Drumbeat: April 14, 2010

USGS asked to study Arctic oil, gas exploration impacts

WASHINGTON, DC -- The US Geological Survey will review information about the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, including studies by other scientific organizations, to help guide federal oil and gas policies on the Arctic Ocean’s Outer Continental Shelf, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Apr. 13.

The report, which Salazar asked the agency to complete by Oct. 1, will examine effects of oil and gas exploration on marine mammals, determine what research is needed for effective and reliable oil spill responses in ice-covered regions, evaluate what is known about cumulative effects of energy extraction on ecosystems and other natural resources, and review how future climate changes may mitigate or compound Arctic energy development impacts.

Information also will be gathered as Shell Exploration Inc. drills three wells on its Beaufort and Chukchi sea leases this summer, Salazar said. “If we are to responsibly develop energy resources in frontier areas of the OCS, especially in the Arctic’s extreme environment, we must support exploration activities, gather the science needed, and listen to affected communities,” he said.

The Peak Oil Crisis: China’s Latest Drought

We all need to pause for a minute and consider the possible implications of the droughts that are engulfing China. One of these is in the north -- Inner Mongolia, and the second more serious one covers most of southwestern China.

If the weather patterns revert to normal and the May monsoons come on schedule in the next month or so, then all should be well and we, along with 60 million or so Chinese farmers, can stop worrying. But these are not normal times and even the disappearance of the El Niño in the central Pacific may not bring enough rain to mitigate the situation. Then, there could be serious trouble not only for the Chinese and southeast Asian peoples, but for the rest of us as well.

Calculating agriculture's phosphorus footprint

Biologist John Lott of McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues there and at the University of Sydney, Australia, point out that when food scarcity increases, instability in society increases. Given that the majority of the food we eat is from cereals and legumes, the phosphorus cycle is a critical element of food security. Phosphorus is essential for crop plant growth, but soils become depleted as it is removed from the land when the grain and seeds are harvested.

The researchers have analysed nine years of data on total dry cereal grain and total dry legume seed production, production of barley, maize, rice, soybean and wheat grains/seeds, yields, area farmed, the tonnage of phosphorus and phytic acid removed in these crops and the elemental phosphorus applied as mineral fertilizers to all plant crops.

The world estimate of the elemental P removed with the dry seed/grain and fleshy fruit crops that contain seeds is in the range of 56-71% of the elemental phosphorus applied as mineral fertilizer for all purposes worldwide. Depending on the soil type, considerable amounts of phosphorus may become unusable by plants, the team explains.

Saudi oil use to grow steeply

Saudi Arabia has emerged as the second-biggest source of global oil demand growth after China.

Higher oil consumption in the Arab world’s biggest economy is forecast to account for 11.7 per cent of global expansion this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

Bennetts' renewed energy for oil game

His take on energy options, particularly for vehicles, is pragmatic. Biofuels make sense, as they can be distributed through the existing infrastructure. Hydrogen doesn't, as it needs a duplicate distribution system. The electric car is not as good as it looks from a total life cycle perspective, he says. Peak oil? We are not even close. If there are 100 known barrels of oil in the ground, we are only tapping 30 of those and can get to another 20 with current technology, Bennetts says.

"That will change over time and you can add that we will discover other oil on top of that. One of the big variables is that no-one really knows how much oil is in the Middle East. This peak oil theory comes down to the numbers and nobody knows all the numbers."

Hawaii stuck over a barrel

There's an interesting conversation going on right now at the Legislature over the idea of substantially raising the tax on imported oil — the so-called "barrel tax" — from today's nominal 5 cents a barrel to a buck-five a barrel.

Originally conceived as a way to generate money that would help Hawai'i move away from its independence on imported oil, the barrel tax has now morphed into another way to raise money to balance the overall budget. We all have to buy gas, right?

It might take a bit of political courage, but lawmakers should return to original principles: The only way we are ever going to get ourselves off the imported oil lifeline is to develop our own alternatives. And that ain't cheap.

U.S. Energy Law Should Boost Natural Gas Trucks, Pickens Says

(Bloomberg) -- T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy hedge-fund manager, said U.S. lawmakers should try this year to “jumpstart a natural-gas vehicle industry” instead of passing a greenhouse-gas trading measure he opposes.

“Natural gas is an excellent example of how we can create green jobs,” Pickens, chairman of Dallas-based BP Capital LLC, said today in testimony prepared for a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Gazprom shrugs off shale gas 'threat'

Russian giant Gazprom today said it expected to boost its gas output substantially over the next three years, despite increasing competition from alternatives such as shale gas.

Chief executive Alexei Miller said the company expected to produce 565.5 billion cubic metres of gas in 2013 compared to a projected 529 Bcm this year and 461 Bcm in crisis-hit 2009.

"Obviously, the planned output is defined by the positive dynamics of gas consumption both on the domestic and international gas markets, for example, in Europe," Reuters quoted Miller saying on Russian television.

He added that the forecast 2013 production is expected to reach a record high in 13 years and exceed volumes extracted in pre-crisis 2008 when the company produced 551 Bcm.

Musings: Gas Prices Reflect Little Worry over Hurricane Forecast

Last week's price action of natural gas futures suggested there is little concern among buyers about the potential for a more active hurricane season disrupting available gas supply from the Gulf of Mexico. Gas prices bounced around the $4 per Mcf level most of the week, responding to news about the upcoming revision to the EIA's 914 survey of domestic gas production and gas storage inventory data rather than recognition that the latest Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecasting team had boosted their estimate of the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes.

Energy Analyst Sees Stable Oil Prices Ahead

It's not necessarily politics, but we in the U.S. have been losing ground.... The United States, according to the Energy Information Administration, we're producing today the same amount of oil that we were producing in 1947. Our demand grows, and there grows our dependence on foreign oil....

We forgot about the [Gulf of Mexico], we forgot about areas in the United States where we could go and explore for oil.... We will never recover our position of where we were 10, 15, 20 years ago. But at least in my opinion we can stop this slide where our share of foreign oil continues to increase. At least we can freeze it.

The amount of oil that we bring in from Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico is larger than the amount of oil we bring in from Saudi Arabia. Our emphasis should be the Western Hemisphere.... I think Brazil is going to be our new energy friend in the Western Hemisphere.

U.N. sanctions will not harm Iran oil industry, minister

TEHRAN (Reuters) - U.N. sanctions would have no impact on Iran's oil industry, the SHANA news agency quoted the country's oil minister as saying on Wednesday.

Sinopec May Buy Stakes in Two Petrobras Oil Blocks, Estado Says

(Bloomberg) -- China Petrochemical Corp. may buy stakes of about 20 percent in two Brazilian oil blocks owned by Petroleo Brasileiro SA, O Estado de S. Paulo reported, without saying how it got the information.

Brazilians buy into hunt for LNG

BRAZIL'S national oil company, Petrobras, has joined the hunt for the next round of liquefied natural gas export projects in waters off Western Australia.

BP eyes new Indonesia oil exploration

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Several oil companies, including Inpex Corp of Japan and BP are looking for new oil and gas exploration blocks in Indonesia, an official at Indonesia's mines and energy ministry said on Wednesday.

Shell shuts Nigeria EA, defers 100,000 bpd output

ABUJA (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell said on Wednesday it had suspended the production of around 100,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) at its EA field off Nigeria which was temporarily shut down for repairs.

Foreign firms eye more Aramco engineering deals

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Foreign engineering firms hope new partnerships with Saudi companies will increase their chances of winning deals from state oil giant Saudi Aramco, industry sources said on Tuesday.

Foreigners freed in Niger delta

Four foreign construction workers have been released five days after being abducted in Nigeria's oil-rich River State.

Police could not say if a ransom was paid for the release on Wednesday of the three Syrians and one Lebanese.

Iraq to establish 4th state oil company

Iraq's Cabinet says, it has approved the establishment of a new state-owned oil company to oversee developments of fields in central Iraq.

A statement issued late on Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting says, the government has earmarked $85,000 for the initial startup costs of the Midland Oil Co. It did not say, when it would start operating. The new company is expected to help ease the burden from the North, South and Maysan oil companies that are currently overseeing the 10 major oil projects awarded to western oil companies last year.

Cut line losses, heads of power firms told

ISLAMABAD: A meeting between federal ministers and international creditors held here on Tuesday warned the heads of public sector power companies to reduce their system losses by 2 per cent by June this year and speed up recovery of huge receivables to minimise energy crisis or be ready to face consequences.

Massive power outages continue amid protests

LAHORE - Despite strong protests on the 5th consecutive day on Tuesday against massive power outage, Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) is continuing 14 to 16-hour load shedding across the Punjab.

Prolonged and unannounced power outages are badly affecting the small business and industrial operations besides multiplying the miseries of the public during hot weather.

Electricity generation from coal soon: minister

SENIOR Provincial Minister Raja Riaz Ahmad has said that both federal and provincial government are making efforts to overcome the energy crisis since various power generation projects are under completion in Punjab.

Raja Riaz ahmad said the Punjab government was initiating a project for generating electricity from coal in Dera Ghazi Khan. He said the coal would be purchased from Balochistan for this project. He said the construction of small dams in Potohar area for thermal power was underway. He said the federal government was also considering generating electricity from solar energy.

‘China should help Pakistan in overcoming energy problem’

ISLAMABAD: Energy shortage in the country has become a growing problem for the economic growth and China should come forward to help Pakistan in overcoming the energy crisis for smooth promotion of manufacturing and industrial activities. Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) President Zahid Maqbool said this on Tuesday while exchanging views with a four-member delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs who called on him at ICCI led by Hubei Dayu Electric Group of China Chairman Wang Yicai. He said Pakistan was endowed with tremendous amount of alternative energy resources including hydro, coal, wind, solar and energy waste potential. However, combination of Chinese capital and expertise and Pakistani talent was the best option to fully exploit these renewable energy resources.

People pushed to the wall due to unannounced outages

ISLAMABAD: Students, patients, commuters, workers in public and private organizations, shop owners and industrialists all have complained of having been suffering for a few weeks from power outages due to mismanagement on part of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO).

India: Power shortages haunt economy

Peak and basic power shortages continue to pose a challenge to economic managers. And, more worrying is the fact that there is no let up in rising power deficit.

Fuel shortages and slippages in capacity addition seems to have aggravated the problem for industry users, retail domestic consumers and farmers. Peaking shortages rose to 13.3 per cent in 2009-10 hinting at a time when prime minister Manmohan Singh has proposed an action plan to move to double-digit economic growth in next 2-3 years.

Is Uganda heading to a fuel crisis?

Fuel shortage and high prices have continued to haunt Uganda for weeks running. Apparently, poor delivery infrastructure particularly the unfinished pipeline is making the situation worse. The weakening shilling, transport and insurance premiums due to sea piracy at the Gulf of Aden were cited by Energy Minister Daudi Migereko, as the cause of the fuel shortage in October 2008.

Future of energy lies in coal

A high profile international conference yesterday recommended open-pit coal mining for Bangladesh, and urged the government to ease up the bidding and purchasing mechanism in the power sector to encourage private investment.

Oklahoma lawmaker defends wire money transfer tax

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma legislator who wrote a law imposing new fees for wire money transfers defended the measure Monday after a Mexican congressman assailed it as "discriminatory and immoral."

Mexico's House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution last week urging government agencies, including state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, to stop buying products from Oklahoma because of its tax on wire money transfers.

Europe Urged to Share Power Across Continent

BRUSSELS — Renewable energy in Europe should be generated and distributed on a continental scale to make the greatest contribution toward reducing greenhouse gases, according to a report that raises significant challenges for a fragmented region.

The report, to be released Tuesday, was compiled by the European Climate Foundation, a group financed by philanthropic organizations, using studies carried out by McKinsey, a consulting firm.

Irish government agrees electric car charging infrastructure

The definitive agreement includes the development of a nationwide electric car charging infrastructure by ESB, the supply of electric cars by the Renault-Nissan Alliance from 2011, and government policies and incentives that will support the widespread adoption of such vehicles.

The Irish government will provide grants of €5,000 for those who purchase electric vehicles. The government said that Irish buyers of electric vehicles will be exempt from Vehicle Registration Tax. The Irish government's target is for 10 per cent of Ireland's vehicles to be electric by 2020. This agreement with Nissan-Renault will see 2,000 cars on Irish roads by 2011.

Obama Wins Backing for Nuclear Security Goal as Summit Ends

(Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama won commitments from 46 nations to lock down nuclear material and keep it out of the hands of terrorists. The next test will be how far global leaders will go to carry out their pledges.

Education Meets Inspiration at Upcoming Living Future

Leaders in the green building industry with the most cutting-edge ideas and information are coming to Seattle May 5-7th to speak, lead sessions and engage in deep conversations in an intimate setting with those determined to make a difference in the built environment.

..."We chose James Howard Kunstler as our opening keynote speaker because he shares our vision: the vision of immediate and radical change in the built environment, and building that moves us closer to our goals of social and environmental justice," said Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council.

The Index of Life

But here is the problem. More and more I'm beginning to be influenced by some of my doomsday colleagues who have become frighteningly convincing that the combination of Peak Oil and Global Warming means that life will, from now, only get worse. Your children, and, certainly, theirs, they say, will descend into mediocrity, and worse. Renewable energy? Not sufficient, according to their analysis. Toss in hopeless governance, and they might have a few good points.

