Drumbeat: December 27, 2009

Growing chorus says oil has peaked

DALLAS, TEXAS // Jim Baldauf, a former oilman, remembers the days when it seemed like you could punch a hole in the ground just about anywhere in Texas and hit a gusher.

Now explorers in the southern US state of Texas find themselves drilling down further, and then turning horizontally for a while, and then back down again before they hit black gold. And with every passing year, the task of finding oil becomes more and more complex.

“All of the low-hanging fruit has been plucked,” said Mr Baldauf, who has 22 years in the business of oil and gas exploration. And that is not a problem unique to Texas.

As a co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, Mr Baldauf is part of a growing chorus of petroleum industry analysts and scientists who believe global oil production is about to peak – and may have already done so. Many “peakists” believe global oil production reached its pinnacle in 2008.

Gwynne Dyer: The United States empire takes a hit in the "Noughties"
The old order is passing, the US.. dollar is on its way out as the only global currency, and the real power is shifting to mainland Asia.

Or is it? There are two trends that could slow or even stop this shift. They seemed quite distant at the start of the decade, but now they look very big and frightening. One is peak oil; the other is global warming.

Oil And Environment: A Contradiction

Among the factors in systemic collapse that should be placed far down on the list are many that might be described as environmental: pollution, global warming, and so on. The fact is that the issue of peak oil and that of the environment are mutually exclusive problems. As oil and other fossil fuels disappear, the environmental problems will also go away, even if very slowly.

By trying to raise the alarm about both issues at once, we are placing ourselves in a self-contradictory position, and our credibility is rapidly undermined. We cannot, on the one hand, wish that oil would go away so that the air will have a crystalline purity, and on the other hand complain because we have spent hours poring over the charts of global oil production and found that the cost of driving to the cottage is becoming prohibitive.

Russia's Putin to launch Pacific oil terminal

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will oversee on Monday the loading of the first tanker to carry Siberian oil to Asian markets from the nation's new Pacific terminal, the government said on Sunday.

The launch will be attended by top Russian officials and oil industry chiefs in a political show aimed at showing Europe that global competition for Russian energy resources is set to rise further.

India all but shelves IPI gas pipeline project

NEW DELHI: India has almost shelved the tri-nation Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project, linking its lack of progress to the political problems with Islamabad.

“The main hurdle is Pakistan. All other issues are minor which can be resolved very easily,” The Asian Age newspaper quoted government sources as saying on Saturday.

Japan's 2nd pluthermal nuclear power generation to begin in Ehime

TAKAMATSU — Japan’s second ‘pluthermal power generation using plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel will begin at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture in February, Shikoku Electric Power Co says. The operation key to Japan’s nuclear energy policy will begin Feb 24 at Ikata’s 890,000-kilowatt No. 3 reactor following the first case at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture, which began in November.

Pluthermal power generation is seen as a pillar of Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling initiative but has commenced around 10 years behind schedule.

Less oil may spell problems for pipeline

The declining flow of oil from Alaska's North Slope is creating anxiety among executives who run the trans-Alaska pipeline.

...In the 1980s, at peak oil flows, a barrel of oil made the trip from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez in four days.

Now it takes 13 days.

The slower flow causes the temperature of the hot oil to cool faster. At some point, the oil temperature will dip below the freezing point of water along certain segments, unless Alyeska reheats the oil inside the pipe.

As it gets colder, ice and wax may coat the insides of the pipeline. The colder oil might also increase the risk of buried segments of the pipeline jacking up in the ground, company officials said.

The problems have been building for decades and will only become more pressing as oil production declines further.

Russia to start eastward oil, gas shipments via Arctic in 2010

Sovcomflot, Russia's largest shipping company, will start delivering Russian oil and gas in the eastern direction of its Arctic shipping lane in the summer, the company head said on Saturday.

At a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Sergei Frank said Sovcomflot was planning to launch pilot shipments of Russian hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern direction of the Northern Sea Route, from the Atlantic to the Pacific via Russia's Arctic, later this year.

"We will make such pilot deliveries in the summer," he said.

Frank said the goal was to expand oil and gas markets for domestic energy producers and enter new ones.

Refinery worker ponders loss of livelihood

So far, the most drastic refining cutbacks in the U.S. have come in Delaware and southern New Jersey. But Anne Kohler, an analyst at Caris & Co., expects more plants to be idled in the East, on the Gulf Coast, and in Europe. She said refineries in California are likely to be spared.

Kuwait Oil Signs $724 Million Energy Contract, Al-Anbaa Says

(Bloomberg) -- Kuwait Oil Co. signed a $724 million contract with South Korean SK Energy Co., South Korea’s biggest oil refiner, Al-Anbaa reported, without saying where it got the information.

Peak Oil: No Joke!

Fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will be familiar with British comedian John Oliver, while British readers may also know his sidekick Andy Zaltman, who together have created a weekly audio podcast called The Bugle, in which they provide a comedic, often bawdy and satirical, perspective on the news of the day.

The Gazprom Song

Catchy tune for Gazprom, the Russian energy monopolist. The feel-good anthem was composed and performed by Vladimir Tumayev, director of the Gazprom subsidy Spetsgazavtotrans and founder of the company football club, SOYUZ-Gazprom.

Let's drink to you, let's drink to us,
Let's drink to all the Russian gas
That it never comes to an end,
Though it's so hard to obtain
Let's drink to you, let's drink to us
Let's drink to all the Russian gas
For those extracting the new sun
From down beneath the ground

Senate Confirms Norris for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

(Bloomberg) -- John Norris, a former aide to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Iran website says four killed in Tehran protests

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Four people were killed in clashes between pro-reform protesters and security forces in Tehran on Sunday in a second day of violence during a Shi'ite Muslim religious mourning ritual, an opposition website said.

The casualties were the first reported killings in protests since the immediate aftermath of a disputed election in June in which the opposition says more than 70 people died.

Tugboat Spills Fuel Oil After Hitting Same Reef as Exxon Valdez in ’89 Accident

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Two decades after the Exxon Valdez disaster, a tugboat working to prevent another oil spill in Prince William Sound ran aground on the same reef and left a three-mile sheen of fuel oil on the water.

The tug had just finished checking for dangerous ice on Wednesday and was heading back to port in Valdez when it hit Bligh Reef. It is part of the Ship Escort Response Vessel System that was created after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989 and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil.

Misleading energy selling tactics need to change

George Smitherman's resignation as Ontario's energy minister means that promised curbs on door-to-door energy sellers will be delayed until next year.

That's disappointing, since consumers need more protection from deceptive sales pitches.

Midwest hurt by energy dithering

Back in 2004, former Xcel Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Wayne H. Brunetti made this famous plea as political leaders contemplated carbon emission limits and other policies to fight global warming:

"Give us a date, tell us how much we need to cut, give us the flexibility to meet the goals, and we'll get it done.''

Five years later, policymakers still haven't set the rules Brunetti sought to unleash American industrial innovation-- the force that can transform the nation into one powered by clean, renewable fuels. The indecision isn't good for the planet or businesses. Passing strong energy and climate legislation -- in particular, finally setting a price on carbon -- must be a top congressional priority in 2010.

Another Reality Check for Energy Storage Investors

A detailed discussion of the individual changes would be too detailed for a blog, however the general overview is that the EIA increased market penetration for ethanol-flex fuel vehicles by almost 100%, reduced short- to medium-term penetration rates for plug-in vehicles by almost 50% and reduced long-term penetration rates for HEVs by a like amount. Apparently the EIA believes that budgets matter to most consumers and high-end electric assist vehicles will be priced out of the market for the foreseeable future.

U.A.E. Awards $20 Billion Nuclear Contract to Korea

(Bloomberg) -- Korea Power Electric Corp. led a South Korean group in winning a 75 billion-dirham ($20.4 billion) contract to build four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates, the second-biggest Arab economy.

Canadian Hydro to acquire offshore wind facility

Canada's largest independent wind developer is setting its sites on the Great Lakes, announcing today that it plans to erect hundreds of wind turbines offshore and have its first project generating power by the end of 2014.

Enbridge to buy solar farm

Pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. is pushing further into the renewable-energy market, announcing today a plan to purchase the largest solar power farm in Canada from U.S. solar manufacturer First Solar Inc.

Britain’s green rich list

The Copenhagen summit may have put the damper on global plans to tackle climate change — but British entrepreneurs are charging ahead regardless.

Research by Philip Beresford, author of The Sunday Times Rich List, has unveiled 20 British business people who have already made millions from going green. They range from Dale Vince, the New Age traveller turned wind-power tycoon, to the Cottingham family, which has quietly built up a fortune from insulating houses and installing energy-efficient heating. In drawing up the list, we have excluded businessmen like Sir Richard Branson, who have added environmental interests to their businesses.

