Drumbeat: July 31, 2010

JPMorgan Cuts Forecasts on 2010, 2011 New York Oil Prices as Demand Slows

JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered by 5.5 percent its forecast for New York oil prices this year on speculation a slowdown in global economies will limit crude’s potential to rise.

The bank cut to $77.25 a barrel its estimate for the average price of West Texas Intermediate crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange during the rest of 2010, from a forecast of $81.75 a barrel made last month, according to a monthly report e-mailed today. It lowered its forecast for 2011’s average price to $79.25 a barrel from $90.

Crude Oil May Fall as U.S. Inventories, OPEC Output Increase, Survey Shows

Crude oil may fall next week amid increases in U.S. oil supplies and OPEC production, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Fifteen of 36 analysts, or 42 percent, forecast crude oil will decline through Aug. 6. Twelve respondents, or 33 percent, predicted that futures will rise, and nine, or 25 percent, forecast prices would be little changed.

Motorists can expect fairly steady pump prices

Motorists heading out on vacation in the next month should expect gasoline prices to remain fairly constant, give or take a few cents.

Although gasoline demand has been slightly stronger in the past month, ample supplies have kept prices below $3 a gallon. It's trend that should extend to Labor Day, unless a hurricane shuts down oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Dakota Passes Oklahoma in Drilling Rigs as Baker Hughes Count Rises

North Dakota overtook Oklahoma this week as the third-most active state in drilling for oil and natural gas, according to data published by Baker Hughes Inc.

The number of North Dakota rigs exploring for and producing oil and gas jumped by two to 128, Baker Hughes said. Oklahoma fell by nine to 123, the biggest drop among the states. Oklahoma is home to the oil delivery hub for the U.S. Midcontinent.

China invests 40 billion dollars in Iran oil, gas

TEHERAN — Iran’s main economic partner China has invested around 40 billion dollars in the Islamic republic’s oil and gas sector, a senior Iranian official said on Saturday.

Deputy Oil Minister Hossein Noqrehkar Shirazi also said that Teheran’s oil exports to China fell by 30 percent in the first six months of 2010 compared with the corresponding period last year.

Exxon, BP, Imperial Oil Form Exploration Venture for Canada's Beaufort Sea

Imperial Oil Ltd., Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc formed a joint venture to explore for oil and natural gas in Canada’s Beaufort Sea.

Mexico Pemex Aims To Boost Investment In Coming Years-Official

MEXICO CITY (Dow Jones)--Mexico's state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, wants more capital expenditure money for 2012 as it seeks to control declining production at offshore deposits, squeeze more crude out of new and mature onshore fields, and move forward with plans to dip into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico despite the BP oil spill, officials said Friday.

Chevron-Ecuador verdict unlikely until 2011 -judge

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A verdict in a multibillion-dollar trial against Chevron Corp in Ecuador over rain forest pollution looks unlikely to be reached until 2011, according to the new judge on the case.

Responding to a request from the international arbitration tribunal to which Chevron appealed last year, the judge in the case estimated his verdict would not be reached for another eight to ten months.

Government logs show delays in report of Michigan oil spill

What did Enbridge Energy Partners know about crude oil spilling from a ruptured pipe in west Michigan?

And when did the energy company -- and its Canadian parent, Enbridge Inc. -- realize it had a potential disaster seeping into the Kalamazoo River?

Investigation into oil spill cause begins

As cleanup efforts on Friday appeared to contain the spread of the Kalamazoo River oil spill, parallel efforts ramped up toward pinpointing a cause for the crisis -- an answer that could take up to 18 months to find.

BP's `Kill' Start May Be Delayed Due to Storm Debris

BP Plc’s next attempt to more fully seal its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico was delayed by a day so the company can remove debris from a relief well.

The “static kill” procedure, in which mud will be pumped into the well, may start Aug. 3 rather than Aug. 2, National Incident Commander Thad Allen told reporters on a call yesterday.

Many Gulf of Mexico oil rig relocation decisions have yet to be made

As rigs have gone idle, the contractors have been hit by a blizzard of force majeure notices from the oil companies invoking clauses in their contracts that give them an out if work is delayed by an unforeseen event. This appears to be a novel application of force majeure, which is more typically invoked in the case of a natural disaster, and the contractors are resisting, leading to ongoing discussions as the parties try to hammer out deals or agree to standby day rates far lower than the usual average of $400,000 a day.

Scientists point to better way to safer drilling: An editorial

The Obama administration has insisted that its blanket moratorium on deepwater drilling is unavoidable to prevent another spill and ensure drilling is safe before it resumes.

But scientists and disaster experts investigating the Deepwater Horizon explosion are advocating for better alternatives to the broad ban -- and the administration ought to listen and end the moratorium's economic choke hold on our region.

U.S. May Widen Range in BP Oil-Spill Estimate, Scientist Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration, which plans within a few days to announce a new determination for how much oil BP Plc’s leaking Gulf of Mexico well was spewing, may widen the range of its estimate because of difficulties assessing the flow, said a scientist involved in the research.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty because there was no monitoring system put in place,” said Ira Leifer, a University of California, Santa Barbara researcher and a member of panel of scientists consulting the U.S. Energy Department on the spill.

BP May Sell Its German Gas Stations for $2.6 Billion, Wirtschaftwoche Says

BP Plc wants to sell its German gas station unit Aral to finance expenses related to the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Wirtschaftswoche reported, citing unidentified bankers involved in the sale.

Aral, Germany’s biggest chain of gas stations, is valued at more than 2 billion euros ($2.61 billion), the bankers said, according to an e-mailed preview of the magazine report, to be published Aug. 2.

Oil Spill Officials Shift to Long-Term Concerns

NEW ORLEANS — Officials in charge of the oil spill response in the gulf region say they are beginning to shift their efforts to a new phase, focusing more on long-term recovery now that some of the urgent demands of the spill are diminishing.

US Gulf Coast states push for offshore oil revenues

NEW ORLEANS, La. (Reuters) - BP Plc's massive oil spill has given Gulf Coast lawmakers leverage to push for a larger share of the billions of dollars in royalties that oil companies pay to drill in U.S. waters.

As a part of 2006 energy legislation, lawmakers like Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu secured a deal to direct a 37.5 percent share of U.S. offshore royalties to coastal states starting in 2017. The provision would net $650 million a year to Louisiana alone, with smaller amounts flowing to Alabama and Mississippi.

House approves oil spill reform bill

(Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Friday approved the toughest reforms ever to offshore energy drilling practices, as Democrats narrowly pushed through an election-year response to BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Passing the bill as the House leaves for its six-week recess gives lawmakers the opportunity to return home boasting they reined in Big Oil and held BP responsible for the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.

Open season for Alaska gas pipeline closes Friday

Alaskans should know by the end of Friday whether natural gas producers have any interest in building a major pipeline in the state. But few other details will likely be released when TransCanada Corp. officially ends its 90-day process of seeking shipping commitments for its proposed line.

"If there are no bids, we will be able to say so very quickly," said Tony Palmer, TransCanada's vice president of Alaska development. Otherwise, "it will be generic in nature, as opposed to specific," he said.

North Dakota group worries about pipeline steel

A North Dakota environmental group wants government regulators to investigate whether a Canadian company used faulty steel in the construction of a pipeline that moves crude oil from Canada through six states.

Dickinson-based Dakota Resource Council says TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone pipeline used steel from a supplier that has had problems with steel in other pipelines.

Nuclear Power Games

Saudi Arabia wants to go nuclear. Like many developing nations, the kingdom has seen its electricity demand soar in recent years—more than 8 percent annually—and is actively searching for alternatives to fossil fuels. Enter nuclear power: last month Saudi Arabia announced a joint initiative with Japan’s Toshiba and American firms the Shaw Group and Exelon to build and operate at least two nuclear power plants in the country. This comes on the heels of the establishment in April of the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, an organization to manage future energy sources.

Of course, Saudi Arabia’s hardly alone in the Middle East in its desire for nuclear power. But unlike its poorer neighbors, it’s got the money to see its plans to fruition. However, the country’s legendary secrecy about its internal workings has some analysts worried about its nuclear ambitions. Unlike, say, the United Arab Emirates—which is quite transparent about its own $40 billion nuclear-power program and has even signed a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation with the U.S.—Saudi Arabia is unlikely to follow suit and show all its cards.

Richard Heinberg on 100 days of the BP gusher

As the 100 day anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf rolled around this week, WMNF's Kelly Benjamin spoke with Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and former advisor to the National Petroleum Council on Peak Oil and the ramifications of the BP tragedy. Benjamin asked Heinberg what should be learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in respect to the continued reliance on petroleum as the chief energy source for the planet.

Merging onto electric avenue

“The early market is driven by enthusiasts who have very strong feelings about technology,” says Tom Turrentine, the director of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis. “A lot of the buyers are like people who buy iPads,” But research by his institute shows the next wave of buyers ranges from casual and hard-core classic environmentalists to people worried about air quality, from peak oil advocates to citizens concerned about the military and economic security of the United States. At this point, he says, a lack of knowledge about electric vehicles may be the greatest roadblock to their success.

