Drumbeat: June 29, 2010

Gulf gas shortage threatens oil production

Gulf states seeking to prolong the lives of aging oilfields face a big problem: insufficient gas to pump in to maintain their crude output. And the problem is rapidly worsening.

The UAE last year was injecting 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (cfpd) of gas into oilfields to maintain production levels. The need for gas for this purpose could increase by as much as 8 per cent per year annually for the next decade said Fereidun Fesharaki, the vice chairman of the consulting firm FACTS Global Energy.

By 2020, demand could reach 4.2 billion cfpd, approaching the nation’s total current gas output from onshore fields.

If Abu Dhabi, the nation’s main producer, had not pledged most of its offshore gas output to supply Asian customers under long-term contracts for liquefied natural gas, that might not be so serious. But according to Mr Fesharaki, the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, is “out of gas”. If it used all the gas it will need to maintain oil production, then it would fall short of gas for power generation and industry.

Gulf gas sector must see the light to exit dark age

When even the ministry of electricity and water suffers a blackout, you know there is a problem.

As Kuwait’s grid reached 99 per cent of capacity recently, fires broke out in transformers and working hours were cut.

It is not only Kuwait that is suffering. Recent weeks have brought nothing but bad news for the Gulf’s gas and power sector: not just isolated incidents but a sign something is badly wrong.

US set to be big buyer of gas from Middle East

The US will emerge as the second-biggest market for Middle Eastern natural gas exports in two decades if a uniform global market for gas continues to develop, according to a new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The forecast counters the prevailing view in the gas industry that the recent spike in US domestic output could permanently close the door to large-scale imports. Multibillion-dollar US import terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) are sitting dormant while Qatar, Algeria and other major exporters scramble to find alternative markets willing to pay higher prices.

Natural Gas as Panacea: Dubious Path to a Green Future

Many energy experts contend natural gas is the ideal fuel as the world makes the transition to renewable energy. But since much of that gas will come from underground shale, potentially at high environmental cost, it would be far better to skip the natural gas phase and move straight to massive deployment of solar and wind power.

X Prize's multimillion-dollar challenge for Gulf oil solutions

The X Prize Foundation announced today that it is developing a multimillion-dollar “oil spill cleanup X challenge” to come up with solutions to cleaning up shorelines and open water fouled by oil leaking from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Avertible catastrophe

Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.

The Dutch fall into the first group. Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

Oil Chiefs Leave Meeting with Interior 'Disappointed'

Executives from oil and gas companies on Monday concluded an hour-long meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar without securing promises from the government to lift a deepwater-drilling moratorium imposed after a disastrous BP oil spill.

BP chief calls for considered response to Gulf blame

The managing director of BP North Sea told his staff yesterday that a rushed judgment on who was to blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill would help no one.

Expanding deepwater drilling was BP's top priority

WASHINGTON: BP staked its future on expanding offshore drilling a month before the catastrophic explosion on the Deepwater Horizon triggered the United States's worst environmental disaster, according to company documents revealed this week.

The website ProPublica published a March 2010 strategy document in which BP named ''expanding deepwater'' as its number one area for long-term growth.

McCain Introduces Bill to Repeal Jones Act

Last Friday, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the "Open America's Water Act," which would repeal the Jones Act. McCain's statement follows:

"Today I am pleased to introduce legislation that would fully repeal the Jones Act, a 1920s law that hinders free trade and favors labor unions over consumers. Specifically, the Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans. This restriction only serves to raise shipping costs, thereby making U.S. farmers less competitive and increasing costs for American consumers."

France's Total to stop gasoline shipments to Iran

PARIS—France's Foreign Ministry has praised the decision by French oil giant Total SA to cease gasoline exports to Iran because of increased international sanctions over its nuclear program.

Joint conclusion of the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue

During his introductory keynote speech, the EC Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, highlighted the need for the EU to respond in a compelling manner to those European citizens who felt uncertain or threatened by oil production activities in EU waters. The best answer to these rightful concerns was, he said, to openly discuss all relevant factors, and express the will to take all necessary measures to improve safety. This is what the Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States were doing currently. To ensure the highest quality of actions taken, the EC considers that close cooperation with all relevant partners is a crucial factor. In this connection, the Commission is proposing to organize a joint EU-OPEC roundtable with the aim of exchanging views on this crucial matter.

An ignored sector

Instead of inflationary spikes, it is the decrease in per capita output in the agriculture sector that ought to worry policymakers.

Interview with Jeff Rubin, Part 2

POR: Is there a growing number of economists who are getting the resource depletion story, or is it still business as usual?

Rubin: I think more economists are coming around. I can just see that from the number of economists who respond to my blog. I think what’s happening is that economists are beginning to realize that, yes, the supply curve-meaning, the higher the price of oil, the more oil we’ll find-has a big problem in that much of the new oil that we’ll find, like tar sands or deep water, we won’t be able to afford to burn. Economists’ responses will be that $150 oil will give us new forms of supply but that those prices will send a lot of motorists to the sidelines. Sure, we can produce 4 or 5 million barrels a day out of the Athabasca tar sands or Venezuela’s heavy oil, but the prices to produce it translate into $7-a-gallon gasoline. Can we really afford to burn that? They are starting to understand that depletion is more an economic term than a geologic term because we not going to hit the absolute limit of oil supply; as we’re keep drilling towards the bottom of the barrel, it’s going to get too expensive to bring out what’s left.

Live Dangerously: 10 Easy Steps

When Shannon Hayes made a list of easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker, she didn't realize just how revolutionary they were.

Redesigning Civilization after the Stress Tests

The BP oil gusher should remind us that our civilization relies on unseen, not very well understood forces, especially energy and the environment, for our day-to-day economies.

Our institutions and communities have recently failed stress tests that pushed system designs beyond intended limits: whether it's toxic exurban real estate assets, climate-altering pollution or deepwater oil drilling.

Jan Lundberg: The End Of Oil, And Government

The unsustainable U.S. economy and coast-to-coast consumer society that uses more oil than any other nation will keep up its energy gluttony until supplies give out.

Because oil is the most critical part of our energy mix, and it supplies critical materials and chemicals besides fuels, a sudden, crippling oil shortage can paralyze most of the work, commerce and law enforcement going on in this country. Activities such as driving to church or to the beach to clean oil off dying birds will also mostly cease virtually overnight.

The Population-Poverty Connection By Lester R. Brown

The 21st century began on an inspiring note: the United Nations set a goal of reducing the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty by half by 2015.

By early 2007 the world looked to be on track to meet this goal, but as the economic crisis unfolds and the outlook darkens, the world will have to intensify its poverty reduction effort.

Imagining a World Without Oil

The current issue of Scientific American puts the BP oil spill into global perspective. It perhaps explains why the public seems to be more concerned about the impacts than the government, members of Congress, and those in the oil industry and those who support offshore oil drilling.

Apocalypse later: Ray Kurzweil predicts the not-so-near future in ‘post-biological’ visions of humanity

NEW YORK — I have seen the future, and it is long-winded, narcissistic, and — thank heavens — still far off.

“Welcome to the future,’’ was how the emcee greeted me and about 400 guests attending the New York premiere of Ray Kurzweil’s forthcoming movie, “The Singularity Is Near.’’

Naturally, you wonder:

1. What is the Singularity?

2. Is it near?

3. Should I suspend my newspaper delivery and donate the proceeds to my school’s literacy program?

Government-ordered biofuels inviting a water crisis, Nestle chairman warns

EDMONTON - Governments that impose biofuels regulations as a remedy for C02 emissions are doing more harm than good, the chairman of Nestle SA said Monday.

To meet the 20-per-cent biofuel requirement in gasoline and diesel that some governments have set, food production would have to triple right away, and that's impossible, said Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.

Nuclear energy the answer?

It seems odd at first sight to understand why Pakistan, a country that can make nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and has an atomic energy commission that employs over 30,000 people, has electricity blackouts.

Iraqi Energy Protests Grow

The interim Iraqi government is reeling from riots and demonstrations that have erupted across the country to protest severe electricity shortages.

Anger has been growing for weeks over the continued power cuts and rising fuel prices - resulting from the demand for generators - and the stalled efforts to form a new government.

NOC curtails oil imports

KATHMANDU: Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), which is reeling under oil loss, has resorted to pressure tactics and sharply cut the import of petroleum products in a bid to exert pressure on the government to adjust fuel prices.

