Drumbeat: October 15, 2010

Iraq to fight for greater share of OPEC rations

At its most modest, Iraq presents its plan as a "doubling of output in a few years". Stated more boldly, however, regional and global security and economic imperatives kick in.

Baghdad wants to overtake Tehran, to its east, as a major producer before knocking over the world's No.1 producer - Riyadh, to its south. Jealous of its historic standing as the world's biggest petrol station, Saudi Arabia has already revealed plans to push its own oil capacity - about 11 million barrels a day - beyond the 12 million barrels a day mark.

French Police Unblock Fuel Depots as Refinery, Port Strikes Cut Supplies

French police moved in to open fuel depots to release oil supplies blocked by strikers as walkouts at ports and refineries across the nation shut down crude imports and sparked shortages at filling stations.

Police ordered protesters to lift barricades at a depot in Fos-sur-Mer near Marseille today to let trucks deliver fuel, a spokeswoman for the Prefecture des Bouches-du-Rhone said. Two other depots were also cleared, including one near Bordeaux, while others remain blocked, the CGT union said.

BP doubles down on deepwater drilling

FORTUNE -- This summer BP outlined a plan to shed $30 billion worth of assets to free up some cash to pay for the Macondo well disaster. It still needs to ink some more deals to hit that mark, but it's already started the process.

BP is getting a mandatory makeover on a budget, and its sales so far are beginning to show what the company will look like post-disaster. It seems that when BP trims fat, onshore natural gas is the first to go. And despite the fact that it's still struggling to shake off its financial aftermath from Macondo, its commitment to deepwater drilling hasn't faltered.

Cornell receives $5 million to research oil alternative for developing world

"In five years, the world will experience a shortage of up to 10 million barrels of oil a day, and it will be the weakest counties who won't get the oil," Hollander told the Wall Street Journal. "Without oil, economies of developing countries will be thrown back to the Middle Ages and will be devastated."

Hollander's goal, however, isn't to expand access to oil – it's to find alternative methods of fueling, literally and figuratively, the economy of the developing world. To that end, the entrepreneur has donated $5 million of his fortune to a Cornell University project designed to do just that.

Russia to build nuclear power plant in Venezuela

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia agreed on Friday to help build Venezuela's first nuclear power plant and buy $1.6 billion of oil assets, reinforcing ties with President Hugo Chavez, who shares Moscow's opposition to U.S. global dominance.

Chavez presided over the deals at a Kremlin ceremony with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who said the countries shared a "strategic partnership" and a vision of a world free of overwhelming U.S. influence.

Despite geological limitations, SA begins to weigh its geothermal options

Until recently, little attention was paid to research into geothermal energy, largely because South Africa’s geology of solid rock precludes large geo- thermal discovery but also because of the lack of government support and the significant costs involved, with up to R48-million required just for the feasibility phase of such projects – R12,5-million of which is at high risk.

However, the energy crisis and the drive for renewable-energy generation have sparked new interest in the possibility of generating energy from heat that is readily available from the earth. Technological advances over the past few years also indicate that the use of geothermal energy may be viable in areas like South Africa.

Silicon Valley’s Solar Innovators Retool to Catch Up to China

FREMONT, Calif. — A few years ago, Silicon Valley start-ups like Solyndra, Nanosolar and MiaSolé dreamed of transforming the economics of solar power by reinventing the technology used to make solar panels and deeply cutting the cost of production.

Founded by veterans of the Valley’s chip and hard-drive industries, these companies attracted billions of dollars in venture capital investment on the hope that their advanced “thin film” technology would make them the Intels and Apples of the global solar industry.

But as the companies finally begin mass production — Solyndra just flipped the switch on a $733 million factory here last month — they are finding that the economics of the industry have already been transformed, by the Chinese. Chinese manufacturers, heavily subsidized by their own government and relying on vast economies of scale, have helped send the price of conventional solar panels plunging and grabbed market share far more quickly than anyone anticipated.

Goldman Forecasts `Substantially Higher Prices' for Crude in 2011, 2012

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecasts “substantially higher prices” for oil in the second half of 2011 and 2012 as the global inventory surplus is exhausted.

Analysts Split on Direction of Oil Price as Dollar Weakens, Survey Shows

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News were split over whether oil prices will rise or fall next week on speculation the dollar will extend eight-month lows against the euro and as the Federal Reserve acts to support the economy.

Fifteen of 35 analysts, or 43 percent, forecast crude will advance through Oct. 22. Fifteen more respondents predicted that futures will decline. Five said there will be little change. Last week, 52 percent of analysts expected an decrease.

Moscow bumps up export duty

Russia is set to raise its oil export duty by 9% next month to $290 per tonne following a sharp rise in oil prices, according to reports.

OPEC Members Seek $100 Oil to Counter Dollar Weakness

The 13 percent decline in the Dollar Index since June has led some OPEC members to call for oil to rise to $100 a barrel.

The U.S. currency’s weakness means the “real price” of oil is about $20 less than current levels, Venezuelan Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said after yesterday’s meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. The group, which accounts for 40 percent of global crude output, left targets unchanged and called for greater adherence to quotas, which are being exceeded by a supertanker load a day.

When will OPEC have to address the quota issue?

Analysts have frequently disputed OPEC members' figures on the size of their oil reserves on the grounds they have a vested interest in making them as high as possible to qualify for higher OPEC production curbs.

Following previous controversies, the current system of output targets is based on members' actual production, rather than reserves. Iraq's reserves claim is nevertheless viewed as positioning as the country's oil output begins to recover from years of war and sanctions.

Natural Gas Price Swings Drop to Tightest in Eight Years

Natural gas is trading in the tightest range in eight years as rising U.S. production pushes inventory levels close to last year’s record, undermining profit for traders who thrive on price swings.

Quebec shale gas project grinds to halt

Quebec’s much-touted “shale gale” has been put on hold after the leading developers postponed a planned drilling program, citing high costs and public criticism of shale gas development.

Shale gas development could threaten Canada's water supplies: report

The rush to develop shale gas could threaten Canada's water supplies, according to a report by the University of Toronto released yesterday. The report, prepared for the university's Munk School of Global Affairs, says provincial and federal regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing have not kept up with the pace of shale gas development in places like northeastern British Columbia and Quebec, which it says poses a threat to groundwater supplies.

Gazprom: South Stream gas pipeline active in 2015

SOFIA, Bulgaria—The head of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom says gas deliveries to Europe through the South Stream pipeline will start in 2015.

Russia to supply gas to Poland after Oct 20 - energy min

(Reuters) - Russia will continue supplying gas to Poland after Oct 20 when the current supply contract ends even if a new one is not signed, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said on Friday.

"We'll be going by our long-standing tradition to ensure gas supply and without any harsh decisions," Shmatko said in the Ukrainian capital.

France to Tap Strategic Fuel Reserves in Swaps as Labor Unrest Cuts Supply

France authorized the release of fuel stockpiles to counter potential shortages caused by striking refinery and port workers as police moved in to unblock depots.

Gas stations in some regions are running low of supplies as consumers bought higher-than-normal quantities of fuel on concern about shortages, French television LCI reported today, adding that police moved to lift barricades from some fuel depots that were set up by strikers to prevent deliveries.

Rosneft and Gazprom clinch Arctic acreage

The Russian government has handed state-run players Rosneft and Gazprom five new licences covering oil and gas fields in the Kara and Barents seas.

Japan's Inpex quits Iran Azadegan oilfield project

TOKYO (Reuters) - Inpex Corp, Japan's top oil explorer, has pulled out from Iran's Azadegan oil field project as expected, after U.S. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme posed a potential threat to the company's business.

Rosneft Agrees to Buy Stake in German Refinery From PDVSA for $1.6 Billion

OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer and refiner, agreed to buy Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s 50 percent stake in a German refining venture for $1.6 billion to expand into Europe.

Rosneft and PDVSA signed the agreement today at the Kremlin in a ceremony broadcast on state television. BP Plc holds the remaining 50 percent of the venture.

RCMP find DNA on letter in pipeline bombing investigation

The RCMP have found traces of DNA on a letter sent to a Dawson Creek newspaper in April that may be related to a string of bomb attacks on pipelines in the region.

Government to conduct surprise oil rig inspections

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. offshore drilling agency will begin conducting surprise inspections on oil rigs as part of a new aggressive enforcement effort adopted by the Obama administration since the BP oil spill, the agency's head said on Thursday.

Kalamazoo River monitoring expected through at least 2015: Ecosystem recovering has long way to go after oil spill

MARSHALL — Marking the significance of the oil spill near Marshall, state and local human and environmental health agencies are planning on monitoring the affected area until at least 2015.

At a meeting Thursday hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to update the 82-day old spill response, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director Rebecca Humphries said that by this time five years from now, it’s her agency’s goal to have the river back to the way it was prior to the spill.

Study says oilsands crude not that bad

FORT McMURRAY - Fuels made from Alberta's oilsands result in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than many commonly cited estimates.

