Drumbeat: September 8, 2010

EIA ups forecast for 2010 world oil demand growth

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Wednesday raised its forecast for growth in world oil demand this year for the third month in a row, mainly due to thirst for fuel in China, the Middle East and Brazil.

In its latest monthly report, the Energy Information Administration boosted its forecast of growth in 2010 world oil consumption by 50,000 barrels per day from its prior estimate, projecting a rise of 1.62 million bpd to 85.95 million bpd.

FACTBOX - Iran's crude oil buyers in Europe, Asia

(Reuters) - The United Nations in June passed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in reaction to its uranium enrichment programme. Tougher measures followed from the European Union and the United States, specifically targeting oil and gas.

A number of oil companies, trading houses and international businesses have since stopped transactions with Iran, although it is difficult to build up a picture of the country's crude purchases because the information is not officially published.

OPEC Pumped 29.11 Mln Bbls Of Oil a Day In August

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) produced an average of 29.11 million barrels a day in August, 110,000 barrels less than an estimated 29.22 million barrels a day in July, according to a Platts survey released Wednesday.

Poland Wants Flexible Russian Gas Deal, Has Eyes on Shale Gas

Poland wants a flexible long-term agreement for natural gas deliveries from Russia in order to be able to reduce its gas imports from the east should it identify shale gas deposits or gain access to natural gas from other suppliers, Polish Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad said Wednesday.

U.S. Government Loaned Mexican Government More Than $1 Billion to Drill Oil in Gulf of Mexico Last Year; Has $1 Billion More Planned For This Year

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Export-Import Bank, an independent federal agency, loaned more than $1 billion to the Mexican state oil company PEMEX in 2009 to support the company’s oil drilling in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The bank has another $1 billion in loans in the pipeline for 2010, unless Congress objects.

Mexican refinery blast may help U.S. fuel exporters

(Reuters) - The explosion of a hydroprocessing unit at the northern Mexican Cadereyta refinery may bring export opportunities for U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast and boost U.S. refined products prices, requiring Mexico to import more light fuels such as gasoline or diesel after the blast.

Mexico refinery repairs to take 2 wks-Pemex source

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's state oil monopoly Pemex should be able to quickly repair the hydrotreater at its 275,000 barrels-per-day Cadereyta refinery that was damaged in an explosion on Tuesday, a company source said on Wednesday.

The repairs should be complete within 14 days, the source said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

Europe Gasoline/Naphtha-Up on crude, Mexico refinery fire

LONDON (Reuters) - European gasoline rose on Wednesday, boosted by rebounding U.S. crude and an explosion at a major refinery in Mexico the day before.

However, traders said support might be short lived as the summer driving season in the Northern Hemisphere has ended.

Why is Canada obsessed with the Arctic?

Of all the Arctic coastal countries, Canada was the first to claim the Arctic, regarding the region as its "backyard." In recent years, as the area has become more valuable for economic and military interests, Canada began to expand its presence there. In 2007, after Russia dropped a flag to the ocean bottom of the North Pole, Canada took a series of actions – building a military training base and deepwater port, purchasing new patrol boats and establishing a cutting-edge Arctic research center – to protect its interests there.

China grants clearance to Sinopec-Kuwait refinery

China has granted environmental clearance and okayed a technical review of an $8.7bn refinery and petrochemical joint venture between Sinopec and Kuwait, paving the way for final state approval soon.

The venture, to be built in southern coastal city Zhanjiang, includes a 300,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) refinery and a 1 million tonnes-per-year ethylene complex, at a cost in line with previous estimates of around $9bn.

Duo set to develop Bolivia gas play

France's Total and Britain's BG Group will start production in 2011 at their Itau natural gas field in Bolivia, and most of its output will be exported to Argentina, state-run energy company YPFB said today.

Gas Shortage Hits Ghana

The country, especially Accra, has been hit by a devastating shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), leading to many households resorting to the use of charcoal.

For automobiles which use LPG as fuel, these are terrible times as they have to wait in queues for hours at locations where gas is available.

In some instances, by the time it is their turn to be supplied, they are told that it is finished, making nonsense of the long wait.

Panic fuel buying in Christchurch

Panic buying of fuel has returned to Christchurch following rumours that stations are about to run out of petrol in the city.

Both Greenstone, which operates the Shell retail network, and BP, said sales had increased, but denied there was any problem with supply.

FACTBOX - Key findings of BP probe

(Reuters) - BP Plc's internal investigation blames a series of human and mechanical failures by BP and its contractors, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton Co , for the April 20 blowout at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

As the well owner, BP was responsible for the well design. Transocean owned and operated the rig, which it leased to BP, and Halliburton was the contractor in charge of cement operations.

Here are the report's eight key findings:

Transocean Says BP's Report on Macondo Well Oil Explosion `Self Serving'

Transocean Ltd., the owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, said BP Plc’s report released today “is a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP’s fatally flawed well design.”

Transocean credit ratings cut by S&P

NEW YORK -- Transocean Ltd.’s credit ratings were cut by Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday due to potential liability stemming from its role in the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig the company leased to BP.

S&P cut Transocean’s rating by one notch to BBB, two levels above junk ratings, and placed the company’s rating on negative outlook, indicating it may cut the ratings again.

US Govt: New Gulf Drilling Regulations May Be Ready before Oct. 30

The U.S. Department of the Interior could decide before the end of October to modify the duration of a moratorium imposed on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the massive oil spill there, an official of the government agency overseeing offshore drilling said Tuesday.

"We are working very hard to assimilate the massive amount of information we have … but we expect to finish that before Oct. 30," Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement told reporters on the sidelines of a public meeting on offshore drilling. "It could be well before that," he said.

Stiffer Penalties Needed for Offshore Drilling, U.S. Board Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. offshore-drilling regulator should consider stiffer penalties for companies that break safety rules, according to a report from a review board formed in response to the BP Plc oil spill.

BP Floats New Standards To Help Prevent Future Oil Spills

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- BP PLC has developed a set of recommendations to help prevent future rig explosions and oil spills, making a case for the creation of new standards and training programs for key personnel.

The nearly forgotten Mariner explosion is just as bad as the BP oil spill

FORTUNE -- It's never a good time for an oil rig to blow up in the Gulf of Mexico, but Mariner Energy's Vermillion 380 platform couldn't have gone off at a worse time. The government and the media were already scrutinizing offshore drill production in an unprecedented way. Thirteen unlucky workers were ejected off of Vermillion into the water last week. And Mariner (ME) inadvertently became the latest part of a national political debate about the safety of offshore drilling.

But given that the explosion, according to reports, hasn't resulted oil leak, it would be surprising if the event had much of a political impact, even if it should. Oil spills are visual disasters that the public tends to forget once the crude is dispersed.

High winds fuel fires across Detroit

DETROIT, Mich. — At least two dozen buildings were ablaze across large sections of Detroit Tuesday night as winds knocked over power lines and fanned flames.

Electricity was knocked out to 113,000 Michigan homes and businesses, said DTE Energy and CMS Energy Corp.

FACTBOX - Kenya's planned energy generation projects to 2015

(Reuters) - Kenya's energy minister, Kiraitu Murungi, commissioned a 5.1 megawatt wind power project on Wednesday and expects installed capacity to more than double in the next three years.

Lebanon goes thirsty as as municipalities fail to deliver on water supply promises

BEIRUT: Already plagued by electricity problems, the Lebanese are now struggling with another, equally serious problem: water shortage.

Cash-strapped Metro targets drivers' pay

After two years of tapping reserves, boosting fares, surviving on federal grants and postponing new routes, King County Metro Transit managers now are looking behind the wheel for savings.

Metro drivers rank third nationally in wages, with a top rate of $28.47 an hour, and the average yearly income, including overtime, is almost $61,000 a year, according to a Metro review that includes full- and part-time drivers.

Firm can't fire man for 1.8 cent theft

(Reuters) - A German company that fired a man for the theft of 1.8 euro cents (two U.S. cents) worth of electricity had no grounds for sacking him, a court ruled, dismissing the firm's appeal against his reinstatement.

Network administrator Oliver Beel lost his job after charging his Segway, a two-wheeled electric vehicle, at work in May 2009. After he connected the vehicle to the firm's power source for 1-1/2 hours, his boss asked him to remove it.

Twelve days later Beel found himself without a job.

KrisCan interviews energy analyst Chris Nelder

In this seven part KrisCan interview with energy analyst Chris Nelder, they cover topics ranging from the consequences of the moratorium from the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico to the legitimacy of Cap and Trade; how U.S. offshore oil drilling will affect domestic oil supply in the coming decade and how policy in America curtails the incentivizing of an energy transition to more renewable sources.

Germany's Peak Oil Confession

Germany would have to cut a deal with Russia if it wants to secure Russian oil supplies. In short, Germany would have to kiss Moscow’s back end — even if doing so means damaging relationships with other Eastern European states...

Germany would also have to “not offend” Arab oil exporters in any way, meaning it may have to alter its relationship with Israel and change its stance on Israel’s right to exist, say the report’s authors.

And finally, there’s always the military option. If, for example, Iran took over Iraqi oil — constricting oil supply even more — would Germany and the EU attack Iran?

Harvest Fest to tackle issues like oil spill

The recent spill of an estimated one million gallons of oil right here in the Kalamazoo River watershed is a poignant reminder of our own region's heavy dependence on fossil fuels — and its drawbacks.

Michigan as a state ranks tenth in the nation in oil consumption, according to statistics. Southwest Michigan Community Harvest Fest will address this and other sustainability issues at its 8th Annual event on Sunday, September 19 at Tillers International in Scotts. Gates open at 11 a.m., and Harvest Fest offers a variety of activities from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per carload, and $1 per bicycle or per person for a bus with 10 or more.

The No Effort Path to Energy Independence

Can you imagine our economy operating on less than a third of today’s transportation of people and goods within eight years? It may be time for us to get serious about our energy use.

As we have seen, our most pressing need is in the transportation sector. Let’s see how our actions can help.

Who Turned Out The Lights? Review

Who Turned Out The Lights?: Your Guided Tour To The Energy Crisis is super easy book to read, very well written and researched, and full of interesting facts. Perhaps most engaging are the explanations of the politics and economics behind many of the major energy resources being consumed in America, including oil, coal, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro-electric and bio-fuels.

A road trip to the White House to reinstall Jimmy Carter's dream

It’s been almost a generation since solar panels President Carter installed on the White House roof were removed during renovations. Now, a group of climate activists armed with one of the original panels are on a road trip to the White House to get President Obama to put them back up.

Today, 350.org found Bill McKibben, City Year founder Alan Khazei and Boston energy chief Jim Hunt joined Unity College students from Maine who are driving the panel to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a bio-diesel van as part of a "Put Solar On It" campaign. The group met at the solar-powered Park Street School on Beacon Hill to show off the panel and launch the road trip.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Output to Climb 3.6% This Year, 0.4% in 2011, EIA Says

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy use will climb 3.6 percent this year, according to a forecast by the Energy Information Administration.

Carbon dioxide produced from burning coal, oil and natural gas will rise 0.4 percent in 2011 from 2010 levels, the EIA said in its September Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Steve LeVine - Foreign Policy: Algae Fuel Sparks Excitement

It's good to be J. Craig Venter right now. In May, Venter — who you may recall from his entrepreneurial work in genomics research — created a stir in scientific circles by creating the first cell with synthetic DNA; Exxon, meanwhile, has gone on the hook for up to $600 million in funding for Venter's ambitious synthetic algae fuel project. In a piece over the weekend, The New York Times' Andrew Pollack has added some James Dean brushstrokes to the portrait of this "scientific rebel." Shall we cut to the chase and start carving busts of the guy?

Solar power eyed as solution to Mindanao energy crisis

MANILA, Philippines - The Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), chaired by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, believes solar energy can be the solution to the Mindanao power crisis.

In a statement, Angara said harnessing solar power in Mindanao can complement existing coal-fired plants and is applicable even in off-grid areas. “Mindanao has the highest percentage of un-electrified barangays in the country. If we are able to apply solar energy effectively, the potential for sustainable, clean energy is enormous,” he said.

What peak oil? Why an oil glut is ahead

FORTUNE -- In May, less than a month after the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a key milestone was achieved with little notice: Total U.S. supplies of petroleum and products refined from it (including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) surpassed 1.8 billion barrels, reaching the highest level in the last 20 years. Since then the total has continued to edge upward, hitting 1.87 billion barrels in the week ended August 27, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Despite the Iraq War and the resulting production disruptions, despite the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf, despite turmoil in Nigeria and ongoing cross-border transshipment quarrels in Central Asia and the multiple, repeated declarations that "peak oil" has arrived and supplies will inevitably dwindle, the United States has more petroleum on hand today than it has had since at least the beginning of the first Gulf War.

Oil Falls a Third Day on Speculation European Debt May Curb Global Growth

Oil declined for a third day as equity markets fell and traders bet a government report will show fuel inventories are rising as the peak driving season comes to an end.

Oil Contango Doubles in 2011 Recovery Betting With Frontline Ship Demand

Oil traders are showing increasing confidence that U.S. economic growth will rebound next year as they take advantage of the widening gap between current prices of crude and contracts for delivery six months from now.

Crude Oil Caught in a `Stalemate' Between $70 and $75

Oil in New York will trade in a $5 range in the short term as prices are locked in a “stalemate,” according to broker Newedge.

Crude for October delivery is stuck between $70.76 and $75.59 a barrel as price movements illustrated by candlestick charts show a narrow gap between the daily opening level and closing for trading on Sept. 3 and Sept. 7, said Veronique Lashinski, a Chicago-based analyst at the brokerage. That means neither buyers with expectations of rising oil nor sellers expecting a decline are able to influence direction, she said.

China Third-Quarter Oil-Refining Margins to Widen, Standard Chartered Says

Chinese refiners led by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. may boost profits from processing crude oil into fuels in the third quarter while margins in Singapore may decline, Standard Chartered Plc said.

“We have been highlighting the potentially high gross refining margins in China in the third quarter due to relatively lower in-tank costs and stable product prices,” Singapore-based analyst Han Pin Hsi said in a report today. “At the same time, we had projected Singapore margins to fall in line with seasonal trends and to continue to weaken through December.”

China blacks out towns to meet energy goal

Chinese steel mills and mobile phone factories are being idled and thousands of homes in one area are doing without electricity as local governments order power cuts to meet energy-saving targets set by Beijing.

