DrumBeat: June 28, 2009

‘Coal-eating’ bugs may solve energy crisis

Craig Venter, the controversial American scientist who helped decode the human genome, has announced the discovery of ancient bacteria that can turn coal into methane, suggesting they may help to solve the world’s energy crisis.

The bugs, discovered a mile underground by one of Venter’s microbial prospecting teams, are said to have unique enzymes that can break down coal. Venter said he was already working with BP on how to exploit the find.

Venter even suggested the discovery could open up the world’s coalfields to an entirely new form of mining, where coal is infected with the bacteria, allowing methane to be harvested “without even digging up the coal”.

Dmitry Orlov: The slope of dysfunction

Perhaps you have heard of the Peak Oil theory? Most people have by now, even the people whose job used to involve denying the possibility that global crude oil production would peak any time soon. Now that everybody seems a bit more comfortable with the idea, perhaps it is time to reexamine it. Is the scenario Peak Oil theoreticians paint indeed realistic, or is it firmly grounded in wishful thinking?

The scramble for Iraq's 'sweet oil'

With proven oil reserves of around 112 billion barrels and up to another 150 billion barrels of probable reserves, Iraq is the greatest untapped prize for international oil companies.

To put that in context, if Iraq does turn out to have around 300 billion barrels of oil, it will rival the world's biggest producer Saudi Arabia - which has around 160 billion barrels of proven reserves.

Varanus blast: Apache in court

FULL capacity has been restored at the Varanus Island natural gas plant a year after an explosion cut 30 per cent of Western Australia's gas supply.

Apache, the second-largest independent US oil producer by market value, confirmed that full capacity had been restored at its plant.

Qatargas: South Hook LNG Terminal a stepping stone for UK operations

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) "The South Hook LNG Terminal is a key stepping stone for Qatargas operations in the UK," said Mohammad Al Naimi, General Manager, South Hook LNG terminal, world's largest LNG terminal. The $2bn project will be supplying 20 percent of UK's energy requirements.

Nigeria: At Last, China Makes Dramatic Entry Into Nigerian Oil Sector

But under the latest deal, Sinopec, a refiner formally known as China Petroleum & Chemical, would gain access to substantial reserves in Nigeria, some other parts of West Africa and the Middle East if the takeover of Addax is approved.

Analysts are, however, divided over the implications of the acquisition, which industry sources said is raising the fear of a possible staff rationalisation in the petroleum company.

China, Iran, Nigeria, and Oil

Demand from China may be up, however, according to the International Energy Agency, global demand for crude is off 2.9 percent year over year; US demand is down 4.9%. Although it might be popular and trendy to talk about China being the “next big thing” the reality is that the tail cannot wag the dog no matter how much it tries. The United States is still the world’s largest consumer of oil by far and should hold this position for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for China, at least for now, the laws of nature will not be rewritten.

Positioning for When Water Runs Out: Part II

These folks are well-meaning but disappointingly misguided, given that the authors are mostly civil engineers. I am 110% in favor of using sun, wind, or tides, but our water problems are pressing now, not in 20 years. Couldn’t we just once plan ahead of a known catastrophe?!! What is available now is nuclear and natural gas, and dirty old coal and oil. You want water? Fess up to the reality that it takes energy, and the energy sources we hope to replace are still the energy sources which we have in abundance -- with a transportation and distribution infrastructure already in place.

In the Andes, a Toxic Site Also Provides a Livelihood

La Oroya has been called one of the world’s 10 most polluted places by the Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit group that studies toxic sites. But for several months, the Peruvian smelting company in Mr. Rennert’s empire has claimed that low metals prices prevented it from completing a timely cleanup to lower the emissions that have given this town such an ignoble distinction.

The tensions here over the lead emissions and the smelter’s financial meltdown is precisely the kind of dire mix of foreign investment and environmental contamination feared by indigenous groups elsewhere in Peru, particularly in the country’s Amazon basin, where protests over similar issues left dozens dead this month.

Oklahoma accused BP of gasoline price-fixing

HOUSTON -- Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Drew Edmondson accused BP America Inc. and two subsidiaries of illegally manipulating gasoline prices and other refined products in a scheme said to have started in 2002.

In a lawsuit filed in Cleveland County District Court, Edmondson accused BP of deceptive trade practices, saying BP acquired and hoarded short-term supplies of gasoline from the New York Harbor gasoline hub and light, sweet crude oil from Cushing, Okla.

Climate Change Bill May Be Election-Year Issue

WASHINGTON — As Democrats strained to win over crucial holdouts on the way to narrow, party-line approval of global warming legislation, they were dogged by a critical question: Has the political climate changed since 1993?

Veteran members of both parties vividly remember when many House Democrats, in the early months of the Clinton administration, reluctantly backed a proposed B.T.U. tax — a new levy on each unit of energy consumed — only to see it ignored by the Senate and seized as a campaign issue by Republicans, who took control of the House the next year.

Wind, Solar Could Play Bigger Roles in Future US Energy Mix

U.S. climate change legislation now before Congress would mandate that by 2020, 15 to 20 percent of the nation's electricity supply would come from renewable sources like wind and solar.

Currently wind and solar contribute only about 2 percent, with hydropower providing an additional 6 percent.

UAE: Finding a solar solution before the dust settles

With little rain and an abundance of sun, this desert country is just about as good as it gets for solar power. Not surprisingly, therefore, solar stands at the forefront of efforts to develop renewable energy and reduce the UAE’s emissions of greenhouse gases while providing an alternative to dwindling supplies of oil.

Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of dust. As anyone who lives here knows, dust is the nation’s sentinel against inertia: anything immobile is quickly covered, whether hanging laundry, parked cars or solar panels.

Beetles Add New Dynamic to Forest Fire Control Efforts

DENVER — Summer fire seasons in the great forests of the West have always hinged on elements of chance: a heat wave in August, a random lightning strike, a passing storm front that whips a small fire into an inferno or dampens it with cooling rain.

But tiny bark beetles, munching and killing pine trees by the millions from Colorado to Canada, are now increasingly adding their own new dynamic. As the height of summer fire season approaches, more than seven million acres of forest in the United States have been declared all but dead, throwing a swath of land bigger than Massachusetts into a kind of fire-cycle purgatory that forestry officials admit they do not yet have a good handle on for fire prediction or assessment.

China’s Big Sway Over U.S.’s Climate Change Fight

China and the United States have been playing a game of chicken: Who's going to cave first to set tough emissions reduction rules?

The outcome could be influenced by who owes whom money, said David Gergen, former advisor to several U.S. presidents and a senior political analyst at CNN.

Richard Heinberg - Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis

Richard Heinberg has released his latest book, BLACKOUT: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis.

David Fridley, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs says, "Blackout reviews the most recent analyses of global coal reserves and concludes that peak coal production is likely much nearer than is commonly assumed. Heinberg argues cogently that the most rational strategy is to reduce consumption and to rethink our growth imperative."

Reactive oil markets won't wait

An equally important factor is that easily accessible oil is getting harder to find. OPEC estimates that $75 a barrel oil is needed for oil exploration and production to become profitable. Iran cites a $50 price as the minimum. Whether the much disputed point of "peak oil" has been reached or not, new demand is growing just as the cost of finding new oil becomes more expensive.

Perhaps the most gloomy aspect is the inability of politicians and bankers to plan ahead. With prices low, now would be a good time to put in place taxes and other measures to encourage energy efficiency, given that it takes years to decades for energy investments to bear fruit and that medium-term energy demand is rising.

But President Barack Obama's energy secretary Steven Chu said it would be "politically impossible" for the U.S. to impose the sort of energy taxes that Europeans and Japanese have done to help create more efficient energy use and a motor industry that doesn't depend on gas-guzzling vehicles.

