Drumbeat: December 1, 2010

Tom Whipple: Peak Coal is Moving Closer Too

Those following the issue have known for years that peak oil was very close, but coal was always thought to be another issue entirely. Official estimates, made many years ago however, talked about 300 years' worth of coal being left which to most of us is synonymous with "eons." Neither we, nor our children, nor grandchildren, nor our great-grandchildren can expect to be around that long.

However, in recent decades, there were a number of developments that are now raising questions about the centuries-of-coal-left estimates.

Crude Oil Rises on Gain in Chinese Output, Reduced European Debt Concern

Crude rose to the highest level in almost three weeks on greater-than-forecast growth in U.S. private employment and Chinese manufacturing and on signals the European Central Bank will act to prevent the spread of the region’s debt crisis.

Prices surged 3.1 percent as companies in the U.S. boosted payrolls the most since November 2007, according to figures from ADP Employer Services. Chinese manufacturing grew at the fastest rate in seven months. Futures reached the day’s high after Goldman Sachs & Co. said oil will average $110 a barrel in 2012, up from a forecast $100 a barrel next year.

U.S. gasoline rallies on tight East Coast supplies

(Reuters) - U.S. gasoline futures surged nearly 5 percent on Wednesday on tight supplies in the U.S. East Coast and news of a snag at the 300,000 barrels-per-day refinery of Irving Oil Ltd in Saint John, New Brunswick, which delivers gasoline to the New York Harbor.

Japan average refining rate may rise to 90% in Dec on winter demand

Tokyo (Platts) - Japan's average refining capacity utilization rate is seen rising to 90% in December from the current average of around 85% as the country enters its peak winter oil demand season, coupled with steady middle distillates export margins, a Platts survey of industry sources showed Wednesday.

Japan's average refining rate would also be higher from the country's average of around 82% in December 2009 due in part to steady oil products demand in Japan and abroad, the sources said.

Paolo Bacigalupi's SHIP BREAKER: YA adventure story in a post-peak-oil world

Ship Breaker is set in a degraded, post-peak-oil world where the drowned coastlines are littered with the smashed wrecks of old sea-freighters, all acrawl with desperately poor "ship breakers" -- scavengers who get paid a starvation wage to extract the steel, copper, and oil reserves from the hulks of the old world. Nailer is a young boy, 14 or 15, on a "light duty" crew, and he's skinny enough to eel his way into the ducts of the ships and tear loose the copper wire; if he gets enough out to make quota, his crew eats. If not, they risk being fired, and turned loose to sell their bodies (or parts of them -- kidneys and eggs and eyes), beg, or steal.

Water, Wheat and Russia

In a time when there is much discussion of peak oil and the idea that other commodities are less abundant or more costly to access, one issue that might not get enough attention among investors is the shortage of water. Some political scientists, for example, have suggested that the next war in the Middle East may be over water not oil.

Grain is very water intensive. Roughly speaking, it takes 1000 tons (100 cubic meters) to grow a ton of grain. Find a country that is importing grain, and you’ll find a country that has a water deficit.

Vatican keen on solar-powered electric popemobile

VATICAN CITY – Anyone have a fast, solar-powered electric popemobile for his holiness?

The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI would gladly use one as another sign of his efforts to promote sustainable energy and take care of the planet, but one has yet to be offered.

White House Official: No New Drilling off Florida

(AP) The Obama administration won't allow any new oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next seven years because of the BP oil spill, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The area that includes the waters off Florida's coast had been considered for drilling as part of the management plan for the Outer Continental Shelf. Just a month before the April spill, the Obama administration had announced plans to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf.

"In light of the BP spill, we've learned a lot and understand the need to elevate the safety and environmental standards," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn't been announced yet. "We took a second look at the announced plan and modified it to remove the Eastern Gulf of Mexico from leasing consideration."

Corn Crops for Biofuels Production Have Unintended Consequences on Water Quality and Quantity in Northwest Mississippi

Growing corn for biofuels production is having unintended effects on water quality and quantity in northwestern Mississippi.

More water is required to produce corn than to produce cotton in the Mississippi Delta requiring increased withdrawals of groundwater from the Mississippi River Valley alluvial (MRVA) aquifer for irrigation. This is contributing to already declining water levels in the aquifer. In addition, increased use of nitrogen fertilizer for corn in comparison to cotton could contribute to low dissolved oxygen conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.

These are some of the key findings from a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to assess water quality and quantity in the Mississippi Delta, in relationship to biofuels production.

Distance costs money

Among the many compelling speakers at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO-USA) conference in Washington, DC this October, only a few gave keynote addresses to the attendees. Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at CIBC World Markets and author of Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, was among that elite. His talk, "Oil and the End of Globalization" hinged on a few key points. One of the most compelling, a refrain he returned to again and again, was that "distance costs money."

Jeff Rubin: Irish, Greek defaults will reshape Europe

German and British taxpayers are beginning to realize the downside of our economic interdependence in the global economy. When British banks have too much exposure to Irish banks, all of a sudden Dublin’s property crash becomes the UK’s problem. Similarly, when German taxpayers have to bail out bankrupt governments in Athens and Dublin, Greece and Ireland’s problems become Germany’s. How long will that model of international economic interdependence last?

Probably not too much longer, particularly if Portugal and Spain have to join the bailout queue, too.

China's private refineries blame diesel shortage on oil giants monopoly

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China's privately owned oil refineries have accused oil giants in the country of holding back supplies and fueling the diesel shortage that has plagued the country since late September.

The real reason behind the diesel shortage, however, was the monopoly of the oil market by a few state-owned oil giants that led to insufficient supplies when demand rose, said Zhang Yue, chairman of the petroleum unit with the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce (ACFIC).

How BP's oil spill costs could double

That optimistic view may turn out to be true. BP executives have said this is their "best estimate" of costs, adding they could turn out lower. But history shows there is ample scope for nasty surprises from BP. The London-based oil giant -- last year it was the biggest non-state controlled oil and gas producer in the world -- has so far consistently underestimated the scope and potential cost of the Gulf spill. It also has a track record of low-balling disasters, including the fatal Texas City refinery blast in 2005. Not only has the company underestimated the cost of repairing equipment and ecosystems in the past, it has also made overly optimistic assumptions about legal challenges.

Kazakh PM says oil players cause dispute

Kazakhstan will not seek to change the terms of production sharing agreements with foreign oil majors unless investors fail to meet their targets, Prime Minister Karim Masimov said in an interview today.

PG&E incentive in San Francisco, San Mateo County

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will give $25 debit cards to customers in San Francisco and San Mateo counties if they cut their use of natural gas in December, as the utility tries to avoid increasing pressure on the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno.

Myth & reality of Rental Power Plants

The on-going energy crisis has demonstrated the inability of the Ministry of Water and Power to recognize that Pakistan needs energy security for its sustained development. Various state organs are afflicted with a strange lethargy where even basic tasks are becoming increasingly difficult to perform. For example, behold the failure of key Ministries to bring out demand and supply options of electricity and affordability of each option by the industrial, agricultural, commercial and domestic consumers. This failure can be simply demonstrated by the pathetic submission of the Government to the IMF requirement that power tariff be raised by 18-20 per cent by June, 2011. Little attention has been paid to the development and exploitation of the country’s primary energy sources leading to gas load shedding and the disruption of all industrial activities in major towns of the country.

E.ON sells Gazprom stake for 3.4 bln eur

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's E.ON, the world's largest utility, agreed to sell its 3.5 percent stake in Russian gas monopoly Gazprom for 3.4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in a first step to raise money to expand outside Europe.

Energy price hikes 'put strain on millions'

Ann Robinson, uSwitch.com's director of consumer policy, said the price hike will leave the average SSE customer paying more than £1,200 a year for dual fuel, which will increase the financial strain on many households.

Although energy regulator Ofgem has announced a review of the market to ensure consumers are getting value for money, she argued that, with temperatures plummeting, Britons cannot afford to "just sit back and wait".

The EPA's And Enron's End-Runs Of Congress

Immediately after chances for carbon cap-and-tax legislation were swept away by a Nov. 2 Republican House cleaning, the Obama administration proceeded with its Plan B. At a time when Congress was recessed for the Thanksgiving holiday and the president was ceremoniously pardoning two white turkeys, the Environmental Protection Agency served up American industries a fowl of far darker feathering--a gobbler of regulatory control. That turkey, called the "PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gasses," came stuffed with constitutionally dubious prerogatives that extend the EPA's influence over a vast swathe of industrial sectors.

Energy profile: Where have we been, and where are we headed?

It’s hard to imagine a time when energy design and building operation in the United States was conducted on a “business as usual” basis. With relatively low oil, gas, and electricity prices and plentiful energy supplies prior to 1970, the design and construction of buildings had little need to take energy efficiency into consideration. Today, however, U.S. buildings are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% of water consumption, and 15% of GDP per year. To understand our nation’s high consumption of energy, we must first examine what brought on a surge in energy demand, then scrutinize where we stand today, and finally look toward the future for energy-efficient solutions.

The paradox of Washington state's clean tech industry

Rather than praising our state’s ability to create an ecosystem that both attracts and fosters clean technology companies, investors and entrepreneurs recognize that the Evergreen State has largely failed—thus far—to become a national leader in the development and deployment of clean technology.

Indeed, our state’s path towards a vibrant clean tech sector has been a bumpy one. Washington has not captured nearly the same share of clean technology investment as the state has for the life sciences or other industries.

A high-risk play on the new uranium boom

China currently has a capacity of 11 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power. In 2008, it had 9GW, and was aiming for 40GW by 2020. But that figure is about to be revised up to 70GW, according to Reuters. And a recent study by McKinsey puts it closer to 120GW.

To put that into perspective, that would mean China consuming half of current global uranium production (circa 50,000 tonnes). Where's it all going to come from? The vice-chairman of one of China's other nuclear companies says: "China is relatively rich in uranium reserves and can completely satisfy the needs of Chinese nuclear energy development for 2020."

Oil execs: Drilling ban will hurt for years

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico will remain light in the years ahead, despite the fact that the ban on drilling there has been lifted, according to a survey of oil executives released Tuesday.

Nearly 70% of industry executives expect drilling activity in the Gulf to remain below 2009 levels until at least 2012, according to a survey by BDO, a Chicago-based accounting and consulting firm. Some say it will never return to 2009 levels.

"One message came through loud and clear in this year's survey -- that legislative changes represent the biggest threat to growth in the oil and gas industry," said Charles Dewhurst, who heads BDO's natural resources group.

Crude Oil Gains as Chinese Economic Growth Counters Europe Debt Concern

Oil rose, trimming the biggest decline in almost two weeks, on signs of accelerating growth in China and shrinking fuel inventories in the U.S.

Futures gained as much as 1.7 percent after a report showed Chinese manufacturing expanded at the fastest rate in seven months in November. U.S. government data today may show oil stockpiles declined 1.15 million barrels last week. Crude advanced as the dollar declined for the first time in four days, increasing the appeal of commodities to investors.

Indonesia regulator warns maritime law may cut oil, gas output

(Reuters) - A new Indonesian maritime law could cut the country's oil production by 260,000 barrels per day next year and natural gas production by 22 percent, said Priyono, the head of oil and gas watchdog BP Migas on Wednesday.

A significant drop in oil production could tighten the Asia-Pacific crude market as well as reduce revenue for the state budget next year. The country's oil sector has already been struggling to lift production amid a lack of investment and ageing oil fields.

Power Shortage Across Poland Drives Prices Above Germany's

Poland’s electricity is becoming more expensive than Germany’s as the country fails to build enough plants to meet demand, threatening to make eastern Europe’s biggest economy dependent on power imports.

French Grid Forecasts Record Power Demand Amid Cold Weather

(Bloomberg) -- Electricite de France SA’s power grid expects record demand today and tomorrow amid a cold snap that has increased the country’s reliance on imports.

South Korea's Oil Imports Jump on Winter Demand, Rising Exports of Fuels

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest crude buyer, increased oil imports for a seventh month to meet winter demand and as fuel exports gained.

Imports rose to 76.8 million barrels last month from 59.1 million barrels a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in an e-mailed statement today.

U.S. Navy to ship jet fuel from Japan to Korea

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy is looking to transport jet fuel to South Korea from Japan, describing the shipment as routine even though shipping and energy brokers said such trade normally moves in the other direction.

Interior may force drillers to disclose chemicals

WASHINGTON – The Interior Department may require natural gas drillers to disclose the chemicals being used in a controversial drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says officials are weighing a policy that includes disclosure requirements for fluids used in the technique.

Energy-Water Nexus: A Better and Coordinated Understanding of Water Resources Could Help Mitigate the Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development

Oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion barrels of oil--or an amount equal to the world's proven oil reserves. About 72 percent of this oil shale is located beneath federal lands, making the federal government a key player in its potential development. Extracting this oil is expected to require substantial amounts of water and could impact groundwater and surface water. GAO was asked to report on (1) what is known about the potential impacts of oil shale development on surface water and groundwater, (2) what is known about the amount of water that may be needed for commercial oil shale development, (3) the extent to which water will likely be available for commercial oil shale development and its source, and (4) federal research efforts to address impacts to water resources from commercial oil shale development. GAO examined environmental impacts and water needs studies and talked to Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Interior (Interior), and industry officials.

Paterson Weighs Bill to Halt the Issuing of Gas Extraction Permits

Gov. David A. Paterson is considering whether to sign legislation that would impose a temporary moratorium on the issuing of permits for a controversial type of natural gas exploration that has raised broad safety concerns in New York State.

Pipeline for Qatari gas from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah completed

A snaking 244km pipeline to transport Qatari gas from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah was completed yesterday, drawing to a successful close one of the most taxing feats of engineering ever attempted in the UAE.

China Coal-Bed Gas Costlier Than U.S. to Drill, Standard Chartered Says

Extracting unconventional gas from coal seams in China is likely to be more expensive than in the U.S. because alternative drilling techniques are required, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

Companies must spend more to extract gas from China’s coal seams because they need to drill horizontal wells, costing about $2.3 million each, in a larger area and through dense deposits, Han Pin Hsi, a Singapore-based analyst, said in a report dated yesterday. U.S. explorers use vertical wells, costing about one- third of horizontal ones, with the fuel concentrated in deeper, smaller areas at a higher permeability.

Gazprom eyes Nigerian gas producing assets

Gazprom EP International B.V., Russia's gas giant Gazprom's overseas projects division, is seeking to acquire gas producing assets in Nigeria, Gazprom EP Director General Boris Ivanov said on Wednesday.

Nigeria's proven gas reserves amount to nearly 5 trillion cubic meters compared with Africa's total reserves of 14.6 trillion cu m. In the past 50 years, however, geological prospecting has focused on oil exploration.

Nigeria makes 65 arrests

Police in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta have charged 65 people with kidnapping, robbery and oil theft, some of them believed to have been behind the abduction of 19 oil and construction workers.

BP oil spill swamps Yahoo search engine in 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — It took a man-made disaster to topple a celebrity from the top spot on Yahoo Inc.'s annual list of most popular search requests.

BP PLC's massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast drew the most interest among the tens of millions of people that used Yahoo's search engine during 2010. The Internet company released its top 10 rankings Tuesday.

Michael Jackson was Yahoo's most requested subject in 2009, the year that the entertainer's death stunned the world. Britney Spears, another star-crossed singer, held the No. 1 position on Yahoo's search list from 2005 through 2008.

Iran talks must focus on nuclear issue: Clinton

ASTANA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said the United States welcomed Iran's decision to join talks in Geneva, which she said should focus "first and foremost" on Tehran's nuclear program.

Former Soviet republic giving up nuclear materials

ASTANA, Kazakhstan – The former Soviet republic of Belarus announced Wednesday that it will give up its stockpile of material used to make nuclear weapons by 2012.

Iran shuts offices because of heavy air pollution

TEHRAN, Iran – For the second time in a month, heavy air pollution in Iran's smog-filled capital has forced authorities to close government offices and schools and declare a two-day public holiday because of the health dangers of being outdoors.

A government committee decided pollution levels in Tehran warranted the closure of all government offices, schools and industries on Wednesday and Thursday because of "polluted and unhealthy" conditions.

Quarter of HK people 'want to move over bad air'

HONG KONG (AFP) – About 25 percent of Hong Kong's population wants to leave the city to escape its notoriously polluted air, which has been described as a health crisis, said a survey released Monday.

The report by public policy think tank Civic Exchange found that one in four people living in the teeming financial hub are considering emigrating over fears that its bad air could affect their health.

Google Energy Guru Will Head Policy Center at Stanford

Now Mr. Reicher is moving on to Stanford, where he will be the executive director of a new interdisciplinary center for energy policy and finance that will straddle the law school (where Mr. Reicher earned a degree) and the business school. The new center was created with a $7 million donation from Thomas Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, both Stanford alumni. Mr. Steyer was co-chairman of the campaign to defeat Proposition 23, which would have rolled back California’s clean energy mandate.

Tokyo Electric's Eurus Unit Plans 50% Expansion in Wind, Solar Capacity

Eurus Energy Holdings Corp., a unit of Tokyo Electric Power Co., may invest as much as 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion) to expand wind and solar energy generation by more than half and meet rising demand for cleaner power.

Masdar City clips another $2.5bn from price tag

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government's clean energy company, has cut another US$2.5 billion (Dh9.18bn) from the cost of its carbon-neutral city project, reducing the price tag to $16bn.

The savings result from a recent review that abandoned a costly pod transit system, removed a raised podium design for the buildings and scrapped a plan to install solar panels on all roofs.

Hedge Funds Short Green Power; Goldman Cuts American Superconductor Stake

Hedge funds increased short selling in U.S. renewable energy stocks to the highest level in a year, boosting bets against First Solar Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. as government support for low-polluting technologies faltered.

Uranium Miner Battles Floods, Skepticism as Warhead Stockpiles Dwindle

Cameco Corp. plans to begin output at the world’s largest untapped uranium deposit in 2013, just in time to make up for a shortfall in global supplies. The project’s critics say it won’t happen.

The Canadian company, the world’s second-largest uranium producer, is developing the Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan beneath almost a half-kilometer (1,641 feet) of water-soaked sandstone. The mine, six years behind schedule because of floods, could meet 10 percent of current global needs.

Climate change takes wind out of energy sails

VANCOUVER - Researchers at Simon Fraser University have tracked a slowing of wind speeds over land in the Pacific Northwest, which appears linked to climate change and has implications for the nascent wind energy field.

Australia: Household panel subsidies to end earlier

THE rooftop solar industry has suffered another hit, with the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, announcing subsidies for households that install panels will end sooner than planned.

End Ethanol Subsidies, Senators Say

Subsidies and tariffs to promote domestic ethanol production are “fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unwise” and should be ended, a bipartisan group of United States senators declared in a letter to the chamber’s leaders on Tuesday.

“Eliminating or reducing ethanol subsidies and trade barriers are important steps we can take to reduce the budget deficit, improve the environment, and lessen our reliance on imported oil,” the senators wrote to the Democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, and the Republican minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell.

Farewell to a Great Web Effort at Worldchanging

When I dove into the blogosphere with Dot Earth in 2007 after a quarter century of conventional journalism, I was excited to find some “veterans” — if that word is remotely appropriate online — actively pursuing a vision of a humanized, but thriving, planet over at the Web site Worldchanging.com.

Without casting every challenge as a political battle or focusing on apocalyptic visions of a despoiled planet, Alex Steffen, first with Jamais Cascio and then a global community of contributors, built a conversation around designing a human future that could work for the long haul. We didn’t agree on everything, but I loved — and have tried to emulate — their constructive approach.

How do you sell an 'ecological civilization'?

There were lessons for Seattle greens in the PR strategies of Big Oil and automakers at Shanghai 2010. The climax of an expo selling sustainability was a global summit on urban development.

The Mystery of the Red Bees of Red Hook

It seems natural, by now, for humans to prefer the unnatural, as if we ourselves had been genetically modified to choose artificially flavored strawberry candy over strawberries, or crunchy orange “cheese” puffs over a piece of actual cheese. But when bees make the same choice, it feels like a betrayal to our sense of how nature should work. Shouldn’t they know better? Or, perhaps, not know enough to know better?

China says 2010 pollution goal met

China has met its 2010 target to cut emissions of key pollutants and is on track to meet its energy efficiency goal, state media on Wednesday quoted the country's top climate change official as saying.

East African leaders to hold food security, climate change summit in Tanzania

Heads of state of the five East African Community (EAC) will hold a summit this week on food security and climate change , according to a statement from the bloc's Secretariat.

