Drumbeat: September 27, 2010

Sharon Astyk:The revolution will not be blogged, either

The thing is, it isn't just that X technology won't save us (insert preferred technofantasy where "X" is - hydrogen, desert sized solar panels, electric cars, etc...), it is that all of them won't save us. There's simply no way, as Diamond points out, of only producing "good" technologies - that's not how it works. Pouring billions of dollars into R and D for how to make a better solar panel or wind generator isn't going to fix the problem - and at some point, we aren't going to have billions.

The only way we can fix the problem is to back up. We have spent several centuries asking "can we do it?" And often enough the answer was a resounding "yes we can!" But instead, what we need to ask is this - should we do it? We need to switch away from the engineering mode and towards the ethical. Perhaps we might even begin to imagine that in some areas, we have done sufficient R and D.

What a radical concept that is, and how alien from the notion that we will always be able to make things better by simply taking the next step. I'm not trying to hinder science - I have no objection to tinkerers tinking away. But instead of devoting our economy to technical research, and to funding it with our government or with our personal dollars, spent on R and D after we buy stuff they've already developed, what if we tried to optimize what we already have?

Oil dependence and Cuba

Some progressive researchers warn of the possibility of a catastrophe, but it’s curious to see how those same people miss the boat when dealing with the issue in Cuba.

Many of them point to this country as an example of what could be done when the crisis hits, since something similar occurred here with the fall of the socialist camp, and we were able to survive to tell our story.

It’s true; we had to go back to draft animals, traditional green medicine and urban agriculture; but, as soon as the Venezuelan tankers appeared in the port we returned to being as oil-dependent and oil-centric as any nation on earth.

Stuart Staniford: International Trade Not Growing this Summer

While there's no sign of the sharp slowdown characteristic of a recession, it does appear in this series, as in oil production, that global economic growth is stalling.

Wind, Manure and Sun – New Energy Sources for Russia

Gas and oil resources of our country tend to exhaust, and leading experts are discussing future of power engineering at II Forum of Renewable Energy.

Existing gas resources are expected to give three times less gas, than they give today, by 2030. To cover country’s demand for gas, engineers need to start exploitation of a large new gas deposit every year, experts say.

A good solution, according to experts, lies in alternative energy sources.

Solar energy development cancelled

Tessera Solar North America, the developmental unit of Stirling Energy Systems Inc., has ended plans to jointly construct a 250 MW solar power plant with the city of Phoenix, according to an article in the Phoenix Business Journal.

The company was in the planning stages of developing the project, which would have been located at a city-owned landfill, but was unable to find a utility to purchase the power output and had problems with financing as well, the article stated.

New Energy Technologies aims to turn windows into solar panels

A Maryland-based firm has developed a technology that it says can turn windows into solar panels. New Energy Technologies says that its new SolarWindow product can be directly sprayed on to windows at room temperature to turn them into solar energy generators.

Currently in the prototype stage, it has been demonstrated powering LED lights and the blades of a small model helicopter from the energy generated, say executives.

The product adheres to glass while keeping it transparent, according to the company, which says that it can generate electrical current and voltage from artificial light in addition to sunlight. This makes it suitable for generating electricity from the fluorescent lights found in offices, New Energy Technologies said in a statement.

UK: New nuclear plants needed to reach green goals

Britain intends to build a new generation of nuclear power plants to replace its decades-old reactors, partly as a strategy for meeting its goals to reduce carbon emissions, Foreign Minister William Hague said Monday.

Could peak oil save the human species?

Nobody likes to hear a bleak diagnosis. But without a proper diagnosis, if you have a serious illness, your chances of survival become vanishingly small.

Enter Guy McPherson, conservation biologist, climate scientist and blogger, who despite his gloomy outlook about the prospects for industrial civilization--he thinks it could disappear within his lifetime--regards himself as an optimist. Why? Because back in 2002 after he finished editing a book on global climate change, he concluded that "we had set events in motion that would cause our own extinction, probably by 2030."

But, then he discovered the concept of peak oil and realized that "its consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time." That development would make it possible for humans to persist on the planet for a considerably longer time by saving the life support systems of the Earth essential to both humans and the other species which humans rely on. Peak oil became a cause for optimism rather than pessimism.

Venezuela opposition limits Chavez in parliament

Venezuela's opposition won a third of the seats in parliament and claimed a majority of the popular vote in elections on Sunday, a boost to its campaign to beat President Hugo Chavez at the 2012 presidential election.

Although Chavez's Socialist Party will have a majority in the 165-seat National Assembly, it fell short of its goal of winning the two thirds needed to pass major laws and make appointments to the Supreme Court and election authorities without the support of its foes.

Computer Worm Hits Iran Power Plant

Computer systems at Iran's first nuclear-power plant have been infected with a potent worm capable of taking over their control systems, Iranian officials said, citing the most significant example yet of potential dangers posed by the so-called Stuxnet worm.

The development further fueled suspicions that the worm, which was discovered in July and has disproportionately hit facilities in Iran, was designed to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Oil Trades Near Two-Week High, Equities Counter Supply Concern

Crude oil traded near its highest level in two weeks in New York as advancing equities countered concern that fuel inventories are excessive.

Oil rose to a two-week high near $77 a barrel as stocks gained after data showed renewed equipment purchases by U.S. factories and businesses. Still, crude inventories in the U.S. remain 13 percent above their five-year average at 358.3 million barrels, according to the Energy Department.

A Fresh Theory On Blast's Cause

"I'd like to just maintain the possibility that one reason that the cement job may have failed was because of fracking at the time of cementing," said Mark Zoback, a Stanford University geophysicist who serves on the National Academy of Engineering panel investigating the causes of the April 20 disaster.

The remarks, at a meeting convened at the National Academy of Engineering, undercut BP's effort to assign blame for the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion to its contractors instead of its own well design.

Halliburton Defends Its Cement Work, Blaming BP for Gulf Spill

Halliburton Co. defended its cement work on the well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico, blaming BP Plc’s design work for the biggest U.S. oil spill.

Thomas Roth, vice president of cementing for Houston-based Halliburton, disputed BP’s contention that his company’s cement job let oil and gas flow up to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, contributing to the blowout on April 20.

“BP’s well design and operational decisions compromised well integrity,” Roth said yesterday at a National Academies hearing in Washington investigating the cause of the spill. BP workers ignored “multiple red flags” indicating the well wasn’t sealed properly and hydrocarbons could escape, Roth said.

At BP, a High-Stakes Agenda: Dudley Faces Pressure to Boost Stock and Possibly to Preserve Firm's Independence

"The measure of the challenge facing Dudley is that if in six months there's no change in the share price, BP will be highly vulnerable to an approach by Exxon or [Royal Dutch Shell PLC]," said a London oil and gas banker.

Chevron: Greenpeace Protesters Still Holding Up UK Drilling

Greenpeace protesters are still holding up Chevron Corp's (CVX) plan to drill a new well in the U.K. North Sea despite a court order that halted a previous protest on Sunday, a company spokesman said Monday.

Greenpeace activists have entered the water ahead of the Stena Carron drillship, forcing it to remain stationary, "for the safety of the protesters," the spokesman said. The drillship was sailing to the West of Shetland area of the North Sea to drill an exploration well on the Lagavulin prospect.

Saudi Crude Output Falls 11.3% In 2009 Vs '08 -Ctrl Bk

Saudi Arabia's crude production fell 11.3% to 2.9 billion barrels in 2009 from 3.4 billion barrels in the year earlier, while exports fell 14.4% to 2.3 billion barrels, the country's central bank said Sunday. . .

"Domestic consumption of oil and gas is posting continuing growth and at high rates...this requires looking into the reasons behind the increase in oil and gas consumption and working on rationing it," Jasser added.

Kuwait calls for more compliance among OPEC

OPEC members need to adhere more strictly to existing quotas, Kuwaiti oil minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah said on Monday, adding he was not worried about softening demand.

"I'm not worried about demand, I'm worried about the quotas," he said.

"OPEC should be more committed to their quotas. There is a bit of slippage here and there."

Iran Produces Fuel in 5 Petrochemical Plants to Face Sanctions

Iran is producing gasoline in five of its petrochemical plants as part of a plan to halt imports and counter international sanctions, the state-run Mehr news agency reported.

CNPC: Russia-China Crude Oil Pipeline Officially Operational Nov 1

The first crude oil pipeline between Russia and China will be operational officially on November 1, Jiang Jiemin, President of China National Petroleum Corp. said Monday.

The 300,000 barrels-a-day capacity pipeline will pump oil from fields in Eastern Siberia to northeastern China's oil production and refining hub at Daqing.

The oil is being supplied under a $25 billion loan-for-oil agreement struck last year.

Russian company seeks to buy U.S. uranium mining operations

A Russian company is seeking to buy a controlling interest in one of the largest uranium extraction operations in the United States -- a sale that requires U.S. government review because of possible national security implications.

Japan Asks China to Pay for Damages

Chinese-Japanese tensions over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain re-escalated on Monday when Japan said it would ask China to pay for repairs to two coast guard ships damaged by the trawler.

Iraq Waits for a Government on a Long Vacation

The voters have since watched winter turn to spring, and now summer become fall — and the people they elected still have no leader. They are waiting for their parties to come to an agreement so they can start work. And while the summer months were marked by a surge in violence and by riots over the lack of electricity, drinking water and other basic services, in Baghdad, members of Parliament have lived out a workers’ fantasy: a vacation of more than 200 days (and counting), with full pay and benefits, each free to do his heart’s desire.

Since the March 7 election, they have met just once, and that was for less than 19 minutes.

Asia Begins Embracing Solar Power

Cheaper panels, combined with lower interest rates since the financial crisis, have helped put solar energy systems within the financial reach of poorer nations, said Anil Cabraal, an alternative energy expert who, until his retirement from the World Bank in April, got many of the bank’s solar projects in Asia and Africa under way over the past decade.

Under the solar initiative it announced this year, the Asian Development Bank hopes to help put in place solar power projects with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts by 2013.

Gulf oil spill: Can region keep its seafood on America's dinner tables?

In a normal year, the Gulf supplies the majority of domestic shrimp and oysters to American dinner tables, equaling about 2 percent of the total seafood consumed in the United States. For the Gulf states, $10.5 billion of gross domestic product is tied to the fishing industry, a number that could be halved this year by the 200-million-gallon oil spill that closed a third of the Gulf's critical fishing grounds.

Now the Gulf fishing business faces a big question: Can it overcome the same kinds of tainted food scandals that have hit the peanut, tomato, spinach, and egg industries in recent years – or will lingering suspicion further hobble the historic, but ailing, fishery?

But unlike other recent tainted-food scandals, the Gulf fishing industry is taking a beating based more on fear than fact, say food-safety experts. No evidence of taint from the spill has yet been found amid more than 2,000 samples taken.

China, Russia ink statement to deepen strategic partnership of coordination

The deals included a protocol of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation of coal, a strategic cooperation agreement on peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, a letter of intent on investment between the China North Industries Corporation and RUSAL, the world's largest aluminum producer, a contract on technology design for the No. 3 and No. 4 units of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in Lianyungang of east China's Jiangsu Province, an additional agreement on buyer's credit for export between Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Russia's VTB Bank, as well as several agreements on energy cooperation.

Russia says ready to meet China entire natural gas demand

Russia is ready to meet China's entire demand for natural gas, which amounts to 90 billion cubic meters/year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Monday.

"Russia is ready to meet China's demand in full," Sechin said in televised comments, adding that "Russia is a natural partner for China."

SA Near Peak Coal, Scientist Say

A study by geologist Chris Hartnady soon to be published in the SA Journal of Science, estimates that South Africa will reach peak coal production in 2020 when around 285 million tonnes will be produced. Last year 242 million tonnes were produced with over half being used by Eskom and the export market and Sasol sharing the rest.

Eskom has already started complaining of the poor grade of coal it is receiving this year. It is in the middle of arbitration with a supplier over plans to cancel the contract to quality issues. The utility has warned that having to pay higher prices for better quality coal will lead to higher power costs for consumers.

Shell Invests $2 Billion to End Nigerian Gas Flaring After Delay

Royal Dutch Shell Plc and partners are investing $2 billion in a program to end natural gas flaring in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, after the projects were delayed because of funding and security problems.

Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria, or SPDC, has invested more than $3 billion since 2002 to cut flaring of gas, which is pumped together with oil, said Alice Ajeh, a Nigeria- based spokeswoman at Shell. Flaring decreased 65 percent between 2002 and 2009, partly because of lower production, she said.

Ocean Power Technologies Completes First-Ever Grid Connection of a Wave Energy Device in the US

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. ("OPT" or the "Company") announces that it has completed the first-ever grid connection of a wave energy device in the United States at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii ("MCBH"), in conjunction with the US Navy. This connection demonstrates the ability of OPT's PowerBuoy(R) systems to produce utility-grade, renewable energy that can be transmitted to the grid in a manner fully compliant with national and international standards.

