Drumbeat: March 24, 2010

The solution both to the economic crisis and to climate change is sustainable economic degrowth

Scholars from different fields seem to converge in the view that economic degrowth is not only desirable, but unavoidable, as physicist-economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen argued already in the 1970s. The economy cannot grow indefinitely in a finite planet. Financing and debts are used to hide this basic fact, but the underlying inability of the real economy to keep up with unrealistic expectations of growth, is revealed in times of crisis. The question then is how to manage smoothly and socially equitably the process of degrowth and the transition to a "steady-state", where the economy will neither shrink nor grow. Different proposals are put forward in this edited volume, ranging from theoretical explorations on reforms to the social security and pensioning systems and reduction of working hours, to more radical calls for changes in the structures of the economic and political systems and importantly, concrete proposals about low-consumption, shared housing schemes. Together the fifteen articles presented in this issue offer a complex picture of the rich scientific debate about the desirability and possibility of sustainable degrowth, and open a range of important research questions for the future.

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Breakthrough?

In the years since it became widely recognized that world oil production would likely go into irretrievable decline early in the 21st century, no national government has yet to officially recognize that a major paradigm shift is in the offing and begin planning for it.

Those governments that respond to questions on the subject usually pointed to International Energy Agency projections indicating that all would be well for many years. Even as the evidence mounted that another 40 years of increasing oil production and economic growth probably was not the cards, no major political leader has stepped up to face reality.

CNOOC: (Not-So) Secretly Buying Up World's Oil Reserves

Countries don't colonize anymore. Today, if the British Empire needs tea, tobacco or beaver pelts, it buys them for cash rather than sending the Royal Navy. If the French need rubber, ivory or timber, they import them rather than functionally enslaving the Congo.

And if Red China needs oil, it doesn't send Chairman Mao's army (Proud motto: Every man a private), it sends a state-owned company.

That company is CNOOC. And it is on the march.

Congo to open oil blocks on Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo will open 10 blocks on Lake Tanganyika and six blocks on Lake Kivu for oil exploration, an energy ministry official said on Wednesday.

Biofuel mandates would make corn shortfall costly, experts say

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Grocery shoppers face hefty price increases if bad weather withers a U.S. corn crop that is now tethered to grain-intensive renewable fuel mandates, a new University of Illinois study warns.

A corn shortage, coupled with surging demand to meet government-ordered ethanol standards, could push cash prices to $7 a bushel, the study found, squeezing livestock producers and driving up prices for meat, milk, eggs and other farm staples.

Why are we so obsessed with stuff and more stuff?

"In the United States, we work more hours than folks in almost any other industrialized country in the world, and two of our main activities in our scant leisure time are TV watching and shopping," she writes. "So we go to work, come home exhausted, and plop down in front of the TV; commercials tell us we need new stuff, so we go shopping, and in order to pay for it all, we have to work even more."

GM unveils tiny, futuristic concept car for cities

SHANGHAI - It's not quite as foldable as the space vehicle that cartoon figure George Jetson pops into his briefcase as he bops into the office.

But the EN-V concept car, GM's "automobile solution" for the future, just might fit into an apartment foyer.

Controlled Burns Slash Greenhouse Gasses

Widespread prescribed or "controlled" burns in the wilds of the western United States can lower wildfire emissions of carbon dioxide by 18 to 25 percent, and by as much as 60 percent in certain forests, according to a new study.

Pemex Should Focus on Chicontepec Productivity, Commission Says

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s Hydrocarbons Commission will recommend that Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil company, focus on improving productivity in its $11.1 billion Chicontepec project before drilling new wells, according to a commission member.

Pemex slowed down Chicontepec drilling this year “and we won’t recommend any other cuts,” Commission Member Edgar Rangel said yesterday in an interview in Mexico City.

The Mexico City-based oil company’s board is reevaluating the Chicontepec project after it missed output targets and drilling delays last year. Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission may present as soon as this week its Chicontepec recommendations for Pemex, Rangel said.

Steve LeVine: Alaska: Confronting the Prospect of 6 Billion Barrels of Stranded Gas

Alaska -- and the so-called Sarah Palin pipeline -- are in the crosshairs of the abrupt surge of natural gas supplies in the continental United States. Leading the charge against a much-promoted pipeline to ship Alaskan natural gas into the currently glutted Lower 48 is former Sen. Ted Stevens. The locally influential Republican says the gas should be rerouted to Asia, and that if Alaska doesn't move fast, this fuel -- the equivalent of 6 billion barrels of oil -- could end up effectively stranded at home.

As the Oil Age Ends, A Return of the Canal and Rail Age?

As the Oil Age is now set to end, and as the world transitions back to Coal and other forms of electrical power generation, a key concept to think about is the matter of rolling resistance. Those CSX Railroad (CSX) commercials you may have seen on television (opens to wmv video file), for example, are essentially highlighting the greater efficiency trains have, over trucks. But of course, in the taxonomy of efficient conveyance, water transportation is close to the top. For a quick and general comparison, the standard mileage per gallon of gasoline to move one ton of freight is often cited as follows: Trucks: 155; Railroads: 413; Ships/Barges: 576.

ConocoPhillips to half stake in LUKOIL

NEW YORK (AFP) – US oil group ConocoPhillips said Wednesday it planned to sell halve its stake in Russian oil producer LUKOIL as part of its move to sell 10 billion dollars of assets.

The US company currently owns 20 percent of equity in Russia's second-biggest oil producer.

China imports 300 times more Russian electricity in 2009 than in 2008

The electricity China imported from Russia saw a surge in 2009, up more than 316 times than in 2008 to reach 738 million kilowatt-hours, according to the latest statistics from north China's Harbin Customs.

Urban development author: ‘Skyscrapers are over’

Skyscrapers are old news, green spaces are useless and building parking lots is a waste of time — that was just part of a message the keynote speaker delivered to a roomful of businesspeople for Tuesday morning’s release of the annual State of Downtown Baltimore report.

But urban development author James Howard Kunstler also said that Baltimore is one of the “lucky” cities poised to adapt to the urban future. That’s good news for a crowd that had just finished flipping through a report commissioned by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore showing that jobs, population and commercial real estate rentals and development were all down in 2009.

Cities emerging as epicentres of sustainability

It is no coincidence that RICS uses the concept of the 'city' as a vehicle for furthering the sustainability debate – just look around you. The Middle East is using the city as a way of housing growing populations and demonstrating growing economic influence in the world; China is doing the same, more aggressively, as it moves populations from the countryside into the city; and the west is using the city concept to test new ways of living, as San Francisco's sustainable and man-made Treasure Island shows.

Building a denser world

I imagine that as we see the price of fossil fuels continue to rise we will see more and more dense urban areas built out of necessity. It would be nice if we could work to reform zoning laws to anticipate this need, perhaps through a country-wide ‘open-source new urbanism’ project. Such a project would provide local communities with the sort of strong, minimalist zoning laws needed to build more densely while preserving a natural aesthetic (and not succumbing to the Disneyfication of neighborhoods which so many upper-crust new urbanism projects fall prey to – though this is often a result of over-zoning our new urban areas rather than the type of minimalist planning that an organic community requires).

We will consider Pakistan's request for nuclear deal: Hillary

In the clearest sign yet from Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday said the U.S. would “consider” Pakistan's request for a civil nuclear deal as Islamabad sought atomic cooperation and military hardware to bring itself on par with India.

However, her remarks were tempered with the rider that the civil nuclear deal with India did not happen “easily or quickly” and was the result of “many, many” years of strategic dialogue.

Nuclear power without radioactivity

Radiation-free nuclear fusion could be possible in the future claim a team of international scientists. This could lead to development of clean and sustainable electricity production.

Despite the myriad of solutions to the energy crisis being developed, nuclear fusion remains the ultimate goal as it has the potential to provide vast quantities of sustainable and clean electricity. But nuclear energy currently comes with a serious environmental and health hazard side effect - radiation. For fusion to gain widespread acceptance, it must be able to produce radiation-free energy but the key to this has so far remained elusive, explains Heinrich Hora at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

U.K. Failed to Secure Reactor Guarantee From EDF, Lawmakers Say

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government, which last year divested its stake in British Energy when the utility was bought by Electricite de France SA, should have ensured the deal included guarantees on building nuclear plants, lawmakers said.

Exclusive Excerpt: Hack the Planet

The battle lines on geoengineering have begun to take shape. On one side are modern-day romantics, who consider geoengineering an a priori violation of humans’ role as planetary citizens to let nature be natural and take a humble place within it. Better to solve the climate problem by reducing our impact on the planet, they say. Prominent among their antecedents is American forestry ecologist and writer Aldo Leopold, who asserted in A Sand County Almanac in 1949 that environmental problems demanded that man change his role from “conqueror of the land community to plain member and citizen of it.”

Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter

(AP) -- The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.

Disputed isle in Bay of Bengal disappears into sea

(AP) -- For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone.

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.

Housewives in China encouraged to live low-carbon life

The event suggests citizens have 15 energy-saving habits, such as saving on water, using recyclable bags for shopping, and not drinking bottled drinks.

Peter Foster: The church of Peak Oil

The problem with Peak Oil the theory isn’t that it’s wrong in noting that industry depletes resources, and that oil may, sooner or later, reach a production plateau, it’s that it sees those facts through a moralistically-charged and economically-challenged lens. It also embodies extraordinary faith in Big Government and grass roots activism.

PO Theorists fail — or more precisely refuse — to grasp that the best method of dealing with any form of commercial scarcity is market-based ingenuity, not some weird combination of Big Brother and Hippie co-ops.

The United Kingdom's Energy Security Debate

The ITPOES report is broad in scope but focuses on several issue areas that, if corrections are made, can have a positive impact on UK energy security. Among these issue areas are: transport and mobility, the impact of oil in the agricultural sector on food and food prices (and incidentally on water usage and clean water availability), and the changing nature of power generation and distribution. Their report’s recommendations support a number of policy responses that will reduce the demand for oil in an attempt to bring demand into equilibrium with the physical rate at which oil can be extracted (as opposed to predicting a terminal decline in oil availability itself). The ITPOES report is pessimistic on this last point, given the long lead time it will take to move off an oil economy.

Peak oil coming soon? Let’s see what it might look like

The words “peak oil” are being heard more often these days, and in increasingly exalted corridors, but what do they actually mean? Mere inconvenience and higher prices at the pump? Or TEOTWAWKI (for “the end of the world as we know it”)?

Let’s look at some of the scenarios various experts have have imagined:

Oil Falls for First Time in Three Days on U.S. Supplies, Dollar

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil declined for the first time in three days after an industry report showed U.S. stockpiles at an eight-month high, indicating demand may be slow to recover in the world’s biggest fuel market.

Oil pared yesterday’s advance after the American Petroleum Institute reported that U.S. crude inventories increased by 7.51 million barrels to 351.5 million. An Energy Department report today may show supplies rose 1.65 million barrels, the eighth weekly gain, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts. The dollar jumped to a 10-month high against the euro, damping the investment appeal of commodities.

“Demand is improving in line with the gradual recovery of the economy, but it’s still weak and behind more normal levels for this time of year,” said Thina Saltvedt, a commodities analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo.

'Kurdistan ready for oil exports'

Iraq's Kurdistan region is ready to start exporting oil at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day as soon as a new Iraq government is formed, its Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami said today.

Aramco, Total to Raise Refinery Financing in ‘Months’

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest state-owned oil company, and Total SA expect to raise $8 billion in debt financing for a joint refinery and petrochemical project in the “coming months,” the venture’s chief said.

The 400,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Jubail on Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf coast will cost more than $12 billion, Salem Shaheen, chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co., said at a World Refining Association conference in Abu Dhabi today.

China's oil-refining capacity to grow by 30 million tons

Based on the 30 million tons added to the oil-refining capacity last year, China's petroleum sector will add an additional 30 million-ton oil refining capacity in 2010, reporters learned from the 15th China International LPG Seminar currently underway in Qingdao.

According to industry experts, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corporation completed the construction of oil-refining facilities in Huizhou, Guangdong province, Fujian province and Dushanzi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in 2009. This increased the oil refining capacity by 30 million tons.

O’Malley, Undeterred by Refiners’ Problems, Considers Buying

(Bloomberg) -- Thomas O’Malley, the chairman of European refiner Petroplus Holdings AG, is on the hunt for U.S. refining assets as he seeks to take advantage of plants hurt by depressed prices and shrinking profits.

“I’m interested in refining assets across the U.S.,” he said in an interview at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association conference in Phoenix. He expects more companies will be putting plants up for sale as they wrestle with diminished demand for gasoline and diesel.

BG Group, China Sign Australia’s Biggest LNG Deal

(Bloomberg) -- China National Offshore Oil Corp. will buy liquefied natural gas from BG Group Plc’s Queensland Curtis venture in Australia’s largest export deal for the fuel.

The companies signed an agreement in Beijing today to supply 3.6 million metric tons of LNG annually over 20 years starting 2014, Australian Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement. The value of the deal would fluctuate with the price of crude oil, and be $40 billion at $70 a barrel, BG Chief Executive Officer Frank Chapman said.

Chevron unit says Russian law ‘may impede' exploration

Russia's law on foreign investment in strategic sectors “may impede” oil exploration because of the security procedure for license winners, the head of Chevron Corp.'s Russian unit said.

Lukoil Swings to Fourth-Quarter Profit, Misses Estimates

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil company, posted a fourth-quarter profit following a loss a year earlier after crude prices rose.

Russia's gas transit surges

The volume of Russian gas transit through Ukraine to Europe rose 70.3% to 18.9 billion cubic metres in the first two months of the year, Ukraine's Fuel & Energy Ministry said today.

BP Says Devon’s Brazil Assets Will Yield 100,000 Barrels a Day

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s Brazil assets, purchased from Devon Energy Corp. this month, will produce at least 100,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of the decade, said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of exploration and production.

“The long-term view is that Brazil needs to be a multi- 100,000 barrel a day business,” Suttles said in an interview in Utrecht, Netherlands yesterday. “If we didn’t believe that that potential was there, we wouldn’t have done the deal.”

Venezuela Asks Electricity Heads to Resign, Noticias24 Reports

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez asked the heads of seven public energy companies to resign, Noticias24 reported, after President Hugo Chavez declared a national electricity crisis last month.

NTPC Can’t Sell Power at Market Rates, Economic Times Reports

State-controlled NTPC should focus on generating power from wind and solar energy sources rather than making profit by selling power at market prices, the newspaper said citing Brahma.

Pakistan to Increase Fuel, Electricity Prices Next Month: Dawn

(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s government will increase prices of domestic fuel and electricity from next month, the Dawn newspaper said, without saying where it got the information.

Decision on wildflower protection expected soon

DENVER — A federal judge said he'll decide quickly whether the government erred in not giving protection to a wildflower that grows only in one place in the world — oil shale outcroppings in northeast Utah and northwest Colorado.

Peak Oil Investments I'm Putting My Money On: Part III, Natural Gas Vehicles

To understand why we should not expect too much from NGVs, I find it useful to start with the reasons proponents expect that NGVs should be able to displace oil. T. Boone Pickens is the leading proponent of this strategy, so let's take the main points from his Pickens Plan.

Norwegian Automaker Peddles Its Runabout

With the Bay Area expected to be an early proving ground for the electric car economy, an executive from Think, the Norwegian automaker, rolled into town in the company’s battery-powered City urban runabout.

Higher-profile electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will go on sale here later this year, and Think wants to make sure its car gets space in municipal and corporate garages.

Shadow cast on 'free' energy saving light bulbs

Energy suppliers with more than 50,000 customers (currently only the ‘big six’ of British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish & Southern, and Scottish Power) have to help their customers pay for energy efficiency measures, such as cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. According to the government’s own figures, sending four free bulbs to 345 households (1,377 bulbs in total) saves 68.83 tonnes of CO2 over the lifetime of the bulbs (provided they’re used in high-use fittings), saves each household £14 a year, and costs the supplier £1,886.