Haynesville Shale Creates Opportunities in the Energy Sector

Last month investment advisor Marc Faber in a Bloomberg interview noted that “natural gas is the most undervalued commodity in the world right now.” He also said he was a believer in ‘peak oil’ to the extent we have developed most of the cheap and easily recoverable high quality reserves globally, but that the world would move onto other sources of energy as economics dictates. Faber sees energy prices rising over time and also much higher inflation in the U.S. — which will be good for commodities and for small cap stocks.

China oil demand's good news, but can it be oil's savior?

TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- China's oil demand has grown even as its production declines but analysts question whether the nation's healthy appetite for crude will last, and cast doubt on whether its demand can single-handedly offset an expected global drop-off in consumption this year.

PetroCaribe: Yes, we can

What if Jamaica does not find oil of its own? Could it invest in exploring for oil in another country and own a part of that investing company? Could it own a part of that oil and ensure its own supply in the future at a cheaper rate? Could it, in other words, own extra-territorial oil?

Oman oil output, exports reverse years of decline

Muscat: Oman last Friday reported a sharp increase in crude oil exports during the first four months of this year, reinforcing a trend in rising production after years of declining output.

Gazprom Neft Buys Half of Sibir’s Largest Shareholder

Gaining control of London-listed Sibir, which is 18 percent owned by Moscow city government, will help Gazprom Neft battle falling output from its aging fields. Sibir has rights to half of the 160,000 barrels a day produced by Salym Petroleum Development it jointly runs in Siberia with Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Oil firms steel for worst, hope for best, in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Pipelines shattered by bombs. Oil terminals crippled by suicide attacks. Officials blown up in roadside blasts or kidnapped from their office at gunpoint.

Calamities like that are not just the worst fear of an oil executive in a hostile environment; they are the reality of the last six years of chaos, bloodshed and war in Iraq.

Sandstorm delays start to Iraq oil tenders

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has postponed the first day of highly anticipated tenders for eight major oil and gas fields due to a thick sandstorm that engulfed Baghdad on Sunday, the Oil Ministry said.

Gas drillers say use of chemicals not an environmental threat

Gas well drilling is increasing in prevalence in the Northeast Pennsylvania area, and as this is happening, many people express their concerns about the environmental impact.

Questions are raised, and one that gets attention involves the use of chemicals in fracturing fluid. Natural gas-drilling companies use the fluid, which is composed of a solution containing 99 percent water and sand, to break apart shale formations. The process, also known as “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracing,” involves the pumping into the ground of the fracturing fluid under high pressure, thus opening up cracks and bedding planes in the shale. The use of sand prevents the openings created in the rock from closing. Less than 1 percent of the fluid used in this process contains the combination of several chemicals, and it is the use of these chemicals that has led many to wonder just how safe the use of fracturing fluid really is.

Facing competition, West Coast ports lobby for improved rail links

"We need a well-thought-out, strategic freight policy," said Tim Farrell , executive director of the Port of Tacoma . "We need to focus on corridors from Shanghai to Chicago or Tokyo to Houston . We are just getting started, but the West Coast ports generate more jobs than the Big Three automakers."

The looming clash over Asian shipping routes is part geography lesson, part the dreams of naval architects as they design ultra-large cargo ships, and part a short course in shipping economics — all of it overlaid with concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Researchers predict rise in sea level

Almost 80 percent of Galveston County households could be displaced by 2109 if water levels in the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay rise as quickly as they have during the past 100 years.

Gauges at the Port of Galveston’s Pier 21 show the water is 2.3 feet higher today than it was in 1909.

If that trend continues, the rising water would chase thousands of homeowners away from the coast and cause billions of dollars in damage to the area’s water, sewer and utility systems, according to a study of sea level rise released earlier this month by three researchers from the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.

A personal response to climate change

While many Americans are feeling the pinch as the recession deepens, and reducing their consumption accordingly, others of us have already been voluntarily simplifying our lives and our consumption patterns in order to reach a more sustainable level of usage of the planet’s resources (forests, minerals, fossil fuels, agriculture, water, etc.).

The Information Age is over...

For the next century or so, mankind is going to be increasingly focused on two simple tasks: preventing additional climate change, and dealing with the damage to our society caused by climate change. Those tasks will dominate our lives, and the lives of our children.

We are going to essentially rebuild everything, and it's not going to be just shinier and more expensive.

Climate bill could spur energy revolution

WASHINGTON – Congress has taken its first step toward an energy revolution, with the prospect of profound change for every household, business, industry and farm in the decades ahead.

Winners and losers emerge in climate bill

Everyone from small farmers to nuclear energy companies would be forced to re-evaluate their place in the new order. Power plants, factories and refineries would feel the first impact if the federal government moves ahead with plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent near the end of the century.

Saharan Solar energy ONE step closer ?

E.On Says ‘Man on the Moon’ African Solar Plan Needs EU Backing

June 28 (Bloomberg) -- A plan to build solar plants in the Sahara desert capable of meeting 15 percent of the European Union’s power needs by 2050 will require help from lawmakers, said Wulf Bernotat, chief executive officer of E.ON AG.

IMO they should start this yesterday. This proposal is Solar Heat and 'thus have my approval'

While part of my cries for the desert lifeforms that will get hosed over - I'd be even MORE in support if they can pull off water capture and then use to re-green the desert.

Wonder if they have enough water for condensate cooling over there?

What about building the solar plants in the Sahara to supply AFRICAN power needs?

Because the Africans don't have any money?

Did you want a more complex answer?

Part of the deal is that Africa will get a percentage of the output. It's the "what's in it for them" thingy (+jobs) and the electricity can be used for whatever is wanted, e.g. desalinisation. Hopefully by providing electricity rather than money there will be less chance of corruption.

Not much electricity is need for desalination by using the concept given at http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com

BTW--it can also be used to produce FOOD in desert environments.

According to the Dallas Morning News, I guess we are saved !!


"UT Arlington researchers' work could lead to $35-a-barrel oil"

"After a year of trying, University of Texas at Arlington researchers say they have succeeded in producing Texas intermediate-quality crude oil out of lignite.

In a few years, the researchers predict, their discovery could lead to oil that costs $35 a barrel instead of the current $65 to $70."

Interesting article, and claims this is a cleaner process using lignite.


Interesting, but according to the above website, US lignite averages about 13 mbtu (million btu's) per ton, and the UT Arlington professor is planning to get about 12 mbtu of oil energy per ton of lignite, which would be a 92% conversion rate, not counting energy used in the process, and not counting the energy used in mining and transporting the coal.

In any case, fossil fuels can be viewed as a continuum--from natural gas, to NGL's, to condensate, to light/sweet crude, to heavy/sour crude, to bitumen to various grades of coal. As we go from left to right, we go from a gas to liquid to a solid, and from mostly hydrogen (four atoms of hydrogen to one atom of carbon for methane) to mostly carbon. Also, if we want liquid transportation fuels (LTF's), we get the most refined product for the least energy and capital expenditure from refining light/sweet crude.

As we go to the endpoints--natural gas and coal--in search of LTF's, it takes more energy and capital to obtain liquid transportation fuels. Also, the producers of GTL & CTL based LTF's will be competing with other consumers of natural gas and coal.

But fundamentally, the problem facing us is the fact that fossil fuels are finite, while the conventional wisdom expectation is that a near-infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite fossil fuel resource base is quite possible.

Darn. And I thought we were saved. Thermodynamics will probably get in the way again.

Even if this is on a small scale, it shows that there is an available means for getting the fuel we will need on some level. I do not think this is scalable in enough time to keep the wolf from our door in the form of import shortages, so aptly expressed in your writings, WT. Another thing which they leave out is the transportation costs - conventional oil resources have pipelines, and coal is not so easily transportable. Thus, the little plants UTA envisions will have to rapidly populate the locales where coal is presently mined and then we can develop that conventional transportation infrastructure. I doubt that the large scale development of this technology will make a difference in my lifetime, but maybe for my two kids and three grandkids.

