalities or regional or even state/provincial governments can cough up that kind of money. From what I have read those FFTs are actually bad news for the environment. Their carbon footprint is roughly the same as for air travel over the same distances. (Got that from George Monbiot's site). Basically anything fast is pollutive and fuel intensive and costly. Millions of tons of energy-intensive concrete are needed for the ultra-straight tracks laid for FFTs. The technology in the locomotives is usually not that remarkable: gas turbines and powerful electric motors have been around a long time now. So, to get trains moving TGV-fast you build arrow-straight tracks between point A and point B. To do that you expropriate, expropriate, expropriate. The French TGVs obliterated farm land, wood lots, wetlands and historic sites in stunning quantity. Nothing was allowed to get in the way of a TGV route. With their top-down traditions European countries can impose that kind of planning more easily. Look at the NIMBY nightmare happening in Toronto right now regarding a long, long overdue rail link to the airport. Don’t be surprised if Obama’s high speed rail plans bog down in the planning process rapidly.

What we need are not really super-sexy trains anyway, thrilling as they may be to ride in. What we need post peak are beefed up regional networks of trains that stop often and serve a lot of people making local/regional trips, not serving smug executives or privileged tourists who feel a need to rip between cities at high speed. I could see us laying track on highway corridors and powering the trains with nuclear energy to prevent Edge City suburbs from becoming stranded and totally dysfunctional. If the poo really hits the fan I could even see a return to wood burning locomotives providing modest, low frequency service between cities on unsignalled, semi-abandoned freight lines.

Happy Motoring doesn't seem to be letting go without a fight. America seems willing to keep sponsoring the military industrial complex but support for Amtrak is just viewed as a sick, socialist pain-in-the-ass. According to an issue of Trains magazine last year the plant that built Amtrak's Acela trains has been shuttered for years.

In Canada, VIA rail does reasonably well as a poor cousin federal agency with a modest mix of equipment, track rights and modest subsidies. Recently VIA was given some capital for service improvements. Look what British Rail did in the 1970s with its Intercity 125 trains. They wanted faster service but couldn't cough up like the Euopeans who were going TGV/ICE. Diesels on partially upgraded track were a sensible approach, set records and were enormously popular.


Why is Amtrak not able to give Americans the same pride kick that launching another aircraft carrier gives them? An expansion of passenger rail, at any speed, could be a great place for project managers, engineers, pork barrel politicos, urban planning consultants, weary air travellers, designers and engineers, purchasers, blue collar tradesmen and manufacturing workers: you name 'em, who wouldn't benefit? These are all the people staffing the military industrial complex anyway!

For now, I just think that there are so many potential drawbacks to pursuing Euro-style high speed rail that we’d be better off investing in down-to-Earth transit projects. We’ll see.

Cheers y'all.

Why is Amtrak not able to give Americans the same pride kick that launching another aircraft carrier gives them? An expansion of passenger rail, at any speed, could be a great place for project managers, engineers, pork barrel politicos, urban planning consultants, weary air travellers, designers and engineers, purchasers, blue collar tradesmen and manufacturing workers: you name 'em, who wouldn't benefit? These are all the people staffing the military industrial complex anyway!

I submit that Amtrak fails to generate this pride because the auto industry and their allies have lobbied against and demonized rail for years.

Sadly this attitude was not always so. I am currently reading a history of Michigan (surprising, I know!), and installation of the first railways gave the populace an immense feeling of pride and achievement.

Thanks for the thoughts. I loved the soundtrack on that video, I kept expecting Jenny Agutter and Richard Harris to jump out and start tap-dancing on those cabs!

Why is there no Pride in a big American Rail project? Cuz there's no place for a Cowboy/Knight who turns it into a Hero's Triumph. The great thing about trains is that they are a collective strength, and the US is repeatedly taught that we don't do things together.. that's for NancyBoys. It takes a Hero and only a Hero. "I can do it! I don't need your help! I work alone, Buddy!" (The last, being a quote from 'The Incredibles', where Mr. Incredible discovered that he could succeed when his whole family was working WITH him, in fact.)

