Drumbeat, July 27, 2009

Will America lose the clean-energy race?

As Congress debates climate and energy legislation, Asian challengers are moving rapidly to win the clean-energy race. China alone is reportedly investing $440 billion to $660 billion in its clean-energy industries over 10 years. South Korea is investing a full 2 percent of its gross domestic product in a Green New Deal. And Japan is redoubling incentives for solar, aiming for a 20-fold expansion in installed solar energy by 2020.

In contrast, the United States would invest only about $1.2 billion annually in energy research and development and roughly $10 billion in the clean energy sector as a whole under the Waxman-Markey bill - less than 0.1 percent of U.S. GDP. A group of 34 Nobel laureates recently wrote a letter to President Obama decrying the lack of investment and calling on him to uphold his promise to invest $15 billion annually in clean-energy R&D.

The United States is also falling behind in energy science and technology education. Only 15 percent of undergraduate degrees earned in the United States are in science and engineering, compared with 50 percent in China, according to the National Academies.

Is the ocean Florida's untapped energy source?

(CNN) -- The answer to easing the energy crunch in one of the nation's most populous states could lie underwater.

Imagine if your utility company could harness the ocean's current to power your house, cool your office, even charge your car.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University are in the early stages of turning that idea into reality in the powerful Gulf Stream off the state's eastern shore.

Heavy Crude Loses Its Shine for Refiners

Reduced Supply Has Driven Up the Fuel's Price, Squeezing Margins in Comparison to Lighter Oils

U.S. refiners that turned to cheaper, dirtier crude oil in recent years in a bid to boost profits are seeing the strategy backfire as supplies of the oil dwindle. . .

In an attempt to shore up oil prices, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have been scaling back oil production, and much of the cuts have been in heavy crude. OPEC has agreed to reduce overall crude production by 4.2 million barrels a day.

"The heaviest are the least-profitable grades for them so they are the first grades they like to cut," said Antoine Halff, analyst with brokerage firm Newedge.

Gas Glut Pummels Prices

A huge supply buildup in natural gas will keep pushing down prices.

AS U.S. NATURAL-GAS INVENTORIES APPROACH maximum levels this summer, even a dramatic plunge in drilling activity might not be enough to stop slumping prices.

Gas-futures prices have tumbled 73% since last July's high above $13 per million British thermal units. A glut of output from onshore gas fields, on top of weak demand and mild weather in the major gas-consuming regions, signal that a rebound isn't near, even though natural gas for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled at $3.695 per million BTU Friday, up 0.7% on the week. . .

"Gulf of Mexico production is much smaller than it was," says Credit Suisse's Wolff. "It used to be more than 20% of U.S. gas production, and now it constitutes about 11%. A hurricane is less likely to have a major impact on supply."

FACTBOX: Nigeria oil reform bill

Foreign oil firms in Nigeria will get a chance this week to publicly criticize and question legislation that could make it much more expensive to operate there.

Here are some facts on the oil and gas reform bill:

* State-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) would be broken up into a handful of autonomous units that include a profit-driven national oil company.

* The independent national oil company would be allowed to raise funds by investing in capital markets instead of relying on government revenues as at present, a bureaucratic process which has slowed the development of key projects.

* The national oil company would initially be 100 percent owned by the government, but Nigerians may be offered a stake in the company in the future.

* Some deep offshore oil production contracts, mainly from the 1993 bid round, will be renegotiated to allow the government to impose higher royalties and taxes.

PXP's Tranquillon Ridge Project Update

On July 24, 2009, despite support of California Governor Schwarzenegger and bipartisan approval by the California State Senate, the California State Assembly failed to approve legislation authorizing a path forward for PXP's T-Ridge project. Support for T-Ridge has come from Santa Barbara County, the California State Senate, the Governor and a large environmental coalition, including the Environmental Defense Center, Trust for Public Land, and "Get Oil Out", as well as firefighters and peace officers throughout the state. More than two dozen environmental groups have urged approval for T-Ridge because of the significant merits of the project. The T-Ridge project utilizes an existing platform and facilities operating off the Santa Barbara coast to access oil and gas reserves currently drained by PXP and upon project approval will include a steady new revenue stream to the state of California. . .

The T-Ridge project continues to maintain strong support and has benefited from the attention it received during the recent high profile budget debate. PXP intends to continue pushing for the project based on its merits to the state of California and address any misconceptions that groups may have regarding the project.

Companies line up to join electric-car battery industry

The Energy Department is getting ready to hand out about $2 billion in grants to create a domestic industry for electric-car batteries, and 122 companies are scrambling to get pieces.

The companies range from small niche firms to giants such as Dow Chemical and Johnson Controls. All are promising a combination of innovation and ability to deliver new products on a commercial scale to prevent the United States from trading dependence on foreign oil or reliance on foreign-made batteries.

Despite federal aid, new energy jobs slow to bloom

Between 1998 and 2007, renewable energy employment grew by about 9.1 percent, according to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts that was based on an extensive jobs database. That still totals only about 770,000 jobs, or about one half of 1 percent of all jobs in the United States, according to the study. And the period under study ended before the recession struck, so it remains unclear how well the new energy sector has fared since then.

