Drumbeat: July 30, 2009

Drillers bid adios to Canada, hola to Mexico

CALGARY - Calgary-based drillers are ripping out heaters and installing air conditioning units on their rigs as the crews trade winter gloves for sunblock to get in on a growing Mexican oil boom.

As low natural gas prices continue to idle drilling equipment in Canada, the national oil company of Mexico is implementing plans to invest $240 billion US over the next 14 years to stoke its declining domestic industry.

No peak in sight for oil production or demand

There’s much talk these days that a peak in global oil production looms in our immediate future. It’s certainly not here yet, and based on human behavior and recent evidence, that elusive peak moment when oil production begins to irreversibly decline remains decades away. I know this is true because we pay attention to these things out here in the energy-conscious countryside, where the weekly trip into town can burn three or four gallons of gasoline.

Mexico police raid Pemex in fuel theft probe

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican federal police raided the headquarters of state oil monopoly Pemex on Wednesday in an investigation into rampant fuel theft that costs the company more than $2 billion a year, Pemex said.

"At this time the Internal Audit office, with the help of federal police, is seizing computer equipment and documents belonging to the company's Security Directorate," Pemex said in a press release.

John Michael Greer: The Economics of Entropy

To call this law unpopular is not to say that it suffers from any lack of recognition by scientists. The comment of Sir Arthur Eddington, one of the twentieth century’s greatest physicists, is typical: “If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics, there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation” – a summing-up so useful that it probably deserves to be called Eddington’s Law. Entropy is the gold standard of physics, the one thing you can count on even when the rest of the cosmos seems to be going haywire. What makes it unpopular, rather, is that it stands in stark conflict with some of the most deeply and passionately held convictions of modern industrial humanity.

For all that, it’s a simple concept to grasp. Pour a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning and you can watch entropy in action. The coffee will gradually get colder and the air around it will get very slightly warmer. All energy everywhere, left to itself, always moves from higher to lower concentrations: that’s the second law of thermodynamics. On the way from higher to lower, the energy can be made to do useful work, and you can even force some energy to a higher concentration by allowing a larger amount of energy to go to a lower one, but one way or another entropy’s price must be paid.

We don’t like thinking in these terms, and for the last three hundred years, most of us in the industrial world haven’t had to. The 18th-century breakthroughs that allowed coal to be turned into steam power, and gave human beings command over amounts of highly concentrated energy never before wielded by our species, convinced most people in the western world that energy was basically free for the taking. In the halcyon days of industrialism, it was all too easy to forget that this vast abundance of energy was a cosmic rarity, a minor and finite backwash in the flow of energies on a scale almost too great for human beings to comprehend.

Blackout: Heinberg on dwindling coal reserves and the siren song of “clean coal”

There isn’t nearly as much coal left as most people think. “Clean coal” will run down limited reserves even faster. If humanity doesn’t begin massive, sustained investment in renewable power sources immediately, civilization could be at risk before the end of the century. And that’s without considering the impacts of climate change.

Such is the stark conclusion of Richard Heinberg’s Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis, which despite its dry tone and technical complexity is one of the scariest f*cking books I’ve ever read.

Oil rises after biggest plunge in 3 months

Oil prices rose above $64 a barrel Thursday as upbeat corporate earnings suggested the global economy is slowly recovering, though inventories data showed U.S. crude demand remains weak.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was up 92 cents to $64.27 a barrel by early afternoon European time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract fell $3.88 to settle at $63.35.

On Wednesday, oil prices sank nearly 6 percent, the largest drop in more than three months, with more signs emerging that consumers are cutting back on energy costs.

Petro-Canada Profit Drops 95% as Energy Prices Fall

(Bloomberg) -- Petro-Canada, the formerly state- owned oil company that’s being acquired by Suncor Energy Inc., said second-quarter profit fell 95 percent as petroleum prices tumbled amid the global recession.

Net income dropped to C$77 million ($71 million), or 16 cents a share, from C$1.5 billion, or C$3.10, a year earlier, the Calgary-based company said today in a statement. Excluding such items as a drop in the value of U.S. natural-gas assets, per-share profit was 20 cents, 31 cents below the average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Exxon Mobil profits plunge 66%

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Exxon Mobil reported a 66% decline in second quarter earnings Thursday due to weak energy demand and volatile oil prices.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company said it earned $3.95 billion in the second quarter, down from $11.68 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, Exxon said it earned 81 cents, off 64% from $2.22 in the second quarter of 2008.

Energy giant Shell profits slump on weak oil prices

LONDON (AFP) – British energy giant Royal Dutch Shell said on Thursday that its second-quarter net profit plunged 67 percent to 3.82 billion dollars (2.71 billion euros) on tumbling crude oil prices.

"Our second quarter results were affected by the weak global economy," said Chief Executive Peter Voser in the group's results statement.

"This weakness is creating a difficult environment both in upstream and downstream" operations.

Shell Examines Refinery, Retail Outlets as Fuel Demand Declines

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, will examine the sale of refineries in New Zealand, Germany and Canada and may exit a retail network in Greece as oil demand dropped the most since 1980.

The company is reviewing plans to sell assets able to process a total of about 330,000 barrels-a-day in 2009 and 2010, reducing company-wide capacity by 8 percent, Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said today.

New Technology Aimed at Increasing Oil Production

HOUSTON (AP) -- Imagine having a nice ripe orange, ready for squeezing, but being able to get out only a small amount of juice. There's got to be more, you just can't get at it.

That's the frustration of the global oil business.

The industry is spending billions on technology to increase the amount of oil it can extract from the ground. Oil companies typically recover only about one in three barrels of oil from their fields, but they can't afford to leave so much crude untapped at a time when it's difficult to access new reserves. Recovering more oil has enormous implications, not only for the companies' balance sheets but also for the world's diminishing supply.

It’s all about Saudi Arabia and IEA stats: Contrarian oil watcher Henry Groppe

Canada’s Globe and Mail has an interview with iconoclastic oil analyst Henry Groppe, who argues most oil statistics - including those from the IEA - are wrong because they are based on incorrect data. This is because, he says, they look at exports rather than imports.

Imports are more reliable because they are taxed, Groppe says, and looking at these figures shows that oil exports are overstated by between 1.25m and 2m barrels per day:

Ignoring unreliable weekly inventory numbers and dismissing claims of oil-filled tankers sitting idle in the Caribbean as largely fanciful, he has concluded that much of what has transpired in the past two-and-a-half years “can be traced to specific changes to the supply-demand balance.”

Russia seals Cuba deal over Gulf of Mexico oil

HAVANA - Russia and Cuba signed agreements to search for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and Moscow extended the island $150 million in credit for construction materials and farm machinery, state media said Wednesday.

Offshore drilling ruling doesn't apply to Gulf

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruling won't stand in the way of new oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington clarified late Tuesday that its decision earlier this year to block some Bush-era drilling plans was meant to apply only to activity in Alaska, not the Gulf.

If you build it, they will (not necessarily) come

There was always something vaporous about Irving Oil's ambition to erect a second refinery in Saint John. So many intangibles "" the price of oil, market demand, available labour, government support, private partnerships "" conspired to derail the project before the first spade even hit the ground. And so, it wasn't particularly surprising when the company announced, last week, that it has experienced a change of heart.

In a press conference that resembled a funereal address, Irving spokesman Kevin Scott declared: "Over the last 30 years, gasoline demand kept growing about one or two per cent a year, and that was forecast to continue basically forever, despite changing demographics. [But], since 2007, we've actually seen gasoline demand fall each year. And it may well fall again in 2010. It was going down and we now expect that to continue. Things are much worse than in 2006."

Surplus of LNG Ships May Reduce Vessel Orders, Clarksons Says

(Bloomberg) -- Shipyards including Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. may see orders drying up for liquefied natural gas tankers because of a surplus of ships and low demand, a shipbroker said.

There may be no new orders for LNG vessels in the next couple of years, said Keith Bainbridge, managing director of the LNG division at London-based Clarksons Plc, the world’s largest ship broker. LNG tanker rentals in the spot market are still at about half of what charterers paid in winter 2007, according to Bainbridge & Drewry Maritime Services Ltd.

