Drumbeat: June 12, 2010

Gates seeks more spending on clean energy research

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Bill Gates is urging the government to triple spending on what he says everyone, rich and poor, will need in the future: clean, cheap energy.

Gates and other business leaders were meeting with President Barack Obama and lawmakers Thursday to pitch their plan to increase the annual federal spending on clean energy innovation to $16 billion, from $5 billion now. But tight budgets make it a tough sell.

Crude Oil Falls After U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Decline

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil fell for the first time in four days after U.S. retail sales unexpectedly slipped in May, spurring concern that economic growth in the world’s biggest energy-consuming country will slow.

Oil tumbled 2.3 percent after the Commerce Department said that purchases declined 1.2 percent, the biggest drop since September. Retail sales were projected to increase, according to the median estimate of 76 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

For Oil’s Cousin, Good Luck and Bad

How about the news for oil’s hydrocarbon cousin, natural gas?

Some experts say that oil’s recent bad luck could translate into good luck for gas, which is plentifully available in the United States, is cleaner-burning than oil and can be used as a transportation fuel – either directly, through compressed natural gas, or indirectly as a utility source for powering electric cars.

BP's failures on the Gulf made worse by PR woes

HOUSTON -- BP is already fighting an oil gusher it can't contain and watching its mighty market value wither away. Its own bumbling public-relations efforts are making a big mess worse.

Not only has it made a series of gaffes - none greater than the CEO's complaint that "I'd like my life back" - the company hasn't even followed its own internal guidelines for damage control after a spill.

BP Rig Missed 16 Inspections Before Explosion

Newly released government inspection reports show BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig was only inspected six times in 2008 even though government regulations say drilling rigs should be inspected every month. In total, the rig missed 16 inspections since January 2005, according to the documents.

Crude souvenir: $1,000 bottles of spilled BP oil

It was a joke, at first, says Kevin Voisin.

At the southeastern Louisiana oyster company his family owns in Houma, workers were having what he calls an intergenerational brainstorming session, trying to figure out how to help the fishermen and deck hands whose livelihoods were being smothered by the BP oil spill. But with their boats docked and their oyster leases pretty much useless, what did they have to work with?

"As a joke, somebody yelled out, 'We got a lot of oil,'" Voisin said Thursday.

Spill oil to seep into supply chain as BP sells it

NEW ORLEANS -- Oil from nation's worst spill could soon end up at gas stations, construction sites and even grocery stores once BP sells the crude taken from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico to raise money for wildlife protection.

Energy giant BP PLC announced this week it will donate its share of the proceeds generated by selling the oil captured from the well to fund efforts to protect and restore wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast.

Aftermath spawning profits for many contractors

If anyone is winning in the Gulf of Mexico, it may be the vast web of businesses getting a surge of work containing and cleaning up BP's oil spill.

BP Disaster Has No Winners, Only Relative Losers

BP, a tainted lord and master of the global oil game, has a worse reputation than Citigroup, Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, all put together for the moment. BP's carelessness and haste to drill in deep offshore waters is equivalent to the rotten radioactive derivatives sold to unsuspecting buyers by Wall Street.

ANALYSIS - Obama's sharp BP rhetoric could bite him back

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's flashes of anger over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have satisfied critics, but he may face economic and political fallout from his sharp castigation of London-based BP.

Tough talk from the president and his team helped accelerate a steep fall in BP's shares, which hit 14-year lows on Wednesday, triggering concern over the company's viability, market analysts said.

Obama on slippery slope over the worst environmental disaster in US history

Can an oil spill sink a presidency? The White House is not taking any chances.

When historians try to explain why President Obama has blamed BP so relentlessly for this crisis and why he made four trips in six weeks to the Gulf of Mexico – as he will have done by Monday lunchtime – the forthcoming midterm elections will be a big part of their answer.

New drilling can wait

Pressure is already mounting to shorten a moratorium on new deepwater drilling; it should be rebuffed.

Cameron Urges ‘Financially Strong’ BP Before Call With Obama

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron told BP Plc Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg his company must stay “financially strong and stable,” a day before the U.K. leader is due to talk to President Barack Obama about BP’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“The prime minister explained that he was frustrated and concerned about the environmental damage caused by the leak but made clear his view that BP is an economically important company in the U.K., U.S. and other countries,” Cameron’s office said in an e-mailed statement after a phone call with Svanberg today. The “constructive” call took place as Cameron returned to the U.K. from a trip to Afghanistan.

Bikinis Meet Hazmat Suits as Florida Weighs Closings

(Bloomberg) -- A sheen of oil off of Pensacola Beach, a week after tar balls from the BP Plc spill began washing ashore, may force Florida to do the unthinkable: Close beaches.

Refining operations running China to new highs in June to meet seasonal demand

The coming peak oil demand season and somewhat relieved supply surplus situations in the domestic oil product market are encouraging domestic refiners to raise plant operations to new highs in June.The diesel to gasoline yield ratio is moving up to supply the coming agricultural season. Light chemical feedstocks including naphtha and jet fuel continue leading output growth among major oil products.

Virgin America CEO: Why Traditional Carriers Can't Innovate

Cush noted that there hasn’t been much innovation in the last 20 years and that’s primarily because of high oil prices and lack of profits. He admitted that during the height of peak oil prices, Virgin America was “running on fumes” and “had a couple more weeks of cash.” Yet in the same breath, he says the airline is not sitting still and putting money into innovation.

