Drumbeat: March 29, 2010

Herman Daly: What Is a “Green Economy?”

A green economy is an economy that imitates green plants as far as possible. Plants use scarce terrestrial materials to capture abundant solar energy, and are careful to recycle the materials for reuse. Although humans are not able to photosynthesize, we can imitate the strategy of maximizing use of the sun while economizing on terrestrial minerals, fossil fuels, and ecological services. Ever since the industrial revolution our strategy has been the opposite. Fortunately, as economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen noted, we have not yet learned how to mine the sun and use up tomorrow’s solar energy for today’s growth. But we can mine the earth and use up tomorrow’s fossil fuels, minerals, and waste absorption capacities today. We have eagerly done this to grow the economy, but have neglected the fact that the costs of doing so have surpassed the benefits – that is to say, growth has actually become uneconomic.

In spite of the fact that green plants have no brains, they have managed to avoid the error of becoming dependent on the less abundant source of available energy. A green economy must do likewise – seek to maximize use of the abundant flow of solar low entropy and economize on the scarce stock of terrestrial low entropy. Specifically, a green economy would invest scarce terrestrial minerals in things like windmills, photovoltaic cells, and plows (or seed drills) – not squander them on armaments, Cadillacs, and manned space stunts. A green economy can be sufficient, sustainable, and even wealthy, but it cannot be a growth-based economy. A green economy must seek to develop qualitatively without growing quantitatively – to get better without getting bigger.

Arctic States Meet to Discuss Fossil Fuel Exploration

Five Arctic states meet Monday in the Canadian city of Chelsea to bolster regional cooperation amid concerns of a military build-up and opposition to the tapping of its rich resources.

Representatives from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. will participate in the Quebec talks.

How the majors see ‘business as usual’ on oil and climate

The global push for action on climate change has put the long-term predictions of major energy companies in an oddly contingent light. Investors want to know about their long-term assumptions, but it is difficult for anyone to forecast how the wrangling over international climate policy will pan out; not to mention complex debates over peak oil, future price levels, and their interaction with the wider economy.

Not everyone is happy with how the oil majors are making their forecasts. FairPensions, a UK campaign currently using investors in BP and Shell to force the companies to pull out of oil sands, argues that the companies are not adequately considering the effects of environmental policies, high oil prices, and changes in demand, as their briefing for investors shows. The economic argument has focused on the assumptions that the companies use for their long-term outlook on oil prices, demand, and the likely effect of climate legislation.

A look at a few of the oil majors’ recent remarks does suggest they very much favour a business-as-usual scenario in their own long-term outlooks, rather than one that foresees either a sharp change in oil pricing or strong action on climate change.

Oil 'will get more expensive' over the next five years

Stock market trading for oil could be impacted upon by peaks and troughs of price volatility for the next five years, it has been suggested.

Oil prices will fluctuate as supplies fall short of demand for the commodity, said John Miles, group board director of Arup, part of the Task-force on Peak Oil and Energy Security, of which he is a spokesman.

He asserted there will be "a structural shift" in the pricing of oil - which could impact upon stocks and shares - and the commodity will simply get more expensive.

The collapse of journalism / The journalism of collapse

There is considerable attention paid in the United States to the collapse of journalism -- both in terms of the demise of the business model for corporate commercial news media, and the evermore superficial, shallow, and senseless content that is inadequate for citizens concerned with self-governance. This collapse is part of larger crises in the political and economic spheres, crises rooted in the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism. New journalistic vehicles for storytelling are desperately needed.

There has been far less discussion of the need for a journalism of collapse -- the challenge to tell the story of a world facing multiple crises in the realms of social justice and sustainability. This collapse of the basic political and economic systems of the modern world, with dramatic consequences on the human and ecological fronts, demands not only new storytelling vehicles but a new story.

Kunstler: Our Turn?

Am I the only one who senses it might be America's turn to go nuts? I don't mean a family squabble, like the Boomer-Hippie-Vietnam uproar that was essentially an adolescent rebellion against bad parenting in the national household. I mean a genuine descent into madness, with the very high probability of persecution, violence, murder, and mayhem -- all more or less sponsored by various authorities and institutions.

...In the background, of course, is an economy just barely holding together with political baling wire and duct tape. It has very poor prospects for continuing in the way it was designed to run, on cheap oil and revolving debt. The upshot is an economy now destined for permanent contraction, and nobody has a plan for managing that contraction -- which will include awful failures in food production, in disintegrating water systems, electric grids, roadway systems, schools... really anything that requires ongoing public investment. It includes a financial system that cannot come up with capital deployable for productive purpose, or currencies that can be relied on to hold value, or markets that function without interference.

The Sacred Demise of Industrial Civilization

As a historian, Carolyn Baker has a keen eye for current events that are indicators of the collapse we’re seeing all around us. But she’s also a psychologist concerned about how we personally navigate the turbulence and find meaning within it. The author of Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, she describes the old story that isn’t working anymore (humans are separate from nature), and the new story we must live by for real sustainability.

Stewart and Lee Udall: "A Nighttime Letter to the Grandchildren"

When Stewart Lee Udall died on March 20th at age 90, we lost a giant of a gentleman and a passionate former public servant. The Arizona native was perhaps the most influential U.S. Secretary of the Interior ever. He served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1969, and played a major role in some of the nation's landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Said former Montana Congressman Pat Williams, “his passion and informed leadership persuaded both Presidents and the Congress to designate four new national parks: Canyon Lands in Utah, North Cascades in Washington State, Redwoods in California, and Guadalupe in Texas. He prompted the nation's first National Seashores, eight of them. He asked for and received the designation of six National Monuments and fifty Wildlife Refuges.” And Stewart knew energy. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he lunched numerous times with geophysicist M. King Hubbert. Shortly after the turn of the century, Stewart and his wife Lee penned this letter to their grandchildren…and yours.]

The Tree that Changed the World

The author of A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization, begins a series of articles on the world’s first energy crisis: peak wood.

Loans develop for Jubail oil refinery

AL KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (UPI) -- State oil company Saudi Aramco was awarded a loan from the Islamic Development Bank to join Total in the construction of an oil refinery in Jubail.

The Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia granted Saudi Aramco a $120 million loan to build a refinery with French supermajor Total in Jubail on the Saudi coast of the Persian Gulf.

India and Saudi Arabia Deepen Ties

Visits by Indian heads of government to Saudi Arabia are rare. In fact, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Riyadh on Feb. 27 for a three-day visit, it was the first time an Indian premier had been to the kingdom in 28 years. However, this is one bilateral relationship where substance has clearly preceded style. Not only has Saudi Arabia emerged as India's largest supplier of crude oil, the desert kingdom is also looking to increase its commercial ties with a rising India as a way to diversify its economy.

S.Korean firms submit keen bids for Yanbu refinery

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - South Korean companies have submitted the most competitive bids for the construction of three big units for the Yanbu refinery state oil giant Saudi Aramco is building with U.S. ConocoPhillips (COP.N). industry sources said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia to spend $170bn on energy projects

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $170bn over the next five years on energy and oil refining projects, $90bn of which is to come directly from Saudi Aramco, while current and future capital investment will add the remaining $80bn of joint refining and marketing projects to the total. These investments are in line with the Kingdom's plans to increase production capacity as well as refining and marketing, in addition to directing an increased proportion of these investments to gas projects.

Pemex Performance Contracts May Fail to Attract

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, may fail to attract companies to participate in new performance-based contracts that aim to stem a five-year slide in output and improve drilling results.

Rail woes cap Russia's northern oil product exports

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Refined oil product export ports in northwest Russia are unable to use a third of their capacity due to rail bottlenecks and bureaucracy, forcing shippers to channel rising output via the Baltic states.

It’s time the UK had some atomic ambition

The biggest opportunity being missed is nuclear energy. In the West, with the exception of France, the nuclear industry has been stagnating since the 1970s. In India, Russia and especially China, nuclear energy is now undergoing rapid growth. But there is more to this than simply catching up with the East. The basic design of nuclear reactors has not changed much since they were first developed during and after the Second World War. There are many new possibilities waiting to be explored. For example, the ‘travelling wave reactor’, backed by Bill Gates, could turn what is now nuclear waste into fuel. The ‘pebble bed reactor’ is a modular design making deployment flexible and easy to expand. Other new designs could produce hydrogen as feedstock for the chemical industry to produce fertilisers, plastics and transport fuels for cars and aeroplanes. Investment can and must go hand-in-hand with innovation.

Natural gas: Fuel of the future

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The world seems awash in natural gas.

...Forecasting agencies, long known to play it safe before touting new trends, are only predicting a modest increase in gas' share of the world's overall energy mix by 2030.

But some analysts are saying it could be much higher, with big implications for the electricity markets - and coal-fired power plants in particular.

Halliburton Hunts New Bacteria Killer to Protect Shale-Gas Boom

(Bloomberg) -- Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd., trying to forestall a regulatory crackdown that would cut natural-gas drilling, are developing ways to eliminate the need for chemicals that may taint water supplies near wells.

At risk is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that unlocked gas deposits in shale formations and drove gains in U.S. production of the fuel. Proposed regulations might slow drilling and add $3 billion a year in costs, a government study found. As one solution, energy companies are researching ways to kill bacteria in fracturing fluids without using harmful chemicals called biocides.

Natural Gas Gaining 50% for Goldman as Exxon Bets $28.5 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. is making a $28.5 billion bet on natural gas, this year’s worst-performing energy commodity, just as hedge funds amass their biggest wager on prices falling.

Seismic shock as demand shifts east

As the decision-makers in the world’s energy sector meet at the International Energy Forum in Cancún, Mexico, this week, they represent an industry facing great change.

How it reacts to this change is likely to define the landscape of the world’s energy demand and supply for many years to come. With that change may come geopolitical shifts.

First, some consumers in the west – and the politicians that represent them – are starting to view “green” sources of energy in a more favourable light than the fossil fuels that have hitherto largely powered the industrialised world.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the oil industry – and specifically Opec, the producers’ cartel, is facing a significant shift in demand from west to east.

Oil wealth strains Brazil politics in poll year

A volatile mix of vast new oil wealth and election-year politics is straining relations between Brazil's states and complicating President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's efforts to pass a landmark oil reform before the October polls. An amendment passed by Congress' lower house this month that would take special income from Brazil's handful of oil-producing states and distribute it among all 26 states has sparked protests and outrage in the losing regions.

Oil’s ‘Dual Personality’ Prompts OPEC, IEF to Target Volatility

(Bloomberg) -- Oil producers and consumers, trying to avoid a repeat of the $115-a-barrel price swing in 2008, will seek a “broad agreement” on improving market transparency and curbing volatility, according to the International Energy Forum.

Excessive volatility “is not good for producers, it is not good for consumers, and it’s killing for investments,” Noe van Hulst, secretary general of the Riyadh-based IEF, said yesterday in an interview in Cancun, Mexico. Producers, consumers and regulators must consider oil’s “dual personality” as both a physical commodity and a financial asset in weighing strategies to help prevent extreme fluctuations in prices, he said.

Oil above $80 as traders look to US jobs data

Oil prices rose above $80 a barrel Monday as the dollar weakened and investors waited for a key U.S. jobs report later this week for clues about the outlook for consumer spending.

Desire Slumps After Falklands Oil Well Finds ‘Poor’ Reservoir

(Bloomberg) -- Desire Petroleum Plc slumped in London after reporting disappointing drilling results from a well near the Falkland Islands, where exploration has provoked a diplomatic row between the U.K. and Argentina.

Company seeks first U.S. oil sands project, in Utah

Salt Lake City - An energy company with government approvals to launch the first significant U.S. oil sands project is trying to raise money to build a plant in eastern Utah that would turn out 2,000 barrels of oil a day.

Earth Energy Resources Inc. has a state lease to work a 62-acre pit in Uintah County, where it has demonstrated technology that can extract oil out of sands using a proprietary solvent it calls environmentally friendly.

But first, the Calgary, Alberta-based company says it needs to raise $35 million, and it acknowledged that could be tough because private equity groups turned skittish after the 2008 economic meltdown.

Shell to boost Iraq Majnoon oil output

YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi (Reuters) - Iraq's Majnoon oilfield is targeting production of 175,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2012, a senior Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) executive said on Monday.

Iraq's largest field is currently pumping at 45,000 boe/d, Shell's Mounir Bouaziz, Vice-President New Business LNG for the Middle East and North Africa, told an industry event.

Sinopec Buys Angola Stake; Expects Oil Refining ‘Challenges’

(Bloomberg) -- China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s biggest refiner, announced its first acquisition of a foreign oil field stake and said it faced “challenges” in the oil-processing business as competitors expand capacity.

Sinopec, as the Beijing-based company is known, said yesterday it will pay $2.5 billion to buy a stake in an Angolan field from its parent to boost crude oil production. “Refining capacity is being added both inside and outside China,” Sinopec said in a statement as it reported profit more than doubled to 61.8 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) last year.

PetroChina Plans $60 Billion of Overseas Expansion

(Bloomberg) -- PetroChina Co. plans to spend at least $60 billion in the next decade on overseas acquisitions, challenging Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc in the race to control oil and gas fields.

“Ten years ago, PetroChina was a state-owned oil company, but now we have a goal of becoming an international, integrated energy company,” Jiang Jiemin, chairman of the world’s largest company by market value, said in a March 25 interview, where he announced the investment plan.

Gazprom ramps up Asia energy trade presence

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom is ramping up its presence in Asia to trade liquefied natural gas, oil and source carbon offsets, as one of the world's biggest energy players seeks to tap the fastest-growing region.

Shell Holds Talks on Iraq Plan to Capture, Sell Gas

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which won contracts last year to develop two Iraqi oilfields, is still in talks on a plan to capture and sell natural gas there, the company’s Middle East vice president for new business said.

“We are still in discussions and waiting for a new government to be in place,” Mounir Bouaziz said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. Shell could start exporting liquid petroleum gas two years after signing a final agreement, he said today.

Books about oil: Black gold is a rare inspiration

The oil business is full of great stories. From Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, which inspired the film There Will be Blood, to Daniel Yergin’s magisterial, sweeping history The Prize, the colour and drama of the search for oil have inspired some outstanding writing.

As proof that “black gold” is just as potent an inspiration as it has always been, a crop of books in the past few months has given an equally vivid picture of today’s industry, and a sense of how it might finally come to an end.

The most powerful is Peter Maass’ Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil (Allen Lane 2009), a scorching vision of the damage done by oil production. Mr Maass, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, visits the majority of the countries most affected by oil – including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela – and exposes the way it has polluted and corrupted their landscapes, economies and politics.

China’s Drought Raises Coal Prices, Lowers Hydropower

(Bloomberg) -- Benchmark coal prices at Qinhuangdao, China’s largest port handling the fuel, rose for the first time in 10 weeks after a drought in the south cut hydropower generation and raised demand from coal-fired plants.

