DrumBeat: July 11, 2009

One Year After Oil’s Price Peak: Volatility

A year ago this weekend, oil prices reached a trading record of $147.29 a barrel. That peak followed months of speculation that oil prices would zoom past $200 or $250 a barrel — predictions often made by people with a major stake in seeing that happen, even as experts said they were puzzled that prices could rise so high, so fast.

Within weeks of the July highs, prices collapsed as the mortgage crisis in the United States morphed into a full-fledged economic and financial meltdown around the world.

Oil demand has dropped by nearly 1.5 million barrels a day since last year, and OPEC producers are now sitting on five or six millions of barrels of daily idle capacity. As the world confronted its worst economic crisis in over 50 years, oil fell to around $33 a barrel by December.

But prices remain as volatile as ever.

Suspected terrorists arrested for plotting Egypt attacks

Egyptian authorities have announced the arrest of 26 men, most of them engineers and technicians suspected of links with the terrorist al-Qaeda organization, on charges of plotting attacks on oil pipelines and ships transiting the Suez Canal.

Analysis: Shell Open to Offshore Drilling

One of the largest petroleum companies in the world, Royal Dutch Shell retains its strength in the upstream market through steady exploration and development drilling. While the price of oil and gas dropped in the last year, Shell has continued its strategy of increasing upstream developments, but reined in the number of projects launched in an effort to overcome cost challenges. Despite this, the company plans to grow production numbers 2 to 3% annually for the next three years.

Coridon bidding to start in September

State-controlled Pemex will open the bidding round for the Coridon natural gas project in the Burgos reion in northern Mexico in September.

After companies submit bids, it will take Pemex around four months to pick a winner for the 15-year contract to develop the gas block.

Pemex began offering Burgos gas blocks in 2003 under long-term service contracts, attracting local and foreign oil companies.

Ghana: Fuel Rationing Hits Accra

Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are rationing fuel for motorists in Accra following the sudden shortage of the commodity for close to a week now.

Retailers and the Indoor Summer Chill

With the summer’s first run of sultry weather due any day now, the question facing retailers is whether they’ll resist the temptation to over-air-condition their stores or leave the doors propped open so chilly gusts entice sweaty passers-by.

Last summer, New York’s City Council unanimously passed a provision that would fine businesses that pump air-conditioning into the street via open shop doors. A warning is issued for the first offense. But businesses caught a second time will be fined $200; the third time costs $400.

Texans Asked to Reduce Electricity Use

It is so hot in Texas that record amounts of energy are being used — and the state is asking people to turn off their lights and go easy on their air conditioners.

The energy guidelines, put forth by the Texas Public Utility Commission, ask Texans to conserve energy especially between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., when electricity usage typically peaks.

Streetcars: An inconvenient truth

Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time -- improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus.

Study Urged on Water Demands of Next-Generation Biofuel Feedstocks

Extensive studies are needed to understand the water needs of biofuel production from cellulosic feedstocks or other next-generation sources, federal auditors said in a preliminary report released yesterday.

Court Overturns Bush-Era Smog Rule

A federal appeals court today struck down a Bush administration rule for controlling industrial emissions that form smog.

The rule had allowed power plants and factories to avoid installing the most recent controls for smog-forming chemicals like oxides of nitrogen. Instead, excessive pollution from one factory was permissible if the factory participated in a regional cap-and-trade program and bought pollution credits to cover their excess emissions.

How's Newsom's S.F. farm idea supposed to work?

There's really only one thing wrong with Mayor Newsom's new idea to have the city of San Francisco grow its own crops in window boxes, street medians and vacant lots.

It doesn't go far enough.

Where are the plans to raise chickens, a terrific, healthy and low-calorie food source? A March report to the Board of Supervisors by the Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force recommended changing city law to allow "small-scale animal husbandry" including "allowing resident to keep a small number of goats and hogs." So far, that proposal hasn't moved forward.

Some See Beetle Attacks on Western Forests as a Natural Event

Both Dr. DeNitto and Dr. Six allow that the current outbreak is not entirely natural. Human intervention in the form of fire suppression and large-scale clear cuts mean that many forests are simultaneously vulnerable.

Under natural conditions a forest is a patchwork of different-age trees, which means the beetles also create a patchwork of dead trees. “If they come up against a young patch, they’ll quit,” Dr. Six said. “If it’s old, they keep on going. But we’ve lost that mosaic, so they keep on going.”

Wind Projects at a Standstill: Despite Washington's Enthusiasm, Recession and New Regulations Slow Firms

The Obama administration has made offshore wind energy a priority and an important part of its plans to create jobs and combat climate change, but even such favorable political breezes have not been strong enough to propel the nation's first projects.

The economy has intervened, and an unfamiliar federal approval process could hold up leading projects.

Just last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar distributed leases to explore five possible wind farm sites off Delaware and New Jersey on the outer continental shelf. The leases were the first ever, and Salazar proclaimed "a new day for energy production in the United States."

But that day may be years in the dawning.

Spectre of peak oil prices loom

Oil at $200 a barrel is not far off and with it a new world order that will see the demise of globalization.

That prediction is put forward in a new book by well-known Canadian economist Jeff Rubin: Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller.

The end is coming, but not because of climate change

Global warming is a serious issue for the future, but by the time global warming really heats up, other crises will have destroyed our modern industrial civilization. Let’s look at the two foremost insurmountable problems.

First is resource depletion. Eighteen months ago, demand was outstripping supply of many critically important resources. However, as the global economy nose-dived, demand and price plummeted. The crisis didn’t go away but was postponed as new deposits weren’t discovered.

OPEC to decide on crude output ceiling in Sept

Iran's OPEC governor said on Saturday the cartel would decide on the crude production ceiling in September, but it had not scheduled an extraordinary meeting, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Nigerian militants destroy Chevron pipelines again in Delta State

LAGOS (Xinhua) -- Nigeria's major militant group in the oil rich Niger Delta region the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said on Saturday it had attacked oil pipelines operated by Chevron in southeast Nigeria's Delta State.

Jomo Gbomo, the spokesman for the militant group, said in an e-mail statement that its fighters destroyed the recently repaired Chevron pipeline linking Alero creek through Abiteye to the Chevron export terminal.

This is the second time in two months that this facility has been attacked by the group.

US "very concerned" about Kurdish move to boost claims over oil in N. Iraq

WASHINGTON (KUNA) -- Responding to the passage of a new Kurdish constitution that bolsters Kurdish claims over oil in northern Iraq, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Friday that the United States was "very concerned" about any unilateral steps taken within Iraq.

Iraq eyeing decision on key oilfield

TOKYO: Iraq hopes to reach a decision in less than a month on the huge Nassiriya oilfield, the country's oil minister said yesterday.

Leading Japanese refiner Nippon Oil, together with oil explorer Inpex and plant engineering firm JGC, are vying with Italy's Eni for the oilfield's engineering, procurement and construction contract.

U.K. North Sea drilling falls by half

LONDON - Oil and gas drilling in British waters fell by more than half in the second quarter, business advisory group Deloitte said Thursday, arguing Britain must take urgent steps to avert a sharp decline in production.

Only 15 exploration and appraisal wells were started on the U.K. Continental Shelf (UKCS) between the beginning of April and the end of June, down 57 per cent year-on-year and a 17 per cent fall from the first quarter, Deloitte figures showed.

Obama plans to nominate Marcia McNutt as USGS director

US President Barack H. Obama said on July 9 that he will nominate Marcia K. McNutt director of the US Geological Survey and science advisor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Her nomination is subject to US Senate confirmation.

She would be the first woman to head the US Department of the Interior agency since it was established in 1879. McNutt, who presently is president and chief executive of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute in California, also would be returning to the agency where she began her career in 1978.

Progressivism gone awry? IV: A Tale of Two Houses

Here is the question: Which is the American house and how can you tell?

There are, of course, lots of differences, but the one to which I'd like to draw attention is that the upper house, which is from Maida Vale, part of Greater London is a double house, while the lower, is a single house, is in the North Brookline neighborhood, part of Greater Boston.

Minnesota: Group aims to build a greener Northfield

NORTHFIELD — Paul Sebby has his eye to the future.

The Northfield resident is a member of Transition Northfield, a new, environmentally friendly group that is working to reduce the city’s dependence on oil and non-renewable energy.

The group takes its inspiration from a concept developed by British ecologist Rob Hopkins, the founder of the “Transition Town” movement. Hopkins’ theory of transitions, espoused in his book, “The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience,” calls for local, grassroots responses to the idea of a peak oil crisis and global climate change.

