Drumbeat: March 26, 2010

US natural gas rig count up for 13th straight week

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States climbed 2 this week to a fresh 13-month high of 941, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston.

It was the 13th straight weekly gain and puts the gas rig count at its highest level since Feb. 27, 2009, when there were 970 gas rigs operating.

Russia: Domestic Gas to Lose Subsidies

The government will stop subsidizing domestic gas prices by 2014 as Gazprom seeks to profit from sales at home to help fund new fields and pipelines, Gazprom said Thursday.

Export and domestic prices will start to converge next year and reach parity, excluding transportation costs, by 2014, Gazprom said in an e-mailed statement.

Gazprom sets average annual price for Belarus

MINSK (Itar-Tass) -- The average annual price of Russian gas for Belarus in 2010 will make up 171.5 dollars per 1,000 cubic metres, Gazprom’s Deputy CEO Andrei Kruglov said on Friday.

“We applied a reduction factor of 0.9 to the European price for Belarus,” he said. “This means that the average price of gas over the current year will make 171.5 dollars per 1,000 cubic metres.”

Russian Railways Bonds Yield Less Than Gazprom in Debut Sale

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Russian Railways sold debut foreign bonds at a lower yield than OAO Gazprom’s similar- maturity debt on speculation the notes will be in JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s bond index, making it more attractive to investors.

Venezuela’s Chavez Decrees Creation of Russia-Pdvsa Venture

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decreed the creation of a joint venture between Petroleos de Venezuela SA and Russia’s Consorcio Nacional Petrolero SRL to pump oil from the Junin 6 block of the Orinoco Belt.

Bank charges force wind farmers abroad

Developers of small Irish wind farms, which will require E800m in investment over the next ten years, are turning more and more to European banks for financing because of the high cost of bank charges here, the Irish Wind Energy Association conference heard today.

Thomas Cooke, Chairman of the Meitheal na Gaoithe - the Irish Wind Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd representing 200 independent wind farm developers - said small wind projects are managing to leverage funding but largely from European banks.

Renewables doable but costly, Klappa says

Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s Gale Klappa told more than 300 people at The Business Journal Power Breakfast Friday that utilities could meet the state mandate to produce 25 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

“Thing is, it’s going to be expensive,” said Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee-based utility holding company.

Kenya to Buy Rigs for Geothermal Energy Search

(Bloomberg) -- Kenya is buying two drilling rigs for $36 million and wants to acquire five more to speed up exploration for steam fields that will be used to generate geothermal energy, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said.

Private exploration companies have delayed plans to start the costly search for hot water and steam deposits underground, demanding first that the Kenyan government sign agreements to buy the power, Murungi said today at a conference in the capital, Nairobi.

“There are very high front-end costs and the fact is they may drill dry wells,” Murungi said.

'Even War Is Good for Economic Growth'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Experts say that growth is important for creating wealth.

Hertz: This has never been proven. The economy of a country can grow enormously, and the majority of the population remain poor. Russia is an example. The country has huge growth rates, but only few people benefit from this. For more than 25 years, the gap between the richest and the poorest has been increasing. There is absolutely no correlation between an equitable society and GDP growth. The reasons why a country's economy grows can also be very negative. Wars are good for growth, for example. So are natural disasters. Haiti will have high growth rates because, after the earthquake, everything has to be rebuilt.

A Future for My Grandchildren – Visions for a new America

Today I have issued a challenge to those who read Alternet – envision the kind of America, and the world if you want, that my grandchildren, now 14 and 16, will live in when they are my age, 57. That is a place approximately 40 years in the future. I probably will not live to see it, but many of the readers here will, so it is also your futures. If we do not know what we want to achieve in the future, how do we know that we are headed in the right direction, is the question. So here it goes from my end:

Realistically, I know that certain things will have occurred by the year 2050: peak oil will be a reality leading to ever higher fuel bills which will effect food prices and will ultimately be the most decisive factor of the future, so my vision starts there.

Saudi arrests boost threat to oil industry

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (UPI) -- The roundup of more than 100 al-Qaida suspects allegedly planning attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil installations heightened concerns that battering the global energy industry remains a high strategic priority for the jihadists.

Wednesday's announcement of the counter-insurgency operation carried out in the kingdom, the world's leading oil producer, over recent months came hard on the heels of a U.S. Navy warning Monday that al-Qaida was planning possible suicide attacks on ships off Yemen in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden.

No More Gas For Saudi Private Cos - Industry Source

The gas feedstock shortages in Saudi Arabia - which we have commented on before - are such that no private company will receive any allocations in the future, claimed an industry source.

"It's only going to be for Saudi Aramco and SABIC from now on," he added.

Aramco sells fuel oil at lower price

Saudi Aramco has sold two fuel oil cargoes, totalling up to 145,000 tonnes, for April loading, at lower price levels despite expectations that the Middle East market will stay tight in the medium term till May at least, traders said yesterday.

Venezuela misses energy target, dams keep falling

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's electricity use fell 3 percent in the first two months of this year compared with the 20 percent target set by the government in the face of an electricity crisis that threatens to leave the country in the dark.

Electricity use declined to 18,044 Gigawatts per hour (GWh) in January and February compared with 18,604 GWh during the same period last year, according to state power agency the Office of Operation of Interconnected Systems (OPSIS).

Venezuelans Grumble Over Forced Vacation

In January the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Venezuela could have twice the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. But Chavez has not been able to translate that underground wealth into consistent energy supplies for Venezuela itself.

The long vacation is not welcome for many Venezuelans who have been coping with rolling blackouts and strict energy rationing since December. Business leaders have reported that the energy shortage has contributed to a 25 percent fall in economic activity as industrial production suffers along with sales and employment. They say the weeklong holiday would only intensify the country's economic woes.

The Gold Price Will be affected by the Oil Price in the Future – How?

We have all taken for granted that Saudi Arabia could not afford to ignore its U.S. guarantee of security [particularly the house of Saud]. This was based on the fear that Russia in particular would fill the void the U.S. would leave. More realistically, we assumed that they just could not do with the U.S. pressuring them if they turned away from the States.

But is there such a real threat to the stability of Saudi Arabia? The Russian danger has diminished considerably [as has its influence over Iran, its near neighbour] and in the light of the tight relationship between the Middle Eastern States and the disappearance of any threat from Iraq, just what dangers would Saudi Arabia face if it sent say, more than half its supplies to China? The States is headed to a lower level of importance in the eyes of Saudi Arabia, but would remain a critically important supplier to the States. Saudi Arabia certainly would not abandon its U.S. allies, but would control its oil markets with considerably less influence from the States.

The rise of unconventional gas

Technological advances have allowed companies to exploit natural gas deposits that were previously off-limits. In this article, we look at the massive potential being unlocked and the wider ramifications for the energy and power sectors.

Electric cars a major environmental threat?

It wasn’t long before the war of words began on the efficiency of electric cars and their impact on the environment. Today’s comments from controversial author Clive Matthew-Wilson paint a gloomy picture of electric cars as “often less efficient and more polluting than the petrol cars they replace“.
The report is here.

The great grocery smackdown

I started looking into how and why Walmart could be plausibly competing with Whole Foods, and found that its produce-buying had evolved beyond organics, to a virtually unknown program—one that could do more to encourage small and medium-size American farms than any number of well-meaning nonprofits, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with its new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign. Not even Fishman, who has been closely tracking Walmart’s sustainability efforts, had heard of it. “They do a lot of good things they don’t talk about,” he offered.

The program, which Walmart calls Heritage Agriculture, will encourage farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California. In many cases the crops once flourished in the places where Walmart is encouraging their revival, but vanished because of Big Agriculture competition.

Weighing in on Kunstler’s dire predictions for American cities

In today’s story about urban development and author James Howard Kunstler’s comments on the future of American cities, the outlook seems a little grim. Kunstler, who’s good at being dramatic for effect, says an oil shortage will lead to the downfall of suburbs, airplane travel will become obsolete and petrol-based materials used to maintain massive skyscrapers will become too expensive.

Tuesday afternoon I sat in on a roundtable lunch with Kunstler and about 15 businesspeople who make their livelihood in downtown real estate (whether it’s building it or selling it) and it was fun to watch the debate play out.

