DrumBeat: May 14, 2009

Saudi must rein in soaring power consumption

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia needs to rein in fast-growing power demand that threatens to eat into future exports, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in remarks published late on Wednesday.

An economic boom fuelled by record oil revenues this decade and subsidised domestic prices have led to a rapid rise in electricity consumption in the kingdom.

Gas supplies were insufficient to meet all demand for power, so Saudi Arabia burns oil products and some crude to meet demand.

"If this trend in power consumption in the kingdom continues it will impact the size of exports and will affect the kingdom's income, which necessitates the implementation of a national programme to rationalise power consumption," Naimi said in remarks published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

John Michael Greer: The end of the Information Age

Very few people realize just how extravagant the intake of resources to maintain the information economy actually is. The energy cost to run a home computer is modest enough that it’s easy to forget, for example, that the two big server farms that keep Yahoo’s family of web services online use more electricity between them than all the televisions on Earth put together. Multiply that out by the tens of thousands of server farms that keep today’s online economy going, and the hundreds of other energy-intensive activities that go into the internet, and it may start to become clear how much energy goes into putting these words onto the screen where you’re reading them.

It’s not an accident that the internet came into existence during the last hurrah of the age of cheap energy, the quarter century between 1980 and 2005 when the price of energy dropped to the lowest levels in human history. Only in a period where energy was quite literally too cheap to bother conserving could so energy-intensive an information network be constructed. The problem here, of course, is that the conditions that made the cheap abundant energy of that quarter century have already come to an end, and the economics of the internet take on a very different shape as energy becomes scarce and expensive again.

Thriving Norway Provides an Economics Lesson

Norway is a relatively small country with a largely homogeneous population of 4.6 million and the advantages of being a major oil exporter. It counted $68 billion in oil revenue last year as prices soared to record levels. Even though prices have sharply declined, the government is not particularly worried. That is because Norway avoided the usual trap that plagues many energy-rich countries.

Instead of spending its riches lavishly, it passed legislation ensuring that oil revenue went straight into its sovereign wealth fund, state money that is used to make investments around the world. Now its sovereign wealth fund is close to being the largest in the world, despite losing 23 percent last year because of investments that declined.

Project Update: Ras Tanura

The existing Ras Tanura refinery, situated on the East Coast of Saudi Arabia is considered to be one of the largest refineries globally. With a 550 000 bpd output capacity, it currently produces around 40% of Saudi Arabia’s local demand for fuel, primarily gasoline, kerosene, diesel and fuel oil. In an effort to help satisfy future local demand for refined products within the power, industrial and energy sectors and to supply feedstock to the nearby planned Ras Tanura Integrated Petrochemical project by a Saudi Aramco/Dow Chemical JV, Saudi Aramco is planning to expand the refinery by 400 000 bpd.

With an estimated investment cost of US$8bn and the utilisation of crude oil feedstock as an alternative to natural gas feedstock for petrochemical production as a result of Dow Chemical’s Deep Catalytic Converter (DCC) technology, the facility will look to process a mixture of Arabian Heavy, Arabian Medium and Arabian Light crude oil.

Sandstorm temporarily halts Kuwait's oil exports

Kuwait's national oil company says it has temporarily halted oil exports because of a sandstorm that has struck the small Gulf state.

Mohammed al-Ajmi, a spokesman for the Kuwait National Petroleum Co., said Thursday the measure is routine and will not affect Kuwait's commitments to its international clients.

Suffolk home rule message eyes seceding from state

Suffolk legislators approved a home rule message Tuesday calling for a study and referendum on the merits of Long Island seceding from a "tyrannical" New York State government, though they are unlikely to be taking up muskets for an armed revolt.

The dormant Long Island secession movement awakened by presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), who, angered by the regional payroll tax imposed by state lawmakers to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bailout, called for a vote on the matter to register his anger about the new tax.

The Value of Wind – why more renewable energy means lower electricity bills

There is a perception that increasing the deployment of renewable generation in the UK will increase the price of electricity for British consumers. However, the reality is the reverse: adding significant amounts of wind capacity to a country’s generation portfolio leads to lower overall generation costs, and to lower bills, while increasing energy security.

First steps to a smaller footprint

Catherine T. Lawson, director of the college's master's degree program in urban and regional planning, and Mary Ellen Mallia, director of environmental sustainability, will lead the 18-month study of commuting habits at the university. Dozens of students also will participate in conducting surveys and examining data about where drivers live and where they need to travel.

When it comes to reducing pollution and energy consumption, "transportation always has this problem of moving people out of their cars," Lawson said.

But on UAlbany's sprawling uptown campus, with its winding access roads and look-alike buildings, and in a college situation where schedules vary widely, there are some special challenges in making transit and ride-sharing practical, she said.

Bill McKibben (audio)

Al Gore said it was the work of environmentalist Bill McKibben that first alerted him to the dangers of global warming. McKibben is in Australia talking about the rapidly evolving politics of climate change and why the world should be aiming to reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million.

Geoengineering the Climate: Bad for You and Our Energy Future

Proposals to reduce global warming through giant engineering projects or so-called geoengineering abound. Almost all are in the idea stage. But even if they were ready to deploy today, they would be dangerous for the planet, counterproductive for our energy future and unfair to the public.

Economic Crisis Could Deepen Latin America's Energy Woes

LA JOLLA, Calif. -(Dow Jones)- The current economic crisis may exacerbate the slow growth of Latin America's crude oil and natural gas output, which has lagged as the region has struggled to exploit its abundant energy resources.

Venezuela and Mexico missed out on the massive investment boom that flowed into the global oil patch following this decade's ramp-up in energy prices due to regulatory roadblocks and fiscal regime uncertainty. Now that oil prices are hovering around $60 a barrel, well below their summer 2008 record of more than $ 145, both international oil companies and the state-run giants that control most of Latin America's reserves are seeing their revenues plummet.

Latin America's struggle underscores how shifting regulatory and political sands can dampen a region's potential to produce energy despite the presence of massive oil and gas reserves. These untapped deposits could be key to quenching the world's thirst for energy once the recession is over and economic growth resumes - and could fulfill international oil companies' quest for reserves with which to replace their declining production.

ConocoPhillips CEO Sees Positives with Crude at $70/Barrel

ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva said Wednesday that rising oil prices are an encouraging sign the economy is improving and could help spur new investment by the oil and gas industry after a global recession put a chill on activity in recent months.

But prices may need to go higher still before ConocoPhillips boosts its spending again in the Oil Patch.

Mexico delays Chicontepec bids

Mexican energy giant Pemex has delayed a 170-well tender for the Chicontepec oil project, saying technical reasons have forced it to push the bid back.

Baker Hughes submitted the lowest bid earlier this year on a contract for the drilling and 170 wells on the Chicontepc paleocanyon, in a region overlapping both Veracruz and Puebla states.

Africa needs investors to beat energy crisis

The world's poorest continent needs $21 billion annually to overcome its power problems despite sitting on large energy resources, the African Union (AU) infrastructure head said on Thursday.

Power shortages are common in many African nations, costing economies billions of dollars, shutting down industries and dampening investment, even though resources of solar, hydro, oil, gas, coal and geothermal power are abundant.

"Power means factories. It means farms. It means everything," the AU infrastructure and energy commissioner, Elham Ibrahim, told Reuters in an interview.

Only 30 percent of Africans have access to electricity compared with an average of 40 percent in other emerging markets, Ibrahim said.

Only deregulation will end fuel crisis, govt insists

AS the ongoing fuel crisis takes its toll on Nigerians and the economy, the Federal Government yesterday maintained that only the deregulation of the petroleum industry would restore sanity to the sector.