The problem is not whether the energy source is available - there is still plenty of crude oil available, at least as much as we have used so far - the problem is whether it is affordable at the flow rates required for anything like BAU.

Most of the world's population can't afford any FF at current prices - if your country is already massively in debt and will only be able to afford FF by going even further into debt why do you assume you will be able to afford to buy adequate amounts of FF in the future?

There is always a BAU and in the Stoneages the business circled around : 'Where the heck is my next stone'

For those people interested in purchasing Richard's book, Amazon sent me an email on Friday saying they had shipped my copy, so it's available (at least at one bookseller) now.

Amazon.com: Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis: Richard Heinberg: Books. Says it was published on April Fool's Day.

Will grab a copy from the library when the chance arises. Richard's coal article published here was excellent.

I was just reading REDblog (recycled energy development) http://blog.recycled-energy.com and they were saying how we currently have enough natural gas electrical generation capacity that if natural gas was utilized at the same rate as coal, we could displace 96% of coal fired generation in the US. It seems clear to me that at least in the medium term, this is how most carbon reductions will be achieved, and the price they were saying was quite low, especially since at first the least efficient coal plants would be replaced by the most efficient nat gas plants. That gave me a whole lot more hope that the CO2 emissions reductions are at least plausible. Now if only we could get the price of nuclear down enough to provide some solid baseload generation we could be in reasonably good shape.

I'm glad you're reading REDblog, since I'm associated with RED. :) It really is true that there's huge untapped potential out there. Much of this would come in the form of combined heat & power (CHP -- also called cogeneration), which often runs on natural gas (though it could run on pretty much anything, including coal). In fact, EPA and DOE estimates suggest that CHP and waste energy recovery (a form of it) could slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. That's as much as if we removed every passenger vehicle from the road. Meanwhile, costs would fall due to increased efficiency. The main barrier to this is a regulatory structure that perpetuates the status quo, protects monopoly utilities, and actually penalizes efficiency. It's nuts.

REDblog is the best, really eyeopening. Some of the points make your head spin. I liked to hear that the Sears tower's retrofit includes a 13 MW fuel cell CHP system. So much good could be done with sensible microgeneration, various efficiency/insulation work, etc it's unbelievable. Plus so many fuels, like gasses from coke ovens, landfill gas, sewer gasses, etc.

And thank god for shale gas. Massive increases in natural gas electricity production likely wouldn't be possible over a long period of time, even if it has its own share of problems.

The Sears Tower is a dinosaur, and needs to be torn down, recycled and never rebuilt again. It was a blight, and a huge waste of resources when it was built.

Only with the free energy we have stolen from our future, could monsters like this exist today in our cities.

that CHP and waste energy recovery

Like my non-flying car, when can I buy my Stirling engine based CHiP system?

Or am I stuck using my waste veggie oil powered lister?

if natural gas was utilized at the same rate as coal, we could displace 96% of coal fired generation in the US.

Although that's exactly the approach the UK was taking until the politicians discovered we really didn't have the amount of Natural Gas reserves the conrnucopians had claimed. Oops...

Matt Simmons makes the seemingly bizarre claim that the reason US gas supplies are apparently rising is because the model (EIA/DOE) that maps raw production data to total US gas production was altered to do just that.


I'm not saying that we would replace all the coal in the grid with natural gas, or even that it would be a good idea if we could, but that we have enough natural gas electrical capacity to make a serious dent in CO2 emissions, and that we could shut down the oldest, dirtiest coal plants with the most efficient natural gas plants for a relatively low cost. `And shale gas, while not a panacea, does give a substantial reserves at a reasonably low cost, and probably lower than what LNG will be looking out into the future.

‘Coal-eating’ bugs may solve energy crisis

I wish the headline writers would use a word other than "solve", such as "bridge" or "transition". The word "solve" implies an unwarranted permanence, that now public concern can shift away to other problems.

Not to mention that the author sings the praises of the process as being much cleaner than burning coal, while true, he also neglects to consider the annoying little detail that burning methane produces... drum roll please... CO2!

In the new world order that is considered a rather nasty by product.


CO2? No problem; Venter is also working on genetically modified bugs that consume CO2 and excrete petroleum products. See Venter at TED.


Jillions of little microbes scrubbing the air of CO2 - uh oh! Veggies and Forests die. Oops.

fucking idiots.

I guess to me it is just another indication of how desperate people are getting for that "magic bullet".

There were a couple of other interesting quotes in there:

Such ideas need to be treated with caution. The biotech industry is renowned for making claims that later turn out to have been excessive. This is often driven by the need to attract investors.

Well, that's stating the bloody obvious, but most people will read past this and not even remember that this was said..

“One of the most exciting breakthroughs is that we have engineered algal cells to pump out lipids in a pure form into the growing medium. You can literally skim the cream off the top and isolate it like a biocrude and we are not too far away from scaling this up on a very substantial scale.

Here we go again....

Back in 2001 I quit my job rather than do a contract for Craig Venter.

Of course everyone wants a magic bullet. That means we can have BAU or BAU lite.

Despite all the debate on CC yesterday, everyone seems to have missed the most salient point.

Changing the concentration of gases in the atmosphere so rapidly is pollution of the worst sort. Sure life has radically changed the atmosphere in the past and continues to change it today, but it happens slowly, over many millions of years, and all organisms have the chance to evolve – a snail's pace compared to our current situation.

To so radically change our atmosphere without knowing what all the consequences will be is an exercise in willful ignorance. Having evidence that it will be negative makes it utter madness. Even IF the consensus on Climate Change turns out to be wrong, our current path is still a stupid one.

But then we change the concentrations of so many chemicals/elements in our ecosystem that it is hardly surprising. Our technophillic nature gets entwined with evolutionary optimism, and we think we will solve all problems of industrial living with more technology, more production, more clever work arounds – complexity be damned! Information Age Man will conquer all!

It cracks me up every time! :)

Methane, with one carbon atom per molecule, produces less CO2 per BTU produced, than does coal, with about 40 carbon atoms per molecule. Maybe somebody with a better chemistry background can give a more detailed explanation of this. If it is a viable process, there would probably also be some additional energy saving in the extraction and transportation processes. That is a big if.

If the whole process is anaerobic, it could allow the treatment in situ, of coal seam deposits frequently encountered in the drilling of oil and gas wells. In fact, the coal seams will emit a substantial amount of methane, with CO2 and N2, as it is de3watered. I have read that a lump of coal left alone in a dry place will decompose into those gasses and an ash residue over tome.

This is significant as many of these coal seams could be treated, if the microbes will migrate a significant distance from the well bore, and could provide a longer life for wells which need to be plugged, if the quantities would prove to be sufficient. This would leave the residue in place, if nothing else, and hopefully do away with the dewatering process - that water is salt water, it is just a matter of how salty.

Coal seam wells, even with thin beds, can produce a significant amount of gas for those who were unaware of this source.

If the whole process is anaerobic, it could allow the treatment in situ,

Venter flashed up a black-and-white image of a piece of coal that appeared to be carpeted with a mossy substance.

He said: “We have a large number that eat coal and break it down into organic acids, hydrogen, CO2 and so on. Then we have other organisms with enzymes that can take those organic acids, hydrogen and CO2 and make methane.”

If it is an anaerobic process where does the oxygen come from to produce the CO2, acids, hydrogen etc?

Lifeforms require more than just carbon to thrive, adequate amounts of other substances like nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, water etc etc are required - how do you propose separating that mixture from any methane.

Did you ever study chemistry? I think you will find the coal formed because plants were trapped in an anerobic environment.

Actually, I have studied Chemistry, Xeroid.