That conclusion from a report released by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates was immediately slammed by a couple of enviromentalist groups while it was lauded by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Oil sands mean money, Morton insists

Ted Morton has a lot of good things to say about the oil sands. Carbon emissions, on an intensity basis, are going down. The mix of surface mining and in situ drilling used to access Alberta's most controversial natural resource is swinging from the former -- with the ugly, barren landscapes it creates--to the latter, which causes far less surface disruption and thus provides less opportunity for unflattering magazine photo spreads.

And, most importantly for a provincial Minister of Finance, the oil sands mean money. About $144-billion worth of it over the next decade, if the estimates are accurate.

Environmentalists Join Mountaintop Fray

Environmental groups from Appalachia moved Thursday to join the federal government in fighting an industry lawsuit that would weaken oversight of mountaintop coal mining.

Mountaintop mining, in which hundreds of feet are blasted off of hills to expose coal seams, is commonly used in West Virginia, Kentucky and neighboring states. Environmental advocates want to curtail or ban the method, which drastically alters the landscape, harms streams and can release toxic chemicals.

China shuts down 1,355 coal mines in first nine months

TOKYO (KUNA) -- China shut down 1,355 small coal mines by the end of September as part of efforts to restructure its mining industry, the country's official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the National Energy Administration

HSBC Cuts U.S. Wind Power Forecast, Says Vestas `Best Positioned' in Slump

The London-based bank cut its U.S. forecast 14 percent to 6 gigawatts this year and by 33 percent to 5 gigawatts next year. It cited competition from cheap shale gas, uncertainty about federal clean energy legislation and a weak market for power purchase agreements, analyst James Magness said in an e-mailed note today.

Plug-In Cars Pose Riddle for E.P.A.

DETROIT — About two months before two new plug-in cars go on sale in the United States, the federal government is struggling with how to rate the fuel economy of mass-market plug-in vehicles.

How the Environmental Protection Agency rates the two cars, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, could have a big influence on consumers’ perceptions of vehicles that run on electricity. General Motors, which makes the Volt, and Nissan are anxiously awaiting the agency’s decision as they start production of the cars and complete marketing plans for rollouts in December.

Steve LeVine: The Great Battery Race

Indeed, the battery, among the most humble and unsexy of inventions, might just be the most important technological battleground of the next two decades. The discovery of the next key breakthroughs in the field could mean not just a fortune for a handful of companies, but the remaking of whole economies -- and the rebalancing of geopolitical power that typically accompanies such shifts. A Chinese triumph could speed the country's global advance; an American one could give U.S. dominance a new lease on life.

Toyota: Hybrid-home link cuts CO2 75%

TOKYO--Toyota Motor's vision of interconnected electrified cars and local electricity grids could cut carbon dioxide emissions 75 percent, an executive says.

By connecting gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles to a household's electrical system, home and car owners can cut emissions by coordinating total energy use. For example, an integrated computer system can program the car to charge at night, when electricity costs are lower.

Austerity clouds Europe's green energy dreams

The performance of Europe’s large renewable energy companies has been generally dismal, thanks to waning government subsidies, the financial crisis, the recession and, without doubt, overly optimistic initial public offering (IPO) prices. Into this dark investment corner, he Italian energy giant Enel hopes to shed some sunlight.

Australia: Twin challenge facing the Coast

Council invites the community to have their say on the Draft Sunshine Coast Energy Transition Plan, which discusses ways local residents and businesses can wean themselves off coal and oil and prepare for a future resilient to climate change.

This draft plan — now available on council’s website for public comment — identifies the vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with energy transition into the future.

Someone has to eat cost of corn prices' spike

NEW YORK, — Consumers could pay more for a steak sandwich and a soda in the next few months as food and beverage companies cope with a spike in corn prices.

Ending Hunger in Africa

There is no one-size fits all or single crop solution to solving global hunger, alleviating poverty, or protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. But the good news is that there is a multi-crop solution and it’s already being spear-headed by farmers on the ground: vegetables.

States divided in legal war over EPA rules

With climate legislation stalled in Congress and U.S. EPA just months away from regulating greenhouse gases for the first time, 37 states have taken sides in a court battle that could end up steering U.S. climate policy for years.

Just like the cap-and-trade bills that narrowly cleared the House and floundered in the Senate, challenges to the Obama administration's climate program have highlighted a bitter divide between industry-heavy states and their environment-minded counterparts. All of them are now lined up for a high-stakes legal showdown that will allow a few federal judges to decide what 535 members of Congress have not.

EU holds off on decision to move to 30 per cent emissions target

EU environment ministers once again failed to reach agreement on whether to upgrade the EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 from 20 per cent to 30 per cent at a meeting in Brussels yesterday, although they agreed to revisit the issue early next year.

Prop. 23 foes pouring money into campaign

Opponents of the ballot initiative to suspend California's global warming law had contributed $19.6 million, more than twice the amount given by supporters.

Large Gaps Found in Public Understanding of Climate Change

The report titled "Americans' Knowledge of Climate Change" found that only 57 percent know what the greenhouse effect is, only 45 percent of Americans understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth's surface, and just 50 percent understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. Large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans cause global warming. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Americans have never heard of the related problems of ocean acidification or coral bleaching.

Agencies Urged to Plan for `Inevitable Effects' of Warming in U.S. Report

The Obama administration, which has been unable to push climate-change legislation through Congress, is urging government agencies to prepare for the “inevitable effects” of global warming.

Strategies should be considered in every decision, and scientific data on rising temperatures and sea levels should be easily accessible to officials, according to a report from President Barack Obama’s interagency task force on adapting to climate change. The government also should develop a strategy to help poor countries contend with the climate change.

A warming world could leave cities flattened

EARTH is starting to crumble under the strain of climate change.

Over the last decade, rock avalanches and landslides have become more common in high mountain ranges, apparently coinciding with the increase in exceptionally warm periods. The collapses are triggered by melting glaciers and permafrost, which remove the glue that holds steep mountain slopes together.

Worse may be to come. Thinning glaciers on volcanoes could destabilise vast chunks of their summit cones, triggering mega-landslides capable of flattening cities such as Seattle and devastating local infrastructure.

For Earth this phenomenon is nothing new, but the last time it happened, few humans were around to witness it.

Note the use of wind turbines, a 'battery' of bricks, and fibre optic enabled communication.

Novelty through combination.

If you read the entire article, note also the value of community, or public, ownership of (some of) the means of production.

To make better local use of any excess wind power, especially at night when the demand for electricity is much lower, Summerside plans a novel storage scheme.

It is going to provide financial incentives for residents to buy special furnaces or space heaters that can be “charged” when there is lots of power, with the heat released later when it is needed.

Manufactured by a company in North Dakota, these devices use electricity to generate heat, which is held in a battery of high-density ceramic bricks. When needed, the heat is extracted from the bricks and circulated to the house.

To provide pinpoint control of the furnaces, and allow them to be charged any time that there is excess wind power, Summerside is running fibre-optic cable into each home that signs up for the program, and will remotely govern each furnace’s power absorption.


Huh??? Why wouldn't an electric hot water heater work just as well? Sounds like a big scam.

Nuclear power plants and high speed electric trains...

Why not electric hotwater heaters instead?

I don't know. Maybe this an equally effective efficiency. Maybe not. Maybe the storage capacity is insufficient. Maybe it's better to leave hotwater heating to the ongoing discretion of the homeowner/renter.

We are in a period of experimentation, trial and error.

We learn. Civilization moves forward.

Much to the chagrin of the endtimers, secular and religious.

There was a story recently about a data center in Phoenix that was conserving energy by using night time electricity to freeze plastic balls containing water.

Couldn't the same technique be reversed by using a water bath to melt parrafin in plastic balls.

Parrafin has a melting point of between 47 °C and 64 °C, a specific heat of of 2.14–2.9 joule per gram per kelvin, and a heat of fusion of 200–220 joule per gram.

Using phase change materials to store thermal energy is an idea which has been around for decades. They have been applied in solar thermal systems and would likely work also to store thermal energy from renewable sources of intermittent electric power as well. Combining local storage from solar thermal with electric input might provide the backup storage which is required with solar thermal for periods when there is less sunlight available, such as during days of stormy weather. When there are storms in an area, there is also going to be more wind power as well.

One could even build a local system combining PV and batteries to provide a structure's energy needs. With small scale PV and wind, the batteries could be charged first, then excess electricity could be channeled either into the thermal storage or onto the grid...

E. Swanson

There are other things "we" could redirect excess energy into.

In an ideal world - start and stoppable industrial processes. Alas, most are not that way. :-(

Processes that can scale and work to address environmental issues. 2 examples:
Electrification of metal grids in the Ocean. This causes coral to grow.
Forcing air into compost piles. http://www.magicsoil.com/ used to have pictures of their process. On a smaller scale Jerry Guinn's http://www.jetcompost.com/ These bad boys can compost a sheep in under a week. (for all of you who need to compost sheep)

Scrap steel is recycled today with electric arc furnaces in batches. With cheaper labor, an ideal "start and stop" process.

As is most water pumping within reasonable bounds (irrigation, potable water, sewage treatment).


Scrap steel is recycled today with electric arc furnaces in batches

So they have an answer to the thermal expansion/contraction problems of the crucible?

Cool. Or Hot. Or something going between the two.

