Drumbeat: October 10, 2009

Capturing a Nation’s Thirst for Energy

Mitch Epstein has taken his 8-by-10 view camera across the United States to document the energy needed to support the American way of life. Though he says he did not start out with an ideological agenda, Mr. Epstein offers a quiet but unsettling view of 21st-century America’s dependency on electrical power.

In Saturday’s Arts section of The Times, Randy Kennedy reports on Mr. Epstein’s journey and on the photographs in his book “American Power,” to be published later this month by Steidl.

‘Rice Riots’ May Return to Asia in 2010, CWA’s McGuire Says

(Bloomberg) -- Protests over high food prices, which swept the world from Haiti to Bangladesh last year, may return to Asia in 2010 as drought in India and crop losses in the Philippines may cause price spikes, CWA Global Markets Pty said.

“We wouldn’t be surprised to see a return to the rice riots across Asia sometime in 2010,” Peter McGuire, managing director at CWA Global Markets Pty., said today.

Prepare now for next decade’s megatrends

Most of the major petroleum fields of the world have passed their peak production and are rapidly depleting, which is why oil prices spiked last year just before the recession. Although oil prices have been sharply lower since then, some economists and peak-oil theorists agree that as post-recession oil demand rises, reserve capacity will be stretched thin, and barrel prices will be briskly leveraged back upward into triple digits, snuffing out the nascent global economic recovery.

George Soros to Invest $1 Billion in Clean-Energy Technology

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire George Soros will invest $1 billion in clean-energy technology and create an organization that will advise policy makers as they address climate change, which he called a “political problem.”

“I want to apply rather stringent criteria to the investments,” said Soros in an e-mailed message. “They should be profitable but should also actually make a contribution to solving the problem.”

Airlines set own emission targets

MONTREAL (AFP) – Members of the airline industry group IATA pledged Saturday to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year until 2020, and called on governments worldwide to provide incentives to speed biofuel development.

Representatives from the International Air Transport Association, which represents the world's largest airlines, also agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2050 during a meeting on climate change in Montreal.

The facts about wind turbine sound

Wind turbine sounds are no different from other sounds present in a suburban or urban environment. The sound of a turbine is mainly due to the aerodynamic swish of the blades rotating in the air.

Turbines can also emit some low-frequency sound. Acoustical experts agree there is no evidence that such sounds, which are emitted by a variety of sources, could be harmful to health -- indeed, if these levels were so harmful, urban dwelling would be impossible.

ANALYSIS - Natural gas giants still reeling from U.S. shale shock

(Reuters) - The world's energy titans are only starting to get a grip on the surge in the unconventional production of shale gas that has postponed for years the United States' expected emergence as major natural gas importer.

The prediction that the United States would soon become a big buyer of ship-borne liquefied natural gas was a key theme of the last World Gas Conference in 2006.

This year's event was dominated by the grim realization that many companies were completely wrong-footed by the unconventional gas revolution and that spot gas prices could remain weak for years.

Confusion in Mexico rattles Calgary-based drillers

CALGARY - The seemingly safe harbour Calgary drilling firms have found in the Chicontepec oilfield in Mexico has been rocked by political strife as production from the hundreds of wells drilled so far fail to measure up to forecasts by Pemex, the national oil company.

On Thursday, Juan Carlos Zepeda, president of Mexico’s recently formed National Hydrocarbons Commission, reportedly said that development of the field in east-central Mexico should be halted “until Pemex has a proper development plan,” but adding that Petroleos Mexicanos should honour its eight existing contracts worth a total of $2 billion US.

China cuts aviation fuel prices

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will cut the price of aviation fuels by about 4 percent from Sunday, reflecting recent falls in international crude oil prices, according to an announcement from the National Development and Reform Commission.

The Commission announced the reductions on its website (www.ndrc.gov.cn) on Saturday. An accompanying table showed the ex-factory price of aviation fuels, including types 1 to 4 jet fuel, will fall by 200 yuan ($29.3) per tonne.

Ecuador Oil Pollution Case Only Grows Murkier

In recent days the plot has thickened further. The Ecuadorean political go-between whose taped remarks about apportioning bribes put him in the middle of the scandal, Patricio García, said he was entrapped in a dirty-tricks campaign by Chevron.

In an interview, he claimed that Chevron had masterminded an industrial espionage project, with digitally manipulated videos and gangsters disguised as entrepreneurs on the prowl for contracts, intended to smear him and Ecuador’s legal system.

Russia: Protest in St. Petersburg over skyscraper

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — About 3,000 protesters rallied in Russia's former czarist capital on Saturday to protest a plan to build a hulking skyscraper for state energy giant Gazprom.

The protesters urged Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to ban the construction of the 77-story glass tower in the historic city center.

Texan pleads guilty in stolen Pemex oil case

SAN ANTONIO — The president of a San Antonio company pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he conspired to receive and sell petroleum stolen from Mexican oil giant Pemex.

Quiet hybrid cars pose threat to blind pedestrians

Hybrid cars provide benefits for the environment, but their silent approach could be dangerous for blind pedestrians crossing local streets.

A hybrid runs quietly at lower speeds when it is powered by electricity, making it difficult for the visually impaired who rely on sound to judge whether it's safe to cross the street. At higher speeds, such as on a highway, the cars rely on a noisier combustion engine.

Hummer sale: GM closer to deal with China company

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors moved a step closer to selling its Hummer brand Friday when it announced that it had signed a definitive agreement with a Chinese manufacturer.

