Drumbeat: September 20, 2009

Lester R. Brown: On Energy, We're Finally Walking the Walk

The United States has entered a new energy era, ending a century of rising carbon emissions. As the U.S. delegation prepares for the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December, it does so from a surprisingly strong position, one based on a dramatic 9 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions over the past two years and the promise of further huge reductions.

...For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. Last year, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent and overall carbon emissions 3 percent. Projections for this year, based on Energy Department data for the first eight months, show oil use down by an additional 5 percent. Coal is estimated to fall by 10 percent. Altogether, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, including natural gas, dropped 9 percent over the two years.

In the past, I've been considered a pessimist in my work on mounting population pressures and looming food crises. I'm still very concerned about these issues. But today the improving numbers on carbon emissions are not debatable.

Squeezing the last bit of oil from Mother Earth: As the debate rages over how much longer the flow will last, valuable time is wasted

It follows as night the day that the unquestionably finite nature of fossil fuels inevitably will cause significant changes in the global economy and our way of life.

But the continued lack of absolute certainty – which will continue for many years – about the timing and severity of the crisis offers room for diehard "denialists" to continue with their arguments that a world without oil that can be extracted viably is a myth.

With the final week of August marking the 150th anniversary of commercial oil development, peak-oil deniers have become even more forceful in their arguments.

Oil Crisis was a Peak into the Future

The stuff in the Arctic is a drop in the bucket. You are losing sight of what the Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Exxon don't tell you about. They hold big press conferences to talk about, 'Oh we just discovered the Jack Field - 10,000 feet under the hurricane-ravaged waters of the Gulf of Mexico, isn't that fantastic.'

They don't hold press conferences [to announce], 'See this field here? It has been producing for 50 years. It's about to run dry.'

Oil, gas should not be shoved aside for alternative energy

Over a career that spanned 15 years as a newspaper reporter starting at The Courier to more than 20 years in my current position at the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, I have heard about the demise of the oil-and-gas industry more times than I can count.

Just recently, I read an article about the peak-oil theory. There is a compulsion among some to determine when the world will reach its peak oil-production point. From that point on, the production curve will go downward, forcing us to abandon oil as a major fuel source and building block.

Freedom from foreign oil might be a mirage

Inflated union contracts didn’t cripple Detroit but shortsighted energy policies did and the same thing could happen again unless the U.S. as a nation adopts a more rational approach to energy policy.

I don’t know if we’ve reached “Peak Oil” but the discussion is probably irrelevant. The larger fact is the U.S. economy will continue to face serious difficulties unless it finds a way around the OPEC blockade.

Energy independence, security? How about energy realism

Even with major increases in efficiency and conservation efforts, the world must triple its energy supplies over the next 40 years. Where will this energy come from? The answer is -- where it comes from now: mostly conventional fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), with a limited amount coming from boutique "renewable" sources such as solar, wind and biofuels.

Fossil fuels will remain pre-eminent for a simple reason: They are abundant, cheap and offer energy superior to so-called renewables. One pound of gasoline, for example, has 100 times more energy than a 1-pound lithium ion battery, which is one of the reasons why electric cars still aren't very practical.

Russian Bear vs. OPEC: A battle of wits!

With the global energy equation undergoing another adjustment-albeit a temporary one-a battle royal seems on the cards. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the top oil exporter. Exports of crude oil and refined products from Russia have risen to 7.4 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year, up from 7.25 million in the first quarter, according to the Russian Energy Ministry. Russia ‘s crude oil production climbed 1.3 percent in August from the same month in 2008, to 9.97 million barrels a day. Exports grew 5.9 percent in the same period.

'Big players face output struggle'

Credit Suisse expects the major US and European integrated oil companies to struggle to boost output to 2020, saying the sector is unlikely to see any volume growth over the coming cycle.

New oil finds in West Africa lure investors

DAKAR: The prospect of new oil finds in West Africa will lure big investors to the region but firms can expect regulatory headaches and other obstacles in countries still recovering from years of war and instability.

Big Oil Goes Green for Real

Remember back in 2001 when BP went "Beyond Petroleum"? It was a brilliant marketing campaign, but it had less to do with changing the company's business model than positioning Lord John Browne as the Teflon oil executive. All but a tiny fraction of BP's revenue came, and still comes, from oil. So how should we take the spate of new green announcements from the world's major oil firms? In July, ExxonMobil announced big plans to grow green algae to fuel cars; last week, Chevron unveiled the world's largest carbon-sequestration project in Australia; and in recent months, Valero, Marathon, and Sunoco carried out a series of acquisitions that resulted in Big Oil controlling 7 percent of the U.S. ethanol business.

The rise and fall of BP boss John Browne

Stung by the ambiguous attitudes towards Bad Big Oil, Browne pondered how to rebrand BP, consolidating the new acquisitions, and to rid the industry of the legacy of the Exxon Valdez spill and Brent Spar decommissioning controversy. At the same time he had become preoccupied by his latest passion: to save the planet from global warming. The energy companies, he believed, could lead the campaign to limit climate change.

Energy security is national security

My first command in the Navy was the guided-missile fast frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts. It was a ship that had been heavily damaged during the Iran-Iraq War and was saved only by the heroism of its crew, many of whom were injured.

It had struck an Iranian mine while escorting oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Under my command it returned to the gulf and again we were protecting oil tankers in dangerous waters.

That's what I think of first when I think of the energy crisis -- the American military extending itself to protect the vulnerable supply lines of foreign oil that keeps this nation afloat. We cannot consider ourselves secure if we do not have a secure American energy supply.

How the Libyan connection will keep our lights on

Could the release of Adelbasset Ali Al-Megrahi, the alleged Lockerbie bomber, be connected to Britain's energy crisis?

Pakistan: Likely gas supply cut in winter irks owners of CNG stations

KARACHI: The owners of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations have taken a strong exception to reports that the government intends to switch off gas supply for CNG to meet burgeoning domestic and power sector requirements in coming winter.

Malik Khuda Bux, the Chairman of CNG Station Owners Association, told a press conference on Saturday that news reports and television interviews of gas industry officials have created a lot of scare among its members who had bitter memories of last year fresh in their minds.

Southeast Asian oil firms scout for foreign assets

Tokyo: Southeast Asia’s major oil and gas firms are gearing up for an aggressive expansion to overhaul local operations and snap up foreign assets to meet the needs of a fast-growing, power-hungry region.