There was a story recently about a data center in Phoenix that was conserving energy by using night time electricity to freeze plastic balls containing water.

There's a thing on the market that exploits that idea.

Ice Bear

You can keep heating the bricks until they are glowing. Water? not so much.

Water has a very high heat storage capacity but you can't heat it past a safe storage temperature of just below boiling-still to hot for safety in a residence-without a very expensive high pressure steam system.

The brick can be heated up to very high temperatures, therefore storing more heat in the same amount of space without danger of leaks or steam explosions.

High density ceramic material has 4.8 times the storage capacity of water.

We used to use these heaters years ago in the UK. Charged up overnight on the 'White Meter' then giving off their heat during the rest of the day. A great favourite with the cats. No scam,used to work really well.


No, no, no, Toil;
Common Knowledge tells us that storage of renewables is an exceedingly tough nut to crack, and makes the whole exercise a Futile Dream.

I've seen this unit, by the way, or one of its competitors. Looks like a Radiator Box against the wall. Boring as mud and very Heavy! Great Idea.

Thanks for posting it.

BTW, the 'Why not Water?' question is a redundancy. You can do either or both, and can surely find ways to wire a Fridge or Freezer to store off-peak or cheap-rate energy for later as well.

It's BB's boys, none of them has to block all the others..

I'd be interested in learning more about various 'batteries'/heat storage devices. Even the 'home-made' variety.

We have a several hundred pound radiator that I brought home on my nearly indestructible Cannondale bicycle trailer (original model, with kids looking backwards from the plastic body of the trailer). We were going to turn it into a nice looking base for a side table, but now I'm wondering if anyone has tried to use these as a means of overnight/early morning space heating using the low cost electricity now available during the off-peak. I was thinking of some kind of non-circulating liquid heated by means of electrical resistance.


Don't have time to read the article, but how does this brick of heat help someone in the summer? Wind only blows in the winter? :)

Why should it?

I have a winter coat and a pile of firewood that also don't help me much in the summer. My storm windows and snowshovel and so on.

I see the smiley, but still, what's the joke? Some 80-90% of my energy costs are in wintertime, why wouldn't I have equipment that I keep year round that is only there to get me through the 'Heat Droughts'

I haven't had the heat on full time since the second week of March... I still haven't turned it on yet this fall and i shouldn't have to for another 2 weeks looking at the wx models. This is in S. WI. You may want to invest in some insulation or move.

Whats the joke? The joke is that wind is a pathetic source of energy (it only blows part of the time and even then it varies)... Its not the answer (so we only get TV and lights when the wind blows?) :) :) :) :) :) :)

You either shot your Mom or she is hot.

If she's hot, there's the solution for heat in the winter.
That solution may not work for you personally mymomishot or work for other members, but it works for me.

Might even bring back spiderweb/earthmarine with his strategic wheelbarrow so he can put his dibs in.

Here, I'll rehash it, since every objection you mentioned is exactly what this thread was started for.

Wind is a terrific source of energy.. look at how much of it is being installed. BUT.. since it IS sporadic, periodic, intermittent.. then having a range of tools that can HOLD that energy, as heat in this case, right at your home, when it's cheap because of an oversupply .. these offer very useful and scalable (as in, LOTS of people want heat in their homes for a good price) tools to answer this challenge.

"...we only get TV and Lights when the wind blows.."

RU 12? We go through these things constantly. It's not that difficult to get.

Who says that wind is the ONLY grid source at that point? But when a lot of wind is blowing, then a matched amount of Burned-Fuel backup generation can be running slow or snoozing.. and then if there are a lot of simple storage systems like this Heater, and other units for Summertime that store Compressed Coolant or Cold in a similar way, then you also have a residual effect AFTER the wind is done, where demand shouldn't have to drag the backup sources back online as abruptly, since with a grid price signal, those storage systems would be ramping DOWN their draws instead..

..and who says I don't have insulation? Does that mean I don't also still need some sources of heat for my home? You're not making much sense, or you're not listening. November to March? Yes, that's about right for us, too, in coastal Maine.. which is why I said most of my heating dollars are spent in the winter, but I own the furnace and the skis all year round.

PEI does have a wonderful summer. Wonderful and all too short.

It seems to me that all solutions are local (though a lot of localities might be able to share identical solutions).

It's generally smart to start with the low-hanging fruit (though as someone who grew up on an orchard when sixteen foot ladders were common, I am aware that sometimes it is better to save some of the low-hanging fruit to top off the picking bag after descending the ladder). The opportunity to substitute low cost wind power for high cost and depleting fossil fuel power was knocking and a small city in PEI has opened the door. A great example of public entrepeneurship.

I think the important point is that novelty emerges from combination. What is the appropriate combination involving wind generated electricity in Florida or Formosa? I can't say. More informed and smarter people than I will find these combos.

Some electric radiators use a type of mineral oil, more for even heat distribution than for thermal mass. Solids (stone, concrete, etc) are generally better thermal storage than liquids due to their higher specific gravity. Metals give up their heat too quickly and suffer from corrosion. Concrete slabs, any heavy masonry, and trombe` walls are slow to heat up but release their heat in a gentle, even manner. But then there's the weight to consider. Since electric resistance heat is near 100% efficient, I've often thought of using some type of resistance heat incorporated into a wall of solid concrete or stone. It could be warmed during off-peak hours and slowly release its heat. Electric radiant floors for tile can work this way. Still, I think I'll stick to solar and firewood. Working well so far.


Simply stacking some concrete blocks near a south facing window in winter can work well as a simple heat storage system.

Since electric resistance heat is near 100% efficient

Let's think about this shall we? How was the electricity produced in the first place? Was it produced in a standard Carnot cycle plant at 35% efficiency? How much more was lost in transmission? How about the fuel efficiency and energy consumed getting said fuel to the plant? Maybe it is a combined cycle natural gas state of the art plant. Which is better, to burn the gas at the plant (losing 50% of the initial energy) or pipe it to your house and burn it there?

We could also look at this another way. Say you need 10 million BTU's to heat your house. That would be about 2930KWH, or 100 therms of natural gas. If you have an 80% efficient natural gas heater (standard non-condensing type) you'll need 125 therms. Now just plug in your local costs to do your own EROEI.

Red, I think he's just talking about one stage in the process.

IIRC, the thread was about using surplus off-peak Wind power in the form of thermal storage, so it would be fair to credit Ghung with that context in mind. There is surely line-loss and other issues to remember even still, but Electric Resistive heat on it's own is a pretty pure application of electric power, if you need to put that power to good use when it's in excess.

Yeah. What 'kuhl said.

BTW, it's been a great fall for our PV. Clear cool days, the batteries are at full charge (again) before 3:30 pm. I'm working at home, running around trying to find uses for the extra juice. Pump extra water (done), equalize the batteries (done), vacuum (done), dishwasher (running), laundry (doing), pressure wash the deck and bathe a dog (fixin' to).

All I need is to add a resistance heating coil to the main storage tank, where ~100% of the electricity it uses will be converted to heat.

You could always go for a sauna so you can use less water to clean off.

I built a sweat lodge years ago. It worked great. Clothing optional, but not encouraged ;->

That sounds like a great idea.

Next part, I'd think, would be finding a Scheme for first insulating the hell out of it, and then maybe ducting a fan and Closable registers at opposite ends, so that you can hold the heat when you want, and then release/distribute it when you want, using the form of the radiator as both storage and Heat Exchanger.

It might also be appealing to tie it in with a standard Hot Water Heater (Electric, Gas, Solar, Wood Heat? 'Standard' can be relative..) and let both the tank and the radiator be for storage, and just the radiator for output.

Fun to think about.

The cheapest solution is to fill the radiator with water and use an ordinary 1kW heating coil extracted from a hot water coffee kettle. It may take 1 or 2 hours to heat the water and metal but it will give heat overnight. Connect the heating element to a timer people use to switch on/off lights when they are out of the house. So 2 hours before you get up it switches on.

These have been used in our area of Colorado for years with the local utility providing incentives by providing off peak power at night to heat up the bricks. This seems to make even more sense if one expands wind power to provide the off peak electricity. The winter wind is also much more frequent and stronger than the summer wind.

Do you know if the local utility in your area has the same or a similar 'control system' as is being effected by the use of fibre optic cable in PEI? If you don't know, can you provide the coordinates of the local utility, so that I might enquire? Much appreciated.

They don't use a control system; they just provide incentives to use the electricity in the off peak times based on the purchase of an electric heater that stores heat in bricks. Too bad they don't combine this with a ramped up use of wind energy with a control system similar to the one you were talking about. The way things are going, with continued record temps, I'm beginning to wonder if we will ever have winter. I guess la nina is exacerbating the background effects of global warming.

Thank-you. I wonder if it might be possible to determine to evaluate the effectiveness of the 'control' system in a comparative study of the two utilities. Master's thesis?

They have also been used in New Zealand for decades, for the same reasons - cheap off peak power.

Full specs on commercially available ones here;


The 1970s is calling: it wants it's storage heaters and Economy7 back.