Bryce Turner, an architect with Brown Craig Turner, took issue in particular with Kunstler’s argument that modern skyscrapers would become obsolete because the materials to repair and maintain them would become too expensive. If Kunstler’s prediction that more people will move back to cities holds true, Turner said, then that would increase skyscrapers’ property value.

Richard Heinberg on Life After Growth

We have reached the end of economic growth as we have known it. The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it. The economic crisis that began in 2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and that it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades--a period in which economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve.

SMU conference speakers praise natural gas while recognizing industry's challenges

"I think we should really think about natural gas as a bulwark of our future, a bulwark of our economy. It's a game-changer," said Daniel Yergin, head of IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates and author of The Prize, a book about the history of the oil industry.

Speakers praised the environmental and security benefits of using natural gas. The fuel burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels. Plus, the U.S. has its own supply and doesn't need to rely on other countries.

Bush told the audience, which included Hunt Oil Co. chief executive Ray Hunt, Energy Future Holdings chairman Don Evans and peak oil guru Matthew Simmons, that he'd given a lot of thought to energy security when he was president.

"I was deeply concerned that terrorist attacks overseas would affect the economy here in the United States," he said. "A shock to the pricing system, a disruption of [oil] supply could affect the capacity of people here in America to find work."

Oil rises to near $81 as US dollar weakens

"Overall, U.S. oil demand is definitely improving, laying the foundations for a broad-based recovery ... notwithstanding the weakness in Europe," Barclays Capital said in a report.

"Thus, we continue to see oil prices consolidating in its current $75 to $85 range and on course to gradually move higher to $80 to $90."

Santos May Supply LNG to Tokyo Electric or Korea Gas, UBS Says

(Bloomberg) -- Santos Ltd. may have narrowed a list of potential customers for its A$17 billion ($15 billion) liquefied natural gas project in Australia to Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tokyo Gas Co. or Korea Gas Corp., UBS AG said.

China's demand for oil products to grow 5% annually

China's demand for oil products will grow at average annual rate of 4 percent to 5 percent in the 2010-2015 period, according to Zhang Fuqin, deputy chief engineer with China Petroleum Planning and Engineering Institute.

Statoil Buys Additional Shale Acres From Chesapeake

(Bloomberg) -- Statoil ASA bought additional natural gas shale assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. for $253 million as Norway’s largest oil and gas producer expands abroad amid dwindling domestic reserves.

Russia could see East Siberia oil duty from 2011-report

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian oil exports from East Siberia will stay duty-free this year, but a tax may be levied in 2011 costing Rosneft, Surgut and TNK-BP over $2 billion, Vedomosti daily reported on Friday.

Norway to curb oil fund's investment risk

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's finance minister said on Friday the government was proposing to limit the risk in the active management of the country's sovereign wealth fund, but that parts of the fund would still be managed actively.

Kazakhstan opens BG and Eni probe

Kazakhstan's financial police accused a consortium led by BG and Eni today of earning $708 million illegally in 2008 by producing more oil and gas than originally agreed with the state.

Chinese refiner Sinopec says Daimler allegedly paid bribes to fix contracts

SHANGHAI (AP) — China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia's biggest refiner, Friday acknowledged allegations that German automaker Daimler AG had paid bribes to one of its staff, and urged the government to tighten oversight of lawbreaking foreign companies.

The case is part of a wider one in which Daimler is accused of paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes through subsidiaries to officials of at least 22 foreign governments, including China.

Activists launch anti oil-sands video game

OTTAWA -- Activists launched an online video game on Monday to attack leading politicians' support for development of Canada's oil sands, which greens portray as a crime against nature.

Tar Nation, which is set on the grounds of a dirty refinery, allows players to spray oil at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leader Michael Ignatieff "to get them out of the tar sands."

10 green myths debunked

These days most forward-thinking corporations are trying to go green. Trouble is, when it comes to what's really environmentally sound, confusion reigns.

Audit Finds Vulnerability of EnergyStar Program

WASHINGTON — Does a “gasoline-powered alarm clock” qualify for the EnergyStar label, the government stamp of approval for an energy-saving product?

Like more than a dozen other bogus products submitted for approval since last June by Congressional auditors posing as companies, it easily secured the label, according to a Congressional report to be issued Friday. So did an “air purifier” that was essentially an electric space heater with a feather duster pasted on top, the Government Accountability Office said.

Cut your reliance on gas with these cars

By this time next year Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan and Fisker will each have a plug-in electric vehicle on the U.S. market. But until automakers can sell hundreds of thousands of them off the lot — not just to first-adopters and municipal fleets — they won't mean much to society. Experts say it'll take mass acceptance to significantly alter the way Americans consume energy.

"It's going to be very difficult, unless you have $8-a-gallon gasoline, for any normal consumer to look at a Volt or a Nissan Leaf," says John O'Dell, the senior editor of Edmunds' Green Car Advisor. "Right now it takes more than six years, with gasoline prices in the $3 range, for most people to earn back enough money purely on gasoline, to pay for an electric car."

Fortunately, while we wait for electrics to become cheaper and more practical, there are plenty of non-hybrid, gas-engine cars on the road that get exceptional fuel economy.

Trash cans dumped for sun-powered compactors

A growing number of cities and municipalities are testing solar-powered trash compactors as a way to go green and save some green.

Laser Guidance Adds Power to Wind Turbines

The wind industry may soon be dependent on a different kind of environmental awareness that has more to do with lasers than ecology.

A new laser system that can be mounted on wind turbines allows them to prepare for the wind rushing toward their blades.

IAEA and Russia to ink nuclear fuel reserve deal on Monday

Vienna - An international reserve of nuclear fuel aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is scheduled to be set up next week between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Russia, the IAEA confirmed Friday.

N.B. reactor may be delayed into 2012

New Brunswick's energy minister says he can't be sure the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station will be up and running after its $1.4-billion refurbishment by the end of 2011.

The reactor was supposed to be restarted next February, 16 months behind its original repair schedule, but Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), the federal nuclear agency that is leading the refurbishment phase, has been experiencing more problems in getting the project completed.

Radioactive Leak Is Fixed at Vermont Plant

Technicians have found and fixed two holes in an underground pipe that were allowing radioactive tritium to flow into the groundwater at the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, the plant’s owner, Entergy, said Thursday.

The leak did not contaminate any drinking water, but it did cause a political uproar in Vermont; the State Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure last month that will force the plant to shut in 2012.

Reversal is possible, but sentiment in Vermont is running firmly against the plant, which is in Vernon, near the Massachusetts border, because Entergy executives had assured state officials who asked about the potential for underground leaks that it had no pipes that could do so.

Jeremy Leggett: caught between low carbon and high-voltage rows

A tiny doorway next to a BetFair shop in south London is the unassuming headquarters of Solarcentury, a company that arguably stands to gain most on 1 April when the feed-in tariff – or "great green rip-off" as some call it – comes into force.

The company, or at least its founder, is at the heart of the next phase of Britain's low-carbon revolution by encouraging homeowners to fix panels on their roofs to generate renewable energy.

But while executive chairman Jeremy Leggett should have been devoting 24 hours a day preparing for the busiest period of his commercial life, he has been forced to spend some of his time fighting off an unexpected assault by environmentalists in the Guardian blogosphere. The irony is that Leggett is an ex-Greenpeace employee and, as a former Imperial College geologist, a powerful and knowledgeable ally to the environment campaigners on a range of issues, including "peak oil" – the point when global demand outstrips supply.

Startling New Research Says Peak Oil May Happen by 2014 – Earlier than Many Estimated

Peak oil is of concern to the entire developed world, in which the use of petroleum is deeply ingrained — and to the developing world, in which oil is essential for growth. Oil provides about an average of 40% of the global energy (higher use in some countries, lower in others) – and more than 90% of transportation energy. The U.S. has about 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves but consumes about 25 percent.

Oil has tremendous energy density. Roscoe Bartlett, a scientist and U.S. Congressman (R-MD) who is heavily involved in energy studies, has often been quoted as saying that one barrel of energy supplies the same power as 12 people working full-time for a year, or about 25,000 hours of manpower.