Part 1: First Change - the Long Emergency

Even with the election of Barack Obama, we Americans stand in the cross hairs of ominous social and environmental change in the early years of the 21st century. Each day, media reports stream into major networks as they expose ‘symptoms’ erupting across the planet. Water shortages, ozone pollution, species extinction, gridlocked traffic, energy crisis and other calamities dominate the news.

With so many events hammering us from all angles? Who can we believe? What’s really going on? Who gets down to brass tacks to explain it all?

Part 15: Overpopulation In 21st Century America Running Out Of Energy That Drives Civilization

To show how much energy oil provides the U.S. annually, Michael Brownlee of www.transitionbouldercounty.org provided an astounding graph of one cubic mile of oil. That’s how much oil humans burn around the planet each year! That equals to the same amount of energy provided by 52 nuclear power plants built every year for 50 years or 104 operating coal-fired electrical plants built every year for 50 years or 32,000 wind turbines built every year for 50 years—and in continuous operation—or 91,250,000 solar panels built every year for 50 years.

In other words, oil produces dramatically incredible amounts of energy that we cannot and will not be able to duplicate in the coming years.

Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops

Genetically engineered crops have provided “substantial” environmental and economic benefits to American farmers, but overuse of the technology is threatening to erode the gains, a national science advisory organization said Tuesday in a report.

Dong, Shell, Probe Possible Flaw at U.K.’s Offshore Wind Parks

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Centrica Plc and Dong Energy A/S are investigating a possible design flaw that may lead to offshore wind turbines sinking into their foundations on the ocean floor.

Too big to succeed! Bill McKibben’s new book, Eaarth

I just finished Bill McKibben’s newest book, Eaarth: Making A Life On A Tough New Who Planet, and I am giving it three thumbs up. The book chillingly catalogs how the human enterprise has remade the face of the planet – and in the process created what could be a terrifying future. But it also offers hope. And part of that hope is really not even debatable: the end of growth.

Green paranoia on parade

The first thing you have to understand about Bill McKibben--the environmentalist and author whose new book, subtitled Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, the National Post excerpted Tuesday--is that he is a conspiracy theorist.

Most environmentalists are.

Obama Seeks Local Action for Earth Day

President Obama today urged Americans to honor the upcoming 40th anniversary of Earth Day by acting to improve the environment around them and launched a Web site, Whitehouse.gov/EarthDay, compiling citizens’ success stories.

Start-Ups Win With Plans to Displace Disposables

Companies that provide environmentally sensible alternatives to old, destructive forms of lighting, batteries and paper goods won top awards at a business-plan competition held this weekend in Washington, D.C., by the William James Foundation, an organization that encourages socially responsible for-profits.

The grand prize of $6,000 and additional in-kind business services went to NURU Energy, which is also known as NURU Lights. The company makes rechargeable lights and portable power generators that are designed to displace the lanterns and carbon-emitting kerosene fuel still used in off-grid villages in developing nations.

Oil prices and not pressure groups can force BP to change its strategy

BP could, no doubt, do without the hassle of such run-ins. It insists its tar sands extraction processes are cleaner than those of the worst polluters in Canada — and points out that it also spends huge sums developing alternative energy technologies.

The bottom line, however, is the bottom line: with the oil price creeping slowly but inexorably upwards once more, oil sands are a profitable resource.

BlueNext Pushes ‘Swap Backs’ of Used CO2 Credits After Halt

(Bloomberg) -- BlueNext SA, heeding complaints from investors stuck with emission credits that can’t be used again in Europe, said it helped arrange “swap backs” to repair the exchange’s reputation after a three-day trading halt.

Don’t Think That Cap-and-Trade Is Over

Carbon trading, also known as cap and trade, is on the cusp of generating mammoth amounts of money for governments — money that could start flowing just in time to help nations emerge from the worst financial crisis in a generation.

The prospect of those earnings is one of the key reasons that nations are determined to stick by carbon trading, despite the setbacks and scandals.

Rio Tinto to Congress: Get going on carbon pricing

One of the world's biggest energy companies also is a big backer of putting a price on carbon.

On Wednesday, Rio Tinto, the parent company of Kennecott, will tell the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming why it wants sensible climate-change regulation -- whether a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or some other pollution-fighting policy -- to bring more certainty to its business.

Canada reports drop in greenhouse gas emissions

OTTAWA — The federal government is reporting to the United Nations that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were down in 2008 because of slower economic activity and less reliance on coal-fired power.

EXCLUSIVE - China's top oil firms sell gasoline to Iran - trade

DUBAI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - State-run Chinaoil has sold two gasoline cargoes for April delivery to Iran, industry sources said on Wednesday, stepping into a void left by fuel suppliers halting shipments under threat of U.S. sanctions.

Beijing, which has close economic ties with Tehran, has resisted sanctions proposed by Western powers on Iran's energy sector that aim to press the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear programme.

Germany hopeful China will back Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Germany was hopeful Tuesday China will support new sanctions on Iran over a disputed nuclear program as the United States reportedly pledged to help Beijing secure oil supplies if Tehran retaliated.

"I see a positive development, even if it is moving slowly and we can't say whether it will lead to sanctions," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters, adding "I'm very hopeful."

Oil up to near $85, breaking 5-day losing streak

Oil prices rose to near $85 a barrel Wednesday, breaking a five-day slide as rising global stock markets and a weaker dollar boosted investors' appetite.

Crude Oil Shatters Record Volume in Nymex Trading

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the world’s most actively traded commodity contract, reached a volume record today.

Oil trading on the Nymex was estimated at 1.42 million contracts, the equivalent of 1.42 billion barrels of oil, Mary Haffenberg, a spokeswoman for CME Group Inc., the world’s largest futures exchange and the owner of Nymex, said in an e- mail. The official total will be released tomorrow, she said.

The previous record for physically delivered oil futures in pit and electronic trading was 1.12 million contracts set on April 9, Haffenberg said.

OPEC: Demand for crude down this year

VIENNA (AP) - OPEC expects less demand for its oil this year, reflecting a world economy that's still struggling.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecasts that it will need to put 100,000 barrels less crude on the market in 2010 that it did last year.

OPEC's oil price aspirations edge higher, again

LONDON -- Oil has risen above OPEC's comfort zone of $70 to $80 a barrel and the group is showing no sign yet of wanting to cool the rally, suggesting its price aspirations are creeping upwards.

Any further rise in prices, which are up almost 70 percent from a year ago, could dismay consumer countries and feed into higher energy costs for businesses and consumers at a time of fragile economic recovery.

Oil to Set High ‘Within a Week’: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil is poised to rally after a five-day decline and will set its highest price for this year at near $88 a barrel “within a week”, National Australia Bank Ltd. said.

Consumer Prices in U.S. Rise 0.1%, Core Is Unchanged

(Bloomberg) -- The cost of living in the U.S. rose in March, while prices excluding food and energy were unexpectedly unchanged, indicating tame inflation is accompanying the economic recovery.

China Raises Diesel, Gasoline Prices 4.6% on Crude

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s second-largest energy user, will increase gasoline and diesel prices by as much as 4.6 percent starting today after global crude costs climbed.

Venezuela pay dispute halts 12 oil drilling rigs

CARACAS (Reuters) - Contract workers have stopped work over pay paralyzing 12 drilling rigs operated by foreign service companies in eastern Venezuela, state oil company PDVSA said on Tuesday.

PDVSA said the stoppage by 800 workers that began on Monday had not affected oil production as the 12 rigs were not yet producing. The stoppage could affect future production.

Shipping: Oil tanker titan plans to break the ice on Arctic route

Ever since Admiral Makarov, the commander of the Tsar’s fleet, sailed the world’s first ice-breaker on its maiden voyage in 1899, Russian mariners have dreamt of cutting a shipping lane through the Arctic seas to the north of their great land mass.

Circling the top of Russia, the fabled northern passage could provide a short cut between Europe and the Pacific, halving the distance of marine routes through the Suez Canal.

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state shipping company, plans to sail an oil tanker from the White Sea to Japan this summer, marking the start of seasonal oil exports along the full length of the northern route.

Led by ice-breakers, the 18-day voyage will highlight Sovcomflot’s mastery of Arctic navigation, just as the search for hydrocarbons in polar regions heats up.

Syria: Raising the Bar

Syria's oil and gas sector is gearing up for a rejuvenation of sorts, with the minister of oil, Sufian Alao, announcing recently that the government expects oil production in the country to rise this year following 13 years of steady decline. The announcement came as the Syrian hydrocarbons sector prepared to welcome 265 companies from 41 countries to the Seventh Syrian International Oil and Gas Exhibition (SYROIL 2010), held in Damascus April 5-8.

PetroChina’s Qinghai Fields Unaffected by Earthquake

(Bloomberg) -- PetroChina Co.’s oil and gas fields in Qinghai were unaffected by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit the province this morning, said an official at the Qinghai unit of the nation’s biggest oil company.

“We’re currently unaffected by the earthquake because our fields are far away,” Zong Yiping, the unit’s general manager, said by mobile phone. He said the fields were about 700 kilometers (435 miles) away from the epicenter of the quake.

Massey Mine Citations Mistakenly Didn’t Lead to Warning Letter

(Bloomberg) -- The Massey Energy Co. coal mine in West Virginia where 29 workers died last week in an explosion received eight citations that were erroneously logged by regulators in a way that kept the site from being added to a safety watch list, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

Documents show continual dangers in West Virginia mine

The operator of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 miners were killed last week exposed workers to potentially fatal or disabling conditions nearly 300 times since late 2008, records show.

More than 1,100 pages covering more than 700 citations released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) give the most comprehensive picture yet of the Upper Big Branch Mine, where an April 5 explosion caused the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1970.

Inspectors repeatedly found dangerous conditions such as inadequate air, faulty fire extinguishers, exposed wiring, malfunctioning communication systems, inaccurate gas monitors and water as deep as 4 feet "that could result in drowning."

South Korea to Require Companies to Set Energy-Saving Targets

(Bloomberg) -- South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest polluter, said companies should set annual energy-saving and greenhouse gas-reduction plans to help the government’s efforts to combat global warming.

Companies will face fines of as much as 10 million won ($8,969) if the targets aren’t met, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in an e-mailed statement today.

Transportation's bicycle policy hits potholes

WASHINGTON - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

Some 'Energy Star' Appliances May Not Be That Green

The tax benefits are aimed at encouraging homeowners to replace outdated and energy-hungry furnaces and appliances. But Kuperszmid-Lehrman tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that not all of the newer models skimp on power consumption.

"We found, particularly, problems with refrigerators," she says of tests Consumer Reports conducted on certified products.

The magazine reported that two of the refrigerators it tested used about 50 percent more energy than the numbers on their labels. Another pair used 39 percent more and 33 percent more.

Becoming Peak Oil Aware: Part 1

I was in shock last week.

After looking over the latest entries to top my 9 Things We'll See Down the Back Side of Peak Oil list, I came across a comment that blindsided me.

...It wasn't some clever or humorous poke at life after peak oil. Rather, it was a simple question that stood out from every other e-mail I had received.

In a nutshell, the poor guy had never even heard of peak oil.

Peak Oil Investments I'm Putting My Money On: Part VI, Barriers to Substitution

One great advantage gasoline and diesel have over most of the proposed alternatives is an extensive infrastructure. In addition to an extensive pipeline network, we also have a large number of competing fueling stations. If a new fuel requires new fueling stations, like natural gas and hydrogen, or charging points and (potentially) battery swapping stations (electricity), it may not be enough to make sure that enough filling stations exist for would-be drivers to make long trips. If there is only one national network of filling stations, drivers will likely become concerned that the lack of competition will mean that they overpay for fuel.

On Being a 21st Century Peasant

“Here’s all I’m trying to say: The planet on which our civilization evolved no longer exists,” asserts environmentalist Bill McKibben in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. “The earth that we knew—the only earth we ever knew—is gone.” According to McKibben, we are about to find ourselves living on a much less friendly planet he calls “Eaarth.” Why? Because the climate is about to get really freaky due to man-made global warming and we’re also about to run out of oil—the apocalypse, courtesy of Peak Temperature and Peak Oil combined. McKibben is no stranger to environmentalist jeremiads, having declared The End of Nature back in 1989 due to global warming and the rise of biotechnology. Twenty years later he’s declaring the end of civilization, at least, as we know it.

UK: Why is there no talk about immigration?

No sensible person is calling for a policy of no immigration. It is the scale of population change, which over the past decade has transformed parts of Britain, that voters wish to make an election issue. A continuation of mass immigration on roughly the present scale will bring the population of the UK to 70 million in 20 years – and the growth won't stop there, unless we are prepared to control drastically the size of net migration. Immigration will account for 70 per cent of this population increase. This is what needs to be tackled.

Ethanol industry steps up lobbying as clout wanes

For years, ethanol fuel derived from corn was almost politically untouchable, thanks to powerful advocates on Capitol Hill. The ethanol industry has consequently exploded over the last decade, thanks to government subsidies and incentives.

But skepticism about ethanol is rising, prompted by fluctuating food prices and an organized campaign by anti-ethanol advocates to discredit the industry.

Washington Sues to Revive Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Washington state, home to a former U.S. nuclear-weapons plant undergoing cleanup, sued the Obama administration to stop it from abandoning plans for the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository in Nevada.

College to open new biomass facility

POULTNEY — As a college freshman, Brett Duggan set out to get his school to put its money where its mouth was.