Leaders of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are meeting on Thursday and Friday at the headquarters of the EAC in Tanzania's northern town of Arusha.

Global Climate Change Talks Begin in Cancún

WASHINGTON — Global talks on climate change opened in Cancún, Mexico, on Monday with the toughest issues unresolved and little expectation of a breakthrough on shaping an international treaty to curb emissions of the heat-trapping gases linked to global warming.

But some who attended the meetings, sponsored by the United Nations, expressed muted hope that small steps could be made on a decades-long journey to reduce the planetary threat of rising global temperatures.

Fears US will walk out of 'last chance' climate talks

CANCUN: The US has adopted an all-or-nothing position at the Cancun climate change summit, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands.

U.A.E., Qatar Seek UN Credits to Shrink Biggest Carbon Dioxide Footprints

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are seeking United Nations credits to develop alternative-energy projects and cut the world’s most-intensive emissions.

Masdar, a renewable-energy company based in Abu Dhabi, plans to get tradable emission credits for solar and waste-heat projects by next year under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, a company spokesman said in an e-mail last week. State-run Qatar Petroleum said it expects credits for reducing the flaring of a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

Japan Says ‘No’ to Kyoto Extension, Wants World Treaty

(Bloomberg) -- Japan said it won’t help extend the Kyoto Protocol accord to curb greenhouse-gas emissions after it expires in 2012, saying instead that a new global agreement is necessary to combat climate change.

The Kyoto treaty is “outdated” because it only regulates 27 percent of global emissions, Kuni Shimada, special adviser to Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, said yesterday in an interview at United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

Bangladesh pushes for climate cash as UN meets

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh on Wednesday called for billions of dollars to be made available quickly for its fight against climate change, as United Nations' environment talks entered their third day in Mexico.

The low-lying country is vulnerable to the catastrophic impact of global warming with natural disasters killing nearly 200,000 people in the last 30 years, environment minister Hasan Mahmud told reporters in Dhaka.

EU, U.S., Japan Say $9.9 Billion Spent on `Fast Start' Climate Change Aid

The European Union, Japan and the U.S. said they’ve channeled a total of $9.9 billion in climate aid to developing countries this year, fulfilling pledges made a year ago at United Nations global warming talks in Copenhagen.

Climate science chief sees `huge gaps' in research

CANCUN, Mexico—From the methane-laden tundra of the far north to the depths of the oceans, world governments need to spend more on cutting-edge research to "get a handle" on how much and how quickly the world will warm in decades to come, says the head of the U.N. climate science network.

"There are huge gaps in the effort as far as scientific research is concerned," Rajendra Pachauri told The Associated Press, pointing to concerns that the Arctic's thawing permafrost is releasing powerful global warming gases, and the oceans might eventually turn from absorbing carbon dioxide to spewing it into the atmosphere.

Weird weather leaves Amazon forest thirsty

CAAPIRANGA, Brazil — The river loops low past its bleached-white banks, where caimans bask in the fierce morning sun and stranded houseboats tilt precariously. Nearby sits a beached barge with its load of eight trucks and a crane. Its owners were caught out long ago by the speed of the river's decline.

This is what it looks like when the world's greatest rainforest is thirsty. If climate scientists are right, parched Amazon scenes like this will become more common in the coming decades, possibly threatening the survival of the forest and accelerating global warming.

The environmental and economic consequences could be huge — for Brazil, for South America, for the planet.

Quick update from the frozen wastelands of the UK.

National Grid shows http://marketinformation.natgrid.co.uk/gas/frmPrevalingView.aspx

 Alert Status
	Today 	Tomorrow
	01/12/2010 	02/12/2010
Trigger (mscm) 	456.30 	456.30

Forecast Demand 	
454.0 	  	(13:00)  (seasonal norm 348)
 Likelihood to Interrupt   for 01/12/2010
LDZ 	        NSL 	Non NSL
Scotland 	High 	High
Northern 	Low 	Low
NorthWest 	Medium 	Low
NorthEast 	Low 	Low
EastMidlands 	High 	Low

In other words demand is forecast as 454mcm (seasonal norm 348), max current capacity is 456mcm. We are just on the verge of a GBA but still projected to just scrape through - but note "High" interrupt probability in some areas for customers on certain contracts. Oh and I notice Long Range Storage is being drained at substantially more than its supposed maximum rate again. At current drain rate the winter had better end about the end of January... Still no sign of a return to even normal temperatures showing up in the models for the next week or two.

The model outputs I posted last week proved generally accurate.

Has anyone read anything recently about any changes in the speed of the Gulf Stream?

That's a very good question. But, in more detail, what do you mean by "the Gulf Stream"? Are you thinking of the flow thru the Florida Strait, or are you interested in the flow which exits the US coast to become the Gulf Stream. That flow then meanders across the North Atlantic, with some (usually) branching toward Northern Europe as the North Atlantic Drift Current, the rest flowing toward the south as circulation around the Sub Tropical Gyre of the Atlantic.

Obtaining real time measurements of this entire flow field is quite complex. There is a system in place to measure the Florida Current and also to make measurements of the deeper Western Boundary Currents which are thought to represent the return the flow of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC). There is a program, RAPID, in the UK which is intended to put all this together to assess the flow. I don't think they produce short term data results...

E. Swanson

If WestTx is saying why is UK freezing for 2 years in a row? Wind direction. I don't know about other locations but temperatures in the UK can jump 15 - 20 centigrade in 24 hrs just on wind change alone. My guess is the gulf stream gives us about 3 centigrade over similair latitudes, sea proximity generally stops us going too low in Winter. If the sea was a few degrees colder it would be big news fast [or maybe not..]

Wind direction

That basically hits it. Where and how much heat is being exchanged between the polar regions and the mid lattitudes? There is evidence that low sea ice in the fall leads to weaker circumpolar winds, which allows polar air to head south more easily. Of course if the wind is flowing from the north at some longitude, it must be flowing from the south at another, so if these sorts of heat exchanges are becoming more common. some other area is probably enjoying unseasonable warmth. I think the meteorologst types use North Atlantic Oscillation to describe one aspect of this.

There is evidence that low sea ice in the fall leads to weaker circumpolar winds, which allows polar air to head south more easily.

That fits with the general understanding that as the difference in temperature between the poles and equator lessen, due to warming at the poles (as evidenced by less ice), that in turn causes lower worldwide wind speeds. Ironically, or karmicially, a sort of negative feedback from added emissions as they reduce energy from wind turbines.

So, even though they are circumpolar winds, less differentiation in temperature reduces wind speed, and can probably also cause changes in wind direction as seen with polar air heading south. Although we are not use to this cold air down here in Northern California, I suppose we may have to get use to it. Recently it has been downright chilly.

I think that' another area that has fallen through the research gap mentioned in the penultimate article. My impression is that renewed severely cold winters are due to a pattern in the North Atlantic Oscillation, but that this in turn may be driven by a newly warm Arctic.

OK, others more savvy about this stuff can now jump in and tell me what I got wrong.

In my opinion, after some effort to understand the NAO, I think that the NAO isn't a cause, but a result. The NAO is an index calculated from the difference between the atmospheric pressure at the surface in two places, the first often being the Azores and the second being in Iceland. As the storm tracks pass over Iceland, the average pressure will be less than that at the Azores, thus the resulting NAO will be positive. When the storm tracks do not pass over Iceland, the NAO becomes negative. From my perspective, the NAO just tells us that the flow patterns are different. It does not CAUSE the flow patterns, IMHO.

Last Winter, the NAO index was very negative. That is likely to be true again in recent days, as there appears to be a similar blocking pattern with the flow over the UK arriving from the northeast. If this pattern persists thru the rest of Winter, I would expect a repeat of last Winter's rather extreme conditions over the UK and Northern Europe. Or, the pattern might shift as things progress, time will tell. There have been GCM model experiments that suggest that this pattern is related to the loss of sea-ice in summer, due to Global Warming...

E. Swanson

What do you make of the delay in ice coverage on Hudson's Bay and Baffin Strait?


For what it's worth, I presented a paper almost 19 years ago in which I suggested that Hudson Bay was a likely area which would first evidence Global Warming. That pink boundary line is the average extent from the start of the satellite record, 1979-2000. Baffin Bay and Davis Strait appear to be under the influence of a warm flow off the Atlantic in recent days, which might be similar to what happened over southern Greenland last Winter.

However, there is quite a bit less sea-ice this year compared with last year. Here's a link, which allows one to look at the sea-ice extent over the past month as well as compare the latest with last year on this date. Over such short time periods, one is looking more at weather impacts, not climate...

E. Swanson

Is there a tipping point where ice loss will trigger further ice loss in a runaway cycle? For example clear ocean circulating more heat to melt more ice.


I haven't got the links, but IIRC one of the top people in the ice-watching trade thinks the tipping point was passed back in '02. Another, '05.

Arctic ice is in termimal decline. When the process runs to completion, almost certainly the Arctic will be open water all year 'round. Here's a discussion:


With all due respect to the author, his claim that the Arctic will likely be ice free year round isn't mainstream. He notes:

This speculation is clearly a considerable over-simplification — not a back-of-the-envelope calculation so much as a topologically infeasible back-of-the-back-of-an-envelope scribble — but the basic logic seems sound to me.

I think he makes several errors in his sweeping assertion. First off, the difference in albedo between the ocean and sea-ice only applies during the summer months and during that time, the elevation of the sun above the horizon never rises above 23.5 at the North Pole. Most of the summer, it's less, which produces a rather large reflection fraction, from open water, i.e., a high albedo. Test results show an albedo value as large as .25 or .30 with the sun at such a low elevation. Further, once the sea-ice begins to melt in summer, the melt water is trapped on the surface in ponds, which thus produces a lower albedo than that of frozen sea-ice, especially when that frozen sea-ice has a cover of fresh snow. Once the summer sun is gone, the temperature will drop below freezing and new sea-ice will begin to form. The thickness of the sea-ice will increase until the effective insulation from that sea-ice prevents additional freezing at the lower surface.

While I suspect that we will soon see a year in which the Arctic sea-ice melts completely, I seriously doubt that the warming will progress to a point that no sea-ice forms in winter.

E. Swanson

In predicting that the Arctic will remain ice-free year round, he is somewhat ignoring the fact that the sun doesn't rise for six months during winter. The sea ice will still freeze during that six months.

The prediction that the ice will melt during the six months the sun is up is more likely, but not a certainty. The sun still does not rise to more than 23.5 degrees above the horizon at the North Pole. If the ice does melt during the six months of daylight, people will be able to run ships from Europe to Asia via the Arctic Ocean during at least part of the summer. If not, not.

Well, weird things happen when a formerly solid sheet of ice melts completely. We're on a different planet. Peter Ward, the paleo-climatologist, claims that there were periods when the Arctic went ice-free throughout the year. High levels of GHGs including water vapor mean that the heat is locked in even when the sun doesn't shine for half a year.

I think this unlikely to happen anytime soon, but it is not quite as totally impossible as one would think from the most basic and salient features of the place, apparently.

No, but I saw a BBC TV chart from our Met Office a few days ago that showed the normally straightforward West-to-East jet stream developing the most extraordinary looking sharp kink at a point out in the Atlantic west of us, changing to a northerly course going as far as southern Greenland, and then, with another sharp course change, descending to the east of the British Isles, thereby pulling down a mass of cold air from northern Norway. The sea east of us (the North Sea) is still relatively warm (~10 degC ?) and provides plenty of moisture for snow and some spectacular electrical displays especially on our east side.

Yes we are getting "Lake effect" snow - and lots of it unfortunately. Here's a video someone posted of lightning hitting the wind turbines at the Michelin tyre factory in Dundee during a snowstorm on Sunday.


Actually physical flow is currently 458 mcm/day. So we are delivering over 100% of capacity. We haven't tapped short range storage yet. The Met Office 5 day forecast has a small thaw, at least in the south, over the weekend.

However, we are on the edge. It would only take one system to fail (like a North Sea gas pipeline to freeze, as it did last year) to push us over into a real alert.

The problems will come at the end of winter, when our storage runs dry.

As I understand it, Short Range Storage is really only supposed to be used to keep the pipelines pressurised as a last resort - especially in the event of a distribution problem. I don't think it is counted as part of the GBA calculation.

The models have been backing away from any significant temporary thaw for the weekend in the south. In fact it may just turn into another heavy snowfall (the latest GFS forecasts heavy snow for the south of England including London on Sunday especially). However model outputs more than a few days out have to be taken with caution of course.

Edit I notice "Likelihood to Interrupt" has just switched back to "Low" for all regions so I guess they are confident now about getting through today. Let's just hope nothing unexpected happens and that our friends in Norway can keep the supplies flowing!

This newsarticle Dry well in the Norwegian Sea in conjunction with another dry well earlier this year ( the best 2 nat_gas prospects for the last few years) has spawned speculations high up in the Norwegian petroleum hierarchy whether Norway must downgrade her till date stated nat_gas reserves......

Reports of a 30% cut in "future nat_gas reserves" is the going speculation today. Btw, it's cold today -10 C right now.

Here's the press release from the NPD.

It says

The objective of the well was to prove gas in Middle Jurassic reservoir rocks. The well did not encounter the reservoir rock, and was dry.

That does not sound very conclusive to me? Wouldn't they need to "encounter"* the reservoir rock to tell if there is gas in it or not? Or does this indicate that the presumed reservoir does not exist or is much smaller than thought? Any of you professionals care to comment?

* Is this good/correct english? The word used in the norwegian version of the press release is "påtraff", which is slightly archaic but does translate literally as "encounter". But wouldn't "hit", or "intersect", or "find" be better?

encounter is fine, maybe not as precise as intersect.
Sounds like the geologists/geophysicists screwed up. They thought those layers down at XXXmeters were the extention of rock layer Y, but unexpectedly they were something else entirely.

My "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary" (admittedly nearly twenty years old, despite the front page proclaiming "New Edition" 8-) says:

en-coun-ter [...]1 meet or find oneself faced by (sth/sb unpleasant, dangerous, difficult, etc) [...] 2 meet (a friend, etc) unexpectedly.

This makes a sentence like "We encountered the source rock today" sound more like a "Whoops!" moment than something hoped and aimed for.

Oh, well. Guess I'll put "new english dictionary" on my Christmas present wish list

So more properly, they "encountered" another formation, instead of intersecting the expected formation.

They didn't screw up, they were probably drilling step-out wells to delineate the boundaries of the reservoir. Since the well did not encounter the reservoir rock, they now know that the reservoir does not extend as far as the well they drilled.

Having found the end of the reservoir, they can now go and drill other prospects since they now know how big this reservoir is. (Not as big as they would like).

They didn't screw up, they were probably drilling step-out wells to delineate the boundaries of the reservoir.

Wouldn't 3D seismic allow one to follow the formation layer laterally? I would think one could be uncertain about whether the formation contains the hydrocarbons, but not about its extent and burial depth/thickness.

Wouldn't 3D seismic allow one to follow the formation layer laterally?

Not necessarily. You don't really know exactly what's down there until you drill a well into it.

Although it is disconcerting that the target was in the Middle Jurassic, and they terminated the well in the Lower Cretaceous. Why they stopped there, I don't know. There's a great deal left unexplained in the article.

paal - The article highlights one of our basic problems with terminology when discussing "reserves". These were apparently exploration targets. As thus they were never "reserves" per se. At best they might be called potential reserves. If every well drilled for as yet to be discovered oil/NG were to have those objectives classified as "reserves" then we could easily double/triple the amount of oil/NG "reserves" around the globe over night.

By general practice neither of these two prospects every contained any "reserves" and thus no reserves were lost. They had exploration reserve potential. By simple definition any reserve potential is not a reserve until it is drilled and proven. Similar to folks who like to say the USGS has estimated X billion bo "RESERVES" in the Arctic Basin. The X billion bo IS NOT RESERVES. They haven't been proven. They are potential reserves. Every exploratory well drilled this year is done to search for some amount of POTENTIAL RESERVES. What they find, IOW the reserves proven, is a different matter. Or to put in very simplistic terms when I pull a crad from a single deck I have the potential of pulling the ace of spades. It doesn't mean I will pull the ace or have proof that I will pull the ace. I haven't pulled the ace of spades...I haven't pulled any cards. The two Norwigian wells never had oil/NG reserves. They only had the potential reserves. They didn't lose reserves. By drilling the dry holes they just proved those reserves didn't exist. I've noted this confusion before: the is no such thing as a "reserve number". There are proven reserve numbers, probable reserve numbers, speculative reserve numbers, ect. But the term "reserve" alone is really meaningless except for what definition one might correctly/incorrectly assign to it.

rock - due to those two dry drilling efforts (... in addition to other disappointing dry prospects as of late) the petro_authorities are discussing the need to sober_up their views on "Ultimate Nat.gas originally in place" on the Norwegian continental shelf.
Todays conventional views for theoretical nat_gas reserve estimates will be scrutinized in the time coming ... preliminary speculations says maybe a 30% cut in previous numbers are closer to reality - thus cutting Norway's time in the petro_limelight with a large time-interval.

Mind you- exploration over the last decade in Norwegian waters has been a Grand Scale Disappointment.
The last BIG FIND over here was the Ormen Lange Play(nat-gas) in 1997, source of the Langled Pipeline going to Easington /UK. Actually the above named dry field was upfront hyped to be on par with Ormen Lange...Jezzz.
The Langled Pipeline was supposed to become a main artery to which future new BIG finds cloud be interconnected ...... BUT where/when will that happen..?.. cus' there is no natgas found to fill this wish. Not yet - not ever?

So instead of a prognosticated 100-130 billion standard cubic meters exported in 2020- that volume may end up at 70 billion standard cubic meters only- and actually down to around 50.
This is what it's all about.

Thanks for the details paal. I kid westexas about being a delusional explorationist but, to some degree, he has to be. When you're spending billions of $'s (collectively) looking for oil/NG that you have no proof actually exists it helps. LOL. There may be valid indication of POTENTIAL RESERVES but the risk is always there. The reserves are only PROVEN after they've been drilled. And even then the values aren't 100% certain.

There will be dry holes. So the effort requires an optimism that cannot be met completely. The govt did nothing wrong by being optimistic in their projections. The mistake would have been planning on all of those reserves materializing. How far off the estimate is another matter. In closing I'll point out that I've seen many companies go under. Very few failed because they drilled dry hole. Most failed because they didn't drill enough good wells. If you're not drilling some dry holes then you aren't drilling enough wells and aren't finding a significant amount of reserves.

But the story highlights my basic point: we have to estimate potential proven reserves to conduct our business. But no one should be using those potential numbers in their planning without accepting the reality that these are estimates and as such may not materialize exactly (or even close) to the prediction.

The models have been backing away from any significant temporary thaw for the weekend in the south. In fact it may just turn into another heavy snowfall (the latest GFS forecasts heavy snow for the south of England including London on Sunday especially). However model outputs more than a few days out have to be taken with caution of course.

Ok, latest model runs (UK Met, GFS) seem to be coming into agreement now for potential for more heavy snow on Saturday across much of the UK. Further ahead, the GFS has the London area at -8C at 6am Tuesday morning. No reliable sign of any end to this.

Tue 07.12 06 GMT

12Z GFS keeps the cold around London through at least 12/10, although the 850s do warm some over the weekend.


I do not have any idea what norms are this time of year, i'd guess low 40F's??? (max)

Ugh. Can we keep it scientific and stick to SI units?


Celsius is an SI derived unit based on Kelvin.

I think he was making reference to the fact that the US is the only country that uses Fahrenheit to measure temperature. Most people outside the US are unfamiliar with it, including many people in Britain, Canada, Australia, etc.

I'm 48 and British. I've used SI units since I was 7 but I still think of weather in Fahrenheit.

30 freezing
40 cold
50 cool
60 middling
70 warm
80 hot
90 buy an ice cream
100 - I'm not in the UK.

Here's how it breaks down in South Florida

30 inside of my freezer
40 feels like freezing
50 This must be the UK
60 cold
70 cool
80 warm
90 buy cold beer
100 - Beach weather!

Last night's low was 57 and right now it is still cold >;^)

-20 No longer fun to bicycle.
-10 Cold
-3 Perfect weather for hard outdoor work.
+1 Awfull!
+8 Happy springtime or miserable autumn, good work weather,
+20 summer
+30 Too hot to do anything serious
+35 Too hot to think

Thanks Undertow.

I was hoping someone would post this info today. Here on the south coast we have a good snow covering and I have had my gas CH on much more than usual. Compared to winters past though we ain't seen nothing yet. And having just read the post above about South America becoming an LNG importer we had better started praying that there is enough gas to go round in a few years.

