DrumBeat: June 4, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: Watching a Mega-Crisis

We, in America, are deep in the midst of a four-sided crisis. The first side is an economic slump; second, surprisingly, is our government's panicky efforts to stabilize the situation; third, the imminent peaking of fossil fuels and numerous other resources that seems to be in abeyance for the moment; and fourth, global warming which in the long run could overshadow the other three by a wide margin and is attracting considerable amounts of government and Congressional attention.

The important point is that the four aspects of what could easily turn out to be the mega-crisis of the century are all interrelated. Developments in any of the four will cause perturbations for better or worse in the others.

Petrobras well proves Tupi reserves

Petrobras said that the drilling of an additional well in the Tupi area has further confirmed estimates of a potential of 5 to 8 billion barrels of recoverable light oil and natural gas in the pre-salt layers of that field.

Drilling is still underway seeking for other objectives at greater depths.

BP Head Tells Russia To Drop Investment Barriers

BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward urged Russia, the world’s largest energy supplier, to drop barriers to foreign investment and mitigate risks at a time when “capital is in short supply.”

“Erecting barriers to the inflow of foreign direct investment is questionable,” Hayward said Thursday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “Russia would benefit from higher investment.”

'World's cheapest car' coming to US

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- India's Tata Motors hopes to offer the Nano, dubbed the world's cheapest car, in the United States within two years, its chairman said.

Phosphorus Famine: The Threat to Our Food Supply

As complex as the chemistry of life may be, the conditions for the vigorous growth of plants often boil down to three numbers, say, 19-12-5. Those are the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, prominently displayed on every package of fertilizer. In the 20th century the three nutrients enabled agriculture to increase its productivity and the world’s population to grow more than sixfold. But what is their source? We obtain nitrogen from the air, but we must mine phosphorus and potassium. The world has enough potassium to last several centuries. But phosphorus is a different story. Readily available global supplies may start running out by the end of this century. By then our population may have reached a peak that some say is beyond what the planet can sustainably feed.

Moreover, trouble may surface much sooner. As last year’s oil price swings have shown, markets can tighten long before a given resource is anywhere near its end. And reserves of phosphorus are even less evenly distributed than oil’s, raising additional supply concerns. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest producer of phosphorus (after China), at 19 percent of the total, but 65 percent of that amount comes from a single source: pit mines near Tampa, Fla., which may not last more than a few decades. Meanwhile nearly 40 percent of global reserves are controlled by a single country, Morocco, sometimes referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of phosphorus.” Although Morocco is a stable, friendly nation, the imbalance makes phosphorus a geostrategic ticking time bomb.

Peru fertilizer plant would need gas line

HOUSTON -- A grassroots nitrogen fertilizer complex under consideration in Peru would require construction of about 100 miles of gas pipeline.

Malaysia calls for calm over border dispute with Indonesia

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia's deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for calm Thursday amid reports that Malaysian warships had entered oil-rich waters off northeastern Borneo also claimed by Indonesia.

Total sees Iraq oil deals awarded this summer

PARIS (Reuters) - French oil major Total expects Iraq to award stakes in oil fields open to bids this summer, a senior executive told the Reuters Energy Summit on Thursday.

'It is a matter of two or three months starting from now,' Jean-Jacques Mosconi, head of strategy and planning at Total, said when asked when Baghdad would award contracts.

Canadian oil giants closer to finalizing takeover

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Petro-Canada shareholders have voted to approve the takeover of their integrated oil and gas company by Suncor Energy Inc., uniting two of Canada's biggest oil companies.

Towns in transition

At the Sullivan Renaissance conference in February, author and keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler predicted jarring social changes coming our way, changes coming not just because of peak oil, meaning the time when oil supplies are in decline as demand increases, but also because of global climate change and global economic turmoil.

Those changes are also a concern of Liberty resident Tim Shera and Livingston Manor resident Maria Grimaldi. And as a way of dealing with them, Shera and Grimaldi are hosting a Transition Towns-Sullivan County meeting on June 9, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan on Ferndale Loomis Road in Liberty.

The new 'good' job: 12 bucks an hour

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Massive investment in renewable energy could ultimately create 4 million manufacturing jobs. But for the workers in the bottom rung of this movement, the shift to green jobs could very well mean a pay cut of nearly 60%, a trend spreading across the entire manufacturing sector.

Many of the entry-level jobs making green energy components start at $12 an hour, much less than the now extinct $28 an hour job that had allowed high school-educated workers in the auto sector to achieve middle class status.

Goldman Sachs and the unrecognised energy crisis

There is a lot to look at in a new note from Goldman Sachs’ commodities team: a WTI price target of $85 for the end of 2009; a forecast that we are now in the beginning of a four-part bull rally.

More interestingly, the note talks about the ‘unrecognised energy crisis’ and concludes that underlying demand must fall in the OECD countries if the BRICs are to maintain their growth.

US Interior to Collect Billions from New O&G Fees in 2010

The U.S Interior Department has projected $14 billion in revenue collections for fiscal-year 2010, stemming from several new and increased fees.

A new fee on non-producing Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas leases would increase revenue by requiring lease holders to pay $4 per acre when leases are in non-producing status, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in prepared testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Gas Exporters May Meet in Qatar This Month, Iran Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s biggest natural-gas exporters may meet in Doha, Qatar on June 30 as they pursue greater collaboration at a time of plummeting prices, an Iranian oil official said.

BP Norway Shaving Costs by Reworking Contracts

As oil producers battle falling revenues, BP Norway's chief said the company is having success in lowering its supply costs in the country by renegotiating contracts.

At the same time, BP has an ambitious target of nearly doubling its Norwegian output to 80,000 barrels of oil equivalents a day by 2012, or 2% of the company's projected global daily output of around 4 million barrels.

Reliance suspends exports to Iran

NEW DELHI (UPI) -- Reliance Industries Ltd., the largest private-sector oil conglomerate in India, stopped petroleum exports to Iran under pressure from U.S.-backed sanctions.

Shell Confirms Reports of Large Gas Field Off Norway

Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company Shell has confirmed a Norwegian newspaper report that it has discovered a large gas field in the Norwegian Sea, the Dutch paper, Financiele Dagblad, reported on Wednesday.

More Mexico oil reforms unlikely after midterm vote

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican lawmakers are unlikely to attempt any further reforms of the country's oil sector after midterm Congressional elections in July, where the ruling conservative party is expected to lose some ground. The country's battered economy, its fight with powerful drug cartels and the need for a major overhaul of the tax system are a higher priority for lawmakers than revisiting the sensitive topic of opening the tightly controlled oil industry to more participation by foreign companies.

After months of emotional debate last year, Mexico enacted a package of laws that opened the door to more private-sector involvement in the oil industry.

Resources short Cuba cuts power to wasteful companies

Hundreds of Cuban entities and state-run companies were sanctioned when a drastic government plan to save energy entered into force, according to reports in the official media.

S.African refineries need $4.95 bln for clean fuels

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Refineries in South Africa will need to spend 40 billion rand ($4.95 billion) to upgrade facilities to conform with cleaner fuel specifications, a senior executive of petrochemicals group Sasol said on Thursday.

Sasol Executive Director Benny Mokaba said the upgrades necessary to comply with the new specifications, which South Africa has said it wants to introduce by 2012, exceeded the companies' balance sheets.

Pipeline Operator Says Wind, Solar Not the Answers to Energy Crisis

Reuters TV has an interesting interview of Rich Kinder, the CEO of Kinder Morgan, who says that wind and solar energies are not the answers to reducing America's greenhouse gas emissions or the country's dependence on oil.

Rather, he says that natural gas, nuclear, and even clean coil are much more logistically viable options. We've previously covered the pros and cons of nuclear energy, more recently Germany's attempt to utilize clean coal, and even energy think tanks that believe our energy policy should be governed by "facts, sound science, and good American common sense.” As we learn more about our energy capacities and potential, it seems like the debate over energy policy just seems to get more convoluted.

Nigeria: Electricity Crisis - Coal to the Rescue (1)

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in his inaugural speech on the 29th of May, 2007 offered Nigerians cause to celebrate by promising to tackle the energy crisis that had bedevilled the nation for some time. He further promised a complete overhaul of the energy sector to ensure that the populace enjoys steady electricity supply. He likewise said he wanted Nigeria to be one of the world's biggest 20 economies by 2020. This tall ambition would largely depend on steady electricity supply. The President went further to establish the National Energy Commission to investigate and offer solutions to the current energy crisis. He has announced that he wants the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to generate 6,000 mega watts of electricity before December, 2009.