The New Knowledge-based Age needs new Thinkers and Visionary Leaders, not the Occupants of the Dead Palaces

The prosperity fantasy bubble is fast approaching to an end with the peak oil forecasts as a visual reality in- waiting. Power, prosperity and poverty are all trials in human affairs and transitory phenomenon. Was the discovery of oil a conspiracy (“fitna”) for the Arabs to change the originality of their thinking, beliefs, values and passion for Islam as successful system of human life?

Transition Lake County get-acquainted potluck planned for Aug. 3 (Northern California)

LAKE COUNTY – Transition Lake County invites interested individuals and families to their get-acquainted barbecue and potluck at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The gathering will be held in the little park behind the Kelseyville Senior Center on Third Street, just south of Main in Kelseyville.

Official: More than 800 dead in Pakistani floods

NOWSHERA, Pakistan — Flooding in Pakistan has killed more than 800 people in a week, a government official said Saturday as rescuers struggled to reach marooned victims and some evacuees showed signs of fever, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases.

The flooding caused by record-breaking rainfalls caused massive destruction in the past week, especially in the northwest province, where officials said it was the worst deluge since 1929. The U.N. estimated Saturday that some 1 million people nationwide were affected by the disaster, though it didn't specify exactly what that meant.

How Prospects Cooled for U.S. Global Warming Bill

For advocates of action on climate change, it seems like a long time since the hopeful first days of the Obama administration.

Global warming blamed for extreme weather

Meteorological experts have blamed global warming for this year's extreme weather in the country, which continues to be hit by persistent heat waves and floods.

China has recorded 6.4 days of hot whether, 1.9 days more than previous years on average.

Moreover, satellite-monitoring data on July 25 showed the surface temperature in some regions of Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang had reached 45 degrees C.

Meanwhile, storms and floods have hit 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities since March, resulting in 968 deaths and 507 missing people, with the total economic loss estimated at 181 billion yuan (US$27 billion), according to the latest information released by the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters on Thursday.

Greenland Ice Cap Melt Is Accelerating

A British research team studying the Greenland ice sheet has discovered evidence of a rapidly accelerating rate of melt.

Dr Alun Hubbard, leading a team from the universities of Swansea and Aberystwyth said the ice sheet in their region had lowered six metres in just a month.

The phenomenon is caused by surface melt, a vicious cycle in which melted ice brings about further thawing of the cap beneath it.

Can we do energy policy right?

We should ban these outside energy experts. Every time one shows up at a Utility and Review Board hearing to remind us how muddled our energy practices are, it makes us look bad. This time it’s about the planned $200-million-plus wood-burning power plant at Port Hawkesbury.

As if it wasn’t enough that the project will devastate the forest even more than it already is, that burning wood is apparently as bad as burning coal and won’t reduce greenhouse gas, and that a similar plant in New England was apparently built for half the projected cost, along comes U.S. renewable energy consultant Barry Sheingold to tell us that Nova Scotia Power Inc. hasn’t done its homework on the project.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Opinion/1194545.html


Power to the (other) provinces
Canada's electricity grids are a constitutionally divided patchwork, a situation that discourages efficiency and domestic trade. But 'Made in Canada' alternatives do exist

Canadians are in the enviable position of living in a country richly endowed with raw resources for generating electricity, at a time when the world is struggling with the challenges of meeting energy needs in ways that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. Most countries, including the United States and most of Europe and Asia, import much of their generating fuel or electricity, Canada is self-sufficient and a net exporter of both energy resources and electricity. But though most countries tackle electricity on a national basis, Canada does not and we suffer as a result.

Because energy is a provincial matter under the Canadian Constitution and, like the country at large, most provinces can be self-sufficient in electricity, our electricity supply has grown up as a collection of provincial systems, each independently designed and operated. Typically a province has developed generation based on its own sources of raw energy, with the result that nationally we have an electricity supply that does not take full advantage of the country’s resources.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/power-to-the-other-province...

Best hopes for making sound choices.


"Best hopes for making sound choices"

I think you are swimming against the tide here Paul. We've have a tradition (2-3 decades worth) of "unsound" choices, at least here in the USA.

Now we are rapidly running out of time and getting desperate. Should we really be expecting "sound choices" now?

The current charade of financial reform two-plus years into an ongoing economic collapse demonstrates the futility of "hoping" our leaders will make "sound choices."

Hold onto hope, but make other more realistic plans.

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." H.G. Wells

The CBC's The National ran a story on a London bike sharing system built by a Canadian company.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/TV_Shows/The_National

There could be hope for us yet, SA.


I have lots of hope for humanity - after the dust settles.

I just no longer waste my time or energy "hoping for sound decisions" by our governments.

Especially after the "Change !!!" and "Hope !!!!" rope-a-dope pulled by Obama, and the "War on Terror" by Bush and the "what is the definition of "is" by Clinton... etc, etc

"Pay no attention to ... politicians. They are a colossal distraction"
Dmitry Orlov

I always hope for sound decisions, but don't necessarily count on the execution to be perfect each time or the outcome to always be favourable. So be it. As for American politics, I suspect most Canadians are happy to let our southern neighbours figure it out for us.


There are good people in our leadership, taking smart and courageous stands.

In addition to the mistakes we make, I hope you're paying attention to the wise choices these others are making, that need US to show support for them.

Kucinich: "We Have Disassociated Ourselves from Nature" ..

I agree jokuhl, there really are some thoughtful, intelligent ethical leaders. But they work in a dysfunctional system and their efforts are easily overwhelmed. Just look at any real regulation and notice how they thwart it, or just do not enforce it.

I really do wish you and others luck trying to help change the system. I just do not think we should kid ourselves when we are planning our personal future.

Sure enough.

The first leader is ourselves.

As with Kucinich's thought about nature, similarly, WE have disassociated ourselves with leadership, and hence, government is too-often on a course not well tracked to our own..

"Every Automation is an Amputation" - MacLuhan

I agree with the points in both articles. N. America in general has developed the electrical grids in a regional fashion and then tried to cobble them together. Due to geography, Canada is more separated than the U.S. Matter of fact, it is safe to say the Interties between Canada and the U.S. are more coherent than province to province.

I try to explain it like this: The electrical systems are like a group of shopping malls throughout a city, and they put together some type of interconnection to make it look like one super mall. Obviously the result is not really a super mall, but a poor facsimile.

Whether fortunate or not, there is less economic incentive to tie the provinces together than there is to export/import south to the U.S. BC and Alberta have plans in place to increase the interconnections so Alberta can start to wind down their coal fired generation as the plants come to end of life either mechanically or economically.

Saudi Aramco's crude oil exports peaked in 2005

This cannot stop the Australian government:

July 27, 2010
"Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says Sydney needs a second airport and the taskforce charged with investigating the topic will offer its recommendations by the middle of next year.
Mr Albanese told a conference on Tuesday that Sydney Airport was approaching its 'practical capacity', given the cap on aircraft movements and nighttime curfew in place at the airport"


Heathrow was due a new runway but thankfully the new government has categorically ruled it out.

Best hopes for making sound choices ???


Best hope for more flies in the ointment ???

Maybe we should make a list of "best hopes for" awards.

Matt,how long has that second airport been on the drawing board? At least 20 years,I think.

It is a bit like waiting for Godot.I suspect that Sydney might get it's second airport when the dykes they will have to build around Mascot look like being topped by storm surges.By then large scale air travel might be a memory.

This cannot stop the Australian government:

You have made exactly the right point, Matt. No government, no individual politician, no industry sector, no Western society in general - can cope with the idea that what has been for the past 50 years (pick any number really) will not continue to grow bigger and better in the future.

Even Julia Gillard (current Prime Minister), in the shift from her predecessor's "Big Australia" theme, has been careful to still talk up growth over the next decades. But what is our reality? It seems to me - driving or otherwise travelling around many regions of Australia (especially non-coastal ones) - that many places have a much brighter past than future. We may never break our sheep or wool records, may never ship a record wheat harvest, may never ship a record beef or lamb stockpile - ever again.

But the Anthony Albanese's of this world (like transport, infrastructure, and tourism ministers from right round the world) - continue to attend conferences and talk of the 20% growth in this, or the 50% growth in that, or the doubling of XXX by 2020 - on and on it goes. But I can wander my leafy and prosperous part of Melbourne, and entropy is absolutely everywhere - almost every single house (that change hands for around $1m plus or minus) is in various stages of decay - and there is no sign of where the funds will come from to do anything about it.

Has anyone here read the new Robert Bryce book "Power Hungry"? Not familiar with his work but last night I came across the book, started reading, and bought it. So far so good in the sense that he seems like a very data and logic driven guy, and he paints a vivid portrait of the staggering rate at which we in America are extracting and burning hydrocarbons. Subtitle is "The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future". Apparently he doesn't think renewables will play a big part, although (or maybe because) he has solar PV on his own house. Searching TOD I see that Robert Rapier posted a generally favorable review of his previous book "Gusher of Lies" about the feasibility of American energy independence.

- Walt

PS - Don't worry about spoiling the ending for me.