Pakistan: Shutter down at 8p.m. frustrating buyers, sellers alike

“We have won democracy after a prolonged struggle against dictatorship. We now expect the government to offer us some relief rather than imposing dictatorial decisions like shutter down at 8 p.m., which has inflicted losses to the tune of 80% to my business,” complains Izhar Khan of ‘Fashion Affairs.’

Oil Drops Most in Three Weeks on Forecast China Growth Slowing

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil fell the most in more than three weeks amid concern that the economy in China, the world’s fastest-growing energy consumer, is expanding at a slower pace than previously estimated, lessening its need for fuels.

Oil lost as much as 3.8 percent as the Conference Board corrected its April gauge for the outlook on China’s economy, saying it rose by the smallest amount since November. Equity markets declined and the dollar strengthened against the euro, curbing the appeal of commodities as an alternative investment.

Iran-Pakistan pipeline boon for region

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) -- A planned natural gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in Iran will help Pakistan find relief for a looming energy crisis, an Iranian envoy said.

First deliveries of natural gas through the pipeline are expected in Pakistan by 2015. Islamabad has contracted 750,000 cubic feet of gas per day through the pipeline under the terms of the 25-year deal.

Which oil companies are more eco-friendly than the rest?

Back in April, a reader asked which gas station was the most eco-friendly choice, and BP came out pretty high on the Lantern's list. We don't need to crunch the numbers again to know that the company formerly known as "Beyond Petroleum" has gone from hero to zero with a series of preventable missteps that led to the spilling of as much as 179 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon blowout now threatens our coastline and fisheries in what President Obama called a "massive, unprecedented environmental disaster."

Bill McKibben: Oil Spill Is an Opportunity for Americans

The spill presents an opportunity for Americans to demand better leadership on energy and the environment, and to become leaders themselves, says McKibben, a best-selling author. "This is one of the moments when we're offered an opportunity to really see what's going on in the world," McKibben says. The fact that the Deepwater Horizon rig was seeking oil more than a mile below the ocean floor means we're running out of oil, he argues. "Even if that oil made it safely to shore and got burned in the gas tanks of our cars, it would be an environmental catastrophe," McKibben adds, noting that we have just lived through the 12 warmest months on record.

Here's Bill McKibben on how each of us can take part in leading America into a sustainable energy future.

Exxon, Shell May Consider Possible Bid for BP, JPMorgan Says

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc may consider bidding for BP Plc after the London-based oil company lost more than half of its market value in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, JPMorgan Cazenove Ltd. said.

Exxon Mobil has the stronger balance sheet and proven ability to integrate a large transaction, according to Fred Lucas, a London-based analyst at JP Morgan. It could make a cash and share offer, valuing BP at 473 pence a share compared with yesterday’s close of 308.25 pence, and including a $50 billion spin-off of BP’s downstream assets, according to JPMorgan.

Senior US energy official says 'tragic' Gulf oil spill underscores need to shift to renewables

(AP) — A senior American energy official says the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico dramatically illustrates the need for investing in renewable sources of energy.

David Sandalow, an assistant energy secretary, said Tuesday the oil spill is a "tragic situation" that "underscores the need for a transition to a clean energy economy."

Alaska senator defends BP project in state

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Sen. Mark Begich is defending a BP oil project off Alaska's coast as a state-of-the-art model that should not be halted because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Alaska Democrat responded Monday to a request by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who asked federal officials to halt the project pending an investigation of the Gulf spill, a new review of the Alaska project and implementation of revised drilling rules and regulations.

Gulf disaster’s psychological effects are quietly taking their toll

NEW ORLEANS — The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster feels far worse to shrimper Ricky Robin than Katrina, even though he’s still haunted by memories of riding out the hurricane on his trawler and of his father’s suicide in the storm’s aftermath.

The relentless spill is bringing back feelings that are far too familiar to Robin and others still dealing with the physical and emotional toll wrought by Katrina five years ago.

Swiss firm has plan to save coastlines from oil

Yards of unassuming white fabric made by a Swiss company may be just the technology needed to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico's oil-drenched coastlines.

HeiQ, which makes the coatings to render synthetic fabrics odour-free for leisure clothing companies like Mammut and Puma, has developed a fleece that can absorb oil in water.

In Ireland, a Picture of the High Cost of Austerity

David Stronge returned to Dublin in 2006 from an architecture job in Britain. “I wanted to come back here and get a piece of this action,” he said. “And I did for about a year. But then it started to tank.”

He moved to reinvent himself, returning to school with thousands of other Irish, in hopes that a higher degree would lead to better prospects. Mr. Stronge plans to seek alternative energy jobs in Britain once he gets his master’s degree in August.

“Ireland isn’t going to spend on infrastructure probably for another 10 to 15 years,” he said. “So you have to go to where the opportunities are.”

Kuwait looks to boost output

State-run Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) chief executive, Sami Rushaid said the country will raise production from its northern oilfields to 820,000 barrels per day by the end of July.

Rushaid told told the Seyassah daily that current production from the fields stood at 720,000 bpd.

Kuwait's total production capacity is expected to reach 3.3 million bpd in August, Rushaid said, reiterating the country's current capacity was at 3.17 million bpd.

The world's fourth-largest oil exporter is aiming to reach a capacity of 4 million bpd in 2020.

Oil tumbles below $77 as hurricane fears ease

SINGAPORE – Oil prices tumbled below $77 a barrel Tuesday in Asia on signs Tropical Storm Alex would likely miss most of the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving supplies undisrupted.

Total Has Fire, Explosion at Lindsey Refinery in U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA said a fire and an explosion occurred at its Lindsey refinery in northwest England, the fourth-largest refinery in the U.K.

Egypt tightens security around pipeline for Israel-bound gas

CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian police beefed up security around a Sinai peninsula pipeline that supplies Israel with natural gas after a group of wanted Bedouin threatened to sabotage it, security officials said on Monday.

The Bedouin group, which consists of at least a dozen armed fugitives, has clashed with police since its leader Salim Lafi escaped from a prison truck in an ambush that killed a policeman in February.

Indian Oil Says Scrapping of Fuel Subsidies Helps to Consider Share Sale

India’s decision to free gasoline and diesel prices from state control will help in selling shares of Indian Oil Corp., the nation’s second-biggest refiner, Chairman B.M. Bansal said.

Iraq approves gas deal with Shell

BAGHDAD — Iraq has approved a multibillion-dollar joint venture deal with Royal Dutch Shell PLC to tap associated natural gas in the south of the country.

According to the deal, designed to exploit the gas in three oil fields close to the southern city of Basra, Iraq will hold 51 percent of the venture's shares, Shell 44 percent and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. 5 percent.

Alex to Become Hurricane as Swells Reach Gulf Spill

Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.

BP Discussing a Backup Strategy to Plug Well

Since shortly after oil began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico two months ago, relief wells have been discussed as the ultimate solution, their success in permanently plugging the runaway well deemed a foregone conclusion.

But BP and government officials are now talking about a long-term containment plan to pump the oil to an existing platform should the relief well effort fail. While such a failure is considered highly unlikely, the contingency plan is the latest sign that with this most vexing of engineering challenges — snuffing a gusher 5,000 feet down in the gulf — nothing is a sure thing.

Louisiana Wants U.S. Help, and Its Own Way

NEW ORLEANS — For weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has attacked BP and the Coast Guard for not having adequate plans and resources to battle the oil spill.

But interviews with more than two dozen state and federal officials and experts suggest that Louisiana, from the earliest days of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has often disregarded its own plans and experts in favor of large-scale proposals that many say would probably have had limited effectiveness and could have even hampered the response.

BP Chief Executive Hayward Has Full Backing of Board, Refining Head Says

BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward has the backing of the board and is not about to resign, according to Iain Conn, the oil company’s head of refining and marketing.

US lawmakers demand major oil firms' emergency plans

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Senior US lawmakers on Monday pressed oil giants Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell to prove they are better prepared than BP was in the Gulf of Mexico to confront a massive oil spill.

"No oil company appears to be better prepared for a disastrous oil spill than BP was," House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman and the chairmen of two subcommittees wrote in letter to top executives at each firm.

New York Fed probes Wall Street exposure to BP: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been probing major financial firms' exposure to BP Plc to ensure that if the oil giant buckles under the costs of the Gulf oil spill, it won't put Wall Street or the global financial system at risk, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

After poring over documents and asking banks about their exposure to BP over the past two weeks, the Fed found no systemic risk, and hasn't asked firms to alter their credit relationships with BP, the sources told Reuters.

