Drumbeat: February 22, 2010

Utilities Finding Peer Pressure a Powerful Motivator

National Grid, the electricity and gas provider to several Northeastern states, last week announced the expansion of its Home Energy Report program, which delivers energy-use statements to homeowners showing how they stack up against their neighbors in similar-size homes.

The announcement follows a successful pilot program, started in October 2009, with a test group of 50,000 customers. Energy use (both electric and gas) dropped by 1 percent for this group since the pilot began, compared to a control group that did not receive the report, according to Monica Ibrahim, National Grid’s program manager.

Joining a growing number of utility companies, National Grid has discovered a bit of peer pressure, in the form of a monthly scorecard, can motivate customers to change their habits and use less energy.

Indonesia Lowers Assumed Oil Price for 2010

Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the assumed oil price for 2010 in the revised state budget would be reduced to US$77 per barrel.

"We will reduce the assumed oil price a little from initially between US$75 and US$80 per barrel to US$77 per barrel now," she said on Friday.

Oman: Oil and gas investment generates 7.4% production growth

Oil output increased to an average 812,500 barrels per day last year, a 7.4% hike on 2008 production. The figures represent the second year of sustained production growth in the sector, reversing a trend of decline which first set in during 2001 when Omani oil production hit its peak of an average 956,000 bpd. According to media reports, the government hopes to increase production in the sector once again in 2010, hitting a production target of between 860,000 and 900,000 barrels per day.

‘Unjustifiable’ airstrike kills 27 Afghan civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan - A NATO airstrike killed at least 27 civilians in central Afghanistan, the third time a mistaken coalition strike has killed noncombatants since the start of a major offensive aimed at winning over the population.

The top NATO commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, apologized to the Afghan president, NATO said.

Iran to build nuke facilities ‘inside mountains’

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Monday it plans to build two new uranium enrichment facilities deep inside mountains to protect them from attack, a new challenge to Western powers trying to curb Tehran's nuclear program for fear it is aimed at making weapons.

A job, but at the cost of a 1,000-mile commute

JANESVILLE, Wisconsin - In the early dawn, after another week building cars, Michael Hanley leaves his job in Kansas. He quickly zips into Missouri, then heads up a ribbon of highway past grain silos and grazing deer, across the frozen fields of Iowa, over the Mississippi River and into the rolling hills of Wisconsin. Finally, he pulls into his driveway — 530 miles later.

It's one heck of a haul: more than 1,000 miles round trip, 16-plus hours of driving, every week.

Two Canadian Picks For Peak Oil

Oil may not be at $147 a barrel, but profits and potential upside from where it is now are huge for Suncor and Cenovus.

Get paid to plug in

Someday, someone will pay you to hook your car into the electrical grid. It's one of those almost-a-sure-thing business opportunities enabled by the expected rise of plug-in vehicles. But will the payoff be worth the cost? That's where the calculations get a little complicated.

Are Energy Star products always the most efficient?

Shopping for a new TV, a dishwasher, a window? Chances are, most of your options will bear the government's Energy Star logo. So, you may wonder: what does this mark really mean anymore?

Cruise industry knocks proposed wastewater rules

Cruise lines said more than half of the ships operating in Alaska would not be able to meet limits for the pollutant ammonia under proposed wastewater rules set to go into effect this year.

The limits are too strict in general and there's not enough time to comply before the start of the season only a few months away, Alaska Cruise Association consultant Mike Tibbles said last week.

E-waste report warns of hazardous mountains of old cellphones, computers

Unless developing countries act quickly, a United Nations report warns, they will be inundated with overwhelming hazardous e-waste mountains of old cellphones, computers and gadgets that endanger the environment.

Troubling signs in the northern freeze

I’ve just returned from Finland which has had such a bitingly cold winter that I was able to take long walks on the frozen Baltic sea ice right outside Helsinki. The picture shows the view: that is not a snow-covered field in the foreground but the frozen sea leading back to the grand houses which rim Helsinki’s shore. At sea you meet people walking their dogs, skiing or taking a new short cut to work. If you stop them and chat (not what the famously taciturn Finns expect) they’ll tell you that this is the coldest winter they can remember and ask “whatever happened to global warming”

It is easy to forget about it on a cold winter’s day but, strangely enough, the freezing cold in Finland also enables you to spot some signs of change, quite troubling ones which suggest that the Arctic is busy plotting its revenge on the rest of the world. Walking across frozen inland lakes you can see, here and there, odd patterns of bubbles trapped in the ice. These are spots where methane has been bubbling up from the lake. In summer, when there is no ice, you can see bubbling in ponds all over the Arctic and if you hold a match over a busy spot (very carefully) there will be a brief puff of fire as the methane burns.

World under seige

Those sitting in Maureen Hall (down the road at Laurier) on Thursday, February 11, were under siege. A barrage of depressing statistics and facts were thrown at the crowd, which told of the doom that this world is headed for if fossil fuels aren't replaced and people don't start taking climate change seriously.

Donning the old weather-beaten leather jacket that he's known for, Canadian freelance journalist, syndicated columnist, and historian, Gwynne Dyer, spoke with sardonic wisdom, warning those watching of the detrimental effects of climate change. He foresees starvation; civil and international wars; “climate refugees,” as he termed them; and total state failure in some areas of the world — all resulting from the world's reluctance to temporarily slow economies in order to replace the cheap and easy use of fossil fuels with alternative, cleaner, methods.

A smaller Big Oil fights for a revival

Big Oil has had a little less swagger in its step of late, humbled by a global recession that halted a multi-year run of soaring profits and exposed weaknesses that had been less acute when times were good.

International giants like Exxon Mobil and BP have suffered the effects of the economic downturn, which brought the first significant decrease in global energy demand in nearly three decades, created wild gyrations in oil and natural gas prices and wreaked particular havoc on the oil refining business.

Asia Gasoline/Naphtha-Cracks more than a week high

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian naphtha prices extended gains to reach a month high on Monday, while cracks trended up to more than a week high, supported by demand from South Korea and a looming strike in France.

South Korea's Honam bought three cargoes of naphtha totalling around 75,000 tonnes, shortly after LG Chem's and Samsung Total's purchases last week.

Natural Gas Drops Below $5 for First Time in 10 Weeks on Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas fell, dropping below $5 per million British thermal units for the first time in more than 10 weeks, as forecasts for milder weather in the Midwest next week signaled reduced demand for the heating fuel.

Total chief sees no fuel shortage soon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of French oil giant Total SA said on Monday fuel supplies in France were not a problem "for the time being" and reiterated that the company would not cut jobs as part its plan to change operations at its Dunkirk refinery.

"What is for sure is there will be no people hurt in this decision we make," Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie told reporters at a briefing in New York.

French strike threatens to choke off petrol pumps

PARIS — French filling stations started to run dry on Monday as striking refinery workers sought to choke off the fuel supply to force oil giant Total to guarantee their jobs.

With families hitting the road for the school half-term holiday, unions warned petrol could run short within days thanks to strikes at Total's six refineries, which the firm says supply about half of France's fuel depots.

Iran lines up Resalat work

Iran has reached an agreement with a Malaysian company to carry out further development work to boost output from the Resalat oilfield, head of Iran's Offshore Oil Company Mahmoud Zirakchianzadeh said today.

The oil and gas riches of Haiti, speculation and evidence

In the wake of the recent earthquake and the presence of US troops in Haiti, interested researchers have unearthed many hints that there's a lot of gas and oil below and around the island. It seems the time for drilling has come.

Bank of Mexico to Auction Dlr Options Monthly, Build Reserves

While the commission estimates the central bank will accumulate $20 billion by the end of the year through regular dollar purchases directly from state oil company Pemex and the federal government, it wants to "complement that accumulation ... in a gradual way and safeguarding the correct functioning of the free market exchange regime."

The statement said, "The recent global financial crisis made clear it was advantageous for our country to rely on greater foreign reserves, since the current level is comparatively smaller than that held by countries with a similar credit profile and those we compete with in international capital markets."

Thomas L. Friedman: The Fat Lady Has Sung

Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.

But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.

Climate change: Getting to zero

At the annual TED conference, where the global techie elite gather once a year, Bill Gates called for "energy miracles" to tackle what he now recognizes as the two most important issues facing humanity: climate change and energy.

Gates' big goal? Zero (as in 0) emissions by 2050. Not 80 percent reduction. Not 97 percent. But zero. That's stunning.

Call made for better metrics for energy savings

A Michigan State University professor says if the world is to make better decisions when it comes to developing new energy sources, it needs to have better methods of measuring progress toward its energy goals. Just how well are we doing at developing alternatives to fossil fuels?

Biotech, nanotech and synthetic biology roles in future food supply explored

Some say the world's population will swell to 9 billion people by 2030 and that will present significant challenges for agriculture to provide enough food to meet demand, says University of Idaho animal scientist Rod Hill.

Hill and Larry Branen, a University of Idaho food scientist, organized a symposium during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting Sunday to explore ways biotechnology could provide healthy and plentiful animal-based foods to meet future demands.

Carolyn Baker - Unprepared and unplugged: Joe Stack and likely coming attractions

Although I do not condone Joe Stack's violent attack on the Austin IRS office, I find that his articulate suicide letter contains many grains of truth, as well as a tragic exposé of his lack of comprehension of the larger transition that inundated his life with an overwhelming number of smaller ones. Myriad forms of preparation are no guarantee of survival or well being in the face of the end of the world as we have known it, but they may allow us unimaginable opportunities for personal and community transformation.

Chu says price swing biggest concern

Big oil price swings are more of a worry for top consumer the US than the outright price, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today a visit to top exporter Saudi Arabia.

"Whatever the price, you don't want sudden changes, this is very important," Reuters quoted Chu as telling reporters at a press event in Riyadh.

"Its very hard for the economies of the world to adjust to sudden changes... it's very difficult to make plans, for investments in oil production over five to 10 years."

The US planned to review the role of financial institutions in oil price swings, he said.

"We are going to be undergoing studies to try and find out how much has the volatility been increased by large financial institutions taking positions," he said.

"Certainly the volatility of the price seems to be far in excess of demand and supply."

Kurt Cobb - Peak demand: The cornucopians reach for a fig leaf

The world's oil supply optimists must feel as if they are in that dream that so many of us have had about arriving at work in our underwear. Oops! What do I do now to save face?

Over the past decade oil optimists repeatedly forecast a glut in oil supplies that kept failing to materialize. Now, they are reaching for a fig leaf hoping no one will remember their consistently errant predictions. That fig leaf is the idea that we have reached peak demand, and that that's the reason we have not seen oil production rise in the past several years.

Strangely, they made no mention of this theory in 2005, 2006, 2007 or 2008 as prices skyrocketed. It was only after the market crashed and a deep worldwide recession ensued--something which would be expected to curtail oil demand--that they formulated the peak demand thesis.

Kunstler: Rehearsals for a Civil War

Amid the general incoherence of the Tea Party rebels and the failure of progressives to recognize the structural changes underway in a peak oil world, lies a deadly swamp of paradox where all parties may drown in the quicksand of their own muddled intentions.

Olympics won't bring lasting economic benefits

The Games may produce a marginal increase in tourism for a few years. But in the longer term, I can't stop wondering this: In a world wrestling with climate change and peak oil, are people really going to be travelling like this, or will rising oil prices make the cost of air travel prohibitive?

Stranger than fiction

The andat are summoned into existence and bound to servitude by Machi's magicians, known as poets. But nothing lasts forever and the end of the andat, long predicted by iconoclastic ruler and former poet Otah, finally arrives in this third book of Abraham's quartet. War with Galt moves the world from what the author himself has described as a "peak oil" situation into one of mutually assured destruction.

Fla. Legislators Consider Lifting Offshore Drilling Ban

By now, the arguments are well rehearsed. Offshore oil drilling is either a dangerous gamble with Florida's beach-driven tourism industry, or a potential job creation and tax windfall.

Either way, an emotional and politically charged drilling debate is taking shape in the state Capitol, a slow-moving political drama that is likely to unfold over the next two years on whether to allow oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, three to 10 miles from Florida's West Coast beaches.

2025 solar and wind energy costs charted

The capital cost to install a 20 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) facility by 2015 will be US$7981/kW, according to a report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Beijing Cramps Foreign Wind Power Firms

As it scrambles to develop an offshore wind power industry that potentially may generate as much as 200 gigawatts of electricity, China has decided to hamstring all would-be foreign developers, which should provide a big lift to certain Chinese companies.

EPA Might Try Cap-and-Trade Plan Without New Law, Cantor Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Environmental Protection Agency might act alone to set up a U.S. carbon market if legislation that would establish a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases fails to pass Congress, CantorCO2e, the emission markets unit of Cantor Fitzgerald LP, said.

“If Congress doesn’t pass legislation, EPA is clearly on a course to develop its own approach to cap-and-trade,” Allan Bedwell, a vice president at CantorCO2e, said in a telephone interview.

Israel Urges Iran Oil Embargo Even Without U.N. Okay

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Monday for an immediate embargo on Iran's energy sector, saying the U.N. Security Council should be sidestepped if it cannot agree on the move.

Iran's uranium enrichment in defiance of several rounds of Security Council sanctions has spurred world powers to consider tougher measures to halt what the West fears is a drive to produce nuclear weapons.

Israel has endorsed the talks while hinting at preemptive military action should it deem diplomacy a dead end.

If the world "is serious about stopping Iran, then what it needs to do is not watered-down sanctions, moderate sanctions ... but effective, biting sanctions that curtail the import and export of oil into Iran," Netanyahu said in a speech.

Oil above $80 as traders eye low interest rates

SINGAPORE – Oil prices rose above $80 a barrel Monday in Asia, extending a three-week rally as investors expect the U.S. central bank to keep interest rates near zero to help fuel economic growth, which would boost crude consumption.

BP, Shell Cost Cuts May Falter on Drilling Inflation

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc may falter in their campaigns to save billions in oil and gas project costs as a resurgence in drilling and demand for engineers threaten to revive inflation in the industry.

Crude prices doubled to near $80 a barrel in the past year, prompting producers to resume projects put on hold during the recession. Oil and gas industry spending will rise 11 percent this year to $439 billion, according to Barclays Capital.

“Oil price inflation and cost inflation are highly correlated, albeit with some delay,” said Paul Wheeler, a London-based managing director in the oil and gas group at investment bank Jefferies International Ltd. “The oil industry is always people constrained. It’s one of the biggest challenges: a lack of young engineers and geologists.”

Nations will not fight over Arctic resources, scholar says

An Arctic thaw among Cold War foes means there will be no foreseeable major conflict over seabed resources, says a leading Arctic scholar. Michael Byers, writing in Canada's new world affairs magazine, Global Brief, says polar politics and media hype about a potential international clash over undersea oil and gas reserves obscure the reality of growing strategic co-operation between Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway.

Russia gas price hike shocks Armenians

YEREVAN - The company that has a monopoly on selling Russian gas to Armenia has warned it will raise prices for ordinary consumers by 40% in April, sparking anger in the country.

China’s Crude Oil Imports to Drive Tanker Market, Poten Says

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s second-largest energy consumer, may lead an increase in demand for tankers as its energy needs rise, Poten & Partners said in a report.

The country’s imports of crude oil in the spot market have increased fivefold over the past 10 years to the equivalent of more than 55 Very Large Crude Carriers, or VLCCs, last year from 11 in 2000, the U.S. energy consultant said.

“China’s growing reliance on seaborne crude oil imports will set the tone of the tanker market for the coming decade,” Poten said in a report to clients dated Feb. 19. “China’s expanding middle class, strategic stockpiling and complex refining capacity ensure that it will continue to be a large ship, crude oil story.”

China's oil-refining industry swings to profit in 2009

China's oil-refining industry swung to a profit last year after the world's second-biggest energy consumer introduced a new fuel-pricing mechanism in 2008.

The industry earned 72.9 billion yuan ($10.7 billion) compared with a loss of 145.7 billion yuan in 2008, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on its website. Profit for the petrochemical industry rose 14 percent to 171.8 billion yuan, it said.

Coal Rally on Chinese Demand Sparks $59 Estimates

(Bloomberg) -- A rally that has boosted coal prices 21 percent from their lows last year may have further to go as the coldest U.S. winter in nine years and China’s record imports increase demand and drain stockpiles.

Prices will average $59.28 a ton this year, up 17 percent from $50.75 as of Feb. 19 on the New York Mercantile Exchange and 41 percent more than last year’s low in April, according to the median of 11 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Stockpiles at utilities swelled last year after a mild summer and the economic recession reduced power demand.

Xstrata’s Coal Output Still Halted at Australian Mine

(Bloomberg) -- Xstrata Plc, the largest exporter of coal used for power-station coal, said production at its Rolleston mine in Australia’s Queensland state remains suspended after it was halted because of heavy rain.

“We’ve got quite a bit of water still in the pits at this time following the heavy rains that we’ve had over the last two weeks,” James Rickards, Xstrata’s spokesman in Sydney, said by phone today. No machinery was damaged, he said.

Ludwig, protesters dig in at gas well

Alberta oil patch activist Wiebo Ludwig and about 10 other protesters have set up camp near a sour gas well north of the farm where he lives with his family.

Houston Ship Channel Opens as Weather Lifts; More Fog Forecast

(Bloomberg) -- Maritime pilots started boarding ships in Houston and Galveston/Texas City, Texas, today after closing the Houston Ship Channel late yesterday because of fog, the U.S. Coast Guard said. More fog was forecast for tonight.

Five inbound and five outbound vessels in the upper channel were affected by the Houston closure, which ended at noon after about a 12-hour stoppage, Coast Guard Chief Lance Bradley said by phone from Houston. Galveston pilots resumed boarding ships at 9:45 a.m. after a 10-hour halt that affected five inbound and three outbound ships.

Trafigura’s Malaysia Oil Tanks Seek Storage Profit

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s newest oil-tank facility, Langsat Terminal One, so far used exclusively by Trafigura Beheer BV, is the latest project by global trading companies seeking profits by storing fuels.