If we can get a resurgence of Rail, I think its success would HINGE on the breakup of the big companies, or at least a serious humbling that would, out of desperation, open their doors/ears to the more flexible solutions you suggest. I would be very concerned about the upsurge of a new generation of Rail Monopolies, and wonder what kind of Public/Private setup could keep the powers in check in ways that would benefit such a system. *(ie, Publically Owned ROW and Track, Private Rolling Stock and Transport Contracting..) I don't know.. Alan from BE has mentioned a couple ideas, but it's not my pidgin, so I'm afraid my non-policy-oriented mind hasn't gotten too far into this problem.


Why is Amtrak not able to give Americans the same pride kick that launching another aircraft carrier gives them? An expansion of passenger rail, at any speed, could be a great place for project managers, engineers, pork barrel politicos, urban planning consultants, weary air travellers, designers and engineers, purchasers, blue collar tradesmen and manufacturing workers: you name 'em, who wouldn't benefit? These are all the people staffing the military industrial complex anyway!

As long as Amtrak has to go begging the private freight rail companies for permission to use "their" rails (and pay for the permission through the nose) and have Amtraks movements controlled by the private freight rail companies traffic control systems, Amtrak will never be on time and will never be profitable.
The only way we will ever see any real progress in passenger rail in the USA is when the US Government nationalizes the trackage (but not the rail operating companies) and nationalizes the total USA rail traffic control system.
Can you imagine if the trucking companies owned all the roads and controlled all movements on them or if the freight airlines controlled the nations airways and each company managed it's own section of the air traffic control system (to the detriment of the passenger airlines)?
When you have private companies operating on a publicly owned rail system and and movements controlled by a US Government controlled national rail traffic control system you will once again see large numbers of small, medium and large private passenger rail companies come into being to serve local and national transportation needs - And not before.

WSJ had an article on Spain's new high speed rail system:

Spain's Bullet Train Changes Nation -- and Fast

The article points out a number of issues related to high speed rail, and its cost. I too think we need to look at the overall picture, before we pick this as the winner.

Other, nonviolent critics say the country's massive investment in high speed rail has come at the expense of other, less-glamorous forms of transportation. Starved of funds, Spain's antiquated freight-train network has fallen into disuse, forcing businesses to move their goods around by road. That means the Spanish economy is unusually sensitive to changes in the price of crude oil.

Critics say the AVE will never stop losing money. Even its backers say high-speed rail can only be economical if the state bears much of the construction costs. But they say the train's benefits-lower greenhouse-gas emissions, less road congestion and, in Spain's case, greater social cohesion and economic mobility-make it an investment worth making.

IMHO, a nationwide, top-down, one-size fits all approach is exactly the wrong way to go in the US. As long as we are wedded to that approach, passenger rail goes nowhere (literally).

Instead, what needs to happen is that cities need to be working with other nearby cities to establish downtown-to-downtown passenger rail links that run frequently during the daytime. It doesn't have to be high speed, just fast enough so that the downtown-to-downtown total travel time is at least a little less than via airline. Keep the cost a tad lower than air, and you've closed the deal. They will be more likely to keep the cost low is they DON'T try to do high speed rail, but simply make the best use they can of existing rail lines and existing technologies.

Once enough of these intercity passenger rail links are established, we'll have a real passenger rail network.

As long as air travel remains possible, I really don't think that many people are going to be wanting to travel from NYC to LA by train, no matter how the passenger rail network in the US is configured. LA to Phoenix, though, or NYC to Boston - yes, most people would be very glad to dispense with the hassles of air travel, especially if they could save even just a little time and money on the deal.

I'll tell you what- I hate flying because I hate the seats... I hate being crammed shoulder-to-shoulder for hours on end. Train travel would appeal to me if I have more room and comfort. Add in the benefit of not having to drive to a major airport (I live in Northeast Wisconsin, no big runways here) if the train will go on existing rail through my city and I would be completely sold.

"...I hate being crammed shoulder-to-shoulder for hours on end..."

Sorry, Gecko, but then you aren't going to like any extensive rail system that ever actually gets built in the USA. The same toxic combination of economic forces - greedy cheating overpaid chiselers running slipshod operations carrying cheapskate nebbich slobs piled in by Priceline - that shapes airline seats will also shape train seats. Under economic/energy conditions where we actually must build and use trains rather than just talk about how nice they could be but won't be, the government (i.e. taxpayers) will simply be unable to afford the whopping per-passenger subsidies now ladled out with silver spoons for some Amtrak runs.