Has there ever been talk of restricting domestic use in areas which are not so cold? So that if push came to shove and, say, Scotland and the North were freezing but relatively mild in the South and all other contingencies had been used up the South could be temporarily interrupted? Politically hellish but is it even logistically possible? I guess it would mean shutting off a few valves and letting the pressure drop in some sectors of the grid. If so, how long would it take to re-pressurise?

Hi Hac
Still snowing hard up here in the frozen North.
I was told by some engineers once (IIRC) that every home would need individual checking, area by area, district by district, before re-pressurizing, in order to prevent explosions.
Widespread domestic cut-off seems very unlikely?
Presumably easier to turn-off large scale industrial users (and give them a discount on their normal usage for the privilege of being available to be selected from time to time to keep up grid pressure).

hmm, remeber people cook with Nat Gas and also we produce a lot of electricity by gas - about 40-43% .

I seem to remember this Jan/Feb we went back to being a Coal burning nation. Read that here if my memory is correct :)

Interesting times indeed!


Last 24 hours UK Grid sources.

Coal 44.5%
Gas 39.4%
Nuke 13.2%
Wind 1.1%
Hydro 0.5%
Pumped storage 0.8%
Imports 0.4%

So we are again using coal as our main source of electrical power.

Next question: where does the coal come from? As far as I am aware most of those plucky Welsh, Yorkies and Geordies put down their shovels a long time ago so I am guessing the vast bulk of the 44.5% of sparks generated by coal came from imported coal.

I did a quick google search for where we get cola from as memory said it was Poland and Autralia.

and found this


so we cut back on coal stockpiles in September. and the wind doesn't blow when its cold - well not this time or last when we needed it.

and we are not building Nuclear either ... not that will help now ofcourse.

Oh deary me ! we are in a pickle!


I hope you lot in the UK are pushing for more nuclear power instead of worrying about cricket and soccer.
Of course,Australia can sell you more coal as long as you can afford it.There is a gathering push here for nuclear power but the Caldicoters are reving up their propaganda machine to counter it.Their current favourite furphy is cost.As if coal and gas with CCS and solar/wind with all sorts of storage and back up would be less costly.Plus the extra thousands of kilometres of high voltage grid and a high tech(read fragile)control system never seems to be taken into account.
The disconnect from reality would be amusing if it wasn't so dangerous.

Let's hear it for the Caldicoters!

OK, what's a Caldicoter?

She is anti-nuclear and in my opinion either does not know what she is talking about (which shouldn't be the case since she has the brains to be a medical doctor) or she is lying about the supposed perils of nuclear power (or she could be deluded I suppose).
She is also anti-nuclear weapons which is a little easier to go along with, although I'm coming round to the view that this is somewhat unrealistic - I guess the only thing we can hope to do is limit the number of nuclear weapons, not get rid of them completely.

I saw her and talked to her at a symposium some twenty-five years ago. IMHO, she is an out-an-out liar. The false slanders she told against those who are pronuke--almost unbelievable.

So then, AFAICT, you think fossil-fuel costs are the main determinant of our current economic decline. Please tell me if I'm wrong - I am not very intellectual.
In my opinion, we need not enter economic decline due to declining fossil fuels, even now. If we immediately recognize the need to switch to sustainable nuclear energy sources (in my opinion, not humble, because it is largely based on the opinions of others, who are better able than me to establish that we live in a universe that has this vast, so-far largely untapped nuclear potential) then the issue of energy goes away. All that is left is the issue of our willingness not to destroy bio-diversity.
If we destroy that, then we are finished, since we cannot replace species on any timescale that we can use.

There are impenetrable political barriers to the rapid development of nuclear energy for electricity in the U.S. These barriers have nothing to do with the second law of thermodynamics or the financial position of the U.S.

So if you want to blame somebody, please don't blame the economists: Blame the politicians.

Sure - no problem.
Blaming is not the problem - getting out from under the cloud of blame is the problem.
Let's recognize the solution is there, and then get on with it.
This requires an enlightened, vocal, population.


Generally large domestic consumption of gas also requires small amounts of electricity to run central heating pumps, boiler controls etc.

Letting the pressure drop in the gas pipes is a complete no-no ... but if you have rolling power cuts you can more or less stop consumption of gas in the areas with no power ... that is what I expect to happen (and what may indeed be happening already, my friend in Southend had a powwer cut yesterday!) and why I have a deep discharge marine battery and true sine wave inverter that can keep us warm for several days despite power outages.

I recall that the gas companies in the UK do drop the pressure, rather than cut off, when supply is squeezed. The quote remember is 'It may take you an hour to boil water for a cup of tea'. The reasoning being the problems of ensuring there is no air in the pipes, they would drop the pressure until there is just enough to keep air out.


If anyone is interested (I suspect that Westexas is); NJ:

1.lost out on yet another Dept of Education grant ($14 Mil);

2. Has to pay back $750 Million for taking mass transit project money, then not working on mass transit project (rail tunnel to NYC); DOJ now becomes the collection agency (yikes!);

3. Plans to sell the only public TV (& radio) station in NJ (WNJN) to private interests.

Christie administration told it owes feds $271M for halting ARC Tunnel project

Christie loses out on $14M in federal aid for charter schools

Seventeen states submitted applications and five, including New Jersey, were turned down.

The latter apparently happened sometime last summer, before the ARC tunnel decision. It's not clear why people think that the Obama adminstration would approve a submission from the Christie adminstration, since they are on the opposite sides of the political fence.

It was not politics. NJ missed the filing deadline!

I don't believe that NJ missed the filing deadline. Do you have a reference for that?
Pa., NJ miss out on federal charter school money

The states were notified in the summer that they had failed to qualify. As in the recent Race to the Top federal grant competition, in which New Jersey and Pennsylvania twice vied unsuccessfully for up to $400 million, the states' applications were found lacking.
New Jersey received 61.3 percent of the possible points; Pennsylvania got 60.1 percent, Pearson said. States that won grants scored between 67 percent and 85.7 percent, he said.
Five reviewers graded the states on criteria including strength of their charter management and monitoring plans, how the schools would contribute to student achievement, and flexibility of the states' charter laws. In their aggregate scores, Pennsylvania and New Jersey lost points in every category.

What I've heard is that in the "monitoring plans" area, NJ's proposal was weak in how the progress of students in charter schools would be measured. In the area of "flexibility of the states' charter laws" NJ's proposal was marked down because all charter schools have to be approved by the state department of education. There is proposed legislation to change that and allow charter schools to be certified by universities and other bodies.

Re: Google Energy Guru Will Head Policy Center at Stanford

Mr. Reicher said:

"Progress toward an embrace of renewable energy will rely on technology, policy and finance, he said, and the technology is marching forward in many areas, including solar and wind. “Wind and solar have come down the cost curves nicely," he said. “They still have a distance to go but we’re making good progress. We’d be making even better progress if they had stronger, more reliable policy mechanisms."

With all due respect, this sounds like another attempt to further a BAU model of the future. Wind and solar require STORAGE to compete with fossil fuels, which are already stored as we find them. Just focusing on the cost of producing electricity, for example, from renewable systems misses the point that that electricity is not dispatchable, thus some form of storage is necessary to match the load, 24/7. Mr. Reicher surely understands the storage problem, since he is said to have been involved with building plugin hybrids by modifying Toyota Prius and Ford Escapes.

There's no mention of the fact that there are already cost effective solar systems which capture thermal energy. The best policy approaches would be those which would stimulate a maximum effort to use these existing technologies, since, after Peak Oil, we likely won't have much time to accomplish the massive transition to renewables which will be necessary. That's assuming that the BAU approach doesn't sink the Climate Change problem and decide to burn all that coal in the ground...

E. Swanson

With all due respect, this sounds like another attempt to further a BAU model of the future. Wind and solar require STORAGE to compete with fossil fuels, which are already stored as we find them. Just focusing on the cost of producing electricity, for example, from renewable systems misses the point that that electricity is not dispatchable, thus some form of storage is necessary to match the load, 24/7.

I respectfully disagree with the notion of needing to maintain a 24/7 delivery system for the vast majority of electrical needs. This is what I think is one of the underlying fundamental misconceptions about how a future non BAU system based on renewables will work. Where is it written that everyone must have access to electricity 24/7? Sure there are essential and emergency systems that might need it but certainly not everyone one everywhere.

For the record I just finished building a pool deck with power tools recharged exclusively with my little home built solar generator. I didn't work at night! During the day I had plenty of power available because the solar panel charged the storage battery in the generator which in turn charged the batteries on the power tools. The few times that my power tool batteries were all low I had to wait regardless of whether I would have charged them from a regular wall outlet or from my solar generator's battery. I enjoyed sitting down and watching the birds and the butterflies while the batteries were charging.

Having said that I'm certainly for thermal solar and storage mediums such as molten salts or high temperature oils. Storage of energy by pumping water into high storage to be used by hydro or even high density flywheels are viable as well. The only thing that is not viable is BAU and this idea that we all need 24/7 access to electricity all the time. We don't and we won't... that's my two cents worth of electricity!

I tend to agree with your comment that, as an individual, one doesn't need electricity to be delivered 24/7. You are probably willing to live with the available energy, adjusting your life to fit the situation. But, for the vast majority of people, the expectation is that electricity will be available when desired and that demand is 24/7 because that's what's provided to them today. That's the definition of Business As Usual, isn't it?

Of course, some fraction of the demand for electricity can be met with wind or PV. It's just that as that fraction increases with installed capacity, there must be come sort of storage added to meet the demand when those sources aren't available, such as after dark and the cost of that storage adds to the cost of the installation. Charging the storage batteries in electric vehicles using PV isn't going to fly if the charging period is to be night time, i.e., the present time of day for lowest price. Charging could be done during the day, but that would imply that commuters using electric cars would have several hours of access to the grid during the day, which is already the peak demand time period in most locations. BTW, I'm not saying this can't happen...

E. Swanson

The situation with the just-approved Mojave Solar plant looks pretty good to me. The solar plant will be a little more than one gig. Nearby hydro facilities at lake Mead produce 4.6 gigs. Lake Mead is hardly ever full, so there should be opportunities to store some of the hydro potential when the sun is shining.

There is an obvious limit... water in the Colorado River. And, from my recollection, the amount varies from year to year and season to season. Downstream folks might object if all the water is recaptured and cycled into Lake Mead.


In the general case, a hydro storage plant doesn't change the flow of water downstream of it. It only affect how much water is at the high altitude reservoir and how much is at the low altitude reservoir. IOW it doesn't store any water.

Now if we wish to make Lake Mead rise, storing water behind hoover dam, that may require reducing the water demand downstream of it.

But, for the vast majority of people, the expectation is that electricity will be available when desired and that demand is 24/7 because that's what's provided to them today. That's the definition of Business As Usual, isn't it?

Precisely! However I contend that both the paradigm and the expectation are unrealistic. Sooner or later something has got to give since we are no longer going to be able to meet those expectations with fossil fuel or renewables, right? It seems to me that the only option left is to change the expectations for the majority of the people.

It might be something along the lines of: "Sorry folks, the tank is empty, you can either get out and start pushing this 3000 lb hunk of now useless steel up the mountain road or you can leave it where it is and enjoy the hike to the top and then look out at the magnificent valley below, your choice".

At some point we have to start talking honestly about the need to abandon BAU permanently and what that will entail. I personally cringe every time I hear someone trying to equate transferring to renewables as a way to attempt maintaining BAU, for the simple reason that by definition it can't do so. That in no ways means we shouldn't pursue those options.

Best hopes for a serious attempt at leaving BAU behind. To be clear if someone wishes to push their Escalade up the mountain they should be encouraged to try but they shouldn't expect any help from the rest of us who have already decided to walk.


It isn't all that difficult to get used to the idea of unreliable electricity. In many countries, that is BAU.

Leanan - indeed. Good point, but it is a brave chap who would argue that GDP growth can continue with a sporadic electrical supply. And as we all know our monetary system is utterly dependent upon infinite GDP growth.

An anecdote: I spent some time in Tanzania in the 90s. We would be lucky to have more than a couple of hours of electric per day. One day half the community got none for over a month because some enterprising scoundrels had shinnied up the power-poles and cut out the cables. God knows what they did with the hundred yards or so of cable but I guess it fetched a good price. It turned out that they had a co-conspirator working at the local substation who made sure the power was off while they sawed through the cable. In a country where it is worth pinching cable over your normal wage there is not much hope of a reliable supply!

And as we all know our monetary system is utterly dependent upon infinite GDP growth.

Sounds like we are either going to be getting a new monetary system or we are going to decouple our present one from its dependence on infinite GDP growth, doesn't it?

The other question is why are we still talking about GDP as a worthy metric?

"Somehow, we have come to think the whole purpose of the economy is to grow, yet growth is not a goal or purpose. The pursuit of endless growth is suicidal." ~ David Suzuki

The UK government is talking about moving away from the GDP as a metric. I'm not sure I understand their happiness factor though. They seem to be at the point where they can see it needs to change but haven't a clue how.


At some point the paradigm must change. No one knows what the energy and employment side of this will look like. I'd hate to bet on any particular scenario, except that BAU will be completely redefined. There will be a new Usual!

Depending on how the renewables work out, perhaps animal energy will again become important. Almost certainly a reduced population is in the offing. How low? Who knows? Just remember, humans are energy sources for productive facilities... and using renewables and animal power might mean that it is a struggle just to provide food and clothing and shelter for all the folks remaining. Full employment, here we come!


According to the graphs on this site (PDF warning) http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Wilkinson_09_inequality.pdf it looks like a much better metric is wealth disparity for many different reasons. These include better health, both physical and mental, less drug use, improved education standards, greater social mobility and other advantages where wealth disparity is lower.

I'll believe the tories want to reduce the wealth disparity when I see it. I would give it a less than 1% chance.

I would honestly love to see it though, and hope this is more than lip service, but I doubt it.

Has TOD ever posted about this? I am wondering how individuals and businesses adapt to unreliable electricity.

The rich ones buy their own generators, which of course causes its own problems. Supposedly, one of the reasons for the diesel shortage in China is that cutting back on coal resulted in everyone firing up diesel-powered generators. There were cascading fuel shortages in South Africa a few years ago, as everyone switched from fuel to fuel as each ran out in turn.

Most people just live with it. A lot of the disruption from blackouts comes from their unexpectedness. If they're not unexpected, they're not that disruptive. Candles and flashlights are at hand, because they're used often. The kids understand that the fridge is not to be opened until power is restored. Movie theaters give rainchecks if the power goes out in the middle of the movie. Teachers have to write on the blackboard instead of using an overhead projector or Powerpoint presentation. Sometimes people get sent home if there's no power and no backup at the factory - an unexpected, unpaid day off.

Even in areas where there's no water when the power goes out...it's not that disruptive. If the blackout is planned, people fill the bathtub and other containers ahead of time. Otherwise, they make do. It's inconvenient to be without running water for a few hours, but not the end of the world.

The rich ones buy their own generators, which of course causes its own problems. Supposedly, one of the reasons for the diesel shortage in China is that cutting back on coal resulted in everyone firing up diesel-powered generators.

I find it ironic that the country that produces so many of the solar panels for the global market can't find a way to help its own people substitute their polluting diesel generators, which depend on an increasingly unreliable and intermittent and expensive fuel source, with clean cheap reliable solar energy and simple, well tested, lead acid battery storage technology. Paradigm change is really hard... A small solar powered refrigerator, a few low voltage LED lights, a DC radio and an internet capable cellphone with recharging capabilities plus an electric bicycle should be well within the reach of most Chinese. Using diesel for these purposes no longer makes economic sense.

Granted, to the average USian, what I have just described may sound like poverty and deprivation but compared to what the average peasant has had access to throughout human history this is enormous technological advance and a very big step up. If coupled with shelter, clean water and food I imagine there would be many people alive today who would consider such amenities to be heaven on earth.

I agree - if you expect power outages now and then, and know what to do, it's not a biggie.

Although I live in New Hampshire, allegedly in a developed country, power goes off here fairly often in our rural location. Let's just say we keep water bottles full all the time.

When the power fails, I fill whatever I can with water while the pressure lasts (I have my own well/pump/pressure tank). If it's getting later in the afternoon, I get out the candles and matches, and put flashlights at key points. If it's cold, I make sure the fire in the woodstove is tended and get plenty of wood ready.

I have a gas range, so I can cook on the stove top. I keep a big pot of water on the woodstove for general hot water.

Though we lose power frequently, it's rarely for more than 3 hours or so at a time - just not a big deal.

Most people just live with it. A lot of the disruption from blackouts comes from their unexpectedness. If they're not unexpected, they're not that disruptive.

That's certainly been my experience. Growing up in Sydney, Australia, in the late 1940s I remember setting the dinner table with a kerosine lamp and matches alongside the food dishes and crockery. That way we could have light restored quickly when the inevitable blackout occurred as the sun set. The Sydney power grid in those days had a lot of trouble keeping up with the rapidly increasing demand as everyone bought refrigerators, electric stoves, and washing machines.

Working on a seismic crew in the outback in the 1960s I became very attuned to the sound of the camp generator when it started to run out of fuel. I closed my book and located my flashlight when I heard the telltale misfiring which gave about a minute's warning of darkness.

Later in the Philippines I dealt with working in an office on the 15th floor of a building without an emergency generator by always using the stairs. Good aerobic exercise. The power went off for an hour or two nearly every day.

These days in Houston there's usually a few days warning of the power going out (mostly from hurricanes). We fill containers with water, stockpile non-perishable food, make sure we have charcoal and/or propane for cooking, get some spare batteries for lights and find all the candles we have stashed away.

Honestly, where I live (Albuquerque) and with my preferences, the only thing I would want electricity for between 11PM and 5 AM is to keep the fridge and freezer running.

Everything else...? who cares? For me, night time is for sleeping. I could even go with 10PM to 6 AM.

Of course, I don't think there is a shortage of trons at night, so my offer may be gratuitous.

U.S. Americans should simplify their lives and slow down and enjoy their brief time of mortality.

My house has a ton of water on the roof, pretty standard here. I also have another 5 under the garage, again common (duh, worst case - no electricity, all you need is a bucket and rope). I know where my torches and lanterns are in the dark and my cellphone is with me and can provide a little light to help. Just normal every day stuff here. I was in Wallmart and the lights went out, total black (would never happen in the UK, emergency lighting would have kicked in). Lots of shouts going on. The two of us just lit up our cell phones and would have had enough light to find a way out. We don't need shaky supplies, we get huge storms every rainy season so the power can go out without warning and usually in the evening when there are the most storms. You just work out how to deal with it and get on with life.


General chaos


Imagine this happening every couple of days.

A string of blackouts in the near term would possibly be the best thing that could happen to us. Especially if we finally had a rundown on our NG inventory and actually had some of the supply disruptions that we came so close to a couple winters back. That would wake a bunch more people up.

The depths of denial can be truly amazing but I think you're right. That would probably wake up a bunch more people. I also think that some will never come around.

A string of blackouts in the near term would possibly be the best thing that could happen to us.

Aren't people conflating, not having enough power to do anything we want, with the grid being down? Put enough customers on interruptible service, -or more likely you put high demand equipment on some sort of smartgrid leash to force demand to match available supply, and you should be able to avoid blackouts. That doesn't mean it won't be costly -sending all the workers home, until we have enough power to run the production line, instead of just keeping critical equipment from cooling off too much, isn't painless. But, it is not an existential disaster either. And your internet search may run slow, because google was forced to shut off half their servers, and run the others on slow clocks. The current paradigm of "all the electricity you can demand, or grid failure" is nuts.

CA experience would indicate that even with expected shortages, consumption remains, and rolling blackouts result. It is a tragedy of the commons issue, and each will try to get his share until he can't.

The obvious solution would be predatory pricing during shortage periods, but that will be slow in coming, with regulatory needs for smart-metering and such. Across the board, early failure and pain will be the best hope, to change perceptions and behavior.

Electricity isn't a problem. Never will be.

We are facing a liquid fuel, finance, and population problem.

And in fact if we solve the above problems, we solve any potential electricity problem as well.

And I thought I was a doomer!

In the UK electricity is very rapidly becoming a problem. We have left the infrastructure to rot for far too long.
We do not have an national electricity policy. Actually we do - leave it to the market. The market says there can never be shortages. They simply up the price until the demand matches the supply.

The UK definitely has a problem with its electricity supply now that its natural gas production has peaked. In fact, it is past its peak production in all fossil fuels, including coal. This is sharply different than the US, which is moving toward a new peak in NG production, and has the world's largest reserves of coal.

