Drumbeat: August 17, 2009

Gulf exporters will need to make a clean break

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is burning close to 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its finest quality crude oil to make electricity for its own domestic market.

The image is arresting. Quite simply, Saudi Arabia is producing more of its most valuable export commodity than it can sell.

The kingdom’s crude output has been rising of late. It is still pumping less crude than a year ago, but not due to dwindling oil reserves or difficulties in maintaining output from ageing fields, as “peak oil” theorists had earlier predicted. In fact, the national petroleum company, Saudi Aramco, has just completed the biggest oil development programme in its history, which has had the effect of more than doubling Saudi spare production capacity to about 4 million bpd.

US troops to return to Iraq despite Barack Obama’s withdrawal plan

The US military is planning to send thousands of American soldiers back to the oil-rich north of Iraq to prevent a civil war between Arabs and Kurds.

The emergency move, which partially reverses a recent drawing- down, is the first major sign that President Obama’s withdrawal plan may not work. He wants all US combat troops out of Iraq within 12 months.

Weak China demand could dent oil prices

Weaker Chinese energy demand could bring the recent oil price surge to an “abrupt end” as a credit squeeze hammers crude imports by the Asian powerhouse, energy consultancy CGES warned yesterday.

Natural Gas Falls to Seven-Year Low on Slow Revival in Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas futures fell to the lowest price in almost seven years on concern that fuel demand will be slow to strengthen because of a sluggish economic recovery.

Gas dropped along with energy markets and equities after Japan’s economy expanded less than economists estimated. The threat of disruption to oil and gas output in the Gulf of Mexico receded as Tropical Storm Claudette went ashore in Florida and Ana was downgraded as its winds weakened.

Natural gas stocks defy gravity

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Something strange has happened to natural gas stocks: They've gone up.

Despite the fact that gas prices are dirt-cheap and energy demand has fallen off a cliff, shares of gas producers Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, and Southwestern Energy have climbed an average of 37% so far this year, compared with the S&P 500's 10% gain.

The Future of Coal

A state judge's invalidation of a single air quality permit for the coal-fired power plant in Wise County is unlikely to convince Dominion Power to "take this ruling as a sign that it needs to leave expensive coal-fired power plants in the past and move quickly toward developing sustainable, clean energy sources for a 21st century green economy," as Cale Jaffe, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, urged.

However, other developments suggest that society as a whole needs to make the development of sustainable and clean energy sources a more urgent priority.

Pdvsa, BP resume production at the Orinoco Oil Belt

State-run oil holding Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) and British Petroleum resumed last week the oil output at an upgrader located in the Orinoco Oil Belt after months on standby, as part of the cuts made by Venezuela as a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said on Monday a Pdvsa director.

Oil dips to its August low

LONDON (Reuters) -- Oil slipped to its lowest this month at below $66 a barrel on Monday as investors became more cautious about the pace of global economic recovery and any revival in energy demand.

The decline added to the market's $3.01, or 4.3% slide on Friday -- the biggest loss since July 29 -- after the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers showed confidence in early August dropped.

Kunstler: The First Die-off

All this frightful hyperbole is really mere précis to my real point here, for those of you already acquainted with some of the classic "doomer" themes, which is that the first "die-off" of The Long Emergency will not be one of human beings but of our beloved automobiles. Personally, I think the car die-off will come on with stunning rapidity as a combination of factors merge to make these colossal traffic jams staples of nostalgia in decades to come. As usual, the public is clueless about this, gulled by a cretinous news media into the earnest expectation of endless techno-miracles.

Bill may become a major hurricane: NHC

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Hurricane Bill could become a major hurricane by Wednesday, as it continues to move in a west/northwestward direction, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory on Monday.

ExxonMobil Eyes 30 More Years Output from Offshore Bass Project

ExxonMobil Australia is targeting at least another 30 years of oil and gas production at its Bass Strait project, with two new fields yet to come online.

The energy giant said its operation at Bass Strait, located offshore from Victoria, had far outlasted its original life expectancy of 25-30 years set in 1969.

Air Zimbabwe in brink of collapse

Troubled Zimbabwe’s sole airline, Air Zimbabwe, is completely broke and is being sued by its workers while facing a US$30 million (about P208 million) debt.

The airline has already cancelled scheduled regional and international flights due to shortage of funds to buy fuel and to pay more than a thousand of its workers.

Kuwait budget surplus shrinks despite record income

Oil-rich Kuwait's budget surplus shrank by more than two-thirds to less than 10 billion dollars in the fiscal year ended March 31 despite record income, official figures showed on Monday.

Ghana Girds for Vagaries of Oil Production

With drilling set to begin next year, Ghana is ready to become the latest oil-producing nation in Africa, joining the likes of Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Chad. For most African nations, oil has turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing, and Ghana is trying to find ways to avoid the many pitfalls that have plagued other nations.

Lukoil bumps up production

Lukoil, Russia's second-largest oil producer, boosted crude production by 4% to 1.98 million barrels per day in the first half of 2009, the company said today.

Lukoil said in a statement total production of hydrocarbons available for sale rose 2% year-on-year to 2.22 million barrels of oil equivalent in the first six months of 2009, reported Reuters.

Motor group calls for fuel price action

A Shropshire motoring group is calling for action over rocketing fuel costs. Fuel prices are set to rise by 5p per litre at the end of the month and there is to be a hike in the level of fuel duty from September 1.

Calderon Urges Pemex-Petrobras Oil Field Cooperation

(Bloomberg) -- President Felipe Calderon called for Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos to form a “close collaboration” with Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA in all areas, including operations.

With such a partnership, Pemex, as the company is known, could turn falling oil production around and could expand production, Calderon said in an e-mail copy of a speech in Mexico today.

Explosion at Russia's Largest Hydroelectric Plant Kills 8

MOSCOW — An accident during repair work at Russia's largest hydroelectric plant killed at least eight workers Monday, while 54 others were missing, investigators said.

The explosion of a transformer caused the engine room to flood at the Sayano-Shushinskaya power station in southern Siberia, the Investigative Committee of the federal prosecutors office said.

...Shoigu said the repairs would be difficult. "We're probably talking about years rather than months to restore three of the 10 turbines," he said on state-run television.

Pakistan - Rental power plants: a crisis-driven remedy

To dispel misapprehensions, government decisions need to be transparent as it closes the deals on rental power plants. These are floating barges that carry large generators which can be hooked into the distribution or transmission systems. They produce anywhere between 100 to 200 MW of power.

Dutch reactor shutdown to fuel further isotope shortage

OTTAWA -- The Netherlands is bracing for the worst if the world is without its two top sources of medical isotopes next year, a scenario that became more likely last week after Canada's nuclear agency said it will take longer than planned to repair a leaky reactor at Chalk River, Ont.

An aging Dutch nuclear reactor in community of Petten is scheduled for lengthy maintenance work next spring, which is the earliest its downed Canadian counterpart is expected back up and running.

McKibben: Climate change impacts hitting hard now (audio)

Vermont author and activist Bill McKibben just returned from a trip to India. He was meeting with environmental groups and government officials to promote a new initiative called 350.org. The organization aims to reduce the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere. Scientists say CO2 particles have already risen to dangerous levels, just below 390 parts per million. McKibben wants governments, industries and private citizens to bring that level down below 350 parts per million. He spoke about the effort on Saturday in Newcomb, at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy.

Drought stalks India

The first reports of drought-related suicides have begun filtering in from the district press. Farmers in the eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh are taking their own lives - the toll is said to be 20 farmers over the last 40 days. The state is one amongst many which has so far been forsaken by the South-West monsoon in 2009. Its parched districts have received only 153 mm of rain as against a monsoon normal, till mid-August, of 624 mm. An official with the state agriculture department has called the conditions the worst in 50 years. But the state government has still not declared Andhra Pradesh as hit by drought. Such declarations have in India become politically charged positions that the state ruling is forced to take, instead of being policy conclusions that can quickly bring relief and rehabilitation.

China: The new Big Oil - The country is snapping up oil fields from Africa to South America to the Middle East. Soon it may be able to rival the Western giants.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- China is on an oil buying binge.

Over the past few months, the Chinese government -- or its big government-controlled oil firms -- have closed or floated a slew of deals in countries all over the world. These deals have expanded the nation's oil reach and may one day position the nation to match the skills of western oil firms.

Chinese coal purchase could start a trend

The takeover of a major Australian coal mining company by Chinese-owned Yanzhou has raised fears coal markets could be dominated by China.

Felix Resources owns coal projects in New South Wales and Queensland.

Gavin Wendt, from broker Fat Prophets, says if the takeover is approved, it could be the first of many similar acquisitions by China.

"This is probably the tip of the iceberg," he says.

Balance of power shifts between national and international oil companies

Findings of KPMG's latest annual report, announced today, into National and International Oil Companies (NOCs and IOCs) have shown that volatile markets have hindered the ever increasing power of national oil companies in favour of their international rivals.

The brighter side of expensive oil

During the boom years, there was a spate of books warning that we were all doomed. One of the most popular spine-chillers was the threat of peak oil: the prospect that the world’s oil production is about to go into irreversible decline, bringing about the downfall of civilisation as we know it.

At their most apocalyptic, the underlying message of these books was, in the words of The Simpsons newscaster Kent Brockman: “It’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside.”

Christopher Steiner’s $20 Per Gallon, as its cheery subtitle suggests, is very different. It is the latest, and the best, example of a new type of book that seeks to put a feel-good spin on the imminent exhaustion of one of our most vital natural resources.

Economic growth

The trajectory of the US economic growth path ranges from the early pioneers who went west to raise cattle, plant grain etc., to the innovators who now inhabit the likes of Silicon Valley. This trajectory we see being repeated in South Korea, China, India, Singapore, Brazil.

The further uncertainty challenge that faces us is that economic development of the past 100 years depended on the copious availability of cheap oil. This era is fast coming to a close given that one of the main causes of the current global recession is the supply-demand mismatch of oil-Peak Oil.

T. BOONE PICKENS AND TED TURNER: New Priorities For Our Energy Future

Renewable energy and clean-burning natural gas are the basis of a new strategy the world needs to create a cleaner and more secure future. And the global transformation to a clean-energy economy may be the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century. According to the authoritative Potential Gas Committee (administered by the Colorado School of Mines), the U.S. sits on top of massive reservoirs of natural gas—an estimated 2,000 trillion cubic feet—that contain more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia.

Nigeria: The End of Subsidy

The Federal Government last Tuesday signalled stoppage of petroleum subsidy in Nigeria, saying modalities to deregulate the sector is at its peak.

The government hinges the reason to deregulate the industry on the increasing funds the Petroleum Support Fund scheme is gulping from the Federal Government coffers.

For instance, between January and May this year, petroleum subsidy stood at N150 billion, fuelling deep concerns that before year end the country's subsidy portfolio will be in the region of N1 trillion.

Dragon Oil to Miss Output Target

Dragon Oil said that it is likely to miss its production growth target in 2009 due to "operational issues" at several wells, it has been revealed.

Israel's Oil Refineries swings to Q2 loss

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Oil Refineries on Monday swung to a year-on-year second-quarter loss, hurt by a near doubling of crude oil prices and lower end-product prices.

