DrumBeat: May 17, 2009

A giant leap toward space-based solar power

Reporting from Sacramento -- Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for decades has generated power for its customers by splitting atoms, burning natural gas and capturing the force of falling water. More recently, the San Francisco utility began turning to the sun, wind, boiling geysers and even fermented cow manure to produce electricity.

Now, PG&E wants to turn to outer space.

A Manhattan Beach start-up called Solaren Corp. seeks to launch an array of giant solar power collectors into orbit 23,000 miles above Fresno and beam the energy to Earth. PG&E has signed a contract to buy the power -- if Solaren can make the technology work.

The proposal is a potential energy game-changer, supporters say. But, critics dismiss it as pie in the sky.

US commander: Iraqi navy to run offshore oil platform by year's end

Manama, Bahrain - Iraq's navy could be fully responsible for the defence of one of two key offshore oil platforms by December, according to the senior US and coalition commander in the Persian Gulf. "We have just turned over the point defense responsibility of the northern Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) to the Iraqi Navy and our intention is turn over the security responsibility for the entire area around the platform by the end of December," said Vice Admiral William Gortney on Sunday.

OPEC appetite for cuts diminishes

Despite the short-lived rally above $60 last week, there are strong signs that OPEC members have limited appetite for further quota cuts or revisions, come the organisation’s May 28 meething, according to IHS Global Insight analyst, Catherine Hunter.

Putin: Russia, Turkey to extend natural gas deal

Russia and Turkey have agreed to extend a contract on natural gas supplies, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

The current agreement to supply Turkey annually with about 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia is scheduled to end in 2012, Putin said. He spoke at a televised joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Saudi to mount three-year oil clean-up operation

Nearly two decades after the end of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia is planning to launch a three-year operation to clean up its shores from the world's largest oil slick that hit most of the region's coastlines and caused considerable ecological damage.

Brazil's Lula begins Saudi visit

The first Brazilian president ever to visit the Middle Eastern oil powerhouse, Lula was to sign a number of bilateral agreements on political, commercial and cultural relations, according to a Brazilian press official.

He could also discuss Brazil's desire to gain a permanent seat on a revamped UN Security Council, he said. The Saudis will have talks with their Brazilian counterparts on proposals to invest in farming in Brazil.

Uranium provides Jordan with spark for much-needed economic bonanza

Jordan, one of the few Middle East countries with no oil and long one of the poorest in the region, now finds itself on the brink of a potential economic bonanza. It has discovered uranium in huge quantities. Multinational companies are queueing up to start mining operations. Jordan is proposing to build a nuclear reactor and save almost 20 per cent of its gross domestic product now spent on importing fossil fuels. The small desert kingdom is set to lead the way in nuclear power production, opening its first nuclear plant in six years’ time and eventually exporting energy to all its neighbours.

This new source of energy will be used to supply the one critical resource that Jordan lacks: water. With one of the fastest-growing populations in the world – currently some six million people, four times the number a generation ago – and a vast influx of refugees from Iraq, the country is rapidly running out of water. Nuclear energy will allow it to undertake new desalination schemes and reduce dependence on meagre winter rainfall.

Australia to build world's largest solar energy plant: PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia plans to build the world's largest solar power station with an output of 1000 megawatts in a A$1.4 billion (US$1.05 billion) investment, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday.

The plant would have three times the generating capacity of the current biggest solar-powered electricity plant, which is in California, Rudd said during a tour of a power station.

Fuel prices have undercut hybrid sales

Going green may be all the rage these days.

Unfortunately for struggling automakers, hybrid cars are a tough sell.

"Anytime gas prices go up, hybrid sales go up," said Crystal Rowe, sales manager at Jones Honda in Lancaster. Sales of "any economical car goes up."

Indeed, as gas prices have fallen, so have sales of hybrid vehicles.

Oil, Gas Still Main Global Energy Resource, Says Expert

Oil and gas will remain as an indispensable core resource towards fulfilling global energy needs and consumption of these resources is expected to increase drastically by the year 2030.

This was said by Dr Tilak Doshi, an expert from the Saudi Aramco, during a public lecture at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

...He said to meet the energy demand, oil producing countries would need to come up with reserves nearly six times the size of Saudi Arabia to meet the demand. The other non-renewable and renewable sources of energy are simply too expensive or not productive to meet the demands, he said.

T. Boone Pickens: Stop Worrying About World Crude Supplies

Domestic natural gas supplies will replace our need for foreign oil. Independent studies continue to show that America's natural gas reserves are sufficient to meet all of our needs for well over 100 years.

We should protect America's interests by making a national commitment to replacing our need for foreign oil by using our enormous natural gas supplies for every possible use - power, transportation, chemicals, pharma, etc.

Surplus Oil Production Capacity & World Oil Prices

The future trend in surplus capacity will depend on oil demand trends, gains in non-OPEC production and OPEC capacity additions. As in some non-OPEC countries, some planned additions in OPEC countries will likely be delayed in response to weak oil market conditions. Most of the planned additions in OPEC are located in Saudi Arabia, which has plans to add over 2.5 million barrels per day of new capacity by 2012, led by the Khurais, Nuayyim, and Shaybah projects. And future prices will depend, in part, on the level of surplus capacity, which can serve to dampen any increase in prices that follows an economic recovery and the expectation of oil demand growth.

Iraq's Kurds Blamed For Squandering Oil Resources

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Oil Ministry says authorities in the self-ruled Kurdish region are squandering the country's oil wealth by giving Western companies a higher than necessary share of crude production.

Mexico: Nation’s future hinges on near-empty science classrooms

MEXICO CITY—Many solutions for sustainable development in Mexico lie in the scientific and technological training of its younger generations, say academics.

But students in this country, where everyone wants to be a doctor or accountant, are ignoring those fields.

Despite downturn, these cars are still selling: The models — including more than a few SUVs — still leave showrooms

The Audi S5 coupe packs a 354-horsepower V8 engine, a taut sport suspension and three customized drive modes into one sleek ride. At a time when the auto industry is in the pits, the S5's boldly refined body, complete with adaptive halogen headlights, a panoramic sunroof and a rear spoiler, is seducing reluctant buyers to open their wallets.

Hot in recession: Chocolate, sneakers, Spam

Sales of chocolate and running shoes are up. Wine drinkers haven't stopped sipping; they just seem to be choosing cheaper vintages.

Gold coins are selling like hot cakes. So are gardening seeds. Tanning products are piling up in shopping carts; maybe more people are finding color in a bottle than from sun-worshipping on a faraway beach.

Strong sales of Spam, Dinty Moore stew and chili helped Hormel Foods Corp. post a 6 percent increase in first quarter sales in its grocery products unit.

Federal authorities crack down on sea-borne oil polluters

Federal prosecutors are stepping up their pursuit of sea-borne oil polluters, and they say they already have found enough offenders to put together a fleet of ships like the Snow Flower -- vessels that flout international law by using the ocean as an open sewer to dump millions of gallons of waste oil when no one is looking. And the prosecutors say they are finding the pollution may be far more widespread than they ever suspected.

"There's no shortage of cases," said Joseph A. Poux Jr., assistant chief of the environmental crimes section for the U.S. Department of Justice. "From large cruise lines to the smallest operator, there's not a segment of the industry we have not come across."

The prime incentive is money. Illegal dumping can save tens of thousands of dollars.

Offshore gas rig in Gulf: Will it silence skeptics of drilling?

ON BOARD INDEPENDENCE HUB, Gulf of Mexico - One huge symbol of the nation's struggle with global warming is a roaring cube of steel that floats in the Gulf of Mexico south of Florida's Panhandle.

As big as a 30-story building, it's an offshore rig that plunges an array of pipe and tubes a mile and a half to the frigid bottom of the Gulf. From there, the metallic tentacles spread across a patch of seafloor larger than Rhode Island. Then they bore more than a mile into sand, rock and incredibly rich pockets of natural gas.

"We have some wells that are just unbelievable," said senior engineer Bob Buck of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the rig operator.

Rethinking the Future: Fossil fuels can’t last forever. A new book plans for a world without them.

The human mind almost seems hard-wired to expect the future to resemble the past. While this may be an artifact of our evolutionary history that served our ancestors well, in the complex and rapidly changing world we have created, it could prove a fatal blind spot.

David Holmgren has been considering the possibility of our civilization falling victim to our own growth for the better part of four decades. With fellow Australian Bill Mollison, he originated the permaculture movement in the 1970s, aimed at bringing the design of human societies in line with natural systems. In his new book, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (Chelsea Green Publishing, March), he suggests that the fast converging crises of peak oil and climate change may lead to a future far different from our past—a future of less energy, less complexity and more locally focused lives.

Iraq Kurdistan gas may cut EU reliance on Russia

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) - A new bloc of European and Arab energy firms unveiled an $8 billion plan on Sunday to pump enough gas from Iraq's Kurdistan to kickstart the Nabucco pipeline project and reduce Europe's reliance on Russia.

Until now, the $10 billion Nabucco pipeline scheme had plenty of willing gas buyers in Europe, but little to sell. Europe imports a quarter of its gas from Russia and has backed Nabucco to help cut that dependence.

Gas from the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraq could help solve the Nabucco supply conundrum.