It’s an interesting issue, because it does beg the question of when to invest in innovation and how much. If an airline is bleeding cash, then how can it afford to invest, and will it actually pay off?

Load shedding increases again in Nepal

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has once again increased the load-shedding hours effective from Monday.

The state-owned power supplier has increased the power outage to 54 hours per week from the previous 42 hours in a week, local media reported on Saturday.

The NEA said the drop-off in electricity generation owing to the decreasing water level and renovating Kulekhani Electricity Center has led to the increased power-cut.

$550 Billion in Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The report found that the global fossil fuel industry receives approximately $550 billion in subsidies every year. The report was released at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Busan, South Korea last weekend.

You would think that with increasing concerns about global warming and peak oil, subsidies would be decreasing, but the report showed that subsidies rose from $342 billion in 2007 to $557 billion in 2008.

Council leading the charge on climate change

Climate change and peak oil are global issues with a local impact that Sunshine Coast Council is tackling head on with the adoption of the Sunshine Coast Climate Change and Peak Oil Strategy 2010–2020.

This strategy identifies the actions needed to prepare and adapt the Coast for a changing climate in the future, and will inform the new Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme.

Environmental Portfolio councillor Keryn Jones said the Climate Change and Peak Oil Strategy will help to create a future, resilient to climate change and peak oil.

Urban Farming: The Answer Lies In Kent

But while urban farming offers wonderful social and cultural benefits, how much real impact might it have on the unsustainable global food systems that currently keep us all fed?

Collapse (DVD) - review

nyone who claims to see the future clearly, cannot.

The history of Wall Street is replete with gurus who have enjoyed temporary fame. Barton Biggs, Elaine Garzarelli, and even astrologist Arch Crawford served as temporary kings and queens of the financial world when their predictions turned out to be right. They all understood the key to good prognostication. First, make a lot of predictions. Second, keep making the same predictions until they come true. In the cyclical world of economics, perma-bears and perma-bulls, like stopped clocks, will always be right at one time or another. It also helps if the predictions are particularly bold ones. Nobody will reap a subscriber windfall by predicting that the market will be up three percent by year´s end.

Products That Are Earth-and-Profit Friendly

Around the globe, a growing number of manufacturers are including more recyclable or biodegradable components into products.

Emission study undercuts biomass benefits

Cutting trees and burning them for power can generate more greenhouse gases than using coal, researchers say.

Parsing Europe’s New Biofuel Rules

Companies that produce biofuels are broadly cheering the introduction of a certification system by the European Commission. The system, unveiled on Thursday, is supposed to ensure that the industry does not lay waste to forests, drain peat lands or destroy other zones of environmental value in the course of production.

All the same, the system does not yet include specific criteria governing the greenhouse gas emissions created when food crops are displaced by fuel crops, or when areas with high stores of carbon like grasslands, peat lands or forests are chopped down to produce food crops elsewhere. And some critics say that the European rules still do not do enough to encourage development of so-called second-generation biofuels, which use what remains of the crops after the food content is removed.

New UN science body to monitor biosphere

Representatives from close to 90 countries gathering in Busan, Korea, this week, have approved the formation of a new organization to monitor the ecological state of the planet and its natural resources. Dubbed the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the new entity will likely meet for the first time in 2011 and operate much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

U.S., China object to U.N. climate plan

BONN, Germany -- The United States, China and Brazil on Friday joined dozens of nations in criticizing a draft climate treaty issued in Bonn, leaving in place divisions holding up a United Nations agreement on global warming.

EPA comes under increased fire from Texas

AUSTIN -- The war between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency escalated on dual fronts Friday as two prominent industry groups announced plans to sue the agency and Texas ranchers warned of a devastating economic backlash because of the EPA's polices on greenhouse gases.

Impact of The Oil Spill in The Gulf

The Energy Department estimates that 25 (m) million barrels of oil production will be lost in 2011 because of the six-month moratorium.

That's less than what the country burns in two days, but production will drop even more if the ban is extended to a year or more, as a number of analysts expect.

That works out to be about 70,000 barrels per day. That is not a cut but oil that would have been added to Gulf production but now will not. Of course a lot more oil than that needs to be added each year to make up for depletion.

I expect the ban will last a lot longer than six months.

Ron P.

Ron, that site (Chinese) set off alarm bells on my firewall.

Really? I went back to it time and time again just to see if I could detect anything abnormal. Nothing! Works fine every time.

Ron P.

25 million barrels is also a bit more than a day's usage of oil in the USA.

Someone will eventually suggest that we all get together and have an "oil-free" day to compensate, so I will make the suggestion now.

WHT - That is a really good idea. It might not make a difference as far as our overall consumption but it might raise the awareness of everything we use oil for. Lot of folks see their driving and home energy use as the culprit of our exorbitant energy use. The reality is the food growing/distribution network in the U.S. is using the lions share of oil and gas. I know there are lots of people on this site that have more accurate numbers than I do; so how does energy use breakdown in the U.S?


Gates and other business leaders were meeting with President Barack Obama and lawmakers Thursday to pitch their plan to increase the annual federal spending on clean energy innovation to $16 billion, from $5 billion now. But tight budgets make it a tough sell.

500+ billion military budgets, trillion dollar bank bailouts.........16 billion is chump change. Forget "an ounce of prevention". We can't even muster an ounce of cure.

And, speaking of an ounce of cure:

Energy giant BP PLC announced this week it will donate its share of the proceeds generated by selling the oil captured from the well to fund efforts to protect and restore wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast.