We often focus on oil’s importance in the industrial and transportation sectors, but as CNN reported, up to 20 percent of the country’s fossil fuel consumption goes to the food chain. Feeding an average family of four in the developed world requires up the equivalent of 930 gallons of gasoline a year – just shy of the 1,070 gallons that same family would use up each year to fuel their cars. (CNN. “All About Food & Fossil Fuels”, by Rachel Oliver. March 17, 2008).

The fact of Peak Oil really means that we need to confront the situation of diminishing and more expensive oil in our future. How we will deal with it, as individuals, communities and countries?

Americans get set for disaster day

If there was ever a major disaster in northern Virginia, Chuck Izzo's house is Greenville is where you would want to be.

Tucked away in his pantry are enough tinned food and water to last for two months.

In the basement an inverter hums quietly, charging batteries that could easily power most of his three-storey home's lights and appliances for nine hours.

And for when that runs out, he has a wood-burning stove with a two-month supply of fuel pellets so he can cook and heat the whole house.

Mr Izzo is a "prepper", one of a growing number of Americans who are preparing their homes and families to survive a major disaster they believe could arrive at any time.

India’s Essar Buys Aries Coal Mines in Indonesia

(Bloomberg) -- India’s Essar Group agreed to buy the Aries coal mines in Indonesia to secure supplies for its power plants.

The coal areas, which hold as much as 100 million metric tons of power-station coal, are located in the Kutai region of East Kalimantan in Indonesia, according to an e-mailed statement from the company today. The transaction may close in April and production may start within a year, Essar said, without giving a value for the purchase.

Essar joins Indian utilities including Tata Power Co. and Reliance Power Ltd. in securing coal assets overseas to supply surging power consumption in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy. More than half of India’s electricity generation is coal-fired, according to the power ministry’s Web site.

Big food push urged to avoid global hunger

A big push to develop agriculture in the poorest countries is needed if the world is to feed itself in future decades, a report warns.

With the world's population soaring to nine billion by mid-century, crop yields must rise, say the authors - yet climate change threatens to slash them.

Already the number of chronically hungry people is above one billion.

Engineering the Earth

"If you are pushed against the wall in a Senate meeting room and asked what you can do to cool off the planet in a hurry, what do you say?"

That's one question probed in Jeff Goodell's judicious and much needed new book, How to Cool the Planet. Just two years after those dinners, geoengineering has become a flashpoint within the already ferocious climate debate. The British Royal Society has taken a whack at defining the new buzzword: "[T]he deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system, in order to moderate global warming."

‘Cap and Trade’ Loses Its Standing as Energy Policy of Choice

WASHINGTON — Less than a year ago, cap and trade was the policy of choice for tackling climate change.

...Today, the concept is in wide disrepute, with opponents effectively branding it “cap and tax,” and Tea Party followers using it as a symbol of much of what they say is wrong with Washington.

‘Green Fund’ for Climate Change Proposed by IMF Staff

Bloomberg) -- A “Green Fund” designed to help nations meet climate-change pledges would sell bonds in global markets and use the proceeds to help poor countries deal with the effects of global warming, International Monetary Fund staff proposed in a report.

Sen. Tom Udall: “My goal would be to get 10 Republicans on the climate bill”

Q. You were on the peak oil caucus in the House.

A. I started it. I saw Roscoe Bartlett [R-Md.] one evening on the floor talking about peak oil and I went up to him and said, “I'm interested in this too. This is something that people need to understand here in Congress. If you and I teamed up, we'd have a Democrat and a Republican. Why don't we start a peak oil caucus?” That's what we did. I worked hard on educating my colleagues after we got it started and I'm going to continue to do that here in the Senate.

Q. Given your awareness and understanding of that issue, how do you feel about the push to expand offshore and domestic drilling as part of the energy bill?

A. One of the things that we have been doing, which I think is significant, is increasing our recovery of our oil and natural gas resources. We've been good at technological developments on that front. We need to continue to do that. I think there are going to be areas where we can work with the states and develop additional offshore resources.

I don't think the Interior Department is prepared at this point to open everything [to oil drilling]. We should do it in a methodical way, pick the areas that are ripe, and get them done. We should be a good steward of these resources and make sure that they're developed properly.

Q&A: Bill McKibben on CO2 and the Future

Q.In a recent article, you said that climate change skeptics have been “far more savvy” then most environmentalists in promoting their point of view. Can you explain?

A. They’ve done a good job of understanding much of the populist rage afoot in the country. That’s rage I share, though I direct it at the huge economic interests profiting from climate change, not the scientists who are bringing us the bad news.

Q. Have we passed the point of no return in the goal to stabilize at 350 parts per million?

A. It’s going to take decades at best to get back there. The youngest people I work with will be very old indeed before we’re back at 350.

Big Oil seeks natural gas deal in U.S. climate bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Major oil companies were calling on three U.S. senators struggling over a compromise climate bill to provide new breaks for natural gas drilling as the lawmakers said the legislation might not be unveiled until at least the end of April.

Senators Outline U.S. Utility Carbon Market for Climate Bill

(Bloomberg) -- Senators Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman outlined U.S. climate-change legislation that would have power companies buy and sell pollution rights in a carbon market and force oil companies to pay fixed fees for emissions.

While the bill is “a work in progress” and won’t be ready until next month, emissions from utilities will be regulated through a restricted trading system for pollution rights, Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told reporters after meeting with industry representatives in Washington yesterday.

California's 'cool car' rules are shelved

The state Air Resources Board halts a plan to require a clear, reflective glaze on windows amid complaints that it would interfere with monitoring of ankle bracelets and degrade cellphone signals.

Wong Says Renewable Energy Target Is 20 Percent by 2020

(Bloomberg) -- Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong released a discussion paper on the nation’s aim to have 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Heat-Toting Ocean Currents Chugging Along

New findings boost confidence that Atlantic Ocean currents are not at risk from climate change.

Accelerating Arctic Changes Pose Long-Term Risks for the U.S. Navy

LAUREL, Md. -- Climate change is poised to turn the Arctic into a new military frontier, but that doesn't mean it's likely thaw out as a new "Wild West."

A Russian expedition made headlines in 2007 when it planted a Russian flag in an Arctic seabed, spurring headlines suggesting a new Cold War was imminent. But for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the challenge posed by climate change -- in the Arctic and beyond -- is more complex, long-term and tinged with uncertainty.

"We make electric cars more convenient and more affordable than gasoline cars," he says of his California company, which is developing a global network of electric cars and charging spots and stations based on a subscription model."


Re: N.B. reactor may be delayed into 2012

For sure, 2009.... opps, better make that 2010... no, hold on, let's shoot for 2011.... err, perhaps 2012....

Meanwhile, one point four billion..... two point four billion..... three point four billion.....

I wish I could say I'm shocked, but ask Ontario ratepayers about their experience.

Best hopes for more energy efficiency and fewer CANDUs.


I'm glad Alberta doesn't have any nuclear reactors yet. Clean energy or not, nuclear power is definitely expensive energy. I've always wondered at the economics of North American nuclear power once repairs and decommissioning are taken into account.

I really don't know how much a new reactor will cost , but it will be plenty, no doubt about it;and I don't know how much reactor fuel will cost either,but my guess is that it will remain relatively cheap for the next fifty years in comparision to oil, ng, and coal.

Nuclear juice will not likely be affected nearly so much by real price increases and by plain old inflation across the board over the coming decades as the base load alternatives, because the costs are mostly upfront-like wind and solar.

My personal opinion is that the decommissioning costs have been greatly exaggerated by "true believer" absolutist environmentalism.Once the fuel is out of the plant,the risk to the poublic, now or generations from now, will be trivial, if the plant is sealed up-there are many , many, many more risks that we are running, that we MUST RUN,that are of far greater consequence, environmentally speaking.

Perhaps after several thousand years a well sealed plant might begin to slowly leak out some dissolved molecules or ions as water dissolves the metals and concrete;more than likely they will be dispersed slowsly enough to make no real difference, and by then there may not even be anybody around.

Against this we must consider the actual present day and future consequences of burning the millions of tons of coal that could be displaced with nuclear power.

Some reputable scientists think these consequences could range all the way up to ocean acidification occuring to such an extent that the oyygen/water/ carbon/ based current biosphere could flip over to one involving a reducing rather than an oxidizing atmosphere.

