Drumbeat: December 28, 2009

In New Gas Wells, More Drilling Chemicals Remain Underground

For more than a decade the energy industry has steadfastly argued before courts, Congress and the public that the federal law protecting drinking water should not be applied to hydraulic fracturing, the industrial process that is essential to extracting the nation's vast natural gas reserves. In 2005 Congress, persuaded, passed a law prohibiting such regulation.

Now an important part of that argument -- that most of the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that drillers inject underground are removed for safe disposal, and are not permanently discarded inside the earth -- does not apply to drilling in many of the nation's booming new gas fields.

Three company spokesmen and a regulatory official said in separate interviews with ProPublica that as much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from New York to Tennessee.

Oil jumps above $79 a barrel

NEW YORK – Oil prices jumped above $79 barrel Monday, rising to the highest level in seven weeks as an extended cold snap triggered an end-of-year rally in energy futures.

Hungary says Russian oil supply may stop on Jan. 1

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Russian oil deliveries to the European Union (EU) via Ukraine may halt as of the first day of next year, Hungary's Energy Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

It said earlier news issued by Slovakia about a possible stoppage was confirmed by Russian pipeline operator Transneft, the business partner of Hungarian oil group MOL MOLB.BU, and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could be directly affected.

Russia-Ukraine oil row to be solved in days - source

KIEV (Reuters) - A dispute over the terms of Russia's contract with Ukraine to transit oil to Europe will be solved within two days, a Kiev-based source close to the talks said on Monday.

High-tech vehicles pose trouble for some mechanics

(AP) -- A sign inside the Humming Motors auto repair shop says, "We do the worrying so you don't have to."

These days, owner David Baur spends a lot of time worrying in his full-service garage near downtown Los Angeles.

As cars become vastly more complicated than models made just a few years ago, Baur is often turning down jobs and referring customers to auto dealer shops. Like many other independent mechanics, he does not have the thousands of dollars to purchase the online manuals and specialized tools needed to fix the computer-controlled machines.

Baur says the dilemma has left customers with fewer options for repair work and given automakers an unfair advantage.

Will the future rue the 'lost decade' in the climate war?

The first decade of the 21st century dawned with a global strategy to fight climate change but ended in chaos and the UN system in tatters while greenhouse gases spewed with few constraints.

"Future generations will rue the years of inaction," says Steve Sawyer, a veteran observer who heads the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), a Brussels green industry association. "Some generations will rue it very much – those that survive."

As colleges add green majors and minors, classes fill up

Colleges are rapidly adding new majors and minors in green studies, and students are filling them fast.

Nationwide, more than 100 majors, minors or certificates were created this year in energy and sustainability-focused programs at colleges big and small, says the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. That's up from just three programs added in 2005.

Two factors are driving the surge: Students want the courses, and employers want the trained students, says Paul Rowland, the association's executive director.

Russia Warns of Oil Cutoff to Europe Over Dispute With Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- Russia warned it may cut off oil supplies to Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic because of a dispute with Ukraine over transit of the commodity, the Slovak government said.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko notified the European Union of the possible stoppage, the Slovak government said in a statement today, citing an official letter it received from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.

UAE has 14.6% of proven Arab oil reserves

The UAE has the fourth-largest proven reserves of crude oil among Arab countries, accounting for 14.6 per cent of the Arab World's total, the Unified Arab Economic Report for 2009 said.

Saudi Arabia tops with 39.3 per cent of the total, followed by Iraq with 17.1 per cent and Kuwait with 15.1 per cent.

Libya is fifth with a share of 6.5 per cent.

Energy becomes big issue in Atlantic Canada as N.B. ties hopes to Quebec

HALIFAX, N.S. — Competing visions of how to wean Atlantic Canada from fossil fuels and hook it into a greener hydroelectric grid have caused premiers to clash and old hopes of regional unity to falter.

Debate over the region's energy future broke wide open on Oct. 30 when New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham announced his proposed $4.8-billion deal to sell his province's utility to Hydro-Quebec.

It's a deal prompted partly by a desire to find alternatives to oil and coal, Graham said in a recent interview.

"We had to seize our own future," he said of the plans to sell NB Power and tie his province more closely to Quebec.

Energy crisis growing rapidly in Pakistan

Islamabad(IRNA) -- It is widely believed in Pakistan that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project should be completed at the earliest to overcome energy crisis which Pakistan is currently facing.

The unannounced gas loadshedding in the country has put the CNG-run transport in troubled waters as well as taking toll on industry and other business activities, not to mention the hardships faced by domestic users.

People say that Iran has surplus gas and the completion of gas pipeline project is the only way out for Pakistan to overcome gas shortage.

Tanzania: Two Factories Close Shop in Zanzibar, As Power Shortage Bites

Zanzibar — AT least two factories in Unguja Island have closed down their business due to reasons linked to lack of electricity since December 10, this year, it has been learnt.

Mr Abdallah Abbasi, the president of Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (ZNCCIA) told the 'Daily News' that Huda Tissues factory and Zanzibar Poultry Company (ZAPOCO) have closed their business.

Need to import coal comes early

VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam may need to start importing coal as early as 2012, three years earlier than expected, to meet its electricity demands.

Old King Coal will stay on the commodities throne for years

There are many dismissing coal as the unwanted black sheep of the fossil fuel family, blamed for 40pc of the world's carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

But in defiance of environmental concerns, there has been little sign that any fall off in coal demand this year is due to anything other than the recession.

India: How not to tackle food inflation

The rise in prices essentially reflects supply shortages, including the effect of a weak monsoon. It may not respond to monetary policy.

Certain experts have pointed out that inflation in respect of items such as food and fuel is outside the purview of monetary action, citing similar views of monetarist guru, Mr Milton Friedman, to support their argument. Perhaps, this is why the US Federal Reserve concentrates on the consumer price index, excluding food and fuel. Be that as it may, the authorities are getting ready for further tightening the screws, albeit in the form of CRR rise to begin with.

Aides to Iran’s Opposition Leaders Said to Be Arrested

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A number of opposition figures were arrested Monday in the wake of violent nationwide protests a day earlier, Web sites reported, including three top aides to the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi and the leader of a banned political group, Ibrahim Yazdi.

Basking in nuclear power’s glow

As the antinuclear power movement, which lasted about 30 years, has subsided, nuclear power plants came into the spotlight again as a source of clean energy that is safe and does not produce greenhouse gases. Now, France, Japan and Korea have emerged as leading contenders in the market for nuclear power plant construction, which will eventually grow to trillions of dollars.

Winning more than losing

President Barack Obama's chief science adviser, John Holdren, had this to say at the end of the rough-and-tumble climate talks in Copenhagen this month: "I think we're winning more than we're losing."

Really? How? Diplomats had just failed to produce a binding treaty to control global warming in any meaningful way.

But maybe Mr. Holdren's right. I attended the climate conference myself, representing Marylanders concerned about sea-level rise and the need for clean energy. And I think - just maybe - we did win more than we lost in Copenhagen.

Return of the Fungi

Paul Stamets is on a quest to find an endangered mushroom that could cure smallpox, TB, and even bird flu. Can he unlock its secrets before deforestation and climate change wipe it out?

Metro areas get chunk of rural stimulus aid

WASHINGTON — More than $2.7 billion of stimulus aid for struggling parts of rural America has gone to the nation's biggest metropolitan areas.

That's nearly a quarter of the $12 billion in rural assistance the government has paid out so far under President Obama's economic stimulus package, a USA TODAY review shows. It went to small, far-flung suburbs in metropolitan areas with more than a million residents, including growing towns around Atlanta and Phoenix.

The spending reignites a longstanding debate over what "rural" really means in an increasingly urban nation.

Want to help environment? Alter your habits

My last example is an article about the difference in Great Britain between a popular diesel-powered sedan or small wagon that is slated to come to the U.S. The U.S. version will have 35 additional horsepower to offset the inefficiencies of the automatic transmission and reduce the fuel from 49 MPG to 44. That amounts to an 11.36 percent fuel inefficiency that we can eliminate by teaching at least the new drivers to drive standard shift cars.

Tanker Glut Signals 25% Drop on 26-Mile Line of Ships

(Bloomberg) -- A 26-mile-long line of idled oil tankers, enough to blockade the English Channel, may signal a 25 percent slump in freight rates next year.

The ships will unload 26 percent of the crude and oil products they are storing in six months, adding to vessel supply and pushing rates for supertankers down to an average of $30,000 a day next year, compared with $40,212 now, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 15 analysts, traders and shipbrokers. That’s below what Frontline Ltd., the biggest operator of the ships, says it needs to break even.

Oil holds near $78 a barrel in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Oil prices held near $78 a barrel Monday in Asia ahead of inventory figures later in the week that could send it through the $80 mark.

Russia blames Ukraine politicians for oil row

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's pipeline monopoly on Monday blamed Ukrainian politicians for setting new "unacceptable" terms for oil transit via the port of Yuzhny, saying it will cut supplies if no quick deal was reached.

Putin launches new Russia oil route to Asia

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched Russia's long-awaited Siberian oil export route Monday, giving energy-hungry Asia a new supply source from the world's largest crude exporter seeking to diversify its client base away from Europe.

Putin, clad in a heavy winter parka, pushed a button that initiated the first filling of an oil tanker bound for Hong Kong at a new oil terminal near the Russian Pacific port of Nakhodka, the projected terminus of the new Siberian oil pipeline.

Gazprom eyes 2010 Sakhalin-1 deal

Russia's Gazprom expects to wrap up a deal on gas supplies from the ExxonMobil-led Sakhalin-1 project next year, Gazprom's deputy head Alexander Ananenkov said today.

China’s 2010 Energy Demand May Rise 3.6%, Securities News Says

(Bloomberg) -- China’s 2010 energy demand may rise 3.6 percent to the equivalent of 2.85 billion metric tons of standard coal from this year, the Shanghai Securities News said, citing National Energy Administration Director Zhang Guobao.

Yemen arrests 29 al Qaeda suspects after raids

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen has arrested 29 suspected al Qaeda members since raiding the group to foil attacks on oil installations and foreign interests including the British embassy, national security chief Ali Mohammad Al-Ansi said.

NTPC Signs Initial Agreement to Build Bhutan Hydropower Plant

(Bloomberg) -- NTPC Ltd., India’s biggest power producer, signed a preliminary agreement with Bhutan to set up a hydro-electric project in the eastern Himalayan nation.

Eskom Loaned 1.19 Billion Euros by Paribas, Calyon

(Bloomberg) -- Eskom Holdings Ltd., the South African power utility facing an expansion funding shortfall, agreed a 1.19 billion euro ($1.7 billion) loan facility with five French banks.

Eskom will borrow money from BNP Paribas SA, Calyon, Societe Generale SA, Natixis SA and Credit Industriel et Commercial, the Johannesburg-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.

The Year in Energy

Liquid batteries, giant lasers, and vast new reserves of natural gas highlight the fundamental energy advances of the past 12 months.

Events of the decade on the scientific front

From its power sources to its cars, the nation got a glimpse of what a post-petroleum world might be like.

"Peak oil" entered the lexicon; petroleum is finite. Officials also are increasingly concerned about global warming emissions related to burning fossil fuels.