Food for thought in Susan Rudie's backgreen garden

THIS summer, Susan Rudie is happily tending vegetables in an east Edinburgh garden called Strawberry Field.

She is one of 120 people who have signed up to the Edinburgh Community Backgreens Association which, by reclaiming overgrown tenement gardens, grows food and fosters community spirit as well as helping to reduce Scotland's carbon footprint.

It is people like Susan that politicians need. For if the government is to meet its carbon reduction target and G8 nations are to limit the global temperature rise, our rulers will need to enter uncharted political territory. They will need to broach the subject of curbing GDP growth, and eventually cutting back our consumption.

British tourists warned over 'damaging' French fuel

Motoring associations, including the RAC, yesterday warned those preparing to travel to France to be aware of the biofuel which is 90 per cent regular unleaded and 10 per cent ethanol.

Ethanol is highly corrosive and wears away the metal fuel tanks common in cars registered before 2000, leading to leaks. Most new cars have plastic tanks and are therefore not be affected by corrosion.

Used SUVs, trucks back in demand

HACKENSACK, N.J. — So much for fuel efficiency!

A year ago, with gasoline selling for more than $4 a gallon, drivers abandoned their gas-guzzling trucks and large SUVs for high-mileage compacts. Now, with prices in the $2.50 range, they're going back to the big guys, at least in the used-car market.

Buses May Aid Climate Battle in Poor Cities

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Like most thoroughfares in booming cities of the developing world, Bogotá’s Seventh Avenue resembles a noisy, exhaust-coated parking lot — a gluey tangle of cars and the rickety, smoke-puffing private minibuses that have long provided transportation for the masses.

But a few blocks away, sleek red vehicles full of commuters speed down the four center lanes of Avenida de las Américas. The long, segmented, low-emission buses are part of a novel public transportation system called bus rapid transit, or B.R.T. It is more like an above-ground subway than a collection of bus routes, with seven intersecting lines, enclosed stations that are entered through turnstiles with the swipe of a fare card and coaches that feel like trams inside.

Beans might give you -- and your car -- gas

A Lehigh Valley environmentalist is pushing ahead with plans to power area vehicles not with gasoline or diesel, but with the moldy bread, banana peels and rotten meats that would otherwise be dumped in area trash heaps.

Microbiologist Rex D'Agostino of South Whitehall Township wants to build a pilot plant in Upper Macungie Township that would transform food waste into natural gas to power specially suited vehicles.

Canada snubs G8 emissions target

L'AGUILA, ITALY -- The Canadian government refused yesterday to adjust its plan to combat global warming even though its objectives fall short of the new commitment from the G8 group of industrialized countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

That made Canada one of the targets for criticism after U. S. President Barack Obama failed yesterday to obtain clear commitments from emerging industrial powerhouses such as China and India to commit to specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Taiwan, China Should Cooperate on Environment, Party Head Says

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan and China should cooperate on energy conservation and environmental protection, the Chairman of the island’s ruling party said in a speech today.

“Establishment of a cooperation mechanism, a common response to the Kyoto Protocol, a system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and new-energy industry cooperation, I believe can contribute sustainable development of the cross-Strait environment,” Wu Poh-hsiung, chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang, said in Changhsa, China, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the party’s Web site.

Carbon dioxide emissions in Qatar ‘modest’

DOHA: Qatar’s overall carbon dioxide emissions are relatively modest compared to the other high-income oil producing countries. Out of the total global carbon emissions, only about 0.2 per cent is attributed to Qatar.

Qatar ranked 60th for total carbon dioxide emission as per 2006 data; but ranked first for per capita emission just because of its small population, the country’s just released Human Development Report said.

Boxer faces 'challenge of a lifetime' on climate change bill

WASHINGTON — If the Senate doesn't pass a bill to cut global warming, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer says, there will be dire results: droughts, floods, fires, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more.

She says there's a huge upside, however, if the Senate does act: millions of clean-energy jobs, reduced reliance on foreign oil and less pollution for the nation's children.

Boxer is engaged in her biggest sales job ever. The stakes couldn't be higher as she faces one of the toughest high-profile acts of her lengthy career: getting Congress to sign off on historic legislation to lower greenhouse-gas emissions.

Why oil prices can continue to rise despite falling car sales and recession in the U.S.:


The curb in car sales should serve to raise prices, not bring them down, since motorists will hang on to older less fuel efficient vehicles instead of buying newer models with (ostensibly) higher mileage.

Ethanol's lower energy density also maintains higher demand, of course. I imagine that stating that will be the trigger pull for a nice Saturday morning flame war.

Any steps being taken to build new engines tailored to utilize E10 etc.? I bow to your expertise.

Read a few years ago that Chinese citizens spend ca. 2 months pay just to obtain license plates. The well-heeled participate in auctions to obtain plates with numbers that are significant metaphysically - one story mentioned a closing bid of $72k USD. And you thought Hummers were le indulge.

The well-heeled participate in auctions to obtain plates with numbers that are significant metaphysically

That's no surprise. Phone numbers are also a big deal, and you see big lists of numbers being advertised in store windows. "4" is particularly bad because it is the homonym for the word for death.


So, if I'm looking through the Yellow Pages for Chinese takeout and come across a listing with a telephone number of 444-4444, you're saying I best take a pass? ;-)


Wow, that never occurred to me. When I got a phone in Mongolia, I was shown loads of possible numbers, and, in fact, the shop was full of people looking at available numbers. I told the lady that I really didn't care about the number, it makes no difference to me. And she just looked incredulous!

This is just one of those things that happen when you live in a strange country: after a while you cannot be bothered to always think about why people do the things they do, you just start ignoring some of the weird things, especially when they don't seem to bother you.

I think in Mongolia people also use late night chat shows on TV to sell and buy auspicious phone numbers.

Lest there be any doubt: Guangzhou Journal; First Comes the Car, Then the $10,000 License Plate - New York Times

Published: July 5, 2006

Photos: In Chinese culture, 8 is the luckiest number, while 4 is the unluckiest.; At a recent auction in Guangzhou, one plate featuring several lucky numbers fetched more than $10,000. (Photographs by Nelson Ching for The New York Times)

At a government auction inside a dingy gymnasium, a young businessman named Ding walked away a happy winner the other day. Like everyone else, he was bidding on license plates and did not seem to mind that his cost $6,750.

For the same money, Mr. Ding could almost have afforded two of the Chinese-made roadsters popular in the domestic car market. His bid was almost 20 times what a Chinese farmer earns in a year, and almost 7 times the country's per capita annual income.

And yet, in the auction in this manufacturing capital in southern China, Mr. Ding, who gave only his last name, could not even claim top price. The most expensive plate -- AC6688 -- fetched $10,000 on a day when officials sold hundreds of plates for a total of $366,500.

''I thought it was rather cheap,'' said Mr. Ding, 30, a gold chain glinting under his open black sport shirt, as he walked off with the paperwork for APY888. ''Since I have a nice car, I thought I should get a nice plate.''

These guys are total pikers compared to what they'll pay in, where else, the UAE: Your oil dollars at work - $9.8 million license plate auction in the UAE

The fascination with distinctive tags is a world-wide phenomenon, but $926,000 for a plate that says "50G" is uniquely asinine.

Snippet of an article, but there are 75 comments, very heated of course; here's one:

Simply ridiculous, that makes me want to get a tesla

If you have 45 minutes, I HIGHLY recommend the video
It is on the "richest people of the middle east", and it mainly focuses on their car collections.

In regards to the movie link,

It discusses the formation of an Arab version formula1 (A1)
A man that has different colored cars for each day
a man that has a $ 10,000,000 car collection
and license plate buying

Lock on target achieved, launch!


Redneck version:
My brother inherited his father-in-law's 1984 Ford 1 ton 4WD PU...dents aplenty with rust and the green patina that old cars stored outside in the NW acquire over time...he hadn't driven it two weeks before he had a couple guys make $3,000 offers for it...you guessed it, they wanted the plates... 4HUNTN

A few years ago I published an op-ed with a right-wing Michigan think tank that got a small bit of attention (UPI story, interview) with this proposal: Have states use an ebay style auction to assign vanity plates, instead of ignoring the vast amounts that people are willing to spend to have the perfect plate. It's an even better idea now, what with the economic collapse stressing states very hard but also the prevalence of handheld phones/computers that would make it very easy for people to participate.