Colo. gas-coal fight could preview national battle

DENVER - A plan to clean up Colorado's air is pitting two powerful industries — natural gas and coal — against each other in what could be a warm-up for a national fight over how to confront climate change.

Peak Oil and a ‘Peaked’ City

For years now, Tom Whipple, husband of our State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, has written a weekly column in the News-Press on “Peak Oil,” the thesis being: “Wake up — the world’s running out of oil!”

Week after week, year after year, Mr. Whipple reminds us of this inconvenient fact, apparently oblivious that we would prefer not to hear it anymore. We would prefer not to believe it.

We can’t afford to fail Bristol as the oil runs out

A week ago at the Oil, Carbon and Opportunity event held in Bristol, a presentation was given which underlined the challenges that a low-carbon, post-Peak Oil Bristol must face. Challenges that have to be tackled now in order that the city will prove itself resilient in a new era without cheap energy.

What was surprising was that despite there being many people at the conference of considerable prestige and experience within the sustainability arena, including Ian Hutchcroft of the Energy Saving Trust, Tony Norton from Regen South West, Joshua Thumim from the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Alastair Sawday from the Bristol Green Capital Momentum Group, it was none of the above that gave the presentation referred to.

Instead it was David Bishop, Director of City Development at Bristol City Council.

Robots, space technology run Australia's mining miracle

Automation has long been a part of the mining industry, but advances in satellite, motion-sensor technology and robotics have made the stuff of science fiction a fact of everyday life.

Machines which scoop the ore, dump it on a conveyor belt and hose it down are now controlled from the air-conditioned comfort of Rio Tinto's Perth operations centre, 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) away from the arid mine pit.

Russia, UN nuclear agency sign fuel bank deal

VIENNA (AP) -- Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency have set up the world's first nuclear fuel bank.

It will help countries bridge shortages caused by snags in deliveries of low enriched uranium for reactors.

It is meant to encourage countries looking to develop peaceful nuclear programs to depend on outside sources instead of developing uranium enrichment programs.

Siemens Plans U.K. Wind Turbine Factory After Brown Port Pledge

(Bloomberg) -- Siemens AG will spend 80 million pounds ($120 million) to build an offshore wind-turbine factory in the U.K. after Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to upgrade the country’s ports.

The company is considering sites along the east coast and in the north east of England for the plant that will create around 700 jobs, Siemens said in a statement.

China became top wind power mkt in 2009 - consultant

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - China became the No. 1 wind turbine market in 2009, installing a record 13.75 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity, and three Chinese suppliers ranked among the Top-10 turbine manufacturers, Danish consultants BTM said.

"The most significant trend in the market was the booming Chinese wind industry," BTM Consult said in a summary of its annual wind power market review for paying subscribers.

Automakers roll out all-electric vehicles

It's another one of those hectic weeks, and your gas tank is empty, so you find yourself in the long line at Costco gas station -- engine idling -- waiting for your turn.

Imagine if you no longer had to sit in that line, wondering why the slowpokes in front of you take so long to fill their tanks.

Welcome to a new era of electric vehicles.

2,487.5 MPG Achieved at 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas

HOUSTON, March 28 -- Extreme mileage was the goal this weekend on the streets of downtown Houston as 42 student teams competed in the 2010 Shell Eco-marathon Americas®, a challenge for students to design, build and test fuel-efficient vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy. More than 400 students were on hand to stretch the boundaries of fuel efficiency and participate in the first-ever street course challenge for the Americas event.

Indonesia's food estate project sparks environment concerns

Jakarta - Indonesia's ambitious plan to turn large swathes of fertile land in the easternmost region of Papua into a food estate has sparked concerns about potential forest destruction and the marginalisation of small farmers.

UN 2010-2012 Emissions Spread Widens to Record After Suspension

(Bloomberg) -- The spread between 2010 United Nations emission offsets and those for delivery in 2012 widened to a record on slower-than-expected issuance and after a regulatory board suspended certification companies.

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

How many wheels can fly off this cart?

You have to feel sorry for NB Power; they seem to always hold the bag. The utility is struggling under a massive debt load that would make most third-world countries blush, and now that its sale to Hydro-Québec has fallen through, it has to dig its own way out of the hole. In 2001, the utility embarked on a $2.2 billion refurbishment of its 1,050 MW Coleson Cove generating station to allow it to burn orimulsion, a bitumen based product that was to be imported from Venezuela; unfortunately, NB Power was unable to secure a supply contract with the Venezuelan government so, ultimately, the plant had to be converted back to oil. Doh! In 2008, its Grand Falls powerhouse was extensively damaged by flooding. More worrisome, its larger, 672MW Mactaquac Dam will need to be decommissioned by 2030, some thirty-seven years ahead of schedule due to an alkali silica reaction in the concrete that was used to build its powerhouse and spillways. The Point Lepreau NGS refurbishment that was to be completed by the fall of 2009 has jumped the rails – now, if you believe the latest forecast, the plant will return to service sometime in 2012; meanwhile, NB Power is spending upwards of a $1,000,000.00 a day on replacement power. Today, there’s word that its 300MW Dalhousie generating station will close in June when its fuel supply contract with Petróleos de Venezuela expires, some fifteen years ahead of its planned retirement.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/03/28/nb-dalhousie-job...

However, it was this comment that caused me to choke on my coffee:

David Coon, policy director for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said it's probably the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant rather than the Mactaquac Dam that spooked Hydro-Quebec.

"The story the premier told about Mactaquac is a nice story, but I don't think it is getting at what is going on here," he said.

"I don't think Hydro-Quebec is scared of repairing a dam."

Coon said the big risks for Hydro-Quebec are at Point Lepreau.

"They are having a real hard time getting it back together," he said. "They found other problems they weren't planning on fixing until they sold it to Hydro-Quebec, which maybe Hydro-Quebec discovered."

Coon said Hydro-Quebec probably realized it would have to refurbish Point Lepreau again much sooner than the projected 25 years.

He said it could be as soon as 10 years from now.

"That is the elephant in the room," he said. "The big risks financially are associated with Point Lepreau."

Source: http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/front/article/997360

Ten years!?! I can get more than ten years of service out of a pair of socks.

Please, Lord, let something -- anything -- go right for NB Power.


Ten years!?! I can get more than ten years of service out of a pair of socks.

And after 10 years if you take them off and wash them you can maybe get another 10 years :-)

A related story about expensive nuke plants, versus currently cheap natural gas:

EFH CEO: Cheap natural gas makes it hard to build nukes

Natural gas at $3 per million British thermal units is simply too cheap for a power company to consider building a nuclear power plant, according to Energy Future Holdings chief executive John Young. What do the two have to do with each other? Everything.

In Texas, as in many places, natural gas markets set the price of electricity. The higher natural gas goes, the more money power generators get for their product.

Nuclear plants produce electricity very cheaply. So the higher natural gas prices rise, the fatter the profit margins for nukes. However, nuclear plants cost billions of dollars to build. So a developer in a deregulated market such as Texas must decide whether natural gas prices seem high enough and stable enough to justify the investment.

Why does anyone need any more electricity at all?
Between 1995 and 2008, electricity demand grew at 1.6% from 3400 Twh to 4200 Twh.
Conservation and energy efficient equipment and lighting to cut that down to zero.
More 'cash for clunkers'.
Instead of plowing money into expensive fuel burners, replace inefficient lights and AC.
Replacing a 3 ton 10 SEER AC unit in Texas with a new
14 SEER unit($900?) will save 2000 kwh per year or 0.8 kw of natural gas plant costing $.8 per kw.
Replacing a million such units would avoid the need for 0.8 GW, costing $640 million dollars and 13 mmcf of natural gas per year costing $585 million dollars over 15 years($3 per mcfh).
So buy the high efficiency AC for $900 per customer or build and fuel the NG plant for $1225 per customer?
The market fails again!
Subsidies and drooling the prospect of screwing customers causes utility companies to choose the less efficient option!
Nukes are even more stupid as they are purely baseload and don't help with variable loads like lighting and AC.

Lovelock is right. Humans are just too stupid.

When you build a lot of energy sipping things, you just move the energy use to some other product. I cut my energy use, beacause I understand the nature of what is going on, and I want to save money. Unless saving money is the driver, people won't save energy.

Yeah people at times don't think beyond the place they want to go to lunch today. Thinking about anything beyond next week, happens only in a soft fuzzy glow of what they are going to be doing, not what everyone else will have happen to them.

But that ties into the fact that it is hard for most people to deal with their own lives and also take on the responsibility of others as well. Most people I talk to, tell me that they can't worry about other people much more than a little bit.

I see positive signs out there, but I also see the bad things piling up. Here is hoping for a more aware populace to other people's needs.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Subsidies and drooling the prospect of screwing customers causes utility companies to choose the less efficient option!
Nukes are even more stupid as they are purely baseload and don't help with variable loads like lighting and AC.

Lovelock is right. Humans are just too stupid.

Perhaps they're just too greedy.

I have quotes for 2.5 and 3 ton off-brand HVAC, 14 SEER. More like $4K installed. $5-$6K for 16-18 SEER name-brand. Add $1K per ton for GSHP wells, more or less.

If you can get 3 tons 14 SEER installed for $900 I'll take 4.

I have quotes for 2.5 and 3 ton off-brand HVAC, 14 SEER. More like $4K installed. $5-$6K for 16-18 SEER name-brand. Add $1K per ton for GSHP wells, more or less.

Are those for a home, for central A/C?

If true, it is my opinion that in a way, it is still BAU.

The cheapest in cost, I think, would just to cool the room a person is in.
Perhaps via a single room ductless A/C, or even a US$99 5000BTU window A/C.

I went the window A/C route. We have two window A/Cs. My 1939 home has one in the family room so the kids/family can be cooled when watching TV, and one in the master bedroom (so I can sleep the few nights a year that stay hot over night).

I even measured each A/Cs power draw using a kill-a-watt meter. Each A/C uses 500watts. I usually run just one.

I have quotes for 2.5 and 3 ton off-brand HVAC, 14 SEER. More like $4K installed. $5-$6K for 16-18 SEER name-brand. Add $1K per ton for GSHP wells, more or less.

Are those for a home, for central A/C? (If not, then ingore me, as my thoughts would be based on bad assumptions.)

If true, it is my opinion that in a way, it is still BAU.

The cheapest in cost, I think, would just to cool the room a person is in.
Perhaps via a single room ductless A/C, or even a US$99 5000BTU window A/C.

I went the window A/C route. We have two window A/Cs. My 1939 home has one in the family room so the kids/family can be cooled when watching TV, and one in the master bedroom (so I can sleep the few nights a year that stay hot over night).

I even measured each A/Cs power draw using a kill-a-watt meter. Each A/C uses 500watts. I usually run just one.

Here ya go, paleo!
(okay it's only a 13 SEER.)

In addition, you need the air handler, the evaporator, condensate pump, electrical controls and cables installed, a plenum, return air, hangers, drain pan, filter slot, thermostat(s), distribution and registers, Without insulation, your A/C is a money hole.

Add to this the licensed installer along with his overhead and profit and the price climbs to around $4500 for a simple system.

Nukes are even more stupid as they are purely baseload and don't help with variable loads like lighting and AC.

Nukes are absolutely neccessary to replace coal - if we are really serious about mitigating climate change. But we need Gen 4 nukes that can reprocess existing nuclear "waste" rather than the same old Gen 3 pigs.

Nukes are absolutely neccessary to replace coal

Lets pick todays hot buttons - Are you in support of North Korea and Iran having nuke power plants?

Are you in support of North Korea and Iran having nuke power plants?

Yes. It appears that most of the Middle Eastern states plus Egypt are starting the process of building nuclear power plants, and all within the NPT.

At least you are being consistant with your yes.

Now....how about the original poster who was asking for fission?

I'd suggest Mr. Young better start looking a little further forward than next quarter. United Arab Emirates has just signed a contract, after worldwide competitive bids, with Korea to build four new nuclear reactors in the core of petroleum country. No company in the final bid round was headquartered in the USA.

In 2001, the utility embarked on a $2.2 billion refurbishment of its 1,050 MW Coleson Cove generating station to allow it to burn orimulsion, a bitumen based product that was to be imported from Venezuela; unfortunately, NB Power was unable to secure a supply contract with the Venezuelan government so, ultimately, the plant had to be converted back to oil. Doh!

Well, Venezuela is not sufficiently organized to produce orimulsion these days, and can't keep it's own electricity supply operating, so that wasn't a bright idea.

This is just a thought, but Nova Scotia, the next province over, has the huge Sable Island gas field offshore. Did New Brunswick Power ever consider going next door, signing a long term contract for Nova Scotia natural gas, and then building a few gas-fired power plants? It might have been expensive, but not nearly as expensive as this kind of mucking around.


A good chunk of Sable Island gas is sold to the United States; not sure if it's under long-term contract, but with these fields in decline, it may not be the best route to go. That said, Emera, Nova Scotia Power's corporate parent, owns and operates a 260 MW combined cycle facility in St. John (see: http://www.emera.com/en/home/ourbusiness/corporatestructure/baysidepower...)



The whole NB power thing looks to me like a textbook case of why government should NOT be in the electricity business. They have bowed to political pressure for decades to "keep rates low" which has meant chronic under investment in the system. It is the equivalent of tenants demanding low rent, and the owner obliges, but at the cost of neglecting any non-cosmetic maintenance - sooner or later, the house will be unliveable, and a major repair job is needed, and a major rent increase to go with it.

Oil from Venezuela - what were they thinking?

NB has dined at the table of too-cheap power, and now the bill has come, and they tried to stick it to Quebec, who could see through the whole thing.
They will have no choice but to put it on their credit card, and stomach the debt payments long with higher power rates. Any parent who ever voted for lower rates can ask themselves how they feel about their kids now having to pay the price.

If there are no utility companies willing to come and and do projects, then it means they are not charging enough for electricity. And keeping those rates low means the taxpayers will pay for it through other means, effectively subsidising those who waste the cheap electricity (same as here in BC!)

Sounds like they should be starting to talk with Danny Williams, I'd rather import electricity from Newfoundland & Labrador than oil from Venezuela, but whatever happens, the bills are going up, that's just the way it has to be...

Hi Paul,

Successive governments have kept electricity rates artificially low to appease the electorate, but it's pushing the utility to the brink and passing on these costs to future ratepayers. The refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear station is turning into another multi-billion dollar fiasco and now we're hearing reports that it may require a second major overhaul in another ten years time. It just continues to go from bad to worse.

Two-thirds of all homes in New Brunswick are electrically heated, so the pain will be intense.


