Drumbeat, July 25, 2009

Kurt Cobb: The big question

Let me illustrate the pitfalls of sacrificing for future generations. Let's say we decide to go on a severe fossil fuel diet starting today and remain on that diet indefinitely in order to lessen the ravages of peak fossil fuels and climate change. Many decades later our descendents wake up to a world with a steady, livable climate and with a relative abundance of fossil fuels that are now used almost exclusively as chemical feedstocks except in a few small instances. These descendents decide that their lives could be improved somewhat quite cheaply by burning a little more fossil fuel. After all, the danger of catastrophic climate change has passed, and greenhouse gas levels have actually come down. Why not ease restrictions on burning fossil fuels?

Of course, this modest lifting of restraints probably won't last long as the flush of enhanced living standards encourages a call for burning additional fossil fuels to increase living standards a bit more. And, of course, this unfortunate path could lead my hypothetical future society right back onto the road to collapse and destruction.

Phosphorus Matters II: Keeping Phosphorus on Farms

In many soils phosphorus is naturally present in sufficient amounts, however, it may be chemically locked up and not available for plants. Most of agricultural soils in Western Europe and North America are oversupplied with huge amounts of superphosphate fertilizers, which results in binding phosphorus up with other elements so it ends up unused in the soil. In consequence, the concentration of phosphorus may be as high as 750 ppm, while only 45 ppm is necessary for growing grains (2). To determine whether you have a sufficient level of phosphorus in your soil, the surest way is to make a soil test. If the amount of phosphorus seems to be okay, but your plants show signs of phosphorus deficiency (purplish leaves, stunted stems), you may need help from a specially skilled team of phosphorus extractors – fungi. Fungi are decay experts in soils. The enzymes that they secrete allow them to break up lignin, cellulose, chitin shells of insects and bones of animals, which are too difficult to digest for bacteria. A single teaspoon of a healthy soil may contain several meters of fungal hyphae, invisible to the naked eye (3).

Dave Cohen: Is business-as-usual likely in a peak oil scenario?

Thus, in a peak oil future—

1. business-as-usual (BAU) means economies & emissions grow without limit, BUT
2. an insufficient oil supply creates oil price spikes
3. such oil shocks reduce fossil fuel demand across the board, thus reducing CO2 emissions
4. the permanent peak & decline of oil production itself, aside from the direct effects of oil price shocks, will reduce emissions over time (the dashed line in Figure 2) if fossil-fuel based substitutes are not immediately available
5. if CO2 emissions are not growing, the economy is in recession

Rising emissions, a proxy for fossil fuel consumption, appear to be a necessary condition (#5) supporting past or future economic growth. Thus, given the well-supported assumptions #2 through #4 above, we are not entitled to conclude that—

• Business-as-usual (BAU) will continue if the peak oil hypothesis is correct

Crude rises for second week on weaker dollar, stocks' rally

Crude-oil futures rose above $68 a barrel Friday, gaining for a second week in a row, as a weaker dollar and resilient U.S. stocks boosted prices while worries continued that oil's recent run-up can't be justified by energy-market fundamentals.

In Alaska, Qiviters Never Win

We have high suicide and school dropout rates, and problems of poverty and alcohol and drug abuse. The Anchorage area faces an energy shortage due to declining gas fields and the villages face almost insurmountable energy costs; key resource development projects are languishing, and there is no revenue sharing for Alaska for offshore oil development even though we have 33,000 miles of coastline.

In short, Alaska had a governor who had the stature within the state, nationally and internationally, to deal with our problems. She could have used her position to find solutions to the high costs and financial insecurities of our far-northern state. Instead, she abandoned her role as the state’s leader in midstream, making her the only governor in our state’s history to "qivit" in the true sense of the word, at a time when we need strong leadership. Good luck, Governor Parnell — may the great Arctic spirits be with you.

National alarm over continuing and
severe food and water shortages

The Kenyan government on Wednesday raised an alarm of severe food, water and energy shortages facing the east African nation.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Parliament that over 10 million people are in urgent need of food assistance, noting that a very worrying situation and forecasts in food, water and energy are grim, blaming it on destruction of environment.

"We are paying the price of decades of wanton destruction of our environment, which has seen our forest cover decline from 12 percent at independence to about 1.2 percent today.

"We have consistently abused our water towers, slashed and burnt our forests and farmed in our river basins," he told lawmakers.

U.S. natgas rig count climbs 10 to 675 for week

The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States rose 10 this week to 675 after sinking last week to its lowest level in more than seven years, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston. . .

But while the steep decline in gas drilling this year has started to slow production and tighten supplies, most traders agreed it has not been enough yet to offset recession-related cuts in industrial demand and slight gains in imports of LNG.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that domestic gas production fell for a fourth straight month in June, with output dropping below the same year-ago month for the first time this year.

Paramount set to curtail natural gas production

TORONTO - Paramount Energy Trust (PMT_u.TO) said on Wednesday it will curtail natural gas production due to the downturn in natural gas prices.

The trust said it has, or will have, 35 million cubic feet per day temporarily shut in. It also said that if the shut-in lasts through October, its estimated 2009 average production will be cut to about 160 million cubic feet per day.

UPDATE 1-US Natural Gas Fund says not caused price swings

The giant United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (UNG.P) said on Friday its activities did not cause the rapid rise in natural gas prices in 2008 or the steep fall in 2009. . .

UNG is still awaiting word from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on approval to issue up to 1 billion new units after it effectively ran out of shares to issue in early July.

Kern County oil flop - Occidental Petroleum - peak oil

For the sake of more enjoyment, let's look at the impossible for a second. Assuming that Occidental Petroleum defies logic and is able to produce all 250 million barrels in a single day. Taking our current demand into account, we've managed to free ourselves of foreign oil imports for a mere twelve days.

Walmart Partners With Universities to Create Sustainability Index

A collaboration of NGOs, businesses, universities and the government is coming together to create the world’s first consumer sustainability index. The index will offer information concerning the sustainability of products sitting on Walmart shelves.

Wal-Mart’s (Un)sustainability Index

On close examination, Wal-Mart’s latest plan is, like many of its previous social responsibility initiatives, rather thin. All the company is doing at first is to ask suppliers to answer 15 questions. Ten of these involve environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste generation and raw materials sourcing. The final five questions are listed under the heading of “People and Community: Ensuring Responsible and Ethical Production.”

Two of them involve “social compliance.” It is an amazing act of chutzpah for Wal-Mart, which probably keeps more sweatshops in business than any other company, to claim moral authority to ask suppliers about the treatment of workers in their supply chain.

Cash-Strapped California's IOUs: Just the Latest Sub for Dollars

In the 1930s, Some Used Shells and Wood As Scrip; the Minneapolis Sauerkraut Note

During the Great Depression, hundreds of communities as strapped for cash as California is today circulated their own temporary currencies. An estimated $1 billion in this scrip was issued by towns and counties, not to mention corporations, school boards, newspapers and a few wealthy individuals. Most promissory notes looked like paper currency, but scrip was also printed on leather, metal, fish-skin parchment and, in Tenino, Wash., on slabs of two-ply Sitka Spruce.

