Drumbeat: July 1, 2010

Steve LeVine: How I started a war with Russia

Al Qaeda chose three strategic oil assets to attack -- two large Saudi Arabian refineries, two choke points in Southeast Asian sea lanes, and five refinery complexes in and near Houston. In all, the attacks immediately pulled 8 million barrels a day, or about 10 percent of global demand, off the market, and forced the rerouting of another 15 million barrels. Global oil prices spiked to $250 a barrel, as the United States, the Saudi kingdom, and the rest of the world's major nations contemplated how to respond.

So went the scenario at the "energy games," a day-long role-playing exercise yesterday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Teams played China, the European Union, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, various parts of the U.S. government, and of course al Qaeda. As a condition of playing -- I was on the European team -- I agreed not to identify the other participants. But suffice to say that those around me were a realistic bunch.

Debate Heats Up Over Oil Sands

The debate is heating up over whether the Obama administration should approve a huge new pipeline called Keystone XL that would bring oil extracted from the earth in Alberta, Canada, all the way to Texas for refining. The State Department must grant approval for any transnational pipelines, based on the “national interest.” And as we’ve written, politicians and citizens are divided over whether imported oil sands oil is in the national interest, and how energy needs should be balanced with environmental and safety concerns.

Colleges Atop Gas-Rich Shale Weigh Offers From Drillers

Kevin Wilson can look around at the 270 acres on which Keystone College sits and imagine a different future for his small, impoverished institution. Mr. Wilson, vice president for finance and administration, foresees a time when drillers could put a handful of gas wells on the land, each of them yielding millions of dollars in royalties a year, for perhaps a couple of decades.

For a 142-year-old college with a $7-million endowment, that kind of money could be "a real game-changer," he says.

Chavez formalizes seizure of US-owned oil rigs

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has issued a decree expropriating 11 oil rigs owned by U.S. driller Helmerich & Payne, which shut them down because the state oil company was behind on payments.

The government's "forced acquisition" of the rigs became effective Thursday with publication of the decree in the Official Gazette.

Shell’s Vulcan mind meld returns

The share price of Royal Dutch Shell’s suddenly saw a ghost on Thursday afternoon.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Mexico

(Reuters) - Raging drug violence, a tepid economic recovery, flagging momentum on economic reforms and declining oil output are all risks to watch for this year in Mexico, which needs to keep up investor confidence to maintain its debt ratings and emerge from recession.

Production of cheap electricity advised

Sialkot—President Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Mohammad Ishaq Butt has said power shortage is badly hampering Pakistan’s socio-economic growth. Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, he said power crisis had curtailed business activities.

Egypt among world's largest wheat importers

A recent study on Egypt's food and energy crisis has revealed Egypt to be among the largest importers of wheat in the world.

India Food Inflation Drops to 8-Month Low, Manufacturing Slows

(Bloomberg) -- India’s food inflation rate dropped to an eight-month low and manufacturing growth slowed, driving benchmark bond yields to the least in three weeks.

The wholesale-price index of farm products fell to 12.92 percent in the week ended June 19 from a year earlier, the commerce ministry said in a statement in New Delhi. The Purchasing Managers’ Index declined to 57.3 from 59 in May, according to HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics.

We should have listened to Jimmy Carter

Back in 1977, President Jimmy Carter declared that the need to revise the nation's energy policies was "the moral equivalent of war," and characterized the need to end our dependency on oil as "the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes."

Failure to meet that challenge, he predicted, would result in "a national catastrophe."

We failed, of course, to meet the challenge; and now we are, indeed, facing a national catastrophe.

Deutsche Bank Says Feedstock ‘Scary’ For Bioenergy Financiers

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG and renewable energy financiers say the supply and management of wood and other plant-based fuels is one of the biggest constraints to raising money for bioenergy power projects.

Power stations that burn plants to generate electricity and heat face potential feedstock price increases as well as storage, supply and transportation “challenges” that concern bankers, Paul Battelle, Deutsche Bank’s director of renewable energy financing, said today in Brussels.

GM sales climb 11% in June

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors' U.S. sales rebounded strongly from a year ago, when the automaker was in the midst of its bankruptcy reorganization, but fell from May's sales levels.

Behind the hype on Tesla

On Tuesday, the day Tesla's shares started trading in extraordinary fashion, I opened the Wall Street Journal and saw the Nasdaq ad welcoming Tesla to public companyhood. In the two-thirds-of-a-page photo, a bald guy in sunglasses drives a red two-seater past a bucolic mountain scene with an array of windmills between the car and the peaks. "The car company that abandoned oil selects NASDAQ," reads the copy. Between the copy and the photo, the message is clear: Tesla won't foul the environment. It's as pure as the wind.

There's a big problem, however, with the imagery. Wind power represents about 3% of electricity production in the United States. Coal accounts for about 50%. So while Tesla drivers may pat themselves on the back because their cars don't emit foul greenhouse gases, half the electricity needed to charge the batteries that make the cars run comes from burning coal.

John Michael Greer: Merlin's time

It’s an appalling predicament: how can a community prepare for a troubled future if most people tune out even the slightest suggestion that it might be troubled? It’s for this reason, seemingly, that many people in the peak oil scene have chosen to downplay the difficulties and insist that we can have a bright, happy, abundant future if we just pursue whatever baby steps toward sustainability we all find congenial. I’ve been assured by some of the people making such claims that they’re perfectly aware that the situation is far more difficult and dangerous than that, but that the need to get as people involved in some kind of movement toward sustainability is so great, they say, that waffling on that point is as justified as it is necessary.

A few thoughts on sovereign debt

Some commonsensical economists advocate a massive expansion of government deficits, not to bail out bankers, mind you, but to bail out the jobless, homeowners underwater on their fraudulent mortgages, and the hapless working poor suffering from cutbacks in social safety-nets. Creating growth from the bottom up and so re-powering the real economy. But this entails, in effect, mortgaging the future income of the entire country.

Yet many idealistic but no less commonsensical folks feel that we have an opportunity here to repudiate unsustainable growth. So what seems the most compassionate path may in the end create a deepening dependency on a heartless system, and what seems harsh and dreadful may open the way for a smaller, more convivial economy and world. Do we really want to get this global juggernaut, whose giant wheels are crushing so many, back in motion? What role does debt, especially sovereign debt, play in driving this economic megamachine?

Poland, Germany, Slovakia Delay Submitting EU Green Energy Plan

(Bloomberg New Energy Finance) -- Poland, Germany and Slovakia are among the nations that missed yesterday’s deadline for submitting plans to the European Union on how they’ll comply with laws to encourage renewable energy.

The Good Driller Award

Overlooked in this debate is the fact that regulators need carrots, not just sticks. That’s why we should start rewarding companies that have exemplary safety records, exceed pollution standards and produce exceptional disaster response plans. Such incentives should never replace fines and penalties, which can often take years to work their way through the courts, but they could be a helpful complement.

Sue, baby, sue: Louisiana is up in arms about the ban on deepwater drilling

IRONY surrounds the Obama administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The people it presumably intends to protect—the residents of south Louisiana, whose fisheries and shorelines are being fouled by BP’s still-gushing Macondo well, and the oilfield workers who could be at risk from another disaster—are probably its loudest critics. Nearly two out of three Americans support the ban, according to one recent poll, but gulf coast residents are split down the middle. And in Louisiana, where the energy industry is a mainstay of the economy, state leaders and opinion-makers have been nearly unanimous in opposing the moratorium.