"Donate?!" Can you say "CONFISCATE"?

But then, maybe they should keep these proceeds:

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron told BP Plc Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg his company must stay “financially strong and stable,” a day before the U.K. leader is due to talk to President Barack Obama about BP’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Perhaps Cameron thinks that the 16 billion would be better spent on the cleanup, so that BP can remain "financially strong and stable".

British Conservatives are already accusing the Obama Admin of "Brit-bashing" and of trying to sink the British Flagship corporation (like American's who blamed the Spanish for the destruction of the USS Maine).

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, said BP’s treatment was in keeping with the administration’s “track record of Brit-bashing”.

He said: “It should tread very carefully with BP in some of the language it is using as it could create bad blood on the British side.”


"Tread very carefully", or what?

Margaret Thatcher Center

Heritage Foundation

two explicit indicators that I don't need to read any further...

From the BP press release:

" As part of its commitment to restore the environment and habitats in the Gulf Coast region, BP today announced that it will donate the net revenue from oil recovered from the MC252 spill to create a new wildlife fund to create, restore, improve and protect wildlife habitat along the coastline of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida."

Notice the caveat; "net revenue". There will obviously be no net revenue.

I believe they are referring to their net revenue interest that would be net of royalties and the other revenue owners share. In other words their NRI in oil field terminology. In this case, I have heard of a Federal 16.66 royalty, Anadarkos share and Mitsui's share that would be deductions from the 100 percent revenue number. They are not talking about the project net.

Wooo! Fuzzy math. I think you missed my point. Do you really think after the "shares" are calculated and distributed there'll be much left? Token, at best. At this point BP should pay royalties and costs out of pocket. Oilfield terminology and NRI be damned.

We'll see.

I got it. It just was not very unique, so I did not comment on it.

But, I do wonder if you also want to confiscate the property of the farms/businesses on the Mississippi whose runoff etc cause the larger and larger dead zones each year in the Gulf? Seems like if we are going to start confiscating property we should be consistent.

I also am happy, at least so far, that we are not "bailing out" BP like the banks. The banks seem to be confiscating our property. Very strange system we have.

This is a step in the right direction for BP, but there needs to be more in my opinion.

Bill Gates's accomplishments in funding the war on malaria are absolutely astounding. But about energy, he's dead wrong. It's too late for research and development. We need DEPLOYMENT.

Why You'll Drive An SUV In The Future Even If You Don't Want One


The everyday impression of the SUV is changing. In fact, we believe the entire genre of the SUV is morphing right in front of our eyes. Where big, truck-based SUVs drove America's insatiable appetite for the go-anywhere vehicles some 15 years ago (the Ford Explorer sold 445,000 units in the year 2000, the so-called peak of the SUV boom -- even more than Toyota sells of the Camry per today), today the story is much different. Big 'ole Hummers will soon be unavailable (the brand was killed by GM earlier this year and will wind down in 2010), but the image of the SUV as a gas-guzzling, insensitive vehicle still looms large.
That really shouldn't be the case, especially given the way the SUV will change in the near future. The new-age SUV, which some might even call the crossover, will lure new buyers.

They still don't get it. After Peak Oil, it's likely that the price of gasoline will go ballistic and nobody will want to buy a SUV. From an aerodynamic perspective, the basic boxy SUV is a complete loser. And, a 4x4 drive train is also bad news for fuel economy.

The story mentioned the Chevrolet Equinox, rated at 32 mph highway in the 4 cylinder 2 FWD version. Go with the AWD option and the rating drops to 20 mpg city and 29 highway. One of the big selling points for a SUV is the towing capacity, which will be almost nil on the 4 cylinder version, which already weighs 3770 pounds. And, the EPA MPG rating is likely to be high, as one report of a test drive of mostly freeway driving produced only 26 mph with a FWD version.

E. Swanson

When pavement roads turn to dirt and your gasoline ration card only gives you three gallons a week, it might make sense to have a small SUV (something like a Subaru) for rough-road travel. Small sedans do not work well where there are large potholes, chunks of loose pavement, ruts, etc.

Of course I don't drive a SUV, I drive a car that I purchased used seven years ago for $4,000 and now has 237,000 miles on it. I think it will be good for another year.

Having driven subcompacts on rough gravel roads for decades, I can say with confidence that the only real issue is ground clearance, not traction. A small 2-wheel drive car works fine on rough roads as long as you raise it high enough off the ground. So when are they going to start building cars like that? I would be one of the first ones to buy one of those.

A small 2-wheel drive car works fine on rough roads as long as you raise it high enough off the ground. So when are they going to start building cars like that? I would be one of the first ones to buy one of those.

There are tradeoffs. Most obviously (paved surface) safety issues because of the higher center of gravity. This isn't just an issue of flipping over taking a curve too sharp for the vehicle, but in an accident scenario your vehicle may roll over as a result of collisional forces. So rollover stability is seriously affected. Note what has happened to stock SUVs, their offroad capability has been so degraded as to laughable, fourwheel drive plus four inches of ground clearance doesn't equal off road capability. Secondly a lot of aerodynamic drag comes from air flow under the vehicle, higher clearances makes that worse.

So the problem is that for the currently common usage modes, low to the ground is optimal. As usual customers with specialty needs get shafted.