Now THAT is a truly scary thought-the only species that would continue to exist are known only by thier scientific names, and then only to scientists whose work touches on the the broad overall field of microbiology.

As to all the schemes put forth to save energy, I say only that all or nearly all of them are mostly politically unattractive and largely politically unachievable;nuclear power is politically achievable and thus may well be the best of several poor choices available to us in day to day reality.

Nuclear juice will not likely be affected nearly so much by real price increases and by plain old inflation across the board over the coming decades as the base load alternatives, because the costs are mostly upfront-like wind and solar.


I see it the other way around. Because nuclear power is capital intensive and these enormous debts must be financed over many years, they're highly sensitive to changes in the cost of borrowing. Inflation is no friend of the nuclear industry. In fact, it's the primary reason why Ontario Hydro went bust and one of the reasons why NB Power is in such poor shape today.


Hi Paul,

I assume you expect a new nuke to be financed with some sort of variable rate loan; my impression is that in this country at least and up til now at least that large infrastructure projects of this sort have been and continiue to be financed by long term fixed rate bonds.

In such a case, the rates and the payments are locked in, and as inflation is the general rule when it comes to energy prices, the longer a nuke runs,the better the deal for the owner and consumer.

Of course it may not be possible to finance a nuke this way anymore, and it may not be possible to get a low rate on the bonds anymore.But we can still find the means to do lots of other things with bonds that are equally expensive, and that won't help us out at all in the long haul.

I am not especially fond of nukes, but given the alternatives... which might or might not work.. and might or might not scale fast enough if they do work.....

I believe the only prudent thing to do is build some new ones, and refurbish the old ones instead of junking them.After all , they are already sited and the transmission lines and so forth are already in place.A containment building doesn't occupy that much space, even if a new one is necessary, and all the other infrastructure can be rebuilt or replaced as it wears out.


Construction financing is short and mid term and nuclear commands a high risk premium, especially in deregulated markets where there's no guarantee the plant will be added to the rate base.


I see your point-times are changing faster than I am able to keep up sometimes.

But it might still be that Uncle Sam will gaurantee the money long term-and I am personally convinced that after a few years at most that even in a deregulated market there will be plenty of demand for base load that should be profitable-of course bankers might not see it this way..

Another thing that appeals to me the most about nukes is that barring a well planned attack by a fairly large and well equipped bunch of bad guys, they will be up and running in an emergency , excepting possibly an earthquake.

I doubt if it is possible to put too high a price on this capability-if necessary the juice could be diverted to keep the water and sewer on in a large city during a time of war or in the event of an uncontrollable strike or a natural disaster such as a volcanic eruption that might shut down the transportation system for an indefinite period.

A truly major oil shock, such as might be brought on by a REAL mid east war, might disrupt our economy to the point that it would be hard to keep the coal and gas fired plants on line continiously until things settle down -this could concievably take several weeks as we switch over to a wartime footing.

I was in the Tri Cities of Washington in '83. This scares people about nuclear power plant bombs (er bonds). WPPSS locally known as "whoops".


A lot of people lost a lot of retirement there.

IIRC (I was tempted by some of the bonds 14% tax free), the governor Dixie Lee Ray I think, allowed a bunch of unprepared farmers to administer the program, and a lot of unscrupulous types took advantage of their lack of experience, generating massive cost overruns. In any case, it didn't end well. If I had bought the bonds I woulda been OK, they were insured by someone similar to AIG....

I agree with you, Nuclear is a better choice because to do otherwise dooms us faster.

There are many methods out there to build nuclear plants, pebble bed being a good choice because it can't go super critical. But there are many others in lab notebooks that I don't know about.

The Nimbys got us the first time around after the Three-Mile plant accident, that was back before I did a term paper on it in highschool, I can't remember the year, but they made a lot of scary movies about it and popular culture was forcing the tree huggers to lay down in front of the tanks(bulldozers) at building sites. I was a tree hugger back then, but I read a lot of stuff and thought that nuclear was still safer than the polution that they said was going to kill us.

I can figure out ways to design homes and gardens to feed a lot of people, maybe not everyone, but a lot more than the baseline of 1 to 2 billion people think the collapse will cause. But I can also see us using Nuclear plants to reduce carbon loading, and help stem the tide of nasty things happening, or at least slow it a lot, so that my designs will work better.

The problem is the nimbys will drag their collective heels until they die themselves, and are taken out of the mix. But we can't wait that long, we need to do something now, before it can't be done with the help of FF power and the only method left to us is chain gangs.

As a side note, I spoke to a friend, who was not peak oil aware, and now he is on our side. He is a stone mason, has some wonderful designs, he's a pool partner of mine, and boyfriend of the owner of the pool hall I go to. One more convert who can spread the word via word of mouth.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

The Nimbys got us the first time around after the Three-Mile plant accident, that was back before I did a term paper on it in highschool, I can't remember the year, but they made a lot of scary movies about it and popular culture was forcing the tree huggers to lay down in front of the tanks(bulldozers) at building sites.

Hi Charles,

I'm not sure if you're referring to The China Syndrome, but that film was released to theatres March 16th, 1979 and the events at TMI occurred on the morning of March 28th of that year, nearly two weeks later.

For a good overview of the TMI accident, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLPAigMuBk0

At just under $11,000.00 per kW, nuclear power is just too damn expensive. Of course, this is the initial estimate and subject to change. Worth noting that Ontario Hydro's Darlington NGS was originally forecast to cost $2.5 billion and the final price tag came in at $14.3 billion (no tree huggers involved). Power rates in Ontario shot up nearly 40 per cent when that puppy was eventually added to the rate base. Ontario Hydro's debt at nearly $40 billion -- virtually all of it related to its nuclear expansion programme -- ultimately forced the Province to step in and break-up the utility.


It is too expensive because of corruption and not technical limitations. One cannot explain Darlington's 14 billion price tag in 1980 dollars compared with today's costs for equivalent reactors in the EU for less than 5 billion without having to accept that something irregular was going on. The pricing fiasco of reactor construction exposes the worthless nature of today's governments. All they are good at is whining how they have no money and kissing corporate a**.

Hi dissident,

There is NO evidence of corruption nor gross mismanagement on the part of Ontario Hydro or the Province, at least to my knowledge and I had a ringside seat to the whole sorry affair. It basically comes down to two things: out of control inflation that drove up borrowing costs to unprecedented levels and a decision to stretch out the construction schedule in response to a sharp decline in electricity demand which, in turn, resulted in further debt charges (Ontario was mired in a protracted recession and there was no place to dump an additional 3,500 MW).


Some reputable scientists think these consequences could range all the way up to ocean acidification occuring to such an extent that the oyygen/water/ carbon/ based current biosphere could flip over to one involving a reducing rather than an oxidizing atmosphere.

Any literature you can cite? 'Cause that sounds like nonsense to this scientist. To convert our atmosphere to a reducing one would take a vastly larger pool of reductant than the amount of extractable coal available to us, not to mention time (the original oxidation of the mantle and atmosphere in the Paleoproterozoic appears to have taken hundreds of millions of years, and even that only got us to maybe 1% of PAL). Perhaps you meant oceanic anoxia, which is a lot more likely albeit not a direct consequence.

Not that it undermines the point that ocean acidification is serious business; wiping out most marine life would be bad enough.

All costs are relative. Nuclear is expensive, but other choices are also expensive. With enough subsidies for borrowing, one gets the price relativities shown in another Drumbeat article:

Renewables doable but costly, Klappa says

The cost of producing one kilowatt hour of electricity from wind turbines is between 10 and 11 cents, which is more than twice as much as the cost of nuclear power at 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Compared to coal-fired power plants, the cost of one kilowatt hour from wind is almost twice as much as coal at 6 cents.

Yesterday, the IEA came out with a report that said something similar.

The catch with nuclear is that you have to buy a lot of it at one time. (You also have waste disposal issues, and questions where the fuel will come from for the life of the nuclear plant.)

Wind turbines come in much smaller "individual packages" but tend to be quite a bit more expensive than nuclear for the amount of electricity produced. Offshore wind is especially expensive. In Wisconsin, where the quote is from, the wind is from fairly local, land-based turbines.

None of this makes decision making easy. Doing without is not a choice many would like.

To spur nukes all you need is Fed loan and tort guarantees. Those cost nothing....unless they're called upon, and by then you already have some built.

