DrumBeat: June 13, 2009

US Gas Hydrates Find Has Worldwide Implications

In a 21-day expedition led by Chevron, DOE's National Energy Technology Lab (NETL), the US Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, in addition to a host of other industry experts, the most prospective gas hydrates reservoirs yet found have been located and drilled.

"Gas hydrates for a long time have been the most elusive and confounding of hydrocarbon deposits to find," said Dan McConnell, vice president of AOA Geophysics, one of the companies selected for the site selection committee. "This is the very first time that thick hydrates accumulations have been drilled by design, that those hydrates were where they were predicted to be."

Mexico State Oil Co Optimistic on Two Largest Fields

Mexico's state oil company has a sunnier outlook for its two largest fields, thanks to remediation programs to squeeze as much oil as possible from the crude-laden waters of the Campeche Sound, Petroleos Mexicanos executives said at an oil conference Thursday.

Pemex Expects Budget Increase Request to Be Approved

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state oil company, expects the country’s government to approve a request for 20 billion pesos ($1.5 billion) in extra financing to help it pay for oilfield investments after the peso plunged.

The financing will allow Pemex, as the Mexico City-based company is known, to help fund $19.5 billion in capital expenditures this year as it seeks to offset the fastest drop in output since 1942, Carlos Morales, director of exploration and production, said today at a conference in Veracruz.

Calderon: Pemex Must Be Freed From “Ideological” Prejudice

MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Felipe Calderon said state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos must be freed from political and ideological “prejudice” and from interests that have prevented it from remaining in the vanguard in terms of technology and investment.

Petroleos Mexicanos will struggle with oil rate even with new water removal facilities

The fundamental problem with Cantarell is that it has a bottom water drive on one side of the field. On the other side the bottom is impermeable. Bottom water moving up structure drowned the pay zone causing the loss of reserves. Discovered in 1976 and placed on production in 1979, crude oil production peaked in 1981 at 1.156 million bbl/day from 40 flowing wells. Production was then stabilized at 1 million bbl/day by drilling more wells. In 1995 production/well had fallen to 7,000 bbl/day and 150 wells were required. Pemex then installed gas lift which allowed production to rise to 1.4 million bbl/day in 1999. But reservoir pressure continued to decline.

Emirate must decide whether oil partners are worth keeping

The production of oil in Abu Dhabi has always been a group effort.

International oil companies such as Shell and ExxonMobil deploy engineers in the emirate’s oil fields and help build the pipes and wells that generate the country’s wealth, in return for minority ownership stakes in subsidiaries of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

But the Government faces a momentous decision as the expiry of concessions that form the basis of those partnerships nears: should it stick with modified agreements or abandon the international partners altogether?

Oil Explorers in Nigeria Raise Alarm over Safety of Facilities

Oil explorers under the aegis of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) in Nigeria have expressed concern over the vandalism of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, the News Agency of Nigeria reported on Thursday.

Bayo Ojulari, the SPE's chairman, was quoted as saying the destruction of the oil facilities by militants would adversely affect development in the region.

IPAA still leading the charge against policies harmful to oil and gas interests

With the arrival of the Obama administration, a solid and somewhat hostile Democratic majority in Congress, and low commodity prices, US oil and gas producers have entered a challenging period.

Chesapeake CEO defends $75-million bonus

The chief executive of Chesapeake Energy CHK-N, under fire for taking a $75-million (U.S.) bonus while the company was losing billions, defended his leadership at one of the nation's largest natural gas producers.

Jeff Rubin: Warming up to carbon tax

Efforts in the developed world to restrict and replace coal-fired capacity seem downright quixotic when juxtaposed against China's (and other developing countries') coal-expansion plans. Whatever reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is achieved in the world's developed economies from switching away from coal will simply be overwhelmed by the increase in emissions from new coal-fired plants in China and the rest of the developing world.

Saving the world is a noble motive for going green. But there is another compelling reason to want a carbon-abatement regime in place as soon as possible. It is called good old-fashioned naked economic self-interest. If we can't agree to save the world for someone else's benefit, we might as well do it for our own.

Maker Of 'Fuel' Documentary Promotes Algae Energy

For documentary film maker Josh Tickell, it's all about algae.

The micro organism's potential to deliver America from its dependence on foreign oil receives a big chunk of screen time in Tickell's movie "Fuel," which goes into national distribution this fall after winning awards at the Sundance Film Festival and others.

"Algae is the next step," said Tickell, who visited New York to receive the honor of Goodwill Ambassador from the United Nations. "We have to get away from propagating a system that's undermining the U.S. economy."

Please Take Your Seats Ladies and Gentlement, the Online Screening of ‘In Transition’ Starts Now…

The film ‘In Transition’ is now available for viewing, for the next 72 hours. The version being screened is not the final version, it still has a sequence to add and some tidying up to do, but is almost there. We very much hope you enjoy it (you will need Quicktime on your computer)….

Indigenous 'genocide' in battle for oilfields

Across the globe, as mining and oil firms race for dwindling resources, indigenous peoples are battling to defend their lands - often paying the ultimate price.

"Peru Oil Standoff" - Richard Heinberg interviewed on CBC The Current

Richard Heinberg was interviewed on CBC radio in "Peru Oil Standoff", a segment of the CBC daily show The Current.

Chevron confirms damage to Nigerian oil pipelines

ABUJA (Reuters) - U.S. oil major Chevron confirmed one of its Nigerian oil pipelines was damaged on Friday in the Niger Delta, but output was unaffected as the infrastructure had been shut down before the incident.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) on Friday said it attacked the Chevron pipelines and threatened to sabotage another facility operated by the U.S. oil company.

Total says 1,200 workers walk out at UK refinery

LONDON (Reuters) - France's Total said on Friday that 1,200 contractors have walked out on unofficial strike over planned redundancies at its British Lindsey refinery.

Total said in a statement that 600 workers were protesting outside the refinery, but production was not affected.

Surreal goings on in the commodities show

When markets look like a surreal comedy, turn to Monty Python. Try to explain current goings on in the commodity market and two sketches might help.