The Philippines: ‘Keep in mind risks of nuke plant’s operation’

OPPONENTS of the plan to revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on Thursday chided lawmakers for ignoring the risks involved in operating the plant.

Giovanni Tapang, spokesman for the No to BNPP Revival! said lawmakers seem to ignore the voluminous studies that document the danger of operating the plant.

Mike Ruppert reviews Carolyn Baker's "Sacred Demise"

In the rare instances where I come across a book that is a feast for the mind and soul I wrestle with it as with a lover. Pages get dog-eared, the pen comes out and notes appear all over. Great passages are underlined. There are coffee and wine stains. This marks my affair with a great book. “Sacred Demise” is the first such book I have read in many years. In spite of the profoundly disturbing topic: the collapse of industrial civilization and possible extinction of the human race; it is a book which has left me feeling joyful, hopeful, humorous and deeply comforted. It has made me love more completely and – in that process – has allowed me to be more alive in this present moment.

It’s all interconnected, Weizmann scientist says

Berkowitz, who hails from Edmonton, talked about Water, Energy, and the Environment: Science and Sustainability, making it clear that no single solution will materialize to solve what many consider to be the two most serious environmental challenges facing the world today.

“It is a zero-sum game,” he said. “If you win somewhere, you lose somewhere else.… There ain’t no such thing as a magic bullet.”

Will Emerging Markets Make Renewable Energy More Democratic?

Think of the renewable-energy market as an oligarchy, with a handful of countries making up by far a super majority. The top 10 wind countries, for example, represented a whopping 87.8 percent of the wind market last year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). And in solar, even just the top two markets -- Spain and Germany -- accounted for 72.9 percent of the total world market, with the top 10 making up 96.5 percent, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Over the years, the industry has been expanding to new countries, dividing the market among a larger number of countries every year. But in an economic downturn, with price declines amid an oversupply of solar panels and wind turbines, that trend could be accelerating. And as more countries pass a variety of climate-change legislation, industry insiders predict that — in the coming years — the clean-energy oligarchy will become ever more democratic.

Climate change poses threat to Mideast security, report warns

BEIRUT: Climate change poses potential threats to security that could lead to conflict in the Middle East, a report presented Tuesday at the American University of Beirut (AUB) by Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) says. Brown co-wrote the report, which is entitled "Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflict in the Middle East." Brown said the report's aim was to explore potential connections between climate change and conflict in the region and to generally raise awareness of the issue.

Allotment demand leads to 40-year waiting lists

Demand for allotments has reached such heights that in one London borough would-be gardeners will be waiting 40 years for a patch of land, it emerged today.

Goldman Raises Year-End Crude Forecast by 31% to $85

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its forecast for U.S. benchmark oil by 31 percent to $85 a barrel for the end of 2009 and predicted further gains next year as demand recovers and supplies shrink.

“As the financial crisis eases, an energy shortage lies ahead,” Goldman analysts Jeffrey Currie in London and David Greely in New York said in a report e-mailed today. The bank set a 12-month price target of $90 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude, up from $70, and introduced a forecast of $95 for the end of 2010.

Oil to Reach $70-75 by Year End, OPEC’s El-Badri Says

(Bloomberg) -- Oil prices are likely to rise to between $70 and $75 a barrel by the end of this year because of expectations for an economic recovery and a weak dollar, OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has seen a pick-up in demand from China though the global economy isn’t recovering as fast as the price of oil, he said today at an energy forum in London organized by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Don't Buy Into This Energy Bull

This is starting to look like the endgame, Fools. After a gnarly April, Patterson's May rig count decline decelerated significantly. In absolute terms (i.e. the number of rigs, rather than the percentage), this was easily the smallest sequential drawdown since the carnage began last fall. Of course, there just aren't many marginal rigs left running at this point.

It looks like Mr. Market wasn't being too crazy in bidding up these stocks back in March. As I pointed out in February, Patterson in particular was practically being given away. That said, I'm concerned that the rebound in oil services stocks, and energy stocks more broadly, is a bit overdone at this point.

Suncor Energy reports oil sands production numbers for May 2009

CALGARY /CNW/ - Suncor Energy Inc. reported today that production at its oil sands facility during May averaged approximately 296,000 barrels per day (bpd). Year-to-date oil sands production at the end of May averaged approximately 286,000 bpd. Suncor is targeting average oil sands production of 300,000 bpd (+5%/-10%) in 2009.

Trading Down Forever?

Does the recession spell permanent changes for how America lives? Probably not, say our experts, as people will always shop.

IATA: Airline 2009 losses to exceed $4.7 billion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The International Air Transport Association called for more liberalization to bolster the global airline industry, which is expected to lose more than $4.7 billion this year because of falling cargo and passenger traffic.

Our peak oil future? Electric vehicle startup unveils Chinese-made, $45K ‘economy’ car

The Coda sedan, which resembles a previous-generation Honda Civic, is a highway-ready, 80 mph five-seater that will travel 90 to 120 miles on a charge, according to the company.

And it is likely to be the first Chinese-made car to hit American roads. The car’s 333-volt lithium ion battery pack comes from the Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co., a huge state-owned corporation that supplies batteries to Apple and other consumer electronics companies. Coda has established a joint venture with Tianjin Lishen to design and sell batteries for transportation and utility storage. The sedan’s design, brand and intellectual property will be owned by Coda, but it will be manufactured and assembled in China by Hafei, a state-owned automobile and aircraft manufacturer.

Pickens left indelible mark on Obama

(AP:OKLAHOMA CITY) With a black Sharpie marker, T. Boone Pickens mapped out for Barack Obama the way to U.S. energy independence - right there on a white tablecloth.

It was a demonstration he wouldn't soon forget. After Pickens' wife encountered Obama at a function this week in Las Vegas, she relayed word that the president was still astounded by her husband's indelible markings.

High hurdle for ethanol

Undoubtedly, ethanol and the renewable fuels industry will go through many fits and starts as it continues to move toward becoming a reliable source of alternative energy. Edwin Drake could probably understand that all too well.

Only a Total fool would be convinced by giraffes and solar panels

The French oil company's investment in renewables sounds large, but it's a drop in the oil barrel.

Still Digging Up Exxon Valdez Oil, 20 Years Later

Today, the coast is clear and clean. But clean is not the same as pristine. Decades ago, some of the spill found its way to a beach on Knight Island in the Sound, a site that scientists studying the accident would designate KN-102 but which during the multiyear cleanup would earn another name: Death Marsh.

Here, on Death Marsh, Mandy Lindberg, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Alaska's Auke Bay, turns over a shovel of sand and broken rock to reveal a glistening pool of brackish oil. The crude can be chemically typed to the Exxon Valdez, and more oil can be found beneath the beach at Death Marsh and at a number of islands around the Sound. "I wouldn't have possibly believed the oil would last this long," says Lindberg. "Studying the spill has been a great learning experience, but if we had known in the years after the spill what we know now, we would have been looking for oil much earlier."

A China-U.S. Partnership on Global Warming

Meeting with officials in China last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said little about human rights, a topic on which she has been notably vocal in the past, and instead focused on one of the big hurdles the United States faces in trying to tackle climate change: making sure China cooperates.

Alaska: Federal report says villages need better help in relocating

WASHINGTON -- The federal government could be doing more to help relocate Alaska Native communities whose vulnerability to erosion and flooding has only worsened with global warming, concludes a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Human Cost of Climate Change

Quick: What does global warming look like? A forlorn polar bear stuck on a splintering glacier makes for a gripping visual, but a new report says there are millions of climate-change victims we don't see — and many look just like us. The Global Humanitarian Forum paints a grim portrait of the human toll inflicted by Earth's gradual rise in temperature: 26 million people displaced, $125 billion in annual economic losses and more than 300,000 yearly deaths, as climate change speeds desertification and magnifies scourges from malnutrition to flooding. "We can no longer hold back from speaking out on the silent suffering of millions worldwide," writes the group's leader, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Calculating The True Cost Of Carbon

U.S. firms produce from $60 billion to $80 billion worth of carbon annually but don't pay for it. What the carbon market could mean to investors.

Is a Popular Carbon-Offset Method Just a Lot of Hot Air?

A convenient way of cutting industrial gases that warm the planet was supposed to be the United Nation’s clean development mechanism (CDM). As a provision of the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM enables industrial nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in part by purchasing “carbon offsets” from poorer countries, where green projects are more affordable. The scheme, which issued its first credits in 2005, has already transferred the right to emit an extra 250 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), and that could swell to 2.9 billion tons by 2012. Offsets will “play a more significant role” as emissions targets become tighter, asserts Yvo de Boer of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

But criticism of the CDM has been mounting. Despite strenuous efforts by regulators, a significant fraction of the offset credits is fictitious “hot air” manufactured by accounting tricks, critics say. As a result, greenhouse gases are being emitted without compensating reductions elsewhere.

