Drumbeat: January 17, 2010

Jeff Rubin At ‘The Business of Climate Change’ (video)

Jeff Rubin, the former Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets, speaks at The Business of Climate Change conference. Mr. Rubin predicts $225 per barrel oil by 2012 and with it the end of globalization, a movement towards local sourcing and a need for massive scaling up of energy efficiency.

Pakistanis furious as power shortages grip nation

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Sagheerullah Khan huddles before a small fire outside his shop in northwest Pakistan, struggling to stay warm and keep his business alive despite five days without electricity.

Other shopkeepers join him and gather around the flames in the poor Badhber neighbourhood on the outskirts of northwest capital Peshawar, lamenting crushing power outages and gas shortages that have plunged them back in time.

Iran hails OPEC output compliance as a "success"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - OPEC members achieved a 66 percent compliance last year with agreed crude output targets, a senior Iranian oil official was quoted as saying on Sunday, describing it as a "success".

The producer group decided at a Dec. 22 meeting in Angola to keep its output policy unchanged, but faces a battle to crack down on those in its ranks who are failing to comply with quotas if it wants to drain fuel stocks.

Iraq approves Shell oil deal in crucial step

Iraq gave final approval Sunday to a deal by a Shell-led consortium to develop one of its largest oil fields, marking a crucial step toward the nation's postwar rebuilding by boosting the production of its most lucrative resource.

Mexico reopens its oil ports closed due to poor weather

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico reopened two of its three main oil ports in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday that were closed on Saturday due to poor weather.

Power grid charges 'not unfair', says UK minister

Charges imposed on Scots power firms for putting electricity into the national grid are fair, UK energy minister Lord Hunt has insisted.

The Scottish government said the current system, linked to the size of power stations and distance from big population areas, was unfair.

But Lord Hunt told BBC Scotland that a call to cut the charges would only increase costs to the customers.

More Silly Trademark Claims: Peabody Energy Threatens “Clean Coal” Spoof Site

The closing months of 2009 saw the beginning of an unfortunate legal dispute in which a trademark owner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ran to court to punish political activists for using its marks in a political parody. Sadly, less than a week into 2010, another trademark owner, Peabody Energy, is also using legal threats to attempt to silence criticism.

The Greening of Oil

Anchorage, Alaska - Anchorage-based Petroleum News has launched a new, international online magazine at www.greeningofoil.com.

Greening of Oil is a science-based publication that tracks the environmental footprint of fossil fuels, scrutinizing what is being done to make hydrocarbons a more earth-friendly energy source during what is expected to be a decades-long shift to cleaner and cleaner power.

Food Shortages Coming? Famed Investor Jim Rogers Thinks So

A severe food shortage is on its way, according to well-regarded investor Jim Rogers. Food inventories are the lowest in decades and "[m]any farmers cannot get loans to buy fertilizer now, even though we have big shortages developing," Rogers said on CNBC.

For investors, that could mean a buying opportunity in commodities, in particular coffee and cotton, Rogers said. In fact, he says commodities are a much better buying opportunity than stocks right now.

For the rest of us, a food shortage could mean skyrocketing food prices. "Sometime in the next few years, we're going to have very serious shortages of food everywhere in the world and prices are going to go through the roof," he said.

Venezuela oil output unhurt by power cuts - govt

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's oil industry is untouched by electricity rationing that is causing blackouts across the OPEC nation, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said, adding that most oil operations have their own power supplies.

Mexico shuts Gulf oil ports due to bad weather

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico closed two of its three main oil ports in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday due to poor weather, the government said.

IEA: Developed World Oil Demand Already Looks Weaker than Expected

Some interesting commentary Friday morning from the International Energy Agency, which released its latest oil market outlook.

While the organization sees global aggregate demand basically unchanged from its last forecast, it's reducing its estimates for OECD demand, despite the harsh winter and attendant demand for heating oil.

Tullow Tells Heritage It Will Pre-Empt Ugandan Sale

(Bloomberg) -- Tullow Oil Plc, the U.K. explorer with the most licenses in Africa, told Heritage Oil Plc it will exercise pre-emptive rights to buy Ugandan assets jointly owned by the two companies.

Tullow will match a $1.5 billion-dollar bid from Eni SpA to buy Heritage’s share of Blocks 1 and 3A in Uganda’s Lake Alberta, company spokesman George Cazenove said today in a phone interview. Tullow plans to sell a stake in the blocks to another oil company, he said.

Lawyer Withdraws Challenge to Virginia Gas and Oil Act

A Southwest Virginia attorney withdrew his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Virginia Gas and Oil Act on Thursday, the day he read comments by a senior lawmaker that the action could jeopardize proposed reforms to the law this session.

Shell investors call for clarity

A UK coalition of institutional and private shareholders is calling on Royal Dutch Shell to provide transparency on risks associated with Canadian oil sands projects.

Over 140 fund managers, mutual funds, pension funds and individual investors co-filed a resolution, co-ordinated by social responsible investment campaign group FairPensions, in December 2009. Shell has since confirmed that the resolution is valid, and will be addressed in its annual general meeting on May 18.

Guilt in Cisco fuel station fraud

In a federal indictment released on Sept. 10 the five were accused of purposely altering fuel pumps at three stations located off I-95 exits and cheating fuel customers out of millions of dollars from 1995 to 2008. The indictment also charged them in a conspiracy to bride a Georgia Department of Agriculture inspector.

The stations were popular stops for Nassau County residents because of their proximity and gasoline that cost about 20 cents a gallon less than here. But customers were overcharged because they did not receive a true gallon of gas.

Sharon Asytk: The problem of community

What I think Greer leaves out in this important conversation is the issue of time and energy and resources. The absent space of political and social engagement that Greer rightly points out is a result not just of a culture of autonomy, but of a culture of industrialism that demands the labor of everyone in a unified project - and leaves very little space for other work.

Rob Hopkins: Why community might not need organising

I do feel that there is something faintly patronising about the idea that we need to ‘create community’. It is like a couple who move into a rural village and wonder why “nothing is happening here” and then alienate themselves by trying to start lots of things without just immersing themselves first and discovering what is already happening there. Community is already there in most cases. It is not the consensual, huggy, ‘let’s have a shared dinner’ kind of community that Findhorn specialises in. It is a more chaotic, far more diverse, stubborn and atomised kind of community. But it does exist. It is neither better, nor worse, just different.

Pastors in Northwest Find Focus in ‘Green’

MILLWOOD, Wash. — State auditors told Millwood Community Presbyterian Church last summer to close its farmers’ market on the church parking lot or the lot could no longer be claimed as tax-exempt. Without hesitation, the church kept the market and paid the $700 in annual taxes.

Money is tight, but the locally raised beef and vegetables and, most important, the environmentally minded customers had become central to the 90-year-old church’s ministry.

Reinette Senum: An extraordinary Jane

In 2004, after I educated myself on the theory of peak oil, I had my first internal paradigm shift. This altered the perception I held of our world and my place in it.

After absorbing the reality of peak oil, my initial instinct to take on a global issue, such as our world's oil addiction, seemed a tad-bit daunting.

I kept thinking of my miniscule self on this vast planet with a world population of nearly 7 billion people, and I couldn't help but ask myself, “What could one person possibly do?”

It was not until I read the book “The Tipping Point,” and after doing a simple math equation, I realized that all I needed to do was create the world I wish to see in my very own backyard. “Tipping Point” author Malcolm Gladwell, highlighted that by reaching just 15 to 20 percent of a population, “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable” is possible.

Prediction: Clean Energy Will Not Happen for the Right Reasons

I forecast that there will clear and terrifying indications sometime in the early part of this decade that we've been lied to about the size (not to mention security) of the world oil reserves. In particular, we will soon have indisputable data showing the failure of certain large oil fields.

Two Simple Ways To Prevent Disaster

The hard part is doing it, and determining who is responsible for doing it. And with looming realities such as climate change, peak oil, and overpopulation – we will face a whole new level of devastating disaster unless we all work to eliminate poverty and heed the warnings of science.

A Clear Coating, With Green Applications

IMAGINE how great it would be if, after dinner, you could stack the greasy dishes, pots, pans and utensils in the sink and let plain old water rinse away the grime — with no help from detergents, and little or no scrubbing. Bye-bye, dishpan hands.

Plastic coatings under development may someday bring that moment to pass, rendering dinnerware, bathroom mirrors and even factory equipment sparkling clean with water alone.

The new materials may be appreciated not only by dish-washing family members, but also by environmentalists concerned about all of the soap that disappears down the drain. Detergents that end up in wastewater can cause algae to bloom, among other effects.

The Philippines' ethanol mandate hits implementation ‘roadblocks’

The country’s ethanol mandate should now be cruising at full speed, but implementation has slowed down as policy drivers seem heading in the wrong direction. Caution, because the way ahead could be a cliff.

The plan was borne out of the lavish twin goals of reducing the country’s fossil fuel dependence and at shoring up cash-for-farming opportunities; yet, these hopes along with the policy are now teetering at the brink of – failure.

Korea to Build Research Reactor in Jordan

A Korean consortium has won a contract from Jordan to build an atomic reactor for research and training purposes. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said that the consortium received a letter from the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission on Thursday saying it won the international open bid.

NASA public relations flap follows official to TVA

TVA's new spokesman — brought in to help rehab its credibility after the coal ash disaster — was enmeshed at his previous job at NASA in a Bush administration controversy in which climate change scientists said they were censored.

Hot cars in Detroit: Small, electric and sporty

DETROIT (AP) -- More than any auto show in recent memory, the new cars rolled out this week out at the Detroit auto show will redefine what we drive in the future.