I know a lot of people on TOD are self-described doomers, and sometimes I get caught up in doomerish thoughts, but when I step back, it's hard to rationalize to a degree, especially for the US. For one, we have:
1) Massive coal reserves, even if overstated, could sustain high production rates for very long periods of time.
2) Substantial natural gas reserves, which even if overstated as well (tho substanitally larger than we thought just a couple of years ago), should allow the north American self sufficiency for quite a time.
3) Although in decline, nontrivial oil reserves.
4) The most productive agriculture of any country in the world.
5) Probably the greatest wind resources in the world.

Given those facts, I find it hard to believe we don't have enough resources in order to a reasonable quality of life. We will experience high energy prices almost no matter what, but that's not an insurmountable obstacle. Now I know the effects of things like declining EROI and short term supply shocks and such, but still, those facts are are a major stumbling block to my doomer thoughts.

Working against this, we have:

1. Many people who believe that some mixture of 1, 2, and 3 should not be developed, because of climate change concerns.

2. A food system which is very dependent on more oil than we can ourselves produce.

3. A wind system which is only a supplement to our electricity system--not a substitute for oil.

4. A financial system, which is quickly falling apart because it depends on growth, which cannot be maintained without increasing world oil production.

5. Limits on other resources that we are reaching as well, such as fresh water in the Southwest.

If we could build strong fences at our borders, and develop everything we have, the US should theoretically do better than most. It is not clear how this will all work out, though.

Gail: Not to mention (at last estimate) 77 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities, which equals about $750000 for each USA income tax payer. This means that to carry out government promises that guys like Barack are claiming will be carried out, each has to come up with an additional $750000 from future income to give to the federal government. From memory, the current median net worth in the USA is less than $100000, so a crackup awaits which is worsened by the end of cheap oil yet would be coming even with cheap oil.

Wikipedia gives unfunded liabilities as $ 41 Trillion, but of course repealing Bush/Reagan's tax cuts on the rich would change them back into "funded liabilities". I expect this to happen soon.

Somehow after the big Bush deficits, debt is suddenly now the biggest worry on the right. From Wikipedia, there are more than 30 nations with debt/GNP ratios higher than the US including Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, etc. Nobody is predicting financial disaster for those countries, so I am not sure why US national debt at levels that are not unusual in historical context has provoked so much hysteria and fear on the right.

I suppose we can all hope that everyone will remember this time when the Republicans are back in power and want to push through large amounts of national debt for their own pork projects again.


Come on people -- both parties agree to run up massive deficits because it's easier than "saying no" to a voter or raising his taxes.

You can't fault Bush for his trillion in bailouts and debt without doing the same for Obama, and you can't ignore the many trillions in unfunded debt. Also, there is no way that taxes on the rich, or everybody, will make those solvent. We're going to end up cutting federal programs just like Cali is going to do for its state programs. That will include the Repubs precious military, and the Demos precious social programs.

I think eventually we'll have fiscal tightwads back in control, but not before we have bond defaults and then massive debt defaults.

We'll see though -- it won't be much longer.

"You can't fault Bush for his trillion in bailouts and debt without doing the same for Obama..."

isn't it amazing what 8 years of mismanagement can do for a country.

Can I fault them both?

The Republicans and Democrats seem to be in a contest to see who can be most irresponsible with our money, yet partisans of either side refuse to see their part in the debacle.

"Somehow after the big Bush deficits, debt is suddenly now the biggest worry on the right."

yeah, it is like the repubs cut a big stinking fart and now want to claim: "it was them".

the hypocrisy is apparent to all but the ignorant, the stupid and the hard core hypocrites.

"the poseur, the pusher, the preventor and the preoccupied."

Einstein: Cheer on the home team-the other team's puppets are the problem-our puppets are special.

Gail's item #5 is about water. Maybe someone at TOD can research the circa 1965 "North American Water & Power Alliance", appearing in "Engineering News Record" and "Western Construction" Magazines of that period. MacKenzie River watershed supplies water for magnificent engineering features, piplelines, dams, power generation & reservoirs reaching to the Great Lakes, Salt Lake Basin, and to the Rio Grande/Mexico. Oh, and a pipeline to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer.

Individual (home) water requrements may be satisfied in small part by electrolysis of grey water for hydrogen, H2 then burned for cooking or electric generation, with potable water as byproduct. "ELECTRIC WATER" by Christopher Swan is a compendium of local energy generation tech now available.

Down the lines here is some comment on High Speed Rail. I am frustrated by this habit of leaving out discussion of 98% of the world railway technology when rail is the topic. We don't say "High Speed Freeways", or "High Speed Airports", understanding that jets and smaller prop aircraft land and take off on the same runway. Likewise on Interstates and County roads: Trucks & buses and hybrids and '57 Chevys use the same pavement. US Trains can run into Mexico and Central America, and North near the Arctic Circle.

High Speed Rail has become a throw-away line, and those interested in rail as part of the Peak Oil Solution Set should understand expansion of the freight rail component is crucial. My habit is to suggest some ways & means for persons with initiative to proceed, and here are some items for rail hedge thru the Oil Interregnum... Think about the military moniker for Railways: "Second Dimension Surface Transport Logistics Platform", meaning apolitical & stand alone.

To assure flow of rail savvy personnel for private sector rail expansion, including branchline rehab, US Military Railroad Battalions are useful. These Army/National Guard Railroad Operating & Maintenance Battalions are backstop for private operators in disaster, would have proved helpful in Louisiana & Mississippi recovery after Katrina. Several dorman branchlines criss-crossed the areas destroyed, and use of the rail lines would have expedited cleanup & salvage efforts, got people moved back in half the time.

FEMA & Homeland Security personnel should read & heed information in James A Van Fleet's "Rail Transport & The Winning Of Wars", from Association Of American Railroads (202-636-2100) talk to the librarian. It is not a stretch to commence Peaking Oil prep in same vein as we would view making way for an emergency, or even war footing status. The rehab of rail branches to urban warehousing is a very simple, yet effective way of maintaining victuals distribution in trucking breakdown. Easier still as baby step, emplacing container handling facilities enroute mains at strategic locations enroute, requiring siding along the mains.

It is obvious many are now giving thought to steps needed near & midterm. The worst case fallbacks of gold, guns & grits seem futile, as this scenario must include roving bands of opportunists...

Much better formula, in line with US Constitutional imperatives that include individual rights in line with respect for ones' countrymen, is working energy/transport/distibution methodology that sustains, not excludes. Most efficient transport use of renewable is to run a railway network. Let's seek US pre-freeway era transport model, with pick-up & delivery role for trucks complementing rail mains, branchlines, and city Interurban Electric links. This is incrementally achievable. Not even a matter for dispute, as current dormant US rail branchlines are coming back as traffic merits rehab.