So the decade has seen a boom in renewable energy, which in 2008 provided 7 percent of U.S. energy needs.

Korea Electric Surges on $20 Billion U.A.E. Order

(Bloomberg) -- Korea Electric Power Corp. shares surged after it led a group of bidders that won a $20 billion contract for four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates, beating General Electric Co. and Areva SA, the world’s biggest builder of atomic plants.

The order announced yesterday is the first nuclear project awarded by a Gulf Arab nation and will be South Korea’s first export of atomic plants. Korea Electric’s winning group included Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., the nation’s biggest power-equipment maker, signaling Korean companies are contenders to win more nuclear orders.

German Solar Industry to Offer Subsidy Cuts, Handelsblatt Says

(Bloomberg) -- German makers of solar panels will propose subsidy cuts for electricity generated from solar cells at a Jan. 13 ministerial hearing, Handelsblatt reported, citing industry members it didn’t identify.

The solar-panel makers, represented by the BSW industry lobby, will suggest to accelerate the pace at which subsidies are cut by as much as 5 percentage points from the start of 2011, the newspaper said.

Japan May Set 20% Renewable-Energy Target, Daily Yomiuri Says

(Bloomberg) -- Japan aims to have solar power and other forms of renewable energy supply at least 20 percent of the country’s total generation by 2020, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, citing an interview with Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa on Saturday.

Senate moderates wary of cap-and-trade

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- Moderate U.S. Senate Democrats say they're urging President Obama to back off efforts to include cap-and-trade as part of a climate bill next year.

Thomas L. Friedman: Off to the Races

I’ve long believed there are two basic strategies for dealing with climate change — the “Earth Day” strategy and the “Earth Race” strategy. This Copenhagen climate summit was based on the Earth Day strategy. It was not very impressive. This conference produced a series of limited, conditional, messy compromises, which it is not at all clear will get us any closer to mitigating climate change at the speed and scale we need.

This guy is a brilliant thinker and writer.
He points out one of the big disconnects between our monetary system and the natural world.
Why doesn't money decay and follow the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics anyway?
Not only should money not grow with time but it should be link to the resource side of the economy.


And these concepts are not new as evidenced by this excellent TOD NZ post from last year.


Maybe a good Campfire topic for the future?

I haven't had to listen to all of your link, but much of what you describe makes sense.

If resources decline, money needs to decline correspondingly (or certainly not increase). Some have suggested linking money to energy.

The one downside I see to local currency is the fact our economy today is very much dependent on international trade, and local currencies do not handle international trade well. For example, how would we make (or buy) computers, without international trade? Without computers, how would factories today be run? It seems like our ability to keep up our current society would go downhill within a few years, if we couldn't keep up international trade.

But we do need local trade as well. And if international trade declines for a variety of reasons, local currencies could be helpful for local trade.

I am one that thinks energy would be a good starting point for measuring economic activity.
Another way would be to do away with time based interest debt and have equity be the "investment" relationship.

Entropy in currency amounts to the discrepancy between those who have a lot of money and those who have only a little. This dispersion increases with time which equates to a continually increasing entropy. How else to think about this, as it seems the most obvious.

the money supply does decrease. isnt that why there are millions of folks unemployed and homes in foreclosure? isnt that why wages are stagnant. when the big boyz give themselves billions and trillions of dollars they cant possibly spend in as many lifetimes they deny everyone else. of course we may enter a period when money wont buy anything. pundits say all those trillions of dollars exist only as
data in computer systems. when there is no fuel to crank the generators then there will be a decrease in money. it's all good (and quite logical). SN@RX!

HUMBABA: The Massive Monster of the Cedar Forest.

The incredible Hulk that was taken on and destroyed by GILGAMESH and ENKIDU to earn their status as Superheroes.

So you, Massive Monster, say:

when there is no fuel to crank the generators then there will be a decrease in money. it's all good (and quite logical). SN@RX!

I'm trying to transform sunlight into usable electrical energy by building solar generators, so this means I'm transforming the sun's rays into money. I can then put that money into a bank, a bank of batteries that is and I can lend it out through my inverter to be spent as needed. As long as the sun comes up in the morning I can replenish my bank account

Solar generator

Last night I stumbled across a PBS program called Ascent of Money, which looked historically at how the financial systems that we have today actually got started. They start from the time where gold bullion was used for trade, and then discuss how lending, bonds and insurance were developed. Even seemingly unconnected events (such as the U.S. civil war) are tied in - the South needed to finance their part of the war, and when New Orleans fell to the north, they lost that ability.

You can view it online (4 1-hour programs) here:


Thanks, I have seen it by Niall Ferguson I believe.
I actually think he is holding back some of what he really wants to say because of his position as an academic.
He has done a great job in researching the facts though.
You know a lot of people dismiss revisionist history but from my own poking around it needs revising in a big way.
What we have been taught is nothing but a big lie.

Niall has been pretty outspoken as of late. He seems to have risen to a sort of rockstar status (my daughter says he's really hot), so I think his academic status is pretty safe. He was on CNN a few months ago:

and I was surprized at his candor, although he is a bit understating, he wasn't sugarcoating things much.

"The Ascent of Money" is an excellent series, I have watched it about 5 times and would watch it again, very educational.

His comments on CNN about a "protracted" downturn being something most people cannot conceive....well, that depends on how old you are. For those of us who grew up in the 1970's, this feels like old times! I would make the inverse argument, that it has ALREADY lasted longer than most people noticed...the Dow Jones and the S&P have been down for a decade inflation adjusted...yes, just like the 1970's! An investor would have made more money in bonds or CD's with zero risk! People have taken to calling the 2000's decade, fittingly, the zero decade, because there was essentially no gain (except in the bonuses and pay given to the management elite of these loser companies!

There is only one way forward, we have to break loose from the banking class...credit unions, using cash instead of electronic money to cut them off from those fantastically high fees and the information they gather on us by way of the cards (which they then resell), the only way to break the abuse of the banks in the U.S. to starve them.
If Obama loves them so much (and despite his words, he must, who else gets a "too big to fail" pass), let him and his family deal with them for awhile, that should teach him...


...the Dow Jones and the S&P have been down for a decade inflation adjusted...

I found this little article today, and is also supports about looking at things in an inflation-adjusted way (behind a pay wall):

"Many investors realize that stocks have been among the worst investments of the past decade. But they may not realize quite how bad the decade was, because most people forget about the effects of inflation.

Despite its 2009 rebound, the Dow Jones Industrial Average today stands at just 10520.10, no higher than in 1999. And that is without counting consumer-price inflation. In 1999 dollars, the Dow is only at about 8200 and would have to rise another 28% or so to return to 1999 levels. "


Stock options work like this: CEO bonsues include 200,000 options to purchase company stock at today's par. Today's par is $40.00. In 5 years, CEO may exercise her options. On strike date, company stock is $60.00 [inflation adjusted gain is zero if CEO had actually purchased the stock in year 0]. CEO sells and buys , purchase at $40, sale at $60. This dilutes the company stock, confers a profit on the CEO, who is the only shareholder who profits one iota. CEO could care less about inflation, or anything else. She expended zero dollars to get $20 x 200,000, or $4 Million USD.

This is where the profits go. This is where the gains go. It has all gone to the executives, to the point that the top 2% of people hold 95% of the wealth of the world. Of course it is done with smoke and mirrors, and is merely imagined wealth. For today it gets the CEO a nice yacht, a private island, and gets her kids into Harvard, Yale or where ever they want to go, with tutors [and, it is reputed, people to write those pesky exams and papers).

As college costs rise, loans become harder to get

When Daniel Ottalini entered the University of Maryland in 2004, his family had an array of choices to cover the cost -- cheap student loans, a second mortgage at low rates, credit cards with high limits and their own soaring investments.

By the time his younger brother, Russell, started at the University of Pittsburgh this fall, the financial crisis had left the family with fewer options. Russell has had to juggle several jobs in school, and the money he could borrow came with a much higher interest rate that could climb even further over time.

My own impression is that colleges have gone through an "amenities war" - adding more and more cushy amenities in order to attract students, but these things all come at a cost and the tuition has ballooned at most schools as a result. In the past, cheap credit meant that students and their families could borrow the money fairly easily, but those days are gone, and colleges are now stuck with high tuition costs and debt service for all of the amenities that they built. Recent grads are stuck with huge debts of their own

My own alma mater wasn't immune to these pressures - I went by for a reunion and was amazed at the stuff that they had that we didn't when I was a student. Still, they have taken a different path - their two most recent dorms that they built are rather spartan by comparison to some of the other new ones out there - they spent the money on things that could get them a LEED gold rating, and they put up their own wind turbine something like 7-8 years ago..

At the college I work at, I can confirm what you are saying. For students, high speed internet in the dorms is more important than classroom facilities. The cafeteria serves up food of a quality I never would have dreamed of as a student 35 years ago. But that is not what's really driving the cost increases.

The real cause has been a steady growth supply of students which has allowed colleges to spend money lavishly. The staff to student ratio has easily doubled over the past 20 years, money is spent on pet projects of dubious merit. BUT, that is changing big time now. There is a huge wake-up call going out to faculty and staff that BAU is over. In some ways this is a good thing, a return to reality. But it is also a reflection of our dysfunctional college financing system that is now bankrupting students before they even graduate.

Expect fewer, and poorer college grads in the future.

I guess the question is to what degree can colleges cut costs by eliminating programs of dubious value? If a college has spent millions on fancy new buildings, that debt is going to hang over the school for decades. If on the other hand they are spending it on programs that can be cut, then cost cuttings can be achieved more easily (at least to the college - people being let go wouldn't find it easy at all, I think)...

I get into arguments with my wife about funding for college athletics. With the exception of the intra-mural stuff, I view a lot of the athletics as financial vampires that will suck a school dry given the chance. Some (my wife for example) talk about how the programs bring notoriety to the school, and a school that has success in football for example would bring in tons of money from TV. But that money would never be used for a library or anything like that - it would be used to upgrade the athletic facilities. And for that matter the schools with the best academic reputations will live or die based upon academic standards, and they generally won't waste millions of $$ on some coach who they will end up having to fire 2 years later anyways.

I know that at the university my husband teaches at, a fancy new dining facility has been added. All full time students are charged for a certain number of meals there, whether they choose to eat there or not. Lunch is $9.00 at the facility, so the place isn't cheap, but it is very nice. There have also been increases in various activity fees, to cover fancy new sports facilities.

Parking is another issue. We live close enough to walk, but my husband is required to pay for parking he doesn't need (although he does sometimes like it when he teaches until 11:00pm, and gets home very late). When my sons were graduate students there, they also were required to purchase parking passes. There is a city bus some could take to the campus, but I expect students would still be required to pay for parking, whether or not they use it.

The university where I work (and the rest in my state) has had its state funding greatly reduced in the last month. In 2010, there will definitely be some layoffs around the state. I am not too concerned as I am angling to become an urban farmer anyway.


Very true, required expenditures are very important to schools. The dorm and cafeteria are money makers, so freshmen are required to live on campus and purchase the meal plan. Of course, the reasons given by the school don't include making a profit. My school is looking to admit a large number of freshmen this year. Care to guess why? Also, foreign students tend to be full-tuition payers, so guess why there are so many of them admitted. Not to say they aren't qualified, but the extra money sure plays a role.