Threatened whale sharks seen in Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Whale sharks, the huge fish that feed by vacuuming the sea surface, have been seen in heavy oil a few miles from BP's spewing well in the Gulf of Mexico, a scientist said.

China may use export taxes to cull own industries

China (Reuters) - China, which helped its heavy industry survive the financial crisis by lowering barriers to exports, is now considering hitting the same exports with a tax to discourage rampant production that uses too much energy.

Fan Jianping, a top government analyst, said China is likely to impose export taxes on steel and base metals and their products in the next five years and classify them as industries serving domestic consumption. The goal would be to limit production capacity and to cut energy use and carbon emissions.

Europe’s soaring energy needs to be met by Libyan expansion

ROME // Libya has big plans to expand its gas production, which could prove a boon for European countries.

“By 2025, the EU will need to find more than 300 billion cubic metres [a year] of extra gas to import,” Paolo Scaroni, the chief executive of the Italian energy conglomerate Eni, told the Libya Gas conference in Rome yesterday.

Significant demand would come as older European coal-fired and nuclear power plants were replaced with facilities running on natural gas, Mr Scaroni said. European gas production was expected to fall.

Offshore drillers want their jobs back

The oil industry is a $150 billion-a-year business in the Gulf, slightly bigger than tourism and dwarfing the $1 billion fishing industry.

With a government-imposed temporary ban on deep water drilling and permits for new shallow water wells stuck in limbo, roughnecks, roustabouts, and others in this field are nervous.

Their fear: When the wells they are currently drilling are finished, their jobs will disappear.

BP should say goodbye to its U.S. operations

If you’re charitable, you could call them value investors or opportunists. If you’re not, grave dancers or bottom feeders would do. Whatever name you choose, there is no doubt they are eyeing BP in the same way a famished wolf eyes a fat wounded lamb. The takeover of BP could very well be the next phase of the sorry corporate saga that started on April 20, when the British oil giant’s Deepwater Horizon rig went to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the worst oil blowout in American history.

BP could be ripe for takeover

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- BP's stock price has fallen far enough for the oil company to become an attractive takeover target for its biggest rivals, according to industry analysts.

Odds are, BP gets a new CEO this year

Odds are, BP's embattled chief executive Tony Hayward will be out of a job before the end of the year, an Irish bookmaker says.

The Paddy Power betting agency on Thursday quotes odds of 8-11 that Mr. Hayward won't last the year running the oil company, and even odds that he survives.

Black Landowners Fight to Reclaim Georgia Home

In 1942, Harris Neck, a thriving community of black landowners who hunted, farmed and gathered oysters, was taken by the federal government to build an airstrip. Now, the elders — who remember barefoot childhoods spent climbing trees and waking to watch the Canada geese depart in formation — want to know why they cannot have it back.

The Harris Neck Land Trust, formed by the former residents, their descendants and a handful of white families who owned land but did not live on Harris Neck, is asking Congress to return the land. The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that the land is a crucial part of the national refuge system.

A Simple Solution for Peak Oil and Global Warming

I have now penned two Simple Solution books, one on Planet Earth and the second on Humanity (see icons below). Let me draw from the first one and provide just one simple solution to solve our energy/environment problem. But first, some background.

New Start for Schools, Fish and Human

Last weekend I took the free ferry from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan to Governors Island. Within minutes, I was transported from the bustle of the city to a picturesque island that for two centuries served as a military base housing Army and Coast Guard officers.

Now a park managed in part by the National Park Service, the island feels spacious and uncrowded in a way that precious few places in the city do. So it is probably fitting that it will be the new home of the Urban Assembly Harbor School, a public high school that focuses on environmentalism and is using New York’s waters as its living laboratory.

Govts face cost hurdle to halve CO2 by 2050 - IEA

PARIS (Reuters) - Governments will have to grapple with sharply higher upfront costs to deploy clean energy technologies and halve carbon emissions by 2050, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

Prices rise as New Zealand passes emissions trading scheme

The government has pressed ahead with plans to slash the nation's carbon output, despite widespread opposition and New Zealand's larger neighbour Australia shelving its own scheme.

Motorists were hit by a 3c (1.4p) rise in the price of a litre of petrol overnight, while householders face a 5 per cent increase in gas and electricity prices.

Oil Falls a Fourth Day After Unexpected Increase in U.S. Gasoline Supplies

Crude oil fell for a fourth day in New York, the longest losing streak in seven weeks, amid concern the economic recovery in the U.S. and China will slow and curb demand in the world’s two largest energy consumers.

Oil slumped to its lowest in two weeks as Hurricane Alex weakened to a Category 1 storm on its path over northeastern Mexico and forecasters said it could be further downgraded to a tropical storm by tomorrow. China’s manufacturing expanded at a reduced pace for a second month in June, adding to signs the fastest-growing major economy is cooling.

Hurricane Alex Strikes Mexico, Heads Inland

Hurricane Alex was downgraded to a tropical storm after it came ashore over northeastern Mexico from the Gulf of Mexico where it had shut down a quarter of oil production.

The earliest Atlantic hurricane since 1995 was packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour about 55 miles west of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in advisory posted on its website just before 7 a.m. Central Time. The storm, earlier a Category 2 system blowing at 100 mph, was heading west at 12 mph and will continue to move inland today, the center said.

China expands natural gas network

China plans to expand natural gas storage facilities to all provinces except Tibet in the next few years to meet the surging demand, said Chi Guojing, Secretary General of China Gas Association.

CNPC, China's largest gas producer, and city gas distributors have prepared to establish storage facilities, according to Chi.

JX Nippon plans new LNG terminal

Japanese refiner JX Nippon Oil & Energy is planning to build a liquefied natural gas receiving terminal in Kushiro, northern Japan, to tap projected growth in demand, especially from the industrial sector.

Pak hints India 'pulled out' of IPI due to US pressure

Three months after signing a $ 7.6 billion pact for a gas pipeline with Iran bilaterally, Pakistan has hinted that India had "pulled out" of the trilateral project under US pressure and said it could still join.

Belarus raises oil products transit tariff for Russia

MINSK (Itar-Tass) - The pumping of Russian oil products through oil mainlines located in the territory of Belarus from now on will cost higher by about 12.7 percent. The republic on Thursday introduces a higher tariff for the services of oil products’ transportation. The country’s Economics Ministry adopted a resolution on raising the tariffs on April 29.

Investors Are Wary of Petrobras Sale

Petrobras, the Brazilian energy giant, has taken a beating of late. But don’t blame BP for it all.

While Petrobras is heavily into the deep-water business, its technical prowess at ferreting out hydrocarbons trapped in the ocean is world class. What is questionable is the firm’s ability to withstand the Brazilian government’s designs to make it an instrument of social policy, as highlighted by its huge coming stock sale and spending program.

India auction of oil, gas blocks fetches $1.1 billion

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Companies have committed 1.1 billion dollars to explore for oil and gas in India's latest energy auction round, a statement said Wednesday, but the sum was shy of government hopes.

However, the government said it expects a much more enthusiastic response in its next auction thanks to a decision last week to allow petrol prices to be set by the market rather than the state.