The UK never had much hydroelectric potential and a few back-of-the-napkin calculations reveal that wind power is not going to be the solution. The British Isles just aren't big enough to support enough wind generators to supply 60+ million people. Its best chance was nuclear power, but it let its nuclear reactor program fade away in the heyday of North Sea oil and gas production.

Its only real option now is conservation, but that forces people to deal with the problems of following the fossil fuel supply curve down a very steep slope.

The UK never had much hydroelectric potential and a few back-of-the-napkin calculations reveal that wind power is not going to be the solution. The British Isles just aren't big enough to support enough wind generators to supply 60+ million people.

Tidal power is another possibility but enormous investment is required for schemes large enough to make a difference,

"Electricity isn't a problem. Never will be."

What?! Electricity supply is already a problem in many parts of the world often resulting in protests and riots. At least according to alot of the articles I've read in the Drumbeat. What do you suppose is going to happen to our electricity infrastructure as our "liquid fuel, finance & population problems" accelerate? What about the rest of our infrastructure?

I think what Oilman was saying was that it is not being able to produce electricity, but being able to produce it for 6.8 Billion passengers on Planet Earth. Once the population is down, renewables, fission and fusion (hypothetically) will be adequate.

and, you are correct in intimating that Oilman did not give sufficient weight to the infrastructure problem.

IMO, our government really missed the boat with the stimulus - instead of highways and bridges, we need electrical and mass transit infrastructure. That would take care of several things - oil, AGW, and continuity in our economy. Plus, of course, we should have mandated that all stimulus moneys be spent within the US of A, but that is a matter for another site.


Never say Never, Oilman. Makes you look less than thoughtful..

When essentially every household in the western world has it's food supply sitting in an electrically powered refrigerator, and a predominance of the warehouses, stores and restaurants where they would go for food if these household fridges failed, you're looking at a situation that would take less than four or five days to go from an inconvenience to a full-blown tragedy.

'Vulnerable' ain't even the word for it.

(That was just one facet, I should probably say.. another is simply that Electricity is directly tied to Fossil Fuels in countless directions.., whether it's the economy, trucks and part supplies, maintenance, access by workers, etc.. Heck, if the NYC water tunnels stopped flowing due to sub-terranean cave ins (All three arteries are deep underground, two are essentially unchecked since the 1930s.. 'the water's coming out, pipe's ok I guess!').. then electricity generation in the city STOPS, as it's steam-turbine driven. The interconnections will reveal bottlenecks and SNAFUs none of us can possibly predict..)

It appears the vast majority of countries which experience regular "rolling blackouts" are warmer counties. e.g. Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Pakistan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Dominican Republic. Nepal is a notable exception.

Countries experiencing cold winters would have a lot more trouble with intermittent outages in freezing temperatures, since most heating systems require the power to be on. Unless you heat with a propane/oil tank, or wood or multi-fuel stove.

Fred,I realize that you are well intentioned but I think that you haven't been thinking outside your own personal square very much.
If you take even a cursory look at what electricity does in our existing arrangements,not just the domestic area,you will see that an unreliable electricity supply will directly cause the collapse of a civil society,let alone an industrial system.

I would be the first to admit that major changes need to be made in the way we function as a society here in Australia (and elsewhere) however those changes aren't going to happen in a hurry.If,through collapse,they do happen in a hurry,then the outcome is unknown,but is likely to be disastrous.

I agree. Eventually I think we would adapt but I can't imagine it happening smoothly. We here on TOD are used to the idea that we will have to let go of alot of things in the future. The average Joes and Janes not so much.

I think it is fair to say that having a reliable electricity supply is one of the foundations of modern life. It enables so many things that improve our standard of living - I am yet to see (but will be happy to be shown one) a country that has a good standard of living, clean water, sanitation, education, health, etc, that does not have a reliable electricity supply.

If it really came to it, I think people would (grudgingly) accept having to use half the electricity rather than having it available half the time. It may indeed need a few blackouts and crises to get the point across.

As soon as it is unreliable, people will take steps (generators, batteries, inverters etc) to make their personal supply reliable. if that money, collectively, was spent on the system, and demand management, there likely wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

Some aggressive peak and off peak pricing will also drive home the point - reliability of unlimited/high demand has a high cost.

I am yet to see (but will be happy to be shown one) a country that has a good standard of living, clean water, sanitation, education, health, etc, that does not have a reliable electricity supply.

I don't know how representative this is across the country, but in Costa Rice where we share a house with some friends, power outages seem to happen at least once a week, sometimes daily. Nobody gets too upset, few people have generators or backup power, but nobody is going to freeze to death either. Everybody already has flashlights, since there is not much lighting outside of houses.

Costa Rica does well on all the metrics you mention, and has a significant industrial economy too, so I think all the claims that un-reliable power will cause the collapse of industrial civilization are WAY overblown. Just like in the US, I am pretty sure that in Costa Rica, hospitals and other critical users (and maybe big industrial users too) have their own backup power.

Cuba and Kerala (district in southwest India) have regular electricity outages, yet they have literacy rates far higher than the US and infant mortality rates far lower.

I was just at a small bar that had about ten TVs going the whole time, half of them flat screen, and no one was watching them. We could cut consumption by a whole lot very quickly and not threaten any lives if we did so in some kind of rational way. But of course that would be seen as totalitarian and draconion (even though Draco's actual reform's were arguably rational improvements over the even more severe and random rules they replaced).

I simply can't imagine that very many folks in developed countries would consider either Cuba or Kerala to have "a good standard of living" as mentioned in the original post, irrespective of literacy rates...

yes, having better better literacy and mortality rates than the US says more about the decay of the US than of the countries concerned.

Reliable power means that people, government and business can get on and not be worrying backup, etc.
Power outages are significant problems for food storage, industrial processes, tourism, etc. For a business, you are likely to choose somewhere else to locate.

24/7power allows certain industrial processes to run just that, like aluminium smelting - lose power for too long, and metal solidifies.

This is not to say that you can't live without reliable power, but given the choice, everyone would like to have . Cities and countries that don't will gradually lose out to those that do.

leaving aside weather events, and everyone just has to deal with those, most blackouts are caused by peak overloads, which means either too much demand or not enough capacity, but can be resolved with aggressive demand management.

There is no justification for wasting electricity, and if the price of having 24/7 is using much less, we can all live with that. If it is continually unreliable, we start to consider living somewhere else.

yes, having better better literacy and mortality rates than the US says more about the decay of the US than of the countries concerned.

I find it astonishing that some people just rattle off such statements without ever checking the actual data. In the age of the internet there is really no excuse for that. Since 1960 India has lowered its mortality rate from 160 per 1,000 live births to 50 per 1,000 live births. During that same period of time the US lowered its infant mortality rate from 25.9 per 1,000 live births to 6.8 per 1,000 live births.

If there is anything one can say with near certainty is that there has been no decay in US health care during the last 50 years.

Infant mortality rate

Ron P.

If there is anything one can say with near certainty is that there has been no decay in US health care during the last 50 years.

The goalposts have been moved over the last 50 years.

Countries with the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, deaths per 1000 live births:

United States 6.14
Cuba 5.72
Italy 5.41
Hungary 5.38
Taiwan 5.26
Greece 5.08
Canada 4.99
New Zealand 4.85
Portugal 4.72
United Kingdom 4.69
Australia 4.67
Netherlands 4.66
Luxembourg 4.49
Belgium 4.38
Austria 4.37
Denmark 4.29
Korea, South 4.24
Slovenia 4.21
Liechtenstein 4.2
Israel 4.17
Switzerland 4.12
Germany 3.95
Ireland 3.89
Czech Republic 3.76
Norway 3.55
Finland 3.45
Spain 3.42
France 3.31
Iceland 3.21
Hong Kong 2.91
Japan 2.79
Sweden 2.74
Bermuda 2.46
Singapore 2.32
Monaco 1.78

Source: CIA Factbook.

I count 34 countries with a lower infant mortality rate than the US.

The goalposts have been moved over the last 50 years.

No, that is simply incorrect. The goalposts have not been moved at all. Simply because infant mortality rates have been falling all over the world, with the exception of some sub-Sahara nations, does not mean the goalposts have been moved. Moving the goalposts means you have changed the rules of the game.

In 1960 India had an infant mortality rate of 6.2 times that of the US. Today India has an infant mortality rate of 7.4 times that of the US. But that still does not mean the goalposts have been moved. The rules are still the same.

Ron P.

Moving the goalposts means you have changed the rules of the game.

That's correct. The rules of the game have been changed.

50 years ago, you only had to have access to modern medical and sanitation technology to have a low infant mortality rate. Now, almost everybody outside the poorest nations has access to modern medical and sanitation technology, so you have to have a national health care plan to beat the competition on reducing infant mortality.

Yes, infant mortality is rising in the US. Weirdly, it might caused by good medical care.

Experts are of the option that the most prominent factors contributing to premature births are insufficient access to prenatal care, obesity of the pregnant mother, smoking during pregnancy, too- early cesarean sections and fertility treatments, among others.

My guess would be that the dramatic increase in drug use would be a major contributor.

Ron P.

I don't think that's it. Or rather, that had its greatest impact the '80s, the era of the crack epidemic.

How about really bad medical care system compared to much of the rest of the world?

Cuba and Kerala (district in southwest India) have regular electricity outages, yet they have literacy rates far higher than the US and infant mortality rates far lower.

That is extremely hard to believe. In 2009 the US had an infant mortality rate of 6.8 per 1,000 live births while India had an infant mortality rate of 50.3 per 1,000 live births.

Infant mortality rate Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births.

Ron P.

He didn't say India, he said Kerala.

Kerala has a low infant mortality rate for a low-income area, but it is still higher than the U.S.

Kerala has a low infant mortality rate for a low-income area, but it is still higher than the U.S.

Yes, I fully understand that. That is why I said it is extremely unlikely. Kerala is still part of India. Kerala, according to your Wiki link, has an infant mortality rate of 14 per 1,000 live births, over twice that of the US.

However that is really great for an undeveloped country. As the Wiki article points out, the average for undeveloped countries in 91 per 1,000 live births.

Ron P.

Sorry, I shouldn't have included Kerala. But that area does show that you can have a relatively low infant mortality rate and high literacy even without using gobs of resources. Isn't that what we have to be looking for as we all face much lower resources in the future--how to not only survive it but have the highest standard of living possible in spite of low resource use?

If you take even a cursory look at what electricity does in our existing arrangements,not just the domestic area,you will see that an unreliable electricity supply will directly cause the collapse of a civil society,let alone an industrial system.

I grew up in Brazil and remember that blackouts were quite common even in the well industrialized city of Sao Paulo.
We never knew when exactly they might occur and everyone had ample supplies of candles, kerosene lanterns, flashlights and battery operated radios. Life went on and civilization did not collapse. Today I live in South Florida and we are accustomed to the grid being down sometimes for days after a hurricane. We deal with with it as best we can. What I'm suggesting is that there are ways to prepare an entire community for intermittent supply of electricity. My personal solution is to have some solar power charge a few batteries that allow me to run some basic things when the grid is down. To me this is no different than stocking up on food, water and emergency medical supplies during hurricane season in South Florida. If you live here its just part of normal life.

Reading this thread I feel like I'm outside looking in.

Cold, partly cloudy day (a bit of snow on the panels this morning).

21.4 kwh to the batteries today.
Water tanks: near full (2000+ gals.)
Propane: 400+ gals.
Firewood: ~5 cords
Root cellar: well stocked
Dogs: fat and happy
Wife: warm, on phone and blogging

Fred, perhaps you could post plans for your little power station.

Here's my smallest power station.


Anyone can put one together in about 2 hrs of work with off the shelf components.
1) Cheap Polycrystaline Chinese Solar Panel your choice of between 50 to 100 Watts
1) 7 to 10 Amp Solar Charge Controller
1) 800 Watt 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC Inverter
1) 125 Amp/Hr 12 Volt DC Lithium Ion Phosphate Battery
1) Digital Volt meter and charging status display
1) Outdoor rated 120 Volt AC receptacle
1) Outdoor rated 120 Volt AC On/Off Switch
1) Standard 12 Volt DC car cigarette lighter receptacle, can be used to charge things like cell phones etc...

Most off these components come with their own wiring and plug and play connectors.
The box in the picture is an off the shelf heavy duty PVC tool box with wheels and a telescopic handle
The Panel fits over the top of the handle.

Some cutting of the box and assembly required.
Total Price of components roughly $600.00
My mother could build one of these...
If you need a real schematic contact me at my posted email.

I have just finished a shed design for my backyard. One that will include a wood workshop (and perhaps a small metal lathe, grinder, etc., so we can do some gunsmithing as well). The whole thing will be solar powered, 100%, using full roof panels on the south-facing side. North side gets a skylight! Now, when I have about $12K in hand, I can start to dig the footings. The SP part of this will run about $1,500.

Great savings from this in that I won't need to run any conduit out there for electric, and I will be doing the install myself. Plus, the shop will be off the grid, and I can do handyman work even if no one else has power! I am looking in to what it will take to make it sufficient to add an energy-star freezer. Maybe a fridge, but not really sanguine about that. They're notoriously inefficient.

I am still working on getting stuff to grow in what we laughingly call soil north of Dallas. When TSHTF I hope to have it working better than last year and this proved. Anyone know what would be the best material for shading? I've tried two different mesh fabrics with no luck. That summer sun is good for the solar, bad for the plants!


If people need to charge their EVs away from home then maybe a system of credit can be used. Electricity fed into the grid by their home solar system can be offset against the electricity used, for example at their office.


I had an electric assist bicycle that I charge at work for free. Free to me anyways. I just brought the thing into my cube and plugged it in. I had a 400 watt-hour battery so it used maybe a dime worth of electricity. Lot of employers already issue free or subsidized bus passes. Recharging a 50 kWh EV car battery might be 10 bucks or so. An employer can either provide it as a perk or have a paypoint and make you slide your debit card. I have PV panels at home with net meterring but I don't think anyone is going to try to reconcil my surplus at home with my usage on the road. Two seperate transactions.

Charge your debit card from electricity supplied to the grid, on-line or a swipe on the meter. Maybe an electric Co. charge stick, stick it in your meter on the way out to charge it with yesterday's solar, then stick it in the company charger to use the credit. Just some ideas. You are lucky that you can charge your bike, some employers don't even like a cell phone charger. There may be tolerance now but with lot of people using EVs/EBs that will change. We need to think about a workable system before then to have it in place.


The technologies already exist to make concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) plants dispatchable and approach base load. I tried to sell a very inexpensive sensible heat storage system to major players in the industry at a CSP conference in January 2008, but no one was interested. The reason was that grid penetration of solar was so low that storage was not really needed, except perhaps a small amount for a little time shifting to take advantage of time-of-day pricing. At the 2008 conference many folks thought that bulk storage might be needed in five years or so.

The base load solar power plant of the future will have a conventional heliostat field, a volumetric air receiver, huge amounts of sensible heat storage (insulated rock piles) and a conventional heat recovery steam generator feeding a steam turbine. The cost of electricity from these plants will depend on the cost of capital, since they are heavily capital intensive, but once built, they should turn out reliable carbon-free electricity for decades.

When you wrote "volumetric air receiver", are you thinking of heating air with your heliostat field? I would guess that the pumping losses would be rather large, since air has a rather low heat capacity. Wouldn't you be able to use steam or some other heat transfer fluid and obtain better results? The first central receiver tower system used a special thermal fluid for heat transfer, as I recall. I also recall that they later had a problem with a fire...

E. Swanson

You are right that air has a lower specific heat than other working fluids, so one must move more of it to transfer the same amount of heat, about 2.5 times more than water. But it has so many advantages, it is worth using. The cost is zero, it is environmentally benign and can be used at very high temperatures, so the extra thermodynamic efficiency more than makes up for the extra pumping cost. Other good things: the heat exchangers for the steam generators are off-the-shelf; air can be used with rock bed storage systems at very high temperatures; at high enough temperatures it can be used with Brayton cycle turbines in combined cycle with steam.

The Julich plant in Germany has all the components I was talking about except for the large storage needed to provide 24/7 operation. It operates at 700 C, which is much hotter than either thermal oil or molten salt systems.

Pumped hydro storage works very well, but is very expensive and can only work in certain areas (need a good elevation change).

It seems to me that most countries seem to be heading for the nukes.

What does "very expensive" mean? A few percent loss, and the same costs as hydro, which is quite low-cost? What is your high cost bases, assuming good location?

Well, once again-- pumped hydro does not require a high reservoir- a low one works as well. Sometimes there are holes already there, some places holes are easy to dig, and some places have sea water and hills and gigawatts of solar- like gulf of california and the red sea. which I say again are ideal, and my vote for powering the planet.

PS. I have lived a part of my life where electricity is highly unreliable, and I know people can cope. In fact, it's good for health to have a break every now and then. Americans are way too busy doing way too much that is way out not worth doing. Shame!

Example. All the catalogs I got today, asking me to buy junk I will never eever buy. They don't even burn well.

Iraq to the rescue?


Iraq recently released the full statistics for its oil production for August 2010, with the figures illustrating the continuing decline of Iraq's oil industry since the end of 2009. In August, total output stood at 55.4 million barrels, as opposed to 61.3 million barrels in December 2009. Consequently, government revenue from petroleum has now dropped, with earnings at $3.9 billion in August compared to $4.4 billion last December.

The reality illustrated by these trends is in stark contrast with announcements from Iraqi officials that followed the completion of the second round of petroleum bids, which resulted in ten contracts being signed with foreign companies such as the Russian firm Lukoil and Royal Dutch Shell. For example, the Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani claimed that Iraq could boost production capacity from the approximate current level of 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to around 12 million bpd in six years, rivaling Saudi Arabia's capacity of 12.5 million bpd. Similarly, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki affirmed that additional revenues generated by increased oil production would not only help to pay off Iraq's foreign debts of roughly $120 billion, but also solve problems of reconstruction.

Oil just blew past $85.50 and is approaching $86/bbl fast. If it goes much above this we will be in territory not seen since the super spike of '08.

As it is, prior to this week, prices have only been this high twice since then--once in April and then at the beginning of November, at least according to this source:


Any, more fine-grained, data than this (or any clearer memory than I can muster this morning) would be welcome.

Are we testing some sort of ceiling here?

How high do prices need to go before they smack the world economy down into a deeper recession with 'demand destruction'?

So what is the picture that emerges from Leanan's posts this morning?

China's economy is still speeding along increasing oil demand.

The American economy is starting to show some signs of recovery which usually means increased oil demand.

The ethanol subsidy is dead as of Dec. 31, 2010 which will remove some incentive for ethanol and turn the incentives heavily in favor of depleting oil.

But oil executives say that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico which is the most promising area for the United States has peaked.

The chart for oil looks bullish to me and oil is acting strong heading into a normally weak price period in January-February.

It appears to me that oil will make new highs during its normal down time of the year. It is following corn which did the same thing during harvest this year.

The only incentive the end of the ethanol subsidy will remove is to export subsidised ethanol. It doesn't change the RFS mandate one iota, and the RFS is the only reason why the ethanol industry is as big as it is.
if oil prices are heading, and the ethanol industry says they still need their subsidy, then something is wrong. At what oil price level would they say they don;t need the subsidy? They didn't volunteer to lift it at $147/bbl, so how high, if ever?

The ethanol industry got something no one else gets - a mandate requiring the use of their product. if you can;t make a viable business when customers are required by law to by your product, then you shouldn't be in the business.

"if you can;t make a viable business when customers are required by law to by your product, then you shouldn't be in the business."

That's a classic. I believe I shall use it. :)

I like to keep an eye on the "Life Blood" of our consumer economy, diesel;


Nation wide its at $3.20 per gal.

Cost of crude as a percentage of that has climbed from around 40% in 2002 to around 60% now.

Whats really different now is that even the big outfits that contract their diesel in advance to hedge are paying these higher prices.

Well, I guess my question was answered as I was asking it. The price seems to have a ceiling of about $86.80 this week.

Oil has been higher than this level for about 1 year -- Oct 2007 to Oct 2008 -- but the early part of that period had some meandering in the $80s and $90s.

Given the weakened dollar, a meandering peak-season base at $100-$110 would not be hard to imagine, with the next shortage/speculation spike to $150-$200. The price now pretty much says that the $80s could be the new base for the off season, during flat or recovery periods.

I do think we are likely to oscillate between recession and recovery periods, with little sustained growth, as every attempt at growth will bump up against energy constraints.

"Oil has been higher than this level for about 1 year -- Oct 2007 to Oct 2008"

Yes, of course, this is the spike I was setting aside.

So now we are well above $86.