How about a small old SUV that still has a lot of ground clearance? Yes, the rollover risk increases with ground clearance, but if we reduce speed that will help a lot with safety concerns. I'd be delighted to go back to the strictly enforced 35 miles per hour speed limit that we had during World War II. Lower speeds also work well for electric powered vehicles to get more miles out of a battery charge.

I realize that given political realities we'll have to wait for gasoline rationing to go into effect before we can drastically lower speed limits. Lower speed limits will also make putting freight and passengers on trains a more attractive option than it is now.

Wow. More "bargaining" on theoildrum today.

It's like walking into a Bizarre where everyone is haggling with Mother Nature.

Hi Don.

A vehicle designed for a 35 MPH speed limit would also be able to have the transmission geared and the engine sized for maximum efficiency at that speed, be governed or otherwise limited to no more than 40 mph, and have a governor on the rate of acceleration (as well as all the current stuff like stop/start or hybrid drivetrains.) Reduced aerodynamic efficiency associated with higher ground clearance is less of a problem at low speeds as well, though you could get around the problem with a fared underside like the Aptera.

Don you need and old Willy


You're right!

Model "A" Ford roadsters are readily available for reasonable sums of money on the used car market. 4 cylinder, decent fuel economy, high ground clearance, designed for rough roads. cheap and easy to maintain. Just what you are looking for?

If we are going to bargin, try this one:
Citroën 2CV

Do I have to turn a crank to get it started? And who makes tires for Model A's anymore? There were lots of Model A's on the road right after World War II; I remember them.

Cheap and easy to maintain? Well, I suppose I could get parts online. But what about safety? No, I think I'll pass on the Model A--maybe go back to the simpler Model T, which could run on straight ethanol in addition to working fine with gasoline.

A 1962 VW Beetle, or one modified to be a dune buggy, might be good on rough roads. Those cars used to win the "all around Australia" race against much more powerful vehicles because they were so tough.


I used to have a couple of MGAs (a '59 roadster, a coupe and, later, a 1600 roadster). I don't remember about the 1600 but the others all came with a crank. During really cold weather I WOULD, indeed, have to crank them, to get them started.

Back to the garden. Todd

...and when the starter failed on the TR-3 (flat spot on the commutator) on Wilshire Boulevard in Century City at a stop light, I jumped out, cranked it, and got through the intersection. I still remember the lady in the Lincoln Continental in the next lane looking out and saying "Pardon me, did you just start that car with a crank?!?"

Frugal: Given your criteria, I think the car you actually want is . . . a Ford Model T.

You can still get one on ebay for somewhere in the range of $10-20K.

...and your gasoline ration card only gives you three gallons a week...

won't be doing much driving anyway w/ 3 gal/wk... what's that... 1/2 days mileage for the many drivers... @30mpg or 90miles...

Top 10 sellers in the US, March 2010:

Ford F series 
Toyota Camry 
Chevrolet Silverado 
Toyota Corolla/Matrix
Honda Accord 
Toyota RAV4
Nissan Altima
Ford Fusion
Honda Civic 
Ford Focus
Ford Escape 

Still 40% behemoths. Prius was #20. 2.5% of Civic sales were hybrids, figure comparable numbers for hybrid Focus etc. VW Jetta was #33, 47% of those were diesel.

From an aerodynamic perspective, the basic boxy SUV is a complete loser.

True, but also the mathematics say that in stop-and-go traffic at any major city, the coefficent of drag can be factored out.

It is gallons per hour of idling-while-running-your-air-conditioning-while-blasting-your-radio-while-talking-on-your-cell-phone that count. :)

In the possible future you will have two or three options, drive a SUV, Ride a horse, or walk. The roads might be so bad that a fuel sipping car might not be able to travel anywhere outside a city. Oh and lest I forget you can mountain bike as well.

Sighs. I always wonder what people think the future will look like. It won't be anything like what we have today, and we can't predict it very far in the future either. Just look at any time in the past, and then look at what happened just mere months later.

Obama pushed off shore drilling, then the BP oil Spill happened. Did he or anyone else predict that happening? And if they did , when was it supposed to have happened.

I as a gardener, try very hard not to predict my future harvest, it only gets my hopes up and has them dashed minutes later, or days later.

But that rain storm that killed those campers in Arkansas, flooded my rain catchment system. I'd guess we got several inches of rain. 110 gallons of barrels fed off the guttering on one side of the big red shed, filled to over flowing before the storm was through, rough estimates says it takes 2 inches of rain to fill them. The weather at the Gov site said around 1/2 inch expected. Washed that prediction away too.

SUVs will be used in the future, till they all stop running, just because at present we don't have the horses available to do the work. But what Am I doing predicting the future, shame on me.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, whatever might come.
Hugs from Arkansas.

Looking at the billions of people on Earth who already live low-energy lives should give us good hints about what to expect as energy gets more scarce and expensive.
Funky buses and trucks, hauling people and cargo all mixed up, go pretty much everywhere in less-developed countries, including plenty of roads that US drivers think would require an SUV. Where the bus stops, people walk, bike, or ride horses. The personal SUV does not seem likely to be part of a low-energy future. Sure some SUVs could be used for jitney style transit, but buses and trucks cost less per capita and offer much more cargo capacity for the price.

I don't understand why you couldn't just build a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris with high clearance, a tiny diesel engine, and low gearing. These late model cars would be much more fuel efficient than a Model A or Citroën 2CV. Engine technology has evolved over the last 50-100 years. I think the closest vehicle we have today matching these specs is the Tata Nano.