We will all be encouraged by inclusion of railway upgrades assuring food distribution going into the Oil Interregnum unknown. Notable in Jim Kunstler's writings is occasional mention of morale value of rebuilding the reach of the railways, beyond the utility & strategic imperatives railways embody, as "Guarantor Of Societal & Commercial Cohesion".

OK, I'll bite.

electrolysis of grey water for hydrogen, H2 then burned for ... electric generation, with potable water as byproduct.

Yeah! And we can grind up corn kernels to use as fertilizer to grow corn. No, wait, that's too energy-efficient. We can ... we can ... grind the corn, ferment it, distill ethanol, use the ethanol to fuel a Urea plant, and use the Urea to fertilise the cornfields. ;-)

It is not a stretch to commence Peaking Oil prep in same vein as we would view making way for an emergency, or even war footing status. ... We will all be encouraged by inclusion of railway upgrades assuring food distribution going into the Oil Interregnum unknown.

Your starry-eyed optimism is rather touching.

If those in power were (i) rational, and (ii) interested in what is best for all (not just themselves), then maybe. There is precious little evidence for either pre-condition.

Read some of Nate Hagens's posts on the psychology of risk and of resource consumption, and just about any of the literature on the obstructive role played by vested interests. After you've done that ... good luck with trying to persuade decisionmakers to your point of view.

"Working against this, we have:

1. Many people who believe that some mixture of 1, 2, and 3 should not be developed, because of climate change concerns."

In this respect, the lack of resources is a political problem. If you recall last year when gas hit $5/gallon, there was a political movement to allow more offshore drilling. Even the liberal Pelosi signed on in order to save her political hide. Obama has been able to shelve the projects because of the drop in oil prices. But when (not if) oil and gas prices start to spike again, pressure will be on the politicians to allow more oil production.

The "Climate Change" movement is falling apart. The last G8 meeting failed to produce an agreement. Politicians like to talk about CO2 reductions, but they won't actually do what alarmists want them to do.

The "Arctic Polar Icecap" is also falling apart.


The problem as I see it is we are at peak stupidity.

(1) We have great wind resources in the midwest, proposals to build transmission facilities to bring the power to the east coast where it is needed are opposed by eastern interests who fear the development money will be spent in other states.

(2) We have great solar potential in the deserts of the southwest, but environmental interests are opposing large scale plants, and opposing the construction of powerlines to bring such power to the cities.

(3) Our agricultural production is highly dependent on chemical inputs and fossil fuel usage. How to maintain production while these inputs are drastically reduced?

(2) We have great solar potential in the deserts of the southwest, but environmental interests are opposing large scale plants, and opposing the construction of powerlines to bring such power to the cities.

I'd like to see references. I have a hard time believing that environmentalists are the limiting factor, unless the energy source isn't that great in the first place. They just don't have much political power, compared to energy companies.

America's off-limits offshore oil - that two-year supply, with which McCain wanted to solve our long-term energy problem in 2008 - they say it's off-limits because of environmentalists. It also happens to be not very profitable to exploit, because there isn't much oil there.

Mysteriously, environmentalists had no power to stop the Gulf of Mexico from being exploited...

I don't think environmentalists have ever by themselves defeated anything where there was any strong special interest that wanted it.

Rather, environmentalism can be an additional factor where there already exists an economic or other political resistance to something.

I don't think there would be any limits on offshore drilling if only environmentalists opposed it. Rather, many coastal states fear for their tourist and fishing industries. That's what really forestalls the drilling; environmentalists can only add ideas and cadre to help the underlying economic counterattack.

Environmentalists do block energy projects on a regular basis. Look what Ted Kennedy did to the wind project planned for Cape Cod. But you are correct, there are other interests. The solar projects being stalled are generally NON-union.

errr, conflating Ted Kennedy with environmentalists ?

Sorry, that don't fly for me.

Kennedy's cape wind opposition had nothing to do with the environmental movement and everything to do with wanting a nice view. They wern't concerned about ecological upset, toxic chemicals, or industrial footprints in the area. You can blame some environmentalists for a bunch of stupid things without just makeing stuff up.

Hmmm ... so the enemy of progress is environmentalists?

What is progress. btw? Go ahead, take your time ...

As for oil drilling off the coast of Florida, it has been opposed by Florida's tourism industry, both Democratic and Republican governors, and members of the Senate on national security grounds:


Windpower is moving further offshore to escape controversy:


The real question about energy is what will it be used for?

Maintaining the current economic structure is unfeasable. The current structure requires cheap inputs and economies of scale. This structure implies a mass consumption basis that is losing traction as it sheds jobs.

New energy inputs will be much more costly than current inputs. The negligible added production relative to costs of offshore drilling is the obstacle to it, not Pelosi or environmentalists. Our energy investment model is obsolete. It relies on high prices to provide investment; the same high prices destroy the overall economy. Consider what is happening as an 'energy liquidity trap'.

Oil will be available but too expensive for joy- riding. Every economic activity surrounding joy- riding will be put out of business. Just like what is happening right now. The mindless, 'jackass-y' fun is being stripped out of the world's culture and economies. We are all becoming Japan, whether we like it or not.

New energy inputs will be much more costly than current inputs. The negligible added production relative to costs of offshore drilling is the obstacle to it, not Pelosi or environmentalists.

I forgot to mention this factor in my comment above.

Although, I don't think this in itself is much of a factor either. It would be in a true "free market" capitalist system, which we don't have.

Under our corporatist oligarchy, they're always ready to undertake any boondoggle, no matter at how much of a loss to society, for the profit of a handful. The costs are simply socialized.

Drilling ANWAR, as we all know, would do nothing for "America", but just inflict costs, financial, environmental, and opportunity. But it would be tremendously profitable for a handful of parasites - executives, shareholders, and corrupt politicians.

Some obvious examples are the ethanol racket, the private health insurance racket, the CAFO racket, the military-industrial racket, the prison-industrial racket. All of these are permanently unprofitable from any true capitalist pov. They are tremendously costly, economically and socially, and create zero social value. But each generates a loot flow from society and the environment to a handful of criminals.

The same is true of offshore drilling. So it's only the counter-claims of competing economic interests, especially tourism, which forestalls it. (In this case, the all-politics-is-local dynamic acts against the feudalists, since each coastal senator (with the exceptions of Alaska, Texas, Louisiana) is more beholden to his regional tourist industry than to the more nationally diffused Big Oil.)

As for Cape Wind, there is no real environmentalist objection to it. Here we have a clearcut case or erstwhile "progressives" turning into NIMBYists.

Here's what cinched it for me: an op-ed by RFK Jr. opposing Cape Wind. He's such a prominent environmental leader, a bigshot with the NRDC; I figured if anyone would have the real environmental argument vs. Cape Wind it would be he.

