Drumbeat: January 21, 2011

John Michael Greer: The onset of catabolic collapse

I’ve commented more than once in these essays on the gap in perception between history as it appears in textbooks and history as it’s lived by people on the spot at the time. That’s a gap worth watching, because the foreshortening of history that comes with living in the middle of it quite often gets in the way of figuring out a useful response to a time of crisis – for example, the one we’re in right now.

US natgas rig count gains for first time in 7 weeks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. natural gas drilling rig count gained for the first time in seven weeks, according to Baker Hughes data on Friday.

The overall number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States rose by four this week to 906, after slipping to an 11-month low of 902 last week. The count is still down nearly 9 percent after hitting 992 in mid-August, its highest since February 2009, when 1,018 rigs were drilling for gas.

Revolution repeated

First came the revolution in natural gas production - the shift to shale gas which, by bringing huge new stores of natural gas into the market drove prices down and made it necessary to fundamentally restructure Canada´s gas-prone petroleum sector. Now comes the revolution in the oilfield. Ironically, the same technologies that made shale gas possible are enabling the industry to begin the restructuring that the shift to shale gas made necessary.

Eni, Petrochina Extend Footprint in Far East, Africa

Eni has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CNPC/Petrochina. The Memorandum of Understanding sanctions a broad spectrum of possible business opportunities to the benefit of both parties in China and internationally.

Miscreants blow up high pressure gas pipeline

Karachi—The outlaws destroyed a high pressure gas pipeline linked with Sui gas field which is second the second incident of blowing out a gas pipe line with in a week’s time indicating the nefarious designs to aggravate energy crisis causing serious impact on the economy.

Why diesel has vanished

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) last month garnished $35 million from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe’s (Noczim) bank account, crippling the company’s ability to import fuel leading to the current shortages being experienced in the country, it has been learnt.

This, coupled with an export “ban” by South Africa on fuel to Zimbabwe, has exacerbated the situation.

Population: one planet, too many people? (report)

A groundbreaking Population report (Wed 12 January) by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has revealed the world is hurtling towards population overload placing billions at risk of hunger, thirst and slum conditions.

Population: One planet, too many people? is the first report of its kind by the engineering profession. Unless the engineering solutions highlighted in the report are urgently implemented then the projected 2.5 billion more people on earth by the end of this Century (currently there is 6.9 billion) will crush the earth’s resources.

Virtual virtue

McGonigal, 33, is a designer of video games. She argues that the world's most pressing problems, including hunger, poverty, and climate change can be solved by gamers. Yes, the same people who can spend five hours a day staring at screens in basements, twiddling controllers and ignoring their hygiene.

Richard Heinberg: Limits to debt

For householders facing unaffordable mortgage payments or a punishing level of credit card debt, a jubilee may sound like a capitol idea. But what would that actually mean today, if carried out on a massive scale—when debt has become the very fabric of the economy? Remember: we have created an economic machine that needs debt like a car needs gas.

All energy could be renewable by 2030

A new study shows that by 2030, we could create 100 percent of our energy around the world from totally renewable and affordable sources. But will we?

The food bubbleAudio

You have seen food prices going up at the local grocery store. That could be just the beginning. According to Lester Brown, a leading expert in both the environment and world agriculture, those bulging supermarket shelves are part of a "food bubble", which could crash.

Lester Brown founded the World Watch Institute, with it's annual "State of the World" reports. He's written 50 books, won many honors, is recognized as a thought-leader for our era. Now in his own Earth Policy Institute, Brown's new book is "World on Edge, How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse."

Brown compares our world food situation to the real estate bubble in the United States. We are in a "food bubble" he says.

Gas prices high - and might get higher

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Strong worldwide oil demand and lack of supply are to blame for steadily rising gasoline prices in the United States, an oil industry group said Friday.

The American Petroleum Institute made no specific price forecast for 2011, but didn't seem to see a drop anytime soon.

"Unless we see increases in supply, it's hard not to see a tighter market," John Felmy, the institute's chief economist, said in a conference call with reporters.

IEA lauds unconventional gas reserves

PARIS (UPI) -- Supplies of natural gas could last more than 250 years if Asian and European economies follow the U.S. unconventional reserves, the IEA said.

The abundance of shale gas and other forms of so-called unconventional gas discovered in the United States prompted a global rush to explore for the new resource.

Pickens Says U.S. Spent $337 Billion on Oil Imports

T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy investor, said the U.S. spent $337 billion in 2010 on oil imports, a 28 percent gain from the previous year.

The U.S. imported 61 percent of its oil last year, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Database, Pickens said today in an e-mailed statement. The U.S. is sending approximately $641,172 per minute to other countries to pay for the oil, Pickens said.

China Turns Net Diesel Importer on Domestic Shortage

China, the world’s biggest energy user, turned a net importer of diesel for the first time since November 2008 after refineries increased overseas purchases to ease a domestic shortage.

China Seizes Rare Earth Mine Areas

HONG KONG — A Chinese government agency has taken steps to more tightly manage the production and export of rare earth minerals, crucial materials used in a wide range of technologies and products vital to the West.

The agency, the Ministry of Land and Resources, invoked a seldom-used mining law to take direct control of 11 rare earth mining districts in southern China.

The ministry said in a statement, posted on its Web site Wednesday and briefly mentioned Thursday by the state media, that rare earth mining in those districts, all at the southern end of Jiangxi Province, had been placed under its national planning authority.

Mexican Oil Chief Expects 2011 Production Increase

Suarez says with changes being implemented this quarter, production will not only stablize, but actually increase in 2011. A Supreme Court decision just last month allows Pemex to pay outside drillers based on how much oil they find and drill for, something previously prohibited under Mexican law.

Mexico oil thieves get sophisticated amid crackdown

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's crackdown on fuel theft has more than halved the amount of oil being stolen but is leading thieves to switch to more sophisticated and sometimes riskier strategies, government officials say.

Solar Firms Frustrated by Permits

Ken Button, the president of Verengo Solar Plus, a residential solar panel installer in Orange, Calif., says his company — and his industry — are being strangled by municipal red tape.

Fifteen Verengo employees, Mr. Button said, are dedicated solely to researching and tailoring permit applications to meet the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dozens of towns in the company’s market. And because most jurisdictions require applications to be submitted in person, Verengo employs two “permit runners” whose only job, Mr. Button said, is to “take those permit packs and physically drive them around, stand in line, and pay the fees.”

High gas prices will not lead to a green revolution

First the good news: The cost of oil won't be skyrocketing any time soon. Now the bad news: The price of oil won't be skyrocketing any time soon.

According to Automotive News, despite the recent surge in crude pricing toward the magical US$100-a-barrel mark that caused consumers such consternation just three short years ago, we are not in for another dramatic spike in oil prices.

Citing all manner of market conditions -- increased refinery capacity, larger reserve inventories and even a number of idle wells among OPEC countries -- oil industry experts seem to agree that, though demand will increase by 1.5 million barrels in 2011 (possibly surpassing 2007's previous peak usage), any rise of pump pricing will be slow and steady.

Oil prices dipping into consumer wallets

Filling up your car, taking a trip, even buying groceries could get considerably more expensive as oil prices continue its climb toward $100 US a barrel.

BRIC Becomes BRICS: Changes on the Geopolitical Chessboard

The rate of petroleum extraction will soon reach the beginning of terminal decline, known as peak oil. This means more than half the world’s petroleum reserves will have been depleted, leading inevitably to much higher oil prices and severe shortages. Under prevailing global conditions, this will greatly exacerbate tensions between major oil consuming countries leading to wars for energy resources

One resource war already has taken place — the Bush Administration’s bungled invasion of Iraq, which possesses the world’s fourth largest reserves of petroleum and tenth largest of natural gas. Since the U.S. with less than 5% of world population absorbs nearly 30% of the planet’s crude oil, who’s Washington’s next target — Iran? Behind the U.S.-Israeli smokescreen of alleged Iranian aggression and supposed nefarious nuclear ambitions, reposes the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves.

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

(Reuters) - Asian and European firms have continued to buy Iranian crude, dodging international sanctions that block transactions with Iranian banks, making oil trade more complex.

On Friday, industry sources said China, the world's largest buyer of Iranian crude oil, has renewed its annual import pacts for 2011, keeping volumes steady at some 460,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Tea party, environmentalists should join to ditch energy subsidies

If Obama wants to set us on a path to a sustainable-energy future -- and a green one too -- he should propose a very simple solution to the current mess: eliminate all energy subsidies. Yes, all of them -- oil, coal, gas, nuclear, ethanol, and wind and solar. Energy subsidies are the sordid legacy of more than 60 years of politics as usual in Washington. It would be better for national security, the balance of payments, the budget deficit and even the environment if we simply wiped the slate clean and let all energy sources compete for the future.

And with anti-pork tea partyers loose in Washington and deficit-cutting in the air, it’s not as politically inconceivable as one might think.

Fuel-poor households 'should not be forced to use Tradable Energy Quotas'

She noted that one argument for Teqs in fuel-poor households is that they are not profligate with energy and so can trade their unused credits with other people.

However, this is not the case, NEA research has found.

"Many already under-consume to save money where they can, risking their health. Ideally we would like them to be able to consume more, not be anxious or concerned about the extra cost associated with having to buy more credits, or self-disconnecting in order to receive a financial reward," she explained.

How bad is BP?

Russia is an unsavoury place to do business; that does not make BP’s Russian deal wrong.

Dancing with Mr Putin

The deal clearly makes sense for the Kremlin. Rosneft lacks the skills or capital to manage such a vast project. BP brings both, plus experience of drilling in similar terrain on Alaska’s North Slope. But does the deal make sense for BP?

On the face of it, yes. Russia has some of the world’s great untapped reserves of hydrocarbons. Granted, the operational risks are not trivial. Although the oil is in shallow waters, the sea ices over for eight or nine months a year. The oil may take longer than expected to flow, and there may be less of it than BP believes. Yet these risks are outweighed by the potential rewards.

Russia to back TAPI gas pipeline project in Central Asia

Russia will cooperate in a range of energy projects including the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan (TAPI) pipeline, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai said in a joint statement on Friday.

The pipeline project participants Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, signed a final agreement in December 2010 to build the TAPI gas pipeline to pump gas to India from Central Asian states.

Enbridge confirms Chinese investment in pipeline

Shares in Calgary-based Enbridge rose Friday, a day after it disclosed that state-owned Sinopec, China’s largest oil refiner, is an investor in its proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Kazakh president hints at backing for plan to cancel elections

The president of Kazakhstan, has hinted at support for a referendum to cancel elections in the oil-rich republic, a scheme which has been criticised by the US, the European Union, and international pro-democracy groups.

Masdar shortlists Statoil innovation

Masdar is in talks with Statoil about conducting pilot tests in Abu Dhabi on the Norwegian oil company's experimental compact carbon-capture technology.

The so-called 3C technology has been put on Masdar's shortlist of most promising initiatives in the fields of clean energy and emissions reduction to emerge from this week's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, said Sam Nader, a senior executive in the Government's flagship alternative-energy company.

Neighborhood – Grass Roots Economics

As we recover from the Great Recession and begin to factor Peak Oil and Climate Change into our future, Oak Park will be drilling down and reviewing the local and regional economy and local government’s role in facilitating grass roots economics.

In todays increasingly populated, urbanized world, hunting, fishing, and farming just isn’t a realistic survival option for most of our citizens. Whether we think about it much or not, we are highly interdependent. People and families must have good jobs and/or support systems to thrive and enjoy their lives. And we must have people in positions and systems that support those courageous souls who put it all on the line to create jobs for themselves and their fellow citizens.

Need a Ride? There’s an App for That

Think of all those empty seats in cars headed to school or work in cities around the world. The idea that filling them is a communal good goes back at least to World War II, when the Office of Price Administration put out a poster proclaiming, “When You Ride ALONE You Ride With Hitler!”