I tracked down daily prices, and we almost hit $90 on 11/11 this year.


So we have a ways to go before getting there again. Is this the new ceiling? Can the economy handle prices much over that?

About this time last year the UK experienced 3-4 days during which the wind did not blow anywhere in the country. Someone provided a link and chart showing the wind 'history' for the period. If anyone remembers where this data can be found I would be most grateful.

The reason I ask is that it would be useful, during the time when the country is snowed under and relying heavily on gas, to determine how much power wind turbines could - if present in sufficient quantities - provide the nation. I am no meteorologist but at first guess it appears as though when the snow is falling and the temperature drops off a cliff the wind dies down too. Maybe there is also data in the public domain showing how much power wind turbines across the country are actually providing at the moment.

We must be realistic. A lot of political chatter about renewables but at times like this we need to see the data clear of emotion.

Anyone have those links? Ta.

Here's one. Take a look at


Use the "General" tab and then "Electricity Data Summary"

What an awesome site for up-to-the moment graphs!

For those intrested .
UK national grid gas demand real time
Gas storage is back to 80% bottomed out in april at Less than 5% ie one weeks supply. never recovered to 100% fill this year
Moffat exports are transhiped gas for Ireland

Here you go. Scroll down to "Peak Wind Generation Forecast"


Capacity 2430 MW. Peak generation tomorrow forecast as 382MW

Note that this site does not appear to monitor the total installed wind capacity in the UK which, according to


is 5,194 MW.

There appears to be a further 2,281 MW of wind capacity under construction in the UK and 6,208 MW consented through the planning process. And 9,354 MW in planning.

If their figure for total capacity is out of date then I still assume the data on wind power supplied to the national grid is accurate or else the numbers wouldn't balance. Is that supposed 5.2 GW of nameplate capacity actually really currently grid connected? If so then the actual power generated compared to nameplate capacity is even worse.

Of course some turbines mainly just reduce the demand of the customers who have them installed and won't show up in the grid data. I would be surprised if that would be enough to account for the difference though.

This is the crux of the matter. To my mind it matters not a jot how much nameplate 'capacity' is installed. All that matters is how much power is being provided and over what time period. Your numbers above about total breakdown are sobering. Wind at 1.1% is not even worth bothering about, frankly. What I would be interested to know is how much the wind industry realistically expects will be online by 2020. And what the average actual amount produced is going to be on cold days like today. Otherwise all the nonsense about renewables is just hot-air. I take the point above that we should still build them and use them when the wind is blowing. All in favour of that but if the numbers do not add up to something reasonable then the political waffle needs to change to more helpful debate - such as changing demand.

Oh, and any numbers which do not take into count the 250,000 net increase per year in population are just as meaningless.

And what the average actual amount produced is going to be on cold days like today. Otherwise all the nonsense about renewables is just hot-air.

Isn't what matters the total drawdown of natural gas in storage over a period of a couple of months? If next week wind (and warmer weather)return does that mean that
gas can be put back into storage? If so then you are in fine shape. If the grid consists of a combination of stores (fossil fuels, hydro), and flows (wind), then what matters is how much the later component supplies over a few months time period, not what it is instantaneously delivering.

kinda. but not really.

I cook with gas. I heat my house with gas. I heat my water with gas. Wind does not produce gas. It produces electricity. For your scenario to work out I would have to be able to switch to cooking on electric, heating my home on electric and running an electric shower etc. Not going to happen. I think you are making the mistake of funging all energy sources together.

But apart from that, I am actually more interested in the world where gas is either all gone or prohibitively expensive. At that point, I ask, what can we reasonably expect wind to provide?

"I think you are making the mistake of funging all energy sources together."

It would seem that it's you who have made the error by having all those eggs in one gassy basket.. but beyond that oversight, which we are all guilty of at one level or another, it's not even a question of 'why isn't there any wind power OR any gas during this awful storm?', but one of "..during those sunny, windy days last summer, WHY were we burning Natural Gas for anything, when we should have been saving it up for this blizzard?"

I cook with gas. I heat my house with gas. I heat my water with gas. Wind does not produce gas. It produces electricity.

If it means the utility can idle the NG powered plant for a few days it means they can put the gas they woulda used into storage. Thats what I mean about time averaging. Gas coming through a pipeleine feeding a combination of
powerplant, and gast storage facility can bank the gas when the electricity isn't needed. The variable source of electricity doesn't have to directly substitute all uses, just the ones that can be varied, and the excess either stored or being withdrawn from storage.

I think they are probably already doing as much substituting as they can ... don't assume they are stupid. The reason we use the gas is for climate change reasons, substituting coal or oil are the only viable alternatives we have.

Recent history shows that long term gas storage is seldom not used to some extent during the winter months

The reality is that the UK Government encouraged a 'dash for gas' in an attempt to try and meet Kyoto targets, without asking the question 'is it a viable plan'?

The UK gas situation gets steadily worse each year, so it looks like it isn't a viable plan ... just part of the UK primary energy predicament.


There's one thing to bear in mind. If you have gas but no electricity to pump it, in effect you have no gas either.

I have a gas furnace, operated by electricity. A solar thermal hot water system, operated by electricity.

When the power is out, in effect, all your systems are out - although you can light the gas stove with a match, as long as you have supply and your local station is still pumping.


These dependencies are simply Critical to understand.

My Oil Furnaces (two separate houses, one for rentals) will not run without electricity, and I have a couple PuttPutt generators standing by to run them and the freezers with in a pinch, ie, 'Burning Gas to make electricity so I can burn oil..' .. we have way too many bottlenecks in our systems like this, since electricity and all other fuels have been so consistent for a few decades.

I'm about to rewire my hot-air panel to run directly from the solar PV, possibly with a simple cold-air cutoff in the loop somewhere.. but it's otherwise about as simple as it gets, beyond getting your heat from a window. (But this is a window that doesn't let the heat back out at night)

We need more of our systems to be as elemental in their design..

I have a gas furnace, operated by electricity. A solar thermal hot water system, operated by electricity.

Okay, now buy a small portable generator and install a backup power system in your house. See: Backup Power for Your Home

In addition to a gas furnace, I have a gas fireplace in the basement which runs on 4 AA batteries (for the remote control), and a wood fireplace in the living room that requires no electricity at all, so the backup generator is optional. I could hook it up to run the furnace fan if I wanted the whole house to be really warm, but on the other hand it might be easier to wear a wool sweater in the colder rooms and put down comforters on the beds. I might use it if I wanted to run the water heater for a hot shower, but on the other hand I could always heat water for a bath on the gas stove.

As for the natural gas system, all the gas plants I worked at had NG powered compressors and NG powered backup generators.

I've been going back and forth for a while on which backup system to choose. I have many small systems at the moment.

I decided my backup routine would be to use the basement space as living space in an emergency. Contained, easy to heat with a single-room portable, propane heater, and easy to insulate. It would take care of the issue of freezing pipes too, as long as I keep faucets open in drip-mode, in the rest of the house.

I have a couple of small solar panels for charging small appliances, like lamps and cell phones.

I haven't decided on a generator, yet, since they need to be kept outside, and are noisy, too, so, if we were in a real emergency situation, it would just be a beacon to thieves.

Sweaters, down comforters, long underwear and fleece socks - check ;)

A couple of buckets for sponge baths. Still working on how to heat water, over and above a dutch oven on charcoal, or wood, in the back yard.

Over and above the fact that the ground temperature remains above the freezing point even in winter, basements can be useful in a power outage if you have in-floor heating. The concrete slab floor will store enough heat to last several days. I've known farmers to rely on this to keep their pipes from freezing.

However, if you have natural gas, it is unlikely to fail. The NG company can run its compressors and backup generators on its own natural gas, and the pipeline system can run on line pack (i.e. the natural gas already in the lines) for several days before the pressure drops to the point where they cannot deliver it to the consumer.

And, a wood-burning fireplace or Franklin stove is desirable as a final backup if for no other reason than it's nice to have a cheery wood fire from time to time.

I'm considering a small wood-burning or multi-fuel stove.

My house has two chimneys - the rear one is the outlet for my furnace, so can't have any other stove connected, for code reasons. It is the one going through my kitchen, unfortunately.

The front one, however, goes right to the basement apartment. I'm procrastinating on getting the chimney guys out to see if connecting a stove to it is feasible. It's been drywalled up as dormant, for years.

The last time, it cost me a new stainless steel liner on the rear chimney, and a rebuild of the brickwork on top of the roof ;)

Of course, I could find another way to vent a stove, but don't want more holes in the walls.

All work in progress...

Edit : also really depends on whether one is looking for a temporary emergency solution, or a real, solid alternative. I've been approaching it from the standpoint of random outages, of relatively short duration. Most of my solutions are somewhat like camping out, but in my own house. Financial considerations, too....

I presume that the 5.2 GW capacity must be grid connected.

In the "Information" tab on the neta web site (www.bmreports.com) just below the "Wind Forecast Out-turn" it says

... National Grid forecasts likely levels of wind generation for windfarms visible to the National Grid, i.e. those that have operational metering and that are included in the latest forecast process.

They also provide an Excel spreadsheet of "Power Park Modules" (just above the Wind Forecast Out-turn) which lists the 2.43 GW of metered capacity.

I think we need some clarification here ...

I don't know if the wind is unusually low at the moment, but from the graphs it produced about 500 MW yesterday and today (about 1% of the total).

Scroll further down the page to the forecast for the next 52 weeks and they are predicting around 2500 MW from wind for the duration of the period.

Seems a bit optimistic.

Just because there's no timely bounty of wind to match a Texas Heat wave or an English Blizzard isn't a fault against renewables. The unruly ways of weather is going to get a lot closer to our daily reality again, as these sources of cheap, 'constant' fossil fuels finally sputter down into luxury status.

Taking advantage of the Wind and the Sun when it's there is one piece of the pie, and being able to hold out, keep comfortable and fed during some extreme weather is simply another. A properly designed house should BE the storage system that folks complain doesn't come with Renewables yet. It should hold a few days of stored heat, it should be tight enough to not be undone by the cold or the hot, it should have a stockpile of food and water put by.

'Just In Time' Inventory is about to be over, and we'd best be getting ready for it. (It might have a lot of emotion coming along with it, too. ) It WOULD be foolish to depend entirely on any given source, but it's equally foolish not to have the ability to grab that power when it's rolling in for free as well.

Good points. Do you think most houses should also have their own electricity back up, whether batteries or a small generator, or is that kind of redundancy too expensive or resource consumptive at this point?

If most houses had electricity backup in the form of a fossil fueled powered generator, then that would imply that we don't have a future supply problem with respect to oil,natural gas, or propane, in which case we could just continue business as usual.

The backup you are talking about is to be differentiated from emergency backup generators (which I have). You are talking about backup generators that would have to be called upon every day because of the primary reliance on solar and wind. That clearly would not be a solution in a fossil fuel constrained world.

As far as batteries go for each household. That might not be the optimum approach if this were a widespread requirement. Individuals, however, might choose this approach if the utilities were not forthcoming with some other solution.

In any event, the implication that we should move to a housing stock comprised of passive house type efficiency makes a great deal of sense. This would be the gift that keeps on giving. Lighting could be provided by task focused high efficiency battery run lights which could be recharged when power was available. The same concept could be extended to high efficiency notebook computers which use about 10 wh.

Good point about passive house and task focused batteries. We all have batteries in our laptops and cellphones. Why not extend this to a few other crucial appliances? That should ease the way into a more weather dependent power supply.

We should keep in mind, of course, that we are a long, long way from supplying even an quarter of our current energy needs from renewables. Frankly, I think a 75-90% drop in use needs to be the first step toward anything close to a sustainable energy regime. A lot of that can come out of totally stupid waste, but some of it will mean doing without some things that some people think of as necessities (or at least very desirable luxuries).

The question I ask for my own home's plan is 'What jobs are thoroughly dependent upon electricity?' I mean, it's such a versatile power source that it's great for pretty much every job in the house, if you want it and are willing to bank on that, but if that's all you're set up for, then of course it's a ring in the nose, isn't it?

Communications; Internet, Phone, Radio are completely dependent on Electricity. Lighting, there are some alternatives, but Electric is the cleanest, safest and most portable and controllable.. but in a pinch, you can get by with other things.. Heating, Cooling, Motive Power.. many of these can be done several different ways. Sensing and Control systems (Thermostat, Solar Circulation Pump etc..) are electric only, with a very few exceptions..

I do think having some electricity is going to bear out its value, but moreso if you are ready to supplant it with a variety of options for the heaviest loads and systems that can be run in other ways. For those tools that ONLY work with electricity, a little can provide a lot of value. (Walkie Talkies, Flashlights, Microprocessors, Smoke Detectors .. )

You can even generate power into batteries with a simple exercise bike conversion, so access doesn't have to be ridiculously onerous..

Of course I didn't go into 'which of the Electric-dependent appliances do you really need at all', as well.

As with Tstreet's closing paragraph, the basic model needs to change in several ways. Not to refute his points, but to expand on them, the Efficient Laptop might be a tool that is shared between many more people, personal ownership being revisited in creative ways, also sharing a few task-specific vehicles between a few extended families, (EV car, Van, PU Truck, E-Scooters) .. The Lighting needs of course could also be met with new Daylight-sourcing tools, (like windows!) so that more precious electric is used only as necessary at night..

"You can even generate power into batteries with a simple exercise bike conversion, so access doesn't have to be ridiculously onerous.."

"Assuming an ambitious exercise period of one hour, a person could produce about 100 watt-hours of electricity. That is one-tenth of a kilowatt-hour (1 kilowatt-hour = 1,000 watts for 1 hour)."


So you can exercise a mere 10 hours a day and generate 30 KWH in a month.

We are a family of four. We use about 4KWh a day between us. Sorted. :)

Your food bill is going to go up once you start exercising 10 hours a day. And the kids are going to hate it.

I'm trying to figure out if these are supposed to be disincentives or fringe benefits.. I like making my daughter suffer!

The first assumption in there is pretty broad, also. Some people spend a ton of money on horrible (or excellent) food and they get little or no exercise, and that food and those calories are simply dumped, one way or another.

A big change in lifestyle might well have someone spending the same amount on appropriate food, not wasting and throwing away great fractions of it, and very probably saving a good deal of money on healthcare costs to cap it all off.

This is when you start really appreciating Transistor Technology, LEDs and other energy-sipping devices.. yet devices that DON'T work on anything BUT electricity. Voltmeter, Lightmeter, Bloodsugar Tester, Intercom, Printer, CD-drive, Cell Phone..

While Buying AA alkaline batteries at .75/ea will cost you about $172.40 per kilowatt hour, IF there are any left at the store.. (Based on 2900mah @1.5v)

-- But Recharge a $3.50 Nimh AA (we'll call it 2500mah @ 1.2v) a mere 10 times and that battery is costing you a reasonable $25 a Kilowatt Hour! If you get up to your 1000 recharges that the battery is said to be ok for, $.25, and you're almost at Grid Parity, 2015 rates.

Of course, just having access to volts when things are otherwise dark might have better ways of being evaluated. Personally, I'm a big fan of those little 1.8w PV panels that you're supposed to put on the dash of a car so the battery doesn't die while you leave it at the airport. That little dose of 12v can charge LOTS of little handy stuff! (When you can't fit the exercise bike in your backpack.)

NiMH batteries do not work well for many gadgets, the voltage is too low - 1.2V vs 1.5V per cell. I have abandoned them for my camera and GPS though I do use them in a lantern - reminds me to take them off charge :) I wish they had worked on a chemistry to get closer to 1.5V, I think they stuck at 1.2 to match NiCds and use their chargers.


I wish they had worked on a chemistry to get closer to 1.5V

Write a complaint letter to Mother Nature

just in passing, I'll note that NiZn AA cells are around 1.6v and this last year I've been picking them up at around a buck a cell at various online clearance houses. Comparable to NiMH, seemingly, but maybe 100 rather than 1000 recharge cycles. Still....

This is not at all unsurmountable, but it's been a challenge for rechargable batteries, no doubt.

I've found a number of newer LED items that run on 3 Batteries, or 4.5 volts with Alkalines, like a cheap $10 White LED worklight from a Drugstore that was set up for 3 'D' cells, and I simply put a pack of 4 sub-C Nicads in the same compartment, which is putting 4.8v (nominally) into the light circuit, which is well within its tolerances. (A fresh trio of Alkalines will easily reach 4.8v as well) This has 10 or 20 bright LEDs, and has worked beautifully. Even on a film shoot last spring where we were doing 3 weeks of nights, and many nights had frost on everything (Including spacesuits), This light was a reliable worklight, and even worked in a couple of shots, since it's color matched our Daylight colored sources, and I never saw these cheezy little Nicads run down.

I've assembled a number of 4.8volt rechargable packs now, and have put a common DC Coax plug ( the kind you use with a Wall Transformer for Cordless phones and most other DC devices like that,) onto a range of lights and other things that work in this voltage range. My Window Candles for the Holidays will all run on rechargables, lit ultimately by the sun.. and if I get the chance to make it , so will my Wreath!

It's not super-easy initially, but then, once it's set up and in place, it's awesome! I personally detest throwing Batteries into a trash can or Hazardous Waste pile. If rechargables are filled and emptied properly, they should last for VAST lengths of time. I've still got Nicads hanging on from the seventies, tho' I did abuse them badly through youth and ignorance.

The ones in your Laptop, Cell Phones and Cordless Phones and Drills would be lifelong friends if they weren't tied to crappy charging regimes, and I'd strongly suspect, the ongoing ravages of the "Planned Obsolescence" philosophy of corporate manufacturing design. But don't get mad, unless you're also ready to get even! There are surely escape routes from this trap!


(EDIT: For what it's worth, I mention Nicads above, but these can just as well be Nimh batteries, which are newer chemistry, have many more watt-hours per battery, and seem to be more robust than Nicd, again, if treated well.

Final Note; along with my disgust for tossing batteries in general, is an exceptional despair over the ungodly number of 9volt transistor batteries that are thrown out by the Film and Video Productions of the US and elsewhere, I'm sure.. and in my regular stints using my own wireless mic on various video shoots, I've now built two little 9-volt replacement packs, by putting 8 AA or AAA Nimh's (9.6v nominally) into a pack that feeds each the Transmitter and Receiver of this invaluable sound source. It's now about twice the bulk that it had been, but it is working flawlessly, and each $4 or $5 9v batt that I would have tossed after one day's use is now replaced by about $30 worth of Nimhs instead.. and these have already in their first two months easily surpassed the conservatively 8 days necessary to save me the cost of buying that many single-use batteries.. and like most of the stuff I build, these are also modular, and can quickly unplug and power anything else that needs a Transistor Battery or 9-ish volts.. so I've got that going for me.

It's a case of identifying what works and what doesn't. Those 3 cell led torches are nice but I haven't tried rechargeables yet, I don't have AAAs and I am not sure about the volts as the alkalines seem to be about 1.1/1.2 when the light has faded. My bedside lantern uses 4 D cells and works well with a standard krypton bulb using NiMHs. I may upgrade to LEDs but the krypton gives out good light sideways which may be a pain for LEDs. Any light that uses 4 alkalines is fair game for an LED/NiMH upgrade and the batteries tend to be in packs of 4 with chargers that can charge 4 so that is a good number. I am wondering why you choose to use 8packs instead of rechargeable 9V cells, that would fit, though.


Good points,

It's definitely a bit of trial and error, which can be an annoying and uncertain hump to get over, so most don't bother.

Once something is working though, it becomes a 'system', and is far less trouble than before, since you either never or almost never have to replace the batteries again, or toss out the junked ones.. I have a little electronic date-book/organizer which runs on 2 AAs, and I added a little solar panel to the outside of the bag, and it just lives on a windowsill now. I NEVER have to charge it or 'keep a spare pair' around for it now.. and if it's giving me a 'low' warning while I'm using it, I stand under a brighter light, or move to a patch of sun.. a voila! http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz240/Ingto83/?action=view&current=DS...

The 9 volt rechargables, like the other batteries you've tried, similarly don't carry quite as much power for the size, so I opted to make a somewhat bulky exterior pack that has a good bit more endurance instead. I can pretty much count on these holding on through the day, and I just recharge that night. (I made a little 'fake' 9volt out of wood and screws to go into the battery holder in the radio, running wires out to the pack) I can also quickly swap out a pack if it's low, or top it off during a break.

The fourpacks that come with chargers, I have to warn you, those chargers are FREQUENTLY battery killers, and do a lot to keep rechargable batteries in a fog of mistrust. Any charger that makes little batteries like that actually feel HOT when charging them is Hurting those batteries, and likely severely shortening their lifespan.