As an alumnus approaching his one-year reunion, 22-year-old Duggan will return to Green Mountain College next week to see the end of what he and nine other students started.

The environmental liberal arts college will cut the ribbon at its new biomass plant on April 22 — Earth Day. The $5.8 million facility will produce 20 percent of the school's electricity but 85 percent of its heat, with 4,400 tons of wood chips displacing 200,000 gallons of heating oil.

Sunny-Side Up in Washington

Incredibly, in the short time since installing an extensive rooftop photovoltaic array, a system which utilizes and displays four separate vendors’ styles and methods of converting sunlight to electricity, the benefits have become manifest.

Of those benefits, perhaps the most immediate, according to store partner and CFO Bob Whelan, “Our electricity bill has gone down by about one-third.”

Could Huge Solar Blimps Haul Cargo Fast and Clean at 30,000 Feet?

Could a solar-powered dirigible be the cargo ship of our peak-oil, carbon-constrained future? If the inventor of the patent pending High Speed Solar Airship is correct, the future of long haul cargo combines solar powered transmission married to centuries-old dirigible technology.

Jeff Rubin: Think the EPA will help cut emissions? Think again

Your engine may be a lot more efficient that your dad’s old gas-guzzler from the 1970s, but chances are you burn just as much gasoline on the road over the course of a year as he did. You, like your fellow North American drivers, eat up all the energy efficiency gains made in engine and materials technology over the last thirty years by driving ever-larger, ever-faster vehicles loaded with more and more energy-consuming features. And to top it all off, you drive your vehicle about a third more than your parents did, in large measure because you commute so much further every day than they did.

Raising CAFE standards won’t force us to burn less oil or emit less carbon. But the pump prices that will come with the triple-digit oil prices that are just around the corner will make us do both. And, for good measure, those same pump prices should easily enable the auto industry to reach the new bar set for corporate average fuel economy.

Mexican Climate Envoy Says Kyoto Protocol May Be Extended

(Bloomberg) -- United Nations negotiators are seeking to extend and complement the Kyoto Protocol on global warming rather than replacing it, Mexico’s special envoy Luis Alfonso de Alba said.

Senate Road for 'Energy Only' Bill Isn't as Easy as Some Would Hope

The bipartisan support enjoyed by the energy-only bill is countered by its bipartisan opposition, and it is hard to add up the needed 60 votes to move controversial legislation in the Senate. So, the balancing act for the scaled-down bill could be every bit as tricky as finding a "grand bargain" to pass a climate bill.

One leading industry analyst says without a strict limit on greenhouse gas emissions, the bill collapses.

Some Republicans say open to climate bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some prominent Republican senators expressed openness on Tuesday to a U.S. climate change bill that might be introduced next week and that would need bipartisan support to have any chance of advancing.

Senate Leader Set to Take Command of Climate Bill

Next week, Reid will be handed the reins of the bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions while expanding domestic oil, gas and nuclear power production. His challenge could not be tougher. Along with the climate measure, he must juggle a packed Senate agenda that includes Wall Street reform, a Supreme Court nomination and more economic recovery plans. Reid is also facing perhaps the toughest re-election campaign of his career this fall.

Calif. climate law could help poor, minority areas

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's attempt to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions can have additional benefits for poor and minority communities long plagued by dirty air if state regulators take their needs into account, according to a report released Wednesday.

The findings by professors at three California universities found that oil refineries, power plants and cement kilns, which are among the state's most prolific emitters of greenhouse gases, also release other chemicals that threaten public health.

The plants that pose the highest health risks are disproportionately located in industrial communities inhabited by the poor and people of color, the report found.

'No deliberate malpractice' in climate row: review

LONDON (AFP) – A review of the work of one of the world's leading climate research centres, launched after a major scandal last year, concluded Wednesday there had been no deliberate scientific malpractice.

Studies agree on a 1 meter rise in sea levels

Recent studies agree that sea level will rise by roughly one meter over this century for a mid-range emission scenario. This is 3 times higher than predicted by the IPCC.

Under the 'So you claim to have an answer' department I present:

Via http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/05/cool-energys-solarheart-brings-solar...

According to MIT Technology Review writer Kevin Bullis, Cool Energy’s proprietary SolarHeart engine works at only 200 degrees Celsius

Now really the MIT thing says http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22965/page1/

Cool Energy's engine is designed to run at the 200 degrees that solar water heaters provide.

200 deg hot water (aka not Celsius) -> electric power.

This is why I've followed Stirling cycle engines for years. And yet - nothing shipping :-(

Providing the high temperature (200 C) thermal energy via flat plate solar collectors on a Winter day (0 C) would be a big problem. With such low external temperatures, the collection efficiency would be dismal. One could do better with the evacuated tube systems, but there would still be a stiff efficiency penalty at low ambient temperatures.

I think this system would only make sense with the use of concentrating collectors, such as a parabolic trough system, which is difficult to integrate into the usual design of a house. That is, if the system is to provide enough energy for space heating and hot water in winter.

E. Swanson

Providing the high temperature (200 C) thermal energy via flat plate solar collectors on a Winter day (0 C) would be a big problem.

Which is why you use evacuated glass tubes.
As their website says you should use.

still be a stiff efficiency penalty at low ambient temperatures.

Considering that a glass tube system can get ya hot water at -40 F in England - how low are you thinking?

Besides the binary operator of being able to buy one or not, the next criteria is whether it is cheaper than PV. Needing evacuated tubes doesn't help there. 20% efficiency (when achieved) might just apply to extracting energy from the sink difference. What about radiant losses? Comparisons with thermoelectric conversion of low-grade heat? Assorted colors?

The being able to buy/not buy makes a difference. I can buy (more) PV today.

I can't seem to get anyone to sell me a stirling cycle genset unless I have $10K I want to spend for 1.5kW worth of generation.

If they are going to compete with solar PV an engine that has moving parts and (in theory) needs to be maintained every few years is gonna have to be inexpensive. But low cost and low temp stirlings opens up a world of interesting options for heilostats.

Some of you may remember:
Now - how many of these have you seen?

I'd like to see someone - anyone ship low cost working 1-2 hp stirlings. Even if they are 10%.

Far wiser to install concentrating PV. Surprisingly, PV efficiency usually increases with concentration, and some developers are presently working with 500x concentration. eg. 4.5 cm x 4.5 cm (2" x 2") solar cell active area with 2 axis tracking yielding 200 watts continuous, the same as 1 sq meter of the same cell type with 2 axis tracking and no concentrtation.

Opel Solar offers a 1.576 x 0.279 meter concentrating panel which puts out 90 watts, which is 20.4% efficiency or 204 watts per sq meter.

Far wiser to install concentrating PV.

Perhaps. I'm not convinced on the life cycle of the products.

But the nice thing about a stirling is it works on temp. diff. So it can run off the heat of the exhaust from the plant oil burning Lister or even 10% of the conversion of the radiator heat into electric power is still a WIN in my book.

The nasty thing about Stirlings are many. I know, I just lost $100,000 attempting to develop one.

a) Their working volume is inversely proportional to their operating temperature. A low-temp machine must be larger for a given power rating. A unit in the temp range you're considering will be very large (and very costly) per kw.

b) Their efficiency is proportional to their operating temperature. Lower the temp, lower the effic.

c) Lower the temperature, slower the operation should probably be to enable thorough working fluid temperature heating and cooling. eg. when you have 800 degC delta from hot to cold, you can afford to opearte at high rpm and accept that your WF is only going to get within 100 degC of the hot, and 100 degC of the cold. When your entire deltaC is 200 degC you can't accept that, so must slow down, meaning the size for a given power increases, meaning thermal transfer distances increase.....

d) Power out is proportional to charge pressure, but high-rate thermal transfer demands thin wall cross-sections.

e) Shaft seals which can handle 1000 to 2000 psi charge pressure hydrogen or helium with very long life at any elevated temperature are difficult / expensive.

f) Hydrogen is very unfriendly to steel and lubricants.

g) A low-cost system pretty much demands completely sealed hermetic casing, which makes lubrication difficult or impossible. Lubricant mixed with the working fluid degrades its performance significantly. Materials which can operate for reasonable time periods in hydrogen without lubricant are rare and costly, if even known.

h) several others.

There's good reasons why you can't now, and likely never will be able to, buy one cheaply on the market to work in the temp. ranges you're looking.

Len I am very sorry to hear that you did your money on this - can you give any details? I did $100 on a coffee cup stirling kit - a cool office toy, and great for showing the limitations of Stirlings - probably saved me lots more money because I didn't go any further!

Agree with all your points. The original application of Stirlings was for low power (1-3hp), slow running engines for water pumping, powered by a fire, as an alternative to the steam engine. For that application, they, and the Rider-Ericsson engine, are actually OK, but otherwise, they are just not suited for any real applications.

Like I said below, for low temps, ORC systems are ideal, and for higher temps, steam or closed circuit gas turbines are better, though neither of these are very efficient at small scale.

The concept of the Stirling is very sexy, but, like the fuel cell, it's about the most expensive and least useful way to create energy.

Hi Paul: Well, I became interested when I met online a fellow from U Nebraska who is deeply into it. We spent about 3 or 4 years (2002 to 2006) debating various designs and options, while I wrote a complete thermodynamic model in Excel basic and continually added parasitics and fine-tuned the calculation. Ended up with about 10,000 lines of code fronted by 20 sheets of input parameters and output displays, a huge item but "I thought" very thorough). We finally settled on two designs which we thought would be do-able to working prototype within our budget. I produced drawings in AutoCAD. My son works as a tool-and-die maker so we recruited him to do CAM, and to hire machinists to produce parts and/or paid machinists to let him use their equipment.

After purchase of some compressors, hoists, inverters, induction motor-generators, synchronous generators, propane burners, bench instrumentation A-D boards + thermocouples, etc. etc. plus about 2 yrs dedicated hard development, I decided I had chosen the wrong one of the two competing original designs, because it is subject to all the above problems. It could demonstrate significant reduction in drive power req'd as heat was applied, but we could never get sealing systems to hold up to req'd charge pressures, eg. max tested 75 psi, design pressure 1200 psi. Also discovered that the thermal loss leakages across moving metal surfaces within the engine are not only significant to efficiency which I'd calculated, but also significant to final working fluid temperatures / pressures which I hadn't allowed for.

I still think the first design we developed will work "at some temperature" (of course the grail is "work efficiently at temperatures available from solar collectors", not "gas burners") because that design has much better ratio of thermal transfer area to enclosed volume, but anyway my bank says I'm out of money so i think that's it.

I tried approaching a couple of investors, but not much luck. My daughter is CFO for the largest "small engine" engine distributer in Canada. I talked to the owner, he thought my development budget was completely unrealistically too low therefore I didn't know enough about the business. "How can you develop a new engine type with that budget when Detroit Diesel budgets $100 million to develop an engine?" (He is retired from the top legal officer for the Cdn. detroit diesel distributer.)

Well, that is quite the story. Development costs are crazy, but somehow Rev Robert Stirling, James Watt, John Ericsson, Wright brothers, etc were able to do their things without those sorts of budgets, computers and the like.

If you were to do it again, or restart, what would you do differently, could your engine be brought to success?
And, what was the proposed market for your Stirling - solar?

You may or may not have seen this site, but it's a great history of all sorts of weird and wonderful engines through the last couple of centuries - don't think yours is in there.


Agreed Paul. All those guys appear to have done w/out the thermodynamic modelling (except the Wright bros., they were technical wizards, even inventing the wind tunnel to validate their theories prior to building). These days the computers are mandatory for machinist communications drawings and CAM programs, and for measuring the prototype testing, and as long as we have them we may as well do modelling on them too. Besides, the programming is easy for me, I contract software for a living, and I enjoy the math and thermodynamics.

That last design we built would still make an excellent compressor if anyone wanted to develop it. Rotary operation, all forces on shaft balanced so zero bearing losses, only one moving part and two bearings for a 20 cylinder engine, several other serious advantages eg. no dependence on any other prior patent art. Not willing to describe it further in case i should patent myself first. The prototype rotating assembly looks like a georgeous 50 kg piece of jewlery.

The second-last design, also quite unique, will actually work quite efficiently as a stirling engine, but is more costly to build (which is why we went with the other design for initial completion). We have all the main thermal parts machined, still needs some welding assembly and seals design. Also a very hefty (costly) crank system and an 8" double acting piston / cylinder with seals which can withstand operating life at high pressures unlubricated. A bit trickey. It does have the thermal transfer surfaces required though. There is some risk of thermal short-circuit with this one as well, though it would be much easier to address iff needed.

I don't know if I could get my son interested again, he had heavily invested his time and industry contacts into the other one and was rightly very disappointed when we had to shut it down. Without him, machining costs would go significantly higher I fear.

To discuss further, email me at lengould "at" sympatico.ca

Anyway, good for you, Len. Even though I wake up a communist and go to bed an anarchist, on odd days and the inverse on even days, I admire and appreciate entrepreneurship.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Very interesting stuff. A lot of people are in love with Stirling engines, including my old thermo prof, but I guess there's a reason why they aren't being used that much.

Sobering, indeed. I've been under the impression that this is a successful design:

Stirling Energy Systems

Technically, yes commercially, not yet. This system has been 25yrs and 100's of millions in development, involving Ford, Cummins, McdonnellDouglas, national labs and on and on.

