DrumBeat: June 15, 2009

U.S. Energy Secretary wants to cut carbon in the Americas

LIMA (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu urged officials from the Americas on Monday to throw their weight behind a new initiative to reduce carbon emissions and make cities in the Western Hemisphere more energy efficient.

Chu launched the "Low Carbon Communities of the Americas" program at an event on energy and climate change that was put together after presidents at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April agreed to collaborate more on green energy issues.

The Obama administration is pushing renewable energy and energy-saving technologies, and Chu encouraged other countries to participate in the new program.

This Woman Is Redefining Public Transportation

Ask a friend to name a shared transportation option and he’ll probably mention that bus that rumbles past on the avenue or the commuter train that all the office jockeys pile into each weekday morning. But Robin Chase thinks the phrase is about to undergo a radical evolution. Almost ten years ago she founded car-sharing service Zip Car, which has proven a smashing success in urban areas across the country and is rumored to be going public next year. Now she’s put her visionary zeal behind GoLoco, a social networking site that encourage people to catch rides with each other (they take a 10 percent a fee if you choose to let them manage the financial arrangements.)

Thinking of your friends’ and neighbors’ cars as a personal transportation resource is the next wave in American mobility, Chase argues — an elegant response to rising costs, congestion and our existing road-heavy infrastructure.

Australia Warns Oil And Gas Cos to Develop Interests

Australian Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has warned foreign energy companies to develop their oil and gas interests in the nation soon, or risk having them stripped away, the Age newspaper reported on its Web site Sunday.

Court orders $507.5 mln damages in Exxon Valdez spill

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday ordered Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) to pay $507.5 million in punitive damages stemming from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, plus 5.9 percent interest running from the 1996 trial judgment, the opinion said.

The amount is a fraction of the $5 billion in punitive damages originally awarded to fishermen, Alaska natives, business owners and other litigants by a jury in 1996, and equals the compensatory damages agreed to in a subsequent settlement, the opinion said.

Marcellus Shale: A Million Acres of Paydirt?

The next big thing in U.S. energy exploration will be the Marcellus Shale, a vast, underground layer of rock stretching from upstate New York down through Pennsylvania and into Ohio and West Virginia. By some estimates, this formation contains 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, enough to meet two years of gas consumption for the entire U.S. That kind of volume could go a long way to helping the country cut its dependence on foreign oil.

Survey: Gas prices up 17 cents in two weeks

"It's a direct result of continued increases in the price of crude, with crude oil itself responding to a flight from the weaker dollar on the expectation of rising inflation from federal monetary policy," Lundberg said.

"Demand is not increasing. It is shrinking."

Lundberg said there is no reason to expect gas prices will reach the $4-plus levels of last summer but "it might certainly feel that high to many consumers, especially those who are unemployed."

CME Group Ethanol Outlook Report - June 15, 2009

"Peak Oil" but for a different reason -- Proponents of "peak oil," a concept originally developed by M. King Hubbert in 1956, have argued for years that global oil production will soon peak due to depleted reserves, thus leading to soaring oil prices. The theory is based on part on the experience of the U.S., which has seen its domestic oil production fall since 1970 due to the depletion of U.S. oil wells. However, ethanol has helped change the calculus for peak oil. In fact, BP's CEO Tony Hayward said last week that U.S. gasoline demand has "probably peaked" due to increased ethanol blending requirements, higher fuel efficiency standards, and gasoline-electric hybrids (see p. 3). He added that BP in the 1st-half of 2008 "probably sold as much gasoline into the U.S. as we'll ever sell." "Peak oil" may occur, but not because of supply constraints, but because demand for oil may peak long before supplies run dry, which suggests a bearish long-term case for oil prices.

Oil should not rise too fast: OPEC Sec-Gen

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices should not rise too quickly and hurt the world economy, but a price of $80 a barrel would stimulate investment without putting a brake on growth, OPEC's secretary general said on Monday.

The price of oil hit a 2009 high near $73 a barrel last week, up from below $33 in mid-December, and politicians in consumer countries have started to express concern that the rally could threaten their economies.

"Of course we do not want to see oil prices rising too rapidly and certainly not to harm growth in the global economy," OPEC's Abdullah al-Badri said in an email response to questions. "We need a stable oil price."

"Yes, I am concerned that high oil prices will affect the economy but even at $80 a barrel, I am confident that this will not be the case."

Town sets off on healthy path practicing 4 keys to longevity

The project's strategies are simple: eat more fruits and vegetables, walk instead of drive, stay productive and social well into old age, and seek inner fulfillment — things we all know will improve our quality of life, but we don't always do, he says.

"Optimizing where you spend most of your day, minimizing the opportunity to eat unhealthy food, and helping people find meaning and purpose is tied to healthier, longer living," he says.

Regulator slams Cantarell flaring

The head of Mexico’s new hydrocarbons agency has shown his organisation has teeth by slamming Pemex’s failure to exploit gas from the giant Cantarell field.

National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) boss, Juan Carlos Zepeda, claimed Pemex has been flaring up to 70% of the gas from Cantarell, a field which still accounts for almost a third of Mexico’s crude output.

Valero Delays Planned Shutdown of Aruba Oil Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refiner, will delay until July the planned two- to three- month shutdown of its Aruba plant, originally scheduled for June, Bill Day, a company spokesman, said in an interview.

Valero, based in San Antonio, said last week that the shutdown was for “economic reasons” and to make repairs. The length of the closing still will be two to three months, Day said in a telephone interview today.

Shell raises its fuel storage capacity at sea

DUBAI (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc has increased its floating storage capacity for fuel by about 1.3 million barrels, shipbrokers and traders said on Monday.

The oil major has booked the 90,000 deadweight tonne (dwt) clean petroleum tanker the River Pride for $2.1 million from June 20, and a second tanker, the Survetta of similar size from June 30, shipbrokers said.

Ship Tax by Alaska City Voided by U.S. Supreme Court

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, siding with a ConocoPhillips unit, struck down a tax imposed by Valdez, Alaska, on oil tankers and a handful of other ships that use the city’s ports.

The justices, voting 7-2, said the personal property tax violated the Constitution’s tonnage clause, which bars states acting without congressional approval from imposing taxes based on a ship’s carrying capacity. The city argued that the tonnage clause doesn’t cover value-based property taxes.

Thinning ice already allowing more commercial shipping in Northwest Passage

The thinning Arctic ice pack is already producing the much-anticipated surge in commercial shipping through the Northwest Passage.

And as the pace of ice loss accelerates, experts say the federal government is not keeping up to ensure Canadians control it.

Lousy bumpers smack owners of small cars with huge repair bills in low-speed crashes, study finds

Because of their smaller stance, many minis lack bumpers high enough to engage with the bumpers on other vehicles in collisions, forcing crash energy to be absorbed by body parts. Another problematic trend among the smaller cars is that the bars underneath the bumper covers aren’t long enough to protect the corners of the body. Five out of seven cars in the full-front test and six in the front-corner test required headlight replacement.

“Bumpers are doing their job if the only damage is to the bumper cover. Bumpers aren’t doing their job when headlights get knocked out or sheet metal crumples after a low-speed impact,” Nolan said.

One reason the Smart ForTwo fared so well in the study was not because of the effectiveness of its bumper in crashes, but because of the affordability of its repairs. The Smart’s plastic body parts can be easily replaced. The front and rear bumper come in three sections and are prepainted.

Manure to fill gas grid

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester's toilets will soon be contributing to the local gas network under a green energy project planned by United Utilities Group Plc and National Grid Plc.

In a UK first, the two companies plan to turn a by-product of the wastewater treatment plant at Davyhulme in Manchester, northwest England into gas for the local network and fuel for a fleet of sludge tankers.

'Terrorists' threaten property of power station boss

CANBERRA - The threat by environmental extremists against the head of an International Power coal-fired power station in Victoria must be taken seriously, the state's Energy Minister says.

Police would investigate the letter delivered to the home of Hazelwood power station chief executive Graeme York by the Earth Liberation Front, Peter Batchelor said in Melbourne yesterday.

Saudi Arabia warns of crude price spike above 2008 record high

Saudi Arabia has warned that oil prices could again surge above the record high level in 2008 within three years unless other producers join the Kingdom and pump sufficient investment into capacity expansions.

The government-owned Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil exporter, said the collapse of crude prices in the second half of 2008 was only a temporary phenomenon and demand would pick up again in the near future.

"We must recognise that depressed oil prices are not only detrimental to the economies of petroleum producing nations but also to the interests of consuming countries. That may seem counterintuitive, but consider that sustained and timely investments in petroleum projects and infrastructure are essential for maintaining future supplies at adequate levels," said Mohammed Madi, Chief Representative in Beijing of Aramco's Saudi Petroleum.