I don't understand why you couldn't just build a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris with high clearance, a tiny diesel engine, and low gearing.

You could build it- you just can't get an American to buy it.

(Well, other than me...but I already own a Yaris.)


In the future, americans are going to be 3rd worlders with no buying power anyway. So I don't know why there is this continued discussion about the car market. Happy motoring and consumerist lifestyles won't survive peak oil. So nobody's going to buy their way into maintaining any semblance of BAU.

Hi mos6507.

You're right, but we're not there yet. Cars have a 10 to 20 year lifespan: the cars we buy now (or if we're very lucky, the cars we buy for the next 10 or 20 years) are going to follow us into the downturn. For some of us, it is not yet practical to go carless, so the vehicles we purchase are going to have an impact. Anything we can do to make those vehicles less wasteful over their lifespans is a good thing.

None of us is without ecological sin, and we won't all just go cold turkey on oil at the same time (without a disaster, anyway.) Houses and cars are, for most of us, the purchases where we can make the most difference ecologically on an individual basis. So I discuss it, not from the point of view of maintaining BAU, but around the idea of scaling back gradually. If you don't engage on the points the less accepting are working on, like conserving somewhat rather than as much as is necessary, you lose the chance to help them move along the continuum.

Another aspect is that without a car you run the risk of losing the acceptance of your family and friends, and of losing employment opportunities (can't buy solar panels and dental care with bags of grain and chickens...yet.) I suspect many of us here have feet in both camps (toes, in my case...). It takes a long time to become sustainable, and it's hard to do and earn a conventional living at the same time. Most of the skills don't transfer back and forth, and subsistence living takes more time than going to the supermarket.

The last reason (for me at least) is guilt. It would be nice to be able to be ideologically pure, but I live in the real world. Rather make a good choice than the best choice if the best choice (no car) is going to cause strife in my marriage and make my kid an outcast in the neighborhood. I think we talk about it because we're struggling with it.


OK, couldn't pass this one up. Jon Stewart's bit on BP..."The Spilling Fields". Enjoy.


I especially enjoyed his imitation of an oil-soaked pelican.

Cutting your personal dependence on oil easier said than done
Gulf oil spill reminds that oil permeates our daily lives in ways we never think about – it’s everywhere from shampoo to running shoes

So the Gulf oil spill has you ready to quit petroleum cold turkey? Louisiana's brown pelicans have more of a chance of avoiding Big Oil than you do.

Merely parking the car and riding a bike won't cut it. Your sneakers and bike have petroleum products in them. Sure, you can shut off the AC, but the electric fans you switch to have plastic from oil and gas in them. And the insulation to keep your home cool, also started as oil and gas. Without all that, you will sweat and it'll be all too noticeable because deodorant comes from oil and gas too.

You can't even escape petroleum products with a nice cool fast-food milkshake — which probably has a petrochemical-based thickener.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/science/cutting-your-pers...


Merely parking the car and riding a bike won't cut it. Your sneakers and bike have petroleum products in them....

Such statements are counterproductive. What matters at this early stage are quantities. Sure my sneakers, bike tires, and various products have significant oilderived content, but the quantity matters. These sorts of uses of petrochemicals consume less than a tenth of the total today, we could go a very long way down the backside of Hubbert's peak before we need to be concerned about the sustainability of such things.

I disagree completely, Enemy my friend.

How far down the back-side of the slope before such statements about "the sustainability of such things" are productive?

Are we speaking for ourselves, or for the generation being born now?

When should the public be discuss this reality? How to make informed choices between now and then?

Except I already have at least 1 - 2 decades worth of shoes, socks and bike tyres.

Yeah, and I've got a wife with 1-2 decades worth of rummage sale inventory, and three kids who keep changing shoe sizes ;)

One can separate the things around us into "already own and don't need to buy another" and "stuff that gets used up and needs to be replaced".

In list 1 go the insulation, the electric fans, the tennis shoes, the clothing etc etc. I have a lot of fleece sweaters that will last me the rest of my life.

In list 2 go the toiletries, foods etc. that get used up and need to be replaced. One can make choices in this category to go with items that contain much less embedded petroleum, especially packaging materials and long-distance transport.

I agree completely Tides. Especially about the "one can make choices" part.

The problem is when that "one" is surrounded by millions of other "ones" who are not even aware of the choice they are making.

And when they do become aware, how many will choose to change habits? Will we just keep "kicking the can" down the road by making only those changes that are comfortable and convenient?

I think we are Bargaining with ourselves in bad faith.

I will bet that we won't change until we have to change due to circumstances beyond our control.

I started changing long before any of us HAD to change. There a lot of people who knew of the problems we were all heading toward. They changed long ago, albeit not totally giving up the stuff that was made possible by Oil and other fossil fuels. The only people who can possibly ever change their embedded Fossil Fuel use, are those yet to be born.

We all have some fossil fuels in us, because we now live in a world that has been influenced by said use of them. Even the Amish can't say they are totally off the grid as it were, because they buy from or sell to people that have Oil stained hands.

After all we are arguing the point over the internet which has embedded Fossil Fuels in it. Even Hydro power has embedded Fossil Fuels in it, that concrete was made in plants that used Fossil Fuels. So just saying that we will all go without fossil Fuels is silly.

What we can do is limit our exposure to them, we can use sustainable systems to get the things we need, we can use different approaches to how we live our lives. CarPool, bike ride, grow our own food, design better houses, design better lives all around, do something, anything that lessens the use for one person, in the end will lessen the use over all.