I can also read. Try the Wiki page on Coalbed Methane, if you would:


"Gas contained in coal bed methane is mainly methane and trace quantities of ethane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and few other gases. Intrinsic properties of coal as found in nature determine the amount of gas that can be recovered." They do not list hydrogen, but I have seen other (offline) studies which list H2 as one of the components, supported by spectroscopic analyses of the gas on a group of wells with which I am personally familiar, which were completed in the W/2 of Section 31, Township 26 North, Range 11 E, in Osage County, Oklahoma.

In fact, no microbes are needed to produce methane from in place coal seams, but the present methodology requires de-watering the coal seam, and that produced water is salt water, albeit very low salinity in some areas/coal seams. It would be nice if there existed microbes which could do the job without the production of salt water.

The presence of CO2 is a residue of the trapped material.

I have studied CBM extensively, and it was a source of some great tax credits for quite a while, until the price got above the threshhold for the credits to apply.

Incidentally, there are several methods for methane / CO2 and N2 separation - membrane technology and carbon absorption/desorption are two with which I am familiar, but I am sure there are others. It sounds as if you could use a little research in writing your own replies.

We aren't discussing already existing coal bed methane here, so producing a wiki quote about that as some kind of evidence is very strange indeed.

You didn't answer my question about where the oxygen comes from in anaerobic conditions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic found in coal seams, confirming my doubts that you understand what you are talking about - coal is formed in anerobic conditions and it has lasted millions of years like that - clearly microbes don't eat it at any great rate or obtain oxygen from any water present - it's your claim that an anerobic process could produce enough methane, using microbes, to save us all, not mine.

I have no idea whether coal bed methane comes from trapped microbes (if it does it is clearly at a very low rate) but we are talking about Venter's proposed use of microbes for the purpose of producing massive amounts of methane by converting the coal to methane, in situ, using an oxidative process.

The reason we use any fossil fuel is to get at the HYDROGEN, not the carbon - it is very easy, but requires anerobic heat, to get hydrogen from coal (even though it is a very poor source of hydrogen) and you get left with residual inert coke which doesn't pollute the atmosphere with CO2, the hydrogen when burned produces only water unlike the burning of any methane produced from coal seams.

Any proposal for a new energy source that puts even more CO2 into the atmosphere is completely opposite to what is required.

Xeroid - you misread, or otherwise misrepresented, what I said:

"it's your claim that an anerobic process could produce enough methane, using microbes, to save us all, not mine. "

That, in fact,is not my contention. I injected some sarconol in an earlier post, but not in this one.

First, let me say that I do not think we need any microbe to break down the coal - it might speed it up, but it happens anyway, simply from the dewatering of the coal. That has been widely proven in the "oilfield" as it applies to coal seam or coal bed methane. that is a matter of decompo9sition.

I do not purport to clearly understand how any bacteria work, but it is my understanding that some live of nitrogen, but digest hydorcarbons and break down the longer chain hydrocarbons and thus create shorter chain hydrocarbons. I use microbes in wells which have serious parafin problems, and they work. I also use them for wells which have a problem with the deposition, on pipe and in the formation, of barium and other salts - barium cannot be treated with acid, or anything else except a bit that I am aware of, but microbes can stop the barium deposits from occuring, and that is what I use them for.

Water could provide the oxygen in an anaerobic process.

So where does the bacteria get the energy to break the H-O bond in water? That is a pretty strong one.

Last time I checked, even small creates have to obey the law of energy conservation and those pesky thermo-dynamic principles... even though there seems to be this belief that anything that small must have magic fairy dust on it and therefore be allowed to sidestep such concerns.

On the basis of thermo-dynamics as stated by Larry and xeroid, I'm calling a big BS on this one. To produce methane on the scale envisaged is going to take massive amounts of energy. According to joule lower down in this thread more than 10,000 BTU per pound of methane produced. This would have to come from the conversion of an equal amount of carbon into CO2 in which case, we've obtained a cleaner fuel by "burning"(oxidizing) the coal and producing as much CO2 as will be produced by burning the methane produced. Clearly Mr Venter does not believe in ACC.

On the other hand the bacteria could absorb heat energy from their surroundings and we could fight global warming and produce clean fuel at the same time!

Alan from the islands

I only know of one spontaneous endothermic reaction and it doesn't involve long chain hydrocarbons into short chain hydocarbons.

Course... I could be wrong.

Wanna give me a few billion in funding so we can find out?

My point was that if you read the conclusions of the Copenhagen conference on climate change we just about have to reach a negative CO2 production in the very near future. Burning methane still produces CO2, the article doesn't address the question of whether or not the coal eating bugs produce any CO2 in the process or whether any of the methane is released into the atmosphere, which would be even worse.

Bottom line, at least according to the conclusions of the Copenhagen group, the era of burning fossil fuels is over whether or not we like it or not. Peak Oil by necessity is moved to the back burner(no pun intended)... their conclusion not mine.

"Peak Oil by necessity is moved to the back burner(no pun intended)"

Sorry, but that is just plain BS. There is all the talk about reducing CO2 emissions, but it is just that: TALK. Thinking that we will voluntarily stop burning fossil fuels is extremely naive. For one, any nation who continues burning coal will have a competitive advantage over others who stop. We will not abandon fossil fuels. If that is bad for the climate, then it will be bad for the climate.

Sorry, but that is just plain BS.

As I said, their conclusion, not mine.

I think I shall jab a giant knife into my jugular. I will not abandon my knife and the jabbing of my jugular because I like it.If that is bad for my lifespan, then it is bad for my lifespan.

If this is how you see the world, as observation or endorsement, you may as well go at your jugular.


No! No! Don't do it ccpo...

Ok let me put my cards on the table face up. I'm 100% in your camp when in comes to recognizing the seriousness of Anthropogenic Climate Change. The conference in Copenhagen is eyeopening to say the least with regards the latest information coming in. It has been much discussed on realclimate.org and I happen to know that you are quite aware of that because I sometimes read your comments there as well. I myself only very rarely comment on that site because I don't feel that I have the math and physics chops to get into discussing the science but having said that I do grasp the big picture.

The reason I said that PO is on the back burner according conference attendees and presenters (at least the ones that I listened to) is because the feeling I got is that most of the politicians, economists and even the professors there all seem to be oblivious of the fact that the majority of their schemes for climate mitigation, based on "GREEN GROWTH", i.e. massive implementation of wind and solar, CAN NOT be accomplished without access to cheap energy (fossil fuel!

Not a single person there addressed this issue in any meaningful way. Furthermore they seem to be convinced that population growth is somehow under control. ( I swear).

If you haven't already, go see the presentations...(ESPECIALLY THE CLOSING SESSION!) then pick up your knife and stab your juglar!


Furthermore they seem to be convinced that population growth is somehow under control. ( I swear).

Well we're probably heading for a reduction of between 0.1% and 30% of the world's population by end 2010 thanks to swine flu...

Right now we're right at the bottom end of the scale. Currently the swine flue outbreak has an avian temperature regulation gene so it prefers higher temperatures than typical human flu. This is quite possibly one reason it continues to spread in high temperatures and may also reduce lethality. IIRC it seems highly likely selection pressure and/or mixing with seasonal influenza will cause it to pick up the mammalian version of the gene during the southern hemisphere flu season. One other likely adaptation is Tamiflu resistance (already present in "typical" human H1N1).

The above two changes I think are considered quite likely by experts - but probably not the end of the world (1918 rerun though). However further down the probability list is a combination with H5N1 bird flu - in the worst case imaginable scenario the flu experts can see then even a 30% population reduction might be a conservative guess. It is worth noting here that Egypt has an H5N1 bird flu outbreak at the moment (4 human deaths at least in the last three months) which is both showing signs of adaptation to human-human spread and which is not getting much news coverage outside Egypt due to swine flu.

Watch closely.