They have just opened the first commercial plant at Maricopa in Arizona, with 60 of these.

No one is saying anything, anywhere, about what these cost, so it can only be lots, otherwise, they would be saying how affordable they are.

What you see there is a 25kW unit, so it needs to be less than $150k, installed, to compete with an off the shelf PV system (which has no moving parts), and I don't think they are there yet. The parent company has just done a deal with Boeing about developing a new concentrating PV system, that can take700:1 sunlight. This may make the Stirling engine obsolete in just a few years!

I love this graph:

Now I'm off to liquidate my retirement and buy SES!

Things like that really make you wonder;
a) who the intended audience is for it - ten year olds?, and
b) if there is a "pump and dump" happening, or about to happen.

Producing graphs like that, with no vertical scale even, is far cheaper than the real thing. How can any serious investor trust a company that does that?

Screw them and their cheap, laughable charts. I'm going to invest my money wisely elsewhere. Can anyone give me their view on Steorn? I hear only good things.

I think Paul has it right. The 25 kw engine is very expensive to build to utility reliability, which is where all these systems need to be, eg. even a small 2 or 3 kw unit used for home power needs to be able to run with minimal maintenance for many years to be economical. At 25% availability, that's 2,000 hrs / year, 40,000 hrs in a lifetime. In putting on 150,000 miles at 60 mph, your car engine is good for perhaps 2,500 hrs. in its entire lifetime, (with oil changes every 100 hrs). A heavy diesel engine may be good for 10,000 hrs in a lifetime.

The other point is, these systems use highly concentrated solar energy, and operate their hot end at perhaps 800 degC, making it viable, but not likely in any smaller size. Higher the receiver temperature of a solar system, higher the losses to re-radiation so lower system efficiency. A very expensive proposition to develop a high-concentration receiver to minimize re-radiation losses when the collector is say only 5 sq. meters and the receiver aperature is only 1/250th of that. Reducing concentration will reduce engine head temperature, getting into the egine efficiency issues I pointed out above.

I had thought WhisperGen (NZ) had the solution, but they've now gone under and are owned by the NZ government.

Len, some industrial diesels (and NG) can actually go 80,000 hrs between rebuilds, ( http://www.gejenbacher.com ) but that is not the norm . It would seem with Stirlings, whichever way you turn, (high temp, high pressure, H2 working gas) you run into problems. They don't scale up to large sizes (100+kW), and are not competitive with microturbines, so the only real markets are home generator units and the solar dishes.

The Whispergen was still only 15% electric efficient, so it is really a gas fired hot water unit that produces some electricity, but never enough to pay for itself. And compared to the high eff condensing water heaters, you are no better off unless you are paying California prices for electricity.
So there was no application where the Whispergen was really superior to anything else. if they had set it up so it could run on woodgas, then it might have a few more applications, but it;s a bit like un-subsidised PV, only good for "remote" locations.

Whispergen was a product searching for a market, so the result was inevitable.

I think the ORC will end up winning against small Stirlings. For solar, you only need to get to 150C, so minimal re-radiation losses, can be done with trough or Fresnel instead of dish, and the turbine/generator/compressor/radiator equipment can be on the ground, with just the heat collector in the air. Not as thermally efficient, but far, far cheaper, and, possibly, profitable.

Its hard for me to imagine they will be able to compete with either CPV, or flat panels. Especially the later are coming down in price. Its hard to find any company not shooting for under $2 per peak watt. These folks had been claiming $6 a few years back, and even if they halve that to $3, they probably would be competing against PV solutions that 2-4 times cheaper.

Wow sorry to hear about that financial setback! However have you ever seen this talk by Bill Gross? This is from back in 2003. He seems to have put a lot of time and effort into developing a market ready solar powered Stirling engine. He doesn't make clear exactly why he shelved the project. Though it sure is an intriguing talk. It only makes me want a Stirling engine even more.


if you want a Stirling, go to the American Stirling Company at http://stirlingengine.com and have a look at their kits. The one that runs of the heat of the palm of your hand is very impressive. These engines will do just as little useful work as bigger engines costing thousands, so save yourself a few $$, and use it to impress any kids that are interested in such things.

I think a better way to go, is the Ericsson engine, though this guy has been equally unsuccessful in bringing anything to market - it has the same power density issues as Stirling, but not the high temp/pressure/exotic gas problems.


And, a company in Calgary that is applying the Ericsson cycle to a gas turbine setup;

This is really a regenerative gas turbine with the combustion chamber after the power turbine, instead of before it. This means that the combustion happens at atmospheric pressure, so you can easily use solid fuel, or non-compressed low btu gas (landfill, woodgas etc), and none of the combustion products ever touch any moving parts.
Downside is that all the heat energy must pass through the metal walls of the heat exchanger, or airboiler as they call it, and for air, as opposed to water/steam, this transfer is less efficient, so you need lots more surface area.
Interestingly, with regenerative turbines, whether internal or external combustion, the optimum efficiency happens at a pressure ratio of about 4, though power density is is proportional to pressure ratio, and a good design point is about 6:1, or 90psi! For a non regenerative turbine (almost all of them) best efficiency is at pressure ratios of 20:1 or more.
You can see the low pressure means stuff can be cheap (thin walled pipes, etc) but you get less power out of the same size turbine.

Ericsson built his first engines in the 1820's and entered into the famous locomotive race that launched Stephenson's Rocket into history;
From http://www.terrypepper.com/lights/closeups/ericsson/ericsson.htm

In August of 1829, learning of a steam locomotive race that was to be held In October of that year, Ericsson formed a partnership with John Braithwaite, and in six weeks designed and built the steam locomotive Novelty. Without time to test their design, the locomotive was shipped-off to Rainhill for the trials.

Weighing just over 2 tons, Novelty was much smaller than the other engines entered into the competition, and was the first to incorporate a cranked wheel mechanism. a design that would remain standard on steam engines until their demise 125 years later.

It was also the quickest and reached speeds of 28 mph during the trials that took place on the first day. This was 4 mph faster than the Rocket managed to attain during the opening session.

Unfortunately, they suffered mechanical failure from welds cracking, and could not stay in the competition, which they would probably have won. The light weight of the engine is astonishing for the day, but also gives clue as to the low power density of the Ericsson cycle - it just couldn;t pull a heavy load as it doesn't have the torque. Gas turbines get around this by having thousands or tens of thousands of rpm's, but for a piston engine, you can't do that, you just have to have larger or more pistons.
Ericsson built the largest piston engine, ever, at 14'diameter and 6' stroke, it ran at 4rpm and produced about 400hp. A steam engine of that size would be at least an order of magnitude greater power.

BUT, his engine would have been very fuel efficient, compared to the steam engines of the day, and far simpler to build and operate.
The supposed simplicity of building the Stirling is what is so tantalising about it, but the price you pay for mechanical simplicity is all the the things that Len mentioned.

A friend of mine likened the Stirling engine to a trophy wife - beautiful, impossible to resist and fun to play with, but expensive, fiddly and doesn't really do any useful work!

Far wiser to install concentrating PV.

Concentrating PV needs 2 axis tracking, and unless you are going with micro cells like SolFocus with 1mm square active area per cell, you also need active cooling. The advantages are a tiny amount of active PV material is used, and you can use really fancy ultra high efficiency PV cells, such as Spectralabs which approach 40% efficiency. The downsides are mechanical complexity (tracking, cooling, maintaining accurate alignment (part of tracking)). My guess is that if concentrating PV pays at all (compared to flat panels), it will only be for commercial and utility scale plants, i.e. I don't think it will scale down to residential size. The real threat for concentrating PV is if flat panels become cheap enough that mechanically complex CPV can't compete.

Another big problem with 2 axis tracking is that the diffuse radiation from atmospheric scattering can not be captured. That can represent a large fraction of the available insolation.

That said, single axis tracking using long east-west oriented trough concentrators can work. The tracking would a single daily elevation adjustment with the ends of the collector's troughs extending beyond the PV cells, such that the a small fraction of the available aperture would be wasted. The thermal energy available from cooling the PV cells could also be a source of energy to drive a bottoming cycle of some sort or which might also be used for low temperature thermal needs.

E. Swanson

-40 F in England?

http://www.navitron.org.uk/UserFiles/annual performance.jpg

Alas, I can't find the page that said 'in -40 deg weather in England you'll get hot water'.

That's the best I could find, and because no one really cares I'm done looking.

If there ever was -40 (at -38 both F and C are equal) in England, there would hardly be a soul left alive!
That said, they do use these tubes in Antarctica, they can produce hot water (though not a lot of it) when the outdoor temperature is -20C.

The collector efficiency decreases as the temperature difference between the collector fluid and ambient increases. Even though the vacuum is an efficient insulator, you start to lose heat by black body radiation, as the tubes get warmer.

Here is a link to one manufactuer, that actually provides real tech data on tube performance.


If you look at the graph at the bottom, you can see that when you are at 100C temp difference, you best collection efficiency is 40%, but if you can settle for a 50C difference, you can get up to 70%. For 200C, your efficiency would be 5-10%, at best. This is why high temp stuff needs a concentrator.

Now, on to their outrageous claims...

They claim their system can provide 80% of heat and 100% of DHW, in winter, and show a snowy house, so we are not talking an Arizona winter here. Their graph shows 2228kWh of heat collected in January. If the panels are running at 40% collection efficiency, that means they are collecting 5570kWh/month of sun, in January, when sun hours are shortest and insolation is weakest. If we assume 1 kW/sqm of collector, and an annual mean of 5hrs/day, and use half this for the winter, we get 2.5kWh/sq.m of collector area, per day. To collect 5570kWh in a month is 185/day, so you need 74 sq.m of collector, or about 750 sq.ft. With tubes, to leave a gap between each, you would end up using at least 1000 sq.ft of roof, if not more. That is a LOT of tubes, so bring your $$ with you

In effect, the solar system is way oversized, to meet the winter heating needs, and then in summer you use the excess to run a Stirling. Now, at 200C, the best efficiency out of a Stirling would be 15%, of the heat collected at 40%, so your system total is 6%, less than half of the worst solar PV.

So, you need a grossly oversized system, that is not really that efficient, and will cost a large fortune. if you ever see the "off grid" types going for this, which I highly doubt, then, and only then, will we know that it is worth the cost.

And, final word about Stirlings, at these low temperatures, up to 150C, you are much better off with organic Rankine systems (ORC), that are basically fridges running in reverse. They are available in industrial sizes, but I have seen projects (even by MIT students) using automotive air conditioning components. They get 15% conversion efficiency at 150C. A 220kW system from United Technologies (using Carrier A/C components) costs about $250k - not a house scale system but you can see the low $/kW. They are being used for low temp geothermal, and energy recovery from exhaust/cooling of industrial diesel and cogen engines.

I don't know why there is not yet a small scale (1-5kW) ORC system on the market yet, but it will come, and will be far better value than a Stirling.

Actually, it's -40 that's the same in C and F.


I stand corrected - I blame that difference on the exchange rate between Canada and US.

Back in the day when when I worked at a ski resort in the Cdn rockies, I went skiing at that temperature, once, to see what it was like and say that I had done it. Sky is amazingly clear (good for solar, I guess), but your nose hairs freeze as you breathe in. Snow as like concrete, and even wearing a neoprene face mask, you couldn't go very fast because of the wind chill. The resort closed the hill by 11 as was just not safe - have a serious crash and you'll be half dead by the time ski patrol gets to you!

Those were some of my mornings walking to and from Residence at university in Thunder Bay, ON. Had to freeze the nose hairs to get my eggs and toast in the cafeteria. Classes were a comedy too as everyone tried to find a place to hang, store or otherwise set aside their heavy winter coats and gear. (pausing for the flashbacks...) Skiing in -20C was a good day.

I stand corrected - I blame that difference on the exchange rate between Canada and US.

Paul, you're batting a thousand. Sorry to quibble on such a small detail and red herring. Seems even the exchange rate isn't cooperating. The Greenback and the Loonie are at equal value today... give or take a few hundredths of a cent.




Yes, they are at parity, today . The loonie goes up and down daily, with the oil price.

About seven years ago when the loonie was 60c US people were talking about "dollarization" to switch over to the US dollar. Now that we are at par, and to do something like that would be (technically) quite simple, no one is talking about it!

Financial aspects aside, it would deprive us of the 2nd most changeable topic of conversation (after the weather)!

I do wish we would follow Australia lead and retire the penny to it's place in history...

Financial aspects aside, it would deprive us of the 2nd most changeable topic of conversation (after the weather)!

Paul, yes, among us Canucks, the value of the Loonie is ranked right there up with hockey... speaking as the play-offs begin yet again.

Dollarization doesn't have much of a fan base any more in the Great White North. Part of that has to do with Canada's fiscal position vis-a-vis other OECD members. Although the US $ still holds cache as the principle reserve currency, the low sovereign debt-to-GDP gives us some latitude and flexibility when it comes to monetary policy. Most Canadians would consider it insane to peg our interest rates to those south of the border until such time as we can see that order has been restored to the US financial system.

In uncertain times, it pays to be prudent. And if recent history is any indication, the Canadian government's propensity for caution has proven to be a very secure and healthy long term strategy.

Long live both dollars!

Zadok, I'd actually be in favour of a return to a gold linked Cdn dollar. That is far simpler than trying to fiddle interest rates and the like, it can't be manipulated by anyone else, and results in a more stable currency.