But the piece was disappointing, and mostly recited boilerplate which has been largely refuted and quasi-problems which can be solved. So I came away satisfied that they're just rich liberals trying to protect their view. And while I don't disparage cherishing a view, still if you're going to fight for a cause there may be sacrifices you have to make.

The only argument which I accept is that made by some Cape Cod denizens, who say that they'd have no problem with Cape Wind if the goal was for it to get them off the centralized, fossil fuel-powered grid. But since the goal is simply to send that electricity into the general revenue and feed the monster of energy gluttony, they say "why should we sacrifice for that?"

To the extent that anyone's opposition is based only on that, I say such people are justified, and are not NIMBYists.

That goes to my general skepticism about any large-scale renewables buildout. I'd be gung-ho for it if it were to be part of a rational plan, where consumption itself was to be capped, and every new wind farm and CSP complex was to take the place of a coal-fired plant which was being shut down.

But since, so far as I can see, the goal everywhere is only to feed the monster, and that continued "growth" and gluttony are always taken for granted, I fail to see how that's any kind of solution, as opposed to just building the Tower of Babel higher.

I stand and applause that.
Thanks Russ

1) Massive coal reserves, even if overstated, could sustain high production rates for very long periods of time.

I refer you to Chris Martenson's Crash Course Chapter 18 video at 6:05.

The goal is not to produce the most coal, but to get the most energy return on investment. America mined and burned its anthracite (high energy coal) before we were born. Then bituminous (low energy coal) reached peak production in 1990 and entered permanent decline.

The only American coal which production hasn't peaked yet is lignite, which has far lower energy than we mean when we say "coal."

The net energy obtained from coal in America peaked about ten years ago, and is now on a bumpy plateau before permanent decline sets in.

It's unwise to assume that all coal is equal.

Even with a bump upward in 2007, which we have seen before, the trend in net US coal exports (on a BTU basis) is pretty clear--the US is well on its way to becoming a net coal importer, in much the same way we became a net oil importer in 1948.

US net coal exports (EIA), showing a decline rate of -6.2%/year from 1981 to 2007 and -12%/year from 1996 to 2007:

I'd be interested to know what percentage of US coal production that is. It seems like it'd be low enough to be accounted for by changes in consumption/production in Canada and Mexico than it is about supply problems. Only recently have we been exporting large amounts of coal by ship (which is really dumb) across the oceans.

If my math is correct, at 3,000 trillion BTU's per year, we were (net) exporting the energy equivalent of about 1.4 mbpd of oil, in 1981, down to about 0.26 mbpd equivalent in 2007.

From the Energy Export Databrowser:

It appears that US consumption has been closing in on US production in the last decade.

We're talking about a small difference between big numbers, though, perhaps within the accounting errors.

-- Jon


A cornucopian sighting. These are becoming more and more rare.

I shall add this sighting to my logbook.

My logbook shows today this entry:

Bees. Stepping out on my concrete apron of my barn this morning bright and early I noticed a honey bee walking around in small circles. I watched closely. It was trying to become airborne but could not. Its wings never seemed to beat enough to actually fly and takeoff. It would do a little hop and move a bit but the wings never actually moved that I could see. It kept this routine up over and over. It looked healthy. It moved with no apparent problems. Yet it simply was unable to leave the ground.

This is the very first observation of a honey bee in distress that I have noted since the huge massive die off of American honey bees began some years back.

I let it climb up on a nearby piece of wood splinter then hoisted it into the air. It jumped and I then failed to notice where it went. I think it fell to the ground in the nearby grass and weeds.

End of entry.

Additional data. Night before last I was restless and awoke at 3:00 AM as I sometimes always do at precisely 3:00 AM...I usually walk out to the porch to check the outside area and sometimes relieve my self.

I noticed something very odd. Something I had not become aware of this year so far. There were NO NOISES from the nearby woodlands.

Almost always there is a continual background din of noises of crickets, tree frogs and all the various and sundry insect and animal life in the woods. I am surrounded on three sides by woodland tracts.

NOT A SINGLE SOUND did I hear. It stayed that way too. This night it was the same.

I realized that all those lifeforms in the woodlands are now gone. Disappeared as the rest have. The birds are now very very few. No lightening bugs. No fleas on my dogs. No ticks. No grasshoppers, no mosquitos. No bullfrogs. No more Eastern Flickers who used to be very plentiful. The brown thrush who always built a nest in my holly bush left two years ago.

So DXTATTER...we are in fine shape then. Just long as we have fossil fuel. The mountain tops don't matter that they are chopped off. The coal field strip mining matters not in the least. The timbering of our forests continues unabated. Our soil is sterile. Our water is declining.

So you can recline back a bit further in your LazyBoy and use your remote to switch thru the channels and rest assured that you have observed everything and we are in VERY GOOD shape.


Airdale-its always good to watch the blowdried bimbos on TV and get your dosage of reality first hand, is it not?
This is the reason I feel doomerish. So many fat asses waddling thru the aisles. Sucking up everything in sight. One hand on the SUV wheel and the other holding the cellphone to the ear. It can't get any better than this. Constant endless insignificant chatter. Never mind that honey bee on my porch. Doesn't matter as we pull into the next McDonalds for fat burgers, does it?

TAE for the news from MY HOMETOWN from 'The Boss'. I recommend it for a reality check. BY Ilargi, bless his starry eye venue. Maria is also worth a listen as well over there.

What is it they say here on exiting?

CHEERS...(what about I wonder..what to cheer about?)The woods answer back with.......silence.

The echo comes back..."ITS ALL GOOD!"

Bravo Airdale: It is not the future that I am worried about ... it is the present. Like Airdale ... I look at the present and compare it with the known past. This place is going (has gone) to hell in a hurry.

Not a clue what will happen tomorrow but today scares me. That's why I am learning how to grow a garden.

A friend asked yesterday, what am I doing about insects in the garden? So far, I haven't sprayed or anything like that and no insect damage. I put out marigolds because aphids don’t like them but the quail ate them. No problem there, if we need to we will eat some of the quail.

Sorry for not making more usage of the Sacronal tag.

I believe that with the video of Saving California below that maybe I am sadly misjudging the folken and their perceptions as to what is really going on.

I will try harder in the future.

That girl on the video. I feel very sorry for those types. I see such a trainwreck coming down on California.

Here we go from just a few years ago everyone was bragging about California. They always 'set the pace'. It always happens first in California.

Now look at them. They will soon be begging perhaps.
The Governator is in really really deep doodoo.


At least they are still out in front and setting the pace. :)

I don't think there is anything substantial the Governator CAN do. He's at the helm of the Titanic, and it's been taking on water for 30 years or more. He just gets to choose the score for the orchestra and appoint the deck-chair arrangers, and try to control the ill-fated life-boat boarding process.

I am certainly not a cornucopian, I think there's a very good chance that my generation will have a lower quality of life than the previous generation. I don't, however, for the reasons I stated, think that we will be in the road warrior scenario, as long as we have some rational people left in this world.

