Drumbeat: August 2, 2010

Buying gas to fuel Gulf oil sales

Maximising oil exports from the GCC will hinge on the region importing more gas, the Scottish consultancy Wood Mackenzie says.

Wood Mackenzie has belatedly realised what makes Gulf residents hot and bothered: a lack of gas to power air conditioners and electric fans.

Calling the situation “ironic” in a region with the world’s biggest concentration of crude oil and natural gas, the firm concludes that leaving the situation as it is would result in 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil being diverted from the export market by 2030 to meet regional electricity demand.

Kunstler: Skidding Toward Fall

This economy has a destination for sure, but it's not in the direction where all eyes are trained in moist hopefulness: that glimmering horizon of longed-for growth. You will not get that kind of growth -- the kind that increases the overall wealth of the organism in question. A few people will make more money than they did before, but overall we are in an epic contraction. More people and organizations will go broke than will thrive. It will seem very unfair.

Insurance firm agrees to pay $20 million ransom for ship

JEDDAH: The owner of Al Nisr Al Saudi ship, which has been hijacked by Somali pirates, said the insurance company has agreed to pay a ransom of $20 million to win the release of the ship and its 14-member crew — 13 Sri Lankans and a Greek.

Huhne and the atom-splitters

CHRIS HUHNE, the Lib Dem energy secretary, was on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, talking about one of the biggest tasks facing the government: what to do about the twin problems of tough carbon-emission targets and the looming crunch in electricity generation (the interview starts from 40 minutes in). Despite his well-known personal distaste for atom-splitting, he stayed resolutely on-message: no technology would be favoured, he said, but all would be welcome, including nuclear power. That means no subsidies or special treatment; investment decisions would be left to markets. The most the government is willing to do is guarantee a minimum carbon price, which should boost all low-carbon technologies equally.

All very admirable, but such talk doesn't go down well with the nuclear men, and there is plenty of lobbying going on behind the scenes to try to water down the government's approach.

Could Spot Uranium Prices Reach $100/pound?

Energy Guru Bill Powers Forecasts Uranium Shortfall in Three Years. Bill Powers focuses on investment opportunities within the Canadian power sector, mainly independent oil & fuel companies and now uranium firms. We talked with him and he thinks uranium could reach $100/pound this decade.

Bill McKibben & Lester Brown to speak at Warren Wilson College series

Environmental heavy-hitters will speak at Warren Wilson College “Sustainability” speaker series, according to a college announcement: FREE & Open to the Public

The fallacy of growth in a finite world

In the short term, growth supports families, relieves social pressures that produce conflict and crime, pays for amenities such as the arts, offers opportunities for entrepreneurs and makes some of us exceedingly wealthy.

But growth is also an addiction. And, like most addictions, it threatens to destroy us. Not only does it clog our freeways, but it also paves farmland, wipes out open spaces, saddles taxpayers with ruinous development costs and crushes the quality of life that attracted us to our communities in the first place. Growth sucks irreplaceable resources out of the earth. It dumps poisonous pollution into our environment. It crowds out the planet's other species and utterly fails to deliver the human happiness it promises.

ANALYSIS - Iran sanctions could add to gasoline glut

(Reuters) - The impact of disrupted Iranian fuel supplies following tough new sanctions is likely to hit gasoline markets after the peak summer season and could also stoke volatility on international futures markets.

Volumes of gasoline sailing into Iran in July fell far below the seasonal norm, trade sources said, after the European Union and the United States implemented sanctions specifically targeting Iran's oil and gas industry.

Any refined products it cannot import could be reoffered at discounted rates, dealers said.

Oil Climbs to Three-Month High on Outlook for Chinese Growth

Oil rose to the highest level in almost three months as China’s economic outlook and advancing equities reassured investors the global recovery is on track.

Crude oil headed toward $80 a barrel in New York on speculation that China’s government will reverse policies aimed at slowing growth in the world’s largest energy user. Indexes of Chinese manufacturing dropped to the lowest level in more than a year, two reports showed today. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.3 percent. Crude also climbed as the dollar weakened.

Hedge Funds Boost Natural Gas Bets First Time in Six Weeks

Hedge funds increased their bets that natural gas prices would rise for the first time in six weeks after hotter-than-normal weather stoked air-conditioning demand.

FACTBOX-BP's suit and rebuttals by ex-fuel oil staff

(Reuters) - BP Singapore, a unit of BP Plc (BP.L), filed a lawsuit at the Singapore High Court on July 5 for breach of contract against six former senior staff on its global fuel oil and Asia bunker teams, court documents showed.

In response, the six alleged that the resignations of around 20 staff were due to policy changes and tightening controls on trading that led to their roles being diminished and restricted, while their bonuses were reduced, filings showed.

Deutsche Bank Hires Ex-BNP Banker Hayashida to Expand Japan Fuel Hedging

Deutsche Bank AG hired Takashi Hayashida, the former head of commodity sales of BNP Paribas in Tokyo, to meet rising demand from utilities and manufacturers for hedging fuel against price swings.

Formosa Seeks to Defer Imports of Crude Oil, Naphtha After Plant Accidents

Formosa Petrochemical Corp., Taiwan’s only publicly traded oil refiner, wants to defer some imports of naphtha and sour, or high-sulfur, crude after two accidents at its Mailiao plants last month.

“Our storage tanks are full,” spokesman Lin Keh-yen said by telephone in Taipei today, declining to give details.

South Korea, U.A.E. to Cooperate on Energy Exploration, Stockpiling of Oil

South Korea and the United Arab Emirates agreed to cooperate on energy exploration and stockpiling of crude oil, deepening ties after the Asian nation won a $20 billion contract to build nuclear plants in Abu Dhabi.

PetroChina to Shut Half of Oil Processing Capacity in Lanzhou to Fix Fault

PetroChina Co., the country’s second- biggest oil refiner, plans to shut almost half of the processing capacity of its Lanzhou plant next week to repair a fault at a secondary unit, a refinery official said.

The plant’s 3 million metric-ton-a-year catalytic cracker will be closed for about 15 to 20 days from Aug. 10 for repairs, the official said by phone from the refinery, declining to be named because of company rules. The plant will shut its 5 million ton-a-year crude distillation unit accordingly, he said.

PetroChina Restores About 10% of Oil Output at Northern Field After Floods

PetroChina Co., the nation’s largest oil producer, restored about 10 percent of its daily crude production at Liaohe field in northeastern China after heavy rains shut more than 1,500 wells.

Operations at 150 wells had resumed as of July 29, restoring output of about 500 metric tons a day, parent China National Petroleum Corp. said in its online newsletter today.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Libya

(Reuters) - An unpredictable succession, suspicion of foreign influence, diplomatic rows, policy uncertainty and the lingering threat of social unrest all pose potential risks for investors in oil-producer Libya.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Kazakhstan

(Reuters) - An intensifying succession struggle among Kazakhstan's political elite and the government's increasingly tough stance on foreign companies have fuelled investor concerns in Central Asia's biggest oil producer.

Kazakhstan, the world's largest uranium miner and home to the biggest oil discovery in 40 years, has attracted more than $100 billion in foreign investment since it gained independence in the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

50 pct of gas from Iraq fields for export-official

(Reuters) - Up to 50 percent of gas from three fields Iraq plans to offer for development will be available for export, an Iraqi oil ministry official said on Monday.

Iraq plans to hold an auction on Oct. 1 for the three fields, Akkas in the western desert, Siba in the southern oil hub of Basra, and Mansuriyah in eastern Iraq.

A Benchmark of Progress, Electrical Grid Fails Iraqis

From the beginning of the war more than seven years ago, the state of electricity has been one of the most closely watched benchmarks of Iraq’s progress, and of the American effort to transform a dictatorship into a democracy.

And yet, as the American combat mission — Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the Pentagon’s argot — officially ends this month, Iraq’s government still struggles to provide one of the most basic services.

Obama to set course for changing Iraq mission

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will set a course Monday for the nation's changing mission in Iraq as the military prepares to end its combat operations there.

In a speech at the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Obama was to address the progress being made to meet his deadline of drawing down all combat troops by the end of the month.

Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced his new war plan for Afghanistan last year, the centerpiece of the strategy — and a big part of the rationale for sending 30,000 additional troops — was to safeguard the Afghan people, provide them with a competent government and win their allegiance.

Eight months later, that counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success, as demonstrated by the flagging military and civilian operations in Marja and Kandahar and the spread of Taliban influence in other areas of the country.

Instead, what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Thunderstorms Nearing Caribbean Sea May Develop Into Tropical Depression

A weather system nearing the southeastern Caribbean has a 90 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said.

New Silk Road Built by China Connects Asia to Latin America

The high-speed rail link China Railway Construction Corp. is building in Saudi Arabia doesn’t just connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. It shows how Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America are holding the world economy together.

Gulf crews prepare for 'static kill'

NEW ORLEANS — Engineers on the Gulf of Mexico hoped to begin a plan by Monday evening to shove mud and perhaps cement into the blown-out oil well at the seafloor, making it easier to end the gusher for good.

The only thing keeping millions more gallons of oil out of the Gulf right now is an experimental cap that has held for more than two weeks but was never meant to be permanent.

Kuwait denies report BP asked it to raise stake

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund said on Monday that BP Plc had not asked it to raise its stake in the company to three percent, denying a local newspaper report.

"The Kuwait Investment Authority did not receive an offer from BP to increase its stake," KIA said in a statement.

BP Spill May Cost Gulf Coast Homes $56,000 Apiece in Value

Gulf of Mexico coastal homes may lose as much as $56,000 each in value as buyers shun areas marred by the worst oil spill in U.S. history, according to CoreLogic Inc.

Gulf’s recovery may rest with marsh grass

“Many of us are much more worried about the marsh than we are about fish and shrimp and all that,’’ said Denise Reed, a wetlands expert at the University of New Orleans. “If those plants die, they don’t come back. And the marsh is gone.’’

Green activists out to prevent BP oil drilling off Shetlands

Environmental campaigners today called on the Government to halt BP plans for deep drilling off the Shetland isles in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

The oil giant wants to drill to depths of 4,265 feet in a field 60 miles west of the islands, and the operation is due to begin in October subject to government approval.

Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on deep sea drilling like that imposed in the US - a measure that ministers have so far ruled out.

Garbage islands threaten Three Gorges Dam

BEIJING — Thousands of tons of garbage washed down by recent torrential rain are threatening to jam the locks of China's massive Three Gorges Dam, and is in places so thick people can stand on it, state media said on Monday.

Chen Lei, a senior official at the China Three Gorges Corporation, told the China Daily that more than 3,000 tons of trash was being collected at the dam every day, but there was still not enough manpower to clean it all up.

India's Three Biggest State Oil Refiners Seek One Year of Ethanol Supplies

India’s three biggest state-owned refiners are seeking one year’s supply of ethanol, used in the production of cleaner-burning transport fuels.

Indian Oil Corp., Bharat Petroleum Corp., and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. want to arrange cargoes for 12 months starting Sept. 1 of ethanol produced from biomass, including sugarcane, corn, cassava, bagasse and other agricultural waste, according to an advertisement in today’s Economic Times.