Bryce has mentioned on TV that he was influenced by a generous subsidy to add solar panels to his Austin Texas home. See also his web site.


" I have solar panels on the roof of my house here in Texas that generate 3,200 watts. And those panels (which were heavily subsidized by Austin Energy, the city-owned utility) provide about one-third of the electricity my family of five consumes."

" I have solar panels on the roof of my house here in Texas that generate 3,200 watts. And those panels (which were heavily subsidized by Austin Energy, the city-owned utility) provide about one-third of the electricity my family of five consumes."

I think this shows just where he is at. My panels have about 70% percent the capacity of his, yet they provide at least 75% of our (5 persons) consumption. He just hasn't tried, and doesn't consider it important to try to reduce his waste. There are many here who are hard core, and have much less capacity than I, and yet generate 100%. Its all a manner of changing your attitude to something like "energy is too important to waste".

That's sort of the impression I get as well. He just put the PV up because it was available and now he can run some numbers with it and see what happens. Being in Austin TX I would imagine a lot of his electricity consumption goes to running air conditioning. I live in upstate NY, have a small relatively efficient house, and have central air but only use it a couple of months of the year. We just had a few weeks of hot, humid weather and I just let the AC run because while I'm off to work there are others coming and going. The hottest week my electric consumption was about 3X what it is without running the air (I have an electric range but NG clothes dryer and hot water heater). Even so, it only cost about $20 more to cool the house for that week - Dirt cheap and well worth the comfort. Our electric rates are due to go up 10-20% and everyone moans and groans about it. I don't get very pleasant responses when I suggest they should go up 100-200% so we finally get motivated to start throttling back.

I suspect Austin is a bit tougher to keep cool then where I live (which I refer to as the death valley of the Bay area), once again on a day where it was 65 in Oakland, we hit 94. But, with the combination of overcooling at night via free outside air and the evaporative cooler -plus shade trees & vines I didn't need the AC. But, yes for me a hot week is about 3x the electric consumption. Americans just have so incorporated the do it with a flip of the switch and forget about it attitude so deep, they are totally unaware of how much they waste.

Looking at his website, Bryce seems to have all the usual red-herring straw-man arguments against renewables lined up.

For example,
"1. Solar and wind power are the greenest of them all.
Unfortunately, solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats. Even an aging natural gas well producing 60,000 cubic feet per day generates more than 20 times the watts per square meter of a wind turbine. A nuclear power plant cranks out about 56 watts per square meter, eight times as much as is derived from solar photovoltaic installations. "

To me, the above is pretty pure BS. PV usually goes on rooftops, so land use is a non-issue. Assuming that a wind farm similarly "uses up" all the land in the wind farm is similarly moronic. Anybody can see cows grazing and land being farmed around working wind turbines. And of course, off-shore wind uses no land at all.

Every article on the site about climate change derisively attacks any effort to reduce carbon emissions as not cost-effective, while completely ignoring any financial consequences of climate change. Energy efficiency and conservation are completely ignored in his simple-minded focus on expanding fossil fuel production and consumption.

I am not surprised that the Wall Street Journal reviewed his book highly, but I am surprised to see positive opinions for this business as usual apologetic on the Oil Drum.

From the above link:

The latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that total solar and wind output for 2008 will likely be about 45,493,000 megawatt-hours. That sounds significant until you consider this number: 4,118,198,000 megawatt-hours. That's the total amount of electricity generated during the rolling 12-month period that ended last November. Solar and wind, in other words, produce about 1.1% of America's total electricity consumption.

And that, dear hearts, just ain't very much. Nevertheless a lot of people propose wind and solar to be our salvation.

I really don't know that much about Mr. Bryce but from what I have read so far, he is a man after my own heart. And "Gusher of Lies" looks good also. If he keeps this up he will get a lot of praise from me on The Oil Drum.

Ron P.

The test on these authors is what they say when they appear on wingnut radio programs. According to this podcast, he thinks the solution is importing oil and more drilling.
Starts about 2 minutes in.

He either believes this stuff or he just wants to sell books by catering to all audiences. Either way, not worth it.

How much did solar and wind contribute to our electrical need in 1980? And how much has that total U.S. demand grown between 1980 and 2010? And what has been the rate of growth of solar and wind generation over the past 10 years? Baseload power at the ~ 60% level from nuclear fission by ~2030, with the balance of our electric supply from 'All else', including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, coal, NG, etc. Oil retains a role for applications such as greatly reduced air travel, lubricant, chemical production (same with NG).

We have no need to invent quantum gravity or warp drive.

What we need is for the American people to elect leaders to lead us to do these things, and hold them accountable.

In sum, we are screwed.

Unfortunately, solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats

PV usually goes on rooftops, so land use is a non-issue

Sorry, where does he mention PV? Perhaps he is referring to these:

Concentrating solar plant

Texas Wind Farm

It appears that you are letting your emotions get in the way of a careful reading of what he is actually saying. The assertions you reproduced seem sound to me, though I may disagree with his prescription.

Sorry, where does he mention PV? Perhaps he is referring to these:

Quite the apologist there.
1) So he is ignoring PV then? That would make his argument more disingenuous, not less.
2) The post specifically mentions PV panels on his roof!
3) That is a pretty old school wind farm. These days they use fewer but larger windmills. But even in that image, there is nothing wrong with having cow graze under those windmills.

Sorry, where does he mention PV?

He mentioned PV in the snippet I quoted in my post (which you must not have read before responding).
Estimates are that US current roof area alone could supply most of US electricity use, not to mention parking lots (which benefit from shade), highway medians and right-of-ways, etc. I don't expect that to happen, but I also do not expect land availability to be a significant issue for renewables in the next few decades. His claim that solar requires excessive land use is demonstrably false, based on millions of building PV installations around the world.

Of course, passive solar design replaces fossil fuel consumption, with zero additional land use and very minimal increased construction cost. My house has been heating itself with passive solar for decades, so no one is likely to convince me that passive solar is impractical.

As far as Darwinian's comments, using current low US renewables percentage to prove how inmpractical they are is just as misleading as using Denmarks 20% to prove how easy the conversion can be.

I have no problem with reasoned and documented discussion of the difficulties of implementing renewables. But fact-free broad-brush assertions, with demonstrably false claims mixed in, do not advance the discussion, but poison it with falsehoods instead.

Decrying the costs of carbon reduction with no discussion of the benefits is similarly slanted and dishonest.

Despite all Bryce's arguments for business as usual, fossil fuel use will inevitably decline as resources are depleted. His advice will just speed up the process, making both the downside of the peak oil curve and climate change worse. Equating energy consumption with quality of life is a stupid US habit, but my personal opinion is that Europeans have a much higher quality of life than US citizens at about half the energy consumption. Is sitting in a Suburban in a traffic jam really a higher quality of life than zooming along at 180 mph in a TGV, or walking to neighborhood market, or having 8 weeks of vacation every year?

Sorry, he does mention that, I thought he was referring to CSPs since they seem to be gathering more interest these days than the banks of PVs.

In any case, here is a typical large PV power plant and they most certainly take a large amount of area and produce, relative to fossil fuel production, much less energy per square meter.

Juwi PV Field

I'll grant you that wind farms are not as dense as they once were and that there are other uses for the land amongst the turbines, but catching sunlight is a different thing. Area is required and there is no way around that.

In my view, his point about energy density of fossil fuels versus solar collection systems stands 100%, but less so for wind.

That we are moving to less dense energy sources is one of his main points and is 100% correct.

excessive land use is demonstrably false, based on millions of building PV installations around the world.

Not unless you ignore some fairly basic math. These installations provide a fraction of the energy that we use. In aggregate, we are getting a very small amount of energy from alternative sources, IEA 2007 puts it at 0.04% of primary energy.

World Primary Energy Supply

It might have gone up a little since those numbers were produced but generally the overall energy supply — including fossil energy — has increased over the last few years. So even though solar might have increased in absolute terms, in relative terms it probably hasn't budged. The relative share will increase once fossil fuel decline really begins in earnest.

In any case, the vast majority of our energy comes from fossil fuels. Again, Bryce is correct that we can't run an industrial society on alternatives and even if we could build out all the wind and solar farms we would need we started too late to prevent significant contraction first. Further, it's pretty close to impossible that the rate of alternative plant construction will continue at its current level as oil declines and the financial system grapples with plummeting asset values, cascading defaults and so on.

My response is to prepare for contraction. He has a different prescription.

BTW, I'm not saying stop building alternatives. I am saying that it's a pipe dream to say we can run the society as it stands now on them. After "millions of building PV installations" in the world, to get just 0.04% of our primary energy from them seems to make Bryce's point, not yours.

It appears that PV could generate about 2000 kW-Hr/m^2 over a year.

US electricity consumption is roughly 4*10^12 kW-Hr over a year.

So only 2000 km^2 of solar farm would be needed. That's an area only 45 km on a side.

An excellent example of how people throw out numbers with no real sense of how much effort is really involved.