Ministers, who spoke on the matter yesterday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC), declared the journey to stable fuel supply with the enactment of the energy reform bills now before the National Assembly.

Nigeria - Fuel scarcity: Expert calls for mass deployment of modular refineries

The Managing Director, Peace Gate Oil & Gas, Mr. Ayo Adedoyin has said that the only way out of the recurrent fuel crisis in Nigeria is to improve local capacity through mass deployment of cheaper modular refineries across the country.

Fuji Oil to boost asphalt-cracking unit capacity

The move, which is aimed at lowering crude oil purchase cost, is expected to have a positive impact on refining margins as the company expects the differential of Saudi Arabia's Arab Light and Arab Heavy grades to widen to $4 a barrel on average in the business year ending next March from $1.70 now.

Analyst says China's uranium demand could tighten supply

Salida Capital analysts in Toronto believe that a possible 35% increase in the number of nuclear power plants operating worldwide this decade could create a supply shortage in the supply of uranium yellowcake--especially if China decides to stockpile the metal to avert domestic shortages.

New Zealand's Tax Exemption Encourages Oil and Gas Exploration

New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne have announced positive measures to enhance the development of New Zealand's natural resources.

Budget 2009 will make provision for a five-year continuation of an exemption for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Solar project approved despite doubts

A last ditch effort by progressive supervisors to reconsider an expensive solar power project fell one vote short yesterday when progressive Sup. Eric Mar maintained his unqualified support for the deal and refused to send it back to committee for more research and discussion.

At issue is a five-megawatt solar array atop Sunset Reservoir, which the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recommended awarding to Recurrent Energy, despite the fact that the 25-year deal obligates the city to pay $235 per megawatt-hour throughout the life of the project (even though prices are expected to drop as new technologies come online) and setting the city’s buyout price at $33 million or more.

Europe's Overseas Push into Biofuels

Massive tracts of land in Africa, Russia and Ukraine are being bought up or leased by richer countries to ensure access to food and for production of biofuels—a development that could result in unrest as locals begin to lose access over their territory.

An area roughly the same size as the amount of farmland in Germany is in play and at a cost of tens of billions of euros.

This phenomenon, a product of the twin food and fuel crises of last year, is threatening local communities whose traditional use of such lands is being undermined by the food and energy security needs of others.

Big oil calls on contractors to cut costs now

MILFORD HAVEN, Wales (Reuters) - Energy service contractors must cut their charges to oil and gas companies to ensure both parts of the industry thrive after the current crisis, the chief executives of two of the world's largest oil companies said on Tuesday.

Energy service companies must drop their charges to reflect tighter margins since oil and gas prices slumped in late 2008, ExxonMobil (XOM.N) Chief Executive Rex Tillerson and the CEO of France's Total told a press conference in Britain.

The French oil major might even have to put off projects if contractors do not cooperate.

Cheap freight, OPEC boost Asia use of W.Africa oil

LONDON (Reuters) - Low freight rates and production cuts by Middle Eastern OPEC oil exporters have led to a big rise in sales of West African crude oil to Asia over the last two months, a Reuters survey showed.

Forty-five supertankers were sailing east from West African ports this month carrying around 43 million barrels, or about 1.38 million barrels per day (bpd), of crude oil to refineries in India, China and elsewhere in east Asia, the survey of a dozen oil trading firms showed.

Ukraine's president approves Caspian oil route bypassing Russia

KIEV (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has signed a decree approving a project to transit Caspian oil to Europe bypassing Russia, the presidential website said on Thursday.

Pipelineistan goes Af-Pak

As United States President Barack Obama heads into his second 100 days in office, let's head for the big picture ourselves, the ultimate global plot line, the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order. In its first 100 days, the Obama presidency introduced us to a brand new acronym, OCO - for Overseas Contingency Operations - formerly known as GWOT (as in "global war on terror").

Use either name, or anything else you want, and what you're really talking about is what's happening on the immense energy battlefield that extends from Iran to the Pacific Ocean. It's there that the liquid war for the control of Eurasia takes place.

Yep, it all comes down to black gold and "blue gold" (natural gas), hydrocarbon wealth beyond compare, and so it's time to trek back to that ever-flowing wonderland - Pipelineistan. It's time to dust off the acronyms, especially the SCO or Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the Asian response to NATO, and learn a few new ones like IPI and TAPI. Above all, it's time to check out the most recent moves on the giant chessboard of Eurasia, where Washington wants to be a crucial, if not dominant, player.

The Failure Game Of Iraqi Oil

Baghdad finally allows exports from new Kurdish fields, but until it improves contract terms for foreign companies, its energy crisis will continue.

Jordan, Shell to sign oil shale extraction deal

AMMAN, Jordan - The official Petra news agency says Jordan and Royal Dutch Shell PLC will sign a deal Sunday to explore for oil in the country's extensive oil shale deposits.

Saudi sees oil’s rise unrelated to demand

DUBAIM - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia sees factors other than demand behind oil’s rise this week to $60 a barrel, Saudi-owned newspaper al-Hayat reported on Thursday.

“The Saudis said that the recent rise in oil prices does not reflect the reality of demand,” al-Hayat said, citing French sources after French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde met Saudi King Abdullah and his Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi on Sunday.

Oil Drawdown Takes Traders by Surprise

Some market observers see speculative demand from hedge funds and institutional accounts as an underlayment for crude oil's recent rally.

In fact, speculative interest in crude oil has been waning since late January, according to data compiled by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The public deserves the full picture on climate change

Like many of the important issues facing society, climate change involves a complex intersection of science, culture and politics, and a huge array of consequences impinging on a wide range of vulnerabilities. Yet on all sides, people are bombarded with simplistic slogans, misleading headlines and soundbites shorn of the caveats that make them valid.

The media is the main conduit for people to learn more, but the disconnect between the need for education and the journalistic mission to provide news means that climate stories are often missing the context needed to understand the bigger picture.

Oil demand 'deeply depressed', says IEA

PARIS (AFP) – Talk of economic recovery is not reviving appetite for oil, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday, forecasting a record drop in demand this year despite a recent surge in the oil price.

"As far as oil is concerned, the latest available data indicate that the 'demand green shoots', if any, continue to be buried under the thick ice of the current economic winter," it said in its monthly oil market report.

"We do expect a tapering off in the demand contraction, but we are still left with a very big drop in demand," said the report's editor, David Fyfe.

"In our view, recovery really doesn't start to take root until 2010," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Oil Falls for a Second Day After IEA Cuts 2009 Demand Forecast

(Bloomberg) -- Oil fell for a second day after the International Energy Agency cut its 2009 forecast for world oil demand, projecting consumption will drop the most since 1981.

The IEA, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations, reduced its demand estimate to 83.2 million barrels a day this year, down 3 percent from 2008. That’s 230,000 barrels a day lower than it forecast last month. OPEC also cut its 2009 oil use outlook yesterday and said it increased supplies last month.

Peak oil an imminent threat, warns expert

Kjell Aleklett, professor of Physics at Uppsala University and president of ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, has warned that the global financial crisis and resultant drop in oil demand does not mean that we can go on with ‘business and usual’ and the imminent threat of peak oil must be addressed now.

...“The basis for globalisation is global transport and Australia’s future is dependent upon this,” professor Aleklett said. “The future that the aviation industry project is ‘business and usual’ with growth of 5% per year. What happens when ‘business and usual’ is not an option?

Saudi Arabia's gas reserves put at 267 tcf

(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia's gas reserves stood at 267 trillion cubic feet in 2008, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi said in remarks reported yesterday.

The figure Al-Naimi gave according to a report carried by the official Saudi Press Agency was four billion cubic feet higher than an estimate Saudi Aramco data showed earlier yesterday.