When you shrink it down to this; "Successive governments have kept electricity rates artificially low to appease the electorate," it sounds just like the philosophy of a drug dealer - give 'em cheap stuff to get them hooked, then you can squeeze them for all they are worth!

BUt, no pain, no gain - the NB'ers will just have to suck it up. Would be interesting to see a comparison of the cost of buying and installing heat pumps for demand reduction, and other conservation measures, compared to fixing that nuke, or doing any new projects.

I just hope they don't come to the Federal government for a bailout on this one.

I just hope they don't come to the Federal government for a bailout on this one.

Too late, Paul. AECL (and that means you and me as taxpayers) are contractually obligated to pay for any cost overruns at Point Lepreau. For its part, NB Power pays for the replacement power. Ya hear that sucking sound? That's one of the wonders of nuclear power -- it has this amazing ability to pull money out of your pocket one way or the other.

I'm guessing electricity rates are 40 to 50 per cent below where they should be; possibly more. If I had electric heat in New Brunswick, you could be damn sure I would be installing a high efficiency ductless heat pump, pronto. As for the future of Point Lepreau, I think they've gone too far down the road to back away now. The billions of dollars they've end up pissing away could have bought a lot of conservation, which makes this all the more tragic.


Does anyone have any real data on what exactly has caused the schedule delays? The only information I could find was this blurb from the IBEW union whose workers are actually doing much of the work.


In there, it discusses (paraphrasing) "delays due to necessity of troubleshooting brand new robotic equipment being used in the refurb." however IF that's referring to the vessel re-tubing robots, they have been used for both the two Bruce reactors refurbished so far (first was, agreed, somewhat behind schedule but second one was right on last I heard), and for the re-tubing job in the Korean CANDUs, which, as the IBEW note, is proceeding faster than the NB job. I've also heard, as the only hard news of a reason for a delay, that some small-time local NB sub-contractor had failed to deliver some very critical parts on time, and AECL has been forced to go outside the province to get another company to fabricate the parts, setting their timeline several months behind.

Read more: http://www.oilweek.com/news.asp?ID=20748#ixzz0jiyxLDHC

I also note this bit of news in Oilweek.com: "In October (2008), two huge turbine rotors destined for Point Lepreau toppled into Saint John harbour while being loaded onto a barge. They have been returned to Siemens in the United Kingdom, and a decision on whether they can be used will be made later this month. The new turbines were designed to spin faster, generating an extra $15 million worth of power each year." Should AECL be held to account for the work of NB dockworkers, if they were the cause? ( I should also note that the article also contains a lot of wording about the re-tubing being the cause of the delays, but could just be required politics eg. "we can't afford to be fighting with NB politicians" and see above.

Read more: http://www.oilweek.com/news.asp?ID=20748

This news bit just stinks of local political patronage. (Precision Nuclear was essentially invented from a small local workshop as part of the refurbishment contract.) "FREDERICTON - Precision Nuclear Inc. and its sister company Precision Metal Works Ltd., both owned by Fredericton-area businessman David Rioux, were placed under the receivership of Green Hunt Wedlake Inc. Tuesday.

... As one of only a handful of manufacturers in the world qualified to manufacture class-one nuclear products for CANDU nuclear reactors, Precision Nuclear was once lauded as a New Brunswick success story.

But court documents reveal the company has struggled financially since its inception for numerous of reasons, including last September when Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. applied to have a receiver appointed when it became clear that Precision Nuclear was in bad shape financially.

The Crown nuclear technology and engineering corporation had awarded a contract to Precision Nuclear to produce parts for the Point Lepreau refurbishment and a second contract to supply end fittings for a nuclear reactor in Wolsong, South Korea.

After much debate last fall among the secured creditors, Justice Peter Glennie ordered that a monitor be named to oversee the operations of the plant until the parts for the Point Lepreau and Wolsong projects could be completed.

But when the Crown corporation backed away from its second contract, the Mactaquac-based manufacturing company announced it would let go its entire staff."

Read more: http://nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com/journal/article/576102

I would suggest that, as much as the delays in the project have been due to AECL having been forced by the local politicians to use unqualified local sub-contractors and suppliers, THEN the federal taxpayer should not be put on the hook for the delays caused by the local politicians. Somebody should have informed them that fabricating critical parts for these complex machines is not just something you put out to some politician's wife's brother-in-law because he happens to own a couple of manual lathes.

Hi Len,

According to the CBC, "dismantling the old reactor took 32 weeks longer than expected as remote-controlled tools continually malfunctioned in the radioactive environment", so this would account for seven and a half months of the delay.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/03/10/nb-aecl-point-le...

Elsewhere, they reported:

"The delicate task of removing highly radioactive pressure tubes from the nuclear reactor at the Point Lepreau power station west of Saint John is causing a further delay in refurbishing the plant, according to NB Power.

The 380 tubes have to be removed by a special tool, and then crushed into small pieces for handling and storage, the corporation explained Tuesday on its website.

"One of the challenges we are facing is that pieces of the crushed pressure tubes are being caught inside the automated tooling, resulting in additional downtime for equipment maintenance and repairs," the report said.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/04/01/point-lepreau.ht...

This item appeared in today's Telegraph Journal:

Keir hears of more Lepreau delays

New Brunswick's energy minister is growing increasingly concerned about whether there are more problems with the retrofit at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Plant than Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has made public.

Jack Keir said he has been hearing from workers - including subcontractors, tradespeople and NB Power employees at the site - that there are ongoing problems with the refurbishment of the nuclear reactor and that the project is facing further delays.

"Folks I know who are working there are saying they're in trouble again," he said in an interview Saturday.

See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/999666

It seems rather odd that the Minister of Energy is being told one thing by AECL and something quite different by the plant workers. What should one make of that?


Thanks for the 32 week figure. I'd seen the issue but had no data on the significance. As far as site worker rumours, I've never yet seen a construction project where the line workers knew much if anything about the significance of any particular issue to the probable final completion date. The workers are always hoping for a project delay, because that means their present employment will be extended. It is project management's job to overcome that with performance metrics, forward planning (and on some projects where I've worked, simply loudly publicly demanding impossibly short schedules with the plan being to achieve a longer ideal schedule).

maybe I had it the wrong way around. The nuclear industry (AECL in this case) gets the province/customers hooked with "low costs" (from Fed gov subsidies), and then once it's too far to turn back, they squeeze the province for all they are worth.

Wonder why AECL hasn't sold any reactors overseas (or here) lately?

In any case, a rate shock of 100% increases is pretty much what is required to achieve significant, permanent changes.

From NB power's website "NB Power's customers enjoy electricity rates that are among the lowest in Atlantic Canada and north-eastern North America.". They pay about $0.095/kWh, which is very cheap. Now that they have had their "enjoyment", it's time to pay for the party.

They should take the chance to institute a thorough overhaul of their rate structure - particularly the use of off peak and tiered rates.

Billions eh? Lets see, assume $2bn wasted, and at 757,000 people, or, say 300,000 homes, that would have been $6.5k per house, enough to install two mini ductless systems (using local contractors) and still have about $1.5k per house left over. if you save 3kW per house, that is 900MW, which is just about the size of a nuke plant!

Well, I'm not sure of your references. eg. the same reactors are used in Ontario to supply most of the electricity for a much larger market, and Bruce Power (a private corporation owned largely by Transcanada Pipelines, a Nat. Gas transport company) is itself paying for the exact same work being done on several of the eight reactors it operates. Korea thinks the work is justified. China has just proposed purchasing additional CANDU for use in disposing of waste fuel from its lightwater reactors.

Hi Len,

Technically speaking, Gentilly 2 and Point Lepreau are the only CANDU 6 class reactors operating in Canada.


Ah, most of the presently operating CANDU's are essentially identical. The 6 in CANDU 6 simply refers to the 6 MW per fuel channel design of the units, and I'd expect that only the old Pickering 535 MW class units built in the 1970's and early 1980's are likely to be significantly different. The Bruce and Darlington units (740 MW) are approximately the same size as Lepreau though I can't find any specific numeric designation for them, and the Wolsong and Quinshan (? 740 MW) units are explicitly refered to as CANDU 6's. Any size differences among them are most likely due to number of fuel channels in the calandria, not the rating of each channel. Wonsong 1 will be done its retubing refurbishment sooner than Lepreau, on time and on budget BTW.

Hi Len,

AECL is replacing all of the reactor calandria tubes, pressure tubes and "at-risk" portions of the feeder supply pipes; this has never been attempted before. This press release speaks to how Point Lepreau is breaking new ground:

Our dedicated workforce has accomplished another significant milestone in the Point Lepreau Generating Station Refurbishment project. The 380th and final calandria tube was removed from the reactor, marking the end of the reactor disassembly. The disassembly process is one of the most challenging parts of this stage of the project. Over 50 complex first of a kind tooling devices were developed specifically to safely remove all components from the Point Lepreau CANDU-6 reactor vessel.

“The project is a learning experience for all of us and we are applying the lessons learned as we progress with the re-assembly of the reactor,” says Gaëtan Thomas, Vice President of Nuclear. “This is the first of the world’s fleet of CANDU-6 reactors to undergo a refurbishment of this nature."

[My emphasis.]

Source: http://poweringthefuture.nbpower.com/en/News/ProgressReport/July2709EN.pdf


Hi Paul,

Point Lepreau has a rated capacity of 683 MW (and, potentially, 698 MW post refurbishment), so you might have even more spare change left over than previously thought.

Some of the "new capacity" I bring online by way of our lighting retrofits costs as little as $700.00 per kW. For what NB Power will pay for replacement power alone, we could theoretically go toe-to-toe with Lepreau.


If you can do any conservation for under $1000/kW, it's a great bargain. BC Hydro had estimated that, on average, money invested in conservation saved 3x more power than same $ in new generation. Problem is, conservation requires participation of many customers and is hard (not impossible) for a company to do as a business ( I work in water conservation, but used to do energy programs too when I managed all the utilities at a ski resort)

For a company, building a generation project is "easier", you only have to deal with one customer instead trying to convince thousands to buy/take your service.

For my water conservation projects, the water authority needs to make them free to the recipients to get meaningful participation. If they did that with heat pumps and the like in NB, they'd get knocked over in the rush.

Sounds like what NB power should have done, was sell off Pt Lepeau, without reserve, as is, where is, and if no one wanted it, decommission it. That would have been a much less risky approach.

Whenever politicians get involved, you know they are going to steer things in the exact opposite direction of where the market and common sense would move them...

Problem is, conservation requires participation of many customers and is hard (not impossible) for a company to do as a business

Hi Paul,

Actually, now that the Small Business Lighting Solutions programme has expanded province-wide and is being more heavily promoted, the volume of requests has shot up dramatically. Given that Nova Scotia Power pays 80 per cent of cost of the retrofit and the customer can finance the balance over 24-months, interest-free, very few customers say 'no'. There is no upfront payment, no application forms to fill out (the customer signs a two page agreement should they wish to go forward) and we take care of the rest, e.g., pull the permits, get the materials and electricians on-site, complete the retrofit, clean-up after ourselves, and haul off the old lamps, ballasts, fixtures, cardboard, etc. to the recyclers. And if a lamp or ballast should fail within the next two years, we replace it at no charge.

This programme generates net positive cash flow from day one. Typically, for ever dollar the customer repays NSP as part of their 20 per cent co-share, they receive two, three or four dollars in energy savings. And after two years, every single dime saved is all theirs to use as they so wish.

The real beauty of all this is that everyone comes out a winner. The customer benefits from lower utility and maintenance costs, improved cash flow and improvements in the quality of lighting, which can generate secondary benefits such as increased sales or increased employee productivity and workplace safety. Ratepayers likewise benefit because conservation measures such as these are the lowest cost option to meet new demand (by far). And all of us benefit whenever we burn less coal and thus pump less of the nasty stuff into our environment. This is why I love my job.



I take it that this program is your gig - well done. I operate similar ones in water conservation.

Now, a question on your favourite topic - heat pumps.
I have a a friend with an 800sq ft house, who has baseboard heat and is looking for alternatives. Naturally I recommended a heat pump. they are right on the water, lots of moist air, perfect conditions, I'd say. I like the LG Art Cool (SEER 13), but what are your favourites - I know you have mentioned Fujitsu before, anything else you'd suggest?



Thanks, Paul. Congratulations to you on your efforts as well.

The Fujitsu 12RLS (http://www.fujitsugeneral.com/wallmounted9-12RLS.htm) with a HSPF of 12.0 and a SEER rating of 25.0 is the pick of the litter. In effect, for every kWh consumed, you receive, on average, 3.5 kWh of heat in return; mostly likely more in your milder climate. I also like the Sanyo 12KHS71 (http://us.sanyo.com/HVAC-Single-Split-Systems-Wall-Mounted-Heat-Pumps/Wa...). The HSPF and SEER ratings in this case are 9.3 and 17.0 respectively.

Assuming the bulk of the space heating demand falls within the more expensive second tier (i.e., 8.78-cents/kWh), the Fujitsu drops the cost of electric heat to just under 2.5-cents per kWh and for the Sanyo, it's 3.2-cents.


That's one of the wonders of nuclear power -- it has this amazing ability to pull money out of your pocket one way or the other.

So much for "too cheap to meter".

That's what I find interesting about fission electrial power - all kinds of costs overruns, plants that don't open after being built due to design flaws, or even the "this country shouldn't have reactors" answer and yet people keep claiming that THIS time nukes will be different.

Given man's demonstrated inhumanity to man - I don't see how fission power is at all 'safe'.


I think the biggest problem with nuclear is that that various companies doing it have never really been able to standardise their designs - each new plant seems to be custom designed, with the inevitable results. Compare a new GE or Siemens gas turbine, and they'll virtually give you the drawings for the foundations, buildings, etc.

Doesn;t help that on this continent very few have been built for decades, so there are equally few experienced people, outside the military (which standardised their reactors some time ago).

What really grates me about nukes is that, somehow, government is always involved with incentives/subsisidies or loan guarantees, meaning the taxpayer, not the investors, are always on the hook.

BUt that seems to be the way of all governments these days, they just can't keep their fingers out of these pies...

each new plant seems to be custom designed, with the inevitable results.

1) I thought that was because each was a test of a design.
2) Note how big they are. A whole economy of scale argument.

government is always involved with incentives/subsisidies or loan guarantees,

Government involvement with business is what the winners in business want. Having a large plant means more control.

How much of the implemented model was/is about control?

Perhaps what grates you is you have a pre-concieved notion of the model things are run under VS the model things are actually under.

And you did not address the 'Man's inhumanty to Man'. If "terrorist" attack a wind machine? A PV array? a coal/gas plant? A dam? Now - what if they attack a fission reactor?

Are fission reactors going to be off-limits to bombing in State-VS-State "terror" (aka a war)?