Cambodia to pump oil in 2012

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA said on Thursday it will begin pumping oil for the first time in December 2012 as it looks to tap the potential of its offshore reserves.

Interior Delays Offshore Expansion Hearings

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department, preoccupied with its response to the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, said Wednesday that it was pushing back the date of public hearings on the administration’s plan, announced before the disaster began, to expand offshore drilling.

BP Oil Spill To Become Largest Ever In Gulf

BP's massive oil spill will become the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday based on the highest of the federal government's estimates, an ominous record that underscores the oil giant's dire need to halt the gusher.

The oil that's spewed for two and a half months from a blown-out well a mile under the sea is expected to surpass the 140 million gallon mark, eclipsing the record-setting Ixtoc I spill off Mexico's coast from 1979 to 1980. Even by the lower end of the government's estimates, at least 71.2 million gallons are in the Gulf.

Despite Gulf Leak, World Still Wants Deepwater Oil

With crude still hemorrhaging into the Gulf of Mexico, deep-water drilling might seem taboo just now. In fact, extreme oil will likely be the new normal. Despite the gulf tragedy, the quest for oil and gas in the most difficult places on the planet is just getting underway. Prospecting proceeds apace in the ultra-deepwater reserves off the coasts of Ghana and Nigeria, the sulfur-laden depths of the Black Sea, and the tar sands of Venezuela’s Orinoco Basin. Brazil’s Petrobras, which already controls a quarter of global deepwater operations, is just starting to plumb its 9 to 15 billion barrels of proven reserves buried some four miles below the Atlantic.

Oily rain and cracks in the earth: Busting Gulf oil spill myths

As the prospect of an active hurricane season adds a new dimension to the on-going BP Gulf oil spill disaster, on-line media is awash with rumors of impending worst-case scenarios for the region. Viral Internet myths range from a collapsing seabed to oily rain to contaminated seafood.

Here are a few oil spill myths and misconceptions, addressed by scientists, experts, and official sources:

Sites to stop Gulf oil leak near completion

One of two relief wells being drilled to stop the Gulf oil spill is within about three football fields of intersecting the original, leaking pipe, and 15 feet off to the side, a BP spokesman said Wednesday. But it's still not expected to be finished before August: The process becomes more delicate the closer the drill gets.

Allen retires from Coast Guard, remains on oil spill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen retired on Wednesday from his military position but will remain incident commander overseeing the government's response to the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Manager of BP oil fund says not all claimants will be paid

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The prominent US lawyer managing BP's 20-billion-dollar oil disaster fund said Wednesday not all claimants will be paid, especially some of those seeking compensation for falling houses prices.

Louisiana Governor Seals Oil-Spill Records

Elected officials in Louisiana and members of the public seeking details on how Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration fared in their own response to the disaster are out of luck: late last week, the governor vetoed an amendment to a state bill that would have made public all records from his office related to the oil spill.

BP enlists Washington elite to help image

WASHINGTON — James Lee Witt, the former FEMA director who built his reputation responding to disasters, is poised to become the latest big name on a team of Washington insiders that BP has amassed to help it respond to the Gulf Coast oil spill, rescue its reputation and protect itself from lawsuits.

The list, which includes several prominent Democrats now working on behalf of a company responsible for the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history, is causing some unease — even in a city where power and influence are wielded and traded with ease.

Methane's hidden impact in Gulf oil spill

Large quantities of methane released by BP's oil blowout aren't fouling beaches like the Gulf oil spill is, but could endanger a key link in the undersea food chain.

BP Kills Turtles in Oil Containment Burns, Lawsuit Says

Endangered sea turtles are being killed in BP Plc’s “controlled burns” in the Gulf of Mexico by getting trapped inside the booms the company uses to collect spilled oil, wildlife activists said in a lawsuit.

London-based BP, which is struggling to control the largest spill in U.S. history, should be forced to stop the burns or ensure no turtles are caught inside the floating “corrals” before the oil is ignited, the environmentalists said in the suit. BP’s killing of the turtles constitutes an illegal “taking” of an endangered species under environmental laws, they claim.

Some 70,000 turtle eggs to be whisked far from oil

PENSACOLA BEACH, Florida (AP) — An effort to save thousands of sea turtle hatchlings from dying in the oily Gulf of Mexico will begin in the coming weeks in a desperate attempt to keep an entire generation of threatened species from vanishing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will coordinate the plan, which calls for collecting about 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried in the sand across Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.

The E.P.A. on Dispersants: Cure Is Not Worse Than the Disease

Initial tests of Corexit, the oil dispersant that BP is using in the Gulf of Mexico, and of competing products finds that the dispersants range from “practically nontoxic’’ to “slightly toxic,’’ the Environmental Protection Agency says.

Afghanistan war toll hits high mark

WASHINGTON — Coalition forces killed in Afghanistan topped 100 in June, the war's highest monthly toll and approaching some of the deadliest months in the Iraq war.

The deaths of 102 servicemembers included a record 59 Americans. Nine of the 46 nations in the U.S.-led coalition suffered fatalities, the most countries to lose troops since the conflict began nearly nine years ago.

The real Gulf BP oil crisis could be peak oil production

The real Gulf of Mexico and BP oil crsis could be peak oil production which maybe starting to rear it’s head at BP’s Thunder Horse oil platform that was supposed to extract a billion barrels of oil at a rate of 250,000 barrels a day.

Oil production at the Gulf’s Thunder Horse began in May 2008 and by the end of 2008 had reached 170,000 barrels per day. Then something unexpected happened, instead of oil production increasing to the rated 250,000 barrels daily, oil production began to drop at 2 to 3 percent each month so by the end of 2009 production was down to 60 or 70,000 barrels per day.

As BP is under no obligation to tell us what is going on at the Thunder Horse oil well, little news other than mandatory federal production reports have been released.

Loan Giants Threaten Energy-Efficiency Programs

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may not accept home loans if consumers take advantage of energy-efficiency programs.

Petrolheads steer for green track

I don't want to get carried away here, but what you have with the F1 brains trust is a kind of mini-Manhattan Project for auto engines. Set a demanding goal, provide a major pot of money and point enough brainy people in the right direction, and you stand a good chance of making it work - that's the theory, anyway.

It might seem a less purist approach to cutting carbon emissions than signing a global treaty on the subject, but that doesn't mean it won't bring in real savings - and even if you're not in the anthropogenic climate change camp, you might still appreciate the idea for the delay it will would bring to the onset of peak oil.

Blimps could replace aircraft in freight transport, say scientists

Fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and other foreign luxuries could be part of a global revolution by carrying cargo around the world in airships instead of planes, one of the UK's leading scientists has predicted.

The government's former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford, told a conference that massive helium balloons – or blimps – would replace aircraft as a key part of the global trade network as a way of cutting global warming emissions.

Reducing the US carbon footprint, toe by toe

The best hope for a climate-change bill this year is one that would mandate use of alternative energy sources for electric utilities. Many states are already doing this, and Congress should follow – especially when it can't lead on global warming.

Delaware environment: Rising sea levels threaten coast

At the height of a nor'easter last November, waves broke through the dunes at Indian River Inlet and flooded Del. 1.

Further inland, at Oak Orchard and Riverdale, flooding was significant.

And to the north, along Delaware Bay, the rushing water ripped across the sand, inundating the nearby marshes in many areas.

But here is the worst of it: "That is going to become the new normal," said Collin O'Mara, state secretary of natural resources and environmental control.