Bill upgraded to hurricane; Claudette makes landfall

(CNN) -- Bill became the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season as it continued to gain strength but remained far from any shore Monday morning.

Learsy: The International Energy Agency Shills For OPEC, The Oil Speculators and the Peak Oil Pranksters

When it comes to matters oiland energy the globby hand of oil influence seems to smear all in the industry even those whose mandate is to look after the interests of consumers and national economies alike. And that now pertains to the otherwise esteemed International Energy Agency(IEA)

The IEA is an energy forum of 28 industrialized nations committed to taking joint measures to meet oil supply emergencies, to co-ordinate their policies to insure energy security, as well as maintaining emergency oil stocks. They are further mandated to operate a "permanent information system on the international oil market". And here lies the rub. Information that is fully objective, or weighted in the interests of given interests?

Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid

The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation's electrical systems.

Energy Efficiency: Fact or Fiction?

NEW YORK (AP) -- You're a savvy consumer and you know how to cut corners when it comes to energy. You've given your dishwasher a rest and picked up a soapy sponge again. You even make sure never to fill your gas tank more than half way because you get more miles to the gallon.

Or wait, is it the other way around? Is it better to leave the computer on all day or shut it off when not in use? Does my refrigerator use less energy when it's empty or full?

Microsoft has big impact in slimming Windows energy load

Microsoft Corp.’s environmental impact isn’t limited to its massive data centers or its commuting employees. With hundreds of millions of PCs draining batteries and tapping into power outlets around the world, even a small tweak in Microsoft Windows can influence global energy consumption.

One study estimated that changes in Windows Vista — primarily improvements in the operating system’s “sleep” mode — could benefit the environment as much as taking 380,000 cars off the road.

Ohio Parks: Camping, Hiking.. And Drilling?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- State parks aren't just for hiking, camping and other recreation anymore. Increasingly, these lands are being used for oil and gas drilling as budget-strapped states seek new sources of revenue.

As they allow more energy exploration in state parks, in some cases by reversing previous bans, lawmakers are being met with resistance from environmentalists and park officials.

Geothermal power search holds promise, threat

On a high ridge in the Mayacamas Mountains, a drill slowly bores into the earth to test a new way to generate electricity.

The test, by a Bay Area company called AltaRock Energy, could give the world another source of renewable energy, a valuable weapon in the fight against global warming. It could also trigger earthquakes in a corner of California that already shakes most every day, a prospect that is jangling the nerves of some nearby homeowners.

Food to win out over fuel

FOOD will win through over fuel in the end, according to a Taiwan academic, speaking at the Food in Health Security in the Asia-Pacific Region (FIHS) conference in Taipei last week.

Dr Yue-Wen Wang, Department of Agronomy, National Taiwan University, discussed the issue of biofuel production versus crops for food.

“We need to eat but we don’t need to drive,” Dr Wang said.

“The food security issue is the bottom line for agriculture and the biofuel production must be compromised for it.”

Air Force Cadets Designing Fuel Efficient Wings

At the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, cadets are working on a new wing design for the KC-135 Stratotanker that could significantly increase fuel efficiency for the venerable aircraft. Illustrating how small changes can make a big difference, the secret is in subtle, almost invisible adjustments to the wingtips, using wing designs from other aircraft as a template. As for concentrating on the rather unglamorous Stratotanker, it makes perfect sense to put some extra energy into designing an aerial refueler that delivers more fuel and consumes less, especially with the development of new sustainable energy sources in view.

Energy experts call for carbon capture scheme for gas fired power stations

New gas plants should be subject to the same rules that force new coal plants to fit carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, according to leading energy bosses.

Experts fear that the government's new policy on CCS for coal power will lead to a boom in the construction of gas plants which do not have to bury their carbon emissions.

Early farmers 'began global warming process'

Farmers who used "slash and burn" methods of clearing forests to grow crops thousands of years ago could have increased carbon dioxide levels enough to change the climate, researchers have claimed.

Global Warming and the Only Question that Matters

"...you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?"

You know the question. It's iconic. Asked of a scumbag by Dirty Harry, who was pointing a .44 magnum at him; the question referring to whether there was one bullet left in the chamber or whether Harry had fired all six shots.

Our current failure to seriously address climate change raises a similar question.

Exxon Says Australia Carbon Tax Preferable to Trading

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company, says a tax on carbon in Australia would be a better method to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming.

“A carbon tax is more transparent to consumers, will achieve greater environmental benefits and is more difficult to manipulate than a cap-and-trade program,” John Dashwood, chairman of Exxon’s Australian unit, said in speech notes e- mailed ahead of an address today in Melbourne.

Environmentalists hope UN talks tough on climate change

(CNN) -- You're probably not thinking about what you would like for Christmas yet. But ask any environmentalist for their ideal gift and you'll get a version of this answer: a binding agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December that is strong enough to match the science.

Can Someone please verify:

I did some rough calculations and it seems that to be TRULY SUSTAINABLE, a solar system (used to completely replace a hydrocarbon power generation system) would need three (3) times the PV cells that one would initially assume: for ever 3 PV cells 1 would generate power for the customers, while the other 2 cells would be used to generate power for replacement cells, replacement batteries, infrastructure maintenance, etc.

Correct or Not?

Ignorant -

It would be most helpful if you could provide us with a summary of your calculations and assumptions plus an explanation of what was and was not included. Only then can we begin to discuss how reasonable those numbers might be.

Okay, (but I'm looking to see how accurate my assumptions are, not whether I did the math right).

The assumptions(/?facts?) I've used were that it takes about 2/3s of an average PV's service life to produce as much power as was used to manufacture that PV unit. Currently, projections are that PV cells can produce useful power for about 30 years (most of the recent designs are under 30 years old, so this is also an assumption).

But I don't know if I have the most up-to-date technical information on EROI, efficiencies, service life, etc. That's what I'm looking for. My question is whether it is economical to make a truely sustainable PV powered solar system.

Thanks Wharf Rat!

I see that my initial calcualtions were done with very old numbers.

Also, "to completely replace a hydrocarbon power generation system" doesn't need batteries unless the carbon generator has them, and infrastructure maintenance should be the same. Batteries are meant for off-the-grid. PV is not meant to power the country 24/7. Solar thermal might work.

Solar thermal might work.

Yeah right! You are going to power the Great Northwest, the Northeast, Canada, and Alaska with solar thermal in the wintertime? Any kind of panacea might work until you figure out it will not work at all.

Ron P.

Isn't solar thermal the energy used to heat swimming pools and hot water tanks? I have heard of it being used for preheating water used in boilers that are primarily generated by coal or natural gas.

Concentrating Solar Power is something totally different to me. It is usually used to heat up hot water to boiling, to generate electricity. It has been used relatively little commercially, as far as I know. I don't know what the energy return on this process is, but I don't think it is nearly as high as the application used to heat swimming pools. I would expect it is on the order of that of solar PV or lower. When I hear about the ramp up in solar thermal, I think swimming pools.

If you skip down on the wiki page for solar thermal to the "Storage" section, you find:

"Molten salt storage
A variety of fluids have been tested to transport the sun's heat, including water, air, oil, and sodium, but molten salt was selected as best. Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it is liquid at atmosphere pressure, it provides an efficient, low-cost medium in which to store thermal energy, its operating temperatures are compatible with today's high-pressure and high-temperature steam turbines, and it is non-flammable and nontoxic. In addition, molten salt is used in the chemical and metals industries as a heat-transport fluid, so experience with molten-salt systems exists in non-solar settings.
The molten salt is a mixture of 60 percent sodium nitrate and 40 percent potassium nitrate, commonly called saltpeter. The salt melts at 430 °F (220 °C) and is kept liquid at 550 °F (290 °C) in an insulated cold storage tank. The uniqueness of this solar system is in de-coupling the collection of solar energy from producing power, electricity can be generated in periods of inclement weather or even at night using the stored thermal energy in the hot salt tank. Normally tanks are well insulated and can store energy for up to a week. As an example of their size, tanks that provide enough thermal storage to power a 100-megawatt turbine for four hours would be about 30 feet tall and 80 feet in diameter.
The Solar Tres power plant in Spain is expected to be the first commercial solar thermal power plant to utilize molten salt for heat storage and nighttime generation.[57]"

It is this use of molten salt heated by concentrated sunlight that promises to partly alleviate the problem of intermittency of solar. Since this also concentrates diffuse sunlight, it could potentially work even in low-insolation locations and periods.

But nothing works without massive decreases in use through both increases in efficiency, conservation, rationing and doing without.

When the salt is in the solid state it takes lots of heat (calories) to make it liquid. Then, as it solidifies, it has to give up the heat. Glauber’s salt, a form of sodium sulfate Na2SO4·10H2O, has been used for years in solar houses to keep the heat going for a few days of cloudy weather. I will be using this principle in our greenhouse trumbe wall for winter heat.

The heat used in Glauber’s salt is not hot enough for extended steam generation but the principle is similar. Just like it takes many more calories removed to make water drop below 0 deg C than the drop between 1 and 0. When water liquefies it releases those calories.

Phase change storage is used for low temperature heating systems. The CSP molten salt storage does not utilize phase change. The salt mixture is always molten and is cycled between a higher and lower temperature. The salt acts as a pump-able, relatively inexpensive, low vapor pressure liquid storage medium. I'm not sure why they don't use the phase change region to store more heat but it probably has to do with heat flows at the required power levels. As molten salt or wax or whatever cools, it solidifies in a layer over the heat exchanger, greatly limiting the heat flow from the still molten material to the 2nd fluid that is running through the exchanger.

Understand. Tnx for clarification.

"it could potentially work even in low-insolation locations and periods."

Like all of the other technical solution to providing renewable energy, it is not a question of "if it works". The real question is at what cost can you make it work. I am a strong advocate for solar thermal power generation but it will not make sense at high latitudes on in areas with persistent cloud cover.

There is another interesting point with respect to the use of heat storage mediums such as salt or oil. The major hurdle in the cost structure associated with solar thermal power is the fact that conventional plant (without storage) will only operate for about 5-6 hours a day. This imposes a huge disadvantage to the amortisation of the capital cost over the power generated by the plant. While storage devices will improve the range of availability of Solar Thermal plant, maybe adding 4 hours a day, they will not significantly improve the capital cost amortisation problem. The reason is that the collectors and associated infrastructure represent around 80% of the plant cost. When you extend the daily availability of the plant you naturally have to increase the energy collected through the collectors thus increasing the bulk of the plant cost. Add to that the cost of providing the storage and you can virtually say that the capital $/MWhr will be unchanged.

The current capital cost of Solar Thermal plant is around US$3M/MW. This represents around US$200/MWHr generated in comparison to around $40/MWHr currently being paid for coal fired generation which covers capital, fuel and operations. Unfortunately it will be a long time before we are all prepared to pay such premiums.

Thanks for the great info.

It was my impression that part of the potential cost savings for these plants was that most of the plant is just cheap mirrors while all that surface in PV plants are expensive photo-voltaic panels. Am I missing something?

Perhaps we will turn off the lights at night and go to sleep ... at some point.