And over the past years the school has embarked on questionable building projects, financed by funny money financial derivatives. These chickens are coming home to roost. Add to that the risky investment of endowments which have been slaughtered and you have a perfect storm for colleges.


I have been trying to alert my school's administration to the dangers of a post-oil world. The school, like many, relies on foreign students for a large portion of it's tuition. What happens when flying around the world for an education becomes prohibitively expensive? What happens when the economy tanks even further due to increasing oil prices? What happens when the school can't afford to heat the classrooms? And what about the faculty, many of whom live incredibly far from the school (because they don't commute on a daily basis). What happens when their commutation costs double or triple? These are things that will happen over the next ten years, but nobody is preparing for them. But I can't blame them since the main solution is prepare to get a lot smaller and leaner, and who wants to do that?

Hm, a meal at the dining hall at the Olympic Training Center was $5 for offsite athletes back in the mid-90s, I think other types may have paid $7.50, onsite athletes ate for free. I guess the quality was about the same as the food at Scholfield Barracks in the early 80s, pretty good. I think officers paid $2-$3 a meal then. Enlisted types ate for free but sometimes you only had 10 minutes to eat it in lol.

College cuisine I've had brushes with in the 90s and 2000s was Bleh. Sodhexo or something is the contractor, also for jails, military bases etc and it's bad and overpriced.

Truly poor students live and eat off campus.

What happens? One thing is education by Internet. My oldest daughter, a genius and high school dropout, is now teaching accredited college courses for the state university over the Internet, and she says her business is booming. But of course, that's only for people who are going to college to actually learn something.

at the university my husband teaches at, a fancy new dining facility has been added. All full time students are charged for a certain number of meals there, whether they choose to eat there or not.

That's an abuse of a monopoly position. At my old alma mater, students in the business school added a wing to the students union building (using corporate donations) and set up their own food court in competition with the university dining center. It was good practice for the real world, because in the real world businesses have competition. (The university adminstration didn't like it, but the corporate donors loved it - and guess who carries more weight.)

my husband is required to pay for parking he doesn't need ... There is a city bus some could take to the campus, but I expect students would still be required to pay for parking, whether or not they use it.

Again, that is an abuse of a monopoly position. At my old university, the city built a light rail station next to the campus, so the university negotiated a deep discount on student transit passes. This worked for the transit authority because the students were reverse-flow commuters, heading out to the suburban campus while the downtown office workers were going in and thus were filling seats that otherwise would be empty on the reverse run - at no extra cost. It also worked for the university, because as they said, "We are in the business of educating students, not parking cars." The only losers are the people who used to be able to get a seat on the reverse-running trains - now they're jammed with students.

Need I mention that the business school at this university wins an lot of awards in international competition?

OTOH, the football team loses all its games, but you get used to that after a while. It's the business school grads that are the real winners.

Sounds like ASU, except if I remember correctly they removed the cafeteria altogether. Up here in AK the universities seem have a strange problem of moderatly expensive tution, grossly expensive textbooks, small class sizes averaging ~20, and sub-to-mediocre teachers. New facilities of course but small campsus.

If you do the math its ludicris. After "subsidies" by the state the total is of ~10,000/ semester. An avg of 4 classes = 2,500 x 20 students per class = 50,000 each class x 2 semesters = 100,000. Most teachers can do 2 or 3 classes a semester so 200,00 to 300,000. Even if they get first class teachers thats only 80,000. Usually they are green (ie, reading out of the book) so the university probably pays less than 50,000. So where does the rest of the revenue go? Buildings? Admin? Seems like profit to me.

I don't understand how universities came to the conclusion that profit is a priority. I understand expansion, and the need for funds, but there has to be a balance. Public education seems to be broken throughly.

I ran into this in the news today:

Seattle-based study-abroad program shuts down

A Seattle-based study-abroad program has suddenly shut down and stranded more than a dozen students in Beijing. The company's Seattle headquarters is closed, its phones are disconnected and its Web site says the company has filed for bankruptcy.

I expect we will be seeing more of this.

I’m disappointed in the exchange (last Thursday) to my post on rising sea levels as observed in NJ. Many of the responses seemed to indicate that many (who replied) didn’t think Global Warming (GW) caused sea-level rise was anything to worry about.
No big deal....
Well, think of the following:

- We’ve already poisoned the oceans from coal burning to the point where it’s become outright dangerous for pregnant women and young children to eat many types of fish;
- UPENN Professor Janzen (who spends about half his time researching the effects of GW on forests) has warned of the stresses that are affecting tropical rain forests. The forests and many species are now under threat;
- in the 1990s I spent some time exploring the Adirondacks. I heard local people relay how they – as young men – went off to serve in WWII only to come back to find that many of the species they regularly saw as kids had become extinct from the wartime industrial boom of acid rain; and then they had to watch as their lakes all died;
- Our coral reefs and shellfish are being poisoned by CO2 laced ocean water;
- Remember the recent drought in Australia?
- In a recent article, George Monbiot refers to a recent study that warns that 90% of our agricultural land will probably turn non-productive due to GW if it continues.

Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water, As Rising Sea Penetrates Coastal Aquifers

ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007) — As sea levels rise, coastal communities could lose up to 50 percent more of their fresh water supplies than previously thought, according to a new study from Ohio State University.

Hydrologists here have simulated how saltwater will intrude into fresh water aquifers, given the sea level rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has concluded that within the next 100 years, sea level could rise as much as 23 inches, flooding coasts worldwide.

Scientists previously assumed that, as saltwater moved inland, it would penetrate underground only as far as it did above ground.

But this new research shows that when saltwater and fresh water meet, they mix in complex ways, depending on the texture of the sand along the coastline. In some cases, a zone of mixed, or brackish, water can extend 50 percent further inland underground than it does above ground.

This will be a problem far ahead of inundation. Here's a study I came across in Google Scholar looking for the OSU paper: Quantifying the Impact of Global Warming on Saltwater Intrusion at Shelter Island, NY, next door to NJ, the subject of the study you linked to in your Thursday post, which doesn't cover aquifers. The comments there didn't seem dubious about sea level rise, some of it was sarcastic though.

Interesting angle KLR. But not just aquifers are at risk. New Orleans gets its drinking water from the Miss. River. In the past during low flow periods there was a danger of GOM salt water reaching the intakes. A rising sea level would seem to increase that risk. Also, a large number of refineries/processing plants also rely on fresh water from the river. FYI: the base of the Miss. River at NOLA is about 100' below sea level.

the base of the Miss. River at NOLA is about 100' below sea level.

I don't understand this. How can the mouth of a river be below sea level? Are you implying that we pump the entire Mississippi River up 100 feet to get it to drain into the Gulf of Mexico?

weasel -- Not the mouth of the river (actually the mouth of the river is far south of N.O.) Remember that N.O is essentially at sea level. So the bottom of the Miss River is more than 100' below sea level. If the river stopped flowing completely then it would essentially become one more salt water bayou.

This situation is why there's always a danger of the river breaking out of its levees during flood stages and making a very radical course change. The gradient is so low there's a huge potential for this to happen. Over the last few hundred thousand years the Miss River has flowed down the far western side of the state as well as far to the east. This also explains why the coast line of La. is slowly disappearing. Despite the huge sediment load the river carries none of it reaches the shoreline. The current mouth of the river is at the edge of the continental slope. All those billions of tons of sediment the river carries slide out into the deep Gulf of Mexico Basin. Had not the Corps of Engineers been maintaining the levee system the river would have changed course long ago.

OK, so it's a hundred feet deep at N.O. That makes sense. Thanks for the reply!

I did a short post regarding salt water infiltration of fresh water aquifers on the GA coast. It's been happening for decades now. Some say coastal development and industrial (paper mills) overuse of aquifers has accelerated this. Sea level rise will surely exacerbate the problem.

I think that, although sea level rise is a huge problem, my doomer side tells me that by the time it becomes critical, it may be the least of our worries.

The Orange County Water District has been dealing with the results of overdraft and seawater intrusion since the 1950's as the aquifer was drawn down 700,000 acre feet (roughly 324,000 gallons/af). A replenishment program now consists of injection wells delivering (I think) 35 mgd of fresh water and extraction wells that return salt water to the ocean.

Hawaii has a similar problem. They are already up against the limit in some areas, but demand continues to grow.

The flush toilet is the curse of modern civilization.

Many years ago when I was living in New Jersey there was a drought. Many communities in the Delaware watershed upstream from Philadelphia who thought they had plenty of reserve were aghast to discover that they were required to continue water releases from their reservoirs in order to maintain the necessary flow in the river to keep the salt line downstream of the intakes for the Philadelphia water supply.

I assume that a rise of several inches in average sea level along the Atlantic coast will probably move the salt line far enough upstream to contaminate the river (and riverbed) at Philadelphia.

I’m disappointed in the exchange (last Thursday) to my post on rising sea levels as observed in NJ. Many of the responses seemed to indicate that many (who replied) didn’t think Global Warming (GW) caused sea-level rise was anything to worry about.

I didn't get too concerned, because I checked the geological references and discovered that the sea levels on the NJ coast have been rising since the last ice age.

More accurately, the sea level has been rising because the climate has been warming since the last ice age, and the coast has been subsiding because of tectonic activity. Over geological time, nothing stays the same.

This is nothing new and has been going on for millennia. Over long periods of time, sea levels rise and fall, land levels rise and fall. If you have a piece of land near the coast, you need to pay attention to what it is doing. Whatever it is, you can take comfort in the fact that it's happening very slowly. You will probably be dead before the ocean reaches your doorstep.

"Whatever it is, you can take comfort in the fact that it's happening very slowly."

1) I guess you haven't read about ice sheet ablation - a phenomena not seen until very recently.

2) So are you saying that it's okay to poison the oceans for future generations because it won't affect me?

3) The government will relocate those displaced Jersey folk to the Rockies, since they'll be too traumatized to live anywhere near a low-lying ocean coastline.

Yes Iggy...Yes "it's okay to poison the oceans for future generations because it won't affect me?" Of course, I'm speaking for the great majority of folks on the globe IMHO. Just as it's OK to use up our natural resources and leave very little behind for future generations. Perhaps not the answer you and I and most of the rest of the TOD family would give. I'm sure you've taken the same history course I've taken (actually one of my worse subjects in my youth) but when have we seen mankind collectively act differently?

The subject matter reminds me of a statement a general made at the end of WWI. With the development of air power and the ability to inflict severe injury to a country's civilian population he thought it was obvious that we've seen the last of such wars. He got that pretty wrong. Show me where mankind's genetic code has suddenly shifted greatly and you might steer me away from my gloomy vision.

RockyMtnGuy wrote:

More accurately, the sea level has been rising because the climate has been warming since the last ice age, and the coast has been subsiding because of tectonic activity. Over geological time, nothing stays the same.

I think you need to check your data regarding sea-level rise. After LGM, sea level began to rise about 18,000 years BP and reached nearly the present level by 6,000 BP. Sea level may have reached higher stands at that time and retreated since.


