Drumbeat: November 18, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: Accusations

Not many years from now, there will be a huge uproar over who missed the coming of peak oil. There will be Congressional hearings and much finger pointing and protestations that the peaking of world oil production was impossible to predict.

It will all sound much like current discussions of whether our great recession was foreseeable. The uproar will come amidst very high gasoline prices and still greater economic difficulties and, hopefully, widespread understanding that the final energy crisis has begun.

Ukrainian gas fees to rise

Ukraine will double the fees it charges Russia to ship gas through the country from next year, its prime minister said yesterday, in a move that could cause supplies to be disrupted over the winter.

Structure of oil market must meet Opec's and Russia's needs: Russian industry organised too diversely for it to join oil group

Abu Dhbai: The structure of the oil market and its pricing system must be changed to satisfy the needs both of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Russia, the single largest oil producer in the world outside Opec, a Russian energy expert said at an industry conference here yesterday.

Analyst sees contradiction between recession and rising oil prices

The fact that Venezuela's Gross Domestic Product shrank 4.5 percent in the third quarter of the year compared with the same period last year is inconsistent with rising oil prices, which climbed 70 percent compared to levels recorded earlier this year, reported economist José Manuel Puente.

COP15 failure and Peak Oil success: Why exaggerate Global Warming?

OECD leaders go far out of their way to never, ever mention Peak Oil. This in fact is the biggest real world driver for worldwide Energy Transition away from CO2 emitting fossil fuels. Due to limited world oil reserves and production capacity, moving away from fossil fuels is necessary, whether or not there is climate change or global warming. Complicating this, world pipeline and LNG gas supplies are now entering a period of large or massive increase, depending on country and region, perhaps able to last 5 years or more. While oil can get very expensive, natural gas will likely remain cheap, and international traded coal will likely remain low cost on delivered energy terms.

For OECD leaderships seeking rapid transition away from oil, and cutting CO2 emissions, natural gas is cleaner burning, with lower emissions than oil or coal. This is a rational energy strategy -- oil substitution by gas -- for the short term.

Waiting for the soft energy and electric car revolution will however be long-haul. Growing the role of non-hydro renewables in the energy mix to anything above 5%, by 2030 without also cutting global total energy demand every year by well above one percent, will be costly, complex and slow.

Mexico Not Considering Pricing Change for Oil Exports

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s government isn’t considering changing how it sets prices for oil exports to the U.S. after Saudi Aramco abandoned West Texas Intermediate as the pricing reference.

New crude indices aren’t “mature” enough to be used as a reference for Mexican oil, Petroleos Mexicanos said today in an e-mailed statement. Pemex, as the Mexico City-based company is known, is the country’s state oil company.

Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, said last month it would begin using Argus Media Ltd.’s sour crude index to price its exports. Reuters said on Nov. 16 that Mexico, the third-largest supplier of crude to the U.S., could also drop WTI as its pricing reference.

Gazprom defends rigid contract terms with Europe

Gazprom on Tuesday defended its inflexible supply contracts with Europe, which critics say are driving customers away and under which the Russian producer claims it is owed $2.5 billion.

Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Medvedev told a televised conference in Moscow that Gazprom does not have enough "grounds to bring substantial changes" to the take-or-pay terms of its long-term contracts.

China May Spend $700 Million to Expand Costa Rica Oil Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- China may spend $700 million to help fund expansion of Costa Rica’s Refinadora Costarricense de Petroleo SA oil refinery as it boosts energy ties in the region.

China National Petroleum Corp. may tap a China state-run bank for financing to triple capacity at the plant to 60,000 barrels a day, Jose Leon Desanti, head of the Costa Rican refining company, known as Recope, said in an interview. The Chinese company, known as CNPC, is a partner in the expansion.

UBS Raises Oil Price Forecast on Weak Dollar, Demand

(Bloomberg) -- UBS AG raised its forecast for crude oil because of a weaker dollar and improved demand from non-OECD countries, particularly China, the world’s second-largest energy consuming-nation.

UBS increased its 2009 forecast of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, to $62.30 a barrel, from $59.10 a barrel, analysts led by Melbourne-based Gordon Ramsay said in a note dated yesterday to clients. Its 2010 projection has been raised to $75 from $70 and its 2011 assumption to $80 from $71.

Duke Energy Study: China a Friend or Foe of the U.S.?

China is both a friend and a foe to the greentech world.

Duke Energy has commissioned a study to explore what its growing relationship with companies and research institutions in China would mean on issues such as jobs creation and technology development. With a still struggling U.S. economy, any business deals that appear to create more jobs in the China than the United States have generated harsh rhetoric on the Capitol Hill.

Experts: Smart grid poses privacy risks

Technologists already are worried about the security implications of linking nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public Internet. Now, privacy experts are warning that the so-called "smart grid" efforts could usher in a new class of concerns, as utilities begin collecting more granular data about consumers' daily power consumption.

U.S. residents fight for the right to hang laundry

PERKASIE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – Carin Froehlich pegs her laundry to three clotheslines strung between trees outside her 18th-century farmhouse, knowing that her actions annoy local officials who have asked her to stop.

Froehlich is among the growing number of people across America fighting for the right to dry their laundry outside against a rising tide of housing associations who oppose the practice despite its energy-saving green appeal.

Forget $100 oil. $80 oil is a problem

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Are cash-strapped American consumers on for another date with energy price misery?

The U.S. economy remains weak and one in six Americans can't find enough work. Yet oil prices have risen steadily this year. A barrel of crude costs $79 and change, more than double its price at the end of 2008.

This year's runup pales in comparison to the one that peaked last summer above $145 a barrel. Even so, some researchers warn we could once again be approaching the point at which rising energy costs will squeeze consumers.

Rising fuel prices hit consumers

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Consumer prices in October were essentially unchanged from a year ago, the government reported Wednesday, as the rising cost of oil and gas offset earlier price declines.

The Consumer Price Index, the government's key inflation reading, is now down only 0.2% during the past 12 months compared to the same period a year ago. This is the smallest 12-month rate of decline since February.

Some OPEC Nations Charge Ahead Despite Slow Oil Demand

Energy forecasters increasingly predict slowing growth in global oil demand in the years ahead, but some OPEC nations are heading in the opposite direction and ramping up their capacity to pump oil.

Qatar, for example, is set to raise its oil-production capacity early next year from an existing field known as Al Shaheen. The more than $6 billion expansion project brightens the revenue prospects of the Mideast state but highlights a bigger problem brewing for its partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

After keeping a tight tether on supply in recent years by cautiously investing, the 12-nation cartel finds itself battling an untimely convergence of lackluster consumption that magnifies its own rising supply capacity -- which may in turn reignite old battles between members over market share and ultimately push oil prices lower.

Thanksgiving: Highways to be more crowded

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- After a sharp drop last year, more Americans are expected to travel for the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday, although travel by air will decline, according to a forecast from motorist group AAA issued Wednesday.

Commodities 101

Whenever oil prices shudder, Washington blames energy traders. Meanwhile, pundits warn of peak oil. They say the earth is running out of dead dinosaurs. We cannot drill our way out of this mess, says T. Boone Pickens. He turned in his oil drill-bit for a flock of windmills. Since higher oil prices coincide with climbing sugar and cocoa prices, why don't those peak oil pundits stretch their argument to all commodities? They may not believe the world is flat, but they do seem to think the earth is hollow. In fact, the stumbling block is not geologic; it is not even environmental. It is a lack of talent. We are not suffering from peak oil; we're suffering from peak people. The U.S. graduates only 10 percent as many petroleum engineers as it did 25 years ago. West Virginia faces a shortage of coal miners because the coal miner's daughter doesn't want to strap on a headlamp.

Canada's House of Commons must convene inquiry into fossil fuel supply

“As a organization of family farmers, the NFU is acutely aware that food is tightly linked to energy, both locally and globally. Farmers use diesel fuel to run tractors and trucks. We require natural gas to make critical nitrogen fertilizer. Canadians depend on secure supplies of affordable energy to import and export food, to process and package it, and to refrigerate it. Shortage or volatility on global energy markets will rapidly turn into shortage and instability in food markets,” said NFU energy security analyst Rick Munroe.

Spooks' take on Britain's energy crisis sparks run on candles

The melodrama was gripping from the start. We open to a catastrophic accident at a single processing plant wiping out stored gas accounting for 80pc of the UK’s supplies (nevermind that our gas still mostly comes from the North Sea via pipeline and we have more than one gas processing plant).

Then the grave-faced Home Secretary informs the Government that we’ve only got two weeks of gas before a rolling programme of power cuts “that would make the banking crisis look like a walk in the park” (nevermind trying to buy up some more liquefied natural gas on the international spot markets).

Devon Raises the 'Big Oil' Question

Not-quite-as-big oil doesn't sound as impressive as the industry's usual nickname. But Devon Energy is the latest energy producer to decide smaller is better, and with good reason.

Market Report: Offline Gulf Production Impacts API Report

Tropical Storm Ida may have had more of an impact on the weekly American Petroleum Institute report than she will in the big energy picture. A larger drop in Gulf Coast imports led to a drop in crude oil supply and is giving people a reason other than the dollar to buy oil. The API reported that US crude supply fell 4.4 million barrels in the latest week helping to drive oil higher yet again overnight. Oh sure you have that pesky little dollar falling again as well, but it's still off the recent lows.

Of course while the drop in crude supply can be easily explained away by the Gulf storm, but the rest of the numbers do not so easily add up. The API reported that gas supply fell by 96,300 barrels and distillates increased by 507,000 barrels. The rest of the country, according to the API, showed that crude imports actually increased yet the drop in the Gulf Coast seemed to offset this.

Eq. Guinea says oil output to stay around 250,000 bpd

LONDON (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea's oil production has fallen to around 250,000 barrels a day (bpd) and is likely to remain largely unchanged for the foreseeable future as declining output in existing fields is offset by new production, its vice energy minister said on Wednesday.

"We are expecting in two years some of the wells that are already producing, Zafiro and different ones, probably they will start dropping production," Gabriel Obiang Lima told journalists on the sidelines of an African oil and gas conference in London.

Petrobras Ranks as Sixth Biggest Energy Company by Platts

Petrobras carved out the sixth spot in the top 250 Global Energy Company ranking posted by Platts, one of the leading global providers of information about energy and commodities. The Company rose six positions compared to last year, and outperformed companies from emerging countries of the likes of Russia and China. The improved performance reflects Petrobras' financial health and the successfully discoveries made in the pre-salt area. The top 250 company ranking features the energy companies with the best global performances and is based on a combination of assets, revenues, profit and return on capital using data from the Capital IQ, a database compiled and maintained by Standard & Poor's.

Ecuador energy crisis cripples production, disrupts cities

QUITO, Ecuador (UPI) -- Ecuador's energy crisis shows no sign of easing, but relief may be around the corner after emergency measures were taken by the government to import electricity from Colombia and Peru.

President Rafael Correa warned the country was in for a long haul and faced power shortages that could last over several months. Critics have blamed the government for mismanagement and failing to prepare for the crisis as water levels in the reservoirs depleted during the summer.

China facing energy shortages amid cold spell

SHANGHAI -- Unusually cold weather has caused shortfalls of power and natural gas in Shanghai and parts of central China, local government reports said Wednesday.

The surge in energy consumption due to the cold snap, which began last week, is typical of the challenges the country is facing as it struggles to meet demand from consumers whose growing earning power enables them to adopt more modern lifestyles.