BP Loses Trading-Floor Swagger in Energy Markets

There are already signs that trading partners are becoming wary of BP’s financial outlook; one market participant, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is halting long-term contracts with BP. The company’s deteriorating credit rating — on June 15, it was downgraded by Fitch to one notch above junk bonds — makes it harder for traders to cheaply deploy vast amounts of cash. And with its stock down by more than half since the blowout in the gulf, BP can only watch as rival firms try to poach its best traders.

“A lot of the swagger comes from the amount of money they have to trade with,” said Craig Pirrong, a director at the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute. “And traders realize they don’t have the capital they had just a couple of weeks ago.”

Lloyd’s recalls energy policies

Lloyd’s director of performance management Tom Bolt has demanded members intending to write energy policies in 2011 resubmit their plans in the wake of the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon accident, the Telegraph reports.

Lloyd’s regulators believe rates will have to rise by multiples of present levels, the paper says.

Caspian countries to sign memorandum to regulate offshore oil exploitation

Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran will sign a document to regulate offshore oil exploitation and protect environment at the Caspian Sea, said a Kazakh official.

In view of the serious consequences of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Caspian countries should produce a document to clearly define the responsibility of each country in case of an offshore accident, Kazakh Environment Minister Nurgali Ashimov told the country's lower house of parliament.

New Orleans Chef on Her Lawsuit Against BP: “I Am Just Angry”

Ms. Spicer, long a respected New Orleans chef, spent most of Monday huddled with her lawyers, trying to map out a strategy after word got out that she was suing BP and several other companies on behalf of Gulf restaurant owners and seafood suppliers.

“I just hope that my motivations will not be misinterpreted,” she said from her restaurant Bayona in her first interview since the suit was filed Friday. “It’s more about solidarity in this region than about getting my piece of the pie. I can’t say I expect to see a dollar out of this thing. I am just angry.”

FSA fines and bans drunk oil broker

LONDON (Reuters) – The financial regulator has fined and banned a former PVM Oil Futures Ltd. broker for manipulating the price of oil last year by the unauthorised purchase of more than 7 million barrels while drunk.

Looking at Chemicals Used in Hydrofracking

Compounds associated with neurological problems or other serious health effects are among the chemicals being used to drill natural gas wells in Pennsylvania.

The Associated Press has obtained a list that state Environmental Protection officials say they hope to post online soon.

It is believed to be the first complete catalog of drilling chemicals used in Pennsylvania, where the rapidly growing industry is pursuing the Marcellus Shale formation.

Wind Could Supply 25% of Germany's Power Needs as Nuclear Plants Retired

Germany can generate 25 percent of its electricity from wind by 2020 if the government sticks to its plan of phasing out nuclear power, the nation’s wind industry lobby group said.

Wind turbines onshore may reach 45,000 megawatts of installed power capacity, while offshore equipment will provide another 10,000 megawatts a decade from now, BWE said today in an e-mailed statement.

Is a New Reactor Rust-Prone?

Approval of the design for the Westinghouse AP 1000 reactor is slowly moving forward at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as are financial arrangements for building the nation’s first one, near Augusta, Ga. Yet the argument about whether its design is safer than past models is advancing, too.

U.S. Allocates as Much as $24 Million in Grants for Algae Biofuel Projects

(Bloomberg New Energy Finance) -- The U.S. Department of Energy will award as much as $24 million in new grants to three research projects aimed at commercializing biofuels derived from algae.

The projects will be carried out by three groups that include partners from academia, national laboratories and private companies, according to a statement from the department.

Comtec Solar to Delay June Target to More Than Double Production Capacity

(Bloomberg New Energy Finance) -- Comtec Solar System Group Ltd., a Chinese solar ingot and wafer manufacturer, said a plan to more than double production capacity by June has been delayed.

Investors grab Tesla Motors IPO

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Tesla Motors offered up its shares to the public for the first time on Tuesday, testing investors' faith in a company that has proven it can make functional and stunning electric cars but has never had a profitable quarter.

Tesla, which began trading on Nasdaq under the symbol "TSLA," priced its shares late Monday at $17 each, above the target range of $14 to $16. That allowed Tesla to raise more than $226 million in the IPO. It was the first IPO by an American automaker since Ford Motor Co.'s debut in 1956.

Daikin Industries Plans to Build `Zero-Energy' Office Building in Germany

(Bloomberg New Energy Finance) -- Daikin Europe, a unit of Japanese air conditioner maker Daikin Industries Ltd., will build a “zero-energy” office building as part of a project to test low-carbon, energy-efficient technology.

The State’s Green Ways Are Under Attack

Even with a Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, sitting in the governor’s chair, California has pushed hard on the environmental front, especially with the 2006 passage of AB 32, an ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

In this context, it comes as a bit of a shock to see an effort to undo AB 32 gaining traction. A November ballot initiative would suspend the law until the state’s unemployment rate — currently at 12.4 percent — drops to 5.5 percent or less for an extended period.

The unintended consequences of a plastic bag ban

Jobs would be in jeopardy, and more consumers would switch to environmentally unfriendly paper bags.

Electrolux to make vacuums from plastic ocean trash

Electrolux, the world's second largest home appliance maker, said on Tuesday it will harvest bit of plastic from floating garbage islands in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, as well as from three European seas, and use the material to manufacture six showcase vacuum cleaners.

What is a Malthusian catastrophe?

A Malthusian catastrophe is an event which results from a period of unchecked population growth, according to the theory of overpopulation advanced by Enlightenment demographer Thomas Robert Malthus (and subsequently applied to "peak oil" and other conceptually similar subjects). According to Malthus, a population grows regularly, or geometrically, until it reaches a peak level at which it cannot hope to sustain itself, and then collapses in a cataclysmic event known as a "Malthusian catastrophe."

Urban Gardening, Part 1: The Hydroponic Lab on the Roof

In densely populated metro areas, any space that's suitable for gardening is probably also very attractive to developers looking to build structures on it instead. However, some city dwellers with persevering green thumbs have looked skyward, using the latest in hydroponic technology to put vegetable gardens on rooftops.
Part 2 is here.

Toxic Mercury Is More at Home in Seawater, Study Finds

Now a new study suggests that humans need to be more wary of saltwater fish like tuna, mackerel and sharks than of freshwater fish. Although seawater has lower concentrations of mercury than freshwater, mercury in seawater is more likely to stay in its toxic form, researchers report in a recent issue of Nature Geoscience.

FDA vs. antibiotics for animal growth

The Food and Drug Administration issued a document Monday stating that antibiotics important for human health shouldn't be used to help animals grow faster. Officials say it's the beginning of a process to halt their use in meat production. But critics say the agency has made similar statements before, yet nothing came of it.

At German Airports, Bees Help Monitor Air Quality

Airports in Germany have come up with an unusual approach to monitoring air quality. The Düsseldorf International Airport and seven other airports are using bees as “biodetectives,” their honey regularly tested for toxins.

German, KfW Development Bank Climate Fund to Reach $500 Million by 2011

A fund supported by Germany’s KfW development bank that aims to invest in energy efficient projects in developing nations will likely have financing sources worth $500 million by the end of the year.

Switzerland donates USD 230 mln for international environmental and climate policy

BERNE (KUNA) -- The Swiss Federal Council decided in its weekly meeting to support the international environmental and climate policy by USD 230 million according to the UN Climate Summit 2009 resolution. According to a press release from the Swiss federal Council "the state of the environment has deteriorated in the last few years. Human activities lead to climate change, the increase of extinction and the disappearance of the natural habitats. The effects were already apparent "in 1998 for the first time more are registered refugees from environmental disasters than war refugees." "Despite the economic crisis, the international community has also decided to strengthen the overall environment and to increase funding for the Global Environment Fund by 50 percent.", added the press release.

Greg Barker, climate change minister: 'We cannot go on relying on foreign fuel'

The 43-year-old believes Britain could become the “Saudi Arabia of renewable energy” by investing in offshore wind, wave and tidal sources. In the Budget, the Coalition pledged to set up a Green Investment Bank to help finance renewable power stations, and Barker has ambitious plans to make London “the world hub of green finance”, creating “green ISAs and pensions” so that the public can invest in, and benefit from, the massive growth in the clean energy industry.