Yes, over geological time, things are continually changing. That does not mean that we can ignore man made changes, such as AGW, which appear to be happening faster than the usual geological rate of change...

E. Swanson

Ignorant commented:

"I heard local people relay how they – as young men – went off to serve in WWII only to come back to find that many of the species they regularly saw as kids had become extinct from the wartime industrial boom of acid rain; and then they had to watch as their lakes all died;"

I am with you on this. In just about the last 3 years I have seen many species become far far less visible. I have commented on this so long it has become my mantra on TOD.

Ok..so here is my partial list:

Honey bees...saw none at all last spring, no peaches,apples or pears
Lightening bugs....all gone except for a very very few...
Moths....used to see a lot ...now almost none
Mushrooms...over time they have except for a few species disappeared
Bats....gone..likely for good
Frogs...a few tree frogs but the rest are gone
Birds...just only the ocassional sparrow or house wren
Mosquitos...only in the river bottoms
Fleas...never anymore on my dogs
Chiggers...like they never existed
Ticks...strangely gone as well
Ducks and Geese....very very very few and I am in the Mississippi flyaway.
White cattle birds(cattle egrets)a very very few left

A lot of insects I rarely see anymore..but lots of invasive species like Japanese Ladybugs.

Its like a massive kill has occurred over the last 4 years. I think due to Big Ag..but perhaps AGW as well

I miss most of all the song birds. I had full bluebird houses. Now only a very few during spring and summer. Not enough to count.

But you know what? Most just yawn and go on. They really really do not care. Reflected on TOD as well..."yawn...oh how is the market? Hows that oil well in Brazil?"...

On another note: I note trying to obtain a State Photo ID for my 90 year old mother. It requires more credentials and data to obtain this document than it takes for a black man from Chicago to become Pres of the USA. Really. I will spend days on this. Days and hours and likely still not get it done.

So who pays for the stupid lack of security in the USA and not doing their jobs? Does the gubbermint employees and agencies.

So who pays the price? Us. The citizens.


airdale: could any of this be local only? I have noticed a few new bird species appearing... in response to new conditions, of course, but hardly any sort of observable die off.

And, as for mosquitos

Mosquitos...only in the river bottoms

I could only wish!

This place is a mosquito haven, you want some?

I spent a whole childhood adapting to the Asian tiger mosquito and these little greyish buggers make me welt up and itch like crazy.

Is there a good blog or message board that covers this topic extensively? Disappearance of species should be a topic that lots could comment on, not just those of us on TOD.

You could start with Dr. E.O. Wilson's encyclopedia of life project


If you are really interested you probably will need to follow a few dozen blogs from various professional biologists, zoologists, botanists and microbiologists. Such as these:


I could give you many more but you get the idea :-)

Thanks, good list.

I suspect that if your area has lots of land dedicated to mainstream commercial agriculture it could have a lot to do with the disappearance of species from the region. I couldn't find the articles I read last year but from what I remember the following factors could stress/reduce wildlife.

-agrochemicals: a long-term buildup in soil/water/plants, an increase in application intensity, a change in application method, an unpredicted interaction caused by the mingling of two chemicals, increased sensitivity due to long term exposure, side-effects that only become observable in the second or third generation after exposure, chemicals that affect fertility

-land-use: elimination of hedgerows, a change in cover crops, a change in timing of plowing/clearing/burning, reduction of open water areas, reduction of wind breaks

-crops: crops that repel insects/other plants, or that make them inedible to predators, crops that favor the growth of foreign insects/plants, gm crops that release toxins/hormones, higher density planting that reduces available area for other plants.

i live near a state park. during pleasant spring and summer mornings the bird chorus was overwhelming. i loved to awaken to their songs through my open window. then the gubbermint sprayed for gypsy moths.
they had to because almost all the trees were eaten bare from them.
that was in the mid eighties. the song birds have still not recovered from their glory days. and the peepers? used to be deafening. now they
are drowned out by kids on quads and dirt bikes. during rare quite evenings peepers are a sorry whimper. gypsy moths were introduced to the usa by an evil short sighted CAPITALIST who went bust. dont take my word for it look it up. it's all good. SN@RX!

Ignorant, sea level rise might be even worse than is being told to the public. I have some friends that live in a home only a few feet above sea level. They were told by a friend that works for the govt. that their home will be inundated by 2020. I can't give more details than that to protect their identity, but it would seem there are the numbers being fed to us via the media, and different numbers on sea level rise the Feds are holding.

Does anyone have any idea what the potential impact of Khurais will be on supply in 2010? The development seems to be quite expensive for what appears to be a small payoff. Does this further imply trouble for Ghawar?


Kingfish, it will have little to no impact on the oil supply as Saudi is producing under a quota. They will not produce more than in 2009 unless OPEC increases their quota...or... they cheat. It will affect their "production capacity" however.

The payoff is absolutely no small thing, it is enormous. If they actually ever produce 1.2 million barrels per day, as they claim they can, then the gross revenue will be about 85 million dollars per day. That is no small payoff. However I doubt that they will ever produce that amount but even if they only produce 800,000 barrels per day then that is still not small change.

Ghawar has probably been in decline for at least a decade. Khurais, which was discovered over half a century ago, was probably developed because of the decline in all Saudi fields, not just Ghawar.

Just a note. Khurais was developed in the early 80s but there is virtually no natural pressure in the reservoir. In 1980 it produced 68,000 bp/d and 144,000 bp/d in 1981 then production dropped off dramatically.

Matthew Simmons says that: "In 1983, a series of gas reinjection wells was drilled with the intent to create better production in the Khurais complex--50 in the Khurais field and another 22 in Abu Jifa and Mizalij." Simmons goes on to say that they had a lot of trouble with the gas injection and they helped very little. Production, he says, increased from a low of 1 percent in some wells to as high as 200 percent in others. Simmons says: "Lack of consistency and uniformity in the reservoir rocks interfered with the ability of the gas to move the oil."

Some have claimed that what the Saudi's did was really a "gas lift" and not gas injection at all. But this differs from the details described by Simmons. My point in mentioning this is that if gas injection helped very little then why do they expect water injection to do miracles.

Ron P.

Some have claimed that what the Saudi's did was really a "gas lift" and not gas injection at all. But this differs from the details described by Simmons.

Simmons misunderstood, Ron. Nobody is perfect. Beyond that, the apparent failure of one approach doesn't doom all.

Ron/Joules -- Now I'm a little confused about who is saying what. First, we don't drill "gas lift" wells. Gas lift is a production technique used on an oil well. NG is injected down the "backside" (the area between the outer casing and the production tubing). There are valves (gas lift mandrels)along the tubing that allow the NG to enter the oil stream and thus lighten (gas lift) it so it can flow more easily up the tubing.

As you know a gas injected is drilled to inject NG into the reservoir itself. And sometime you don't even drill a new well: take an appropriate old oil well and turn it into an injector. Granted I don't know the details of the reservoir dynamics of this field but water and gas injection are typically employed in two very different reservoir systems. The only times I recall seeing both tried in the same reservoir is when one effort failed first. Once again, nondisclosure of details requires us to make some iffy guesses.

Thanks Rockman. Simmons got his data from reports from the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Since they discussed the exact numbers of gas injection wells drilled, and in which reservoirs and the problems with the reservoir rock, I tend to believe he is correct that it was a gas injection project and not a gas lift project.

I fully realize that different methods often give different results. But both gas injection and water injection attempt to do exactly the same thing and that is increase the pressure in the reservoir. If they could not get very good results with increasing the pressure with gas, will they get better results with water?

It is likely that they can create more pressure with water, and water is a lot cheaper than gas. So it is likely that they will get better results with water. But from under 100 thousand barrels per day to 1.2 million barrels per day is over a 12 fold increase.

One way of looking at is that if they inject 2 million barrels of water per day then they are going to get about the same amount of liquids back out. Some will of course go elsewhere but most, as I understand it, comes back up. The question is then what will be the water cut and how fast will the water cut rise.

Bottom line, I am skeptical about the Saudi claims about Khurais. Knowing their tendency to large exaggeration concerning their proven reserves, I suspect there is a bit of exaggeration concerning Khurais possible daily production also.

Ron P.

Matt Simmons wrote a very good book, and us late-comers to the Saudi story owe a lot to his work. But there was a lot to cover in a short period of time, and he did not get everything right in interpreting the SPE papers. I really don't want to document the errata here.

There is a difference between simply injecting gas into the top of the reservoir to help maintain pressure (as they did in 'Ain Dar) and employing what is termed a "gas lift" well. You could start with this Wikipedia article.

Gas lift is one of a number of processes used to artificially lift oil or water from wells where there is insufficient reservoir pressure to produce the well. The process involves injecting gas through the tubing-casing annulus. Injected gas aerates the fluid to reduce its density; the formation pressure is then able to lift the oil column and forces the fluid out of the wellbore. Gas may be injected continuously or intermittently, depending on the producing characteristics of the well and the arrangement of the gas-lift equipment.

As for what was done in Khurais in the 1980s, I suggest you order (and then read) SPE 11447, "A Production and Operation Review of the Khurais Gas Lift Project".

So with gas-lift they sort of foam the oil out of there, kind of like a can of shaving cream. So they have to recover the gas again. I can see how costs could add up.

Ghung -- A very good analogy. In fact there's a neat similar trick that's been used for decades to help low flow rate NG wells which produce a little water. The water loads up in the tubing and puts back pressure on the NG flow. So the production hand pops open a valve and drops a soap stick down the tubing (called "soaping a well"). The soap stick foams ups and helps lift the water out of the tubing. Might drop a couple a day. Easy to imagine how cheap this method is.

Just another example of how the US maintains it position as the third largest oil/NG producer in the world. A large company wouldn't mess with such nickle and dime ops. But a small independent making $50/day on such a well will keep dropping soap until the cows come home.

See early patents for Air Lift Pumps

Dave -- ever hear of a plunger lift? Not exactly sure how it's designed but it a rod that will sink to the bottom of the tubing and then rise. Never seen one but I had an engineer who swore by them for some shallow N TX stripper gas wells.

Ron -- here's a simplistic example which might not apply to activities at Khuras. Cantarel Fld is a good example of gas injection using a gas cap expansion: NG is injected into the top of the reservoir and as it expands it pushes the oil down dip to the producers. A typical water injection ("water flood") injects water down dip from the producers and pushes the oil updip. It tends to be cheaper to pump water down then NG but eventually you do have the NG to produce once the oil is depleted.

But again these are the simple models. Depending on the complexity of the reservoir various combinations might be emloyed. But a very complicated model for sure that often requires assumptions that can easily be wrong.

Thanks, Darwinian.

My uninformed take is that they need an ace in the hole. Even if they don't fully utilize it immediately, it only enhances their security as the world's swing producer. Of course, the fact that they did it at all given the cost and complexity is, to me, just further evidence of how bad things have gotten.

My bigger concern is that Khurais is the last best field left to bring online quickly. Does anyone else see any other significant fields that can be producing at that level in the next two to three years?

If you believe Saudi Aramco, it should already be producing it's intended output of 1.2 million barrels per day, allowing for "cuts" in production elsewhere (e.g. Ghawar).

