Drumbeat: April 13, 2010

2010 IEA Response System for Oil Supply Emergencies

Although the oil delivery system has changed dramatically since the oil shocks of the 1970s, there is still a high risk of a supply disruption which could have great economic consequences for IEA member countries.

Capacity constraints, both in production and refining, have increased the potential of supply falling short of demand. Given this delicate balance of supply and demand, even a disruption of relatively small volume can have a significant impact on the market. Global demand growth exacerbates market tightness, further re-enforcing the need for investment in capacity expansion

Uncertain investment climates in some producer countries, often described as an aspect of “resource nationalism”, may also hamper the development of future supply streams.

Oil Falls Most in Six Weeks on Concern Market Is Oversupplied

Bloomberg) -- Crude oil declined the most in six weeks as the International Energy Agency boosted its forecast for non-OPEC supplies and U.S. inventories were estimated to climb, raising concern that the markets are oversupplied.

Oil fell as much as 1.6 percent on the IEA forecast that production would expand in countries such as Canada, the U.K. and Russia as it kept the global demand outlook little changed. U.S. crude stockpiles may advance for an 11th week, the longest stretch of consecutive increases since December 2004, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth out of the U.S., Russia and Canada, responding to high prices,” said Brad Samples, a commodity analyst for Summit Energy Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky. “Investments that were made leading up to 2008 are coming to fruition.”

Higher consumer goods demand lifts trade gap

U.S. imports of crude oil in February were the lowest since February 1999. The average price for imported oil fell nearly a dollar to $72.92 per barrel from January, but was up 85.9 percent from February last year.

Meanwhile, a Labor Department showed strong petroleum prices in March boosted overall import prices rose 0.7 percent after falling a revised 0.2 percent in February.

Energy ties grow as China resists Iran sanctions - sources

DUBAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state oil firms have maintained the pace of project development in Iran while Beijing resists any new sanctions on the energy sector designed to press Tehran to curb its nuclear programme, industry sources said on Tuesday.

China, which has close economic ties with Iran, has much to lose from any sanctions that limit new investment to develop the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves.

Chinese firms have stepped into the vacuum left by western companies who have yielded to years of political pressure to steer clear as the U.S. and its allies look to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme.

Ugandan court orders Shell to pay debts in the country

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan court has blocked the local subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC from selling its assets in the country until it pays about $16 million to settle debts with Mercator Enterprises Limited, legal papers showed.

Earlier this month, Royal Dutch Shell said it was considering selling most of its service stations and other downstream assets in 21 African countries as part of a wider effort to reduce its global refining and marketing exposure.

New generation of Somali pirates emerging

LONDON - A new generation of well-organised Somali pirates is targeting ships and aims to use ransoms from hijackings for further criminal activities, a senior Royal Dutch Shell official said on Tuesday.

U.S., Mexico, Canada in pact on uranium - W.House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, Canada and Mexico agreed to work together with the International Atomic Energy Agency to convert Mexico's research reactor from the use of highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium fuel, the White House said on Tuesday.

GM viruses offer hope of future where energy is unlimited

Scientists have made a fundamental breakthrough in their attempts to replicate photosynthesis – the ability of plants to harvest the power of sunlight – in the hope of making unlimited amounts of "green" energy from water and sunlight alone.

Change needed for Gulf to win its power struggle

Over the next seven years, GCC electricity generation must expand by more than 50 per cent to satisfy consumers. Power cuts struck Sharjah and Kuwait last summer. Electricity demand is in danger of running ahead of supply.

So far, the solutions have concentrated on the supply side. With the exception of Qatar, all countries in the region are increasingly short of natural gas, once the default fuel for power generation. So we have plans for oil-fired power in Saudi Arabia, nuclear and solar here and coal in Oman.

But simply adding more supply is not the answer. GCC electricity needs to be radically rethought. State-owned utilities, often slow-moving and conservative, will struggle to meet this explosive growth in demand.

Arctic oil drilling threatens Norway government

OSLO (Reuters) - A classic battle pitting the oil industry against environmentalists and fishermen in Norway's Arctic seas is set to intensify on Thursday when the most thorough environmental study of the project to date is released.

Extracting oil from the chilly waters off the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands is so divisive it could wreck the ruling Labour Party's coalition in this Nordic state that is the world's fifth largest oil and third largest gas exporter but also sees itself as a leader in environmental policies.

"If I were to point to one conflict that could spell the end of the present government, it would be this issue," said Frank Aarebrot, professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen.

The West Australia gas supply war

Tony Petersen, chairman of the DomGas Alliance, wants the WA government to “give teeth” to a policy to reserve offshore gas for domestic use, claiming a 300 per cent increase in North-West Shelf Joint Venture prices to distributor Alinta. Petersen argues that WA customers are being forced to pay premiums to producers in excess of any obtainable by the gas suppliers from overseas customers.

Not dealing with the issue, he says, will lead to thousands of job losses among industrial users of gas because, at existing prices, major resource processing and gas-fired generation will not be sustainable.

Robinson retorts that, if the Alliance gets its way, every WA householder and small business will bear the consequences, forecasting that gas production investment will falter, supply will shrink and prices will rise still further.

Energy prices to triple, says Origin chief

ELECTRICITY prices across Australia were likely to triple over the next 10 years, Origin Energy chief executive Grant King warned yesterday.

Mr King told the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia in Sydney that a combination of the federal government's mandatory renewable-energy targets, energy policy uncertainty, higher electricity transmission and distribution costs, and higher fuel costs would drive the increase.

He said the boom in sales of energy-inefficient flat-screen televisions was also pushing up household energy use, despite the development of more energy-efficient household appliances such as fridges and dishwashers.

"The price of electricity is going to go up substantially," Mr King said.

Summer 2010: Big Hurricanes, High Oil Prices

In 2009, there were just three Atlantic storms that earned the hurricane monikers — Bill, Fred, and Ida. None of these storms made landfall in the US as hurricanes. The predictions from Colorado State University researchers are not so sanguine for 2010.

Firms poised for Saudi refinery deals await Conoco

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - South Korean, Spanish and Indian contracting firms are on the verge of winning contracts from Saudi Aramco and ConocoPhillips to build a new Saudi oil refinery, industry sources said on Monday.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has switched its development focus to refining, petrochemicals and gas after completing a programme to boost oil production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd) last year.

Aramco 'primed to launch gas double'

Saudi Aramco is believed to be gauging contractors' interest in building new facilities at the Wasit and Shaybah gas plants, according to reports.

Wasit would be the biggest gas plant in top oil exporter Saudi Arabia with a processing capacity of 2.5 billion cubic feet per day from two non-associated offshore gas fields, Hasbah and Arabiyah, sources told Reuters.

Black gold, yellow gold

Julian Phillips at Goldforecaster.com writes that Saudi Arabia, the major oil exporter, "exported more oil to China than to the United States last year", which is kind of surprising but not too alarming if you have been taking your medications as prescribed, or if the rise in Chinese consumption was not too severe, but instead imports were rising gently in a non-threatening way, so that consumption was not soaring and everything was kind of just, you know, perking along real peachy.

China’s race for oil

While Western scholars, consultants and oil companies have been raising the heat and noise in their debate over whether world oil production has, or is, about to reach a permanent peak, they could do worse than focus on what China is saying, or more importantly, what it is doing.

China has taken a ‘no talk, all action’ approach by acquiring as much as possible the oil and gas assets that are available to them around the world. The Chinese government, its state oil companies and think tanks have so far avoided public debate and not made known their thinking on the controversial issue of global oil depletion.

'Angolans live in poverty'

Global watchdog group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Angola's government to do more to fight corruption, saying Angolans did not benefit from the state's immense oil riches.

Uganda: Petrol scarcity pushes food prices up

Following a recent rise in fuel prices, traders have responded by increasing the prices of foodstuffs.

A mini survey done by Business Power last week showed that fresh fruits, Matooke, Irish potatoes, tomatoes, onions are the most affected, while commodities like carrots, dry maize, Posho (maize flour) have so far not shown an increase in price.

'End loadshedding or quit'

LAHORE – Fed up with long spells of power outages, thousands of people took to streets across the country on 4th consecutive day on Monday to vent their anger against the policymakers, demanding the coalition government to step down if they are unable to tackle energy crisis, worsening day by day.

The Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) has resorted to 16 to 20-hour load shedding in the country as according to the officials, the electricity shortfall reached above 5000 MW on Monday.

Rivers a source of rising tension between Pakistan and India

ISLAMABAD (AlertNet) - A 1960 trans-boundary water sharing agreement between India and Pakistan has stood the test of two wars and various periods of unease. Climate change, however, may prove the toughest test of the Indus River deal, observers say.

Kunstler: My Hometown and Its Fate

The city exploded vertically in a very few decades when Thomas Edison's combined engineering-and-business genius made it possible to deliver electricity to every block. We'd spent the period just after the Civil War putting up limestone palaces and brick heaps as grand as the ones in Paris and London (and about the same size), and then from about 1890-on we tore them all down when the elevator made it possible to rent hundreds of apartments or office suites on the same real-estate "footprint" where there used to be only dozens of rentable units.

You could read the history of our energy resources in the buildings, too. Until about the 1920s, the buildings were heated with coal. The bulk and inconvenience of coal was mitigated by hordes of low-paid immigrants who could wrangle the stuff into basements and shovel it into furnaces in rotating work-shifts. This made it possible in, say 1908, to run a building with over a hundred apartments in it. My mother and father grew up in 20-story buildings like this.

Note to Environmentalists: Economists are on your side

Economists of all stripes have argued for decades for the proper pricing of pollution, for severely reducing or eliminating natural resources subsidies for agriculture, forestry, energy, water, and fisheries, and for making property rights simpler and more transparent.

Canadians unprepared for the Takeaway Decade

It's early yet, but a good name for the next 10 years might be The Takeaway Decade.

Prepare to pay more and get less in the years ahead. Signs of this new reality are all around us, most recently in the latest round of government budgets.

CAT envisages fossil-free Britain in 20 years

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is drawing up plans which could help Britain to banish fossil fuel use in just twenty years.

The report which details measure designed to slash carbon emissions and eliminate oil use in Britain is set to be published in June, the BBC reports.

Entitled ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ the report’s authors say that through proper use of renewable energy sources, using more energy efficient buildings and by making a switch to electric cars Britain can cut energy demands in half.

A Borrower and a Lender Be: Could the threat of a peaking oil supply lead to a hyperlocal revolution? A group of Portlanders thinks so.

Normally, when you need compost for your garden, you drive to the nearest Home Depot and pick up a couple of bags. It seems straightforward enough, but for some back-to-basics Portlanders, that would be a foolish way to accomplish such an errand. Instead, they log onto an online social network called Bright Neighbor to locate someone in their neighborhood who might have some compost on offer. If everything works out, they will walk their wheelbarrow down the street and return with it piled high with fertilizer. At what cost? It could be free. Or it might cost a few tomatoes from their garden. Or a complimentary kayaking lesson.

National park’s challenge to green energy plant is hard to digest

Thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be used to meet the legal fees of both sides as the Brecon Beacons National Park lines up against the Welsh Assembly Government.

The national park will be arguing against a project, backed by Environment Agency Wales and the Countryside Council for Wales, that will cut carbon emissions, benefit the environment and secure the future of a family farm.

Canada sending nuclear materials back to U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada will return spent nuclear fuel to its supplier, the United States, as part of a global drive to secure fissile materials, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday.

A "significant quantity" of used highly enriched uranium stored at Canada's Chalk River National Laboratories will be repatriated by 2018, Harper said while attending U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit in Washington.

Biomass boom threatens UK wood chip shortage

The rising demand for fuel from large-scale biomass energy plants could leave the UK reliant on imports of wood chips and pellets for the first time, according to a new report from the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) released late last week.

Industry on the road to greener asphalt

(UK) -- Low-temperature asphalt could slash a third off the carbon emissions of the much-used material over the next ten years.

Pioneering projects involving market leaders like Tarmac, United Asphalt and Aggregate Industries could see the asphalt industry's annual carbon footprint fall by 39% by 2020.

Wal-Mart vows to go green

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (CNNMoney.com) -- Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer with thousands of big box stores around the world, is looking to make those stores more environmentally friendly.

Pollution Price Needed For Move To Clean Economy: ACF

SYDNEY (Bernama) -- The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) on Tuesday called on government to end the political stalemate over climate change by immediately putting a price on carbon pollution.

"A price on pollution is essential to move to a clean energy economy and start creating hundreds of thousands of jobs," China's Xinhua news agency cited ACF Campaigns Director Denise Boyd, as saying.

World's largest laser blasted over fusion plan

The world's largest laser is meant to spark off a fusion reaction this year – but don't bank on it. So says the US government's watchdog in a critical report about the huge laser array at the National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Despite crucial success in evenly compressing fusion fuel pelletsMovie Camera earlier this year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's $3.5 billion array in Livermore, California, faces problems in repeating that success at the higher power needed for fusion, says a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

A Grid of Wind Turbines to Pick Up the Slack

One proposed solution to the intermittency problem is to tie many wind farms together with a transmission line — making an electric grid, as it were, consisting of wind turbines. Now, Willett Kempton of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration at the University of Delaware and colleagues have shown how this “all-for-one” approach might work with offshore wind farms along the Eastern Seaboard.

World oil demand to hit record high this year: IEA

LONDON (Reuters) – Global oil demand will hit a record high this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday, revising up consumption estimates as the world economy recovers from recession.

The Paris-based adviser to industrialized economies raised its forecast for world oil demand growth this year to 1.67 million barrels per day (bpd), up 100,000 bpd.

The agency said in its monthly Oil Market Report that world oil demand would reach an average of 86.60 million bpd this year, up from 84.93 million in 2009.

The previous record high for world oil demand was 86.5 million bpd in 2007 before the onset of the global financial crisis and economic slowdown.

"There are signs of oil demand picking up in North America and the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East although consumption in Europe still looks weak," David Fyfe, head of the IEA's Oil Industry and Markets Division, told Reuters.

But the extra demand will largely be met by production from outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

IEA Increases 2010 Non-OPEC Supply Outlook on Russia, Canada

(Bloomberg) -- The International Energy Agency bolstered its 2010 supply outlook for countries outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as production rose in Canada, the U.K. and Russia.

Non-OPEC producers, accounting for about 60 percent of the world’s supplies, will raise output by 600,000 barrels per day this year to average 52 million barrels a day, the IEA said in its monthly market report today. That’s 220,000 barrels a day more than estimated last month. The agency left its forecast for global oil demand in 2010 little changed, 30,000 barrels a day higher than in last month’s report.

Oil price surge threatens economic recovery: IEA

PARIS — Rising oil prices threaten to crimp recovery in the world's leading economies, the International Energy Agency warned on Tuesday saying that unexpectedly strong activity could overheat the market.

Higher prices and tighter lending conditions "could stall OECD economic recovery" the IEA said, referring to the 30 advanced economies of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But the IEA also said that the outlook for supplies of oil was improving.

...The IEA said there were "questions over the sustainability of prices markedly higher" than the 70-80 dollars a barrel level.

"Ultimately, things might turn messy for producers if 80-100 dollars a barrel is merely seen as the new 60-80 dollar a barrel," it added.

Oil falls below $84; fifth fall in a row

Oil prices fell for a fifth day to below $84 a barrel Tuesday as traders mulled whether a slowly improving U.S. economy justified the recent two-month, 25 percent crude rally and experts warned that high oil prices could threaten the budding economic recovery.

Oil to Set New 2010 Record, Barclays Says: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil will probably exceed this year’s peak of $87 a barrel and may rise as high as $94 in New York, according to technical analysis by Barclays Capital.

Crude futures have retreated 2.2 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange since climbing to an 18-month high of $87.09 a barrel on April 6. Prices are set to rise again, Barclays forecasts, as the commodity is drawn toward the halfway point in its slump from an all-time high in summer 2008 to a four-year low in December of that year.

Crude Oil Set to Challenge $88.25 Barrier: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil in New York may challenge resistance starting at $88.25 a barrel in the “medium term,” according to technical analysis by Newedge Group.

Oil is set to test the 18-month high reached last week and then resistance above $88, said Veronique Lashinski, a senior research analyst for Newedge USA LLC in Chicago.

Peak Oil and Higher Prices Have Disconnected in Public Awareness - For Now

Despite gas prices having climbed a good chunk of the way back up to 2008 levels, the level of worry about higher prices hasn't seemed as high this time around. To test that, I pulled data from Google Trends on searches for "peak oil" and compared that to WTI crude prices over the same period. As this graph shows, while the two moved up together in 2007/2008, this time around "peak oil" and higher prices have disconnected in the public awareness - at least for now.

Fuel Sales to U.S. at Issue in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Back in 2005, the last time angry crowds toppled the government of Kyrgyzstan, the United States found itself in an awkward position: among the rallying cries was an allegation that the ruling family had benefited handsomely from Pentagon contracts. Now, substantially the same thing appears to be happening again.

U.S. Interior studying foreign energy royalty rates

(Reuters) - U.S. officials will study oil and natural gas royalty collection systems used in other countries to determine whether the government can boost revenue from energy leases, the Interior Department said on Monday.

The study follows a 2008 Government Accountability Office report that found other nations get higher returns on oil and natural gas leases than the United States, the department said.

Va. paper wins Pulitzer for gas-royalties coverage

NEW YORK – The Herald Courier of Bristol, Va., won the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for its reporting on the mishandling of natural gas royalties owed to thousands of landowners in Virginia.

Shell Talks on Gas Face ‘No Difficulty’, Iraq Says

(Bloomberg) -- Iraq and Royal Dutch Shell Plc can reach an agreement on a gas project by extending negotiations for another six months in order to settle storage issues, Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said.

Jihad said there were “no difficulties” in the talks, except that “storage places are currently not ready.”

Conoco Said to Bet on U.A.E. Alliance in Caspian Oil Race

(Bloomberg) -- ConocoPhillips plans to team with Abu Dhabi-backed Mubadala Development Co. to bid for oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea off Turkmenistan after an attempt with Russia’s OAO Lukoil foundered, a person familiar with the strategy said.

ConocoPhillips, the third-biggest U.S. oil producer, has worked with Mubadala in the Turkmen part of the sea for the past six months after Lukoil’s attempt to gain Block 21 failed in September, said the person, who declined to be identified during the bidding process.

Newcastle Weekly Exports Drop 6%; Ship Queue Grows

(Bloomberg) -- Coal shipments from Australia’s Newcastle port, the world’s biggest export harbor for the fuel used in power stations, fell 6 percent last week while the number of vessels waiting to load increased.

The volume exported in the week ended 7 a.m. local time yesterday dropped to 1.9 million metric tons from 2.1 million tons in the preceding period, Newcastle Port Corp. said on its Web site. Rio Tinto Group, Xstrata Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd. are among mining companies that ship the fuel from the harbor.

Sinopec Pays More for Oil to Get Energy Security

(Bloomberg) -- China Petrochemical Corp.’s purchase of a stake in a Canada oil venture brings the nation’s spending on resources to $64 billion since 2005 and underlines its willingness to pay a premium for energy security.

The company known as Sinopec Group agreed to pay at least $650 million more for ConocoPhillips’s 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. compared with an estimate by Macquarie Securities. The premium could have been narrowed by a stronger yuan, currently constrained by a peg to the dollar.