It's the end of the world as we know it (annotated)

For your consideration: Two possible, if not probable, future scenarios for the human race should the business of fossil fuel combustion continue as usual for the next few decades. The first, an ABC-TV special that aired this Tuesday night, "Earth 2100." The second, a film by UK documentarian Frannie Armstrong, "The Age of Stupid." The former depicts a world that is increasing hostile to civilization as the century draws to a close, the latter an even less habitable planet, not just for humans, by 2055.

Are either visions realistic, or just more worse-case scenarios that grossly exaggerate what the science says?

Lester R. Brown: Melting Ice Could Lead to Massive Waves of Climate Refugees

As the earth warms, the melting of the earth’s two massive ice sheets--Antarctica and Greenland--could raise sea level enormously. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise sea level 7 meters (23 feet). Melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would raise sea level 5 meters (16 feet). But even just partial melting of these ice sheets will have a dramatic effect on sea level rise. Senior scientists are noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of sea level rise during this century of 18 to 59 centimeters are already obsolete and that a rise of 2 meters during this time is within range.

What price for fuel efficiency? I got a bit angry yesterday as I was reading the sequence of the Air France failure signals. I’ve studied aeronautics and aerodynamics; I’ve worked on things used by aircraft; I’ve done it from behind a drafting table... to working with the mechanics who worked with the items... to being inside a flying plane as a system was tested.

Planes built back in the 1960s had multiple redundant systems. Some had one safety critical system with 3 redundant backups. Today, the claim is that redundant systems are unnecessary because today’s equipment has such a high rate of reliability. FINE! What happens when that one piece fails???

In the 1980s somebody had the bright idea of eliminating quality control oversight (claiming that it only encouraged complacency). That became an industrial fad.

Instead of spending a few extra years of testing new flight control computers on in-flight test beds “we” went ahead and did “imagineering” to work out bugs. “We” then built these aircraft and sold them. “We” lost quite a few planes and people to poorly programmed computers... the most famous one being at the Paris Air Show when the plane’s computer program decided that fuel conservation was more important that a pilot’s need for immediate engine power.

Maybe my memory is mistaken.

I don’t have any answers.

An alternative cost cutting theory has emerged.

A report on reuters


suggests the pilot might have cut airspeed to save fuel, triggering a stall in sharp downdraft.

We may see more of this sort of failure in the collapse of aviation. The FSU airlines became hideously unsafe in the 1990s.

BTW WTI back over $68.


Looks like reducing airspeed is normal procedure in turbulence. The pilots may have over-done it. Not a cost cutting exercise.

At higher altitudes, there is a a thinner margin between stall speed and mach buffet. I have read that the U-2 routinely operated right at the top of its ceiling, so that the margin between stall speed and mach buffet was only 5 to 10 knots. Here is an article that discusses the "Coffin Corner," the thin margin between stall speed and mach buffet at higher altitudes:


The blog post discusses the importance of pilots training for high altitude stalls. Interesting that Airbus has already advised pilots not to lower their speed too much while approaching turbulence at higher altitudes. One does have to wonder if this was a combination of some type of fly by wire failure combined with a high altitude stall, and the pilots didn't have a enough time to reboot the system in turbulent conditions.

BTW, an interesting factoid. According to news reports, since airlines started flying Europe to South America and vice-versa in 1947, this is reportedly the first commercial airliner crash (of course there have been crashes on other transatlantic routes).

I'm curious about this, and have been trying to find more information, but it's scarce and contradictory right now. Time points out that Airbuses have had problems in the past with the autopilot throwing the plane into a dive. They did have backups, but for some reason, they didn't work.

The system is intended to eliminate the possibility of electronic error: the flight computer, which is always monitoring the trio, can disregard one ADIRU if it begins relaying information that conflicts with the other two.

But that's not what happened when one of them went awry on Oct. 7 and began sending erroneous data spikes on the plane's angle of attack (AOA) — the angle between its wings and the air flowing over them — to the flight-control computer. "For some reason, the damn computer disregarded the healthy channels," says Hans Weber, an aviation expert who heads Tecop International, an aviation-consulting firm in San Diego. "Instead, it acted upon the information from the rogue channel."

Looking back on all the data, it can be clear to the human observer which channels were the healthy ones. But the "decisions" were made by a computer in real-time, programmed ahead of time by some other distant human removed from the actual environment. Whatever inference engine or heuristics were programmed in, they got confused by the chaos of the erroneous data, and "decided" that the rogue channel was the only healthy channel.

I think it's too early to decide the cause of the crash. There was a story today in which another pilot is quoted as reporting a bright flash of light for a short period of time near the crash area. Obviously, the aircraft came apart rather quickly, so fast that the crew did not have time to radio in an emergency call. There was a report of a bomb threat a few days before the crash. One can only hope that the black boxes are found, which would allow determination of a probable cause of the breakup. As things now stand, all is speculation.

E. Swanson

Black_Dog : "I think it's too early to decide the cause of the crash."

I totally agree. It's just stupid to start speculations at this stage - with the Black-boxes "7000 meters under the sea-surface" ...

This guy thinks the violent weather broke the plate apart in mid-flight:

"There was some kind of in-flight violent" incident, said Bill Waldock, an air-crash expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

Waldock suspects weather — namely, the 100-mph winds the airplane apparently encountered that could have gotten underneath the wings and shaken the plane. "If they hit a 100-mph updraft while they were going 525 mph, it would have thrown them violently," Waldock said. "It's way beyond what the airplane is designed to accept."

The force could have bent or torn off a wing, Waldock said.

Leanan -

It seems to me that when flying at that altitude, even a violent weather event causing a rapid structural failure of the aircraft's wings would still have allowed at least several seconds for either the pilot or copilot to get off a quick mayday signal. That fact that there apparently wasn't any such message suggests a very rapid sudden total failure of the entire aircraft, such as in the case of an explosion.

This looks very sinister to me.

Any aviators out there agree or disagree?

Not an aviator, but the info I've read said the plane had power failures over a period of minutes, rather than seconds. Some of the more informed speculation I've read suggested composite failure or lightning strike.

I don't think sending a mayday signal would be a priority. They were trying to fly the plane in the middle of a storm. They were concentrating on trying to figure out what was going on, and trying to control the plane.

That commuter plane that went down in an ice storm near Buffalo did not send a mayday either, and there was no sudden catastrophic failure there - just pilot error.

There is also a 20m oil slick, suggesting that the plane broke up without a fire. And the wreckage is also widespread, with pieces dozens of miles apart, suggesting a mid-air breakup.

I am not a pilot with a current certificate. I have flown small aircraft and was a crew member with many tIhousands of hours of flight time in military aircraft.I was responsible for all Com/Nav and electronic systems both inflight and on ground.

My squadron had over 100 flyable aircraft and we kept approx 7 aloft, 24 hours per day , 7 days a week for many years as per our mission.

AFAIK we never had an aircraft ditch or crash while at normal altitude. And I might add at sufficient altitude to require cabin pressure.

Most accidents were takeoff and landings or shoot downs by hostile nations. Actual airframe malfunctions were rare.Engine loss was normal and we just diverted at that point to alternates. We flew extremely capable aircraft and capable of 2 engine losses and still be airworthy.

I have flown thru storms and had endured some lightening strikes. Those are rare since static discharge wicks usually bleed off all buildup. Since there is no 'ground' then it didn't seem to matter.

I have also been thru weather that stuck me to the overhead and also took us to our knees. We had excellent pilots and crew members and very good hangar maintenance.

I was aboard one aircraft that exploded on the flight line and burned. Another of my buddies flight crashed on landing killing many. Another lost its landing gear on takeoff and all survived that.

We did not have 'fly by wire'. It was all mechanical and a story (true one) is told of a plane commander who never removed his seat belts(over the shoulder) while in the cockpit. He was also single and a weight lifter. The plane on this usual mission he was piloting lost something crucial and went nose down and ready to 'auger in' out in the middle of nowhere. A very sharp dive such that all not strapped in piled up in the rear of the ship clawing for traction and unable to move.

What saved the crew and aircraft was him putting both feet on the instrument panel and pulling back on the yoke with enormous strength and brought this aircraft to level flight just a bit above ocean level. Thousands of foot dive straight nosedown.