Relation between Gold, Crude oil & Dollar

Using analytic techniques based on Hubbert's work, oil and gas experts now project that world oil production will peak sometime in the latter half of this decade. We are now depleting global reserves at an annual rate of 6 percent, while demand is growing at an annual rate of 2 percent (and that growth rate is expected to triple over the next 20 years). This means we must increase world reserves by 8 percent per annum simply to maintain the status quo, and we are nowhere near achieving that goal. In fact, we are so far from it that, according to Dr. Colin Campbell, one of the world's leading geologists, the world consumes four barrels of oil for every one it discovers."

Nigerian rebels hijack oil ship, hold 15 sailors

LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigerian rebels said they hijacked an oil industry ship and were holding 15 foreign sailors hostage Thursday and demanded that all oil workers leave the southern Niger Delta by Saturday.

Fighters from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in a statement they hijacked the ship late Wednesday, then destroyed five gunboats in attacks on two military bases Thursday morning, a day after clashing with security forces.

New threat for Iraqi military: Drop in oil prices

BAGHDAD – Lower oil prices are threatening Iraq's efforts to build a military capable of defending the country, raising the possibility that the Iraqis will need substantial U.S. help for years after the Americans leave by 2012.

The budget crunch not only affects ground forces that bear the brunt of the fight against Sunni and Shiite extremists — it also slows development of an air force capable of defending the skies and a navy able to protect vital oil exporting facilities in the Persian Gulf from terror attacks.

Hawai`i: Drivers may have to pay more gas tax

O'ahu motorists would pay 3 cents more a gallon at the gasoline pump under a plan approved 3-2 by the City Council Budget Committee yesterday.

Council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said raising the fuel tax is one way to help resolve a $50 million budget shortfall.

US Producer Prices Climb More Than Expected

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. producer prices climbed in April more than expected because of a jump in food costs, but core wholesale inflation rose only mildly as the recession robs companies of pricing power.

The producer price index for finished goods increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3%, the Labor Department said Thursday. The PPI fell 1.2% in March.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected prices would increase 0.1% in April.

The core PPI, which excludes food and energy costs, inched 0.1% higher last month from March. Economists expected a 0.1% increase.

Obama's Energy Triangulation

With the possible exception of health care reform, no major issue presents more political opportunities and potential pitfalls for President Barack Obama than energy. A misstep over energy policy could cause serious economic, social and political consequences that could continue over the next decade.

To succeed in revising American energy policy, the president will need to try to triangulate three different priorities: energy security, environmental protection and the need for economic growth. Right now, the administration would like to think it could have all three, but these concerns often collide more than they align.

Author: Much of the public just doesn't "get" science

Just how science-deficient are we, and isn't there an iPhone app for that?

Chris Mooney, author of the forthcoming "Unscientific America — How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future," will tell you in a panel discussion this evening at Pacific Science Center. I conjured his disembodied voice through the magic telephone for an inquisition.

Renewable Energy Penalties to Be Cut by Waxman, Lawmaker Says

(Bloomberg) -- Representative Henry Waxman, the architect of climate-change legislation, agreed to cut by half penalties utilities would pay for failing to meet requirements for production of renewable electricity, according to a lawmaker who sought the more lenient standard.

The fine for failing to achieve the renewable mandate would be 2.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour that a utility falls short of meeting the standard, down from 5 cents, said Representative G. K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat. The requirement to produce power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, was dropped in negotiations to as little as 12 percent of electricity by 2025 from Waxman’s original 25 percent proposal.

Nations demand oceans be included in climate talks

MANADO, Indonesia (AFP) – Ministers and officials from more than 70 nations called Thursday for oceans to be included on the agenda of global climate change talks aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Delegates at the World Ocean Conference in Indonesia urged joint action to reverse the impact of climate change on the oceans and for the issue to be included in crucial climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

House Panel Nears Agreement on Energy and Climate Bill

WASHINGTON — With a series of compromises on the stickiest issues behind them, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is poised to approve far-reaching legislation on energy and global warming by the end of next week. Where it goes from there remains highly uncertain.

Global Warming May Exceed Infections as Health Threat

(Bloomberg) -- Global warming is the biggest public health threat of the 21st century, eclipsing infectious diseases, water shortages and poverty, a team of medical and climate-change researchers concluded.

The phenomenon will be felt first in the developing world, further burdening a population already in crisis from food shortages, said the report from University College London that was published today in The Lancet journal. The changing climate will also cause real and lasting damage to the Western world, affecting generations to come, said Anthony Costello, a pediatrician at University College London.

“Climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation,” Costello said during a news conference. “We are setting up a world for our children and grandchildren that may be extremely frightening and turbulent.”

Supply will always exceed demand:

U.S. Jobless Claims Jump More Than Forecast as Car Plants Idled ...
May 14, 2009 ... U.S. Jobless Claims Jump More Than Forecast as Car Plants Idled ... Claims will probably be influenced by more auto shutdowns in coming ...

That this surprised is either a lie or they're imbeciles.

"I keep remembering quotes I wrote about a number of times last year, when almost nobody considered a GM default a serious risk. Those quotes said that if Detroit had to cut production by 50%, 2.5 million US jobs would be lost. Well, we’re there. Start sending those slips. And remember: what’s good for GM ......"


And expect 150 000 teachers in June according to Dan W


And 2 million college grads approx.

Burning Biomass to Charge Electric Vehicles Beats Fueling Cars with Ethanol according to this study by scientists from the University of California, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science.

"Campbell says there is no level of efficiency for converting biomass to ethanol achievable in the near future where bioelectricity-powered EVs don’t win."


Interesting ... but I don't feel they factored in the battery issues.

Their numbers,

30,000 km per hectare for ethanol (cellulosic presumably)
60,000 km per hectare using feedstock to produce electricity

At the mini-test (test vehicle was a Mini Cooper) presented at the 2007 NAAC conference these numbers were given

20,000 km per hectare for biodiesel
30,000 km per hectare for cellulosic ethanol
70,000 km per hectare for synthetic diesel
97,000 km per hectare for biogas

The Science article is talking about burning the biomass along with Coal. I wonder if they've factored in the cost of transporting the biomass, sometimes, long distances to the coal-fired plant?

One of the advantages of biomass/biofuels will be the ability to utilize small, local, refineries.

Also, they admit that ethanol has 1/3 more energy than what is delivered from the coal-fired plant. I just wonder what efficiency they are assigning to the ethanol-powered IC Engine? We have seen from RR's (and, my) postings that an IC engine can achieve 40% Efficiency when optimized for higher ethanol blends.

Overall, Science is turning into the joke of the ages. I didn't notice when, exactly, they quit doing Science at Science; but, today, I'd rather go to National Enquirer for a reasonable outlook.

Finished product ethanol has a higher energy density, but the energy cost of distilling is much greater than the energy cost of shipping sun-dried biomass.

Science magazine is no better and no worse than it has ever been.

Maybe, but if the distilling is done by burning the "free" lignin from the biomass it might be a different story, economics-wise.

I'm, also, pretty sure they didn't consider engines like this new Flex-Fuel Volvo engine that gets 90 HP/Liter, on 5% Less Fuel.


That upgraded engine uses 5% less fuel while running on gasoline, not on E85.

When running on E85, fuel consumption increases by about 30% since bioethanol contains less energy. The exact difference depends on factors such as driving style, ambient temperature and variations in fuel specification.

The only way to get a flex fuel engine anywhere close to parity between gasoline and E85 fuel consumption is with variable compression ratios, and those are nowhere close to prototype stage.

Yes, DWCAL, we understand all that. However, the 231 horsepower was on E85. That means we can do some "downsizing," here.

I'm just trying to make the point that the newer engines will be a lot more efficient than the older engines.