Nigerian militants claim to have destroyed 2 oil pipelines, latest oil industry violence

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's main militant group said Sunday it destroyed two oil pipelines in the southern Niger Delta, the latest attack amid the worst outbreak of violence to hit the region in months.

Saudi draws on foreign reserves

Saudi Arabia's central bank governor said on Sunday the world's top oil exporter was drawing on some foreign reserves but not selling foreign assets to finance a growing budget designed to stimulate the economy.

Saudi Arabia, which pegs its currency to the dollar and is a major holder of US Treasuries, would still witness good growth this year in non-oil sectors even as oil production contracts, Muhammad Al-Jasser told reporters.

Australia: Campaign demands more rail, fewer trucks

The strong opinion of the meeting was that, given safety issues, world heritage values, peak oil and the climate change emergency, the government must act now to shift as much freight transport as possible onto rail. The $1 billion earmarked for the highway upgrade between Lithgow and Mt Victoria should instead be spent on an upgrade and expansion of rail lines between Sydney and western NSW.

Community Solutions: Smart Jitney Transportation in the Coming Era of Peak Oil & Fuel Scarcity

The Smart Jitney is a system of efficient and convenient ride sharing that addresses in the short-term the problem of transportation in a post-peak oil world. The system utilizes the existing infrastructure of private automobiles and roads due to the time, expense, and difficulty of building a new transportation infrastructure amongst such a dispersed population. The goal of the system is to insure that each private car always carries more than one person per car trip, optimally 4-6. This would cut auto gasoline usage by an estimated 80 percent and commute time by an average of 50 percent within two years.

In California, Desalination of Seawater as a Test Case

SAN FRANCISCO — The vast $320 million desalination plant approved this week by San Diego’s regional water authorities is likely to serve as a test case for whether such a large project can meet its goals while safeguarding its Pacific environment.

Environmentalists happy with Obama; industry less so

In the nearly four months since taking office, the Obama administration has moved quickly, relentlessly and without apology to roll back the natural resource and public lands policies of its predecessor. Though they have yet to lay out their own vision in detail, Salazar and other administration officials have left no doubt that they consider the Bush approach misguided and unfairly weighted toward timber, mining, oil and other interests.

Antarctic Voyage: Climate Change Upfront

Virtually an icemaking machine that has locked up 70 percent of the planet's freshwater, Antarctica is undergoing rapid change.

According to one estimate, 550 cubic miles of Antarctic ice are calved into the sea each year, while about 407 cubic miles of compacted snow are added each year. The net loss seems slow, but the results along the water's edge can be dramatic.

UN: Growth of slums boosting natural disaster risk

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The rampant growth of urban slums around the world and weather extremes linked to climate change have sharply increased the risks from "megadisasters" such as devastating floods and cyclones, a U.N. report said Sunday.

The study — which examines natural disaster trends and strategies to reduce potential catastrophes — also noted that millions of people in rural areas are at higher risk from disasters such as landslides where forests have been stripped away or crippling droughts blamed on shifting rainfall patterns.

Scientists: Warming may not doom Maldives

Most experts agree the Maldives have plenty to worry about: In the worst-case scenario, if global sea levels rise higher and faster than expected, the islands may indeed be swallowed up.

But some recent data challenge the widespread belief that the islands are destined to disappear - and a few mainstream scientists are even cautiously optimistic about their chances for surviving relatively intact beyond the next century.

"The outlook for the Maldives is not all doom and gloom," said Paul Kench of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "The islands won't be the same, but they will still be there."

From a Theory to a Consensus on Emissions

not long ago, many of today’s supporters dismissed the idea of tradable emissions permits as an industry-inspired Republican scheme to avoid the real costs of cutting air pollution. The right answer, they said, was strict government regulation, state-of-the-art technology and a federal tax on every ton of harmful emissions.

How did cap and trade, hatched as an academic theory in obscure economic journals half a century ago, become the policy of choice in the debate over how to slow the heating of the planet? And how did it come to eclipse the idea of simply slapping a tax on energy consumption that befouls the public square or leaves the nation hostage to foreign oil producers?

The desalination article is quite timely. We just had a post on mineral depletion http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5374 and a few comments on the possibility of extracting minerals from seawater, including phosphorus. I would suspect that our past efforts at desalination reminds us how expensive a proposition this will remain.

From the article it sounds as if the desalination process is just an ecological concern, yet I thought the energy aspect is still quite important as well?

The Pacific Institute is linked in that NYT story, they have this study on their site: Desalination--W ith a Grain of Salt, A California Perspective. Table on page 55 suggests that desalination costs almost 9 times as much as extraction of groundwater.

Funny thing but the other day I was looking at a 3 year old TOD piece on minerals and the comments were almost entirely off topic. The good ol' days! Ugo's pieces are chock full of relevant info though. Recently someone related the woes of a woman who was trying to solve water problems for some south CA city - Santa Barbara? - and described a real logistics/red tape nightmare. Think she was trying to get them to bankroll a desalinization plant.

Figure 18 on page 55 graphs energy requirement not costs. The cost and energy requirement of groundwater only matters if groundwater exists.

Good point but you entirely miss the point. And that point is; can desalinated water replace groundwater where no groundwater exist, or where groundwater is extremely scarce? At which time we must consider the cost of desalinated water with the cost of groundwater where it does exist.

The answer of course depends on what you are using it for. If you are using it for industrial or household use, then it can. But if you are using it to irrigate farms then it is obviously way too expensive.

Ron P.

The federal government spends $2.00 to make a cubic meter of water that they sell to a farmer for a nickel. Why would that change?

Excellent! It is a very good thing that water obtained from desalinization will cost nine times what extracting ground water would. It is to the better that there is little ground water to extract as well. Why? Water needs to be priced to reflect its true costs, including the externalities of the costs to the environment, both short and long-term. Let the government refuse permits for ground water wells and make the consumers (residential, business/industry, and agricultural) pay for the expensive water from desalination. The government should simultaneously subsidize water-saving technologies, mandate xeriscaping, and heavily penalize water wastage.

The amount of water used to make every product sold should be mandated to be listed on the packaging/bill of sale/on company's web sites. The population needs to be educated that there is no free lunch, and that over-population and over-consumption is not sustainable and will not be condoned by society. For those who would squeal about their liberties being compromised, I would invite them to walk their talk about personal responsibilities to society and exercise some values which look beyond their personal greed and support welfare of the herd/tribe.

If gasoline and diesel were nine times their current price, then we would see all kinds of positive, energy-use-reducing measures as well. Walking, biking, taking the bus to work and to run errands, a general slowing down of the pointless pace of American society. It would cure the disease that one of my relatives called 'Having a gasoline @$$'...as in, "Joe is always running up and down the road making trips for nothing, just to get out...he has a gasoline @$$."

I just returned from D.C. (business trip), and once again traveled exclusively by the Metro and by walking. Too bad it takes so much energy/time/money to build those. It certainly seems that CNG or electric buses of various sizes are much less expensive and more flexible for routing, but stopping every block for lights and to pick up one person (or just stopping for no reason) makes them slower than subways. A combination of local rotators and cross-town expresses seems to be in order, as well as perhaps more yet smaller 'busses'...and that is probably what exists in many places...I'll have to investigate. Albuquerque sells annual bus passes for $300 and some bucks...maybe when I exit the rat race I will go that route.

Upkeep on cars is a pain in the rear...another reason for a paradigm of community electric 'zip cars'...swipe of wave your key card and rent them as required for specific little trips. Commute with friend and family and take turns on whose card gets debited.

There are ways to retain reduced sustainable mobility without going back to the stone age of doomerism...but there is a lot of glass that will have to be broken...vested interests will either have to wither away or be swept aside for the common good. Attitude changes are in order as well...people's love affair and self-identification/self-worth being represented by the style and horsepower of their cars will need to change...and this is from a marketing major who has seen the light. I also am a vet who happens to think (and have for some time) that war and war machines have very limited uses and that we should devote commensurately limited resources to their procurement and maintenance.

The amount of water used to make every product sold should be mandated to be listed on the packaging/bill of sale/on company's web sites. The population needs to be educated that there is no free lunch, and that over-population and over-consumption is not sustainable and will not be condoned by society.

Water trivia site:


14. How much water does the average residence use during a year?
Over 100,000 gallons (indoors and outside)

19. What does it cost to operate the water systems throughout the country annually?
Over $3.5 billion

35. What is the total amount of water used to manufacture a new car, including new tires?
39,090 gallons per car

37. How much water is used during the growing/production of a chicken?
400 gallons

Note: I estimate my total personal household usage from the municipal supply to be under 20,000 gal yearly. I am including drinking,cooking, bathing, laundry, dish washing and flushing toilets.
I have a small xeriscaped garden and use rain catchment for things like washing the car and sidewalk.
During the week I live alone in my small condo and have my son and girlfriend on weekends with the occasional relative or two visiting off and on since I live near the beach in Florida. I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could do better.

...desalination costs almost 9 times as much as extraction of groundwater.

But what if there is no groundwater?

Santa Barbara built a desal plant just as a drought was ending, never turned it on, and sold much of it (leaving aside the concrete structure and some piping) several years later. I do not think the city will build another one.

I have some additional information in regards to the desalination piece (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5155) I wrote for TOD March 2.

