Drumbeat: August 25, 2010

Dealing With Scarcity

Julian Cribb, in his book “The Coming Famine” (which I reviewed today over in Arts), contends that we’ve already seen peak oil – the time when production can do nothing but decline. He then goes on to deduce that since we’ve likely seen peak fertilizer, peak water, and peak land as well, we’ve probably seen peak food. This at a time, as we all know, when not only is the world’s population growing but it’s becoming generally better off – that is, more and more people want to eat like Americans.

But as Mr. Cribb details in “The Coming Famine” – and as I discussed in The Times and at TED – that’s simply impossible. Why? Because we have most likely seen peak everything — and meat and much of the other stuff that constitute some 80 percent of the calories in the typical American diet take way more energy, water and land to produce than unprocessed plants.

(The review is here.)

Asia's glaciers in retreat, could signal crop failure and flooding in the future

Asia's glaciers are retreating, which could mean drought, plus crop losses upstream and flood conditions downstream for millions of people.

Statoil not investing in Mexico

Statoil chief Helge Lund said Norway’s largest oil and natural gas company will refrain from investing in Mexico for now as the business environment for the sector is still unclear.

Venezuela eyes Sept PDVSA issue, Q4 growth

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela is preparing a $2 billion dollar-denominated bond issue by state oil firm PDVSA for September, a senior government source told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We're getting it ready for the start of September, during the first two weeks," the source said.

Enbridge pipeline has dent at St. Clair River

The Enbridge Energy pipeline that ruptured in Marshall last month, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of oil, shows structural anomalies closer to Metro Detroit that need to be investigated, according U.S. Rep. Candice Miller.

Cuba looks cooperate on offshore safety

Cuba's oil industry wants to work with its counterparts in the United States and Mexico to promote safe drilling practices and avoid the kind of well blowout and spill seen recently in the Gulf of Mexico, a leading drilling industry expert said today.

Nuclear safety agency model may aid oil drilling

(Reuters) - Oil exploration companies like BP Plc and their drilling partners could learn from a little-known U.S. nuclear industry watchdog group that focuses on sharing safety know-how and peer criticism, executives involved with the group said.

BP tells U.S. panel Halliburton should have warned of well hazard

In a new twist in the case, BP has declared that Halliburton, which had warned that the cement job on the Macondo well might not function properly, should have stopped the operation outright. If Halliburton knew the cement process was unsafe, it had an obligation to refuse to proceed - and to do otherwise would be, BP said in a statement, "morally repugnant."

Louisiana's Treasurer Says `Chuckleheads' Caused Gulf Oil Spill

Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy said “chuckleheads” on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caused the explosion and oil spill, and said the isolated incident shouldn’t delay resuming Gulf of Mexico exploration.

U.S. spill panel skewers offshore drilling policy

(Reuters) - The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a massive "failure" in oversight for the oil industry and the U.S. government, the co-chairman of the White House oil spill commission said on Wednesday.

BP executive says blowout preventer was not connected properly

As BP and Transocean officials struggled to contain the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, they discovered that the plumbing on the blowout preventer was connected improperly, a BP executive testified Wednesday.

"It would mean that the pipe rams could not be closed," said Harry Thierens, BP executive vice president for drilling and completions. "I was frankly astonished that this could have happened."

Removal of BP's blowout preventer delayed - US gov't

(Reuters) - BP Plc's efforts to fish out pipe remnants inside equipment atop its blown-out Gulf of Mexico well delayed retrieval of a failed blowout preventer, the top official overseeing the oil spill response said on Wednesday.

"We probably took a 24- to 36-hour hit on the timeline," retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said.

BP VP: 12-24 Hours Wasted after Oil Rig Exploded

(AP) A BP vice president says critical time was wasted in the hours after the Gulf of Mexico well explosion trying to learn what changes had been made to a device meant to prevent oil from leaking from the blown-out well.

AAA predicts Labor Day travel boost, but expects shorter trips

DENVER — More Americans will get away for the Labor Day weekend this year, yet stick closer to home as they try to get the most for their money, AAA said Thursday.

As sales fall, is the hybrid car fad over?

Will it turn out that hybrid cars were just a fad that will go the way of bell-bottom pants?

The sales numbers so far this year seem to point to the possibility. Ford Escape Hybrid sales were off 23.7% through the first seven months of the year, Toyota Camry hybrid sales were down 42.5% and Honda Civic Hybrid sales fell 72%, Autodata reports. Toyota Prius sales are up only 4% even though the model is still fairly new.

Americans want smaller homes, not McMansions

Is the McMansion era over? This is the question that Trulia, a real estate site, asks in releasing survey results that suggest -- yes, in fact -- it is.

Slightly more than half of Americans, or 55%, say 1,400 to 2,600 square feet would be their ideal home size. Only 9% say their dream home is 3,200 square feet, according to July 22-26 Trulia-Harris Interactive Survey.

Green technology is key to future

GREEN, clean industries are the way of the future but Fraser Coast people must act now if the region's idyllic lifestyle is to be maintained, says Maggie John of Transition Towns.

“Oil has fuelled much of the massive population growth and the extraordinary achievements of the last 150 years. It is the lifeblood of industrial society,” Ms John said.

Group calls for more home-growing

A BROMSGROVE group, which has held a meeting to highlight the problem of climate change and peak oil, is urging more residents, local farmers, garden centres, schools and other groups to get in touch and help format a strategy to cut food miles.

Transition Town Bromsgrove's (TTB) last meeting saw two main questions posed - one about how interest in local food issues could be raised and another on how self-production of food within Bromsgrove district could be increased.

Honolulu's long-standing trash woes growing worse

HONOLULU – Gigantic piles of shrink-wrapped garbage have been moldering in the heat of a Hawaii industrial park for more than five months, waiting for a place to be shipped.

That wait appeared to end Monday when city officials inked a deal to dispose of the 40 million-pound pile of odious rubbish over the next six months by mostly burning it in an existing waste-to-power plant.

But bigger problems remain for Honolulu as the state's largest city struggles to find a home for all its waste.

Electricity crisis hits Venezuelan oil exports

The electricity crisis hitting Venezuela threatens to reduce further fuel exports, which recorded a year-on-year decrease of 16.3 percent in the second quarter of 2010, thus worsening the negative effects of the economic fall on the oil sector.

The Venezuelan government was forced this year to install dozens of thermal power plants to alleviate a stringent electricity rationing. Fueling these plants is costing several billion dollars in refined products that were intended for export.

Egypt's energy crisis stirs public unrest

The Egyptian government has announced its intention to continue decreasing electric output pending the end of a heat-wave which saw temperatures climb to 40 degrees Celsius.

Pemex Chief: Watching Mkt to Decide When to Begin Crude Imports

MEXICO CITY (MNI) - Mexico's state oil company Pemex will begin importing crude oil for the first time in decades after watching the markets for the best moment to buy, Pemex Director General Juan Jose Suarez said Tuesday.

Suarez told local radio that Pemex is concluding the analysis of how different mixtures on the market react in the country's refineries, and will wait for an opportunity to buy, making the plan seem much more definite than it did only a day earlier.

"We will be watching for opportunities, and when they come, we will carry out" the import, Suarez said in an interview with Radio Formula.

Aramco, Exxon Said to Plan 2013 Shutdown for Maintenance at Yanbu Refinery

While countries in the Persian Gulf hold more than half the world’s crude oil reserves, they import fuels for lack of processing capacity. Imports help cover supply when refineries undergo maintenance when temperatures are cooler.

Saudi Aramco is buying gasoline from September through the end of the year, traders with knowledge of the tenders said last week. The company is buying at least four cargoes of gasoline a month, according to the traders, who asked not to be identified since the talks aren’t public.

Five gang members held for stealing fuel from tourist buses

A GANG that stole fuel from tourist buses which came to the city for the World Expo has been busted.

The gang had three cars which were refitted and equipped with oil suction tubes, police said. In total the converted cars could carry 1,000 liters of fuel, according to local police.

Hezbollah chief calls for nuclear energy

BEIRUT, Lebanon (UPI) -- Lebanon has the right to consider nuclear power as a way to address an energy crisis in the country, the Hezbollah secretary-general declared.

Lebanon has suffered from rolling blackouts since the 25-year civil war ended in 1990.

Demystifying nuclear power

Zhou Shirong is deputy director of nuclear safety at China’s environmental protection ministry. Here, he talks to Cao Haidong and Meng Dengke about managing construction standards – and public anxiety.

Job Losses Over Drilling Ban Fail to Materialize

WASHINGTON — When the Obama administration called a halt to virtually all deepwater drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon blowout and fire in April, oil executives, economists and local officials complained that the six-month moratorium would cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Oil supply firms went to court to have the moratorium overturned, calling it illegal and warning that it would exacerbate the nation’s economic woes, lead to oil shortages and cause an exodus of drilling rigs from the gulf to other fields around the world. Two federal courts agreed.

Yet the worst of those forecasts has failed to materialize, as companies wait to see how long the moratorium will last before making critical decisions on spending cuts and layoffs. Unemployment claims related to the oil industry along the Gulf Coast have been in the hundreds, not the thousands, and while oil production from the gulf is down because of the drilling halt, supplies from the region are expected to rebound in future years. Only 2 of the 33 deepwater rigs operating in the gulf before the BP rig exploded have left for other fields.

BP Oil Spill Has Little Impact on Global Drilling

A negative impact has been even harder to find in other countries despite the fact that companies around the world use much the same equipment under similar industry protocols. Large offshore accidents in Mexican, British and Australian waters since the late 1970s barely slowed deepwater development, and history may well be repeating itself.

BP vice president testifies before federal panel

HOUSTON -- A BP vice president says critical time was wasted in the hours after the Gulf of Mexico well explosion trying to learn what changes had been made to a device meant to prevent oil from leaking from the blown-out well.

UN report on Nigeria oil spills relies too heavily on data from Shell

Report blaming 90% of spills in Ogoniland on locals stealing crude from pipelines allows companies to shirk responsibility.

Belarus eyes self-sufficiency via Iran, Venezuela oil deposits

Belarus planned to produce 9.3 million tons of crude oil in Iran over the next 10 years, RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday.

The Belarus-Iraninan joint venture, Belpars Petroleum Co. Ltd, will develop oil reserves in Jufeir and build its infrastructure, according to a document entitled Belarus' Strategy of Development of Energy Potential.

Coordinated attacks kill dozens in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Suicide bombers killed more than 50 people in apparently coordinated attacks on Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and elsewhere on Wednesday, less than a week before U.S. troops formally end combat operations.