Contours of Crisis III: Systemic Fear and Forward-Looking Finance

By the middle of 2002, the crisis finally ended. Earnings staged a massive, V shaped recovery and, over the next five years, rose by nearly 350%. And yet, despite the surge, capitalists still found the future hard to envisage. The earnings boom certainly was real enough—but so were its limits. In the United States, the national income share of corporate profits was hitting record highs, so the prospect for further redistribution in favor of capitalists seemed increasingly dim. And those who pinned their hopes on “real” growth were running into doomsday scenarios of “peak oil” and “climate tipping.”

With the future looking disheartening at best, capitalists preferred to keep their eyes on the past. Share prices started to rise only in October 2002, a full six months after the earnings upswing began, and they continued to increase in tandem with profits (albeit at a lower rate) for the next five years.

And then all hell broke loose.

Your life is awash with oil

Oil is filthy old stuff that causes nothing but pollution all the way through our use of it, but why, oh why do we keep going back for more. Pretty simply, we’re addicted. Whether it is good for us or not, and in the long term it undoubtedly is not, we are so totally addicted to the stuff that your life would not last more than a few days without a continuous stream of it being fed into your lifestyle.

The five horsemen of our apocalypse

We're trained in school and business in linear-rational engineering thinking. Focus on one problem at a time. Find a solution to it. Don't look at externalized costs or the connectedness between things, because that's hard to put numbers on and doesn't help who is paying for the answer.

That isn't how things really work. Every real problem has multiple, intertwined causes, and needs multiple, intertwined solutions. Every real solution also solves multiple problems. Real economics has no bottom line. That's linear thinking, and puts out of our sight all the secondary costs and problems and linkages that always occur.

There are at least five major players in the transition we're in. They all interact - wildly - and all need to be tracked at the same time.

The best time to read chilling fiction and non-fiction is during the long, hot summer

Some books represent their worlds as so dark and bleak that the best (or perhaps the only good) time to read them is in the middle of summer, when their chilling presentation can easily be countered by a pleasant walk outside in the blazing heat.

The Hundred-Octane Vision of Freedom - Hey, Bob Lutz and GM, can you make my nine-year-old love a thundering V-8 more than the environment?

But frankly — and I love him like I love nobody and nothing else in the world — the lectures get obnoxious. He sees no contradiction in mooning over a million-buck road rocket and worrying about global warming and peak oil. When it comes to our cars — an Accord and an Element — what matters to him are miles per gallon, reliability, safety, and resale value. All he's ever known are Consumer Report-beloved imports.

Shell’s Cellulosic ‘First’ Is More of a Second

Much fanfare attended the arrival in Ottawa earlier this week of Luis Scoffone, Royal Dutch Shell’s vice president of biofuels. Mr. Scuffone flew in from England and descended, along with John Baird, Canada’s transport minister, on a large Shell station at Merivale Road — an undistinguished avenue of strip malls and big box stores.

It was here, at a single pump, Shell said in a news release, where customers could become “the first in the world to fill their tanks with gasoline containing advanced biofuel made from wheat straw.”

That was news to MacEwen Petroleum, however — a small regional service station chain based in Maxville, Ontario.

We must stop overfishing now to save our empty oceans

The hammour of the Arabian Gulf and the North Sea cod have an unenviable thing in common. They are both down to around three per cent of their former abundance and rank among the third of the world’s fish stocks that scientists consider to have collapsed. If the Arabian Gulf or the North Sea fell within United States jurisdiction, they would be declared fisheries disaster areas and spawning areas, and vital habitat would be closed by law to commercial fishing.

But neither the North Sea nor the Arabian Gulf is managed in the cutting-edge way that the United States now manages some of its domestic fisheries – which has come about as a result of a healthy enthusiasm among environmental bodies for using the law to sue the authorities. (The other side of the coin is that 70 per cent of fish the US now consumes is from fisheries around the world, many of them unsustainable. Ditto the EU.) We in Europe and the Middle East go on hoping that something will turn up, that nature will somehow solve the problem, while doing rather less than is needed to bring about recovery.

GOP slams Democrats' climate bill as an energy tax

WASHINGTON – Republicans on Saturday slammed a Democratic bill before the House that seeks to address climate change, arguing that it amounts to an energy tax on consumers.

In the GOP's weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Mike Pence said Congress should instead open the way for more domestic oil and natural gas production and ease regulatory barriers for building new nuclear power plants.

Oil, Gasoline, Fall on Record European Industrial Output Drop

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil and gasoline fell for the first time in four days as a record plunge in European industrial production prompted speculation that bets on an economic recovery are premature.

Rally in oil prices may be running on empty, but oh, what a ride!

Meanwhile, despite all the apocalyptic talk about the implications of "peak oil," significant new oil supplies are coming onstream, notes King.

"The latest forecast (by the U. S. Department of Energy) shows a steadily increasing trend in effective spare capacity, driven primarily by capacity adds taking place in Saudi Arabia," he says.

Ahmadinejad Wins Iran Re-Election as Rivals See ‘Violations’

(Bloomberg) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term after an election that his main challenger, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, said was blighted by “obvious violations.”

Ahmadinejad, 52, took 62.6 percent of the vote in final results of the presidential election, compared with 33.7 percent for Mousavi, Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli said on state television. Mousavi, 67, who said he was the winner shortly after the polls closed last night, said today he “won’t surrender” in the face of irregularities.

Canadian economist predicts a smaller future

The short answer to the question implied by the title of this new book by former CIBC economist Jeff Rubin is that oil scarcity inevitably leads to higher transportation costs, curtailing global trade and travel. As we all learn to live local, the world is going to seem smaller.

The argument is based largely on the so-called "peak oil" theory, which in its most basic form just says that since oil is a non-renewable resource, sooner or later we are going to start running out. This drives the price of oil up -- though it can still drop, temporarily, in a recession -- and since the global economy runs on oil we are all going to feel the pinch.

Of course, some of us are going to feel it more than others.

Don't be in any hurry to write off suburbia

A somewhat overblowing Kunstler decried suburbia as "the greatest miscalculation of resources in the history of the world." He went on to say, "We squandered our national treasure by constructing an infrastructure for daily life that has no future."

He cited a convergence of factors that will lead to the demise of not only suburbia but a homebuilding industry. He included reasons such as the current global economic crisis, the collapse of the housing market and the end of cheap energy.