Report: Why We Need the Climate Bill’s Building Code

Section 201 would require all states to adopt laws by 2010 that are at least 30 percent more stringent than two leading baseline energy codes, the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineer’s 90.1-2004 standard. The Waxman-Markey bill would require states to embrace energy codes that are 50 percent more strict than the baseline by 2015, with an additional 5 percent reduction every three years until 2030.

The impact? Implementing these targets would reduce the building sector’s energy use by 18.7 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 40.4 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, with roughly similar declines in greenhouse gas emissions, according to Architecture 2030. Since homes and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of total U.S. energy demand, these reductions would significantly advance the overall goals of reducing fossil fuel consumption and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Sarah Palin's Farewell Address - Full Transcript

I promised energy solutions and we have, we have a plan calling for 50% of our electricity generated by renewable resources and we can now insist that those who hold the leases to develop our resources that they do so now on Alaska's terms. So now finally after decades of just talk, finally we're seeing oil and gas drilling up there at Point Thompson. And I promised that we would get a natural gas pipeline underway and we did. Since I was a little kid growing up here, I remember the discussions, especially the political discussions just talking about and hoping for and dreaming of commercializing our clean, abundant, needed natural gas.

Our gas line inducement act, AGIA, that was the game-changer and this is thanks to our outstanding gas line team, and the legislature adopting this law, 58-1.

Nissan plant near Nashville cited for energy efficiency

Among other things, company officials said Nissan has eliminated compressed air leaks and installed variable speed electric motor drives to match motor loads.

Plant officials said the facility's energy efficiency has improved up to 32 percent in the past four years.

Ebb and flow of wind power stress NW power grid

In coping with the variations, the BPA has at times adjusted flows through dams at rates that exceeded guidelines established to protect fish.

"It is stressful. You have the threat of fish issues on one hand you are trying to prevent, and at the same time you're trying to meet load," she said. . .

One somewhat controversial element, planned for October, gives the BPA the ability to curtail wind production on what amounts to a three-strikes-you're-out stance. Wind operators who don't respond to agency requests to reduce output on three occasions run the risk of having Bonneville do it for them.

Re: Will America lose the clean-energy race?

I started working with renewable energy more than 35 years ago. Lately, I've tried to work with a local group to start some sort of renewable business, to take advantage of the incentives available here in NC. After 6 months of interacting with about 10 other people, we are back to attempting to sell technology that was fully developed more than 20 years ago. We seem to be going nowhere, if only because there are few people who can/will install and maintain the equipment for the technically challenged general public.

I'm afraid that my experience is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As a nation, we don't have the depth of knowledge to understand the serious problem facing us as oil peaks out. Thus, the average person probably sees no reason to spend his/her time or money to install a solar hot water heating system. This situation is made even worse as the economy implodes.

E. Swanson

Indeed. And then there was this quote:

The United States is also falling behind in energy science and technology education. Only 15 percent of undergraduate degrees earned in the United States are in science and engineering, compared with 50 percent in China, according to the National Academies.

Well the way that jobs have been outsourced to China and India, I would argue that young people regard engineering jobs as not a good career bet and go into something else. You can't blame the students if the jobs aren't there..

Americans have become too reliant on simply making money off of other money instead of real tangible new products, inventions, science and technology. Instead of looking for jobs at the giant inefficient money sucking corporations, Americans need to start more small businesses with new creative ideas. People in the US are still fed too well. When they get hungry like the Chinese, they will respond differently.

I have made my money by sucking it from the money sucking corporations! I realised many years ago they had the money and thought it reasonable i got a good share:-) The financial sector contribute almost nothing to the real economy but have become a huge proportion of the economy (i.e. a drag). A third tier industry should not own the rest of the economy, Wall Street transfers income. Every time something is parcelled up e.g. to securitise it no value is added just another layer of charges and costs.

The oligarchs are gaming every system possible and creating new systems to game, e.g. cap and trade - who do you think will be the winners of the trading?? the finance sector of course, apparently Citigroup have an oil trader who in line for $100m. Where's that $100m coming from, the real economy of course.

By the way it's not communism or socialism but fascism = the marriage of state and industry. IMHO in both systems the government has full control of the means of production but keeps an appearance of private control.

Fascism is almost official in the world today, as governments are more and more prioritizing economic growth (read corporate profits) just above everything else.

It is not just that the job outlook is poor. Students also know that they are up against some tough competition from foreign students in class as well. They know that unless they truly are in the top-tier genius category, they are likely going to end up graduating with mediocre grades from a mediocre college. Back in the 1950s or 60s, that might still have been good enough to land you a job somewhere. Not now.

I guess the other thing is though that decades ago lots of the more mediocre kids would go to a trade school of some sort instead of a college. That somehow became a dirty word - it seemed to lower-class, I guess, and as a result more and more kids tried to go to a regular college of some sort. Despite all of this, tradespeople could make a decent living.

Lots of tradespeople still can make a good living, and community college (which has largely taken over from the "trade schools") is a very good and very affordable option. Most mediocre students should probably be heading there rather than to a four year program. They can find out during the first two years whether they really have what it takes to do the higher level work that the last two years of college requires. If they can't cut it, at least they'll still end up with a Associate's Degree or a certificate, and will have spared themselves a lot of expense (and probably a lot of debt).