Plus, with a grid that's 1/3 efficient and vehicles that are oversized and 1/5 efficient, we have a lot of room for improvement.

I don't, however, for the reasons I stated, think that we will be in the road warrior scenario, as long as we have some rational people left in this world.

The term "rational people" is somewhat loaded. A biological weapons engineer is a "rational person" because this is a job requirement. This does not change the fact that her job is to give horrific diseases to women and children.

Rationality is something we all turn on and off selectively, according to what we think we need to do to survive at the moment. Ancient people were largely "irrational" not because they were stupid - but because it wasn't needed to survive.

The road warrior scenario, as I understand it, entails nuclear war and the complete breakdown of food distribution systems. Well, we've had many destructive wars before, and we voluntarily "broke down" our sustainable hunter-gatherer food distribution system thousands of years ago, and replaced it with one that's self-destructive. So I don't see why us "rational people" can't do this again, on an even grander scale.

I noticed the same thing. At night, very few crickets, virtually no tree frogs, very few fireflies. No cicadas during the day. However, here in the Northeast, it's been a VERY cool summer to date. (not that I'm complaining) This follows one of the wettest springs I can remember.
Well, the heat arrived a few days ago. We finally got a day above 90, and a night in the upper 60s.

The cicadas are making a bit of noise. The fireflies are back with a vengence. More crickets, some tree frogs.

Personally, I'm thinking Mother Nature hasn't had the proper weather for a coming out party. Until now.

I'm in the same neck of the woods as Airdale, and I've noticed the lack of crickets and grasshoppers for several years now. It's eerie to be outside in late June, 3 a.m., 70 degrees, and it sounds like mid-January with 6 inches of snow on the ground.

I ask my friends if they've noticed the same thing, and all I get are blank, mute stares, or the subject being changed. I don't think anybody gets outside any more, or if they do, don't pay enough attention to notice what's going on around them.

I hear lots of certified experts saying we've still got 5 years, or 10 years, or 20 years, or whatever, to turn this thing around. Wrong. The deal's already gone down - we're already into the Great Tipping, and nothing we could conceivably do will make any difference now. All that's left is to get with your friends and head for higher ground.

Fireflies have been way down for years here (eastern OK). Frogs, crickets, ticks, and some birds are still around. Bees are down but still here. There are more ants than ever -- don't know why, really. Lots of bag worms too.

I was out in some woods a few days ago and they still sounded "right". Not as many cicadas maybe, but still a swarm of june bugs and moths fluttering around the streetlight too. I think grasshoppers and cicadas are cyclic -- may be a few years before we know how they're faring.

Found a tick on me the next morning. Chiggers too. I'd say "down, but not out" around here.


Our bees are fine. There are plenty of wild ones, bumblebees and honeybees, and our hive of tame ones are working overtime even though the season here has been wet and cool (Vermont). There are more fireflies than in years past although the cricket population seems down. The trees in our woods are plentiful and productive and we have no plans to change that. Numerous frogs and insects of all types although the black flys haven't seemed so bad this year but I'm not crying about that. Bird populations could be better but they are not exactly rare. We're working on improving habitat. Maybe you're just having a bad year.

What ever is happening is not going to be universal of the whole USA at the same time. But I think that in my area something is coming. Something very big.

As the climate changes different regions will experience differing events. Overall though I think something has surely been Broken. Beyond repair.

I see it all around me and its very scary.


How much of the things you are seeing do you think are from the ice storm?

There's been other significant stuff going on with weather in the area too. Two of the three worst droughts in the last 50 years were back to back the two previous summers. Even weeds in woods dried up and died. Unusually wet and cool this summer, first July on record without breaking 90. A rare hurricane made it into the area intact last september and really stressed the drought stricken trees, then the ice storm in january broke the tops out of many of them. I've got several in my yard dead or dying. Unusually strong winds during the spring storm season three years in row now.

1. The high-quality anthracite is largely depleted, and production now focuses in the lower-energy, higher-adulterant bituminous and sub-bituminous. Soon we'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel with lignite. To mine this ever-lower quality coal will require an ever higher energy and financial input.

It's the coal version of, "It's not the size of the tank but the size of the tap"; and the rule of best-first.

2. Everything I read is that shale gas production will be a temporary blip. Production surges and then depletes just as fast.

3. America's pattern of oil consumption in recent years is 20+mpd and rising, with 2/3 of that imported. Even last year's so-called demand destruction (meaning rationing by ability to pay under circumstances of class war from above) has gone about as far as it can go and still maintain modern industrialism (cf. Jeff Vail on this).

So even the complete liquidation of America's remaining indigenous oil would not make a dent in those imports.

As Gail said regarding these first three, there may be political resistance to liquidation anyway if people get serious about carbon mitigation. But I have no confidence in that. Waxman-Markey most definitely does not constitute being "serious".

4. American agriculture is a zombie system completely dependent upon feudal monoculture and land monopoly (de jure or de facto through contract farmers), fossil fuel fertilizers and pesticides, GMOs, and corporate welfare. The soil is whipped and flogged to produce. It erodes horribly. And then there's the socioeconomic devastation of it all.

This food production system is the least sustainable level of the Tower of Babel.

5. Maybe on paper wind can produce much of America's electricity. But as Gail said, to get from this to a liquid fuel solution would require an improbable Rube Goldberg infrastructure. (Use the electricity to power EVs? Who's going to capitalize and build that fleet and infrastructure? And then what electricity is going to power everything we use electric for now?)

The fact is, no such wind buildout is ever going to take place. No one is going to capitalize the turbines or the grids. Besides, any such capitalization would have to be undertaken now, upon the economic and infrastructure platform of cheap, plentiful oil. It's not going to be done under these politico-economic circumstances.

Plus there would never be enough steel for it.

I guess I would qualify as one of your "doomers". :)

The fact is, no such wind buildout is ever going to take place.

If I had the ability to make future precictions as "fact", I would be richer than Warren Buffet. Unfortunately, I am unable to accurately predict the result of a simple single coin toss, let alone the world economy or US energy policy.

If your future predictions are so accurate as to be "fact", you should stop wasting your time on the Oil Drum and be investing in the futures markets using your "factual" knowledge of the future, instead.

OK, give me the seed money. We'll split the proceeds.

Seriously, my "predictions", so astonishing to you, are simple common sense, based on paying attention to the world.

You think No-we-can't America is ever again, for the rest of history, going to undertake any massive, capital- and energy-intensive project again, other than bailouts, wars, and perhaps trying to build out the police state?

All decent people can do is pray it fails sooner rather than later at these.

Have you been paying attention at all?

I pay plenty of attention.

In my view, the US has huge untapped assets, with the majority of our economy devoted to wasteful non-productive activities. As a simple example, the steel currently in the US fleet of ridiculous SUVs alone could build decades worth of wind turbine towers. I have spent lots of time in less developed countries where people live happy and fulfilling lives on 10% or less of US energy and materials consumption. I personally live well on a small fraction of average US energy/materials consumption, so I know it is possible

If the US was Rwanda, with no laptops/iPods/SUVs/BigscreenTVs/McMansions/obesity/etc as obvious signs of excess, then I might really believe that a transition is impossible. But diverting a small fraction of US excess to useful purposes would speed the renewables/efficiency transition.