From that day forth no radioman ever sat on duty without his seat belt on while in an aircraft he was pilot on(we carried three pilots). For if the AC was ditching then the radioman giving a position report was all they had going for them. Rescue would not be possible unless very close to the base, but at least the AC position was known for SAR to attempt it.

We never really thought about it much then being young and full of it. Many loved to fly and made it lifelong careers. After three years I turned in my wings and walked away feeling ok about it. We had lost 4 or so by then and age was getting to be a factor on the airframes. I lost track then but the old timers at our Squadron Reunions told no stories of any more crashs and none at normal altitudes inflight.

So its not similar due to extensive electronics but for the enormous hours we flew I can say that good well built airframes should not just break apart at altitude. IMO. Given the insturments, com/nav gear and weather radar this just should not happen. You can usually find a better altitude or make another maneuver.

I suspect pilot error along with lack of experience and bad conditions. All flight plans are made with lots of valuable in-flight weather data and information. This should have been averted. Airframe failure due to fautly normal inspections may have been at fault too.

In the USA this is very strickly adhered to. Very much so. The FAA is supposed to make sure. Yet this is a foreign country so all bets are off as far as I can see.

A story. We were flying a pilot familiarization flight locally. A huge rainstorm had blown in on the island the day before. We had a lot of desk-jockeys gettting there flight hours in. We rolled out on a normal takeoff and circled for a hour. I happen for some reason to pop the lower hatch cover and looked down. We had a foot or two of water in the lower baggage area when much of the com/nav gear was stored. Good thing I never fired any up for hell would have broke loss.
I sauntered up to the flight deck and told the pilot in command. He got somewhat whitefaced and made everyone strap in. We made a right smart turnaround and return to base.went back to the tech station, yawned and went back to my pocket novel. Maybe I was reading Kerouac at the time. But I was rather unfazed while the desk-jockeys were literally almost puking up over it.

We had a slight leak somewhere. Mech's job. AND someone didn't preflight the AC. I was not regular crew. Just along to pull radio duty if need be even though I was not a radioman but I did keep the gear up and could code a signal if need be.

Note: None of the radiomans gear(hf,uhf) was in the baggage area. Otherwise there were about 20 UHF pressurized transceivers down there and huge amounts of wiring and canon plugs,etc.Plus the radar Gyro and antenna platform. I didn't fire the radar up for a simple 'flightskins' checkride/flight. Good thing but then I was NOT given a chance to preflight my area either. Preflight is when you had BEST ensure your aircraft is worthy and without problems and all systems are go.
This is or should be done reliogiously and by those who will fly it. But I doubt that is the procedure these days in the world of commercial flight. All the times I flew commercial I never saw any clue they were preforming it.Not like we did where our own lives were hanging in the balance.

Airdale-sometimes I really miss those days

PS. Editted to add this. Flying in the squardron above we did have 'aborts' quite often. Sometimes a tire blew, a bird strike or we failed to get the proper engine specs before liftoff or point of no return on the runway. This was either a pilot call or a flight engineer call. If we aborted another AC was ready to roll after its preflight. Sometimes we had two in a row abort. Rarely three.
This was the only nerve racking part. Landing was usually ho-hum. Takeoffs were when you were most vulnerable. We carried an enormous load of hi octane avgas such that we needed total full military power for takeoffs. Enough fuel for around a 14 hour mission inflight. Enough also to make an alternate if we had trouble inflight like due to heavy head winds,etc. Quite often alternates were used. But like I said. We never AFAIK lost one at altitude and ditched in the ocean.

A tad off topic but quite a while ago I worked for a computer HW company that believed in slamming product out the door and relying on rapid failure and fixes to get it right.

Okay I guess if that is part of your in house QA process, but they were doing this with customer machines some of which were "mission critical" although thankfully not of a life threatening nature.

They are no longer in business - surprise - and of course I no longer work for them, but I do work for a SW company that seems to have a similar philosophy although again thankfully no one's life hangs in the balance.


When I worked at the Royal Aerospace Establishment there was a 'You wrote it, you fly it' approach to flight control software in our research BAC-111. Also, as a contractor, I had to sign a paper promising (my estate) would not sue them if they killed me, before I was allowed to fly.

The main quality control method was a large red button marked 'OFF'.

That was in the early 1990s. A bit of the old 'Who dares, wins' spirit was still around.

I hsve worked quite a bit on automobile control modules. Call it computers but the service manuals call them Modules or at least on Chrysler products , of which I own 3.

While a good set of functioning auto control modules are very valuable, when problems creep in you can find that the modules are not that much able to lend them selves to troubleshooting.

One area is the capacitors. Electroylitics can leak and slowly destroy circuit lands, creating havoc. Fuses are sometimes hidden very well and can cause enormous problems.

I had been working on my 99 Jeep G.C. after it had set idle all winter.
Also a Concorde LXI. Both would not start. The 'tech tool' was of zero value and pinpointed nothing. Couldn't readout any codes.

I worked on these two vehicles off and on for weeks on end.

Finally discovered the power to the PCM(power train control module) was the fault. Contact resistance can be very very difficult to ascertain. When contacts begin to build up resistance , AND THEY EVENTUALLY WILL, then all havoc can break loose.

Its very subtle and very difficult to diagnose. One must unplug all connectors,clean them and reapply dialetrice paste to prevent it from reoccurring again.

These Electronic marvels have a marked failure point in the future. Accidents can take a toll. Long long runs of a very large number of wires and bundles of wires are prone to vibration and contamination.

You are driving within a hairs breadth of a castrosphe if control systems die. They IMO do not contain very much in the way of 'fail safe' methodology or programming.

Having worked with aircraft in the past when good old fashioned hard wired and cable controls were the norm I am a bit worried about the future of 'programming errors' as applies to this area. Not to mention hardware failures.

My 99 Jeep Wrangler has very few of these systems. Its rugged and has continued to serve while the other two vehicles are still undergoing repair and have for weeks on end.

Now its a full set of rear differentail bearing replacements after all new axle bearings,all new rotors, all new brake pads, new radiators, and the list goes on and on.

The old rugged wrangler just keeps trucking. The others eat my lunch.

If I ever do go once more into flying again it will be in a Light Sport Aircraft with just essential instruments with just possibly a handheld GPS but always a very good VOR/COM panel setup.

With two good VORs I can navigate and use cross bearing readouts to go anywhere there are stations. In fact Navaid units do exactly this but still I will always be able to plot a crosscountry flight plan.

I believe in 'seat of the pants' aviation. I prefer to not go into IFR conditions or status.


PS. Auto modules I am informed rely on a good stable voltage to operate correctly. A failing battery, or alternator or generating system can wreck havoc. If the power distribution falls into the 10 volt range the modules tend to fail to operate correctly. A failing battery and built up corrosion can result in this. Jumpering a battery can lead to many problems unless performed correctly. A corroding high pressure line from the steering pump can render the steering inoperable and cause a life threatening accident , as I recently found out with my Chrysler sedan when that occurred. Lucky it failed in the driveway. No module can sense this unless sensors are in place and AFAIK there are none.

I believe that more airline tragidies are in our future.

While your point is highly valid, the jury is still out on the Air France crash. It may have been weather related, (probable) but i recall a story last week about an arrest of a man associated with Al Queda in Brazil (link)

Until the find a black box, and do a proper analysis we won't know for certain.

While a terrorist attack has not yet been conclusively ruled out, it seems Occam's razor is pointing towards a systems failure due to extreme turbulence and possible lightning strike.
Someone has already posted a link to this very informative analysis.


Irrelevant rant. This is theoildrum.com, did you think you were somewhere else?

Irrelevant rant. This is theoildrum.com, did you think you were somewhere else?

Having a real life example of cascading failures in a very complex group of interacting systems that probably failed due to a catastrophic event that knocked out it's electrical and computer systems on which it relied for staying airborne is not what I would consider irrelevant.

Actually I can see many parallels being drawn to our predicament and discussing them may hold valuable lessons. To me seeing the big picture and connecting the dots is more interesting than having an ultra narrow focus on a very limited range of topics which may BTW prevent us from gaining important insights.

OAS ends Cuba suspension after 47 years

The decision was made by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lobbied personally for requiring Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.
Wednesday's vote doesn't mean Cuba will return to the 34-member body that helps coordinate policies and mediates disputes throughout the Americas. Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted they have no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States.
But it does map out a new relationship between the U.S. and Latin American countries, and could help nascent U.S. efforts to start a dialogue with Cuba after more than four decades without diplomatic relations.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Cuba's urban agriculture habits, skills, and infrastructure if the embargo is ever lifted and corporations rush in to grab a chunk of the Cuban market...

and speaking of urban agriculture...