Imagine a state-owned website that daily lists a new set of auctions, all vanity plates set to expire within two weeks. With an RSS feed, people could be alerted to plates they are interested in bidding on. So the bidding goes for two weeks -- if the current person with the plate isn't the high bidder, they lose the plate and have to get new (regular) ones, or win another auction for a different vanity plate.

Lots of people wouldn't bid a dime for a vanity plate, and of course they don't have to. But there are a lot of plates that are just so perfect for certain businesses and individuals that you know the idea is a huge lost opportunity. States could set a minimum reserve price on all vanity plate combinations at the current, fixed price, and so they risk nothing from this.

John Gear

i recommend you pay $1million for a plate that reads: 1-800-inutile.

Satellite images show dramatic retreat of Aral Sea

Time lapse animation included, takes a bit to load. One book on water issues had the usually neutral toned author stating that visiting the Aral Sea was just brutally depressing, how screwed up things were.

Thanks for the link Dude. We discussed the Aral Sea yesterday but I don't remember the time lapse images being brought up. I was not aware of this blog. If you click on the upper left of the page it brings up many of their previous articles, looks like about 20 of them, on a single page of which the Aral Sea story is just the latest.

Desdemona Despair: Blogging the End of the World

Here are just a few of them:
The Amazon’s long, hot summer.Researchers are starting to make sense of a severe drought that ravaged the Amazon rainforest four years ago. Their findings are terrifying.

Graph of the Day: Australia Rice Production, 1960-2009

Graph of the Day: Bank Failures per Week in 2009

Palm oil plantations orphan baby orangutans

Louisiana coast to disappear despite massive engineering projects

And this alarming one:Graph of the Day: Greenland Ice Melt Area, 1978-2008

Thanks again. I will be checking this blog daily for any new stuff.

Ron P.

I have it on my iGoogle page, along with latest from here, R Rapier, Heading Out, Morgan Downey, commodity prices, markets, local weather. That about fills up an entire page. Great way to keep tabs on what's going on, although I bet there's even more you can do with RSS feeds.

Hat tip to whoever linked to Desdemona here a couple months back, too. Sometimes he runs snippets from TOD.

It looks like the author of Desdimona Dispair reads The OIl Drum.

One of the graphs and discussion is from here (Discovery Rate of Major Mineral Deposits).

That's my blog, and I do read TOD every day. Thanks to everybody for dropping by!

(Desdemona is my "bad news" blog -- I also have corresponding "relatively good news" blog, named Technozoic.)

Hello TODers,

© International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA)
Fertilizer Outlook 2009-2013

[From the Conclusion]: The sulphur supply/demand balance is seen
with resilient surpluses in 2009, lasting well into 2013. However, should future sulphur production be lower than anticipated due to
uncertainties related to projects in the oil and gas sector, a potential sulphur deficit could emerge in 2011/12.
No mention of Peakoil in the IFA download: but it still might be a prescient recovered-S forecast if the bad economic trends crush the sour crude & sour natgas efforts to an insufficient flowrate.

I wonder if the IOCs & NOCs desire to raise immediate cash might lead them to want to goose this into deficit even earlier?

Hey Bob,

US imports have certainly become sourer over the years:

Looking at the Megaprojects list I see low API/bitumen/tar/"heavy" projects well in ascendancy of lighter grades, just eyeballing things. I'd say about 60% of those with an API listing are <30, there are only 18 projects listed as "light." Just my quick impression of things. The impact of short term refinery projects is something I've been keen to know more about, too - how much of these new builds will involve cokers to work heavy grades into lighter hydrocarbons instead of asphalt and the like?

Yes, I too have been wondering how refineries are handling this increasingly acidic gunk. Have they retooled already?

Yeah, one way to detect this is to check the EIA data for U.S. Product Supplied of Asphalt and Road Oil. You need to make your own chart to see what's happening, as the readymade there shows points instead of lines, rendering a blur; when charted properly you can see the trend downward in the last few years. Whereas in previous years the peak for July (when road maintenance is at its height) was ca. 25 mb/month 2008 topped out at 17.24 mb. This is a very seasonal product, too, imported in very low quantities.

The situation worldwide is the big question; if the bulk of these refineries are complex units with cokers they'll be able to produce that much more fuel for transportation purchases, but coking units run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. If they are being implemented it could loosen up supply that much more; but this at the expense of sulfur production as well, if I understand this correctly.

First, my thx[S] to those who replied to my IFA posting above. Please mentally relate that posting to the concepts below:

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain.."

"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
If one consider's Asimov's List [P is #1, S is #2..], it is readily apparent that Nature does not allow biota, including us, to have a 'Totally Free Market' for the Periodic Table. In other words, Life is evolutionary constrained to pursue and compete for P,S and other trace Elements in descending order to combat any personal Liebig Minimum that might arise [obviously H20 comes first to combat dehydration].

Geology, Physics, and Chemistry limitations, and the energy subsequently released, steer and constrain this Periodic Table Market [PTM]. For example, it is not possible for life to arise and become planet dominant from these Elements:

A chemical glance at short-lived elements.

The chemical elements Lawrencium, Rutherfordium, and Hahnium hardly contribute to the stuff of everyday life. Synthesized one atom at a time by bombarding heavy nuclei with ions, these highly radioactive elements generally survive just a few seconds before decaying into other atomic isotopes.
Feel free to find any Lawrencium is #1-based, intelligent lifeform. My guess is it's mental discount rate [hat-tip to Nate] would closely resemble a billionare Bill Gates or Warren Buffet who is also a full-blown total meth addict & total shopaholic. Or would Elvis & MJ be better examples of people who tried to Chemically and Physically evolve away from the natural PTM: thus drastically increasing their half-life decay rate?

Same for the rest of us as we futilely pursue the other Elements in PTM-violation of Asimov's descending order, thus increasing our half-life decay rates. The resulting pollution and endocrine disruptors are clear evidence of this trend, IMO. Will this Malthusian Overshoot ultimately lead to Jay Hanson's prediction of the full-on nuclear gift exchange so lethal radioactive half-lifes will affect the half-life of us all?

My earlier Peakoil analysis of Asimov's Foundations & Herbert's Dune leads me to conclude that Optimal Overshoot Decline can be best achieved by making our global economic market more tightly adhere to the PTM. Recall that P is #1, and damn hard to get at a useful beneficiated flowrate, if #2=>recovered-S is severely restricted by a Webb/Pomerene type action, or outright monopoly action by the FF-producers.

Thus IMO, we should encourage, as I doubt we can discourage, the postPeak FF-producers to greedily hoard S and get a much higher price/ton.

The Porridge Principle of Metered Decline Concept should thus drive a rapid ramp of O-NPK recycling to offset tightly constrained postPeak supplies of I-NPKS; this is more in keeping with the natural process of Innate Territoriality and would better serve us all.

Will it even take Earthmarines, defending these S-blocks plus vital habitats at all costs, to bring 'Predictive Collapse and Directed Decline' to fruition? Recall the Fremen & Melange of Dune--what would you pay to metaphorically avoid buying eggs devoid of yolks? Meringe only goes so far, the predator feeding frenzy goes for the gut first..

I am excited to see how TODer Cherenkov combines all my former postings into a book. I would do it myself if I knew how to touch-type. :(

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

I love your graph.
Where did it come from?

Re: Boxer faces 'challenge of a lifetime' on climate change bill

I think the Cap-and-Trade approach is likely to turn out bad for the Democrats. The Repugs are already calling the Bill a tax increase and the effects of Cap-and-Trade will result in price increases to the consumer, so the Repug charge will seem true. As I've noted often in previous comments, I think that rationing of transport fuels would be a much better beginning, as it would focus both on CO2 emissions and the repeated call for "energy independence". The Cap-and-Trade restrictions could be limited to just those portions of the economy where the emitter is a business, such as the electric power generators who use coal. In that sector, a price increase would make sense.

The other side of the coin, which is the emissions by other nations in the process of making more stuff for the American consumer, the idea of import tariffs linked to the amount of carbon burned during production makes sense. That's the old claim that the polluter should pay for pollution and ultimately, the consumer must accept his/her responsibility.

E. Swanson

The Repugs are already calling the Bill a tax increase and the effects of Cap-and-Trade will result in price increases to the consumer

I doubt Cap and Trade will have much of an impact on prices -at least in the early years. However any increases in price for whatever reason will be propagandized as due to it.