Energy conservation in south could save billions, create jobs

Energy-efficiency measures in the southern U.S. could save consumers $41 billion on their energy bills, open 380,000 new jobs, and save 8.6 billion gallons of water by 2020, according to a new study from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study concludes that investing $200 billion in energy efficiency programs by 2030 could return $448 billion in savings.

Global Scramble Looms for Vital 'Clean Energy' Minerals

During the Cold War, the U.S. government kept a close watch on supplies of rare earth minerals deemed critical for maintaining military readiness.

Then the Soviet Union crumbled, and so did U.S. interest in rare earths.

"Slowly but surely, we've lost our mineral base in the United States," said Daniel Kish, senior vice president for policy at the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research.

But those minerals are now seen as critical to creating a new "clean energy" economy. Rare earths are vital for making rechargeable batteries for hybrid cars, high-performance magnets for wind turbines and fluorescent light bulbs.

So the United States is scrambling to mine, acquire and manage rare-earth minerals.

But getting them won't be easy. Only a fraction of the world's rare earths are produced in the United States. And the world's largest rare-earth producer, China -- home to half of the globe's minable rare-earth deposits -- is about to lock up its supplies to meet surging domestic demand.

Chinese Turbines Spun by Texas Winds Spur ‘Buy American’ Push

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese turbines powered by west Texas winds are sparking a debate over whether “Buy American” rules should be imposed on renewable-energy investments backed by the U.S. government.

US Navy base receives automated biodiesel plant

A new biodiesel production system has been delivered to a US Navy base in Southern California, so it can produce its own renewable fuel.

Locally-based Biodiesel Industries, Inc., has been working with the Navy and aerospace technology firm Aerojet to set up a highly-automated production facility at the Naval Base Ventura County.

Nuclear-Fuel Recycling Dispute Arises on Margin of Obama Summit

(Bloomberg) -- A dispute over the recycling of nuclear fuel by reactor suppliers such as France’s Areva SA surfaced in Washington yesterday, as U.S. officials sought to skirt the issue at a summit elsewhere in town.

Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and former U.S. ambassador-at-large Robert Gallucci called for an end to the fuel-recycling practice at a conference of experts being held in parallel with President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit.

Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags

HORSHOLM, Denmark — The lawyers and engineers who dwell in an elegant enclave here are at peace with the hulking neighbor just over the back fence: a vast energy plant that burns thousands of tons of household garbage and industrial waste, round the clock.

Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.

Coastal Cleanup collects, analyzes marine debris

That plastic water bottle you absent-mindedly toss out the car window could end up traveling through a storm drain or waterway to an ocean, where it can float around for decades or longer.

In just one day last September, thousands of volunteers collected 7.4 million pounds of litter such as cigarettes, plastic bags and food wrappers from coastlines and inland waterways in 108 countries and locations worldwide, a report from the Ocean Conservancy says today.

Doomsday shelter currently selling bunker space (w/ Video)

(PhysOrg.com) -- California-based company Vivos is providing you and about 4,000 other people the chance to survive the end of the world. The company plans to build a network of 20 shelters near most major cities of the US. Each 20,000-square-foot shelter, which can hold up to 200 people, would be located about five stories underground with walls two to three feet thick. The shelters would be stocked with a year’s supply of “gourmet foods,” as well as medical and dental centers and - as seen in the video below - flat-screen TVs.

Each shelter costs about $10 million to build, and Vivos is selling space in the price range of about $50,000 per person. So far, about 1,000 applications have been received for space in the shelters.

In India, Wal-Mart Goes to the Farm

HAIDER NAGAR, India — At first glance, the vegetable patches in this north Indian village look no different from the many small, spare farms that dot the country.

But up close, visitors can see some curious experiments: insect traps made with reusable plastic bags; bamboo poles helping bitter gourd grow bigger and straighter; and seedlings germinating from plastic trays under a fine net.

These are low-tech innovations, to be sure. But they are crucial to the goals of the benefactor — Wal-Mart — that supplied them.

Helpful Oysters Protect New York From Floods

(Bloomberg) -- Landscape architect Kate Orff is unapologetic about her obsession with oysters.

She envisions the bivalve delicacies as busy builders, ready to erect New York’s defense against flooding induced by global warming.

Global warming — fact or myth?

Fact or myth? "Snowmageddon" and all those other weird U.S. snowstorms this winter prove that global warming isn't real.

The reaction to "Snowmageddon" is an example of a common misunderstanding about climate change.

Decades of research show massive Arctic ice cap is shrinking

Close to 50 years of data show the Devon Island ice cap, one of the largest ice masses in the Canadian High Arctic, is thinning and shrinking.

A paper published in the March edition of Arctic, the journal of the University of Calgary's Arctic Institute of North America, reports that between 1961 and 1985, the ice cap grew in some years and shrank in others, resulting in an overall loss of mass. But that changed 1985 when scientists began to see a steady decline in ice volume and area each year.

"We've been seeing more mass loss since 1985," says Sarah Boon, lead author on the paper and a Geography Professor at the University of Lethbridge. The reason for the change? Warmer summers.

Fuser posted this link on April 5 Drumbeat. But he/she posted it at 8:26 a.m. on April 6, just minutes before the new Drumbeat was posted. So very people saw it and it got no response.

Are we finally going to get some something close to the truth from CNBC?


There is an amazing race going on around the world to find the fuel of the future. CNBC's "Beyond the Barrel: The Race to Fuel the Future," anchored by CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, will introduce viewers to more than a dozen potential game changing innovations to power our planet and showcase the bottled promises ready to be unleashed from the Middle East, South America, Asia and here at home. The one-hour CNBC Original will also take a critical look at why we are still years away from putting these ideas into practice.

(Bold mine.) That is one of the critical point everyone seems to overlook. It will take years, even decades to transition to any type of so-called renewable fuel. The other critical point everyone seems to overlook is there can never be enough of these renewables to continue business as usual.

Ron P.

Hopefully you will be proven correct that there can never be enough of these renewables to continue business as usual.

It's a rare day when Ron P offers such a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.

I don't know if I remember correctly, but I read that even Kenneth S. Deffeyes said that he was sure that after the dust has settled, humanity will probably develop a new source of energy.

Mind you, I was discussing energy issues with an engineer friend of mine the other day. He thinks there's a great potential for burning the dead to produce electricity. Human fat is apparently very energy dense. That means that Plymouth could be self-sufficient for a long, long time ;)

Even those hoping for a Star Trek future should remember that humanity didn't sort itself out until after a third world war! (and no, I'm not a Trekkie).


I don't know if I remember correctly, but I read that even Kenneth S. Deffeyes said that he was sure that after the dust has settled, humanity will probably develop a new source of energy.

Yes Deffeyes is a little optimistic on that subject. At the bottom of page 7 of "Beyond Oil" he writes:

On a fifteen-year time scale, I have no doubt that human ingenuity will find adequate energy sources with nice adjectives like "renewable," "nonpolluting," "sustainable," "alternative," "organic," and "natural." For the five-year time scale, we have a shortage of good adjectives. "Diesel," "coal," "nuclear" don't sound warm and fuzzy.

We all have our opinions of course. I am not nearly as optimistic on this point as Deffeyes. Nevertheless both his books are really good and I am looking forward to his third this fall.

Ron P.

So you mean that the closest we have for the near future is burning fat people? Ah shucks...

Ron, do you think that there will ever be a recovery of humankind or have we caused too much damage? I have a feeling I know the answer but would be interested to hear if you think there could ever be any 'renaissance.'


Okay, the fat people remark was not mine and I am sure it was a joke anyway.

Will humanity ever recover? To my mind that is the wrong question. The question should be; Will the earth ever recover from the devastation caused by humanity? Yes it will... in only a few million years.

Next question should be; What is the fate of humanity after the crash of civilization as we know it? My answer; I haven't a clue! But I can speculate. My guess is that the survivors will return to spartan existence, not forgetting agriculture but agriculture will be nothing like it is today. Humanity will return to "pointed stick planting". And each village will likely have its own granary like many villages in Africa have today.

I like Dr. David Price's take on it. Energy and Human Evolution

Even if world population could be held constant, in balance with "renewable" resources, the creative impulse that has been responsible for human achievements during the period of growth would come to an end. And the spiraling collapse that is far more likely will leave, at best, a handfull of survivors. These people might get by, for a while, by picking through the wreckage of civilization, but soon they would have to lead simpler lives, like the hunters and subsistence farmers of the past. They would not have the resources to build great public works or carry forward scientific inquiry. They could not let individuals remain unproductive as they wrote novels or composed symphonies. After a few generations, they might come to believe that the rubble amid which they live is the remains of cities built by gods.

Ron P.

"Will humanity ever recover? To my mind that is the wrong question. The question should be; Will the earth ever recover from the devastation caused by humanity? Yes it will... in only a few million years."

I agree with Ron's assessment of the most important question, but on his answer to it, I find myself even more of a doomster than he is (or perhaps agnostic is a better term.)

1) We cannot know what the future will bring for sure, so just on that basis, we can't say for sure that the living world will ever recover to anything like the diversity it held before humans, and especially industrial civilization, started to decimate it.

2) We do know that it took at least millions and up to tens of millions of years for life to fully recover from previous mass extinction level events.

3) We do know that we were already in a mass extinction event before the effects of GW really started to kick in.

4) We can be quite sure that these new effects from GW by themselves will cause a new mass extinction level event.

5) We can also be quite sure that within a few hundred million years, the earth will be unable to support any life because the sun will have become so hot that the earth will be baked.

--What we don't know is how life will (or whether it can) recover from this kind of double extinction event. If it is an order of magnitude longer, that could push the recovery time into the time when the suns heat will make life on earth impossible.

And of course new, non-human, causes of a mass extinction could arise any time during this recovery period, and in its weakened state, may add yet another order of magnitude onto the recovery time.

George Carlin, in his inimitably crude style, used to quip, "The earth is fine; it's the humans that are f*ed."

He may have been a wild eyed optimist in this opinion.

5) We can also be quite sure that within a few hundred million years, the earth will be unable to support any life because the sun will have become so hot that the earth will be baked.

I can go along with everything you say except this #5. A few hundred million years would be what, perhaps half a billion or five hundred million years? The earth will burn up as the sun expands into a red giant in about 5 billion years. Life on earth will likely be possible for at about half that time, somewhere between two and three billion years.

But regardless of the extent of the extinction, and if man is greatly reduced in numbers so he cannot keep the extenction going, then near full species divirsity should return in about 10 million years, give or take.

Ron P.

Again, my main point is that we cannot know for certain how the future will unfold. If you feel you can (or if you need to feel that way for whatever emotional reasons), that's your prerogative.

As they used to say about stocks, Previous performance is no assurance of future results. This time around, the extinction event is different in many ways from past extinctions. I have no doubt that, as long as humans have access to sources of power, they will continue to engage in behaviors that wipe out other species at rates thousands to hundreds of thousands of times above the background rate.

On the sun, it doesn't have to become a red giant to make life on earth impossible.

"In 1.1 billion years from now, the Sun will be 10% brighter than it is today. This extra energy will cause a moist greenhouse effect. But the Earth's atmosphere will dry out as all the water vapor is lost to space, never to return."


I think this process could start well before one billion years, especially given all the extra GHG we are injecting into the atmosphere, and the huge quantities that our rapid warming is triggering to release.

"As a result, the Sun is growing brighter at a rate of ten percent every 1.1 billion years.[86] In one billion years' time, as the Sun's radiation output increases, its circumstellar habitable zone will move outwards, making the Earth's surface hot enough that liquid water can no longer exist there naturally. At this point, all life on land will become extinct.[87] Evaporation of water, a potent greenhouse gas, from the oceans' surface could accelerate temperature increase, potentially ending all life on Earth even sooner"


Again, I'm not saying that I know that this is the way it will play out, only that I can't know that I can rule it out.

Best wishes from a great admirer of your posts.

I can go along with everything you say except this #5. A few hundred million years would be what, perhaps half a billion or five hundred million years? The earth will burn up as the sun expands into a red giant in about 5 billion years. Life on earth will likely be possible for at about half that time, somewhere between two and three billion years.

There are two possibilities (not entirely independent). One is that the silicate/carbonate weathering cycle will keep the earth from burning up (by drawing down CO2) so the global temp won't runaway. That will starve plants of CO2 at some point. I.E. each 1% increase in solar luminosity requires a two to three times reduction in CO2, and at some level 50ppm, 10ppm? plants can't get enough to remain viable. Or perhaps the silicate thermostat will be overwhelmed first and go into a runaway greenhouse state. As the sun's brightening rate is about 1% per hundred milion years things get pretty dicy in the 500-1000 million year timeframe. Maybe if there is a nonsuicidal technological civilization they can do geo-engineering bigtime to extend the time.

"Maybe if there is a nonsuicidal technological civilization they can do geo-engineering bigtime to extend the time."

That thought came to my mind, too. Just shows how very far we are from being any kinds of stewards for creation.

You know, it took h. sapiens about 2 million years to evolve from a semierect apelike creature to what he is today. In another 2 million years, what we have become will likely be nothing like what we are today. I am not really worried about 500 million years from now... we will either have moved to the stars or be long gone, so it won't matter much.

Now that is the long term outlook. In the meantime, during the next few thousand years or so, mankind will be about what we are today, and will either survive or not, depending in large measure on what we are willing to do today. That short term survival may be what determines that longer term outlook, whihc is to say, whether we become planet bound or become space faring, panspermia type organisms.

If we do move out, the longer term becomes billions of years, and more. Ray Kurtzweil imagines that we can colonize the universe, in our mythical metamorphisis into part computers. If we make that change, his "singularity," that would halt random evolution, freezing us as what we are at that time. That, to me, is almost as frightening as burning up with the planet when the sun becomes a red giant.


A dwarf star brightens as it ages making it move around a bit within the main sequence of the H-R diagram.

Here is a flash tool that allows you to watch the evolution of a star from the Main Sequence to Giant phase. For results that are close to Sun's, pick a solar mass of .9 and a speed of 10 million years / second. The model assumes the initial composition of the star is what was produced by the Big Bang, that is, mostly hydrogen and helium without metals, which is not correct for Sun. The star becomes a red giant after 9.06 billion years. Some data for this star:

0 1
2.1 1.28
4.5 1.76
6.0 2.37
8.0 5.0
9.06 244

Sun is about 4.5 billion years old, and the star brightens faster during the second half of its life than during the first half.

If desertification increases on Earth from increasing solar radiation, then another negative feedback will kick in: desert sand reflects more sunlight back into space than a green forest. I wonder what solar luminosity would be sufficient to halt the ice ages?

So should we conclude that 'the creative impulse' was just a temporary imprint on a 'blank slate' that is soon to be wiped clean?

Every time I encounter Price and his graphs of yeast in a vat and reindeer on some northern island, which he presents as models for the human trajectory, I'm always forced to go to my drawer to get my magnifying glass. But it's always to no avail. I still can't see the part where the yeast and the reindeer started to build libraries to store their accumulated knowledge.

The question is, did those libraries make any difference in the outcome.

"The question is, did those libraries make any difference in the outcome."

Yes, I think this is the point of the 'Are humans smarter than yeast?' idea. If you get your microscope and zoom in close, of course the yeast cells look and behave very differently, but if you stand back and look at the sum total of the collective behaviour and outcomes, then the outcomes are remarkably similar. Just because humans are individually more complex organisms than yeast, does not mean, when it comes to the crunch, that the fundamental drivers of their behaviour are significantly different to any other organisms.

The other question is: Do the yeast "know" they are dumber than humans?

And then the other other question is: Do the humans "know" they too are dumb as sh*t?

I can't help recalling how Roman soldiers (allegedly) set fire to the Great Library at Alexandria.

Knowledge has ever been the target of the mob.

I heard it was the Christians who murdered Hypatia then burned the Library. A google search confirms that this is the most accepted theory but there is no absolute proof. No reliable historian actually recorded the event. I could find no reference that claimed that Roman soldiers were involved.

Ron P.

Julius Caesar was blamed at one time. So were the Christians, and the Moslems.


It is true that the only thing we know for sure, was that the library was burned. Whoever did it, nevertheless, still did not respect the volume (no pun intended) of accumulated knowledge it represented. Especially, if it represented a contrary belief to the burner's.

Of course, there is always the possibility that an insider burned the volumes, to prevent them falling into "enemy hands" or something like that.

Rumor has it that the the fire started on Septemberus 11th and a blazing chariot, piloted by some crazed religious fanatics was seen crashing into the library tower just before all was consumed.

(Yes. Yeast are smarter then humans. They live easy and booze it up instead of wasting their time inscribing nonsense on inflammable papyrus.)

The fire was likely the effort of the new Kristianists who wanted to hide the pagan origins of the jesus narrative and the inevitably destructive deformation of the truths embedded in the ancient myths. (see "The Pagan Christ", by Tom Harpur)

Can you provide any evidence that "knowledge has ever been the target of the mob"? Mob doesn't really describe the book burning Nazis or the ignorance peddling ranters on radio and fox tv. Even the orchestrated tea partiers barely qualify as a mob. Anyway, I await with interest your evidence.

Even Ron P's starving gangs of pillagers, rapists, and murderers who are only awaiting a decline of several percent in annual oil production to begin their assault on civilization will have to spend most of their time searching for new food supplies in the face of the collapse of agriculture, and are unlikely to be focused on targeting knowledge.

Back in the real world. Today we have thousands of public libraries, millions of private libraries, and great repositories of knowledge widely dispersed and immediately accessible by the internet. Not all the oil has been wasted going around in circles on ATV's.

Even Ron P's starving gangs of pillagers, rapists, and murderers who are only awaiting a decline of several percent in annual oil production to begin their assault on civilization will have to spend most of their time searching for new food supplies in the face of the collapse of agriculture, and are unlikely to be focused on targeting knowledge.

Is this type of language really necessary? Cannot we discuss things in a reasonable and courteous manner without resorting to such silly nonsense?

Ron P.

I find it precisely a propos.

propos- no dictionary results

Did you mean propose?

I have no idea what he meant.

Ron P.

apro·pos (ap′rə pō′)
at the right time; opportunely
by the way: used to introduce a remark

a propos = appropriately in relation to ... the opposite of a non sequitur.

the French to English dictionary is one of the works that got incinerated in the fire ;-)

à propos - incidentally; well-chosen; seasonable; timely; by the way; suitable; opportune (from http://dictionary.paralink.com )

"Mob doesn't really describe the book burning Nazis or the ignorance peddling ranters on radio and fox tv. Even the orchestrated tea partiers barely qualify as a mob."

Actually, I would say you picked some pretty good examples. I hardly think it would take much prodding to turn a tea party into a mob - and if creationists were in the group, and someone pointed out that libraries represent the evolutionary view, and the group saw that as threatening enough, I can easily imagine a library burning.

Mostly, throughout the ages, religious institutions, e.g. monasteries, were the repositories of knowledge, as only clergy were literate. There are so many examples of monasteries and religious institutions being burned by angry mobs, it would take volumes to list them all.

But here is a sample :-


Actually, I would say you picked some pretty good examples. I hardly think it would take much prodding to turn a tea party into a mob - and if creationists were in the group, and someone pointed out that libraries represent the evolutionary view, and the group saw that as threatening enough, I can easily imagine a library burning.