Foreign land hot commodity as nations seek to grow food

Much has been said in recent years about the implications of the world reaching Peak Oil -- when demand outstrips supply. However, the growing discussion these days is about Peak Soil.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, Kuwait and Egypt, which import a lot of food, have apparently lost confidence in the international trading system since the ethanol boom in 2007-2008 and the flood of investment money that poured into the commodity markets, sending staple food prices through the roof.

It wasn't the spike in commodity prices that scared them; it was the decision by several exporting nations to stop selling at any price. So instead of buying commodities, they're buying or leasing farms, producing their own grain and shipping it home.

Even as Industry Slumps, Prius Inspires Waiting List

TOYOTA CITY, Japan — Throughout Toyota’s global operations, managers are scrambling to cut costs in the wake of record losses.

But at Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant, managers have the opposite problem: meeting demand for the third generation of the Prius, which has become an instant hit in Japan and is rolling into American showrooms now.

Exelon to Add 1,300 Megawatts of Nuclear Generation

(Bloomberg) -- Exelon Corp., the largest U.S. operator of nuclear power plants, plans reactor upgrades that will add 1,300 to 1,500 megawatts of generating capacity by 2017, equivalent to building a new unit.

As Wind Power Grows, a Push to Tear Down Dams

The amount of wind power on the Bonneville transmission system quadrupled in the last three years and is expected to double again in another two. The turbines are making an electricity system with low carbon emissions even greener — already, in Seattle, more than 90 percent of the power comes from renewable sources.

Yet the shift of emphasis at the dam agencies is proving far from simple. It could end up pitting one environmental goal against another, a tension that is emerging in renewable-power projects across the country.

Seeking Growth Market, Chip Maker Eyes Solar Cells

HSINCHU, Taiwan — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or TSMC, has seen the light and now wants to make some.

The world’s largest for-hire chip maker could soon start manufacturing solar cells and LED lights. The company’s entry into these nascent industries will catch the attention of existing makers, which could find themselves battling one of the most formidable manufacturers on the planet. Taiwan Semiconductor could drive down prices, as it did for computer chips. But the lower prices could also stimulate demand for what are now expensive technologies.

Life May Extend Planet's 'Life': Billion-year Life Extension For Earth Also Doubles Odds Of Finding Life On Other Planets

As the sun has matured over the past 4.5 billion years, it has become both brighter and hotter, increasing the amount of solar radiation received by Earth, along with surface temperatures. Earth has coped by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus reducing the warming effect. (Despite current concerns about rising carbon dioxide levels triggering detrimental climate change, the pressure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has dropped some 2,000-fold over the past 3.5 billion years; modern, man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide offset a fraction of this overall decrease.)

The problem, says Joseph L. Kirschvink, the Nico and Marilyn Van Wingen Professor of Geobiology at Caltech and a coauthor of the PNAS paper, is that "we're nearing the point where there's not enough carbon dioxide left to regulate temperatures following the same procedures."

Climate Change Treaty, to Go Beyond the Kyoto Protocol, Is Expected by the Year’s End

The world is on track to produce a new global climate treaty by December, the top United Nations climate official said Friday as delegates from more than 100 nations concluded 12 days of talks in Bonn, Germany.

The delegates issued a 200-page document that they said would serve as the starting point for treaty negotiations that open in Copenhagen in December.

Reviving American chestnuts may mitigate climate change

VERY fast growing and was once a monoculture on Appalachian mountain tops and ridges, the wood is high value (used in furniture etc.) so much will stay captured after harvest.

In 1900, a mature chestnut stand on a "barren" mountain top could produce as much as a 1900 wheat field (chestnuts are nutritionally = to wheat, low fat for a nut).



Jimmy Carter and Norman Borlaug are members of TACF (both honorary directors), which is breeding a blight resistant American chestnut.


Best Hopes for Reintroducing the American Chestnut,


I'm from the North-East and I like Chestnut trees.

This is a great idea.

Another great idea would be for the American people to demand an end to mountaintop removal mining...I don't think Chestnut trees can grow in the soil-less rubble left behind from this desecration of nature.

Former President Carter is a good man. He puts his money and his seat equity on the line: Habitat for Humanity, reduction of warfare and arms, and this project.

Yeah would be nice to have the old timey chestnuts back again.

Ain't gonna happen folks.

We can't keep mountain tops intact? WTF!!!

No one really cares anyway. We can't save what we got even.

Long time members of TACF got five chestnut nuts from the first "release version" of the 15/16ths blight resistant American chestnut.

Not every mountain has coal underneath it (THANK GOD !) so some mountains will be left.



This time you are wrong old buddy-if we last another half a century.

We still have a couple of trees that just won't die on our place,it's not all that uncommon,but we have not had any nuts for years.

There are chesnuts out west.The nuts were carried by poineers and the blight has not reached them.

Unfortunately you and I won't see them on the ridges and in the hollows here in the East ,we're too old.

Sounds like a good addition to a food forest. I've bookmarked this sub-thread.

Mike Pence said Congress should instead open the way for more domestic oil and natural gas production

We "produce" oil like a mosquito produces blood.

The word is missleading.
We suck oil out of the ground.

The sulphourus black blood of Satan.
Cooked up from the carcases of the dead.

A tree is known by the fruit that it yields.

The SCIENCE article is interesting-you forget that otherwise intelligent people still fantasize about grand visions for travelling the galaxy. This one has to be cracking at this point-what has been accomplished over the last 30 years is underwhelming to say the least (compare the progress of space travel 1949-1979 to 1979-2009).

I don't claim its going to be sustainable, Brian, but I have to say that the very LACK of excitement at being able to watch live the humdrum happenings aboard the SpaceStation from my office laptop a couple months ago is a kind of 'Overwhelming fact' that we are presently far too blase' about.

On top of that, getting datasets, 3d pix and various revelations from a pair of Mars Rovers (Solar-Powered EV's no less!!) that have trundled along the sub-zero surface there for FAR longer than they were ever expected to might be icing.. but if so, it's icing with a good bit of protein in it.

But believe me, I do agree that there is a level of Hype and Sci-fi Dreamin' that runs right alongside the real and practical developments in the Space Programs, and the two are often hopelessly entangled and given too-little critical dissembling.


'Step softly, for you are stepping on my dreams..' I suppose.

Readers may be interested in the "In Transition" movie, referenced above and available at this link. This is a preliminary version (not quite finished), that is up for a short time. The blurb says 72 hours, but that time started yesterday, I believe.