Western Australia Passes Legislation to Secure Gas Supplies

Energy consumers will benefit from greater competition and greater certainty over gas supply as a result of legislation passed today in Western Australia's State Parliament.

Energy Minister Peter Collier said the legislation would allow the development of a greater range of gas fields to supply the domestic market.

Why China Isn't Willing to Get Too Tough on Iran

Unlike Russia, China defines a harmonious relationship with the U.S. as being among its core interests. But China now imports a growing share of Iran's oil output — Tehran is the China's third largest foreign supplier (behind Saudi Arabia and Angola), and Beijing has also significantly increased its investments in natural gas projects in Iran. Being forced to choose between an expanding energy relationship with Iran and maintaining diplomatic accord with the U.S. is precisely the kind of dilemma that makes China's leadership assume the foreign policy equivalent of the fetal position. Thus, Hu Jintao's public remarks Tuesday afternoon after meeting Obama: "We both stressed that to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and to appropriately resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations is very important to stability in the Middle East and in the Gulf region."

Architects lobby for change at Copenhagen

The paper covers issues ranging from the pressing need for an international standard of accounting for carbon emissions, to appropriate planning for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and incentives to drive innovation to ensure greater and faster take-up of sustainable design.

Developed with Architecture Canada, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the statement highlights the importance of the crucial roles architecture and the built environment can play in reducing the climate change impact on the environment. Buildings and cities currently account for almost half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

China Sunergy Profit Soared on Lower Silicon Costs

(Bloomberg) -- China Sunergy Co., a manufacturer of solar power cells, said third-quarter profit rose as production costs dropped and margins improved. The shares gained in early New York trading.

The politics of hydro power stations -Part II

In part I, the author showed how the British built Owen Falls Power Station to serve their colonial interests, how they locked in an agreement for Uganda to supply cheap electricity to British settlers in Kenya, and how the Kabalega and Ayago sites that could have produced electricity more cheaply were ignored.

Island braced for winds of change

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has calculated the projected sea level rise around South Uist for BBC Scotland. It reports that by 2080 it's likely to have risen by 37cm. However, it could be as much 61cm.

Dr Dave Reay, from Edinburgh University, says that is a conservative estimate.

It was on the mind of Archie MacDonald who used to work for the Met Office.

He said: "It takes into account sea expansion, but the ice sheets are melting faster than we predicted and we could see a metre of sea level rise around the coast of Scotland this century."

Greening the Las Vegas Strip

The resorts along Las Vegas Boulevard sit not just in the middle of a desert, but at a crossroads where conspicuous consumption meets scarce resources.

Las Vegas wouldn’t be what it is if not for Hoover Dam and the Colorado River water impounded behind it. On average, the city receives just four inches of rainfall a year, relying instead on Lake Mead for 90 percent of its water needs.

No Plan for Oil Shortages in North America

Munroe found numerous studies about peak oil by the GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office), which were apparently dropped from any further consideration. As early as 1981 the GAO wrote: "It is questionable whether an adequate organizational structure exists which could effectively manage a crisis."

The IEA's messaging has been clearer. In 2005 it warned that pre-planning is critical, and that the public must be primed and well informed in advance. Yet their strategies for dealing with the impending oil crisis are laughable, boiling down to a short term "surge" in production, and drawing down emergency reserves-at most, a 90-day solution.

Munroe offered a quote by Dr. Helen Peck, a lecturer at Cranfield University in the UK and an expert in complex systems, energy security, and national emergency planning, that highlighted the relationship between food and energy I wrote about in my last article: "The fundamental problem is that it is the very efficiency of the nation's food and drink supply chains, under normal circumstances, that make them so vulnerable under abnormal ones."

Peak Oil? Not Here and Not For Decades, CERA Study Says

Of the 1,000 fields it studied in detail, 40 percent of production comes from fields that are in decline. CERA suggests, that based on those decline figures we can assume, a significant proportion of all production comes from fields building up or on plateau.

Giant fields — those with an estimate 500 million barrels of recoverable oil or gas equivalent– are still the cornerstone of global production with some 548 contributing 61 percent of the total supply, the report notes. Collectively, these giant oil fields are not in decline, CERA says. On the contrary, some 60 percent of their recoverable oil remains to be produced, according to the report.

Canada's Heartland - Political Peak Oil's First Refuge

Now think. Are there any of the oil majors not invested in Canada's tar sands? No. Even China's state-controlled oil company, PetroChina, is heavily invested. Without tar sands, indications of this and similar anecdotes are that they are approaching or at "political peak oil."

I'll go a step farther and say that physical peak oil, besides being controversial as a mathematically described phenomena, is a relatively meaningless term. All that matters to the average driver is the price and availability of fuel, and that is controlled by political peak oil. The pros and cons of physical peak oil expert opinions are a distraction from that reality.

The developing scandal around the International Energy Agency and peak oil

The full impact of these developments has not yet been appreciated by the world economic community. For many years (up until its 2008 report) the IEA has predicted future world oil output based on what would be required to support future predicted economic growth. This is putting the cart before the horse since it is energy availability that constrains economic activity not the other way around.

Fortunately for the IEA in the past it has always been possible to increase oil production in line with a growing economy. However, this easy relationship began to break down in 2005 when conventional oil production plateaued and now, after the financial crash of 2008, oil production has begun to fall. (In fact, it is possible to make a very strong argument (PDF 637KB) that it was the high oil prices of 2008 - due to the supply/demand imbalance - that pricked the housing debt bubble in the USA and so triggered the current financial crisis.)

When oils ain't oils

In this article, we examined why, for investors at least, ''peak oil'' theory was inconsequential. What really matters is the cost of getting the stuff out - or the ''marginal cost of production'', as the economists call it.

Here we're going to explain how, contrary to economic theory, the oil price can rise while supply is increasing.

The Oil Sands and the World Energy Outlook

Suffice it to say at a certain point consumers started driving less, flying less, spending less--using less carbon-based fuel. As aggregate demand for energy declined steeply along with the global economy, however, companies began to scale back, postpone and/or cancel planned development projects.

At the same time, the era of easy energy is over; more and more development is focused on hard-to-reach and/or difficult-to-produce reserves. Satisfying global energy needs is becoming more and more complex. Marginal production costs are clearly rising, and realized prices must remain at elevated levels to make certain critical projects economic.

Determining what seems a magical level of sustainability--the per barrel price that allows E&P companies to efficiently find and deliver supply and demand isn’t destroyed because prices at the pump are too dear-- is difficult, to say the least. But even in the model described here oil has to get back above USD130 before it would matter again for GDP growth.

In signal to West, Iran boosts fuel output

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said it temporarily boosted gasoline production by about 30 percent on Tuesday to show the West it can cope with any sanctions targeting its fuel imports.

Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi said the move to raise output by 14 million liters per day increased total output to 58.5 million liters. Domestic consumption stands at about 66.5 million liters per day.

The higher production level, carried out at three southern petrochemical plants, would only last for a few days, he said, making clear it was not economical in the long run.

"With this move we would like to show that the West can not use any limitations on selling gasoline to Iran as a tool against the Islamic Republic," Mirkazemi told a news conference.

Iraq wants France's Total to work its oilfields: Talabani

PARIS (AFP) – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told business leaders in Paris that he wanted to see the French energy giant Total working in his country's oil fields.

"We might favour a French bid whatever the figures. Don't fear this auction ... The figures aren't everything," he said during a state visit to France. "We want to see Total work in our oil fields."

Qatar in LNG Export Talks With Argentina, Salatt Says

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is in talks with two Argentinean companies to sell the cleaner-burning fuel, Abdullah Salatt, senior advisor to the Emirate’s energy minister, said in Tokyo.

The negotiations for middle-to-long term supplies began last year, he said today without disclosing the name of the companies. Qatar also is holding talks with Uruguay on sales of the fuel, Salatt said without elaborating.

Shooting heightens tensions in Nigerian oil delta

PORT HARCOURT (Reuters) - Nigerian militants accused the army of threatening a ceasefire in the oil-producing Niger Delta on Tuesday by raiding a former rebel commander's home, but the military said it was just responding to reports of shooting.

Energy issues top bill at EU-Russia summit

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – EU and Russian leaders meet at a summit in Stockholm on Wednesday set to be dominated by energy issues, as Europe hopes to avoid an interruption of Russian natural gas supplies via Ukraine this winter.

Venezuela’s Economy May Shrink 2.2% in 2009, Rodriguez Says

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said his country’s economy may shrink 2.2 percent this year, revising an earlier forecast it would stagnate.

The economy contracted 4.5 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier after manufacturing and retail sales plunged, the central bank said yesterday. The decline was almost three times the 1.6 percent median estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Long-awaited pipeline funnels gas across 8 states

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A 1,679-mile pipeline crossing eight states is now fully completed and funneling natural gas from Wyoming and Colorado to the eastern edge of Ohio.

The long-awaited Rockies Express Pipeline became fully operational Nov. 12 following the recent completion of the final 195-mile section between Warren and Monroe counties in eastern Ohio. The $6.8 billion pipeline carries 1.8 billion cubic feet of gas, enough to heat 4 million homes, and took three years to complete.

Marathon to Face Crowd Seeking Answers After Bad Refining Bets

(Bloomberg) -- Marathon Oil Corp., the fourth- largest U.S. energy producer, may have some explaining to do to investors who say bad bets on refineries are holding back the company’s growing exploration business.

Marathon is spending $6 billion on plant upgrades that began before refining profit margins collapsed, leaving it with less capital to exploit its oil and natural-gas fields. When Marathon meets tomorrow with investors and analysts in New York, it should address possibly selling refineries or justify keeping plants that will be less profitable than oil and gas wells, said Ted Harper of Frost Investment Advisors in Houston.

Glencore Sets Aside Less Money for Staff Payments After Slump

(Bloomberg) -- Glencore International AG, the world’s biggest commodity-trading company, set aside less money for staff payments in the first nine months after prices and profit slumped, according to a report to bondholders.

Lester Brown: Summary Presentation for Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Powerpoint and PDF)

Updates for Plan B 4.0 Slideshow Presentation

The Challenges: Food Insecurity and Climate Change

AP Poll: Sometimes it isn't easy being green

WASHINGTON – A solid majority of Americans recognize the need to help the environment, although there are some things — like buying a hybrid car or taking mass transit — that people often talk about, but don't necessarily act on.

Why Some People Go Green--and Others Don't

It may seem that all Prius drivers are Democrats and that Republicans are behind the wheels of Hummers, but a new book from Duke University social scientists Scott de Marchi and James T. Hamilton argues that political affiliation has very little to do with consumer decisions. In You Are What You Choose, de Marchi and Hamilton make the case that green consumerism--along with many other consumer habits--is largely determined by basic personality traits, not political beliefs.

Controversial wind farm to build turbine plant in USA

Companies planning a controversial wind farm in Texas that would seek millions in federal stimulus funds said Tuesday that they'd build a U.S. plant to make wind turbines and employ 1,000 people.

The news follows criticism that the farm planned to use Chinese-made turbines and that too many federal stimulus dollars have gone to foreign-owned wind firms.

Vestas Seeks to Double Wind Turbines in India on Incentives

(Bloomberg) -- Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world’s biggest maker of wind turbines, said it plans to almost double its capacity to produce wind-power equipment in India as the government offers new incentives for renewable energy.

The Randers, Denmark-based company aims to boost capacity to about 500 megawatts in India in the next three years, said Sean Sutton, president, Vestas Asia Pacific.