From the archipelagos of Indonesia and the Philippines to the rapidly developing economies of Malaysia and Thailand, energy firms are signing loans or tapping fixed income markets to finance expansion plans at a time when some Western oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc are scaling back spending.

Left behind by Iraq's oil rush

Critics of the US invasion six years ago often said its ultimate aim was to control Iraq's vast deposits of oil.

So it is ironic, perhaps, that the first foreign oil company to start drilling operations in the country since 2003 should be from America's growing rival, China.

'Crude' tactics in Ecuador

For director Joe Berlinger, the painstaking road to making the powerful documentary "Crude," all started with what he dubs his "toxi-tour" of a contaminated swath of Ecuador's Amazonian rain forest. After massive oil exploration that began in the mid-1960s by Texaco (in a consortium formed with Gulf), the area -- approximately the size of Rhode Island -- is now home to some of the world's most heinous environmental destruction.

Eco-dystopia: Trendy Cinematic Vision for the Planet?

"Reams of depressing data, loads of hand-wringing about the woeful state of humanity," that's how film critics described Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour. So where are we two years later? If the environmental documentaries screened at Toronto International Film Festival, closing tonight, are any indication, catastrophe is inevitable if we don't fix things asap. Ticking clocks provides great suspense in movies, train wrecks grab attention, horror sells. So does this account for the doom and gloom of the latest wave of eco-film fare?

Warm, fuzzy dictatorship

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with U.S. President Barack Obama tomorrow in Washington, they will not be discussing the following hypothetical news story:

WASHINGTON--The U.S. National Energy Corp., recently created by the Obama administration to secure America's long-term energy security, will today announce a takeover bid for all the shares of Suncor Energy of Calgary.

Put a terrorist in your tank

Citgo is not just a gas station run by a Marxist-Leninist dictator who hates America, calls George Bush the devil and believes Jesus is a socialist.

Citgo Petroleum Corp. — a wholly owed subsidiary of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela — is a company that cares.

Perhaps you've seen Citgo's most-recent television commercials featuring its independent station owners as they fuel local economies, provide needed jobs and donate to causes in their all-American communities.

A Day in the Park(ing Space)

The installations in New York were part of an international annual event called Park(ing) Day in which people in 100 cities in 20 countries turn parking spots into “human-friendly places” for a day. The goal, organizers say, is to inspire discussions about alternate visions of urban living and how cities divvy up common assets.

Tuna Town in Japan Sees Falloff of Its Fish

But now the town faces a looming threat, as the number of tuna has begun dropping precipitously in recent years because of overfishing. This has given Oma another, less celebrated distinction, as a community that has stood out by calling for greater regulation of catches in a nation that has adamantly opposed global efforts to save badly depleted tuna populations.

Just a decade or two ago, each boat here could routinely catch three or four tuna a day, fishermen say. Now, they say Oma’s entire fleet of 30 to 40 boats is lucky to bring in a combined total of a half-dozen tuna in a day.

Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells

MORRISON, Wis. — All it took was an early thaw for the drinking water here to become unsafe.

There are 41,000 dairy cows in Brown County, which includes Morrison, and they produce more than 260 million gallons of manure each year, much of which is spread on nearby grain fields. Other farmers receive fees to cover their land with slaughterhouse waste and treated sewage.

In measured amounts, that waste acts as fertilizer. But if the amounts are excessive, bacteria and chemicals can flow into the ground and contaminate residents’ tap water.

Obama Seeks National Oversight of Waters

The Obama administration called Thursday for a comprehensive national system for regulating the use of federal waters along the nation’s marine and Great Lakes shores, now administered by a hodgepodge of federal, state or other agencies with often-conflicting goals.

Author Heinberg to discuss post-carbon food system

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow in residence at the Post Carbon Institute and author of eight books, will speak at three locations around the state this week. He is regarded by many as one of the world's foremost Peak Oil educators.

Life without toilet paper is better than you'd think

Anyone who decides to give up electricity for an entire year to draw attention to climate change has to be a little crazy, right? So how crazy would someone have to be to give up electricity and elevators and toilet paper, along with a million other comforts we take for granted?

Not that crazy at all, Colin Beavan would tell you. The author, blogger and self-described "guilty liberal" says he did the experiment not as a way to save money or "stick it to the man," but to answer some fundamental questions.

Zeta to Mass-Produce Efficient Homes

The same economic downturn that wreaked havoc on home manufacturers appears to be creating opportunities for Zeta Communities, a hopeful purveyor of ultra-efficient multifamily housing.

California Unveils TV Efficiency Standards

California today unveiled energy-efficiency requirements for televisions, becoming the first state in the nation to devise regulations for one of the largest users of energy in American households.

T.V.A. to Pay $43 Million on Projects in Spill Area

The Tennessee Valley Authority said Monday that it would spend $43 million on economic development projects in Roane County, Tenn., the site of a huge coal ash spill at one of the authority’s power plants last December.

The spill devastated property values, brought tourism virtually to a halt and diverted the stream of retirees who were supposed to be settling down on Watts Bar Lake.

Next issue: energy sprawl?

The study - "Energy Sprawl of Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America" - has surprised a lot of people who think it's a warning against turning to sustainable energy. It isn't - but it is a candid look at an issue policymakers need to be thinking about: how much land will be required to develop projects such as large-scale solar and wind farms compared to traditional energy plants.

As Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander pointed out the other day in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, nuclear energy requires one square mile; coal plants require four square miles including mining. Solar requires six square miles, while wind farms need 30 square miles or more.

Getting real on electricity challenges

Vermont currently has the lowest electricity prices in New England and the second-lowest per-capita carbon emissions rate of any state in the country. A key reason for this is the low-cost power provided by Vermont Yankee.

These are among the basic facts ignored in the recently released "study" by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group about Vermont Yankee and the state's energy future. In fact, the VPIRG study is rife with unrealistic notions, major omissions and misleading information, and should be dismissed completely.

Danish Conservative Prepares for Climate Debate

COPENHAGEN — Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, feels little kinship with the green end of the political spectrum — people who stage sit-ins at power plants or vote for the Green parties in elections.

“I’ve never understood why the environment should be a left-wing issue,” said Ms. Hedegaard, with an exasperated sigh. “In my view there is nothing as core to conservative beliefs — that what you inherit you should pass on to the next generation.”