Britain Entices Power Trading as Brown Bemoans Oil

(Bloomberg) -- Britain, the only European power market to shrink in the past six years, wants hedge funds, banks and commodity firms to trade more electricity at a time when Prime Minister Gordon Brown seeks to quash oil speculation.

The U.K. energy market regulator, called Ofgem, is considering asking companies to post electricity prices to attract more participants such as Rampart Capital, a London- based hedge fund that plans to start trading U.K. power. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. will start an electricity auction on Sept. 28 in an attempt to make the market more transparent.

Chevron, Environmental Groups Halt Talks on California Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp., the largest refiner in California, and environmental groups halted talks on reviving a project to upgrade a plant near San Francisco that still uses steam boilers installed in the 1930s.

Beijing closing coal plants in environmental move

BEIJING – China has taken advantage of a drop in electricity demand due to the global financial crisis to speed up a campaign to close small coal-fired power plants and improve its battered environment, an official said Thursday.

Authorities have closed power plants with a total of 7,467 generating units, meeting a previously announced goal 18 months ahead of schedule, said Sun Qin, deputy administrator of the Cabinet's National Energy Administration.

Australian PM vows to create 50,000 'green' jobs

SYDNEY – Australia's prime minister promised Thursday to create 50,000 "green" jobs and apprenticeships to combat climate change and unemployment simultaneously.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has prioritized environmental legislation this year even as his government forecast that Australian unemployment would rise to 8.5 percent next year from the current 5.8 percent because of the global downturn.

Pakistan island sees light, puts wind-power to work

KHAROCHHAN, Pakistan (AFP) – A tiny island of fishermen is light years ahead of the rest of Pakistan, powering homes and businesses with wind turbines -- protecting the environment and improving the quality of life.

The government may lack the cash to harness hydro, wind and solar resources on a large scale in the electricity-starved country but charities are lighting the way forward by putting wind power to work in remote villages.

NJ to more than double solar power generation

NEWARK, N.J. – Regulators approved more than $515 million in projects Wednesday that will more than double the amount of solar power generated in New Jersey and will solidify the state's No. 2 spot behind California in power produced from the sun.

The state Board of Public Utilities gave the green light to proposals from four utilities that together will yield 145 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power about 130,000 homes, and will boost the state total to 232 megawatts.

EEStor Founder Dick Weir Confirms ESUs Presently Being Built, and Once Delivered to ZENN by the Fourth Quarter

EEStor Inc is a Texas based startup that has been working in stealth mode for years to develop a disruptive breakthrough battery technology which would be extremely useful in electric cars. The material they use is called Barium Titanate (composition modified) and has already been demonstrated to have extremely high permittivity, which means is can hold tremendous amounts of energy. Batteries made from this material would be several times lighter and less expensive than lithium-ion batteries, will not degrade over charge-discharge cycles, and could be recharged in minutes.

We recently heard from the CEO of ZENN Motors (ZNN.V) who is seeking to commercialize the ESU batteries for automotive use that the batteries were about to be publicly demonstrated for the first time, with proof they can hold energy at high voltage by September. ZENN is a 10 percent owner of EEStor, Inc.

White Roofs Catch on as Energy Cost Cutters

Relying on the centuries-old principle that white objects absorb less heat than dark ones, homeowners like the Waldreps are in the vanguard of a movement embracing “cool roofs” as one of the most affordable weapons against climate change.

Studies show that white roofs reduce air-conditioning costs by 20 percent or more in hot, sunny weather. Lower energy consumption also means fewer of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.

Health care, peak oil and climate change are linked

Municipalities are increasingly implicated in the health of their residents. Recently, the mayor of Bas-Caraquet even gave up her office so that a clinic could expand and offer space to a new doctor. While this is an example that speaks directly to the needs of rural communities, municipalities will also be involved in health care at more intricate and complex levels.

There are a number of inter-related factors leading to this involvement. The first is health care reform. A recently released document in the United States suggests health care reform is really about transportation reform. As Canadian provinces begin to face the mounting sustainability challenge, the effect of transportation on our health will become ever more apparent as well.

Does Population Growth Impact Climate Change?

No doubt human population growth is a major contributor to global warming, given that humans use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized lifestyles. More people means more demand for oil, gas, coal and other fuels mined or drilled from below the Earth’s surface that, when burned, spew enough carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere to trap warm air inside like a greenhouse.

Sub-Arctic timebomb: warming speeds CO2 release from soil

PARIS (AFP) – Climate change is speeding up the release of carbon dioxide from frigid peatlands in the sub-Arctic, fuelling a vicious circle of global warming, according to a study to be published Thursday.

An increase of just 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over current average temperatures would more than double the CO2 escaping from the peatlands.

Northern peatlands contain one-third of the planet's soil-bound organic carbon, the equivalent of half of all the CO2 in the atmosphere.

Quebec looks at 3 GW 14 TWh hydropower project


while building new 1.55 GW 8 TWh hydropower project


The 3 GW project involves capturing seasonal flood waters, pumping them over the divide between Northern & Southern watersheds and using mainly existing (but expanded) hydropower plants. At first glance it appears to be an ideal match with expanded wind generation.

When wind is in surplus, pump water over the divide. When wind is short release water as needed to augment existing flows.

Manitoba is hawking about 4.2 GW of new hydro (sold 800 MW to Wisconsin). Newfoundland is working on 3+ GW of new hydro.

Best Hopes for Canadian Hydro,


The 3,000 MW project won't get done. The idea comes from a right-wing think tank, the Institut économique de Montréal and was floated around in an op-ed piece in Montreal's Le Devoir (text in French), a couple weeks ago.

In a nutshell, the project involves a lot more than power. In his op-ed, Gingras advocates for the sale of water from northern rivers by diverting volumes of water a thousand kilometers south to the Saint Lawrence/Great-Lakes basin, through the Ottawa river, on the border between Quebec and Ontario. The extra waters would then be sold to thirsty Americans.

However, Hydro-Québec, the province's giant government-owned utility, is not stupid enough to engage in a stunt like that. Part of the 2002 "Paix des Braves" deal signed between Hydro, the Quebec government and the Crees in the matter of the Rupert river diversion (website in English) currently under construction (918 MW, 8.5 TWh/year, to be commissioned by 2011), was to leave the Nottaway and Broadback rivers alone.

We'll probably know a bit more in a few days, when Hydro-Québec releases its four-year Strategic plan, but in the short term, the utility has more than enough energy for the foreseeable future. Last month, it requested approval from the Québec Energy Board (Régie de l'énergie du Québec) to keep the Bécancour power plant closed for a third consecutive year. Bécancour, a 500 MW combined cycle power plant owned by TransCanada Energy was Quebec's largest GHG emission source in 2007 with 1.7 Mt CO2e. With the recent downturn in the economy, HQ is also stuck with "expensive" wind contracts, ranging from $0.065 to $0.08/kWh.

The other project on the table, the Romaine River (website in French) is currently under construction on the North Shore, in northeastern Quebec. The first units should be online by 2014 and should be completed by 2020. Hydro-Québec has stated that it is ready to sign long-term (20 years) contracts with New England utilities for the power.

If there is interest among regulars here, I could probably write something for the Oil Drum next month on the current electricity supply in demand situation in Quebec.

Thanks for the info, yes I would be interested in more. I think a lot of people have forgotten or are unaware that Hydro-Quebec does have the potential to ramp up the electricity supply to the rest of North America by a considerable amount.

I know, dams are bad for riverine environments. It is also the case that just about every single energy resource that we discuss here has some sort of negative environmental impact. Short of returning to paleolithic lifestyle, I doubt that we can get around that; some would no doubt see a forced return to such a lifestyle as desirable, but most would not. Thus, to be realistic, we will need to make some hard choices, and to accept the need to do some things that will have a negative impact. The choice isn't going to be between any impact and no impact, but rather between more or less impact.

Not just Quebec, a lot of potential in the rest of Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states;

Quebec and Labrador also have very good wind resources that would complement hydro .


I would be interested.