Allotment demand leads to 40-year waiting lists

Demand for allotments has reached such heights that in one London borough would-be gardeners will be waiting 40 years for a patch of land...
The survey of more than 300 local authorities found demand for allotments had seen a "massive resurgence," with almost 6 million people wanting to rent one but only 206,000 plots across the UK.

I wonder how long before this type of problem(?) comes to the USA.

Could it be an opportunity for cash-strapped McMansion owners to rent out allotments from their oversized yards?

Or people could try "garden sharecropping". Gardener with no land finds landowner with no time or ability or interest for gardening. The deal: the landowner lets the gardener raise a garden on the landowner's land, produce is shared 50:50.

This is a tried and true model on a larger, farm-sized scale. People have been share-cropping for centuries. There is no reason why it couldn't work on a smaller scale.

If some gardeners have the time and energy and drive, they could share-crop at multiple sites, and produce enough not just for their own needs but also a surplus that they could sell or barter.

TV personality and chef Hugh Fernley Whitingstall is supporting such a scheme in the UK which has over 30,000 people registered since last year. New series of River Cottage started on UK Channel 4 last night and was out filming some of the early success stories. Last year Hugh was talking to people in the 'Transition Town' movement. See the linked website and if in the UK worth watching. Plus Hugh is always coming up with some good wild brews. http://landshare.channel4.com/

Hi, Greg.

I saw the allotment article too. I'm a UK resident and I considered hiring an allotment about 2 years ago (before I moved to a flat with a garden). Even back then, when economic crisis was barely registering in public perception, the waiting lists in my area ran to several years. It's tragic, but in that time I've seen several areas which would have been ripe for community gardens paved over for luxury apartments and office blocks.

There's a link from the original Guardian article to another about allotments in the town of Cheltenham. Apparently the council is getting a lot more serious about its allotments and the rules governing their use; evicting gardeners who aren't producing enough from their plots.

Rush for garden allotments pushing old horticulturalists out

After diligently tilling his allotment for two decades and lavishing hours of hard work and affection on his crops, John Weston has heard the two words every gardener dreads: "That shallot."

The semi-retired gardener from Cheltenham has been evicted from the two plots he rents from his local council for, it says, failing to grow enough produce.

"...with almost 6 million people wanting to rent one..." So about one in ten people in the UK want an allotment, I would see this as a good sign. Where i am waiting lists have been closed.

Do 30 million in the US want an allotment? How many allotments are there in New York?

"It will be interesting to see what happens to Cuba's urban agriculture habits, skills, and infrastructure if the embargo is ever lifted and corporations rush in to grab a chunk of the Cuban market..."

The US embargo has nothing whatsoever to do with this. The entire rest of the world can trade with Cuba and does so on a cash basis, because Castro has a history of not paying his bills. Castro also controls all foreign investment in Cuba now. No foreign corporations can own land in Cuba. That has nothing do do with the embargo. For the record the US has been the largest importer of food to Cuba, on a cash basis, for some time now.
(Actually any basis since the fall of the Soviet Union.)


Oil at US$200 a barrel?

Meanwhile, the continued growth of China, not to mention other developing countries, will drive energy demand
considerably higher. There have been no major new discoveries of oilfields in recent years, and underinvestment in new development has constrained the emergence of new supplies.

Doe any body else think we might be seeing the beginnings of a grasp of Peak Oil here? This writer has been sort of skirting the issue in many of his articles, as if he's searching for an understanding of the root cause for all the mess we're in. I'm tempted to send him some suggested reading.

Alan from the islands

No, No, No--don't be silly. There is no such thing as this "peak oil" of which you speak!

There is only a very serious "oil crunch" coming, thanks largely to, um, er... underinvestment. Yes, that's it! Underinvestment!

Everyone knows that "peak oil" is just the ravings of a bunch of Internet wackos who sit in front of the PCs all day, dressed in their Star Trek and Star Wars PJ's, covered in Cheetos dust, typing at each other. Don't worry your little head about such things, and certainly don't look at their so-called "facts". It's really not worth your time.

This oil crunch that's coming, now THAT'S a big deal, though... Just think of the killer price you'll be able to get on a shiny new SUV!

underinvestment. Yes, that's it! Underinvestment!

All use of finite non-renewable resources results in peaking behaviour because the lowest cost stuff is produced first, oil is no exception.

The timing of the peak is caused by the amount (or absence!) of the very risky profitable production investment.

"dressed in their Star Trek and Star Wars PJ's, covered in Cheetos dust"

Dude, that's freaky...it's like you can see into my living room. I thought my tinfoil hat would block your signal.

I just hid all my action figures..

'Action figures'.. what a name. I have to come clean.. They're DOLLS!

RE: Trading Down Forever article above.

Yes, it is forever. I've been saying that the 21st century will be one long exercise in giving up things, and this is part of it. Giving up luxuries because one can only afford necessities. Giving up new because one can only afford used. Giving up big because one can only afford small.

This does not necessarilly mean that people are going to give up well-built, durable merchandise in favor of cheap junk. It does mean that some may realize that in some cases, like tools, better quality will last and serve well, cheap junk won't. People may come to the point where owning a few treasured and high-quality items might be felt to be a better use of their scarce money than a houseful of junk.

As for me, I've learned that just about any non-consumable goods I need I can buy on ebay. If I search for it and am patient, even the used stuff I can get on ebay is better quality and less expensive than the imported junk that all the stores now carry. In the few cases where it really does make sense to buy new, once again there usually are sellers on ebay where I can get it for less. So why should I go back to the stores and start buying that junk again, even if I could afford it? As far as I am concerned, most of the chain retail stores in the US, including every single store in every single mall, could shut down, and it would make no difference whatsoever to me. And that isn't going to change.

I'm sorry if TOD has been tracking this already, but the FT has had a few articles in the past few days on how smaller outfits in and around GoM are worried because the cost if insuring their operations have gone sky-high, and no longer include the potential cost of lost production (only the rigs et cetera, I assume).


Timely piece jhm. There was one big issue the report didn't highlight: lack of insurance in some areas. After the recent insured losses from the various hurricanes not only did rates go up but the insurers limit the total coverage in any one area. Additionally, as I understand it, most policies now have a "one event max coverage". In other words, now matter how many facilities you have covered which are eventually destroyed, you'll be paid a max amount PER STORM.

This should mean there is a great deal of under-insured ops out in the GOM. I haven't seen any info how companies are (or aren't) expressing this liability on their books. Here's one example from Katrina. Platform was toppled right before decommissioning and removal was to start. Estimated cost = $7 million. After the storm knocked it over and left a dozen wells below the mudline to be plugged and abandoned: $96 million. This didn't even include any environmental clean up since there was no pollution. Multiply this by hundreds and you get a sense of the unpublicized potential financial losses which could develop.

Nova Scotia Power is applying to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to expand their energy conservation spending.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/06/03/novascotia-nsp-sur...

and related: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nsvotes2009/story/2009/06/03/ns-debate-baddeck....

I guess it comes as no surprise that public reaction has been a little "cool" to say the least, judging by the comments on the CBC web site. I felt compelled to throw in my two cents worth, as noted below:

Electricity demand is growing at about one to two per cent per year, so there are basically two choices: build additional generation and transmission capacity to meet this new demand, or help consumers invest in ways that will help them use electricity more efficiently so that existing supplies can be stretched further. Both have a cost, but it's generally far cheaper to conserve a kWh through increased insulation, more efficient lighting, heating, motors, etc., than to build, operate and maintain a new coal-fired power plant or wind turbine.

These types of investments help the direct beneficiary by lowering their utility costs, but they also help all consumers if the electricity that is saved can be resold to other customers at a lower cost than what it would cost NSP to expand their power system. And the less coal we burn, the better.

Best hopes for more reasoned debate.


Have you guys heard of maglift bearings being used in VAWTs?

Here is a simple example: NEODYMIUM MAGNET LEVITATION Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Pretty Cool.

There was a little chatter about it the other day.


From 'The Phosphorus Famine':

Moreover, trouble may surface much sooner. As last year’s oil price swings have shown, markets can tighten long before a given resource is anywhere near its end.

I'm encouraged in seeing a statement like this. People are starting to get that price is about change in expected flow rather than absolute stock of the resource. Which parallels pretty cleanly with what we mean when we talk about 'peak oil'.