Catalina Island has a small desal plant operated by Southern California Edison. According to the CPUC (http://www.sce.com/NR/sc3/tm2/pdf/64-W.pdf) the plant provides 25% of the Island's water but 70% of its total electricity usage.

The water rates paid by consumers are roughly $2000/AcreFoot (326,000 gallons/AF) for up to 2500 gallons. $5000/AF from 2500 to 10,000 gallons and $7200 over 10,000 gallons. Obviously Catalina has few options. However, California has barely tapped its options. The only "good" thing to be said about ocean desalination is that it will force prices higher which will bring about additional conservation--ultimately doing what the water board members don't seem to be able to do--by pricing water appropriately.

Does this sound like the kind of business model that will attract investors? Only those who are also investing in expanding airports, widening highways, and ski resorts.

Yes it is. This desal facility is in Carlsbad, about 15 minutes north of San Diego.

They are building it on the property of the Encina power plant to take advantage of the power generating and cooling inflow/outflow. The power plant is located right on the edge of the coast.

The desal portion will use existing pipes that are used for the power plant to get their seawater. Then they will use the outflow pipes to dump the highly saline water they discharge. They attach to the power plants' power generating equipment like a parasitic alien.

I remember thinking of the energy required for this process and posted a comment in the local newspaper but citizens simply are not very aware of that part of the equation. Neither are they aware of the maintenance costs. The company, Poseidon, rammed this project down the throats of the local governments despite some groups calling for more study.

If I can find the article I'll post a link. Can't remember the issues that people in the know raised.

In Australia most State capital cities will get a large desal plant. The builders say the energy needs will be offset by an equivalent build in wind farms, some of which will have direct transmission lines. I think this will turn out to be a lie in most cases and much of the energy will come from coal. However pre-warming the sea water to about 25C via the cooling section of a thermal power plant may reduce the power needs of reverse osmosis.

This water will be too expensive to use in commercial food growing. Households can of course use their dishwashing water on the vegie garden. To me that is a clear sign that humans are overstretching the world's resources. But a lot of people don't get clear signs.

To me that is a clear sign that humans are overstretching the world's resources. But a lot of people don't get clear signs.

One of the lessons I picked up from Limits to Growth is that a lot of "solutions" just delay the onset of the problem. Here is a great example, a water shortage caused by too much water demand (and changing climate) offset by using more energy.

So now, when energy gets short, so will water. Instead of being solved, it just means that those cities will be whacked with two problems instead of one.

Switching from oil to natural gas as a transport fuel is another. Or solving air pollution by using up the world's limited supplies of platinum in catalytic converters.

Yep, or using up Lithium for batteries.

On that basis, I have become an electric trains person myself. We should have enough iron to build quite a few rail ways. (not that I don't think there will be some electric cars, but they will not form the backbone of the transportation solution).

Hello JonFriese,

Speaking of electric cars: A lot of towns are thinking of allowing golf carts on streets. Please googlenews for more, but here is one link [also has a clickable video]:


I would prefer that govts allow mc/scooter/e-bike lane-splitting as this is much more compact, cheaper, less vehicle weight, more efficient, and much faster than golf carts, but I can understand how a lot of people would want the non-balancing factor of 4-wheels.

TODer Lynford has already posted much on how cheap golf carts are now with lots of golf courses going broke. Keeping your main ICE-vehicle, for a long time, just to use for long trips, then using a golf cart for local runs is going to be much, much cheaper than buying a GM Volt.

I expect GM, Chrysler, and the other auto companies to start lobbying Congress to outlaw this trend toward legal street-use of golf carts to protect future sales of expensive PHEVS. This would be no different than when they earlier forced the destruction of widespread urban rail in most cities back in the 20th Century.

It seems that the bailout money that was sent to GM & Chrysler would have been better spent by being invested in Golf Cart companies [although Alan's RR & TOD ideas are still much, much better, IMO].

Or Jordan using what might be a large discovery of uranium to build nukes for desalinization.

Jordan, he [King Abdulla] told The Times last weekend, is one of the two countries least affected by the global downturn, according to a recent survey.

I suppose Gaza is the other country largely unaffected by the global downturn.

No, having just visited the region and having in-laws that work for a large bank in Jordan, what I believe he was referring to was the fact that Jordan (and Lebanon) have almost completely missed the financial crisis caused by the purchase of mortgage-backed securities, over-leveraging and other fun and games that nearly all the rest of the developed world's private and central banks succumbed to. It seems the banks in those two countries are very well-capitalized and due to government regulation were never allowed to dabble in MBSs, CDSs, derivatives and the like and were always required to have to very high reserves. Therefore this whole financial storm has completely missed the finance sector of these two countries and they feel more than a little vindicated for their conservative approach to banking and finance.

I would think that Lithium is definitely one of the mineral resources to watch out for. Anything mined for the sake of obtaining energy while using energy in the process is situated for rapid depletion.

Umm. Lithium in batteries is used to store energy, not obtain it. And if the process of obtaining lithium requires lots of energy, then lithium is in danger of transforming into unobtanium, with no danger of depletion (that is, all the lithium will still be sitting there in the brine or clay or rock; obtaining it for our use will just represent another receding horizon...). I presume you know this well, but it's not what you stated.

I should have said maintaining energy, not obtaining. I was thinking that the batteries would be used in conjunction with renewable energy sources, but if it costs too much energy to obtain the lithium, then it won't be worth it in the long run.

Not to mention that Lithium is a key ingredient in anit-depression drugs - something I'm feeling we are going to see whole lot more need for once TSHTF!

Just tell the masses to suck on their old dead batteries.

This is an important point and very nicely put. It is exactly why a complex self-organizing system, like a modern capitalist economy, suffers collapses, and does so on all scales.

I wish my view on how all this will play out, would settle down for more than a month. To some extent it is intrinsically unpredictable: like predicting landslides as you add to a pile of sand.

Yeah, I flip from "it will be like going back to the lifestyle of my great grandparents, but with electric scooters instead of horses" to "the whole system will implode and everyone will starve and freeze".

If it would just settle, it would make taking action easier. Right now I just try to aim for the best outcome.

Nothing living is going to "settle".The only settled state is death.As you say,aim for the best outcome.

I don't imagine anyone will look at this old Drumbeat, so let me quietly note my current expectation:

  • America will decide to, or accidentally stumble into, effecting a giant inflationary debt jubilee. They will buy bonds with printed money until inflation starts, then find that they can't sell those bonds to turn inflation off.
  • This will force the world off all paper currencies for international transactions, and onto commodity based pseudo-money (hopefully not just gold).
  • This will reduce everyone's disposable income because a lot of productive effort will go into creating acceptable non-perishable valuable stuff which will be used as currency, instead of going into stuff that is immediately consumed. This however will be a good thing because it will move future pain forward, while creating stockpiles of useful commodities that can be used later when the pain would otherwise be higher. In other words something like Gail's big drop then long low plateau will happen.
  • In this environment lots of bad things will happen, like starvation with no country strong enough to do anything to help other places.
  • At any rate oil demand will be low, the remaining oil will be used up pretty slowly, oil prices won't go high relative to other prices
  • The rich will seem even richer, there'll be a drift back to the country, farms will get more complex utilizing labour and animals
  • Because we're poorer the existing electricity generation will be adequate. We'll slowly move to nuclear, but we won't feel able to abandon exisitng capital infrastructure like coal power plants, the existing vehicle fleet, existing homes.

In summary my current theory is that there'll be a failed recovery, then a bigger crash, then everything will happen nice and slowly after that for a long time. We'll recover into a world that is unimaginably different.

Written by Robert.Smart:
America will decide to, or accidentally stumble into, effecting a giant inflationary debt jubilee. They will buy bonds with printed money until inflation starts, then find that they can't sell those bonds to turn inflation off.

The U.S. treasury selling huge amounts of debt creates inflationary pressure because it must pay the debt with interest. Some people use the treasuries as collateral for loans allowing additional money to enter circulation in the present also creating inflationary pressure. The Fed printing U.S. dollars to buy U.S. treasuries causes inflation. I do not understand how selling a bond in the secondary bond market turns inflation off. The U.S. treasury still owes the par value and no money was destroyed.

If the Fed sells treasuries in the secondary bond market, then M1 money would be drawn out of circulation and into Fed bank accounts. However, the U.S. Treasury would still owe the par value to the new bond holders. If the Fed destroys the money to reduce the M1 money supply, then there would be even fewer U.S. dollars to pay back the bond holders.

It seems to me the way for the Fed to withdraw the money from circulation is to redeem the treasuries early at a loss and then destroy the money. This would require the Fed to keep or purchase the treasuries from the secondary bond market. The ability of the U.S. treasury to pay off the debt depends on raising taxes, slashing spending or seizure.

My forecast is that it will be hard to convert away from crude oil causing consumption and the limit of world crude oil production to repeatedly intersect causing volatility in production, demand, price and economic carnage. I do not think demand will collapse faster than supply via economic feedbacks or switching to alternative energy for more than brief periods (years). Economic feedbacks will not send the economy to zero just like they did not during the Great Depression. Something has to provide the long term pressure and, in this case, that something is a critical resource constraint. Supply and demand must intersect repeatedly to keep the pressure on. Otherwise what you are essentially saying is that peak oil and generally resource constraints are irrelevant because once tipped over the edge the unstable economy will collapse to nothing on its own. The thing that is depleting toward zero is the natural resource, not the will to have a functioning economy.