For the same money, an energy supplier could make a 20% contribution (the amount the government assumes suppliers will put in) towards the cost of solid wall insulation for one of Britain’s 6.6m old and poorly-insulated solid-wall properties. This would cut a typical household’s gas bill by £420 a year, and save the same amount of CO2 as all those bulbs put together – assuming that all of them do actually get used.

Energy-efficient homes make householders complacent

SURVEYS of hundreds of UK households reveal that people who have made their houses more energy efficient are more likely to indulge in small excesses - turning up the heating, for example, or keeping it on for longer.

Small excesses add up to large costs. The results of the studies - seven of them in total - suggest that such energy creep could wipe out as much as half of the anticipated savings from making homes more energy efficient.

Dry rivers cut power supply in south-west China

Beijing - Low water levels at hydropower plants have caused electricity shortages in parts of south-western China, adding to the devastation brought by the worst drought for 60 years, state media said on Wednesday.

The drought 'paralyzed 90 per cent of hydropower stations' in the Guangxi region, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power, the China Daily newspaper reported.

The water level above Guangxi's key Baise dam had fallen to a record low of less than 190 metres, forcing officials to suspend outflow to the Pearl River in the neighbouring province of Guangdong, the newspaper said.

Ships Can Cut Third From Emissions by Slowing, Lobby Group Says

(Bloomberg) -- The global shipping industry can cut a third off its emissions by better utilizing an oversupply of vessels competing for cargoes, a lobby group said.

How and Why the Northeastern US States' Cap and Trade is Working

Around this time last year, as talks in Congress about how to curb carbon and give clean energy and jobs a boost were intensifying, I briefly exhorted Obama to take a gander at the cap and trade system already up and running in the United States. Called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, it's a system enacted between 10 northeastern states to curb carbon via the familiar cap and trade mechanism. It's been up and running for six years now--and it's working.

Senate climate bill details still unfinished

(Reuters) - Senators negotiating a bill to address global warming fears and encourage the use of more alternative energy in the United States struggled over details on Tuesday as lawmakers approached a two-week break without a full legislative proposal yet in hand.

E.P.A. to Seek More Data on Emissions

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed adding the oil and gas sector and facilities that inject carbon dioxide into the ground to the greenhouse gas sources that are required to report their annual emissions to the government.

Rising waters threaten Nile Delta

As the sea on Egypt's coastline rises, (Hamza says by 20cm during the last century, a statistic that leading Egyptian government scientists concur with) salt-water infiltrates the Delta's soil from below, and destroys the farming land.

The consequences of this are very serious for Egypt, which relies on the Delta for food production.

Today, as Egypt's population continues to grow, and as it spends more and more money on food imports, the country cannot afford to lose any more productive land. Gesturing to the salty wastes around me, Hamza says: "It is a human disaster, an economic disaster, an agricultural disaster, and it will lead not only to poverty but also to hunger".

Greenland ice sheet losing mass on northwest coast

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet, which has been increasing during the past decade over its southern region, is now moving up its northwest coast, according to a new international study.

Population growth should be curbed: conservationist Goodall

LONDON (AFP) – Humans should have fewer babies to help the global battle against climate change, according to the renowned British primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall.

Goodall, whose 1960s research on chimpanzees changed perceptions of relations between humans and animals, fears the controversial issue has slipped down the agenda in the debate about man's impact on the environment.

"It's very frustrating as people don't want to address this topic," said the 75-year-old English scientist. "It's our population growth that underlies just about every single one of the problems that we've inflicted on the planet."

IGCC coal plant capped at $5,500 per MW capacity

IGCC is partial Carbon Capture Coal, coal is gasified and then burned in a combined cycle plant. Mississippi Power promises to limit pass on costs to $5,500/MW to Public Service Commission. Current estimate is $4,123/ MW.

I would like more information about the process because the article mentions that there will be carbon emissions equal to a gas fired plant. Earlier conceptual plans had the coal derived gas burned in pure oxygen and the resulting CO2 injected (possibly in an old oil field).


Skeptical about "Clean Coal",


I got your clean coal, right here..



The IGCC process is a coal gasification process where coal is heated in a reducing atmosphere to produce a syngas mixture of CO and hydrogen. Part of the energy for that comes from the coal itself. The common approach is the Fischer-Tropsch process.

The syngass can then by burned in a high-efficiency turbine (combined cycle) at efficiencies that are better than what is achieved by burining coal conventionally. It also has teh advantage, if done correctly or burning the syngas in a "pure" oxygen environment meaning that you are not heating the 79% nitrogen, that comes along for the ride in air, as a way to heat the great outdoors. Plus, you have a gas stream that is mostly CO2 which is much lower in volume than what you get using air for combustion. For capture and sequestration, this makes things a littel easier to work with.

For lignite, there is a reasonable advantage compared to more conventional ways of firing it. Many people,(myself included) see lignite as being dirt with heat value. It has a low HHV compared to other coals, tends to be relatively dirty, and requires extra attention in firing it in solid fuel boilers.

As for being nearly equivalent to an equivalent sized natural gas plant the answer is yes, maybe. It really depends upon how and what you are doing and what the lignite characteristics are.

We have one power plant in ND that is an IGCC plant that captures the CO2 and pipelines it to the oil fields in Canada. There are other IGCC plants out there without CCS and their efficiency helps reduce the carbon emission over a conventional plant, but maybe not as much as a combined cycle turbine.

So IGCC refers to the gasification process [partial combustion] and not the [complete] combustion step. Pure oxygen is not required but optional.

Any ideas on the energy cost of separating oxygen from air (steel makers sometimes do it) as a fraction of total power plant output ?

It has been a while, but what are the capital costs of new high efficiency (say GE H frame) NG combined cycle ? New high efficiency (say 8,900 BTU/kWh heat rate, or is lower practical) coal fired plant ?

Using O2 is better for heat transfer and later CO2 injection (I think Chinese have tried injecting N2 + CO2, the product of using air for combustion, into old oil fields).

Best Hopes for More Efficient FF burning,


I suspect another big issue with using O2 is the temperature. Without the nitrogen to take up some of the heat, it is probably much higher, and probably requires major changes in equipment.

I can think of several ways of handling that based on creative uses of water or a PFBC style turbine cycle. But the overal system becommes complex and why burn perfectly usable chemical synthesis feedstock?

The Th!nk article had a related story down below...

Indiana Chosen for Electric-Car Plant

I guess the empty plants in Flint and Detroit weren't appealing enough.

That story's two months old.

You may recall that Elkhart, IN is the RV capital of the world. MSNBC has been running a special series on them, because they were so hard-hit by the recession. I would guess there are plenty of empty plants there, too.

Ok, it's old.. but it still feels new to me..

At Renewable Energy world this morning, they posted this one ..

Electric Vehicles Charge Ahead in US
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/03/electric-ve... (which you probably already showed us .. I'm only human..)

It makes the EV transition (if that's what it is..) feel exactly like the 3d Movie situation since Avatar. Is that beast finally moving forward? Has something shifted? Or is it a mirage?

Urban planners are deciding where to locate more than 11,000 charging stations in 11 major cities. They want those stations up and running when the first mass-market electric cars from Nissan and General Motors go on sale at the end of this year.

I remember that piece; I did some snickering here about being able to drive to either a winery, a trailer park, or various branch offices of my electric utility. Chicken or egg, guys.

Found a copy of the WEO 2009 lying around on the web. You find the darnedest things on servers. Here's their verdict, FWIW:

In the Reference Scenario, in the
absence of stronger targets and more directed policy support, electric cars and
plug-in hybrids remain only niche markets. They feature much more prominently
in the 450 Scenario, which takes into account the impact of a global sectoral
agreement on the efficiency of passenger light-duty vehicles (PLDVs).

Which means:

In the absence of more direct policy
support, the combination of high costs and the slow rate of vehicle-stock turnover sees
the share of hybrids (excluding plug-ins) in the global fleet reach 5.3% by 2020 and 6.1%
by 2030, up from just 0.15% in 2007. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars remain marginal
in the Reference Scenario, accounting for only 0.3% of the global fleet in 2030

The infrastructure for electrics should be easy to build. Many stores would love to have potential customers captive for 15-45 minutes.

Somehow we need to move from incentives to carbon tax.

Re: Peter Foster: The Church of Peak Oil

Mr. Heinberg cited the plateauing of oil production since around 2005 as evidence of peakishness. Why, he asked, didn't soaring prices produce soaring supply? Well perhaps because soaring prices also induced flat demand.

My comments:

Cornucopians and "I see dead people"

In the movie "The Sixth Sense," many ghosts don't know they are dead and they only see what they want to see. IMO, most cornucopians don't know that our ever expanding auto centric suburban way of life is dead and they only see what they want to see, i.e., most of them will probably never acknowledge Peak Oil/Peak Exports.

In early 2004, the Saudi oil minister reiterated their support for the $22-$28 OPEC oil price band, and the Saudis followed through, as they significantly increased their net oil exports in 2004 & 2005 in response to rising oil prices, but in early 2006, they started complaining about a lack of demand for $60 plus oil, as their net exports fell, in response to rising oil prices.

I had to stop reading that article in midstream.. it was pure PeakOiler Bait.'

I was also remarking on all the Anne Coulter references on the sidebar and realized this was 'one of those' kind of places, created to foster argument and noise, not much else.

(and of course, if you indulged him in a challenge of 'WHY did that price get so high in the first place, if there wasn't a supply problem?' You'll get the handwave and comments about speculators, and no consideration that this might very well be a PERFECT example of Supply/Demand hard at work..)

Thank you, Ottawa
Ann Coulter Ottawa speech shut down
Major AQ bust in Saudi Arabia, story breaking now; 100 arrests.

Saudi says arrests militants planning attacks

RIYADH (Reuters) – Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has arrested scores of militants accused of plotting attacks on oil facilities, in one of the biggest swoops by the kingdom in several years, state media said on Wednesday.

Those arrested included about 50 Saudis and dozens from Yemen, which jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after a failed December bombing on a U.S.-bound plane claimed by the Yemen-based regional al Qaeda wing, the media said.

The militants were organized in three cells, two of which were planning to attack oil and security facilities in the oil-producing Eastern Province. They included a Yemeni who security officials describe as being a prominent member of al Qaeda.

Re: Ann Coulter's Canceled Ottawa Speech

Q: How do you get past 200 protesting Canadian University Students?

A: You say "Excuse me."

The only danger Ms. Coulter was in was of being ignored.

Either this was a bare-faced publicity stunt, or Ms. Coulter needs better personal security personnel. And it looks more like the former than the latter.

Is there any sort of rule of thumb as to how long prices must be "up" before new production driven by such prices comes on line?

I'm thinking of shale gas -- the price rise a few years back drove drilling which has resulted in a crash in prices along with the economy, and it's taken a year or two for decline to start to catch up, and before long prices will head up.

I would expect something similar with oil, but with an overlay of increasing demand from Chindia.

Obviously why somebody says an industry is "cyclical", they really probably mean it's an unstable system, likely with an oscillation at some natural frequency (a feedback loop -- phase shift 0f 180 with a gain greater than 1).

Seems like the cycle is at least several years, and might be as much as 5 years when you factor in obtaining financing, hiring contractors, obtaining equipment and leases, drilling wells, arranging transport, and finally getting the oil to market?

Economic cycles seem to be a little faster -- we seem to be able to bubble, burst, and recover in about 2-3 years.

Anyway, my musing is whether the production push from 2003-2005 prices are only just now coming on strong, thus covering a slump in other production? If an economic semi-recovery cycle happens to align with a slumping oil cycle prices could bump up quickly again...and then drive another step down. Whether the cycles align or not might determine whether we have an undulating plateau or massive peaks and troughs?

I use the Texas & North Sea case histories, because these two regions were developed by private companies, using the best available technology, with virtually no restriction on drilling. The graph showing the 1972 Texas peak (blue) lined up with the 1999 North Sea peak is shown below. In both cases, the initial declines corresponded to rapid increases in oil prices:

Based on Deffeyes' HL plot, global conventional crude oil production in 2005 was at about the same stage of depletion at which the North Sea peaked in 1999. So what have we seen?

Global crude oil production increased from 2002 to 2005, as oil prices rose from $26 to $57, but then we have seen a cumulative shortfall in global crude production as oil prices rose from $57 in 2005 to $100 in 2008. Saudi Arabia also showed cumulative shortfalls in production in net exports over the 2006-2008 time period, in response to rising oil prices, in contrast to rising production & net exports, in response to rising oil prices from 2002 to 2005, and Saudi Arabia, in 2005, based on HL, was approximately at the same stage of depletion at which Texas peaked in 1972.

Back during the price spike, there was some talk about "lag times" (when Stuart posted that graph of Saudi drilling vs. production). Some of the industry insiders said it took three years after the drilling for the oil to actually hit the market. I imagine that could be longer as the new discoveries get more difficult to extract.

However, I am not yet convinced that the demand from China is real. I think yesterday's article from Platts explained a lot of what's going on over there. Demand is increasing, but consumption may not be. The Chinese government changed the rules to encourage 100% refinery utilization. So now they are refining oil and exporting the products because of lack of domestic demand.

And it's looking bubbly over there.

The all out, maximum drilling effort in Texas in the late Seventies succeeded in keeping the 1972 to 1982 production decline rate down to 3.4%/year, which is basically the same decline rate that we have seen from 1972 to 2008, although there have been some year over year increases in production.

And Sam quantified the post-peak response in the North Sea. Oil fields whose first full year of production was in 1999, or later, showed a combined production peak of about one mbpd in 2005, versus a total 1999 North Sea production peak of about 6 mbpd, but this surge of production, equivalent to about one-sixth of peak production, only served to slow the North Sea decline rate to about 4.6%/year.

My take is that a Real Estate bust in China may ripple and cause some decline in GDP there (massive public works will take up some of the slack, and China has the capital to do this).

Regarding oil, the # of cars sold will be >> # of cars scrapped even in a severe recession (few old cars, most scraps are from accidents) and with a drop in VMT, oil demand for cars will show at least some small growth. Balancing that will be reduced oil use for trucking and other uses.

So my "next to worst case" for China has Chinese oil demand flat, with no significant decline.

And Chinese domestic oil production appears to have peaked, so flat demand implies a modest growth in oil imports.


The last paragraph from Leanan's link:

Economists warn that a fallout in China's property market could have at least as much of an effect on global economics as the collapse of the U.S. housing market. "China is key to the global economy," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "If it can lead the (world) out of the recession, it can lead it back in."

Here we go again comparing things that are different. China is an export based economy. It has a high savings rate and most cars for example sold in China are paid for with cash. China is not carrying on two optional foreign wars. China does not try to support 700 military bases scattered around the world. And China's currency is linked to the dollar.

The dollar is linked to oil.

If the Chinese property market stalls or collapses, China's dollar savings can be used to buy oil in a falling oil market should that happen. And American and other foreign demand for cheap Chinese exports will still remain.

China is in the process of an industrial revolution where farmers and other rural residents are moving to the city to try to increase their income. Some are failing and returning home. This is similar to what occurred in the United States in the early 20th century.

But in China the process is speeded up due to a command economy and the lack of necessity to invent technology since it already exists.

And China should be the darling model for population controllers since its compulsory one child policy has been in effect a long time.

So what we have is an economy on steroids. The Chinese property bubble has fundamental causes behind it unlike the American one. It may burst but it will not lead the world into recession. The rest of the world is fully capable of falling into more recession all by itself.

China never really led the world out of recession anyway. It successfully avoided most of the Great Recession with just a slowing of growth. If growth slows again due to a burst property bubble I doubt that will have much affect on Americans for example.

Did the bursting American property bubble have much affect on the Chinese? I don't think so. I doubt the bursting of the Chinese bubble if one exists would have much negative affect on the world.

Did the American property bubble have much affect on the Chinese?

Heck, yes.