Oh, and GM, and Chrysler have been doing displacement on demand for a few years, and Saab has been doing Variable Ratio Turbochargers for at least 3. We're farther along than you think.

I really think you're underestimating the complexity of variable compression ratio:

The other VCR schemes I found on Green Car Congress are only slightly less complex. Cylinder deactivation and variable vane turbos are old hat in comparison.

I agree downsizing will work to an extent because peak hp is mainly for marketing, and most drivers never step hard enough on the accelerator to actually use all those advertised horses. As long as you're running a downsized turbo engine at light load, efficiency will be pretty good. If you dip into the boost for accelerating or climbing hills, efficiency will be worse than the original upsized engine.

As long as you're running a downsized turbo engine at light load, efficiency will be pretty good. If you dip into the boost for accelerating or climbing hills, efficiency will be worse than the original upsized engine.

Peak power is for those hopefully very rare circumstances when you screwed up. Like passing someone, and realizing the oncoming car is coming faster than you thought. For these sorts of times, you don't care about the efficiency for the manuever, all that matters is being able to pull it off. So at least for people that aren't into the drag race thing, an inefficient, but powerful high end mode should be perfectly acceptable.

Actually, my flexfuel Impala has a little better torque on E85 which means it "downshifts" less often in hills.

There's, honestly, a heck of a lot to this energy efficiency thing.

There are simpler systems.

One used by Saab engine researchers is taking a normal engine block and cutting it in half below the cylinders, mounting a hinge along one edge between the two parts and hydraulic mechanism along the other and use ordinary pistons. When the top part with the cylinders is tilted the utilized part of the cylinders vary. Unfortunately were Saab:s owner GM not interested in this idea that probaby would have fit in the excisting production lines.

Another one used by researchers is two pistons working against each other in one cylinder that are synchronized with a gear mechnism that allows the synchronizaton to vary. That one is a homogenous combustion research prototype.

Ethanol production for liquid fuels is a loosers idea and effort.This truth can at a maximum stay blurred for another few years.
(Obviously most of you know this)
It is a given already before you even start and it's all about the very poor energy conversion taking place inside the ICE(internal combustion engine) - thumb of rule says only 15% enters into propulsion - 85% lost as heat actually adding to AGW.

Now to my core point :
If there was no fossil oils to start with (as of the philosophical and industrial progress starting with first oil from 1859 onwards ..) - then there would have been very few, if any ICEs at all. Whatever industrial developement retrospectivly substituting the one we all are part of today - would (IMO and with my limitations) for technical and power tasks have been electrical and ECE (external combustion engine like the steam engine, Stirling) - but at a completely different scale than today, ofcource... so to start planning for the future we should mentally remove the idea of oil / liquids - and take it from there.

OT : I observe Google is sluggish/ offline now just/ resently - peak Google ?

Yes, Google is nightmarish today. I had to switch to Yahoo to search for news today.

And yes, it did make me wonder if the future would include an Internet so unreliable that people don't mind giving it up.

Might be time to start stockpiling old science textbooks

Exchanging text messages by flag semaphore is extremely reliable and requires only somatic energy./snark


It is difficult for people to imagine a situation without cars. This isn't even because they like cars so much ... it's just hard for them to do it. The tendency is to grab for another ready-made scenario from the past. So, they tend toward some sort of 1880s pastoral vision of horse-drawn haywagons.

I would suggest taking some brilliant and successful culture from the past -- let's say Athens during the 5th century BC, or Rome in the 1st century, or Kyoto in the 11th century, or Florence in the 14th century, or Istanbul in the 15th century, or Amsterdam in the 17th century, or what have you -- and judiciously applying (mentally) those elements from the 21st century that you think would be most useful. I suggest these are mainly:

1) good plumbing, and sanitation in general
2) electric lights, internet, cellphone, refrigerators
3) basic modern medicine, especially as regards infectious disease
4) modern electric trains (underground in cities)
5) some solar, wind, hydro to power the electric stuff

I don't think there is much more beyond that.

I think it is very easy to imagine the most wonderful sorts of cultures this way, and they wouldn't take much energy at all to run.

Babylon around 2000BC.

yes econguy, we are on the same page - but regarding how them post peak scenarios eventually will play out is anyones guess - anyway, most nations would be better off in the future if they inaugurated a Departement of Philosophy (DoP) or some such to that effect. The DoP-minister and members should be every nations local "crazy-folks and lunatics", measured up against todays running standard, e.g. Joe Hummer Sixpack.
The MSN would have hung around the DoP quaters and freed up time for the regular departements , so that they could do their job on BAU, meanwhile the DoP ideas would gain more inertia and thus started to penetrate Joe's brainwaves ...
- Letterman/Leno and more would go ballistic on this DoP-idea - and viewers would crowd the TVsets ... commersials would crack the ceiling and everyone would need "a day off" the day after ..

(can you spot the sarcanol in there?)

Being somewhat of car nut as well as a Peak Oil nut and an ethanol "scammer", I find the science behind this argument very hard to follow. Perhaps science illiteracy extends to the University of California. That would explain a lot of the anti-ethanol poop like this that comes out of there.

Firstly, it is well know that the electricity emerging from power plants is only a fraction of the of fuel energy inputs. This has been pointed out in many previous posts on TOD over the years. If I remember right and setting aside false comparison issues for the moment, it was on the order of .3-.6 by the time it reaches final usage, the worst of all industrial energy transformations. That is why electricity is the most expensive form of energy when produced by combustion electric power plants. (The burning is also pollution problematic.)

So the use of biofuels in power plants is handicapped by up to 70% off the bat.

Then comes the false comparison of vehicles on the road actually running on ethanol (there are millions of them) with a hypothetical electric car that has similar performance. There is no such thing. The closest currently available is the Tesla roadster. But this thing costs at least $100k and is not in full production yet and may never be.

So what we have here is a hypothesis contrary to fact and facts that are completely conjured up. There are no electric vehicles that perform like typical ethanol powered vehicles. How then can they be compared and arrive at a finding that the bio mass powered electric vehicle is more efficient that ethanol?

The whole study is unscientific gobbledygook and should be thrown in the trash. Perhaps someday it can be made into cellulosic ethanol and power a flex-fuel car a couple of feet. That's all the use it is.

Without going through the study in detail, I would be hard pressed to dismiss a scientific work like this off hand. However, you make a good point about the overall thermal efficiency of a biomass plant which is often closer to about 23% due to the energy needed to evaporate the moisture in the fuel.

since you X - for the most part - have circle-arguments with yourself inside your own little box, I will not enter into an argument with you. But I can inform you about an el.car that was "killed" by somone in a neighbourhood near you ,, the so called EV1, read more here : Who Killed the Electric Car?

EV1 was a full scale, fairly priced family car loved by everyone that leased one - every
"lessee" would love to buy thir leased car, but could not , because of circumstantial reasons. So citing the performance car Tesla as the only up n' go el.car is wrong. There are also a handfull small el.cars available worldwide giving fantastic milages on battery. Just for your information.

Here is a "Who Killed the Electric Car?- Video teaser"

To put things into perspective, I believe the well-to-wheel energy pathway of an EV is somewhere around 1.6X that of a gasoline powered ICE. That is assuming conventional fossil fueled generation to supply the electricity.

This would be all fine and dandy if regular people had the cash, credit, or disposable income to buy or lease expensive* new vehicles, but...

*my definition of expensive being >$22k purchase or >$500/mo payment

What I'm actually getting at is that those two groups, organized under the modern Republican Party, made for a pretty powerful anti-science monolith. You've got to listen to both of them to be a successful Republican, and they both are attacking science in their respective areas. Religious conservatives are big on things like evolution and stem cells, and industry's big on things like global warming and all kinds of pollution-related matters.