As the show opened to the public on Saturday, small cars that push the previous limits on gas mileage, performance, quality and looks took the spotlight.

But the show also features a fun gas-electric hybrid sports car and a just-plain-gorgeous convertible. And there's an electric car that soon you'll be able to buy.

EU Nations Spar Over Climate Policy After UN Summit Deadlock

(Bloomberg) -- European nations are struggling to hold a common line on climate policy after last month’s failed United Nations summit in Copenhagen, with the U.K., Germany and France defending deeper emission cuts in the face of Italian and Polish resistance.

World misled over glacier meltdown: Report

LONDON: A warning that most of the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 owing to climate change is likely to be retracted after the United Nations body that issued it admitted to a series of scientific blunders.

Global warming bill kills state jobs

Higher electric bills will not create jobs. Making gasoline more expensive will not create jobs. Significantly increasing the cost of doing business in Wisconsin will not create jobs. Taking more money from Wisconsin families will not create jobs.

Yet those outcomes are exactly what voters can expect if Wisconsin adopts Gov. Jim Doyle's proposed global warming legislation.

Forget Harry Potter: Saci Lloyd thrills teenagers with a heroine who battles climate change and extremism

Not many sixth-form teachers from east London can claim to have said "No" to Johnny Depp, but Saci Lloyd is getting used to her double life. By day, she teaches A-level students at an inner-city college: by night, she is one of Britain's most successful crusading authors.

Her first book, The Carbon Diaries 2015, shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards last year, already has a slavish following among teenagers in this country and in America. The futuristic story introduced the world to a hapless new heroine, Laura Brown, a figure who now threatens to become as potent in the entertainment industry as Harry Potter.

The Pulse: Forget the Scarf, but Think About the Frogs

As Chicagoans basked in last week’s relative warmth, they might have spared a thought for frogs. Above-freezing temperatures melt the city’s roadside snowbanks, sending an annual average of 270,000 tons of road salt into the state’s waterways and giving flora and fauna a super-sized serving of NaCl.

Japan threatens action on China gas project: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan warned China on Sunday that it would take action if Beijing starts gas production in a disputed field in the East China Sea, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Although the two countries reached a broad agreement in 2008 on principles intended to solve the dispute by jointly developing gas fields, progress has been slow and Japan has accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the agreement.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada indicated to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi at a meeting in Tokyo on Sunday that Japan might also start its own development in the disputed area, if China moves ahead with its gas production at the site, Kyodo reported, citing a ministry source.

The two ministers had heated exchanges, with Yang saying Okada's stance as not acceptable, Kyodo also reported.

Crude Oil May Fall as Supplies Rise, Survey Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil may fall next week on speculation that U.S. inventories will climb for a third week and as fuel demand declines, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Seventeen of 41 analysts, or 42 percent, said oil will drop through Jan. 22. Thirteen respondents, or 32 percent, forecast an increase and 11 said prices will be little changed. Last week, 44 percent of analysts forecast a decline in futures.

Energy drillers' outlook tinged by 2009 fallout

Executives at oilfield services companies have struck a tone of cautious optimism to start the new year, hinting at some nervy months ahead as they try to regain their composure after a cataclysmic 2009.

With memories of last year's travails so fresh, service providers sense disbelief among big customers about the apparent recovery, even with U.S. crude oil trading at prices more than double the lows of early last year.

"Right now, they don't know why oil is at $80," Marvin Migura, chief financial officer at deepwater well specialist Oceaneering International Inc (OII.N), told investors at a conference hosted by Pritchard Capital Partners.

This has led to hesitation among some bigger oil and gas companies about committing to major projects, he added.

Mexico: A Bad Case of the Blues

A recent visit to Mexico City found Mexicans despondent. From distinct backgrounds and with differing political perspectives, Mexicans moaned. Unemployment at the historic rate of 6.2% and a 9% fall in the economic activity index, dwindling oil resources and Standard & Poor’s downgrading of Mexican investments left the economic elite and street vendors sulky. Drugs and crime remain an issue, although the lurid and frequent assassination of mayors, police officials and journalist was concentrated in specific areas. In the rest of the country, kidnapping, robbery and extortion affected ordinary citizens more than President Calderon’s War on Drugs.

Tragedy averted in Lagos … As soldiers foil bid to burst NNPC pipelines

A disaster which could have deepened the acute fuel shortage currently being experienced in the country was averted weekend by the men of the Nigerian Army Operation Pipeline Protection, also known as OP MESA, who foiled the bursting and vandalization of NNPC pipelines laid through Peace Estate in Egbe-Idimu Development Council Area, Lagos.

Bangladesh: ‘Sustainable use of energy resources needed’ to mitigate energy crisis

To ensure sustainability through gradual mitigation of energy crisis, the government should make immediate arrangements for sustainable use of energy resources, along with facilitating usage of high quality anthracite coals for power generation, said expert, reports UNB.

"The country has a big reserve of high quality Anthracite coal… the government should facilitate the production of electricity utilising this natural resource," said Dr Mohammed Ataur Rahman, Director of the Programme on Education for Sustainability of International University of Business, Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT).

Rights group critical of Houston Marathon sponsor Chevron expelled from expo for criticism

HOUSTON (AP) — A group of human rights advocates with a booth critical of the Chevron Houston Marathon's title sponsor was expelled from the marathon expo Friday for painting the company "in a negative light."

Steven Karpas, the managing director of the Houston Marathon Committee, said runners from Rainforest Action Network were setting up a booth with "very anti-Chevron placards and pamphlets that absolutely painted Chevron in a negative light," so he had them booted from the expo.

Solar power project to light up a million people's lives

KATHMANDU: Energy needs of over a million people in 21 mountainous districts of the country will be met with the generation of electricity with solar-power technology.

The Renewable Energy Project (REP), with support of the European Union, is going to support installation of 769 solar PV systems with total generation capacity of 800 kilowatt peak, 38 solar thermal systems and 14 solar hot water systems.

8 big challenges for European railfreight

The economy MOST railfreight managers will be relieved to see the back of 2009. According to DVB Bank Land Transport Research, the industry witnessed a 29% collapse in volumes last year as the effects of the financial crisis began to hit hard. DVB predicts that Fret SNCF, France, will lose euro600 million, while Trenitalia Cargo will have a deficit of more than euro300 million, and Europe's largest railfreight operator, DB Schenker Rail, more than euro200 million.

A third of the wagon fleet and 20% of locomotives are out of use, while wagon orders went into freefall in the first half of the year, down 83% year-on-year. The market for locomotives is also reeling from an 80% plunge in orders.

Action urged for Maine’s energy future

BANGOR, Maine — Given the fact that 80 percent of Maine homes are still heated with oil — and that Mainers pay the highest electricity rates in the nation, once income is factored in — it’s clear the state must find more efficient ways to live and do business if it is to thrive in the future.

Compounding the crisis are the state’s aging housing stock and cold winters, participants noted Friday during a gathering focused on energy efficiency held on the University of Maine campus.

Higher Temperatures Can Worsen Climate Change, Methane Measurements from Space Reveal

ScienceDaily — Higher temperatures on the earth's surface at higher latitudes cause an increase in the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas that plays an important role in global warming. Therefore, higher temperatures are not just a consequence of climate change but can also worsen cause of it, conclude climate researchers in an article published in Science.

Australian water crisis offers clues for California

When California water officials look into the future, many of them see Australia: a vast, arid continent that has been suffering through drought for more than a decade. Severe shortages have prompted Australia to implement strict water-saving measures throughout the country. It has required residents to use less water in their homes, caused government to build large-scale desalination plants and led farmers to implement drip irrigation systems.

Australia, it seems, could offer a model of how to adapt in California, where, despite this weekend’s rains, the state remains in a third year of drought -- a drought many water officials expect not only will continue but continue to be exacerbated by a growing population and climate change considerations.

Seeing The Effects Of Climate Change (PHOTOS)

Sometimes as we go about our daily lives, climate change can seem abstract, and not something we think we are experiencing on a daily basis. However, our planet is rapidly being altered and the physical signs of this shift can't be ignored. These photos reveal how the world has already been impacted and what kind of changes we can expect in the future if we continue with our carbon-intense ways.

Gaining a Toehold for the E-Bike

Electric bicycles — a regular pedal-driven bike with a motor for steeper slopes and an optional extra boost — is an idea that has been around for more than a century. But while e-bikes have caught on in certain parts of the world, particularly China, where tens of millions are sold each year, they have never quite captured the imagination of auto-obsessed Americans. That may be about to change. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month, Sanyo, the Japanese electronics maker and a major producer of car batteries, showed off a sleek, lightweight e-bike called the Eneloop Hybrid Bicycle.

The Eneloop, priced at $2,300, came to stores in the United States late last year. It operates like any normal bike and, save for the black lithium-ion battery strapped to the frame beneath the seat, looks exactly like one as well. But when you press a button on the left handlebar, a 250-watt motor gently kicks in, providing about twice the power as your own pedaling — and making you feel like Lance Armstrong on even the steepest slopes.

I want an electric bike, but it has to be a folder. All the best folding electric bikes seem to be sold only in Europe or Asia.

And I was reading about one city in Europe (forget which one) that dealt with hills by installing a bike lift. Kind of like a ski lift, only for bicyclists. You're towed up the hill, and then can ride down on your own.

The bicycle lift is in Trondheim Norway:


It looks like it might take a little getting used to, but it shouldn't be that bad..

Interesting. That hill doesn't really look all that steep to me, but then, video can be deceiving.

Of course, if one wanted to think outside of the box and be REALLY daring, one could always dismount and WALK the bike uphill.