Amsterdam-based Trafigura, the world’s third-largest independent oil trader, has been holding so-called clean oil products including naphtha and diesel in the 500 million ringgit ($147 million) facility, which officially opened today in southern Johor state. It’s capitalizing on a global oil market that’s increasingly paying companies to hoard supplies to sell at a later date.

Where There's Tar There's Brass

Since the oil price peaked at US$147 in July 2008 we've had the biggest global recession since the Second World War which has depressed the price, causing it to fall back to a floor of about US$70 per barrel. That's good news for consumers but it's come as a surprise to many that the oil price hasn't fallen back to levels around US$20 that we've seen in previous global recessions.

So why haven't prices fallen further? The main reason is that there is very little spare production capacity in the world because of the increased demand for oil from the developing countries, particularly Brazil, China and India. In previous recessions there has been a glut of excess production which has depressed the price but those days are gone, perhaps never to return.

Schlumberger Eyes Future With $11 Billion Smith Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield-services provider, said the $11 billion purchase of Smith International Inc. will broaden service offerings and strengthen its competitive position as advances in drilling technology spur oil and natural gas production.

Reliance Said to Raise Lyondell Bid to $14.5 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Reliance Industries Ltd., owner of the world’s largest oil-refining complex, raised its offer for bankrupt LyondellBasell Industries AF to about $14.5 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the offer.

The revised bid allows Lyondell creditors to opt for cash or equity, said the people who declined to be identified because the talks are private. Reliance, the Mumbai-based refiner and energy explorer controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, offered an undisclosed amount on Nov. 21 to buy a controlling stake.

British rig due to begin Falklands drilling

London, England (CNN) -- A British oil rig is due to start drilling off the Falkland Islands in a move likely to stoke further tensions between Argentina and the UK over the disputed South Atlantic territory.

Japan warns China over gas field

Japan has told China it will appeal to an international maritime court if Beijing starts gas production in a disputed field in the East China Sea, it was reported today.

Tokyo objects to Chinese development of the Chunxiao gasfield in seas close to Japan's claimed boundary.

Chavez: Saboteurs target Venezuela's power grid

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez accused his adversaries on Sunday of sabotaging Venezuela's electricity grid as part of a broader plan aimed at bringing about the system's collapse — and his downfall.

Authorities must be "on the alert" and apprehend anyone who cuts electricity cables connected to the grid, Chavez said. Such sabotage has caused power failures in some regions and exacerbated the effects of severe energy shortages, he said.

Saudi envoy expects concrete plans to follow G-20 summit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The Group of 20 summit in November will likely discuss ways to end the global recession, but more important is drawing concrete plans to carry out agreements and promote sustainable and balanced growth after the crisis, an envoy from Saudi Arabia said.

Stumbling in the Race to Feed Africa's Millions

During the 20th century, country after country adopted methods of industrial agriculture — use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and high-productivity grain hybrids — that caused yields of corn, wheat, rice and other staples to soar. This “green revolution,” as it became known, brought food self-sufficiency to nations like China and India, laying the groundwork for their emergence as economic powerhouses.

Yet these revolutionary farming methods largely bypassed sub-Saharan Africa. In west Kenya, for instance, fertilizer use remains so low — just 7 kilograms per hectare, or 6 pounds per acre, compared with about 100 kilograms per hectare for the average farm in U.S. Midwest — that each harvest depletes the soil of important nutrients, leading to progressively lower yields, according to a recent study in the journal Science.

With city loans, homeowners go green now, pay later

Putting solar or other green upgrades on homes and businesses is getting less painful in more cities that are rapidly launching programs to enable owners to pay back upfront costs over years.

The programs let property owners borrow money for upgrades, then pay it back over up to 20 years as a special assessment on property tax bills.

Electric bikes on a roll in China

Chinese commuters in their millions are turning to electric bicycles -- hailed as the environmentally-friendly future of personal transport in the country's teeming cities.

Up to 120 million e-bikes are estimated to be on the roads in China, making them already the top alternative to cars and public transport, according to recent figures published by local media.

U.S. wind capacity has more than tripled: report

Wind capacity in the United States has tripled and is enough to meet U.S. electricity consumption, according to a new report co-authored by the Department of Energy.

A Base for War Training, and Species Preservation

With conservation and preparedness no longer seen as opposing goals, American military bases have become prime habitats for rebounding species.

EPA plans to spend $2.2B to protect Great Lakes

WASHINGTON — The federal government plans to spend $2.2 billion to clean up pollution in the Great Lakes and halt the spread of invasive species over the next five years.

That plan, announced Sunday, marks a "significant investment" in fighting some of the biggest environmental threats to the nation's largest freshwater lakes, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said. The EPA will use the money to prevent beach pollution, clean up toxic hot spots, and fight Asian carp and other invasive species. That effort "will leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them," Jackson said.

Jeremy Rifkin - 'Empathic Civilization': Is It Time To Replace The American Dream?

For two hundred years the American Dream has served as the bedrock foundation of the American way of life. The dream, reduced to its essence, is that in America, every person has the right and opportunity to pursue his or her own individual material self interest in the marketplace, and make something of their life, or at least sacrifice so the next generation might enjoy a better life. The role of the government, in turn, is to guarantee individual freedom, assure the proper functioning of the market, protect property rights, and look out for national security. In all other matters, the government is expected to step aside so that a nation of free men and woman can pursue their individual ambitions.

Although American history is peppered with lamentations about the souring of the dream, the criticism never extends to the assumptions that underlie the dream, but only to political, economic and social forces that thwart its realization. To suggest that the dream itself is misguided, outdated, and even damaging to the American psyche, would be considered almost treasonous. Yet, I would like to suggest just that.

Climate-Change Fervor Cools Amid Disputed Science, Defections

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative Bob Inglis went from climate-change skeptic to believer four years ago as opinion leaders from Al Gore to General Electric Co. chief Jeffrey Immelt called for laws to curb global warming.

Today Inglis, a South Carolina Republican, is a convert who’s watching the public become more doubtful.

U.S. Aims for Legally Binding Climate Change Agreement in 2010

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. said it wants to reach a legally binding climate-change agreement at a summit in Mexico in December, a sign President Barack Obama hasn’t given up the fight for a global accord to limit greenhouse gases.

The pact should cover “all major economies,” and include elements from the non-binding Copenhagen Accord made in December, the State Department said in a letter released today by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.

Fewer, fiercer tropical cyclones are in our future, study finds

Although global warming could cause the number of tropical cyclones to decrease around the world by the end of the century, the storms that do form probably will be more intense, a study in the journal Nature Geoscience finds.

Methane levels may see 'runaway' rise, scientists warn

Atmospheric levels of methane, the greenhouse gas which is much more powerful than carbon dioxide, have risen significantly for the last three years running, scientists will disclose today – leading to fears that a major global-warming "feedback" is beginning to kick in.

For some time there has been concern that the vast amounts of methane, or "natural gas", locked up in the frozen tundra of the Arctic could be released as the permafrost is melted by global warming. This would give a huge further impetus to climate change, an effect sometimes referred to as "the methane time bomb".

What is Michael E. Lynch, (not the cornucopian Michael C. Lynch), trying to tell us in this article?

Why is reservoir simulation important for Saudi Aramco

From a study of the chart one can see that the era of sustainable capacity from vertical wells ended about 1990. The era of sustainable production from horizontal wells ended in 1997. This was followed by an era of erratic production and capacity decline until 2003. Saudi Aramco announced a strategy of change in 2002. Horizontal wells were out and Maximum-Reservoir-Contact wells were in.
Redevelopment became a big business sometimes after the year 2000 and it was in the huge Ghawar that much of this activity started. Since then all the great primary producing fields have been redeveloped except Manifa which is now in the process. I should add that many, many smaller fields have also been drilled up over the years to supplement production capacity and they too are being redeveloped…
It is this highly complex evaluation of declining oil fields that entails reservoir simulation. That is why it is done as this law of diminishing returns takes its daily toll.

It appears to my untrained eye that Saudi had all vertical wells but around 1990 production from their old fields began to decline. Then they replaced them all with horizontal wells. This enabled them to suck the oil right off the top where there was a lot less water.

Then in 1997 their fields started into steep decline again. The answer this time was MRC wells. These wells are horizontal also but each well spreads out like a christmas tree. Each one well is like ten horizontal wells. They are sucking oil from every conceivable spot at the very top of the reservoir.

And now, apparently, these MRC wells have done all they can do to stem the decline of oil production from their tired old fields. Aramco is turning to C02 injection in hopes to bring back the glory days of Ghawar and their other super giants. And they are looking under two kilometers of water and 7,000 feet of salt bed in the Red Sea in hopes of finding a few million barrels of oil there. It appears that Twilight in the Desert has perhaps finally arrived.

Incidently, Michael E. Lynch posted this great article on the decline of Bergin, in Kuwait, last September. It was posted on Drumbeats then and was much discussed but I post the link again because some may have missed it.
Bergin, fabled Kuwaiti oil field in irreversible decline with high water cut

Ron P.

IMO, Matt Simmons' book on Saudi Arabia can be summarized in one sentence: "Saudi oil fields are not immune to the laws of physics."

What's bizarre is that conventional wisdom--especially on Fantasy Island where Michael C. Lynch and Daniel Yergin live--still appears to be that Saudi Arabia has magical oil fields that don't deplete.

IMO, Matt Simmons' book on Saudi Arabia can be summarized in one sentence: "Saudi oil fields are not immune to the laws of physics."

And "that their reserves were overstated." If they indeed had the few hundred billion barrels left to extract that they claimed they wouln't have peaked yet.

Whats interesting is I think that Russia played a lot larger role in stabilizing oil exports over the last several years.
They seem to be the forgotten step sister although they probably have been the worlds largest oil exporter and producer for some time.

I'd argue that it was the decline of both that became a problem. With that said obviously I think Saudi Arabia is obviously way overrated and a mythical beast. While Russia has many known producing basins scattered over a wide area and should have a production curve similar to the US at least to the point where private smaller producers became important.

In any case the real story about global oil supplies is probably closely related to the interplay between these two top producers not just one or the other. Russia probably produced a lot of the oil that allowed KSA to make its claims. Also of course if you read your history it seems that KSA and the US tag teamed the Soviet Union for quite some time. Oil played a huge role in the cold ware that is I think under appreciated but obviously important today as many of the actions taken even to today have a lot to do with rivalry between Russia and Saudi Arabia that often goes un-discussed.

Just the fact that Russia has never joined OPEC gives you a hint to some of the politics likely under the surface.

I tend to suspect that in the end effective overproduction during the cold war era resulting in prices that did not reflect real future supply levels is already impacting us. By effective overproduction I mean everything from over producing fields to aggressive deployment of technical solutions that increased extraction rate. The geopolitical situation and fiat petrodollar/debt working to drive the system.

In any case my paper is up.


It one of the reasons I've wondered a lot more about the cold war era. It would be cool if WT could take his export land model back through the late 70's forward as it would be nice to see the longer term trends.

I think everyone is guilty of focusing on the price of oil in the mighty petrodollar and on the US. However the history of oil was played out not in petro-dollars but in a multitude of currencies and their exchange rate against the dollar. Many nations of the last decades have seen their currencies fall and costs for petroleum rise in response. Indeed the rise and fall can often be traced back to the magic petrodollar.

On top of this of course we did suffer a sort of technical peak consisting of and end of large onshore fields and also a maximum in the production capacity from vertical wells. This peak one is seldom researched. We know now of course that a knight in shining armor showed up in the form of horizontal drilling and then even more advanced wells but we forget that no one could be sure this was going to happen before it happened. Of course now thats not the case as many are convinced that a second technical miracle is waiting in the wings.

75% of the worlds oil demand is not in the US and for this demand things have been anything but rosy over the last decades I suspect that if we could collect the data we would find some very interesting facts. A simple one for example export land and Iran during the Shah. Ignoring the political situation it seems Iran was rapidly westernizing in consumption including of course cheap local prices.
Very much like the US large exporter and large internal market. What where the export land dynamics preceding the collapse of the Shah ?

I suspect that regardless of how much he pumped he was finding that internal demand was growing rapidly and that revenue from oil exports was not increasing. I don't know but I just think that there is more to the story in Iran then has been investigated. And as I said this applies to export land in general over a period of decades. The dynamics work on the upside as well as the downside for a producing region I'd love to see the first half of the story if you will. Regardless of the details production from the 1970's onward did not increase at anything close to the rate before then yet world population has mushroomed esp in oil producing countries. Export Land has to have been a problem for some time.

I don't have any of the IDs required to comment on your blog so here we go (which I like btw):

Perhaps because of the cumulative nature of CO2 and the relatively slow decay it is more a running total rather than a proxy of year to year economic activity?

openid is pretty easy to set up. If I turn that off I'm sure I face a spam problem.

I urge you to get and id so we can discuss further.

In any case the basic issue here.

C02 = C + 02

I.e its the absolute quantities not the difference or differential.

If C02 levels where constant and human burning was constant then the system would balance at some level.

Associated with this of course is a C02 flux cycle obviously if C02 production in one year is higher than can be absorbed then the absolute value gets a carry over from the year before. I.e C02 levels rise not because of burning in the current year but because of accumulation. However if the source rate is increasing i.e we are burning more Carbon then the increase is from this not from carry over.

Obviously there is and outward flux. My assumption is its basically a constant in any given year that varies linearly with the inputs.

The reason is simply given the scale of the system any non-linear behavior would lead quickly to a runaway greenhouse situation and or a iceball earth. Given thats not happened yet at least to now the system pretty much has to be a simple linear equation.

Thus its not really complex because it cannot be complex given the scale its simply a few linear equations. Then the final result is pretty simple Chinese coal production increased non-linearly and absolute C02 levels where roughly linear thus Oil had to go down.

It could not have gone non-linear because it cannot i.e its to large. Well it cannot within certain unknown bounds.

Thats why I leave my constant undefined and also why I don't use the derivative as you have and underlying buffering and flux problem thats basically unsolvable all I assume is that regardless of how it works its constrained to be a simple linear problem otherwise its a run away feedback loop.

Dang I need to post this in answer to our question. If your willing to post I'd appreciate it.
Obviously I'm using a insight or reasonable guess to pull this off its not "self evident" and I'm not sure I explained it well and I was unable to get peer review to explain the insight that the system has to be linear because of scale or we would not be here.
Thats the real trick if you will :)

but, that is what the Aramco head told us at Davos. He said peak oil 'theory' is behind us. Maybe he meant to say that world peak production was behind us.

Aramco is turning to C02 injection in hopes to bring back the glory days of Ghawar and their other super giants.

aramco plans to pilot test(40 mmcfd co2 injection) starting in 2012.


So, KSA vertical peaked in 1980, horizontle peaked in 1997, maximum reservoir contact peaked in 2003, CO2 flood peaks in 201?, and then what, Canterelle style decline rates?

Then in 1997 their fields started into steep decline again. The answer this time was MRC wells. These wells are horizontal also but each well spreads out like a christmas tree. Each one well is like ten horizontal wells. They are sucking oil from every conceivable spot at the very top of the reservoir.

A couple of points:

1) Most MRC wells in SA don't have anything like 10 time the capacity of a single horizontal well (in similar rock). Most have four or fewer laterals, but it all depends on total reservoir contact area.

2) I don't know where ML Lynch gets the idea that the Saudi "vertical well era" ended in 1991. For example, the Ghawar Haradh-I increment, completed in 1996, was almost all vertical wells. This is from a 2004/2005 SPE Lecture:

The big spike in horizontal wells in 1997/1998 was in the Shaybah field. The Qatif redevelopment in 2004 was all horizontal wells. MRC wells were not employed until after 2000, and first in Shaybah. Ghawar didn't have MRCs until 2004 -- and not significantly until Haradh III in 2006.

3) MRC wells vs. horizontal is really an economics decision. It's cheaper to drill one MRC than multiple single horizontals. But Khurais (allegedly) has only the latter, for the most part, because they wanted to use downhole pumps and that doesn't work well with MRCs. And not all wells recently placed in Ghawar are MRCs.

So while their fields are depleting, and though the remaining oil lies in poorer state, the progression of technology vs. depletion state is not a simple story.

One other factor that might be interesting is advanced completion and re completion of vertical wells.

If you think about it a smart completion of a vertical well can give you reservoir contact rivaling horizontal wells but
based on connectivity with the natural fracture system. Do a good job on the completion and you can win big.

This of course is dependent on the details of the field but I've always felt that the incredible production rates from ME fields had a lot to do with excellent natural fracture systems giving them fantastic reservoir contact for cheap.

We read about the SuperK fractures of course but I've not seen a lot of info on more normal fractures.

In any case advances in completion technology could well have played as big a role in the ME as horizontal drilling so I agree the situation is more complex however I think its best to focus on reservoir contact and how that has changed overtime and thats not a simple horizontal vs vertical issue but includes well completion and the details of the individual fields.

Completely different area but fracing and completions has played a huge role in the NG shale plays its the seldom discussed peer to horizontal technology. In any case if you throw in the complication if you will and consider the full nature of technical advances in the 1990's then the total fits better than simply focusing on horizontal.

And last but not least on top of this is of course advances in discovery technology again these play a huge role in optimizing well placement regardless of the nature of the well. Difficult to quantify but it shows that we had a huge technical revolution during the 1990's with horizontal drilling just one of the factors.

And last but not least good old fashioned artificial lift via water or gas injection become a lot more common during this period.

Basically I call this the silver bullet era where technology won every battle.

So you should expand the thesis to include technical advanced in general however I doubt it changes the conclusion horizontal wells help to identify this period but there is a lot more going on.

Hmmm. Is it possible that all of the Saudi drilling lately is not to frantically extract the last drop of oil but to slow local pumping rates in order to extend the lifetime of the wells at today's production rates?

That would be consistent with their rhetoric regarding long term investment as well as the their claim to have high "excess" capacity.

Just a thought. Any response from the knowledgeable around here? Rockman?