Must read: GMO White Paper China, by Edward Chancellor. Apologies if someone threw this in yesterday, when it was published. Also: GMO's Edward Chancellor Discusses China's Red Flags - A Must Read For A Fresh Perspective On China's Bubble | zero hedge. Quite the sock in the gut.

China will have a major setback. Nothing can grow like that and not fall back at some point.

This might be true. The question becomes, "Are they better prepared culturally to accept going both up and down?" .. many of my fellow Americans seem to think the Tide should only come IN.

The laws of Nature aren't that hard to follow if you remember that they still apply to you. The deferment we Westerners think we got is all in our heads.

Kashagan (ultimate 1.5 million b/day) was supposed to have first production in 2005 but this has been delayed till 2013 (+?). $136 billion estimated development cost.

For major projects, almost a decade to over a decade from price signal to production is not unusual. Renewed exploration offshore of the Falklands might be an example.

However, depletion continues apace while the world waits for responses to price signals. IMO,
the "pie is baked" till 2016 and the full impact of the price signals from 2010 will not hit the market till after 2022 (see Kashagan).

The oil brought in by higher prices is unlikely to = the oil depleted while waiting for price signals to be processed.

Best Hopes for Conservation and Efficiency (both MUCH quicker responses to price signals),


Riding a bicycle is the quickest response to price signals

Riding a bicycle is the quickest response to price signals.

Dear, dear. As usual, it depends, one size does not fit all. If it were just a walk down the block, one might just walk down the block forget about the whole issue. [Impatient readers may now skip the analysis and go to the final sentence.]

But since the quote is a blanket statement, let's do a quick search and call it an average commute, 26 minutes and 16 miles round trip by car. The time by bicycle would vary, but 90 or 100 minutes seems a reasonable minimum unless one is a Lance Armstrong and there are no traffic lights or other such delays. So the difference would be around an hour - plus time to wash up and change shirts in summer (which is not unique to bicycling; people in Tokyo routinely carry several blouses or shirts in the sauna-like summertime since just the leaden walk to the train station is often enough to call for a change.)

That's an hour (plus the extra laundry) in order to save, oh, half a gallon of gasoline, $1.50 worth. Well, as the old commercial used to say, "where's my big savings?" Now of course the total cost of driving the 16 miles is somewhere around $8 using typical AAA numbers. But insurance is billed not by the mile but by the month or the quarter, and rust and deterioration never sleep. Little more than the fuel cost and a bit of maintenance can be saved by taking the bike. Let's be extremely generous and say we can avoid $3 of car cost.

This raises issues of practicality and scalability. The only way to get the full $8 would be to ditch the car altogether. That's usually not practical. Most people want to have it for carrying stuff, like groceries or insulation batts - or for carrying the kids. And there's my favorite little problem, namely that most parts of the country have something called "winter", an inconvenient truth which seems to be utterly forgotten whenever even a single day goes by with no snow in the news. It's virtually impossible to make a 20-mile round trip without crossing numerous intersections, and even with the fancy and costly Finnish bike tires you do not want to be crossing those intersections on a bike when the cars are sliding every which way, and failing to stop where they're supposed to, on the ice.

Now, a small minority may ride bicycles for assorted reasons. After all, I've had European visitors wonder out loud why "you Americans" drive to the health club to ride a stationary bike, instead of integrating a real bike into one's life. And here in a university city, it's a slightly larger minority since the place is full of fit young things. (Basically the cyclists are university students, plus a smattering of old-timers, with rather few aged in-between. That says something, I'm not sure what.)

But we're discussing a blanket statement here. Once we scale it up beyond the eccentric minority, how many people really want to do what to them is mind-numbing, time-wasting, boring physical labor, for a mere $3/hour, even if that's effectively an after-tax $3?

Or to summarize it succinctly for the impatient, what price signal?

Paul, I'm 57 and can easily do 16 mph sustained on my bike so for me that trip takes only a half hour both ways. I did commute to my job for a while by bike in the hot Florida summer and yes I wore shorts for the ride there and had a change of clothes in a light backpack. I found that in my case that trip took me about 10 minutes longer each way by car. A 30 minute pedal isn't much of a work out, really.

Ok, while I may still agree with the gist of your point about blanket statements, your example wasn't that great.

You are a sample of one; in a country of 300 million not only can we can find all sorts of outliers, statistically we must. Possibly you have a nice flat route (which is why there's so much cycling in The Netherlands, on the whole it's one of the flattest land surfaces on the planet.) However, could you please explain a little about how it can possibly be faster to bike than to drive?

Where I live, places where you can bike a considerable distance without frequent stops (that slow you down a lot) also have relatively uncongested highways where you can drive 45 or 55, which is a helluva lot faster than 16. If you have access to a little-used unobstructed bike path (i.e. no need to constantly stop for mile-long dog leashes and the like) along a river or railroad that by awesome coincidence covers your trip - especially in a crowded area where traffic is so slow it takes more than half an hour to drive just 8 miles - then you are really an outlier. (You're also an outlier in that it seems like lots of people, by age 40 or 45, are pretty well tuckered out after climbing a one story flight of stairs; count yourself lucky. I recall a local bus driver's ironic complaint a while back, just after a bus strike, that on account of the strike he had had to walk about a mile to go somewhere and "it just about killed me".)

OTOH there are outliers in the other direction as well: from mrflash below, emphasis added:

My commute is 5 miles to the office from my home... My commute is urban, with many street lights and stop signs... Typical commute time: 40 minutes one way...

[I'll take 'street lights' as a typo for 'traffic lights'.] That strikes me as slightly slow compared to what I'm used to, and would scale to about 130 minutes instead of the 90-100 range I gave, reducing the Big Savings to, oh, around $2.50/hr.

Now if the price signal were $12/gallon as Alan proposed in his reply, it might change things for more people. But it isn't. Of course for those who simply like to ride, the price signal isn't very much at issue. But as far as I can tell, they're fairly rare. Most people seem to prefer the arrangement that so baffled my European visitors.

However, could you please explain a little about how it can possibly be faster to bike than to drive?

I live 1.1 miles from the French Quarter. When there is an event there (about 30 weekends/year plus some weekdays), traffic is congested early in the evening. Bicycles and walking can bypass that. Last month I picked someone up on Canal (they did NOT understand, from out of town). 55 minutes to go 1.1 miles (near worst case I admit). Massive waste of fuel.

Parking (unless one wants to spend $10 to $20) is horrendous for cars and a massive waste of time. Even paying $10+ leaves one several blocks from where the action is (bikes park MUCH closer). So drive, park and walk 5 blocks or walk 11 blocks ? Or bicycle 11 blocks ?

Best Hopes,


Apples and oranges. He was talking average time on a lengthy regular commute, not bypassing a small localized special-event area on the weekend or occasionally on a weekday. We've got things like that where I live too. They have little bearing on most commutes.

The French Quarter is a major employment center, 24/7. Canal Street (the border of the French Quarter) has 26,000 rooms within 2 blocks, with all of the associated employment and traffic.


Love your analysis Paul.

I actually performed an experiment in December of 2008 in Bozeman, Montana where I am living. It was actually a bet, of which I won. For the month of December we were to ride our bikes to do everything. It was a wet month with all snow, but luckily we have drivers that know snow driving. Like you said, I didn't save much in terms of direct cost, but I save a lot indirectly. What I can't carry on a bike I don't buy, thus, it forced me to live within my transportation means. I can't travel to the local ski areas or nearby towns to visit friends. I do remembered feeling like I was part of the underclass looking back at society from the outside.

A few years ago I used to walk about 8 miles literally across town and over a river bridge into another town, hang out all day then walk back or take a bus back.

Exercise alone won't make you lose weight if you eat poorly, or to much. Though maybe if you did exercise all the time you might lose weight but still be over those "target" weights they always have in diet charts.

Summers in Arkansas can get a bit muggy.

We'd have to scale up most of our biking to get to work, for a lot of people. Mostly because they couldn't just drop into it and survive. Most people complain about having to walk more than a few feet, because it hurts. It hurts because they have been lazy to long and the body gets into ruts, and though you don't want people to hurt themselves, feeling pain or aches is a bigger sign of them hurting themselves by being inactive.

Activity over time will breed a better feeling of health and won't hurt you. No activity hurts you in slow subtle ways that you don't notice till it is to late, and correcting the problem will be a frustrating process for a while, if you don't push past the first bit of hurt, you'll suffer worse in the long run.

Will power to change is a key thing in most of this, we have been fooling ourselves by our lack of will power, it'll kill us.

BioWebScape designs for a better Fed future.

Very well put.

A "price signal" need not create a universal change in behavior (hint: they almost never do) but a change in the mass average behavior.

Both New Orleans and Washington DC are candidates for 20% to 30% of the workforce commuting to work by bike. That 20% to 30% may not bike everyday, but even 2/3rds of the days would save a lot of oil.

The # that might go grocery shopping by bike is larger and more prevalent nationwide (many, but not all, Suburbanites live within 2.5 miles of a grocery store for example, some within 1 mile).

Of course the response to the signal depends upon the strength of the signal (see $12 gas combined with significantly lower real wages for an example of a strong signal).

I have seen a significant up tick in bicycling post-Katrina in New Orleans (after collapse of public transport plus a push for a greener lifestyle here). And one car middle class households are becoming more prevalent (a significant savings over two cars and still allowing evacuation).

Best Hopes for Positive Changes in Behavior,


A "price signal" need not create a universal change in behavior (hint: they almost never do) but a change in the mass average behavior.

Sure. I'm just suggesting that the change in mass average behavior with respect to bicycling is at the moment utterly lost in the noise - and that said lack of change is no surprise in view of the triviality of the current price signal.

The number of places where that is not true is rapidly growing. New Orleans is one, Washington DC is another (note early link from me about bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue).

Build the facilities, make it easier, and they will come (by bicycle),


In very low single digit percentages when averaged over an area large enough to matter, yes. Particularly in flat places. In large enough numbers over large enough areas to matter in the context of a general discussion, maybe not so much.

*IF* the House of Saud is replaced by the Islamic Republic of Arabia (which may liberate a few other Emirates) or Israel bombs Iran, or civil war breaks out in Russia, or ...

then those that can bicycle for some fraction of their trips will indeed matter. I can see an upsurge in biking having much more impact than, say, a 50 mph speed limit, or even odd/even fueling days.

Best Hopes for Being Prepared,


The bicycle issue can be batted like a shuttlecock or tennis ball all day if you guys won't each admit that the other has a good case-depending on the locality.

Bikes will work in my hilly rural nieghborhood only when it is simply too expensive to drive, and then only for the young and tough who are able to work up a good sweat for half an hour at a time, minimum.

When I lived in the Fan District in Richmond,and was a lot younger,I rode a ratty old bike quite a bit mostly because it was faster than hunting a parking space for my car anywhere in the university district, or anywhere near my apartment on the return trip.

Alan is right of course about the impact of large numbers of bicycles reducing the pressure on oil supplies and traffic and parking congestion.But only the traffic and parking benefits will be recognized and appreciated locally-the pressure on oil supply and price will be felt diffused over the entire economy, and will probably be masked by other larger increases in demand and price.Other than a few bueracrats who study such things and write reports tthat are ignored, and a few people such as the followers of this forum,nobody will lnow the difference until the situation gets desperate, Cuba style.

Depending on one's pov and personal circumstances, adoption of bicycles on a grand scale can be a boon or a bust-in the long run for society as a whole, it will be a boon, but huge numbers of people are currently employed in carcentric industries, and quite a few of them are going to REALLY FEEL THE PAIN as the change over occurs-which I believe is inevitable.The only real question seems to be when it will really get up a full head of steam.

I just hope that good sturdy electric bikes that come with twenty four thousand mile /two year warranties are reasonably cheap and being sold in local dealerships before gasoline is either unavailable or else priced out of my reach-and my reach is limited.At ten dollars plus a gallon I will drive very little indeed.

I know batteries are still very expensive, but I can buy a compact car that includes enough materials of every sort, excepting the battery, to build at least fifteen electric bikes for the price five or so brand name electric bikes.

I don't have to be an engineer to look at such a machine and see that there is not a single component on it that is any more expensive than the equivalent part of a car-two skinny little tires versus four, no glass, no heat, no ac, a tiny little seat versus four large seats,a unitized frame that wieghs only as much as a typical small car door, an electronics system that is probably no more sophisticated than the one that controls the freaking MUSIC in a typical new car.

It appears to also be perfectly obvious that assembling one car would require several times more labor than assembleing the five electric bikes, and all five bikes would fit into the bed of an ordinary pickup truck when they are shipped, etc.

Except for the motor and the battery THERE AIN'T NO THERE THERE, as Virginia Woolf(?) put it.If anybody has a problem understanding this argument overall , they should take a look at an exploded view of a modern automobile engine, and and likewise of an electric motor.Electric bikes are obviously still WAY overpriced and should become much more affordable as production ramps up.

There is a considerable debate upthread about the speed at which electric cars will come into the fleet.It is being based mostly upon economic projections that are made on assumptions, and as Rockman often states here, he can make the models he works with turn out any results he pleases-simply by plugging in the right assumptions.

The record of the banking and investment and economics professions , as far as predicting the future goes, is abysmal, and we all know this.The assumptions in respect to the numbers of electric cars that will hit the streets, and the numbers of gasoline fueled cars that will go to the Great Garage in the Sky are based on assumptions piled on assumptions, and unless the entire economy continues to behave within very narrow ASSUMED limits, they are not worth even a good laugh.

Engineers and scientists such as geologists are pretty good at explaining things that can't happen as a result of physical restraints and physical laws,and are seldom proved wrong , except by the rare Black Swan event.

But thier record when it becomes a question of predicting what will happen when you inject people and politics into the predictions is barely any better than plain old guesswork-the only difference is that they mostly don't predict things that are actually KNOWN to be impossible, wheras laymen often do.They are perfectly happy to spend thier entire careers pursueing things that are likely to prove unachievable at any cost that can be paid, on any time frame that matters, such as fusion power.All thier so called ethics are instantly and forever stored in a broom closet in this respect so long as the old paycheck rolls in regularly.

Depending on the overall state of the economy, the price of gasoline, the property taxes and insurance expenses accociated with owning a car, and so forth,all of which may vary over a very wide range in the next decade or two,and the interactions of these variables with many others,there is a distinct possibility that the adoption of the electric car will proceed much faster than anyone except electric car nuts would ever believe possible.

I saw a golf cart legally liscensed and inspected and being driven on a Virginia highway a few days back.The proud owner says he just has to stay within ten miles of home to be sure he can get home ok before he needs a recharge,and he doesn't need to go any farther except on rare occasions , when he borrows a car from his son.Of course he must stick to thirty five mph or less roads for his own safety, and he is not allowed on the interstate because the cart cannot achieve a safe minimum speed.

The older and larger cars are going to leave the roads a lot faster than most people expect.The only way you can afford a transmission job for an old clunker fuel hog is to put in a used one.The donor cars are worth so much for scrap nowadays that nobody is letting them sit around anymore hoping for a parts customer,and since the early nineties the interchangeability of parts has been a constantly growing problem.You will very often find that your 1994 car has a transmission it it that is simply unavailable at any price used in gauranteed working condition.More than likely such a car will be scrapped rather than fixed, because you can buy a similar running car for the price of the repair or less.

If gasoline is rationed,or a European level tax is put on it, there are tens of millions of people who can and probably will buy a nieghborhood electric in order to save money and or stretch thier ration so as to have enough gasoline for the occasional trip to grandma's house in the gasoline fueled car sitting in the driveway.

My guess is that either rationing or Euro level fuel taxes will be realities within a decade, and my personal bet between the two is rationing.

If I were younger and ambitious I would give some serious thought to owning a dealership selling nieghborhood electric cars.