An environmental pioneer surfs a long green wave

Since taking the job as UC San Diego's first director of strategic energy initiatives in September 2008, Byron Washom has worked to turn the 1,200-acre campus into a model of sustainability, a "living laboratory."

Projects include renewable energy, energy management, greenhouse-gas reduction, energy storage systems and greening the campus transportation fleet. The university generates 80% of its own electricity.

Air Quality Guidelines Face Unexpected Critics

California’s battle against greenhouse gases is likely to come to the Bay Area soon — with rules designed to reduce the carbon footprint of new housing and commercial development.

That is a concept you might expect to be welcome in a region known for its environmental advocacy and hostility to growth.

But some environmentalists and city planners fear that the new set of guidelines being considered by the region’s air quality regulators could have an unintended consequence, making it more difficult and more expensive for developers to construct buildings within already urbanized areas.

That would run counter to the notion that builders should be given incentives to shift future population growth from the car-dependent outer suburbs to places where public services are already available and public transit is a more viable option to get people out of their cars.

Brazil Aims to Prevent Land Grabs in Amazon

VILA DOS CRENTES, Brazil — Raimundo Teixeira de Souza came to this sweltering Amazon outpost 15 years ago, looking for land. He bought 20 acres, he said, but more powerful farmers, who roam this Wild West territory with rifles strapped to their backs, forced him to sell much of it for a pittance.

Then someone shot and killed Mr. de Souza’s 23-year-old stepson in the middle of a village road two years ago, residents said. No one has been arrested. In fact, the new police chief has no record that the crime was even investigated by his predecessor. It is hardly surprising, the chief said, considering that he has only four investigators to cover an area of rampant land-grabbing and deforestation the size of Austria.

A Book Review of Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass, by Robert Vitalis

Oil doesn't just make certain societies more repressive and corrupt than others. According to Maass, it goes a long way towards explaining recent wars, both conventional and unconventional. Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait in August 1990 in a bid to "control' more of the stuff, and the United States overthrew him in 2003 as a result of its leaders' own obsession with securing unimpeded "access' to this "inebriating crude' which also led them to exaggerate the threat of Iraq's weapons programme. Apparently they weren't "thinking straight'. The Saudi rulers weren't either: having paid billons to aid "the global spread of fundamentalism', the money has come back to haunt them and the West in the form of violent jihadism.

The God Gene

Nicholas Wade’s book “The Faith Instinct” is at its best when putting us through such exercises and sidelining the by-now tiresome debates about religion as a force for good or evil. According to Wade, a New York Times science writer, religions are machines for manufacturing social solidarity. They bind us into groups. Long ago, codes requiring altruistic behavior, and the gods who enforced them, helped human society expand from families to bands of people who were not necessarily related. We didn’t become religious creatures because we became social; we became social creatures because we became religious. Or, to put it in Darwinian terms, being willing to live and die for their coreligionists gave our ancestors an advantage in the struggle for resources.

Russia refusing to take climate change seriously

Soviet industrial production accounted for about a fifth of global carbon dioxide before the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991; Russia is now at about two-thirds of that level, a recent Russian study shows.

Moreover, a huge frozen peat bog is melting and releasing greenhouse gases at a rate that may cause global warming to snowball out of control any time, according to Russian and British scientists. The bog covers the entire sub-Arctic area of Western Siberia, the size of Germany and France, and holds billions of tons of those gases.

Chinese hackers linked to 'Warmergate' climate change leaked emails controversy

The internet address used to post the messages is linked to several others used by the Chinese -- one is a Chinese environmental institute, the Research Institute of Forest Ecology and Environment Protection, based near Beijing.

Several professors from this institute are regulars at climate change conferences where they have shared a platform with the University of East Anglia experts.

After our enquiries in Malaysia began, the suspect computer links to China were suddenly cut.

To Save the Planet, Save the Seas

Few people may realize it, but in addition to producing most of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean absorbs some 25 percent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions. Half the world’s carbon stocks are held in plankton, mangroves, salt marshes and other marine life. So it is at least as important to preserve this ocean life as it is to preserve forests, to secure its role in helping us adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Ocean noise pollution turns up with greenhouse gas emissions

The ocean is becoming a noisier place due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, California and Hawaii scientists report.

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans not only has increased seawater acidity but has affected its acoustics — making it more transparent to low-frequency sound, the scientists said in a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists said seawater sound absorption will drop by up to 70 percent this century.

Regional lake study points to faster warming

Lake Tahoe, Clear Lake and four other large lakes in Northern California and Nevada are warming faster than the surrounding atmosphere, suggesting climate change may affect aquatic environments faster and sooner.

The findings are reported in a new study led by researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Fury over ‘climate change will benefit Scots’ report

The Scottish government has been criticised for publishing a report that claims climate change could make Scots healthier and provide an economic boost by encouraging more tourism.

The study says climate change would make traditional resorts in Spain and Italy unbearably hot in the summer, prompting holidaymakers to venture further north to countries such as Scotland.

'Storms of My Grandchildren' by James Hansen

Most scientists rarely experience the luxury of certainty. But we expect them to speak with authority. We expect them to make impossible predictions and judge them on their accuracy. Even more, we expect them to stay above or at least outside public debates. In "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity," James Hansen gives us the opportunity to watch a scientist who is sick of silence and compromise; a scientist at the breaking point -- the point at which he is willing to sacrifice his credibility to make a stand to avert disaster, to offer up the fruits of four-plus decades of inquiry and ingenuity just in case he might change the course of history.

The story Less oil may spell problems for pipeline about the problems of the Alaska oil pipeline is of concern. We have seen a couple of problems with the pipeline in recent years, and now this article would seem to suggest that the cold temperatures associated with the slow flow are part of the problem.

Does anyone know any more about this? It seems like if we were to hit major problems, the most likely time would be in winter, particularly toward the end of winter, when it has been unusually cold for several months. It seems like the problems might not be all that far out. Any thoughts on the likelihood of hitting more problems, later this winter or next winter, before major upgrades are done?

Gail -- That's a decision every p/l operator eventually faces: upgrade or abandon. The only way to justify the cost of the upgrade to model future thru put volumes. If BP doesn't anticipate sufficient N Slope crude being developed then they can't justify the upgrade. Fixing the freezing problem is very easy (we call them heater treaters and they exist on many p/l's). But they are not cheap to build and even more expensive to fuel. BP could eventually mothball the p/l but that doesn't completely stop degradation. And if new NS crude reserves are discovered the cost of reactivating the p/l will play into their development decision. At some point you might expect the Feds to get involved. Not sure if that would have good/or bad results though.

This issue has been discussed previously. In the distant past I saw estimates that the pipeline would freeze or become uneconomic when throughput dropped to about 300,000 barrels per day. Other smaller fields around Prudhoe have helped. It has also been argued that if ANWR is to be evaluated for possible development, it should be done quickly, while the pipeline is still functioning.



Cost Effective Solution to Alaskan Pipeline

Extend the Alaskan Railroad# from near Fairbanks across the Yukon River (next to highway bridge) to foothills of Brooks Mountain Range. Perhaps electrify it, consult the Russians if they do.

Map at

Brooks Mountains are #1 on this map

Build a smaller diameter pipeline from Prudhoe Bay (say max. 175,000 b/day##, min 40,000 b/day) to railhead. New pipeline would be about 1/3rd to 1/4th distance of original. Gathering pipelines from newer and smaller fields should be OK as is for some time AFAIK. Rail oil from Brooks Range to refineries near Fairbanks and Anchorage. A small oil exporting port may need to be developed, but most of the 175,000 b/day will be consumed within Alaska.

Small hydroelectric dam to provide electricity for reheating oil at railheads if need be. Some geothermal potential near Brooks Range railhead.

The residual volume of oil on the North Slope is less than what was routinely exported from Russia to China via rail until a pipeline took over recently.

Best Hopes for Extracting as much oil as possible from Prudhoe Bay,


## Alaska consumed 156,000 b/day of oil in 2008, so exports from a smaller pipeline to Prudhoe Bay need not be much of an issue. Just use the railroad to get crude oil to refineries, and products to users. Use the current pipeline to transfer North Slope natural gas to Fairbanks, Anchorage and nearby markets. Perhaps LNG exports as well.

# A rail line north a couple of hundred miles would have other economic uses besides transporting oil.

That article is a classic in illogic.


I'll leave it to the peak-oil specialists to tackle the sentence:

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s sense of urgency isn't because the North Slope is running out of oil.

Rather, let's look at this sentence:

The slower flow causes the temperature of the hot oil to cool faster [...]

The flow of energy from point A to point B is controlled by the material between the two and the temperature gradient.

The problem with the TAP is not that the oil is cooling "faster", it's that more time is being needed to move oil from point A to A' along the pipeline, thus the total amount of energy moving from the oil mixture to the pipeline structure to the air/land surrounding it is increased during that length from A to A'. Thus the oil mixture along the segment A' to A'' is cooler than in the previous segment.