Expensive, yes ($10 billion). But that translates to $8333 per barrel per day, with payback of 4 months at $70 oil. Compare that to the Thunderhorse platform, which cost $5 billion for less than .3 million barrels per day (double the price for a barrel per day production). Decomposed oil deposits (Alberta oil sands) development is more expensive still.

Implications for Ghawar? I dunno. Ghawar is as Ghawar does.


I've uploaded a new version of my PO software.

The new features are:

- US, Canada and Mexico production forecast using Hubbert Linearization.
- The "Set Regions Dialog" has been given a make-over.
- New method for gasoline price prediction (US Only)

You can download it over here: http://sokath.sourceforge.net/

Holiday sales up from up last year; Web shopping leaps 15%

Retail sales rose 3.6% from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 3.2% drop in the year-ago period, according to figures from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment, including cash.

Adjusting for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the number was closer to a 1% gain.

Last year, the economy was in "critical condition," said Michael McNamara, vice president at MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse. "This year, it's in stable condition."

My "dumpster check" analysis suggests that people spent less around here. Not nearly as much trash in the dumpster or on the curbs as usual for a Christmas weekend.

Though it appears one of my neighbors got a new flatscreen TV for Christmas. Their old one is sitting on the curb.

A decade of high unemployment is looming: ‘New abnormal:’ Some think 10 years won’t be enough to replace losses

Economist David Levy, chairman of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, says the country faces a new era of chronically high unemployment, averaging 8 percent or more over the next decade.

The "New Abnormal," he calls it.

Levy thinks the New Abnormal also means average pay will dwindle, along with consumer prices. That would make it harder for households to pay down debt, he warns.

According to Keeping America's Edge, by Jim Manzi:

Despite these complicating factors, a few trends still emerge rather clearly. First, average living standards have continued to rise since 1980. Second, the real hourly wages for a typical non-supervisory job have not increased very much over this period. Third, this wage stagnation is at least partly explained by the rising costs of health care — which, because of the American system of employer-based health insurance, are usually deducted implicitly from what workers see as wages. Fourth, personal indebtedness has risen dramatically over the same period and accelerated rapidly during the past decade — so that at least some of the increased consumption was simply borrowed. And last, income ­mobility — the likelihood of an individual's moving up the relative income distribution — appears to have declined slightly over the past three decades, according to multiple studies by the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston and Chicago.

Furthermore, the divisive effects of this cluster of trends — ­rising income inequality and reduced income mobility, some degree of ­middle-class wage stagnation, increased personal debt, and increased class stratification of stable social behavior — are only intensified by climbing rates of assortative mating and residential segregation, as well as an increasingly crude and corrosive popular culture combined with the technology-driven fragmentation of mass media.

So economic inequality is likely to cause problems with social ­cohesion — but far more important, it is a symptom of our deeper ­problem. As the unsustainable high tide of post-war American dominance has slowly ebbed, many — perhaps most — of our country's workers appear unable to compete internationally at the level required to maintain anything like their current standard of living.

It is not "abnormal" at all. The new normal is convergence toward the global mean. Those Americans who are not better than the average worker globally in terms of intelligence, education, and work ethic cannot expect to command higher wages than the global mean - which means they cannot have much hope of finding any work at all.

I would agree with this...if it weren't for peak oil.

Even with PO, Leanan, I agree with that analysis. Globally, workers are in a race to the bottom! And, American workers will feel the impact more than those of emerging nations.

Having said that, the condition of those workers 'in the race' will be worsened unimaginably by the effects of peak oil.

I think globalization will fall apart under the stresses of peak oil. We saw hints of it during the price spike. Countries started banning exports, and the cost of fuel for shipping became an issue.

I suspect peak oil will mean the world will no longer be flat. And some people will do better than others, simply because of the resources they have access to.

However, I expect most analysts won't get this. They'll see The Long Emergency as the natural shifting of global power from the US to China, or even blame the collapse of globalization for the problems.

Don't lose sight of the political dimensions of this, though. The US had high tariff barriers during the age of the robber barons because it was very advantageous for rich and powerful businessmen to hide behind them and build up their monopoly positions in the US market. More recently, the US has been tearing down tariff barriers because it has been very advantageous for rich and powerful businessmen to expand their export markets beyond the US, while also exporting their manufacturing to low-wage countries. Putting downward pressure on US wages is a considerable benefit of exporting manufacturing overseas, even if plant being relocated doesn't end up cutting their total costs for those particular products all that much. It is the general impact that counts; in fact, ALL US manufacturers benefit any time ANY of them closes a plant and relocates it overseas.

It is the general impact that counts; in fact, ALL US manufacturers benefit any time ANY of them closes a plant and relocates it overseas.

I just don't see it being that much of an issue in post-peak future.

The only plants that matter will probably be defense manufacturers.

Remember, we've been through this before. As Krugman pointed out, we once had a global economy - that collapsed, despite being very profitable for business. Why? "Three decades of war, revolution, political instability, depression and more war," Krugman says. And the reason for those...the rocky transition from a coal to an oil economy, I say.

I expect the transition from an oil economy to be even worse.

Remember, we've been through this before. As Krugman pointed out, we once had a global economy - that collapsed, despite being very profitable for business. Why? "Three decades of war, revolution, political instability, depression and more war," Krugman says. And the reason for those...the rocky transition from a coal to an oil economy, I say.

Care to expand on that last statement? There were a lot of changes in energy usage going on. Rapid electrification in the cities moved usage in the opposite direction -- coal-fired electricity displaced petroleum-derived kerosene, for example. And big assembly-line operations such as Ford's depended on electricity for operation. Oil as a militarily-important resource was an outcome of WWI, rather than a cause. The Depression still appears to be mostly an outcome of financial innovation and a collapse of the banking system.

Stirling Newberry wrote at length about this. I don't agree with him about everything, but I think he's right about the energy transition.

Well, but even before globalization-as-we-know-it, there was plenty of trade, enough to couple things to some extent. Even before fossil fuels really took hold in the modern way, there was more than enough trade to help starve Ireland.

But even if trade itself largely collapsed, the analysis would still hold, just in another sense. Without (much) trade, US workers will still lose out. Consider all that Walmart stuff people pile into the shopping cart once they're done moaning about the unfairness of the very existence of Walmart. Or the 10 million or so barrels of oil imported each day. It would still look and feel like a race to the bottom, a big drop in living standards, with few people terribly concerned about the exact degree of coupling.

Well, but even before globalization-as-we-know-it, there was plenty of trade, enough to couple things to some extent.

I did not say otherwise. I'm just saying the world won't be flat any more.

It would still look and feel like a race to the bottom, a big drop in living standards, with few people terribly concerned about the exact degree of coupling.

I don't think so. Poverty is relative. Seeing other people get richer while you get poorer is very different from seeing everyone's living standards drop.

Hmmm...just the cost of government mandates alone far exceeds the global mean. So everybody will be a criminal for failing to meet them.

Leanie, I am set and determined, I AM going to become an EMT and then a paramedic. My high scores will get me right into medic school while the ink's still drying on my EMT cert, so I can go right on through.

I am NOT counting, ASSuming, there will be a job for me. I hope there will be, and I"ll look for one, but that assumption is not in place.

I may have to pay off the loan for medic school by doing something unrelated, panhandling, performing music on the street, who-knows-what.

Fleam, you've got the right idea. I was just thinking exactly that... the local CC has associates degree, and for senior like myself there is no tuition. Even if I needed to borrow, when TSHTF there will be no collections. And, I am considering it for its utility, not for profit. I mean, when they start to triage health care, if you don't know EMT your family will be screwed.

This is probably just another one of those over-optimistic initial-release statistics that will get revised downward in the weeks and months ahead.

One wonders how many of those credit card charges will end up being unpaid, parents deciding that an un-spoiled Christmas for their children was more important than an un-spoiled credit rating. One also wonders to what extent the credit cards are not being used for discretionary purchases like gifts, but for non-discretionary purchases like groceries.

One other interesting tidbit of intel: I noticed that both the local grocery store and the local drug store set all the Christmas candy right inside the entrance door, marked down 50%. They used to do this years ago, but for many years now the day after any holiday, all the seasonal merchandise would be scooped up and sent away, presumably to some discounter somewhere. Apparently the economics have changed so that marking it down and selling it themselves is now more profitable.

I'd never noticed that. There have always been holiday items discounted in bins by the door here.

And I guess it could be worse...

Poor selling organs to make ends meet in Egypt

CAIRO - Soheila, an Egyptian village housewife, traded her kidney for $2,185 to pay off debt — the best option the desperate mother of three could find to keep food on the family table.

No ticket (money)
You must get off the bus (die)

Just an inconvenient side effect of our monetary cartel based system of organization.

"Unclaimed corpses push up urban morgue body counts"


Just enter unclaimed bodies into google and you will get almost 300,000 hits from all around the world.

Leatherman Waves were $60 this year at OSH, I'm sure they were up around $90 a year ago. I got X. one, they gave me one lol, and a few others got passed around.

Leatherman tools are one of the ultimate doomer gifts!

You can get a deal on the things by picking up one that was confiscated by the TSA. They sell them on eBay:


You can do a generic eBay search for "NTSA" and you see all sorts of things that got confiscated.

Hmm ... I'm just so far off the financial grid, that the only transactions I do are cash, face-to-face. I did get a Leatherman Crunch for $5 once, the pawn shop owner thought it was broken, frankly I did too, but it wasn't. Cool tool.

Behind a paywall, but viewable through Google:

Cellulosic-Ethanol Mandate Faces Snags

Several potholes make the path difficult, including regulatory delays, but the biggest hurdle is that dozens of commercial-scale and pilot facility projects haven't been able to secure enough financing to begin construction. The recession and tight credit markets have made it difficult to draw investors while the Department of Energy, which has committed $1.3 billion for bio-refinery projects, has been slow to dispense money. It is a chicken-and-egg problem: Both are waiting for each other to move first.

Cellulosic ethanol is stillborn strangled by its umbilical cord of government red tape and frozen in the cold of an ethanol market limited by the EPA's 6 month delay in approving E15:

"The red tape and difficulty of putting it together is standing in the way of all the projects," said Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at Washington-based law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.


Government mandates are defeated by agency red tape, delays in funding and approval of higher ethanol blends.

Google ethanol at Google News for access to full article.

The other thing that is standing in the way is the high cost (pretty much equivalent to low EROI) of the cellulosic ethanol. If cellulosic ethanol were really easy to produce, the world would be running to its doorstep. One cannot cover up basic issues of cost and scalability, and need for long term research, with government programs, well run or not.

Thank you Gail for this obvious insight. The cellulose fuel program still awaits its expected breakthrough: miraculous bioengineed cow-rumen bacteria that fed nothing but grass clippings, fruitfully multiply and excrete alcohol in a inexpensive neighborhood bioreactor. Last time I heard this expected breakthrough remains expected.

Yeah, the much anticipated cellulosic ethanol breakthrough still remains much anticipated. The people who view it as the solution to the upcoming oil shortage need to realize that it hasn't happened yet, and there's no natural law that makes it inevitable that it will happen.

Of course, politicians could pass such a law, but it would be in the same category of law that deemed that pi should be exactly 3.

