Drumbeat: November 22, 2009

US builds up its bases in oil-rich South America

The United States is massively building up its potential for nuclear and non-nuclear strikes in Latin America and the Caribbean by acquiring unprecedented freedom of action in seven new military, naval and air bases in Colombia. The development – and the reaction of Latin American leaders to it – is further exacerbating America's already fractured relationship with much of the continent.

The new US push is part of an effort to counter the loss of influence it has suffered recently at the hands of a new generation of Latin American leaders no longer willing to accept Washington's political and economic tutelage. President Rafael Correa, for instance, has refused to prolong the US armed presence in Ecuador, and US forces have to quit their base at the port of Manta by the end of next month.

Crude market in balance, says Iran Opec chief

Iran's Opec Governor said the crude market is in balance and oil supply and demand are close to each other, Jam-e Jam newspaper reported yesterday.

"There is no need in the market since supply and demand are close to one another and the market is in balance," Mohammad Ali Khatibi told the paper. Opec's reference crude oil basket price fell to $76.77 a barrel on Thursday, from Wednesday's $77.87, Opec said on Friday.

Oil and SWF: Cushion for Arab economies

Experts believe the Gulf was able to ride out the worst of the financial storm thanks to vast budget and trade surpluses accrued during the good years.

Financial Sense Newshour interviews Matthew Simmons

Part 1: Matthew R. Simmons Chairman Simmons & Company International
Topic: The Future of Energy

Kenneth J. Gerbino Chairman Titan Oil Recovery Inc
Topic: Current Condition of the Energy Markets

Glenn Labhart Chair, Energy Oversight Committee Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP)
Topic: Energy Risk Professional: Understanding the Energy Markets

The dawn of the Third Industrial Revolution

"The most hated man in science" said that it may be too late to save civilization.

Civilization is on the cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution and "our Second Industrial Revolution is on life support," according to Jeremy Rifkin, president and founder of the Foundation on Economic Trends said.

We are in emergency mode. Our dependence on non-renewable resources for energy is breaking the economic system we rely on, he said.

Iraq hopes output hike will fuel prosperity

Iraq hopes a petrodollar gush it will uncork by tripling oil output will drag it out of chaos into prosperity, but there is just as much chance the new wealth will fuel fresh conflict.

Home to the world's third-largest oil reserves, Iraq also plans to leap to third place among oil producers – spurring hope among war-weary Iraqis of a windfall to drive development and job creation after decades of economic decline.

But rampant corruption, political inertia and ethnic feuding over oil-producing regions like Kirkuk mean that years of sectarian bloodshed could just as easily be followed by years of fighting for control of oil, experts and Western officials say.

Keeping Our Sights Set on a Recovery

Even though crude prices managed to break $80 per barrel by Wednesday, investors quickly began taking profits. By Friday, oil prices had fallen by 3.5%. In the API's Monthly Statistical Report, U.S. oil production averaged 5.36 million barrels per day. The last time U.S. crude production was that high was June 2005.

Unfortunately, our country's production troubles are far from solved. In fact, the truth is that U.S. oil production peaked in 1970. Ever since then, we've been sliding down the backside of peak oil.

Reliance Makes Cash Offer for Bankrupt LyondellBasell

(Bloomberg) -- Reliance Industries Ltd., owner of the world’s largest oil-refining complex, made a cash offer to buy a controlling stake in closely held LyondellBasell Industries AF, the bankrupt chemicals and fuels maker.

Heritage Oil to Sell Uganda Fields to Italy’s Eni, Times Says

(Bloomberg) -- Heritage Oil Plc will sell its fields in Uganda to Eni SpA of Italy for more than $1.5 billion, the London-based Sunday Times said, without saying where it got the information from.

Tim DeChristopher's wild legal ride

He disrupted an oil and gas lease auction last year by posing as a buyer. Now a judge has rejected his last-ditch defense strategy.

Smart power grid: Singapore to introduce intelligent energy management system

The Singapore government continues to execute on its long-term energy strategy. With the advent of Peak Oil, the era of cheap energy and certainly cheap electricity is over. The next best things to do, then, are to look into renewable/alternative energy sources, energy conservation, and certainly, energy management systems, such as grid tie solar systems, and intelligent electrical power distribution systems such as this "Intelligent Energy System".

U.S. airline industry once again goes under scrutiny

For the third time in 16 years the federal government is forming a blue-ribbon panel to try to save the USA's troubled airline industry, which has racked up $58.5 billion in losses and shed 158,000 jobs this decade.

...But a $20 billion price tag for fixing the industry's biggest problems and a failure to implement most of the suggestions from two previous commissions have many analysts and former government officials questioning whether anything will come from this latest effort.

Opec wants compensation if climate deal cuts oil use

The chief of the Opec oil cartel said that oil-producing countries should be compensated for lost revenues if UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month reach a deal that cuts the use of oil.

In an interview with The Times, Abdullah Salem al-Badri, of Libya, who is due to speak in Copenhagen, said that richer oil-consuming countries such as Britain and the US should acknowledge that historically they have created most carbon dioxide emissions and should not be allowed to block poorer countries from raising living standards for their own people.

Tax those carbon gluttons

The fun starts with the government giving you maybe $2,000 as a carbon dividend. You like it so far? Thought so. And the government gets the money by imposing a tax on everything that emits carbon dioxide into the air. The total amount raised by the carbon tax is the same amount that’s being distributed as a dividend. So it’s a wash. The government is no better off at the end of the day.

But you’re better off — if you’ve been frugal with energy, living in a snug house with solar hot water and wood heat, travelling on public transport, eating local food. You lose a bit of your dividend in taxes on gasoline and electricity and what-not — but you get to keep a good chunk of your carbon dividend. Let’s say you pay $400 more in taxes. That money just reduces your windfall dividend. The carbon tax still leaves you $1,600 ahead. How does that sound, sonny?

Investors must ask about shale gas cost

Mr Berman contends that shale gas wells’ production declines at a dramatically faster rate than the companies’ estimates. Reasonable people can dispute the accuracy of his projected decline curves. I have found Mr Berman open to debate and willing to consider contrary evidence.

Whether he or his critics are closer to the truth about shale gas decline rates, it does seem clear to me that Wall Street has underestimated the real cost of shale gas, and overestimated how fast its production can be expanded.

This matters. By now, close to half of the gas rigs in the US, and most of the development money for the fuel, is going to shale plays.

If the companies and investors are wrong, there may be tens of billions of dollars of over-investment, that might be more productively spent on conventional onshore gas, or on drilling US offshore prospects. This is not just an investors’ bet, but a core national energy policy.

Sinopec bid to take part in Iraq oil deals rebuffed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - China's Sinopec Corp sought to pay participation fees to bid for oilfields on offer in Iraq's second bidding round but was rebuffed, an official with the Iraqi Oil Ministry said on Sunday.

"Sinopec asked to pay the participation fee to get the data package but we refused due to the deals they have with the Kurdish Regional Government," said Sabah Abdul Kadhim, head of the legal and commercial section of the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate.

Valero's Major Announcement a Telling Economic Indicator

Valero Energy has just announced it is shutting down its Delaware City Refinery. This is a major news announcement because refiners should be seen as a canary in the coalmine for end-user demand and Valero is one company in the oil patch which has been loath to cut workers to improve the bottom line. This announcement is an indicator that, despite a technical recovery, the economy still has major obstacles to overcome.

Chavez says Venezuela in recession, by US yardstick

CARACAS (Reuters) - Oil-exporting Venezuela is in recession, its socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday, adding that the capitalist system of measuring economic growth was established in the United States.

China vs. U.S.: economic power vs. military might; which will prevail?

The U.S. and China, with their huge economies, are totally dependent upon a steady, guaranteed supply of petroleum into the future. While supplies of oil have been very plentiful for many decades, that situation is beginning to rapidly change. Our very painful experience with $147 per barrel of oil in 2008 may have dissipated for now but experts predict that, in the not too distant future, the world will experience huge escalations in prices as supply will not be able to keep up with demand.

Iraq's Oct. oil exports drop due to attacks

BAGHDAD (AP) - An Iraqi official says insurgent attacks caused a 4 percent drop in the country's oil exports in October compared to the previous month, but that revenues were up due to higher prices.

Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad says exports averaged 1.877 million barrels a day in October, grossing $4.187 billion with an average price of $71.94 a barrel.

FACTBOX - How countries have coped with the oil "curse"

Iraq is poised to strike deals with international oil companies that could vault it into third place in the table of oil producing nations.