Just how science-deficient are we, and isn't there an iPhone app for that?

Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More
Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.

“Our end goal is to create more agents,” said April McKee, a senior Border Patrol agent and mentor at the session here.


Good way to boost the deficit and continue the militarization of America. Once you rid yourselves of those indigent mexican terrorists you can start addressing the internal threat created by homosexuals, muslims, people of colour, and the most dangerous group of all: liberals. A painter from Bavaria had a similar idea; it helped pull his country out of an economic decline.

Evey nation has them. Must have them:

The Hitler Youth
"Viewed superficially, the Hitler Youth and their female analogue seem akin to a militarized version of the prohibited Boy Scouts, with a similar emphasis ...
members.tripod.com/~Propagander2/index-14.html - 35k

SWINE IN STALIN'S GARDEN? By Si Frumkin In January 1849, Alphonse ...
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
guilty of this: I had Stalin's wise sayings drummed into me when ... Soviet Union and I became a Young Pioneer, the communist version of the Boy Scouts. ...

A painter from Bavaria had a similar idea; it helped pull his country out of an economic decline.

Think of what kind of place the world would be had there been a Public Works project in Austria to keep him employed as a painter...

I had no idea this was happening in my own backyard. I spent alot of time driving back and forth in my company vehicle, working out there. Unemployment out there is approximately 25%...

I remember getting into archery in the scouts when I was a kid.

A painter from Bavaria had a similar idea; it helped pull his country out of an economic decline.

Ja vol herr kommandant!

"Michael Pollan sees genetic engineering as key to sustainable agriculture"


Farming has become an occupation and cultural force of the past. Michael Pollan's talk promoted the premise -- and hope -- that farming can become an occupation and force of the future. In the past century American farmers were given the assignment to produce lots of calories cheaply, and they did. They became the most productive humans on earth. A single farmer in Iowa could feed 150 of his neighbors. That is a true modern miracle.

"American farmers are incredibly inventive, innovative, and accomplished. They can do whatever we ask them, we just need to give them a new set of requirements."

I was at that lecture in San Francisco, and Pollan was overtly anti genetic engineering, questioning Stewart Brands new book, which is pro genetic engineering.

As far as "new requirements", he obviously sees the modern ag as a unsustainable, and we need a new way foreword.

I'm only a third of the way through, so maybe he's getting to the 'GMO' chapter, but he's been pushing any number of the sensible progressive Ag programs that he regularly talks about.

If he makes some kind of conditional or nuanced statement on the potential of some part of Genetics, I hope that isn't what justifies the broadstroke that you opened your post with.

Otherwise, it's a great listen, and I recommend others check it out..

aha, looking down the contents list, I see that there was a GMO comment in his Q&A .. your heading makes it seem like this is the Basis of his talk. Maybe it wasn't your intention, but I think it's misleading as your starter. ( http://fora.tv/2009/05/05/Michael_Pollan_Deep_Agriculture#chapter_14 ) Link to that question..


Well, there ya go..

Maybe I misread your post or some sarcanol.. but he says 'To use a farmer's term, We're being sold a Pig in a Poke.. and I don't even know what that means!'.. 'GMO's aren't about increasing yields, but about decreasing labor costs' (very loosely paraphrasing what he heard from farmers..)

But again, I'm glad to hear Pollan again. He seems to be all over it.. thanks for the heads up.


Got ya all to watch it didn't I?

Seriously the home page of ForaTV had that as the link to the talk. It took you to the Q&A where he is asked about GMOs and said that there is a place for it if incorporating DIVERSITY which is not being done.


No soup for you!

It didn't sound like you.. I thought something was up.

Pollan was also just on Democracy Now! today.. similar spiel, with a little extra on Swine Flu.. but it's like candy (bad analogy?), I could listen to Pollan, McKibben etc.. all day, Hasn't gotten boring yet!


"Michael Pollan sees genetic engineering as key to sustainable agriculture"

Funny, from watching the program I got exactly the opposite impression. Perhaps you should watch the program before making such a comment.

Ron P.

Pollan was on Democracy Now today, and further emphasized his opposition to GM.
A very good interview.

see my response to jokuhl above.

I suddenly hear "Blue Collar Man" by Styx playing in the background...

Auto industry sparks surge in jobless claims

Government says 637,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. Continuing claims at all-time high for 15th week in a row.

Auto industry job losses led to a surge in the number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to a government report released Thursday...

A total of 637,000 people filed new claims for jobless benefits in the week ended May 9, the Labor Department said. That's an increase of 32,000 from an upwardly revised 605,000 in the previous week...

In the week ended May 2, the most recent data available, 6,560,000 continuing claims were filed. That's the highest number since the Labor Department started tracking the data in 1967 and an increase of 202,000 from the previous week.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has shed about 5 million jobs. The unemployment rate now stands at a 25-year high of 8.9%.

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” - Oscar Wilde

The great thing about slavery is that unemployment is
never an issue. ;}

"Our government is committing trillions upon trillions of dollars of taxpayers' money to save the very institutions who thrive on the ability of the public to service its debt. The government is undertaking all of these actions to try and "loosen the credit markets so that lending and borrowing can resume". In other words, the actions of the government---in the name of saving the system---implicitly means that the government is attempting to perpetuate a system of peonage and debt-servitude. As such, since interest accrues exponentially, the ability of the average citizen to live debt free becomes increasingly impossible over time."


In other words, the actions of the government---in the name of saving the system---implicitly means that the government is attempting to perpetuate a system of peonage and debt-servitude. As such, since interest accrues exponentially, the ability of the average citizen to live debt free becomes increasingly impossible over time.

Ah, yes, a caste system for the 21st century, where the indebted people are at the bottom... Where have we seen this before?

India's "Untouchables" Face Violence, Discrimination

...Although illegal, 40 million people in India, most of them Dalits, are bonded workers, many working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago, according to a report by Human Rights Watch published in 1999. These people, 15 million of whom are children, work under slave-like conditions hauling rocks, or working in fields or factories for less than U.S. $1 day...

Oh, and if you read the article, slavery is the least of the concerns of the folks on the bottom...

Good point Mc. That was the line of reasoning we were just using over at the "Oil is Slavery" discussion. Picked up the thought from the old "Sixteen Tons" song with respect to "owing your soul to the company store". The gov't is the company store and we're building a debt that can never be paid. Thus we have no choice but keep working (until we die) and paying off a little each month even while we (and our children) go deeper in debt. Either that or set the store on fire and burn the ledger. A difficult choice but perhaps a more functional solution then mailing tea bag lables to DC.

My understanding is that most of these workers were not officially laid off until sometime Friday. It would seem to me, that the avalanche of mass unemployment numbers will not hit until next week.

Each of these jobs indirectly supports other employment. This "multiplyer effect" varies by industry but is typically 3. So you can multiply the auto industry direct job losses by 3 to get a sense of the coming rise in unemployment. Since some of those jobs may represent self-employment there may not be an equivalent rise in the unemployment stats.

College grad: ‘I wish I’d gone to prison instead’

Hernan Castillo is treading water, trying to survive under the weight of $5,200 in credit card debt and $30,000 in student loans. He’s making payments on time, but the Orange County, Calif., resident sees little hope for getting out of the warehouse job he holds and landing a job as an accountant, the field in which he earned his degree. And forget about saving money for a home or retirement. He now firmly believes the money he spent earning a college degree was a waste.

"Every day I wish I had never gone to college,” Castillo said. “It has been the biggest mistake of my life. Sometimes I wish I had gone to prison instead of college. At least I would have learned a trade or two and started being independent once I got out."