Start by banning all coal plants and then start of process of phase out. That is pretty much the goal, anyway. Of course cap and trade is a form of taxation, so they might as well tax directly since everyone has pretty much figured out that C&T is a tax. It is a time of courage.

The people whining about this being a tax need to just shut the hell up for once - the fact is every so often we encounter some major issues (climate change / PO)that can only be adequately addressed through taxation - and yes it may take some sacrific and there may be some expense for everyone associated - and it may not even work but then again it just might. All we ever get is this one sided crap completely emphasizing the financial aspects and how much the evil gov't wants to raise your taxes - how about some "fair and balanced" reporting about what the possible results could be if we just continue to kick this can down the road ? These are the same jerks who wouldn't bat an eyelash as housing prices went up 5x, 10x, 20x - the single largest purchase for most people and the more expensive it got the louder these idiots would cheer - and what do we have to show for it now - a complete financial disaster - with taxes going to fund corporate bonuses (not to mention billions for the War on Terror) - don't hear the Repugs pissing and moaning about that too much now do we - nope just deafening silence ? But raise taxes a few bucks a year and oh the humanity - it's time to take to the streets in anger... At least being "taxed" in an attempt to control climate change has the potential to do something - or should we just sit on this problem for another 5, 10, 50 years until we have sea water intruding into our front yards - just wait 'til you see the "taxes" that will be levied to build those sea walls...

This rant is not aimed at you Black Dog - just all the tax whiners that won't suck it up and maybe just maybe see that taxes are a necessary evil for a civilized (used only loosely for describing the current state of the US) society and protecting the commons (I know, I know - that's just commie talk)...

I don't see what the big damn deal is anyways - we're talking a few bucks a year for most people IIRC due to cap and trade - I think we'll easily make up for that with price deflation in certain items (I was surprised to go food shopping today - bought a couple boxes of cereal that for years has been priced ~ $ 3.00 - $ 4.00 range - now selling for $1.99 (not on sale) - cheapest I've ever seen it.

Re: 'Wind Projects at a Standstill'

The above article discussed some of the obstacles being encountered by parties trying to promote wind projects but left out one of the toughest obstacles of all: the utility companies themselves.

My distinct impression based on the long drawn-out battle involving Blue Water Wind, Delmarva Power, and the Delaware legislature, is that, in general, utilities hate wind power and wouldn't touch it if they weren't pressured by various mandated renewable energy requirements. Some of the reasons are understandable from a purely business standpoint, being:

- Much higher capital investment than gas-fired plants.

- Difficulty of integrating wind power into existing grids due to the inherently intermittent nature of wind power. Plus the related problem of matching power supply to demand.

- Wind power requires no fuel, so the utilities cannot play all sorts of creative games with fuel surcharges and/or price escalators.

- They are used to operating coal and gas plants and have developed much expertise that area, and wind power represents something totally different and foreign.

- Plain old inertia.

I am absolutely certain that the people at Delmarva Power broke out the champagne when they learned that Blue Water Wind's parent company went bust. So, as far as the growth of wind power in the US is concerned, it appears to me that the utilities are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Re:The end is coming, but not because of climate change

Every civilization that has collapsed throughout history had done so due to their populations overshooting the carrying capacity of their land, natural resources and economies. (When you have finite resources, just the term “growth economy” is an economic oxymoron.) This is a simple concept: Population overshoot equals civilization collapse.

Have we reached the tipping point where human optimism begins to appear as a child clinging to a belief in Santa Claus? Woody Allen once made the cryptic analysis:

There are only two states in life. The horrible and the miserable. If you're merely miserable...be grateful. It could be horrible.



From the same article: "but by the time global warming really heats up, other crises will have destroyed our modern industrial civilization."

Global warming is already doing a pretty good job of heating up, especially in the Arctic, where the ice cap is set to collapse any time now.


If the author doesn't think that changing a global refrigerator to an open ocean that absorbs sun 24/7 for weeks will not challenge modern industrial civilization's survival...I'd like to see what climate models he's using.

I think the author agrees with you very much - that climate change could destroy modern civilization.

He is simply saying that the two more immediate threats to our civilization are peak resource production and financial collapse.

I think he is exactly right about that.

I think starting soon - days to a few months, most of the governments of the industrialized nations will become as incapacitated as the state government in California.

And then we shall see how much they give a shit about climate change, health care reform and the position of dozens of other chairs on the deck of the Global Titanic.

You are exactly right Sendoil, Global warming could destroy modern civilization in less than a century. Resource depletion combined with financial collapse could very easily do it in less than a decade. That is what I have been preaching for more than a year.

I really don't think many people have a clue as to how bad the financial crisis already is. And it is getting worse by the day. I thought, at first, that Peak Oil would soon drown out the Global Warming warnings. Now Peak Oil is on the back burner, the financial collapse is destroying oil demand and making Peak Oil almost a non issue. That is not to say that oil, peaking, or plateauing, in 2005, did not have a lot to do with the financial collapse because it did.

But the fact that few people realize that doesn't really matter. The important thing is the financial crisis could, very soon, destroy civilization as we know it.

This article is a great find Leanan, best one you have posted all year. Thanks.

Ron P.

The problem of Peak Oil hasn't gone away. The situation will come back to haunt us all as the investments in new production isn't going to flow as fast as it might have, so total production capacity won't be able to keep up with demand, which hasn't fallen as far as one might have thought in the U.S. and is still headed upwards for those countries that have not already developed the ability to consume. India and China still have some way to go in increasing per capita consumption and they have lots of people. That the U.S. model of development may have reached a limit does not necessarily translate to the rest of the globe.

That said, the climate problem really won't become seriously bad for decades, time during which further oil shocks can be expected. The real climate problem will result from the likely increase in coal consumption as oil production peaks or stays on a plateau for a period. We know that the desire for wealth and easy living will push people toward further energy development, the ultimate question is, which sources will be used in future.

The financial system is just a way of motivating people to get the job done and we have seen many other ways to motivate people. China is not a democracy and, if push comes to shove, they can simply mandate that people use coal and other fossil sources. I think we saw that sort of mentality during WW II, where people were worked to death (literally!) to produce all the war fighting necessities in Germany. Even today, we see stories about the large numbers of miners killed in the Chinese coal mines. While it may turnout that our Western style consumer oriented society may crash, there are many other nations which could benefit from our loss as our present diversion of resources from their economies would cease. A less developed nation doesn't need a mammoth company like GM or Chrysler to build transport...

E. Swanson

The financial system is just a way of motivating people to get the job done and we have seen many other ways to motivate people.

Huh? That's all that it is? Every nation has a financial system. Most of them are capitalists systems but others are not. The fact that they may be Communists or what have you does not mean that it is not a financial system. "Our financial system" is a rather loose term but basically it is how we run our economy. It is simply another term for "our economy".

Our financial system, or basically our economy, is based on debt. Almost every home or real estate project is bought with borrowed money. Almost every automobile in the nation is bought with borrowed money. If money were to get really tight, that is if no one were willing to lend money, our economy would come to a screeching halt tomorrow.

No homes or real estate would be bought, therefore no building. No automobiles would be bought therefore every automobile manufacturer, dealer or supplier would close up shop. No new businesses would open. Tens of millions would lose their jobs. This in turn would cause further decline in the economy causing many more millions to be laid off and so on.

Our economy or our financial system is far, far more complicated than most people realize. And it is all based on debt.

Ron P.

I generally agree with what you say about OUR (meaning the western) financial system. I was thinking of other forms of social organization. Lots of debt out there, but then lots of that debt is denominated in dollars or, it might be denominated in UK pounds or euros, etc). There are other currencies as well and if the western financial system implodes, that fraction of the world's population which depend on OUR system will be in a new world of hurt.

But, the rest of the world doesn't really need us to do what they do to survive. A few billion will still be living as subsistence farmers or fishermen and couldn't give a rats ass whether NYC or London or Moscow evaporate in a brief flash of light. Remember that leading up to WW II, the Germans didn't have a need for dollars, since they had their own currency system, although they were involved in world trade. The Soviets didn't trade the Ruble for decades, as I recall. For any government that really feels the need, all they must do is call out the army and shove a gun into your belly and you most surely will shut down your computer and march out to weed the bean fields or dig irrigation ditches or lay railroad tracks. Think Cambodia or Mao's China or any other totalitarian government down thru history. It's been said that during the Russian army attacks during WW II, the NKVD followed the troops and shot anyone that lagged behind. They beat the Germans (with the help of winter and Hitler's hubris)...