Emerging from years of sectarian slaughter and war triggered by the 2003 U.S. invasion, it desperately needs the billions of dollars in development and reconstruction funds that a large increase in oil exports will bring. [ID:GEE5AL043]

But oil riches often cause more economic damage than benefit, a phenomenon known as the oil or resource "curse."

Following are descriptions of how other countries have dealt with their oil wealth.

Bright Future for Petrobras and Brazil, Part 2

Petrobras may be exporting close to 3 million barrels a day by 2020. My readers won't be surprised to know that I also think the price of oil in 2020 will be much higher than it is today. In conclusion: the recent changes in Brazil's economic, energy, and banking policies mean it is safe to invest in Brazil and safe to invest in Petrobras. Anyone who agrees with me that the future of planet Earth is one in which worldwide oil supply will not keep pace with worldwide oil demand would probably also agree that Petrobras should be a core energy holding.

20 Fastest-Growing Asian Energy Companies - Platt's

Platts, the highly respected energy consulting company, released its Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings for 2009 this week. One of the sub-sectors of this ranking is the Fastest Growing Energy Companies in Asia.

Seismic rumbles in the forests

The sheer size and number of Marcellus Shale drill sites and their truck traffic are altering Pennsylvania land use.

BP, the killer they like to forgive

This week UK magazine the New Statesman announced its ranking of ’20 green heroes and villains.’ Among the “panel of environmental experts” judging the awards was John Browne, the UK peer whose reputation was earned at the helm of global petrochemicals giant BP.

Lord Browne may be especially well qualified to assess environmental villainy. In 2007, environmental crimes committed under his leadership at BP attracted the “largest criminal fine ever for air violations” handed down by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The firm is still on probation for the incidents EPA said had “terrible consequences for people and the environment”.

Radiation leak at Three Mile Island

THREE MILE ISLAND - (WPVI) -- We are learning more this morning about a reported radiation leak at Three Mile Island.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says later today it is sending two radiation specialists to the plant near Harrisburg.

Historic Peak Oil Motion Defeated In Australian Senate

In Australia the Australian Greens recently attempted to introduce what, to the best of my knowledge (please let me know otherwise ASAP), may be the first ever Peak Oil motion introduced into a national assembly. Unfortunately, in the Federal Parliament of pro-coal, fossil fuel-obsessed, climate criminal Australia (the world’s worst per capita greenhouse gas polluter), the motion was defeated 31 to 6 on 20 November 2009 with the five Australian Greens Senators supporting the motion and one supposes South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon as the sixth supporting vote.

What a deeper river would mean to commerce

Plans by the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the navigation channel from 40 feet to 45 feet to accommodate bigger commercial ships have generated heated opposition from environmental groups and state officials in New Jersey and Delaware.

So, what difference would those five extra feet make to the steamship companies that sail the river, and to the businesses that use ships to move goods into and out of local ports?

Berkshire Well Positioned for Buffett's Prediction on Electric Cars

Twenty years is a short period of time for a radical shift to an all-electric vehicle fleet. Battery technology will need to improve significantly to make it cost effective without government subsidies. Electric vehicles will also need to have a range comparable to gasoline vehicles along with the ability to either quickly recharge the battery or swap it for a new one. BYD’s e6 has shown that a 250 mile range is already possible and a 50% recharge can be done in just ten minutes. Better Place has developed technology to exchange fully charged batteries in an automated process.

Electric carmaker Tesla preparing IPO: sources

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. electric sports car maker Tesla Motors plans to go public soon, two sources familiar with the matter said, amid growing interest in green technology and battery-powered vehicles.

China harnesses mountain wind power

DALI, China (AFP) – In the mountains above the southwestern Chinese town of Dali, dozens of new wind turbines dot the landscape -- a symbol of the country's sky-high ambitions for clean, green energy.

At an altitude of 3,000 metres (9,800 feet), Dali Zhemoshan is the highest wind farm in China, where renewable energy has become a priority for a government keen to reduce its carbon emissions and which has taken full advantage of the global trade in carbon credits.

A climate change dust-up

One side sees hacked e-mail as a sign of a 'Warmist Conspiracy.' The other says it's being taken out of context. Analysts don't expect it to have much effect on the Senate greenhouse gas bill.

Rising sea levels threaten Caribbean region

According to a recently updated World Bank study on climate change in Latin America, Alfonso and his neighbors have reason to be concerned. Not only are the effects of global warming more evident in Latin American coastal cities, the report says, but the phenomenon could worsen in coming decades because sea levels will rise highest near the equator.

...According to some scenarios that the authors of the World Bank study say are not that far-fetched, Cartagena and the rest of the Caribbean coastal zone could see sea levels rising as much as 2 feet, possible more, by the end of the century. Even at the lower end of projections, parts of this city would be knee-deep in sea water.

In a story about a down sized work force at a factory in Louisville, a still employed worker said

Terry Feldkamp, an electrician at Hudson's company for 15 years, said he stopped driving his Chevy Silverado pickup, which cost $70 to fill up, and is using his Dodge Neon. Price to fill up: $40.

"When they call you in and say you have to take a week furlough that gets your attention," Feldkamp said. "You start getting concerned.


Best Hopes for Price Elasticity of Demand,


Next thing is to carpool with the Neon -- price per person to fill up, $20.

Then the informal vanpools start. Price to fill up -- $5/person

We have a long way to go down, but since those people won't really have jobs to vanpool to, I imagine the downslope will be less smooth than that.

Efficient public transportation would be even less per person -- but by this time, it is impossible to fund those projects because the tax, bonding and credit systems have collapsed.

Tainter looks more prescient all the time.

The electrician who did the electrical work on my PV installation had been working in commercial real estate construction until a year ago. Now he does part time work for solar installers. He says their are a lot of electricians out of work. A few years back my town had lead the nation in construction, now it has virtually stopped. At least despite forclosures and jingle mail, it looks like most houses are being resold fairly quickly.

A story of human depravity that I am surprised did not get more notice (WHERE is Toto ?)

A gang in Peru murders to gather human fat for use in EU cosmetics.


Relevance to post-Peak Oil ?

I will let the reader decide.


I saw that, but I have doubts about its veracity. As the article notes, there's no market for human fat. There's no evidence it was actually sold.

Something's fishy about this story.

Beware of "fish oil" capsules? Could this be the reason humans are increasingly obese, just waiting to be harvested? Ugh!

IIRC the bbc also ran an article a few weeks ago about some russians killing a man and selling parts of him to a takeaway business.

It’s definitely an altiplano thing primarily, current thinking AFAIK is that it’s linked to colonial mining horrors, longstanding aymara/quechua beliefs about fat (wira) as the energy principle of the universe, circulating (llama) fat in ritual is a big deal. Spanish draining the life out of mitayos in mines, e.g. Potosi, came to be tied to sucking fat/energy out of them, not a bad metaphor really.

Chupacabra beliefs elsewhere in SA, Mesoamerica and Caribbean seem analogous.


That is the kind of story that gets posted as a diversion -- as in "let's not look at the elephant in the room". People are dying of violence, malnutrition, epidemic disease, etc. to keep the Western Capitalist system going. It doesn't really matter whether the dead folks' fat is literally incorporated into European cosmetics -- in a figurative sense it is, and by telling these gross-out stories, we can avoid looking at the reality. "Oh, that doesn't really happen."

Keep your eye on the moon -- not the finger pointing to it.

Has anyone read The Bridge at the Edge of the World:Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability by James Speth, Yale 2008. A letter to the editor about it says, "In it, he scientifically outlines the impossible coexistence of the capitalistic model with any type of sustainable or healthy future."

I have a birthday coming up and I don't know if I want my wife to buy it for me as a present.


I recommend it.

Thank you.

Capitalism is so many things to so many different people that it would be hard to find any agreement about the "impossible coexistence of the capitalistic model with any type of sustainable or healthy future."

For sure, what "capitalism" is, is the most efficient means ever devised to convert the natural world into human land fill.

About jobs.

I knew this young guy. He came to work for the farmer I also do some work for. Driving a tractor trailer,fixing electronics,repairing 2way radios,etc....

He was first just a gofer but the boss asked me to try him out on truck driving. He almost put it in the ditch so he was then 'let go'.

He was previously a timber cutter for guys who supplied sawmills. He cut a hell of a lot of timber as he related to me but it was 'iffy' hired hand work so he was now back on the street.

He went back to timber cutting but I met him in a Dollar General the other day and he said in the last 3 weeks he had only worked two days.

I said I felt sorry for him but I DID NOT. I was happy. Less tree felling going on and to me thats good news.

The sooner this economy hits the ground for good the better off our future will be. Sounds harsh but I don't see it any other way.