Saudi Aramco inaugurates world’s largest redevelopment in the desert west of supergiant Ghawar

Khurais oil field has been in the news off and on since its discovery in 1957. The size of the huge field has never been in question but performance has left much to be desired. The field was placed on production in 1963 with the crude oil transported by truck to Riyadh and used as fuel for electric power generation. The field stayed on continuous production until early 1982 at which time cumulative production was 140 million barrels from 33 wells. To arrest declining production, a gas lift system was installed in 1983. Early wells tested the entire stratigraphic column and additional pay zones were found in the Hanifa, some 300 feet below the main formation (Arab Zone). Another pay zone was found in the Fadhili formation. Over time it was realized that the Hanifa and the Arab Zone were connected by vertical faults near the crest of the structure. But the Fadhili, deeper in the column was isolated and during this era, not placed on production. About 100 miles to the north the relatively small Fadhili oil field, discovered in 1949 produced good quality oil at high rates and this gave a clue as to the potential of the formation at Khurais.

Global economy to get 'shock of its life' when oil hits triple digits

Jeff Rubin says global economy will get the "shock of its life" within 12 months of the end of the recession when oil prices hit triple digits and the age of globalization starts to come to an end.

The former maverick chief economist for CIBC's World Markets for about 20 years and author of the new book Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, says demand for oil will outstrip supply, food prices will soar, and countries will be shocked into growing their own food, manufacturing their own products, and paying a lot money more for everything.

For power on a clean, big scale, it's nuclear

Closing the Rancho Seco nuclear reactor near Sacramento was a big mistake. Upgrading the reactor would have been less expensive than spending three times more on new power lines extended to wind and solar farms in remote areas that would damage ecosystems. It was as foolish as removing electric streetcars in the 1930s and 1940s in Los Angeles, only to replace them with gasoline-powered buses.

Snatching the car battery biz from Asia

Ener1 aims to fuel the car of the future and bring jobs to the Midwest. But the jury is still out on whether or not it can compete against its larger, more established rivals.

Fresh air to power South Africa?

If Hermann Oelsner had his way, statuesque wind turbines would dominate the landscape of the Western Cape, breathing fresh air into South Africa's beleaguered power industry.

What if the techno-optimists and cornucopians are half right?

Some days I wake up and wish for the world's techno-optimists and cornucopians (TOCs) to be right. The future would be so much easier for all of us. But perhaps more immediately, the present would become a less worrisome time zone. Those who anguish about peak oil, climate change, water depletion, and the panoply of resource and ecosystem disasters that are already arriving or are in the making would get a pleasant reprieve. And, the vast majority of citizens on the planet who almost never give such things a thought would simply go on as they have been.

Denver grads create 'bike library' for people in need of a free ride

They're known around the University of Denver campus as "the sustainability duo."

Mary Jean O'Malley and Zoee Turrill, 22-year-old recent graduates of the university, are the masterminds behind a bike-sharing program on DU's campus that will debut this fall.

The "bike library" is a pilot for a citywide bike-sharing program that will launch next spring. Six hundred bikes will be placed in 40 kiosks around the city of Denver, so locals can borrow and return them.

Lifestyle melts away with Uganda peak snow cap

When Yasamu Maate was a younger man, he could stand in his garden on a clear, cloudless morning and stare at the ice caps on the range.

But on a recent Friday the 87-year-old lamented the loss of those ice caps, which have all but disappeared, as the world around him has gotten warmer.

"We used to use the snow and ice as our guide," he said, sitting on a roadside chair in Bundibugyo, a village in western Uganda at the base of the Rwenzoris, which run roughly 100 kilometres (60 miles) along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We would say if there was a lot of snow on the mountains the rain was coming, but these days we are not seeing it. The coldness has disappeared."

Forest covers only 5.3 percent of Pakistani land

ISLAMABAD: Forest area, a basic ingredient of clean environment, stood at a mere 5.3 percent of Pakistan’s total land area, a report citing the economic survey said yesterday. According to the Forest Wing of the environment ministry, Pakistan has about 3.8 million hectare of rangeland, and the only surviving forests in the country are the alpine grasslands of NWFP, the Northern Areas and the AJK.

“Apart from these relatively intact forests, around 85-90 percent of the country’s arid and semi-arid rangeland has been degraded as a result of the five-fold increase in live stock numbers since 1947,” the economic survey said.

Due to energy crisis forests are faced with the stress for fuel wood production, the survey also observed that, “it is extremely disquieting to note that the Juniper forests, located in Balochistan, are continuously being cut beyond their regeneration capacity.”

Oil Age still has some time to run

IF you think the running battle over climate change has been a long one, it's a pup compared with the peak oil debate.

Essentially, the question with oil is whether it's going to run out before our need to use it does.

The peak oil brigade say all the big and easy oilfields around the world have been discovered and global oil discovery has therefore peaked, while at the same time oil demand is showing no serious sign of dropping.

They started their campaign, albeit quietly, in the late 1970s, with the debate over the Hubbert curve -- the claim that oil discovery and production had moved in a curve rather than a straight line. Following on from that they posited that what went up must come down, in the form of a normal distribution curve.

BP's new annual tome on the state of the oil industry, the "BP Statistical Review of World Energy for 2009", sits on the fence on that one. It quotes chief executive Tony Hayward saying "the world has enough proved reserves of oil, natural gas and coal to meet the world's needs for decades to come".

Pump pain: It’s back … but we’re not surprised, are we?

EIA has revised its earlier numbers for global crude production looking far ahead to 2030, Klare observes. The EIA prognosticators have backed off earlier predictions that global crude production in 2030 would be 107 million barrels per day. They now say it’s likely to be only about 93 million, with the slack taken up by nonconventional sources. The headline here, Klare argues, is that the EIA is finally joining with those who have predicted for years that we have passed the curve of peak oil production and that cheap, plentiful crude is history.

Rising oil prices will buy off democracy

The swing of effective demand to the emerging countries is not in dispute, but there are different views about an even greater shift in the oil market, so-called “peak oil”. That is the point in time when flows of new production are fully cancelled out by declines in existing production. That does not mean that oil is running out; but it does mean that demand will outstrip new supply, as has happened in the North Sea and North America. This time it will be a universal shortfall.

Oil Falls a Second Day as Stronger Dollar Dulls Hedge Appeal

(Bloomberg) -- Oil fell as the dollar rose the most in a week against the euro, limiting investors’ need to use commodities as an inflation hedge.

Crude declined for a second day before a report forecast to show that manufacturing in New York state contracted for a 14th month and as European and Asian equities retreated, compounding speculation that the economic recovery has yet to take hold.

Inflation alarm after oil surge

LONDON (Reuters) - Inflation will be back at center-stage for financial markets next week with oil's surge past $70 a barrel and rising bond yields rekindling worries about long-term borrowing costs and the fragile housing sector.

Mexico May ‘Go Naked’ on Oil Hedges as Crude Surges

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico, Latin America’s biggest oil producer, may refrain from hedging against fluctuations in prices for the commodity next year for the first time since 2003 as crude rebounds.

Russia May Increase Oil Export Duty by 39% on July 1

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s government may raise the export duty on crude oil by 39 percent on July 1, the Finance Ministry said today.

The duty will probably increase to $212.60 a metric ton, $29 a barrel, from $152.80, Alexander Sakovich, deputy head of the ministry’s customs payment department, said in an interview.

“It sounds scary,” Unicredit SpA oil analyst Artem Konchin said by telephone from Moscow. ”It is really in line with what oil has done. Oil had gotten ahead.”

North Sea Troll Crude Daily Shipments to Increase 16% in July

(Bloomberg) -- Daily shipments of North Sea Troll crude are scheduled to increase 16 percent next month to the highest in five months

Eni declines comment on North Sea sale report

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy oil company Eni SpA declined to comment on Monday on a report that it planned to sell most of its North Sea oil fields for more than $1 billion.

Eni has hired Rothschild to sell the fields, according to an online version of Britain's Sunday Times newspaper. They produce about 20,000 barrels of oil a day and contain 120 million barrels of reserves.

Sinopec swoops on oil explorer — or does it?

China’s resources drive continues apace, despite the resounding failure of Chinalco’s bid to acquire a big stake in Rio Tinto. According to weekend reports - initially in the Sunday Times - Chinese state-owned oil group Sinopec is stepping up its race to secure access to global oil reserves with an “audacious” £4.8bn bid for Addax Petroleum, a London-listed group with fields in Iraqi Kurdistan and Nigeria.

EnCana's post-hedging future

EnCana Corp. has weathered detrimental natural gas prices smoothly, posting healthy cash flow results, thanks to its hedging program. Roughly two-thirds of its production is locked in at US$9.13 per mcf until October. But then what?

Ahmadinejad Boosted as Iran Sees ‘Return to the Past’

(Bloomberg) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed defiance against external “threats” as he defended his disputed re-election. He may have vanquished for now the internal challenges to his authority.

Nigerian rebels attack oil facility, eyes offshore

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria's main militant group on Monday threatened to extend its attacks to offshore oil facilities after sabotaging a Chevron-operated oil pumping station in the Niger Delta.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it attacked the Abiteye flow station early on Monday, the fifth militant attack claimed against the U.S. energy company in Delta state in less than a month.