I haven't watched the whole thing, but it seems to be written from the point of view of some time in the future. The movie looks back at how the transition took place. The movie starts with an introduction by Richard Heinberg, and some neat graphics about peak oil.

Would like to watch it, but it keeps freezing after about 10 seconds.

Cash for clunkers is again in the news. Cash-for-Clunkers Clears Hurdle

Congressional leaders attached legislation for the program to a must-pass bill to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The agreement came despite efforts by several Senators to require that new vehicles purchased through the plan be even more fuel-efficient.

The program still must be approved by both chambers of Congress, and voting could take place next week.

There is a neat graphic in the WSJ article linked above giving an overview of the program.

An earlier WSJ article was called Handouts for Hummers. I think that is still the view of the program--probably why it is easy to pass.

It looks to me as if this bill from the House is indeed a car company stimulus bill. There are 2 main proposals in the Senate, the bill from Senator Dianne Feinstein would result in much greater reductions in fuel use than the House version just passed. The House version and the companion version from the Senate appear to offer little improvement, given that one might trade in an old SUV for a newer one with only a slight improvement in MPG. What is needed is a big jump to the CAFE average for cars, that being a minimum of 27.5 MPG. If the SUV's and PU's can't do that well, tough cookies.

Congress still doesn't understand what's happening, IMHO. Peak Oil and the Export Land problem imply the need for drastic changes RIGHT NOW. The plight of the car companies is their own fault and they should suffer accordingly. Propping up the dead cars by continuing to pump out gas guzzlers will only keep the fleet average at lower MPGs, locking us into that steep crash that those of us on TOD expect...

E. Swanson

Wow, I could get the price of a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado shaved down to $12,205, which is 11 times what I paid for my 84 Ford Ranger. Assuming they'll continue making the thing in the first place.

It's a shame you can't use the tax credit to buy a bicycle. You could get a really nice one with panniers and a cargo trailer for that kind of money.

The house version has a limit of no more than 25 years old to be eligible for the giveaway. If you are buying a 2010 new car then your 1984 model Ford Ranger would not be eligible - ie 26 years old - One past the limit.

All of my tradable pickups are 30+ years old (or worth much more than $4500) so I will keep driving the 8-10 mpg gas hogs when I need the hauling capability. I can put a new engine in one of my old pickups for $1000-1500 but a new pickup would be $25,000 to 30,000.
Lets see, $23,000 divided by 3 dollars per gallon = 7,666 gallons of gasoline x 10 mpg = 76,660 miles of driving. Considering I only drive the pickup up 3000-5000 miles per year and I am almost 70 years old, I guess I'll just keep on fixing my old pickups.

Hello TODers,

Regarding the DB toplink on Methane Hydrates [Clathrates]: Recall that I have already posted much detail earlier about the destabilization risks, so I will merely repost these two links on the 1946 Unimak/Hilo tsunami:


I wonder what the ERoEI is for super-deepwater rigs that we now need to consider other rigs drilling nearby stranded clathrates to help power the GoM infrastructure? Is it possible the IOCs might now get a higher overall ERoEI by planting and harvesting trees [with less overall ecosystemic risk and waste]?

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

These are clathrates in tight sands underneath impermeable traps, thus incapable of unintended release to the atmosphere.


In theory.

Re: U.S. Gulf gas hydrate find most promising yet - DOE

"the most prospective gas hydrates reservoirs yet found have been located and drilled."

Wheee! Just what we need, more natural gas to flood the market with. The Alberta government actually gets most of its money from natural gas royalties, not oil, so the ongoing gas glut has crimped its style.

I agree with Peak Oil, but I think Peak Methane is a couple more decades down the road.

As Wind Power Grows, a Push to Tear Down Dams

OK, stop the presses!! Eco-nazis ought to run these types of stories past an engineer experienced in grid operations before proposing such nonsense. Alright, eco-nazis is a little strong, but it gets my dander up when people wax prophetic without knowing the technical limitations (i.e. hydrogen powered autos).

Its about the VARs stupid. For a wind farm to work on the grid and stabilize voltage a VAR source of comparable size must be present. Wind turbines don't produce VARs, they absorb them since they are induction or permanent magnet generators. Synchronous machines that use external excitation produce VARs. And where would you find one of these larger synchronous generators... in say..., I don't know, a hydro electric dam?

A Static VAR compensator installed at a wind farm doesn't cut it either. Those are used for local voltage stability caused by the intermittent, short term variability of wind generation.

This fits nicely into the discussion I had with our intern engineer the other day. He was wondering if he was correct in questioning the infinite bus as it relates to wind farms. (The "infinite bus" is a modeling convenience and abstract that does not have applicability in large real world conditions. It is there to supply or absorb the Watts and VARs as required to stabilize the system within convergence limits). He was on the mark for the same reasons aforementioned.

And this appears to be the same shortcoming of knowledge and understanding that has got us into these fixes time and again. Thinking any large scale system, resource or infrastructure is infinite.


You're right that we all do need more good understanding of the technical realities before spouting off.. and also right that 'Eco-Nazis' is too harsh.. in fact it's quite destructive propaganda that has proven very tough to kill.

But it's also correct that there are calls for the demolition of Hydropower Dams. I've had some work with the Penobscot River Restoration Trust www.penobscotriver.org who, in cooperation with PPL and several eco-groups are removing two of the furthest downstream Dams on the Penobscot River in Maine, to reintroduce 11 Species of RiverRun Ocean Fish which haven't had access to this huge riverbasin for some decades now. In return, PPL is getting to upgrade the power in the upstream Generators using newer equipment, and will allegedly not see a reduction in Watt/hours generated.

I'm well aware of how annoying it is to deal with the 'green-gadflys' who regularly put it to technical progress, even when it's green(ish) energy sources.. but remember, they're trying to get as versed as they can in not only the complex and subtle details of the Mechanistic side of the equation, but also learn what they need to know about the impossible variety and interrelationships of the underrepresented Natural World as well, and run that fiery gauntlet between these two determined forces.

You'd be paranoid, bitchy and combative, too.

These aren't the smaller first generation cascaded hydro dams found in the eastern U.S., but the larger GW size installations. They would probably use more energy and cause more damage in trying to remove them. Plus, they have fish ladders to allow spawning runs.