Households paying £84 in hidden climate taxes

HOUSEHOLDS are typically being charged more than £80 a year in hidden taxes to help combat the impact of climate change, research suggested today.

Green power an easy win for Australia: scientists

(Reuters) - Australia's new leader should ramp up renewable energy use and enshrine tougher energy efficiency standards to fight global warming, leading climate scientists said on Tuesday, describing them as easy policy wins.

Gillard wants carbon trading scheme, says Wong

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is strongly committed to putting a price on carbon, her climate change minister has said at a major climate summit.

Arab Nations May Be Waking Up Too Late to Climate Change

While Israel is already racing to put water-saving measures in place to meet the challenge of a world with less water, such as desalination plants and specialized targeted drip irrigation agricultural systems, Arab neighbors are only now becoming aware of just how severe the blow will be when the crisis fully hits the region.

Britain needs $15 billion "green bank": report

(Reuters) - Britain needs a green bank to meet its 2020 goals to slash carbon emissions and curb use of fossil fuels, a report commissioned by the Conservative Party said on Tuesday.

When the Day After Tomorrow Has Come

Imagine that it is 2050 — or even 2020 — and you are the president. Your science adviser has brought you alarming news: Greenland’s inland ice sheets are melting so fast that sea levels are about to rise dramatically. Moreover, thawing Arctic permafrost is about to pour huge quantities of heat-trapping methane gas into the atmosphere, which will make the already roasting planet even hotter.

The crisis, your adviser tells you, is now.

What can you do?

Quite a bit, to hear some researchers tell it. They say it should be possible to “geoengineer” the planet to cool its increasingly raging greenhouse fever. But they say these possibilities must be tested now, so that when the world needs to act, the scientific community can offer responsible advice. Their ideas are the subject of a new book, “Hack the Planet,” by Eli Kintisch, a reporter for the journal Science.

'Carbon storage' faces leak dilemma - study

PARIS — Dreams of braking global warming by storing carbon emissions from power plants could be undermined by the risk of leakage, according to a study published on Sunday.

More refugees to come unless rich nations help poor with climate change: UN scientist

MORE refugees will knock on Australia's door unless rich countries help poorer nations cope with climate change, a key UN scientist has warned.

Professor Martin Parry - a prominent UK scientist who chaired the last United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of the impact of climate change - said wealthy countries such as Australia had “good, selfish reasons” to spend money helping the developing world adapt to global warming.

Scientists 'expect climate tipping point' by 2200

The global climate is more than likely to slip into an unpredictable state with unknown consequences for human societies if carbon dioxide emissions continue on their present course, a survey of leading climate scientists has found.

Almost all of the leading researchers who took part in a detailed analysis of their expert opinion believe that high levels of greenhouse gases will cause a fundamental shift in the global climate system – a tipping point – with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Editor's note: Comment moved to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6644#comment-663765.

The Post Carbon Institute has introduced The Post Carbon Reader.

In 2009, Post Carbon Institute recruited 29 of the world's leading sustainability thinkers to answer one fundamental question: How do we manage the transition to a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world?

  • We have hit the “limits to growth".
  • No issue can be addressed in isolation.
  • We must focus on responses, not just solutions.
  • We must prepare for uncertainty.
  • We can do something.

The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crises — will hit bookstores and classrooms in October 2010.

The Reader includes 35 essays by 28 Post Carbon Institute Fellows, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Sandra Postel, Michael Shuman, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Bill Ryerson, Gloria Flora, and many other leading sustainability thinkers.

But BP and government officials are now talking about a long-term containment plan to pump the oil to an existing platform should the relief well effort fail. While such a failure is considered highly unlikely, the contingency plan is the latest sign that with this most vexing of engineering challenges — snuffing a gusher 5,000 feet down in the gulf — nothing is a sure thing.

How encouraging! I guess it is probably as unlikely as the Deepwater Horizon suffering a blowout catching fire, sinking and causing a massive oil spill in the GOM, Could never happen...

I, for one, am glad to know that there is a Plan B. Let us hope the first relief well works on the first attempt to kill the well. Next month? August?

Based on the recent NYT article, there was a solid 55% chance that the BOP would contain the blowout.

Is that just like the weatherman's forecast of "rain chance, 45%" which translates to 55% chance of no rain? In any case I travel with my foul weather gear and also a folding umbrella. Sometimes I look at the weather forecast, but in Minnesota if you don't like the current weather, just wait half an hour; the weather will often change. Yesterday at 6 a.m. the wind gusted to 26 m.p.h., by noon it was a perfect rather steady 12 knots--ideal for lake sailing.

for some reason, every place someone wrote '55%" up there, my browser displays it as 'Now Don't Quote me, but..'

(Not that I would.)

Agreeing with Don, I'm glad they're floating more than one idea at a time.

Although BP certainly made some bad choices on the Macondo well, I think that the real scandal is the industry and regulatory failure to make sure that BOP's are capable of controlling deepwater wells. And I think that criminal negligence is a good term for this industry/regulatory failure to make sure that BOP's are capable of doing what they are supposed to do.

Based on the recent NYT article, it turns out that the BOP's in deepwater blowouts failed to control the blowouts 45% of the time in recent years. A simple analogy would be that the brakes on your car work fine in normal driving situations, but when you apply them in an emergency situation at highway speeds, 45% of the time you cannot safely bring the car to a stop.


The decision by the Indian government to decontrol oil prices is a major event. The situation was pretty ridiculous with the government having to borrow money to subsidize oil prices. One fact which many readers of this site may not be aware of is that due to the highly intermittent power supply from the grid, most businesses depend on diesel generators for power. The cost of doing business is going to rise. I can only hope that this will finally jump start solar energy.

I'm sure it will jump start something but I fail to see how the inability to afford diesel fuel for primary energy will lead to the purchase of a complex and expensive solar system.

While energy from PV is 2-3 x the cost of grid power from coal fed depreciated plants,
it's about half the cost compared to a 1500/1800 RPM large diesel gen sets ..... if you can use
the juice when it's sunny, ie for AC, charging batteries for lighting, etc
A Grid Tie PV system is relatively simple compared to a
diesel gen set and has much longer lifespan. They can save a lot of fuel and wear and
tear on gensets. Installed cost for Multi-megawatt, medium voltage 3 phase Inverters has
really fallen. Of course PV will not replace gensets unless you have pumped storage or the like.
It's different situation in area where grid reliability is not high to begin with.
Some PV inverter manufactures are leading the way with isolated micro-grids that
help stabilize the grid by keeping critical loads running while exporting power.
Distributed generation equipment is evolving to help stabilize a less centralized grid
by creating multiple independent power oasis's

Solar energy in this case might mean just the best kind of solar flows---fields with plants, forests with trees, streams with fish. People think that "solar energy" must mean PVC but that technology is but one manifestation and not the best one. The best one is mother nature, and it is the cheapest one and the least polluting. People have lived and can live without electicity but they can`t live wthout water.

I also share your enthusiasm over Inida`s actions, I hope they will have to stop buying cars....

College: Big Investment, Paltry Return

The value of a college degree is a middle-class article of faith. But exclusive new research suggests it may be far less than previously thought.

My Alma Mater, U. of Calif., Berkeley, has a return on investment (ROI) of 13.1% for in state students. From skimming the list of top colleges and universities, that ROI was the highest of any school in the U.S. Berkeley graduates top engineers, lawyers, MBAs, and economists.

Few investments have a ROI of 13.1% these days.

It's worth looking at if the single average-over-students ROI, particularly calculated on those who are likely to respond to follow-up forms, is actually illuminating. Having a certain percentage of students who have made incredible amounts of money through IPOs will distort matters. I'd strongly suspect that there's a strongly multi-modal distribution, so it's worth considering if you're likely to be in one of the lower humps (modes) when thinking about these things.

[I'm a strong proponent of university education in that it opens the doors to more interesting jobs (which is very important for me), but there was never more than a mild increase in the money someone reasonably career minded was likely to earn through going to college, and it appears to be eroding rapidly. Although there's certainly excessive tuition growth in both the UK and US, I think it says more about how various types of jobs output are relatively valued in a currently energy-rich world.]

And note that the top schools are all "brand names" - MIT and the Ivy League schools.

Kinda makes you wonder about correlation and causation. Maybe coming from a family that's rich enough to go to schools like that is good for your bottom line, more than the education itself.