Uranium Looking Bullish Again?

In addition to finite Cold War supply, uranium has its own version of the “peak oil” profile. Virtually all the cheap and easy uranium deposits have been tapped. As with crude, what’s left are the hard and dangerous deposits located in politically unstable parts of the world, like Kazakhstan and Niger. This is another factor that could push uranium prices higher.

Turbines Too Loud? Here, Take $5,000

IONE, Ore. — Residents of the remote high-desert hills near here have had an unusual visitor recently, a fixer working out the kinks in clean energy.

Patricia Pilz of Caithness Energy, a big company from New York that is helping make this part of Eastern Oregon one of the fastest-growing wind power regions in the country, is making a tempting offer: sign a waiver saying you will not complain about excessive noise from the turning turbines — the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the future, advocates say — and she will cut you a check for $5,000.

State Senate campaign heats up over solar power

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a narrowly focused energy bill for debate last week that left solar power advocates on the sidelines. The issue, however, remains a hot topic in California's competitive Senate race.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and her Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, say they support expansion of California's solar and wind energy industry and the jobs it would create, but they offer sharply contrasting views on how to get there.

For Pocono, Solar Power and Safety Improvements

Pocono Raceway, carved out of a former asparagus farm 40 years ago, became what it says is the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility.

Policymakers recognise peak oil threat, now they need to deal with it

Most officials in both Europe and the UK still believe peak oil is a problem the markets will solve. That's a dangerous game to play with our energy supplies.

GE and EDF Partner on “Treasure Hunts” to Improve Energy Efficiency

As many energy experts wring their hands and fret over peak oil or debating the scalability of alternative forms of energy, estimates suggest that Americans can reduce their energy consumption between 20 and 25% by adopting cost-effective energy efficiency methods alone.

The Land that Feeds

GREENWICH, NS—A proposal to rezone 380 acres of active farmland in the hamlet of Greenwich, Kings County, has raised public concern over food security, cultural history, and sustainable community-planning in Nova Scotia’s fertile Annapolis Valley.

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

A richly detailed, engrossingly readable history of how Britain came to be the way it is, Turned Out Nice is also a riveting description of what Britain is likely to become. The future Kohn presents is robustly grounded in science, and disturbing. Increased risk of flooding in London and other cities, peak summer temperatures in the capital nearly 7°C hotter than they were in 2000 and inequalities widening further as environmental migrants end up in an expanded servant class - these are only a few of the unsettling changes he anticipates.

The global picture is no less discomfiting. As Kohn writes, "The standard scenarios all confidently expect that wealth will grow along with warmth." In reality, economic development has never been smooth. The growth of wealth has been disrupted regularly by war and revolution, and the rapid recovery that occurred after many 20th-century conflicts will be harder to achieve in a world of accelerating climate change. The conventional wisdom expects that the population will level off around nine billion as a result of higher living standards spread by globalisation. Kohn points to another scenario, in which industrialisation continues while globalisation goes into reverse. In a world of this kind, living standards will rise more unevenly and human numbers will increase to roughly 15 billion.

Is biochar the answer for ag?

Scientists demonstrate that biochar, a type charcoal applied to soils in order to capture and store carbon, can reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and inorganic nitrogen runoff from agriculture settings. The finding will help develop strategies and technologies to reduce soil nitrous oxide emissions and reduce agriculture's influence on climate change.

Figueres Urges Smaller Steps on Climate Change as UN Warming Talks Resume

Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres took charge of United Nations climate talks, calling on nations to do the “politically possible” and take smaller steps rather than striving for an all-encompassing deal to halt global warming.

George Shultz challenges California to lead

Former U.S. secretary of State George P. Shultz believes it's crucial to fight global warming to protect national security.

Global warming is created by burning fossil fuel, he says, and payments for foreign oil sometimes wind up financing terrorism.

And Shultz, who's also a former Treasury secretary, thinks the nation suffers an "economic vulnerability" because of its oil addiction.

Energy reform needs a voice

Americans live in an at-worst economy, and the environment will surely take a back seat to concerns about jobs, taxes and other aspects of everyone's financial security. On top of that, those who oppose a cap on emissions have spread an extraordinary amount of hype about the costs of ratcheting back on carbon dioxide, warning that any change would blow yet another hole in most families' well-being. What such fear-mongers neglect to explain is that a carbon-based future looks even more expensive.

For now, Congress could redeem itself by passing strong energy-efficiency measures: helping businesses and households to insulate, upgrade electrical systems and lights, and replace appliances, for example. There are still huge gains to be made in what are known as nega-watts -- removing demand bit by bit from the electrical grid.

Hacking Earth against warming, scientists favor fake volcanoes

One popular geoengineering scenario is to create an artificial volcano. Thomas Wigley, an expert on climate change based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., has created computer simulations that replicate the 1991 "Mount Pinatubo effect" -- a temporary cooling period created by the launch of 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.

Climatologist sees disastrous weather in future

"Most Americans believe that we will not take steps to fix climate change until after it has begun to harm us personally," she writes. "Unfortunately, by that point it will be too late. The climate system has time lags. ... So, by the time you see it in the weather on a daily basis, it's too late to fix ..."

Her book, "The Weather of the Future," uses a broad itinerary to illustrate the threats she perceives. It predicts more frequent and more violent storms, more hot spells, cold spells, droughts, famines and huge waves of desperate refugees.

CAUTION: This is a small size sample... probably doesn't accurately represent the larger picture.

Another observation on the small business level: I'm noticing that a few investors are calling in their loans and stressing out the borrowing business. Speculation is that it's not because they need the money per see so much as they need the money in order to maintain an image of affluence.

CAUTION: This is a small size sample... probably doesn't accurately represent the larger picture.

A subjective observation.

I think that is a microcosm of what is happening at higher levels as well.

Banks may call a loan not necessarily to maintain an image of affluence, but rather to maintain an image of solvency.

Speaking of insolvency, I can't beleve Greenspan this weekend said, "The financial system is broke and I see we just stay where we are,"...

The system is both "broken" and "broke" and Greenspan played a major role in getting here. So we "stay where we are," circling the bowl like a turd, early in the flush.

Oil Climbs to Three-Month High on Outlook for Chinese Growth

I've got $80.42 on my ticker. Average of International prices is $80.99. Trend over the past year or so has been towards hitting at least $90/bbl by year's end, given a steady enough increase.

Above linked article has a source stating Chinese growth will grow from 2009's 9.1% to 9.5% this year. That alone should kick things up to $90/bbl I'd think.

Oil has been a commodity laggard lately. The leader is wheat on the Russian/Ukraine drought news.

Here's the scary looking wheat chart:


Wheat appears to be dragging up corn and soybeans.

Trend over the past year or so has been towards hitting at least $90/bbl by year's end, given a steady enough increase.

there are trends and then there are trading bands. you could also look at the price and conclude that oil is within +/- 10% of aramco's stated target price of $ 75.

i doubt a sane person can claim that aramco doesn't have some spare capacity.

it seems to me we have a highly volatile situation here, china is either growing of shrinking, there is an excess of iran bound gasoline, floating storage is shrinking ? and the us economy is ? ?

nearly every time i see an uptick or downtick based on china's (or the u.s.'s)forecasted economy, i see weekly inventory come along and whack it down or up.

and while i have the microphone here.......

how significant is condensate production from ghawar ?

based on bp statistical reviews, aramco's oil gravity has gone from 37 deg. api in '93 to 41 deg. api in 2009. can we connect the dots ?

Sustained prices above $80/barrel should answer the question about Saudi spare capacity. I doubt they, or anyone else, would be holding back much at $80+ prices. I suspect the Saudis are already producing some of their stated spare capacity, which probably isn't anywhere near 4 million barrels per day as claimed.


I gather that as the gravity number goes up, the amount of condensates associated with the crude goes down, and that the heavier crude becomes more expensive to process;but I know next to nothing else about the significance of this relationship except that it is a measure of total energy recovered from a well or field and the c plus c is a number often used as a measure of overall liquids or liquid fuel production.

I'm sure there are others besides myself who would also appreciate a bit of elaboration in respect to these changing degree numbers;thanks in advance.

the gravity of ghawar arab d crude is, i believe, 35 deg. api and makes up or has made up maybe half of aramco's production. condensate will have a higher gravity, as high as 65 deg api. so if the gravity of aramco's production is increasing, the fraction that is condensate is also probably increasing.

api gravity has an inverse relationship with specific gravity. water has an api gravity of 10 deg. and the conversion is:

sg = 141.5/(131.5 + api), so you can see that an api gravity of 10 would result in a specific gravity of 1.0.

this is the basis of converting bp's data to api gravity, since annual production is reported in both tonnes and barrels.

and the source of the condensate is not the ghawar arab d as some have claimed or assumed or otherwise misinterpreted, but the ghawar permian khuff, of which there could be a ----load.

It would be reasonable to expect a long term gain in the price of oil on the plateau and downslope of the oil production curve, if economic events unfolded more or less smoothly.

I’ve even said a few months ago that since we are at or near peak oil, minor changes in demand and supply should have large effects on prices – and unless our data points are wrong, we should see $100 oil soon.

However in short run, inventory accumulation and liquidation can and has pushed prices up and down rapidly.

Since we are at the tail end of liquidating just about all the oil stored on floating tankers (based upon very recent reports a large number of tankers suddenly available for hire), we are probably at the low end of the current price range.

Granted if and when the price gets back to about $100 there will be some negative feedbacks on the economy which will reduce demand. But based upon available information about current oil demand from the US, India, and China, world demand probably exceeds the expectations of the EIA and IEA for 2010. While inventories in the US are on the high, the reverse is reported in Europe, so it won’t take very long to find out if I am right – or if there is something missing in our analysis of oil supply and demand.


I think world demand for oil will be somewhat less than you suggest over the next year due to slow economic growth. China has a collapse in real-estate prices, and I think that will put China into a recession in less than six months. I think economic growth in the U.S. as measured by real GDP will be only about one percent over the next two quarters, in contrast to the official estimates of more than double that amount of growth. Thus I expect weakness in demand for oil for the rest of the year.

When it comes to supply, it is good to remember that OPEC almost certainly does have some excess capacity at this time. I doubt that it is as high as the 6 million barrels per day that is claimed, but as a WAG maybe the true excess capacity is about half that. This excess capacity will tend to keep production levels up, because there is a tendency for OPEC members not to adhere to agreed quotas for production but to cheat on them.

Thus my own guess for the next significant move in oil prices is that they will gow down to about the $60 per barrel level.

Over the longer term, I do agree with your analysis, especially about the extreme volatility of oil prices in times to come.

Actually I do agree with your forecasts that US growth will slow the rest of the year, but for various reasons the total demand for oil is growing faster than GDP. This follows a few years when oil demand fell faster than GDP.

There may be a similar trend around the world, that is demand for oil has bounced backed faster than what may have been predicted looking at GDP alone.

I do not expect this kind of bounce-back in world oil demand to continue at this pace for very long, but right now it doesn't look like the world has very much in excess supplies - so small changes in supply/demand could result in unusual changes in price.

Of course if oil demand does not grow as fast as I expect in 2010, the price could correct downward.