Well actually the game is given away by the 'fibre-optic' control that's tagged on. It's not required for such a system (Economy7 used a radio signal), but it IS a good excuse for diversifying into communications and entertainment. Get the fibre installed under this accounting heading, and you can get the cost back with your spin-off BB service later.

A Special Moment

with Peak Oil implications

The Sunday after ASPO, I took Metro down to Vienna, VA where Ed Tennyson picked me up. He took me to Westwood Country Club, where we sat on the 2nd floor veranda overlooking a beautiful golf course on a beautiful day.

We sat for almost 3 hours while Ed went through my draft of "A Citizen's Guide to an Oil-Free Economy" Chapter 1 - Electrified Railroads, paragraph by paragraph. Ed found one small error and had several constructive suggestions, but was quite effusive about the overall effort.

We then spent almost an hour going over what should be in Chapter 2 - Urban Rail and what he could offer.

After that, he went and picked up his wife and we had a delightful dinner together.

I do not know how old Ed is, but I did learn that they had celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary recently.

I very much admire Ed (and his wife) and it was immensely gratifying to share something I had worked so long and hard on with him, and get his approval.

Best Hopes for many more years with Ed,


Ed Tennyson's CV includes being the last living member of the team that prosecuted GM (he was technical support, not a lawyer) for buying streetcar lines in order to close them. GM lost and was fined $5,000.

Also he started up operations on the San Diego Trolley, helped plan DC Metro & estimated ridership when completed before first line opened (off by 3.5%), published paper showing that a "car only" city was doomed to congestion in 1960s, speced & ordered "SilverLiner" EMUs for SEPTA (now being replaced after 43 years) and much more.

PS: Draft copies available upon request

Great News, Alan.

I look forward to reading it.

$5000.. I could buy a decent E-bike for that.

Bob Fiske

And for less than half of that $5000, I could get a high-quality carbon fiber or titanium road bike.

Not to mention the cost/payload ratio of a $75 wheelbarrow and a good pair of boots.

Re: Someone has to eat cost of corn prices' spike, up top.

Opinion on what the EPA approval of E15 will mean is all over the place. Ethanol opponents predict the end of the world while many others say retailers aren’t going to be bothered with installing new pumps just for 2007 and newer cars so there will be minimal increase in ethanol demand.

Few seem to know or care about Peak Oil and its implications. Most see no relationship between sending American wealth abroad to pay for imported oil and the state of the economy. They appear to be perfectly content with perpetual wars for oil security, huge subsidies for the oil industry and are unwilling to make even a 15 percent change in liquid fuel usage.

It is no wonder the American economy is in the state it is in. People are living in the past, and the Chinese are right: Americans are lying to themselves. They deserve the economy they get because they are unwilling to change.

For example, gasoline retailers who drag their feet on E15 will see the eventual replacement of older cars with newer ones. Eventually gasoline prices will rise as Chindia demand and Peak Oil take hold.

As the supply of liquid fossil fuel remains stagnant or even declines in the face of rising world demand, what do gasoline retailers think they are going to sell? Perhaps their plan is to tighten their belts and eventually go out of business.

There seems to be an attitude that Americans don’t have to produce anything to pay for imported oil. Money will just be created out of nothing and used to buy all the foreign oil we want. We will bid the price up to whatever it takes to make sure we get what we need. Consumers in other countries will have to cut back, but not us. We can continue to live the nonnegotiable American life style.

This has worked in the past, so there is good reason to think it will continue to work. But I don’t think the world is going to let us get away with it forever. The Chinese and many others are getting sick of it and choking on American funny money.

The game is over.

The dollar made another low in its down trend this morning and gold is making new highs almost daily.

Other commodities are following right along.

A lower standard of living will be forced on Americans through unemployment and rising prices for imported goods as the dollar’s value declines.

But the corn/ethanol economy here in Iowa is doing just fine right now , thank you. Unemployment is relatively low and $5 corn plus perfect harvest weather have most farmers in a good mood. The approval of E15 is icing on the cake.


E15 -- which would be a 50 percent increase from the currently permitted level of 10 percent ethanol in gasoline -- will result in dramatic increases in the portion of the U.S. corn crop used to make fuel rather than food and, when fully implemented, could result in more than 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop being diverted to ethanol production. The corn ethanol industry has received over $30 billion in federal subsidies over the last three decades.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey:
"While this decision is good news and a step in the right direction, it actually does very little to increase ethanol demand or usage. Until E15 is approved for more vehicles it is unlikely that it will be available as widespread as it should. I believe the science is there to approve E15 for more vehicles and I hope EPA moves forward with that decision quickly."

Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association Chief Representative for North America, Joel Velasco:
"Many U.S. ethanol groups have argued recently that after 30 years of tax credits and trade protection they are ready to compete without subsidies provided the government grants them greater access to America's fuel pumps. With the EPA's decision to increase ethanol limits by 50 percent for newer vehicles, that day has arrived."

Corn is $5.67 today. At a conversion factor of 2.77 gallons / bushel, the corn feedstock to get 42 gallons of ethanol is $85.97.

WTI is $82.09 today.

It looks like it is more economical to sell the corn for non-ethanol uses and to buy the barrel of oil for production of energy.

The energy density of ethanol is about 60% of gasoline. Absent mandates (you MUST sell x%) and/or massive subsidies, 15% ethanol will, IMHO, find a very limited market.

If only 2007+ cars, SUVs and light trucks can burn E15, this limits the market even more.

A better use of our energy (pun intended) would be to drive less and when we do drive, drive more economical vehicles.

Best Hopes for my 28 to 30 mpg (city) 1982 M-B 240D outlasting me,


Best Hopes for my 28 to 30 mpg (city) 1982 M-B 240D outlasting me,

Heh. I owned one of those. So slow it couldn't get out of its own way, but reliable as death and taxes. :-)

Actually 66% the density but this is really a VERY GOOD THING and while more efficient cars save gas they increase the number of miles driven per Jevons paradox.

People will drive fewer miles between fill ups if you price ethanol equal to gasoline.
I can't imagine people wanting more trips to the gas station.
If necessary you could easily limit trips by rationing.

The goal should be to increase the amount of alcohol to 85% (E85)
which has 72% of the energy per gallon of gasoline, therefore
people will drive 28% fewer miles.
With M85 people would drive 47% fewer miles for the same cost.

The average commute is 100 hours per year or 3500 miles out of 10000 miles or so per person or 14000 miles per car.
Clearly we can rearrange our lifestyle to massively reduce miles driven.

The massively fewer miles driven will happen automatically as the US' huge trade deficit is corrected by the dollar falling against other currencies while oil exporters raise the price of oil to maintain their purchasing power. Oil at $150 and corn at $10 / bushel seem within reach.

The goal isn't simply to reduce miles driven--an atomic war would do that. It is to get people to adapt themselves to a reduced energy situation.
Corpses don't need to adapt.

Market based solutions seem to always end up as mass murder
( or 'moral hazard').
It's the 'trival solution'; ie.
x+y=0 therefore x=y=0, etc.


Why not come up with a GOOD solution?

Doesn't cost very much to lower the speed limit to 55 mph again. But "conservatives" don't seem to like that.

Automobiles have good mileage and low drag coefficients so there is no need to lower the limit for cars.

However, it would be a good idea to have all light trucks (SUVs, vans and pickups) obey the truck speed limits, which are typically 55.

Even the best of well streamlined cars get considerably better mileage as you lower the speed.But of course the fuel savings are even greater when you slow down in a poorly streamilined truck or suv.

I recently took a long ride in a ten wheel dump truck pulling an eight wheeled trailer loaded with a fifteen thouasnd pound backhoe.At forty five mph it was getting nine miles per gallon of diesel.At sixty five the nmileage drops of by almost a third.

Unfortunately at current wage scales and fuel prices, considering the extra trips the trck cam make and get paid for, the most profitable speed is flat out-so long as you don't wreck it or get speeding tickets.

Nobody likes it, and it doesn't work anyway. The numbers on the speed limit sign aren't what determines how fast people drive.

Right, it's the speed governors we'll install. Peacefully, of course. Wonder if that's been done in other countries? The other politically poisonous tactic would be GPS tracking of speed, following on using same for VMT to make up for shortfall in collected fuel taxes when we all go out and buy EV's. The discussions I've followed on the Oregon Gov's proposing using GPS in this manner are chockablock with the word "idiot," I notice. Also lots of speculation that he's just trying to make increased fuel taxes seem palatable in comparison.

Well, that's a possibility. They do that with some trucks, don't they?

However, there are less obnoxious approaches, like designing roads so people will drive slower.

I think that best use of a 55 mph speed limit is as an emergency response. If there's an acute shortage of fuel due to hurricanes, war, etc. Drivers are likely to obey in that case, and it would make a big difference without requiring draconian enforcement.

The governors have been standard on some trucks for almost 2 decades. The question is; at what speed are they set?

Sep 20, 2006 7:02 AM

Schneider National Inc, Green Bay WI, and Road Safe America have petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)to require electronic speed governors be set at not more than 68 mph.

The proposed regulation would affect Class 7 and Class 8 trucks manufactured after 1990 (in 1991 speed governors became standard equipment).