Don't feel too bad, Hernan. If you would have stayed out and became employed, you would have earned additional wages in the last 4 years as a full time employee (assuming you worked only part-time in college) probably around $100,000...

(But in all fairness he would have bought a house just before that bubble burst and would be underwater on that to the tune of, well, probably what he spent on college.)

The opportunity cost for college is the loans taken out PLUS the lost wages of not being a full time employee, PLUS the lost job experience. It's a much higher cost to go to college than is apparent at first glance...

I remember that from Engineering Economics in college. One of the problems they had us do was calculate whether a college degree was worth it. It was close, but it wasn't, at least as measured in money.

Of course it all depends on the assumptions you make, but it's something I've seen in my own family. My branch of the family tree is the most educated...and the poorest. My dad was getting his PhD while his brothers were working as carpenters, plumbers, etc. My mom was getting her master's while her sisters were working as administrative assistants. They are now comfortable and have no complaints, but they never caught up with their siblings financially (not least because their late start caused them buy a house late and miss out on much of the real estate boom of the past decades).

"..at least as measured in money. "

Can't say that enough times.. even a lot of other strict measurements seem to miss the mark. The age-old argument about studying Liberal Arts, and whether those 'intangibles' really yield any measurable benefit. I say we have to stop trying to put everything into Numerical Values.. it's 'mechanizing' our brains.

I was satisfied with a BFA and was clawing the walls to get out by senior year, in fact, but I'm really glad I did that, and particularly for the elective courses, Russian Short Story, Taoism/Hinduism/Buddhism, Shakespeare. The trade knowledge? That was pretty straightforward.

'There's no safety in numbers, or anything else' from a Thurber Story.

I think I would have gotten a lot more out of college if I'd gone when I was older. I was really a geek at age 18. I chose my college because it had few humanities requirements. (And the students often skated around even those. For example, Boolean algebra counted as a philosophy course - called "Logic.")

I enjoyed it at the time, but I think I would get a lot more out of it now.

One of my friends was one of the best in our group of fighter pilots. He had a degree in horticulture. Not only could he outfly you, his rose bushes were much nicer than yours.

I'm dating myself because at that time there were no women fighter pilots. I have met a couple women fighter pilots since then and they have a fighter pilot attitude (also holds for women race car drivers).

Another thought was (when I was in the Training Command) who would you want to train to be a fighter pilot? Get some kid right off the farm just out of high school. He understood machinery since he grew up with it and his hand-eye coordination was probably very good because he drove tractors and combines before he touched an airplane. Like most young people he was probably almost fearless.

I wonder what is happening to full athletic scholarship students after they graduate if they don’t go into professional athletics? Our football coach here at UNR makes about $600K/yr (4 or 5 times as much as a regular academic professor) but this coach has turned out hundreds of student athletes.

Clearly college is not worth it. When I look around all of the wealthy neighborhoods, virtually none of the owners are college graduates. When you look at all the public filings of all the public companies, most of the officers, directors, highly paid etc. do not have college degrees. On the other hand, most of the people on welfare, medicaid, food stamps, etc. are college graduates. Most of the good doctors, dentists, attorneys, CPA's, politicians, etc. do not have college degrees. Whoever started this nonsense of going to college. Let the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Germans, etc waste their time in college. We will kill them economically if only we gave up on college. The best jobs are in Pro football, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc, plus movie actors, pop singers, etc., and they do not need degrees.

I think what you're missing is that times are changing. This is true even if you don't take peak oil and the Greater Depression into account.

"Rich Dad" Robert Kiyosaki discusses this a bit in his books. In the 1960s, being a professional was the path to success. Every mom wanted her son to be a doctor, and her daughter to marry one.

But that is no longer true. Kiyosaki suggested investing or running your own business as the preferred paths to success, and often uses his dad, a well-educated but poor teacher as an example of what not to do.

Also...there's no need to be so sarcastic. One, people who don't know you will not understand what you mean to say. There's no facial expression or tone of voice on the Internets. Two, it tends to generate heat, not light. This isn't Usenet. Please make an effort to be more civil.

We are talking about being "trained for a occupation, not educated.
Education is not a capital investment, and if it is, we have lost the battle for a informed proletariat.

Might be time to leave the OC and find work elsewhere. This is sure not the place I remember during the 60's and 70's when it seemed like the sky was the only limit.

From the article on top:
"A last ditch effort by progressive supervisors to reconsider an expensive solar power project fell one vote short yesterday when progressive Sup. Eric Mar maintained his unqualified support for the deal and refused to send it back to committee for more research and discussion."

Can someone define 'progressive' for me? In the 1950's it meant TV dinners, industrial food production, suburbs and highways. Now it means cooking your own food, growing your own food, and living in the city. Progressives today sound like my conservative grandfather. What does that word mean?

I think it means 'take the next step'
Sometimes, you're heading out. Sometimes, you're coming home.

Even then, Progressive or Liberal seems to mean 'time to move', while conservative would mean 'let's hold here for now, this is pretty good.' -and of course, that is not necessarily applicable to the Broad Social groups.. each side has things they want to keep and preserve, and also things they want to let go of and change.

I would still say that the rate ideas propagate and are adopted is slower for "conservatives" than "progressives." Or, looked at from a personal angle, the conservative person believes their job is to slow idea propagation and adoption while the progressive believes their job is to accelerate idea propagation and adoption.

Fundamentally different ways of relating to the world.

Jokuhl and Aangel, those are great explanations of Progressive and Conservative!

Similiar descriptions of different people's approach to change are explored (with some humor) in a book called "Believing Cassandra: An Optimist Looks at a Pessimist's World" by Alan AtKisson. It's a book that TOD members would find worthwhile to read.

He uses different nicknames, and has a few more than two. Can't remember them well enough to quote though...

Can someone define 'progressive' for me?

After the Republican effort led by Frank Luntz managed to change the English language, so that liberal became a term of derision, liberals started calling themselves progressives instead.

Heading Out's latest blog entry mentions Mikael Höök's licentiate thesis "Depletion and Decline Curve Analysis in Crude Oil Production (pdf). He's one of Aleklett's students.

Why doesn't Heading Out post these entries on TOD? Good stuff he has on that blog but I was not aware of it until now.

WTF ... the first two blurbs are bad and the third one is atrocious.


Montreal launches new city wide Bike lending program call "Bixi"


Re: Saudi must reign in soaring power consumption (uptop)

"If this trend in power consumption in the kingdom continues it will impact the size of exports. . . "

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi

Do ya think?

Sam's graph showing a flat Saudi total liquids production rate of 11 mbpd, versus consumption increasing at +5.7%/year, which is below what EIA shows for the post-2005 three year rate of increase (+6.3%/year):

The US and China went from net oil exporters to net oil importers, even as their production increased--because of rising consumption.

Sam's graph showing a flat Saudi total liquids production rate of 11 mbpd ...

And what would it look like if Saudi production were to start to decline at some modest rate because Ghawar peaks and there is falling demand for their exports because the world oil price has become too high for consumers to afford?

My bet is that the long term accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports will outpace the decline in demand (partly based on the 1930's comparison, when we saw rising consumption worldwide after 1930), driving oil prices up, but time will tell.

As I have frequently noted, the price that will force Bill Gates to conserve energy is quite a bit different from the price that has forced a poor Third World consumer to conserve energy, and most of us fall somewhere along the continuum between the poor Third World consumer and Bill Gates, i.e., I expect to see forced energy conservation moving up the food chain, which is basically what happened in the US last year.

BTW, the flat production/rising consumption model, in round numbers, shows 2005 to 2035 production of about 120 Gb, with net exports of about 50 Gb. As of 2020, Saudi Arabia would have (net) exported two-thirds of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports. Again, based on the above model, Saudi Arabia--which (net) exported about 3.3 Gb in 2005--would have a cumulative net export to annual net export ratio of about 15:1 in 2005, i.e., at their 2005 net export rate, their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports would be depleted in 15 years.