China's car sales boom, reshaping a way of life

QUFU, China — This city is a symbol of China's past — the birthplace 2,500 years ago of the revered philosopher Confucius, a town where ancient temples still stand and the gas station sells time-honored Chinese delicacies such as chicken feet and tea eggs.

Even here, though, cars are suddenly everywhere — honking constantly, speeding through the city's medieval gates, crowding pastthe horse-drawn carts and rickshaw cycles that have had Qufu's roads mostly to themselves.

"We never used to have traffic jams," sighs Song Wenjun, 63, who founded the local brewery. Song says just a year ago, his chauffeur-driven Buick moved easily through the city of 60,000, hindered only by its four stoplights. Now, he says, there are more than 20 lights and the roads are packed.

On the Streets of China, Electric Bikes Are Swarming

Of all the things that have changed in China over the past 30 years, transportation has undergone one of the most obvious of transformations. Where city streets once swarmed with bicycles, they are now full of automobiles. Cars clog intersection and expressways. Their exhaust clouds the sky and the air is full of the sound of horns. But zipping through the congestion is the vanguard of another transportation revolution: vehicles that use no gas, emit no exhaust and are so quiet they can surprise the unwary pedestrian.

South Africa: In the driving seat

But Johannesburg and Cape Town decided to move ahead, and there is no doubt that BRT was mapped out with the best intentions. In essence, it is about introducing an improved system not only for existing users, but for the broader public, one that will alleviate traffic congestion and prepare for the crisis that peak oil will eventually present.

Yet what the project has since done is highlight some major faults in the broader system. Not least is the fact that the taxi industry has been relegated to the second economy, yet it has been servicing the largest number of commuters on a daily basis, most of whom reside in the farthest reaches of the still socially segregated country.

Honda’s Hybrid Insight May Miss U.S. Sales Forecast

(Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co.’s Insight hybrid may fall 33 percent short of its U.S. sales goal as cheap fuel, the economic slump and competition from Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius undermine demand for the model.

Drilling disaster: Senate push to reduce state's oil-drilling buffer can hurt tourism

Drill, baby, drill may work as a political bumper sticker but it's not the answer to the nation's energy independence. Drilling could prove to be a Florida disaster -- if offshore oil and gas rigs are allowed to move so close to the eastern Gulf of Mexico that beachgoers in the Panhandle could see them.

All it takes is one spill from a tanker to wreck a coastline for years.

Before Adding, Try Reducing

The U.S. government is committing billions of dollars to support renewable energy such as wind- and solar-power plants. Some say it should use more of that financial clout to encourage less energy consumption in the first place.

Advocates of conservation, including businesses that help homeowners and companies save energy, think there should be more subsidies and tax incentives for basics like insulation and window shading, and for newer, more costly products like light-emitting-diode lamps and building-automation systems. LEDs cost more but use less energy than incandescent bulbs. The new automation systems help buildings waste less energy on cooling, heating and lighting.

Taiwan passes major green energy bill

TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan has passed a bill on renewable energy in a move which is expected to attract 30 billion Taiwan dollar (937 million US) worth of investment, the government and reports said Saturday.

Gulf’s Push for Nuclear Experts May Delay U.K. Plans

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. utilities risk falling behind with plans to build nuclear power plants because Middle East nations may use higher salaries to lure skilled workers, reactor builder Westinghouse Electric Co. said.

Northwest utilities turn to nuclear, 25 years after industry collapsed

WASHINGTON — A consortium of utilities in the Pacific Northwest once known as "Whoops," synonymous with the collapse of the nuclear power industry, wants back in the game.

Though many blame the demise of the industry on the 1979 accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island , the financial meltdown of the Washington Public Power Supply System — WPPSS — became the poster child for all that went wrong.

At first the power was going to be too cheap to meter, but cost overruns, schedule delays, nagging licensing problems and safety issues in the late 1970s and 1980s brought construction of commercial nuclear power plants to a halt. Nationwide, nearly 120 nuclear power plants were canceled.

EPA to rebuild uranium-contaminated Navajo homes

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The federal government plans to spend up to $3 million a year to demolish and rebuild uranium-contaminated structures across the Navajo Nation, where Cold War-era mining of the radioactive substance left a legacy of disease and death.

Obama gives US first national ocean policy

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Friday set up a task force to craft the first US national policy for sustainably managing the country's oceans, drawing praise from environmentalists who said the move was long overdue.

Amazon deforestation: short-lived boost, big damage

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Clearing the Amazon rainforest for soy or cattle does not bring long-term social or economic benefit to local communities and threatens the environment, according to a study published Friday.

Huge swaths of the Brazilian rainforest are cut down, burnt or cleared each year, at an average rate of 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) -- about the size of Kuwait -- because the land is worth more when deforested.

Can We Be Honest About Energy That Will Last?

The decline of American oil production is a reminder that even the world’s blood has its limits. But there has always been another assumption – that there is enough supply to last for a long time. Just as conveniently as the supply-demand relationship suggests that demand for energy will never rise above supply, it has always been supposed that there is enough oil to last. How much? Who knows – but it’s enough to last through the immediate future, which is all anyone really cares about.

Economist shows the whole world how to go green

Rich Sandor is a guy who lives in the future. He always has. In fact, he created some of the world's most advanced futures markets, and he's still at it. He says we're now on the verge of an environmental breakthrough.

Costing the Earth

Helen Harvey talks to some people who say we can't keep leaving the environment out of our economic calculations.

Reversing globalization

If Jeff Rubin had a sprawling house in the suburbs, he'd sell it and move downtown.

The author of Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller thinks the day is not far off when soaring oil prices will mean subdivisions in suburbia will be plowed under for farm fields and the average Canadian won't be able to afford to drive a car.

Building the future politics on our toxic present

In public service, kindness, care and generosity are out of keeping with the dominant market culture. The chronic housing shortage is a national scandal. Unemployment is growing and areas of our country which were devastated in the 1980s are again sinking in the recession. The social welfare contract that once gave some protection in times of adversity is in tatters. The future is full of threats and challenges. A revolution in human longevity is transforming society and leading to an explosion in the burden of care. The value of pension funds has been destroyed by the market. There is food and water insecurity, while oil production will peak at some point within the next 10 years. Looming over all these is the threat posed by global warming. For the great majority of people, there are no individual market solutions to the problems we face.

This should be the moment of the left, but it, too, is trapped in the same interregnum. It lacks a coherent identity, is organisationally and numerically weak, and unclear about its values. It has no story that defines what it stands for. It is telling that, during the past three decades of resurgent capitalism, social democracy in Britain has failed to produce a significant theoretical work to replace Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism. Crosland’s revisionist answer to Marxism, however flawed, at one time provided an intellectual cornerstone for the centre-left. Crosland was always out there on the horizon, keeping alive the language of class, capitalism and equality. This is no longer the case. The self-inflicted crisis of capitalism is serving only to highlight the weakness of the social democratic and liberal left.

Emerald Isle plots green revolution

Ireland seems ready to lead the way as Europe gears up for the low-carbon future.

How the Global Warming Bill Will Affect Your Wallet

In the coming weeks, Congress will likely consider a massive global-warming bill to create a new cap-and-trade program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama praised the bill, dubbed "Waxman-Markey" for its co-sponsors, as a vital step to "create millions of new jobs all across America."

But Obama and supporters of the bill are now facing a litany of charges that the bill is not a good deal for American consumers. Critics on both sides of the political aisle complain that the bill does both too little and too much.

Paul McCartney Calls for Meat-Free Mondays to Curb Animal Gas

(Bloomberg) -- Paul McCartney, the former Beatle and vegetarian pop star, asked fans to go meatless on Mondays to help slow global warming by reducing the amount of gaseous emissions from farm animals.

Argentine glacier advances despite global warming

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier is one of only a few ice fields worldwide that have withstood rising global temperatures.

Nourished by Andean snowmelt, the glacier constantly grows even as it spawns icebergs the size of apartment buildings into a frigid lake, maintaining a nearly perfect equilibrium since measurements began more than a century ago.

Silk Road threatened by melting glaciers

The Chinese gateway to the ancient Silk Road is being flooded – and the culprit, researchers say, is climate change. Melting glaciers sitting above the Hexi corridor in Gansu province, once an important trading and military route into Central Asia, are fuelling dramatic regional floods.

The finding illustrates a major problem for the coming century: around the world, arid regions that sit next to glaciers will suffer a spate of floods, then dry up completely when the glaciers melt away.

US expects China to cut emissions after a 'peak year'

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States wants China to accept slow increases in its greenhouse gas emissions until it hits a "peak year," beyond which a real decrease must occur, US negotiator Todd Stern said Friday.

Pachauri: Stern stance on China climate talks 'pragmatic'

(CNN) -- The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has rejected suggestions that the U.S. has adopted too soft a stance on climate change negotiations with China.

Climate Change Costs: Stern Review Update

The costs of climate change are going up, warns Alex Bowen, the senior economist on the team that produced the seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. But a global green recovery could cut those costs.