This would be an article of interest to many. Ask Nate what he thinks at "editors at theoildrum dot com".

Like most hydo projects, the is a development scam, and another of the rape and scrape wet dreams of the sociopath right.

Colorful language! But I honestly don't see how the political bent of the sociopath/developer is germane.

We don't need this DB to devolve into another political shouting match.

The American eagle couldn't fly without both a right wing and a left wing.

Point well taken. Greed isn't only the domain of the right, and I know some "progressive" communities where developers are tolerated, and even admired.
But, as Hightower pointed out- "The only thing in the center of the road are dead armadillos and yellow lines".
That is what is refreshing about the European Press, they state their political position and bias, and try to prove their points from that perspective.
The media in the US has a non committal stance, that spirals into relativism. "Some believe the Earth is round, some flat, we have a difference of opinion on the shape of the Earth. Now we will hear from the flat Earth people first, and give them equal access."

Right wing / left wing is beside the point. The point IS that the health of lotic and riparian ecosystems trumps any real or perceived human energy needs. LIFE itself depends on the integrity of freshwater ecosystems and hence their integrity is far more important than being able to run the electric train in one's basement or open cans by means of hydropower. Every dam ever constructed, ever river destroyed, has been an example of blatant environmental irresponsibility, regardless of the political orientation of the perpetrators and their apologists.

I rarely respond to you, but the following is blatantly false

LIFE itself depends on the integrity of freshwater ecosystems

The feedbacks between both land and ocean ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems (not the water itself, but the complex ecosystems) is quite limited.

Asian grass carp devastate the Mississippi River watershed ecosystem (*FAR* worse than any dam) and the result on land and ocean is ?

OTOH, what of dams on rivers devoid of more than microbial life due to glacial silt ?

Or the Old River diversion (which generates up to 290 MW) and has built two thriving ecosystems, the Atchafalaya Basin (roughly 20 miles wide and 150 miles long) and Atchafalya Delta ?


I rarely respond to you...

You say this every time you do respond to me. I'd just as soon you didn't respond but since you apparently can't resist, let me say this:

but the following is blatantly false

LIFE itself depends on the integrity of freshwater ecosystems

Prove your assertion, then. Sail out onto the Gulf and prove that your life doesn't depend on the integrity of freshwater ecosystems by sustaining yourself on sea water. Let's see how long you last.

Asian grass carp devastate the Mississippi River watershed ecosystem (*FAR* worse than any dam)...

Exotic invasive species are a huge problem I agree. It's been the mismanagement of the Mississippi watershed: topsoil erosion, eutrophication, damming, dredging & levee construction, etc., that's promoted the establishment and proliferation of Ctenopharyngodon & Hypophthalmichthys, et al. These invasive exotics are indeed thriving in your artificial Atchafalaya swamp, which is the cesspool of the American Midwest, while the native Polyodon declines towards extinction due to dams on the Mississippi precluding its spawning migration.

I'm reminded of what Greer calls the "Silent Running" fallacy. We can't exist without the biosphere to support us, any more than any other species can. But we still think of the environment as something valuable "because it's cute." Human aesthetics, that's all.

Supplying energy needs is important but not nearly as important as is protecting & nourishing the life support services that functioning ecosystems provide. Restoring the rivers to clean and free-flowing status, rebuilding bird and bat populations, etc., isn't about human aesthetics or some cuteness factor. These issues are about maintaining hydrological & biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity relatively intact, and supporting agriculture via pollination services and keeping insect populations in check, etc. The power provided by hydroelectric and wind generation isn't "clean;" it isn't worth the cost when bird, bat, fish & aquatic invertebrate populations are decimated thereby. There are very few free-flowing rivers remaining, native freshwater mollusk populations have collapsed, many neotropical migratory songbird populations are in precipitous decline, bat populations are under stress from disease and habitat loss... These issues are far more pressing than is the provision of ever more electricity generation capacity - electric train fetishes notwithstanding - especially when conservation could readily lead to greatly reduced demand. The short-sightedness and lack of biological & ecological awareness on the part of seemingly otherwise intelligent people never ceases to amaze me. This narrow-mindedness on the part of special interest advocates is a contributing factor to my expectation of accelerating environmental degradation leading to the more-or-less imminent extinction of the ecocidal ape. Such monumental stupidity as the human species displays is bound to prove suicidal.

Without an environment, of course no life is possible. On the other hand, drawing down the environment and its energy sources provides short-term leverage in competition. You should know this?

For example, Europeans deforested Europe, and used the wood to build ships and smelt metals for weapons. These were crucial* in replacing native American populations with Europeans. This was "wrong" both morally and environmentally, but what's done was done, and the fact is that a less-sustainable group got to pass its genes forward.

This is The Prisoner's Dilemma in action. It can be difficult to understand and discuss socially, because it's amoral:

In the classic form of this game, cooperating is strictly dominated by defecting, so that the only possible equilibrium for the game is for all players to defect. No matter what the other player does, one player will always gain a greater payoff by playing defect. Since in any situation playing defect is more beneficial than cooperating, all rational players will play defect, all things being equal.

*smallpox more so

There is a continuum from the highest to the lowest priorities. I just illustrated the two extremes.

Opposition to the Cape Wind project centering around human aesthetics for example.

We run the "run-of-river" Niagara hydropower plants full blast all night but throttle them back during the day (more so in peak tourist season) for aesthetic (and economic i.e. tourist) reasons.

Functional extinction is one of my "Big 3" top priorities.

I say functional by looking at the whooping crane. It seems unlikely (to me) that there will ever be enough whooping cranes to meaningfully interact with the rest of the environment, except perhaps a few sq miles around Port Aransas (unsure about northern site in Canada). From an environmental POV, the whooping crane is extinct.

The decline of songbirds is a more profound impact even if none go officially extinct.

However, there are quite limited interactions between riverine ecosystems and land ecosystems (there is some, i.e. Grizzlies leave salmon leftovers by riversides, and their own droppings, which fertilize some trees).

The Mississippi River (with tributaries) ecosystem has been destroyed, with the Asian grass carp the largest single cause. The impact on land ecosystems is ... ?

These are some of the issues.



I hope you can expand this idea into a book.I will want my copy autographed.

Some of the guys like DD and Trekker seem sort of out of sorts tonight,do they not?

Your posts to are among the best reasoned and best balanced to be found here,which seems to be the best energy site around.

Personally I doubt that more than one in a hundred of the environmental "purists" are willing to give up thier internet,running water,treated sewage,refrigerators,supermarkets,or even thier ac or thier automobiles. DD and Trekker excepted of course!

Perhaps they should,as a group,stop and think about the amount of ammo they provide free of charge to thier worst ememies-guys like Rush Limbaugh,who has a staff guy who does nothing but hunt up comments like the ones about stoneing little kids and uses them to make a joke of the environmental movement.

I find it entertaining in the extreme and occasionally informative to tune him in on the car radio.He hasn't latched onto anything I recognize as lifted from the Oil Drum yet,but he probably will if these kind of comments keep coming.

And yes,I do recognize the the "stone the kids"comment as sarcasm,but that doesn't matter to those who want to ridicule and distort rather than communicate honestly.Context is the first thing to go.

We either do something to keep the lights on,or we start killing each other in the streets and I put my survival plan into effect.I have never yet had to kill anybody,but if the lights go out,I expect that I will,and within a month at the longest.

Sometimes I doubt the level of understanding of posters who oppose something as reasonable as the hydro projects under discussion.Maybe they would rather the ac and the special bed that keep my Mom alive stop running,or maybe they would rather we build a few more coal plants and chop the tops off a few more mountians,or invade a couple more countries with some oil still in the ground.

In the end,given the mess we are in,short term choices of this nature are really the only choices we have.Nothing that can be done in the short term can change the fact that we crash,hard,without the power.It's got to come from somewhere.

I am as aware of the environmental mess as any well informed layman can be,and I realize that we really need to get to work yesterday on some really effective conservation and renewables initiatives,but I also recognize the herd of six point seven billion for what it is-a giant crowd of naked apes armed with everything from baseball bats to the bomb.