Just complaining about it is not the way to go, doing something is.

People born 50 years from now will have a lot less Fossil Fuels in them than people alive today, that is a given, as there will be a lot less Fossil Fuels around to have access too.

7 billion people in the world and you have more being made every day, until the world is in negative population growth, nothing much will change. Even then it'll be changes we won't be able to predict now.

Even Today's hunter gatherers have Fossil Fuel impacts on their lives, because of those people around them that are limiting their range of movement, and the animal populations that they depend on for food. It is all a hollow debate until such time as we can't remember when the last bit of Coal was mined, or The last bit of Oil was burned, Or the last bit of plastic is seen floating down river.

But you do have a choice, use it or not, grow your own salad or not, eat local or not, plant a tree or not, you have lots of little choices you can make, so stop belly aching and do something different.

On my table today was the first fruits from the garden, peppers, blackberries, a strawberry, some green beans, the most variety in one day, besides last week, when I gave my aunt several bags of fresh herbs. The other night we had our first tomato out of the garden. Yes we'd be starving to deth if we had to depend on the garden's yeilds thus far, but we do have fresh food out of it none the less.

Take your canvas bags to shop with, ride a bike if you can, take a bus, share rides, every little bit helps, no matter who is telling you it is worthless, every little hug is a step in the right direction.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, one step at a time.
Hugs from Arkansas.

Charles, I'm not complaining at all, I'm asking questions. And I'm not "belly aching," just trying to assess our general psyche here at TOD.

I think we as a group are pretty persistent in our bargaining. And maybe still mostly in denial. That is not meant as an insult.

My children bargain with me every day. I do it every time I look at a new avenue for "sustainability." Good bad or indifferent, it just seems to be the case.

Sort of a constant bi-polar existence ;)

Sorry to have jumped on you like that.

The range of TOD users has changed in the last few months, what with the Oil Spill and all, so I think the old guard of posters were more over the denial stage. I think the newer folks are just getting a long look at the problem and have the "Oh My" Look on their faces still.

Sustainability is not an easy road to go down, from the design avenue at least, I understand that. I can count on one hand the number of new clothes I have bought in the last year. Two years ago I had my one aunt make shorts out of several pair of long pants whose hems were fraying anyway. If the local water system had gone gone out last week, my garden would have been bone dry by now. I didn't want to have to use city water in keeping my garden watered. But that is mostly lack of planning, and not having the storage ready in time. Evaporation is likely to have taken a lot of the water I did have, because it was stored in open to the air containers.

Being sustainable is not going to be easy, for a while, might even be impossible, I can think about it but thinking about it, is not living it, living it will be the test. On to testing. Forge ahead the water is deep and the flow is fast.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.
Hugs from Blackberry heaven.

Your description of your locale hits the nail on the head for me.

"Sustainability" is a constantly moving target. Then there is "Resilience" for when the formerly sustainable becomes unsustainable, even if only for a short time.

I agree to a certain extent the "living it" part. There are the useful and productive changes in habits and skills like taking up gardening, more frequent biking etc. But I see a danger in small changes that can lead to complacency, and a danger in big changes made in haste.

Also, day to day, "living it" in our current culture is much easier said than done. I watched the '78 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" last night... that's the closest I can get to describing "living it" in our current culture ;)

(thanks Todd for bringing up that movie in a thread a few weeks back)

I tend to agree that we are floating in a sea of people who just don't want to change.

I do not believe people are unaware. Most people I know understand pretty well what's going on, at a gut level, but then you get the guilty shrug, followed by the list of excuses...the kids need it, I have to get to work, it was on sale...etc etc etc.

Personally, when I relocated, I deliberately chose a 100-year-old house - most of the materials that will ever be needed here, apart from some cosmetic work, have already been produced.

Of course, our marketing culture will insist that the highest-value homes are the bright, shiny, new construction homes, with the latest finishes. And the shoddiest workmanship, for the most part...although who would even recognize that, when dazzled by the built-in surround-sound ?

Latest new marketing ploy around here is 200-Amp capability. Of course, my home only has 100-Amp capability, so I'm way obsolete ;-0.

I read an article that interviewed a home builder. They said they intentionally built their pricey McMansions to last only 15 years or so. Why? Because most people "upgrade" before then. Either buy a new, bigger house, or do extensive renovations. Fashions in homes change just as in clothes, and people don't want to be seen in last decade's house.

Both you and Leanan highlight the head ache I constantly feel trying to live in this culture. Our values are so different from most of the people that surround us.

It's like constantly living with "culture shock."

My choice was also an old farm house, I did go for the 200 amp in hopes of one day selling electricity back to the grid. Then I started to wonder if that might not tip off the body snatchers around me, and if I might not become their victim when the weather changes.

About the, "I do not believe people are unaware" - I get the impression that most of the people around me feel less secure but in general believe this is a "rough spot/typical recession." I see a few people tightening budgets and such, but there have not been any changes at the individual level or local government level that lead me to believe my locals are "aware" of what we are facing.

So the Gulf oil spill has you ready to quit petroleum cold turkey?

Strawman argument!

We can make significant changes to our lifestyles and greatly reduce our oil consumption.

Would you tell a morbidly obese person that they must stop eating all together or that they need to go on a diet and start exercising?

Strawman argument!

We can make significant changes to our lifestyles and greatly reduce our oil consumption.

