Drumbeat: August 22, 2010

Analysts warn of threat to oil price stability

The deteriorating global economic outlook and weakening OPEC discipline could force oil prices as low as US$50 per barrel within the next year, analysts say.

“We see both lower prices and a tighter range ahead but with increased risks,” Lawrence Eagles, an analyst at the US investment bank JPMorgan Chase, wrote in a recent report. “Weaker economic growth, energy efficiency and [OPEC] intransigence provide downside risks.

“If demand drops, the Gulf Trio [of] Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are likely to demand cuts from ‘leaky’ [OPEC] members to rebalance the market, but any delay in response risks a fall in prices [to] as low as $50 a barrel.”

Crude prices have defied expectations before

In contrast with the previous two years, oil prices have held steady in the first eight months of this year.

Except for minor spikes in May and earlier this month, they have seldom strayed outside a narrow US$70 to $80 per barrel price band.

Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talks

Speculation that government ministers are far more concerned about a future supply crunch than they have admitted has been fuelled by the revelation that they are canvassing views from industry and the scientific community about "peak oil".

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is also refusing to hand over policy documents about "peak oil" – the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and then declines – under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, despite releasing others in which it admits "secrecy around the topic is probably not good".

Experts say they have received a letter from David Mackay, chief scientific adviser to the DECC, asking for information and advice on peak oil amid a growing campaign from industrialists such as Sir Richard Branson for the government to put contingency plans in place to deal with any future crisis.

Comfortable to the Point of Panic

Lately, it feels as if the United States has become too comfortable, particularly in regards to the energy picture.

“Why is that?” you ask.

I'll let you decide this one.

Splashed across headlines this week has been overly-optimistic news — enough for people to sit back and relax.

Sinopec Net Unexpectedly Rises as China's Economic Growth Spurs Oil Demand

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s biggest refiner, unexpectedly posted a 6.7 percent increase in first-half profit as a rebound in the nation’s economy spurred demand for oil, gas and petrochemicals.

BP moves to remove drill pipe from capped well

(CNN) -- BP on Saturday was conducting a "fishing" operation aimed at finding and removing up to 3,500 feet of drill pipe from the capped Gulf well.

"[The pipe] is more than likely in several pieces," said BP spokesman Bill Salvin, who said the procedure will take at least two days.

Spill Fund May Prove as Challenging as 9/11 Payments

At first blush, it would seem that Kenneth R. Feinberg, the man tapped to dole out BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund, has been down this path before.

As the special master who administered the $7 billion Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, he wrestled with visceral questions of how much money each victim of the attacks was entitled to, endured the occasional emotionally charged taunts and criticisms from widows and grieving relatives, and succeeded in persuading the families of a vast majority of the victims to accept cash settlements rather than file lawsuits.

But some analysts say his new assignment could prove even trickier.

Arctic communities anxious for Harper's visit

If the weather is clear next week, possibly on the very day Prime Minister Stephen Harper drops in for a visit, whale hunters in this economically depressed Arctic Ocean outpost could watch their former and future prosperity being towed to Alaska.

The last drilling rig in Canada's Beaufort Sea is on the move, to a standby position in U.S. waters to drill a relief well in case of an oil spill.

The giant circle-shaped Kulluk, now owned by Shell, joined a dozen rigs or island platforms punching delineation holes into a promising oil basin in the early 1980s, but the rigs' number steadily dwindled as exploration and environmental logistics north of 70 degrees latitude took the shine off Arctic drilling.

"It's the end of an era," says consultant Jim Guthrie, who has monitored the boom and bust of the region's offshore industry since Dome Petroleum was a polar heavyweight. He still doesn't believe it's over for good.

Chevron Ex-Chief Executive O'Reilly Named to Saudi Aramco Board by King

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah named David O’Reilly, who built Chevron Corp. into the world’s fourth- largest publicly traded oil company, to be a board member at state-run Saudi Aramco.

O’Reilly, Chevron’s chairman and chief executive officer for a decade, will serve a three-year term on oil producer Aramco’s board, according to a statement posted on the website of the official Saudi Press Agency yesterday. King Abdullah also confirmed Khalid Al-Falih as Aramco’s president and CEO.

Iraq police, protesters clash over power shortages

BASRA, Iraq - Iraqi police used water cannon and batons to disperse protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya after protests flared over crippling electricity shortages and inadequate services, officials said on Sunday.

Unrest over Iraq’s dire public services, while U.S. troops prepare to end combat operations seven years after the invasion, has sharpened frustration with political leaders who have yet to form a government more than five months after an election.

Shell and BASF to appeal ruling on pollution in Brazil

(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell and German chemicals maker BASF plan to appeal a first instance Brazilian court ruling on health injuries related to pollution at a former pesticide plant.

Refinery workers want details on closing

YORK — Employees at the Yorktown refinery are growing frustrated at a lack of information coming down from parent company Western Refining about the refinery’s impending closure.