E. Swanson

I'm not sure people read what I wrote.

The ice cap could completely disappear this year, and only has a few years at most. This is almost sure to radically alter weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere at least. That means rain won't fall on farmlands where it has done so reliably for centuries, and that it will fall in torrential downpours in other locations.

If you think this will not be a threat to world food supply and therefore to civilization, I don't know what you think would.

We'll find out soon enough---or not given that exact causes of any disaster can be hard to determine.

I'm guessing that people are equating GW merely with rising sea levels, and yes, that will take decades to develop to levels that seriously threaten huge masses of people. But GW is much much more than that and its effect are already unfolding.

The ice cap could completely disappear this year, and only has a few years at most. This is almost sure to radically alter weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere at least.

I think you overestimate the speed with which this can effect the weather. Firstly, the icefree month will be Spetember -not June and July when a lot of sun is available near the poles. Secondly the excess absorbed solar energy goes directly into the ocean, where it will eventually begin to alter ocean currents (but I think that will take decades). The next weather effect is likely to be somewhat delayed fall freezeup, slowing the onset of winter -but ironically making more snow available. I think that while this is a serious change, that its physical implications will take a few decades before they are realized.

I'm very glad you think so, EoS. But what I know is that climate is non-linear and can change in a period of less than a decade. This delusion that tipping points happen, but not while I'm alive is a bizarre notion. We had a small example of this with the European Little Ice Age and a much more serious example with the Younger Dryas. Unfortunately, nobody was blogging about it back then.

What you all think is going to happen to food production with a less-than-a-decade shift to +/- 7C temps, I do not know. I do know that pretending PO is the Big Bogey Man is potentially suicidal because, while it threatens our current civilization's structure, it does not in any way threaten humanity en toto.

This is a risk management issue. If we had a hundred years to mitigate Climate Change and the means to easily reverse GHG emissions, you'd be right. But we don't. In terms of cause and effect, ACC/AGE is NOW, not post-PO.

If we do not disabuse people of this PO/ACC dichotomy, we are all well and truly screwed. They are both NOW. It's time for good, conscientious people to stop rowing in different directions.


I would love to see any studies you are basing these conclusions on.

The first year of an ice-free Arctic will probably be restricted to a few weeks in September at most, as you say. But then, with all ice being thin, one-year ice, and with gw proceeding apace and with the sun coming out of its minimum of activity, do you really think it is likely to only be open in September in succeeding years?

And besides, even an almost-ice-free Arctic Ocean (what it will be well before September) is a very different animal than a mostly frozen one. Some parts large areas will be/have been substantially free from ice for months. The temperature anomaly for parts of the Beaufort Sea the last two years was over six degrees for a good while last year as I recall.

Also note that the Arctic ice cover has been declining steadily since the '80's (with a big fall off in '07), so weather patterns are doubtless already being affected by new vast extents of open water that haven't been up there on the top of the world. It's not suddenly going from everything to nothing.

Another point often overlooked is that you have change of state issues. As long as there is some ice in that ocean, it acts to cool the water around it as it melts (melting being an endothermic reaction). But once all the ice melts, there will be no such mechanism to cool the waters and super heating, especially in certain areas could happen quickly.

And of course if some of those super-heated areas are shallow (as much of the continental shelf is), the warming could well mix down far enough to thaw and free up the clathrates below (wiki clathrate gun for some indication of what the consequences of that might be).

I don't think there is any way to know for sure what the effect will be. If you choose to take comfort in that uncertainty, I certainly understand the emotional need.

Unfortunately, with GW, uncertainty has not been much a friend so far--mostly the models have been wrong on the optimistic side, sometimes very wrong.

A planet that retains a mostly frozen cap strikes me as a very different thing than a planet that loses that cap regularly. It stretches credulity to me to think that such a different planet will have essentially the same weather patterns. Shouldn't we all be just a bit more freaked out about this?

But as you say, it is possible that it will take a few years or decades for these patterns to develop. It will be interesting, in a depressing, EOTWAWKI kind of way to see how this unfolds.

"I don't think there is any way to know for sure what the effect will be."

So why do the 'warmists' automatically play up the potential
negative effects of climate change when there is "no way to
know for sure" ??

Triff ..

First of all, your attempted insult is rather dumb. Warmists? Does that describe what any one does? No. We aren't bed warmers or electric blankets. Denialists is perfectly descriptive, however.

Second, to answer your question: We aren't stupid, can read graphs, understand science, don't make shit up and understand risk assessment.

What ccpo said. And while we can't know exactly, we can be pretty darn sure it will be quite different than what we have today, less predictable, more severe...

If you want to assume uncertainty means it is almost sure to be paradise, be my guest. Many need that kind of emotional crutch rather than facing the full horror of the range of uncertainties that lie ahead.

"...won't become a seriously bad for decades..."

Unless the Doomsday Clock strikes Midnight.

Then the forecast becomes 'Widely scattered and in many places intensely concentrated fireballs, followed by persistent dark clouds and very high background radiation."

As a general remark regarding Earthlings, it is remarkable how many people utterly stopped worrying and learned to live with the bomb after the Wall came down.

If they thought the Wall coming down was 'The end of history' then their imaginations and indeed their grip on reality are rather limited.


"We'll meet again, Don't know why, don't know when..."




Last nights' Bill Moyers Journal is not related to core TOD subject matter (subject was current health care reform efforts), but I'd encourage a watch/read anyway: Health Care Reform

I was most impressed with Moyers closing comments related to money: lobbying and politics. His comments are in the context of the Health Care Reform big show, but I thought in general terms of DC's BAU. Nothing we are not already aware of, but I thought very well stated. I know, for whatever good that will do. I sadly thing it's gonna take pitchforks and torches, but equally sad - not any time soon (enough).


Let that sink in. The "stakeholders" in health care reform in this case do not include the rabble — the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can't afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, a bouncer would drop kick them beyond the beltway.

In other words, before you can cross the threshold in Washington to reach "the select few who will actually get it done," you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand. The dinner was canceled after the invite was leaked to the website politico.com — by a health care lobbyist, of all people. But it was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington. A clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.
It's not about compromise. It's not about what the public wants. It's about money, the golden ticket to "the select few who actually get it done." And nothing will change. Nothing. Until the money-lenders are tossed out of the temple, and we tear down the sign they've placed on government — the one that reads: "For sale."

ptoemmes - I respect Bill Moyers and I have watched him for years. I think he's an honest journalist.

That being said I believe that his Utopian agenda is a little trite considering we do not have the resources at this stage to extend health services throughout the land, fix the economy, solve global warming and fix the environment; all that without even a token mention of population overshoot.

That 800 lb. gorilla in the room keeps putting on weight*


*According to world population growth statistics over 300,000 additional people are added daily.

I don't mind a few utopians. Moyers, Jimmy Carter and Kermit the Frog are personal saints for me. .. and anyone who can make me laugh.

Our health plan includes the classic tactic of 'Don't get sick'.. aided by the growing knowledge of how real nutrition and lifestyle can keep you healthy, and where to avoid the bulk of poisons that are being profitably administered to the rest of the world by 'Food and Drug, Inc.'


How about George Carlin and Kurt Vonnegut. They were both doomers extremely funny and now deceased so if you believe in the afterlife they would be up for sainthood.


Without a doubt.

I have idols across the spectrum..

*According to world population growth statistics over 300,000 additional people are added daily.

Joe, that did not exactly jive with what I have read over the past few years so I did some checking. Actually the world population grows by about 220,000 per day. (6.77 billion times 1.19%, 2007 percentage rise).

Wikipedia Human population growth rate

But while checking this I found out something I had not realized. The population growth, in millions of people per year, has stopped declining and has started to rise again.

The actual annual growth in the number of humans fell from its peak of 87.5 million per annum in 1989, to a low of 76.4 million per annum in 2002, at which it stabilised and has started to slowly rise again to 79.4 million per annum in 2007, and 80.2 million per annum in 2009.

Ron P.

Sidebar: While the human population is growing by 220,000 per day the number of all other great apes is declining and total, in combined numbers, about 200,000. In other words our numbers are growing by more per day than the combined number of all other great apes in the world.

ron - did a lot of thinking about this and it occurred to me that world population figures (b-d) + yesterdays population are at best ballpark numbers. Most of the undeveloped part of the world keep little or no statistics. They're too busy trying to keep alive to worry about that.