Leanan, Getting into MIT is not just about money. You got to have a few firing neurons as well. Those kids are, as a group, incredibly bright.

I didn't say otherwise. All those schools have scholarship programs and reach out to inner city kids and the like.

But I don't think you can deny that coming from a wealthy family helps. Going to the right prep schools, being able to afford the kind of extracurricular activities that catch admissions' eye.

And of course, there's the "happy bottom quarter." The kids who wouldn't have gotten in if not for families ties (and donations).

What helps most is having parents who did well in college. Both my parents were Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Chicago. I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at UC, Berkeley when I was nineteen and a junior. All four of my children graduated with honors from tough colleges, such as Carleton College. (and all are gainfully employed; 3 majored in economics, one in education. My guess is that their very bright children will do well at a top school.)

Children of wealthy parents definitely have an enormous leg up in the college admissions process. Some very wealthy families are even known to hire college admissions "coaches" who charge $30,000+ to help a child create the proper persona (via carefully selected activities, plum summer internships, highly crafted application essays, choice letters of recommendation) that will make him/her attractive to top schools.

That said, MIT is more egalitarian than most universities. 62% of the undergrads receive financial aid, and no preference is given to alumni legacies in the admissions process.

I do think we've hit peak college, and that the college admissions madness of the last decade is beginning to dissolve.

I think a big part of the problem is that "financial aid" is now so heavily skewed toward loans instead of scholarships. I enjoyed college, and went to a selective and expensive one. I paid for it with a mix of scholarships, loans, work-study, plain old work, and help from mom and dad.

I don't think I'd do it again if I were 18 now. There is no way I could get the kind of scholarships I got before. And I don't my degree has really helped all that much. It got me where I am a little faster, but as the article says...I'd be better off (financially) if I'd put that money in the stock market.

Not that I trust the stock market much, either...

I think you would have done better in the past and will do better in the future by investing in TIPS, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities rather than in the stock market. For example, compare, say the Vanguard TIPS fund's performance over the past fifteen or twenty years with a Standard and Poors 500 index fund. Guess which one comes out ahead in overall yield including dividends, interest, and capital gains.

Except for transaction amounts in my checking account, all my funds are in TIPS.

Note that in Britain, their Consumer Prices Index is rising at a 3.4% rate, despite a threat of debt deflation. In the long run, inflation is the rule, deflation the rare exception. Stocks tend to lag behind inflation because of the high interest rates the Fed imposes in an attempt to get the rate of inflation back down to it's goal--normally about 2% per year.

My guess is that serious inflation will return to the U.S. in the election year of 2012.

but as the article says...I'd be better off (financially) if I'd put that money in the stock market.

Looking at the table referenced in the article, I grow much more suspicious that the methodology used in the study is designed to produce numbers rather than insight and I'm not sure even your statement above is particularly supported by their analysis. Firstly, there appears to be a very dominant correlation between the ROI and drop-out rate. The description appears to be saying that for drop outs they are essentially assuming the time until they drop out (and hence the cost) is distributed the same as the time it takes to graduate and then that they earn the same wage as a non-graduate. If the drop-out rate is in fact heavily front-loaded then this looks like an average over a mixture of (at least) two populations where very few samples are close to the "average". I'd find it much more informative to have two ROIs, one conditional on finishing college and one conditional on not finishing college.

That, incidentally, is another plausible advantage for the affluent: if your family can provide enough money to avoid you needing part-time jobs you're probably more likely to both graduate and graduate quickly.

Looking around, the methodology description in the linked article, assuming it's an accurate description of what PayScale did, looks more and more like applying an obviously inappropriate process model thus generating very misleading statistics, since time-to-drop-out isn't distributed the same as time-to-graduation:

It is estimated that 40% of college students will leave higher education without getting a degree, with 75% percent of these students leaving within their first two years of college. Freshman class attrition rates are typically greater than any other academic year and are commonly as high as 20-30%.

from http://www.stateuniversity.com/blog/permalink/College-Drop-Out-Rates-Who...

I do think that college will become something most people don`t need to go to. But still (and I work in higher education) it is a great place to see who is smart among students and faculty. There is a constant kind of contest going on both in classes and among faculty (research and publications). People often need to know who is the smart one. Maybe you would like to make sure that doctors are well qualified? What about new theories and findings---a lot of the articles you quote contain research work done by professors. So much research is just a waste of paper of course, but it is hard to decide what is a waste of space and what is valuable....the process of weeding out the weak ones decides it and PO makes that process ever more strict as the marginal ones lose out.

I don`t think that a very smart person should just invest their tuition money in the stock market and then work in a factory. That person could be a doctor or a scholar who brings new insights, much needed, as PO challenges everyone to rethink the premises of neoclassical economics. Didn`t Hubbert himself end up teaching at Columbia University? What if he had just worked at a factory? Maybe the history of PO would have been completely different!

It's not a matter of what we want.

Traditionally, college was for the wealthy only, and I think we are probably headed back to that model. It's hard to imagine, but not so long ago, it was common for children to drop out of school in fourth or eighth or tenth grade, because they had to work to help support their families. My grandparents didn't graduate from high school. My parents were the first in their families to go to college, and most of their siblings didn't go. They're all very smart people, but education was simply not affordable to people in their socioeconomic class.

It's not just the cost of college. It's the cost of supporting people for years before they become "useful," and maybe for the rest of their lives. I think we are going to find it increasingly difficult to support people who are not producing basic necessities.


I think you are in error when you say: "Traditionally, college was for the wealthy only, . . ."

My parents both came from dirt-poor poverty backgrougnds; each had about ten siblings; they both worked their way through four years at the University of Chicago, a private university. Their experiences were not unusual. If you go back to the nineteenth century, colleges focused primarily on producing divinity degrees for the ministry profession; typically these students were the sons of poor Methodist or Baptist or Lutheran preachers.

George Washington never went to college, because in the olden days, if you were rich you hired private teachers to come into your house to tutor the sons (and to some extent the daughters) of the wealthy families.

My grandparents also went to school and even graduate school from modest means. But of course they had the advantage of being white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

If they had been Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, Jewish, or recent immigrants from many other various disfavored parts of Europe, they would likely not have been as readily welcomed.

At the University of Chicago there were many many children of Jewish immigrants. Today my guess is that they have more than a thousand children of Asian immigrants. Despite the University of Chicago being officially Baptist (because John D. Rockefeller was Baptist, and he put up the money for U. of Chicago) it has never discriminated beyond favoring the children of alumni. As the child of two alumni, I had no problem being accepted for their Early Entrant Program at age 15. My sister and father were also simultaneously enrolled at U. of Chicago, so the bursar cut us a really good deal on fees, even though my father could have paid full fees with no difficulty.

Both Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman attended the University of Chicago, because as Jews they could not be admitted to Ivy League schools. MIT is another school that so far as I know does not now and never has discriminated on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic background, and U.C., Berkeley also has never discriminated against minorities.

Ivy League schools weren't the only ones to discriminate. And if you think most colleges were filled with African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, you need better glasses.

Top schools discriminate on the basis of academic performance and on SAT or ACT scores. They must and should discriminate on this basis. U. of Cal., Berkeley had a Black math professor (named Geer) way back in the nineteen thirties or forties--long before affirmative action. Today Berkeley's engineering school is dominated by Chinese students and other Asians. At one time U. of Cal's Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory was dominated by Jewish physicists; my guess is that now the Chinese (and children of Chinese immigrants) now tend to dominate in staffing the Rad Lab.

Well, if you must insist on being completely dense, I guess there's no point in further discussion. I was not talking about today (nor were you in the first post on this) and I was not talking about tokenism, and I was not talking about discrimination on the basis of merit, as the context should have made clear.

This level of distortion of what others say verges on trolling.

FWIW the University of Wisconsin regents must disagree emphatically about peak college. Their Madison flagship campus is one gigantic construction site. Not-very-old buildings are being replaced by much bigger new ones, a grandiose new student union is going up, and so on...

Few investments have a ROI of 13.1% these days.

how 'bout few investments have a roi. ?

i prefer the term rog - return on gambling.

I am raising and homeschooling my grandson. Grandson has asperger's (autism spectrum) and college might or might not be a good choice for him. Since we don't have a lot of money I suspect we will be looking at other options.

Anyway, I have been wanting to ask if anyone has any good ideas for educational direction. Since I am in charge I can choose what I teach him. This summer its energy with lots of hands on activities such as building and using a solar cooker.