If we do a slow crash nothing will be left. Fast crash will be far better.

I did some consulting in Louville for LG&E on the runup to Y2K. Worst outfit I ever dealt with. Glad to get the hell out of Louville and away from that contract.Never seen so many clowns acting as fools in my life.

Airdale-best wishes for a quick end to this silliness

The sooner this economy hits the ground for good the better off our future will be. Sounds harsh but I don't see it any other way.

16 or so mins from the end Noam Chomsky: Philosophies of Language and Politics says something similar.

(Noam does mention Peak Oil by name in this piece BTW)

If we do a slow crash nothing will be left. Fast crash will be far better.

That's my hope too.
However, I think our "resiliency" as a species will draw this out long enough to doom our fellow travellers here on Spaceship Earth.

Yesterdays link to http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ is proof of that.
If such creatures can continue to flourish, then there's not much chance we won't take everything down before we go.

Re: Bright Future for Petrobras and Brazil, Part 2 (linked uptop)

The author talks about Brazil possibly exporting (presumably net exporting) close to 3.0 mbpd by 2020. Three difficulties: Depletion from existing fields; very challenging offshore environment and rising domestic consumption.

In 2008, the EIA showed total petroleum liquids production of 2.4 mbpd, versus consumption of 2.5 mbpd. At their recent rate of increase in consumption, they would need a net increase of 1.4 mbpd in production, from 2.4 mbpd to 3.8 mbpd, just to maintain net annual imports of 0.1 mbpd.

My bet is that a very optimistic projection would be for Brazil to achieve major net exporter status of 1.0 mbpd by 2020. Note that to achieve net exports of 1.0 mbpd by 2020, at their current rate of increase in consumption, they would have to more than double production from 2.4 mbpd to 4.9 mbpd.

In another framing of the same data, I stated that Brazilian consumption has increased 22% in the last 5 years, and were it not for this increased consumption, Brazil would be a small oil exporter today, instead of a small oil importer.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficiency in Brazil,


I suspect that the Brazilians would argue that the US (with 23 barrels of oil consumption per year per person in 2008) should aspire to achieve Brazilian standards of per capita consumption (4.8 barrels of oil per person in 2008).

In any case, the recent 10 year trend has been for flat to declining OECD consumption, versus rapidly rising consumption in non-OECD countries like Brazil. As noted above, given the high per capita consumption levels in OECD countries, especially the US, it's kind of hard for us to criticize the developing countries. Also, I suspect that Jevons' Paradox only really works to a significant degree in developing countries (which the UK was when Jevons observed the increase in coal consumption as a result of a more efficient steam engine). I suspect that the very breakthroughs in energy conservation in OECD countries that should serve to allow us to reduce our consumption could actually serve to accelerate the rate of increase in consumption in developing countries.

Jeffrey !!

You should know that our way of life is not negotiable !

It is for EVERYONE else to conserve, not US !

Best Hopes for mass transit in the United Arab Emirates, gas rationing in Iran, higher gas prices in Venezuela (and everywhere else but the USA), more French trams and bicycles, more Chinese subways and electrified trains ...


We seem to be facing quite the conundrum

ELP Plan Excerpt:

Author Thom Hartmann, in his book, “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” described a high tech company that he consulted for that went through several rounds of start up financing, and then collapsed, without ever delivering a real product. At the peak of their activity, that had several employees and lavish office space--until they ran out of capital. His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

I have read, and it seems reasonable, that the majority of Americans live off the discretionary income of other Americans. We are therefore facing a wrenching transformation of the US economy--from an economy focused on meeting “wants” to an economy focused on meeting needs--and the jobs of a vast number of Americans are thereby directly threatened in a post-Peak Oil environment. . . .

After outlining my plan, a friend of mine from West Texas thought about it for a moment and then said, “But if we stop borrowing and spending, what will happen to the economy?”

It seems to me that we are facing quite the conundrum. IMO, Thom Hartmann and my friend, quoted above, are both right, i.e., we have an illusionary economy, but what happens to the overall economy when we stop borrowing and spending?

Probably the only thing that keeps the official unemployment rate around 10%, instead of over 20%, is the current level of discretionary spending, but based on the export model, globally we are depleting post-2005 cumulative net oil exports (CNOE) at a ferocious rate (my guess is that the total global post-2005 CNOE depletion rate is around 7%/year).

If the FIM (Fantasy Island Model) were correct (Fantasy Island is where Yergin & Lynch, et al live, where discrete oil wells peak and decline, but the total field production, the sum of discrete depleting wells, increases forever), there might be some logic to stimulus spending, but based on the Export Land Model, encouraging consumption is almost certainly a disastrous decision, but as noted above, they are trying to keep the official unemployment rate below 20%. As I said, quite the conundrum.

In any case, check out this devastating SNL skit last night--Obama & Chinese President do a press conference:


Apparently the Northwest Coast tribes (Tlingit, etc.) had a similar problem.

They developed the potlatch.

Worked for them for thousands of years.

Illusionary Economy.

First, independently of the ‘fake’ GDPs, international trade has collapsed, to some alarming degree. Such measures, and unemployment measures, tell the ‘real’ story.

One ex from Vox, titled, The illusion of improving global imbalances:


Second, pointed to the US in particular, and beyond Keynes vs. neo-classical ‘economics’, vs. the ideology and partly crackpot ‘free market’, Randian enthusiasts or Austrian Republican types, and various other public quarrels, the US is digging itself into a financial hole through utter incompetence, which itself finds its roots in competing ideologies, pay offs to pols, corrupt Gvmt., petty fights among the elites, the money that can be squeezed out of globalization, etc.

One ex. PDF from a Swiss Private bank, which brings up many points that are being discussed here in public, in the papers, etc:


In my mind, the price of oil plays a very minor role, for now.


Selfishly squandering the endowment of millions of years of past sunlight energy to sustain the present order while simultaneously borrowing from hundreds of years of expected future economic earnings to sustain said squandering. Underlying this consumption of the past and future is the assumption that future earnings can maintain based on continued performance of the past endowment.

YMMV but not for long.

His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

You got that right...

I have come to understand that a huge portion of the military industrial complex, including the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, do nothing more productive that read, write, and revise PowerPoint presentations, emails, and Word Documents.

The subject of these documents invariably plow the same tired ground that has been plowed to death by the long purple line of mili/techno/bureaucrats before.

Program reviews, point papers, white papers, bullet background papers, 10-slides, etc...it is like fraking Ground Hog Day over and over again.

One case-in-point: We (U.S. of A.) are in the midst of our third attempt to compete a contract to build new aerial refueling tankers to replace 40+ year-old KC-135s (they are even a little older than the our B-52H work-horses). The third RFP is due out 'soon' and that one will probably be shot down in protests between EADS/Northrop Grumman and Boeing as well. Not that it matters...Boeing has over promised and underperformed delivering their handful of KC-767s to Japan and Italy...I say again...we can't even build a tanker anymore...they are just airliners converted to have extra fuel cells and a boom and hose&drogue unit for crying out loud...no rocket science involved!

The Navy can't launch a new ship class to save itself.

The Marines are desperately trying to keep afloat their new (but not yet produced) Amphibious Fighting Vehicle...

The Army dropped back five yards and punted on their Future Combat Systems (FCS), a system of systems with about 17 different components meant to work together like the bots from Cyberdyne Systems...

Why? Gold plating, requirement creep, and the huge conflict between spending on boots, bullets, and beans for our current operational quagmires, and spending on gee-whiz GI-Joe space/hypersonic/directed energy/etc. kit to face off with Russia or China (the DoD's first and true love scenario).

Peak PowerPoint...Peak Bureaucracy...Peak Imperial Over-reach.

Nuevo Rome's Legions and Exchequer are stretched perilously thin...time to put away our childish fantasies of being World Overlord and time to start getting our house in order for a sustainable Homo Sapiens.

And the new presidential Marine One helicopter program blew up.

What you described is the overall shape of the "Seldon Crisis" confronting the USA.

In any case, check out this devastating SNL skit last night--Obama & Chinese President do a press conference:

Wow! That was funny but also very painful (no pun intended) to watch. Unfortunately the Chinese seem perfectly capable of screwing themselves by being well on the road to emulating The US fantasy automobile and consumerist lifestyle. Chinese economic growth is just as unsustainable as any other. Looks like the Chinese had better invest in large amounts of vaseline because I'm sure their self inserted bamboo dildos will be all the more painful without it :-(

It is for EVERYONE else to conserve, not US !

And we're willing to do that. Having walked, bicycled and ridden the wind-powered electric train to work in Canadian oil industry for years, I can tell you that I'm very thankful for your American driving habits.