I do remember years ago (at least 30,35 years) I saw a TV journalist interviewing a king of some destitute republic in Africa (I think it was Ethiopia) that was on life support and millions of their people were lining up for Care Packages. This is a paraphrase of what was said:

Western Reporter (glibly): "How do you feel about your people starving to death and America and Europe stepping in?"

King (angrily but with dignified restraint): "We did not ask you to come to our aid. This is more about you and your needs than mine or my peoples. In this land as far back as anyone can remember we have always had the specter of starvation. A lot of the people would die off but then the land can only support so many..."

When I first saw that I thought the King was an asshole but all this time later I can see the old guys point of view. There's far too many of us and that will be our undoing. That makes me really sad because I have grown kids and one granddaughter. I grieve for them...for myself not at all.


Right Joe, there is no real census done in most of the world. Everything is just a wild ass guess and my guess is that most nations overestimate their population. In many cases the guessing is done by the demographers complying the data and their guess could go either way. But I believe that, in general, the number of people are overestimated.

The old king was right, the land can only support so many people. In many nations they are already at that limit, in my opinion anyway.

Ron P.

Our national mascot is doing a world tour:

US President Barack Obama, on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office, has said Africa must take charge of its own destiny in the world.


I think our charismatic man-child president is trying to tell them they are on their own.

With a lot of luck, the financial dislocations over the next 12 months will be enough to put an end to BAU, and a year from now the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve will be nothing but a bad memory.

I wonder what Kunstler think's of his "party that wrecked america" theme now.

Our national mascot is doing a world tour:

That's a low blow Sendoil. He is our President and not a mascot. I know many do not approve of the job he is doing, the stimulus package and all that. But I believe things would be much worse if McCain and Palin had been elected.

Having said that, in my opinion there is nothing Obama can do to prevent the coming collapse. He will be blamed but because of his actions the collapse will probably be delayed from a few months to a year or so.

I am not going to get into a political argument here and this will be my last post today on the subject. But it just pisses me off to see our duly elected president referred to as if he were some damn animal.

Ron P.

Having read the various names that 'Bush-haters' used to deride him during his time at the helm and comparing them to the various names that 'Obama-haters' use now, I think it is fair to say that that anti-Obamites are far more acerbic, scathing, scornful, and hateful than the anti-Bushers.

Yeah for them.

Bush was our duly elected president also. Did that stop anyone here from insults? Yeah, I know, Bush deserved it and Obama doesn't. Obama is certainly not my mascot. He may be the mascot of the banksters and other liberal elitists but not me.

Can we not see that this is part of the internet freedom to insult with anonymity.

There is no respect ... now take my wife ... please.

Bush was our duly elected president also

That is a matter of debate and parsing the phrase "duly elected".



See how it goes?

I agree, if we can bash BushCo, lets not take Obama off the table- or religion, which needs censorship (often meme based) to protect itself from critical examination.
As Lenny Bruce said: "If you can't say f#ck, you can't say f*ck the government"

Ron, I think the last three duly elected presidents were nothing more than mascots on parade (Clinton was perfect for Peak Hedonism).

I think Palin/McCain would have been just as big of a disaster as Obama/What'shisface.

None of them are 'responsible' for this collapse and none of them could have prevented it.

But all three presidents could have at least tried to mitigate the disaster-in-progress. Instead, all three made it worse in almost every way possible.

I would be happy to again say the Pledge of Allegiance if and when we have a government worth pledging allegiance too.

The last three? Try the last five.

The federal govt culture of debt was initiated by Reagan/ONeil. Although to be fair, that was in part just because they wouldn't deal straight on with constantly rising costs of Medicare/Medicaid which eat up a little more of the budget each and every year. Spend your way to prosperity and the Devil take the hindmost!

I would literally give my left nut to put Clinton/Gingrich back in place. Its a sad testament that's the best that the last 30 years can offer.

Nevertheless, I can speak of their failures without resorting to 8th grade insults. I think my original observation that disrespectful comments directed at the Left President are more caustic than those directed towards the Right President stands. But its just my opinion. YMMV.

Hmmm, shooting from my hip (lip), the last President to try to tell at least some of it like it was was Jimmy Carter, but folks were not ready to put on their sweaters and turn the thermostat down 3 degrees and drive a little less with a little bit smaller cars, so they elected the great actor Ronald Reagan, who assured us that it was 'Morning in America again' and we rode that false optimism wave into increasing overshoot for the next (nearly) 30 years.

The last President who said something profoundly bold was Ike, who called out the dangers of the 'Military-Industrial Complex'. And Ike was one of the U.S.'s top WWII generals.



Before that you had FDR calling out the 'Economic Royalists' and how they were undermining the fabric of our nation.


Jefferson had a great idea:


Then there was Benjamin Franklin (president of the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, anyway)



I thought the Michael Jackson tour was canceled...

[sarcanol off -- apologies for my insensitive cynical comment]

E. Swanson

Parts of California get their power from Canada.

Is this true ? A Google search with the above
statement was ineffective - not surprisingly.

By chance is that power in Canada a
hydroelectric source ?

What I've found so far:

This left California dependent on imports for 23% of its electricity (13% from US Southwest, 10% from Pacific Northwest); it relied on some 9000 MWe of out-of-state capacity.

Pacific Northwest could include Canada, I suspect.

RBM, I tried to send you an e-mail this morning to the address in your profile. Did you get it? It is in response to the discussions I ran across here:


As I stated in the e-mail, the level of misunderstanding from that one poster is extraordinary.

Sorry Robert, I did not get my old email cleaned
out of my TOD profile completely and you may
have used the old one.

The new one is a different ISP: atwindstreamdotnet

So no, I'm not sure of which poster you refer to.

But my guess would be the post #14 by Plane Stress ?

Yes, that post. Here was what I wrote (plus a bit more):

Hey RBM, hoping you can clear some misconceptions up for the scientifically challenged poster "Plane Stress." 1). There are a number of BTL projects in the works, including Choren's plant in Freiberg. 2). You don't burn part of your syngas to generate heat, you burn tars from the biomass; 3). He is completely clueless on the environmental impact. How does he think cellulose gets broken down? Just because something is combusted doesn't automatically mean it is a dirtier process than something that is hydrolyzed. That is most certainly not the case here. 4). Gasification doesn't "require a lot of heat, and a lot of steam." It actually produces heat/steam as a byproduct of the gasification.

Here is a very short list of companies working on gasification:


I could go on and on. What the poster does not understand regarding cellulosic ethanol versus gasification is this: If you subsidize at a high enough level, both can be "commercialized." But in the long run, cellulosic ethanol has serious limitations that will prevent it from surviving without the subsidies. I don't believe the same holds true for gasification. While the economics at $50 oil aren't that good, we have seen certain countries turn to gasification when they had to for their liquid fuel needs (Germany, South Africa). Nobody ever turned to cellulosic ethanol in a pinch, even though the technology has been around for 100 years.

Thanks for the reply here.

I'm still grappling with some of the aspects you
mention. so I may not be of much value in
clearing misconceptions by others. I Appreciate
your clarifications.

Feel free to ask for clarifications, or for additional information. I have worked on both technologies, and I believe I have a pretty good understanding of the limitations/advantages of each.

As I'm sure you are aware, gasifiers don't make ethanol, only microbes do. Only Coskata, who you
disbelieve, are talking about feeding syngas to their microbes.

The Germans are doing Choren because biodiesel from rapeseed has low per acre productivity at 77 gallons per acre and Choren claims to get three times the gallons per acre for its F-T diesel from wood as rapeseed oil does.

Germans use mainly diesel instead of gasoline for their cars and need a eco-friendly/sustainable replacement for their favorite fuel.


Also they don't want any public relations blowback from using palm or soybean oil which can be used for cooking in poor countries.

Of course, corn ethanol gets 439 gallons per acre and once POET/Broin get in cellulosic ethanol from cob cobbs off the same acre that will go up 27% to 548 gallons per acre.


In terms of energy output 548 gallons per acre is
366 gallons of gasoline equivalent (in BTUs), where 231 gallons of F+T diesel would be 262 gallons of
gasoline equivalent.

Or in other words, cellulosic+corn ethanol is 40% more productive per acre than Choren's process.

The Swedish company Sekab is also building a big wood cellulosic ethanol plant.


Ethanol is going to win this race over the biomass gasifiers, IMO.