So how long would it take to permit and build that 45km x 45km area of solar panels? Presumably it would be located relatively close to where it's needed, i.e. city centers, to reduce transmission losses? Or would you put it smack in the middle of the country and then run HVDC lines to both coasts?

Speaking of transmission losses, does your estimate including that? Presumably it would require a larger area to account for that.

Did you triple or quadruple the area so that there was enough electricity for early morning, evening and nighttime use? Did you triple or quadruple it again to capture enough energy in case there are several cloudy days in a row? Now we're likely at around 180km x 180km of solar panels. Now you have to permit and build 180km x 180km worth of land near city centers.

While building this out, does the U.S. use the entire output of every solar plant in the world or does it have to share the output of those factories? What is the output of all the plants in the world and can they produce enough panels to get the job done within a few decades? With a project this size, it's also important to understand if there are enough mines delivering the raw materials, too. If there aren't, better budget more money and time to bring more mines online.

Speaking of clouds and nighttime use, did you factor in the storage mechanisms required to make electricity available when the sun isn't shining?

And so on.

The job is much bigger than almost anyone imagines.

There is no question that if an energy crisis faced the government that the land could be acquired. For example, the Hanford Site is 1,518 km^2 and was acquired by emminent domain in 1943. The Idaho National Laboratory is 2300 km^2, and was established in 1949. The amount of land required for solar energy is small compared with the amount of land already used for things like the chain of reservoirs on the Missouri and Tennessee Rivers, military bases like Fort Bliss (4,400 km^2), various firing ranges and proving grounds such as White Sands (8,300 km^2), and artificial lakes used to collect and store drinking water near most large cities. For example, Lake Sidney Lanier near Atlanta is about 225 km^2.

As a practical matter, I would not put solar in one place. The most appropriate solution would be to spread a number of solar power centers of perhaps 1000 km^2 around a number of southern states. Some of these states both have abundant sunshine and are heavy users of electrical power.

The national grid should be upgraded to use HVDC interconnects. Note that this technology is already in use between the lignite plants in ND and the Twin Cities as well as between Hydro Quebec and New England. Transmission losses are relatively low.

Solar is just part of the mix. We can certainly use more nuclear power as well. Hydro can be further developed. Niagra can double its output by not sending water over the falls. Many eastern rivers were dammed in the past, and further low-head generation can be developed there.

As for storage, you would need pumped storage, conversion of electrical energy to chemical forms, etc.

I'll up the ante...I like to pad happy assumption, and pad them again.

Let's assume we will need 400x400 km. We split those up into 400 20x20km arrays and place them at various places around the country. Some areas receive less insolation than other, but we mitigate the risk of a natural or man-made event wiping out one gigantic array, and we save money and efficiency by having the supply closer to the demand.

Also, a few specious assumption are in the some of the arguments above: Only a vanishingly small percentage of residential, commercial, and industrial rooftops currently have PV panels. Certain parking lots, and even roadways, could host PV arrays overtop which would double as shade structures.

And who says that the whole of demand has to be from solar PV? Leave room for contributions from wind, hydro, geothermal, coal, NG, and nuclear, as well as an absolutely essential program of energy efficiency and simply doing less with less.

When the sun isn't shining, people should get their happy rear ends to bed...and we do not need but maybe one-tenth of our street lights, lighted bill boards, etc.

We don't seem to navel-gaze too much when everyone wanted and most bought giant pick-em-up trucks, SUVs, sports cars, etc....loads of McMansions...fleets of ships, planes, tanks, artillery, etc.

It is a matter of adult, high-order-thinking priorities...we are doomed.

There are other geometries available to answer some of your objections to PV. For example, using PV with tracking allows a more nearly constant flow of electricity during the daylight hours. It also requires more land than that shown in your photo above. But, tracking arrays could easily be built high enough above the soil such that the land could be used for pasture or even for some shade tolerant crops, since there would still be some direct sunlight reaching ground level. There is presently a company building such systems for installation above parking lots.

Furthermore, there's no requirement that PV be installed on flat ground, indeed, I think it's a great waste of otherwise useful agricultural land to do so. There are locations on hill sides which face to the south in the NH which might be too steep for crops, yet would still be useful for PV. Mounting the PV as fixed arrays on hill sides with a western orientation would result in maximum power production in the afternoon, which would tend to match the A/C load late in the day during summer.

As for storage, one must remember that nuclear power is usually operated as baseload power production, which can not track the hourly fluctuations in demand. At present, fossil fueled generators are used to match electric supply with demand. Absent fossil fuels, some other type of dispatchable storage must be implemented and that would likely require pumped storage or large battery arrays. Having such large storage capability would also be useful for matching the supply from PV and wind to the grid demand.

E. Swanson

Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: "I educated myself about math and physics. I'm a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics."


John Stossel, Robert Bryce, and T. Boone Pickens discuss the issue of "Energy Independence"


Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: "I educated myself about math and physics. I'm a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics."

What a weird and unbelievable statement!

Thermodynamics is neither conservative or liberal. My engineering thermo classes had people of all political viewpoints, and I don't think anybody changed their political affiliation as a result of the Second Law.

But since Bryce is the proud recipient of a Bachelor In Fine Arts, maybe he learned a different kind of thermodynamics from the standard engineering curriculum.

I think his point is that many in the green community do not realize what they are up against.

Most folks can not afford solar panels or electric cars

Bryce is a dishonest opportunist who uses half-truths to earn money as an apologist for fossil fuel consumption and production. Which is why the Wall Street Journal and right-wing websites love him.

Certainly reducing fossil fuel consumption via conservation and efficiency and renewables is an overwhelming task that I doubt will be completed without much suffering, if at all

But I don't see how a shill for expanded drilling, coal burning, and oil imports, with slanted and unfounded attacks on any alternatives makes any useful contribution.

Anyone who discusses replacing fossil fuels and does not even consider efficiency is either ignorant or intentionally misleading, since efficiency has better financial and energy returns on investment than either renewables or fossil fuel use. Insulating your attic is cheaper than heating an uninsulated house with any source. So pretending that expanding fossil fuel consumption is the only alternative is dishonest approach which I suspect Bryce employs because he is well compensated for ignoring and attacking alternatives, with misleading false choices.

Bryce makes strawman arguments.

What makes the argument so bad is that it ignores that all the energy that is wasted and the potential of renewables
In the US we input 97 quads of non-renewable energy in and get out 14 quads of electricity, 6 quads of non-fuel plastics, 15 quads of natural gas heating and 28 quads of liquid fuels(60% of which is burnt in 20 mpg gas guzzling personal transport);
14 quads of electricity could be generated by 2 TW of wind running 2500 hours per year once storage issues are solved.
11 quads of biofuels from the (1.3) billion ton biomass study.
Well insulated buildings could cut natural gas heating requirements by 50%.
Add these up and we go from needing 97 quads of non-renewable energy to needing 10 quads of liquid fuel, 8 quads of gas and a bit of coal.

Is there enough renewable energy to meet our needs?
If we use energy efficiently, we can power 75% of our needs with renewables.

Can renewables power the 'House that Cheap Energy Built' over the next century?
Nobody can.

He used a standard framing device to endear him to the right-wing half of the population. The other half of the population has enough intellectual curiousity to figure out what he knows. That's why all mass media tilts right (and sometimes way right like Fox News) and one has to be very careful about the motivations of authors.

"In news the rule is that liberals will watch the news, and conservatives will watch conservative news. A liberal will watch to see what you think, the conservative will watch to see how much you agree with him. This is why the headline world is so far to the right even of the content." - Stirling Newberry

I am not surprised that the Wall Street Journal reviewed his book highly, but I am surprised to see positive opinions for this business as usual apologetic on the Oil Drum.

I have the new book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Regarding Gusher of Lies, I thought it was quite good in that he tore into a number of very prevalent myths that abound in the energy world. His books are very readable; not dry stuff. And while I don't agree with him on everything, I think he has a good grasp on the big picture stuff.

I know Robert, and his politics are very much like my own. We both lean left generally (he wrote a blistering book on George W. Bush) but our positions on energy would probably lean right. For myself, that's because my view is that the left has a more unrealistic view of how easily we could get off of oil and have renewables supply all the energy we need. (Not that there aren't plenty of unrealistic notions on the right, but it seems like I have to spend more of my time debunking myths from the left).

(Not that there aren't plenty of unrealistic notions on the right, but it seems like I have to spend more of my time debunking myths from the left).

The left has been indoctrinated that alternatives are going to save us and the planet for so long that it's become received wisdom i.e. they don't have the faintest clue about the numbers I explain above. And even when presented with them, they'll comes back with something like, "Well, we just have to embark on a Manhattan Project-style effort."

Such a project might just make some sort of difference but it still wouldn't, in my view, allow industrial society to continue for much longer. The machine would still wind down though it might be delayed for a few years.

People with your point of view would have argued that Denmark could not possibly produce 20% of electricity from wind. And as a self-fulfilling prophecy, your point of view might have proved itself correct.

Fortunately for Denmark, they had a more visionary and optimistic population and government, which is why Denmark has a world-leading wind industry.

The cost of the Iraq war could have replaced at least half of US electricity production with wind. Yet somehow a massive wind build-out was unrealistic, and half a trillion dollars in Iraq proved to be completely realistic, although probably an underestimate.

