Drumbeat: September 18, 2009

Forget Conventional 401(k)s; Think Goat Cheese and Fennel

Woody Tasch wants to rewrite the gospel of financial growth.

A former venture capitalist, Mr. Tasch now travels the country warning that money moves too fast. Billions zip through global markets each day, bundled into financial packages so complex that it is hard to know what you own.

His antidote: A fundamental shift in our attitude toward investing. Taking a page from the Slow Food movement, which calls on consumers to take the time to savor home-cooked meals, Mr. Tasch dubbed his philosophy Slow Money.

The crux of the movement is persuading investors to put some of their assets into businesses they can see, smell and even taste -- to measure growth not by the flashing numbers on a stock ticker, but by the slow ripening of a tomato.

Treating Oil Addiction Fuel (2008)

“Fuel,” Josh Tickell’s unabashedly intimate, 11-years-in-the-making attack on America’s addiction to oil, is not so much a green documentary as a red, white and blue alarm. But if you can resist the urge to run for the exit, you may leave the theater feeling a lot more hopeful than when you went in.

A sustainable-energy evangelist whose church is a van that runs on grease, Mr. Tickell contends that the oil industry poisons our environment, corrupts our government and cooks our planet. Galvanized by a childhood spent among the oil refineries and pollution problems of Louisiana, Mr. Tickell was an early adopter of alternative fuels. But his exhaustively wide-ranging film is more than an expression of personal affront: though his mother, Deborah Dupré, suffered nine miscarriages (“Factor that into the cost of gasoline,” he says), “Fuel” seldom feels vindictive.

Author outlined dangers of foreign oil dependency

In order to be prepared for a sudden oil shortage, Black suggested that the country should revive the century-old technologies of alternative energy.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel; we need to unbury it," he said.

As he sows: An interview Michael Pollan

I mean, there was a whole movement to draft me for secretary of agriculture, which is my idea of a complete nightmare job. It was not a smart idea on anybody’s part. Maybe it sent a message and helped the new administration see this movement out there, but I write as one and I speak as one person. And that’s the difference between acting politically, and acting as a writer.

When [former Iowa Gov. Tom] Vilsack was appointed, I was asked what I thought. I gave a modest personal answer, which may not have been smart politically. I said something like it was a good day for corn, not so good for America’s eaters, and I said it was agribusiness as usual. And a lot of activists were kind of ticked at me, they said: “We’re trying to get in with this guy. We think we can work with him. So keep your powder dry.” I kept hearing that.

Energy Industry Slowdown Means Idle Rigs, Cuts in Jobs

John Cromling isn't jumping out any windows, even though the struggles of the oil and gas industry have idled a large number of Tulsa-based Unit Corp.'s drilling rigs.

That has forced Unit to lay off about 800 employees in Oklahoma.

"That's really the only thing you can do to cope with the market. The market is what it is," said Cromling, executive vice president of Unit's drilling company. "You just have to figure out how to stay alive with it being that."

He said only about 35 percent of the company's rigs are working, compared with a 97 percent utilization rate last year.

U.S. natgas rig count climbs 6 to 705 for week

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States climbed six this week to 705, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston.

The U.S. natural gas drilling rig count has gained in eight of the last nine weeks but is still down sharply since peaking above 1,600 in September last year, standing at 884 rigs, or 56 percent, below the same week last year.

Analysis: Drilling Picks Up in the Mediterranean and Black Seas

While the Mediterranean and Black Seas have not always been global hot spots for offshore oil and gas exploration, drilling in these two areas has increased substantially. With multiple projects upcoming and prolific production existing, both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are logging more rig time every year.

China’s quest for African oil

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have peddled democracy when she breezed through Angola in August, but there were few doubts she was thinking oil. And though she denied any interest in what China was up to in the African nation, she couldn't possibly have ignored it.

Beijing and Washington's rivalry for African oil — particularly the coveted resources of Angola and Nigeria — has never been stronger, as America tries to bolster its dwindling reserves, while China seeks resources to fuel its rapid industrial expansion. Both Angola and Nigeria are among America's main oil suppliers. They are also chief sources of crude for China, and with huge Chinese investment now pouring in, Beijing seems to be seeking a lion's share.

Biden talks oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

ERBIL, Iraq (UPI) -- Kurdish leaders in Iraq welcomed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to discuss outstanding issues with the central government regarding national oil wealth.

Biden met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, in an effort to find a resolution to oil issues with the central government in Baghdad.

Alaska Gov Says Gas Pipeline Competitors Should Work Together

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday that he expects developers of two competing natural gas pipelines, from Alaska's North Slope to Canada and the contiguous U.S., to find a way to work together before he will consider agreements on production tax incentives for the projects.

Utilities prepare for winter energy shortages

Faced with the strong possibility of a shortfall in utility natural gas deliverability in the event of a severe cold snap in the coming Southcentral Alaska winter, gas and electric utilities around the region are completing a contingency plan in an effort to avert the need for power cuts and to ensure that, if power cuts are required, the impact on power consumers is minimized.

Total May Face Strikes on Possible Refinery Sales

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA, Europe’s biggest oil refiner, may face strikes as workers protest the possible sale of some of its plants, a union said.

“Let’s be ready for a strike to defend jobs and our refining,” the Confederation General du Travail said today in a statement. Total is willing to “sacrifice” European refining capacity to expand in Asia and the Middle East, the union said.

Top military minds mull climate change, energy efficiency, new fuels and national security

Even accounting for the recent discovery of deep sea oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, America controls only 3 percent of the world's oil supply while we consume 25 percent of the oil produced every year. Making the assumption that fuel is going to be available and affordable whenever and wherever we need it leads to a fundamentally flawed strategy. It will neither be available nor affordable.

The growing divergence of supply and demand curves for global oil dictates ever-greater scarcity and ever increasing cost. By remaining dependent on oil the United States will continue to be entangled with unfriendly rulers and undemocratic nations — simply because we need their oil. And we cannot produce enough domestic oil to change this dynamic. That is just a short-term solution that simply continues our harmful addiction to oil. We need to recognize that we cannot drill our way to sustained prosperity and security — we have to wean ourselves from our reliance on oil, starting now. "

Bad drought sparks boost for portable power team

A brutal drought that has swept through East Africa has created opportunities for Aggreko, the Scottish-based portable power generation company.

Cameco cuts 79 jobs at fuel manufacturing plant

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian uranium producer Cameco has laid off 79 non-union employees at its two nuclear fuel manufacturing plants in Ontario due to a two-week-old strike at the facilities, a company official said on Thursday.

Fuel manufacturing at Cameco's Port Hope, Ontario, facility has been completely halted, while the company's nearby Cobourg operation is running on a partial basis, Cameco spokesman Lyle Krahn said.

Tapping wind power potential for now and future

In the power front, the situation is distressingly bad in Bangladesh. With per capita energy consumption just reaching 220 KGOE (kilogram of oil), Bangladesh is one of the low energy consuming countries in the world. The national grid could so far cover only 35 percent of the population, and only 3 percent people receive piped gas supply. 70 percent of the people live in rural areas, where the situation with every passing year continues to be precarious.

Justice Dept. investigating former Interior Secretary Gale Norton's ties to oil company

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has launched an investigation into whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to steer lucrative oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company she works for now, officials with both departments confirmed to The Associated Press.

The criminal investigation is focused on a 2006 decision by the Interior Department to award three oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Oil from the leases could eventually earn the company hundreds of billions dollars.

Oil barons needn't fear the green machines

LONDON (ShareCast) - Oil bosses are furiously spending billions of dollars trying to find enough of the black stuff to help us maintain our love affair with the car. So, imagine the look on their faces this week when the world's biggest auto makers wheeled out an army of electric concept cars at the Frankfurt motor show.

Amid Africa's oil boom, U.S. binds ties

Obama vowed that he would rid the United States of the "tyranny of oil" by developing alternative sources of energy when he got to the White House in January.

But Michael T. Klare, a U.S. energy specialist and professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, argues that in the years ahead the United States, as well as Europe, will condemn millions of people to the tyranny of dictators.

The United States, he said, "will remain dependent on oil derived from authoritarian regimes, weak states and nations in the midst of civil war."

That pretty much covers Africa as it is today.

GOP Senator Considering Rider to Limit EPA Authority on Greenhouse Gases

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) may attempt to handcuff U.S. EPA's ability to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases with an amendment to the agency's annual spending bill.

Natural gas producers to start lobbying effort

WASHINGTON – Natural gas producers are planning a major lobbying effort to shape climate change legislation in the Senate, aiming for incentives to boost the use of their resource in power plants and vehicles.

The aggressive push is meant to make up for the gas lobby's relative absence from climate-change negotiations in the House, where a bill that passed in June reserved most goodies for coal-burning utilities and manufacturers seeking incentives to shield them from the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Iranian president raises stakes against Israel

TEHRAN (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised the stakes against Israel by describing the Holocaust as a lie, just as world powers are trying to decide how to deal with the nuclear ambitions of an Iran in political turmoil.

Diverting Aid for Climate Change Threatens Children, Oxfam Says

(Bloomberg) -- Diverting overseas aid from economic development to fight global warming may threaten the lives of at least 4.5 million children in the poorest nations, the anti-poverty group Oxfam said.

Bangladesh fears climate change will swallow a third of its land

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni warned Thursday that rising oceans from climate change could swallow up to a third of her low-lying country and urged other nations to take action at an upcoming environmental summit to mitigate the damage.

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Next Price Spike

The peak oil thesis holds that the cessation of further growth in world oil production will be accompanied by wild price swings as the world attempts to adjust to the new state of affairs.

Now that mankind's oil supply has not grown significantly in the last four years despite some very high prices in the interim, many people believe that the peak has arrived in the form of a bumpy plateau and will soon begin the inevitable fall that must come with the depletion of a finite commodity. To be fair, some optimists don't see a significant decline coming for another 10, 20, 30 or more years, but few, including perennially optimistic government forecasters, predict significant further growth - at least not for conventional oil.

Oil Investors Embark on Voyage of Discovery

Barely a week goes by without a major oil discovery being announced. Recent hot spots include the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West Africa. But beware jumping to conclusions about how much this changes the dynamics of energy supply, for oil bears or peak-oil pundits.

New trade flows threaten Europe's oil refiners

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An anticipated bounce in fuel demand next year will not be enough to prevent European refiners from cutting runs or even closing because of fierce competition in traditional export markets.

Demand is set to pick up for most fuel next year as economies return to growth, but refiners will no longer be able to count on a gasoline exports to the United States, which has traditionally provided a lucrative revenue stream, refiners and analysts said.

Ecuador warns oil companies to keep up investments

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador could cancel contracts with petroleum companies if they do not fulfill their investment plans, Oil Minister Germanico Pinto said on Thursday in the government's latest warning to the private sector.

The socialist government has a troubled relationship with foreign investors, punctuated by tax and other legal disputes. But Pinto said that so far, he sees no signs of companies failing to live up to their investment commitments.

Is There Something Wrong with the Crude Oil Market?

With the official end to summer, the Labor Day weekend, behind us and the nation's largest energy company investor conference underway, the oil market received several shot-in-the-arm positives last week. Wall Street talking-heads had a difficult time understanding what was going on with the price of gold and crude oil futures soaring on the first trading day following last Monday's holiday. Gold futures traded over $1,000 an ounce and crude oil prices jumped by $3 a barrel. The inability of the talking-heads to explain the phenomenon left us wondering if we were seeing a global investor reaction to Washington politicians returning to work.

Oil surplus peaking this year, bank says

The world supply, or surplus, of oil will peak this year after the economic crisis and low prices in the first quarter slashed much-needed investment, says a senior executive at Australian investment bank Macquarie.

"This is our view--capacity has pretty much peaked in the sense that declines equal new resources," Iain Reid, head of European oil and gas research at Macquarie, said in an interview.

Not your average peak oil theory, from Macquarie

Mainstream financial analyst types tend to shy away from talking about peak oil - even when they are talking up a looming supply crunch, this is usually attributed to the short- to mid-term under-investment problem. So a presentation by Iain Reid, a senior oil analyst at Macquarie Bank, stirred much excitement when some details were published this week.

2009 Annual Report: Magellan Flagship Fund

We attempt to increase our understanding of important markets, such as oil supply and demand. Global petroleum usage has declined in the recession from about 88 million barrels per day to about 85 million. The US motorist is currently a key factor in terms of demand, with the US consuming about 25% of daily oil usage and about 55% of that is used to power the 200 million + consumer motor vehicles. As the marginal cost of production of oil is well below the market price, producers have not meaningfully rationed supply over past decades and probably will not in the future. Hence, the world is vulnerable to Peak Oil if left simply to the working of market forces. Market forces may result in a rapid crossover from relatively plentiful, relatively inexpensive oil to shortages and price shocks.

Thus, we are looking at US Energy Policy as it evolves. Similarly the recent rapid improvement in commercialisation of hybrid and other long life battery motor vehicles is very meaningful. As well as impacting oil usage downward, foreseeable future benefits of improved battery technology also include storage of electricity at solar and wind facilities, and improvements in the cost effectiveness of desalination. Major technological advances and commercialisation will have profound impacts, including on food production as well as on energy cost and usage.

KGB Interrogation: John Dashwood

I would just say that our perception is that there is about twice as much oil out there to be discovered or to be produced than has been produced in history so far. Certainly the phrase that we use is that yes fossil fuels are indeed 'finite', but they’re not finished.

Crude Oil May Fall as U.S. Fuel Supplies Increase, Survey Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil futures may decline as U.S. fuel stockpiles increase and refiners prepare to idle units for seasonal maintenance.

Sixteen of 42 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News, or 38 percent, said futures will drop through Sept. 25. Fourteen respondents, or 33 percent, forecast that the market will rise and 12 said prices will be little changed. Last week, 45 percent of analysts said oil would fall.

Citigroup CEO Pandit Says Phibro Business Will Be Restructured

(Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said the bank will restructure its Phibro LLC energy-trading business as the bank faces what may be a $100 million payday for the unit’s chief, Andrew Hall.