Oil's Not Running Out... Yet

It's a cliché, but true nonetheless, that the world runs on oil. Remove the oil and within a few days we'd be back in the Middle Ages, albeit with better teeth (at least for a while).

Investors should be aware that the market for oil is changing; it is becoming much more difficult to produce oil cheaply and this will create some interesting opportunities in the future.

FACTBOX - Key facts about biofuels in Brazil

GETULIO VARGAS Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil is seeking to boost its production of biodiesel and create jobs in the countryside by encouraging biofuels companies to buy raw materials from small farmers.

The biodiesel push is meant to mirror a sugar-cane ethanol program that has vastly reduced Brazil's reliance on fossil fuels for motor vehicle use.

The following are key facts about Brazil's biofuels sector:

Sharon Astyk: Could rationing be made palatable?

Could a system of energy rationing, or even rationing of high energy goods and foods work in the US? The conventional answer is that it is politically impossible to even consider it, and that the public would never go along with it. But a closer look at the history of rationing during the second World War suggests that it might not be so unthinkable, and that in fact, rationing has historically been viewed as highly positive, pro-democratic and good public policy by the general populace. Now there are obvious historical differences between now and the past, but the framing of rationing may be more important than the exact historical context - in World War II, for example, where few real risks of famine or severe shortage existed, rationing was quite popular. Now, facing actual shortages and potential crisis, rationing is probably not as hard to sell as many people believe.

Bill McKibben - Beyond Oil: Activism and Politics

On May 6, a little more than two weeks after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, the first oil washed ashore. It was found on the beaches of the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana -- one of America’s first wildlife refuges, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1904 after a decade-long struggle with the plume trade, which was killing off our seabirds. We don’t normally think of hydrocarbons as possessing a strong sense of irony, but there you go.

In fact, the BP spill and its aftermath were a slap in the face of the environmental movement in so many ways. You would have thought the most visible ecological tragedy of our time might have led our government to take real action against our worst problems. Instead, the same week that the well was finally capped the Senate punted on doing anything -- anything -- about climate change.

In pursuit of a richer lifestyle

Some dreams just won't die. Switching the daily grind of the big smoke for a veggie patch and a few chickens in the hinterland, or by the sea, has lost none of its appeal. If anything, baby boomers risk being shoved aside by Gen Xers as they desert the "corporate conveyer belt" in favour of a balanced life.

"Baby boomers are deeply hierarchical and competitive and want to be successful but Gen X haven't bought into that," says KPMG demographer Bernard Salt. "They see what is ahead of them, working 60 or 70 hours a week and think 'that is not for me'."

Students imagine new possibilities in intensive summer agroecology program

WOLF LAKE, Ind. – If there is a common thread among the seven students from five colleges who studied in Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College's Agroecology Summer Intensive (ASI) this year, it is one of new possibilities.

"Now I know that there are ways to survive as a small farmer," said Emma Regier, a biology major at Bethel College (North Newton, Kan).

Oil analyst: U.S. policy detached from market reality

The world is running out of oil.

This prediction could be made today, of course, but it also has been stated with moral certainty numerous times since 1909, Princeton researcher Roger Stern said Monday night at the University of Tulsa. The problem is not only that the forecast has been wrong, but that this “oil scarcity syndrome” has driven U.S. national security policy in the Middle East for most of the past century, he added.

“U.S. policy is detached from market realities,” Stern told a crowd at Helmerich Hall. “So it has been led by allies such as the Saudis.”

The National Energy Policy Institute invited Stern to present his talk titled “Peak Oil, War and Illusion.” The think tank, based on the TU campus, is seeking domestic answers to help wean the U.S. off oil produced by hostile or duplicitous regimes such as the one in Saudi Arabia.

Crude Oil Trades Near Seven-Week Low in New York Before U.S. Supply Report

Crude oil traded near its lowest level in seven weeks before a U.S. government report on fuel supplies, paring earlier gains as equity markets retreated.

The U.S. Energy Department will probably report today that crude stockpiles gained 300,000 barrels last week after three weeks of declines, a Bloomberg survey showed. European stock indexes declined, led by shares of oil and gas companies.

“U.S. consumption is still very low, product inventories are sky-high,” said Tobias Merath, Zurich-based head of commodity research at Credit Suisse Group AG. “In every market we’ve seen fears of a double-dip recession and oil has been particularly affected.”

Natural Gas Futures Premium at Narrowest in Seven Years

Natural gas for January delivery is trading at the smallest premium to September futures in seven years as traders speculate that economic growth will slow.

China's Crude Oil Demand Growth May Slow in Third Quarter as Economy Cools

China’s apparent crude demand growth may slow “noticeably” in the third quarter as the world’s fastest-growing major economy cools, said the China Petroleum & Chemical Industry Association.

Fuel Oil, Gasoil Refining Margins in Asia Increase as Supplies Fall: Wrap

Refining margins for fuel oil and gasoil rose for a second day on concern that supplies will fall as the region imports less and refiners reduce utilization rates amid slowing economic growth.

Growing dangers in new oil exploration

Cairn, the next BP? asks the stencilled message that has appeared on various walls and pavements across Scotland since the start of the climate change protests last week. It is a neat epigram for the dilemma facing humanity in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Regardless of how quickly renewable energy is developed, the world will depend on oil for many years to come, to keep the lights on and the traffic moving (as well as making the steel to build offshore wind turbines). But at what price?

Fossil Fuels Remain a Mainstay

Scientists generally agree that to limit global warming to less than 2.4 °C--and avoid the worst effects of climate change--greenhouse-gas emissions must be reduced 50 percent by 2050. But humanity is a long way from being weaned from the petroleum, natural gas, and coal whose use causes much of this pollution.

In fact, global energy demand is expected to increase about 40 percent over the next two decades. By 2030, the use of petroleum, coal, and natural gas is expected to jump by 23 percent, 44 percent, and 37 percent, respectively. "You look at the world of renewables and you see a lot of progress, but they are not going to outpace the growing demand for energy," says Peter Jackson, a senior director at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an energy consultancy and think tank.

Drillers May Face Months of Waiting Even After Obama Lifts Deep-Water Ban

President Barack Obama’s administration may agree to an early end for its moratorium on deep-water oil and gas drilling while backing new regulations that may keep rigs idle for months afterward.

Will Robots Clean Up Future Oil Spills?

One result of the recent undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico is the emergence of a hot market for remedial technologies that go beyond the hapless boom-burn-disperse approach traditionally used to handle such spills.

Norway launches more oil initiative

Norway’s Minister for Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland today launched a new research institute aimed at increasing safety and boosting oil recovery on the Norwegian shelf.

Shell plant shut in Nigeria amid protests

Shell has shut down an oil facility in southern Nigeria due to protests by a group of local women, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday, after a similar demonstration targeted a Chevron pipeline.

Brazil, Petrobras clash over reserve size - report

(Reuters) - Energy giant Petrobras and Brazil's government clashed over the size of oil reserves to be used in an oil-for-stock swap, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported on Wednesday, further complicating the operation amid a dispute over the price to be used for that oil.

The government believes an offshore area to be used in the exchange holds more than 4.5 billion barrels, while Petrobras management says the area holds less than 4 billion barrels, Folha reported, citing no sources.

Statoil May Seek Own Shale Gas Projects, Expansion in China, CEO Lund Says

Statoil ASA may take the lead on shale gas projects and is considering investments in China to tap demand in the world’s fastest growing major economy, Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund said.

Norway’s largest oil and gas company in 2008 bought a stake in U.S. gas shale areas from Chesapeake Energy Corp., which it added to this year, and it now has people working with the U.S. company to gain knowledge of how to extract the fuel. Resources are also in place in China for a potential expansion there, Lund said today in an interview in Stavanger, Norway.

The Best Peak Oil Investments: Why Invest for Peak Oil?

If increased volatility is not the result of speculation, it probably has to do with other changes in the structure of the oil market.

Except for geopolitical events such as the wars and oil embargoes mentioned above, the supply of oil tends not to be volatile. Demand fluctuates with changes in economic activity, and so the demand for oil will be more volatile when economic activity is more volatile. Hence, the price volatility associated with the large spike in oil prices leading up to 2008, along with the subsequent rapid decline and recovery may be attributable to changes in oil demand. However, the years from 2002 to 2007 were characterized by remarkably steady economic growth. Hernce the high oil price volatility during 2002-07 must indicate that the ability of the oil supply to respond to changing demand had decreased compared to earlier periods.

'One Hundred Mornings' without electricity

What would you do if the electric grid went dead tomorrow? If grocery stores shut down because trucks no longer had gas to make food deliveries? Self-sufficiency and food security are popular topics in the environmental community today — making for the popularity of books ranging from the somewhat ominous "The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook" to the more sanguine "Farm City".

And now, a film called "One Hundred Mornings" takes a look at the kind of life we might have in a post-petroleum scenario, when society breaks down and people have to quickly learn to fend for themselves.

Grace Announces Rare Earth Surcharge for FCC Catalysts and Additives

COLUMBIA, Md.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Grace Davison, an operating segment of W. R. Grace & Co., today announced the implementation of a rare earth surcharge for its fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts and additives for the petroleum refining industry. Effective October 1, 2010, Grace will implement a global rare earth surcharge due to rapidly escalating prices as a result of recently imposed export tariffs and quota restrictions by major producers in the rare earth market.

The Gates Path to an Energy Revolution

Jason Pontin, the editor in chief of Technology Review, recently spoke with Bill Gates about everything from software entrepreneurship to promoting polio vaccination in northern Nigeria. But the heart of the conversation, published today on the magazine’s Web site, was about how to make non-polluting energy technologies so cheap that coal reverts to being the shiny black rock it was before the industrial revolution.
(The interview is here)

Biden: U.S. to halve cost of solar power by 2015

Vice President Joe Biden released a report Tuesday that says the United States is on track, within five years, to halve the cost of solar power -- putting its on par with grid electricity -- and slash by 70% the cost of batteries for electric vehicles.

Clean-power projects turn landfills' methane into electricity

Landfills, with the tendency to belch noxious greenhouse gases, have long gotten a bad rap from environmentalists.

But now several clean-power technology companies believe waste can be a source of environmentally friendly energy.

Province to test plug-in cars

If all goes according to plan, 5 per cent of all cars in Ontario will be electric by 2020 — and this week, the province is one car closer to its goal.

Well, sort of. At its Scarborough headquarters Tuesday, Toyota Canada handed over the keys to one of its new Prius Plug-In Hybrids, which it will be lending to Ontario for a year.