Electric cars shift from concept to viable alternative

Sometimes, like the song goes, you just can't make it on your own.

And that can't be more true for the future of electric transportation, as was apparent at the World Future Energy Summit this past week. Because, for as much fanfare as electric cars have been getting in the last few years, the biggest hold-up to their widespread use is not so much the cars themselves but a lack of charging infrastructure to support their use. Without a way to conveniently and quickly charge them, EVs will remain a quirky technology that will eventually succumb to society's overriding need for convenience over responsibility.

Walker kills project to convert power plant to burn biofuels

A plan to spend $100 million on a boiler that would burn plant-based fuels at UW-Madison's Charter Street power plant was axed Thursday by Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch.

The DOA is overseeing the rebuild of the plant. Work will continue on outfitting the plant with new natural gas boilers. The cost of the project with the biofuel boiler would have been $250 million — the most expensive building project in the university's history.

Big Oil's green show in capital

At this year's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, several of the world's biggest international oil companies put on a brave green show of solidarity with the global clean-energy movement.

Oil 'could hit $200 a barrel' says investor Jim Rogers

Justin Rowlatt: So what about oil? I mean oil prices are pretty high, aren't they? Almost $100 a barrel. Are they really going to go higher do you think?

Jim Rogers: Well, the surprise is going to be how high the price of oil stays and how high it goes, because Justin we have had no major elephant oil discoveries in over 40 years. The International Energy Agency is going around the world pleading with people to listen. Known reserves of oil are declining. It is not good news. Unless somebody discovers a lot of oil very quickly, prices are going to go much higher over the next decade.

Justin Rowlatt: How high do you think the oil price could go then?

Jim Rogers: Justin, the price of oil is going to make new highs. It will go over $150 a barrel. It will probably go over $200 a barrel.

Justin Rowlatt: Over $200 a barrel? I mean that's a world record high, isn't it?

Jim Rogers: Of course it is, but Justin, the world is running out of known reserves of oil. Maybe there is a lot of oil in the world, but if there is, we don't know where it is or how to get to it.

Crude Rebounds From Two-Week Low as Confidence in Economic Recovery Grows

Oil rebounded from its lowest in almost two weeks as growing confidence in the economic recovery made yesterday’s price slump appear excessive.

Crude pared its third weekly decline in four as German business confidence unexpectedly rose to a record high in January amid booming exports to Asia. French business confidence jumped to its highest in almost three years. Oil may still fall next week on speculation China, the world’s largest energy user, will raise interest rates to combat inflation, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

OPEC Under Pressure as African, Asian Oil Tops $100

OPEC is facing growing calls to boost oil production as crude prices in Asia and Africa surpass $100 a barrel for the first time in two years.

Nigeria’s Bonny Light grade, from which traders gauge the cost of West African oil, rose to $100.12 a barrel on Jan. 17, passing $100 for the first time since October 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Malaysia’s Tapis and Indonesia’s Minas breached that level a week ago, trading at $104.36 and $104.01, respectively this week.

The International Energy Agency, an adviser to consuming nations, said Jan. 18 that “three-digit oil prices risk damaging” the economic recovery, signaling that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should raise output. OPEC responded the same day by saying that global supplies are sufficient to meet demand.

A Note of Caution for Oil Bulls

For the record, I am, and have been, for quite some time, quite bullish on oil. Despite that, I'm starting to read things that indicate that some of the bloom may come off of the rose, over the intermediate, and longer term. Please note that qualifier; I'm most emphatically NOT suggesting any sort of sharp correction in oil prices is in the offing, barring another global financial meltdown.

Airfares rise along with oil costs

A flurry of back-to-back fare increases is making it more expensive to fly, as airlines increase ticket prices in response to rising oil costs and an improved economy.

Schlumberger Profit Rises on Higher North America Demand; Dividend Raised

Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield services provider, said fourth-quarter profit rose 31 percent as surging crude prices drove a drilling boom in North America.

Venezuela hoping for Orinoco boost

Venezuela hopes for extra output of 50,000 barrels per day from new projects in the vast Orinoco extra heavy crude oil belt by the end of the year, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said today.

Belarus oil restart 'soon'

Russian oil supplies to Belarus reportedly may resume next week after being halted on 1 January in a pricing row, Belarussian state-run news agency BelTA reported.

Petrobras No Match for GE as Record Bond Sale Sparks Slump: Brazil Credit

Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s record $6 billion international debt offering is sparking the biggest slide in the state-run Brazilian oil company’s bonds in 10 weeks as it creates a supply glut.

ONGC Shuts Wells at Biggest India Oil Field After Pipeline Leak off Mumbai

Oil & Natural Gas Corp., India’s largest energy-exploration company, closed some wells at the nation’s biggest oil field after a pipeline leakage off the west coast. The shares fell to the lowest in almost eight months.

The spill is estimated to be about one mile (1.6 kilometers) long and the state-run explorer may have lost 25,000 barrels of crude oil, according to an e-mailed statement from the company today. ONGC didn’t say what caused the leak in the pipeline, which has a capacity of 212,000 barrels a day.

ONGC says resumes oil output from Mumbai High

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp said on Friday that oil production from the Mumbai High field, the country's biggest oil field, has resumed through the ICP-Heera Uran Trunk (HUT) pipeline.

"It has been estimated that oil spill will be dispersed within 48 hours," the company said in a statement.

Displacing More Oil from Power Generation

Increasing the US contribution of wind and solar power, geothermal energy, and even nuclear power would have virtually no effect on our oil imports or energy security, because we use so little oil for power. However, a pair of articles reminded me that this logic doesn't necessarily apply elsewhere.

Rep. Markey seeks immediate review of BP-Rosneft

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representative Edward Markey on Thursday asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to launch an immediate investigation into a $16 billion share-swap plan between BP and state-owned Russian oil firm Rosneft.

In a letter to Geithner, Markey, a leading House Democrat on energy and environmental issues, cited "several" national security concerns over the deal.

New U.S. agencies to split offshore drilling duties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two new government agencies that will be operating by October will divide the responsibilities of leasing America's offshore energy reserves and enforcing safety rules for drilling, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Wednesday.

Spill panel co-chair: 'Drill, baby, drill' will drain oil reserves

If the United States embraces a so-called “drill, baby, drill” philosophy, the country’s oil will run out by 2031, the co-chairman of the national oil spill commission said Wednesday.

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) said efforts to curb U.S. dependence on foreign oil by expanding domestic production would quickly deplete state oil reserves.

“If we were to adopt that and if the current estimates of reserves are accurate, we will drain the last drop of oil out of the United States in the year 2031,” Graham said.

Feds cite broken equipment in deadly W.Va. mine blast

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A small methane gas fire that wasn't doused because of broken equipment sparked a massive coal dust explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday.

Africa: Dethroning King Coal in 2011 - From West Virginia to Durban

Through activism and legal strategies, US communities and the Sierra Club have prevented construction of 150 proposed coal-fired power plants over the last couple of years, a remarkable accomplishment (only a couple got through their net).

But in South Africa, the fight is just beginning. The national government in Pretoria and municipal officials in seaside Durban will continue invoking several myths in defence of coal, Kusile and the 'COP17', the November 28-December 9 climate summit officially called the 'Conference of the Parties 17' (but which should be renamed the Conference of Polluters). Here are some of the strategies of the South African state and big business meant to blind us:

Report: Forensic evidence ties 9/11 plotter to Pearl's killing

A 31,000-word inquiry into the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl says U.S. investigators used "vein matching" from an al-Qaeda video to conclude that Pearl was killed by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

It determines that four people convicted in Pakistan of the killings were involved with his 2002 kidnapping, but not his death.

Tunisians mourn slain protesters, demand freedom

The government has declared three days of national mourning beginning Friday as it struggles to restore calm and reconcile a hopeful but scarred Muslim nation in North Africa. Tunisia is a beach and desert haven for European tourists and U.S. ally in the fight against terror.

South Korea kills 8 pirates, rescues hijacked crew

SEOUL (AP) — South Korean special forces stormed a hijacked freighter in the Arabian Sea on Friday, rescuing all 21 crewmembers and killing eight assailants in a rare and bold raid on Somali pirates.

Pedestrian fatalities rise slightly, reversing trend

The nation saw a slight uptick in pedestrian fatalities in the first half of last year, a puzzling trend for researchers and safety officials because it came as overall traffic deaths were falling.

Electric Cars Could Be in the Fast Lane for Hawaii

If you haven’t noticed, we’re in a full-tilt transformation away from conventional cars. Automakers still produce them, and are hurriedly adding on wonderful new efficiencies and technologies to meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. That’s great for the last days of the chapter, but it’s too late to save them as the predominant genre. The threat of peak oil prices and the call of the environment have already dulled their luster, and it’s time to move on.

The plug-in electric vehicle (EV) won’t solve all of our energy or transportation problems, but it’s part of a much larger movement toward efficiency and self-sufficiency. Is Hawaii ready to take the plunge to EVs? That’s the question.

Nissan falls months behind in electric Leaf car deliveries

Buyers hoping to lead the electric-car revolution are hitting the slow-charge cycle when it comes to deliveries of their new vehicles.

Nissan says many among the 20,000 who pre-ordered the Leaf all-electric car are going to have to wait months longer than they expected. Those who signed up to buy last summer, expecting delivery of the car this month or next, may have to wait as long as until May or June.

Electric Trucks Gain Traction With Commercial Delivery Fleets

As auto manufacturers seek to convince car buyers of the virtues of electric vehicles, one key group needs little persuasion: delivery fleet managers.

Commuters may fret about so-called range anxiety -- the fear of not making it to a charging station before the car’s battery needs topping up. Drivers of commercial delivery vehicles tend to follow the same route each day and have a good idea how much power they’ll need. Since trucks typically return to a garage every night, there’s little worry about finding a charger, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports in its Jan. 24 issue.

USDA unveils new green, bio-based product label

Eco-minded shoppers will soon see a new U.S.-approved label on many products, including household cleaners and skin-care items, made with bio-based ingredients.

The new voluntary seal, announced Wednesday and expected this spring, aims to give bio-based products the same boost that the Energy Star program gave energy-efficient appliances. It will be offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will look similar to the USDA seal for organic foods.

DOE backing biofuels project in Louisiana

The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that it will back a $241 million loan guarantee to help build a manufacturing plant for renewable diesel fuel in Louisiana.

BP: Renewable energy to outpace growth of oil

Given how many variables are involved, predicting the future of energy with accuracy is difficult. But BP's annual Energy Outlook, which came out today, is a closely watched indicator for the state of the energy industry.

The BP Energy Outlook 2030 (click for PDF) forecasts energy sources will diversify more in the future, with a bigger role for renewable, nuclear, and hydropower. Demand will continue to grow around the world, with developing countries consuming a larger share of energy.

Lack of Transmission Lines Is Restricting Wind Power

Texas is in the midst of a wind-power boom, and at the heart of it lies a conundrum: While plenty of ranchers are eager to host wind turbines, few want the unsightly high-voltage transmission lines needed to carry the power to distant cities running through their property.

The lack of transmission lines — and the relatively low price of natural gas — has thwarted the ambitions of wind-power advocates to expand the use of this alternative energy source in Texas. The oilman T. Boone Pickens, for example, bet heavily on wind a couple of years ago, ordering hundreds of turbines and announcing plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in the Panhandle at a cost of up to $12 billion. He later scaled back, canceling some of the turbine orders, giving up his land lease and saying he was looking elsewhere to build.

Indian State to Establish Country’s First Tidal Power Plant

India’s western state of Gujarat is establishing a power plant that will utilize the flow of ocean tides to generate electricity.