“That business will be restructured and rationalized,” Pandit said yesterday at the 92nd Street Y in New York. When asked if $100 million was too much to pay, he replied, “Yes.”

Pdvsa's bond issue cuts price of dollar in the unofficial market

The US dollar has reached its lower level thus far this year in the unofficial market due to the higher supply of dollars through the issue of Pdvsa's foreign currency-denominated bonds.

According to financial sources, the state-run oil holding Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) is selling to brokerage houses part of the papers maturing in 2017 and 2011 that were bought back recently by the oil company.

BG Venture Said to Seek $700 Million From Kazakhstan

(Bloomberg) -- A BG Group Plc venture will seek to recover at least $700 million in export duties from the Kazakh government at an arbitration hearing in London later this month, two people familiar with the matter said.

The U.K.’s third-biggest oil and gas producer said it paid duties “under protest” last year in relation to Karachaganak, its largest project in Kazakhstan. BG and its partners in the development, including Eni SpA of Italy, are now looking to claw back the taxes, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is confidential.

Sinopec Tianjin to delay new refinery to Dec - source

BEIJING (Reuters) - Top Asian refinery Sinopec Corp has delayed the start up of its new 200,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refining plant in Tianjin to around mid-December or later, an industry official said on Friday.

The delay of the plant, the fourth major new facility to come online in China this year, could help ease the heavy surplus in Asian diesel market despite the approach of winter heating oil demand, partly due to heavy exports from China.

UAE is oil-rich, but struggles to get power to all

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates — In dusty and sweltering Industrial Area 13, just beyond the glow of Dubai's illuminated skyscrapers, Abdullah Kuttakunnil serves patrons of Kannur Restaurant by candlelight.

It's a matter of necessity, not ambiance. For much of the past month, residents of Sharjah, an increasingly teeming city hugging an interstate border with the wealthier city-state of Dubai, have suffered through power failures often lasting most of the day.

Russian Utility Threatens to ‘Hang’ Customers for Unpaid Bills

(Bloomberg) -- A Russian utility in the city named after the founder of the Bolshevik secret police is threatening “to hang” customers who don’t pay their bills.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service is investigating whether Nizhny Novgorod Utility Systems violated advertising laws by posting photographs of delinquent consumers on billboards under the rubric: “Hanged As Promised.”

Timor Sea Oil Spill May Worsen, Australian Conservationists Say

(Bloomberg) -- An oil spill from a leaking well off Western Australia that has polluted the Timor Sea with 1,200 metric tons of oil may worsen and is a “major ecological disaster in the making,” a conservation group says.

“This is a disaster that risks blowing out further in terms of its scale and impact on the ocean,” Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said in an e-mailed statement today. The spill has covered 15,000 square kilometers (5,800 square miles), with 400 barrels a day leaking from the Montara field, the group said.

The Financial Crisis and Imperialism: Interview of John Bellamy Foster

BMR:What is the likely impact of the present financial crisis on geopolitics, especially if the crisis is considered in the context of the energy crisis including the peak oil issue, the food crisis, The Great Hunger, the environmental crisis, and the declining dollar? Will the world experience war(s) as an effort to survive? Will monopoly-finance capital attempt to create another bubble, as capital is gripped with contradictions within and without?

JBF: The Great Financial Crisis and the Great Recession that followed close upon it have uncovered the depth of the contradictions facing capitalism in this phase, which I have labeled "monopoly-finance capital." Specifically, the overall crisis has revealed that capitalism, at its vital core, is caught in a stagnation-financialization trap with no visible way out. The geopolitical implications of course are vast.

The Iran Whisperers

As I’ve said many times, the Iranians would be foolish to acquire a nuclear weapon. It would be tantamount to painting a bull’s eye on their backs. The Israelis (and we) would have a perfect excuse to blow their entire nuclear industry to smithereens. And as I’ve also said many times, with peak oil either here or just around the corner, it’s the energy, not a weapon, that makes Iran’s nuclear program worth having.

Resilience Takes Form -- A Handbook for Transition

Something strange has happened over in old Blighty. I'm not sure if the Utopian dreams of the 1960's are making a comeback or if a new movement, one grounded in reality but focused on our future, has taken shape. No matter how cynical you are, you can't ignore one of the fastest growing grassroots movements in the UK -- The Transition Network.

Chaos & Claustrophobia: Toronto ‘09 titles from “Lebanon” to “Collapse”

Ruppert encourages a sort of Darwinian survivalism with a priceless anecdote about a bear that invades a camp: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear,” he says. “You only have to be faster than the slowest camper.” A lesson for us all.

If Ruppert sounds bitter and misanthropic, he also ultimately comes across as deeply human, vulnerable and sad. One of the biggest revelations of the film isn’t the CIA’s role in drug smuggling, Smith’s initial entry-point into the subject, or the value that organic seeds may have as a future currency, but that the high-point of Ruppert’s day is walking down the street with his dog in Culver City, eliciting as many smiles as he can from passersby.

Canning revival

Back in June, McMahon organized a "green café" for the East Toronto Climate Action Group. Twenty-five neighbours crowded into the local coffee shop to watch Al Gore's latest flick, talk about potential energy shortages and climate change and brainstorm about what could be done.

"What came up was a lot of food," McMahon says. Food security, community gardening, shopping locally and canning.

As the world edges closer to peak oil capacity and communities are forced to become more self- sustainable, McMahon says re-learning the old home trades, or "reskilling," will be crucial.

"I'm sad my grandparents aren't around any more to teach me this," she says. "I don't know how to darn a sock. We're trying to tap into seniors, or anyone who learned (these skills) from their grandparents."

Western Rail Network Key to Regional Sustainability

There are so many issues one could cover here. Glaeser admits that more spending won’t relieve congestion in the Eastern corridors, yet calls for more spending in those corridors. Samuelson also claims that there is no economic gain to be had from building rail which is completely unbelievable because U.S. history since the 1850’s cannot even be understood without contemplating the development of the railroad.

Putin Deputy Blames ‘Corporate Ethics’ for Siberian Dam Deaths

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s energy chief, Igor Sechin, blamed local managers and faulty equipment for the accident that killed 75 people at Russia’s largest hydropower plant last month.

“There is something wrong with corporate ethics here,” Sechin told journalists late yesterday in Abakan, capital of the Khakassia region of Siberia where OAO RusHydro’s Sayano- Shushenskaya station is located. “RusHydro needs to address this issue and probably certify its personnel on ethics.”

Utah geothermal plant runs into cold-water problem: Geothermal plant's cold water means it buys nearly as much power as it makes

The problem: The plant can't operate at full capacity because its production wells are producing geothermal water that isn't hot enough, even though its temperature is higher than the 180 degrees Raser initially said it would need.

Success of Palm Oil Brings Plantations Under Pressure to Preserve Habitats

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Idyllic scenes of palm trees swaying over sandy beaches have long decorated brochures meant to lure tourists to Indonesia and Malaysia. But few visitors see the giant palm plantations away from the shore.

Each year, the plantations produce millions of tons of palm oil, which has soared in popularity since the 1970s and is now found in foods like margarine, potato chips and chocolate, as well as in soap, cosmetics and biofuel.

Brazil eyes limits on Amazon sugar cane growth

BRASILIA — The Brazilian government presented new legislation Thursday intended to protect the Amazon from deforestation by banning any new planting of sugar cane, widely cultivated for ethanol production.

"Now we can say that our ethanol is 100 percent green," said Environment Minister Carlos Minc announcing the proposed rules.

Interest in algae's oil prospects is growing

To many, algae is little more than pond scum, a nuisance to swimmers and a frustration to boaters.

But to a growing community of scientists and investors in Southern California, there is oil locked in all that slimy stuff, and several dozen companies are racing to try to figure how best to unleash it and produce an affordable biofuel.

Algae Fuels Are Too Darn Expensive

Unlike other types of renewable alt-fuel sources, like corn and switchgrass, algae can be cultivated in harsh, even toxic environments that aren’t viable for less hardy forms of plant life. As a plus, algae creates a CO2 absorber. So growing it and then burning the oil derived from it as fuel creates a nice, efficient feedback loop that gets us away from petroleum while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gases.

Sounds great, except that the numbers don’t work. This is what any alt-fuel source is up against when it does battle with petroleum: Dinosaur oil is packed with energy, and it’s still super-cheap. It’s also tucked away in environmentally benign fields underground. One it gets out, and is, say, burned as gas or … um … spilled from tankers in pristine Alaskan waters, well, that's when it causes problems. But we don’t currently have to expend any effort to make it. It’s just there, and has been for millions of years.

World's largest turbine blades to be made in Britain

Britain will manufacture the world’s largest wind turbine blades, thanks to grants for offshore wind energy firms arranged by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband has announced grants will go to Clipper Windpower, Artemis Intelligent Power and Siemens Wind Power UK.

India’s Gujarat to Give Contracts for Solar Project

(Bloomberg) -- Contracts to build the world’s largest solar power facility in India’s Gujarat state, valued at $10 billion and backed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, will be awarded by January, a state government official said.

Disappearing Wetlands Taint New Orleans’ Rebound From Katrina

(Bloomberg) -- Carlton Dufrechou can fly 10 minutes from New Orleans and be over the open waters of the Mississippi Sound. Two decades earlier, before erosion took its toll, he would have looked down on lush wetlands.

The destruction accelerated four years ago last month, when Hurricane Katrina struck. The third-deadliest storm in U.S. history claimed more than 1,800 lives, displaced 1 million residents and damaged more than half of New Orleans’ housing stock. Katrina also wiped out 80 square miles of marsh within hours, four times the amount lost by the entire state in a year.

Kenya: Country at Crossroads in Fight Against Poverty

Nairobi — Kenya is at the crossroads between tackling climate change and reducing poverty levels. Debate is rife that conserving the environment will end drought, famine and disease and lead to a drop in food prices.

Poverty reduction in Kenya and other countries is also expected to take centre stage when world leaders join President Obama at his first United Nations address on climate change in New York.

Chevron Australia CO2 Liability Deal May Be Precedent

(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc agreed to invest in the $37 billion Gorgon natural gas venture only after Australia’s government assumed liability for potential damages hundreds of years from now. That may set a precedent in this resource-rich nation.

Twiddling our thumbs while waiting for a U.S. climate-change bill

Having ceded important parts of Canada's climate-change policies to the United States – or, to put matters more mildly, having decided to wait on the United States – the Harper government can hardly take a lead in North America on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

With climate-change talks resuming in Copenhagen in December, the U.S. remains a long way from developing a coherent position – which means Canada is stalled, too.

Drought Causing India Farmers to Sell Wives

One farmer in Jhansi, named Kalicharan, told The Telegraph that he had borrowed money to buy a water pump. When the money lender came for the repayment, he took his wife and three children.

"I told him to give me some time to arrange money but he forcibly entered my house and took my wife and children," Kalicharan told the newspaper.

Arctic ice melts to third - smallest area

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Arctic ice pack melted this summer to its third-smallest size on record, up slightly from the low points of the past two years but continuing an overall shrinking trend symptomatic of climate change, U.S. scientists said on Thursday.

Northern sea ice retreated to its minimum extent for 2009 on September 12, when it covered 1.97 million square miles (5.1 million square km), and now appears to be growing again as the Arctic starts its annual cool-down, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.

That level falls 20 percent below the 30-year average minimum sea ice cover for the Arctic summer since satellites began measuring it in 1979, and 24 percent less than the 1979-2000 average, the Colorado-based government agency said.

In response to the "Let's meet up" post the other day I recorded this short video which shows just how stuffed the average urban dweller is likely to be given a rapid FF decline (i.e. a good chunk of 3.5 Billion people to put a number on it).


(Sorry about the poor quality -it was recorded on an iPhone 3Gs which seems to have some encoding problems...)

Without Fossil Fuels life in the cities will quickly revert back to some dark Dickension existance IMO. The most important utility is probably clean water -if we can't keep the water pumps going it would get really horrible really quickly. Since non-renewable Fossil Fuels by definition are a transitory event in human history unless we CAN find a substitute London in 2109 will look more like 1809 than "MegaCity1". My readings here and elsewhere point to the former future.

A recent edition of The London Metro (free 'news'fluff) showed that average London life expectancy in 1809 was down around 25-35 due to poor sanitation, starvation/bad diet, disease, alcohol abuse amongst other things. It makes you wonder WHY people want to live in cities -I can't imagine life in the country would be worse -but perhaps it was?

Anyway, there is very little I can do about producing any substantial amount of food here: I am totally reliant on Supermarkets. Growing herbs pushes me down the value chain a bit as I can utilise whole ingrediants and meats rather than rely on take-aways and pre-packaged food. BUT cooking this takes time and NGas Energy... On a sunny day I might be able to make a pot roast using a solar cooker...

Our Gas-fired Boiler is currently off for two weeks: cold showers are like stepping back in time to days when people must have been a lot 'harder' and/or dirtier. Since I am lucky enough to have a South-facing balcony I've already thought -at a pinch- that I could hook up a solar water panel and have some in-flat hot water storage mechanism. Ditto for a PV panel powered low-wattage lighting system... My 42" plasma TV would sit there silently laughing at me... :o)

How dependant are you?

Regards, Nick.

P.S. Bobby has now taken a shower -all is lost ;o)


TODName: noutram
RealName: Nick Outram
Location: Putney SW15, London, UK.
Nicks FF dependancy factor: 9/10...
Dramatic Energy decline situation: "Stuffed" (along with 3,499,999,999 others...)