China closes factories as green deadline looms

An iron and steel mill lies idle after it was ordered to shut down for polluting the Xiangjiang river basin in Loudi, central China's Hunan province. China has ordered thousands of companies to close high-polluting plants, in what analysts say is a last-ditch effort by Beijing to meet environmental targets by year's end or risk embarrassment.

China, facing the risk of embarrassment if it misses a looming environmental deadline, has ordered thousands of companies to close high-polluting plants as its leadership vies to retool economic growth.

Searching for a way from the Great Recession to the 'Great Reset'

In his book, Florida compares the fallout from the financial meltdown in 2008 with the Long Depression of the 1870s and the wrenching social changes that occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

We’re not going back to the heyday of only a few years back, with booming house sales rising up our mountain ridges and people using the equity loans in their homes like piggybanks, to splurge on everything from SUVs to flat-screen TVs to cosmetic surgery.

In other words, there’s a “new normal’’ emerging, with people saving more of their hard-earned money, and civic leaders having to ask what’s going to be the best investment of tax money in our sidewalks, bridges, and highways as well as what can encourage small businesses to take root here and nurture new jobs.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

Last fall, two men with teenage sons pressed the help button on a device they were carrying as they hiked the challenging backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park. Search and rescue sent a helicopter, but the men declined to board, saying they had activated the device because they were short on water.

The group’s leader had hiked the Grand Canyon once before, but the other man had little backpacking experience. Rangers reported that the leader told them that without the device, “we would have never attempted this hike.”

Is the Ice in the Arctic Ocean Getting Thinner?

ScienceDaily — The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic will reach its annual minimum in September. Forecasts indicate that it will not be as low as in 2007, the year of the smallest area covered by sea ice since satellites started recording such data. Nevertheless, sea ice physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute are concerned about the long-term equilibrium in the Arctic Ocean.

They have indications that the mass of sea ice is dwindling because its thickness is declining. To substantiate this, they are currently measuring the ice thickness north and east of Greenland using the research aircraft Polar 5. The objective of the roughly one-week campaign is to determine the export of sea ice from the Arctic. Around a third to half of the freshwater export from the Arctic Ocean takes place in this way -- a major drive factor in the global ocean current system.

P.E.I. to get $12M for wind power

The federal government will provide $12 million for a wind power project on Prince Edward Island, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in North Cape, P.E.I., Friday.

The money will go toward a wind energy research and development park and storage system on the province's north coast.

It will study the production, operation, storage and installation of wind technology.

Harper said the energy produced at the site will meet up to three per cent of the province's electricity needs, which translates roughly as enough energy to fuel 4,000 households.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/08/20/pei-harpe...


Hydro prices 'going up like a rocket'
Homeowners should be 'outraged,' expert says, as increases take hundreds from people's wallets

Electricity prices in Ontario are "going up like a rocket," fuelled in part by the Ontario government's Green Energy Act, says a longtime observer of the province's energy scene.

"You are going to get screwed, and it's going to be painful," said Tom Adams, a Toronto-based consultant and a former executive director of Energy Probe.

"We're talking about hundreds of dollars a year out of your pocketbook that didn't need to happen. I'm livid about it. People should be outraged." Hydro Ottawa customers have already been hit with a double-digit increase this year, thanks to rate hikes approved May 1 by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and the imposition of the harmonized sales tax July 1.

A typical consumer in Ottawa who uses 800 kilowatt hours of electricity now pays $116.82 a month, including tax, according to the OEB.

That's 17.7 per cent more than the $99.35 a month the same residential customer was paying in April. Half the increase is due to higher rates and half because of the HST.

See: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Hydro+prices+going+like+rocket/3...

Best hopes for expanding our use of renewable energy, cost-effective wind energy storage and for strong price elasticity.


More show and tell about the post Peak Oil infrastructure of renewable energy in northern Iowa:

Some of the ethanol produced by the Lakota plant I talked about yesterday goes out by rail directly. But smaller lots with poor rail connections have to leave by truck. The nearby small town of Buffalo Center is home to LB Transport which is owned by The Kiewiet Group. Local entrepreneur Lee Kiewiet and family members own it and were instrumental in starting the Manly Terminal where ethanol can be brought to one spot and reloaded to form unit trains.



This operation would likely be put out of business or at least have its business reduced if an ethanol pipeline were built to the east coast.

Here is a Street View of LB Transport offices in Buffalo Center on Hwy 9.


Wind and ethanol are closely related at the Manly Terminal. Wind turbine nacelles and hubs come in by rail and are stored there. Ethanol is delivered to the terminal for reshipment..

The following picture of the terminal shows rail cars being loaded with ethanol , ethanol storage tanks and incoming wind turbine nacelles and hubs being unloaded from rail cars on the right.

Note that the trucks parked by the scale are the same LB Transport trucks shown in the Street View of their offices.