Hello Steve_Piper,

With [P]hosphorus, it is not only the 'change in expected flow', but also the 'quality of that flowrate'. Many people are not aware of the energy cost of beneficiation to high ratio, finished I-NPK products. Let me try and briefly explain:

If we used a narrow boundary analysis or viewpoint: We could just skip any raw ore processing to save energy, then move the raw ore to the global farmgates. The problem is that we would need to move 5-10 tons of raw ore for every finished product ton we currently move. Of course, if this were to occur, the Baltic Index would skyrocket and fuel would too.

But all the useless silt, cadmium, selenium, and radioactives would be moved to the topsoil, too--not good for the food chain. But the worst effect is that the plant uptake rate of P would be very slow because it would be much more diffuse in the soil plus not in a ready soluble form like what is found in DAP and other finished products.

A modern day, poor subsistence farmer backpacking Tlameme style raw P-ore would suddenly be making lots more round trips for a vastly reduced harvest yield. Once he got all this additional diffuse-P on his property, then he would have many more round trips to bring in the raw-K ores next. Non-Optimal to say the least, probably more efficient to go to full-on O-NPK recycling as this is already in mostly naturally superphosphated form. Recall my prior posts on urine, manures, and guanos.

Thus it is more economical overall [broad boundary analysis] to the entire I-NPK supply chain strategy to do a simple, 'first stage' wet process to the ore near the mine [same rule applies to K-mining too] to condense or concentrate the P. This creates the problem of giant residue piles as can be seen in Florida and elsewhere.

Again, by just using a narrow viewpoint: We could save even more energy if all the 'second stage' P & K chem-plants shut down and global shipping of Megatons of [S]ulfur and sulfuric acid halted too. Recall that 72% of all sulfur is directed into plant I-NPK + animal feed I-NPK + human-quality, high purity I-NPK food additives. We wouldn't need to have recovered-S from crude-refineries and natgas-processing facilities if we were also unconcerned about acid rain and poisonous S-fumes.

This second stage of I-NPK enrichment by S, plus Haber-Bosch N, and further condensing/combining into the many NPK-variations of finished products thus yields a further vast reduction in shipping costs to the farmgate and additionally allows more ideal matching to the topsoil sample and desired crop. Most S goes to making phosphoric acid to facilitate P-processing, but vast quantities are also used for 'second stage' K-processing, too, such as potassium sulphate:

Fundamentals of Potash

..Another composition of potash is potassium sulfate. This is 43% potassium which creates a need for increased tonnage with respect to application. Sometimes this is used on land that is sulfur deficient, as it contains 18%, but the main reason is for chloride sensitive crops. Prices generally are higher for sulfate of potash, but this compound is approximately 10% of the ore mined or 7 million tons per year. In some cases companies will buy muriate of potash and convert it into sulfate of potash with the use of sulfuric acid. The combination will produce a potash with much less chloride for chloride sensitive crop, but is much less soluble in water when replaced with the sulfur oxide molecule.
Thus one can readily see the criticality of S-flowrates to energetically transform-control P & K into finished I-NPK-->food surpluses==>job specialization, thus civilization. Recall the famous Quote by Norman Borlaug: Without I-NPK, Game Over! Much P & K will be topsoil pull-system worthless unless we can move S to the Chem-plants.

Since the now ancient days of King Hubbert & Admiral Rickover: I think it is safe to assume that high-level think tanks in the Pentagon, Moscow, Beijing, etc, have been studying this geo-strategic S-control method for the Porridge Principle of Metered Decline when BAU becomes non-functional. IMO, this only makes common sense if they have also read Frank Herbert's 'Dune' and Asimov's Foundations concept of Predictive Collapse and Directed Decline. I have many postings about this in the TOD archives.

Recall my recent posting on Israel plus earlier postings on severe Gaza import restrictions of S-->Element Control is strategically easy to implement if executed properly. The cascading blowbacks as S-deprivation leads to P,K-deprivation, and numerous other societal ripple effects can be awesome to behold to those who can intuit at the large boundary analysis level.

Hopefully, the thousands [tens of thousands?] now regularly practicing the half-glass, Yeasty beverage Peakoil Shoutout have already lit numerous 'synaptic S-wildfires' towards this end. When your beverage hits half-empty: the exposed liquid surface area is maximal for the best inhalation and nose-sensor pickup of S-products:
Brewers Yeast

..Organic and Inorganic Sulfur Volatiles
Sulfur-containing compounds in beer arise from organic sulfur-containing compounds such as some amino acids and vitamins. They are also formed from inorganic wort constituents such as hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and thiols make significant contributions to beer flavor. When present in small concentrations, sulfur compounds may be acceptable or even desirable (for example Burton ales), but in excess they give rise to unpleasant off-flavors, e.g., rotten-egg flavors.
One can also google info on S in wines, too. Recall that all life is acutely attuned to S-sensation: consider the simple egg yolk. We have all seen photos of snakes swallowing eggs, bears eating salmon roe, deep sea worms using S from volcanic vents, etc.

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain..."==> INDEED!

Consider the tectonic history of the planet and the S-emission from a single volcanic event. Because S and sulfuric acid is so chem-active, and essential to free heavily chem-locked P and many other Elements: IMO, this is why S is evolved to #2 on Asimov's scale [P #1]:

A Bottleneck in Nature
Chlorine is #3, please mentally correlate with the global importance of potassium chloride [hint: Potash, #1st US Patent, 1916 German cutoff, 3.5 million bone-immigrants/year, etc].

Consider this news:

Northwestern Mutual Makes First Gold Buy in 152 Years (Update2)
WTSHTF: IMO, the Real YELLOW GOLD is Sulfur. Much blood will be spilled for the 'melted blood' of those S-block mountains around the planet. Recall my posting on a person with NPK[and S] to trade with a farmer versus someone trying to pawn off to the farmer a big-screen TV or gold coins.

Let you nose and salivation glands create Synaptic Wildfires if that yeasty sulfur smell in bread or beverage elicits 'mental delights'. IMO, it will be very comforting when there are 'no lights' when the sun sets. YMMV. Remember: We are evolved to do darkness, but not starvation.

Have you hugged your bag of NPKS today?

NOTE: My sincere thxs to Dana Cordell, Bart @EB, TopTODer WHT, and all others who have helped Peak Outreach by their additions to NPKS awareness. My hope is that many more will 'Remember When the Music.." when they pop a brew and marvel at the delicate sound of Yea!-S-ty bubbles. Please continue to spread the Peakoil Shoutout to all you can--thx[S]!

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

Thx[S] means Think Sulfur. I do not have the skills of the much-admired TOD data-freaks, but as posted before: I hope that they can do much to kick this beer can further down the pot-holed road.

And here, near Volcano, too much sulfur in the air is a big threat to growing food. The world worries about NPK and here we worry about CaMg. Yes, I hug my bag of dolomite.

Hello Doom and Gloom Dad,

Thxs for the reply. I assume you live on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Too much sulfur in a region can always become a big environmental threat. Consider this link I just came across:

China's metal firms to file for anti-dumping investigation into sulphuric acid
Fri. June 05, 2009; Posted: 05:17 AM

China's nine major nonferrous metal companies are planning to submit an application to the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) for anti-dumping investigation into sulphuric acid imported from Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

..The cost price of sulphuric acid usually stands at 100 yuan/ton, or about 14.7 U.S. dollars/ton. However, the CIF price of the product from Japan or South Korea to China only stays at 3-10 U.S. dollars/ton, even lower than the freight cost of 15-18 U.S dollars/ton.

Currently, selling prices of sulphuric acid in the above two countries reach 30-50 U.S. dollars/ton.
I am not an legal expert on Global Trade and Tariffs, but 2007-2008: S-prices rose 19-fold due to shortages [source USGS]. Then when the recession hit, my guess is that Japan & ROK couldn't shutdown sulfuric acid production fast enough thus leading to huge and dangerous stockpiles in each country.

It can be an ecosystem nightmare if you have a giant sulfuric acid leak, so maybe Japan & ROK decided to sell this at a loss just to get it off their land and away from their people.

Thus, in this case: losing money on each mkt-dumped ton, and even paying hefty fines that might be levied later, is still much cheaper than having to pay for a heavy environmental cleanup and/or loss of human life.

So, this was good for the protection of Japan & ROK ecosystems, but I wonder if these Chinese Corps now have got lots and lots of sulfuric acid stored all over China now. In summary: Japan & ROK have lost some money, but China might now be at an elevated risk of ecotastrophe until their s-acid stockpiles are consumed. I hope they are careful.

Hi totoneila ,

I wonder, have you any information regarding the fate of the sulfur (sulfate?) collected by scrubbing the exhaust from coal fired electric generating power plants? That would seem to be a large source of sulfate. Also, isn't the sulfate recovered in the process of recycling old lead-acid batteries?