I suspect most such destruction in the ancient world was incidental to the raping and pillaging of the victorius armies.

Your first two links refer to events of the French Revolution. It will come as a great surprise to historians that you have discovered that the mobs were actually "targeting" knowledge, when it has long been thought that they were attacking symbols of oppression and exploitation of the 'ancien regime'.

The third link provides an account of the new 'state' religion of Constantine's empire persecuting the so called pagan religions and destroying their writings. This was not mob action, but something very akin to Stalin's actions against those he considered threats to his power.

But this discussion about mobs is barely relevant to the main point, which is that our civilization builds on a resilient foundation of knowledge even as it builds and strengthens this foundation every day. I don't for a moment discount the importance of hydrocarbons and think it would be a disaster without human precedence if they were to dry up within a couple of decades. But what's the likelihood of that?

In my view we are in the peak oil era, and have been for a decade or so. Predictably, we are already beginning the process of finding, developing and using substitutes for cheap oil. We can argue where our investments would be best made. I favour negawatt production, above all else, but not exclusively.

Recently, Leanan has posted some illuminating articles providing evidence of the growth of knowledge supporting the process of substitution of alternatives for cheap oil. I particularily liked the one dealing with the discovery that applying fertilizer in briquet form increased rice yields while significantly reducing fertilizer and herbicide requirements. And the other one dealing with a simple device that greatly increases tree survival rates in desert conditions while reducing water requirements. And there were the reports of the US and Canada adopting new fuel efficiency standards. Of course, others like to point to the steady improvement in energy supply technologies like wind, solar and nuclear.

You've stretched your suppositions to absurdity. Why set up religious institutions as bastions of knowledge in one case and destroyers of libraries in another?

The tea party movement is populated by a broad swath of people angry at the size, expense, and intrusion of gov't, and it includes 40% who don't consider themselves conservative. It will forever lack cohesion as a voting block because it has such a fractious base. It's like Move On, only without the slippery ads.

If nothing else, Christians value life, and that goes a long way in preserving law and order. The ones to fear are those with nothing left to lose and little to live for, and no moral base to provide a societal back-stop.

Right-wing nutjobs might be a threat to federal institutions, but what threat is that to individuals really? The same people who kill cops and terrorize neighborhoods today would be a closer and more personal risk, and that is drug gangs and youths with no future.

I think one of the real questions that we cannot answer is whether or not such angry mobs will actually appear. It is a fact that societies crash quicker when they are more complex. Our food supply chain is one of the weakest links in our incredibly complex system, and shortage of a million barrels of oil per day may be sufficent to tip that over the edge.

Consider... the supply line is about 1200 to 1500 miles long, leading to your supermarket. When there are no supplies left, there will be some hungry people wanting to eat. If there is no food in the store, perhaps there will be some in your house, or in mine.

Ron's view, and one that may be considered possible by the US Military, according to recent posts, is that those hungry people may become lawbreakers, and begin pillaging. Raping? Maybe yes and maybe no. But robbing, and when resistence is encountered becoming violent seems a fair belief.

Ron P. takes the position that this is very possible. He worries, as to I, that widespread violence will lead to anarchy, and takeover by extremists. Extremists are the ones who will target knowledge, so his scenario is not so impossible, and should be taken seriously.

Now, I have argued that this is not likely to create mobs, since within a few days the mobsters will be so weak from hunger that they will simply hunker down and die. Not that that is much comfort in the premises.


This is the one thing that does stand humanity apart from yeast or reindeer - the accumulation of knowledge and the development of 'cultures'. However (and I feel myself leaning to the doomer side on this one), culture and mere knowledge cannot power our vehicles, or produce our food in massive quantities.

I hope that substantial pockets of humanity will survive (and I hope to be in one of those pockets, though I don't expect to be!), but we will have to make 'alternative' arrangements on energy, it's as simple as that. I don't subscribe completely to the Peter Goodchild vision of the future (though he does make a good case), as there are simply too many variables to make an accurate prediction. Even he said that we might enter a "Neo-Victorian" age before crashing into a "Neo-Alfredan" one (I presume once we've burnt all the coal and gas left after oil).

My main questions are:
"How long do we have, Doctor?"
"Will it be quick and painful or will it be slow and painful?"


" This is the one thing that does stand humanity apart from yeast or reindeer - the accumulation of knowledge and the development of 'cultures'."

It is a fallacy to assume that because the members of a particular species are individually more intellectually sophisticated than the members of another species, that the collective outcomes of their behaviour will be more sustainable.

One reason is competition between members or groups of members remains.
Being smarter means that the weapons used to fight one another may become more complex or powerful as a species evolves ( culturally or physically) but this just means that there is a kind of arms race in which results eventually in all groups having more killing power so there is no improvement.

Libraries, schools, universities etc sound nice and peaceful, but they can also be seen as stepping stones to increasing knowledge about how to dominate, exploit and destroy your societies enemies and Nature.

Cultures which didn't have libraries are now nearly all extinct. Why? Because libraries go hand in hand with military power.

The horrors of The First World War were enabled by the growth of the sophistication and learning in society. The organisational structures, railheads, barbed wire, machine gun, the huge cannons, the Chlorine and Mustard gas. All these aspects of the Arms Race were enabled by the growth of knowledge.

The invention of the bulldozer, high explosives and the chainsaw would not have been possible without libraries. Similarly for the improvement in our understanding of nutrition, the causes of diseases and their prevention and treatment.

Libraries have enabled us to breed rapidly beyond all bounds of sustainability and destroy the biosphere much faster than would otherwise have been the case.

Education and cultural sophistication have turned us into yeast on steroids.

It is also fallacious to assume that because I said that knowledge and culture stands us apart, I also meant it made us 'better'. I should have said 'one thing' rather than 'THE one thing'. Nuclear weapons also stand us apart from reindeer and yeast - that certainly doesn't make us better. I think that is related to the point you made in the rest of your post about weapons development etc.

There are a couple of inconsistencies in my readings on Peak Oil and I wondered if people might offer their ideas on them.

Firstly, many of the models of Peak Oil I have seen assume that population will grow to 8 or 9 billion and then decline. How is that even remotely possible if we only have a couple of years at best before oil production starts to drop off dramatically?

Secondly, I read a piece by Colin Campbell dating back to 2002. Although he estimates 'around 2010' as the peak 'period', he also said that there may not be a shortage of hydrocarbon fuels for two decades from the time of his writing - so around 2022. It just seemed a bit of an odd comment.

Any thoughts?


On the first point, re: population predictions, I think you'll find there are a range of typical methodologies for anticipating the Pop. Growth , and that it's quite possible that many don't necessarily include the 'Atypical conditions' we at this site, ASPO, et al believe to be an important new addition to this formula.

- for my own sake, I don't expect we will be able to extrapolate recent pop. trends into the next couple decades. I don't know how fast the momentum of birthrate can change.. but of course the deathrate is very flexible (in one direction anyhow)

I think Campbell is probably hedging, or in other words just working predictions from different assumptions in the two statements. Part of this is the decline rate, too. It 'could' be that 12 years after the peak, we've scrabbled together a pile of temporary workarounds, biofuels, etc.. whether they can hold together or not is anyone's guess..


Thanks Bob,

Two more weeks to go and I (for better or worse) would have added one more to the population. I am hoping he has some sort of life, so I guess sometimes I feel like I'm clutching at straws!


Let's hope those 'workarounds' can mitigate some of the worst aspects of PO. One never knows...

Get a few good nights of sleep before the birth, and then write down what they were like. You'll want some reminders, so you can learn how again in 4-5 years!

The reindeer and yeast cells store their information as DNA. Human cells also have DNA and have cooperated in growing another information creator and user, Homo sapiens. We Homo sapiens have myriad forms of information storage, but none of it self-replicating, so it’s not likely to be very robust.

Yeast and reindeer have had millions of life cycles to mutate and adapt within the ecosystem. Their success or failure is of little importance. Humans are great mutators and don’t have to wait for random mutation, but can manipulate at will (engineers) and as they are half-insane (all humans) and unfettered by the lessons to be drawn from nature, you can see how we have arrived at the situation we now face. All of our novelty, while seemingly adaptive and positive, and recorded mostly on deteriorating media or devices, is of little importance without the energy that allowed its invention and supports its transcription and translation into tools and infrastructure.

Sorry Ron, just to clarify - the 'fat people' comment came from a discussion with a friend of mine about energy - as human fat is nearly as energy-dense as gasoline and diesel (apparently - I'm not a specialist so feel free to correct me), we said that the dead could technically be burnt to produce electricity - the fatter, the better. Not the nicest of conversations but it's weird how these things develop. The city of Plymouth in the UK would have a massive URR of fat if my friend's theory held true!


The Yes Men have this one figured out, it's called Vivoleum

  • http://theyesmen.org/agribusiness/vivoleum/event/photos/hi-res/casting00...
  • It was a big hit in Calgary.

    Are we finally going to get some something close to the truth from CNBC?

    I thought the CNBC documentary "House of Cards" on the current financial meltdown was informative, and did not seem overt spin.

    Yes that was a great series. Most of them can be found on the web just by googling "CNBC House of Cards"

    Ron P.

    How does that line up with the US Military 'fear' that there 'could be' a 10 MBD shortage by 2015? The 'race' does not seem to be proceeding very quickly, nor is it being run very fast.


    Thanks for the re-post. As long as this program wasn't bankrolled by those in alternative energy, we have a shot at some sobering honesty.

    How about half as much business as usual? Focus should be on ways to reduce the need for fuel and planning should be on a seriously downscaled amount of throughput. GDP just measures throughput but does not really measure wealth or well being. We have not even begun to do all the things that make it possible to use less fuel, whether it be just using existing, proven technology.

    While solar is not the answer, it motivates users to cut way down on electricity use so that an affordable array of panels will be sufficient.

    Also, I think if wind energy was ubiquitous, and the necessary grid was put in place, this could go a long way to address the base load issue. In the mean time, focus should be on ways to reduce the required baseload.

    At the end of the day, will we still descend into anarchy,extreme poverty, and death? Quite possibly, but probably worth trying to avoid.

    Truth from CNBC? I guess anything is possible but I won't know because I have quit watching its sickening display of hubris.

    The blend wall is near and so is the Great Oil Wall of China:

    Given the fact that gasoline consumption in this country simply is not growing very rapidly and has essentially been flat for some time now, we are getting to the point where we simply have absorbed as much ethanol as we can under the current E10 legislation," said USDA Outlook Boardmember Gerry Bange on a USDA radio report.

    This is another nail in the coffin of cellulosic ethanol.


    Brazilian ethanol still has hope if California’s CARB has its way and other states follow. But is there enough of it if sugar prices stay up and divert sugar to food use? This could be thought of as Brazilian ethanol’s sugar price wall.

    Looks like corn ethanol’s only hope for increased consumption is E85 as the EPA continues to dither. That’s a tough sell since the retail market has refused to price E85 appropriately.

    However that may be changing. Locally E85 is at about $2.00 and E10 at about $2.70 per gallon. My flex fuel Ranger gets about 80 percent of the mileage on E85 that it gets on E10, so at $2 there is a small gain to be had since 80% of $2.70 is $2.16.


    The problem is that this small gain is usually transitory and is a relatively rare occurrence. So most purchases of E85 have been either out of ignorance or ideology with little to negative market incentive.

    This lack of a clear and persistent pricing advantage for E85 and lack of pumps in many places discourages its use and flex fuel vehicle sales.

    So gasoline still rules. The problem is that China is buying up future oil supplies presumably for its own use and at some point when Americans have to bid for remaining supplies of oil a portion of it will in effect be already sold to supply China’s fast increasing demand.

    Throw in India, Middle East and other oil exporting countries’ rising usage and the plot is set. The blend wall is not the only wall around American liquid fuel supplies. The Great Oil Wall of China is gathering behind it ever increasing oil supplies unavailable for American bidding.

    As Americans fight ethanol, refuse to compete in buying up oil reserves but instead spend oil supplies on Wars for Oil Security, the potential for having inadequate liquid fuel supplies increases daily. The Pentagon consumes 340,000 bpd making it the single largest purchaser and oil consumer in the world. If it were a country it would rank 38th in oil consumption.



    So with each passing day Wars for Oil Security actually bring less oil security. All the while China builds a Great Oil Wall with purchases of reserves. The American ethanol blend wall was stays put discouraging both cellulosic and corn ethanol. The Brazilian ethanol sugar price wall grows with world population. And then there is the production wall of Peak Oil. Few seem to care.

    Fewer still understand that American liquid fuel policy has to change or else have supply confined within the walls erected by ourselves, others and geology. Without change the Empire faces defeat. Perhaps that is the happy ending.

    EPA tests so far show E15 is safe in cars but they are still testing. Lawnmower makers are putting up a lot of resistance and in California, oil refiners stated that they could only supply E5.7 though the pipeline KinderMorgan says they can supply E10. A lot of this seems to be arguing over implementation.
    E12 or E15 is definitely coming.

    Actually x, I think things look quite good for ethanol.
    At the current price of corn if oil prices go above $70 per barrel it is cheaper to burn E10 than E0 even considering all the 'horrible' subsidies. As the other articles stated we are probably looking at +$80 oil forever.

    This is where you should stand up and cheer for POET's corn cob ethanol. Corn cobs reduce the price of ethanol without changing the supply of corn, further reducing the food-fuel link.


    Lawnmower makers are putting up a lot of resistance

    They can put up resistance all the way to the grave and beyond, as far as I am concerned. Having been fed up with a lawn mower that won't start and repair bill after repair bill, I've just ordered an electric mower and a long cord.

    I suppose that there are a few lawns where electric mowers are not feasible, but the vast majority of lawns arguably could be mowed with electrics instead. Less liquid fuel consumption (of any type), less pollution, less noise, less trouble and frustration. Other than having to avoid being so stupid as to run over the cord, what isn't there to like?

    There are few lawns that can't be mowed with a good old-fasioned reel mower.

    As long as you keep it well oiled and adjusted it can be easier to handle than a heavy powered mower, and there's no cord to cut.

    I've used both in the past. IF you have a relative level lawn, not very large, and mow very frequently without fail, in addition to the oiling and adjusting, then a reel mower will work fine and is a good option. My lawn would be a bit of a challenge for a reel mower, but the electric should do just fine.

    I just remembered - my late grandfather had an old push-powered lawnmower. I used to love it as a kid. My grandmother might still have that in her garden shed. I do consider petrol lawnmowers very wasteful. Electric is the way to go if you need extra help.


    I got fed up with my electric one, the "Underwriters Labs" cutoff switch was getting harder and harder to use. Thats the switch that turns it off, if you let go. Finally I had to attempt to bypass it, but the hacked mower would just trip the circuit breaker. I now use a $79 dollar 14inch reel mover. It is much better (although a few recalictrantly tough strands of grass don't get cut). But the biggest hastle of the power mower -aside from that awful switch, was getting the hose out of the way. I can usually just mow right over the hose with the push mower.

    There are few lawns that can't be mowed with a good old-fasioned reel mower.

    Who says we need lawns? What's wrong with xeriscaping?

    That looks lovely - don't think it would work in central New Hampshire, though :-)

    The whole idea of xeriscaping is that you design your garden with plants suited to a specific locale, usually plants that are native, so you can definitely xeriscape in New Hampshire.

    New Hampshire
    Native Plants / Xeriscaping

    New England Wild Flower Society - The New England Wild Flower Society, with a branch in New Hampshire, is also the official wildflower and native plant society of the state. On their site, you can find a number of resources, including membership information, a calender of society sponsored events, and publications put out by the society to help you create your own small gardens and landscapes.

    Ummmm...not to pick nits but "xeric" comes from the Greek xeros meaning "dry." The xeric moisture regime "is that typified in Mediterranean climates, where winters are moist and cool and summers are warm and dry (Soil Taxonomy, USDA, 1975)."

    Xeriscaping is generally implemented to provide those living in dryer portions of the American Southwest with an attractive alternative to Eastern, water-hogging humid-region landscape plantings and lawns. While it is certainly conceivable that New Englanders could focus on native species in their landscape plantings, it seems to me that the use of the term "xeriscaping" is misapplied in this case.

    Xeriscaping is generally implemented to provide those living in dryer portions of the American Southwest with an attractive alternative to Eastern, water-hogging humid-region landscape plantings and lawns.

    Correct! Yet there is nothing that says you can't plant an attractive non water hogging garden with native plants in New Hampshire or anywhere else for that matter. My point was that we don't necessarily need lawns anywhere. They seem to be a general waste of resources which seems to include the need for fossil fuel powered mowers, sprinklers, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers etc.. A xeriscaped garden generally has a lower overall environmental impact and can actually help create habitat for native and endangered species of plants animals and insects.

    BTW, does the fact that someone lives in an area with adequate water supply mean they shouldn't have a rain barrel to water their garden?

    BTW, does the fact that someone lives in an area with adequate water supply mean they shouldn't have a rain barrel to water their garden?

    Yes, when the garden needs watering only every few years. And then that water is pumped from the nearby Mississippi. Rain barrels are a waste of space and resources here, and breed mosquitos IMHO.

    Best Hopes for 60 inches of rain/year and a high water table,


    Yes, when the garden needs watering only every few years. And then that water is pumped from the nearby Mississippi. Rain barrels are a waste of space and resources here, and breed mosquitos IMHO.

    Hey Alan, rain barrels are a convenience when hooked up to a drip irrigation system. It allows you to water plants when you're absent for longer periods than your plants might be able to withstand otherwise.

    Most people that I know that have rain barrels (I live in south Florida) have screens for mosquitoes...


    Mosquitoes. West Nile virus is increasingly becoming a concern in the Midwest, as an increasing number of illnesses and deaths are blamed on the virus. Mosquitoes tend to breed in wet areas, and the Culex mosquito that carries and transmits West Nile virus is found where there is decaying organic matter and wet conditions. Recommendations to reduce populations of Culex mosquitoes include source reduction of mosquito breeding sites and avoidance of biting mosquitoes. Recommendations for reducing breeding sites include eliminating or emptying artificial water collection containers described as “prime breeding spots for the mosquito species implicated in the transmission of West Nile Virus.” (See: http://www.cfe.cornell.edu/erap/). This potential connection between standing water breeding sites and rainbarrels may have implications for rain barrel use. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as 10 days. In rainbarrels that allow mosquitoes to enter, therefore, rainbarrels should be emptied in less than 10 days. Another potential solution is to screen the rainwater inlet so mosquitoes don’t enter in the first place. In either case, user education is key to reducing the potential for Culex mosquito breeding sites.

    BTW I'll bet there are more mosquitoes breeding in old tires than there are in rain barrels.

    Best hopes for rational analysis in all venues.


    Having lived in northern and southern N. American climates and cut a few lawns, electrics don't (pun warning) cut it in the southern states where St. Augustine grass is planted. That stuff is tough and one needs the power of a gas engine to get through it.

    What we should be doing is giving Honda the monopoly because they've had the cleanest, most efficient engines for years. People in Northern Ontario wouldn't believe a Honda 5 HP snowblower could do the job until they saw one in action. Usually, a Briggs & Stratton or Techumseh 10 HP would be used.