Click on the picture for a close up view of what is going on.


Here is another picture of the terminal with Top of Iowa Wind farm turbines in the background:


There are some close up pictures of Manly Terminal at the bottom of this page:


So Quebec has too much electricity and Onterio has too little.

And there is not connection between. Quebec prime minster hope to be able to sell electricty to Ontario, but interconnection is an issue.

Hi Yvan,

That's not quite the case; Hydro One has the ability to import 2,705 MW from Hydro-Québec and, in turn, export 1,945 MW.

Source: http://www.hydroquebec.com/transenergie/fr/reseau/bref.html


Hi Robert,

Actually, both have an ample supply of electricity, but the Province of Ontario has made a political commitment to phaseout its coal-fired plants. I don't believe their FIT rates have had any material impact on retail prices, at least not thus far, given that the percentage of the overall supply mix attributable to FIT is extremely small*.

The IESO's average weighted monthly costs can be found at: http://www.ieso.com/imoweb/siteShared/monthly_prices.asp?sid=md Ontario's hot summer and below normal hydro-electric production have helped push the past few months above last year, but at 3.63-cents per kWh 2010's year-to-date costs are still low by historical standards.


* Ontario's 2009 generation mix stands as follows:

  • nuclear - 55.2%
  • hydroelectric - 25.5%
  • natural gas - 10.3%
  • coal-fired - 6.6%
  • wind - 1.6% [both FIT and non-FIT combined]
  • other (e.g., biomass, solar etc.) - 0.8%

Hi Paul,

So they buy electricity from the wholesale market for three cents and sell it to residences for fifteen cents.

I got solar panel on my house. I'm so tired of hearing we can generate electricity via xxxxx for a nickel. Sure, but they don't sell it to me for a nickel. And I recognize that grid parity for solar will arrive to California and Arizona long before it gets to Onterio. I'm not suggesting solar is a solution for Onterio since I haven't run the numbers.

Folks want to criticize solar power, that's their right. Solar power is underwritten by public subsidies just like all the other methods. But let's have an apple to apple comparison.

Robert a Tucson

Congratulations on your investment in solar; excellent call. I expect wholesale prices in Ontario to continue to trend upward as the province's nuclear fleet limps into retirement, but the author is wrong to blame FIT for the current bump in rates; most of it is related to the upswing in transmission and distribution spending.



Would you hazard a guess as to hopw much retail electrical rates are likely to rise in your area over the next decade in terms of nominal money?

By this I mean including any rise due to inflation and additional taxes.

I believe my local nominal retail rate will at least double over the next decade.At some point I fully expect that additional consumption above a certain modest base number of kilowatt hours per month will be subject to a considerable tax-intended to hold down consumption and to raise revenue.

For someone contemplating borrowing money to build or upgrade the efficiency of an existing structure, this will be a key figure.

At some point, the monthly payment for the additional labor and materials can be expected to fall below the monthly savings in actual out of pocket cash.

Of course in some cases, if the structure is a bad enough energy hog, the payment might be less than the savings from the word go.

Hi Mac,

I may be overly pessimistic, but my gut sense is that rates will double over the next ten years. There is federal and provincial legislation in place that requires Nova Scotia Power to reduce its emissions (see: http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/environment/environmentalaccountability/ai...); this will be accomplished, initially, by switching to cleaner (and more expensive) blends of coal and by incorporating various pollution control measures. Currently, nearly ninety per cent of our electricity is fossil-fired, mostly coal, and all of our coal-fired plants will be phased-out at their respective retirements. Much of that power will be replaced by in-province renewables, principally wind, or by imported hydro from either Newfoundland and Labrador or possibly Québec. Either way, that electricity is going to be a lot more expensive than what we're generating now. At the same time, NSP is ramping up its spending on its transmission and distribution systems which are in need of attention.

I think Nova Scotia Power is doing the best it can, but past decisions to shift generation to coal (mostly at the behest of their political masters) has really put them behind the eight ball.


In many countries solar (and to some degree wind), get windfall level subsidies that guarantee that any idiot (and likely a politically connected one) can make money developing projects and the additional cost is bound to hurt consumers.

But other renewable sources are viable and growing with much smaller subsidies.

In Thailand, where I live feed in tariff adders for biomass and biogas range from .3-.5 Baht per kwh. Small and microhydro get .8 and 1.5 respectively.

But wind is handed 4.5 Baht/kwh and solar get 8 Baht.

This is an apple to apple comparison. Solar tariffs at this level are non-competitive, unsustainable and damaging to the broader RE industry.

Outraged, screwed and painful eh? Hmm, what about shaving a bit off the electricity usage instead? 800kWh/month is ridiculous compared to the rest of the world (but not including the USA). Should be easy to do when there's still so much to gain.

It's so easy to blame someone else when, in essence, the consumer himself is the cause (through consuming)?