It's very basic physics, about which the writer seems to be totally clueless.

So it would be better if the line were a cluster of pipes that could be opened as needed to keep the velocity high in each pipe? But that introduces the increased cross section per mass increasing heat loss per pipe(probably a lesser effect). I see your logic though.

Wouldn't the obvious solution be to add some insulation to the existing pipeline? Perhaps that would interfere with inspection? I would think that wouldn't be too tough of an upgrade.

None of the solutions are difficult from a technical standpoint EOS...just costly. It's been fairly well documented that BP has skimped on maintenance for years. BP is going to do what's best for BP. If they can't see the profit in upgrading then it won't happen. But given the potential importance of the p/l maybe it's time for some gov't intervention. And yes, that statement did send a chill up my spine.

BP has sold the first 90,000 b/day of their % of Prudhoe Bay production to a publicaly traded royality trust. This changes their incentive to produce oil.


That sounds like willful misunderstanding on your part.

It might have been clumsily phrased, but the point is clear enough. Sometimes, 'Cooling Faster' can be taken to mean 'at an earlier point along the pipe', instead of earlier in time.

Language can make a point perfectly well, even if it's literally imperfect.

Actually, faster means "more quickly", "sooner". It can not be taken to mean "at an earlier point along the pipe", and I agree with the poster that it was an inappropriate turn of phrase.

In fact, you didnt't even mean "at an earlier point along the pipe". You meant at a shorter distance along the pipe. You are conflating time with distance, when the whole point is that the oil is moving more slowly, and therefore has a longer time to cool. Comparing early vs. late along a distance assumes a constant speed.

The oil simply does not cool faster. Saying so misrepresents the situation. The oil has a longer time to cool, that's a pretty straightforward and accurate way to put it.

Language matters. The point was not made "perfectly well". It was not "clumsily phrased", it was incorrectly phrased.

Science reportage is bad enough without that kind of sloppiness.

This problem could be corrected by adding a little heat at the point before where the temperature gets too low. This could be done by building a small NG pipeline from a stranded gas field to a boiler at the proper location, generating some steam and heating some of the oil in a heat exchanger. A cogen unit could produce some electricity if there are any potential consumers in the area.

Actually, I'd be surprised to find that no heat is being used now. In industrial plants lines subject to plugging when cold (fuel oil, caustic soda or non-flowing water if below freezing) are heat traced, either with steam or electricity. Heat tracing is nsually next to the pile and beneath insulation.

Re: Peak Oil: No Joke! up top:

After listening to this yesterday I thought about linking to it in a comment but decided against it. Thought it might get me banned or at least it would be deleted.

Pretty raunchy.

I guess it isn't as close to the edge as I thought. It's hard to tell how much one can get away with sometimes.

Britain's broadcast censorship policies are virtually nonexistent.

Only as long as state secrets aren't involved..

This reminds me of an old Russian joke...

A Soviet citizen is caught painting the phrase "Brezhnev is an idiot" on a Moscow wall. He's sentenced to 21 years in prison -- one year for insulting the head of state, and twenty for revealing state secrets.

I could hear no shocking things. Pretty adequatee reporting in a humorous way.
Their conclusion, reduce population or back to the stone age, is a valid hypothesis. Although I am not in favour for it. I still believe that welfare and education are the main determinants for people getting less children. And that there is still time to redefine welfare into a less materialistic concept before either climate change or peak oil will hit us to the point that depopulation will happen without enforcement... So I think focus the solution on depopulation is not the right way to go.

I am assuming the blogspam is referring to Bugle No.93, available at:


Garyp, the segment on Peak Oil may be embedded in Bugle No.93, (not sure), but if you click on either the Quick Time or MP3 link in the center of the EV World page you will get only the part on peak oil. It is about 12 minutes long so you don't have to listen to the entire No.93 broadcast to find it.

Ron P.

I know but:
a) the quality is better on the original
b) I'm not a fan of ripping off the work of others.
They created the original 35min show, and I think they deserve the courtesy of a link to the original. For something that is free, that's the least you can do.


a) I heard no difference in the quality of one over the other.
b) Nothing was ripped off. They were given full credit and free advertisement from the piece. This was a net gain for Andy Zaltman, John Oliver, and 'The Bugle'.

You are obviously too quick to criticize something that was a huge plus for these guys and 'The Bugle'. It was great advertisement. After all, there was a link to "The Bugle" on the page. Did you miss that? A lot of people who read this page would not have otherwise known The Bugle even exist.

Ron P.

Actually rather tedious IMO. Would have been much better tightened up to half the length.

We all owe a tremendous debt to this man:

Art Rosenfeld, the 'godfather' of energy efficiency

But Rosenfeld, 83, is getting a lot of credit these days — credit many feel is long overdue. Often referred to as the "godfather" of energy efficiency, Rosenfeld spent much of his career teaching physics at UC-Berkeley and at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He has served on the California Energy Commission since 2000 and steps down Jan. 13, when his current term expires.

Rosenfeld has long championed energy efficiency as the "low-hanging fruit" in the battle against climate change, and it irks him that solar power has traditionally gotten more attention. He has dedicated his life to making homes, commercial buildings and appliances — including lighting, refrigerators and televisions — more energy efficient. And his ideas finally have political capital: President Barack Obama regularly stresses energy efficiency as key to reducing carbon emissions, saving consumers money and creating jobs.

See: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_14059885


Long ago, I worked for a consumer products company as an manager/engineer in one of their manufacturing plants. We had a number of variables to optimize, in this order:

1) Implementing whatever brain-dead scheme the newly-minted MBA in corporate headquarters came up with (new scents! new packaging! new flavors!), regardless of increased costs/increased inefficiency of manufacturing operations and regardless of whether the consumer actually desired such things. (By the time the scheme was implemented and the results known, the newly-minted MBA would have been promoted to another brand of product/part of company. Management would wonder why sales had bumped up a month and then returned to base while manufacturing costs were steadily increasing.)

2) Making end-of-year numbers look good whatever the cost so various people in upper management would receive their bonuses. (This involved running flat out at the end of the fiscal year while forgoing maintenance and paying ridiculous amounts of overtime so that vast quantities of product could be trucked to off-site warehouses and counted as "shipped" on the books. Then the plant would operate at half capacity for the next month by very tired, crabby employees while that inventory was worked down.)

3) Minimize inventory holding costs. (Note: antithesis of item 2) This involved shifting most incoming raw material delivery from rail car to truck and all outgoing product shipment to round-the-clock trucking. Also achieved through smaller production runs of various colors, scents, bottle-sizes, etc. Eventually involved new technologies to reduce waste/time spent when changing production between colors, scents, bottle/tube size, etc.

4) Minimize labor costs, mostly by automating whenever possible to eliminate jobs. Also by encouraging hourly workers to take on more management functions over time with minimal increases in pay, allowing the company to need fewer high-level, high paid managers in manufacturing. (Though this did probably make the hourly jobs more interesting.) Also began contracting out manufacturing of many new products to lower cost non-union operations.

5) Minimize waste of finished product from defective quality or spoilage in storage and shipment. Minimize waste of raw materials from spills/defective quality/spoilage, etc. Having to send entire batches of product to landfill because of a quality defect certainly happened but was to be avoided at least partly due to public relations considerations.

Not on this list in any significant way: minimize energy used. There were a few projects where energy costs had a minor influence on cost/benefit analysis but in general energy was so cheap compared to other factors it was inconsequential. Hence we almost always optimized the first five variables even if doing so doubled or tripled our energy usage.

My point: we were a clever, resourceful, creative, energetic group of engineers. If our task had been to minimize energy usage rather than the various silly, non-productive things we were often forced to do, we probably could've figured out a way to run that factory with a tenth of the energy and still put out the same essential products and still provided the same essential value to the economy. There is a heck of a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.

Interesting tao. Maybe we should change the old hook:"Frist, kill all the lawyers" to "First kill middle management". But, alas, that time has probably passed.

If the marketing people had done their jobs well (somewhere between #1 and #2) and convinced the consumers that the products were what they "absolutly must have", then 2-5 would be mostly moot.

If the marketing people had done their jobs well...

Then they would have caused even more wealth destruction than bankers. It would seem we should kill off the Ad execs even before we kill off middle management ;-)


according to the New Economics Foundation think tank...The report says advertising executives and tax accountants destroy even more of society's wealth as they create their own.

No real surprise there except that now we actually know by how much.

I don't know current numbers, but while I was working in consumer products, the breakdown of the cost of the shampoo/toothpaste/mouthwash purchased by the consumer was generally one third manufacturing (including all raw materials, all labor, all manufacturing plant salaries and overhead), one third marketing/corporate overhead, and one third shipping/warehouse/mark-up by stores. I assume corporate profits are worked in somehow but we were not privy to that information. From this experience, I would say a good rule of thumb is that for anything you buy that you've ever seen on TV, a big chunk of the cost is due to marketing (advertising, sales people, promotions, gimmicks). We actually pay a lot for the constant bombardment of words and images trying to persuade us to consume. Perhaps in the coming "new" economy some of this excess will melt away . . .