What about the fact man's creations do fail. What is the failure mode of the above list?

Prototypes always cost more than expected, big prototypes are even worse.

The problem with nuclear power isn't that it is nuclear power, it is simply that small, standard nuclear hasn't taken off outside of military applications. Every plant is a prototype, bigger than the last in a vain attempt to recoup costs with the scale of the individual plant rather than going for the scale of the aggregate and mass producing plants that are "just big enough".

And what about terrorists? Nuclear power plants are a crappy target for terrorists, shopping malls are much more appealing.

As military targets go, the fallout from a bombed nuclear power plant is likely to be less (and less damaging) than that from an ammo dump or fuel depot.

Yeah, yeah, I know "But Chernobyl!"

Chernobyl was an abomination of an early design reactor, handled badly on top of that. It was the worst that can happen. Chemical accidents kill more people every year than all nuclear accidents, ever.

"they just can't keep their fingers out of these pies..."

You've got it completely backwards.
Those pies would NEVER have been baked without Federal Guarantees.. and it seems the economics for Nuclear are only getting worse.

Russian Roulette is what this game is, financially and physically.

I love it when the "enviro" lawyers cause most of the delays and cost over-runs for nuclear, then moan and complain about the cost over-runs. I know, Lepreau appears at now to be being delayed due to political patronage and local incompetence, not environmental legalities. But certainly the 1990's Pickering mess was TOTALLY enviro / lawyer caused. The plant operator, Ont. Hydro, wished to do just a few minor repairs inside the containment, for which they planned a 3 month shutdown. The job was so minor they didn't even need to remove the fuel from the reactor. They planned and scheduled, prepared a $300 million budget, let out and signed necessary contracts, organized the supplies, then got hit with a lawsuit from an enviro. activist group demanding a complete environmental assessment with public hearings etc. on the work. At that point, the Federal Government decided to do a takeover of regulation of the nuclear industry in Canada, though to then such regulation had always been a provincial jurisdiction and the Feds had no qualified people, support staff or even offices. Took over a year to get the first hearing scheduled, and the lawyers were then able to delay for another two years arguing nonsense. After three years of this, with the reactor shut down, the final decision was "ok, no problem, go ahead", which Ont. Hydro then proceeded to do and six months later the plant was up and running again.

BUT during the three year shutdown, Ont. Hydro has to purchase $3.1 billion in replacement power from coal generating plants in the USA. So the planned $300 million repair would up costing $500 million ( additional was trying to keep qualified contractors and employees available during the hearings, mostly) + $3.1 billion in replacement power.

And what do the enviro nuts now say? Look at how poorly run and usless that reactor is, a $3.3 billion cost overrun on a $300 million job. (To top it off, they got half the executive of the company fired.)

All stupid politics. Doesn't happen in China, which is why AECL can build reactors at Quinshan on-time, on budget and at half the cost of here.

Yeah, sorry that Nature's interests have to be expressed through human bureaucracy. Inconvenient, isn't it? It hampers windpower and the sale of Alchohol and Cigarettes, too. Even Toy manufacturers have to show that they are creating safe products if they want to make a profit from the public. Of course, it gets harder for any industry that has regularly shown themselves to be vulnerable to secrecy and obstinance over these same safety issues.

Hard to win back that trust.. but at least it's easy to blame the environmentalists (messenger) for it all!

How, exactly, does blocking nuclear power plants help nature, especially in North America?

Neither Canada nor the US has, to my knowledge, had a systemic lack of generating capacity in the past 40 years, and until the last 10 every kW of that power that didn't come from nuclear power plants that weren't built came from coal, hydro, oil, or natural gas.

Admittedly, the ecological impact of hydro-electric is local, but it is still a dramatic impact.

More recently a small percentage has come from solar and wind, which is good, but not enough to keep up with increases in demand.

Yes, tapping into fission power is unnatural, but to object on those grounds is a religious position.

I didn't say it's 'unnatural' at all. I said it has to be regulated, just like Lead Paint on Toys, Meat Processing and WindTurbine Birdstrikes, but we're talking about a complex and leak-prone technology with a history of obfuscation and bribing the NRC.. those regulations and delays are pretty understandable with the dangers of the materials involved, and the historically relevant behavior of (some, but enough) of the Nuclear power industry.

Yes, it has gone haywire in many circumstances. And that Tango has been affected by BOTH sides.

Your 'Religion' (ie, 'Irrational') and Len, with his 'Eco Nuts' .. I'm not calling you names, am I? I've provided concrete reasons for everything I've put forth.

Good stab at invalidating my post, but it actually weakens your own position more.

And yet, you didn't even attempt to invalidate my point, and I didn't call you religious, did I?

My point is not only valid, it is uncontested.

To be more concise: what has all the unbuilt nuclear been being replaced with that has a lower ecological impact than nuclear?

I'm not biting.

The point is that environmental regs are a societal necessity, and that this process, like anything involving big business and energy policy is going to be a bureaucratic hassle.. but that doesn't make it 'Environmentalists' Fault. 'Clean Nuclear' is about as cute a twist as 'Clean Coal'. Radioactive waste and construction quality will not be left to the industry to self-regulate. They are unwilling and unable to do a satisfactory job.

It's not a matter of what it's being replaced with. Each source, be it a renewable, nuclear or a burned fuel needs to be answerable to the public about any wastes and effluents and impacts that their industry is likely to produce.

The reactor in question had already fully answered to the public for all its impacts over a decade prior, before it was built. Making a minor repair inside the containment had absolutely zero possibility of causing an environmental impact IMHO, and definitely not one which might have been detected by a bunch of lawyers laying about hearing rooms in Ottawa for three years talking to swivel swervants who'd never even hear of a nuclear reactor before being patronage appointed to the brand new federal nuclear regulatory agency. The ENTIRE fiasco was just a political move by the federal Liberal government trying to embarrass the provincial conservative government, and the environmentalist were simply exploited by the politicians for the purpose. Dummies. What I don't get is that it worked. Voters don't get any of the information they need at election times.

And BTW, the present federal conservative are very likely now up to a similar game regarding "privatization of AECL". It wouldn't surprise me one bit to discover that the fed conservatives are / are planning to invest significant personal money into AECL after they do everything possible to drive its market value down to as near zero as possible, fully expecting its market value to rebound significantly once privatized. (I'd be interested to know how much individual members of the provincial Harris conservatives had on the line when ontario hydro was driven into the ground then privatized. Comparable reactors in the USA are being bought up at very good prices because they can generate huge cash flows long after they are paid off. Dummie ontario taxpayers held onto the assets only for the initial amortization period, then gave them away to "privatization" at huge losses.)

Voters are dumb sometines. Wish there was a way to control that crap.

China.. yes, exactly. They seem to be raising the safety-bar, but it's starting pretty far down.. products can be cheap when life is cheap.

Leaks reported at China mine days before flood
"The disaster is a setback to recent, significant improvements in the dire safety record of China's mining industry, the world's deadliest, claiming thousands of lives each year. Shanxi province is China's top coal-producing region."

What, exactly, do you think is the relevance of coal mining's abysmal safety record, both here and in China, to nuclear power here?

Regarding the concept that wasting $3.1 billion of Ontario ratepayer's money on importing coal-generated electricity from stations in the US upwind of Ontario, so some ambulance chasers can get paid high fees to organize an absolutely pointless "environmental assessment public hearings" for a minor repair inside the containment of an existing reactor with an unblemished 10 to 15 year safe operating record is a GOOD thing, all I can say is to quote James Lovelock.

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades.

I know, Lepreau appears at now to be being delayed due to political patronage and local incompetence...

Hi Len,

This is a very damning statement. Can you supply us with evidence to support these claims?


See my earlier post, re: Precision Nuclear , or dropping the turbine generators in the local harbour.

Hi Len,

As I understand it, the mishap with the generators did not result in any slippage in the schedule as this work was being carried out at the same time the tubes were being removed from the reactor core and, presumably, if KC Irving was at fault, they or their insurance company would be held liable for any additional costs associated with this accident. As for Precision Nuclear, is there anything to suggest the company's financial problems have resulted in delays or cost overruns?


All I can say is I watched closely and listened carefully throughout the Darlington repair fiasco here and NEVER ONCE heard a single word of the real reasons for the delays. Not until after the >year-long inquiry report was published did I discover the real events (by piecing them together myself logically using the raw information contained. The report actually levelled a bunch of criticisms at Hydro's management for not having eg. detailed enough PERT and Gannet charts etc. Stupid, I've worked construction long enough to know that those tools are ONLY for people involved who don't have a clue what's really going on). You're very likely being fed garbage from all available sources.

Hi Len,

I'm putting you on the spot because if you make a claim like this -- and it's a bold one -- then it's only fair that you offer evidence to support it. If there's anything you can show me that suggests Precision Nuclear's financial difficulties have hindered this project in any material way, you will have my sincere thanks. If not, you should retract it.


I have seen what you're asking for, a news item from about a year ago. I'll try to turn it up again. Understand though that there's no-one on the inside with any incentive to lay blame on the politicians. All private businesses are dependent on them for something, from AECL hoping to sell another unit, to the sub-contractors all variously dependent.


[QUOTE]The parts are only needed for the rebuilding part of the project which comes in the later stages of the project. As long as the parts are delivered soon, there will be no impact on the refurbishment schedule, said Coffin.

"They will be delivered to our facility in Saint John in plenty of time before they're required to be inserted in the rebuild phase," he said.

But when Precision Nuclear began having problems last year, there was a concern about delivery, which prompted AECL to demand action.

"They're very key components to the overall operation of the reactor," Coffin said. "If we didn't have the end fittings delivered on time for the insertion, then the whole project would be in jeopardy.

"(Precision Nuclear was) way beyond their contract committal time. AECL stepped in back in June and started to supply additional resources and funding in order for them to be able to start meeting their production quotas. The original delivery date was back in May 2008.


"The (Precision Nuclear) employees involved in fabricating these end fittings were starting to demonstrate excellent quality work by then," he said. "We had an indication they could do this, but we needed the right measures put in place to ensure that they could maintain a consistent flow of production."[/QUOTE]

My son works/(ed) as manager of QA at some midsized precision machining companies here in Toronto and I know how these contracts go. The fact that this company was loosing money on this contract means that their production was being rejected as out of spec. by the customer. At that point, the parts are scrapped and the job starts over, on a revised negotiated delivery schedule, all costs to that point absorbed by the shop and with a PO'd customer who's going to need some very strong salesmanship to place any other order. If the work is any significant part of the shops order book, they'll go bankrupt as input costs are a very large part of the selling price of a good shop. Hasn't happened to him but they must always keep a very diversified order book, a technical advantage which no other shop in the world can offer (eg. they had that on some extremely precise injection moulding parts), or risk the business. For them, all the ISO designations are just a place to start. And no, they'd have had no interest in this contract. They get as much work for the nuclear industry as they dare take already.

If this company was not holding up the project, it was only because some other process was doing so, eg. they're just lucky, (or the fact is being hidden).

HOWEVER, as I am unable to produce that documentation I claimed, I formally withdraw the charge that local contractors and politicians were responsible for the delays as you request. We'll likely never know.

Hi Len,

I appreciate this; thank you. I wasn't trying to be an ass, just wanted to be fair to trades people working on this project.

From what I gather, Precision Nuclear delivered the last batch of the end fittings to Point Lepreau on or about January 30th, 2009, and at that point AECL was still in the process of removing the old ones. The removal of the pressure and calandria tubes that followed wrapped up in July, 2009 and installation of the replacement calandria tubes is not expected to be completed until late April, 2010, barring any further delays. Thus, these end fittings have been sitting at the job site for over a year now and it will be presumably sometime yet before they will be required.


Postponing Peak Oil – with Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the IEA

This is a 3 minute 35 second video. There seems to be a certain urgency in Birol's voice.

Note: Google news dated this video (8 hours ago) but it could have been published on some other blog earlier. If this has been posted here before and I missed it, I apologize. The reason I am saying this is that I cannot imagine how Leanan otherwise missed it in her links up top.

Ron P.

I think that speech is actually from last summer. If not, it's very similar to one he gave then.

Don't miss the fantastic interview with Stephen Fry on the same site:


I often rant about the importance of logic. Fry understands it. I found nothing in Fry's interview I could disagree with.

He's one of my favorite comedians and people. His interview out shines Fatih Birol IMO.

Gulf Stream 'is not slowing down'

The Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down, say US scientists who have used satellites to monitor tell-tale changes in the height of the sea.

Confirming work by other scientists using different methodologies, they found dramatic short-term variability but no longer-term trend.

There was a post about a similar story on Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog last week. Here's what I wrote in reply:

The Willis paper reports results from calculating the AMOC along a line at 41N. The ARGO float data is limited to areas where the depth exceeds 2000 meters, thus the shelf areas are excluded. Some of the deep return flows follow the topography along the slopes of the continental shelf, as I understand it, thus these currents might not be captured in the ARGO data. And, the data does not extend to the full depth of the Atlantic, since the floats do not descend below 2000m.

Measurements along a line across the North Atlantic at 41N can not discriminate the location of the TOC sinking, whether it be the Greenland Sea, the Labrador Sea, the Ingmar Sea or some area of the Arctic Ocean. Such measurements also can not tell whether the surface water flows include changes in water flowing thru the Bering Strait between the Pacific and the Arctic. Thus, while offering another insight into the problem, I think the results should not be taken as the final answer to the questions regarding changes in the TOC.

The story from the BBC adds a comment about the UK RAPID Program, which utilizes an array of current meters strung across the Atlantic Ocean on a line at 25N. The distances involved are quite large and the number of instruments is limited, thus one might think the findings from this effort might be prone to errors. The net AMOC is calculated as the difference between two large numbers, each of which has error bounds, thus the resulting data has even larger error bounds, IMHO. I don't think it's wise to bet the planet's future on these data, although there is little else available...

E. Swanson

Re: Colo. gas-coal fight could preview national battle

During a committee hearing last week, one of the senior Republican members told the coal supporters, "If you think we're writing a bad plan, think about what you're likely to get if we don't fix the problem and the federal EPA writes its own plan."

Anybody know what's causing oil to jump today?

edit - Well, I mean, besides the obvious - "We've peaked!" ;-)

I think it's just general optimism on the economy. CNBC were so giddy this morning they could barely contain themselves. Consumer spending is up! Income is flat, and saving down, but who cares, as long as people are spending.

But this ship can't sink!

Titanic in five seconds:


Stocks, Commodities Gain as Yen, Dollar Weaken on Economy

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Stocks and commodities gained as the dollar and the yen fell against the euro after Greek deficit concern abated and signs of economic recovery sparked demand for higher-yielding assets. Oil jumped the most in almost six weeks.