US should follow France, boost nuclear power: senator

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States should consider following France's lead and ramping up use of nuclear power in an effort to contain global warming, a senior US senator helping craft climate change legislation said Tuesday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is working with Democrat John Kerry on the bill, highlighted how France now derives 80 percent of its energy from nuclear power and is presently constructing a next-generation reactor, said to be the most advanced in the world.

"Surely we can be as bold as the French," Graham told reporters.

PGE, EDF May Build Areva Nuclear Reactor in Poland

(Bloomberg) -- PGE SA, Poland’s largest power utility, and Electricite de France SA may build the central European country’s first nuclear power plant, and agreed to study the use of Areva SA’s Evolutionary Power Reactor design.

ADB Plans to Increase Clean-Energy Lending After Kyoto Protocol

(Bloomberg) -- The Asian Development Bank plans to increase lending for clean-energy projects in the Asia Pacific region by 2013 and reduce funds for polluting fossil- fuel ventures, an official said.

Energy Dept. walks the walk with smart building

GOLDEN, Colo. – Homes and office buildings consume three-quarters of U.S. electricity, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory wants to lower that figure by erecting what it believes will be the largest "net-zero" energy building in the world — one that produces as much power onsite as it uses.

The Department of Energy, which runs the Golden-based lab nestled in the foothills west of Denver, and its contractors hope the $64 million structure will provide a national blueprint for making buildings greener and cutting energy use.

Jeff Rubin: We need another carbon tariff

China and India can build all the coal plants they want, but when their manufacturing plants use dirty power to produce goods that are then exported to our market, the emissions embodied in those goods must be taxed at the same rate our domestic producers would pay for their own carbon emissions.

Carbon peak is in the past, says Celsias

Figures provided by the firm showed that during 2008, America's oil use fell by five percent, coal one percent and CO2 emissions three percent.

According to the US Department of Energy, 2009 will see the country's oil use decrease by a further five percent, coal ten percent and CO2, from burning fossil fuels, nine percent.

"In this new energy era carbon emissions are declining and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books," a spokesperson said.

Winemakers face climate change with dread

"All over the world, alcohol levels are going up," said British wine critic Jancis Robinson at the WineFuture conference, citing just one problem producers are facing as a result of rising temperatures.

"Champagne alcohol levels are becoming embarrassingly high," she added, meaning that the heat which is raising the alcohol content changes both the texture and personality of a wine.

Obama: Rally the world for climate deal next month

BEIJING – President Barack Obama, with China's leader at his side, lifted his sights Tuesday for a broad interim accord at next month's climate conference that he said will lead to immediate action and "rally the world" toward a solution on global warming.

Seychelles leader urges climate pact to boost food security

ROME (AFP) – Global warming is "inextricably linked" to food security, Seychelles President James Michel said Monday, lamenting reports that no binding agreement is expected at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen next month.

Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of the UN Hunger Summit in Rome, Michel said: "Coming up with ideas at the FAO summit without tackling climate change makes no sense."

Will Funding For Clean Coal Fuel Compromise On A Climate Bill?

A divided Senate is struggling to put together a cap-and-trade climate-change bill. One reason why the effort remains alive despite numerous obstacles is "clean coal."

Led by China, CO2 gases rise despite economy

WASHINGTON - Pollution typically declines during a recession. Not this time.

Despite a global economic slump, worldwide carbon dioxide pollution rose 2 percent last year, most of the increase coming from China, according to a study published online Tuesday.

"The growth in emissions since 2000 is almost entirely driven by the growth in China," said study lead author Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia. "It's China and India and all the developing countries together."

Earth 'heading for 6C' of warming

Average global temperatures are on course to rise by up to 6C without urgent action to curb CO2 emissions, the lead author of a new analysis says.

Emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008, says the Global Carbon Project.

All of that growth came in developing countries, but a quarter of it came through production of goods for consumption in industrialised nations.

Women 'bearing brunt' of climate change

"Women are on the front lines of many societies buffeted by climate change -- and research indicates they tend to be more vulnerable to these impacts," said the report's lead author, Robert Engelman.

According to the report, women in poorer societies are most at risk because they make up a larger share of the agricultural workforce and have fewer income-earning opportunities. They also shoulder the burden of caring for other family members and household management, limiting their mobility and trapping them in a cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality.

UN: Fight climate change with free condoms

LONDON — The battle against global warming could be helped if the world slowed population growth by making free condoms and family planning advice more widely available, the U.N. Population Fund said Wednesday.

The agency did not recommend countries set limits on how many children people should have, but said: "Women with access to reproductive health services ... have lower fertility rates that contribute to slower growth in greenhouse gas emissions."

"As the growth of population, economies and consumption outpaces the Earth's capacity to adjust, climate change could become much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic," the report said.

Does CERA (and IEA, EIA, etc) get paid to keep people from going into a panic by telling a continous rosy story about how peak oil is decades away? Even if it were decades away, CERA is discouraging the needed changes from happening. People are still saying we are not at peak oil, so don't worry and don't do anything to prepare. By the time people figure out that it is real and here, they will have no time left to do anything, and it will lead to mass panic. The more people prepare, the better they will fare in the transition.

My “Iron Triangle” analysis from a couple of years ago (CERA & the IEA would fall in the energy analysts sector):


In regard to discussions of Peak Oil and Peak Exports, I have described what I call the “Iron Triangle,” which consists of: (1) Some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts; (2) The auto, housing and finance group and (3) The media group. . .

The prevailing message from some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts can be roughly summarized as follows: “Party On Dude!”

Meanwhile, over on the other two legs of the Iron Triangle, the auto, housing and finance group is focused on selling and financing the next auto and house, and the media group just wants to sell advertising to the auto, housing and finance group. The media group is only too happy to pass on the “Party On Dude” message to consumers. To some extent, what we are seeing across the board, from large sectors of the energy industry to the auto/housing/finance industry, media and beyond, is the "Enron Effect," i.e., many people know that we have huge problems ahead, but their paychecks are dependent on the status quo.

When what remains of Journalism hangs from the same Advertising money sources as the Re-Election campaigns of all our politicians, it can be darned tricky to get an 'authoritative' message out there to buck that system.

I was thinking about a nice snarky T-shirt that has a Powerful, Somber NewsAnchor mugging the camera, (but under the desk has no pants) with the slogan.. 'FIGHT GRAVITAS.'

.. but as with gravity, it's an energy-intensive battle with sometimes dubious returns. Tough to get up in the morning, too, but I quess you've got to try.

Basically we are fighting a war.

It is an information war, and in spite of its bloodless appearances, it is in fact more gruesome and corpse-strewn as any previous conflict--but most of these casualties are future ones, and so they are invisible to most participants and onlookers and and it is easy for them to ignore the carnage to be.

Does CERA (and IEA, EIA, etc) get paid to keep people from going into a panic...

Yes, Super Spark, they do get paid to say those things. That is their job. And others are paid to 'debunk' AGW as well.

The real difficulty is that, the more successful they are the steeper the decline will be as prices remain lower in response, and depress exploration for and exploitation of oil fields while simultaneously driving oil useage upwards in response to those artificially lowered prices.

Denial has its price, as well as its short term pay off. The long term cost will be chaos in the economy, but methinks there is little that can be done now other than batten the hatches and hold on.

Our politicians of both parties have no desire to 'rock the boat,' and because most people want BAU they promise it to thier constituants. Democrats promise more of the same to their voters. Republicans do the same. Neither can deliver, and both pander to Wizard's First Rule...

The more people prepare, the better they will fare in the transition.

While that is true, I think that for most of us, unless you are like 18 years old and want to learn subsistance farming, endure is the word of the day. And, try to preserve what we can of our culture and science for the generations who survive the decline.

Anyone knows who the clients of CERA are? (I can guess Exxon, Saudi-Arabia...) but is the information available somewhere? thanks

I see you've only been a member for a few days, so welcome to theoildrum xs456.

Many articles are avilable about CERA, which you can find by utilizing the search function in the upper lefthand corner of this page for stories tagged CERA.

Dubai newspaper on the wonders of NYC subways

Background: Dubai is building it's own Metro. Second only to Madrid for a city of it's size when completed

Quite frankly, the best summary I have seen. Energy (oil), environmental and health benefits. IMHO, worth a read.


Best Hopes for Reduced ELM,


From no plan for Oil Shortages - "Failing to plan is planning to fail. The government's weak, bumbling federal response to Katrina is still relatively fresh in the national psyche. And there is a growing awareness among the rank and file that the free market's ability to govern itself failed miserably in the financial meltdown of 2008, and laid a heavy burden of debt on the next several generations of citizens."

This is why we need "personal plans" that do not depend on the Federal or State government.
The government has demonstrated many times that it cannot plan and manage any type of disaster response. For one thing they are too slow. We need a fast response, or we will go the way of the Roman empire. When people rely on the government, and give up on taking action, we get a NOLA Katrina, super dome event - people standing around helpless waiting on the government.

Regarding personal plans, again my 2¢ worth from early 2007 (the ELP Plan):


In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as “Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.”

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. . .

In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

A must see: Check out this stunning animation (by time, starting with early 2007) of unemployment rate by area:


Well said SS. "Just in time" when TSHTF is "too little too late". John

The government Republicans have demonstrated many times that it cannot plan and manage any type of disaster response.

FEMA under Clinton was an effective agency. And even under Republican control, areas that voted strongly R got quick relief. The people of New Orleans suffered for 5 days only because we did not vote correctly and Brownie was under orders to make local D officials look bad.

Best Hopes for the Truth,


There was a dry, open road from the Convention Center to the rest of the world at dawn Tuesday (and likely earlier). The US Army levees failed Monday.

I believe that too. It must be the truth cause I read it on the internet.

GMAFB /sarconol

My whole point was do not trust the government to protect or save you.
It matters not Democrat or Republican, you do not know who will be in power or who will take care of who at any given point in time. You must take care of yourself, or suffer the consequences.

It is good to be self reliant, because there will be more resources for those that are not. However, you are wrong that relying on a well run gov't will make one "suffer the consequences".

There a number of gov'ts around the world (from Sweden to Cuba) that can, and do provide effective disaster assistance. FEMA under Clinton ranked among those.

The problem is Republicans, not gov't per se.

And I have talked to a number of first hand participants, not "from the internet" to gather my facts. For example, someone that lives across the street and two doors down did not evacuate with his invalid mother (she might have died with the stress, if they ran out of gas, etc. during the evac pre-Katrina). He & she left just before dawn Tuesday morning and had to drive through 6" of water to get to Convention Center Blvd. but "their tires did not even get wet, not a puddle, after that".

A Republican from age 19 till GWB cured me,


Please show me where instantaneous disaster relief by the federal government is constitutionally mandated.

instantaneous response is one thing, having the ng with all their trucks, helicopers and trained personel tied up in a futile search for wmd's is another.

Instantaneous disaster relief is a reflex response in most developed countries, the United States apparently being an exception.

In the U.K., the army is responsible for floods. In Canada, the Navy is responsible for hurricanes. In neither case does the Prime Minister have to give any orders - it's understood that in a flood the army will take control, and in a hurricane the Navy will take over.

For that matter the Canadian Navy showed up at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with three warships, 900 personnel and a fleet of helicopters, looking for someone to rescue. Responding to hurricanes is part of their mandate, and they needed the practice in case one hit Canada.

One of the first responders after the hurricane was a City of Vancouver heavy urban search and rescue team, which flew down two days after the hurricane and rescued about 110 people before they flew back a week later (taking some evacuees with them). They didn't ask for official permission, they just went and did it, which somewhat startled people.