And when the sun returns we will start work again..... at some point.

You have hit the ole nail and described how we might use solar PVs if/after the grid becomes unreliable.

I did some planning for what I call my personal noon time economy. I would use the PVs for their dc potential only. Minimum cost and maximum reliability would be my goal. Low power AC inverters would be tool or application specific (cheap & replaceable).

No grid connection or system level switching inverters. With my luck the first lightning hit half a mile down the road would kill the system. No batteries as you might not be able to replace them at some point. Have a few low voltage EE Stor capacitors so you can run a few LEDs after dark. They last forever.

Everyone would want different capabilities but I thought moving hot and cold water would be the primary use. Small tools could be operated. A small freezer would be great and could be put out in the cold during winter to save power during the lower light season. Internet connection to TOD would be a must (smirk).

It was just a thought experiment but it makes you think through how you would get by. I have a friend that is putting in a 3 kW grid tied system. I asked how he would run his house during an outage and found that is not possible. Expensive and I fear money down the drain. Great for selling power to an operating power company but after that? The rebates are predicated on grid connectivity and mandated electrician installation. Too bad.

Your 3kw friend may not know how to do it at this point, but those PV's are producing if there is sun falling on them. There are many ways to take advantage of this power, or some portion of it. You can intersect the DC lines before they get to the Grid Inverter and go to DC Loads, to Chargers etc...

Lightning could take out your system, but there are off-the-shelf lightning arrestors and various other methods for protecting against that happening.. bad luck can surely happen, but no reason to toss our hands up and ignore what we already know works.


I have a solar powered golf cart. 3-12VDC panels + a controller charge the batteries then a 36VDC->110VAC 3000 watt inverter powers tools, etc. All up there is 7000 watts available from fully charged batteries while the panels are a bit light weight at 390 watts. I hope to double the number of panels in the near future.

If we power most of the way down I beieve we can get along on 2KW electricity or less per day. Wood + solar for heat and cooking.

With golf courses closing around the country, you can get a golf cart for little more than the cost of the batteries... ~$1K USD. Some places you can use the golf cart for primary local transportation.

Hi Lynford, Excellant idea to play with a PV golf cart to experiment with solar.

Just be aware that the carts sold always have the oldest and most used batteries. I wouldn't have a system that depends on specialized deep discharge batteries. They last not too many years and I would query where at some point the replacements come from?

In the same light how will you function if the controllers, chargers or 3 kW generator crap out. Can you repair them with spare parts on hand or do you have spare units stacked up. Lacking those you would soon be in the dark except for the 390 watts of 36 volts generated in the daytime sun light.

You might consider the old motor/generator setups that would run in factories for decades (with occassional new brushes). I would think a modern dc motor/alternator setup would be the most reliable non electronic PV solution to my "noon time economy", i.e. you only work when the sun shines.

Regards, Berkshire

Hi Bob, thank you for your response. Any solar system could be reconfigured if you had all the additional equipment, batteries and tools – and the knowledge to design and fabricate the new system. My friend is not allowed a battery system or the rebate goes away.

I’m worried that most folks now investing in these solar generators would be hard pressed to pull it off. If the installer/technical guru has taken off to his mountain retreat and no spares are on hand, you would have one hell of a boat anchor. Most seem sized to keep the large screen and clothes dryer running.

I was only trying to make a point that if you were trying to keep a little civilization and a few lights in your life, all you would need are a panel or two and some cheap Radio Shack inverters with many backup spares. Hopefully a lot of your load would be dc. This is the simplest and most reliable set up I could come up with that would stand a chance of lasting for 20 or 30 years with zero maintenance. I would make the panels real stealthy as I am afraid some in the dark neighbors might use the panels for 22 target practice.

As far as lightning goes - we had an ice storm last winter where I lost a TV (smoke) and furnace zone sequencer. I’m sure a short generated a nice transient when a tree came down. I’ve lost a few modems that were loaded up with transient suppressors and common mode filters. The well guys are out after every lightning storm replacing well pumps. I would never hang any solid state equipment (inverters, etc.) off the ac mains. You have no control over what the power monopoly shoves down the line and buying a $20 surge protector might not be enough. All you do is make a few bucks and risk your back up system.

My mania for simplicity and ruggedness goes back to designing laser sensors that flew for NASA on the shuttle and some AF Delta shots. Space qualified electronics cost a fortune. A single resistor cost $40 some 25 years ago. You develop a real appreciation for MTBF (mean time before failure) calculations. The solar inverters, chargers and control electronics use commercial (minimum) quality parts and design margin costs money. They have to build for cost. I would not bet my family’s well being on some electronics cranked out in Thailand using who knows what power devices. Consider this when designing a PV system for your homestead. The fewer semiconductors and computers, the more reliable your system will be. – Berkshire (aka Nick)

My friend is not allowed a battery system or the rebate goes away.

I currently sell both grid tie with or without DC battery backup systems in Florida. The addition of battery backup doesn't eliminate the rebates, at least in my neck of the woods. Where are you located and are you sure that what you are saying is correct? It doesn't make any sense.

My friend is in CT and the rebates only apply to grid connected systems put in by licensed installers. I don't live in CT so cannot personally verify this just word of mouth by a technical savvy person.

What is the latest cost orf 200 watt units? I don't follow the industry except for an occassional Home Power 4 months after the fact. I'm hoping the price will get down to some competitive level so I will be able to start tinkering.

Thanks in advance

His system requires an external and well marked and disclosed kill/disconnect switch available to the line crews. They turn it off and back on at their convieniance.

One would expect that a household UPS could be tied into the inverter and the whole mess could be tied into the household power on the home side of that kill switch, but local ordinances are frequently illogical.

Agreed on the local logic. The problem with all this stuff is no national code and equipment standards exist. Until that happens all these systems are one offs that need a resident wizard for operation.

Imagine computers with everyone doing their own USB ports.

I guess I can't let the extra household UPS and associated extra switch gear pass. This just runs up the cost big time, adds to complexity and reliability takes another kick in the pants. If generating PV sales is the mission then you win.

Has no one thought of a 5 kW generator - battery start is nice -and a few cans of gas (diesel or propane) to cover short term outages. Plug it into your dryer or whatever outlet and make sure the main disconnect is OFF.

A $50k PV system to be stooge to the power company and replace a $500 generator just doesn't make sense to me. A PV system if the cr*p really hits will be a neon sign to every neer do well in view.

A household UPS is how you go off grid with PV, which would be a logical reason why they would be disallowed in a grid-tied system. There are several commercial inverters that support a solar/battery configuration, though it has been long enough since I researched that I don't have the references at hand.

Gas generators are nice for emergencies or for portable power, but if you know you've got a power outage every day at sunset they aren't so hot. That, and they are an attractive nuisance to every neer-do-well within earshot, which is a lot further away in my neighborhood.

That was exactly my point. If you have a nice semi reliable grid tied system what do you need a UPS for? I've run a generator for a week on a few cans of gas.

If you are off grid your comment is right on. If you are dealing in troubled times many assumptions will be wrong and this will be the least of our concerns.

I would add that if I were totally off grid I would have a small propane generator and a big tank of propane. If your PV system bites the dust how do you keep things running until repairs can be made? Water and refrigeration come to mind.

I'm currently working on several PV systems that are
Grid tie only and am laying out the wiring (couple of more
runs to a combiner box) so that they can be converted
for backup with little fuss.
GT systems are 200-500 Vdc and battery based DC systems
charge controllers like 140Vdc input even for 24V systems.
A 200 volt charge controller has just been announced, so it's
getting easier. PV Balance of Systems equipment is getting better
each year.

Inverter life is expected to be 10-15 years.
10 year warranty is becoming common.
So the inverter is expected to be replace several times
over the life of the system.

Gotta grab the one shot tax money while it's there.
Feed in Tariff's make so much more sense, even
if at retail rates.

Hi Longtimber, Sorry I missed your missive. My attitude on grid tied systems is they are green eye wash riding right alongside the cash for clunkers giveaway. I don’t want to invest $40-50k to be junior partners with the power company and recoup a couple of bucks a day to amortize the investment and pay for upkeep. The EROEI of these systems is so low that coal fired plants probably look good in comparison.

The inverters and controllers might have a 10 year warrantee but how many of these small outfits will be around in 10 years to honor the deal. It is probably best to buy a few spares while they are available & relatively cheap. In for a buck, in for a grand. As far as switching between the grid tie (500 v) and battery system (48/96v), you would need some beefy dc switch gear to pull that off. Reconfiguring the voltage out of the system on the fly seems overwhelming complex unless the approach is to start pulling the battery cable interconnects and rewire. I'm sure my wife could pull this off during a power outage.

These systems make sense for the no commercial power available isolated site. The alternative is your own nukie plant. Just be prepared to have an electronic engineer and electrician on call to keep you on the air. A weekly visit by a chem. E would be nice to make sure the batteries will last up to their allotted time. Sorry for the negativity but solar has been associated with a lot of semi Ponzi schemes on the individual level. Do we have reliable commercial power for the next 20 years or do hoards of one eyed aliens come over the hill next week? Your money, your choice.

Another data point is Charles Hall's Balloon Diagram which shows PV EROEI of ~7.5:1. If you assume a 30 year life, then 30/7.5 = 4 years energy payback which matches the upper end of the 1-4 year range. A one year payback would mean an EROEI of 30:1, and I've seen claims as high as 50:1, but I suspect that those numbers might be the energy in the factory, and do not include mining, refining, transportation, etc.

Actually trying to make such a calculation is an exercise in futility because PV cells could not possibly completely run the grid because you would have to run the grid on batteries after the sun went down.

Now there is another solar possibility and that is the method of using solar power to heat water and using stored hot water to turn the turbines after dark. That may work on a small scale but I don't think it would be possible to run the entire grid that way either.

Hey, there is just no way to do it. However if you love to play "what if" then have at it. Imagine anything you wish then drag out the calculator and see what it would take to make it work. It ain't gonna work but it is really a fun game to play.

Ron P.

So, then these "green" technologies of solar (?and wind?) are just pure EROI eaters? When we (or someone's grandkids) shut down the last producing gas well (& coal mine) we'll see the end of the electric grid?

Ignorant -

I don't have access to the latest figures, but I strongly suspect that your assumption that it takes 2/3 of the operating life of a PV cell to pay back the energy put into its manufacture is based on either erroneous or badly obsolete estimates and is WAY off. I seem to recall a similar discussion on TOD some time ago, and my recollection is that the consensus was that it doesn't take a very long time for a PV cell to recoup its energy input. Ditto for wind power. Unfortunately I don't recall any specific numbers.

To expand upon what Darwinian said above, I don't think anyone realistically thinks that solar power is going to completely replace all other means of generating electricity. However, if a massive build-out of solar power, wind power, and nuclear power could cut our current rate of electricity-related fossil fuel consumption by say a third, then I would consider that to be substantial progress. Of course, storage and load balancing will be a serious problem once solar and wind become a significant fraction of the input to a grid. Anyway, it would take one hell of a lot of capital investment to achieve even this amount, and financing these days is hard to come by.

Yes, consevation will need to be taken more seriously.