...“Growth is starting to look more and more entrenched,” said Nader Naeimi, an investment strategist in Sydney at AMP Capital Investors, which oversees $90 billion. “Investors are looking for the recovery to turn into an outright expansion.”

Outright expansion coming apparently...

I received an e-mail from Rembrandt Koppelaar after sending him some remarks regarding his 'oilwatch monthly'.
He thinks oilprices are about 80 dollar because that is what OPEC state budget wants. He states that, because there is no clear information available, he has no reason to doubt his published spare capacity. He might be wrong with both statements.

there is undoubtedly some spare capacity and as we all know it does not take much of a supply/demand imbalance to cause wild swings in fossil fuels prices.

Rembrandt mentions more than 'some spare capacity' in 'oilwatch monthly', IIRC at least 4 mbd. Maybe if OPEC didn't cheat on their quota they would have 4 mbd or more.

As I have outlined several times, the production/export response from 2002 to 2005, as US annual oil prices rose from $26 to $57, was dramatically different from the production/export response from 2005 to 2008, as US annual oil prices rose from $57 to $100. Annual US spot prices:


Saudi Arabia was perfectly content to (net) export 9.1 mbpd in 2005, with an annual oil price of $57, but they have been unwilling to (net) export 9.1 mbpd from 2006 to (so far) in 2010, with all post-2005 annual oil prices so far exceeding the $57 that we saw in 2005?

And why did the Saudis say in early 2004 that they supported the $22-$28 OPEC oil price band--and then take concrete action to bring the price down, as they significantly increased their net exports in 2004 and 2005--but then in early 2006, why did they claim that they had trouble finding buyers, a pattern that has continued as annual oil prices in all subsequent years have so far exceeded the $57 that we saw in 2005? To put it in the simplest terms, why did the Saudis increase net exports in response to rising oil prices from 2002 to 2005, but cut net exports in response to rising oil prices from 2005 to 2008?

I guess we have a new economic theory, high prices mean a lack of demand. I suppose that when and if oil prices cross the $200 mark, and Saudi net oil exports fall below 5 mbpd, people will be talking about weak demand for $200 oil and they will be talking about several million barrels of excess Saudi capacity.

And why did the Saudis say in early 2004 that they supported the $22-$28 OPEC oil price band

westexas, I mentioned this, including the net-export story. I wrote him that if what he thinks is true it's a coincidence that their state budget now wants more dollars than a few years ago.

The average annual oil price to date for 2010 exceeds all prior annual oil prices, except for 2008, when we hit $100. Yet Saudi Arabia and OPEC are now content to keep millions of barrels of oil per day off the market--when they were delighted to add millions of barrels per day of oil to the market as oil prices rose from $26 in 2002 to $57 in 2005. I have an alternative explanation. I think that we are transitioning from voluntary + involuntary reductions in net exports last year to mostly involuntary reductions in net exports this year.

I have an alternative explanation. I think that we are transitioning from voluntary + involuntary reductions in net exports last year to mostly involuntary reductions in net exports this year.

Westexas, I'm sure Rembrandt have thought on this scenario also, since he is writer of the book 'de permanente oliecrisis'. For some reason (mentioned above) he seems to stick to his believing of considerable amount of spare capacity at the moment. Maybe this summer allready it will become clear what cards OPEC has. Your scenario is logical and I would be surprised if it appears to be wrong.

To put it in the simplest terms, why did the Saudis increase net exports in response to rising oil prices from 2002 to 2005, but cut net exports in response to rising oil prices from 2005 to 2008?

Because they didn't want to cause demand destruction due to a temporary price spike. As sellers of a commodity they want to lock in their profit. They can profit from a price spice merely by leverage rather than by raising prices too much.

Yes, the Saudis are 'hording' oil as it is their only resource.
By contrast, the Russians began producing like mad during 2005-2008--which probably makes better sense for your viewpoint.
Does this means Russia has a huge reserve of oil left while KSA is running out?

Does this means Russia has a huge reserve of oil left while KSA is running out?

Do you really want an answer to that?

Regarding Saudi Arabia, I will just quote myself:

I guess we have a new economic theory, high prices mean a lack of demand. I suppose that when and if oil prices cross the $200 mark, and Saudi net oil exports fall below 5 mbpd, people will be talking about weak demand for $200 oil and they will be talking about several million barrels of excess Saudi capacity.

Regarding Russia, to quote you:

. . . the Russians began producing like mad during 2005-2008. . .

Russian net oil exports (mbpd, EIA) and year over year rate of change:

2005: 6.73 (+3.2%/year)
2006: 6.84 (+1.6%/year)
2007: 7.02 (+2.6%/year)
2008: 6.87 (-2.2%/year)

Net rate of change from 2005 to 2008: +0.7%/year.

As I have occasionally noted, the (2005) top five net oil exporters--Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE--collectively increased their net exports from 2002 to 2005, but they have shown declining net oil exports, relative to their 2005 rate, in subsequent years.

And why did the Saudis say in early 2004 that they supported the $22-$28 OPEC oil price band--and then take concrete action to bring the price down, as they significantly increased their net exports in 2004 and 2005

I don't believe the Saudi's increased net exports in 2005. They just made it up. We are supposed to believe that every single drop of this extra oil was sent to countries where the IEA couldn't track it. Plus they even further reduced the flow of oil to IEA members so that they could also send some of that to anyone but the west.

IEA data clearly shows that Saudi Light Sweet exports to the OECD peaked in 2002 and all grades combined in 2003. Imports in general from all oil exporters combined to the OECD peaked in 2005 but the Saudi's couldn't even keep pace with that.

KSA did manage to slightly increase exports of medium and heavy grade oil in 2005 and that was their peak year for exports of medium and heavy grade oil to OECD countries. But these slight increases could not make up for the decline in light. All data from IEA OMR Tables 6 and 8.

Chart by ace, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5576/520854

Latest data from IEA OMR Tables (March 2010, pdf):

Dec 2009: 3.31 (2.43 + 0.72 + 0.16) mb/d (Dec 2008: 4.03 mb/d)

I don't believe the Saudi's increased net exports in 2005. They just made it up.

Undertow, Saudi Arabia does not publish either production data or export data. As the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report states, all production data are "according to secondary sources". They don't even publish export data. So if the data is just made up then those secondary sources made it up. They don't name their secondary sources but there are several countries that supply that data... for a very high price. They count tankers and monitor all major nations imports, compile the data and sell it for about $30,000 a copy. At least that was the price a few years ago. It may have gone up since then.

OPEC's Monthly Oil Market Report gives production data from their "secondary sources" on page 34 of this report. Though they give export data on about every other nation in the world, they give no OPEC export data whatsoever in this report.

Ron P.

Yes, thanks Ron. I did think of pointing out the curious "secondary sources" issue but you've explained it far better than I would have done.

Also the contango is shrinking. Shouldn't we be seeing all that floating storage getting dumped onto the market?

Income is flat, and saving down, but who cares, as long as people are spending.

Ok, so income is not rising, people are not saving as much but 'spending' is up. Mmmmm, let me see! Could it be that:

a) people are hitting the credit cards or
b) people are drawing down savings or
c) government statistics like this are based on nothing other than 'sentiment'

Tell me when sales taxes start to rise and I might believe spending is starting to rise.

The last time I heard, gasoline was part of the economy. IMO, a large part of any increase in 'consumer spending' is that gas is going up. Big deal!


Actually the reason put forth by the media as to why prices rose today has a kernel of truth to it - it does have to do with increased demand. More specifically, gasoline in parts of the US has picked up nicely, as well as overall oil demand. Worldwide, oil demand may be running about 2 million bpd over the comparable month last year.

Memmel might call this a reflexive bounce back from temporarily depressed. Call it what you will, the increase in demand is now clear. Well at least it’s been clear since last Wednesday, when I posted that the EIA made a major correction showing the oil product inventories were 7 million barrels less than previously thought.

I know there are many here that believe we are in ‘deflationary’ times, and that not only demand for oil can not improve, but prices will never again reach the levels seen. As most also know, I completely disagree with those conclusions - except to the extent that we are in a new era of deflationary economic circumstances caused by Peak Oil, but the end result will be ever energy higher prices and eventual oil product shortages as the ‘free‘ market fails.

But for now the simple answer is - gasoline and diesel supplies are not keeping up with demand. Refiners are already pushing back schedule maintenance:

Chicago refiners think about delaying work-trade

TORONTO, March 29 (Reuters) - Two of the five main refineries supplying gasoline and diesel to the Chicago region are considering pushing back planned spring maintenance work to capture that market's stronger gasoline margins, trade sources said on Monday.


I know, I have said this before. We now have an oil-based currency. If you want to know the value of the dollar, check out the price of oil. High oil = low dollar.

The only reason anyone says the greenback is rising is because the Euro is doing so much worse. For now.

The best we can say about oil is that it is probably on the undulating plateau of yore. It may even remain there for a while as Iraqi production begins to ramp up. Does that mean a new peak is in the offing? I doubt it. Maybe Iraq can extend the plateau for 5 or 6 years... We can hope; and hope does spring eternal. It is just that eternity is such a v e r y l o n g time!


I share your sentiments about the Euro.

The only reason that there can be any type of worldwide economic recovery on the Peak Oil plateau is mostly demand temporarily fell faster than suppply (about one year ago), allowing some room for a rebound in demand, and to a lesser extent, extra inventory created during periods of accelerated falls in demand is available when demand turns around and overshoots supply - also temporarily. We may be in the one of those good niches right now.

The story up top about fixing NG fracturing chemicals is tied into an old show I was watching on PBS, about damaged water wells due to NG drilling. The Video had a guy lighting his tap watrer on fire.

The people in the video have to admit they did sign the contracts and did take the money from the companies to come drill for NG on their lands. But the areas around these sites have been complaining of water wells turning bad and nasty chemicals turning up in ground water. I know it was an old show, and it likely is a hidden issue.

But to see the above headline, lets me know that the issue is not dead yet. Sooner or later enough people will complain on the Internet and in their state houses, that the companies will ahve to do something about the issue of chemical drift underground.

Have we gotten to that point where we are willing to distroy more and more of our world just to be warm at night in our 5,000 sqft homes?

It ties in nicely to the other article about getting back to a GREEN living arrangement, I'll post about it after I read it.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Having flames coming out of water taps sounds more like shallow coal-bed methane wells contaminating aquifers. Shale gas wells, being a lot deeper have a better record with that, although why take the risk if safe fracking fluids can be engineered. It would be interesting to read these new studies (Garfield Co. CO for one) on shale gas fracking fluids getting (or not) into aquifers. I'd like to think we are smart enough to figure this one out because the next couple of generations are probably going to be banking on unconventional/shale gas to heat their 1500 s.f homes, fuel there cars and generate most of their electricity.

Does anyone know more about Earth Energy Resources Inc., the company involved in the Utah oil sands story? I checked its website and didn't find much besides a schematic for their patent-pending process. Since the company claims massive efficiency gains with its process, one wonders why such a process has yet to be used.

karlof -- If I recall correctly their process still involves mining the oil shales and thus runs into the problems. The efficiency gains were just a method of recycling the heat content. A good idea but they still have to deal with all the surface mining issues.

Yes, they still must mine the sands. They use a catalyst to unlock the hydrocarbons from the sands and put it through a process they illustrate here. They say the results were judged by independent analysts, but don't provide any of those reports.

Karlof, the surface mining is indeed the reason why they have gone nowhere. Once you got thi oil shale out of the ground, even retort heating will work, profitably. Effectively, you have a similar process to surface mining of oilsands - dig it up, grind, and then separate. There are various means of separation, and these guys claim a new one. But it really doesn't matter what's in their black box, it's the cost and environmental issues of surface mining they have to deal with, same as any other mining operation. And there is only limited amount of oil shale close to the surface. So they may have a viable prospect, but for the rest of the oil shale, it will be staying right where it is, for now.

The $35m they are looking for is about 1/3 of one offshore well. The oil majors hardly blink at spending that - the fact these guys are having so much trouble getting their money suggests the industry does not share their optimisim about their process.

The $35m they are looking for is about 1/3 of one offshore well. The oil majors hardly blink at spending that - the fact these guys are having so much trouble getting their money suggests the industry does not share their optimisim about their process.

Hi Paul. Thanks for your reply. I agree with your sentiment. I am very well versed with the problems of oil sands and shale, but had yet to hear of this company or their "new" method. I'm much more interested in the deep offshore regions for a host of reasons. One thing about the various tar sands is their astounding amounts, which means that oil will be around for a very long time and will continue to serve a fortunate few. The kerogen in shale is another matter that I think will never happen.

James Lovelock says in the Guardian piece above that democracy can't cope with climate change and should be temporarily suspended.

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

This is the elephant in the room. Took a wise old man to raise the issue.

Putting democracy on hold, eh? Sounds not too bad...if you happen to be on the side of the "undemocratic" process. Interesting to see that some on the side of climate change abatement clan think changes by TPTB will fall into their camp. Let's see how that would go: TPTB who will do anything or ignore any problem so as to not upset the folks who elect them are going to tell all those same folks to shut up and do as they are told. Well, I guess as long as TPTB have the full force of their military backing them up it could work.

Sarconol fumes are running high this morning, eh?

I really do suggest folks read the longer but incomplete transcript of the interview available here. Nowhere does Lovelock call humans "stupid," and the author in the comments admits the transcript is incomplete although the header says so.

Democracy is a political government carried out either directly by the people (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (Representative democracy). The term is derived from the Greek: δημοκρατία - (dēmokratía) "rule of the people",[1] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (krátos) "power", in the middle of the fifth-fourth century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.[2] Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of 'democracy',[3] there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes: equality and freedom. [4][dubious – discuss] These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to power. [5] and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.

Emphasis mine. Since when do all of our citizens or of any country in the world for that matter have equal access to power? Not to mention that your rights should in theory end where my rights begin, especially with regards the commons.

BTW Look where Democracy got the Greeks /snark off!

I have to admit that I thought it was a rather silly statement. In effect, "The people won't recognize the need to make large long-term sacrifices, so we must not leave the choice up to them." What's the alternative in the US? A monarchy? Assume an empress running the show, announcing that there will be (to suggest a few things) heavy carbon taxes and a ban on SUVs and new single-family home construction. That new taxes will be imposed in Iowa in order to build massive seawalls around New York City. How long will the monarchy last?

At least in the US, democracy has never been set aside in time of war. Consider WWII as the most recent example of a major war. Congress ceded some limited additional authority to the executive in order to facilitate rapid decisions. But elections were held and power passed smoothly when incumbents lost. More importantly, though, Congress seized "control" of significant portions of the means of production and where the output of the system would go. It wasn't that democracy was suspended, but business-as-usual capitalism certainly was.