How Taxes Pervert our Energy Choices

For wind farms, the current code allows the write-offs over 3.5 years, a real boon for investors in wind mill projects. In fact, many such projects depend on this tax advantage to secure financing, especially since the right to take these deductions can be allocated with some freedom amongst the project's investors and the developers.

Alas, for nuclear power plants, the tax picture is not so rosy. They have to take their write-offs over 20.5 years, a significant disadvantage over a comparable investment in a wind project.

Solar Pro, Oct./Nov. Issue >SolarPro is a high-quality technical publication available by free subscription to qualifying solar industry professionals. These are the people who are making solar happen — and no other publication gives them the nuts-and-bolts information they need.

That need is significant. The solar industry is growing fast, and dedicated professionals are entering the field in record numbers. Engineers, designers, integrators and installers are clamoring for technical information that helps them design and install photovoltaic and solar thermal systems for optimal performance.

In response, the industry veterans behind Home Power magazine have drawn on their more than 20 years’ experience in solar technology publishing to create SolarPro.

SolarPro writers are industry veterans who bring their expertise, insights and experienced perspective to every page. Readers won’t find this level of information in any other resource — our unparalleled coverage will keep both seasoned pros and newcomers reading issue after issue.

Commercial green fuel from algae still years away

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Filling your vehicle's tank with fuel made from algae is still as much as a decade away, as the emerging industry faces a series of hurdles to find an economical way to make the biofuel commercially.

Estimates on a timeline for a commercial product, and profits, vary from two to 10 years or more.

ENERGY: Crisis Has Hurt Investment in Renewables

According to the "Renewables 2007 Global Status Report", renewable energy sources accounted for 18 percent of the world's total energy consumption in 2006, including traditional biomass, large hydropower, and "new" renewables: small hydro, modern bio-mass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels.

But new renewables represented just 2.4 percent, while 13 percent came from traditional biomass – wood-burning, primarily for cooking and heating.

Climate protectionism on the rise

A new and dangerous form of trade and technology protectionism is fast emerging in the name of climate change, and it is poisoning North-South relations in the two negotiating arenas on climate change and on trade.

There are clear signs that some developed countries, especially the United States, are preparing to use unilateral trade measures, such as imposing tariffs, taxes or charges on the products of developing countries, on the grounds of combating climate change.

New Way to Tap Gas May Expand Global Supplies

OKLAHOMA CITY — A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.

The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 percent increase in the United States in recent years.

“It’s a breakout play that is going to identify gigantic resources around the world,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. “That will change the geopolitics of natural gas.”

Conoco-Origin Venture May Be ‘Vulnerable,’ Morgan Stanley Says

(Bloomberg) -- The A$35 billion ($31.7 billion) gas project ConocoPhillips and Australia’s Origin Energy Ltd. propose in Queensland state may be “vulnerable” as the U.S. oil company moves to cut spending, Morgan Stanley said.

ConocoPhillips’ plans may have an impact on the progress of its Australian exploration and production, Melbourne-based analyst Stuart Baker wrote in a research report today. ConocoPhillips and Origin said they remain committed to their venture.

BP sees possibility of 100 more years of natural gas

BP Plc, Europe's second-largest oil company, forecasts that gas resources may rise 60 percent to 100 years of global use at current rates, helped by unconventional sources that are undeveloped or unidentified.

New discoveries could contribute 4,000 trillion cubic feet of gas resources “over the next few years,” BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward said yesterday. BP estimates that global proven natural-gas reserves totaled 6,500 trillion cubic feet, or 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, at the end of 2008, enough for 60 years.

Natural Gas: The Russians Are Coming!

HOUSTON -- The new trading desk in North America for Gazprom, the largest producer of natural gas in the world, sits halfway up the 56-story Bank of America tower in the heart of the America's energy capital. So far, the office, which started trading contracts last week for the first time, is quiet. That won't last.

"Our target for volume growth is pretty strong," says John Hattenberger, president of Gazprom Marketing & Trading USA, an arm of the Russian behemoth that claims 17% of the world’s natural gas reserves. "If we could hit 5% [of the U.S. market] in the next five years, that would be about right. In 10 years, I think we could get to 10%." U.S. demand for natural gas is about 60 billion cubic feet a day.

Energy Future Bondholders Said to Oppose $6 Billion Debt Swap

(Bloomberg) -- Energy Future Holdings Corp.bondholders are forming a group to block the electricity provider’s offer to swap $6 billion of debt for $4 billion of new secured notes with less protection for investors, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lenders owning as much as 50 percent of Energy Future’s bonds maturing in 2017 oppose the terms of the exchange, said an attorney familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because the discussions are private.

Meme Watch: Peak Demand

To whatever degree the oil price spike of 2007-8 was driven by speculation, the latter was riding on a wave of concern about Peak Oil, which anticipates an imminent decline in maximum global oil production. For the moment, the weak global economy has eased such worries, though they have hardly vanished, as I noted two months ago. Lately, however, conventional notions of Peak Oil are increasingly being challenged by a new meme, or contagious idea, called Peak Demand, which suggests that oil consumption is reaching a plateau from which it will soon decline, mitigating the worst consequences of Peak Oil. Neither of these memes would attract much interest if they weren't supported by a welter of statistics, however selective those might seem to their critics. And just as Peak Oil was much less credible and worrisome before we saw super-giant oil fields like Mexico's Cantarell go into precipitous decline, the logic of Peak Demand would have been much less compelling before US oil demand dropped by nearly 6% last year.