There is some truth in that, although most of their new wells this decade have been put in previously untapped parts of the respective fields:


When they put in an MRC well, they will throttle back some or all of the laterals to minimize potential problems such as water encroachment, thus keeping GOSP costs down. They likely count the full open flow as "capacity", of course. They do want to maximize recovery. They do want to extend the life of wells, in part to make sure they maximize recover from within their vicinity.

jj -- Just a guess but in general the slower you produce a given well the better the ult recovery. Lots of variables, of course. My WAG is multiple reasons: increase ult recovery, tap undrained areas and increase flow rates in limited portions of the reservoirs. Obviously some of these goals play against each other. But, as usual, lack of disclosure by the KSA makes many of our guesses futile.

But what is not in dispute is interesting, i.e., that they significantly increased their production & especially net oil exports from 2002 to 2005 as oil prices increased (pledging in early 2004 to support the $22-$28 OPEC price band), but then as oil prices continued to increase from 2005 to 2008, their net exports significantly fell, relative to their 2005 rate.

Two primary possibilities: (1) They were unable to increase their production & net oil exports after 2005 (relative to their 2005 annual rate), in much the same way that Texas was unable to increase its production after 1972 or (2) They decided to abandon their traditional role as the swing producer, coincidentally at about the same stage of depletion at which the prior swing producer, Texas, was unable to continue acting as swing producer.

Yes, Saudi Arabia is probably past their peak which is also supported by their frantic drilling activity over the last several years. We will get another glimpse at their maximum production rate the next time world supply and demand for crude oil intersect creating another oil price shock. For now, they are a swing producer restricting production by some unknown amount to force the price up to $70 / barrel to $80 / barrel.

There is an interlude between oil price shocks in the stair step descent model. Some people here think a deflationary spiral is self-reinforcing all the way to zero. I disagree arguing that the economy must be forced down by something. The Gaussian distribution of U.S. (presumably) U-3 job loss supports my contention. The economy is hit by a shock, adjusts to a new lower level and then attempts recovery. An article in the Feb. 23 Drum Beat indicates U.S. driving has been increasing since September 2009. We are probably entering the recovery phase which will demonstrate whether OPEC's stated spare capacity is real or imaginary.

The paper version of the Wall Street Journal has a whole section called The Long Road to an Alternative Energy Future or perhaps "Why Alternative Energy will be slow to make Inroads". This is a link to part of it (you may have to type in the title to get it).

The big print says,"Blame it on technology, infrastructure, or policy. But it's going to take many years for new technologies to make much of a dent in our current energy mix."

There are sections on nuclear, algal biofuels, CC&S, wind, solar, and electric vehicles.

It is about the time the slow scale up issues start getting mentioned!

Edit: This is a link to the complete Energy Report section.

About 7-8% of the total US energy supply presently comes from renewables. Assuming that the US is going to keep using almost 100 quads per year, then it is quite right that it would take a very, very long time for renewables to ramp up enough to supply all of it.

That is unlikely to be the way things turn out, however. I am more inclined to think that the US economy will be able to afford less energy in the future. Over the course of this century, I think it quite possible that we could descend to something closer to 25 quads per year. If that is the target, then renewables are already 1/3 of the way there, and getting the rest of the way there starts to look a lot more in the realm of possibility, even with a declining economy.

Over the course of this century, I think it quite possible that we could descend to something closer to 25 quads per year. If that is the target, then renewables are already 1/3 of the way there, and getting the rest of the way there starts to look a lot more in the realm of possibility, even with a declining economy.

+10 I couldn't agree more!

Which raises at least two very important questions:

1) How do we convince the majority of the people who are still stuck in the current paradigm to view a less energy intense civilization as desirable and doable? Despite the fact that there really is no other option.


2)How do we fight against the vested interests of that small but very powerful minority who are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent the vast majority who might be willing to change from getting out from under their control. I believe it will be a battle of epic proportions, and no, I don't necessarily mean guns and bombs, though there may be some of that as well. I think of it much more as a battle of world views.

I don't think it is a matter of convincing anyone. Reality will be convincing enough. When home heating energy prices rise high enough, everyone who can will be convinced that they have to do what they can to insulate, weatherstrip, change out old windows, etc. When motor fuel prices go high enough, those who can still afford to buy new cars will be looking for fuel-efficient ones, and everyone will be looking for ways to minimize their driving. Population densities will be forced to increase, and heated square feet per person shrink, when increasing numbers can no longer afford to own their home, and the remaining homeowners can only continue to afford their homes by taking in renters. This isn't going to be a more desirable future, but it will be doable because we'll all be doing what we have to do.

And yes, the vested interests and the top crust (call them TPTB if you want) will certainly be doing everything they can to try and keep BAU going as long as possible, all the way to the bitter end. They will be no help at all, and indeed are likely to make things much worse than they already will have to be. They will be about as successful as old King Canute was in stopping the tide. Folly in high places has a very long history.

OT, but poor old Canute has always suffered a bad press.

His intention was to demonstrate to his fawning minions that he was NOT all powerful. He was no god. Even the King of Mercia could not command the tide to halt in its tracks.

Think of him as a Carter figure, not a GWB.

"Reality will be convincing enough."

I would say rather that reality by itself is NEVER convincing enough. Reality does not explain itself. Humans must have stories and explanations at least available to them to make sense of even (or perhaps especially) the most extreme realities.

In the absence (and often even in the presence) of rational, science-based explanations, people will almost always jump to whatever wild explanation feeds their egos and conforms to their preconceptions and prejudices.

Magyar is right (as usual)--it is imperative to get explanations out there that have some relation to fact-based understandings of the world.

Reality by itself never explains itself.

How will the US possibly descend from 100 quads to 25 quads, you might ask?

There may be any number of pathways that we could take to get there. As a very rough, back of the envelope guess, I would say it is possible that we might get there through more-or-less equal measures of efficiency (doing the same end use with less energy input), concentration of end users (more passengers carried per VMT, higher population densities and reduced heated floor space per person, etc.), and just plain giving up and doing with less. This last one might actually account for the greatest share of the reduction, because it is the one that doesn't require any capital outlay.

You have some great solutions there WNC. However we need to remember Sevareid's Law: The chief cause of problems is solutions.

If the US cut energy consumption from 100 quads to 25 quads, we would have to do without a lot of goodies. People would have to drive a lot fewer cars a lot fewer miles. There would have to be millions of fewer cars on the road. And millions of fewer trucks because people would just not be buying as much anymore.

People would have to do without all those goodies that consume gasoline, like boats, ATVs, summer vacations, and all those other goodies that we could simply do without. However at least half the nation's workforce is engaged in the manufacture, selling and servicing all those goodies.

So now we have at least half the nation's workforce, out of work. Well, we can be sure those folks are going to be consuming a lot fewer quads of energy... and consuming a lot fewer calories of food.

Ron P.


To carry your point further, those newly unemployed people who used to make and service those goodies will not be paying taxes. I know lots of people in academia like nothing more than dramatic reduction in consumption. They piously preach against materialism and its effect on our environment and our quality of life. But very few of them realize that their salaries are predicated upon conspicuous consumption.

Poor people always have had to do without goodies. That is what it means to become poor.

Yes, employment is going to be a tough nut to crack. It would seem to me that looking at things from a macro level, there are only two big alternatives: either we at least partially unwind the industrial revolution, and go back to a less mechanized, more labor intensive economy, or else we divest ourselves of the "surplus labor" through one unsavory means or another. Some combination of both could also be among the possibilities, I suppose. Whether or not the first option is the pathway we take depends to a very great extent on the relative prices of energy and labor. We have been replacing labor with energy because our "energy slaves" have been a lot cheaper than human labor. If energy becomes scarce and expensive enough, this should no longer be the case. Whether the price differential between the two grows wide enough to offer human labor much of a living wage, though, remains to be seen. Times of labor surplus mean hard times for laborers, there really isn't any good way around that.

Poor people always have had to do without goodies. That is what it means to become poor.

Wow! I guess that explains everything. Really WNC, did you think about that sentence for more than two seconds before you wrote it down? "Poor" is a relative term. There is poor where you cannot afford a new TV when your old one goes on the fritz. Then there is the poor of watching your child die of starvation because you cannot afford to buy food. But most of the nation's poor falls somewhere between those extremes.

But if the unemployed falls to 50 percent of the workforce, twice what it was during the Great Depression, then much of the nation would fall into desperate poverty. The desperately hungry have not always been with us, not in any great numbers anyway.

What would happen if 50 percent of the workforce were out of work? Well, look at what happened during the Great Depression and you will get some idea. But only 25 percent of the workforce was unemployed then. And the population of the US was only 40 percent of what it is today. So we could expect things to be many, many times worse than during the Great Depression.

Ron P.

You are not going to be able to pile more people into the cities, what good will higher population densities do when no one has work to do?

The cities are going to burn to the ground. Less dense areas will be safer.

Less dense areas will be safer, and there will be a lot of urban arson if Detroit is any indicator. (Remember "Devils Night"? That is one of the main reasons why you see block after block of now-vacant lots.)

However, if the US is going to become more like a 3rd world country, then looking at what things are like in present 3rd world countries should be a useful indicator. What we see there is a massive influx into the cities, with very high population densities in the favelas.

There will be plenty of work for people to do in the cities at $0.50 - $2.00 per hour, especially if one doesn't have payroll taxes taken out of one's pay. It will be possible for workers to walk to those jobs, too, which is why the jobs will be where the workers are. Population densities will be high because at those rates of pay, people cannot afford more than a few square feet of shelter.

Yes. Even in Zimbabwe, even with people who are subsistence farmers - when times are tough, they head for the cities.

And US cities are not very dense by global standards. We like a lot of space, even the urbanites among us. There's plenty of room to densify.

Tainter points out that in societies as diverse as the Roman Empire and the Mayan civilization, people moved to the cities as collapse approached. In some cases, it was because it was too dangerous to live on an isolated farm or in a small village. In others, it was because food was handed out in the city.

In the long run, yes, I wouldn't be surprised to see the population disperse into rural areas. But I expect people to return to the cities first - perhaps for several decades.

Urbanization has occurred in the US. The process was accompanied with a great deal of social disfunction. It is occurring in the so-called developing world. The de-densification of non-rural populations (sub-urbanization) has been a more recent trend.

I expect the urban populations in North America will become more densely concentrated over the next few generations. In an era of increasingly scarce fossil fuel resources, it will make economic sense to deliberately allocate resources to food production and distribution to support efficiently concentrated populations. Those suburbs that can't find a useful economic role will wither as their ability to command scarce resources declines. I don't expect them to wither without protest, but their power can reasonably be expected to wane rapidly.

Unlike you, perhaps, I expect that the population will remain, overwhelmingly, in cities for centuries to come. Short of thermo-nuclear war, there is no reason to expect that agriculture will not remain highly mechanized. Humankind is not going to be without ways to concentrate energy for food production and distribution. It is simply ridiculous to assume that all the knowledge gained to date will be lost or become useless. Indeed it is more likely that the body of knowledge, in this case relating to food production/distribution, will become larger and more widely disseminated. Urban food production can increase, greatly, even without the high rise farm.

People will mostly continue to live in cities for the fundamental reason that in an environment of declining energy profit, labour will become ever more important economically. The efficient functioning of labour markets can most optimally occur in dense urban areas. This fact will support individual and collective decisions to make city life amenable.

I don't expect all knowledge will be lost...at least, not immediately.

Rather, I think it's the economics that will change. You'll have millions of people without jobs, while petroleum products - including fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides - will be growing more and more expensive. Eventually, it will simply become more economical to use human labor.

Is it as efficient? No. But if you have a lot of unemployed people on your hands, it can make economic sense, even if it's not more efficient.

Good point Leanan. A tractor sitting in a psture with an empty fuel tank isn't very efficient either. Just difficlt to see many folks making that transition. A Mother of Necessity to say the least.

As I've said before...the government could sell it as a jobs program. Japan is already doing something along those lines - sending unemployed young people out into the country to learn organic farming.

It could also be a "workfare" program...kind of like the old "poor farms."

I agree for the most part, but it won't quite be just a matter of going back to pre-FF days. We now know how to make biodiesel and equipment to run it. In the pre-FF days, farming had to rely to a considerable degree on horse power (literally), and around 20+% of farm land had to be dedicated to feed the horses. For farms of any size, a lot of the labor intensity went into tending the horses. Now, a farmer can dedicate only 5-10% of his acreage to produce all of the biodiesel he would need to run his equipment. That equipment needs maintenance, but not as much on a daily basis, year round, as horses do.

The bottom line is that I don't think that aggriculture in the post-FF world is going to necessarilly be quite as labor-intensive as it was in the pre-FF days, which means that we might indeed be able to support a greater percentage of the population off the farm than was the case in the earlier days.

I think we may have a different kind of agriculture in the future. More dense, and more labor intense.

I think we may have a different kind of agriculture in the future. More dense, and more labor intense.

Leanan, and the salary being food ?

In the pre-FF days, farming had to rely to a considerable degree on horse power (literally), and around 20+% of farm land had to be dedicated to feed the horses

Just switch to Moose power ;-) This was sent to me via email by a friend I don't know who to attribute it to but its worth a laugh!

Behold THE MINNESOTA CLYDESDALE Only in Nordern Minnesnowta! ....... This guy raised an abandoned moose calf with his Horses,

and believe it or not, he has trained it for lumber removal and Other hauling tasks. Given the 2,000 pounds of robust muscle, and the
Splayed, grippy hooves, he claims it is the best work animal he has. He Says the secret to keeping the moose around is a sweet salt lick,
Although, during the rut he disappears for a couple of weeks, but always comes home..... Impressive !!


Likely cheaper to feed as well :-)


I strongly suspect that that moose in harness is either dead and stuffed or so heavily sedated he can barely stand up.

Snopes says Photoshop. Look at the mirror-image log piles.

Sorry, didn't intend to sound flip or insensitive, I thought I was just stating a reality. The US is destined to become a much poorer nation, which means that a lot of people are going to have to give up a lot of things they have been used to. They might not like, and neither might you or I, but our preferences don't change the reality.

I doubt that we are going to sit around with 50% unemployed. What needs to happen is that the price of labor is being forced downward toward a global mean. Because wages are "sticky", elevated unemployment is a transitory artifact of that. Eventually, as the unemployment rates remain elevated, wage rates eventually must be forced downward. Things that artificially attempt to keep them up, like minimum wage laws and union contracts, will eventually have to give way to the tidal wave that is sweeping over our economy. If people are starving, they'll be willing to work for $2/hr, and if they can't find work legally for $2/hr, they'll find work illegally for $2/hr. Eventually so many people will be working illegally in the informal economy that those working legally in the formal economy will be the exception, and it will be too expensive for most employers to keep them on. When the government is too starved of taxes to pay for people to enforce the employment laws law, then employment laws will become a moot point.

How will people live on $2 or $1 or $0.5 an hour? Well, they won't be able to own cars, they'll have to walk, or just maybe ride a bike if they are lucky enough to already have one or find one cheap or "find" one belonging to someone else. They won't be able to afford to own a house, or even rent an apartment. They may be able to rent a room in someone's house, in exchange for doing some work for the owners in the evenings and weekends. They will have to eat pretty cheap - rice and beans type of fare, and maybe there will be some soup kitchens in operations. That is the way poor people live in 3rd world countries, if they are lucky enough to have work at all, and that is what is eventually in store for a lot of people in the US. BTW, we have some people living like this right now.

What would happen if 50 percent of the workforce were out of work?

Presumably you mean paid work.

I would say the conditions would be ripe for a great improvement in the quality of life, as work, both paid and unpaid, becomes more relevant to survival and thus more obviously meaningful. Millions will be relieved of their angst and all the related distress, which flows from wage slavery in enterprises that produce for manufactured needs. Of course, those who are ill-equipped to cope with change could get disoriented to various degrees. But stronger networks, largely initiated and maintained by re-invigorated voluntary associations, will help to integrate these floundering souls into the new natural resource reduced world.

Single income households would be the norm and, with voluntary organizations teaching home economics, more people would eat healthy homecooked lentil and veggie soups. etc etc., as the non-paid family workers get busy in the garden and kitchen. Health would begin to break out, eventually leading to a nation-wide, getting-healthier pandemic. Sickcare, itself, would become less commercialized, with a greater role for family and voluntary associations. More people will be able to die free of wasteful end of life medical intervention.

If the Great Depression taught any lesson, it is that, in tough times cooperation among people increases.

One almost certain outcome of a decommodification of much human activity: the material lifestyle of fundamentalist preachers will become more humble. In compensation God will grant them a more meaningful sex life.

Capitalism, with its constant need for expansion (thus the relatively recent commodification of meal preparation and consumption, for example) will wither on the vine, and over time will be replaced by one or several new economic systems. Social constructs, such as markets and education systems (it has always taken a village to educate a child) will, as today, through trial and error, find temporarily appropriate forms.

This period of ferment will create opportunities for creative minds. Society will find it beneficial to employ liberal arts graduates, social scientists and lawyers to help design and redesign these products of the human intellect.

Engineers will face the challenge of developing much more durable tools and infrastructure.

It's an exciting future that I know as well as you, Ron.

What would happen if 50 percent of the workforce were out of work?

I would say the conditions would be ripe for a great improvement in the quality of life, as work, both paid and unpaid, becomes more relevant to survival and thus more obviously meaningful.

I had to stop reading at that point. I have my standards you know. Only 25 percent were out of work during the Great Depression. Some begged for a living, some stole others just starved. The government finally pitched in and gave people make work jobs. But the quality of life hit rock bottom for the vast majority of people during the Great depression.

But with half the workforce out of work, the tax base would disappear. There would be no money for such programs as the CCC and WPA. But with half the US workforce out of work I would expect almost total anarcy.

Imagine half the people in America with no means of support, no means to feed their families, no medical care, no heat in the winter, then to that they would be much better off. Words fail me.

Ron P.

Actually, Ron, I believe it is your comprehension of history, of statistics (50% of what, 25% of what), and your imagination that is failing you.