Yeah, the much anticipated cellulosic ethanol breakthrough still remains much anticipated.

Whatever do you mean? The technical breakthroughs were made. In 1898:

The First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in the U.S.

We had two operating cellulosic ethanol plants in the U.S. by 1920. People who are racing to become the first don't know that, I guess.

Of course you mean the economic breakthroughs. There will never be a great economic breakthrough. There will be incremental improvements that will gradually make this marginally economical. That's why I classified it as a Renewable Niche in my series:


However, I think POET can probably make it for somewhere between $2 and $3/gal if they get the right circumstances and don't have to pay too much for feedstock. That latter bit will be tricky.

If the breakthrough occurred in 1920, and we can make it for $2/gal today with gas at $3 then back in 1970 we should have been making it for 20 cents (gas was 30 then). What prevented us? Why have we spent our post-peak (US) years chasing chimeras and Arabs?

Economics. I said that they may be able to make it for that if they get the right feedstock costs. However, not all feedstock is appropriate for cellulosic ethanol. Some feedstocks produce potent enzyme inhibitors during processing.

But the main reason is that even at the current production costs POET quotes, that still isn't economical with today's gasoline prices. Moore's Law did not apply. This is the mistake so many of the VCs who are throwing money at this don't understand: The technology has been around for a long time, and not everything proceeds according to Moore's Law. I saw an analogy once that discussed the airline industry in terms of Moore's Law:

In 1978, a commercial flight between New York and Paris cost around $900 and took seven hours. If the principles of Moore’s Law had been applied to the airline industry the way they have to the semiconductor industry since 1978, that flight would now cost about a penny and take less than one second.

The fact is, not everything proceeds according to Moore's Law. Moore's Law didn't have to violate basics of chemistry and physics. There are fundamental reasons some of these other technologies don't operate according to Moore's Law, but a great deal of Silicon Valley arrogance over this issue has resulted in many false promises and lost taxpayer dollars.

So the enzymes exist but the feedstock doesn't? How expensive are the enzymes? Where and what is the appropriate feedstock? Why isn't $2-$3/gal automobile fuel competitive when gasoline has consistently been above the $2.50/gal for some time?

No, the feedstock exists in the form of corn cobs for POET's specific technology. But that same technology won't work on a lot of the available biomass. The other thing is that their costs of production are related to 1). The cost of gathering the biomass and getting it to market (i.e., petroleum related); 2). The price farmers are willing to sell it for.

Why isn't $2-$3/gal automobile fuel competitive when gasoline has consistently been above the $2.50/gal for some time?

The spot price of gasoline is $1.80/gal. It is $2.50 mostly due to the added taxes. Given the lower energy content of ethanol, to pay the same amount per BTU you could only pay $1.10/gal for ethanol. The cited production cost (in a very niche case) is $2.35. So right now the production cost is more than double what it needs to be at present gasoline prices - yet costs will rise with gasoline prices.

That isn't to say that it can't still be a niche product. I think it can be. But I also think the mandates of 22 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol are a joke.

...the feedstock exists in the form of corn cobs for POET's specific technology.

In response to this item, and an earlier one in this string, isn't the trasnportation of the feedstock a major concern? It seems to me that, as fuel costs increase, the cost of moving many tons of corncobs, or whatever else is needed to create the ethanol, certain to increase. I don't know how much ethanol you expect from a corncob, but those things are bulky and light weight... creating need for large containers to move sufficient quantity.

Also, since it is being derived from corn, a product used in quantity as feed for animals [don't get me started about how stupid..], as our soil becomes more depleted more and more will be chopped into silage, eliminating the cobs as a biproduct. Again, like using corn for ethanol, using the cobs forces you to choose between food and gas. Food wins that battle, IMO, big time.

Maybe swtichgrass, or some such dryland crop, would work. Again, provided transportation problems are solveable.

Making "Acorn Lightning" could be an interesting project ......

We have a lot of acorns here and frankly even the best of them don't taste as good as corn.

Your numbers are old
according to MIT, R^2.

Cost of corn ethanol is $1.6 to $1.9 per gallon and price of corn cob ethanol is $2.35
and Poet expects it to end up below $2 per gallon. Since there is almost no difference in gas economy at a E5, ethanol directly substitutes for gasoline.

Retail gasoline is ~$2.90/gal.


As for 22 billion gallons, there are about 87 million acres of corn(cobbs) under cultivation.
At .65 tons of cobbs per acre and 80? gallons of ethanol per ton, that's 4.5 billion gallons of ethanol. 20% of 22 billion in cobbs alone.


It's good news, R^2.

Your numbers are old according to MIT, R^2.

Which numbers? The gasoline price number is current per the EIA. If MIT says otherwise, they are wrong. The right price to compare to a production cost for cellulosic ethanol is the spot price of gasoline - not retail with all of the taxes added on. Further, I just read the MIT blog, and you will have to show me which of my numbers are wrong according to them. I don't see a single difference with the numbers I used. Of course they didn't do the gasoline to ethanol comparison, but that doesn't make my numbers wrong simply because they didn't do the analysis.

Since there is almost no difference in gas economy at a E5, ethanol directly substitutes for gasoline.

Are you being serious? Of course there is almost no difference, because E5 is such a small amount of ethanol that it is hard to tell. Add it to the entire gasoline supply, and it will start to become apparent. But you can't scale up ethanol and then claim that at E5 it directly substitutes for gasoline. "A whole lot of ethanol" necessarily means that the blend will be greater than E5, and there is an efficiency penalty.

So you will have to show me an actual problem with my numbers. I mean come on, your analysis is just sleight of hand. Ethanol directly substituting for gasoline, and a production cost for cellulosic ethanol compared to a retail price for gasoline? You are reaching badly.

The spot price of gasoline is up to $1.96 at this site.


At the current blend level (where energy density makes no difference), $1.60 to $1.90 for a gallon of corn ethanol, ethanol IS comparable to gasoline--no sleight of hand.

But I was refering to your range of $2 to $3 per gallon for cellulosic ethanol. POET's at
$2.35 and expecting to go under $2, while oil prices are poised to move higher.

But what you really want to do is compare E85 to gasoline.
As usual it depends commodity prices.
At what price will gasoline be more expensive(including energy density factor of 1.5) than E85 based on $2 per gallon ethanol?
It's a gasoline spot price of $3, an oil price of ~$126 per barrel.
Therefore, if prices exceeds $126 per barrel, not including taxes or subsidies with ethanol at $2, E85 will beat E0.
How long will it be before oil prices reach $126?
Is that price impossibly high?

The spot price of gasoline is up to $1.96 at this site.

The price has gone up for several days in a row, but that also has an impact on what POET or anyone can make cellulosic ethanol for. So look at the price when the announcement was made (or find out what the fuel cost assumption is in their economic model). Whatever that price, ethanol has to come in at about 40% less per gallon to be competitive on an energy equivalent basis or you are going to pay more $/mile. You can't hide that by saying that you will only blend 5%. More than that is being blended even today, so your argument is nothing more than attempted sleight of hand as I said.

Here is the bottom line. If I spend X on gasoline and you spend the same X on a blend, you aren't going to travel as many miles as I do. So you better get the blend at a discount. Nobody in their right mind is going to pay comparable prices per gallon of ethanol, and that is the argument you are making: That ethanol is worth as much per gallon as gasoline. If it was, it would be trading for as much.

But I was refering to your range of $2 to $3 per gallon for cellulosic ethanol. POET's at $2.35 and expecting to go under $2, while oil prices are poised to move higher.

You crack me up. I know exactly what POET's published number is, because I have published it on my blog. I have discussed that number with them. Heck, they refer to my blog in their discussions about it on their website:


And if oil prices move up, so will their production costs. This is something you don't seem to understand. If you are counting on them to become competitive with oil because you think oil prices are going in one direction while their costs go in another, keep dreaming. The cost of oil ripples through their entire process.

The other thing you have to realize is that $2.35 is an estimate based on all kinds of assumptions. I will stick with $2 to $3, which brackets $2.35 the last time I checked and thus means your claim that my numbers are old is wrong.

How long will it be before oil prices reach $126?

The bigger question is: Do you really think that won't impact their production costs? I can think of multiple areas that it will impact.

Haven't you heard? Moore's Law already exists. It tells us the technology advances exponentially toward the singularity--Avatar!

Does anyone know the reactor design included in Korea's winning bid for the UAE contract? The Korean Standard Nuclear Plant design?

Meanwhile, our German friends are staying busy…

Solar-panel prices fell an average 26 percent this year from 2008 while subsidy rules for electricity generated from sunlight remained unchanged, handing solar energy producers extra profits, the newspaper said. Installed capacity of as much as 4,000 megawatts this year exceeds the government’s expectation of 1,300 megawatts of new installed capacity, the newspaper said.

While the American automobile makers cut lines and destroy brand names, this from the Associated Press:
FRANKFURT (AP) -- Audi AG said Monday it plans to spend euro7.3 billion ($10.51 billion) on plant upgrades, new products and technology research as it moves to expand its number of customers worldwide and increase market share.
Audi, based in Ingolstadt, and a unit of Volkswagen AG, said it plans to spend that amount from 2009 to 2012 and will increase the number of models from its current 34 to a planned 42 by 2015.
Asking for subsidy cuts, adding automobile lines, spending 10 billion U.S dollars of investment…gee, this credit crunch seems to be really hard on the Germans, huh?

Now let us recall this is in a nation that is obviously not the "solar friendliest" place as far as solar potential goes (if solar will work at all in Germany, can one assume it would do at least as well in the U.S. sunbelt or U.S. southwest?)

Germany is the biggest exporter in the world in dollars per capita of population, this from a nation with no home oil or natural gas...

Causes a person to want to ask some hard questions, does it not?


Imout -- Many years ago I saw a chart depicting the "value" of solar by region. Oddly enough, some of the best values were in the north country. Granted they don't get the sunshine that an Arizona would but the value of electricty/heat generated was worth much more in those colder climates. Any thoughts on this aspect from our solar experts out there?

Hey Rockman, any chance you have a link to the chart? Or even some more info on it?
That's an interesting issue and I'd like to take a more in depth look at the reasons behind it assuming that those trends actually still hold up today.

Sorry FM. Probably a good 20 years old. Maybe something I saw in Mother Earth or some such rag. But that info should be out there. Calulating the investment benefit of any solar application has to take into account the local value of the energy being generated. I would think it's the $ value of the flow that counts and not the amps. A solar plant in an area that has relatively cheap hydro power isn't going to be as good an investment as one in an area utilizing high cost fuel such as fuel oil. I think the chart showed Montana having one of the highest benefits. Probably because it gets so cold there any heat gain would be of great value.

I would have thought that for the purposes of heating that passive solar would be more economical. By this I mean a fairly large thermal mass (i.e. rocks) that is heated by the sun during the day, and which gives back the heat at night.

I suppose it might be harder to retrofit into an existing house, however..

PV has the benefit of being more flexible. I suppose you could use PV electricity to drive a ground-source heat pump, but that would be horribly complicated and expensive..

Here's one (global). Sandia has a detailed one of the U.S. if I can find it.


More detailed numbers for solar insolence:


I can't find an up-to-date report on "payback" by region.