Southern Co. Plans to Build Biomass Plant in Texas

(Bloomberg) -- Southern Co., the largest U.S. electricity producer, plans to build a 100-megawatt biomass power plant in Sacul, Texas, after it bought the project’s owner, Nacogdoches Power LLC, from American Renewables LLC.

The station, which will be fueled by wood waste, will cost about $475 million to $500 million, Atlanta-based Southern said in a statement today. The plant’s power will be sold to Austin Energy under an agreement expiring in 2032. The purchase price for Nacogdoches wasn’t disclosed.

Japanese bike makers pin their hopes on wheezy riders as sales plummet

From the mountain trails of Hokkaido to the six-lane expressways of Shikoku, a fearsome clique of tearaways has emerged to terrorise Japan’s roads: leather-clad, rebellious and with a touch of lumbago.

These are the country’s “mature riders”; the creaking ex-salarymen — and their molls — who built the Japanese economic miracle. Retired, bored, pushing 70 and with a hankering for the wayward youth they probably never had, they are the last hope for Japan’s motorcycle market.

U.S. eyes finishing decades-old nuclear reactor

SWEETWATER, Tenn. - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is weighing the arguments for and against finishing a long-idled nuclear reactor at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar site.

The Sierra Club, the Tennessee Environmental Council and others told the commission at a hearing Tuesday that they worry the only commercial reactor now under construction in the United States will harm the Tennessee River and endanger surrounding communities.

Indian Minister Rejects Carbon Cuts, Says Deal May Be Delayed

(Bloomberg) -- India’s environment minister said the country won’t accept legally binding carbon dioxide emission cuts and suggested a comprehensive global treaty to limit greenhouse gases may need to wait until the middle of next year.

“We are not obligated to take on legally binding emission reduction targets,” Jairam Ramesh said at a conference in Copenhagen today. “That is not on the table as far as India is concerned.”

China says rich countries undercut climate talks

BEIJING (Reuters) – China accused rich countries of undermining key elements of an international climate change agreement that nations hope to agree by the end of 2009, adding to a chorus of discord over the negotiations.

Su Wei, who led Beijing's delegation to climate treaty talks in Bangkok that ended on Friday, said splits over the framework for a new pact to fight global warming remained "quite large," just two months before negotiations culminate in Copenhagen.

Nuclear Power, Hydro Excluded From UN Climate Draft

(Bloomberg) -- Nuclear power and “large-scale” hydroelectric plants were excluded from a list of sources that a new climate treaty may recommend developing countries such as China use in efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

Splitting atoms and damming rivers “have adverse impacts on the environment,” according to a draft approved by a United Nations working group at international climate talks among about 180 nations in Bangkok. The document was published on a UN Web site and dated Oct. 8.

If you go to this website which is related to the regular YouTube site and type in Peak Oil in "Search" you will see a list of 500 hundred Peak Oil related videos that can be streamed:


You may have to sign into your Google/YouTube account and set "Settings" to play the next video. Or you can just pick and choose.

This is the best site I have found next to Songza for music video streaming. It has a favorites button and is simple like Songza.

I find this site which I understand is in beta to be a leap forward in programming your own television type entertainment. I think it needs some more development but it's already one of the best.

It is the future of the internet and a threat to both broadcast and cable television.

Taking a load off: energy use control

Italpasta Ltd. is spending a lot of time thinking about consumption -- its own and that of its customers.


Four years ago, Italpasta undertook a major upgrade to reduce plant power use. When it learned of the Ontario Power Authority's demand response (DR) programs, the interest of Riccardo Bordignon, plant manager and vice-president of operations, was piqued.


Hats off to companies like Italpasta.


Paul - was just in your area and see there is a lot of large wind development activity on the way to Cape Breton. Who is doing all of that?

Hi Jim,

I trust you enjoyed your time spent in Cape Breton, although it must have been all too brief. I haven't followed this too closely, but Renewable Energy Services Ltd., a Nova Scotia firm, is adding eleven more 2-MW turbines to their Statia Terminals wind farm in Port Hawkesbury. This power will be sold under contract to Nova Scotia Power.

See: http://www.resl.ca/news/news.html

By 2013, the Province is expected to have over 500 MW of wind power in place.


Thanks for the link Paul. Yes, was only there for 8 days but had a nice visit with my cousins who live along the Cabot Trail as I once did. Glad to hear that Nova Scotia is active in including more renewables as part of its generating mix. I toured the 200 MW hydro plant at Wreck Cove a while back and it was also impressive. My Cape Breton Island cousins worked construction on this project.

We are reactivating the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council www.michiganglowcouncil.org soon in order to continue our study of this potential power supply opportunity for our state. Am also working on developing a 36 MW biomass project using waste wood in northern Michigan which has been interesting.

Was hoping to attend the ASPO conference this year but have too much going on right now so I will have to get the DVD's.


Jim, I live on the Cabot Trail too. We are desperate in this neck of the woods for advice on anything to do with getting "off-oil". We
certainly have the wind , but no one seems to do much to help us find their product because we are really looking for individual windmills for single houses, and in an area where winds can hit 175-190kph a few times every year.

Why do I get the impression that the author of Meme Watch: Peak Demand has a Western bias?

Perhaps because his description that

oil consumption is reaching a plateau from which it will soon decline

doesn't completely capture the situation in the developing world.