Or walk it downhill.
Anybody that bikes in really hilly terrain knows that it is often harder to go down a steep hell than go up it -- the feeling of going over the handlebars. I don't know how these bikes deal with this problem.

Anybody that bikes in really hilly terrain knows that it is often harder to go down a steep hell than go up it -- the feeling of going over the handlebars.

I used to have a postcard from Moab. The rider was going down a roughly 40degree rock slope. With the right equipment and skills it is amazing what you can do (including riding up things almost that steep). But of course it is slow, and very exhausting.

yes, I have recently bought two "Green City" bikes, an electric aluminium folding bike of Belgium-German-Chinese production, just for 380 euros each. I am vey satisfied and use them each day to go and forth to my work, about 10 km (steepy hills)

But while e-bikes have caught on in certain parts of the world, particularly China, where tens of millions are sold each year, they have never quite captured the imagination of auto-obsessed Americans.

I bicycle commute from home to work. San Gabriel to Pasadena. My route is 5 miles each way.

Taking my time, on an 20yr old mountain bike I converted to be a commuter (simply by switching tires to commuter 1.75" tires with Mr.Tuffy inserts), it takes me 45min to ride to work in the morning.

I haul my work clothes, a standard (heavy) laptop computer, cell phones, spare inner tube, wallet, keys.

So, for me an e-bike is not an interest. I am all for us, as a civilization, trying new things. Will be curious to see adoption rates for e-bikes locally.

Just so I can look back and compare today to some future date, I think I see on a daily work commute average:
about 1000 cars drive past me
about one to three other bicyclists
about zero to 1 mopeds/scooters

What caught my attention is that it seems like a pretty reasonable price for an electric assist hybrid bike:

The Eneloop’s battery can power the bike about 46 miles before it needs to be plugged into an outlet and recharged for around three hours; it also partially recharges when the rider brakes or coasts downhill. Other e-bike makers brag about similar performance.

“If it wasn’t for the lithium battery I wouldn’t be in this business. It’s made this category possible,” said Marcus Hays, founder of Pi Mobility, a company in Sausalito, Calif., whose red, angular bikes cost $2,500 and can operate as a bike, a moped or both at the same time.

Check out the video for the PiCycle, pretty cool looking electric assist bike:


With some pedal assist from the rider, the bike can handle up to a 25 Degree grade hill.

Interesting thought. The only bicycle shop in my town specializes in mountain bikes, so I am thinking that whatever I end up getting, should preferably be through him and be something that he is comfortable working on. That, plus my adversion in general to making simple things complicated, has me really questioning if electric is the way I want to go, even though I am out of shape and the area is hilly.

Any other suggestions besides tires on what you would do to turn a mountain bike into a good commuter/trips around town bike?

Racks for front and back. Large front basket is particularly useful.
Rain cape
Hub dynamo for lights. The new wave of LED lights are excellent.

Do not get suspension. It's heavy and mostly useless. 32mm to 40mm pneumatic tires do fine.

Mostly though... I'd look around for a good used bike... they don't really wear out and then let the shop up-fit it.

I commute 12 km per day on a regular but good bicycle (Miyata 3-speed).

If it`s windy I often don`t even try to bike into the wind, I just walk the bike. If it`s raining I don`t try to fight the rain while my hood slips off, I just walk the bike, sometimes holding an umbrella.

If I`m tired after work I sometimes walk part of the way, ride part of the way.

In other words, it`s easy to see biking as a great way to commute----and it is, of course. I haven`t owned a car for 14 years. But on the other hand, walking is amazingly easy to do and cheap. The bike (my bike is light, it`s aluminium) will carry the bags while I walk it along.

I`d be quite worried about having to walk a heavy electric bike that needed to be charged and lost power en route.

Sometimes the cheap and simple and slow way will actually get you farther in the long run.

A bonus with an older bike is that it's less likely to be stolen.

Here is a NYT article on Dutch style bicycles:


Hi Jeff,


re: From the NYT article: "Riding a bike should be normal, and you shouldn’t have to wear a funny Styrofoam hat.”

Well, perhaps the Dutch ride civilly, leisurely and without hazards such as cars, SUVs - otherwise, what first convinced me of the benefit of a helmet was a 5 day, 24-hour/day stint (interspersed with naps on a cot in a nearby room)...being helpful to a close family member in ICU with a head injury.

This particular head injury was not from a bike fall, but locally we had one sad fatality a while back when a woman who'd cycled the world for some reason didn't wear a helmet on a city street and just hit a curb the wrong way. She would have been fine had she worn the helmet.

In terms of my relative, there were two other traumatic brain injury cases in the ICU during that week. Hanging out there was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

My family member was in a "memory loop," as though "waking up" every three minutes or so, not knowing where he was or how he got there. I was there as someone he recognized and I could orient, explain and reassure. Otherwise, he would have been subject to even more restraint and I can't begin to imagine what else would have been employed.

And there's nothing like not knowing if/when someone will recover. Traumatic brain injury effects are often, (or, perhaps I could say always, to some degree) permanent.

So, if at all possible, protect that noggin!

re: I tried the Dutch bike, and also the Jamis and chose it. (I'm not plugging! No stock in the company!). Step-through ("girls") frame and added fenders, the bell from my old bike...double jackets and I've been quite comfy. Also think it's on the whole a safer bike (than a road bike) for easy commutes.


They have a super-deluxe that comes with the fenders and...gears-changer you can work while at a stop!


I posted an article a few weeks ago about the debate within the cycling community over dedicated bike lanes. The con argument is that dedicated bike lanes tend to promote recreational riding instead of every day commuting.

There are other arguments as well. If there are bike lanes, then the car drivers expect the bikes to use the things and not be out in the traffic lanes. But if you want to make a left-hand turn you are in the wrong spot on the road - you want to be in the left-hand turn lane instead.

There are times that being in a bike lane can be dangerous - cars will make right turns in front of you (right-hook) and not even be aware that you are there.

But I suppose it depends on the road and what the average traffic speed is. If the speed limit is 45-55 mph, then being in the lane doesn't seem like a great option either. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution..

It's a difficult problem. We have bike lanes around here, on the sidewalks. (The sidewalks are made extra-wide to accommodate both bikes and pedestrians, but truth is, there are almost no pedestrians in those areas.) However, the cyclists mostly prefer to ride in the street (posted 45mph, most cars going faster). It's safer to ride in the street, but the reason most give is not safety, but comfort. They don't like riding up and down the curb cuts.

They've tried "bike boxes" in some places, like Portland, but it turns out they don't really work.

In both Denmark and Holland, two countries with enormous numbers of people biking all the time for all reasons in all seasons (in numbers approaching 35 and 40% of all trips) they have found that the more physically-separated bike lanes you build, the more people ride bikes. I love, love, love bike lanes and use them whenever possible. Not enough exist in my city due to a judge holding up all additional bicycle infrastructure (including bike racks) until San Francisco did an extensive study to prove such items are not bad for the environment! (When San Francisco reduced public transit service recently because of state budget cuts, conveniently no one said that there first must be an environmental study.)

Young,athletic, twenty-somethings tend not to favor bike lanes. They'd rather duke it out with cars. I find duking it out with cars extremely stressful, not to mention a noisy and smelly experience. If you want the less athletic, the grandmas, the timid, the moms, the fashionistas in high heels, business people in suits and children going to school to ride bikes, (basically 90% of the population) providing safe bicycle infrastructure is the way to do it. The Dutch and the Danes have all sorts of wonderful examples of how they handle left-hand turns and other bicycle infrastructure intricacies. New York City, remarkably, has put in miles of great bike lanes in the past year. I am envious. Kudos to them!

As far as I'm concerned, a bike lane that is not physically separated from traffic is no use at all. A painted line is no defense from drivers and all their assorted distractions, carelessness, or anger issues. I don't even attempt to ride on streets unless they're very wide and very sparsely traveled.

I picked up some induction powered front and rear flashers for my city bike. No batteries, plus they are always there. They are called Reelight, but few places in the US have them. I got mine from Clever Cycles in Portland, Or.

I electrified my bike (an Electra Townie with an Xtracycle attached on the back) with a kit--a 400 Watt motor and a LiPeFO4 battery. You can electrify nearly any bike. My motor was about $600 and the battery was another $600, but I did have to have an electric bike guy work out some of the installation kinks for me and figure out how to mount my battery in a location that would work, so I can see that there are benefits to getting a bike designed from the outset to be electric. Most people looking at my bike don't know it's electric.

My husband has a folding Ecobike (the Vatavio, I think?) that cost $1600 and he's happy with it. Its motor is only 250 Watts (not quite as good at going up rigorous hills as mine) and its wheels are small so if you're not using the motor, it takes quite a bit more pedaling. Still, it can be folded up and put in a car, and is fine for distances under five miles.

If I didn't live on a ginormous hill, I wouldn't bother with an electric bike, I'd use a regular one. The extra weight of the battery and motor means I tend to rely on the electric motor to help me accelerate from stops (on flats I can keep at speed without the motor) and the extra expense I've invested in my bike means I worry a lot about it getting messed with or stolen. Still, riding my bike is lots of fun, it's often just as fast or only a few minutes slower than driving,and I always feel better physically and mentally after riding my bike than after driving my car. For those of us getting older in years, electric bikes are definitely kinder to the knees than regular ones.

If you already have a bike and don't want to modify it:


The Sinclair Zike and the Sinclair Zeta. Early 90s.

The problem with Sinclair is he/they are always 15 years ahead of the curve, and that's a bad place to be.

The Zike is a folding electric bicycle. it's small, ugly and horrible to ride. The zeta is simply an electric motor and batterypack which can attached to the front or back wheel of any bicycle and which pushes against the wheel.

Their current product is the "A bike", which has tiny wheels making it useless for most british roads.