    The trick with the electric cord is to attach it to your hip and then a slack to the mower. The mower isn't going where your feet are and the cord will tend to follow your feet if attached to the hip. And, wind the cord properly so it doesn't develop twists. That is, don't wrap it around your hand and elbow. A nice easy 18-24 inch loop in your hand and with each loop give the cord a quarter turn twist starting at the receptacle end. When using the cord, pay it all out on the ground. Don't leave it in a looped pile on the ground and draw it out as needed, this will only create twists. That's how one makes an electrical cord last a long time. And, if going over 100 feet, try to get a #14 AWG, the mower will run better.

    For my yard (perhaps 1/14th of an acre of grass) my electric mower does fine.

    Reduce the width of the swath (i.e. smaller mower) and 1,500 watts can do the job.

    I keep the cord over my shoulder, although I have developed "techniques" to mow the yard with the 50' cord on the ground most of the time. 12' extensions needed for two far corners (or third outdoor receptacle).

    Best Hopes for Electric Mowers (and more fruit trees and less grass),


    I had to mow a neighbours lawn last summer (my own lawn is actually "moss", and doesn't require any mowing), and used their 24V cordless electric. Quietest, easiest mower I have ever used. They had a spare battery but said if one battery wasn't enough, that meant they had let the lawn get too long. They also made a point of sharpening the blades a couple of times a year. A gas mower just hacks through even with blunt blades, but, just like woodworking tools, sharp blades make the job easy.

    I know a landscape contractor in Calgary who ditched all his engine powered stuff for cordless (or corded for chainsaw, etc). He bought the best quality stuff he could get, mostly the Worx brand, when it's your living, you get the god stuff. Set up his truck with a solar panels on the canopy, a deep cycle battery and 150W and 3000W inverter (small for charging, big for corded tools), and can run anything from his truck, and just recharges the batteries at night, with wind power that he buys.

    Called his company the quiet revolution landscape co, and started getting contracts from all sorts of condo boards and nursing homes, simply because his tools were quiet, and didn't smell. He is looking into an electric truck as the next step, as he rarely drives more than 50km in a day, and all his client sites are happy to let him plug tools/battery chargers into their sockets.

    Best hopes for wind powered gardening!

    Cool story. Thanks for the posting it.


    Thanks too for passing along the story. It lets one know what is possible if given a few seconds of thought. I'm also going to keep the brand name in mind.

    Now Paul, you live in the Lower Mainland, probably North Vancouver if your lawn is moss, (I grew up in Vancouver and N. Delta, I know moss), and the typical blue grass of Vancouver doesn't come close to St. Augustine for bulk and resistance. My in-laws live in Miami and we were staying with them while our house was closing and I noticed the lawn was looking kind of long. "Great", I thought, "Something to do to make myself useful". I pulled out his push gas mower and had to lean into the thing to get it to move through 3" of grass (he keeps it long intentionally). Now I'm a big guy at 250 lbs and I had to work that mower through the grass even with 2/3 swaths. Since I had the momentum up and a good sweat I did the neighbors next door also.

    Miami sun, cutting grass, and then it was Miller Time! The neighbor was grateful too - she's a widow. But my father-in-law wasn't because his regular guy was coming around the next day and he was going to be pissed. The road to hell is paved...

    EE, I have never said I live in the lower mainland, I am actually on the Sunshine Coast, but I often simply say Vancouver for the benefit of everyone from out of province. My moss/lawn has tall trees to the south and west, and is shaded by my house on the east, it gets hardly any direct sun. But the lawn I had to mow was on a sun baked SW facing plot, surrounded by Arbutus trees, right by the ocean at Sargent's Bay. House is 20' from the rocks at waters edge -picture postcard spot, but very "exciting" during a winter storm. So it was a real lawn, no moss there, but certainly not as tough as southern grasses. My point is that if you don't have to cut too much, i.e. don't let it get too long between cuttings, you should be able to manage, though I'm sure there some situations where you can't.

    As for the in-laws, well, I don't think there is a solution for that, carbon free or otherwise...

    The landscaping guy got the idea for the name from a website he had seen (and so had I) called the Quiet Revolution Motor Co., which was yet another unsuccessful attempt at a commercial Stirling engine. They are indeed quiet engines (I built the one that runs off the heat of a cup of coffee - very cool office toy or party trick), but they are also next to useless.

    With some municipalities talking about banning gas powered leaf blowers and the like, I think this guy is on the right tack. I should also add he has the best push/reel mower I have ever seen. When the weather is good, and he is at a place that has eligible women around, he gets that out and the shirt off - electricity is good, but it ain't everything!

    WNCO, I'm glad neither you nor anyone else was around last year to watch me deftly slice through the power cord of my hedge clipper;-)

    I ran into the same thing WNC with weed eaters. Tired of them not starting and cost of repairs, the noise and smell of fumes, I got some long cords and an electric weedeater. The noise is minimal for myself and the neighbors, I never have to worry about whether or not it will start and there are no fumes. I'm sold on electric!

    Having been fed up with a lawn mower that won't start and repair bill after repair bill, I've just ordered an electric mower and a long cord.

    I hope you are able to get a nice reliable one like my Father purchased 20yrs ago. I still use it every weekend. It is a Black and Decker M300.

    Just recently replaced the blade and plastic cooling fan. It has been maintenance free.

    The blade replacement cause was user error:
    Do not try to mow over a tree stump and expect the blade not to get bent if it hits the stump. :)


    It always amazes me how much power men (mostly) think they need to bring to the task of severing blades of grass, a task the weakest infant or many of the smallest creatures can do with ease.

    The small amount of lawn we have left after turning most of the property over to natives and gardens, is easily handled by our little push mower.

    Even this seems a waste of time, though, and I'm trying to convince my wife that we should leave the leaves on the ground and let the land revert to the forest floor it wants to be.


    Great to finally see some real attention being paid in the mainstream press to waste-to-energy! The U.S. has lagged behind Europe and the industrialized nations of East Asia for many years in developing clean power from trash combustion. The largest obstacle has long been outdated and misguided public perceptions of the technology. Many people seem to think combustion in all its forms is an invention of Satan and have not kept up with developments in the area. Of course, there is still a concerted effort underway from well-intentioned but ill-informed environmentalists to discredit the environmental benefits of burning trash. But it is nice to see the NY Times taking the correct side of the issue, instead of gushing over half-measures like viewing recycling as a substitute for effective disposal or landfill gas capture for energy, as many other papers have done.

    Trash makes a great sustainable, base loading energy source, and is one of the few we have available that can directly replace coal. The only way you can get the most energy (not to mention recovered metals) out of it is to burn it. And regarding the footpring of the activity...trash creates more pollution when you simply leave it in place than when you burn it to harvest energy - how many other energy sources can we say that about?

    Ugo Bardi takes a different view on waste combustion in a recent post:


    As you know, waste management is a critical point of the economy; especially for us in Italy. Small country, lots of people and lots of waste. It is a real problem, even though some people are exaggerating it a little. You know that most Italian politicians, independently of whether they belong to the left or to the right, seem to agree on what is to be done. It is, “burn, baby, burn.” Build incinerators to get rid of waste and get energy as a boon from the combustion. It is what is called the “waste to energy” scheme which, in Italy, has been given the fancy name of “thermovalorization”. Now, I think that this is another example of pulling the lever in the wrong direction. If you use incinerators to produce electric power, then you'll find that you need waste. Not just that, you also need that specific kind of waste which contains a lot of plastics, which has a high heating power. So, you'll be in trouble if there is not enough waste of the right kind. And that is what is happening right now: with the contraction of the economy there is less waste and it is waste with a smaller content of plastics. So, you have invested in all those expensive incinerators and there is not enough fuel for them. You didn't solve the problem, you created a bigger one.


    Peter, in summer 2008, Naples, Italy faced a trash disposal crisis because of the same good old-fashioned NIMBYism we have here stateside. Criticisms of waste-to-energy in general are extremely unfounded and these here are ones I have seen before. The cost of building the facility is lower than landfilling in most places it is used, and certainly far lower than the combined cost of a landfill plus an equivalent sized coal-fired power plant. Capital costs are typically repaid within 10 years or so. Plants can be designed to be able to run at less than their full capacity in times of recession, although to be honest, most municipalities have not seen their tonnages drop very much over the recession anyway. I do not know of any examples from the last 15 years of WTE plants that have competed with recycling operations by taking away tons - plants are sized for the residual poste-recycling waste(and I believe there is a significant debate to be had, which has been largely avoided so far, regarding the merits of combustion instead of recycling paper and plastic anyway). One factor most have failed to consider - recycling of paper, for instance, is only made possible by availability of fossil fuels as an energy source to do that recycling. If we had to rely on renewable energy, it wouldn't even make sense to talk about using that paper as anything other than the energy source itself.

    And the environmental benefits are considerable: base loading renewable heat and power recovered, natural resources conserved and fossil fuel use avoided, landfill usage minimized, and metals liberated through combustion and recovered for recycling that would otherwise be lost forever in landfills.

    I should know, since I happen to specialize in this area! And I have to respectfully disagree with Ugo's take on this issue.

    I should know, since I happen to specialize in this area! And I have to respectfully disagree with Ugo's take on this issue.

    Fair enough, I should have guessed from your handle ;-)

    I am certainly "arguing" from ignorance; it would be interesting for Ugo to take up your points,


    Peter, I think it would be an interesting discussion as well, and it is not surprising to find even very well-informed theorists and writers take the opposite tack of mine on WTE. The ill reputation was not entirely undeserved historically; many early trash combustors were in fact quite dirty, although they did still get the job done when it came to reducing landfill disposal rates. But the NY Times article gets it right here, over the past couple of decades, a massive but largely unheralded effort has taken place to improve the technology such that today it can and should play a substantial role as a clean, renewable energy source - one that requires no mining or extraction of materials, and which prevents emissions of methane from landfills too, and whose use displaces coal directly, so I do not even know of any other energy source or any activity, really, that creates as many greenhouse gas offsets!

    One can think of the changes as more or less parallel to those that have occurred in the wind energy sector - looking at the turbines used today one might not even recognize that they evolved from the short, stout, noisy, bird-killing machines that were built in the 1970's.

    Try Lake County, Florida. The closest thing I can find on it now is a reference in an Irish newspaper but it was in the news here a while ago-apparently the County entered into a deal with a private company to provide a certain amount of waste for their waste to energy plant and now they can't provide it (due to the recession and perhaps some wishful thinking), so it's either ship it in from elsewhere (costly) or pay fines to the private company.


    and about the construction which sounds contentious as well...


    I'm with Ugo on this one. If your energy production depends on waste you are creating an incentive for a continuation of producing that very waste...

    Of course you could always burn stupid fat people for energy. The advantage being that as you use them up you have less and less need for more energy production and less and less waste. Win, Win!

    But do you throw things away? If you are like most of us, you probably do. Even many of the items you recycle end up in landfills.

    Many cities, counties, etc. have tried to build solid waste management policies around a backbone of "zero waste." All have failed. Trash is an inevitable byproduct of society. You don't have to encourage people to waste more to say we should be doing more to utilize the trash we do produce. Isn't that making the perfect the enemy of the good, in any event?

    By the way, the Americans both produce and bury more waste than Europeans, per capita. European countries with extensive combustion infrastructure (Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, etc.) have much higher recycling rates than the U.S. as well. Do these facts not fly in the face of the claim that combustion of trash for energy makes us more reliant on creating waste?

    But do you throw things away?

    This will change as we move back to more durable, repairable goods and as we get poorer. We might see more plant-based plastics being used because the oil-based ones are expensive and can't be put in the compost heap. (I'm not going to wager on that, though, too tough to call which type of plastic will be cheaper and they may switch places several times.)

    There might be a period a waste to energy company can make some money because we are still deeply entrenched in throwaway mode. But in the medium term there will likely be a rationalization of the industry as we get poorer and throw less away.

    I keep an eye on the cleantech sector. The projections of these companies do not include peak oil and are similar to the one I posted the other day from the FAA:

    Officials at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington predicted a return to growth for air travel in the long term in their annual aviation forecast, which also calls for aviation infrastructure and environmental improvements contained in the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System plan. Due to the current worldwide economic downturn, the FAA's 16-year forecast for 2009 to 2025 predicts domestic passenger fights to decrease by 7.8 percent in 2009 and then grow an average of 2.7 percent per year during the remaining 15-year forecast period.

    They are saying that the air sector will grow 50% over 15 years. Given Jeffrey and Samuel's good work:

    Great Oil Squeeze

    that projection, as well as those of many cleantech companies, is a fantasy. (But only a very few investors know that.)

    Not just investors are being tricked.

    The govt will use these estimates to build new runways or other "improvements". The money will be funnelled their way....and to their friends in certain companies.

    Oh, give me a break...this claim is patently absurd. The entire waste-to-energy lobby in the U.S. consists of two people. In Canada, one person. Nobody is making shady backroom deals with WTE developers, the only deals being made are between municipal governments trying to figure out the best ways to manage YOUR waste and the companies that are able to supply the necessary equipment, etc.

    Now, if you want to talk quid pro quo between politicians and Big Coal and Big Oil, then maybe I can talk this kind of talk half-seriously. Unholy alliance between the WTE industry and governments in the U.S.? Hmm, someone forgot to inform those of us working in the solid waste sector....we could probably be making a fair bit more dough if this is true...

    Actually any huge construction projects that can get underway generate fees and employment for the government. Many layers of government, after all. They want to be employed. WHat better way than to build something???They employ oversight staff, commissions, hold hearings, etc. Local, municipal, state, federal.....they will benefit from huge construction projects, including incinerators. WHo wants empty corridors in the town hall? And let`s face it, the big construction co`s have a lot of friends in the government......

    But first the govt must issue growth projections......that is as easy as pie!!!

    Right, I forgot, employment. So terrible!

    Even waste-aholic americans really don't produce enough garbage to be considered an energy supply, at about 0.8 tons per person.


    1/3 of the waste stream is currently recycled--aluminum cans 95%, glass 25%, steel 33%, paper 42%, yard waste 64%, etc.

    In Austria 60% of municipal waste is recycled.

    What is not recycled are plastics 7%, food 2%, rubber 14%, textiles 15% and wood at 9%.
    These represent about 1/4 of the waste stream or 0.2 tons per person.

    If all of it were burnt it would amount to about 60 million tons of 'fuel', probably with the heating value of coal, which being burnt would produce ~120 Twh or 3% of our electricity needs while releasing maybe 100 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    It probably makes more sense to recycle them as much as possible to conserve the energy used in making them in the first place.

    Majorian, recycling is an industrial-scale process which takes energy, and you need renewable sources to power the process, or else it is unsustainable, hence the example of paper recycling not making energetic sense when you consider that wood and paper give a higher EROI than other renewables and should be used as the energy source. A great many materials do not actually give measurable energy savings when recycled, especially when you consider the amount of material that must be exported and is often recycled with extremely low energy efficiency in places like China.

    I am not sure where you are getting your statistics, but the non-recycled municipal solid waste stream in the United States is about 250 million tons per year, and the rule of thumb in the WTE business is around 5000 BTU/lb, or roughly 1/3 the energy content of coal. Talking about direct emissions of CO2 from combustion makes little sense; you have to consider avoided landfill methane emissions, utility emissions, and energy savings from recycled metals that can only be recovered through combustion which separates them from trash, e.g. the metal frame supporting an umbrella, bicycle frames, belt buckles, hose nozzles, that sort of thing - not the aluminum and steel cans targeted for curbside recycling. And there are many places that get more than 3% of their energy from trash combustion, for instance the city of Amsterdam gets 30%, granted they do import some waste from surrounding towns as well, but 10-20% is not at all unusual for a city or county operating a WTE plant, especially one built to supply a district heating system like those in most of northern Europe. And even if only 3% were possible, if you go from getting 45% of your electricity from coal to 42%, that is actually nothing to sneeze at.

    Now consider not only all the trash that must be landfilled, but also coal ash, which would be 1/3 of the MSW stream if it were counted as such.

    Recycling is not an alternative to landfilling and it makes no sense to talk about it as such. Look at recycling rates versus disposal rates over the past several decades in any locale and you will see they are not correlated, and both grow simultaneously. The only way to avoid landfilling is through combustion. The bottom line here is that there are plenty of empirical examples of successes with combustion as a way to reduce final disposal rates, and no such success stories for recycling/composting, so it makes no sense to talk about them as disposal alternatives. Even if you extend a product's life cycle by recycling it, nothing can be recycled an infinte number of times and is going to end up getting burned or buried eventually - polymers, fibers, etc. degrade as they are used, become contaminated. And the former outcome (burning) is decidedly better than the latter (burying).

    I posted my link to the EPA above.

    I figure that current non-recyclables like plastic, tires, wood, textiles, etc. dumped into landfills probably have an average heating value about that of coal--plastic and tires are higher, wood and textiles a bit lower.
    If you add in other items the heating value goes down obviously.
    The point is that we can recycle more, probably well over 50% and of that which we do not recycle only 25% could end up as useful fuel anyways, and could add maybe 3% electricity to our electrical grid.

    As I mentioned Austria is recycling 60% of their municipal waste, so we can certainly improve our recycling rate.

    And the former outcome (burning) is decidedly better than the latter (burying).

    Are you sure?
    In Japan, they are looking at mining their huge landfills.

    If you burnt it up these metals would be lost in ash.


    Mining landfills typically yields soil as its primary useful product - this saves the landfill money they would otherwise spend excavating or importing soil to use as daily cover. Most landfill mining projects to date rely on this revenue stream and have not recovered much in the way of metals. Metals are far more easily recovered and recycled from the WTE ash stream, since the volume of the waste stream is much smaller, and has not yet had cover soils piled on top of it, which increases the energy and monetary cost of mining materials from the landfill. Modern WTE plants incorporate magnets and eddy current separators to remove ferrous and non-ferrous scrap from the ash before it ever leaves the facility.

    The other major advantage over landfills is of course avoiding emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds.

    Austria may be recycling 60% but there are questions as to how this figure is counted - for example, in some places, diversion rates may include construction and demolition materials; in other cases not. The ability to verify diversion rates is also quite limited, and there are PR-based as well as official target-based incentives to inflate the figure. Recycling rates also depend heavily on markets and on geography; it is easier, for example, to achieve high rates on the West Coast in the U.S. because most materials recovered in MRFs end up being shipped overseas, and China is the lowest-cost processor for most materials today. You may see a 60% or higher diversion rate in San Fransisco, but it is highly unlikely that such a figure would be achievable in, say, Minnesota, simply due to the inaccessibility of ports. Additionally, the more materials you collect in a municipal program for recycling, the lower the quality of each individual material (as especially seen in the quality of paper grades recovered from single stream recycling facilities).

    Currently the U.S. landfills around 60% of its waste, recycles around 30% (depending on how you count it) and combusts the other 10%. So even if you substantially increased recycling rates, even to 60%, and it resulted in a direct offset of landfill rates, that would still leave 30% being landfilled and would leave you with the ability to quadruple the power output contribution of WTE in this country, which is currently somewhere between 0.5% and 1%. But it's a rather moot point anyway when recycling rates and disposal rates grow simultaneously - a good example here is Los Angeles County, which claims a 52% diversion rate (very high for the U.S.) and is building future solid waste management policies around a backbone of "Zero waste," yet at the same time it is also running out of landfill capacity and once its current landfills close will begin sending its waste to new landfills that are being sited hundreds of miles away. They could just burn the residual waste instead and would not need to slow down their recycling at all, but you'd be hard-pressed to get many of the environmental zealots who misunderstand or refuse to learn the truth about the technology to even consider combustion as a positive outcome.