From the Energy Export Databrowser:

It's amazing what people will say without looking at the data.

-- Jon

Indeed. The fact that Saudi Arabia can have shortages of both diesel for farmers and NG for generating electricity should be a tipoff.

Growth in consumption of oil as a percentage by region, stacked:

On the worldwide scale retractions in growth only last a year or two, with attendant recessions as well.

Complete Watts Bar Unit 2.

The fly-ash pond disaster should be a point to help advocate for nuclear power generation, not against it.

As for the waste, we should entomb it into Yucca Mountain; we would buy time to find/engineer a better solution later. So what if Yucca Mountain can't contain waste for 10,000 years...I imagine it could contain waste adequately for hundreds of years at a minimum.

It is really hard to imagine meeting our electrical demand without additional nuclear reactors.

I'm also all for PV on most roofs, wind farms, and negawatts.

I would rather go nuke that ramp up coal...ideally, I would love to see nuke replace coal-fired generation.

Displacing coal-fired electric generation would greatly reduce contamination from heavy metals and CO2, and we could stop blowing the tops off of mountains in Appalachia.

Yes, we would need to mine for Uranium and Thorium, but there are reactor designs which would consume a much higher proportion of fissile material than current designs.

The fly-ash pond disaster should be a point to help advocate for nuclear power generation, not against it.

Hi MW,

Just in regards to this one point:

Toxic coal ash piling up in ponds in 32 states, analysis shows

WASHINGTON — Millions of tons of toxic coal ash is piling up in power plant ponds in 32 states, a situation the government has long recognized as a risk to human health and the environment but has done nothing about.

An Associated Press analysis of the most recent Energy Department data found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to one that ruptured last month in Tennessee. On Friday, a pond at a northeastern Alabama power plant spilled a different material.

See: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20091010/DC5/910100301

I don't think any of us fully appreciate the risks posed by these ponds.


Sadly enough Paul, IMHO, even if 100% of the populace knew the details 99.8% won't care as long as burning coal helps to maintain BAU as best as possible. Unwilling to suffer the expense and time lag of alt devlopemnt I see us expanding coal as an alternative to the other FF's.

for "as best as possible" substitute "as cheap as possible"

If, as and when we try to move to "clean coal", we will transfer the remaining airborne pollutants into the flyash. Then we can deal with them, or have them deal with us, on a local level. We will only deal with them on a local level when we begin to care. Or, when that guy comes to your door saying, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

Apologies if this was already posted earlier in the week (I'll bet it was) - my attendance here has been spotty lately.

Coal Ash: 130 Million Tons of Waste

60 Minutes Investigates a Potentially Harmful Waste Byproduct that Inundated a Tenn. Town

(CBS) We burn so much coal in this country for electricity that every year that process generates 130 million tons of waste. Most of it is coal ash, and it contains some nasty stuff. Environmental scientists tell us that the concentrations of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals are considerably higher in coal ash than in ordinary soil.

When coal ash is disposed of in dry, lined impoundments it is said to be safe. But it's often dumped into wet ponds - there are nearly 500 of them across the country - and in those cases the ash could pose health risks to the nearby communities.

Jim Roewer, one of the top lobbyists for the power industry, told 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl that nearly half of the electricity in the United States is generated by coal.

"Coal's gonna be around for a long time," he said.

"We really can't get rid of coal," Stahl remarked.

"We shouldn't get rid of coal," Roewer said.

"Well, should or shouldn't, we can't. And coal makes waste. Would you say that the industry has done a good job of disposing of the coal ash waste?" Stahl asked.

"We can do better," Roewer said.

Asked if that means no, Roewer told Stahl, "Well, we had a Kingston spill."

That's Kingston, Tenn., where last December a giant retention pool of coal ash buckled under the weight of five decades of waste.

A billion gallons of muck shot into the Emory River like a black tsunami, engulfing homes, uprooting trees, and throwing fish out of the water.


From the NYT in Jan: Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Significant Regulation - NYTimes.com

Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.

In fact, coal ash is used throughout the country for construction fill, mine reclamation and other “beneficial uses.” In 2007, according to a coal industry estimate, 50 tons of fly ash even went to agricultural uses, like improving soil’s ability to hold water, despite a 1999 E.P.A. warning about high levels of arsenic. The industry has promoted the reuse of coal combustion products because of the growing amount of them being produced each year — 131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990.

The Dude -

In a perfect example of the power of lobbying, when the federal Hazardous Waster Regulations were being formulated circa 1979 - 1981, the electrical power generating industry managed to get coal ash from power generating facilities totally excluded from those regulations even though coal ash represented one of the largest (if not THE largest) potentially hazardous waste streams in the US.

The mining industry was also equally successful in getting most mine tailings waste streams also excluded.

So while some small manufacturing business generating a few drums of waste solvent per month has to jump through all sorts of regulatory hoops to stay in compliance with the applicable sections of the Hazardous Waste regulations, the vast amounts of coal ash from the electrical power industry as well as the enormous mining tailings ponds are essentially invisible to those state and federal environmental agencies responsible for regulating hazardous waste.

I have been involved in the environmental field since around 1970, and I feel quite comfortable in making the broad generalization that the US environmental regulatory apparatus never truly made life all that tough for American industry, their highly vocal protestations notwithstanding.

The devil is in the details and that's where the lobbyists and congressional aides get to do their dirty work.