Keep in mind that BC is the mecca for eco-mouth pieces that enjoy all the benefits of hydro electric generation that they would have campaigned to the death to stop 40 years ago. The volume of the hypocritical noise is deafening.

However, I can see by the comments that the basic physical principles of how electric grids operate did not sink in. If we are going to maintain bulk electrical systems, then large rotating machines capable of over excitation to maintain voltage stability are required.

So pick your poison. Is is hydro, coal, nuclear, or gas? Otherwise, I harshly recommend the "green gad-flys" spend equal amounts of time inventing a way of running the electrical grid without them. Be glad to deploy it when they do.

Yes, my example was for small East Coast systems.. but I was also trying to give room for both sides of the problem, and showing at least a case where the Power Company and the Eco Groups were working together.

Admittedly, I don't have a clear picture of the way that spinning generation provides the important qualities that you are describing. I am a techie, but this area is not one I know.

I don't think it's hypocritical to challenge the way we make power while living in the same society or region that makes it. We ALL 'enjoy' this electricity.. but we want to fix the shortcomings, too. Can't a Soldier be against the war? I oppose Nuclear and Coal, but they're helping to drive this laptop right now.

I'm sure Hydro can and should be part of the mix.. but we need to see where/how it's working properly for all our vital interests, and when it poses unacceptable risks/damages in it's effects.. the people opposing it have their issues to advocate, and the Utilities and Providers have theirs. If the Greens have to learn how to make a working grid for us, then what do the Hydropower companies have to learn in return, or do we need to instead find some kind of intermediate player who can help reconcile the very involved issues on both sides?

There have been some good examples in Maine of cooperative efforts, also with the Lumber Companies and Natural Resource groups, all of them interested in preventing sprawl and the breakup of too much contiguous forestland.. so I just point that out to say that there are times when the groups have found some common interests and tools to make the best synthesis of their plans..


(For our dams, the Fish-ladders only worked for the 'Jumpers' like Salmon, and for them only in just the right situations.. but still left many other species blocked, and so kept the upriver ecosystems from reforming the way they had developed to function..)

Yeah, it's a bitch when folks that don't understand the major points of a problem take upon themselves to pontificate about a situation. That includes you, I think.

I'm an engineer as well as an environmentalist, so I try to look at both sides of the situation. On the one hand, those hydro dams might be used as peaking power generation or to offset the hourly and daily swings introduced into the network when renewables such as solar and wind are included. Those dams would also serve a similar purpose if a massive transition to nuclear were to occur, as it is rather more difficult to load follow with nukes, as I understand it.

But, those little fishes that might spawn further upstream tend to go back into the big ocean and grow into bigger fishes, the kind that show up wrapped in plastic at the supermarket. Fewer fish means less food on the table and that's not just for the U.S. Also, those dams don't last forever and many lose their storage pool due to erosion filling up the lake behind the dam long before their design life is reached. After that, the dam is much less useful from the storage point of view. Sooner or later, they all will fail anyway.

And this appears to be the same shortcoming of knowledge and understanding that has got us into these fixes time and again.

Well, I think you got that part right...

E. Swanson

Hydro dams can not be easily used as peaking plants like a natural gas installation. There are many hydrological constraints to operating a dam site and maintaining minimal flow is an important one. The reservoirs have to be operated in accordance to precipitation patterns otherwise they are drawn too low, or rise too high.

For every dam constructed since the '60s if IIRC, fish flow has been accommodated. That is not where the problem lies, its in the harvesting areas of the world where they are over fished.

I just get tired of the tyranny of the minority given credence for ill conceived ideas that never should get beyond a Facebook page. And, when someone on the other side speaks up with the same passion, we are considered aggressive or insensitive. Damn it, no we just know what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks are talking about and get sick and tired of hypocrites once in a while. This is an all too common pattern. So sure, I'm a jerk for calling a spade a spade and not a shovel.

No, you assumed that everyone shares your idea of the relative importance of things. I'm an EE who's known what a VAR is for a long time, and understands that your analysis does have merit from a technical point of view. But I believe preserving biodiversity and ecosystems is far, far more important to the future of humanity than preserving grid stability, and I respect those who have studied these issues. Pretty clearly you find such eco-nazis contemptible when they interfere with the stability of the precious power grid.

A stable power grid is important, but not compared to a functioning food chain. I expect both will fail, but the grid is simply less important.

One thing I learned during my 5 years of study of engineering was that I wasn't offered any courses in the biological sciences. There was simply too much other "important" information to be poured into our heads, so we never got the whole picture about the way the Earth actually works. All that other stuff I had to pick up a bit at a time afterwards thru study. As Twilight mentioned in another reply, there's much more to it than just the technical side of dams and the way they are connected to the grid. The problems we all are facing are so large that one can not just look only at one's own company, industry or location to solve them. The problems are global and require global thinking to solve them. Both sides of the discussions can get lost in the details. That said, each confrontation is essentially local, even though the results may have global implications.

My perception from an energy point of view is that we need those dams for backup for the alternative energy sources such as wind and PV electricity. But, that's not what you spoke to, instead looking only at the direct consequences to grid stability after removing them. Then too, there are other ways to store electricity besides dams, which might eventually replace the need for dams for electric generation or storage, but those systems are not hooked into the grid as yet. It would seem that if the electronics are good enough to tie a home sized PV into the grid, a larger version might also be tied into the grid with appropriate stability. Maybe it's possible to solve the grid problem without all that spinning reserve...

E. Swanson

I think that calling people "Nazis" because they want to preserve endangered salmon for future generations comes pretty close to violating The Oil Drum comment guidelines (and no, fish ladders will not preserve salmon gene pools for future generations, which is why dam removal has a fighting chance of winning in court).
"5. Ad hominem attacks are not acceptable. If you disagree with someone, refute their statements rather than insulting them. "

And speaking as an environmentalist with degrees in both civil and mechanical engineering, dams are far from the only way to regulate grid voltage stability and reactive power. National Grid is currently investigating using flywheels for just that purpose. My guess is that flywheels designed and built for grid stability provide significantly more modulation capability than dams that operate under many other constraints. The economics are another question.