Poke one of them in the eye with a stick and the whole lot may go stark raving mad.

So which is it,guys?Are you just blowing off a little steam,like me,or do you really mean it?;-)

Yes, we should all constantly self-sensor for fear of being misquoted or quoted out of context by the rabid right. Live constantly in fear at all times. Great advise. I'm sure Limbaugh and co. never make stuff up out of thin air. They are always fair and balanced.


Of COURSE they make things up out if thin air occasionally but they are also smart enough to mix in a LITTLE truth when it is handy,as that is well known to be the most effective form of lying.

But your point is well taken.

I'm just trying ,after my own clumsy fashion,to get the flamethrowers to see that thier solutions have approximately zero chances of being adopted in the real three dimensional world we inhabit.

And putting yourself on record saying things like that can marginalize the whole movement towards sustainability if that remark becomes someones first impression of the the Oil Drum.

I just spent two hours a few days ago talking to a college educated cop and his college educated programmer/administrator wife(touristy types looking for a bargain in a vacation home in the mountians) who when I met them had not a clue ,energy wise.Niether one of them
had even heard of peak oil yet!

Now these are intelligent people who do what just about everybody does -which is imitate the behavior of thier role models.These folks are just naturally assume that if there is a real problem,the lawyers and judges and teachers and nurses they associate with-SOMEBODY- will be onto the problem -in the same way this woman is onto a computer glitch or the guy is onto a crook selling nice stuff too cheap at a flea market.

If thier community peers/role models are not aware of a problem,they are strongly inclined to believe the problem just does not really exist.

So if they do click on this site,as I encouraged them to do,and the tone of the first ten comments are such that they take us for nuts,they may just click away and never give it another thought.

Of course the truth of the matter is that I am myself guilty of the same offense from time to time.;-)

Good points. One great thing about this site is how much solid material and thoughtful analysis there is here. There are many other places on the web that have devolved into flames and totally inane and ignorant blather. The most extreme and widespread of these seem to be on the far right. They seem to feel no need to self sensor for fear of being misrepresented or taken out of context.

The place your college grad acquaintances would have heard anything about energy issues in college would likely be in an economics class. And of course that ideology-parading-as-a-science teaches that there can never ever be a shortage of anything for more than a very short time, since the magic of the perfectly free market will always solve all problems perfectly for everyone.

And when one looks at the Columbia, Snake, and Colorado (to name a few), tears come to my eyes.
We are a ignorant species, soon to be realizing the consequences of unskillful actions.

Yep, any day now... consequences, doom etcetera.

Any day now.

We're already seeing the consequences, D.

The Colorado rarely reaches to the Pacific anymore. (Ever? Is it still seasonal?)
Maine Freshwater Fish are laced with Mercury from Midwest Coal Power.

Go ahead and smirk.. we've already got desertification and birth-defects because of these choices.

I'll smirk till you and I both die of old age in an even wealthier world.

Cesspool of the Midwest?

Its my understanding that a few miscreant farmers in Texas were stocking virile carp of the Asian species and flooding released them into our waterways.

Around here almost all fishing for sport or otherwise had about ceased.

The cesspool of texas perhaps?

I have no documented proof of this but it is what game wardens and fish and wilflife folks have stated. Could be wrong but I suspect mostly correct.

Yes I will agree with your cesspool statement but the flows come from far more than just the Midwest since from the Smokies to the Rockies the watershed exists to feed the Mississippi. A lot of trash comes down the Ohio..as well as that ugly Missouri which I have boated on and lived right next to many years ago.


The feedbacks between both land and ocean ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems (not the water itself, but the complex ecosystems) is quite limited.

There's gaps in our knowledge, of course.

That statement was so profoundly stupid that I didn't even bother responding to it.

Fluvial processes structure the watershed, which in turn feeds nutrients into lotic ecosystems from which they cycle back & forth between the aquatic & terrestrial milieus, delaying their ultimate return to the sediments of the deep ocean. Interactions & feedbacks are profound. To say that they are "quite limited" is the height of ignorance of even rudimentary natural history. But, then, consider the statement's source...

I don't have an in depth knowledge of ecology, but The Everglades and the Mississippi Delta popped in my head as a couple of examples where the land and water ecosystems are intimately intertwined. Building New Orleans where it is and draining much of The Everglades both were horrible ideas, I suppose the collateral damage was deemed to be inconsequential at the time.

Oh, please. Expecting every petty detail of a planet with seven billion people on it to be exactly the same as it used to be when there were zero seems like the utmost in fatuousness.

Can this possibly be true?:

“National New Home Sales, on a monthly basis, don’t even add up to half of the total foreclosure activity in California alone in a single month.”

-Mark M Hanson

I originally saw this quote in Chris Martenson's Daily Digest for July 29. Martenson is not known for hyperbole but I checked his original source anyway. It was Real Estate Quote of the Day but this link gave only the quote, no details.

Ron P.

I pulled up the Census Bureau's latest figures, and new home sales for June 2009 are listed at 384K, up 38K from May 2009 and down 104K from June 2008.

I'm not sure where to grab the foreclosure information, but there's the target number.

Edit: Wait, might only have been 36K

From the report: "1Seasonally adjusted houses sold are published at annual rates. 2Ratio of houses for sale to houses sold. 3Average RSE for the latest 6-month period."

The seasonally adjusted # is 384K, the non-seasonally adjusted number shows 36K, up from 33K in May down from 45K June 2008

Blasted statistics and footnotes....

Well I googled Mark M Hanson and found this. It is the most interesting mortgage blog I believe I ever read.
Mark’s Blog – Mr Mortgage Live

ONE in FIVE properties in FL and NV are in some stage of foreclosure. Now that is what you call supply.

Edit: The quote: “National New Home Sales, on a monthly basis, don’t even add up to half of the total foreclosure activity in California alone in a single month.” has to be a misquote. I could not find the quote anywhere on his web site and the charts on his site, of which there are many, do not indicate anything even close to that quote. Some of the charts are alarming however. One shows foreclosure related sales well over half total sales. The chart goes back to September 2005 when, eyeballing the chart, they look to be about one or two percent.

Ron P.

Still haven't found an original source, and foreclosure numbers are squishier than Saudi reserve estimates, but the best numbers I have found (linked from http://forums.redfin.com/rf/board/message?board.id=BayArea&message.id=7764) are:
45.6K New Notices of Default
29.8K New Notices of Trustee Sale (auction announcements)
22.2K Auctions
2.6K Sales to Third party bidders (Yes, just over 1/10th of the auctions actually resulted in a sale)
113.1K Total Notices of Trustee Sale unresolved.

Take these numbers how you will, I could spin them to show anything I wanted to.

Edit: These are CA numbers only, not National.

Who's numbers can be trusted at this point? I haven't seen any information in the public realm that has had any relationship to what is happening down here at ground level in a very long time and I think that much of it is being deliberately obfuscated or perhaps even outright lies.

The various Notices and information related to changes of ownership have to be filed publicly with the state and/or county, so those numbers should be pretty concrete.

What they actually mean is a matter for debate. I think we all can see how the banks can control those numbers.

Some more interesting numbers concerning the housing market.
From Karl Denninger

There are about ~13-15 million homes that are underwater in this country - that is, the mortgage outstanding exceeds the current market value.

The math takes a bit to derive but this is the best guess I've got given the data available in the various MSAs, the decline in Case-Schiller, bubble pricing the new and existing home sales from 2003 to present.

The average home that is underwater is at helium depth to the tune of about $75,000. Some much more ($300,000) and some significantly less (e.g. $20,000.)

Now let's modify them all so they're no longer underwater! That is, simply forgive principal down to current market value.

Ok: That's 975 billion dollars, or damn close to a trillion.

If those figures are anywhere near accurate the banks are in deep doo doo.

Doesn't look right:

La Jolla, CA.--The number of foreclosure proceedings started against California homeowners fell slightly in the April-through-June period compared with the prior three months, but remained higher than last year...