Favourite read: "Peak Oil Joining The Dots" -written in 2007 and in need of a Post Credit-Crunch update but still 'a laugh a minute' :o)

There's a good chance that peak oil and future societal meltdown will be getting more press thanks to a forthcoming documentary that is basically an hour long interview with Michael Ruppert (Crossing the Rubicon/From the Wilderness). The film debuted at the Toronto Film Fest to some very positive reaction. Here's another reporter's post:

you could feel the anxiety of the economic crisis in any number of the films here. Yet even as I wrote that, I could never have guessed I'd end up seeing a movie that would tap into those anxieties with the power and terror of Collapse. It's one of the few true buzz films of the festival (by the time I got to it, I'd heard a dozen people talking it up)

Director Chris Smith's past work includes American Movie and Yes Men. More reviews here:

Okay, I gotta have this video. I Googled everything I could imagine but I could not find out where to buy it. Is it out on video? Perhaps not. But if anyone figures out where I can buy a copy of "Collapse" by Michael Ruppert please post the link.

Anyway I found this, a 28 minute video with Ruppert, which is very good.

Pondering our Post-Petroleum Future with Michael Ruppert

Ron P.

It debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. In general, such films are not available to the public. They're the reason to go to the film festival.

Often, these films are never widely distributed, and are impossible to see outside the film festival circuit. However, I would guess that Ruppert is likely to sell this on DVD, and/or post it on the web. But not yet.

"Indie" films go to the festivals often in hopes of getting a good distribution contract from a larger company. The director's previous films screened at theaters in big cities, and with a lot of "buzz", there's a good chance Collapse will be in big city theaters. How soon is anyone's guess. The Road has just been pushed back to Nov. 25, though it too is getting some positive press in Toronto. Between 2012, The Road, and Collapse, moviegoers may be looking for some Xanax to be squirted on their popcorn.

"Indie" films go to the festivals often in hopes of getting a good distribution contract from a larger company.

I know that, but the odds are against them.

The director's previous films screened at theaters in big cities, and with a lot of "buzz", there's a good chance Collapse will be in big city theaters. How soon is anyone's guess.

I dunno. It's a documentary. Michael Moore has had mainstream success with documentaries, but he's the exception rather than the rule.

A couple of decades ago, you might see the most successful of these type of films at "artsy" theaters and the like, but these days, I think Internet distribution is a better bet. There are sites that allow you to sell your film digitally, and offer DRM. (Which is often a right pain for consumers, but that's another story.) It's also become a lot easier to make and sell DVDs.

Netflix is another possibility. They like indy films.


You might want to check Mike's site now and then since I'm sure if it's going to be sold he'll write about it.



The film also gets a positive mention in this review of the Festival in the NY Times...


Hello TODers,

The best thing for us to do is to add comments to support Mike's film. IMO, it is the best way to show 'Murkan newbies that Mike is not alone, but has lots of people that agree with him.

If enough buzz is created, then the film will get wider distribution and/or additional Peak Everything and Overshoot & Collapse articles will be created. In short: Peak Outreach is very important.

I added a bunch of comments last night to the Entertainment Weekly film critic article:


On the Ruppert film LATOC thread: I also encouraged LATOCers to comment too. C'mon TODers--Git 'er done!

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

Well done putting up a testimonial.. and as a cameraman, I appreciated the use of a 'Vertical Frame'.. Evokes city life a bit.

It reminds me that showing ourselves this way, using video.. that this is a useful bit of an in-between from the text format here at TOD, and the direct meetups suggested in the Campfire thread. You guys are all usually just names to me, and I have to work to remember a snippet of everyone's proclivities and character.. but of course it's still such a thin profile. Just seeing a face and hearing a voice brings with it another whole level of our sense of one-another, and how much we can get across to each other.

I know it's still no substitute for actually meeting and working and planning in other people's presence, but with the geographic diversity of members here, the idea of a gallery of testimonials, examples and introductions to the otherwise faceless conference we all attend regularly seems like it might be a helpful way to communicate our common concern to those who don't want to gobble down so much ASCII pudding.

Anyway.. I'll be thinking about doing something like this too.

Bob Fiske
Portland, Maine


cheers, the iphone 3gs makes video-to-web sooo easy, look for a "Load to YouTube" feature on your next video camera!


"I can't imagine life in the country would be worse - but perhaps it was?"

Those Drumbeat posters and other moderns who pine for the dead past are simply without any clue whatsoever. We now have, for example, the once-inconceivable luxury to whine endlessly over an utterly insignificant handful of H1N1 flu deaths, or to fuss over a few milliseconds of life expectancy that might theoretically be lost to the sort of "toxins" in food that are detectable only by divining-rods.

But life in the pined-for past seems to have been absolutely, utterly awful, as per, say, a well-known poem by Rainer Rilke :

En hiver, la mort meurtrière entre dans les maisons;
elle cherche la soeur, le père, et leur joue du violon.
Mais quand la terre remue, sous la bêche du printemps,
la mort court dans les rues et salue les passants.

(In winter, murderous Death enters the houses and seeks the sister, the father, and plays them the violin. But when the earth is turned by the spade of Spring, Death flees through the streets, waving at the passers-by.)

Rural life was perhaps the worst, a lifelong ordeal of pointless unremitting toil and suffering, generally unrelieved even by contact with the outside world. Even someone like Karl Marx understood the problem and was sorely conflicted by it:

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

(emphasis added.)

From time immemorial, most people with even the smallest part of a brain who have had the opportunity to move to the town or city have seized it at once. The huge change is that in modern times, mechanization has both improved rural life and allowed far more to flee it.

Romanticizing of rural life seems largely to be yet another of those vacuous notions Europeans adopted as they became addled by improving creature comforts in early modern times. It pushed its way to the fore in a big way around the turn of the 20th century, especially in places like Germany which urbanized late, rapidly, and not very well. But it has earlier roots, as the foolish maunderings of Henry David Thoreau amply demonstrate.

So true. If life in rural areas is so good, why do millions and millions of peasants in the developing world so desperately try to escape to the cities?

It's called voting with one's feet.

"It's called voting with one's FEET."

Yep, and when the global supplies of I-NPKS, food, and water postPeak collapse-- they will CRAWL out of the cites on their STOMACHS for a very short distance. YMMV.

There is something I don't understand about TOD. From my reading, we have developed at least the science and largely the technology to implement breeder nuclear fission reactors e.g. the IFR or LFTR. (Work proceeds somewhat apace on fusion approaches like the Polywell.)
Since, it seems, these are viable solutions, promising abundant clean energy, why are they not being mentioned more often by TODers? If we have abundant, clean, electrical energy, surely it would be possible to create sufficient liquid fuels by brute (electrical) force (e.g. liquid fuels based on biochar of agricultural wastes, if I've understood what James Lovelock was saying), to get through until we can leave the ICE based system behind, hopefully in short order if battery technology (at least) proceeds at the pace it has been lately.
What am I missing?

One problem is that some of these promises are rather dodgy at least for now, although a substantial part of what keeps them dodgy is politics, NIMBYism, BANANAism, and in some cases absurdly parsimonious funding, rather than anything to do with science or engineering. With respect to anything nuclear, for example, some folks instantly cite terrorism; they would apparently prefer to kill billions rather than put down an utterly insignificant handful of terrorists, an attitude likely connected with fatuous Political Correctness. Another problem is that even the slightest smidgen of promise, even if it falls far short of supporting business-as-usual, is seen by some folks as a threat to their pet notion of going backwards into some mythologized paradisaical past that never happened, but when life was so utterly "simple" as to be "fair" to the stupid and lazy, another silly notion no doubt owing itself to fatuous Political Correctness.

There is no such thing as clean, inexpensive and safe nuclear fission power. All proponents of nuclear fission power should be required to live and work within the death zone of a reactor and wave all liability, even if the pollution is intentionally released.

My understanding of the emissions from coal power plants, is they emit more radiation than nuclear plants (other than the dismal Chernobyl one, which was effectively deliberately destroyed by a bureaucrat) ever have. The amount of uranium and thorium in the fly ash of coal plants is supposed to be high enough to be worth mining.
I think I'd like to live next to a LFTR. I'd like the clean secure energy. Even Greenpeace admits they'd only cost 1B to develop to production, and presumably less to produce commercial plants, so I can imagine them costing $1/W per actual watt of capacity. Wouldn't that be a good thing?

I was once fooled by the false claims from those who advocate nuclear fission, so by all means continue the tradition to your own detriment.

One only gets a low price when the government uses law to limit liability to the industry in the event of an accident and subsidizes the system with tax payer money.

We should phase out coal fired electric generators too.

Would you be willing to say in what way you were "fooled"?
I have been quite seriously looking for a way out of the fossil fuels situation, and I thought the fission breeder approaches, as I say, specifically IFR/LFTR, looked like it.
Please can you tell me what things you particularly found were misleading?

If you really want breeders, I think you must also accept the fact that transport of all that fuel back and forth would offer the lunatic fringe a great target. Since any deviant individual might cause massive damage and thus such individuals would of necessity be searched out and removed from society. Thus, an energy system based on lots of breeders would surely result in a totalitarian state similar to the most repressive in history, such as the old Soviet system or East Germany.

Smile! Your deviant thoughts will be captured by the corner cameras as you are snatched off the street and funneled into the "re-education camp"...

E. Swanson

Do you really mean this?
My understanding is if they really run as breeders the only time fissile material is involved is at startup. After that they run on fertile material like Th232 or U238, which is no big deal? Ok the other time when, perhaps, highly radioactive material is involved is at decommissioning, although I thought the whole idea of the IFR was that it didn't leave the site, and that these kinds of reactors minimize such stuff anyway.
And I'd also note we seem to be going towards more and more oversight anyway, which I'm certainly not voting for, unless that's what the Green party had in their platform last time.

Countries that consume a lot of nuclear electricity are not so likely to get involved in resource wars

You have not tracked the frequent deployments of the French Foreign Legion. They put the USMC to shame.


You nailed me good on that one!But "not so likely" probably still applies-the French may have found even MORE reasons to fight otherwise.

May I hedge and say that perhaps the French are less likely to go to war than many other countries over imported natural gas or coal as they do not depend so heavily on these fuels to keep thier grid up?

A Grid based on nukes once up and running might have to gradually power down over a six month to a year long period but at the end of the year there would still be some power and a single ship with a navy escort could bring in enough uranium to fuel the grid for another year.My guess however is that the French and other major countries with nukes have enough fuel on hand to refuel most or all of thier reactors at least once.

In the event of war or widespread economic up heaval and near war natural gas asd coal would be far more problematical _ I must admit I don't know how big most importing countries emergency gas and coal reserves are but I doubt any country has even a six months supply set aside.

The English were right at the edge at least once recently when the Russians and the Ukranians were having thier little billing dispute.

Having a year to straighten things out rather than a month or two might be priceless-the extra time could be the difference between diplomacy and statesmanship and the extension there of to "other means".

Of course none of this is to say that there might not also be a uranium war-but the fact that the mines are not all in the same countries as the ng and the coal might help prevent such a war-this makes it harder for the energy exporters to strong arm energy buyers.Diversification of supply is a very good thing.

I lived and worked for a good long while in the immediate area -ten miles-of two reactors and would do so again without a second thought.

Nothing is ever absolutely safe but the overall environmental and economic impact of nuclear power is overwhelmingly positive from any pov-pollution ,resource depletion,safety,you name it.

As a realist I will even go so far as to say that there is a case to be made that nuclear power even contributes to a peaceful world.Countries that consume a lot of nuclear electricity are not so likely to get involved in resource wars and are generally less exposed to economic turmoil and warfare.

When the lights go off in Merry Olde England one of these days because the Neocommies(the current soviets aren't quite THAT bad but they aren't that much better either) turn off the gas and the cobblestones(Molotov cocktails too if enough gasoline can be found to make a few) are flying fast and furious and the working classes are burning down the offices of green organizations that blocked new nuclear construction -

The French across the channel will be enjoying a glass on the sidewalks of the City of Light..Perhaps one of my better educated fellow supporters will post a few of the likeliest sarcastic French comments concerning this latest Brit shortcoming and translations.

No ,I haven't forgotten proliferation.
None of us are going to get out of this alive.;)

There are a lot of things that can be done, but no agreement about which approach is best.

In America, a crisis isn't until there are bodies in the streets. So far, no bodies.

A rational approach would be to start with a modest conservation effort. Opposition to this is broad and deep; consumers are lulled into a sense of complacency by the appearance of 'plentitude' so oppose it. Businesses - ironically threatened economically by the overconsumption of resources that they absolutely rely on - fear a decline in the economy ... nothing is done as a result.

Credit and other administrative restraints entangle large, complex power schemes. Fundamental battery problems constrain electric tech except for small devices like portable computers and power tools. The already massive built infrastructure makes enduring claims on resources, capital and space.

A large number of people, including myself don't particularly like the idea of turning the entire world into an industrial dump site.

Economic 'developement' of the kinds suggested enormously benefit a very small percentage of people while the various costs are widespread - an example is 'socialized' bank losses that in turn support privatized bank profits. It is hard to generate support for projects whose 'benefits' are judged to be abstractions with little or no real benefit except to owners and managers. At the same time, real benefits - and there are real benefits to many of the proposals - have to compete with other, cheaper proposals that often gain 'insider' support.

Nuclear must compete with coal and nat gas; train systems must compete with a well- entrenched car industry, etc.

Overall, the best approach would demand more disciple from the entire 'industrialization' ecology. Even getting this group to think ecologically would be a large step forward. Much industrialization is redundant, obsolete, or 'make work'. Next would be priorities that would run along both people needs and nature requirements.

If we don't start acting on nature requirements and doing so damned soon, she's going to kick us all in the balls.


A lot of reasons...

It's still pretty much vaporware. Breeder reactors so far have been difficult and uneconomical. The energy of the future, and it always will be, as is said of so many other energy sources.

A lot of people here are not too keen on nuclear in general.

Then there's the big picture. There are a lot of people here who believe we need to powerdown and pursue less complexity, and/or that we are likely headed for collapse. What if, in a couple of decades, we're the Soviet Union, or even Somalia? What happens to the nuclear reactors then?