First and foremost, the USA has never been a democracy, so your statement that "in the US, democracy has never been set aside in time of war" is false. The rights of many people were indeed trampled on in WW2, which IF the USA were a democracy would mean democracy was indeed "set aside."

Most recently, our purported "democracy" was again "set aside" when ACORN was railroaded, amongst many examples that could be cited. Indeed, the combined assault on ACORN shows very well that the USA is NOT a democracy, as a democracy MUST allow equal access through suffrage for all who want to participate.

I gotta disagree with these counterexamples. Nothing about democracy means that the majority can't tyranize the minority. Thats effectively whats happening in all these counterexamples, get a plurality to decree that a minority is constrained. Clearly democracy needs some sort of protection of minorities against the majority, but these protections are any good so long as the majority agrees that the protections are more important than the suppression of whatever minority they want to suppress today.

I don't understand your quibble. Protection of minority and majority rights is what the US and International Bills of Rights are all about and are one of the primary reasons for the numerous national Supreme Courts and the several International Courts--they are the instruments that supposedly civilize humanity. However, throughout human history, it's been the minority who have lorded over the majority, which is why democracy is such an intoxicant for the masses and viewed with disgust by elites. The 1787 US constitution ensured that unless modified greatly it would deter democracy and allow for elite control, and it has succeded far beyond Madison's dreams or Hamilton's desires.

At least in the US, democracy has never been set aside in time of war.


1) The US of A is a Republic, not a democracy.
2) I bet the Americans of Japanese ancestry have a different POV.

I should have considered that Lovelock is English, is old enough to remember, and that the British general elections were suspended during WWII. Quite legitimately suspended, under the system operating there: sovereignty is placed in Parliament, rather than in the people. So "setting aside democracy" is a perfectly reasonable thing for him to contemplate. OTOH, the people are sovereign in the US, so any attempt to "set aside democracy" would be a violation of the Constitution.

For those picking the nit of a textbook definition of direct democracy versus a republic with freely elected representatives: in common usage, anywhere in the world, the US form of government is a "democracy" -- see the Merriam-Webster definition, for example.

The Japanese internment camps are intellectually interesting -- completely unconstitutional and despicable in my opinion, but interesting. They were created by executive order after Congress had declared war. Almost 70 years later, the constitutional scholars are still arguing about whether there are limits on Presidential authority during wartime.

I should have considered that Lovelock is English, is old enough to remember, and that the British general elections were suspended during WWII.

Then how did Attlee get in, in May 1945?


Or Roosevelt in 1944?

Conservatives have been lobotomized by Fox Snooze and Sarah Palin.

Atlee's election was in July of 1945, after VE. Labour pulled out of the coalition government on 23 May, the king dissolved Parliament, and elections scheduled. (This BBC item goes beyond the Wiki item you linked to.) No US presidential election has ever been postponed during (declared or undeclared) wartime. The congressional elections that should have taken place during the Civil War didn't take place in the South, although the South held elections for its own congress in 1861 and 1863. There was no first or second Confederate presidential election as Davis's term was for 6 years, and he gained the president's office by being selected by congress, not Southern voters.

UK elections were called as soon as Germany surrendered. Churchill was well aware that a tough fight still lay ahead in the Pacific and had every intention of fighting wholeheartedly alongside the US, but as far as most of the British people were concerned, the war was over and they were ready to get on with peacetime.

Since the US had a written constitution instead of the unwritten one in the UK, we had far less flexibility when it came to elections. To suspend elections, we would have had to suspend the entire constitution. I suppose that it was felt that it would look bad and actually hand the Axis powers a big propaganda coup. In any case, the US homeland was so far from the fighting that it wasn't really felt necessary. If the Germans had invaded and occupied Washington DC, and the Japs were marching through California, that would have been a different situation.

Quite legitimately suspended, under the system operating there: sovereignty is placed in Parliament, rather than in the people.

A minor correction, but actually sovereignty is vested in the Sovereign, i.e., HM Queen Elizabeth II (or, during WWII, HM King George VI). The Sovereign delegates most of her/his powers to the Parliament, and thus only reigns rather than rules. All that was necessary to suspend elections was the consent of the Sovereign, which, given the severe national emergency, was of course granted.

The 1945 election happened because,

Following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Attlee and Churchill wanted the coalition government to last until Japan had been defeated. However, Herbert Morrison argued that the party would not accept this, and the Labour National Executive Committee agreed with him. Churchill responded by resigning as coalition Prime Minister and decided to call an election at once.

It was not the will of the people or the fact that VE had happened as you suggest but because Churchill called for an election having lost Labor's support.

A general election must take place before each parliamentary term begins. Since the maximum term of a parliament is five years, the interval between successive general elections can exceed that period by no more than the combined length of the election campaign and time for the new parliament to assemble (typically five to eight weeks). The actual election may be held at any time before the end of the five-year term. The five years runs from the first meeting of Parliament following the election. The timing of an election is at the discretion of the incumbent Prime Minister. This timing is usually political, and thus if a government is popular then the election is often "called" after around four years in power.


The fact is the British are capable of holding elections in wartime your spin to the contrary.

The British system is not based on elections but on parlimentary maneuvering to form a government.
In 1916, Asquith(Liberal) was replaced by Lloyd George(Liberal). In 1940, Chamberlain(Conservative) was replaced by Churchill(Conservative). The last general election before 1945 was in 1935.

I don't see authoritarian regimes doing any better when it comes to climate change compared to democracies. The notion of a benevolent dictator is just that - a notion.

BTW, this is something that has been brought up when talking about India vis-a-vis China. China persued economic reforms single mindedly and got off to a strong (and early) start compared to India. Both started the reforms in 80s - but in India it has come in 2 step forward - 1 step back (depending on elections). The results are there for everyone to see - a lot more people in China have been lifted out of poverty and they are much better off controlling their population growth.

put democracy on hold for a while

What if the one's putting it on hold are the Inhofe type, and reject global warming because they don't 'believe' in it. Then you're stuck in the unenviable position of trying to wrest their dictatorial power away from them while the temperature in the pot keeps rising.

"Who would make the best king? Why, PHILOSOPHERS, of course!"

The Republic, extremely condensed, by Plato - a philosopher.

More Wind Power!
( No, not strapping politicians to poles)
New laser sensor adds power grabbing ability from strong winds

What is wrong with Kunstler? He rightfully lays into the teabaggers but then turns a blind eye to his pet Obama:

"My guess is that the situation is so desperate now that President Obama and his supporters can't risk telling the truth about the comprehensive contraction we face. "

Obama chose Geithner and Bernanke and started digging the Clinton-Bush hole deeper and deeper. Now we are insolvent. Obama has not told the truth from Day 1, just as Bush lied repeately before him - and likely for the same excuse as James uses above for his particular favorite Party Clown.

Jim is becoming distracted by the deck-chair shuffle as the USS Global Village rolls over for the last time...

"Obama has not told the truth from Day 1, just as Bush lied repeately before him..."

Snarlin - I cannot see an equivalent between Bush and Obama. The legacy of Bush is the Tea-party movement, with Rush Limbaugh, Jeff Beck and Sarah Palin as de-facto leaders. That's just too strange and incoherent for most rational persons.


Actually the tea party idea started with Ron Paulers who wanted something before campaign for liberty. Hoping to be more broad based and attract "both" sides.

It was going no where 'till it got picked up by your stated group.

Joe, please see my response to sterling below.

I don't think Orlov was being cynical when he said, "pay no attention to national politicians - they are a collossal waste of time."

Yes - Obama has been a major disappointment when it comes to Wall St. Though, this is not something unexpected (Krugman warned about this and supported Hillary - though I don't think she would have been much different). Wall St owns both parties - the question is will Obama now turn more populist because of MA elections.

"Yes - Obama has been a major disappointment when it comes to Wall St."

I cannot see how you came to that conclusion. All indexes are WAY up in the last 12 months, the fed is holding billions in toxic MBS's and interest rates are at record lows and will likely remain so in the short term. Wall Street is feeding at the trough.

That's not to say there aren't longer term risks but all in all the Fed's policy ( and Obama's by proxy) has been a boon for investors.

Please tell me you are kidding.

The stock market collapse stopped dead in it's tracks, bounced and took off last spring right after FASB said we could lie about the value of our assets indefinetly.

Restore mark-to-market tomorrow and the market would crash tomorrow.

Thousands of banks world-wide would be wiped out if we were to face reality tomorrow morning. The SEC, FDIC, and ratings agencies would be manning the paper shredders 24/7 to finish removing the evidence of their incompetence and in many cases criminal activity.

Obama hired Geithner and recommended Bernanke remain FED chairman. Obama said we were not going to "waste time looking backwards" - i.e. no one would be held accountable for the financial crimes committed during the Clinton-Bush administrations. Wall Street has been re-assured The Pretending will continue as long a Obama is in charge - so the stock markets will levitate until reality forces itself on us.

This is a giant charade and soon it will collapse again. Obama will be lucky if he has a country to run for presidency in when 2012 finally roles around.

My point was that Obama has not been disappointing to wall st. I don't pretend to know what would happen IF mark-to-market was restored tomorrow or IF we faced reality tomorrow. Is it true that IF bumblebees knew it was aerodynamically impossible for them to fly that they would all fall from the sky? (kids myth)

I will suggest that without the bailouts, phony balance sheets and all the rest we would be living a different reality today.

And the reality is to this point in time, wall st. has been living large for the last year. Tomorrow is anybody's guess.

Evnow said Obama was a "big disappointment when it came to WallStreet." I think he meant in terms of Policy, not whether Wallstreet was happy.

My response to you was directed at the idea that what Obama did was good for investors or Wall Street. Market manipulation to hide fraud - even if it is now legal - is not good for the market or investors.

Latest PeakOil primer from Norway -
The entire rail-network in Norway is at a complete standstill right now, due to a communication breakdown ..... 1 hr standstill and counting

Norwegian source : http://www.nsb.no/trafikkinformasjon/full-stans-i-togtrafikk-article3529...

Hmm, a failure of a phone network shuts down all the trains in the country?

Just hope the gas processing plants don't rely on the same system!

A quick check shows that flows are still coming in normally on the Langeled pipeline.

It seems like everything is very networked--one part goes down, and the rest does too.

When the oil pipeline from Texas up through Atlanta was out for a few days after Hurricane Katrina, the problem was an electricity outage that affected the electric pumps built into the system. Eventually the problem was solved by hooking up diesel powered electric generators to the system.

Up and running again, 3 hours later.

Most of Norway's railway-lines are single tracks and due to a head-on collision a decade ago with a lot of casualties new measures were incorporated, among them a new intra_railway_GSM system. A safety rule commands all trains to an immediate halt if/when this system goes down - I guess we just witnessed this functionality i action, so the "IF"-option doesn't apply anymore :-)

On a side note- AlanfromBigEasy ??

"Travel one of the most highly rated rail journeys on the planet on your own computer screen"

Friday November 27th, over 1,2 million Norwegians watched parts of “Bergensbanen” on NRK2. The longest documentary ever? At least the longest we have made, almost 7 1/2 hours, showing every minute of the scenic train ride between Bergen on the Norwegian west coast, crossing the mountains to the capital of Oslo.

Here is the entire trip in a streamed version in 5 parts -BERGENSBANEN MINUTT FOR MINUTT-

-part 1 here- give it some seconds to start and couple of refresh-shots to get a slot, if not starting at once... bon voyage!

... from Finse where the scenes from Hoth in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back were filmed.

Digital Equipment Corporation was at one time the second largest computer company in the world and its future looked especially bright. Minicomputers were "hot" and they had what the market wanted ("Digital has it now!", they proudly boasted). But the dawn of the personal computer was to seal its fate. At first, they downplayed the importance of the PC. Eventually, they realized it was a game changer and that they had to be in the game. So, out of this was born the DEC Rainbow. In the tradition of all DEC products, it was handsome, well engineered, solidly built, and surprisingly capable for its day (I bought three of them in 1983 -- a 100A and two 100Bs).

So what's the point, you ask? Here's a company that was at the top of its game. Lots of smart, talented people and a deep commitment to building really great products. In theory, this is a company that should have continued to do well. It didn't. This video illustrates how we often get it wrong. There was an underlying assumption that if you build great products at a competitive price, you'll succeed. From all appearances, the engineers on this project saw the Japanese as their primary threat -- a foreign competitor that could provide equal or better quality at a lower cost. That's not an unreasonable assessment when you consider how the Japanese by that point dominated virtually everything else electronic but, as it turned out, being fully IBM compatible was far more important. Other players such as Compaq picked up on this but not DEC.

It's remarkably easy to ignore or discount something when you have a razor sharp view of the world. Of course, we do so at our peril.


The company I worked for used DEC Rainbows at one time. We had problems with discs written on one drive not being readable on another drive--between machines, or occasionally between the A and B drives of the same machine. We ended up sending them back. So I think there may have been other issues as well with the machines.

Hi Gail,

The disk drives were touchy, but I believe it had to do more with the limitations of the media at that time than the drive mechanism itself. These were 400K single sided floppies whereas those for the IBM PC were 360K double sided. Thus, you were reading and writing data at more than twice the density of a normal floppy so, needless to say, tolerances were tight. The power supply was another area of concern because the same supply drove both the PC and the monitor, but this was subsequently addressed in the 100B model that followed shortly thereafter.

These were truly cutting edge machines in their day. For example, the Rainbow had a dedicated graphics processor that offloaded this work from the CPU (the original IBM PC didn't) and a 132 column monitor so that you could view more data. It also had an optional floor stand so that you could remove the PC from your desk and a single power cord, not two, because the cable that connected the monitor to the PC also supplied power. And, by pressing a function key you could open up a VT220 session and connect to a VAX. The only real drawback (other than perhaps price) was that it was not IBM compatible. The dreaded "not invented here" curse had reared its ugly face.


8 inch floppy drives were still in use in 1997, on some old data gathering computers at an accounting firm that I had on my route sheet when I was working as a Courier in those days. I always wanted to get on and put it in a collection of things that are going to be no more, forever.

I remember a few Digital computers, but I can't remember where they were. Another high end PC that you don't see anymore is the InterGraph product. They were a big company in Huntsville Alabama, at one time they had over 3,000 employees on a complex of buildings on the West side of Huntsville and its border with Madison.

A replacement keyboard only, cost over $1,000 in 1999.

In 2000 I started working for the Vertically related company InterGraph Sevices Company, which at the time was the world's foremost digital mapping company. In a field of only 7 to 10 companies in the world doing the same things.

The first computer I used was an old Intergraph model. In fact later on the big Roll Scanner I used to scan charts and maps on was made by Intergraph. Able to scan a piece of paper 40 inchs wide, and convert it into several formats on the fly. Later in 2004 they bought a replacement one from someone else for over $10,000 able to handle 60 inch wide paper.