The PB40 PowerBuoy is part of OPT's ongoing program with the US Navy to develop and test the Company's PowerBuoy wave energy technology.

First Independent Study of Oil Spill Confirms Disaster

We wanted to do an independent estimate because people had the sense that the numbers out there were not necessarily accurate,” said lead author Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Using a new technique to measure the amount of oil that escaped by analysing the footage of it escaping from the pipe, the upper estimates of 56,000 to 68,000 barrels released daily have been confirmed.

Turkmenistan open natural gas compression station, enabling sharp boost in supplies to China

Turkmenistan opened a natural gas compression station Monday, enabling the energy-rich Central Asian nation to significantly boost the volume of its deliveries to energy-parched China.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov said the station would be able to pump up to 60 million cubic meters (2.1 billion cubic feet) of gas daily.

China is set to become the largest buyer of gas from Turkmenistan over the coming years as a pipeline linking the two countries, through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, reaches full capacity. Deliveries began earlier this year and are expected to hit 40 billion cubic meters in 2015.

Energy crisis hindering economic development

The city of New York, for instance, with 8 million habitants today uses the same amount of electricity as that of the Sub Saharan Africa which has a population of about 800 million people.

This would mean that electricity consumption per capita in NYC is more than 6000 Kwh per person (exactly 6024) while it is only 63kwh per person in Sub Saharan Africa. This ratio is approaching 1:100.

Africa’s green revolution will founder without extra global funding

A decade ago, the world agreed to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 as part of the UN millennium development goals. World leaders gathered in New York last week to renew their commitments for addressing global hunger, even as this goal is slipping away. In fact, due to the steep rise in food prices from late 2007 to early 2009 and the recent global economic crisis, global hunger has actually increased. Today, one out of every six people on earth is undernourished.

Lula hails Brazil's oil-fuelled '30-year boom'

The unprecedented Petrobras flotation aims to help bankroll a massive offshore exploration project that may propel Brazil into the premier league of global oil producers. But the offering is also the clearest example of what Brazilians are calling the "new Brazil", a booming, investment-friendly South American nation that they believe is steaming towards a future of prosperity and global clout.

Council of Europe issues warning on local government cutbacks

“Every local government system in Europe is experiencing some financial downturn,” said a spokesman for the inter-governmental human rights agency.

“The current strain on local government is not a temporary blip.

Mining by moonlight to save energy

Mining uses much more electricity than most other heavy industries, so it makes sense to move that high energy use to off-peak hours, because that evens out the demand on the grid, making it possible to squeeze more power out of fewer dirty electric plants, and to use more clean energy.
So the Ontario government has just asked the nickel-mining giant XStrada, and the second-largest mining company in the world, Vale; to work nights.

In his commentary in today's NYT, Their Moon Shot and Ours, Tom Friedman discusses electric car efforts in China. While he makes a common mistake regarding future development, referring to Moores Law, he may be correct about the results of the massive effort by the Chinese to solve the battery problem. It's not likely that battery technology will produce a rapid reduction in battery costs, but improvements in performance may be expected and that alone would make battery powered cars a viable replacement for cars powered by oil for many people. Better batteries would also improve hybrid cars as well.

E. Swanson

The Chinese may have more modest expectations for what an electric vehicle will do.

e-bikes take China's streets by storm

Last week, as the streets of Beijing were paralysed by a record 140 traffic jams, residents found themselves taking two or three hours to cover 10 km in their cars.
Wang Meng, however, had no such problem. As Beijing's roads became sprawling parking lots, he zipped in and out of the rows of stranded cars as he sped to work on a battery-powered bike he bought for 1,000 yuan (about Rs. 6,700).
“There is no sense in owning a car in Beijing today,” he said with satisfaction and some smugness, watching agitated taxi-drivers yelling at each other in the middle of yet another endless gridlock on Beijing's Third Ring Road.
The electric bike revolution has taken China's streets by storm. Since ‘e-bikes' were given formal approval five years ago, their numbers have grown so fast that they now outnumber cars in many cities.

How could the Chinese be so shortsighted?

To add further to Black_Dog's comment, AC Propulsion's tZero was driven over 300 miles on a charge using laptop batteries with an energy density of around 150 whr/kg at 60 mph (ref: http://www.acpropulsion.com/faqs.html). The test drive was from San Dimas (near Los Angeles to near San Jose for an electrical vehicle meeting - SJEEA(?)). The tZero is slightly smaller than a Miata.

Recently, a start up company by the name of Amprius mentioned this on their web site: "Amprius anodes can push the energy density of batteries to more than 2X (450 Wh/kg) that of the best available cells today." (Ref. http://www.amprius.com/technology/applications/) With 3x the energy density of the original tZero pack batteries, that would on paper, translate to a 900 mile range on one charge at 60 mph; basically a 2 day drive.

Considering that this technology came out of Stanford University and is being supported by Tesla Motors and some other "heavy hitters", it has **cough** **cough**, -- potential as opposed to vapor ware.

I have seen a number of battery start ups with high hopes go nowhere. There always seemed to be something lacking: short shelf life, low energy density, short calendar life, low recharge cycle numbers, durability issues, hot or cold temperature issues, cost, and/or safety issues. There is not a lot of information on their site to go by with regard to these issues. We will have to wait and see how any prototype vehicle behaves with a pack of whatever comes out of their R&D. I wish this company well.


What is so fascinating is that Tom fails as usual to connect the final dot.

Namely...the fact that a hack like him has a job at our national paper of record is itself suggestive of our decline! Not whether or not we build electric cars.

There's the rub. Even while we fall into oblivion, the unproductive finance and federal government classes of NYC and D.C., and all their sycophants, will never, ever realize that they themselves are the main participants.

So we'll continue to get this or that diagnosis or prescription while we circle the drain. Electric cars! Solar panels! Education! Immigration! Health care for all!

But audit the fed? Clean the sheets of the Wall Street banks? Cut the size of the federal government? Dismantle the empire?

Never. Not a chance.

As seductive as 'audit the Fed,' 'clean the sheets,' and 'cut the size of the ... government' may be, just as EVs, Solar Power, etc., are not the entire answer, neither is your remedy.

Problem: in order to achieve sustainability, there must needs be some governmental push or assistance (could go either way). We are running out of money, even as we are running out if time. Deregulation was part of the problem in the past... for some things a little bit is good, a lot could be fatal.

Meanwhile, as we dither, we are, as you correctly noted, circling the drain in the race to the bottom.

Good luck in finding your solution sans DC.


But audit the fed? Clean the sheets of the Wall Street banks? Cut the size of the federal government? Dismantle the empire?

All these memes are being pushed by our soon to be plutocrats. Destroy government, because it is the only thing that can prevent the accumulation of almost all wealth by the few. And, even as they are being robbed blind, the useful idiots believe the propaganda.

There is nothing wrong with wealth accumulation, but there is a serious issue when countries take on a debt that is projected to grow to ridiculous levels.


Friedman has a massive lie in his article. He implies that Obama is doing nothing to support the EV biz since we don't have a big gas tax. "Price matters" he says. Well duh . . . that is why we have a $7500.00 tax-credit for every electric car sold! Obama (and the Dems & Reps that supported the law) IS supporting EVs with price

In his article he cites the Coda as costing $37,000. No, the Coda costs $44,500. It only $37,000 AFTER the tax credit. We use tax-credits instead of gas taxes but every politician knows that a gas tax is political suicide (even though it is very wise public policy since it deters gas guzzlers).

I don't know if he is ignorant on this or being intentionally deceptive. I hate it when people get things like that wrong. We need to be honest about EVs . . . they are very nice and will solve some problems. But they remain expensive.

Link up top: Could peak oil save the human species?
Strange to see peak oil as a cause for optimism. I don’t agree with the article because I think the human species will survive in any case.

As a response he suggests focusing on four things: water, food, maintaining proper body temperature, and community. Water and food are obvious needs, but many of us don't think about whether the climate we live in will allow us to maintain proper body temperature. We have central heating and air conditioning to help us with that. But when such amenities are not available, the climate where we live will become crucial to our well-being and comfort.

Maintaining body temperature… ahhh now therein lies the problem. Well one of the problems anyway. Maintaining body temperature will be a severe problem and the human race will turn to the most continent fuel available to keep warm. And of course even in the hot summer most food must be cooked. We will turn to wood.

But Burning Wood May Do More Harm Than Good

The authors also tackle another major argument often given for wood burning–namely that it offers a degree of energy security. This, they say, is a myth. If the burning of wood for heat were to be scaled up to any degree, then "peak wood" would hit much faster than peak gas or peak oil.

We will strip the country of every growing tree. The land will be denuded. All species that use trees for cover, for food, for nesting and anything else will go extinct. The world is infected with the human species and when we go, well when the vast majority of humanity goes, it will take most of the rest of the world with it.

Have a nice day. ;-)

Ron P.

Does your bed have two wrong sides? I just can't see how you wake up on the wrong side of it every day. :-p. Just kiddin' man, but you once did ask what was the future going to look like if not doom. I can tell you: Amish. Completely Amish, horses, furniture, beards, and being hairy enough to make it look like a hand is sticking out from your underarm when you wave or sound like crickets when you sleep in bed with your spouse! And those last two examples are for ladies! Just adding some levity, because out of all preparations for a worse future, that is going to be the most important trait of all.

An Amish future with some electricity through windmills..., ok
But, in the short term, I see allot of scooters and mopeds first.

How many Amish are there per Amish squre mile? They don't seem to have the population density that many communities enjoy. I do feel that they have much to teach us, however.

This being my firewood season (gathering, cutting, splitting, storing) I have considered that TOD would do well to include a serious post on what is (perhaps) the original portable energy source. My family has had good success heating with wood, combined with passive solar and radiant floors. A good technical discussion of the direct burning of biomass for heating/cooking may be appropriate to the season and times. Properly managed, heating with wood has been sustainable for many societies. Modern, more efficient wood heaters and homes make this fuel source viable for many, IMO.

I would like to see one of our woodburning gurus submit a post, for the Campfire perhaps ;-)

The main problem with the Amish culture is that they are breeding like rabbits.

They are quite happy for their children to integrate into the wider community and leave the homestead if they want, they know they have plenty more in the pipeline to ensure their way of life will thrive...

Apart from that, they have a very sensible way of life.

Hello Ghung,

Can you elaborate on how your radiant floor heating system operates? (e.g. resistant wiring, hot water from say a ground water heat pump, hot air via your wood stove flue or solar panels, etc.) I've read a number of your comments but I don't remember you discussing that part of your heating system. My apologies if you have.


I have a 400 gal water tank for heat storage. Heat inputs include solar and a heat exchanger in our woodstove. While many wood heat experts say it isn't practicle.......

In-floor radiant heating systems are all the rage these days because of highly successful marketing campaigns by equipment suppliers. The first thing that needs to be said is that a wood stove is not the right device for heating water for in-floor radiant. You would never get enough heat off a wood stove to make a dent in radiant heating needs.


..... we have had success using wood heat, combined with passive and active solar, keeping our slab nice and toasty. I installed multiple zones so that heat isn't wasted on unoccupied areas of the house in winter. The loops in the great room rarely turn on because the woodstove keeps that open space warm. We also have a tankless propane water heater in the loop for backup. It gets used infrequently as a booster during periods of extreme cold.

The most frequent objection to heating water with wood is in regard to closed systems, overpressurization and explosion. My system is an open loop, uses a small circ pump, and will thermosyphon if the pump fails. Also, if the heat exchanger ruptures, by design the system won't flood the house. Simple and reasonably failsafe. A differential temp controller operates the circ pump for the wood stove. We have calculated that the heat exchanger captures 45k-55k btu in hot water during a normal burn. Combined with passive solar, thermal mass and good insulation, it works well. A copper loop heat exchanger in the big water tank heats/preheats domestic hot water. Solar HW is a simple drainback system, fairly failsafe as well. I'm currently rebuilding my collectors, hoping to beat the cold weather.

Many outdoor wood heater/boilers are available that would likely be more efficient. Maybe someday I'll find one at salvage. I constructed my heat exchanger from braised 1/2" copper. It is attached to the top baffle of our woodstove and has an unintended side benefit of condensing unburned gasses in the smoke which drip back into the fire to be reburned. My stovepipe stays very clean and produces virtually no smoke, a good sign of efficiency. Our stove is a pre-EPA Hearthstone. Properly fired, I believe that it is now as clean burning as the better modern EPA wood heaters.

I'm working on building an incinerator from an old water heater to make hot water from junk mail and other household waste. I also am experimenting with recovering heat from our diesel genny. Having the large hot water tank for storage is the key. Energy is were you find it. You just need a place to put it.