Indonesia's last glacier will melt within years

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Lonnie Thompson spent years preparing for his expedition to the remote, mist-shrouded mountains of eastern Indonesia, hoping to chronicle the affect of global warming on the last remaining glacier in the Pacific. He's worried he got there too late.

Even as he pitched his tent on top of Puncak Jaya, the ice was melting beneath him.

Link up top: Oily rain and cracks in the earth: Busting Gulf oil spill myths

According to Alberto Mestas-Nuñez, an associate professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University, the notion that crude oil could evaporate and then come back down to earth in the rain as something resembling crude oil is impossible.

Exactly what I said before a couple of weeks ago and was blasted for being dogmatic. But I will state it again, it is impossible so I hope we hear no more of that "raining oil" crap.

Of course wind can blow oil ashore, just as it sometimes blows salt water ashore. But that is another matter altogether. It never rains oil, salt water or any other chemical found in the ocean.

Ron P.

As I recall, sea salt is found in ice cores taken from glaciers in Greenland. It's there because of winds which transport the salt from the oceans, where it is deposited along with the precipitation. There are also chemicals, Dimethyl sulfate (DMS) and DMSO, which are produced by organisms in the ocean and which enter the atmosphere, later to be returned to Earth as sulfate, etc. Of course, the oil is another issue and the hydrocarbons evaporated from the oil well blowout won't condense and "rain" back to Earth as oil.

E. Swanson

We also have acid rain. But acid rain is from pollutants in the atmosphere, put there by manufacturing and power plants belching nitric and sulfuric acids. It does not get there from ocean evaporation.

Ron P.

oil rains somewhere in nd, nearly everyday, probably in nigeria too, two places where a lot of ng is flared or not(vented).

The carbon in flared natural gas becomes either carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide when it is burned. The hydrogen becomes water vapor, (hydrogen oxide), that often does come down as rain. If it becomes oil or natural gas again in the atmosphere then we have proven that the laws of thermodynamics do not work.

Anyway there is no way that natural gas, or methane, if not flared and simply vented into the atmosphere, could become longer hydrocarbon strings, (oil), in the atmosphere. If that is what you are claiming then that one needs an explanation.

There is a lot of methane in the atmosphere however. But it comes from decaying organic material, not gas flares. And it never turns into oil then comes down as raining oil.

But Elwood, if you have a URL explaining this oil rain that you say occurs I am sure we would all like to see it.

Ron P.

Darwinian, lots of the carbon in flared petrochemical gases doesn't combust completely, but becomes colloidal carbon and tar. It will certainly be borne aloft by convection from the heat, but then it's equally probable that it will be swept up by condensing water that eventually falls as rain. Although it's mostly water, that rain may contain enough tar and carbon black to make it look oily.

I know a lot of carbon black settles in the trees and on the ground, especially around tire plants. But tar and carbon black in the clouds? And it comes down as rain? That just does not sound logical Nelsome, despite your explanation. I mean, tar being swept aloft by water vapor? Nelsone, this kind of claim needs the support of some kind of scientific research.

I just don't understand how methane, one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, can become tar. Tar is made up mostly of really long hydrocarbon strings. Tar is what is left over after the lights, (very short hydrocarbon strings), have evaporated or have been consumed by bacteria. But if you have documentation...

Of course carbon black is often produced by incomplete combustion. I have visited factories that use carbon black. The stuff if awful. But it is not oil and does not even look oily. The stuff is basically pure carbon but in complex molecules. Bucky balls and such. Soot, or carbon black could very easily be carried aloft in the heat from smokestacks. But into the clouds, and come down as rain? I am skeptical to say the least.

So surely Nelsone, you have a access to some kind of scientific paper documenting this. Could you post a URL or at least some reference we can look up? Otherwise it is nothing but hearsay.

I have never seen oily rain though I have often seen a lot of oily water in the streets after a rain. But I would not suggest that this oil came from the sky.

Ron P.

But Ron, most NG and oil contains lots of different components. So some of the less volatile components may form cloud condensation nuclei. If they are of small enough size, they are carried around by the winds. When the rain drops that have formed around them fall ...

Of course this will be in very dilute form. And probably not a major cause for concern.

Tis true, every bit of precipitation needs an impurity of some sort to nucleate around. The notion of supercooled water droplets below the freezing point is due to its ultrapure state.


those nasty little unexpected volatile organic compounds refered to in the article are ngls and condensate.

bakken associated gas is a rich gas with a btu content as high as 1800 btu/scf.

sample separator gas composition(1400 btu/scf)
mole fraction
n2 0.06
co2 0.01
h2s 0.00
c1 0.58
c2 0.18
c3 0.12
c4 total 0.04
c5 total 0.01
c6 + 0.005


additional gas is separated in the stock tank and is vented or flared. c2 through c10+ like to condense in the blanket assed cold of nd.

now imagine a well venting 2 mmcfd.

Elwood, thanks for the link on Bakken pollution. Great article. I loved it. It has implications concerning pollutants in the atmosphere and global warming though the article does not make any claims about global warming.

However.... it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject being discussed. That is, does it rain oil? No it does not, not ever! And the article you posted does not even approach that subject. I really don't understand why you posted it, unless you are a little confused.

A very important point Elwood, some pollutants do come down in raindrops, nitric and sulfuric acids being the only two I can think of at the moment, but I am sure there are more. But hydrocarbons are not among the molecules that come down with rain.

It does not rain oil! End of story.

Ron P.

but have you calculated the liquid content in 2 mmcfd of vented gas ?


5. a heavy and continuous descent or inflicting of anything: a rain of blows; a rain of vituperation.

-verb (used with object)
9. to send down in great quantities, as small pieces or objects: People on rooftops rained confetti on the parade.
10.to offer, bestow, or give in great quantity: to rain favors upon a person.
11.to deal, hurl, fire, etc., repeatedly: to rain blows on someone's head.

but have you calculated the liquid content in 2 mmcfd of vented gas ?

Errr.... yes I have. How much liquid is in gas? Kind of self explanatory isn't it?

The definition of rain. You started out with number 5. You skipped the first four. What kind of rain were we talking about when you said it rained oil. Dumping oil from buildings like confetti? You are joking... right? Yes, of course you are. And it is very funny.

Thanks for the joke.

You, (and I), were talking about the normal definition of rain.

rain –noun
1. water that is condensed from the aqueous vapor in the atmosphere and falls to earth in drops more than 1/50 in. (0.5 mm) in diameter. Compare drizzle.

Ron P.

Errr.... yes I have. How much liquid is in gas? Kind of self explanatory isn't it?

new word:

natural gas 
a combustible mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons that accumulates in porous sedimentary rocks, esp. those yielding petroleum, consisting usually of over 80 percent methane together with minor amounts of ethane, propane, butane, nitrogen, and, sometimes, helium: used as a fuel and to make carbon black, acetylene, and synthesis gas.

i gave you the composition of the bakken natural gas. and in this case, natrual gas is 58 % methane.

the liquid content of the 1400 btu/scf natural gas is about 10 gallons per mole, or 1250 barrels for 2 mmcf. how in the world would oil ever rain from 1250 barrels of oil vented from one well ?

oil rains from the sky by the same mechanism by which aqueous vapor rains from the sky - condensation under ambient conditions.

i dont claim that oil turns into water (aqueous vapor) as you imply. so that is not the definition i (was) talking about.

you seem to claim that it cannot rain oil because oil is not water. is that correct ?

you also seem to claim that natural gas does not contain natural gas liquids. is that correct ?

and finally, oil has been observed to accumulate in a fan pattern on the ground and grass beneath and downwind of ng venting. how did it get there ?