    In general, my feeling is that it is best to avoid jumping to conclusions that one or another use of material (energy recovery vs. material recovery, and so forth) is necessarily "higher and better," as it always depends on economics and geography. Both recycling and energy recovery can be valuable ways of repurposing waste, however.

    Two sides of garbage incineration - Toronto Star 2003 - I live in Peel region, next door to Toronto. We incinerate about 75% of non-recyclable waste in an energy generating plant. Personally, I'll support almost anything aside from our neighbour Toronto's strategy to ship all it garbage by truck to a landfill site in Michigan, USA, 500 km away. That's just pure evil, from any point of view.

    It's a political and ideological issue that pits the people who say we'll never be able to recycle, reuse or compost everything against others who insist we can - or will be able to soon.

    "During the late 1980s and '90s in the city of Toronto, the dream was that you could divert everything, you could get away with 100 per cent recycling," said Richard Gilbert, a former municipal councillor and a consultant on transportation, energy and garbage issues.

    "It's not like this situation had to take people by surprise, because it was evident 15 years ago. It was evident that this was the direction in which we were heading ... that when the Keele Valley site closed, we were going to have to rely on some big landfill site somewhere because we didn't have our act together, because we were dreaming. Part of that dream was an irrational rejection of incineration, or to be more precise, incineration with energy recovery."

    "I'm not knocking recycling per se. I'm saying that dreams that you can recycle everything have actually contributed to the present situation where we're sending waste 400 or 500 kilometres away to a hole in the ground, and exposing other people to it and to truck fumes."

    Opponents scoff at the notion that burning garbage to generate electricity constitutes an environmental victory. Far more energy is used to make packaging, for instance, than can be generated from burning it.

    "It's an energy loss," Perks said. "Effectively what you're doing is expending enormous amounts of resources and energy to make highly sophisticated materials and then destroying them as quickly as you can." Another problem: If you build an incinerator, you'll have to feed it. And that undercuts waste diversion programs, say many in the zero-waste camp.

    (In Peel, that argument doesn't seem to hold. Under its contract with Algonquin, Peel must ship 160,000 tonnes of waste to the incinerator each year. But it has also instituted a three-bag maximum for residential garbage pickup, and diversion into recycling and composting programs has increased from 25 per cent in 1996 to 45 per cent this year. The region is aiming for 70 per cent diversion by 2016.)

    Not to mention that incineration is expensive. Toronto pays $52 per tonne to ship its garbage to Michigan. Peel pays Algonquin $76 per tonne to burn its garbage. But Peel also pays to dispose of the hazardous fly ash, bringing the total cost of incineration to about $100 per tonne.

    I'm rather surprised if Peel is landfilling its fly ash on its own - most combustion facilities combine the fly ash with the bottom ash before it leaves the facility, and the combined ash is not considered a hazardous waste and, in the U.S. at least, can be disposed in regular Class D landfills, which are of course monitored for air and water emissions.

    Also, most places that combust trash would pay more to landfill it for geographic reasons, for instance New York City would probably pay considerably less per ton to combust its waste domestically rather than ship it hundreds of miles to the Carolinas. I think that when you mobilize environmental attributes like carbon credits and RECs, also, the economic outlook for combustion starts to look better as well - these credits have been available to landfill gas projects for years but are only just starting to be applied to WTE. It is still more expensive to burn than to bury in most cases in North America today, but the achievable benefits are higher as well.

    I cannot buy the argument that it is an energy loss. We are not manufacturing trash for the explicit purpose of burning it - in fact nobody really designs products with disposal in mind at all, which is part of why we have so much toxic waste...as I mentioned, the difference between trash power and biomass power is that in the case of trash, no additional harvesting is necessary. Why talk about burning virgin trees for energy or mining materials for solar panels, when we have yet to even do as much as we can to utilize an energy source that must be dealt with in some way, requires no mining or extraction of virgin materials, and prevents more pollution than it causes?

    A good way of thinking of it: if you took away all the incinerators, the trash wouldn't go away, and Naples, summer 2008 in fact proves this conjecture.

    Wasted -

    Perhaps you could comment on the energy cost of household recycling?

    I have been thinking the last few years that when energy costs (oil/gasoline/diesel) rise it won't make sense any longer to have big recycling trucks rumbling thru neighborhoods to pick up folks' glass and newspaper recycling. At some point isn't is just too costly to recycle?


    Got2Surf, good question - my understanding is that bulk transport of recyclables, e.g. curbside collection in trucks or the hauling of materials from MRFs to remanufacturing facilities by tractor-trailer or in shipping containers, does not incur much impact in terms of greenhouse gas/energy footprint. However, collection of trash and recyclables (as in the trucks themselves) do bear a disproportionate share of air pollution impacts from solid waste management, so my guess would be you might see an increase in smog-forming pollutants in some cases, although as long as the recycled materials do end up substituting for virgin materials in manufacturing, there will likely be some net savings due to the energy impacts.

    For self-hauled recyclables/drop-off centers, the energy impacts are much more tangible. I recall a presentation from an Oregon DEQ official last year where he mentioned that (I believe) the savings from 20 pounds of typical recyclables roughly make up the difference of hauling that amount 7 miles in an average family sedan. Energy savings from glass and paper recycling do tend to be the lowest out of all materials, and in some cases such as corrugated cardboard the energy costs for second-generation manufacturing may be higher. Particularly in the case of paper, which is the material recycled in the greatest volumes, what strikes me as counterintuitive is the fact that fossil-derived energy is used for the entire recycling process, while manufacturing of virgin paper uses leftover tree - i.e. renewable biomass - for most of its energy inputs.

    So the short answer: yes, collection and hauling of recyclables does implicate the net energy consumption or savings, however bulk hauling tends to be much more efficient than self-hauling, and this method of collection is becoming much more popular than self-hauling to drop-off centers today. Of course, recycling does usually mean more collection trips and more cost; the primary generators of costs in this area are usually the extra solid waste collection personnel needed for multiple trips, and the cost of providing carts/bins to residents (which can cost quite a bit more than one might assume and in some cases is the most expensive component of the entire program).

    The obvious solutions is to make all manufacturers responsible for the waste that their products produce. People would return containers and materials...as they return to the store they bought the product from, generally not producing any new trips. The same trucks that drop off the products at the point of sale would pick up the materials to be reused or recycled, again with no new trips.

    This is a stunningly obvious solution to anyone who has thought about it for a moment, but industry has been fighting against anything of the sort so far. Its time to insist that the producers of waste take responsibility of it cradle to grave (or cycle to cycle). And of course the vast majority of the stuff should not be produced in the first place (especially the absurd over-packaging).

    Burning the stuff is just phenomenally simple minded.

    Yours is a stunningly obvious solution to anyone who hasn't got a clue about the transportation system. For starters. Do you know anything about tl and ltl deliveries? About the efforts, and success, in reducing freight transport inefficiencies by backloading?

    I'm with you on the overpackaging bit, and would regulate it to a minimum, but you aren't living in the real world if you think that your idea wouldn't result in massive numbers of additional trips. And massive non-compliance.

    We rented a car to go pick up a new mattress. Do you think, we're going to rent a car to take back the wrapping? Or store it under the bed until it's time for a new mattress?

    An obstinate environmentalist is a poseur.

    Yes, toilforoil has it right, certainly product stewardship is an important concept and makes sense in principle, and can be applied usefully to certain items (mercury bulbs, batteries, that sort of thing). But it is unrealistic to assume it would be feasible to make a trip back to each manufacturer each time you want to throw away an individual product or its packaging. And how about the stuff that is just too gross to recycle? As mentioned elsewhere on this page: condoms? Toothbrushes and dental floss?

    Do you really want me have to keep a compost bin in my urban apartment? Ants, roaches, rats and flies are all problems that can materialize easily in that sort of environment...

    Do you really want me have to keep a compost bin in my urban apartment? Ants, roaches, rats and flies are all problems that can materialize easily in that sort of environment...

    I don't see why not,I have a Swedish friend who has an indoor composting bin in her kitchen it is odor and pest free...you just have to do it right, with worms!

    Vermicomposting: Indoor Composting with Earthworms

    Composting is a controlled process of decomposition used to transform organic material such as kitchen scraps, yard wastes and paper products into humus. Humus, or compost, is a dark, soil-like substance that enriches soil with nutrients, increases moisture retention, improves structure and provides a good environment for beneficial soil organisms. Composting is usually done outdoors, but the process can easily be adapted for indoor use. So you can compost even if you don't have a yard, or if you don't like going out to a compost bin in the snow, or if you want to produce the highest quality compost there is: vermicompost!

    What is vermicomposting?

    Vermicomposting is simply composting with earthworms. Earthworms speed up the composting process, aerate the organic material in the bin, and enhance the finished compost with nutrients and enzymes from their digestive tracts. The best kind of earthworms to use are red worms, also known as "red wigglers" and "manure worms". These worms thrive in decomposing organic matter such as leaf piles, compost heaps and old manure piles. They are smaller than nightcrawlers and are reddish brown in color. Red worms are native to Europe but have become naturalized throughout the U.S. Red worms are a good indicator of fertile soil because their presence indicates high organic matter content and a lack of toxic substances in soil.

    My kitchen is small =/

    I'm not really sure what I would do with the compost, either, as I have no room for a garden...I suppose I could just toss it out on the grass outside my apartment building in hopes that it becomes a little greener...

    Peak oil will take care of this for us.

    Unfortunately we cannot really change the way we behave. If a resource is available we will use it.

    It will not be used if we ask companies to do this. No one would buy anything and the economy would localize and simplify....impossible in a globally networked world. People would be up in arms. Its akin to banning cars.

    Perhaps, but those added transportation costs would apply to carting stuff away to be burned or buried as well, and to all the transport to get that stuff to you house to begin with. It would also increase the costs to make it the first time from scratch, and this would make recycling more economic again (depending on the relative energy costs).

    It's true, there are environmental impacts of hauling trash or recyclables, however in general the energy consumption impacts of collection and hauling tend to wash out because the difference between landfilling and combustion is so great - you can get an order of magnitude more energy out of it by burning it than by collecting methane, and the output of a WTE plant pretty much dwarfs the amount of energy consumed by trucks to collect and haul the trash there.

    It's also worth noting that typical hauling distances to incinerators are much shorter - the case of New York City sending its trash 1000+ miles by barge, train, and tractor-trailer to landfills in the Carolinas is not all that uncommon of a story, but to be honest I have never heard of any cases of those kinds of hauling distances where the final destination is a combustion facility. So while in theory, the impacts would be the same, in practice short hauling distances (and improved logistics, reduced need for transfer stations and hauling vehicles, etc.) tend to be associated with combustion rather than landfilling. Recycling transport distances tend to be the largest out of all three, since it depends on selling a variety of different recovered materials into an international market, dominated increasingly by China especially. But you'd still have to haul the stuff around the entire world a couple of times in most cases, for bulk transport energy consumption to equal either the energy saved from recycling or the energy produced by combustion.

    A good way of thinking of it: if you took away all the incinerators, the trash wouldn't go away, and Naples, summer 2008 in fact proves this conjecture.

    I say wait a few more years and see if your premise still holds true.

    What if we find ourselves in a world where it no longer makes economic sense to produce the trash that we now do, as an incidental by product of our lifestyles. Or maybe because people suddenly wise up and make a lifestyle choice not to buy into the waste stream as a normal part of their lives. Not that I actually expect that to happen anytime soon...

    I'll give a concrete example, I now have an nice aluminum water bottle that fits into my bicycle water bottle holder. In my more wasteful recent past I would buy a lot of plastic water bottles to fill it. Now I just refill the aluminum bottle with tap water. Imagine if more and more people start think like me?

    Another example, I now take a few cloth bags to the supermarket and no longer need their plastic bags to carry my groceries home.

    What happens to the trash stream if more and more people start applying this kind of thinking across the board. How about if that new power tool I buy at the hardware store came in a reusable box that was sent back to the manufacturer with my old worn out tool to be rebuilt and I take a backpack and bring my new tool home in that, instead of a cardboard box and styrofoam that I have to discard?

    Ok, maybe to get everyone on board with my way of thinking we have to break a few knees and our currently acceptable practices have to become exorbitantly more expensive but I can imagine a world where that is actually the case. It isn't written any where that we must continue doing things as we are now, is it?

    So what happens to your power generating waste incinerators in my scenario? I'd say they are suddenly a really bad idea. Maybe it underscores the fact that your entire world view is based on an unsustainable and profoundly flawed premise which assumes that the waste stream we now produce is the only way things can be.

    Your world view is what I call BAU and I think it won't continue simply because it can't.


    Good points, mag (as usual).

    In general, as we slip down the post-PO slope, society will be less and less able to produce anything, particularly waste. The enormous amount of waste we have produced up to now is a product of 150 years of ever increasing access to cheap energy. That is in the process of ending. Waste will decrease even faster than industrial production.

    Building waste burners in such a context is another great mis-allocation of resources (to steal a phrase from JHK).

    What is the alternative to BAU then? We've already established that "zero waste" as the backbone of a solid waste management program does not work. It is great that you use reusable water bottles and so forth, I do as well. But I still create some trash and I'm sure you do too. Again, solid waste managers have to handle what they are given, and the alternative to building state-of-the-art facilities is simply a lack of sanitation. Don't shoot the messenger.

    San Francisco as a whole recycles or composts 72% of its waste stream. It is estimated that if everything that could be recycled or composted actually was, only 10% of the city's waste stream would be going to landfill. The goal this year is to get the rate up to 75% with a mandatory composting law going into effect.

    I now compost fruits and vegetables not contaminated with fat, oil or meat products in my garden compost bin. The rest of the organic material (including meat, bones, and paper products with food waste on them) I put in my compost bin picked up by the city.

    Our family is working to reduce the amount we have to recycle (drinking mostly tap water, using nalgene and metal water bottles, using reusable shopping bags, not getting a paper copy of the newspaper, reusing wrapping paper, choosing compostable packaging over plastic as much as possible, buying less processed foods, etc.) In San Francisco we can recycle all plastic that holds its shape (with the exception of styrofoam), so the only plastic we are throwing away these days are the occasional saran wrap, styrofoam containers, and packaging peanuts. (I hate, hate, hate styrofoam packaging peanuts.)

    Since our recycling is shipped all the way to China for processing (in ships that would otherwise return to China empty because of our trade imbalances) and processing the recycling into new forms takes energy, and plastic when recycled always downgrades to a lower form, it clearly is better to avoid making the recycling waste in the first place. In contrast, our city compost only goes to Vacaville (50 miles away) for processing and then is used by local vineyards and farms in place of chemical fertilizers. Of course, composting in my garden requires the least energy of all.

    The 72% is not accurate, not even close.

    That's the official number but when one digs into it one finds it's very, very fudged.

    Sorry, not going to find the links now.

    Our family sends less than 25% of our waste stream to landfill. Official numbers can always be suspect, but what I see on the street are blue bins and green ones along with the black trash bins. Construction and demolition debris in San Francisco must be recycled; all apartment buildings and commercial properties now must offer compost and recycling bins. Food vendors must provide bins for customers to recycle and compost. Since I don't collect all the trash, compost, and recycling in San Francisco personally, I don't know what the true numbers are, but I would say the change over the past five years has been remarkable.

    Don't be too impressed. All that compostable waste is getting hauled about 100 miles in tractor-trailers (not in your backyard anymore!) And the vast majority of all the paper and plastic you recycle is getting shipped off to China anyway, where God knows what happens to it. OK, rather than just repeat what I've already said here and elsewhere, I'm going to go ahead and "shamelessly promote" more of my own analysis in this particular area, since it happens to be my "special area of interest":


    And studies comparing the environmental benefits of composting versus combustion for mixed food and paper waste, the kind of material collected in SF's mandatory program, have shown combustion has higher benefits anyway. As in, lower energy consumption footprint, lower GHG emissions, lower water releases, lower natural resource consumption (primarily coal), and yes, lower emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds, as large-scale composting facilities can in fact become anaerobic like landfills. Not to mention less potential for odors and vectors.

    So there is really not much to be said for reporting high percentages anyway, and goals for diversion rates make exceptionally poor benchmarks for the overall environmental performance of a solid waste management program. So what should we do instead?


    Wasted Energy,

    You neglected to read my previous post and your information is inaccurate. If this is truly your profession, it would be best to become more informed on the matter.

    As I stated above, the compost in San Francisco is hauled fifty miles away and would have to be hauled an equal distance if were to be incinerated as no local community is going to allow an incinerating plant in its vicinity. In addition, we are running out of local landfill space, so even if it were to go to landfill, it is going to take a trip. Where it is hauled is moot in terms of its energy footprint.

    Coal generates only three percent of electricity in northern California, and that number is decreasing each year. We are not burning coal to process compost.

    I don't believe your "studies" take in to account that compost takes the place of chemical fertilizers. Given that nitrogen fertilizer requires a great deal of energy to produce and that potassium may soon be in short supply, it doesn't make sense to burn nutrients that can be very effectively be used to prevent widespread food shortages.

    As to recycling, since most of it is indeed hauled to China, it makes sense to continue to reduce packaging, use compostable packaging, and eventually wean ourselves off of most of our use of plastics today. After all, with peak oil, we will have to begin to use oil-based plastics for only the most important things. Since buying a bunch of plastic junk wrapped in swathes of plastic packaging will not be an option, creating energy generation systems that rely on our continued over-consumption of cheap plastic does not seem wise to me.

    Re: the studies, yes, they do account for compost substituting for chem fertilizers, just like they account for displaced utility emissions using the marginal utility fuel (combination of coal and gas, basically) for the offset calculation, even though more appropriately it should just be coal, since very few places use gas for base loading power (other than California) as it's not very cost-effective. But yes, it does account for offsets to the manufacture and use of fertilizers, and the numbers just don't crunch like they do for combustion.

    Re: the 3% figure, I don't know how accurate or up to date this chart is, but: http://lomaprieta.sierraclub.org/global_warming/charts/Chart_CA_Energy_S...

    It looks like there actually is some marginal coal being used that could be displaced. In any event, base loading marginal energy sources would be displaced, whether that means gas CA also imports a lot of its power from other states that DO burn a fair amount of coal, like Nevada. The resistance to combustion and other practical solutions, and NIMBY effect of importing your power from other states while heavily promoting cost-ineffective and un-scalable solutions like solar power, of course helps reinforce the trend of Californians paying the highest power bills in the nation...

    It is also very difficult to market compost and mulch products made from source-separated organics from solid waste, and unreasonable to expect every municipality to handle its waste this way. As I mentioned elsewhere, SF has the good fortune of being located in proximity to vineyards that can use some of the organics, as well as a port they can use to ship the recovered materials to China and elsewhere. And your city still sends over a million tons of its trash per year up in your landfill in Altamont! It would be physically impossible to site a landfill within the city limits; the only obstacle to building a combustion facility is ignorance.

    no local community is going to allow an incinerating plant in its vicinity

    Yeah, pretty much all that really needs to be said, I suppose.