China to lift installed hydropower capacity by 50%

China will expand its installed hydropower capacity to 300 million kilowatts by 2015 from the current 200 million in an effort to cut carbon dioxide emissions, the country's top energy official said here Wednesday.

Zhang Guobao, director of the National Energy Administration (NEA), told the popular web port Sina.com in an on-line interview that such an expansion is needed for China's goal to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.

Grand Canyon's future at 'grave risk,' report says

Haze blurs the skies over the Grand Canyon, tour planes break the backcountry silence, uranium mines are making a comeback near the canyon's rim and the Colorado River has lost its muddy mojo.

Add to those threats a perpetually underfunded budget and the picture that emerges is a national park where efforts to protect resources are increasingly compromised, a conservation group said Monday.

Russian gas tanker forges Arctic passage to China

MOSCOW (AFP) – A Russian gas tanker is this month making a historic voyage across the famed Northeast passage as receding ice opens up an elusive trade route from Asia to the West sought for centuries by explorers.

Pro-Environment Groups Outmatched, Outspent in Battle Over Climate Change Legislation

Clients in the oil and gas industry unleashed a fury of lobbying expenditures in 2009, spending $175 million -- easily an industry record -- and outpacing the pro-environmental groups by nearly eight-fold, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis.

James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren

Just how many more emissions could we let off before reaching such runaway warming? Hansen points to several signs that we are already on the verge, and that continued “business-as-usual” fossil fuel use will most certainly tip us over, quite possibly within the next few decades. Calculating the degree of climate forcings on the planet, Hansen argues we need to not only begin reducing fossil fuel consumption, but get back to a carbon dioxide level of 350 parts per million (ppm), down from our present (and steadily growing) 387 ppm.

How? Looking at various government and agency estimates of how many fossil fuels remain (an issue with little consensus, to say the least, with many arguing we may have already passed global peak oil production), Hansen determines that what oil and conventional gas remains is largely out of U.S. hands, but that runaway warming could be prevented by phasing out coal use, particularly since coal is more abundant and has a higher carbon output than oil or gas. To do so, Hansen calculates that we must half emissions by 2020, and phase out coal emissions by 2030.

Global Warming Deniers Aren't "Experts" At All: It's Time for a New View of Science

Imagine a gigantic banquet. Hundreds of millions of people come to eat. They eat and drink to their hearts’ content— eating food that is better and more abundant than at the finest tables in ancient Athens or Rome, or even in the palaces of medieval Europe. Then, one day, a man arrives, wearing a white dinner jacket. He says he is holding the bill. Not surprisingly, the diners are in shock. Some begin to deny that this is their bill. Others deny that there even is a bill. Still others deny that they partook of the meal. One diner suggests that the man is not really a waiter, but is only trying to get attention for himself or to raise money for his own projects. Finally, the group concludes that if they simply ignore the waiter, he will go away.

This is where we stand today on the subject of global warming. For the past 150 years, industrial civilization has been dining on the energy stored in fossil fuels, and the bill has come due. Yet, we have sat around the dinner table denying that it is our bill, and doubting the credibility of the man who delivered it. The great economist John Maynard Keynes famously summarized all of economic theory in a single phrase: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” And he was right. We have experienced prosperity unmatched in human history. We have feasted to our hearts’ content. But the lunch was not free.

Jeff Rubin: Unpaid environmental costs distort trade

Greening our economy isn’t just about what we produce—it’s also about what we consume. Sending smokestack industries off to distant shores in search of cheap labor markets to make the things we consume may lessen the carbon footprint of our own economies, but it sure doesn’t do much for the global footprint. And since there are no borders in the atmosphere, it’s really the global imprint that counts.

Take steel, for example. The mass migration of North American steel production to China certainly hasn’t lessened the industry’s global environmental footprint.

Major seedbank at risk

Land outside St. Petersburg, Russia to be sold to developers. This is the collection that staff starved to death during WW II Siege of Leningrad rather than eat. 90% of collection is unique and a source of new genetic material.






I've posted several links on this subject, including this update. Dmitry Medvedev has stepped in.

Re: Jeff Rubin: Unpaid environmental costs distort trade

Last night, I took some time looking for a set of new snow tires. The choices available on one web site all appeared to be made overseas, even though some of the brands were traditional US companies. The synthetic rubber and the plastics used to make the cords within the tire bodies are made from petroleum. Not only are we exporting our pollution, we are also exporting our oil consumption, in that the oil which would have been used to make the tires is no longer counted as US consumption...

E. Swanson

I suppose this would be true of the embodied energy in all our imports. The picture would be further skewed when you consider that a certain substantial fraction of imports are not paid for with exports that might contain roughly the same embodied energy but with IOU dollars. Aren't trade deficits wonderful! We in the USA can live like kings (except for those who don't) and let the rest of the world pay for it.

Oops. Forgot my /sarconol tag

Here is a link to a blog article explaining the global tire manufacturing scene:


Consumer Reports has the same listing with a little bit different narrative:


Has anyone seen the "One Hundred Mornings" film? I've seen the trailer it looks to me like a peak into the future.


But here is the skinny info on IMDB:


Variety's review:


Review from 'Mother Nature Network':


Another pretty well-written review:


Might be worth putting in the NetFlix queue on of these daze...

From "Oil analyst: U.S. policy detached from market reality", up top.

The National Energy Policy Institute earlier this year issued a report advocating greater use of compressed natural gas for transportation vehicles and tighter conservation standards.

It appears the Nation Energy Policy Institute is also detached from reality.

Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles are a tiny bit of the vehicular infrastructure. Compressed Natural Gas does not have a distribution system. It also is not compatible with the gasoline liquid fuel infrastructure in place.

Ethanol is.

More show and tell about renewable energy infrastructure around here:

Golden Grain Energy
is a mostly farmer owned ethanol plant at Mason City.

It can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol and uses about 40 million bushels of corn /year.

Mason City’s claim to fame is that it is the boyhood home
of Meredith Wilson composer of the “Music Man”.

The town built a memorial
memorial center to attract tourists:

The Music Man - Trouble ... right here in River City!

How many gallons a year would the US need for transportation? What percentage of the US's agricultural production be needed to produce the corn to sustain this quantity?

Compressed natural gas that can not be used in the near future is not a solution or even a partial solution.

There is no political support for it since it threatens home heating costs at least as much as corn ethanol use threatens food prices.

Conversion costs run about $10,000.00 per vehicle and require EPA certification. Building Flex Fuel cars costs about $150 more than regular cars.

Boone Pickens plan to convert commercial trucks will cost about $62,000.00 per truck.

The idea that we should not use ethanol because it is not a total solution is silly. It is a red herring argument just as false as asking how much compressed natural gas would be needed for US transportation. Do we have enough? I doubt it.

Home heating and electricity prices will rise if compressed natural gas is ever adopted for transportation.

For CNG, a factory-built option like the Civic CNG is very economical -- a couple of grand. For CNG, you need fueling station pumps. For Ethanol, you need Ethanol plants. Ethanol of course has embodied CNG in it as well, for the nitrogen crop fertilizer.

I don't see why you would convert any vehicle -- just build what you want, and in a few years you'll have it. We are finally at the point where vehicle variety is emerging, so the market can vote.

I have seen no analysis as the cost sensitivity of CNG. Sure, a lot of new users would drive up costs, but the same is true for food costs with Ethanol. Neither is politically viable.

EVs have advantages over both, and seem to me to be a better choice long-term. Still, transition technologies aren't bad.

Both CNG and Ethanol are mostly US produced -- that is clear advantage over imported oil.

LPG conversions in Turkey

“The LPG conversion market totaled 400,000 units last year in Turkey,” Taç said. “The market value of this conversion is nearly 1 billion Turkish Liras. Ekipgaz aims to get 5 percent market share from the 400,000 units of LPG conversion market,” he said.

The advantage of natural gas is there is a lot more gas(21 quads/yr) than ethanol(.6 quads/yr) but I suspect that the numbers on US domestic natural gas reserves(50 years?) are greatly exaggerated.
For some reason, Peak Gas is not really discussed on TOD, whereas ethanol is slammed continually. I think we are past the US natural gas peak.

One advantage of ethanol is that it's net energy is positive, so every btu of natural gas which 'invested' to make ethanol produces 1.1 btus of ethanol.
In contrast for every btu of natural gas used for CNG vehicles, 1.1 btu of natural gas must be 'invested'.

As corn ethanol use grows, natural gas use will increase, which is another reason why cellulosic ethanol, which uses very little gas needs to be developed.

One question is when will you get with the program on corn cobb collection, x. Corn ethanol is capped.

You farmers are going to have to get on board with Poet or it's back to ME oil and Boone Pickens.

One advantage of ethanol is that it's net energy is positive, so every btu of natural gas which 'invested' to make ethanol produces 1.1 btus of ethanol.

So for a mere 1/10 btu advantage, you advocate continuing the destruction of our soils?

Corn row cropping is hard on soil. It requires extensive chemical remediation.

It is not enough to factor the costs and energy content of those chemicals in the BTU rollup. The degradation of the soil: the loss of humus and the loss of microbial populations and diversity, IS NOT ACCOUNTED FOR!!!

There are so many ways to get a 1/10 BTU advantage... why pick the very worst one?

'Agriculture destroys the soil' is an fairly regular blanket meme at TOD but unproven.

No-till farming reduces soil erosion which really a function of land slope. Other practices can fortify the soil. Nitrogen fertillizer use is expected to rise 1% per year in the US while crop productivity is rising faster.

Good to honestly debate this but why fill their closed minds with facts.

If we are going to do biofuels, I do not understand the choice for corn ethanol vs. soydiesel.

Soydiesel has an ERoEI of about 2, no or minimal nitrogen fertilizer (it fixes it's own N), minimal processing comparing to ethanol. So less NG used and a smaller dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. A good % of soydiesel production can be used on local farms and local hauling.

Overall, soydiesel just seems to be a better choice than corn ethanol.


Soybeans yield 63 gals per acre versus 439 gallons per acre for corn ethanol.


Personally I think soybeans ARE food because they can replace meat, dairy which eats lots of corn.

In the end switchgrass or miscanthus--true energy crops-- should be used as a biofuel but farmers won't grow them..yet.

'Agriculture destroys the soil' is an fairly regular blanket meme at TOD but unproven.

What would it take to 'prove' it to your satisfaction?

http://fargo.nserl.purdue.edu/rusle2_dataweb/ is that modeling not good enough? The soil deposits at the end of the Mississippi? Desertification? Creating salt conditions in the soil from Ag? Soil compaction and deadpan from tractors?