As for the comment below about NZ, yes they go rid of all those nuisance coins ages ago, as did Australia. They also got rid of $5bills too, replacing with a coin. The other great simplification in both countries is the requirement to include all taxes in the posted price of anything. So when it says $9.95, you pay $9.95, not $11.14. once you get that right, you simply don't need anything less than 5c anymore. When I buy something I really don't care what the split is between price and tax, I just care what I have to pay, it is really a much better system, and then the tax is not in you face every time you buy something, if I have to pay the tax, so be it, but I don;t want to have to think tax all the time too!

Paul, you and I are on the same page regarding gold. Since 1973, this makes us radicals - not unlike the monetarists of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

And yep, if they wanted to retire the lowly penny, I would not be opposed. I would argue that even the beaver nickle is dispensable. I like what the Kiwis and Aussies have done.

I also would have no qualms if they ever wanted to rename the currency so as to save on the hot and bother generated by value comparisons with the almighty US dollar. What to name it? I would leave that to others smarter than me to decide.

Heaven knows, we could have a contest on TOD to come us with a name!!



Tom, I don't know about a contest here - it would end up being called the "doomer dollar" or something like that. I would go with the Loon, actually, 'cos people use it already, and reminds me of the Pac islands that used clams as currency! I guess you could also call it the Puck, but that might be too close to the buck.

If you are interested in gold, check out this website, if you haven;t seen it already. I like his commentary about cities, but he makes lots of good points about gold.


I love the observations about the long term value of gold. The price of clothing, housing and the like hasn't really changed from the Roman days, if you are paying in ounces of gold!

Thank you Paul for the link. Even the title, "Gold: the once and future money" seems to argue... or is it augur?... for a likely return. Though presently there are too many entrenched vested interests in place, namely those who profit from monetary manipulation, for a reversion to gold within the foreseeable future.

As for the Canadian dollar, I like the Loon or even keeping it at Loonie. IMHO, the French huard would be all right, too.



Keep the French stuff out of it - the Loonie it is and will be!

NZ has retired the penny, tuppence and sixpence.

Midwest USA in the winter has something called CLOUDS. Lots of thick clouds. Days of them. Good luck using any system like this to get more then a fraction of your hot water during the low sun months (mid Nov-mid Feb)...

Considering that a glass tube system can get ya hot water at -40 F in England

I would bet that outside of a freezer it has never reached -40 in England. You probably meant +40.

On the website, the FAQ says 200C and that they don't use water.

Cool Energy – Frequently Asked Questions, Oct 2009 (PDF)

200°C is too hot for water. What is the heat transfer fluid in the SolarFlow System?

The SolarFlow System uses a mineral‐oil based, food‐safe and non‐toxic heat transfer fluid which is rated
to 340°C.

British Columbia and Ontario move forward with renewable projects

Largely small hydro and wind

Ontario, almost 2,500 MW


BC received proposals for 17 TWh (mainly small hydro) and has winnowed them down


Best Hopes for Electricity Exports,


Alan, it is good to see this moving ahead, but this process could have been so much better. BC Hydro can no, yet, quite come to grips with how to manage independent power producers.

For these projects of over 10MW, you have to wait for BC Hydro to issue a "call for proposals" and then develop them, like these groups did, at considerable expense, submit them, and hope you get "approved". They eliminated some as "not cost effective" - how is that BCH's decision. This process should simply be; "if you build it, at your expense and risk, we'll buy the power". Many companies, I know one of them, have spent a lot of time on these proposals, stream studies, surveys, etc, to come up with their projects, and are then told "no".

BCH should simply set the rules, and then agree to buy the power when they start producing. That is what they did for under 10MW, and they should do so for over, it would make the process far better for all involved.

And BC is still a net importer, by about 15%. We export at peak hour, and then import all that and more back in off peak, so we have some way to go before we are an "exporter" in the true sense of the word, but I hope we get there, fast.

I think that, like good rail systems, good hydro systems are one of the best long term investments a society can make. It doesn't mean you have to dam all the rivers, but they can be used productively, and BC has lots of them!

With all this hydro, the province should be a good place for wind too,but there has been precious little of that developed to date.

Best hopes indeed..


Welcome to my world. Paul summed it up and we could add a little more local knowledge. BC could theoretically move ahead with a multitude of renewable energy projects that are mostly wind and run of river hydro. But, the major constraints are existing open market pricing with incumbent coal fired plants in Alberta and the U.S., and a distinct lack of transmission for export capacity.

Its a chicken and the egg alright. The most likely scenario is BC won't be able to take advantage of near future export opportunities as existing FF generation fades away quickly because the transmission can never be built fast enough. Of course, we have our "concerned" citizens that believe we should not export electricity. We export everything else in this province, why should electrical energy be any different? Welcome to "Absurdistan".

On the lighter side, some of the run of river cluster developments get plenty of interested Operator applications, such as Cloud Works Energy in the Harrison Lake area. When you include in your job advertising "know how to operate a snow mobile", "know how to operate and ATV", "working unsupervised in remote wilderness areas" (read, "plenty of fishing"), you are going to get a lot of guys applying. Ya, where do I sign up?

Well, if we are running short of transmission, then it's time to add another potline to the Kitimat aluminium smelter and fire it up. Also, ban exports of raw logs, so the mills here start processing them here instead of exporting to china. Electrify some of the BC Ferry fleet (short routes), Electrify the trains and more trolley buses. There are lots of productive uses we can come up with for electricity if we need to. Get everyone off NG heat and onto elec air source heat pumps, as we can then sell the NG south too.

Sounds like the best thing for the Prov and BCH would be to build a HVDC line to Cal-Oregon border interchange. Then BCH has all the transmission they need, and they control the market. Let the IPP's just have at 'er and within ten, even five years we'd have lots of hydro, wind, waste to energy, wood to energy, you name it. Think of it as the 21st century version of the Cdn Pacific Railroad - once BC is connected, lots of business opportunities open up.

But, you are right, that will never happen here. Too many retirees here who don't need to worry about the long term economic future of this place.

Limited transmission capacity to Kitimat (last time I visited).

Otherwise, I agree.

Electrify CN and/or CP and add transmission wiring on RR ROW to Alberta and export some there to your fellow Canadiens (spelling >:-)

Transmission is a viable business. See Northern Lights.



Alan, I think it's more a case of limited capacity from Kitimat. They have the Kemano Dam there , to provide power for the smelter, but it has often been more profitable to reduce alum production and sell power, so really, the energy is going from Kitimat. Add an other potline and you would then "reverse" the flow to Kitimat, and there would be enough capacity to do that. The expansion has been on the drawing board for some time, and I'm fairly sure major transmission upgrades are not required.

The northern lights project has been on the plans for quite some time - all the cogen in Fort Mac is at the limit of transmission capacity back to Edmonton. It's a good project, though of limited help to BC, as there is only limited generation potential in the SE corner. if it does get built, I would not be surprised to then see renewed discussion about a nuclear reactor in the oilsands.

There is only one real interconnect between AB and BC, at Crowsnest pass, along hwy 3, and I think it is limited to about 1000MW. AS you get further north, along the boundary, you are miles from any population centres until you get to Peace river country, where I presume there is an interconnect there.

since you mentioned it, you must have looked closely at the option for RR's building HV transmission along their ROW's . Are there any real synergies there for RR's when it comes to electrification? I presume their tracks would cross power lines often enough they they could get all their electrification energy as it is, so is there any extra technical/engineering benefit other than a lease payment or some such for the lines?

best regards,




I was told that it closely paralleled a secret 6 month internal study at a major railroad.


Thanks Alan, a most interesting read!
Particularly like the idea of the HVDC then interconnecting the four US grids- how any country could let itself have non interconnected grids is beyond me!

What was the response to this - did it go anywhere?

Agreed about the euro/japan style high speed trains, when you want to go that fast, the capital cost is enormous, more money for less return.

What I have observed with the general public, and some rail advocates, is that they always want Cadillac solutions, and I think this is because it is the government paying for it. These solutions then become so expensive that they don't get implemented, or if they do, are then looked at as being too much money for the benefit obtained, and so are not repeated.

My favourite example of tis is the Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit www.sonomamarintrain.org
This is a proposal to use an existing 70 mile stretch of single track rail, for a passenger service. That is a great idea. What is not a great idea, is that they want to run interurban trains, that can do up to 80mph, along this run of 70 miles with 12 stations.
The line has been reinstated fro freight use, presumably good for 50mph. To upgrade for 80mph is a massive undertaking, and the trains (DMU's) will not spend that much time at those speeds, and have to work with freight rail too.
They are also looking to build fancy stations, etc. Price tag for the whole things is $500 million, and this for a project where the line is already there!

They would be better of to start with a train or three that can run on the existing tracks, at rated speed, and just get going, which could be done far cheaper. Yes, it will take a few more minutes to traverse the line from end to end, but at an 80% discount, I'd take that. Still faster than driving hwy 101 on in perpetual traffic. Once the service is up and running, then they can gradually improve the system.

This seems to me an example of the dreamers winning out over the pragmatists, any rail service is better than none, and by shooting for the moon, instead of working within what they have, they have created a lot of public backlash over the (taxpayer funded) cost. But that seems to be a particularly California way of doing things..

Best hopes for practical solutions!


Greenwashing. I'd really like to see the full cost of this. When the government pays 80c/kWh FIT, you know it's awful. Ontario has learnt nothing from Germany.

Anyone read Bill McKibben's latest book, EAARTH: MAKING A LIFE ON A TOUGH NEW PLANET? Judging by the Amazon reviews, some of his environmentalist fans are having trouble with the idea that oil production has peaked. Not clear that they really understand what it means to say that oil production has peaked, but never mind. Was just wondering if anyone had read McKibben's book and what you thought of it. (I have not read it yet.)

McKibben seems to have a devoted following, some of whom may not follow him down the Peak Oil road. Many of my own environmentalist friends humor me as a Voice of Doom for my talk of PO; how much more must McKibben's "friends" be affected by his Peak Oil awareness. My guess is that this book may at least help to legitimize the talk of PO in some quarters.

McKibben is certainly one of the biggest players attempting to get the world to do something about global heating (not warming, which sounds so pleasant). He has been way ahead of the curve in understanding what is happening to nature and what has been happening to us and from us during the last several decades.

Unlike a lot of mainstream players in the climate change arena like Al Gore, he also gets the fact that economic growth is over or needs to be over soon. One way or another, global heating, peak oil, peak resources, and peak nature is coming back to bite us.

But really now. It is hard enough to sell the idea that something should be done about global heating without telling people they might have to alter their dream, their cherished way of life, not to mention the billion in China that are just getting their taste of what used to be called the American dream.

I read McKibben's last book which tried to give people like me some hope. After his experience with 350.org in Copenhagen, I don't have any hope and nothing he will write will change that.

McKibben is a really marvelous and persuasive writer. Too bad he will be largely ignored.

I,of course, would like to be pleasantly surprised.

This article by Prof. James Hamilton was linked from DeLong blog yesterday.


Do rising oil prices threaten the economic recovery?

My view is that it is not just the level of consumer spending but also a sudden change in its composition that sometimes contributes to an economic recession. When oil price increases are sufficiently sudden and dramatic, we see abrupt drops in consumer sentiment, postponement of purchases of consumer durables, and important changes in the kinds of vehicles consumers buy. Because labor and capital can not costlessly shift out of the affected industries, the result is unemployment in those sectors which is an important additional factor bringing the economy down.

I'm posting this, not because the content would be new to anyone who reads drumbeat regularly, but because the site is a fairly mainstream political blog. Awareness seems to be increasing, folks. Keep up the good work. Also, since it's Wonkette, some of the comments are pretty funny.


Here's one of the replies..

True fact: The U.S. Military leads in domestic renewable energy production. Here’s some stuff about the military solar arrays out west, including the biggest one in America at Nellis: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/07/u-s-militar...

This has all happened in the past eight or nine years, with the big solar projects only coming online about two years ago. They know.

Read more at Wonkette: http://wonkette.com/414797/us-military-surplus-oil-gone-by-2012-global-s...

Sustainable military for sustainable war.

P.S. Money is no object to the Military. The least efficient entity on the planet.

I generally agree.. but despite the wastefulness of so much of war, the military is a culture with some very practical and efficient aspects. It makes sense to look at their choices and see both the strengths and weaknesses that guide it. It has blinders as well.. but this choice to have independent renewable power for their bases is from a very pragmatic part of their process. They list a number of bases that have 100% renewable power available.

Beyond that, and any 'good/bad' of what one sees in their actions, is the simple fact that this much RE has been installed. Not bad to have that as an emergency powersource in your neighborhood.

(and I think Filmmaking might be a little less efficient)

So our military gets solar power, an unlimited budget and 50% of our tax dollars, and permanent bases in the Middle East to lord it over poor Muslims.

Meanwhile we get crappy McMansions, ugly strip malls, 40 mile commutes, student and mortgage debt, and permanent temp jobs. But at least we have cheap oil from Iraq forever! Oh, wait...

BAU in the good ole USofA.

Nothing to see here, move along.

And from that RE World article..

Consider the solar arena: If you thought the biggest solar array in the Americas was in the Southwestern United States, you'd be right. At 140 acres, the site's 70,000 panels produce peak energy of 14 megawatts, or enough energy to supply 14,000 homes.