Rolling blackouts and enforced power cuts are affecting key industrial areas. The prosperous eastern city of Taizhou turned off street lights and ordered hotels and shopping malls to cut power use. In Anping County southwest of Beijing, an area known as China's wire-manufacturing capital, thousands of factories and homes have endured daylong blackouts over the past two weeks.

“We can't meet deadlines for some orders and will have to pay penalties,” said Han Hongmai, general manager of Anping's Jintai Metal Wire Co. “At home we can't use the toilet” on blackout days due to lack of power for water pumps, he said.

State revenue at stake if south Sudan secedes

Khartoum is preparing to lose most of its state revenue if Sudan’s restive south votes to secede in an independence referendum early next year, taking with it most of the country’s oil resources.

“Frankly … we don’t know if Sudan is going to be split or united,” Abdel al Jailani, the Sudanese minerals minister, told Reuters. “If the south does secede – you know 60 per cent of our budget comes from [oil] – we have to sit and think of another alternative.”

Kuwait Plans Partial Shutdowns at Two Crude Oil Refineries in November

Kuwait is planning a partial shutdown at the Mina al Ahmadi refinery, its largest oil processing plant, for about one month starting in November to conduct work on a crude distillation unit, an official said.

Iraqi-Kurdish relations take a new hit

A new flashpoint in relations between Iraq’s minority Kurds and the country’s central government has emerged as US troops pull out.

Baghdad’s decision this week to halve supplies of Iraqi diesel and kerosene to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region over alleged fuel smuggling has revived the festering resentment that Iraqi Kurds harbour over their treatment at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

South Korea to Ban New Oil, Gas Investments in Iran on Nuclear Program

South Korea said it will ban any new investments for Iranian oil, gas and construction projects, joining nations including the U.S. in imposing sanctions for the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.

Pemex 235,000-Barrel Mexican Refinery Hit by Explosion

Mexico imported 432,000 barrels a day of petroleum products from the U.S. in June, according to the U.S. Energy Department and is the second-largest supplier of oil to the U.S. Cadereyta processed 104,063 barrels a day in July, a 56 percent drop from December 2006 when the facility peaked at 239,388 barrels daily, according to the website of Mexico’s Energy Ministry.

34 rescued from China oil platform accident

BEIJING – Emergency teams with helicopters rescued 34 workers Wednesday from an oil drilling platform that was leaning dangerously in the East China Sea after a storm, and searched for two others still missing, officials said.

The No. 3 drilling platform in the Shengli oil field, operated by Sinopec, Asia's largest refiner by capacity, started tilting over Tuesday, causing four workers to fall into the water and trapping 32 of them on the platform, the Transport Ministry said in a statement on its website.

BP says Transocean missed danger signs on rig

LONDON (Reuters) – BP deflected much of the blame for a rig blast that led to the United States' worst-ever oil spill, releasing an internal report on Wednesday which said that drilling contractor Transocean had missed danger signs.

BP defended its much-criticized well design and said failures on the rig, operated by Transocean, led to gas swamping the platform and creating the conditions for the explosion.

"Over a 40-minute period, the Transocean rig crew failed to recognize and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well," BP said in a statement.

Oil sands to dominate agenda on Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Canada

One of the top officials in the U.S. government, Nancy Pelosi, will get a crash course this week on Canada’s oil sands in a series of private meetings quietly orchestrated by President Barack Obama’s point man in Ottawa.

The meetings will focus on climate change, the oil sands and the Canadian energy industry. They come at a crucial time in relations between the United States and Canada, its top energy supplier, and as Washington considers approval of a landmark cross-border pipeline project.

Obama Offers a Transit Plan to Create Jobs

The White House is proposing to offset the $50 billion by eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

China Supplants U.S. at Top of Ernst & Young Ranking for Renewable Energy

China overtook of the U.S. to lead a quarterly index of the most attractive countries for renewable energy projects for the first time, according to the global accounting firm Ernst & Young, which compiles the list.

China, which shared the lead with the U.S. in the first quarter, moved ahead of the world’s largest economy and ranked the most attractive for investment in wind and solar projects. The move followed the failure of a proposed energy bill in the U.S. to include a clean energy standard, the company said today.

Enbridge invests in geothermal project

Calgary-based energy transportation giant Enbridge Inc. has invested US$23.8-million in a geothermal project in eastern Oregon, U.S. Geothermal Inc. said Wednesday.

Fresh Capital in the Uranium Fuel Race

For decades, the business of enriching uranium for use in nuclear reactors was simple: companies bought the uranium and sent it to one of the plants built by the federal government as part of its nuclear weapons program. The government increased the proportion of uranium 235, the kind that splits easily in reactors.

But in the 1990s, the government sold the plants to the United States Enrichment Company, now called USEC. Meanwhile, other companies started looking at the American market.

South Africa: Car Industry Seeks Biofuels as Alternative to Oil

Johannesburg — WITH the introduction of the carbon tax for passenger cars this month, car makers are developing ways to lessen carbon dioxide emissions.

The government plans to extend the carbon emissions tax to light commercial vehicles as well as old vehicles next year in a bid to "green" SA's vehicles. This is in line with the Copenhagen Accord, in terms of which SA declared it intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025.

Apart from hybrid vehicles, which have been in the South African market for years, car manufacturers are also assisting the research and development of biofuels for car engines.

Fueling Speculation

Leave aside, for the moment, the fact that the "Peak Oil" concept is highly controversial and riddled with uncertainties. To the western members of the global power elite--whose existence is fueled by oil and militarism--the very idea of peak oil is terrifying.

Russians Debunk Peak Oil Theory - as Bogus as Greenhouse Gas Scam

Russians prove ‘fossil’ fuel is junk science theory linked to global warming hype. Oil is shown to be mineral in origin-not from fossilized organisms. No more fears over shrinking reserves as experts say petroleum is naturally ‘renewable.’

A society in crude health

Each day in Bristol there are around 750 car trips made by community nurses to visit people in their homes, and a similar number of trips by the non-urgent patient transport service to get people to their appointments at hospital. Travel by staff, patients and visitors is taken for granted but the fact is nearly all of these journeys rely on oil.

Modern healthcare also uses a huge quantity of supplies, drugs and equipment, many of them manufactured using oil.

Sowing sustainability

Packets of local heirloom seeds from Sow True Seed are now being planted, and Hillcrest residents anticipate harvesting lots of greens and fall vegetables before the plot is cover-cropped in preparation for a vibrant spring garden. Several cold frames now in the works will trap heat from the sun's rays, enabling residents to grow several types of food through the coldest winter months.

Rearing carp: Dinner's in the pond

First it was fruit and veg. Then we turned our hands to keeping chickens and bees. Could the next thing be using the garden pond to grow our own edible carp? Is it time for Gordon the Goldfish to move over?

Green Living Festival Saturday at Lampe Park

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stein has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, Bates said. At noon, he will speak on “peak oil prep and making the shift to sustainability.” At 2 p.m., he will give a presentation on remodeling and retrofitting homes to create fire- and earthquake-resistant buildings.

“Peak oil prep is about when we run out of that easy-to-get oil, when what's left is hard to get and more damaging, more expensive, with a lot more competition,” Bates said. “People have been saying it since the 70s: we need to get off oil and start making the shift to sustainability.”

Australia's New Government a Brighter Shade of Green

Addressing the National Farmers' Federation Congress today, Australian Greens Deputy Leader Senator Christine Milne urged farmers to seize this "tremendous opportunity to shape their own future."

"What a great opportunity that our parliament is getting a renewed focus on rural and regional Australia just as the vital issues of climate change, peak oil and food security are triggering a global rethink," Senator Milne said.

But opposition National Party Leader MP Warren Truss said the formal alliance between Gillard Labor and the Brown Greens "will send a shiver down the spine of regional Australia."

Street Cred vs. Green Cred

Arizona's Green Party is not amused by a Republican operative's effort to recruit people from the streets to run as Green candidates on the November ballot.

Phasing out the incandescent light bulb

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 legislated a reduction of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. The law provides for phasing out today’s general service incandescent light bulbs in favor of lower-wattage, energy saving bulbs. Lighting accounts for about 15% of the electrical use in homes.

eBay to give away 100K green reusable shipping boxes

Online retailer eBay will soon be giving away 100,000 eco-friendly shipping boxes, each designed to be used repeatedly as it journeys from sellers to buyers and back.

The durable boxes, made with 100% recycled material and water-based inks, will start circulating next month. Sellers can place orders for the free boxes, available in three sizes, until supplies run out.

Jeff Rubin - Water: Canada’s most valuable resource

Canadians will never go thirsty. With over one million lakes, including part ownership of the Great Lakes, and massive ice fields, Canada is home to nearly nine per cent of the world’s supply of fresh water. But with a population of less than one per cent of the world’s total, Canada has a lot of room for water exports. In time, those exports might be more valuable than the 170 billion barrels of oil that are trapped in the country’s oil sands.

The notion of exporting water is still a taboo subject in Canadian policy circles; the country took great pains to keep water out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But, like most things, acceptance may be a matter of price. And the price of water is rising steadily, making Canada’s freshwater bounty more valuable every day.

Kyoto Protocol to continue past 2012: UN climate chief

NEW DELHI: As hopes for any deal on global warming dims at the Cancun meet later this year, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres today made it clear that the Kyoto Protocol will continue post 2012 as a second protocol since it does not have a "sunset" clause.

CO2 Target Debate Is Irrelevant, Former UN Climate Chief Says

The greenhouse-gas targets pledged by nations after the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December won’t change much before 2020 so there’s little point debating them, the man who stewarded the summit said.

International negotiations that are “painstakingly slow” are continuing, and non-binding cuts pledged by the U.S., Japan, China and European nations are “basically what we’ve got to work with for 2020,” said former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, now an adviser for the accounting firm KPMG International.

President Obama is right to back lawsuit of carbon emissions

Setting aside the legal technicalities, these sorts of cases are not the best way to reduce America's carbon emissions. Pursuing separate torts against different emitters will result in a patchwork of judicial mandates in lieu of comprehensive regulation, the nature, scale and expense of which will no doubt depend on which judge hears each case. EPA regulation, too, has deficiencies, including the possibility that different presidents will apply it inconsistently. But it's more predictable, and it's universal.

Global warming may eliminate plague

While many climate experts and environmentalists explore the negative effects of global warming, a new study reveals a positive outcome of the warming of the planet: the potential elimination of the plague. Global warming affects temperatures and precipitation regimes that play a pivotal role in the lives of rodents and fleas; rodents and fleas are responsible for maintenance and spread of plague to human populations. Plague can be fatal if the symptoms are not recognized and treated within 24 hours.

Why Canada is looking hot

How often do you hear anyone make the obvious point global warming will be good for Canada?

Arctic scientist Laurence C. Smith makes this logical argument in his new book, The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future.

Climate Change May Add to Natural Disaster Death Tolls

Natural disasters are tending to kill fewer people but climate change may add to the toll by unleashing more extreme weather and causing after-effects such as disease and malnutrition, experts say.

Bees stung by 'climate change-linked' early pollination

Climate change may be causing flowers to open before bees emerge from hibernation leading to declines in pollination, new research suggests.

A deadly drought

The world’s first armed conflicts due to climate change may be just beginning. In a remote and arid part of northern Kenya, the Turkana nomadic community today brandish Kalashnikovs, ready to kill in defence of their depleting water sources. The district in which they live, herding goats, cattle and camels, borders Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia. It is a landscape strewn with the carcasses of livestock following a prolonged and severe drought. With rains persistently failing to materialize, the traditional life of the Turkana stands threatened. While droughts are not a recent phenomenon, those that used to happen – and were anticipated – every decade or so have now started ravaging the land every two or three years, throwing the community’s migratory patterns into disarray.

Food Crisis Worsens in Central Africa

Torrential rains and flash floods that swept through cities and villages in Central Africa in late August have intensified a food crisis in the region, leaving upwards of 10 million people suffering from severe food shortages, the United Nations and relief organizations warned last week.

The floods, which destroyed crops and livestock, struck an area already on the brink of famine after successive years of drought and failed harvests.

Rising world grain prices, resulting partly from the heat wave and drought that destroyed wheat crops across Russia this summer, are compounding the crisis, relief organizations said.

UK 'heat pumps' fail as green devices, finds study
Badly installed heat pumps would not be recognised as renewable energy under proposed European standards, says the Energy Saving Trust

Government plans to subsidise green heating are challenged today by the largest ever field study of "heat pump" devices in the UK, which reveals 80% perform so badly they would not qualify as renewable energy under proposed European standards.

The report, from the Energy Saving Trust, reveals the prevalence of badly installed heat pumps that are consequently under-performing. The controversial report could affect the government's plans to launch its Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) next April to pay householders for generating heat from such "green" ground and air source heat pumps. There are already fears the RHI could be a victim of spending cuts announced next month.

See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/08/heat-pumps-green-heating

Having read the report, it’s disappointing to discover that one out of three ground source heat pumps surveyed achieved a system efficiency score of 2.0 or less (the numbers for air source heat pumps are comparable). System efficiency is defined as “[t]he amount of heat the heat pump produces compared to the amount of electricity needed to run the entire heating system (including domestic hot water; supplementary heating; and pumps)”.

Just one out of five ground source heat pumps achieved a score of 3.0 or better and for air source heat pumps, it’s one out of ten. The range for ground and air source heat pumps varies between 1.3 and 3.3 and 1.2 and 3.2 respectively, and their “mid-range” efficiencies are likewise virtually identical — 2.3 for ground source and 2.2 for air. Just on the basis of these findings, the significantly higher installed cost and more complicated site preparation requirements for ground source heat pumps would seem unwarranted given their similar performance ratings. On a more positive note, both technologies have the potential to perform well provided the equipment is properly selected and installed and provided their owners understand how to operate and maintain their systems.

The full report can be viewed at: http://server-uk.imrworldwide.com/cgi-bin/b?cg=businessdocs&ci=energyst&... (PDF format).


How nice when the first post is not the beginning of another exercise in circular self-gratification.

Paul, doesn't the index measure the energy consumed during installation, thereby improving the ROI for ground source?

doesn't the index measure the energy consumed during installation, thereby improving the ROI for ground source?

Hi Toil,

That's an interesting question and one I've been mulling over myself. Ground source heat pumps (earth contact as opposed to water) require fairly extensive trenching and backfilling and relatively long coils of pipe/tubing, the actual length dependent upon the heating and cooling requirements of the space served and soil type. In retrofit applications, you'll likely have some ground remediation work as well, e.g., the laying of new sod which may in turn require extensive water inputs. By comparison, the external components for air source heat pumps are pretty basic. I would expect the embodied energy of a GSHP to be higher because of these additional considerations, but I don't have a good sense of how much higher and if the energy payback would be "long" or "short". I'm hoping someone else might be able to provide you with a better answer.