I guess my feeling about the uneconomical argument is that we never paid the full price of fossil fuel power, and we have to subsidize the other renewables too.
My fear is that we will all become the countries you mention because we don't have the energy to sustain ourselves.
I'm beginning to get the sense that I'm not on the side of, say, Greenpeace or WWF, who I used to whole-heartedly support. Am I incorrect to think such organizations want to see a lower-energy world so that we are necessarily constrained in the impact we can have on the planet?
I believe in a low-impact way of life, and like the sound of ecological economics, etc, but do we have to power down in order for this to happen? It seems risky to our civilization to me.
Oh, on the vaporware thing, it seems to me that the breeder projects have consistently been cancelled just before they could come on line. I'm not so sure they were vaporware.

I guess my feeling about the uneconomical argument is that we never paid the full price of fossil fuel power, and we have to subsidize the other renewables too.

I don't think that's really the concern, when people here talk about price. Rather, price is a (rough) reflection of EROEI.

Mainstream types think, "If the price of oil goes up, then renewables will be competitive."

Peak oilers tend to think, "Our civilization is built on cheap energy, so making renewables competitive by increasing the price of fossil fuels won't help."

I'm beginning to get the sense that I'm not on the side of, say, Greenpeace or WWF, who I used to whole-heartedly support. Am I incorrect to think such organizations want to see a lower-energy world so that we are necessarily constrained in the impact we can have on the planet?

I don't know. My guess is your view is closer to that of Greenpeace than it is to that of the average person here.

I believe in a low-impact way of life, and like the sound of ecological economics, etc, but do we have to power down in order for this to happen? It seems risky to our civilization to me.

I think most people here believe our civilization is at risk, either way.

Rural life was perhaps the worst, a lifelong ordeal of pointless unremitting toil and suffering, generally unrelieved even by contact with the outside world.
From time immemorial, most people with even the smallest part of a brain who have had the opportunity to move to the town or city have seized it at once.

What a load of ultra-refined cobblers. (Speaking as one who has lived for 25 yrs next to a farm and 30 yrs in urban.)
Quite what is the superiority of urban life? Local community (which urban has at best only in degraded form) gives meaning to everything in a way that urban does not. Psychopathology such as neuroses is notoriously strongly associated with urban living.

The reason I didn't go back to rural is that you have to be rich to do so in the uk (high house and transport costs in a context of dead commuter villages). The reason so many people are leaving rural around the world is because their traditional lives have been made unviable by corporate intrusions. This even happened in the uk long ago, with the enclosures and highland clearances.
(There's also the factor of millions of people trying to escape their Islamic paradise to the preferable hell of Infidel-controlled countries.)

As one commentator said: People live in the country; they exist in cities.

People live in the country; they exist in cities.

I find quite the opposite, I am only profoundly alive in New Orleans, I can live in other cities, and I can only exist in the rural "communities" I have spend time in.


Alan's comment is clearly in line with two of my brothers who absolutely have to live in London and nowhere else. I guess one factor is indicated by Alan's putting "communities" in the "...". People who grow up in a traditional village would not dream of doing that because it would be not so much a community as their local world. That's not to say such people would be intellectually parochial. The medieval scholar Bede appears to have never travelled more than a few miles from home and yet he invented footnotes and the fixed year-numbering system we use and wrote a history of the Western world.

I would speculate that extraverts prefer the noise and "alive"ness of cities, whereas introverts dislike it.
A sense or not of "belonging" surely has something to do with it too. r

If one is not born into those small stable communities (no ""), one will never truly belong. But in the USA, a combination of methamphetamines and mobility (people moving in & out) has destroyed or severely damaged many such "communities".


My understanding of the difference between rural and urban is that this has changed over time, so it is better now, but still there were and are advantages to being in the towns.
Basically life in the towns has always been easier and continues to be so. I thought I saw a TED talk recently where a guy (I usually can't remember names) was showing that for women, a move to urban life correlated well with all the things women want - more say in their own lives and usually less children.
I should say, perhaps in the face of my stated liking for a low-impact life, that I always wanted an apartment in town and a place somewhere in the country. I don't think that's going to happen, but what does happen is I cycle out (in the summer) to friends' places in the nearby countryside for occasional weekend visits.
Also, I'm originally from down-under and now live up-over, and would like to go backwards and forwards once (or I suppose that's twice) a year (and stay - perhaps paying some board - with family and/or friends). That kind of travel is currently considered high impact, but to me that's only because we use fossil fuels. If the fuel came from biochar, which in turn came from nuclear energy, I can see this being sustainable. Is it not possible?


...for now... ;) :|

Statluft macht frei. . . The question is, MUST it always be that way?

Good question. I have yet to see anything that would change it one iota. Mechanization and communication have certainly improved rural life, but they have also improved city life, so I don't see any great shift in the comparison. And as others have already noted, the number of people seeking stadtluft (or at least vorortluft if that's a word) utterly overwhelms the number seeking to escape it.

Let me suggest an alternate view: Check out "enclosure" on Wiki or anywhere on the web. At least in England peasants were chased off the land when the "owners" found that they could make bigger profits pasturing sheep than tilling the land with share-croppers. A major portion of this took place at the beginning of the industrial revolution, thereby enabling the availability of cheap industrial labor. Of course the share-croppers were native AngloSaxons and the land owners were Normans.

This has happened within the last century in South America and in Asia with the mechanization of agriculture.

For a TOTALLY different view of life in the wild read "The Last of the Mountain Men" by Harold Peterson. The mountain man, Sylvan Hart, lived alone in the wilderness of Idaho for over 30 years. He said he never worked as much as three hours a day to meet all of his needs. But then he didn't bring a woman with him.

One trouble with that TOTALLY different view is that in the real world, there are far too many people to live as "Mountain Man" and have been for a very very long time. IOW, that there are far too many people to live in the past is something I hadn't even mentioned.

I think you missed the point. It was only that you can live well with not much "stuff", as Sylvan Hart did, and not have to slave 20 hours a day on your hands and knees. And he didn't live under a papaya tree in Hawaii, he was in the Idaho wilderness where it freezes for about 3 months of the year.

My main point was that people didn't/don't always choose to live in cities. In many cases they were forced to go there because the only life that they knew had been taken from them. I've lost the reference but if I remember correctly life expectancy went down in England during the Industrial Revolution when there was mass migration to the cities.

Yes, my understanding is that the rural migration to cities is connected (in Third World countries) to the US dumping cheap wheat on them, and in the US, to government subsidies making large farms ever larger while family farms struggle and fail. Also, the expansion of the population would send those who cannot inherit the farm elsewhere. When much of the farmland is taken, then they go to the towns.

Also, farming is inherently risky. One depends on the weather, for Heaven's sake! So much nicer to draw a steady paycheck sitting in a cubicle, then get a pension (and a gold watch) when you are too old to motivate yourself to get to work (let alone do farm labor).

Maybe the brutish and short peasant life is the best humans can do on this planet. We are running out of fossil fuels, and how long would the uranium last us? Perhaps the risk of a massive nuclear energy buildup is worth it for the sake of the climate crisis. I can't shake the sense that it is a pact with the devil, though.

whine endlessly over an utterly insignificant handful of H1N1 flu deaths

You do realise that assuming this turns out to not be a re-run or worse than 1918 then that is purely by luck? We were caught unprepared. Ironically we used to have stock of vaccine that were perfectly good against this. Alarm bells were first sounded in 2004 when genes closely related to the 1918 mass killer were found in pigs in South Korea.

By the way researchers (most in military uniforms) actually recreated the 1918 strain. Sequencing it wasn't enouugh - they had to re-engineer it and test it on mice etc.

Security fears as flu virus that killed 50 million is recreated

* Ian Sample, science correspondent
* The Guardian, Thursday 6 October 2005
* Article history

Scientists have recreated the 1918 Spanish flu virus, one of the deadliest ever to emerge, to the alarm of many researchers who fear it presents a serious security risk.

Undisclosed quantities of the virus are being held in a high-security government laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia, after a nine-year effort to rebuild the agent that swept the globe in record time and claimed the lives of an estimated 50 million people.

The genetic sequence is also being made available to scientists online, a move which some fear adds a further risk of the virus being created in other labs.

The recreation was carried out in an attempt to understand what made the 1918 outbreak so devastating. Reporting in the journal Science, a team lead by Dr Jeffery Taubenberger at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Maryland shows that the recreated virus is extremely effective. When injected into mice, it quickly took hold and they started to lose weight rapidly, shedding 13% of their original weight in just two days. Within six days, all mice injected with the virus had died.

Now if the Iranians were going about digging up 90 years old corpses to recreate a killer virus I imagine we would get a bit upset.

I am not suggesting this current pandemic virus was directly created though. I am saying that this field is a mess...

You do realise that assuming this turns out to not be a re-run or worse than 1918 then that is purely by luck?

And this question-template gets to the heart of the current atmosphere of absurd fear-mongering over everything from a trivial recombination of 'flu to imprisoning kids under 16 for fear of the outdoors. We paint a picture of the highly improbable absolute worst-case and obsess ourselves into a lather about it. When it then doesn't happen - which is nearly all the time - we feel relieved at our tremendous "luck" that what was exceedingly unlikely did its normal and customary thing by failing to happen. Face it: life is not 100.000...% free of risk. Then move on. The utter lack of perspective in matters like these simply boggles the mind.

The utter lack of perspective in matters like these simply boggles the mind.

Yes it does in this case - but not in the way you think.

Now if the Iranians were going about digging up 90 years old corpses to recreate a killer virus I imagine we would get a bit upset.

Why Iraninas? Why not worry about Russia/US of A that have live smallpox? Why not worry about the resequencing work on smallpox?


from the looks of you apartment building, I'd say it's a prime candidate for a CHP retrofit for your boiler. Use the gas twice, a gas powered electricity generator with a heat exchanger using the exhaust to provide heating and hot water. Sell the electricity to the grid. I know it's not your call but I'm just trying to point out some of the opportunities for increased efficiency that exist in the UK.

Alan from the islands

I"m always interested in the rising stars of politics (a.k.a future kings shoved down our throats.)

This article lead me to another interesting story of an Ester Boserup and the "Boserup’s theory".
Her theory states "that population determines agricultural methods." Including the increased use of mechanization
and fertilizers to increase food production. She was obviously not aware of P.O.

Note the I did not use the word theory in the above sentence.

A reader sent me an e-mail about his concerns about a new movie called "FUEL". This movie has been out a long time now, but is finally hitting theatres.

According to the reader, he left the film feeling heavily propagandized. The film made it sound like biofuels are much more of a scalable solution than they really seem to be. According to him

The audience seemed to have little understanding of the new energy realities- this film got them excited! The reaction however seemed to be that we should demand from our representatives that these new fuels should be made available now so we can fill up soon. Problem solved!

It seems like readers should be trying to get some reviews into local papers, explaining the real situation.

Incomes of Young in 8-year Nose Dive

The incomes of the young and middle-aged — especially men — have fallen off a cliff since 2000, leaving many age groups poorer than they were even in the 1970s, a USA TODAY analysis of new Census data found. People 54 or younger are losing ground financially at an unprecedented rate in this recession, widening a gap between young and old that had been expanding for years.
What caused the income gap:

• Waiting line for good jobs. Older people are working longer, crowding out young people from the best-paying jobs while boosting the incomes of older workers and seniors.

• Global competition. Low-income workers in other nations have pushed down wages in the USA. Newly hired workers — generally younger people — experience the wage decline first, says economist Dean Baker of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank.

• Golden age of retirement. Social Security and private pensions have elevated the incomes of retired people to record levels and reduced poverty among the elderly.

They are running this story on CNN this morning. They claim that people over age 54 are not feeling the economic crisis at all.

Weird, because I've seen other studies saying that older workers are being hit the hardest. Precisely because they make the most money. You save more money laying off a high-paid employee than a low-paid one. Then they can't get re-hired, because they're "overqualified."

Just as it is quite possible to drown in a lake with an "average" depth of one foot, so are the facts now coming out to document that even in the years when the US economy was supposedly doing well "on average", that average was skewed by the few people who actually reaped all of the rewards. For most people, the economy is not just terrible now, it has been pretty bad for years, even decades.

WRT your comment, this is especially where such skewing shows up. You are right, a lot of older workers are having a terrible time of it. Yet, the top dogs and fat cats tend to be at their peak during the decade or so before retirement, so they really skew the averages for that age group.

Averages (i.e., statistical means) can be so misleading that I really wonder if we should even be looking at them.

Averages (i.e., statistical means) can be so misleading...

"The mean is meaningless..." without some indication of the variance.

"The average person has one breast and one testicle."

I always knew I was above average.

No, men also have small breasts (and some have big man cans). The better analogy is "one ovary and one testicle".

Also, simply a lot of things are not distributed on a bell-shaped curve. Income, for one. So you get some info from the median, some from the "mode", and the rest by looking at the curve itself and getting info from other measures entirely.

Unfortunately, both the media and political and corporate propagandists find it very convenient to just quote a single, simple number. As they say, "the devil is in the details".

As one commenter below pointed out, you get different info from mean, median, and mode. For most political applications, I think that median is the most important (and mode probably the least). In at least some senses, America (and more recently Western Europe, Japan, etc.) are historical anomalies precisely because the median has been "relatively" close to the mean as far as income, wealth, political influence, etc. For example, when looking at the ability of declining incomes to support the existing political/economic structure, I think it matters much more that the Mean income is above X than that the Median income is above X (which could be the result of 10,000 truly poor and one Tiger Woods). Similarly, one metric I've suggested to show the true scarcity of oil going forward is price of oil/median income. That would fairly effectively control for inflation and financial "wizardry," and show the real impact of energy descent on our "way of life."

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average non-supervisory wage in the US peaked in 1972. Does that date ring any bells around here?

I would say that the crisis hits younger workers faster as they have less assets and less severance. As these packages run out then watch out. When NCR moved its Dayton operations to Georgia, it is rumored that only 200 of the 1700 workers were offered jobs and most of those at considerably less money.

They claim that people over age 54 are not feeling the economic crisis at all.