"First kill middle management"

They've already been killed - or have you been asleep over the past three decades?

Middle management was never more than a minor part of the problem at most. The real problem is with the people above them.

We have a myth of meritocracy in the USA, but it has been a long time since reality matched up with the myth. The skill set required to get to the top and stay there has very little to do with administrative competence.

For this reason, I have preferred small companies. It is much easier for skilled people to rise to the top, and there is generally a lot less bureaucracy to deal with.

WNC -- I guess we work in two very different fields. I can trace every major screw up I've witnessed first hand to managers in the first 2 or 3 levels above staff. Perhaps it's because I work operations and mistakes hit home almost immediately. Earlier this year I drilled a well that should have costs $10 million but turned out costing $23 million. And thanks mostly to a middle manager that wouldn't believe the recommendations from me and my drilling engineer. And worse then the over run his arrogance could have cost the lives of a few hands. Upper management didn't have a clue where the problem originated. He made sure my engineer and I were out of the loop when the post mortem was done. I've seen such events repeated for 34 years. I'm sure you're familiar with the PETER PRICIPLE. OTOH, I don't tend to float around the corporate suites so perhaps I just don't get to see their screw ups as readily.

Energy based currency.

Dilbert is not a comic strip ... it is a documentary. I left Corporate America in 2000 right after my 'C' programs held up to Y2K. I never looked back. How in the world did we ever get to the moon?

In a Hollywood studio;)

We got to the moon just before we started deciding that grades didn't matter, that any old random literary dreck was every bit as worthy of a reader's time as Shakespeare, that we oughtn't to keep score in school sports games, and that any nail that dared to stick out ought to be hammered down. In other words, before Political Correctness required us to glorify shiftlessness, sloth, stupidity, and failure, in the supposed name of "fairness", and in the actual name of envy.

Actually, it was before the elites decided an educated proletariat was dangerous, rather then an asset.
Reagan began the process at UC, and the dumbing down has accelerated.

I'm with you HT. Reagenomics and the entire concept of "will" over data. It started with him. Poor Jimmy Carter tried to deal with reality but the dream weavers got the upper hand. Its been downhill ever since.

Jimmy was a man with a very high moral character and I admire that.

However, Jimmy Carter was a fool in his idealism. Did he really think that he could motivate people by sharing knowledge of finite oil supply?

The downfall of every overly-smart engineer is the belief that "people" are just another systems control problem.

Highly successfull spin doctors and other propagandists have the same instrumental view about people but another set of knowledge then the engineers who understand some kind of physical system.

I suspect that the most common problem for overly-smart people is that they dont know their own limitations.

On the other hand I also suspect that highly successfull politicians need to learn to ignore their own limitations and give social signals about confidence for things they have no clue what so ever about.

My Great Uncle was a prominant Atlanta area politician and close friend of Jimmy Carter. I used to drive him to visit my Grandmother in a nursing home and he would talk about the old days of GA politics. We were on the subject of JC one day and I made the comment that Carter wasn't compatible with the office of President because he was a "humble Christian and an honest politician". Uncle Charley got quiet for a minute, then said; "Boy, I was in politics for over 50 years and a Baptist my whole life. I believe you just used two of the greatest oxymorons (pronounced oxamowrons) in the english language!"

Yes, but an uneducated proletariat is turning out to be a bit of a loose canon. Initially I suspect that the Republican plan was that these people could be easily manipulated to follow the Republican agenda, but the nuts out there now want to run the show themselves, and the party leaders now have to parrot the idiocy in order to remain in power.

How in the world did we ever get to the moon?

We hadn't thought about Y2K yet...

RE efficiency & engineers

IMO it will take much more than efficiency to get us on the right track. Efficiency in what are essentially worthless pursuits doesn't help the overall survivability picture. I'm sure if Pharoah Khufu's engineers had been smarter they could have built the great pyramids with half the slave labor. Then there were the Easter Island engineers...

Khufu's engineers didn't have fossil fuels.
The crux of the problem is that we have(had) a super cheap super usable plentiful exosomatic energy source.
If we go to a system of measuring all economic activity in terms of energy it would be a huge step in the right direction.

I agree completely.

Energy=Economy. While not a perfect relationship, it's close. It's truth is demonstrated by the average GDP per person over time, which is amazingly close to constant up until the time coal is discovered and put into use.

With regard to the Easter Islanders, everything was going fine until sub-chief Epo-Doo-Bee-Waaah came up with the idea of credit default swaps based on the Maoi statues.


Then there were the Easter Island engineers...

They probably got an A+ when taking that advance economics course.

What was it called again? The Stonecutter's Path to Prosperity (SPP 101)?

I wonder if they traded bundles of stone-head futures...

No, the stone heads were real, what they traded was credit swaps of bundles of stick futures. Unfortunately they ran into a major tree bubble and it burst.

After the trees ran out, they passed a Tree Stimulus bill.

The Bill called for a doubling of stone head construction, which of course, would please the gods and cause them to provide more trees. Everyone who took the Stone Cutter's 101 course knew that trees came from the gods. It was an economical fundamental. No one questions the fundamentals.

Hi taomom,

You've raised a number of interest points. I'm always amazed by the different variations in laundry detergents much as you describe. Compare, for example, the size and weight of a standard laundry detergent to that of the concentrated and now the "concentrated x 2" versions of the same brand. Then consider the packaging, warehousing and transportation savings made possible by the latter two. Why do we ship millions of tonnes of water half way across the country when a concentrated version can eliminate much of this needless waste?

We recently upgraded the lighting at a fast food restaurant (they have a whopper of a power bill as it turns out). The kitchen has two production lines and each line is equipped with a large bun toaster (the buns are dropped on racks that rotate around in a continuous loop). Over half the time only one line is used but both toasters are left on 24x7. How much effort does it take to turn off a toaster when it's not required? (These toasters are equipped with radiant heating elements, so there's little or no warm up requirement as far as I can tell.) Also, can't we design a toaster that kicks on the elements when it detects a bun has been dropped on the rack and turns them back off when done? I'm thinking a simple photo-eye might do the trick. Could we also cycle the individual elements sequentially as the bun winds it way through the toaster? If need be, we could add some fuzzy logic so that it can distinguish between high and low volume periods and adjust its operation accordingly.

I don't if any of these suggestions are technically feasible or if they could be implemented cost-effectively, but I'd like to think we're clever enough to come up with something a little better than what we have now.

Let's start thinking about how we use energy and seek out ways we can use less of it.


Paul, thats clearly an issue. I suspect it is not an easy one, as most of the population has been raised with the energy use for convenience attitude. And for decades the price has been low enough to discourage challenging the culture in these ways. Its just like people to turn on the ourdoor lights for the thirtysecond walk to/from the car, never mind the hours of unused lighting while they are off doing their errands. But in our society energy is not something you think about using wisely, it is something that you complain about the cost of.

I can think of a few minor reasons with ovens. The first is consistent cooking time. With the oven preheated it is easy to predict, and won't vary from batch to batch. If you've just turned it on the first batch or two will take longer. And your counting on minimum wage part time workers to get it right. It is possible there may also be an issue with thermal cycling. Every time an object is heated or cooled, it expands/contracts, and that introduces mechanical stresses. Enough cycles of thermal stress can fatigue parts. I don't know if that is an issue for such ovens. But if they are designed with the idea that energy use isn't an issue it is quite likely that tolerance was not designed in.

But we clearly have some major low hanging fruit in the commercial food sector. Open ovens, and open freezers are an obvious target. I suspect that lighting is small potatoes when it comes to energy use by commercial and light industrial customers.

Hi EoS,

I wish I had taken a look at the name plate, but I'm guessing these toasters are 4 to 5 kW each and the thought of them running day and night -- needlessly -- irritates me to no end. If we assume 4.0 kW, their combined usage in continuous operation is 70,000 kWh/year or about $8,000.00 at current rates.

I honestly don't know if there's any warm-up requirement as they seem to employ mostly radiant heat. However, if you can't fully turn off the elements for this reason, perhaps you could cut the current flow in half or whatever fraction possible and ramp it up to full power as the bun makes it way through the machine (note that the bun is exposed to only a small percentage of the elements at any one time). If the toaster has been in its low power state for an extended period of time, perhaps the conveyor reduces it speed slightly so that the first bun through upon resumption takes twelve seconds as opposed to ten.

Surely we can build a smarter toaster [or what have you] if we put our minds to it. I appreciate your comments with regards to thermal stress but, again, we should be capable of overcoming that through proper design. I fully agree that "if they are designed with the idea that energy use isn't an issue it is quite likely that tolerance was not designed in". That's the single critical flaw in the design of many of these kinds of products.