Yes. We have to be vigilant against the human tendency to break things into a dichotomy. Oil usage bad, then the only solutions are (1) ignore it, or (2) total purity, avoid anything with any relationship to it altogether. We have to encourage fuzzy thinking. You can reduce dependency without totally eliminating it. And that would take us a long way, buying both time and the ability to find alternatives for those other usages. The latter is made a lot easier by the change in scale.

My favorite line:

"Mr. Swift said trying to live without petrochemicals now doesn't make sense, but he added: “it would make a good reality TV show.”

A good reality show... OMG the irony.

The peak oil meme appears to be percolating up the food chain

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has unveiled details of an energy proposal and climate bill on Friday.

The climate portion hews to the typical party line and the energy portion contains considerable magical thinking, however the energy portion does hint at things to come:

From his statement and press conference

...Energy is a vitally strategic national security issue for our country. The real cost of petroleum includes the use of our military to defend shipping lanes and maintain geopolitical stability in oil producing regions. More troubling, four-fifths of the world’s oil reserves are controlled by government-owned oil companies, and many of these regimes do not wish us well or have shown some proclivity to use oil as a weapon of foreign policy.

… if we experience intense shocks to the American way of life stemming from peak oil scenarios, politically motivated embargos, wars, or natural disasters, all bets are off for policies directed at mitigating climate change. If the American public and economy are rendered immobile by a sustained oil shock, it is almost inconceivable that they would tolerate government imposed sacrifices focused on climate change that add to their burdens and slow the economy further. In this context, breaking our oil dependence, with all the national security, economic, and environmental benefits that would come with such a victory, must be our top energy priority

From his Senate Bill ‘Practical Energy and Climate Plan, S. 3464’ (the relavent portion out of 122 pages of dry legalese)

(pg 8-9) In determining cost effectiveness …, the Secretary of Transportation shall take into account the total value to the Nation of reduced petroleum use, including the value of reducing external costs of petroleum use, …determined in an analysis of the external costs of petroleum use that considers …

  • The timing and severity of the oil peaking problem
  • The risk, probability, size, and duration of oil supply disruptions
  • The short term elasticity of energy demand and the magnitude of price increases resulting from a supply shock
  • Import costs and wealth transfers during oil shocks
  • Macroeconomic dislocation and adjustment costs during oil shocks
  • Sustained cartel rents paid to foreign suppliers
  • Long-run potential gross domestic product due to higher normal-market oil price levels, including inflationary impacts
  • Import costs, wealth transfers, and potential gross domestic product due to increased trade imbalances

It would seem that, perhaps, an oil shock might be on the horizon.

Apparently they understand that the crunch is coming but, like pointing out a fart in church, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news (especially, since they don't seem to have Plan B).

Seraph, thanks a million for posting this. It looks like we now have one senator who is peak oil aware. Not just that but he seems to be acutely aware of some of the possible consequences of peak oil.

‘‘(xii) oil imports, diplomatic and foreign policy flexibility, and connections to geopolitical strife, terrorism, and international development activities;

But that is only a tiny part of the list. From reading the entire list of problems Senator Lugar sees it is obvious he is very aware of the problems that are about to befall us.

Ron P.

I recall telling one of my arch-conservative friends that Lugar is the only (R) that I thought highly of. (Even though he's got that thing with his mouth that looks like he is smirking all the time)

Lugar is an ethanol supporter of course:


Lately my comments have been limited since bashing ethanol has been eclipsed by bashing BP. There is little point in criticizing big oil competition when it is self destructing and arguments for oil dependency are blowing up right and left.

No sensible person can any longer make a big deal about the dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi and claim that it is all the fault of ethanol. If he does oil has to take the blame for the destruction of a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico and its beaches.

But many still think ethanol is evil and see no need to move away from oil:


X, I don't think ethanol is evil, except in the cases where it might be produced instead of food. Even then it is not ethanol that is evil, just people that would rather fuel their car rather than feed a child.

My point is, and always has been, that ethanol will not and cannot replace fossil fuels. It currently takes a lot of fossil fuel and a lot of subsidies to produce ethanol. If those subsidies ever disappeared, and the fossil fuel also disappeared, then I doubt very seriously that ethanol would be produced. Well, not from corn anyway. It would be a losing proposition.

But we have had this argument before and the true believers in ethanol, just like the true believers in any fundamentalist religion, are not deterred by simple facts of logic. They have faith in what they believe and by dammed no one will take their faith away from them. :-)

Ron P.

Thank you Seraph. This will be interesting to follow. TOD is a gold mine today.

Europe, US to see snowy, cold winters: expert

While it may seem counter-intuitive, warmer Arctic climes caused by climate change influence air pressure at the North Pole, shifting wind patterns in such a way as to boost cooling over adjacent swathes of the planet.

"Cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception," said James Overland of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Continued rapid loss of ice will be an important driver of major change in the world's climate system in the coming years, he said at an Olso meeting of scientists reviewing research from the two-year International Polar Year 2007-2008.

The exceptionally chilly winter of 2009-2010 in temperate zones of the northern hemisphere were connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic, he said.

"The emerging impact of greenhouse gases in an important factor in the changing Arctic," he explained in a statement.

"What was not fully recognized until now is that a combination of an unusual warm period due to natural variability, loss of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage, and changing wind patterns all working together to disrupt the memory and stability of the Arctic climate system," he said.

The region is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

Resulting ice loss is significantly greater than earlier climate models predicted. The polar ice cap shrank to its smallest surface since records have been kept in 2007, and early data suggests it could become even smaller this summer.