I suppose environmentalists might lobby for a return to the hunter-gatherer type culture and wait to see if Chinese and Indian high sulphur coal emissions can make it across the Pacific. India has been looking at buying U.S. coal mines to feed its growing industry unrestricted by carbon or sulphur emissions targets.

I do not think that coal ash will lead to higher electic bills.

rainsong -

My whole point was that regardless of how bad the environmental impact is from those huge coal ash ponds, the status quo will continue, because essentially the fix is in and has been in for almost 40 years.

No, coal ash will not lead to higher electric bills, for the very simple reason that with respect to coal ash pond nothing is going to change from the way things are now. So we will continue what we are doing.

I used to work for concrete company, and we loved flyash. Fly ash could be used as a partial subsitute for cement. My understanding was that only some types/parts of fly ash could be used for this application.

We also used generic fly ash and cement as building filler. For example, we filled a basement in a GM factory to help support the main floor.

My understand was that as long as fly ash is stopped from moving (cemented), the epa says it is safe. I believe a lot of these flyash areas could be reclaimed by sewage sludge for soil and vegetation growing on top, with perhaps a clay layer between the ash and new vegetation. This should stabilize the ash.

Paul, Rockman,ptoemmes,Dude:

Great posts, thank you for adding to our knowledge about this situation.

I am from Appalachia, and am very saddened by mountaintop removal mining, and by the liquid and solid fly ash pollution ans by the airborne pollution caused by coal-fired electrical generation.


I can see the gray-greenish-yellow medium altitude haze on still-air days looking down the valley where I now live...some of that is caused by coal-fired generation stations to my West.

I know that nuclear power plants cannot be built quickly, but I believe we should get our rears in gear and start the process with a sense of urgency. It would be exiting to have a major reason to train up a new generation of engineers to do something other than feed our war machine. Speaking of war machine engineers, we have plenty of smart folks (engineers, scientists, and project managers)at the national labs who could be brought to bear on an expedited civilian nuke plant build-out. We (the taxpayers) are already paying them very nice salaries to work on things that most assuredly are NOT doing anything to solve our energy production challenges...yet no one bats an eye to keep their current meal ticket (a relic from times gone by) alive...

We have plenty of Navy folks who know nuke power engineering and science and program management also...their systems are differnt from civilian systems for sure, but their knowledge and experience would allow them to adapt quickly.

If we have to, bring in some of the foreign talent from countries that are likely ahead of us on the nuke learning curve. We out-source everything else, might as well import some talent and product and services to jump start our progress on this front.

Although I think it would be great to have the luxury of saving our supposed bountiful quantities of domestic natural gas for liquid fuels, fertilizer, and polymer productions for the future, I would go for ginning up NG-fired power plants to replace as many coal-fired plants as possible.

I am very disappointed that we cannot elect Congress critters and Presidents who can lead us to make better energy choices, starting with conservation. As many of you have said previously on TOD, a good use for stimulus money (rather than donating it to Banksters) would have been to create a corps of trained folks to energy audit homes and businesses and upgrade insulation, weatherstrip, replace windows, subsidize older HVAC systems, install more modern and efficient lighting (Props to Paul) and so forth. This would have been a lot better than widening and re-surfacing roads with the stimulus funds.

These elected representatives also need to shape our energy mix...less coal, more NG for the mid term, move towards Gen 4 nuke starting now, to the long-term...wind and solar as much as we can. Move from ICE to EV, get our troops the heck out of the sandbox...all we are doing in the mid-to-long-term is incubating more Bin Ladens.

Too bad Congress and the President don't have the vision nor the cahones to lead us in the proper directions. Too bad our people are too easily brain-washed by jingoism and sloganeering to actually elect the right people who can lead us through the tough choices and sacrifices in order to put us on better footing down the road...we seem to be all about status quo, American Exceptionalism, believing in fairy tales, and keeping our heads in the sand (and other places).

I consider myself a strong environmentalist and I think nuclear is better that coal or even large hydro. There seems to be four main negative issues with nuclear power. First, most people have not a clue and are afraid. Second it cost to much, third it cost to much, fourth it cost to much.

So education and cost reduction done safely, no chernobyl, needs to happen.

You forgot waste disposal

The only real short and long term solution to the energy shortages, food shortages, water shortages, etc... will prove to be a dramatic short term reduction in world population. We can either do this selectively for maximum benefit to our species (about 0% chance of this happening) or Nature will do it randomly for us (which will not be very good for our long term outlook).

Maximum benefit to our species? I wanna be on the C-lection committee.

TVA is actively working on Watts Bar 2.

I tend to agree with your basic premise, but disagree on the details.

Conservation is the biggest and quickest coal substitute.

Nukes can do a lot between 2021 and 2030 and REALLY help from 2030 till 2040. Slow but big.

Best Hopes,


I agree with your comments.

In order to get nuke plants on line by 2021, we are now lead-time away wrt to policy,planning and funding, and initial design work.

More conservation can start any day now...if enough people understand the urgency...

Lots of hope for a well-educated-in-science public...

Further to my long standing gripe about exaggerated claims...

Lemnis Concedes Bulb Label May Mislead

Last week Lemnis Lighting grabbed headlines in the United States when it began selling the Pharox60 LED, a light-emitting diode product that the company describes as the “first true replacement for the incandescent bulb.” Indeed, there are many noteworthy features of the Pharox60.


But one claim in particular — that the Pharox60 uses just six watts of electricity but gives off enough light to replace a 60-watt incandescent — caught the attention of Green Inc. The light output of the Pharox60 is 336 lumens, which falls well shy of the amount of light given off by most 60-watt bulbs.