What, in exacting terms, is not 'proven'?

"Unproven" = "It doesn't fit with my pollyannish narrative"


I would like to point here to the DOK field trail that has been going on in Switzerland since the late 70s. Therein various agricultural farming are compared.

A short summary can be found here (summary in english, everything else german).

The recent publication (abstract only, full article requires journal subscription; authors usually are willing to send PDFs if asked nicely by email) is also an interesting read. References from this publication should point you to a large body of work dealing with the impact of farming (and fertilizer input) on soils.

I read your articles as saying that there aren't huge differences between organic and industrial agriculture, though state-of-the-art organic with best practices has somewhat 'healthier' soil.
This doesn't surprise me.
I would expect that organic farming has marginally better soil than typical agriculture based on the attention to detail. The debate here is, whether or not agriculture and especially industrial agriculture will exhaust our soil within a century or two. Many at TOD believe the exhaustion of soil is irreversible like entropy. That is highly improbable and 'unproven' in my opinion(IMO).
I certainly strongly approve of improvements to the soil such as
no-till, compost, manure, etc. which are part of agricultural practices and which will become much more important as fossil fuels decline.

If you look at some works on soil degradation the major issues are water and wind erosion distantly followed by chemicals, mechanical compaction from farm tools and salinization( a favorite doomer image is salination in the Mideast supposedly the result of thousands of years of dangerous farming and not decades-old dams).


another reason why cellulosic ethanol, which uses very little gas needs to be developed
It uses at least the same quantity of gas, as you have to distill the ethanol from the fermented mass exactly like the other. The ethanol concentration in the mass can not be much above 25% w/v because the yeasts die above it and you need to distill (boil and separate) it to at least 95% then further dehydrate it.
And before fermentation you have to steam the cellulose fibers, separate lignins and other poisonous stuff and treat with expensive enzymes and choosy microorganisms, yeasts are hardy and easy at least when they ferment cane molasses, so I think it may be worse off at the end of the process.

Also, after fermentation of corn you are left with a protein-rich product that has some value as food for cattle and livestock, it all adds up; with wood you are left with residues of no value.

I am all for biofuels but let's not be starry eyed about them.

another reason why cellulosic ethanol, which uses very little gas needs to be developed....
It uses at least the same quantity of gas, as you have to distill the ethanol from the fermented mass exactly like the other.

No, really.

Cellulosic ethanol uses part of it's biomass input to provide heat just as they use sugar cane bagasse in Brazil to make ethanol.
See chart on page 3 below for amount of fossil fuel in cellulosic ethanol--it's tiny.

OTOH, the amount of biomass to be input is much greater than with corn ethanol because fossil fuels are a more concentrated form of energy than grass or corn cobbs.


Actually I was really curious on knowing how much was required, just so I can have an idea of the scale and as to how much it can help out without causing significant impact on corn prices. I'm pretty aware there are no total solutions nowadays. It basically comes down to either we slow down a bit and get a little help from everything or we jump off the cliff.

I am almost certain that the most efficient solution would be to use corn for home heating and natural gas for driving.

And I'm even more certain that you should have a program of force feeding humans so they have a layer of fat to protect 'em from the cold so they need less home heating.

Natural gas has a huge distribution system, only not compressed "enough". Still, it is a perfectly fine fuel for local vehicles, where available. Here it costs about 1/2 that of gas, without massive subsidies.

My perfect car would be a diesel/CNG plug-in hybrid. Battery for short trips, CNG for low-cost longer-distance power, and diesel for lighting-off the CNG or for low-availability areas.

I don't see why people always try to pit immature alternatives against each other, rather than going for ALL of them ASAP and then seeing what catches on economically and technologically. The "enemy" is BAU oil, not the other alternatives. CNG is just another stop-gap or transition technology....natural gas will eventually run out, too.

Very true, Paleocon.

I don't have the perfect dual fuel vehicle, but a chevy pick-up conversion with gas and CNG. Seldom use the gasoline, but it is available and I run it dry from time to time. The controls switch from one ot the other when it runs out.

All CNG facilities have to be installed at the sale location - the cost and risks associated with 3500 PSI lines would be ridiculous. The compressors at some sites are slow, but not much worse than gasoline pumps at a lot of installations. And, most have at least two fueling hookups, but sometimes there is a wait to get to the pump. I still change oil at 3000 mile intrvals, but we reuse it for lubrication at wellheads and it is fine for that.

As long as we have sufficient NG production, I will favor CNG over other fuels, and wish that there were more stations for long trips - my only criticism, but I don't use that truck for long trips.

Durable Goods Orders Rose Far Less Than Expected

New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods excluding transportation equipment posted their largest decline in 1-1/2 years in July while overall booking rose far less than expected, pointing to a slowdown in manufacturing.

US New Home Sales Sink to Lowest Pace on Record

New U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly fell in July to set their slowest pace on record while prices were the lowest in more than 6-1/2 years, government data showed on Wednesday.

Dow below 10,000.

They were talking about housing on CNBC this morning. Their guest talking head said he thought the problem was that people were uncertain about the future. No matter how things are going right now, if you're uncertain about the future, you're not going to take on a big commitment like a house.

I think that's why people are paying down their credit card debt, too:

Credit card debt drops to lowest level in 8 years

How much is pay down and how much is write-off ?


The report said more people were paying on time, suggesting that it's not just writeoffs. Consumers are making an effort to keep their credit in good shape.

There have been other reports showing that more and more people are paying their credit cards first, before the mortgage.

There have been other reports showing that more and more people are paying their credit cards first, before the mortgage.

A typical existing mortgage is fixed rate at 5% to 10%.

A typical credit card account was jacked up from 14% to 29% APR last year when the ban on doing so was announced (to go into effect months later).

Anyone who can manage to do so is paying off those loan sharks as fast as they possibly can. Those who don't really want to pay them off have to make higher monthly payments anyway.

Someone who carried a $1000 balance with a 2% minimum payment and a 14% interest rate would have to pay $20 per month. When the loan sharks increased the interest rate to 29% they also increased the minimum payment to perhaps 6% to cover the interest, so the cardholder now has to pay at least $60 per month.

The ordinary person who has this happen to them will probably vow to pay off the debt as quickly as possible and never again trust a bank. Or the politicians who allowed this to happen.

The same thing will happen if you stop paying the mortgage. There are all kinds of penalty fees that kick in.

What's happening is that in bad times, people need their credit cards more than their houses. They can use credit cards to get gas for their cars and food for their children. You can't do that with a house - not any more.

I heard a commentary yesterday (from whom I can't remember) that had the most sensible idea I've heard as to how mortgage debts should be re-structured. If a 'home owner' for example, owns 10% of the equity in his home, and the bank owns 90%, the current market price should be divided in a like proportion between the bank and the owner.

This would hit the banks harder in most cases, but to me it makes sense that whoever is the owner of a percentage of a piece of property should be responsible for dealing with the drop in market value.

The walk away that more and more owners are doing is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that the owner has little to lose.

This sounds like a great idea to me. If the house goes up in value instead of down, I think the bank should then be able to sell the house out from under the borrower, since the bank owns 90% anyway. That way, they can claim their fair portion of the appreciation too and make up for some of the losses that resulted from the borrowers who walked away.

Heart O' Gold

Wha? Ya woke me up, mate. Does someone want to board the HOG?



This sounds like a great idea to me. If the house goes up in value instead of down, I think the bank should then be able to sell the house out from under the borrower, since the bank owns 90% anyway. That way, they can claim their fair portion of the appreciation too and make up for some of the losses that resulted from the borrowers who walked away.

In a sense, this is exactly what the bank does. The bank will normally sell the mortgage to some bigger entity such as Freddie Mac, after it skims off various fees and profits, and then take no more responsibility for it. It seems some home owners have made a legal case on the fact that it is next to impossible to track down who actually owns the property after all the slicing and dicing of the mortgage has taken place.

I think businesses are operating under a very similar mindset. Much has been made on the business news programs about how businesses are "awash" in cash. But they're not, really. Business has something like 1.8 trillion in cash, but they're still carrying 7.2 trillion in debt; exactly four times as much. Businesses know that they may not have the cash flow going forward to service their bond and bank debt obligations. They're not gonna spend any of that cash, and neither are consumers gonna spend what little they have, either. Nor would (will) I.

Some companies are definitely hoarding cash but they are the minority.

Almost $40 Billion In Cash: What Is Apple Waiting For?

Steve Jobs has been through some harrowing cash crunches and knows the buffer value that only cash can provide.

For multinationals, the cash isn't necessarily in dollars nor is it necessarily in the US. Moving it to the US and paying it out in dividends or using it to make US investments may involve tax penalties.

The future will always be uncertain. So, get over it. Besides, "uncertainty about the future" is code for "we need to not restore the old tax rates". Eliminate the tax raise on the rich and, poof, uncertainty gone and we can all sell our houses.

Resources, including oil, of course, never are part of this conversation. If we just get the government off our backs we can return to business as usual and growth ad infinitum. People are in a panic and will grasp any straw, especially the one market "tax cuts". A free lunch for everyone.

Sure, but I think the future is more uncertain than it has been. Or at least is perceived as such.

No, I don't think many are blaming peak oil and resource constraints.

But I do think there's a growing feeling that things are changing...permanently.

It's definitely growing, but slowly.

Both www.ChrisMartenson.com and Mike Ruppert's www.CollapseNet.com are partners with us (www.PostPeakLiving.com). The folks from CollapseNet are very oil aware, the people from CM's site are more financially aware but each group is still very well-versed in all the big problems. Both partnerships are new so it's a little early to tell but we're starting to get some early numbers. Given the membership base of both sites the number of people who are taking courses is still quite low, definitely less than 1%.

Even presuming that some number of people are preparing but not taking any of our courses, I would still guess that the number of people getting ready for (our vision of) the future is still under 10% of their respective memberships. Most people are content to keep gathering information. It's not a criticism. There is always a big gap between knowledge of an issue and the moment one takes action, whether one is discussing an environmental problem or a new hair style.

From people on my mailing list, I'd say the numbers are slightly higher, perhaps 4% have taken a course. After all, people sign up to learn about the courses in the first place.

The company is named Post Peak Living and not Post Oil Living because it was clear when it was founded that there would be many, many issues that we would deal with in this decade, the foremost one being a dramatically contracting economy. In the next version of the video on my site, I'm going to de-emphasize peak oil (slightly) and increase (slightly) the discussion of the economy.

BTW, David Hughes and I were on Earth Beat last week, a show from the Netherlands.