It always strikes me as ironic that you who expresses such disdain for religion is such an 'end times' guy. I don't think you've ever really freed yourself from the apocalyptic evangelical dogma of your area and era.

There is no logical reason to conclude that, because the historical period marked by a continuously expanding use of fossil fuels has been stained by world wide wars, resource wars, industrialized genocide, mass starvation, ecological destruction and more, a period marked by a declining consumption of fossil fuels will be worse.

It is your messianic perspective that causes you to see the world darkly, I suspect.

Toil, with 7 Billion people in the world, when we begin the slide down, populations must come down. That is part of declining... Either voluntarily, by family planning and birth control, or by starvation, the numbers will be reduced. Until we reach a point of sustainability.

In fact, with the past as a guide, we will overshoot, and drop to levels near 500 Million to 750 Million befrore we slowly increase to whatever is the real level the earth can support.

The only question is, really, how will we get to that 500-750 Mil. Will it be by war and anarchy, which would be violent, fast, and messy. Or, by starvation, slower but still messy. And, starvation would bring out violence, as people do whatever they feel is necessary to feed themselves and their families or tribes. The third, and only other option, would be what China has been trying to do, which is mandatory limitation of family size.

And, no, the period of declining growth and die off will not necessarily be worse than the wars of the 20th Century. OTOH, it could be. It could be.


Long term there undoubtedly will have to be an adjustment of global populations back down to a sustainable level. I am not so certain as to what that level will prove to be, nor the pathway that we will take to get there, nor the time frame. While a quick crash and die off is not by any means out of the realm of possibility, I remain unconvinced that this is the only possible scenario that will get our population down, or that it is necessary. I am also totally unconvinced that such population reduction must be proportionately uniform across the globe. The sad but true fact is that life is unfair, and some places - like North America - have just been blessed with greater land and resources with a smaller population. The populations in these areas will undoubtedly fare considerably better than will populations in less fortunate areas.

"North America - have just been blessed with greater land and resources with a smaller population.'

And of course a certain part of North America has been "blessed" with a world empire by means of which it extracts over a quarter of the world's resources for one twentieth of the worldsnpopulation.

Now Zap, you must be expressing the apocalyptic views instilled in you by the religious views of the area you grew up in. As toilforoil so aptly expressed one cannot possibly be an atheist or agnostic and also believe, at the same time, that the world cannot support at least 9 billion people even after peak oil.

If you are a doomer it is because of your religious heritage dammit. Any fool should know that. Hell even toilforoil realizes that simple fact.

Ron P.

It always strikes me as ironic that you who expresses such disdain for religion is such an 'end times' guy. I don't think you've ever really freed yourself from the apocalyptic evangelical dogma of your area and era.

Whether or not Ron is "right" or "wrong" in his views, your invocation of apocalyptic dogma as an ad hominem attack is cheap.

It is an overdone, crappy way to respond to the "doomer" view. You've heard of Godwin's Law? Online discussions tend to devolve into accusations of Nazism. The first party to call the other a Nazi loses.

There ought to be a corollary law: the first person who calls the other an "apocalypt," an "end-timer," etc. outside of an explicitly religious discussion, ought to be bopped over the head with a bible (hardcover).

There are a few popular peak oil commentators I no longer give the time of day to, because of their incessant invocations of "apocalyptic" thinking in their (usually boring) dissertations on the subject of the "post-peak" world. Their arguments are usually constructed along "I'm right because those other commentators are apocalyptic" lines.

A few observations:

1. The "apocalypse" (which really just means "unveiling" in Greek) is accompanied by the physical destruction of the world, usually by fire. No peak oil commentator that I know of has made any such claim.

2. Biblical "end times" thinking is inextricably linked with the coming of/ return of a "messiah" (Hebrew for "anointed," "christos" in Greek). Peak oilers acknowledge no such messiah. Hubbert isn't even hailed as a saint!

3. The "apocalypse" grows out of Old Testament "prophecy" (really "Hebrew Bible" prophecy). Peak oil views have nothing to do with biblical writings.

The world is not going to end; no one ever said it would. There will be no messiah. There will be no fire from the sky, no beast rising from the sea. Old Testament writings have nothing to do with Hubbert's original thesis. Ezekiel, Daniel, John the Apocalypt, et al. were WRONG.

Mike B, you are WRONG. I am a certified doomer who worships the prophet of the Oilpocalypse Richard Duncan. In a mighty flash of anger the prophet will EMP the electric grid and his prophecy will come true. In 7 days nothing will rise from the ashes as man can live by electricity alone and not by the sweat of his brow. :)

I can see in re-reading my post where the tone might be misconstrued, but I can assure you that I intended no malice. If I had I would have started by making fun of Ron's visual impairment, you know the one where he only sees every second paragraph. His other software appears to have a similar impairment because it apparently does not see whole paragraphs when it forms block quotations.

Rest assured that I was only trying to tickle Ron's funnybone.

You attributed to some peak oil commentators the remark, "I'm right because those other commentators are apocalyptic", but didn't identify who they were, which doesn't help me avoid them. I don't know anything and even less about the future, so I try to avoid people who might lead me astray.

And we won't have time to sit around all day and screw around with our computers on the internet. I wonder how many here have really had to do any serious physical labor, say, in a very hot climate. Under an extreme scenario, I agree that we are not going to see what will be perceived as increased quality of life. Frankly, I am pretty damn happy with my quality of life now, thank you. And I live what I like to think is a fairly frugal and moderate existence. But we ain't seen nothin' yet.

I provisionally think that we are headed for third world status and I agree that life is going to be extremely unpleasant for most of us. Having said that we will probably be much better off if we don't simply drift into the future and let circumstances turn this into an extremely ugly and fascistic nation. We are a violent country and, we could become more exponentially violent and vicious in the future.

I don't think the Darwinian, neoliberal, free market approach to the economy is going to cut it in the future. Continuing the current trend towards greater disparity between the rich and the poor is not going to be a viable model for a country of people that are barely getting by. Once people realize the American dream is over, all hell will break loose unless there is a feeling that most people are sharing the pain.

On a personal level, it is a lifestyle choice that works for me to become increasingly frugal with living arrangements which minimize my consumption level and consequent impact on the environment and the carbon footprint. I recognize, however, that we do not have a society that is organized in such a way that it can handle such an approach on a macro level. Most jobs as we think of them now will go away. What will replace them? That is the challenge.

The key is that the possibility of a third world scenario is not on any of the powers that be radar screens. They continue to hawk the growth is good and forever scenario. Thinking seriously about the alternative will help mitigate its effects.

How do we cut our resource consumption in half or more without causing mass starvation, misery, and early death? If one rejects the notion that we even have to go there, then one cannot seriously address the question. How do we construct a society where people's livelihoods aren't so dependent upon the production and consumption of crap? So far, all I hear is crap is good, crap is holy, and crap must be continued into the indefinite future.

Ron P. You seem sure that we have a choice. Obviously, if we can simply choose to maintain BAU, without catastrophic consequences for the planet, then it is a no brainer. We vote for non suffering and continued abundance.

"Poor" is a relative term.

Yep. I used to work at a homeless shelter (in WNC oddly enough). All the time we threw away food - once it went out on a plate and came back we had to throw it out. These men had no homes so they were poor, but that food would not have gone to waste in Haiti when I was there and certainly not now.

I had friends who went to Zaire as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat paid much less for their volunteers than most missionaries got. While formerly middle class, when they stepped off the plane they became relatively Rich and relatively poor (depending on which group of people they were relating to) which was a bit of a mental adjustment for them.

As long as their are class distinctions those at the bottom will be poor. What matters at first is the mental stress of moving down a class or two, but after a bit all that matters is getting what you need to live another day. We likely will all get to experience that if we live long enough.

Written by Darwinian:
What would happen if 50 percent of the workforce were out of work? Well, look at what happened during the Great Depression and you will get some idea. But only 25 percent of the workforce was unemployed then. And the population of the US was only 40 percent of what it is today. So we could expect things to be many, many times worse than during the Great Depression.

During the 1930's, only the husband typically had a job. Now both spouses typically are employed. Reducing the number of employed household members from two to one is less disastrous than reducing it to zero. Unemployment (U-6) increasing to ~50% would be a little worse than during the Great Depression. Increasing it to ~40% would probably be about the same.

Blue -- I suspect an even bigger concern then the actual unemployment count would be the drop in tax revenue. Perhaps a family could get by on one salary but how about the fed budget and Social Security. Folks have been predicting a bad future for SS just based upon current benefit schedules and future contributions. What if we see a huge drop in SS contributions at the same time as demand shoots up. That's seems to be one major difference between the Great Depression and now: fewer folks were dependent upon the gov't for their well being back then. And the Fed budget just supported the basics back then. Look what's happening now with the Feds and the states with revenue reductions. In the worse of future these may be referred to as "the good ole days". And then you have that deadly feed back loop: all gov't agencies (the largest single US employer) starts laying off due to budget problems which reduces revenue even more. And with folks having less income they buy less and businesses make less profit and their tax contributions drop.

Of course, the Feds could just print more money. But if that's a painless solution why have we been paying taxes all these decades? Pay no taxes and let the gov't just keep those printing presses humming. Hmmm....wonder what that inflation would have looked like.

There are almost always examples to look at in such cases. In the case of just printing money to pay off national debts, just look at Germany in the 1920s. And of course today there is Zimbabwe.

I read awhile back that the share of the national debt for each taxpayer, not each person, is one million two hundred thousand dollars. That debt will never be paid off, not in current dollars anyway. So the debt must either be defalted or inflated away. I suspect the latter will be the case.

Ron P.


This is one of your most perceptive gems. I'd looked at the $400K individual numbers and said "if I lived in a tent, that would be easy enough to pay off", but when you make $1M per taxpayer there are only a few percent of the earners that could conceivably pay their share.

I've long maintained that there will be some form of default (and inflation is perhaps the worst, as it is slow and punishes savers and lenders rather than borrowers), but your simple comment makes it clearly inevitable.

Hi Ron,

As usual your head is as hard as the business end of a hammer-and you remain as diplomatic as ever. ;)Read this as simply an observation, perhaps even a compliment.I'm uncommonly hard headed myself.

But your grasp of the facts as they exist cannot be disputed.Your conclusions, however, might be a little extreme.

I myself tend to believe that as far as the vast middle part of the world is concerned, you are probably right in your predictions.The people living in the odd corners of the world who still haven't tasted of the cup of industrialisnm will most likely go on as the have been going on for centuries.

I can't bring myself to believe that total collapse is i the cards for the US and other rich western countries with substantial resources remaining and populations that are not (so far at least)really out of hand.

Now I can very easily see that Mad Max is a possibility, and spend considerable time getting ready for that possibility- just like the average guy spends time earning money for health insurance to cover the heart attack that he probably won't suffer.

But it seems to me that it is far more likely that countries like the US , France, Canada,Brazil, etc, will pull thru , barring bad luck.I expect that we are in some some very tough times, that we will see our standard of living drop a hell of a long way , sss denied to those with serious assets, the plug pulled on Grandma,tens of millions permanently on a truly subsistence level of welfare perhaps- or on make work jobs of some sort.Digging out the shoulders of city streets and createing a bike lane by hand seems like a possible job of the sort I have in mind.

But barring outright WWIII I don''t see that collapse is necessarily a FOREGONE CONCLUSION,given the likelihood that ff supplies will decline gradually over decades.A lot can be done in ten years in terms of conservation , efficiency , and employment adjustments once the necessity is obvious to everybody.

Of course I must admit that my personal estimate is that widespread resource wars are inevitable-I don't pretend to have any idea how they will play out however, other than that once the tv is either banned from the battle field, or ignoed, and the modern western powers either put on the mailed gloves for a flat out fight( or take them off for a to the end brawl , as you like your metaphors) the odds are favorable for the NATO countries.A WT Sherman type campaign initiated by a major power would wipe any one of the little countries that seem so tough in very short order.

All in all ,I think WNC is at least as credible in his conclusions as you are.

I'm old enough to remember pasting a 3 cent stamp on an envelope. Now, a stamp costs 44 cents, which means that in just those fifty years or so the US dollar has inflated away about 93% of its purchasing power. All this in a time when we never had hyperinflation, and just a few years of low-double-digit inflation in the 70s. I'm sure that it has always been the thinking of the power elites of both parties that the national debt doesn't matter because it would be inflated away to almost nothingness over the course of the next century.

Of course, if that is the way it is going to be, a lot of foreigners have got to be asking themselves why they should be continuing to invest so much of their wealth in such a wasting asset?

Yes, once the rest of the world (and especially China) gets tired of giving us free money to pay for things we can't afford ourselves, then the FedGov will learn what a REAL budget crisis actually looks like. Sooner or later - and my guess is probably before the end of this decade - the FedGov is going to have no choice but to start making huge cutbacks.

As I have said elsewhere on this thread, I see the US defense budget being cut 50%. The US will have to disengage from the eastern hemisphere and pull behind a maritime defense perimeter; this will enable us to cut the USN/USMC by 1/3, the USAF by 1/2, and the Army by 2/3.

As for Social Security, we are going to have to give up on the idea of benefits being linked to lifetime earnings. Benefits will be flat, minimal, and means-tested. If you don't have any other source of income, then you will get just enough to barely keep you alive, and no more. There will be a big push to convert over to in-kind benefits - food in government cafeterias, shelter in government dormitories, health care at government clinics. It will also increasingly be felt that if you are an able-bodied adult, then you should be working for your upkeep, that government benefits should be limited just to those who have become physically disabled to the point that they can no longer do any useful work.

As for health care, whatever they come up with in Dreamland-inside-the-Beltway will not last long. Eventually we'll be forced to scrap Medicare and the rest of it and come up with a new, cheaper system. Those with chronic, end-of-life conditions can expect to fare much more poorly under the future system than they are now.

Although sounding cruel, Social Security is paid by workers to unproductive members of society. Reducing or eliminating it would be beneficial to the workers and government. In the future Social Security may be paid based on a minimal level of existence rather than the amount paid in. If the government collapses, then benefits will cease as during the fall of the Soviet Union. The elderly will have to move in with their children, be adopted, become wards of the state or die. Deflating debt sucks.

Laying off government employees does not create a positive feedback that deflates the economy all the way to zero. The economy will adjust to a new lower level. When things happen that decrease the birth rate (can't afford a baby) and increase mortality (no money for necessities or war), those extreme negative feedbacks will halt deflation or make humans extinct. Social and entitlement programs are a drag on the economy, but they will be eliminated, along with the feeble, before humans become extinct.

As Bill Mollison says, getting people to eat out of their own back yards, will reduce the amount of food that needs to be trucked in from elsewhere.

I mean look at my own city for example. Most people live in houses with yards. If each yard was to be intensively planted for food crops, with water catchment to provide water over our hot summers( without using city water, which we don't do for our garden). Pushing for as many food producing plants as possible, will reduce the needs for all the things shipped in from elsewhere.

Education on changing our diets so that we don't have to have Sea Bass from Hawaii every thursday at Ye-ole-fine-dining-r-us places.

Increasing our use of Locally produced meats and dairy, and educating people on where their food really comes from. You'll get that as you start to grow your own food locally in your yards.

Then again I know that Wally-world might brand me and my mindset folks as bad for the American way of life and I should be tar and feathered out of town.

But as FF prices go up, we will see more people growing their own foods again, or for the first time.

Can't I have high hopes?

BioWebScape a design project for a better future.

A Wal-Mart example. I looked at some generic baked goods (doughnuts or something) and saw "Made in Canada".

I live well over 1,000 miles from the nearest border crossing to that very nice nation. Those baked goods did not travel in a straight-line to me.

Baked goods can go stale unless LOADED with preservatives. 5 days seems an absolute minimum from oven to shelf given WalMart operations. More likely week plus.

WalMart is a "truck only" operation.

There are world class bakeries within long walking distance (@ 9 & 12 blocks) of that store.

Not much hope for Walmart,


There are world class bakeries within long walking distance (@ 9 & 12 blocks) of that store.

Not much hope for Walmart,

Perhaps Walmart will reorganize into a wheat co-op and provide wheat grown locally or shipped in via electrified rail and sell it to the bakeries, but you are right, their current business model is a bit stale if not yet moldy ;-)


Oh, and 9-12 blocks doesn't quite fall into the "long walking distance" category I'd put 3 to 5 miles into that category, but still a doable walking distance, it takes me about 40 leisurely minutes to walk about 3 miles with a small backpack.

I'd say it all has to do with the weather. In the rain or extreme heat or cold (above 90F/below 5F) anything over a mile is quite a distance. A bicycle with a trailer works wonders. I have a child carrier attached to the bike and i can fill it with 50 pounds in groceries and it hardly slows me down.

Alan -

I'm much closer to Canada up here in NY state but the lunacy of this free trade nonsense knows no bounds...

I was in a grocery store the other day and saw a bag of rock salt (halite) for de-icing that was proudly displaying that it was a "Product of Canada".

NY is home to several large salt mines yet we are importing salt from Canada. The fact that this makes any sense (economically or otherwise) tells me all I need to know about how very screwed up things have become...

Edit: BTW we do the same thing with apples here in New York - go to a store other than a farm market and good luck finding apples grown in NY - and we grow more apples than any state aside from Washington... madness !


NY is home to several large salt mines yet we are importing salt from Canada.

Canada is both an importer and exporter of salt. It produces 4% of the world's salt, but only has 0.5% of the world's population. It could be completely self-sufficient in salt, but isn't because of the cost of shipping it across the country. Salt is expensive to ship long distances, so in general the salt supply in both the US and Canada comes from the nearest, biggest mine - which may be in either country.

It's similar to oil. Although it has huge oil reserves, Canada is both an importer and exporter of oil because it's not cost-effective to pipeline oil all the way across the country. Canada's East Coast is closer to the oil fields of South America and Africa than to its own Western oil fields. A lot of people (particularly Europeans) have no real concept of how big Canada is.