Also is anyone else homeschooling, thinking of homeschooling or wishing they had homeschooled? I believe that homeschooling is an important alternative to public schools. Our current system is not working very well.

Linda Hug

My advice is to start your own private school to implement Mortimer Adler's PAIDEIA proposal. He wrote three slim books on the topic; Interlibrary Lending should be able to find them for you or you can buy them cheap on amazon.com used.

Linda, good for you. If my wife and I had had children we would have homeschooled them. Don's suggestion of Adler's Paideia program is a good one; another thing you might consider is picking up a set of the old Great Books Series -- they were churned out and sold by the tens of thousands back in the day, and can be picked up used for a few hundred -- and use that as your source of textbooks once your grandson can handle them. (That may happen fairly young; I have Aspergers also, and was reading some pretty hefty stuff before I hit my teens.)

More generally, there are plenty of resources out there for homeschooling families; a little websurfing ought to find you a good selection.

Thanks Don and John Michael.

I had never heard of Mortimer Adler so I looked him up on the internet. He had some pretty good ideas. Sounds kind of like a combination of Classical and Charlotte Mason. As far as I can tell Adler never caught on in the homeschooling circles.

We have also used classical literature. Sometimes it seems difficult when you have to spend so much time explaining archaic language. But we have enjoyed most of the ones we have read. We have found quite a few at the thrift stores and many homeschool curriculum sellers have huge amounts for fairly cheap.

Linda Hug

The Great Books series has old and rather inferior translations of many books. I think you'd be better off to buy used paperback Penguins or other modern and better translations. For example, if memory serves, the Great Books uses the Constance Garnet translations of Russian novels which have long been superseded by improved ones.

I have a son with Asperger and a daughter with autism and I'm probably borderline Asperger (wasn't diagnosed but I have a lot of the traits when looking back). I have a PhD and do research in biology. Science, specially research are some of the best domain for people with Asperger and I'm far from being the most crazy in the biology department (not to mention people in the physic department:)... as long as you don't too much about money (salaries tends to be low for a long time...and it gets longer and longer to get a good position). My son is partly home-schooled and we use some of the Singapore curiculum for math and science. Its pretty cheap and flexible. My son also learn a lot watching science and history channels...right now he is fixated on second world war which is quite common for kids with Asperger (also dinosaurs, astronomy...). You can go on the website http://www.wrongplanet.net/ for helps about Asperger and autism. The main weakness of people with Asperger is in social skills. While some social training/social group can help, it will probably never be its best asset. Now, with peak oil looming, you might want to consider engineering in fields that are likely to be useful (renewable, water treatment...).

A woman psychologist friend of mine is of the firm opinion that Asperger is typical among engineers, and casual observation suggests that she may be onto something with that broad generalization.

Hi Linda,

My own son has Aspergers and is now a sophomore in high school. He takes advanced science and math classes and chances are he might even get a scholarship to a decent school if he keeps up his grades. I home schooled or should I say parallel schooled him when he was younger. I think he might do well in some kind of engineering or computer science program, he is the classic nerd.

Having said that I think it all boils down to being able to teach your kids critical thinking skills and exposing them to as many opportunities for learning about all kinds of different things.
You never know what might catch their fancy and take them down a lifelong path of learning and possibly a career that will hold their passion.

Best of luck to you on your journey!

I work for a television network you have definitely heard of...

The three best software engineers in my department have little or no college.

In my experience, making 6 figures with (or without) a high-school degree is not a problem if you have in-demand skills... also helps to have decent people skills.

I'm saving money for my kids in case they want to try college but I will be encouraging them to skip out on school if possible for their chosen career path...

I did 5 semesters of college... I would have done better / learned more by skipping out on school.

That has been my experience as well. Some things you need college for, but for a lot of things, you don't. Just ask Bill Gates.

The writers clearly put this up because of the punning opportunities, but it's a view into a possibly widespread future:


Residents on the Isle of Eigg have been trying to use household appliances less after a lack of rain affected its hydro power schemes.

The island community has won awards for its renewable power projects, which charge batteries to provide homes with electricity.

Eigg Heritage Trust secretary Maggie Fyffe said islanders were using items such as toasters as little as possible.

Generally when one doesn't have rain one does have sun... at least where I live, dunno about Eigg. I suggest they might try to use these as a few of these as a backup. You can even cook eggs with them.

Ooooh, I want one! That nifty red solar oven makes my foil lined recycled styrofoam cooler look pretty tacky.

You can't rely on that in the west of Scotland! See the latest 24 hours weather on nearby Tiree:


No sun at all today, but 6.5 hours yesterday. Eigg is nearly 57 degrees north, can solar ovens work OK that far north?

If you've got less sun, just design it with more mirrors, deeper insulation.
You might also make twice as many ovens, so you can cook more stuff to have on the overcast days..

I've seen videos of people cooking with these things sitting in the snow.

I'd just like to add that I made a solar kettle using nothing more than a 1.2m satellite dish and aluminium foil. The power of this thing was awesome. A stick of wood held at the focus would instantly char and spew out lots of smoke.

I made a cup of tea with it by blackening the bottom of a pan with soot from a candle, and then held it over the focus for about a minute.

I guess the energy collected was something like: 800W/m² x pi x (1.2/2)² = 900W, with that energy concentrated in something less than 1cm².
Cost absolutely minimal, and a lot of fun to play with.

I later experimented with covering the dish with a reflective survival blanket, sealing it and then partially evacuating the air inside. This was even more awesome. Pressure controlled and mathematically pure variable focus, could probably set a house on fire a mile away!

High volatility on the markets today. World stocks slide ahead of crucial Japan, US data.
Chinese markets drop 4% overnight. Dow Jones at 9900 and sinking.

1931 all over again? Double dip?

This could well turn out to be the summer of discontent. For all the bluster of the G20 meeting on the weekend, the decision to adopt the Sinatra approach (everybody doing it "my way") has done little to assuage uncertainty. My bet is on on gold to soar.

I remember what happened to gold and silver prices in 1978. Thud.

The thud being heard today is the sound of dropping investments.

If I invested in gold in 1978 and held on until 2010 I'd be a very rich man.

No, you would not be rich. Indeed, you would have been much better off to put your money into an index fund that tracked the S&P 500 stocks. Check the numbers: Gold has been a crummy investment when you buy near the high of 1978, and I daresay it will be a crummy investment in the future if you buy now, near another thirty-two year high. If I liked to speculate (which I don't do) I'd go short on gold now.

Might be a good chance to make money by going short on oil now, especially if Nate Hagens is right about much lower oil prices in our near future.

what if gold goes "parabolic" ?


What if gold prices follow oil prices down? Nate Hagens mentioned oil at $20 a barrel in the not too distant future. Gold can go parabolic DOWNWARDS. Indeed, you can tell for sure that gold is overpriced now by all the hype about gold and gold prices, gold dealers proliferating, your hair stylist telling you how much she has "invested" in gold, and gold tips from unemployed real-estate brokers and agents.

What if gold prices follow oil prices down.

Then a lot of people in Saudi Arabia will be ticked off. Looks like Saudi gold reserves doubled over night.

Then again, like everything in the desert kingdom, it's a guesstimate.

No this time it really is different. This time currencies are losing their value.

". . . this time it really is different."

Famous last words.

No, really! laugh if you want to but PO means that there will be a lot of discontinuities. The values of everything will be reassessed. A skyscraper will go down in value. Farmland will retain its value. Your grandmother's old 18k ring will definitely retain its value. Paper currencies will lose their value and also bonds, little by little, all paper things will be reduced in value. At the same time things that have always been useful (gold is a great store of value, anyone will accept it as payment for work, just ask, I sure would!) will be shown in the Great Shakeout to maintain their value.

Try this at home: ask 10 or 20 friends if they would accept payment for some work in gold. You'll see that 100% will say "yes".

I myself don't really want to own gold. I think about that fable "The Midas Touch". Yuck, it is a warning not to hoard things and place too much value on material things. If ever there was a story that summed up our PO dilemma (and a few others come to mind, such as also The Fisherman's Wife and Cassandra and Pandora's Box), it is "The Midas Touch". Everything we touch turns to cement.....cement roads, cement buildings, cement, cement, cement alternating with asphalt, plastic, rebar....all the bugs die, all the fish die, all the trees are taken away, meadows paved over, streams dammed up, oceans polluted and choked......we are like King Midas. We turn everything into cement and plastic and oil spills. Well, now it looks like we'll have to eat these things as well. Gone will be our water (no more hydrological cycle), our food, our fish, etc. Parking lots and interstate highways don't taste very good!