The Wikipedia article is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_response_to_Hurricane_Katrina

Please show me where instantaneous disaster relief by the federal government is constitutionally mandated

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Directing relief first to Republican areas, and letting Democrats die for days without any relief is not justice, it does not "insure domestic tranquility", "provide for the common defense" nor promote the general welfare. It could be argued that such discrimination also creates a very imperfect union, Red states and areas get help first. Hence Republicans are anti-US Constitution.


There is a US Navy base in the Upper 9th Ward. The US Constitution gives control of navigable waterways (i.e. Mississippi River) to the Federal Gov't. The USS Bataan (a USMC assault ship), with 600 hospital beds, many tons of MREs, the ability to distill 100,000 liters of fresh water/day and two dozen helicopters could have been moored at the USN base or behind the Convention Center Tuesday morning. That was the plan of the captain of the ship until he was ordered to the Mississippi Gulf Coast by his Commander-in-Chief. There the ship was, to use the captains words "under utilized", delivering a couple dozen helo loads of water and supplies and picking up a half dozen injured citizens.

The hospitals of New Orleans could have evacuated to the USS Bataan, food and water could have been very easily distributed to the Convention Center, the Superdome and those on the elevated interstates.

After the San Francisco earthquake, the US Secretary of War telegraphed all Army & Navy bases ordering "All tents, mobile kitchens and other useful supplies are to be shipped to San Francisco by the fastest means possible. Commanders are authorized to charter express trains. Let no man sleep until this order is completed".

Supplies arrived by steam locomotive and telegraph faster than Republicans could get relief to Democrats after Katrina.

Hi Alan,

I respect your high level of rancor, but FYI the President during the 1906 SF Quake was Taft, who like his Sec of War, was a Republican. I think it's safe to say that BushCo was/is a bunch of Barbarians who deserve to be in cages. Based upon the Preamble's rationale, the highest level of civility reached by the USA came during the Great Depression; and that despite gains for women and minorities since the 1960s, the USA has ever since drifted further away from civility towards Barbarism. Current and recent US government behavior under either party provides plenty of proof.


Court: Army Corps of Engineers liable for Katrina flooding

The Army Corps of Engineers' failure to properly maintain a shipping channel linking New Orleans, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico led to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, a federal court ruled Wednesday.

"It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the Corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MRGO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia and short-sightedness," U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. wrote in his lengthy ruling, referring to the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet canal.

"We need a fast response, or we will go the way of the Roman empire."

That is inevitable, no matter fast or slow response. The best you can do is change the timescale a bit.

An Oil Drum reader made a series of three videos, reading the post I had up Monday. Monday's post was called Oil Production is Reaching its Limit: The Basics of What This Means. The video version can be found here.

NOAA: Combined Global Surface Temperature Was Sixth Warmest for October

El Nino ramped up towards the end of October so it will interesting to see the effect on November temperatures. El Nino is still not close to as strong as 1998 and only one model predicts a similar strength, however, that model is closer than any other right now.

And in our little corner of the world, where the bulk of our electricity is currently generated through the burning of coal... [I always want to say "dirty coal", but since there's no such thing as "clean coal", it seems somewhat redundant]

N.S. can meet renewable energy targets: report

Nova Scotia can meet a goal to double its use of renewable energy by 2015, using existing technology and with minimal impact on electricity rates, according to a report presented Tuesday in Halifax.


Nova Scotia has set a goal of having 25 per cent of the province's electricity generated through renewable forms of energy by 2015. At the moment, the province is heavily dependent on burning coal, a fossil fuel widely considered bad for the environment.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/11/17/ns-renewable-energ...

As mentioned in yesterday's Drumbeat, I've switched to Bullfrog (http://www.bullfrogpower.com/) so all of my household and office electricity is now 100 per cent renewable.

No more coal-fired power plants !


That David Wheeler guy the province hired is credible. Look for an essay of his on Nova Scotia and energy security. Its tone is "mitigation will be possible but it will not be BAU but it will not be the apocalypse but only if we plan ahead and invest wisely".

Hi LNC3,

I haven't met Dr. Wheeler in person, but I know he's very highly respected and we're fortunate to have someone of his calibre helping to move this province in the right direction. I don't envy the man as there's much work to be done, but I'm confident he's up to the task and wish him well.

Dr. Wheeler's bio can be viewed at: http://www.gim2008.ca/program/panelists/david-wheeler.htm


Hi HereinHalifax

Does that lighting-efficiency company you work for (own?) want to hire a student engineer from early January until late April/early May? I think you guys would be interesting to work for.

I'm in my 3rd year of mechanical engineering at Dal. I can be contacted at nc 35 540 (at) dal (dot) ca.


Thanks, Nick; I'll fire-off a quick note to you now.

Edit: Sorry, my e-mail client doesn't permit spaces within the recipient name field, so my messages are being bounced back. Do you have an alternate e-mail address?


The spaces were meant to make my email less machine readable. There are no spaces in my actual email address. But actually I mistyped it, it's nc533540 (at) dal (dot) ca

all of my household and office electricity is now 100 per cent renewable.

That puts you way ahead of me. They should be turning on my PV panels today, but it will only provide 55-60% of our use.

Congratulations, EoS ! Nothing beats the pleasure of watching the meter slow to a halt or reverse direction. Looking forward to learning more about your experience with your new system.


enemy - congratulations. 55% to 60% is of a residential energy bill is about right with proper net metering. The capital cost above that goes up exponentially and doesn't provide an intelligent return on investment. If everybody did as you did the energy crisis would be solved and they could close TOD site down. In the meantime let's hope your example leads other thoughtful individuals to get on board and go solar.


If everybody did as you did the energy crisis would be solved and they could close TOD site down.

Actually if more than a couple percent tried, we would bang right into the difficulty of rapidly expanding an industrial segment. I was able to go for it primarily because the financial meltdown had depressed the prices for solar. Yes, higher demand for such systems would help drive that expansion quicker, but there is no way that sufficient capability for mass PV will be available earlier than a decade or two. Really the only form of change that could be accomplished rapidly via cultural change, would be negawatts.

Dimitri Orlov interview.

I really like this guy because he is one of few that have witnessed the aftermath of the Soviet collapse and also understands the differences between the societies discussed.


orlov talks about eroei approaching 'unity' for all energy generation investment, and he suggests that this is his central argument for his prediction of economic collapse... but i understand that solar panels built today can yield energy on my roof for twenty, thirty or forty years. they'll recover my out of pocket investment (something like 20% or 30% more than what the firm that developed them spent to produce them) in ten years, and produce 'surplus' energy for the remainder of their productive life. that doesn't point to eroei 'unity'.

if the history of computing power (see: Moore's law) is any indicator of where solar energy generation and battery technology will go, solar panels will do a lot more than heat my water in twenty years.

what gives?

I favor building out PV in a big way, but it does have a series of supply-chain dependencies, all of which have to keep rolling to keep production going. A ready Labor pool, and a functioning market (Customers!) are also essential to running a PV industry. There are a number of bottlenecks that could derive from a serious energy crunch that could make PV factories,companies crumple (maybe just for a while..) Of course, existing arrays seem to be a fine and durable investment, and will only grow in value if other energy supplies are crashing around us. Use them generously to keep friends and neighbors happy!

Being net energy positive doesn't cover that, which is why I also try to learn what are the simplest and most essential ways to get access to energy. Solar Heating, Cooking and Power through Steam Generation are all very appealing that way.

Glass and Mirrors.

I favor building out PV in a big way,

So do I! That despite the fact that I sell PV installations ;-)

Having said that passive solar water heaters are the best and quickest bang for the money on homes.

Yesterday I was installing a solar powered 6KW emergency generator that we designed for a client. We also changed out all of his lighting for LEDs and installed a high efficiency AC system in his bedroom. This being Florida the idea is that if there is a power outage he can have basic comforts. We ran a test of his emergency systems and the draw of the entire house fully powered up was under 2KW. We are talking a large upper middle class residence, not quite a McMansion but still large with full amenities. Note: only his bedroom would have AC during a power outage. Still it goes to show what can be done with energy efficiency in combination with PV.

For the record, I could live quite well with about .5KW


Greetings from the opposite corner (Seattle). It's nice to hear that there are folks in Florida working on sustainable living in that climate. Here in Seattle we often look on Florida as a lost cause but you singlehandedly disabusing me of that notion.

PS__ Budapest is a lovely city if that's where you are originally from.

-- Jon

PS__ Budapest is a lovely city if that's where you are originally from.

While my ancestry is obviously Hungarian and I am fluent in the language and have visited Budapest I was actually born in Sao Paulo Brazil.

It's nice to hear that there are folks in Florida working on sustainable living in that climate. Here in Seattle we often look on Florida as a lost cause but you singlehandedly disabusing me of that notion.

In South Florida we have the good, the bad and the ugly. Not necessarily in equal portions.
I don't think I can take much credit for saving Florida from being a lost cause but I try to do what I can for my own sanity's sake.

We're installing a solar hot water system on our house in a couple weeks. After rebates and tax credits, it's going to cost us about $5000 for a system that provides 75% of the energy for an 80 gallon hot water tank. We had solar PV installed last January (a 3.0 kwh system) and also reduced our electrical usage at the same time by replacing light bulbs, unplugging gadgets, reducing vampire loads, etc. We're now using about half the kwhs we were using ten years ago. (Our family of four people living at home uses on average 12 kwh/day. Our PV system produces, on average, 11 or so kwh/day. So we still need to reduce our use 1 kwh/day.) We've also sealed our attic, added weatherstripping, had insulation blown into our walls, replaced some leaky windows, and lowered our thermostat substantially. Our natural gas usage has reduced from 4 therms/day ten years ago to about 1.8 therms/day. Am hoping the solar hot water will drop it another .8 therms/day.



I'll second that!

This sounds like a great campfire post...

I, unlike others here, think it's an open question whether technologies like solar energy generation will follow a Moore's law/generalised Moore's law type curve (Kurzweil type arguments). Some others are of the opinion that it definitely can't happen. However, my limited understanding is that the conceptual basis for CPU elements hasn't really had to change too much since the first CPUs, the problems have been essentially in fabrication (new mehtods of lithography for etching smaller features, shape modifications to minimise leakage current, etc). In contrast it seems like most of the significant increases in solar generation have come from some significant physical property of the materials used, which in turn comes from further conceptual breakthroughs from researchers. So whilst I'm not convinced it definitely won't/can't happen, I'm much less optimistic about Moore's-law-style progress in solar energy generation than I am about, say, natural language understanding or computational proteomics where I could easily see exponential increases for a significant time into the future (say, 20-30 years). (This last sentence is to forestall those who always come back with "clearly nothing can increase exponentially forever" as if that automatically rules out that it could increase exponentially for long enough to drastically change things.)


Moore's law applies to transistor and wire densities on chips not to photovoltaic properties. This has been one of the worst things about trying to use Moore's law to justify techno-cornucopianism in energy generation technologies. It doesn't apply even though the substrate is the same, silicon. But it leaves too many people with this blue sky optimism.