The truth of the matter is that the US economy as it is now and is likely to be in the future probably doesn't need more than about 10-15% of its adult population to have a Bachelor's degree, at most. It would be good if we had a majority of our population attaining more than just 12 years of HS. This suggests to me that at least 35-40% of our students should be going to community college. Most instead are going to 4-year colleges and either not finishing at all, or finishing with a worthless degree, and in either case loaded down with a heavy debt burden.

...and community college... is a very good and very affordable option.

To put it bluntly, the quality of education offered by community colleges sucks.

From direct experience I know that the vast majority of students in community college can't do simple arithmetic, don't understand the metric system, and can't write a coherent sentence let alone multi-paragraph essay. They are ignorant of history and geography and are clueless of basic biology. They sit in class (if they bother to show up for class at all) texting on their cell phones or socializing on Facebook on their laptops. They miss labs & quizzes then expect the instructor to bend over backwards to accommodate their irresponsibility. Every grade is disputed, and instructors will get complaints lodged against them to the dean of student affairs if they don't cave in to grade inflation. Consider an "A" in a course given at a community college the equivalent to a "C" given at a reputable institution of higher education. Consider the student's GPA inflated by at least two full integers.

Surprise, surprise. Another broadside against a whole category.

Sorry you had a bad experience, DD, but would you consider adopting the humility to admit you can't speak for the whole lot of them?

I draw my experience from New York to Illinois to New Mexico & Arizona. There may be exceptions to the rule but I doubt it. There is simply no academic rigor at the community college level. They're all about ensuring "student success," which is jargon for never giving a failing grade, regardless of lack of student aptitude or effort. Compare any junior or community college with a top notch state research institution. Actually, there is no comparison.

I graduated in Dec '08 from a tech school which had joined the local community college system. This tech had been freestanding with an
excellent reputation for years prior to joining the CC system.

The pressure to relent to business issues over education issues was lamented by more than one instructor.

Of course there's a comparison, and part of it starts with comparing the respective jobs they are set up to do, and the resources they are able to corral to do it with.

For all your apparent education, it's funny that your spectral range still consists of just black and white.

Unfortunately,dog is right.

Even at major uviversities thes days,all the kids are above average.If you don't believe me,just tour some professors office doors the last day of any semester,and you will find that posted grades are eighty percent OR MORE As and Bs only.

There are only two programs at my local community college that ever flunk out any significant number of students-nursing and information technology-and damn few in it.

The other departments have virtually no standards at all.Show up,you graduate.

I'm sorry, but you can't make an across the board slam like that.

The problems you two are talking about ARE real problems, but there are good schools and colleges, and there are good programs and exceptional people working in poorer schools, too.

Of course there are still lots of good schools ,even at the elementary school level.

I should have composed my comment more carefully.

But lots of schools have turned into businesses,and standards have declined enormously.If students are not graduating,they are not paying tuition.

A high school diploma is worthless these days except as a preliminary screening device.

This situation has arisen because of the enormous pressure brought to bear on schools to graduate every student.

.Well,you are not allowed to hit them ,or even cuss them,and you can't fire them,but they can get you fired if you try too hard to make them actually work in class.Cause untenured teachers are replaceable but students are a fact.

The only real way you can ENFORCE a standard is send a kid to the office.Nothing happens to him that matters to him ,but if you send a lot,they get rid of you.And tenured teachers learn to go with the flow and not raise too much fuss.

But each school not in a ghetto has at least one teacher in every grade and subject who can set and up hold standards.The other teachers kids,the lawyers kids,school board members kids,business opwners kids,are in this teachers classes. And she can assign homework,and it gets done..

Google grade inflation.

Or talk to some employers about how much or little new graduates know these days.

Kids these days...

Once you get remedial English as a prerequisite to advanced remedial English you must start to understand there is a problem. My wife wrote two college textbooks -- everything was geared down to 10th grade reading comprehension ... maybe acceptable until one considers that the entry level high school graduates, at mean, were reading below 8th grade comprehension.

Yes, there is a problem. But the poor literacy rates of kids entering colleges these days is a fully societal problem, and something the Colleges can only try to remediate.. sadly, it corrodes what these schools will be able to accomplish with their students as well.

Admissions standards fix this problem at private colleges, why not at public ones?

Demonstrate basic competence in reading, writing, and math or you just don't get in.

Private tutoring or self-learning is available for anyone who discovers they lack the necessary skills and really wants to be there.

Just because public colleges and universities need to be open to anyone, doesn't mean they need to be open to everyone.

Not to be too argumentative, but this summer was the first that some of our engineers with BS degrees got offers over $100k starting, and word of that gets back to the schools fairly rapidly, so that our classes continue to grow in size.

degrees in petroleum, or run of the mill ?

As long as gas, coal, and natural gas are affordable, Americans will not embrace clean energy. Resistance to change is the driving force. When the pain of fossil fuels excedes the pain to change to clean energy, then the change will happen. Who will guess what year that might be? 2012? 2020? 2030?