I am not at all sure this transition will happen, but arguing that it is impossible seems to deny the economic reality of US extravagance.

Well, I did say it's possible on paper. If Americans suddenly stopped being such flat earthers, relinquished all that consumer junk, ended their imperial wars, got rid of the finance gangsters, and put the wealth that's left to constructive, rational uses, then I'm sure we could do alot for energy, the environment, wealth redistribution, rebuild the food system with the millions of small farmers we need, have a strong safety net and health care system...

But when I say something like "a massive renewables buildout won't be done", I'm simply going with the evidence, not just overwhelming but unanimous, that nothing can be done any longer within the parameters of this system.

A robust stimulus, can't be done. Get rid of ethanol mandates, can't be done. A real carbon cap, can't be done..

Basic financial reregulation, nope (and just forget about actually dismantling the Too-Big-to-Fail vampires)..a robust public option, with a rational payment system and cost-effectiveness measures for treatments? Not looking good at all (and again, forget single-payer: it's officially "off the table"). Banning CAFOs, a clear and present public health danger? Forget it - every piece of proposed legislation wants to further empower Big Ag.

End the wars, illegal detentions and wiretapping, have restored transparency..at every turn no, no, No, No, NO!

We're at the point where a relatively paltry incident which seems to have turned out the RIGHT way for once, killing the F-22, is hailed like the moon landing. And even getting THAT done was as hard as taking Moscow in the dead of winter.

No, it looks to me like this system of government, and the way this society works in general, are irrevocably broken and can never be functional again. The bottleneck is too jammed. Everything is terminally calcified. Feudalism, rent-seeking, pure parasitism are too entrenched.

That's why I don't believe there will ever be any real reform (like a wind buildout) within the bounds of this system.

Russ: You summed it up perfectly. Thankfully, the USA public has the memory of a housefly. Does anyone remember the good old days when the Dems swept to power almost solely on a promise of a quick pullout from Iraq? Seems like eons ago.

I just had a visit from a former student, a really brilliant guy, who happens to have the same views that I do on the energy problem, and the environment problem. That they are technically simple to fix, but people, politics, greed and rampant short sighted stupidity make them impossible to fix.

I then reminded him that I am old enough to remember that a lot of IMPOSSIBLE problems were in fact, at least partially fixed. I name a few

It is impossible to take any power from the oligarchs
It is impossible to let blacks into white schools
It is impossible to get people to quit smoking on airplanes
It is impossible to elect any sort of even semi-black man to an important job

and so on.

Now, personally, I really do think it is impossible to fix the goddamn mess my and several following generations have made of this potential paradise. And I also believe you are gonna do it. Send me an email, addressed to hell, on how you did it. Have fun.

Newsflash: The oligarchs are winning, not losing the battle. As for the advancement of blacks in America (which seems to be your focus) the results over the last 30 years are dismal at best. Figureheads are great but they don't change the reality for the average person.

Russ -

I was agreeing with most of what you've said up until I got to your statement, "Plus there would never be enough steel for it."

This is demonstrably incorrect, even for a very ambitious build-out of wind turbines and associated transmission lines.

I direct you to some estimates put together by the American Iron and Steel Institute and the American Wind Energy Association.

The total steel content of a typical medium size turbine (1.5 MW) and it's support structure is on the order of 250 tons. It is further estimated that a wind turbine build-out of 16,000 MW per year would require roughly 2.6 million metric tons of steel per year. To account for the added transmission lines, support facilities, etc, let us say that the 'total' total would be this plus 50% more, or roughly 3.9 million metric tons per year.

The US currently produces 90 -95 million metric tons per year of steel. Global steel production is 1,350 million metric tons per year (the US has slipped to being the number 4 producer, way behind China, the EU, and Japan.)

So as you can see, adding 16,000 MW of wind power annually would require only about 4% of total US steel production and less than 0.3% of global steel production.

While a massive implementation of wind power has many drawbacks and is fraught with many obstacles both financial and physical, the availability of steel is clearly not one of them.

And with the auto industry plus many other heavy industries in the tank, I suspect that there is going to be an excess of steel producing capacity for a long long time.

Thanks for that info; I guess mine was incomplete.

The stuff I read was actually mostly about nuclear reactors, and how only Japan could produce the necessary steel, and could only deliver a handful of pieces a year.

But it also said the same constraints applied to the really big wind turbines.

Russ -

I strongly suspect that what you're referring to has to do with bottlenecks in the fabrication of really huge steel pressure vessels and other unusually large, specialized, and custom-built components typical of nuclear power plants, rather than the production of the raw steel itself. However, over the last several decades the US has really slipped in this area.

Now, when it comes to wind turbines, the situation is vastly different. Probably the largest steel component in a wind turbine that could even remotely be considered large and custom-build is the hub to which the large fiberglass blades are attached. However, this hub typically weighs no more than a relatively paltry 10 to 15 tons. (The blades, by the way, even though visually huge, are surprisingly lightweight, as they should be.)

And even though most of the steel in an installed wind turbine system is in the support tower, that steel is merely common low-carbon structural steel plates fabricated into cylindrical shape, something which any large steel fabrication shop is routinely capable of doing. Really low-tech stuff.

So, it's many drawbacks notwithstanding, a wind turbine is just about the lowest-tech means of producing non-fossil fuel energy. I totally doubt that it alone would be able to pull us out of the hole we are digging, but it does have an important role to play in that regard.

I'm not touting wind power, but if things really turn to shite, even a minimal industrial base would still be able to crank out wind turbines, though not really huge one.

I'm not touting wind power, but if things really turn to shite, even a minimal industrial base would still be able to crank out wind turbines, though not really huge one.

And the only reason for going really big, is that larger ones are slightly more efficient. In a pinch two medium sized ones will do.

You are forgetting the Elephant in the Room!
With an unsustainable current population of 300+ million people and projections for this to increase to 450+ million in the next 20 to 30 years, maintaining the current status quo of high quality of life in the USA will be impossible for ever increasing numbers of citizens in the USA.
The only real hope for maintaining our current high quality of life in the USA is in decreasing our population by 150 million instead of increasing it by that amount between now and 2040-2050. And the greedy power hungry politicians will never permit that.
I don't see how anyone can find any real hope in the face of this reality?

It is not that simple-the USA is focusing on bringing in poor Mexicans to keep USA wages down-this is short term gain (for employers) with long term pain (now showing up). The USA needs to bring in huge numbers of new citizens with capital to invest in the USA economy (literally the only possible out, impossible politically).