Excellent summary ,Mac. Being both a bike and an electric enthusiast I see these issues as ones of mitigation. Viewing PO constraint as inevitable helps one move on to the acceptance of alternatives. I finds this little liquid fuels issue we are facing to be a most interesting challenge. Every time mitigation or conservation or reduction wins there is an inherent benefit to the individual and perhaps very indirectly the larger group. Retained health and wealth. I think you are right to expect that electrics will indeed take off. Really just a slightly more intense price signal coupled with better cultural acceptance will likely tip it over into that winning area. (and I think if we refuse to mitigate we are truly royally screwed, and right quick, w/o the long winding descent)

My experience building electric bikes mirrors your observation very well. There is no reason in the world they have to be expensive at all. They are not the least bit complicated even for one with average electrical/mechanical skills such as myself. A decent 36v. Lithium bike which used to be $2000 can now be found in the under $1000 category. But with just a bit of assembly you can do a 48 volt 15AH LiFePo4 complete unit for around $500-$600 yourself which is more capable than store bought. I have done 2 plus 3 Lead Acid types. My latest I was trying to get 25 mi. range under a 50 lb. machine and I came close on both counts. 20mph speed (to call it legal), under 5% inclines. The batteries are supposed to do over 1000 cycles with 80% capacity (of course I don't have that many reps on them)

I'm agreeing with you ,I think, that if the price points don't converge pretty soon and gas did spike again there is no reason the home built or cheap commercial market would not take off. The lead acid battery program can work ok but there are now many reliable suppliers elsewhere for the LiFePo4 and the price per Watt hour X recharges is way better with better range and way less weight. The range and performance on what is available will make NEV's and even highway pure EV's work IMHO.

What people seem to overlook is that when the recharge number gets to 1000 to 2000 on 100 mi range that 100,000 to 200,000 miles which is essentially paid for at the dealer. Figure even on an economy car at $4 gallon gas time 5000 gallons $20k dollars @ 150,000mi. So $10,000 for the works and $10,000 for the batts would be like getting the transport for the cost of the fuel for the economy car. The recharge costs are very small. (My little batts cost me $300 per bike and even that works out to conservatively 15 to 25,000 miles with a .05 recharge per trip, works out to 2 cents per mile total) So when I buy the batts I've pretty much paid for the fuel already. And NEV's and EV's do not have to be near as complex as a modern car as you said, not even close.

I think a lot of this is cultural. All the real men around here drive honkin' big 4x4's one person rain or shine loaded or mostly empty. But that can change by the 'short hairs' factor. Even the bike thing and the hill thing are not insurmountable. Tomorrow we ride 70mi. with a couple who are 63. He will do 200 miles in a day here in a few months they do hills real well. My wife (stoker rider) and I are real strong and eat a lot of younger riders up and down hills. But we're pretty much addicted. The electrics are a hoot too and this was just a long winded way of agreeing with just about everything you posted.

Edit one other small item. Anybody who thinks there is going to be great amounts of cheap fuel left over for the 'consumer' market when the ELM 2.0 SHTF after the military, agricultural, LE, rail, shipping, essential industrial, users are satisfied are smokin' something.

Once we scale it up beyond the eccentric minority

Hey I resemble that!

how many people really want to do what to them is mind-numbing, time-wasting, boring physical labor, for a mere $3/hour

Heck I'd do it for nuthin'

What do ya call a $40,000 pickup @ $10 a gallon? ....yard art

That's interesting - describing those with a commitment to fitness, good health and longevity as 'eccentrics'. And characterizing
essential exercise as 'mind-numbing,time-wasting,boring physical labor'.

Many prefer to drive to the health club; drive to the ski hill; drive
to the tennis court; drive to the pool etc. to indulge in 'boring
physical labor' rather than hopping on a bike at the front door and
'double tasking'. Are they 'mainstream' or 'semi-eccentric'?

The average distance to work sounds about right though, at ~8mi.

Semi Eccentric, nice. The year started with a 5mi. Jan 1 fun-run in cold driving sleet and it's been all improvement from there. It's hard to jump on that fitness equipment when there is the least chance it'll be nice out. That said there are a couple of bike riders I know who made it through winter and I did it too at my last job, but the commute wasn't that far, and my job didn't require non-sweatiness.

It's pretty liberating to get the miles up to where they hold no intimidation. Every day commuting is great strength work. There is probably a nice group of similar aspiration type riders around just about everyone. I've met a few lately who have given up their cars altogether or just keep a beater-with-a-heater for backup. Those are the fanatics. :)

Makes a difference how you look at things for sure.

I echo Paul. We will be driving wimpy electric Nanos that have max speed of 45 mph long, long before we start pedaling everywhere.

Besides, there are alternatives to bikes. Can anyone say motorcycle or rickshaw?

max speed of 45 mph

45 only looks bad because 'we' are 'used' to 65+.

For much of human history 45 would have been really fast. OR fatal as you fell down a cliffside going 'Doh' with each rock hit.

Laughs, I had to use a simular comment about indoor/water fed toilets to someone today. They were having to get a bedside potty, and were embrassed about it.

We are a spoiled generation of people. To many people don't even know where their food comes from let alone what slow times others had to live under just 70 years ago.

I wonder what people will think about all this stuff, we have the gift of living with today, in 100 years, or 200 years?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed Future.

They must be semi-eccentric since the mainstream neither engages directly in such activity, nor drives anywhere to engage in it. At most they drive the kids to it (in the form of hypercompetitive spectator sports.) However, the kids spend so much time strapped in the car traversing half the state every weekend that it probably offsets any exercise they get - and for the adults the huge amount of drive time is a dead loss since they don't even get the exercise they might have gotten by moving repeatedly between the TV and the fridge.

And yes, in the USA, it's blindingly obvious that the bicyclists are statistically the eccentrics (or outliers if you prefer.) The statistics change slightly in places such as Madison, Wisconsin (the Berkeley of the Midwest); Berkeley, California (the Berkeley of the Far West); and perhaps, IIRC, Boulder or someplace in Colorado; plus maybe a handful of others. Then again, everyone knows without a doubt that those places are ... eccentric.

No, Paul, it doesn't offset the exercise they get.

I agree with you. America's got a problem. It's being overwhelmed by
obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. And it's costing taxpayers
a staggering amount of money, including the healthy ones.

What's your solution?

The time by bicycle would vary, but 90 or 100 minutes seems a reasonable minimum unless one is a Lance Armstrong and there are no traffic lights or other such delays.

Just for fun, wanted to add a real-world set of values on bicycle commuting that I do.

My commute is 5miles to the office from my home. I take a backpack with my work clothes, and work laptop, strapped to the bicycle rack.

My commute is urban, with many street lights and stop signs.

Typical commute time: 40minutes one way, based on cycling 1,400 miles in the past 11months, all of it as the work commute :)

Personally, I think the easiest way to get around without a car is not to start with bicycling, but with public transportation (bus, train).

Personally, I think the easiest way to get around without a car is not to start with bicycling, but with public transportation (bus, train).

In the USA, what a hoot. Only a tiny minority have access to trains that are useful for getting around locally. And don't get me started on buses again. If they ever find a way to get it through the impossibly thick skull of the typical massively overpaid and proud of it municipal bus driver that the noon bus ought to get underway when the big hand and little hand are both on the twelve, then I'll reconsider. In the meantime buses are generally useless unless you have all day to get across town. 'Nuff said.

I never understand this attitude, although I see it a lot. Okay, so many people, in our present living arrangements, can't completely give up the car for a bike. But how do you therefore conclude there's nothing to be gained by bicycling at all? Even if you only ride for trips of less than 3 miles, on pleasant days, you would cut out a large number of trips, and much of the congestion that slows you down when you are in your car is other people on those short trips.

Even if you can't give up your car completely, most people could "downsize." For example, by all of using bikes for many of our trips (some, but not all of work trips, grocery shopping with a trailer, dentist, pharmacy; kids get themselves to dance, soccer, boy scouts, the library, etc.), we are able to have only one car for a family of 2 adults and 2 teens. Many American families would have at least 2, maybe 3. Maybe 4. This saves us some $8000 per year, compared to being a 2-car family (which this year we are putting toward a last-of-the-cheap-fossil-fuels trip to Europe). It also improves our quality of life, keeps us in shape and gets us out and about in our neighborhood and community. And of course, reduces our greenhouse gas emissions.

So don't ride on your 18 mile commute--ride on the short trips, save some money, and move closer to your work if you can.

From here on out the decline is relentless.

So all of what you are saying is true, but it will happen in a sort of punctuated equilibrium model, and nobody is going to like it - least of all conservative, red state Americans who believe they are God's chosen people and they have been instructed by Him to buy SUVs and invade Middle Eastern countries for the right to do so.

Starts with compact cars/hybrids. No big deal but damn I miss my pickup - if only those darn liberals would allow us to drill, baby, drill! Next plug in hybrids - for those that can afford them. Next one car per family, teenagers don't get a car, etc. Next carpooling. Next riding a bike. Gasp! Next having to relocate to the city - with the blacks and Mexicans. Horror! Next riding the bus. Shock! Finally not being able to afford to any transport, having no job, and living in a slum with the only work available is being rickshaw drivers for the rich. And Awe!

Mission Accomplished. Nature is a tough negotiator.

Let's not forget all those Sunday drivers and motorbikers. Pointless waste.

For example, by all of using bikes for many of our trips... we are able to have only one car for a family of 2 adults and 2 teens. ...This saves us some $8000 per year...Yup, exactly, to get the Big Savings you've got to reduce the number of cars. With most families I know there's basically one car per commuter, and without it they've got no safe way to get to work on the ice-coated streets for three or four months of the year. (That "winter" thing we always seem to forget about around here.) So they're reduced to the piddly savings they get by substituting a bike trip for a car trip while still paying all the fixed expenses of the car.

And after all, if you don't need the extra car because you can forgo the extra trips when the streets are icy, you can probably forgo (or reschedule) the trips when the streets are not icy. In that case you don't need the extra car very badly - a bicycle need not necessarily enter the picture, just don't make the trips, or combine them with the commutes.

I regularly ride a bike to work, 7 miles each way. Using an e-bike, I get to work in the same time as in a car (bike is door-to-door and parked in my office, but car is parked in a garage and walk to office, net time is the same). With a road bike, I'm a bit slower (40 minutes vs. 30 in a car) but get 40 minutes of exercise for 10 minutes net time.

Note that an e-bike is about the only near-term practical zero-fossil-fuel transportation: less than $1000 of solar panels will fuel it forever.

The health benefits of cycling are huge. Those who do not cycle to work have a 39% higher all-cause mortality. (Google "Andersen bicycle mortality Denmark" to get the article in Archives of Internal Medicine.)

Austin has mild winters, but I have ridden in snow and when there was ice such that cars could not move (walking the bike around ice patches), not to mention our famous Texas warmth up to 108 F.

I'm 62. "Eccentric minority?" Guilty as charged.

-Once we scale it up beyond the eccentric minority, how many people really want to do what to them is mind-numbing, time-wasting, boring physical labor, for a mere $3/hour-

Riding a bike is fun, you are also getting more than your recommended exercise. Driving a car is mind numbing, working in my little office for 8 hours pushing numbers around is mind numbing.

Ok, it's not going to be good for everyone but a lot of people should at least try it. You can also get fold up, electric and foldup-electric bikes. There are some interesting and novel bikes out there.

Very few things scale up well. Also, it's not about the money. Although I suppose that comment makes me one of your "eccentrics".

Seems like the cycle is at least several years, and might be as much as 5 years when you factor in obtaining financing, hiring contractors, obtaining equipment and leases, drilling wells, arranging transport, and finally getting the oil to market?

The problem with treating oil production as a cyclic phenomenon is that the new production spurred by high prices takes so long to start up that it doesn't even meet the decline that has taken place since the project started. Deepwater Gulf of Mexico production takes close to ten years from concept to production in a best-case scenario. I believe a lot of the new subsalt production just starting to come on line now is based on initial exploration spurred by the relatively high prices from about 1995-1997.

How desperate the industry has become is demonstrated by yesterday's announcement of an exploration program in Greenland by Cairn Energy (http://tinyurl.com/y8u5n5j). Cairn Energy admits they have only a 10% probability of success, but claim a "resource" estimate of 16 billion barrels. Translating that to real production might mean a 10% probability of producing a couple of billion barrels some time after 2020. And in response to the announcement, Cairn energy shares went up 10%.

Now I happen to know quite a bit about Greenland. Nearly forty years ago I worked for the petroleum branch of the Geological Survey of Greenland. Once you find oil offshore (and no one has yet) you have to produce it, and that will be extraordinarily difficult. Apart from the sea being covered with pack ice up to nine months of the year, there are icebergs -- tens of thousands of them produced each year from glaciers on the west coast of Greenland. They weigh up to millions of tons, and are known to scour the bottom of the sea in water depths over 150 meters.

I left the Greenland Survey largely because some quick calculations showed me that the energy costs of producing oil in Greenland waters seemed unlikely to ever be low enough for a project to produce a profit large enough to justify the risks. Now technology has improved since then, but I doubt it has improved enough to make such projects viable.

Paleo -- First, the cycle rate: when I started in 1975 the cycle rate was relatively long... 10+ years. A variety of reasons: mindset of an industry dominated by the major oils, relatively slow technical advances, minimum pressure from Wall Street, relative small and stable work force, et al. The embargo came and the rules changed: lots of new and "stupid money" in the game (yes...the technical term we used was stupid money); rapidly changing technology; more direct pressure from Wall Street on public company performance (i.e. short term "improvements" vs. profitability); etc. Then came the global recession in the 80's and another long down cycle started. Now jump to the last several years. How fast can the cycles swing now? Devon is the best firsthand account I can offer. In the summer of '08 their geological group instructed my group (the drillers) to contract as many new rigs for the SG play as fast as possible regardless of the costs. Then just 6 months later the drilling department released 14 of the 18 shale gas drilling rigs and paid a $40 million penalty to do so. Then about 6 months after that (and 3 layers of layoffs) they announced the sale of the company's most valuable assets: Deep Water GOM and Brazil. About 6 months after that they've sold the properties and now I'm waiting to see if what's left is acquired by another company and Devon ceases to exist entirely. Now, given that everyone in the oil patch (including wall Street, the bankers and the other capex sources) watched this story (as well as Chesapeake et al) unfold firsthand how fast do you think folks will jump in when NG prices start rising again?

Time lag: Different components. Prospect generation from scratch: new startup company has the bucks and desire. Time lag: a couple of years to generate and get first wells drilled if onshore. Offshore: add 2 to 3 years. A prospect buyer like us: start drilling in 6 months from startup. Add 3 months for production start if onshore and 1 year if offshore. But that's to just get started. We don't expect to have significant new production online in much less than 18 months. Get into deep water or farther from US borders and now you can be talking 5 years or more.

No, the onshore 2003-05 you refer to (onshore) probably came online within 6 months of drilling ops. You saw that in the new historic high in domestic NG rates. And even though the SG plays have gone relatively dormant and most wells have gone thru their high decline rate phases, those many thousands of now low rate but also low decline rate SG wells are providing a relatively stable production base. But your "bump" timing is very appropriate. As a rough rule it takes a couple of years for the industry to react with any significant amount of drilling. Slow on the increase but can very rapid on the down turn side as we just saw. But when you get a price bump up and then a recession driving down demand within a couple of years the industry suddenly looks like the deer in the headlights: we see what's coming but can't mobilize a reaction. And I would offer that the capital markets may be even more impotent in such an environment. Folks with private capital like us can play the contrarian game. But public companies and equity borrowers are stuck in the middle of the road with those headlights bearing down on them IMHO. Not that there was any chance to drill our way out of PO in the best of circumstances the oil patch did provide a valuable component to our economy. With the new short cycles I'm not sure it can be taken for granted. The industry had provided many 100's of billion in stimulus and revenue for the US economy yearly. Those days may be in the process of ending forever.

When I encounter someone expressing such a strong, emotionally-laden argument as Mr. Foster, I quickly realize they are not discussing facts, they are parading their beliefs.