Now that I'm comfortably retired to my post-and-beam cedar chalet high in the Canadian Rockies, I'm happy to have your money. I'll spend it wisely.

The two hydro-electric power plants in town are humming away nicely and we've got the mountain pine beetle under control so our firewood supply is safe. This frees up even more oil for you to use. I hope you do that, because I have money invested in it.

If you will just continue consuming gasoline in the way you have been doing, we'll be able to keep funding our universal medicare system. I'll be able to thank you for the new hip they may have to put in so I can keep on skiing. It's a great life when medical care is free, or at least paid for by oil royalties.

Your experience may differ.

Was looking for other examples of consumption change in a nation with fresh production, the UK of course comes to mind; they actually threw on 17.30% gains in 1984! Did Maggie exhort them to shop like GW? But they contracted 14.13% and 6.77% in '80/'81, so that was making up for losses in a way.

I sorted the consumers by rank of production. Dunno, many of the big producers were heaping on the consumption in the '90s too. You could have sounded an alarm back then as well; these things need to hindcast robustly in some fashion, or you need irrefutable corroborating data, ala Cantarell, to state the case for exports going to zero. Iran's consumption increased thus '89-'95:

1989	1990	1991	1992	1993	1994	1995	1996
12.23%	7.25%	4.49%	2.17%	2.55%	5.04%	8.83%	4.23%

Looks pretty disastrous, they're "running out of export capacity."

US (with 23 barrels of oil consumption per year per person in 2008) should aspire to achieve Brazilian standards of per capita consumption (4.8 barrels of oil per person in 2008).

That would just about get us self-sufficient in oil. It would be a smart goal. But homo-politicus is anything but smart.

"What a deeper river would mean to commerce"

This is a rather one-sided article, which points the accusatory finger at environmental groups and state officials (presumably of the other political party) right up front, without stating their position, followed by the bulk of the story which represents the views of a number of large corporate interests.

I had to "google" to find the other half of the story :-

"Delaware Deepening Challenged in Court by Environmentalists"

The gist of the challenge is that no environmental impact study has been done by the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure no serious effects on fish populations and quality of the drinking water along the Delaware River.


Of course, knowing what we know about Peak Oil, how many of these monster cargo ships are likely to be calling in Philadelphia in 10 - 15 years?

From the pro-deepening article:-

"Without a deeper Delaware, Roche foresees "commerce on the Delaware River slowly dying. As the ships get larger, they will stop calling here. Not only will we not gain new business, but we also will lose existing business," he said. "The business that comes up now will be coming in bigger ships, and deeper ships, because they won't build small ships anymore." "

Hmmm....I think not....

Water is the most efficient method of transport. And there's usually an economy of scale. I could imagine shipping being even more important 20 years from now than it is now.

I agree, but not necessarily to the scale of the current container ships. The trend may be more towards sail, and smaller cargoes, especially if people can't really afford to pay for bananas and pineapples.

Bananas and pineapples were imported in the Age of Sail, to a MUCH poorer society.

I bought bananas for 33 cents/lb recently. Transport costs were some fraction of that (a nickel ?). At $1.50/lb, even $2.50/lb, I would still buy bananas, just fewer of them. So a twenty fold increase in transportation costs would hurt but not kill the banana market.


..and not to forget that with rougher economic times, those banana sellers still need to sell, so while shipping costs would likely rise, the products might start from a cheaper base price, just to keep them moving.

But remember - a (fungi) made a commercial banana non-existent and the same threatens the present #1 produced banana.

So a future may be lacking banana - the present breeding stock killed and a lack of finding a replacement.

Bananas are almost impossible (but not quite) to breed, which makes finding a new resistant variety a challenge.

The species is a tribute to asexual propagation, both in the wild and cultivated.


We still have wild strains of banana plants though the average person wouldn't even recognize them as such. Having grown up in Brazil I was aware of a couple dozen different domesticated varieties as well, which don't usually end up in our supermarkets because of the Chiquita monopoly. I don't expect bananas to go extinct anytime soon.


I think that's probably longer term than the 10-15 years you stated. Large ships (and trucks, and trains, etc.) are more fuel-efficient than smaller ones, so there's reason to expect peak oil to mean larger ships, at least for awhile.

Even before the age of oil, people ate a lot of imported foods, and used a lot of imported goods. I think that will likely continue for quite some time.

Wealthy people may have. The average working person did not - in fact, your average working stiff in 1800 would have been lucky to see oranges once a year, at Christmas, if they weren't grown locally.

The bulk of the shipping trade, these days, is geared to low-to-middle class big-box retail mass distribution. Many smaller shippers end up sharing containers, if they can't fill a whole one, or waiting until they are able to fill a whole one.

If they can't fill a shipping container, they have to rely on the postal service or air freight (very expensive).

I think there's be a lot of room for smaller, multifunctional shipping lines which carry passengers, mail and freight.

The average working person did not - in fact, your average working stiff in 1800 would have been lucky to see oranges once a year, at Christmas, if they weren't grown locally.

I don't think we'll be back in 1800 in ten years. In the 19th century, even poor people drank coffee, and they ate a surprising amount of imported fruit, etc (brought via rail, usually).

And remember, shipping isn't just to bring things in. It's also to export things. We have something the rest of the world wants and needs: a food surplus. Even if the dollar's in the toilet, other nations will still want to trade with us.

Down on the farm growing up I had never even seen a banana.

Occasionally an orange around Christmas.

Can't remember a lemon either. Apples we had a plenty of. Blackberries ,pecans and hicker nuts. Dewberries and strawberries and well as melons in season which we grew our self.

Now the city folk surely had this but we hardly ever came to town and if so brought just staples we needed , bartering for those.

Popcorn I do recall since we strung it on thread as our Christmas Tree decoration.


But bananas were really introduced and formed up as a new market in the last century, IIRC.

Think about all that Tea that went into Boston Harbor, and the Pepper Trade routes long before that.

A few years ago, there was a diary found, written by a farmer in the 1800s. In Indiana, I think. He kept very detailed records of how he spent each day. What he did, what he ate, whom he saw, etc. He spent a surprising amount of his time pumping water every day. Another thing that surprised historians was how much imported food he ate. Peaches from Georgia, that kind of thing.

He was probably near a rail line.

We were at an off-grid, working toward self-sufficiency place last summer. There was a windill to pump water, but it was the low wind season. Took thousands of pump strokes to keep a water supply up that allowed a typical modern American use of water. I worked up to 600 a day before we left. Not nearly enough. I was losing weight and gaining muscle at an impressive rate. The vegetarian diet didn't hurt with that, either.


I picked up a good idea applicable to hand piston pumps on this forum. A walking beam with a counter balance that is equal to the weight of the pump rod. Then your pumping efforts only lifts the weight of the water column as opposed to the weight of water column + weight of pump rod.

This was counterbalanced. Walking beam? Is this jargon, or literally a beam you walk on rather than hand pump?


Walking beam is just jargon. It just means that there is a lever with a weight equivalent to the moving parts of the pump attached to it to counterbalance the moving parts of the pump.

He was probably near a rail line.

If you can make it to the Tennessee River near the northwest corner of Georgia go upstream as far as you can go then its around 100 miles to the Kentucky River, down stream to the Ohio River, then downstream to the Louisville port. It doesn't wander out of the way too badly. Paddlewheel steamers could do about 15 mph upstream on those rivers.

An non-perishable, but there's a Kentucky bourbon brand that escapes me that got its start by a one man effort selling his brew in New Orleans. He would build a raft and float it down the Kentucky River to the Ohio River, then down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River down to New Orleans. Downstream all the way, when he got there he would sell his bourbon, abandon the raft and then walk back -- then do it again the next year.

Yes, but who controls food production in the US? Generally, a few large corporations. It's not as though the benefits of the food trade will get much beyond the employees of the corporations and its shareholders. We may continue to trade but the benefits will not be distributed widely at all. If we can't find something for the "hordes of unemployed" to do as the discretionary economy implodes, we are likely to have a very quick descent to a low level of economic activity and societal wealth.

Any way I look at this, I see the average middle class worker very poorly set up for the future. To be quite plain about it, without a radical reorganization of our economy — including a reskilling initiative that must be greater than anything ever seen before — the average middle class person literally has no place to add value in the system the way it's set up now.

The current wealth of the middle class is an illusion, caused more by the machinations of our paper currencies and supported by soon-to-be-dwindling fossil energy. As the illusion gives way to reality, we will see how astonishingly unprepared we are to live in a low energy world.