While the US argues that high-speed rail and renewables are unrealistic, China is building both. Arguing against alternatives will only make the inevitable transition more painful. Nobody in the US with a heated house is too poor to insulate that house, since insulation pays for itself.

Paying the additional cost for windpowered electricity that matches our household consumption via Xcel's WindSource program is a completely insignificant component in our budget. Europe lives fine with 18 cent a kwh, and renewables with storage would cost less than that in most of the US.

Denmark gets 20% of it's electricity from wind but when,how often and how reliably does it achieve this? Presumably, 20% is an average,not a peak.

Denmark gets the remaining 80% from hydro and nuclear in Norway and Sweden,I believe.It is fortunate that hydro is a quick response power source otherwise Denmark may well be burning NG in peak load stations.

My point is that neither wind nor solar,PV or thermal,is the entire answer to getting rid of fossil fuels in electricity generation.In fact,renewables are a small part of the answer.

48% of Denmark's electricity generation is coal fired (much of which also delivers district heating). I think as you say they couple their wind generation with Norwegian hydro. I think I read somewhere, I can't find the reference, that they sell surplus wind generated electricity to Norway, and buy hydro electricity when the wind is not blowing.

The point is that left-wing "thought" will always lead the advance. The reason that Rapier doesn't have to fight right-wing myths is that they are do-nothings and have no ideas. So he spends less time fighting apathy. At some point you have to hitch your wagon to some societal ideals, and screw it if I ever follow the party of nothingness.

That's a great way to describe it.

I keep seeing the old saw throughout this thread that the 'Left Believes Renewables will Do the Job' .. with the unending accusation that it's supposedly the same job Oil does today. Way too easy a target to attack.. and yet I don't see much of a counterpoint ever offered to it besides 'We need Fusion Now!' plea .. While the similar buildout of Reactors has been shown to be just as daunting as Renewables, but with far greater potential dead-ends, overages and bottlenecks to it.

But essentially, as you say, the Left is the part of society that ventures ahead into the dark, looks to the next steps, while the Right is the foot planted on the known ground, and feels much more comfortable staying that way.

The proportion of wind power Denmark actually uses averages less than 10% of demand rather than 20%, and in some low-wind years is closer to 5%. Because the wind is inconsistent, they export around half of the wind power they generate to Norway and Sweden, and buy back hydro and nuclear power when the wind doesn't blow. Denmark is really using the much bigger generating systems of Norway and Sweden as a kind of storage battery for its wind power systems.

The problem with this is that often when Denmark doesn't need the power, neither do Norway or Sweden, so the price is very low, and in many cases zero. In fact the Nordic countries are introducing negative prices into their system, so in future Denmark may get a negative price for its wind power exports.

On the other hand, when Denmark needs power, often demand is high in Norway and Sweden as well, so the price is quite high. The net result is that Denmark exports wind power at very low, often zero, prices, and buys back hydro and nuclear power at much higher prices. This is despite the fact that it costs the Norwegians and Swedes much less to generate hydro power than it costs the Danes to generate wind power.

Also, Denmark's coal burning power plants also generate district heating, so it can't just shut them down when the wind blows. Thus, often it is running its coal plants to heat its cities while it is exporting surplus wind power to Norway and Sweden.

As I repeatedly say, I think we should build as much alternative energy supply as possible while we are floating on the surface of two extremely temporary financial and energy bubbles. When they pop (a good argument can be made that that has begun), not much more will get built. Maybe the Chinese see that and we don't?

In any case, my general point still stands. It was never possible to continue with the blue line below, no matter how early we started moving to alternative energy sources. On top of the difficulty of moving a planet's entire energy system in a timely manner (i.e. before the fossil energy the system currently depends on begins its inexorable decline), we are filling up our pollution sinks quickly (ocean acidification, climate change, biotoxin accumulation, etc.), our resource stocks are depleting rapidly (fisheries, soil, aquifers, metals, declining EROEI, etc) and the relatively stable and supportive climate we've enjoyed for centuries is giving way to one that includes more and more intense natural disasters. In short, this coming century is going to be a real mess.

Possible Future Scenarios

Bryce's vision of simply getting more fossil energy to keep the party going isn't realistic. But if you are saying that alternatives will do anything more than cushion the fall then yours isn't either.

The only thing in our control now is how steep the green line will be and once the financial implosion gets into full swing, even that opportunity will rapidly disappear as the planet collectively says, "Holy crap. Everything is getting scarcer and I don't feel like selling it to other people any more because we will need it."

We had one shot at this and we blew it. Simple as that, in my view.

Responses to fossil fuel peaks will be (and already are) very localized by country and by region.

In the particular case of the US, we have simply massive waste and fat, which could easily be diverted to other purposes. Any day in any US city you can see long lines of SUVs and big cars, 3000 pounds of metal and plastic, carrying 200 lb people on un-needed trips. In supposedly green Boulder, Colorado the average household makes 12 car trips each day. How many of those trips are necessary? (probably none, but certainly not 12).

So as fossil fuels peak, I agree that mostly they will be replaced with nothing, the cheapest and most sustainable alternative. Since I have lived on a small fraction of average US energy consumption for decades, the prospect does not frighten me. Indeed reducing the car domination of US cities can only improve the quality of life for humans. Better insulated homes are more comfortable in addition to being more sustainable. Gardens look better than lawns and smell better too.

If only a fraction of the 4 hours that US people spend each day watching TV, and a fraction of the materials and energy that are used on the 12 + daily trips to nowhere were diverted to building a sustainable infrastructure, I have no doubt that sufficient resources would be available. I don't think such a transition is politically likely, but I think it is completely financially and logistically possible.

The longer we stay on the fossil fuel binge (as shills like Bryce advocate) the harder the transition will be. Wind and solar have advanced tremendously in price/performance in recent decades, no thanks to coal cheerleaders published in the Wall Street Journal. Of course, wind and solar will not replace fossil fuels completely, because NegaWatts are cheaper even than cheap coal, let alone expensive renewables.

100% total agreement!

"In the particular case of the US, we have simply massive waste and fat, which could easily be diverted to other purposes."

I love how easily the technocopians throw out this phrase. This is total hog wash on so many levels.

First of all the US could not EASILY divert.

Second, that so called waste and fat is our economy thank you very much. Oh! I guess we don't really NEED to employ people, we just NEED to cut energy consumption. I got an idea lets streamline the program and just jump right to cutting human energy/life.

It's getting to the point where TOD is oblivious to the human element of the convergence of constraints (CoC) and is spending more and more virtual ink on mental self sexual gratification.

If only we could all write ourselves into our favorite program where everything is nice and digitally tidy and the outcome is controllable.

And so when do we make the transition? It will not be pretty and there won't be any choices involved. In the not too distant future, you won't have to worry about what you call your human element. So I guess we just continue what you call our economy into the indefinite future without regard to what we are doing to the natural world which ultimately makes all this possible, including the economy.

So would you argue that a 4000 lb 12 mpg Suburban moving one human being is not "waste and fat"?
Would you argue that a country with a majority that is either overweight or obese does not contain "waste and fat"? (what would those words mean then?)

It does not matter what I think, but it matters a lot whether the energy and financial resources are available to continue US-style "Happy Motoring". The US is already bankrupting itself trying to maintain an economically and environmentally unsustainable way of life.
Eventually, a life-style that cannot be sustained will not be sustained. The question is when and how we transition away from a societal dead-end. Those that try to maintain business-as-usual only make the eventual transition more painful.

I find it strange that you are referring to me as a "technocopian" because I am arguing against Bryce's claim that fossil fuel usage should be and must be increased, but then I am not really sure what a "technocopian" is anyway.

You've been all over it on this thread, I truly appreciate your thoughts here.

There are hopeful actions we can take, and we can work to convince MANY others to take. It's no guarantee of success in any way, but it goes in the right direction, it SHOULD cushion that descent, to answer AAndre's question, and has someone got a better plan?


I love how easily the technocopians throw out this phrase. This is total hog wash on so many levels.

I am afraid you are very much on the slippery slope to hogwash, eeyore, rather than tommyvee, whom I thought talks perfectly good sense.

We have stayed in Boulder CO, and if Americans think that is a green city, then you are indeed in a great deal of trouble - as a nation facing challenges ... and an average 12 car trips a day is close to obscene if true. And while you attack the technocopians (totally irrelevant in the case of tommyvee I reckon, incidentally), you are promoting the worst justification for BAU (and the most common): "The American people have to import rubbish! Consume rubbish! And produce more waste rubbish! Or the economy goes down the toilet! Most jobs in America are ridiculous, we know that, but they're the only ones we can thing of! Get out there and consume everybody, until you die! Make Wal-Mart thrive, people!" And on and on it goes ...

It's a nonsense, and I think you know it ... I though tommyvee was just stating the bleeding obvious really - the USA could cut 25-50% of its gross fat almost immediately - maybe even more than that - and you'd be better off for it (and so would the planet).