I'd modularity is the key...smaller nukes, small wind farms, smaller production in general.

If you really think that loan guarantees are not a big thing because they "cost nothing....unless they're called upon", I have a proposition for you. Clue: it involves a Ferrari.

A credit guarantee is very easy to value. It costs the net present value of the difference in cash flows from debt in guaranteed and non-guaranteed scenarios.

If a credit guarantee reduces cost of debt from 8% to 6%, for example. The cost of the credit guarantee is basically a financial product that costs 2% of face value over the duration of the debt. I believe this cash flow stream would be discounted at 8%, but I would need to think ti over or check a reference book to be sure.

And if that isn't convincing make a few random phone calls out of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania phone book and ask them when a credit guarantee carries no risk:

Harrisburg is considering Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection as it confronts debt service payments that are bigger than its budget for police, parks and other services. The city faces about $2 million in debt service bills March 1, and a total of $68 million in principal and interest payments this year on bonds it guaranteed for a trash-to-energy incinerator operated by the Harrisburg Authority.


This is exactly why smaller, standardized designs for nuclear power plants are important.

The problems nuclear power plants are noted for aren't because they are nuclear power plants, it is because essentially every single one is a large scale prototype. If gas and oil power plants were built the same way the problems would be just as bad there, but GE, Westinghouse, and others make standardized boiler and turbine designs that the FF powered plant designers can (and do) use because they are more profitable and cost-effective.

This is also one of the reasons why naval nuclear power has been relatively successful compared to civilian nuclear power. Navies rarely buy only a single instance of a ship class, and upgraded generations are usually based on the prior design instead of being ad-hoc built from scratch.

I understand Bill Gates is going into small nuclear.
This will put a new spin on the "Blue Screen of Death"

I wish him luck in that venture. Despite the manner in which he has acquired his wealth he has been putting a lot of it to good use.

Blue Screen of Death

This isn't so funny if they do use Wincrap to run their systems. But all the big "decider" meatheads think that if Billy's company spends billions to develop its garbage OS then it must be real quality.

I'm pleased to hear that Gates is putting his money into energy.

I'm less than pleased by the presentation he did at TED.

His talk had more of a feel of Oh dear, I need something to present at TED this year, what can I talk about in my investment portfolio that might be relevant?, than of a visceral grasp of the dire urgency of the situation.

Worse, he gave his presentation to an audience who have not spent the last 5 years getting a de facto masters degree education in energy by reading The Oil Drum. At least one Big Name Blogger that I follow took to Gate's presentation saying he knew more about energy than anyone he'd ever met. That's simply not saying much since that blogger's expertise is in computers and personal electronic gadgets, but it illustrates the problem.

I suspect most of the TED audience left his presentation less concerned about the future of energy than they were when they came in. After all, one of the richest and most successful men in the history of the world is now on the case, and they spent good money to hear about it in person. Thankfully there was little notice in the media of the presentation, I was bracing myself for the kind of Time cover of "Energy Future Here Today!" to echo the "The Coming Ice Age"

Maybe it's just the nature of TED. Having watched many other presentations online it seems that the kind of information that passes though TOD each week would be unwelcome, just as the warnings about the real estate bubble were depreciated on CNBC.

In any case the TED audience would have been far better informed of the full extent of the issue of energy by any number of TOD contributors. Maybe next year?

I second what HereInHalifax said, and I want to point out that the NYT article about the Vermont reactor quietly confirms what I heard on Democracy Now weeks ago - that the operator lied to state regulators for years about the existence of underground pipes for radioactive material, and by extension, what types of risks the residents of the surrounding area were being exposed to. If we can't even trust nuclear plant operators to be honest about basic facts about their facilities, what assurances are we to have about future costs, potential dangers, and long term storage of high level waste?

I know nuclear power has potential to generate reliable, low carbon energy, but these kinds of shenanigans leave a very bad taste for anyone paying attention.

This doesn't look good:

Global cooling: What happens if the Iceland volcano blows

The potential eruption of Iceland's volcano Katla would likely send the world, including the USA, into an extended deep freeze...

...Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that has continued to belch lava, ash and steam since first erupting last weekend, isn't the direct problem. It's Katla, the noisier neighbor, that's the concern. If lava flowing from Eyjafjallajokull melts the glaciers that hold down the top of Katla, then Katla could blow its top, pumping gigantic amounts of ash into the atmosphere.

Scientists say history has proven that whenever the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla always follows -- the only question is how soon.

Even with all the known risks we are facing. I'm amazed at how many new risks keep popping up and pushing the probability index ever closer to "1".

The potential eruption of Iceland's volcano Katla would likely send the world, including the USA, into an extended deep freeze...

Sensationalist hyperbole. The risk that somewhere in the world there will be a catastrophic eruption is always there, at maybe one percent per year. The odds that Katla would be it aren't very high. Iceland has eruptions every few years. Besides it is not the ash, which falls out fairly quickly, but the sulphates that have the bigger cooling effect. It takes a pretty big eruption to have a globally detectable effect, and a much bigger one to have a globally obvious one.
But anything to push the meme (lets add more CO2, then even if....).

As Heading Out's post indicates, the odds that Katla will be "it" are very very high:

The severity of the impacts of these eruptions on the global climate and the resulting devastation on the harvests is a matter of record. We know that there are more coming, and, from past history the damage will be great.

That record suggests that there will soon be another serious eruption that, on past performance, will also eject large quantities of sulfur dioxide gases into the atmosphere and induce another period of cooling.

The concern here is not about Climate Change, but about agriculture. A cooling event would be both faster and immediately more damaging than the current warming trend over the same period of time. And the probability of it occurring seem to be historically very high. I don't see this as "sensationalist hyperbole", but as a credible threat.

The agricultural effects seemed to be local, though, at least as far as famine is concerned.

Pinatubo ejected a lot of sulfur dioxide into the air as well, and it did have an effect on the global climate, but it wasn't catastrophic. Except for those in the immediate vicinity.

Yes, the effects will be local to the Northern latitudes and Europe and the Eastern US in particular. Which is what concerns me. We already seem to be in a cooling trend at these latitudes, probably caused by Climate Change and polar warming. Additional forcing by a volanic activity could push our already financially weakened agriculture into severe stress, not to mention any effects due to PO.

I think one of the prominent effects of the major trends (financial, Climate Change and PO) will be the magnification of smaller events into far more serious calamities. In this way I believe the major trends increasingly pick up and create new feedback loops that accelerate their development.

We already seem to be in a cooling trend at these latitudes

Not quite. The cool winter this year was due to the negative phase of the Arctic oscillation. The colder, rainy summer in the US last summer was due to a series of extended cut off lows.


(This is an excellent article. Taught me some new stuff on climate, and that's not easy after three+ years of nearly daily research.)

These are not trends in temperature, either locally or globally, except that we should be expecting more variability in weather as the planet warms. A trend is something that is changing over longer time frames than one year, particularly with regard to climate.


If you are worried about climate altering volcanic eruptions then you have to look elsewhere. The Yellowstone caldera is a much more serious threat.

Also, a fact that is not even brought up is that high latitude volcanoes do not have a big impact on stratospheric SO2 loading since the Brewer-Dobson circulation is pushing air down into the troposphere at these latitudes. It takes low latitude volcanoes like Pinatubo in order to inject SO2 where it can be transported by the meridional overturning circulation upwards and polewards thereby increasing the residence time of SO2 and allowing it form sulphate aerosols.

Also, Katla has erupted since the 1700's, including early this century, if I recall from earlier articles, apparently non-catastrophically.


The quickest way to rid the planet of humans would be a supervolcano. Toba 71000 years ago caused a human "genetic bottleneck" because very few made it through the following seasons. A paper i read stated that a computer model showed that most deciduous trees in the mid latitudes would have died in the following seasons (lack of sunlight/cold). One way or another the planet will reduce our population, i just hope i'm long gone! I personally don't want to have to take "The Road"... It would be interesting to know what a smaller, yet still large explosion would do to our current 7 billion population? Say a Tambora, which erupted in 1815 leading to the "Year without a summer" in 1816. Global warming may alarm some, but it is trivial vs a large volcano and the numbers that would die just from starvation.