Apparently my wife and daughters were designed without energy efficiency as a requirement. With the children visiting for the holidays I've spent the entire week turning off lights behind them. I didn't notice how much time I've spent doing the same with wife until now.

Ha! That's a good one. But think of the free exercise you received!

Paul, what makes you think the soap in the new container is more concentrated? I just figured the usual economics apply - higher price, lower quantity.

I have long watched the continuous-web toasters in cafeterias and hotels. It seems there are two benefits - (1) there is almost never a delay in putting new bread into the toaster, and (2) the built-in delay during toasting lets the user go help another customer. I'm sure the queueing functions could be implemented another way, but this is a simple machine, easy to master. Unless, of course, a bagel or muffin gets stuck in the back end and catches fire.

If the web was half its width but longer (and half the length lay outside the heated area) the queueing behavior would be the same, but the heater could be half as large. Since the entry and exit "slots" are half as wide they have half the cross-sectional area, so less air flow to cool the inside.

For real smarts, add an input object sensor (a simple photocell/LED pair would do) and turn the heating element off if no food appears on the web in a minute or two. This would reduce the duty cycle by 95% or so during non-peak use times and have no effect during peak usage. Keep the web moving; it costs very little to run.

Why hasn't someone done this before? Probably, like taomom says, nobody asked for it.


Hi Chris,

With respect to the potential energy and waste savings of concentrated laundry detergents, see: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/10/walmart_laundry.php

According to this article, Walmart's decision to sell only concentrated detergents will "save more than 400 million gallons of water, more than 95 million pounds of plastic resin, and more than 125 million pounds of cardboard." And that's just one chain !

My obsession with commercial toasters may seem somewhat silly, but think of the number of solar panels that would be required to generate 70,000 kWh/year and their capital cost versus the incremental cost of designing a more energy efficient alternative. Any number of commercial and industrial processes could be re-engineered for greater energy efficiency if we were to put our minds to it.


Hi Paul,

I've no doubt the savings in shipping weight would be very worthwhile. My concern is whether the product is in fact more concentrated -- it seems to me the liquid within has about the same appearance and viscosity as Fab had in 1974. Maybe I'm all wet, but some due diligence might be needed here.

Your thoughts on toasters are right on, with perhaps one gotcha: the existing toasters are built like tanks. They aren't going to fall over and be replaced. Restaurant owners need to see the light first, and none of this equipment is cheap. Maybe when smart metering gets installed, things will change.

Your posts on lighting have kept me thinking. A local hardware store just replaced their entire ceiling lighting system with new T8 based fixtures hung about 18" from the ceiling. But the interesting thing was this: The new fixtures are mounted in rows hanging not orthogonal to the front or sides of the store, but at a 45 degree angle! The side effect of this: the old fixtures would leave shadows in some aisles (there are more aisles than rows of fixtures) but when rows of lighting are placed at an angle, every aisle is well lit. Aesthetically, it looks (to me) no less attractive than before, just different. And with fixtures hung lower, closer to the ground, everything is just a tad brighter.


Hi Chris,

I don't know how various brands compare and how they may have changed over the years, but it's a valid question. I can tell you that I've used both regular liquid Tide as well as the original concentrated and, more recently, X2 versions and you can clearly tell the difference in their respective viscosity.... the X2 pours much like a thick syrup.

You're right -- new, more energy efficient conveyor toasters, should they come to market, are unlikely to replace existing stock at any appreciable rate unless electrical utilities provide sufficient incentives. It would be an interesting exercise to weigh various design options and work through the numbers in more detail.

Normally, continuous rows are run perpendicular to the isles to ensure good coverage. Whenever you get too creative, you run the risk of visual distraction (the mind is conditioned to think in straight lines and standard patterns). You want to keep the customer's eye on the merchandise, not the fixtures, so a conventional approach is generally recommended.


I'm a fan of Charlie's Soap. Not only is it super-concentrated, you don't have to use fabric softener with it.

Rather than ask for a smart toaster these business owners are likely to be Ayn Rand types. They will be campaigning for cheap coal power, because they can't afford to pay for the greener variety.

I agree, there are many ways to get the same end result with much less energy as an input. Now whether that result is valuable (should the world have toothpaste, shampoo and hotdogs?) is another matter. It does seem to me that 96000 permutations of shampoo aren't particularly necessary, and in a low energy future we can expect less choice. Still, I don't think it means no shampoo at all. (I realize true greenies get by with vinegar hair rinses. I'm not quite there yet.)

To get industry to use less energy, the price of energy needs to go up and stay up. Businesses will not like this, but it is the only thing they really respond to. Yes, initially they will pass the some of the higher energy costs on to the consumer, but they will also quickly get really clever about using less energy. Rail freight will come back into fashion. Factories may actually de-automate to some extent and hire more people, though these jobs will likely involve low end, rather boring and repetitive tasks. A lot will depend on the price of human exertion versus the price of electro-mechanical exertion.

Hi taomom,

And, of course, most of those 96,000 permutations of shampoo come from just two companies: Unilever and P&G. I hope the steal-market share-through-ever-greater-fragmentation era comes to a quick close.

Your main point is well taken; compared to other line items, energy is generally insignificant, or at least historically that's been the case. Rather ironic that the demand for greater environmental accountability/corporate stewardship and not the cost of energy itself has moved us further in the right direction.

This is an uneducated guess, but I suspect higher energy costs will give rise to even greater automation as corporations try to wring out more cost. After all, the salary and benefits of just one factory worker buys you a whole whack of electricity and natural gas.


When I was working as Day Prep for a certain international Pizza chain, one of the last things I did before openening each day was to turn the ovens on (gas-fired, one over the other). They took about ten minutes to warm up, which was enough time for myself and the waitress to make ourselves a thickshake from the ice-cream machine and have a break. I would rotate the oven each day (top one Monday, bottom one Tuesday, top on Wednesday etc), and except for peak period later in the evening, only one was required (I usually turned the second oven on as I left in the evening, just before the evening crew came in).

I kept fridges and freezers closed, used thermal storage wherever I could, and had the Proofing of the dough down to an art form (five batches, one after the other, before 10AM, keeping the Proofer at max utilisation, then off).

Even back then, I didn't see the point in wasting energy.

A Christmas Road Trip...

My BIL and MIL live in Carmel, CA. We live about 200 miles north of San Francisco. The one way mileage is about 300 miles to Carmel. So, we had boondocks driving, rural driving, city driving and freeway driving where I typically went 70mph. Our overall mileage in our 2004 Corolla was 37mpg. Not bad.


Bravo Todd, kinda like Harry Truman driving to work in his own car.

Our current President and Family took a specially built 747 from Washington DC to Honolulu at about 3.7 gallons per mile (~280K# of JP round trip). I don't know about your accomodations but his are $7K per night + chow.

Tell me that "stimulating and bailing" is not a profitable enterprize.


Hi Lynford,

And let it be said the man had impeccable taste with respect to cars.



We're continuing our weekly round-ups of US Appalachian region coal news at West Virginia Blue... nothing as extensive at TOD Drum Beat :-), but it still may be of interest to energy watchers.

The Week in Coal 12/27/2009

The most significant story in a slow news weeks is that W.Va. Sen. Robert Byrd and US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met to discuss coal mine permit issues.

“We did not talk about individual permits,” Jacobs said of the Byrd-Jackson one-on-one.

In fact, the meeting didn’t focus on the permits, and Byrd didn’t press for an acceleration of them.

“The two of them sat down and talked about providing clarity so that all parties involved know what is involved and what is expected in order to move any individual permits forward,” Jacobs said.

“He emphasized repeatedly we need clarity in the process.”

Byrd himself viewed the sit-down with Jackson as “friendly and candid,” and said the two agreed that ongoing discussions must embrace a civil discourse among all parties if any solutions are found to break the impasse.

Mining permits have been delayed while the EPA is attempting to discern if any violate the Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile, the majority of local "leaders" continue to ignore Sen. Byrd's calls for cool-headed discussion and instead demagogue enforcement of environmental regulations.

From the article, I infer that the local leaders to which you refer are those who want non enforcement. Anyway, in lieu of a serious cap and trade or tax policy, coal use should be phased out starting now. Hasn't enough of West Virginia been destroyed yet?

Importance of diversifying our energy source

Reading that headline, it struck me that, it would be relevant to almost every country in the world. The column ends with the following sentence which equally applies to almost every oil importing country in the world.

This last point illustrates the vital importance of action to diversify our energy source and transform the inefficiency with which we use energy, for we cannot solve our balance-of-payments problems by contracting economic activity, or by depending on the current moderation of oil prices

The preceding paragraph contains a reference to the country that is the subject of this article.