Dashing off to the airport, so not much time. A few comments:

"As I'm sure you are aware, gasifiers don't make ethanol, only microbes do."

The process can make mixed alcohols, of which ethanol is one. Remember Syntec who used to post here? That was what they were doing.

"Of course, corn ethanol gets 439 gallons per acre and once POET/Broin get in cellulosic ethanol from cob cobbs off the same acre that will go up 27% to 548 gallons per acre."

I am speaking with POET at the end of the week. Any questions you have for them?

"Or in other words, cellulosic+corn ethanol is 40% more productive per acre than Choren's process."

That is theoretical, not demonstrated, and I am sure that is not the net energy (I don't have time to look at the link right now).

That's all. Off to Canada.

It is not setteld if Sekab:s process will be more efficient to run and cheaper to build then biomass gasifiers that use chemical synthesis to turn the mosty H2 and CO from the gasification into methane, methanol, DME, diesel or even ethanol. Sekab has a head start due to better political backing but that do not guarantee that it is the best process. Ethanol from cellulose get continued RnD support from the Swedish government wich is ok since it is not the only area that gets support and since they have a global technology lead it could turn out to be a valuble development for some raw material sources and combinations with other industries.

But I would never expect cellulosic ethanol to be cheap, the process is too complicated and need too much raw materials to provide cheap BAU fuel.

I expect that we will get a parallel development of biogas digesters using some of the forestry industries finely ground up mass flow yielding methane, gasification of some of the process streams such as black liquir in pulp plants, raw gasification in combination with CHP plants and manufacturing of a range of fuels and products and cellulosic ethanol. Plants with well controlled processes that can produce high quality products are then likely try to find better paying products then mere wehicle fuel.

F+T has produced about ~90 gallons of fuel from a ton of coal(Sasol actually produces less at 1.25 barrels per ton of coal!) and since wood(6MJ/kg) has about 25% of energy
of bituminous coal(24 MJ/kg) it should produce about 23 gallons per ton.
This is comparable to the oil in Colorado oil shale
or oil sands.

The US DOE estimates 300 million tons of wood products can be sustainably harvested from US forests. That means about 7 billion gallons of F+T type fuels.

The current state of the art for cellulosic ethanol is 45 gallons of ethanol per ton or 30 gallons per ton. So that would be 9 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol. 9/7=1.28 or 28% more product per ton, still tiny compared to US consumption of 145 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel.

A recent innovation is Mascoma's CBP process which removes lignin(25% of wood) which can be used for distillation. Lignin cannot not be converted into ethanol.


2000# of wood will produce 45 gallons of ethanol, which require <57000 BTU/gal of distillation energy
or 2600000 BTU.

Under Mascoma's process, 2000# of wood yields 500# of lignin which has ~6000 BTUs per pound energy in it or 3000000 BTUs per ton.

IOW, Mascoma's lignin separation produces enough energy to eliminate the need for any fossil fuels for distilling ethanol.

So we end up with a situation where celluosic ethanol produces more gallons per ton of wood and NO addition fossil fuel inputs are required.

Cellulosic ethanol seems to come off better than gasified biofuels.


Still not much time, but you have multiple errors. Your yield numbers for gasification are way low. Your energy numbers are likely way off because they are highly moisture dependent. Instead of speculating, go to Choren's site and see. They have published them. I will be meeting with some guys from Choren shortly. I will quiz them on their yields.

Lignin removal is nothing new. Pulp and paper companies have done that forever, and used the lignin for fuel. And you can produce ethanol from lignin - if you gasify it.

Don't know where you are getting your distillation numbers for cellulosic, but they are way off the mark. Cellulosic produces a solution of ethanol that is about 4% ethanol and 96% water. It takes tremendous energy to purify that. It requires almost as much to purify as the ethanol contains - and remember that is only one step of the process. Gasification can actually produce heat and electricity in addition to the fuel produced. Those two factors swing the equation dramatically away from your conclusion.

Finally, again I remind you that countries have turned to gasification during national emergencies. Nobody ever turned to cellulosic ethanol as an emergency fuel source, even though the technology is old. That should tell you something. Choren has also built a commercial BTL plant in Germany. Nobody has managed to do anything with cellulosic ethanol close to that scale.

A ton of dried wood often quoted as having 17 million BTU in it. Dry wood weighs about half as much as wet wood. It also takes an additional 1 million BTUs to dry a ton wood out over a week, Choren lists it as F+T gas or NG.

Choren claims 70.5 gallons(or 75.2 gallons of gasoline equivalent)of Sundiesel per ton(8000 liters from 30 tons) of dried wood according to your article so at 121700 Btus per gallon(per Argonne) that's 9526500 Btus per ton, which equals 56% 'efficiency'.

Choren's plant will produce 4.8 million gallons of Sundiesel per year from 65000 tons of wood per year. Broin/Poet's Emmetsburg plant will take 800 tons per day of corn cobs and fiber starting in 2011 to make 42000 gallons of gasoline equivalent per day so larger cellulose ethanol projects are in the works.

Mascoma quotes 55 gallons of ethanol per ton of wet wood which is equal to 110 gallons per dry ton or 73 gallons of gasoline per ton. Coskata claims 100 gallons of ethanol per dry ton of feedstock. Zeachem says they can get +135 gallons per dry ton mixing microbe produced acetic acid with hydrogen gas.

It seem that much more is happening on the ethanol side compared to the F+T gasifiers.

"so at 121700 Btus per gallon(per Argonne)"

You are quoting biodiesel numbers. SunDiesel isn't biodiesel; it is chemically the same as petroleum diesel.

"It seem that much more is happening on the ethanol side compared to the F+T gasifiers."

I don't know how you can still believe that, based on what you wrote. Choren's yields are demonstrated; the others are all hypothetical. Also of critical importance - but ignored by you - is that yield is only a part of the story. If I make 1000 gallons of ethanol equivalent per acre, it matters if it took 2000 gallons of ethanol equivalent to purify it. That factor continues to be left out of your analysis, probably because including it makes cellulosic ethanol look very bad.

Also, you ignored it, but Choren also produces steam and electricity. The other guys not only DO NOT produce steam or electricity, but they take a lot of steam to purify the low purity ethanol. It is no contest. Not even close.

RBM: Yes, California gets some of its electricity from British Columbia, the province where I live. We have a lot of hydroelectric capacity here, although strong population growth combined with cheap electricity has led to predictions of future shortages.

BC Hydro, a crown (government) corporation, is the main utility here. It owns all of the big dams and major generating facilities. Lately, smaller private power generators have come into play, but they still only account for small fraction of the electricity produced. BC Hydro has made big profits over the years by exploiting the natural advantages of hydro versus other types of generation, such as coal or nuclear.

Typically BC Hydro will sell expensive electricity to California and other nearby states during peak consumption hours. During low consumption hours, it will throttle back or close the water flow through the penstocks and buy cheap, off-peak electricity from American utilities. It's the ability of hydropower to quickly ramp up or down power production that makes it so attractive. Hydro generating facilities are also very cheap to operate.

Pacific Northwest could include Canada, I suspect.

Most of the PNW exportable power is Columbia river hydro. I think the river basin does include parts of Canada.

Hi Robert,

In addition to Frugal's post, additional background on BC Hydro's exports to California during the Enron debacle can be found at: http://www.powerex.com/news/news.htm

With respect to the "greenishness" of these exports, see: http://www.vancouversun.com/Technology/California+rejects+green+power+cl...


The senate opted for a regulation that disqualifies hydro projects producing more than 30 megawatts -- new B.C. projects are typically 50 megawatts or larger. The senate bill is now being reviewed by the California state assembly and a final decision could be months away.

A rhetorical question - is their substantive
differences regarding 'greenishness' of a 30
MW vs a 50 MW plant ?

Most likely not, with the possible exception of the environmental impacts related to the size of their respective head ponds.

Edit: I should have made clear that it's not uncommon for run-of-the-river hydro-electric facilities to have at least some storage capacity.


Thus the Green 49.9 MW hydroelectric plant

he 49.9 MW Ashlu Creek hydroelectric project located in British Columbia.

project at Lytton with the project having a capacity of 49.9 MW

British Columbia issued an environmental assessment certificate necessary to develop the proposed 49.9-MW Kwoiek Creek hydroelectric project

Kwoiek and Rutherford Creeks: each 49.9 MW

IMHO, wasted renewable energy to meet gov't fiat rules.