The cooler climate makes PV more efficient in higher latitudes, and the longer summer days means more production for half the year. Maybe they can offset their fossil fuel use in the summer enough to make an impact during the short days of winter. I'm sure they have run the numbers. Maybe they plan to sell their excess production (and carbon credits) to their neighbors during peak periods.

The Germans have been pursuing PV for years. When Evergreen Solar of Mass rolled out their new "string ribbon" process, they couldn't get much funding in the US. The Germans jumped at the chance to build plants (in Germany) and Evergreen eventually formed partnerships with a couple of German companies, with the Govt there pre-purchasing much of their initial production. When Evergreen's credit line with Leman Bros fell through last year, it was mainly their relationship with the Germans that kept them from going under. They are now building plants in Asia as well. Without the Germans, Evergreen would likely have been a non-starter. We, in the U.S., just keep making excuses, while the Germans took Al Gore's "Million Solar Roofs" idea and ran with it. They also produce some of the best balance-of-system products to sell to the rest of the world (inverters, charge controllers, etc.). Austria is also on the forefront of renewables.

Amoco was once one of the biggest PV producers on the planet. We all know were that went.

Our one and only Audi dealership in town two years ago cannot imagine tarnishing their image by reselling trade-in cars. It was pack tight with new models year round. For real estate "moguls", this was the symbol of success.

Fast forward to today, the sale lot is anything but pack with Audis. To fill in some of the void, trade-ins are being sold alongside and they even displace the "unwanted" prominently in rows adjacent to streets. Salesmen are standing by the curb twirling their keychains. I'm seeing fore sale signs popping up more frequently (fore sale by owner), and all of them are of recent year models.

Now let us recall this is in a nation that is obviously not the "solar friendliest" place as far as solar potential goes (if solar will work at all in Germany, can one assume it would do at least as well in the U.S. sunbelt or U.S. southwest?)

No, it can't work there since there are relatively few Germans who live there.

Disclaimer: I live in the Sunshine State which is South East, not West but we also seem to have the same problem ;-)

BTW we are in the throes of a population exodus, just in case most of Germany might be interested in moving here in the near future, they can probably pick up the whole state at a basement bargain price.

I'll be glad to polish up my rudimentary German.

Willkommen zu Florida!

I could live with an influx here in KY, my grandfather was German from the Germantown neighborhood of Louisville, I can vouch for the beer and food (okay, not good if your on a low fat diet!) and no complaints regarding the German girls I knew in my younger years! I see a business opportunity here, selling discound American real estate to German dreamers...but question: Why would they leave Germany? :-)

As to the sunshine state, a friend of mine who lived there his whole adult live retired to KY (how's that for a switch!), and was recently there visiting...he was astonished at the way it had emptied out, and said he would buy a house there at the new cheaper prices, but he just doesn't have the money! This is the untold story...many people would love to live there but even at the steep discounts they cannot now get the money for a house there...it's crazy, the U.S essentially has no banking industry now, just the shells of the old ones to bleed the government on their way out...kind of like the old days of the railroads...


I see a business opportunity here, selling discound American real estate to German dreamers...but question: Why would they leave Germany? :-)

No kidding!

I have a brother and sister both US citizens and married to Germans and they have lived in Germany for over a quarter of a century. the way things are going I think I'm the one who will be applying for immigration soon.

On the other hand while they are shoveling snow I can walk to this ;-)

As a saying here goes "The Germans might have lost the battle but not the war". The past 60 years they took over our beaches each summer, maybe next year they will take over Florida or California!


That would be cool - I think our current Governor can speak the lingo

The photovoltaic industry has been criticized now for many years by people who say supporting the electrcity produced by rooftop solar systems is too expensive. The additional costs are added to the bill and the utilities must feed the power in their grid.

Actually the law was too succesful, because production did increase much faster and prices decreased much faster. This is actually a good sign. The law would be worthless with stagnating prices and no developments in technology.

The problem, however are the chinese manufacturers, their imported modules are cheaper the german ones and many people say this law is just creating jobs in China and not here. Some say the chinese panels are good quality others say it is minor to german ones (I am co-owner of a system in Berlin where we installed panles from Germany, but I am not a technican).

The sign the german solar industry gave to the new government is of course a tactical one. Before the government will cut the in-feed-costs they will now negotiate the new numbers in early January. Photovoltaic is very popular here, and any kind of government would never act to destroy this industry. Even Angela Merkel said she regards this industry as a basic one for the future (but a few years ago she protected the german automobile industry against more severe pollution laws against the EU, our "climate chancellor" which name is sometimes used for her....).

The USA. There is more sun, yes. As soon it'll pay of to use PV the US market will be the major one in the world. It is only a matter of time and this time is probably a period which is much shorter than anticipated so far. The only question is, where to get the modules from.

From an energy point of view the Americans should get home-grown modules, FirstSolar (thin-film) and Sunpower (I've got 2.5 kWp 220Wp mono Sunpowers, they are a real piece of art imho at 18% efficiency) are worldclass producers and because the US market is, potentially, so big there will be many startups eager for a slice of the pie.

Ofcourse you can also import class A panels from China, those are durable too. I know someone who imports a container now and then. Last time it was about 1.7 Euro/Wp for 180Wp crystaline modules. That's pretty cheap already but prices went down about 30% last year, so who knows what's in store for next year.

Iraq to become world's largest oil producer?

They need to stop shooting and blowing up people for that to happen. What are the chances of that happening?

Oil burns. A few nutbars with matches can set entire oilfields on fire. That is a fundamental issue that people often fail to consider.

It is easy to claim reserves; talk is cheap. It is more difficult to pump promises.

Bottom line, they made a claim, an assertion. Many doubt what was said. We will have to wait and see.

Even a doomer like me can hope they are correct, since that might extend oil a few years. It does not end the problem of PO, it merely puts it off. The question is, if they back up their b.s. with 8+mbd, will we during the time their oil grants us be able to create a sustainable infrastructure, including alternatives to oil, coal and gas? If the answer is, "no," as history shows me it will, I will remain pretty much a realist, and a doomer.

If the answer is , "yes," I will be very happy ... and surprised.

My slow journey of understanding the various problems facing the human race (and the rest of life on this planet) has lead me to seek the foundational assumptions that are - ultimately - the root cause(s) of our problems.

There are many problems - resource depletion, environmental degradation, population overshoot, EROI, politics and tribalism, energy production/export issues, behavioral psychology, and all the discussions to quantify them and rank their importance. TOD has been a great place to see and participate in these discussions.

Over the holiday break, I spent some time searching beyond these issues to the more basic assumptions that lead to these problems. I am faced with an inescapable conclusion:

It is our belief, as a species, that the planet and all life that lives upon it is ours to do with as we please. It is our belief that the Earth is under our dominion. We divide up what there is of the various pieces, and constantly fight others for some of theirs. If we could reach the planets or the stars, we would fight over them.

The Judeo-Christian belief-systems (and many other belief systems) clearly grant this right to humans, and all other problems grow from this poisoned illusion.

I do not expect that we are capable of altering such a basic belief in our own greatness. If we do not "own" everything, then we must admit to an equality with the rest of Nature - and this is not in within our capabilities as a species, and never has been.

It is strange and fine - Nature's lavish generosities to her creatures. At least to all of them except man. For those that fly she has provided a home that is nobly spacious - a home which is forty miles deep and envelopes the whole globe, and has not an obstruction in it. For those that swim she has provided a more than imperial domain - a domain which is miles deep and covers four-fifths of the globe. But as for man, she has cut him off with the mere odds and ends of the creation. She has given him the thin skin, the meager skin which is stretched over the remaining one-fifth - the naked bones stick up through it in most places. On the one-half of this domain he can raise snow, ice, sand, rocks, and nothing else. So the valuable part of his inheritance really consists of but a single fifth of the family estate; and out of it he has to grub hard to get enough to keep him alive and provide kings and soldiers and powder to extend the blessings of civilization with. Yet, man, in his simplicity and complacency and inability to cipher, thinks Nature regards him as the important member of the family - in fact, her favorite. Surely, it must occur to even his dull head, sometimes, that she has a curious way of showing it.

- Mark Twain, Following the Equator

The Judeo-Christian belief-systems (and many other belief systems) clearly grant this right to humans, and all other problems grow from this poisoned illusion.

This belief system has only been around for a mere 2000 years, my guess is it won't be around for another 2000. If civilized humans are still around they will probably have adopted a different more naturalistic and holistic view of their place in nature. Of course all of civilization may have collapsed by then and some new mutant version of Homo habilis might be scrounging around trying to survive and everything will be back to the drawing board.

BTW belief systems don't grant any rights that go against the basic laws of nature.

...fuel inefficiency that we can eliminate by teaching at least the new drivers to drive standard shift cars...

Oh, my. They can't even remember whether the foot is on the brake or the gas. So let's complicate that with a clutch? And never mind that both hands are thumbing the iPhone, the other hand is juggling the coffee, the other hand is nudging the steering wheel now and then, and the other hand is fiddling with the eye liner...oh, wait a minute. So let's complicate that with a shifter? Just saying ... :-\

Hi Paul,

Issues with eye liner applicators and moustache trimmers aside, manual transmissions don't always outperform automatics.

See: http://www.cars.com/go/crp/buyingGuides/Story.jsp?section=Passenger&stor...


I suspect that if the vehicle is getting something like 22mpg, then the inherent inefficiency of the automatic doesn't really change the mileage very much. It sort of amuses me to hear all of the noise from the huge trucks when you accelerate from a standstill - it reminds me of someone obese that is out of breath after having climbed a flight of stairs.

Or perhaps some manufacturers aren't doing a good job of matching the manual transmissions to the engines, and the mpg suffers on account of this.

In my VW TDI diesel, the EPA highway is 48mpg, and in-town is 41. But it is possible to do much better than this if you keep the speed down - I drove from DC to Toronto and back, and averaged 55mpg for the trip, and I was using a high blend of biodiesel for part of the trip. On regular D2, I probably could have gotten a bit better.

Driving habits play a big part in realized mileage. I get much better mileage than my wife does over the same route and usually get there quicker (sorry honey). Keeping your distance and less unneccessary use of brakes, anticipating stops and traffic, coasting and maintaining a steady speed all help. I remember in the '70s the thing was to draft behind big trucks. Not so safe, but does improve mileage.

Mythbusters tested how well drafting worked, and you're right, it did improve mileage. But it didn't improve much at all until they were 10 feet behind the truck, and it didn't improve significantly until they were TWO feet behind the truck. If I remember correctly.

OTOH, using the methods you described I boosted my mileage 10% to 15%, and once I got comfortable shutting the engine off while coasting downhill (gotta have a clutch for this one) I got a couple of tankfuls boosted by 25% to 30%. I've since slacked off a bit.

And yes, the driver makes a huge difference. I get 50 miles more on a tank than my teenager.

They used to say there were only a few percent of efficiency improvements left in the modern car. Now engines can take advantage of things like variable displacement, and shut down during coast, in addition to regenerative braking ,ev modes and ccvt parallel hybrid power.

On our recent traditional holiday family 'tour' of the NW the gen 3 Prius averaged 56+ mpg with 4 of us and all our gear on board at 55 to 60 mph. That was in avg. 30 deg. weather with 10% ethanol and plenty of hills. I do hypermile when possible.