Notwithstanding big losses in four of the five levers on which the Jamaican economy operates, the collapse of oil prices, from over US$140 per barrel in July 2008 to under US$40 per barrel at the end of 2008, brought about dramatic improvements in the country's balance of payments. Even though oil prices have again climbed, the current-account deficit fell by US$1.65 billion in the first eight months of 2009, or by nearly 80 per cent. Oil imports alone actually fell by US$1.79 billion, or 66.7 per cent, reflecting a combination of lower oil prices and reduced imports consequent on the plant closures in the bauxite industry.

I find it interesting how economists seem to downplay or ignore resource limits regardless of where they come. I guess they all go to the same schools. In the whole article there is nary a mention of the possibility of any economic constraints due to Peak Oil or peak anything. I have commented on previous articles the author has written about energy but, he either doesn't read the comments to his articles or he is being a typical economist (ignoring any references to Peak Oil or Limits to Growth).

Edit: The use of the singular form "energy source" as opposed to the plural "energy sources" is apt in this context. Save for a smattering of hydro wind and solar, Jamaica relies entirely on petroleum (and natural gas) for it's energy. The only other exception is the local cement plant which switched to coal to fuel it's kilns some years ago.

Seasons Greetings!

Alan from the islands

This comment is somewhat off topic and perhaps better suited for a campfire discussion. I bring it up only because if one of the consequences of Peak Oil is a contracting economy it will also have to affect health care and medical research when we will probably be needing it the most. My guess is that if a pathogen such as the one described in the articled linked below were to escape into the population at large all bets would be off. It could be the black swan of die off.

This is the kind of pathogen that I have been worried about for a number of years and quite frankly have been surprised that we haven't had any major outbreak of extremely virulent highly contagious and almost impossible to treat disease. The only silver linning I see to something like this is that it will be a leveler of the playing field. It will cross all social barriers and the super rich will have no more protection from it than the poor.


Doctors say Juarez's incessant hack was a sign of what they have both dreaded and expected for years — this country's first case of a contagious, aggressive, especially drug-resistant form of tuberculosis...
..."He is really the future,"(emphasis mine) Ashkin said. "This is the new class that people are not really talking too much about. These are the ones we really fear because I'm not sure how we treat them."

FM - Actually this is one of the directions today's Drumbeat is currently heading: how will the global society adjust to a lower energy flow. Not difficult to imagine medical care suffering. But I won't loose sleep worrying about the rich/powerful suffering. In a world of diminishing resources it's easy to imagine who will control them.

FM -- Meant to say the 26 DrumBeat. Sorry about that chief.

The Sun-Sentinal article quotes a US doctor as saying "you can't keep them out",refering to immigrants (who are sick).

But, yes you can keep them out.The process is called border control and quarantine - been around for a long time.Well past time for Western nations to apply comprehensive restrictions on entry.Also well past time to drop the bleeding heart syndrome unless you want to commit national suicide.

But, yes you can keep them out.The process is called border control and quarantine - been around for a long time.Well past time for Western nations to apply comprehensive restrictions on entry.Also well past time to drop the bleeding heart syndrome unless you want to commit national suicide.

Really? I don't think you get it or have have grasped the enormity of the problem.

About 60 million people visit the U.S. every year, and most are not screened for TB before arrival. Only refugees and those coming as immigrants are checked.

Those 60 million are legitimate legal visitors to the US.

Just this morning I took my girl friend to Fort Lauderdale International airport, she happened to be flying to Detroit and they had tightened security because of the Nigerian who was trying to blowup a plane the other day. It was pretty chaotic considering it is also the holiday season. If you think homeland security measures are an inconvenience now what do you think will happen to the airline industry if you have to screen everyone for TB, let alone other possible pathogens. The system and the public are not equipped to deal with issues such as this.

I don't want to continue this discussion here at the risk of hijacking this tread but would love to discuss it some other time as I mentioned, possibly in a campfire thread.


That's something to worry about .... as someone who's training to become an EMT, this is the kind of thing it's my job to plan for.

I used some blackmarket antibiotics to knock down a case of strep throat that was troubling me just when the weather started to cool, I think I acquired it from a friend who'd traveled to the East Coast and spent a lot of time with a kid who's apparently always carrying *some* strep throat. How helpful!

All the traveling done now is a bigger problem than "foreigners".

I supposed without the blackmarket pills, I'd have had to just try gargling with salt water a lot, maybe tried making some silver preparations. I'm trying to brush up on the chemistry I "learned" in college and learn more, because it will be very useful.

(And I know I'm gonna get yelled at for obtaining medications on the black market but I'm one of the many millions with no access to medical care, and I didn't want to wait until I got *really* sick and then hit the emergency room and run up a big bill that I can't even pay $10 of.)


(And I know I'm gonna get yelled at for obtaining medications on the black market but I'm one of the many millions with no access to medical care, and I didn't want to wait until I got *really* sick and then hit the emergency room and run up a big bill that I can't even pay $10 of.)

Far be it from me to criticize someone for going to a black market source for medication. However black market drugs in general, by definition, have a dubious provenance and therefore I'd already be somewhat skeptical of their efficacy. Then you have the issue of self medicating and especially when it comes to antibiotics you could very well be helping to select for an antibiotic resistant bug and therefore contributing to making the overall problem worse.

This is exactly the kind of issue that underscores precisely why basic preventive health care needs to be freely available to all and all arguments to the contrary stem from a profound ignorance of basic science.
Antibiotic resistant pathogens will just as happily infect so called conservative free market capitalists, and kill them off, as they might infect impoverished illegal immigrants who in turn might me be just the right incubators for those same pathogens. Humans, it seems, can be really, really dumb...To be clear, I don't mean you.

This is why I read up on the stuff, took the full course of treatment, etc.

And yes we need a new public preventative health movement in the US.

Antibiotic resistant pathogens will just as happily infect so called conservative free market capitalists, and kill them off, as they might infect impoverished illegal immigrants who in turn might me be just the right incubators for those same pathogens.

While thats true in a theoretical sense, the overwhelming majority of those that will get these illnesses are the poor. And not just because of the numbers, but because they are much more exposed to the pathogens, and to other conditions such as a weakened immune system. Heck if rich tycoons are really woried about germs, they can seal themselves off like Howard Hughes did. I agree with your argument otherwsie (especially the moral component, as well as the epidemiology component. I've always tried to argue that humans have responsibilities as well as rights, and one of those is epidemiologic responsibility. But, at least in this society rights trump responsibilities, so no-one seems to agree.

Vitamin C is relatively cheap and there are some who believe that it can help the body fight off most if not all pathogens when used properly. One modern pioneer was Dr. Robert F. Cathcart who developed a technique he called "Titrating to Bowel Tolerance". There is a web site that features some of his work and links to some of his publications as well as other material on vitamin c. The site also links to resources on Orthmolecular(nutritional) Medicine, including this one, Orthomolecular Medicine News

My experience with some of this stuff has been very positive to the point where I'm sold. IMHO Orthomolecular medicine is going to be needed post peak as more complex, energy dependent systems falter.

Alan from the islands

And this is why I have a duty to get all the allopathic medicine training I can.

"Herbs and spices" don't even get me started on this crap it's not pretty.

Herbs and spices -- I love it! And they let you say such things in California??

I think getting medical training is a great thing to do as we start on the downslope of the oil age. One of these days I'll go for the full wilderness EMT training. A couple of years ago I took a great week long Wilderness First Responder course, partly because I spend a decent amount of time in the wilds, but also as a way of acquiring some new skills as preparation for having to do more myself. Unfortunately (but fortunately for my friends) I haven't had much occasion to practice, so I'm getting rusty on the proper way to rig up a traction splint for a broken femur...


Well, do be careful about the possibility of allergy to a particular antibiotic. While rare, it can be pretty serious. Honestly the claims about the new (not yet passed) healthplan, is that the subsidies for people with low enough income is supposed to be 100%. But apparently the cost cutting is to make them high deductable plans. So probably the general availability of routine preventive care will still be crappy. But I suspect once you get an EMT job, that some sort of healthcare will be provided.

Hey here's a question for you.

What do you call a person who's allergic to vitamin C?

Answer: A corpse

Vitamin C is less toxic than water but, just as essential. A total absence of it will probably doom you to a slow and horrible death (scurvy) unless you get lucky and die from some virulent infection quickly.

Alan from the islands

Vitamin C is less toxic than water but, just as essential.

Alan, this is an exaggeration. A single dose of a few grams of vitamin C can cause nausea and diarrhea. Infrequently kidney stones develop, especially if a kidney disease exists.

You probably got your information from here: http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec01/ch004/ch004j.html

The upper limit for vitamin C intake is 2000 mg/day. Up to 10 g/day of vitamin C are sometimes taken for unproven health benefits, such as preventing or shortening the duration of viral infections or slowing or reversing the progression of cancer or atherosclerosis. Such doses may acidify the urine, cause nausea and diarrhea, interfere with the healthy antioxidant-prooxidant balance in the body, and, in patients with thalassemia or hemochromatosis, promote iron overload. Intake below the upper limit does not have toxic effects in healthy adults.