Sorry for the long post. I get excited about this stuff :-)

Ghung, thanks very much for your long-winded post. I'm also a fan of wood heat, and I've considered building up a system which has some elements similar to what you describe. Several years ago, I went so far as to build and test a heat exchanger which was designed to fit within the air passage on the top of my double-walled wood stove. It was a single run of 1/4" stainless steel tubing with a lot of serpentine bends, and my hope was that I could extract sufficient heat from the room air sweeping around the exterior of the firebox that it would be useful. One of the virtues of this approach was that I could install the heat exchanger as a "slip-in" device - no modification of the stove was necessary. However, my conclusion from the testing was that the rate of heat capture was too low (by a factor of perhaps 3) to be practical, and I set the project aside.

I fully expect that, were I to place a heat exchanger within the firebox rather than outside, it would be possible to dramatically increase the rate of heat capture, since the tubing would then be exposed to high-temperature combustion gases. However, I've been dissuaded thus far from doing so by the cautionary words on woodheat.org (i.e., that this would inherently result in a dirtier burn), and also by a reluctance to start drilling holes in the side of my stove.

I'd love to hear more about your system and your experience. Post away!

Firstly, our warm floor is in-slab pex, so the slab itself provides a huge amount of thermal storage. Slow to respond so one must anticipate changes in weather a bit. Six inch slab insulated with one inch foam board.

My first attempt at a heat exchanger was similar to yours. I tightly wrapped 120' of 3/8" copper around the first section of 6" stove pipe exiting the stove. I tried insulating it as well. Results were mediocre. I then stretched the coil out over about 6' of stove pipe and slid 8" pipe over it so that it was between the inner and outer pipe. Some gain but not enough.

The next year (after some reading) I decided that inside the stove was the way to go. Our stove has a large cast iron baffle in the very top that can be removed for cleaning. I decided that I could nest a set of pipes on the underside of the baffle and drill holes in the side of the stove for access. This was a hard decision because it is a classic soapstone woodburner. I drilled holes through the soapstone (there is a gap between the side and top baffles) and used 1" iron pipe and flanges for stuffing tubes (to reseal the stove) that the copper could "float" through. I stuffed 1/4" stove gasket in the gap between the iron and copper pipes and used stove cement, sealing the gap and preventing the copper from wearing on the iron. Stainless would have been my first choice. I had plenty of copper and fittings and decided that as long as the system had water in it the temps would be low enough. I managed to get about 35 feet of total pipe length in the top of the fire box without losing much space.

I was worried about boiling the water, but decided that I could get a bigger pump if that was a problem. During a normal hot burn the system raises about 3 gpm around 20 degrees F continuous. An overnight slow burn will result in a 10-15 degree rise. By morning the pump will cycle on and off but the system still produces hot water, even from coals. The controller is a Goldline GL-30 http://www.affordablesolar.com/Goldline.pdf With two 10K sensors strapped to the inlet and outlet pipes at the stove with hose clamps, insulated. I used flexible copper water heater lines outside the stove. An old picture:
Excuse our dust; I was still working on the room.

At the wall I transitioned to 3/4" hard copper up to the ceiling, then 3/4" pex back to the tank in the utility room, about 20' away. The return line is held an inch or two above the waterline inside the tank to break any siphon in the event of a leak. Since the supply and return rise above the waterline (through the ceiling), the tank won't drain if the heat exchanger ruptures. I added a flapper type check valve on the supply line to facilitate a thermosiphon if the pump fails. Tested, and it works in thermosiphon mode but the water gets really hot (<190F, I forgot to turn the pump controller on last fall).

The radiant floor draws water directly from the top of the tank. I add boiler treatment to prevent corrosion and biofouling. No glycol due to expense in such a large system. This is a fairly low temp system, 165F max. If the tank temp gets too high, the radiant floor controller has an "all on" mode that dumps excess heat into the floor.

I hope this helps (and Gail doesn't zap it for being too long ;-)

p.s. The heat exchanger is above the secondary combustion zone in the firebox and doesn't seem to effect overall efficiency much. Your results may vary.


Figure out a way to save summer heat to reuse in winter. I sweated for so many days this summer thinking that i'd kill for heat like this in my living room in Jan (temps inside this summer were 80F+ for long stretches of time)... Too bad i didn't have 20,000 gallons of INSULATED water storage that i could just continue to warm over the summer and then feed off of come Oct/Nov/Dec... Lots of ideas, just not a lot of funds!

Hey, if you give me your mailing address I'll have my local post office forward all my junk mail to directly to you. Win, Win! >;^)

Burn your own, Water Boy!

I too get pretty excited about wood heating, considering I have heated with wood for thirty five years and earned my living in that field for thirty. And for the past fourteen years have maintained the most popular noncommercial wood heat site on the internet.

It is true that we at http://woodheat.org/ dissuade people from trying to turn a wood stove into a boiler to heat water for in-floor radiant heating systems. We just don't think it would be responsible to tell people "Oh sure, go right ahead." In my experience it is hard if not impossible to get home insurance if you heat domestic hot water with a home built system installed in a wood stove, much less hack together a boiler for in-floor heating.

I applaud your efforts to be self-sufficient in part using wood. I do the same at home, including domestic hot water. See: http://www.gulland.ca/homenergy/whyrenewable.htm

But I could have serious trouble next time an insurance inspector wants to update our house insurance.

Hi, John! Whoda thunk? I've enjoyed your site for years and recommended it to many.

I understand your reluctance to promote what we are discussing. Too many liability issues these days, and I always discourage folks from attempting closed loop, pressurized hot water (boilers) with their wood burners. I consider it sound advice. I have shown several people the picture on your site of the exploded woodstove. While it could have been prevented with proper safety equipment, it still gets folks attention. This isn't for the average DIY guy. With our open system, the worst that could happen is a rupture that would spill a few gallons of hot water on the concrete floor.

About insurance; we are lucky to have a special relationship with our agent/inspector. Not all homeowners are as fortunate.

I've suggested a Campfire post about firewood as an energy source. You would be my nominee to do it if the editors were receptive to the idea. I forsee a future where many more folks will be utilizing this oldest of energy sources.

I make wood stoves as a hobby, have done so for about 30 years so far. Each fall, my wife has fits of worry that I will yet again cut open a perfectly functioning wood stove to make some sort of half thought out experiment. But I have learned a lot, in fact, I have learned just what all the others doing wood stoves have learned.

1) burn hot
2) mix fuel gas well with heated secondary air to get complete combustion BEFORE taking any heat out.
3) After that it's ok to take heat out by any and all means, including water heating.
4) (my preference) just let nature take its course, let hot combustion gas out the top of the combustion space, have it scrub the top plate where all the cooking & hot water pots are sitting, then dribble down the sides to a bottom exhaust where the cooled gas goes out to a straight up chimney with plenty of draft.

My stoves are simple flat sided boxes of mild steel, all the complexity, if any, is inside, including stacks of masonry for combustion walls , insulation and heat storage. Mild steel is easy to work with, as many welded patches on my walls attest.

I heat domestic water with a simple flat coil of copper tubing, smashed against the outside of the hot stove wall by a sheet of steel screwed onto the wall. This gives us copious hot water. The space heat comes out of the stove by convection and radiation to the air and surrounds. We have little fans that blow that hot air to other rooms, and everybody is happy.

But my chief source of happiness in my little paradise comes from --lots of land and forest and edible wildlife, and very few people. I strongly recommend that solution for the whole planet.

The biggest gain in woodstoves are the secondary combustion
type - they fold over and burn the flue gases and are like a reactor,
They are pricey, but payback is quick in wood savings.
You have to be careful that the heat you remove is behind the
layers of ceramic insulation. My wood consumption is reduced
70% for the same heat. The wood must be seasoned, else you are throwing
water on the fire.

"Sorry for the long post. I get excited about this stuff :-)"

No apologies are necessary!!! We all would not be here if we were not concerned about energy and our future.

I think I remember you being in North Carolina so the climate should be fairly mild compared to the Dakotas, Minnesota ,etc.

Do you have any pictures of your setup you could post or send?



"the climate should be fairly mild compared to the Dakotas, Minnesota ,etc."

Yeah, you guys up there near the North Pole have some rough winters. Builds character, they say. My work partner used to take the kids to the bus stop on horseback in S. Dakota because the snow was too deep to plow. She says that horse was better than any snow plow.

We're in the mountains and certainly have winter, though extended periods of single-digit temps aren't as common as they used to be. We had only a few nights below zero (f) last winter. My ex-grandmother-in-law lived in Northern Minn her whole life and heated with wood. But then, she arrived there from Penn on a wagon ;-) This southern boy likely wouldn't fair well there for long. It's not so much the cold, just that the days are short and winters much too long. Plenty of wood though. Bless you all.

I'll try to find some old pictures I took during installation. Not sure if I have a picture of the latest heat exchanger and its location makes it hard to photograph. I'll try and draw a diagram and post it.

Nice wood heat thread. I'm another going on 30 years of heating with wood. I'm basically a very lazy guy so my first step was to build a small, well insulated, solar tempered house. 24'x24' post and beam with lots of open space.

I enjoy working wood but when you get up to 8 or so cords a year it is real work. Up here on the northern coast of Maine we are cozy with no more than 4 cords a year.

A real bonus with wood heat is the ability to store all you need for 2 to 3 years. It is better than $$ in the bank, knowing you have all you need on hand to heat your home for the next few years. I just grin when I look outside at the woodpile. I know of no other heating fuel supply that would allow you to store 2 to 3 years ahead, it would be a lot of fuel oil, or propane or just imagine the size of that battery bank. My heating source for the next 3 years is secure and not prone to any interruption.
That's a very good feeling in these insecure times.

Don in Maine

See Nate's post on wood heat from 2007.

Autonomous, every time I think about what the future holds for my children and grandchildren I feel like crying. But I try to laugh instead. Doesn't usually help very much though.

One of the things I learned in my youth is that believing it doesn't make it true. Likewise denying it doesn't make it false. The human species on this planet is deep, deep, deep into overshoot. Fossil fuel has made available huge amounts of food to a once sparse population. When that happens to any species the population just naturally explodes into overshoot. And there is only one fix for overshoot.

The idea that the seven billion population of the earth could just live like the Amish is really quite silly. I am surprised that anyone would suggest such a thing. On earth today there is about one acre of arable land per person. I think the Amish have more than that, a lot more. And if we used part of that land to feed horses and cows, as the Amish do, there would be nothing left to support the people. It takes about two acres to support one horse and one acre to support one cow. Hope you can see the problem there.

Ron P.

I have depression and have lived with a mother with a severe case of it. In fact many in here family photo album she pointed out have commited suicide. Thats the final nail Ron, if there is no hope for a future then you are already walking dead. Am I an optimist? No not really, not even for myself. But, Ron please explain to me how seeing that we are far into overshoot help me (to the point where a crash to 1 billion or less is almost inevitable)? More than likely the people that will survive already DON'T use the internet or live near ANY modern society and have a very high probability of living in places insanely remote or in far northern or southern latitudes. Otherwise they're not yet room temprature corpses. That means me, my 2 year old, and everyone I've ever known will be living through something like the holocaust without the barb wire. Tell me how suidcide isn't the only option.

P.S. if this seems too dark an issue for TOD then I will gladly cease and desist. I really don't know if I want to know the answer or go too far on the topic.

Autonomous, sorry for your depression. I have my periods of deep sadness but I have never suffered from chronic depression. I live every day as if it were my last. I try to get all I can from life. But then I am 72 years old and plan to be safely dead when things get really bad. But it really hurts when I think of the conditions my children and grandchildren must live... and die... in.

But if this really depresses you, then try just denying it. Just don't believe a damn word of it. That is what the vast majority of the population does. It works for them and it might work for you.

I am truly sorry that I don't have better advice for you but I am not a doctor and cannot advise you in any other manner.

Ron P.

Good choice of tunes.

Thanks Ron and sorry for going off the handle. I post on break at work so I only get a few minutes to post so I can't really think about what to say and end up going too far when I do post. I guess I was trying to get to the and if your right then what idea across. But, I suppose agreeing to disagree is fine with me.

There might be another option yet, neither denial nor depression.

I think that is what I am following.

It is hard to explain. I will try.

Some McDonalds I know have shut down. People are eating at other places. No one is starving. Some other fast food/cheap food restaurants have also shut down. The buildings are empty and shuttered. But still people are eating food somewhere else.

Some day the supermarkets will go too. But not all at once. There will be a scramble (This scramble is happening even now, it is kind of unseen). Out in the countryside, there will be activity, food, economic action (even if we think it as a low level compared to our current modern city economy, it won`t feel like a low level to those people busily working away to grow and sell food).

There will be help from people who want to stay in power to smooth things. The food will become so expensive that razing the old empty supermarkets and empty McDonalds will be viable and people will start growing more food. Little by little, area by area, year by year. Food will be like gold.....but better, because it will be easier to produce than finding and operating your own gold mine, even if you have to clear away a pile of crumbling cement.