Oil from plastic in Japan :


It might be economic if the electricity used in the process is from wind and the process occurs during low demand periods when there is no market for wind electricity.

It is an attractive way of storing wind energy because the stored energy is so easily used by the current infrastructure.

But EROEI believers will have a fit.

The form energy is in is more important than EROEI. Energy is not finite; a new supply arrives from the sun everyday.

The trick is to capture it and turn it into a form with high utility..

Form of energy is very important, but EROEI is still a valid concept. Recycling plastics for oil will never be able to be scaled up to anything significant.

But EROEI believers will have a fit.

I heard about these two guys who bought a truckload of watermelons in Florida for one dollar each. They hauled them to Tennessee and sold them for one dollar each. Then they decided they needed a bigger truck.

The moral of the story is there just some folks who do not understand what "making a profit means". These guys were just not "PROFIT believers" and they had a fit. I know some other folks just like them.

Ron P.

Yeah but if they were really smart they would have traded the truckload of watermelons for half as many cantaloupes and sold those for a dollar a piece instead. Then they could have taken out a loan to buy a really big truck. BTW since the cantaloupes are much smaller than the watermelons at a dollar apiece they are much more valuable because they are round and have almost the same form as the watermelons. Bet you can't beat that logic.

Plastic is not energy it is a product made from the waste products of gasoline/diesel/jet fuel. A small amount of the inherent energy~15% is required to turn oil into plastics.
A pound of plastic resin costs 74 cents versus a pound of crude oil at 25 cents or 30 cents for gasoline, so it makes more sense to recycle plastics.

The US recycling rate for plastics is about 5% and about 28 million tons of plastic ends up as waste versus using about 1 billion tons of crude oil.

Thermal depolyerization turns plastic into 2/3 oil, rest water and gas(probably CO2 and methane).
It has a EROI of ~6.

Given all the data, EROI is the least important criterion to consider when evaluating thermal polymerization.

Two points:

1. For now, EROEI is not an issue for some applications in some locales. That may change without notice if those locales lose their access to abundant, imported energy sources.

E.G. - Iowain community decides the ethanol plant does not get any corn this year - the ERORI of ethanol vs feeding the corn directly to the local, very hungry, population suddenly becomes an issue.

2. "Analysts warn of threat to oil price stability" =

The EROEI for an oil exporting nation falls lower than the market price of oil... now what? Does EROEI matter to this country?

The EROEI for an oil exporting nation falls lower than the market price of oil... now what? Does EROEI matter to this country?

That does not make any sense. EROEI is not expressed in dollars per barrel. EROEI is best understood if you simply drop both Es, and express it as ROI. Now the question can be answered. If it cost a nation $80 to produce a barrel of oil and the selling price in $70 a barrel, then that nation cannot export oil... for very long anyway.

Ron P.

Ron, just throw in the conversions ($/b, b/j, etc) and you end up with ROI however you measure R or I.

The point is the same - "then that nation cannot export oil... for very long anyway."

SA, EROEI is not the same as ROI. EROEI the energy returned for the energy invested. The calculations apply most directly to primary energy sources, not products, though one needs to keep track of the losses during the processing of products. Differences in imports and/or exports don't change the basic calculations, as might occur with ROI calculations, since differences in prices between nations don't change the energy flow calculations, since market prices can fluctuate considerably while the basic calculations in physics and chemistry aren't likely to change much on a monthly or even yearly scale.

Maybe if you would quit snarling, you might find that the basic failure of market prices as a method of comparing new energy sources is the reason EROEI calculations were first developed more than 30 years ago...

E. Swanson

BD, I was once a great fan of the term EROEI. No more, it is confusing and most people simply get it wrong. I found, early on that when most people were talking about EROEI or EROI, they were really talking about ROI.

Pimentel, for instance, showed that the EROEI on ethanol was less than 1 to 1. In other words, Pimentel showed that ethanol was a losing proposition. But Pimentel figured in the cost of human labor, the cost or rent of the land, and when he used the cost of the farm equipment and the cost of everything involved. .That is how he came up with the figure of about .7 to 1 for the EROEI of ethanol. Hell, that was just ROI pure and simple.

After all, how does one measure the energy content of human labor when figuring EROEI? But if you were to be accurate then that energy must be counted! Easy, damn easy, just figure the cost of that human labor.

Robert Rapier does the same thing here when he figures the EROI of ethanol. Though he doesn't talk about human labor he does talk about just about everything else. Perhaps that is why his figures differ from those of Pimentel, Robert forgot about human labor. ;-)
Grain-Derived Ethanol: The Emperor’s New Clothes

Ron P.

Ron, modern existence is confusing and most people get it wrong. If we eliminated the oft confused and wrongly got there wouldn't be much left. ROI usually employs the human construct of money whereas EROEI doesn't. Energy just is whereas money is what you make it to be; currently a farce, mostly. I find it far more simple and intrinsic than ROI. And human labor energy is pretty wimpy and inconsequential in the big scheme of things.