Dave Summers (Heading Out) put together a post on this issue.

He describes what the impacts were before, and they seem to be fairly severe. After the 1783 eruption, the Mississippi River reportedly froze as far south as New Orleans.

This story in the MacPaper appears to overstate the danger. For example, there's the claim that the Earth cooled "4 degrees" after Pinatubo, when the research indicates a cooling of perhaps 0.5 deg C. Dave Summers post is more interesting, but may also overstate the potential danger. The amount of dust produced is not likely to be a big problem, as it rains out of the atmosphere rather quickly. The amount of SO2 emitted is a problem only if it is lofted into the Stratosphere, since the sulfate aerosols also tend to be washed out of the troposphere rather quickly.

As I understand it, the Laki eruption took quite a while to finish, so the impacts of it's tropospheric aerosols would have been relatively greater, as they were continually replenished over some period of time. Another aspect of the situation is that there is a time delay between an eruption and the maximum impact which might result, since it takes a while for the aerosol to spread widely. This is especially so with a high latitude eruption, as the blocking of sunlight is initially restricted to higher latitudes in one hemisphere and much more is rained out before the cloud can spread to lower latitudes, thus the global impact would be less than the same eruption hear the Equator. The same could be said for eruptions in the Aleutians. Dave did not give a reference for his graph of temperature, but I suspect it is only for a higher latitude site (or sites).

That said, if the Katla volcano does erupt, the impact on agricultural production at higher latitude might be large for a few years afterwards. Time to stock up on survival supplies???

E. Swanson

Well even if Katla will erupt, it could easily be a small eruption. It is mostly hyperbole in the media. Very seldom are the eruptions in Katla so big that they have impact on a global level. It´s possible but the chances are not high. I live in Iceland so I hope the next Katla eruption will not be a big one.

And today's favorite links.


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that federal transportation policies will no longer favor “motorized” transportation, such as cars and trucks, over “non-motorized” transportation, such as walking and bicycling.

(I'll have to check in with the 'I'm just traveling/don't need license/reg' next month)


·Vladimir Vysotskii, Ph.D., presents surprising experimental evidence that bacteria can undergo a type of cold fusion process and could be used to dispose of nuclear waste.

·Tadahiko Mizuno, Ph.D., discusses an unconventional cold fusion device that uses phenanthrene, a substance found in coal and oil, as a reactant.

·Xing Zhong Li, Ph.D., presents research demonstrating that cold fusion can occur without the production of strong nuclear radiation.

Bacteria causing fusion to get rid of waste? Fusion without strong radiation? Hey - at least I can sleep knowing that oil/coal will still be needed for cold fusion eh?

At least now we have a plausible energy source for the creation of abiotic oil? We're saved!

So MSNBC is running the main story that RUSSIA/US cut a deal to reduce nukes by 25% or something along those lines, in the same day i read that Uranium use is expected to quadruple over the next 30 years. These are related? Aren't we destroying weapons to fuel nuclear power plants? I could be wrong, but i swear i've read about this before. They better start thinking about the days when the bombs start running out!

Those two are very related - I know the current POTUS was exposed to Anti Nuke culture when in Los Angeles, and read up on some thinkers who have had longstanding anti nuke feelings. Much of his rhetoric in a speech he made about seeing a "world free from Nuclear weapons" was a utopian phrase straight out of the 1970's.

The drop in price for the material to run nukes was about the same time the Russian material was going onto the open market.

Maybe we can use that cold fusion as a power source for production of titanium metal?

The point is that people neglect the energy requirement for production of metals and plastics (they remember that plastics use FF as a feedstock, but downplay the energy needs). That plus the production cost of processed foods in terms of energy used.


The most abundent metal on earth, and because of energy used it costs so much only golfers can afford it!


I get your point, but...

Chemical Composition of the Crust
Compound Formula Composition
Continental Oceanic
silica SiO2 60.2% 48.6%
alumina Al2O3 15.2% 16.5%
lime CaO 5.5% 12.3%
magnesia MgO 3.1% 6.8%
iron(II) oxide FeO 3.8% 6.2%
sodium oxide Na2O 3.0% 2.6%
potassium oxide K2O 2.8% 0.4%
iron(III) oxide Fe2O3 2.5% 2.3%
water H2O 1.4% 1.1%
carbon dioxide CO2 1.2% 1.4%
titanium dioxide TiO2 0.7% 1.4%
phosphorus pentoxide P2O5 0.2% 0.3%
Total 99.6% 99.9%

Aluminum is near the top of the list, and the local scrap dealers are paying about eleven hundred dollars a ton for it.

They are paying almost seven THOUSAND dollars a ton for scrap copper-and these prices are for metals that can be and are recycled essentially forever, during one of the worst business down turns within living memory.

Those of us who think demand destruction can hold down the price of oil over the longer term than a year or two might take a serious look at the history of prices of commodities that can be recycled.

South Korean navy ship 'sinking near North'

A South Korean navy ship with about 100 personnel on board is sinking off the west coast near North Korea, possibly due to a torpedo attack, reports say.

The ship was sinking near Baengnyeong island, Yonhap news agency quoted navy officials as saying.

It also said the South Korean ship had fired shots toward an unidentified ship in the North. The incident has not been confirmed by government officials.

A rescue operation was said to be under way, amid fears for the sailors.

The South Korean government has convened an emergency meeting, according to the officials.


I think Russia, China and the US have more sense than to blow hot over this. I hope so.

And also:

Naval battle between UAE and Saudi Arabia raises fears for Gulf security

The United Arab Emirates navy is thought to have opened fire on a small patrol vessel from Saudi Arabia after a dispute over water boundaries.

According to one report, two Saudi sailors were injured in the alleged bombardment.

The new Zeitgeist? The No-Growth Fantasy
Europe's attack on capitalism.

The revival of the assertion that economic development is and should be finite—limited today by scarce resources, overpopulation, and rising sea levels.

In Britain, a government commission has drawn up plans for a "steady state economy" that forgoes future economic growth in the name of sustainability by cutting work hours and banning TV commercials (to reduce consumerism). In Germany, new bestseller called Exit: Prosperity Without Growth is just the latest in a growing body of literature pleading for Germans to learn to live with less. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy—who once came to power exhorting the French to work harder and earn more—has thrown his weight behind an expert report that declares the pursuit of GDP growth a "fetish" and strives to replace the GDP statistic with a broader measure of national contentment.

In America the Randian ideal of Objectivism, which is little more than a justification for Materialism, is still a powerful force as personified by mindless Tea-party activists who have done little personal introspection as to what their actual motives might be minus talking points.

Today's no-growthers seem to make the same mistakes as their many predecessors, from Thomas Malthus—who predicted in 1798 that rising populations would inevitably starve—to the Club of Rome, a group of scientists who warned in 1972 that the world would start running out of key resources in the 1980s. Such movements extrapolate growth rates for resource use and pollution but don't take enough account of technical innovation, environmental regulation, greater efficiency, and behavioral change.

With the fact that more than 1/7 of world population is now chronically hungry and genocide making a resurgence, how can essayists continue to accuse Malthusians and Club of Rome authors of being wrong. Looking at alarming trends of overpopulation and strained resources the predictions of Doomer camps gain credibility daily.


Still, you have to admit it is great spin, Joe. And, it susinctly states the major premise of the cornucopeans and PO deniers:

Such movements extrapolate growth rates for resource use and pollution but don't take enough account of technical innovation, environmental regulation, greater efficiency, and behavioral change.

That's right, folks. technical innovation will cancel the laws of thermodynamics this year or next. Then, speed of light limitations, well they have got to go. And that gravity thing? Phoo on it! Think how efficient we will be then!



Assuming that "running out" means diminishing annual extraction, what key resources did the 1972 report, which I assume was "Limits to Growth", identify?

There were no specific predictions of particular resources in the original Limits to Growth report. It did not even separate out energy and mineral resources in its modelling

One member of the Club of Rome made a personal bet over the extraction rates of key mineral resources over specific timeframe. He lost.

The cornucopians have used that failed prediction to trash limits to growth ever since.

You might try starting from a couple of articles hosted right here:

And an interesting article on the social response to "The Limits to Growth": http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3551

The lynchpin to Limits To Growth was the power of Exponential Growth in population and resource use.