Eight other motor carriers including J B Hunt Transport Inc, CR England Inc, Covenant Transport Inc, and Dart Transit Company also signed the petition filed September 11, according to Schneider information.

Schneider said that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) submitted a letter of support for the measure to the FMCSA.


Many companies use GPS and "black boxes" to monitor their drivers' speeds. For years, JB Hunt had a tough time hiring drivers because their governors were set "too low". I've heard arguments that governors on cars would get folks killed while trying to pass each other.

The primary reason cited for governors on big trucks is safety, not fuel savings. Companies can (and do) doc their drivers pay for excessive fuel use.

I assume they meant "not less" than 68 mph instead of "not more"

Set at a maximum speed not to exceed 68MPH.

Another option is a "reminder" or anoyance device that flashes and beeps if a maximum speed setting is reached. Great for avoiding tickets, also useful to remind folks to slow down and save fuel. One such:


Avoid the consequences of speeding: costly speeding tickets, suspended drivers licenses, and needless injuries and fatalities. The SpeedWatcher is the ultimate solution to help rebuild and reinforce safe driving habits. It acts like a watchful co-pilot and warns you every time you are driving faster than you should be.

The SpeedWatcher is simple, reliable, and easy to use. And, it requires no installation! The device is independent of the vehicle's make and model. Plug-n-Play! Just plug the SpeedWatcher in to the car's cigarette lighter!

Some GPS units have this feature. The carputer I built for my pickup uses MS Streets and Delorme. I'm trying to find a MS compatible speed alarm utility. If anyone knows of one (open source), It would be much appreciated to help with hypermiling.

My car came with the warning bell, user programmable.

I set mine at 75mph, and it dings at me if I hit that speed. I don't usually, but if I do, it's nice to know so I can slow down.

My first two cars had lower-tech systems: My first, an '85 civic, had a speedometer that was about 20mph fast, so you would look down, and think "holy sh!t, I'm doing 90 when you were only going 70.

My second car just wouldn't go above 80 no matter what you did to it.

California is adopting a speed reducing program on all of the roads and highways I find myself driving.

Its called "potholes"

They must have licensed the technology from Pennsylvania.

Seriously though - potholes in California? You guys will always be amateurs. You gotta get a serious freeze-thaw cycle if you want to play with the big dogs.

Another, less draconian way to come at this than a speed limiter, is to simply have a speed recorder (some heavy trucks have this).
If you get pulled over, they can look at it.

And, if you are in a crash, and doing more than the speed limit, your insurance, even your third party, is VOID.
Technically then, driving over the speed limit could mean you are driving an uninsured vehicle.

I think that would get people's attention - and I would then be setting my user controllable, GPS linked speed limiter/buzzer to automatically be at whatever the limit is where I'm driving.

You guys actually need a machine to read the speedo for you? Yeesh! Should be part of your driving process.


Not heard of Gatsos, have we ;)


How is your solution not market based? Substituting less energy-dense ethanol effectively just raises the cost of driving so people will drive less. Raising the price of gasoline will do the same thing.

My position is that flexfuel E85/M85 cars will allow us to substantially move away from oil WITHOUT destroying the country. Your market based solution is to destroy the country--problem solved!
You are fixated on price as a solution. It's frankly idiotic.
Suppose oil goes to $1000 a barrel, is everything okay because Warren Buffet can still drive around in his Rolls?
Our economy is like a big complex engine where most if not all the parts must operate correctly.
Your solution would cause people to walk away and eventually it wouldn't function and people would start dying.
Instead people should adapt themselves so they can continue to function.

Think it can't happen?

It seems it didn't work out very well for some. Many failed to "adapt":

As communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the former Eastern bloc countries saw dire health consequences: more than three million people died prematurely, according to the United Nations.

Yet not all countries fared poorly. Whereas the life expectancy of Russians fell almost five years from 1991 to 1994, Croatia and Poland, for example, “recorded steady improvements of almost one year of life expectancy during this same period,” the study says.


You see a silver lining for the human race in Peak Oil?
Well, maybe the Earth will be happier, eh?

The only thing ways to make people buy less of something are to either raise its price or limit its availability. So you can either tax it or ration it.

I was just pointing out that since the US is importing about $600 billion more per year than it is exporting, the dollar has to fall in value versus other currencies. This raises the price of imports to people in the US and reduces the prices of our exports paid by people in other countries. The result is to bring trade back into balance.

Since the value of the dollar is going down, the price of oil imports denominated in dollars will go up. Furthermore, at the new exchange rate, foreigners will be able to afford and buy more corn from US farmers resulting in a higher price for corn.

The result will be higher gas prices and therefore less miles driven. This satisfies your goal of less miles driven automatically without taxes, rationing or other interventions.

Actually, there is a third way, and that is to have a better alternative available.
Cellphones are not cheaper than landlines, but they are a "better" alternative for most people.

Whether you consider ethanol or electricity "better" fuels is up for some debate.
But oil is way more expensive than coal, but we use oil because it is "better"

If the electric vehicles were a better option (which they are not at present) then we would move away from oil without need of taxes or rationing.

I don;t think the EV's will ever becomes better, but given the US gov will consider neither taxes nor rationing, I think their policy is fingers crossed and hope for something "better" to be invented, and hopefully by America, not China.

This is an interesting article on raising awareness to math:
The public school teacher highlighted in the article has this to say:

"So much of math is about noticing patterns," says Stern, who should know. Before becoming a teacher, he was a finance analyst and a quality engineer.

This is what I try to do in seeking interesting patterns in the data, but more to the point, trying to actually understand what is going on from a fundamental perspective. I wrote a post yesterday where I claim that the distribution of financial market returns is just a statistical property, amenable to reasoning under uncertainty:
Just like most things in nature, the drive is to natural disorder.

I would raise the question, does anyone else see the patterns in data, be they oil related or not, in this way?

One way Stern uses technology is by helping his students visualize his lessons through the use of graphing calculators.

Stern has it exactly right, if we treat knowledge seeking as a game, like a suduko puzzle, we can attract more people to science in general.

Could I have the names of the stocks which will appear in the rightmost 10% of that graph over the next five years?

Yes of course I can give you the stocks that had 2000% or higher returns in ascending order:
AVD American Vanguard Corp.
BOOM Dynamic Materials Corp.
FCN FTI Consulting Inc.
XTO Cross Timbers Oil Company
DECK Deckers Outdoor Corp.
QSII Quality Systems Inc.
MCF Contango Oil & Gas Co.
MED Medifast Inc.
JOSB Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.
AMED Amedisys Inc.
BYI Alliance Gaming Corporation
TNH Terra Nitrogen Co. L.P.
SWN Southwestern Energy Co.
CLH Clean Harbors Inc.
GMCR Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.
RGN Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc.
HANS Hansen Natural Corp.
LZR Emergent Group Inc.
LPHI Life Partners Holdings Inc.

The last 2 or 3 are "fat-tail" performers.

But as you are implying, knowing what will be there in the next five years is the tough nut to crack and what makes this a sucker's bet; and it explains why I keep an arm's length from the stock market.

If you change your mind and have any practical applications using this type of stock analysis, please let us know.

I have a feeling it will only get less practical. I just added Implied Correlation to my model.
No variability implies no real room for speculation.

So CERA doesn't have enough on its hands getting their oil price predictions consistently wrong for years. Now they want to make predictions about how much (or little) environmental damage development of tar sands will produce. Why should anyone believe them on this, arguably an area outside of their "expertise," when they are so consistently and howlingly wrong about things directly withing their supposed expertise? Why does anyone listen to them about anything at all?

The article on public misunderstanding of GW/CC was particularly depressing, but pretty much what I have experienced as an educator and from just talking to people about it. When I first started teaching in this area, I was surprised by how many people thought that the ozone hole and GW were the same problem. I guess most people can only hold one large atmospheric catastrophe in their heads at one time.

Mostly, though, this shows how easy and effective it is to confuse the public with intentional mis-information campaigns, such as the denialist campaigns funded by ExxonMobile and the Koch brothers.

It is much easier to cause confusion than it is to educate.

Amen and plus ten.

Protecting Saudi Arabia’s Petrochemical Birthright

The current situation is crazy: users are charged just 10 halalas per cubic metre ($0.027/m3) for the first 100m3 consumed in any given month. If the full capital, energy and operating costs were taken into account, the delivered cost of water in Riyadh is likely to be in the region of $6.00/m3 (the current regime represents a subsidy of 99.6%). At that level of pricing, it is not just the Kingdom’s current cashflows which are going down the drain every time someone turns on a tap, but the future wealth of the country as well. Water production is gobbling up the country’s oil reserves at an increasingly alarming rate.

Thanks for continuing to post your series of Saudi water articles -- it's a fascinating topic.

Looking at the rapid increase -- the increasingly rapid increase -- of Saudi oil consumption, it's hard to believe that it's explained by a bunch of extra driving. Saudi natural gas production rates haven't risen as much as they would like and the Kingdom doesn't currently have any import capacity. This means that they are burning a lot more of the oil they pump out of the ground -- presumably much of it to provide power and desalinate water.

Best Hopes for solar power on the Arabian peninsula.


(chart from the Energy Export databrowser)


presumably much of it to provide power and desalinate water.