The Eneloop, priced at $2,300...

I have a hard time seeing something that expensive catching on in a big way until/unless someone invents a decent way of securing it. In Amsterdam, for example, you see the $20 junker bikes secured with $50 locks, so I imagine that for $2300 the thieves would take away the bike, the rack or post, and whatever other portions of the surrounding environment they couldn't instantly detach. Maybe the risk would seem OK for some people in China whose only alternative would be to walk - or maybe they actually punish thieves in China rather than excusing them as Robin Hoods and the risk is less severe. But in the USA and Europe one might as well drive a car, which can be secured (not perfectly by any means, but much better than any bike), and provides a place to leave stuff you can't take past the security guards at your building, and provides shelter in bad weather, and can be driven in winter weather, and moves faster than an e-bike, and so on.

Thanks for plugging electrics. :-) Efficiency wins. A practcal and realistic solution in use throughout much of the world along with conventional bikes and bike hauling of loads.

By buiding your own electric and then riding it you can both appreciate the limitations and the possibilities. It's quite easy to assemble one with the capabilities mentioned for $700 to $800 nowadays with LiFePO4.

Once you have paid for the battery, the recharge is just pennies so I think of the battery as a lot of the 'fuel' cost (investment wise). These are claiming 1000 recharges and more with still 80% cap. (My lovely bride and I still ride the Co-Motion mostly but someday the electrics will get more use I'm sure)

I alternate between riding to work on a regular road bike and an electric bike. Since getting home requires riding to the top of a long and steep hill, the Ebike really helps. I get exercise with the road bike, and recovery days with the Ebike. My commute is 7 miles each way.

My Ebike is a Tidalforce M-750X, 1000 watts, now with a LiFePO4 battery. It gets the energy equivalent of 1,000 miles per gallon.

An Ebike is sustainable transportation, since about 200 watts of solar panels (under $1000 total cost) can power most peoples' commutes.
My Ebike has a range of about 20 miles per charge.

I must be wayyyyy outside the financial demographics on this site. I think 2300 dollars is a tremendous amount to pay for a bike.

My current bike cost about $250 - was on sale 10 or 15%. Without checking I couldn't tell you who made it.

I changed the handlebars and seat, keep it in good repair and have ridden it 22k round trip to work for two years (bus in winter) I also use a small trailer for grocery shopping, etc.

At $2300 I think this vehicle represents a niche solution, and one that I am definitely priced out of. I am also about par financially with the families in my neighbourhood - I couldn't see many of us making this purchase.


I agree. Most people will be hard pressed to afford a bike for 2000 dollars. It's ludicrous to pay that amount of money for a bike, even an electric one.

It's toys for the rich, nothing else.

It's expensive even for an electric bike. Apparently, what you are paying for is the Prius-like regenerative braking.

I don't think I'd pay that...but if it's a replacement for a car, it's cheap.

You're comparing apples to oranges. A car can take five people and a lot of luggage. I own a couple of cars, but I usually use my bike to get to work. En electric bike needs to be cheap for me to even think about buying one. A bike is never a replacement for a car really.

OOps guys - the 22 k I refer to in my post is 22 kilometers, not 22 thousand - my bad


Sage advice from Non Sequitur.

Ron P.

What a great cartoon...hits the nail on my head. If I had stayed off the internet I never would have run for Congress.

The link for:

World misled over glacier meltdown: Report

results in:

You tried to access the address http : / / scan-now28.com/go.php?id=2006-78&key=0522c7066&d=1, which is currently unavailable. Please make sure that the Web address (URL) is correctly spelled and punctuated, then try reloading the page. [spaces added]

That's odd. It works fine for me.

It worked fine for me.

It seems that confirming glacial melt in the Himalayas is about as tough as determining Saudi oil reserves:

Moreover, as the authorities of the major Himalayan countries (India, Pakistan, China) do not permit public access to detailed topographic maps or aerial photographs of these sensitive cross-border regions, no reference is available for satellite observation error assessment and correction. It is therefore by comparing the SRTM and SPOT5 topographies using stable non-glaciated areas around glaciers that researchers have been able to adjust for the deviations and superimpose the two digital field models. These comparisons gave the bases for a map of glacier elevation (and hence thickness) variations for altitude intervals of 100 m over the period 2000-2004.


But we know that this process is ongoing in other parts of the world. I can't see the Himalayas being somehow immune. Whether or not the glaciers are gone in 25 years or 35 years seems of minimal relevence.

Its pretty much more of the same attempt to discredit essentially all environmental science. Then the capitalists can have clear sailing.

I think the exaggeration is not about the glaciers disapperaing (many will be smaller but not fully vanish), but the press treats it as if the annual runoff will nearly vanish. From a runoff perspective the glaciers do not make runoff, they redistribute it in time. They max out in late summer when riverflow is often the lowest. But they will be replaced by seasonal snowcover, which probably melts in early summer. So if enough damns were built, the water could be captured and released when needed.

I saw something on TV about a local man, who was making his own artificial "glacier". Actually he damned a stream during winter and built up ice a few meters thick, so that the late summer melt supplied his irrigation needs.

It looks like the IPCC really screwed up on this one. See also the related article on the same site:

IPCC did not consult me; relied on press interview: Hasnain

Glaciologist Syed Hasnain contended that he has never mentioned the time in his research papers which the UN body had included in its climate change report. He also said that he was not even consulted by the IPCC for including his research papers in the report.

This verges on being scientific fraud, as if the prior Climategate controversy wasn't bad enough.

I've mentioned elsewhere that I've looked at the Himalayan glaciers close-up, and didn't see any sign that they were disappearing in the near future. They may disappear someday, but probably not in this century. This kind of thing is really, really bad for the credibility of the IPCC.

You VASTLY overstate the case. So they missed one researcher in one area ?

IPCC report does not rely on one area of analysis but less one subset of data.

I have seen patches of ice in Iceland and been told that "I can remember when that was a glacier down to there, by that dark mound".

So-called "Climategate" just showed that scientists play office politics, nothing more. No scientific paper was discredited. I strongly suspect that Exxon or API paid for that hacking.

You, and not IPCC, have lost credibility by so grossly overstating your case.


Re: Action urged for Maine’s energy future

Forgive me for revisiting tired ground, but a high efficiency ductless heat pump can be a good alternate heat source, even though Maine winters are brutal and electricity is hellish expensive (see: http://www.maine.gov/meopa/electric/current_rates.html).

The average cost of fuel oil in Maine is currently $2.77 a gallon or $0.73 a litre. That puts the cost per kWh of oil heat in the range of 8.3-cents for a newer boiler (82% AFUE) and 10.5-cents in the case of an older system (65% AFUE). In July 2008, oil was selling for more than $5.00 a gallon in many parts of the Pine State, so the cost at that time was closer to 15 to 20-cents per kWh(e). Ouch!

A high-end Fujitsu with a HSPF rating of 12.0 has a seasonal COP at 3.53, and at 17.4-cents per kWh, say, its cost per kWh of heat is 4.93-cents, 40 per cent below that of oil; a more modestly priced Sanyo with a HSPF of 10.0 produces heat at an average cost of 5.94-cents, a 30 per cent savings. Both will continue to produce a good amount of heat, at a reasonable cost, down to -18°C/0°C, although most inverter drive systems will happily chug away at temperatures well below that. I can personally attest that my Sanyo doesn't skip a beat at -23°C/-10F and this guy claims his Daikin still operates at -32°C/-26°F (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_7KKyuwlOM).

Wood is great for some folks and maybe even wood pellet (if you're lucky to find any) but, for me, I'll take the little guy that comes with the remote control.


Hi Paul,

Our winters here in San Francisco are nothing like Maine's, but I was wondering how a high efficiency ductless heat pump compares to a high efficiency natural gas heater in cost per kwh of heat? Our natural gas runs $.90 - $1.20 per therm. (Of course, this cost has been known to rise precipitously.)

Do you just put a ductless pump where the current heater is? How is the heat distributed into various rooms?

Hi Taomom,

A therm of natural gas has a heat content of 100,000 BTUs, so for a furnace with an AFUE rating of 92%, you net 92,000 BTUs or slightly less than 27 kWh of heat; at $1.10 per therm, your cost per kWh of heat is roughly 4-cents. In your climate, the seasonal COP of a good quality inverter system should fall somewhere between 4.0 to 5.0; that is to say, you should obtain at least four kWh of heat from each kWh of electricity consumed. At $1.10 per therm, for a home equipped with a condensing furnace, the crossover point vis-à-vis electricity is likely to be somewhere between 15 and 20-cents. For homes that generate their own electricity, it might not be a bad option. Likewise, homes with extensions or areas where additional (spot) heating and cooling is desired.

With respect to cooling, Fujitsu offers models with SEER ratings as high as 25 and 26 (see: http://www.fujitsugeneral.com/wallmounted9-12RLS_specs.htm). To put this into perspective, central air systems sold today are typically 13 to 14 SEER and a few years ago, 10 SEER was fairly common.

Most ductless heat pump manufacturers offer a "ducted" option (e.g., http://us.sanyo.com/HVAC-By-System-Type-Heat-Pumps/Concealed-Duct-Heat-Pump) which should address any concerns about an "ugly-box-on-the-wall". There are models that can heat or cool two, three, four or more zones and even heat and cool simultaneously with minimal energy input, i.e., excess heat from one part of the house is simply shuffled off to another, so if the south or west side of the home is too warm whereas the north or east side is too cool, it will redistribute this surplus heat where it is required. In addition, there are models that work with in-floor radiant and hydronic heating systems and that supply DHW (see: http://www.daikinac.com/residential/productsCases5.asp?sec=products&page=20).