The question of OPEC's excess capacity is a mystery wrapped in an enigma; I don't make a claim to knowledge, only a WAG that is significantly more excess capacity than you believe exists. Time will tell on this issue.

I think oil demand will grow about as fast as real GDP grows--probably not faster and possibly even slightly slower. My conjecture is that global economic growth is slowing very significantly, and in China I expect a drastic downturn over the next six months.

Where we agree is more important than where we disagree: Small changes in either supply or demand can result in large price fluctuations. Additionally, speculation is a wild card that can turn either way--on a dime--in oil markets.

Over time, the price of oil (and other fossil fuels) will rise, but these rising trends will be limited by the tendencies of economies to turn down as oil goes up toward a hundred dollars a barrel. Indeed, for the next few years $100 to $120 may be an upper bound on oil prices, because higher prices will swiftly produce a more or less severe recession. I don't think the rise in oil prices over one hundred dollars a barrel was the main factor causing the last recession, but I do think it was one significant cause of the economic downturn.

and I think that will put China into a recession in less than six months.

I don't think I have read anything more significant for a long time.
Would you care to put more meat on the bones?

The collapse in Chinese real estate has been widely reported, e.g. in several Wall Street Journal articles. What are the implications of this bursting of the Chinese real-estate bubble? I think the results will be similar to those that happened in the U.S. after the bursting of our housing bubble--but possibly worse in China. In China it was typical for people to borrow money for a down payment at high interest. In a recent article it was stated that there are apparently (for lack of an electrical hookup) 64 million vacant housing units in China.

China is not exempt from capitalist booms and busts. Thus I expect recession--with a decline in real Chinese GDP--within six months.

Here in Vancouver, gasoline prices at the local Chevron station are C$1.194/litre this morning. At the present currency conversion rate, this works out out to US$4.41/gallon. This price includes a Metro Vancouver Transportation Authority (Translink) tax of $0.15/litre and a carbon tax of $0.045/litre plus a bunch of other taxes.

Yet nobody's complaining and there are no articles whatsoever in the mainstream media about "gouging at the gas pump". The big part about this non-reaction is that gas has been above $1.00/litre for most of this year. Also, I think a lot of people remember the summer of 2008 whe prices went above $1.50/litre. Today's price seems cheap by comparison.

Frugal, I have seen it at C$1.201/litre at times in Vancouver, including last week. These are the highest prices since the 2008 crash--kind of amusing considering recent news articles about cheaper energy prices (and reduced price-inflation) in Canada, and dropping fuel prices this summer for some parts of the continent. I am in Seattle right now, and regular is around US$2.93-$3.22/gal around here, with diesel around $3.30-$3.35/gal.


In southern California the price for premium unleaded (91octane) has been steady at about US$3.30/gallon.

Currently the federal tax is 18cents/gallon, and the California tax is the same, at 18cents/gallon.

I do not think the taxed amounts have changed in years....

Early on in this fiscal crisis, California failed by one vote (all Nos were Republicans) to raise the gas tax by, first 12 cents then a nickel.

A super-majority (2/3rds) is required to raise taxes in California. So simple, reasonable measures fail and so does the state.




I've read your posts about your neck of the woods with great enthusiasm over the years.

However, California is my state. And as a resident, I can guarantee to you that the 2/3rds rule is the greatest rule ever invented. All the state would do with the money is...

1. Build more roads.
2. Hire more government workers.
3. Spend it on something else before it was even collected.

It is best if the state has to do what EVERYONE else around here, and probably everyone where you are, are having to do. And that is learn to get by on less.

In a Post-Oil world, we will not need more roads, more government, and more 'other'.

I'm not some psycho tea party guy. Quite simply I need more tools, seeds, solar panels, inverters, land, learning, and plenty of 'other' of my own. It would be best if they let me keep-save whatever I can make these days.

So in conclusion, let me ask a few questions for your consideration. How much further to the right do you think the peak in peak oil moves with an additional 12 cent tax? Do you think any of that 12 cents would ever go to enhancing rail service or renewable energy?

It is really intersting how people with very different points of view end up with similar conclusions.

We will not need more roads, more government and more 'other.'

We are seeing quite a bit of frustration. And not inconsiderable spin from both political parties in power in the US. The people are frustrated that nothing has changed. They see inherent unfairness, and react the way that all primates do, with anger. Spinmeisters try to refocus that anger through use of fear. In 1930s Germany, they found a scapegoat, and we all know the results. Today my fear is that we find new scapegoats instead of looking at the real problems.

I am not sure that we won't need more government than we want as the slope steepens and we slide ever faster toward, what? Decline or Emergency? Having minored in History, I have a small grasp of what has gone on in the past, and I am not encouraged. Right now we have various rejection of facts: disbelief, distain, hostile rejection, and general denial. While the so called stages of grief have been largely discredited, there is a grain of truth. Will we later see anger, dispair, and eventual acceptance. Will acceptance arrive too late? Again, based on past history, not a good prospect for homo sap.

I am afraid that I have already waited a bit too long for a large part of what I would now like to do. I only came to the party a bit over 2 years ago, you see, and did not fully appreciate the severity of the problems, nor the difficulty of addressing them. What began as a way of educating myself on one of many converging crises has become an overriding consideration to all others.

Full disclosure: I voted for Prop. 13! And, I would do it again. But not for the same reasons that the tea party would.

Best wishes for a steady state in California.



I lived in California at the time, and I too voted for Prop 13. Here's why:

By the time Prop 13 finally came along, my aunt had been forced out of the house she inherited debt-free from my grandparents- when the property tax rose to just shy of half her annual income! My aunt was one smart cookie too, she wasn't just on Social Security- she had a nice private pension from doing 30 years with an insurance company.

My grandfather built that house with his own hands, on land he worked hard to get paid free and clear before he retired- oceanfront. It was the family treasure, the American Dream realized. It was paid for. And the government stole it from us.

No one in the family has come close since. Houses yes, but oceanfront? Never again. California can scream all they want, they got what they deserved. Two-thirds majority. Screw 'em.

California has been chock of of argumentation via anecdotal screwups. Someone spent $12,000 of food stamps at a casino, therefore we must starve the state government. Meanwhile the best school system in the country has collapsed to 49th place out of 50 states. The university system is following down the same path. Funding has been cut back so much that almost all support personel (everyone without tenure) will probably be let go. Then we have the incredibly foolish proposition system, whereby more and more of the existing revenues get earmarked for whatever sounded good in a one minute reading in the voting booth. So the meltdown of the public sector continues. Oil companies get to enjoy paying zero royalties.

Alan is right. Prop 13 not only broke us financially, it left us with a dysfunctional government. A total disaster all the way around.

Prop 13 was the wrong remedy for the problem. The problem: basing payment for necessary government services on real property taxes. These taxes, historically, came from the day when America was agrarian, and a man's land holdings was an indicaiton of his potential income or production. Today, most real estate taxes (at least for the Prop 13 considerations) are homes, and have nothing whatever to do with income possibilities. It is a relic of an earlier time that should have been abolosihed and all funding done by income tax.

On another day, I might discuss a realistic plan for real tax reform; one that would predicate tax on ability to pay, and place a much greater part of that on etate taxation. And, it can be done in a way that 'saves' the family business and the family farm. It can be more fair than anything that is done today, and is still hugely slanted toward the wealthy. Just not as absurdly as today.

I am working up a blog site that will have a section on such things. Since it may take three or four weeks before the first items are posted, we will leave all of that for later.

What left California dysfunctitonal was a combination of the public proposition system, narrow interest mass marketing, greedy exploitation of this, and an unfair tax system that was only half fixed...

Best wishes for a fully functional government [be careful what you wish for]


It is a relic of an earlier time that should have been abolished and all funding done by income tax.

I disagree, mostly. I think income tax is basically an attack on the working classes, and absolves the rich, because they hide their income. I prefer a wealth tax - a (small, reasonable) percentage of your assets paid annually, with the family home up to a certain reasonable ceiling exempt (so Victoria's aunt doesn't lose her house).

This would make the owners of assets (properties, shares, businesses, farms, etc) ensure they work hard enough to pay the wealth (asset) tax, and millions of lower wage earners are not slugged.

And those who hid their income can't similarly hide their assets?

No, I believe that the abuse of Income Tax and the disparities of Corporate Loopholes in taxation are the targets to fix, not just running away from the 'concept of income tax' because the wealthy have found ways to sneak out of it.


So do I take from that you both support the long-term, aggressive, and successful shifting of the tax burden - from the wealthy to the working and middle classes? All right then ... so be it, if that's your gig.

I see things another way. I would rather tax wealth, assets (a huge proportion of which are inherited rather than earned), and to some extent consumption also - although it tends to be too regressive if designed badly.

From: Hacking Earth against warming, scientists favor fake volcanoes

One popular geoengineering scenario is to create an artificial volcano. Thomas Wigley, an expert on climate change based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., has created computer simulations that replicate the 1991 "Mount Pinatubo effect" -- a temporary cooling period created by the launch of 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.


W.T.F. who did they poll I wonder, BP execs?

Hey maybe we could toss mentally deficient scientists and politicians into the artificial volcanoes as a sacrifice to appease the artificial volcano gods we will create. Win, win!

Right, let's not even consider changing how we do things, that would not make any sense at all but releasing 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, so we can maintain BAU for a few more years, brilliant idea! I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Hey I know, why bother releasing it into the stratosphere, let's just dump 20 million tons of sulfuric acid straight into the oceans... They don't seem to be acidifying quite fast enough as it is. Maybe if we speed up the destruction of the ecosystems that sustains us, we die off more quickly, no more climate change problem. @#$%^&!!

I think you're missing the subtlety of this approach.

It's as if, after some particularly poor driving, your car has ended up hanging halfway off a cliff.. all they are asking is that we 'give it a good down-shove on the BACK BUMPER'.. see? That should help the car appear to come BACK away from the precipice again, and be at a much less scary angel. For a second or two anyway..


(Did I say 'Scary Angel'? .. I did mean to type Angle, but I sort of like it that way.)

When geoengineering is discussed as an answer to global warming, it is usually as an alternative to doing anything about halting the rise of greenhouse gas concentrations, but if this is not tackled then progressively more of the solution will have to be applied over time to counter the increasing warming effect. There seems to be an assumption that a single fix will be enough. Never mind the potential for unforeseen nasty side effects.

I used to think these approaches were crazy, but now I think of it as getting something done without needing buy in from millions of people.
I really don't believe that the US congress or any other western government will do something that meaningfully slows CO2 output, it will cause too much pain for them to get re-elected. I like electricity, I like driving a car, I like having food delivered to the store I shop in.
I'm not sure how to take that away from millions of people -
but to do these crazy things, far fewer people need be involved, - for me this is the main advantage of these crazy plans.

I think we need to figure out just exactly what happened to Venus before we start doing any geoengineering stuff.

I used to think these approaches were crazy, but now I think of it as getting something done without needing buy in from millions of people.

I hear you. We are desperte to do something, and we can't get our foolish species to play along. Also geoengineering can be deployed after climate changes becomesso strong that no-one can deny -by which time avoidance via restraint will no longer be possible. We are gonna end up trying it, out of desperation. Better to have at least done some research so we can select the least dangerous methods.