I like to point out to Eastern Canadians that the national capital in Ottawa is closer to Cuba than it is to the oil capital in Calgary.

the national capital in Ottawa is closer to Cuba than it is to the oil capital in Calgary.

Is that politically speaking, or "as the crow flies", or both ?


Well, it is geographically true that Ottawa is closer to Cuba than to Calgary. At times in the past it has seemed to be politically true as well. However, at this point in time, it is the Conservative Party that is in power, so it is less politically true than usual.

As a Canadian who sometimes visits the America., I am amazed at some of the overpriced baked goods in the U.S.

Why is bread so expensive in the U.S.?

If it was cheaper there wouldn't be a way for the import to compete.

A loaf of French bread that was baked last night/early this morning costs me US$1.37 at the corner grocery store 4 blocks away (I think that is Can$1.37 :-)

Is that expensive ?


That's a decent price. In Vermont, it was like $2.50

I bake my own for less than $1 per pound. But my kids like the $2 store bought bleached-white foam.

I just wonder if gasoline will be rationed or will price set consumption? Will we see that $10 gasoline? In the end the personal auto is toast and the odds of anything other then bicycles and walking shoes replacing them are slim. Replacing 250 million cars with batteries in a country that is trillions and trillions in debt, with jobs becoming scarcer...not likely.

I suspect that it will be a combination of the two. There will be rationing at a wholesale level to assure that the military, essential public services, agriculture, critical industries, bulk freight transport, etc., get top priority. What little is left over will be released to the retail level, where it will be rationed by price.

Yes, there will be a lot of people getting around on foot or by bicycle. Also a lot of neighborhood taxis, jitneys, and shuttle buses, many improvised and operating in the "unofficial economy". Those who still have cars and can afford some fuel (or are lucky enough to have gotten themselves NEVs or EVs - either built-to-purpose or conversions) will defray part of their costs by charging for passengers and doing pick-up and delivery services for their neighbors for a charge.

Look for a return to neighborhood milk delivery, and a good deal more of such delivery routes besides. These may just go to neighborhood drop-off points rather than door-to-door; ditto for mail and parcels. You'll walk down the street in the morning to a neighbor's garage, set up as the dairy drop-off center, then maybe to a different neighbor's garage in the evening to pick up your mail, parcels, and other stuff that has been dropped off. Some people will bring in some money to help make a living by contracting to serve as these drop-off centers.

Long commutes will eventually have to go by the wayside. It might take two or three decades, but people will eventually have to shuffle and sort themselves out so that they live as close as possible to their workplaces. There will be some mass transit serving the higher-density areas, but it will be perpetually inadequate.

Vacation travel will go back to being the preserve of the tiny upper crust. Most people won't have "vacations"; there will be holiday festivals in their local community, that will be about the only relief from daily drudgery that most people will get - as has been the case for most people since the neolithic age.

The upper crust won't travel long distance by rail or any sort of land transport; too slow, and too dangerous. They will travel by air, which will become hugely expensive and the exclusive preserve of the wealthy; instead of large airliners flying regularly scheduled routes, air travel will be by smaller charter planes - there will be services to match up people needing to fly to the same destination at around the same time, and a charter plane will be lined up to fly them. Airports will become heavily guarded armed camps, and passengers will be transported to and from the airports in armed convoys. The rest of us will look on, maybe cowering behind cover while they pass.

They will travel by air, which will become hugely expensive and the exclusive preserve of the wealthy ... Airports will become heavily guarded armed camps, and passengers will be transported to and from the airports in armed convoys. The rest of us will look on, maybe cowering behind cover while they pass.

If it comes to this, I would anticipate a good black market in Stinger missiles.

"If I had a rocket launcher...some sonofabitch would die" -- Bruce Cockburn

Maybe. And I wouldn't want to hang around anywhere close to the people with the Stingers. In 3rd world countries like that, the upper crust always arrange to have some means or another of returning fire, or more likely, pre-empting.

We're likely to have some "interesting times" ahead.

Air travel is mostly done for if oil prices go where I think they will.There simply aren't enough rich people to keep the skies full of jets.

And while somebody might live very well behind a fence and a gate without the attention of the public being focused on them , jets coming and going are another matter.

I expect that if representative govt lasts, large scale air travel will be taxed out of existence not too long after it becomes too expensice for the typical flier of today to fly to Disney world or to see Grandma.

So far as I am concerned , it's way past time we started collecting taxes on jet fuel and quit spending money on airports.

Long commutes will eventually have to go by the wayside. It might take two or three decades, but people will eventually have to shuffle and sort themselves out so that they live as close as possible to their workplaces. There will be some mass transit serving the higher-density areas, but it will be perpetually inadequate.

J6P is not going to let go without serious pain the link below is a most interesting peek into the mindset of the poor schmucks who are going to continue to cling desperately to BAU I think that for these people it will literally kill them, they will not be able or willing to adapt to the new reality.


Notice that the main reason this guy is doing this is to keep health insurance for his family. Our stupid employment-linked health finance system is driving all sorts of really crazy behavior. If they simply severed that connection and freed all the people in each community to pool together to buy their health care, that one thing would do more good than all the thousands of pages that they have come up to in the House and Senate. Probably won't happen, until there are so few people left working jobs that come with health insurance that their displeasure really won't matter.

Gasoline will be 'rationed' by use of taxes, both on state and Federal levels. This will be a last-ditch effort to finance state spending, and a way to keep from 'raising taxes' on the Federal.

Further, anything that uses oil in its manufacture will have similar taxes added, for the same purposes. This will be spun as a good thing because it "taxes use of the dwindling resources."

Of course, by the time these increases are widespread, it will be years too late to accomplish their stated ends. It will make the politicians feel good, though. And, it might even fool most people most of the time.


It throws people out of the paid labour pool. It may result in things like more at home childcare by actual parents, cooking from scratch, repairing your own car or home.

Bargaining and relationship building (if you don't have fiat currency) can take up a lot of time, certainly more time than swiping a card.

Many of the energy inputs that we get from fossil fuels will have to be replaced by human power- and not humans from China, ones who live within walking distance.

So... maybe one breadwinner per family and one handling the home front (and before you call me sexist, I am a former stay at home dad, and there are button bones cooling off on the stove upstairs heading for a stew later.)


This isn't really that hard to figure out. Spending is said to rise to match income; it will drop as well. Energy spending will have to drop, if availability is not there. So, when the available energy drops from 100 to 25, there will be no choice. End of story!

Of course, it seems obvious to me, and probably to you, that this is going to happen, and we choose to prepare. Many, perhaps most, will look right at the elephant in their living room, and say it isn't there. Until it steps on them.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that it is not our job to educate the world. We should be assisting each other in preparation for what is to come. That may be in advising direction of education for our children [in my case, grandchildren], passing along knowledge on sustainable agriculture, essential crafts, and the like.

Of course we need to provide necessary understanding and education to others; it is up to them to accept that. When they do, and there are sufficient numbers, perhaps we can do more to prepare for the problems our world will face together. To date, there is not much indication that they want to listen; they prefer to hear what sounds good. "What," they are asked, "do you believe? The hallucinations of BAU, or their lying eyes?"

Good luck to all of us in convincing people to do without many or most of their toys.


People would have to do without all those goodies that consume gasoline, like boats, ATVs, summer vacations, and all those other goodies that we could simply do without. However at least half the nation's workforce is engaged in the manufacture, selling and servicing all those goodies.


How many people could find work in manufacturing things that consume much less or no gasoline, like (electric) bikes and PHEV's, EV's ? How much gasoline could be saved if people economize their driving habits and if many move closer to work ? That are the questions that keep coming back to me allready a long time and it is still not clear to me how this will work out and how much problems it can solve. One thing is for sure: a lot will depend on how fast oil-exports will be going down.
Two days ago there was on Drumbeat a comment that Argentina will go from oil-exporter to importer maybe in 2015, Mexico maybe in 2016 (though 2014 is mentioned also) and Denmark maybe in 2017. What is thought about the 5 biggest exporters is known from westexas, but what about the others, apart from Argentina, Mexico and Denmark ? Is there a source with this data for all the oil-exporters ?

Couple of points. (please don't get me wrong I'm all for renewables and electrification of transport and the Bloombox looks like a silver bb)

Of that 100 Quads
The contribution of Solar, Wind, Landfill Gas, Geo and the like is @ 1%


The vast majority of the balance is oil, gas and coal @ 85%+ and the majority of that is imported.
The 7%-8% renewables number is mainly hydroelectric and wood waste to energy and are concentrated in a few geographical areas.

Renewables which the transportation sector presently uses is hence very small.
The hydroelectric sector expansion potental in total quads is probably not large.

I just want to make the point that even at vastly reduced consumption, if we figure a large amount of the reduction is demand destruction resulting from ELM and outbidding for imported oil, the percentage change will likely not come from a large increase in total amount of hyrdo, wind, and solar in the short run but from an increase in the relative percentages of domestic coal, oil, and natural gas consumed.

Also I am aware that even these markets are subject to the laws of capitalism and commerce and therefore domestic production is not guaranteed to be consumed domestically.

As I said in another response in this thread, I agree that the potential for hydropower expansion is pretty limited. However, we presently only import a net 0.11 quads, almost all from Canada, and there is certainly considerable potential to increase that - at least a half quad I would think, maybe as much as 1.5 quads?

Wind is presently a half a quad, but that is ramping up pretty quick. Are four doublings out of the question before we level off at our 25 quad target, over a course of maybe 50-75 years? That doesn't sound too extreme to me, yet that would bring us up to 8 quads from wind. Challenging, but possible IMHO.

Solar is a mere 0.09, and I would not assume that PVs will ever be more than a niche product and contribute a very big deal to the total. Solar thermal is another matter altogether. There is considerable potential for deployment of solar thermal (for both water and space heating) on both residences and commercial buildings. Solar thermal is not super high-tech, and is not all that hugely expensive, so I suspect that if any renewable energy technology is deployed on a widespread grass roots basis, that will be it. We've got about 8 quads of natural gas that right now is going to residential and commercial buildings, mostly for space and water heating. Is it unreasonable to think that solar thermal might enable that figure to be cut in half? Not IMHO, which suggests that it should be within the realm of possibility to ramp solar up to 4 quads.

Geothermal presently supplies a tiny 0.35 quads, most of it for electrical generation at a few locations. Geothermal heat pumps are an up and coming technology, but they are very expensive, and will probably be cost-prohibitive for most households. On the other hand, if we started shifting to district heating systems, considerable economies of scale in geothermal heat pump technologies could be achieved. It may take us 50-75 years to get there, but I don't see 2 quads as being out of the realm of possibility for geothermal.

Biomass presently supplies 3.88 quads, much from wood waste, some from ethanol and biodiesel, and some from biogas (methane - the forgotten biofuel). Given our massive landmass, it should be well within the realm of possibility to at least double biomass energy production, and that would bring us up to 8 quads.

Add in 1 quad for new oceanic technologies (tidal, wave, thermal gradient) that may come on line within the next half century or so, and there you are with a full 25 quads.

I don't know if this is what we WILL do, but I continue to insist that we COULD do this.

(All figures from Lawrence Livermore 2008 US energy use flowchart)

Best hopes for beating our swords into plowshares then. I think anything less limits our time and resources beyond retrieval.

Was looking at these the other day! Wa State just became #4 in windpower

Put one in my backyard anytime.

This is what I find frustrating about future scenarios tossed out around here.

Can you even imagine an America going from 100 quads to 25 quads?

That is collapse. That is massive unemployment, homeless, sick and dieing...

Oh but I suppose the wealthy will still be putting up solar panels and buying prius.

Not to worry folks it will all work out for you as long as you have prepared.

The rest of you just go quietly off to an underpass and die peacefully. BS!

I can imagine the US going down to 25 quads, but it is a pretty bleak and dismal image. The 21st century is not going to be very fun, I'm afraid.

The idea that society will simply downsize as we descend from peak is wishful thinking at best. The whole system is based on certain basic premises that will vanish at some threshold of energy restriction. One will affect the other until the system as a whole grinds to a halt in a collapse. It isn't possible to have millions of people that are starving while others fly to Rome to dine on Calamari - no, people will riot for food and cause mahem for whatever else they want and the basic infrastructure of food system delivery will stop.

Then we transition into a Kunstler style living situation. How many will make it through to those small town villages is anyone's guess.

It isn't possible to have millions of people that are starving while others fly to Rome to dine on Calamari...

Really? Isn't that the awful daily reality in substantial portions of Africa, or Haiti, or some other places, year in and year out? And doesn't the basic supply infrastructure soldier on at most times in most of those places - for those who can afford it?

Paul, those countries took decades to work their way into that situation. In fact, they started out desperately poor and only a few became very rich.

In the US it is a different situation entirely. Here we have all been rich by Sub-Sahara African standards. If 90 percent of the population were suddenly cast out and into raw nature to survive, most of us would starve. But some would survive. They would be armed to the teeth and take their survival from those that have kept theirs, the rich. The rich would suffer the same fate as the Russian Aristocracy just after their revolution. The poor would invade the rich and throw them into the streets with everyone else.

No, it is not possible to have such a society here in the US, in my opinion anyway. All hell would break loose.

Ron P.

Just for the record, there is nothing sudden implied in the scenario I've been sketching out. What I am talking about is a decline that extends over the better part of this century. It is going to be the children and grandchildren of today's working-age people who are going to have to be coping with that 25-quad economy - although all of us alive today are going to be along for at least part of the ride downhill.

We could get there essentially tomorrow with little effect on quality of life, arguably some increases.

Just put four people in all those cars that still have one in them, and put a large number of others in busses, bikes and sneakers.

Move meat from a once-a-meal to a once-a-week, once-a-month or once-a-year treat (or go veggie or vegan).

Turn off lights, especially much urban lighting that does little but create non-dark night skies.

Turn down the thermostat.

Give up on pretty much any long distance travel.

Slightly longer term:
Super insulate everything
abandon or split into multiple units the mcmansions
denser populations in urban areas
eat the rich
vastly reduce the military industrial complex
grow gardens and urban farms everywhere
ship shit back to the soil (by bike!)
Get food and almost all other resources locally

More reasons to consider relocating to Texas Ron. We just don't allow such rude behavior here. Those who can't control themselves will just be escorted to the OK border (where the probably originated anyway).

Seriously, it's still difficult to imagine such a nightmare life developing in the US but OTOH it also difficult to imagine society evolving quickly enough to deal with the worst potential realities of PO. But if matters really get that bad I do believe Texas might be one of the better safe havens. Better...not necessarially good though.

As I said, I am not talking about tomorrow, or even this decade. Many of us here might very well have already passed away before the US gets to the bottom half of the decline. It is going to be tough for the kids, though.

Probably so WNC. But I keep looking over my shoulder for some Black Swan that might jump that time line 30 or 40 years. Not likely, but isn't that the nature of a Black Swan?

Yes, I'm always careful to preface my remarks by acknowledging that the most catastrophic of the doomer collapse scenarios are possible. Nevertheless, I feel it is important to show people that other scenarios are possible as well - scenarios that have us merely declining down to sustainability rather than crashing in a massive die-off. I don't know what actually is going to happen, but I'm pretty sure that nobody else does, either. I do know that there actually is something to the old biblical phrase: "Without a vision, the people perish".

Yeah, we ship 'em your way when we can. You know what we say -- if they make it across the river the IQ in both states goes up!

The problem with this thesis is that all energy is not equal or interchangeable.

I think it quite possible that we could descend to something closer to 25 quads per year. If that is the target, then renewables are already 1/3 of the way there, and getting the rest of the way there starts to look a lot more in the realm of possibility, even with a declining economy.

Of those 25 quads, 15-17 would need to go towards agricultural production; 3-4 would go towards national defense; and 5-8 towards resource extraction. This would leave less than 0 quads for the entire economic activity and maintenance of 300 million people(heading towards 400 million).

Also 95% of the...

About 7-8% of the total US energy supply presently comes from renewables.

...is hydropower which is not likely to grow substantially. All the other renewables represent less than 0.5 quad. In other words, we have a long way to go.

According to this chart from Lawrence Livermore labs, in 2008 renewables (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass) contributed 7.28 quads to a total energy use of 99.2 quads. Hydro was 2.45 quads, which is a substantial chunk, but nowhere near 95% of that 7.28 quads.

Yes, you are right that the growth potential for hydroelectric in the US is limited. However, there is considerable growth potential for imported hydroelectric from Canada. Wind and biomass could ramp up quite a bit, as could solar thermal, especially for domestic and commerical water heating. If we were to start developing district heating systems in higher density neighborhoods, then those could use geothermal on a much more cost-effective basis than can be the case for individual households, and thus there is potential for growth there as well. Not even on the chart yet are any oceanic renewables, such as tidal, wave, or thermal gradient, yet these should eventually be good for a quad or two at least.

I'm not sure where you are getting your 15-17 quads for agricultural production. Presumably that is in with the industrial category, and it only uses 23.94 quads total; surely agriculture doesn't take up that big a chunk of it. In any case, US agriculture is going to have to become much less energy intensive, and that includes all the way up the supply chain to the end consumer. We've talked a very great deal about how that can happen, I am not going to bother to recap those discussions here. I am convinced that it is certainly possible to considerably reduce the energy use of the US agricultural system and still feed our population.

The military are going to have to scale way down. We can't really afford the military establishment that we have now, and we certainly won't be able to as we decline economically. I suspect that within the next decade or so, the US will be forced to begin to disengage from the eastern hemisphere and retreat behind a maritime defense perimeter: mid-Atlantic, mid-Pacific, mid-Arctic, and Caribbean. This retreat will enable us to initially downscale our military by 50%, with the USN/USMC being cut by roughly 1/3, the USAF by 1/2, and the Army by 2/3. Once the dust has settled, I see what is left eventually being downsized by half, leaving us with a military about 25% of the size of what we have now. We just won't be able to afford more than that, and even that will be a stretch. Such a scaled-down military shouldn't need more than a quad or two at most to operate.