Whereas North American HVAC manufactures are pretty much flogging the same systems they sold thirty-five years ago, the Japanese have really pushed the performance bar to unprecedented heights. Don't get saddled with a 1973 Ford LTD !


Thanks much for the info!

I think the real issue in California is the capital cost of the heat pump. Our heating season just isn't that long or severe to justify the most efficient (of fuel) equipment. I would love a tiny window heat pump, that did maybe 5000BTus. That would probably supply nearly all our needs (I get about half from passive solar and waste heat). As usual the most cost effective things to do lie in the better insulation area.

Hi Halifax,

I always read your stuff -it keeps my morale up and the doomie feeling away.

I've never had time to study the efficiency codes system , the s e e r thingy.

Is it linear, meaning that an ac with a seer of sixteen costs only half as much to run as one with an seer of eight?

And do you have any experience with residential sized combined heat and power systems?

It seems to me that if you could use a small natural gas fueled ice to a heat pump and capture the waste heat off of the engine and channel it into the house or business as well that you would really be getting your costs down to rock bottom.


SEER ratings are indeed linear, so a ductless heat pump with a SEER rating of 26 should, all else being equal, use half as much electricity as one rated at 13. There are a lot of older systems out there that are likely operating in the range of 7 or 8 SEER, so the potential energy savings are substantial; with any luck, most of these dinosaurs will soon be retired.

I' afraid I don't have any experience with combined heat and power, but I suspect the high capital cost will limit their use to the commercial side where more sizable space conditioning and domestic hot water demands enhance the numbers (e.g., hospitals, universities, restaurants, commercial laundries, office buildings, etc.). Let's hope Honda proves me wrong !


...high efficiency ductless heat pumps...

Are there smaller models that exist for milder climates, like southern california, that could be put into a window, like a window-mounted air conditioner?

I ask because I currently use an old-fashioned looking oil filled electric resistive element area heater. It gets used keeping the bedroom area of me, the wife and kids to be warmed at night. I use indoor curtains across the doorways to keep the heated bedroom areas from diffusing the heat to the rest of the interior spaces of the house.

If there was a small heat pump window unit, I could see doing a seasonal switch for my bedroom window from a/c for summer, to a heat pump for winter, and retiring the resistive heater.

Hi Mrflash,

There are indeed. Alan from Big Easy has (or had) a Friedrich window unit which I understand worked quite well for his needs (they're suitable for milder climates where temperatures don't fall below 43 or 45F).

See: http://www.friedrich.com/products/ModelAccessories.php?model=YS09L10


I am using a Friedrich "Twin-Temp" 11,000 BTU window-mount heat pump unit in Pasadena, CA (Summers are very dry but hit 95-100 F for weeks at at time, winters typically go down to 35-45 F at night). This unit replaced an ancient Carrier 9,000 BTU A/C-only, that used TWICE the power. I was able to slide the new Friedrich into the existing window mount casing from the old unit.

The Friedrich heats/cools all of a 650-square-foot 1-bedroom bungalow very nicely, on only about 750W. It plugs into a normal 110VAC outlet (no special 220V ckt required) with half of the 15A circuit capacity still available for other devices. I stand a 16-inch table fan in the doorway of the bedroom, where the unit is located, to blow the cool/warm air into the living room area.

I have a 4x8 1"-thick Styrofoam panel, covered with quilted radiant barrier on one side that I stick in the doorway between the living room and kitchen on really cold (or hot) days to reduce energy loss into the kitchen area. I stick this lightweight insulator to the door frame with Velco patches when it is in use.

I also made up several smaller sized panels to exactly plug up the window openings in the bedroom and living room. In the summer, I insert them with the radiant barrier side facing outward to reduce solar heat gain. In the winter, I insert them with the reflective radiant barrier side facing inside to retain the heat. Cheap, lightweight and incredibly effective.....

There are lots of "mini ductless" split system on the market now, that are 8,000 - 12,000 btu heat or cool. I think the best, and by far the best looking unit is the Art Cool by LG. Google it and see what you find. I have seen it advertised for about $1500. They are very compact and very quiet, not like the diesel engine like sound of large units.
Performance is similar to the Friedrich unit used by TDI.


These Friedrich units are very well built (the largest model weighs almost 200 lbs.) and their low-temperature performance is a bit better than most, i.e., they should continue to produce heat down to 3°C/37°F. I'm pleased to hear your experience has been positive.


It is on this morning and last night (low 49 F, too early to compute C). During the two coldest nights of the last 17 years (-7 C, -6 C/21.0 & 22.5 F) I used Rinnai RCE & REH natural gas space heaters (also kept house humidity up). First thing in the morning is to turn these space heaters up (one is kept at @ 68 F in the bathroom overnight, warmer when taking a bath or shower).

9,000 BTUs (varies with outside temperature) window heat pump) plus three 10,000 BTU and one 6,000 BTU natural gas space heaters. Central resistance heat that was only on for 10 minutes to burn off dust so far this winter. 36,000 BTUs kept the house habitable at 21 F, and almost comfortable.

The Friedrich heat pump was (I assume still is) also the most efficient window air conditioner on the market. EER 12.0 (not SEER). Perfect for coastal Southern California.

3,412 BTU = 1 kW

Best Hopes,



In your opinion could an off grid PV system work with these heat pumps in your area? What would you estimate for a four day battery requirement at zero F not -30F? Extended periods of no sun could be made up with an alternate heat source.


Hi Lynford,

I suspect not. My Sanyo is plugged into a Kill-a-Watt meter and at -18°C/0°F it generally draws in the order of 1,200-watts (at 0°C/32°F it could be as little as 300 or 400-watts). That's a pretty heavy strain on any PV system. In this case, you would be better off sticking with wood or propane.


PUBLIC AFFAIRS: The heavy burden of gov't

The headline of this newspaper column is completely misleading. It could be argued that it is not about the heavy burden of government but about the heavy burden of inefficient energy consumption. The writer blames the government for the inefficiencies through a lack of a effective energy policy.

In addition to the heavy cost of its operating inefficiencies, Government has also been responsible for the heaviest burden on the productivity of labour: the wasteful and inefficient management of energy.

Government's policies have led Jamaicans to consume energy like an alcoholic imbibes liquor. We consume it without control, without commensurate benefit, and without regard for cost.

Government created a motor vehicle policy which floods our inadequate road network with gas-guzzling vehicles, wasting energy and valuable man hours in continuous traffic jams. It has continued to maintain an electricity-generation system based solely on oil, the most expensive major energy source for generating power.

Jamaica consumes far more energy per unit of GDP than most non-oil-producing countries in the world - double the world and Latin American averages, and up to four times as much as some of our regional competitors. In these circumstances, no matter how hard our people work they will not be able to overcome the burdens placed on their productivity. Productive Jamaican businesses will not be able to compete and will continue to lose export and local sales to foreign companies. Our economy will remain feeble and incapable of creating jobs for our growing population or even of preserving the jobs that now exist.

It could also be argued that the genesis of this problem goes back to a left leaning government in the 70s led by a spellbinding orator by the name of Michael Manley who earned the wrath of the US (and most of the local business class) for his left leaning policies and rhetoric. He was the self proclaimed champion of the poor and working class who rose to power with the help of his leadership of one of the islands two major trade unions. He imposed a levy on bauxite mining much to the chagrin of Alcoa, Reynolds and Alcan and was constantly preaching against the rape of the third world by the wicked capitalist imperialists. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez reminds me of him.

As private holders of capital started pulling out the government stepped in and ended up owning the municipal bus company, the railway, the local utilities (electricity and telephone), the local oil refinery, most of the the sugar factories among other former private enterprises and even got involved in the importation and distribution of staple foods. Manley and his cohorts seemed to demonize profit at all levels and chose to use the proceeds of the bauxite levy to provide subsidies on fuel, food and energy during and after the 1974 oil crisis, rather than allow the increase to affect the poor, suffering masses. The idea has been created in the minds of many of my countrymen that, we are entitled to more than we were getting, that the world was giving us a raw deal, that increased costs were the result of the machinations of greedy wicked capitalists and that big daddy (government) would(should) always be there to shelter us from the storm.

Manley was unceremoniously rejected by the Jamaican electorate in the general election at the end of 70s after life had gone downhill fast. The municipal bus service and the railway were on the brink of collapse, electricity supplies had become unreliable and even basic foodstuffs were difficult to get. After the party that was elected failed to live up to the expectations of the electorate, a more moderate Manley was re-elected as prime minister in 1989. The final irony of this piece is that the writer won a parliamentary seat in the 1989 elections running on the ticket of Manley's party and was appointed minister (secretary) of Trade, Industry and Commerce by none other than Michael Manley. He later was dismissed as minister after disagreeing with Manley on the issue of price controls.

I hope my political leanings have not distorted the facts in my presentation of the recent political history of Jamaica. The writer does not seem to have a clue about Peak Oil, Resource Depletion or Limits to Growth. No surprise really

Alan from the islands

Alan -- we all see things from our own personal perspective...can't escape human nature. But it's good to hear the local story first hand. Thanks for the insights and keep them coming.

I think this is and important post because it shows how the socialist are not resource aware. Their goal is to redistribute more of the pie to the poor not to work to make the lives of the poor better with a smaller piece of the pie.

This is very much in contrast to Cuba which has arguably done much better with a lot less. Sure it has its own problems but I suspect most people recognize that Cuba and even North Korea are more resilient to peak oil.

The fact this is a side effect of a repressive regime is sad since we simply don't know what would happen if people lives frugally outside of such regimes.