Ron. You are correct... it does not rain oil. OTOH, I would be willing to concede the possibility that vaporized oils could be 'washed' out of the atmosphere by rain, and in that way be percipitated to earth. Not as, but by, rain. That is a distinction without much of a difference.

Of course, oil would not condense out - at least not at our temperatures. On Titan, though...

Best wishes for big bumpershoots.


Of course, oil would not condense out - at least not at our temperatures.

please take a look at this vapor pressure curve (for pentane) and explain what happens when pentane goes from say 40 deg C (at atmospheric pressure, 760 mm hg) to 30 deg C still at atmospheric pressure.


Just now I had to debunk that "it's raining oil" for someone with a Ph.D. (in theology) who had put that info on his blog and wanted me to explain why that could not happen. I'm not techie, but I KNEW that could not happen! And sure enough, here at TOD, I was able to use today's link - and pass it along.

Truly amazing how our society can educate people but they are still naive when it comes to so many things.

Truly amazing how our society can educate people ...

One could reasonably argue whether a PhD in Theology actually constitutes an education, I expect.

The thing people forget is that a PhD in Theology only qualifies a person in a very narrow area of one single discipline.

Most people see "PhD" and assume the person is necessarily knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. Some PhD's may, in fact, be knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. Many, I'm certain, are not - but that doesn't stop them having opinions.

If I was having a heart attack, for example, I'd most certainly prefer to be seen by a cardiologist, although I'm sure a brain surgeon is very smart in their particular area.

When I worked at NASA for seventeen years I worked with a lot of PhDs and many, I felt, were total ignoramuses outside their field. One I argued with a lot, around the coffee pot, believed that the earth was created in 6 days 6 thousand years ago. He was a rocket scientist so I assume his PhD was in physics, chemistry or mathematics.

I worked in computer maintenance and our shop had the coffee pot for that entire wing of that floor. Dozens of NASA scientist lounged in our shop and shot the breeze while drinking their coffee. It was an experience that I dearly loved. However most other NASA scientist had a much more contemporary view of the age of the earth. The young earthers were a definite minority.

Ron P.

No one is talking about the evaporation - condensation cycle, they are talking about the winds and yes the winds of hurricanes and tornadoes can facilitate the "raining" of stuff. Fish, frogs, plants, trees, EVEN cars.

But never mind...once Darwinian gets on a jag...fa-get-a-bout-it.

Mortgage applications for purchase drop again

Low interest rates are doing little to motivate home buyers, which could point to a sharp drop in sales later this summer.

Mortgage applications for purchases fell again last week, the seventh time in the past eight weeks, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. The MBA's purchase index remains at 13-year lows despite the lowest interest rates in decades.

People are being trapped in their homes; if they're upside down on their current house, they can't move.

CNBC has gotten a heck of a lot more pessimistic over the past couple of days. They were celebrating the end of the great recession only a week or two ago, and mocking the pessimists. Now they are back to talking about the economy being catastrophically bad again.

The 2nd quarter UK average house price results (according to Nationwide) have just been published:


Prices appear to be going up, but the general impression of commentators this is on very thin volume of actual sales. Most "sellers" still have a price they believe their house to be worth and are prepared to stay where they are until they get an offer.

Pending home sales 'fell off a cliff'

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The experts expected home sales to drop once the homebuyer tax credit lapsed at the end of April, but the depth of the decrease was shocking.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales fell a whopping 30% in May. Their index, which measures signed sales contracts but not closed sales, plunged to 77.6 from 110.9 in April. It's even off 15.9% from a year ago when the nation was barely emerging from the recession.

Dow down 100 points to 9670.

Big problem for the elderly, who may be needing to sell a house, and at the worst possible moment. My 93 year-old dad is a perfect example. His house goes up for sale later this month. Many of the very old are staying in houses not wanting to "lose" what they used to be valued at, sometimes because this is their only source of "savings". This is also affecting residences for the elderly, where apartments and rooms are standing empty (as people remain in their homes, waiting to sell them or for prices to rise). The ripple effects of this are huge.

Yes, I think this has been a big change over the last thirty years or so. Instead of saving money, people are expecting their house to be their savings. Works great, as long as prices don't go down.

I was just reading this article, about a new book by "cheapskate" Jeff Yeager.

Once upon a time in America, the way we accumulated savings was by, well, spending less than we made and banking the difference. In 1982, the average household put 11 percent of its disposable income into savings; twenty-five years later that figure had dropped to less than 1 percent. In those years, we came to accept as gospel (at least up until recently) that the way smart people build wealth is through the appreciation of their assets, particularly their homes. Spending less, staying out of debt, and socking away some of your paycheck — those antiquated wealth building techniques fell out of fashion faster than runners-up on American Idol.

What I found interesting in that Nevada link I posted is that mentions that people are living together to save money.

Most people still think home values will resume their rise soon, and can't imagine prices will keep going down. But the brother in the law on the couch version of the apocalypse means home prices can go down, even if population doesn't. Another thing that many Americans find unfathomable.

It's also worth remembering that the very notion of accumulating ever-increasing savings over the long term (rather than saving during the dry times for the next rainy day) is, for the lower levels of society, a relatively new concept anyway.

Honestly it scares me how many people are living on the edge, having assumed this endless rise in values, and were caught in bubble after bubble. Even those who saved got caught in various ways. My dad, for example, has savings. But this downturn so reminds him of the Depression that he "believes" he has very little to spare. (Well, he did lose a bundle on stock in one company he worked for - one he "believed" to be very safe - GE. So that likely plays into this in his case.)

A whole generation is coming on that on the one hand spends money like there's no tomorrow but on the other hand doesn't believe social security will be there for them. I'm not sure how that logic works.

These are very hard times. Only going to get harder in so many ways.

But if it can rain oil now, may be it will rain gold later... ;)

A lot of older folks in my family learned the hard way about saving money, putting it aside painfully a few dollars at a time, only to find that when they were ready to spend it they were robbed blind by inflation well in excess of the interest rates banks pay on savings.

The younger ones took this lesson to heart and invested mostly in real estate.Values have held up well around here due to the fact that with lots of open land easily developed, and no madness of crowds in respect to living in a particular zip code or nieghborhood, house prices could not outrun the costs of new construction by any significant amount.

But now the taxes on real property have risen to the point that paying them on nonproductive land is almost impossible, so those who bought tracts of land are in a bind.

All financial arrangements are necessarily temporary by thier very nature, given a middle to long term frame of reference..Those for instance who don't believe that social security has ponzi schemes attributes may never find themselves in the shoes of the first generation that pays thru the nose for the benefit of thier elders that they will never collect in turn from thier children, but that generation is very possibly in the work force already.

Incidentally I do support social security, although I would have gladly personally opted out had I been able to do so and invest the forced contribution.

The view from Nevada

There are so many people living with other people just to survive. Most are under water as far as homes and there just aren't any jobs to go after. Lots of folks are working 40-hour weeks on commission just to have a chance at making a buck and aren't. Nevada isn't in a recession, Ezra. We are in a depression and there isn't an end in sight as far as I can see.