That is why it isn't any use to buy a lot of gold even if you can. That wouldn't be the best use of money in my opinion. You might store value that way but it is risky for other reasons---thieves, family quarrels, etc. So the best way to invest is still following the old fables and myths that cultures will provide for free. There don't seem to be a lot of rich people in old myths who are virtuous. It seems like poverty is a safer bet, actually, since the poor come out as heroes in fables, myths and fairy tales. If you don't have a lot to lose then you don't have to worry too much. Peace of mind is worth a lot. And friends and family and a good community will be best of all.

Back in 1962 I quadrupled my investment by buying shares in Pato Consolidated Gold Dredging, Ltd.; I bought at $2.25-$2.40 per share and sold out a year or two later at $11 per share, meanwhile enjoying a dividend yield of 20+% per year. 1962 was a year to buy gold shares, because almost nobody wanted them. 2010 is a year to sell gold and gold shares.

If you MUST speculate, take a shot at silver--but not until you have read THE SILVER BEARS by Paul Erdmann.

After the crash in gold prices in 1978 I bought rolls and rolls of Krugerrands, then sold them years later at a big profit to pay for my four children's college educations. Currently I own no gold but do have some pre-1965 U.S. silver coins (especially dimes) stashed away in discreet places.

I hate to brag about my age, experience, and post-graduate work in finance, but in my firm opinion you should dump your gold and gold shares now--before the crash in gold of late 2010 or 2011. Note that central banks can crash the gold market any time they feel like doing so, just by dumping a few tons of gold on the open market.

But still, I can`t help but think that any crash in gold prices would be temporary. The power of central banks isn`t unlimited otherwise we wouldn`t be in a permanent recession!

The gov has and can again confiscate all gold. I fail to see why so many think that its a good idea to have a bunch of stuff you can't eat that can and probably will be stolen or confiscated.


I have only a very small amount of gold that cannot be confiscated because noboby can prove I (still ) have it;and it is hidden in such a way that the risk of it being stolen is negligible.

I can't eat it , true, but one day I may need it to trade for something that can't be bought anymore with a check or cash.

That something might be a draft horse or a bag of seed corn or a barrel of diesel fuel.


You are right, of course. The baby boomers were led to believe that fiat paper money is real, that stocks and real estate rise forever, and that you can become rich by letting someone you don't know charge you outrageous fees to own "funds."

They were misled and lied to. Almost everybody in finance and economics has not just been ordinary wrong...they've been spectacularly wrong, earth-shattering wrong.

Gold is making a return as a hard currency. Its more than six fold rise against the king of the fiat currencies, the dollar, as well as its strength throughout the financial crisis when almost everything else is faltering, is all the proof you need.

If you are intelligent you will buy physical gold, keep it secure and hidden, and only sell it if you absolutely need cash.

If you are unintelligent you will play the stock market and try to beat Goldman Sachs. If you are even more unintelligent you will buy government bonds.

Mass psychosis dies hard.

Dow down 250 points. Oil down $2.50.

Traders worrying about the big drop in consumer confidence, probably.

There is also concern about a big refinancing of European banks today and concern over rising inflation rates in Britain and other European countries.

My guess is that we'll see $60 oil by October.

I think this is the correct reason, but based upon recent ECB policy, the markets are dramatically over-reacting. In fact, the 'markets' have got this almost completely backwards - the ECB has been very expansionary for three months and it is a bit premature to think they will suddenly alter policy. We should know for sure within the next day or so if the ECB is scaling back its expansionary policy, which I highly doubt.

Having said that, financial panics can feed on themselves, so in other words, if everyone panics the, well, things fall apart.

Based upon today's EIA revision's to April oil figures, the large surge in oil demand since April that I have been talking about for some weeks now is further confirmed (demand picked up either further in May and June). See this:

US April oil demand up 2.4 pct vs year earlier-EIA

So in sum, for those that want to panic, they can't really blame it on either the ECB or US economy.

Note that rising demand for oil in the U.S. reflects rising real GDP--similar percentage rates of growth.

I also found a Financial Times article about the ECB's easy money policy:

Markets unnerved by ECB loan fears
Last updated: June 29 2010 20:28

The ECB is pumping a record amount of liquidity into the financial system, with nearly €900bn in loans offered to eurozone banks.

However, in spite of this support, analysts say the fact the ECB is no longer offering loans for a year is worrying investors because it creates uncertainty.


Signs of a global slowdown slam stocks. Dow finishes down 268 points. Nasdaq drops 4%, S&P falls 3%.


Bank stocks get hammered

Earlier in the session, Citigroup shares plunged by as much as 17% after one trade triggered a five-minute halt in its trading. A New York Stock Exchange spokesman said the trade took place off exchange, via the FINRA/Nasdaq Trade Reporting Facility.

BBBBBut, why don't they just call don who knows for sure that we are in a great recovery?

How could they all be getting it so wrong? Why don't they listen to reasonable, well informed people like our sailorman?

None are so blind as those who will not see. Note that falling oil prices will tend to boost the economy toward a higher rate of growth in real GDP.

Note that falling oil prices will tend to boost the economy toward a higher rate of growth in real GDP.

The Ultimate Rollercoaster before the final countdown

"falling oil prices will tend to boost the economy"

Yes, that certainly seems like a sound basis to build a robust and lasting recovery on...NOT.

I'm not sure what it is you're smokin', but I wish you would quit bogarting it and pass some of it this way.

Strong Columbian coffee is my drug of choice.

Nature and bicycles reclaiming Detroit:


It turns out Detroit had pretty impressive bicycle infrastructure back in 1896.

Nearly every US city had an impressive cycling infrastructure around the turn of the 20th century, and it will eventually return again. This time, electric bikes will share the lanes, as in China, where they are expected to sell an incredible 120 Million electrics in 2010.

As cycling in the US morphs from recreational activity to necessity, sales here will skyrocket, too.

Personally, I'm eyeing an electric motorcycle.

These two are looking good, except their range can't get me to San Francisco (over the hill) and back in one charge:

And there aren't that many public electric outlets yet (though that will likely change soon).

Then, I'm going to take it on Highway #1 before the potholes make it too dangerous or California slides into the ocean, whichever comes first:

Highway #1

I used to ride that highway on my little GS500 (which was plenty enough for me). I would wake up early and do a 5:30am ride. It was another world. With the electric version, I think it will be quieter...maybe easier to be with the scenery.

This is what inspired me to get my motorcycle license:


The big names should be coming out with their electric motorcycles soon but I haven't researched it lately. Does anyone know?

I really have to wonder if electric bikes makes much sense. I have tried one. It was heavy. It needs to be recharged. It was expensive. I would never own one.

For my daily commute, I have a very light aluminium bike (non electric), with a belt, not a chain. If I don't feel like cycling, for example, if the wind is strong or if it's raining and I want to walk with an umbrella while pushing my bike, then I can walk my bike extremely easily. Up hills too. It never needs a battery or a recharge. It is 12 years old with no maintenance except tires replaced....

If you maintain your physical fitness then an electric bike is not necessary 'cause walking is also a great transportation mode and so simple. Recharge with delicious food. If your bike is light then walking it is not a problem.

Obviate the need for a battery and the technology and go simple.

The HydroPonics article reminded me of something that I had wanted to have happen in the future of building, a long time ago, way back in 1981.

Back then I was working with my dad at building maintaince, and one of our monthly chores was changing the air filters on the air handlers on the roof of the 510 Main Street M.M.Cohn building over in Little Rock, Ark. I saw all that flat roof and saw the waste of it all.

No solar panels, no roof top gardens, I remember it was the basis for a big story Idea I had at the time. But really very little has changed in the time from then to now.

We don't build solar into our house designs, we don't build passive solar homes, where if the power were to go off you could still live in them because they would be cool. We don't build as a mainstay earth shelter homes, in desert climates. Lots and Lots of We Don'ts in the list of things that seemed so good way back in 1981 to me, but hardly any of it has been done except in the fringes of the design world.

Now almost 30 years later, we have people again talking about all the great things we could do with roof tops, like it was something they just discovered. It seems so sad that mankind does not learn from it's past very well.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world,
Hugs from a wet Arkansas.
Thank God we got rain.