Pulse-charging has been working well for me, but aside from this schematic from an Early Homepower Magazine, I don't know a good source to suggest for buying one. They called it a "Pulsar", and there are MANY chargers with this name when I did the search, but I don't know if they're ok or not.. (BIG PDF.. Pulsar article on #54, Schematic on #56) http://files.uniteddiversity.com/Energy/Home.Power.Magazine/Home_Power_M...

I'd say try to find a Warm White LED flashlight or bulb replacement, if you like. Some are still pricey, though, and regular bulbs work fine.. just don't overdischarge rechargables, charge them right, and they'll last a good long time.


Thanks for that link, very interesting. As for NiCd life, I have 3 D cells (Varta industrial) that have been in use for about 25 years before showing signs of decay.They were retired along with their torch as the torch was starting to fall apart :( They were only ever charged in one of those cheap 4 wide boxes that take AAA-D + 1 9V, worked a treat. I'll have to take some time sometime and look at a better charger design that those 4 way warts, if the power goes off they start from scratch again so I have to plug them into the UPS.


Assuming an ambitious exercise period of one hour, a person could produce about 100 watt-hours of electricity. That is one-tenth of a kilowatt-hour (1 kilowatt-hour = 1,000 watts for 1 hour).

During daylight, why not just use a 200w standard PV panel instead of the bicycle? 5hrs of decent sunlight would get you about 1kWh.

why not just use a 200w standard PV panel ... 5hrs of decent sunlight would get you about 1kWh.

Hmmm ... why not? ... here in the UK my solar PV (supposedly ~2KW peak, maybe ~6KWh/day peak) actually produced 120Wh yesterday ...

so I would need 8x more panels than I have got ie: 16Kw peak, or 80x your 200w panel! to generate your 1KWh.

Adequate solar PV isn't an affordable solution for everybody.

Adequate solar PV isn't an affordable solution for everybody

To be fair, to make good use of photovoltaics one does need a reliable source of photons... apparently they are not generally available in the UK but that is not a fault of the technology >;^)

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending November 26, 2010

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.4 million barrels per day last week, down by 578 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.4 million barrels per day, 291 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 698 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 112 thousand barrels per day last week.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 1.1 million barrels from the previous week. At 359.7 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.6 million barrels last week and are in the upper half of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels and are just below the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels last week and are in the middle of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories remained unchanged from last week.
Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged 18.9 million barrels per day, up by 2.4 percent compared to the similar period last year.


Oil inventories managed to increase slightly last week for two reasons: 1) overall refinery output was scaled back slightly for the Thanksgiving holiday and 2) the EIA made a statistical adjustment – adding 2.1 millions barrels of oil retroactively. It is not unusual for the EIA to make various adjustments around the end/beginning of the month, to correct prior weeks’ reports. The EIA on the other hand adjusted oil products inventories as a group downward by around 1 million barrels.

Oil imports of about 8.5 million per day, as we had last week, were less than the 9.0 mbpd or so that the US needs on a long term basis to maintain comfortable inventory levels for the current level of economic activity. We will have to wait until next’s week report to see if China has been starting to grab oil imports that would have otherwise landed in the US (to alleviate their diesel shortage).

Looking more closely at previously discussed regional problems, the distillate situation in the Midwest appears to have improved slightly, although they are not yet in the clear because Enbridge was slow to restore pipelines experiencing some problems last week. In the Northeast US, gasoline inventories remain low – which is probably the reason why the price of gasoline has risen faster than oil this week, as the futures price is based upon New York Harbor.

US gasoline futures rocketed higher for the second time in three days.

Low Northeast US gasoline supplies may be pushed to the limit, rather down to near minimum operating levels.

See U.S. gasoline rallies on tight East Coast supplies up top or

I had a 2008 deja vu experience this morning. Every day I go lift weights at 5am and then leave the gym at 630am to go to work. They always adjust the day's gas prices at the nearest station while I'm in lifting weights, so I look forward to leaving the gym each day to check them out. It doesn't take much to entertain me.

Well today I went in and premium was 3.11/gal. When I left it was 3.74/gal! I assume there was a typo in there, maybe they meant 3.14/gal. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...

Keep us posted. We are also easily entertained, it seems.

The Big Economic Story, and Why Obama Isn’t Telling It


Quiz: What’s responsible for the lousy economy most Americans continue to wallow in?

A. Big government, bureaucrats, and the cultural and intellectual elites who back them.

B. Big business, Wall Street, and the powerful and privileged who represent them.

These are the two competing stories Americans are telling one another.

Yes, I know: It’s more complicated than this. In reality, the lousy economy is due to insufficient demand – the result of the nation’s almost unprecedented concentration of income at the top. The very rich don’t spend as much of their income as the middle. And since the housing bubble burst, the middle class hasn’t had the buying power to keep the economy going. That concentration of income, in turn, is due to globalization and technological change – along with unprecedented campaign contributions and lobbying designed to make the rich even richer...


The precedent for the current concentration of income at the top was 1928.

But, hey, why deal with tough issues such as the distribution of income, when we can distract ourselves with musings about declines in energy quality causing recessions?

Who knew that we were electing a conservative president? Or has Obama just succumbed to total burn out? I am beginning to wonder if he is actually going to run for reelection. The President of hope has become the President of Hopeless.

Whadya mean "conservative"? His supports thought he was "answer A" above, versus his opponents for "answer B", but it turns out that those are in collusion. Some want "answer C", the Tea Party, for smaller gov't and magical growth via de-regulation - at least that would be "conservative". I'm heading for "D" - none of the above.

A & B may be in collusion, or they just might be the same thing: vested interests. The reason big business and big labor dominate the rankings of political donors is that they know that's how they will stay big.

A & B may be in collusion, or they just might be the same thing: vested interests. The reason big business and big labor dominate the rankings of political donors is that they know that's how they will stay big.

I think you can put a fork in Obama. I suppose he could not run. I think the only way he gets re-elected is if there is worse options. Running Sara Palin as an eye-candy VP added 'you have got to be kidding me' to the Republican party.

I have a new way to vote. Vote for the guy least likely to win. You cannot be blamed for the stupid ideas the 'lessor of two evils' candidate surprises you with. Anyone citing a lack of political 'experience' with your candidate needs to explain how 'experience' has helped us so far.

I wonder why I'm not invited to parties.

Didn't mention oil or energy.

"since the housing bubble burst, the middle class hasn’t had the buying power to keep the economy going. "

No, Dummy; since the '73 oil crisis. Why did Ma go into the work force? Cuz she was liberated, or cuz she needed to work to buy gas so Pa could go to work?
Gail told us this a long time ago, but here's another paper...

Declining energy quality could be root cause of current recession
November 30, 2010

Reich is a smart guy but seems to be tone-deaf on the subject of resource constraints. His solution to our economic malaise -- as I think is the dominant thinking within Obama's administration -- is to try and stimulate demand. I hear Krugman making similar assertions. None of these guys will understand the current "recession" until they recognize resource depletion as a real problem.

Almost all economists have the same tone-deaf-ness.

"Finite" is for lesser minds.

Yes and no, and either way it has little to do with "lesser minds". After all, it's entirely possible that something that can't go on literally forever can in fact go on for a longer time than anyone is prepared (or needs) to worry about. Indeed, to the best of our knowledge, the Sun itself is not inexhaustible. It will not go on forever. There's simply no use whatsoever in worrying about infinity or forever.

The real questions are about what might happen in a time frame that actually matters. One major complication responding to them is that for centuries now, far beyond living memory, something has "always" come to the rescue (or more precisely, not the rescue, but at least some sort of rescue.) Another complication is that a steady state economy accompanied by an exponentially growing population must inevitably mean ever more dire poverty and misery down the line. That predicament causes all manner of aggro. It conflicts with religious directives (go forth and multiply, and other such expressions across the world.) In addition, nobody but nobody is going to be told by anybody that they can't produce just as many offspring as they d*mn well happen to feel like it.

So before even beginning to delve into responses, someone would need to persuade Reich, Krugman, and many, many others that the finiteness of the system has become a genuine problem in the here and now, or will at least do so in a future near enough to matter. Quite obviously, that task has yet to be undertaken successfully.

Another complication is that a steady state economy accompanied by an exponentially growing population must inevitably mean ever more dire poverty and misery down the line. That predicament causes all manner of aggro. It conflicts with religious directives (go forth and multiply, and other such expressions across the world.) In addition, nobody but nobody is going to be told by anybody that they can't produce just as many offspring as they d*mn well happen to feel like it.


A steady state economy means widespread poverty.
Economic growth has not eradicated poverty. emphasis mine The condition of having a stable and sustainable population in a steady state economy allows more resources per person. The design of institutions to ensure fair distribution of wealth also provides an income/wealth floor below which no one can fall.

I'm not saying that I know of a way of convincing most people that this is actually true or that we can start to build a steady state economy until the current one crashes and burns completely. This is just some food for thought. At least there are some people out there (pun intended) who are currently building models of what such an economy might look like.

Peter Victor - Managing without Growth


You won't be building a steady-state economy if the current one crashes and burns completely, or even partially.

Why don't you write Peter Victor and ask him what chances he gives his model, or any variation thereof, of providing a plan, or even direction, as long as unemployment remains near current levels or gets worse.

Victor, Reich and Krugman have much in common and no doubt a few differences of opinion. The former include a commitment to the desirability, for moral, political and economic reasons, of full employment.

Why don't you write Peter Victor and ask him what chances he gives his model

He himself openly says it would be very difficult to implement any plans to actually test such a model in the real world due to the problems of political feasibility, which he claims is beyond his area of expertise.

He does state something with which I happen to agree. For any such model to work in the real world you have to find a way to reduce the amount of work done by those currently employed. This means shorter work days, weeks, years and much more leisure time for all concerned. Also if you look at his model it has the per capita income for Canada dropping significantly and stabilizing at about $15,000 annually or about four times the current global average.

However one of the possible scenarios his model explores is what he calls a no growth disaster and it is this possibility he claims that is behind the attempt at maintenance of BAU by current governments, corporations and financial institutions. This graph shows the results and it is admittedly not a pretty picture to say the least.

This is what he says about it:

If increases in all of the sources of economic growth (i.e. consumption expenditure,
investment, government expenditure, trade, population, and productivity) are
eliminated over a 10-year period beginning in 2010, a very different scenario
emerges from the model: a no-growth disaster (Figure 3.2). Poverty skyrockets,
unemployment literally climbs off the chart, and the level of government debt
becomes completely untenable. GDP per capita and greenhouse gas emissions do
eventually level off, but at the cost of economic collapse.


However the long term consequences of trying to maintain BAU are pretty dire in and of themselves, do not solve the problems of unemployment and poverty while at the same time the have negative environmental costs as well, costs we can ill afford to ignore... There is also the real danger of achieving no growth just from trying to maintain BAU and by consequence collapsing the economy anyway.

Obviously his other scenarios of low growth and degrowth are the ones he is suggesting we might use as examples of what we might strive towards in a steady state economy. To be clear these are thought exercises and computer models, no one is claiming that they be used as a concrete plan or blueprint for a new economy. The only thing anyone is claiming as a fact is that BAU cannot be maintained and neither can economic growth. It's a bit of a dilemma to say the least...

From what you just quoted:

... The condition of having a stable and sustainable population in a steady state economy allows more resources per person.

[emphasis mine.] By definition, a "sustainable population" cannot be one that indefinitely grows exponentially. So I must emphatically stand by the point that a state economy accompanied by an exponentially growing population must inevitably lead to misery and poverty. After all, in that situation, they've got ever-declining resources per person, absolutely not more per person. To reach an overall steady state, you've got to reach a steady state in population as well as everything else. Is that so hard to grasp?

After all, in that situation, they've got ever-declining resources per person, absolutely not more per person. To reach an overall steady state, you've got to reach a steady state in population as well as everything else. Is that so hard to grasp?

What in anything I've said here or in any of my previous posts over the last 3 plus years could possibly have led you to conclude that I might disagree with that statement?!

There is no doubt that stabilizing and ending population growth must go hand in hand with a steady state economy. I'm pretty sure I grasp that much...

My bad, I thought that in part you were arguing with that. For the reasons I stated, I see global voluntary population stabilization as a political impossibility. After all, such is the power of the exponential that indefinite growth in even one region has the same ultimate consequences as growth in most regions (i.e. slowly falling population in Italy and Germany proves nothing whatever about the Big Picture), while unanimity on such a matter in a diverse world seems utterly out of reach.

Thus the easiest option by far for Reich, Krugman, Obama, et. al. remains restarting economic growth. Presumably, again, they must think it still possible, that if there's a physical limit, we're not really running into it yet (else what use is more stimulus - and at least for Krugman it seems there could never be enough.)

Thus the easiest option by far for Reich, Krugman, Obama, et. al. remains restarting economic growth. Presumably, again, they must think it still possible, that if there's a physical limit, we're not really running into it yet

Yes, I think that is correct. That graph I just posted above of the consequences of the no growth scenario is partly what makes them so desperate to shore up BAU and continue to try and stimulate growth at any cost, even if it proves physically impossible to do so. Their self denial about it not being possible to continue just runs too deep. They can't see any other option. They've painted themselves into a corner.

The thing is, just about everybody is in some level of denial.

It is as if a hostile invasion had not only gained the beach head, but had broken through the city gates and were in the process of pounding down your door. Meanwhile the people with all the power were siting in their easyboys drinking beer and watching TV (maybe getting a bit annoyed at the rising ruckus in the background because it might distract them from their distractions.)

The most enlightened among them might have seen something on the tele a while back that suggested that some military forces may be starting to gather on the beach on the other side of the channel, but they were quite sure it was just a stroll in the sand to get some air and sun. Their main suggestion is that they might tidy up the place in case they had guests.

Meanwhile, you are trying to move all the heavy furniture in front of the doors and windows and using the rest to form crude weapons out of. This of course gets scorn and abuse poured on your head.

In other words, most are so far removed from the faintest hint of the gravity of our multiple predicaments, its hard to know whether it is worth any effort to nudge them from their wet dreams or just leave them to stew in their juices.

None of these [economist] guys will understand the current "recession" until they recognize resource depletion as a real problem.

"Resource" limitations are real, no doubt.

However, I'm getting sick and tired of everyone on this site thinking that Peak Oil is the hammer which is applicable to every problem that has to be nailed.

The current recession is due to a confluence of many factors playing together.
Peak Oil is not a major driver of those problems however.

The biggest problems are:

1) mechanization,
2) automation,
3) globalization,
4) financial complexification,

5) a driving out of large segments of USA/European populations from being "employable" as labor at the slave labor wages need to compete in a globalized, productivity-maximized world, and

6) a financial system that generates way more "promises" than our current society can ever hope to meet.

Yes, maybe cheap oil was included as a basic and flawed presumption in those trillions of "promises" generated by the financial sector, but it is merely one of many of the flawed presumptions that were packaged into the so-called "toxic" instruments.

I would add that there are many countries in the world that are not in recession, including China and India. It is a U.S., Euro centric perspective to say that "we" are in recession. I would add that our grossly fat military budget is taking away from what might be invested in a real economy, including addressing the investments that need to be made into energy so that energy does not truly become the dominant cause of our problems.

For chrissakes, Afghanistan was the world's fasted growing economy in 2009.

The U.S. wouldn't know what to with resources, anyway, as we would much prefer to piss away our real wealth through the financial machinations of wall street. We have been reduced to mostly making money on money without producing real goods for real people. The resources are being used and presumably depleted in China and India. They will hit a wall eventually but now now.

Yes, we are depleting our resources, which will spell the end of the world economy and the utter degradation of the ecosystem. But, as you say, peak oil isn't the only hammer.

Interestingly, Huff Post has a piece on the "real" cause of our recession here

Pundits, of course, love to create false narratives that the public will gladly gorge on. The truth is something too complex to handle for your average J6P. Welcome to our Idiocracy.

Human nature looks for simple causation, and compelling narrative. It's a basic feature of our inherent desire to categorize, back track, and extrapolate while predicting the behavior of our personal surroundings.

“For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong.” - Henry Mencken

Failures of complex systems often have complex causes, and there should be no expectation of finding a single "smoking gun" to nicely explain problems away. Of course we do anyway, which leads to simplistic solutions which naturally cause new problems. Such is the nature of coupled system components when you give it a good kick.

Notes from Malaysia

Indeed, there is no recession in Malaysia which is still an oil exporter or nearly so.

The govt. has a law which states that the only way to buy a diesel vehicle is to own a company. Thia is separate from a business which could be a rstaurant or food stall. A company must be registered and have full time employees.

This means citizens are only allowed to buy petrol and diesel can be exported. Since both petrol and diesel here cost about $ 2.30 / gallon, this allows...

Small tankers to tranship diesel fuel offshore to fishing boats near the border of Thailand which has diesel at abour $4.50. These fishing boats load up tanks and drums to about 20.000 gallons which then head back to Thailand to be sold to private customers.

Results; Malaysia makes more profits on exports, uses its oversupply of petrol, Thai fishermen make a profit when the fish are gone, large private [ rich ] businesses in Thailand get a low cost alternative supply of diesel,Thailand officially gets to import less fuel

Implications; The rich will get their fuel, one way or another. Petrol will be in relative abundance as fuel supplies dwindle. Malaysia is a good place to be in the near future. Could the US start seeing some of the same effects ?

Dave in Malaysia

Sigh. Yet one more example of how, for every draconian law, there are numerous clever fiddles. (And yet there's no shortage of folks out there calling for draconian laws. Some people never learn...)

The biggest problems are:

1) mechanization,
2) automation,
3) globalization,

It seems that 1, 2, and 3 are affected by both the price and availability of FF?

It is my opinion that Peak Oil causes the problems with all three.

step, the problem is this: When Reich or Krugman talk about putting money in the hands of the lower and middle classes as being necessary for stimulating economic growth, I have to ask "what kind of growth?" We've had plenty of growth over the past few decades and most of it has produced nothing of lasting value: Miles and miles of shopping opportunities, lots of large tract houses 40 miles from "downtown" and lots of big gas guzzling automobiles.

So, my concern is this (and I'm as concerned as these guys are about the maldistribution of wealth in American society -- it can come to no good): How will we stimulate the economy, putting people to work on meaningful things that will help transition us to the future to which we are inevitably heading? More shopping malls, more big-screen TVs, more 4,000 sq ft houses clearly aren't the answer.

The ponzi Federal reserve system was set up along time ago. We are in a debt reduction based contraction, the blow off phase.

The timing of 'creative' finance(CDO, no-doc, etc.) and the increases in energy cost are something that would make an interesting chart.

It looks like the 'collective' hit a resource ceiling and went stupidly into hyper ponzi finance to keep the game going a little while longer. Or these events happened simultaneously, and was arrogantly/delusion-ally self reinforced as the only option.

The change in net energy is going to change the course of human civilization. What an amazing time to be alive.

Great article btw

Clearly, we have a complex mix of forces at work here. Surely, globalization has put downward pressure on American wages. But the economists tell us that the loss in wages due to offshoring of jobs should be more than compensated for by an ample supply of low-cost imported goods. At least that was the story they told just a few years ago. I don't hear that much now.

Then you have the concentration-of-wealth factor. As more wealth concentrates at the top, there is less available at the lower echelons. But how does wealth accumulate at the top? Certainly patterns of taxation (or the lack thereof) can be factors. Undeniably, a work-force that is able to negotiate compensation stands to get a bigger piece of the pie. Clearly, organized labor has been in full-retreat, therefore, we should expect downward pressure on American wages, especially when low cost labor is only a few hours, minutes or seconds away by jet plane or by fiber-optic cable.

For 50 years or more, America has pursued a policy of flooding the world with dollars, thereby diluting the value of it's workforce. This flood of dollars has increased as (a) we seek to buy resources abroad which we can no longer acquire domestically; (b) we have spread our military, intelligence and diplomatic presence around the globe -- often in an attempt to secure the resources which we need but can no longer supply ourselves; (c) the Fed has sought a loose money policy in order to placate a consumer-driven economy that finds itself increasingly short of breath.

I see this loose money policy as being driven largely by resource depletion issues at home. Does this explain our current malaise? Not entirely, as the previously mentioned things also factor in. But it is certainly a part of our current troubles. But if resource depeltion issues are the dominant force behind our current economic troubles, then I fail to see how simply handing out more money or redistributing wealth can fix anything. What we need is a lower level of consumption, not a higher one. The trick is to let us all down easily rather than the Wild West Winner Take All approach that we are currently pursuing.

I am wondering if the rich actually have money. Hear me out.