Desal plants are mostly unnecessary.

The average household use of water in the US is about 70 gallons per person per day. This does not include industrial or agriculture use.

Yet, we always hear about "drinking water." How much water are you drinking per day? From the tap?

It's really toilet-flushing water. And lawn-watering water.

Ten gallons a day is plenty IF people use composting toilets, or even just super-low-flush toilets like the one-pint toilets available today.

We don't need lawns either.

That would reduce home water usage by 6/7ths, which still leaves ten gallons/day/person, more than enough for washing dishes, brushing your teeth, doing laundry etc. etc.

Similar reductions could be achieved in industry and agriculture.

The basic problem is price. If municipal water cost $0.05 a gallon -- not a whole lot for water -- then your 70 gals/day would be $3.50 a day, or $105.00 per month. Ouch! Nobody would actually pay $105 a month of course. They would install one-pint-flush toilets and have something in their yard besides grass, and use 10 gals a day or $0.50 per day.

Similar reductions could be achieved in industry and agriculture.

Well Econguy you had me up until that line. Think you could persuade a corn stalk to survive on 1/7th the water? Or cotton or any of the other irrigated plants that feed much of the nation?

Most water is used for irrigation. Most water is needed for irrigation. Drip irrigation reduces water somewhat but that is not practical in most cases. It is simply impossible to string leaky hoses, a few feet apart, over thousands of acres. The only way out of this dilemma is just to stop irrigation altogether. Of course that would mean food that keeps many millions alive would simply no longer be produced. Which would mean.....

Ron P.

Don't grow corn!


Think about it: the shortgrass (irrigation necessary) prairie grows corn. The corn is fed to cows. People eat the cows.

System before the White Man showed up: Grass grows naturally without irrigation. (Corn is a grass.) Cows (bison) eat the grass. People eat the bison.

The second system is, actually, in terms of solar radiation --> biomass --> meat production, more efficient.

Well, we just have to radically reduce the population to a level that allows us to live off of bison then.

Anyone for mandatory reproduction control?

People are under the impression that there is some shortage of food. There is no shortage. There is a superabundance of food. Just look at the price of food today compared to historical levels. It is cheaper today than at any time in human history. $6/bushel for corn is $0.10/lb. Try to sit down and eat a pound's worth of corn. It is a lot (about 70% of a day's food).

The result is that 70% of US grain production goes into feeding livestock, where the caloric value is reduced by about 90% to 7%-equivalent. Livestock prices are also about the lowest in human history. If we ate, for example, only 20% of the meat we do today (I eat about 20% of the meat I did five years ago), then we could have less than 50% of today's production and still have more than enough food.

Or, to put it a little different way, if grain prices were higher because of no more free irrigation water, then meat prices would be higher, and then people would eat less meat and more vegetables/grains directly.

In addition, the easy availability of free/federally subsidized water has led to the growth of agriculture in places where irrigation is necessary (why not its free) but there are other advantages (long growing season, flat land conducive to mechanized agriculture etc.) This has resulted in much prime farmland that is located in areas (mostly east of the Mississippi) that do not require irrigation going out of production and becoming abandoned, because they can't compete. Thus, it seems like we need irrigation because much of the farmland that doesn't need irrigation isn't active farmland anymore.

The reaction is always and everywhere the same around here at TOD. "If we don't do things EXAAAACTLY like we've been doing them, all life will disappear." This is plainly stupid, but that doesn't seem to keep people from saying the same thing for year after year around this place.

How about the land grows corn and the people eat corn.


Since I've provided some design help for systems involved in irrigation I can say it is a little more complicated than that. With sufficiently extensive sensor systems it is possible to reduce over watering. Currently vegetable farmers (at least those are the ones I know about) end up erring toward over watering. If they knew better the moisture content of soil and even knew this in subsets of larger fields they could reduce the amount of watering they do. But water is too cheap for them to pony up for the sensor systems.

Also, high diesel prices will make them want to water less since the cost of the diesel fuel for water pumps is a big portion of the cost irrigating - at least in SoCal for vegetable farmers.

Think you could persuade a corn stalk to survive on 1/7th the water?

Indigenous people in the Americas did, and I'm pretty sure they still do in some places. One way was by interplanting corn, squash, and beans, with beans growing up the cornstalks and squash leaves acting as a kind of mulch to keep moisture in the ground.


Think you could persuade a corn stalk to survive on 1/7th the water? Or cotton or any of the other irrigated plants that feed much of the nation?

Would you settle for 1/5 the water?


Grow plants hydroponically, raise insects for protein, use aquaponics to raise fish and recycle the wastes they produce to fertilize the plants. Reduces a lot of unnecessary waste with regards water and NPK. No, it doesn't eliminate all external inputs into the systems but it still beats growing corn to feed chickens and cows to feed us as we are doing now.

Hello Econguy,

IMO, we could also stand a lot fewer swimming pools, decorative outside fountains, golfing ponds & grass, and carwashes in my Asphaltistan. The evaporation rate in our hot, dry climate is something fierce.

This wanton waste of vital water is analogous to us having magically relocated KSA's SuperGiant Ghawar to our Southwestern desert, but we would just stupidly pump all the crude onto the blazing sand so the Sun could quickly evaporate it all away.

Another thought:

When I do a 'Google Earth Flyover' of my Phoenix, it is sad to see all the grass and swimming pools. A pool is a major initial investment, and has high ongoing expenses-- a great example of JHKunstler's typical 'Murkan mal-investment that will come back to bite us.

Imagine if, instead of pools, this $10,000-$15,000 [or more $], plus the extra $100-200/month [or more $] had been mandated, since the '70s, to go into shade trees, solar water heating, super-insulation, double pane glass, and roof-top PV panels.

IMO, my ASU Global Institute for Sustainability is not moving fast enough to spread the Peak Outreach to the my local 'Zonies:


Sadly, when I used their Search Engine Function: I still find no weblinks to TOD, Bart's EB, Matt's LATOC, JHKunstler, or Jay's Dieoff.org. :(

Right, but they do seem to have cute little wind propellors on their roof, which I imagine must blow over during Phoenix's desert dust storms and thunderstorms:

Most water is used for agriculture, not for houses.

No doubt, but I yet to see a growing plant or tree that requires an electric motor to pump water uphill from its subsurface rootball. I wish I could just stand barefoot in a spilled puddle of yeasty brew and soak it all up for a quick headrush. :)

For us humans: water flows uphill to money. :(

20% of all the water used in California is used to grow alfalfa, which is then fed to mostly dairy cows. If you add cotton and rice to those %, we have almost 50% of water growing a few crops, which make up a small fraction of ag output.
Desal has a huge carbon footprint, and is unnecessary. It is another corporate welfare project to protect a few elite huge farm corporations.

I have never heard of desalinated water used for irrigation. I thought it way too expensive for that. I googled it and found that it is used for greenhouses in the Netherlands and found a few discussions about the possibility of using it for other crops. But I don't think any large farm corporations use desalinated water for irrigation.

Desalination: Not a Panacea for Quenching Thirst

HIGH COSTS: Desalination is a very expensive technology, especially when compared to
conservation and water recycling programs, which cost on average $250 or less per acre foot.
Desalination is estimated to cost approximately $1100 per acre foot. The most common
technology, a process called reverse osmosis, uses huge amounts of energy to push seawater
through membrane filters. Even with recent technological innovations, energy is the single largest
contributor to the overall cost – as much as 33 to 50 percent of the plant’s operating costs. If
energy costs increase in the future, the cost of desalinated water will also increase, potentially
making the cost of water unaffordable. Every penny difference in the cost of electricity changes
the cost per acre-foot by about $50. Maintenance costs of desalination plants are also high.

$1100 per acre foot and most crops require more water than that. That means for wheat, alfalfa, corn or soybeans, the cost of the water would be more than the profit from the crops.

Ron p.

Yes, agreed, especially with regard to composting toilets. The entire "waste water" processing system needs to be re-thought because all it does is waste water.

I also wonder about rainwater collection--or harvesting, as it is called. In addition to its own power supplies, each home could also have its own water supply with just a slight modification to the roofing and the addition of a few drums or tanks. You don't even need a pump if you use gravity for the flow.

What I'd like to know: how much phosphorus could be extracted as a side product of desal? My guess is it would increase the cost of desal since some of the cheaper methods do not dry the water, they just separate water into higher and lower mineral portions.

Maybe a better approach is to use algae to concentrate the phosphorus. Dump large amounts of ocean water in ponds and harvest the algae. It would have multiple uses and would contain phosphorus.

This brings up another issue: biodiesel oil extracted from algae will have phosphorus in it, right?

Probably not. The remaining material left after you extract the oil would have the phosphorus, and numerous other things.

I think the main factors contributing to a declining price of crude oil are :
-declining demand due to the weakening global economy
-OPECS inability to constrain supply
IMHO, the main factors which contribute to an increasing price are:
- decreasing availability of oil , especially the easy to produce barrels
-the worlds steady erosion in faith of the future value of the US Dollar

I'm starting to believe the 2 predominant factors that lead to price increases will outweigh the 2 that most contribute to price decreases and am very interested in others opinions.