Hmmm. I wonder why Merck would want people to believe that.

I got my info from here: http://www.doctoryourself.com/ortho_c.html

The safety of vitamin C is extraordinary. There is not one case of vitamin C toxicity anywhere in the world's medical literature. There is not one case of vitamin C-caused kidney stone ever proven, to the best of my knowledge. Vitamin C has been used to prevent and cure the formation of kidney stones since William J. McCormick, M.D. used it in 1946 (Medical Record 159:7, p 410-413). 10,000 mg of ascorbic acid per day does not significantly increase urinary excretion of calcium (Linus Pauling Institute Newsletter "Effect of High Intake of Ascorbic Acid on Excretion of Calcium" by Dr. C. Tsao, 2:3, 1983). Daily doses of over 120,000 mg have been used with safety by medical doctors, and guinea pigs have been given the human daily dose equivalent of 500,000 mg without harm. The major side effect of vitamin C overload is an unmistakable 5-times-an-hour diarrhea. This indicates absolute saturation, and the daily dose is then dropped to the highest amount that will not bring about diarrhea. That is a THERAPEUTIC level. Robert Cathcart, M.D. of California routinely employs high-ascorbic acid therapy with his patients with success (Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 2nd Quarter, 1981). Frederick R. Klenner, M.D. of North Carolina has seen cures of diphtheria, staph and strep infections, herpes, mumps, spinal meningitis, mononucleosis, shock, viral hepatitis, arthritis and polio using high doses of vitamin C (Journal of Preventive Medicine, Spring, 1974). Dr. Klenner says: "Ascorbic acid is the safest and the most valuable substance available to the physician" and "If you want results, use adequate ascorbic acid."

Here's Merck's take on the toxicity of vitamin D

Because synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D (the most active metabolite of vitamin D) is tightly regulated, vitamin D toxicity usually occurs only if excessive doses (prescription or megavitamin) are taken. Vitamin D 1000 μg (40,000 IU)/day produces toxicity within 1 to 4 mo in infants. In adults, taking 1250 μg (50,000 IU)/day for several months can produce toxicity. Vitamin D toxicity can occur iatrogenically when hypoparathyroidism is treated too aggressively

Wow 50,000IU (20-25 high potency pills) a day produces toxicity after several months, this is really dangerous stuff!

Alan from the islands

I wonder why Merck would want people to believe that.

Alan, no I have the information from 'Informatorium Medicamentorum', a Dutch book with all the registered medicines (and vitamins).
Nausea and diarrhea is an unspecific or specific side-effect. It is unspecific if a large amount of a substance irritates the GI-tract. For medicines a 'large amount' is in the order of a few hundred milligrams or more. For vitamin C it is reported ( maybe only about 1 in 10 will experience it) with doses higher than 1,5 gram and it can be avoided with 'slow release' vit C preparations.

Frederick R. Klenner, M.D. of North Carolina has seen cures of diphtheria, staph and strep infections, herpes, mumps, spinal meningitis, mononucleosis, shock, viral hepatitis, arthritis and polio using high doses of vitamin C (Journal of Preventive Medicine, Spring, 1974). Dr. Klenner says: "Ascorbic acid is the safest and the most valuable substance available to the physician" and "If you want results, use adequate ascorbic acid."

That is impressive. Such a valuable substance should also be able to heal scar tissue, but I can find nothing about this.

Regarding vitamin D I can only repeat what I wrote: I think an adequate ratio omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids intake is at least as important.

Alan, no I have the information from 'Informatorium Medicamentorum', a Dutch book with all the registered medicines (and vitamins)

Still sounds like standard pharmaceutical industry propaganda to me. I purchased a copy of Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts' book "Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C" which is my reference on vitamin c. See my post further down this drumbeat.

That is impressive. Such a valuable substance should also be able to heal scar tissue, but I can find nothing about this.

Maybe it can! The chances of anybody ever getting funding to do any research on this are nil so unless some enterprising individual with lots of money and no profit motive decides to take it upon them-self.... wait ... hold on. Like I said, not going to happen so, I guess we'll never know.

There have been times when I have taken as much as 32g of vitamin c over the course of a day without having the persistent once every half hour diarrhea that indicates saturation. That did not last for long and I gradually reduced to more reasonable amount. At the moment I don't need more than 3 or 4g a day except when I get a cut in which case I can step up for the duration of the wound healing process.

Incidentally Klenner and other practitioners who use mega-dose vitamin c often use sodium ascorbate intravenously. He used a syringe and modern orthomolecular practitioners have been known to administer 75g of sodium ascorbate dissolved in about 2l of water over a period of about two hours via IV drip. I have witnessed it myself and the procedure is remarkably unspectacular.

There is a clinic in Wichita, Kansas that over the last 30 years has developed and refined a protocol for IV administration of vitamin c. Theirs is an open ended program that involves infusion 2-3 times per week until the patient gets better or dies. The treatment I witnessed administered in London England and was a three week daily course similar to the one described in this pdf except that it included weekends. There was no plan as to what to do at the end of the three weeks. In the end, the patient died of cancer about four weeks after the last vitamin c infusion, still a few weeks longer than the doctors expected her to last. She was my sister.

Alan from the islands

Still sounds like standard pharmaceutical industry propaganda to me.

Alan, that book is from the KNMP and is for pharmacists and has no industry propaganda. And as I wrote: unspecific diarrhea (and nausea) can always happen because of irritation and is nothing to worry about. Also, it happens in maybe only about 10% of persons who take a few grams of vitamin C daily.

Maybe it can! The chances of anybody ever getting funding to do any research on this are nil so unless some enterprising individual with lots of money and no profit motive decides to take it upon them-self....

Indeed. This I also read about serrapeptase, an enzyme that seems to 'dissolve' scar tissue/adhesions. There are a lot of positive testimonials on internet, but Wikipedia says the claims are anecdotal and not proven. In f.i. Germany, serrapeptase is prescribed though by many doctors.

I feel sorry for what happened with your sister.

Linus Pauling determined his bowel tolerance to vit C to be ca 18 grams per day, and consumed that much for many years. It eventually killed him at age 93. < /sarconol >

How to Live Longer and Feel Better

Vitamin C is relatively cheap and there are some who believe that it can help the body fight off most if not all pathogens when used properly.

I've been wanting to thank someone around here for mentioning Vitamin C a few months back (And now D as well). I've since been researching vitamins and plant extracts extensively and I am very impressed by plants' "biological intelligence" and completely sold on (at least some) serious Orthomolecular health benefits.

So... thanks!

I always cross reference PubMed for some real research on whatever molecule/nutrient I'm investigating.

Vitamins C and D, and CoQ10 are the big nutrients to me so far. (Added to my MultiVitamin)
Of course A thru E plus K are all of some benefit.

Ashwagandha (brain), Tea Tree Oil (topical), and Olive Leaf extract (cholesterol) are pretty impressive plant extracts...

Haven't started looking into minerals much yet.

One of the things that ticks me off about the Health Care debate/legislation is the lack of any money saving projects of nutritional guidelines and/or research.

And, of course, check with your doctor before starting any supplements!
(Especially if you are on other medications.)

Ron L:

Enzwell, though all the mentioned supplements will have some benefits in certain circumstances what is at least as important is a healthy ratio of the omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids in the daily food intake. This ratio is much too low in most individuals nowadays and is responsible for a lot of (inflammatory) diseases.

Vitamin C is necessary for good health however it is useless against MOST pathogens and more specifically against antibiotic resistant TB or other similarly resistant bugs!

As for nutritional medicine etc... I suggest you watch this.

Homeopathy & Nutritionists vs Real Science!


With due respect, a comedians rant is not a good response to my post. If you had followed any of the links in my post you would have found that the practitioners of orthomolecular medicine are real scientists, medical doctors and psychiatrists who have decided to research treatment of various conditions using natural substances as opposed to patented drugs. This may prove to be a useful approach post peak.

Edit: As for the uselessness of vitamin C in fighting pathogens I can only suggest that you read the page on Dr. Cathcarts method of titrating to bowel tolerance. You might also find the work of the late Dr. Frederick Klenner interesting in particular his Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C. A more recent look at the science of vitamin c has been taken by two British scientists, Dr. Steve Hickey, initialy trained as a biologist specializing in pharmacology with a PhD in Medical Biophysics and Hilary Roberts whos first degree was in Physiology and Psychology, has a Masters in Computer Science and whos PhD was on the effects of early life malnutrition. A customary search of the internet will reveal several books on the subject that they have co-authored. Most attacks on the efficacy of vitamin c have been based on work that completely ignores the advice of Drs. Klenner, Cathcart, Roberts and Hickey.

It would be kind of like me telling you that you need almost a full tank to drive a F350 Super Duty pickup from Hollywood to Orlando but you decide to try with a quarter tank and blame the gas when you don't even make it to Fort Pierce.