Since people are not willing to change before the pain hits, it will be a chaotic, painful transition. The US government is working to mandate small pieces of the change, but the largest part of this is going to come from the citizens. People need rewards for change that are clear and abundant.....Small tax breaks are not good enough.

The pain of crude oil may not be constant as we saw last year with price overshoot followed by undershoot. The prevailing view is that speculators caused it. When the price is low, few want to convert. The economic carnage of a depression makes investing in new energy sources difficult. Once a person loses his job and can not find another or accepts a lessor one, he may be financially unable to convert. Many are currently deluded by the prospect of abundant energy from opening new areas to drilling and will always find comfort in hope. Others blame government, greedy oil companies or evil OPEC. People may be too stupid to figure out what is going on as the world descends down the falling edge of peak oil. A stepped decent allows for a lot of denial and excuses.

IMO, we need a new Civilian Conservation Corps. This time, it would be unemployed people working to install insulation, weatherstripping, energy efficient windows, CFLs, solar water heaters, etc. in low income housing. This wouldn't be competition with people in the private sector like yourself; the beneficiaries that I have in mind would never be able to afford to pay for your services anyway. What such a program would do is ramp up the economies of scale for the producers of the materials and equipment, and thus make it more affordable for middle income people. This would actually help people like yourself.

Yes, a CCC type of government response would likely be necessary. In fact, the stimulus bill includes money for low income housing retrofits. Our group started out thinking of applying for that sort of grant money and we started a non-profit corporation. But, it looks like we are drifting toward a real for-profit type effort, perhaps as another corporate spin off. We considered manufacturing collectors, but, lacking the market to sell them, we probably won't go that way, as setting up a production line would be rather expensive, even with an opportunity to use two large industrial buildings presently owned by the county.

The available credits and grants in North Carolina would seem to be large enough to entice people to rush out and buy systems. And, there's a new program from our local electric co-op which will provide further grant money. The price of electricity is set to increase in the near future, as newer power plants come on line to replace the older, cheaper ones. Sad to say, it would appear that the cost of installation is not covered by the tax credit, rebate and grant programs and there are lots of caveats as well. Of course, if the economy doesn't improve, folks won't be able to find enough money to start the process of acquiring the solar systems...

E. Swanson

I've found that people can become excited at the prospect of not having an electric bill by being off-grid. However, it is always the up-front expense that scares them off, usually. If a person is willing to grow their system incrementally, it isn't such a financial burden. The other option is to start off small, and do without for a period of time. (Do without air conditioning, for instance.) Not everyone is willing to do without air conditioning like I am. But at the end of the day, my system only cost me around 1200 US Dollars, and I have no electric bill. I've found that not having bills helps out when you're unemployed.

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

Hey Black_Dog, I feel like I'm in a very similar situation here in South Florida.
It is frustrating to say the least.

Last week I went to two trade shows and the public just doesn't get it! There are actually some really good incentives for both PV and passive solar for hot water right now but you hit the nail on the head when you say that most people don't see a need.

Bernanke -
"The silver lining in this whole thing is that people are starting to save more, since they saw what happened with 401(k) investments," Bernanke said. "People are adopting good habits, so not only will we will be back on track, but the economy will be stronger than it had been before this started."

How will the economy be "stronger" with less oil? Economists are still stuck on the infinite growth model.

And as Ilargi/TAE points out, reducing your rate of borrowing is not saving. Uncle Ben knows this, but is willfully lying.

Kunstler sums it up in his essay today:" As we turn the corner toward autumn, President Obama looks increasingly like a dupe, a tool, or a co-conspirator of Goldman Sachs." Yup.

I think this sums up my disappointment with Obama. It has become increasingly apparent that he's not up for the fight with the Powers-That-Be. Don't get me wrong, I thank God on a regular basis for Bush being outta there and I no longer cringe listening to the POTUS during pressers. In retrospect, perhaps our expectations were a little unrealistic in believing that his promise for change would include REAL change where he would welcome the hatred of the oligarchs, moneychangers and sundry Economic Royalists. Instead, he appears to be bowing before them. By triangulating vs. taking names and doing what's right, he's going to wind up satisfying no one and flaming out. This is not a case of policy differences: when confronted with criminality, there is only one right choice. There should be no room for triangulation nor playing-along-to-get-along with regard to corporate fraudsters, thieves, traitors and torturers. The fact that the crooks seem to be winning despite the people speaking out overwhelmingly in favor of change in recent elections gives me pause. I fear the hour is late in the fight for democracy.

The fact that the crooks seem to be winning despite the people speaking out overwhelmingly in favor of change in recent elections gives me pause. I fear the hour is late in the fight for democracy.

Fight? What makes you think that the American electorate as it stands now has any fight in them at all? We're already well past the point that the pitchforks and torches should've come out if everyone wasn't ignorant or sleepwalking; we (collectively) only notice reality when it disrupts the supply chain for our addictions.

Don't forget that 46% of the electorate thought that Sarah Palin was qualified to be president should McCain croak.

Actually, it was only 28% of the electorate. 39% of the electorate had no opinion as to who should run the country.