As far as EROI, if a solar cell can produce enough electricity to service your consumption demands AND enough excess, over its lifetime, to contribute to replacing itself then it is not a sustainable technology. You could, of course, reduce your demand to the point where it could become sustainable. Also, note that the operating life of these panels depends heavily on weather exposure and your willingness to keep them clean of dust. Owners of solar thermal space heating systems in the 80s generally failed to keep their panels clean with subsequent diminished effectiveness. No one can really say what the effective service life of many of these systems will be in practice, so I would be very circumspect about the claims made.

hey george, i'm not a blue sky optimist in the least. what i'm talking about is eroei and the expectation of national collapse. i'm not sure what this means...

if a solar cell can produce enough electricity to service your consumption demands AND enough excess, over its lifetime, to contribute to replacing itself then it is not a sustainable technology.

...and your argument seems to boil down to solar cells don't work, so don't install them. forget moore's law, but i think it's safe to assume that pv will get better regardless of the trajectory of improvements. no?

They work in the sense that they allow you to "store" energy production for the future.
Once you have them you have them for their life of service and you won't have to worry about procuring that portion of your energy needs.
Another knock on will be that it will make you more energy conscious and that will undoubtable lead to efficiency improvements in your usage habits.
Even at a EROEI of less than one they still allow you to effectively buy now for use later.

George, you beat me to the punch.


Sorry. Didn't mean to imply you personally are a blue sky optimist. I guess I have a knee jerk reaction to the mention of Moore's law because it is frequently invoked to suggest that energy technology will follow a similar trajectory. And the Second Law simply doesn't permit that. Information density is very different physics from power generation.

WRT: solar cell producing sustainably. I did mean 'can' in the sense that a solar cell, or any energy capture and conversion capital equipment, must be able to produce more energy over its lifetime than is drawn off in consumption (running motors for the consumers). That extra energy is the future energy investment to replace (and/or repair) the cell (this argument applies to panels and arrays as well). Someone down thread mentions the embodied energy in cells being replicable by existing cells. I'll comment down there.

I've written several comments on TOD about the energy sustainability criterion for energy capture and conversion before and have a model/paper in preparation so I won't go into it in more detail here. I'll just give you the model diagram and you can go from there:

Also see Charlie Hall's Cheese Slicer Model which looks at the same issue from a macro-economic viewpoint.

AFA whether solar makes sense or not, my comment in no way implied it didn't. It makes perfect sense as long as the criterion I explained is met. The problem is we really don't know the answer. EROI studies to date have been very limited in their boundary choices and we have very little experience with large-scale PV installations where we could accumulate real data on both dollar and energy costs.

You can find more at Question Everything under the Biophysical Economics category.


George, did you misstate this?

"if a solar cell can produce enough electricity.." did you mean can't?

Frankly, even if you meant cannot, the statement is odd. First, the panel needs to replace it's embedded energy, which they are frequently shown to do in one to four years, depending on type, and at that point, the use of the rest is up to you, what does "service your consumption demands" have to do with it being sustainable? It is one of those unreasonable demands that seems to be made expressly for renewable energies. 'They have to payback all investment quickly, then they have to do everything else, and they're not really ready until they can do all this cheaply.' Compared to your dishwasher or your last bottle of wine, how extremely stringent and pesky is such a requirement? Practically EVERYTHING else we consume is never going to replace what it drew from the Earth to get it to us. Cardboard Boxes, Eco-friendly Non-BPA Kid's Thermoses, Housepaint..

Apart from net energy there are certainly sustainability questions that relate to the extraction and processing of the materials for PV. I would say this use is better than drilling oil or coal and burning it, but that I still hope that such technologies as PV and their Aluminum frames, etc.. can largely be sourced from the mountains of post-consumer material we've generated, to make better use of what we've already dug up.

I don't expect population to be rising for that much longer.. could be totally off on this, but I'm not married to the expectation either, in that it's thoroughly out of my control, I'll just watch and consider what I see.. but in that case that we see Pop start to reduce, I hope a silver lining is that we will be able to make better and better use of already-extracted materials, since there ought to be at least something of a surplus, and every reason to use it carefully. (Not that the world behaves reasonably.. but why would I hope for the opposite?)

I think he was typing fast and meant can't.
The sun is the energy source not the panel so as long as the panel lasts long enough to procure enough energy to manufacture another panel it could be sustainable.
I guess if everything was grid tied the excess energy generated by the panel could be harnessed to make new panels but all this would have to be real time or some sort of storage method such as pumping water uphill to reservoirs. Same with wind I suppose.
I think that the biggest problem in the future is going to be using/storing excess energy because we really don't have a scalable method.

agreed - massive batteries. which is why i thought obama's recent spending on the grid is a smart first step. chu gets it. of course, it's a drop in the bucket, but it's a smart start.

porge, i think we're on the same page. tell me if i'm wrong but... orlov's central argument (eroei is approaching 1 across the board) seems far-fetched. you build a windmill, it produces more energy than what was put into it. you produce a solar panel, it harnesses more energy than what was put into it. so by extension, all his talk of coming collapse is far-fetched?

(all that said, i think a collapse is possible. i think the national economy was recently on the precipice of collapse, in fact, but not as a result of eroei.)

I think he is referring to fossil fuels but if we don't hurry up and use the fossil fuels to build alternatives we will end up getting a collapse because of energy constraints.
We need a massive conservation effort coupled with a B@lls to the wall build out of alternatives which entails a huge lifestyle adjustment that no one is willing to make.

I grew up in Westerly.

see, now that's a thesis i can subscribe to. we are hurtling toward collapse because we are trying to build energy systems that suit our current energy-hogging lifestyle as opposed to altering our lifestyle and *only then* trying to figure out how to meet our energy needs. so the problem is first cultural (our national entitlement complex), and then only later... technological.

note: the key distinction in my view is that a collapse is avoidable.

neat. we're in providence now. the state's pretty cool, but the government here is miserable.

government here is miserable.

Isn't that redundant? LOL

well... on that, i suppose we disagree. american governments (local, state, federal) in general do some amazingly positive things, while some things they don't do so well. do i wish their performance, budgeting, prioritization and foresight were better in general? definitely. but am i happy to pay my taxes? every paycheck!

i think it's en vogue to bash government these days, but it wasn't always that way: a civilian rotc would encourage public service (by ej dionne this monday)

if you actually think we need a b*lls to the wall push for conservation and clean energy to avoid a collapse, we are going to need our government to do a lot of the heavy lifting. we need to vote smart people in and engage in public service (volunteering counts, too) ourselves. cynicism in some cases in warranted, but i believe, self-destructive if practiced without discretion.

since I have been an adult I have witnessed the government stand aside and allow the wholesale dismantling of any type of social responsibility on the part of corporations at the expense of workers.
It is hard not to be cynical.
The government, especially at the Federal level, is bought and paid for by big money interests.
Until that changes we will get no where.

The problem is net energy out - you need to put energy into any energy production system up front. The reason you would build windmills PV or wave is so you don't consume the declining low cost fossil fuels - there probably isn't enough affordable FF for world BAU let alone investing in new capacity while scrapping existing capacity early.

So as an example, if PV was our only alternative to FF all future solar PV new capacity has got to be built using using the energy from existing solar PV. In order to grow the capacity to attempt to match the declining FF power you have to wait, say 4 years before you have enough net energy to build some more PV.

Something like:

Invest FF to make a PV panel... wait 4 years to get enough net energy to make a second PV panel (but no net energy yet) ... wait 4 years to get enough net energy to make two more PV panels (but no net energy yet) ... repeat again and again ... after twenty or 30 years you have to start replacing panels that don't work any more.

The executive summary is you don't actually get useful, sustainable, net energy for several years, if at all, from renewables if you are trying to completely replace existing FF capacity.


Here's how I feel about my own PV system. I put our first little 77watt system in over 25 years ago and our 3.6kW system in 10 years ago. I don't care even it it has a negative 10:1. Here's why...

I think of terms of Lovin's negawatts: We grow a lot of our food and use little processed food. We don't take vacations. We don't have long commutes (I retired 10 years ago and don't commute at all). We heat with wood off of our property. We have a highly energy efficient house. Etc. In other words, we have "saved" far more energy than it took to construct the equipment so the EROEI has been positive since day one.

I'd suggest that a new term be used - EROENU (energy returned on energy not used). And, I'm only being somewhat snarky about this. If our society gave up wasting zillions of BTUs, wouldn't PV systems be a better use of the wasted energy?


Completely agree.
Conservation, efficiency improvements and re- allocation of energy to uses that promote and improve energy use itself.
This really doesn't have to be that devastating but it will take a mindset change.

I think the numbers are something like this.

We eat 2500 calories a day but use 250,000 calories of exosomatic energy per day..
That is insane!!!

When you look at those numbers one thing is readily apparent and that is the incrediblely efficient use of energy by the human body and the outrageous inefficiency of our machines and processes.

An automobile wastes more than 75% of the energy it uses and on top of that we lug around 2 tons of iron to move our butts from point A to point B.


If it makes you happy!

There is a small flaw in this logic however. Suppose it actually takes more energy to make and deliver the solar PV than you ever get out of it, even if your needs are modest? The world, as a whole, is worse off energetically even while you are better off (psychically anyway).

A local optimum does not imply a global optimum. Indeed in matters of energy capture and conversion equipment it is just too close to call right now. We don't know for certain that the equipment actually produces a net energy gain over its lifetime AND that gain is sufficient to resupply the equipment.

Think of it this way. Some day in the future the equipment you have now is going to be degraded to the point that it can no longer supply your modest needs (or those of your children if you have any). At that point you will need to replace the equipment (and I'm ignoring repairs along the way). Just for the sake of argument lets say that you have a giant capacitor that has been storing up the 'excess' electrons, the ones you didn't need but got generated anyway. This is like a bank account for energy. If, when you go to replace your equipment, there is enough electricity stored to drive the entire production of the replacement equipment, including producing the silicon (or whatever substrate), processing it to make cells, constructing panels, etc. and delivering the final product to your porch, you're fine. You pay that electricity into the process and you get a new set of equipment out.

Now that is just an analogy. You would need to put the electricity excess into the grid and get credit for it. Then when the time came, if your credit added up to the energy cost of making a new set, you're home free.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Will there be enough excess to do this?

There are plenty of examples of private solar installations putting excess energy into the grid during peak production time. It is less clear how many of these have to draw down from the grid during off-peak (solar) production. Is there a net gain over time? A net credit sufficient to buy that new system when the time comes?

If you are simply using all the electricity you generate for your own consumption then you will need to rely on other sources of energy income when the time comes to replace. Maybe you don't anticipate replacing in your lifetime. But many people do want to have a sustainable source of energy for their old age and for their children.

To address your last question, yes if we stopped wasting so much of what we now consider discretionary energy income on trivia and toys we could apply it to building out sustainable systems (very possibly PV). We should at least stop wasting energy, but we will really need to know what sorts of systems can provide net energy gains so as to be long-term sustainable systemically.


My first comment about EROEI if renewables has to do with prices. Since the only thing PV or wind produces is power, and they aren't grossly unaffordable, i.e. the value of the energy they generate over their lifetimes pays them off, they couldn't be grossly EROEI bad, as energy is priced into their cost of production. So in a worst case, they might be being produced by a cheap subsidized form of energy, and produce overpriced energy, then maybe they would squeek by economically. Although I don't believe that markets are super-efficient (in getting prices right), they can't be that grossly off to get very bad EROEI things to seem good. I would bet that within say a factor of two you should be able to trust price as a guide to embodied energy.

Again there have been many studies on energy payback times, typical numbers for silicon PV is about three year, wind is quite a bit less. Thin film PV is supposedly around a month. Of course we will never be able to get the boundaries right on such studies, but they can't be off by an order of magnitude. At least on the grounds of energy sustainability a renewable buildout is possible.