When a 2,400 baud modem was a cool thing, and an 8 Mhz system was way cool. Those were the days.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

In theory, this is a company that should have continued to do well. It didn't.

1) They got in bed with Microsoft.
2) They supported VMS over UNIX.

And on moneymakers like the research into using citrus based rosin solvents to replace freon - they opted not to patent.

Other players such as Compaq picked up on this

Compaq was all about being an IBM clone from the start. Not like Osborne.

Oh you, Young People!
I did research in South America, Department of Biochemistry using the PDP-12. PDP-8 and the LINC ! We had an engineer trained in the USA just to keep the beast going, he was all the time pottering about on the back, soldering this and that. Teletype terminal, tapes, and a glorified cathode screen. FORTRAN, Basic: and Assembler for the real tough guys.

Digital Equipment Corporation was at one time the second largest computer company in the world and its future looked especially bright.

I had been in a different computer company at the time. All computer companies have huge legacy issues. Decisions made years or even decades ago create dependencies both internal, and external (customers that just wanna use there old software without modification) become crippling constraints on new development. The cost of throwing out the old way of doing things and starting with a clean design that captures the potential gains from new technologies is just too daunting, for a forms executive officiers to pay on their watches. So the inefficiences from contuing BAU like to support all the old stuff accumulate from product generation to product generation. Amazingly the current big winner Intel, never produced any clean architecture, but was able to just bolt new stuff onto their archaic designs. The increase in number of transistors per core has been so great they can just ignore the cost of all the archaic junk underneath, and add the new ways/hardware onto the chip.

It is not so rare to find a customer who relies on some old program whose theory of construction has long ago been lost, and just want new hardware than can run it with absolutely no changes, as they have no confidence they could debug the old warhorse. In some cases, they may not have lost that capability, but the old version has passed an onerous and expensive validation process, and they don't want to go through that again.

Decisions made years or even decades ago create dependencies

*coff* VMS

It is not so rare to find a customer who relies on some old program whose theory of construction has long ago been lost, and just want new hardware than can run it with absolutely no changes, as they have no confidence they could debug the old warhorse.

Which is why I like Xen or other VM solutions.

I remember getting into a rather hot debate at a seminar at a hotel on the Florida coast back about 1986. I was director IT at a midsize Cdn manufgr, eg. 1200 employees. We had just done implenting all corp systems on an ethernet of PC clones and the seminar organizers wanted me to come discuss what we'd done. EVERY other director IT considered our work a deadend, claiming that if users demanded mire functional interfaces to their systems, then they would implement graphic displays from their minis using eg. vector graphics etc. I argued that it is simply far more efficient to transmit the data than the display, so they should plan to go the way we had. Not one of them agreed.

Majority of U.S. Governors Call for Increased Support for Wind Energy

As a bipartisan group of 29 governors from all areas of the nation, we
share a concern that our dependence on unsustainable and carbon intensive
energy sources is an unacceptable risk to the nation’s energy, economic, and
environmental security. These recommendations include the governors’ top
priorities — green economic development, job creation, and energy security.

The story would be even more impressive if those govenors had commited, lets say, at least $1 each towards the goals. They want the feds to force utilities to build up alt capacity as well as force better interstate transmission systems. Not a necessarially a bad idea but given how broke most states are it's not surprising they aren't offering any financial support. But they also don't want to anger the voters either by the4mselves forcing the utilities to do such expansions the cost of which would be passed on to the consumers. That part sounds especially hollow.

I think states are also concerned about inter-state bidding wars from a patchwork of inconsistent state portfolio requirements. If I understand the FERC rules -- and it's certainly possible that I don't -- the following is a feasible scenario:

  • State A has good wind resources, a 20% renewable requirement, but the requirement includes a clause that says utilities are not bound if it would raise retail rates more than a certain amount compared to using non-renewable sources. The PUC rules are such that the utilities need to keep rates as low as possible, subject to the statute.
  • Neighboring state B has no wind resources, a 20% renewable requirement, and no "out" clause.
  • Wind farms are built in state A. Utilities in state B offer a high price for wind power in order to meet their portfolio requirement -- they have no choice. At that price, utilities in state A need add only a small amount to their portfolio because of the "out", and the PUC rule means that's all they'll use.
  • The situation is exacerbated because utilities in state A can purchase cheap NG/coal power from generators in state B, who are offering a good deal because they have excess capacity now that state B is getting 20% of its power from out-of-state.
  • Because the interstate flows net out to almost zero, very little actual interstate transmission capacity is needed/used.

State A is green in the sense that it is generating lots of renewable power, but not-green in the sense that its consumers get credit for almost none of it. The reverse is true for state B. If state A wants to get credit for being green, it will have to remove the "out" clause and outbid its neighbor for the renewable power.

Alan? Someone else who's up on the FERC rules? Have I made a mistake here?


Just read the title of this piece. It explains everything rotten with our so-called economy and idiotic exponential growth addiction.

Christ alive. So we have to hope that enough of us Britons have enough spare capacity on our credit cards and/or a few quid tucked away someplace to be able to get out and 'shop till we drop' in order to rescue the economy from a double dip recession. 10% of Britons apparently work in retail. So their jobs are dependent upon us all going out and buy useless crap we don't need - which has been made in China.

All at a time when taxes are going up, income is not. Jobs are not being created, energy is getting more expensive and we are about to enter a debt-spiral to ruin unless the next government is prepared to slash 25% (yes 25%) of public spending over the next parliament. Oh, and by the way 52% of Britain's 'economy' is direct government spending. Guess how the cuts are going to be made? You got it: people are going to be fired. So they are not exactly going to rush out to the shops are they.

Which ever way you look at it, the UK is not in good health. We only just squeaked out of recession last quarter (about 0.3% growth).

Oh and some nit-wit on the tele last night was moaning that the housing market has started to contract again. (bring it on I say. Even earning a decent wage I can only dream of affording my own place - it would take 5 times my salary to buy a single bedroom apartment about the size of a shoe box). So all our banks which are still chronically under capitalized are about to be whacked with more write-downs as all those fired government workers either a) stay unemployed or b) only get a crappy job in the private sector at a lot less than what they were getting and so can't afford their 5-times-government salary mortgages on reset-tracker mortgages the payments of which are about to explode upwards as the bond market demands more interest from the UK gilts.

Oh, and no magic fairy has topped up the North Sea yet.

I'm about to watch a pre-election 'debate' with the three main parties' chancellor hopefuls. [that is Treasury sec] I bet they all mention the imperative to get back to solid and sustainable [sic] growth at all costs. Idiots.

Stuff this. I'm off to the shops. I need to buy beer to drown my disappointment at the human race.

Stuff this. I'm off to the shops. I need to buy beer to drown my disappointment at the human race.

Maybe it is about time to try brewing your own ;-) Though saying that, the modern kits are a long way from really brewing-your-own. More like flat-pack beer.

Stuff this. I'm off to the shops. I need to buy beer to drown my disappointment at the human race.

If you are a real doomer, you get to gloat over stuff like this.

"People sux. Always knew it."

Tough way to start a Monday. I feel for you. Especially since y'all may be running 6 or 8 years ahead of the US. Someone pointed out that you Brits running out of NG next winter could have a silver lining: shock and awe might push the system to change. But change to what? As someone else said: for some problems there are no solutions: just better and worse reactions.

Hacked off HAcland !

Could be worse, at least you've got nice beer in the UK, even though it's getting expensive.

I've posted a few times to say I don't think the good old USA is totally doomed and ready for collapse just yet, as sometimes gets thrown about on TOD. I do not have the same optimism for the UK. All that North Sea oil, the whole British Empire thing, where did all that money go??

As for house prices, I lived in and around Bristol for quite a few years and I can't believe the prices there now, its amazing. Perhaps house prices will be the first thing to tank (so that will be good for you, as long as you can hold onto your job .. )

Yeah, really sorry to see, HAcland. Unfortunately, losing the UK is going to be a big blow to the human race. You guys gave the world the best traditions of the rule of law, and it's hard to see who is going to take up the mantle, given that the world's current most powerful state is increasingly under thrall of big finance on one hand and theocrats on the other, and the world's future most powerful state is a one party communist state with a billion serfs.

Unless of course you mobilize like its WWIII and start building nuclear plants and wind turbines like there's no tomorrow. But I'm not holding my breath.

From up top:

Imagine if you no longer had to sit in that line, wondering why the slowpokes in front of you take so long to fill their tanks.

Welcome to a new era of electric vehicles.

I almost fell off my chair laughing. Why don't they change the headline to 'Why spend 2 minutes filling up, when you could spend 8 hours?'

And of course that only applies to people with re-fitted garages! Most people I know these days park on the public street - and probably a distance from your house. How could you EVER plug it in for that oh-so-convenient overnight charge?

1) The transport will get smaller and slower - electric bicycles. Still a horseless transport.

2) Magic faery tears will let you recharge quickly. Supp-or-dooper ultracaps!

3) Having a place to charge/store the energy source for the horseless carriage will be a reason for property ownership. Or more people will move to cities so they can have access to mass transit or be within walking distance.

Most people I know these days park on the public street - and probably a distance from your house.

Yup. In a nut shell this is the biggest problem no one has an answer for. Assuming for one moment that there are enough resources on our planet for all the batteries, there are only three ways that electric cars will ever be a reality, en mass and as presently used:

a) Create a battery which can go from zero charge to fully charged in about two minutes, and carry (safely) enough charge to take a car, four people and a bunch of cargo at least 200 miles.

b) Build at least three batteries per electric car and build a business model whereby a driver would quickly swap out an empty battery with a new one at a 'petrol' station. The problem here is that for busy 'charge' stations they would need literally thousands of batteries on charge per day and it would create an absolute logistics nightmare to co-ordinate where those batteries should be around the country.

c) Invent, engineer and build out a national on-street charging system. The capital costs of this would be massive, especially as would require huge amounts of high-voltage cabling down every street in every town, suburb and village across the country. And then there is the small fact of charging for the charge, so to speak.

The problem of where to charge the car is paramount.

What's wrong with parking meter type devices with locking plugs? These will finance themselves.

Conceptually nothing, but still needs the massive investment in a brand new infrastructure of sub-pavement high voltage cabling. You couldn't do it off the existing cabling to houses. Most cabling in the final mile from the sub-station to the home is already heavily loaded. I suppose if the grid was smart enough to turn on the car charging when the load went down on the normal household consumption then it might just about be sufficient; the problem then becomes one of amount of charge given is at the mercy of the grid and so one would not be guaranteed to have a working car in the morning. Doesn't matter which way one cuts it, even in an ideal world of abundant resources the usage and 'business model' of cars will have to change. Maybe for the better, but I reckon it will be less convenient than a petrol fired car.

Frankly the best use of resources would be to ensure that the communication infrastructure is as good as possible so that more people can tele-commute, and tele-shop too. But that is all ideal world. I am not of the opinion that we can avoid a massive and forced re-localization of our world. The car will still be around but not two per household and not for random excursions.

With smart metering the user will determine what they want to pay, from "Whatever it takes to be fully charged at 8:00 a.m." to "only the cheapest rate". This could be tied to an account and changed over the net.
Power within a zone is then managed like bandwidth.
With sufficient parking density private capital would build out this infrastructure.

HAcland wrote;

" Invent, engineer and build out a national on-street charging system. The capital costs of this would be massive, especially as would require huge amounts of high-voltage cabling down every street in every town, suburb and village across the country."

Here in Vancouver we already have half of this system present - overhead pickup wires for electric trolley buses, of which we have hundreds. Would be interesting if private cars were allowed to use it -you just electrify the main streets but not the side ones (all the main ones, except the two freeways, are already done). Each car would still have battery storage, but you would only need enough for 10-20 miles, not 200, which means even todays lead-acids could do the job. The parking charging thing is then a non issue - as long as you can get to a main street, as soon as you do, the batteries will be recharged while driving, and you don't need to store that much charge anyway.

An interesting discussion of this idea at the Low tech Magazine;


The more I think about this the more it makes sense, from an engineering viewpoint anyway - it solves all the problems facing electric cars, using technology available today, and it does not exclude existing cars, which could possibly be retrofitted to run on the system.

You do have all the overhead wires to to look at, but main streets aren't that picturesque anyway.

As for how you pay, I would think it's possible to do some kind of electronic tracking by vehicle to see who drives how far. Or, you just put one of these new electric "smart meters" in each car, which can report wirelessly. Otherwise, you pay an annual charge, same as getting unlimited phone plans.

It would take a visionary city to do this, but it could be done...

"..this is the biggest problem no one has an answer for."

No, there are answers posted here all the time.. but of course the initial assumptions have to be clear as well. There will have to be far fewer vehicles. Electric Cars make a lot of sense, but clearly not for everyone. That said, putting a bunch of coin-op power-plugs streetside is not exactly 'cold fusion'. Running Wires is NOT that hard, and the expansion of it to keep up with the predictably gradual growth of an EV fleet doesn't need to be Herculean, either, while there is a business opportunity in it, so any number of companies can (and ARE) starting this process already.

Beyond that, early EV Adopters will more likely be folks who DO park within reach of plugs, have garages, power at their work-parking spots, and there are likely enough a good number of such candidates, even in the UK.. and then there are exchangable battery schemes which are being started up (A Better Place), and companies that have PV shaded Park/Charge spaces for employees (Google). Etc, Etc,.. the variety of options that opens up when all you need is electrical current is much more broad than the old filling station.

But maybe you've had your Pint now, and soothing words aren't needed..

final thought,

As for the 8-hour vs 2 minute chargeup,

How much of the time is your car just sitting around anyway?

Or maybe pull the batteries out each night, load them on a cart, wheel them inside the house, and hook them up to the charger. This has the very considerable advantage of their not being available to steal in the dead of the night, and of the car being less attractive to theives as well, given that they can't drive it away and it would be too costly/troublesome to get replacement batteries. If you think that recovering $5K or $10K of stolen batteries is going to be easy, think again. Don't expect insurance to be available for that, either, except as an extra and VERY expensive rider to your car insurance. Yanking them out each night and recharging them inside might become a very attractive alternative to paying out several thousand dollars a year in battery insurance.

Personally, I very much doubt that many people are ever going to be driving electric vehicles more than a 10-15 mile radius from their homes. Anything with a longer range than that will just be too costly (and I am including the cost of replacement batteries in that) for most people. For getting to and from the nearest mass transit node or for local shopping and errands on weekends, a short-range EV (or an NEV, really) will work just fine, and that will be all the car that most people really need, most of the time, once this insane idea of living dozens or even hundreds of miles away from one's workplace finally becomes totally impossible.