I think the advantage of a ground sourced heat pump depends on the local climate. That is, the best climate is one which presents a need for both heating in winter and cooling in summer. The "source" for a ground source heat pump is the large thermal mass of the earth in which the buried water pipes rest. During summer, this thermal mass is cooler than the air at the surface, and heat is dumped into the thermal mass while cooling the structure. In winter, the reverse happens as the mass is cooled while heating the structure. The ground isn't really a "source" of thermal energy, the mass being only a way of shifting the energy flows between seasons.

In locales where little or no cooling is required, the ground surrounding the pipes tends to become colder each heating season, eventually freezing. The result is a loss in efficiency. In a climate such as England, where the winter temperatures do not drop very low, an air source heat pump would be expected to perform almost as well as a ground source one.

E. Swanson

Hi Richard,

I should note that some of these systems are based in northern Scotland which can experience rather cold conditions, but you're absolutely correct: ideally, heating and cooling demands for ground source systems should be more or less equal so that earth temperatures have an opportunity to fully recover. I read of one GSHP serving a small office building in urban Toronto that had to shut down mid-winter because the engineers were worried it would cause frost damage to the foundation (presumably something to watch out for in more densely packed neighbourhoods).


Air source heat pump om Solar ..


Thanks, jmygann; a rather interesting product. One thing I noticed is that this is reportedly a 20 SEER model, but this is an "estimate". As I understand it, all heating and cooling products sold in the United States must be certified by the ARHI and accompanied by an EnerGuide tag that clearly identifies this rating. I wouldn't recommend purchasing this product unless this information can be made available to you.


There's a company in the UK which markets a solar product called PV-T (photovoltaic thermal), which is a combination of PV and Solar Thermal on the same panel. Annual electricity production is higher than standard PV as the thermal component wicks heat from the panel surface, thus increasing its efficiency. The resulting "waste" heat is useful for pre-heating water, ranging from 35 to 55 centigrade depending on time of year and weather conditions.

They have designed and lab-tested a bespoke heat pump that works in concert with the PV-T, essentially using the solar array as the heat source. They managed to draw in excess of 200 watts of heat from a panel being held at -7 centigrade in a pitch black test facility - the panel's peak thermal output is rated at 460 watts (and 175 watts electrical). The heat pump is now being deployed for field testing with (the very few) people who have PV-T installations.

The heat pump is deisgned to operate in conjunction with a big thermal store, allowing it to be operated only during daylight hours, when even a modicum of light will serve to lift the input temperature from the panel. This should serve to keep the COP average comfortably above 4, and significantly above on cold but bright winter days. Given the pre-heating from the solar thermal, the expectation is that the heat pump will produce radiator-grade hot water.

This easily competes with ground source heat from an efficiency point of view, but obviates the need to dig extensive trench work for slinkies, or to drill even more expensive boreholes. In fact, no land is needed at all, since the heat source is on the roof. As a result, the heat pump itself is no more expensive than an air source heat pump, but operates with ground source efficiency - potentially revolutionary!

The heat pump should also work as a retrofit solution linked up to existing flat plate solar collectors.

Disclosure: I work for the company.

Wow, this sounds like an exciting product, NFE, and thank you for telling us about it. I'll be anxious to learn more once this information can be made available to the public. Best wishes for every success.



Do you know just how big a typical excavation for a ground source heat pump is in your area?About how much pipe is needed in it?

Of course the answer would probably be in the form of a range.

Here they generally do vertical bores. 300' per ton.

Hi Mac,

I'm afraid I don't. I'm guessing the size of the excavation and length of the coil would be determined by the local climate and depth of the frost line, the heating and cooling demands of the structure and soil type. I'm not very knowledgeable of these systems, but I believe there are members of this board who have installed GSHPs and could likely provide you with a proper answer.


Here is a US-based company doing PVT:


Link straight to their Flash demo:

If we're saying that electric and heat KWh are the same, which is what it looks they are doing, then our PV-T panels are 72% and 57% efficient.... we'd never make that claim as we thinks it's grossly misleading. Electric and heat KWh's have hugely different utility - heat quickly becomes superfluous in areas where irradiance is optimum.

It's a struggle to find productive uses for the heat output in such areas, but it's only in those areas where active panel cooling can generate the net electrical output of 15% they are talking about (after inverter and other system losses).

Our system is liquid cooled, which ought to have greater cooling efficiency than an air-cooled system.
More here: http://www.newformenergy.com/photovoltaic-thermal

Temperatures dropped to below -20 degrees centigrade in some parts of Scotland during January this year. Most air source heat pumps will be working with a CoP of close to 1 at these temperatures. Their CoP rating drops off with temperature below about 5 degrees C. Not so if the working fluid is carbon dioxide. "Eco cute" heat pumps use carbon dioxide as the working fluid and these units work as heat pumps with a CoP well above 1 at temperatures down to -26 degrees C. And they produce hot water output at temperatures of 65 degree C or more in heat pump mode (i.e. no resistive electrical boost). Problem is that there is only one Eco cute heat pump in the UK at present (Sanyo CO2 Eco air source heat pump) - even though there are many different manufacturers making these units in Japan.

The UK is about to embark on a heat pump installation program stimulated by the Renewable Heat Incentive with substandard heat pump kit as no Eco Cute unit is accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. And, according to the report, some installers don't appear to know what they are doing and nor do some users.

Seems such a shame to me.

Temperatures dropped to below -20 degrees centigrade in some parts of Scotland during January this year. Most air source heat pumps will be working with a CoP of close to 1 at these temperatures.

Hi RA,

I think you'll find the numbers to be considerably better than 1.0, but if you have data that suggests otherwise I'd appreciate the opportunity to see it. I'm looking at the service manual for a Sanyo 18KHS72 and according to the manufacturer, this model draws approximately 1.3 kW at -18°C/0°F and supplies 3.3 kW of heat, which puts its COP a little above 2.5. Going by memory, I believe the defrost penalty at this temperature is in the order of 3 per cent, so net COP at -18°C would be in the range of 2.4 to 2.5.


I was reading an RE blog, and I understand the Sanyo has 3 speeds or input power levels for the Inverter. I think the smallest unit will use 300,600,1100 watts. An AC to run even at low output at 300 watts is remarkable. Does any of the other units on the market ( Fujitsu or Mr Slim) have the ability to limit the maximum power draw, ie have true multi-speed. This would be Critical for PV powered - OFF Grid use. Would love to see a table of ACTUAL peak and average power consumption (kw) for the 12-18,000 BTU ductless heatpumps with typical delta T's.

I had a Trane XL1500 in the Early 90's that had a DC Powered compressor, you could
limit the power to 30-90% of peak and it worked well. Trane quit making them do
the Complexity and field failures.

Wonder who will be the 1st with a Battery-less PV Powered unit - The Inverter would have to track available power, this could work well , especially if the PV array was sized (or oversized) for the unit. The Latest generation 250 watt panels make significant amounts of power even on cloudy days.

Hi LT,

One of our ductless heat pumps is a Sanyo 12KHS71 and it's one of the few inverter systems I know of that operates at 115-volts. The nice thing about this from our perspective is that it requires just one circuit breaker slot as opposed to two (we're running critically short of space on our breaker panel) and it also allows us to plug it into a Kill-a-watt monitor and thereby accurately record its power consumption so that we know precisely how much electricity is consumed over the span of a day, month or year. I don't believe there are three fixed power levels as such. I have seen this thing loaf along at as little as 250-watts (or thereabouts) and climb as high as 1,550-watts when it's bust'n ass trying to keep up with demand and pretty much everything else in between.

My understanding is that power draw is largely determined by the difference between set and room temperatures -- in effect, the greater the spread, the harder it works to close the gap as quickly as possible and once it reaches its set temperature it will automatically adjust its output to maintain it, ramping up or down as required (I believe Sanyo refers to this as "automatic capacity control"). Again, as I understand it and I'll probably explain this in a way that will cause most electrical engineers to cringe, inverter systems convert 50 or 60 Hz alternating current to direct current, then this direct current is converted back to alternating current at whatever desired frequency using pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) circuitry. Compressor speed is thus controlled by increasing or decreasing the frequency of the supplied power over a relatively broad range in many incremental steps. The indoor air handler has four preset fan speeds (i.e., high, medium, low, and quiet) and perhaps this has misled some commentators.

If it's helpful, you can view the service manual which might help flesh-out some of the details.


It strikes me that in northern climes that don't have as much need of air conditioning (space cooling) in the summer as we do of space heating in the winter, the summer coolth from ground heat pumps could be used for refrigeration. Or is there some reason (besides the increase complexity of the system) that this would not work that I have not thought of?

Hi dohboi,

For residential applications there would be the added complexity as you point out and the potential savings are likely to be modest or negative. Many new refrigerators are now down in the range of 1.0 kWh per day and running the supply pump to feed the GSHP could quickly chew through any potential savings given the added overhead and standby losses. Better just to dump the waste heat into the kitchen where it might be removed through an open window or to have the GSHP remove it as needed. However, for commercial systems such as what would be found in a supermarket, I would expect the situation to be more favourable.


With your understanding of how an Air Source Heat Pump works when at such low temps, what would you think would be the performance of such a unit if it was fed with 'Cool Tube' air, IE, Geothermally warmed air coming in through an underground duct, instead of being fed the raw winter air? Does it need a split of cold to warm for best operation? (I still haven't really brushed up on the basic principle of the thing..


Hi Bob,

The outdoor compressor requires a relatively large volume of air from which to extract its heat, so I'd be worried about maintaining sufficient airflow and the energy overhead that comes along with that. Of course, rapid air movement will minimize the overall effectiveness of the air tube and as soil temperatures around the tube begin to fall the amount of heat that can be transferred will diminish further. It's probably best to install the compressor in an area where it has unrestricted airflow and, at the same time, somewhat sheltered from the prevailing winds so that the outside coil doesn't clog-up with blowing and drifting snow.

The good news is that a few degrees difference in air temperature one way or the other won't impact performance appreciably. For example, the Sanyo 12KHS71 supplies 3.24 kW of heat at -5°C/23°F and 3.02 kW at -8°C/18°F, so we're not looking at a huge hit as such. Now it becomes a question of whether you can maintain a consistent 5°F boost in supply temperature over the course of the heating season and whether the power draw of the fan motor will be less than the incremental difference in the heat pump's heat output.


I have considered whether to install the 3/4 ton (9,000 BTU) Fujitsu under my raised house.

3' (90 cm) clearance, plastic on the ground (prevents moisture from entering the house in the summer), the perimeter of the house is about 85% enclosed with old, heavy gauge galvanized sheet metal.

In summer, under the house is always cooler. In winter, always warmer. Adding exhaust heat in summer and cool in winter will increase HVAC load through the floors, but not much.

From a plumbing, electrical and Historic District POV, this is a good solution.

Any thoughts ?


Hi Alan,

Without knowing the actual footprint of your home it's impossible for me to calculate the volume of air in question, but with this space being 85 per cent enclosed and with the potential for a succession of hot and relatively windless days and with the possibility of further restrictions in air flow if objects are positioned against the side of the home or the introduction of plants and shrubbery, I would be worried that its performance could be compromised. Can you be reasonably assured that any temperature advantage can be maintained over the course of the heating and cooling season if you are routinely dumping heat/coolth into this relatively enclosed space?

I think the prudent thing to do would be to install the outdoor unit at the side of your home. Presumably one of the reasons why your home is raised is to protect it from possible flood damage, so mounting the outdoor unit on wall brackets three or more feet above grade level would hopefully keep it from harm's way.


opening the house at night to take advantage of the cooler air can add about 1/4 to 1/3 to the daytime cooling cost because of the moisture removed from the cooler moist air.

the a-coil drain became plugged and it was necessary to collect the water in a bucket - result 10 gallons per day moisture removed. sometimes, it is more efficient to leave the house closed.

This is from Sanyo UK

Unlike other heat pump systems which use a group of environmentally harmful gases called Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs and HCFCs), SANYO’s solution is to use R744 as its refrigerant, which is carbon dioxide (CO2), an entirely natural and non-toxic gas that is sealed within the system.


An outdoor unit with HFC refrigirant normally operates in temperatures of down to around-10ºC. Below this temperature range, they mostly rely on a built-in electric heater to take over. Since electric heaters have a low COP of around 1, the result is a significant drop in overall system efficiency. The CO2 ECO Heating System heat pump with its CO2 refrigerant can operate even in temperatures as low as -25ºC.


Hi RA,

That may have been true of some older heat pumps fitted with single speed compressors. The problem was that these systems were generally sized for cooling loads to ensure good dehumidication performance and were consequently undersized in terms of their heating capacity and, with that, relied on backup electric heat or some other fuel to make-up the difference once outdoor temperatures fell below their balance point.

In any event, I'm looking at the heating capacity table of the York JP024 and at 10°F/-12°C, this particular model when equipped with a 800 CFM fan and with an indoor return temperature of 70°F/21°C supplies 2.94 kW of heat and consumes 1.37 kW of electricity which puts its COP at a still respectable 2.15; at 0°F/-18°C, output falls to 2.41 kW and electrical demand likewise declines to 1.28 kW which translates to be a COP of 1.88. So even at -18°C, the COP still remains well above 1.0.


The list of heat pumps promoted by the UK government is listed through the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS).


One of the most popular heat pumps in the UK is the Mitsubishi Ecodan.

The brochure for this product


shows CoP heading towards 1 as air temperature drops (see the page on BRE testing).

You have kindly pointed out that not all air source heat pumps have this "feature", but many of the ones on offer in the UK appear to. The heat pumps you have mentioned are not available via the MCS and won't qualify for the RHI if and when it arrives, so are unlikely to be adopted.

The advantage of the Sanyo CO2 Eco air source heat pump is that is is available in the UK, can output hot water at temperatures of 65 degrees C or more and that its performance doesn't drop off like the Ecodan when air temperatures get low. The working fluid has a global warming potential of 1, compared to 1725 for R-410a for example. It appears to be a good model to retrofit into our old housing stock using existing wet radiator systems were appropriate. The disadvantage is that the Sanyo CO2 Eco is not on the MCS either. Yet.

So, it appears that, at the moment, we haven't got the best and most appropriate air source heat pump technology available in the UK through the MCS.