58 here - so there now you know - and while I still have a jobs as does my 54 (or is that 55 - oops) year old wife that is just so much BS - but you probably already suspected that. I was gonna say you probably already knew that but figure you aren't that old yet ;-)


Although this is true, there's also the pyramid effect: there are more low-paid people than higher paid people, so not only can you save more money in total by laying off some fraction of the workforce at the low-paid level than at the high-paid level, but there'll probably be less effect on the business (loosing 20 people from a workforce of 100 you can probably make efficiency and "convince" the rest to work harder to pick up the amount of work done, whereas losing 1 person from 5 it's more difficult).

I suspect that, although the older more well paid are undoubtedly suffering, they're also most likely to be eloquent and vocal about it than the younger people, even though the younger people are more likely to have mortgages and growing children.

I am being quite serious about this. Even though I am employed right now, I'm not sure which is better right now...being employed and massively overworked or being unemployed with more time to sort out my life.

CNN had a nice article about this phenomena. I have more and more friends that are "trading" these types of jobs for lower wages, but more free time. Since my wife is employed as well, I am seriously considering "trading down" in the near future. My life has been insane for the last 6 months.


Less pay. More hours. Unhappy workers. The majority of those still employed now put in longer hours for less pay, quelling motivation in the workplace.
Raises, bonuses and other incentive programs have been slashed since the downturn began, and employees saddled with additional workloads for less pay are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their current position -- or just plain burnt out.

I'm also dead tired from my job, but having being unemployed/underemployed for the previous 10 years I know to suck it in for the next few. The pay (and overtime) have about cleared my debts and the next few years pay will set me up to pay for a bolthole free and clear. Unless you are debt free and own outright a place to live then keep that job (unless you already have secured a better job elsewhere).
To drop out now means you will be at the mercy of the current cr@p economy, job market and the likelyhood that the govt will soon be unable to pay pensions/dole etc when the 2nd shoe falls in the next few years.

Sea Levels Rose Two Feet This Summer in U.S. East

Gulf Stream Mysteriously Slowed

Now a new report has identified the two major factors behind the high sea levels—a weakened Gulf Stream and steady winds from the northeastern Atlantic...

The Gulf Stream is a northward-flowing superhighway of ocean water off the U.S. East Coast. Running at full steam, the powerful current pulls water into its "orbit" and away from the East Coast.

But this summer, for reasons unknown, "the Gulf Stream slowed down," Edwing said, sending water toward the coasts—and sea levels shooting upward.

Lets hope its not due to all that fresh water flowing off Greenland and messing with the overturning. Or has that theory now been junked?

Wonder if that's why we had a coolish summer here in Europe?

Weather & climate nerd alert.

The proximal cause for the slowed Gulf Stream and unusual on-shore winds in New England this June and July would probably be the large negative values of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO) teleconnection indices.

Looking at the the loading patterns for the NAO and AO we can see that negative values are associated with low pressure over the North Atlantic and hence rainy weather in New England.

So this is a seasonal weather phenomenon. The interesting question for weather and climate modelers and statisticians is:

"Has this combination of NAO and AO values been seen during this season before and what were the associated weather conditions and tides?"

It's only related to climate change if this kind of pattern happens more frequently this decade than in past decades.

Last year, I presented a comment to the US CCSP regarding the draft of SAP 3.4, Abrupt Climate Change. (The CCSP web site has been changed and the public comments were left on the old site, which may disappear at some point in the future.) My offering (call it a rant) begins on page 65.

My comment was directed toward Chapter 4, “The Potential for Abrupt Change in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation”. I pointed out that the Odden Ice Tongue (Wadhams et al., 1999) did not appear in the Western Greenland Sea during winter 2008. This same situation reoccurred during the Winter of 2009. This feature has been associated with surface waters which sink in "convective chimneys" and which are thought to be a major fraction of the THC. This indirect evidence suggests that there was less THC sinking in that part of the Greenland Sea over the last 2 winters, which could result in a reduced northward flow of warmer waters derived from the Gulf Stream.

Sad to say, I have no other data with which to test this possibility, as I am not an oceanographer and my resources are rather limited...

E. Swanson

Massive influx of freshwater has shut down the North Atlantic THC before, but that occurred when enormous proglacial lakes floated their ice dams & drained catastrophically. Not sure that increased melting of the GIS could accomplish this, unless it happened over a period of years or decades, which isn't likely.

Yes, the flood of fresh water release by a collapse in the ice damed glacial lake(s) has been thought to be the cause of the Younger-Dryas cold period. What appears to be happening now is a slow freshening of the Nordic Seas, evidence of which has been presented in the literature. It's a different process, but the results might be similar. There is a large flow of fresh surface water from the Arctic Ocean thru the Fram Strait, in addition to a winter time flow of sea-ice from the Arctic, both included in the East Greenland Current. One question I have with some of the AOCGCMs is in the way the connection between the Arctic Ocean and the Nordic Seas is modeled, especially the Greenland Sea.

From what I've been able to find out, the models place the THC sinking in the Nordic or Labrador Seas and do not include the sinking in the Arctic as the result of the yearly cycle in sea-ice. Around the Antarctic, the larger annual change in sea-ice results in sinking due to the densification from the rejected salt below the newly formed sea-ice. I think the same process occurs under the Arctic sea-ice and there is evidence to support that point of view. One study I am aware of proscribed the sea-ice cycle, thus there was no change in the annual cycle during the experiment.

The big issue might be more than just sinking alone, particularly WHERE the sinking occurs, since sinking anywhere in the Arctic Mediterranean would result in a flow across the Greenland-Iceland-Scotland sills where measurements are presently taken. Similarly, the RAPID array is supposed to measure total flows at an even lower latitude. There are still lots of unknowns to be addressed, IMHO. In the mean time, I suggest one might prepare for a hard Winter...

E. Swanson

Exactly where the sinking takes place, how the topography of the sea floor affects bottom currents... this is taking the analysis to a whole new level of detail. This needs to be done. Thanks for keeping us 'current.' ;)

Is it time to sell the beach house?


Maybe the next Ice Age will start sooner than you think. With that one, the sea level will drop. You might be able to claim lots of newly exposed ocean bottom as an extension of your beach front property. Oh, I forgot, the U.S. government already "owns" the beach up to the high tide line..

E. Swanson

one aspect of increasing populations which must surely increase the amount of CO2 is that the more people (and other mammals) there are on the planet, the more they breathe and the more CO2 they exhale. I wonder if anyone has done any research and come up with some numbers on this? How much CO2 does an adult exhale each year?

..and not to mention all the farting of methane into the air..

The carbon emissions of animals are benign. We can only release as much carbon as we can consume (via food), and that amount of carbon is extracted from the atmosphere annually. if you pay your neighbor a hundred dollars a day and he pays you a hundred dollars the next day, there's no net change in wealth, which is essentially what happens with the regular carbon cycle.

The only carbon source of concern imho is fossil carbon. Sure -- there may be some differences in how the carbon is organized (methane is far more capable of heat trapping than CO2 for instance), but the net carbon increase in our atmosphere is primarily a result of fossil fuel use, and a not insignificant relase of "semi-fossil" soil carbon.

- deforestation
- ocean acidification
- tundra thawing

It's the Day After Tomorrow....In the library, two of the survivors discuss if they should burn the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. This is an in-joke because the phrase "The Day After Tomorrow" was taken from the preface to "The Antichrist" by Nietszche, where he writes that "Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously."


It's wayyyyy too late, Kids.

Iam aware that prevailng winds ,minor variations in gravity, and the effects of the rotation of the earth, and the accidents of geography can cause minor local changes in sea level-but two feet seems a stretch-does anyone one here know how big these changes can get before gravity flattens them?

I'm not talking about storm surges or unusually high tides but rather some thing persistent.

Birth Control Could Help Combat Climate Change

Giving contraceptives to people in developing countries could help fight climate change by slowing population growth, experts said Friday.

More than 200 million women worldwide want contraceptives, but don't have access to them, according to an editorial published in the British medical journal, Lancet. That results in 76 million unintended pregnancies every year.

If those women had access to free condoms or other birth control methods, that could slow rates of population growth, possibly easing the pressure on the environment, the editors say.

I know it's a "Well Duh!" conclustion but the fact that it has appeared in Lancet and the New York Times means that the topic may now be considered appropriate for polite company.

However, I'm still bothered by the fact that combatting Climate Change is considered a good reason for providing birth control while improving the lives of women in poverty never seemed to gain much traction.

More than 200 million women worldwide want contraceptives, but don't have access to them, according to an editorial published in the British medical journal, Lancet. That results in 76 million unintended pregnancies every year.

Geez, next thing ya know they'll want to be able control their own bodies and actually enjoy sex or something. Bunch a sluts, I'm sure the various flavors of deities around the world will certainly smite the whole lot of them. Failing that I'm sure their village elders can organize a few local stonings to set an example that will keep the rest of them pregnant and barefoot like they should be! I mean really, whatever is this world coming to?


Keeping women barefoot and pregnant is dumb. Buy them slippers so the cold kitchen floor doesn't mean they have cold feet when they are ordered to bed.

They can have all the free condoms they want, but if the men don't wear them (with various rationals from "they dull the sensation" through to "*whack* do as I command!") they're no good.

I too am bothered that the ideal of imprtoving the lives of women (which by itself seems to reduce fertility rates) never really got much emphasis.

Re: Worlds Largest Wind Turbine Blades to be Made in Britain. Up top.

Clipper has quality and design problems IMO. There are 80 of their wind turbines surrounding my home place and 100 GE wind turbines. There are fewer Clippers because they are bigger so the rated capacity of the 80 Clippers and the 100 GE turbines is the same. The Cippper turbines and blades are manufactured locally in Waterloo, Iowa.

During construction last year there was a problem with the Clipper blades that required most of them to be removed from the tower, placed on the ground and surgically cut open for repairs. The repair project was a big deal IMO. Each blade took a few weeks to fix.

Now they are up and running, but I've noticed the Clippers are more sensitive to wind speed and direction. They seem to shut down quicker than the GE turbines when wind direction changes and the wind speed gets to high/low. They are also slow to start up again.

Perhaps it is due to their bigger size. I question whether bigger is better in wind turbines. If the sensitivity has to be increased due to the large forces acting on the turbines, it seems to me that there is an efficiency loss that comes with size. If I remember correctly force acting on the blades increases as a cube or some non linear function of the wind speed.

My obervation of the larger Clipper compared to the smaller GE turbines is that larger is not necessarily better. It could be that GE turbines are just more perfected, I do not know. But Clipper turbines have problems and I frequently see the Clipper company truck around but never see a GE wind turbine truck.

IMO there is an optimal size for wind turbines and it may have already been reached. The difficulty of hoisting the blades especially at sea should put a ceiling on size. And the non linear forces acting with increased wind speed that force more down time should make ever bigger turbines a lost cause.

We don't need bigger IMO. We need more turbines that are reliable, smaller and can sense wind speed and direction quicker and better.

It's the square of the diameter. The wind resistance - drag - is cubic in relation to speed. It seems to me that despite all the wonderful engineering going on with turbines, the actual percentage of conversion is still pretty tiny. I liken it to crabs erecting small devices on the bottom of an ocean current, getting some power and thinking they have significant utilization when there's another few hundred feet of unharnessed moving water above them.

I think going back to a global population commensurate with firewood is a better plan, but when has Man ever followed a plan?

Nope. The aerodynamic drag increases with the square of the wind speed. The available power in the wind increases with the cube. The Betz Limit is the maximum amount of energy theoretically obtainable from the wind, based on the area intercepted by the device, usually the circle based on the diameter of the blades. A well designed turbine operated at the optimal speed can recover a large fraction of that available energy...

I do like the analogy comparing humans to little crabs skittering across the bottom of an ocean, an ocean not of water, but of air. I suspect that few of us actually internalize the fact that a hundred miles above our heads the air thins out to almost nothing and the temperature is very, very, very cold...

E. Swanson

It's the square of the diameter. The wind resistance - drag - is cubic in relation to speed.

To be more precise about it.
The drag is Cd*rho*v*v
where Cd is a coefficient of drag, which depends upon the geometry -and possibly also the wind speed. rho is the density of the fluid. V is the wind velocity. The total energy available is the drag times the velocity, which means power goes as the third power, but drag only as the second. Of swept area which goes as the diameter squared is also figured in, as the above drag is per unit area.

But back to bottom-skittering:

If 'higher is better' for a turbine, doesn't it follow that those long blades extending down near the surface aren't optimal?

That is, what are the relative merits of a blade that reaches higher but also grazes the surface, compared to a smaller one that doesn't reach as high but never gets close to the ground either?

This isn't a physics question, it's an engineering one. A Vestas or a GE will always find a 'bigger is better' solution, but there may be other sweet spots to optimize from the standpoints of capitalization requirement, ease of install, and risks arising from failure.

I think going back to a global population commensurate with firewood is a better plan, but when has Man ever followed a plan?

That's the "When all else fails" plan. . . the one that doesn't need to actually be written down or agreed to, it just happens on its own.

Same WTs on taller towers helps too (limit is crane that can get over local roads).

One “rule of thumb” from NREL is that doubling tower height will increase overall costs by 10% while increasing generation by 45% (1/7th power rule). In addition, maintenance decreases with height and life expectancy increases (less delta in wind speeds from top of blade arc to the bottom of the arc).

The reason is ground friction slows wind down close to the ground.

Best Hopes for taller towers :-)


OK....so can VW (or some other firm) make this concept into a little 2-by-2 seater getting around 120 mpg?

Wait..that would be a stretched (meaning adding smallish two back seats), tweaked Aptera!


I heard this morning that there is a proposal to ban flash trading... I wonder if that'll cause the stack market (sic) to drop?

Help! About a month or two back Leanan posted a link about Saudia Arabia looking for oil in the Red Sea. There was several comments referencing that link. I have googled Drumbeats but cannot come up with that link. I would love to save it for future reference but I neglected to do it at the time. If anyone could link me to it I will forever be in your debt.