But what may not be widely known is that the solar site is at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, providing about one-fourth of the base's power, with the capability of selling renewable credits back to NV Energy. The site, completed in late 2007, can produce about 30.1 million kilowatt hours per year.

Your Tax dollars, hard at work and double-dipping! (Military Budget buying up solar, selling green credits)

At least the money didn't go to AIG or Citibank. I'll favor hard assets over salaries for tax dollars any day.

absolutely. I should have added, "and I'm not even complaining!"

At 140 acres, the site's 70,000 panels produce peak energy of 14 megawatts, or enough energy to supply 14,000 homes.

So each home only uses 1Kw ... surely not. That ain't correct.

Well yes and no. Yes, the average consumption of an american home is about 24 kwh / day, or 1 kw continuously average (check your bill. Typical month = 720 hours, typical billing about 750 kwhr / month). But no, a solar PV installation capable of 1 kw peak is not going to provide that for 24 x 7 year round. More like about 25% of that, depending on location.

That's the ballpark, but according to the EIA:

In 2008, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,040 kWh, an average of 920 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 15,624 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh

It seems no one noticed this.

"The project, financed by private investors, cost $100 million and took six months to complete."

Hmmm... 14,000 kw at $100,000,000. That's $7.14 / kw. Still not close to competitive.

On the Chu presentation post a few days ago, there was a chart which showed the average cost of solar, which seems to have flat lined about 5 years ago.


It seems to make the case that government subsidy is actually raising the price per watt of solar. I am hoping someone is working on an article detailing how govt subsidies do NOT lower the cost of... well pretty much anything.

Your link is to the Installed cost of solar power that I showed in a post a few days ago. It is from this publication, which seems to be a fairly official compilation of Installed Costs of Solar Power that is updated every year.

The image Steven Chu showed in his presentation was this one, which relates to "Module Price":

I expect at least part of the problem is that there are many layers of costs included in the finished installed price that don't go down at all proportionately. There is the cost of the inverter. There is the transportation of all of the parts to the site where installation is done. There are the parts needed for installation, and the labor needed for installation. Chu talks about "Module Price"--I am not sure how that compares to "Manufactured Cost" either, but I would guess there may be some additional costs in the difference that didn't go down as dramatically. Note that the installed costs are near $8 W, while Chu's graph end at $1 W.

I can imagine some costs going up over time. Transportation of modules will depend on oil prices. If solar is now being installed in smaller quantities, it may be that installation costs are at higher per W for small installations. If fancier installation is being done now (tipping panels at the right angle, for example), this would also add to the installed cost.

That is a fascinating graph - would be interested to see what the installed capacity has been each year to go with that.
This graph certainly suggests that solar PV is a "mature" technology, though the thin films may change that, if they can be applied directly to roofing metal or the like.

Would be interesting to see a similar graph for wind and nuclear...

A part of it -until the great recession hit, was supply and demand. Demand was increasing faster than supply (both of panels, and the silicon needed to make them out of). Now that demand has been damaged by the recession, we will see if the prices are coming down.

Clearly the technology is not mature yet (at least for the active material) improvements are being made all the time. But we need installed cost to go down by a lot.

Note that the installed costs are near $8 W, while Chu's graph end at $1 W.

"In my opinion the current problem demonstrated by the high installation costs is that each PV installation tends to be considered a 'custom' installation.

I have come to the conclusion that the federal government needs to create a standardized renewable home power receptacle.

This receptacle would be used to plug in solar and/or wind renewable power sources into a home.

Problem: Currently, for _every_ home in the United States, if a home wants to have solar or wind power installed, it is custom installed into a house's wiring. This means that each installation needs to potentially have new wiring put in, grounding added, and needs to be inspected. This takes money and time. Some cities such as San Gabriel, can charge around a thousand dollars to have a solar power system be inspected.

Also, the local electrical power company needs to inspect the installation before providing 'sign-off' to the home to have the new power source be connected to the grid.



The problem is that there are many ways to configure this equipment.

There are good reasons for this to be done by knowledgable electricians, and subject to a safety inspection. A wind tower or a solar PV array are quite capable of producing enough energy to kill a person, or to burn down a house. So far, I believe their track record remains very good, but juice is juice, and any major SNAFU by a solar house would be about as disastrous as Obama uttering the F word, or showing just the slightest bit of anger, even if the situation that caused it was 'totally understandable'.

Sometimes, it's actually NOT better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission..

A solar PV installation linked to the grid has to have an instantaneous cut off mechanism in the inverter if the grid goes down.This is to safeguard people working on the grid from stray current.

Linesmen don't like being zapped.

A solar PV installation linked to the grid has to have an instantaneous cut off mechanism in the inverter if the grid goes down.This is to safeguard people working on the grid from stray current.

Agreed. Right now the safeguard(s) are put into the equipment, then the equipment custom wired into a home.

Instead, if the safeguard(s) were added into my proposed 'plug' that is installed into the home, and is a NEC federal/UL listed device, it allows the plug to come with a new home, or retro-fitted into an existing home.

My opinion is that having such a standard interface would accelerate adoption of home renewable electric power.

Yep. B/c there already are several small to good sized (250w/120v to 3000w/240v) fairly inexpensive, grid tied inverters on the market which are specifically designed to be soft wired into outlets. I'm aware of the outdoor modular grid tied boxes but the ones I'm referring to are not all weather and are made to appeal to the DIY types. And they are making them for up to 100v DC input volts as well. They will probably not be inspected by anyone when used. They mostly claim to have anti islanding technology built in (won't work w/o grid power) ,but w/o testing and certification it's maybe sketchy?

Their sale isn't being banned yet and rather than discourage RE by doing that I'd rather see it being done the way you suggest with some protocol and certification. I think this is what is called disruptive technology. Maybe it's not being seen as serious for US/Euro markets. I expect there will be some utilities which will threaten to disconnect when they are discovered. But if you build it and make it available it'll probably get used esp if folks think they can spend a little and save a little.

I have wondered about installing a 3 phase panel ("2 phase" service from grid) and wiring the 3rd phase in blue wire (NEC code OK, with black & red). Run solar on my "blue" outlets (color code them as well). Depending on insolation & batteries, I might unplug washing machine from solar outlet and plug into grid outlet next to it. Same for some other appliances.

Lighting could use electrical boxes developed for generators, which can switch some red & black wires/loads to blue source, and back, without any backfeed issues.

Solar is thus electrically isolated from grid.


That has the advantage of being able to operate as a backup if the grid is out and it skirts potential conflict with the power Co. The flip side is of course that one has to set up a side by side system with a desire to switch over whenever the batts are charged and there is surplus output from the panels/windmill. Then there is a charge controller, inverter, and batts to setup. These DIY grid tied boxes are maybe for less ambitious schemes.

Still I'm also leaning toward stand alone. My utility does not pay for net metering and a full installation is a lot of hassle and expense for no backup power and slow payback. I'm probably going to make my little EV's the battery bank and be able to pull from them directly @ 48 DC on a separate circuit with inverter for emergencies.

That special inverter (for B/U power) is a bit more expense but my panels are already high voltage so it makes sense to go MPPT controller and run the 48v to the bikes/threewheeler directly anyway. Same problem though, no where to dump surplus charge w/o the switch over. (some controllers will with a 'default' load) Probably end up designating a couple of circuits for this and trying to keep a load on them. The sneaky grid tie box will likely be seen as the cheap and dirty way out IMHO.

Alan, you may want to check with your local electrical inspector about that. At my ski resort we had a project where we wanted to have two different electrical services coming into the one building, and we were told, very clearly, that you cannot have two services, of the same characteristic (meaning same voltage and freq) coming into the one building. The reason being that if a serviceman shuts down the main 120V service, he will rightly assume that all 120V outlets are now dead, but if you have two services, that is not the case. Now, this was a commercial building, and the rules may, or may not, be different for a house.

That said, it's a good idea. I am working with a neighbour to set up a micro hydro, (2-3kW) and we will not connect it to the grid as the control equipment is just too expensive. We'll use it to run elec baseboard heat and hot water, and possibly the beer fridge - water cooled beer!

Hot water or a resistance element heater is always the best way to dump excess load.

The easy solution is to run the inverter at 50 Hz, 230 V :-) and use EU appliances and plugs :-)


yes, that would be easy, though there is probably some rule about them not being allowed here. If you were only using lights and resistance heating, you could also go 120VDC, though you need special DC switches - DC is very hard on the conctacts.

A number of electronics can run on either with the right plug & transformer. A number of DC appliances for motor homes are available, but price/value/efficiency is generally poor.

12, 24 & 48 VDC seem to be viable options (easier NEC standards for <50 V), why 120 VDC ?

Best Hopes,


Alan, with simple resistance elements (incandescent bulbs, water heaters) that are made for 120V ac, they can take 120V dc too. As soon as you get into anything that has electronics or motors, it's a whole different story, and then you need dedicated DC appliances, such as marine/RV. if you are thinking of a fridge, for example, do NOT get any fridge that uses the ammonia system (the 3-way fridges that can run on propane) they are hopelessly inefficient - the 12/24V compressor types are far better.

This is a good illustration of the scale problem for grid connected self-generation - the equipment to meet the interconnection requirements is often as expensive as everything else put together! However, it does last a long time, and you can take it with you, or if you leave it, it does add (some) value to the house.

That is one of the reasons why household scale solar is of questionable value. yes, it is right at the user's location, but there is no economy of scale with the power electronics, or anything else - why the government continues to subsidise the most expensive way of generating electricity is beyond me!

best of luck with your little project!

And they do.

Maybe what you read in my post sounded like I said otherwise, but the point was that safety in RE installations DOES merit regulation and code-compliance..

the 'Forgiveness' line is reversed from it's normal use.. at least I think it is. Red is positive, right?

My HO is that the connectivity should be being provided automatically within the new smart electronic meters now being installed as part of the so-called "smart grid". Each meter should already have a powered disconnect included for purposes of disconnecting deadbeats and switching accounts during moves etc., a standard option already available from all meter manufacturers. All that's needed is a very small amount of additional anti-islanding logic in the meter / controller to both sense outages and to accept shutdown requests from linemen so it opens the disconnect and holds it open until broadcast communication from central office authorizes it to re-connect. That way, the homeowner could use their local generation from emergency backup during outages, which is now not allowed with anti-islanding inverters.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 9, 2010

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.8 million barrels per day during the week ending April 9, 209 thousand barrels per day above the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 85.6 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.2 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased slightly last week, averaging 4.0 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.9 million barrels per day last week, down 681 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.2 million barrels per day, 10 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 571 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 184 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased by 2.2 million barrels from the previous week. At 354.0 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.1 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels last week and are in the middle of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 0.3 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

I am getting somewhat fatigued at trying to figure out all the corrections and revi-sions that go into the weekly inventory report, although it appears that generally speaking the EIA withdrew a few million barrels of products that it previously counted in prior reports.

Not to mention the rather large adjustment a few weeks back of reclassifying 7 million barrels of product inventories back to crude.

Keep in mind the EIA itself is projects that the US needs to accumulate 3 million barrels of oil/products per week throughout the second quarter just to make it through the summer driving season. Since that figure dropped by 300,000 barrels in this report, we are off to a bad start for this quarter.

I suppose the recent hijacking of one, and possibly two, large oil tankers heading for the US from the Mideast is also not helping build up our inventories.

Dueling headlines from the last 2 Drums

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecasts that it will need to put 100,000 barrels less crude on the market in 2010 that it did last year.


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.

Maybe a higher price would convince one of the views to change.

I am reminded again of why people should stop talking about isolated numbers devoid of any context -- it's too easy to get things mixed up.

Reading the articles carefully, one sees in the msn.com article the following quote:

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecasts that it [OPEC] will need to put 100,000 barrels [per day] less crude on the market in 2010 that it did last year.

The reuters article says:

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.
But the extra demand will largely be met by production from outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
As a result, the IEA estimated demand this year for OPEC crude and stocks would fall by 200,000 bpd to 29.1 million bpd.

Both agencies are anticipating a fall in the need for OPEC oil.

What they neglect to mention is that the error bars on these estimates should probably be on the order of about 0.5 million bpd. The changes they are talking about are in the noise!

Here's the picture from the Energy Export Databrowser:

Talking about a change of 0.1 million bpd is essentially a conversation about whether the next year on the graph will be 1/4 of a pixel shorter or taller than the previous one. It's just silly. Even if you thought their ability to predict were that accurate -- I don't -- the difference is negligible.

When interpreting headlines it is important to distinguish when predictions indicate a significant change (in the statistical sense).

If I were to paraphrase the two articles above it would be:

Self important agencies charged with predicting demand for oil agree that economic growth is unlikely this year. Both see global demand for oil at about the same level as last year.

Best Hopes for finding signal in the noise.

-- Jon

I'm thinking they are saying "We can't do it".

The chart also shows that oil supply and demand have been well balanced since Oct 2009. Oil supply has been just under 86 mbd since Oct 2009 and is expected to remain just under 86 mbd until about Jun 2010. Thus, oil supply and demand should stay in balance until about Jun 2010.

From Jul 2010 to Sep 2010, it is estimated that a supply shortfall of over 1 mbd will happen unless OPEC can increase production further. This means that Saudi Arabia needs to increase production to help meet expected world demand in 2010Q3. We won't have to wait long to see if Saudi Arabia does or wants to increase production to a higher level.
and http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/6304#comment-603747

I think your 1 million bpd shortage estimate for mid-2010 is in the ball park. Recently US demand is running about 400,000 bpd over last year, this and other information generally validates the IEA's expectation (discussed elsewhere here today) of a worldwide demand increase of almost 1.7 million bpd.