Billion-Dollar Floodgates Might Not Save Venice

The construction of mobile floodgates aims to safeguard the 1,300-year-old island city of Venice. It's an ambitious engineering project, but some scientists say it may not be sufficient to protect Venice from rising sea levels due to climate change.

White House quietly lobbies Senate as climate bill stalls

Climate-change legislation has stalled on Capitol Hill, but the White House's unofficial "Green Cabinet" is quietly trying to revive the effort by lobbying dozens of senators.

President Obama has dispatched Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to Capitol Hill. White House aides said that they and other executive branch staffers, such as climate-change czar Carol Browner, have met with "dozens" of senators.

Group sees dangerous heat waves in Ill. by 2050 due to climate change

"The Midwest climate is already changing. Over the past 50 years, we've seen higher average annual temperatures, more frequent downpours, longer growing seasons, and fewer cold snaps," said Don Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois who co-authored the UCS report.

"They think, 'That's not going to affect me. That's going to be polar bears and the coastal cities,' " added Burke. "But we're talking about completely transforming the face of the earth if we don't reign in global warming."

Japan to offer green technology, funding

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will unveil a plan to support developing countries in technology and funding to fight climate change at a UN meeting this week, Japan's environment minister said on Sunday.

Kenya rainmakers called to the rescue

MASENO, Kenya (AFP) – Long vilified as sorcerers, Kenya's Nganyi rainmakers -- with meteorological equipment consisting of trees, pots and herbs -- are being enlisted to mitigate the effects of climate change.

A chilling message to the global warming lobby

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay who is running for governor in 2010, has promised that, if elected, she will immediately suspend the job-killing, economy-retarding Global Warming Solutions Act, Assembly Bill 32.

A world of mass disaster

Professor McMichael is giving the annual Florey Lecture at the University of Adelaide at 5.30pm.

He will warn that society has a "rather naive and false view" of the main determinants of human health, stating: "Ninety-nine per cent of the discussion has been about what individuals do, whether they smoke, drink, practice unsafe sex, whether they wear their seatbelts, whether they've inherited good or bad genes.

"We've forgotten that the big deal is the wider environment out there as the support structure for the health of population."

"When Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with U.S. President Barack Obama tomorrow in Washington, they will not be discussing the following hypothetical news story:
WASHINGTON--The U.S. National Energy Corp., recently created by the Obama administration to secure America's long-term energy security, will today announce a takeover bid for all the shares of Suncor Energy of Calgary."

From Alberta's point of view, as long as we get our royalties from oil at fair market value, it doesn't matter where it goes, to China, the USA, or Ontario, or who owns the companies. There are still lots of Boomers who remember the National Energy Policy that crippled our province during the 1980s. (see Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Energy_Policy)

I think a lot of people are hooked on the "happily ever after without oil" story. It goes like this:

We don't need to worry about a decline in oil supply. We will just move away from oil, before it moves away from us. We can do this by more efficient use of energy, building wind turbines, building solar panels, building electric cars and perhaps developing some additional biofuels.

We have a huge world population, but we can easily continue to support it, as oil and gas decline in availability. In fact, we can support world population, without coal as well. Something close to BAU will continue, even with the reduction in oil and gas and coal.

Oil companies, and in fact electric companies, are more or less dispensable. We really don't need them. They have all done bad things in the past. It is important that people know and understand this, to help us move into the magic world of renewables. With all of our renewable solutions, we can solve all of our problems, including climate change.

The story is very appealing, but I seriously doubt it is really true. We don't have either the time or the investment dollars to do the amount of conversion necessary to make the story true. Many of our systems are quite fragile--financial system / industrial food system / credit / globalization / employment / electrical system. Some of them are already partially disrupted. Reducing fossil fuels can only disrupt them further.

World population expanded greatly with fossil fuels. We are now in a real overshoot condition. Just as fossil fuels enabled this overshoot, removing them has a very significant possibility of destabilizing the current system. We can voluntarily remove fossil fuels, but we need to understand that even if removal of fossil fuels is voluntary, it likely increases the risk of collapse.

China and the developing world don't believe the "happily ever after without oil" story. If we want to believe it, they will be happy to buy the oil from Alberta. The climate change effect is likely the same, whether the US or China burns it.

We don't have either the time or the investment dollars to do the amount of conversion necessary to make the story true.

Gail, have you ever seen a study of the capital costs of the entire oil infrastructure, from production to the users? In other words what the world has invested in the total oil economy since day one? If we had a feel for that, maybe we could have an idea what it would cost us to substitute or whether we can afford it.

Maybe a way to get at that would be to multiply the price per barrel (averaged over time or integrated over time) by the total number of barrels produced times the energy leverage of the oil (ROI or EROI or EROEI)?

A very crude (no pun intended) estimate would be a trillion barrels produced times (say) $10 per barrel times 100 (a thousand trillion dollars?). Where could we find money like that in the future? I know! The FEDS could borrow it..........

Whoever wrote the bit of lunacy that Gail quotes forgot the problem of scalability. In the first very few years of oil production decline renewables may keep up, but even if we had 100 years before oil started to go into decline, the renewables will never scale to the equivalent of 85 MBD. (Never mind the liquid fuels issues; also never mind how the renewables will fare when the fossil fuel base goes away)

Bottom line is that all the renewables combined will never scale to meet our current fossil fuel demands, let alone be able to continuously keep expanding to enable ever ongoing "growth."

Antoinetta III

The few sentences in the boxquote is just my take on what quite a few people have in the backs of their minds. They have never thought about the scalability of the substitutes, the size of the world's needs, or the consequences of not being able to meet the world's needs. Somehow, everything works out, it you add a few substitutes of some form.

I have thought deeply about the variety of paths towards a decline in BAU.

It is very hard to see the downside of more insulation, better windows, etc. (30% tax credit until new administration :-) Even in the complete absence of any heat source, opening the windows at mid-day (winter) and closing the windows & blinds at night will raise inside temps 10 to 20 degrees above outside.

Likewise small squarish homes with common walls will stretch any heat source significantly.

Rail continued to function (with home made jitneys) in total social collapse in Liberia and Cambodia. Electrified rail (using largely hydroelectric power) is one of the keys to keeping North Korea operating, both freight. inter-city passenger and urban rail in Pyongyang (the last line built was bought used from the Swiss. Soldiers were hand filing steel rails to "make it fit").