Record Vegetable Seed Sales (one vendor up 75%)


Best Hopes for "Food Miles" being replaced by "Food Feet",


I have some bell peppers and onions doing very nicely right now. Just a small experiment in the back garden for my first attempt. Blueberry bushes also in their first year doing well. Its worked out well enough that I think next year I will expand to other vegetables. Im also making my own compost, but I will admit to using a few pounds of petrochemical NPK to help things along.

I also found a local rancher selling grass fed organic beef (dry aged for 17 days too!) it tasted fantastic but its very expensive over $6/lb in bulk. I guess I dont understand why its so expensive because they dont feed them as much or pay for expensive hormones/antibiotics - and they are slaughtered after 1 year just like regular cattle. Even with the high prices I am still considering buying a 1/4 of a cow next spring because it tasted so good.

But will the energy consumed by an extra freezer offset the benefits? I think sometimes that our efforts to green our way of life just moves the energy around but doesnt solve the problems (jevons paradox). Not eating as much meat is the right way to go - instead of trying to continue to do BAU.

I just harvested my first batch of zucchini and yellow squash yesterday. For the most part, they have been dying on the vine as soon as the flowers drop off. I think that's because they aren't being pollinated. I have yet to see a bee in the garden, which has prompted me to seriously consider taking up beekeeping.

My carrots have turned out nicely, although I keep snapping the tops off as I pull them. I also learned just how important it is to thin them out. I have some that are crowded and ended up the size of an ink pen. Those that had room are a foot long. I spotted one little green tomato and some okra that will be ready to harvest in a couple of days. Jalapenos are blooming, but no peppers yet.

I have been making my own compost for a good while, but it has resulted in all sorts of strange things sprouting up in my garden. I guess it didn't get hot enough. Some of the plants look like vegetables of some kind, but it is hard to tell whether some are weeds, or some vegetable seeds that survived the heat.

I keep a journal of my gardening experiences, mostly so I know what to do next year, and when to do it:


I think that zucchini and squash produce predominately male flowers in the early part of the season and then the female flowers start showing up later in the season. Also, certain types of artificial lighting (street lamps) could cause gender confusion in the flowers.

See comment below on how to tell the difference between male and female squash flowers. You can eat the male flowers -- stuff them and put them in omelets. Google for recipes.

Our compost pile is of the decidedly low-tech variety: a pile of soil in the back corner of the garden, perhaps 8' in diameter and 2' high, in which I frequently bury our fruit & veggie scraps. Each spring, I take about a third of this pile and spread it around the remainder of the garden, and replace it with some soil from the latest strip of turfgrass to surrender to my shovel as our garden expands across the yard. We routinely get "volunteers" popping up from the heap, and each year I spare a few of them as they're generally welcome. This year, the winners in this odd genetic lottery are a pair of intrepid cantaloupe plants (I think, anyway). Remarkably, they're about ten times the size of the cucumber plants which emerged at about the same time. Apparently they like the growing conditions in the compost pile.

When I was a kid, we had a volunteer cherry tomato sprout in one of our bins; maybe 4x8. Eventually, the bin was all bush. I was taking compost from the front so I could pick from underneath. At some point, we started counting; we quit afer 5000. I'm not sure we even watered the damn thing. Gave away lots of tomatoes. Lots.

I had some pumpkins last year which are members of the same family.
Rather than rely on bees, I used cotton bud (Q-tips) to fertilize the female flowers. It seemed to work pretty well. I'd love to start beekeeping but my wife is terrified of bees and wasps and pretty much any bugs. Like most suburbanites nature is all a bit too much for her. I probably wont tell her about the mice ive seen running around the compost heap - I reckon the neighbors cat will take care of them soon enough.

One very good way of ensuring a healthy crop of whatever is to use non-hybrid seeds for the first crop. Say tomatoes...then throw the bad tomatoes on a small compost heap. Or just scatter in a good location where no weeds will come up.

What happens is they the tomatoes 'volunteer' up and are suprisingly viable and healthy. In my case they are close enough to where I want them that I didn't transplant them since that would cause some shock and slow growth.

I found 4 of last years cucumber plants volunteered up very nicely and way way beat out the ones I brought and planted.

All beans and peas can volunteer plants but perhaps not in the way of 'rows'. .just haphazard but if you can deal with it you get extremely healthy plants and a great jump on the season plus NO cost.

Seeds saved are IMO adapting to your soil, and climate and the microclimate in your garden hence are far better specimens.

I have done the same with squash that volunteered on my compost heap, as well as melons,etc. A forgotten compost pile where you discard vegetables can be a gold mine of good plants,,,but only if you do non-hybrid.

This is the lazy mans way. The best way.

Airdale-had to kill two young coons last night who were destroying my corn. Hated to but it was them or my garden. The pickings out in the woodlands are very slim due to storms and ice,etc so they come to where things are growing.


We have coon problems here too,but our corn has never attracted coons until the ears fill out.Deer are our biggest problem in the garden this early.

The coons cause us a lot of problems with our chickens,which we allow to run loose.We loose at least one or two hatchings of chicks every year,but some of the hens seem to have learned to spend the night with thier babies right against the house,which helps a little at least.I guess we need a new coon dog,Old Man Dan likes to spend the night inside in his old age.

A thought for every body gardening:raised beds have thier pluses and minuses according to your local conditions and preferences.

We like raised beds but we haven't used the technique much,since we have plenty of space and we garden with the farm machinery mostly.

But this year I am starting to build a lot of large raised beds for a reason that has never been too important before.Old Age.Can't bed over easily anymore.Can't get up and down too many times in one day either.

Once raised beds are built,all sorts of interesting new strategies are worthwhile that take too much work at ground level.

They will be high enough to sit on a stool and plant, weed,and harvest.five feet wide so I can reach the center easily,no wider.

So I will soon be experimenting with double and triple planting techniques that just don't work very well on the ground.I have seen this done before and it's pretty impressive to see how many radishes and onions can be grown between a couple of squash where you used to put your feet and grow crabgrass.Of course they won't get quite as big when crowded,every thing else equal,but the total yield can be right on up there.

Robert, here's a haiku I wrote on July 30, 1989. Actually, it's not a very good haiku, but it's a written record I could readily lay my hands on of our honey bees pollinating vegetables in our garden. Bees do help.

Watching bees wallow
in golden pumpkin flowers--
sweet summer again.

Unfortunately, we no longer keep bees (we had 10 colonies back in the mid '70s to the early '90s). Have considered starting up again--for pollination and the honey, of course--but, as you probably know, these are very hard times for honey bees. Plus, our homestead is on a very wooded hillside, at least 2.5 miles from the open meadows of any dairy farms. Hard for honey bees, especially ten hives of them, to make a living in the woods. While they can forage that far, they can't store much surplus doing so.

One other note of interest: our pumpkins must have been planted plenty late in '89! We've learned a thing or two about gardening since then, but the surprises just keep coming. Mother Nature has given us a lot of cool, rainy weather so far this Vermont spring (which is great for the lettuces and the spinach, but other vegetables are lagging).

Happy gardening! And happy beekeeping if you decide to take it up! If you do, by the way, you might look for the books of Richard Taylor. Don't know if they're still in print, but of all the books I read about honey bees, I learned the most practical stuff from Dick Taylor. His HOW TO DO IT BOOK OF BEEKEEPING is terrific. His THE JOYS OF BEEKEEPING book makes for great evening reading. Taylor was (actually, I don't know if he's still alive)a commercial beekeeper, but he had a profound aesthetic sense and appreciation of bees; and he wrote beautiful prose.


Take out wallow and sweet (subjective) and, imo, you've got a damned fine haiku.


Am considering repatriating to Vermont from Korea. Any suggestions wrt locations, weather, farming...?

Hi, ccpo. Sorry not to have answered earlier. We have 35 acres + or - in the Champlain Valley, about 45 minutes from Burlington. Back when we first built our barn (in '78), then our house ('80, in which we still live), we had a couple of Guernsey cows, three goats, four cats, and a dog. We gardened; traded milk with neighbors for bread and chocolate cream pies (!); sold a bit of honey (but gave most of it to friends as Christmas gifts); cut, bucked, and split our firewood from trees on our land; but never got close to real self-sufficiency. Both my wife and I taught (she high school math and I philosophy and the history of science at UVM, then other local colleges), so we definitely had outside income that subsidized our "homesteading." That homesteading became more of a drag on us as we grew older and became more busy in our outside jobs. We dropped a lot of our homesteading activities (livestock, bees, etc.); but we still have those skills, although they have naturally gotten rusty. Don't know if we can resurrect any or all of them in our present retirement, but we may well have to.

I mention all of this only to make clear that we were always dabblers at homesteading, although not unskilled ones. I'm not sure that the sort of land we could afford to buy (our present land) is much good for serious, "self-sufficiency" farming, but it could be made to work, I suppose.