Interest rates have been mostly dropping, in general, since 1982. So the expectation was, if one flips a loan, one gets cheaper credit rates.

Antal Fekete- All productivity gains have been transferred to the financial side of the ledger.

We're now at zero. Or infinity.

Obviously, the banking collapse is continuing. Until people can support the immense overhead of interest payments, the debt pool will continue drying up.

I frequently see commentators in the media, and more surprisingly even here, state that OPEC has failed to constrain supply. OPEC supply has fallen over 3 million barrels a day in less than one year, and is about 80% compliant when measured from peak output to their current quota target.

See IEA report for more details:

A 3 mbpd cut is very substantial, whether intentional or the result of PO. My personal opinion is that OPEC will never get back to last year's peak production, even if they tried, due to ongoing depletion. In the post peak world, oil exporters have also realized by now the best way to maximize long term revenues is not lift at maximum capacity.


I think the thing you are missing is world economic growth, fueled by rising oil supply, is needed. If this were the case, debt could continue to grow, allowing consumers to buy more, and businesses to finance more production.

Once oil supply ceases to grow, they system becomes "unglued". If oil supply can't keep marching uphill, there are feedbacks through the debt system that cause demand of all kinds, including demand for oil, to start sliding back downhill.

Another typical NY Times article-no wonder there is no audience for that rag-is there anyone left in North America that does not realize these guys are being paid to grift, plain and simple? The author talks about forgiving their "wrongdoing" which is like forgiving Evander Holyfield for punching guys in the head http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17sun4.html?_r=1&partner=rss&e...

Boone Pickens the natural gas schemer (scammer?) up top is running into a lot of resistance on his Pickens Plan. Looks like he has dropped the wind part since he doesn't even mention it. Now we don't need wind to replace the natural gas used for electric power generation since their so much of it.

He has been running around making his presentations and few are listening. Even fewer want to change. Sounds familiar doesn't it.

His plan for natural gas, while being a bonanza for his investments, gores of lot of other people's oxen. Some of them are politically powerful like oil companies. Suppose we were able to greatly reduce oil imports with compressed natural gas. What need would there be for refineries then? Obviously only for domestic oil production. Refiners are going to take a dim view of that.

So will liquid fuel retailers who are not set up for natural gas. And so will truckers who run from pipelines to the gas stations. Their equipment will have to change or perhaps can be eliminated since a lot of gas stations have easy access to natural gas through local pipelines and all they would need is a compressor.

And then there is the little matter of retrofitting trucks and cars to run on natural gas. It will be costly and disruptive. Ethanol has been up against these infrastructure obstacles for years. Getting flex fuel cars or the road is like pulling teeth. And getting a distribution system nearly impossible without bribes in the form of the blenders credit which has been attacked right and left.

Does Pickens actually believe that natural gas can fuel the U.S. without similar subsidies at least at first? Evidently not or he would do it on his own instead of lobbying politicians. When those subsidies become law there will be a huge outcry if ethanol is any guide. And for sure the ethanol lobby is going to be there crying the loudest especially since the subsidies will likely to be more than for ethanol if vehicle retrofitting is included. Pickens has been an ethanol opponent so why should ethanol producers give him a break?

Pickens has his work cut out for him. What if there is not as much natural gas as he thinks there is after his plan is implemented? Natural gas is one of the main fuels used for heating. In the event of a supply disruption, not only would people face increased cost/loss of transport fuel but also heating fuel. At least Europeans could still drive most of their cars when Russia cut off the gas.

Maybe it's hard for an 80 year old to think that far ahead.

No real need to retrofit vehicles. Just make some % of new buys that run off NG, either exclusively or as a primary fuel source.

Propane vehicles and forklifts already have a niche market.


What about dual fuel diesel and natural gas?


You can still run on 100% diesel but where natural gas is available it can cover up to 50% of the fuel requirements.

CNG motorbikes might see a big take off, as would vehicles which do a lot of miles (taxi, bus, delivery vehicles etc) where the running costs are higher and cheaper fuel will pay off sooner.

It's late, so I allow myself a big picture.


All buses and all auto rickshaws in Delhi are CNG propelled - and increasingly more and more Indian cities jump onto this bandwagon. Good for them.

Delhi pollution wise , before and after CNG, is not possible to explain in words - ... not possible

I'm assuming it would have improved, but I don't know what CNG pollution is like.

Wanna give a hint?


sure, hints under way ...

Smog city to clean capital How Delhi did it

New Delhi, May 25: 1998: Like a deadly shroud, a black haze covered India’s capital. Children were being born asthamatic, respiratory illnesses spread like wildfire, and cancers menaced the city.
Delhi was one of the world’s 10 most polluted cities, with vehicles accounting for 70 per cent of polluting emissions.
Pollution levels exceeded World Health Organisation standards by nearly five times.
(from same article)
TODAY, Delhi is a showpiece example of making air quality safe with its entire public transport fleet converted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) on a scale unparalleled anywhere else—80,000 CNG vehicles including 9,000 buses. Delhi has banned taxis, buses and auto rickshaws older than 15 years.

interesting table on Indian cities

List of Delhi's efforts on pollution - quite good:
Landmark datelines to capital clean
April 1995: Mandatory fitting of catalytic convertors
April 1996: Low sulphur diesel introduced
April 1998: Introduction of CNG buses in Delhi
Sept 1998: Complete removal of lead in petrol
Dec 1998: Restrict plying of goods vehicles during the day
Sept 1999: Amendment of Motor Vehicles Act to include CNG
April 2000: Private vehicles to be registered only if they conform to Euro II standards
April 2000: Eight-year-old commercial vehicles phased out
Nov 2002: Conversion of all public transport buses to CNG

-- sadly from 2007 :
It seems like reality has picked up pace with them earlier gains - once again - more petrol- and diesel cars are adding to theequation ... some 10 years later.
Delhi: Pollution levels rising again
DELHI IS IN danger of losing the gains of its CNG programme as pollution levels are once again creeping towards the pre-2000 level. A recent analysis of air quality data in Delhi carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) finds that pollution levels are on the upswing again after being under control for a few years.

Here is a nice cocktail on the topic from Madam Google : delhi pollution before cng

Sorry, that's too big. It's not so much the physical size, but the file size. The file size for that image is way bigger than it needs to be.

yes, I know and I'll conform. could not ressist it was such a good pic IMO

Maybe it's hard for an 80 year old to think that far ahead.

Boone Pickens knows that others already did that:

"Independent studies continue to show that America's natural gas reserves are sufficient to meet all of our needs for well over 100 years."

x, I agree that it is very risky to act up the promises of these studies. All the different possibilities makes it hard to choose wich direction(s) to go and that makes mitigation of the energy crisis more difficult.

That independent study was paid for by the American Clear Skies foundation, which is supported by the natural gas companies.

It was done by Navigant Consulting and they estimate, for example, that Barnett Shale has 327 Tcf of natural gas with 44 Tcf recoverable. The USGS has estimated about 25 Tcf might be recoverable.

Barnett has produced about 4.5 Tcf to date, and it is estimated the best well locations will have been drilled by the end of this year. So Barnett might not produce another 4.5 Tcf. The field is not uniform. The north east corner has the thickest deposit, getting thinner going south west.

While other shale plays have held steady (or gained) in rigs during this downturn, drilling in Barnett has fallen hard. So it could be that Navigant's estimates are 5x or more too high. And, of course, once you start exponential growth chewing into something, it gets used up much faster that expected. 100 years at today's consumption rates, is only 30 years if you triple the nat gas usage to cover oil's BTUs as well.

Either we have the NG or we don't.
Are there not reliable statistics??
If the resource exists and is accessible then let's just use it and move on the the next crisis.
I am sure to some extent Tboone is talking his book and the opposition is talking their's but beyond that this isn't play time anymore.
Do you guys want a solution or will you have no life if one is found??

Why we don't know the statistics quantitatively and with any kind of confidence, we can only guess at. To some extent corporations don't want us to know. They don't need to always know themselves, or they use the info for competitive advantage and so don't release it. Some say they are overly conservative for legal reporting reasons. Others say this is a very difficult science and it can't be done. I say that there is no accepted fundamental depletion framework set in mathematical terms that one can use.

In the end, I don't think it matters that of a population of billions of people that there are a few of us on TOD who spend some time deciphering the statistics of depletion. Other people can take up their own favorite hobby (stamp collecting or knitting or ?)

Do you guys want a solution or will you have no life if one is found??

And you think that perhaps Natural Gas is the solution to the world's energy problems?

Ron P.

touche'.......just trying to get to some numbers that's all.
I think that it will be many solutions.


Regarding your question about statistics on NG reserves and such:

I'm a geologist, specifically a sedimentary petrologist, and among the other things I do to earn income is to look at core samples in thin section. In my reports for clients I provide descriptions about the detailed character of each sample, and the reports include a description of porosity types and abundances. Pores range in size from cavernous, known as vugs, to microscopic, known as micropores. In recent months I've looked at a number of samples of shales, including several that are discussed on TOD from time to time, such as the Haynesville and the Marcellus. In these and other shales, porosity types are typically mostly fracture and microfracture pores, and micropores.