Hi RA,

Thanks for the links; much appreciated. Air-to-water heat pumps are extremely rare here in North America; Daikin recently introduced one and it's the only one that I know of other than a couple of products from some smaller, lesser known speciality manufacturers. The distinction is critical in that you need to maintain much higher flow temperatures with radiator or wet-based systems and to a lesser degree in-floor radiant heat than you do air, i.e., in the range of 35°C to 55°C and perhaps 50°C to 60°C with respect to domestic hot water. With air-to-air, you can operate at a lower supply temperature as outside temperatures fall, which lessens the amount of "lift" and in turn the amount of energy required to perform this service. In any event, the Ecodan brochure tells us that the "average overall COP" of their UK systems is 3.45. All in all, that's not too shabby if it accurately reflects real-world performance.

The big question that needs to be addressed is why so many air and ground source heat pumps are performing so poorly. Some are reportedly working quite well, i.e., 3.0+ system efficiency, but others are falling in the 1.2 to 1.5 range which is clearly not what one would expect. There has to be some reasonable explanation for the huge variation in performance and I hope we'll ultimately find the answers.


Hi Paul,

The difference between requirements for air to air and air to water heat pumps is interesting. I suspect that most people in the UK will be looking for a replacement for an oil fired boiler and, if natural gas prices go higher, for gas fired boilers also. These systems provide full central heating for a house (air conditioning is generally not required in the UK) via a wet radiator system.

I was speaking to my brother last night who is installing a Sanyo CO2 Eco air source heat pump in a house in the west of Scotland at the moment. Retrofit is an extremely tricky and variable process. My brother is working under floor to install pipework for wet radiators in a space just large enough for him to fit into lying down with about 2 inches clearance. And then there are huge variations in insulation, flat roofs etc to contend with. And this is new technology for a lot of installers and, according to the EST report, the controls for these systems take some getting used to. A central heating system run with a heat pump should be used in a subtly differently manner compared to one using an oil fired boiler. So, there's plenty of scope for variability of performance.

We should find out in the next month or so what the UK government is planning for the RHI which is due to come in next April. And hopefully the EST will find out why there is so much variability in reported heat pump performance.

The overall CoP of 3.45 for Ecodan is very good if, as you say it can be believed. The problem really is peak demand. Last winter we had a period of about a month when temperatures were stuck well below freezing and our large winstalled wind capacity was pretty much idle due to a lack of wind. If everyone was using a Sanyo CO2 Eco air source heat pump for heating and hot water rather than an Ecodan, we'd be in a much better position in relation to peak demand.

Best wishes,


Hi Alister,

I think the Sanyo Eco cute is an amazing product and wish it were available on this side of the Atlantic; if, at some point, it does make it across the water, I'd like to replace our oil-fired boiler as well. We've had such remarkable good luck with our two ductless systems and, in particular, the Sanyo, that I'm convinced this is the way to go, especially for those of us who lack access to natural gas. As you point out, insulation and air sealing are critically important considerations, as well as a proper understanding of how to operate the system. Although I wish the results of this survey were more favourable, I hope it will prove helpful in correcting any shortcomings and deficiencies and ultimately pave the way for more widespread adoption.

Good luck to you and to your brother on his retrofit; I really hope it works out well for him.


Why doesn't a city like Chicago or Milwaukee tap Lake Michigan for heat/cooling? It holds a TREMENDOUS amt of heat energy and has the capability to store a huge amt of heat.

Toronto does district cooling of downtown office buildings with Lake Ontario water. Over 10 MW shaved off summer peak demand.


Interesting. I know (or i think) there is a college in the NE somewhere that cools its buildings with a lake. I would think AC would be almost free, considering a lake here in Wisconsin that is 355ft deep (L Wazee) at around 60 feet is around freezing year round (34F). Pump in a continuous supply of 34F all summer and your building should stay nice and cool.

Ground temps up here vary a lot. I watch the NWS readings that go down to 5ft and in the late winter they drop to 40F or colder. Right now its showing 65F. Without snow cover i'm guessing frost could go very deep (several feet).

Without snow cover i'm guessing frost could go very deep (several feet).

The years they worried about the frost getting too deep and freezing buried pipes were usually the warmer winters, when snow cover had melted off. Worst is supposed to be wet frozen ground (I guess the thermal conductivity is greater).

Your guess is very correct.

Snow and dry soil are quite good insulators.
Water is a better conductor of heat, though it does have a high heat of fusion that provides some protection right around 32 degrees.

Once the water freezes, however, you've got nice solid ice which passes heat right on up to the surface.


Despite the Iraq War and the resulting production disruptions, despite the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf, despite turmoil in Nigeria and ongoing cross-border transshipment quarrels in Central Asia and the multiple, repeated declarations that "peak oil" has arrived and supplies will inevitably dwindle, the United States has more petroleum on hand today than it has had since at least the beginning of the first Gulf War.

Well, that makes perfect sense considering the likely war with Iran after the elections !

It doesn't mean that Peak oil is not a reality.

Marcoveth was referring to link up top: What peak oil? Why an oil glut is ahead.

The terms "Oil Glut" and "Peak Oil" are not mutually exclusive as the author seems to believe. Also, 1.8 billion barrels is about a three month supply for the US. And considering that figure includes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is not all that much.

But... be sure to watch the imbedded video on this page. It is really great.

Ron P.

The author was Richard Martin. This piece was so obviously biased and completely misleading, I wonder what his background is -- Creationist, oil-industry-supported Republican, ...

In other words, get ready for $50 oil

His prediction of $50 oil is impossible over the long term. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico, Venzuela, Nigeria, Oil Sands companies, and Oil Shale companies would all collapse.

On the contrary, it is quite possible.

The market doesn't care about the success of any participant in the market, it just matches buyers with sellers at a price point.

If few enough people can afford $50 oil that there is adequate supply with even major players out of the picture then it will happen.

Yes it is possible but only if we have a major worldwide depression. The author of the piece meant that we will have $50 oil during a robust economy, or at least only a mild recession. That is not going to happen.

Ron P.


My crystal ball is rather foggy on this one, but I expect that sustained $100 oil is a lot more likely than sustained $50 oil in the next couple of years.

Yair...will oil at "just" one hundred dollars support/finance drilling and the development of production infrastructure from deepwater plays such as Tupi?

Seems to me there is a bit of a catch twenty two situation in-as-much as the world economys can stagger along with oil at less than eighty five bucks but much higher and they begin to falter and can't afford the oil anyway.

There's the $64,000 question, eh?

Higher prices destroy demand, lower prices dampen supply.

This is the economic representation of post-peak oil.

After some Googling around, my guess is that this is the Richard Martin who wrote the commentary in FORTUNE. He also wrote an article about using thorium for power production, which appeared in WIRED.

E. Swanson

That article about Thorium is well-written and not misleading. An excellent article at first glance. Methinks that Richard Martin is not the same person.

Vis-a-vis Michael C. Lynch and Michael E. Lynch.

I made this comment in the place where comments were allowed:

The author of this article misunderstands the issue of peak oil. Geological limits mean that while there are huge amounts of oil left to extract, the oil that is left is too expensive to extract at prices people are able to afford. People's incomes haven't gone up much, even though oil prices, even at $50 a barrel are far higher than they were most of the time prior to 2004.

"Peak oil" is really the plateauing of world crude oil production since 2005, as shown in EIA published reports. What this plateau brings is recession and debt defaults, two things that we have seen a lot of, and will continue to see more of.

Economists repeatedly tell us that shortages of oil will bring high prices of oil, but this is a mistaken understanding. While there may be an initial price spike, people cut back on discretionary spending, or omit debt repayment. The result is recession and debt defaults, and lower oil prices--just what we are seeing now.

I would have written more, but the word limit cut me off. Is there a place to respond to the editor of Fortune?

Some pretty wild claims in your reponse. Lower oil prices than what? Do you avoid Westexas' posts? What debt defaults? Is the rate of debt defaults on the oil production plateau different from the previous rate?

Your wildest claim is that the recession is rooted in the plateauing of oil production. I suppose the financial industry would be happy with this explanation, as it certainly lets that gang of happy actors off the hook. And the regulators. And that faction of the policy community committed to a particular trend in the economics discipline.

Another claim without an empirical basis is that "the oil that is left is too expensive to extract at prices people are able to afford". Huh? The world is extracting how many millions barrels of the oil that is left each day? Who's paying for it? Extra-terrestrials?

You might start reading some of the other posts that I have written, for example

There is plenty of oil, but . . .

Peak oil and the financial crisis

Delusions of finance: Where we are headed

How limited global oil supply may affect climate change policies

What happens when resources deplete

There are also quite a few articles by others. For example, the Tipping point paper.

James Hamilton wrote a scientific paper connecting the rise in oil prices over several years with the recession of 2007- 2008. Steven Chu referenced Hamilton's work in his speech to the 2009 EIA Energy Conference.

Jeff Rubin is another economist who has said oil prices caused the recession.

Some might quibble with your description of Hamilton's paper as "scientific". Still, it was a good paper. Nonetheless, it fails to convince many (any?) in his own profession that the run up in oil prices, reflecting supply constraints, caused the recession.

Is it because he and Jeff are the two whose insights outshine all the others? Perhaps you believe that these two have miraculously escaped the intellectual prison in which almost all other economists are held by virtue of their training. That I suspect would the view of other TOD regulars, who then go on to make all sorts of assertions about the economy, human behaviour and you name it, with biased evidence and with rudimentary ideas of what economic analysis is,

Then again maybe Hamilton hasn't completely freed his intellect from the limitations of his training. He writes: "The experience of 2007-08 should thus be added to the list of recessions to which oil prices appear to have made a material contribution."

A material contribution. Something like a contributing factor, which in fact is my view. Much like the fact that the wet road was a contributing factor when the drunk driving at 100 mph skidded off the road into a tree.

As we are now providing helpful learning hints, here is one for you. Its a link to an online course in financial markets given by Professor Robert Shiller at Yale.

Personally, I think it was material. From a previous comment:

Growth was already slowing down due to high oil prices before the housing bubble popped and was doing so in countries other than the U.S., ground zero of the housing crisis.

Those two points alone indicate high oil prices were were slowing the world economy. James Hamilton handles the rest.

And it's easy to see with a basic calculation.

Looking at the U.S. alone, the country's annual oil bill went from roughly:

20.5 million barrels / day x 365 days x 21 $/barrel = $157 billion


20.5 million barrels / day x 365 days x 91 $/barrel = $680 billion (2009)

(Yearly average price can be obtained from http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/inflation_rate/historical_oil_pri...)

or an increase of $523 billion. Put that money toward fuel instead of whatever else it used to be spent on and do it for several years in a row and the economy is going to shrink. It's especially going to occur because of how visible the price of oil is in our world ("Have you seen the latest gas prices?!?"). It affects pocket books directly and many spending decisions indirectly ("Gosh, I just spent $80 on a fill up. I don't think we should go out tonight for dinner.")

Of course the recession was caused by high oil prices. And the housing bubble happened to burst at the same time. Two causes.

It seems to me that oil is to our economy as oxygen is to an athlete; the less of it you get, or the harder it is to get, the less performance you have.

I fully remember filling up my gas tank at $4.00/gallon for my 25 mile commute and thinking, "Wow, I sure am glad I had that divorce and resulting bankruptcy and foreclosure, otherwise how would I make my house and credit card payments!"

Stupid Americans...


I don't have any major disagreement with James Hamilton's ideas, but it should be pointed out that oil prices rose for six months after the recession in the US started at the end of 2007. Also oil prices started rising in the US in early 2009 while employment was still falling rapidly.

My point being is that the relationship between oil prices and the economy is a general one, and not a direct one. In the future, oil prices will generally rise even as economic conditions worsen, due to lack of supply. Of course during periods of finanicial panic, oil prices will fall and the dollar will rise, only to see oil prices climb back even higher and the value of the dollar fall lower.

The value of the dollar hit a record low against gold today, gold being a benchmark of value that has lasted thousands of years. The dollar is also at or near record lows against at least three major currenices.

My point being is that the relationship between oil prices and the economy is a general one, and not a direct one. In the future, oil prices will generally rise even as economic conditions worsen, due to lack of supply.

Disagree with your position and instead agree with Gail's position. You see, if a product is already available from previous efforts, like drilling for and being able to extract oil, but the purchasers of that product are less capable of buying it, then the price must come down to maintain its purchase. The problem then is it reduces profit for oil sands, orinoco heavy oil, deep offshore drilling, etc. and the supply of new oil goes down.

Now the price is going down and new oil supply is also going down, causing existing supply to deplete that much faster, and the net effect is we move down the net energy ladder like we're falling off a cliff.

I beg everybody's pardon in advance for questioning thier willingness to fully consider the realities of falling demand /falling price issue.

Perhaps demand will fall off fast enough that prices will decline for some significant period of time;I have no argument and as a matter of fact I believe this is quite possible;certainly it can and has happened over very short time frames many times.Let us say for purposes of convenience this will hold true for a month for sure, for six months probably, and a year possibly, simply to frame my argument.

We like to talk about economists all being idiots here, but all of us use economic theory every day.
Certainly we can park the Hummer and drive the Corvette-new Corvettes get pretty good mileage actually.There are tons of things we can do along this line, right up to watching the tow truck take away our repoed car and standing in the street crying while our stuff is put on the curb by the landlord/ bank under the eye of a hopefully sympathetic but businesslike cop.

But depletion and falling production in given oil fields are constants,and new fields are getting more and more expensive to develop, not to mention harder to find.

We must not forget that so long as the price system is allowed to function, the market price of oil must be the price of the last marginal barrel brought to market-of course the price will orbit or oscillate around this marginal barrel price, but it won't be very far from it for very long.

As production falls, the price of the marginal barrel falls too-for now.There are still many wells and fields producing very cheap oil-I have seen numbers thrown around indicating that some existing fields cost as little as five dollars per barrel to produce.

But as consumption falls, the value of the marginal barrel or gallon rises sharply.My own case will serve as a useful microcosm;we used to frequently climb in the big Buick and take a ride for the fun of it, to see the scenery , or hit some yard sales and flea markets.Nowadays such trips, even very short ones, are rare.We traded off our full size Ford truck for a Ranger with an engine half the size.We switched to diesel powered tractors a long time ago.We quit burning oil to heat our house except for fifty gallons or so used in the existing furnace to protect the house if we need to go away or we can't look after the wood stove for some reason.I could go on.

In short, we have done a hell of a lot, far more than most people, but we still use a lot of oil.