Toshiba to build 'huge solar plant' in Bulgaria

TOKYO (AFP) – Toshiba and Tokyo Electric Power will team up with the Japanese government to build one of the world's largest solar power stations in Bulgaria, according to a report.

The plant will be built in the eastern city of Yambol by March 2012 at a cost of more than 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion), Japan's Nikkei daily said.

An Affordable Way to Buy Fuel-Cell Power

Taking a page from the solar industry, Bloom Energy on Thursday unveiled a service to allow customers to buy the electricity generated by its fuel cells without incurring the capital costs of purchasing the six-figure devices.

The Love Affair With the Fireplace Cools

“A wood-burning fire in the city is a ridiculous luxury — we would never have put it in ourselves,” said Mr. Arpels, grandson of one of the founders of Van Cleef & Arpels and the former managing partner of Netto Collection, a baby furniture company bought by Maclaren. “In the city, it doesn’t make sense to burn fires, because it’s inefficient and it’s polluting.”

Hard as it may be to believe, the fireplace — long considered a trophy, particularly in a city like New York — is acquiring a social stigma. Among those who aspire to be environmentally responsible, it is joining the ranks of bottled water and big houses.

What happens when mom unplugs teens for 6 months?

Maushart began The Experiment with a drastic measure: She turned off the electricity completely for a few weeks — candles instead of electric lights, no hot showers, food stored in a cooler of ice. When blackout boot camp ended, Maushart hoped the "electricity is awesome!" reaction would soften the kids' transition to life without Google and cell phones.

Ways to slash your home energy bill

If you don't cook much, an energy-efficient oven or stove doesn't offer significant savings in energy or money. But even if you're an Iron Chef, cooking has little impact on your energy bill, so it makes sense to hang on to your oven and microwave until they conk out on you — which could take 15 years.

Sustainable Local Food and Farm Conference: Rooting out the source of our food

Nevada County — known for both environmental consciousness and a strong community identity — is becoming recognized in the foothill region for its innovative ideas and grassroots efforts to form relationships between farmers and those who eat their food.

The first Sustainable Local Food and Farm Conference, being held this weekend in downtown Grass Valley by Nevada County Grown, seems like a natural next step for those in the local food movement — and raises the county's profile regionally.

Canada: Failing food formula

Social service programs and minimum wage jobs don't pay enough to buy healthy food, say local groups.

And that costs society through chronic disease and poor health.

Keeping sustainability at the top of the local government agenda

With local government in meltdown mode over the draconian cuts being imposed by the coalition government it's increasingly hard to find councils prepared to take action on sustainability. Everyone defines sustainability differently – I say it's about humankind learning to live with nature rather than in opposition to it – but however you define it, it's clearly more than just the need for carbon reduction. And it doesn't always lend itself to being counted, which is tough in the present climate. Basically if you can't count it or it's not a statutory requirement, then you're in trouble.

Oil on Our Hands

The simple truth is that we as a nation are addicted to oil. And this addiction is old and deep rooted. It doesn’t matter on which side of the political spectrum you are, we are all aware of this. Sonia Hamel, a consultant for the Climate Change Policy and Program says, even though we make up only 5% of the world’s population, American’s guzzle down 25% of the earth’s oil supply, and only 2% of it comes from its own soil.

The Fourth American Revolution

The subsequent battle between the Haves and Have Nots is likely to flair into protests, riots and increasing violence. There will be no compromises. The 2012 Presidential election could incite reactions on par with the election of Lincoln in 1860. While the country convulsively flails about, foreign adversaries will take advantage of our weakness. Peak oil will throw a further wrench into the downward spiral. Out of this tempest, the country will either turn to a strong leader and more government control or move back toward a smaller Federal government footprint and a return to rule by the people and for the people. The outcome is unknown, but the path is foreseeable. Let's hope that Ben Franklin was right.

Could Inefficiency Save Us From Peak Oil?

Whether it is activists claiming that a "globalized consumer society without oil is nonsense"or Richard Heinberg arguing that we'd best get used to life without growth when peak oil hits—the idea that the end of cheap oil means a permanent and drastic change to our entire notion of economics keeps cropping up recently. The argument that our economy can't keep functioning without cheap oil because no replacement for cheap oil exists is, on the surface, pretty convincing. But I'm wondering whether our very inefficiencies might prove to be our savior too.

European Commission Halts Transfers of Carbon Emissions Allowances Until Thefts Are Sorted Out

The European Commission has suspended transfers of carbon dioxide emissions allowances for at least a week while it investigates some computer-aided thievery, including the loss of 475,000 of them from a registry in the Czech Republic.

New Melt Record for Greenland Ice Sheet

New research shows that 2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, expected to be a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.

UN: 2010 tied for warmest year on record

GENEVA – The warmest year on record is a three-way tie: 2010, 2005 and 1998.

So says the U.N. weather agency, providing further evidence Thursday that the planet is slowly but surely heating up.

As a formal announcement, a compendium of many of my blog posts is available on http://TheOilConundrum.com.

It does the blog one better because it features higher quality mathematical markup, references to scholarly work, a full subject index, hypertext table of contents, several hundred figures with captions, footnotes and sidebars with editorial commentary, embedded historical documents, source code appendices, and glossaries.

EDIT: I noticed CuriousCanuck has the start of a review in a thread below.

I promised in a post a few threads before that I would stretch a rule of TOD about reposting. Originally I posted this at a bottom of a stale thread, WHT's book merits some more visibility. After all we do not have a chance to comment on a work from inside of TOD.

It's about a first impression of WHT work The Oil Conundrum.

First, WHT, thanks for putting effort to put the blog posts together and turn them from , well, a blog, to a book. It is amazing to see a work of this size from someone who, I guess, is gainfully employed and does this work in his spare time. Science in best 19th century tradition.

I read a lot of WHT's blog on mobjectivist.blogspot.com, so nothing here came as a surprise to me. These are really two books put in one file. The first is of interest to people interested in oil, second will attract people interested in general science, wanting to know "how does the stuff work".

So for starters, I do not know where to put it on a bookshelf. Does it belong with general science? Or does is belong to University Press bookshelf at campus bookstore.
It is written in a language and use of math exceeding the science books from Barnes and Nobles or Chapters, but not quite "tight" enough to pass as a scientific monograph. It should make a perfect material for a graduate textbook for applied science courses, though.

It is a good thing that WHT put things in order, it is significantly easier to follow the linear order of ideas, rather than jumping through the blog. But putting it together divided it into three parts. The first part introduces the subject and put premises of WHTs approach and is readable to everyone and is a must read for anyone who cares about oil this way or another.

Even if one stops at page 31, equation 4.1, where the formal stuff begins, one gets an appreciation of the subject. The second part to page 305 is quite and sometimes very technical. The we go back to part three, page 305, a must read for everybody again.

When I delved into the heavier stuff I started appreciated the subtelty of the approach. It is difficult to explain in non-mathematical terms behaviour which depends on subtle variations in mathematical terms. What makes it more complicated is that our thinking is very deterministic and the switch to thinking in statistical categories is definitely non-intuitive. The concept of dispersion (scatter) of matter is simple. Dispersion (randomness) of energy states is something more abstract. The problem starts when WHT starts dispering rates (velocities). And when the dispersion happens to accelerations we end up with a conceptually complex matter.

So I see two ways of reading this book. If your math stops somewhere in high school, keep reading, through the text and focus on charts and graphs. Get what you understand, and do not worry about the rest. Here lies the strength of the book. I think one could erase most of mathematics, or better relegate it to an Addendum, and one can still follow the line of thought. Most derivations end up with a closed formula or summary describing the solutions, so one can keep going. The amount of graphs and figures is mindboggling. Pretty much every theoretical idea, with it's own charts is matched with a figure comparing model with real. One can't accuse WHT of being abstract theoretician. But in order to see the subtler reasons behind the behaviour, one unfortunately (?!) has to go through the math.

And here comes a second level of reading. If you took first year engineering/science calculus/analysis and remember fair bit of it, you'll do fine following the main line of thinking and math reasoning. The complexity is not from the math itself. 90% is differentiating and integrating exponential and rational functions. The problem is that these exponential functions are convoluted ("mixed") with other exponential functions and polynomials. So with first year math, you can follow, but not derive. If you remember integral calculus, you'll breeze through the math. The most difficult step is around pages 98 and 190.

If in doubt, there is a free web resource called Wolfram Alpha. It will do for you most if not all math from TOC. Go to http://www.woframalpha.com and try entering a few expressions to get a feel for it. Mathematics will look less scary in five minutes:


will plot a normalized Hubbert curve


and a gaussian


between -5 and 5; integration in point 3 in equation 7.1 can be done by computer too:



The notation is a bit quirky, but self-explanatory. Alpha is based on mathematics software Mathematica from http://www.wolfram.com/

After all this we go back to 'easy reading' on page 305.

In a sum, if one is interested in oil, Pages 1-31 and 305 - 371 are a must read for everybody. The middle is a heavy read, but most importantly, there is no handwaving and no guessing and no curve fitting for the sake of fitting.

Both thumbs up.

Thanks for the deep review, CC. Any criticism, both good and bad, is welcomed.

The concept of dispersion (scatter) of matter is simple. Dispersion (randomness) of energy states is something more abstract. The problem starts when WHT starts dispering rates (velocities). And when the dispersion happens to accelerations we end up with a conceptually complex matter.

The simple concept of dispersion is often referred to by one of the most difficult to pronounce words in the English language, heteroscedasticity (comes from the Greek hetero=different and skedasis=dispersion). And you wonder why no one studies this stuff :)

Obvious typo in the link provided, with a missing "L" in Wolfram, so it should be:

Thanks for calling it a start...I am afraid that I will leave it this way, at least for a while. It is a thick book and takes a while to read thoroughly, to be able to comment in more detail. I wanted to see whether I can in clear conscience demystify the math, and the answer is yes, I can. Maybe the technicality of the middle part will be a motivation for someone to dig-out the math learned long time ago, particularly for engineers, who have learned it all and it's just a question of refresher. And Wolfram Alpha is a wonderful tool to refresh math.

No, Thank you.
I referred to your review as a start because I figured people will add to it.

I agree that Alpha is a useful tool. Alpha's expert system will try to guess what you are trying to do so that you can say "integrate" or "integral" and it will use the context to come up with a solution. It then generates the abstract math notation visually so you can check that you are getting what you expected. It usually gives you a lot more than you expected as well. I imagine King Hubbert would have enjoyed playing with something like this.

Mathematica has amazing interactive features: http://http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/

Hi WHT, I have actually downloaded the full PDF file and have sent a link to a few friends. Quite a nice piece of work you have done there. Congratulations, sir!

Thanks for all the effort involved in creating this, WHT. As you know I've been a fan of your math approach for a while, and consider myself a self-educated layman in terms of oil and mathematics, so I'll see if I can follow your work.

I think this, like Alan's and HereInHalifax's work, is exactly where TOD should focus -- going beyond watching and waiting and instead pushing the state of art in solutions and analysis. This is a big tent, and there should be room for theoretical works, engineering at various scales, and hands-on implementation.

In short, I applaud you for DOING something!

Bloomberg Radio was just discussing Peak Oil, Tom Keene and the boys......They called it a Hoax.

"These aren't the Droids you're looking for.......Move along".

The Martian

This is becoming a very expensive hoax.

Jim Rogers; he be da' Man.
The Commodity King.

If he's talking about global oil depletion, then it has officially become mainstream.
No one, and that means the talking heads, is going to sit across the table from Jim Rogers and tell him he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Hasn't Jim Rogers been talking about the oil depletion topic for years now? Here is one interview from 2005.

please people. jim rogers is not some god. to say that nobody would question him is just absurd.

jim rogers is not some god.

Are you sure? Many traditions talk about trickster Gods. And Mr. Lovecraft wrote about all kinds of Gods, perhaps Mr. Rogers is one of them?