I don't know where you are getting your 5-8 quads for resource extraction, either, but obviously we are not going to be able to sustain that. Whatever energy is allocated for resource extraction is going to have to be a lot less than that. Also, I very much doubt that the capital is going to be available to sustain resource extraction at that level of intensity. By the time we are down to 25 quads, we are also going to have to be pretty heavy into recycling rather than extraction of raw resources. Much of that recycling is going to be more labor-intensive rather than being energy-intensive, and that is one partial answer to the question of what all those unemployed people will be doing.

Speaking as a Canadian, and likely facing a similar situation, I think our hydro exports to the U.S. might go down as our internal needs increase. ELM, you know. Any growth in hydro production here will probably be absorbed by our needs.

Possibly. There is plenty of flex in my scenario, I was just sketching out one of many possible pathways.

Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland (and perhaps BC) are likely to increase their hydroelectricity exports.

The question is do they export to provinces or states.

Best Hopes for More Hydro,



We (the Canadian provinces) are indeed trying to increase electricity exports to the US - but it is not guaranteed that they will not fluctuate. The main reason we are able to export as much as we do is because of the extensive use of natural gas (in western Canada) for space heating. But if gas prices spike up, people and business will start switching to electricity. When gas prices went through the roof in 2000, lots of people switched to electricity. Many domestic gas furnaces also have an electric element, which can be switched on as desired. And, of course, a $50 radiant/fan/convection heater from the hardware store will do the job too. In winter 2000, BC Hydro saw a 500MW "plug in" load increase from this sort of thing.

Ontario is looking to decommission the Nanticoke coal plant this decade (it is the single largest CO2 emitter in North America). They talk about bringing on wind and nuclear, but the reality is that Quebec will make up the shortfall, so less for the US.

BC is actually a net importer of electricity today-by about 15%. The beauty of hydroelectricity is that we sell it you at peak prices and then buy it back at off peak prices. So we make a net profit exporting electricity even though we are actually a net importer! What other commodity has 100% price gains and drops every 24hrs? Of course, large hydro storage is the PERFECT complement to wind, so Canada can make better use of wind than most other countries.

Challenge is to bring on more capacity faster than economy is growing - BC's target is to be self sufficient by 2018, but they won't allow any coal plants, if you are going to do NG, you might as well do it in Alberta where the gas is, and all the biggest and best hydro sites are taken. A bit like an oilfield, we are now chasing smaller (hydro) deposits in farther away places, at greater cost ( I have built a micro sized system, and it is not as economic as you might think). But at least there is such thing as "heavy" or "sour" electricity.

Trust me, we'd love to export more, but convincing people here that they should conserve/fuel switch to increase exports is far from easy.

IMHO, Ontario Power should also be talking to Manitoba. They have 4 GW they want to sell. HV DC to the Banana Belt. Plus some good wind out that way (see the Dakotas just to the south).

And if ON could twist the arm of QC, the Nuffies have 1+ GW of hydro they want to sell.

Canada still has a number of small (<5 MW, some 5 to 50 MW) hydro sites left.

Best Hopes,


Hi Alan,

I wish I could agree, but flooding tens of thousands of hectares and all of the ecological harm therein, just so that we can frolic in our hot tubs and power our plasma TVs is morally repugnant.

Best Hopes for More Responsible Energy Use First and All Other Options Thereafter.


Only problem is new LCD TVs like my 40 inch uses under 150 watts and i only have it on for a few hours a day at most (lets say 80hr/month)... That is still only 10 Kw/hr or just over a $1 here. 12 inch notebook computer uses almost nothing. My electric hot water heater and convection oven, OTOH... I do cook at home a lot and everyone around here needs to clean their cornholes daily.

A couple 100 watts of solar panels, a few batteries, wood stove and solar hot water heat and i could use very little outside energy.

Much of that recycling is going to be more labor-intensive rather than being energy-intensive, and that is one partial answer to the question of what all those unemployed people will be doing.

So, what you are saying then is that those unemployed people are going to be the energy source of the future?

Not, mind you, that I disagree. Animal power for agriculture, including human type, will almost have to replace some of the oil powered equipment. Think for a minute of Conan, pushing that wheel that drove the grinding stone. Yeah... manpower takes a whole new meaning.



Actually, what I had in mind was greater labor intensity in scavenging materials for recycling and separating them out. Recycling in general doesn't lend itself to large-scale mechanization.

I keep remembering how in late 18th and early 19th century Britain, a considerable number of people were employed in the recycling of rags, bones, ashes, and all manner of other things. Similar examples could probably be found in other societies. (Pre-Meiji Japan?)

Not to suggest that this is a lucrative way to make a living. We are talking about the bottom rung of the ladder, here. But it IS a rung on the ladder.

I don't think you're far off the mark on this one. In fact, scavanging raw materials may become a necessary trade - learning to recognize useable materials in with all the dreck. And, it might not be so low on the ladder!

Mine Minneapolis!



U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that hydropower capacity in the United States could "double with minimal impact to the environment", mostly just by installing more efficient turbines at existing hydroelectric projects or at dams without power components, increasing the use of pumped-storage projects, and encouraging the use of run-of-the-river turbines. These kind of improvements to the existing infrastructure could apparently add 70,000 MW of capacity. "We will be pushing this," Chu said at a White House forum. "We're not talking about a lot of large, new reservoirs. Just work with what we have and it's a massive amount of power."

That's good news, I guess. On the other hand, reservoirs eventually silt up, and it is questionable to what extent we'll be able to clean them out and keep them going - or to keep up proper maintenance on the dams to keep them from failing. We haven't been keeping up with our infrastructure maintenance already, and as the economy declines this is only going to get worse. This is why I tried to be conservative and looked for only very modest net gains from hydro.

If Stephen Chu thinks it will be this easy, he should take a look at what is happening in Oregon and BC. Oregon is decommissioning a dam, and in BC, every new project (they are all run of the river) is running into stiff environmental opposition, and they are getting more and more expensive to build, and in more remote places.

Yes, new turbines are more efficient, but not THAT much more, you might go from 90 to 94% for large ones. There will be no more Hoover dams built, and you'll need to tap every secondary river with run of the river to get anywhere close to that number.

Doesn't mean it is not worth pursuing, but it won't be easy, or cheap. Run of the river, especially, is more expensive, for what you get, than dams. And you get the most power when you least need it (spring). Building pumped storage is hideously expensive - better to just do dams instead of run of river, but this is not environmentally acceptable anymore.

And, of course, you can expect the developers to ask for relaxed environmental standards and/or subsidies to make their projects economic.

Another thought, now that I've slept on it, is that if we ramp up wind to the point where it is supplying roughly 1/3 of our total energy, we are going to need to hold some hydro power capacity in reserve as a buffer for times when a significant portion of the WT fleet is becalmed. Just because we build or upgrade more hydropower dams doesn't mean that all of that potential power is going to be online all the time.

To support that concept, the lower the % hydro in the grid, the lower the capacity factor.

Canada has a 10%-12% higher capacity factor for their hydro than the USA, and Iceland is almost 20% higher than Canada.

In other words, for a dam that can produce a constant 100 MW, Icelanders would put in 126 MW of turbines (one spare for maintenance or load following, if they have to spill some water while one turbine is down, OK, so they might install 3 x 42 MW).

Canadians might install 160 MW (base load plus load following) and the USA 180 MW (load following plus some peaking).

This would vary depending on where in the USA & Canada the dam was, of course.

With more wind, retrofitting older dams for more turbines (often $$ if not in original plans) may be quite viable, given the multi-century lifespan of such improvements. Putting in larger turbines & generators in the space for older turbines is more economic.

Best Hopes,


Pumped storage is not "hideously expensive". Existing projects are competitive with gas turbines/MW capacity. One just needs a surplus of cheap fuel at night and an expensive fuel for peaking to justify one (plus suitable terrain).

Since the USA has destroyed much of our prime farm land with suburban sprawl, covering more with reservoirs may not be the best idea.

I posted a link to a renovation to Hoover Dam. Old cast wicker gates leaked about 4% of the water (0 power). New machined gates cut that to almost zero. Renovated turbines produced another 4% (from memory). Slightly better transformers, etc <1% more.

With expensive infrastructure (Ontario is drilling a 14.5 m diameter tunnel for Niagara to reduce tunnel friction losses and get a higher % of the spring thaw water), several % more is available (case by case). Remember that these infrastructure elements were calculated for the time that they were built (and when tunnels were MUCH more expensive to drill).

Cheap tunnels also help with run-of-river projects.

Best Hopes for more hydro,


what declining economy ? - the economists came out to tell us today that a "healthy expansion" is underway...


With proper investment, supporting 300 million Americans on 25% of their current energy use with a HIGHER quality of life is quite doable. Almost easy in fact.

The task becomes more difficult, but doable, with 500 million Americans.

My guess is that I use 25% of the energy of one of my brother's and 11-12% of the other and I could cut my energy use in half with minimal to moderate sacrifice.

Best Hopes for Realizing the Possible,


"With proper investment..."

Yes, and with flying pigs, air traffic control would be more complicated. That's the problem. Just about every problem presented on this website has a simple, relatively painless solution that will not be implemented.

I'm not suggesting a plan as a "solution" that will be implemented. I am very much doubtful that the USA any longer has any people on top, or can get anyone there, that is competent and wise and public-spirited enough to actually develop and implement a real plan that is effective enough (which means painful enough) to actually do the hard things in the short run that would make things better for our nation in the long run.

What I was trying to do here is to sketch out what might happen within the bounds of reasonable possibility in the absence of any deliberate "plan". Our future is going to be bounded by some rather severe and adverse circumstances, and people are going to have to respond and adjust to those circumstances whether they like it or not. Individuals will have different, maybe unpredictable, responses, but when we start to look at the US in aggregate I think that some reasonable (but not certain) predictions might be made.

I think it is fair to say that, given declining incomes and rising energy prices, most homeowners will do low-cost, quick payback things to reduce their household energy consumption. More expensive things like installing solar water heating will be more of a stretch, but the payback period will be reasonably short enough to cause increasing numbers to make that stretch; others will be forced to downgrade their expectations and live with low-cost DIY homebrew thermosyphon batch systems, because that will be preferable to having no hot water at all. On the other hand, PV systems with battery capacity to enable homes to go entirely off-grid are way out of reach for the vast majority of homeowners now, and in all likelihood will continue to be so, no matter what the dreams of technophiles might be.

Similarly, the installation of WTs is likely to continue apace, largely because the incremental costs of adding each one is relatively low-scale compared to a great many other energy supply projects, and because the US has so much untapped wind potential. Wind is not going to be our "salvation", but considerable future growth until it maxes out at around 1/3 of the total mix is a reasonably safe prediction.

On the other hand, I tend to be a lot more sceptical of very large scale systems, simply because by the time we realize it would be good to have them, the amount of capital required to build them will be prohibitive. In general, I've tried to sketch out a future scenario that is not dependent upon silver bullets, that is consistent with a declining economy that is going to have increasing difficulty scraping up capital for investment, and that is going to have to transition to a large extent to smaller-scale, distributed renewable energy technologies precisely because there will be no plan from above to concentrate efforts on larger-scale, centralized systems. There probably will be some efforts along those lines, anyway, but the odds are pretty good that more than a few of those things will be started but never finished.

That is very likely to be the fate of more than a few of the nukes that are being talked about, too. We may get a few more, but I doubt that we'll end up doing more than just stretch out the net fleet decline due to decommissionings by a couple of decades. There may still be a trickle of quads coming from nuclear and from domestic FFs by the end of this century, but we'll definitely be in terminal phase-out mode by then. It will just be too expensive to keep the non-renewable energy economy going.

There may be ways in which life will get better. People will have to walk and use their own muscle power more, they'll be eating less, expecially fats and HFCS, and maybe fewer people will have the time and money to indulge in self-destructive behaviors, so quite a few people will eventually enjoy better health - IF they can manage to avoid injury or infection, or are fortunate enough to not be born with any defective genes. People are likely to be forced to emerge from their digital cocoon and reconnect, and that should be a better way to live in the long run. There is something to be said for simple, uncluttered living. There will still be flowers to stop and sniff along the way.

Be that as it may, it is still going to be a dreary, unpleasant trip down, and life in what will not be all that different from being in a 3rd world country will be no bed of roses.

My new monthly crude oil graph is out.

1st phase of peak oil caused demand destruction in OECD countries of around 5 mb/d

Another article from the WSJ renewables section is about a small company that is trying to extract uranium from coal ashes. It sounds like the price isn't high enough to support these efforts, though.

Out of the Ashes

Sparton Resources Inc., a small Toronto mining company, is betting that a global renaissance in nuclear power will create a market for an unlikely fuel source: waste coal ash. . .

Although Sparton says its Yunnan project is producing uranium at a cost that would appear to be economically competitive, some analysts say the recent pullback in uranium prices could limit the technology's appeal, at least for now.

"Any nontraditional form of uranium production can and will only compete if the production costs are equal to or lower than traditional U3O8 mining and milling methods," says Jonathan Hinze, vice-president of international operations at Roswell, Ga.-based Ux Consulting Co. LLC.

It has been my impression that price is the big obstacle on all of the proposed ramp-ups to uranium production--and this is another example.

How did the Uranium get into the coal in the first place?

Uranium, in obviously small quantities, is naturally occuring in coal. The more important radioactive component in coal is thorium, and is the principal cause of a properly operated coal fired electric generating facility emitting more radiation during its operating life than a similiarly properly operated nuclear plant of the same size.

Natural gas, anyone, or are we too concerned about T Boone Pickens selling his gas ? If I was as rich as he is rumored to be, I would be building Gas Fired Electric Generators (GFEG's) close to my area of gas production and cut down on the compression cost. Forget about electric cars and the folks who don't want to see him get rich. Oh, but wait. He is already rich.

This was one thing I was interested to find in my research on both energy, and the CFL/mercury issue. Obviously, coal contains mercury, but also contains small amounts of uranium.....measured in the PPB, I think, but when each plant burns tons every single day....just another of those things that don't seem reasonable until you do the math.

re: How did the Uranium get into the coal in the first place?

Well, it percolates through through the ground in water flows and preferentially finds its way into old organic matter, which itself turns into coal. In fact many of the uranium ore deposits in Utah were found in petrified wood. One example that sticks in my mind was a uranium mine that consisted of one prehistoric tree. Not a big find, but a rich one. (I found out about this mountain biking around Moab.)

However, an even better question is, "What happens to it when you burn the coal?"

As it happens, a lot of it ends up in the air. You will typically get more radioactive fallout from a coal-burning power plant than a nuclear one.

How did the Uranium get into the coal in the first place?

I can't resist. Maybe the extinction of the dinos wasn't due to a space rock? Maybe they invented nuclear weapons and got into a big bad war......

Concerning the Africa food issue.

There was a video I watched in the last few days, Permaculture in Africa with Bill Mollison talking about how there was a need to teach people how to survive on their land, apart from the Agribusiness of wasting the land.

It's an old video, and I have not gone out there hunting for current trends.

But there are methods available to get a food off the land without following big agribusiness models.

Using rainwater catchment, and cisterns to store it for dry season. Swales to concentrate rainfall into a low area to help rebuild the watertable. Growing plants that the locals will eat more than the high food needy corn and rice and wheat plants. Growing hedging to use as animal fensing and protection for your villages (instead of cutting down trees).

Teaching them in their own languages so that there is a deeper reach for anything that might be learned.

It is a multifacetted problem. But as with other places, helping the locals get better at feeding themselves in a way that they can maintain over the long haul will help mitigate some of the failures looming.

I would hope that Gates helps in that area, but I won't hold my breath.


Charles, god help the Africans if Bill Gates tries to help them farm. The problem is not that they don't know how to farm. The problem is that "free trade" has undercut the prices of their locally grown goods forcing them to abandon their farming and move to cities. (Same thing in Haiti). Luckily for them this has happened more recently so the old skills may still be around. Luckily too they have always worked hard, unlike many Americans. What would help them most IMO is for the Western World to collapse as soon as possible so they can go about restoring what they lost to colonialism and free trade imperialism. http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0215-hance_freetrade.html

They were surviving just fine until they were "discovered".

I guess I should have put the bill gates comment is the sarcastic quotes.

Getting people to the point that they can produce food for themselves without the Green Revolution methods that have gotten us all in most of this mess would be a good start.

Lots of plants in Africa could be grown again. They don't need monocultures to survive, if you aren't abusing them in a grow for money system.


Thin may be the ultimate Peak Oil sign to look for:

Over the past decade oil optimists repeatedly forecast a glut in oil supplies that kept failing to materialize. Now, they are reaching for a fig leaf hoping no one will remember their consistently errant predictions. That fig leaf is the idea that we have reached peak demand, and that that's the reason we have not seen oil production rise in the past several years.

When the people who usually are busy throwing smoke screens on P-O must invent a new reason for the peak we are all seeing, it may be th e final proof that we actually are there.

Original article here: http://www.energybulletin.net/51656
Peak demand: The cornucopians reach for a fig leaf

To be fair..."peak demand" has been mentioned by cornucopians for years. It's the idea behind, "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones."

This is true Leanan but not in the context your post suggests. The idea behind "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones" was that the oil age will end when we find something else more abundant and more economical. Peak demand for oil was supposed to take place when we found something better, not because of a deep recession like we are experiencing right now.

The new "Peak Demand" means something totally different from what it meant in the past.

Ron P.

But the current "peak demand" argument does not blame the recession. Rather, it says that due to concerns about climate change, and higher prices, we are choosing renewable energy instead of oil.

Which is pretty much what cornucopians like Benjamin Cole have been saying for years. Not that we would discover something better, but that high prices would prompt a fairly seamless transition away from oil.

Leanan, I think you are partly right and partly wrong here. Right in that high prices will (eventually) prompt a transition away from oil, and, this has started, though only to a very limited extent.
The problem is with "we are choosing renewable energy instead of oil." Almost all renewable energy is in electrical generation, but we have very little scope to choose renewable alternatives to oil (for transport fuel). All we have is ethanol, and biodiesel (and most of that has been exported).