Guess I should chime in on this one since I've been working in the BC electricity industry since repatriating two years ago. Electrical energy is traded back and forth in the WECC (Western Electrical Coordinating Council - or Committee?) between coal fired plants, Columbia River generation in BC and Washington, and other BC hydro electric plants. Just north of us here in Prince George is the WAC Bennett Dam which is comparable in size to Hoover (Black Canyon for the political purist!) at 2.9 GW. As HIH stated, the reservoir head ponds are an advantage for energy arbitrage.

However, the days of large hydro electric dam projects are coming to an end due to public opposition. The other reason for 49.9 MW run of river development size is this keeps the project from undergoing the Federal Environmental Assessment (EAS). I don't know who threw the number against the wall, but any project 50 MW or greater has to undergo the federal EAS as well as the provincial environmental permitting.

There is much more potential to develop and export renewable energy to the U.S. Recently a colleague and I submitted a discussion paper for an HVDC system that would connect northern BC to the Canada/U.S. border (exact location TBD) in the ongoing BCUC Transmission Inquiry - Section 5. (Look up the site and go to document C49-2 - I'm tired and on pain killers, so...). PG&E and WECC has recommended BC expand its hydro electric export capacity, and PG&E proposed a transmission line project that would connect at the mid-Columbia (mid-C) interconnection. Alberta, through Trans Canada Pipeline, proposed the Northern Lights transmission project as well.

We have at least ~15 GW of renewable energy that could be developed here without significant impact, but most spend their time analyzing "BC's electrical needs". That gets the air quotes because very few comprehend that we are connected to the WECC and all our fates are accordingly joined. So I find this to be a most remarkable paradox with our provincial environmentalist like-minded people. They are both purposeful and determined in their political agenda, but the measures seem to only apply to political boundaries. That is, they seem to view BC as a greenhouse within a greenhouse complex rather than one large global system, and energy matters start and end at our provincial and national borders?

This goes back to the science quiz from yesterday, but maybe some elementary thermodynamics and math might be included (i.e. Dr. Bartlett's presentation on exponential numbers).

But this goes back to the original question, why is anyone surprised that California imports electrical power from Canada?

As I said before, California is a preview of coming attractions for many other states. California and a couple of other states have just arrived the scene of the crash ahead of most other states.

California IOU Update

There is an interesting pecking order that determines who gets the IOUs and who gets the cash.

People who get California IOUs People California pays in cash
Grants to aged, blind or disabled persons University of California
People needing temporary assistance for basic family needs Public Employees’ Retirement System
People in drug prevention, treatment, and recovery services Legislators, legislative employees, and appointees
Persons with developmental disablities Judges
People in mental health treatment Department of Corrections
Small Business Vendors Health Care Services payments to Institutional Providers

Legislators, legislative employees, and appointees

I'm sure that this is really popular in California.

BTW, a Wikipedia article on Scrip:


A lot of that is because of lawsuits filed after the previous financial crisis.

As I understand it, they cannot pay employees with IOUs. The courts determined that that was scrip, and that's a violation of labor law. Which exists because of previous abuses. ("I owe my soul to the company store...")

I just watched a 6 minute interview with the vice(?)-chairman of Government Motors on Foxnews. It is obvious that they have no intention of switching away from the big cars, trucks and SUVs. My guess is that the new GM is toast?

But, I got to wondering something. Now that we have the "New" Government Motors coming out of the bankruptcy of the old General Motors, will Government Motors, which has repudiated all of the debt of the old General Motors wind up also repudiating the debt from loans of the US Government to the old General Motors? (50 billion dollars?)
And if Government Motors repays the loans from the US Government to the old General Motors, will there be massive lawsuits to make the new Government Motors repay more of the debts of the old General Motors?

My guess is that the taxpayer has seen the last of the 50 billion dollars the government loaned to General Motors.

The Ice Bear may be old hat to Americans, but it's a nouveau chapeau here in Canada.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/a-green-idea-cool-enough-...

A very nice complement to this: http://www.enwave.com/home.php


Hello TODers,

Since I am not the sharpest pencil in the box, but it seems logical that hard-core ICBM weaponeers, in nuclear militarys the world over, have a long time ago: fully explored the full-on 'nuclear winter scenario' of additional nuclear-detonation of the many global [S]ulfur blocks plus large I-NPKS stockpiles as prime, high-kill ratio targets.

The fact that many of these S-stockpiles are by sour natgas fields, sour oilfields, crude refineries, major shipping ports, I-NPKS factories, and is chem-included in the many finished products stored inside large I-NPKS warehouses,is an additional plus that I am sure that they can't pass up for targeting as an ICBM explosive force-multiplier.

I don't have the expertise to fully deflesh & debone the results of an atomic precision hit on a S-block or I-NPKS warehouse, but the resulting combo-explosion could be much greater than a normal explosion as the S & NPK & C is instantly burned by the intense heat & pressure.

Try to picture a vastly elevated form of Timothy McVeigh's crude & fertilizer bomb:

Twenty-five S-isotopes, with short-half lives, would be created at primetime:


This would add additional radioactive 'kick' to the ICBM's lethal kick.

But the worst effect would be the terribly lethal cloud generation of hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and many other S-compounds as S is highly chem-reactive:

35 pages of S-compounds
If the S-gas didn't get you, the subsequent acid rain would not be much fun either, not to mention the usual radioactive fallout. Many S-gases are heavier than air, therefore they would tend to disperse along the ground seeking the lowest level [not much fun for those hunkered down in a bunker].

Of course, the worst long-time effect of scorching an S-block might be the creation of huge amounts of sulfur hexaflouride gas [SF6]:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas that it has evaluated, with a global warming potential of 22,800 times that of CO2 when compared over a 100 year period...Its atmospheric lifetime is 3200 years.
Ideally, you want the bio-geochemical sulfur cycle to go slowly at geologic rates:


Please think about that the next time you have eggs:

..eggs are high in sulfur because large amounts of the element are necessary for feather formation. The high disulfide content of hair and feathers contributes to their indigestibility, and also their odor when burned.

Good news for UK homeowners:

Cheap ‘green mortgages’ to foster energy-saving homes

The government is to offer “green mortgages” to fund the installation of solar panels, wind turbines and other energy-saving measures.

Households will be able to take out the low-interest loans to pay for double-glazing, loft and cavity wall insulation and even heat pumps, which extract energy from below the ground.

The scheme, which will be announced this week alongside the government’s renewable energy strategy, could transform the urban landscape as ministers try to encourage homeowners to reduce carbon emissions.

See: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6689632.ece


There is a fair chunk of UK properties still on off peak electric water and space heating (economy 7)
A simple solar thermal system could be added to these properties easily as the water tank is already in place.

Improve the building air tightness and insulation, and you add a small air source heat pump (~5kW heating) to provide space heating. These measures should cost less than £5k to install, and would cut electricity consumption in half for these properties.

I am starting to see more electric scooters and bikes around on the streets and more interest in the media.

Also in the UK there is a power flow of about 8GW from North to South, therefore any new capacity should be built in the south. New nuclear power + Tidal lagoons on the Severn Estuary, with new interconnectors to Europe in the South East.

I expect power supplies to get less reliable as the current generation of power plants age and gas supplies become expensive or unavailable. In this situation many business and industry will want to provide there own back up supply possibly using flywheels with diesel engines or batteries. A utlility and business could go 50/50 on such a system as it may cost more than a larger power plant, its installation speed would be much higher. The engine could dual fuel on natural gas if it was available.

There is also recent funding announced for a series of anaerobic digesters at farming and food processing facilities.

There are tremendous opportunities to upgrade the thermal performance of UK homes. A standard uninsulated pitch roof common to many UK homes would have a heat loss of roughly 2.2 W/m2-C -- a modest 100 mm of insulation would cut that to 0.34 W/m2-C, an 85 per cent reduction. An uninsulated cavity wall is likely to run in the range of 1.0 W/m2-C and insulating it would effectively cut that in half.

Our climate is considerably colder than your own but, for reference purposes, the heat loss through our home's loft and cavity walls is 0.095 W/m2-C and 0.25 W/m2-C respectively. Where we do fall down, however, is with respect to air leakage; our blower door test pegged that at 4.6 ACH at 50 Pascals, although its probably a bit better than that now that we've tightened things up a little further.

Unfortunately, some homes will be difficult to insulate due to the nature of their design or the amount of insulation that can be added with be limited, or the work will be too disruptive or cost prohibitive.

See: http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/article514...