Electrified rail, once built, does not require much to keep operating (see NK, also Switzerland in WW II, with a 100% oil embargo for 7 years and limited trade with Germany for everything else).

I could foresee one future where the largest remaining social organization was the railroads. The intrinsic value of such, and existing management structure, could allow this. In fact, in the early West, that was often the case. Private police, script, communications, depots, and more could exist in a sea of anarchy and warlords.

Best Hopes,


to meet the world's needs

What is significantly smaller than the world's wants. Malls, Suburban commutes in private cars, 2,500 sq ft homes with one or two people living there, 74 F in summer and 77 F in winter are all just WANTS, not needs.

In 1945 the Swiss people had ALL of their needs meet (but few of their wants), with less oil/capita for the year than Americans use in a day.


"...is that all the renewables combined will never scale to meet our current fossil fuel demands,.."

The problem I have with phrases like that, is that they seem to suggest that we don't need to be investing in the renewables, as 'inadequate' to our accustomed expectations as they apparently are.

I fully agree, they WON'T likely provide as much as we gluttonously burn today, an at this population level.. BUT, they do include many workable tools, within wind, hydro, wave and solar options, and they will largely have viable ways of still being made after the oil-economy has withered (IMO)

So who cares if there are people 'thinking magically' about how much they can accomplish? They are still tools that work reliably and durably. We should put 'some' of our efforts into building up this sector. There's this tone of caution that says, 'maybe we're wasting our efforts on these things'.. but I don't see the argument in it. 'There's not enough money' is a political argument, not one of physical possibility.

As with the Food Pyramid, I think the real heavy lifters in Renewable Energy should be the smallest, simplest setups.. like so many grains of rice and beans, the hot air and hot water and PV panels on millions of Residential and Commercial rooftops will avert the use of untold volumes of Gas, Coal and Oil in their expected lifetimes.

Not enough? That's just tossing it back into the 'Silver Bullet' issue again. These won't FIX it alone, but they are clearly able to contribute towards untangling this web.

Hi Jokuhl, completely agree. We should build out as much renewable as we can so maybe in 100 years some areas might have some sort of electricity supply. All I'm saying is that most people boosting renewables seem to think that its just a matter of some Manhattan Project type of buildout being needed, and, beyond a few rough years, BAU and growth can go on forever.

I'm not saying give up on renewables, it's just that most people seem to have unrealistic expectations of what is possible.

Antoinetta III

You could be right about 'most people'. I don't know.

I'm happy to let people's illusions flow on by.. as with Yogi Berra's 'predictions', I think we all have to be pretty humble about our expectations of what is possible, and what is coming.

Personally, I think even with a serious crash, there will be local electricity supplies (albeit at much lower volumes) pretty much throughout. It's not hard to spin a DC motor in any number of ways, and who out there under today's electric light is going to 'go quietly into that dark night'?

The SECOND that grid supply gets truly dicey, you are going to see an absolute explosion in every form of self-generation, from gasifiers and Biodiesel rigs to stationary bikes. Much of it won't be pretty.., and early attempts will also be highly prone to self-destruct.. but I have to claim that it nonetheless will be inevitable and widespread, and the developments at that point will be truly Darwinian in their growth and outgrowth.

Will it stop the devastation? Doubtful, but it will provide some additional and real buoyancy to the growing fleet of deckchairs bobbing in the waves.

Well said. A lot will depend on where you are as to the measures that come first. Here in the high desert, water is most important in summer through fall. Our well is 150 feet deep and the water level varies from 40 feet (good seasons) to 80 feet (drought) but we may go 6 months without measurable rain. The SPGC can provide 110VAC for hand tools, a couple lights, ref in the summer and 220VAC for the well. This well pump will be replaced next year with a dedicated solar unit.

In the winter, we may have temps to minus 10F which requires heat at least to keep pipes from freezing. Alan in NO will have completely different problems. IMHO we could each get by on a couple KW a day if one works at it. That doesn't take much solar or wind. Six or eight panels and an inverter would be priceless if the grid goes down hard.

But one thing for sure … armed gangs will not go hungry. Therein lies my major concern for the first few months after TSHTF.

Note: The Reno Air Races are over. The Blue Angels (and all the rest) were top notch as to be expected. Now some 20,000+ people head back to homes all over the world. All of us in Northern Nevada appreciate all the money left here that goes a long way to pay our taxes. TYVM. Last week was balloon races with several thousand attending. Next week thousands of bikers will be here for Thunder in the Valley. After that we settle down and wait for winter with the next big events starting in the spring.

Get as ready as you wish then enjoy these interesting times.

SPGC = Solar Powered Golf Cart. i.e. portable 36VDC 7KW power pack.

Do you have much above ground water storage?

You guys get your air races.. Portland has an occasional and precious Cruise Ship come in and Tower over our port for a few hours, while the locals try to squeeze that sponge.. I'm not sure how well we do from the shipboard crowd.. LL Beans and the Lobster Shacks up the coast probably do much more for our economy than the parade of Princesses.

I agree that a little stack of PV will become very precious. I'm ambivalent about the 'marauding hordes' imagery.. they'll happen, but there are good defensive weapons out there, too. I think the lifespan of a marauder might be pretty short.

If I've got that PV, I'd surely be sharing that power with all my neighbors, so we all have something to defend together.

With the well there is a 60 gallon air accumulator tank so the pump doesn't run every time a tap is turned on. The actual water in the tank is about 30 gallons. Along with the solar pump next year will be a 1000 gal irrigation tank.

Our garden this year is a prototype but next year we will create about 2400 feet of raised beds for a community garden, that is 50 12' X 4' beds made out of 2" X 6"s.

In the comming months we will pull the big switch for a few days at a time and see what breaks. We won't get back to Williamsburg in the wood shop but it will be a great exercise to see what else we need.

The solar drier works great here. I have a lot of dried tomatos and squash and cucumbers. after harvest I will start on jerky.

All up till now has been a great exercise since my wife and I are in good health for our age. 70 and 76.

All sounds great!

At 44, I hope I use the time well to catch up. My Mom, at 72 had been starting to set our wooded acres up in the White Mts as a permaculture site akin to the Hedgerow Farms in that 'Farm for the Future' video, until Cancer got her early this month.

Now I've got my work cut out for me!

I was worried my wife might be daunted at the prospect of keeping that land, but she said 'No way in hell will we sell that place!' ..so I've got that going for me.