"without a radical reorganization of our economy — including a reskilling initiative that must be greater than anything ever seen before — the average middle class person literally has no place to add value in the system the way it's set up now."

Nicely put. What skills do you see as most important for the new economy?

Dohboi, that's a longish answer that I'm going to decline to give right at the moment (winding down for the evening) but there are lots of good posts here that discuss that issue.

Aangel, I generally agree with you but I think in this case your might have been a little closer to your meaning and intent if you had written "distribution, processing and marketing" rather than "production " in reference to food.

Of course if I stop to consider the amount of control big biz has over farmers inputs ranging from fertilizer to machinery to fuel to seed you are basically correct considering the power of big biz as it is applied from both sides with actual producers caught in he middle.

But so far as I know there is still a good deal of competition among individual producers of unprocessed food products at the farm or feedlot level.

Hopefully I will always be able to buy a truckload of corn directly from a farmer but maybe not-I can't legally buy butter or milk direct.

The larger ships are, the more fuel efficient they are per ton of cargo.

Once the new locks on the Panama Canal open in 2014, there will be even fewer small ships.

In a few decades, I could see a mixed fleet of large nuclear powered ships (new Panamax 150,000+ tons at a minimum) and 5 mast schooners (4,000 ton range).

Much Europe-Asian trade would go by electrified rail, as would North, Central and South American trade, but a few dozen nukes and thousands of sailing ships would carry much international trade.


Again, I agree there is an economy of scale, assuming one still has a market for one's product.

While, no doubt, there will be sailing vessels, I can't see how the massive container trade in cheap plastic products, and sending of raw materials to other countries to be manufactured and returned as finished units, can continue.

Containers can carry many things. Optical equipment from Switzerland, knockdown Tunnel Boring Machines from the USA, bits and pieces of power plants, metals such as copper are now often shipped in containers, coffee, and much more.

I can see fewer larger container ships, and almost no mid-size container ships, but I cannot see no fast container ships.

The new Panamax ships are just about the right size for one small nuclear power plant with an oil/coal back-up for breakdowns.

It would be more fuel efficient to combine a dry bulk cargo ship with a container ship than to have one of each *IF* the trade volumes do not justify a large one of either. Bulk Cargo below, containers above. And nukes require large ships to make sense.


Alan -

Yes, all other things being equal, a large ship is more fuel efficient per ton of loaded ship than a smaller one. However, that only holds true if the large ship can carry a nearly full load most of the time. I think this is one of the things (among many others) that killed the large transatlantic liners; they had a hard time assembling enough passengers to make a full ship for each scheduled voyage. I think the airline industry is encountering the same sort of problem.

A hybrid bulk carrier/container ship might have some merit in certain cases. However, I think one of the problems that this concept might encounter is that container marine terminals and bulk marine terminals are not necessarily in the same location. So the ship would have to make more than one stop, and this costs time and money. I tend to be a bit skeptical about any sort of hybrid in general, as they are often a compromise that combines the worst features of two combined entities rather than the best. Some examples: the several attempts to make an amphibious car resulted in a crappy car and an even worst boat. During WW II the Japanese had several hybrid battleship/aircraft carriers, which turned out to be very weak battleships and minimal aircraft carriers. My view is that if you have the capacity, then it's best to keep containers freight and bulk marine freight separate.

I also have a hard time being optimistic about the prospects of large nuclear-powered cargo ships. Going the marine nuclear power route adds immensely to the capital cost of the vessel. (Not to mention the added expense of having nuclear-qualified operators.) Which is why even the US Navy, wher money is no object, has largely restricted nuclear power to submarines and super carriers. Marine shipping companies are very sensitive to capital cost, so I tend to doubt that many are seriously contemplating going nuclear. They'd probably rather swallow high fuel costs rather than run up their debt load on a ship that might cost something like 30 - 50% more (I'm guessing) than one with a conventional power plant.

Unless things totally turn to shite, I don't see much prospect for large sailing vessels either. Even with high-tech automated sail handling and minimal crews, the two serious drawbacks of sail power remain: i) it is slow, and ii) a sailing ship often has to take a much longer roundabout course due to the need to acommodate the winds. The former costs money, as less trips can be made; and the latter not only does the same but also makes scheduling less predictable if not impossible. (There are numerous accounts of English sea captains taking weeks just to get out of the port of Bristol because the winds were unfavorable.) While this can be alleviated with auxiliary power, the basic problem still remains. Companies running on just-in-time inventory won't take too kindly to having to guess when their sailing ship will come in. (Of course, that's a concept whose days are numbered, anyway.)

No matter how you slice it, the future doesn't look too bright for high-volume international shipping.

Hey, how about that humongous cruise ship the size of a super tanker that will go into service soon. Talk about great timing! Any bets on how long it will take before this monstrosity is mothballed, or perhaps turned into floating FEMA internment camp?

Early 20th Century experience showed that 4 and 5 mast schooners were the "sweet spot" (often with 8 & 9 man crews). They could turn a profit carrying lumber & guano (not time sensitive cargoes) up till the Great Depression.

Solar PV powered microwaves would get rid of the cook :-( and other crew positions (what is a "donkeyman" ?). One sailor per mast was the rule with auxiliary crew (cook, captain, etc.)

Schooners can tack well into the wind and required half the crew of square riggers.

Cheap labor, very expensive fuel and time insensitive cargoes will be required, but they might start in a niche market (say inter-island trade in Indonesia and the Philippines) and expand as economics warrant.

Best Hopes for Sail,



Donkeyman took care of the small steam engine that was used to do the heavy lifting (gaffs up the mast to spread the sails, ballast, cargo, anchors...)


Alan -

Those big schooners still in existence during the early part of the 20th Century were pretty much confined to the bottom-feeding fringes of marine commerce. The main reason they were still profitable was that most of them had been fully amortized decades prior, so it was just a matter of direct operating costs, and with their small poorly paid crews, that was pretty low also. Maintenance also didn't seem to be a big priority either. Most of the owners were basically running them into the ground.

Another thing about those big schooners is that they were very slow. This should be evident from photos, as most of them had a small sail area for their size. They would just plod back and forth.

Incidentally, while a ship with a schooner rig can tack more closely to the wind, they are generally slower than square-riggers when running downwind. That's why all the clipper ships were square-riggers and why Columbus converted the Pinto and the Niña from lanteen sail to square sails.

There still could be certain niches for large sailing ships, but I doubt we are going to be shipping containers from China by sail anytime soon. There are still some very old tubs around in the backwaters of the world that keep chugging along and manage to eke out a living for their owners. It's kinda nice seeing that stuff still around.

I think the Windjammers were pretty cool. They were just starting to explore the possibities of steel hulls, and mechanized controls when the era ended. I would think the biggest obstacle to reintroduction is the current practice of piling containers on deck. Solve the loading/unloading issue, and wait for the inevitable rise of fuel costs, and some modernized version might come back.

Wonder how the golf ball dimples would do on a ship's hull. It works for sharks.

Google for images of "royal clipper". Its a cruise ship that sails around the Caribbean and occassionally crosses the Atlantic. Its 5000 tons with 56,000 sq ft of sails.

Several ports have both bulk & container capacity.

In New Orleans, deliver steel products on one end ("C") of the Napoleon Avenue wharf (largest steel port in USA), containers to the other end of the same wharf ("A"), go up river a few miles and load up with rice, corn and/or wheat and return for more out bound containers on top.

Many container ships make multiple scheduled stops although bulk ships do so rarely.

I understand the issues (I think) with dual purpose ships. Bulk below deck and containers about might well work, with containers being last on, first off.


BTW, the Mississippi River at New Orleans has three shipping lanes, each 300' wide and 100' deep.

Resid for bunker fuel is such a low grade product that it seems to me it will be relatively cheap even as middle and high grade distillates jump in price. Fuel is 50-60% of operating costs though, so perhaps these two forces will cancel each other out. With gasoline and diesel demand down due to demand destruction (whether economic dislocation or increase in efficiency) there will be more room for increased production of resid etc., and refiners will be desperate to make money from whatever product. Nations will perhaps subsidize fuel costs for shippers to maintain trade, while mandating use of add on sails where possible to increase efficiency, for instance. International trade isn't anything countries will lightly dispense of.

Your assumption of the large-scale continuation of just-in-time operations, and your implicit assumption about continuing the overall volume of trade, are both suspect.

I just finished reading "The Box" at the recommendation of some folks here --- all about the revolution caused by the advent of containerized shipping.

The remarkable thing is that the price of poker just keeps spiraling up-- the spreadsheets keep saying "Build bigger ships" but the spreadsheets don't know from peak oil and are based on an implicit forecast of a continually expanding global economy.