Supply may be up as much as 600,000 bpd per the IEA for non-OPEC countries, although I think that estimate to be higher than what will be forthcoming - that is even before we think start thinking about the effects of possible hurricanes on US oil production (also discussed elsewhere).

More importantly for the US, dispite repeated claims to the contrary by many analysts - even today - who say the market is 'oversupplied', inventories must be built up at a fairly good clip in the second quarter to overcome the apparent ongoing fall in worldwide exports (otherwise known as Exportland 2.0) that has already taken effect.

Updated supply, demand and price chart to Dec 2013 which still shows over 1 mbd demand supply gap from Jul to Sep 2010 and prices over $100. Tapis oil today traded at $89.


The latest IEA world oil production figure is 86.6 mbd for March which is about 1 mbd higher than the 85.65 mbd estimate from OPEC.

Saudi internal demand for oil, partly used to produce electricity for air conditioning in summer months, is expected to increase by about 1 mbd from 1.6 mbd in Dec 2009 to 2.6 mbd in Jul/Aug 2010.

Excellent analysis.

It will be interesting to see if OPEC increases exports to the US soon, so that the US has adequate supplies for the summer driving season, or on other hand, if OPEC - especially SA - prepares to meet record breaking internal demand by holding exports steady, or even reducing them.

So far, there is no indication that OPEC has stepped up oil exports to knock down prices and/or to accommodate the usual late Spring/early Summer buildup in US inventories - that is if they had any ability to do so.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to keep shipments steady in the four weeks ending April 24, according to tanker-tracker Oil Movements. The 12-member group, which pumps 40 percent of the world's crude oil, will ship 23.24 million barrels a day in the period, little changed from the month ended March 27, the Halifax, England-based consultant said Thursday. The data exclude Ecuador and Angola.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's an interesting graphic Ace, but it seems somewhat presumptious in light of so many variables, that so near in the future demand will outpace supply.

And isn't greater demand than supply simply the idea that if more oil was available at a low enough price it would get consumed? Afterall, only as much oil as is supplied can be consumed. If there is a shortage then price rises, reducing demand to equal supply.

I remember in the run up in price to 147, at some dollar point over a hundred, many small developing countries started opting out of their oil contracts, which temporarily reduced demand and in turn kept the price at that level for a while.

Maybe that graph where demand exceeds supply, should change to a different color to denote it is unsatisfied demand.

Maybe that graph where demand exceeds supply, should change to a different color to denote it is unsatisfied demand.

That's why he has the word "notional" in parentheses before "demand."

Economically, there is no such thing as "unsatisfied demand." Demand always equals supply, because demand is defined as that which consumers are "ready, willing, and ABLE" to buy. If the supply isn't there, the ability isn't there.

I agree there will be the euphemistically-defined "demand destruction," but what you are really talking about isn't "unsatisfied demand" but DEPRIVATION.

There will be unsatisfied wants, needs, and wishes on down the line.

Well, thank you, sir.

Talking about a change of 0.1 million bpd is essentially a conversation about whether the next year on the graph will be 1/4 of a pixel shorter or taller than the previous one. It's just silly. Even if you thought their ability to predict were that accurate -- I don't -- the difference is negligible.

When interpreting headlines it is important to distinguish when predictions indicate a significant change (in the statistical sense).

...and that is why I enjoy being a regular reader here at TOD, for the critical thinking and analysis, as well as the stories posted.

Thank you Jon.

Dr. Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground has a pretty interesting blog post regarding SSTs for the hurricane forming areas of the western hemisphere...

Things look to be really cookin' for an active hurricane season.


Arghh !

Think from the perspective of a bowling pin watching the balls come down the lane.

And just ONE MORE YEAR till the US Army finished the levees that they promised in the 1960s.

Best Hopes for hooks, slices, and gutter balls.


I would appreciate any help on an issue that's been on my mind.

NGL production is growing steadily even as conventional oil stagnates. My understanding is that NGLs are primarily feedstocks for petrochemicals and not typically processed into diesel or gasoline. So even though crude production is more or less flat since 2004 (with lots of volatility in between), growth in NGL should allow refiners to process more crude into diesel and gasoline and less into naptha for petrochemicals.

Looking ahead on projections for oil and gas production in the future, NGLs will become in increasing proportion of the total liquids picture.

As crude production declines, will diesel and gasoline production will be squeezed because NGLs will not be used to produce those fuels? If so, isn't forecasted Total Liquids production somewhat misleading in indicating future supplies of transportation fuels?


My understanding is that NGLs are primarily feedstocks for petrochemicals and not typically processed into diesel or gasoline.

Actually, a pretty big chunk of them goes toward LPG (propane). The other main feedstock for LPG is high fractions of petroleum, with about equal percentages coming from each. LPG could be used as a vehicle fuel, and a few vehicles (mostly in municipal or corporate fleets) do use LPG. The main use of LPG, though, it to be burned for heat.

Most of the hydrocarbon chains in NGLs are too short for inclusion in gasoline (they would just evaporate unless kept under pressure), let alone diesel. On the other hand, some of the condensates separated right at the well do include long enough hydrocarbon chains, and those are shipped off to oil refineries.

Thanks, WNC. I think what you say supports the idea that lumping NGLs in with crude is somewhat misleading for those who are concerned about transportation fuel and heating oil.

In the US LPGs are very much a bit player in heating; according to the American Housing Survey for 2007 heating sources are as follows, numbers in thousands, for Owner Occupied Units:

Housing units
with                    75403
Electricity		21197	28.11%
Piped gas		40993	54.37%
Bottled gas		5101	6.76%
Fuel oil		6041	8.01%
Kerosene etc             416	0.55%
Coal/coke                 86	0.11%
Wood		        1266	1.68%
Solar energy		  11	0.01%
Other		         292	0.39%

I don't think other LPGs are being left out, or at least the EIA deigns to track end use of anything other than kerosene: EIA - Petroleum Consumption/Sales Data & Analysis In the AHS the actual entry is "Kerosene or other liquid fuel" instead of the "Kerosene etc" that I used above - trimmed things for formatting purposes. Certainly you could heat with propane or white gas if so inclined, but that seems to mostly be the domain of campers.

The situation could well be very different in other countries of course.

Maybe I'm misreading that chart, but I would think that the "bottled gas" is LPG. LPG isn't just used for residential heating, either. Farms use a lot of it for crop drying, for example.

Refineries could polymerize the propane and butane into longer-chain hydrocarbons that they could blend into the gasoline mix, but I think in general they would prefer to separate them and sell them as propane and butane because they make more money that way. It's all about money, you know.

My understanding is that increased production of NGL's from oil fields is a sign of depletion - any of the oil/geology experts here care to put me straight on this?

Often produced NG is re-injected into oil fields to maintain pressure (Prudhoe Bay is one example). Once the oil is pretty well depleted, they then produce the gas ("blowing the gas cap off" is the term used I believe).

Now are the NGLs stripped from the NG when first produced before re-injection ? I think it varies. Regardless, some will be left till the end.

BTW, if Palin's vaunted NG pipeline is built, that should be the end of oil production from Prudhoe Bay in short order as I understand the issues.


I don't know if building the NG pipeline would represent the end of oil production from Prudhoe Bay.

Reinjecting the NG is just an exercise in conserving it for future production. Eventually it will be produced, just not necessarily before the oil production comes to an end.

The end of Prudhoe Bay oil production comes when they have to shut down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline because of insufficient oil to pay the bills. From here, we can already see the dark at the end of the tunnel for Prudhoe Bay.

I tried to get an engineering firm I know (does a lot of oilfield design work for the big boys) to propose the following study. No luck.

At some future time, shut down the existing pipeline and create a pipeline/rail combo.

The Alaskan RR goes from Anchorage to Fairbanks already. China imported a million b/day from Russia for many years by rail (with a change of gauge !). Find the point where a smaller, much shorter, new pipeline could transfer to railcars for a ride south.

Perhaps use old pipeline (after rehab) for NG part of the way (say to Fairbanks and turn east).

My first guess is extend the railroad over the Yukon (upgrade it all the way as well) into the foothills of the Brooks range. Drill a tunnel into a mountain and then drill & blast a cavern and do the oil transfer there.

This rail extension might also open up some minerals as well.

Best Hopes,


Always liked this idea of yours, Alan, might work as a Hail Mary. Was reading about the new intake for Lake Mead, doubt the planners envisaged ever having to go to those lengths either.

Found a copy of 800 Miles to Valdez : Building of the Alaska Pipeline a few weeks ago. Only just got a start on it, and talk immediately goes from Prudhoe Bay 1's spud to discussing hot vrs cold pipelines, like other options aren't even an issue; no mention of rail in the index, either. But skimming ahead a bit there's talk of icebreaking tankers - specifically the pioneering Manhattan, nuclear sub tankers (courtesy General Dynamics), Edward Teller directing Operation Plowshare to excavate a deepwater port at the North Slope, and rail.

Rail's big drawback was volume - Dept of Interior calculated needing 63 trains per day in each direction, with attendant shortcomings environmental and economic. Someone also threw out the idea of a monorail - tanked (sorry about the pun...) for similar reasons. Trucks would entail 60k vehicles + 8 lane highway. Even Boeing and Lockheed analyzed shipping the stuff by air. In the Arctic? Nada. Ditto with, uh, blimps...

You get the picture. As big a PITA the TAPS was nothing else fit the bill.

Above a certain volume, pipelines are more economic. This is why China & Russia built a 1.6 million b/day pipeline.


Once built, pipelines are still more economic until the volume drops below viable technical levels or it needs major rehab/rebuild.

Applying your formula, 63 trains/day for max production of 2 million b/day > 8 trains/day for 250,000 b/day. And 63/day is busy but well within normal double track operations capacity.

It is my understanding that operating the Alaskan pipeline, especially in the winter, becomes technically difficult < 250,000 b/day. A major shut-in today (see BP) might well drive volumes that low today.

The lower limit for rail is whatever economic minimum is required to maintain a clear ROW. At, say, 30,000 b/day, wells may be shut in for half the year (or reduced production stored near the railhead).

The Russians and Chinese (recently to Lhasa, Tibet) have experience building and operating railroads in conditions comparable to the North Slope. Back in the 1970s, relying upon the Soviet Union for technical support was "not a viable option".

Best Hopes for Long Term Solutions,


Transporting oil by rail from the Alaska North Slope to the Lower 48 is technically feasible. I recall reading a study called "Arctic Oil and Gas by Rail" many years ago, and although it was done for the Canadian government, to evaluate bringing Canada's arctic oil south, the technical challenges would be the same for Alaska.

The problem is economics. I don't think there's enough oil left in Alaska to pay for the rail line. Given current rates, you could easily get by with a single-track line, but the trouble is that production will continue to fall and I don't think there's 20-40 years of oil left to amortize the capital expenditure.

That said, I think that connecting the Alaska RR to the North American rail network is a good idea. It wouldn't be that hard - just a matter of extending CN Rail's branch line in NW British Columbia through the Yukon to connect to the Alaska RR line. Other resources and passenger traffic would make it worthwhile, and oil could go as just one more commodity.

The real problem is that it would require government subsidies, and the US government prefers to subsidize roads rather than railroads. They spent a fortune to build the Alaska Highway, and wouldn't be keen on building a railroad that would basically follow the same route.

Another problem is that more benefits would accrue to Canada than the US. CN Rail would be the obvious operator and would make far more money from the traffic than Alaska RR since its lines already run from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. However CN is a Canadian-controlled company. Also, as the rail line went through the Yukon, it would be a no-brainer to extend branch lines to Canadian resources. It would look really bad for US politicians to be subsidizing a rail line operated by a Canadian company that mostly shipped Canadian iron ore to Chinese steel mills, with a little bit of Alaska oil as a side line.

A very interesting concept (President Palin may well support it) but my plan was more modest.

Use existing Alaskan RR plus 100+ mile new spur (single track) to go from Brooks Range foothills to Anchorage (new small oil loading dock near there after subtracting oil for AK refineries).

Many options -

- Add new rail from Wasilla to Valdez, technically difficult without tunneling, and use existing oil loading there

- Run new small pipeline to near Fairbanks and use existing rail line with some upgrades

- Run rail through Brooks Range and into Prudhoe Bay (use gathering pipelines to railhead there and from nearby oil fields).

And more if I think about it.

The USA will not want to abandon oil fields with, say, 250,000 b/day production and a slow depletion curve. New pipeline + rail seems the way to go.

Best Hopes,


what alan says about gas cap blowdown is one factor, although not technically correct. gas cap gas is considered non-associated gas.

most oil reservoirs produced to depletion, without pressure maintainance, would see the produced gas getting richer and the gas oil ratio increasing. the exception would be a "true" black oil reservoir(refers to composition and behavior of the reservoir fluid, not necessarily color).

deeper and higher temperature oil reservoirs are more volatile, and that is one place where ngl production will see a big increase.

on the other hand the heavier oils are not as volatile and don't contain as much associated gas or ngls.

shale plays such as the bakken oil shale and barnett and eagle ford "combination" plays(eog's terminology), are more volatile and would produce more ngls. doubtful that any pressure maintenance will be applied there.

on balance, i would suppose that your statement is correct, increased ngl production is a sign of depletion.

i recall a discussion of chevron's "jacks" discovery and that sounded like a high volatility reservoir. pressure maintenance may or may not be feasible.

and another thing, ghawar is a volatile oil reservoir with pressure maintainance so we wont see any vast increase in ngl's, at least not from the arab d.