Thanks BD, Ron and Petro. ROI it is.

I agree that the calculations for EROEI are confusing. For example, fossil fuels are stored solar energy. Is it reasonable to ignore the vast amount of sunlight which was "collected" by the living plants which later became coal, oil or natural gas? If so, all fossil carbon fuels are very expensive in terms of the energy which was required to "produce" them, because the capture efficiency is so small. Or, if only man's use of other industrial energy is included in the calculations, the quantity of energy which the must be supplied to the worker to make it possible for them to work is ignored and that's wrong as well. All the food which "powers" a worker is derived from plants, which are solar collectors in a sense, so another question is, does one need to include that solar energy in the mix as well? With a ROI calculation which starts with the assumption that land is "dirt cheap" and the environment is "free as air", one can be sure that a ROI calculation will not give a sustainable answer...

As an example, I'm presently in the middle of cutting up a dead 100 year red oak tree for firewood. The few gallons of gasoline used for my chain saw and log splitter will provide a large gain in heat energy this winter (I hope). But, it's a labor intensive job and is taking me several days to finish and burning the wood later is also labor intensive. Other workers might be stronger and faster and therefore more efficient in economic terms, but they might also do more damage to the other plants. A large scale logging operation with real professional equipment would be even faster per cord of wood cut, but would likely leave the land clear cut and thus decimated...

E. Swanson

In my opinion to understand EROEI you MUST break it down to the lowest common denominator.
That is the human body. Simply put and mostly speaking to the initiated..............
The human body is akin to a machine, it requires fuel/calories/energy to keep it running. Like a machine the body produces heat and needs to be cooled with water.

The harder we work the machine the more fuel and water it requires.
Of course there is a minimum sustenance level but it varies with the type of machine/body and the work it does and how many others have to be supported eg wife, children, disabled, elderly and of course there is maintenance.....shelter, clothing, rest and insurance.

So in its simplest terms if the work the machine performs, does not return to the body an amount in excess of what is fed into it, the body dies (unless you are a slave and all other living requirements are met). If our body burns 3000 calories a day when we perform manual labor, we must produce in excess of our energy investment to continue to live. An excess return on investment can be used to produce more offspring, traded and sold, saved, invested or converted to leisure time.

Once the base meaning of EROEI is understood it can be extrapolated to all other aspects of business and living.
Basically I'm saying the two E's are important because without them, we are not accounting for the requirement to sustain the machine and life.

In the end that is what will be the trigger for the die off. Negative EROEI. It means everything.

Black Dog;
Your questions about including the Solar energy are generally seen as 'No'. The point is to evaluate the inputs that WE must supply in order to access an energy source.

For Solar Panel, WE (Humanity) provide the panels, the Framework, the Wiring, Electronics, etc.. so that gets deducted from the Energy Reaped from the Systems. But we don't have to provide the sunlight.

For FF, we also don't have to provide the Sunlight it took to grow or the Geothermal heat to cook up the stuff ALL of those inputs were free from the universe. I suppose you might already know that.. but when it's decried as confusing, which it can be, I just try to clarify the concept as often as I must.

If I meet someone who just can't get it or accept it, I move on to other topics.. I haven't given up on the premise.

A hunter gatherer didn't supply the sunlight which grew the berries and animals he hunted. If he/she expended more energy hunting and gathering than what is needed to live then of course hunting and gathering is not sustainable.

All solar does is provide the energy to grow, gather, hunt or obtain food by other means. Wind mills and turbines, hydro and nuclear do the same. They will not be as abundant, versatile and/or convenient as traditional fossil fuels and wood and peat which facilitated the population explosion, so EROEI will be lower.

Even when farming first began the sunlight input, even the soil nutrients and water were never considered as an energy input, it was appreciated but not considered. Of course when fertilizers and animals began to be used, the EROEI of those inputs were a major consideration. If animal use meant that the production EROEI was less than not using them, then of course that method of farming would never have progressed.

We have just about done FF's to death. They were great with the low hanging fruit, EROEI was so high it didn't even need to be calculated. That abundance run has come to an end, now EROEI means everything and the world is suffering because of it. The only thing which will aid the calculation is less people consuming.

The trouble is, both EROEI and economic ROI are not good for making comparisons if that "free sunlight" is ignored. That's especially so for ROI because the typical economic calculation includes something for the cost of the land used to collect the sunlight.

Any patch of land has some economic value based on what that land may be used to produce. Even apparently barren desert has a value and a cost to develop. Agricultural land has a rent value in that a crop may be planted on it with the intent of returning some profit or other form of value which is a direct result of the land's function as a solar collector. For example, the amount of biomass production is a direct function of the area allocated to that end. The other potential uses for the land set a minimum rent value, which is included in any cost calculation of the energy which is produced. Another aspect of the problem is that some areas have more sunlight available, such as the Southwestern US, but may not have the ability to produce a biomass crop because of lack of water.