You might as well try talking the Pope out of Catholicism. Or plant seeds in gravel.

Were I ever to meet Mr. Foster in person and the subject of PO came up, my very next verbal remark to him would be "So, how about those Blue Jays this year, what do you think?"

In my work I have gotten more and more adept at recognizing where people are in the emotional spectrum spanning the gap between denial and acceptance and he's pretty invested in the old story.

And that's perfectly OK. It just means I won't be spending any valuable energy trying to change his belief structure as that will only serve to frustrate us both.


I think you'll find that many people who you do manage to reach, you are also reaching them on an emotional level of demonstrated authority, which comes from your command of the material and subject matter.

Although you can successfully plant seeds in gravel with hydroponics.

Well said, Chris. Yours was the sort of reaction I had when reading Foster's piece. For just a moment or two, I pondered a response to his largely emotional argument, but then, like you, I decided to save my energy and time for those I might engage in useful or engaging dialogue. No use dissipating what little equanimity I possess.

Re: Peter Foster: The Church of Peak Oil

It's actually worse than that...

PO Theorists fail -- or more precisely refuse -- to grasp that the best method of dealing with any form of commercial scarcity is market-based ingenuity, not some weird combination of Big Brother and Hippie co-ops.

I guess I'm aBAUtheist because I'm one of does that refuses to believe in "Market Based Ingenuity" solutions to finite resources, but I'm weird that way!

Chief amongst these optimists was the late Dr Julian Simon, formerly professor of economics and business administration at the University of Illinois, and later at the University of Maryland. With regard to copper, Simon has written that we will never run out of copper because “copper can be made from other metals.” The letters to the editor jumped all over him, told him about chemistry. He just brushed it off: “Don’t worry,” he said, “if it’s ever important, we can make copper out of other metals.”

Now, Simon had a book that was published by the Princeton University Press. In that book, he’s writing about oil from many sources, including biomass, and he says, “Clearly there is no meaningful limit to this source except for the sun’s energy.” He goes on to note, “But even if our sun was not so vast as it is, there may well be other suns elsewhere.” Well, Simon’s right; there are other suns elsewhere, but the question is, would you base public policy on the belief that if we need another sun, we will figure out how to go get it and haul it back into our solar system? (audience laughter)

Now, you cannot laugh: for decades before his death, this man was a trusted policy advisor at the very highest levels in Washington DC.

Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy

"Requiem in pacem, Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo, Amen!"

Peter Foster together with the Julian Simons of the world and their ilk are no better than Voodoo Priests, actually Voodoo Priest are more honest.

'Copper from other metals', 'AL' Bartlett + Chemistry' - the new Alchemy?

Just combine and stir gently with the invisible hand..

Just combine and stir gently with the invisible hand of Market Ingenuity...

To paraphrase Clausewitz:

"Economics is the continuation of Ideology by other means"

Hereby copywrited by Flakmeister

I'm not sure you picked the best example, as we did learn how to make copper out of other things. If one looked at the demand for telephones in the mid-late 20th century, and extrapolated to all the people who would want phones, we would face a severe copper shortage.

Now millions of Indians and Chinese have phones, but we didn't run out of copper.

How much copper does the cellphone now use compared to old telephone ?

How much copper does the cellphone now use compared to old telephone ?

Very little, old phones probably had about a pound. But the majority of the copper was used in the wires from your house to the central office. That might have been in the hundreds of pounds for someone out in the country. Today the vast majority has been replaced with glass.

The more interesting aspect is power consumption. Way back when, that was 1W or so per subscriber loop plus another watt or two for equipment at the local serving office, hut, or cabinet.

Today land-line subscription is way down, but DSL is way up (what was once telecom is now really telecom and datacom). Much of the power draw is now at the house (remember when the old phones would work when the power was out since the phone was network powererd, but now your handy wireless handset fails immediately and even your cable model telephony adapter has only an hour or two of life?), and includes a modem, a router/gateway, a settop box, and a computer or two. At the CO the power density is going way up, while the footprint goes down -- most old COs are mostly empty, but are straining their power and cooling capabilities.

On the one had, power usage is going up, and if you extended similar capabilities for everybody in the world the power demand would be a large fraction of global consumption. On the other hand, in developed areas every watt spent on telecom saves power used in travel, and that trend is increasing. One study indicates that every watt spent in telecom saves 7 elsewhere, so telecom "growth" could really be a good thing overall.

Replacement life and equipment expense is way up too -- everybody knows a cell phone or a computer is old before 2 years, but telecom equipment generations are much shorter today as well. They days of 30-year usage life for equipment is long gone, and increasing data needs continue to tax deployed networks.

Power, cost, complexity -- roll it all up and telecom is going to be a key infrastructure concern while heading into peak oil. Telecom could be a glimmering silver BB or a dull critical victim depending on how things play out.

You've said a mouthful there, Paleo.

It's a really interesting Paradox, and as you say, combines Power savings with new Power consumption. It simplifies in some ways, and then massively recomplexifies in others.

One of the hopeful aspects in this for me is how much we can do to compound various levels of unexplored energy savings in Digital Communications. Just the switch to Laptops has been a marked improvement in my office energy use, and now, you can do web-access on all these little handhelds that are really energy sippers, and could probably run from battery and solar very easily, yet give you access to everything the web offers. Then, there's the clear improvements that they're doing over in Server-land, finding all sorts of ways to reduce processor heat, to let variable traffic help drive a much more flexible power-demand strategy, saving power all the way up through the massive cooling systems that serverfarms require. (And I'm wondering if we'll see Server Operators figure out a way to sell their waste heat to neighboring community or business interests. A guy can dream, eh?)

If one looked at the demand for telephones in the mid-late 20th century, and extrapolated to all the people who would want phones, we would face a severe copper shortage.

I'll agree that cell phone technology has allowed vast numbers of people who could never have had access to the infrastructure based on copper wire to have telecommunications. Yet it most certainly has not solved the problem of resource depletion due to increased demand caused by population growth. Perhaps it has made resource depletion of copper more likely because now those people with phones and internet access are more likely to want to purchase other items that do contain copper and other finite resources. That's the problem.

Even if the demand for copper should never exceed supply it still misses the fundamental point that there are essential elements that are in finite supply. Helium and Phosphorus are two that come mind.


"as we did learn how to make copper out of other things."

We did? What are you talking about. We did not learn how to make copper out of other things. We learned to use less copper in making things, we learned how to process less-concentrated ores. And we learned, perhaps, to use other materials that formerly required copper.

But we did not learn how to make copper out of other metals, as Simon claimed would happen.

But that's what he was talking about. He didn't literally mean that we would make copper out of other metals, he meant that we would use other metals to do the things that needed copper at the time, like telephone wires.

Mobile phones allowed people to have phones without requiring huge amounts of copper for wires.

The argument on this site is that oil is different, because it is such a highly concentrated, easily transportable, conveniently available energy source, and that there is no substitute for energy.

No, Consumer. He clearly meant that if it was so important to have copper, we would learn to make copper from other metals. He wasn't talking about substituting other materials for copper.

Exactly. If he really meant substituing other materials he had the perfect opportunity to make that point when answering his critics in the letters to the editor. Instead he just dug in his heels.

With regard to copper, Simon has written that we will never run out of copper because “copper can be made from other metals.” The letters to the editor jumped all over him, told him about chemistry. He just brushed it off: “Don’t worry,” he said, “if it’s ever important, we can make copper out of other metals.”

Ron P.

Our local copper (i.e, here on Earth) was produced in the heart of stars preceding our local ball-of-light. So, maybe he was thinking that if it's ever important we can just build ourselves a star or something star-like...

In principle the elements can be constructed. The problem is that we do not have anywhere near the applied physics understanding to create such a device. Particle accelerators are hardly going to yield metric tons of transmuted elements since they can't even produce micrograms. But that does not stop pompous "economist" pinheads pontificating about how some humans somewhere will, with sufficient money thrown at them, pull arbitrary physics knowledge and engineer devices to meet the demand for whatever. This is pure magical thinking.

The argument on this site is that oil is different, because it is such a highly concentrated, easily transportable, conveniently available energy source, and that there is no substitute for energy

.....that is essential to myriad ongoing functions which simultaneously suffer contraction or collapse when the price increases or the supply is inhibited.

.....mitigating this contraction is mostly not well understood by those participating in the ongoing functions.

Mobile phones allowed people to have phones without requiring huge amounts of copper for wires.

And the copper acts as a waveguide. Any signal strength over a waveguide will use less energy to transmit that signal than a non-waveguide signal.

The non-waveguide nature of mobile means more energy is used to place the signal where it is not needed.

As Consumer points out upthread, we were able to short-circuit the demand for copper by adopting alternate technologies -- PEX for copper piping in houses, cell phones for land lines, etc.

The fundamental problem with the cornucopian view is that to them, energy -- to be precise, FOSSIL energy -- is like any other commodity and, hence, when shortages appear, the unseen hand will deliver a perfectly functional substitute. So far, we have zero reason to believe that this is so.

Tarzan -- And let's hope the cornucopians don't discover that Mobil Oil developed a catalyst in the 1970's that allowed them to turn NG into gasoline in New Zealand. Given we don't see any refineries doing such conversion today tells you something about the economics of the process. But as we all know economic feasability isn't important to most cornucopians: if it can be done it will be done. But by "someone" else, of course.

Rock, I'm sure that the ChemE's could produce combustible hydrocarbons from left-over pizza dough if they wanted to. Any day now, I expect Domino's to get smart and figure out that they could power their pizza-delivery fleet with left-over pizza makings.

The possibilities are limited only by our puny imaginations!

So true POT. As someone said long ago there's nothing that isn't possible...as long as you assume someone else will do it.

I can generate methane out of pizza dough cauliflower, breakfast eggs and many other things daily.

But is it scalable?

We are always hearing this phrase " Is it scalable?!" I think this has been our biggest "stupid thought of the century" Because if we go about building a big plant to replace 100s or 1,000s of smaller plants we defeat our long term goals.

First we have this resource call it "Vegie Waste Product= VWP" that is all over the place in our homes, offices, and businesses. When you hear the words is it scalable you look for a way to move all that VWP to a central location to produce energy to send back out to the little places it all came from. If this is the meaning of "Is it scalable" then we have defeated our use of the the VWP at it's source and we don't want to do that.

If you mean is the use of the VWP energy extraction device (EXD) scalable, the answer is yes. They are a simple set up most home owners who use yard waste in compost pits waste all that heat to the air. There are several EXDs that have been used in our landfills over the years, so the process of scaling them for mass production is in the system.

So which of the two examples does your question address?

The more we get used to the idea of getting more of our energy from onsite EXDs be they solar, hydro, wind, or bioheat, or geothermal the better will we be in the long run, and we could cut out a lot of waste in transmission line bleed off, and replacement costs and clutter.

Billions of dollars building huge plants, when we could spend most of that and maybe save a lot in the long run with on site EXDs.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future, and getting what you need from where you are.

Charles, I was just trying to be funny.

But the broader question of whether "scalability" is a relevant concern, of course it is relevant. However, I think you assume that I am associating scalability with centralization and complexity, but I do not. I agree with you -- scalable solutions don't have to be highly technical or highly centralized solutions. They just have to work for a broad segment of society. As you point out, backyard composting is a perfect example of a simple, widely implementable technology. It is highly scalable.

POT -- I suppose folks take scalable to mean different things. For me it doesn't refer to the size of the project as much as it does to the economic consideration. One can sit at home and produce hydrogen at their kitchen table. Easy to search google for the details. But to scale it up to commercial levels you have to develop an economic method of doing so. The kitchen table experiment is cool but not economic. So even if we had 100 million households in the US producing their own hydrogen at home hydrogen powered cars wouldn't be an option. Thus for me scalability is the ability to covert a physically doable process to an economicly doable process.

Rockman, I didn't know that. But now I'm wondering. We've been told that it would be a wonderful thing to run cars on NG instead of gasoline - even, presumably, at the expense of having tens of millions of poorly maintained rusting high-pressure vessels waiting to explode everywhere. We're told it would be cheaper that way. And now we've got all the yammering about potentially stranded NG in Alaska.

Considering all that, the catalyst ought to be the greatest thing since sliced bread since it would (albeit temporarily) solve so many hundreds of billions of dollars worth of problems. So: as I said, I hadn't heard of it - but what would be the show-stopper? Is it a typical university-lab sort of thing that just doesn't work in the real world? Is the reaction strongly endothermic, requiring infeasible supplementary energy input? Or are the NG-for-cars advocates simply lying about the underlying relative fuel cost as between gasoline and NG?

It was some internal reports in Mobil at the time and I don't recall many details. But it wasn't just a bench test. I don't know if they every published out in the open. But the trick was that NZ had no market for the NG so Mobil essentially got it for free. So maybe if we get all the companies to donate their NG fields for the cause we could have a solution at hand.

Happy motoring!

But the trick was that NZ had no market for the NG so Mobil essentially got it for free.

OK, but then what does this tell us about using NG in cars directly? It's sort of a quasi-arbitrage question. Seems to me if you have to get the NG for free (relative to normal NG prices, I presume) to make it go, then either NG for cars can't be the panacea it's been painted as, or else the process must be woefully inefficient. IOW, have we demonstrated here that NG for cars is basically a bunch of hooey?

pauls -- I wasn't knocking NG as a direct fuel for motoring. Much more knowledgable folks on TOD to discuss that than me. I was just referring to the gasoline conversion. But I can see NG being a great motor fuel IF we can afford to build a distribution system and IF we can covert over to NG fueled cars in a meaningful time frame and IF we can afford the increase cost of NG due to the great demand increase and IF we can keep NG prices high enough to continually expand the drilling programs.

You can guess my expectations of all those IF's being met.

PaulS, I don't think we have shown NG for cars to be wrong, we have just shown that, presently, good old oil is still the cheapest, and most efficient, that's why we use it. CNG for cars is fine, if all of Rockman;s if's are met. A cng car can still go farther, and refuel much faster, than any electric built or proposed, but either is less convenient than gasoline.

CNG cars, as a technology, are great, the problem is that it needs some infrastructure to be built first, and no one wants to supply that until there is demand for it. And there is no demand amongst consumers as it is just not sexy. That said, CNG is catching on for fleet operators, as they have controlled, predictable conditions, and can justify a central fueling station, etc.

Ultimately, anything other than oil for vehicles is less efficient, and less convenient, and that's the real issue that everyone want;s to avoid.

Rockman, the plant was built in 1985 and made methanol from NG and then turned that into gasoline via the Mobil process. The plant was built to produce 14,500 bbl/day. The plant is still in operation, but only the NG to methanol part, and is now owned by Methanex.

Apparently, the costs were not worth it, and it (then needed $30/bbl oil to be competitive!

Plant capital was also equivalent to $100k per bbl/day of capacity - about the same as coal to liquids plants, and coal is so cheap that it is almost "free".

Now, one place that should be looking at this is Alaska, as they have lots of NG but no means to get it anywhere. So they either build a pipeline ($20bn) or an LNG plant, or a GTL plant (to methanol or all the way to oil).

I would think for Alaska that LNG or methanol would make more sense, it provides more local jobs and the product can be sold anywhere in the world, not just into an oversupplied US gas market.

Assuming it is still $100k/bbl/day, the $20bn for the pipeline would build 200,000bbl/day of GTL plant., which is only a fraction of their current oil production. If oil is at $80/bbl and you have $30/bbl operating cost, then you will make $3.6bn/yr from the plant, an 18% rate of return.

That seems OK to me, but I am not an oil industry guy. And since no oil industry guys are looking to go this route, I can only assume that they don't think it's a good deal.

Great numbers Paul. Mucho thanks. You might not be an "oil guy" but you think like one. Sometimes a good idea isn't implemented just because the right folks in the right place at the right time didn't think of it.