Even now, the ever-bigger ships are not even wanting to get near piers now -- they want containers transported to them by ships that were once themselves the biggest around. Essentially all they want to do is steam, fully loaded, towards dropoff and pickup points where they transfer as quickly as possible.

There's no way this works in a world where the OPEC (Oil Producers' Export Curve) has a pronounced and persistent negative slope. You don't have to imagine the ships empty -- you just have to realize that their capital cost is so huge already that even a 10% vacancy or a 10% delay in filling the load makes them uneconomical.

(BTW, as a nuclear engineer with Navy sub time, I laughed out loud when I read the suggestion above that we'd see merchant nukes. We'll see merchant nukes if and only if China demands payments in Nimitz class carriers and uses them for hauling freight.)

Hey, how about that humongous cruise ship the size of a super tanker that will go into service soon. Talk about great timing! Any bets on how long it will take before this monstrosity is mothballed, or perhaps turned into floating FEMA internment camp?

Funny you should mention that, as I was sitting on my kayak contemplating what could be done with such a ship. I had just been listening to a radio show on NPR where some specialist in health care finance had just admitted to being unaware that there was such a huge discrepancy between doing an MRI in Japan as compared to the same MRI in the US, US price $2300 Japanese price $130. I imagined it might be transformed into a floating teaching hospital as part of the health care reform initiative and it might be manned by internationally backed medical practicioners.


Well, the same thing is going on on the left side of the continent -- multiple proposals to dig the Columbia River deeper.

Despite many studies showing it was ultimately harmful to the environment and economically unsound, they went ahead with much of it, and would like to continue so that large LNG tankers can berth upriver.

Wouldn't you know it; the economics haven't worked out. Shipping is dying. The giant container ships haven't called on the Port of Portland, and with every passing month, it looks less likely -- despite the fact that larger ships are more efficient per ton-mile.

Once again, Tainter is correct. The infrastructure costs are left out of calculations about the efficiency of moving gobs of stuff around-- if you are in favor of dredging, that is.

Los Angeles/Long Beach have excellent rail connections inland (BNSF just finished double tracking LA to Chicago, UP LA to El Paso, where their rails split 3 ways), Portland & Seattle have a bottleneck with capacity constraints going East.

And the coast curves to the East as ones goes South. LA has a geometric advantage (it's closer and flatter) to almost all major US population centers than Portland. Chicago is equi-distance from Los Angeles & Portland Oregon.



Portland is mostly about grain, I think. Apparently it's cheaper to take it from Eastern Ore and Wash, and even parts of the Midwest, down the Columbia than to truck or rail to Seattle or to Mississippi ports. That is Portland's chief advantage as a port.

Also, timber/logs used to be a major export from numerous ports along the Columbia. Not so much now -- Dixie Lee Ray supposedly said, "There are more trees in the forest now than when white men arrived." Of course, many are tiny.

But neither grain nor timber require deep draft, and as you point out, several other ports make far more sense for giant bulk cargo ships -- so why the push to dredge the river deeper?


And the possibility of profit -- at taxpayers' expense -- that's my answer.

Maybe the same in Delaware?

NeverLNG -

I happen to live in Delaware, and though I haven't been following this dredging issue all that closely, I strongly suspect that the proponents of deepening the Delaware River have been exaggerating the economic benefits and downplaying the costs and negative environmental impact.

My hunch is that only a small number of business entities will actually benefit from this, and some of them are the oil refineries along the Delaware River (two of which are closing). As it is, some of the incoming tankers have to 'lighter off' a portion of their load onto barges before going further upriver, and that costs time and money.

For what it's worth there is a state park not far from where I live that has a nice view of the river. Based on my unscientific observations over the years, most of the river traffic I see consists largely of small to medium size vessels, plus a large number of tugs pushing barges.

The whole thing is quite political and also involves a truly bizarre squabble between Delaware and New Jersey (long story). As far as the Army Corps of Engineers goes, they probably don't really give a hoot about the economic benefits but just want to dredge because that's what they do, and it's a nice project to help justify their existence. The Corps intends to go ahead and start the project without getting the permits required by Delaware and New Jersey. Evidently, their attitude is: 'Permits? We don't need no stinkin permits!' There will be legal trouble.

Thanks for posting something which confirms my gut-reaction to the dredging proposal. My BS detector was vibrating on "Stun".

Clearly, if oil consumption of cargo ships becomes important, fewer bigger (deeper draft) cargo ships will require less to run. So that particular argument supports the deeper channel side of the debate.

The port of Philadelphia has a long future ahead of it. The reason the area was settled over 300 years ago is because is has a good natural harbor that is well protected from harsh sea weather.

Granted, we've built super tankers that, when loaded, draw more water than the river's natural channel. (in fact, those super tankers are SO large, there are not many ports that can handle them directly) This does not stop the port from being used. Even though Eagle Point in NJ, and Delaware City refineries have been shut, the refineries in Marcus Hook and Trainer, PA are still in operation.

This is possible because of lightering operations. Let's say a big tanker comes in from KSA. It will park itself in the mouth of the Delaware Bay. (Hell, it's a tanker parking *lot* out there) Smaller tankers, and oil barges will come down the Delaware, and 'lighten' (or lighter) the load of oil, by pumping it into the smaller vessels. They, drawing less water, will move up the river to unload at the Philadelphia refineries. If the river isn't dredged, lightering ops will become that much more important.

How do I know this? About 10 years ago, I installed and supported the communication computers that sent and received dispatches, Coast Guard reports, email, weather reports, etc. a lightering company's ships, barges, and tugs. I got a LOT of time riding the river.

If you want to see the operations at work, open up Google Earth. Look up Marcus Hook, PA. At the docks at the refinery, you'll see a couple of boats. One's a big one, with a reddish deck. That's a super tanker. The smaller boat to the northeast at a different dock, that's an oil barge. The notch in the back of the craft is where the bow of a tugboat fits to push it. Look out in the river. See the big red-decked boat with a smaller red decked boat next it? That's a big tanker, with a lightering barge along side. You can also see the tugboat mated to the barge.
P.S. - When you fix the boat guys computer so they can get email from loved ones, they'll cook you an awesome steak the size of your head. :-)

Perhaps build an offshore deepwater oil offloading port, loke LOOP off Louisiana (it handles 13% of US oil imports).



You can track the flotillas of monster ships on vesseltracker.com.

Turkey plans three new nuclear power plants



"Zombie Nuke Plants"


"The real issue is what happens to old nukes. The atomic power industry has a plan: it wants to make as much money as possible from the existing fleet of 104 old, often decrepit, reactors by getting the government to extend their licenses. The oldest plants, most of which opened in the early 1970s and were designed to operate for only forty years, should be dead by now. Yet, zombielike, they march on, thanks to the indulgence of the NRC.
More than half of America's nuclear plants have received new twenty-year operating licenses. In fact, the NRC has not rejected a single license-renewal application. Many of these plants have also received "power up-rates" that allow them to run at up to 120 percent of their originally intended capacity. That means their systems are subjected to unprecedented amounts of heat, pressure, corrosion, stress and embrittling radiation."

I recall seeing reports of higher than expected rates of erosion inside the pipes feeding cooling water into the reactors. I've not followed the nuclear industry for years, so I'm curious as to what may have transpired regarding that problem. If the rates of erosion have in fact been faster than the design rate, wouldn't that imply that the older reactors should not be allowed to run beyond their license period? Or, have the older reactors been retrofitted with new pipes?

E. Swanson

Steam generators are commonly replaced (think $80 million). Almost all components are replaced as they show signs of wear or age. The one exception (AFAIK) are the pressure vessels.

I take exception to the description of "decrepit" and I very much support uprates (getting more power from the reactor).

The alternative to the life extensions (which are not granted automatically) is simply burning more coal. Mercury, CO2, acid rain, etc.

Best Hopes for more nukes,


burning more coal.

Don't forget that the burning of more coal also puts Uranium (some radioactive all mutinagentic) in the air.

Best Hopes for more nukes,

Once Man has demonstrated that Man can manage the production chain of fission power, then by all means.

Man has failed to demonstrate this responsible stewardship.

Coal mine accident in China, at least 87 dead.

China's mining industry is the deadliest in the world, with more than 3,000 workers killed last year despite a massive safety drive that has slashed fatalities. Hundreds of rescuers in northern China are battling to reach 21 miners trapped after a huge gas explosion early yesterday killed at least 87 of their colleagues. In February, a blast at a mine in Shanxi, northern China, killed 77. An explosion in the same province killed 105 people in December 2007 and 203 died in Liaoning province in 2005. Last month, the head of the State Administration of Coalmine Safety, Zhao Tiechui, said accidents had fallen by more than 46% between 2004 and last year. Experts also say the industry's true toll is higher than it appears because mine bosses often attempt to cover up casualties, and deaths from mining-related illnesses are not included.