If the money needs to be converted into physical energy and that energy has a limit do to physical availability then all of the digital dollars sitting in banks or markets are all in vain. Its a digital war over nothing.

"...all of the digital dollars sitting in banks or markets are all in vain..."

What makes the matter incapable of being settled in a sentence or two is that things are rarely quite as stark or Manichean as that. War over everything, and war over nothing, are just two possibilities. There is also a wide range of possibilities for war over something that is more than nothing and less than everything.

The fundamental cause of the U.S. economy's problems is oil at $85 a barrel. If the fundamental problem were a lack of demand, as it was during the Great Depression, then we know how to fix that problem with tax cuts and increases in government spending. Massive fiscal stimulus was tried recently. It did not do much good. I don't think the Fed's easy money policy is going to help much either.

In addition to expensive oil, the U.S. labor force faces increasing structural unemployment, i.e. unemployment that is unrelated to declines in real GDP and at a rate well above mere frictional unemployment. The magnitude and durability of the problem of structural unemployment is controversial within mainstream economics--and this controversy has been going on for at least fifty years.

What I see is zero or negative growth in real GDP over the next few years while oil production is still on an "undulating plateau." When global oil production falls, then the rate of growth in real GDP for the world will also fall and eventually go negative. And as Westexas is fond of pointing out with his ELM, the decline in net exports of oil can be expected to be much more rapid than the rate of decline in oil production.

Note that in the U.S. real per capita disposable income is at about the same level that it was ten years ago. In other words, standards of living (to the extent that these are shown by real per capita disposable income) have stagnated for ten years.

Over the next ten years U.S. standards of living will fall significantly for the first time since the Great Depression. We will have bad economic years and worse years: There will be no more good years with big declines in unemployment.

I am not a fast-crash doomer. But I've been wrong before.

Hi Don:
You seem to be ignoring what to me is the elephant in the room: the concentration of wealth at the upper end. I thought Reich made a good case for the fact that wealthy people don't spend as much of their income as the working class. Where does the money go? It goes into investment. I suspect that has been the source of the "loan" money that has been made available world-wide to create the real estate bubble. Now that that money is at risk the political power of the very wealthy is trying to protect that money. Hence the bail outs that are not ever going to address the fundamental problem. Much of the investment monies have been protected by the national government stepping in and sweeping the debt unto the taxpayers.

So where, in this scenario, is the effect of resource depletion? Right now I think that the move of investment money, along with resource constraints, were the straws that broke the camel's back. Once the smart money saw that real estate had begun to peak there was a traditional move to commodities. But there clearly was not enough there to absorb the vast amounts of money. Investors stopped spreading money around and the Ponzi scheme known as modern capitalism ground to a halt.

We've ended up in a place where commodities, including oil, have stayed on a high price plateau. This has had an effect, along with a fear of investment risk, of short-changing opportunities for creative wealth building. Voila! Stagnation. Or rather stagflation. Costs are still rising. For example my health insurance just this month went up 11%. And that was my single largest monthly expense already.

IMHO, the concentration of wealth problem in the U.S. is pretty small potatoes compared to the problem of Peak Oil. Nevertheless, I'm in favor of confiscatory estate taxes to end inherited wealth above a fairly low limit. I would also like to see the income tax as progressive as it was, say, during the two presidential terms of Dwight Eisenhower--a staunch Republican, by the way.

Soak the rich? Heck yes! Possibility of such tax schemes being put into effect during the next five years . . . nil. Because of their accumulations of great wealth, the hyperrich have way too much political power. The only way I can foresee heavy taxation of the richest people is by fiat of a populist dictator.
I think the odds of getting such a dictator in the U.S. during the next twenty years are pretty high. Clearly, the republic has failed. Our future is quite likely to be one of a series of dictators, much as the Roman republic transformed into the Empire. The period of Roman history from about 100 B.C. through the reign of Augustus is fascinating and relevant to what is happening now and has been happening during recent decades in the U.S.

"I would also like to see the income tax as progressive as it was, say, during the two presidential terms of Dwight Eisenhower--a staunch Republican, by the way."

Me, too. I guess you can take the boys out of Berkeley, but you can't take Cal out of the boys :>)

the U.S. labor force faces increasing structural unemployment, i.e. unemployment that is unrelated to declines in real GDP and at a rate well above mere frictional unemployment. The magnitude and durability of the problem of structural unemployment is controversial within mainstream economics

These days its become mixed up with politics, and policy. The no government action wanted, wants to claim all excess employment is structural and therefore the case for stimulus or other government economic activity stimultion is non-existant. The other side claims, very little of the recent increase is structural, and enough is cyclical that we should be doing something about it.

Economics is horribly contaiminated with the morality play. We were bad spendthrifts, spending more than we could produce, so therefore we should now be unemployed as pennance for our wastefulness. The analology someone made about this that I liked is: "On what planet after you've partied all week and made a horrible mess of the house, are you punished by being made to sit on the coach and watch TV?" No. In my house you'd be forced to work to clean up the mess. But, in morality play land after spending too much, you get sent to the unemployment line. Or worse after someone else (such as bankers and FIRE sector types have screwed up, you get sent to the unemplyment line, and your unemployment insurance is cancelled.

U.S. labor force faces increasing structural unemployment

The US and other industrialized countries have been facing "structural unemployment" since the invention of the mechanized farm.

Large swarms of unemployed ag workers came to the cities.

Lucky for them (for us), the whole iron triangle of car/oil/bank/super-market was just starting to take off then.

So they all got jobs on the factory assembly line, pumping gas at the gas station. working as a teller at the bank, ringing up the cash register at the market, and so on.

Go to your local bank now and you will encounter the ATM (automated teller machine)

Go to your local supermarket now and you will encounter the automated self-check out machine.

Go to your local gas station now and you will encounter (except in New Jersey) the ...

Do you get the picture yet?

Don't know how to insert images but Wired has a photo gallery of amazing cargo bikes that have been hacked to achieve a specific load-carrying task.

Amazing DIY Cargo-Bike Mods

(Leanan doesn't want us to do in-line pictures anymore.)

From what I can make out, this "trike": [ i.mage.+]
has a front wheel electric drive and collapsible rear wheels between which a fold-up cargo bag sits.

Clever design.

(Leanan doesn't want us to do in-line pictures anymore.)

Since when?

I've checked and it's not in the guidance to commenters. It would also significantly reduce the quality and readability of comments IMHO. If someone is describing a graph, you don't want to have to play around going off to another site to find and look at said graph, then coming back to comment on it.

Please, let's not have this site go any further backwards. If you want to provide an option for people to turn off image loading, feel free - but don't try to make it a diktat.

Graphs are fine. So are other images that provide information - news photos, photos of new energy technology, etc.

What I don't want posted are the kind of illustrative/decorative images that some people post just to draw attention to their comments. A portrait of Obama while griping about his policies, say, or a stock image of two people watching TV when posting about the evils of television. Those are not worth the bandwidth. We all know what Obama looks like, and we all know what people watching TV look like.

Sounds good to me - on subject images: good, ephemera: bad

Any mitigation of PO or climate change will require functional markets with real capital flows.

If the comment below is accurate, it suggests much of our current economic activity is little more than shuffling inventories for balance-sheet purposes.

Layers upon layers of fraud do not an economy make.

I am an analayst for an internation trading company….import/export... I do this based on REAL DATA we use that we obtain from a global aspect. We have locations in just about every country. We keep data logs of inventory and what goes into and out of countries. Guess what. TRADE is not taking place. Most of it is frozen right now and has been for some time. ...

We are making good money right now… but it is coming out 1 area of the business. We trade in 14 different sectors..from metals to chemicals to agriculture to textiles to machines…hell if it moves, we probably are involved with it somewhere. THE ONLY PLACE WE ARE MAKING MONEY IS THE FOOD/GRAIN DEPARTMENT.

... Currently we are working on a deal where we will be buying back inventory from a VERY LARGE manufacturer…at a discount, just because they do not want it on the books at year end. Great deal for us. We have already found a buyer… Guess who it is. THE SAME COMPANY WOULD LIKE TO BUY IT BACK IN JANUARY, at a profit for us...

This is what is going on out there. You wanna buy into the PONZI, you go right ahead...

(bold = My emphasis)

The above is the 4th comment by curbyourrisk at Distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Awards Map

Agreed, It's starting to look like were all living in a Potemkin village.

Fed Papers Show Breadth of Emergency Measures

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve released documents Wednesday showing that its efforts to help stabilize the markets at the height of the financial crisis reached far beyond Wall Street and deep into the economy.

The crisis in the market for commercial paper, for example, the lifeblood of daily business, was more extensive and lasted longer than was previously known.

Even bedrock corporations like Caterpillar, General Electric, Harley Davidson, McDonald’s, Verizon and Toyota relied on a Fed program that supported the market for commercial paper — the short-term i.o.u.’s that corporations rely upon to make payroll and pay their suppliers. During the worst moments of the crisis, in the fall of 2008, even creditworthy corporate borrowers found this source of financing had dried up, and had to turn to the Fed for help.

...Indeed, the Fed was still supporting the market for commercial paper well into the summer of 2009 — even as the recession officially came to an end.

Mish and a few others out there are keeping a running list of the Top Fraudsters.

It's time to update my rolling list of who should be criminally indicted and why.

April 29, 2010: Barofsky Threatens Criminal Charges in AIG Coverup, Goldman Sachs Abacus Deal, TARP Insider Trading; New York Fed Implicated

April 16, 2010: Rant of the Day: No Ethics, No Fiduciary Responsibility, No Separation of Duty; Complete Ethics Overhaul Needed

March 2, 2010: Geithner's Illegal Money-Laundering Scheme Exposed; Harry Markopolos Says “Don’t Trust Your Government”

January 31, 2010: 77 Fraud, Money Laundering, Insider Trading, and Tax Evasion Investigations Underway Regarding TARP

January 28, 2010: Secret Deals Involving No One; AIG Coverup Conspiracy Unravels

January 26, 2010: Questions Geithner Cannot Escape

January 07, 2010: Time To Indict Geithner For Securities Fraud

October 20, 2009: Bernanke Guilty of Coercion and Market Manipulation

July 17, 2009: Paulson Admits Coercion; Where are the Indictments?

June 26, 2009: Bernanke Suffers From Selective Memory Loss; Paulson Calls Bank of America "Turd in the Punchbowl"

April 24, 2009: Let the Criminal Indictments Begin: Paulson, Bernanke, Lewis

Imagine what we could do if it were possible to restore confidence in the markets and our government.

I wonder if it is even possible anymore - or if the damage is permenant.

IMHO, the damage is permanent. The U.S. Republic is near its end. What will replace it is hard to say, but some form of dictatorship is likely to result from falling oil imports, high oil prices, and massive increases in unemployment.

Wyoming Farmers Earn Cash Diverting Irrigation Water To Oil Rigs

Yet instead of using the family’s adjudicated water right to irrigate his fields nine miles north of Burns next year, King plans to sell a good portion of the water to oil companies.

“Last summer I didn’t irrigate. So I’m willing to quit irrigating again for this next year or two and sell as much water as I can,” said King.

Electric utility rates are on the rise, narrowing the profit margin for crop irrigation. King figures he can make a heck of a lot more money by selling water for 35 cents per barrel – at least for a few years while the oil industry drills exploratory wells into the Niobrara oil formation, which many people expect to be the source of major new oil production in Wyoming. Thirty-five cents per barrel is 10-times what King might earn off his water when he uses it for irrigation.

We are watching all the systems converge. Oil, water, food, natural gas, and electricity. You cannot eat oil and yet we use our water to make more oil so that we can farm elsewhere and ship the food around. Sounds at best like diminishing returns.

Would love to hear what the anti-corn-ethanol crowd thinks of these diversions of water to oil fields will mean.

Water is the West's most scarce resource. Most of it was spoken for long ago and any new demand means taking it from another competing use.

Kenny King is a neighbor and an all-around fine person, and I can sympathize with his desire to make money when given the opportunity. But - I and my family also own some land about 50 miles away that is in a 10 square mile zone where permits already have been issued to drill a well in nearly every section - nearly 100 wells in an offshoot of the Niobrara that is not even a pimple on the butt of the main portion of the formation. My point is that the number of wells being discussed for the Niobrara is simply mind boggling - and it looks like the State of Wyoming has already lost the fight to regulate water use between competing uses and users.

Will oil break $87 today? Not a good sign.

Will oil break $87 today? Not a good sign.

Not a good sign, is right. I recall not too long ago a position suggested by Gail that 85 dollars was probably the price point that would cause a recession. Afterall historically 80 dollars a barrel in today's dollars had been associated with past recessions. So, 85 seemed like a good bet and I agreed at the time. However, recent reports indicate record high corporate profits, the Dow has rebounded from 7400 to 11300, the Recession is over (except for high unemployment and lowering real estate values), and things are heating up.

Which questions whether 85 is the right number. Maybe it's more like 95 or 105?

In real terms (correcting for inflation), the Dow Jones Industrial Average is below where it was just ten or eleven years ago. The stock market has been a TERRIBLE place to invest money. For a good alternative, look at TIPs (Treasury Inflation Protected securities). TIPs have way outperformed the stock market and the regular bond market during the past ten or twelve years. (In other words, it does not matter what year you start with: TIPs have done way better than the Standard & Poors 500 stock average, as well as majorly outperforming the DJIA.)

Yeah, but now we are at the end of a 30 year bull market in bonds. Haven't you noticed that the bond market is crashing? TIPs are not really inflation protected since the government gets to define what "inflation" is.

Buying TIPs or any other bonds now is a horrible idea. I recommend precious metal mining and commodity stocks for people who have money to invest. Of course all investments are risky, you could lose money and I am not a financial adviser.

I like, KOL, JRCC, MEE, GDX, GDXJ, SLW, RGLD, NEM, GG, FCX, POT, MOS, ERF, PWE, PBT, BTE, ECA, CHK. Somewhat less risky and good dividend paying stocks are JNJ, PG, KFT, PFE, MRK.

Let us see how this pans out over the next one year.

Nice list, a lot of overlap with the accounts I manage....

Drop: MRK, PFE

I don't invest in coal because of "moral" reasons, I also think that the glory days
of Big Pharma is over...

ERF looks like it merits some research, thanks for the tip.

No matter what you invest in, there is risk. My opinion is that the risk of investing in TIPs is much lower than the risk of any stock investment. As a group, stocks have not performed well during the last ten to twelve years.

Warren Buffett has the right idea: Buy whole businesses that are undervalued and that have a "moat" around them. So my advice, if you must invest in the stock market, is to accumulate Berkshire-Hathaway class B stock--perhaps using dollar cost averaging.


There is risk everywhere, deflate the TIP returns by the Dollar index and you have at best stayed flat. A common feature of many of the stocks listed above is that most of the earnings are passed on to shareholders and not used to enrich upper management.

Give me an MLP Pipeline that pays out 90% of earnings, has transfer rates indexed to the CPI, yields 7.5% which is taxed as a long term capital gain, (i.e. the quarterly payments are classified as Return of Captial and only become a taxable event upon sale of the security). Or an oil and gas royalty trust.

Own the cashflow on oil and gas. You cannot lose. All my clients have prebought the oil that they will use over the rest of their life. It is called preservation of buying power, which is superior to preservation of capital.

PS I forgot HGT for Nat Gas cashflow and CEF for physical Au and Ag in the above list.

At the risk of blowing my own horn, I manage mid-7 figures and all my clients have at least %25 total gains over the past 3 years, some have gains in excess of 100%. On average, I have beat the S&P by 0.8% per month for 4 years. I would not touch TIPs with a 10 foot pole and I have clients in their 60's.

Berkshire is deeply tied to the FIRE economy notwithstanding their recent buyout of BNSF. They have tremendous derivative exposure despite Uncle Warren describing them as "Weapons of Mass Destruction".

Better off buying Pine Tree capital, same business model, but dealing with small and micro cap companies.
Tis' volatile, though.

Compare the performance of Berkshire Hathaway over the past thirty years to ANY other investment; Berkshire-Hathaway wins, hands down.

I know many many once "go-go" speculators in stocks, bonds, and commodities who are now stony broke and working as waiters or "chefs" in cheap restaurants; some drive cabs.

IMO, buying and hold B-H is the best long-term payoff for anybody who wants to invest in stocks at all. Even if you own but a single share of B-H class B shares you will be invited to attend the annual meeting in Omaha. Great fun.

Never invest by looking in a rear view mirror... Do you know you Bill Miller is? If not check out his 20 year Mutual fund performance.

The past thirty years have been a bull market in bonds, very friendly for FIRE investments. The tide is turning.

MSFT has blown away BRK.A (1987), WMT has beaten BRK.A (1981), ABX has matched BRK.A (1986)

There are three companies off the top of my head that beat BRK.A over the time span available. I'll throw a one more out there. AUY has beaten BRK.A by 400% since listed on the NYSE (2004).

None of your examples goes back thirty years. Reason? None of the investments you suggest have equalled the success of B-H over the past thirty years--not a single one.

Warren Buffet's investment philosophy is based on that of Benjamin Graham in THE INTELLIGENT INVESTOR. I was weaned on Graham and Dodd SECURITY ANALYSIS, and every thing I've learned since I got my MBA in Finance in 1965 suggests that Graham and Dodd got it right.

Note that if I wanted to cherry pick my numbers I would have gone back to the original issuance of B-H class A shares at $12 a share. You know what the share price was at the close of business today?

You go to Omaha for the annual meeting of B-H shareholders, and you find you are rubbing elbows mostly with multimillionaires. All they did was buy and hold.

Why are you so fixated on past performance? Can't you see how the world has changed in recent years? Your old rules no longer apply.

The rise of India and China, the enormous demand for commodities, peaking of oil production, the bankruptcy of the western world and Japan, massive bailouts and borrowing by western governments that dig the hole deeper, the reckless money printing by central banks, blatant monetization of debt....

Buy precious metals & commodities to preserve your purchasing power or suffer in the hyper inflationary fire started by the banksters.

I am very familiar with Graham and Dodd. I use their principles all the time in evaluating companies. For the companies I listed as potential investments, check the free cash flow, check the leverage, check the debt and its rollover schedule, verify the book value. Buying an junior oil E&P at 1.2 times book, captialized at oil price of $25 per barrel and or MG at $2.50 per MCF and 25 years of reserve life is exactly what Warren would do. Or another example, buy a Cu-Au producer with the current metal value of their proven reserves equal to 20 times the market cap. (TVI Pacific is an example).

Here is the difference, I have no way of reliably estimating the Book value and discounted cash flows for technology and FIRE companies. Having worked on Wall street, ironically modelling complex derivatives such as CLO's MBS and CDO's, I can assure that my financial analysis is more than adequate to the task.

My examples to counter BH were limited by the availability of data at Marketwatch, I picked "All Data" and those were the dates that I was fed back. No cherry picking. I do not dispute the phenomenal sucess of BH, it *was* a great investment. By the way, your buddy Warren has been effectively bailed out. Well Fargo is insolvent, the 2nd lien book (where the counted negative amortization on their option-ARMs as income, nice trick eh? I think G&D would be unimpressed) is at least $400 Billion underwater and effectively worthless.

Don, of all people, considering your tenure here at TOD must realize that the old paradigms have changed. If there is any lesson to take from this web site, that is the one.

Here is one for you, Alexis Minerals, AMC.TO

No debt, currently producing 60,000 oz pa, in the process of developing a new 700,000 oz property trading at 60% of book value. Do your own due dilligence.

In real terms (correcting for inflation), the Dow Jones Industrial Average is below where it was just ten or eleven years ago. The stock market has been a TERRIBLE place to invest money.

I was hoping to get someone's take on the point made about what price of oil will it take to cause another recession. Maybe tomorrow.

The reaction to price movements isn't immediate. It takes a good few months to work its way out into even some of the most reactive measurements - and bankruptcies and job losses take even longer.

Saying that, you should expect the price wall to gradually shift to the right as inefficient industries change their cost base (usually by moving offshore). If $80 was enough to kill a fair percentage of an industry, then as a good businessman you shouldn't invest in building new capacity in that industry while you see the same cost base structure.

The wall evolves to the right in response to adjacent prices.

Earl - I'll offer a proposition: the long standing technical definition of "recession" might not be the best metric to describe our economic condition. A few weeks ago I got frustrated with all the chatter about the change in GPD vs. where GDP was in absolute terms. Did some hunting and found a great web site: http://www.measuringworth.com/datasets/usgdp/result.php. You can chart all the different flavors of GDP for the last 100 years. In terms of absolute value we've been at Peak GDP since 2005-07 depending on which GDP metric you chart. Essentially we've had an undulating plateau of GDP: periods of small increases mixed with small reductions. Perhaps it's just coincidence that this span is similar to what some describe as the beginning of a PO undulating plateau. Perhaps not. I'll let others argue that point.