According to Circle of Blue half their oil is going to this purpose.


Circle of Blue looks like an excellent site that really understands the nexus of water and energy.

Thanks for pointing that out.


Selling water for 2.7 cents per cubic meter when it actually cost the government $6.00 to produce is insane. Of course it doesn't really cost them that much because the government doesn't pay $80 per barrel for oil, that is just the price they could sell it for if they sold it instead of using it. And the water minister is right, such a price encourages waste.

But the larger and far more important picture here, I believe, is being missed by everyone. And that is Saudi is supporting an ever expanding population on a resource that either is in decline or soon will be in decline. When the oil dries up then the water tap will run dry and the lights will go out. A population used to lots of water and almost free air conditioning will now be very thirsty and suffering in 115 degree heat in the summer. Then of course there is the food that they buy with the petrodollars... but that is another story.

Ron P.

Water needs:


Liters of water
Drinking 5
Sanitation 20
Bathing 15
Food Prep 10


(a) By the year 2000, to have ensured that all urban residents have access to at least 40 litres per capita per day of safe water and that 75 per cent of the urban population are provided with on-site or community facilities for sanitation;

(c) By the year 2000, to have ensured that 75 per cent of solid waste generated in urban areas are collected and recycled or disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

c - Composting toilets.

So there ya go. Published targets with one of 'em being the boogie man of "da right" - Agenda 21.

Then of course there is the food that they buy with the petrodollars... but that is another story.

That story would be the greenhouses in Africa.

A lot of that bathing and sanitation water should be able to overlap as well. There is no need to defecate into sparkling clean water.

There is no need to defecate into sparkling clean water.

And yet most building codes do not allow for grey water. Which is too bad for water savings.


being missed by everyone

Obviously, TOD readers have not missed the point and neither have water activists. My "day job" seems to have turned into pointing this problem out to Californians who have bought into the fantasy of endless water. They have swallowed the desal industry swill that says they can produce water at the same price as imported water. So to all who believe this to be true, according to this article, the cost of desalinated water in Saudi Arabia is $7400 per acre-foot (325,851 gallons). The cost to me for city tap water is one-tenth that.

There are plentiful opportunities for conservation and efficiency but there is a disincentive for the industry to do either because they pay their bills based on how much water they sell. Our next step in California is to push for a decoupling of rates and sales of water as has been done in the electricity sector.

"A solution isn't a solution if it isn't affordable."

Well, by everyone I meant everyone except TOD members and the few water activists. I only meant about 99 percent of the people. So "everyone" is an exaggeration but only a very, very tiny one.

The truth of the matter is that we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the fossil fuel dependence hole every day.

But not to worry, soon "renewables" will kick in and all fossil fuel will be obsolete. The oil age is about to end but not because we ran out of oil but because we found something better and cheaper. Well... at least that is what I have been told. ;-)

Ron P.

Peak Oil is a global phenomena (although the effects in Saudi Arabia will be much more benign than in the EU & USA).

Water shortfalls are a local and regional issue.

I live less than 1 mile from a minimum of 160,000 ft3/second and an average 450,000 ft3/second. Some energy to filter & process the water, but the biggest cost by far is the piping infrastructure. Availability of water is a non-issue here. Dealing with rainfalls of 20+ inches is an issue.

The same lack of foresight and planning affects both water & energy (for those for whom water availability is an issue).


The Saudis are going to have to go balls deep into nuclear power... Its their only hope. I see they are investing in a whole city dedicated to nukes, so i guess there is some hope for those desert dwellers.

What are they going to sell to buy Uranium?

The last of the oil , if they are smart enough to get the nukes in place , in time.There are no permanent solutions to our problems.

But the nukes can put off the day of reckoning for a few decades or maybe even a century or more, especiaklly if they are smart enough to realize that uranium in hand is going to appreciate while thier dollar holdings evaporate like water on the sand due to inflation.

Right, since there's no way to use their paltry SOLAR inputs to desalinate water or power anything..

At least the Saudis are actually metering the water - there are still plenty of places in California that don't, most notably being the capital of that perpetually water wasting state, Sacramento.

Think Desal water is expensive? - so is liquid water in a cold environment. In Fairbanks, Alaska, residents there pay a metered rate for water and sewer of $18/100cu.ft, which comes out to about $6/cu.m

I do water efficiency projects for a living, and my observation from 10yrs of it has been that unless there is an imminent or existing water crisis, a price of over $4/cu.m ($12/100cu.ft) is needed before people and business start getting serious.

So either the government/water utility has to be really aggressive in conservation programs - some are, but most want a "market based" solution. And if you want a "market based" then you need to price the water and sewer very high to prod people into action. And, just like we see with high oil prices, their first action is usually to tar and feather the government/utility. If the utility can hold the line, so that people know high prices are there to stay, they will start to save water.

Even with "high" prices for water, like $6/cu.m, it is still less than your cell phone, cable tv, car fuel, etc, and much more important.

People forget how important a reliable supply of safe, clean water is - until they don;t have it, and then they will pay anything for it - after first tarring and feathering gov and/or water utility, of course.

The Times article which is the headline on Drumbeat is a good example why the solar initiative will fail completely.

Almost $1 billion is (mis)spent on a factory filled with robots.

I guess the robots are all going to run out and buy solar panels, like the robot Bender on Futurama.

Capital attracts the profits (if any) while unemployment is racing upward. Neither the Chinese nor the robots will be able to afford the solar panels for the exact same reasons while the solar industry crashes along with all the other for a lack of final demand.

At the same time, the employment 'base' gets dumber since it take no brains to switch on and off robots.

A roomful of monkeys and typewriters has a better chance of re- writing Shakespeare than does a roomful of economists have of figuring out fuel prices. In light of the above, who can afford not only the fuel but the goods the fuel is used in? If nobody buys all that stuff then nobody has the cash (return) to pay the high price for fuel.

Nobody will admit we have painted ourselves into a corner.

Much of the cost in the typical fab is in creating tools that will optimize a semiconductor manufacturing process. Automation helps because it reduces uncertainty in the process and increases yield which happens to be the discriminator in making a profit. Defects and contamination introduced by an immature or uncontrolled process will kill the yield.

So the key behind using many of the thin-film technologies is that they are more immune to defects and contamination. Since the films themselves may be amorphous or poly-crystalline, they are obviously less susceptible to manufacturing problems.

I would agree with what you are saying except for this possibility. That somehow we will create PV technology that is robust and cheap according to the above argument. We can only hold out hope.

Most of the employment in solar will be in sales, finance, legal, installation, and maintenance.

The manufacture of the panels is a high tech, automated process. It will also become the cheaper part of the total cost.

Steve, your anger is misplaced.

Solar panels will replace energy from coal and natural gas that now makes electricity. Mountaintop removal and strip mining of coal produce almost no jobs. The installation/maintenence of solar power systems will provide 1000 times as many jobs as the coal mining industry and natural gas production industry. Don't worry about the factory being run by robots, as the current energy source machines are run with very little man power (small natural gas power plants run strickly by computer, no humans on site).

train - But haven't you just offered the reason solar will have trouble competing with coal: thousands of times as much manpower. I agree that overhead spent on salaries would be a great side benefit but comes at a high cost. It' just hard to see solar making very much quick gain without huge govt subsidies. There's nothing wrong with solar IMHO...except few see the economic incentative to push that way very hard at this time.

I understand your point that solar has higher installation/capital cost that current coal and gas fired electricity. But the operating cost of solar is much less than coal or gas, from the stand point of the consumer using his own system.

In the near future coal, which provides 50% of US electric power, may get more expensive as oil prices rise. Did you know that half the price of coal delivered to Texas is the transportation cost imposed by the RR's. When oil goes higher so goes cost of that rail transport as diesel fuel, wages, creosoted RR ties, steel rail, and aluminum RR cars also rise. Although power plant coal goes up in price, oil goes up in price but at a smaller rate, and then solar becomes more affordable from an installed cost standpoint.

train - No doubt there are a number of good reasons to head towards solar. The problem seems to be that much of the value is long term. Unfortunately the free market values the short term. As much as I dislike the govt getting involved in such matters it seem the free market will only come to solar when it's too late to do much good.

I know someone who has been tracking PV solar for some time. His estimate is that the payout for PV solar will come down to the typical market horizon by 2020.

This is without any assumptions of oil/natgas price disruptions due to scarcity in the meantime. He doesn't buy into immediate peak oil.

It really is a race between depletion and replacement if his calculations are correct.

With that we just need a capacitor technology with a sufficiently high mass and volume storage capacity and oil will be obsolete for transportation.

Of course, for someone who claims to not believe in peak oil, he sure does move in the right direction a lot anyway. This is one of the reasons I think we just need to find ways to make alternatives attractive.

Most people don't need or want to know why.

Bang on target Rock.

There were some numbers here on TOD a few months ago about the cost of solar installations, and the cheapest utility scale ones were at about $5/W. Now the panel cost for thin films is just under $1/W, so even if you are given the panels for free, it still costs $ 4/W to build a system.

Now take a 25% capacity factor, at best, and you are at $16-20W for effective capacity - twice as much as the most expensive nuclear or hydro, and 20x as much as for coal/NG.