Well if things go wrong then lots of people will be involved from potential side effects like possible damage to the ozone layer. These fixes can only buy some time in the short term, they are not a solution. It's like the story of the man who, rather than clear the papers on his desk, covers the lot with a sheet of newspaper and starts again, repeating the process as necessary. The problem has not gone away, it continues to get worse.

"Is Biochar THE answer for ag?"


Is Biochar AN answer? Yes. From what I've read previously about Biochar, it has a number of positive benefits for soil quality (water retention capacity etc). But to think it's the magic bullet is ridiculous.

Wouldn't it be good if the MSM would recognise that the world we live in is complex, and therefore the solutions to our many complex problems are necessarily going to be multifaceted, and present things in that way rather than the black/white we usually see? (Or would that require them to assume their audience has a brain?)

It would also be good if we heard less about how Biochar (and all the other solutions) may one day make a difference, and more about instances where it's being actively used - less talk, more action. For example, anyone know where I can get hold of a few tonnes of Biochar to spread on my smallholding?

(And while I'm still dreaming, I'd like a pony... to quote from C&H)

'..that the world we live in is complex, and therefore the solutions to our many complex problems are necessarily going to be multifaceted..'

It's a great point to challenge.. even here at TOD I've had to ask people to repeatedly not extrapolate some suggestion for a useful approach and treat it as if it's presumed to be 'The Answer' .. that it will provide food and widescreen TV's with intelligent programming for 9-billion people living at an American level of consumption..

Moderation in all things.


anyone know where I can get hold of a few tonnes of Biochar to spread on my smallholding?

Locally, of course!

You just need to hire one of those lorrie hauled retorts to come by and convert your ag-waste to biochar.

What? They don't have those in the UK yet? Funny, they don't seem all that common on the US side of the pond either. It seems a great business opportunity in need of capital...

and for market demand. Go media!

I agree with your main point, but I can't help but cheer media on in this case. There will be problems that biochar creates, and there is no way we can make enough to sequester enough carbon to offset fossil fuels, but we could be doing so much more. Finding out the limits of biochar through bumping in to them would be a good problem to have.

I whole-heartedly agree with you about the (desperate?) hype in over Biochar (or other "miracles'). It's like my experience with newbs and renewable eneryg - once they find out the real limits and costs.

As for biochar, it may take some time (years ??)for it to become true, biolgically-mature terra preta.

Maybe innoculating a biochar/soil mix with a range of useful bacteria, nematodes and mycorrhyzae fungi would help it "mature" into a true terra preta more quickly???

More fun experiments to be done on the farm.

Biochar seems to be very good in tropical soils, because it resists very very good biodegradation. In moderate climates though there is a much simpler solution to retain organic matter in soils: ramial chipped wood (RCW). Yes, plain wood chips but made of branches, not of trunks, not burned, just ligthly incorporated into the soil. It is the lignine that does the trick. 10 times more stable humus built up than regular compost or culture residues. Check my other postings on this. Another "miracle" solution, but a lot more practical than biochar. Introduction in english on RCW: http://www.hydrogeochem.qc.ca/pages/rcw.html

Thank you very much Rebel. That sounds like a fantastic variable to add to the mix.

I put charcoal from my woodstove (about 60 lbs.) into one of my potato beds this year (about 2 months before planting). I haven't harvested the spuds yet, but the bed with the char had about twice as many weeds this year. I suppose that's a good sign?

yes it is probably is! our method of growing potatoes is done with carton board and straw and/or ramial chipped wood... put your carton on the bed (with or without weeds...) cut out a hole in it, put in a potatoe, irrigate a lot, put on straw and or RCW , at least 10 cm, the potatoes will grow through it without problems, new potatoes will be formed ABOVE the ground. Big advantage: no digging.... no weeds... no further irrigation... proper bed for further planting after harvesting...same production less work (www.rebelfarmer.org , collective garden).

Thanks again Rebel. This sounds like an experiment my kids would love to do next season.

I have a wood chipper/mulcher and have tried a bit of wood chips. I really didn't notice much in the way of a big change in the potato plants (a few) I bedded down in those wood chips.

Looks nice on the top. Easy to pull weeds but almost no potatoes to speak of.

I considered it worthless then. BUT I will try again

However those two websites you pointed to seemed to have a lot of 'advertising sheen' but very very real content on this RCW scheme.

I clicked around and found a lot some French stuff but nothing really that I could 'take home'.

Am I missing something here? How about some details instead of just WebsiteEgo adn feel good stuff?

I got piles and piles of brush and still like the idea when I tried it last year BUT one wonders about the large amount of nitrogen in the material and what must be used for amendments or additions in case of too much of the wrong nutrients.

So details would be appreciated if available on said URLs.

By Rebel Farmer I assumed a US of A web but appears there are rebels in France????

And doing rebel farming? Exactly whats up with that?

BTW my stepfathers folks were pure French. Spoke it and made the peach wine down in the Ozark Mtns of Missouri. But never saw any gardens.

In any event I have a lot of sticks to chip. I so far just put them in a pile and hope to see some results when they rot down. So far not much. But I might be doing something wrong.

I recall a story a hometown guy told me. He was traveling somewhere a ways off and stopped for some reason, to ask directions, and there was this old guy from Germany I believe who was sitting on a stump in the edge of a garden. He had a hatchet(hand axe) and was laboriously chopping a pile of brush into little sticks.

Guy asked him about it and he said...'all around you you can see I have cleared the brush and I sit here days on end whacking it into little pieces and making new and newer piles. I take the old piles and spread on my garden and so forth and so on."

The guy from home observed and told me that this old fella had the best garden he had ever seen. The old fella likely had naught else but the brush around his homestead and that is what he used. That and mostly just that and he spent lots of his time chopping it into fine pieces and eating stuff from his garden.

Where then I got my idea to try my powered wood chipper/mulcher. I wondered if anyone else had tried this.

Sureley there is more to it than just chipped wood. Maybe not.


Actually on the site of Hydrogeochem there is a wealth of links, true most of them french, The "inventer" of Ramial Chipped Wood was Canadian, dr Lemieux, of the Laval University. The best short explanation in English I know is from his pupil: http://www.hydrogeochem.qc.ca/brf/ramial_chipped_wood_2007_11_27.pdf

You can also read my blog on the rebelfarmer site:

RebelFarmer is a small European foundation, with base in France...most common exchange language in Europe is still English, but used to be French :-)

The key aspect of RCW is the lignine. It is the food of a large class of mushrooms that have dissappeared from agricultural soils but that are very benign for soil life. The first year, a large application of chips could create a lack of free nitrogen for the plants. The best is to put RCW in autumn on the land, so the peak of bacterial and funghial development is already past.

It is certainly worth while to keep on trying the use of RCW!

Is it a good sign? Depends on your goals and what you value.

I don't know, but your experience could be analyzed in the same spirit as the author of this article: Happy homestead happenstances

President Obama's electric car subsidies are snobby and foolish. - By Charles Lane - Slate Magazine

It's official: The Chevrolet Volt, the new plug-in electric hybrid car from General Motors, will cost $41,000—that's a four-seat hatchback for about the base price of a BMW 335i. To be sure, a $7,500 federal tax credit cuts that to $33,500, and electricity is cheaper per mile than gas. But barring some huge oil price spike or stiff new gas tax, it would take more than a decade to offset the higher purchase price. Some will pay a premium for the frisson of going green or being the first "early adopter" on the block. Still, this little runabout is a rich man's ride.

And that's my problem with the Obama administration's energy policy, or at least with his lavish subsidies for the Volt, Nissan's all-electric Leaf (likely sticker price $33,000), and Tesla's $100,000 all-electric Roadster: Where does the federal government get off spending the average person's tax dollars to help better-off-than-average Americans buy expensive new cars?

President Obama's ostensible goals are reducing both carbon emissions and the nation's dependence on foreign oil and creating "green" jobs. But it's far from clear that his program will actually achieve these laudable aims at a reasonable cost. And there are cheaper, more equitable policies. You might call the president's subsidies limousine liberalism—if only the cars were bigger.

It's official: The Chevrolet Volt, the new plug-in electric hybrid car from General Motors, will cost $41,000

Gives a whole new meaning to the term sticker shock, I could post a graphic but I'm afraid it would be removed as unsuitable for the children...

President Obama's ostensible goals are reducing both carbon emissions and the nation's dependence on foreign oil and creating "green" jobs. But it's far from clear that his program will actually achieve these laudable aims at a reasonable cost.

This just in: "The Onion" is going out of business, reality is no longer distinguishable from satire!

I just looked up the price for a new Ford F-250, and while I wasn't bargain shopping, I thought that $28- $44k made this a pretty hi-falutin' ride as well. I wonder how many of them are bopping around the country with a single passenger.. and how long will that owner have to wait for the fuel and maintenance savings start to justify the purchase? (Or is there an ROI calc for 'Bling'?)

Look, there's SOME truth to the statement you posted, just like the partial truth of saying that getting Solar PV on your roof is only for the Upper Set.. they ARE expensive.. and yet, how have working people gotten their 20-40K cars, their homes, their furnishings? They get loans. It's not that outrageous to suggest that there are expenses that we are simply not accustomed to (yet), but which have long-term upsides that show their actual value, not just their up-front expenditure. If the property has long term value, or even an actual payback, like Solar.. that loan makes much more sense than all those people still buying dead-end and purely depreciating stuff.

I am most certainly not advocating the use of f250 trucks as personal transportation, and only a relatively are used exclusivley for heavy duty necessary work, as opposed to towing boats and so forth.

But one thing must be said for such trucks-a stripped down model can be driven more of less FOREVER cheaper than it can be replaced with a new one.

It is not unusual for such trucks to last well past 500,000 miles with relatively few serious repairs, but of course most of them will be traded off to farmers or somebody who will only use them only occasionally after a few years, and they will become obsolete from age well before they ever actually wear out.But lots of them forty or fifty years old are still in service.

We NEED pickup trucks, but of course we probably don't need more ( my own wag) than a fourth of the trucks we actually have.

The better car magazines often include articles explaining this obsession with fancy oversized trucks-evidently the manufacturers can clear more on just one of them than on half a dozen or more small cars due to price competition in the small car segment.

Without these trucks the big three would have probably all three have gone out of business even before the recent crash,considering thier high costs..

I have two older pickups. Both half ton and Fords. One is a late 70s model that gave up long ago from disuse. The other I brought new from a dealer in 1988. It was a piece of junk. Ford had run off a bunch of lemons and was letting them go cheap at the dealers.

After a huge number of various problems and replacements I swore I would drive it til it would go no futher just to get even with it and Ford. The Ford Emblem of Quality insignia on the grill was the first to lose its shiny coating and start peeling. All the TV ads back then showed this chinzy emblem with a guy polishing it with a rag. Then bugs peeled the hairthin paint off the front of the hood. Then the oil guage never got off zero. The truck burned a quart of oil every 400 miles. The fan broke at 3,000. With the A/C the engine would die at stoplights. The tie rods in front were steel and went out around 10,000 since no grease fittings. The bed and fenders started rusting out at about 3 years of age. They are a thin skim of rust now. The tail gate handle refused to work and I finally beat it off with a hammer. The truck runs with a constant 'check engine light'. Fix it and its back again shortly. Even though a big engine it has little pulling power. Its gets about 10 mpg. The distributor needs constant cleaning of the contacts. The idle motor that is inserted in the intake manifold always has a build up of carbon and so the idle is very very rough. One has to pull it and clean with carb cleaner about every 1,000 miles. The seat covers didn't last too long either. The heater never really worked good and then mice got in it and gummed up everything.