You might want to think about increasing the width of you beds to five feet-Nearly everybody can reach the center easily and there is less lost space for footpaths and less expense for lumber,etc.

How high will your beds be?

Most I have seen are too low as the owners forgot that they get older every day and that later they will want to either stand without bending much or sit on a stool as they work the garden.

I'm largely in agreement with Jokuhl, it is technically doable, including a change to a considerably less ravenous lifestyle. The problem I see is with the first decade or two of the transition. The problem IMO is homo-politicus, which is highly vulnerable to disinformation. Rather than recognize that we have run into limits to growth issues, home-politicus (HP from now on), might fall for some sort of campaign,which basically blames our problems on domesticate and foreign bad guys (such as liberals, environmentalists, greedy arabs...). Thus rather than confronting our problems in a rational way, there is real danger we wii descend into tyranny and war. I would think beyond the first decade or two, the reality of resource depletion, and how we need to adapt our societies and economies to it should have sunk in. Unlike some here, I see energy as being abundant in the terrestrial system. I don't see the total availability of energy as being the critical constraint (except as we blindside ourselves with denial until it bites us hard). I think a lot of other secondary resource issues, such as phosphates, soil, water, lots of specialty elements, will probably cause us at least as great a problem as energy descent/transition will. Its a daunting challenge, but if we can constrain homo-politicus from messing it up I think it is doable.

Currently, IMO, most of the advanced countries will be able to make the transition. At the moment, the most likely to fail based upon the foolishness of homo-politicus is the USA. Of course if she sets off world war three because of here denial of reality, it will be very bad news for the rest of the world.

Gail, did you really write the phrase, "the magic world of renewables."

Gee, thanks for not trying to bias your take on things with language...:-)

The disdain for renewables from the people who would be most counted on to help in the transition (i.e. people who understand the serious problem of resource depletion) is actually hurtful to hear day after day. Amazing how easily it seems to be able to "scale up" energy consuming devices (cars, trucks, planes, TV's, computers, luxury and high performance boats, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, on and on and on and on...(remember that for every barrel of oil and kilowatt of electricity consumed, someone had to design, build, sell and buy a conversion device to make the oil or electricity valuable) but completely impossible to scale up energy producing devices...does that really make sense?

People get the technology they want, and it seems that even in the camp of those depletion or peak aware, we want oil...or nothing. Would we really prefer a return to a dark Gothic age over even attempting to move into a modern cleaner future? It absolutely baffles me...


I'm glad I'm not the only one who was tweaked by that.

I get it, that Gail, you were talking about people whose advocacy for renewables treats them like they will just solve the problem, and then we can 'magically' continue on as ever. The problem is, I hear you and others describe this stereotyped RE Advocate, but I've barely ever encountered one. Anyone I know who is actually engaged in moving us into solar and wind, is also acutely aware that we are in serious trouble and has no illusion that we're on easy street with it.

The handful that spout off about how much sun hits the earth, and so 'No Problem' (Hrothgar comes to mind), have been pretty easy to spot coming a mile off, and by no means defines the crowd.

Yes, there are folks who come along, again and again, offering to put a wind turbine on the roof of an electric car.. but there are a great many quieter and more reasonable people who are not going to be represented by these squeaky wheels. Myself included.


The problem is, I hear you and others describe this stereotyped RE Advocate, but I've barely ever encountered one.

Funny, I encounter them every day. I would say most of the people I encounter in day to day life fall into this category.

Just about everyone accepts that fossil fuels will not last forever. And just about everyone is not really all that worried about it. Why? Because we'll seamlessly switch to renewables, and our way of life will go on forever.

How? Not their problem. The engineers will figure out somehow.

Alright. I get the distinction, and I do know plenty of people who fall into that description, but the ones I know are not the people who are urging the immediate buildout in renewables. Of course, across every part of our society are people who aren't of the constitution to think that the growing rumbling sound is the waterfall but merely traffic noise, so they aren't looking at ANYTHING within the filter of 'what holds this whole thing together..'

As with Roger, I just found the choice of language to be unhelpful, since 'The magic world of renewables', carries an all-too-common derision, intended or not, that suggests that these tools are simply useless since they can't lay golden eggs like oil did. Just because SOME folks have magical assumptions about these or any of our technologies doesn't mean those technologies are simply bunk.

I have heard a regular caution from some RE skeptics, including Gail, that we could imperil ourselves somehow by investing in more of these tools, and it seems to include the hyperbolic assumption that any serious investment in more Solar and Windpower is tantamount to 'putting all our eggs in that basket', when we're just putting in a bunch more than before.

Why shouldn't we? What is the downside of 60million solar hot water heaters, or 1kw of PV on as many rooftops as we can put it onto?

Gail's comment was in reply to a post about mainstream politics. I think her choice of language was justified in that context.

James Lovelock says the downside is expense and CO2 emissions, if I've understood him right. For the expense (which is also a proxy for the resource requirements) of building enough solar to help everyone out, you could have several times as much electrical power from nuclear; that is to say, if you think nuclear is expensive, try solar - you will find you cannot do it for everyone. The same goes for wind. An analysis of all this is on bravenewclimate sep 19 (2009).
The CO2 emissions associated with such an expensive approach are correspondingly high. Nuclear minimises CO2 emissions.
You are effectively advocating an increase in inequality - the haves will have power and the have nots, who these days still mostly have power because it's cheap and residences are mostly attached to the grid, will not have power. If the grid goes down, only the wealthy who could afford their own solar still have power.
I think this is a very unfair scenario to advocate.

My best guess is that teh first new US nukes will cost $13 billion. Wind will be cheaper. After some point, efficiency of scale will lower nuke costs to be competitive with wind, but after 2020.


Leanan, your correct in your depiction of the "person on the street" type interview, but for our discussions here on TOD those have to be pretty much discounted. This is not being intentionally elitist, but most average folks have no concept of the energy content of either renewable energy nor fossil fuels, so a comparison is impossible for them.

Referring to the renewables as "magic" however discounts the years of man hours, research effort, built pilot programs, fabrication and production efforts that have already been made by the technicians and scientists in the renewable energy area. We are not "starting from scratch".