Thanks in advance.

Ron P.

Thanks a million Pollux, I will not lose the link this time.

Ron P.

Pollux -

If anyone could link me to it I will forever be in your debt.

..I guess that makes you China to Ron's USA ! ;)

I don't know if it is the exact link, but the text seems like what was linked to from DB:



Saudi Aramco, the worlds largest state-owned oil company, has boosted exploration in the Red Sea, seeking deepwater reserves away from its historical focus in the east of the nation, according to its area exploration manager.

"We are at the highest level of exploration operation ever, covering more territory than ever," Ali Al Hauwaj told Dimensions, the firms in-house magazine.

"Some of the areas Saudi Aramco is now exploring are vastly different geologically from the traditional exploration areas in the kingdom."

Aramco is seeking reserves in anticipation of global economic growth and increasing demand for oil. The Red Sea is two kilometres deep in places with a 7,000-foot thick salt sequence which can distort seismic images, according to the magazine.

"In fact, exploring the Red Sea is just like going to another country," Al Hauwaj said.

FYI, Wall Street Journal is "paywall free" for today. Commies are winning!

I read yesterday's TOD post: Archdruid Report (Daydreams of Destruction) and initially thought that , yeah, he is right, Life is what you make of it. But after reading Tony's comments (and pondering them overnight) I think that the point was missed. (Unfortunately I can't post to that site this morning for whatever reason, so I'll post here as a response to the post being on TOD).

I think Tony has a legitimate gripe: a lot of youth are just overwhelmed with consumerist programming. It's not that Tony has an option to give up his material pocessions, but the fact that even if he does, he'll be alone because his friends are probably constantly being bombarded with that programming. I often hear some version of this complaint whenever I speak with younger folk; a lot of young adults express concern that dating today is almost all about giving MATERIAL gifts... and very little effort in sharing emotional/intellectual drumbeats.

I could say, well, find someone else, but where does one go and find someone else in a culture that's just a sea of programmed consumers? I feel sorry for these kids.

I remain unconvinced that younger American women are more materialistic than in previous years-IMO it has always been a powerful magnet for women (obviously).

Where ?

Volunteer Organizations.


Agreed. I know young people who have left the country, to volunteer in other nations in various humanitarian efforts. It seems to be a great way to meet like-minded people.

From the September 16th edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, an article on motor vehicle crashes (article behind paywall), highlighting some research I thought you all might be interested in:

37,261 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2008, down 9.7% from the 41,259 who died in 2007. The 2008 fatality rate was 1.27 persons per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) vs 1.36 persons per 100 million VMT in 2007, a decrease of nearly 7%.

Early reports from 2009 suggest the downward trend in deaths is continuing, with one exception. Motorcycle-related deaths increased 2.2% between 2007 and 2008 to 5290, extending an 11-year trend.

The overall decrease in motor vehicle fatalities may be partly due to fewer alcohol-impaired drivers on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey found that 2.2% of weekend nighttime drivers in 2007 had blood alcohol levels of at least 0.08 g/dL compared with 4.3% of drivers in a 1996 survey and with 7.5% in 1973, when the study was first conducted. [...] 5.6% of motorcycle drivers were legally impaired compared with 0.3% of minivan operators.

[...] James C. Fell, MS, senior program director with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation: "There's a couple of reasons why deaths are down. Seat belt usage is up, and that is saving lives, but the real reason is the recession". Individuals are driving fewer miles and are curtailing discretionary travel such as going to restaurants, he noted.

In an amazing experiment, they put hidden cameras in 55 trucks and followed up to 203 drivers, who had volunteered to participate, for more than 6 million miles. They found that drivers dialing a cell pone had a 6 fold higher risk of crashing or nearly crashing. Those sending text messages had a 23.2 fold higher risk of crashing or having a near miss. The total number of crashes was 21 (isn't that amazing for 55 trucks? 21 crashes in 6 million miles? I hope a lot of them are fender-benders), with 4500 "safety events", such as near collisions and unintended lane deviations.

What we saw is that the visually intense tasks, like dialing, texting, and reaching for a device, took the driver's forward-looking eyes off the roadway for almost 6 seconds [...]. What we did not see was the same risks associated with cognitive tasks like talking and listening.

Finally, in a sign that automakers are, after all, highly creative, it appears someone is working on a device that will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver's blood-alcohol level is too high.

Since the issue with driving while using a cell phone is more related to the cognitive impairment of the driver while distracted with the conversation... I don't have the link right now but know of a JAMA study that showed the results were comparable to DUI. This is why a strongly disapprove of hands free devices being used while driving.

I have always told my friends that driving while using a hands free device was a lot like driving with both hands on the wheel and drinking a large Marguerita through a straw from a container attached to the dashboard. You're still cognitively impaired!

But how does talking on a cell phone while driving compare to talking to someone else in the vehicle? My personal theory is that passengers in automobiles, even children, become accustomed to temporary pauses in the discussion at times when more dangerous driving tasks take place. For example, the conversation momentarily stops while the driver changes lanes or goes through an intersection. Therefore my guess would be that the impairment of talking with a car passenger is somewhat less than the impairment of using a hands-free device, which would not tend to have such pauses.

I think you're right about that. Even people who are not drivers instinctively read people's body language, and understand that sometimes the person they are talking to needs to concentrate on the road. Those signals are not available on the phone.

I must become less aware of the road when driving with my wife, however her shrill screams always jolt me back to reality.

And sometimes when we're not driving, something the driver does while yakking about nothing with us, or on the phone, scares us so bad that the driver immediately notices our gasp...

It may be that our local drunk driving laws are tougher than other states-they are certainly tough and aggressively enforced.The penalties are tough too-the costs are likely to run welll into four figures even for a first offense.

I don't know even one person who is willing to take a chance on a dui ticket these days.

a lot of youth are just overwhelmed with consumerist programming. It's not that Tony has an option to give up his material possessions, but the fact that even if he does, he'll be alone because his friends are probably constantly being bombarded with that programming

I made a conscious decision a few months ago to get rid of everything which I don't need, and not buy anything else unless I absolutely need it. The effect on my stress levels have been amazing!

When I look at how much crap I had which I never used I was at once overjoyed to be free of it and at the same time extremely angry at myself for collecting it in the first place. Now life is simpler. I worked out that the total cost of all the crap, grossed up to include tax and my business overheads, meant that I had to work for a full six months just to pay for it all, over several years for sure, but still a lot of my time and effort just to buy crap I absolutely do not miss.

Now all I have is my MacBook, my internet connection, a TV and DVD player (but no TV service), my iphone, a change of clothes, three pairs of shoes (one smart, one leisure, one exercise). In the kitchen I have ditched the breadmaker, juicer, microwave, coffee machine, and freezer. I am going to unplug the fridge in a month when the night temperature falls and keep my milk on the window ledge. I cook from fresh every day so have no need of refrigeration anyway - except the milk. I reckon this will at least save me £300 per year in electricity. I got rid of the car over a year ago and only rent one when I absolutely need to. In total I took 3 van loads of crud to the skip or local charity shops.

EDIT: forgot to mention that the washing machine has gone too. Now I use the local laundrette on Sunday evenings. Put the wash on, pop next door for a pint! Much more sociable way to do the laundry - and cheaper.

I have kept the Mac, TV/DVD and iphone as they are necessary for my business and also serve as integrated educational and entertainment purposes but I own no other electrical gadgets at all.
The only hard things to chuck out were a few knick-knacks with sentimental value and some books which I know I would never read again. The sentimental value was really the memories anyway and I have those for life. I kept my gold rings and other wearable 'jewellery'. Portable wealth!

Now I am much better placed to live a nomadic lifestyle if I need to. I did a trial run to see how long I could pack and leave for ever and it is less than 15 minutes. Some may say this is sad; I don’t. I am finally free from the rat-race consumerist GDP growth nonsense. So what if my clothes are the same year in, year out? And the best thing is that I now only need to work 30 hours a week, rather than the 45 hours I used to. I have fallen down a tax bracket as well! But my quality of life has actually gone up!

It really is amazing to escape the Matrix, as I have come to call it. No more crap, back to being human again! So I am afraid that I will not be contributing to Britain's GDP growth in future. I apologise to the Treasury that I will not be 'doing my bit to get us out of the recession'. I didn't want the national debt in the first place so buggered if I should help service it!

Anyone who is thinking of doing the same, I fully recommend it. Well worth it.

I envy you. I still have way too much clutter. I'm working on it, but it's slow going. Not least because I really hate to throw things away, but it takes time to give stuff away, even with Freecycle. Like you, I want to be more prepared for a nomadic lifestyle.

I do think it's easier in the UK than in the US (at least from what I've seen of them). In particular, it's easier to do without a car, and it's easier to shop every day. And easier to find a laundromat where you can leave your clothes without having them stolen by a pervert (also a risk when you line-dry).

Marketing opportunity for some kind of female-related business that combines the laundromat function for clothing protection. Example: combine laundry while a woman is getting her hair/nails done at a salon.
Female-only exercise gyms + laundry [hook exercise equipment up to run washers?]. Child care-centers doing your laundry while also watching your kids? Same thoughts could apply to men,too.

One of New Orleans contributions to civilization !

Bar, grill, pool, live music (occasional) and laundromat ! One (Igor's) six blocks away :-) Several more in town.

Best Hopes for Non-boring Laundry :-)


There are already laundromats that have bars, gyms, etc. There's one across the street from me.

I do my laundry in a laundromat, and always have, but I must say, a washer and dryer is something I've always wanted. It's just much more convenient. Not least because you don't have to get dressed to go out. You can wash all your clothes. ;-)

How about a washer and a clothesline, or at a minimum, clothes racks. I live in the country, with virtually no zoning regs (except you have to have a permit and a septic-type system installed to get electric and rural water), and I know it is still possible, because that is all I use. I'm getting ready to install some solar collectors for more passive heat, maybe with a blower run on a PV solar panel and hope to figure out how to site them to give the clothes racks a little boost. I have a dryer, but have never hooked it up. I use both the clothesline and the racks most of the time. It is actually a time saver since I don't have to wait and hang up the clothes when they are dry - they are already hanging up. The only problem is a very occasional unexpected downpour (the unpredictable showers usually don't keep the clothes even damp by the end of the day.

I don't care for line-drying myself. My mom likes it, though.

I would guess a lot depends on where you live. In Hawaii, it's often sunny in the mornings, with showers in the afternoon. So if you want to line-dry your clothes, you have to get up early in the morning, which isn't something everyone wants to do.

My mom has a large selection of racks, and she dries some clothes indoors (especially things like underwear, which are a pain to hang on a line, tend to disappear, and are damaged by being exposed to strong sunlight). But in humid areas, it may take days for the clothes to dry indoors, and they end up smelling funny.

My dad, if left to his own devices, will throw all the clothes on a table, and turn an electric fan on them.

things like underwear, which are a pain to hang on a line, tend to disappear,

Is this really that much of a problem in America?

This definitely inspires me, as we are about to embark on a month (at least!) of no buying anything that we don't absolutely need (except local food). The kids have been forewarned, and one last trip to Starbucks for treats has been taken. I am considering what strategies will allow me to withstand the whining which is sure to come (some of it from me, most likely...)

In terms of John Michael Greer's post (oh and I won't try to leave a comment there, he's got over 60 already, most of which glow with praise), it seemed to me that it somehow broke out of the usual intellectual dispassionate tone he normally expresses. And that underneath it all, there was almost a contempt (too strong a word?) for what people go through. So a reader comments that he wishes his life was more meaningful, and that he hasn't entirely found the way to more meaning. Not sure that should be an opportunity to give advice. Man's search for meaning didn't start during the petroleum age.

Maybe the post jolts some people out of complacency. In my field, exhortations, shame and scare tactics (though frequently used) are considered just not very effective. In the end, what we dearly wish for is massive behavior change.

Last year a finnish family attempted to live a year without using oil at all. It went a bit differently and the film turned to something else then... english version at least in the


I do not know if you can download / view it somewhere, but an excerpt from website:

Our Year Without Oil (Recipes for Disaster)

Tues 1 July 2008 10pm
A documentary following a family as they embark on a oil detox, and try to lives their lives without using fossil fuels.

Today's FT has at least three fascinating articles:
p. 8 - Oil strikes not enough to quench demand [peak oil]
p.9 - A militant tendency [Class struggle in Korea]
p. 5 - Cuba forced to rethink system of paternalism


seems as though all you bright heralds of China's impending collapse may have to be patient...
Chinas Economy is Back, While U.S. Still Ails
the money quote-

The Chinese central bank said the country’s economy surged at an annualized rate of 14.9 percent in the second quarter. The United States economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in that period.

“So often China and the U.S. are mixed together as being in the same situation, and that is totally wrong,” said Xu Xiaonian, an economist in Beijing with the China Europe International Business School.

15% growth? That is staggering. Ok, Ok, their statistics are all fraudulent, Peking and Shanghai skylines are giant Potemkin villages, their highway system is all roads to nowhere, their subways are death traps, whatever...but...
there are massive implications to having a world order where a huge, dynamic economy is growing at a double digit rate while a sclerotic former empire which is still armed to the teeth, jealous of its role as world policeman, watches its economy contract...just sayin'...

It iss called the Power Transition problem in International Relations circles.

Power Transitions:

In short, it says that hegemonic wars are most likely when a declining hegemon (like the US) is faced with a fast-growing challenger (like China)that has become or is about to become roughly equal to the hegemon in power. The idea is that when the hegemon is clearly stronger the challenger won't risk war and will give in to the hegemon in order to forestall a preemptive strike. When the challenger overtakes and is clearly stronger than the old hegemon the old hegemon faces the same situation. It is thus when both are roughly equal to one another that both believe that they can strike and win if war becomes necessary.

There are a couple of problems - i.e. UK was a hegemon overtaken by the US, but US and UK didn't go to war during the power transition. Also, it presumes the challenger is in a hurry and doesn't wait till it clearly stronger than the declining hegemon - China strikes me as a patient society....