I'm not condoning anything just pointing out that basically all side have it wrong to one degree or another. No one does the right thing.
However maximizing lifestyles while minimizing resource usage is the real answer. And it generally only associated with regimes that take the lions share of the resulting wealth so we don't really know what it would be like if Cuba or North Korea allowed their citizens to actually keep what they produced using minimal resources.

I'd argue that if these regimes where less repressive then both societies would have been prosperous by now.

For the sake of completeness I should add that Manley resigned from politics because of ill health in 1992 and died in 1997. His successor was defeated in 2007 by the current governing party in the last general elections in 2007. Manley had recruited the writer from the private sector in the 80s to try and tone down his leftist image. The writer was pretty much a self made business man who owned the former Cadbury chocolate factory that he had acquired from Cadbury PLC when they left during the capitalist exodus precipitated by Manley's leftist government in the 70s.

I spent my teenage years in the town closest to the factory and actually got a summer job there one year during college. Passed the factory the other day and all that's left is the shell of the building. The company was a victim of the same governments policies that the writer is criticizing. It could not compete in the face of imports from the UK, the US and even Trinidad. Pity, their stuff was pretty good. I heard scrap metal dealers bought most of the equipment (to ship to China). Quite a tangled web, isn't it?

Alan from the islands

It could not compete in the face of imports from the UK, the US and even Trinidad. Pity, their stuff was pretty good. I heard scrap metal dealers bought most of the equipment (to ship to China). Quite a tangled web, isn't it?

Of course not, they never stood a chance.


Interesting ideas. A remarkable thing though, is a comparison of Jamaica vs Singapore.

Both are relatively tiny states, with under 5 million residents apiece. Upon Singapore’s independence in 1965—three years after Jamaica’s own establishment as a nation—the two nations were about equal in wealth: the gross domestic product (in 2006 U.S. dollars) was $2,850 per person in Jamaica, slightly higher than Singapore’s $2,650. Both nations had a centrally located port, a tradition of British colonial rule, and governments with a strong capitalist orientation. (Jamaica, in addition, had plentiful natural resources and a robust tourist industry.) But four decades later, their standing was dramatically different: Singapore had climbed to a per capita GDP of $31,400 (2006 data, in current dollars), while Jamaica’s figure was only $4,800.

I am unable to find any references but, it is said that Lee Kuan Yew visited Jamaica in the 60s to and was impressed by our model of development. Obviously something went wrong for Jamaica. What exactly went wrong is a source of intense political debate in Jamaica.

One glaring difference is that while Singapore had a very intelligent, well educated and patriotic dictator, Jamaica had democracy and alternated between right of center and left leaning administrations, including what some pundits have described as a disastrous flirtation with socialism in the 70s. From the perspective of Peak Oil, Singapore now seems to be the nation that stands to loose more, except for the fact that Singapore now has very high levels of education among it's general population while, Jamaica still has many barely literate people among it's population.

Alan from the islands

I think it helps remember that ALL Ideologies, like Specialties, can so often promote such a tight focus in one area of thought or policy, that blindspots are basically guaranteed from the process.

Everyone in contact with the industrialized world has been suckered in by the promises of all the surplus frosting that we've had sloshing onto our cakes for the last century.

As far as prosperity and repression, (in cases like South American and Caribbean nations anyway) do also remember that the repression has not been solely from their own governments, but from the essentially Colonial treatment that they get from many US and Euro governments and industries. With friends like us, who needs dictators?

I think it helps remember that ALL Ideologies...

The natural human reaction when confronted with the absurdity of one of these ideologies is to seek out an ideology which is the direct opposite. That usually leads to something just as harmful. The key I think is to rememeber that there are no absolute truths. On the issue of left/right that usually characterizes these issues, the issue shouldn't government versus no government, or wealth distribution version none, but a recognition that the mixed economic model has worked best, but that there are no hard and fast rules about how big the government sector should be. The answer to that ought to depend upon local conditions and may evolve over time.

we simply don't know what would happen if people lives frugally outside of such regimes

The WW II experience of Sweden and Switzerland are examples. Easy to rally the people in those times, and the results are quite positive.

For example, forced labor on farms by urban residents in Switzerland was accepted because it was a democratic decision created by necessity.

Best Hopes for Disciplined Democracies,


I hope my political leanings have not distorted the facts in my presentation of the recent political history of Jamaica.

A good faith effort to not let them interfere is appreciated. Thats about all we could realistically ask for.

Link up top: Jeff Rubin At ‘The Business of Climate Change’ (Video).

Watch it folks, it is good, it is very, very, good. I am going to send the link to evryone I know. Rubin hits on the same subject WT and Sam are stressing, consumption in oil producing countries will mean less oil to export to other countries. He explains exactly what is going on in those oil exporting countries, and why.

He also explains why the world recession was caused by triple digit oil prices and not the sub-prime mortgage crisis that happened only in the US.

Ron P.

Yeah, I thought the same thing. Now if I could just get the writer of the piece I posted a link to just above to watch it. I can just imagine what cornucopians are going to look like after watching Rubin let it rip! Talk about a deer in the headlights! Would be interesting to see though.

Alan from the islands

What I liked about it is that he was coherent. He rightly brought up oil exporting countries along with Chindia. Chindia demand for oil has been talked about a lot lately all the while demand in oil exporting countries is growing even faster according to him.

I didn't know that. I thought Chinese demand was the faster growing, but it makes sense since oil exporters subsidize oil far more.

And his tying in pricing carbon emissions with ending globalization was new to me. I hadn't figured out how that would work. If carbon emissions have a price, then there will have to be an offsetting tariff on imports from countries who have no price on carbon emissions.

This will have the effect of making production in a less polluting environment more profitable when now it is more costly. I would love to see this applied to ethanol production from Brazil where cane fields are routinely burned before cutting and biomass is used to fire ethanol plants instead of cleaner natural gas.

So long as he stays off farming which he knows nothing about and which he did in this talk, he's great.

Careful there. I think you might be getting your countries mixed up. Cane fields are routinely burnt in Jamaica where the sugar industry is in dire straights because of energy inefficiency and low productivity. As I understand it, cane fields are NOT burnt in Brazil. The waste after cutting (mostly leaves) is collected and used as fuel for the sugar/ethanol manufacturing process and even the ash is returned to the soil. AFAIK the Brazilians waste NOTHING and are probably far closer to being carbon neutral than if they used NG. Try again.

Alan from the islands

Cane fields are routinely burnt before harvest in most countries. I have personally witnessed cane fields being burn around McAllen, Texas when I lived there in the mid 70s. Burning the leaves does not harm the stalks and it saves them from having to strip the stalks by hand.

I don't know how they do it in Brazil but there is not very much fuel in the leavs. By far most of the weight is in the stalk, even after crushing. The labor saved by burning the leaves probably saves more than the energy wasted by not burning them in the process.

Ron P.

Edit: Sorry about this Ron, I see you edited out most of the stuff I've responded to here. I'll just leave it in case anybody else thinks I was just talking out of my A$$. If you've ever been anywhere near a burning cane field, you should know there's a lot of heat just going up in smoke and carrying ash with it that can spread for miles.

Your belief that the crop is (mostly leaves) is simply incorrect. There is far more weight, or fuel, left in the stalk, even after crushing, than in the leaves.

It is not my belief that the crop is mostly leaves. I said that the waste after cutting (as opposed to crushing) is mostly leaves. Since I haven't been to Brazil, I will have to depend on a article in Wikipedia Ethanol fuel in Brazil

There are several improvements to the industrial processes, such as adopting a hydrolysis process to produce ethanol instead of surplus electricity, or the use of advanced boiler and turbine technology to increase the electricity yield, or a higher use of excess bagasse and harvest trash currently left behind in the fields, that together with various other efficiency improvements in sugarcane farming and the distribution chain have the potential to allow further efficiency increases, translating into higher yields, lower production costs, and also further improvements in the energy balance and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.[63]

Which is partly where I got the idea that they don't burn their fields but, you say:

And as far as I know they burn the leaves in the field just like most everyone else. But then I don't know and neither do you unless you have been there and witnessed how they do it.

From the same web page:

Advancements in fertilizers and natural pesticides have all but eliminated the need to burn fields.[134] Sugarcane fields are traditionally burned just before harvest to avoid harm to the workers, by removing the sharp leaves and killing snakes and other harmful animals, and also to fertilize the fields with ash.[136] There has been less burning due to pressure from the public and health authorities, and as a result of the recent development of effective harvesting machines. A 2001 state law banned burning in sugarcane fields in São Paulo state by 2021,[137] and machines will gradually replace human labor as the means of harvesting cane, except where the abrupt terrain does not allow for mechanical harvesting. However, 150 out of 170 of São Paulo's sugar cane processing plants signed in 2007 a voluntary agreement with the state government to comply by 2014.[137][138] Independent growers signed in 2008 the voluntary agreement to comply, and the deadline was extended to 2017 for sugar cane fields located in more abrupt terrain.[136] By the 2008 harvest season, around 47% of the cane was collected with harvesting machines.[136][138] Mechanization will reduce pollution from burning fields and has higher productivity than people, but also will create unemployment for these seasonal workers, many of them coming from the poorest regions of Brazil. Due to mechanization the number of temporary workers in the sugarcane plantations has already declined.[63]

So, I guess you are right but, cane field burning is clearly being phased out.

As far as my claims that the Brazilians waste nothing, I guess I'm just drinking their kool-ade, from the Wikipedia article:

Brazil’s 30-year-old ethanol fuel program is based on the most efficient agricultural technology for sugarcane cultivation in the world,[10] uses modern equipment and cheap sugar cane as feedstock, the residual cane-waste (bagasse) is used to process heat and power, which results in a very competitive price and also in a high energy balance (output energy/input energy), which varies from 8.3 for average conditions to 10.2 for best practice production.[6][11]

Alan from the islands

Islandboy, yes I edited out most of what I wrote earlier. I should have edited it out before ever posting it. I have made a resolution to be much softer in my replies, no need to get up tight over nothing.