Anyone who studies energy does not, after some research, view renewables as "magic" but as the result of hard expensive effort that has been made and will have to be made over decades, but it is astonishing how decades fly by...if the will is not there it will not happen. I remember in the 1970's when people said "renewables, yeah, that's turn of the century stuff, maybe in 2000 or 2010. Then the efforts lapsed and we are now saying "renewables, yeah, maybe after 2030 or 2040..." and again the effort is in risk of lapsing...so then what will be saying in 2030? Does anyone really believe there will be more money and fossil fuels available to make the transition then than there is now?

It can be argued (some have argued this) that the window of opportunity to make this transition is closing with each year that goes by, and it will only be harder later. Now is the time to try to make the transition stick, and the nations who have most advanced on this front will be the ones who lead us into the future and have the leverage to call the shots later.

Easy? "Magic?" "Seamless"? No, almost certainly not, but it will be even less easy and seamless later. The goal is to make the transition away from fossil fuels as humane as possible. No one can assure that it will be painless, but the renewables are the only path forward IF (and this is a big IF) we assume that most people in the world want and need some semblence of technical modernity to survive. Yes, we can conserve, yes, we can redisign our lives and our culture to use less energy per person, but those alone will not be of much assistance to the billions of poor who are already consuming almost nothing due to poverty. The human race will need energy and lots of it. The peak community assumes (I think correctly so, although we argue over the time table) the age of easy fossil fuel production is over. The question is, does that mean the age of energy production is over? These are the big questions we have to take a side on, and then live with the consequences.


I know there are a few on TOD who think like I do that the only way we're not going to have an energy descent is by leveraging off of nuclear fission breeders, but I don't see them all that often.
Am I wrong to think that if we have lots and lots of electrical energy, which will only happen from fission breeders, that we would then be able to put off the evil day of energy descent for quite some time?
Should the populace awake to the notion that there is a big problem with fossil fueled power, and at the same time realize, as should be apparent, that the renewable group of wind/solar/geothermal/tidal/and whatever are very expensive since you need a multiple of nameplate in order to get baseload (and for AGW believers, that means a lot of CO2 emissions to build and maintain these renewables), how long would it take to start implementing breeders?
My guess is, once the power starts to go off, the willpower to authorize the production of the breeders is going to override current regulatory requirements for long drawn out environmental evaluations, and my further guess is that that would be correct, since an honest look at nuclear power should reveal that it actually has a pretty favorable environmental record.

Failure Modes & Dependencies & Expense

Renewables are expensive on setup. So is Nuclear.

But Nuclear is also expensive and highly demanding when it comes to maintenance and repair parts, and a reactor becomes an all-or-nothing proposition for that gigawatt or so,while the equivalent amount of renewable energy is much less likely to just all 'blink out'.

If the breeders prove themselves economically, they will surely be built somewhere, and the success will spread. I don't know what they will need on an ongoing basis to keep running, however. Highly refined parts, a steady supply of engineers and software, 'Baseline' political, fiscal and grid stability in order to remain a going concern.

A solar panel, once produced, can be operated by anyone, anywhere there is enough light. If there is a decade or two of intense turmoil and the cities and industrial sites are all looted, pilfered in tatters or just abandoned, a solar panel will still be just as easy to get up and running, while getting a large complex fuel cycle, grid infrastructure and workforce to support a breeder industry would be a sisyfean challenge. Yet, If order had been maintained and things were fairly normal, those panels would still be easy to work. It's not as expensive when you count your solar panels as both your 'regular daily power' as well as your 'emergency generator- and all it's future gas'

I can't look at a breeder reactor that way.

Greenpeace's own document on nuclear says it would cost 1B to develop MSRs (e.g. the LFTR) to production; then production LFTRs need not be 1GW/core, they can be built smaller and faster as factory products, perhaps not completely self-contained, so something like 1. the core 2. the heat extractor/exchanger 3. the electrical generation assembly 4. the dump tanks, which can be shipped to and assembled on the site.
LFTRs are expected to be able to load follow.
My guess is they could be built in 100-250MW units, at a cost of $1/W.
With respect to fission breeders being built somewhere, my understanding is that indeed the Indians are attempting to do just that, albeit not the LFTR design.
The point is to get past the unreasonable fear of nuclear, because surely the scenario you paint of "a decade or two of intense turmoil and the cities and industrial sites are all looted, pilfered in tatters or just abandoned" should be avoided if possible.
Fission breeders appear to me to be the safest cleanest way to produce all the energy we could need. If we start now we can avert the scenario you paint, at least on the grounds of energy.

LMAO !!!

Greenpeace is quoted as an expert on nuclear power !

Nukes take too long, plain and simple. Wind is FAST and scales easily.

As noted elsewhere,a MAXIMUM of eight new US nukes by 2020. NOT ENOUGH !

Best Hopes for a Wind Rush and an economic build-out of new nukes (and uprates of existing ones),


You need to link to the Greenpeace point.

'Unreasonable fear' ?? Where?

I'm saying (in this argument anyway) that they require expensive and complex parts, a steady supply chain, a highly proficient labor force, and a healthy electricity retail market in order to stay afloat and generating. Those are all vulnerabilities any of which could do them in. For the moment, I didn't even talk about 'Leaks' and other unreasonable problems.

"My guess is they could be built in 100-250MW units, at a cost of $1/W."
Call me when they're ready. I'll be in my room.

find "MSR" on page 22.
I have no doubt they would require what you say, but I think all those requirements hold true for wind/solar etc as well.
When you say,

"My guess is they could be built in 100-250MW units, at a cost of $1/W."
Call me when they're ready. I'll be in my room.

what I think is, a lot of TOD posters have a gloomy outlook, and I don't want to have such an outlook. The breeder reactors allow for the possibility of abundant energy, which is just what I thought the people who come to TOD want to know how to get. Certainly I think it will not be done by private enterprise, but really, what large transformatory technology ever did? Mostly such technology is developed by the state, which necessarily means it is supposed to then be implemented widely to obtain the wide benefit it was developed for. Private enterprise doesn't have the long term outlook and the goal of widespread benefit, especially lately it seems.
Anyway, it looks like I'm pretty much on my own with this outlook on the need and benefits of developing fission breeders.

but really, what large transformatory technology ever did?

Steam engines
Steam boats
Applied Genetic Engineering

I can think of a dozen better uses for $100 billion in public funds than spending them on breeder reactors, including subsidizing half of the cost of constructing the first eight new US nukes (EPRs, AP1000s and one other type (Advanced CANDU, Mitsubishi, GE's Advanced BWR).