    "In 2000, the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, used the MSW-DST to evaluate processing options for 21,300 tons of
    unrecovered paper and food waste that were currently being disposed.26 The City‘s goal in the evaluation was
    to compare the composting of these wastes to other management options – including WTE and landfill


    The three alternatives that were evaluated by the City using the MSW-DST were:

     Composting – In this option, unrecovered paper and food waste would be processed in a windrowtype
    composting facility. The resulting compost is then sold as a soil amendment.
     Waste-to-Energy – In this option, the unrecovered paper and food waste would be processed in a
    ―mass-burn‖ WTE facility to generate electricity, thereby, displacing coal. Metals are recovered from
    the ash with the remainder of the ash being disposed in a landfill.
     Landfill Disposal – This option represented the status quo option for the City – namely, disposal of
    these wastes in a Subtitle D landfill.

    The outputs of the MSW-DST model analysis of the St. Paul alternatives evaluation are presented in Table B-1
    and summarized below:

     Climate Change – The WTE option would reduce greenhouse gas equivalents by over 243 pounds
    per ton of waste managed while the composting option would increase them by over 35 pounds per
     Acidification – The WTE option would result in significantly lower emissions of sulfur oxides and
    slightly higher emissions of hydrochloric acid as compared to the composting option.
     Smog – The WTE option would result in net reductions of nitrogen oxides and particulates while
    composting would increase the emission of these pollutants.
     Natural Resource Conservation – The WTE option would conserve about 350 pounds of coal per
    ton of waste processed while the composting option would require the use of an additional 87 pounds
    of coal per ton of waste processed.
     Water Pollution – The WTE option was projected to be significantly lower for every type of water
    pollutant investigated. Compared to composting, it would result in significantly lower levels of
    phosphates, solids, organic compounds, acids, and metals being discharged in water effluents."

    Here, we are required to sort our garbage. Paper, glass, plastic, newspaper, etc. However, it all goes into the same landfill.

    So why sort? In case they ever do start recycling, they want people to be in the habit.

    Of course, it's instead encouraging people to ignore the recycling requirement, since we know it's all going into the same landfill. Especially in apartments, where there isn't a lot of space for multiple bins in the units, and once you throw out your garbage, it's hard to say who threw it there.

    Take away all the oil and the plastic and most all of the waste surely WILL go away.

    What people eat can degrade naturally after it passes through the body.
    Natural fibers also.
    Leaves used to wrap fishes or buns.

    All will degrade naturally.

    Metals can be reused/recycled.

    Len: Try using the word, "block" in front of the "quote" part. That will place the text in a box, if that is what you wanted to do. Oh, and use it between the / and the "quote" at the end.


    Right, but you will also need to use chevrons "< >" instead of brackets "[ ]".

    Len try copy and paste from the

    •Allowed HTML tags:

    line below the comment input box.

    Test what you have written by using the preview button, hit save only when you are happy with how it looks.

    I do that all the time, guys. But I normally reserve the practice only for quoting words taken from this site's articles or posters. For externally sourced material, I prefer quotations, or [QUOTE] [/QUOTE] if the block contains quotations already, to serve the purpose.


    Thanks for taking up this issue.

    It's not the endall solution, but it's foolish not to. The WTE plant I've toured, in addition to providing a sizeable cash flow after extracting their own operation energy, removed both recyclable and compostable materials from the trash flow, scrubbed their air stack, and recovered metal, all at a final cost less than land fills. And a huge plus, the prior landfills were a nightmare polluting an otherwise nearly spotless aquifer. This WTE plant was nearing 15 yrs of age, and paid off.

    Doug, thanks for the support! I agree with you, I have been working providing training and educational programs for solid waste professionals for almost two years now, and from what I have seen, the record of performance of these plants from the past couple of decades speaks for itself. Very consistent, clean, generally low-profile operation, expensive initially but fully capable of paying off capital debt. The environmental, safety, and overall performance record of landfilling (as well as recycling) tends to be much spottier in this country.

    In general, once the facilities are built, they win the support of the local public and typically cause very, very few problems - it is getting to that point that is the challenge!

    wood and paper give a higher EROI than other renewables and should be used as the energy source.

    Huh. Here I was thinking it makes a good base material for growing fungus.

    Like Oyster mushrooms. Or the fungus earthworms eat that become vermipost.

    I'd rather see the 'waste' become food rather than heat.

    I live in Washington, DC. I'm pretty sure there is more demand for heat and power here than for fungus. But in any case, "compostable" and "biogenic" don't mean the same thing either. There are plenty of products labeled as "compostable" or "biodegradable" that do not actually break down in a timely fashion in a compost pile or landfill. Wax-coated paper, corrugate, treated (and sometimes non-treated) lumber, grease-soiled packaging, toothbrushes/dental floss, condoms...these are all examples of materials that are not compostable and not particularly cost- or energy-effective to recycle either, and in some cases, like toothbrushes and condoms, we should not even try to recycle them as it would be too dangerous. These are not trivial examples; there are plenty of things all of us use every day that simply cannot be recycled effectively because they contain too many different types of materials, are not clean enough to recycle, or a host of other reasons. It makes no sense to talk about trying to get to 100%, and it is important to remember even if 100% is not your goal that achieving very high recycling rates is very expensive, and the benefits in many cases are marginal.

    And yes, design parameters will surely change, and have changed, to include more recycled materials, but empirically disposal rates have continued to rise, and in fact, much of the time manufacturing products from recycled materials does not actually save energy compared to using virgin materials. As to whether or not the logic behind combustion accounts for peak oil...I'm not so sure we'll see a decline in tonnage anytime soon, and remember population is still growing too. We won't stop consuming non-recyclable products anytime soon and will always need end-of-life solutions, and combustion, even at small scales (like 100-200 tons per day) offers considerable environmental benefits over landfilling, the only viable alternative. And even if you think a new incinerator will only be useful for 15 years, those are 15 years that it is providing a pretty good wedge against the effects of peak coal, no? There are other unsustainable energy sources we must replace besides just oil.

    You have to get energy from somewhere...to put things in an Aristotelian framewor, let us say it is fallacious to put earth, wind and water above fire, when fire is the element that energizes all the others. They all must be equal or everything breaks down - even that fungus needs heat to break down the biomass. Make sense?

    I live in Washington, DC.

    The place that exists because it can take in valuable material from elsewhere, use it, then make "waste".

    I'm not sure everyone else wants to be a detritusovore or act like many ticks.

    I'm pretty sure there is more demand for heat and power here than for fungus.

    Then consider using the sun. You don't have to take to bring the sun's photons to you, unlike trash.

    If given a choice of conversion of complex undigestible sugars that caught photons in the past into food or staying warm with simply capturing the photons of the now - solar makes more sense then spending money to burn waste.

    But in any case, "compostable" .. that do not actually break down in a timely fashion in a compost pile or landfill. Wax-coated paper, corrugate, treated (and sometimes non-treated) lumber, grease-soiled packaging,

    Helpful hint: Wax boxes exist *BECAUSE* the wax takes longer to breakdown than plain old paper. Same with treated lumber. So to pick 2 things that are selected because they don't break down then say 'they don't break down' is ......

    And depending on the treatment material to preventing breakdown you should not be burning it because the toxic material used to prevent breakdown will then be released in the smoke/left in the ash.

    Most compost piles are not aerobic and that keeps the breakdown from happening. They will breakdown faster in an aerobic system.

    even that fungus needs heat to break down the biomass

    And so do we. Most organic systems need heat to work. The dark cold of space isn't gonna do anyone reading this any good.
    Got proof fungi is endothermic?

    Careful...you are repeating a common fallacy that a large quantity of solar energy equals a large quantity of AVAILABLE solar energy.

    Solar energy is what created EVERY item you are looking to 'burn' from the waste stream.

    Not to mention any model based on trash flow should become broken over time as the economy goes to hell.

    Solar based heat/energy collection is not as dependent on the rest of the economy to function.

    There's more than one way to collect solar energy. Some just happen to be a lot more cost-effective than others...for instance wind moving turbines and burning trash or trees, versus solar panels...

    Some just happen to be a lot more cost-effective than others...for instance wind moving turbines and burning trash or trees, versus solar panels...

    Ok - prove your claim that moving about dead trees then burning them is more cost effective than passive solar or solar hot water via evacuated glass tube panels.

    Why would you compare sources of energy that are not comparable? But OK, here you go: a mass burn trash combustion facility can pay for itself within 10 years. A PV system cannot, at least not without subsidies. Good enough?

    Why would you compare sources of energy that are not comparable?

    Here I thought the end goal was to have heat and energy. Are you changing the parameters?

    Good enough?

    Considering you did not answer my question - no. You might wanna up your game if you want to play on TOD.

    Solar hot water has a typical payback of under 5 years.

    Better than your 10.

    What I appreciate about WastedEnergy is that he/she is not 'playing on TOD', but is instead offering coherent arguments based on verifiable evidence. I greatly appreciate the learning experience.

    And did I miss something, or did you not just jump from PV to solar water heating? I guess that's what you mean by playing.

    No, I was thinking of passive solar and active hot water heat 1st and formost.

    PV is a hard case to make - not so with passive solar (and the insulation needed for that) and using solar to heat your water.

    Eric, the difference between passive solar and WTE is about half the difference between PV and oil. In other words, it's not about the total amount of energy, it's about the density and quality. The reason WTE or other biomass energy, especially CHP, are not comparable to passive solar or solar heating is that the concentration or quality of the energy is much higher. If you want apples to apples, compare electricity generated by PV to electricity generated by a WTE plant that condenses its steam. One of the principle advantages of WTE, cited in the NY Times piece, is of course the very cost effective heating such a plant can, and in the case of N. Europe, does provide.

    about the density and quality.

    If you want a warm shower and a warm home, does the 'density' and 'quality' matter? It strikes me that miles of wire, many leagues of transport of the fuel then many leagues of transport of the ash not to mention the need to maintain a pressure system to spin a turbine is a whole lot of unneeded expense just so a subjective measure of "density" and "quality" can be stated.

    If you want to go that route - what is the eMergy value of the different systems then?

    The reason WTE or other biomass energy, especially CHP, are not comparable to passive solar or solar heating is that the concentration or quality of the energy is much higher.

    How many acres of plants need to collect solar energy for how long to get this 'value' you speak of? What is the tax paid to have that land creating the waste stream? What is the cost of all the machines/processes to get the waste stream to market? Can you take the ash from the waste burning and return it to the land so that a new crop can be grown?

    The base unit is the photon. Without the photon your waste stream doesn't exist. What's the value of 'old photonic energy'?

    If you want apples to apples, compare electricity generated by PV to electricity generated by a WTE plant that condenses its steam.

    How is that 'apples to apples'? What both processes have in common is the photon. How many photons gathered over how much area using how many complex tools results in an expression of watts - that is an equal starting point.

    Passive solar and active hot water systems do a fine job of getting to the end point of a warm home with hot water.

    And on a photon to electrical watt basis - hard to beat the PV panel.

    For taking a shower, no, the quality of energy probably does not matter. But for, say, building a wind turbine, or for generating electricity, it probably does; and more to the point, as I mentioned earlier, it costs you a lot less per BTU in northern latitudes to get your heat from biomass or trash than from concentrating the power of the sun directly. To the point about eMergy, I don't have the figures readily available, although I would be interested to see the embodied energy consumption of solar heating and PV panels as well. Again, it does not do much good to simply point out that "there are externalities" - can we quantify them?

    And reducing the discussion to a "power out per photon" basis is rather distracting from the far more immediately relevant questions of "power out per dollar" or "power out per power in"...

    Eric did initially propose Passive Solar and Solar Heating for comparison. Wasted Energy moved the idea over to PV, which generally has a steeper climb on economic grounds. Direct Solar Heating can often have a very fast payback (<10yrs), whether energy or dollars, and if you're looking at a simple ROI proposition, it's very important to remember that Trash Burning has externalities that they don't currently have to pay for, either, further skewing the comparison.

    I am trying to appreciate Wasted Energy's contributions, but the direction of these arguments are making it tough to do so. I know people are all here to basically try to address our energy problems, and that we really have to be flexible and forgiving.. there are a lot of viewpoints, a lot of different situations that will necessarily play out differently.

    I know people are all here to basically try to address our energy problems,

    Using technology to gather photons do not have the externalities of moving, storing, processing the photons. And once you spend the money on the gathering tech, you are far less reliant on some part of the system external to your little part of the world failing.

    A "trash" system FOR ENERGY is a doomed plan as the end users see payback of their own via lowering consumption, via waste diversion of metals or things they can burn themselves not to mention the transport of the material to/from the burning site.

    Now, burning certain classifications of waste happen to be the best thing you can hope to do with it. The problem is this waste gets mixed in with things that will become a low level background toxin after going up the smokestack.

    (Oh and some of the stuff that is nasty to burn or is normally only able to be broken down by policy by burning can be broken down via fungi. VX nerve gas is an example. Same with "waste"oil.)

    Jokuhl, I posted my explanation for why I moved the discussion over to PV directly above you. Solar heating is useful too, of course, but in economic terms competes with thermal energy from a WTE plant, which is about as cost-effective as you can get. And you'd have a greater overall impact by installing a WTE-based CHP/district heating system than you can get spending the same amount of $$$ installing heating panels. You can also supplement district heating with solar heat where it is necessary or cost-effective, so I am not sure it is especially helpful to point out where they compete. I will say that in northern latitudes, which also includes the countries with the greatest energy footprint such as those of Northern Europe and the U.S. and Canada, thermal energy from trash or from biomass tends to be much more cost-effective than direct solar energy utilization. Ultimately, most of that trash energy is a component of the same solar flow; it is just more cost effective to let nature and society concentrate the energy into trash first.

    And regarding the externalities of trash power versus solar power: solar has externalities too, such as the requirement to mine materials and energy to manufacture and install panels, as well as land use impacts in some cases. What externalities are you referring to in the case of WTE? No source of energy is completely benign, of course, so simply saying that externalities exist does not really move the discussion forward. I think one of the problems in the energy discussion in general is that at the same time there is a lack of harmonization in terms of the understanding of basics, there is also a lot of effort made to make issues seem more complicated than they really are. What we do with our trash really is one of those issues - there is no massive conspiracy to undermine recycling efforts, just multiple interpretations of what a "higher and better use" of materials really means.

    I will say that those claiming WTE is a dirty and polluting energy source need to have data to back up such a claim.

    Additionally, Eric's post directly above me is also incorrect about burning only a component of the waste stream. It makes sense to remove non-combustible materials like glass or intrinsic pollutants like heavy metals (e.g. mercury thermometers) as special waste or recyclables prior to the trash being collected. It does not make economic or safety sense to separate out different fractions of the post-collected "mixed" waste stream, and the preferred method of deriving energy from waste today is in fact the "mass burn" plant, which combusts "as-received MSW," as opposed to separated refuse-derived fuel or processed derivatives. These plants are also designed to combust materials such as those you identify: organic toxins and problematics such as pharmaceuticals (or "VX nerve gas"), waste oils, etc. Energy can be and in fact is safely recovered from these types of materials today.

    Here are a few questions I pose to those who think they know how to design a better solid waste management system, but who lack hands on experience, and who think that there are better uses for trash than burning it for energy: if you think it is easy and cost-effective to separate out the different recyclable, combustible, and toxic components of solid waste, why do you suppose this practice is not the norm? Why do you think we still bury so much of our trash, putting it to absolutely no use at all? And what kind of system would you design to recover these materials? Grinders and shredders? Tried, failed at scale, and in some cases even exploded. Trommels and screens get clogged quickly. Hand sorting? That idea falls apart pretty quickly as soon as you have your first worker cut with a piece of broken glass or pricked by a used biomedical sharp...

    biomass tends to be much more cost-effective than direct solar energy utilization.

    Really. I believe you've asked for "data to back up such a claim."
    Lets see you now deliver the data to back your claim.

    solar has externalities too, such as the requirement to mine materials and energy to manufacture and install panels, as well as land use impacts in some cases.

    And the waste streams somehow don't have similar issues back when the stuff wasn't "waste"?

    I will say that those claiming WTE is a dirty and polluting energy source need to have data to back up such a claim.

    After only a couple of minutes:

    Dude...I said DATA...that means PERFORMANCE DATA FROM OPERATING PLANTS. And preferably from the past 15 years. Not rants from enviro-crazies.

    And as for data to back up my claim, why don't we go back to the original NY Times article:

    The plant, owned by five adjacent communities, has even proved popular in a conservative region with Denmark’s highest per-capita income. Morten Slotved, 40, Horsholm’s mayor, is trying to expand it. “Constituents like it because it decreases heating costs and raises home values,” he said with a smile. “I’d like another furnace.”

    These are the days I feel very much like a broken record.

    I have lived near incinerators in my life.
    Yuck. A bad smell and dangerous.


    Let`s pray for an end to plastic and other trash.

    Let`s hope people will come to their senses and stop packaging everything so extensively.

    Plastic releases harmful chemicals into your food. These chemicals cause cancer.

    Incinerators need stinky trucks to bring them garbage.

    The whole cycle is rotten to the core!

    Producion of plastic---shippping it---using it---throwing it out----burning it. UGH!!

    Does anyone like anything they have that is made of plastic? No, I think not---people tolerate plastic because it is so convenient.

    Secretly everyone hates it and is waiting for it to disappear from the economy naturally.

    Which it surely will!!!

    I agree with magyar and ugo. We have to move to having everything that was seen as waste be either recyclable or compostable, and then recycle and compost everything.

    Burning is an example of the one way thinking that got us into the predicament we're in rather than cyclical thinking that we need to move toward. Major environmental groups like Sierra Club, after long study, have come out strongly against incineration.

    There is no "away" we can throw things to, neither the incinerator nor the dump. Everything always is with us.

    Of course, many people salivate over the possibility of using trash as fuel since there is a lot of money in it. These people will continue to promote it no matter what arguments are presented to them.

    Not everything is recyclable or compostable! And not everything can be designed in that way, either. I'm not sure who you think is salivating over making trash into a fuel either or making scads of money off it. Can you provide examples? Can you explain how WTE is different from using other biomass for energy, except that unlike regular biomass the fuel for WTE plants has already been harvested, used, and is at the end of its useful lifecycle?

    And if you think there is no such place as "away," where do you think your recyclables go?

    Again, if you want to make the point that combustion competes with recycling, you must somehow come to terms with the fact that the highest rates of recycling are found in those communities that utilize combustion. The two are in no way exclusive.

    It's really a shame to see what should be our #1 go-to renewable energy source disparaged by those who, of all people, really should be better informed on the issue. You may be entitled to your own opinions of combustion but that does not mean you are entitled to your own facts!

    Cogent and informing posts. Thank-you.

    What about plasma arc waste disposal? What's happening on this front?

    Thank you! Appreciate the feedback. As for plasma arc, my understanding is that there are 4 plants currently operating using this technology in Japan as well as the 90 ton-per-day Plasco facility in Ottawa. I have not been following the discussion here that closely of late, but again as I understand it, data are lacking for the Japanese facilities but at least one has not managed to produce more energy than it consumes. Plasco has been marketing its process very heavily, but to a large extent I think this has served to distract from the poor overall performance of the facility - in talking with the gentleman who serves as more or less the WTE industry lobby in Canada, he said that Plasco was very close to having its permit revoked for compliance issues. This was the last I had heard about them, and was back in September 2009.