Was reading in Time magazine today that their state budget is about 50% underwater, the highest in the nation.

Not surprising - given that Nevada is a one-industry state, and that industry is totally based on high-level discretionary spending ... I'm surprised they're not much worse off. All those punters living in the burbs of Las Vegas, relying on casino jobs - you would think they are incredibly vulnerable to every element of meltdown.

I'll be first to say that the structure of the economy is precarious. I even wrote a widely read piece in 2005 predicting the collapse of Fannie Mae, before it was on alnmost anyone's long distance radar.

However it would be a mistake to call the current economic state as a recession. The economy has improved throughout this year, and actually, the second quarter appears to be better than the first.

It is another discussion to say employment prospects are poor or the housing market is barely improving, or the future is bleak. Granted the first two statements are true, so apparently the benefits of economic growth in 2010 are not widespread. Also, our long term future is bleak. But in the very short run, the media is over-stating the weakness in the economy. For example, when news about the EIA weekly inventory is reported, it appears to be cherry picked for only the most pessimistic interpretation.

I agree with what you have written. In my opinion our long-term future will resemble that described by John Michael Greer in THE LONG DESCENT.

Short-term forecasting is fraught with hazards. For the second and third quarters I see slow growth in real GDP. The fourth quarter is a real "unknown, unknown." If oil prices fall, as I think they will due to rising production, then there could be more growth in the fourth quarter. But if auto companies start cutting inventories due to disappointing sales of 2010 models and furniture and appliance sales go down, it could be a bleaker Christmas than last year.

I think unemployment will hover around current levels for some time to come, because I do not foresee real GDP growth in excess of the 3.5% that would be necessary for employment to increase and unemployment to fall. On the other hand, people are getting jobs, which wasn't the case six or twelve months ago, and I see help wanted signs posted in supermarkets and elsewhere--which wasn't the case until recently.

In the U.S., there are now only 5 people looking for every job. Last November I believe it was at 9 for every job.


But be skeptical of these government numbers...

There are plenty of sales in my neighborhood (wealthy suburb of Twin Cities). I suspect that many or most of these are short sales.

U.S. auto sales slammed by job worries

DETROIT — U.S. automakers saw their U.S. sales drop from May to June, a sign that this year's slow recovery in the industry may be stalling.

New jobless claims rise in sign of weak job market

WASHINGTON — Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose last week for the second time in three weeks. At the same time, more than a million people have lost benefits and more could be cut off now that Congress has failed to extend federal jobless aid.

The recovery seems to be losing its pop

WASHINGTON — Fears that the economic recovery is fizzling grew Thursday after the government and private sector issued weak reports on a number of fronts.

Unemployment claims are up, home sales are plunging without government incentives and manufacturing growth is slowing.

Other than that Ms. Leanan, how is the economy?

They were saying on NPR this morning how we were not going to get the "V" recovery that "we" expected. Maybe they should be reading TOD. I didn't expect a V, more like an L.

I wasn't sure what to expect. But earlier this year many peak oilers were expecting gas prices to spike this summer. Many did not expect gas to be less than $3 a gallon going into the 4th of July weekend.

For an interesting perspective on all this you might want to listen to Stoneleigh's presentation "Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak oil" http://sheffield.indymedia.org.uk/2010/06/453356.html
Might be time to buy some zero coupon treasury bonds (BTTRX).

Only way for zero coupon bonds to go up is for interest rates to fall more than they have. There isn't much room down there, though, so the potential is a bit limited.

That is why US Debt is a bubble. When (not if) interest rises, values drop.

If you must do US Bonds, try the longer term, inflation protected goodies. They don't pay so much now, but as interest rates rise, so do they.


If we go into a deflationary period, "zeros" have the capacity to go even higher in value. The price will look pretty good in a period where real interest rates go more negative. US Treasury Inflation Protected (Tips) bonds are ok in an inflationary period and I have some of those but my zeros have done the best over the past two years.

Things look pretty deflationary now and I have no idea when we will have serious inflation despite what the pundits say. Just take a look at this Time magazine article about the state of state government budgets. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1997284,00.html This is a very strong deflationary indicator caused by real estate values that have fallen and may continue to fall.

I think we do have approximately an L shaped recover and expect that growth in the third quarter for real GDP will still be positive but may drop to the neighborhood of 1%. For me it is too soon to venture a guess for the fourth quarter; much will depend on oil prices--as usual.

It is noteworthy that the consumption of petroleum distillates, mostly diesel, has been going up. Hence I do not think we are in an actual downturn at the moment but rather are at a time of slowing growth from the pace of the past three quarters.

Traffic is as bad as ever, and many are planning long 4th of July airline or car travel. Judging by the lack of spectacular airline/hotel deals, tourism is holding up better than I expected it to this summer.

With great fondness I recall the days and weeks after 9/11 when I traveled by air for practically nothing--$79 round trip to England, $99 to Jamaica, $59 round trip Minneapolis to Boston, and a low amount that I forget from Minneapolis to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. I spent my money on incredibly cheap travel then and subsequently have traveled little, except for a few trips to Jamaica and one to England.

DS: I live in a small tourist vacation driven town. It has about 400+ RV spots. All are reservation full through August. Yesterday, I stood on a corner where the US highway comes into town. I could not cross for several minutes because of the parade of 40' motor homes. I counted 14 in a row coming into town for the 4th. This summer, we are having four "auto fiestas" in town such as hot rod rallies that attract thousands. The American dream is going to die hard and ugly. "See the USA in your Chevrolet."

Spain, car sales increase
Car sales in Spain increase 39.5 % in comparison with previous semester.
A fall in orders probably means less sales the rest of the year.

Spanish Banks OK, buying more British assets.
In spite of the propaganda by the Anglo Press (Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, WSJ) the Spanish banks are the strongest in Europe.
A different matter is the Cajas (local Saving Societies) in big problems because of the building bubble. Shedding thousands of jobs, and closing offices.
A tremendous age of excess came to an end.

Compare the story about June auto sales (U.S. auto sales slammed by job worries) with this one Auto sales rise across the board but still disappoint from MarketWatch, which is now affiliated with the WSJ. The MarketWatch piece looks only at the year-over-year sales increase. Can you say hype?

Add in the slight increase in new applications for unemployment and maybe even Don Sailorman will agree that the Great Recession is teetering on the edge of another downturn...

E. Swanson

I agree that we are teetering on the edge of another downturn. What I expect to tip the balance toward a positive growth rate of roughly 1% in real GDP for the third quarter is falling oil prices. As mentioned elsewhere, I predict that oil prices will fall to $60 per barrel--and perhaps lower--before the end of the third quarter.

If for some reason oil prices reverse their present downward trend, then I will of course have to revise my current estimate of GDP growth downward.

Oil prices fall on disappointing economic news

Oil prices fell for a fourth day Thursday after disappointing economic news triggered worries about whether demand would pick up at all during the typically busy summer season.

Benchmark crude for August delivery dropped $2.68, or 3.5 percent, to settle at $72.95 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

My guess is that the current decline in oil prices will get down to $60 per barrel, largely due to persisting capacity of production being significantly higher than actual production; in other words I think there is excess capacity of 3 mb/day or thereabouts. (This is only a WAG, not even a SWAG.)