Most of the world's population doesn't consume much power per capita, the lucky few that consume so much energy will have to relearn to live like our forebears did 200 years ago (to start with) - I suspect large numbers of people living at high lattitude on imported energy isn't viable or sustainable for very long once the fossil fuel is in long term short supply.

Because of the rate of change required I expect to see mass migration to the most favorable climate areas attempted as the easiest way to conserve energy and I expect the people already in those places to be unwelcoming as their support systems become massively overloaded.

"I expect to see mass migration to the most favorable climate areas"

But with climate change accelerating, that may prove to be a moving target. Where do you see these "most favorable climates" as being?

Think inside the box: "most favorable climates"-->Packing a bunch of people into a cold house makes it easier to get sufficient firewood by their labor, or by buying some other heat source, besides the net gain from additional body heat. Cooking and cleaning for many adds additional heat comfort during the bitter cold.

Contrast this with living in my blazing Asphaltistan Desert: packing more people into a hot house only makes the A/C work harder to remove the additional body heat, plus the additional heat from more showers, cooking, laundry, etc. Also, very little in the way of trees to harvest, and jumping cholla [with fish-hook barbs] is very, very painful to harvest, then burn!

I think the energy becomes inadequate for 'net importers' much more quickly than climate change. Going by past history, when things get tough people move on looking for a land with more resources offering a better life, (the USA is a good example of this sort of destination in the past) - unfortunately the benign areas of the Earth with adequate resources are no longer big enough to support our unprecedented population.

These same benign areas (neither too hot, nor too cold) are going to be where solar power works best. For example, the primary energy for the UK is ~112 KWh per person per day on average, but much more at midwinter, for BAU solar PV energy at my lattitude doesn't work financially at all - IMO to survive, let alone BAU, since we will soon have seriously depleted all our energy and mineral reserves most of us in the UK will have to move south, but where?

Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries, as the 'New Rhodesia'. Recall my prior postings.

"There is just no way to do it"?

He was talking about how sustainable solar was likely to be by my reading, not whether it could support BAU.

Barring physical supply difficulties solar can indeed be self-sustaining. That does not mean that solar alone can provide the level of electrical reliability that we are used to.

But it does mean that we REALLY need to start gearing up toward a transition as soon as possible. Honestly, WE all could probably get away with it, but the generations that follow will be screwed if we don't lay the foundations for when the stored energy runs out.

Mountain Equipment Coop is going in the other direction.

Utilities warming to ice-storage air-cooling systems

To achieve such high energy-efficiency, the building also cools itself using massive blocks of ice instead of energy-hungry air conditioners. At the back of the building sit four Ice Bear systems, looking like oversized refrigerators knocked on their sides, developed by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Ice Energy Inc.

The concept behind the Ice Bear is quite simple: at night, when electricity is plentiful, a condensing unit pumps refrigerant through copper coils equally distributed through the body of the water-filled unit, which is heavily insulated. The coils freeze the 1,800 litres of water in the unit and then automatically shut off.

Hi Ignorant -

Your 'top-down' estimation approach is interesting. Just as a WAG, I would say your estimate is right around the minimum acceptable efficiency to sustain a society. If it took more 'pv to produce pv' energy availability from pv would be too low to keep things going. Do you think of your estimate as a sort of 'comprehensive EROI', in which you consider the energy requirements of the pv factory, the energy requirements to procure materials, tertiary energy requirements etc.? Jeff Vail's recent posts wrestle with the 'EROI boundary' issue a bit...

I would want to understand the energy requirements of a pv factory better, to estimate a 'proximate EROI'. I would also want to think about the quality of the power -- can we make pv cells with intermittant power (unlikely) or do we need to firm it up by dedicating storage, batteries, hydro etc. to the production line?

See Wharf Rat's links (above). If I remember right they usually take a tube of regular silicon and then pass that through an electrified coil that melts a band of Si as the tube goes through the coils. This travelling melt zone re-crystallizes the Si and causes impurities to float out... or something to that effect.

Looks like Hurricane Bill may just about to be upgraded to Cat 2. Luckily it seems to be staying away from land for the moment.

The stock market is all about China and Japan this morning, mostly China. The Chinese market fell about 6% today and is down about 18% in the last two weeks. On CNBC they are saying that there is now some doubt about the economic figures coming out of China. You think?

China has an export economy and in the last year exports are down, way down, yet their economy has grown considerably during that time. It was due to a huge stimulus package doled out. People bought Chinese produced goods but now the stimulus package has petered out and it is back to the export economy, which is of course very anemic.

I predict that this is it folks, this is the beginning of the big next leg down. If the Chinese bubble burst, and it looks like it will, this could mean disaster for the US economy as well. That is the Chimerica economy is about to go belly up.

The Dow is down almost 200 points at teh opening and the S&P is down 22 points. Oil is down about two dollars.

Ron P.

The Chinese blew themselves quite a bubble, it should reverberate around the world when it pops:

Chinese property sales are up over 60% so far this year, the nation’s National Bureau of Statistics proclaimed yesterday. That puts the housing bubble here to shame. We’ve heard a bunch of nosebleed data points come outta there in the last few weeks… check these out:

* New loan issuance has tripled in the first half of 2009, to $1.1 trillion. That’s more than half of the entire Chinese GDP over the same period.
* 95% of those loans went to state-owned enterprises or provincial entities
* The Shanghai Composite is up 79% year to date, the best major market performance in the world
* Stocks on the Shanghai Composite trade for 35.4 times earnings, double that of the MSCI Emerging Markets index
* M2 money supply rose over 28.5% in the first half of the year
* The seven largest bond sales in the world this year were domestic transactions in China.

Damn near everything is up dramatically in China in 2009… except exports. Strangely, we don’t hear a lot of concern that the backbone of their economy has contracted 23% since this time last year.


The huge cancellations from the Christmas order books are starting to show their ugly heads.

Can't sweep it under the rug forever.....although, the idiots in your criminal government think they can.

This year, "Black Friday" isn't going to make it into the black.

I expect to see a lot of retail chains shut down in January, followed by more than a few shopping malls.

I agree Ron. The Chinese govt has been trying to get the Chinese consumer to start spending to take up the slack from the fall in exports. While there is a slight growth in demand inside China for their own products it will be no where near what us Westerners were pumping into their economy. Also, the average Chinaman saves 25% of his income - which is a positive for the longer-term Chinese economy, but the reason the demand for Chinese goods has been so large and until recently so sustained is that the goods were very cheap to us. A greeter at Walmart earning minimum wage could still get a minimum wage Chinaman to make him something. The problem the Chinese govt will wake up to is that the domestic purchasing power (ex savings) is severely limited because those very same consumers are the factory workers etc earning the same wage.

I believe that the autumn will see another melt down. The US/UK/EU banks still have all the crap on their balance sheets, still right there just priced at fantasy valuations to make the bank look solvent. I used to do middle-office mark-to-market for Royal Bank of Scotland, and can tell you straight up that if this crap was valued correctly, that is what the market is prepared to pay for it, then the whole system would come tumbling down. Nothing has changed! All the politicians have done is spray a few trillion bucks around and for the last 8/9 months they have been able to keep things from flying apart. The global system is now even more fragile than months ago. One jolt and the charade is over. We will see a massive deleveraging take place soon, it will be sudden and scary. Just wait till interest rates go up: turmoil.

These guys think that China's "miracle economy" is a fraud:

Chinese officials have a funny way of counting. When products are shipped from the factory, for example, they are counted as ‘sales’ even though no one may actually buy them...

...China is booming…isn’t it?’

Well, here’s a question for you: if China were really growing at 8% per year, how come its electricity consumption is going down?...

...Oh, and here’s another number. China’s exports for July were down 22% from the year before. Here’s another question: how can an export led economy grow when its exports are collapsing?


If China's economic performance over the last 20 years is a fraud, I wonder how these Einsteins would characterize the nature of the USA economy.

Brian, I don't think anyone is saying that the Chinese economic for the last 20 years is a fraud, it is just the Current Chinese economy is a fraud. That is the economy that began with the Chinese stimulus package only a few months ago.

The Chinese economy over the last 20 years was an economy based on massive Chinese exports. There was nothing fraudulent about that economy except of course that it depended entirely on the health of the nations it was exporting to.

Also, I must add, the fraud is not in the economy itself, it is in the reporting of that economy. It has been reported as being a true boom when indeed it was just stimilus money being spent. There is nothing wrong with the Chinese trying to stimulate their economy. It would indeed have worked provided that exports picked up by the time the stimulus ran out. Unfortunately that did not happen.

Ron P.

Ron: What you are missing is that a lot of the stimulus money being spent is tangible necessary investment in infrastructure and alternative energy. Government spending isn't all the same, contrary to Krugman's idiotic ramblings.

tangible necessary investment

bridges to no where...

Brian, I don't dispute anything you have said except you insinuated that we were saying the Chinese economy is a fraud and that fraud has been going on for 20 years! No one has come even close to making any such claim.

The Chinese economy is a bubble based on the stimulus package. Just as soon as they resort to an export economy, their economy will be in the toilet again. Our economy has shown some recovery based on the "Cash for Clunkers" program. But do not mistake that for a true recovery. As quick as the government handout money is gone, it is back in the doldrums again.

Also, I made the point that our two economies are joined at the hip. If the Chinese economy collapses then the US economy collapses and vice versa.

What “Chimerica” Hath Wrought

Ron P.

Ron - the part about this that makes me wonder is: It appears that the Chinese are trying to make a leap to a western-style economy. This is obvious based on their ever widening gap in equity. They also appear to be willing to convert their environment (or anybody else's) to dust to do it. I don't believe that it would be sustainable but they are determined to become a first world country.

If they manage to create a consumer economy (like ours)they might be able to weather this storm a lot better than we can. They have a long way to go before they become a broken down debtor nation like the U.S.A.


China is pretty well the number one consumer market already (or close to it)-it is always surprising to see American commentators regard China as totally dependent upon the USA.

China is pretty well the number one consumer market already (or close to it)

Huh? How do you come up with that? Are you just counting numbers of consumers? Certainly this isn't even close to accurate if you are counting amounts spent.

I fear the Chinese bubble may be more than just stimulus money, and older than just a few months. From Zero Hedge:

University of Texas professor James Galbraith discusses one aspect of China's "booming" economy, specifically the question of China's Trade Surplus, which as he notes has been drastically inflated since 2002 due to Chinese companies over-reporting profits on exports in order to disguise various investments by foreigners into China, so as to beat capital control restrictions.

Galbraith argues the "fake profits" are so large that China may have actually ran a trade deficit in some years, and these figures casts serious doubt on the reported P&L of Chinese companies.

Galbraith also has some very interesting things to say both about the internal workings of the Chinese economy and the Chinese-US relationship in his book, The Predator State.

This is the graph of Chinese oil demand from Rembrandt's Oil Watch Monthly:

Oil use certainly has not bounced back up to the trajectory it was on before. I understand that quite a bit of the oil is used for shipping goods by truck. (Trucks vastly outnumber cars.) Some of recent consumption was used for adding to the strategic reserve, I believe. I don't have recent coal consumption. That would also be important.