"National Grid and Beacon Power Sign Agreement to Evaluate Flywheel Technology for Grid Applications

Business Wire 2009
2009-01-26 18:15:02 -

Beacon Power Corporation (Nasdaq: BCON), a company that designs and develops advanced products and services to support more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation, announced that it has executed an information sharing and performance evaluation agreement with the energy utility company National Grid.

Under the two-year agreement, the companies will share technical, performance and economic data associated
with Beacon's flywheel energy storage systems and their potential operational value to National Grid's electricity transmission networks. Objectives of the agreement include National Grid's evaluation of Beacon's flywheel energy storage systems not only for fast-response frequency regulation, but also for wind-related ramp mitigation - another potential large-scale grid stability application.

"National Grid is committed to assessing new energy technologies and their capacity to help create a more efficient, environmentally responsible and cost-effective modern grid," said Stan Blazewicz, Vice President, Global Head of Technology for National Grid. "The positive attributes of flywheel energy storage - especially its high efficiency, zero carbon emissions, and extremely fast response - make it a technology of significant interest and one we are keen to investigate."

Beacon Power and National Grid will focus on the sharing of technical information and performance results for Beacon's Smart Energy Matrix, the energy storage-based regulation resource that Beacon is now operating under ISO New England's Alternative Technologies Program. The two companies will also be sharing technical information and analysis of the potential economic and performance benefits of fast-response flywheel regulation and wind-related ramp mitigation, in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Ramp mitigation refers to the ability of regulation and reserve generation units to quickly compensate for a rapid system-wide change in aggregate power output caused by sudden changes in power production. As an intermittent resource, wind power generation often experiences rapid fluctuations in power output. As the amount of wind generation on the grid increases, many grid operators foresee the need to increase total regional ramping capacity to maintain proper energy balance.

Under terms of the agreement, Beacon will work with National Grid to forecast future increases in the demand for regulation capacity resulting from greater deployment of wind power. National Grid will also work with Beacon Power to define an optimal control algorithm for Beacon's fast-response energy storage technology that would maximize regulation benefits on the grid.

You have to live here to understand it. The label is far from ad hominem, nor was I attacking anyone particular on this forum. The best I can do is point you to one of the leading environmentalists in the province that has come to see the reality. If they want to preserve salmon for future generations, ban all parking lots, roadways and hazardous discharges. This does far more damage.

And no, I don't get hostile against anyone that opposes my hydro developments. Matter of fact, we work on run of river hydro which does not use storage. The fly wheels are local solutions also. It will be difficult for them to supply enough VARs to maintain the system - actually, I would bet against it. They are a mechanical version of the simple operation of static VAR compensators. Fly wheels will have application close to load centers.

I do have to scoff at the accusation that I am trying to "preserve my precious grid". I am trying to preserve our somewhat civilized existence, and thus the environment. If the grid went away tomorrow our previously civil society would rapidly devolve into a massively destructive hoard. In geologic time it will be very brief, but the damage that might be unleashed could last a long time - okay, still short in geologic time, but 10,000 years is a long time. Ask yourself, how will the nuclear waste be managed without electricity to run the storage ponds, or the power plants themselves after they have been abandoned? What would happen to tanks full of chemicals? With no where to go and the plants abandoned or scavenged, the chemicals would eventually corrode through the tanks and spill. This is a doomer POV and not my usual MO.

As I see it, the only way out of this mess in the near term is to utilize the grid more. All those renewable energy systems are dependent on it.

As I see it, the only way out of this mess in the near term is to utilize the grid more

And we are at a delicate stage politically with regards to trying to get us onto a path to lower carbon emissions. This is the wrong time to be talking about removing dams, we've got to make the perceived cost of the transition to low carbon cheap. Part of that means avoiding premature decommissioning of hydro and nuclear. We've got to somehow get domestic carbon caps that are effective enough to get buyin from the developing world. That basically means everyone has to sacrifice something near term. Enviros will have to postpone dreams of tearing down dams, and closing nukes. Fossil fuel types will have to give up on more coal. Consumers will have to pay more... Without us all making some shared sacrifices, we just won't have a chance of making it onto a sustainable transition.

Hi Scott,

This is an area I'm keen to know more about. To paraphrase what I think you're saying:

Large rotating alternators are useful because we can turn up (or down) the magnetic field strenth in a short time to keep the system voltage stable in response to rapid changes in demand. The rotational energy stored in the device can take up the slack for a (very) short time until the energy source driving it can respond to the change in load. For hydro, I'm given to understand that the response time to demand changes is very fast, of the order of a couple of minutes. Somewhat slower for gas turbines, slower still for Rankine cycle plant such as coal and nuclear.

Renewables in general and wind in particular can't be turned up or down in response to changes in demand and worse, introduces variability in supply. Hence increased renewables penetration requires an increased slack capacity in the system to maintain stable voltage and frequency.

Essentially the system needs surge capacity as well as longer time capability to step in when the wind stops blowing etc. Hydro is fantastic for this and is in place, but the function could in principle be met by (in order of increasing response time) flywheels, batteries and solar thermal systems with storage.



Power system stability exists in two time references. The cycle you are referring to is a long period stability where power output is ramped up or down according to load. This is the every day power dispatch function in all the utilities.

I am referring to the sub one second power stability and voltage stability on a system. Large synchronous machines can respond in milliseconds (based on the exciter control properties) to voltage dips and transients. On a 24/7 basis, the renewable energy sources cannot perform this function on the electrical grid system. I'm qualifying this because a concentrated solar power system or a geothermal system can perform this function because they are, in fact, steam generators that have very fast response.

However, when we discuss large bulk power systems such as coal or nuclear that have large thermal inertia, they cannot respond quickly to power demands. I think this gets lost in the discussion, (and hence the reason for my original post), that the "devil in the details" lies in the millisecond level response and stability of an electrical grid system. I'll illustrate with a typical protection and control (P&C) design constraint working from the industrial load up to the extra high voltage:

480/600 V industrial distribution: 0.5 - 1.5 seconds
2300 to 4160 V medium voltage distribution: 0.15 to 0.8 seconds
13.8 kV to 34.5 kV utility distribution or industrial distribution: 0.08 to 0.2 seconds
* Now we switch to 60 Hz cycles. The period of a 60 Hz cycle is 16.7 milliseconds
69 kV to 145 kV: 3 to 8 cycles
230 kV and 345 kV: 3 to 5 cycles
500 kV: 0.5 or 0.25 to 5 cycles (the upper end is a worst case)
Greater than 500 kV: .25 to 2 cycles

The point is that the greater the voltage and hence the amount of power transfer, the greater the constraints on system stability. Yes, you will find extra high voltage system engineers living in a weird world where microseconds matter.