The fast, pleasant, punctual intercity trains I used in Japan cost north of forty cents per passenger-mile. That's well outside Priceline territory, and would be even more so with the much greater distances in North America. Expect, instead, miserable cram-and-jam seating - and myriad wrong kinds (never the right kind) of snow, leaves, etc. - as already encountered in Britain. You will be crammed into slums-on-wheels for even more hours than you were ever crammed into slums-on-wings, simply because trains move more slowly than planes.

The cost to move a sq ft (or meter) of rail car is DRAMATICALLY lower than to move a sq ft of airplane. The marginal cost to move an eight car train vs. a six car train is also very low.

Thus, we may have trains like India. 3rd class is a slum, 2nd class is slightly better than today's aircraft for comfort and 1st class is nice.

Comfort will be affordable for those making anything like today's American incomes.

Best Hopes for going 1st Class,


Lately the idea of Opportunity Cost of Time has popped into my head when issues of efficiency and EROI/EROEI have come up.

13 or so hours LA to NY vs. 4 to 6. This would also likely mean greater expenditures for food and lodging, etc.



More like 20 or 25 hours, the train isn't going to do 250mph without stops in any timeframe that concerns us, just not going to happen. But as I've commented before, the tacit assumption made by commenters here who advocate public transportation of all kinds tends to be that people's time is worthless or nearly so. If people's time were treated as having value, it would be nearly impossible to justify any existing public transportation except for airlines and one or two key subway lines in Manhattan. The time cost is usually staggering.

It takes me less time to walk & take the streetcar than drive and park and walk most of the time.

Rail often has a time advantage on trips of 200 to 300 miles vs. air and can against cars depending on traffic & parking.

DC Metro "makes" sense by virtually any metric, it saves dramatic amounts of time vs. driving. (Double the # of car commuters in DC and the time savings for the last Metro pax will be MANY hours).


Given what's already on offer in Britain, where incomes are not too dissimilar from the USA, I'm not optimistic about comfort or even decent conditions being available. It'll probably be just like the airlines, a 10x premium for 20% more space, an obscenely overpriced bare minimum so the overpaid execs can claim they made it available but hardly anyone wanted it.

Edit: if it's so cheap to move railroad-car space, then why are the fares so out-of-sight compared to airline fares, even with the heavy subsidies that go to most rail systems (including Amtrak)? Seems like there's a serious disconnect there.

Marginal costs vs. unit costs on VERY low volume. 1 train/day on most routes; 3/week on some routes.


What you describe is pretty accurate and inevitable whenever toll goods are privatized and run by the corporations.

Of course, nationalized toll goods run by governments often end up being pretty miserable, too.

IMHO, the answer is neither corporatist privatization or state socialism, but rather a cooperative "third way". Toll goods should be owned and operated by a public trust, with a board of trustees directly elected by the public, NOT appointed by the government. This way, the government can concentrate on regulating the operations to protect the environment and public and worker safety, without any consideration of the fiscal impact of those regulations on the government's budget. The Trust would have to operate itself efficiently enough to at least break even - actually, to generate a small surplus to fund capital replacement and improvements. Market forces of supply and demand would exert some economic discipline, but the voters would also have a say. If they wanted better service, and were willing to pay for it, they could vote in trustees committed to providing it. If they would rather keep service as affordable as possible, trustees dedicated to that could be elected. The double feedback loop of elections and the market should help these public trusts to achieve a much more optimal level of service than could be achieved either by corporations or the government.

You have mentioned this before, and I think the idea has considerable merit.

One issue is allowing competition.

Another idea is to have corporations with majority public ownership and minority private ownership (example - electric utilities in Austria, Brazil). The private ownership % imposes some discipline and blocks too much interference.

Best Hopes for Efficiency, long term planning and the public good,


How about stock as a perk being mandatory for all employees, and that it be some significant percentage of the total? Further, while such stock might not have to be the most lucrative, it would have to be the safest: employees paid off for their options before the company, creditors or gov't in the case of bankruptcy or other shutting down.

Idle thoughts that jumped out o' me brain.


Exxon must be thrilled...