IMHO, the lack of detailed numbers is due partly to corporate secrecy and confidentiality, as noted upthread, but it's also attributable to the heterogeneity of sedimentary rocks that exists at all levels, from the basin scale to the outcrop scale to the thin section scale to the electron microscope scale. This heterogeneity is found in the pore systems both primary and secondary, as well as in the sediments, matrix, and cements that comprise the rock.

So if the measured porosity in a thin section (an area), is then applied to a chunk of core (a volume), an estimate of porosity can be calculated. Here's where it gets interesting. Layered rocks vary both laterally and vertically; porosity types and volumes change, cements and framework grain types and abundances change, the type and abundance of secondary minerals that may reduce porosity can change, and one rock type transitions into another rock type, maybe gradually, maybe abruptly. It gets better; because of the physical behavior of fluids related to surface tension, cohesion, adsorption coefficients and other factors, not all of the pore fluid will be economically recoverable, and in most instances, even physically recoverable. This is the reason for secondary and tertiary recovery efforts under the direction of petroleum engineers in many fields around the world today.

In any sedimentary sequence, whether in outcrop or in subcrop, the farther away (laterally and vertically) from an actual analyzed sample we look, or drill, or project and conjecture, the more suspect an estimate of porosity becomes because of these inherent heterogeneities (which I see all the time). And because pore fluids (water, oil, or gas) occupy pore spaces, an accurate estimate of porosity types and abundances is paramount. Of course, when all that's available for analysis is a small cylinder of rock, and when it costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to obtain that small cylinder of rock, there are limits as to how much drilling can be done in a given basin. That gets us back to the beginning, of trying to figure out reserves of a hydrocarbon in a basin or field with relatively limited hard data.

The percent of a rock that is pore space as determined from petrographic study of actual cuttings or core samples is a measured value of porosity. This value is then applied to strata that are laterally and/or vertically adjacent, and a calculation - an estimation, an approximation - is made of the total porosity in a stratum that is a known or potential hydrocarbon reservoir. Estimates of reserves (oil and/or gas) in a given stratigraphic horizon (e.g., Barnett, Bakken, Marcellus) are thus just that, ESTIMATES, which are commonly based on fewer rather than many actual measurements of porosity.

This is one major reason that as the supergiant and relatively easy-to-find (and in many instances, somewhat more petrographically homogenous) oil and gas fields are tapped out as it were, the remaining harder-to-find, harder-to-delineate, harder-to-quantify fields are what are staring us in the face. That's not news to TODers, I think, but it is a point worth making again.

My two cents' worth, for what it's worth.

Hello Petrographer,

Thxs for the detailed explanation! The old story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant is a piece of cake compared to trying to accurately delineate a FF reservoir from a small rock sample.

I get it to many bubbles randomly dispersed and no way to model how they are dispersed.
To many variables and too small a data set.
You guys have a really hard job.........I do not envy you.

Good Luck.

Hello again Porge,

no way to model how they are dispersed

Just a couple of comments about the modeling of oil and gas reservoirs:

Petrographic descriptions of thin sections such as those that I do are routinely handed off to petroleum engineers, who then do in fact attempt to model the distribution of porosity in the reservoir, with varying degrees of success from field to field, and from stratum to stratum.

As a graduate student years ago, I gained an important perspective on this whole modeling process - and on the importance of obtaining actual measurements from actual rock samples - when my M.S. advisor (a sedimentary petrologist who had worked for the Gulf Oil Research group in Pittsburgh for a long time prior to becoming a professor) told several of us on a field trip to the Permian of west Texas (and this is paraphrased of course) that he had "...made a decent amount of money over the years teaching short courses to petroleum engineers in which he showed them that sandstone reservoirs are NOT just a collection of spherical glass beads that extend infinitely in all directions..." Since that time, I've been acutely aware that the knowledge he shared with me regarding the heterogeneity of sedimentary rocks is not exactly understood or appreciated by most, even by many who work in the oil and gas industry.

I hope folks paid attention to Petrographer’s excellent detailed explanation of the nature (and difficulty) of modeling the amount of NG that may be contained in the shale gas plays. It might make your eyes water but it’s an excellent presentation. But I want to point out that even if by magic one could say there were XX trillion CF of NG locked up in these plays it would tell you nothing about future production models. There is the same amount of NG in these plays today as there was a year ago (less a tiny amount of production since then). We are not going to add even half the NG during 2009 that we did during 2008. Right there you've seen at least a 50%+ decline in resource. And no one dreamed of predicting such a change less the 12 months ago. What does that tell you about anyone's prediction about how much NG we'll be producing 50 years from now?

Not to discount Petrographer's great contribution to the game, but how much NG is in place is the starting point. The pricing model (which should also include some assumptions regarding capital availability) determines the volume of future NG supplies. With out a detailed pricing model to support their ultimate recover estimates those numbers are, at best, worthless and, at worst, a blatant lie.

Saudi Aramco endorses Peak Oil ??

from the lead article

... an output capacity of 65 million barrels per day by oil producers will be. needed to meet the demand.

Since oil production peaked at 85 million b/day ...

And if he meant "oil exporters" instead of oil producers, then that high an output (quick back of envelope) seems unlikely.


A giant leap toward space-based solar power

This has already been discussed and shown to be wack-jobbery here on TOD.

It's been shown that it has to prove itself.

'I debunked that', is often used where 'I challenged that' would be more appropriate.

I would agree with you. While some of these things seem way out, I think unproven is a better description than the other comments.

It is either a scam or else a complete no-nothing wrote the piece.

A Manhattan Beach start-up called Solaren Corp. seeks to launch an array of giant solar power collectors into orbit 23,000 miles above Fresno and beam the energy to Earth. PG&E has signed a contract to buy the power -- if Solaren can make the technology work.

There is no stationary orbit above Fresno. The stationary orbit is above the equator and only above the equator. Any earth orbit must orbit the center of the earth. A satellite placed above Fresno, in a 24 hour orbit in sync with the earth's rotation, would wobble back and fourth across the equator, to the same latitude as Fresno in but in the southern hemisphere, and then back again every 24 hours.

"We think the chance of this company ever getting this solar farm -- literally and figuratively -- off the ground is quite remote," says Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based group that monitors investor-owned utilities.

That is putting it mildly.

Ron P.

To add to Darwinian's comment, the notion that this system is just a minor step up in technology, consider that the longest transmission of electricity to date using microwaves has covered only 92 miles, far short of the 22,236 miles that the beam would need to travel from orbit to an antenna on the surface at the Equator. The Hawaii experiment transmitted only 20 watts. The antenna might need to be 10 km in diameter, no small chunk of California Central Valley farm land.

The National Security Space Office study linked to in the article is interesting. The report note this gem, which should give one pause regarding the Solaren proposal and the claim that only 4 or 5 launches would be required:

The physics of microwave power transmission at expected frequencies (2.45 – 5.8 GHz) require a very large transmitter (> 0.5 km diameter at full scale) regardless of the amount of power transmitted, and this is a chief driver of system mass.

There was an earlier report from the NAS in 2001 which may be read online for free. I might get around to looking at it one of these years...

E. Swanson

But you got to admit "wack-jobbery" does have a certain ring to it.

Sure. It has a 'This is another cheezy Internet Argument Site' ring to it.

I don't think the program has a realistic hope of doing what it claims.. but let them offer some kind of proof of concept.. the thought that our discussion of it here had 'ended the conversation' is a bit petulant.

The ball is in their court. Namecalling at this point just makes the TOD discussion look silly.

While some of these things seem way out ...

This "concept" is way out in too many ways, to suit my taste! Let's see:
- physically
- mentally
- economically
- rationally
- safety wise
- feasibility wise
- beyond_stupidity wise
- more ? sure ...
- everything wise , damn it (!)

Let me see, I believe in fusion-power over this (!) and ... let me see.. I do not believe in fusion power.

I personally give fusion power odds at about 10% given the remaining technical and political issues.

Space based solar beamed to ground, while a shiny idea, has too many technical *and political* problems still unsolved to have better than a 1 in 10,000 chance of ever coming to fruition. I wouldn't put the money of my worst enemy against those odds (unless I'd figured out a way to gain from it myself ;).

According to this "Space based solar beamed energy"-presentation they claim that they can harness 5 times more energy per area collector ==>> (1350 watt up there) : (250 watt at earths surface ... ) ..or slightly more than 5 times.
Now, how many orders of magnitude would the cost turn out to become - if they went on with their stupidity ? This No-Go-Energy thoughts should be crystal clear for everyone with an IQ higher than their own shoe-number.

Meanwhile back on Earth : PV's will crumble with in some few years now - my private guess.(due to cost/benefits)- Cueword : EroEi and more.

Consentrated solar may survive, due to a large and reletively cheap collector area , combined with one "very" expencive unit - the powerplant itself, but this tech is today streamlined and understood and yield well in suited locations.

I have a question about Wind power, for those who follow it more closely.

David MacKay in Sustainable Energy without Hot Air

estimates that 10% of the UK land could be covered in wind turbines generating, on average, 2 watts per meter squared.

Does anyone have energy densities of on land wind turbine sites in the US (or anywhere for that matter)? I would like to gather some data points about how reasonable an assumption this is.