Here's some info on coal used for electrical generation

Coal price in China may keep rising in short term

An analyst from China International Capital Corporation Limited said "Thermal coal price has come to a high season, and it is expected to go up by a small extent in August."

In July, the average daily consumption volume of coal in locally served power plants remained at 2.06 million tonnes up by 10.8% compared with the 1.86 million tonnes in June. An expert from China Coal Transportation and Marketing Association id it indicates that demand of coal is still growing in short term.

He said that the average consumption volume each day in early August remains above 2 million tonnes and even surges up to 2.2 million tonnes some time. Demand remains robust as a whole.

Well, here’s a question for you: if China were really growing at 8% per year, how come its electricity consumption is going down?...

Although that's an outdated statistic. In recent months Chinese electrical demand has started to rise again.

China electricity use rises for 2nd month in a row

BEIJING — Power consumption in China rose for a second successive month in July, official data showed Friday, giving more hope that the world's third biggest economy is recovering from the global slump.

The six percent year on year increase, released by the National Development and Reform Commission, followed a 3.8 percent lift the previous month.

Before June demand had been falling continuously since October, according to previous media reports citing government data.

Where it goes next of course is open to question.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse:

Squeaking by on $300,000

HARRISON, N.Y. -- The live-in nanny is the first downstairs. She packs the school lunches at a kitchen window, overlooking three acres of velvety grass and little streams that slope toward a gate with a sign that says "Birch Hill."

But she's months overdue for a visit to her colorist, a telltale sign of economic distress for a woman such as Steins. The smell in the basement could mean a crack in the septic line;

But life must go on.

You're invited to a recession cocktail party:

Serving: Cheap Wine and Beer with Simple Fare (Costco Deluxe)

Wear: Old Clothes (hand-me down particularly welcome)

One guest who arrives in khakis and a blue blazer says he wanted to wear jeans but his wife wouldn't let him.

Recession Jokes in the Hampton's:

"What's the difference between a pigeon and an investment banker?" someone asks. "A pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW."

"I went to buy a toaster, and it came with a bank."

Pigs in blankets appetizers are served.

But a faint awareness begins to awaken: "We tied our self-worth and social stature on what we earned. I don't think a downdraft is good, but if it can focus us away from consumerism. . . . "

As the night comes to an end, a guest who doesn't work on Wall Street leans in and makes an observation. Not about the recession, but about the bigger engine of capitalism.

"What you didn't hear was all the toxic stuff from the 45- to 55-year-old guys," he says. "They think all this is bullshit. They're coming back."

These people are relentless.


Your link is broken. I think it should be:


Do you think the lady of the house and her kids would cope with living in a tent under a bridge? That is, if they could find a place amongst the other tent dwellers?

E. Swanson

They'd have to check and see if they can get a wi-fi connection first.


Reading the article gives the reader the impression her escaped husband hasn't been this happy in years.

I never thought about that but I bet you're right.

It reminds me of that old British film The Rocking Horse Winner where the kid grows up in a house that won't stop whispering: "Money...we need more money". He is able to divine race horse winners that his uncle places bets on and this creates tremendous wealth. The problem is the more money there is the more the mother can find to do with it...

I won't tell you any more because if you haven't seen it I don't want to spoil it.

In any case that would be a nightmare to live in an household or culture that is completely based on status symbols. I've never been wealthy and a large part of me says "thank-the-gods".


You left out the first quotation mark in your link. That's why the link is broken.

Please be careful, and check your link with the preview function before posting. If you can't do that, just post the bare link. It will "linkify" automatically.



What an article.. it burned into my retinas, not with anger but with dismay and lost hope.

"The nanny and property taxes take $75,000 right off the top, but Steins considers both non-negotiable facts of her life and not discretionary. When she bought out her husband's share of the house after their 2006 divorce, she assumed the costs of keeping it afloat -- $8,000 to $10,000 a month."

She is desperately trying to hold onto things the way they were, and it's just one pink slip or furlough away from her mansion being foreclosed upon. The whole situation is truly tragic in an epic way.

IF she took an assessment of reality, she could sell the untenable mill-stone of a mansion and purchase a small home outside the Birch-Hill ghetto and be debt free on her income. But no... she's going to ride this one down to it's flaming conclusion. Bring on the destruction, sack cloth & ashes.

I can't really blame her. The vast majority of people would see it the way she does.

And it's not clear that she would be debt-free if she sold the house. She may well be upside down on it. The article said she considered selling, but that it wouldn't sell in this economy. Obviously, if the price were right, it would sell. Does she not want to sell because she thinks she could more money if she waited until real estate rebounded? Or would she not have enough to pay the mortgage if she sold now?

Leanan - I know how this story turns out. I saw the play 30 years ago.

You might remember it? It was called the The Cherry Orchard.

Chekhov intended to write a comedy (it starts out that way). But the end is grim.


I can't really blame her. The vast majority of people would see it the way she does.

And it's not clear that she would be debt-free if she sold the house. She may well be upside down on it.

She may be stuck with the house, but she isn't stuck with the nanny or gardener. Sack them and put $46,000 a year in savings. Cut out the partying, save $100s a month. Cut Stop & Shop, save $100s a month (at Asian markets.) If you cut all the little things like a cell phone for a 10 year old and buying trinkets, probably another $100s a month.

Just the above would save her $60,000 a year. That's 25% more savings than the median family income of $45,000.

Her kids would still grow up in a great school system, and they'd all eat well and be healthy. So what's the loss?

She gets $75,000 a year in child support - more than the average family makes in a year just little further north of where she lives.

No doubt, she could cut back. Not sure getting rid of the nanny is a smart move. She works full time, and so would need child care anyway.

Anyway, all I said what thatit's not as simple as selling the house. I suspect there's very little equity left in the house after the divorce, if any.

A friend of mine is going through that now. He's owned his house forever, and has nearly rebuilt it himself, piece by piece. Plumbing, wiring, floors, walls, windows, renovated the kitchen, installed a new bathroom and renovated the old, furnace, well, septic - you name it, and he did it. Taught himself how.

Now he's going to have to either sell it, or somehow get a second mortgage on it (at much less favorable terms), because he and his wife are divorcing, and he has to pay her her share. He's desperately hanging on, hoping the market rebounds before he has to sell.

Makes you wonder why divorce was so shameful, until about forty years ago.

Maybe partly because it makes expenses unbearable?

Great for GDP, though - it almost doubles a family's basic needs, and creates this "need" for nannies.

My divorced working-class friends tend to leave the kids with friends and relatives when necessary.

I think it was very much economic. We had a rural economy, and it was very difficult to run a farm if you were single.

A lot of people are putting off divorce now, because they can't afford separate households. In Cuba, divorced couples live together for decades, because housing is so difficult to get.

As for my friend...he really didn't have a choice. He and his wife were together for a long time, but she just couldn't accept that one of their kids was gay, and it got to be impossible when puberty hit. She is so deeply in denial about it that it's borderline psychotic, and it just wasn't good for the kid. So my friend has the house and kids, and she's trying to be patient, but needs money to pay the rent on her apartment.

...she just couldn't accept that one of their kids was gay

That is beyond belief. My step-son is openly gay and he and his partner are two of the most welcomed people in my household. (a big part of that is they are so much fun to be around)

Being a parent is truly about unconditional love.

Part of the problem for ppl like the woman described is the shame in capitulating (selling house, moving, etc.) which effectively removes you from your social class, your circuit, your sect, your leafy, scenic, niche.

Once done, the person must leave that social strata and start a new life. This is typical of the upper middle ‘rentier’ class, dependent on regular ‘rents’ and a large annual income with some investments (often bad), residential property hardest hit in a bubble, and a bit of savings perhaps.

The very rich/influential/connected/talented/ruling class don’t have that difficulty, they can re-coup, re-bound, re-invent themselves (even after a prison sentence, to take a typical ex.), and are able to move up and down the social ladder and be geographically mobile.

Lower to middle “middle class” ppl - employees, trades, even professional ppl, - hard to define internationally as varies much from place to place - have the same advantage if they are ready to take it up. The poor also have advantages on their side, but this post is too long already. ;)

Thanks Ron.

It's certainly difficult to "predict" a day (to say the least). even a month, and maybe even a quarter, half year - face it it's damn hard to predict this stuff.

There was this back on 7/14/2009 that I sort of bookmarked.

The Chinese Stock Bubble: Watch For "Critical Level Around July 17-27, 2009

Expanding on Cornelius' early piece on China, here is an analysis out of some BNP quants who for one reason or another are convinced the end's in sight. For those who are forgot where they put their Ritalin, here is the punchline:

"By the very nature of the model, this result gives us two conclusions. Firstly, there exists a bubble in the Shanghai Composite Index. Secondly, it will reach a critical level around July 17-27, 2009. This will lead to a change in regime which may be a crash or a more gently bubble deflation. An extended version of this note, with a careful assessment of the confidence intervals and comparisons with the previous Chinese bubble ending in Oct. 2007, will be released soon."

I am still kind of drawn to Stoneleigh's take that we are due a potentially big correction - and this could be the start- but we may equally see another run up or run ups - even exceeding current recent highs - before the next big leg down. This fall, early next year, I dunno.

But it is inevitable - and about time - just be as prepared as you can be.


From the NYT article, we're always reminded that the 'devil is in the assumptions'..

FICTION -- Dish washing by hand seems like less wasteful option, but it actually consumes more water and energy. People typically leave the hot water running, using up to 14 gallons of water on average.

I would be happy to challenge any dishwasher to use less water and energy than I do with a sinkful of dishes, and I can even get the dried chunks off so someone doesn't have to follow after me and rewash and spotcheck my work. I use probably 1/2 gallon of hot water ( mostly in a 'soapy water bowl' that I dip the sponge into) and 1 to 2 of cold for the rinse. The dirty dishes get a splash of water to start soaking and loosening food on them, and also get the soapy drizzlings from the scrubbing above them, but I don't fill a whole sink for it, which invariably gets a couple oily bowls or plates that contribute to oiling everything else in the bath, and which kills off the soap too fast.

The 'averaging' they had to do to make their article generally made most of those summaries unproductive. So many of the solutions will be in the detailed particulars, little nuances that are too complicated for the Soundbite Solutions they are keen to offer. Some ideas were good, but it's still a lot of 'SitCom fast solutions' for my taste.

My laptop, for instance, draws about 30watts in Normal Operation, and goes down to roughly 1 watt in sleep mode, according to a 'WattsUp' meter. Thats 96% less, not the 70% they point to. Like the dishwashing, it's an averaging that hide a great deal of potential savings. I was also able to track significant power changes just by brightening and dimming the screen backlight, and changing the settings for when the harddrive goes to sleep between processor requests.

Just a suggestion: put dishes into a small tray/tub and add water and dish soap and let soak for at least 20 minutes before washing. Works wonders!

I do pre-wet dishes/pots that need it, so eg., a stack of plates will have water in all 'layers'.. but I let them stay out of a common pool, for the above reasons. Very modest amt of soap and hot water required.

My wife sticks with more trad. methods.. and we do use a 'roll-away' dishwasher, but it often frustrates me with the forced rewashing and other hassles.