See: http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/lemnis-concedes-bulb-label-...

Best hopes for more honesty going forward.


Even Harvard is being forced to cut back:

Leaner Times at Harvard: No Cookies

Harvard is not the only elite university where student life is more austere this fall: Princeton has closed some computer labs, and one of its dining halls on Saturdays. At Stanford, the annual Mausoleum Party, a Halloween gathering at the Stanford family burial site, lost $14,000 in financing and might be canceled.

But many here assumed student life at Harvard, more than at any other institution, was immune from hardship. The loss of scrambled eggs, bacon and other cooked breakfast foods in the dorms of upperclassmen on weekdays seems to have stirred the most ire.

“Students generally feel that if you come to Harvard, for what you’re paying, you should probably have the right to a hot breakfast,” said Andrea Flores, a senior who is president of the Undergraduate Council. “They want to preserve the things that are at Harvard that you can’t get anywhere else.”

On the bright side...no Friday night failures this week.

I always worry about the "right to drive". Can you imagine the yelling when gasoline runs short permanently ?

Hello Spring_tides,

If the US doesn't move in a timely proactive fashion, to Alan's ideas & SpiderWebRiding, "the yelling when gasoline runs short permanently" will be drowned out by people screaming and fighting for anyplace to grab a foothold & handhold on the few running trains & mass-transit:


A repost of my earlier reply to TODer Ibon on why we should be moving at topspeed into mitigation so that we can still compete for the marginal barrel:

..Thus, it is easy to see how approx. 6,000 poor Indians can easily outbid a single 'Murkan for that marginal gallon of FFs. If 'Murkans don't want to build trains, then pack and wildly overcrowd them as readily as these Indians--then we will be easily outbid, then forced to walk...
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

"the yelling...will be drowned out by people screaming and fighting for anyplace to grab a foothold & handhold..."

Naah... the livable parts of India are jampacked with people to an extent that even Manhattanites might not really grasp from the perspective of their flyspeck of an island. Most people in the US of A, not living on said flyspeck, are simply so far away from the nearest usefully-run transit - dozens or even hundreds of miles away - that they won't even hear that particular screaming, much less experience it as drowning anything else out...


I always worry about the "right to food". Can you imagine the yelling when food runs short permanently ?

Yep, I'm a Doomer.

Lyn - I assume you mean when food runs short in the US. I've visited a few little garden spot like Equatorial Guinea where food ran permmanently short long ago. No running and yelling there by the starving population. Such "over reactions" are met with a bullet in the back of the head. Granted the U.S. isn't EG and it's inconceivable the situation here or in any other "civilized" country could fall that far but I doubt the folks in EG ever anticipated such a future when they won their independence from Spain.

Puzzling with this one:

I am seeing a lot of people worried about inflation.

What are we talking about?

Before the seventies growing energy supply was enough to grow the energy sector itself + the real economy.(=better living standards for everyone).

In the 70's this didn't work anymore, to much energy was needed to get more energy. The "real" economy couldn't grow anymore.

So as a last resort we started to inflate the money supply by a small amount every year just to keep our world going.

In the late 90's this again wasn't enough, so financial voodoo was created to help inflating the money supply. Masked by bookkeeping fraud and pie in the sky wizards.

In august 2007 this all stopped, the fraud was "discovered" and the means for inflating the money supply stopped.

So inflation has been the means for the western world to use other nations energy, resources and labor for free!

Talking about inflation in a price sense is only meant to confuse us.

My worries are about what is available.
If there is enough prices will be in reach.
If there is not enough it will get rationed. (to keep us from fighting over it)
If there is nothing, price is not my biggest concern.


The report above describing the dismal results of PEMEX's efforts to replace falling oil rates with the development of those very low quality reservoirs in the Chicontepec complex isn't much of a surpise. Previous discussions at TOD clearly showed to poor potential of these traps. The big surprise is that the Mexican gov't is so openly acknowledging the failure. But they'll continue the $2 billion effort regardless. Not a surprise either if you accept the corrupt nature of Mexican contracts as subscribed by many

You gotta admit that it is a good thing for global Peak Outreach efforts that PEMEX is now publicly acknowledging that rapidly decreasing ERoEI is occurring and their country's ELM & net energy cliff is becoming widely visible.

Sadly, what is not so good is what postPeak happens to the Mex. economy and its poor people.

I often wonder how much of the rise in the drug cartels' powers was due to a decreasing power (budget) of the federal government.

Cinch -- seems easy to point to similarities with Mexico today and the NE US in the early part of the 19th century. The Mafia did provide some benefit to the lower income segment of our population. Though some were also victimized many did benefit from the economic boost and stability organized crime brought to their neighbors. It would be easy to criticize all of these folks but then few of us have had to sit by and watch our children suffer at such levels. Someone long ago coined the term "hungry belly syndrome" to describe the acceptance of the lesser of two evils.

water usage? ...like tar sands "you can't get there from here..." see the writings of Garret Hardin... "To make one Haynesville Shale well unleash its natural gas, drillers need 4 million to 5 million gallons of water."

from the website of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association

August 10th, 2009
Gas companies, officials refine water usage plans
Haynesville Overview, Infrastructure No Comments

August 10, 2009

Gas companies, officials refine water usage plans

By Alexandyr Kent


Edited to remove excessive quoting.

Please don't post entire articles. Post the link, and a brief excerpt.