I put in a bag of special seeds that was guaranteed to drive mice away. They ate it. Ripped the plastic open and ate it.

Just exactly HOW do those mice get inside the cab? Surely TPTB at the auto manufacturers realize this is a problem and find an engineering fix to prevent mice infestation.

I am only half way thru my list and fingers are tiring of typing.

So no Dodge. No Ford. Perhaps Chevrolet? They ALWAYS had rusted out back fenders and quarter panels. Maybe they could have somehow fixed that ya think?

I think I will roll that 1988 Ford pickup out near the back 40 and set the SOB on fire. Then let it sit as a reminder to never ever by a Ford pickup again.

Right now its now able to start and I am tired of looking at it and the other so I started looking for a good use LWB 1/2 or 3/4 ton to haul lumber ,etc.

The problem is that now most all pickups have been Yuppieized. Yes hard to find LWB pickups. Long Wheel Base. A full 8 ft bed. Almost all on the lots and for sale are Extended Cabs. Meaning a smaller bed. I really don't need to carry more than two so why are these things so ubiquitous?

Reason I think is out in the rural areas they no longer serve their original purpose. As farm trucks.

Over the last 2 weeks of looking I have only seen 1 LWB fairly new pickup.

They have managed to destroy a good product IMO. I hate those models and will not purchase one. I also detest those Ram Dodge pickups. A lot of cheap plastic and fake chrome yet cheap. They are the ones always dogging your back bumper and roaring past you as fast as the dude behind the wheel can push them.

I like to follow and old timer who is not in such a big hurray. 35 on back roads is the best speed to prevent picking up a deer. Course all the macho wantabe cowboy dudes try to drive as fast as possible and many times over the yellow line and partly in your lane.

Pickups ain't what they used to be. More flash and dash and less overall durability and worthiness. I particularly despise duallies with a sign stating "Country Boys Can Survive"...most can't. That 4 dollar Dollar General cowboy hat means nothing about surviving or about cow manure , of which I never seen any on their boots.

I know many who only drive from one coffee shop to another. Check the bed of their trucks. Pristine.

A Mainer and a Texan were trading stories, and the Texan says, "Boy, I can get in my pickup and drive ALL DAY, and never even see the far end of my property!"

The Mainer, counting his shoelaces and nodding says "Hyuh.. Well, that's OK. I had a truck like that once."

Here's the one I want. Or something like it..


"..According to several friends who have driven Sparky, the acceleration is better than a stock ICE Ranger"

'99 Ford Ranger with orig. Nimh Batts (OEM EV, not a conversion. but I'm not picky on that score)

When we are out and see one of those fancy-dancy crystal-clean pickups, on the road or in a parking lot, we put on a thick fake country accent and say "Can yew justifah theeus truck?" And then "You're o-ver-com-pen-sa-ting!" waving a droopy pinky finger...

Ought to make the first one into stickers and slap them onto driver's doors while walking past.

The argument would be that we need to kick start the technology, hoping that it comes down in price so it can eventually be sold to the masses. But it is not like EVs were invented yesterday. So, it is not clear whether the EV, in its long range form, will ever be ready for prime time. Better to invest in car free cities and towns.

Given Obama's utter failure to transform the country by cutting carbon, he is focusing on what he considers little successes with big fanfare. He needs to point to something as an accomplishment, even if it is virtually irrelevant to the scale of the problem at hand. More top down investment, just like the bank bailout. Focusing on better gas mileage and getting people out of their cars is just not sexy enough and might create the impression that people actually have to sacrifice a little to accomplish larger goals.

The only way to get elected is to perpetuate the grand illusion that we can have it all and we can have it now. Give the people their pabulum.

I compiled data on sales and MSRP; the BMW Z4 3 series has a base price of $33,150, maximum of $51,200, and had 9413 sales for March. Compare the Prius at $22,800 base/$28,070 max and 11786. This suggests that a healthy market for a $30-35k EV of whatever stripe will be there. 10k sales of Volts per month would equate to 120k yearly, twice current goals.

The article raises the disturbing notion that automakers may simply field (P)(H)(E)(V)s as halo vehicles, bringing their overall CAFE into line with new mandates while continuing to crank out the big rigs the public still has a fondness for. The Volt will need to sell sans subsidy too, or so one would think - the Fed subsidy on the Prius was dropped with little impact on sales. But it still falls into the mid range price category.

The article links to various studies on EV affordability and forecasts of market penetration, useful reading.

Sometimes I reflect that, even if things turn out hunky dory for BAU and Happy Motoring, the likely outcome will be grotesque no matter what the drive train; indeed if EV efficiency is deployed at maximum expect it to be used in whatever rig markets demand, which won't be econoboxes; think more along the lines of an F-650. Available in pink.

I would have no problem at all paying $41,000 for a 2011 Chevy Volt - if i was convinced that i could still buy reasonably priced replacement parts in 2050. But of course there is no hint that this will happen.
The 2011 will be followed by a 2012 with unnecessary cosmetic changes that will break compatibility, and parts support will extend 5 years just like all GM vehicles.

Planned obsolescence is the last low hanging fruit of lifetime vehicle energy cost, and neither governments or manufacturers want to pick it.

The next best thing is to buy the most popular small car, knowing the wreckers are likely to have parts. In B.C. the Toyota Echo/Yaris, Mazda 3, Ford Ranger, fit that description.

Good luck to anyone trying to find a Chevy Volt headlight in 20 years!

Good luck to anyone trying to find a Chevy Volt headlight in 20 years!

I doubt I'll even be around by then but if I were I'm sure I could easily retrofit any existing headlight with some LEDs for you. Though in my opinion by then the Chevy volt will be better if used as a planter for your chrysanthemums...

So far parts for my 1982 Mercedes Benz 240D are holding up.

A hydraulic line for the manual transmission (about 10% of US models) is listed but NA. I will have local shop custom make me one if absolutely required.

No color inserts for manual window winders available, or color coded hubcaps.

Best Hopes for Parts till I wear out (likely before car does), and SOMETHING to stick in the tank (30 gallons/year would be OK with me)#.


# This model is a premier choice for bio-diesel conversion. Also burns waste motor oil & ATF, kerosene, etc.

I have an anecdotal comment here - I also drive a diesel car, and a few years back I was quite interested in biodiesel. I even came to be a moderator of a group of people interested in the subject (even as my concerns about the food-vs-fuel issue were growing).

But interest seemed to drop off like a stone about 2 years ago, and there hasn't been a single posting in a year and a half.

The excess number of makes and models of cars and trucks is a travesty;it leads to the sale of excessive numbers of vehicles, the difficulty and expense of repairing them, and then thier being scrapped far sooner than necessary.

Almost four hundred bucks ! Apparently because nobody makes the exact part anymore and the supply is almost exhausted, or else the sole manufacturer knows its a replace or scrap the truck part.

Similar modules that do exactly the same job in other makes and models typically cost from thirty or forty bucks up to maybe a hundred, except in the oddball, low volume models.Parts for these models may cost five times as much as equivalent parts for very popular vehicles.

Fortunately I was able to locate a used complete ignition system for fifty bucks at a wrecking yard.With a little luck this thumb sized " no moving parts" part will outlast the truck.

The excess of models also causes a huge increase in the labor expense of repairs because the mechanic needs a lot more time and equipment to figure out the problem, and he is not likely to become proficient unless he specializes in a single make.Some mechanics find it expedient to specialize in a single system of a single make,such as the transmission or engine.

A lot of this is because of how spoiled we are - it is easier to just junk the car and buy a new one, and when times were good, people could afford it.

Look at what they did in Cuba - they somehow managed to keep those old 1950's cars running a whole lot longer than anyone here would have thought possible. I imagine they did it with little foundries and machine shops that would start replicating parts here and there. We would never bother because it was easier to junk the whole car.

A modern car is a lot more complicated unfortunately - lots of electronics and computers and all of that. This sort of stuff is far beyond the ability of a little backyard shop to replicate.

Given the apparent emergence of electric vehicles, I am torn. Having a Prius, I like the sound of no sound. Having an EV would be cool. On the other hand, I think the EV's emergence mainly gives us, and especially politicians, the illusion that they have somehow found a solution to peak oil and global warming. The power source is out of sight and out of mind. Sure, it would be better, I guess, if the EV ran on something like solar. But given the miniscule percentage of solar vis a vis our total energy consumption, it seems like we need every KW we can get to be devoted to traditional uses like lighting and firing up my computer this morning.

The current mayor of Denver, and Democratic candidate for Governor of Colorado, says we need to start weaning ourselves off the automobile. He is right, albeit a bit late with the news. It just shows how long it takes to penetrate the conventional consciousness. The EV is just a contribution to the illusion that we can solve our problems with more money and more technology.

Now the recumbent trike, even a hybrid electric one, that's something I can behind or get on.

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

by Queen

My father rode a bicycle,
I ride a bicycle,
My daughter rides a bicycle..

HER daughter will ride .. a bicycle!

Sure, it would be better, I guess, if the EV ran on something like solar. But given the miniscule percentage of solar vis a vis our total energy consumption, it seems like we need every KW we can get to be devoted to traditional uses like lighting and firing up my computer this morning.

I can run LED lights and a laptop with a pretty small solar panel.

Now the recumbent trike, even a hybrid electric one, that's something I can behind or get on.

How bout IN?


To be honest lately I've had this urge to go out with a sledge hammer and attack SUVs. Sort of like a modern day Don Quixote... It's tough to decide who is crazier, me or the people who continue believing in BAU >;^)

Those recumbent bikes are insanely dangerous.
You can't even see the riders in traffic despite those tiny pendants.
Often they ride on sidewalks where they are also a danger for pedestrians as they zip about--I've never seen them ride slowly, probably unstable at low speed.
I can only figure that the riders want to be seen to be kewl or have a secret desire to 'luge'.

They are only dangerous in an environment which is already dangerous to bicycles.

In Europe, where there is rational cycle transport infrastructure, recumbents are a significant part of the cycling mix. They are expensive, but they are generally faster and can be a lot more comfortable than the standard bike. The design of bikes was locked in stone in 1934 when recumbents were banned from bike races worldwide. They do not need teams of riders to allow 'drafting', and they had this inconvenient habit of winning races.

World speed record on a faired recumbent - 85 mph.

Those recumbent bikes are insanely dangerous.

Umm, shouldn't that be those SUVs are insanely dangerous.

Anyways I think the discussion was about brightly colored, aerodynamically shelled, solar human hybrid, tricycle recumbents piloted by sober adults... not immature arseholes like the ones driving the SUVs... My solution is to outlaw the dangerous gas guzziling SUVs and send their drivers someplace to break rocks until they grow up and accept the new world order and are deemed sufficiently rehabilitated to be allowed to pilot a velomobile.