And Eeyore, that fat that is cut in such a process very well may be chopping out (unnecessary) jobs, but will also be creating needed ones. Surely, there is no shortage of Real Work that can be found to correct our course.

I generally recall the "Pet Rock" craze of the 70's when thinking of the kinds of jobs which contribute exactly nothing to the wealth of our country. Pet Rock entrepreneur would seem to typify the low end of the continuum. I won't mention any of my other "favorites" here (well I can't resist inserting "day trader :-)) for fear of raising hackles, but I do firmly believe that disposing of such jobs and freeing up more "wealth generating" occupations would be on balance positive.

And by the way, I'm not so proud of architecture either, but passive solar and energy efficient design have been my guiding light.

Conservation is not only the cheapest form of energy, but it will work for you whether you envision a continuation of BAU or Mad Max or anything in between.

and an average 12 car trips a day is close to obscene if true.

Dang! I hardly do over 12 car trips a month and that includes visits to customers and driving my 15 year old around on weekends. Have these people ever hear of a bicycle or walking?!

Excellent. From one of your fellow Boulder county folk. Allenspark, Colorado Yeh, Boulder traffic is pathetic and wrong. Where did you get that statistic? And I thought most of the traffic was from commuters. And this is a city that has a relatively good infrastructure for biking. Oh. And I love all those SUVs that pull up to Whole Foods. Despite all that, I still like Boulder, especially the Pear Street Mall and surroundings.

Where did you get that statistic?

I served on Boulder's Transportation Advisory Board for 4 years, an appointed city board that helps plan transportation infrastructure. It was educational and I got to have influence on bike, ped, and transit systems which I understand from a user perspective which is very different from the transportation engineer's perspective.
Boulder does have about a 12% bike mode share, which is about 6X the US average, largely due to a pretty complete bike system and the positive vicious circle of city incentives/marketing, peer group support, and a safer biking environment resulting from all those bikers, etc. Biking is my main transport method, followed by walking, followed by transit, with auto last.

You have raised a key point in this whole issue of energy usage i.e personal transportation. While number of alternatives to electricity uasgae in household is being talked about, the major problem of personal transportation is still not being addressed effectively notwithstanding the hybrids etc.
The cities in US are so designed that even to have a Pepsi you have to drive 4 to 5 miles. The big retailers have driven the smaller 'round-the-corner' retailers out of business.
Unless this life style is drastically changed the usage of gasoline for personal transporation would continue unabated.

Most of the left is scientifically illiterate (I work on social justice and peace issues, and I am in the street on a weekly basis).
They cling to a BAU world view of class issues, substituting alternative energy, and reorganizing society.
Personally, I was out designing a community garden for a section 8 housing project today.
The right is comically out of touch, and bases reality on simple stories that give meaning to their underlying fears.

"The right is comically out of touch, and bases reality on simple stories that give meaning to their underlying fears"

And that would be their religion?

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Much Fear in these folks. Much suffering ahead.

I think you are spot on with this, unfortunately.

"Most of the left humanity is scientifically illiterate"

There...I fixed it.

Worth at least +10.

Unfortunately, solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats.

US wind power resources, from NREL. Purple areas are those with higher-quality resources.

US population growth trends, 2000-2009, from the Census Bureau. Purple areas have shrinking populations.

If the US is going to do land-based wind power on a truly large scale, it's going to do it on the Great Plains. Even a few million wind turbines probably don't disrupt the Great Plains all that much, in any sort of big picture. Certainly not as much as large-scale industrial farming of wheat, corn, and soybeans in the eastern portion of the Plains has already done.

I think a bigger problem is the depopulation that's going on (and has been since the 1920s). Maintaining a million wind turbines, the grid that collects that power, the HVDC infrastructure that exports it to places where people live, all require a certain amount of local skilled labor. In many areas of the Great Plains, local services are crashing: there are a surprising number of counties now that don't have a single doctor, and the number is growing. It will be a challenge to get the requisite work force to move there.

I'm not too concerned about the people being available to maintain the turbines. Jobs are already very precious things right now. Tell someone they can earn $40k per year maintaining a wind turbine (say) and tens of thousands of people will jump at the chance now. This will only become more true as the unemployment rate continues to rise.

That you point out that the space required is available mostly in the Great Plains underlines Bryce's (entirely correct) point: solar and wind need lots of area, with solar requiring much more of it exclusively devoted to it compared to wind.

solar and wind need lots of area, with solar requiring much more of it exclusively devoted to it compared to wind

Well, only in the BAU of having a few large power plants, then connecting them to users via long transmission line runs.

Just as I don't go to a centralized refrigerator to get my dinner out to cook, there is nothing stopping the deployment of PV as parking lot shade+power, or on industrial roofs (and from the news.google.com reports, they are going up all the time?)

As always, there is base load and peak load. Putting PV over many industrial roofs and parking also means two advantages. One, no extra money was spent on transmission lines as is done for BAU of a few large power plants. Two, they contribute to peak load nicely.

Selfishly I have only been monitoring California power, but via CAISO [ http://caiso.com/outlook/SystemStatus.html ] I notice that wind provides a pretty reliable base load during the evening. Then it diminishes during mid-day, in a V shape, which is when the PV contributes.

Sum both and the power provided is 'reasonably' flat.

I think the long term trouble will be one pointed out often:
1.Wind and Solar are a small fraction of today's generation, and would cost a lot to scale up to be a sizable fraction of generation.
2. The solar contribution in MW currently is dwarfed by wind's input, so more MW of PV installations need to occur than are currently available.
3. Solar and wind are not guaranteed resources, so no more BAU of reliable availability of a set number of MW any given moment.

solar and wind need lots of area, with solar requiring much more of it exclusively devoted to it compared to wind.

Actually wind ends up taking up more than solar. The problem is that while the footprint of a WT is small safety and security concerns mean the public is excluded from the land around it. So we end up with grazing land, rather than public parks. Solar has a lot of distributed built or paved land to take over with dual use. I read more than a decade back that the US has more paved surface than the area of the state of Ohio. And by now you would need to find a bigger state to make that comparison work. Of course large scale solar plants will still have security issues, panel theft is a serious issue.

Even including the large security zone around nukes, fenced off and off limits except to plant employees on the job, that figure of 56 watts per square meter seems ridiculously low; how is this figure obtained?

Ditto the wind farm figure?


The argument in respect to solar might hold a little more water, since small scale roof mounting is troublesome and expensive compared to ground mounts , and the amount of good available ground is limited in highly developed areas.But bigger systems going on the big flat roofs of shopping centers, office buildings, and factories should not be particularly expensive to install.

There is certainly no shortage of useable ground suitable to the building of csp installations or arrays of solar cells, although building them might require the construction of transmission lines-perhaps very long ones in the future, but at present there should be plenty of opportunity to locate such plants near the markets for the juice.

At a density of 56 watts per square meter, you're looking at a Gigawatt station taking up approximately 4.5 acres. What is often left out of these kinds of watts per square whatevers is the *land fucked up in mining.* It's generally just the footprint of the power station itself mentioned and not the millions of acres overturned *every year* to get at the coal seams, or the open pit mine to get uranium, or the thousands of miles of polluted streams, etc.

Richard Heinberg on 100 days of the BP gusher

In this interview he mentions a newly published scientific paper which predicts Peak Coal in 2011.

Does anyone have a link to this report or even who wrote it?

Astonishing if true..

It is behind a pay wall but the abstract can be found here:

A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis

The global peak of coal production from existing coalfields is predicted to occur close to the year 2011. The peak coal production rate is 160 EJ/y, and the peak carbon emissions from coal burning are 4.0 Gt C (15 Gt CO2) per year. After 2011, the production rates of coal and CO2 decline, reaching 1990 levels by the year 2037, and reaching 50% of the peak value in the year 2047. It is unlikely that future mines will reverse the trend predicted in this BAU scenario.

Numerous quotes from the article can be found here:
Predictions of Coal, CO2 Production Flawed, Says Latest Research

The CO2 emission estimates used for government policy decisions assume unlimited coal and fossil fuel production for the next 100 years, an unrealistic premise which skews climate change models and proposed solutions, according to new research published by Tad Patzek, chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin.

Based on widely accepted studies predicting coal production will peak and decline after 2011, Patzek warns climate change predictions should be revised to account for this inevitable peak and decline. His research appears in the internationally peer-reviewed journal, Energy, The International Journal.

Not a quote from the paper but a comment about the model they used and why it showed coal will likely peak next year. I found it most interesting.

The paper provides a physical model of historical and future production of coal worldwide. The model demonstrates that despite enormous coal deposits globally, coal production rates will decline because the deposits show increasing inaccessibility and decreasing coal seam thickness, according to the research.

Sounds a little like going after oil. New oil fields show increasing inaccessibility along with a decrease in size.

Ron P.

Thanks for the links.
I note from the Abstract

The global peak of coal production from existing coalfields is predicted to occur close to the year 2011

emphasis added.
The paper says that Alaskan and Russian far-east coalfields with little production history are

... treated as sensitivities on top of this base-case, producing an additional 125 Gt of coal.