Most of the US reductions in oil use have been from reduced usage of diesel, from less heavy transport (rail and truck), retiring of old locomotives, some switching from heating oil to nat gas (or biomass), and less use of jet fuel from less people flying, and older planes being retired.

Actual US gasoline consumption has not budged, and with ethanol close to hitting the 10% blend wall, it can't displace much more gasoline.

So high prices are reducing demand, but, ethanol aside, there is virtually no displacement of oil by renewables today. As the post below mentions, many potential alternatives (hydrogen etc) have/are falling by the wayside, so I expect the demand drop to be driven by finding ways to use less, rather than substituting renewables.

I didn't say I believed it. Just that that is what the EIA and others are describing as "peak demand."

+5. This time is different.
Let's see, from top of my head - What renewables are "already scrapped"- seen from my neck of the woods?

Hydrogen, bio fuels- included 2 gen and algae, PV's (awaiting subsidy-fits cancellations) ... more ? ... you bet,coming soon. (IMHO)


To be fair..."peak demand" has been mentioned by cornucopians for years. It's the idea behind, "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones."

.... the IEA, EIA and CERA all seem to have predicted "no peak in our time" for years.
The only adjustments they have made is to lower their production volume growth estimates (IEA from 130 mmbpd to 105, more recently closer to 90-95 mmbpd by 2030 - as I remember?).

Now, there is a new explanation altogether: peak demand. To me that is a significant change.

What doesn't make sense regarding flat or declining oil demand in the US is the fact that first, the population is forecast to increase by 30 million people from roughly 310 million in 2010 to about 340 million by 2020. Of this amount, 17 million comes from natural increase and 13 million from net migration. These figures comes from the US Census Bureau. Second, the ability to radically transition from an oil-based economy (transportation, materials, fertilizers, etc.) will take far longer than a decade, particularly during a period of near political paralysis and failure to enact substantive energy policies.

I recall references to hybrid cars, electric automobiles, greater fuel standards, etc. that account for flat oil consumption among an increasing population but it still sounds far fetched. The only other alternative I see is one that you can only derive from reading between the lines - a radically impaired standard of living.

I ran across an interesting article about maintenance of offshore wind turbines:

O&M strategy: Keeping offshore turbines turning

Colin Morgan, director of offshore wind at consulting engineers Garrad Hassan, expects the availability, or machine reliability, of next-generation offshore turbines to come out in the low 90s compared to the average 97-98 percent reliability achieved in onshore turbines.

Why the deficit? In part, this will be due to more frequent occurrence of turbine operation at full power.

But for the main part, it will be due to the huge challenge of repair access. When operating offshore, time is money, particularly when a crane vessel costing up to £50,000 per day is required. Operators will need bigger, better turbines, and optimum access systems.

The article makes it sound like one almost needs on-site teams, with two engineers per 20 to 30 turbines.

Regarding on-site crew -
Horns Rev 2, world's largest offshore WT-park, has an accommodation platform for 24 workers on site.

Here it is installed at sea

That level of labor would be generally less /MWh than the labor required for fossil fuel plants (ESPECIALLY coal if mining & transport labor is included).

Nukes are quite labor intensive, more so than FF or wind. QA/QP plus security are orders of magnitude higher than FF.


Alan -

I have been in several medium to large coal-fired power plants, and I can verify that the manpower requirements of such an operation are hardly trivial. This should be evident if one just lists all the separate systems and sub-systems that require constant care and feeding. And most large power stations have two separate units, thus doubling some of the required functions.

Starting at the front end and working back (and only mentioning the major components) you've got: 1) coal unloading, storage and handling, 2) boiler feed water treatment, 3) boiler operations, 4) turbine operations, 5) generator and transformer operations, 6) cooling tower operations, 7) air pollution control equipment operations, 8) ash handing and storage operations, 9) maintenance staff, 10) instrumentation staff, 11) electrician staff, and 12) management, engineering, and control room staff. With some exceptions, most of these things need to be tended to three shifts a day, seven days a week.

While I don't have any actual numbers at hand, I would estimate that such a power station would have to keep several hundred full-time employees on the payroll. To this one can add a seemingly continuous stream of outside contractors that are virtually ever-present.

While wind power has many drawbacks, labor intensiveness is hardly one of them, and I think Gail is way off base in trying to imply that such is the case.

I think Gail is way off base in trying to imply that such is the case.

While I have a great respect for Gail and learn quite a bit from her many posts I get the impression that for whatever reason she has decided that any and all forms of so called alternative energy are simply not viable. She sometimes seems to go out of her way to grasp at straws in her attempts to discredit any and all evidence to the contrary.

I guess that if as WNC observer has suggested we go from a 100 quad of energy usage society to one of 25 quads then wind and solar are going to make up a huge part of that energy usage. Unfortunately a lot of otherwise intelligent and sensible people can't seem to be able to come to grips with accepting that the future is a 25 quad future and seem to want to malign alternatives for no other reason than it doesn't fit their expectations of a 100 quad reality. I think that as time goes by they will not only be forced to lower their expectations but will be quite happy to get their much reduced amount of energy from whatever source is available and will come around to living reasonably well within this more realistic energy budget. Though right now they are still in denial...

Gail is very skillful IMO- she is after all an actuary which puts her in a unique position in order to define inputs- so that an output-risk can be calculated.

(and I'm not entering the 25 quad vs. the 100 quad discussion with this.)
There are at least two extreme opposite ways to asses the renewable/alternative energy challenge - and every other way in between of course...

a) zoom in and look at all the energy-ideas they 'can achieve' on lab-desktops or in small-medium scale today, skim the rah rah headlines - accept it and relax... or

b) zoom out and base your view / conclusions on some other sort of reality ... ahead in time ... let's say in 2050. "Most people today" can agree that crude oil (the cheap stuff) will be a minor shadow of it's former self at that point. If this ultimately will show to come true... well then we also will know that the pace of coal- and nat-gas and uranium-exploration will meet some "easy to grasp"-challenges. Simply put; they will also reach their respective peaks between now 2010 and 2050, in other words Peak BAU will come to pass.

Now back to Gails "cynical approaches" on alternative energies -

Is it not proper to ask this Q by now ==>>
When will we start to make all prosperous scalable future alternative energy-converters ---- based on their actual and own energy output ?

Because one windy day in the future Denmark has to fully have a standing WT-farmbase designated to ONLY produce energy to produce(substitute/maintain) more WTs. One day I said. Could this be Gails headache ?

Because one windy day in the future Denmark has to fully have a standing WT-farmbase designated to ONLY produce energy to produce(substitute/maintain) more WTs. One day I said. Could this be Gails headache ?

I won't pretend to speak for Gail, perhaps she will chime in herself but I suspect that it probably comes close to hitting the nail on the head. I think she doesn't think that this is possible. I disagree and think it is not only possible but will be the norm.

The new order if it is to exist at all and be sustainable for any length of time will have to adjust to this reality. We will have to learn to harvest the energy we need to live and maintain our energy harvesting technology without the benefit of fossil fuel. The implication is that we will live with a different energy budget than what we now have. It doesn't mean there will be no technology only that our technology and the infrastructure that supports it will be very different than what we have at present.

I also believe that our societies will also undergo profound changes to adapt to these new realities. I can't even venture to guess at this point what they will look like but I'm 100% sure they will not be the kind of global free market capitalistic system we now accept as the only possible form. I'm hoping we will be pleasantly surprised and they will turn out better than expected but as a realist I also accept the possibility that things may indeed turn very ugly.

Good luck to all of us!

Because one windy day in the future Denmark has to fully have a standing WT-farmbase designated to ONLY produce energy to produce(substitute/maintain) more WTs. One day I said. Could this be Gails headache ?

Agreed, making and maintaining the WT is not just about the Windmills, but also involves maintaining roads, transporting raw materials, etc. If that can't all be done with excess electricity from the Windmills, they will not be sustainable.

Oh and don't forget Peak Rare Earth Minerals needed to make Windmills and Solar be efficient enough to be worth the trouble. http://www.livescience.com/technology/shortage-of-rare-earth-elements-10...

EIA 2016 costs in 2008$ per mwh.
Total levelized cost = sum of Capital + Fixed(O%M) + Variable(fuel) + transmission.

> Levelized Cost of New Generating Technologies, 2016($2008 per megawatt hour)
Plant Type Capacity Factor (%) Levelized Capital Cost Fixed O&M Variable O&M (with fuel) Trans mission Investment System Levelized Cost
Conventional Coal 85 69.2 3.8 23.9 3.6 100.4
Conventional CoalAdvanced Coal 85 81.2 5.3 20.4 3.6 110.5
Advanced Coal with CCS 85 92.6 6.3 26.4 3.9 129.3
Natural Gas-fired - Conventional Combined Cycle 87 22.9 1.7 54.9 3.6 83.1
- Advanced Combined Cycle 87 22.4 1.6 51.7 3.6 79.3
- Advanced CC with CCS 87 43.8 2.7 63 3.8 113.3
- Conventional Combustion Turbine 30 41.4 4.7 82.9 10.8 139.5
- Advanced Combustion Turbine 30 38.5 4.1 70 10.8 123.5
Advanced Nuclear 90 94.9 11.7 9.4 3 119
Wind 34.4 130.5 10.4 0 8.4 149.3
Wind-Offshore 39.3 159.9 23.8 0 7.4 191.1
Solar PV 21.7 376.8 6.4 0 13 396.1
Solar Thermal 31.2 224.4 21.8 0 10.4 256.6
Geothermal 90 88 22.9 0 4.8 115.7
Conventional Coal 85 69.2 3.8 23.9 3.6 100.4
Biomass 83 73.3 9.1 24.9 3.8 111
Hydro 51.4 103.7 3.5 7.1 5.7 119.9

More on Tripling US Wind Potential - Authoritative Sources

Texas now #1, North Dakota drops from #1 to #6.





Best Hopes for MUCH more Wind,


Alan , Do you have any figures on the effect of wind power on coal and ng prices? Wind power may be saving a lot of money for the consumer INDIRECTLY.

My guess is that we may already be , AS A SOCIETY, getting close TO REALIZING SUCH SAVINGS,(above the costs of wind subsidies) because if a (this is a hypothetical example, not actual)one percent reduction in coal and gas demand results in a two percent reduction in the selling price of coal and ng,the price savings will OCCUR across the entire market , not just the electrical generating market.Gas for heating and coal for industrial use as in making steel will be a little cheaper.

We must remember that the savings will be based on DELIVERED prices, with the usual taxes and so forth, as opposed to "market prices".I am under the impression that it costs more to ship coal sometimes than it costs at the mine.. Furthermore there are the ash disposal costs, etc.

Of course I realixe that as it stands now , wind displaces mostly ng, but as the industry grows, it will also displace some coal.

Five percent wind market penetration, either USA or world wide, seems entirely doable to me within a decade if the financing can be found. This would create serious downward pressure on on ff prices.

I have posed this question several times in various threads w/o getting a serious answer.

Coal is typically sold under long term contracts (thin spot market AFAIK, 20 yr old info). For many users, transportation is half the delivered cost.

In Texas, Iowa, Illinois and few other states, wind may have directly displaced coal late at night (again AFAIK). So not much impact of wind on coal prices. The future, with more wind, will be different.

NG is another story. Pickens is right, wind displaces NG, almost all the time. We have seen how a modest decrease in demand has cut NG prices by 2/3rds.

Electrical generation by fuel source, note NG down, renewables up in projection


However, in 2009, only 21% of NG burned was used to generate electricity. So displacing 10% of NG fired electricity with wind will cut NG demand by only 2.1%. Given the volatile market, a 2.1% reduction in demand for NG will cut the NG price by ...

SWAG 10% ????

That last price of the puzzle in answerable, but not by me.

Best Hopes for econometric analysis,


NG is another story. Pickens is right, wind displaces NG, almost all the time.

This would seem to follow pretty much from first principles. Wind is increasingly predictable over fairly short intervals (Spain seems to be doing a quite good job), but is nevertheless variable in terms of total output (which will be less true as geographic diversity increases). The grid managers have to adjust, and high-cost peaking generators would be the likely place to cut back. NG is a widely-used fuel for peaking generation.

One of the issues with wind (and other forms of solar) is that they are price takers, not price makers. That causes the return on investment to gravitate towards the cost of funding, so w/o subsidies it is not an interesting place to put your money.

From Drudge, an update below on the Grand Prix of Debt Race, where various government entities are racing each other to the edge of the cliff. I would define plunging over the cliff as the point in time at which government entities are unable to borrow enough money--at least from non-central bank sources--to fund their deficits:

BTW, is there any reason that the Fed couldn't buy state issued bonds, in effect monetizing state debt?

Doomsday Predictions Tax Illinois

In order to crawl out of crushing debt and reach fiscal solvency, Illinois legislators will have to choose for a series of options that range from bad to worse. “Doomsday is here for the state of Illinois,” Laurence Msall, Civic Federation President, said to the Sun-Times.

The state’s most prominent watchdog group, the Civic Federation, wants to launch an intervention laced with budget cuts and the largest tax increase package in Illinois history in an effort to save the state from a $12.8 billion budget deficit. . . The Civic Federation says it opposes any revenue increases until the state reforms its retirement system and rolls back spending to 2007 levels. . ..

The state’s red ink has already caused a backlog of unpaid bills to public universities and schools, transit systems and social services.

...is there any reason that the Fed couldn't buy state issued bonds, in effect monetizing state debt?

Yes, that's the original deal that Alexander Hamilton did when the Washington administration convinced Congress to allow the U.S. to issue its first debt. It could happen again, with the states losing the last shards of their former autonomy.

As Marc Faber said, "Promises will be broken, or currencies will be inflated, or both."

BTW, is there any reason that the Fed couldn't buy state issued bonds, in effect monetizing state debt?

In many, perhaps most states, there are balanced budget requirements and restrictions on issuance of state bonds. Colorado is an example of some of the toughest overall requirements. The state constitution requires that the budget be balanced. Bonds can be issued only for certain types of construction projects. Any state debt which is not repaid by the end of the fiscal year in which it is incurred (ie, in which said bonds are sold) must be approved, in advance, by a vote of the people. For the Legislature to put such a matter on the ballot, the resolution must pass by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.

Some federal entity could offer to buy Colorado bonds; it is extremely unlikely that the necessary hurdles could be cleared for the State to issue bonds. The single best thing the federal government could have done to relieve state budgets would have been to take full responsibility for the Medicaid program forever. The second best thing would have been to write checks to the general fund of each state, say somewhere between $50B and $100B total, split up in proportion to population, for three years. In Colorado's case, call it something over $1B for each of the three years. This would have come close to covering the state's budget gap.

"Electric bikes on a Roll in China"
This is news? Here's an image from 2 1/2 years ago:

Most of the two-wheelers in the Chengdu morning commute were electric-powered or electric-assist even then, but ALL the batteries were lead-acid wet cells. Not my idea of a clean, green future. From the article:

Another 1,000 firms are producing e-bikes on an ad hoc basis

Anybody need a translation? Basement-bomber quality control and waste management practices are the norm throughout the Middle Kingdom.

"This is the future -- it's practical, it's clean and it's economical," said manufacturer Shi Zhongdong.

Ah - no. It only looks good when compared to driving to work alone in your Chevy Suburban Subdivision. It can't hold an LED candle to electrified buses.

Judging from local experiences with Chinese made motor scooters, I would say only an idiot would buy a Chinese electric bike until after the great shakeout-We had several hundred car manufacturers at the beinnning of the auto age here in the US alone.

Tossing a hair dryer or cheap food blender is one thing-tossing a thousand dollar plus bike is something else altogether.Parts, and consequently service , simply aren't available, and if the QC is anything like the scooters, it's worse than basement bomber quality.

My guess is that the life expectancy of a Chinese scooter is less than two thousand miles.They probably last ok in China, albeit with frequent repairs, where parts and cheap mechanics are probably readily available.

No more than ONE Chinese made small engine ever gets thru the door of an American shop, unless it is branded by an American store.Dxxm few are, apparently.After about six calls from a customer, and three or four hours on the phone or net looking for parts, the manager has learned his lesson.A local farm supply store makes warranties good by dumpstering returns and passing out new merchandise.

The people who are buying Chinese off road utility vehicles similar to a Kawasaki Mule and only using them for a few minutes occasionally are going to be very very sorry later when they are out of warranty and needed regularly.Most of them are typically priced in the mid four figures.

A Japanese model that will last essentially forever if well maintained can be had much cheaper used.

If you want consumer goods in this price class, stick to the few American or Japenese manufacturers in the business.An electric bike that will last ten or twenty years with care for four times the money is a much better deal.German machines are very good too , if you can afford them.The attitude at the local Mercedes dealer is that if you are concerned about the price of a part, such a five hundred bucks for a piece of chromed steel trim that wieghs less than a pound, you should drive a Chevrolet.

Maybe the quality of the chinese electrobikes are low, but they are rapidly replacing Katie Meluhas "one million bicycles in Beijing". I asked a student (april 2009) what the price was, and he said about 3.000 YUAN, which is the average months salary in the big cities. Our guide had a manual and one electric bike.

Cars are spreading like rabbits in Australia, mostly license built older Volkswagen models (Passat, Scirocco, Bora) and some Mercs. More important: ALL new houses had solar driven water heaters on the roof, and even some street lights seemed to be solar powered. Shanghai's Expo 2010 area and other places around it will contain a number of windmills.

And, the chinese are building 26.000km of new train tracks, whereof almost 10.000 rated for 350km/h (160mph?).

The chinese leaders are engineers, not political broilers, they see where the world is heading, and reacts accordingly.

Have a nice one.

Tor, it all sounds good, a command economy tinged with a respect for history, until you get the China problem on scale.

There has never before been anything like this national monument to human overshoot - it takes every last solar water heater and battery bike to keep their system functioning for one more day in the chaotic and corrupt fashion that's the norm.

The government calculates GDP by what flows from the factories, not what is sold, so their stimulus program is cranking out office blocks in which no one will ever work, served by housing developments in which no one will ever live.