Macluhan- 'Every automation is an amputation'

Thanks for your observation here, jokuhl. I'm suspicious that dishwasher companies are behind this bit of misinformation, one I've seen in otherwise carefully researched green guides.

Obviously how you hand wash makes a big difference. I also let the hot dishwater sit and heat and humidify the air in the winter, and I water plants with the graywater. Both of these are impossible without major engineering with a standard dishwasher.

Housekeeping register.

In case of low, or incredibly expensive water, or need to husband: Scrape, wipe plates/pans /cutlery etc. by wiping with left-over paper products such as newspapers, paper towels, paper serviettes (if that upscale!)

Or left over, otherwise useless, cotton/cloth products; sand if available; dead, or living if suitable, leaves from trees. Do this *immediately* when the meal is over.

Put the whole lot in a small quantity of water with or without some soap. Then think about the next step, or go to bed, or whatever.

Water left over from other purposes may be suitable. Or not.

Hi Bob,

I have my own "twelve step" programme when it comes to washing dishes, or so the kidding goes. I pre-wash dirty dishes with a small amount of cold soapy water in a large stainless steel mixing bowl (more sanitary than plastic). If there's a greasy pot or pan, I'll try to remove as much as I can with a small piece of paper towel, although I'm sure newspaper would work equally fine. Once the pre-wash is complete, I dump this water, give the bowl a quick rinse, add a small amount of soapy water and run the dishes through a second time (at this point we've consumed perhaps one litre). Alternatively, this spent water is used to rinse out cans and bottles that are to be recycled.

Since the majority of food particles have already been removed, this second batch of wash water remains quite clean. If there are relatively few items, each item is quickly rinsed over the bowl in what might be called micro bursts so that this water can be used to wash the items that follow; however, if there are a large number of dishes, they're placed in the adjoining sink where they're allow dry. If that's the case, once all dishes have been washed a second time, the water is dumped, the bowl is quickly rinsed again and each dish goes through a final rinse with the tap turned on and off as required. Once again, all of this water is captured and as it accumulates in the bowl, I dip the cup or plate into the water, then rinse under the tap. Anything from this third and final round is used for other purposes such as flushing toilets.

I'm not overly concerned about washing dishes in cold water -- I doubt it's any less sanitary than washing in hot water from a tap. During the dead of winter when tap water is cold enough to contain ice crystals, I'll fill an electric kettle before heading off to bed and let it come up to room temperature overnight (this way, my hands won't go numb).

My dishwasher is a high efficiency European model that uses, as I recall, an average of 14 litres per load. However, manual washing allows me to get this down to no more than one or two litres, tops (with the rest being recoverable), and I further eliminate any electrical requirements.


If you use a wood stove those greasy paper towels are world class fire starters,easily lit,long burning, but incapable of creating a sudden flash fire such as can be generated by kerosene or charcoal lighter fluid,etc.


A great tip for wood stove owners. After any major food prep, I wipe down the kitchen counter top with a spray disinfectant and paper towels. Rather than throw these sheets directly into the garbage, I reuse them to wipe out pots and pans and recyclables prior to their washing. Given the hundreds of thousands of trees that are killed each year to make disposable paper products (and the resources and environmental degradation that is part and parcel of this process), it only makes sense.

[God, I could be the principal male lead in Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey Into Night.]


My laptop, for instance, draws about 30watts in Normal Operation, and goes down to roughly 1 watt in sleep mode

Sorry, Bob, with respect to your second point, I try to use my laptop whenever I can as it's considerably more energy efficient than the alternative. One of the things that *really* annoys me about my PC is that I will put it into suspend mode but in the process of getting up to leave the room, I inadvertently hit the mouse or my chair bumps into desk and the thing comes back to life. Then I have to turn on the monitor, enter my password and repeat the whole suspend process again. Or it's asleep as I'm doing paper work and in the process of garbing a folder Mister Mouse twitches, and here we go yet again.

When I press Fn+F4 to suspend my ThinkPad, that sucker ain't coming back on no matter what I do unless I press the Fn key again. Does anyone know if you can assign a designed wake-up key for a standard PC that will eliminate this type of nonsense?


It sounds like there will be more deep water drilling work done in the Gulf of Mexico, in fields like Tahiti and Jack. Chevron is taking delivery of the first of two ultra-deep water drilling ships, and there seem to be three other ultra-deep water drillships in the offing for others.

Transocean drillship bags Chevron gig

Transocean announced that the ultra-deep-water drillship Discoverer Clear Leader has begun work for Chevron in the US Gulf under a five-year contract.

The Discoverer Clear Leader is the first of five Transocean ultra-deep-water enhanced Enterprise-class drillships scheduled to begin operations this year as well as the next.

The state-of-the-art vessel is capable of drilling wells in 12,000 feet (3650 metres) of water to a total depth of 40,000 feet, surpassing the limits of previous technology.

“The Discoverer Clear Leader offers the most-advanced drilling capabilities in the offshore drilling industry and will enable Chevron to expand the search for new domestic sources of energy,” said George Kirkland, Chevron executive in a press release.

Hello Gail,

Any ideas on the sunk cost of a 40,000 ft superstraw dry-hole with these new, next generation deep-sea rigs? Perhaps, this new tech just further accelerates us along TOD's Net Energy Cliff graphic:


If the planet is now going after the dregs at the very bottom of the barrel, isn't it better to go after the dregs in the very well-known and very large barrels? A large, but mostly rotten apple is still much better than a "nega"-apple.

Seems like the ongoing research to extract Ghawar's tarmat [and other ME tarmats] is the better bet, as it would be pretty damn hard to miss your target with all the accumulated ARAMCO tech knowledge and fancy tools:

Simmons' Graph of Ghawar tarmat:

[Please scroll down to slide 17] 500 feet thick and 100 miles long?

January 2009 - Issue 1 - Volume 27
Dubai workshop defines the tar mat issues in optimizing reservoir production

..The final session had talks entitled ‘Differentiating light and viscous oil from tar mat by Dr Moustafa Oraby (Halliburton Egypt) and ‘Introduction to converting tar mats into reserves’ by Jean Hector de Gallard (Beicip-Franlab). All attendees agreed that the lively discussions proved how topical tar mats are in the Middle East. A follow up workshop is already planned by EAGE for late 2009..

Oil Recovery from Tarmat Reservoirs using Hot Water & Solvent Flooding
T.M. Okasha, Saudi Aramco; HK Menouar, Abu-Khamsin, SA, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals
1998 research linked above. Hopefully, the TopTODers can do more research into this trend as I have limited skills.

Is growing research into tarmat extraction another postPeak indicator? Can tarmat flowrates reach sufficient volumes to time-shift the Hubbert Curve even further forward in time to guarantee a fast-crash shark-fin versus a slowly declining fat-tail? What is the ERoEI in tarmat extraction compared to super-deep-sea superstraws [with some dryholes]?

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

Some more thoughts [Full disclosure: I have no oil-patch experience!]:

First 4 below discuss getting the tarmat moving upward through Ghawar by attacking the very top of the tarmat:

1. If one could get some of the tarmat to become mobile by some method: could it flow into the super-K fractures that are so plentiful in Ghawar [please recall my prior link of the Voelker PDF Motherlode on Ghawar]? This potential sealing off of the fractures could drastically reduce the water-cut, increase reservoir sweep efficiency, and greatly extend injection pressure crossfield communication.

2. With many, or most Super-Ks filled: MRC horizontals instantly become more effective as it becomes much harder for water breakthough to occur by some hidden fracture or high porosity area. Furthermore, it facilitates direct water injection into previously bypassed higher permeability oil-saturated areas so that cost-effective extraction from these discrete areas can now go forward.

3. Could solvent-altered [Sulfuric acid?] mobile asphaltenes and other longer hydrocarbon molecules from the tarmats be effective in chem-gathering the shorter and lighter hydrocarbons that cling to the carbonate soils? Could this help raise recovery of total OIP?

4. Recall that Ghawar is tilted upward east-to-west, and salinity rises towards the west. Thus, there might be significant FREE seawater pressure-drive underneath the tarmat. IF [Big if!] this could be directed into Ghawar, they might require less pumping injection equipment to sustain reservoir sweep and inevitable rising water cuts.

Next paragraph is about potential tarmat extraction by attacking it from the bottom or middle areas:

Recall that small amounts of water meeting large amounts of [S]ulphuric acid is highly exothermic [lots of heat thrown off]. If one could continuously inject super-large amounts of S into the already very, very deep & hot tarmat at the tarmat/saltwater meeting point, could one rapidly convert these hydrocarbons into more easily extractable shorter molecules or various lighter fractions [methane, propane, etc]? In short: some possible way to have a simple refinery deep underground to make a cheap, but high volumetric flowrate?

At the reservoir temperature of 110°C, oil viscosity is 12,000 cp (oil density 0.976-1.067 g/cm3 @15°C).
Drat, I hate brainfarts! I found this tarmat info awhile back, but I forgot to save the link. Does some expert have better info on what the temp & pressure, plus other info, is at the tarmat level?

IMO, The Very Last Thing the ARAMCO topdog wants to do is pickup the phone and place an order for one million nodding pumpjacks for Ghawar, plus unbelievable amounts of water-handling equipment to remove the <1% oil stain in the >99% water. Going after the tarmat first makes common sense to me, but what do I know? YMMV, but I hope the TopTODers can further flog this dog with a future keypost.

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

Oops, some correction required:

"Furthermore, it facilitates direct water injection into previously bypassed higher [EDIT: LOWER] permeability oil-saturated areas so that cost-effective extraction from these discrete areas can now go forward."

Recall that Ghawar is tilted upward east-to-west [EDIT: WEST-TO-EAST, and salinity rises towards the west [EDIT: EAST].

HUMOR: Guess, I didn't get enough coffee after staying in a La Quinta last night, LOL!

Wheat nutrition declines as CO2 rises

You may have thought that the silver lining of rising carbon dioxide levels would be a boost in crop yields. But evidence is mounting that we may trade quantity for quality.

The discovery that staple crops like wheat have less protein when grown in high concentrations of CO2 has already caused concern, but the bad news doesn't stop there. ...

I've explained before but I'll say it again: CO2 is very seldom the limiting 'nutrient' to primary productivity. Increasing CO2 availability will only increase plant growth & crop yields if N, P, K, the micronutrients and water, are in abundance. This is seldom the case. Heat stress due to CO2 accumulation more than offsets any CO2 'fertilization' effect that may occur, resulting in a net reduction in productivity in all but a few special cases.

Thanks for the comment -- I learned about Liebig's law of the minimum here on TOD...

I've been lurking here for a few months, and as I understand it, the Drumbeat is a place to share pretty much anything related to resource depletion.

Below is a particularly funny, witty and persuading TED Talk whose relevance I feel is quite strong for me and my fellow peers (Mech. Engineering Class of '09), and I think you guys should take a look. Enjoy!


This guy is part Zombie.....

I'm reading Brian Hayes' INFRASTRUCTURE, a coffe table formatted book on the US industrial infrastructure: mining, farming, shipping, electric generation and distribution, etc. No particular point of view, not very technical.