I can only figure that the riders want to be seen to be kewl or have a secret desire to 'luge'.

No, that would be the morons who drive the BMWs and think something like the Tesla roadster is environmentally benign... These people are probably beyond redemption and should just be permanently kept in padded rooms for their own protection.

seen to be kewl

The plain fact of the matter is that most road bikers think recumbents are dorky. I don't have that feeling myself as recumbent owners value practicality above all else; coolness is the furthest thing from their mind. And I don't own a recumbent myself.

lately I've had this urge to go out with a sledge hammer and attack SUVs. Sort of like a modern day Don Quixote...

It's been over 10 years since Jeff Luers set fire to three SUVs at a dealership in Eugene, Ore., to protest America’s heedless contributions to global warming. He was promptly arrested and put on trial for arson.

Refusing to plea bargain, as his accomplice did, and with a past record that includes 30 days in jail for a scuffle with a U.S. Forest Service agent, the then 22-year-old Luers was sentenced to 22 years and 6 months in prison, the longest sentence ever handed down in America for environmentally motivated sabotage.

If you're really serious about cutting carbon emissions kill the driver of the SUV. If you destroy the SUV the owner is no doubt insured and would simply buy another one and that creates even more carbon. You'd probably do less time for murder in the event you get caught.


One might only get 12 months for vehicular homicide...

"A sleepy driver who killed a man in a Pike County traffic accident pleaded guilty Friday afternoon and received jail time.

Judge Tommy Hankinson sentenced Jamal Lavan Doaty to 12 months in jail. Doaty, of Thomaston, will serve his jail time on weekends, holidays and during summer vacation so that the incarceration won't interfere with his college education. The judge also yanked Doaty's driver's license for 12 months and ordered him not to have a personal webpage nor use a cell phone or other electronic communications device during that time."


The going rate in the UK is £300 for a cyclist:


Green energy project gives cottage country the blues
Residents fear $23-million hydro facility will destroy tiny town’s main attraction: the Bala Falls

The irony is these mini-projects set the stage for hundreds of confrontations with small communities that balk at the prospect of a power plant or wind farm upsetting their delicate equilibrium.

“Going to a system which relies on more distributed sources of generation, lots of smaller facilities as opposed to one big one, the worst consequence is you do exacerbate the potential for these social conflicts,” said York University renewable energy policy professor Mark Winfield. “Instead of trying to build one big gas facility in Oakville, you’re potentially building 100 wind turbine sites, each of which has the potential to turn into a little donnybrook.”

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/green-energy-project-gives-...

Best hopes for finding our way through the thickets.


New solar energy conversion process could revamp solar power production

Stanford engineers have figured out how to simultaneously use the light and heat of the sun to generate electricity in a way that could make solar power production more than twice as efficient as existing methods and potentially cheap enough to compete with oil.

...And the materials needed to build a device to make the process work are cheap and easily available, meaning the power that comes from it will be affordable

...And the materials needed to build a device to make the process work are cheap and easily available, meaning the power that comes from it will be affordable

Sounds like interesting technology, however after reading this PDF on it:


It is obvious that they are targeting it to be a maintainer of BAU in the sense that it is being designed to be used in centralized power production by utilities. I would much prefer to see technology that breaks the monopolistic stranglehold of centralized power.

It is obvious that they are targeting it to be a maintainer of BAU in the sense that it is being designed to be used in centralized power production by utilities. I would much prefer to see technology that breaks the monopolistic stranglehold of centralized power.

If solar is ever going to breakout beyond a small niche market, it needs to become acceptable for large scale utility and industrial deployments. Yes, panels on rooftops are great. But we will never get enough of them for the needed energy transition. The big action is in the indutrial and utility sector.

So, you gonna cut her meat for her too there, Cal?
(turning to Ismay)
Hey, who came up with the name Titanic? You, Bruce?

Yes, actually. I wanted to convey sheer size. And size means stability, luxury... and safety--

Do you know of Dr. Freud? His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of
particular interest to you, Mr. Ismay.

Andrews chokes on his breadstick, suppressing laughter.

EOS, you should try even a simple calculation before deciding that panels on rooftops are inadequate. The energy consumption density of American suburbia is less than two watts per square meter, while solar can deliver average of about 50 W/m2. There is plenty of room. The biggest opportunity is to roof over streets with solar truss systems, and could be managed at the municipal/state government level. Unless someone objects to shading pavement there will be no bad effects. Storage batteries should be located in every building, so that waste heat is available for hot water and space heating.

EOS, you should try even a simple calculation before deciding that panels on rooftops are inadequate.

I never said they are inadaquate, just that we will never get enough rooftop panels to cover say 50% of societies electrical needs. Only roughly a third of electric power is consumed by houses, making progress against the other two thirds key. There exist economies of scale for some of these technolgies, for example concentrated PV or concentrated thermal don't make sense at the individual home sized scale. We need to start adding tens or hundreds of gigawatts of capacity per year. We won't get there with home panels. This is not dissing panels. But, we seriously need solar at all scales of plant size to be aggressively pursued.

for example concentrated PV or concentrated thermal don't make sense at the individual home sized scale..

This is true of 1970's 'power tower' and trough designs, but not of the newer waveguide concentrators coupled with multijunction cells. SolFocus and Morgan Solar products are examples of high efficiency CPV systems that scale from a single panel to very large installations. Current customers are utilities because the manufacturing and maintenance expertise is still in short supply, but over time these technologies will diffuse to the municipal and residential level, and can supply enough grid-tied surplus for commercial / industrial uses as well.

All-in North American energy use is about 5kW per capita. 70% of that produces waste heat, rejected to power plant cooling and ICE tailpipes. When electric power is the input, that Carnot loss is eliminated altogether, and conversion losses are captured for heating applications (about 60% of residential and commercial energy demand is heating) so equivalent energy consumption in a solar-electric economy would be about 2-3 kW. Thats about 25 m2 of CPV panels per person.

Given the amount of manufactured junk we accumulate why is it so hard to believe we can each have a 5m square patch of solar panels, and if not on our own roof then why not over the street in front of our house?

equivalent energy consumption in a solar-electric economy would be about 2-3 kW. Thats about 25 m2 of CPV panels per person.

Given the amount of manufactured junk we accumulate why is it so hard to believe we can each have a 5m square patch of solar panels, and if not on our own roof then why not over the street in front of our house?

Given that the generally used figure per house is 1.3KW, you can see that residential is maybe a thrid to a quarter of the total. Perhaps half the rest is commercial -so they could mount stuff on flat roofs and over parking lots. The rest is industrial and is pretty concentrated. Thats where the utility scale plants are needed.
I don't think residential rooftops selling their excess to power industry will do the job. We need it at all scales. And synergies of scale mean acurrate two axis tracking systems which most CPV is don't make much sense for residential scale systems. Better to have a field full of them and a full time maintenence person.

I don't see residential scale PV reaching the same cost per peak watt as large scale (MW or more) systems. My WAG is the difference is probably a factor of two. That might be affordable for a homeowner who is avoiding retail power rates, but it just won't do for the big industrial users.

It turns out the NOAA calculated how much of the U.S.A. is covered with roofs, roads, and parking lots. Their answer: 43,480 square miles (one Ohio). If that area could produce 50 W/m2 the electrical output would be 5 Terawatts, equivalent to 5,000 new nuclear plants, and roughly 6 times more energy than Americans would use with the efficiencies I mentioned above.

BTW the study also discovered one Pennsylvania of irrigated lawns and golf courses, roughly enough, if farmed using organic methods to feed 46 million people.

If solar is ever going to breakout beyond a small niche market, it needs to become acceptable for large scale utility and industrial deployments.

I think you are right and I agree with you that that is the most likely scenario that renewables will be pushed towards in an attempt to use them as a means to continue as close to BAU as possible.

Having said that, I'm more of an anarchist and therefore a proponent of decentralization and would prefer to see a completely different paradigm evolve. My guess is that what will develop is some sort of hybrid system in between those two extremes.

The other day we discussed disruptive technologies such as super efficient PV used to split Hydrogen from water to be used in relatively small scale fuel cell based power plants such as Bloom Box that could both be used by individuals and be scaled in a modular manner for power generation by utilities. Much like computer technology is scalable from a home network to a server farm.

Just like the idea of a large mainframe distributing computing power to dumb terminals at one point has morphed into many individual processors networked together at a server farm and you can purchase as many or as few of those boxes as your needs require.

How many PV panels could the government put on rooftops for about the same money that was spent on bailouts of this and that? There are about 125 million individual homes in the US and $2 trillion would be $16000 each. I can put up a goodly system for $16K and think of all the benefits 125 million of them would be. No forget it, never happen.

There are about 125 million individual homes in the US and $2 trillion would be $16000 each.

But, the supply of panels would be overwhelmed and prices would skyrocket like oil in 2008. An industry can only expand so fast. If you want to build a lot of panels ten years from now, you got to continuously invest starting now.

Yes. That's pretty much what we would have to do.. which is pretty much the suggestion, and has been for years/decades.

Clearly, you'd have to create a program that is within the supply framework at hand, a second-prong of which is to help build production-capacity.. while that may be redundant, since a guaranteed buying program would create all the conditions necessary for any number of manufacturers to know that they can safely ramp up their output without being left swinging in the breezes, again.

So where's the 'But..' in all that? 'But it's hard?', 'But there would be opposition?' Well.. we know that. MY question is;

'But, isn't this a smart direction to push that particular source towards?'

- How is it in any way the wrong thing to do? How is this 'BB' a detriment?

With regard to the BP oil spill: As a believer in the old saying "the only stupid question is the one you don't ask"...

Why, after having installed the "cap" hardware on the wellhead with its fittings and valves, can they not produce oil from that well?

I am SURE there are plenty of very good reasons why they want to permanently kill it. Fear of damage below the seafloor? Too much pressure?

I'm just curious - after all, we know it's a rather productive well :-/

I am no expert but these reasons spring to mind.

1) The BOP on the well needs to be replaced. This requires killing the well first.
2) They have no real way of determining what state the well bore is in. It could be risky producing from a weak or not well setup bore.
3) The relief well cannot be used for production as that will be used to kill the original well. see 1 & 2 above.

I am sure the experts will give you some better answers.

Beyond any technical reason, the negative PR were BP to be seen to profit in any way from this well would vastly outweigh any value derived from the production. Too much pressure - yes, but not from the well.

What if profits from the well were devoted to Gulf cleanup and oil spill cleanup research?

Gotta hand it to Kunstler; really good essay.
The man does have a knack for the pithy synthesis.

I find Kunstler to be an ass. He makes hyperbolic statements endlessly and does not seem to think that sticking to the facts is important. He claims Obama touted the Volt would make us "energy independent".
Here is Obama's speech . . . he did not guarantee that. The Volt is just a (good) step in that direction . . . why bash that?:

Kunstler has no background in geology, no background in engineering, and no background in economics. Yet he endlessly makes really bad pronouncements in these areas. And with such an attitude of certainty despite the fact that so much of what he has predicted never happened.