The topic was Cities that Work:


Naturally, we discussed oil depletion.

I looked at historical data on building permits for new home construction in the 3 counties near me, which are available from the US Census Bureau. So far this year (thru May), the rate is roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the number issued in 2006 and 2007. For the local construction industry, which had mostly been building second homes for tourism and retirement, the result is quite literally a depression...

E. Swanson

Calculated Risk has been writing for a long time on various aspects of the home construction depression. He has a post up today showing that new home sales in July were at an all-time record low (data goes back to 1963). That's a fairly staggering thought: despite a total US population increase of almost 75%, we're selling fewer new houses now than we did in 1963.

He's also been regularly updating a chart that illustrates what he calls the "distressing gap" between sales of new homes and existing homes. Almost all of the recent (temporary) upticks in sales were existing homes, not new construction. By some estimates, the US overbuilt by almost a million new houses in the last decade. It's going to take a long time to work off that excess inventory.

Actually, you have to wonder how much of that construction is in areas where it will never be sold. This picture from Rio Vista, California, is particularly telling.

Much of the new housing stock we have built will become worthless. Ultimately, it's a losing proposition, from the cost of energy perspective, to own a large home in an exurb and have to drive long distances. I suspect that contruction standards declined as well. Perhaps people understand this?

When you combine this with commercial real estate that's going poof and could someday be converted to housing, the outlook remains pretty bleak.

The future (indeed the present) is one of large numbers of relatively poorer people crowding into the already developed metropolitan areas. I suspect that people will only buy a house if they have a rock solid job and convinced they won't be moving, ever. Which of course means that some people may never buy a house.

Shelter isn't a problem, and never will be. Liquid energy is.

I don't think building standards have gone down, at least not in my part of California. More likely the builders and material suppliers have gotten more "creative" in how they have met existing, or even more stringent, standards.

One example would be the use of OSB. Where once only plywood met the standard now a mix of goo and sawdust will do the job.

Thick tar paper has been replaced with paper thin Tyvek. 3/4" plywood is now 23/32" thick. Are these materials better or worse? Hard to tell. When my shop was built, about 10 years ago, one of the contractors mentioned that he now builds with lumber he would have thrown away 25 years ago. Not a single framing stud was square on all 4 sides. I suspect a lot of these changes were simply never addressed in the building codes yet here they are.

Re the study on the new oil munching microbes that don't use much O2 and are super effective


Hazen, who has studied numerous oil-spill sites in the past, is the leader of the Ecology Department and Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. He conducted this research under an existing grant he holds with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to study microbial enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. EBI is a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley and including Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.

Bold mine, although bold move is of course BP's. The sneaky @#$%^s

I don't get your indignation.

Several months ago people were screaming for BP to pay for everything related to studying all of the potential long term damages.

Now that they set up a fund to pay for studies, it is now somehow an underhanded sneaky play on their part if any group that takes funds finds positive news?

At least this is published and (hopefully) available for peer review.

Just another indication of how totally sckrewed we are.

They have all the money.

If they pay for the research, we have to wonder if its had some influence.

If they don't, we have to wonder what didn't get researched--note the research blackout in the gulf right now.



Survey of alternative fuels for garbage trucks



Best Hopes for Garbage Collection (I remember 2 months after Katrina),


PS: Leanan, I usually go through the daily articles on Drumbeat, but I must have missed the ones @ the seedbank. Also duplicated the 50% increase in Chinese hydropower. Sorry.

Will peak garbage follow peak everything?

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending August 20, 2010 [PDF]

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.9 million barrels per day during the week ending August 20, 348 thousand barrels per day below the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 87.7 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.6 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 4.4 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.9 million barrels per day last week, up by 320 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.6 million barrels per day, 589 thousand barrels per day above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.4 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 163 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 4.1 million barrels from the previous week. At 358.3 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 2.3 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels last week and are in the middle of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 8.9 million barrels last week.

This is a much bigger build than expected. The predictions ranged from a slight increase to a slight decrease.

After reading the reports of such large crude stocks in storage, does anybody have a clue as to what at what level we are at in terms of total storage available? Are we at 75%? 90%? Does anybody know? At some point they have to run out of places to store the stuff.

To get right to the point, the high absolute inventories levels of oil and products should not be used as a proxy to gauge long term supply and demand. While total inventories of all kinds are up more than 30 million barrels from a year ago, that is at least partly intentional, and 30 million barrels increase only represents about 0.4% of total yearly demand.

Let's get to the intentional build up in inventory part first, since the media is totally ignoring this. Most importantly, the Enbridge pileline break in Michigan is causing massive problems for refiners downstream in US and Canada. Refiners have had to develop alternative sources of supplies, which mostly involve increasing gasoline imports. More specifically, industry reports indicate that the extended shutdown had led Canadian refineries to import more oil from the North Sea: sources reported that at least one ship, the Suezmax Valtamed, had been assigned to deliver oil from Scotland to Portland, Maine. So let's review: the Enbridge pipeline break in causing a build up in unusable crude supplies in the Midwest and increased gasoline imports along the East Coast.

The other part of the intentional buildup is that more supplies are needed for new pipelines and storage facilities than opened in 2010.

Distillate (diesel) demand is rising at almost a 5% rate year over year, in the latest four weeks. We've been treated to recent media reports here at TOD about 'collapsing' diesel demand that is 'falling off a cliff'. How is demand growing at a 5% rate a sign of a 'double dip' economy? There seems to be a great bias to interpret all news as negative recently. Durable goods orders reported today are 15.6% higher at this point over last year, a huge gain, yet it is being reported as being 'disappointing'.

Total oil product demand in the latest four weeks is 314,000 barrels pd over last year, while a bit slower than recent trends, still is more than double the average gain in demand (140,000 bpd) expected by the EIA in 2010 .

One last note: most of the increase in oil imports was from Mexico, which were unusally high - and unsustainable at that rate.

As discussed yesterday, the inventory level that is most important is the minimum operating level. If I can find my research on this, I will post it.

Nice analysis, Charles.

Can someone with a physics/engineering back ground please help me out? My university physics is a tad rusty having not been used for nearly 15 years.

How many Joules of energy would be required to move 1000kg 10 miles along a flat road in a truck which averages a whopping 50 mpg of diesel? I can't lay my hands on the diesel conversion rates etc. Am looking for a ball park.

The reason I want to know is that I have just heard a radio programme on BBC radio 4 about anaerobic digesters. It was stated that one metric ton (1000kg) of high-grade material would produce about 240 Kw/hrs of electricity. Also stated was that the median distance of collection of waste was 10 miles.

I reckon that 240 Kw/hrs is 8.64 * 10^8 Joules and I am trying to get a handle on the ERoEI of this project.

Any help much appreciated.

Ten miles @ 50 mpg is 0.2 gals of diesel fuel which has an energy density of 37.3 MJ/L. Converting gallons to liters (1 gal = 3.785L) gives .757 L used in 10 miles, or 28.2 MJ, or 2.82 * 10^7 J. There are probably other energy inputs besides this one transportation cost, too.

Many thanks Escape Artist.

Happy to help. Let me know if you want to continue with the other inputs, and I'll send an e-mail address.

Thank you Escape,

I would very much appreciate more info. Please send me an email to: tod at aclandinternet dot com

best regards,
Hugh Acland


A thousand kgs isn't much weight and 50 mpg is pretty incredible for a truck. Heavy trucks can carry between 7 and 15 tons.

An average US heavy truck gets 3357 Btu/ton-mile or 3700 Btu/tonne-mile. An average US heavy truck gets about 5 mpg, not as good as 50 mpg. So 3700 Btu/tonne-mile x 5 mpg/50 mpg x 1054 Joules per Btu x 10 miles x 1 tonne = 3.9 MJ. to move 1000 kg 10 miles.

Meanwhile to fuel the imaginary 50 mpg truck to drive 10 miles
10 miles x 3.78 L per gal / 50mpg = .756 liters of diesel.
37.3 MJ/liter x .756 liters = 28 MJ

A real 5 mpg heavy truck moving 10 tons 10 miles would use 390 MJ
while driving it 10 miles would be about 280 MJ

Just be aware of what gallon we're talking about. An imperial gallon is 4.55L, i.e. 20% larger.

Thanks, Steve. How U.S. gallon-centric of me. ;-) That makes it 3.38 * 10^7 J

I'm assuming that when you write "Kw/hrs" you mean kiloWatt-hours, kWh. Some random back-of-the-envelope calculations.

  • The figure typically tossed around for freight transport by truck in the US is 125 ton-miles per gallon of diesel. Those are short tons, net ton-miles, US gallons and long-haul tractor-trailer rigs. Assume that waste collection is much less efficient than that -- stop and go, much more weight for the truck relative to the cargo, etc -- so divide by five and use 25 ton-miles per gallon of diesel.
  • That means a gallon of diesel moves 1.25 net short tons ten miles. That's 1.13 metric tons, so about 270 kWh out of the digester based on an investment of a gallon of diesel. I'm assuming that the 240 kWh per ton is net of any energy inputs the digester requires (and a lot of other assumptions too).
  • If you used the diesel to directly drive a generator, and we assume 45% efficiency for the diesel engine, 90% efficiency for the generator, and 126,200 BTUs per gallon of diesel, we get about 14.8 kWh. Gain from going the digester route: 18.2.

I can think of a number of reasons why that number would be too high. The digester produces waste that has to moved somewhere. The 240 kWh/ton could be gross output, not net, and the digester requires other energy inputs. High-quality input might mean a lot of energy-intensive sorting.

If anybody knows of a website that has a reasonably comprehensive listing of all the conversion factors a typical TOD junkie would like to have at his fingertips, PLEASE POST THE ADDRESS.Thanks in advance.

I'm thinking every thing from "watts to horsepower" to "acres to hectares" to "fliud ounces per liter" to "barrels of oil per ton" and so forth.Some of these things can be time consuming to locate;a bookmarked site would be wonderful.

And if there is a comprehensive list of tags or keywords or whatever posted somewhere on this site, please anybody post directions to finding it.

Thanks again!

And one more-confounded English money-crowns and shillings and so forth;how many are there of each to a pound? Or how many pounds per crown?Are there one hundred pence to the pound?


I often use this site:


Welcome to OnlineConversion.com
Convert just about anything to anything else.
Over 5,000 units, and 50,000 conversions.

I often use Google where you can type in the search bar something like
1 gallon in liters
and get the answer back
1 US gallon = 3.78541178 liters

which should have been a clue that I was making the egregious error above. It looks like OnlineConversion would have helped, so thanks for the link!