The conclusion must be that sunlight is not really a "free good", even though a cost in terms of ROI or EROEI is not apparent. This fact may make the calculation of ROI for fossil fuels seem less than the ROI from biomass when the real long term cost of the production of fossil fuels is left out of the equation. EROEI may be a better metric than ROI for comparison, but those comparisons depend on where the boundaries are drawn for the respective energy products.

EDIT: Here's another analogy. Suppose you decide to drill a hole into a bank vault full of paper dollars to take the money for yourself. The amount of effort required to cut thru a few feet of concrete and re-bar might not be great and the time would also be minimal. Doing so would likely provide you with very many more dollars than working for a lifetime at some minimum wage job. But, the basic problem is that you didn't earn those dollars in the bank by your own effort, thus the ROI looks really great (provided you didn't get caught by the police). I submit that your accounting including only mankind's input to recover fossil fuels represents the same flawed economic model as that of the bank robber...

E. Swanson

EROEI is precisely trying to measure the amount of effort required to access the energy, so counting the energy that you are trying to access on the input side will always show that you are losing energy (per the laws of thermodynamics).

Life exists to steal energy from the universe to it's own ends. There is no shame in measuring how good we are at it.

While I don't have any opinion about this particular Plastic Fab process, I am in complete agreement (maybe you should be sitting down..) with you about using flexible manufacturing processes as a form of energy storage. It makes great sense to me.. it's "Make Hay while the Sun Shines"

I'm sure we will be able to (and we'll have to) figure out a wide range of processes that can simply make regular forward progress whenever power is supplied to their system. For me, the shortand is an image of a wind-driven Log Saw which can AutoFeed. As long as there are logs in the feed hopper, you will just be getting that simple process advanced when energy is available.

As far as your obligatory EROEI attack.. well, it's Sunday AND lunchtime, so I'll just leave it and go get me some chow. That discussion doesn't seem to be getting anywhere anyhow.

Bob Fiske

Japan and the Ancient Art of Shrugging

Three years ago, I saw a television program about a new breed of youngster: the nonconsumer. Japanese in their late teens and early 20s, it said, did not have cars. They didn’t drink alcohol. They didn’t spend Christmas Eve with their boyfriends or girlfriends at fancy hotels downtown the way earlier generations did. I have taught many students who fit this mold. They work hard at part-time jobs, spend hours at McDonald’s sipping cheap coffee, eat fast food lunches at Yoshinoya. They save their money for the future.

These are the Japanese who came of age after the bubble, never having known Japan as a flourishing economy. They are accustomed to being frugal. Today’s youths, living in a society older than any in the world, are the first since the late 19th century to feel so uneasy about the future.

I saw young Japanese in Paris, of course, vacationing or studying, but statistics show that they don’t travel the way we used to. Perhaps it’s a reaction against their globalizing elders who are still zealously pushing English-language education and overseas employment. Young people have grown less interested in studying foreign languages. They seem not to feel the urge to grow outward. Look, they say, Japan is a small country. And we’re O.K. with small.


Thank you for posting this article. Interesting articles such as this are a big reason I peruse TOD.

The rest of the world’s population is still exploding, and we are coming to see the limits of our resources. The age of “right shoulder up” is over. Japan doesn’t need to be No. 2 in the world, or No. 5 or 15. It’s time to look to more important things, to think more about the environment and about people less lucky than ourselves. To learn about organic farming. Or not. Maybe you’re busy enough just living your life. That, the new maturity says, is still cooler than right shoulder up.

There is a fundamental lesson in maturity for us folks in the U.S.

The news stories on TV (and in print and on the Web)sounding the alarm that China has passed Japan in size of their economy and is gunning for the U.S. and may surpass us by 2030 strike me as missing the mark...we need to figure out how humanity can survive and live rewarding lives in a sustainable fashion, and not treat comparative GDP as some kind of global football match.

Good luck teaching folks to be humble and learn to live sustainably...we have had America is # 1 and our vaunted exceptionalism drummed into our psyches for so long that learning to not keep score would be traumatic for many...

Vehicle registrations there have averaged a 2.8% yearly increase 1990-2008. 2005-2008 is close to flat at 57 million, but still increasing slightly. Gasoline consumption over the same period decreased 6.4%. Doesn't sound like they're abandoning the car in droves - that wouldn't be so hot for their domestic automakers either, to point out the obvious. They are #12 in the world for vehicles per capita: List of countries by vehicles per capita - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thank you for posting these interesting numbers.

I think that Japan's growth in per-capita automobile ownership is likely over.

Not only is their population declining and their economy is flat and has been for a while, but they do not have the land area per person that a country such as the U.S. has.

One reason their registration numbers may continue to be robust for a while might be a push to buy even more efficient vehicles. Maybe.

I believe I read that the auto fleet in Japan declined for the first time in 2008. By only a little.