Kunstler has good reason to be annoyed at Goldman Sachs:
"But surveying the scene out there, it is hard to not conclude that Goldman Sachs has become the "front-runner" of a criminal syndicate defrauding US taxpayers. "
They were supposed to crash like the other banks propelling the US economy into a death spiral. Instead they actually RETURNED 10Billion with another 2Billion interest to the US government. Come on! this doesn't sound like a very efficient defrauding the US taxpayer.

Kunstler goes on: "In the meantime, the US economy gives the illusion of recovery - but to what? Back to a "consumer" credit card shopping orgy? Another house-buying fiesta? I don't think so. Households are drowning in debt."
Households are saving 7% of income whereas last year they were in negative territory. Obama should be praised for stopping a depression, rather than demonized for doing what Hoover didn't do, actually stimulate the economy when it needed stimulating and preventing bank failures when Hoover let them fail.

But Kunstler isn't happy with a recovery in the economy:

"Also meanwhile, oil is heading back to the $70 range (with the dollar shedding basis points). That's the oil price range where the economy begins to get wrecked all over again - that is, whatever remains of the economy"

Sure if all the major banks fail and the LIBOR rate goes up 350 points, instead the LIBOR is now <50 basis points a sign that the financial crisis is coming to an end. Oil at $70 or $100 or $147/barrel didn't cause the financial crisis and won't cause another one. It may slow down growth, it may stimulate purchases of fuel efficient vehicles, or cause more people to use mass-transit or walk.

Never mind, Kunstler's predictions are that the Flu Pandemic will deliver the final blow to the economy, shut down food deliveries and cause a run on toilet paper. Here is Australia we are approaching the peak of the flu season, new cases are growing rapidly and some people have died. So far no sign of food and toilet paper shortages, the stores are as crowed as ever, doctors offices are packet with potential flu cases, but supplies of anti-virals are holding up. The new flu vaccines won't be ready for this years flu season in Australia, but people in the US are going to be luckier with vaccines available by October.
While we hope for the best, some seem to be expecting the total collapse of the economy and the imminent end of society as we know it ( not that Kunstler is a doomer no he doesn't accept that label). I think this next 6 months is going to be very frustrating for Kunstler.

But that's is his game - he needs to be frustrated to work his magic - if nasty - pen

However - if a political trend does not arise to counteract the anger at wall street Kunstler may yet have the last sardonic chortle

I'm actually in greater than 80% agreement with you, with the following provisos:
Goldman Sachs: Yes, it is good they are making enough profits to be back from the neardead. But, it is clear that this is trading profits, made by gaming the system. Now most of this gaiming is possible simply because of their size, they can afford super sophisticated trading systems, and the technology to determine price trends a few milliseconds before the other guy. But at best this whole trading business is a zerosum game.

enemy of state,
You are probably correct, if a corporation is too big to fail it's probably too big and needs to be broken up.
It may be zero sum, I guess is depends on who wins and who looses out the oil producers or the consumers or both.

Zero sum in one respect but actually a good percentage is being taken away from the "real economy" to support the banksters, i.e. everyone else is paying more than necessary.

That first article is an eye opener-the USA investing 11 billion a year and China 66 billion a year? To a certain extent, it appears that TPTB are winding down the USA economy.

China spends 50B on military and 66B on energy research. They have priorities in the correct order. US - 500B on military and only 10B on energy research. The public should demand a new budget!!!

Unless one cynically views that $500MM annual military expenditure as the true US national energy strategy.

And that $500B doesn't include the $10B that the Dept of Energy spends on maintaining the nuclear warheads, out of a total DoE budget of $24B.

does it include the off budget items like the search for wmds ?

Nope, not in the $500B. Iraq and Afghanistan are another $160B a year in supplemental appropriations, a fancy name for an emergency spending bill.

Hydrocarbons in the deep Earth?

Washington, DC--The oil and gas that fuels our homes and cars started out as living organisms that died, were compressed, and heated under heavy layers of sediments in the Earth's crust. Scientists have debated for years whether some of these hydrocarbons could also have been created deeper in the Earth and formed without organic matter. Now for the first time, scientists have found that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesized under the pressure-temperature conditions of the upper mantle --the layer of Earth under the crust and on top of the core. The research was conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, with colleagues from Russia and Sweden, and is published in the July 26, advanced on-line issue of Nature Geoscience.

Abiogenic oil research hits a prominent journal. But many, many questions remain. (And let's not talk about extraction...) Peak oil: there's plenty of oil, we just can't get it cheaply.

Yes, let's not talk about extraction - at least until we've talked about reality:

Using a diamond anvil cell and a laser heat source, the scientists first subjected methane to pressures exceeding 20 thousand times the atmospheric pressure at sea level and temperatures ranging from 1,300 F* to over 2,240 F*. These conditions mimic those found 40 to 95 miles deep inside the Earth. The methane reacted and formed ethane, propane, butane, molecular hydrogen, and graphite. The scientists then subjected ethane to the same conditions and it produced methane. The transformations suggest heavier hydrocarbons could exist deep down.

So this is what the "spaceref" spacecases call an experiment? Put methane in, get hydrocarbons out. Put other hydrocarbons in, get methane out. Ergo the mantle contains significant hydrocarbons? That's some kind o' logic there!