I have a web site that does quite a few conversions:


It has a few energy units such as gallon-gas. It can solve a lot of problems because it can do any combinations of units, e.g. to find out how many watts a person is, convert:

(/ (* 2000 kilo calorie) day)

to watt.

Very interesting! Just out of curiosity I decided to take your input suggestion and plug it in to Wolfram Alpha's main search engine at http://www.wolframalpha.com/

Input: (/ (* 2000 kilo calorie) day) to watt

It returned this reply:

Using closest Wolfram|Alpha interpretation: calorie day watt.

More interpretations:

* 2000 kilo calorie
* kilo

Input interpretation:
convert 1 cal_th (thermochemical calorie) to watt days
4.843×10^-5 W day (watt days)
Additional conversion:
4.184 J (joules)
(no standard named quantities)
Basic unit dimensions:
[mass] [length]^2 [time]^(-2)
Corresponding quantities:
Relativistic mass m from E = mc^2:\n | 47 fg (femtograms)\n | 4.7×10^-17 kg (kilograms)
Spectroscopic wavenumber nu^~ from nu^~ = E/(hc):\n | 2.106×10^25 m^(-1) (reciprocal meters)

We certainly have a vast amount of knowledge, expertise and information at our fingertips.
One has to really work overtime to remain ignorant and uninformed these days.

Then again I was just outside and overheard my 30 something neighbor excitedly discussing an episode of Californication with someone on his cellphone... I had to go inside and look up Californication to find out it was a TV show, ain't the internet just wonderful?

Can the world be powered mainly by solar and wind energy?

Continuous research and development of alternative energy could soon lead to a new era in human history in which two renewable sources -- solar and wind -- will become Earth's dominant contributor of energy, a Nobel laureate said here today at a special symposium at the American Chemical Society's 240th National Meeting.

Walter Kohn, Ph.D., who shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, noted that total oil and natural gas production, which today provides about 60 percent of global energy consumption, is expected to peak about 10 to 30 years from now, followed by a rapid decline. He is with the University of California, Santa Barbara.

People who think that solar and wind can provide most of the energy requirements for electricity generation are playing with themselves and playing into the hands of the fossil fuel lobbies.

Because of the intermittent and unreliable nature of both solar and wind there has to be a large generating over capacity and massive storage.There is also a huge investment in extensions to the grid and some sort of complex control system.In the real world there is no way that this is going to happen.

Renewables have their place but they are not practical to scale up to provide base load power to large users like cities and industrial plants,reliably and at a reasonable cost.Without base load power the present system will collapse in short order.I realize that some people on this site would prefer that to happen but I'm not sure whether they have thought through the consequences.

Because of the pollution caused by fossil fuel burning power generation we need to replace these plants with nuclear generators as quickly as possible.Nuclear is a proven technology and is also a developing and improving technology.The mindless opposition to it in certain quarters is ideological.In other words,it is faith based and suffers from the usual disconnect from reality of all religions.

This is not about continuing BAU.It is about solving, or ameliorating the consequences of, critical problems.It is about buying some time for the necessary changes to our way of relating to planet Earth.

Incorrect. When you factor in transmission to even out wind fluctuations, thermal storage, which is inherent in solar thermal technology, hydropower and pumped hydro storage, you've already covered a large part of the problem of intermittent power supply.

That done, along comes the smart grid, and here is why:

1. Transportation: train locomotives are all diesel hybrid. Connect them to overhead power, and they can suck up whatever juice you have, or just crank up the onboard diesel.

2. Refrigeration and HVAC: Any large building can perform demand response by producing and storing ice, and then using said ice to chill air. And already many do. On a smaller scale, residential freezers can go into deep freeze when there is power, which allows them to run less often when there isn't.

3. Water management. Those water towers you see all over the Midwest? They too can perform the same service.

4. Washers. Dryers. Dishwashers. You run them once a week. You can usually tolerate 12 hours of delay in when they do their work.

What's left? Lighting and communication. That's the only part of energy consumption that is not easily amenable to intermittent supply.

And much lighting is un-necessary--just add movement sensors to most urban lighting devices and you will eliminate much of the need. empty streets and sidewalks in the middle of the night do not need to be illuminated.

And communication need not continue non-stop 24/7.

I occasionally have made a few not so complimentary things to say about the scientists of the world and thier occassionally incredibly asinine way of examing SOME things like corprate lawyers looking for loopholes -and yet accepting other data at face value without a second thought.

The possuble consequences failure to check things out thoroughly before embarking on programs based on such ill founded assumptions could be disastrous. Ag professors who went along with the unexamined rosy projections of the people who expected to get rich(and have, some of them at least)making moonshine had a great deal to do with our getting saddled with the ethanol monster.

Whose figures do you suppose this Nobel prize winner is using when he says oil and gas production are going to peak from ten to thirty years from now?

Now I am not "out" to find fault with this particular individual;I simply happened to see this quote and thought it would be a good example of what I am talking about.

Next week somebody else will be quoting him , trying to get more money to get some scheme or another funded by the govt or off the ground in the market place.

Business and econ trained people will accept his remarks as proof we don't have anything to worry about for a decade at least so far as oil is concerned-and to a corporate manager trying to push up current stock prices and current earnings, a decade down the road might as well be a century.

The manager of your local town or city is not likely going to do anything NOW to head off a problem he thiks is at least a decade aweay.

Not a snow[bird]'s chance in hell?

Wind farm threat to economy in northern N.S., group says
Developer scales back plans for Pugwash site to 11 turbines

Lisa Betts is continuing to fight against a revised plan for a wind farm in northern Nova Scotia’s cottage country.

Betts, singer Anne Murray and 100 other members of the Gulf Shore Preservation Association turned out Sunday afternoon to hear an update from wind developer Charles Demond about plans to build 11 large turbines in the area.

"We believe it would be economically detrimental to the whole entire area," said Betts, who lives in the scenic Gulf Shore area just outside Pugwash, on Tuesday.


Nova Scotia has one of the best wind power regimes in North American, according to a Stanford University study.

And wind-generated electricity is being pushed by the government because it produces no emissions, is entirely renewable and ranks as one of the cleanest sources of electricity.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1198606.html

Same old song, I guess.... best hopes for a new tune.


A small step forward...

How Saint John's old, rotten garbage is powering homes

SAINT JOHN - With the push of a red button, green energy flowed from a working landfill to the energy grid for the first time in Atlantic Canada on Tuesday.


"We expect, over the life of this facility, to be receiving approximately five-million kilowatt hours annually. That's quite a quantity of energy," Marr said.

"It's probably enough to supply...800 homes. That's substantial."

A Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission press release says that the gas project will result in a reduction of greenhouse gas that's equivalent to taking 11,000 vehicles off the road.

"It's a two-pronged effect for generation because not only do we destruct the landfill gas, we also are replacing other electrical generation, which in turn makes it less greenhouse gas that's being produced elsewhere," MacLeod said.

See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/city/article/1189615


Lisa Betts is continuing to fight against a revised plan for a wind farm in northern Nova Scotia’s cottage country.

Not sure what "cottage country" might actually look like, but if new age boomers and other assorted sea-changers and art-craft types somehow choose to live in a cold, windswept spot, then they should expect turbines. Seems only fair.

Amen, brother. It's not like any of these folks ever turn on a light switch....sigh. I wish we didn't have to dot the province from one end to the other with wind turbines but they appear to be the lesser of all evils. We certainly can't continue to burn coal and pet coke to generate electricity as we do now.


Cutbacks force police to curtail calls for some crimes

Cutbacks in such places as Oakland, Tulsa and Norton, Mass. have forced police to tell residents to file their own reports — online or in writing — for break-ins and other lesser crimes.

"If you come home to find your house burglarized and you call, we're not coming," said Oakland Police spokeswoman Holly Joshi. The city laid off 80 officers from its force of 687 last month and the department can't respond to burglary, vandalism, and identity theft. "It's amazing. It's a big change for us."

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is trying to extract more revenue from its citizens...by taxing bloggers.

Does it seem strange that they've laid off 80 officers, but have retained a least one spokeswoman?


Not really. IME, "spokesmen," "public relations liaisons," etc. are often not full-time, especially at smaller government agencies. They just pick someone in the office who has good communication skills and he or she talks to the public/press when required. It's in addition to their regular duties.

Not particularly. A police force in a city the size of Oakland is a political entity, as well as a law enforcement agency. As such, they have to respond to a steady stream of requests for information from the press, the public, other government agencies, etc. Spokespeople are often civilian employees, paid much less than a uniformed officer, who handle all of those communication needs. If a ticked-off member of the city council wants information, better that a civilian whose skills include a thick skin and message discipline collect and present it than a uniformed officer.

In this case, the spokeswoman in question is actually a police officer.

My car was damaged, probably vandalism, about 2 years ago in Madison, WI. I tried to report it to the police, but there did not appear to be any way to contact them by phone. There may have been some sort of web form that could be filled out, I can't remember, but I didn't do it. I didn't want to call 911 either since it was not an emergency. The damage was less than the deductible, so I didn't need a police report for insurance so I didn't pursue the matter.

As a benefit, cutbacks will improve the petty crime statistics, since more will go unreported.

I thought that petty crime tended to lead to worse and worse crimes.
Wasn't there a police initiative a decade or so ago in New York City where they cracked down on stuff like petty vandalism by putting more cops on the beat and then were successful in reducing the overall violent crime rate?

It's possible but I'm not convinced the reason for less crime had anything to do with Giuliani or his massive ego.

A combination of abortion/declining birth rates (less sociopathic young males), mass imprisonment, the media-entertainment complex, and the trickle down effect of investment bank "money" probably made NYC a safer place.

BTW the crime rate in NYC started dropping two decades ago, around 1990. A small point, but time flies, doesn't it!

The crack epidemic ended around the time crime started falling. We can't forget that has become more difficult to commit a crime and get away with it. I wonder how many security cameras are in operation in New York City.

The AIDS epidemic began in the '80s, but due to the long incubation period, deaths from full-blown AIDS did not begin their steep rise until the early '90s. Intravenous drug users who shared needles were particularly susceptible. A hard core drug user has to commit dozens of crimes per year to support his habit. As infected drug users were incarcerated, they also tended to spread AIDS through the prison population via unprotected sex.

Incapacitation or death from AIDS is a more realistic explanation of the drop in crime during the '90s than theories about policing, stiffer legal penalties, etc.

Note that he said the cutbacks will improve the statistics, but not the truth about petty crime.