I do not know where that places the actual peak?
In conclusion they state

...it is unlikely that future mines will reverse the trend

It would be interesting to see their treatment of Chinese coal fields. Dave Rutledge also predicted an earlier 'peak' for world coal, but not as early as 2011, but was explicit about uncertainties of data including if I remember that from China.

Another word or two of caution.
We do not know their references, and also, as our own WHT reminds us frequently, multi-cycle Hubbert analysis is a heuristic approach, having some inherent difficulty in predicting future production. Without knowing much about the technologies, I would also ask whether techniques such as extracting coal-bed methane from otherwise too expensive to extract fields, might for example extend production sufficiently to prolong a 'peak' or plateau of 'coal energy' and it's accompanying pollution?

I will also recommend caution when trying to predict peak coal by fitting production curves. My own tinkering with Hubbert analysis shows that it can be extremely sensitive to input data and has very little predictive value outside of a few very well known cases. Adding more parameters to make it 'multi-cyclic' may improve the fit to existing data but does not improve my confidence in any predictions.

What you have to remember, and what Hubbert analysis has absolutely no handle on, is that coal production and consumption is determined at least as much by above ground factors (economics, transportation networks, environmental concerns, more convenient alternative fuels, etc.) as it is by geologic factors.

Let's look at a case where Hubbert analysis would fail miserably in predicting the actual outcome -- coal production in China. I don't have the time right now to do a careful analysis but many of us have seen enough Hubbert analyses to get a sense of how it tries to fit production profiles to one or more smooth, logistic distribution curves. What would happen if we did a Hubbert analysis with the data on Chinese coal production (~= consumption) from 1965 up until 2000. We would end up with a curve that was mostly symmetric about the peak in 1997 and steadily declining throughout the last decade. Use your mind's eye to imagine such a curve laid on top of the the actual production data below.

But that is not at all what happened!

Until folks start testing the skill of Hubbert analysis predictions by doing some 'hindcasting' I will remain skeptical.

It is also important to remember that when you discuss trends in global coal production you are essentially talking about trends in Chinese coal production, Most of the increase in coal production since 1990's levels has taken place in China in the last decade. Chinese production could drop off if the Chinese economy hits the skids but it wouldn't necessarily be because of geologic constraints. But countries with large deposits (US, Russia, India, Australia, South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, ...) could also ramp up production if alternative fuels for power generation (nat. gas) become more expensive.

In my estimation it is possible for coal production and use to increase and stay at a high level for several more decades. It is also possible for production to decrease below current levels. Niether case is difficult to imagine but the outcome will be determined primarily by above ground economic/environmental concerns rather than by any geological limits. For this reason, any Hubbert analysis needs to be moderated by a look at the purely human factors involved.

Computer models are fun but you need to prove that they actually have predictive skill before you go making predictions. I have seen lots of papers utilizing Hubbert methods to make predictions. But I am still waiting to see a critical analysis of the predictive skill of this technique.


I can imagine a couple of different scenarios with coal. One is declining oil supply bring down the world financial system, and the aftermath bringing down coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

It is also possible to imagine a resurgence in coal production in parts of the world where coal mining has not been done much. It would seem to me that some of this coal might be exported to China.

I am in agreement with you Jon, that curve fitting may not work all that well for coal. Some coal has not been used, because it was not needed, and some has not been accessible. But if railroad is extended to it, it will suddenly become accessible. Or transmission lines could be built, and electricity from coal shipped long distance.

i see lots of the same data over and over. and lots of the same concepts over and over. even similar
colorful charts! and the comment posts? nothing new under the sun or the oil conundrum.

so, titan is a moon of saturn. it has lakes of methane. we need titan. if the human population of earth are all to enjoy the uhmerikan way of life we will need all the hydrocarbons titan has.

i mentioned in the past that a spaceship should be built and go to titan. mebbe lower a long hose to
pump up all that good gaz. or lower a big bucket and haul it up.

but...cassini data over the past 5 years has shown the largest lake to have dropped ONE METER! of course scientists say it is evaporating from solar system wide "global warming".

but what if aliens are snatching "our" methane? we should build a fleet of space cruisers and chase them off. iraq? iran? the middle east in general? frakking shale? deep water horizon? BAH! all childish pastimes for those with no imagination.

i say we go to titan and get all that methane before "someone" else does.
read it and weep:

there is no limit to human greed and folly.

how about that wayward hayward? poster child for: the man enslaved to wealth can never be honest.

$HIT! i wisht they would have let me plug him with a stinger or hellfire missile launched from a predator drone. that would have learned him and be a warning to all of his ilk.

exxon is working on an interplanetary lng tanker as we type - and there are those who claim that methane is finite - which apparently doesnt include any public traded shale gas players(ptsgps).

ptsgps will probably be creating power point presentations to show how wonderful there titan shale gas drilling prospects are.

so called investors and many analysts(but not ben dell) will believe them. i may be exagerating, but not much more than the ptsgps.

Anyone surprised by the JPMorgan new forcast price reduction in crude for 2010 and 2011?

They hire some very bright MBAs, they have access to all available data, and they come up with that?

Obviously they have am ulterior motive - I just can't figure out what it is

First of all I would like to state that I have not followed JPM's price forecasts very closely, mainly because I did not think they were worth much.

However there does seem to be a clear trend among Wall Street forecasters to 'downgrade' expectations of economic growth, which appears to lead these analysts to automatically downgrade their expectations of oil demand.

Still the JPM demand growth forecast of 1.8 mbpd gain this year is on the high side of the range of most forecasters, so their lower price forecast is somewhat inconsistent with expected demand gains.

My own expectation is that world demand growth will be closer to 2.0 mbpd gain than 1.8, mainly because almost everyone - including our own EIA - appears to be underestimating US demand. US demand is already greatly exceeding the forecasts of the EIA and many others - even if the US economy doesn't grow at all in the second half of 2010. It almost appears to me demand has been intentionally understated by the EIA, possibly to influence prices.

I'm not surprised.

And I don't think there's an ulterior motive.

I think they see the economy is a train wreck...and not just in the US.

Moreover, I think they may be overly optimistic, as people and businesses are prone to be.

As hard as it is for pessimists to believe, US industrial production is up about 8% over last year. That is very strong growth and this is why we see diesel demand up about 9% over last year.

The problem is that employment has not improved much, and if it does not improve, the current business restocking that is driving what economic growth we have will soon stop.

So I don't think the oil demand forecast was overly optimistic at all, unless you are talking about 2011, when oil demand will be bumping up against available supplies.

It's the typical jobless recovery - industries expand their production without hiring new workers. This tends to occur in every recession because businesses resist hiring new workers until it is totally obvious that they can't expand any more with their existing labor force. They would rather force people to work overtime, preferably without paying them overtime rates.

Not a lot of fun if you're a worker, much more fun if you're a capitalist.

I think JPM is well aware of that. What's changed is that there's increasing fear of a "double dip" - not among pessimists, who always feared that, but among everyone.

Comming Soon (enough) to a Theater/locale near you ???

Greece struggles to restock fuel as strike continues

ATHENS: Greek authorities struggled to restore fuel supplies on Saturday after failing to break a six-day trucker strike that has disrupted travel at the peak of the busy tourism season...

"Gas stations have dried up," senior gas station unionist Dimitris Makryvelios told the broadcaster. "Nobody is going to risk travelling if the market is not stabilised."

Reports poured in of foreign holidaymakers abandoning their immobilised rented cars while motorists in northern Greece have tried to bypass the deadlock by seeking fuel in neighbouring Bulgaria and Macedonia.

The protest has also badly hit the peach industry, a staple Greek export, with over a dozen canneries shutting down for lack of fuel, the head of Greece's cannery association said.

"The harvest and processing of peaches only lasts a few days and this is peak season for us," association chairman Costas Apostolou told the Ta Nea newspaper.

"This is a disaster," he added, noting that over 35 tonnes of peaches worth around 20 million euros had to be destroyed...


Best hopes for making sound choices.

"This is a disaster," he added, noting that over 35 tonnes of peaches worth around 20 million euros had to be destroyed...

Have they never heard of sun dried fruits, It's not like they don't have enough sun...

Reading responses in articles might lead you to believe those not protesting are sitting in lines waiting for gas or other goods.

Some might be waiting for the government to get things under control. Sorta like the victims of Katrina - waiting... and waiting...

I'm sure most believe this will all blow over soon enough.


'Needed: Better GDP Growth'

That article suggests the need for higher growth numbers out of the economy. However there was no mention of oil price as a constraint on that endeavor.

On CNBC yesterday, one commentator on the Kudlow Report (yawn) was saying that usually in a post recession growth period, growth exceeds 6% vs. the anemic 2.8% we got this past quarter. Yet there was no discussion about the cost of oil or of plateau oil production as it affects the overall economy. I wonder when it will hit home.

Many economists make the argument that you don't need oil constraints to explain the current recovery.