Meanwhile, on the demand side, sure there will be people who decide "not another baby in this economy!" (that is already happening). Also money that used to be spent keeping terminally ill patients alive for 3 more months probably won`t be. Sure some people won`t get all the medical care that they used to get, so they might die sooner (someties that happens even in a good economy) but on the other hand obesity will go away and that will be a good thing for health. But little by little populations will drop, but it will just feel like normal life, a little pinched, a little difficult, but normal. Some adventurous souls will move to rugged areas and enjoy the nature and remoteness they can find there. The slowly lowering population levels will take pressure off the people who are alive. This is already happening in Japan where I live, actually.

The land is so vast, the economy so huge----the whole process is like many waves sweepng one way, then the other.....but very slowly, not like a Hollywood distater movie where everyone just drops like flies amid a gazillion explosions. Daily the change is imperceptible, but over ten years, 20 years, yeah, life will change....but maybe in many ways, for the better!! It is a bottleneck but it is still huge and we can pass through in turns by being polite and cheerful.

The best thing is to stay in shape, be very optimistic (as cars go away we`ll see cleaner air and water!), help people by belonging to community groups, enjoy art that you like, find work you want to do. Anyway that is what I am doing and it`s working for me.

your comments seem reasonable to me. twenty years ago the internet was strange and unusual. twenty years from now energy will be treated differently than it is today.


I've been through the suicidal Dark Night of the Soul that comes from "getting it". Contrary to what I thought as I was going through it, there is in fact light available that doesn't depend on denial, forlorn hope for techno-miracles or putting your faith in a supreme being.

For me it started with the realization that change is the only constant in the human experience, that we've been through enormous upheavals before and this may be another such, but that it takes very little to make the average individual happy in ways that have nothing to do with the survival of the species.

The shift for me was one of attitude. I shifted from looking out to looking in. Instead of drawing my hope and fear from the outer world (which I already knew was well and truly screwed), I began to ask myself what my real responsibilities were to myself, my family and my tribe, and what truly made me happy.

That led me to an exploration of Buddhism. Since I have no sense of a supreme being that turned out to be a good first step because it taught me about the origin of suffering. I then made a bunch of interesting but ultimately fruitless forays into other kinds of spirituality. Ultimately I came to Advaita, a nondual teaching that attempts to point directly to the ultimate reality underlying the phenomenal world. Two of its recent sages were Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta, and there are modern interpretations of it in the work of Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti and A. H. Almaas.

Some people of a more engineering bent might say that even this is just more scuttling away from the Real Problem. To that I say pfui. The Real Problem can't be fixed anyway, and the resulting despair is in fact the true human problem. And when despair is the problem the solution can't be found in the outer world. It can only be found in yourself. It is there, I guarantee it.

I still live with the awareness and acceptance of the biophysical problems of humanity and the probability of a global crash brought on by the converging crises of energy, ecology, economics, population pressure and social complexity. I can't ignore it, because it is real in the mundane sense of the word. But paradoxically I now also have enormous hope for the survival of the essential humanity that lives in all of us.

Good luck finding your own hope.

Thanks Glider I'll be sure to read those. It sounds like a good way to live and hopefully more people will find some hope through thought rather than materialism or drug therapy. It seems like the only way to make it through whats coming our way.

Glad to hear you've found hope man.

You know about Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj? The book "I am That", which is a collection of question & answer sessions which occurred in the presence of Nisargadatta Maharaj (translated by Maurice Frydman) is truly breath taking! I try to read a few pages every day before going to bed. I got it from amazon.com and it has the potential to change life. I am going to read this book till the last day of my life.

Advaita is certainly changing my life, I can tell you that much. When I "got it" the shift was truly profound.

Have you read "I am That"? If not, I strongly recommend it. It will blow you away. Another good one by Nisargadatta Maharaj is "The experience of nothingness". I also have books by Ramana Maharshi. Have you read books written by Sir Paul Brunton? He was a British man who was a disciple of Ramana. I recommend his famous book: "A Search of Secret India".

After three months of reading I'm about a quarter of the way through "I am That". I'm taking my time, because the book is so rich. I'm reading it as a free pdf I downloaded off the net

I'm also a big fan of Adyashanti, an American teacher who comes to nondualism by way of Zen but still has all the Advaita sensibilities. One other person I'm reading along this line right now is Jed McKenna (who may or may not be a real person). He has a trilogy of books out, all written in a aggressively modern, take-no-prisoners style. He's sort of the Ron Patterson of nondualism ;-)

Ultimately though, they are all fingers pointing at the moon. The important stuff happens inside.

You are right!

If you have the bandwidth


Science and Buddhism
Dialogues and Panel discussion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with scientists

I’ve been aware of the peak oil problem for several years now, and I’m doing my best to get ready for it. I don’t have any magic cure for peak oil, or whatever you want to call it. My simple approach is to do all the cost effective energy upgrades that I can manage, and try to stay about two years ahead of the crowd.

The last year my mother lived in this house by herself she used about 750 gallons of heating oil. Ouch!! The first year that I was here by myself (three years ago) I got that down to 450 gallons. Last year, after a bunch more upgrades, I got the total down to 250 gallons. For the coming heating season, I have another list of 10 to 12 more energy upgrades to complete, and my new goal is 150 gallons, which will be an 80% reduction from that 750 gallons for the 2004/05 heating year.

I'm also planning to run a workshop on building indoor storm windows, at one of the local churches. From an emotional or spiritual point of view, I think it's important to be doing something constructive. Even if it might never be enough, doing something is much better for the soul than sitting around feeling helpless.

Good advice I've been trying to do just that in the last few years gardening, learning how to do stuff for myself, etc. Sometimes it just seems like no damn good, but that's life. Pretty cool that you could change consumption by that much in just a few years! Wonder how much we could all save just by trying to figure out how to do things with less.

P.S. do you have a list of what you have done?

A list of what I have done?? Wow! That could take awhile. Well, for some background, this is a fairly ordinary little Cape Cod style house with a full cellar and a raised roof on the back. My father used to insist that this house was well insulated, but after awhile I realized that what he really meant was well insulated by the standards of 1940!

I haven’t done anything big and expensive like installing a whole new heating system or new water heater. It has been mostly a bunch of small or inexpensive things that have taken more time then money, which helps explain why I didn’t do them all the first year. But after several upgrades each year for four or five years, the results start adding up. It could take me several hours to remember them all and make a good list. Sorry to keep you in suspense, but its nearly 11 pm, so I’ll need to save most of that for tomorrow, and then post the list later tomorrow or maybe Wednesday morning.


Just to be sure that I’m not misleading anyone, I recognize that a big part of the first year’s savings was from simply keeping the temperature about 7 degrees lower than my mother did. And last winter I probably saved about 100 gallons just from the warmer than usual weather for the second half of the winter. So with that disclaimer, here’s a brief list. I may have forgotten some of the smaller changes, but here are the ones that probably saved the most.

First winter I was here by myself:
 Reduced daytime temperature to about 68 degrees instead of the previous 75 degrees.
 I started turning off the radiator valve in the kitchen right after supper every evening and then closing the door after I washed the dishes. That was a good start.
 Installed a digital clock thermostat to reduce the temperature another 8 degrees overnight, and then bring it back up in the morning, just before I get up..
 Divided the first floor into two heating zones, by installing a second circulating pump, etc., with setback thermostats on each zone.
 Installed radiant reflectors behind all the cast iron radiators to reduce heat loss into the exterior walls.

The second winter?
 I started wearing long underwear while at home, and further reduced temperature settings to 62 during the day and 56 at night.
 Moved my desk and computer into the kitchen, which allowed me to leave another room at a lower temperature for most of the winter. Books don’t mind getting cold as long as they stay dry.
 I started using a small electric heater in the bathroom in the morning, so that I didn’t need to heat up two larger rooms just to get the bathroom cozy warm.

The third winter I was house sitting for a friend for most of the winter, so I just drained everything and left the house cold for the winter. So this third winter doesn’t count.

Last winter was time to get serious:
 Installed foam board insulation on the outside of the exposed concrete foundation, down to about eight inches below ground level, about half way around the house.
 Installed a new ball valve in second floor heating pipes so that I could turn off and drain second floor heating for the winter. There was already insulation in the first floor ceiling, because the second floor was an unfinished attic when the house was first built. (this was a biggie for savings)
 Drained and disconnected an old expansion tank on the second floor so it wouldn’t freeze. (When the contractor installed a new heating boiler about fifteen years ago, they installed a new expansion tank in the cellar, but neglected to disconnect the old one on the second floor.)
 Installed foam board insulation to cover the stairwell up to second floor
 Made and installed indoor storm windows for all ten windows on the first floor. (another biggie)
 I moved a small bed into the living room and started sleeping there at night. (Some of these changes may not work so well for someone with a family, but I’m here by myself.)

And two more changes to save electricity. First, I disconnected the lower heating element in the 40 gallon electric water heater, so now it just heats about 15 gallons at the top of the tank. That’s plenty for just me. A few weeks later I cut out about 20 feet of bronze pipe which took a roundabout route from the water heater to the kitchen sink, and replaced it with about five feet of PEXX tubing, to reduce standby heat losses from the tank. These two changes cut about $20 per month from the electric bill.

For this coming winter:
 Paint exposed steel parts of the heating boiler with silver-aluminum paint, to reduce radiant heat loss.
 Paint about 20 feet of exposed steel heating pipes in the cellar with silver-aluminum paint, to reduce radiant heat losses.
 Make new insulated panels to enclose the outside porch and make it an air lock entry
 Make two passive solar collectors to bring solar heat into south rooms on sunny days
 Insulate inside the band joist, just above the concrete foundation. I don’t know why I didn’t do this one 2 years ago.
 Close off the air gap around the chimney
 Use spray foam to seal up air leaks where wires and pipes go from the cellar up through the floor or up into exterior walls.
 Make insulated panels for five cellar windows.
 Make a solar air pre-heater for the south cellar window, to preheat makeup air for the oil burner on sunny days.

Nice work!

The idea that the seven billion population of the earth could just live like the Amish is really quite silly.

Darwinian, true. If millions moved back to the land on small farms, the amount of agricultural land that would vanish under farm buildings, farm yards, access roads, etc. would be enormous. As far as governments are concerned, millions of farms would also be a logistical nightmare and result in a loss of national control of food production, which would be a direct threat to the power of the state. It's more likely that populations will be kept tightly bound to and confined to the cities.

It's more likely that populations will be kept tightly bound to and confined to the cities.

With all the folks bound up in the city, who is going to be doing the local farming necessary to feed them? With our JIT food distribution, and a 1,500 mile pipeline, we need oil. Or do you think the local markets will be serviced using electric trucks? And, who is going to convert/build all those trucks? How are they going to be financed?

And, I have not begun to discuss the problem with production and processing.

We are in a real catch-22 here. The real problem, as you intimated, is the overshoot in population. One way or another, the only solution is reduction in numbers. This can be done with some difficulty, voluntarily, or it can be done with enormous difficulty and suffering, by just sitting on our collective ah.. hands. Which is about what we seem to be willing to do.


Craig, firstly, when trying to view our murky future through the mist we must separate the possible from the likely. What should be done and what will be done will create very different outcomes, but technical prerogatives will trump common sense every time. My own view is that our actions will be governed by the complex system we call civilisation and will be carried out by its technicians. So the question becomes what will they do?

In the name of systemic efficiency the technicians will push for automation of the agricultural system. Reliance will be on technical progress, thus pushing out the envelope of overshoot and leaving humanity increasingly out on a treacherous limb. Quaint notions such as farmers, organic and local produce, etc. will be deemed as inadequate and an obstacle to progress, the artificial will be substituted for the natural. Resource shortages will be met by technical innovation, conservation, substitution, rationing and eventually total catastrophic failure.

So, in answer to your question; "With all the folks bound up in the city, who is going to be doing the local farming necessary to feed them?" . Large agri-corporations will feed them from large industrial agricultural complexes that strip mine natural systems or create artificial environments for artificial organisms. Food deemed adequate by scientists will be fed to the masses enslaved in their city ghettoes and the resulting diseased humans will be kept alive and functioning by constant medical intervention. Of course this is the present, the future will be more of the same except with increasing failures, unintended consequences and extreme measures to control the resulting mess. Just look at global finance and what is being done to preserve its systemic function in our modern civilisation and then apply the same systemic thinking to our future agricultural problems. How would the agricultural equivalent of the Federal Reserve go about solving the problem of feeding the World?

We save ourselves or we go done with the system. Civilisations don't collapse because they used common sense, they collapse because technical prerogative trumps common sense and leads to catastrophic decisions being made on the populations behalf.