Back to your point: "things are heating up". That's true. But is this just another up bump to be followed by another drop or is it the beginning of a long term new trend line? Everyone can have an opinion but obviously only time will tell. Some folks are concerned that we might have a double dip recession. In charting GDP for the last 20 years that isn't my concern. To have a second substantial dip we have to have a substantial long term recover to dip back down from. So far the charts don't show that we've begun that level of recovery. Maybe we will but we'll have to wait a year or two to see it prove itself IMHO. Your point about the sustained unemployment problem and the sustained (if not worsening) housing busts would tend to support this view.

So to your point about the price tipping point for oil: $85...$95...$105? My guess is that we hit that tipping point somewhere north of $75. But "tipping point" might be too strong a tag. Perhaps a "leaning point" more than tipping. It didn't represent a cliff (just like the cliff we won't see re: PO IMHO). It MIGHT represent the start of an extended period a static (for lack of a better word) GDP just as we may be in a static period of oil prices: short term periods of up and down movements but no long term (several years) trends. IOW oil might bounce above $105 for while but I suspect that will cause demand destruction and it will drop back significantly...but only for a while. Same for GDP: periods of small gains which are negated to a significant degree by short recessionary periods.

Thanks for the link on GDP. On your point regarding GDP, I notice that sometimes on TV they make remarks like we are still pulling out of a recession, but yet the Govt. says it ended in June 09. For the unemployed it is still definitely a recession but for others its BAU. A mix bag for sure.

That's true. But is this just another up bump to be followed by another drop or is it the beginning of a long term new trend line?

That is the question. It's like watching a patient that had a mighty fall, then stabilized, is building strength back, but will probably falter again, but when? Watching different bits of information, like oil production, oil exports, oil price, the Dow, eurozone debt concern, etc. is like checking on the condition of a patient. Check the platlette count, blood pressure, color of skin, temperature, etc. knowing the patient is on thin ice but trying to recover.

I'm not expecting a long term recovery. Like you say, the recovery so far is not robust, but how strong can it get before commodity prices rise enough to squelch the whole thing again? It probably will be a combination of factors but I'm certain there will be another step down in the world economy. It's fascinating watching this unfold, not knowing what exactly will tip the tables.

I'm also pretty certain that if the next step down coincides with high oil prices, more of MSM will make the connection and concerns about peak oil could become common knowledge. What is then done about it is another thing.

A very useful insight from David Mackay's WithoutHotAir blog.

I'd like to give a few more examples of this trick, all converting unmemorable numbers in awkward units into temperature rises.

Example 1: the cost of desalinating sea water. [This method of making it stick came from Jim Gill, Chancellor of Curtin University, via Sam Wylie.] In SEWTHA (p 93), I report that desalination has an energy cost of 8 kWh per m3. A nice way to make this number more meaningful is to work out what temperature rise you would get if the same energy were put directly into heat in the same volume of water. The answer is ((8 kWh) / (1000 litres)) / (4.2 ((kJ / C) / litre)) = 7 degrees C.

This result brings home that if the desalinated water is going to be used for a shower or for cooking, the energy cost of the desalination is fairly tiny compared to the energy that will be used later in the water's lifecycle.

(Bold emphasis is mine)

I found this a very useful way of looking at the energy issues of desalinisation which is often discussed here on TOD.

Hopefully others here will find this useful - and if you have not read the Without Hot Air book yet... well, no comment.


David Mackay ahs a great ability for putting things in simple terms so that people can understand them- our politicians, and their advisers, try to put things in complicated terms so that people can;t understand them!

On desal, yes, the energy in heating water is indeed much greater, but there are a few important differences. heating water can be done with low grade heat, like solar thermal, or biomass fuels, etc. Desalinating it can *only* be done with electricity, a very high grade source.

Desal should be the last resort for a city water supply as it is so expensive to build and operate. Only when all the efficiency measures have been done, and the water is priced appropriately high, should desal be considered. When people are still watering lawns, desalinating water is a colossal waste of energy, but some people gotta have that golf green lawn!

The article about the Amazon, gets you wondering when you can go surf on the dunes of the Amazon desert sands?

Burning down all those bits of remaining forest for farms seems to lead to the death of the world's rain forests. And then the rain you used to get won't be there for the crops and you can't get any from the river, cause it is dry too.

We seem to have stepped over the line recently and now we are heading in a direction that only God knows where we will end up.

With the death of the Amazon rainforest, I wonder how many species will bite the dust?

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world, sans many rainforests and with sea levels rising, I might as well build boats instead of houses.

The article about the Amazon, gets you wondering when you can go surf on the dunes of the Amazon desert sands?

Are you familiar with Amazongate? A scientist that made a claim that was debunked by the denialists so much so that if you do a google search on amazongate, most of what you'll get are the denial responses. But as it turned out not only was his claim correct, but it didn't go far enough. Check out this link and verbiage from it:


The Sunday Times piece (now retracted) was originally headlined “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim”, though this headline was later changed on the website version. It said the 40% destruction figure was based on an “unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise”.

That headline and claim has been borne out by facts. The Sunday Times should put the story back up, and retract their retraction. Leake had it right and the editors simply caved to pressure without doing a thorough investigation to see if his claim was supportable. It took bloggers like Dr. Richard North to do the job the Sunday Times would not do, even to save their own credibility.

The Amazon will turn to scrub brush, then desert by 2100 with less than normal rainfall. The reason why is because it is a cyclical system. The water in the system gets recycled, so if the rainfall drops, the system contracts leading to forms of fauna that use less rainfall, eventuating as a desert.

It's really not that surpising. Human activity is causing desertification all over the world.

The Amazon will turn to scrub brush, then desert by 2100 with less than normal rainfall. The reason why is because it is a cyclical system.

More than that there is concern about how much change in temperature tropical plants can endure. Tropical climates are usually very stable in temperature (any source of cold air is thousands of miles away, and available sunlight changes little during the year). So a couple of degrees centrigrade may put them out of their tolerance zone. Perhaps the rainforests will desertify, because the vegatation can't take the heat?

Perhaps the rainforests will desertify, because the vegatation can't take the heat?

However, most of the global warming heat increase has been at the poles, rather than at the equator. So it's probably more a factor of moisture - meaning the fauna can handle hot weather as long as everything is wet/humid.

Only in recent decades have there been long dry periods and its not surprising it's having a devastating effect on a 'Rain Forest'. Before people cut big and small holes in the forest, the canopy acted to hold in moisture. Now the overall water content of the forest is depleting and with it the fauna.

I had a high school teacher in 1974 explain this and he worried at the time about 'slash & burn' techniques and their eventual effect on what he described as a weak soil system and sensitive moisture balance, because whatever nutrients (in dead leaves) hit the forest floor were quickly used by the plants. Disturb that moisture balance or use the limited amount of nutrients to grow crops and that part of the forest dies off permanently. Once its dead it starts to turn to drier forms of fauna and eventually to desert.

Local heating is real, though. Rainforests are cooled by the transpiration of the big trees. Clearing forest causes a local temperature rise, up to 6 degrees C, IIRC. Higher temperatures and less shade means more evaporation, drying the ground. This stresses the edge of the remaining forest. The lack of transpiration reduces rainfall, drying the area further. (In rainforests transpiration is very much bigger than evaporation.)

So moisture loss and temperature act together.

Slash and burn as practiced by the native Amazonians is no problem. A tribe of 30 with hand tools can only clear so much forest in a month, and they stay in the forest, so the nutrients do too. Cut, raze and crush as practiced with chainsaws, chains, and bulldozers: that's a different story.

Desertification is indeed predicted for a large part of the Amazon - "up to 40 percent" of it in some studies, more in others. When? They used to say in the 2060s. But that was before the 2005 and 2010 epic droughts. Oh, and the smaller, but still large, drought in 2007.

By the way, I think you two mean "flora": "fauna" are animals.

By the way, I think you two mean "flora": "fauna" are animals.

Flora, absolutely, good point.

Hey Charles,

This isn't about the rain forests but it is about reversing desertification and climate change, check it out it really made me rethink a few things...


Vatican keen on solar-powered electric popemobile

VATICAN CITY – Anyone have a fast, solar-powered electric popemobile for his holiness?
The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI would gladly use one as another sign of his efforts to promote sustainable energy and take care of the planet, but one has yet to be offered.

Oh Pffft. You wanna promote sustainability? Then STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT BIRTH CONTROL IS FORBIDDEN! That will do more for sustainability than a million solar-powered popemobiles. Sheesh.

And don't beg for stuff . . . get a job.

The Pope could always direct His Billion Plus Souls to buy electric vehicles - or find alternative transportation (bus, legs, etc.) That would go over real well in Ireland - the Protestants would have no problem discovering who's who ...

Yes, I am in complete agreement with you on this.

My respect for the worth of the major World religions would greatly increase if these institutions would preach to their flocks to have no more than two children per woman.

I still would prefer that folks could understand and make these kind of decisions without the carrot and stick of the heaven/hell fairy tale, but I would take the widespread adoption of zero population growth, even with coercion through fiction, as a great victory for the planet.

German prototype
Large solar panels on roof provide added sun shade. Panels are made with bullet proof glass for extra protection.
American prototype
1 sq foot of cells provides a truly green transportation system. To extend the range beyond a few hundred feet the solar panel is backed up with a V12 6l gasoline powered generator.

Any other countries contributions?


No such thing as free parking: Nationwide study demonstrates high environmental cost

Next time you're searching for a parking space and someone grabs a spot from right in front of you, it might seem like the last space left on Earth, but ponder this: there are at least 500 million empty spaces in the United States at any given time.

..."[Parking] is the single biggest land use in any city. It's kind of like dark matter in the universe, we know it's there, but we don't have any idea how much there is."

..."There's actually a larger infrastructure for parking than for roadways," said Chester. "This speaks to the sort of hidden infrastructure components that are there to store our vehicles when they're not moving."

..."Ninety-nine percent of automobile trips end in free parking and this has a major effect on people's choice of what means of transportation to take."

This reminds me of a quote I saw many years ago, confirmed by my driving and flying-over experience: Over 50% of the real estate in the Los Angeles county is given over to automobiles. Roads, driveways, parking, gas stations, dealerships, repair shops, parts stores, ad naseum.

I know what you mean. I think every so-called "developed" country is half parking lots, roads, shops, cement. Probably no one really likes it. And one day it will not be like that anymore. When we finally start to go along with the sun rather than fossil fuels.

WikiLeaks oil news from Russia. Hot from the NY Times. A Dim U.S. View of Russia and Putin

A confidential cable pointedly mentioned the Swiss oil-trading company Gunvor, as being “of particular note.”

The company, the cable said, is “rumored to be one of Putin’s sources of undisclosed wealth” and is owned by Gennadi N. Timchenko, who is “rumored to be a former K.G.B. colleague of Putin’s.” One estimate said the company might control half of Russian oil exports, potentially bringing its owners billions of dollars in profit.

There's a search engine to do freetext search on the published cables at this site:


Lots of interesting oil-related nuggets come up if you look for "reserves".

Had a hard time concentrating at work today...the gnashing of teeth from the federal civil servants about having their salaries frozen for two years was very distracting; the funny thing is that most of these folks are very Republican, so it was interesting hearing them try to justify whining about a measure meant to reduce the rate of increase of our debt!

Let me head (some of) you off at the pass: Yes, I understand that entitlement programs constitute most of our spending...but I guarantee you that these same mostly Republican GS folks absolutely want every bit of their Social Security and all of their retired military or federal civil servant medical benefits.

I have witness that their attitude is to cut everyone else's wages and salaries...other non-DoD and non-DOE federal workers, over-paid union workers, basically cut everything from anyone who is not in their holy tribe and dead wood paper shufflers.

I keep being reminded of the movie 'Falling Down'...it will be interesting to see what all the self-important, spoiled white old men GS folks do when daddy takes their T-Birds away. Many of these folks talk quite a bit about their affiliation with the NRA and such...

It's pretty obvious that most local, regional and national OECD governments are in trouble, since most OECD countries cannot afford the current level of government spending, and given the reality of Peak Oil/Peak Exports, hoping that the Good Times return is an exercise in futility.

It's just a question of when, not if, that most governments are going to be forced to implement drastic spending cuts.

I think that we are going to see increasingly acrimonious relations between current/retired government employees--trying desperately to hold on to rich pension benefits--and taxpayers. Many government entities are going to end up defaulting on these pension obligations, simply because they run out of money (or they choose to hyperinflate the obligations away, where they can).

Definitely...there are plans to hike the TRICARE premiums for us retired military types.

You are correct...an easy way to inflate away my military pension would be to hold our COLAs to some fraction of the inflation rate.

I told my wife these things and she asked what we could do about it.

I said 'nothing', enjoy the ride...

...given the reality of Peak Oil/Peak Exports, hoping that the Good Times return is an exercise in futility.

It's just a question of when, not if, that most governments are going to be forced to implement drastic spending cuts.

wt, from the above I presume you perceive peak oil/peak exports as the leading factor in causing the need for austerity measures, versus the mortgage meltdown/ borrowing trillions to bail out the banks debacle.

The reason I ask, is Because weighing both I'd put more onus on the latter. All those trillions borrowed to pay for the rampant mortgage greed disaster has tweaked budgets rather dramatically, and does need to be paid for in most industrialized nations. The US seems like the only country that talks about austerity but is too busy fighting between party's to act on any of it. In fact the major fight is whether or not to give permanent tax cuts for the top 2%, rather than any concrete measure to rein in spending.

But I don't want to get off topic. I'm just not sure if peak plateau with higher priced oil is the main culprit to all these fiscal woes, but am certainly open to that possibility, and wanted to see if I could get your angle on it.

I'm mainly thinking of our Scenario #2 for 2015, to-wit, production among the oil exporting countries is down by 5% versus 2005, the exporting countries' consumption continues to increase at their current rate, and Chindia's combined net imports continue to increase at their current rate. Based on the foregoing, for every three barrels of oil that non-Chindia countries net imported in 2005, they would have to divide up two barrels of oil in 2015.

Thanks for the elaboration. Exports getting pinched - that does suggest tough times ahead as prices rise. Gees, there already up to 88.

In any case, the greedfest sure put a crimp into govt. budgets just as oil hit then remained on this plateau., with diminishing exports at ever higher prices only exacerbating the situation. It's a good time to stock up on food and find cheap housing.

This shows up yet another problem with the steady-state economy discussed upthread. Without growth you have (at best) a zero-sum game, pretty much by definition. And when you have a zero-sum game, then just this sort of beggar-thy-neighbor stuff starts running rampant. So once again it's no wonder that Krugman, Reich, Obama, and many others want to restart growth - if nothing else, then as the easiest way out.

A staedy-state system never works. It is against nature. The Chines know that. For them, there are allways cycles in history. That's so true. I know exponential growth is not possible. But neither is some romantic kind of "nature-saving" sustainable stady-state future. It will allways be rise and fall. Rise and fall... Going on forever. Same with stars. Even galaxies. Or "universes". Infinite rise and fall.

Please don't use HTML code to make your text look like a link when it isn't.

Steady-state is possible, at least on any time frame we need to worry about. Jared Diamond describes some societies that have been at steady state for thousands of years.

The problem is that most of them succeeded by being somewhat isolated. When you're directly competing with another culture, the less sustainable one often wins.


'Fed made $9 trillion in emergency overnight loans'

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who had authored the provision of the financial reform law that required Wednesday's disclosure, called the data that was released incredible and jaw-dropping.

"The $700 billion Wall Street bailout turned out to be pocket change compared to trillions and trillions of dollars in near zero interest loans and other financial arrangements that the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution," Sanders said.

And the hits just keep on coming.

"...the hits just keep on...."

Obama imposes 7-year drilling ban in Gulf of Mexico, East Coast waters


Can he do this? Does it matter?

Ghung - IMHO it does't matter much in terms of PO. There are reserves to be developed but we were never going to drill ourselves out of the worse PO problems. But for the economies of those regions and the taxes/royalties for the local govt's I suspect the impact will be more significant. The Gulf Coast would take the biggest hit. Nothing from nothing on the east coast is still nothing. As far as Alaska those folks they have had a good ride for quit a while with their reverse income taxes from the state's royalty income. Perhaps it's time for them to join the bitching with the rest of us.

I doubt the Canadians are bitching.

Perhaps it's better to leave the DWGOM for a future when folks are so oil hungry they won't care much about spills or costs, though if that's the plan, I doubt it'll work out as hoped.

Ghung - "Bitching Canadians"? Did I miss something? Besides Canadians don't bitch...they just get mildly annoyed from time to time. LOL.

On a more serious note I doubt many US citizens were really that upset over the BP spill. Certainly the locals were as well as the folks who take the environment more seriously. We all heard a lot of cussing from various folks (including most everyone in the oil patch upset with BP for being so stupid). But I visit with quite a few folks outside of the oil patch/Gulf Coast/environmental movement, and I sensed very little sincere concern in most of them. IMHO as long as the American people can carry on BAU anywhere close to normal they'll accept the risks to the environment. To maintain political correctness they may not admit it. But I take actions over words any day. And I still see no serious effort nationwide to conserve gasoline. Lots of crocodile tears but to serious changes in BAU.

From the article:

The eastern Gulf — an area stretching from 125 to 300 miles off Florida’s coast — was singled out for protection by Congress in 2006 as part of a deal with Florida lawmakers that made available 8.3 million acres to oil and gas development in the east-central Gulf. Under that agreement, the protected region is to remain off limits to energy development until 2022.

Obama had proposed removing that protection. Looks like now he is just going back to the Bush Plan. Will it make a difference? Maybe after the drill-baby-drill Republicans open the area again during the next 2 years, it might give Obama a boost in Florida during the 2012 election cycle...

E. Swanson

Grain is very water intensive. Roughly speaking, it takes 1000 tons (100 cubic meters) to grow a ton of grain. Find a country that is importing grain, and you’ll find a country that has a water deficit.

A slight error of magnitude - by definition, a cubic metre of water weighs one tonne, not ten tonnes.

1 cubic metre of water weighs 1 tonne. 1000 cubic metres of water weigh 1000 tonnes, and that's the amount it takes to grow about 1 tonne of grain.

That is only a problem if you don't have large amounts of water available. A lot of the desert irrigation projects don't make any sense, because it's a lot easier to move 1 tonne of grain into an area than 1000 tonnes of water. Just buy the grain from some region where it rains a lot.

Rain water that will support grain production is about 30 inches a year( guessimate with what I used to grow wheat in my own garden this year). That 30 inches of rain water gives you over 800,000 gallons per acre of water, or about 3,400 tons(US) per acre.

What saying X number of grain costs Y number of water does, is let you know that it does cost a lot to grow things. Grain has to dry before harvesting, so every bit of moisture is used up by the plant and the ground. When this is a problem is when we use Ground water to grow crops.

If you are in arable land, that normally talks about land that can grow plants with just the amount of rainfall. But the numbers get whacky when you use river water, or ground water to supplement the rainfall, to grow crops.

All this articles that state the X pounds of grain cost Y pounds of water, never do mention, which is which in them, just the basic terms you see over and over again.

I really hate that Modern Media does not even think about what they are saying, don't do any simple fact checking on the back of an envelope to see if the numbers sound okay or not, and it leads Sheeple to believe things that simply are not really truthful.

I used rainwater to water my garden this year. We had a drought pushing us at times 14 inches below normal, we are getting some of that back this fall, but still over 10 inches below normal. So I have done a lot of math about how much it takes to water my crops, and how much water weights, how many gallons an average gentle rain gives and on and on. Call me a water math geek.

Grains have the best storage lifetime of almost all the foods we eat, as anything that is dry lasts longer than higher moisture produce.

If you are using these numbers to fight ethanol use, that is one thing, but don't use them to fight food production. They'd get better use of Potatoes for ethanol use than they would for corn in my opinion. But Potatoes won't grow all the places that corn will grow, or during the same seasons. We might as well just grow sugar beets or something besides corn, or use the corn while it is still green, and get two crops out of it a year. But it is all a scam for someone to make money off of in reality.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Rain water that will support grain production is about 30 inches a year

Regina, Saskatchewan, which is in the heart of Canada's grain growing region, gets about 15 inches (400 mm) of rain per year. The Australian wheat growing areas get about 12 inches (300 mm) of natural rain per years, and actually the range of 300-400 mm per year probably produces the best quality wheat.