...Lenders sent out a total of 124,562 default notices during the second quarter (April through June). That was down 8.0 percent from the prior quarter's record 135,431 default notices, and up 2.4 percent from 121,673 in second quarter 2008, according to MDA DataQuick.


Edit: May be it is right then if r4's edited post above is now correct.

According to this story, on an annualized basis, new home sales for June ("better than forecast") were 384,000 on an annualized basis.

This story says home foreclosures to date this year were 1.5 million through the end of June, and are expected by RealtyTrac to be 3.0 to 3.2 million for the year. This would equate to 250,000 foreclosures per month, on a national level.

So the figures quoted don't seem to work, even on a national level. There are too many new homes, relative to foreclosures.

Since the "corrected" number is almost exactly 12 times the non-seasonally-corrected number and it is in addition "annualized", I suspect that the real # is 36K. This is borne out by table 2 which breaks down sales by price and uses the 36K number as the total. http://www.census.gov/const/newressales.xls

This would mean that Sacramento County alone covered around an eighth of the national total.

Also - with no substantiation other than numerous blog post references (Karl Denninger comes to mind) - there is some number of homes that banks have not and may not even start foreclosure even though they owner is waaaay behind in payments and may have - in a lot of cases - abandoned the property.

As I understand it - banks are reluctant to foreclose and even renegotiate ebcuse it means they have to recognize some loss. Can't be messing with their mark-to-fantasy now.


I think you are correct that this secret game of chicken is taking place. I don't have any researched numbers but I know several people in the business and that is what they have told me.

A useful housing blog (especially for california) is dr bubble housing blog which basically has taught me that the banks are in deep sh*t with homes in forclosure that they are hiding.

banks are reluctant to foreclose and even renegotiate ebcuse it means they have to recognize some loss.

And so they enter in the state of purgatory currently termed a "non-producing asset".

Look at this report - 1 of every 22 homes in Phoenix is in foreclosure! And that is a 50% increase from 2008.


Advocacy for river damning & climate change denial all within the first few posts. Intellectual quality of TOD is well past peak.

Well I would not go that far, but I agree it is discourging. And I am really shocked by Alan's advocacy for more dams.

Ron P.

I am working on an "Environmental Hierarchy of Priorities" paper (not easy) that mimics Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs".

At the top are dealing with multi-century global impacts. Three (any suggestions for more ?) make the list.

GW/Climate Change
Over Consumption & Over Population
Species Extinction

At the bottom is Human Aesthetics

The larger Quebec project will use only seasonal flood waters and uses largely existing dams.

The smaller one has one run-of-river project and 3 dams.

Hydro is well built to balance wind. The ratios are uncertain, but 1 MW of storage hydro should be able to balance about 8 MW (nameplate) of wind for a renewable replacement for FF at wind penetrations up to ~1/3rd. Above that, perhaps a trend down to 1:6 and 1:4.

So 22 TWh of annual renewable energy "by itself" is a notable positive for GW. In a well past Peak Oil world, where energy for new infrastructure will have to come from reduced consumption, an extra 22 TWh/year "on demand" will be good.

Add to that the extra wind that this 4.5 GW makes viable, and the GW impact grows.

These projects (without a detailed review) will have minimal impact on human activities and the EIS seems to show minimal impacts on other species.

Hudson Bay will have very slightly higher salinity, the Gulf of St. Lawrence very slightly lower salinity, but the ecosystems there are evolved for varying salinity (Note: Eastern Canada is expected to get more rain due to GW, so salinity will be impacted regardless).

Best Hopes for Environmental Priorities,


Hydro is well built to balance wind. The ratios are uncertain, but 1 MW of storage hydro should be able to balance about 8 MW (nameplate) of wind for a renewable replacement for FF at wind penetrations up to ~1/3rd. Above that, perhaps a trend down to 1:6 and 1:4.

Hydro-Québec is much more conservative than that in its assessment (so far). Their current thinking is along the lines of 1 MW wind (nameplate) for 10 MW hydro and they fully derate the wind power, since they can't count on it during peak periods. The Quebec system is strongly winter-peaking, because of the tremendous load required by electric home and commercial heating (14,000 MW on 37,220 MW).

One could argue that wind is not the solution there. Retrofitting the current housing stock to use geothermal heat pumps and district heating schemes (using forest biomass, which is abundant) would do a much better job at alleviating the capacity problem in Quebec.

Stereotypically, wind is strongest in the winter (see Ontario).

Hydro that is not "run-of-the-river" can shift production by hours (to meet daily peak), days (to cover weekday vs. weekend delta) and even months in many cases.

If wind blows strongly "at the wrong time" (say +4 C in Montreal at 3 AM), hydro can be cut back then for when it is needed more (-30 C at 6 PM) next week.

Quebec can even use wind/hydro for limited seasonal shifting of wind. (Use spring winds for summer air conditioning).

IMHO, Quebec can become a major electricity exporter (they already export electricity via aluminum) as well as some sales to New England and New York. Wind can be a profitable source of additional sales.

My guess is that HydroQuebec simply does not like wind.

Best Hopes for combining wind & hydro (and geothermal),


Interesting that you put aesthetics last. You could say that it all comes down to aesthetics.

If someone found the prospect of a world devoid of most complex life forms to be aesthetically pleasing, that would have a radical effect on how that person evaluated all the other criteria in the list.

Perhaps this is the point at which aesthetics and ethics meet?

As I recall, in Aldo Leopold's influential "Land Ethic" he talks about the beauty as well as the integrity of a place as being the basis for his ethic.

I think there is an innate basis for what we humans consider aesthetically pleasing which would always prefer lush, green and abundant with life.
It has to be a selected trait for survival.

Food rich environment.

Of course it's relaxing.

Tell that to the people who prefer to live in Southern Arizona.

Yes, some import selected bits of green, but walls, cacti and gravel are how many homes are landscaped, with miles of pavement outside the walls.


Why don't more people want to live in desert areas?

And of those who do live in Phoenix or Tuscon, why are there so many watered lawns?

I could certainly stand to live there myself, yet I live with Winter in the upper Midwest.

Exactly......watered lawns.


You are probably even more right thanm you think.

When psychologists show poeple various landscape pictures that are large and detailed and ask them to select the one that rings thier chimes the hardest,it's most often a savannah landscape with lots of open space and grass,trees,water,and birds and grazing animals.

Hardly any of the subjects have ever actually seen such a landscape of course.

But it's accepted as a fact that lots of thier ancestors-all of them for several thousand years at least as a matter of fact- saw such landscapes on a daily basis.

There may not be such a thing as "racial memory" but I think the evidence is good for "species memory".

It would be interesting to try this experiment on say a few dozen descendants of the Mongols who lived thousands of years on the steppes of Eurasia and see if they respond positively to steppes landscapes.

It is either instinct or Carl Jung's collective unconscious......you draw the line.

Using Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, food and water are more important than aesthetics.

Climate Change, widespread functional species/genus extinction and over consumption & over population will cause many billions of future humans to be short of food and water.

Mercury related birth defects and developmental issue are also more significant than aesthetics (IMO).


I guess it partly depends on your definition of aesthetics. The proverbial starving artist is presumably putting aesthetics above food.

People who see a totally technologized future assume (wrongly, I would contend) that other forms of life are not necessary for the thriving of human life, since supposedly endless nuke power and the wonders of chemistry can supply all our needs. This vision to them is deeply aesthetically appealing.

I disagree with them that this is physically possible, but my deeper opposition, when I try to articulate it, turns out to sound more like an aesthetic argument (and perhaps a spiritual one). A life devoid of other life forms than human, even if it were technically feasible, is not one I could ever see as desirable. Maybe this is biophilia or a sense of the sacredness of life, or maybe some other term applies, but I think it is arguably in the realm of the aesthetic.

Again, one of the most powerful ways that the horrors of mercury-related birth defects were brought to the public's attention was through the stunning photography of W.E.Smith:

I think folks (especially men?) coming from a technical background often have created a self definition essentially in opposition to what they see as frivolous, "artsy-fartsy" aesthetics. It took me a while and discussions with wise artists to see that aesthetics can be seen as more basic to all our value systems than I had considered. But it took me many years to come to appreciate this position so I don't really expect to convince anyone in a few minutes here, and I am probably not doing a very good job of presenting the point.