And I posit that once in the UK Peak Oil is on "east-corri-dale" , then its UK Public mainstream

just a little time now , just wait......


Denninger has an interesting piece on pipeline giant Kinder Morgan.


It looks like they have been caught paying dividends by issuing stock, setting the stage for a big boom.
The documents he mentioned can be found on scribd.


I read them and holy crap...looks like Houston may be in for another high profile scandal, but so far, no major news organizations are picking it up.
yahoo-finance chatter here:


stay tuned folks

“The shocking rate of Greenland’s ice melt is a wakeup call,” said Lou Leonard, WWF Managing Director of Climate Change. “Study after study is reaching the same conclusions: climate change is accelerating, the livelihoods of people and the habitats of species are becoming more stressed and the costs of doing nothing are piling up. Time is growing short, but we still have a chance to avoid the worst impacts and economic damages if we begin to phase out fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy today.”

Check out that last part: "...if we begin to phase out fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy today.”

Today?! "Ok, that's it, stop using FF and start using renewables, starting now!" Please, you're making me laugh too hard too early in the morning (pacific std. time).

By contrast to that article about record setting melt in Greenland in 2010, is the first article about a projected much higher cost of oil because we aren't finding the super giant oil fields any more. So on the one hand our economy hangs by a string via reasonably priced oil (no longer cheap) vs. an immediate need to phase out FF usage. Anyone else feel like we've painted ourselves into a corner?

And just to really tweak the noggin, is this article suggesting policy changes will take place to allow States to go bankrupt!


'Path Is Sought for States to Escape Debt Burdens'

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

"...if we begin to phase out fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy today.”

What he is saying is we need to seriously ramp up production of "clean energy" technology and get all trucks rolling and construction workers busy installing the infrastructure all of which will crank up the consumption and burning of fossil fuels.

Thats kinda like suggesting we all try and cool down the planet by leaving the fridge door open and cranking up the AC.

Painted into a corner is a gross understatement.

Thats kinda like suggesting we all try and cool down the planet by leaving the fridge door open and cranking up the AC.

Good analogy EE.

As always there is far more potential in energy conservation than
And the US could easily cut its oil usage by reducing the 70% of its
oil used for transportation, primarily cars.
Increase the gas tax by 20 cents per year and use that to
increase public transit frequency in major Metropolitan areas
back to pre-Great Recession levels and beyond.
(150 transit systems have actually cut their service since 2008)
Instead of subsidizing electric private cars at $7500 add
shuttle vans for last mile for access to train stations and light
At some initial expense in terms of above mentioned construction trucks and maintenance equipment we could restore to service
existing rails like the Lackawanna cutoff from Dover, New Jersey
to Scranton, Pennsylvania which is already in good enough shape
to run periodic excursion trains.

Of course the other major oil savings would be to stop the
Wars - the Pentagon consumes more oil for its jets, ships,
tanks, hummers etc than any other organization on Earth.

"Let" them go bankrupt? That's funny -- states and sovereign and do not need to go bankrupt -- they just decide what not to pay. I imagine that "policymakers" are hoping to create a new path by which they can affect who is left holding yet another bag. The Fed gov't is hoping to presume they control the path, rather than simply being out of the picture (per the Constitution). But then, since when did Congress care much about constitutional limits? They ignore power they should have (over money and debt) while grabbing for power over states.

This actually raises an interesting conundrum for a paleocon. If you read the article, you'd see that states want to go through bankruptcy so they can restructure their debt; and at top of the list is public employee pension funds which had huge holes blown in them by the financial crisis. So which would you choose: evil federal takeover, or reduction in public employee pension funds? Ideology or achievement of a practical accomplishment?

There is no need for bankruptcy -- all a state legislature has to do is pass a new law saying what they are going to pay, and then do it. I don't know why they think they need to consider a "bankruptcy" which implies that a court and creditors determine the restructuring.

I would suggest that we keep the state budgets balanced, and consider pensions just one of many public demands on current income. It's not the taxpayers fault that pensioners were promised more than can be afforded any more than it is the pensioners, and pensioners are no more or less deserving than anybody else in line for the public dole.

I don't see any gap between ideology and practicality -- let the states sort out their priorities according to their existing powers and rights. It's foolish of them to hand over any power they currently own to another entity. Note that I fully expect the Fed Gov't to bribe them into doing just that, though, as part of its eternal grab for power and influence, and ability to float debt.

I don't know why they think they need to consider a "bankruptcy" which implies that a court and creditors determine the restructuring.

You answered your own question here. If the court and creditors determine, there will be no legislators (politicians) to blame when the cuts that affect the voting populace are made. Or am I oversimplifying a bit?

There is no need for bankruptcy

Pensioners, and a lot of others holding state contracts have legal recourse. Bankruptcy is the legal means for changing them.

It's not the taxpayers fault that

Ultimately it is. They (voters) agreed to be asleep at the switch, and let their elected state reps and governors make deals on their behalf.

they just decide what not to pay.

Ever heard of a thing called civil law, Paleocon? Uh, duh, they would get sued. States get sued all the time and when they lose, they have to pay. Pension plans are contracts and fall under contract law, civil law, follow? So if you read that article, you'd find out the Feds are trying to provide an out for States so they will not face a littany of lawsuits. They may still get sued, but if the Federal law provides a remedy or an exclusion, the State is covered.

Sure. I also know what "sovereign immunity" means. Check Wikipedia for more:

Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a type of immunity that in common law jurisdictions traces its origins from early English law. Generally speaking it is the doctrine that the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution

However, a "consequence of [the] Court's recognition of pre-ratification sovereignty as the source of immunity from suit is that only States and arms of the State possess immunity from suits authorized by federal law." Northern Insurance Company of New York v. Chatham County. Thus, cities and municipalities lack sovereign immunity, Jinks v. Richland County, and counties are not generally considered to have sovereign immunity, even when they "exercise a 'slice of state power.'"

States only get sued where they have absolved themselves of the right to not be sued. They may do this for bankruptcy, but I don't see why they would. I also think they could reassert sovereign immunity for other cases anytime they chose too -- the king can do no wrong.


A recent Supreme Court decision-in a case not involving bankruptcy-will continue to have a significant impact on the role states play in bankruptcy cases. In Seminole, the Supreme Court held that the Eleventh Amendment prevents Congress, acting pursuant to its Article I powers, from abrogating a state's sovereign immunity by subjecting it to suit in federal court without its consent.(2304) Seminole specifically addressed Congress' power under the Indian Commerce Clause, but the Court did not limit the scope of its decision to that specific Article I provision.(2305) Like its power under the Indian Commerce Clause, Congress has plenary power to enact "uniform laws of bankruptcy" under the Bankruptcy Clause in Article I of the Constitution.(2306) Accordingly, Seminole calls into question whether Congress may abrogate a state's sovereign immunity under its Article I plenary bankruptcy powers. The Court briefly mentioned the potential impact of its opinion on bankruptcy cases, noting in a footnote that "[a]lthough the copyright and bankruptcy laws have existed practically since our nation's inception . . . , there is no established tradition in the lower federal courts of allowing enforcement of those federal statutes against the States."

Since the decision in Seminole, a number of courts have found that the bankruptcy court does not have jurisdiction over states because of the Eleventh Amendment.

The continuing erosion of states rights put this issue into play, of course, which is why it's worthy of discussion. The common perception I believe is mistaken, and the legal picture will be far less clear than many presume.

This is one reason that I would not want to be a state pensioner -- better to be a corporate or city pensioner, where the case law is more clear. Or plan to work until you die, like I hope to.

I think the Fed is trying to arrogate powers to itself under the guise of helping the states. Case law does not favor the Fed so far, but there is valid room for interpretation; beside, you never know what those Supreme Court justices will make up.

States only get sued where they have absolved themselves of the right to not be sued. They may do this for bankruptcy, but I don't see why they would.

Because the people making the laws are future state pensioners?

Antarctic sea ice extent now is also reducing faster as last 30-yrs average (from NSDIC.ORG) :

While Minnesota and Wisconsin sit in the freezer. International Falls was -46F this morning. A new record for them.

805 AM CST FRI JAN 21 2011



---- ----------------------- -- -------------- -------


If I put a thermometer in my glass of water and drop in a few ice cubes then the falling temperature measurements may lead some to think that the whole glass will soon freeze solid. Not so. The ice melts instead and the temperature fall suddenly becomes a rise.

We have a La Nina year, so winter in the Prairies will be colder and longer, nothing new. Temperatures in this area are known to fall to -35 -40 mark reasonably regularly, so -46 is not completely off the chart. But the extreme cold like this, in this area lasts only a few hours and then it comes back to normal -15, which is current temperature in International Falls. -46 here is a bit like reporting 110 in Dallas, life goes on.

I recall -30F in Chippewa Falls (about 75 miles south of Hayward), that was roughly a once a decade sort of event. Sure if it hits on a day with a whimp record low, it might set a new daily minumum, but to be really extraordinary you'd want to set a monthly record.

Your graph is not up to date. HERE'S the most recent graph. Not only is the rate of decline faster than the average, the actual extent has gone below the historical range as well. Looks like the denialist who have claimed that the Antarctic sea-ice is increasing are going to be forced to eat their words...

E. Swanson

Don't exagerate. Antarctic ice is still within normal variance. Arctice ice extent is currently 4 standard deviations below the pre-2000 average extent for this time of year. That is significant. Antarctic ice has been well above normal range for short periods in the last two years. That may indicate some change in local climate, or it may just be weather.

Must be hard to watch the poles melt while saying nothing is happening. It is an amazing sort of belief system to actually dismiss it.

Of course, none of us can do anything to stop it. China and India will burn more fossil fuel if we burn less.

But to deny the changes occurring on the Poles is kind of funny. I occasionally wonder if most of the denial crowd actually believe what they post on blogs. I think some post it knowing deep down that they are wrong, but they are multiple hands into a losing poker tournament and they want to save face. LOL

Must be hard to watch the poles melt while saying nothing is happening. It is an amazing sort of belief system to actually dismiss it.

I agree. What kind of adult-child does it take to ignore the data? I mean it doesn't even require believing or agreeing with anyone, it's just a matter of looking at the information, the trends. Yes, Arctic sea ice is reducing in area covered and there is less old ice and its happening at an alarming pace. It's mankind induced. If it was a natural trend it would take thousands of years, not mere decades.

What kind of adult-child does it take to ignore the data?

A political animal: homo-politicus. We are absolutely crawling with them. The only purpose of data is to cherrypick those pieces that support your agenda.

Your graph is not up to date. HERE'S the most recent graph. Not only is the rate of decline faster than the average, the actual extent has gone below the historical range as well.

Went there and looked at it, BD - amazing drop right past the 3rd base coach. It was only about 6 months ago scientists discovered much warmer waters were finally arriving at Antarctica and with an ominous tone suggested people really ought to be worried about this latest trend. Why, because in the past it hasn't been warmer air that has melted Antarctica, but rather warming sea water. It melts the ice shelves, then the glaciers have nothing to stop them from flowing into the ocean.

It's been a known fact for several years (from ice cores) that in past melt and freeze events in the Arctic and Antarctic, both move together. If one melts the other follows, and the same for enlarging. So I couldn't figure out why Antarctica was behind the Arctic. But evidently there is a lag time until the warmer water gets to Antarctica.

That graph shows the impact that warmer water is already having. This amounts to very big trouble.

One reason is that ozone depletion has cooled the lower stratosphere. That may have also cooled the surface a bit for the past 30 years or so. Broecker has claimed to have found a seesaw effect in the paleo record, with changes in NH ocean circulation balanced by opposite changes of Antarctic circulation. My memory is that this applies to a similar cycle in temperature, as found in the ice core record (IPCC AR4, Chap 6, Figure 6.7) and sea-ice. Broecker and others have a new paper that appeared in last weeks SCIENCE, discussing changes in North Atlantic circulation which appear to have happened after the Last Glacial Maximum...