Exxon Mobil overtakes Wal-Mart to top Fortune 500

Exxon Mobil Corp. unseated Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the 2009 Fortune 500 list, shrugging off the oil price bubble and weathering what the magazine called the worst year ever for the country's largest publicly traded companies.

Fortune's closely watched list, released Sunday, ranked companies by their revenue in 2008. Irving, Texas-based Exxon took in $442.85 billion in revenue last year, up almost 19 percent from 2007. The company also raked in the biggest annual profit, earning $45.2 billion.

Edit: And interestingly enough, GM is also on the Fortune 500 list... As company #6...

It will be interesting to see where GM ranks on this list next year. Will it finagle enough concessions from unions and enough bailout money from the government to continue as a leading carmaker? Or will there be a Chapter 11 filing, resulting in GE being picked apart by creditors and re-formed into a new GM with fewer brands and skimpier sales?

In fact, looking at the 'Fortune 500' list from 2008 saw GM at #4, Citigroup at #8, and AIG at #13. My, how fortunes have changed...

Apropos to occasional discussions on TOD regarding the efficiency of over-the-road trucks vs. rail freight, does anyone (perhaps AlanfromBigEasy) know of a good reference for aerodynamic drag for trains? Of interest are trailer on flat car (TOFC), container on flat car (COFC), and conventional box cars.

Several of my past investigations into technical issues related to rail have run up against a language barrier: I can’t read Russian.

Thanks for any help.

TOFC is about 4x as energy efficient as trucks (diesel for both).

Double stack containers, 300 container trains, about 9x as efficient.

Single stack containers, about 5x as efficient as trucks.

% payload and aerodynamics are most of the delta.

Take above and 2.5x to 3x (end use BTUs) by electrifying the railroads.

TOFC is losing market share to double stack containers.

Major tunnels in Pennsylvania were enlarged for double stack containers, NS is upgrading major coal route tunnels (VA & ?) to accept double stack containers.

Boston still has no rail route that can accept double stack containers.

Best Hopes for electrified double stack container trains,


i just landed a job as a machinist after 3 months on the dole.
i notice there are very few young faces in this industry. firstly,
wages are dropping in most companies. small "mom and pop" shops.
but even big billion dollar companies will hire cheap. secondly, the
work conditions are very poor. used to see ads in classifieds, that is in newpapers, for "modern clean air condiditoned shop". now most are filthy and dangerous places. no wonder manufacturing is taking a hit. i dont want to be a machinist any more but i want to eat and make my property taxes to avoid eviction by the sheriff. as to JHK, he again predicts a violent over throw of the criminal elite. a very dangerous course that. the line between "prediction" and "sedition" is very thin, as one dimensional as JHK's writing. of course, i have been finding myself agreeing with JHK's rantings. perhaps JHK is ranting so much to move attention away from his happy motoring life style. that is road trips about the country or jet setting across the globe. always complaining about air condiditoned high rise hotels and huge parking lots. not much differnece between his life style and those folks in the hamptons who may be cast out by the mob. it's life at the oil conundrum. WE ARE ALL DOOMED!!! ...but probably later. time to trot off to work in the factory (making things).

Phew, that oil price is dropping away quite precipitously. For all the talking up of the market that's been happening recently by Obama/Brown, it looks as if traders expect a continuation of decline into the foreseeable future. Maybe the statement by BP chief economist that:

"Even if we went back to the demand growth rates of the past few years, it would take 3 years to get back to a market that was as tight as last year. And global growth is unlikely to return to the stellar levels of the last few years."

is weighing on their minds.

Anyone got any good numbers on if he's right?

Demand growth is a misnomer. There's little storage capacity so, over the long term, demand is just supply under another name. Demand growth has been close to zero for about four years because supply growth was low.

From the looks of it, it's the oil producers' policy that sets demand growth. In any case, it has little to do with "global growth". But that could change: a serious depression would bring about lower supply one way or another. Similarly, rapid depletion could destroy spare capacity. But for the time being, supply is political.

As to what's weighing on traders' mind, more likely it's the fact that this contango on the top of spot prices above the OPEC target was unjustified. Maybe there was a good reason but I'm privy to it.