Btw, the Flu world has it's equivalent of Matt Simmons in a certain Dr. Henry Niman of Recombinomics and most of what I've posted above is from following the debates on flu forums in which Niman and many other experts take part. The best flu forum appears to be Flu Trackers

One other likely adaptation is Tamiflu resistance (already present in "typical" human H1N1).

And unfortunately right on cue this just popped up. Will require confirmation though when the viral sequence is posted.

Dane resistant to Tamiflu

The first case in the world of resistance to influenza drug Tamiflu in people with influenza H1N1 has been found in Denmark.

The person is now healthy, and there is no further evidence of infection with resistant virus, according to Statens Serum Institut.

The infection had been in close contact with another infected person, and was therefore prevented treatment with Tamiflu. Yet the person had flu symptoms and are instead treated with another type of flu drugs, Relenza.

Well we're probably heading for a reduction of between 0.1% and 30% of the world's population by end 2010 thanks to swine flu...

I'm going to bet that despite your explanation and reference to H5N1 the global population is not going to significantly decline next year. I will be watching closely.

As I said we are currently most likely heading for the lower end of the scale as per your "bet". US CDC estimates this is a "Category 2" Pandemic - meaning a death rate of 0.1% to 0.5% of those infected. If 50% of the population catches it that's a death rate of between 0.05 and 0.25% of the population. And that's based on no mutations.


But if this turns into a rerun of 1918 then that's maybe 1-3% of the population wiped out and hopefully that's as bad as it will get. I have no ability to assess the probability of a much nastier mutation/reassortment/recombination but the possibility clearly exists (and for all we know physically exists in a lab somewhere already).

For reference the current death rate from Avian H5N1 if a human is unlucky enough to catch it is 60% (433 cases 262 deaths).

Will two flus mix in Indonesia? Experts worry

AKARTA, June 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia's first cases of the new H1N1 flu have raised concerns that if the virus spreads it could combine with the entrenched and deadly H5N1 avian influenza to create a more lethal strain of flu.

...Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari, who confirmed six new H1N1 cases on Sunday, said she was concerned about H1N1, widely known as swine flu, "marrying" with H5N1 avian flu.


"We are scared because we are the warehouse of the world's most virulent H5N1," Supari said.

"I am worried if the viruses encounter each other in the field," C.A. Nidom, the head of the Avian Influenza lab at Airlangga University in Surabaya, said.

...But Kamaruddin Zarkasie of Indonesia's Bogor Agriculture University said he felt the risk the two viruses might combine was only a random possibility.

Burning methane still produces CO2,

A good combined cycle gas turbine produces about 40% as much CO2 per KWhr as coal, so that makes a decent start. Because there is much less carbon per unit of output, the cost of carcon capture and sequestration should also be less. It might be possible to get the GHG emissions pretty low. This is still not a permanent energy source, but it could be a good bridging technology. Since we lack the political will to make do with much less energy, and higher cost of renewables etc., offering a short/medium term bridging technology that is relatively inexpense may be the only way forward at this time.

They Putting in Roof Turbines with Solar now and building a distributed power model. People and companies are taking power into their own hands. On most home and business scale it's technology that is here now and can pass the ROI study. With home systems the IRS gives you 30% back in a tax credit the same year you install!

They are putting in those rooftop wind turbines from WindEnergy7 all over the place. The systems pair a small wind turbine with a pair of solar panels and you mount them on the roof. They harness dozens or up to hundreds of them into a single power system. I was reading about an architectural firm that was designing several such systems for WindEnergy7. Here's a link. Roof Turbine Systems The same systems are sold in homeowner kits as well, you can power your house with it too. These are a neat invention these guys have and it works, I saw one at a home show and then went and saw one runnin g on a guys roof Really cool..

This is the answer to the grid of tomorrow and it puts people in control of their own energy security. I am going to do this on my residence. Personal energy system, neat. All other solutions are simply ways that the power structure will enslave us with new energy... NOT FREEDOM. Got Wind? Got Sun? I do.

I could find no specs of any kind. What fool would buy a system with no specs?

"I saw one" doesn't cut it.


That may be the idea but we will be dependent of FF's for some time to come. Better make the best of it. It will be decades before renewables can take over.

'Making the Best of it' is USING the FF's and the Time it still is buying us to quickly help get as many renewables in place as we can, and to learn how to live with far less burned-energy sources, and less energy in general.

Some say 'the masses' won't do this. It's beside the point. The point is, can I do this, and can you? Those who do can have the advantage of more resilience.. not just as some 'Us or Them, who wins the race?' matter, but just as much a question of having as many people planted in neighborhoods and villages around the world, so that as things get more urgent, examples of workable alternatives are there to be seen and copied.

"The point is, can I do this, and can you? Those who do can have the advantage of more resilience.. as some 'Us or Them, who wins the race?''

Can I? I only have a woodlot..enough to see me til I exit this life.
I can heat and cook with it as I did last winter. Not easy but doable.

Others? I think maybe not.

The good times are coming.

I'm not just I'm not about to come unhinged when everything goes wrong
A fact is something to be faced
But not for very long
The good times are coming
they're coming real soon.
With my eyes wide open to the moon.

Mama Cass (with a few alterations of mine)

Airdale-the hippies knew if they didn't pull it off then ???......and everyone knew that the 'good times' were not likely to come but we hoped for it.....

my age, my generation, my life, my ending...

While thinking of the end times, Airdale, you reminded me of a tale told to me by an old, and then older friend. He went to see hi grandmother on her 90th birthday outside Yellville, Arkansas. He asked her what she wanted most for her birthday, to which she replied, "A chain saw. It is getting too difficult for me to cut firewood by hand any longer." So, better plan ahead with that woodlot. (My own is 78 acres, but mostly Black Jack Oak - burns really hot, but dulls my chainsaw really quick.)

I'll duck quicklike with the disclaimer that I only said 'Burned Fuels' as a rushed way of describing FF's, and didn't mean wood-heat. At least wood is an active and current member of the Carbon Cycle.. while us woodburners would save a lot of backstrain and overall effort to have plenty of solar heating going, and just let the flames top it all off at the end of the day.

More than a few times lately, I've heard myself muttering 'The Hippies were right, again!'


(but Floyd had their moments, too)

All that you eat
everyone you meet
All that you slight
everyone you fight
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

sf -

One aspect of this can be a little confusing.

On a weight basis both methane and coal have roughly the same carbon content (75% and approx. 77 -80%, respectively).

However, the big difference is that a pound of methane yields 1.8 times the energy of coal (24,000 BTU/lb vs approx. 13,000 - 14,000 BTU/lb for US bituminous coal).

So, while methane and coal contain roughly the same amount of carbon, you have to burn about 1.8 lbs of coal to produce the same amount of heat energy as you would get from burning a pound of methane. Thus, coal produces almost twice as much CO2 as methane in producing the same amount of heat energy.

But getting back to the coal-eating bacteria, I strongly suspect that the net energy of the methane produced from the coal would be less than the energy content of the coal consumed, for the simple reason that the bacteria have to get their energy from somewhere to operate their metabolism and generate cell growth, and that somewhere is the coal itself. (If we have to work hard to get energy from coal, so do the bacteria.)

And lets, not forget that these bacteria are not just producing methane but also (most likely) CO2 and other byproducts as the result of their metabolic process. Anaerobic bacteria typically produce both waste products that are more chemically reduced than the 'food' they are consuming, and others that are more oxidized. In this case the more reduced product would the methane, and the more oxidized product the CO2.

I find Venter's claims dubious; if the germs could eat coal in situ, they'd probably have done it by now, and no chemical or biological mechanism for their doing so comes to mind.

However, I generally consider guys like Venter to be loose cannons; he strikes me as someone who'd try anything that led to ego gratification.