Ron you clown, you forgot to mention we would keep building bigger stone heads (but our stone heads will have microchips - that is the missing ingredient - the Easter Islanders used wood chips which of course rot too quickly... our technology...

(sarcasm/clown out) ;)

Hi Ron,

Thanks for cheering me up on a wet and windy afternoon in the Grand Duchy.

As to the link "Burning Wood May Do More Harm Than Good", here is an extract from the article:

But perhaps the most enduring of all the biomass conundrums is this one—to burn wood or not to burn wood. Now Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, is igniting the debate once more. And he's rethinking the installation of a stove at his house.


[One of the reasons for Rob's rethinking being that] [i]f the burning of wood for heat were to be scaled up to any degree, then "peak wood" would hit much faster than peak gas or peak oil.

Did it take Rob Hopkins that long to cotton on to the scaling problem? The proverbial child of five could master the basic arithmetic required to make the calculations. For each country, divide total calories of wood available for burning by total number of households in that country.

Wood as an energy source has always been a non-starter for any country with a population density of over 1 per square kilometer (or something like that)

I guess that an all or nothing tack is a good place to start a discussion. Hopefully we can get to a point where we accept that we will have to move beyond the "one form of energy fits all" meme (i.e. oil), to a realistic discussion of how many forms of energy will contribute to the future mix. People will continue to burn wood, dung, natgas, oil, coal, so on. Why should I heat with imported propane or electricity when I have more (deadfall) wood than I can use?

I have a personal interest in more folks not making wood a part of their energy mix. That doesn't mean it ain't gonna happen.

Hi Ghung,

For a "realistic discussion of how many forms of energy will contribute to the future mix", try David MacKay's website/book on 'Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air":


The conclusion I draw is that sustainable energy won't contribute very much to the mix until the last economically accessible molecule of carbon in the earth's crust has been consumed.

Thanks for the link. As I posted recently (responding to a doomer accusation), I'm convinced that humans will continue to burn non-renewables and adding carbon to the atmosphere ..... until they can't. It doesn't bode well for the planet's inhabitants :-(

While there are heroic efforts to bring about change, the number of humans actually making changes is tiny compared to those who are unaware, have few choices or simply don't care. Any gains being made seem to be swallowed up by exploitation and growth. The math says it all. Jevons comes to mind.

I’m over in the middle of Maine, and I’d guess that maybe 10 to 15% of homes around here already use wood for at least some of their winter heating. Many people seem to burn wood evenings and weekends, and let the oil fired furnace take over when they are at work. And there are far too many people who buy those god-awful outdoor wood boilers. They are ridiculously expensive at $8000 or more new, have very low efficiency, and produce enough smoke to make all the neighbors hate the few people who use them.

Several studies have concluded that even heavily forested Maine can sustainably heat perhaps 10% of our homes with wood heat. But if everyone were to weatherize their houses, switch to more efficient stoves, such as the rocket masonry stove, and grow our fuel using coppice forestry, then we could probably heat about one third of our homes with wood.

George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864) was inspired by the widespread deforestation and environmental degradation Marsh witnessed in Vermont and throughout our nation, and from his extensive touring of the already degraded Mediterranean region.

A tour of his Vermont home and reading his book are eye opening as to how extensive the clearing of even mountainous land was when people depended on the forests for fire wood.

Modern, more airtight homes with superior insulation, much more efficient wood burners, combined with passive solar and/or modern heat pumps have changed things a bit since 1864. Just a couple of cords per year can reduce a home's electrical and fossil fuel consumption dramatically. I often wonder how many cords of wood the average home used annually, "back in the day". I can't imagine chopping and splitting 10-15 cords (or more) of wood by hand every year for cooking and heating. Last winter, unusually cold and cloudy, we used just under 3 cords (with the solar hot water out of commission), and just over 100 gals of propane, Sept-April.

I know several people here in Maine who have been using 8 to 10 cords of wood per year in old drafty farmhouses. Last year I suggested to one of them that he could insulate and tighten up his house and save four cords per year. He seemed offended and insisted that it didn’t matter how much he used because he cut all his wood himself, from his own woodlot, and that the wood was growing back faster than he could use it. When I suggested that he could continue cutting eight cords each year, burn four, and then sell the other four for about $250 per cord, he got a funny look on his face and said, “Oh, I never thought of that.”

I often post that I consider any found energy (solar, wood, etc) untaxed income because, without it, I would need to make more money to pay for electricity, gas, oil, whatever. So I put about a 35% premium on the value of my firewood and solar heat. Don't misunderstand; I'm still a taxpayer. Yet there is no way for the Govt to take 35% of my firewood to pay for Wars for oil or Bank bailouts that I object to. The electricity that you buy gets taxed many times.

My goal is to minimize my input into a corrupt system and our energy/AGW predicament while becoming a bit more self-suficient. I feel the same about trading for useful salvage items. There are many residual benefits to reduce, reuse, recycle and utilizing deadfall for its energy. I'm sure some cubicle-bound academic could formulate a response as to how the EROEI of my method is poor. Care not, I do!

Back in 1940, 22.8% of all U.S. households heated with wood.

I'm convinced that humans will continue to burn non-renewables and adding carbon to the atmosphere ..... until they can't.

Wow, what a thought. All of the Oil, NG, Coal, Wood, and plant fiber burned in a final frenzy of fun and fecundity as we reproduce ourselves into oblivion!

I guess that would include burning all of the animals, insects, plants, etc., including a harvest of all sea life, since that is carbon derived as well. The last human (and carbon based life form) on earth dies as he/she self-immolates!

I am just supposing here (realizing that hyperbole is the mother of insanity), that there is sufficient O2 to combine with all of that carbon.

Just as I begin to feel a twinge of optimism, along comes this and ... back to doom.


Several countries in Europe went through “Peak Wood” over 200 years ago, including England and Sweden. One of the responses in England was to adopt coppice forestry, which can increase fuel production per acre by 20 to 30 percent. In Sweden, the king sponsored a contest to develop more efficient wood burning stoves. One of the winners was an improved masonry stove with five vertical flue gas channels, as described in David Lyle’s book on masonry stoves (maybe page 156? but I can’t find the book right now).

It will get so much worse than that, Ron, but only for us. Wood and the need for heat aren't limiting factors when it all goes tits up, food and water are. We will strip the flesh from each other's bones to feed ourselves before we'll need to burn forests for heat. Then insect populations increase from the large numbers of unburied dead.

Will the rest of the ecosystem welcome the return of the right kind of insects, as opposed to the human kind?

See above... we will just have to burn the insects!

Nothing like the romantic crackle of fire at night, eh?


Ron, with all due respect, I think you need to reexamine your thinking on this issue.
Much of current forestland is either high-latitude, high altitude, steep slope, inaccessible ground or hopelessly remote from significant population.
So much of it is only harvestable under a cheap energy regime with substantial public subsidy. (see Tongass controversy)
From my perspective in the NW, with lumber prices depressed due to housing and economy, I see much less logging going on.
For that to be reversed by hordes of poor starving shivering masses, well, it is pretty inconceivable.
I will agree that some woodlots in proximity to current population centers are vulnerable, but "strip the country of every growing tree"- pure hyperbole.

History shows that when the masses become truly desperate, the trees fall. Virtually all of Ireland was once covered with forest, but by the early 19th Century it was almost completely denuded. Similarly, look at Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic.

When the crap comes down, will it be easier to dig coal out of hillsides with a shovel or cut and haul trees? There you have your answer. The trees lose.

Denver sits 15 miles east of the mountain forests, on the plains. Pictures of the Front Range from the late 1800's show the entire front denuded of trees, for a significant distance into the hills. This was when the population was a tiny fraction of what it is today, and before railroads pierced the hills, so all hauling of firewood was done by animals, and of course all cutting was done by hand. With the current Colorado population of over 4 Million, it would be a very short period of logging to completely remove all the trees from Colorado to be burned for heating and cooking. Additionally, the treeless expanse of the central plains guarantees that some portion of the remaining rail capacity we have would be used to haul firewood down to these areas, as it was in the 1800's.

There is no such thing as "hopelessly remote" in the lower 48. Come to Colorado some time and view the locations and the efforts made to mine gold. Trees are easy.

Well since neither of us has buttressed our arguments with links or quotes from authorities, I guess i am free to say relax.
Take a trip out west, the forests are for the most part healthy, vast in extent, and being pretty well managed.
They could certainly survive a sudden onslaught of desperate lawless people living without functioning markets.
And if we face a long, slow descent where markets function and America wants firewood, don't worry, we could provide it. In essence it is an agricultural crop much as any other only with longer harvest cycles as long as you don't degrade your soils.
The forest land i live on has some third growth trees already 50' tall.
This is not Haiti, Easter Island, or the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains.

I will protect my trees with all my lawyers, guns, and money at my disposal. My kin would too as I would protect theirs. I have oaks older than Alabama and probably Baldwin County. We have been here since before white man took over (statehood). My whole town would use guns to protect those legally protected 'heritage trees'. Recently a woman wanted to get a permit to cut such a tree and was denied. Someone mysteriously girdled and killed the tree so the county condemned the land. She lost her jury trial. She left the area. Yes, my tree are still out there. My trees live. I would post pictures, but I do not want to risk them.

Take a trip out west, the forests are for the most part healthy, vast in extent, and being pretty well managed.

are you kidding? The pine beetle infestation is growing unhindered.

As a Forest Dies, Officials Plan What’s Next

yes, indeed.
I have made a few trips over the North Cascades this summer and it certainly appears to me that the forest on the east side clear down to Early Winters is really stressed with tons of dead and dying trees and i haven't heard any mention of it.
I worry.
On my own property in E Washington, out of app 245 acres of forest land, i have a parcel of about 25 acres where there is really high mortality of old-growth fir and tamarack. Can't diagnose it, doesn't seem to be bark beetles, mistletoe, ants, termites, mining residue, I just don't know.
I worry.
But you just have to step back. Look at the forest, so to speak.
Even the article you linked is optimistic about opportunities for a replanted forest.
Dutch Elm Disease was hell on elms, but didn't lead to the deforestation of the Eastern deciduous forests.

Somebody has not been traveling, or paying attention.

I think a good book on the subject is "A Forest Journey" by John Perlin. It is a kind of history lesson given from the point of view of the world's forests, and how the demand for wood, for various uses, especially for making iron, drove much of the exploration and conquest of various areas. It covers times when there were no fossil fuels, and shows over and over again how civilizations denuded their forests and then declined due to high energy costs. These were times when populations were much smaller than they are now, and wood and soil were the limiting factors. The only reason there are such nice trees in the US is fossil fuels.

Much of current forestland is either high-latitude, high altitude, steep slope, inaccessible ground or hopelessly remote from significant population.

Much but not all that much. I lived most of my life in Alabama and now live in Florida. Except for a few foothills in North Alabama there are no large mountains here. And anyway virtually all the mountains east of the Mississippi are not so high or steep that cannot easily be accessed and cut. Only the trees in the high mountains of the Rockies would find find much safety from those desperate for fuel.

For that to be reversed by hordes of poor starving shivering masses, well, it is pretty inconceivable.
I will agree that some woodlots in proximity to current population centers are vulnerable, but "strip the country of every growing tree"- pure hyperbole.

The problem is Sldulin, that you haven't read enough history. Read up a little on famines of the past. In one of the famines of Seventeenth Century Italy they ate the songbirds out of the trees. They did not return for decades. But there are more recent examples of deforestation due to famine. Haiti's hills are nothing but red dirt anymore. The trees are all gone. And you can see the Mexico-Guatemala border from space due to the deforestation on the Mexican side.

When people fled the fighting in the Congo a few years ago, they ate bush meat and stripped the land for firewood. But since the war the situation has gotten even worse.

Congo-Brazzaville: Deforestation Threatens South With Famine

"The practice of charcoal production and bush fires have stripped and depleted soils, to the point that famine is overtaking Pool," says Safoula.

According to government statistics, more than 6,000 hectares of forest were lost in this department between 2007 and 2008. And during the first quarter of 2009 alone, over 62,000 sacks of charcoal were produced in the district of Kinkala, more than 78 percent of them from Pool.

In the same period, 200,000 bundles of firewood from Kinkala were transported to the capital. "As long as energy needs ... remain important in Brazzaville, the forests will be seen as a solution," Mayembo told IPS.

And please try to understand the problem Sldulin. The problem is not logging as you seem to think. In fact the problem, in the USA, does not exist right now. We are talking about the total collapse of the economy which will happen in the not too distant future. We are talking about people cutting wood for heat and cooking. And if all the people did that the forest would disappear in a pretty short time.

I fully realize that you find that inconceivable right now. But this list has been discussing this for years now. But you say that is inconceivable. By that you must mean collapse is inconceivable. Well, that is another subject for another day.

Ron P.