Electric scooter hoping to spark eco two-wheelers

*Electric scooter developed with same price and performance as petrol models
*Engine's developers say it is much more effect than other electric motors
*Huge scope for electric scooters, primarily in Asian cities, if made affordable

For those who want the efficiency of a Chevy Volt without the protective body, there you go. Not that I'm convinced that GM will be around to make Volts anyway...

A friend has an electric powered conversion kit for a bicycle. All up costs about $1200 and he is very happy with it. He puts it on his tandum bike to take a passenger along. With quick switch axels and wingnut connected controls, about 5 minute switch. Several miles of range and if it craps out the pedals still work. Develops about 1K output from the motor so batteries for long fast runs are expensive.


by Andrew McKillop

....we can provide approximate Energy Transition costs in 2009 US dollar terms starting at around 750 Billion USD-per-year, for a minimum program investment and spending need, also expressed in 2009 USD terms, of around 11 000 Bn USD for 25 Mbd oil substitution by 2025...

PV solar is growing quickly in Long Island, but as a result their generous subsidy is running out of money.

Here are some details and recommendations to keep solar growth moving along there and elsewhere:


Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition-


The Beginning of Suburbia?

Caption reads "'Happy Home' Suburban Residence of Hon. John D. Kennedy, St Paul Marion Co Oregon," published in Historical Atlas Map of Marion & Linn Counties, Oregon, 1878. Amusingly enough Mr. Kennedy's property was larger than the plat of the town itself.

The term "suburb" actually has much more of a history than Levittown or the 1920s experiments in housing, originally meaning the outskirts where the poor lived, owing to the lack of transportation to the core of town, a situation which may become once again the norm. Apparently in the mid-19th century suburbs in America began to take on a character more desirable to the wealthy, as the sketch of Mr. Kennedy's farm shows. When I first read in Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere about the idea of suburbs being detached enclaves outside of dingy urban bounds, I found the idea utterly outside of my experience, aside from the odd McMansion on the sides of the Boring volcanoes SE of Portland. To me suburbs meant cul de sacs, pavement, row on row of the same shacks.

Small windmills put to the test

What this means is that individual wind power is most inefficient; and that communities need to pool their resources and buy much larger windmills (wind turbines).

So does that mean that the Sunforce 44444 12-Volt 400-Watt Wind Generator for $500 is a bad idea?

As the top Amazon review says, "50 to 60 watts at 2 to 3 amps" is perhaps nominal. In Wisconsin (where the Sun isn't exactly super shiny) I thought this might be the best option. And maybe get some solar in the future...

duffolonius -

Keep in mind that the stated 400-Watt rating is the maximum output, presumably based on some assumed wind speed. Your average power output would be far less, probably no more than 25% of that, or 100 watts. And during periods of very low wind, such as mid-summer, it might be next to zero for extended periods. Unless you can install thing thing in a wide open field, the output will be even further diminished by obstructions such as tall trees.

If you want to pursue this possibility further, you should probably do two things: i) get info from the manufacturer on power output versus wind speed, and ii) obtain wind speed data for your specific locale. With that you could probably make a rough estimate of how much electricity in terms of kilowatt-hours this thing is likely to deliver over the course of a year and value that against what you are currently paying for electricity.

As far as cost goes, I would imagine that the $500 price is just for the turbine itself. You will have to put this thing up on a fairly high tower, and that in itself will probably add another $500. Then you have the question of storage and the necessary electricals to hook the windmill up into your home electrical system. Depending on how you do this, by the time all is said and done, you could be looking at a total installed cost of over $1,500.

For comparison of a small unit.

Our 390 watt (3 X 130) PV panels cost ~ $1800 and the controller cost another $265. It looks like a little over 300 watts on a sunny day like today @ about $7/watt.

BTW: That wind mill will require some voltage regulation (controller) because the output is related to wind speed.

A couple things, getting a stand would be helpful as I understand, but I have little experience with putting things up.

1) I'm not counting the batteries/inverter/wiring per se - think of this as vs. solar, or worthwhile in general at that price point.

2) Also (point to other commenters) this turbine apparently has it's own charge controller and turns off when batteries are sufficiently charged.

3) My specific location would be just beyond and open field with some oaks in the way (2 rows, staggered). Not sure how much interference that would cause (certainly more in the Winter).

4) The height I realize is important, but I'll probably try it without the tower first (just to see if I can get it working), then try to give it some height.