That doesn't mean that just blindly building out such systems, without considering demand side issues is the way to go. Obviously there is a huge amount of scope on the demand side. But efforts towards supply-side solutions should not be held hostage to efforts on the demand side. We need to pursue both.


The rest of the story.

First, I live on top of a mountain in the boondocks and we lose our power frequently. We're the last people on the grid in this area. Although I have back-up generators (2kW, 8kW & 23kW), PV is more elegant and I don't have to store lots of fuel. So, aside from liking this sort of stuff (I put in solar hot water almost 30 years ago.), it adds to my standard of living. I'll be vary clear, I'm not out to save the world.

Second, we have TOU metering. We run the PV system during peak times and save significant money.

Third, I'm 71 and it's unlikely I'll still be in the boondocks when the system fails. We'll either have moved to a more civilized location because country living is getting too hard or I'll be dead.

In response to the rest of your post, let me pose a question, "Do you live a zero net energy life?" Do you produce any of your food? Water? Electricity? Did you build your own home or did workers drive to the location? And, so on. I'm not raising these to be smart but rather to emphasize that while a focus may be placed on EROEI for power sources we don't practice what we preach in real life. And, of course, except for a few cultures, none of us live a zero net energy life - although that may be coming.

So, I would argue that the initial question should not be EROEI or potential power sources but rather what do we need power for. In other words, we need to start by asking what society will look like down the road. Then we can look at options.

I said my piece on this at long time ago. http://theoildrum.com/node/2598#comment-198259

Dieoff (and Rebirth)
Societal Post-Peak Lifespan - multiple generations
Energy Availability - currently stable (it was decreasing 10+% a year post-peak prior to the biological war of 2015)
Sustainability - moderate to high
Division of Labor - low, generalist
Population Density - low (<0.2/acre), except manufacturing zones
Population and Pop. Growth - 60M (after a 240 dieoff), stable to slowly decreasing
Governance - regional consensus via the Robust Internet (There are no regional, state or federal governments.)
Economy - mostly home production of goods and foods, <2% outside the home
Economic Paradigm - societal for durable goods and communications
Money - there is no "money" nor is there any need for money
Energy Production - individual but societal in regional manufacturing zones
Living Arrangements - extended family/affinity group (1015 adults) in one dwelling on sufficient land to provide food and energy
Energy Quality required - low individual, moderate to high manufacturing
Food - home produced with a few minor exceptions
Technology/Science - very slow, incremental improvements in existing technology
Law Enforcement/Military - local residents/militias
Key Meme - personal responsibility in all things

We know that we are sucking non-renewables dry and that society as we know it will change one way or another. Do we move on to Ecotopia or back to an agrian society or what? It may make more sense to develop energy sources that are marginally positive that have a long life (rationing in essence) than others that have a higher EROEI but short life and must be replaced since the raw materials to replace them may not be available.

Guess we'll see what happens.


I, too, am the last person on the grid - the powerline stops right here (I can see the end of the grid rightt out my window). Here, too, power fails quite regularly, but not usually for great durations. We always have a store of water (our well is pumped with electricity), so we can roll with it. We heat with wood, so we can roll with that. Gas range, so we can cook, but we cook on the woodstove too.

When the power goes out, the drill is to get out the candles and put a little flashlight in your pocket for odds and ends in the dark corners. Just not a big deal.

I'm 54, and I could do this (and fully intend to) until I kick it. It's just not that hard.

A good down bag, alcohol stove, candles or led headlamp, enough food, one can go for quite a while.
In fact, I have lived without it for a year once, and seven months another time.
It gets one grounded, and more sensually aware.

Let's take this to an absurd extreme. Say I built a magic talisman that generated no energy of its own but caused anyone in its possession to live a life of efficiency and thrift. In effect, it's a negawatt generator. Would that be worth its embodied energy? I think that's what Todd is getting at.

I've concluded that the best reason to build as much PV, wind, etc. as possible, as fast as possible, is this:

1) We're going to use every drop of recoverable oil until we can't, and then we won't

2) The more energy we invest in "renewables" (whether they are actually sustainable or not), the less there will be for NASCAR, jet travel, and other suicidal fixations of humanity.

3) When TSRHTF (really hits the fan) we won't be able to keep up PV or wind turbine production but we'll be much better off for all those that have been made so far while the fossil fuel fiesta was still winding down.

Yup. It is a difference of investment verses consumption.

There are plenty of examples of private solar installations putting excess energy into the grid during peak production time. It is less clear how many of these have to draw down from the grid during off-peak (solar) production. Is there a net gain over time? A net credit sufficient to buy that new system when the time comes?

I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of grid tied PV systems use more electricity from the grid than they ever sell back to it. In a way it's a form of Jevon's paradox they are saving money on their monthly bill so they end up using a bit more.

However if we look at completely off grid systems they don't have a choice they are forced to live within their energy means. They must plan their storage and usage in such a way that their energy usage is less than their full output capability at peak. So this group must make the lifestyle change that the other group has no apparent need to make and they obviously do. This group understands the need to conserve energy. If they don't, they sit in the dark.

My example, while based on experience with real systems obviously is not taking into affect the full EROEI of producing, maintaining and replacing the systems. At present they all depend on the non renewable energy for that.

At some point if we are to have a completely sustainable civilization we must all come to grips with the reality that we have to live completely off the non renewable grid and we must be able to plan our energy and resource usage in such a way that we do a full energy cost accounting that takes into consideration replacement etc...

I find the opposite. People with solar installations watch both their production and their consumption, often on a daily basis, and it often becomes a game. Basic economics are rarely the driving force to put in solar PV.

Best Hopes for more solar PV,



I just replied to Bert, so you can see that I did mean 'can'.

First, the panel needs to replace it's embedded energy, which they are frequently shown to do in one to four years, depending on type, and at that point, the use of the rest is up to you, what does "service your consumption demands" have to do with it being sustainable?

I would very much like to see your data. I have access to some pretty good research here and all of the studies I have seen suffer serious boundary constraint problems.

There is no reason to expect a bottle of wine to replace itself. We are talking about sustainable energy production. Non-renewables are obviously not sustainable but they have had an historically high EROI, until recent times. The claims made for solar and wind, etc. are suggesting that these are truly sustainable sources and they will need to be because we are going to run out of fossil fuels. The central question is: At what level of consumption support can these sources be truly sustainable. Despite all of the press and claims, the reality is no one knows. Will we be able to sustain our current lifestyles and energy consumptions, even assuming we increase efficiencies and conservation AND replace worn infrastructure? Or will we need to cut back substantially because these renewable sources are not able to supply our wants and resupply our infrastructure. If you have some good references (scientific, not media articles) that demonstrate clearly that someone does have the answer I would dearly love to see it.

That sustainability criterion is not an unreasonable requirement. If we knew better what to expect from the various technologies we could do a better job of directing our dwindling limited FF energies toward bootstrapping a relatively high EROI (wide boundary sense) portfolio of renewable infrastructure. Not knowing, or claiming on minimum information, is a formula for disaster. I am not very convinced that we will suddenly get smart and do the science necessary to find the answers and proceed on the basis of knowledge rather than conjecture.

My reference to PV's EROEI is simply the familiar (2005) NREL pub's. ( http://www.nrel.gov/pv/thin_film/docs/20theuropvscbarcelona4cv114_raugei... ) But if you want, please tell me what their boundary limitations were, and how that, to your thinking invalidates their conclusions.

I would be happy to hear a clear comparison of the approaches, and how they seem to arrive at such divergent answers.. I've often felt that challengers to a Narrow Boundary analysis have tried to include inputs so broad that they need to be vastly divided into their many roles, such as the food eaten by the workers at the factory or the mines, or the roads that laborers and suppliers use to access the facility, etc.

When you characterize Todd's use of his panels as only for his own family, and suggest that this removes these Arrays' output from the Grid system that has to have energy to make the next generations of panels, it sounds like you aren't crediting Todd and his family's contribution back towards the society, or perhaps some second-order (and beyond, since we're in wide-boundary) production that is supported by the energy from these panels, like the 'soup and sandwiches he prepared in his solar kitchen, to sell to Solar Panel workers on the roadside as they head in to work' ..only of course that's a very narrow-boundary image to make the point.

The reason I included the 'Bottle of Wine' type reference was in response to statements such as .. "Will we be able to sustain our current lifestyles and energy consumptions", in which you seem to be predicating the success or even justification of Renewables on the continuation of this way of life, a way of life that expects a rich array of commodities as part and parcel of normalcy. How many people who are advocating for alternative energy would include such a requirement? Of course PV isn't supposed to support overlit, overheated houses with a 100 mile commute to work.. etc. So why paint PV as unsustainable when you're trying to fit it into an unsustainable way of life? I'm not coming in with those assumptions. Those are the boundary issues that inspired my response.

I suspect that in your zeal (as I interpret it) you are tending to read far more into my statements than is actually there, I suspect fearing that I am arguing against PV or whatever. I am not. Let me be clear. I am not at all saying that PV or any of the potential renewable energy capture and conversion systems are not sustainable and therefore should not be built. What I am saying, after studying the EROI issues in much greater detail over these last few months, is that we really don't know enough to say for sure where we ought to invest our dwindling FF resources to build a viable infrastructure.

I've looked at the NREL and many more studies that have attempted to estimate an EROI values based on life cycle analysis. Please reexamine their assumptions and methodologies more carefully. You will find that they, like Hall and virtually every other EROI analyst use proxy data and indexes as opposed to direct measurement. There are all kinds of good reasons why they can't get the measurements. The main one, however, is that no one really wants to pay for the effort or take the time to get really good empirical data. Hall tells me getting grants to do this kind of direct measurement is virtually impossible. He has tried.

LCA is not quite the same as a "wide" boundary energy flow analysis (look at my diagram above). It provides at best a rough estimate of costs accrued over the life of the product but is limited to visible costs and only externalities that can be assessed some estimated cost. That latter fact alone should give you pause.

BTW: At one time the so-called EROI analyses being performed on corn ethanol in the state of Washington showed a net positive gain and EROI over 5:1. The agency doing the analysis was tied to the state and it turned out that the state wanted to attract investors in ethanol production because the Governor had set carbon goals and everybody wanted desperately to believe that corn ethanol would help achieve those goals. The people involved were not bad scientists or dishonest. They suffered like all scientists do from time to time from hidden biases that allowed them to preclude little details like the transportation of fertilizer from Tacoma port across the mountains to the agricultural areas and much more.

We've gotten a lot better data on CE because so much more money has been riding on it along with government policies that backfired. The data is more readily available for farming than for proprietary manufacturing as well. Would that that were the case for PV and wind.

As for your last point I expressly stated that renewables might be made sustainable by lowering demand for consumption per unit of generation. So we are in agreement on that. Perhaps I misunderstood your original complaint that renewables were somehow expected to meet a higher standard. If I read that correctly I think I have answered you as to why. There is too much at risk to make mistakes at this juncture.

Thanks for the clarification, but I need to see the argument in a bit more detail. I'll take another look at the chart above, but I'd like to see some reference to your other sources. I've been facing these cautions too often lately, as the climate opponents keep warning us about the dangers of jumping into the carbon reductions 'because we just don't know enough yet'.

I think we know enough to say that PV is one of a handful of very effective (and apparently recyclable) tools. It's really never going to become a matter of putting ALL our efforts there, so I really don't see an argument against putting a LOT MORE effort and material into them.

anyway, I'm late for dinner.