He's the sort who would not only try to think of an ice-9 type project, but demonstrate it. If it were possible to engineer a germ that would catalyze all coal to methane, it should perhaps be called the "venus bug".

I think that is a really good point -like if you had a huge mound of sugar and some yeast -no reaction without adding water...

...So something is missing and that something will probly need a chunk of energy to tip the balance in the equations favour otherwise a few bugs would probably have multiplied and ate it all by now...


I worry more that this idea would end up converting Carbon into methate in whatever form you find the Carbon.

Well, I wouldn't want the bugs ON me, that's for sure; turning into a giant fart is a helluva way to go. Though for Venter... hmmm....

Still, people who would release novel bacteria should be watched carefully. We don't need more methane, we need to get a clue and stop using 98% of the energy we're now using.

I am not surprised that there are bacteria that eat coal since there are probably bacteria that eat anything that is not already fully oxidized. But the fact that coal still exists suggests that the conversion process is extremely slow. Bacteria also eat wood, but they need it to be pre-ground to a fine dust by the teeth of termites and supplied with the other nutrients and water they also need.

I imagine what Venter imagines are armies of robots that dig into the coal and pulverized it, mix in water (I assume the bacteria get the hydrogen from water), nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. (raw materials for bacterial enzymes and DNA)... He probably also intends to incorporate some of his own DNA into these bacteria so that they can feel very important while they do the conversion.

He probably also intends to incorporate some of his own DNA into these bacteria so that they can feel very important while they do the conversion.

Ha-ha. The ambition of human beings. Many searching different solutions and a lack of cooperation.

biophiliac -

I think the prospects for this coal-eating bacteria ever becoming commercially viable are more than a little dubious.

As you indicated, there are some amazing microorganisms that will eat just about anything containing carbon. However, the whole trick is to get the carbon source into a usable form, and that's where the natural enzymes produced by the bacteria come in.

Then we have the whole issue of mass transfer. It's one thing to have bacteria working on a slurry of micro-pulverized coal but another thing again to expect them to start vigorously chomping on a large solid seam of coal. And if one is going to run this process in situ in a subsurface environment, then one has to contend with things such as fracturing the formation, getting nutrient solutions to the bacteria, cell growth clogging the pore structure, and trying to maintain a high rate of bio activity. My gut feel is that if the process works at all, it is going to be extremely slow, resulting in a very low yield of methane even with a vast area of a coal formation pin-cushioned with inlet and extraction wells.

If this guy, Venter, is ever looking for investors, I think I'll pass on this one.

As the article says biotech companies frequently over hype the prospects of inventions in order to attract investors. Perhaps this is a case.

I'm currently an intern for state senator Dean Skelos from NY, and being interested in energy I got an assignment to review a bill that failed to pass this session, but here it goes. What it does is eliminates state retail sales tax for hybrid or "high efficiency vehicles" that achieve 35 MPG highway or better.

I haven't gotten a chance to present my review, as he's been in Albany, but my findings are:

1) The idea is good, although not technology neutral.
2) The ~15% more energy in diesel should be taken into consideration.
3) The mileage standard should use combined mileage, not just highway mileage.
4) Because the RETAIL sales tax would be exempted, fleet owners presumeably wouldn't stand to benefit.
5) Some vehicles, specifically the Civic/Civic Hybrid would get the exemption anyway, so the hybrid buyer wouldn't get any more benefit.

I'm also going to try to pitch a feebate program, although it seems doubtful it will fly. Any other points that I missed?

Don't forget the "flexfuel" vehicles. You raise a lot of corn in NY, and more, and more NY stations are installing E85 pumps.

Also, many workmen must have light trucks. How about a provision for very efficient pickups? Say 25 mpg, or such.

Or you can read the posting history of kdolliso and know that there is no ethynol solution he doesn't like pimp'n.

And, yes, Eric's right; I'd much rather get my fuel from NY Farmers, and Ethanol Refinery Workers than From Saudi Sheiks, and Russian Oligarchs.

Did I mention the amazingly low death toll of our troops charged with "protecting the NY corn fields?"

You can leave it to the farmers and distillers to get THEIR energy from the Sheiks and Niger Delta.. you're just adding a comfortable middleman, and externalizing some more topsoil and fresh-water in the exchange.

Ethanol is a niche product. As a substitute for Transport fuel, it's a dead end.. or a vicious Cul-de-sac anyway.

25 MPG pickup? You mean like my 1995 Mazda/Ranger PU with the big 4 liter v6 and 5 speed that regularly gets 25 MPG? I used that PU to build a house, hauling lots of lumber, sheet rock, etc. Or, are you hoping that there's a way to build a monster 10,000 GVW PU that does that well?

E. Swanson

The thing that I find most irritating about most government (and some private) programs is that they tend to be very binary in nature. You qualify or not, then get a fixed benefit. Such a program could result (if national), in lots of 36mpg vehicles being offered, but offers not incentive to replace a 36mpg vehicle with a 60mpg vehicle. As another example, I beefed up the insulation of my attic. The utility has a rebate program offering a certain payment per square foot -but only if a subcode system is repalced with one at code. A sliding payment system, based on a rough approximation of the energy saved would be far more efficient. With a sliding system you can still see an incentive to exceed whatever standard is being pushed, and many more people would benefit.

I dunno. Flag as inappropriate? My 1989 Honda does better than that now. My 1972 Subarus did better than that then. So, like so much of what I see proposed in legislatures, "it would have been a good bill 30 years ago".

What I find most grossly offensive about "tax rebate" variations is that the rebate is usually done via refunds on income tax. Which means the well off benefit the most. This is better, in that anyone buying a car will benefit. Still, only the well off buy new cars now. Will small used cars qualify? What about used cars? What about used cars at the break even point - since they already carry all that embedded energy and don't have to be made new, will they qualify? Will dealers merely raise the price to make up the difference? Yup.

What about bicycles? What about someone who simply gives up her car? There's the person should get free public transit for life.

Exclude any corporations. Only cut-it-and-they-bleed-humans qualify.

cfm in Gray, ME

I'm not sure why you say;

Because the RETAIL sales tax would be exempted, fleet owners presumeably wouldn't stand to benefit.

In Wisconsin, fleet owners still have to pay sales tax on their vehicles. I don't know about New York.

And including fleet vehicles in whatever program you put together is very important, since A. They tend to be light trucks and vans, which consume more per mile, and B. They account for a disproportionate amount of all miles driven.

Hybrids are already gaining a little recognized tax advantage: They pay less fuel tax per mile driven since they are more fuel efficient.

Oh, if I can only buy open ended evacuated glass tubes so I could make one using oil as the heating fluid....



A solar powered autoclave that uses evacuated tube collectors as the heat source.

Two sizes described. The smaller size uses only one evacuated tube.

Ya all know what an antoclave is right? Its a pressure cooker. The model shown looks like a Wisconsin Alumininum Foundry product out of Manitowauk

At minimum I'd like to direct your attention to Matt Taibbi's current article in Rolling Stone magazine entitled "The Great American Bubble Machine". It will probably be available soon at http://www.rollingstone.com/issue1082-83

I bought the magazine just to read Taibbi - I could care less about the Jonas Brothers although Gregg Allman...

Disclaimer: I like Matt Taibbi's writing and appearances on the tube most notably Bill Maher. However, outside of that I do not follow him that much. I think he has a blog.

The article is about the role Goldman Sachs has played generally in the economy and USA politics but it also focuses on six bubbles that Taibbi believes GS either created or certainly helped along to their own greedy profit.

It's applicable to ToD I think because these seem to fit: Bubble 4 "$4 A Gallon" is about GS role in the - if you believe this and I know it's been controversial even here - the speculative rise in oil prices past year and Bubble 6 "Global Warming" - not fully fleshed out as it has to do with the recently passed (House not yet Senate) energy legislation.