I noticed a used car dealer recently put only tiny cars on his lot. All the big/medium cars were gone one day.

People do buy tiny "kei" cars if they need a car.

Young people try not to buy cars I think. They would rather buy cell phones and clothes and books.

From "Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talks" above:

The letter adds: "We recognise the public interest arguments in favour of disclosing this information. In particular we recognise that greater transparency makes government more open and accountable and could help provide an insight into peak oil.

"However any public interest in the disclosure of such information must be balanced with the need to ensure that ministers and advisers can discuss policy in a manner which allows for frank exchanges of views and opinions about important and sensitive issues."

What a pile of steaming feces. I'm glad they included the following reality-based voice into this article.

"But an internal IEA source said: "Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources."

I do not blame them for being worried about the reaction of the Adult-Sized Children of the Industrial World.

Imagine millions of scared little piglets storming their supermarkets, asking "what is flour used for ???" as they stand in the checkout line, watching their IRAs/401k go to zero on their cellphone.

Imagine millions of scared little piglets storming their supermarkets, asking "what is flour used for ???" as they stand in the checkout line, watching their IRAs/401k go to zero on their cellphone.

Yeah, well wait till they are given a horse drawn wagon loaded with unmilled wheat and told the old mill down by the creek needs some new paddles in the waterwheel...get to it kiddos!

Yeah, and those are the "lucky ones."

Around my locale I would expect to hear, "Outta horses and wagons and the wheat is still in the fields..."

Maybe some of us will see "human-drawn wagons manually loading wheat."

Or maybe not.

It would be a nice change of pace though.

Yeah, those WOULD be the lucky ones.

Think Monty Python, Human powered wagons, w/ the barker out front.

'Bring out your dead"

I'm hoping we don't sink to that, JUst sayin.

Yeah, well wait till they are given a horse drawn wagon loaded with unmilled wheat and told the old mill down by the creek needs some new paddles in the waterwheel...get to it kiddos!

Best post I've gotten a good laugh from in a long time, but oh so apt. Upon hearing of the need to fix the mill, they'll probably just ask, "Is there still pizza?"

We may not reach a new sea ice extent minimum in the Arctic this year, but people who have been up there studying it say the ice is much thinner and more "rotten" than ever--more like slushies than hard ice. It sounds like we are about to get a clearer picture of how thin the ice is, exactly.

I noted that there is an earlier article right next to this one from earlier in the year that points out that less sea ice means a more turbulent Arctic sea, which means more turn over. Since much of the continental shelf, where vast quantities of methane are (barely) locked under a clathrate cap, is only a few meters deep, I expect methane levels in the area are probably rising dramatically in the area as we speak (or type).

"... methane levels in the area are probably rising dramatically in the area as we speak (or type)."

We should really have a "Methane Clock" to go along with the atomic Doomsday Clock. Maybe a "Financial Collapse" clock too...

Alarm Clocks all start ringing at once...

Totally OT:

how do I insert an image in a post?


By using img tag.
For example:

[img src="http://www.example.com/the_picture.jpg"]

In scr you specify the URL of the desired picture and of course you have to use "<" instead of "[" and ">" instead of "]". I had to use those otherwise oildrum's engine would take it for an actual tag.

You first have to store the image on a site that stores images, for example, www.flickr.com

Then you do what ramen says in his comment. You get the address for the image by right clicking on the flickr image, and choosing "copy image address".

There are a lot of other image hosting sites. You can also put the image in a blog, and right click on the blog image to get "copy image address".

Be careful about linking to images hosted on blogs. Wordpress is usually okay, but the others are iffy. Blogger/Blogspot, the largest free blogging site, often blocks "hot linking" of images.

And often the person posting the image doesn't realize no one else can see it, because they're looking at the cached version on their own hard drive.

Monday, Monday
(bah-da, bah-da-da-da)
so good to me... ?

Will Tonight's AUD Slide Be The Start Of Another Major Market Selloff?

... the AUD carry pair (either with the JPY, USD or EUR) has been the primary driver of market funding over the past 3 months (we have also pointed out for about 15 weeks that fund outflows are the loud alarum bells for an upcoming stock crash, a topic finally picked up by the NYT).

In which case, courtesy of the Australian hung parliament, the market may be in for some tumultuous moves when the forex market opens at 3 PM EST, and looks certain to cut the weekend of the Liberty 33 trading desk early as they plan preparations for what could be a broader based sell off driven by carry evaporation...

In other words, with the market correlating nearly 100% with the AUD, all those who went long this market despite the second Hindenburg Omen confirmation in a week, may be in for a rude awakening.

Every other day of the week is fine... yeah...
(apologies mamas and papas)

The "hung" parliament situation will be resolved in a week or two when a few very close run seats are declared.It will come down to postal votes and there are mandatory timelines as to how long the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has to wait for these to come in.Meanwhile,the government is in caretaker mode just as it has been since the election was called so the sky is not going to fall.