I'm of the opinion that the only point to pessimism is to spur you towards change, to act as a warning bell. Hey ... that's the quote that just popped into the upper right hand corner! “Pessimism of the Intellect; Optimism of the Will.”
—Antonio Gramsci

Having said that, I believe statements are simply that: statements of faith. They should be met with a dose of cold logic. Just listened to this last night. I'm sure its familiar to most the long time TODers.

Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy
(available in audio or video)

Yeah, I was a doomer until I watched this:
First we fix California, then the world.

I'll match your video and raise you-the cream rises to the top in the USA political sphere http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1zaX91p14w

With the green grass root's shoots rising from the bottom, and the top-down efforts from the politicos sinking, how can we possibly be less than hopeful?
Democracy works!

Wow, that's......unfortunate...........

No, it's good.
At my advanced age I can just keep turning down the light level on my sense of humor until it all go's black, or white. Not sure which.
Otherwise, I'd be in deep depression.

When I watched this (sorry for my incorrect English, I am German), it became clear to me, why you have a unlimited source of new soldiers for your wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan... oh I forgot Iran, which will be next battleground for your nobrainers (called US army) shooting around as would be no tomorrow.

You are just crazy.

Good evening euro:

Your English is no problem. We are all crazy ... including Germans.


Though I must admit bubble-head in the YouTube short video you refere to was worse than most Germans I know. Even worse than most Americans I know.

Reed -

Wow ....like I mean, for sure ....... THAT is sooo totally far out ...... like you know ..... everything is everything ..... I mean it's like all good ..... you know?

At first I thought that was some sort of comedy sketch, but then (quite frighteningly) I realized it was genuine.

God have mercy on us all!

Incredible wasn't it??? The girl in the video.

'Oh land is free, we got the land, and the food is good and free, and we got the food and why not just can't we, like,,,eat it and be free?' 'And people make stuff and they can sell it and why can't we all just do that?'...yada yada etc.

Or words to that effect...

IMO A valley girl gone greeno. Missed the hippie thing. Missed everything. Must have been on the drugo all this time.

WTF do they feed these folken in Kaliforneay? What? What kind of mushrooms do they grow there that take away all intelligence?

And Kaliforneay sez they got the BEST SCHOOLS in the world?

Well its a classic and needs to go in a 'time capsule' for discovery after several thousand years. You simply 'can's make stuff like this up',someone said.


Airdale -

Right on!

Whatever they're eating and/or smoking out there, I sure could use some of that stuff right now, because this here wine just ain't quite doing it for me right now, no matter how much I drink.

HA! HA! Now that was priceless! Sorry to be an arrogant Brit here on the other side of the pond, but if the best California can do is elect Arnie to the top job and then give this dopy new-age fairy a voice, then screw it. We're all doomed.

Never a big fan of Adolf's less savory antics vis-a-vis the whole war-waging, jew-burning, London-blitzing and general small-man syndrome but surely given the ridiculousness of this approach to 'democracy' California would be better of with a radical dictator who just said 'Shut the fack up you stupid hippy-chick' and 'OI, no I'm in charge and this is the frickin' budget... don't like it then go and live in Belgium...'

Seriously, sometimes (usually after a few beers, as tonight) I do wish that we could all just sit back and rely on a good old fashioned dictator. Would solve a lot of issues is all I'm saying...

Hank Paulson was doing a pretty good job in that role-too bad he had to get back to hanging with the real power people.

That kid is no hippy. She's a Republican. Pay attention.

Nontrivial oil reserves?

The O&G journal in 2009 put the U.S. oil reserves at 21 billion barrels. The U.S uses over 7 billion barrels of oil and products a year. The oil reserves are trivial. Right now we depend on imports to make up the difference, those imports have been falling since 2005, those imports are expected (by me) to decline to about zero by 2025. The low bitumen coal that is left to mine will get very expensive to the consumer and everything else will be affected, too -- including the price of your underwear. It is over, inevitable collapse, then transition. Could be a evolutionary leap forward for humans or it could even be extinction -- BAU is over.

Rather than give you a bunch of choices ect;;;

It's PEOPLE in another 30 years we'll have at least 600 million people in this country. That puts us at 2049 add another 30 years that puts us at 1.2 trillion people. Just how do you plan on feeding all these people???

Soylent Green.

Don't forget the solar potential. both concentrating solar thermal power and photovoltaic.

Heading off at the pass...yes, there are the transmission challenges for commercial facilities (not like building power lines, sub-stations, and the attendant control systems is like landing on Mars)and we all know about the current cost delta, which could be driven down by government investment, FITs, economies of scale etc. and by the way, if everyone bought a couple fewer take out meals and NASCAR tickets and other gewgaws/wastes of time the relatively benign solar and wind energy could be afforded.

And don't forget about negawatts: I just moved into a new home and invested in all-CFL lighting, save for a couple of specialty bulbs which I haven't found non-incandescent subs for yet. The CFLs use one-fourth to one-sixth of the Edison-type bulbs' wattage to throw the same lumens...color temps are a little different but so what. So, overall, I just cut my household lighting load by at least 75%, and I am a "turn the lights off when not in use family" zealot, so I use even less than the average non-eco-minded bear. Do I want a medal or your lauds and accolades? Absolutely not. I make the point that everyone has the means right now to slash our energy use and not have to live in caves and whatnot. You can't look someone in the eye and tell them that if every American switched to all CFL usage, drove a Prius or better gas mileage vehicle, and used blindingly white metal or elastomeric roof coatings and white reflective siding or elastomeric stucco coatings that we couldn't slash electricity use and therefore downsize the rape of the land to power mercury-spewing coal plants. Weather-stripping, low-e double-paned windows, etc. Darn better way to for Uncle Sam to spend fiat moolah rather than give it to the FIRE thieves.

These things might be do-able if the evil-doers would stop their insane circuses of distraction about cops in Cambridge, 'Wise Latina' grillings, and the unhinged obsession about people's birth certificates. What we really needed was to elect Ralph Nader for President and a lot of like-minded Congress-critters.

But I forgot...that would be 'Bad for Business'.

From the above article on scrip money: "California's IOUs lack the flair of much Depression-era scrip; they are basic, pale-green government-issue checks, except they bear the telltale label "Registered Warrant." Still, collectors say they would make good souvenirs of today's financial crisis. The trick will be getting hold of one. California plans to destroy the IOUs after they are redeemed. And state officials say they expect a high redemption rate. "The people who got them probably aren't sitting around thinking, 'I'm going to save this for posterity,' " says Mr. Gatch, the political scientist. "They're more likely thinking, 'How the hell am I going to cash this?' "

During the Great Depression, the Alberta government (Social Credit) issued $1 Prosperity Certificates, which failed because the Socreds wouldn't take them for payment of taxes or government fees. I recently bought a nice example for $300, which is probably about the same value after inflation as the face amount. Currently the Tories are in power. They are a very unimaginative bunch of small-town merchants and farmers, so I don't expect anything similar from them. It would work today if they took them as payment for taxes, or if they backed them with reserves of oil or natural gas.