For the inevitable people who miscalculate and drive too far from home, or who forgot to recharge their batteries and get stuck away from home, I am sure that a nice little niche market will open up for services that are on-call with mobile recharging units. Just give them a call, and they'll come to where you are stalled and give you a quick re-charge - for a price.


The people at this site are reporting their (64, by my quick count) RAV4 EV's getting up to 120-150 miles/charge, on good-old-fashioned Nimh Batteries. Several who 'bought new' in the early 2000's report in excess of 100k miles on the packs.


You'll notice that many of these owners are charging (or often by equivalence and GridTie systems) with Solar PV.
Also, the guy up top in Davis, CA says "There are about 50 public chargers within a 20 miles radius of where I live!"

There might be a bit of wealth in this crowd, but it's not the Bill Gates set. (Ed Begley is down in there, admittedly) .. and this is with a vehicle that only saw some 1500 produced, with very little marketing, restrictive leases and an abrupt production end the day after Callie's Zero Emission Vehicle law changed... it can surely be done, and done cheaper than this!

(in the 100k mile battery club, Avi Hershowitz offers this additional witness to his Nimh battery longevity..)
http://www.evnut.com/rav_owner_100k.htm -halfway down the page..

* September 2007 update: 132,000 miles
* April 2008 update: 146,000 miles
* June 2008 update: 152,350 miles (the last 52,000 miles in two years)

c) Invent, engineer and build out a national on-street charging system.

The only way that makes sense is if some breakthrough happens with superconductors such that the railway can act as a 'new' grid.

(and we'll need that new grid, what with all that electrical power too cheap to meter that will come online anyday now)

Odds are there would be some effect of large elecromagnetic fields "we" are not taking into account....or perhaps just having varying fields. And the FUN of such a grid during EMP events be they nukes from above or a solar flare.

That's why rechargeable hybrids are desirable, or even CNG hybrids are needed. Cars will not need to recharge in 2 minutes. Maybe 30-60 minutes. Stores restaurants and other places will need to put in charging stations to be competitive. All electric means no more "gas stations". But I believe liquid fuels will be around essentially forever. Not from oil forever, but still liquid. But we will use less and less for transportation due to price.

I expect when the all electric Chevy Volt is released that a lot of Ford Fusion Hybrids will be sold. An all electric with a backup generator is not competitive with a well made hybrid. I'll put my bet on the smart hybrid makers adding a plug-in option with extra battery capacity.

For all this car stuff to work the government (in the U.S.) needs to start taxing carbon instead of paying for green. I would think the electric car thing will happen a lot faster in western Europe. Those guys are already used to crappy little cars.

There are 60 million households in the US with multiple cars. A majority of them have houses. Electric cars are ideal for such folk. Replace one of the ICE cars with a BEV and use it for daily commutes.

That is what I plan to do this year when Nissan Leaf will go on sale in Seattle.

At what rate can electric vehicles such as the leaf be manufactured at? I imagine they'd be limited by lithium extraction rates, there really isn't that much lithium.

We have been through this before. There is enough Li reserves to easily replace all existing ICE cars. There is enough lithium to make 80 Million cars / year for 90 years. Besides, it is 100% recycleable.



In the long run the problem is not the battery - the question is will peak oil deindustrialize the world before electrification can happen ?

well yes but:

a) is there enough Li to do all the other things we need Li for and
b) how much more electric generating capacity will we need.

Personally, I am more worried about peak gas.

That's NOT a bottleneck for EV's, as they can also run on Lead Acid or Nimh. As I showed above, the RAV4 EV owners are frequently getting well over 100 miles of charge range, and beyond 100k Miles on a Nimh Battery Pack.

(Some say that Chevron has the patent for vehicle-sized Nimh Batteries, and they're not being made available for now.. a problem, but one of penstrokes, not resource limits)

Mark Whitehead, in the 100kmile battery club at this site said,

"[I had] 1 "oops, I ran out of charge" event – I did a full range test at 90,000 miles (7/06) and ran out about 3 miles from home (after 140 miles!). I was able to complete the journey by turning the car off, waiting a minute and then back on to go the last mile on the turtle at about 10 miles an hour. "

The volt is said to be $30-40K with a target range of 44 miles. What will the gas price need to be to make that better than a hybrid? I don't know how we get an electric infrastructure with $3-4 dollar gas.

What will power your EV? Coal?

If it comes down to not getting around and we want to function we'll have to figure it out. I can see a number of workable alternatives. But folks wont 'like' them much until they're being held by their short hairs really close. Charging poles bank poles with charging stations retrofitted sure, ebikes roll right to the wall outlet, shoes and Huffy's don't need no stinking power pole..
So much depends on how soon. how fast and how much capital is left to be invested.

For those who know who and where ride share and the internet or bulliten boards.

There are still a few old Metro's and Civics that can be pressed back into service.

Electric bikes do work and can be made weather resistant. The Alan Drake type modes will probably look real good and be 'discovered' by many. where applicable put the rail back on top of part of the freeways that are sitting on the old ROW's anyway

My fellow eccentrics and I will bicycle long as we can. (did a 60mi. and a 70mi. this weekend into town for shopping and the other just for fun)
oh and then we'll just travel less

It's not rocket science. It's more basic, it's easier on the roads, but in America it aint going down easy. But hey all I see around here is one occupant big honkin' 4x4's so what's the problem, long as the cheap feedstock holds out?

I think what will happen is a significant "densification" of the city centres, and the satellite neighbourhoods, over time, and people will gradually migrate so that they are within walking distance or (where available) a transit ride to work, and walking distance to shops etc. In effect, people will find ways to live without owning a car - today, the under 30's are making that a goal, whereas two decades ago the goal was to get a car asap. Look at the areas that have retained highest property values and you can see. A house that is totally car dependent and miles away from anything is devalued - you have to be a two car family to live there, and how many young families want that these days?

Swapping elec for gas cars may save oil and improve air quality, but does nothing for choking traffic. eventually, slowly, the cities will evolve so that people need to travel less. Or perhaps, the cities that are closer to that already will thrive will those that aren't will stagnate.

I hate to admit that the Europeans Asians did better on this than we did, but they did, you can live and enjoy their cities without a vehicle. In fact that is the best way to live in them.

We can improve our car technology all we want, but ultimately, cities where cars are optional, not mandatory, are the way to go.

It takes a lot of outside inputs to keep them cities humming. Out West here the population has spread out so much and there is so much sunk cost in hobby farms and nice xurban homes that I expect to see a fair amount of 'heroics' performed on their behalf. They likely will prove quite feasible eventually. If any business models still work and keep folks employed there is incentive to hold out even with alternative commuting since the house will not sell anyway and is the best comfort left. Also some cities will not be deemed safe and drive values and like Detroit and Gary get de-densified quite a bit and then like we're seeing the small to medium private and commercial truck gardeners probably come and fill in.

The 'getting from here' to where the car is seen as the intruder and not the primary reason for the layout is where it gets interesting. (I fully support that in word and deed) To think there is a new normal out there somewhere is tough b/c the trend heretofore was always supported by an ever expanding cheaper source of growth agar and we just don't have much experience with contraction or re-centralization. The huge cities I think have to break up some b/c there is just so much function there which is too far interior-wise from anything resembling agriculture. Where ag and water exist outside massive urban areas those on that land are not transport constrained to get at it thus will likely form smaller hubs.

So much of what is built cannot be taken apart and abandoned b/c of the shrinking capital problem inherent in FF constraint. When the long term borrowing gets prohibitive, I think it;s going to be the innovative use of already established infrastructure which will win out. Some of that is just going to be in the wrong place and the wrong type to do much with but I was trying to give a few examples of things that could be converted to lower FF function. I think we could see the same in xurban areas or any area where property values fail to support the infratsructure for the traditional purpose.

Part of the problem is the present way of getting around is way personalized, wasteful and overbuilt. Our
little trip to town this weekend as an example. MY 57 yr. old wife and I pedaled our bike 70 mi. shopped, saw friends, ate and explored roads. Now we can get in and back w/o going through town for about a 40 total mile RT. That trip could have easily been done with the output of just a couple of my solar panels charging up one of our electrics and a moderate amount of pedaling or I could double the battery power and get it on electric alone. We have good roads with light traffic. I wouldn't move in closer as long as we have some decent options such as this, can grow some food and do light repair work to supplement or trade.

As for Europe I think a lot of why it developed as it did (and why it may work better now) was small hub and spoke farm community, from farm, biomass/animal, wind and waterpower development which became more industrial more gradually with coal and then oil. Larger central farms became castles with bigger farm areas to one hub. This can be seen in the Nehterlands which has long had high pop/dense, not huge cities, but diffuse small centers beginning with larger walled farmhouse type enclaves. So much of what our cities have become is based on an energy regime that no longer holds.

The trend you cited with young folks is something I see with ours too. Economics and priorities are not what they were in '69 when all I could wait to do was get my own wheels. Funny I still do but the 'wheels' are much lighter now but I still enjoy them.

Are you suggesting the descent from peak oil can be sidestepped by a reduction in peronal vehicle ownership? What about barge oil for ships, diesel for cargo trains and trucks, jet fuel for planes, diesel for agricultural tractors, and all the various products made from oil, including asphalt, tires, plastics, etc.? Commuting with gasoline is a sidebar.

Perk, I am saying the descent can be managed by a reduction in oil usage, and personal vehicles are where the biggest (though not only) reduction will come from. Gasoline constitutes full half of US and Canadian oil consumption, and almost all gasoline is used in personal vehicles. So I wouldn't call it a sidebar, I'd call it the elephant in the room, and the best place to start.

As the older vehicles are gradually retired, overall fuel efficiency will improve. People can, if need be, change their driving habits, and reduce discretionary trips. I would think a 10 to 20% reduction over ten years is easily achievable, and 30-40% with serious effort.

Let's look at some of the other oil uses
Heating oil is about 0.5 bpd, all of which can be replaced with something else (NG, elec heat pump, wood, solar thermal, etc)
Railroad oil use is about 250,000 bpd, all of which could be replaced with either NG, or electrification.
Urban commercial vehicles (garbage trucks, delivery trucks, city and school buses, fleet vehicles, taxis) could all be converted to CNG. Another 1 mbpd there, at least.
Long haul trucking can be converted to CNG/diesel dual fuel, halving diesel use from 2 to 1mbpd
Airline oil use is going down, as older planes are retired, and passenger volumes drop. Another 100,000bpd there.

Oil usage for ships and farms etc can be improved a little, but these industries are already efficient, so we'll assume no further savings there.
Industrial manufacture (plastics etc) - some of these processes can use NG as a feedstock, but in reality, all of them are essential, and high value uses for oil, so we assume no further savings there.

So there is almost 3mbpd of non gasoline fuel reduction. A 20% reduction in gasoline usage from 9 to 7mbpd and we have total savings of 5mbpd, or 25%of current consumption, without too much trouble. Getting it down to 10mbpd is more challenging, but is still doable. It will take some major infrastructure changes (urban densification and transit) but it can be done.

I think what can;t be done is a significant decrease in oil use (>20%) without significant "system" changes - i.e. not just improved fuel efficiency, but changing things to reduce the demand for transport services in the first place. This would imply some changes to lifestyle, and that is the hardest part, getting people to jump, before society as a whole is pushed.

It's not as ridiculous as it seems at first glance. Posts like this just reveal how stuck people are in the current paradigm. We have all got used to spending no more than a few minutes at the petrol station refueling our very own, personal, motorized chariots. When supplies of the most abundant, flexible, energy dense fuel we have ever discovered get seriously limited, that paradigm will have to change. The two most likely candidates to replace gasoline/diesel fueled vehicles in the near term are natural gas and electric.

In most countries there is already a gas distribution network of sorts for domestic and industrial users and in some of the more developed countries, gas is actually piped directly to most consumers. There exist examples of domestic natural gas fueling stations and in locations where a piped gas distribution network exists, this can form the is a basis for a more widespread distribution network for natural gas than currently exist for gasoline/diesel.

Similarly in the developed world and many developing countries there is a widespread electricity distribution network that serves almost all consumers. The capacity of these networks is designed for peak loads so there is a significant amount of capacity available at off peak times. The challenge for electric car adoption will be to figure out a convenient way to charge cars that does not add to the peak load but uses up some of the spare capacity in off peak times. Technology already exists to transmit data over power lines so it's conceivable that some sort of "smart grid" will be developed to prevent overload of the grid by loads that can be shifted to off peak periods.

If distributed renewable power supplies become more widespread they will change the dynamics of the electricity distribution network and may improve the situation for daytime EV charging. Solar PV offers the most promise in that regard.

High voltage home recharge units are being developed to fully charge battery packs in three hours, not eight and IIRC Better Place and others are trying to develop fast chargers that can provide compatible battery packs with an 80% charge in just half an hour.

The fact is that if things go south fast enough, all this can fail to materialize. In that case, the only personal mobility available to most people eventually, will have two wheels and most likely be powered by pedals. In any case, I think that, among all the other peaks that will come along with Peak Oil will be "Peak Automobiles".

Alan from the islands

RE: The Tree that Changed the World --top story--

Does anyone know the expected terrestrial temperature range on earth 350-400 million yrs ago?

If it was similar to Venus as implied, even up near boiling, I can't see how any prehistoric tree could have existed.

While I can see where you got "similar to Venus as implied", that is not what was intended I think. If you look at the Earth temperature reconstructions available on the internet (e.g. at Wikipedia) you can see that during the Carboniferous the Earth's climate was no where like that of Venus' today.

It was a poorly, if that, written article. Checking the author's credentials in the sidebar, I was surprised. The Venus analogy is inappropriate, and he fails to mention algal contributions, among others.

I too think the author is off base.

The Venus' temperature appears to have been the result of a strong water vapor feedback in earlier time periods. Venus has no ocean, since it is so hot at the surface (850F) that lead melts. James Hansen points out that the oceans of Venus likely evaporated, leading to a runaway greenhouse warming. The water vapor dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen at high altitude and the hydrogen boiled out of the top of the atmosphere. He claims these high temperatures "baked" the CO2 out of Venus' crust, producing the high concentration of CO2 that is now found in the atmosphere. The surface pressure on Venus is 90 times that on Earth and the atmosphere is 97% CO2.

Hansen's scenario for the evolution of the atmosphere of Venus is very much a part of his concern for the Future of the Earth as we continue to dump more CO2 into our atmosphere. He suggests that it's possible that burning most of the fossil fuels could lead to a runaway greenhouse on Earth, making the Earth uninhabitable. Our life forms have evolved within the Earth's relatively stable life supporting atmosphere, which Hansen claims to be a "Goldilocks" environment that just right for life as we live it. Long before the Earth's temperature reached the boiling point of water, humanity and many other species would be gone forever.

Here is a lecture by Hansen outlining his understanding...

E. Swanson