Some critics falsely claimed that The Limits to Growth predicted oil running out in 1992 among other natural resources. The book's real conclusion was that it was very unlikely that resources would end in 1992. The 1992 date was extrapolated out of context by critics dedicated to demolish "Limits" work, and is still present in common knowledge.


Dennis Meadows (one of the authors of Limits to Growth) in a recent talk listed "capital" as the likely limiting factor. As we run short on capital, it will be increasingly difficult to extract any of the resources we are used to extracting, so my thought is that they will all decline at once.

At this point, it seems to me that a lot of what we think of as capital is an illusion--obtained through debt, but with a promise to pay back more than is possible. As this illusion evaporates, the amount of debt for any kind of extraction or mining (or fabrication) will decline, and we will have to rely on actual accumulated savings, which are smaller, as our source of capital. With this small capital base, we will be able to extract much less. And with our low net energy, we will not be able to add much to this capital base, so the amount extracted of everything will drop more and more.

Agreed Gail. Along these lines, I've been wondering lately what might cause the next step down. To know that I think we need to look at what saved us in the last step down in 08, and that was money borrowed for the bailout and stimulus. Once the next tipping point arrives via high oil prices, if huge borrowing cannot be secured for another stimulus, then that will probably mark the next major step down. But I'm thinking it will probably be a much bigger step down than the last one, because the only thing that will catch our fall is whatever cash we have on hand, and for many that won't be very much.

Newsweek is desperate. It's hemorrhaged readers. So it's doubled down on what it does best - cheerleading for the American establishment. Pitiful.

In the item concerning Kunstler's predictions about skyscrapers becoming obsolete, the attendees of the conference seem to have missed the point.

Bryce Turner, an architect with Brown Craig Turner, took issue in particular with Kunstler’s argument that modern skyscrapers would become obsolete because the materials to repair and maintain them would become too expensive.

It isn't the repair and maintenance that is the big problem, it is the need for lifts, and the likelihood of widespread rolling blackouts or brownouts. It is one thing to have to climb the stairs four or five stories; going 40 or 50 is impossible.


I expect the capital investment in existing skyscrapers is so large that energy for the lifts will never be the key problem-energy for airconditioning would seem to be a much bigger issue.Elevators could be made to run on say five minutes schedules, max and therefore be much better utilized in terms of energy expenditures, and people would get used to it pretty quick.

I wonder however if the advantages of cramming so many workers in such a small area of ground will always hold;to my knowledge little or no work is done in such buildings that can't be done almost anywhere these days as a result of the internet being so fast.i can't see any real reason why more than a few dozen key players in any company need to be in close physical proximity on a daily basis anymore-surely most of the work done by lower down the ladder types can be dispersed to lower costs floor space.

And for that matter, it may be that most of the work done in skyscrapers will eventually become obsolete anyway-if and when the collapse comes, there won't be a lot of advertising agencies or life insurance companies left in business.

I think unplanned intermittent electricity may kill skyscrapers, especially if a huge amount of back-up generation isn't available. Who wants to get caught in an elevator mid ride? All of the computerized work done in an office would become a problem as well, not to mention inside rooms with no lights, and lack of AC.

What are the experiences from poor regions that has grown too fast for the electricity supply to keep up or have had some bad years?

I live in a large apartment complex that has retail on the lower floors, offices in two towers and quite a few government offices. Maintenance seems to have been insufficient for many years so the complex has gone from one of the best in the city to something much more average.

In 2004 one of the office towers burned. From what I understand the fire was worse than it could have been because the sprinkler system was not functioning (rumor is that it leaked and they shut the valves instead of fixing it). 6 years later they are still saying it will be fixed within 6 months.

When the offices that were in the tower went elsewhere many of the smaller businesses in the retail levels shut. I think there's about 30-40% vacancy, many other stores look sad.

Thanks to a major government handout when oil money was plentiful the elevator system is better than it has been. Most days 2 out of 3 elevators in the residential tower where I live work. They hardly ever break down anymore, which is good because being trapped in pitch black in a small creaking box in the tropical heat with 10 other people is unsettling. If there is only one elevator working you have to wait in line 15 minutes. Being on a lower floor is a selling point.

The plumbing is sensitive, the pressure regulators do not work and at night the water pressure can spike and leaks are frequent. The plumbers are overworked and under-equipped (should I say over solicited? because I'm not sure they work so much as are requested to work and show up late/slow). On top of the water rationing it is not uncommon to have a day each month without water due to repairs to the major lines.

Sometimes windows in the remaining office tower break and fall to the ground in a shower of emergency glass. Supposedly as soon as they fix up the burnt tower they will be replacing the windows in the undamaged one.

Nevertheless I feel that I live in a highly civilized place. The penthouses of each residential building are home to dance schools, theater groups and other groups of public benefit. There are museems, medical clinics, banks, a library, and a pool in the complex. Usually I do not need to leave the complex to shop because there are at least two of pretty much any store I need in the retail levels. If I do need to leave there are frequent, affordable and decent buses and metro right outside. If its night there is a dependable taxi line, no need to call ahead, just walk over and hop in.

Although there are rats in the parking basement and decaying infrastructure I prefer to live here rather than in a newer building further out. The basic planning that went into the complex still works, and provide for a good quality of life.

picture of parque central the day one tower burned

wow. Great post, thanks.
Caracas, I assume.
so many vulnerabilities to living there...elevators, water, AC, etc.
not to mention being a huge target in the case of either
a) outright US aggression or coup attempt, or
b)civil insurrection due to, well, ... take your pick.
I could imagine the entire upper 1/2 to 2/3 becoming occupied only on an intermittent basis, sort of like the huge overhang of US 'vacation homes' used only when conditions allow- obviously desirable when services are available but also a huge pain when civil affairs become anarchic.
can't imagine schlepping groceries up 30 flights of stairs...

The complex is built with giant shock absorbers for earthquakes underneath and the residential buildings walls are absurdly thick and strong armoured concrete. In the case of bombings and earthquakes I feel safe.

In the case of food shortages we have a heavy government worker presence and we will be one of the hubs for food distribution.

If there is major political unrest and/or door to door civil war things could get unpleasant. The major protest/support march route goes along the road in front. In peaceful times it can get a crowd of over a million, and people can use the fire escapes to climb up on the roof. Last time some students did that and started throwing rocks at the police the national guard took the elevator up and removed the rock throwing individuals, but in a situation with guns there would be crossfire. However in that case I still think that we would be better off than in most areas.

I agree high rises are dinosaurs of the cheap energy era. But to be fair this Caracas tower fire was dirty business. Nothing to stop a five story walk-up from being torched either.

It is one thing to have to climb the stairs four or five stories; going 40 or 50 is impossible.

Think of it as your daily exercise or perhaps commute... ;-)


If you love the StairMaster, you're going to love stair racing (also called stair or skyscraper run-ups). If you enter a race, you start at the ground level of a gigantic building, and you run up the stairs with hundreds of other people, often ascending thousands of steps in a few minutes. Just recently in the Taipei 101 race, a German athlete sprinted up 91 floors in 10 minutes and 53 seconds! Talk about major cardio.

Either that or it will be one way to weed out the old and the unfit.

Now see, that just got me going on 'Individual Elevators', a single seated booth in a tracked shaft with counterweights, and maybe pedals, a pull-rope or a handcrank.. it really wouldn't be all that hard, even if it was only taking 3/4 of your weight off (for the bigger folks, perhaps..)

Ok, back to my oars..

('Dumme LangOars', as they say in Germany)

jokuhl - It is now common knowledge that obsessive exercise regimes are counterproductive for long term health. Realistic exercise programs for the maintenance of health in the modern workplace have been clearly documented for decades. The Execucisor, as illustrated here, was already in R&D in the 60's.


Oh, you think I'm kidding.. just you wait, mister!

(People would only go UP in the "Pedalvators", they'd come down on BatPoles.. while admittedly, some new office fashions might have to be devised to make this truly practical..)

the way to go would seem to be - a person wanting to go up waits for a person wanting to go down. The work involved is then just friction plus the weight difference. Maybe a big person could be counterweighted by two small people!

This became an issue in Cuba during the electricity shortage a few years ago. People who lived in high rises there ended up camping on the ground outside, and cooking over open fires. Because the elevators didn't work, and because it was unbearably hot in the apartments with no electric fans.