Better luck probably if you managed to buy all or a portion of a dairy farm that went out of business. Such farms are sold at auction in Vermont all the time, but to be honest I don't know much about relative prices or the best locations to find workable deals. Nor do I know many details about the land developers who have often bought up such farms and turned them into tract housing or golf courses. That trend may be on the decline in Vermont. I just am not conversant with the details.

For comparison's sake, I will mention that we have very good friends who homesteaded somewhat more seriously than we did (although they too were employed outside their places)in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, near Eden (actually a bit east of Eden!). We've had other friends who lived and "farmed" a bit in southern Vermont (near Putney). Many folks from NYC and Boston have second homes in southern Vermont, though, so it's a different culture really.

There's land all over Vermont that could be bought for homesteading or farmsteading. What I am not clear about is the longterm stability of Vermont's economy or the effect of the current or longterm financial situation on land prices and off-farm jobs.

Hope this helps a bit. Sorry I can't offer more specific details or contacts.


Regarding the failure of some of your squash to fruit, the solution is to become the bee.

A local garden writer suggested that you take a artist paintbrush, rub it on the stamen of the male flower to gather up pollen, and then rub it on a female flower (the ones with the proto-fruit bulb under them).

A male zucchini flower is borne on a long stalk. The female flower sits on top of a little squash.


After planting three breadfruit trees, this last week the first breadfruit appeared!

The trees grow on their own in this climate once planted, get gigantic, live over 100 years, and bear nutritious food all year 'round in significant quantity.

Now if only I wasn't the only one planting them...

Freezer time is actually cheap, as long as the juice stays on. Here in South Florida, a 15 cu ft will run you about $50 a year to operate. Provided you keep it full and the door closed.......

If you are into a little preparedness, go with a propane freezer, chest style and not worry about the Juice.....the savings on buying bulk will pay for the freezer in a few years.

You might want to consider canning. Freezers are very expensive, especially when they fail/loose power. I try to grow things like cucumbers and beans that can be pickled and canned. Tomatoes are good, too. And you can always buy stuff at the local farmers' market and can it. I like corn relish, for instance. Otherwise, be sure to have lots of friends and relatives who don't mind the annual zucchini tsunami.


Two words: Zucchini Bread

Sucks down a lot of the tsunami without getting zucchini overload. And between now and the end of the world, a generous helping of Chocolate Chips converts zucchini into candy. If you happen to finish the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, in say 4 hours, and your wife brought a pound of chocolate chip zucchini bread, umm umm umm.

This is my first year really trying to garden, and using only seeds. My diet has gotten so much better and even my crap is starting to float on its own again. Not a pretty picture I'll admit.

Also look into foods that require virtually no special efforts for storage. Grains are one, dried beans are another. And suprisingly, sweet potato (yams) is another.

We harvested a big crop of sweet potato last fall and just put them in milk crates with newspaper layered in to keep them from touching eachother. The milk crates were then stacked in a spare room and covered with a blanket to keep them dark.

We are still eating those sweet potatoes (Yummy!) even though they have started to get 'slips' (sprouts). I planted this season's crop by using small potatoes and sprouted chunks from potatoes we were cutting up to eat.

Very low tech, but it works!

Drying Apricots ... solar drying in converted greenhouse


Sweet potatoes will keep very well just laying bare in your attic.

BUT only if you let them cure completley so very little moisture is left in them.

Way back there were wooden sheds where everyone brought their hampers of sweet potatoes to cure out in the shed that had a small 'washroom' wood burner going. The heat would dry most of the moisture out and also cause the sugars to form. If they don't get much heat(like they would in an attic) then they do not become as sweet as they could.

But if there is enough moisture left in them then you will rot. And shrivel up to nothing. You have to be careful with them otherwise they will last all winter long.

Lay one or two on top of a wood burner and you get desert for little work.


And sometimes you get lucky. I bought a big cardboard box of sweet potatos at the farmer's market last fall for ten dollars. I just put the box where it landed (on top of the clothes dryer in the kitchen), put a cloth on top and have been having good eating every since. Did not layer with newspaper or anything. So far, I've had two that dried out to much to eat. By far the best grocery investment I've every made.


You're getting there by shopping at the farmers market,which is a great way to cut out middlemen and food miles.You are eating better and probably spending less for the most part.

But if you really want to save some money,and you can round up a couple of like minded friends,find yourself a little produce market operated by a single farm family somewhere out in the boonies,and load up.

There is one near my place where locals growers sell thier limited output to the owner rather than run thier own roadside operation.The owner buys(locally) out of season produce from further south and his suppliers backhaul our local produce.So a load of cantaloupes from Florida are exchanged for a load of mountian cabbage from Virginia.

Examples of prices last summer and fall include fresh cabbage by the bag 10 to 20 cents, superb local mountian apples 15 cents to 40 cents by the box.watermelons 2 bucks(4 bucks at the supermarket same day same size)geniune vidilia onions 45 cents by the bag green beans 50 cents large green peppers 25cents each,same day picked corn on the cob very large ears 3dollars a dozen.

50 cents off your next box purchase if you bring back the box.

Farmers selling at urban markets can often get supermarket prices or better, but those out in the country can't.

Checks are frowned upon and your mastercard is not welcome.On the other hand,you may find that you can get a bushel of green beans on credit if your(u-kin-jis-pay-methenextime) van is not fully loaded and you're running short of cash,once you've become a regular.


Get a piece of coarse galvanized screen and make a frame around it with strips of wood.Any size up to about 3 feet by 6 feet is about as big as you want,if you have to move them loaded with fresh fruit.We dry sliced apples on them outside in the autumn,and you need to move theminto the porch if it starts raining.two or three days of rain is enough to rot your apples.

Make one screen sized so that you can hang high over your woodstove.Sweet potatoes peeled sliced and dried on it will be sweet and delicious but they can't really be chewed,they're almost like leather.

So you just let them melt in your mouth like hard candy.

Virtually all of my peppers and tomato plants died during my attempt to "harden" them by putting them outside on occasion. There are roughly 3 plants of each that are still alive, but just barely. I'm not sure if I should have tried for something more practical to grow, or something more hardy.

~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com)

I wonder if we will start to see a transition back to a one wage-earner families. The one at home would be in charge of things like child care, elder care, and the vegetable garden, and other such things.

I wonder how "normal" one wage-earner families really were. Even in the '50s, it was the norm only for middle/upper middle class families. My working class grandmothers and great-grandmothers always worked. They took in laundry and sewing, waitressed and worked in factories, and most often, ran a family business (a restaurant, a general store, a farm, a candy store).


You are dead on the money in regard to the so called one wager earner theory.I am fortunate enough to come from a family where we visited daily or weekly at least with the our old folks. As a child in the fifties I spent many a lazy Sunday afternoon with my grand parents as they relived thier childhoods,and many a summer day in the fields with them.Every body worked hard,but thse were self employed independent people and serious talk intermingled with state of the art humor(tellitto'em cow chain,you been drug thru it before!you tell'em cabbage,you got the head !)was the order of the day.

They in turn spent many long days working and visiting with thier grandparents,and the talk often turned to the good old days-the days before the first automobile was was seen.

The details of those long ago all day conversations have faded like the face of a long ago true love,but some things remain clear.One was that every one worked,including the doctor's and the minister's wives,although these women often escaped some of the drudgery by having a paid helper to do the roughest work.

Convenience food in those days meant a DEAD chicken,and this definition held until the coming of the fast food era. Virtually no services were purchased except by the well to do if they could be be provided or substituted by home labor.All the women worked when I was a kid in the fifties,and the saying ran 'men may work from sun t' sun, but women's work is never done".

Quite a few services were obtained by barter or for very modest amounts of cash which enabled a particularly skilled worker to specialize to some extent.My maternal grandfather was especially good at making axe handles and other small wooden items.

Nowadays the average consumer spends a buck or two on a soft drink w/o thought but my parents in the fifties would have had silmantaneous heart attacks at the thought of buying anything in such an unecomical way.We had soft drinks sometimes but they were purchased in six packs of sixteen ounce returnable bottles on special at the supermarket.My Dad drove(gas was around a quarter to thirty cents) my Mom to three different markets to do her weekly shopping,which amounted to ten or fifteen dollars for a family of seven because they could save more than they could earn in the same amount of time by pursueing this strategy.

Such a business like attitude toward expenses turned homemaking into a full time job.


This is a green sprout of a kind that might actually flourish!

Gardening is a technically mature,low cost,easily expandable enterprise that requires relatively little tecnnical expertise,which can be acquired otj(on the job)by new practicianers.Skilled operators can turn a few dollars worth of inputs into hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of fresh produce at supermarket prices while saving on gym fees and tanning appointments.

It seems to be well positioned for explosive double digit growth for the forseeable future,given the likelihood of rising retail food prices and falling wages and employment.

There's my chuckle for the day, +10, read this just after I came in from peeing on the compost pile. Well said oldfarmermac.

Don in Maine

I think that there were some spot shortages of vegetable seeds in Dallas earlier this year.