And we have reached the point that the utility of the last gallon is now high enough that doing without it begins to entail some serious sacrifice.Ninety percent of our gasoline use now is of very high utility-trips to the doctor,a fast run for a needed part,a well planned shopping trip.Cutting that use any deeper would involve either spending megabucks to buy a newer compact truck that would not save more that ten percent of the fuel used in our present trucks-which aren't driven all that much anyway;or paying property taxes,dmv fees, and insurance on a very small car that could be used some trips in place of one of the the compact trucks.I have a good car meeting the description, but I have parked it since I can't save enough on gas driving it occasionally to pay the insurance bill.

Right now gasoline would have to go to at least six or seven dollars before I could realistically do anything to cut our usage more than another ten percent or so;and diesel would have to go to twenty dollars at least before I would even consider the possibility of getting a horse or mule.

All I can say is that for those who dismiss the possibility that demand at any price, meaning a pretty high price, might not fall off as fast as marginally priced production is that none are so blind as those who refuse to see.

Of course this argument is framed in terms of a long term time frame-periods of years or decades, not weeks or months.

Off Topic

OFM, I hope that you saw my comment about using VRE from Fredericksburg to DC Union Station to attend ASPO.


yes Alan , Thanks-I'll check it out.

You make some excellent points about the utility of gasoline. When you consider that the marginal utility of gasoline is probably worth a lot more for those in the growing Chindia economy, the case for assuming demand will fall as the price of oil rises doesn’t appear to me to be very strong. I don’t think there is any way for those economies to grow without using more oil.

What ever demand is lost in the US as a result of higher prices will be eagerly lapped up by the developing world trying to grow their economies. I don’t think even $100 oil will make much of dent, if any to India’s economy.

Granted I also agree that basically for periods up to six months, the price of oil can go even in the opposite direction as to what would be expected by changes in supply/demand, but while the free market energy system mostly remains functional, the price will mostly reflect the a balancing point between the marginal cost of production and the marginal utility of demand.

The missing factor is substitution.

Over $80 per barrel, most uses for oil can be supplied more cheaply by something else. HEV/EREV/EVs; electric rail; heat pumps; and wind & batteries on ships, can replace most oil consumption.

Except it is a dynamic balance.

It is the more price sensitive demand that gets priced out of the market first, so the remaining demand can support a higher price and a higher proportion of high-cost sources.

I don't know their economics in detail, but I suspect that the medical industry would not be overly damaged by $1000/bbl oil. That material cost is too small a proportion of their inputs.

On the other hand, the cheap plastic toys industry would be utterly destroyed by it, as would cross-country trucking.

Note that $1000/bbl oil is only $2.98/pint. You won't be spreading it out on parking lots at that price, but it is not out of line with a lot of other industrial inputs.

What peak oil? is highly sarcastic..... like "its just a flesh wound" from Monty Python.
The guy had all 4 limbs cut off and claimed "its just a flesh wound".

When peak oil becomes a reality that is not disputed by anyone, then sarcasm will be replaced by anger at the government for not doing anything about it.

My 8/30/10 comments on total petroleum inventories, including the SPR:


US crude oil inventories, on a "net" Days of Supply basis (Days of Supply in excess of MOL) are slightly on the high side, with about six days of commercial crude oil supply in excess of MOL, but that principally reflects weak US demand, relative to our 2005 consumption levels. Our forecast is that the US is gradually being largely priced out of the global net export market, and in fact we are well on our way to becoming "free" of our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

From the Fortune article:

Adam Brandt, a professor at Stanford's Department of Energy Resources Engineering, released a study last month examining the various models that have been used to predict the future of world oil supplies. "Data do not support assertions that any one model type is most useful for forecasting future oil production," Brandt concludes. "In fact, evidence suggests that existing models have fared poorly in predicting global oil production."

In other words, get ready for $50 oil.

Regarding their comment that we should get ready for $50 oil, it's certainly possible, but I wonder if $50 is the new $5. Recall the Economist Magazine's call for $5 oil in early 1999:


We may be heading for $5. Thanks to new technology and productivity gains,
you might expect the price of oil, like that of most other commodities, to
fall slowly over the years. Judging by the oil market in the pre-OPEC
era, a "normal" market price might now be in the $5-10 range. Factor in
the current slow growth of the world economy and the normal price drops
to the bottom of that range.

So, we have advertiser supported media outlets, in effect, assuring us that a virtually infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite fossil fuel resource base is no problem. See my "Iron Triangle" thesis: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2767

Regarding Brandt's claim (that existing models have fared poorly), if I recall, Brandt avoided discussing Deffeyes' work, predicting a global crude oil peak between 2004 and 2008, mostly likely in 2005. Annual crude oil production, even with the benefit of rising unconventional production, has still not exceeded the 2005 annual rate (EIA), despite annual US oil prices exceeding the $57 level that we saw in 2005 for four years and for 2010 to date. This is in marked contrast to the large increase in crude oil production that we saw from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices.

BTW, the Economist's 1999 call for $5 oil followed a year over decline in annual oil prices (down to $14 in 1998). From 1998 to 2008, annual US oil prices rose at about 20%/year, from $14 to $100.

Fortune's call for $50 oil follows a year over year decline in annual oil prices (down to $62 in 2009). If we see a 20%/year rate of increase from 2009 to 2019, the annual oil price in 2019 would be about $460.

What Adam Brandt says his views are is

1. Simple curve-fitting models can provide a first-order understanding of future production, assuming a given level of URR and no significant shocks to the system (e.g., demand continues to grow at rates within historical ranges). Such models are likely sufficient to predict the decade of peak production for an estimate of URR. The mathematical logic here is that consumption is so high during the years of peak production that minor variations in URR, or minor deviations due to political or economic factors, will not serve to significantly affect the date of the peak [111]. Unfortunately, such a conclusion is often of little practical use: major disruptions (e.g., the oil crises of the 1974 and 1979), or major errors in URR estimates have occurred in the past, and could occur again.

2. More-detailed mechanistic models (e.g., bottom-up, econometric), exhibit greater fidelity in reproducing historical data and are therefore likely more useful for near term predictions. But this advantage likely wanes for long-term forecasts because they are no less “brittle” with respect to uncertainties than other model types.

3. The most promising avenue for increasing our understanding of oil production lies in integrating the economic and physical factors of oil production.

4. There is no scientific justification for making specific predictions (e.g., the year of peak production) with any of the surveyed mathematical models: the uncertainties involved make such predictions of little use. Efforts should move away from making these kinds of predictions, and toward understanding the impacts of the inevitable transition to oil substitutes.

I don't find much to dispute with what he is saying. The models we have been using are approximate. We shouldn't kid ourselves that they are going to precisely predict the year oil production will start to decline from its current plateau. They were fine for saying that in the future oil production would decline, but not precise enough to predict exactly when.

Closely related to the current plateau is the fact that we are hitting financial limits, in terms of too high prices (which is more or less equivalent to making oil with too low EROI profitable). These financial limits are not reflected in the models, so we would expect the models to work more and more poorly going forward. Dave Murphy's analysis would put the upper limit of oil prices before recession hits the US economy at $85 barrel, but there is some range about this number. China, because it uses less, can perhaps withstand a higher price.

If we want to understand what is ahead, we really have to understand how the finances and geology together affect oil production. I expect in most cases, finances will bring oil production down below what analyses based solely on geology would predict.

In the Fortune article, they quoted Brandt:

Brandt concludes. "In fact, evidence suggests that existing models have fared poorly in predicting global oil production."

IMO, C+C data, which is what Deffeyes was modeling, contradict Brandt's assertion. As I noted above, it appears to me that Brandt carefully avoided discussing Deffeyes' work. I suspect, but have no way of knowing for sure, that Brandt intentionally ignored Deffeyes' work.

Regarding how developed versus developing countries have responded to rising oil prices, the consistent pattern that has emerged is that developing countries have been effectively outbidding developed countries for access to declining net oil exports, which is a pattern that I expect to see continuing in future years.

Most scientists can't model their way out of a paper bag.

The problem is to gain credibility with modeling. Since most people do such a bad job, it tends to bias opinions when you come across a good one.

Read this if you are interested in the development of a concise logical model, with opinions included: http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com/2010/09/hydrogeology-for-dummies.html

I think Deffeyes erred in promoting HL as a logical model.

scientists can't model

Everyone models.

I am right now modeling in my brain my impression of you, Sir Mobjectivist, all based on a stream of electrons since we have never met. For all I know, you could be just another dog on the internet; albeit a mathematically gifted dog. :-)

As for the aquifer, how do you know thee are no dye eating microbes present? How do you know the dye is not chemically transformed by unknowns and it (in its original chemical form) never shows up downstream.

Yes, you can say, oh come on.
But the fact is that the real world is very complex.
Many Black Swans.
We cannot build a perfect model. Yet model we must in order to survive.
We all model.
Some better than others.

As for the aquifer, how do you know thee are no dye eating microbes present? How do you know the dye is not chemically transformed by unknowns and it (in its original chemical form) never shows up downstream.

Because the concentrations are a cross-sectional sample? It's like measuring a current by using a shunt resistor; you don't measure all the current but it is proportionally correct.

If you are talking about time dependent removal, that would show up as an exponential decline as per the Fokker-Planck equation, which would be very apparent on a log scale. Definitely don't see that here.

As for the aquifer, how do you know thee are no dye eating microbes present? How do you know the dye is not chemically transformed by unknowns and it (in its original chemical form) never shows up downstream.

If it is in the aquifer it will come out of the aquifer with the dye.

Anything that would cause the dye to be consumed in the aquifer would therefore cause the samples to fade after collection as well. It might escape notice, but if it was a significant factor I don't think it would.

Exactly right. First-order removal goes as proportional to the amount remaining. This leads to an exponentially damped decline, which one can see in one order of magnitude of time. But since the observed fall-off goes as a slower power-law, we know that ain't happening.

Most scientists can't model their way out of a paper bag.

Which is why they pay us experts extra!

I think Deffeyes erred in promoting HL as a logical model.

You think? It took a day to build the statistical test (heuristic models RULE!) to analyze HL results against production and reserves from 9000 individual oilfields and quantify its exact level of uselessness.

Heuristic models are worthless. But not for the reason that you think; it has nothing to do with the fact that 9000 individual oilfields didn't exactly fit the data.

I notice that you did not comment on the blog link.

All models are wrong, some happen to be useful.

And while I appreciate the snappy title to your "lets find another way to insult the geologists" post, I haven't worked my way through it yet. I'll get around to it, I promise.

Between the pitiful "facts" and hopeless tangle of logic in this Fortune article and the other one from the Canada Free Press regarding abiotic oil ("2000 peer reviewed Russian papers") I have cause to sink into permanent, doomerish, despair.

Peak oil, even in its narrow sense of peak production of whatever we call oil, and oil on hand are two completely different measures.

I think that war with Iran is not likely. Not even airstrikes. It's more likely that the Imadinnerjacket faction loses the internal power struggle in Iran. IMO, American policy is aimed at influencing the outcome of this power struggle and will continue to do so.

Oh, were you talking about President Palin, Vice President Beck, Secretary of State Limbaugh, Secretary of Defence O'Reilly?

Sarah will bomb the hell out of Iran. Just as soon as some high school student teaches her where it is.

Sarah will bomb the hell out of Iran. Just as soon as some high school student teaches her where it is.

So if we mistakingly provide her with the coordinates of the Kich brothers mansion.....

The size of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is rather irrelevant to the issue of Peak Oil. It's just oil the US is holding in reserve in anticipation of a war or other international unpleasantness that might interrupt the US oil supply. A growth in it just indicates the US government expects to see international conflict affecting its oil imports in the foreseeable future.

The relevant indicator in the Peak Oil discussion is proven reserves, which is oil known to be remaining in the ground. US proven reserves have been falling more or less continuously for the last 40 years, and the decline has gotten to be particularly steep in the last few years. The situation there is not at all good.

I think proven reserves are over-rated as an indicator. First we really don't know what is down there, between the lying oil companies and the complexity of the geology. Second we don't know what future technology is going to make economically available in the future.

I suspect it is more valuable to try to estimate the maximum rates of extraction possible as the giant fields age. We have good history on how older fields behave, for example the Bakersfield oil fields are still economic after many decades of pumping but the rates of pumping are incredibly slow and any serious problem causes abandonment of a penetration.

Proven reserves are oil we know are down there (90% probability). It is your most reliable indicator. Other indicators have considerably more uncertainty. You have to know what they mean, though, because new oil is always being added to reserves - but its not really new. It is probable reserves turning into proven reserves. US oil companies know what the probable reserves are, but they can't really report them publicly due to stock market rules.

As oil producing areas mature, the estimates get more reliable, and at this point, US proven oil reserve estimates are very reliable because almost all the oil has been produced, and the millions of wells which have been drilled give a very detailed view of the geology.

All the old giant oil fields in the US are being produced at close to maximum capacity. Nearly all the oil has been produced out of them, and what is left can only be produced very slowly. There is no incentive to cut production rates from these very low levels.

Agreed, regarding knowledge of older domestic fields. But that doesn't address the new discoveries, government owned fields overseas or the dishonesty of oil companies both private and national.

China overtook of the U.S. to lead a quarterly index of the most attractive countries for renewable energy projects for the first time, according to the global accounting firm Ernst & Young, which compiles the list.
China, which shared the lead with the U.S. in the first quarter, moved ahead of the world’s largest economy and ranked the most attractive for investment in wind and solar projects. The move followed the failure of a proposed energy bill in the U.S. to include a clean energy standard, the company said today.

Herein lies more evidence that the economic problems the US is experiencing are policy based, not based in physical resource limits.

US corporations are sitting on about a trillion dollars of profits (yes folks that government debt is matched by savings elsewhere in the economy). How do you move those profits into investments that serve short and long term objectives, such as dealing with employment and energy supply issues?

I guess we will have to look to China for leadership in designing effective markets. What a revolutionary change!

For a short way to figure out which article Toil was referring to you can put "China overtook" in your search bar and find it. That's what I did and found it was the link up top: China Supplants U.S. at Top of Ernst & Young Ranking for Renewable Energy. However it would have helped if he had just told us to which article he was referring.

Herein lies more evidence that the economic problems the US is experiencing are policy based, not based in physical resource limits.

I know of no one who claims that our economic problems are purely resource based. There is no doubt that there are other factors involved, including the housing crisis and the banking crisis among other things. However there is no doubt that the very high price of oil also plays a large part including making both the above crises worse.

It is a false dichotomy to claim it is not this thing but this other thing. It is both! It is all! But to claim it is policy only is just down in the dirt wrong. Resource depletion, not only oil but water and a few other things, are having a dramatic effect on all the world's economies.