It is quite simply, not even close to being competitive at the utility scale. That is why countries/states that really want to waste money subsidising solar, pay huge feed in tariffs of up to 80c/kWh (Ontario, Canada).

For all the massive efforts going into building better/cheaper panels, it seems very little is going into how to install them cheaper, and this is clearly the stumbling block.

Comparing the cost of capacity instead of the levelized cost of electricity is comparing apples and oranges.

Welcome to the predictions department. Please take a number..

I don't presume success, and I do agree that automation has done as much to undermine Jobs as exporting them overseas has.. but there are a few points you conveniently overlooked.

There are no robots that can install solar panels (yet), and delivery, installation, sales, related contracting and other 'last mile' needs do offer a lot of employment potential.

I wouldn't be so quick to say that all those factory robots need is someone to turn them on and off.. they also need to be maintained, debugged or reprogrammed. We have the opportunity to make sure those jobs can be filled by our own kids again, if we allow Math and Science studies to stand a chance against Guitar Hero and the World Series in the next few days..

When the bugs are all worked out, the programmers need not come on site;there need be only two on site employees, a watchman , and a dog trained to make sure the watchman doesn't touch anything.

I suppose you're funnin', but really, even automated systems at factories have employees, it's just a couple dozen instead of hundreds now.

The Times article which is the headline on Drumbeat is a good example why the solar initiative will fail completely.

No, the Times article is evidence that the solar industry and the solar market are growing by leaps and bounds. What is happening in solar is typical of new industries. Just look at the early history of the automobile industry, there are countless failures by companies that couldn't keep up with others' innovations.

The solar industry this year is going to install over 10GW of capacity, or roughly double that of last year. Solar grew during the recession when almost nothing else did (not even wind). People (not robots) are buying solar en masse.

If you'd like to posit that solar will eventually fail along with the rest of industrial civilization, well, okay, but the Times article has nothing to do with that. Your anti-technology prejudices, and nothing else, are guiding your comment here.

I guess the robots are all going to run out and buy solar panels, like the robot Bender on Futurama.

Well, they would seem to be the natural market for PV solar.

Especially the ones that work the night shift.

I looked at the Wall Street Journal late yesterday and there was a story about David Koch supporting the Tea Party "movement". Here is the link, which might be behind a pay wall:


The heart of the story is a video of Koch speaking before a meeting of the organization he founded, Americans for Prosperity. Since the WSJ blog posting may disappear, here is a link to the video:


It would appear that the "Tea Party" is actually the result of an "astro turf" attack on the Democrats. Interesting...

E. Swanson

It would appear that the "Tea Party" is actually the result of an "astro turf" attack on the Democrats. Interesting

The use of Tea Party imagery has happened before. This one can be tied back to members of the Libertarian party and their event of dumping a report into the harbor. The Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty wanted to rent a spot "the tea party" had rented, and given the past of Paul and wanting more exposure they shared the venue. At some point that got the attention of the correct party hacks and BAM! here we are.

Not that the Tea Party matters. Political parties about the delivery of loot from one group to another and the position of the Tea Party is to stop taking loot and stop spending. Thus - they can't "go anywhere".

Well ... duh.

For those who missed it, the "new round of scrutiny" started here:

I think that there are still lots of people who don't get it, who think the Tea Party "movement" is just a natural outpouring of disgust and anger from people at the grass roots level. From the New Yourker article:

Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, has announced that it will spend an additional forty-five million dollars before the midterm elections, in November. Although the group is legally prohibited from directly endorsing candidates, it nonetheless plans to target some fifty House races and half a dozen Senate races, staging rallies, organizing door-to-door canvassing, and running ads aimed at “educating voters about where candidates stand.”

Free speech is a "right" of citizens protected by the Constitution, but corporations are not people and do not operate with the same concerns as real humans. So, how come corporations can "buy" elections by hidden spending used to pay for media adds and other campaign work?

This is Democracy? Well...Duh...What the US must do is remove the influence of corporations from the political process.

E. Swanson

Yes, that has been reported for quite some time, although it not in the MSM who never miss a chance to spin the TP as a grass roots organization. But do not worry much about the TP, it is a vehicle for one branch of the existing power structure to consolidate their hold on power - first by taking control of the GOP. Once it has fulfilled that role they will take away its funding, organization and access to media. They don't really want an actual grass roots organization out there. There is always the possibility of it getting out of hand and its owners losing control of it, but I think that is unlikely.

An angry and ignorant public is a powerful force, and I have no doubt that someone will want to use that to advance their own goals. When someone who is not part of the existing power structure goes that route, then it will be for real. I don't think the TP is it.

I think that there are still lots of people who don't get it, who think the Tea Party "movement" is just a natural outpouring of disgust and anger from people at the grass roots level

Yes. It is a natural outpouring of disgust and anger, from people at the grass roots level. But the people doing this are the same people who could not be bothered for 25 years to pay enough attention to what was going on around them, and now they are channeling their anger in directions I find so repugnant that I find myself obliged to stand across the road and voice my opposition.

Like many reports have indicated, a substantial portion of the Tea Partiers who have the time to show up to these events are retirees who are protesting to prevent the medical coverage they get from Medicare from being extended to those who are younger and poorer. If I ever get that cowardly in my old age, I hope the kids, mine or my community's, will have the good sense to help me dodder off a cliff.

Yes. It is a natural outpouring of disgust and anger, from people at the grass roots level.

Well, isn't that the same as the original Tea Party?

That was a protest by people wanting lower taxes, and/or more benefits for the taxes they did pay.

It seems there are no new ideas in politics, and not even new names...

Those Tea Partiers were pretending to be Injuns.

The question is who are the real Partiers today, and how much is electronic pretense?

As JC Superstar Sang it, "Israel in 4bc had no Mass-Communication.."

That was a protest by people wanting lower taxes, and/or more benefits for the taxes they did pay.

Really? How do you come to that conclusion?

Wasn't "no taxation without representation" the rallying cry for the American Revolution?

From the Wikipedia page on the Boston Tea Party;

The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it.
The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. He apparently did not expect that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea rather than concede the authority of a legislature in which they were not directly represented.

So the most important commodity of the day, was taxed, and the tax revenue went away, and was, basically, never seen again. Does this in any way seem similar to the situation between the various States and the Fed today?

Note that the Tea Party is a 240 year old idea!

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Wasn't "no taxation without representation" the rallying cry for the American Revolution?

One of many.

But the tax on the tea was lowered and it was after the announcement of the lower tax/discounted rate when the dumping occurred.

Remember your claim was:
That was a protest by people wanting lower taxes,

They got the lower tax/lower price. See the 1773 Tea Act.

Does this in any way seem similar to the situation between the various States and the Fed today?


As your claim was "That was a protest by people wanting lower taxes," and the Boston Tea Party was the result of lower taxes/lower price - you have not squared the circle.

If you want to have a Fed VS State fight, might I suggest you examine the 10th amendment?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn A far more reasonable reason for a fight. And, while you are thinking of a fight, do remember than over 95% of the Federal Crimes on the books need Filburn to stand to remain valid law.

Something from within the lifetimes of even some of the posters here on TOD and can be argued is bad law will do better than mis-attributing events of 240 years ago.

Very difficult to truly untangle what is grassroots from what is astroturf. But I agree that the Tea Party shows none of the signs of a genuine uprising. Contrast the Tea party, say, to massive strikes in Europe and you see the difference. The "cheese eating surrender monkeys" of France are showing the Americans what real determination is.

However regardless of who is elected in year x or year y it's becoming increasingly clear that the federal government is completely bankrupt in every meaning of the term, and owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Fed and the big banks.

America is on a one way train to political collapse, it seems.

In late 2009 and early 2010 I got the sense that things were speeding up a bit if you will and I stand by that. Like many here I think we are very close now.

My only hope is that we remain relatively stable for a year or two longer, as I haven't permanently relocated yet, and once political collapse happens, then all bets are off regarding mobility.


Three fuel storage depots have been reopened by riot police in France, as fears grow of a shortage at the pumps.


I can't imagine fuel issues not being an issue in the Good Ol' US of A.

I love France. A nation of hungry, blind tit-babies looking for nipples in all the wrong places.

Poor Sarkovski. He has to convince the ratings agencies that his country is still solvent, that France's bonds are worth buying, as well as try to get his people to grow up.

As you note, that would never happen here in the land of Adult-Sized Children known as the US of A.

"My kingdom for another nipple and diaper-changing table"

Big oil producer, too full of it, suffers rebuke
If you remember a few days ago in Drumbeat there was this news
Uruguay, S. Arabia plan for food security

I've followed these news on the Uruguayan newspapers, nothing or not much came out of it: The KSA Minister of Agriculture Fahad Addulrahman Bat Ghunaim with a delegation of Saudi businessmen visited the country, were shown various dairy farms, ranches. Showed interest in buying barley -of which Uruguay is but a small producer.

President Mujica, in what amounts to a strong rebuke, said that Uruguay was not interested in selling their food to two or three big customers, rather in keeping open trade with everybody at market prices.