Coal is much worse than nuclear from multiple standpoints, even counting high end estimates for Chernobyl. Chindia will continue making progress in nuclear technology without any input from NIMBYs in the developed world, think of them as the barnstormers tooling around in rickety biplanes while we wait 50 years and then purchase tickets to board ultra safe Pan Am 707s. Or not.

Story from Next Big Future, who was put into some kind of written paroxysm from the Hadley CRU email hack:

It shows made biased and overly alarmist presentations of the climate data and worked to suppress the work of scientists who disagreed with global warming.

It does not shows made biased presentations! ;)

Climategate, Coal Mine Deaths, Air Pollution and Coals assault on human health

Steam generator tube failures are a rather common problem with all steam generators. I was thinking about the primary loop from the reactor pressure vessel to the steam generator. These pipes are quite large and a failure, though unlikely, would have serious consequences. Looking around, I found many links, including a link to a report from the NRC about probabilities. There is discussion of the various mechanisms of pipe failure, in the event anyone is interested. All the probability calculatons are based on a 40 year design life, so extending the operating life beyond the design limit raises many questions...


Near the end, we find Section 6, which begins with thus sentence:

The estimated failure probability for any specific component is subject to large uncertainties, whether the estimate is based on data from operating experience or based on an application of a probabilistic structural mechanics model.

There is a follow on section in which "expert opinion" is used to assess the probabilities. How much confidence does the uncertainty in these estimates provide that extending the design life is really a safe choice? All this started back in the 1970's when the industry attempted to define safety using aerospace reliability techniques. At the time, the estimate was that the chance of injury was about the same as the probability of being hit by a meteor. After TMI and Chernobil, we learned how wrong these estimates were

E. Swanson

Now I have no idea how correct this analysis is, but it reminds me of the 'play with the oil prices/modify the software in the natural gas pipeline to bust the Russian's back' events under Pres. Reagan and fits in with the China VS US part of the 'beat today. Something about it disturbed me, so I felt I'd share that.

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2009: “The Pentagon and the Navy are putting final touches on a plan to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. All it takes for this to be implemented is the approval of the president. The purpose? Ostensibly to prevent Iran from getting, or receiving, raw material for its atomic energy program but actually, not only for that purpose but also to cut China off from its badly needed oil. In all truth, the much-vaunted Chinese economy is in a shambles but because American business has deep economic involvement with China, no one wants to admit the very serious economic problems in the PRC. There are elements in this country that want to knock China off the map, economically if possible, and they may yet succeed.

Blockcades are typically considered acts of war are they not?

A response to 'what is the impact of the internet' I have the 'weight' of the internet:

498,438,599,990kg of refined and processed materials. And, on top of it all, an otter screaming pointlessly. That is the closest you are likely to come to visualising the Internet.

A major reason that the Chinese want to build two standard gauge rail lines to Iran. One through Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan and the other through Tajikistan, Afghanistan (large copper deposit that they won/bribed for rights to develop) and Pakistan.

Until recently China imported all of it's oil from Russia via rail, despite the change in gauge.

This is part of the Chinese plan to build three standard gauge rail lines to Europe (two go through Iran).


As I understand, the only cheaper energy way would be via water. Good on 'em that they are willing to build a rail line.

Had not heard about the copper deposits - that's gonna be needed for wiring as no one has a room or hot desert at high noon temp superconductor at this point.

Afghanistan, copper & China


And circuity matters (how far from a straight line must one travel). Efficiency drops the more circuitous a route is.

Iran to China by rail has significantly less circuity than by sea (and fewer problems with the US Navy). Electricity can power the rail lines, while ships still require oil.


Wall St. Finds Profits Again, Now by Reducing Mortgages

... the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.


Way to go, vampire squids.

From the FT:

Bets rise on rich country bond defaults

The mounting level of debt in the industrialised world is prompting a growing number of investors to use the derivatives market to bet on the chance of rich governments defaulting on bonds.

Also this opinion:

Could sovereign debt be the new subprime?

A few weeks ago, Claudio Borio, head of research at the Bank for International Settlements, warned in a solemn note to Group of 20 leaders that modern financial policymakers are “driving while just looking in the rear-view mirror”:
These days, there is a near-unanimous belief among western regulators that one way to prevent a repeat of the 2007-08 crisis is to stop banks taking crazy risks with subprime mortgage bonds or complex instruments such as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs). 
But could this flight to the “safety” of government bonds in itself be creating subtle new dangers? Government debt, after all, has soared to levels not seen in peacetime for centuries, if ever, in many countries, not least the US and UK. Fiscal deficits are swelling across the western world. And the level of political commitment to curbing those deficits remains uncertain – not least because with yields currently so low there is less pressure on politicians to push through reform.

Wild speculation or a sign of things to come? Some scary figures too. By 2010 US at 97.5% of GDP as debt and UK at 89.3%.

In the past, the CDS market for developed countries was sluggish, because few investors saw the need to buy or sell protection against a risk of default that seemed exceedingly remote.

However, rising debt levels and growing political and economic uncertainty has created a more active market, with more investors now seeking insurance. Meanwhile, many banks are prepared to offer protection in exchange for a fee.

The question remains whether the banks have any money to back up this protection. Given the magnitude of national debts around the work, all it would take for one major country to default and the whole debt insurance thing would unravel. On the other hand, I think most countries would try to print their way out of debt rather than default.

Japan is pushing 250% GDP and they still have no inflation and zero percent interest, so it can last a while.

I would remind the "goverment default" crowd that as long as the loan is made in any particular government's currency, all that government would need to do it print more money. I have long argued that a day will come when China gets a DHL letter pak with 200 - $10,000,000,000 dollar bills with a post-it note saying, "Thanks for the loan. It came in handy. B.O." If my house loan were denominated in j-bucks, I could pay it off tomorrow.

Japan not only has no inflation, they're struggling with deflation.

For those that were debating GW on this board yesterday, here is an article that just came out today on Science Daily, that deserves careful reading. If there is any doubt after reading this, then just listen to Rush Limbaugh from now on, because you are beyond reach.


How about reading this article and explaining what is inaccurate or misleading-it has nothing to do with Rush or Christians or any other nonsense-there are no plans to stop the growth in CO2 emissions at all http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1621/64/

it has nothing to do with Rush or Christians or any other nonsense-

Nuff said Brian. With Rush and Christians we have enough nonsense, we don't need any other. ;-)

Ron P.


Look at the data. It is a little warmer, but the trend has been flatish recently. No need to panic.

Panic, no, prepare, yes. Climate change is not measured in short trends;) Or was that tongue in cheek:)

There are two simple questions with climate change. How long before we can stop it and how bad will it be?

Stopping climate change will take many decades. Thirty, forty, fifty? The jury is out on that one. We don't even know if we can at this point.

How bad will it be? Bad, real bad according to most current estimates. Even the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, has admitted the problem is severe.

From his RollingStone interview. "If we continue on our current path, we run the risk of dramatic, disruptive changes to our climate in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren." Chu is not a politician, he is a Noble Prize Physicist who does his best to tell the truth despite the politics that surround him. Elsewhere in that same article is an even more startling statement about how concerned he is about climate change but I don't remember the gist of it or have access to it.

My take on why we in the U.S. are sticking to the cap and trade solution, It's a diversion from the truth that no matter what we do, it won't be enough or in time. We have already surrendered. Now it's just a matter of trying to figure out how to make the best of a horrendous future for our planet. Given the track record to date of our politicians and the big money that controls them, I'm not expecting much help there.

Cap and trade has nothing to do with climate change. There is a finite supply of fossil fuels to be burned, increasing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Whatever can be burned will be burned (on this point everyone agrees). Period. The focus should be on renewable energy because it will be needed, because it will in no way magically cause coal or oil to be left in the ground.

Look at the data. It is getting too warm and melting the glaciers. Ouch, no water for crops. Don't panic, starving and war are quite commonplace already -- what is a few more billion in hunger?

Spencer is a Creationist who lets his religion guide his cookery.

First, Spencer's data is bull. Second, Spencer is a denialist. Objectivity is not his m.o. Third, only a denialist like yourself would suggest only temps indicate change. This is an intentional attempt to minimize the evidence to fit your agenda: The temp record is only part of the story. By stating this and ignoring that ice losses have been massive, habitat changes massive, that we are seeing effects that are a century, and even many centuries ahead of time, you are attempting to back into a denialist stance.