E. Swanson

One reason is that ozone depletion has cooled the lower stratosphere.

Supposedly this increases the strength of the Southern Annular Mode (the circumpolar winds), and this helps to bottle to cold in the Antarctic. On the other side of the SAM, the Antarctic penisula has been warming faster than anywhere else on the globe.

are going to be forced to eat their words...

Naw. They'll simply find another talking point, and act like they never said it.

For what it is worth, I was on a panel discussion on $100 oil. It was really more direct answers to question.

There really wasn't an opportunity to make a "pitch" for peak oil

Paul Kedrosky: Don't Count on Technology To Save Us

At root, I am a reluctant pessimist. I want to believe in innovation and its possibilities, but I am more thoroughly convinced of entropy. Most of what of what we do merely creates local upticks in organization in an overall downward sloping curve. In that regard, technology is a bag of tricks that allows us to slow and even reverse the trend; sometimes globally, sometimes only locally, but always only temporarily and at increasing aggregate energy cost.

From his bio. Dr. Kedrosky is an investor, writer, and entrepreneur. He is a sought-after speaker; a contributor editor for Bloomberg; the editor of Infectious Greed, one of the best known business blogs; and he is frequently quoted in major publications around the world.

It appears that more and more mainstream writers and traders, Jim Rogers for example, are becoming aware of the energy problem that the world faces. And some of them like Dr Kedrosky, do not see a primrose path to business as usual after oil.

Ron P.

Kedrosky concludes:

The trouble with promoters of technological innovation is that their arguments are seductive, socially desirable, and a kind of special pleading. We want to believe, we need to believe, so we ignore how unusual fossil fuels are, with their unique combination of energy density, portability, and cost. While we can move away from these fuels, it is more a behavioral and lifestyle problem than anything else. We must want to change our behaviors such that small innovations at the margin can help us. Waiting for massive innovations to save us from our energy profligacy is innovation infantilism.

I think he understands the supply problem, but when he suggests that the problem is "behavioral and lifestyle", he misses the other side, which is, population overshoot. Thus it's going to be a lot worse than he suggests if his pessimistic outlook for the alternatives proves correct...

E. Swanson

I think Dr. Kedrosky clearly understands the population problem. I am sure he would have mentioned it here except this article was about technology, not population.

Taking Another Look at Simon vs. Ehrlich on Commodity Prices by Paul Kedrosky

If raging population and economic growth don’t cause important resources to be depleted, what will? Today, twenty years after the bet’s end, and three decades after its start, the Simon/Ehrlich bet’s outcome is still widely-cited (just try to bring up “peak oil” with a Chicago-school economist, go on – I’ll wait), even if the bet itself is understood only in superficial terms.

Ron P.

With all due respect, Kedrosky appears to be thinking of population growth, not decline. A population crash isn't to be found in his picture either. He does make mention of the prospect of the US being the nation with the largest impending changes, as we are the among the largest in per capita consumers of oil, along with our neighbors in Canada. I suppose one could assume that his "behavioral and lifestyle" changes might include not making babies but he isn't at all clear on that...

E. Swanson

And with all due respect to you Eric, I think you are right about Kedrosky not thinking about population decline but talking about voluntary population decline is really a waste of breath. That is because even if we had involuntary population control like they do in China, it would be far too little and way too late.

China, even with an iron fist enforcing their one child policy for two decades now their population is still growing. That is because of Population Momentium. Of course the population of China will eventually level off and even began to drop if China's economy and government survives long enough. But the process would have taken almost half a century. We do not have that long.

Now imagine how much longer it would take if we had to rely on voluntary population control. That would quite obviously take a lot longer.

But not to worry, the population of the world will drop and quite dramatically. But it will not be because of voluntary population control or even because of a China like world one child policy. It will be because mother nature dictates it.

Ron P.

I really like the new 'kinder, gentler' Darwinian. It's a pleasure to read you once more. Thanks for adapting so well.

Dave in Thailand

The thing that is really scary about voluntary population control is that there are some real nutcases that are already reproducing as fast as they can. If everyone else had fewer children the percentage of crazies would really zoom up!

We must want to change our behaviors such that small innovations at the margin can help us.

Or change behavior without the necessity of innovations, like taking the train/bus to work.

Waiting for massive innovations to save us from our energy profligacy is innovation infantilism.

Or massive innovations to continue the profligacy, for example with superbatteries and fusion. Not that it would resolve all the problems of population overshoot.

We must want to change our behaviors such that small innovations at the margin can help us.

It is when I read passages such as this that I get really depressed. Dr. Paul Kedrosky clearly understands the problem and clearly understands that technology will not save us. But saying that we must want to change our behavior is something that is not going to happen. That is even more unlikely to save us. The vast majority of people do not and will not want to change their behavior. And they will not be convinced by argument to do so.

People will change their behavior only when they are forced by circumstances to do so. And even then they will fight and protest every effort to force them to do so. They will march in the streets protesting the forced change in their lifestyles. Then they will riot, throw stones and torch those whom they blame for their predicament. After all, they will believe, someone has to be responsible for all this mess and by God they must pay!

Ron P.

It is possible the Dr Kedrosky is not delusional. There is a limit to what people can accept. On the weekend, my grandmother told me of a dream she had were she died. From her eyes I could tell she was accepting of that - she wants it. I don't think I could explain that to my son, he's too young he couldn't accept it. In our case the full monty is that our population is too high, it will come down dramatically, we might meet extinction, the die off will start soon, there is no way to stop it. (Did I miss anything?) Few people are in a position to understand this. I will certainly not be trying to explain this to my grandmother. Giving people a path to follow may help them understand the first point. It takes the emotional weight off, and allows an analytical consideration of the limits of technology. "Don't ponder the whole damn universe, just understand this one point."
I do the same thing as Dr. Kedrosky - advocate change - not as well. It is virtually certain this effort will fail. I am certain I will die - sometime. I am afraid of neither, I feel there is dignity in putting up a good fight.

People will change their behavior only when they are forced by circumstances to do so.

Something like this in Iran ?

A special committee set up in 2007 by the government came up with a four-point program which includes:
1. Conversion of most existing cars to run on natural gas within five years at a rate of 1.2 million annually. This will begin with conversion of 600,000 public and governmental cars to NGV.
2. Phase out of very old cars (approximately 1.2 million) by 2010.
3. As of June 2007, most of the newly manufactured cars will have to be able to run on natural gas.
4. Within five years most of Iran’s 10,000 refueling stations will be retrofitted to serve natural gas.

Now Iran has 2 million dual-fuel vehicles on the road.
I know, it is an example and not the big picture. Besides, not many countries have a lot of gas.

Another one: this year Obama announces that "we have to leave oil before it leaves us".
He orders a program which includes.....
Ok, maybe in the U.S. it doesn't work. President afraid of not being re-elected, people not wanting to buy smaller cars.

I did not know about the Infectious Greed blog. The term "greed" has gained different interpretations over the years, some pejorative and some largely objective. I have received some heated criticism for using the word greed too often in my analysis (it appears dozens of times in the book). The thing is, I am not passing any value judgements when I use the term; it works simply as a way to describe market forces in a capitalistic society. After awhile, you realize that greed is just a way of business, in that if you don't maintain a level of greed you won't succeed as well as the next guy who steps the level up. And the key thing to remember is that technology accelerates greed, i.e. getting more while exerting less effort. So the oil depletion analysis I apply is a mixture of applying greed and seeing how it bumps up against entropy and finite constraints.

I will have to look at Kedrosky, thanks.

Here's an interesting bit of enlightenment:

Justices Explain Links to Energy Company

The "energy company" is the Koch Industries, as in Charles. Who would have thought???

E. Swanson

Isn't Koch Industries synonymous with the tea party movement?

Why are conservatives so unconservative? Senator Bob Graham, while perhaps overstating the case, is right on when he warns about the impact of the drill,baby,drill philosophy. This is a selfish credo that completely discounts the needs of future generations. It is also a credo that seems to believe that more oil now will have no impact on what is available later.

If the supply of something necessary is limited, doesn't it make sense to stretch out those supplies? Further, given limited supply, doesn't it make sense to prioritize its use by investing in efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy? Even further, doesn't it make sense to drain Saudi Arabis first and not the U.S.?

Draining America first is like taking a 40 gallon bath on a life boat. Good luck with that.

Conservatives don't deserve to call themselves conservatives. It has not always been thus. These are not my father's conservatives.

Exactly! Why can't the right get on board with that? OK, we know they don't give a crap about the environment but don't they care about the long term national security and economic security of the country? We need more conservatives like T.Boone Pickens, James Schlesinger, and the late Matt Simmons who understand this issue.

The only explanation I can think of for the rest of them is that they all believe America's oil situation would be hunky-dory if not for those dirty hippie tree-huggers stopping us from drilling. The oil industry keeps telling them that they need more access in order to increase supply. Of course the little white lie is that although that will increase supply, it won't increase supply enough to make any significant change to the price.

Seriously now . . . we've been on a pretty steady decline since 1970 . . . 40 YEARS OF DECLINE! What kind of delusional person does it take to think that if we just open up ANWR and the OCS then everything will be fine?

Delusional thinking is an epidemic. First, they let the insane out of the asylums. Then, they elected them to congress.

Here are a few comments from that article with Former Sen. Bob Graham in it . . . . this is what I'm talking about . . . Dontcha know that all our problems will be solved if we just drill!

It might "drain" our resources if we ACTUALLY DRILLING! But we're not b/c Obama has pretty much shut down all domestic off shore (and land) drilling. Graham needs to retire b/c his brain is mush…
BY DENNIS on 01/19/2011 at 15:17

This is insanity. There is enough untapped oil in this country to last hundreds of years, /Where does Graham get his faulty info—-from Obama?
BY MJ HAWKEYE on 01/19/2011 at 15:36

Is there any chance what so ever that you could get an honest answer out of a democrat - besides that the restrictions on drilling are the problem - not the amount available - how about Alaska - off shore - etc… democrats just want to rule your lives.
BY JOHN on 01/19/2011 at 15:43

the dims will try to push whatever argument they can against drilling for our own reserves until they find a winner.
BY ALEJANDRO on 01/19/2011 at 16:40

Absolute propaganda from a green interested in not drilling in America, If we covert shale deposits we have enough oil to last for centuries and that is based on the few fields that have been opened so far, completely disregarding crude oil drilling.
More lies from Obama, and slalzar has to remember that he will not always work for the government and once he's a normal citizen again some folks might not like his lies very much at all.
BY POPPA on 01/19/2011 at 17:09

I guess I have to suggest that we are once again being subjected to partisan "truths" versus the reality of our Country's energy reserves.
The shale oil reserves already identified in the Rocky Mountains has more oil than the Middle East had PRIOR to their beginning to "drill, baby, drill". Add to those known reserves, that represented in Alaska, and in known off-shore reserves located on all water boundaries of the U.S. and we are positioned to say rather loudly, stop the nonsense.
BY DAVE MILLER on 01/20/2011 at 09:08

Faith-based Energy policy. I can't even make sense of the conspiracy theory . . . if drilling actually worked and brought down prices, don't you think Obama would want that? That would certainly help him win a re-election, right? So he is not drilling . . . why? Because he's a Kenyan Muslim socialist, I guess?

Oil has been in decline for 40 YEARS through Republican presidents & Democratic presidents and Republican Congresses and Democratic Congresses!

Have you been reading comments from Beck's Blog lately? (Reference thanks to a story in today's NYT.)

E. Swanson

The only explanation I can think of for the rest of them [#$%^!! conservatives] is that they all believe ...

What kind of delusional person does it take to think that if ... then everything will be fine?