One of the flaws of the historical theory is the examples are pre globalization. As an example, if a stronger Chinese economy and a weaker USA economy is beneficial to Goldman and JPM, it isn't going to be easy sledding to get a military conflict going.

Hm, wish and hope you are right. But I don't think GS and JPM are the whole story. The military industrial complex didn't disappear with Obama. And these groupings are not entirely distinct.

In any case, for now Obama is being permitted to play the multilateral-make-nice card, but if things start spiralling down, things could worsen quickly.

I also think Chinese ascendancy is short term. They are immensely vulnerable to the resource shortages that are the focus of this site. I think that the collapsing US global empire will not be replaced, but that the age of empire itself is coming to a close, and that's because the age of oil and industrialism are coming to a close.

But I fear that the coming of the close will not be peaceful because it's a matter of life and death for both a dying empire and a wannabe. My preferred model of collapse is the Soviet model. Not that I endorse all the results. But there's a lot less radioactivity than there might have been. In any case, I don't get a vote.

Edit: I also think that China's stability is much more dependent of growth that ours. 1949 is a still a fresh memory there. Our history, in contrast, may soon be re-written as a failure by an irresolute King George to suppress an insurgency with sufficient firmness.

True, but look at the Polish missile shield. I agree with Obama on this one, but many feel that GE gave the orders in any event.

Empire isn't going away anytime soon. We had them before oil. We'll have them after oil.

Agreed BrianT - but, in many respects the globalized world today looks awfully similar to the globalized world of 1914. Goldman and JPM are today what the Rothchild's were to yesteryear. Never underestimate the power of nationalistic tribalism trumping capitalist rationalism. After all, war can be good for business too.

Frankly, I think nukes are a greater deterrent to another roll-the-tanks, Axis & Allies style World War than the interests of bankers and merchants... but, the possibility remains that the agents of capitalism might be truly be free of state-based shackles.

We'll see I guess.

A patient society but one with an increasingly strident nationalistic element- I am referring specifically to the reports of bloggers who were instrumental in China's swift response to US tire tariffs.
However i suspect even China's internet hotheads would caution against a military showdown with the US without a preliminary proxy war.
I do wonder about the reaction if China again attempted to buy a major IOC?
Could they be rebuffed so easily in 2010 as they were in 2005 with Unocal?
I doubt it.

I am not worried about China (MAD will keep us apart) but being buried in Afghanistan is another matter. Over a hundred years ago the Brits understood how it is there; why do we have to re-learn something so basic.

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."

R Kipling from "The Young British Soldier"

Military conditions are much better now that no one will be left on the Afghani Plains but the natives do not appear to have changed much. Right now the Afgan Taliban do not have much of a goal, they could just wait till we leave but that's not in their macho psyche. If the Pentagon really wants a fight on their hands, send in the Agent Orange cowhands on the opium poppy fields. That'll get their attention.

The Taliban wiped out the poppy fields originally-that is what started all this ruckus.

I believe the 'ruckus' was started as a retaliation for 9/11 and to get OBL. I wonder what ever happened to him? I hear that we come up with a tape now and then and some crummy photos but could he be dead kinda like the WMD in Iraq.

Every time a new tape from him surfaces, there's speculation that it's fake. Many think that the CIA makes & releases them. But conspiracy theories aside, there's no evidence that we know of to think that his voice isn't authentic. He was suffering renal disease in 2001; unless he has access to dialysis technology or has received a kidney transplant he should be dead by now. Perhaps they took a kidney from a killed or captured US serviceman or woman and it keeps him alive in the cave in Pakistan he's supposed to be hiding out in. Personally, I think he's living in Saudi Arabia, under the protection of the royal family.


Yes, we have to increase the DEMAND for electricity. When people talk about economizing and ruducing energy consumption, they almost instantly tell you that they are using some smart light bulb, which is using less energy. Fine with me. It is ok to use more energy-effective devices.

We all know that almost any alternative we can imagine, to replace oil, coal and NG, they produce electricity. The future is electric. We also know that our present electric infrastructure have to be upgraded and supplemented with new power producing units: windmills, solar, A-power etc. How shall we get the money to that investment if we are cutting back on electricity. Who is going to invest in new windmill's if they can't see a profit from those already build. Who is going to invest if the price is zero, or even negative?

We have to increase the DEMAND-SIDE. You can't have a growing SUPPLY-SIDE without an increase in consumption. If you want more wind-power, you will have to use more electricity. The future is electric, and you can be part of that future.

Use more - but use less doing peak-hours.

When the wind is blowing:


And may the wind be with you!

Denmark is now aiming at 50 % of our electricity from renewable.
What is the target of USA.....
COME ON AMERICA!!! You can do better than that.

What is that I'm hearing......50%
-50 percent!
-DO I HEAR 60%.....
-60% renewable! Thank-you, Sir...
-60%.....Sold, to the gentleman with the funny hat and the Stars and Stripes.

ohh......maybe I'm dreaming.

Wind Power - To Combat Climate Change
See this video from Denmark. It is in english.

You will get it when the new high tension lines to the hydro powerplants in Norway and Sweden has cleared the NIMBY:s.

You could have more wind built right now if you had not been sucessful in getting the Barsebäck nuclear powerplant closed and thus putting more load on the high tension lines.

We need to reduce our electric consumption to make more available for charging electric vehicles.

"Is There Something Wrong with the Crude Oil Market? "

What, they noticed just now?

"It makes you wonder WHY people want to live in cities -I can't imagine life in the country would be worse -but perhaps it was?"

I'm not much on British history but I believe this was about the time that landlords were clearing the rural areas for large-scale sheep or cattle runs. Many farm workers had to go to the city because there was nothing for them in the rural areas. My father's ancestors came to Canada about this time (early 1800s) because there was no possibility of them getting secure farm tenancy in Scotland.

Revealed: Ghost Fleet of the Recession
Courtesy of ODAC Newsletter, fascinating and haunting article about the world's largest fleet - hundreds of ships - from oil supertankers to giant container ships, to more modest bulk carriers - all parked in one out-of-the-way stretch of ocean off Singapore.

Prices for ship hire have dropped 90% and this is where unemployed ships gather. Manned by skeleton crews, they light up the sky at night and live in perpetual fear of pirates.

Sign of the times. For these once-working boats, it's a depression and there's no end in sight.

The tropical waters that lap the jungle shores of southern Malaysia could not be described as a paradisical shimmering turquoise. They are more of a dark, soupy green. They also carry a suspicious smell. Not that this is of any concern to the lone Indian face that has just peeped anxiously down at me from the rusting deck of a towering container ship; he is more disturbed by the fact that I may be a pirate, which, right now, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

His appearance, in a peaked cap and uniform, seems rather odd; an officer without a crew. But there is something slightly odder about the vast distance between my jolly boat and his lofty position, which I can't immediately put my finger on.

Then I have it - his 750ft-long merchant vessel is standing absurdly high in the water. The low waves don't even bother the lowest mark on its Plimsoll line. It's the same with all the ships parked here, and there are a lot of them. Close to 500. An armada of freighters with no cargo, no crew, and without a destination between them.

Dick Lawrence

Many, if not most, of those ships were in the business of hauling Asian stuff to the US. One wonders how China can post a 15% GDP gain when the ships still aren't moving stuff?

China just passed Germany to become the #1 exporting nation-Europe is now the largest customer, not the USA. The USA MSM likes to portray Chinese exports as dead in the water, but actually they are at 2006 levels (Germany exports have fallen farther).

Also of note, China is actively building a standard guage rail line from China to the EU. Under construction in Kazakhstan ATM.


Here's a story for all you proponents of photovoltaic power.

Every morning the past week or so the internet has been down here at work. It usually comes up around 9:00 am. I just found out that the reason is that the ISP's hilltop transmitter is solar powered and the batteries go dead around 4:00 am. I asked them what we could expect now that the days are getting shorter and there's often afternoon cloud cover; will we have the internet at all this winter? The ISP guy said that if need be, they'd install a propane burning generator this winter.

Reminds me of the friends I have down in the Mimbres Valley. They installed a PV system back in the '80s & went off grid. First the trackers that moved the panels with the sun lost their freon and quit working. Then they were always having trouble with the batteries. So most of the time in recent years they've ran a gasoline generator to keep the batteries charged. I imagine that their fuel bill for that generator is considerably more than their electric bill would be, if they were connected to the grid.

I guess that my point is that for all its promise, PV tech is unreliable, a lot of trouble, and it still comes down to fossil fuels when the system breaks down or the sun don't shine. Life is going to be pretty inconvenient when fossil fuels become prohibitively expensive if available at all.

The moral is that you've got to design the system with a lot more margin for error than one might thing. The engineers on board can chime in on this one, but if I were really depending on PVs, I am thinking that I might put in as much as twice the capacity that the textbook calculations would say that I need. I'd also have spares for just about every component. Needless to say, such an approach does drive the price up a bit.

If it goes down every morning by 4AM, the batteries or maybe the panels are probably ridiculously inadequate. For a critical 24/7 function like that, you need batteries that can run it for something approaching a week, since it can be cloudy for a long time in most places. When it's cloudy, the panels, especially if they are polycrystalline (the kind that look glittery), may not put out enough voltage to charge the battery at all, and even if they do, the current will be very small.

You also need solar panels with a nameplate rating maybe six, eight, or even ten times the average current draw of the equipment, depending on the location; sunny, southerly New Mexico might be at the lower end of the range. So it all adds up.

Here's a story for all you proponents of photovoltaic power.

I think the common point in all these examples, is that these folks choose to be off-grid. Unless the cost of connecting to the grid is prohibitive, it makes sense to still be part of it. Foolishly going off-grid just because that makes you feel good, and you will be exposed to the longer periods of poor generation that happen from time to time.

In some cases, especially with equipment sites like the hilltop wireless point, the problem can be that it's impractical to run power from the grid. The utility may refuse to run it except at an absurdly prohibitive cost, or the local government (or in a few cases the Federal EPA or the like) may refuse the necessary permits.

Well good for you. You managed to find a single example of a 25 year old installation that isn't working perfectly.

My panels have been burning for 4+ years, and with the exception of a single reset (which occurred as I was washing them down and accidently sprayed the junction box) they have run without issue.

Of course, I'm not stupid enough to go off-grid when there are power-lines running underneath my house.

There are hundreds of families in my area who live off the grid because extending the power lines is too expensive. Everyone has a back-up generator even if they have PV.

In my case, I'm the last one on the power line. I also have a 3.6kW PV system and large battery bank. And...and, even I have back up generators. In fact, I just bought a new, little 2.2kW one so I don't have to run my 8kW generator all the time when the power is out (frequent in the winter) and it's overcast. Typically, what I do when the big one is on for the house is to also recharge the batteries so we can run the house on them when we go to bed.


Yeah Todd, I don't think people who live in heavily populated areas appreciate how expensive it is to run wires to remote homes or transmitter stations.

I wonder how often the input of running a generator is included in the EROEI analysis of PV.

As ever, you miss the point of an EROEI analysis.

The backup generator has it's own ROI values, and you could even try out some math for a home's entire power setup, which could include both.. but regardless of how stable or irregular the PV is, the EROEI of the PV is simply the comparison of how much it took to create and install it, and how much it ultimately provides back to you.

That wireless rig was just underbuilt if they needed 24/7 operation, or they had poor battery management, or allowed the batts to overage.. which batteries will do and is a known factor in engineering a remote solar power setup.

But everytime that sun comes up, there's power. Right?

But everytime that sun comes up, there's power. Right?

Not near him due the cloud of doom that follows him 'bout.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about whether I should use a tracking system for my PV. I told him that at most, I plan to be able to tilt the panels at latitude and adjust that tilt manually once a month or so. He thinks that it would be worth the additional cost and complexity to have an automated or remote tracking system. My argument was that complex systems are prone to breakdowns and the more complex the system the more prone it is. I plan to oversize it, keep it simple/reliable and stay on the grid as long as possible.

Based on NREL's solar insolation maps, tilting the panels south at latitude will get you an additional 1kWh/m2/day increase in your average power relative to a flat horizontal plate and adjusting the south tilting angle seasonally (North-South Axis Tracking Flat Plate) will get you another 1kWh/m2/day. Tilting south at latitude is relatively simple and is done during design/installation. North to south tracking can be set up to be done manually a few times a year and should not make the system terribly more complex or expensive.

East to west tracking or following the sun from sunrise to sunset only gets an increase of 1kWh/m2/day while being significantly more expensive/complex. Commercial producers of electricity can justify the additional costs and maintenance requirements according to this article.

The use of tracking technology allowing solar modules to follow the course of the sun (and so optimize the incident angle of sunlight on their surface) can increase electricity production by around a third, and some claim by as much as 40% in some regions, compared with modules at a fixed angle.

As far as individual homeowners and businesses are concerned, in the areas of the US most suited for solar power (NM, AZ, West TX, Southern CA-NV-UT-CO), it's really not worth the trouble/cost. In areas where the additional 1kWh/m2/day would be significant, solar power is not an economical option anyway. I have noticed that the vast majority of pictures of solar PV installations I have seen in the last couple of years do not use east to west tracking.

Alan from the islands

Tracking is not really all that complicated, but it does have to be well engineered, just the same. As much thought has gone into Car Window Mechanisms..

Keep in mind that if you get the panels for starters, they can always be remounted into a tracker later if you want to take the process and the choices a piece at a time. And if a tracker turns out to be a dud, it's not like the whole system is wasted money.. you yank the motors/armatures and fix the panels at 'Noon Sun' until and in case you choose to find a fix.

People's clutches burn out, they don't seem to give up on cars.. but watch out if a battery bank or a tracker craps out on us.. Solar must be an impossible dream..

100millon desk calculators can't be THAT wrong! Put them in light.. they work. I put a couple onto my 14 year old HP 200LX PDA.. I just stick it in the window every now and then.. it hasn't seen the wall plug in 18 months.