Rockman, I used to live in Calgary so have spent plenty of time around the oil guys, and more importantly, I am a civil engineer and used to manage a the gas, electric, water and sewer utilities for a Cdn ski resort, so had experience in buying/selling/trying to predict energy prices, and evaluating capital expansions (we had a good look at running our snowmaking system in reverse in spring to generate hydro power!)

Have been following the discussion about the northern pipeline(s) for a while. In Canada, they have been looking at the Mackenzie Delta pipeline since the 70's, and were quite serious a few years ago, but you can guess how much appetite there is at today's prices. BUt doing something like GTL seems tailor made for stranded reserves. Even LNG would be easier (cold weather makes it more energy efficient, and they can use the waste heat for other things).

I came across a detailed discussion paper on the NZ plant a while ago. You lose a lot of the energy going from gas to methanol, but from there to oil is about 90% efficient, just expensive in terms of plant. For NZ as an oil importer that does have some nat gas (and lots of forest) they would possibly be better to go to a methanol economy - as a motor fuel, it is up to 30% more efficient than gasoline, and far cheaper to store and handle than CNG.

All that said, I am surprised that $20bn only buys 200kbpd of GTL, when it buys double that for oil sands and ten times that for offshore - I guess that's why the oil companies are drilling there (GOM) instead of playing with gas up here!

paul -- Such a background would key you in on many of these aspects. The economics aside there is often a mindset inside oil companies (just like all other industries): this is what we know how to do so let's just do that. Every project needs a sponser internally. Back in the early 90's I proposed horizontal drill in the offshore GOM to management. The VP later admitted he thought I had gone nuts but allowed to proceed with an evaluation just to get me out of his office. Long story short: 10 months later after some very successful wells he's pushing me hard to come up with more horizontal projects. It became his "great idea."

It takes someone with stroke or someone willing to annoy managment to push them outside the box. The early shale gas players had the same problem I'm sure. But once the word got out managements in many companies starting pushing SG before they understood the play. The problem with the Mackenzie PL is that it's a one shot puppy. And so expensive it will probably take a group to go forward. So now you're talking about steering multiple managements instead of just one. Something like hearding cats.

Rockman, you hit it on the head about the pipeline - there are so many players, including the natives along whose land it will run, and both territorial and federal gov, that getting agreement is nigh on impossible. A really efficient way to do the pipeline is to come from Alaska under the Beaufort Sea, to the Mackenzie Delta, and then down, the "over the top route". But this would mean no constr jobs in Alaska so they passed a law prohibiting this route! So there will need to be two, parallel pipelines built - twice the cost for the same result, thus making neither line viable.

That's why, in this case LNG or GTL seems so appealing, a company can just get on with it, and sell the stuff into the existing market with minimal government or other outside involvement.

But as we all know economic feasability isn't important to most cornucopians: if it can be done it will be done. But by "someone" else, of course.

By that standard, we can make copper from other metals. Massive stars do it via nuclear fusion. Of course making a fusion reactor that produces copper, is probably a thousand times tougher than making one that produces Helium. We could also bombard the appropriate elements/isotopes of other metals with high energy particles to induce nuclear reactions yielding copper. But these would be massively impractical things to do. How many millions of dollars per gram would be needed for it to pay off?

So we have fiber optic cable instead of copper wire in our communications systems these days, but the scrap dealer in my town is paying almost seven thousand dollars a ton for scrap copper.

I suppose that is because copper is not in short supply. ;)

Reminds me of a book I used to own, (can't place it now, must have been borrowed and never returned) The Journal of Irreproducible results. I don't know which year it was printed or which sets of articles it was made up of, but the funny topics were always thought provoking.

Or the ones about making Gold out of Lead.

Technically speaking we can using a particle accelerator and smaller elements to smash together and get copper. So Simon is right in one account, but wrong in the fact that such a method of making copper out of other elements is so much folly that I hope most people are smart enough to see around it. ACK! never mind! We are all doomed, people think they can get something from nothing all the time.

(humor in the world is good, but some things that are funny, just make you depressed when you think about them)

we did learn how to make copper out of other things.

Wrong. Copper is an element. It is created when a star dies, and it is blown out into space, to be pulled by gravity into a planet, or new sun, or meteor, astroid, etc. It is NOT made out of other things, by man. The fact that we did not run out means that we stopped using so much, or mined some more, or recycled it from other uses.

For instance, it is alloyed into bronze, brass, and several other harder metals. Also, with aluminum into duraluminum, I believe.


Also, my phone lines coming into my house no longer contain copper. Use is down... we are not making it out of "other things."


Sorry, I guess I forgot it was "literal interpretations only" day on TOD.

I'm not worried...

Look how well the market ingenuity trifecta of derivatives, credit default swaps, and mortgage backed securities worked out...

The market created a new economy out of thin air - and it's worth trillions and trillions more than boring "old" economy stuff like making and growing things...

The market is more smarter than stoopid oil scientists.


Julian Simon also infamously predicted that the human population could continue to grow for 8 billion years (he later said he was misquoted and he meant 8 million, but I have the paper where he made the prediction and it does say 8 billion). There is one small problem...

Even if he meant 8 million years, the whole mass of the human population would exceed the mass of the entire visible universe by more than 30,000 orders of magnitude. Not to mention more than a few relativistic problems.

Not 30,000 times...30,000 orders of magnitude. He apparently just brushed that off and his supporters claimed that Simon did not say what growth rate could be sustained. [Answer: there is no non-zero, non-trivial, statistically significant growth rate that does not end up with orders of magnitude problems numbering in the 1000's.] We are talking lots of googles here (I am talking about the mathematical quantity here). And if he really meant 8 billion years (again consistent with his Sun analogy) then we are into googleplex range.

Only once have I been challenged to say how I "know" what the average density of the visible universe is. The easy answer is mass curves spacetime and we have a pretty good idea of what that curvature looks like. If our mass (density) estimates were wrong, we would see a different curvature than what is observed.

But I'm with most of you...the most strident adherents are not worth the time and effort.

... lots of googles here (I am talking about the mathematical quantity here) ... then we are into googleplex range.

A rather worrisome (but perhaps inevitable) piece of word back-formation here. The big number is actually a googol = (10^100), and the really big number is a googolplex = (10^googol).

Only once have I been challenged to say how I "know" what the average density of the visible universe is. The easy answer is mass curves spacetime and we have a pretty good idea of what that curvature looks like. If our mass (density) estimates were wrong, we would see a different curvature than what is observed.

'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 sums it up beautifully in this talk:

And XKCD puts it in a nutshell.

FMagyar, I know several Voodoo priests, and I assure you they are orders of magnitude more honest, and indeed more realistic, than Foster et al. They may consider sacrificing a chicken to be part of a constructive response to your personal problems, but I can promise you that none of them will then go on to promise that the chicken will lay an infinite, and exponentially increasing, supply of eggs after it has been sacrificed.

John, I'm sure you are right.

Maybe Foster et al. need to delve a bit more into the old fables...

Aesops fable:
A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once; however, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.

Once your last goose is cooked that's pretty much it and no matter how hard you try you won't be able to make "Pâté de foie gras" out of soybeans, Monsanto's GM crops notwithstanding.
Maybe at that point you can climb up the giant magic soybean stalk, like Jack of Bean Stalk fame ;-)

Repent, ye Peak Oil sinners, for the Invisible Hand will provide.

"Ingenuity", the emotionally meaningful yet content-free buzzword. But he forgot to mention "elbow grease", "(country specific) know-how", and how we're entitled to unending bounty. Though the entitlement is implied.

OPEC adviser urges more investment in renewables by members

"The second reason is that the rationalisation of hydrocarbon consumption and production has become imperative because of the scarcity of new discoveries, the accelerating pace of the natural decline in output at mature fields and the spectre of production peaking in a few years' time,..."


Interesting second take by me. Depletion is accelerating within OPEC.

Best Hopes for reinvesting petrodollars and reduced ELM,


PS: Spare time has been diverted from TOD to getting R-60+ fiberglass into my attic. Fiberglass to just over top of 5.75" rafters and then R-30 placed on side (nominal 15" tall, 9" wide) making a nominal R-50 + R-19. Actual, with wood and compression included, is slightly over R-60 in covered areas. Lower with walkways and staircase included (to be addressed this fall).

Spare time has been diverted from TOD to getting R-60+ fiberglass into my attic.

Alan, you do realize that excessive diversion of spare time away from TOD into other activities could cause you to be censured, admonished or even severely punished and ultimately excommunicated from the Church of Peak Oil?! Right? ;-)

We are prepared however to sell indulgences, for a reasonable fee.

ATM, the itch from fiberglass appears to be MUCH more than adequate penance !

Installing fiberglass insulation does NOT have a positive feedback loop (as TOD appears to have :-)

Best Hopes for Energy Conservation,


Also replaced particle board rear door (installed 1960s or so) with R-6 door. Other two doors are original cypress.

I think that I will claim that I am doing field research for a "How To" article for TOD Campfire !

Best Hopes for Talk + Action,


Try rockwool, less itchy

Try sheep's wool - positively soothing!


I used insulation from recycled plastic myself.

Works well, cheap, but a bit smelly.

Home Depot is not selling 25' long, 15" wide R-30 rolls of rock wool for $9.38 (down from $19.xx). Important for the quantities I am installing.

Best Hopes for No Price Increases soon,


Those Home Depot rolls were so cheap I put the contents of three of them into my garage attic (which now is roughly R5, but hopefully won't get as hot).

Maybe I could start a business of shredding old CERA reports and selling it as insulation. It would be a subtle Karmic adjustment, but I could feel pretty smug about such a thing..


Since my ancestry is Hungarian I think I can work out a deal with reselling the already cashed in indulgences... There seems to be loop hole in the redemption clause...

This just in... Heaven couldn't stop Hungarian intermediaries from unloading indulgence offsets -- surrendered once under Lucifer's cap-and-trade system -- to traders planning to resell somewhere else, according to the International Indulgence Trading Association. Some of the credits ended up back in Limbo, bringing spot trading of Indulgence credits to a standstill last week.

Well, there's always next week :-)

Call me for a quote at 1-IND-ULG-ENCE (463)-854-3623

Now have windows of about R6, probably greater insulation than the walls;^). It was needed as single pane glass in a Saskatchewan winter is insane. The old windows were the original 1953 windows and very rotten and leaky. It had to be done. House is much warmer and we are much happier. A note when upgrading windows: know how to convert between Ufactors and R values and check your invoice against the incomprehensible stickers on the panes. We paid for R8 windows ($8,000), we got R6 windows. I am withholding half the payment ($4,000) until the correct panes arrive and are installed for free. It was necessary to kick up a fuss. Haven't been in a nice little fight for awhile ;^) Now we are saving to upgrade the walls with outside isocyanurate board insulation under new stucco about $20,000.

Simple definition U-Values are the inverse of R-values. That said, R Values are for rating a single material, while a U value rates a system. Since a modern window is a system that's why you see the U-Values on the window. In windows you also want to consider the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, or how well the system blocks heat from the sun. In a place like Saskatchewan you probably wouldn't mind some solar heat gain, but in New Orleans it's a different story. So, just converting the U-Value to R and finding the highest isn't always the best solution. For example, I've designed buildings in AZ where the heat gain coefficient was of far greater concern than the U-Value.

Same goes for insulating. In the end you have a system, so even though you have R-19 in the wall cavity your effective R-value is something different. In standard stud construction you have a thermal bridge (studs) every 16" OC. Moving the insulation to the outside of the studs or building a double wall/staggered stud construction will help you realize a higher R-value.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. OPEC finally announces that they are not finding many new fields, that their old fields are in decline and that decline is accelerating and that their production is about to peak. And all the replies to your post that made this dramatic announcement were about your insulation material!

I think I will go and bang my head against the wall.

Edit: In all fairness it was not OPEC who made this announcement but "a veteran Arab energy expert, Nicolas Sarkis, Director of the Paris-based Arab Petroleum Research Centre." But if that is as close as we can get to "an OPEC official" then I will take it. After all, the director of the Arab Petroleum Research Center should know what is going on with Middle East oil producers.

Ron P.

Dear Darwinian

At least we're busy doing something....;^) Seriously, we all know here that oil must peak sometime probably sooner than later, may already be past. Time to move on while there's still surpluses. We could have talked about bicycles and cold cellars and spring gardens too....

Perhaps but I think this is really big news. And I thank Alan for posting it for I would never have found it on my own. I mean I never Google solar or clean energy.

But I intend to save this and quote from it the next time some doobe says something like; "But we don't know anything about OPEC reserves or whether or not they are in decline or anything when they might peak." Well we now have a director of an Arab Petroleum think tank telling us exactly what is happening.

But if talking about R values of insulation is more interesting to Drumbeaters these days, then so be it. As for me I am still interested in peak oil and every bit of data I can find on the subject is of great importance to me.

Ron P.

Yes, it is quite important in the S-L-O-W strip tease that Peak Oil is being revealed to the world at large. One more veil dropped. So quite good for outreach, education, etc.

But for the typical TODer, not too much new except the confirmation that depletion is accelerating.

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

It would seem that the fact of admission is something. Consider what they admitted before, and the terrible reality behind that. What is their reality today, if they are admitting that depletion is accelerating, they are not finding new fields, and their production is peaking? It must be pretty bad, I'd say.


Best wishes for a great strip tease.


I actually do really appreciate you and the others who not only keep abreast of those critical facts that let us understand and make the case clearly and compellingly, but also how you guys help us get a sense of when it's just noise, and when it's an actual piece of news that has emerged, and should be bookmarked and kept in mind..

That said, I'm a hands-on kind of guy.. I'm MUCH more interested in personal mitigation tools, and how ordinary people can take on their own little (but cumulative) piece of this enormous boondoggle we find ourselves in.

R-Values are mundane, and yet they are simply CENTRAL to how we will be able to tackle much of this. Of course you're in Florida, and I'm in Maine.. but heck, Alan in NOLA is putting in R60.. so maybe it's not just of interest in my region. All the heating oil, KWHs and Propane/NG that we're just spitting through our walls and windows would be much better applied to transportation, and not thrown away.


I think I will go and bang my head against the wall.

No, don't do that, you might get a concussion.

You have to realize that, which confronted with an insoluble problem, many people will try to reduce it to terms that they can cope with. If OPEC announces that they are not finding much new oil and their old fields are in terminal decline, you go into your attic and stuff it with R60 insulation. It may not have anything to do with the problem, but maybe it might make you you feel better.

Personally I stuffed my attic with R60 decades ago, but for those who didn't, it would give them something more productive to do than bang their heads against the wall.

you go into your attic and stuff it with R60 insulation. It may not have anything to do with the problem, but maybe it might make you you feel better.

I do see some connection between natural gas and oil. Reducing my use of NG (and NG fired electricity) does help me, and the rest of our society, deal with post-Peak Oil a bit better.

Personally I stuffed my attic with R60 decades ago ...

The house is new to me (Walk Score of 77), and my first priority has been sealing the leaks and doing something about the windows (double cell honeycomb blinds, etc.).

Best Hopes for Responding to Peak Oil,


PS: Only under the current administration has New Orleans recommendations for attics in existing wooden frame homes gone to "R-30 to R-60" although my inclination is to over-insulate in any case.

PS: Only under the current administration has New Orleans recommendations for attics in existing wooden frame homes gone to "R-30 to R-60" although my inclination is to over-insulate in any case.

Interesting. I thought R60 sounded like overkill. Where I live the standard is R-30 (I think R-19) for walls. I added some to bring it up to roughly R-40 (tore up new R30 batts into thin layers). Not all of the attic is accessible, so there are still areas of original insulation. Also added a radiative barrier -in our insolation (lots of sun) climate that makes sense. Going beyond that in attic insulation seems to not make sense (but your AC season is probably longer than mine). In any case I think the walls are now the major weakness, and there is no easy way to add a little more in there. But, I am glad the standards are going up. The old ones probably assumed cheap NG, and probably didn't take maintenence on the AC system into account. Plus the contractors do the minimum to meet code, which usually leaves some thermal bypasses in place.