5) As per the article which begs for more information, I wonder about the ability to slap on larger propeller blades - how much stress, add weight can the turbine take? My guess is, like many specialized devices - it's finally tuned for it's blades, and switching them out will probably not be helpful.

6) I agree about the average home BS - that's just stupid (9 Kw/day for these guys). If it can power a water pump (well), utility stuff (thermostat, duct fan), a radio, and a laptop with wireless card (3G or CDMA), then I'm done. I win! I might be missing something but, eh.

7) Also, if I was Mr. Community - I would try to get funding together from neighbors and put a much larger turbine on top of a nearby ridge that has prairie all around it - it's absolutely perfect for wind and solar.

It's too bad I can't use an old windmill mount, but that's off property (next door, but not in use).

Are you handy with tools? You can build yourself a 1k turbine for around $1k, all included.

I'll dig up some links if you're interested.


From your article..

At first sight, the results seem to indicate that the design of the windmill matters. However, if you combine these figures with the rotor diameter, it becomes clear that the concept of small windmills is fundamentally flawed...

This makes sense because as you increase the diameter of the span, you square the area that the span can harvest wind with. For instance, a 2 meter diameter lets you get at 3.2 square meters of wind flux, whereas a 4 meter diameter lets you get at 12.6 square meters of air (using area = pi * radius squared).

Not surprisingly, wind turbines have evolved to become bigger as a result...

Also the pressure on the tower is 4X when the size doubles. If the height of the center of force is the same, the bending action (torque) on the base of the (non guyed) tower also grows by some by about 4X for a double sized fan and guy wires can only be used below the arc of the blade if the wind mill is expected to turn facing the wind (normal).

You also get a much better wind resource as you get taller hub heights, and savings in foundations, transport and installation costs with larger turbines.

Woa, 300 meter wind turbine! I'll believe it when I see it. Maybe on a hill side, but straight up would take extensive engineering. Are there really such monster projects in development? Why no just slap some on top of some high-rise buildings?

Since I mentioned it - how much research has been done on using natural formations such as hills and mountains? They are always windy on top.

isn't the benifit of a 300 m turbine obtained from the torque generated from the longer blade, more so than from the stronger winds further above the ground ?

Of course and large turbines directly benefit from scales of economy but a turbine that big I would guess not. There is a gradient when it comes to height.

Turbine manufacturers typically give a choice of tower heights (say 70 m, 80 m and 90 m). The same wind turbine can get 15% more power from a taller tower (and longer life, since the delta from top of blade to bottom of blade will be smaller).

The ground has quite a bit of drag on wind speeds. This effect dissipates quickly with altitude. Forests have the most drag, water typically the least.


I wish I could see a more qualitative report on their findings.. if anyone does see that, please post it. I would like to know which ones failed, and how. What were the performance characteristics of these machines?

It's unfortunate that this magazine chose to present it as a Pass/Fail question, instead of looking at the particular stories. There is this SitCom sort of catharsis in being able to deliver the Coup-de-grace.. "Sad but True" .. and yet, I'm looking for the Story of what happened, not just the Score.

As commenter #14 put it..

As for the 'conclusion" that the amount of energy available from a small wind turbine is inadequate to power a home, I beg to disagree. I have powered my home with a single 1-meter diameter wind turbine and two average-sized solar panels for nearly ten years. There is obviously a bit more to this, so let me touch the high points:

Ø Using both wind and solar power provides a more reliable daily flow of electricity.

Ø The penultimate key to the system is the largest battery system one can afford.

Ø Far and away the greatest factor in achieving this goal is conservation.

.. They keep moving all the analyses towards 'what turbine could power an entire, average home?' .. Maybe they don't understand about BB's.. but we here certainly should. We are looking for useful and reliable BB's, not silver bullets.


I just think this is perhaps troubling enough to keep tabs on, but remove it if it's deemed too far off the beaten path.

More than 20 polo horses dead as mystery deepens in Florida

Two horses initially collapsed, and as veterinarians and team officials scrambled to revive them, five others became dizzy, Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the polo club, said Sunday.

Peter Rizzo, executive director of the United States Polo Association, was at the match and saw the horses drop to the ground. "It was surreal," he said, calling the deaths "unprecedented."