There is no real need for breeders in the near future. And they are NOT a "transformational" technology.


I don't want to have such an outlook

Your desire is understandable, but ...

Reality can be a Bitch. But it is still reality.

Best Hopes for making things a but less bad than they would otherwise be,


Nukes take too long to build in quantity (at least in the USA).

Wind first wave, HV DC transmission & pumped storage & Canadian hydro next, then large #s of new nukes.

I am all in favor of building as many nukes as we can safely and economically build in the next decade; eight.

Eight new US nukes by 2020 is "nice" but not a solution. Many more nukes by 2035.


re: Warm, fuzzy dictatorship

I don't think Corcoran is the sharpest knife in the drawer. Among the things he missed in this story:

1) Nobody is going to take over Suncor. When Suncor took over Petro-Canada earlier this year, it also acquired a caveat requiring PetroCan be Canadian-owned. The clause now applies to the merged companies, preventing any non-Canadian company from taking over Suncor.

2) Suncor used to be owned by Sun Oil Company of Ohio (now Sunoco), before it was spun off to Canadians.

3) Husky Energy, Canada's third largest oil company, is already owned by Chinese interests. The majority owner is Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Hongkong. He bought it from American interests.

4) The third largest oil sands operator in Canada is Royal Dutch Shell - owned by British and Dutch interests.

5) Another big oil sands operator is Imperial Oil, which is majority owned by Exxon - American of course.

6) Other big oil companies in Canada include:
a) Talisman, formerly owned by BP (a.k.a. British Petroleum) before it was spun off to Canadians.
b) Nexen, formerly owned by Occidental Petroleum, before it was spun off to Canadians.

Now, I could go on and on, but this should give a picture of how the business works - Canadian oil companies get traded around by global investors like hockey player cards get traded around by Canadian boys.

However, Canadian governments (particularly not Alberta) don't care who owns what oil company, or who the oil is sold to, as long as the government gets its fair share of the money. Only the Canadian nationalists care, and they're thoroughly clueless about the whole industry.

Relative Carbon Emissions - Coal vs. Natural Gas

I did a little Google research I wanted to share, (and also confirm)

Coal = 25.4 metric tons of carbon (NOT CO2) per Terajoule
Natural Gas (pure methane) = 14.4 metric tons of carbon per TJ
Oil = 19.9 metric tons of oil per TJ

In producing electricity. NG can be more thermodynamically efficient (combined cycle) than coal. 60% max, low 50% a "real world average" for combined cycle. 34% real world average for coal.

25.4/.34 = 74.7 tons carbon for 1 TJ electricity
14.4/.52 = 27.7 tons carbon for 1 TJ electricity

Roughly 2.7x as much carbon from coal fired electricity as from combined cycle NG electricity

Best Hopes for less carbon,


.52 for combined cycle is perhaps just a tad low but close

On this side of the pond, using metric units and referring to CO2, we have coal at 1.47 kg/kWh [1] and nat gas at 0.36 kg/KWh [2] so roughly 4.1 times as much CO2 from coal fired electricity as from combined cycle NG electricity.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal
[2]: http://books.google.com/books?id=B-DS4P_J8KUC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110

Oops; other internet sources seem to say coal is closer to 1.0 kg/kWh which would make the coal/cggi ratio roughly the 2.7x Alan calculated...

It really doesn't compute no matter what Kg/KWh you use. There is so much difference in coal from quite good to real garbage. Here in NV we get real garbage brownish coal.

BTW: Yesterday Clarice (my wife) asked what I was going to do and I answered, "Nothing". Today she asked again what I was going to do and I said, "I'm not finished".

Credit 'Pickles' for that one.

Enjoy our interesting times.

JN2, both figures could be right. coal comes in many flavours and colours (black and brown) that vary in their quality and end use. Some coals are used for steel making and some for power stations.

The figure quoted was supposed to be a weighted average coal, but unstated was whose average.


The difference in coal BTU content is largely accounted for by miosture and ash.

Metallurgical coal has to be very clean with low sulfur. A facility where I worked burned LA-TX lignite which I believe was over 15% ash.

Yesterday's TOD post on Turkmenistan Natural Gas mentioned that China is looking to Turkmenistan for natural gas to be delivered by pipeline and has signed 30 year contracts.

China has also signed contracts with Australia for gas from the Gorgon field.

The top three LNG exporters, Qatar, Malaysia and Indonesia have also signed 25 year contracts to supply China.

Right now China's energy mix is heavily reliant on coal with natural gas making up a small fraction of total energy consumption.

From the Energy Export Databrowser:

Is there any possibility that China could reduce their number of coal fired plants in future years by converting them to natural gas?

Or will they just build more and more power plants to support consumer ownership of inefficient gadgets?

-- Jon

With their population growth, and all of the people looking to higher standard of living, I would expect they will have no trouble burning it, just to keep up/slightly improve their lifestyles--no offset against coal, unless forced to by non-availability.

For new build, ultra-supercritical coal plants can get about 45%, with IGCC I believe the numbers go pretty damn close to 50%, so coal has narrowed the gap, even if it's still huge.

I always thought it was a good idea to use coal for district heating, which I know is done a lot in Denmark. The excess heat produced by the Rankine cycle is really only bad if it goes to waste. The waste heat from a utility scale coal plant could heat a hell of a lot of buildings.

Ahhh, the happy days in New Orleans.


Zeitoun was not formally charged, was not read Miranda rights, was not allowed a phone call. He was physically and verbally abused, pepper sprayed, strip-and body-cavity searched; and was accused of being a “terrorist” during his processing at the “camp.” The details of his captivity only become increasingly outrageous.
Fellow prisoners he was able to talk to included a New Orleans firefighter ordered to stay in the city to work who was arrested in his own yard, and a Houston sanitation worker whose company contracted to help in the cleanup effort — arrested wearing his work uniform, possessing ID, and with the keys to his garbage truck in his hand.

armed and badged black-uniformed men

That would be Blackwater mercenaries (assholes ALL !)

I felt enormous sympathy for the Iraqis who caught a couple, lynched them and hung their bodies by the heels off an overpass.

I learned I was not an American citizen from them.

No other police or military group wore black uniforms that I saw.


Perhaps there is something in Naomi Klein's book "Disaster Capitalism"?

Isn't the recent reduction in CO2 emissions moslty attributable to the recession, causing a reduction in the use of oil, coal and NG? Seems like the writer is convinced its because of renewables.