Except for Miami and Hawaii, R-30 to R-60 is the minimum in USA. Recent revision I believe.

Check your area out


best Hopes for High Standards for Energy Efficiency,


....R-30 to R-60 is the minimum in USA

is there a maximum square footage(or cubic footage)per occupant ?

builders know how to make houses energy efficient and build a 4000 sf house for a family of four.

No, don't do that, you might get a concussion.

Not if it is a board wall with soft insulation behind it.

You have to realize that, which confronted with an insoluble problem, many people will try to reduce it to terms that they can cope with.

Exactly. And not only with doing whatever, but also with distracting the mind with writing or talking about something else.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. OPEC finally announces that they are not finding many new fields, that their old fields are in decline and that decline is accelerating and that their production is about to peak. And all the replies to your post that made this dramatic announcement were about your insulation material!

The embalmers working on the corpse know that it once lived and that somebody is mourning his or her loss but they're probably talking about what the weather is going to be like on the weekend and not how much they will miss the deceased. Heck, they probably won't even read the obituary ;-)

FM -- and let's not forget those few TODers who are making a good living off of our wasteful FF habits. Hey...emblamers and geologists have to eat too...and buy big 4wd pickups. You have to admit I usually do a pretty good job of surpressing my giddiness. I even occasionally display a sincere compassion for the plight of my fellow citizens. And like they say, once you learn how to fake sincerity the rest is easy.

Re: Russia's gas transit surges

That's highly misleading. Of course there was far more gas this year in the first two months because the valves were physically closed for several weeks of that period last year and no gas flowed. The article fails to mentions this.

Two comments,

The wildflower in the Oil Shale areas article made me laugh about how we are out there trying our darnest to save the world species by species and then we are killing it species by species elsewhere. It also spread the rumor of Vast untold resources from something that we here at TOD know to be know to be bogus at best. If it was such a good source of Oil it'd have been used long before we went out into deep water to get oil. But I degress.

My thought was, who will come to our defense when we become an endangered species?


Next comment,

The China Hydro-drought issue is not just theirs, we are seeing it first with them, but we'll see it here as well and elsewhere that we depend on the "renewable" HydroDam electric power. Drought makes Hydro a risk in some places, and Climate Change should be rattling our cages to this issue.

China has been tapping its water sources to feed its cities for a while now and the deserts are getting bigger because of poor water management issues. We are seeing this all over the globe, deserts getting bigger because people can't or won't change their habits that make things worse.

How many people waste water in bad landscaping designs?

Depending on Hydro to be a renewable energy source seems to be on shaky ground these days, so maybe we should also think about wind as not as stable as we once thought it to be.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future

I picked up this rule-of-thumb from a Hydro conference.

Annual variation in rainfall (> hydropower) averages 30%. (Wish they had given standard deviation :-(

Annual variation in wind power varies by 15%, year to year, on average.

There is a weak negative co-relation (several %) between high rain and low wind years. Perhaps [speculation] due to rainclouds/high humidity air is heavier and moves slower and/or high moisture air transfers more heat/volume (weather is driven by heat deltas) so less wind is required to balance things out when high humidity air is moved.

Speakers point was wind can make a good supplement for high hydro regions and help carry through droughts/low water years.

Perhaps hydro serves best as a load to wind generation balance, helping fill the gaps.

Best Hopes,


Thanks Alan.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to be able to use micro-hydro for things, like we have seen done in our own past, sawmills, and grain mills all over the place where the streams could be used. My Mother's father had a sawmill operated off of something, I'll have to ask her what it was, that would have been in the late 40's early 50's when they had moved to the Missouri Ozarks.

Those numbers you quoted are they from before climate change wrecking mountain Ice fields? Or after they have been seeing Mountain Ice fields change?

Lots of small scale renewable energy sources is better bet than huge projects that might not be able to be fixed later when we aren't as skilled at moving 100's of tones of things all over the place.

Then again, all those big stone blocks all over places miles and miles from the quarries, long before FF use, maybe we won't forget how to move things just because we don't have a FF engine to help us.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending March 19, 2010

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.0 million barrels per day during the week ending March 19, 102 thousand barrels per day above the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 81.1 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging 3.7 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.4 million barrels per day last week, up 969 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.9 million barrels per day, 326 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 623 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 168 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 7.3 million barrels from the previous week. At 351.3 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 2.7 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 2.4 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories remained unchanged last week and are at the lower limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Oil drops on euro woes, supply build

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil fell Wednesday after a report showed increased oil stockpiles and instability in Europe sparked worries that energy demand and the economic recovery may be slower to materialize.

A more detailed review of the weekly report indicates that the EIA moved - on paper - about 7 million barrels from the products inventory into the oil inventory. This was possibly due to a more accurate monthly revision, but I submit there is a good chance someone intentionally or unintentionally used the wrong figure the prior week(s).

However don't let this obscure the fact that US oil demand has been running about 3.5% over last year's rate for about six weeks now - and indications are that rate of change will continue.

Meanwhile net oil + product imports have further accelerated their decline - being 1.4 mbpd less than the comparable four weeks of last year.

At a risk of being repetitive - Exportland 2.0 is now in effect. A date with the minimum operating levels (MOLs) for oil and products is on scheduled to arrive in the later part of summer driving season.

I think Pete Foster never met a Libertarian/ Austrian economist who also believed in Peak Oil and the export-land model. I think the end of central banks creating credit and money out of thin air- or a reduction in faith in paper money trading for commodities, the US's empire and naval underwriting of trade security, and a constitutionally limited federal gov't would do great things to slow civilization's bus from hitting the wall. As for the liquidation of malinvestments due to gov't interference- that would happen either way.

The Libertarian view and Peak Oil are not mutually exclusive.

The free market would force the economy and conservation everyone talks about here, were it not for the lies and deception of the facts. (with the possible exception of coal usage).

Getting rid of the 14th amendment would be the greatest step towards achieving a new foothold in reality, but few have the for site to realize how and why.

The factor that a fully Market Driven economy still seems to miss is foresight. It is predominantly REactive, and apart from that, we need aware people who are looking forward for the good of each other (Read this in part as "The Oil Drum"), and not simply Price Motivations, in order to set a reasoned and healthy path for those people to follow.

The challenge for Libertarians is 'How do you create predictive pathways (policy) for your community or society without people using forms of Leadership, Rules and Laws- that Libertarians so often oppose?'

One reply might be that reliable "predictive pathways" often don't exist and that the cost of chasing after them might, on average, outweigh the potential benefit. (That old saw that it's wise to avoid making predictions, especially about the future.) It would follow that being reactive would be about the best one is able to do even if it's not good enough. Such a conclusion would be nicely reinforced by the endless list of stridently prophesied apocalypses that amounted to very little or never happened at all. (That's the same list that creates the constant burden on those concerned with, to pick something at random, oil supplies, to explain Why It's Different This Time from all the hundreds or thousands of other times.)

I see the problem as Net Present Value.

The multi-decade future is discounted to almost nothing by NPV (the famous quote by Keynes "In the long run, we all are dead), so long term benefits and consequences are minimized in importance vs. current benefits.

A simple example. Around windows and roofs, the University of Texas uses copper flashing, commercial structures use galvanized (life 30 to 40 or so years). Copper costs more but has an indefinite life.

I once asked and was told that UT expects to be here in 100 years, commercial companies do not care about what happens in 30 years.


Minus the fog of lies and deception, what would the present net value of a barrel of oil be? If people really knew how much was left, and how their every day lives depended on it, what would it cost right now?

(Be sure to add in ALL of the lost demand destroyed in third world countries)

my guess is around $180-$240 a barrel, right now.

Are these UT guys nuts? They don't expect the buildings to be rendered laughably obsolete by new codes for insulation, passive solar heat, disabled-access, and myriad other things that meddlesome bureaucrats can surely pull out of thin air with a century of time on their hands and nothing else to do???

UT is a law unto itself.

They produce their own power in a very efficient co-generation combined cycle plant. Heat rate just over 5,000 BTUs/kWh (3,412 is 100% efficient).

Their influence on the "Lege" is legendary (although UT wasted 1/3rd of their oil & gas royalties on 2 million acres on buying Texas A&M support; UT + Aggies are a potent political combo).

UT will adapt their buildings as need be. $14.7 million for an on-campus Opera House renovation (27 years after being built) is with-in their budget.

Renovation halfway down.

Best Hopes for Academic Excess,


UT still has its issues as well as successes. Despite all the things they do "right" they still struggle, as most industrial plants do, to fund obvious efficiency enhancements with rapid paybacks. Things like right-angle bends exiting pumps, oversize pumps feeding throttle-plates, fixed-speed motors spec'd with safety margins but operating against fractional loads, plant lighting on 24/7 in unmanned areas, and so forth. There is never enough money to hire engineers or pay contractors to save money, but there is always money to pay the power bills.

Wayne County (Detroit) leads nation in population loss again

Bing is expected to detail plans to demolish 3,000 buildings this year and 10,000 in the next four years. In 2008, the city razed about 600. Demolitions could be a key step in downsizing, a broad, multiyear plan that intends to preserve viable neighborhoods to reflect population declines from about 1.8 million in 1950 to about 900,000 today.

The population of the Detroit area has been cut in half. That is shocking.

Ron P.

Yes and no. It was a one-industry town that priced itself out of its market. It's surely not the first time that has ever happened. It's just that as with everything nowadays the scale is so much larger than it used to be.

Darwinian -

The population (and economy) of Detroit has been in decline for decades and has closely paralleled the decline of the US automotive industry. While Detroit was a vibrant shipping and manufacturing center in the late 19th Century, the only reason for Detroit to exist in the size it did during the first half of the 20th Century was the automotive industry.

There was a huge increase in the population of the Detroit area during WW II, as people from many rural areas flocked to Detroit for high-paying jobs in defense plants. Many of these were poor blacks from the South. Racial friction started as far back as 1943, when there was a highly racially motivated riot of sorts. Then in the Fifties and Sixties, white flight helped put the final nails in the coffin, particularly after the Detroit riots. The whites fled and the blacks were left behind. As a result Detroit is now over 80% African-American, many of whom are dependent upon welfare.

However, the thing that is really shocking is the sudden and almost total collapse of the real estate market in Detroit. It is becoming an abandoned city with no hope of renewal. The place has become fiscally unsustainable. However wrenching and painful it might be, such migrations of people away from a bad environment have been going on since before written history. However, in the case of Detroit, the question becomes: where are these people going to go and what are they going to do when they get there? Perhaps some day historians will speak of The Lost City of Detroit in the same way they speak about Ur and Babylon.

you probably saw this:

... it's hard to believe what we're seeing. The vast, rusting hulks of abandoned car plants, (some of the largest structures ever built and far too expensive to pull down), beached amid a shining sea of grass. The blackened corpses of hundreds of burned-out houses, pulled back to earth by the green tentacles of nature. Only the drunken rows of telegraph poles marching away across acres of wildflowers and prairie give any clue as to where teeming city streets might once have been.

PeakOil Tarzan -

No, I didn't see that particular one, but I did see a nicely done online slide show of Detroit's abandoned factories and homes. Pretty grim! If someone told me I was looking at Berlin right after WW II, I would have believed it.

Detroit is undergoing the necessary contraction that the rest of the country just isn't - yet.

Let's revisit this in 50 years. Is your money on Detroit, or Phoenix? Or Atlanta? Or DFW?

Most folks, if they have any means to do so, are merely moving to the nearby suburbs.
The school system in Detroit is the product of 30+yrs of Democratic rule and is broken and corrupt to the point that anyone who values their childrens future moves.

One notable exception was former Mayor Dennis Archer.
A good man who tried his best for the city but was exhausted by the sheer number of the opposition.

After at least 30 years of threats the Post Office, squeezed in a three fingered chuck of Peak Oil, high labor costs and the Internet, may finally fall down one more step on the spiral staircase to death by eliminating Saturday delivery:


So what is the next step down? I expect a threat to go to 3 day a week delivery but that may take awhile. These kind of threats are usually used to justifiy postage rate increases.

The trouble is that each increase in postage lessens mail volume and tightens the chuck even more as labor costs per piece of mail and the attractiveness of the internet increases yet again.

Throw in likely Peak Oil fuel price increases and the descent down the spiral staircase to oblivion picks up speed.

After at least 30 years of threats the Post Office, squeezed in a three fingered chuck of Peak Oil, high labor costs and the Internet, may finally fall down one more step on the spiral staircase to death by eliminating Saturday delivery

Actually, Canada eliminated Saturday delivery about 30 years ago. The only change seemed to be that we didn't get mail on Saturday.

More to the point, Canada Post is downsizing its delivery fleet and is now going to be driving around in funny little 4-cylinder Ford Transit vans built in Turkey.

This probably wouldn't work in the US, at least the "built in Turkey" part, and probably not the rest as well. I'm surprised your mailman is not required to drive up your sidewalk in a GM Hummer fueled exclusively by biodiesel refined in domestic refineries from domestic soybeans by non-immigrant labor. There are a lot of lobby groups to keep happy.

Not only that, but Canada is switching to plastic currency with little transparent windows on them next year. As if Americans weren't already sufficiently weirded out by our $1 Loonies, $2 Toonies, and rainbow-hued bills. They're buying the plastic from the Australians, who invented the stuff - they don't want their money to get all soggy when they're swimming in warm, shark-infested waters.

We try to act like you, but we just can't get as excited about small changes to our comfortable existences.


I personally predict that the US Post Office is going back to the past. It was not that long ago that to recieve mail you went to your box at the Post Office to pick it up. Home delivery in the area I live is only about 90 years old. I am not sure if this would save oil or not. My grandfather survived without home delivery so I suspect I can also.

Another way we are becoming poorer-in part due to higher transportation fuel prices.

Every day the mailman comes by, as does the UPS guy (often more than oncne) and Fedex guy, and once a month the water, gas, and electric readers come through as well, and the trash guy twice a week. There are also a handful of lawn service people and a few Schwans' style deliveries, plus furniture trucks on occasion. Oh, and two paper deliveries.

Makes you wonder why the trash truck can't also read the water meter -- they're both city services. Why the gas and electric utilities don't share resources and maybe have a piggy-back reader tied into the trash truck.

Even all the home package deliveries could converge with the newspapers, except they compete. Maybe I could get them all to deliver to the milk guy and he'd drop it all off at 5 the next morning?

Adding a trip for me into town isn't the answer -- that just adds more driving. Getting the guys who already make the trips to cooperate would be the real savings.

I'm with RMG on this, but then I again I live in Canada too. I live in a "rural subdivision" for want of a better term, and down the road is a group of mailboxes (superboxes) for the whole street. I check my box every couple of days, so I wouldn't care if we went to three day a week delivery, and neither would many other people. If it sis that urgent, the sender can call, or send it courier.
The local "mailman" is actually a retired lady, who drives into town with her car, (5miles), picks up all the mail, does a drop of at all the box groups along the way (about 10 box groups for 500 houses) and then goes home.

That is pretty efficient. Much better than a (unionised) worker driving into the PO, then taking a PO vehicle and driving to all the houses individually (500 stop-starts) and then driving back to the PO and then driving their own vehicle home.

The USPS saw their letter volumes peak five years ago, and since then have dropped about 15%, and heading south. It would be interesting to see a time and motion study of what saturday, and five day delivery really costs.

In response to the meter question, the utilities are talking to each other on this, but the latest generation of meters actually don't need to be read at all - they communicate.

And as for the plastic money, well, I lived in Australia when they introduced it, and they have never looked back the stuff is almost indestructible. Not only are the notes different colours, but they are also slightly different sizes - so blind people can tell them apart. Australia also got rid of its pennies at the same time too, as they are pretty much worthless, saved the gov a bundle.

There are lots of efficiencies to be had in these sorts of gov services, and when people are confronted with the real costs, i think they'd be happy to not have sat delivery. After all, many parts of outback Australia (and some in Canada) get mail once a week, and they are fine. As long as you have internet and phone (cell or landline), you have the instant connection to the outside world. Physical mail is no longer the lifeline it used to be.