E. Swanson

Hi Tot --

I appreciate the discussion. Thanks!

must...relearn ...periodic...table...

Your welcome, thxs for your concern. If you have any doubts about about the geo-strategic criticality of S for ferts and all the other countless industrial uses, you could spend BigBuck$$/country to find out much more [Yikes!!!]:

Research Report on China Sulfur Market $5,900.00

Abstract: This report comprehensively analyzed market behavior of Chinese sulfur market.

Research Background: Affected by various market factors, domestic and abroad, Chinese sulfur market saw a volatile fluctuation during 2008 and 2009. Extreme price rises and falls brought widely and profound impact on relative industries.
Just spend a few minutes extrapolating from the table of contents with a Peak Everything mindset.

I bet they have no shortage of govt orgs and corporations that easily cough up the funds to get this proprietary data. Wish I could get my hands on stuff like this.

Letter from Michael Moore RE: GM, I see he's talking about peak oil and stuff now.


He had a whole chapter about peak oil in Dude, Where My Country?

It was called "Oil's Well That Ends Well," I think.

El-Badri forecasts oil at $70-75 by year end. Seeing as it may hit those levels tomorrow, I'd say that's quite a divination.

I've also become more interested in market expectations and their impact on prices, storage and drilling. I've been collecting futures chain data for almost two weeks now and am thinking of setting up an "Energy Futures Databrowser" where folks could see current and recent futures chain data and understand how it has changed in the last days and weeks.

I would love any feedback on this very rough graph that depicts dollar price on the y-axis and settlement date on the x-axis. Yesterday's futures chain is in black. Futures chains for the last week are in pink and previous futures chain data are in blue. (As I said above, I only started collecting data about two weeks ago so there isn't much blue yet.)

Obviously, this is still a very rough graph but you can immediately see:

  1. we are in a pretty steep contango
  2. prices have risen significantly in the last week

In the databrowser I would have graphs for crude_oil, gasoline, heating_oil, natural_gas and propane. And I would allow users to pick specific dates in the past for which they would like the futures chain highlighted so as to visually compare them.

So, would such a databrowser be useful?

Does this visualization make sense?

What other features might be interesting (slope/residuals for futures more than 2 years out)?

I would appreciate any input.


-- Jon

Jon -- I have also concluded that evolution of the strip (as you are showing) says quite a bit more about market beliefs than the MSM focus on the daily front month close. I've been building similar charts for the last couple of years, and find them useful.

I agree that the shape of the forward curve is important data. Notice that yesterday the front month got beaten down but 2010 and thereafter steepened. I don't suspect anyone had an early version of the Goldman report released this morning.

Well be a bit careful about this curve basically price for the front six months are based on current economics/production. The next six months still has a bit of hedging. The longer term ones are really more long term economic expectations.
Not a lot of hope in the graph i.e no real expectation of a economic rebound in the near future.

And obviously zero hint of peak oil in the graph.

When peak oil starts to enter the picture what I think you will see is a sort of wave probably starting out about six months from the current month and the whole back end of the graph go ballistic. I suspect this will happen when we show 100+ oil and several months of falling production. If I'm right about my assertions this will happen this year.

Once this weird hump sets in it will snap the long end up and then pull up the the front six months.

And then it gets really nasty soon the front month might even go into backwardation snapping the futures even higher.

No telling where it will stop but once you start seeing 500 a barrel oil out 3-4 years then you know the market is finally pricing in peak oil.

Back to today. The current contango will remain until we finally see inventory declines I of course think a lot of its paper barrels.

If so and you assume traders are going to just roll their stash of 30 million barrels at cushing then you can do the following.


Current crude stocks are claimed to be 366 million barrels.

366-30 = 336 thats burnable assuming stock at Cushing stay constant.

I believe that US inventories are overstated by 20-30 million barrels lets take the high one.

336-30 = 306.

Same as last year but with 20 million at cushing last year so last years non cushing stocks where 306 - 20 = 286.

A year ago prices where 127 right now.

Last time prices where at 70 was June 2007 with stock levels of 354 and 24 millon barrels at Cushing. dejavu yet ?

But history does not repeat itself exactly 2009 is not 2008. First I'd guess right now crude is under priced by about 30 a barrel it should be around 100. If I'm close to right about what I think the truth is.
But whats important is this underpricing of oil will diverge rapidly from the true price if I'm right i.e within a month its will probably be under priced by 60 even it it goes to 80-90. And obviously if we are over reporting our storage levels by 30 million barrels then we will begin to hit the possibility of real shortages while we are still showing plenty of crude.

It become difficult to calculate the difference between what oil should be and what it is with incorrect data.

We run out of gas with the tank showing half full.

Assuming peak oil awareness hits the long end with this fiasco sending the front of the curve into steep backwardation and you have a really nasty situation brewing.

Whats neat at least from my perspective is if I'm right we need only wait about ten weeks and all hell will start breaking loose on the oil price front. And I honestly don't know whats going to happen if the EIA gets caught in a lie then its credibility is damaged no telling what this will do. If they make major adjustments to storage levels then it causes the same effect.

Next I'll try and do the official spin as best as I can.

Now of course if I'm wrong then this is just one huge head fake and the price will crash any day now as OPEC starts cheating more and more probably causing more cheating. My best guess if I'm completely wrong is prices might hit 90-100 briefly leading to OPEC cheating and a fall back to say 50 then dunno after that.

Given OPEC has never really acted as a cartel one would imagine it would take time for everyone to actually be able to manage a price band based on the goals of the cartel.

With the price rising strongly while storage levels are still excessive OPEC cheating and a price crash are pretty certain. Given the large amount of oil stored by traders you figure some will be forced to dump as the price fell driving prices any lower.

One has to swallow the current prices which is difficult and there seems almost no way to prevent a follow on price crash give we would be above the OPEC price band before inventory was really all that low.

No $500 oil. US balance of payments problems.


Yeah that would pretty much signal the US is toast within X years the government bond market would crumble. Interest rates on long dated US treasuries would sky rocket.

Good point I never really thought of that. But it actually would make sense if the world becomes peak oil aware that this would also be the death of the dollar.

We use 25% of the worlds energy and run massive deficits. Effectively another part of it would be the world saying if we are post peak then the world is not going to carry the US.

But that would actually be correct so I'd not be surprised in the least to see the oil market price the truth.

Might be the last thing it does :)

No $500 oil. US balance of payments problems.

1 Euro could be $3 and oil could go to 160 Euro per barrel.

Yes I think as we get deeper into peak oil the relative strengths of Europe's transportation system proximity to Russia and the ME will become and advantage.

Also because of the nature of the Euro itself its difficult to devalue.

Overall outside of social issues I expect Europe to do increasingly better vs the US as oil prices increase and thus of course the Euro should become stronger.

I could easily see what your saying occur.

Understand however there is and enormous number of USD denominated assets and accounts outside the US as its the reserve currency.

But to be clear I don't differentiate between fiat currencies losing value vs commodities and rising prices. Its the same thing.

Having your reserve currency tank vs oil is not good regardless of its nominal price in Euro's. Certainly the relative efficiency of the various economies will become a much larger part of the currencies relative strength but we are still talking about the world losing its reserve currency with no ready replacement.

For Europe overall the rapid relative strengthening of the Euro vs the dollar is not a good thing as it will tank exports and probably leave Europe in a depression. Relatively cheap oil inside the Eurozone is probably not going to help much. In the end its just a different way to collapse.

It is disappointing that Oil Drum has chosen to re-publish the Time piece that appeared today - Still Digging Up Exxon Valdez Oil, 20 Years Later. As an ExxonMobil spokesman it is disapointing that Time would not bother to make contact with us for comment in an affort to provide balance.
If Mr Walsh had taken the time to contact us I would have told him that while there is no doubt that the 1989 Valdez accident was one of the lowest points in ExxonMobil's 125-year history, we took immediate responsibility for the spill and have spent over $3.8 billion as a result of the accident -including compensatory payments, cleanup payments, settlements and fines.
More specifically in relation to the focus of the Time story about the long term environmental impact on the Sound, I could have also advised that ExxonMobil contracted independent scientists with impeccable credentials who are among the world's leading experts in their fields, to study and report on all pertinent aspects related to the effect of the Valdez oil spill on the Sound's water, shoreline and wildlife. To date these scientists have published approximately 400 peer-reviewed papers relating to all aspects of the Prince William Sound environment.
These scientists have each individually concluded that the environment in the Sound is healthy, robust and thriving. While there were severe short term impacts on many species due to the spilled oil, the level of recovery conforms to the well established record of recovery documented by the scientific community following many other oil spills around the world, many of them much larger than the one that took place in 1989.
And with respect to the specific question of oil residue, I could have also advised that according to scientists commissioned by the Oil Spill Trustee Council, the vast majority of the affected shorelines " greater than 99.9% of the Prince William Sound shoreline " have no oil remnants on the surface or in the subsurface.