Anyway...I actually became aware of this article from now two "top posts" at Zero Hedge:

Goldman Sachs: "Engineering Every Major Market Manipulation Since The Great Depression"

Goldman's Lucas Van Praag Responds To Matt Taibbi's Allegations

I wonder if Taibbi's article is worthy of a top post here at Tod - if not - okay then it will likely fade away in this late Sunday post by me.

You can read the article online via scribd - which you will see embedded in the first ZH link so maybe if this does become a top post that can be done here at ToD as well. If not: http://www.scribd.com/doc/16763183/TaibbiGoldmanSachs

I know there are two - or more - sides to every story but I was really POed - not Peak Oiled - after reading Taibbi's piece.


Taibbi's article certainly paints Goldman-Sachs as evil incarnate. However, his analysis of their influence on the world oil markets, especially last summer's price spike is off base, IMHO. He misses the fact that oil is traded in a world market and the futures contracts can't push the actual flow of oil around. Also, he misses out on the impacts of hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008 after the earlier blasts of Katrina and Rita.

Also, he missed the impact Phil Gramm had as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee in pushing the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act from the 1930's with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Taibbi blames that change on Robert Rubin and Clinton when it was clearly part of the Repug push toward so-called "free markets" and "deregulation", which begun under Ronnie RayGun. Furthermore, Gramm was directly involved as one of five co-sponsors of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the Act which Taibbi also blames on the Clinton Administration. Also, Taibbi ignores what happened after 2000, when the The Shrub and the Repugs controlled both Congress and the White House. Sorry to say, I think his article suffers from serious politically bias, even though he may be on the mark about Goldman-Sachs...

E. Swanson

The guy is probably trying to open people's eyes-a great many people still perceive the Republican party to be the political party working for the rich connected, while the Dems are the party of the average American. Obviously an increasing % are starting to realize that both parties are dominated by controlled puppets.

I don't think that the Clinton administration was blameless, however, Clinton's signing of the large 11,000 page omnibus funding bill to which the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 was attached says little about their priorities. After all, on 21 December, the election was over and fiscal year 2001 had already started on 1 October, so not signing the Bill would have allowed the Bush administration to change it after Bush was inaugurated in January. Taibbi didn't go back far enough, forgetting that Greenspan started under Reagan and also during Reagan's time, there was the Savings and Loan problem (also the result of deregulation), the leveraged buyout frenzy and the market crash of 1987, which started in the Chicago commodities market and spread to Wall Street.

I just finished reading Haynes Johnson's book, "Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years" (1991), in which he sums up what happened due to the "Free Market" phiolsophy of Reagan and his Republican followers. Remember the Iran/Contra criminal activity, where our agents were selling weapons to people who claimed to be our enemies and then used the proceeds to fund illegal "terrorist" activities in another nation? No? Well, I think it set the stage for lots of more recent activities by "our" Government...

E. Swanson

The S&L crisis began during Carter's Presidency as inflation and higher interest rates bankrupted most of the S&Ls. They should have been shut down before Reagan even took office. While Carter was still Prez the Congress controlled by Democrats passed legislation that let the S&Ls try to grow their way out of trouble instead. Higher deposit insurance limits and freedom to originate non-mortgage loans let them run up far larger losses that came home to roost after Reagan entered office.

Free Market philosophy also took hold during Carter's years with a big lowering of capital gains tax rates and deregulation of train and airline markets among others.

You appear to imagine far larger shifts in policy between Republican and Democrat administrations than actually take place. Look at Nixon who signed into law the creation of EPA and other regulatory agencies. Look at GW Bush signing into law a big Medicare drug benefit and NCLB spending for education in a deal he made with Ted Kennedy.

It's a hydra, one beast with two heads, they're there to give you the illusion of choice, but both heads are under the control of the funders. To kill the beast you need to stop the funding by anyone other than registered voters. Easy and simple.

E. Swanson,

Partisanship clouds the mind.

Both parties contributed to the real estate bubble in many ways. Clinton and Rubin joined with Repubs to deregulate banks. Barney Frank and allies in the House defended reckless Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae lending to poor people. Bush contributed. Phil Gramm contributed. But so did many Democrats.

Again, partisanship clouds the mind.

A problem with current proposed climate change law is that it may causes a shift in manufacturing and production to China and India where nearly a third of the world's population lives. On the other hand it threatens to cause job losses soaring "green energy" costs, homelessness etc. in areass with some of the strictest air pollution laws in the world while increasing prosperity in nations less concerned about an odorless non-toxic gas and more concerned about paychecks and their retirements.

The "problem" of the interglacial warming period will not go away with climate change law, however some loss of prosperity in nations adapting radical changes is likely.

Of all the climate change articles I have read, it seems at least 90 percent show bad coming from warming. It seems to be biased as they did not find any favorable effects from warming. It is hard to believe that nothing good has come with the end of the ice age that peaked about 20,000 years ago.

Rainsong - haven't you heard? We (the US and Europe) have "weightless" economies now - GDP is produced with no use of energy or resources. Manufacturing is soooo, like, last century. Let them do it.

Or so the economics mainstream would have us think.

Back in the reality-based universe, globalization has made the world into a single labor pool. While globalization lasts, wages in the "rich world" will decline, eventually coming into equilibrium with those in the rest of the world (which will rise, slowly).

It could happen that in one lifetime, someone who was earning $45/hr at General Motors moves to earning $25/hr at Nissan and then to $12/hr at Hyundai and then to $5/hr at Great Wall Motors and then to $3/hr at Tata -- all at the same factory. I don't think the equilibrating process will be that fast, but it's possible. (I also don't think globalization will last long enough for this to happen. Nor do I think that this process is a good thing.)

The thing is, a worker in the US is not competing with the workers in the rest of the world, s/he's competing with the un(der)employed people there. And there are a lot of them.

American workers rightly resist the idea of working for $3/hr, and refuse to do it (at present). So any economic change will cause manufacturing and production to move to China and India. And if there is no change for a while, the shift will be that much more dramatic and sudden when it does happen.

Attempts to build economic policy around climate change could be less harmful to the US than the alternatives, IF the policy focus was on insulation retrofits, water infrastructure repairs, extension and electrification of railways, and splitting and re-densification of cities. That work can't be done from China; you have to be on site. But IMO the policy focus will be on supporting financial shenanigans, subsidising ethanol farmers, and the rest of the same old same old.

Venter makes an outrageous claim on average every 1.35 years. When the Human gonome was mapped it was going to change the way medicine was conducted, end disease from genetic mutations, etc. Then the biotech industry came to a disturbing realization; There isn't one gene for every disease, but instead numerous genes. Then another problem; We now need to mape proteins and some genes produce several and others produce none, and how it all interacts we have no idea. In other words, what seemed like childs play at first turned out to be so much more complicated that it will still be several decades before the genome project starts producing tangible results on a large scale.

Now we are suppose to sit back and wait for microbes to eat coal to produce methane. Is that like waiting for garbage landfill to produce methane? You have to remember the world uses 85 mbd or so of total liquids for transportation every day. 85 million barrels! The only reason that is feasible is because its being pumped out fast enough to meet demand. So now we go from pulling from an ancient savings account of oil to waiting for microbes to dissolve coal, then capture it, seperate the methane out through some process, then liquify it for transport, then make the engines to replace 250 million ICE's just in america... How much is that going to cost and how long will it take to get the whole process up and running?

GM retirees crowd dental, optometry offices ahead of loss of benefits

Didn't know that GM retirees were losing their eye and tooth coverage. I wonder how this will affect optometry and dental offices where GM is a huge employer. Dental hygienists make $30/hr coming out of college in my Midwestern town -- going out on a limb and saying those salaries are going to fall hard.

Hello TODers,

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain.."