In the past, when Uruguay was part of the "informal British Empire" and had to sell to the UK and the USA not a great benefit was left for the country and what is worse, they suffered all kinds of political and economic pressures.
To replace an imperialism with another form of imperialism would be a very bad business indeed.

There are alternatives to oil, or at least there are alternative oil producers, notably Venezuela which gives Uruguay better terms, sells to them at little interest (2%). Mujica recently praised Venezuela and Chávez as the best friends they ever had --and indeed he should, as they can't paid the oil bill, and Venezuela recently took over a chain of loss-making petrol stations from ANCAP (the Uruguayan state oil company) that they had in Argentina in lieu of payment for debts.

In any case, if a small country with no oil or gas or coal at all can disdain the advances of Arabia, because they feel that there's market for their food, America has little to worry about.

If you can't drive you can walk, but if you don't eat you die.

World's longest tunnel completed under Swiss Alps

AFP - A giant drilling machine punched its way through a final section of Alpine rock on Friday to complete the world's longest tunnel, after 15 years of sometimes lethal construction work.
The 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) high-speed rail link, which will open in 2017, will form the linchpin of a new rail network between northern and southeastern Europe and help ease congestion and pollution in the Swiss Alps.
Once completed, around 300 trains should be able to speed through the Gotthard's twin tubes every day, at up to 250 kilometres per hour (155 mph) for passenger trains.

Several Important Issues here.

A 15 billion Swiss franc investment for this tunnel and the 34.6 km Loetschberg tunnel, an investment that will last centuries.

This is equivalent to over half a trillion US $ after adjusting for population and currency.

The primary purpose of this massive project ?

To move freight from trucks to electrified rail.

SBB plans to run express freight trains through this tunnel at 160 kph (100 mph).

Best Hopes for the French & Austrian tunnels to the east & west of Switzerland.


Are you sure the AIG bailout wasn't a better use of funds? Think of all the coke that would have gone un-snorted if those bankers didn't get their bonuses.

And think of the poor hookers---
It helped them also.

Nothing really new here - the Swiss have been dong this for over a century.

The original St Gotthard rail tunnel was completed in 1881, 9 miles long and over 200 workers died on the job (including the chief engineer, who had a massive heart attack and never saw his tunnel completed).


That was 20 workers per mile, this new tunnel is 35mi and 8 men died, or 0.22/mile - tunneling is always dangerous work - changing geology is the constant enemy.

But that is still less men, and for much longer benefit, than died in BP's Gulf rig explosion.

Best hopes for more Swiss style solutions.

Here are two more steps toward transforming the energy system:

1. American Superconductor has announced availability of its new Solar Tie inverter, which smooths intermittent solar power fed into the grid. The first link is to a press release. The second provides more detail and contains a link to a brochure.

Similar to wind farms, solar power plants must meet requirements for reactive compensation in a growing number of countries. Employing the same technology as AMSC’s proven D-VAR system, which is connecting more than 70 wind farms worldwide to the grid, the SolarTie system provides instantaneous detection, accurate response and immediate results, ensuring efficient energy production and precise grid management. For example, if a disturbance occurs (voltage sag or swell, passing clouds or other event) the SGI will command the PV plant’s SolarTie inverters to provide the needed reactive support to control the voltage at the POI. AMSC’s SolarTie system provides sub-cycle (less than 16 milliseconds) detection and response to grid disturbances.


2. A planned "Atlantic Wind Connection" has been announced by Google Inc. and investment firms Good Energies and Marubeni Corp. This is a 350-mile undersea cable backbone to pick up electricity from offshore wind farms and distribute to four onshore points in Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey (in phase I). In-service dates would begin in 2016 and complete in 2021. Capacity would equal the output of five large nuclear power plants. Availability of the AWC would make construction of offshore wind farms cheaper and more feasible than before.

“Conceptually it looks to me to be one of the most interesting transmission projects that I’ve ever seen walk through the door,” said Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate electricity transmission. “It provides a gathering point for offshore wind for multiple projects up and down the coast.”


check out this interview with Hermann Scheer from the Friday, Oct. 15th show:


Incredible person, hugely influential advocate for renewable energy. Could it be possible to start a thread devoted to Hermann Scheer and his work?

He made a great comment about Cancun and the next round of Climate talks, and how any international/global response would be automatically the consolidation of compromises demanded by each and all, and so (as we've seen a couple times now) only result in something akin to Jeffrey Brown's 'Texas Salad Dressing' .. producing some 99% Water and 1% Oil..

He said much the same about Renewable Energy. It's up to the Locals, States, Munis.. don't wait for the Central Govt's to do anything meaningful.. even tho' he got it through the German System, he's betting on a bottom-up before a top-down set of actions on any of this.


OPEC Members Seek $100 Oil to Counter Dollar Weakness

The 13 percent decline in the Dollar Index since June has led some OPEC members to call for oil to rise to $100 a barrel.

I've been wondering how the dollar could keep losing value for so long, while oil has remained in the same range for several months now. Evidently traders know that the price of oil has a direct impact on the US economy and don't want to risk a higher price that would cobble this tepid recovery which would lower demand. They probably figure making some money is preferrable to shooting one's own foot.

But evidently OPEC members are willing to risk the foot shot in the pursuit of squeezing every cent. Strange, that on the one hand OPEC members claim such high oil reserves and even increase those numbers while (finite sources of) oil are being extracted for decades, yet on the other hand 'seem desperate' to get every dime possible, even willing in that pursuit to risk damaging the very world economy that stokes those profits. Seems like if they have such massive reserve amounts that will last for decades and may even increase by their estimation over time, then why push the world economy right to the edge of another deep recession? Do I smell a rat, or is this just good business?

What's remarkable is how cocky OPEC's comments are and yet there is not a peep from the Obama Administration or any other government outside of OPEC.

I interpret OPEC's comments as a tacit admission of Peak Oil. It's every man (or more accurately, every oil consumer) for himself.

don't want to risk a higher price that would cobble this tepid recovery

I think the US govt, and the banks, are doing a great cobbling job already.

$150 oil already did its damage, and the dominoes are still falling. At this point, I don't think it makes much difference whether oil is $30 or $130, none of America's internal problems are going away, though the $130 price will reduce the amount of oil imported from Saudi Arabia, so I support a higher price.

i just think the higher price should come from taxes, or an import duty, so the money stays here too.

Video for all the Metairie round of Joint Investigation hearings into the Deepwater Horizon disaster has been posted at C-SPAN.


The video is not yet available at the Board site.

Edit for clarity.

Using Metairie as an additional search term: right now, that brings up hearings as of October 7 and previous. October 8 also is available.

Metairie hearings

October 8

Chevrolet Volt: First Drive

After four years of planning and three years of hype, we've finally driven a production Chevrolet Volt plug-in "hybrid." We expected some character from the most obsessively engineered vehicle in GM's history. We didn't expect so many personalities at once.

Nice cutaway drawing of gearbox in story from Jalopnik.

What does this thing get? 43mpg? I think that is what MSNBC was reporting. Looks like an expensive ugly toy to me. I'll ride a bike and pocket the cash (or better yet spend it on alcohol and partying).

It depends how you define "milage" for a car like this. If you live 15 miles from work, and have an outlet at both ends, and use it just for commuting, you could conceivably go 100,000 miles without using up a teaspoon of gas. Never plug it in, and you will get much different results.

Based upon the conditions you cite, probably makes more sense to buy an EV. While this hypothetical person is at it, they might consider finding a way to live closer to work. Get close enough and then ride a bicycle or recumbent tricycle. Get even closer and walk. Live in the right place and take transit. Just plug and playing more expensive autos to try to solve our oil and greenhouse problems won't help much without getting rid of our overwhelming reliance on the auto.

I agree with all that, I was just pointing out that it is difficult to assign an MPG number to a car that only runs on gas sometimes, maybe.

Tstreet, I really don;t think it is quite as simple as you say to move closer to work. Who wants to/can sell their house for what it is worth these days?
And why go through the upheaval of moving, and moving away from you neighbourhood friends, kids schools, etc, for a job where for all we know, you might get laid off next year?

And an EV means you then need another car, or to rent one, to do the trip to Grandma's or anywhere else.

The car was designed for exactly this hypothetical person, to be more versatile than electric and less disruptive than moving closer to work - it succeeds on those two counts.

Whether it is worth the money, and whether it will be a good seller or a dud, are entirely different questions.

It is, as the article says, an engineering achievement, but that is not guarantee of being a sales achievement.

GM is clearly hoping this car will be the "suburban" of the next decade - lets see how it does in the real world before passing judgement.

Personally speaking, I would never buy a car from Government Motors, unless I had absolutely no other choice.

They already have enough of my money as it is, I won't waste any more on this ugly, overpriced, utterly useless freak of a vehicle.

The current circle jerk over the Volt reminds me of this:


The Chevy Cruze seems like a decent vehicle, but like I said, I choose not to buy from a bankrupt company with a bankrupt culture, bailed out by a bankrupt nation.

Here's a link to a recent special issue of The Journal of Peasant Studies focusing on Biofuels:


This should be free to download for a limited time.

I haven't had the chance to review it myself yet, but I figured people here might be interested.