1) If only everybody thought exactly like me.

2) I have determined that I am sane and it is only the rest of the world that is otherwise.

3) Everyone around me is delusional, myself excluded of course you see because I am the one special and exceptional person in the whole lot.

My fellow legal beagle, even here on TOD we don't agree with one another. There is always constant bickering over this and that.

We each took a private and unique journey along life's pathways to get to where we are today and we each picked up our own set of delusions along the way.

Conservatives are no different than the rest of us. They merely picked up a slightly different collection of delusions.

[ i.mage_1.+]

[ i.mage_2.+]

[ i.mage_3.+]

Step back – These days about all I do is chuckle and ignore the debates that focus on the “damn conservatives” or the “damn librals”. Long ago I caught on to the “them vs. us” ploy the two parties use to keep folks from focusing on the real problem: ineffective (or worse: damaging) policies of both parties. So I like your take: it would be great if we could still use the “R vs. D” angle. Except it would be the Realists vs. Delusionals. As been pointed out both sides of the political fence is represented by both groups. I think this would allow us to stop wasting time with the misdirection BS and focus on the real issues.

allow us to stop wasting time ... and focus on the real issues

One of the "real" issues is that the human brain is built for adopting delusions.

Actually it was AlanFromBigEasy who perhaps said it better here how so many of us believe in, and wait for the "Just-in-Time Technology Tooth Fairy" to show up and save us.

If you study Hollywood movies, a great many of them include the theme of unwavering eternal hope and a "savior" showing up at the last moment, but nonetheless just in time to save the protagonist.

And we all walk out of the theater feeling happy because deep down in side we want to believe that each of us too, is an unappreciated Cinderella for whom the Magic Fairy Godmother will show up just in time and convert our rotting pumpkin into a magnificent transport device that transports us to the Magic Kingdom we were always meant to inhabit.

The subconscious story here is that there is a happy after-life. We may be suffering now, but someone out there knows that we are "special", we don't "deserve" to be in the awful situation we find ourselves to be, and that powerful someone (the savior -a recurring theme) will come to us in our darkest hour and save us.

Now how does that transcend itself in the mind of a modern "conservative"?

Very simple.

The "free marketplace" is the savior.
All we have to do is get evil government out of our way and the road to the promised land is wide open for us to run up on to reach the Magic Kingdom (Reagan's Shining City on the Hill)

How does that transcend itself in the mind of a modern "liberal"?

Also simple.

The "koombaya community" is the savior.
All we have to do is hold hands and sing pretty songs and then the power of our mutual love for each other will transform into a magic carpet that transports us to the Magic Kingdom (JFK's Camelot)

In both cases there is a promised land at the end of the rainbow.
The only difference is how we get transported there.

Cinderella's pumpkin carriage is one way.
A conservative's free market ride is another way.
A liberal's magic koombaya carpet ride is yet another.
All delusional.

And each of us has picked a story like that as our personal delusionment.


Well said SB. And as the emotionally cripled bomber pilot said on that M.A.S.H. episode: God answers all prayers...just sometimes the answer is NO.

I thought it was Lt. Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy who said that?

(Bomber pilot-M*A*S*H?)

bull - I'm pretty sure it was a pilot who developed a God complex over his guilt from collateral damage. But the priest may well have uttered the same words. Then again I'm getting old.

Found it-Season 4, Episode 9:

Dr. Sidney Freedman: Tell me, is it true God answers all prayers?
Captain Chandler: Yes. Sometimes the answer is 'No.'

Hmmmm... I drive a 2007 Ford...guess I can use it.

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators are expected to announce on Friday that gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol is safe to use in vehicles built during the 2001 to 2006 model years, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Environmental Protection Agency last October approved so-called E15 gasoline for cars and trucks made during 2007 and later. Gasoline for other vehicles can hold up to 10 percent ethanol.

The 50 percent ethanol boost in gasoline in cars and trucks built since the 2001 model year would cover more than half the vehicles now on U.S. highways. The move should please ethanol producers and the U.S. farmers who grow the corn used to make it.

But service station owners worry that putting higher ethanol blends in older cars could lead to lawsuits if the fuel damages their engines.

U.S. law requires the amount of ethanol blended into U.S. gasoline to gradually increases from 12 billion gallons last year to 12.6 billion gallons this year and then to 15 billion gallons by 2015.


Rising Ethanol Production, Shrinking Corn Crops = Volatile Prices


Corn: Burden to Consumers, But Big Boon For Investors


A Path Is Sought for States to Escape Their Debt Burdens

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign. But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

A modified Titanic analogy I have been using of late is the first 15 minutes of the sinking versus the last 15 minutes. In the first 15 minutes, only a handful of the people on the ship knew that it would sink; in the last 15 minutes, the reality of the situation was apparent to everyone.

In regard to Peak Oil/Peak Exports, we are in the first 15 minutes, but that does not mean that our BAU way of life is not in the process of sinking below the waves. For anyone in or out of government, but dependent on the status quo, you can continue to hold on to the railing, or start looking for a lifeboat.

Regarding budget deficits, on the state level, we have two models--the Texas model (ruthless budget cuts) and the Illinois model (some budget cuts combined with huge tax increases). On the federal level, the Federal Reserve can of course continue to gradually take over as the buyer of last resort (of Treasury debt).

I personally think that Illinois' tax increases will yield them far less income than they are hoping, but we shall see.

Regarding unfunded and underfunded government obligations, e.g. pensions, I suspect that the only real question is how governments default on the obligations*.

There is an inescapable "Atlas Shrugged" aspect to this**. One could argue that cheap energy historically allowed producers to support a lot of non-producers, but cheap energy is a thing of the past. So increasingly I suspect that the question will be to what extent do governments tax the remaining producers out of existence in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo (and government jobs).

*It is interesting that the federal government bailed out the banks but they appear to be moving toward letting local and state governments default on their pension obligations.

**Small irony, Ayn Rand was an energy cornucopian.

I think the political hurdles are huge. Sure, the rightwingers would love to see government employees get a haircut. But would they go along with it if it means the deep-pocket bondholders have to take an even bigger one? The same, only reversed, for the leftwingers.

I believe we are definitely seeing a political crisis going on in this country since both parties appear impotent to helping resolve the problems we are facing.

Ahhh, you seem to think that the parties are to help the people.

With Citizens United - Corporations are now people thus the parties can help the people.....the newly minted Corporate ones.

Not you, you silly breathing human.

WT, I'm cautiously optimistic that even Democratically controlled state houses may be aware that there is precious little wiggle room regarding tax hikes. Ed Rendell here in PA is aware of the difficulties (and I'm not a "Big Ed" booster;-)). Illinois is an extreme case which I don't actually expect to see broadly duplicated (although I could be very wrong, for sure).

My view is that going forward we're likely to see pensions renegotiated. I also think we're going to see bond holders be "allowed" to pay the penalty for their own bad bets as the muni-bond market continues to tank. This is the only outcome I can see as practical, so my own expectation is that this is how things will at least attempt to play out.....until it no longer does, meaning that a breaking point may be reached. At that juncture, who knows what will happen.

Of course governments should be able to default on pension obligations to their staff and leave them on the street in their old age. Such a policy is, of course, tied with the execution of those individuals that take the decision to do so.

Or did you think people were just going to roll over and accept?

It's actually much easier to push the retirement age up and up and have them die in post. Actually defaulting isn't tenable and would contribute to SHTF and collapse, that we fear.

All government Pensions, that includes all, Federal / State / Local, government employees and ALL in the Military, need to be absorbed into the Social Security System. Government workers get the same as everyone else. Congress as well. Why, should my taxes be stolen from me, to pay for anyone to have a higher standard of living than I have? You want something more? Then save your pennies privately.
Positive balances in those accounts would more than offset the negatives. Simplify the system. Get rid of the thousands of wasteful Gov programs..Unemployment rolled into it as well..Food stamps..everything into a single system to create the minimum survival income. That's where it going anyway, why not move it now?

The Martian

All Federal employees hired from January 1, 1984 are enrolled in Social Security. I have seen at least one report that as of 2009 ~24% of Federal employees are covered by the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which means there will be a wave of retirements soon. The last of the folks hired under the old system will be eligible for retirement in about 3 years. Back in 1991 the existing CSRS employees were offered a one time opportunity to switch plans and many did to take advantage of the Thrift Savings Plan, where they could contribute up to 10% of their salary pre-tax and the government would match up to the first 5%. So there are not as many folks on the old system as you may think. I don't know how many CSRS retirees we have, but they will all pretty much disappear by the middle of this century, at the latest.

I should also note that the "tax holiday" given to folks for their Social Security/FICA taxes does not apply to the employees covered under CSRS. They still contribute the full 7% to their pension.


This is my new high school course in the process of obtaining local approval.
I have blanked out the high school name until I get final this approval. I have a meeting next week, but so far I have support for next year. I am pretty sure this will interest some of you. I developed this because of TOD and your ideas, in fact, I have switched from being a carpentry instructor to metal. I just had a student want to sign up for this course and it doesn't even exist yet! (While I am writing this)

My apologies for using the word green, but I need approval and a little cash and it takes that word to get it.


Course Name: Green Technology and Fabrication

Grade Level: Grades 11 and 12

Number of Credits: 4

Number of Hours of Instruction: 120 (1 semester)

Prerequisites: None

Special Training, Facilities, and Equipment: Teacher needs to be a certified shop teacher due to safety concerns and necessary knowledge base. Tools required are basic metal work tools, with the addition of automotive and mechanic tools, (welders, grinders, wrenches, sockets, etc). XYZ Secondary is currently outfitted to offer this course with a few minor exceptions for making bio-diesel.

Course Synopsis:
This course is designed to address energy limitations in our finite world. With the advent of peak oil and the rise in cost of all energy related products, students will be challenged to design and construct simple solutions of local and recycled materials. Throughout the course students are taught industrial processes in a safe and time-effective manner. They will learn to make bio-diesel from the used cooking oil from the school cafeteria program and other local sources. Students will also learn how to construct micro-hydro equipment, as well as simple windmills, wind driven pumps, and other transforming energy devices. Learning outcomes for the course are found within each curriculum organiser, and evaluation requires students to submit a self-assessment work sheet with each finished project/unit.

This course was developed to introduce students to the decline of the inexpensive energy sources we have enjoyed for the last 60 years. Rather than simply accepting an inevitable lowering of lifestyle and opportunity that such an energy decline implies, students are encouraged to focus on these changes as opportunities for growth, learning, and entrepreneurship. Throughout the course, projects are developed as solutions that address the theme of increased energy costs, and the problems associated with rampant fossil fuel use in a world of seven billion people. Each project must either address greenhouse gas emission, pollution, or energy scarcity.

Technology and Fabrication was chosen to serve as an ‘energy based subject’ due to the spectacular facility of xyz Secondary. While the shop is old and tired, it is well equipped for all manner of design and fabrication. The transformation of the modern automobile into an extremely complex processor controlled vehicle is fast making a traditional high school shop obsolete for almost all automotive instruction beyond basic car care and maintenance. As a result, unless a student is rebuilding or servicing a 25-30 year old vehicle, the facility will be under-utilized. Modern cars cannot be simply torn apart in a high school shop. While this is an obvious liability for trades and technical training, an approach has been taken to turn this into a positive. While future mechanics will have to receive specialized technical training and upgrading on a regular basis, the proper use of tools in a safe and productive manner are universal and transferable skills. As such, the course is relevant and responsive to the times.

(This is the jargon of my District submission template....but you get the idea. Wish me luck.

I think you might add a project to build a solar heated oven, if this isn't covered in earlier courses. This would teach the practical aspects of solar thermal energy, including solar water heating. A small solar heater of the "window box" type might also be constructed as well, since these can also be built with basic tools and available materials...

E. Swanson

That's really encouraging. Good luck, indeed!