Time and motion works against combined trash and meter reading (alos different type work forces).

Gas & Electric are read together here already. Combining with water meter read seems reasonable (although electric and perhaps gas are moving to teleread or radio read).


All such are being trialed here, but radio read is short range (hence my trash-truck though). The DSM/smart grid people will have a solid low-rate channel for such, too, but would need a radio transponder for the other appliances.

Some open-standard interoperability would be nice. I know it's a reasonable evolution, just slow in coming.

They're buying the plastic from the Australians, who invented the stuff - they don't want their money to get all soggy when they're swimming in warm, shark-infested waters.

Yes ... we're rather chuffed by this niche export market - we flog our currency material (and sometimes the fully finished currency) all over the place (Pacific, SE Asia, etc). It is true that it goes through the washing machine relatively unscathed, but repeat washing tends to take the gloss of it. Salt water is fine too.

The little windows, holograms, and other tricks make it effectively counterfeit-proof, which is comforting. But overall, it is not a nice thing. It doesn't fold well, it's very slippery, so it doesn't stack easily, and it can be tricky to count. But worst of all, as it gets a bit old, it gets crinkly and springy - like tough cellophane - and is a nightmare to handle, put in a cash register, or even into your wallet.

And I guess it is made out of petrochemicals.

What do you do when the Repo Man is taking your SUV?

Dallas woman allegedly tosses baby into SUV to halt repo

DALLAS - A Dallas mother is in custody after putting her baby’s life at risk in an attempt to prevent her car from being repossessed, police said.

Shortly before 4 p.m. Monday, a man seeking to repossess the 2001 Ford Expedition of 28-year-old Krystal Gardner arrived at her home in the 10000 block of Landsdowne Drive in southeast Dallas, police said.

As Luke Ross was backing out of the driveway, Gardner tossed her 1-year-old child through an open window into the back seat of the moving sport utility vehicle, according to police reports. State law prevents vehicles from being repossessed if someone is inside.

The repo guy was also shot in the leg with a shotgun.

If they were smart they would have repo'd the little kid too...

She sounds like just a terrific parent.

No wonder she couldn't afford the vehicle - it was a gas pig Expedition after all (13 MPG) - of course that probably qualifies as a compact car in Dallas.

A 2001 Ford Expedition?! Who would waste their time repoing a quasi worthless SUV, I mean how much could it possibly be worth? I'll bet the bank can't even resell it.

Here is where the "REAL" repo money is!


Recession: High-end repo man targets jets, yachts "Business is booming"

* Posted by Money Management Ent. on March 23, 2010 at 3:52am

Try tossing your kid into the back of a Lear jet as it taxis down the runway...

Someone needs to build a "kid-a-pult." Bad kids get to ride the "brat-a-pult."

For a hard-luck lot, those are the BEST kind of car! I knew a seedy friend-of-a-friend who owned such a lot. When he sold such cars he'd make back his investment off the down payment, and still have 52 weekly payments to go. He'd repo in a heartbeat and sell it again. Once car he sold over 10 times, making back his investment each and every time.

Ha! That's Texas for you. Peak oil isn't bringing us down without a fight.

BofA to reduce principal for at-risk mortgages

WASHINGTON - Bank of America on Wednesday pledged to offer an "earned principal forgiveness" of up to 30 percent for homeowners nationwide who owe more than 120 percent of the value of their home.

That's scary.

Boy, the honey bees are working the wild mustard in my garden big time. Joe Biden is right.

A follow-up to an article I posted in a recent Drumbeat:

Consortium seeks solution using smart grid technologies
Project: Four Atlantic utilities to develop a system to reduce their customers' energy consumption when wind turbines stop spinning

NB Power is working on a $32-million pilot project with three other utilities in the region to adopt emerging technologies that would take better advantage of wind power generation.

For years, utility officials have been scratching their heads over how they can effectively supply stable power with a mix of energy sources that depend in part on the variable gusts of wind.

When the wind stops blowing, utilities have traditionally ramped up the use of other energy sources, such as hydro, to account for the shortfall.

In New Brunswick, where hydro capacity is limited, the utility has often turned to thermal plants, not the most economical or green alternatives.

Four Atlantic utilities are now trying to address the problem by remotely decreasing electricity demand among customers when wind turbines stop spinning.

See: http://nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/994468

And speaking of NB Power:

Hydro-Quebec Cancels New Brunswick Assets Purchase

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Hydro-Quebec, Canada’s biggest electric utility, canceled its planned C$3.2 billion ($3.1 billion) purchase of New Brunswick Power Corp.’s power plants because of concerns about risks associated with the assets.

“In doing the due diligence, we came to the conclusion that the purchase price did not correspond to the value of the assets we would have acquired,” Quebec Premier Jean Charest said in televised comments to reporters in Quebec City today.

The government-owned company found “more risks” than Hydro-Quebec was “prepared to shoulder,” including questions about water levels at some dams, Charest said. Certain assets would have required more investment than anticipated, the Quebec government said in an e-mailed statement.

See: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-24/hydro-quebec-cancels-c-3-2-b...

I'm reluctant to cast stones at NB Power, but years of keeping electricity rates artificially low have made this utility a financial basket case. The recent cost overruns and ongoing delays in the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau NGS is just one in a long string of financial setbacks.


Paul, I have been puzzled by that NB deal for a while. It sounds like the NB gov new that new capital and rate increases were inevitable, so by selling it to Quebec, then everyone would "blame Quebec" instead of the the NB gov (it seems to work for Danny Williams). I think Quebec knew it was going to be a hot potato and were right to stay away. Let the NB gov, and people, take their lumps.

Here in BC we are going through the long delayed rate increases, and to listen to some people you would think it was the end of the world. Most people just don't understand that low rates encourage over consumption and eat into export earnings. Every kWh sold to the US is less tax we have to pay.

But, ultimately, everyone has to realise if they want reliable electricity, it costs. And when you are on the receiving end of unreliable electricity, you'll pay almost anything for it to be reliable.

Any news on those CO2 heat pumps?

And when you are on the receiving end of unreliable electricity, you'll pay almost anything for it to be reliable.

I guess I'm different. I went with "Meh - power is out" and was happy to have power when it was there and went off and did something else.

As the grid delivers less and less I'll expand the solar panels and use less.

Eric, when a tree takes out the line to my place, I am of the same opinion, I just keep the fireplace going, and get by. But when your business depends on it, you have a real problem. Do you then go and spend the money of back up generation (be it diesel, solar or whatever). Would it have been better to be paying slightly higher rates so the utility can do proper maintenance of lines and equipment? IF everyone has to invest in backup, it would probably have been much cheaper for everyone to have invested in the utility doing reliability improvement.

Having managed an electric (and water, and gas) utility I have lived this scenario. People would complain that the water quality was not good enough, but did not want a rate increase to pay for improved filtration. Those same homeowners then spent $1k/house on their own filtration systems, when i could have done it for $200/house.

Now granted, solar is different, because it is not just backup, it is producing, but if you want to be able to use it at night, you then need your backup storage etc. You may have independence but it has come at a price, and that price is greater than a reliable grid. For all the qulaity of life we collectively get from electricity, I think it is pretty cheap.

But when your business depends on it, you have a real problem. Do you then go and spend the money of back up generation

You do what I've done. All my non laptop computing hardware is -48vDC and has a battery bank.

I got sick of replacing the 12/24 vDC APC equipment every 5 years because they fail/stop charging batteries/whatever. So I "went big" as it were.

I keep asking my CONgress kritter to make solar PV able to have a 179 deductions for Solar PV/renewables. I suggest that every small business owner to do the same.

It's a balance, of course, Paul.. but I also feel the writing is on the wall.

Yes, I think it's reasonable to be part of the 'group' and make sure that the right Maint. work is getting done and the common infrastructure is kept up, but ultimately, the expectations have to change, and part of that is to have some of your own alternatives available.

Your point about solar being both 'emergency backup' AND daily power is key, IMO. I wonder what it would cost to take out 'electricity reliability insurance', and how that might compare with the costs of a PV system.. The great thing about it is that it's completely malleable. You can start very small and have some level of essentials covered, some minor amount of Battery Storage in place.. and you can gradually ramp it up, as you see fit. Add a panel every year, or something.. (Some components, like the inverter and some cabling would need to be oversized to begin with, unless you were going to 'trade up' regularly, of course)

Eric/Jokhul, What I was getting at for business is one that needs electricity for things other than computers, such as food refridgeration, machines and so on. Even the gas station won't work without electricity.
Of course, it depends how critical things are - all watyer supply and sewage treatment facilities, and hospitals have backup gen, as they should. For the rest of us, well, it comes down to resource allocation.

Money spent on backup could probably be better put to conservation, to reduce demand. That doesn't stop a tree from falling over though.

On a large scale, solar PV is very expensive for the benefits it provides - except one, which is the ability to generate in (sunny) off grid locations with minimal infrastructure. For the grid itself, I think there are much better things to spend on than PV. Even wind gives about 5x the power per dollar.

I wouldn't want electricity insurance, that just seems another way to pay money to insurance companies so they can hire lawyers to fight your claims. For a normal homeowner, a backup battery supply for computers/lights is enough. You can easily go overboard here - a neighbour has spent $6k on an automatic start standby generator to keep their freezer going in the event of an outage - a lot of money to save $200 of food!

Hi Paul,

No question; NB Power will need to significantly increase electricity rates if it wants to remain solvent and the political fallout won't be pretty. At just under 12-cents per kWh, I consider electricity an amazing bargain. We spend less than $1,500.00 a year for space heating and cooling, DHW, lighting, appliances and various plug loads, which given the size and age of our home and local climate is not unreasonable. In fact, sometime ago I decided to pay more (see: http://www.facebook.com/BullfrogPower).

Haven't heard anything further with regards to CO2 heat pumps, at least here in North America... I guess we'll have to wait a little longer before they start arriving on our shores.


Paul, I wish electricity were that expensive here ($0.12/kWh), then my biomass and micro hydro projects that have been on my drawing board for several years would be worth building! Best I can do here is $0.08, and it's just not enough for small renewable projects, but at $0.12, there could be hundreds of them!

I should contact Bullfrog and see if they would buy it, but I think my projects are too small (50-100kW). And they seem to prefer wind, which, unfortunately is only economic at large scale, though we have plenty of it here.

MHyLab has some economic & efficient designs that can be built in a small machine shop.

100 kW is right down their alley (they are maxed at 1 MW for political reasons, cannot take business away from large commercial firms).


Best hopes for small hydro,


Hi Paul,

Electricity rates in Nova Scotia have increased roughly 40 per cent over the past fifteen years -- slightly more than the rate of inflation -- whereas fuel oil costs have effectively tripled. Five years from now, I could imagine heating oil prices doubling again; not so electricity. And even if electricity rates were to magically double overnight, I would still pay less to run everything in our home than what my neighbours pay for fuel oil now.

Best of luck to you with your renewable energy projects. It wouldn't hurt to contact Bullfrog to gauge their level of interest; you might be pleasantly surprised.


So a filmmaker wants to "film anyone that has something to say to the world." - Anyone have some good peak oil poetry?
(I can go with depletion rates, no big finds, peak phosperous et la. But I'm thinking poetry)

A good example of how we can do better...

Chrysler's Trenton South Engine Plant Receives LEED Gold Certification
Chrysler Group LLC announced today that its all-new Trenton (Mich.) South Engine Plant has been awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Green Building System certification for meeting the highest environmental standards. In fact, Trenton is one of only four auto manufacturing facilities to receive a LEED rating of any kind and the only engine manufacturing facility in the world to achieve the honor.

As a result of its innovative design and attention to detail, the Trenton South Engine Plant has reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons per year – the equivalent to the energy use of nearly 1,000 homes.

During the building's construction, 44 percent of the materials used included recycled content. More than 90 percent of construction waste – about 6,750 tons – was recycled and diverted from landfills. In addition, over 80 percent of the building materials were procured from regional sources, further contributing to local economies and the use of regional resources.

The new plant also lowers total energy use by 39 percent, resulting in a savings of $1.25 million per year. Total water use has been reduced by 1.5 million gallons per year compared to the previous manufacturing facility. Contributing to environmental improvements are higher performance insulation, more efficient manufacturing processes, and higher efficiency fluorescent lighting, and heating and cooling systems.

Chrysler also continues its commitment to Zero-Waste-to-Landfill processes at Trenton South, which will divert more than 670 tons of waste from landfills.

See: http://www.azobuild.com/news.asp?newsID=9662


I know the condition of roads in America has been bantered about on these boards before, but I had a conversation today along those lines that was very interesting.

We had gotten yet another bullseye on the windshield of one of our vehicles and we had this guy come out to fix it. I asked him if there has been a lot of damaged windshields lately and he said Caltrans (California's road service division) had been reimbursing people for damaged windshields. We talked about the poor condition of the roads, and he said Caltrans has been busily sweeping roads to try to keep them clean. Is there any wonder why they are sweeping so much? Well, the State of California is broke and they are not repaving many of the roads. Usually every Spring there are numerous delays as roads are fixed and repaved. But we haven't been delayed once this Spring so far.

I drove from our home in Sonoma County through Napa and Vallejo to Oakland. Some roads were better than others. Along the highways adjacent to Napa at one part they were dismal, and in our area they are awful. They looked like they had been hit by hail made of steel pellets. You know that pitted look.

I asked this repair guy about that and he said all the emergency vehicles in CA, including the CHP, are fitted with studded tires to insure good traction no matter what the conditions may be. So I wonder if that pitted damage is from those tires. He seemed to think so.

But also, if CA is broke and roads are not being repaired, then at some point they will begin to break up and the cost of repair will escalate drastically. They need to increase the fuel tax for CA to pay for repaving. If they wait, it will be disasterous.

"...But also, if CA is broke and roads are not being repaired, then at some point they will begin to break up and the cost of repair will escalate drastically."

In some midwest states the counties can't afford repaving and their roads (not interste or state owned highway) have deteriorated to the point that the road maintenance crews bring out a hammer mill like device to smash the remaining pavement and then dump gravel. This returns them to a condition of low maintenance gravel roads like the US had for most of its road network before WWII. Expect to see much more of this in the future, especially in states deep in financial crisus as oil price go higher.

Gravel roads - Say it isn't so! One reason they do that is because it costs 1/10th as much to turn a road back into a gravel vs. repaving with asphalt, and that gets back to the cost of oil at 80 dollars a barrel.

Here's another interesting one: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6928975.html

Housing market's upswing at risk of collapsing

Only a few months ago, the housing market had been showing signs of strength as it recovered from the most painful downturn in decades. Much of the improvement, though, came from government programs that held down mortgage rates and provided breaks for buyers.

The latest sour news came Wednesday, when the Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell last month to their lowest point on record. It was the fourth straight drop.

To cope with falling demand, the industry has slashed the pace of construction. But thousands of foreclosed homes have been dumped on the market at bargain prices. That glut makes it hard for builders to compete.

I keep watching economic signs to see if we can pull out of this recession with oil at 80 dollars a barrel, but it still seems to be struggling. Also, it is a false recovery if it occurs solely based on the back of borrowing. Only a consumer driven recovery will sustain itself. In some sectors there are promising signs, but in others like real estate construction and sales it is faltering.

We shall see...

Only a consumer driven recovery will sustain itself.

A BAU fundamental assumption. But China does fairly well with an investment and export boom and lagging consumer demand.

May I suggest a permanent consumer recession coupled with an investment boom (in long lived energy efficient infrastructure + renewable energy et al) might create full employment, balanced budgets and the other hallmarks of an economic recovery ?

Best Hopes for a New Economic Paradigm,


for those interested in EV's ....


Max speeds of 40mph and a lithium derived battery... I think a small motorcycle would be more realistic.

CNOOC got caught Red-handed...