My point was, and is, that the burning of leaves is simply not the waste you make it out to be. The minerals are still returned to the earth even though some of it is, often but not always, carried for miles, it all averages out. And the burning saves a tremendous amount of labor and energy. The labor and energy saved by burning is probably more than would be earned by burning the leaves in the process of generating ethanol.

That's all, that's my point. I have nothing more to say on the subject.

Ron Patterson

I lived in Maui with 10 years of cane burning. Made foe some interesting drives home through the fields.

I wasn't going to say anything more on this subject either but, I slept on it and came up with this idea. When FF energy becomes more difficult to access and more expensive ALL energy is going to become more valuable. Every time I see fire being used to clear land by a subsistence farmer or in a cane field before harvesting or even wild fires in the US on TV, I ponder about the thermal energy that is being released.

This energy is in fact the accumulation of months or years or maybe even centuries of photosynthesis by whatever plant material is being burnt. In some ways it is similar to Oil, long term accumulation of solar energy stored in the form of cellulose, that can be transported from it's origin and burnt to produce thermal energy. It is more similar to coal since it is a solid fuel with all the attendant transportation issues, albeit a much less energy dense fuel. I looked up charcoal on the net and came up with this Wikipedia article that was a real eye opener. I also found this web page on the history of charcoal that contains this little gem:

By the early part of the eighteenth century experimentation in the conversion of coal resulted in 1735 in the creation of coke. This new fuel became quickly preferred and the importance of charcoal declined. Within a century most of the furnaces had converted and over 4000 years of charcoal use as an industrial fuel came gradually to a close.

So, the fact is, over millenia wood has been turned into charcoal for use as a fuel. The advent of fossil fuels has reduced our use of charcoal but, it is our earliest form of industrial fuel and the form many people will have to revert to unless we can come up with a practical replacement for FF really fast. However, there are not enough trees/plants on the planet to sustain close to 7 billion people at current levels of energy use in the absence of FF.

Where I live cutting grass and brush on the verges of roadways used to be done done by men with machetes. Lately I have noticed teams of men with gasoline powered string trimmers doing this job. The cuttings are the bagged and dumped. On private property, it is not uncommon to see people burning piles of cuttings although it is discouraged in urban areas as a fire hazard. There is something wrong with this picture. Solar energy and carbon are sequestered in the form of cellulose by plants which are then cut/trimmed using manual labor or machines, expending energy. Finally all this energy is just dumped/burned. I just can not see how that can be sustained in an energy constrained future.

Every time see something as simple as a pile of rubbish being burnt, it conjures up images of some poor soul living somewhere that experiences the bitter cold of winter who would just die for some of that heat. What happens when the pool of poor souls grows larger, as it undoubtedly will?

Alan from the islands

I'm a bit late on this discussion, but I thought I should point out that burning of canefields in the Australian sugar industry has been outlawed (sometime in the last decade, I think). Original motivation was air quality, as the cane growing areas happen to be close to many of the major tourist areas. The cane farmers cut the crop green and sell the leaf to dairy farms, where the cows eat it up. The rest they burn in their boilers, etc and some can operations are next exporters of electricity.
Once people identify a suitable use/market, waste always becomes a by product with real value.

Alan, your story about the people using gas powered equipment to cut the grass and then bag and dump the waste, is just a tragic waste of energy, at all levels. Replace the people with oil consuming machines, and then create a waste disposal problem.
Eventually, they will return to hand, or electric operated tools - some cities are now banning 2 stroke engines.

And grass waste, dried, can be pressed into pellets (like wood pellets) where it is then worth $200/ton. On an island where electricity is generated from oil, a ton of pellets could produce 1000kWh of electricity worth, probably $300 ($0.30/kWh). Whenever there is material waste, there is usually an opportunity of some sort, it just needs the right combination of innovation and entrepreneur to make it happen.
I'll bet the grass gets handled differently in Cuba, at the very least the cows will eat it.

Good recommendation. I agree - a catchy, coherent talk - on very difficult issues - and all in 30 minutes...

I don't agree on his sub-prime market crash being oil - but then there is much disagreement on the real cause. See this link for instance (recommended in todays Financial Times).

Sometimes all you need is a strong front-man to sell your message.

I agree. This is a great video

I like this quote from about 19:30:

The solution right now is not to figure out how to turn cow dung into rocket fuel. The solution right now is on the demand side because we don't have the time for supply change innovation. And the single most important way we can make that adjustment on the demand side is to go from a global economy to a local economy...

Another one from about 25:15:

In the world that I see Archie Bunker is about to get in bed with Al Gore, because in the world that I see, raising the environmental bar is going to bring jobs home not send them away.

Good proposal.Thanks, I'm 15 minutes in to the video and it's simply jolly good. His storytelling skills are just captivating my 5y old brain. ;-)
..and he is getting into the ELM-magic as well.

That was an interesting talk and its always interesting to see what TOD contributors look and sound like!

Regarding localization, I was interested to see Jeff give the example of steel. However, in addition to China, there is another large steel producer across the Pacific. It is Japan. From the limited knowledge I have, Japan still has a steel industry because it can produce high-grade steel with relatively little energy, not least because unlike China, all that coking coal has to be imported. It might be interesting to see whether the Japanese steel industry will prosper due to its production efficiency or suffer due to the increased delivery cost for exports.

With high-level electronics, the cost of setting up a clean room-type fab plant means that delivery costs and labour costs don't really matter. I would guess companies are more concerned about contaminants, trained staff, and protecting their IP. Tax regime too, maybe.

Am I right to think that grain has been shipped around the world for hundreds(?) of years? For non-perishables, a return to sail is not hard to imagine. I completely agree though that perishables and air freight look completely doomed.

Iran sees 40% rise in exports to China

Talebi pointed out that in the mentioned period imports from China decreased by 17 percent.

“Propane, iron ore, polyethylene, aluminum, copper, marble, chrome ore, cast iron, lead, concentrated licorice, and sulfur were the main items exported to China,” he noted.

China and Iran enjoy an extensive economic relationship.

Just getting by

“Our senior clients have told me many times they’ll cut their pills in half or skip a day taking them,” said Michelle Smith, director of information services with the United Way. “Then they have their Medicare supplemental insurance, which is taken out of their (Social Security) stipend. On top of that, if they’re getting a propane (gas) bill, some of those are very expensive. The gas companies want $500 to fill up a tank, and when (seniors) get a bill like that and they’re only drawing $600 a month, that’s catastrophic.”

The woman mentioned in this article has 10 kids. I am wondering why none of them will help her financially. Kids should help their old parents (at least) financially. In most countries, there is no social security, medicare, unemployment compensation, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc. People survive because their family is their safety net.

I've seen the same thing with a homeless couple that my wife helps out from time to time. They're up here in Seattle but have kids in Texas. Living in a tent in the tent city. He has heart problems. Really nice people though and I admire them for their positive outlook on life.

I'd expect that as social services become more constrained due to reduced tax revenue that we'll see families staying together more and helping each other out. American individualism is a unique characteristic of the 20th century which is not typical of human history.

That strikes me as very odd. With a smaller family, perhaps the kids aren't in the position to help, or are estranged. It can be hard for the "sandwich generation" - people caught between the needs of young children and aging parents. But out of 10 kids, you would think one or two at least would step up.

"As Chicagoans basked in last week’s relative warmth, they might have spared a thought for frogs."

Yup, we sure do go through a lot of salt around here in the wintertime. Last year, there was a crisis of availability, and the cost spiked, too, so the city started looking for less expensive and less toxic alternatives.

"Among the list of alternatives for further study is a method that incorporates glass, limestone waste, and food wastes to form Trac + Deicer. This product, which is a mixture of crushed glass and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), is being considered as an alternative to road salt and sand for the de-icing of winter roads."


CMA is pretty expensive, but maybe it would be less hard on the road surface, resulting in less maintenance.

Another alternative is, of course, to drive less, which would mean less need to clear the roads. People scream like stuck pigs, though, when the roads don't get cleared, or the sidewalks are icy. I think there will be a lot of fallout around this issue when we just can't afford the fuel to plow every day, in the winter. Luckily we still have a transit system, in spite of route and budget cuts.

As of now, homeowners and businesses are responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of their premises. Maybe we'll end up being responsible for clearing our sections of roadway too.

In response to Greer/Astyk/Hopkins - RE: Community

A few observations:

I have been walking back and forth to work for about a year and a half now (minus the few times like this week when I have been recovering from an illness). I know several people along my route, and have gotten to know several more. Often, I have an opportunity to stop and chat for a few minutes, and at least say hello.

It used to be that way for everyone, back in the days when we had community. Back in the days before we had automobiles.

If you are looking for reasons to blame for the death of community in the US, then surely the automobile and the culture and built environment that have grown up around it must come near the top of the list. People isolated in their metal and glass boxes don't interact socially with those they encounter along the way, with the possible exception of a friendly tap of the horn and wave of the hand - or an unfriendly wave of a single digit!

There is only one "solution" to this, and that is to get out of the car. Unless and until that happens, Americans are going to continue to be socially isolated from one another, and there will be very little fertile ground upon which any real community can develop.

Fortunately, this problem will eventually solve itself, because the automobile and automobile culture as it presently exists is unsustainable. There may be small vehicles with people in them in the future, but they will not overwhelmingly dominate transport and lifestyles as they do now. Whether that happens "soon enough", I don't know; it will happen, but it will take much longer than some of us might prefer, and with tragic consequences as a result.