Do you know Gapminder World? It shows the world’s most important trends. The following Visualization from Gapminder World shows the energy intensity of different countries around the world. Feel free to play with the live web chart. The lab version includes a lot of statistics on agriculture, too. Nice!


I was reading "economic growth" in wiki and was shocked to find out, yet again, that Malthus, Ehrlich, Limits to Growth, [Albert Bartlett] were all proven false.

Of course, I still haven't figured out how these people can be "Proven False."

After all, I just assumed, even if some of their predictions were off on timing by a few years or decades, how could that possibly negate the whole theory? If things are still rosy one hundred years from now, then I’d begin to wonder about their predictions.

Thomas Malthus was off by more then a few decades, but no one told him there was going to be a green revolution -- a revolution I have no reason to believe will last indefinitely. But I always assumed he was right in spirit, and will no doubt, be correct in the long run.

But, Julian Simon seemed to believe that people in the third world will be living like Americans are now within several hundred years. And that the world’s standard of living will increase indefinitely.

Well, that's a load off my mind, now I can stop worrying about peak oil, terminal decline and depletion in general.

I'm glad I no longer have to worry about topsoil or fossil water, because, Simon once said….

So I guess it’s true. We can grow exponentially on a ball with limited resources forever. We can all stop reading the Oil Drum and all other Peak Oil related sites and just continue to enjoy the party. Those pesky J-Curves and Bell-Curves just don’t matter anymore.

article from Ed Regis, a science writer.

Just kidding about TOD, I read TOD everyday.

Well, in case anyone didn't notice, the big chief Bernanke came out to the media and held hands and sang Kumbaya about the economy...


But, alas, the oil traders wrecked the party... Oil prices up more than $2 to $86. He doesn't get it that we're headed back to triple digit oil prices and the associated slowdown... I say it crosses to $100/barrel by the end of summer, easily.

The big news of course, though it hardly qualifies as news for those who have been paying attention, is that Bernanke is keeping interests rates right where they are.

We are, incredibly enough, approaching 2 and 1/2 years into this recession/crisis. In other words, it's game over folks. The fed is never going to raise interest rates again. This is all but a tacit admission that our economy is toast.

Welcome to zombieland. If you can't beat em, join em.

The fed is never going to raise interest rates again.

I suspect you're right, Sachs. In fact, we're going to work awfully hard to go negative -- without telling anyone, of course.

Has anyone seen what oil did today?


Up $2.05 to 86.10!

Oops, didn't read your post gecko before posting. Over a 100 by summer would be bad, because this economy is still fragile. It's amazing to me how easily exhuberant investors have gotten after having been so badly trounced in the 08 temporary collapse. There were so many people that lost their shirts on stocks. How can they toss their money in when all that needs to happen if for the price of oil to get high enough again for the whole thing to come right back down?

The money is going into the market because nothing else is paying a return. Thank you 0% fed rate. That and people keep talking "recovery", as though trillions of dollars in government spending is somehow going to generate real economic growth.

This was actually why I have been just a little encouraged by the Military buildout of Renewables.. (no less than ANY buildout of renewables) ..

Someone tell me if you think I've got it wrong, but once an RE source goes net positive, has basically returned the energy embodied in it's manufacture, then it is one part of our economy that is actually creating new value. As with food crops and value-added from certain kinds of labor, the energy harvested into the system from renewables is actual growth, and not the illusion of growth that comes from 'extracted energy' like Petroleum.

Even if it's 'tiny growth' compared to the might of FF's, it seems to me this is at least real, and can be part of a foundation for a more 'fact-based' economy. (In this, I will state that I don't accept the assumption that RE sources are simply outgrowths of FF.. that they can and will be created and maintained through other energies when FF's are far less available to us.)

Well, stop government spending and welcome the Haitian lifestyle. Government spending is critical for real economic growth, the best examples being education and research spending, but also physical infrastructure of many sorts. Would you invest in a state that spent nothing on transportation infrastructure, sewers and water supply? And what would be the likelihood of investment in areas without courts and policing? Or hospitals?

Government spending can be counterproductive. The practice of guaranteeing profits to Pentagon contractors comes immediately to mind. This creates a culture of inefficiency within the contracting companies. Bad enough, but it also enables those companies to outbid more efficient economic actors for human and other resources, i.e. it results in a misallocation of resources and lower productivity. This is a much more serious problem than that which could be caused by even the imagined number of welfare queens smoking pot while driving pink cadillacs on their way to see today's boyfriend.

Best hopes for a smarter pentagon purchasing policy.

They can throw their money into the market because they "don't get it". Understanding the ramifications of Peak Oil is still only very shallowly dispersed throughout the general investing population.

In all fairness, the market has been advancing on thin volume. So there are still a lot of skeptics. Institutional fund managers have been "late" to "trust" the rally, and individuals have been terrified (Rightly so; be afraid, be VERY afraid)). But the pension plans; 401Ks, ROTHs, 403(B)s, etc. have been supporting the rally I think. A component of this is "automatic" contribution type money and it hasn't entirely been redirected. Some of it cannot be redirected because many retirement plans only allow a restricted selection of investment options. (Tell me about how frustrating THIS situation is for those trapped into these savings vehicles and who DO understand Peak Oil).

They can throw their money into the market because they "don't get it".jabberwock

virtually no one in the MSM is talking about the fact that annual global crude oil production has been at or below 73.7 mbpd (EIA) for five straight years. wt

My thought is that after this next step down, due to high oil (energy) prices, and a final realization that oil production has not increased in 5 years, most of the investment community will get it. If they don't then something is really wrong with MSM.

Anyway, once most people get the connection between a plateau of oil production and rising oil prices causing this endless recession, there will be a call to set oil prices to not exceed some basic ceiling, like 70 a barrel. The problem with that is if offshore drilling, or tar sands require 80 a barrel to be profitable, then that digs into production numbers. At some price here we are already at an inflection point. What that dollar price is exactly I have no idea. maybe wt or Rockman have an idea.

there will be a call to set oil prices to not exceed some basic ceiling, like 70 a barrel.

Not in a free market surely? This will be seen as the biggest opportunity to make money ever I imagine. The industrialised world has no choice but to buy it whatever the price. Buy now why you can I reckon.

We are not trapped into these savings vehicles (at least not yet). You can withdraw your money, but you have to take a penalty. There are many here who argue against doing that; I am not one of them. I liquidated my IRA and it was one of the best decisions I made. It may be different with employer matched 401Ks but I'm sure there's a way to get out.

I'm comfortably in cash and metals and get to sit back and watch the world burn.

Okay, Oilman, I accept that the word "trapped" was putting it a bit strongly.

Here is the point I was trying to make. Once an individual is committed to an employer sponsored retirement account a whole raft of considerations inevitably complicate the decision making process. And this can paralyze even intelligent people. It's worse, of course, for many people.

For example, as you mentioned, what happens if you have an employer match? Do you sacrifice this money and bail out of your company's retirement program? Perhaps you do if you're in your late fifties. But what about if you're in your late forties? What if you get a 2x match? Then what? Is this all the money that you have saved? That's a factor. What if you have other savings and your retirement account is extra? What if you own your home outright? What if you will need some of your retirement savings to continue to pay down a mortgage?
You get my point now?

For my part, I have made some of these decisions, but they have been a little bit gut wrenching. I'm 58. I stopped contributing to my employer sponsored defined benefit plan at the beginning of this year. I'll turn 59 in June. I plan to cash out my plan at the end of December. It's the earliest I can get out without a tax penalty. Hopefully, the market won't tank before then, hopefully. I think I can "afford" to take this risk (waiting a year in an unstable market) because my retirement account only represents about 12% of my net wealth (not counting my house).

I'm just saying that I wouldn't want to be one of those many people making these kinds of decisions with an even less robust data set than the one under which I'm operating. And then again, maybe I'M the one with the faulty data set! We have indeed come a very long way from the days when a person could get a job for life with a company like DuPont or GM, put their finances on autopilot, and KNOW what their future would be like:-/

What I find interesting is that--Surprise! Surprise!--virtually no one in the MSM is talking about the fact that annual global crude oil production has been at or below 73.7 mbpd (EIA) for five straight years. Granted, there were demand factors last year, but the average annual oil price of $62 in 2009 still exceeded the average annual price that we saw in 2005 ($57).

That's not really an issue because the Saudi's can take it up to 12 Mbpd any time they want to, right?

I know it's true - they told me so.

I believe! I believe!

FYI--I somewhat clarified my annual oil price decline comments:

Following is a chart of average annual US spot crude oil prices.


From 1998 to 2008, annual oil prices rose at an average annual rate of 20%/year, but if we look at 1997 to 2009, there is an interesting pattern regarding three annual price declines, in 1998, in 2001 and in 2009. Here are the three year over year declines:

1997: $21
1998: $14

2000: $31
2001: $26

2008: $100
2009: $62

What is almost more interesting than the rise in oil prices is the steady rise in annual price declines. The 2001 price of $26 was almost twice the 1998 price, and the 2009 price of $62 was more than twice the 2001 price. The 2009 price of $62 exceeded the highs that many of us, a few years ago, expected to ever see.

In any case, if this pattern holds, a future year over year decline will bring us down to something around $120 or so. Incidentally, note that the average annual price to date for 2010 exceeds all prior annual oil prices, except for 2008, when we hit $100.

Is there a chart somewhere with price and crude production together ? That is what I need to convince people, sometimes.

Indeed - this makes very interesting reading:

Stockpiled oil takes traders by surprise

Specially liked this bit:

The amount of crude held in “floating storage” also rose late last month, as traders booked five new supertankers to await higher prices in the future, the IEA said.

Floating storage had dropped considerably through February and early March, so booking 10 million barrels or so for new storage is not very significant. It's not clear if they are also referring to Iran's recent storage of oil:

Iranian Tankers Expand Oil Storage
April 12
At least nine such vessels are idling in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and to the south of Egypt’s Suez Canal, according to data from the ships collected by AIS Live Ltd. Two months ago, there were three. Their depth in the water indicates they are loaded, with as many as 18 million barrels of oil being stored, almost enough to supply Europe for a day.


The article goes on to say OECD inventories rose 8 million barrels in March, which is also the amount US inventories rose. But in 2009, they rose 15 million barrels in March.

At the rate US inventories are being drawn down in 2010, whatever 'surplus' or 'excess' inventories which we frequently hear discussed by analysts who say that oil is 'overpriced' will be completely gone - and then some - by the end of the summer driving season (if imports do not return to 2009 levels).

Almost all flights in the UK either halted or about to stop.

Icelandic volcanic ash alert grounds UK flights

Airline passengers are facing massive disruption across the UK after an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in Iceland grounded planes.

Airports operator BAA said all flights in and out of Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick would be suspended from midday.

In Scotland all airports are shut and most others around the UK have cancelled or suspended flights.

The Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) imposed restrictions after the Met Office warned ash could damage engines.

...The eruption under a glacier in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of Iceland is the second in the country in less than a month.

A Nats spokesperson said the volcano was still erupting.

Edit: Projected tracking charts from UK Met Office at http://metoffice.com/aviation/vaac/vaacuk_vag.html

Projected 16/0000Z (midnight tonight GMT)

I notice the plume is drifting right over North Sea Oil production. Heavy disruption now reported to helicopter traffic to and from rigs.

Statoil says production unaffected by traffic halt

* All North Sea helicopter traffic shut by Iceland volcano

* Statoil assessing situation, potential measures

* Authorities looking at consequences for petroleum sector

OSLO, April 15 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil and gas output is so far unaffected by a closure of helicopter traffic in the North Sea, Statoil (STL.OL) said on Thursday after ash from an Icelandic volcano halted much of Northern Europe's air traffic.

Helicopter transport to oil installations in the North Sea has been stopped, state agency Avinor confirmed. "Offshore helicopter traffic has come to a complete halt," spokesman Ove Narvesen at Avinor told Reuters.

"Production is not affected at the moment," spokesman Gisle Johanson told Reuters. We are mapping the consequences and potential measures," he said.

No planes over the UK.

One wag in the UK: "We said 'Send CASH', not 'Send ASH"!"

Article about the 1982 incident where a 747 temporarily lost power in all four engines, after flying through a high altitude ash cloud:



At the time I write this there are fake (or infected) sites right near the top of Google search results for this event. These sites will display fake virus scanner warnings then attempt to trick you into downloading and running a trojan which will give someone else control of your computer. This appears to be a new variant which is getting past at least some virus scanners (Microsoft's for example).

I am not just reporting this third hand as I've just clicked a link in Google and had it try to do this to me.

At least one site users are being redirected to is in the .pl domain (Poland).

If you find yourself on this or similar site and you don't know how to safely get out then find someone who does and most definitely do not follow any virus removal instructions that pop up unless you know they are from the genuine scanner.

MS just released an update that catches this particular variant. Here's a GENUINE warning

And here's the FAKE Warning I got before manually updating the virus definitions with a just released update

The piss poor grammar should be a good indicator, that and browser pop-ups =! system security suite warnings.

But I guess if people still fall for the Nigerian scam...