Hello WT,

It will be interesting to see how much oil KSA burns for electricity going forward due to their natgas shortage. Recall my link from a couple of days ago where they stated they had lot of natgas in tight formations, but they had no cost effective tech to get it out:



To compare KSA with the U.S. and China regarding their oil consumption is not realistic. KSA has now about 30 million inhabitants (10% of the U.S.), maybe 50 million in 2020. They are not going to use 5 mbd. Besides, they plan to install solar to generate electricity.

They are not going to use 5 mbd.

They're already the #10 consumers for the world, ahead of France or the UK, at current growth rates will overtake Canada and S Korea within 2 years, Russia in 6. There's no visible ceiling on growth from population restraints, nor the slightest inkling of incentives for their population to move away from using petroleum for transportation.

One segment of their energy demands: The Oil Drum: Europe | Peak water in Saudi Arabia They are already the Saudi Arabia of desalinization, and utilizing solar power for this would be expensive; why bother when they are also the Saudi Arabia of oil?

They are not going to use 5 mbd

I would guess you have never visted KSA, to save you the trouble and discomfort of 50 degree C heat (122 F) and desert conditions try Google Earth and take a look at Riyadh - look and see how many cars there are - even the slaves get to drive everywhere (but don't necessarily get aircon)!

look and see how many cars there are.

In the U.S. also. The amount of oil used by planes and ships together is more. The graph says: 5 mbd used by KSA in 2020. I still think this is unrealistic. Maybe 3-3,5 mbd in 2020. If the globalisation goes down, they will suffer also. F.i. less tourism, less airtrafic.
If they install a lot of solar (this plan was announced by KSA a few months ago), they can export more oil.

they can export more oil.

Without the oil and gas they literally die since they need it's energy to desalinate sea water - I expect them to fill their own cars on a long term basis (more than 20 years), that means less 'net exports', not more.

Hmmm ... also KSA onshore production is typically very low cost - it's likely in a world economic collapse and barring resource wars that, for a while, they will be one of the few real oil exporters left, nobody will produce at a loss, there must be a profit!

Without the oil and gas they literally die since they need it's energy to desalinate sea water

How much oil and gas would that need ? On Curaçao they do that also, however for only 150.000 people.

that means less 'net exports', not more.

I meant more compared to when they don't install solar.

This sounds pretty cool...

Is a Heat Pump and Gravel the Answer to Energy Storage for the Grid?

Some energy storage technologies for the power grid are expensive but can be deployed anywhere, like advanced batteries, while others are cheap but can only be built in certain locations, like pumping water up and down hilly terrain (known as “pumped hydro”). But a group of English engineers have built an advanced heat pump and connected it to an energy storage system using two silos full of plain old gravel that they say is as cheap as pumped hydro, as location-agnostic as a battery — and is super efficient.



First good news in a long time. Here is an explanation on the companies site:


If this works, it is just what the Midwest US needed: pumped storage that works in flat environments.

Here is a clip from Jerome's last piece on wind energy load balancing costs:

In the case of wind, the cost of the service (which a wind producer needs to pay to the grid operator in order to be able to provide its service, which is the same of kWh) is estimated at 2-4 EUR/MWh, i.e. 5% or less of the cost of wind. And, given that the relevant regulations exist, that externality can be easily internalised - and in that case, added to the cost of producing windpower - or deducted from the price wind generators can get for selling their "naked" MWh.

And here is the statement from Isentropic on the cost of storage:

The round trip efficiency is over 70%. Because gravel is such a cheap and readily available material the cost per kWh can be kept very low - $80/kWh.

I wonder at the difference. They seem to feel they will be competitive. Perhaps only a small fraction of storage kWh is needed per MWh of wind?

The round trip efficiency is over 70%. Because gravel is such a cheap and readily available material the cost per kWh can be kept very low - $80/kWh.

I agree this seems like an intriguing technology. I can't relate to that cost value, however. A fairly unkind estimate for wind (without PTC, etc.) might be 11 cents/kWh. With a round-trip efficiency of 70%, the bits of wind you stored would cost nearly 16 cents/kWh, or a premium of 5 cents/kWh. Of course you would have to spend to build the facility but I'm nowhere near that quoted value. My best guess is they mean to say $80/MWh, putting their wind around $55/MWh (achievable in ideal conditions). Otherwise, I'm losing something in translation.

If feasible, this approach is more in line with the 'low tech' future envisioned by the power-down crowd. Wind turbines and heat engines, while technically advanced, at least require a bit less sophistication than pv, nuclear, wave, and other 'clean energy' options.

Because gravel is such a cheap and readily available material the cost per kWh can be kept very low - $80/kWh.

There are two different meanings for the term $/KWhr. We are used to thinking in terms of price per unit of energy. Here they are referring to the capital cost of a system that can store a KWhr. Since it is reuseable for thousands of cycles, the capital cost gets amortized over a large number of uses.

This is interesting. Heat engines are limited by the theromdynamic efficiency limit (Tmax-Tmin)/Tmax. We usually think of tmin as being ambient -or greater, and that means we need to make Tmax pretty high to get to high overall efficiency. Here they make Tmin quite small. Of course you gtta deal with temps that are pretty low compared to the freezing point of water, and of common lubricants. And many materials are brittle at those temps. So you will have to keep the circulating air very dry, and use nonstandard materials. But of all the large scale energy storage schemes I've seen, this looks the most promising.

Ok, that makes sense. I wondered if he was talking cost kW, like power plants. But it must be cost per stored unit of energy.

I think you have missed the meaning of the Carnot Efficiency equation. The temperatures to use are in absolute units, thus, at 0C, the absolute temperature is 273K. That's the reason the IC cycles are inefficient, even if the mechanical and heat transfer processes were 100% conversions. The Isentropic Co. storage concept is likely to be rather inefficient because a heat pump operating between the highest and lowest temperatures given would be inefficient. Sorry, I don't have calculations, buy we know that air-to-air heat pumps tend to lose out as the delta T increases. Reversing the process to extract energy one would find that the efficiency would decline sharply as the storage was "drained" and the delta T decreased. These folks are making some wild claims, IMHO...

E. Swanson

yes agreed - it is the best thing I have heard of ... I actually think ever.
That said, I need to study the concept more closely , cus' it resembles the principles in the ocean thermo-difference power plant. (which is still not proven, but quite costly..)
Anyway, their way of thinking is correct, go after the cheaper methods for post peak realism (!)

Yes, this gravel storage is an interesting idea. With OTEC the delta T between the surface of the ocean and the deep water (several thousand feet down in some cases) is so small it requires a huge mass flows of water in order to generate much electricity. This in turn requires large parasitic pumping loads reducing the overall efficiency to the 2 to 3 percent range. The cost of all of this heavy equipment, pipes, pumps, etc. is very high.

They seem to be using thermal storage with molton salt pretty effecively in some of the CSP plants. However, these temperature differentials are much higher. I suspect that is one of the keys to make the gravel storage system work effectively ... the greater the delta T the less mass flow and less parasitic loads...higher net output, etc.

For all of those confident that US demand will fall as oil prices increase you should
read this article.


When he got into the homebuilding business in the 1980s, he could open the newspaper and find as many as 15 job listings. Now, there are often none, and when there is one, 50 other people are likely to apply for it.

"It was within a blink of an eye, we went from having a home to here," he says, looking around Daybreak.

For gas money, he collects cans and bottles. On a good day, the containers will yield him $15 at an east Portland recycling center.