"It is unlikely that the Arctic can return to its previous condition," Overland said. "The changes are irreversible."

LMAO, Been doing the weather for 40 years. What makes cold winters is cold air! Cold air accumulates over frozen tundra and ice packs. When the cold air dome gets heavy(large) enough, gravity spills it down to lower latitudes. Lack of Ice Pack detracts from the amount of cold air

"Cold" is relative. Minus thirty at 80 degrees north may be "warm" for late winter. When it spills down to 45 degrees north latitude, that's cold.

What makes for lots of precipitation (snow) is air with lots of water vapour in it, which is warm air.

Not welcome news...

Turbine damage stalls Fundy tidal power test

Two blades on a large experimental turbine have broken off in the Bay of Fundy, forcing Nova Scotia Power to pull the device out of the water a year ahead of schedule.

The utility and its partner, OpenHydro, said it will retrieve the turbine between August and October — depending on the weather — to find out what went wrong.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/06/11/ns-fundy-tidal-bla...


According to zFacts.com, in two days, the US Federal debt will pass through the $13.1 trillion threshold. In addition,at some time, GSE debt or losses will also be a part of the Federal debt. Doug Noland comments in the prudentbear.com site today and wrote the following:

"From the Z.1: “Beginning 2010:Q1, almost all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage pools are consolidated on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s balance sheets.” After this reclassification, GSE assets expanded $3.874 TN during the quarter to $6.887 TN. Confusing the issue, “Agency- and GSE-backed Mortgage Pools” declined $4.328 TN during the quarter. This leaves $455bn of MBS unaccounted for, perhaps partially explained by large write-downs. And in another confounding twist, Asset-Backed Securities (ABS) contracted $580bn during the quarter to $2.798 TN. Combined GSE, MBS and ABS dropped $1.035 TN during Q1 to $10.733 TN. I’m at a loss"

I too am at a loss to understand how one trillion dollars of value is so cavalierly removed from the balance sheets.

Herman Daly is being interviewed on the radio in the Twin Cities, 950AM., right now.


The phrase metabolic activity went over the interviewers head. He does a good job.

The attorney general in Florida and the state treasurer in Louisiana want BP to put a total of $7.5 billion in escrow accounts to compensate the states and their residents for damages now and in the future. Alabama doesn't plan to take such action, while Mississippi and Texas haven't said what they will do.

As of the end of March, BP had only $6.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents available.


Simmons & Co is now recommending purchase of BP shares, days after its CEO Matt Simmons predicted imminent bankruptcy, causing befuddlement and questions:

I wonder if Matt Simmons really recommended that. He's no longer in charge of Simmons & Co. International, though the company still bears his name and he still associated with it. The views of the company are not the same as Simmons' own views...as the company has had to clarify on previous occasions.

Do you have any additional info on WHY Simmons isn't in charge of it anymore? People have been speculating that he's clinically insane lately.

I don't know for sure, but I would assume that it was his choice. He's of the age when people generally retire or reduce their workload. And he's obviously got a lot of other interests now, such as setting up his new ocean institute in Maine.

unlike The Graduate i have two words...

use less.


by choice...
by lack of choice...

the first "choice" will be economic... as the costs increase... people at the lower and mid ranges will have to make choices... spend more on energy... or other things...


problem is... there's no "real" scarcity...

when was the last time you couldn't fill up?

'cept for the asset bubble spike by the commodity speculators mid-2008... price is not prohibitive...

when was the last time you couldn't...
run your a/c...
flat screen tv...?

price gasoline at 5$ / gal... you'll see usage drop overnight... now... i'm NOT saying... price gas @ $5/gal TOMORROW... but... if you can get it... and can afford it... then you have to be in the motivated crowd... to find alternatives to using as much of it...

as an experiment... for a month... i saved EVERY piece of plastic, metal, glass, cardboard, battery, styrofoam, twisttie,... and more... just to see how much of this "stuff" i use and would normally discard... even the cardboard from the used up roll of toilet paper...

but alas... i ran out of space and i think started a little pests problem... (of course the pests were taken care of by hefty doses of petroleum based pest spray)... see the obstacles...?

what did i learn...? reducing energy costs can be done... can be started now...

like... no more plastic containers for yogurt... i've switched my daily plastic container of yogurt in the morning to a piece of fresh fruit...

will take decades {for everyone} to transition to in terms of lifestyle choices... {if they even want to or will want to even if they can} and {groan} as i saw in another post... it won't be resolved by a reality tv show... i am so glad i stopped watching tv 8 years ago...

If you buy milk, you can make your own Yogurt. I make a sour cream from a Bulgarian Butter Milk culture, It re-grows in the next batch just fine.

The cardboard boxes that things get shipped here in, get reused, recycled, or made into worm food, It all depends on the needs of the day.

I am not saying give up your fresh fruit, but there are things that you can make, that you used to get in small containers. You can also buy in bulk a lot of things that you use a lot, so check around locally or even online, see where you can change something without losing something.

Some plastic containers make great plant pots, if you keep them out of the harsh sun when storing them. Recycle them when they stop being able to be good planter pots.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.
Hugs from Arkansas

I see the "anti BP backlash" backlash is already starting. Throwing in a good measure of british patriotism.

No Cameron, BP screwed up, cheated, lied and got people killed. Patriotic cr*p and over dependence in pensions does not excuse anything. BP dumped the "British" in their name a long time ago. Defending them is an insult.