There is already a lot of horsetrading going on between the 2 major parties and the independents but nothing can be known for certain until the poll is declared.If anybody is interested in what is going on with poll numbers the AEC has an excellent section of their website www.aec.gov.au called the Virtual Tallyroom.

It's a bit of a giggle,if true,that some important part of the global financial system is hanging on the fate of federal government in a bit player like Australia.It would just go to show how insane the so called "system" is.

It is a bit of a giggle, isn't it? That a "bit player" could cause major problems with "carry trade" in FOREX, which then might affect other markets.

I don't know about "insane," but I think "precarious" would certainly apply to the highly-interconnected global markets.

Several comments in that thread also say this is much ado about nothing. Some note it might be a positive for commodities and the markets in general. And several discuss details of the Aussie parliament situation.

Another straw on the camels back for this week: the Fed meets at Jackson Hole.

As we pointed out in the days following Hatzius' reduction in GDP estimates, the Goldman strategist was hoping for a $1 trillion QE announcement.

The Fed decided against it, and the market sold off.

Which is why at this very public Fed venue (and last) before the September 21 FOMC meeting, many will be focused on Bernanke's speech to see if he will telegraph the purchases of even more securities, which as Hatzius highlighted before, could include more "exotic" credit, including private label MBS, munis and even corporates.

As Sven Jari Stehn says, "it will be worth watching whether Fed Chairman Bernanke will comment in his opening remarks on the recent data disappointments and/or the ongoing debate on the appropriate stance of monetary policy."

And nobody is more concerned than Angela Merkel - now that the EUR has finally started to dip once again ...

Maybe the fed will buy toxic waste (literally) next, declare it an asset and the markets won't blink - afterall, they rallied the FASB 157 fraud like it was a "get out of jail free" card.

I'm glad I don't try to make a living trading currencies or stocks etc. Too many strange looking swans in the air these days.

From the article up top:

The deteriorating global economic outlook and weakening OPEC discipline could force oil prices as low as US$50 per barrel within the next year, analysts say.

But wouldn't that be too low of a price for offshore drlling, Alberta tar sands, Orinoco and Kasaghstan heavy oil as well as reduce OPEC profits? The situation is such that the price will probably not get lower than 70, unless real estate takes another dive, causing the stock market to shed huge amounts and we enter a double dip.

Basically to simplify, world oil supplies have been about the same since for five months, but demand has steadily increased since then. The price of oil has gone in the opposite direction of recent supply/demand changes.

So basically prices can only stay in this range if the market is expecting a large sudden drop in demand. As wierd as this may seem, the last monthly EIA oil review has an implied drop of 380,000 bpd in demand for the rest of the year, as opposed to a 600,000 bpd reported gain in the latest four weeks. That's a 1 million bpd difference. I don't think most TOD readers are graspping just how terribly negative the EIA forecast is, implying demand will drop 1 mbpd. To get to $50 we will need depression levels of demand.

So unless we get one heck of drop in demand, many of these forecasts will look, well, rather dumb in a few months.

If I am wrong about this, feel free to quote me here in three months time.


Israel 'too weak face up to Iran'
08/22/2010 22:51

Ahmadinejad dismisses US as "unable to beat a small army in Iraq."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected fears of an attack on Iran, taunting Israel as "too weak to face up to Iran militarily," and the US as unable to beat even a small army in Iraq, speaking in an interview with Al-Jazeera Sunday.

"Israel doesn't have the courage to do it," Ahmadinejad said, "and I do not think its threat is serious." He also stated that "America is not interested in sparking a military confrontation with Iran."

Why, oh why, do these tin-plated blowhards beg for their own destruction?

And will we be stupid enough to take the bait and fritter away another trillion or two and more thousands of our soldiers and their citizens' lives...and plant hundreds or thousands more seeds of blow-back which may come to fruition years or decades later?

They are especially reckless to taunt Israel repeatedly...someday Israel may find a way to deal Iran a mortal blow without the cooperation, or even the knowledge, of the U.S.

Just what we don't need: More global decades-long distractions to bleed the World's beat cop dry and leave us too weak to save us from ourselves...

and leave us too weak to save us from ourselves...

Excellent wording.

Just what we don't need: More global decades-long distractions to bleed the World's beat cop dry and leave us too weak to save us from ourselves...

Never saw the need for the Iraq War and think we should get out of Afghanistan, so agree completely. We can't afford it and shouldn't go there, but did find it odd how flagrant this guy was in his taunts.

Found this website called collapsenet.com


which was in part started by Michael Ruppert. On that site there is a defintion of a zombie. Here's the first paragraph:

Zombie -- (Zom-bee): A moving but brain-dead and soul-dead creature in a human body who functions on the biological, moral, spiritual and intellectual precept that everything in existence is there for its consumption and destruction; without awareness or consciousness of the ramifications on any other life forms -- including other zombies.

At least he's having some fun with it.