The implication that somehow the existance of abiotic oil has been proven is waaaay overblown. All they did was a high energy laboratory experiment. Maybe they also proved that oil is created in nuclear explosions. Oh, and those catalysts that were "present" in the experiment didn't affect the outcome and anyway maybe they are "present" in the mantle and maybe the abiotic oil isn't dispersed uniformly throughout the mantle and maybe it can find its way to an oil field in your neighborhood. Maybe.

I think the point of the experiment is that they showed a reaction equilibrium at high pressures / temperatures between hydrogen / carbon / methane. So, given high pressures and temperatures, and the presence of hydrogen and carbon as raw materials, they can expect to form some quantity of methane. This is not unexpected, nor is the interconversion between various light hydrocarbons.

The interesting question, which I do not see answered, is where the equilibrium of this reaction? What ratio of reactants to products, and is there any mechanism which might separate the products from the reaction mixture (and thus create more product to restore equilibrium).

New York Times, July Third 2008, CLVII, No 54,725 covers many of these issues, "Green Power Takes Root in China" by Keith Bradsher

China imposed a requirement on its utilities to use three percent renewable energy two years ago and that does not include
hydroelectric (21% of power) or nuclear (1.1%). They have six "immense" wind power
projects with a total capacity of 96 large coal-fired power plants. In spite of very heavy investment, they expect
power consumption to increase. The 606 million city dwellers commonly use airconditions, etc. And the 720 rural Chinese will
join them. They will have 30,000 megawatts of windon line with 10,00 to be added year.
The winning bid for solar power was sixteen cents per killowat per hour compared to four to five cents for coal and seven to ten cents
for wind.
One thing that concerns me is that materials are the major cost in solar panels, not labor. How fast can the world increase solar panels without
hitting capacity constraints such as steel mills or gallium. They noted that in the desert, workers will be paid to clean off the panels
with feather brushes after sand storms.

And on windy days, half the power is lost due to lack of transmission capacity


New York Times, July Third 2008, CLVII, No 54,725 covers many of these issues, "Green Power Takes Root in China" by Keith Bradsher

China imposed a requirement on its utilities to use three percent renewable energy two years ago and that does not include
hydroelectric (21% of power) or nuclear (1.1%). They have six "immense" wind power
projects with a total capacity of 96 large coal-fired power plants. In spite of very heavy investment, they expect
power consumption to increase. The 606 million city dwellers commonly use airconditions, etc. And the 720 rural Chinese will
join them. They will have 30,000 megawatts of windon line with 10,00 to be added year.

The winning bid for solar power was sixteen cents per killowat per hour compared to four to five cents for coal and seven to ten cents
for wind.
One thing that concerns me is that materials are the major cost in solar panels, not labor. How fast can the world increase solar panels without
hitting capacity constraints such as steel mills or gallium. They noted that in the desert, workers will be paid to clean off the panels
with feather brushes after sand storms.

And on windy days, half the power is lost due to lack of transmission capacity.
The page has a human interest story about a power plant manager for a coal plant in China his decision and his atonement.

It seems that the U.S. is using less energy and getting more of it from renewables than it has in the past.

U.S. energy use drops in 2008

LIVERMORE, Calif. - Americans used more solar, nuclear, biomass and wind energy in 2008 than they did in 2007, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The nation used less coal and petroleum during the same time frame and only slightly increased its natural gas consumption. Geothermal energy use remained the same.

The estimated U.S. energy use in 2008 equaled 99.2 quadrillion BTUs (“quads”), down from 101.5 quadrillion BTUs in 2007. (A BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for energy, and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules).

See the article including a nice graph of the sources and uses of energy in the U.S. at this link:


When you shut down a factory, you use less energy as do former commuters. Hooray.

The Obama depression is probably not showing up too much in the 2008 numbers. I suspect the drop in energy usage last year was from a switch to energy efficient lighting, and vehicles with better fuel mileage.

The premise of the US "losing" the clean energy race is contradicted by the fact that the US is the world's largest producer of biofuel and wind power. This was not the case only a few years ago.

The Bush Depression shows up pretty well though.

The premise of the US "losing" the clean energy race is contradicted by the fact that the US is the world's largest producer of biofuel and wind power.

That is now, but the problem is a lack of national level commitment. And the commitment we get is on again off again. Kinda like the oil industry. Why would anyone want to be employed by either of these industries, as the next change of the tide (political in the case of alt energy, and price cycle in the case of oil), and you get laid off. Same thing for investors, you can't make money because the next trun of the tide could bankrupt all the companies you invested in. So those whose political and economic system allows a long term approach are gonna clean our clocks. This in spite of the fact that we have the lions share of the innovative startup companies.

Yea, along with the Obama wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Obama failure to prevent the 911 attacks, and the Obama torture memos.

So your premise is that the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns are somehow now decoupled from Obama? Exactly when do you start holding this guy responsible (I would assume never-Bush made everything impossible).

Uhhh, Obama did not lie to the country and get us into those messes, did he now?