In the meantime, though, I really must counsel some caution: Trying to promote and cultivate real community given the present auto-centric environment is going to be very difficult, and very frustrating. Best to go into it with a clear understanding of what you are up against, and the limitations of what is possible to achieve prior to the demise of the automobile culture.

The automobile isn't the only bad guy in all of this, of course. Another force which has worked against the development and maintenance of true community between individuals has been that whole cluster of electronic communications and entertainment technologies: television, cell phones, iPods, electronic games, etc. It would be interesting to discuss these at length, but let me just cut to the point by saying that the effect of these has been increasingly to cocoon individuals in their own artifical world, cut off from the natural world and from other people. "Virtual Reality" just takes this to its logical extreme.

There will be some who will no doubt argue that these technologies open up new possibilities for building community between people that is not limited by time and space. Maybe so, to a certain extent. I am sceptical, though. Humans evolved in a real world, with real interaction between real fellow humans. We are "hard wired" for this to a much greater extent than some may appreciate. I suspect that we will ultimately find that we really do need each other, that we really do need to interact with real live human beings in real time and space, and that if we don't have that then we will be profoundly mal-adapted to whatever life we are trying to live. Such mal-adaptation will manifest itself in a number of different psycho-somatic and behavioral disorders; in fact, I would go so far as to say that we are seeing a pandemic of these now, and this is why.

I do not want to wax nostalgic for yesteryear. However, listening to the radio or record player was more inclusive - people could come in, sit down, and enjoy listening along. It was even more that way with the piano in the parlor or the banjo on the front steps. With motion pictures, you went to THE neighborhood theater and you saw THE film that was playing that week, you saw lots of people you knew in the theater and chatted with them before and after, and everyone in town would talk with each other about the film the next week. Before that, it was the vaudeville troupe that had passed through town, or a lecture at the local auditorium. Even the act of readingdid not necessarilly isolate one entirely; earphones did not insulate one from a word of interruption, and sometimes people would look over your shoulder while you read a newspaper or magazine. Analog communications and entertainment technologies just did not create a barrier to social interaction like digital ones do now; sometimes, they even encouraged and enhanced interaction.

As with the automobile, so with digital technologies: the problem will gradually solve itself when (not if) digital technologies go away. We might still manage to sustain some bare bones electrical infrastructure, enabling us to have some lights, some telephones, maybe radio, maybe some fans and other things with electric motors. I am far less confident regarding the prospects of our being able to sustain the entire large-scale, high-tech industrial infrastructure that is necessary for the manufacture of the types of miniaturized digital devices that have come to dominate our lives today. So, back to the analog era, perhaps?

Until then, once again I must counsel caution. Anyone striving to establish and build community must understand what they are up against. If you want more real community in your life, maybe one of the first steps is going to have to be to turn off, tune out, and drop out of the digital cocoon. The more you disconnect yourself from digital technologies, the more "space" you might discover you now have to connect with other real live people. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to try. If this does make a difference, then challenging others to make the same radical steps might be a fruitful precondition for building real community. Absent that, I'm afraid it will be pretty tough going.


From your comments, I think you're way overdue for that bike. Don't worry about fitness and hills. The fitness happens and the hills get smaller.

Most people do not understand that cars are alien things and remove us from the world, but you get that.

Go for it.

These are UK observations, but I imagine they apply to America as well.

I don't think ipods/laptop PCs/etc have replaced groups around the record player or piano: they're mostly used to listen to music at new times. In the days before mobile entertainment, you can see form archive footage that people during their daily journeys those who were naturally gregarious talked to people and those who weren't didn't talk to anyone.

What's changed in terms of the "communal" record player/radio is that most of the individuals have their own (equally large) stereo systems/TVs/computers in their rooms. It's more a symptom of affluence than anything particularly digital.

I am actually a bit worried about the human race having such mobile entertainment, but for different reasons. When you listen to the various creative people (whether inventors or entertainers) one frequent point is that the initiator of their "creating" was trying to deal with the incredible boredom of their lives. The problem with modern entertainment is that you can almost always find something that's reasonably entertaining to keep you occupied whatever situation your're in, so you never end up being forced to either talk people who are mostly incredibly dull and stereotypical or else think, ponder and create (either by yourself or with a small group of people who share your interests). (I'm sure that other people with their own interests find me dull.)

A few points relating to New Orleans.

One key element of the intense creativity here is the lack of social pressure to conform (almost unique IMHO). Another is the high degree of social contact and support, more intense post-Katrina.

We walk (and now bicycle) quite a bit. We talk, all classes and races (most recently about the Saints :-) 113 decibels at the game.

Jazz has the unique feature of improvisation, a dialogue between musicians is just how it is done. For that reason, I can think of no other city that could invent Jazz except New Orleans.

Cultural rituals bind us together. Mardi Gras being the keystone with ever evolving new events (I am quite charmed with the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc which parades on Twelfth Night, the first night of Mardi Gras and her birthday). Only it's second year.


My devotion to this city is well known. And I truly think that some of what we have can be replicated if the structure of US cities changed and attitudes as well.

The national media misrepresented much of what happened during Katrina. Mutual aid was the rule and not the exception.

Best Hopes,


You're right about "If you want more real community in your life, maybe one of the first steps is going to have to be to turn off, tune out, and drop out of the digital cocoon."

Last summer, I tore up my parking strip of lawn, in between the road and sidewalk. As I started to work on improving the soil and planting the gardens, I was very touched by how often my neighbors, walking by, would stop and comment: "You're doing great!" or the more leisurely conversations of "What kind of tomato plants are those?" or my favorite, an elderly Norwegian neighbor who stops and gives me his best gardening opinions. I now know the names of most of my neighbors. It's also heartening to watch my very youngest neighbors quite matter-of-factedly and proudly share with me the kinds of beans that they have in their garden, and the names of their chickens.

Yes, I agree that suburbia and the car are a big factor.

Stephanie Coontz argues pretty convincingly that it wasn't feminism that pushed women into the workplace. It started in the domestic '50s, well before feminism became a factor. Rather, it was the desire of American families for consumer goods and suburban life - and the need for workers to create those things.

I do think the American desire for autonomy is part of it. The drop in community Putnam documents in Bowling Alone seems to be a uniquely American thing. Other countries haven't seen a similar drop in community involvement. I think the fossil fuel fiesta has made it possible for us to disengage from others. We no longer need to have the neighbors come over for a barn-raising. We just hire someone to do it. All the things we used to rely on family and neighbors for, we can now do ourselves (thanks to technology), or pay someone to do.

I am expecting that to change.

Between 1940 and 1945, most working-aged women who were not tied down with parenting responsibilities were employed - they were strongly encouraged to do so by the government and by social pressure. A great many of them rather enjoyed the experience.

As soon as the war was over, they were all fired to make room for the returning soldiers. They got married and had kids - the baby boom.

By 1955, the earliest of the baby boomers was already 10 and didn't need so much parental supervision. With each passing year, in more and more families the youngest of the brood turned old enough so that Mom didn't absolutely need to be at home each day. By 1970, there realy were not all that many mothers with pre-teen kids left at home any more. Quite a few of them started wishing they were out in the world of work again. They remembered their wartime experiences, and housewifery was getting terribly dull, especially without the kids needing them so much any more. Thus, off to the workplace they started to go. They pretty quickly noticed that employers were not quite as eager to have them there as they were during the war, and working alongside a much higher percentage of male workers than they had experienced during the war made for a rather unpleasant work environment. More than a few started getting resentful, and wondering why they should have to take such treatment.

This, as best as I can recollect from my own familiy's experience, is how things actually unfolded. When my Mom went back to work (nursing), my impression was that it wasn't because they wanted more money for a bigger house or car or more stuff, although I suppose that being able to sock away more into savings was welcome. It was more a matter of her missing her profession and wanting to get back into it as soon as it was practical. I had the general impression that this was pretty much the case with other families I knew where the wife went back to work. Of course, this was small town America and not suburbia, people just were not infected with the suburban, social-climbing affluenza bug to such a great extent, back then anyway.

It was normal to work even in the '50s, especially for women who were not white upper-middle-class. (Coontz points out that one of the drivers was that farming was declining. Women who had traditionally worked on the farm or otherwise worked at home moved into regular jobs instead.)

And I don't think it was seen as "affluenza" or keeping up with the Joneses then. Rather, it was seen as "progress." Running water, a car, washing machines, vacuums, a home in the 'burbs rather than a city apartment...these were things you were supposed to have in our new, modern future. And of course, sending the kids to college.

The women in my family have always worked, though my grandparents did so on their small farms or small businesses, rather than in offices.

i was unemployed through out the summer of '09. so every morning i did a bicycle ride around the lake
i live near. this ride took 45 minutes. i passed one gas station, one liquor store and one deli.
the rest was houses. no library or other community centric destinations. on occassion i used my bicycle to drop off and pick up my auto at the mechanic. that was scary, either up or down a steep
winding road. i never drove my bicycle in any poor weather. no rain or snow or frigid cold. not even extreme heat. i always left my home after 9:30 am when those that had jobs were all at work. and...
i had to be home before 11am when the lunch crowd starts. i have a well know street bicycle with aluminum frame and 18 gears. now that i have a job i dont bicycle. no way will i go out on the road
at rush hour. and it's cold and snowy also. that means when spring returns i chuck the bike in the station wagon and drive to the park instead. i live in nj where the car has the right of way and non motorized traffic is frowned at. have you reduced your lifestyle today?

Power grid charges 'not unfair', says UK minister

I suppose Scotland could always wait a few years, then 'cut the cables' leaving Britain and Wales to freeze in the dark...