    In theory, plasma gasification, like other gasification processes, could produce a higher quality gaseous fuel than raw MSW that could be burned in combined cycle plants for greater efficiency; however, difficulties in implementation have arisen (and this is true of historical gasification plants in the 1970's and 80's as well) largely due to the heterogeneous, unpredictable nature of solid waste, which impedes the ability to maintain a steady gasification reaction. With plasma gasification there seem to be issues with high parasitic loading as well. In general, one of the main reasons gasification and other non-combustion WTE processes have been marketed so heavily is that they avoid the PR baggage associated with "incinerators," but the flip side is that they also do not work as well!

    WE, I do not trust Plasco either. Their front man, Rod Bryden, was run out of town from his last job as manager of the Ottawa Senators NHL Team. His business strategy can be summed up as "complain until the government gives you more money".
    Plasco got a contract from the city of Red Deer, Alberta, to a do a plant there, in Oct 08. A year and a half later and they say they are "close" to getting project financing in place!

    Their technology is very complicated and expensive for doing WTE - looks to me like the equivalent of using a high tech, titanium sledgehammer with kevlar handle, to crack a walnut.

    And, from what you say, sounds like it is not even working that well...

    Since you are not such a fan of gasification, what is your process?

    Hi Paul - Not having an engineering background myself, I have to go with what those who do in my field prefer: mass burn combustion of as-received waste out of the back of a packer truck, generally on moving grates to improve the mixing of fuel and air. Separating out combustible components into "refuse derived fuel" which can be burned in a wider variety of different furnaces also works, although is not as preferred, but may be more economical than mass burn for smaller facilities, e.g. 400 tons per day rather than 2000 or 3000. I wouldn't recommend trying to build a 3,000 TPD RDF-fired fluidized bed reactor, though; at that point, it is best to take advantage of the economy of scale that emerges when you burn more trash. A 3000 TPD facility costs more than a 400 TPD plant but can also pay for itself a lot more quickly.

    Your assessment of plasma is pretty much on point, as the idea is to basically add a lot of fancy and rather expensive bells and whistles which sound exciting, but which don't do much do address longstanding problems with more basic elements of the technology. I think a useful comparison is a mass burn facility is very much like a conventional coal power plant, albeit one with a lot of air pollution control systems, whereas plasma and other gasification processes are more similar to coal gasification/liquefaction processes or IGCC. In other words, it's "potentially promising," and likely to remain so for a good long time!

    Please, let's stick to facts. Rod Bryden has a long history of business startups. If we have to abide capitalists, he represents the best sort. He was not manager of the Ottawa Senators, he headed a group that kept the franchise alive during a difficult period and was generally referred to as the club's owner. His pockets weren't deep enough and the ownership of the club passed to a guy who made his money speculating in big pharma. Bryden remains well-liked in Ottawa, which is where I live.

    Toil, I stand corrected, he was indeed head of the ownership group. He defaulted on $100m of debt, paying out $600k, in a deal to avoid personal bankruptcy. The Corel centre was basically a failed real estate play, financed by a company involved with Enron, and the whole house of cards collapsed. As I recall, at one point Bryden was appealing to the City to pitch in, saying he would otherwise take his team and leave.

    He has succeeded in leveraging quite a bit of Fed and Provincial govt money for Plasco, and I do, truly hope they are successful, as it is our tax dollars. So far, all they have is their 85tpd demonstration facility, and a 5tpd research one in Spain. They have an agreement with the City of Ottowa from 2008 to build a 400tpd plant, and that has not yet happened, neither has the Red Deer Plant, which agreement was set in Oct 08. And yet, Bryden and co are off in China and Poland trying to sell the technology. China may well buy, as they will buy anything, once, and then reverse engineer it so they can make it themselves, cheaper. I will give Plasco credit for getting SNC-Lavalin involved, as that is a company that knows how to do these projects, and that is the only really encouraging news I have seen about Plasco.

    The whole story of this tech darling company is eerily similar to Ballard Fuel Cells, the company has a lot of staff devoted to "marketing", you get lots of announcements about funding, share placements, letters of intent, "potential" projects and the like. But the fact remains, for well over $120 million of investment, and supposedly 25yrs of development, they have not yet progressed past the demonstration plant.

    Perhaps I am being harsh on Bryden, if he is well liked and well reputed there, then good for him. I am really more concerned about the company, I have bee keeping an eye on theme for several years and they seem to be following the route of so many tech companies that end up being a money pit for investors and government alike. The SNC involvement is good news I can hang my hat on - I truly wish them success. I think their system is tech heavy and complex, but am happy to be proven wrong by real world success.

    When I was a kid growing up on a small farm in the '50's, we didn't even know the meaning of the word garbage. We had no waste pickup, period. Once or twice a year we would haul a small cartload of materials which were absolutely impossible to re-use (if I recall, actually a significant proportion was broken glass / pottery and metals, since we had no alternate way of using or recycling them and once a nail or bolt has rusted to 1/2 its diameter it isn't strong enough to re-drive / re-install) away to a small private landfill site, otherwise nothing was thrown away. It helped that no food staple except flour and sugar was purchased, products were sold into the customers containers in small grocery stores, not huge supermarkets, etc. etc.

    Lengould, what you described does sound like a much more sustainable system than what we have now - unfortunately, it is also a far cry from what would be considered feasible for most people accustomed to living a high-consumption lifestyle today! In the end, of course, we may end up transitioning to something that looks more like what you described, but it will take time at least. In the meantime, we do need to do the best we can with the waste stream we have, and it makes little sense to blame the municipal disposal agency, since, as the one up in Durham, Ontario so aptly put it "It's your trash - what do you want US to do with it?!?!"

    I think that if most people lived in a way that resembled what you described, we'd have a lot less of not just trash, but also of many of modernity's accompanying environmental problems and maybe even less social malaise! Of course we are a long way off, but unsustainable consumption and disposal patterns are nothing new either, especially for cities (correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the #1 export from the Roman Empire during its final days...#2?)

    "Not everything is recyclable or compostable! And not everything can be designed in that way, either."

    You claim this, but you have not proved it. Even if you did, it is a classic case of false choice. The vast majority of what is now treated as waste could in fact be made compostable or recyclable and that is the main place we should put our energy.

    If there is, as you claim somethings that will never be recylcable or compostable, we should first ask if it is absolutely necessary. After further reducing what is no essential we may or may be left with a tiny amount of non-recyclables/non-compostables, but probably not enough to get a significant amount of power from it.

    Your other points are too hysteric or bizarre to be honored with a response.

    LOL, ok then show me a recyclable condom or compostable toothbrush please?


    one snippet from the above..

    Small as they are, tossed toothbrushes certainly do create a lot of waste. Indeed, some 50 million pounds of them are tossed into America’s landfills each year. If we followed our dentist’s recommendations and replaced our toothbrushes every three months, we'd be throwing even more of them away.

    Fortunately there are some greener-friendly alternatives, most available at natural food retailers or, if not, online at the companies’ websites.

    Toothbrush Recycling
    The handle of a Recycline Preserve toothbrush, designed by dentists, is made out of polypropylene plastic that has been recycled from used Stonyfield Yogurt cups. And when a Preserve toothbrush reaches the end of its effective life, consumers can either put it out on the curb in the blue bin with other recyclables (if your community offers #5 plastics recycling), or send it back to Recycline in a postage-paid envelope supplied to you with your purchase. It will then likely be reborn again as raw material for a picnic table, deck, boardwalk or other durable long-lasting product.

    There are a ton of waste reductions to fit into our system that are just starting to be looked at, most significantly the death of the 'disposable' model for most things. Paper Towels to Swiffers are simply artifacts of an energy-glutted society.

    I do look forward to a time when we can take old brooms,.irreparable chairs, and tax forms.. and set them alight without concern over the glues, dyes and paints that are with them.. but we have a lot to clean up before I'll buy into a renewed incinerator scheme.

    You're still going to throw away that toothbrush when you're done with it, that's my point. Nobody is going to try and recycle it (or at least I certainly hope not), so do you prefer to have it burned, and get something useful out of that leftover oil and gas? Or just bury it? It should be clear that these are the two options we have. If there were something better, I assure you someone in the solid waste sector would have come up with it by now, and I would know about it.

    And I hate to say it, but Swiffers actually do get the job done quite a bit better than mops...they are hardly "relics." And since I don't have a dishwasher, my sponges do turn into solid waste, which is probably considerably less wasteful than energy and water waste.

    sheepskin condom

    toothbrush with wooden handle and boar bristles

    Basically there needs to be fewer people to stay within the carrying capacity of Earth.

    So, that person who'se reacting negatively to "recycled" toothbrushes. What's their opionion of recycling glassware and cutlery in restaurants?

    So, should we outlaw takeout containers?

    Incinerator smoke goes into the air and water. To be digested by living creatures who get cancer.
    Recyclables go back into the material stream to be used again as cans, shovels, etc.

    The two are totally different!!!

    Incinerators release pollution which poisons the water.....
    Just let the stupid global economy collapse....
    Let all the packaged merchandise--so much of it unnecessary-- disappear....
    All the long-distance food go away...
    All the trucks and cars stop running......

    And eventually the water will be pure and sweet again like it was back in 1492!

    I am in my 40s so I actually may live to see some of this happen.


    pi, not to discount your experience, but I think your perception of WTE may be a little outdated.

    NY Times posted another piece today, by the way, on the Green Inc. blog:


    Not just the cleanest of clean energy, but these days, quite nice looking buildings too!

    Banking on oil CNBC Video

    Clayton Williams, CEO of Clayton Williams Energy, tells CNBC why he's banking on oil.

    From the Video:

    In the old Permian basin (Texas) where once you would have 10 foot of pay, now we will drill over 4,000 feet and frac 10 (feet?) of very sorry sands to get one decent well so it’s taking more money to find less oil.

    Question: So what's the price of oil that makes it worth your while to drill.

    Answer: At $70 to $80 I think we can be very active and produce a lot of oil.

    Question: And when it falls below $60 a barrel.

    Answer: I'm shut down.

    Ron P.

    I like the way Mr. Williams doesn't beat around the bush regarding $60 oil - another instance of the cheerleaders at CNBC trying lead a guest into some zone where there's wiggle room on the price because they know that it's pretty much make or break for the all important "consumer" at somewhere around this price. But the response is great - leaving no doubt in the viewer's mind and no ability for modifying it with some weasel words: "I'm Shut Down".

    I went to that presentation by Kunstler last night in Albany and I was impressed by his similar use of this tactic in making his argument. No long winded let's look at every possible factor that might effect the minutia of the topic - instead he took a rather dismissive tone to counter arguments - glossing over them at best - at least for the big picture. Suburbia, real estate as it now exists, the car culture, the Wal-Mart model for commerce - they are all DEAD in the water and are NEVER coming back he repeatedly pointed out - and I very much realized that the confidence and attitude of the presenter goes a long way toward driving these points home. He also did this in a much less "doom and gloom" manner than I was anticipating (having never heard him present before). It was refreshing to hear the conviction rather than having to listen to the obligatory "other side of the story" as presented by the MSM whenever a controversial topic is covered. My main point is that you're never going to argue with these clowns on CNBC by presenting the abstract to a scientific paper - you'll only shut them up when you keep it short and simple - "I'm Shut Down..."

    Krugman on what's the matter with Georgia? I've wondered that myself; they are among the hardest hit by the mortgage crisis, but didn't have bubble that California or Las Vegas did.

    So what’s the matter with Georgia? As I said, banks went wild, in a scene strongly reminiscent of the savings-and-loan excesses of the 1980s. High-flying bank executives aggressively expanded lending — and paid themselves lavishly — while relying heavily on “hot money” raised from outside investors rather than on their own depositors.

    It was fun while it lasted. Then the music stopped.

    Why didn’t the same thing happen in Texas? The most likely answer, surprisingly, is that Texas had strong consumer-protection regulation. In particular, Texas law made it difficult for homeowners to treat their homes as piggybanks, extracting cash by increasing the size of their mortgages. Georgia lacked any similar protections (and the Bush administration blocked the state’s efforts to restrict subprime lending directly). And Georgia suffered from the difference.

    He also notes that the problem wasn't banks that were "too big too fail," it was a lot of small banks.

    And for all the concern about banks that are too big to fail, Georgia suffered, if anything, from a proliferation of small banks. Actually, the worst offenders in the lending spree tended to be relatively small start-ups that attracted customers by playing to a specific community. Thus Georgian Bank, founded in 2001, catered to the state’s elite, some of whom were entertained on the C.E.O.’s yacht and private jet. Meanwhile, Integrity Bank, founded in 2000, played up its “faith based” business model — it was featured in a 2005 Time magazine article titled “Praying for Profits.” Both banks have now gone bust.

    He also has pointed to Canada where we have few banks, almost all too big to fail, which is why we regulate them tightly. In fact, one of our credit unions, Caisse Populaire Desjardins, based in Quebec, is also too big to fail and like all credit unions in this country is closely monitored by regulators.

    Paul Martin who was one of our recent short term Prime Ministers is not appreciated enough for his resistance to banking regulation changes in the late nineties when he was finance minister in the federal cabinet. Effectively, he saved the banks from themselves and all the deregulatory nonsense coming out of certain circles. It would probably be more correct to say that he saved Canadian taxpayers from the questionable entrepreneuralism of the banking bureaucrats.

    Second Mortgages Vex Borrowers

    After losing her condo in San Diego to foreclosure last year, Charissa Kolich thought that at least she was free of mortgage bills.

    But Wells Fargo & Co., which holds a home-equity loan made five years ago to Ms. Kolich, last month filed a lawsuit against her in the Superior Court of California, San Diego County, seeking to collect the nearly $72,000 it said she still owed on that second mortgage. "This was all kind of a shock," says Ms. Kolich, a food-service administrator recently diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

    inoperable brain cancer.

    I wouldn't even bother showing up in court. Take what liquid assests are quickly available and head out for one last vacation.

    Equity loans are not covered by the law that allows people to walk away from their loan in California. Also, if you refinance, that also is grounds for the mortgage holder to sue.

    It's better to show up. If she doesn't, she'll lose by default, and they can raid her bank accounts and garnishee her income.

    Given the circumstances, she's likely to get a favorable ruling.

    Foreclosure is strange law. Since I don't practice in CA, I cannot say what the circumstances there are for sure, but normally the first mortgage holder may foreclose and take whatever is needed from the forced sale to satisfy their note. If there is any money left over, the junior holders may line up. If it is not enough, the homeowner faces a deficiency judgment.

    Any junior mortgage holder must first pay off any and all prior liens in order to foreclose. That is why WFHM must have waited; there must not have been enough money to get their $72K on the realized proceeds from the foreclosure sale.

    Many times, the first holder will bid its loan and walk away with the property, free and clear of the second (and any subsequent) mortgage. Sometimes, according to certain urban legends, the officers of the foreclosing bank purchase the property for a song. The law is supposed to protect from this taking place, but who knows how successful that would be, especially since the banks own the courts and have the legal firepower to do what they will.

    I don't know of a law that allows people to 'walk away' from their loans. The lady lost her condo... if she wants to 'walk away' from the lon, she would next have to file for personal bankruptcy.


    Yes, I don't think she did much research on the topic. My understanding here in California is that she can walk away from the first with impunity if it is all purchase money but she would still be on the hook for the second. A quick phone consultation with, well, just about anyone would have informed her of that.

    There are many jurisdictions in which walking away from any part of the loan is not possible (without discharging it via bankruptcy) but California is one of the more "forgiving" places (depending on one's point of view).

    The lady lost her condo... if she wants to 'walk away' from the lon, she would next have to file for personal bankruptcy.

    It depends on where she lives, but in some states, notably California, mortgages are "nonrecourse loans," meaning you can walk away...as long as you haven't refinanced or taken out a second mortgage. The only recourse the lender has is to take back the house. They can't go after your other assets. (It will trash your credit, but as Mish pointed out, the amount of money you save means you may not need credit any more.)

    Some people were lining up a new mortgage while their credit was still good, then walking away from their old house. They were doing things like buying the identical house next door for half the price they had paid, and moving there.

    There's even a business based on this: http://www.youwalkaway.com/

    "Why didn’t the same thing happen in Texas?"

    Texas had their own RE and Commercial RE Bubble Bust back in 86 and it took till the beginning of this decade to fill all the empty space. That put a scare in folks that hasn't been overcome yet, Ask "WestTexas".

    When gasoline prices rose to over $4 per gallon in 2008, it really crushed some exurban areas that were already hard hit by the housing bust. The old saying "Drive to you qualify" doesn't really make sense if the transportation costs offset the lower house prices.

    Might make sense for exurb home owners to reevaluate the risks and rewards of a long commute, from time to time.


    That's difficult to believe. In Canada, gas is $4.00 + ($1.03 / litre) at the pumps now, commutes are just as long, car mix looks identical, average income is lower. 'Splain me that.

    Gasoline is remarkably cheap. Even at $4.00 gallon, it barely makes a dent into the budget of middle class people, who can easily cut back on other expenses like meaningless trinkets and vacations, etc.

    Gasoline is so cheap that hybrid vehicles don't even make sense right now. For a new Prius to pull even in cost with a Corolla over 100,000 miles, gas would have to average $6.59 a gallon!

    Here's the calculation:
    Corolla base price $15,450
    Prius base price $22,800 Difference: $7350

    Corolla gas use over 100,000 miles: 100,000/32 mpg = 3125 gallons
    Prius gas use over 100,000 miles: 100,000/50 mpg = 2000 gallons Difference: 1125 gallons

    $7350/1125 = $6.53 a gallon

    Even at $10 a gallon, a Prius would only save $3900 over 100,000 miles - significant but hardly remarkable.

    But yet, the price of gas can't go higher, unless the economy crashes further!

    We are living in strange times.

    The Prius is a nicer and larger car than a Corolla, though. And it emits a lifetime supply of effluvium "smug".

    If you're ever in a rationing mode, mileage will have double-value. But how long will that be?

    The Prius is not considerably larger or more powerful than a Corolla. It is probably somewhere between a Corolla and a Camry. It does compare favorably to a Camry, but my point is that it still makes so much more sense, from a cost point of view, to buy a smaller 4 cylinder ICE car than a hybrid.

    Sachs, I came to the same conclusion a couple of years back and chose the Corolla. I get very good mileage -- never less than 32 and I've clocked 45+ on interstate trips -- and it is a reasonably comfortable though admittedly less "jazzy" automobile. When you factor in the eventual cost of replacing the Prius' battery pack, it just doesn't make economic sense (a Corolla will easily go 150k - 200k miles, with regular maintenance).

    My contention is that the American middle class will never adopt hybrids in large numbers because they simply can't afford them. The progression will be American SUV > Korean > Chinese or Indian. A Tata Nano in every garage -- at least those that haven't been foreclosed upon!!!

    When you factor in the eventual cost of replacing the Prius' battery pack, it just doesn't make economic sense (a Corolla will easily go 150k - 200k miles, with regular maintenance).

    Toyota has warranteed the batteries for 150K miles, and indications are it will last considerably longer than that. Some others forms of wear (engine/transmission/brakes) should be lower because of part time electric mode. Its not just the purchase price, and cost of fuel that matters. But maintenence costs are hard to find good data for.