Twice a week, he donates plasma at a local blood bank, which earns him about $65. He uses the money to pay for medicine, gas and odds and ends. The family buys groceries with food stamps.

These people are following my scenarios to the tee.

All that will change overtime is the people in these situations will fall from higher and higher income brackets and be even less qualified to perform manual labor.

Eventually of course given this mans job I suspect if the follow through in the fall they will find that he moved back to Texas of work. Given thats where he seems to be from.
Hopefully their car will make it maybe it won't. But the next step when your in this sort of situation is to eventually try to go to a different area in hopes it will be better.

If there is a serious hurricane in the Gulf this summer I can't even begin to imagine the hoards of laid off construction workers that will descend on the region.

This happened during the Great Depression and its the next stage word gets out of work in and area and large numbers of desperate people descend on the area many don't get jobs and are then unable to leave.

Regardless they are burning gasoline right to the bitter end.

Good point - year to date EIA figures show for year to date gasoline demand compared to last year is down only 0.9% - yes down less than 1% in a major recession.


Diesel demand is down much more of course. However due to the fall off in diesel demand, refiners have reduced total output (since they must produce a combination of mostly diesel and gasoline, and can only adjust their product output within certain limits).

Ironically, falling diesel demand and fairly robust gasoline demand could leave us with very low gasoline supplies by late summer - especially in the event of a Gulf of Mexico hurricane.

I suspect the US will export a lot of that extra diesel once the price is right.

In fact although I don't want to go into my long sordid thoughts on US diesel storage levels which I actually believe are correct I do believe on part of the plan is to export most of it for profit once it hits the right price.

I found another good story.

Notice all the way though no mention on cutting back much on driving.


Note technically this person is wealthier than the one in the first story but this person actually has a lower net value despite the higher income.

Whats important is that both of these families are on track to repudiate all debt the first family is already there but this second wealthier family will do the same. Eventually both will live on their monthly paychecks and try to save a little.

And both will not dramatically change their fuel usage habits until it becomes a impossible burden. Expect the price the blood bank pays for plasma to plummet.

Bahamas: Four Seasons resort in Exumas closing

A luxury Four Seasons resort in the Bahamas will shut its doors this month, the government announced Wednesday, continuing a rough year for tourism in the vast archipelago off Florida.

The Cabinet Office said in a statement that the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay, which opened in 2003, will close May 26. Most of its 500-strong work force will be dismissed within 30 days.

The resort is part of a 500-acre (202-hectare) development that includes a marina and golf course.
If you read the link: roughly another 1,000 lost their jobs at other Caribbean resorts. You would think the govt, if Peak-informed, would have these people quickly convert the golf courses into veggie plots and compost pits before TSHTF. I guess they prefer to go down Easter Island style or degrade like Haiti. Such is life...

Sun City Center willing to open golf course to nonresidents

SUN CITY CENTER — With hopes of drawing more golfers and salvaging what was once the backbone of this retirement community, local leaders this week voted to open the North Course to residents outside Sun City Center.

The board followed a recommendation proposed by a task force formed last year in the wake of the bankruptcy filing of WCI Communities Inc., the developer that built much of Sun City Center and runs its golf courses.

With golf course use plummeting, community leaders mobilized to find ways to reverse the slump in golfing and to prevent WCI from closing its courses.
IMO, they should invite non-residents to help convert the golf courses to community garden plots.

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

thanks toto for digging -
Just for fun I had to check that resort on Google maps ... oh yeah it is a BIG resort - Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay (click : View Larger Map, and zoom) - far away from everything - probably a good place for the future actually , fishing and all .. a nice place to chill out post peak + 1 decade or less..

Sounds like Norway are investing in lots of things whose value is based on the relatively small difference between two very big numbers (revenue v costs, or assets v debt). Sovereign wealth funds shouldn't do that, indeed only gamblers should. We note that China is switching to buying durable stuff. Maybe they read TOD comments :-).

the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund (deposits startet in 1996) - LOST ALL IT's REVENUE / GAININGS - generated over it's entire life , during the meltdown last year. A minor gain is observed over last few months due to rising stocks.
There was some political finger pointing when "the going got really though" - but all parties were in agreement that : such is the stock-market and it will bounce back up...
There is not one single major party that tout for a less agressive manner with regards to the pace of Norway's exploitation of it's oil/nat.gas - not one party - except maybe for the Communist Party ?
- doing some Googling here and viola -
Yes this party is aware - the Communists - ... they are gonne show the movie A Crude Awakening The Oil Crash at a meeting 18th of June ...
(just for the records, hurrah Norway has a political party that is PO aware, have you ?)

MOVIE ALERT - I just came across -

The movie "Blood and Oil" it is available at youtube in 6 parts here is Part 1, the rest 2-6 is in the right side bar

This is an excellent movie. The first five segments beautifully, simply, without rancor and undue rhetoric lay out exactly why the US is now in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, the first minute of segment 6 is the knockout blow explaining why, as previously illustrated, the rhetoric from Bush I and Bush II studiously avoided any mention of oil... once they realized Americans weren't willing to die for it.

Given what we face in The Perfect Storm, I am no longer an activist wrt BuCheney, et al. It's just not very relevant to someone, like myself, who sees government as increasingly irrelevant and so out of touch as to be no longer worth the effort. That said, we should still know why the world is as it is, if only to have our eyes open going forward.

I'd recommend it even to those well-versed and eyes already wide open.


Hello TODers,

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- William Doyle, chief executive officer of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., told financial news network CNBC that the global food crisis hasn’t gone away and will return...
Imagine if the Easter Islanders had put their efforts into full-on O-NPK recycling and protecting biodiversity with Earthmarines versus chopping everything down to build stoneheads.

An update on the 'sky island" of Nepal:

As Nepal Crisis Deepens, Food Delivery at Risk

..According to a recent U.N. report, every other child under five in Nepal is chronically malnourished. Nepal is ranked the poorest country in South Asia.
IMO, I expect food delivery to eventually TOTALLY STOP.

Consider the ERoEI of moving food aid from sea-level up to the high elevation of Kathmandu--Might be <1. This charity would be more TWENTY TIMES MORE EFFICIENT if they went to Peak Outreach in Nepal plus donated seeds & I-NPK [plus birth control!] so that the Nepalese could harvest the 20:1 Ag-ERoEI possible from a potential Liebscher's Optima***. Jumpstarting O-NPK recycling would be strongly advised too--distribute translated copies of the MacFarlane PDF and Humanure Handbook. To continue their present course into the postPeak just means that mothers will cry as their babies die..

***One ton of food goes fast. One ton of I-NPK can grow 20 tons of edibles if the weather cooperates.

Agree with you Bob.
(Parts of Nepal are a bit lower down, but your point is well made. Food aid is 'emergency' only.)
Geoff Hawtin who was head of international seeds agency for many years was suggesting something similar back in the early 1990s - that is, supporting and reinforcing local food production systems (often their traditional forms were robust and well suited to the conditions, capable of being self-maintained). He was referring at the time to Afghanistan, where robust multiple land-races of crops were what was needed. These systems and land-races still existed though they were under extreme pressure. I do not know what the situation is in Nepal, but a system that already has been optimized for local conditions can be enormously enriched with minimal outside support, and, potentially enabled to a new level of self support.

Hello Phil Harris--Thxs for your reply. I don't always have the time to go back and then post a detailed, expanded reply to every one of my many postings, but I do appreciate it when someone responds. My Thxs to all readers of my postings [even those that disagree with my conclusions].

My writing goal is just to be informative and interesting, with a episodic dose of 'Wild & Crazy' whenever I get a periodic brainstorm [brainfart?]--Nothing worse than a boring post to short-change any Peak Outreach impetus!