From the end of WWII through the 1970s, recessions tended to be "inventory" recessions: too much of some goods, too few of others, and much of the resulting unemployment was plant workers that were laid off temporarily but then went back to work at the same job as before. The recession in 1981-82 was similar in terms of unemployment, although the root cause was Volcker raising interest rates high enough to cause a recession in order to kill inflationary expectations. Starting in the 1990s, recoveries have been increasingly "jobless": the jobs that people lost were not refilled, but were offshored or (more often) automated. To some extent, the pace of the overall recovery must coincide with the pace of employment recovery.

If oil production is a constraint on growth -- and I agree that it is, or will soon be -- it's impact will not be as large, immediately, as many people think. Oil gets used in a lot of low-value activities, especially in the US, but also in other developed economies. Increasing prices should first result in shifting oil from those low-value uses in order to continue powering more valuable ones. Westexas's ELM 2.0 says that the large developing economies are outbidding the developed economies for limited oil supplies. Which is exactly what should happen, since the marginal use for another barrel of oil in China or India is more valuable than the marginal use in the US. Economic growth slows based on that lost marginal value, not on the average value.

Yes, for a little while we can fool ourselves into thinking that a seismic shift is not occurring when it actually is.

Let's keep oil production stable for a thought experiment. Even just a decade of no growth and continued population increase means the unemployment rate continues to increase and wealth per person drops. As oil declines, stock values decline as it becomes clear the share prices are overvalued. Pension systems that depend on those stocks fail. Assets in general start to drop in value causing even more trouble for the banking system.

Even a no growth situation for an extended period is a problem and actual oil decline makes it much worse.

Let's keep oil production stable for a thought experiment.

You are being overly pessimistic, We are getting better at generating GDP per barrel of oil. Peak oil per capita (worldwide) was back around 73 IIRC, but current GWP is much greater than it was back then. So as long as the supply decline is slow enough that we can accomodate it with higher efficiency we should be able to scrape by. The problem is that the market does such a poor job of anticipating future scarity, that we aren't making economic efficiency wrt. oil priority number one. Instead it is on few people minds or plans.

2011 Peak Coal?
What do we keep getting these worse than amateur guestimates?

The first 4 months of 2010 the US produced 600 Twh from coal versus 577 Twh in the first 4 months of 2009(up 5%).
Coal produces 40% of the world's electricity. Oil
production is likely to peak soon(Campbell), increasing the need for coal fired electricity.

BP ex-CEO Tony Hayward estimated that there is 1.2 trillion boe of natural gas or a 60 year supply(~6840 XJ).

Unlike Heinberg, Rutledge and Patzek most estimates are that there is a trillion tons of coal. World Coal estimates a minimum 119 year supply. Coal will last at least twice as long as oil and gas. We will be using coal for electricity long after oil and gas are exhausted.

China gets 66% of their energy from coal and India gets 50%. Both countries are maxed out on hydro.
China's heat wave is causing record coal use.

The dynamics are simple; GW causes heat waves that cause increased coal use which cause more global warming.

Electricity consumption have to rise and that will mean more coal and CO2. Coal is the cheapest of all fuels and of course, it will be used.

More efficient coal plants will only make coal cheaper to burn vs. cleaner natural gas.

If coal is about to peak why are prices back to 2008 prices?

Efficient coal generation is BAU poorly disguised as resource depletion.

Since we HAVE to burn coal we HAVE to remove its polluting emissions by sequestering its CO2.

Arizona’s Energy-Efficiency Ruling to Save Utility Customers $9B over Next Decade

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has voted in favor of a measure that now requires electric utilities to reduce the amount of power they sell by 22 percent by 2020 as part of its drive to help businesses and homeowners conserve energy, reports The Arizona Republic.

Arizona’s measure mirrors a national push by utility companies to increase energy-efficiency efforts as one way to reduce the need for multi-million-dollar power plants and transmission line projects that are financed by customer rate hikes, according to the newspaper.

The effort also will help reduce air pollution and excessive water use resulting from power plants burning coal or natural gas to supply customers’ electricity.

See: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/07/29/arizonas-energy-efficiency...

Best hopes for more initiatives such as this.


High-Frequency Programmers Revolt Over Pay

Now some programmers feel used and are instigating a revolt.

They are doing so by striking out on their own or forming profit-sharing arrangements. Jeffrey Gomberg, 32, worked for a trading firm that paid him a low-six-figure income after four years on the job. His trader colleagues, by contrast, made millions manipulating the algorithms he'd written...


Our financial markets really are a casino where capital is siphoned off by giant institutional "traders" (and spare me the crap that HFT provides liquidity etc).

Best of hopes bargaining with Mother Nature when She sees you've been cheating and lying the whole time.

"But MA !! - I voted for Gore !!! And I plan on supporting congressmen Solar and senator Wind the next election and... WAIT!, No Ma, really I'll..., I'lll....)

Interesting story...I hardly pity the programmers, who had a "mere" six-figure income.

Illustrates, though, that as descent continues individuals and groups will increasingly be on their own and desperate to obtain a piece of the shrinking pie.

Nevertheless, Wall Street's finished. If it's not abundantly clear now, it will be in 10 years. America's short experiment in fiat currency is coming to a quite inglorious end.

Interesting story...I hardly pity the programmers, who had a "mere" six-figure income.

Once income gets comfortably above basic needs, it becomes a status thing. The fact that these guys co-workers are making ten times as much can be pretty tough to handle. Especially as the traders are intellectual lightweights compared to the math superstars doing the programing. My former work buddy is right now on a plane to London to take one of those "programming" jobs. When he entered college he had been rated number seven in the country in national math test (India -not an intellectual backwater like the US). So these are the sorts of people that are doing the technical grunt work for the masters of the universe.

The fact that these guys' co-workers are making ten times as much can be pretty tough to handle.

Well, if he is so smart and wants more money, why doesn't he jump careers and get a trading job? If he can program for it, surely he can just do it? Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no-one wants to die ...

Energy-conscious riled by stores that leave doors open and A/C on

Christopher Moline was spending a sweltering afternoon with his son Nicholas at the Bowie Town Center mall when he noticed that the doors of Rave clothing store were wide open.

The cold air rushing from the store was refreshing, but it also made his temperature rise as he thought of all the wasted energy.

"I don't know about most folks," said the 42-year-old Bowie man, "but my father always told me to close the door so we wouldn't be heating or cooling the outdoors."

Leaving the doors open while running the air conditioner can increase electricity use by 20 to 25 percent, according to one power company's estimate. The amount wasted depends on location, weather and humidity.

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/31/AR201007...

Best hopes for more curbing this wasteful practice.


HRH The Prince of Wales on 'practical' sustainable living

There are, in fact, endless possibilities to consider – such as recycling bath water onto the garden in the summer, or turning old curtain material into what could perhaps become a series of fashionable bags – things I am doing myself.

Odds are that the butler is the one emptying the bathwater on the roses.

He doesn't even put the tooth paste on his own toothbrush for Chrissakes! I just can't wait for Charles' line of fashionable bags to come out. And is the Royal Family sustainable? Don't think so.

I kind of feel bad for Prince Charles because he's duty-bound to live the opulent life of a royal. I get the sense he genuinely cares about the environment but he's doomed to be a hypocrite by his role, unlike someone like Al Gore who is more than capable of powering down if he wanted to.

From the BBC ..."The American journalist HL Mencken famously described the 1936 abdication crisis as "the greatest story since the crucifixion". For the 36 year-old Duchess of York it was an earth-shattering event which propelled her from relative obscurity to become Queen Empress, reigning, with her husband, over 600 million subjects.
When King George V died in January 1936, the romance between his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VIII, and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, whom he had first met in June 1931, was well known in Royal circles.

When he succeeded to the throne, the young and popular King had to choose between his lover and the crown. The major political parties and the Church of England made it clear that marrying a divorcee was out of the question.

The cabinet presented the young King with an ultimatum: give up Mrs Simpson or renounce the crown. He would choose the latter.""


There is always a choice in this life.

Power Down. It's the best choice we can make now.

The American journalist HL Mencken famously described the 1936 abdication crisis as "the greatest story since the crucifixion

I normally would admire HL Mencken, but the Edward VIII Abdication Story is as boring as bat-sh*t, it seems to me. A bunch of pampered royalty - all of whom accrue wealth, privilege, and status on the basis of absolutely no talent at all, but just the luck of the draw. The Bolsheviks had the best solution.

Hollywood is full of precious, pouting darlings of modest talent, and always has been, but at least they had to catch a Greyhound, do a few acting classes, and maybe pleasure the odd producer or two.

There is always a choice in this life.

This is correct. When the ultimate collapse does arrive, sometime within the next two decades, there will be plenty of choices to be made. One choice will be whether to stay in the city and fight over scraps of food or to head for the countryside... and fight over scraps of food.

Ron P.

Okay, you decide whether to stay in the city or head for the countryside and fight over scraps of food. I'll try to make up my mind whether to have elk sausage or bison steak for dinner. I had elk sausage the last two nights so I think I'd prefer bison steak tonight. And I've got enough greens from over on the other side of the continental divide to make up a nice salad to go with it.

Just stay out of the mountains. I'm in a really good defensive position here. I hold the high ground.

They'll probably be fightin' over sandwiches long before another 20 years...PB&Cs (peanut butter & crude)...