    Many of the taxis in Vancouver are Prius' (and all new ones are required to be hybrids). Some drivers have had them up over 300,000km (200,000 miles), and one the one battery. Mind you, they can put up 300,000km in 2-3yrs. They report that brake pads last 4-5x as long as normal, fuel consumption is about 1/3 of what they get driving a Corolla. Toyota takes back the old Prius when they trade in, so they can analyse it for for wear, battery condition, etc.

    Quite simply, if you do lots of (mainly city) driving, more than 40,000km (25,000mi) per year, it would be worth it. If you do mainly hwy driving, or less than 15,000 mi /year, probably not. I know one guy who has one and does less than 10,000km a year - a lot of technology sitting there that is not saving much fuel. He feels goods about owning it, but it would be of more benefit to the planet if it displaced a car that got driven lots.

    The average new-car price is about $28K. Plenty of people can and do still afford cars more expensive than a nicely equipped Prius.

    I can't figure out how the average joe -- what's the mean income for a family of four? $43k or something like that? -- has $28k to spend on a car that will be worth essentially zero within ten years. I have never been able to afford that, even when I was making considerably more $$$ than I am now. If Americans are continuing to spend that sort of money on cars, it is only because they can finance them. I have to wonder how long that will continue.

    I didn't say more powerful (they are about the same for gas - 134hp for the Prius vs 132 for the Corolla), and it is a considered a mid-size rather than a compact. But then even sub-compacts are much bigger than they used to be, so the size deltas are not that much.

    The Prius "feels" more substantial when driving, and the base model is fairly well appointed, while the Corolla as an entry-level vehicle comes with a more basic base trim.

    If I were more motivated I'd suss out the mileage delta and price difference details between a Camry and Camry hybrid for a better match, but I am pretty sure it still won't make fiscal sense to buy a hybrid below $4 to $5 gas. Cost delta is at most a couple of thousand, but mileage difference is about 6-7, IIRC.

    Really the key point is that if somebody is buying a new car, they have lots of fuel-cost-effective options, but the lowest-mileage vehicles are still selling just fine. The Prius' competition isn't the Corolla, but the Highlander and Sequoia....and F150s.

    And I can see why...my last 3 cars have been compacts or hybrids...and I still really miss my Suburban (except at the pumps).

    Really strange: I bought a new Isuzu '91 pickup in 1991 and I now have 86400 miles on it. I have four years left for it because I promised it to my grandson who is now 12.

    I think in four years I might just make my solar powered golf cart street legal. I have three grocery stores and a Walmart within three miles and at 10 mph using back streets, it is still only a few minutes to the furthest.

    Interesting question. Wonder how household budgets work out for the two countries at different income levels? Canadians have a higher total tax burden on average, but get a very different set of services in exchange. Eg, Canadians get very nice health care funded largely by taxes. Us USians get a military capable of obliterating any country on the face of the planet but pay $400-1000/month for health insurance in addition to the taxes.

    Actually, that's probably overthinking the problem. In the US, too many people moved to the exurbs and put themselves in the situation of spending every cent of income (ie, a zero savings rate) when gas was $2.50/gal. Gas jumped to $4/gal and they can't find the extra $100-200/month to cover it. Add that they can't move because they owe more on the mortgage than the market value of the house, and have no savings to make up the difference, and there's a problem.

    Charles Dickens: "Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 and six: result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds, nought and six: result misery."

    Just an interesting aside which I think should get some publicity. The Fatwah is signed by 16 Canadian Imams, 2 Alimah sisters. I like it here.

    [QUOTE]CALGARY – Top Imams affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada have issued a fatwa calling those terrorists who attack the United States and Canada “evil.”

    The Fatwa is the most important condemnation of terrorists who try to hurt people living in Canada. Extremists have been told that any attack on the U.S. or on Canada will be construed as an attack on 10 million Muslims who live in these two countries.


    One of the clerics, Prof. Syed, walked across Canada calling for a stop to violence.[/QUOTE]

    Top Muslim clerics issue Fatwa denouncing terror attacks on Canada and U.S

    This is an older story. http://bnaibrith.ca/prdisplay.php?id=1609

    Apparently Imam Syed B. Soharwardy has made some rather anti-semitic and anti-christian remarks in the past.

    What an unfortunate response, FL. He makes a very positive prohibition against violence, coming from a respected Islamic cleric. What's to be gained by taking a dig at him in this context?

    Your link says that some such comments were posted AT his website.. apparently in the wake of a VERY heated situation.

    “Syed Soharwardy is the imam whose complaint dragged Ezra Levant through the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing the Danish Mohammad cartoons in the Western Standard. We were disgusted when we read some of the virulent antisemitic and anti-Western ravings that were posted to his organization’s website – some trivialized the Holocaust, others prophesized the extinction of the Christian faith, and still others went so far as to speak of a ‘slaughter’ and ‘annihilation’ of Jews.

    I don't know how he handles extreme posts in fraught situations, but the publication of those cartoons would certainly have brought the very worst out of the woodwork. Was he just being tarred here for not chastising these comments enough to suit everyone? It seems like a very gray area..

    He has also spoken out against the oppression of the Palestinians. Do you think this might have won him some of that opprobrium from B'nai Brith?

    The article also tosses in this..

    “The fact that this fatwa limits itself to terrorism in North America and predicates its anti-terror positions on the damaging effects of terrorism only on the Islamic community is quite concerning,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s Executive Vice President. “Is the fatwa implicitly saying that terrorism directed against India, Spain, the U.K., Israel, and Canadian forces in Afghanistan is somehow permissible?

    This isn't productive commentary.

    Just to add to the above defense of the man:

    What difference does it make if he chooses to defend those same people now?

    I do believe one of the primary tenets of Christianity is "forgiveness". I would also point
    to the story of the Good Samaritan which is common to both Christian and Jewish tradition.

    Peak Oil by the Numbers -- Data Visualization for Global Energy Trends (pdf slide presentation)

    I'll be giving the above talk three times at different Seattle Public libraries. Info is here.

    I'm expecting the audience to include some who are Peak Oil aware as well as many who maybe heard the term but don't really know what it means. (I've talked to several of my friends lately who are in that latter category.)

    So the talk covers some pretty basic stuff and, not surpisingly, uses charts from the Energy Export Databrowser to make the point that we're probably at Peak Oil Export right now.

    (This is what happens after a person spends 2 years and 44 weeks reading TOD!)


    -- Jon

    Awesome, I'll try to make the Ballard presentation!

    Btw, typo on p. 24: Consumption shows a mostly stead increase

    Great slide deck!

    Thanks for the correction. I fixed that one and two others I found.

    And I look forward to seeing you at Ballard. Bring your friends!

    What, not all sweetness and light?

    NSP program given a jolt
    Conservation plan could be waste of money, consultant says

    Nova Scotia Power’s plan to spend $42 million on energy conservation programs have come under a scathing attack by a U.S. consumer advocate who will appear at the utility’s regulatory hearing next week.

    Nancy Brockway, a consultant from Boston, argues it could be a waste of money by Nova Scotia Power’s 440,000 customers, in pre-filed evidence with the Utility and Review Board.

    The proposed conservation program for 2011 lacks "priorities and purposes," and only a few thousand households will benefit from the programs referred to as demand side management, states Brockway, representing Nova Scotia’s consumer advocate, lawyer John Merrick.


    Nova Scotia Power is proposing to spend 3.5 per cent of the utility’s revenues, or $41.9 million, on energy conservation, which is among the highest rates in North America. In 2012, the privately owned utility forecasts that will rise to five per cent of revenues, or $60.6 million, and almost seven per cent by 2013, or $81.9 million, Brockway states.

    See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1176925.html

    My opinion is tainted, of course, but I do know that the initiatives currently geared to low-income householders are the least cost-effective of all, although all have a benefit to cost ratio greater than 1.0. The ones that generate the highest return are the commercial and industrial lighting programmes -- here, the cost per kWh saved, amortized over ten years, is capped at 1.5-cents, which makes this energy even less costly than coal. With all due respect to Ms. Brockway, I don't believe she fully appreciates the full range of benefits, now that the federal government and province are both signalling that the days of dumping carbon into the atmosphere with impunity are quickly coming to a close.


    You must love having someone from another country tell you what to do and not to do!
    The one point I will concede to her is about renters not being able to (easily) take advantage of the program.

    For my water DSM projects in California, the water utility made a conscious decision that it would only be available to their low income customers (they have a rate assistance plan for them) , and rental property landlords, whose tenants are mainly low income, though they may or may not pay the water bill directly. Works great with water as the low income houses are the ones that get renovated the least, and thus have the oldest fixtures. They also tend to have more people per house, so the savings are greater.

    Ultimately, it is almost impossible to share these projects around perfectly equally, but that shouldn't stop them from being implemented. BC Hydro's estimate was that conservation was about 7:1 better than new generation, which sounds a little optimistic, but no question, negawatts are the cheapest.

    Hi Paul,

    The large C&I retrofits are the most cost-effective of all; the small business related measures are generally three times more costly per kWh saved (but still competitive with coal); and the residential stuff is the weakest by far. Provided 1) there is a net benefit to all ratepayers and to the members of each rate class, and, 2) the benefits associated with this option exceed those of each of the alternatives, then even if the customer does not benefit directly from the incentives offered, they still benefit from a reduced cost of service. That said, you still need to ensure that these direct benefits are more or less equally shared, so that no one rate class or customer type is seen to be favoured over another. Whenever you attempt to balance these two often conflicting requirements, you expose yourself to criticisms of this kind.

    Addendum: Additional background can be found at: http://www.nspower.ca/site-nsp/media/nspower/20100226%20NSPI%28UARB%29%2... (PDF format)


    The answer is so simple it should be illegal, price energy savings at least at the marginal rate of new power, or approximately $0.14/kWh - give or take. Let's see if I can put on a biz-a-niss chapeau for a moment and if the argument holds water... Step in anytime.

    Current electrical prices are a blended rate for facilities amortized over ~40 years and fuel rates based on contract. In a nutshell, the rates are based upon amortized costs averaged to 20-or-so years ago. i.e. my mortgage from 1990 is $750/mo which seems like a bargain now.

    Other than behaviour/habit changes, capital for energy conservation is paid for in current capital dollars and not 1990 dollars. Therefore, the rate of return for energy conservation has to reflect current investment and not 20-to-40 year old investment; which, ironically is the marginal rate of new power.

    E.g. the controversial proposed BC Hydro Site C hydro electric development is priced around $0.16/kWh, a generic natural gas combined-cycle plant was priced in around $0.12-0.14/kWh. Hmmm, which investment decision to make?? New generation or Conservation? Donuts with sprinkles or no sprinkles? Earnings or warm and fuzzies?

    From the current pricing regime, sure energy conservation looks like a waste of money. So would a new housing development of $300K houses limited to $750/mo mortgages (should be about $1,500/mo).

    The hard part is, who pays the balance? The utility sure shouldn't, at least not directly or entirely.

    BC-EE, you are spot on about the marginal rate, as that is what is being offset by the savings. Comparing to coal is just an academic exercise, unless new coal plants are being contemplated.

    For residential customers, i would be in favour of a rate structure that was priced at $0.15/kWh, and gave the customer a $50 credit, or something like that, so the average bill, for an efficient household, would jot change too much, but then any savings you do make, are the marginal rate.

    In California, their tiered rates go up to $0.40 for residential, so people are quite motivated to stay out of those brackets.

    Even though conservation may look like a waste of money, that does not mean there is no value to it - it has definite *political* value.

    My main water DSM project here in BC was originally only available to residential customers (1/3 water saved per dollar as commercial) because the municipality did not want to be seen to be subsidising for profit business, even though said businesses pay taxes and water rates too (actually, Calgary was the same too). Translation - residential customers are *voters*, so the elected officials definitely saw more "value" in that!

    So for BC Hydro, my understanding is that the Powersmart program would help to keep rates lower, for longer - delaying the pain of raising them to reality. I would say that it the pain cannot (and should not) be delayed any longer.

    Don't know too much about specifics of Site C, could it be done as a series of run of river projects? - lots of good farmland stands to get flooded out there

    In California, their tiered rates go up to $0.40 for residential, so people are quite motivated to stay out of those brackets.

    You wouldn't know it touring California residential neighborhoods. Outdoor incandescents burning 24/7, air conditioners running at 3AM, when the outddor temp[erature is 60F...... About the only sign is that a percent or two of homeowners have bought PV. But 90% of the systems are huge (4-5KW). I think they are for guiltfree hot-tubbing, as with a little effort you can get your usage well below that level (and we don't get paid for sending extra power to the grid).

    Well, if you are going to run your a/c, at night during the off peak hours, and when the outside air is coolest, is the "least bad" time to do so. Of course, it is possible to design houses so that they don't need any a/c, but that is so not Californian.

    Most people seem to view (govt subsidised) PV as making their A/C ok, because it is now partly powered by the sun., In reality, they are continuing their profilgate waste of electricity, only now they are wasting expensive renewable electricity. And to use it for a hot tub, when the cheapest solar HW will do that at 1/20th the price, well...

    When PG & E customers got their new smart meters, and the new rate plans, many got a nasty shock, complaining that their bills went up. My take on their response was effectively " change your consumption patterns and you will save, continue to waste, and you will pay", and that is as it should be.

    California is a microcosm of the US, it can only carry on the lifestyle that it does because it imports so much energy and materials from surrounding areas. it has no hope of ever being energy independent.

    Do you really think an average suburban house with AC and dryer running at the same time, an oven and/or electric range use several times a day, and bright lighting and big-screen on much of the time can run on 4KW 'with a little effort'? Unless you include lifestyle changes and major investments, it just ain't so.

    Paleocon, if we are talking about an average usage of 4kW, then yes, that can be reduced with a little effort. Not running major things at the same time, is not much effort, as is changing to energy efficient lighting, and turning it off more often. if it's hot enough that you need AC, it is certainly hot enough to air dry clothes - do it inside and they actually help to cool down your house!. If that is regarded as 'too much effort" then Californians deserve what is coming to them.

    4kW is 96kWh/day, or 35,000kWh/yr. At California rates, you would be looking at a bill of anywhere from $4k to $10k/yr for that. My house here in coastal BC is all electric, other than our high efficiency wood burning fireplace. In winter, if we don't run the fireplace, my usage gets up to 100kWh/day,using all electric heat (no heat pump, yet), and that is to heat 2100sqft (embarassingly large, I know). When we do run the fireplace (every day) we use about 50kWh/day, average of 2kW

    I guess the real thing comes down to the lifestyle changes, and what investments are, and aren't, worth doing. You have to do something to get something back, and most Californians don't seem willing to "do" anything, other than PV on the roof.

    Like sands through the hourglass, these are the delays of our lives....

    Lepreau refit mired by air leaks

    Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. acknowledges it may not be able to finish the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear reactor by October as promised due to significant new problems.

    "It will be difficult," AECL spokesman Dale Coffin told CBC News on Monday. "There are some challenges we have to overcome."

    The project was already expected to be 16 months behind schedule, but AECL has been running into problems remotely inserting 380 new calandria tubes into the reactor.

    AECL initially budgeted about six weeks to insert the calandria tubes, but 12 weeks after inserting the first one, the job is less than half done.

    Now, new problems have surfaced getting the tubes, which contain pressure rods that hold uranium fuel bundles, to seal air tightly to the calandria wall.

    An unspecified number of the attachments have failed air leakage tests and AECL is uncertain about how to fix them.

    See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/04/13/nb-lepreau-refur...

    Dare I ask what else could possibly go wrong?

    Addendum: And on a related noted....

    Where did all that power debt come from?

    I have been a vocal critic of NB Power and the politics of energy for 30 years. Nothing in the current state of affairs at NB Power surprises me - high debt, a nuclear albatross, a fossil fuel-dependent grid in the age of peak oil and climate change.

    What surprises me or, more to the point, discourages me, is the fog that still shrouds electricity politics.

    Predictably, the inevitability of power rate hikes now fills the news, the result of NB Power's enormous debt. Premier Graham speaks about this debt as if it just materialized out of thin air. Through no fault on anybody's part and without anybody noticing, all of a sudden NB Power has a crippling debt.

    Time for some truth-telling. NB Power's debt has been painstakingly amassed by NB Power management and politicians, from Richard Hatfield (Lepreau) and Frank McKenna (Belledune), to Bernard Lord (Coleson Cove and Point Lepreau refurbishments) and Shawn Graham (Point Lepreau refurbishment).

    See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1002072


    'It's those darned regulators and their fussy tests!'

    'Nothing would go wrong if we didn't have to look at the problems all the time!'

    Don't confuse engineering requirements with regulatory requirements.

    I'll try to be fair in my remarks.. but I'm concerned that there would be engineering requirements that wouldn't be caught in violation if the regulatory environment weren't keeping a keen eye on the process.

    Things have been swept under many rugs in this industry. A friend here in my town worked at a pipe fab and had to go behind his supervisor's back to Fail welds that had been passed. (Piping destined for a reactor..)

    Maybe I missed it but nobody has mentioned this yet


    You missed it on the 11th. Backtrack to earlier multi-article message boards and you'll find a thread that starts with a post by myself.

    A new generation of well-organised Somali pirates is targeting ships and aims to use ransoms from hijackings for further criminal activities, a senior Royal Dutch Shell official said on Tuesday.

    That is one view. Another is that they are modern day Robin Hoods

    Pirates of Somalia by David Rovics

    Interesting article in my local paper today:


    Slow living gaining momentum

    In a demanding world, choosing the slow lane has improved Gerke’s well-being. As life urges us to cram in ever more tasks, slowing down feels radical. But the time for slow seems to be now.

    During this recession, the slow movement is gaining momentum at an un-snail-like pace, with cover stories from Good and Time magazines and numerous recent books. Lost jobs and lower paychecks have forced many of us to re-examine how we spend our time and our money. After decades of being driven by a consumer culture, slow proponents say, we’re finally keeping up with our families — not the Joneses.

    Concerning IEA projections - This is kind of late in the day, but I'd like to hear if anyone here believes - or not - that non-OPEC output will rise by 600,000 barrels per day in 2010.

    Granted starting here in the US, there is likely to be an increase (barring another major hurricane), and some very small increase in Russia. However overall, I think IEA is more than a little over optimistic on supply, but about right on demand projections (increasing about 1.7 mbpd), but probably also a little on the high side there too.

    Any other opinions?

    Depends on whether you believe the EIA


    Non-OPEC Supply. Non-OPEC supply is projected to increase by 600,000 bbl/d in 2010, about 50,000 bbl/d more than last month's Outlook, because of a revised forecast for production in North America. Non-OPEC supplies are then expected to fall slightly in 2011, as declining production in mature areas more than offsets any new production growth. The largest source of growth in 2010 is the United States

    There does seem to be some doubt that that US is actually producing the amount of oil the EIA claims. See discussion at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6369/610490

    Note the "Adjustment" of negative 586,000 bpd applied to PAD 3 in November (Latest reported month).

    Good point.

    As I am also pointing out week to week, the EIA is constantly adjusting up and down existing oil/product inventories - including a not so small recharacterization of 7 million barrels of products back to oil three weeks ago. It doesn't seem like a logical kind of error to make.