I realize there are a ton of hidden subsidies underpinning my ability to travel this way but 224 pass. mpg is still way better than the normative 1 person per 4x4 P/U around these parts. To me the Prius is still tremendously overbuilt, a concession to safety and traditional

edit: btw Mythbusters already had an 11% improvement in mileage drafting at 100 ft and it went way up from there. I'm tempted to propose a bunch of Priuses running nose to tail but somebody inevitably points out that then we'd have a train.

Yep, cornering as fast are you dare is good for mileage too, braking and even coasting is a waste of energy :-) But anticipating indeed plays the biggest role in getting better mileage.

My neighbour used to have a Citroen 2CV which would not go faster then 80km/h with headwind. He always tuck behind a truck and did 100 km/h that way in such situations. Riding that thing was a blast anyway... speed bump? What speed bump! (If you could get it to start).

Audi's S Tronic auto system in their A4 gets exactly the same fuel efficiency (38.2mpg) as the manual shift. This is a normal, if fast, family size 2.0litre.

It possible to get an auto system to match a manual nowadays - providing you don't build out of obsolete technology.

Perhaps it is, but I have grown to hate automatics. Each one I have owned has been a maintenance headache. The manuals seem to last forever with virtually no maintenance required - I got about 180K miles on the factory clutch on my old Volvo.

The newer cars have the DSG, which they claim gives you the best of both worlds. But there has already been a recall. On the whole, my feeling is that simplicity is always better in that there are fewer things to go wrong.

Hi Eric,

I've never had any issues with the automatic transmissions in any of the vehicles I've owned thus far but, as it turns out, I did have problems with the five speed manual in my SAAB (a worn clutch plate and broken linkage).

Interestingly, I don't think I ever achieved anything better than 10 litres per 100 km in the SAAB and yet I could routinely get 8 litres or less per 100 km in the Chrysler LHS that replaced it (a much bigger, heavier car with a 3.5L V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission versus a 2.0L 4-cylinder and 5-speed manual). At highway speeds, the SAAB would be in turning at 3,100 RPM -- the LHS, perhaps 2,000 RPM.


Often new automatics are rated higher on the highway. Torque multiplication allows them to pull at taller final drive gear, and locking up the torque converter (along with other reductions of friction and pumping losses) reduces losses at speed. But the performance is lower than the manuals and the economy suffers in city driving. And you're stuck with how they programed it. Give me a manual any day.

Hi Twilight,

That makes sense and, all things being equal, I prefer a manual as well. My current vehicle (a 2002 300M Special) and that of my partner (a 2005 Dodge Magnum R/T) are both equipped with Autostick transmissions; these allow you to change gears on demand by simply tapping the shifter left or right. I seldom use this feature except on steep downgrades. In addition, these Autostick transmissions and that of my '94 LHS have adaptive shift logic, so they will automatically adjust their shift points to better suit your particular driving style. My partner is far more aggressive behind the wheel and the engine in his '97 LHS would rev much higher before it would upshift, so this feature did work as designed.


Big deal, my old 5 speed manual Escort gets waay better mileage than any of the cars on that list, manual or automatic, so color me unimpressed. I wish I still had my even older 93 Suzuki Swift with a 1.3 L engine and manual transmission, I could easily get upwards of 40 mpg with it. I'd still have it if some moron in a gas guzzler hadn't crushed it.

Fred, I owe you an apology. In a reply to a comment of yours yesterday about nutritional medicine I wrote:

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.

I should have known that as a regular on this site and a solar PV proffessional to boot that a F350 super duty would be very low down on your list of vehicles you'd probably drive to Orlando

I should have wrote ...need about half a tank to drive your Escort from Hollywood to Orlando but, you decide to try with one gallon left in the tank and blame ....

For a list of cars that should impress you with their milage check out this top ten diesels from the UK.

Alan from the islands

That list certainly is a bit more impressive. I like the grass covered bug too :-)
I actually knew an artist in New York who covered his car with real grass sort of like a Chia pet.
It certainly got some heads to turn when he drove it.

The article mentions continuously-variable transmissions. IIRC, those almost always beat manual shifts because the advantage of running the engine near the optimal speed more than offsets any increased internal drag/friction. I haven't had a chance to drive one, but understand that they take some getting used to because changing the throttle position results in acceleration or deceleration (yes, I know they're the same thing, just with opposite signs), but the engine speed may remain nearly constant.

My mother bought the first gen Civic Hyb with the CVT. It took some getting used to; sometimes felt like a standard autotrans that was slipping or a slipping clutch. It was just the engine finding its sweet spot. After her death I drove it for 4 months and learned to get some great mileage. I wish I had it now.

Oh, my. They can't even remember whether the foot is on the brake or the gas. So let's complicate that with a clutch? And never mind that both hands are thumbing the iPhone, the other hand is juggling the coffee, the other hand is nudging the steering wheel now and then, and the other hand is fiddling with the eye liner...oh, wait a minute. So let's complicate that with a shifter? Just saying ... :-\

We just need to evolve a bit...

Kunstler has his 2010 Predictions up. Others will follow, I'm sure.

Leanan, will TOD be having an open forum for reader's predictions?

EPA drags its feet wasting energy again, still:

Mazda: EPA Test Keeps Stop-Start Out

According to the company, though Japanese fuel economy tests show stop-start improving efficiency by seven to nine percent “the EPA city-mode test cycle includes only one complete vehicle stop, so stop-start technology registers only a 0.1- or 0.2-mpg improvement.”


Interesting x. I remember years ago seeing a chart showing gallons per hour: how much fuel an engine used while at idle. Again, my fading grey cells can't recall the details other then some cars burned a lot more per unit time at a stop light then others. A bigger factor for intracity drivers of course. And I think some of the smaller cars were surprising offenders. I'm at the other extreme: probably 2/3 or more of my driving is at highway speeds.

How do they handle accessories at idle with stop-start? I almost never use A/C, but other seem to think it a requirement, and heat/defrost is a requirement.

This is probably old hat to some but I found it interesting. GHG and CC


From up top.
Tanzania: Two Factories Close Shop in Zanzibar, As Power Shortage Bites

The impact of lack of electricity can be felt in all sectors including tourism and trade. It is now tourism season, many visitors are uncomfortable with staying in hotels without electricity, particularly at this period of hot season," he said

I spend two weeks on Zanzibar in 2007 in a hotel on the east cost. It was quite some way from Stone Town. All the electricity comes from the main land. It was very unreliable then and we had numerous power cuts. The hotel had an emergency generator to keep the kitchens going but nothing else. The first power cuts were not too bad, no air conditioning but with a torch you could find your way around.

However there was one power cut that lasted 36 hours. This was more of a problem because the hotel relied on electric pumps to get water. We discovered that the toilets would not flush any more and of course showering or washing your hands was no longer possible.

According the article they have had no power since Dec 10th. That would mean at least in the hotel where I was, sanitation would be taking a real hit. That was a 4 star hotel.

16 container ships pollute more than all the cars in the world.
it's all good. SN@RX!

Thanks for the link. Just another example that the costs of shipping must go up, and another nail in the coffin of globalization. Not that I think they will change quickly, but eventually the pressure to stop that will increase.

Articles Related to This Article:
Air Pollution Reduces Fetus Size and Decreases Male/Female Ratio

So it's not all bad, then.

Peak Oil and Dr. Robert Hirsch on Russian Television:


The electrical supply situation in Venezuela is not looking particularly good...

Venezuela strengthens saving measures to prevent electrical breakdown
Between October and November the Guri dam level dropped 1.45 meters

It was after the second major blackout in Venezuela, back on September 3 this year, that the government hinted a power saving plan.


During such significant power disruptions, there was a "huge power demand on the Guri dam," due to increased electricity demand and a power generation deficit at 2 to 3 percent that still persists, despite efforts to raise contributions to the system...

See: http://english.eluniversal.com/2009/12/28/en_eco_art_venezuela-strengthe...


Before the price of oil crashed the Venezuelan government sent out people with backpacks full of light bulbs to visit every home. You handed in your old incandescent light bulbs, they gave you new florescent ones. I saw articles in the newspaper saying that they were going to build a wind farm with help from Spain. They put up 10 or 12 solar powered street lights in front of my house, and there was talk of supplying solar panels to isolated communities.

Then when the price of oil started to drop the spending got cut back. they started putting up billboards telling you to unplug your cell phone charger, and turn off the tap when you brush your teeth.

Now the water gets cut off 1 or 2 days a week. None of the municipalities had lights on their Christmas displays. Many places have daily or weekly cuts to the electricity (for example where I work it is from 2 to 3 twice a week). I believe malls and casinos are being supplied with electricity during working hours, which have been shortened by about an hour a day.

There was a synchronized swimming competition in November. The aquatics federation had to bring in a generator to supply electricity to the sound system. It doesn't sound like much, but that has negatively impacted BAU in three ways.

At least 12 times the music stopped in full competition. That qualifies as a disaster because once the athletes start a routine it is physiologically difficult to stop and restart. We were planning on using the results from the competition to help decide who will attend international competitions next year, now the results are influenced by a wild card element.

Fluctuating electricity from the generator may have been responsible for blowing up 5 CD players. That means 5 clubs lost an important part of their training equipment. As we all work with limited budgets that means that something will have to be cut from next year's spending. Maybe it will mean two extra fund raising days, maybe it will mean a reduced team uniform. For some it will mean no CD player for a few months, which means that the coach will have to sing/count/beat the rhythm to the athletes.

Also there was no electricity supplied to the pool's filters. There was no pump and therefore no water supplied to the bathrooms. After hours people probably snuck into the pool and bathed. The state of the pool water has lead to some kids getting skin infections, for example one of my athletes has developed an oozing rash on her eyelid that is responding poorly to treatment.

Little by little the drought and power outages are starting to errode into quality of life here.

Thanks, synchroGENized, for your first hand account of current conditions. I wish you and your country the very best of luck and hope the situation improves quickly.

For additional background, see: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN2213151020091223


Not my country (yet?) I'm just a guest here, for now. I still claim Vancouver Island as my back-up home.

I suspect that some of the heavy industry production cuts have to do with economic conditions as well as electricity cuts. Sadly the government offices that are parallel to my window do not shut off their lights all night, ever. It's a 54 story building and at least ten floors are lit up at 2 AM

Many people here suspect that the Guri dam isn't producing as much electricity as it could because of bad maintenance. One person told me that 2 of the turbines are malfunctioning. I don't know for sure. It is unseasonably hot and dry.

I'm surprised no one commented on the expected 2010 decline in oil tanker rates. Since only a portion (maybe 10%) of tankers are used for offshore storage, the expected drop in tanker usage appears to be caused by more than some offshore tankers unloading.

Who will be right about oil shipments in 2010? Those predicting falling tanker rates or those like the EIA, IEA, and OPEC predicting stronger oil export market? Granted net oil export shipments can fall while total oil output increases, therefore both groups may be right about 2010, but if they are that means oil demand relative to supply will be fairly strong in 2010.

on the growth of green uni programs I did a google search and found a good site.


Maybe hope for the future.