He calibrates his energy density estimate with 3 other sites (two listed here):

In the government’s study [www.world-nuclear.org/policy/DTI-PIU.pdf] the
UK onshore wind resource is estimated using an assumed wind farm
power per unit area of at most 9W/m2 (capacity, not average production).
If the capacity factor is 33% then the average power production would be
The London Array is an offshore wind farm planned for the outer
Thames Estuary. With its 1GW capacity, it is expected to become the
world’s largest offshore wind farm. The completed wind farm will consist
of 271 wind turbines in 245 km2 [6o86ec] and will deliver an average power
of 3100GWh per year (350MW). (Cost £1.5 bn.) That’s a power per unit
area of 350MW/245 km2 = 1.4W/m2. This is lower than other offshore
farms because, I guess, the site includes a big channel (Knock Deep) that’s
too deep (about 20m) for economical planting of turbines.

Others have commented about average wind speed and turbine height (which I find he does address in his text in the detailed chapter on wind), so I am wondering if others have come across data on the power densities of wind farms.


I've just gone through the whole register of UK wind farms working out the power density of every one. I'll put the results in this location when I have written them up:

An early draft with data for just a dozen windfarms is here:

David MacKay

Thank you David. Fantastic book. I have recommended it widely. I am hoping to talk some of our State staff into rerunning your calculations for our part of the world.

nice collection djcmackay
I have to say I loved that "masstransport-thingy in the dessert" under your WIND1 link ... way to go. hahaha.

Thanks David,
I enjoyed your book, but haven't gotten around to ordering a hard copy.

What you have posted on UK wind farms is great, would you have average wind speed data for the sites. Looking at the UK wind map at 25m height it would seem some of the higher sites(3-4W/m) have 8-9m/sec at 25 m which would translate to 10m/sec at 60m hub( these Bonus 2.3MW turbines seem to be the largest).

The smaller sites with complex boundaries or when there are big gaps in turbines makes it hard to know what should be considered "used area".

It appears that some of the larger sites such as Braes Doune, Rodd and Farr are generating a good amount of energy if they are 60m tall and in average 10m/sec winds( at hub height).

It would be worthwhile to see what sites on Lewis, the Orkney's, Shetlands and other high average wind sites(>12m/sec at 80m hub) would do with 3MW turbines . No doubt some of the 1,800 MW new capacity being built at present are at these better sites and have higher towers.

Re the Reuters article on the Australian government building a 1000 MW solar power plant - This is good news but when seen in the context of the much larger amounts of money being thrown at the coal industry in the form of CCS research and in infrastructure for increased exports of steaming coal it is small beer.

The Green Left article further down the list is indicative of crazy spending on roads as well.The Great Western Highway is one of only two routes through the sandstone maze of the Blue Mountains just West of Sydney.It follows a narrow ridge line with deep,cliff lined canyons on both sides.
There is a ribbon of residential areas of long standing along this route.It is a very beautiful region.The Northern route,Bells Line of Road,has even more problems due to more rugged terrain.

So the Booster Club Clowns want to run B Doubles along an already overcrowded route.There is an existing double track electrified rail line which carries a lot of freight plus frequent passenger services.Apparently it is just too hard to upgrade this line.More likely there is not so much money to be made for government supported industries.

The solar power station.Yeah,sure,no worries.Can you hear the sound of one hand clapping?

think industrial society should have more concrete vision than "growth"? what does it mean? growing power,control and wealth of the elites? or trying to fit as many people on the planet at one time? can conscious, rational thought affect the direction of humanity? has it ever? or are we at the mercy of more powerfull forces?dont know but i can guess.

I think the concrete vision that many pro-growth techno-utopians have involves moving off-planet, mining resources throughout the solar system and beyond with self-replicating robots, harnessing nanotechnology and AI for terraforming, off-world manufacturing, etc. I know, this all sounds like pie in the sky sci-fi, but I'm sure our world would sound equally implausible to someone from two or three centuries ago. The point is, if you have this kind of vision, you aren't limited by the resources of this planet, so most of the concerns of "peakniks" fall by the wayside. The ultimate goal would be to progress from Kardashev level I to II to III, expanding our knowledge, choices and hopefully achieving some kind of Singularity, Omega Point or cosmic consciousness along the way. Anyway, I find this vision much more hopeful and inspiring than the decline-is-inevitable, limiting, uncreative futures imagined by people here, but that's just me. Flame away!

The "three centuries ago" analogy is always amusing-your fantasies were widely held 30 years ago-the reality is that this vision is farther away every day. I think a real eye opener for techno-utopians will be when NASA is finally shut down for lack of funding.

"Hopeful and inspiring?"

When we have reduced our once-paradisical planet to a burned-out slag heap, then we can solve that problem by reducing other planets to a burned out slag-heap, which will hopefully provide enough resources to make our burned-out slag heap a little less unpleasant.

All this "let's go into space" stuff is just because rockets give people hard-ons. Does anyone expect to find somewhere else that is more beautiful, more perfect, more appropriate for humans than the planet we already live on?

I love how this let's-consume-another-planet-to-give-us-another-shopping-fix plan is supposedly a path towards "cosmic consciousness."


Maybe, after the elephants are gone, the cheetahs are gone, the salmon are gone, the whales are gone, the tuna are gone, and the coral reefs are gone, people will stop and think "ummmm, maybe that was a bad idea."

It could be a step towards "cosmic consciousness"!

Yes I agree that trashing this planet is horrible, but my point is that it’s not in our nature to reach some arbitrary level of technological development or population and say “that’s enough”, then passively accept that we have peaked as a species and must now decline and die off. If every human being thought this way I’m sure we would have died off long ago, never having advanced past the “clawing grubs out of the earth” stage. If you accept that humans, like all species, must “expand or die”, then clearly moving off this planet is the next logical step in our development, since I agree that it's getting a bit crowded down here. It's not about a shopping fix, it's about expanding the realm of knowledge and experience available to us and insuring our survival against an extinction-level cosmic catastrophe.

And to Brian’s point, I would disagree, since I consider advances in computing, robotics and nano-engineering more important to a long-term future in space than manned spaceflight, and clearly those technologies have advanced considerably in the past 30 years. Anyway I’m just providing a contrary view to the prevailing group-think here, since “doomerism” strikes me as a rather sad and hopeless world view that serves no useful purpose.

IMO the pace of technological advancement is slowing and I don't consider that realization to be "doomerism" in any way. Re the ridiculous notion of "moving off this planet" why bother? There is lots of space in Antarctica, and that place is a million times more hospitable to humans than anywhere trekkie fantasies could take one. 20000 leagues beneath the sea would be an easier go than deep space, and that real estate is dirt cheap right now.

ff's have given us more power, we used this to grow technowise witch we used to increase our comfort ,convenience and our numbers. If we dont use are techno to beat a path to a different energy source we will be forced back to using contemporary sunlight. Grow or die is probably right. I do see the wisdom of being in two places at once(mars?)for our long term survival. Are there other ways to grow in that doesn't increase our numbers or territory ? I have a feeling the fate of humanity is beyond are conscious control and is dictated mostly by unconscious forces. We cant stop, can we change direction collectively in anticipation of trouble?

Like I said-nobody wants to live in Antarctica but you want to live on Mars? Jeez, nobody wants to live in Sudbury or Moose Jaw much less Mars. What trekkies don't want to accept is that the Earth is the only home for us because we are literally descended from this planet (stretching it to make a point). This is it-period and forever.

Who says that homo sapiens is the last word in intelligent life on this planet? I agree that our current physical substrates are poorly suited to life off-planet, but I expect that to change. You need to try to think out of the box and non-linearly about the future; if you can do this, you'll realize that the "Peak Oil crisis" is mostly a crisis of your imagination, not one of physically imposed limits that will lead to the collapse of civilization. And you have a good point about living in Antarctica or under the sea, but the main advantage of going off-world is that it allows us to do dramatic things like terraforming that won’t affect existing populations. The game-changing technologies are self-replicating robots, nanotechnology and transhumanist engineering, and all those fields are moving along nicely. For a nice summary of the techno-optimist position, see http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge219.html#dysonf . Here is a telling quote:

The disagreement about values may be described in an over-simplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists. Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil. Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert, into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper.

Anyway, I wouldn’t dismiss the techno-utopia as fantasy quite yet; as Mr. Dyson points out in one of his books, echoing the anti-defeatist sentiment of a British explorer: “tragedy is not our business”.

Anyway I’m just providing a contrary view to the prevailing group-think here, since “doomerism” strikes me as a rather sad and hopeless world view that serves no useful purpose.

I agree with most of what you say, however I think the doomers have a legitimate point: their "position" represents one of two extremes, the other being techno-utopianism, that are always possible in any analysis. Doom is like Scylla; techno-utopia like Charybdis: Any reasonable proposal has to steer a path between these two extremes, both of which have a very low probability, but not zero.

The techno-utopians are looking for their lost keys under the street-light, rather than in the dark where they lost them.

Going "off-world" cannot solve our problems here on Earth, unless we have a prime mover that is better than a nuclear fusion-powered rocket. Fusion would allow a few people to escape the mess we're making of our home planet. But a few minutes with Wikipedia, a calculator, and the back of an envelope should convince you that there's no way we could move enough people off planet, or move enough materiel back here quickly enough to make a difference. No, I'm not going to do the calculations for you; you need to convince yourself. But the upshot is, we need new laws of physics to make the off-planet route viable.