BTW, in regard to "A desire named streetcars," a Dallas Morning News article about local government trying to get federal grants for rebuilding what we used to have, a streetcar system (at one time Dallas had about 200 miles of electrified streetcar lines), starting with the downtown area:


Maybe Alan's Dallas talk, and especially the radio interview on the local NPR station, had some impact.

Instead of trying to save the dying auto industry, we should have put our dwindling resources into things like streetcars.

WT -- I always wonder why folks want to put electrified public transport on expensive steel rails. Allen may be able to explain since he and I both grew up in New Orleans. Not sure if he's as old as me but I remember electric buses when I was a kid running on overhead lines. Tremendous flexibility compared to light rail: run as many buses as needed per demand; uses exisiting bus routes and stops; a train breaks down the train behind it just can't pull around it; much, much cheaper infrastrucure; quick build up of over head lines compared to waiting years for rail construction; can buy US made buses. You can probably think of a few more advantages. I cannot think of one disadvantage other then trains are sexier then buses.

Electric trolley buses use about x5 the electricity of streetcars.

The streets they use cost more to maintain than steel rails (I know, everyone assumes that streets are free, but ask a Public Works engineer (I have) about wear and tear on a bus route street vs. a street that is not (New Orleans put in concrete pads at every bus stop)..

Buses last 12 to 15 years, streetcars 30 to 85 and still going. (Seattle did just rebuild running gear of their ETBs and put them in new bodies).

Streetcars/Light Rail carry more people cheaper & faster (especially if on their own ROW) than buses.

Per Ed Tennyson, ETBs will attract 3% more pax than a diesel bus (no stink, quieter). Streetcars about twice as many pax.

Urban Rail (all types except commuter rail) stimulates Transit Orientated Development, buses do not.


PS: Still waiting for doc for Mom ...

Well, here's something to make everyone in the waiting room smile (Do, Re, Mi in a Belgian train station):


Speaking of fun & trains, when my daughter was riding the commuter train from Fort Worth to Dallas, right before Christmas all of the regulars brought Christmas treats to share, and they sang Christmas carols on the way into Dallas.

Had Amon Carter been on that train, it is likely he would have only had treats and songs for the ride home. Of course, once he got there, he would have been greeted by the old downtown sewer plant for which Ft. Worth was reknowned back in his day. My Dad nearly got us run out of town when he quite loudly questioned why Ft. Worth objected to Dallas downtown airport, since Dallas did not object to Ft.Worth's downtown sewer plant. It did help in reducing overtime in all downtown businesses though. It really got bad after 6 PM.

I believe the streetcars (trams, as I call them) in Milan are a pretty old vintage, and still Running strong. According to this article the type you can still ride in Milan were designed in the US and built from 1928 onwards. Impressive.


The streets they use cost more to maintain than steel rails (I know, everyone assumes that streets are free, but ask a Public Works engineer (I have) about wear and tear on a bus route street vs. a street that is not (New Orleans put in concrete pads at every bus stop)..

My town (Eugene, Or) has put in bus rapid transit recently, with some dedicated lanes. My bike commute crosses one of the streets that is in use, and in only a short time the busses have managed to make a perfect set of deep grooves on the bus only lane. No doubt the lower initial cost of BRT comes with much greater down the road expenses.

Thanks Allen. I figured you knew why.

Good luck with mom. BTW...was in Nawlins a couple of weekends ago for my 40th high school reunion (St. Alysius...'69). First one for me. In a word: strange


Looking at articles on various light rail projects I've seen cost figures around $50 million/mile. It makes me wonder how New Orleans had streetcars in 1900.

Do you have any figures of what a streetcar line would cost in a new development with no existing streets, buildings, and utilities to get in the way?

France plans to build 1,500 km of new tram lines for 22 billion euros. A good figure for volume costs when French bureaucrats run things (and they take August off).

Stereotypical French design is pick a busy bus line, take the lane from rubber tires and build a tram line. If they cannot reduce street capacity that much, then put cobblestones or rough concrete in the tram lane to discourage cars.

US prices suffer from the long standing "ration by queue" policy of the US government. Higher costs are part of that.

New Orleans built the 5 mile Canal Streetcar Line for $150 million, and 30% of that went to consultants.

Underground utilities are an issue, but a lessor one.


New Orleans Peak Streetcar was 222 miles with 666 streetcars (and about 100 electric trolley buses).

Not counting electrical and vehicles, a light rail line, greenfield would cost slightly more than a US Highway standard construction if embedded in concrete. If rail on ballast, $100/track ft (2003 #s).


Is the $150 million for the Canal line inflation adjusted? That seems like a lot of money back then. Also, is that just for one track or all 6 on Canal St.?

Also, did that include the electric plant? Not sure when Canal line was built, but electrification was just beginning around 1900 and was very limited. Steam turbines weren't invented until around 1902 and I don't know when they were commercial, so generation may have been steam engine powered.

That is all costs (vehicles, barn, etc.) for the new Canal Line, opened April 13th, 3 AM, 2004.


Busses also depend on roads, which are very high maintenance, and not a given as things unwind.
Rail is much more durable.

Alan-- or someone who knows and is willing to respond to probably ignorant questions:

Why can't dying GM and Chrysler be re-tooled to make passenger trains?

And how much does train track cost per mile compared with freeway? And how much space does the track take compared with freeway?

If 6-lane freeway corridors were converted to double track and a 4-lane road, what would be the traffic volume that could be accommodated compared with the 6-lane road?

And how much does train track cost per mile compared with freeway? And how much space does the track take compared with freeway?

I have no actual answer on your Q's here NeverLNG -
- but this Bergen Streetcar-Photoblog (600 + pictures) depicts the progress of my hometown Bergen's(Norway) efforts to reinvent the future - with old methods. The city used to have a tram-system way back. The images give an idea of the complicated task of "running the city" in tandem with actual constructions taking place at the same time .. Original city planning never foresaw trams or the like, I can tell you so much.

Obviously the upfront costs are staggering - and with up to 2 feet of concrete making up the slab for the double track - it will last for a very long time.

In the 1970s, GM hosted a week long think tank in San Francisco by transit experts. The question was, should GM enter the Light Rail business ? (Boeing did BTW).

Ed Tennyson was one of the invitees. The consensus was, no (in the 1970s). Today Ed says "Yes", the market has changed enough.


One data point. Streets and freeways can handle about 1,000 vehicles/lane/hour (PLEASE correct me if I am wrong) (with adjustments for everything). Avg. 1.1 people/vehicle.

The two track Los Angeles Blue Line is near capacity at rush hour 100,000 pax/day, the 4 track Lexington subway is at capacity at 600,000/day.

One track, with clearances, takes about as much space as one traffic lane.

Add to this the space wasted by parked cars, car dealerships and oil change, drive-in lanes, etc.


Thanks. The logic seems obvious, except for small matters of what to do with displaced mechanics, parking attendants, gas stations etc. etc.

I travel by Amtrak to Wash D.C. from Portland about twice a year. Wonderful trip -- it's a shame it seems to be considered a museum piece. However, the attitudes seem to be changing -- people are hardening against airline travel, and the trains are running pretty full now.

I don't see any need for "high speed" rail. A train that averaged 80mph would be plenty fast -- and pretty much doable, if there were the will.

All the talk of passenger rail forgets one thing:
Almost all of the rail in the USA is privately owned by the FREIGHT railroad companies - Who have stated repeatedly that passenger and freight traffic can not mix well on "Their rails".
The only thing that will bring back passenger rail and modernize the operation of existing freight rail will be if the Federal Government purchases (nationalizes) all of the rail trackage in the USA and takes over operation of all rail traffic control in the USA. Then any private company that wishes to operate freight or passenger rail can do so on the public tracks. This is the same operating mode as both road and air traffic. Private companies/individuals operating on public roads and airways with government setting the "rules of the road".
Private passenger airlines and private air freight both operate on public airways with federal air traffic control. Private bus companies and private road freight companies operate on public roads under regulations put forth by the Federal and State governments.
AmTrak has to pay huge fees to the private freight railroads to use "their tracks" and the movement of AmTrak trains is controlled by the freight railroads (competing) traffic control systems. Is it any wonder, what with the freight railroads stating they do not want passenger rail service on "their rails", that AmTrak is very expensive transportation and why they have such a poor on time operating record?
Companies like UPS and FedEx will not go to using rail as long as they have to pay huge fees to the existing rail freight companies to use the tracks and have their rail operations subject to the private freight rail companies traffic control systemS!
There are not many things that I believe Government should be involved in, but maintaining public transportation routes like roads, airways and rail tracks are one of them.

Jon, all true as far as it goes, but beyond this, freight trains are many times heavier than passenger trains, and their weight eventually distorts the tracks, so that Amtrak sometimes has to clunk along at 40-50 MPH, even when the tracks are flat, straight, and clear of other traffic.

Regardless of who runs them, freight and passenger rail each need their own set of dedicated tracks to fully resolve the problems with the U.S.A. passenger rail scene.

Antoinetta III

One has only to keep the very heavy coal trains, etc. separate from pax service.