Nineteenth century copper mines exploited only the richest ores, which were 30 percent or even 60 percent metal. By 1915, miners were digging ores with only 5 percent copper, and by the 1940s just 2 percent; today the average grade is about 0.5 percent. ...

There it is: industrialism ain't gonna continue for a whole lot longer.

Quite aside from that, I recommend the book to TOD readers. The technical ones will know a whole lot more about particular parts of our infrastructure, but I don't there are many who won't learn a lot about the big picture. I certainly am.

dave - sounds like an interesting read. I'm going to check it out.

Re: "Industrialism ain't gonna continue for a whole lot longer."

If I believed in all powerful being (and at one time I did...I'm Catholic) I would make that my nightly prayer. I have heard it expressed on this site many times that a rapid collapse might be preferable to a long catabolic collapse. I know for a fact that it would be. (Look at Chernobly if you want an obvious example.)

One observation that I can make about human societies. Whatever happens people seem to be able to adapt quickly. The reason most people won't acknowledge limits is there hasn't been a large enough event to force them to make a fundamental change. When it becomes absolutely necessary it is my conviction that people (who want to survive) will move quickly.

What most individuals on this site know is that in the wake of rising demand it would be very difficult to increase production.

Lets say for instance: gas prices last year didn't stop rising and they weren't able to increase production. But prices did collapse as the floor fell out of demand.

What we didn't take into account was there is a price tolerance particularly to energy. $149.00 a barrel broke the camel's back. Now oil's hovering around $70.00 a barrel. People become suddenly interested in the cost of energy.

You might hate industrialism for a variety of very valid reasons but it is efficient and don't hold your breath in it's sudden demise. Henry Ford left us with a long-term-legacy.


You might hate industrialism for a variety of very valid reasons but it is efficient and don't hold your breath in it's sudden demise. Henry Ford left us with a long-term-legacy.

I don't hate industrialism (I know you mean 'one might', not me), and I'm not at all a back-to-nature kind of person by inclination. A green thumb for me is a definite sign of infection. But late in life I've become convinced that industrialism, which is totally dependent on the extraction of below ground resources, is about to crash, not this week, this year, or even this decade, but in the coming decades. Sudden I am not sure about. There is a global industrial economy -- any complicated piece of machinery, nay any piece of machinery at all, whether a submarine or a cell phone, is a product of the global industrial system. Once a certain degree of contraction takes place, things could begin to unwind rather rapidly at a certain point.

I agree with you that we can and will adapt -- the only question is how quickly and how much chaos and turmoil will take place before we get it together.

You mention efficiency. That has become my bete noire. I've come to realize that efficiency and sustainability are not good friends, and are sometimes bitter enemies. Industrialism tries to attain (edit: maximize) a given end at minimum cost at maximum speed, and discounts all externalities. Apply the concept of efficiency to life itself and one shoots oneself -- minimum cost, maximum speed, done. We actually do this in America, but not so directly. We shoot holes in our lives day by day, i.e. shoot ourselves piecemeal, racing around to get ahead or in preparing to get ahead, and get ahead (wherever that is) at maximum speed. So far it's only a small minority that follows through on the logic of efficiency, thank goodness.

Efficiency will play a much smaller role in our figuring out how to survive.

Re: JH Kunstler The First Die-off

I've been a big fan of Jim's for years. I've bought his books, read his blog and I even went to a local lecture event like a groupie. But this recent rant pisses me off.

Friends invited us out to an idyllic hidden corner of the place far from the clam bars filled with shrieking babies and other more typical attractions.

Our strategy was to leave for home in upstate New York at 11 o'clock Sunday morning -- a bright, hot day, as chance would have it -- thinking that the masses would elect to remain a few more hours at Vacation Central pointlessly towing the little ones around in circles on plastic inflatables behind motorboats before returning to the real world.

Once we busted through that monumental clusterfuck, it was a straight run home -- except for a strange interlude at a Mass Pike rest stop, where people who looked like Thanksgiving Day parade balloons clutched armfuls of snack bags in their never-ending quest for fulfillment. I began to think of them -- prompted, I'm sure, by some malicious meme on the Web -- as "the yeast people,"

JH Kusntler is a first class snob. He can't wait for the die-off so he can cut his commute to Martha's vineyard? (sound of teeth grinding)


Hello Joemichaels,

I respectfully disagree. I think JHK's discussing from a larger context or boundary analysis. Basically, how we are now Overshoot-trapped by our prior and huge miss-allocation of resources by building sprawling infrastructure based around the easy-motoring way of life.

He goes on to discuss how trains, if built everywhere, would make it easier and more pleasant for everyone. My feeble two cents.

Hello totoneila,

I get it that he's disgusted with our suburban-can't-ever-get-enough-society. But consider this. He never once turned that laser-beam-wit on his perhaps superior hosts.

But that wouldn't be gracious would it?


BTW I won't stop reading Kunstler as long as I think he has something to say. AFAIC he's still an important messenger. But he needs take it easy on the hyperbole and mean-criticism.

Kunstler is right about the positive benefits of trains!

I now live in a country with miles and miles of convenient train lines.....

We need no car to go virtually anywhere.

So we don`t bother owning a car.

It is wonderful. I sometimes think that Kunstler realy should have emigrated rather than try to live in a country that so doesn`t suit him. (I suppose I could have been like that had I stayed in the US too) He gets all crabby about life and puts people off.

It`s sad because he has some good points to make.

However, I expect that trains will feel the economic pain here and the service will be cut a lot, so I`m not holding out hope that they`ll be running conveniently forever....especially the Shinkansen, energy hog that it is.

He's seems to do quite a lot of traveling, and yet he complains about other people driving around in circles. I stopped reading his blog a while back. It's just the same rant using different words, week after week.

Joe,I didn't read JHK's latest like that.He made it clear at the beginning that he seldom ever goes to the Cape Cod area.
I loved the "parade balloons" and the "yeast people" cracks.I've got to hand it to him,he has a way with words,and they bite.

Kunstler after predicting the end of suburbia and the crash of the US economy into a never ending depression seems to become more desperate by the week as the recession is showing signs of ending.
Take Kunstler's blog post last week"The fog of numbers";
"While extremely allergic to paranoid memes and conspiracy theories, I begin to wonder about the impressive volume of World Wide Web chatter about an upcoming bank holiday -- meaning that the US government might find itself constrained to shut down the banking system for a period of time to deal with a rapidly developing emergency that might prompt the public to make a run on reserves. God knows, there are enough black swans crowding the skies these days to blot out the sun. I hesitate to suggest that readers who are able to should consider stealthily withdrawing a month's worth of walking-around money from their accounts."

This sounds like a thinly disguised promotion of a re-cycled conspiracy theory, and he didn't "hesitate" too long to try to encourage a run on the banking system.
If all else fails Kunstler can still hope for his predicted flu pandemic to create a run on groceries and toilet paper, and finally "decapitate" the depressed economy, that's assuming people will have enough "walking around money" to buy a years supply, or will be in a fit state to walk around after being "struck down" by the deadly flu.

Yeah - He's starting to sound like the Truman Capote of Peak Oil.


He's more the Quentin Crisp of Peak Oil.

Quentin Crisp

Jim Kunstler

Which pseudonym no this site do you think belongs to Kunstler?

Actually, he has posted as "Kunstler" - just not very often.

I've seen him post using his name, at least I'm pretty sure that it's him. He doesn't do it often, and the google search makes it hard to search on a user whose name shows up frequently in other people's posts.


Personal information


    Author of many books including
    The Long Emergency
    The Geography of Nowhere
    The City in Mind
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Member for
    3 years 21 weeks 

recession is showing signs of ending.

So you're buying in to all the happy talk?

I guess if I try hard, I can sorta understand your reaction, but I thought his cracks were hilarious, at least when I set aside the sheer obscenity of the quantity of resources wasted by way of inadequate roads and so on.

<rant> It seems like anytime anyone dares to comment on the sheer absence of quality these days (such as the ludicrously outdated perpetually jammed East Coast roads in question), they're excoriated for "snobbery". Apparently the best and highest goal of life is to reduce all goods, services, and culture to the lowest common denominator of stinking broken cheapskate lumpenrubbish, in the interest of politically-correct lumpen-"democratization".

Vide broken airline "service" driven light-years below the bottom of the lumpenbarrel by Priceline and its ilk; inadequate roads jammed with lumpencheapskates who pay next to nothing to assuage their lumpenboredom by driving aimlessly round and round; and public "schools" catering exclusively to the lowest common lumpendenominator of the lumpenstupid and lumpenlazy.

Vide the lumpen-"concert" fragment I was "treated" to (like it or not) passing by the local lumpenColiseum a few nights ago - several uninterrupted lumpenminutes of shrieking lumpen-f-bombs amplified to hideously distorted lumpenvolume so intense as to be uncomfortable even a third of a mile away, playing to the defective lumpenproducts of said public "schools" - who, just to ice the cake and despite all the yammering about peak oil and recession and "unfairly" low wages and yadda yadda yadda, somehow found (according to the tickets web site) $41 apiece plus enough gas money to drive in and cram the parking fields.

Vide the whole rest of the vast wasteland governed by the overarching lumpen-anti-ethic: "It's unfair ever to ask me to drag my gargantuan lumpenposterior away from scarfing up cheez-doodles while watching lumpenmorons poncing about on lumpen-"reality"-TV, or poncing about on stage hurling lumpen-f-bombs. Just gimme any old lumpengarbage so long as its piled high enough to drown in, and let me enjoy my "right" to sink back into my torpid lumpenstupor at anyone's expense but my own." </rant>

Even Mother Theresa would start talking like Kunstler after a drive to and from Cape Cod at the peak season.

I'm going there for there first time next month, and I'm doing it the smart way: ferry from Boston to Provincetown, and finding things to do without a car while I'm there. The people who INSIST on piling into a car and driving to what is, after all, a cape, a geographic feature that cannot be served well by road, deserve a measure of contempt.


I'd like to make a few comments on this news story. In a rather long post a couple weeks or so ago, I explained the role of orbital forcing (Milankovitch cycles) on climate. In precis, the planet entered an interpluvial period (interlude between times of continental glaciation) roughly 25K yrs bp. This trend will continue for about the next 25K yrs; in other words, it will be ~50K yrs before continental glaciation reoccurs. This is the case with or without anthropogenic emission of high heat capacity gasses. Orbital forcing swamps anything humans do.

This said, I do not dispute that human activity began to reinforce or potentiate the warming trend due to orbital dynamics long before the onset of the industrial revolution. Clearing land for agriculture was only one of the ways by which humans may have aggravated natural global warming. Driving extinct the high latitude proboscidians and other large browsers caused the demise of an unique ecosystem known today as the "mammoth steppe," for instance, and the replacement of this ecosystem with tundra & boreal forest undoubtedly had an effect on climate. While I believe that human impact on climate prior to the advent of agriculture and especially the industrial revolution was slight, these impacts show that the diaspora of humans out of Africa did indeed have an environmental destabilizing influence. A mass extinction episode was triggered, entire ecosystems were disrupted and climatic warming was intensified by human activity. Our species wasn't a benign player on the ecological stage until relatively recently, as many of the "PO aware" posters on TOD would seem to have it. Homo sapiens has been the cause or at least the facilitator of environmental degradation nearly from the time of speciation.