Quiet hybrid cars: link at top http://tinyurl.com/yjh8rdr

Many of the people I know don’t have cars, as I live in Switzerland.

In Geneva Canton, 25% households don’t own a car, 36% no car in the town. Note 1.

(Many others, natch, own two or more.)

In the Canton, as it is a pocket handkerchief territory with good pubic transport, for daily trips, on foot represents the mode, the most common case. I was surprised by that fact. (It all depends on what and how you count.)

Public transport, shoe leather, and bike account for 70% of daily movement. 28% are carried out by private vehicle, that is car, truck, motorcycle, moped. For private persons, excludes public services like garbage collection, police, ambulance, etc.

So the minuscule sample of the only Two! people I know who bought a Toyota Prius and gave them up are representative of nothing much.

One was a 40-year-old woman who was not a keen or experienced driver but very green in her politics, in fact active in politics; touched and gently knocked down a child, no harm done, but parked the car and then refused to drive it ever again. The other was a man who claimed to have had trouble on the autoroute because of the silence. (?) Executive type, the Co. paid for him to drive that thing.

Note 1. numbers from a news article, according to me roughly correct, in french:


I have a Prius and it IS quiet but making them nosier is ridiculous. We have enough noise pollution already. People need to look both ways when they cross the street or stay out of it. Where we live the cross signs make noise. That is more likely what blind people listen to, not cars.

I think all cars should make a miniumum of 130 decibels at all times. Even parked. That way blind people won't walk into the parked car. For the deaf, all cars should have a light that blinks on the top to warn them that there may be a car coming up on them. For those who are sensitive to the emissions, there should also be a smoke machine which produces a thick, colored smoke so that you know where the emissions plume is and can do your best to avoid it if necessary. Safety first!


And I work for an injury lawyer so see car and pedestrian accidents every day and am a safety advocate for my community. But making electric cars noisier is going too far.

My quick search for statistics turns up about 10 million "blind and visually impaired" with 1.3 million of those "legally blind" (Legal Blindness is a clinical measure that, in the U.S., means a person's central visual acuity is 20/200 or less in the better eye, when using the best correction that can be provided by ordinary eyeglasses, or he/she has a visual field of 20 degrees or less.) The population of the United States is about 300 million right now. Which makes the "blind and visually impaired" a little over 3% of the population and "legally blind" less than 0.5% of the population. Beyond this you have to ask how many of those people are going to be walking around willy-nilly in trafficked areas without carrying a cane. Pretty much everywhere that I'm aware of, a blind person with a cane gets the right-of-way, it's the burden of the driver to be aware (as well it should be).

I'd imagine that a rather large majority of those people do not go walking about in traffic (though oddly I know two myself who do). So you might be looking at 0.25% to 1.5% of the population that might benefit some rather small amount of the time (how often will those who do walk in traffic be walking in traffic?). Thusly, you have at most 3% of the population benefiting from inflicting noise pollution on the rest of the 97%.

I'll admit a personal bias here because noise drives me insane. Those assholes on straight piped cruiser motorcycles, the piped sportbikes, jacked up trucks, riced cars, lawn mowers. There are a lot of people who seem to equate "loud" with "fast." There's even been a trend towards people knocking out the guts of the mufflers on motor-scooters so you hear their 50cc's and 25mph (legal speed limit) of glory a mile before you see them. They're sometimes the loudest thing on the road. So I think one of the nice possibilities about the electrification of transportation will be a reduction in overall noise level. But electrics and hybrids DO make noise, sometimes more noise than some conventional cars (particularly luxury brands), but it's a weird whirring noise that you'll miss if you don't equate it with "car."

They are only relatively quiet.

If you are in a place where there is a naturally low noise level you can hear them coming just fine.

nasa has bombed the moon,again. it's a repeat from the ranger days. nasa sez it's to look for water. but...some say it's to destroy lunar life forms. just think, the week previous has seen an earthquake every day. not little piddling earthquakes but strong rockers, 7+. maybe the selenites are sending mysterious waves at the earth ala tesla. maybe they have lunar television with shows like "earth invades". the apollo 11 astronauts sed that they were being watched and the watchers didnt like the fact they were there. of course the moon is made of swiss cheese. that is why the apollo missions were canceled, because of the swiss cheese lobby. the price of cheese would plummet and lots of wall street futures manipulators would be broke. the moon is hollow because gophers live in the craters. the gophers are very sly and only pop out when no one is looking. that is why i study the moon so much to catch a gopher peeking out of his burrow. the only reason gubbermints will return to the moon is if there is oil there. in fact, one of the best cover ups is oil on mars. there are already indications of life and fossils, ergo oil from dead martian dinosaurs. people will most likely visit titan, a moon of saturn, before a return to the moon. titan is covered in hydrocarbons. brainiacs have sed that "advanced western civilizations" need six earths to keep up with growth and prosperity. so there you go, titan is earth number two for raping resources. and why the big search for asteroids? to protect the earth from collision? nope. chances are there is an asteroid out there made of solid gold or diamond. that is what the secret world leaders are looking for. they got underground bunkers and cities all set aside in case a normal asteroid hits the earth. "they" are not worried about me and you getting all extinct. actually "they" hope that will happen. "they" want that golden asteroid. it's worth trillions and trillions of dollars. everything i mentioned here can be found out about with simple internet searches. it's all true. really.


Humbaba forgot his meds again. It happens.

He apparently forgot grammar too.