With prices for gasoline and diesel oil going down I expect more purchasing power in the hands of consumers for other products; hence I think economic growth will continue, albeit at an anemic rate of about 1% real growth in GDP or at most 2% growth in real GDP.

Of course, if the price of oil goes much below sixty dollars per barrel, I'll have to revise my forecast to show a probability of faster GDP growth.

I have a different take on things. I think prices are going down because of low demand. The economy has still not recovered. Yet world oil production is only down 1.25 mb/d since the peak of 2008. We are simply producing more oil than the sick economy demands.

I don't really see how excess capacity can affect the price of oil. That is oil that could be produced if needed and no one knows how much that is. When OPEC took oil off the market in late 2008 price went up as excess capacity went up also. It is the actual supply of oil on the market that affects the price. Excess capacity or oil still in the ground, is not part of the supply.

But I know many claim that the perception that more oil could be produced if needed keeps prices low. I know they say that but I think the perception that OPEC will not produce more oil if prices go low has a far greater psychological effect.

Having said that I don't believe OPEC has 3 million barrels of excess capacity. They are producing 2.4 mb/d less than they did when they peaked in July of 2008. Every OPEC nation was producing flat out then. Since then there has been, in my opinion anyway, considerable decline in their production capacity. The UAE and Kuwait are complaining about a Gas Squeeze.They do not have enough natural gas to continue gas injection. If they do not have enough for what they are producing now, then they will have a hard time increasing production.

I think all the signals given out by OPEC indicate that their production capacity is falling fast. It will soon reach zero then actual production will start to fall. In June OPEC production was down 157,000 bp/d from May. They may be getting pretty close.
OPEC Output Fell From a 17-Month High, Survey Shows

Ron P.

When there is much excess capacity their is a tendency for OPEC members to cheat on their quotas. Most of the excess capacity (And I agree, nobody knows how much it is.) exists in Saudi Arabia, and what they will do is anybody's guess. The Saudi regime is under strong pressure from the U.S. to let the price of oil fall, i.e. not to cut output, but nobody can say exactly what form that pressure takes or how intense it is. To stimulate the U.S. economy, nothing would help more than lower oil prices, and of course Obama and his advisers know this. The Saudis are not particularly happy that Europe, the U.S. and Japan have little or no economic growth, and even in China growth is slowing.

While on the subject of China, I expect negative real economic growth in China by the end of the year. Why? Because their real estate bubble has burst, and property prices are plunging. As in the U.S., most Chinese real estate is financed with debt--with a great deal of leverage. Because of crashing real estate prices in China, I don't think they will be willing or able to do anything to maintain real economic growth. Thus I see the mighty engine of Chinese growth going into reverse--their first recession in a long time. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the capitalist Chinese economy is immune to economic downturns.

While on the subject of China, I expect negative real economic growth in China by the end of the year. Why? Because their real estate bubble has burst, and property prices are plunging.

Sailorman, do you have a link supporting the bursting real estate bubble in China? I agree it will happen sooner or later, but haven't seen an article actually stating it has occurred, as in past tense.

All those bucks inflate Chinese real estate bubble

So where does the excess money and excess domestic Chinese bank lending go? A lot of it went into the local stock market, which has corrected by 20% so far this year. The real estate market is something else entirely. Prices there are bubble strong, and bubble dangerous.

I don't think the collapse has started... yet.

Ron P.

I've read at least half a dozen articles on the topic. One I think was at theautomaticearth.blogspot.com and another was in the paper edition of the Wall Street Journal about two weeks ago. You could try Google, "China real estate" or something like that.

Of course, if the price of oil goes much below sixty dollars per barrel, I'll have to revise my forecast to show a probability of faster GDP growth.

Are you sure ? I mean, do you know the effect of $ 30-50/barrel on oilfield workovers and field maintenance ?

The natural decline of oil fields is a relentless force, and it requires continued investment and vigilance to keep up production rates. There are many historical examples of older oil fields that were shut down or starved of maintenance due to poor economics, which failed to return to their previous production levels once investment returned due to irreparable damage. Deutsche Bank's study of such fields found that decline rates increased sharply during times of past price collapses. The bank estimates that the accelerated decline of mature non-OPEC fields alone could cut as much as 1.5 million barrels per day from global supply.

Source: Energy & Capital march 2009(www.energyandcapital.com/articles/oil-prices-opec/838) ; The sleeping threat of low oil prices

Also a lot of new project developments will be cancelled with oilprices lower than 60 dollar. Besides, ELM continues and is putting oilexports under pressure since 2006.

Neither Stuart Staniford (probably the most brilliant person ever to write for TOD) nor Chris Skrebowski see an imminent Peak in oil production. If the global economy were growing four or five percent per year, then I think we'd be at Peak Lite (Robert Rapier's concept) and soon get to a final Peak. But we've been on a production plateau for more than five years now, and my guess is that first decisive movement will be up in production rather than down. My guess is that I have a 50% chance of being right.

Neither Stuart Staniford (probably the most brilliant person ever to write for TOD) nor Chris Skrebowski see an imminent Peak in oil production.

Don, I have seen writing you something like this several times the last weeks. Stuart and Skrebowski calculate with yearly production addition from new (mega)projects, and take into account delays and depletion. But what about much lower oil peak flow and unexpected declines like what happened with Thunderhorse ? Also both analists don't look at above ground factors such as collapsing oilprices. IMO a lot of things have to work out well for oilproduction to rise until 2014. For example, Stuart is predicting that oilproduction in Iraq could rise to 12 mbd this decade. That would be brilliant indeed.

But what about much lower oil peak flow and unexpected declines like what happened with Thunderhorse?

Not just Thunderhorse but Atlantis as well. Atlantis production in barrels per day:

Sep.  133,055 
Oct.  135,444 (peak)
Nov.  128,062
Dec.  102,131
Jan.  132,560
Feb.  124,671
Mar.  60,639
Apr.  69,411

I have the greatest respect for both Stuart and Skrebowski but in this case I think they are simply wrong. I also believe they are being a little conservative just to avoid the possibility of being proven wrong a few years down the road.

But so what? So neither Stuart or Skrebowski sees an immediate peak? What about all the others that do see an immediate peak, or that the peak is in the past. They, and I, say Stuart and Skrebowski are wrong and I will take the chance of being proven wrong.

If OPEC were to start producing flat out today, then production may or may not exceed the production of 2005 and 2008. But we would still be on the peak plateau. Non-OPEC peaked in 2004 or there is an outside chance that 2010 non-OPEC production may exceed that of 2004. But regardless non-OPEC production, even according to the IEA and the EIA, will be down next year. And it will decline from there on out.

All the giant oil reservoirs of the world have been given new life, as of about 1990, with the advent of horizontal wells. Some horizontal wells have 3 kilometers of reservoir contact. Check it out. Horizontal and MRC Wells.

This has given new life to very tired old reservoirs. Instead of a gradual decline, as would be the case with vertical wells, the horizontal wells means that they suck the oil right off the top. They will have maximum production right up until the water, very suddenly, hits the horizontal wells.

I have reason to believe that this is starting to happen today. All the signs coming out of OPEC indicate that they are hitting the cliff. Before the advent of horizontal wells, Saudi fields had a decline rate of 8 percent. But with infield drilling of thousands of horizontal wells that decline has been mitigated down to almost 2 percent.