I see our difference - you are a BAU Lite kind of guy who believes society is going to continue more or less along its current consumeristic path with tweeks whereas I see consumer society crashing within a couple of generations if WWIII hasn't happened (a gratuitous remark) or if overpopulation hasn't used up the few resources left.

Anyone who posits energy usage and sources has to define the society they are positing. And, this isn't happening with just you but almost everyone who opens their mouth.

Here's another quote from my old post:

One of the things I have found lacking on many TOD postings dealing with the future of society is a lack of defined parameters. We demand error bars on things that address quantifiable issues yet ignore them on societal issues. I believe definitions/parameters are necessary, even qualitative, on posts that address societal issues.

Energy is a societal issue. It is not just an energy issue.

Let me add that although we have a disagreement, I appreciate the intellectual quality of your blog.


Boy Todd, if you've spent any time at all on my blog and came away with the impression that I'm BAU lite, then I'm not writing very well! I'm on the side that says we have to significantly reduce our energy consumption as a society and a planet in order to have a shot at salvaging any possibility for something we might call civilization (and that includes significant reduction in population).

As, however, I seriously doubt that we will do the right things, I think we are headed for a total collapse and would not rule out possible extinction for humanity (esp. given the challenges we've set for ourselves with climate change in the mix). However, in case I am wrong, or in case some fantastic new way to extract energy (i.e. fusion) is invented, I carry on with the scientific investigation of energy flow as we know it, and biophysical economics as we are beginning to understand it. I won't go quietly into that good night. I give up hope when I am not breathing anymore.

I'm curious though. How did you arrive at the conclusion I was BAU lite? I need to be clearer I guess.

Hi George,

I may have to take it back based on this post. But, that is not how I've "seen" your blog and your posting history. Maybe we are on the same page and I've missed it.

Where I think we differ is I believe there is zero possibility to maintain anything approaching what we currently assume to be a "normal" society. The only alternative in my view is to give it up as soon as possible. But, you cannot develop an energy policy unless you clearly define (so far as possible) the future. You haven't done that.

Am I saying that you have to write your own version of Ecotopia first and then justify your position? Yes, I am. As I noted in my short quote, damn near everyone comes up with alternatives going with the flow. It's a cop out.

Use my format to tell us how you see the future. Then we have something to discuss.

Since my post was quite long, I left a lot out.


what gives?

Solar energy only works affordably at low lattitudes, at high lattitudes most of the annual energy is captured in the summer months when much less energy is required. Panels on the roof of an average house will not supply all your energy needs in an OECD country.

In the UK we use on average ~112 KWh per person per day (but beware averages, since we use much more in the winter than in the summer), even to supply average power that is a lot of panels and batteries!

The statistics say that increasingly, people around the world are struggling to buy adequate amounts of energy to maintain their lifestyles on a day to day basis - I doubt they can afford to buy ten years worth of power in one hit.

There are limits to Moores law and I would assume there are limits to all technology - we don't know where, when or what the limits are, but experience says they will probably be something unexpected - if there are limits but we don't know when,IMO rational people would apply the precautionary principle!.

good info... but really, i was just talking about orlov and his total collapse thesis. he pointed to eroei heading to unity across the board, so i pointed to solar panels. i didn't suggest that solar was going to meet all my/our energy needs, that we aren't going to need to conserve and ratchet back our energy use, etc. it's clear to me major changes are in the offing. all i'm suggesting is, a catastrophic collapse of the us economy and government due to eroei going to 'unity' seems unlikely.


Are you sure about "In the UK we use on average ~112 KWh per person per day"?

So, in a four person household, that would be 112kWh/person/day x 4 persons x 30 days/month = 13,440 kWh per month?

That seems to be quite high.
Here in VT, USA, the average electricity use per household, per month, is about 600kWh.

According to this site: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/reps/enduse/er01_us_tab1.html
the average ANNUAL usage per household in the US is 10,656kWh (as of 2001).

Is it really true that the average UK household uses in a month, more electricity that the average US household uses in a year?!

I'm talking primary energy which is NOT the same as electricty (yet!)- despite what my Government seems to think!

In 2006 UK was ~130Kwh per capita per day!

Government use on our behalf is about half of the total.

IMO Most alternates to existing primary energy will have to become electricity which is a massive task.

US primary energy per capita is about 100,000 KWh per capita per year.



So the average 4 person US houshold would use 400,000/365 = > 1000 KWh per DAY!

In the middle ages it was about 20 KWh per person per day!

So if we went to solar PV and thermal with the existing Hydro , additional wind, etc

and turned down the night time activities (no more Las Vegas etc.)maybe we would have a chance.

Sun goes down .... usage goes down .. till morning.

what is so difficult about that ?

But , No , we get ....

"The commission estimates that TVs account for about 10 percent of a home's electricity use. The concern is that the energy draw will rise by as much as 8 percent a year as consumers buy larger televisions, add more to their homes and watch them longer."


This primary energy includes all fuels burnt in ICEs at less than 30% efficiency and gas/fuel oil burn in heaters/boilers once, just to produce heat. If ICE driven transport were to be replaced by electrically driven transport at say, 60% efficiency well to wheel and if Combined Heat and Power was substituted in place of heating only where applicable, how much less primary energy would be used?

Alan from the islands

He must be expressing 'all energy' boiled down to KWH. But still, I think he's way off to say Solar is unhelpful up north, because it can't supply the entirety of today's expectations.

You have to look at the crystal ball and say 'What will be enough? What do we really need?' If you're in England and the Sun isn't shining and the Oil isn't flowing.. use something else, geothermal, ocean energy, sail to Algeria.

In order to use something else you have to have something else to use.

For the UK:


Current Primary energy usage is in pink, possible alternates in green ~18KWh day per person. (Sail to Algeria doesn't work either!)

To see the task for your particular country that has got to be met by alternates:


I agree with you that parity in energy procurement does not mean people won't still produce the energy carrier.
Theoretically you could set up huge solar energy farms in the Saudi Desert and use that energy to produce oil at a EROEI of less than one and be happy to do it.
The unique qualities of oil make it the most flexible fuel ever known and given the fact that the entire world infrastructure is designed to use it as primary fuel it will be done this way.

You have some PV. Good for you.

One of the problems you see here on TOD (and MSM) when arguing about EROEI of PV is the mindset of “today’s land of plenty”. Today you have several energy choices either this or that or whatever. Even very intelligent engineering types have no personal plan, even when they “know” what will probably happen in the energy field. JHK’s yeast people include all types.

How much will that PV system be worth if the grid goes down and your generator has run out of fuel and your well (if you have one) is too deep or too small for a bucket? PV is priceless! Getting your money (or energy) back is a useless discussion if TSHTF. If you think BAU will continue then PV is not an option because other well placed investments will get much more return. If OTOH, you think BAU is imaginary, then why would one not have PV and batteries?

The same goes for good supply of food and water. When I read here someone explaining why the government needs a plan for this or that, I wonder what they are doing to support themselves after multiple Katrina-like governmental failures. A small community of like-minded people might work but anything larger will be filled with people trying to be top dog and get their stuff for little effort.

The real problem is multifaceted. So you have a PV system, do you have a good shovel and seeds and a suitable place to grow some food? Do you know how to grow some food? What about hand tools and wood to build even a simple critical project? Armed gangs will not go hungry. How will you deal with that? The problem that bothers me most is a couple showing up with three starving kids. How will I deal with that? I don't know.

There are no easy answers. Good luck all. I am out of here for a while. Nothing serious, just assembling my caca in case the Straights of Hormuz gets closed in the next month or two.

I think you need all of your suggestions, and a damn high wall around your land, so that those outside cannot see the lights on at night..

In the bad old days you either had nothing worth stealing or you lived in a castle.

pondlife, people always had something worth stealing (their personage via slavery or their corpses as food for cannibals).
Today its even worse as poor people are often pressured to sell kidneys etc to those in the castles. Slavery still exists and cannibalism is rising (a chinese co-worker told me last week about reports of female neonatals in China being sold for food, she also confirmed to me that cannibalism was common in the early 60's).

Yesterday's report that Mexico's bond ratings are about to be revised due to declining oil revenues is going to become interesting... especially for the MSM crowd.

It recognizes Peak Oil in the Gulf of Mexico and sets a financial precedent based on geological fact.

This suggests the media is going to have to face oil production issues soon... and I don't mean National Geographic and such. I mean the NYT and Wall Street Journal.


The MSM story on Mexico is that it's their refusal to allow IOCs in that's the reason for the declining oil revenues. If only they'd open up to the free market instead of letting corrupt and inefficient Pemex run everything, they'd have replaced Cantarell's production long ago!

My understanding is that it would be perfectly legal for Pemex to pay cash to Schlumberger or Halliburton to build whatever infrastructure they need. The problem is that the Mexican government spends all of Pemex's cash to run the government. Pemex does not have ultra deep water capability. If they have no cash, oil is their only alternative to buy it with. Note also that Petrobras does have the technology but is locked out equally with Exxon.


If you want to revel in one of the more glorious Stone Heads for a few minutes, go on over to http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html , to watch the shuttle dock and settle in for a little stay at the space station.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending November 13, 2009

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 13.8 million barrels per day during the week ending November 13, 31 thousand barrels per day below the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 79.4 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week,averaging 4.0 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.6 million barrels per day last week, down 77 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.6 million barrels per day, 1.5 million barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 584 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 152 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased by 0.9 million barrels from the previous week. At 336.8 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are slightly above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.7 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 0.3 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories decreased by 2.9 million barrels last week and are in the lower half of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 4.2 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

hands that type faster than the eye can see.

Que? Not familiar with cut-and-paste?

the report was released at 10:30 and posted at 10:30.

Ah. Leanan's really Johnny-On-The-Spot, agreed.

Leanan, this seems like a good place to ask this.

What Plug-ins do you use for firefox? I am interested for the sake of functionality, safety and security.

I don't need to know any of your lightning fast finger trade secrets.

I still use no-script that I think you suggested a long time ago and am very happy with.

TIA - cowpoke

i'm not leanan, but you might be interested in these:
the main addons i use are:
-- addblock+: to block advertisement sources which annoy me -- i do allow google, and other adds which don't animate at me
-- flashgot: downloading of many things (all links on a page, the vidio which you are watching, etc)
-- ietab: for when a website won't work without IE (it remebers which pages you need IE for, so after a while you don't need to toggle anything)
-- lazerus: it saves forms automatically on submission, if your post gets eaten, you hit back, then tell lazerus to reserect your form, and it fills it back in as it was you last hit submit.
-- noscript: only allow scripts to run on whitelisted websites

extra useful/informative addons
-- forecastFox: show a weather forecast in the status bar
-- foxclocks: show times for any location around the world in the status bar
-- pdf download: when a pdf is shown, ask you if you want to save it, rather than having adobe pop up.
tabs open relative: when you open a new tab, it opens next to the currently open one, rather than at the end of the list
download statusbar: have an icon on your statusbar to monitor the state of your current downloads, rather than the separate window.

other addons:
-- stumbleupon: for finding random websites, similer to what you have already flagged as your favorite websites
-- delicious bookmarks: an online bookmark manager
-- stylish: apply custom css to websites (i run with a black background, white text theme, and various websites break badly, when they read the default in one, but not the other.
-- firebug: for when you want to know exactly what is going on behind the scenes with a website.