It just looks that way.Composing such a comment is an artistic exercise and takes a fair amount of time-it has all the hallmarks of careful work undertaken for the fun of it.

Just a cheering (I hope!) brief story from New Zealand as to how house design/build etc can make an enormous difference to energy costs.

We live in Nelson NZ (often termed the sunshine capital of NZ) which gets around 2500 sunshine hours a year.Summers are warm; however in winter, temperatures can get pretty cold (this is the South island after all) for prolonged periods. The area is ideally suited for solar energy harvesting and the local council has recently begun programs to roll out solar water heating etc. To illustrate what can happen:

1) We recently (March) moved from a circa 1910 wooden framed bungalow. Great character but freezing in winter. The house was single glazed, lacked any substantial insulation, relied on electric powered water heating and a log burner/various electric heating devices for warmth. Total floor space 130sqm.

2) The new house (its a rebuild of a 1950s house) is fully insulated throughout, double glazed and north facing. It has a solar water heater on the roof (cost of installation $NZ6500)supplemented by electric water heating, and has a single gas fire (runs off bottled gas). It has a much larger footprint (280msq, although nearly a third of that is workshop/garage space). Pasive solar heating through the windows means that on a typical winters day we have recorded interior temperatures of +25C while the exterior has remained below 10C, with no other heat source engaged. Typically the high efficiency gas heater is switched on for an hour in the mornings during winter and sometimes in the evening if there has been no sun. The house as a whole is immeasurably warmer than the previous one, and there is no problem with damp etc.

3) The old house used around $NZ2100-2200 a year in electricity, and a further $NZ650 in wood etc

4) My best estimates for the new house is that it will cost at most $NZ1300 a year in electricity and $NZ400 in bottled gas - despite it being twice the size of the previous property (I had to say I had mixed feelings about the switch from wood to bottled gas but local air quality council regulations are 'encouraging' the move in this direction and so far economically it looks OK - NZ is relatively well set up for gas production for the forseeable future).

Here in Nelson at least there is an immense amount of work that can be done to improve energy useage in our existing housing stock.

If you remember, give us an update when you've got the year's numbers in. I suppose your heating season is winding down now, right? It's great to see the actual comparisons of different homes.


Hi Bob
yep Spring has sprung here so heating needs are winding down. I am continually amazed by how good these solar water systems are - its a sunny day here (though not that warm - 17C outside with a cool southerly) at 4pm and the solar water system is reading 65C in the roof pipes, and its pushed the water in the tank up to 58C. Thats from an overnight exterior ambient of 6C (and an hour and a half of boost at 6.30am from the mains for showers etc). Behold the power of the sun God!!!
cheers andy

Bad news...really bad news...I just hope the nuclear codes and the list of where the nukes are located were destroyed early in the attack by some smart thinking military officer:

In Brazen Raid, Militants Storm Headquarters of Pakistani Military

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In a brazen attack on the headquarters of the Pakistani military, gunmen dressed in military fatigues stormed the heart of the nation’s army operations on Saturday, killing six people and taking 10 to 15 hostages, some of them soldiers, an army spokesman said.

..The daring attack on the headquarters, the most sensitive area in Pakistan which serves as the Pakistani equivalent of the Pentagon..
Try to imagine insurgents controlling our Pentagon. I bet right now that Obama and his Chiefs of Staff are not patting themselves on the back for getting the Nobel Peace Prize...

edit for further clarification.

Can anyone keep track of events occurring through-out the Middle Eastern area?

Pak's great game: Evict India from Afghanistan through terror

WASHINGTON: Afghanistan has boldly stepped up where even India has been discreet in treading, bluntly accusing the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI of masterminding the latest bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul which killed 17 people...
I am certainly getting confused on all the minor and major moves occurring in this region, and Pak & India beating wardrums certainly doesn't help make things easier.

Also, IF, A Big If, the crucial nuke info was stored in Pak's Pentagon: the Pak Army should be doing everything they can to retake this building pronto, IMO. Otherwise, I would imagine a USAF F-16 with JDAMs will take it out as nuke-control insurance, or a USAF Predator with Hellfires can do it too.

It sure would be nice to know what is really going on vs the fog of war. For example, are these attackers on Pak's Pentagon really working for Iran? Or is this building really their Pentagon HQ, or just an outlying military semi-HQ?

..Rawalpindi is also the military headquarters of the Pakistan Armed Forces and also served as the nation's capital while Islamabad was being constructed in the 1960s.
Further down inside the link it also says it is the HQ for its Pakistani Air Force, too, but it qualifies it by saying a [citation needed].

... I would imagine a USAF F-16 with JDAMs will take it out as nuke-control insurance, or a USAF Predator with Hellfires can do it too.

If the U.S. or any other nation did this, then India would have a free opportunity to nuke Pakistan to eliminate their long standing enemy.


Hope for cool heads to prevail, and good intelligence and security measures as well.

It's sad/amazing that we get more thoughtful/energy-aware foresight from a consultant to eye doctors than we do from any level of government. It caused me to draft this post and create this eye chart (which I hope shows up properly here):


The Eye Exam Chart for the 21st Century:


Climate change issues are so important that my technology related blog is participating in Blog Action Day, which is Thursday, October 15, and dedicated to this topic. In fact, we're blogging all week on climate change issues, including energy resources. The latest post is “The Green Energy Fairy Tale is Real” at http://t1rex.blogspot.com/2009/10/green-energy-fairy-tale-is-real.html