Alan from the islands

If you had followed any of the links in my post you would have found that the practitioners of orthomolecular medicine are real scientists, medical doctors and psychiatrists who have decided to research treatment of various conditions using natural substances as opposed to patented drugs. This may prove to be a useful approach post peak.

While I am by no means a great fan of the pharmaceutical industry It would be somewhat disingenuous to suggest that natural substances are not the basis of many medications that are marketed by the pharmaceutical industry.

I did follow your links and I still remain a bit skeptical about what orthomolecular medicine proposes that is different from current accepted medical practice. I also happen to be well aware of the work of Linus Pauling with vitamin C and clearly stated that I accepted its health benefits.

However having said that I would still remain extremely skeptical of anyone who claimed that vitamin C would have curative properties for antibiotic resistant strains of tuberculosis in lieu of proper treatment. I did not find any legitimate doctor who claims anything of the sort.

BTW I have a number of MDs, geneticists, microbiolgists, biochemists and even a pharmacologist in my extended family and I myself studied biology so I have some background and reason to be skeptical when faced with extraordinary claims such as vitamin C being a cure all. It has its place but there are still a few popular myths associated with it.

As for the link to a comedian, it is not just any comedian he happens to be a doctor of dentistry and a skeptic with a penchant for exposing cranks. For the moment I will refrain from equating practitioners of orthomolecular medicine, a term that I admit rubs me the wrong way and sets my alarm bells ringing, with cranks, as you mentioned they seem to be legitimate practitioners of science and medicine. I will be trying to find out more about who these people are and what kinds of research they are engaged in.

For the record I have no quarrel with you and intend to keep an open mind, my apologies if you were offended by my link.


I just found this at Wikipedia:

Orthomolecular medicine, or megavitamin therapy, is a form of complementary and alternative medicine that seeks to prevent or treat diseases with nutrients prescribed as dietary supplements or derived from diets.[1][2][3] Orthomolecular medicine focuses on what it sees as the right nutritional molecules in the right amounts for the individual and proponents believe that low levels of these substances can cause chronic problems beyond vitamin deficiency.[4] It often recommends megavitamin doses much larger than those considered medically necessary.[3] In general, the vitamin megadoses advocated by orthomolecular medicine are unsupported by scientific consensus.[5] Some vitamins are toxic in high doses.[6]

Emphasis and italics mine. Which confirms my suspicions about there not being any scientific confirmation of the validity of their practices. Degrees in medicine notwithstanding.

It's just that I get a little frustrated when this vitamin stuff is dismissed out of hand in lighjt of my very positive results from my own experience. It's sort of like trying to convince a highly qualified economist that Peak Oil ia a clear and present danger.

Based on the numbers of your extended family that are part of the current system, I can understand your skepticism. Given the Goliath that is the pharmaceutical industry, the little Davids don't stand much of a chance no matter how compelling their stories might be or maybe I should say they don't stand a chance the more compelling their stories are.

Alan from the islands

Great video. Thanks very much. I plan to watch the rest of his stuff. Any more links welcome.

I note that it is quite legal to buy a number of pharmaceutical-grade antibiotics without prescription for your pet fish.

Two favorites of mine are amoxicillin and cephalexin. I keep a fair bit handy, since I never know when my koi might get sick....

Most dog magazines offer a single fish product - antibiotics - because in the USA you need a scrip for dogs but not for fish.

Just a tip for those of you who don't want to risk your fish getting infected.

Cows and horses, not to mention pigs and lambs , get sick too.Some drugs are available otc at farm supplies.

I strongly reccomend a little research if you contemplate going into back yard farming.

You can buy some very good medicines otc at farm supplies.

Mac, when TSHTF pig medications are a top choice for desperate humans. Seems animal antibiotics are made by the same people, in the same plants as human antibiotics, just with slightly lower tolerances. I was on a flight with a guy who was a chemist for Bayer and he said the medication and dosage are exactly the same for pigs as for humans, only a lot cheaper. Nice to know in tough times. Oink, Oink!

The New Yorker had an article in their 12/21 issue featuring my own little town of Cottage Grove and my own little pub The Axe & Fiddle. Actually, they featured Aprovecho, a local shoestring ecological research group that is building stoves for people primarily in Africa.

The abstract is available on line but the rest requires a subscription.


Another article of interest in the New Yorker 12/21 issue is:

Diary of an Interesting Year:


That link should be mandatory reading for all.

Better than "The Road", I know, everyone thinks "The Road" is genius, but I found it simplistic, formulaic, and really kinda dry.

I can't discuss this story without giving out spoilers, I can just say Thanks for posting it, and Thanks for recommending it.

read "Blood Meridian" than. "The Road" and "No Country for Old Men" are mere trifles in comparison. "Blood Meridian" is perhaps the best American novel ever written IMO.

Wow, talk about doom and gloom. "Blood Meridian" was a great piece of fiction, but it is serious rough going violence-wise. If I want to get that depressed, I read non-fiction, at least I feel like I am learning something about reality that way.

The Road is not a post apocolypse novel, but a hell of a lot of people seem to read it for one.

It's a psychological study.

I have not yet met a young person who has appreciated it for what it is.

Now my second wife used to explain modern art and wine to me on a regular basis and I must admit that I could make no sense of either one.The swirls and splotches never morphed into something sublime, and sweet homemade wine still tastes better than the hundred dollar a bottle stuff to me. into

But I am a conniseur of books, and have read at least one book every week for fifty years.

The Road is an instant classic but it may not be readily accessible to younger people who have not yet seriously contemplated the subject of thier own mortality.

I have found that a number of classic works which meant nothing to me in my own younger days are extraordinarily good a couple of decades later..

Some time back I read all but a few of McCarty's books.

He style is very dense and packed with huge amounts of very thought provoking text.

I can usually read pretty fast but with him I have to take it at a far slower rate, due to the above.

I find his works to be amongst the best I have ever read. The Road being among the top. There is something in it for everyone but my takeaway was very easy.

That was the protection of the offspring and their survival. That to me was the core of the book. All the rest was apocalyptic, at least to me. And very close to what I think we will see in the future. The dieoff.

The cannibalism, the wastelands and all the rest. Wrapped around most of his novels is pyschology. That of the inner man and his dealings with society and its culture.

The last I read was dealing with Texans and Mexico. Forget the title but it was about two different cultures and how they lived. Very good too.


Well, that was an uplifting story, now wasn't it.

My gut says that short stories like this are probably a better form for these post-apocalyptic tales. Most people would find a full-length novel or film too depressing and not finish the thing.

Right, that story pretty much kills any desire to get intimate with the girlfriend tonight. Think I'll just neck myself instead... :|

On a more serious note, it's stories like that which make me have to take a break from the internet every week or two.

Let's turn back the hands of time some thirty-five years. Any of this sound vaguely familiar?

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWS05WwsAq8


Remember the James Bond movie that featured the AMC cars? In Tailand I think. It had a flying Pacer. "The Man With The Golden Gun". Roger Moore drove the V-8 performance version of the Hornet, a pretty hot little car. I know a guy who still has a fulltime 4wd version of a Pacer, he says AMC was using as a test bed for it's "Quadratrac" 4wd system. He calls it his DoDo bird. AMC was ahead of its time in some ways. The Pacer's styling looked a lot like my sister's '05 Outback Sport.

Hi Ghung,

I do indeed. I'm a Mopar guy but I have a huge soft spot for all things AMC. I was the captain of our bowling team and so I got to assign each player's "screen names" (these were projected on a large overhead screen and we were too embarrassed to use our real names given our scores). Thus we became known as Gretta Gremlin, Patty Pacer, Matty Matador, Judy Javelin and Cathy Concord (yes, we were considered weird even by gay league standards).

Addendum: I forgot to add that a guy on my team went to school with a girl who's dad bought one of the very first Pacers sold in Canada. She invited a bunch of her classmates over to check it out and they decided to do figure-eights on the frozen lake by her home. Everything went splendidly until they heard the ice start to crack, at which point the doors flew open and they all scurried out like rats. A few moments later, dad's shinny new Pacer sunk to the bottom of the lake with something like eight miles on the odometer.

Paul (high triple score of 747)

I learned to drive in an old Pacer. I can see why they didn't do well. The design was so futuristic it wasn't very functional. (The door handles always broke, because people tried to use them to pull the long, heavy door closed. They were meant to just release the latch - you were supposed to use the groove molded in the door to pull it closed. But no one realized that, so the handle constantly broke.)

I still miss the field of view I used to get in the ol' Goldfish Bowl on Wheels.

Re: Growing chorus says oil has peaked

I tried to access the link to the article yesterday and again today, but it did not work. This story seems to be the proper link. Or, has the story been "updated" in some manner?

E. Swanson

Strange. The original link works fine for me.

I think there is something wrong with the site. Both links result in a "site problem" message for me.