Other thoughts.. I liked your note about Cars, leading me of course to think about some of the simplest Cars, EVs, and perhaps another variant, more fitting for such a group and shop, which would be the use of the onetime HighSchool Auto Shop to start focusing on Bikes and Pedal-Electrics like Ebikes and Velomobiles.

Also, my favorite simple homebuilt systems, which are Solar Hot Air collectors, which to my mind are 'just simple enough', and 'just complicated enough' to offer a reasonable challenge to students, resulting in a very basic, but useful item. (Of course, installing them, cutting duct-access into a roof, window or wall is one of the most daunting parts of the process..)

Still, all the Best,

Bob, these students could build a small unit that attaches to the inside of an existing window (if they have a south facing window). It could be useful for heating a bedroom or bath.

Rofl! That were actually done in a government sponsored project in Sweden some 30 years ago. (second hand info, dont remeber it more exact then that. ) The solar collectors were put on the inside of the climate shell yielding 0.00% net energy, the only additonal heating were from pump losses.

Allways think about the system boundaries!

A windmill made in high school shop will resemble a commercial wind turbine in the same way a gokart will resemble a modern automobile. So your proposal doesn't solve the problem of having limited resources to teach complex modern systems in high school.

That said, the course can still be a good one, depending on what the students will be taking away from it.

One objective in your "rationale" concerns the proper use of tools. The use of hand and machine tools, an understanding of materials and how to work with them, an appreciation for design, and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from completing worthwhile projects are all good objectives.

Depending on the student population and on other courses they might take, electricity, electrical circuits and an understanding of electrical machines and devices might be good objectives.

Projects should also include some basic engineering design work to understand energy, transformation of energy, losses and friction, etc., but this might need to be coordinated with the science curriculum.

Lastly, some introduction to commercial energy systems and supply chains should be included, possibly with a field trip to a suitable location. The student should get a basic understanding of how the energy business works.

Students should also gain experience in specifying their design, drawing up a bill of materials, estimating the tasks and time for each task, pricing out materials and labor, and figuring out the actuals versus estimates.

"Students should also gain experience in specifying their design, drawing up a bill of materials, estimating the tasks and time for each task, pricing out materials and labor, and figuring out the actuals versus estimates."

Many of these are givens. I only provided the rationale etc without details in order to share one thing. Schools are very slow and resistant to change. The fact that this is even being discussed, much less addressed in a high school, is the real accomplishment.

When you teach high school, you get a bell curve in finished products. In fact, that we teach the person and not the subject is very much a truism. In my class I will have everyone from high end science types to special needs who can barely function. The windmills will look, well, like pvc windmills driving a cast off generator. That isn't the point. Along the way air foil design is explored as well as line loss, etc....storage, whatever. Go carts aren't meant to be cars. Go carts teach kids about welding in a fun way and often helps to create learners who will actually be able to do something.

Thank you all for your ideas. It is a first step, only, and as said before, without the details of the course which is 8-12 pages when it is revised. These young folks are not engineers. A few might become engineers, but most will simply drift for awhile....hopefully not through life. Yesterday I took my three classes to a local college and toured electrical, electronics, heating and plumbing, welding and fab, auto mechanics, heavy duty mech, and an aircraft structures program. It is simply meant to provide a reason for being here and something to work towards.

Anyway, I will send you progress reports as I can. Now, back to work and thank you again for all of the ideas. And support.

A windmill made in high school shop will resemble a commercial wind
turbine in the same way a gokart will resemble a modern automobile.

That need not be the case. Here in the UK we have things called CLC's
- (City Learning Centers).
In Leeds for instance there are five of them. They carry equipment such
as CADCAM 3D printers etc. and are staffed by teachers that can fly the
equipment. Schools then buy time in the CLC's to deliver a high end
experience for the student in a facility that would be beyond the fiscal
reach of the school's own budget.

There are also some good initiatives out there partnering industry with
schools/colleges such that the products the students work on face the
same rigour and critique as anyone on the design side would face when
transferring the ideas to the fabricators in 'the real world'.

I think the key to all these sorts of courses is to run them with the
12 - 14 age range, and allow for those that show both aptitude and interest
(they usually go hand in hand) to go forward with a curriculum that re-inforces
the design aspects with the science, maths and engineering skills useful to both
the knowledge base/exam certificate portfolio and future industry employers as
a whole.

Courses in economics and business management wouldn't be a bad idea either !

Best of luck with the course approval.

How about adding something like this to your list of projects.

Make Your Own Miniature Electric Hub Motor


In any case congratulations for actually doing something!

Sounds very interesting. I'd have signed up. What about a module of putting together a small photovoltaic system too?

Consider tools like blender http://www.blender.org/ so they can model a solar capturing system.

Consider also building a Scheffler dish system.

This type of concentrator can be built with common materials and ordinary skills. The daily tracking can be by a simple clockwork mechanism, and seasonal tracking can be manual.

The advanced metals classes can make the clockwork, or have the advanced electonics class build a ATtiny based system.

Duane Johnson has always been approachable

and via


You can then "hook up" with the people in the "home economics" classes and make some canned food goodies for the little ones to take home.

I really liked the J.M.Greer article on catabolic collapse. I printed a hard copy out for myself and for a friend of mine.
That being said, I just wanted to say that I think that although J.M.G. is essentially correct in the main thrust of his argument that events may drag out longer than many expect, I think that Greer's comparison to ancient Rome has certain drawbacks. The primary one being that in spite of Rome's obviously high level overall of political and socio-economic sophistication, it was none-the-less a technically far less sophisticated culture than any industrial level society. I would expect that our own society is far more susceptible to perturbations in our technology base and also in our financial base.
My thinking is that negative catabolic events will take place more quickly in industrial societies. The average citizen of the developed world today has a much steeper fall ahead of him to get down to a medieval subsistence farming level than the average Roman citizen.

I've heard it argued either way: that collapse will be faster for a large, very complex society like ours, and also that it will be slower.

I'm inclined to think it will be slower. Greer has a table in that paper he linked to in the current article, which shows civilizations and the number of years it took to collapse. There doesn't seem to be any indication that more complex societies collapse faster.

More practically...many of us feared a fast collapse during the economic crisis a couple of years ago. It didn't happen, and the reasons it didn't happen demonstrate the sheer inertia of such a large, complex society. There can be sudden collapses that are limited in space and time (New Orleans after Katrina), but they will be followed by apparent recovery, and few will notice the overall trend.

I can see both slow and fast happening at the same time, depending on location.
Some city halls in small town in Japan are completely empty now---no staff at all. Just one person to help you download documents, you then fill them out and send them electronically to a place where they get processed.
Of course the big cities don't have empty city halls. But this is a wave pattern. The small city halls are emptying out so that the energy saved can be given to the larger economy. The wave just keeps pulsing "lower energy, lower, lower". Unmanageable costs keep having to be cut, so soon bigger towns will cut a lot of staff. When finally the city halls in the biggest cities are empty, then you can expect that a significant maybe pretty quick collapse occured, since their lack of staff will reflect a collapse. But out in the countryside, there could be more activity in the form of people farming.

The more cement and bigger the scale---the faster the collapse, I think. Thus the smaller towns here are already undergoing huge reductions in their public staffing. Schools have been closed for a long time due to lack of children. The collapse of small scale rural places is slow and prolonged compared to the big cities.

Well this is a good point.

Basically the center keeps on growing and plundering the periphery, even as the ability of the periphery to deliver the goods diminishes.

Here in the U.S., it's why Washington D.C. is one of the most thriving metrapolises in Great Depression 2.0.

Eventually, of course, no more surplus wealth can be extracted, and the center undergoes a collapse which collapses the whole system. Not really sure if this happens quickly or slowly, and that's a bit esoteric IMHO.

The first sign of this, the trickle that will lead to a flood, is the freeze of certain federal salaries. Too bad suckers! And they thought they had it made.

See there's the thing, which has been commented on so many times before but bears repeating: the collapse happens only when it happens to you, and then you understand it.

A guy who loses his job, divorces his wife, sits in his trailer or ghetto apartment while getting high on marijuana...well...to such a guy it's meaningless to talk of peak oil or AGW collapse, it's already happened to him as far as he's concerned. There are many such people even during the good times, when the oil is flowing like so much champagne.

That fait awaits us all.

But believe me, to some it will never happen. If it did happen to everybody, how do you explain the Rothschilds?

If the collapse of nations and empires can't touch them, neither will peak oil. They'll laugh at it, they'll swat it like a fly.

I wonder what non-renewable resource dried out in the 70s, that caused the US to "catabolize" its manufacturing base? Was it oil? Oil didn't exactly dry out back then, after a few short lived oil shocks world oil production rose rapidly and in the 80s and 90s the world was literally awash in oil. What then?

Here is my theory. What dried out was the political will. The political will to keep jobs in the USA and keep the middle class from being eroded via outsourcing and globalization. The US government simply succumbed to the corporate pressure to open the borders and let manufacturing fly out to low cost countries. The social contract was slowly exchanged, the welfare state started it's slow path to oblivion and inequality started rising to it's current stratospheric heights. It will only get worse of course, the only way to make the rich richer when the pie is shrinking is to take from the bottom classes and to keep convincing them that it's actually their own fault if they can't make it.

You can cast this in abstract entropy terms. Unless someone applies corrective action in the form of rules or laws, the system will try to fill up all available behavioral states. Those available states are much more spread around when the borders are opened up.

This sounds implausible, like we were equating humans as dumb molecules of gas in a container separated by a divider, but that is how the field of econophysics treats these problems. Once you take away the divider, all the molecules intermingle and it takes a lot of effort to untangle it.

Primary reason for offshoring jobs is shortage of skilled workers

Most American companies engaged in offshoring say a shortage of skilled domestic employees -- not cost cutting -- is the primary reason why they move some job functions overseas.

Most American companies used to train their employees, when they could afford to do so. It's a self-reinforcing cycle that drives a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once, there were no nuclear engineers or computer engineers -- not so long ago. When they were needed, wages were high for those that self-taught, and companies trained their employees to fit their needs and did internal research while pushing universities to do the same. Eventually, the needs and employees equalized.

Today, universities turn out "too few" skilled engineers and companies do limited internal education while off-shoring due to "lack of skilled employees". The significant difference is wage arbitration, with the corporate training and universities now in China and India instead.

If students believed that $100K cap was worth the work, you'd have plenty of engineers in colleges. If companies paid $500K for a good engineer, you'd have plenty of local grads. If you can hire decent engineers from India for $75K or off-shore for $50K, neither of those will happen. How many companies have a quiet, contemplative campus of buildings full of scientists and engineers who are learning continually while adding value for themselves, their companies, and the nation?

I know friends who came up through Bell Labs, and that place was legendary for science and innovation back in the day. I have worked at two such locations myself -- both were re-purposed as office parks full of little survival-scrabbling companies who could not afford to reimburse tuition let alone have deep thinkers ponder research for years on end. I know of two others locally I haven't worked at that had the same fate, and none that fulfill their original purpose. If you go to China, though, you can find the buildings full of PhD's (perhaps not the quaint campus layout -- I'm not sure about that) staffing world-wide standards bodies and working on new theory. Maybe our national labs come closest to this here today?

The "brain drain", in my opinion, is driven both by globalization of wage-workers and by the blow-down of the cheapest and best resources in the US, and helped along by lop-sided environmental policies. It was a different nation when people were few and resources were prolific, and an anything-goes mentality.

Without barriers to entry for people and products (protectionism), it's hard to see how to rebuild the brain-trust. I'm not sure there is the availability of opportunity (depth of resources and breadth of market) to justify it, except in niche markets, though India and China are succeeding with less to start from. Nuclear needs a renaissance, renewable energy needs R&D, and efficiency in industrial, commercial, and residential life needs practical engineering and technician base development as well. Efficient manufacturing (German style) should be a goal for rebuilding the middle class. Leveling the environmental field by refusing to simply off-shore pollution would help a lot too, though how to police that seems difficult, unless you simply add high environmental tariffs to countries who don't match your level of scrutiny themselves.