I find collapse quite conceivable. And i also agree that desperate people do desperate things, I believe the worst of the Donner Party, I believe Magellan's sailors ate the soles of their boots.
But how a population responds to a collapse scenario has so many variables... and the historical record is not as clear as you make it sound.
For every example of food riots there are peoples who just died in place.
Russia's collapse also saw a diminishing population, so it is not self-evident that there will be vast numbers of people fanning out over harsh, inhospitable terrain with no food resources to speak of, attempting to cut down the last of the trees.
In this limited sphere, I think, nature wins, and the people left living on the periphery of the forested zones will be as sorry a lot as any, and the envy of few. Much as today.
It seems incongruous, but some people talk of forests as being a biological 'desert'. Least as far as available protein goes.

The starving who die in place are mostly those who have lived on the edge for years. Hunger is the only life they have ever known. Those who riot are the newly displaced, the new hungry. It is the sudden appearance of famine that makes people mad and wish to blame everyone else for their plight. And they will riot, if the conditions are right, almost every time.

A riot needs at least two things. It needs a devil, that is someone to blame for the problems. And it needs a starter, some person who ignites the flame.

Russia's collapse was not total. They still had a functioning police force everywhere. The KGB went under but the Army did not. The government itself did not collapse. The Russian collapse can in no way be compared to total collapse like the Mayan collapse, or the Easter Island collapse where chaos and anarchy replaced all authority.

Are Food Riots Indicators of the Collapse of Civilization?

This troubling situation is unlike any the world has faced before. The challenge is not simply to deal with a temporary rise in grain prices, as in the past, but rather to quickly alter those trends whose cumulative effects collectively threaten the food security that is a hallmark of civilization. If food security cannot be restored quickly, social unrest and political instability will spread and the number of failing states will likely increase dramatically, threatening the very stability of civilization itself.

Ron P.

As I heard it, the core story behind the lack of a major breakdown in the Soviet Union/Russia, was that basically "the pie" had already been "divided". Therefore no "sharp pointy things" got tossed about...

well, just to recap, I accept PO theory in the same way i do evolution or climate change theory. I'm on board with its major premises and obvious conclusions. I have heard no credible refutation of a rapidly approaching (or past)maximum extraction rate.
Whether we are looking at an undulating plateau, a stair-step down, or a shark fin it is obvious that for the people already at the margins, the consequences will be dire.
I am also in complete agreement with your constant refrain about the lack of substitutes for liquid petroleum and the disconnect with reality of so many alt fuels advocates.
But is a long, long way between the reappearance of gas lines and the last tree being cut down for firewood. I don't see that as an inevitable progression and I don't see it as fruitful to speculate on exactly how things will unravel beyond the first failed harvest or declaration of martial law.
too many unknowables.
After all, sometimes a people do get brilliant leadership, even if it is perceived to be a harsh rule.
Athens under Pericles.
There is no inevitability to history, it is linear and cumulative and strange things can happen, even strange good things.

Well, just to recap my position, when world oil production begins to decline it will decline forever. No political regime can change that fact. No political regime can create energy from non energy.

Yes it is a long, long way from the appearance of gas lines to the point where people begin cutting trees for fuel. But it will be a steady progression, from one point to the other, nevertheless. It may take ten years or it may take twenty or more. But unless God puts more oil in the ground one will follow the other as sure as sunset follows sunrise.

There is no inevitability to history,...

Nonsense! Every historical case of species overshoot has always been followed by species die-off.

Ron P.

Ron, there will be a die-off, as you say.

The timing, the shape, and the extent of that die-off is unknowable, yet you again to pretend that you know what it will be like and have harsh words for someone who disagrees with your guess as to what will happen. Even when they apparently agree with you on the trajectory.

Do you have anything to gain by this? I don't believe so, except perhaps the ego boost of not having your assertions questioned.

yet you again to pretend that you know what it will be like and have harsh words for someone who disagrees with your guess as to what will happen. Even when they apparently agree with you on the trajectory.

R4, before I can reply to your allegations I will need the link to the post where I pretended to know what it will be like as well as the post where I had harsh words those who disagree with my guess as to what will happen.

I don't recall ever saying I know what will happen, except for die-off. And I don't know where I ever expressed a date as to when it will happen. I have said ten to twenty years, perhaps more. But that is kinda nebulous don't you think? And I have absolutely no idea as to how the collapse will play out and I have stated that fact over and over and over. Hard times and misery... yes of course... but when and exactly how... I have absolutely no idea and, as I said, I have stated that fact over and over again. But if you can link to a post where I stated, or guessed, exactly what and how it will happen, please post that link.

Oh, if you are talking about the denuding of the forest, then we are talking about things that have already happened not something that I am predicting for the future. It has happened in Haiti, in the Congo, in Mexico and dozens of other countries. If you think that this trend will suddenly stop and no more forest will be denuded then you need to give your reasons for why you think this sudden turning of events will happen. Why will it stop?

Ron P.

Yes, I was referring to the deforestation problem that you were busy ripping on Sldulin for saying wasn't likely to be a problem in his region.

To use one of your own examples, ask yourself why Haiti's problems with deforestation don't spill over into the Dominican Republic?

One relatively small island, half deforested.


Actually The Dominican Republic is almost twice the size of Haiti but they both have just over 10 million people. The population density of Haiti is 936 per square mile while the population density of the Dominican Republic is 537 per square mile.

So 400 more people per square mile is one reason. Another reason is the exact same reason that the Congo is being denuded of trees. The people have turned to making and selling charcoal in an attempt to eek out a living. They are desperately poor and for many it is either make and sell charcoal of starve. They also use wood or charcoal for cooking. That is just what happens when too many people start using wood for fuel. That is what this debate is all about R4. And they do not need any heat. If they were in the northern latitudes and had to heat with wood also???

Haiti's deforestation needs attention

Deforestation in Haiti is a severe environmental problem. In 1923, over 60% of Haiti's land was forested; by 2006, less than 2% was.[1]

By most accounts, cooking fires are the major culprit behind the nation's loss of trees. Haitians use trees as fuel either by burning the wood directly, or by first turning it into charcoal in ovens. Seventy-one percent of all fuel consumed in Haiti is wood or charcoal, according to the US Agency for International Development.

Ron P.


Overpopulation is a problem on the island, but mainly in Haiti.

So why isn't Haiti's overpopulation problem overwhelming the Dominican Republic? There are obviously too many people on that island for it to support.

Okay, I will try again. There are almost twice as many people per square mile in Haiti as in the Dominican Republic. Yes, they are overpopulated but the entire world is overpopulated.

But the main reason Haiti is denuded is that they cook with wood and charcoal. People in the Dominican Republic do not... not yet. In Haiti they also make charcoal to sell in the streets. People in the Dominican Republic do not... not yet. Haiti uses charcoal for everything, even for running bakeries and dry cleaning.

Haiti : A ravaged land more bleak

Then there is the perennial lure of charcoal, Haiti's primary fuel for home cooking and running bakeries and dry cleaners. Its smoke hangs in a heavy haze over cities like Port-au-Prince, and all over the countryside soot-bathed peasants can be seen making it.

It's why the peasants cut the trees, and no fuel is cheaper.

Though Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the same island they do have a border. Squatters from Haiti cross the border but they are usually sent back. You can actually see the border from space, just as you can the Guatemala-Mexican border.

Ron P.

You make my arguments for me, Ron. Thank you.

Even in the absence of petroleum different countries will choose different ways of dealing with things, and they will defend their borders.

Maybe the Dominican Republic will choose to use their trees for fuel someday, but given their location and actual fuel needs I would rather expect not. They would need to re-tool their entire cooking infrastructure to use solid combustibles for cooking fuel, and it would be cheaper for them to go solar.

Things happen R4, things that are not necessarily chosen. You give far more weight to "choice" than I do.

They would need to re-tool their entire cooking infrastructure to use solid combustibles for cooking fuel, and it would be cheaper for them to go solar.

The Dominican Republic will "choose" to burn wood when their oil runs out just like everyone else in the world. Of course they import a lot of coal to generate electricity but that will stop also soon after oil production begins to slide in earnest.

Solid combustibles??? Yes I agree. Wood is a very good solid combustible and it grows all over the Dominican Republic. It will be the cheapest thing they can possibly burn... until it is gone.

And thank you R4 for making my case for me. ;-)

Ron P.

If one assumes that all the existing infrastructure will fall apart and the people of the Dominican Republic will be approaching the problem from the same disadvantaged position as their Haitian neighbors, then what you say makes sense.

If I were extrapolating over centuries I could justify some scenarios that would be that ugly, but not over decades.

Sounds to me like Haiti needs several hundred thousand Rocket Cook Stoves, like the ones developed at the Aprovecho Research Center out in Oregon about fifteen years ago. They now have a new company (subsidiary?) that is importing rocket cook stoves from China, and they will sell you one for about $65 each, including free Fedex ground. And apparently they will take donations for sending bulk shipments to places like Haiti for as little as $12 each. You can check them out at http://www.stovetec.net

When energy gets to be really expensive, it is questionable whether sufficient motor vehicle fuel will be avaolable to transport wood long distances.

My own guess is that the fuel will be available for quite some time after the price of wood goees high enough to make transporting it feasible.

Unless we starve out first, or distribute coal perhaps, the forests are going to be very severely depleted, no doubt about it,once the situation gets to be critical in respect to natural gas annd electricity.

But maybe the decline will be slow enough we can divert our disposable income and energy from the car culture to an efficiency and conservation culture and it won't be quite so bad.

If the typical middle class person would cut his spending on fancy wheels in half and put the savings into energy efficiency and conservation, he could have a home and lifestyle as comfortable as he has now on a minor fraction of the energy.

WEe get about eighty to ninety percent of our heat from wood, averaging about four or five cords a year;not all ofd it is used to heat the house, we use some in outbuildings too.Since I contemplate having to pay somebody to cut and haul and split it for me in another decade or so, we are now in the process of adding insulation and so forth to cut our use considerably.

There is no doubt in my mind that the price and/or VALUE of firewood will go thru the roof, in some areas, relatively speaking, within another decade or so, as people run short of disposable income.

In the winter of 2007 to 2008, wood burning stoves were hard to come by, you had to get on a month's long waiting list. That made me think about pictures I had seen from the turn of the century of areas in the Catskill mountains. In these pictures, you couldn't find hardly a single tree on the surrounding hills. And most of those hills were high and steep. Today, the logging roads are still easily visible in the winter time. It will happen again. Wood burning stoves will take over in the northeast and forests will be cut down. How long will it take? I think a single home needs the equivalent of several acres for a typical winter. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

People will use what they can. They won't care a lot about the environment when it's 10 degrees outside.

Have a nice day to you, too!

I agree the pessimistic opinion seems to be inevitable, but like they say, life is a bird that flies through a dark window, across a brightly lit room, and out into the darkness again. All that matters is what you do in that brief trip since when it’s over, you’re gone for a very long time.

As far as the future of humanity is concerned, I assume that the luckiest people will be those with absolutely no reliance on fossil fuels right now. There are still some isolated groups of people in Peru, New Zealand and the Steppes of Asia that have had zero contact with what is humorously referred to as ‘civilization.’ Maybe a couple of hundred years from now some of the more adventurous ones (or the outcasts) will migrate down to the coast, like our ancestors leaving Africa, and find some habitable niches here and there.

I hope they do a better job.


Strange to see peak oil as a cause for optimism. I don’t agree with the article because I think the human species will survive in any case.

Well, it can be a cause for at least a lessening of pessimism if one cares about a long enough time horizon. I think the fellow makes a good general point, which does not depend on whether or not humans may go extinct in the near future.

I agree with you that humans will be around for a long time yet. But in general, I have come to think that the sooner we get a profound crash of networked systems, the more carrying capacity is likely to be preserved for humans of future millenia, and the less damage the rest of the ecosystem will sustain. It won't be pretty either way, of course.

And looking at it from the point of view of any other species - or, to an excellent first approximation, any species period - peak oil is Frodo taking the ring to Mordor, a faint hope of better times after convulsions and catharsis.

If I had a button to push that would magically create 50 new Ghawar fields full of oil, it would remain unpushed. The only thing worse than peak energy would be no peak energy.

Even if our oil based consumer society goes down, those coal fired power plants will still chugg along...

I fear that by the time the world wakes up to what global warming really means (end of this decade - melting of Arctic summer sea ice is most likely the turning point, see Maslowski study;)


that by that time peak oil and declining oil production will have damaged our economy to such an extent that we don't have the necessary funds to replace our coal fired power plants. These projects may also get stuck in diesel shortages.

Banks Keep Failing, No End in Sight

The largest number of bank failures in nearly 20 years has eliminated jobs, accelerated a drought in lending and left the industry's survivors with more power to squeeze customers. . .

Still, economists say, the contraction represents an enduring threat to capital, lending and the economy.