I find people like Kunstler to be very bad for the peak oil issue. He's the boy who cried wolf. This is a real issue and it doesn't really help to have people that spew out acerbic fear-mongering. It just makes the peak oil crowd look like a bunch of fringe lunatics. And sadly, Matt Simmons has also reduced the stature of the movement with his ridiculous pronouncements concerning the Gulf of Mexico oil spew. I've been very pleased to see TheOilDrum.com address Matt's pronouncements with cold hard analysis. That is what is needed.

We need more Chris Skrebowskis and less Kunstlers. More facts & hard analysis and less overblown fear-mongering.

I must apologize for I didn't know PO was a movement. By god, awareness is how we are going to lick this PO problem, so I have been told by white people.

Yeah 'movement' isn't the right word. I think 'community' would have been better. It is a diverse group of people all over the political spectrum with different views . . . but all united by a common concern about PO.

Kunstler writes well, and occasionally insightfully, which is why he is admired by many. Yet he also has a strong tendency to be very hyperbolic and not stick to the facts.

Also I notice his essays, as is not uncommon on the internet, draw commenters from the hate-crowd - a few anti-semites, habitual anarchists, and the like. While I don't blame Kunstler for the writings of other people, I do wonder why he puts up with it and why he doesn't acknowledge that his doomer-ish writings are a natural draw to those who are in fantasy-mode.

$557 billion in annual energy subsidies worldwide, Saudi #1

Saudi domestic energy demand is expected to rise from 3.4 million barrels per day of oil equivalent in 2009 to approximately 8.3 million barrels per day of oil equivalent by 2028

Oil used to generate electricity in Saudi Arabia climbed 58.7% from 2008 to 2009



This sounds like a job for ELM Man! Faster than a depleting resource, stronger than domestic consumer demand!

Thanks for that link, Alan. It ties in directly with my post below.

Oil used to generate electricity in Saudi Arabia climbed 58.7% from 2008 to 2009

sorry, that statement doesnt pass the reasonability test.

from the cited article:

The IEA classifies "direct crude" burnt for power generation in an oil category it calls "other products." Saudi consumption of other products rose by 58.7 percent last year, the agency noted.

what the he11 does that mean ? i seriously doubt it means that oil used to generate electrity rose by 58 %. looking at oil watch monthly, peak ksa oil consumption increased by about 15 % from '08 to '09.

The IEA classifies "direct crude" burnt for power generation in an oil category it calls "other products." Saudi consumption of other products rose by 58.7 percent last year, the agency noted.

Elmore objects: "sorry, that statement doesnt pass the reasonability test." and "What the hell does that mean?

Obviously it means exactly what it says and it is quite obvious what it says. The IEA categorizes oil used in different categories. There would be categories for gasoline, diesel and so on. Oil used to generate electricity and perhaps other miscellaneous things is grouped under "other products". And Saudi consumption of these "other products" increased by 58.7 percent from 08 t0 09. I really don't think it is that complicated Elwood.

Their total consumption could very easily have increased by only 15 percent since their largest consumption would be for gasoline and diesel fuel. Oil for electricity was once near zero since they used mostly natural gas. They could very easily increased their oil for electricity by 58 percent and driven up total consumption by only 15 percent.

Of course there could other uses for the oil under "other products". However I would bet that the lions share of "other products" would be oil for electricity. In short Alan's statement was accurate if the article was accurate.

Ron P.

the peak for ksa consumption occurs in the summer, presumably the height of air conditioning season. so if the peak increased by 15 % how did they get to 58%. maybe there was a lot of cruising up and down ra's tannurah boulevard trying to pick up burka clad chicks in the off season?

Elwood, I think you are really misreading this thing. "Peak" oil consumption means little. How about the other months? Did they increase also? I expect they did. How much did total KSA oil consumption increase?

A 58 percent increase in oil used for electricity would be no big deal because they likely used very little for oil the year before. Even if the total 58 percent increase was in the summer, that would likely affect the total summer oil consumption very little. A 58 percent increase in oil used for electricity is totally reasonable and no big deal at all.

To give any meaning to it you would need to know how much oil was used for generating electricity the previous year. An example: If a country used 1 million barrels the year before to generate electricity then 1.58 million barrels the next year, that would be small potatoes if they consumed 100 million barrels for the entire year for everything including transportation.

You must remember that Saudi Arabia still generates the lions share of their electricity from natural gas. Now they just generate a little less with natural gas as they are now using oil to generate a small portion of it.

Ron P.

There was a WSJ article a few years ago (2007 ?) that listed Saudi oil generated electricity at 60,000 b/day average over the year.

In the overall scope of things, not such a big deal unless the trend continues due to NG shortages, population/demand growth and ever hotter summers.

Best Hopes for my memory,


Well, the stock market rallied this morning . . . the Oil went up above $80/barrel along with it. It is clear that any time the market shows an indication of recovery, oil rises along with it. And the high oil price will choke any recovery.

I think proper term for it may be "undulating plateau".

I see a different mechanism at work.

When oil was at $70, the Euro was $1.20, now the price is $80 and the Euro costs $1.30. Most of the change in oil price seems to be the dollar is getting weaker.

Same thing happened when oil was $140 and Euro was $1.50

Not saying the American Peso is the whole problem, but it is certainly a huge chunk

Headlines: Arabian Irony -- Increasing Imports to Maximize Export

The Dubai National article Buying gas to fuel Gulf oil sales describes the contents of a recent Wood McKenzie Report that makes one of the more intelligent predictions I've read in a while. Referring to rising demand for electricity and natural in the region gas the article states:

This is not news to the Abu Dhabi officials who laid the groundwork for the UAE’s nuclear programme three years ago; the Omani leaders who in 2008 proposed building the region’s first coal-fired power plant; the Kuwait authorities that imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia last year; or the Dubai residents who in 2005 warned of worsening regional electricity shortages after a citywide power cut.

All the clues are there to indicate that the Gulf region, more specifically the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), will become a net importer of LNG in the near future to avoid consuming the oil they intend to export. Internal demand for both resources is increasing rapidly as seen in the following graphs from the Energy Export Databrowser:

Expensive oil, rising populations, modern appliances. All of these above ground factors are having a major impact on demand for natural gas and the current glut is unlikely to last another decade.


Interesting arbitrage. Sell their high priced oil and import natural gas. They could burn the oil for power but it is cheaper to sell the oil and import natural gas.

Supposedly, one can determine the boundary between Iran and the various Arab states in the Persian Gulf by gas flares. The Iranians flare their gas, the various Arab states do not.

Iran and Qatar are supposedly the "Saudi Arabia's" of natural gas. And they can deliver by pipeline to the rest of the Persian Gulf, without the expense and high energy cost of LNG.

Add solar PV (maximum output a few hours before maximum demand, but the gap can be filled by smaller quantities of NG fired electricity), using combined cycle NG plants (cut NG burned by about 40% vs. cheaper gas turbine units) and some nuclear plants for base load and the problem fades decades into the future. Reduced subsidies and training locals to be energy efficiency experts would help as well.

Best Hopes for Rational Actions,


The New Abnormal

The new abnormal has given rise to a nation of schizophrenic consumers. They splurge on high-end discretionary items and cut back on brand-name toothpaste and shampoo.

Part of it is that the wealthy aren't really suffering...but part of it is a strange new world, where people walk away from their mortgages and use the freed-up cash to buy iPads and take their kids to Disneyland. Where they can't afford a new house or car, so they splurge on Starbucks lattes and iPhones.

It looks like the market for low-cost stone heads is still alive and well as we slipe down the slope to collapse.

It's funny watching a culture lose it's collective mind. It reminds me of my honey bees.

Right now they are queen-less and it is incredible to watch how quickly they colony becomes dysfunctional. Honey slop all over, pollen falling out of combs forming huge piles at the bottom of the hive. NO DEFENSIVE posture what-so-ever - I can tear down the hive and pull combs willy-nilly and the bees just bumble about, mostly ignoring me.

The majority of the hive's normal workforce is as "stupid" and absent-minded as our "new abnormal" industrial consumers.

(ordered a new queen. My hive will be in good shape by Fall, I doubt the same will be true for industrial consumers)

This is one of those things where you'd really like to see stats to see how representative the anecdotes are. I'm sure that there are people who are walking away from some debts and using the freed up money to buy more stuff. It would be interesting to know how many people have "just plain lost faith" in the bigger and intangible things. (A house's price is somewhat determined by what the estate agent says the market value is, but do I believe them? Any financial industry savings plan depends on trusting that you won't effectively lose money after new fees, fund failures and future taxes.) I wonder how many of these "schizophrenic consumers" are, like me, taking the view that at least buying small "luxuries" you've actually got something undeniable "in your hand/in your memory" rather than putting money into something that might well be nullified by future events? (I'm still not remotely a big spender, but I am spending significantly more money than I was a couple of years ago when the economy was doing well, precisely because I suspect I'll probably get the best "value" for my money by spending it now rather than trying to save it.)

I'm finding myself fixing up things around the house. Getting the maintenance items done. Trying to replace things almost at the end of their life-span with things that, hopefully, will last.

Along with that are a number of redecorating items, like replacing the vinyl vertical blinds, which are 10 years old and popping off the tracks.

Next year, new roof. I'll probably pull the money from an IRA, and take the hit on the penalties.

If I owned a house I'd be doing that. But UK house prices combined with the fact that in the past I generally had to move from university to university every 2-3 years means I don't own a house, and given the current uncertainty I'm discinclined to buy a house just now.

Try mail order double honeycomb blinds. Like adding R-4 to the window.

Contact me for details if you like.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficient choices,


Might be wise to keep our eyes on the Middle East again. President al-Assad of Syria is musing to his troops about the prospect of further conflict with Israel:


The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a new report published on Monday that the situation in southern Lebanon is both "exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous".

The group warned that a second war would be more destructive for Lebanon, and that there is a growing chance it would involve Syria.

"The build-up in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalisation, are effectively deterring all sides," the group wrote.

This "worrisome prospect" of "regionalisation" was hardly lessened by President al-Assad and Saudi King Abdullah playing nice-nice in Damascus late last week.


On the tragic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, The President and Saudi King confirmed the need for stopping the ongoing attacks which the Palestinian People are exposed to, facing measures of the Israeli occupation to Judaize Jerusalem and for uniting the Arabs and Muslims efforts to lift the siege imposed on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Forget Chinese economic robustness or American inventories, another regional war involving Israel would catapult world oil prices into the stratosphere, putting stamped paid to whatever illustrations are out there of economic recovery.

Btw, it should be pointed out that the chief export of Saudi Arabia these days isn't oil, it's Wahhabi fundamentalism - better to run the tiger elsewhere than to give it free-reign inside its own borders. There are undercurrents at play (Iran's estrangement, the Shi'ite - Sunni split, Hezbollah and Hamas) that make this situation highly volatile and unpredictable. The pre-modern Ottoman-Savafid rivalry is not ancient news in this part of the world and its contemporary counterparts are acting according to their perceived interests.

Israel, I should add, is always the lone man out in this game.

Quiet in the desert today doesn't preclude a dust storm tomorrow. $150 barrel oil overnight would be a likely result.