Thanks for your response, that makes a lot of sense.

It seems that we could fulfill this function with flywheels - a relatively small power requirement to keep them spinning at the AC frequency and a (lesser) amount of power generated at the alternator. The excitation of the alternator field could respond at the same sort of speeds as the systems at coal fired generators etc.

It's a component that would be required as part of an integrated renewable generation system. If we're going to do the renewable generation thing we need to take a systems approach. The interplay between some of these systems could be quite interesting - eg, wind with dispatchable (from storage) solar thermal as a peaking generator.


Hi Scott,

On odd occasions, the "positive" and "neutral" are reversed....


The town of Dillsboro, in western North Carolina, has an unusual problem. Where many communities would like to see old hydroelectric plants in their towns disappear, Dillsboro would like to keep its small power plant. Duke Energy, the owner of the Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River, would like to remove the dam and powerhouse. But, in the eyes of supporters in the town as well as the Jackson County, North Carolina government, not only has the 310 foot dam been part of local history since 1913 when it was built, the facility could also be a continuing source of renewable power....

See: http://www.green-energy-news.com/arch/nrgs2009/20090045.html


Just listened to the OSU Commencement Address by

Jen-Hsun Huang, Co-Founder, President & CEO - nVIDIA

the gist;

Tech rules.

If you can invision it, computers can do it.

Don't let any one tell you it can't be done.

IMO the worst possible message.


Did you really expect a corporate CEO to tell the truth to all these eager young consumers, did you? He can't tell them the future might be worse for them than for their parents and that the economy won't keep growing, as that illusion the very basis of the way he makes his living. He can't even talk about the possibility of a Zero Sum economy, which would imply that for him and his company to have more income would mean taking wealth from everybody else, thereby making everybody else poorer. Even our fearless leaders tell us that sustainable growth is just around the corner...

E. Swanson

I'm sure he believes what he says. His company builds video chips. Semiconductors were the success story of his lifetime, both personally and for society.

"If you can invision it, computers can do it. Don't let any one tell you it can't be done."

I agree. Don't let anyone tell you anything ... find out for yourself what can and can't be done. You will waste a lot of time, money and energy but from birth to death, it's the trip that's fasinating.

"At 50 you can't learn to program computers ... that's for young people" but I did and I programed in 'C' and assembly for 18 years till just after Y2K. BTW: None of my programs busted.

"Build a commercial wood shop at 68", nonsense, but now I can work with both machinery and hand tools and build beautiful furniture. There is a fellow in the next valley north of here that does ceramics and we will build walnut inlayed adult potty chairs. Toto's small answer to O-NPK.

Even here at 76 it is not only possible to try new things but it is near mandatory. Would you believe I have 5 out of 8 asparagas plants starting to come up in this high desert bad soil (the other 3 will be up shortly). That's in addition to all the other plants in our prototype boxed raised bed garden. I have never gardened in my life. That is my new thing this year, learn to garden. Next year I will build a 5000 sq foot boxed irrigated raised bed comunity garden and two hothouses on our unused half acre for those interested. I'll do it mostly on my own and give it to our neighbors because I don't listen well. The solar powered golf cart is part of the overall plan. I guess at my age if I listened to others, I would be gently rocking instead of preparing my family for when TSHTF.

"Geeze, You could die working that hard ...", wow, what else is new to a 20 year combat fighter pilot?

Kids, don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do something. Just do it till you can't ... then do something else. Meditate and listen to your inner self and you will know what to do and how to do it.

My wife is doing programming at age 64-- and she is a illustrator/artist!

Bravo for her:

Nothing new ... "not to yield"


Most 'kids' today can accomplish very little. I watch them at the farm shop of my buddies. They break more than they repair.

Bearnings for instance. Not a clue. Augers? "Whats dat?".

Lubricating a tractor? "Jeez."

Its how they are brought up (fetched up that is) and not very well. Then of course there is no Mech Drawing(its computerized)...no Woodworking classes...who needs it the school sez. No body shop classes..."Duh why?"....

And they are far too busy with their soccer. This gives MOM something to do with the Hummer as well.


Hi Airdale

Those kids are not brought up ... they just happened. My grandson at 11 is helping build his own bed. He outgrew his kids bed and he needed a full size bed. This will be a pedistal bed with six drawers in the base. He is now proficient with several tools and enjoys the work. I watch him like a hawk for safty but I let him make his mistakes and then teach him how to fix them. He is learning to cut a long curve on the bandsaw. I draw the line and he cuts it ... time after time after time. He is getting pretty good at it. He will have a full wood shop when I'm gone. Till then he can work here. He turned a cocobolo pen for his dad for Christmas. I couldn't have done better.

True, there isn't much wood working or metal working in the schools now days. It's up to us to teach them.

All sorts of physical skills people once had are going, gone, goodbye. My Father worked as a mechanical engineer and did drawings by hand, and once the tech. went on to cadcam, he adjusted to it but not fast enough and was considered obsolete. But just ask one of the upstarts to make drawings by hand like he could and they would be completely lost.

When we were kids we could each strip a bicycle down to the bearings and put it back together again. Now they just stop using the bike when it gets a flat.

We could restring a baseball glove or build a fort with a hand saw. I never see kids building forts now because they can't saw wood or swing a hammer.

As oil peaks the skills people once took for granted have been lost to technology advances. If technology wanes due to a post peak energy decline, which may not occur now due to caltrate mining, some of those skills will have to be re-discovered, relearned.

Management of "Upper Canada Village" in eastern Ontario is on the hotseat these days for commercializing operations and laying off interpreters. The 1860's village was created by the province to retain the heritage of the lands flooded with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the late 1950's. To their credit, management is now asking for ideas on how to make the operation more economically viable. My sister and I have suggested tapping in to the growing interest in powerdown and transition communities, offering multi-day workshops and seminars on our forgotten hand skills in gardening, cooking, building, etc. Anyone else think there'd be interest in this? If so, please email CEO Pat Macdonald ( pat dot macdonald at parks dot on dot ca ) with a copy to community rep Ian Bowering ( ian10 at bellnet dot ca )

I was talking to my aunt's husband today (a dentist in Hopkinsville, KY at age 80) about slaughtering hogs "back when".