Real Men Tax Gas

Tom Friedman says Europeans are actually the tough guys, and Americans (particularly politicians) are wimps - because Europeans tax gas and (the French) aren't afraid to use nuclear power. For U.S. politicians, taxing gasoline any higher is the suicide 3rd rail and they won't go near it. But right now, when it's relatively cheap, would be the perfect time to do it.

According to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel fuel would raise about $140 billion a year. If I had that money, I’d devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.

Such a tax would make our economy healthier by reducing the deficit, by stimulating the renewable energy industry, by strengthening the dollar through shrinking oil imports and by helping to shift the burden of health care away from business to government so our companies can compete better globally. Such a tax would make our population healthier by expanding health care and reducing emissions. Such a tax would make our national-security healthier by shrinking our dependence on oil from countries that have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs and by increasing our leverage over petro-dictators, like those in Iran, Russia and Venezuela, through shrinking their oil incomes.

In sum, we would be physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier. And yet, amazingly, even talking about such a tax is “off the table” in Washington. You can’t mention it. But sending your neighbor’s son or daughter to risk their lives in Afghanistan? No problem. Talk away. Pound your chest.

Dick Lawrence

Taxing gasoline and diesel enough to significantly curb demand would lower oil prices, making it one of the wisest ways the government can raise money.

While I agree that the Europeans are right to do it, and that we should to, it would behoove us to remember why Europe has high gas taxes. Their governments started doing that in 1945. Back then the prospect of a conventional WW3 was very much in mind. That would have involved tank battles in the Fulda Gap, and a second Battle of the Atlantic with Russian submarines sinking American oil freighters, just as in the previous wars the German U boats were doing it.

It was very much in the interest of national security to stay accustomed to sipping gasoline rather than guzzling it, and so it became law. That is a very different thing from imposing such a gas tax. Today's European leaders do not lack for cowardice, and would not impose such a tax today if there wasn't one in place.

But yes, the cowardice of America's leaders in the face of the stupidest, angriest, most moronic of our people demanding some "right" to cheap gas, it's a horrible thing to behold.

Your theory about why Europeans tax gas at high rates doesn't hold up to comparison with Canadian fuel tax levels, which are a LOT higher than in the US.

I’ve obtained documents that show that SNCF, the French national railroad operator made famous by its development of the TGV system, has responded with detailed descriptions of potential operations in four U.S. corridors, all to benefit from train service at speeds of up to 220 mph. The organization refers to this service as HST 220 (220 mph high-speed trains). With the exception of a description of plans by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, SNCF appears to be the only group that submitted a serious, corridor-based response to FRA’s demand, though infrastructure companies Vinci, Spineq, Cintra, Global Via, and Bouygues all sent in letters promoting rather vague interest in involvement.

Don't know what this really means, so for now I guess I categorize this as "interesting".

Thxs for the info, but I think Alan's standard gauge RR & TOD plus narrow gauge SpiderWebRiding would be cheaper, easier to maintain, and would serve the needs of a lot more people.

I just don't see humanure and other recycled O-NPK moving at 220 mph.

I am aware of Alan's feelings that we should focus on something slower than this - the idea being that the limited resources that we have available could be spread a lot further.

Despite all of this, the proposal from SCNF wasn't something that I ever really expected.

It amuses me that at the bottom of every page, there is the admonition 'Confidential and proprietary – Do not disclose outside government', and the pdf files were only created on 09/17. Some things never change, I guess.

At this point it is merely a response to a "Request for Expressions of Interest". SCNF took the request seriously enough that they came up with a 1000 page response, and the cover letter states:

SNCF is qualified and prepared to be involved in any phase of one or all of these HSR projects - from concept design, to construction engineering, to operation and maintenance. We can also assist federal, state and local authorities in the development of these projects in any manner that is appropriate and will not preclude further involvement by SNCF.

I have been browsing the document related to the Midwest (itself 256 pages). It would be hard for me to summarize a document of this size, and I am not really qualified to critique it, so I can't really say if there are problems with the proposal or not.

The major downside is that the Republicans would have an apoplectic fit if the French got involved in building rail projects over here. I suppose we could call it the "Freedom Train" - maybe that would keep their heads from exploding..

I just don't see humanure and other recycled O-NPK moving at 220 mph.

Only after TSHTF ;-)

That's some powerful fan!

It just depends on the diameter of fan and the rpm it is spinning at. It is perfectly conceivable to imagine a fan whose blade tips are traveling at well over 200 mph, so it all depends on where it hits ;-) I think there are industrial grade fans out there that can do it...

We need streetcars far more than we need high speed rail because:

1. Would serve far more people
2. Would cost less
3. Would reduce traffic and parking problems

One way to pay for a street railway system is a annually increasing gasoline tax. Of course that would help ridership too.

We need to stop spending a couple of trillion dollars each year on cars that are going to become worthless when oil prices go parabolic. Do you really think consumers are going to pay off their car loans when they can’t afford gasoline?

The head of Total issues oil shortage warning for 2010-2015:


He doesn't seem to get that if investment in production does increase oil output, it just increases the depletion of oil reserves and the steepness of the post peak decline. Or perhaps he just doesn't want to discuss it out of self interest.

I'm having a hard time accepting that Lester Brown is cheer-leading a small reduction in US carbon emissions. US emissions decreased due to (1) economic self-destruction, (2) high energy costs, and (here's the key) (3) exporting energy-intensive production processes to other countries. China is the world's number one CO2 emitter in large part due to our offshoring of the entire US manufacturing sector. This is a classic case of the "Netherlands Fallacy," and not something to crow about--world CO2 emissions (the measure that really counts) continues to rise. If we are to believe Lester Brown, the world should simply export its production somewhere else and--voila!--the climate crisis is solved. This is a feasible solution--on Mars.

I don't think the 5% drop in oil consumption is at all a harbinger of things to come. It's not as though having oil at $147 a barrel last July was some permanent fix, like we as Americans all of a sudden figured it all out. It's just a reflection of what we always see in economic downturn - less consumption. As the economy improves, consumption of energy increases, and it's business as usual. We won't see another 5% downturn in use for 2010.

Robb Hughes
Head of Sales & Marketing
Green Meetup

We won't see another 5% downturn in use for 2010

Even if oil hits $180 and unemployment 13% ?

Hint: You cannot burn what does not exist.