People reject popular opinions if they already hold opposing views, study finds

What would happen if you developed a strong opinion on an issue, and later found that the majority of people disagreed with you?

You might think that such a revelation would encourage you to rethink your beliefs. But a new study suggests people often react just the opposite: people grow more confident in some beliefs when they find out later that a majority of people disagree with them.

"It may be that you feel proud because you were able to disprove, in your own mind, an opinion that most people have accepted," said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

... Previous research has shown that majority opinion has the greatest influence on people when they consider issues that aren't that important to them or issues they don't want to spend much effort thinking about.

"If a decision isn't important, it often seems easiest to just go along with what everybody else is thinking," Petty said.

... The results suggest how would-be persuaders could strategically reveal the majority or minority status of a proposal to achieve the maximum persuasive effect.

What would happen if you developed a strong opinion on an issue, and later found that the majority of people disagreed with you?

Just ask Margaret Thatcher. Go into politics and take over the government:-)

People reject popular opinions if they already hold opposing views, study finds.

Really this is no great revelation. This should be common knowledge and any money spent on a study to find this out was a total waste of funds. Popular opinion holds that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old but I know lots of folks who believe it is exactly 6014 years old. (They believe it all began in 4004 BC.)

When people have acquired their beliefs on an emotional level they cannot be persuaded out of them on a rational level, no matter how strong the proof or the logic behind it. People will hold onto their emotional beliefs and twist the facts to meet their version of reality.
Sidney J. Harris

Ron P.

Conversely, when I look at the things most people believe, I have a hard time paying any attention to them at all. Popularity of beliefs is not much of a yardstick.

I'm sure it hangs on personality types.. but also, it would seem to be a logical part of our cultural makeup that encourages pushing boundaries, natural mutation built into the system, no less than a natural conservatism is also at work in that system.. a dynamic tension gets maintained between 'leave it' and 'change it' .. it's reminding me of something we were talking about lately.

People reject popular opinions if they already hold opposing views, study finds.

We have a variety of friends, some of which do not accept the idea the planet is warming, i.e. global warming. They were circulating an email that tried to debunk global warming, but I was able to turn the tables on every single point with links of articles that included hard data.

Did that data based rebuttal change their minds about the email they were circulating? No, not one ioda. Their response included no data, but simply reasserted their position.

It seems counter intuitive that humans, which are supposedly the smartest of all species, cannot be persuaded by data, real information vs. conjecture. I would have thought data would be king when it came to making decisions about a subject matter that has its basis in Science. But evidently not. That little experiment explained to me why it would be futile to attempt to explain peak oil to them.

why it would be futile to attempt to explain peak oil to them

Would you try to explain biochemistry to your dog when coaxing him to eat his kibbles?


Well the human brain is not constructed for rational thought.
First you must understand the system you are dealing with before you can try to change its behavior.

Recently I was watching this You-Tube video which I found insightful if not "intuitive":

Check it out.

The Boston Globe today has an article on a trend developing in Massachusetts: now people are getting into farming; new family farms are increasing in number. Training programs for would-be farmers are packed. It`s good that the state is running training programs!

And it seems that many of the the people who recently got into farming are doing O.K.

Jim Kunstler's blog included a bit that sets my teeth on edge:

This failure of credentialed and elected authorities will surely unleash the crazies as we skid toward fall. Legitimacy hates a vacuum. The absence of a reality-based consensus for action will invite a consensus based on other things such as the lust for vengeance, the labeling of scapegoats, patriotic gore, and all the alternate trappings of a politics-gone-mad.

And so, we get, President Palin??? Argh!!!!


Re: GE and EDF Partner on “Treasure Hunts” to Improve Energy Efficiency

Speaking of "treasure hunts", last Friday, we upgraded the lighting in a fast food restaurant and whilst the energy savings related to their interior fixtures are significant due to their 24 hour operation, some of our biggest gains were hidden in the exterior soffits and on top of the roof.

As a first step, we removed the metal halide lamps and ballasts from the recessed canopy fixtures and installed 23-watt mini-twist CFLs in their place – a 90 per cent reduction in demand and corresponding drop in light output, but still more than adequate for their needs. Next, we replaced the high output T12 strips in the signage that runs around the parameter of the building with low-output T8s, for a combined savings of 40,832 kWh/year. Our cost: less than $750.00 per kW of demand saved.

To be honest, I hadn't planned on touching these items but the client pressed the issue and eventually overcame my objections (mostly related to cold weather operation). The client is very pleased with the results, so I anticipate our boys will be spending a lot more time up on the roof as we apply the lessons learned in each of the restaurants to follow. In fact, with the client's blessing, we may cut the light output of the ribbon lighting by half, which will push our expected savings per restaurant in excess of 60,000 kWh per year – the equivalent of one hundred and fifty 220-watt PV panels operating an average of five hours per day. That's one whopper of sweet deal for our client.


Thanks for all you do, Paul.

Interesting comments.
Are these T12 strips OLEDs?
How successful are OLEDs commercially?
Will they revolutionise lighting as claimed?

The original lighting that ran around the parameter of the building was a combination of linear and U-bend high output T12 fluorescent driven by magnetic-core ballasts. We removed all of this hardware and installed new twin tandem F32T8 fluorescent strips powered by low-output electronic ballasts and simply ditched the U-bends. This reduced energy demand by nearly 70 per cent.

The original system (pictured above) was an odd mixture of 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 ft. strips arranged in two continuous rows with their tombstones staggered so as to minimize banding. Replacement lamps and ballasts were extremely costly and difficult to source and, consequently, maintenance was a huge headache. The new system uses a single lamp type (a standard F32T8) and one type of ballast. Lamp life is also greatly extended -- 42,000 hours versus 12,000. The savings in maintenance costs will far exceed that of the energy savings and this was the client's primary motivator. However, in the process we bagged an additional 40,000 kWh/year that we hadn't planned on, and if we use single tandem strips going forward as opposed to the dual tandems used here, these unexpected savings, as noted above, will exceed 60,000 kWh per restaurant.


Paul, you're awesome!

Thanks for continually reminding people that negawatts are the cheapest kind of energy.



Hey Paul;
As ever, this is great!

One tweedling detail question. The image is hard to answer this with, but are these white Fluoro banks all illuminating just through a red filter? Have you seen any products with banks of colored LEDs that create enough light in the right color so that there's a more efficient generation of the right light? (RED/ORANGE Leds can be very energy efficient, producing very little waste heat..)

Just wondering.

Bob Fiske

Thanks, Bob, Jon and Wharf Rat for your kind words; much appreciated.

The plastic diffusers are indeed red and a red/orange LED strip would seem like a logical choice. Unfortunately, we don't have that option available to us under the Small Business Lighting Solutions programme, so we used 5,000K lamps in their place. We just recently added LED conversion kits for refrigerator and freezer case lighting. These replacement LED strips draw either 15 or 24-watts (end and centre door strips respectively) and typically replace 135-watt VHO F60T12s (144-watts including ballast). The problem is cost -- they're still extremely expensive. However, in the case of a freezer application that might operate at -23°C, say, for every watt of lighting that you remove from inside the case, you save an additional watt in refrigeration load. Thus, these secondary savings literally cut the payback in half. As LED costs continue to fall, I expect they will be deployed more widely but, for now, price is our biggest hurdle.


What you are doing appears to be real pathbreakimg. I hope your efforts are replicated in the thousands of small businesses and the savings would be mind boggling. Keep up the good work


'Pakistanis’ Anger Grows as Flood Damage Mounts'

The official death toll remains under 800, but on Monday the minister of information in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, formerly the North-West Frontier Province, estimated the true number to be 1,500. Another provincial official said 1.4 million people had lost their homes. As much as 70 percent of the region’s livestock is gone.

Looks like Pakistan is exeriencing its own Katrina type aftermath. In both cases, US & Pakistan, it seems people overestimate the power of the government to provide assistance. Fact is most governments are over burdened with debt and are just trying to plug holes in a plethra of ongoing problems, let alone immediately respond to a major catastrophe.

It was the policy of the Bush Administration to divert aid from Democratic areas to Republican areas. It was a deliberate, cold blooded and immoral choice.

The USS Bataan (a Marine Corps Amphibious assault ship) could have been moored at either the US Navy base in the Upper 9th Ward or behind the Convention Center within 24 hours of the federal levees breaking. She had many tons of MREs, the ability to desalinate 100,000 liters of water/day, 600 hospital beds (which could have emptied the stranded hospitals) and a couple dozen helicopters.

Instead she was diverted from that plan by White House order to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where she was "under utilized" per her commander. She picked up a half dozen injured and delivered a couple of dozen helicopter loads of water and food.


to divert aid from Democratic areas to Republican areas

I suppose we are all Americans except that some are more "American" than others.

Sounded like I was defending Bush jr., but I didn't mean it to come across that way. Just a general idea that people think governments can do more than they can, when in reality that cabability is waning due to rising debt, but also, from the increasingly (expensive) dramatic weather via AGW.

For example, look at this article about fires breaking out in Russia:

'Russia admits some wildfires are out of control'

Around 10,000 firefighters, thousands more troops and tens of thousands of volunteers are battling blazes in more than a dozen provinces in western Russia. Seven provinces are still under a state of emergency.

The fires — in forests, fields and peat bogs — have killed 40 people so far and come after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. And the weather this week will not help — temperatures in Moscow and to the south and east where the blazes are concentrated are forecast to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).

A 100 in Moscow, A temperature it already hit earlier this Summer (for the first time) and is forecast to hit again. Most of this Summer in Russia has been in the 90's, but usually it never rises above the 70's.

One must wonder how much CO2 is being released from all those peat bogs that are on fire. Peat holds a lot of CO2. Could this event be an indicator we are experiencing the leading edge of runaway global warming?

Only a fool would have tried to ride out a storm of that magnitude. Face the facts, the people who stayed behind in the city of New Orleans were simply stupid.

Face the facts, the people who stayed behind in the city of New Orleans were simply stupid.

Actually they would have been fine if the levees would have held, which they were suppose to, because they were designed by such 'smart' people, right?

In fact, wasn't there a bill a couple of years prior to Katrina before the Republican led Congress to beef up the N.O. levees? I guess some really stupid elephants nixed that one. Oops!

How about the brilliant statement by Bush in the aftermath as he surveyed damage to a colleague's domicile. "Now, you know we're gonna rebuild Trent Lott's Mansion!", GWB (said with a huge smile).

Or how about Bush jr's Mother, Barbara, commenting on the living conditions of the refugees in the Silverdome. "Oh these people are fine. Look, they have everything. They're perfectly happy!" Now, that's stupid.

Yeah... it's a brilliant idea to stay behind even if the levees are going to hold when you have a category five hurricane projected to make landfall near you when you live below sea level or just above.

Only scientist in Commons 'alarmed' at MPs' ignorance

The only scientist in the House of Commons has called for all MPs to be required to take a crash course in basic scientific techniques.

Julian Huppert, a research biochemist who became the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge at the last election, said he was alarmed at the lack of scientific knowledge among colleagues.


Once again I'm reminded that some 90% of Conservative candidates at the last election "didn't believe" in AGW.