Don't feed the trolls. This one is more diseased than most.

I'm flagging you.

Are you allowed to flag for lack of proofreading?

it is disapointing that Time would not bother to make contact with us for comment in an affort to provide balance.

I think he means "in an affront to provide balance" :)

this must be a joke

Rob (who joined this forum 1 hr and 30 minutes ago), it's certainly interesting to find that the Ex Mob propaganda machine is working so well. Now, if you want to discuss Global Warming and Ex Mob's responsibility for promoting the use of oil and thus causing massive amounts of CO2 emissions, go ahead. Lets get down and dirty, lets get soaked in oily sludge, after all, we know There Will Be Blood.

E. Swanson


are you going to be able to replace your reserves with anything other than boes ?

and, which companies are you planning to take over in the next 12 months ?

Hello RobXOM,

If XOM has now decided to join the TOD meatgrinder, I welcome their addition to the discussion, but be prepared for a vigorous defense of your postings. Have you fully decloaked to the TOD editors? IF Prof. Goose validates your Corp. credentials--that is good enough for me.

Every person or company deserves a fair hearing, but if you are who you say you are, you should know that Exxon has — through its actions and no one else's — created for itself a very poor reputation for honesty.

If you are a spokesman, you are most likely aware that your statements are heard with deep skepticism by many people around the world.

"ExxonMobil contracted independent scientists with impeccable credentials who are among the world's leading experts in their fields, to study and report on all pertinent aspects related to the effect of the Valdez oil spill on the Sound's water, shoreline and wildlife"

Are any of these the same scientists Exxon Mobil hired to deny AGW? It is well-documented you guys (assuming you really are a spokesman for ExMob) have spent loads of money on fake science and propaganda in that area - why wouldn't you spend heaps of money hiring pet "scientists" to muddy the waters (pun intended) on the long-term consequences of your careless spill?

A careless spill and even more careless accounting illustrating to us all that oil companies never show any foresight in projecting future consequences. The spill was accidental but the lack of good depletion models was intentional. The latter is really the scary part.

I'm wondering why Exon should care what shows up on TOD. One must assume their flak department are regular readers. How surprising.

A lot of oil company employees are regular readers.

They seem to be making an effort to reach out to the public via blogs. But some just read us because they find us interesting and useful. I've had several tell me the DrumBeat is a better energy news aggregation service than the ones they pay for.

U.S. natural gas in storage rose above the five year record for this time of year (DOE):

Weekly Natural Gas Report

I guess the useless dolts at the SEC had to do something while there is talk of giving their shop away to the Fed http://finance.yahoo.com/news/SEC-charging-exCountrywide-apf-15442116.ht...

Your worried about phosperous which might run out by the end of the century?! You mean 2100, right? If humankind can get to 2100 with anywhere near the number of people that are currently chewing through every natural resource available, then you've got a scoop! Really, that would be the news of the century: "Through all the tribulations of Peak Oil, global warming, peak coal, climate change, peak natural gas, peak population, peak food supply, peak viral infections, biota and animal extinctions, peak economic stability, we have finally met our match and it is depleting supplies of phosporous. Oh well folks..."

Phosphorous is different, Cslater8. It's a less tractable problem than even energy, for which there are multiple sources and many ways to reduce usage.

Once easily mined phosophorous ore is gone, there is NO ALTERNATIVE. Yes, we can recycle to some extent, but there are always losses and there will be little new phosphorus to bring into the system.

Plants need N-P-K, and one of those nutrients is usually the limiting factor for an ecosystem.

Nitrogen can be produced from the atmosphere, but not phosphorus.

So, if the population is at a level to require added nutrients, which is likely even if populations are reduced, we will need phosphorus.

In the 19th century, with a much lower populations, Europe experienced a shortage of nutrients.

I'm thinking that phosphorus is probably the limiting factor for human populations.

Articles on phosphorus:


Bart Anderson
Energy Bulletin

Clean development offsets are 'hot air'? I think they are a type of fraud. The idea is that using less than a presumed entitlement creates a surplus entitlement that can be sold to someone else. Double your presumed entitlement and you double the credit. Some argue the 'development' creates a valid credit if it was not required by local anti-pollution laws. However the basic principle is bogus in the first place since there is no way of measuring or limiting an unused entitlement.

The other main type of offset is tree planting. While young trees absorb CO2 for a while they eventually die and release back the CO2. Tree offsets are not only temporary but the amounts are exaggerated and the trees are often double counted.

Since emitters can typically buy offsets for 10% of what fossil fuel reductions would cost they sell like hotcakes. Taking offsets away might turn the European cap-and-trade scheme on its head. There may not be so much 'trade' left if it was confined just to original CO2 permits. Preferably just a few percent of the required CO2 cuts should come from offsets. The bulk of the cuts must come from measurable reductions in fossil fuel use.

Behind a paywall, alas:

Aramco Faces Trouble in the Desert

Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oil megaproject will in the next few years be unable to produce at its design capacity of 750,000 barrels per day unless the state oil giant spends billions of dollars installing new facilities, industry sources tell International Oil Daily.

alas, i paid $9 to learn that shaybah produces a volitile oil. pressure maintenance, except for methane gas reinjection is probably not practical because of the remote location. shaybah may produce 750k boepd, but it won't be recovered in the stock tank.

alas, aramco will need to spend $ billions to recover a small % of ovoip (original volitile oil in place)

Good news on jobs today:

A break in a key jobless measure

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Ongoing claims for unemployment insurance declined for the first time since January, and the number of initial claims fell slightly, according to government data released Thursday.

"The downshift in claims continues but progress is painfully slow," wrote Ian Shepherdson, economist at High Frequency Economics, in a research note.

Still pretty brutal on Main St., though:

Bankruptcy filings rise to 6,000 a day as job losses take toll

Consumer and commercial bankruptcy filings are on pace to reach a stunning 1.5 million this year, according to a report from Automated Access to Court Electronic Records.

And this is mind-boggling:

Benefit spending soars to new high

The recession is driving the safety net of government benefits to a historic high, as one of every six dollars of Americans' income is now coming in the form of a federal or state check or voucher.

Benefits, such as Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance and health care, accounted for 16.2% of personal income in the first quarter of 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That's the highest percentage since the government began compiling records in 1929.

On the continuing claims number, by my estimation we're right at 9 months since the initial blow of Lehman and the SubPrime banks collapsing. Since 6-9 months of Unemployment Insurance is usually the max, I would expect the numbers of continuing claims to begin leveling off.

You don't get to be on the continuing claims number once your benefits expire.

My suggestion from here on out would be to focus on the Initial Claims and the Household Survey Unemployment rate, even if the corporate media bubbleheads choose to blow green shoots up people's brown op shoots.

The jobs number has always been the worse indication, in my opinion, because of all the modeling that is included in contriving the number. I can't imagine governments will be hiring a 100,000 workers a month, even counting the Census workers, with state budgets exploding. And I certainly don't believe 100,000 new business are being created each month.

Thanks for providing the DB.

So the unemployment claims number excludes people who have been unemployed for more than 9 months? ROTFLOL a neat way to keep the numbers down, lies, damn lies and statistics. Once someone has been unemployed for more than 9 months it is much harder for them to re-gain employment.

Is there no such thing as total number of people unemployed who would like to work if they clould get a job?

Swine flu hits a isolated Canadian indian village with a mean streak. The village has 3200 residents with hundreds of them being sickened. Besides the 20 quoted below, there are a dozen or so that were flown into Ottawa.

Two more cases of H1N1 flu in Manitoba

McDougall said Wednesday that 20 residents of his community have been flown to Winnipeg suffering flu symptoms, including nearly a dozen children. Two women are in critical condition.

Hmmm...this somehow seemed to miss the front page...

Nation’s top retailers report May sales declines: Pressures like high unemployment continue to curtail consumer spending


a transcript of the us supreme court's oral arguments in couer alaska -vs- southeast alsaka conservation council:


chief justice roberts:"microenvertibrae ?"

mr. waldo:"i mean all sorts of things that fish feed on, plant life and animal life and all that stuff"

justice scalia: "plankton and stuff"

mr waldo: "yes, whatever. ....."