I've been off-grid for about 8 years now, using PV & wind only. I've never owned a back-up generator. During periods of low production I use less electricity, simple as that. Out the back window I can see some lights from town area and have witnessed a couple of dozen grid black-outs while living out here. Never a power failure in my system though, just a scarcity of power, requiring triage of use--no big deal. As for tracking, I built 2 racks for my 620 watts of panels, one has 300 watts (4 75 watt panels) the other has 320 watts (4 80 watt panels, newer). These racks are out of junk from the dump--one used to be an exercycle, etc. These arrays are manually re-set to track the sun 3 to 6 times a day, whenever it's convenient. Increase in production versus fixed arrays is around 40%. I don't seasonally adjust the tilt, but can--it doesn't make any difference, if you set the angle at a compromise between summer & winter. Living off-grid is pretty simple if your lifestyle is pretty simple. If you like to drive a car with manual transmission, you can like living off-grid--if you need automatic transmission in your car, chances are that you will fail at off-grid power systems.

Good stuff Dunewalker. What sort of battery (if any) are you using?

My setup is a 36V 220A golf cart and 3-130 12V PV panels. The panels are mounted on a small 2 wheel trailer that I can move around by hand to point toward the sun.

Forgot to mention batteries, of course. I have 8 Trojan L-16H 6-volt batteries, wired to give 24 volts nominal.

People tend to underestimate the problems caused by wind loads. If you don't want the first bad thunderstorm that comes by to wreck the system, it has to be surprisingly sturdy and heavy. Construction codes designed as make-work for powerful unions only make it worse, much worse.

Motors, pivots, gears, and bearings tend to exacerbate all of the problems greatly. And in areas where snow and ice are possible, fuhgeddaboudit.

That's why a manual tracker is superior to, as well as cheaper than, an automated tracker. Mine has withstood winds approaching 100mph with no damage. You also have the option with a manual tracker, of locking it into a position at right angles to the wind if it is deemed prudent to do so. Just sayin', from a guy that lives this way & sometimes gets frustrated at folks whining about how it "can't be done".

Like Dunewalker's setup, the main consideration is reliability in a no grid, no gas, no repaiman environment.

There has been a lot of talk about ERoEI or ROI of home PV but if the grid goes down hard for a long time, how much is it worth to pump water out of our well for ourselves, animals and garden? It is priceless so ERoEI does not apply except maybe for engineers that have nothing constructive to do.

If the grid never goes down, it has been a fun project for the Evil Genius in me and even the grandkids have learned a lot from it. Same-same with the solar drier and solar cooker.

islandboy, I agree with you. Keep the mount simple, sturdy, reliable and inexpensive. During the last 10 years every time I have studied the cost of tracking systems, it was less expensive to buy additional PV panels and mount them in a fixed direction. When mounting a PV panel so that it can be manually adjusted in altitude, one only needs to rotate it four times per year to get a 10% gain in power over the optimal fixed direction. Rotating it more often is a waste of effort because the gain in power is minuscule. Here is the schedule I follow for about 35 degrees north latitude:

February 21: rotate to mid position (measuring from horizontal the normal to the plane of the PV panel should be (90 degrees) - latitude)

April 21: rotate to 90 degrees (horizontal)

August 21: rotate to mid position

October 21: rotate to vertical position (about 26 degrees in my case)

During the last 10 years every time I have studied the cost of tracking systems, it was less expensive to buy additional PV panels and mount them in a fixed direction.

I guess that explains why all of the pictures I have seen in the past couple of years of big installations on factory or store roofs, have not had tracking systems. Obviously the people implementing those projects came to the same conclusion as you. If panel prices continue to fall this trend will only be reinforced. Makes you wonder about the conclusions arrived at by the author of the article I quoted.

Alan from the islands

Written by darwinsdog:
I guess that my point is that for all its promise, PV tech is unreliable, a lot of trouble, and it still comes down to fossil fuels when the system breaks down or the sun don't shine.

Improperly sized PV systems and power hungry families caused the problems that you describe.

I have had an off-grid PV system for the last 18 years. I am using my second battery array after the first one lasted 14 years. My inverter has worked flawlessly. Throughout I have had piddling problems with my relay switched regulator, but so far I have been able to repair it each time. Some of my PV panels are pointing in a fixed direction and two of them can be manually tilted in altitude to adjust them for the seasons. I have had no problems with the mounts custom made from aluminum and, by me, from EMT. My polycrystalline panels have maintained their power output while my monocrystalline ones steadily decline. They have survived every wind, hail and lightening storm that has blown by. My shed roof leaked once around an EMT riser, and I easily fixed it using silicone. I have a propane powered generator as backup, but have not needed to used it with the PV system since the 1990's after I replaced a 180 W television with a 40 W one. I adjust my electric power consumption to align with sunshine and the charge state of my batteries to avoid cycling my batteries. I put distilled water in my batteries before the electrolyte drops to the level of the plates, I keep them clean and I periodically measure their voltage and density. I can remember only two unplanned power failures in 18 years. Once was in the early 1990's when I inadvertently deep cycled my batteries using that power hungry TV during an unusually cloudy January. The other was in June 2009 when I tested starting my new refrigerator/freezer's compressor motor while running my 1,200 W microwave oven causing the overload circuit to shut off my inverter. Since I did not initially install part of the system, I had to finish the installation and fix some mistakes made by the prior owner. I began with a 400 rated watt system and have expanded it to 660 rated watts presently (3 kW·hr per sunny day of usable power). I make a small PV system work.

Perhaps all of this would be too much effort for the average person lacking the abilities of a handyman, but I also avoid depending upon and paying a utility company to provide product, service and maintenance for me. Those lacking in skill and the ability to adapt will likely perish as we go down the falling edge of peak oil.

the batteries go dead around 4:00 am

Unless they are maintained, batteries will go to hell in a handbasket.

PV tech is unreliable

Really? Huh. If I have a PV panel it'll produce power so long as the sun shines.

But your "story" ignores if the ISP has increased the power drain via upgrades, if they have replaced batteries, if the panels have suffered damage from, say, some jackass with a gun shooting 'em.

But why should you be listened to, you advocate shooting wind turbines with guns.

Re: GOP Senator considering rider to limit EPA authority on greenhouse gases. Up top.

The EPA stepped in a cow pie when it followed California into Indirect Land Use Change. Now it is reaping its reward by getting shit on.


Growth Energy CEO lays out the case for ethanol:


"The EPA’s own peer review study proved that there is no consensus in the science community on a model to accurately measure indirect land use change. Comments from the EPA-selected scientists found almost no agreement on the modeling, the data or the science. Growth Energy is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that would task the National Academy of Science with conducting a comprehensive and thorough study of this issue."

Sounds like a good idea to me.

"Squeezing more oil from the ground" - Scientific American Oct 2009 - p36

"Together with the new discoveries, the increased productivity could make oil last at least another century" - according to Leonardo Maugeri

"The author predicts that by 2030, thanks to advanced technologies, wells will be able to extract half of the oil known to be underground, up from the current average of 35 percent."

"Most of the planet's known resources are left unexploited in the ground, and more still wait to be discovered."

"the difficult oil today will be tomorrow's easy oil, thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise."

Phew - no peak oil then - I was worried for a moment...

"the difficult oil today will be tomorrow's easy oil, thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise."

Does the article predict flowrates and watercut percentages? Remember, nodding horsehead pumpjacks and/or electric submersible pumps [ESPs] burning energy to lift [1% oil-stain + 99% brinewater] is not the same as the early Jed Clampett gusher FREEly spouting nearly 100% oil.

Remember, we TODers are still waiting for Simmons' opponents, the Gang of Four [Yergin, Lynch, et al], to provide their scientific claims on why Col. Drake's first well in Penn. is now the most prolific flowrate producing hole on the planet with also the lowest watercut percentage, "thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise."

150 years of hi-tech knowledge/tooling can't compare to the early ERoEI of just dunking a bucket into a shallow hand-dug hole, then hand-hoisting out a couple of gallons of crude for greasing the axles on lots of animal-pulled covered wagons.

EDIT: Notice in my example above that no refining was necessary, nor was any combustion required. Just a lot of little oilcans***, so wagon owners could periodically squirt a few drops per bearing to reduce the frictional load for their draft animals.

The ERoEI probably approached 10,000 because the first crude was never chem-manipulated or ignited in a chemical reaction, but greatly reduced bearing friction and rust. Today, modern lubes & greases are heavily chem-altered products to meet specific engineering requirements--Look up the Mil-Specs for top-notch, high-quality gun lubricants.

***Picture the oilcan that Dorothy used on the Tinman in Wiz of Oz.

LOL! I was googling around for a picture of the Tinman's oilcan when I came across this blog:
Finding Oz

[Scroll down to "Finding the Mythic Oil-Can"]

Sometimes, when researching history, you find places where it's still alive. My search for the Tin Man's mythic oil-can led me to such a spot. L. Frank Baum sold cans of buggy wheel oil for a living as the co-owner of Baum's Castorine Co. of Syracuse, N.Y.
There is also a photo of Dorothy lubing up the Tinman.

The article spent some time discussing the Kern River Oil Field and stated that it was "not an isolated case". The extractable oil estimates have gone from 54 million to 1700 million barrels.

They also did discuss the 3 phases of extraction - gushing, pumping, thinning.

Perhaps some one with a good understanding of the topic could review the 7 page article and comment. Obviously I can't post it all here due to copyright.

Mr Maugeri is also about to produce another book "Beyond the Age of Oil: The Myths, Realities and Future of Fossil Fuels and the Alternatives" to go with his last one "The Age of Oil". I have not read either so can't comment.

Hello NotSoCertain,

As indicated by your user profile, you are a relatively new member, so My Welcome to you for joining the TOD Meatgrinder.

I have Not Read the article yet, but Gail can help you become 'MuchMoreCertain' about the flowrate and economic analysis weaknesses of the Sci-Am article regarding Kern River:

A Visit to Chevron's Kern River Heavy Oil Facility
Posted by Gail the Actuary on February 10, 2009 - 10:06am

..The site produces about 80,000 barrels a day from 8,000 producing wells, meaning that on average, each well produces about 10 barrels of oil a day.

..Since the oil-water mixture that is extracted is approximately 90% water, the question is what to do with all of the excess water.

..The graph in the above figure indicates that production was quite low until steam flooding was introduced about 1965. A peak in production of 141,000 barrels a day was reached in 1985, when cogeneration was added. Since then, production has been declining.

Kern River Production Estimates versus What is Economic
Posted by Gail the Actuary on February 12, 2009 - 5:41pm

..When I compare Laherrère's forecast with what I learned in my visit, it seems to me that the production forecasts developed using linearization are not tied in well with what is actually economic. Unless one makes careful adjustment for economics, it seems to me that this approach could significantly over-state the amount of oil that will ultimately be produced.

..My View--Future Production

My view is that if production is declining by 6% per year, it is likely to be economically stopped far sooner than 2060. According to Laherrère, production in 2060 is expected to be 1,000,000 barrels for the entire year, or 2,740 barrels per day. If the number of wells continues to increase by about 200 per year, by 2060 the total number of wells will be about 19,500, and the average production per day per well will be about .14 barrel, or 6 gallons...
Net Energy receding horizons--No Escape! No different than an old, arthritic, half-blind cheetah futilely trying to run down a gazelle or a young wildebeest even though it is surrounded by entire herds migrating past every day...

Edit: anything living needs a certain minimum flowrate to stay alive--the available reserves don't matter. Same goes for a business: Remember, the author of the Wizard of Oz couldn't make a go of his oil business, so he sold out.

Baum as a oil bizman like an old cat with a weak heart, failing brain, and flagging courage. John D. Rockefeller was in his prime as the TopCat in the latter half of the 19th Century.

I have Not Read the [Sci-Am] article yet, but Gail's [article regarding Kern River] can help you become 'MuchMoreCertain' about the flowrate and economic analysis weaknesses


Thanks for the link to Gail's look at Kern River.
It should be mentioned that the Oct. 2009 Sci-Am article which criticizes the PO "theory" is written by an "economist".

Since the Sci-Am article is currently available only to those of us with subscription, it is probably not drawing much attention. However, once it hits the newsstands, it will probably draw more attention, especially from the 'I told you so' anti-doomers of this world.

At that point, it will be good to have Gail's article in hand as a talking points counter to the good news /BAU ballyhoo that the free market "economists" are sure to glow with.

Note from the graph below that Kern is past peak and high on the water cut.
They keep adding more wells (purple) per free market theory and yet production declines nonetheless.

Oh yea market forces, why hath thou forsaken us?

Yep, I would love to see the economic analysis that would guarantee a slam-dunk boost in Kern's flowrate to 10 million barrels per day with ever fewer wells and reducing watercut "thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise."

I would also love to see a flying unicorn leading a flock of flying pigs, too. This is more likely to evolve faster in Nature than mankind can solve postPeak FF-flowrate depletion.

Thanks Toto, some very interesting reading. I would summarize by saying that this Sci-Am article is a masterpiece of redirection. It is a shame that such stuff is getting such high profile placement in MSM.

Thanks Again.

GettingMoreCertain ;-)

Your welcome.

"thanks to advanced technologies, wells will be able to extract half of the oil known to be underground, up from the current average of 35 percent."

Okay, I have stripper wells in tight sands in central Alberta (pumped since 1953) where the cost of fracing and horizontal drilling might pay for itself in about a century. Which is why none of us in the compulsory-pooled field have bothered, and the pumpjacks are held together with duct tape and chewing gum, with two guys in a pickup truck servicing them. I assume this is what the advanced technologies are, unless he is talking THAI or some other injection system, in which case the stripper wells could pay it off in about 150 years.

If the price of oil spikes, that wouldn't help, because the price of the workover crews would also spike, just as it did during the boom prior to the Panic of 2008.

BFF time. (Bank Failure Friday)

Here is the link directly to the FDIC which is updated as announcements are made. Two so far today.