What's that quote about "if a path to the better there be, it starts with a full look at the worse?" Techno-utopians are not looking at reality. The orbital solar power station with microwave delivery was being written about in the 1970s (to my knowledge; possibly before). I can't see it ever getting past the politicians -- especially if it were technically viable.

Doomers provide a valuable service -- although it would be nice if they didn't leap to binary extremes, for example "peak oil" --(leap)--> "no oil." I suppose a "moderate doomer" is too much to ask for, though.

There is a fine tradition of running away from resource restrictions and political problems.

Where is left to go?

The problem, of course, is getting there. Ships, wagons, and such have costs within the reach of a small community or even average individuals. Space launch vehicles and the infrastructure needed to live in space are out of the reach of most national governments.

Hello TODers,

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

A teaser segment below from a May 14, '09 PDF by POT's Topdog, Bill Doyle:

[Page 12--please see the decreasing yield scenarios graphic]

..However, over recent months farmers have been watching the same financial news as the rest of the world – and the uncertainty and fear in the global economy led them, like most other consumers, to become exceedingly cautious with their cash.

As a result farmers in the Northern Hemisphere are expected to plant fewer acres and apply significantly less fertilizer. No one can say with certainty how much this will reduce global food production, but the consequences could be dramatic.

We do know that farmers in the Southern Hemisphere cut applications heading into this season and – with less-than ideal growing conditions – are now reporting lower soybean yields.

There is no way around it: if you want healthy crops and
higher yields, you need to nourish the soil..

[page 13, please see the stocks-to-use ratio graphic]:

With an expectation of fewer planted acres and less fertilizer use, it is not realistic to expect more from the land this year. If you only fill your gas tank half full, you can’t expect to drive
twice as far. At some point, you have to replenish nutrients
in the soil if you want to get the most mileage from it.

The drop in acres planted and fertilizer use could create a major problem for the global food supply, as the world’s grain stocks have been near historically low levels for the past several years. With the potential for a production decline this year, grain inventories are likely to be further reduced – pushing the stocks-to-use ratio near record lows.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

This basically sums up my (and some of your) recent comments - that is less fertilizer will result in lower yields this year. PO is already here for modern mega-farms, we just don't know the exact consequences yet.

To say that there could be "a major problem for the global food supply" is like saying a person dying of AIDS has "a major problem".

It should come as no surprise then to any reader here to see North America harvest with a smaller grain crop this year than last.

Well, I say we can call it a pandemic now. Will the WHO? Or will they redefine the word?

Japan on Sunday confirmed 93 new cases of swine flu amid fears hundreds more may be infected, as senior health officials gathered in Geneva for talks on how to contain the spread of the virus.

Most of the infections of A(H1N1) were reported among high school and college students in the western cities of Kobe and Osaka, where authorities ordered more than 1,000 schools and kindergartens to stay shut on Monday.


Hello Goghgoner,

I am not a flu-scientist, so I don't even know if this is possible, but imagine the global political firestorm if some regions have high H1N1 mortality due to very minor, but regionally widespread, human genetic differences plus the combo-effects of persistent poverty and pervasive pollution.

Possible example? Imagine the giant southern swath of continental Asia and all of Africa being hit hard. Since, with the advent of computers, and better pandemic statistical tracking & measurement: Would the CDC & WHO be honest in reporting this fact even if it ultimately leads to war?

With the ongoing economic crisis: Would the wealthy First World be willing to cough up $500 billion in Emergency Food & Medical Aid to help prevent the worst in S. Asia & Africa?

What if we refused? Would a severely pissed off Japan, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, KSA, Morocco, Nigeria, plus many more countries join forces to kick the First World out of access to FFs and phosphates so that they might have a chance to rebuild their shattered economies?

Seems like there is a historical precedent for some populations to have more severe outbreaks with the same strain of flu. Another possibility, with similar implications as to which you speak, is the swine virus mutates so readily that we could have higher mortality clusters that cause widespread panic but the flu mutates again to be relatively safe. These thoughts are inspired from numerous flu scientists who have proposed that this version of H1N1 rapidly mutates, anecdotal cases of H1N1 where the symptoms (like no fever) seem common in regions but absent in other regions, and a strange occurence I read about in Columbia (South America) where the CDC verified a sample as not being swine flu but Columbia laboratory tests proved otherwise.

I'll stop there before I am tarred and feathered for being alarmist. I should also stop because my initial read of the situation was way off the mark. My gut reaction was that the uninfected countries would tighten their borders but this did not happen to the degree I thought, although I think we are seeing Mexican tourist pesos and airline ridership decrease.

Oh, please, could we all calm down!? Around 250,000 people die each day in the world, 25,000 from starvation. The WHO site says: "As of 06:00 GMT, 17 May 2009, 39 countries have officially reported 8480 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection. " Less than 100 deaths.

Please, when we have 100,000 deaths and a few million cases, wake me up as something may be afoot. In the mean time, please everyone calm down.

With all the current problems in Pakistan, you would think this is the very last place the Pak govt would choose to spend money:

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.
Hello TODer WisdomfromPakistan: Does Pak paranoia against India really run that deep, or is the MSM wrong here? Thxs for any reply.

Hello all. I found this site recently and have found it very interesting.

mistergrinch, you say that "doomerism" is a sad worldview, and you offer a utopian alternative to be contrary. I would like to talk for a minute about doomerism.

Those of us who believe that peak oil is real don't want to see the collapse of society. That is the fate we are trying to avoid by studying the problem. It is not a hobby to some people on here, they are thinking about solutions and promoting education and discussion. When was the last time you cracked open a physics text and studied ways to make your dream of space colinization happen? Anyway, "doomers" don't want to go back to living in caves, we want society to move to a lower rate of energy/water/matieral comsumption in an orderly fashion so that we can be sustainable and not have to live in caves. We are in fact afraid that "utopians" will doom us all to living in caves by ignoring the problem and rufusing to accept the painful solutions until it is too late.

You claim that humans must expand or die, and this is true. Humans are designed to always be reaching for something. We simply have to change what we strive for. In a post peak world, science and culture will still advance. Lets say that in 40 yrs, society has changed. People grow food localy in small plots and live near city centers so they can walk to work. They travel between citys by train because nobody has a car. The desert citys like Los Vegas have been abandoned and world population is a quarter of what it was. That dosen't mean we have to close the universitys and let the sattilites fall out of the sky. It does mean we have to carefully shepard the resources we have left. Up until now, human expansion has meant physical growth, exanding into new areas and using new resources in new ways. That has to stop, and if we don't stop in a controled manner, nature will force us to a stop so hard we'll be slapped back to the stone age. Perhaps mental or spritual growth of society will replace the physical growth.

Hello WorldsStrongestNerd,

Welcome to TOD, and very well said for a TOD Newbie, Kudos!--I will look forward to more postings by you.


Just a tip, since you're new here. If your comment is in response to someone else's comment, click on "reply." (At the bottom of the comment you are replying to.) That makes it a lot easier to follow the conversation.

I didn't see any comments about the Smart Jitney system which could cut oil consumption drastically with a relatively modest change in lifestyle. Obviously, Americans would only join such a scheme if the price of petrol made solo driving unaffordable. It requires no major technology breakthroughs, only the use of existing technology to efficiently use current resources. This is something we could implement as petrol prices rise sufficiently. A combination of electric rail, bicycle, Smart Jitney (perhaps eventually with electric vehicles produced at a much reduced rate)could make transport more eco friendly, reduce the threat of climate change from transport sources (still need to do something about electric power production), and mitigate against peak oil, at least buying some time for other transport alternatives. Perhaps the carbon tax would be beneficial.

Actually, I tried to sell a similar (but better because much more versatile) idea about 15 years ago, and to my surprise, got a lot of positive response from young mothers, who wanted to quit being bus drivers all day. My plan included highly secure service so that kids could be taken hither and yon with close security and constant updates on position.

Another positive group was old people, like me, who simply don't want to drive any more (my head refuses to swivel), but want to go places as before.

Yet another one was people who hate to keep their car maintained. No worries about flat tires or batteries, or oil changes and all that- just hit the number on the cell phone, and go.

And of course, all these people looked at cars as mere tools, not as life support for weak egos.
So, if the system is designed to be really convenient and guaranteed safe, I think it will fly very well indeed. All it takes is some business moxy.

My student who designed the computer simulation for this one got a state prize for it. He had a time stepping status on a screen, showing random trips here and there during the day, as well as situations of overload- big event at university, etc. Fun to watch.

The basic concept saves money, time, space, and fuel. A GOOD IDEA.

Regarding the article, "Australia to build world's largest solar energy plant: PM," does anyone know if this will use photovoltaic panels or solar thermal collectors?

I was wondering about the same and searced for a while to learn that it is not yet determined, but most probabley it will be a mix of PV's and solar thermal- was mentioned at one site..
It's more of a strategical announcement - as I read it.

paal -- "strategical announcement"...I like that term....hadn't seen it used as such before. Think I'll borrow it from you....thanks.

Now for my daily stategical announcement: if frogs had wings...well y'all know how the rest goes.

According to Biggest Solar Deal Ever Announced — We’re Talking Gigawatts (Wired Science, February 11, 2009) a series of concentrating solar power plants is planned for the desert in Southern California totaling 1.3 GW by 2013. Countries are announcing ever larger solar power projects with each claiming their project will be the world's largest.