Although oil gets the publicity, Alberta's government income depends more on natural gas royalties. The current low prices have thus hurt the provincial budget, not the Panic of 2008. If NG was up to $10 a gigajoule, the panic would just be something in the foreign news.

Hi Dale, off topic but I visited your fine city a couple of weeks ago. We are looking at a project in that area. First time I had been there, but really a neat city. I visited several closed chemical/energy facilities while I was there, and then went up to Edmonton and looked around at their currently available waste biomass.

I know the book has been discussed here already, but Reuters is running it as their main article right now. Some good discussions, but perhaps a bit too optimistic at the end.

$20 a gallon: Is costly gas good for you?

While many businesses like airlines and the shipping of cheap goods from China will suffer, other will blossom. High oil prices should finally push the United States to catch up with Spain and Japan and develop high-speed rail lines. As Steiner puts it, "We will live differently, but we will live well

Steiner doesn't mention all the high speed rail lines linking all the major cities in Mexico once their oil runs out (like the USA, they just need motivation( according to Steiner).

Maybe your comment should have had a sarcasm tag for us literal thinkers, but Mexico is currently proceeding to build at least one high speed rail line (more than the US is doing despite the huge difference in national wealth).


" High-speed Train Project Chugs Along
Friday, 15 April 2005 18:00 GR Staff
Imagine a train traveling at speeds of 300 kilometers an hour between Guadalajara and Mexico City, reducing a seven-hour bus journey to a mere two hours Ñ less than the time it takes to speed from London to Paris. Wishful thinking? Not at all.
The idea of constructing a bullet train (tren bala) between Mexico's two largest cities first surfaced in 2002. Critics immediately called the scheme too costly and risky for either the Mexican government or the private sector to undertake.
Nonetheless, the idea has taken root and the Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) last week announced that the French rail and urban transport consulting firm Systra has won the contract to draw up a framework for tender submissions to build the line.
Connecting Guadalajara and the capital with a tren de alta velocidad will cost around five billion dollars....
If built, the line would be somewhat of an anomaly. Passenger trains in Mexico have become virtually obsolete since the railroads were privatized at the end of the 1990s."

Classic-maybe Mexico can lead the way for the USA. Wow.

Talgo, Spain, sells hi-speed Intercity trains to Wisconsin
Talgo suministra más trenes Intercity al estado de Wisconsin
ABC | MADRID al estado de Wisconsin

Talgo ha firmado un acuerdo con el estado norteamericano de Wisconsin para el suministro de nuevos trenes Talgo Intercity, que también serán mantenidos por la empresa española.
Con este acuerdo, informa la compañía en un comunicado, Talgo contribuye como empresa española al primer paso en la exportación del modelo del AVE español.

TALGO in Wikipedia Talgo

I saw the story in one of the Madison WI newspapers, I think on Monday. The plan is to use the trains on the line between Milwaukee and Chicago, and then eventually add a high speed track between Madison and Milwaukee.

I made a dump run the other day and came home with this
part #8 is the sweet spot
I've consulted the google in vain, does any one here know the technology at work between the hot side and the cold side?
I asked a refrigeration friend and his best guess was electrons are moving the btu's.
Any way, I put ice in it, applied wife's hair drier to the hot side and in about 30 seconds was producing 2 volts. I'll take it out to the garden today and figure out a way to concentrate solar on the hot side.
Help please.
found it

I believe you are talking about a thermoelectric cooler. Sounds like you are running it backwards (using heat flow to generate power). I don't think these are particularly efficient, maybe 10% or so, but better materials are being researched. Mostly these devices are used for active cooling of electronics and beer cans, but it is possible -as you are trying to run them in reverse, i.e. use themperature difference to create usable energy.

By thermodynamics the maximum possible efficiency is (Thot-Tcold)/Thot, where you gotta use absolute temperature 0C=273K. If you got anything close to the theoretical limit it would be very newsworthy.

thanks, I was trying to edit my edit
yes thermoelectric. I had no idea, also called the Peltier effect.
My little pea brain is alive with crazy ideas
I brew my own beer and temperature during fermentation is critical. If anyone knows of a dc thermostat I could integrate this thing into one of my fermenters.
also, (and I'm sure someone has tried this, it's just to simple) capturing "waste" from your wood stove. hot side on the wood stove cold side on an exterior wall.
Somebody please stop me

capturing "waste" from your wood stove

Yes, you can all ready buy them. Usually they are used to run a small DC fan, to blow the heat around.

I built a DC thermostat this winter for a Solar Hot air box. The electronics were quite simple, using a 741 Op-Amp and a thermister for temp sensing. I haven't checked it in fine detail for accuracy, but it's a very consistent and reliable circuit.. and there are more precise sensors on the market which aren't that expensive.

Also, the Peltier question.. Beyond the little CirculationFans that was mentioned there are also TEG (thermo-electric generation) conversion kits available for Woodstoves, to generate some useful power.

Here's a link to one of them. Might have some helpful info in there..

(Email Me from the Addy at my user-page if you want to try building that temp control circuit. It's a very useful and cheap little comparator project that could be helpful in a great many ways!)

You've always something useful, good link.
when I get my email working I'll contact you

My pleasure.

ps, in case your email remains troublesome, here's a link to essentially the same circuit.

also .. Swapping the Thermistor for a CdS cell, and you can have a light-activated switch, and either can also be run in opposite actions, ie, to turn on when it gets cold, or when it gets hot)

(that uses a 'dual op-amp' chip, but is essentially identical to what I've built.)


There was this

Two sets of insulated gravel, one -160 deg C and another +500 deg C
Capital costs $80/kWh storage with 70% round trip efficiency.

I wouldn't think the round trip efficiency would be that high. (You have to play the game & you can't win!)

It's unclear to me how they are applying $80/kWh metric.

there is no way that this can be 70% efficient one way let alone for the round trip. At best heat pumps are about 70% efficient with a 50C difference, and heat engines usually <50%. Not to mention heat loss and heat migration through the gravel.

I believe you are referring to a Peltier junction device.

Peltier Thermoelectric effect

Current technology is not highly efficient, but highly useful for temperature control. If you're looking to generate electricity, consider a Rankine engine, sterling engine, etc...

Enjoy, lateral thinking is fun!

Current technology is not highly efficient, but highly useful for temperature control. If you're looking to generate electricity, consider a Rankine engine, sterling engine, etc...

But, for small enough systems one might be willing to pay a substantial efficiency cost for simplicity and low capital cost. Consider the wood stove problem, add a thermo-electric generator, and rather than getting 100% heat, you get 96%heat and 4% electricity. Because the electricity is a much higher quality than space heating, the later combination is more valuable than the former. There are claims about new better materials fot thermoelectric generators -but will thy ever arrive? There is a lot of wasted low grade waste heat, and getting even low efficiency conversion to electricty would be a valuable improvement.


This is the Drumbeat for the 25th, the bar at top shows yesterday being 24th, good, but tomorrow 27th?