I generally agree with all your points, but invite you to think about why you feel a need to place aesthetics at the bottom of your list. As oldfarmermac and others suggest, perhaps if more people really took their preferred aesthetics more seriously, we wouldn't have quite so degraded an ecosystem.

No kidding. Things have been getting really weird here lately. I think it might be time to move on.

There has been a rash of people swooping in, posting incendiary nonsense (complete with name-calling), and then whining about "free speech" when you respond. Trolls, in other words.

Too bad.

Please use your "flag as inappropriate" tag, as soon as you see this.

There are going to be people with views on both sides of a huge number of issues. You may think that some issues are 100% decided, but it is not clear that they are. Once we think we have all of the answers, we close off our ability to get more information on a subject.

We need people to be civil and discuss issues in a rational way. Your comment above indicates an unwillingness to do this.

Gail, we need to discuss issues in an effective way, and effective is not always civil and/or rational. At least dd is trying to participate in the debate.

DD's post indicates an unwillingness to participate in something that repeats the mistakes of the past, and I agree with his position. He's braver than I am, for sure, as there are numerous times when I scan the comments to find more than 90% of them way off base or to be inherently destructive. I've tried many times interjecting rational, thought-out commentary to where things go wrong, and nothing changes.

And let's face it, how many years have gone by since issues like peak oil and climate chaos have surfaced at all into the public consciousness? And how urgent are the issues? And how much time is left?

And what of any substance or significance has been done?

DD didn't use any harsh language, nor was he patently rude. Even so, offense is nowhere near as painful as ignorance.

I agree. And there is no time left, and nothing of any substance or significance has been or will be done. I started posting here again of late I guess because there's some comfort in talking about this stuff, but I'm under no illusions that is will result in actions of substance or significance.

"Advocacy for river damning & climate change denial all within the first few posts"

And then go and read RRs post on N-gas in North America... and notice the interest in burning the last of our natural gas to fuel our cars another decade or two... (who cares what the kids need when they're hitting middle age -slapback-ha-ha-ha).

I think the intellecual quality on TOD is top notch, but I am very surprised at how quick our little community is to grasp at straws that might allow them to drive cars an extra ten years.

I think I am going to go and do another two shots and come back to finish reading later...

you can't drink at your computer?

I'm not suppossed to drink alone.

That's sort of the code for membership in the garage/cave society of my neighborhood (males mostly).

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it,has there been any sound?

(If you are dead,and your friends and acquaintances are dead,if I'm dead,nature could care less and will get busy restocking the biosphere,which may possibly stop functioning in a way that suits US but it's NOT going to grind to a halt until the sun heats this old planet up to a temperature of at least 100 C from pole to pole and to a depth of at least a mile.)

Do you really think,within the context of every day reality,that we can implement any plan that involves an abrupt and unpleasant change in the way we live?

I don't believe that there is the proverbial snowballs chance on a redhot stove that such a change is possible-unless some sort of really terrifying black swan event convinces every body that there is absolutely no choice in the matter.

Tens of millions of peoples lives,billions of peoples lives,are at stake and depend on the continuation of bau.

We have no real choice but to make the worst of a bad situation and select as best we can the least damaging sources of power available.

My guess is that within twenty five years(most likely I will be gone but maybe not)every kilowatt hour of hydro will be as precious as gold.

I still think we can avoid the power down, end of life as we know it scenario but imo it will be close and times are going to be very hard.

Despite the claims of those who believe in permanent deflation,the real price of ff energy is likely to go thru the roof simply due to the cliff on the backside of the Hubbert curve if for no other reason.And incidentally ,most of them actually agree that the "real"price will be vry high,in relation to todays prices.

Our only real hope is to gradually change our ways,as fast as we can of course,within the realm of the politically possible,and hope that that is fast enough.

Ten more years of bau means ten more years of built wind,geo,solar,research,etc,that won't happen if the economy does not continue to lurch along in a fashion at least somewhat similar to the past few decades-minus most or all of the growth maybe,but not continiously declining.

I might make it,for a while,due to my lucky background and circumstances, in a powered down world but MOST of all the people I have ever met would be dead in pretty short order.

I 'd rather not think about that as long as I can see some hope of it not happening.

unless some sort of really terrifying black swan event convinces every body that there is absolutely no choice in the matter.

Black swans are hereby guaranteed by me. They will, however, actually be Grey Swans, for the general trends of things have been predicted.

And we can do something. I am. Others are. More will. Enough? Probably not. But as people are wont to say, there sure as hell ain't gonna be no solutions if people stick to their self-fulfilling prophecies of wankerism.

suigenocidist: Can't be done!
suigenocidist 2: Then let's not try!
Activist: What? Not even try? Ain't that the very definition of cowardice? This is not yet a done deal. The worst CAN be averted, so there is an ethical and moral imperative to at least try.
suigenocidists: Idealist.
Activist: Yup.


Interesting post Was Moore's Law Inevitable? by Kevin Kelly. An excerpt:

I gathered as many examples of current exponential progress as I could find. . .

Doubling Times of Various Technological Performance in Months

The first thing to notice is that all these examples demonstrate the effects of scaling down, or working with the small. In this microcosmic realm energy is not very important. We don't see exponential improvement in efforts to scale up, to keep getting bigger, skyscrapers and space stations. Airplanes aren't getting bigger, flying faster, and more fuel efficient at an exponential rate. Gordon Moore jokes that if the technology of air travel experienced the same kind of progress as Intel chips, a modern day commercial aircraft would cost $500, circle the earth in 20 minutes, and only use five gallons of fuel for the trip. However, the plane would only be the size of a shoebox!

We don't see a Moore's Law-type of progress at work while scaling up because energy needs scale up just as fast, and energy is a major limited constraint, unlike information. So our entire new economy is built around technologies that scale down well -- photons, electrons, bits, pixels, frequencies, and genes. As these inventions miniaturize, they reach closer to bare atoms, raw bits, and the essence of matter and information. And so the fixed and inevitable path of their progress derives from this elemental essence.

The whole post is worth reading.

That is a very good article. The author observes that Moore's Law only applies to technologies that don't involve a lot of energy. The commercial air industry has hardly advanced at all in almost half a century, and virtually not at all since the jumbo jets came on line. Fuel efficiency has gotten slightly better and that is about all they can point to.

However as the article pointed out, Moore's Law is not a law at all. In fact it is an observation. It should be called "Moore's Observation". Also, sooner or later it will be observed that things are not advancing much more at all. That is because of a tiny little physical fact called "limits." Just as the airline industry has reached its limits, and to a large extent the automobile industry as well, the microprocessor will one day reach its limits.

We do not live in a limitless world.

Ron P.

"The author observes that Moore's Law only applies to technologies that don't involve a lot of energy."

I think that interpretation has to be massaged a bit more, Ron. I think that we do and will see many energy benefits from the miniaturization of microprocessors, memory and other electronics, but that industry has depended on prodigious amounts of energy and capital to get where it did.

I think Moore and Murphy are going to be facing off in the ring, soon determining what part of these tasty electronic treats we'll have to backtrack on because of the complexity, the energy required and the heretofore robust markets that were able to buy and support such product lines.

Moore's Observation really depends upon the fact that the space required to move binary digits into and out of storage areas can vary radically, depending on the tools we have to forge their paths and gates. As long as signal accuracy is maintained, it doesn't matter much at all whether these bits and bytes are travelling through 12gauge Copper Romex, or across a couple nanometers of some far more exotic conductor. Most other technologies don't have the luxury of such extreme shrinkability.

Energy? Don't involve energy?

June 16, 2009
The monster footprint of digital technology

The power consumption of our high-tech machines and devices is hugely underestimated.

When we talk about energy consumption, all attention goes to the electricity use of a device or a machine while in operation. A 30 watt laptop is considered more energy efficient than a 300 watt refrigerator. This may sound logical, but this kind of comparisons does not make much sense if you don't also consider the energy that was required to manufacture the devices you compare. This is especially true for high-tech products, which are produced by means of extremely material- and energy-intensive manufacturing processes. How much energy do our high-tech gadgets really consume?