Minimum of 4 people (at least two stout men), preferably 6, for two days to butcher 4 to 6 hogs.

A BIG basin (say 5' wide, 14' long) to scald the hog so the hair could be pulled off. A 300 to 500 lb hog pulled up an incline with two "come alongs", then later hung and butchered. He described the work in salting (3 weeks & 3 days, adjusted for weather) and smoking (coating and putting in a bag to keep flies & maggots out).

He has some contacts for old fashioned smoked hams from pigs that rooted (not from pig palaces) from farmers that may slaughter ten pigs each year.

Quite frankly, this level of experience and equipment is going away fast. All without refrigeration.

Thought you might like to know about this.

Best Hopes for Country Folks,


Good tale Allen. For you benefit: when I moved from the French Quarter 30 years ago to Texas I took up hunting. Being a skilled marksman there really wasn't much sport/effort in the process. And then it came time to dress and prep the critters. Now you were talking real work. After being up till midnight more then once I learned to not take more game then I was prepared to handle after the shot.


Anybody that wants to know how a pig is slaughtered is welcome to come over sometime in November and watch.

We do the whole thing except intestinal sauges and smoking.

A sugar salt and pepper cure is traditional in my family.

We freeze some,can some and cure the rest.

Where are you located. How similar is yours to the procedure partially described ?




We live is the mountians of southwest virginia not too far from I77 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We use a tractor to do the heavy lifting nowadays,but the buthering process has not changed much.Sometimes folks skin hogs nowadays rather than scald the carcass in hot water to loosen the hair and scrape it off.Skinning is easier,but that hide is very heavy and contributes a lot to the wieght of a ham or shoulder that will be sold.Furthermore,the customer expects to get the hide,and is not easily swayed by the true argument that a skinless ham is a better deal.Since we don't raise but one or two hogs for our personal use,we usually skin, but the permanently installed scalding tank is ready to go and the time saving is not really a big issue these days,since we are mostly retired.

There is a thriving underground economy in home butchered meat,but only because people with no better employment opportunities are willing to do it and the buyers want it.Small scale bitchering is very ineffecient,in comparison to a commercial meat packing plant,and the commercial operators sell every thing but the squeal and a little phosphorus and nitrogen in the waste water.Pretty soon between the rapidly rising costs of fertilizer and gradually tightening clean water regulations,I guess they will manage to sell the N and P too.

In other places and at other times,very little was allowed to go to waste,but nobody living in our nieghborhood can remember using the entrails and internal organs,except the liver,for anything much except dog food.The net result is that fresh hand butchered hand traditionally raised black market pork costs about the same as and often more than supermarket meat.

If you want to buy some,you must make some friends first who are willing to trust you not to turn them in.There is not enough money in fresh sausage to sell it on street corners to strangers like cocaine.

My Daddy can remember when locals smoked thier meat,but I can't.He thinks that the time involved in looking after the smokehouse was the biggest reason the custom fell out if favor.Most of the local people found furniture and textile mill wages more attractive than full time farming,and started working forty in town and cut the farming back to another thirty hours or so-at least during the "off season".With a thirty dollar paycheck in your pocket,a hundred pound sack of salt at a buck or so was pretty cheap.

We make our sausage with an electrically driven grinder(I converted it from hand cranked myself) and can or freeze it in plastic bags.

The fresh meat is placed on shelves in the meathouse,and coated with salt and seasonings to taste.After a few weeks the meat is cured and can be stored in bags, or washed and treated with borax and peppered again.Since nearly all the meat was consumed between butchering after the arrival of cold weather and the arrival of warm weatherin the spring,salt alone sufficed very well for most folks.Our meathouse is only about five or six years old,and it is the only new one I know of.It's about eight by ten and built exclusively for that purpose of rough cut green pine.Such meathouses were traditionally placed within shotgun range of the front door,and ours is so situated,even though we don't expect to see Snuffy Smith any more except in the funny papers.

I expect we will continue to keep a pig so long as Daddy can feed and water it,as these minor chores are very enjoyable from his pov,and help keep him happy and healthy.

Folks –
There is much discussion about new energy sources, but let’s not forget to work on energy efficiency and conservation. Car drivers would barely have to bat an eye to become more efficient with their gas use, and as U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu wrote, “Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground”.

A couple points to back that up:
• Check to make sure our tires are properly inflated, we’d prevent about 3% of our fuel economy from being shaved off every month.
• Drive the speed limit on the freeways! Every 5mph above 60 not only costs you about an extra quarter per gallon gas, it also takes huge bites out of your fuel economy.
• Stop idling: Turn your engine off if you’re going to remain parked for over 30 seconds, like at a train or bridge crossing.
In the fight to reduce energy costs, protect the environment, we as everyday consumers can play a role by starting to be more aware of these things. I’m working as a communications intern on the Drive Smarter Challenge with the Alliance to Save Energy. Check it out at http://drivesmarterchallenge.org/ to take the challenge and get more valuable driving tips

And spread the word yo! Knowledge is power, and the more people who know about this, the better off we’ll be.

I am one of the kind who believe that lots of folk tales or fairy tales if you prefer the term have roots in actual historical occurences.

There are numerous accounts of ships and airplanes disappearing without really good explainations,other than the simple but adequate "shit happens" scenario,followed up by sensational reporting in second class media.

The number of boats that have been lost in the so called Bermuda Triangle for instance is really not out of line with expected loss rates,given the amount of small boat traffic,the local weather etc,according to sites that debunk such myths.

Still I find myself intrigued by the possibility that perhaps a few planes and boats might have been lost to the sudden release of a considerable cloud of methane bubbles,which could sink a boat by reducing the bouyancy of the water,and crash alow flying plane by starving the engines of oxygen.In either case the people on boeard would literally have only seconds to live before dieing of suffocation.

I have forgotten where I saw this theory published.

It seems reasonable that this could happen if an earthquake or bottom currents caused the release of a large quantity of methane hydrates.Keep in mind that old dead or weak trees may fall anytime,not just on windy days.The quake would not have to be concurrent with the release.

Anybody who knows some serious geology please comment.