Here it is as much politics and union positioning as fiscal reality. Certainly costs are being constrained, but the city gov't has internal frictions and the police union and management have issues as well. Nobody wants to give, and it seems that each has a ready supply of defensive actions that have high public visibility. Now it's to the point that if there is no human injury or ongoing incident, city police probably won't respond. It appears that there are fewer but much higher paid officers, responding to fewer minor incidents but plenty of murders and shootings, while having a bunch of lesser-paid junior officers on the streets would probably help more.

The reality, though, is that most of the crime is in just a few districts, and in those areas there is no point in sending police, as nobody ever sees anything. In the suburban neighborhoods, if you call a cop, one will show up quickly. He may just give you a form to fill out yourself, but certainly there is a visible and responsive presence.

The high-density urban areas here, instead of being low-energy mass-transit living examples, are still stuck as high-crime, poor-school, failing-infrastructure areas, while the suburbs are still car-centric, but with good schools and solid infrastructure.

Cutbacks in such places as Oakland, Tulsa and Norton, Mass. have forced police to tell residents to file their own reports

We found a piece of evidence relating to the purposefull killing of two of our trees (one of them an 80 foot pine tree), they took the evidence to dust for prints, but told us it may be several years before we know the results, because evidence not related to murders or other violent crime get pushed off until there is time to do lab work. Just in our simpleton neck of the woods, they were investigating 6 murders from Jan-May 2010.

Yet, if you get out on the roads and speed they'll nail you to the wall. But I guess that brings in revenue.

There is another reason why police emphasize moving violations and it's a very good one. They are an excellent way to catch people who have already committed crimes. There is a correlation between criminals and moving violations. Sorry, don't have a link atm.

Generally if criminals commit serious crimes, they care even less about minor crimes.

Yep. I've been reading about the local "DUI" checkpoints. For every drunk they pick up there must be two parole violators and 10 people driving without a license. I suspect it is very efficient police work. Oddly enough the supporters of immigrant populations are up in arms because many of the un-licensed drivers are un-documented (or illegal, which ever you prefer).

It would be even more efficient to go house-to-house and apartment-to-apartment, especially in poor areas, and bust everyone's chops for drug possession and whatever other major and minor offenses which could be found or planted.

There are the small issues of illegal search and seizure, probable cause, and all that, but few people know about or care about the Constitution, and besides, poor people can't afford lawyers.

But the private prison industry would ride high...and Federal Prison Industries, nee UNICOR, can supply more office furniture to the government and other businesses.

I wonder what drivers' licenses are for....having one doesn't seem to be any kind of guarantee of driving abilities...but it makes money for the government and provides a de-facto national (albeit cosmetically customized by state)ID card.

Americans using less energy, more renewables: report
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has released the new energy flow charts for 2009-10

Energy use tends to follow the level of economic activity, and that level declined last year. At the same time, higher efficiency appliances and vehicles reduced energy use even further," said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the energy flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. "As a result, people and businesses are using less energy in general."

Spanish oil spill workers suffered chromosome damage: study

The Spanish study said "those who participated in the clean-up had a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms, higher levels of markers suggestive of airway injury in exhaled breath condensate, and chromosomal alterations in lymphocytes compared with those who did not participate in clean-up activities."

It said "chromosomal damage in circulating lymphocytes is an early marker of genotoxicity associated with increased risk for cancer."

Those who responded to the recent Chinese oil-spill are probably looking at the same fate. Hope those working on the BP' Gulf spill had protective gears.


BP insisted that hirees working cleanup NOT wear gasmasks or other visible protective gear, concerned it seems that it would present an unclean image to the world.

BP threatens to fire cleanup workers who wear respirators


News is breaking from the Gulf of Mexico that cleanup workers — who are really just contracted fishermen — are being told they will be fired if they wear protective gear. BP is not providing the gear, but if workers wear respirators they secure for themselves, the company says they will be fired, according to Louisiana Environmental Action Network and a local environmentalist who just returned from the Gulf.

BP threatens to fire cleanup workers who wear respirators

That's just plain amoral.

It's not amoral, it's immoral.

Hey, that's business.

" A when da Oil's in your eyes like a big bar of Lye, dat's Immoral, it's Immoral! "

Criminal is the word that has to be used.

It's one whole flock of Pelicans to have set up the conditions that led to this 'accident' (and we do have to let a proper 'investigation' conclude what it will...) .. but quite another to hire people who will be in intimate contact with this range of toxins, including the corexit or whatever it was (Sweepzit Unnr da Rug..) and not even ALLOW these employees and contractors to protect themselves.

They've tied their Noose several times over. Do we have the will to put their Corporate Charter's Cojones into it?


I guess no one bothered to see that the story was seven weeks ago nor read the comments from multiple folks familiar with the OSHA regs (I am not) that talked about that BP was probably following OSHA regs in regards to making sure folks were actually trained and competent on the respirators before using them.

nahhh...we don't like to let these types of things get in the way of a juicy story slamming big oil

My theory (completely unsubstantiated much like your link) A BP rep asked someone if they were trained on the mask they were wearing and all of a sudden it turned into BP is going to fire me if I wear this respirator.


Of course, direct testimony is just 'anecdotal'.. you need a rich company to report it before it's real. I understand.


"Once the fisheries were closed, commercial fishermen had no recourse and BP was their only potential employer," explains LaTosha Brown, Director of the Gulf Coast Fund. "Workers were hired to clean up the spill but were not supplied with proper safety equipment," she says. Louisiana Environmental Action Network (http://www.leanweb.org), with funding from the Gulf Coast Fund, provided respirators and protective gear for the workers. "But BP told the workers that if they wore the respirators, they'd be fired," Brown reports.

Then again, maybe the whole spill was made up by the Sierra Club for their fall fundraising.

Researcher develops carbon dioxide-free method of producing iron
This may come in useful as time goes on, however, it's not clear how scalable this is. I'm thinking industry probably wants to produce iron in batchs larger than 1 kilo at a whack.

The process of producing iron free of carbon dioxide emissions is a culmination of more than 20 years of research by Dr. Licht. Through his years of study, Dr. Licht came to understand the efficient use of sunlight and the chemistry of iron, and found that iron ore at high temperatures is significantly more soluble than previously thought. In his most recent research, Dr. Licht found a new way to use electrolysis - a process that uses electricity rather than chemicals to create a reaction - to covert iron ore to iron metal. This high temperature electrolysis requires little energy, and can be powered through conventional or renewable energy sources to reduce or completely eliminate CO2 emissions. When powered by STEP, the electrolysis process is carbon dioxide free, creating no global warming gas emissions when converting the ore into metal. By using both solar thermal energy and visible sunlight, the STEP process converts more solar energy than the best solar cells, as it uses excess solar heat (energy discarded by solar cells) to drive iron production.

LEDs promise brighter future, not necessarily greener

Jevon's Paradox at work.

...societal response to more efficient light production has been a preference to enjoy more light, rather than saving money and energy by keeping the amount of light produced a constant.
"Over the past three centuries, according to well-accepted studies from a range of sources, the world has spent about 0.72 percent of the world's per capita gross domestic product on artificial lighting," said Tsao. "This is so for England in 1700, in the underdeveloped world not on the grid and in the developed world using the most advanced lighting technologies. There may be little reason to expect a different future response from our species."

Another paper author, Sandia researcher Jerry Simmons points out, "More fuel-efficient cars don't necessarily mean we drive less; we may drive more. It's a tension between supply and demand.

Hi Seraph,

With respect to commercial and industrial lighting which is the bulk of the kWhs in question, it will be many years before LEDs begin to displace T8/T5 fluorescent and HID light sources in any material way -- if ever -- so they're not really a factor at this time. In addition, watts per sq. ft. are continuing to drop over time. Not long ago, four to five-watts per sq. ft. was fairly common; today, it's less than 1-watt in many cases and daylight harvesting and occupancy sensors are chipping away at it further. Rising utility costs, a greater emphasis on natural daylighting and increasingly more stringent energy codes (e.g., the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1) are continuing to push lighting power density allowances downward. I don't think we'll have to worry about Jevon's Paradox, here at least.


I was thinking about the articles mention that 0.72% of GDP is used for lighting (regardless of societies technology).

If we are expecting GDP to track oil production then maybe the world is looking towards a 'darker' future.

I wasn't able to pull-up the article in question because your link brings me back to this page, but if you can provide us with the correct url, I'd be pleased to take a look at it now.

I suspect we'll see light levels shift downward for many of the reasons I mentioned above. Interesting to note that there are studies that suggest when you provide office workers with the ability to adjust light levels above their workstations, most dim their lighting by a considerable margin (each dimmable ballast is assigned its own IP address and a small applet on the employee's laptop/PC allows the user to easily adjust light levels according to their individual needs/tastes). That suggests there's some room to notch things back a bit.


That's interesting to hear, Paul.

I know when I light an image or a scene, one of the key factors (no pun in that) is that you have to include darkness as well as light for there to be a balanced range for the eyes to perceive a Rich palette from. This isn't only to be 'pretty', but goes back to the heart of 'Pretty', which is

'This looks right, and is restful and comfortable for the eyes, and it's easy to separate the important from the unimportant parts of the frame'

If it's all too bright and flat, it's still a lot of work for the eyes to pull things apart and get a clear sense of the view. Also, while a few extra bright highlights are nice and add a feeling of energy and life.. making focal objects overly bright causes eyestrain and can push you away from watching the subject.

For task areas, I like a high hard source, like this little 7w CFL in a reflector over my desk, but almost in the position of a backlight. It feels a little like sunlight, but also lets there be some shadows and definition as well. Very comfortable to sit with.


Hi Bob,

I agree that good contrast is critical to good vision. We can often reduce light levels in a space and still provide greater visual comfort and acuity by simply increasing the colour temperature of the lamp, and so we use 5,000K light sources almost exclusively for this reason. We've retrofitted warehouses illuminated by high pressure sodium lamps and although light levels can be quite high, it's difficult to perform visually demanding work because everything appears as a shade of orange. Switch to a 5,000K lamp with a high CRI and you can sometimes cut light levels by half, or more, and yet everyone will swear it's so much brighter.

In the 60s and 70s, we literally carpet bombed offices with artificial light whereas, today, we're making greater use of task lighting to target light where required (I think the introduction of the PC to the workplace deserves at least some credit for the shift in thinking). Rather than blanketing a room with high levels of light, we're fine-tuning its delivery so that we can achieve the desired results and at the same time make the space visually more attractive/interesting, but do so with far fewer watts.


I usually work without the overhead fluorescent light on in my office and use the light from my window instead. If that isn't enough I use a desk lamp.