"When we step back and look at this financial disaster 10 years from now, the destruction of capital in our economy as a result of what we've endured will be the single greatest lasting impact on recovery and how the economy performs in the future," says Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association.

Moody's Downgrades Anglo Irish's Debt

Moody's Investors Service downgraded Anglo Irish Bank's senior debt rating by three notches because the bank is expected to require further government support.

Moody's cut the bank's unguaranteed senior debt to Baa3 from A3 and its so-called dated subordinated debt to Caa1 from Ba1. The move came in response to the Irish government's plans to separate the state-owned lender into into an asset-recovery bank and a funding bank, holding deposits.

In my view, all of these defaults should not be a surprise. I have been talking about debt defaults being one of the major outcomes of reduced oil supply for a long time now. For example, see The Expected Economic Impact of an Energy Downturn from March 2008.


Jaysus but shure that news flash on the Irish debt rating is behind the Wall Street Journal's pay wall and begorrah didn't I forgot me wallet.

Here it is for free in The Irish Times:


YOu can probably get the WSJ articles by typing in the name. Even if I type the name into Google, I can't get a Google link, since I have a subscription.

On the last Drumbeat there was some discussion of Alaska oil and gas issues. For those who are interested, here are a couple of links to some data and analysis:

Alaska North Slope Oil and Gas A Promising Future or an Area in Decline?
A DOE sponsored report. Some good information here about current and potential production.

Alaska Division of Oil and Gas Annual Reports
Not always annual, but some good info none the less.

Now I must get off to my day job.


Thank you for these great information resources!


The BP incident is close to falling off the radar for a while. But to make sure no one wanders away with a false impression: From up top - "So all of this kind of comes together in way that would suggest that...hydraulic fracturing occurred at the time of cementing. If that in fact happened, it would propagate through the analysis in a number of different ways."

He interprets the loss circulation is due to frac'ing. Could happen if they got the mud weight/pump pressure high enough. But long before they would frac the rock they would start losing mud into the porous reservoir rocks. They did not get the injection pressure high enough to reach the fracture gradient. But they might have been over balanced and lost mud/cmt to any porous reservoir down there. In fact, the main reason they tried the N2 cmt was to keep the weight low enough to not lose circulation. Maybe this fellow just doesn't understand the process. But the cynic in me thinks he using the "frac'ing is evil" theme from the shale gas plays to garner his 15 minutes of fame.

But the cynic in me thinks he using the "frac'ing is evil" theme from the shale gas plays to garner his 15 minutes of fame.

That would be my interpretation, too. Either that or some reporter was napping through the presentation and only woke up when the word "fracturing" was mentioned.

I asked McPherson, who gave a talk this weekend near where I live,
what would change his mind about the trajectory of industrial
civilization. He answered that the discovery of a miraculous, cheap,
easily scalable new energy source would probably allow our current
arrangements to persist for a while longer. But such a development
would be a death sentence for the human race since it would lead to [further environmental degradation + overshoot]

This is likely true.

<joke>That's why I suspect cold fusion experiments have been being sabotaged by time travelers from the future...</joke>

I have a crazy thought. Is there such thing as a mechanical stove or oven? Is there a machine that can convert mechanical energy into enough heat to cook with without combustion or electricity? Looked at the web but had no luck. I had a crazy vision of a windmill and pumping air. Remember the air pump in college physics that could set paper on fire. I could not find much with my Goggle searches.

The efficiency will be low, but it's doable. Compressors produce heat (friction in the compressed gas from "packing" molecules together). There are also folks using cavitation systems to achieve the same effect in liquids.

These guys have built a cavitation effect water heater that they claim outputs more energy than is required to run the contraption. Sure!


Sounds like a loser compared to an electrical solution. What about friction then?

Edit: How about electric resistance heating directly from the dynamo. Make the distance between the dynamo terminals to the resistance coil as short as possible, even incorporate it into an integrated design. Do we gain much there. I want the smallest propeller you need to run say a George Foreman grill. I need to be able to pedal this damn thing to cook my burger if the wind is calm or use my photovoltaic cells. Is any of this practical? That is what I need to know. I am getting lost too quickly and need some headings.

What about a simpler diet and solar cookers ?

sun oven corn bread ....


Hey, while we are talking about solar, I was in the bazaar today and the had a load of old mirror glass outside, think I'll pick some up to play with. The problem is that mirror glass decays from the edge. Anyone got any good suggestions for protecting the cut edges from decay?


These guys have built a cavitation effect water heater that they claim outputs more energy than is required to run the contraption. Sure!

That would be the effect known as sonofusion.

If you don't accept 'cold fusion' then Sure!. If you do - wait to see a shipping product.

(and Tinfoilhatguy - just look at some solar solutions like sheiffer dishes, solar ovens, or even steam pressure cookers via evacuated glass tubes.

Close the outlet on a centrifugal water pump for a few minutes and you'll get the same effect, really hot water, 'til the seals blow.

"sheiffer dishes"? Not finding them :(


'Sheffler' was what they meant, I believe.


You'll get a bunch of hits on that name. Fun stuff!

Ah, thanks, that makes more sense. Isn't that the guy who did the bread ovens for a village down in Peru or Argentina?


ghung: Compressors produce heat (friction in the compressed gas from "packing" molecules together).

Whilst the 'packing' may lend itself to increased friction, I would hazard a guess that the friction is close enough to zero to not be a material factor in the increased temperature of compressed gas. The temperature increase is wholly attributable to the change in volume - the first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy, explains the temperature change.

Firstly, I use the term "friction" loosely. Friction, it turns out, is poorly understood.


Friction is the force that resists motion when the surface of one object comes into contact with the surface of another. In a machine, friction reduces the mechanical advantage, or the ratio of output to input: an automobile, for instance, uses one-quarter of its energy on reducing friction. Yet, it is also friction in the tires that allows the car to stay on the road, and friction in the clutch that makes it possible to drive at all. From matches to machines to molecular structures, friction is one of the most significant phenomena in the physical world.

How It Works:

The definition of friction as "the force that resists motion when the surface of one object comes into contact with the surface of another" does not exactly identify what it is. Rather, the statement describes the manifestation of friction in terms of how other objects respond. A less sophisticated version of such a definition would explain electricity, for instance, as "the force that runs electrical appliances." The reason why friction cannot be more firmly identified is simple: physicists do not fully understand what it is.


It would have been more accurate to state that compressing a gas results in an increase in the number of collisions between its atoms or molecules.

Actually, the "Ideal Gas Law" applies here:

An ideal gas is defined as one in which all collisions between atoms or molecules are perfectly eleastic and in which there are no intermolecular attractive forces. One can visualize it as a collection of perfectly hard spheres which collide but which otherwise do not interact with each other. In such a gas, all the internal energy is in the form of kinetic energy and any change in internal energy is accompanied by a change in temperature. (Temperature is a measurement of the average kinetic energy of the molecules in an object or system.)

An ideal gas can be characterized by three state variables: absolute pressure (P), volume (V), and absolute temperature (T). The relationship between them may be deduced from kinetic theory and is called the IDEAL GAS LAW


....so increased collisions ("friction"), due to decreased volume results in a change in the average kinetic energy of the system.

I would say we're both right, though I'm sure one of our more "physically inclined" posters will tell us where we are both wrong ;-)

You can get a solar oven for $200 bucks and probably make your own for 20. I bought one, it routinely heated to 300F on cold windy days. Then I boxed it up and put it in storage. I figure some fruit for breakfast, some hot squirrel stew for lunch, and maybe that cardboard box for dinner will keep me alive for a while.

Not all problems require 'crazy thought' solutions.

Here, kitty kitty kitty...

Don't you dare!

a cat lover

Don't worry, I am a Korean. Your cats are safe.

I built a solar parabolic cooker but reality came last winter when we had three weeks with no sunshine. Typically here in the high desert we are seldom more than a couple days without some sunshine in the winter. Of course, it works like a champ all the rest of the time. Cornbread in an hour, soups, stews, etc. not a problem. Now that we have a simple hand pump in the well, we don't even have to have electricity for water.

My Dad told me of something along those lines in the kitchen when he was a child. ( Pre-microwave oven days ) it could heat water or some things such as tomato soup. It plugged in and operated by shooting opposing jets of the liquid to be heated at each other. Sounds like something from RonCo, or Sham-Wow inc.

See what I am trying to do is think of the marketing too. If we could somehow come up with an exercise bike or small windmill that could cook, maybe it would be useful. Right now the exercise bikes and elliptical trainers at the gym went from plug-in at 110V and maybe 5 amps to self-powered from the primary workout motion resistance magnets. Someone hit a home run.

The average human can sustain about 100W power output on an exercise bike. link a small dynamo to a small water heater coil, yoou could heat a mug of soup in about 10 minutes.

Thus exposing the premise of The Matrix to be unbelievable and idiotic.

You're forgetting, the human batteries were "combined with a form of fusion". Which is like saying an airliner uses elastic bands to power itself (combined with a form of gas turbine).

Wachowskis and thermodynamics is not a winning partnership.

I would have liked it better if the Matrix used the human brains to run itself as a vast networked computer. That would have been a neat idea. Better than the 'copper top' explanation.


The Matrix uses the human brains to sustainably keep the Invisible Hand levitated in the sky so that its glory may be forever praised.

If Neo is allowed to interfere with the illusion beams, the humans may stop believing in The Hand and then it would fall out of the sky. The system will collapse.

Do everything you can, Mr. Smith, to stop Neo from bringing down our up raised Hand, praised be its name.

I would have liked it better if the Matrix used the human brains to run itself as a vast networked computer. That would have been a neat idea. Better than the 'copper top' explanation.

Agreed - the copper top explanation was absurd, because it would take as much energy to run the system as it might produce. To add to that, I figured the 2nd installment of The Matrix was going to be Neo teaching the Middle Earthers how to do what he could now do, so they could destroy the agents the way he did in the first Matrix. Not copies of the Agent he destroyed in the first movie. If you couldn't kill it before by destroying it from the inside out, why even bother fighting it? It becomes a story with no plausible end.

Afterall, wasn't the first movie suppose to be about people becoming aware of their mental abilities and better at controlling them, i.e. better at controlling their reality? And wouldn't Neo then teach the others? No, they go the with the tired old routine of "Could he be the (only) one?!" Wasn't that already done in 'Dark City' and 'Dune'? What are the rest of the people - dogmeat?

Ya, they lost a potentially rich and nuanced story. They could have gone with a story line where the Matrix is the human race. Or the Matrix and the human race create each other. Neo becomes the nexus that will cause Matrix/Humans to evolve to a higher level. Stuff like that. Instead, by the third installment they were just chucking out chapters from the Standard Book of Metaphors and Myths. Let's see, let’s have Persephone marry an obnoxious French guy, and don’t even bother changing her name in case people don’t get it. We’ll make Morgenstern and Guildencrantz be a couple of creepy albinos. After Neo and Trinity redeem each other in the first two movies, we’ll just kill her off for no reason at all in the last. There! Potentially good story line turned to muck.

Like they say, the future isn’t what it used to be.


Why not go for a solar oven instead?

Nuclear merchant ships could open up Arctic routes for real

British business interests are suggesting that it may be time to revive the idea of nuclear-powered commercial shipping. Media reports to the contrary, the Arctic is not yet open to normal merchant ships - but it might be opened up by nuclear ones, which would also offer zero emissions and freedom from high oil prices.

Why don't they just rent time on Russia's?

Any nuclear powered icebraker today a future nuclear powered icebreaking barge hauler...

Electric Boat in Groton, CT wanted to build nuclear powered submarine oil tankers in the 80's to bring Alaska oil to the east coast. They run under the weather and ice. They'd basically have been Trident subs with tanks where the missle tubes would go. The navy wasn't too keen on the idea.


Interesting concept. But as we all know there is no such thing as "zero emmissions". John

You'd need Military Security Escorts for each one, otherwise they'd be prime targets for well armed terrorists looking for nuclear materials.

Sharon Astyk, sweetheart, we can't "back up".

Your homework is to show how we will farm vast swaths of prairie sod to produce our daily bread with an exponentially falling oil supply.

Let us assume -5% per annum. That means in 14 years we will have to produce the same amount of food with 1/2 the diesel. And in 28 years with 1/4 the diesel.(assuming no population growth)
Go and stand in the middle of this huge grainary.This waving field stretching to the far horizon. And then imagine plowing it with a pair of ass.

We need more R&D not less.
We need perennial, nitrogen fixing wheat.
We desperately need cold fusion and
We have to leave this planet until we have control of our gonads.
(which goes to prove, space is for sexy people.)

I got Ms. Astyk's back on this one. You talk about a declining diesel supply being needed to farm wheat, but tractors and combines can run on gasoline, if need be. If most of the population was carpooling, taking public transit or biking for most of their trips, a vast supply of gasoline could be diverted to food production. If people grew some of their own food supply the strain on industrial food systems would be less. Hell, on that note, if people cut way back on their meat consumption, as most researchers say would be good for their health anyway, acres of cropland now used for corn and soy to feed cows and pigs could grow grains and veggies to feed people directly.