-- nightly tester tools: to force any version of an addon to run with any version of fx
-- mouse gestures redox: being able to right click and drag to open links, switch tabs, and click "next" on a page nomatter where it is, is useful
-- user agent switcher: if a website blocks because it tells you it doesn't work with firefox, is it lying?
-- about:me : compiles stats from your web history
-- cache viewer: when you see somethign on a page, and you just want to save it (but can't for some reason)

anyway, thats the about 20 plugins which i use regularly ...
2c worth
(edited for readability -- that list without the '-- ' is a messy blob of text)

Adblock Plus - Blocks ads. It really saves download time, even if you're on broadband, not to mention makes web pages more readable if, like me, you find flashing banners and animated images distracting.

Flashblock - Blocks Flash. (You see a button you can click if you want it to play anyway. You can also whitelist sites, so Flash is always allowed.) I have it on my topbar menu, so I can easily enable and disable it.

BBCodeXtra - makes posting links and images easy in HTML (here) or BBCode (message boards like PeakOil.com).

IE Tab - for the occasional site that doesn't look right in Firefox.

Image Zoom - Makes it easy to zoom in on images for a closer look (or out if an image is too large).

Tab Mix Plus - Adds a ton of functionality, such as letting you re-open pages you've closed, and locking tabs so you don't accidentally click away from the page and lose all your work.

Zoom Toolbar - Adds buttons that let you easily resize text (for those pages where the text looks like microfilm).

Copy Plain Text - Lets you copy text without formatting. Useful if you want to get rid of active links, fonts, etc. in a block of text.

I use several others, but these are the ones that are of general use.

And I have no trade secrets, really. The report came out a little early yesterday. And I had some free time, so I had the comment set up and ready to go. I just had to paste the text in.

The petroleum civil war


The petroleum world is at war with itself, and the stakes of the quarrel are high for all of us. The debate concerns the concept of peak oil — the term used to describe a global limit of oil production — its timing, and its implications.

Oil is the lifeblood of modern economies. Without it, the world as we know it would cease to exist. That is not journalistic hyperbole. Given our petroleum dependence, or in the more candid words of former President George W. Bush, our “addiction,” we would be foolish to ignore warnings about the future supply of this precious commodity.


Most alarmingly, recent accusations reveal that instead of raising awareness about peak oil, governments have been suppressing the truth about its proximity. On Nov. 9, a day before releasing its annual report, the International Energy Agency was criticized by two whistleblowers for allegedly capitulating to U.S. pressure to downplay decline rates and overplay the chances of finding new reserves.


Just weeks ago, David Fridley, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who worked directly under Energy Secretary Steven Chu, further pushed the notion that the U.S. government is choosing to remain silent on oil supply woes, proclaiming that Chu “knows all about peak oil, but he can’t talk about it. If the government announced that peak oil was threatening our economy, Wall Street would crash. He just can’t say anything about it.”

Here is a link to a new article on CO2 emissions, which is a must see. Look at how much it has been increasing in recent years. More CO2 emissions now from developing countries than developed. Also, there has been a reduced ability of the carbon sinks to absorb CO2.


(or do I mean "yikes!")
It's why I keep thinking we need to be working on reforestation and soil rehabilitation. Plant a tree !

This seems like an appropriate spot for this (from a link on a drumbeat, I think...)

Excellent graph of showing clearly the rise in global temps decade after decade. Global Cooling? Ha!

Could you give more information about this VERY interesting graphic ?



Found it at Climate change; The Next Generation, which is a one-stop shopping spot for daily updates on new climate reserach/articles.


The original is from here, apparently.


NOTE TO DENIALISTS: The graph shows anomalies, not temps.

Also, when we talk about trends and averages over longer periods of time, this is an excellent example of that. If you look at each successive decade as an average, the anomalies are greater 2000 - 2010 than from '90 - '00, which are greater still than '80 to 90. That's a very clear thirty year trend of higher temp anomalies, and thus temps.


30 years is a minor blip compared to the age of the earth.
If you look back through time, temperature changes have happened many times - i.e. the ice age that lasted thousands of years. Only the future will tell what is to happen next.

But this time the rate of change will be quite quick,

man and not nature will have caused it

and many billions will likely die early deaths (including tens of millions of Americans).


I'm glad to find some people here not ignoring climate change. When you factor this into economic contractions caused by projected peak oil it just gets too complex in the number of possible breakdowns of life-as-we-know-it to bother theorizing about what 'should' be done to salvage anything. I'm all for (a) building local community connections and (b) learning to scale back that lifestyle that was supplied by Chinese factories powered by dirty coal generators. Best way to prepare is to act as if it's already happened, without precipitating undue breakdowns in your current supports. Let's at least toughen ourselves up by eating like peasants and at the same time learning to live on less.

Diet for a small footprint, and a small grocery bill

Haley's Comet comes around every so often, too. Earthquakes, hurricanes... Guess we shouldn't pay any attention to those, eh? Certainly shouldn't prepare or act in any way. It's just life!

Please, be quiet. You're hurting my brain.

But Devon Energy is the latest energy producer to decide smaller is better, and with good reason.

imo, this just demonstrates what a money sink these ung and uno plays are.

elwood -- Makes you wonder what the plan forward is though. They say the goal is to expand US operations by selling the DW and internnational propoerties. I know Devon from the inside and they all but abandoned conventional oil/NG plays in this country. They either plan to completely redesign their exploration plan or just plow that much more money into the unconventional plays. Last I heard they were pulling rigs back into the shale gas play faster then anyone had expected. As they say: time will tell.

yeah, especially with ng prices in the pit. some (investors) apparently dont grasp how capital intensive these plays are. few are funded from revenues, so they are raising money via debt, assets sales or printing more shares.

public traded companies like to boast about how much acerage they have. trouble is, they back themselves into a corner by having to drill baby drill to hold acerage. a few have made a killing trading acerage, but they seem to be the exception. an extended period of depressed prices and they are belly up.

is billed as:

Defense Intelligence Agency Has a Positive Report on Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions aka Cold Fusion

(and if it was able to be small AND packed fulla energy - would citizens be allowed to have due to the threat of falling into the hands of do-ers of evil.)

Cold fusion was a hoax. It seems like research scientists are trying to reinvent a warped system that could not be used for commercial applications, only reported to the public as a scientific acheivement. If foreign governments get their hands on cold fusion it might be chaos, like a perpetual motion machine, cold fusion is only a dream. They might not like to leak the secrets of Harry Potter magic spells to foreign governments either.

Cold fusion was a hoax.

I doubt it was a "hoax". A result of bad data, meeting a pushy university PR department, almost certainly. There is also a possibility that something that would be very scientically interesting going on. The odds that even if some new undiscoverd science is hidden their, that it would yield practical energy generation are very small however. For now it should be relegated to the "not fully understood results, that might lead to some interesting discovery" bin.

As discussed here previously, the corn harvest in the upper Midwest has been significantly delayed this fall by the soggy conditions that persisted through October. November has been a welcome dry spell here in southern Wisconsin, and farmers have been hitting the fields pretty hard to get the crop in. Notably, this is starting to cause spot shortages of propane, as propane usage has increased to dry out the still-too-wet corn. Today, the governor authorized propane truckers to exceed their normal limits on driving hours for the remainder of the month:


It would be interesting to know how the spiking agricultural usage of propane compares to the regular usage, on a percentage basis. Just another example of how easily a just-in-time delivery system can be stressed with a little nudge, even with nominally high inventory levels.

This guy and his 24 Youtube videos deserves his own Campfire discussion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhaQqN1ZXUU&feature=PlayList&p=7CD908DC99...

That YouTube you linked was a city boy for sure.

Catch this country boy YouTube and note the difference in angst and manner.

They both have right catchy themes but I preferred the country dude with the laid back attitude.

Airdale-but didn't watch all of either one,heard it all already but a worthy contrast IMO

Editted:BTW I stumbled on that second youtube after checking out the first one on the same site.
And then watched the rest of the second one, the country dude.

great catch airdale, this is definitely going on my facebook first thing in the mourn

Is the EIA fudging production numbers?

Link up top: Eq. Guinea says oil output to stay around 250,000 bpd

This makes no sense whatsoever. The EIA has been reporting Eq. Guinea to be producing above 330,000 barrels per day for about a year now. It has been falling since peaking at around 390,000 bpd in late 2004. In August the EIA had Eq. Guinea's crude + condensate production at 332,000 bp/d.

He added current output, including condensate was around 248,000 bpd.

Someone should inform the EIA, they are 84,000 bpd too high.

Ron P.

It makes you wonder where the heck the IEA, CERA et al get their information from? Do they have exclusive arrangements with oil producing countries or are they just doing the same thing as we are doing here on TOD, trying to come up with estimates without really knowing what the real numbers are?

Ron -- what makes their numbers even more suspect is that there has been virtually no significant drilling in EG since 2007. I was there that year drilling Exxon's last well in their program. Even the service companies like Schlumberger had closed their offices. Most were shifting to Angola. As we all know decline, like rust, never stops. With no new production added it makes you wonder if your numbers might not be a bit high. BTW -- heard Exxon was getting another rig back in EG this year to drill an 11-well program but haven't seen an update in a while. I was offered the contract but passed...just to depressing little "garden spot". Given where I've ended up that turned out to be the best decision I've ever made in my career.

... or maybe those 84,000 bpd is passed under the table to facilitate their corrupt gm't ? Prez Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasog has been .. right just that ... prez since 1979 only and a 30 y anniversary is due this year. Hurrah.

BTW 'BP Statistical Review of World Energy' reports 361 000 bpd in 2008.

paal -- ole Teodoro doesn't have to do anything under the table. He does it all out in the open. And if anyone complains they might well end up dead before the sun goes down. Just before I began working in EG he amended the constitution. He now has the authority to have anyone executed without a trial. The explanation: since Teodoro was in direct communication with God (EG is a former Spanish colony and thus very Catholic) then if it was OK with God no one should object.

Nigeria gets lots of headlines. Not EG. No rebels...they have all been killed. No opposition party...they've all been killed. No critical press core...they've all been killed. No critical foreign press core...they aren't allowed in. And to make sure the populace stays subdued he stopped the malaria spraying program the previous president for life (his uncle who he killed) had initiated. So much easier to control the 500,000 folks on this island nation if they are infected. Might not be a well known story in the US. But it is common knowledge in the EU. And our very self-righteous friends over there have no problem importing all that EG oil and making the check out to Teodoro.

A lovely little spot of paradise...highly recommended for a Christmas trip.

Hi Rock
I know (not as much as you though) that EG is one of the darkest chapters in modern African history due to Teodoro. It is a shame that western oil companies have the heart to do business with him. He is a living disgrace alongside Mugabe and a few more.

You are mentioning Very Catholic and God and such - my hunch is that he is taking this Bible quote very private : Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders, and accept their authority. They take care of you because they are responsible for you. Obey them so that they may do this work joyfully and not complain about you. (Causing them to complain would not be to your advantage.)

or maybe this version is more up to his taste... King James Bible
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

paal -- Only rotated in/out for a year but that was long enough. Do you know about the aborted invasion of EG financed by Margaret Thatcher's son? Google it if not. Reads similar to an old movie called "The Dogs of War". Except the movie had a happy ending: the dictator and his wanna be replacement both took a bullet. And a honorable African took over. Unfortunately it only happens that way in Hollywood.

I never cared too much for the US version of nation building but we could take over EG without firing a shot. And if we handled the politics honorably we would be true heros in the eyes of the world. But that would probably only happen in the Hollywood version too.