Charles, it's a little more complex than that, of course. The first tentative but promising steps toward sustainability in the 1970s were shut down by the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution, with the aid of North Sea and North Slope oilfields that could be, and were, pumped at a breakneck pace to crash the price of oil. As a short term political gimmick, it was wildly successful, and probably did more than anything else to bring down the Soviet Union -- petroleum was one of their few sources of hard currency -- but the blowback was a thirty year vacation from sanity in which we burned through the spare fossil fuels that might have made a smooth transition to renewables possible.

One very workable project right now would be blowing the dust off the best ideas of the Seventies appropriate-tech movement and picking up where they left off; I'll be talking about that in my blog shortly. Still, it's not a matter of humanity's unwillingness to learn from the past; it's a result of deliberate and politically motivated amnesia.

Glad to hear you got some rain!


When I clicked on it the link to your blog did not work.

It looks as though the software here is smarter than I am. Yes, it's the Archdruid Report; I tried to put in a clickable link, but clearly that didn't work.

Back to building a cold frame, which is a technology I know how to use... ;-)

The problem is that you have a single quote instead of a regular quotation mark at the end of your URL.

If you use Firefox, check out the BBCodeXtra extension. Makes simple HTML like links and images a breeze.

eia' natural gas monthly is just out.


april dry gas production is down slightly from march 2010's near term peak: 59.4 bcfd -vs- 59.5 bcfd for march. this compares to the previous near term peak of 58.4 bcfd in february 2009.

or maybe not - because of recent changes in ng production reporting.

Got a not found at link for "Gulf gas shortage threatens oil production"

But found an "updated" version at http://thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100629/BUSINESS/70629... now re-titled "Gas shortage squeezes crude output"


Espionage now focused on nation's 'energy policies and new technologies rather than political and military intelligence'

"The number of Russian intelligence officers in London is at the same level as in Soviet times", MI5 says on its website. It does not say how many there are but counter-intelligence officers have told the Guardian that 30 agents are operating out of the Russian embassy and trade mission in London.

Russia is interested in particular in the energy policies of the west, given the importance of its own oil and natural gas reserves, and the Kremlin's determination to use them as an instrument of foreign policy, the officials said. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, is a former chairman of Gazprom, Russia's giant energy company.

2200!!?? You've got to be kidding.

I went to the article just to confirm my suspicion that it was a typo of 2020. But nope, they're talking about the likelihood of reaching a climate tipping point by 2200. Ridiculous. With the globe experiencing its warmest first half of a year on record, and arctic ice in free fall, outstripping even 2007, and methane being released from permafrost and perhaps from high latitude seas, I'd say such a tipping point has already been passed.

2200 indeed.


You need to let stuff like that roll off your shoulder. Obviously an attempt by a GW denialist to distract from the imminent concerns of a problem that is widening its influence this year. 100 degree f in Mongolia, mar. april may of 2010 the warmest months ever recorded, arctic ice extent this year dropping super fast and CO2 rising per year accelerating. This year could be the initial year of runaway GW or at least a big move in that direction.

There was an article a few days ago, saying the more education a Dem politician has the more they understand GW as being a manmade problem from GH emissions, but the more education a Repub. has the less they agree. Therefore when you run into someone who will not agree with GW no matter what information you bring forth, understand it's just politics. When you see the year 2200 spouted you know it's pure and simpleton politics.

"...were asked about the probability of a tipping point being reached some time before 2200"

So, if you said a tipping point was reached by 1975, 2002, 2013, or 2197 you got counted as "yes".

That was my thought, too. Half of these guys may have said we have already passed crucial tipping points, or are crossing them now.

I don't know if it is the same one, but I think Jim Hanson's Tipping point concern is for about that timeframe. I think his tipping point is a little bigger one than we are currently entering. His contention is that if ocean currents dramatically rearrange then large areas of undersea methane hydrates might be at risk. Kind of a human triggered PETM (55 million year ago global heat wave). So I think we are maybe seeing an arctic seaice tipping point. The current leakage from arctic methane is insignificant globally. So, today's would be a tipping point with a lower case t. Hanson's 2200 tipping point would start with a capital T. Complete runaway to Venusian type state would be all caps. I'm assured that the later is not possible until the sun gets about 40% brighter (3 billion years or a tad more). So humans lack the power to destroy life on earth. But that doesn't mean we can't cause a major extinction event.

I don't know if it is the same one, but I think Jim Hanson's Tipping point concern is for about that timeframe.

You believe it because someone, or certain people said it or wrote it?

CO2 ppm is increasing at an accelerated rate from decade to decade. Right now its about 2.5 ppm added per year, but in the 60's it was about 1 ppm added per year. So you can see it is accelerating, however the rate of acceleration will at some tipping point increase exponentially. This will occur from the albido effect, feedbacks that will further accelerate arctic melt and accelerate methane releasing from siberian arctic waters and peat bogs in the arctic circle. Also, the bioshpere will increasingly be less capable of acting as a CO2 sink. Within years or at most a couple of decades, it's likely the CO2 and methane added to the atmoshphere will cause runaway global warming. Once that initiates, humankind reaching the year 2200 won't even be on the radar screen. Rather the goal will be getting through the next season via 'Survival 109', an upper graduate course of which only a small percentage of people will be prepared. Following that will be an anoxia event, like the Permian extinction, and it won't be the year 2200, but more like some year much, much earlier, probably in this century.

Look at this article that just came out on Science Daily:


'Arctic Climate May Be More Sensitive to Warming Than Thought, Says New Study'

"Our findings indicate that CO2 levels of approximately 400 parts per million are sufficient to produce mean annual temperatures in the High Arctic of approximately 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees F)," Ballantyne said.

Well, we already hit 392.94 in May!


At that same website above, if you scroll down you'll notice that this year, March, April and May set all time temperature records for those months since records started being compiled in 1880.

The yard stick keeps moving. Only a few years ago there was speculation from the same people you reference that the Arctic could become ice free in the Summer of 2100. Not long later that year was dropped to 2050, then down to 2025-2035, then 2013! Yes, it could occur that early. But that just goes to show how much faster changes can occur than what is initially predicted by what is known now. The problem in understanding how fast these changes can occur is in part due to the fact that never in the history of the planet have CO2 levels risen this fast. When it occurred from volcanoes it took millions of years.

Take a look at the graph below. I saw this one for the first time yesterday. Click on it and it will enlarge, then scroll to the right slowly watching the ebb and flow of each year until you get to 2007, then look at 2010! It's dropping fast and we'll see how it compares to 07, but you can see from how quick the changes occur in those latter years just how fast things that are first presumed to take a certain number of years to occur can happen on a much faster scale.

Go to this website and look at how much less ice extent there has been in the years since the 1979-2000 average.

Now look at 2010!

To give you an idea of how much greater the 2007 Arctic ice melt was than any previous year, it was equivalent to an area the size of California x 3!! That's how much things can change in one year. We will see what happens this year, but the trend is not good. Scientists say there is no way now to repair the damage done.

And really that's it in a nutshell. We are subject to whatever the weather dishes out, thereby courting a dangerous fate by ignoring the warnings from climate scientists regarding CO2 emissions.

So when a source says 2200, I scoff and for a very good reason.

Good points. Things are heading south fast.

Another good site to watch what is becoming known as the Arctic Death Spiral, is Cryophere Today:


The "tale of the tape" long term ice coverage anomaly has been dropping like a stone.

And for a more colorful show, check out the 30 day loops. The non-purple bright colors indicate areas of melt, and they have been exploding all across the Arctic in the last few days. Wind patterns and clouds could alter the rate, but by all accounts, the ice is much thinner than in earlier years, much of it being described as "rotten," so we are likely to see some pretty dramatic loss of ice.

The "Gulf gas shortage threatens oil production" article would seem to be at odds with "US set to be big buyer of gas from Middle East", no?

When Things Fall Apart
Reporting from the Gulf, an offshore oil rig worker finds mundanity, a complacent obsession with safety, and the doom beneath it all.

It's a recurring dream. I'm standing next to a machine, some giant warm Fritz-Lang-inspired monster. I live in it. I am a piece of it. But I know at any moment this machine could destroy itself and there won't be a thing I can do about it. What a mutinous thing when a machine, usually so faithful and repetitious, turns against us.

I'm afraid of this dream, and every morning I wake up in the Gulf and go to work on an offshore drilling rig the dream gets worse. Though it shouldn't.