Most regular TODers are familiar with my posting series above, my numerous postings on fertilizers [I/O-NPK, [S]ulfur, and the other trace Elements], plus other 'Wild & Crazy Ideas'. So please guzzle your Yea[S]ty beverage to the half-empty mark first to jumpstart your Olfactory Flehmen Response, then do the 'Peakoil [S]houtout' to help ignite a few [S]ynaptic Wildfire[S], then read on..

Can Optimal Overshoot Decline be induced by our Genetic Greed for Key Elements?
[Please scroll down to the next set of +plus signs if you are already familiar with my prior postings, as the following is mostly geared towards Newbies.]

Basically, what I am trying to explain is that all life, us included, plus our ICE-machines, are fueled by a 'Balance of Elements' that are in various and specific chemical formulations.

Duh! Nothing new here, but please intuit that what we think of as energy [excepting Electricity and the rest of the ElectroMagnetic Spectrum, including sunlight--energy in its purest, but highly evanescent form] is really nothing more than various Element chem-combos specifically designed for life and for our machines. Please try to envision the Periodic Table every time you breathe, drink, eat, buy fuel for your ICE-machines, or add I-NPKS or O-NPKS to your garden:


Some Examples might help illustrate this concept:

1. Humans need specific Elements to survive. We don't naturally seek out to ingest the radioactive Elements or toxic chem-combos [in fact: many laws help prevent this], but a dire shortage of the essential Elements gives us death by suffocation or dehydration, scurvy, beri-beri, goiter, and a host of other Liebig Minimum deprivation illnesses, including starvation:

Peak phosphorus: readings

..No other mineral element even comes close to having a concentration factor as great as [P]hosphorus's 5.8. The closest is [S]ulfur with 2.0, then chlorine with 1.5. All the rest have less than a factor of 1...

Toxic or Not--You are what you eat!

Table of some Elements, Major sources and related health effects from overdose or deficiency:

"Inorganic substances needed by the body for a range of functions. For example calcium helps in the formation of the crystalline substance of bones. Iron helps make the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. Other minerals help generate electric currents that allow nerves and muscles to function properly."

2. Other lifeforms need a BALANCE of specific Elements, too. Recall that NPK is the Big Three for 'fueling' photosynthesis, but again Asimov's Bio-Elemental Bottleneck List applies [P is #1, S is #2....]. There are NO SUBSTITUTES For Elements: we cannot replace P with Plutonium and expect plants or other lifeforms to thrive. You cannot replace S with Selenium either, and so on.

3. The same goes for our ICE-machines: they need precise mixtures of air-filtered Oxygen, the Elements that chem-form FFs, then a spark for gasoline or high compression for diesel, etc. You could energy-equivalent fill your fuel-tank with the 'topsoil fuel' of NPKS or with the 'human fuel' of McDonald's McNuggets, Cheetos, Twinkies, etc, but why make your mechanic laugh all the way to his bank?

Thus, we and our ICEs need Key Elements to provide chem-energy for heat, motion, survival, etc. Picture a modified Periodic Table going into your tank versus 'Put a Tiger in your tank'-- 1959 advert. campaign before Exxon.


I was doing some more 'Wild & Crazy' thinking on [S]ulphur and our 'societal prey'.

[Note: text below is link-embedded further in link above, sorry]

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.

Some metaphors to ponder: I wonder if the sour oil & sour natgas extractors are now inadvertently selling the banana peel, but virtually giving away the soft banana itself; selling the eggshell, but virtually giving away the raw egg inside; selling the animal hide, but virtually giving away the most desirable internal organs and the best cuts of meat.

Selling recovered-S for just the shipping cost versus its true value to civilization seems like the metaphors above. Recall that Bill Doyle, POT's topdog, refuses to sell potash[K] for less than its long term value; he seeks to throttle-control the K-flowrate for the long-term benefit of all.

We don't expect prey animals to have their internal organs 'outside', but securely protected inside their ribcage by evolution, thus predators really have to energetically work to bring an animal down, then start the feeding frenzy for the internal guts.

Recall the [USGS + sulfur] monthly reports back in 2008 when S-pricing was highest after crude oil reached $147. It was like the global society [predator] had finally burned enough of Asimov's lower ranking Elements to finally capture the global economy [prey], but then needed to focus on P #1, S #2..; I-NPK & Food & other high Elemental mfg. goods to feeding-frenzy consume [internal organs]. Examples: long lines for I-Phones while at the same time food riots in other locations.

Then once the 'quantity demanded' [Hat-tip to Don Sailorman] for these items and other items was exhausted: FFs and other commodity prices crashed.

So if we are now postPeak [a declining economic & depleting ecosystem negative sum game going forward]: the societal prey is shrinking too, thus we should be seeking to biosphere-constrain the size of the 'internal organs' to better match this future economic animal. The paradox is that as we move to ever more sour crude and sour natgas, we get increasing amounts of recovered-S==> this is like the prey growing an imbalance of internal organs; an Overdose of Sulfur compared to the other Elements in the Periodic Table.

An egg of all yellow yolk is not very viable as the eggwhite is the food source for the future chick. Same with a pet sub-optimally hampered by being full of struvite, oxalate, or uric stones:


Shouldn't global society seek the same flowrate balance of Elements [by stockpiling S for future generations] to match the depleting FF-flowrate? Shouldn't a Webb/Pomerene type pricing model for the IOCs, NOCs, and natgas companies include proportionately more income from increasing amounts of their recovered-S as it gets increasingly difficult to charge more for ever-lesser amounts of FFs? IMO, it could greatly help real-time financing for more E & P.

[From Feeble memory]: Recall prior weblinks where the Saudi King has hinted that he would like to postPeak hoard FFs==> shouldn't he also hoard S so that future global generations can still have beneficiated I-NPK while they learn to proficiently ramp O-NPK based relocalized permmaculture?

Shark-fin Net Hubbert Graphic
Would constrained supplies of S help reduce the Shark-fin effect by forcing a more rapid ramp of full-on O-NPK recycling, wiser water usage strategies as S is needed for water purification and sewage treatment, and a faster buildout of AlanFBE's standard gauge RR & TOD ideas and narrow gauge SpiderWebRiding?

Consider how S is critical to tire vulcanization--should we price S so that a Paradigm Shift to steel wheels on steel rails is the only way to go? How much FF-flowrate saving would that reduce the decline rate of the Shark-fin? Would just announcing that S is going to be market-limited soon be enough to jumpstart the 'Federal Reserves of I-NPK' so that the Ft. Knox Scenario can be avoided? Would limited S make us elbow Yergin out of the way at a local nursery as we would be seeking to start our own garden and composting pit?

Okay, enough for now so as to avoid TOD-editor deletion for excessive length. Hopefully, by my posting this late in the DB--it will help it remain there.

As Usual: I am not an expert, so I hope the TopTODers can elaborate or refute this speculation to a much higher degree with comprehensive data-sets and graphics.

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

Hello to "Cold Camel"

If you are around, and if it is within the etiquette of the TOD book to ask, could you possibly please contact me? Email is in user profile. Thanks very much.

Re: PetroCaribe: Yes, we can, I think the more interesting quote would be:


I don't mean to suggest that the 'west' can offer nothing, that our entire hopes rest on PetroCaribe or that we have not been doing anything on our own. However, the changes occurring in the world energy market is so profound that we cannot do enough by ourselves, or just with the west. Venezuela is one country we can do business with. Brazil is another and there are others still. The point is that we must look for every opportunity wherever they arise. We must plan already for the next energy crisis, which is already under way.

The 2009 report of the Energy Information Organisation of the United States Department of Energy now seems to agree that we have reached the point of peak oil where energy supply projected up to the year 2030 cannot meet energy demand. Basic economics suggest that oil prices will rise and the era of cheap oil is over.

Emphasis mine. This as close to MSM as it gets in Jamaica so expect it will be snowing here today!

Alan from the islands