And you attempt to couch this in the lie that the fossil fuels we have remaining **can't** significantly raise temps. That is a flat lie. We are at nearly 390. 450 is virtually assured. I've done the calcs. We get to 447 if CO2 output **declines** enough to get to zero by 2050. If we just burn all the remaining fossil fuels, we'll be adding an additional 100 ppm, minimum, as so much of that is the dirtiest, foulest fossil fuels and will take far more energy to retrieve than the first half did.

And this doesn't include positive feedbacks that are **already** happening.

This crap is just the latest mode. First, it was flat denial. Second, it's not human. Third, well, gosh, we can't stop it, so why try? All are the same tired lie based in the same tired fabrications or same attempts to discount reality.

“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” he said.

Here's a link to some quotes from the beginning of the year from Dr. Chu regarding some potential consequences of climate change:


Say, Whoodooya thinks gonna win the Stupor Bowel this year?

The people on this board are at least debating the issues...many folks are cruising through life on autopilot...maybe they are happier...ignorants are blissful...until their stuff runs out...when the bread and circuses stop.

Oh well, they can always experience the cathartic effects from burning the scientists and engineers (the banksters will be sequestered in their island redoubts sipping the last ice-cold margaritas).

Warming's impacts sped up, worsened since Kyoto

"Things are much worse than the models predicted."


TOD foodies: what say you about the gist of this article?


I suffer from significant gastro-intestinal distress when I have tried soy-protein bars...

Here's another salvo.. (Just a few bullet points from this page..)


# High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.
# Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body's requirement for B12.
# Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D.
# Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.
# Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
# Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.

The only soy use they advocate is when it has been fermented, as with Miso and Tempeh, otherwise to take very small amounts of uncultured soy in your diet. No TVP or Soy Milk. Just a bit of Tofu..

(I don't take Weston Price info as gospel truth, but I do pay attention to many of their points, and have yet to hear of challenges that make me really doubt them.)

The negative health effects of soya have been known about for some time. I've not touched the stuff for years, unless its been fermented, after reading about it way back. The problem is, as the article states, that soya is surreptitiously stuffed into everything the nefarious food industry gets its hands on. The same goes for the other big health issue foods; milk, wheat, corn, vegetable oils (excluding olive oil) and their various derivatives (corn syrup, fructose, hydrogenated vegetable fat, etc.). Palm oil can probably be added to the list too.

Then there is the additives, the genetic modifications and the way food is produced via industrial agriculture, creating low nutrition foods. The storage, packing and time effect on freshness further add to the deteriorating quality of our food. For example salad sold in nitrogen filled packs to keep them looking fresh, which have the nutritional value of wilted salad despite their fresh look. The list of how our food and nutrition is constantly degraded for economic benefit is seemingly endless. But the effects can be readily seen in the sickly population debilitated by food related and so called genetic illnesses.

I'm not sure if this idea has been discussed on TOD:

3-page PDF Alert:



I just read an article in a recent SciAm or Discover magazine extolling the potential of vertical, high-rise farms to feed the World's urban populations and relieve pressure on the over-worked land, and all kinds of wonderful benefits. Solar PV on the roof, a wind turbine built into the building, hydroponics, a grocery store and restaurant on the ground floors serving from the bountiful floors above..

After reading the article and looking at its illustrations, I figured there are a myriad of details, each with numerous devils...I see this scheme as a technological house of cards...falling down and leaving blighted vertical sky-scraper farms as moldy messes...

The answer to over-population and over-complexity is....more over-complexity to greenlight even higher levels of population.

And just who is going to bankroll this again? Oh yea, the Chinese...they will need us to proof-kit this idea for them since their rivers are drying up, their soil is blowing away, and what water and soil is left is poisoned...not that we are paragons of eco-stewardship virtue...

A building of the dimensions proposed won't allow for enough sunlight to reach all areas of each floor even if there are no other buildings surrounding (shading) it. Since sunlight is a primary key to high yields, I doubt this approach will fly. There is a reason very little grows on the ground under a mature forest with a canopy of leaves. I'd love to see the data showing how the sunlight problem is addressed in a high-rise farm.

We are entirely capable of piping sunlight wherever needed. Fiber-optic cable is only the most obvious. Solar powered grow lights. Etc.

A bigger issue is the energy needed to raise the water up that height. And the people. Soils are a one-shot thing, so not such an issue.

I'm hard pressed to see why this idea wouldn't work.


The ratio of material (to build & later replace) to food makes solar PV powered grow lights infeasible.

Start with lifetime average solar PV efficiency, x energy efficiency of lighting and 20 sq ft of solar PV panels to grow 1 sq ft of crop land would be good. Since solar PV lasts about 20 years, one sq ft of solar PV would need to be replaced each year for each sq ft of crop land.

Then add replacing the grow lights.


Exactly. It would be cool to live in a high-rise/greenhouse with vegetables growing on the walls but somehow it seems more practical just to grow the crops on the ground and transport them a little further.

The fact is that high rise, high density cities can only exist as they are able to import resources from other areas. NYC or Hong Kong exist because of the low cost energy sources available to them, which facilitate these imports. After Peak Oil, the relative cost of energy can be expected to increase dramatically, thus these high density cities may be expected to wither and die. Their death will be exceedingly painful, as they now represent the pinnacle of economic power and will use that power in the forlorn hope of continuing their existence...

E. Swanson

What if high density urban areas were the most energy efficient# places to conduct non-agricultural work ?

BTW, Manhattan was once a major center for clothing manufacture center.

# and most of the energy they use is electricity with very little oil.

And what if the energy required for transporting food and essential materials dropped by a factor of 20 in some cases (truck to electrified double stack container trains) ? Would not this order of magnitude change in energy consumption (and shift from oil to multi-source electricity) "change the game" ?

Best Hopes,


And what of using mirror systems?


No walls, perhaps mirrors... I'm still not convinced.

Any time I see of a lot of why a new idea can't work and little or no thought as to how it can, it's a red flag that preconceived notions are getting in the way.


The available sunlight is strictly limited by geometry. A high rise building would capture the sunlight from a large surface area, thus depriving the rest of that area from receiving sunlight. And, the amount of energy which passes thru super insulated windows is much reduced from the available, open air source, thus there's little to be gained during winter. I fail to see why this material intensive approach to producing food is any better than much simpler single story greenhouses, which could increase agricultural productivity in a dispersed, low energy consumption local development model.

E. Swanson

Why windows? Rails to keep workers from falling out, of course, but walls and windows? Why? Perhaps in winter to extend the season a little, but otherwise, why?

I'm not suggesting this is THE solution, but I still see possibility here. There are cities that don't have adequate agricultural land around them, no?

Another thing with sunlight might be to focus on fall or early spring varieties, as well as low-sunlight varieties in general, so you need less sunlight.

Also, if you are taking sunlight from an urban area of concrete, I'm not sure that much matters. Good planning, i.e. non-solar energy for the blocked buildings, etc.,...

Anyway, still something to keep looking at.



The potential advantages of growing our crops indoors are indeed enormous.

But so far we have never been able to build single story buildings-known as greenhouses -cheap enough to move anything inside other than high dollar low volume specialty items such as winter tomatos.

If you will take a look at any commercial greenhouse and then at any high rise building under construction I believe you will get the idea-high rise construction is to expensive by a factor of at least hundred or more, not to mention the light problem.

Transporting food via railroads, ships, and large trucks is for now and for the forseeable future much cheaper.

Even if the truck has to run on biodiesel cannibalized from farm output the story remains the same.

Food is expensive not so much because it costs a lot to produce or transport but more so because of the way it is processed, packaged, and sold.

In the states, it is still so cheap that even rather poor people buy small packages of highly processed junk food as a matter of course.

I'm not so much thinking of now as I am of a future economy devoid of interest rates and a profit motive. Things get a hell of a lot cheaper when nobody needs to get paid.


It is a cool idea. I agree that it makes sense, and it might be a good proposition in cities with the right sets of circumstances. However, it would basically be a glorified hydroponics setup, which means it needs manufactured nutrients which must be mined or processed from human sewage (which would be easier to collect in the city than anywhere else). I would like to live in a building that does that. In reality, it would probably just be more realistic and more interesting to build an earthship-like house with attatched greenhouses.

Hydroponics, no; aquaponics, yes.


How do you do "Clean Coal"?

OUC power plant lights up after long, sometimes gloomy journey

By ditching the coal.

. . . It was an opportunity to advance clean-coal technology, But we all know what happened