A few weeks ago, I saw Peter Ward give a presentation on his "Medea hypothesis." His is the opposite of Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis" -- Gaia predicts that negative feedbacks dominate the biosphere; Medea predicts that positive feedbacks dominate.

Ward's position is that whenever Life figures out some big new thing, it's generally disastrous to the current biosphere.

Humans appear to be the next Big New Thing.

Just think of humans as a palate cleanser for the next course in gaia's feast. Medea plays her part quite well.


Peter also appeared with Lovelock recently when the slippery old man was in town, but there wasn't much of a discussion. His debate with Jim Kasting at Town Hall was more fun, though, if you caught that one.

Homo sapiens has been the cause or at least the facilitator of environmental degradation nearly from the time of speciation.

Perhaps Homo sapiens ("knowing man") should really be called Homo omnicidens ("all-killing man")?

I know, I know, I'm a "cynical misanthrope"....

Only if you hate people for it.

ExxonMobil Eyes 30 More Years Output from Offshore Bass Project

At some point south eastern Australia will have to get NG from north western Australia, by either LNG tanker or pipeline. Some short connecting links and flow reversals in the current gas grid could hook up coal seam methane as well. Meanwhile big new contracts for LNG export are being signed with China, India, Japan and Europe. It would be crazy if one side of the country went short of gas while the other side sold gas overseas. Nobody seems to be thinking that far ahead.

Hello Boof,

Your Quote: "It would be crazy if one side of the country went short of gas while the other side sold gas overseas. Nobody seems to be thinking that far ahead."

Recall my recent repost of "The Dictatorship of the Detritovores" for a macro overview of Hirsch's 15 Detritovore States. IMO, this is No Different than on the micro-level: most easy-motoring people [with FF] don't give a damn about a hitch-hiker with a thumb up [no FF].

OZland becoming biFFurcated is IMO, no different than W. Canada sending fuel south while E. Canada imports. Same with some Russians and E. Europeans freezing while FF heads into W. Europe. I could easily see Cali & Texas earning more money by selling their FF refined products to overseas markets while Las Vegas & my Arizona Asphaltistan is left high and dry. Again I ask, is Cascadia ready?

Inevitably, for Optimal Overshoot Decline: we need some kind of process where discrete areas head into biosolar habitats, while others will cling in stupid denial to decreasing detritus; your basic Merc vs Earthmarine face-off, IMO.

Much to my dismay, eastern Australia has plenty of NatGas, via Coal Seam Methane.

The disconnect between WA and the eastern States isan old one. WA only joined the Commonwealth at Federation because the eastern states built them a railway (New Zealand and Fiji were also considering joining, and, although NZ and Au are practically attatched at the hip anyway, I'm glad Fiji, economic and xenophobic basket case that it is, opted out).

For any UK-based readers, I'd strongly recommend watching 'Future of Food' - Beautifully made and insightful programme.


George Alagiah travels the world to reveal a growing global food crisis that could affect the planet in the years ahead. With food riots on three continents recently, and unprededented competition for food due to population growth and changing diets, the series alerts viewers to a looming problem and looks for solutions.

George joins a Masai chief among the skeletons of hundreds of cattle he has lost to climate change, and the English farmer who tells him why food production in the UK is also hit. He spends a day eating with a family in Cuba to find out how a future oil shock could lead to dramatic adjustments to diets. He visits the breadbasket of India to meet the farmer who now struggles to irrigate his land as water tables drop, and finds out why obesity is spiralling out of control in Mexico.

Back in Britain, George investigates what is wrong with people's diets, and discovers that the UK imports an average of 3000 litres of water per capita every day. He talks to top nutritionist Susan Jebb, DEFRA minister Hilary Benn and Nobel laureate Rajendra Pachauri to uncover what the future holds for our food.

An excellent programme. I really enjoyed it.

New York Times: Brazil Seeks More Control Over Oil Fields.

Interesting article, for a couple of reasons. First is human politician nature, being unable to keep their hands off a goose that (they think) will lay some golden eggs. The Brazilians' are no better than our politicians.

Such a lot, too: maybe a year's supply of oil for the world -- "the only large discovery in recent years." /sarc

The second interesting feature is towards the end, where they talk about the number of fancy rigs needed to exploit the pre-salt formation.

Through 2017, Petrobras will need 40 oil rigs capable of drilling deep enough to reach the new fields — more than half the total number of such rigs that exist in the world today, Mr. Gabrielli said. The company is requiring that 28 of them be built in Brazil.

“The question is not whether to speed up or not to speed up,” Mr. Gabrielli said. “We are at the limits of the world capacity for the industry.”

Here we are increasing the investment required to get a given return, and eventually being rate-limited by the required investment: an example of the inexorable operation of the law of diminishing marginal returns (an alternate form of the "peak oil hypothesis", so-called).

As we all know Saudi Arabia doubling its spare capacity.... what they can produce 15m bbpd now? Still the extra 6m or even 12m won't offset the depletion of other countries in the near future.

note this statement from that article about Saudi Arabia:

"Should they prepare for a return to “business as usual” by investing in new production capacity to accommodate resurgent demand, or should they brace for a new world order in which oil consumption recovers slowly, or not at all, as consumers make a permanent switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles and cleaner power sources?"

Wow, that's a toughie! Who knows, two years from now we may be driving nuclear fusion propelled automobiles and will be giving Saudi Arabia's oil the finger.

Good grief!


By the way, as to solar thermal, it doesn't seem out of the question that you could be using output from CSP plants with storage (molten salt or whatever)in the Mojave to provide electricity to people in northern climes even in the winter. I believe they estimate that those could run at full power about 90% of the days of the year. (oversized so that they can run on somewhat overcast days and of course also to generate excess molten salt to keep the power plant running during the night)

It still seems to me that the fact that there will be SOME days that will be too overcast for the CSP's to operate could be an achilles heel though. Having energy storage to run a 24 hour cycle seems plausible to me, but having enough energy storage to handle let us say a weeklong bout of overcast weather in the desert seems like it would be prohibitively expensive.

CSP is touted as having the potential of providing "baseline" electric power, but "near baseline" is probably a more realistic limit of what it can achieve. If we relied heavily on CSP-generated power from the Mojave, when the weather turns bad it would presumably shut down most all the plants, unlike a shutdown of a nuclear plant where each individual plant is only one part of the system.

My feeling is that in the long term we may wind up having to settle for "near baseline" power such as what we should be able to get from CSP. If that's the case, it might mean a couple weeks out of the year we couldn't keep our homes warm and would have to hunker down in large emergency shelters.

Not a pleasing thought, but not the end of the world, either.

It seems like people usually view the long-term future either in terms of we will find new technologies so we can pretty much live a developed-world lifestyle even post fossil-fuel, or the other extreme where our technology-laden society simply collapses and whoever survives lives a very hard life compared to before.

It is possible that the reality may be something in between, however. With one example of that world being- perhaps we will have still have warm homes but only 50 weeks of the year.

My thoughts on our future (non- Mr Mini Fusion) power mix is that we will need to overbuild. Instead of building our energy infrastructure to suppoort 100% of baseload 'needs' (whatever they may be), we overbuild to, say 110%. This extra 10% can be used to generate portable, storable fuels like Anhydrous Ammonia, Hydrogen (far less preferable, but if it's for stationary storage, meh), turn turkey offal into psuedo-petroleum, or pump water uphill, which can be stored for later use on overcast periods to maintain at least a minimum supply of electricity.
Combined with a long-term program to retrofit existing building stock to be more thermally efficient, as well as making the appliances more efficient, and equiping houses with at least emergency generation, it would go a long way to solving the Baseload Fallacy.
Relying on one energy source would be not unlike what we're doing now (fossil fuels). We need a mix of sources that complement each other.

Stock market set back today, this is a good thing. The market was getting far ahead of itself and we are at risk of a "re-bubble".

To those cheerleaders out there hoping for and claiming the potential of a returning to all time highs on the market, that can afford to wait. What we need is a "re-rationalization" of prices and return to stable, predictable yield. Time is on our side if we don't get in too big of a hurry. :-)


Hello TODers,

This may be very legal, but I don't think this is very bright:

Man carries assault rifle to Obama protest -- and it's legal

I guaran-fricken-tee all of you that if the situation was reversed, and Democrats were showing up at town halls to protest a Republican President's initiatives by shouting politicians down that the Gestapo police would have a Taser-fest and a baton-whack-a-thon to beat the band. And if anybody showed up with a firearm, they would probably be shot by Jonnie Law, and/or put away for years.


From one of the many comments to the article:

It is pretty clear that by far the majority of taser use has had nothing to do with being a substitute for using a firearm to subdue a 'dangerous' person. Clearly the taser is being used as the whip has been used for centuries, to inflict pain and suffering as well as humiliating the victim and establishing the power of the person that wields the whip. Don't move fast enough, don't show the 'proper deference' or, show any form of resistance to an overseer, a master of slaves and, you shall receive the punishment of slaves, the whip. In this case the electric whip that forces you to writhe on the ground in agony at the mercy of your overseer, an appropriate form of submission for a disrespectful slave.

I am afraid that increasing police brutality will lead to blow-back, and that will go all bad in a hurry.

Ahh, to bring back the TV ideal of One-Adam-12...'To Protect and to Serve'...not the current trend of 'To Punish and Enslave' (nod to Transformers).

Ending the destructive 'War on Drugs' would be a great start. Did Prohibition teach us nothing? But who would make all the government's furniture? (See UNICOR, formerly Federal Prison Industries [FPI])

Hi MoonWatcher,

Amnesty International documents numbers of deaths from tasers, as per:

Taser Abuse in the United States.

"Since June 2001, more than 351 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police Tasers. Most of those individuals were not carrying a weapon. Amnesty International is concerned that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force -- rather than as an alternative to firearms.

Medical studies so far on the effects of Tasers have either been limited in scope or unduly influenced by the weapons' primary manufacturer. No study has adequately examined the impact of Tasers on potentially at-risk individuals -- people who have medical conditions, take prescription medications, are mentally ill or are under the influence of narcotics. Rigorous, independent, impartial study of their use and effects is urgently needed to determine what role Tasers may have played in the 351 deaths and to determine appropriate guidelines for future Taser use."

All this taser nonsense would go away if the cops would go back to using the 'nine millimetre taser'. ;)

regarding the article about saudi arabia burning more oil in their power plants..
most of saudi arabia's power came from burning natgas. There have been reports of gas production in the kingdom
falling, and in recent years they have tried to bring more gas-using industries into their own borders to sell
a higher value product than just the raw material. Given that gas is a necessary feedstock for those industries,
and that gas production and reservoir pressure have been declining, and gas reinjection to maintain cap pressure
is to some extent necessary for greater reservoir management, and that heavy sour is still less deirable than
anything else, is it any surprise that the kindgom has burned more of the stuff lately?

it's surprising to see how events of a fundamentally pessimistic nature get spun into yet more BAU in such an article.