"It is a horrible tragedy," he told CNN.

Some of the 15 horses died immediately, but some lingered for about 45 minutes, Dr. Scott Swerdlin of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic said Sunday, according to a report in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. The clinic is the International Polo Club's consulting veterinarian group, the newspaper said.

All the horses are from the same owner herd. The toxins were in the food or the vitamins or something else. Couple weeks to actually identify the poison.

Wonder if the horses are insured? Ok, guess that's a little callous but it is interesting that its a Venezuela team.

Article in Fortune on Waren Buffet's investment in a Chinese electric car company, BYD:


Several other related articles on electric cars:


What do you guys think:

BMI: Russian oil production to rise by 13.25%/year

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 20 -- Russia will account for 50.77% of Central and Eastern European (CEE) regional oil demand by 2013, while providing 70.96% of supply, according to the latest Russia oil and gas report from analyst BMI.

The analyst is forecasting Russian oil production during 2007-18 to increase 13.25%, with output rising steadily to 11.3 million b/d by 2018 from 9.98 million b/d in 2007.

Oil consumption during the period is forecast to rise by 27.40%, permitting exports peaking at 7.86 million b/d in 2018

Full article:

First time I see such an estimate for Russia..


My first missive on net oil exports was posted in January, 2006, when we didn't even yet have complete 2005 production data. I focused on the top three net oil exporters--Saudi Arabia, Russia and Norway (about 40% of 2005 net oil exports).

I thought that Saudi Arabia was on the verge of a production decline, and after going over some detailed modeling with Kheab, I thought that Russia would resume its production decline within one to two years, with Norway continuing its long term decline.

Here are the EIA net export data for the top three for 2002, 2005 and 2008:

2002: 15.2 mbpd

2005: 18.6 mbpd (+6.7%/year)

2008: 17.5 mbpd (-2.0%/year)

If the top three had maintained their 2002 to 2005 rate of increase, they would have (net) exported 22.7 mbpd in 2008).

At least in regard to mature basins, the HL based outlook for Russia is not very good. Time will tell.

....and after going over some detailed modeling with Kheab, I thought that Russia would resume its production decline within one to two years
At least in regard to mature basins, the HL based outlook for Russia is not very good. Time will tell.


After saying "going over some detailed modeling' there is more to say than 'time will tell'. This prediction must be based on their own estimate of oil reserves of something like 260 Gb as could be read in Drumbeat not long ago. If I remember well the middle case reserve figure is about 120 Gb. Besides, if most of the mature basins are past peak most new oil has to come from (very) small fields of wich a lot will remain undevelopped, at least for 5-10 years.

At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home & our being, drive a spear into the land, & say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government & corporations, "thus far & no farther."
— Edward Abbey

Hehe, always think the phrase "wasted heat" is funny. Here in AK there is no such as thing as an indoor appliance or device giving off waste heat with the exception of a few days in the summer.

Thermoelectric generation (Peltier-Seebeck) does have potential but still seems too expensive to be practical. Maybe if production ramped up or more competition it could become ubiquitous in buildings and such. But I have yet to see an off-the-shelf product powered by it.

Have a wood stove?
Here's a Thermoelectric product known as EcoFan.
Google "wood stove EcoFan"
Moves a fair amount of air and fun to
watch. One source


re: chesapeake press release:

"...the company plans to limit production from most newly completed wells in the Barnett and Fayetteville shales to 2 mmcf per day and in the Marcellus and Haynesville shales to 5 and 10 mmcf per day, respectively.."

reads a little like a viagra ad.

Interesting Elwood...thanks. I don't track the financial conditions of the various public companies so such press release can give a quick and dirty view of their situation. Usually in a price downturn most companies will actually ramp production up as much as possible to increases cash flow. OTOH, if a company can function on a reduced CF then cutting flow rates makes for a better future especially if you expect a price rebound in the near term. Chesapeake, like most public companies, has already taken a hit on stock value so a reduced income stream won't hurt as much. But when prices rebound opening up the wells is equivalent to drilling new wells but at no expense. It will be interesting to see how many other public companies make similar announcements. And some may cut rates w/o announcing the change. This will complicate any effort to see the natural decline rates of the play unfortunately.

good to hear from ya, rockman. i've been wondering where you were.