Ron P.

Thanks for linking the quote.

I specifically referred to the US. And I would categorically deny that resource depletion is having a "dramatic" effect on the US economy.

The price of oil is signalling increased scarcity. How is the response to the price signal proceeding? Not well in the US, I would say. The American political system is proving ineffective in face of an evident need to redesign markets. Why? A two year electoral cycle, media concentration, the court sanctified influence of money in the electoral and public debate process...

What is dramatic about the economic situation in the US is the unemployment rate and particularly a tendency to long-term unemployment. This is an outcome of the policy choices regarding taxation (e.g. incentives to automate, failure to redistribute income and opportunity, encouragement of a fire economy), poor regulation, and so forth, which culminated in a crisis in the financial sector. The crisis has resulted in a situation in which big business is accumulating profits, which it is not reinvesting in the US. Why? Not because of some fear of Islamic socialism emanating from the White House, as the idiot-brigade would have people think, but because it cannot identify profitable, job creating, investment opportunities in the US. Instead, the opportunities for profitable investment, especially in current energy technologies, lie in other jurisdictions, where markets are being designed to accomodate this capital investment.

Blaming resource depletion for what is dramatic about the US economy is akin to seeing it as a consequence of God's displeasure. Both beliefs allow people to roll over and play dead, instead of engaging as citizens.

And I would categorically deny that resource depletion is having a "dramatic" effect on the US economy.

Resource depletion, or more specifically crude oil depletion, is exactly why oil is at $75 a barrel. If you don't think this is having a dramatic effect on the US economy then I have no idea what you would call a dramatic effect.

Ron P.

I would call persistent high unemployment a dramatic effect. But I wouldn't consider the oil price more than a minor contributing factor, and that would be related to the impact on the flow of capital (e.g. oil company profits) through the economy, which is another outcome of policy choices.

would you deny that an imploding real estate industry and unemployment are intimately linked?
It seems entirely plausible to argue that higher oil prices are an ultimate cause of bursting of real estate bubble.
If you are writing from the UK you may not be as familiar with what a huge portion of the current US economy is devoted to buying and selling houses.
Oil company profits are miniscule in comparison and have almost zero macro-economic effect.
What policy changes caused the current crisis in real estate? There were none.
What changes in tax policy caused unemployment to lurch up? Tax policies for employers and homeowners are more generous now than they have ever been.
It would seem to me that positing a causal relationship between oil prices, real estate, and unemployment is a fairly robust argument.

In answer to your first question my answer is no.

As for the rest, I'm incapable of responding kindly. I may be Canadian, but I'm not particularly polite in the face of ill-informed and simplistic analysis.

Maybe, I can just suggest that you begin by reexamining your criteria for what constitutes a 'robust argument'.

It seems entirely plausible to argue that higher oil prices are an ultimate cause of bursting of real estate bubble.

Likely narrative fallacy. You don't need a "cause", much less an "ultimate cause", for an expanding bubble to burst. In the end the most infinitesimal random disturbance will do the job.

So then, would you be willing to go way out on a limb and consider that there is at least some possibility that rapidly rising oil prices could have been at least part of the "most infinitesimal random disturbance" that "did the job"??

"What policy changes caused the current crisis in real estate? There were none."

I'm not sure what you mean by "changes" but perhaps you missed the policies related to "The ownership society" and the gutting of the Glass-Steagall act. Or the entire tenure of Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve.

oil prices are an ultimate cause of bursting of real estate bubble.

At best (worst?) I think they might have been a proximate cause of the financial crash, i.e. effected the timing of the Lehman brothers meltdown that set the whole unstable house of cards in motion. The real-estate cum financial bubble was going to pop anyway. Perhaps the system could have muddled through a few months longer. But it was gonna implode in any case.

This line out of the Canada Free Press "Russians Debunk Peak Oil Theory" article caught my eye:

In a straight scientific shootout Peak Oil Theory vs Russian-Ukraine Modern Theory the Russians win hands down. But it remains a peculiar anachronism that there is no body of American or other English language peer review to verify or disprove the Russian science.

Any thoughts?

Not printable ones. I strongly suspect there is no peer reviewed translation of this work because it would never meet the minimum standards of scientific work to qualify for printing if it were to be peer reviewed.

Abiotic nonsense - and the only two references in the article to this "Modern" Russian theory are from the 1950s.

Don't take the "Canada Free Press" seriously. They publish "science" fiction all the time.

Virtually all the professional oil prognosticators are predicting that Russia will hit its post Soviet Union peak this year. I believe they are correct but they could delay it another year. Anyway expect Russia to have a relatively steep decline rate in just a few years. That will put the quietus on all this abiotic oil nonsense. However, from the article:

ndeed, between 1951-2001, thousands of articles and many books and monographs were published mainly in the mainstream Russian scientific journals proving abiotic petroleum origins - all ignored by western governments and media. For example, leading expert V. A. Krayushkin has alone published more than two hundred fifty articles on modern petroleum geology, and several books.

This is just another abiotic oil piece and should be dismissed out of hand. I am surprised that Leanan choose to post it.

Ron P.

The whole article is based on a fallacy: that because (they claim) oil is abiotic, it follows that it is inexhaustible. Whereas there is plenty of evidence of peaking extraction rates of other minerals which are not of biological origin (mercury, selenium, lead, etc; see this post).

Just another piece of bad journalism...

PT in PA

peaking extraction rates of other minerals which are not of biological origin (mercury, selenium, lead

I agree with your general point.

But, a quibble: my understanding is that mercury and lead peaked due to policy decisions to reduce their consumption because of their toxicity.

IOW, it was peak demand, not peak supply.

It is just a restatement of fringe theories created by people who are not geologists and who do not speak Russian, based on older fringe theories of a few Russian geologists in the 1950's. If you look at the two papers cited, they are dated 1951 and 1959.

The author is John O’Sullivan, a legal analyst and writer who for several years has litigated in government corruption and conspiracy cases in both the US and Britain. I.e. a lawyer, not a geologist.

His main source is Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer who was a proponent of the "Steady State" theory of cosmic origins and coined the name "Big Bang Theory" to denigrate the opposing theory, which is now the most widely accepted theory. He also didn't believe in Darwin's Theory of Evolution and thought that evolution was caused by viruses arriving on comets. Most of Hoyle's theories have since gone into the dustbin of history, although a few are still considered valid.

He also cites Michael Lynch, but I'm not so sure Lynch is an abiotic oil proponent. Lynch is an economist, not a geologist, and bases his opposition to Hubbert's Peak Oil theories on economics and mathematics.

The Russians tested the Abiotic Oil theories half a century ago, and found they didn't find oil, so Russian oil experts don't use them any more. Of course the Russians didn't publish their results, at least not in English, so the Abiotic Oil proponents will never believe them.

It's a lot like promoting the phlogiston theory of combustion or the geocentric theory of planetary motion - given the success of opposing theories in predicting results, people really should give it up.

Abiotic Oil theory is worse than useless.

The oil is where it is, the main theories about how it got there came from finding the oil then looking at it.

Before there was a theory of how oil is formed and how it makes its way into useful deposits there were a lot of dry holes drilled because someone had a hunch that they might find oil somewhere that it wasn't.

Personally, I'd invite any abiotic oil believer to drill in my backyard. It isn't over any conventional oil-bearing formations, they just might find something!

(Cash up front, of course, and it's up to them to convince the neighbors to allow it).

More than that, R4ndom, it doesn't do anything to rebut peak oil... it only purports to explain how it got there. The oil, like you said, is where it is. If it took 4.5B yrs to get up to where we have extracted it, perhaps in another 4.5 B years we will have the same amount again. Who cares?


Yup, the underlying assumption seems to be that the earth just produces as much oil as we need for just as long as we need it.

(And it just happens to show up in areas that used to be sea beds (or still are).)

(And it [oil] just happens to show up in areas that used to be [photosynthetic life filled] sea beds.)

God works in mysterious ways.


Actually the concept goes back much further, all the way to Mendeleev (of Periodic Table fame), who was actually a chemist. It doesn't seem to have panned out, but who could really have made that determination in the 1870s, and with what tools?

Hoyle's sometimes-weird hypotheses have no bearing whatsoever on the matter, so they must be just a smokescreen. Let's say someone says it's hot outside. Even if they're a crackpot, that doesn't disprove that it's hot outside. The temperature is best determined with a thermometer, not a psychiatric exam or an ad hominem smokescreen.

I know that the abiotic oil theory goes back to the 19th century. In fact I know of cases where people tried drilling for it in the 19th century. After a while, they realized that it wasn't working out - they weren't finding any oil - which is where the more modern biotic theories originated. Geologists took all the geological maps and determined what correlated with finding oil. Some kind of organic source rock nearby seemed to be a necessity.

In reality, geologists don't use theories to find oil. They find oil first, and then make up theories about how it got to be there. And, just to be sure, they drill a few wells where their theories predict there should be no oil, just to make sure they haven't missed something. The abiotic oil proponents are naive about how the process works.

The thing that bothers me is people claiming that we should be drilling for abiotic oil in exactly the same places that other people actually drilled for it 100 years earlier. Those that don't read history are doomed to repeat it - and lose their investment dollars in the process.

The thing that bothers me is people claiming that we should be drilling for abiotic oil in exactly the same places that other people actually drilled for it 100 years earlier.

And that, rather than the irrelevant distraction of Hoyle's strange theories, is indeed something it might be useful to focus on...

His main source is Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer who was a proponent of the "Steady State" theory of cosmic origins and coined the name "Big Bang Theory" to denigrate the opposing theory

I grew up a an avid reader/fan of (Sir) Fred Hoyle. He was a great writer/science popularizer, as well as an early contributor to the theory of Nuclearsynthesis, "that stars made the heavy elements which are required by the modern universe to build such useful objects as planets..." I attribute my intuitive understanding of physics to the hours I spent reading his stuff as a youth. But, he certainly let his philosophical/religious side get the better of him.

Some of the things he proposed:
A black hole would be a violation of nature, therefore stars heavier than the Chandrasekar lime (about 1.4times the mass of the sun) have to explode as supernova in order for the universe to avoid the blackhole abomination.
An infinite expanding universe with no beginning or end that featured the continuous creation of matter to maintain the steady state.

I probably have a touch of his yearning to have an eternal universe. To his(my) sort of personality a steady state and hence eternal universe is very reassuring. The bigbang offers no such comfort, as it is impossible for anything we create to ever survive for eternity.

Abiotic oil, sounds a lot like continuous creation. A great way to allow a never ending oil age.

From a previous comment:

As for abiotic oil, it does exist. It can be created under laboratory conditions of intense heat and pressure (in a diamond anvil press) and very small amounts have been found in the earth's mantle. Trace amounts of abiotic natural gas exist in commercially available natural gas in amounts around 200 ppm.

However, no commercially interesting quantities of abiotic oil or natural gas have been discovered anywhere in the world. They should be found along major faults in continental shield areas where sedimentary rocks are not present but the list of empty boreholes is now getting long-ish.

The author's assertion that there could be large amounts of "young oil" is not born out by any published research. All commercial oil shows evidence of biological origin. At one point it was possible to say that the abiotic oil theory still needed to be tested but that point is now probably passed and the verdict is in: we are still having trouble finding a single barrel of abiotic oil never mind millions of barrels of the stuff. I'm afraid Mr. Landau's offer to check the age of the oil would be a waste of time and money.

I occasionally edit papers for the Uppsala Global Energy System Group. My information comes from a forthcoming survey paper to be published in Marine and Petroleum Geology that I edited called "Development of oil formation theories and their importance for peak oil." It traces the origins and development of both the biotic and abiotic oil formation theories and includes the very latest research.

The paper has been accepted and the link is below:


Good paper, gives a good basic overview on peak oil and explains why commercial quantities of abiotic oil are extremely unlikely to be found. What can be found is microscopic type quantities.

My simplistic thoughts are that recent Russian success with providing a lot of oil as well as a warmer global climate may mean increased prosperity to Russia.

So, like SA seems to do: they will do their best to spin the story to a story of plenty, step right up and buy their oil, they are here to sell!

as well as a warmer global climate may mean increased prosperity to Russia.

Thats what the Russins thought under this summers catastrophic drought/heat-wave/fire season. Now they realize the downside could be pretty severe.

Thanks for all the feedback. I'm not a bit surprised that abiotic oil barely rises to the level of a joke among people who are genuinely concerned about Peak Oil. What is much harder for an amateur to assess is whether the literature supports the dismissive tone.

How useful is Google Scholar for questions about oil and gas? What are the top journals? Are there any authors *everyone* should be aware of?

The commenters who have addressed the literature most directly have been most helpful to me; of course, I'd still be glad to hear about whatever English-language literature might support the "Russian-Ukraine Modern Theory" —— and based on the comments, I'm sure many others would, also. (That is, if any such support actually exists...)

I'm not a bit surprised that abiotic oil barely rises to the level of a joke among people who are genuinely concerned about Peak Oil.

Andrew, it is not just a joke among those concerned about peak oil. It is a joke among all oil geologist and really scientist in general. Abiotic oil is a joke among everyone... Well, everyone except the nutty fringe of course.

What is much harder for an amateur to assess is whether the literature supports the dismissive tone.

Well hell, all you have to do is read the literature ant then you will be sure that it does support such a dismissive tone. TOD did a special thread on the subject. Abiotic Snake Oil (Many other links can be found embedded within this essay.)

Dale Allen Pfeiffer did an essay on the subject: No Free Lunch, Part 2: If abiotic oil exists, where is it?

And I could give you a hundred more links that debunk the very stupid theory of abiotic oil. However you will find there is very little discussion of the subject in such scientific journals as "Nature", "Science", "New Scientist", "Scientific American" or any of the other major scientific journals. There is a very good reason for this. Real scientist do not waste their time with stupid, hare-brained, cockamamie theories like abiotic oil. They do not waste their time with such very stupid theories as the flat earth theory or the theory that the entire universe was really created only six thousand years ago or abiotic oil.

Ron P.

Thanks for the links. I'll check them out. I'm new around here, and have forgotten most of whatever education I've had on energy and oil issues, so you have my apologies in advance if the quantity or quality of questions I have comes off as being trollish. That's certainly not my intent, and I'm definitely here to learn something. So, uh, thanks for the patience, too.


But for all their promises of a clean, green future, Italy's windfarms have now acquired a somewhat dirtier whiff - as the latest industry to be infiltrated by the country's mobsters.