Meanwhile, the regular folk scheme and chisel just to make a yuan, and then dump their problems (and waste) on some greater fool.

To use Ruppert's term, China's national environmental strategy is "oblivion." Hot water from the Sun? Not without water.

I recall hearing that the Chinese graduate some 300,000 engineers a year, while in the US, we only graduate 60,000. I don't know how correct these data are, but even with their larger population, their engineering talent pool must be massive by now. And I think it shows in the many products I've seen which exhibit great creativity, if not great execution. As they continue to test their skills against the world market, I think we will see even better products. They certainly understand the energy situation, judging by their strong push into renewables and their efforts to lock in foreign energy supplies and supplies of energy intensive materials, such as steel and copper. It won't be long until they start producing cars for the US market. I doubt that the US will wake up until it's too late to stop their take over of the world's markets for high tech stuff.

E. Swanson

Let us put this in some perspective.

  • Wikipedia's estimates of population for July 1, 2009 are China 1.34B and the US 0.31B. Using your figures for the totals, China would be graduating 0.00023 engineers per capita per year, the US 0.00019. That's not nearly as big a difference.
  • There are reasons to believe that there are substantial differences in the way that the two countries are counting graduating engineers, and that, on average, the US graduate is better trained than the Chinese graduate. This gap will probably close over time.
  • There is always the question of motivation. Five years ago I was having a conversation with a Chinese graduate economics student. What she said boiled down to, "I wanted to study ballet. The government said that they had all the ballet dancers they needed, but they were short on economists."

OTOH, as far as I can tell, a Chinese engineering graduate seems likely to be put to work doing engineering, and will probably be employed as an engineer forever. I know a distressing number of US engineers aged 50+ who can't even get interviews in their field.

You can add me to your list of engineers not working as such. When I reached 50, it was rather obvious that I wasn't going to find an engineering job. In my previous situation as a part timer, I found the boss had hired a new grad to take my place...

E. Swanson

Black Dog,

I'm glad I switched to an alternate career years ago.
Engineering is not for anyone over 30.

Why is that? I know engineers who are 40, 50, 60.........and 75!

I know engineers who are 40, 50, 60.........and 75!

So do I.
But that is not the point. They are the exceptions.
The law of large numbers and Gaussian distributions show that most engineers fall by the wayside at an early age, roughly between 30 and 40.

Why is that?

Because of the rapid speed of technological advance and the truism that you cannot (cheaply) teach an old dog new tricks.

Other reasons that are often given:

  • By 45, most engineers have figured out that there are other things in life, like a spouse, children, a house, etc, and are no longer willing to work enough extra hours. At my first job, they were bluntly honest about it: "We pay you for 40 hours/week; we expect you to work 50."
  • There are disincentives for businesses to hire an engineer aged 45+, no matter how talented. For example, they will drive increases in small-business group health insurance premiums. For another, those aged 45+ are a "protected" category in the federal discrimination statutes, a potential problem when a large company makes future staffing decisions.

I am convinced that reform of the health insurance system in the US is the single biggest thing Obama and the Congress could do to incent a big increase in engineering and technology activity. Take away the risk of losing access to health care, so engineers can take the risk of starting a new small company with new ideas. Many of those starting such businesses will be the engineers aged 45+. Cover their health insurance costs while they start those businesses (and charge those that succeed big when they do).

re: I am convinced that reform of the health insurance system in the US is the single biggest thing Obama and the Congress could do to incent a big increase in engineering and technology activity. Take away the risk of losing access to health care, so engineers can take the risk of starting a new small company with new ideas.

I'm looking at this from the Canadian perspective, where we do have universal health care, and I think you're right. I was working as a computer consultant, not an engineer, but the concept was the same. If the government is paying for your health care, there's nothing to stop you from setting up your own company and renting yourself out on a per-hour basis. If you want to work 60 hours per week, you make a lot of money, and if you want to work 20 hours per week you have a lot of free time.

Fixing the weird tax laws of the US would also help. I didn't realize this until that guy crashed his plane into the IRS building recently, but they really do discriminate against engineers and computer consultants. Why should they operate under different rules than a plumber with his own business? I mean, if a plumber comes and puts in a new kitchen and bathroom in your house, they don't deem him to be your employee. He's just a guy you hired to do a job.

I can see why US companies liked me. I'd breeze across the border, show US Immigration a signed contract and a copy of my computer science degree, they would put a TN visa (computer analyst under the free trade agreement) in my passport, I'd work for a few weeks, hand the company my bill, and then zip back to Canada. When they wanted me again, they'd call me again. No fuss, no bother, whatever I worked was what they paid me for. The same system worked for consulting in other countries. Regardless, the Canadian government paid my health care, I paid my own pension plan and benefits, life was simple and the money was good.

However, I don't really think this works for US engineers and computer consultants, from what I understand.

re: you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

No, if you are an old dog, you have to learn new tricks. Otherwise the younger dogs eat your lunch.

I have one of these Chinese bikes and I totally love it. I park the car for March to November. I zip around on less that 2 kwhr per day and less than 12 cents a day in electricity. My MPG equivilent is 600 MPG

Quality: some are better than others. Do research. The motors seem pretty solid and withstand overvolting for years. It's mostly the little things: loose nuts, wires. Much of this can be overcome with regular inspections, maitenance and fine tuning by the end user. When something breaks replace it with a better quality part. Parts are really cheap. My bike has been pretty reliable. I have only had to push home because of 2 flats. One was my own fault because I overfilled the tire trying to get better rolling resistance.

Sure it has a lead acid battery, but we do have recycling programs for lead acid. The parts are stripped out and reused. I am on my third year with the same batteries so these do last a while. Some day I will add some Lithium ion to the mix. You can order Lithium parts to replace the exsisting lead acid batteries when they fade out.

There are no electrified buses where I live, so this is a great option for me.

The charger only uses 180 watts so I might run it off a solar collector some day, it's quite feasible.

I love reading Paul Krugman. A Nobel winning economist finally coming to the conclusion that there is peak oil (under the name of resource constraints):

The Oil Bubble Controversy, Revisited

One of the curious things about economic debate in the later Bush years was the conviction among many on the right that there wasn’t a bubble in housing, but that there was one in oil.

We now know the truth about housing. But what about oil?

Oil prices did spike to triple-digit levels in early 2008, then drop sharply. But think about the fact that right now, with the world economy still seriously depressed, oil is at $80 a barrel. This suggests to me that high oil prices are largely caused by fundamentals.

And it also suggests that resource constraints will be an issue if and when we do get a full recovery.


I would add that resource constraints will be an issue even if (more accurately when) we don't get a full recovery.

If you want a nice dash of delusion, read the comments.

People who insist the economy can somehow exist and grow, independent of its foundation in real material and energy resources, are missing the big picture. --Dick Lawrence comment

That's a polite way of saying it.
What they are really missing is a neo cortex.

I'm not sure I'd call that $147 oil price awhile back a bubble- it was more like a preview of coming attractions --ChipHaynes comment

Better yet, see comment #55: Oil companies "actively promote (behind the scenes) the belief that oil is scarce. This also helps them justify drilling in places where the oil is [not?] easily reached."

The venerable "westexas" adds his ELM 10 cents in at comment number 61:

In effect, in my opinion the US can look forward to being forced to make do with a declining share of a falling volume of global net oil exports. --Jeffrey Brown comment

ELM= Export Land Model

Anyone who believes the party line that states can get by with BAU are sorely deluding themselves. I have lost friends over Matt Simmons book but my own family has ostracized me over my "fanatic" views. I have one son who attends UT Austin and the older has taken a much more casual route towards education. I have had very hurtful things said as I have encouraged them to become farmers and not even conventional farmers at that. I have had very intelligent people become very acerbic over "Twilight" even though I fully understand the serious depression issues people feel when coming to grips with these issues. Yet does denying something till the last moment lessen the severity of pain or minimize the repercussion from the event. I had a particularly nasty discussion that these events like PO would take many years to effect the US. Like Mexico's decline will take many years to be felt. How I wish this were true. Did our precipitous economic disaster take years. These people are by and large from Texas and should be very well acquainted with these subjects but are not. I have told many of TOD to no avail. well my two cents.


While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy (she warned the Trojans about the Trojan Horse, the death of Agamemnon, and her own demise), she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies since no one believed her.

jhallinc1954, I think many of the TOD regulars can empathize with your experience and share your pain. In my case I'm a bit past that stage I no longer think it is important for me to try and be the bearer of ill tidings, I just let reality take its inexorable course while I look out for myself and my closest circle of those already in the choir. At least I don't have to preach to them ;-)

BTW, Some in my family get it some don't...and after almost losing my girl friend of four years because of trying to make her more aware, I decided it wasn't worth it and I decided to just shut up! C'est la vie!


For what it`s worth, I can say that I have experiencd some of the same things you mentioned....it has been rough but I have come to some conclusions.

First, if the person you are talking to about PO is a family member it is more interesting than if it`s a friend. With a friend, you can stop getting together, But family is family!

My parents and I have had quite a falling out over this issue, for example. They have probably written me out of their will by now. But I`ve been totally correct about everything I said 5 years ago, so I am at least not embarrassed. I definitely don`t want to lose contact with them....I mean, they are in their late 60s, old fashioned sweet middle class people of their generation. My dad spend his days on the internet searching for evidence that climate change is all one big conspiracy so he won`t have to feel guilty for loving cars so much....My mom is a "yes, dear" type of wife so whatever he says is what she will affirm.
But having disagreements (I said Jimmy Carter had been a good president and collapse back then would have been 1000x easier than now and my dad, face red with boiling anger, got up and walked out of the room!) doesn`t have to mean losing touch permanently if you keep your sense of humor.

If it makes you feel better, the NY Times had an article recently about how environmental issues (of which PO is one subset) are splitting families and bringing them to seek counseling so they can get along better even while they disagree. So you are not alone.

If it is a friend, I would be more restrained about explaining everything PO because some people don`t actually have the intellectual capacity to understand this concept (it isn`t a trivial idea in some ways). For example, what if you went up to someone and started trying to teach them French or how to do calculus. Actually, they really might get mad at you because they cannot understand these things (when they need to understand PO they will understand it in their own way, in their own time) Just like, if they developed a need to understand/speak French then they would do so in their own way and at their own pace.

As for a spouse, I have been very lucky! At first my husband was truly appalled that such a thing as PO existed. "Take that thing out of the house and don`t try to bring it back!" Then he noticed all the events in the economy happening and I connected the dots for him and voila---a new POer (if a little bit subdued and lethargic one, not an activist one) was born! Lots of stress went by the wayside when he came to his senses. But of course, that`s what every wife says!

Here's the Peak Oil visualization that works for me. Thanks to a TOD post, not sure whose.

Take a can of soda.
Stick a straw (oil well) in it. Soda comes out fast.
Stick lots of straws in it. Soda comes out real fast.

Now pour the soda on the table.
Stick a straw in it. You can't pick up much soda.
Use the same number you had before. Still can't pick up as much.

That's Peak Oil. It's not about how much of the resource is left, it's about how hard it is to get to and the rate that it can be recovered.


Spilling it out on a table. Good visual.
Next step would be spilling it on a table covered by loose gravel.

Someone once opined that the secret to happiness is surrounding yourself with people like yourself.
Thank YHWH/Allah/FSM for TOD.

Regarding your son and UT Austin, you might suggest to him that he take a class with Michael Webber: http://www.me.utexas.edu/directory/faculty/webber/michael/168/. Professor Webber also teaches an energy crash course in August. Tad Patzek also teaches at UT Austin: http://fic.engr.utexas.edu/index.php/recognition/faculty-spotlight/140-t....

I understand your feelings.

What is important is how you take care of yourself and yours during the post peak times. Look to The Automatic Earth Stoneleige's basic principles of survival presented October '09 (or thereabouts).

1. Get out of debt. etc.

2. Learn a skill (other than great posts on TOD) like carpentry, metalsmith, solar tech, etc.

3. Try to grow your own food.

4. Be part of neighborhood projects (bonding)

I would add several more subjects like become an expert in self defence. Remember, "An armed gang will not go hungry." The rest of the stupid people be damned.

Lucky for me I was preaching to the choir in my own family.

But we are a hopeful family and we do things that limit our sense of doom.

My BioWebScape design project efforts, stem from my pushing edible landscapes for so long and furthering my research base into all the things possible to make a future brighter than our current time.

Loads of things we could do to limit the falling off a cliff for everyone. That is why I am pushing the ideas in my BioWebScape project. The more information you have the better off you will be in the future.

I have loads of friends that have seen the writing on the wall, and they are working for something better, but they still need more information to help them move along faster and without each one of them treading over the same ground, this will help collect data, and be able to distribute it for everyone.

Grow your own foods in a permaculture like garden in you yard, that will have you doing an action that later you can use as a spring board to let people know why you are doing it. If the world fails to collapse, you will have better foods for yourself, and if it does you will have a safety net in place.


Kurt Cobb - Peak demand: The cornucopians reach for a fig leaf

If you want to read an aricle (from the TOD list above) that perfectly explains 'peak demand', this is the one to read.


The announcement of peak demand then is really designed to allow all those who made faulty oil production forecasts to keep selling their sunny optimism about future energy supplies while covering their asses for when the verdict on peak finally comes in. What the purveyors of the peak demand thesis really need to do is find some clothes to put on over their dream-time underwear and get to work figuring out where they went wrong in their analyses of oil supplies.

RE: The link to Tom Friedman's Sunday Times article.

My interpretation: Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom. Not Again!

Question Everything

"Little Tommy" is a piece of work. I think his head is flat.

Like any good politician,
Tommy understands.

If you want to keep your constituency (readers),
you sugar coat even the bad news.

There's good news and there's bad news.
The good news is that there will only be 7 lean years.
The bad news is that you're a dog and every "year" is actually 7 years.

It is one thing to forestall, quite another to make transition easier for people. I get the most angry at things that are quite obvious and should be met head on rather than the "head in the sand" method. I was first aware of these problems when Jimmy Carter was president. This tells us that we have had some lead time on this but have elected to squander this for no good reason. If the effects of PO were minimal it would be one thing, but in our economy and society there is virtually no aspect unaffected by this. Governor Perry spoke recently that he was unaware of any recession in Texas. How obtuse would one have to be when you have borrowed one billion dollars to fund your states unemployment payments... unless you were predisposed to use the term depression instead. I realize that TOD has a more astute audience than the population at large but I am continually surprised by seemingly intelligent people that are either ignorant of these issues or choose to deny them. There is one thing I read recently here that I'm puzzled by. Why did KSA give up their storage facilities in the Caribbean when Mexico is having a two fold event, more domestic use and cratering Cantarell production? Does anyone make sense of this. There have to be many effects of this situation from the increased shipping costs and far greater time to receive product to the tremendous economic effect on our bordering country and the effects on their government funding and the amount of hard (this is a laugh) they have available for trade. Just wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this.
Jim Hall

Here is a guess: Since demand for crude oil is declining in the U.S. and increasing in China, Saudi Arabia expects to send future oil shipments to Asia instead of the U.S. Therefore, oil storage in the Caribbean will be unnecessary.

Governor Perry spoke recently that he was unaware of any recession in Texas. How obtuse would one have to be?

Give the guy a break.
It's hard enough keeping track of even the small sweaty things.

he talks a bit about some guy named Alan Drake

It's Monday and I don't know about you folks, but I could sure use a laugh..... Available in spot, flood and extra-wide flood depending upon body type....





Grand humor!!

We're waiting to see your follow-up video, where they all have T-8's installed.

i went to see the leonardo da vinci exhibit in NYC. back in those
pre oil and coal days it was possible to do very smart things with wheels and peg gears and pulleys all hand cranked. i wanted to buy a companion book for the exhibition chocked full of all his wonderous machines. it cost $68! so i did not. a reduction in lifestyle.
what can you expect when you make $15 an hour?

you can get a glimpse of the exhibit at http://www.leonardo3.net/

check this out!
solar power from plastic embedded with silicon.
"PORTLAND, Ore. — By growing arrays of silicon wires in a polymer substrate, researchers have demonstrated what they say are flexible solar cells that absorb up to 96 percent of incident light."

some wag speaks of the misallocation of resources. yeah, the uhmerikan military machine. TPTB & BAU.

"no one gets out of here alive"-greetings from the humungus, the road warrior

"it's all good"- anon.

About Falkland Islands discoveries : some medias seem to be announcing about ~60billion barrels.
I truly don't understand how they got that number, it does seem to be largely overestimated, by a factor of 10 at least...

I guess exploration companies give huge amounts of possible resources based on vague probing to present more attractive data to prospective investors... but it certainly won't last long !


Ben -- getting that number is easy: the less data there is to refute it the bigger the number one can postulate. And drilling a dry hole or two doesn't have to change the number either: just move the location of pot of gold from where you just drilled to where you haven't. Just check with westexas...he does it all the time.

Hot reaction to warming column

WHERE DOES the vitriol come from?

Last week, I wrote about the implosion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and about what I called "the touching faith of some climate-change critics that if they can just convince enough people that the whole thing is a hoax, then that will be reality, and we can get back to business as usual." Alas, I said, ’t ain’t so. Natural processes are impervious to human opinions.

Some readers went ballistic.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotian/1168759.html

And the article in question: http://thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotian/1167503.html


Like the little Frenchman said, "Men argue. Nature acts."

Climate change skeptics can’t change reality

But in a democratic society, they don't need to change reality.

Creating perception, even if false, is good enough.

"Where does the vitriol come from?"



Greed: they do not want to pay for their pollution.

They do not like being labeled bad people for wrecking the ecosphere and the future of their descendants.

Cognitive dissociation.

"Where does the vitriol come from?"

A cornered rat can become quite vicious...

More answer to, "Where does the vitriol come from?"

They do not like being told what to do.

Fear of change.

A first rate analysis of the difference between science reviews and denier 'journalism' courtesy of Gavin Schmidt of Realclimate.

Journalism versus Science