SBB (Swiss Rail) is going to operate regular freight (containers, lumber) at 100 kph (62 mph), express freight (160 kph/100 mph) and passenger service (240 kph/150 mph) on the same tracks. 300 trains/day max.

Of course, either SBB or Japanese Central are the best run RRs in the world.

Conceptually, I would like to see a slight modification of the proposed CSX plan from DC to Miami over a ~14,000 mile network across the USA. (Cost about 1.5 AIGs)

100% grade separated from DC to Miami, two tracks for regular freight at ~60 mph (some curves need to be straightened) and one track (2 from DC to Richmond) for 100-110 mph pax service.

I would also run FL fruits & veggies, and other express freight on the 110 pax tracks at, say, 90 to 100 mph. The express frieght could pull over & slow down onto the regular freight tracks when a pax train came in the opposite direction.

Best Hopes,


Someone mentioned last fall that for the $750 billion going to the banksters every mile of track in the US could be doubled. Also mentioned that for the same price the 125 million single homes in the US could have a 1.5+KV PV system (about $5K) on the roof.

Aerospace firms Rohr and Boeing both tried their hand at building rail transit vehicles. Both were failures.

Quite frankly, if I were a transit agency (and I do sit on the board of our local transit agency), I wouldn't buy any product made by a company that puts the door latch mechanism outside the area protected from salt spray by the door gasket (yeah, you, Chrysler = Dodge Dakota) or can't build a window crank mechanism that lasts more than 2 years (yeah, you, GM, Pontiac Vibe)

GM built a very good locomotive, until they sold that division to Warren Buffett (50% from memory, other half to Canadian investors).

Boeing LRVs were commercial failures, but they worked reasonably well.


The Pontiac Vibe is actually a Toyota.

The drive train is. The rest is made in California. The Matrix is assembled in Canada.

"Why can't dying GM and Chrysler be re-tooled to make passenger trains?"

Because they couldn't properly run their core business in which they had been engaged for many years. Why give money to a failing business to do something different? Better to promote something new or existing train builders, maybe encourage a world leader to establish a US manufacturing plant? but why wouldn't they already be there?? :-)

There is a tendency to mix up companies with infrastructure.

There is a lot of industrial infrastructure currently in the hands of GM and Chrysler that could be turned to making e-vehicles, trains, or wind generators.

For solidity in existing companies I'd look to the ones that have had the foresight to expand beyond their "core business" or who have a broad enough view of their core that it involves more than passenger vehicles and a few trucks.

Honda comes to mind quite strongly in that regard. Such a shame it isn't a US company.

Then why choices like a ExTelco exec to run "the core business"?

Couple of housing articles...

Median home price in Detroit is $6000

As hurricane season meets housing crisis, fears deepen

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - Mike Manikchand points toward his neighbors - a half-dozen empty, foreclosed-upon homes, sitting on weed-strewn yards - and he wonders: What will happen if a hurricane slams into southwest Florida this year?

His simple answer: "A lot of these places will get destroyed."

Unoccupied, these homes would be defenseless in a storm; there will be no one to put up shutters, batten down garage doors, and otherwise secure homes. But that's not all. Nearby homes and their residents would also be at risk from wind-propelled debris.

To paraphrase Tyler Durden, Don't Talk About Hurricane Season.

Still livin' in South East Florida.


I read yesterday that Flint, MI is buying up whole neighborhoods and bulldozing them and returning them to woodland.

That's a great project for the "shovel ready stimulus" -- there are a lot of defunct neighborhoods, and patches of green in the cities would be very welcome.

John Robb had this to say
Now go buy some PV today


In fact, this situation is very similar to something seen in the computing industry, and why a decentralized model emerged. In that previous situation, there were attempts to centralize all computing and provide terminals to end-users (France's Minitel and Oracle's Network Computers). There were also attempts to provide interactive multimedia through boxes that provided interactive TV (ala 1994). However, in all of these cases the rate of change, the amount of required investment, the speed of end-user innovation, etc. doomed these attempts to failure. The same is likely true for alternative energy. The best approach, and the only one likely to succeed, is the decentralized model.

Hello TODers,

More on my continuing posting series:

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain..."

[S]ulfur block
Asimov's List: P is #1, S is #2, so let's strike up the Periodic Symphonic Tableau and ignite some Synaptic WildfireS:

Please notice how the arrangement is not unlike how an orchestra is arranged.

Recall that Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony. Thus, he had to "Remember When the Music...would set our minds afire"; to Semaphore by music and song what he wished to express. Today, his Last Symphony is widely considered to be a Masterpiece:
"Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Touched with fire, to the portal,
Of thy radiant shrine, we come.
Your sweet magic frees all others,
Held in Custom's rigid rings.
All men on earth become brothers,
In the haven of your wings."--Schiller

I just love to eyeball the colors in this photo: SandDune, Spice Orange, Blood Red, and Butterfly Blue!

The Harkonnen homeworld Giedi Prime itself is an industrial wasteland with a low photosynthetic potential, its once-rich natural resources exhausted and the environment fouled with industrial pollution..

Recall from my extensive postings that [S]ulfur is important in everything from simple matches, to industrial fertilizers I-NPK, to explosives, to mineral extraction of other Elements, water purification, tire vulcanization, and many other items:

..Elemental sulfur is mainly used as a precursor to other chemicals. Approximately 85% (1989) is converted to sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which is of such prime importance to the world's economies that the production and consumption of sulfuric acid is an indicator of a nation's industrial development.[20] For example, more sulfuric acid is produced in the United States every year than any other industrial chemical..

IMO, the application of S-scarcity to induce Liebig Minimums in most things, while concurrently driving O-NPK towards building a high agri-ERoEI of a Liebscher's Optima can serve us well on the Hubbert Downslope ahead for Optimal Overshoot Decline.

Thus, can we Peak Outreach compose a Non-BAU Score that is more in tune with our ecosystem? Can we globally harmonize by doing the half-glass Peakoil Shoutout, accompanied by a 'Melange' of many Foundational instruments building off of severely constrained S? Can an S-metronome establish a steady seven generation tempo ahead for the Porridge Principle of Metered Decline through the coming Bottleneck?

Or will the never-ending clanging of the Iron Triangle simply overwhelm the growing chorus for Paradigm Change; just totally deafen any carefully arranged orchestration towards a smooth Transition? If we are now in the 'Ninth' inning, will the Peak 'Symphony' be somewhat conducted by us, or will Nature entirely conduct the Last Thermo/Gene Symphony? Will it be the gentle, pianissimo rhythmic hum and whir of SpiderWeb wheels? Or will the clashing, fortissimo sound of machetes be the cymbals of our Overshoot crescendo, then demise?

I believe at some postPeak inflection point: the FF-extractors will acknowledge among themselves that the planet is on the Hubbert Downslope. The decline of sweet oil and sweet natgas is already well underway, and moving to more extraction of heavy & sour crude, tarsands, and sour natgas will only generate increasing amounts of stockpiled S. What are our chances of making Harkonnen into Fremen for Optimal Overshoot Decline?

Webb/Pomerene, and other International Acts, have so far appeared to allow Canpotex & Belaruskali in Potash[K], plus the [P]hosphate Group, to BAU-prosper and make long term plans to roughly maximize the value of their depleting resources by giving them the freedom to rapidly curtail production when desired. Recall that Cathy Mathers' quote [Int. Fert. Assoc. spokesperson]: "We have probably reached the theoretical chem-limits of out technology".

Should we encourage that the recovered-S be stockpiled for a long time to help bring about it's True Value, and to also help future offspring? Should the price be roughly S/ton = 7 oil barrels/ton [$147 barrel of crude = $1,000/ton of S]? Or should S be a multiple of the crude price so that it becomes more accurately hoarded for some X generations ahead, while at the same time vastly reducing our addition to Climate Change and specie extinction?

If the IOCs & NOCs know that crude is decreasing while S is increasing: wouldn't a Webb/Pomerene legal structure allow them to profitably revenue maximize for both while at the same time serving a greater goal towards the coming Paradigm Shift? If they assert S as the MAJOR [Not the Minor] Liebig Minimum for our Societal Prey [see link below], wouldn't this optimally help reshape the Bottleneck thru which we must traverse?

This is actually no different than in Nature: a lion pride's or wolfpack's fresh kill quickly sets off a feeding frenzy to be the first to the prey's liver and other high mineral content internal organs. The eating of most of the muscle & bones is done later.

Thus, picture our 'societal prey' as the annual total of a cubic mile of oil [bones], with multi-cubic miles of natgas [muscle], with the [internal organs] being the highly prized agri-Elements NPKS. The resulting food surplus is what allows job specialization, thus civilization.

"Remember when the music..
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children's time
And as we sang we worked, for time was just a line.."--Harry Chapin

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

Sulfur is one of the most abundant elements, especially in the sulfate form, such as gypsum and less abundant potassium magnesium sulfate. Seawater contains 0.091% S and 0.04% K.