Mobsters and Investment bankers getting 30%

Elsewhere it was said about the link... "In Italy, for example, power from wind farms is sold at a guaranteed rate of €180 per kwh – the highest rate in the world"

Is there a reliable way to distinguish between mobsters and investment bankers?


Is there a reliable way to distinguish between mobsters and investment bankers?

They wear different types of hat! Banksters use more sophisticated language! Banksters use lawyers and bought politicians to secure their ill gotten gains, mobsters intimidate with hit-men. Banksters do far more harm, but are accepted by society as pillars of the community.

power from wind farms is sold at a guaranteed rate of €180 per kwh

Feed-in Tarriffs for renewable power normally run in the order of a few cents per KWh ie: €180 per kwh is a thousand times too much ... should be €0.180 per KWh or €180 per MWh. Typical lack of attention by MSM ... they don't have a grasp of the size of numbers!

Emirates begins to notice power intensive industries

Aluminum smelting, petrochemicals and other power intensive industries were some of the first attracted to the Persian Gulf. Very low priced natural gas, available under long term contracts, made smelting aluminum, etc. economic.

Now that spot NG prices are around $5 MMBTU (a third higher than Henry Hub, i.e. USA prices), LNG imports are planned and oil is being burned for electricity, power intensive industries are being questioned.

But they are a major source of employment and the hope for economic diversification.


Best Hopes for more rational economic plans,


Google translation: Dutch breakthrough in bio-fuels ...


In a cosmic sense - not a breakthrough. Organic material under high pressure and temp. Gosh - that's sounds like how Oil is made, even if some Russians (and others) think it is not so.

1) Energy to make the machines, run the machines, get the hydrogen.
2) Organic matter coming from? What happens if someone introduces a catalyst like Platinum to the reaction vessel?
3) Getting the organic matter TO the machine.
4) Getting the "waste" organic material from the machine and back to the land.

Possible upside - could act as a bio-filter to capture heavy metals.

Packaging Is All the Rage, and Not in a Good Way

But Mr. Herrington, vice president for consumables at Amazon, is trying to make a point: With a typical online purchase, “you’ve got a ton of packaging and a ton of work ahead of you,” he said. For nearly two years, Amazon has been trying to get manufacturers to adopt “frustration-free packaging” that gets rid of plastic cases and air-bubble wrap — major irritants for consumers and one of Amazon’s biggest sources of customer complaints.
The strategy worked for Philips, the electronics company. It recently made the packaging change on its Essence electronic toothbrush when the company saw the feedback. “It wasn’t necessarily that the product was the issue, it was the unpack experience — you’ve got to get scissors or knives,” said Stephen Cheung, senior consumer marketing manager for Philips Oral Healthcare. Philips asked the supplier AllpakTrojan if it could create a new package. Because manufacturers usually use one supplier for the plastic part of their packages and another for the cardboard, “even before you make anything you’ve lost a little efficiency in the design process,” said Dave Hoover, sales manager for AllpakTrojan.
Within three weeks, AllpakTrojan had designed the new container, tested it by dropping it from various heights and putting it on a vibration table and had it ready. The toothbrush’s travel case protected the brush head, and cardboard compartments held the charger and toothbrush base. Without the fancy printing, shiny cardboard backing and plastic, “it’s much less expensive,” Mr. Hoover said. And the environmental benefit was significant: the square footage of material used was much smaller, and the cardboard was recycled and recyclable.

The online shopping distribution channel is now big enough that it can start getting goods packaged in a manner appropriate to its 2-stage manufacturer to warehouse and warehouse to customer distribution model, rather than goods packaged for retail store displays.

Is this distribution model more energy efficient than the traditional manufacture to warehouse, warehouse to store, and store to customer model of a WalMart or the distribution model for small retailers which would involve both wholesaler and distributor nodes?

Retail stores are fairly heavy users of energy for lighting and HVAC. The retail store to customer link uses inefficient personal vehicles.

I do try to leave feedback on packaging at Amazon whenever possible. Packaging has just gotten ridiculous these days.

They still have a long way to go, though. I once bought two identical items. One arrived with minimal packaging. The box had been designed for shipping; they just slapped a label on it. It arrived in perfect condition. The other was in an identical box...but it had been put in a huge cardboard carton, with several yards of bubble wrap. For no reason I could determine.

Packaging has just gotten ridiculous these days.

Packaging has evolved to give maximum protection to the product. I wonder how many emergency room visits have resulted from consumers having to get aggressive with sharp objects in order to get stuff out of the packaging?

I think the most obnoxious packaging evolved to prevent shoplifting. It's intentionally huge and difficult to open, because they want to make it hard to conceal and hard to extract in the store. But it's just a PITA with online or mail order, since shoplifting isn't an issue there.

From Costco (ignoring arranging batteries to ocupy less space, keeping it simple for comparison)

AA batteries simple box and film pack 100% utilisation of packing volume
AAA batteries blister and cardboard pack 16% utilisation of packing volume

That ignores the fact that the display box for the AAA batteries requires extra space between and around each blister that probably brings the utilisation down to 10-12%

There are plenty of other ways to avoid shoplifting than bulky packaging such as giving service.


Re: Phasing out the incandescent light bulb

The Washington Post has editors, right? This graphic is totally useless. It shows the wattage of the incandescent lamps being phased-out, but not the corresponding wattage of their replacements. We also have two entries that are identified as "60W" but I presume by the lumen ratings shown below that the last column pertains to 40-watt incandescents and not 60. And why the sudden switch from watts to lumens for the LED alternative?

With shoddy reporting like this, it's no surprise there's considerable confusion in the marketplace.


leanan, you may want to post this up top
edit tainter interview


Thanks for the link.
Have been slowly listening to the 40 minute Tainter interview.

The more precise link is:

Thanks again :-)

Hey, this interview is good, it is really, really good. I don't know when I have listened to a broadcast that was so riveting. Gail should make this a special thread.

Thanks for posting this Earl.

Ron P.

don't know when I have listened to a broadcast that was so riveting


I was paying only half attention. (Have to do my day job at same time --you know, the complexity of multi-tasking)

If I understood Tainter's new theory, it is this:

Our ability to innovate is collapsing at the same time that our problems are escalating.

Complex societies in the past were able to extend their lifetimes by innovating faster than new problems cropped up for them. The life extensions could have been on the order of hundreds of years.

Unfortunately for the USA, rather than increasing our innovation productivity, we are falling into less than adult, ideological blame castings. Our innovation infra-structure is collapsing precisely at the moment when we need it most. If we continue on this trajectory and don't "grow up", we will surely all fall down. (A tissue, a tissue .... ring a round the rosy)

It is excellent but he seems still to be caught in the problem-solution trap. He doesn't mention transformation (i.e. systemic alteration). The part about sustainability was crying for a discussion on transformation. A missed opportunity, in my view.

A brief note to support the idea of "transformation," "systemic alteration" and/or "innovation" - as seen different contexts. (Seeing the context differently, to begin with.)

We also need specifics and examples, I think, to make the discussion meaningful.

We also need specifics and examples, to make the discussion meaningful.

A hypothetical example of just-in-time innovation might be this:

Breaking History News: Just as the cheap oil starts running out and climate change threatens to enter positive feedback run-away; scientists figure our how to do high EROI Cold fusion and humanity is saved ... that is, until the next sustainability problem becomes evident to the ever clever apes

A more likely example:

People learn to walk again! National obesity epidemic at an end!


A yet more likely example:

People learn to walk again!

They walk from empty supermarket to next empty supermarket.

No food anywhere.
Then they die.

National obesity epidemic at an end!


"Complex societies in the past were able to extend their lifetimes by innovating faster than new problems cropped up for them. The life extensions could have been on the order of hundreds of years."

But this, along with much in Tainter's language, leads me to conclude that he is looking to preserve BAU or at least "our lifestyle." What is so freaking great about our lifestyle that he wants to preserve it so badly?

Sprawl? Malls? McMansions? Ghettos? Food deserts? Vast stretches of the country that have no there there?

Sure, sudden catastrophic collapse is really ugly--but are these really our only two options?

It also seems to be internally inconsistent to say

"increased complexity leads to sudden catastrophic collapse"

"we are approaching a possible such collapse"

"therefore we must increase complexity" (unless he is talking about some kind of "innovation" that does not yield more complexity)

Why not an intentional effort to steadily DECREASE complexity and energy use--not to negate any innovation, but select innovations most likely to soften the "landing"

Increased energy availability is most likely to lead to innovation that involves using MORE energy, and we're back on the cycle of increased energy use and complexity.

He completely ignored the enormous costs our energy use and complexity have had and are having on the living world = the present and future of the planet and our kids.

He also seemed to be obsessed with health care. I know he mentioned it once, but why not focus instead on the humongous amounts wasted on war?

Even if he wants innovation, a sickly, uneducated populous is not likely to innovate much.

Spending trillions on war may spurn some innovation, but mostly on things that can destroy stuff, directly or indirectly.

And of course the health care system a lot of us wanted, one payer, would be very much LESS complicated than the blizzard of insurance companies that now dominate and suck the juices out of the system now.

Ultimately, the basic premise seemed pretty presocratic/chauncy gardnerish to me--extremes in anything bring about their opposite--heat dissipates into cold, summer yields to winter, large breaks down into small...not so much a theory as a truism. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the presocratics and "Being There," and truisms can be valuable to the extent that they are actually true.

But a "theory" that boils down to ~ 'complexity leads to collapse, unless you make it more complex, and then it can put off collapse for a few hundred years...'


[Edit--I know I should read his book and some article before passing judgment, but I had heard a lot about this guy and was looking forward to being impressed--maybe my expectations had been raised a bit too high?]

Tainter defines collapse as a loss of social complexity. He does not say that loss needs to be sudden. A planned and managed reduction in complexity would still be collapse in Tainter's terms. He is not trying to sustain BAU, he is saying that BAU can never be sustained indefinitely.

I think he was trying to say that complexity in a society is usually not "intelligently designed" (i.e. by an omniscient being)

Then, as problems emerge, the society adds more complexity (consider his irrigation example) in an attempt to keep the original complexity going.

Jame Kunstler's ideas about the complexity of urban sprawl, and our attempts to keep that complexity going, might a good modern day example of the phenomenon.

What is so freaking great about our ["complex"] lifestyle that he wants to preserve it so badly?

Don't knock it until you have first tried the "simple" life.

Here is an example of the life less complex:

1. You are born to abject poverty
2. By miracle you, out of thousands who don't, survive to reproductive age
3. You mate
4. A saber tooth tiger --or more likely a fatal microbe-- kills you a few days later.
5. The end.

There are quite a few option between US standards of living (using 1/4 of the earth's resources with 1/20 of the world's population) and stone age life.

An estimate by James Merkel in "Radical Simplicity" claims that all humans could live sustainably on the earth to day at the quality of life of the average Parisian in the '50's. Doesn't sound too unlivable to me.

(Though you do make "The Simple Life" look quite appealing.)

Living like it was in the 50s would be seen as regression. It's either progress into something like Kurzweil's vision, or failure.

Well, that's one black-and-white way to look at it.

And no matter what we won't be "living like it was the 50s" because it's not the fifties. We can't really go back, but we can do some comparisons. According to most studies, people on average aren't happier now than they were in the fifties. So maybe the way forward shouldn't be about trying to continue the trajectories of the last fifty years.

Actually...if you read the book, and some of Tainter's other work, he argues that life improves after collapse. If you survive.

I suspect it's the 80-95% drop in population he wants to avoid.

He does suggest that "voluntary collapse" is a good option.

Yes, I will have to crack it open. But even that claim sounds suspicious. Other studies I've seen claim that kings after the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire had a poorer standard of living than average citizens did before the fall.

No easy trade meant no good smithied silverware, dishes. People, even kings, went back to wooden bowls and some crude pottery.

Yes, Greer and others have written about that.

But nice dishes don't really do you any good if you don't have food to put on them. Tainter looks at things like nutrition (as reflected in bones). And he argues that the little kingdoms left after Rome fell did a better job of fending off the barbarians than the Roman Empire did.

That's sort of the meaning of collapse, really. The technology that gives you luxuries like nice porcelain ware goes away, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're worse off.

This is definitely a must-listen.

No one integrates energy decline, financial collapse, and diminishing returns like Tainter.

He also is capable of hilarious understatement:

But collapse is something we do not want to experience.


He also expresses the most profound insights without succumbing to gobbledygook, as so many "intellectuals" do:

We need to have an adult conversation about future energy supplies...our politicians are not having an adult conversation...they're engaged in distractions that further their own short-term interests...

Tainter let us publish this piece of his last year:


Very readable. He was worried it was too doomerish.

We don't need to innovate to eliminate our dependence on oil. The tools are here: Hybrids like the Prius, EREVs like the Volt, and EVs like the Leaf have been engineered and are for sale. Wind power has grown to the point where it can provide whatever we need (and yes, nuclear and solar are important too).

rather than increasing our innovation productivity, we are falling into less than adult, ideological blame castings.

That's a distraction. The problem is the minority that wants to block change:

"The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are waging a war against Obama. He and his brother are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes."


The EIA has just published this months Short-Term Energy Outlook.

They are, as I previously stated, predicting that Russia will peak this year. The EIA's Russian prediction for Russia's Total Liquids million barrels per day:

2009   2010   2011
9.93   10.04  9.85  

As you can see the EIA is predicting that Russia, in 2011, will produce even less than they did in 2009.

Right now, for the first five months of 2010 non-OPEC crude oil production is averaging about 200 kb/d higher than the previous peak year of 2004. But if the EIA is correct we will finish the year well below the 2004 peak. Average daily non-OPEC production for the first five months of 2010, all liquids, is 51.47 million barrels per day. They are predicting the average for the last seven months will be 50.9 million barrels per day or 564,000 barrels per day lower than the average for the first five months. If that does hold, or even get close, that will put 2010 well below the 2004 level.

Of course these figures are all liquids and not C+C but the percentages should still be pretty close.

They are also predicting that non-OPEC liquids will peak this year or at least be below the 2010 level in 2011. That is as far as their data goes but they have previously predicted that non-OPEC liquids will peak this year.

Ron P.

But I love this quote from the EIA report:

This would be only the third time in the last 15 years that non-OPEC supplies fail to grow year-over-year, following non-OPEC production declines in 2005 and 2008, which were primarily the result of supply disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico.

They seem to be saying that the 2005 and 2008 declines were just aberrations and that, by implication, the predicted decline in 2011 may also be an aberration. Just soft pedaling the bad news.