I get odd looks and comments from some co-workers, but I notice some other office denizens doing the same.

It is actually tiring to be bathing in bright white artificial light. I find sunlight to be more peaceful and relaxing. Being able to look out the window and see the sky is good for the psyche.

Hi Richard,

I do the same. I dislike overhead fluorescent lighting or any type of overhead lighting for that matter. I also find daylight to have a calming influence and when it fades away, I turn on a desk lamp fitted with a 40-watt Philips high performance incandescent; it provides the same amount of light as a conventional 60-watt incandescent but uses one-third less energy and lasts three times longer.

Some thirty years ago, I was assigned an office with six 4-lamp T12 troffers and at that time each of these fixture consumed roughly 192-watts -- 1,150-watts in all. I figured based on a standard 40 hour work week that if I left them off I could save enough electricity to power my flat for an entire week. I got a lot of ribbing from my colleagues over that (mocking, actually) and no one else followed my example. [No snotty-nose kid was going to show them what to do.]

BTW, you can catch a glimpse of this office building in the lower left corner of this web shot: http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/community/lowerwaterstreetrelocation/south... Across the street is a coal-fired power plant now being converted into Nova Scotia Power's new corporate offices. Watching black smoke pour from those stacks literally metres away from my desk was the crystallizing moment in my life that convinced me that we have to do better and pretty much set the course that followed.

No more coal-fired power plants !


If it's all too bright and flat, it's still a lot of work for the eyes to pull things apart and get a clear sense of the view.

I agree entirely ... right through my office-bound working life I was always looking for ways to cut the harsh over-white and over-bright overhead fluoros, and rely on natural light, plus pool light from desk-lamps, or ceiling downlights. It is immensely more restful.

And my next laptop will definitely have illuminated keys (I am sort of a proficient touch-typist, but not entirely), so that I can work almost in the dark, or with just available natural light - much nicer.

Thanks for the link, Seraph. I've read the article and hope to get to the paper shortly. Again, with rising energy costs, increasingly more stringent energy codes, utility incentives to cut demand and various retrofit initiatives, more intelligent lighting designs, greater utilization of daylighting and a corporate desire to be green (or at least to appear so), I don't expect LED technology to drive-up energy demand; if anything, it should only help accelerate the forces already in play.


Yesterday I posted a local story about fumes in local waste handling facility leading to an evacuation. One of the chemicals listed as a cause was chlorine dichloride. Since chlorine dichloride cannot be legally transported in the US, something was amiss. NAOM guessed that it was an error in the reporting. It would appear NAOM was correct. Here is the response from the reporter that wrote the story.

Russ Henderson, Press-Register August 25, 2010 at 1:40PM

You were right about the sodium hypochlorite, TinFoil. I corrected the story. Thanks!

Granted, the event itself was a minor one, but folks around here need to know when they help 'correct' bad science.

To Catch Cairo Overflow, 2 Megacities Rise in Sand

Enormous subdivisions have sprung up in the dunes outside of Cairo, on an almost incomprehensible scale.
The government’s original plans — which are widely considered more wishful than literal — conceived of 6 October City’s expanding to 3 million by 2020 and New Cairo to 4 million, primarily as havens for working-class Cairenes. So far, however, the overwhelming majority of new residents come from Egypt’s uppermost economic strata.
Some of the earliest arrivals in the new cities are affluent Egyptians like Nisrine Alkbeissi, 29, who chose suburban quality of life over urban convenience.
She was hosting two friends who had driven 50 miles for coffee. A few years ago, they lived only a few miles apart but hours away when they factored in Cairo’s legendarily snarled traffic.

Now they drive along the ring road from New Cairo in the east to 6 October City in the west, never once getting close enough even to spot the old city in the distance.

Sorry for the extensive quote, but the article is focused on class inequality and suburbanization and doesn't focus on the obvious energy story and a little editing is necessary to see it.

This story makes it sound like Egypt is going in for American style "quality of life" on a big scale. This cannot be good given that the current Energy crisis stirs public unrest.

Let's review the existing trends in Egypt.

A population growth rate of 21% puts Egypt among the world’s fastest growing countries. Their energy consumption looks like it has barely kept up with population. But how much are they producing relative to their consumption? Are they "energy independent"?

Turns out they are "energy independent" today but the trend in oil is very disturbing. They are set to become net importers in 2010 if they aren't already. The situation with gas is still evolving as they develop their natural gas reserves. But adding huge new cities offering "quality of life" amenities will only add to the demand for power and hence natural gas.

It looks like Egypt is less than a decade away from shifting firmly into the net energy importer's camp.

Best Hopes for strict energy efficiency codes in new building designs.


(Charts from the Population Trends databrowser and the Energy Export databrowser.)

I have a dumb question, and please do not take it as ethnocentric, but could you just give me a few points on how urban and suburban areas are different in Egypt. I understand the less traffic angle and fewer conveniences, but for example where does Las Vegas end and the suburbs of Las Vegas begin? To me and the untrained eye, it is all a desert. You just have taller buildings. I am very interested in the post, I did not even know there was a New Cairo. I barely know about the old one. Does New Cairo have tall buildings? Compared to Cairo? Do folks have yards anywhere in Egypt?

I started to look up a Cairo map with google to try to answer dumb question. I ran into an old friend (a joke; kinda). I was stationed in Athens for three years.

'A fellow lands in Athens and a vendor is selling maps. "Do you want an English Language Map or a Greek Language Map. The fellow of course says English and in a few blocks is completely lost because all the street signs are in Greek.'

Same with the Cairo map, all the signs are in Egyption derivative of Arabic Language. So the map was no good to me because New Cairo must have been there someplace but I couldn't read Arabic. The ring road was a clue but no cigar.

No matter, with increasing population and deminishing resources, Egypt is in deep kimchi.

That is what A. Caesar said. Seems they are still around.

Edit: With GPS, language of choice is a keystroke away. I often turn my GPS unit to other languages for fun. You should hear the Russian female voice. Very sexy. Now I have to go see the shrink because I have feelings for my GPS ;)

I'd bet that the areas with geometric street patterns are the new suburbs. Google has english names along with the arabic names, e.g. "ring road" and "26 july".

According to List of metropolitan areas by population Greater Cairo ranks number 16 with a population of 14,450,000. However, the news story says 20 million.

At any rate, old Greater Cairo will probably still have 20 million by the times the new cities get built.


Had the same issue in China, I bought both maps, showed the locals the Chinese one, then transferred to the English to work out what the places weere called.

I good challenge while traveling.

Best hopes for the vast majority of Egyptians very quickly learning to consistently and properly use condoms, diaphragms, and birth control pills.

The August 13th issue of Science is about Scaling up alternative energy. It basically says we have a very long way to go but not to worry, there is plenty of time since oil and coal won't peak until 2030 plus or minus 10 years. Sorry if I missed an earlier comment... but doesn't it make it doubly hard to make the necessary policy changes as long as the official line is a 2030 peak??

alternative transportation ... on the road today ...




The motherlode

TinFoil stalks his prey. To be continued....

Edit2: Click the last thumbnail, what is the driver holding in his hand? Looks like it would make a fine weapon to fend off an ice cream bandit. Is it some sort of door opening handle? Of course, that is one burly driver. I think I will stick to paying for my BBIC.

This won't solve the liquid fuel problem but it might charge your batteries on a hot muggy nite in Alabama.

Electricity collected from the air could become the newest alternative energy source

Imagine devices that capture electricity from the air ― much like solar cells capture sunlight ― and using them to light a house or recharge an electric car. Imagine using similar panels on the rooftops of buildings to prevent lightning before it forms. Strange as it may sound, scientists already are in the early stages of developing such devices, according to a report presented today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Oh and perhaps we can transmit that power all over the globe with the high temp superconductors we'll get from understanding fractals!


The qualities of a high-temperature superconductor — a compound in which electrons obey the spooky laws of quantum physics, and flow in perfect synchrony, without friction — appear linked to the fractal arrangements of seemingly random oxygen atoms.

What will tomorrow’s seasonal adjusted initial unemployment numbers be?

Since Feb. 1st the average non-seasonally adjusted initial claims have averaged 438,448 the high on April 10th was 510,427 and the low was 394,640 on May 1st. Last week the number was 401,856 and the BLS fudge factor was 80.3% for a seasonally adjusted number of 500,000.

So if tomorrow we have an average of 438.5 thousand and tomorrows fudge factor is 80.5% then seasonally adjusted initial claims will be 544 thousand. So in order to have a number under 500 thousand unadjusted numbers have to come in near another record low below 402,500.

BTW I keep a spread sheet on the numbers and have been for the past nearly 100 weeks.


At the end of Dec 2008 covered unemployment was at 133,902,000 today it is at 126,763,245 that is a difference of more than 7 million. Those 7 million are no longer covered or receiving unemployment checks.
On July 31st continuing unemployment was 4,254,571 and extended unemployment was 4,753,456 add 7 million to that and it looks like about 16 million unemployed. All unadjusted.


Julian Cribb, in his book “The Coming Famine”, from the article at top.

Contends that we’ve already seen peak oil – the time when production can do nothing but decline. He then goes on to deduce that since we’ve likely seen peak fertilizer, peak water and peak land as well, we’ve probably seen peak food.

Isn't this about as obvious as the Sun rising in the east? I don't think there's any illusion (on TOD) that peak oil discovery would be followed by peak production, then by peak population. Adding to the list above is AGW, which is reducing crop yields. Dropping water tables along with depleting glaciers relied on for freshwater melt to farm the land.

However, I suppose some people may need a book to be convinced. Many people aren't even convinced that mankind could ever change the planet's atmosphere with sufficent CO2 emissions to cause AGW. There there's other people that think peak oil means running out. So maybe it is a book that's needed.

Isn't this about as obvious as the Sun rising in the east? I don't think there's any illusion (on TOD) that peak oil discovery would be followed by peak production, then by peak population.

While TOD is self selecting towards what you state, you will find some people who'd argue that your statement is wrong. Typically via 'past is prologue' and whip out some 'just need human ingenuity' or 'let the free market work' arguments.

Re: In pursuit of a richer lifestyle

A story about Gen X (rather than boomers) doing the tree change and sea change, in Australia. I can certainly attest to this ... I spend a lot of time going to the myriad farmers markets throughout greater Melbourne and nearby regional Victoria - the producers, stall-holders, and almost all the patrons, are 30 or 40 - they have all made a successful life (if a less financially lucrative one) outside the career paths of the major cities.

Surprising number of hippies still around, as well. Ready market for incense, crystals, and tie-dyed clothes ...