He worked with the Iraqi government, such that it is,to withdrawal our troops from the cites and to leave the country by the end of next year...fat chance seeing Shrub do that if were magically elected for a third term, and certainly not "we'll stay for another 100 years, you betcha" McCain and Palin either.

Yea, I 'd like to see him to have withdrawn us from both of these losing propositions by the end of this year, but that isn't going to happen. Rest assured the right-wing sound machine is already sharpening their long knives to try to do him in with more 'not born in Amerka", Secret Muslim', cut-n-run B.S.

If 46 percent of the electorate didn't fall under the sway of Faux Noise and Palintology and if half or more of the Congressional Dems were not such pansies, he could get a lot more done.

The guy isn't perfect by any stretch but he beats the pants off of the folks in the rethuglican ranks.

He is also engaging the Russians on a post-Moscow treaty/START arms control (nukes) regime. Think the Rethugs would have gone there???

I'm personally ready to admit that O bama inherited the worse mess of any predident ever,and he does have to get along with congress and by extension,the public.

But he has blown most of his political capital already bailing out Detroit and the mega banks on far too generous termsPersonally I don't know ANYBODY who is not upset (to say the least !)about this,especially with news of multi million dollar salaries paid to bailed out execs thumbing thier noses at the rest of us.

He HAS made some effort to improve our energy situation ,etc, but only a penny on the dollar to what hes given big biz-the same big biz that all the raving liberals insist owns the publicans.

Maybe they overlooked the fact that apparently big biz owns the dems too.

And I seem to remember Nixon going to China and Reagen negotiating a treaty or two.

So I not too happy with OBama but I'm glad he won,at least he is not actually an oil man by trade and he has made some good moves.

And while I'm not so sure his wife's most extraordinary pay raise at her last job wasn't payola,at least he hasn't rooked the taxpayers for any stadiums that I know of.

Maybe he will make some miracle plays-that seems to be our only real hope.

Most people don't realize just how many compromises even a very popular president must make to get anything at all done.

Better than Bush by a mile.We will never know what McCain would have actually done.He had to make the speeches that pleased his core,just like O Bama.And O Bama has forgotten a lot of speeches already,which is parly why so many true blue dems are mad at him,so early in the game.

But to blame our troubles on the publicans,as if the dems have nothing to do with them ,is either partisan sniping or an indication of a lack of understanding of how our government works.Both parties are imo about equally responsible for the fiscal mess,as both pushed the hollowed out economy hard.

The dems ARE hands down winners on civil rights and ahead by a good bit on the environment.

How about Jan 20, 2010.

Give him a whole year to mop up after the party, this is some pretty toxic stuff that got left behind by the frat boys.

A year? After 8 years of wanton destruction by Bush & Co? I'll tell you what...give me your car and a sledgehammer. I'll spend twenty minutes working on it with the sledge and I'll give you $20 and two hours to fix it back like new.

It's much, much, easier to break something than it is to fix it...much costlier as well.

You have to draw the line somewhere, but the Republican noise machine has been in an unseemly hurry to paint Obama with the tar from Bush's brush.

After a year he's either fixing things (and it starts becoming obvious) or he's not. It will never be "like new" and he'll probably be blamed for that, too.

His foreign policy team sounds like it is really on the ball and we are already starting to see some positive reaction from that, but none of this stuff moves in weeks.

I am disappointed with his economic choices, but I have already started hearing "too big to fail == too big" from administration officials which is probably signaling a serious change in policy.

After a year?

After 6 months he's already been able to double the unemployment rate, and quadruple the deficit. I suspect after another 6 months matters will be much worse. It's really amazing that America would want to dabble with socialism. When Russia and China are turning to capitalism, because they couldn't get socialism to work after 50 years of trying.

And foreign policy? What happened to America leading the world on "climate change"? The G8 meeting accomplished nothing but discord on the issue. China and India have flat out refused to consider any carbon caps. The EU countries will not even agree on a CO2 reduction plan. I thought you liberals all blamed the lack of a worldwide CO2 agreement on Bush? lol

Here's how the much revered new President was greeted in Russia:


Such haste is unseemly and unfair to the man. One might suspect your mind was already made up before the election even happened.

It took Bush most of 2 years to drive the country into the outhouse, surely allowing his successor a full year to show signs of setting things to rights is fair.

i think the problem brian t is having with this is that niether nader, paul, buchanan, larouche, karl mcintire or a half dozen other fringe candidates were electected.

I wanted Barack Obama to win the election-said so repeatedly on this forum.

New York Times, July 2, 2009 covers many of these issues, Green Power Takes Root in Chinaby Keith Bradsher

China imposed a requirement on its utilities to use three percent renewable energy two years ago and that does not include hydroelectric (21% of power) or nuclear (1.1%). They have six "immense" wind power projects with a total capacity of 96 large coal-fired power plants. In spite of very heavy investment, they expect power consumption to increase. The 606 million city dwellers commonly use airconditions, etc. And the 720 rural Chinese will join them. They will have 30,000 megawatts of wind on line with 10,000 to be added year.

The winning bid for solar power was sixteen cents per killowat per hour compared to four to five cents for coal and seven to ten cents for wind.