I don't see mousetraps on the list.

The actual clock speeds of CPUs (The 'hrtz' above) has flattened in the last few years, because doubling the clock speed every 36 months would have lead to CPUs as hot as the surface of the sun by 2015.

This article from way back in Feb 2001 explores why in 2009 we have quad core CPUs rather than a single core running 4 times as fast.


Remember, it's not doubling the speed it's doubling the transister count on the same sized die (gotten by die size N divided by the square root of 2).

Right now Intel is using a 45 nanometer process (some other have dropper to 40nm), by 2010 it will be 32nm. And IBM is already working with numbers in the 20's (28 iirc), but that's not until 2011.

Kinda puts the lie to the claim that minaturized devices don't have to care about energy . . . . Ok, maybe they don't take a lot to run, but at that scale, supply isn't the problem, it's dissipation that's hard.

I've been wondering when "Moore's Law" will be driven to a halt by the economic reality that "We don't need any more speed or memory"

When we reach a point where the biggest "bottleneck" is the computer to user interface, speed increases are no longer necessary. Screen resolutions and refresh rates are exceeding the capacity of our eyes to detect, for example.

At some point, we have to say STOP! Once the speed and memory of computers reaches a level of "enough", it is time to focus future improvements to reliability, longevity, energy efficiency, and compactness.

That's an interesting point and we observe devices like 'Netbooks' emerging that offer adequate performance for a lower price...

I think it is human nature to desire the fastest, smallest, most extreme of things within the limits of what we are prepared to pay. "Crossing the Chasm" is about taking a niche desire and making it mainstream -a subtle interplay of desire, cost reduction and need perhaps.

I think we have only just scratched the surface of future Needs within an energy constrained world and this is one reason why I am more optimistic about the future than I was a couple of years ago when I first investigated "Peak Oil"...


Part of the driver has been this spiraling "arms race" between computer power and application size. With each new generation of chip produced, a certain company up the west coast develops "New and improved!" software that are ever more bloated and take ever more computer power to run.

The long march of linux and open source apps is the one thing that has the potential to eventually break this cycle. The emphasis on this is on perfecting a suite of essential applications with basic functionality, rather than adding new buggy features on top of old buggy features. The latter is driven by the classic "planned obsolescence" paradigm of corporate capitalism; they need to continuously generate new sales, so they render the old versions obsolete. In contrast, once you are set up with a suite of open source software, you need only download occasional updates as the user community continuously debugs and perfects the software.

The thing that will really change the dynamic is long-term economic stagnation and contraction. People will not be able to afford for their software or computers to become obsolete; they will want things to last as long as possible so that they don't need to come up with the funds for replacement. This will tend to drive people toward the stability of the linux platform and the open source programs that are out there, and be the death knell for the big software publishers. This, in turn, will eliminate the demand for continuously more powerful computers. The emphasis will shift to durability (which means repairability) and efficiency of operation, especially wrt energy consumption.

I noted that the next version of Apple's OS X will not any significant new functionality, but will be designed to run more efficiently (and I suspect smaller).

I suspect that serious rewrite (do it right this time).


Reading your comments on an old 550MHz Dell laptop with 512MB of RAM and a 1400x1050 display, running Kubuntu 8. It's one of several machines I have of similar vintage, all of which would be in a landfill by now otherwise. They work just fine for everything but the high-end CAD programs I must use for work and my son's games.

I run Climate Predication with BIONC with my wasted CPU power. Running various variations of climate models.

Newest version uses graphics card (NDVIA ?) if installed instead of CPU and is supposed to run x3 times faster.

Something useful with excess computing power.


29 projects to choose from (I devote a minority of my BIONC time to SETI, the search for intelligent life).

Best Hopes for Good Uses of CPU cycles,


Me too -- BOINC and ClimatePrediction.net are great!

As a Debian user, and Linux workstation user since 1999 at home, it has been heartening to see Open Office, Mozilla (Ice Weasel in Debian), and Gimp all receiving slow but steady adoption, as they have binaries/source code out for many platforms.

I am hopeful, but so far, Linux/OS X use is quite the minority of user base that I am aware of.

In terms of energy use, and computational power needed, I think most users that mostly use web browsers and email clients: not much CPU or RAM is needed.

It seems that a justifiable(?) driver of more computational power from the mainstream are from those that love computationally complex games, with fancy animation. For that, not only does one need computational power, and RAM, but high power graphics cards too.

"What Intel giveth,Microsoft taketh away."

But you must admit that even though old Bill's stuff is expensive and balky and contrary as a mule it works,and nearly all the time too,except when it doesn't.

Until somebody can convince school boards and community colleges to start teaching Linux as the first grade course,we are stuck with old Bill,cause the world can't afford to quit using his stuff long enough to learn another system.

Russia and Cuba drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba -

If they tap into the big one, they will suck all of the oil out from under Florida's coast. The US is missing another opportunity to drill for offshore oil, while the Russians and others are moving ahead fast. This is no time for congress to keep debating about the "environmental impacts" of drilling for oil.

Next, Russia will drill near Alaska for oil. Then China will drill off the California coast. If we don't do it, then they will beat us to it. Our congress is a bunch of wimps........

I've a plan to use Cuban expatriates as a military force to retake the island from the Marxist revolutionaries. Then we can get all the oil we need (well, enough for a few more months of senseless consumption). Email me directly for more info: jfkennedy@us.gov

Usually - all other things being equal - an offshore rig costs more than a land-based rig. Offshore (horizontal) drilling with land-based rigs works well if the crew is experienced and the correct drill bits are used.

Why is this slant (lobbying) for off-shore drilling appearring all of a sudden? Seems to go beyond technical necessity.

Regarding New Jersey's bid for solar, linked above:


NJ is taking a wholesale approach to solar with this program. Meanwhile, the Colorado utility Xcel is running into the cross-subsidy issue with pv 'net metering' under its program:


As solar pv at the retail level penetrates Xcel's system, non-pv customers are faced with an increased share of embedded system costs. As a conventionally-regulated utility, Xcel has to resort to fees on pv customers to share costs more equitably. These are some of the bumps along the road to a renewable energy future....

Just heard on CNBC. Originally most mortgage defaults were due to those sup-prime teaser rates. (They expired then people’s mortgage rates ballooned.) Then they were due to unemployment and the bottoming of home prices and people voluntarily walking away. Now 72% of foreclosures are due to unemployment.

The genus Larry Kudlow had the perfect answer: “Let them rent."

The Call of the Wild: Do we need a new loan program?

Ron P.

All the coke Kudlow did must have fried his undersized brain. CNBC is one of the circuses in the "Bread and Circuses" .

I've heard of programs like that (and some may be doing it - I believe in Detroit) - where you foreclose and then rent.

But yeah, if the problem is job losses, then you are moving anyway (unless you can get some really cheap rent on your old house).

Of course, hypothetically, if people had been obliged to rent their actual living quarters, they would have seen them as what they are - something quite costly. Instead, they saw their quarters as a magical ticket to effortless riches - they could cash in even while living there, as long as some went on selling back and forth to each other at ever-escalating prices. So it was that we got needlessly deep into the fixes we're in, but it was politically irresistible.

Without strong perverse government-enforced incentives to live in far more house than one needs or perhaps even wants, fuel consumption (including oil for transportation to and from the back of beyond, as well as coal and gas to heat and cool vast unused spaces) would have been substantially lower. Many related physical and financial problems would now be less severe. But there wouldn't have been a highly visible, highly popular, 'democratizing', seemingly free ride.

Far be it from consumers to question anything that looks like manna from heaven. Citizens might have, but we're more or less out of them.

Why yes, Kudlow is a genus unto himself ;-)
Can we name it (homus lie-for-bankersous is my pitiful attempt.)

CNBC Viewership Down 28

The bloodbath at GE's propaganda station has reached critical levels: according to Nielsen, CNBC has lost 28% of viewers year over year, and 24% in the 25-54 age group category.


Larry Kudlow will be hawking Preparation-H on info-commercials starting next spring.