• Without “maintain potential” drilling to make up for production, Saudi oil fields would have a natural decline rate of a hypothetical 8%. As Saudi Aramco has an extensive drilling program with a budget running in the billions of dollars, this decline is mitigated to a number close to 2%.
Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Energy Initiative: Safeguarding Against Supply Disruptions

Anyway, that is how I see things.

Ron P.

An environmental group is suing BP to shut Atlantis down, I think on safety issues.

Yep, could go either way and (the small amount of) spare capacity will hide the exact peak. "Sometime early this decade or 2005" is pretty broad but good enough for me.

If I'm wrong and Iraq buys us a few more years, well, that's just gravy.

Still, I suspect Skrebowski had a role via ODAC in the recent Lloyd's of London report and they are sounding the alarm for ~2013. But Chris's involvement is complete conjecture.

Don, the only reason I have hope that the fall will be gradual, ala James Greer, is the impact of recession on oil use. It will extend the life of current fields. It will also cut back on exploration and expensive new techniques, hence diminishing overall oil availability. And, in the long run, it will keep quite a bit of oil in the ground. At least that is how I see things playing out.

Like you said earlier, forecasting is hazardous. A sudden, dramatic increase in depletion rates (not impossible, or even unlikely) could tip things the other way, in a more Kunstleresque manner.

Again, we have hope for gradual slowdown, liveable if not likeable.


People are being trapped in their homes; if they're upside down on their current house, they can't move.

They also cannot refinance at a lower interest rate because the appraisal would come in too low. And, if they walk away in many cases the banks will sue the homeowner, essentially making people slaves to their mortgage payment or a settlement amount most can never pay off.

Many people we know, including ourselves are in the same position of hunkering down hoping and waiting for home prices to come back up. But if what we know about peak oil is correct, it might turn out to be a permanent waiting game.

whatever commentary that attracts viewers will do.

"A Gigantic Ponzi Scheme, Lies and Fraud": Howard Davidowitz on Wall Street


Howard Davidowitz: U.S. Economy "Is a Complete Disaster"


Let Bad Banks Go Broke: Howard Davidowitz's Simple Solution to Complex Problems


Methane in the Gulf...silent but deadly.

Turns out the BP oil spill was Bill Clinton's fault:


Not to cast aspersions, Mr Levine, but the Heritage Foundation isn't exactly known for travelling with a "realistic bunch"...

About "Behind the hype on Tesla".

One constant criticism that I see everywhee about Electric Vehicles is that "Coal accounts for about 50% electricity generation".

Let us look at this from the POV of CO2 emissions. We have two big sources of emissions.
- Transportation
- Power generation

To reduce emissions we need to cut down emissions from both these sources (apart from others). It will take decades to actually do this transition from fossil fueled cars to electric cars and from coal power to nuclear/renewable. So, we need to start both the transitions now.

We can't wait for that 50% of coal power to get greened before starting transition to electric vehicles.

Ofcourse, the states where electric cars will become popular first, are also states which have much greener power. Like my state of Washington. Even in other states, as the power generation inevitably becomes greener, automatically the electric cars will get greener too.

Apparently even the bright minds apparently can't grasp this simple idea.

We can't wait for that 50% of coal power to get greened before starting transition to electric vehicles.

The ctitics never look at relative efficiencies, they just shout "all you've done is moved the pollution to the power plant". But electric cars use far less energy, so the net is less carbon, even if the juice comes from coal. But, efficiency is a mathematical concept, so the argument works on the great innumerate masses (and the pundits who by and large flunked math).

The BAU, anti-EV crowd also always fails to consider that a consumer can support their utilities "green power" program, and pay to offset 100% of their electricity use with renewable energy. My utility charges an extra $2 per month to offset 160KWh, which is enough energy to drive a Nissan LEAF about 666 miles. The equivilent of going from 50% coal powered(in your example), to 100% wind powered transportation. This doesn't even account for the truly dedicated individuals who add solar to their own roofs and generate 100% green energy for personal consumption and transportation. I'd love to see how a gas engine could pull a similar trick when it comes to emissions.

EV's don't use "far less energy" than a conventional ICE, although they do use slightly less. The advantage is that they are more flexible with regard to the type of primary energy consumed, which could be fossil, renewable, nuclear, whatever. The biggest disadvantages are the cost, unless you are only looking for enough range for local trips between charges.

I prefer transit myself, as I would rather spend my commuting time (if necessary - 9 to 5 is SOO outdated anyway; it's called telecommuting!) reading a good book or the morning paper than focusing on how much I hate the idiots in front of me looking at the burning wreck on the other side of the median.

Electric vehicles will ultimately succeed, but the fallacy committed by some of their proponents is in assuming that they will allow business-as-usual sprawl and car culture to continue. I see them more fitting a niche of providing mechanized transportation where necessary and where transit is unavailable.

Hybrids are pretty nice as the future-car scene goes too (I like Hydraulic hybrids), especially if they are running on a fuel based on wood gas or hempseed oil (maybe eventually hydrogen or ammonia).

Also, we have carpooling, how about car sharing? There are times when I feel like it would be nice to have one, but not worth the hassles and costs of maintaining one just for myself. If, however, I could share one with, say, seven other people who also occasionally might benefit from having one, that would be a much better setup for someone in my situation.

It occurs to me, that many people only drive short distances most of the time (eg. daily commute) and much longer distances on odd occasions. Wouldn't it be an idea to keep the cost and weight of a long range EV car down to design it with plug in battery modules, which you could hire from garage, pre-charged, for the few occasions you needed to travel more than 50 miles in one day? You would use the short range built in batteries the other 95% of the time.

Flexibility and modularity strike me as a huge advantage.

Doesn't anyone get it? It's the cars, stupid. Oh, and there are just about 6 times more people living here than this world can support.


I own a four unit rental that I have been renovating. I've converted it to radiant heating, replaced all the windows with double pane units, and wrapped the whole thing with EIFS (stucco over styrofoam). The house stays comfortable with no air conditioning, even on 100 degree days. (masonry construction, lots of thermal mass).

As part if the renovation I am installing a 220v stub for anticipated charging of an electric vehicle, which, hopefully, I will be able to buy within the next five years as selection improves, and hopefully prices decline. The intent is that this car will be a ride share vehicle available for myself and my tenants and included as part of the lease.

I am a designer, and my commute is a ten second walk to the home office. My city has relatively decent transit and will begin adding bus rapid transit soon. The state, Utah, is currently building commuter rail and light rail extensions.

My city recently approved net metering for the municipal power company which produces electricity from a mix
of coal and hydro. As it is, my connection fee for electricity always exceeds my usage charge. This will change though when I once again have tenants.

I will install solar thermal and solar PV to help provide heat and transport. A friend of a friend, an electrical engineer, powers his home, and his home-built electric car, entirely from his solar array. His is an example I wish to follow, and an expertise from which I hope to draw. I consider the car a necessary evil though and intend to just eliminate the need as much as possible.

The property is relatively large, and once the renovation is done, my free time will be aggressivily dedicated to a crash course in intensive urban agriculture, including chickens, rabbits, and greenhouse.

In spite of all of this, I'm extremely pessimistic about the future. I consider all of the above tentative steps in a direction, not a conviction that the real solution can be known in advance, or that there even is one. But to the degree I can I am trying to move towards a fossil free life.