One thing that concerns me is that materials are the major cost in solar panels, not labor. How fast can the world increase solar panels without hitting capacity constraints such as steel mills or gallium. They noted that in the desert, workers will be paid to clean off the panels with feather brushes after sand storms.

And on windy days, half the power is lost due to lack of transmission capacity in China.

Editor's Note: I tried to fix this a bit, so it is readable.

There have been other articles about Chinese wind and solar power too. The article linked above notes that China is very much in need of wind transmission lines, and I know there was a longer article recently specifically dealing with this issue. There is a minimum requirement for wind generation capacity, but not a minimum requirement for actual wind produced, so wind generation capacity has been built where there are not enough transmission lines. Actual usable wind is lagging behind.

How close to the HVDC transmission from the Three Gorges hydro project to the coast are the wind resources? Wind would make an excellent fit for that transmission capacity, what, 24 GW?

Hard times drive more Michiganders to fish for food

State officials say many people may be like Miller: loading up the tackle box and heading for the lake or river as a way to cut grocery costs and have cheap fun as well.

>Ebb and flow of wind power stress NW power grid

This is why it makes much more sense for wind to generate hydrogen and then the hydrogen is used in cells to generate power. That would completely smooth out the supply/demand problems.

The only stress to the NW grid is to that operator, just one dam in NW generates more than 5 times the power of all of the wind farms. Hydro electricity can handle big swings in power, wind is saving water so it can be available for fish. What a media beat-up; probably coal industry is behind this article.

Quest for New Battery Technology
Just in from the NY Times:

In a gleaming white factory here, Bob Peters was gently feeding sheets of chemical-coated foil one afternoon recently into a whirring machine that cut them into precise rectangles. It was an early step in building a new kind of battery, one smaller than a cereal box but with almost as much energy as the kind in a conventional automobile.

The goal of Mr. Peters, 51, and his co-workers at International Battery, a high-tech start-up, is industrial revolution. Racing against other companies around the globe, they are on the front lines of an effort to build smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries that could help transform the American energy economy by replacing gasoline in cars and making windmills and solar cells easier to integrate into the power grid.

This summer the Obama administration plans to announce how it will distribute some $2 billion in stimulus grants to companies that make such advanced batteries for hybrid or all-electric vehicles and related components. International Battery is vying for a modest chunk of it.

Hey, ya'all. I be stertin me a compny to get meun some o that there stimlus monies....it be called ...Occult Battery And Magic Association.....O.B.A.M.A......

Voodoo is the only thing that will save us now.....

Bush-league framing.

Bad Zombie, no biscuit.

"This summer the Obama administration plans to announce how it will distribute some $2 billion in stimulus grants to companies that make such advanced batteries for hybrid or all-electric vehicles and related components"

Gee, I didn't know Goldman Sachs made batteries. Maybe they give it first to GS who then gives what's left to those who make a real batteries. It only takes a microsec for GS to be in the middle and get the money.

Long as they got a packet sniffer hooked up to the right server..they can control the world.

Gee.Who woulda thought...and NO security audits? El Zippo.
Amazing shit.
Time to put the Wild Turkey away...and go to bed..
"tomorrow...the sun will come up tomoooorrrrrrooooowwwww.Tomorrow! Tomorrow!."
Daddy Warbucks sez so.


Good night Airdale:

I gotta change irrigation water in a couple minutes to the next set. No rain here in the high desert for quite a while. I let a zucchini get big. 19” long on the outside of the curl, 4” diameter at the big end, weighed 4+ pounds. Made up some hamburger, onions, celery, inside zucchini chopped up, seasoning, for stuffing. Baked 45 minutes at 350. You lowlanders 30 minutes should work. Excellent!

Tomorrow ... cheers

Planted three last year. They got big and I never ate a single one.

This year I didn't plant any. I like them but they get so big so fast that I never get time to cook them or get creative.

Right now its so rainy that my garden will once more be foot high grass and I just spent three days pulling it all out. Now before it drys again the grass will be right back so time for zucchinis is not in the schedule.

Barely able to keep up with the huge amount of cucumbers but the rest of the garden is worthless this year. Not enough production to can or store. No corn at all and so on.

A bad year.


Mixed bag for me. I've finally managed to produce a really nice crop of onions, after years of disappointments; plants instead of sets, of a mid-season variety, in the ground in February, closely spaced and heavily mulched, was the trick. Snap peas and cabbage were OK, broccoli and lettuce bolted all too early; I hope to have better luck with a fall crop if I can get it in. Green beans & cukes are doing OK. Zucchini and yellow squash have been fair, but were not quite as prolific as last year. Lots of tomatoes coming on, but they have been late in ripening, we've just started getting some to eat this past week. Corn seems to be doing OK, but will be a bit late also. My Minnesota Midget melons are doing great, I've never had any luck at all with melons before. Beets, carrots, winter squash, potatoes all doing well, but I didn't have any luck at all with parsnips this year. My peach tree survived a late frost, but didn't give us enough for more than just fresh use. The Apple crop is looking like it will come up a bit short as well. Bumper crop of blueberries, thouogh. And so it goes. . .

Good Effort!

Thanks for sharing and keep posting more new info.

Thanks again -- Jeff.

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