What they don't point out is that this is all liquids. If you are looking at C+C then non-OPEC production declined in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Non-OPEC Crude + Condensate declined for four years in a row, even in the years 2006 and 2007 when there were no serious hurricanes in the GOM.

Ron P.

So I guess we'll be fine as long as we just keep moving those goal posts down the field--until we get to peak field, perhaps?

Saying such silly things just proves you have not been paying attention. I have never moved any goal posts and never will. I have stated over and over and over again, on this list about a thousand times or so, that C + C is all I track. Crude plus concentrate is oil, not bottled gas as all liquids is, at least a huge chunk of all liquids is bottled gas.

Adding bottled gas to the mix and calling it "oil" is a Jhonny come lately. Hubbert did not use bottled gas in his calculations and neither did Deffeyes. Those who added bottled gas to the mix were the ones moving the goal posts.

Also, C+C is the only thing the EIA reports for every country! If you track the progress of each country then C+C is what you must follow.

Geesh, sometimes some of you guys just seem to have your head in the sand.

Ron P.

Sorry, I must not have been clear.

I consider the switch to measuring "liquids" a way of moving the goal posts, something I thought I had harped on enough around here that folks might know my position.

I was meaning to agree with you that C+C is a better measure.

"Oil Falls a Third Day on Speculation European Debt May Curb Global Growth"

Yawn.... Anybody else notice that the reasons for oil price trending up or down seem to be being pulled out of somebody's rear end? My casual observation is that oil is loosely following the stock market. A the first sign of optimism oil trots up right along behind the stock market and similarly follows it down at the first sight of gloom.

Notice the little graph in the right margin under the list of TOD staff? Looks like it's playing monkey see, monkey do with the stock market to me.

Alan from the islands

Being a farmer and familiar with the ways and reasons agricultural commodity prices move, I don't have any problems understanding in a broad way the reasons why oil prices can move the way they do.

First off, only a minor shortfall in supply can cause a sharp price spike because the end users cannot change thier usage patterns and habits very fast;in the rare year when the apple crop is very short, we get wonderful wholesale prices for whatever we produce, even though the consumer has many alternate fruit choices available that might be somewhat less expensive at retail;the user of oil not only lacks this large range of substitute products, he has hardly any viable short term substitute available at all.

Neither orchardists nor oil producers have the ability to bring more production to market on very short notice, excepting possibly a couple of OPEC members;and even then, by the time the decision is made, production is ramped up, and the crude is pumped , piped, refined, shipped, and distributed, it is likely that several weeks to a few months have gone by.

Conversely, when demand falls of faster than expected, product started down the long processing and delivery pipeline cannot be easily diverted or stored, as there are not many places to put it, and storage is expensive in terms of rents, taxes, and finances.It can be better to lose a dime on a gallon maybe than to risk more than a dime on storage betting on a price rise.Neither orchardists nor most oil producers are in a position or necessarily able to cut production on short notice;so long as the price exceeds the variable costs of production, it can be more economical/profitable to ship than to shut down-you may be running at a loss shipping but shutting down can mean an even bigger loss, and the cash flow is often critical to short term survival.

There are years when a market glut drives the wholesale price of apples to approximately the cost of harvest , packing, and shipping;we have let crops "hit the ground" and dumped harvested apples "over the road bank" to avoid harvest costs or simply get rid of perfectly good but unsalable apples.

Throw in a few wild cards involving speculators, politicians, currency fluctuations, and a lack of a clear sense of where the overall economy is headed, and the industry is apt to over or underestimate demand a few months down the road.Product availability six months from now depends on the collective decisions made by oil company marketing specialists today, according to what I read here on TOD.

Of course understanding this in principle is not the same thing as being able to quantify it and make accurate predictions.

I'm not suprised that the price swings are not wider than they actually have been so far.We will probably see more such price swings,with the highs being higher and the lows higher too, as the next decade passes by.

I understand the arguments made by those who say dyning demand will limit oil prices to the hundred dollar or two hunderd dollar per barrel range, but at some point production may fall off enough that the marginal utility of fuel may become so high that five or ten dollar diesel looks dirt cheap, at least so long as existing machinery can be kept running.

I can assure doubters that even if no new tractors and combines are built after today, tractors and combines will still be doing most of our heavy farm work forty years from now, so long as that ten dollar diesel-or biodiesel- can be had.

Regulars may remember my comment last week in respect to the amount of diesel I needed to break overgrown ground for a garden-around a pint for about a thousand square feet, if the tractor is considered a sunk cost.The actual value of that pint of fuel, in tems of human labor ?From forty hours on up to twice that! In terms of human and mule labor, probably a whole day for a man ans a mule.


Thanks for explaining this. A couple of Qs:

1) I'm curious to know exactly what "over the road bank" means? Where do they literally go?

More important: What do you see as the fix for the situation that leads to apple-dumping, as per your example?

2) re: "I can assure doubters that even if no new tractors and combines are built after today, tractors and combines will still be doing most of our heavy farm work forty years from now, so long as that ten dollar diesel-or biodiesel- can be had."

The problem as I see it is this: While what you say is true, from the farmer's perspective - (shared, of course, by the person here who quite wishes to have enough to eat!) - there are other sectors that have the same high dependencies.

Thus, it may be difficult to "set" priorities, or have a way to do so. In other word, what's true for ag, may be equally true for water (transport, purification, treatment), equally true for waste (to avoid disease)...and so forth.

3) Then, there are the sectors that depend on the sectors that are at least equally oil-dependent, if not quite a bit more so.

Road maintenance, while sounding prosaic, looms large. Roads: to the grid, to the farmer, to the market, to the water, etc. To me, this is the clincher. I don't see any way around this one. (though I'd be happy to.)

4) re: "...shutting down can mean an even bigger loss, and the cash flow is often critical to short term survival."

Do you see any fix for this?

Road Maintenance

The 1910 solution. An average 10 miles over dirt roads to the nearest rail stop.

Farmers would "go to town" every other Friday (or Saturday) if the weather was good and they were not planting or harvesting.


"Over the road bank" means literally that-we load the boxed fruit on the trucks and back up to a place that where shoulder falls off sharply and simply pour the apples over the edge-actually on a farm road, not a public road.Various wild animals eat some of them , and the rest simply rot.

At least we can salvage the containers. ;)

So far as I can see, there is no fix not worse than the problem-when we have such unsalable fruit, we give away what we can, but we have not found anybody capable of hauling , storing, and distributing it in quantity.

The various solutions tried involve vast nonproductive bueracracies, tedious expensive record keeping and documentation, and rampant fraud.

Example-a recent program involving insuring the growing of sweet potatos in a nearby locality resulted in a ten fold increase in local sweet potato production-on paper.The taxpayer lost several million dollars in very short order paying dubious claims before the program was shut down.

I anticipate that once petroleum is in very short supply, nobody will have a higher priority for rationed fuel than farmers except the very security appartus responsible for the rationing program;after all even in a totalitarian police state, the elite must continue to eat-which means supporting a stable agricultural base.Of course a balance must be struck such that such food as is produced can be delivered, and of course we don't live by bread alone.The water, sewer, and electrical infrastructure simply must be kept up and functioning.I anticipate that this necessity will be met by draconian limitation of the use of energy for all other purposes;there will be no electric signs, no shopping centers open at night, incredibly few private cars, your potatos will come in reusable bags requiring a sub stantial deposit, etc.You will own a lot of blankets and hopefully a few solar panels capable of running a frefrigerator so you can have a cold drink;forget air conditioning.

Any fix for the cash flow problems associated with market variability associated with farming generally involves some sort of production liscense issued by the govt;you can sell tobacco, sugar, citrus fruit, or whatever regulated crop if you possess such a liscense or "allotment".The cure is good for those who obtain them(the allotments) but bad for everybody else, including other farmers.

Such programs in my estimation result in a net loss to society.

There is something to be said for the govt putting up money to buy up excess staples such as wheat or rice in times of very depressed prices;this creates a strategic reserve, and can help smooth out price swings, which is helpful to growers.If a wheat grower knows that there is a big well documented carry over that can be sold he can adjust his acreage down in anticipation of lower prices, or up if the known carry over is small.

But even such a limited simple programs tend to get out if hand;when we had them,the "support price" was historically set so high that huge surpluses were generated, leading to mountians of unneeded grain being grown.

Nowadays the reserve supply of staple grains is precariously low;it would be a good thing , within the broader context, if we had those surpluses back, as a bad year could now result in widespread starvation.People simply can't eat what doesn't exist.

My opinion at present is that we can better afford a govt gauranteed floor under grain prices, thereby generating a big surplus, than we can afford the possible consequences of widespread food shortages in other countries reliant upon imports-at least in the short term. Or perhaps we should simply have a strategic grain reserve built up by buying up so much grain every year, no matter what, the way the petroleum reserve is built up.

In the long term, every solution creates two or three problems.I wouldn't want to be the president and have the worry of whether I made the right decision on my mind, given the state of the world today.

From the Toronto Star


Tess Kalinowski Transportation Reporter

Scrap streetcars for subways: Ford unveils his transit plan

Rob Ford says it’s time to stop Toronto’s “war on cars” and build subways instead of streetcar lines.

The frontrunner in Toronto’s mayoral race also wants to replace some current streetcar lines with buses, although Ford doesn’t specify which lines would be scrapped.

As a Toronto resident this is only another reason Ford won't get my vote.

The trouble with subways is that they cost 4 to 8 times as much to build as surface rail lines, which means you can only build 1/4 to 1/8 as much track for the same budget (and you are always budget-constrained).

Toronto really needs to use modern low-floor light rail vehicles, rather than its own custom-designed streetcars. These trams are fast, comfortable, and available off-the-shelf from manufacturers all over the world. Bombardier, for instance, builds them for other countries but not Canada.

Off-the-shelf LRVs may require relocating some tracks as the existing streetcar tracks have turns which are too tight, and it might be necessary to change the tracks to standard gauge instead of Toronto's unique slightly-more-than-standard gauge, but in the long run it probably would be worth it.

Subways, though, should only be used in downtown cores where property values are high and alternatives are not available. It's the only place you can justify the cost. The most efficient places to put rail transit in areas outside the business core are existing railway rights-of-way (which usually have room for a more tracks), and the medians of freeways. It's relatively cheap and light rail vehicles can run at 100 km/h or more in those rights-of-way.

We'll be getting new cars in 2013. http://www3.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Projects_and_initiatives/New_Streetcars... Mr. Ford has not considered the costs of canceling or altering the contracts, or doesn't think his base can do the math. Either option- or the third option, that Ford can't do the math- could be true. If I remember correctly, he's campaigning on a tax freeze. It'll be interesting to hear how he's going to pay for those subways...and who will be riding on the Shephard Extension, considering that the current Sheppard line is underutilized. Also interesting to think of how long the new consultations on planning will take, considering we've been working on the the Transit City and Metrolinx projects for years. Or maybe he has, and is trying to stop anything being done. Perhaps this is part of his "War on Transit"?


The frontrunner in Toronto’s mayoral race also wants to replace some current streetcar lines with buses, although Ford doesn’t specify which lines would be scrapped.

Busses are moving to Hybrids, and the regen braking gains, make good sense.

So, cities should reality-check their transit solutions from time to time.

One Hybrid bus production indicator:

Yesterday morning Maxwell Technologies (MXWL) reported that sales of its ultracapacitor cell modules for hybrid buses has picked up significantly this year. The company has shipped modules for more than 1000 buses so far this year and could ship components for 600 more by the end of the year.

and another

Sales for Daimler Buses North America’s Orion VII diesel-electric series hybrid bus have surpassed 3,000 units—more than any other manufacturer in the world. More than 2,200 units are already in service, with an additional 850 firm orders in backlog

Clinton says Mexico drug crime like an insurgency

Drug-related violence in Mexico increasingly has the hallmarks of an insurgency, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

"It's looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, when the narco-traffickers controlled certain parts of the country," she said.

Speaking at a think tank in Washington, Mrs Clinton said Mexico needed to bolster its institutional capacity and maintain its political will to fight drug cartels. ... "We need a much more vigorous US presence," she said.

I am sure that one could find a similar speech during prohibition. Clinton has become just another cog in the military, industrial, terrorism, narco complex. Legalize all of it.

That would certainly be one way to cut off the air supply of the drug cartels.

Not nearly as much profit if it is legal and taxed.

"We need a much more vigorous US presence"

Sound like the beginning of a third front in the war on terror to anyone else?

Exactly how many wars do we plan on fighting at once?

Link up top: EIA ups forecast for 2010 world oil demand growth

But they lowered their projection for 2011 demand growth:

The EIA decreased its forecast for 2011 world oil demand growth on a slightly lower outlook for global economic expansion. It cut the 2011 forecast by 100,000 bpd, now projecting a rise of 1.41 million bpd to 87.36 million bpd.

They are predicting demand in 2011 to increase by 1.41 mb/d. Yet they are predicting non-OPEC production to decline by .16 mb/d next year. That means that OPEC will need to increase production by 1.57 million barrels per day if the EIA is correct.

They expect OPEC total supply, including other liquids, to increase by 1.2 mb/d next year according to their Short-Term Energy Outlook. I don't know where they are going to get the other 370,000 barrels per day.

My opinion is only a guess, but I think it is an educated guess. I don't expect OPEC to increase production by 1.57 mb/d next year, or even 1.2 mb/d. I do expect an increase in OPEC production next year of about .5 mb/d, just about enough to offset a non-OPEC decline of approximately the same amount.

Ron P.

I believe your OPEC/non-OPEC supply forecast will be much closer to reality than what the EIA is saying. As we found out this week, basically the German military has also concluded that demand in 2011 looks to exceed available supplies.

The EIA actually expects OECD inventories to drop 62 million barrels next year, so they really are indirectly saying too that demand will exceed supply, but I doubt they will give much publicity to this point.

One more thing, they are revising up 2010 US demand but seem to be very slow to face reality. If I am not mistaken, oil product demand will have to fall the remainder of 2010 to meet their conservative demand forecast of projected total liquid fuels consumption growth by 160,000 bbl/d (0.8 percent) in 2010. Since we are already up 2.0% year to date, basically the EIA could only be right if the economy does signficantly worse from here.

Are some governments taking 'peak oil' seriously?

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the arguments that some bring up in defense of alternative energy is that of "peak oil." The idea behind peak oil is that, as a fossil fuel in limited supply, eventually we will reach a point where oil production hits its maximum capability -- and then begins to decline. Because there aren't endless supplies of oil, and because it is a finite resource, the idea is that we will reach a tipping point at which it becomes impossible to continue increasing oil production. Some even contend that we're already there.