As for perennial, nitrogen fixing wheat, good luck with that. Even if it did come to pass, it would most likely be developed by Monsanto, who would then have a monopoly over your food supply and charge accordingly.

And best of luck with your plan to emigrate to space in the face of declining oil supply. Send me a postcard when you get to Ceres.



I did small business energy audits for Efficiency Maine for about three years. The first year I was sent out to audit a farm in Lisbon, Maine. It turned out to be an organic vegetable farm, with no animals in sight. They had two tractors and were using about 1000 gallons of Diesel per year, as I recall. One of my recommendations was to run the tractors in the highest gear and at the lowest engine speed that worked well for whatever they were doing. When I made my follow-up call six months later, the owner reported that they had saved about 20 percent from that simple no cost change.

simple tools and a staple crop .... like corn.


Like Guy McPherson says ... durable instead of sustainable.

If we need cold fusion then we're in deep trouble.

To elaborate:
Cold fusion is just that: cold. If it is a genuine effect it is limited to a relatively small temperature range and has no obvious means to efficiently extract the produced energy (see the Carnot Cycle for expected efficiencies of heat engines for a given delta-T).

From the numbers I have seen I can expect a better average energy return on both money and material investment by making a chemical battery with the materials that would go into a cold fusion rig plus an acid or base to serve as the electrolyte.

If we need cold fusion then we're in deep trouble.

(I hope you don't take offense at my term of endearment)
we agree on that.
We are in deep trouble.
And we do need cold fusion.
It has to be pursued until it is explained and eliminated as a potential solution.

The captain lied when the captain cried,
That none of us there could save her.
"Just let her go down boys,
"Swim for your lives, swim for your children, swim for you wives.
"But let her go down".

The captain lied.
We must not "Let her go down."

I mean we're in trouble because it won't work.

Spend your energy on something that can.

I see from your bio that you have a reputation to defend.
Did you make premature definitive statements that will batter your ego if proved wrong?
That puts you at a disadvantage.

I have no reputation to defend and am open minded about cold fusion so I shall press on.

Just an operator, Arthur. But operators are expected to know enough about thermodynamics to be able to predict how the system will respond to changes so that everyone knows how their part of the system will react to changes in load and environmental conditions.

If anyone manages to make a practical power generator using cold fusion I will be shocked but pleased.

As a CF advocate though, I'd say you do have a reputation to defend here. You are advocating a power source where the very existence of the basic effect is still in dispute and nobody has presented a practical method for extracting energy from CF apparatus.

Be open minded, but don't be so open minded that your brain falls out.

If you want fusion, IEC fusion has solidly verified and reproducable fusion effects at the lab-bench scale including a method to extract energy from the system at a reasonable efficiency. Yet even with a level of credibility that cold fusion researchers can so far only dream of the odds that it will actually result in any sort of practical power generation are still uncertain.

Arthur, Dahling, Lovey, I'm not your sweetheart.

We do indeed need perennial nitrogen fixing wheat - which is, unfortunately, unlikely to actually exist, as perennial wheat (much less the nitrogen fixing) has been in breeding development for 20 years and is the same 10 years out it was before.

The reality, though, is that given climate change much of the prairie won't be farmed anyway. The GISS maps on drought projection are very clear about that - you simply can't do even dryland agriculture at the rainfall that they will expect.

Realistically, we need to stop feeding grain to livestock, pasture much of our prairie land, plant woody crops on much existing CPS land, and expect to do as much farming as we can in higher rainfall areas.

We do desperately need cold fusion - and magic gerbils to power our lives by running infinitely fast all the time in little magic wheels. They are both about equally likely.

And why don't you try the math on how many people we'd have to lift off this planet to make a meaningful dent in population. Figure out how many ships a day that would take.

Sorry cutie-pie ;-).


Well stated Sharon!
Here is to annual grasses where perennial biocide now reigns, and a more robust environment, not the biotic cleansing that grain production brings, along with destruction of fossil soils and fossil water, and dead zones in the GOM.

as perennial wheat (much less the nitrogen fixing) has been in breeding development for 20 years and is the same 10 years out it was before

Not in the least surprised and I do not expect that to change. I mean, how will they be able to sell you more seed every year if the stuff is perennial?


OK. So no terms of endearment Astyk.

Realistically the empirical (observed) evidence is that we can keep 16% of the population alive on starvation rations without oil. Historical evidence.
This is a best case scenario with the absurd assumptions that climate change wont happen, the soils are still virgin and we are all still yeoman farmers.

BAU lite is not going to happen.

As far as getting people (whatever fragments are left) off the planet is concerned I am afraid you have suffered from a failure of the imagination. But I wouldn't be too ashamed, visionaries are rare.

About the idea that big bad Monsanto controlling all genetic manipulation you Americans must think you are the whole world. Besides, even if Monsanto is as evil as you portray, would they not think that a total collapse of Civilisation bad for the bottom line?

More homework for you, Google CANR/LENR.

Now, my Palladium has just arrived and I must get to work.

She's right about off-planet colonization not being a solution to population pressures.

Even in a perfect situation we can breed faster than we can leave.

On the other hand, off-planet colonization could be a solution to the "all the eggs in one basket" problem if we can pull it off. The odds aren't all that good because it is both technologically challenging and the very idea has enemies that are willing to die to prevent it from happening.

We humans have two modes of breeding.
When times are good and there are plenty of niches we breed early and often. This is the logical thing to do.
However, when times are tough we are forced to breed slowly and raise few offspring to maturity, or risk loosing them all.

I am arguing that after we go through this bottleneck we will be so emotionally scarred and have had such evolutionary pressure on us that we will no longer be recognisably human.

If we do make it through, then breeding will be considered immoral and anti-social, and will only be tolerated off planet.

Thanks Sharon, for some refreshingly honest thinking and talk. When it is clear that global food production will fall instead of grow, I think we will see the quick dis-assembly of the meat industry. It cannot happen fast enough. What we will keep is the dairy industry and the bi-product-male calves-that will be 90%+ grass fed. That will bring more than enough meat protein to the table, and eliminate a whole range of environemental, nutritional and disease-vector problems.

Re: Chevron & Greenpeace Protesters - suggest that next time, instead of Chevron calling out the Danish Search&Rescue they contact the French Navy. I believe they have the correct policy to contend with pirates and greenpeace - put them in Davy's locker!

Stena Carron & Esvagt SAR

Date taken: 11 September, 2010

George Monbiot has a piece on oil in today's Guardian

Monbiot's articles in the Guardian are proof positive that the clowns will drown out reasoned argument every time. It does not help that George constantly changes his message with each new meme he encounters on the interweb.

He is an upperclass left wing liberal with an arts degree. His skills of consistant rational argument are not the greatest to start with, and his scientific understanding shaky at best.

You don't realize how sensible Monbiot is. Look at his extensive refs. Were it not every journo had his attitude.

He is an upperclass left wing liberal with an arts degree. His skills of consistant rational argument are not the greatest to start with, and his scientific understanding shaky at best.

Rubbish. He studied Zoology.

The version of this piece with references is here

You're telling us more about yourself than Monbiot, here.

Privately owned Robert Bosch GmbH — the largest automotive component supplier in the world — sees the winds of change and has started an eBike subsidiary: Bosch Powertain Systems eBike.

Bosch has been working to develop a “Drive Unit,” an all-in-one package comprised of a 250 watt electric motor, control unit, sensors and battery pack. They recently announced a partnership with Cannondale to develop high performance drive systems for electric bicycles.

Hub or non hub motor is the current debate ...

The Urbana Current shown here is equipped with the BionX 350 watt hub motor, BionX rack mount battery pack, and BionX EPS handlebar controller. BionX is generally bought as an add-on to convert an existing bike to an ebike, but Urbana has apparently partnered with BionX so you can buy the bike complete.


If anybody with business experience relevant to this question will reply it will be greatly appreciated!

What are the usual estimates time wise for the e bike industry to truly mature?

By mature I mean that parts and components such as batteries and controllers will be mostly inyterchangeable or available in the aftermarket at local shops, and that major components will have warranties similar to cat warranties-say five years for a hub motor assembly.Also that service manuals with technical specs will be readily available, so a handyman can use his volt ohm meter or code reader to check the conditions of components and so forth.

I don't believe it will be range so much as reliability and ongoing maintainence costs that will inhibit the adoption of electric bikes by the typical consumer who can still afford a car in addition to his electric bike.When he has to take it in for tires about as often as he did his car for an oil change, and is chargrd a few hundrewd bucks to rep;lace a part asa big as an egg, he will probably simply junk the bike and go back to his car on an every day basis, unless he lives where traffic is so bad a bike is a big advantage.

I used to ride a motorcycle in addition to keeping a car, but even though the motorcycle was reliable as motorcycles go, and very easy on gas,it cost so much to maintain it that I didn't really save much money.An engine overhaul every twenty thousand and new tires every six thousand add up fast.

Of course newer , larger bikes are a lot more durable-so I'm told.

Of course fuel rationing will change the forget the Ebike situation in a hurry.

"Domestic consumption of oil and gas is posting continuing growth and at high rates...this requires looking into the reasons behind the increase in oil and gas consumption and working on rationing it," Jasser added.

So, if Saudi Arabia really has the capability to increase it's oil production like they say, why would they have to resort to "rationing" oil and gas to their own population?
It sounds pretty much like an admission that they can not in fact increase their production much, if any, at all?

Jon, you expressed my thoughts exactly. I have a bad feeling we are going to learn relatively quickly that the vast Saudi reserves are a mirage. That may be what takes the Dow to 2,000, as some have predicted.

Not too long ago (Sept.16), MIT released a study that US Today reported as saying:

MIT finds plentiful uranium for nuclear power plants

Plenty of uranium exists for nuclear power plants for decades, but more research is needed to develop a better way to dispose of the spent fuel, says a new report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This finding is signficiant, the researchers say, because the idea of a limited uranium supply has long prompted efforts to develop very costly reactors that breed plutonium.

So I decided I would look at the report itself, to find out what it said. I didn't find the full report, but I found a 36 page summary

The entire section on uranium resource is found on page 20 of the PDF. It says


Uranium resources will not be a constraint for a long time.

The cost of uranium today is 2 to 4% of the cost of electricity. Our analysis of uranium mining costs versus cumulative production in a world with ten times as many LWRs and each LWR operating for 60 years indicates a probable 50% increase in uranium costs. Such a modest increase in uranium costs would not significantly impact nuclear power economics. However, given the importance of uranium resources for both existing reactors and decisions about future nuclear fuel cycles, we recommend:

An international program should be established to enhance understanding and provide higher confidence in estimates of uranium costs versus cumulative uranium production.

As long as you assume that the whole system works regardless of resource constraints, and that the price will rise so that adequate supply will be extracted, there is no problem. You probably also need to assume international trade works well, so we can buy what we need, when we need it. "It's cheap, so why worry" sounds like the sum total of their analysis.

To me, it seems like an adequate analysis. It's cheap and will keep being cheap. End of story.

Despite economy, Americans don't want farm work

AP Enterprise: Economy tanked, yet Americans still don't want to work in California fields


And colin powell uses illegals

its going to be a bumpy ride powering down

The farm work situation is interesting. I grew up doing that type of hard manual labor. In harvest season we hired day laborers from the nearest city, picking them up in the morning and returning them at sunset. Lunch was a bologna sandwich, an RC cola, and a moon pie at the local market (which had a Colonial Bread screen door). On any given day we would have 15-20 people working.

Today, only illegal immigrants do that same work. Farmers simply cannot find anyone else at any reasonable wage. The California situation may have something to do with the remoteness of those farms from major population areas, but that is not the case in my old community.

Olive pickers here are averaging over $100 a day if they are good pickers and the picking is good.

Downtown Los Angeles bakes at record 113 degrees


who cares , as long as I can drive my Air conditioned car

My exhaust manifold can reach 1000 degrees

Креативно, а не только познавательно, понравилось

Regarding "The revolution will not be blogged, either" by Sharon Astyk: The first real Luddite victory I am aware of was cancellation of Boeing's SST in 1971. The fact that it could be done did not mean it should be done.

Bicycle touring in Michigan's northern lower peninsula in 1978 with my son, we met a former Boeing engineer and his family. They ran a store and rental for campers, fishermen, hunters, skiers etc. He tried to talk my son out of his interest in an engineering career.

We need to switch away from the engineering mode and towards the ethical. Perhaps we might even begin to imagine that in some areas, we have done sufficient R and D.

Either Sharon is a sloppy writer or she offends me with her views. She is implying that engineering is the opposite of ethical. Are engineers that develop medical technologies unethical?