Sulfuric acid is used in producing phosphate from phosphate rock and elemental sulfur is required to make sulfuric acid. However, phosphoric acid can be used instead of sulfuric acid. Phosphoric acid can be made from electric arc refined phosphate.

Zinc is likely to be the first limiting plant nutrient as it is considered a critical element and scheduled for elemental extinction before phosphorous. Zinc is the most commonly deficient micro-nutrient, causing severe yield loss in many developing countries. Also, addition of phosphate often ties up available zinc, as I found out when my citrus developed Zn deficiency symptoms.

You can download the paper Zinc in Soils and Crop Nutrition free:

Re: Before Adding, Try Reducing

"But replacing incandescent lights in a home with light-emitting diodes saved about $159 per ton of CO2..."

Ack!, here we go again.... Instead of replacing a 60 or 100-watt A19/GS incandescent with a $100.00 to $200.00 LED (equipped with a heat sink the size of a '57 Buick), how about we opt for an equivalent wattage CFL readily available at any big box retailer for $2.00 or less? With this, our $159.00 per tonne of CO2 falls to perhaps as little as $1.00. Must we be forevermore cursed by our own stupidity?


I agree. CFLs are much better for wide area illumination applications. LED still excels for things such as traffic lights, and other instant-on applications, however. Even so, I've been discouraged to see a number of LED traffic lights in the area having blocks within the light that have failed. I hope that they are covered by warranty, and the manufacturers improve their QA.

LED still excels for things such as traffic lights, and other instant-on applications,

Like a head lamp so one takes their lighting with them.

"But replacing incandescent lights in a home with light-emitting diodes saved about $159 per ton of CO2..."

The way I parse that sentence, is the customer saved $159, and a ton of emissions to boot. That implies he both saved money, and cut emissions. That doesn't mean he wouldn't have done better with CFLs, just that conservation/efficiency usually saves the implementor more money than it costs.

The way I parse that sentence, is the customer saved $159, and a ton of emissions to boot. That implies he both saved money, and cut emissions.

Hi EoS,

It would be great if that were the case, but the lead sentence suggests otherwise:

"A study by New York-based management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. earlier this year compared the cost of eliminating one ton of CO2 emissions using different means:...


Hi Paul,
Why do you think that LEDs should cost $100-$200 and have a large heat sink? take a look below for an example of a small cheap LED.


I have installed many similar small CFLs and LED lights at home and have found the light quality and life vary greatly, some LEDs have only lasted a couple of months so i guess its still early days.

Hi Tony,

There are literally hundreds of millions of 60 and 100-watt A19 (general service) lamps sold in North America each year. A standard 120-volt, 100-watt GS supplies about 1,700-lumens (perhaps something in the range of 1,400 lumens at 230-volts) and, as far as I know, there are no LED products that match the output and broad light distribution of a household incandescent, such as would be suitable for use in a table lamp. I recall mention of one LED lamp that incorporated an internal cooling fan and I don't know if it's still available, but some reviewers complained about the noise (I believe there were other issues as well).

I've tried various LED products and I've been largely disappointed by the results; e.g., premature failure, serve lumen depreciation, poor colour rendering, noticeable variations in colour temperature, uneven light distribution, strict thermal management requirements that are impossible to achieve in the field, bulky and rather unattractive heat sinks, unacceptably high cost, and so on. There are a lot of issues to be addressed before these things move mainstream.


I am happy with my LED nightlights (<1 watt) and 2.7 watt yellow outside light (LED).

All the turn signals on my car are LEDs.

I have used red LEDs to retrofit EXIT signs. Good experience.

LEDs have a place for 0.3 to 2 watt bulbs and where colored light is needed, IMO.

I also have 2 and 3 watt CFLs. Slight preference for 2 watt CFL > 2 watt LED.

Best Hopes for energy efficient lighting,


Hi Alan,

We've upgraded a lot of EXIT signs over the years and have been quite pleased with the results. Last year, Clean Nova Scotia volunteers upgraded some 4,700 EXIT signs across the province at no charge, for a savings of over 1.1 million kWh/yr (2 x 1.5-watt LEDs versus 2 x 15-watt incandescents). This is a perfect application for these types of lamps, but for general room illumination, LEDs have a long way to go.


i live in new jersey. i dont see anything you guys talk about. all my neighbors have big new 4x4 trucks and SUV's. now warm weather i see lots of them hauling speed boats. i am a one income household. it is killing me. property taxes, utility bill, insurance, food. oh, i am grossing
high 40's. dont know how folks making less do it. i didnt get my garden in this year. maybe next year. wage slaving is not conducive to personal tasks. and... at my job i know of many folks who commute 120 miles or more each way. they leave their families and rent hotel rooms and visit
back on days off. that is how bad the economy is when it becomes "economical" to do so. economically necessary, that is. it is a sad commentary on the current paradigm (IT'S THE OIL CONUNDRUM!). it looks like the end of happy motoring is premature and will only come
during a catastrophic collapse. powering down will be brutal. i notice JHK is predicting the assassination of a powerful western leader, transparently identified as "half african". hmmm. it sounds like JHK needs a visit from homeland security.

Change will not come evenly to all regions at one time.

As I understand it, oil and natural gas prices track together pretty well. This must mean that there are a range of applications where usage can move between oil and gas to what is cheaper. So it seems to me that a very crucial moment in the oil downslope will be when oil and natural gas decouple. That will mean that there isn't any oil use that can easily move to natural gas. After that we're into serious painful infrastructure change.

elwood -- But they were making good cash flow. Just saw a story about how they locked up 80% (?) of their volume last year at a floor of $9.40/mcf. They can afford to shut some wells in and live of that cashflow for a while.

A temporary situation. When the protesters get squashed, they will turn silent.
Typical for a middle east country during an election.

Why is the world so worried about Iran anyway?

This goes far beyond the usual. Some observers have already compared the unrest to the revolution in '79, but nobody knows how this one is going to turn out yet.

It sounds like getting shot at just made the protesters angry.

I don't think it amounts to much. The opposition candidate is hardly a radical or an outsider and the protests don't really seem that big. I think the Western press is playing it up, but I don't know the real situation.

EDIT: I should say the riots don't look that big. The videos I see mix in scenes of large rallies with those of riots, implying they are the same.

"protests don't really seem that big"

Good of you to add the edit. The protests go for five miles. Estimates of crowd size are in the hundreds of thousands.

If that many people "rioted" you would call it a war, not a riot.

4th largest oil exporter?

Why worry about Iran?

Iran is full of angry young men (not much birth control being practiced there); is very nationalistic/proud, and the people have not forgotten (their 'leaders' will always remind them) that we deposed their leader in 1953 to install our secret-police-wielding puppet, the Shah. They want civilian nuclear power, and they want the bomb. They see both as enhancing their national prestige and both as having practical benefits otherwise.

If Israel bombs/otherwise attacks Iran's nuclear materials production and research sites, then Iran may launch missiles against Israel (payloads?) and try to shut down the Persian Gulf with mines and land-based anti-ship missiles and small speedboat/RPG attacks. Recall the American re-flagging of Gulf state oil tankers years ago the last time Iran surreptitiously dumped mines into the Persian Gulf. Iran could also play hell in Iraq and the Stan and Gaza and Lebanon though proxy/irregular warfare.

All of this would have some noticeable affect on oil prices.

We reap what we sowed. Perhaps we should not have turned their leaders into our puppets only to have it blow back in our faces; perhaps we should have taken the 'Islamic Bomb' development in Pakistan much more seriously back in the late 1970s; Perhaps we should have heeded the warning bells during the early 1970s oil embargoes and weaned ourselves away from ME oil and thereby avoided pumping trillions of our petrodollars into an unstable region for decades.

"We reap what we sowed."

Very true.

They want civilian nuclear power,

Say The Shah got the fission plants he wanted.

What would the US have done after the removal of The Shah to said plants?

and they want the bomb.

If the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction is true - then who cares right?

You active duty BMWintheshop ?

I doubt it, unlike the US imposed shah, ahmadi nejad enjoys popularity amongst the poor majority. Yes the poll was probably rigged but this is known in many countries (anyone for chad:-)

WAG disclosure, I would guess it is the young more educated voters who want social freedoms against the poor majority who don't want it - so an elected leader even if you don't like it.

Have now found out more about the election and it looks like it was much more rigged then i thought. Previous polls showed ahmadinejad with a 2:1 lead but apparently there was a huge swing against him during the last couple of weeks and it was unlikely for ahmadinejad to win by similar majorities everywhere. Also the results were announced much too quickly, i.e. there was not enough time to actually physically count these votes. The Iranian footballers wearing the green armbands were very brave.

Friday might be a key day since that is the start of their "weekend" and a usual meeting day.

Swine flu and peak oil mitigation go hand-in-hand?

Quarantine model 'risks economic damage'

"If we keep following the quarantine model there will be massive closures of offices, shops and schools and people will be reluctant to travel on public transport," he said.

"This could as much economic damage as the global financial crisis."

Mr Winderlich said one way to minimise the threat was for businesses and schools to switch to telecommuting so people could work and study from home.