Coal usage is declining with the low price of natural gas and as electricity usage declines. Once-Hot Coal Piles Up as Demand Cools.

A new analysis says the coal sector will have to cut production 50 million tons this year, on top of even steeper cuts earlier in the year, to get supply in line with demand. . .

But with the recession, steel production is down and utilities are seeing less demand and increasingly relying on cheaper and cleaner natural gas. Both utilities and steelmakers are postponing coal deliveries and driving down prices.

According to EIA's Electric Power Monthly,

Year-to-date, total net [electricity] generation was down 4.7 percent from 2008 levels. Net generation attributable to coal-fired plants was down 12.2 percent. Nuclear generation was up by 2.3 percent. Generation from petroleum liquids was up by 10.9 percent, while natural gas-fired generation was up by 0.4 percent year-to-date. The 34.8-percent jump in wind generation in April contributed to a year-to-date increase of 34.9 percent.

This may be the "sink" for the natural gas surplus.

Burning natural gas in efficient (~60%) combined cycle plants may be cheaper in some markets (say Texas) than burning coal (hauled in from Wyoming).


U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rise by 25,000 to 584,000

The stock market is up about 150 points on the Dow on the good news that the number of people collecting unemployment insurance is decreasing. I guess that means that the number of people rolling off the rolls because their eligibility has run out is greater than the new numbers coming on.

Applications rose by 25,000 to 584,000 in the week ended July 25, higher than forecast, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. More than 600,000 claims were filed every week last month. The number of people collecting unemployment insurance decreased for a third week.

Ron P.

Regarding the EEStor article,
It begins by claiming that, since BaTiO3 has a high permittivity, it "can hold tremendous amounts of energy."
No. What it can do is store a lot of electrons at low potential. Its ability to store energy is limited as much by its dielectric strength as it is by the real permittivity. If you want high energy density, you better be willing to handle high voltages.

But the bigger issue is the imaginary permittivity: the loss, which at DC means the residual electrical conductivity of the ceramic. The very best lab-grade materials that I've seen run maybe 1015 ohm-cm, with 1012 being a lot more common. And that's at room temp - As you cycle your glorified capacitor, it heats up, the internal resistance declines, and you end up pissing away the stored energy and generating even more heat in the process. The net result is that this capacitor will almost certainly have a much faster self-discharge rate than a comparable NiMH or Li battery. But of course it remains to be seen, when the hype finally gives way to production hardware.

We could also talk about other issues, like the fact that the oxygen-octahedra ferroelectrics are all piezoelectric, so they strain like mad through their charge/discharge cycling. Not good for the electrical contacts or the integrity of the ceramic! So no, it is not true that the material "will not degrade over charge-discharge cycles," although it may be better or merely the same as any battery.

And then there's the I-V discharge characteristic, which yields a linear decrease in output voltage, unlike the essentially current-delivering behavior of conventional batteries, which maintain an almost flat output voltage as they drain. I suppose the system electronics could be designed to accommodate the changing supply voltage, but it wouldn't be free.

The net result is if you want to store energy only briefly, like in regenerative braking, then the low internal resistance is not so big a deal, but there will always be issues in dealing with a high and variable output voltage from your storage device.

We discussed this a very long time ago. I'm still waiting for them to offer capacitors in, say, the standard surface-mount '2220' (English) size. A normal company would almost certainly do something of the sort, if only to help get their process going, and demonstrate unequivocally to customers and investors that it's real. According to what little they have disclosed, it should be an utterly trivial exercise - they're supposedly modifying a standard multilayer capacitor process, and as prices show unequivocally, it's easiest and cheapest to spray and bake physically small ones. You always tend to wonder what a company with a technical product might be hiding when they prestidigitate like magicians instead of acting like engineers and business people.

Many other suppliers make ultracapacitors and rechargeable lithium batteries in small sizes as well as large ones because they're useful and profitable. So for now, my specially-Steorn-tested BS meter is still pegged, and it's been pegged for so long that it's probably stuck.

EEStores claims are absolutley game-plan changing if true. I am astounded that there is so much secrecy. Is it any wonder that the noise and chatter is almost deafening? How many Billions of $$ is the US/World Govts potentially wasting on investigating alternatives if this comes off?

The company should get a visit from the Men-In-Black IMO.

Is there any comeback if this is a fraud? In 12 months will we be saying "I want my rosy Future Back!" ??

Gobsmacked, Nick.

Oil approaching $68! Wow! That's got to hurt the shorts...

Read JoulesBurn's recent post on the subject of EEStor.

Ah, it figures that someone on TOD would've already thrashed this out. Lots of good perspectives in the post - I especially like the idea of using the ultracap to make a railgun.

But anybody who claims that these HIGHLY hysteretic titanates don't reach dielectric saturation just doesn't get it, or worse. You certainly wouldn't use them much below saturation - it would be a waste of their potential, so to speak.

And I didn't see the self-discharge characteristics explicitly mentioned in the post.

Desperate state may sell Capitol buildings, others

Call it a sign of desperate times: Legislators are considering selling the House and Senate buildings where they've conducted state business for more than 50 years.

Dozens of other state properties also may be sold as the state government faces its worst financial crisis in a generation, if not ever. The plan isn't to liquidate state assets, though.

Instead, officials hope to sell the properties and then lease them back over several years before assuming ownership again. The complex financial transaction would allow government services to continue without interruption while giving the state a fast infusion of as much as $735 million, according to Capitol projections.

Wow, This is desperate.

Talk about 'The Sacrifice of the Commons' .. or maybe it's 'Fanatical Privatization'..

Sell it, and then rent it from the new owner? Brilliant!

From the same article:

While the state is looking to sell and lease back selected properties, it also may try to contract out the operations of some prisons.

Selling off the capitol buildings and the prison system: privatizing the cradle-to-grave care of the criminal class.

Soon we can outsource the whole government. The bidders are
1) Facism Corporation
2) Marxism Incorporated
3) Communism PLC

#1 long ago outbid the others and is now the only game in town.

...the state government faces its worst financial crisis in a generation, if not ever.

But they're gonna give us a tax cut!

The property tax cut eliminates a tax that has been suspended for three years but that is set to take effect again with fall tax bills. The savings for taxpayers - and lost revenue for the state - amount to $250 million annually.

The plan's 6.5 percent individual income tax cuts, which would be reflected in returns filed in 2012 for 2011 income, amount to $200 million of savings for individuals. The corporate cuts also amount to $200 million for a 30 percent reduction in the tax rate.

$650 million in tax cuts. Well I guess they are going to need an infusion
of some sort.

The plan, Brewer said, "provides Arizona an opportunity to recover from years of fiscal mismanagement and massive economic downturn."

Foreclosure filings shoot up in Oregon

Portland saw the number of filings rise 112 percent compared with the same period a year ago, Salem 101 percent and Eugene 100 percent.


Next headline: "Meth heads shoot up in foreclosed Oregon properties"

bowling ball chemical energy:


How is this for truth on a beer glass:
From a Lagunitas Brewing Co cup at Kate Wolf Music Festival--

This cup is made from corn, not plastic--- But the corn is still processed using natural gas and is shipped twice in a Diesel Truck. They cost more, arrive wrapped in plain old plastic wrappers and will emit methane and co2 when they "decpomse"---

The link sez it all:


Another few months and he'll be right where Dubya left off.

As Tom Brokaw said, "The winner should have demanded an immediate recount."

AP sources: Govt to suspend 'cash for clunkers'

WASHINGTON -- The government plans to suspend its popular "cash for clunkers" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases, congressional officials said Thursday.

The Transportation Department called lawmakers' offices to alert them to the decision to suspend the program at midnight Thursday. The program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Good. Stupid fraud of a program to begin with.

AP sources: Easter Island government plans to suspend its popular "clams for clear cutting" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the thousands of clams needed for giant stone head statue purchases...

How to contract a city's population...


'Pass the buck'...'pass the person with out a job'

When will we reach Peak Musical Chairs?

passing the buck? I didn't read anything about venison
More like being sold down the river
sold down the jet stream