If this is in fact true where shall it lead.

"And now the bombshell….Florida Default Law is fighting like bloody hell not to have these depositions taken….they’re filing Motion after Motion and have made it quite clear that they have no intention of ever letting these witnesses be sat for deposition."


The article about wally-world kinda hits close to home, as I live in Central Arkansas.

The state employs the most people, then second Walmart, then thrid the Federal gov't (Three major bases in state, two in this county, Little Rock Air Force Base, just north of here outside Jacksonville, and Camp Robinson/Camp Pike) LRAFB has most of the C-130s in the country stationed here, it has the biggest training center for pilots and crews. The Army moved a lot of people in recently.

The store I did most of my shopping at Save-a-lot went belly up, and now the only others left are Wally-world and Krogers. My parents shop at LRAFB, the savings in tax-free vs service charge balance out the gas money to get the products at lower cost and tax-free, especailly when he buys his gas there.

The local Wild Oats, which is what our loved Beans and grains and things turned into in the mid 90's, is All the way in southwest LR about 25 miles away, and not worth the trip unless I am looking to buy something at the Indian Market which is over that way. I do shop for some items at one or two of the local Hispanic markets in Levy (The small burg that used to be all on its own before North Little Rock was made a city in the 50's).

I do order a lot of things online that I can't find sources for here in town, I miss all the nice places I used to shop in Huntsville Al.

I used to predict that the next thing wally-world would be doing is starting up WNN Walmart News Network, and Buying the next president into office. Scary that wally world has tv screens all over the place pushing products and information.

The first time I ever shopped at a walmart, I thought they were a knock off of Kmart, which we shopped in when I 7-10 years old when my dad was stationed at England AFB in La. Turns out the store in Levy was store #7. It closed a few years ago, and the replacement store is in the 2,000s number wise, and about 3 miles up the road instead of 2 miles the other direction toward the river.

I dislike the vast walking you have to do, and the help don't seem to know anything about the store they work in. I don't buy many things, but we help take other people shopping and they shop there, so I am in the stores a lot (Ack!).

I buy from krogers for cheese and stuff, though I do shop at Sam's for a few items mostly cheese. I wish we could keep a goat, but the city don't allow that, and I'd don't have room to feed a goat, oh well, I need to find a local dairy, but there aren't any within a decent distance.

The farmer's markets don't open for a few more weeks, and the CSA is not open for business either.

More hopes that wally-world fails and goes on shrinking and blowing away in the winds of change.

(disclaimer, I have at one time been employed by Wally-world in the early 90's, no love lost there)

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

As of 6 PM CDT 4 more banks under

Desert Hills Bank Phoenix AZ
Unity National Bank Cartersville GA
Key West Bank Key West FL
McIntosh Commercial Bank Carrollton GA

Got Gas?


Story in WSJ on a particularly large farm gas bubble. Seems that an on-farm gas digester would be the ticket, if they weren't bankrupt.

Week of 3.26.10


Will the boom in natural gas drilling contaminate America's water supply?

"In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a "lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply—parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking", raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

This week, NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film—inspired when the gas company came to his hometown—alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps."



Thanks for posting those links jmygann. I watched the pbs link, about 23 minutes. Everyone on here should watch it.

The thing that struck me was the 2005 energy bill Bush/Cheney got through that exempted fracing from the safe water act. Obviously they knew it was causing damage to water quality so they exempted the process. Those creeps!

Did you know Bush actually had a study done to find out if depleted uranium could be blended in with metal ore mixes for the manufacture of every day products, like rakes, shovels, etc.? If so, we would all need to own a geiger counter to check the rad level of the things we own. They didn't actually follow through by allowing its usage, but the study shows the mentality of what they were willing to do, and so I'm not surprised they aided and abetted the act of destroying watersheds for the fossil fuel industry.

I was struck by the woman on that farm in Pennsylvannia. Her voice was shakey, which means she was nervous. Not because she was being videotaped, but rather I'm sure because of the realization their property had become valueless and at some point they will simply need to walk away from it.

Big business doesn't care about people. And that's why people need to care about people by fighting this type of corruption. I sincerely hope legislative efforts make fracing accountable to the clean water act.

I saw it too - very powerful and highly recommended.

One of the main issues I face when I design projects for BioWebScape (my edible landscaping pet name for the over all process of living a better life in the future, feeding as many people as possible without modern Agri-practices), is water.

I know that some places can't use the ground water, and I don't want to be using city water, because that is not a sustainable sources anyway. How do I catch enough rainwater to feed the plants and my own needs (or the needs of the people on their land)? Rainwater catchment has been around forever it feels like, when you have animals in nature that have been designed (God or Evolution, both or neither) to catch water with their skin and canal it to their mouths. Plants that only harvest rainwater, because their root systems or the soils they live in do not feed them. So in nature we see it and in cultures around the world and going back in time.

But the whole issue is, what if our future we have dought and we have poluted ground water, how do we feed ourselves? How much land would we need to catch enough water to grow enough food for ourselves? Is there a no-win scenerio out there, and I am just to blind to see it coming? I don't want to be a doom and gloom kind of person, it is not in my nature. I see the rosy side of everything and everybody, but can I sustain that?

So water will be the issue that we have to really look at, because we can survive without FF, We can survive without wood for that matter. But we can not survive without water, and clean water will help us last longer, dirty water will kill us faster than most anything else.

Thanks for the heads up, I don't watch TV and rarely even listen to the Radio. News papers and internet is where I get my information, (books as well but they aren't everyday things)

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

There was an excellent post here in recent years about brothers in Arizona who had created a lush desert environment. Also, try to find Mollison's Global Gardener series Dry Lands, and check out Geoff Lawton's Jordan project.


Are old houses doomed? The conflict between historic preservation and energy efficiency

As readers of this blog know, our family has done a huge amount to button up our Victorian-era house. Today when I hear the word "gun", I think caulk, not Glock. Our basement floor is littered with scraps of rigid foam board and drips of spray foam. But is it enough? Yesterday, listening to a panel discussion on climate change at the 2010 State of the Planet conference at Columbia University, I got the sinking feeling it's not. The U.S. needs to cut emissions by 80 percent and I doubt there's any way our house can do its part or even come close. Will old houses like ours be part of the low-carbon future? Or do they ultimately need to be torn down, leaving deep scars in our cities and towns?

See: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=are-old-houses-doomed...


I guess I'm getting pay back for being a doomer.

Every bar in Bangalore is closed for the elections and I'm suffering massive beer withdrawal symptoms. I have a whopping two beers in my fridge for three days.
Its gonna get ugly. I'm in the middle of tense negotiations to come up with a solution that at least results in a decent beer buzz. I noted many of the rooms are currently empty and they have stocked mini bars.

I shudder to think of a world without beer !

Glad to here you at least made it. Was beginning to wonder if you were "rendered" off to Guantanamo in mid travel :-)

Anyway I suggest getting into cricket while you're there!

Cheering for Bangalore boys

Our Bangalore boys are totally rocking it at the IPL this year. Cheering them on the field are a bevy of blonde beauties.

On Wednesday evening, they found time to stop by at the Fireflies Lounge, a unit of KSP Hospitality Services Private Limited, for the Cheernight. The cheerleaders for team Bangalore came in their trademark uber hot attire and drove party peeps wild. They swirled, hopped and shook their booties to DJ AJ’s music, waving their pom-poms madly. The men couldn’t get enough of them as they danced and posed for pictures with the divas. Among the guests were Vivek Menon with colleagues Sachin and Ram, engaged in an animated conversation with Dr Sudhakar about politics, the election and yes, food and wine

Maybe you could check this link as well Launch of Times Food & Nightlife Guide, Bangalore

The glitziest film stars rubbing shoulders, the city’s hottest chefs dishing out the finest food, the biggest corporate heads doing a spot of socialising, and Bangalore’s A-listers catching up — all the perfect ingredients for a high-octane bash.

That, in essence, describes the launch of the Times Food & Nightlife Guide, Bangalore, 2010

I'm only going to be here for two weeks not sure I have time for a cricket match :)

As far as the night life goes I've secured six precious beers despite the crackdown for the elections so I'm good :)