Perhaps we should re-direct most of the research effort from our national labs from their present meal-ticket (which does absolutely nothing to help mitigate our country's problems) to more relevant work necessary to help us transition to a post-oil/NG situation.

I think it was oil, not political will.

Oil production may have kept on rising, but we're talking about what happened in the US, not in the world. It was peak oil USA that drove jobs out of the US and gutted the labor movement.

In the long run, it might have happened anyway, but I suspect cheap energy overseas was a huge driver.

I suspect cheap energy overseas was a huge driver.

If the 1970's is somehow magical - in the late 60/early 70's the US of A was going from burning rivers to the EPA.

Laws about preservation of the environment is a factor.

Jabberwock, thank you! As for the issue of timing, well, the difference in geographical scale and technological sophistication between the Classic Lowland Maya (a very localized neolithic society) and the Roman Empire (a continental empire with very complex technology and international trade) is arguably greater than the difference between the Roman Empire and us, and yet the collapse times of the Maya and the Romans were more or less the same. Of course we won't know until after the rubble stops bouncing, but the most reasonable hypothesis right now seems to me to be that the speed of catabolic collapse is independent of geographical scale or technical complexity.

Rome was a Raubwirtschaft society, a robber's empire. They sacked and stole the wealth from the provinces, they kept millions in slavery and their only source of wealth was constant expansion, pillage and enslaving. As soon as they stopped expanding because they found their natural limits, against strong military empires like the Parthians and manly Germanic warriors in the North they began to decline.
Add the constant civil wars, arising from the power struggle among the Generals to be crowned with the laurels of Empire and the resulting destruction from within they were open to the onslaught from outside.

Many factors played a part and of late much is made of Climate Change at the time (probably a modern conceit) and scarcity of natural resources like wood but most likely it was the social and political issues that destroyed them, not to forget the deleterious religion from a Hebrew sect that rotted the Roman spirit --Gibbons certainly blamed that.

I don't see many similarities today, although the extension of superstition among the holloi polloi of America and its exploitation by demagogues certainly is worrying.

The Evolution of World Grain Trade

During the Imperial era, the Roman navy patrolled the seas not to conquer
new enemies but to protect the merchant fleet from pirates. The chief route it
protected ran from Alexandria to Rome (or rather, to its nearby ports of Pozzuoli
and Ostia); annually, over 150,000 tons of Egyptian grain, which accounted for
one-third of Rome's consumption totals, traveled this route. The ships that moved
the grain were built expressly to carry it, and they ranged in size up to 1,200
tons (Casson). The remainder of Rome's imported grain carne from Sicily and
North Africa. Most of the grain from these routes was not purchased by the government
or by private dealers but rather constituted the taxes remitted to the
central government by its provinces. Of the government-procured grain, much
was initially sold to citizens at subsidized prices and was later distributed free of

I think you are missing a major point. Both the Roman Empire and the Maya were societies based on available energy sources, that is to say, solar energy via agriculture and fisheries. Over the past 200 years, Western development has progressed much beyond the renewable energy base and once those energy sources become essentially unavailable to most people, society will likely devolve back to the available local energy sources. That's assuming there's no major push to implement the various alternatives to fossil fuels before the decline begins and falls off the cliff. Technical complexity is the result of the availability of large amounts of concentrated energy and it's going to be difficult for renewables to provide energy with similar levels of concentration, particularly for regions which do not have good access to renewable sources. I think that the rate of decline of the industrial societies will mirror the rate of decline in available energy, a rate which can be guessed at but not known with certainty before hand...

E. Swanson

The Yucatan peninsula and indeed all of México passed several times through cycles of empire building and collapse. They were well aware of that, and their literature and religion reflects that.
Most probably environmental factors, climate and droughts were very important but there's another factor not usually told, and that's Hygiene. While Rome had built the Cloaca Maxima early on and their cities had very good sanitation -yet it didn't always saved them from plagues- the Aztecs and Mayas were a very dirty lot.
Their cities tended to rise, grow and suddenly collapse. The study of the skeletons shows that they suffered from diseases and specially from parasitic diseases to a great extent. That's right, ALL of them.
Even now Mexico City is probably the dirtiest city in the Americas, by far. That brown stuff you breathe there is literally human ****, not dust, and anyone who moves there catches Hepatitis immediately.

Do you know the recipe for pulque? Kind of an aboriginal beer. The Indian cuts the Agave pulquero and hollows the stem, then picks up the liquid using her acocote, (obviously a woman's job) it flows for two moths.
Forget the fermentation with the bacteria Zymomonas mobilis as Wikipedia says! That's for the sissies.
You fill a plastic doll with **** and drop it in the jar or odre.
It ferments most strongly.
Of course if the donor of the "ferments" suffered from Amoebiasis, his guts were running wild with worms or worse you wil get Entamoeba hystolitica in your liver, serves you right gringo.
That's why the **** of little children is of preference, it is probably not as sick as the adults.
(The Cubans do much the same thing, by the way).

If this happens now, imagine centuries ago.
México doesn't export pulque -or perhaps they do now, pasteurized and all. Tequila is the distillation of pulque, like cognac is wine distilled, so it is safe.

An image in One Eyed Jacks: Marlon Brando gets to the pulquería, asks for a jar of pulque, drinks it in one gulp,
- Very good! It has very few flies.

Here is bit of news (in French) about a project to build small nuclear power plants in the 50 to 250 MW scale based on technology developped for submarine. The plant will used at the bottom of the sea.
For those who don't read French here is my summary
The project associated French companies Areva, EDF (partly own by French governement, the French Atomic CEA and the military company DCNS which built the French nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carrier. The power plant will be around 100 meters long and 12-15 meters diameter. It will be installed in the sea at a depth of 60-100 meters a few miles of the coast.
The construction of the prototype will start in 2013 and is supposed to be finished in 2016-17. The designer of project plan then to build and sell up to two hundreds of those power plants, specially to emerging countries and to islands. They also think to use them to bring cheaper power to some of the French island.

And I use to joke that the ultimate safety system for a floating nuclear power plant is to jank the bottom plug and sink it.

Someone has had an idea outside of the box.

I hope these powerplants are built by large powers instead of new Boomers.

westexas, you changed Iran's ELM already ?

September 20, 2010

Iran ranks 2nd in using gas-fueled cars

The number of Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) on Iran's roads has reached 2 million, ranking the country second out of five states with the highest number, an Iranian official says.

In 2012 most of Iran’s 10,000 refueling stations will be retrofitted to serve natural gas.

Here the complete list of NGVs users' in the world: http://www.cng.cz/en/natural_gas/facts/world/
The 1st country to develop this system in a large scale was Italy just months before WW2. Italy has the record of Natural Gas Vehicles per person and also the record of density and quantity of CNG stations. But it is also a very big importer, from :

The catabolic collapse idea is interesting but we have so far not had a global collapse, global industrial output has gone up, a lot. It is possible that the US rust belt collapse has simpler explanations such as living easy on the reserve status of the dollar and lacking foresight for investing in efficiency.

But if USA fall like Rome I am quite sure thar a lot of the future historians will blame det lead pipes, err, leaded gasolene, since it is scientifically proven that lead makes people dumber. ;-)

I think there is merit to the idea that a society can collapse and recover in a three step backwards, one step forwards cycle. The unpredictable hope is that we still have fairly quick cultural changes and quick technology development and a few decades could be enough for fundamental changes making other kinds of growth possible. Thus we need to slow the decent, invest in new ideas and make as manny and large icelands of societal prosperity as possible if it gets tough.

The catabolic collapse idea is interesting but we have so far not had a global collapse

Really Magnus? I would say that by many other measures we are indeed witnessing collapse. "Global industrial output" may be up, but the global ecosphere is in dire straits, and its failure appears to be exponential. Good luck with the "new technology" when the air becomes unbreathable, the seas dead.


"the global ecosphere is in dire straits", that is correct but I do not find it likely that this is the reason for the 1970:s economical collapse of the rust belt. Its a moving byt misleading example.

My guess is that it might be the other way around, that there are some common causes for the two collapses in the areas of long term thinking, long term investments, using the best available technology, repurposing of human an physical capital instead of writing it off and successfull financial chamanism instead of real action.

Magnus, the catabolic collapse theory doesn't require a global collapse; I suspect we'll get one, if only because all the world's economies are dependent on dwindling fossil fuel supplies, but it's at least conceivable that those nations that aren't anything like so dependent on fossil fuels as the US, for example, might manage a transition that's out of our reach here in America. As for slowing the descent, agreed, but just about every political faction in just about every country on Earth is promoting policies that will pretty effectively do exactly the opposite. Thus my argument that it's probably safest to assume that nothing useful will be done by governments, and that individuals, families and communities need to start from the assumption that they'll probably have to deal with the crisis without noticeable help from existing institutions.

JMG You hit on a theme I strongly believe will affect the final outcome of our oil experiment. The ability of the masses, including the PTB, to accept the solutions necessary to solve any present problem. Some countries will do better than others and some will be abysmal at their response.

I happen to think the US will fall on the lower end of the scale. We are a narcissistic society and deeply believe in what we are entitled to. Taking away the goodies for the common good will not play well.

I also think that history may not serve us well as a predictor of outcomes. We have never been so stretched out, as a consuming society, with our profligate needs being supplied by a resource which is soon to decline, perhaps fairly rapidly. I think yeast or reindeer may provide a closer analogy. The only mitigator to rapid collapse may be the ramping up of coal and NG.

Got a minor wake up call today when my wife called for a propane delivery and was told that they could only bring 10 gallons as there had been no delivery from Oahu. Next one is expected the following week.
What happens the first time the tanker does not show up to replenish the refinery stock? it will happen within the next few years.

Last week the floods in Australia were all over the news. I saw a news piece which said that some of the big mining companies in Australia were unable to deliver their promised minerals because of the flooding. In particular, coal destined for China was one commodity whose production and deliveries were adversely affected. The news piece went on to say that American coal companies jumped into the breech and were able to send the needed coal to China, and make a tidy profit while doing so. My question: why do we allow anyone to export fossil fuels? Are not these a national resource? Should we not save them for use internally when supplies become tight? I understand that it is protectionism and probably socialism, and if widely known and acknowledged there could be retailiations etc. But it just seems crazy for a net importing country to be exporting fossil fuel resources in the current circumstances.

USA needs to pay for its import from China.

A more interesting question is why large energy exporters with a huge trade surplus needs to exploit and sell their resourse ASAP. Pumping or digging slower raises prices, gives larger total income in an inflation proof way exept for technological break thrus making oil or coal obsolete and is good for the global climate. What if Australia had a policy of lowering their coal exports with say 3 % per year?

As the current wave of swine flu in the UK appears to have hopefully peaked with over 250 confirmed deaths over the last few weeks so far (and many more never tested - of note UK deaths from all causes has averaged nearly 700 per week above the 5 year same week average for the last five weeks), swine flu is starting to dominate again in the USA. North Carolina seems to be one of the States leading the way.


Total deaths (England and Wales) from all causes has now been running at 669 deaths per week above the 5 year average over the last 5 weeks. That's 6.4% above the 5 year average.



In week 1, an estimated 12,644 all-cause deaths were registered in England and Wales (source: Office for National Statistics). This is increased from 11,484 in week 51 and remains above the upper limit of expected levels for this time of year (figure 9). Potential factors for this excess include recent cold weather and circulating respiratory viruses. It should be noted that closures of registry offices in the Christmas/New Year period results in a dip and subsequent increase in death registrations

Hopefully that's as high as we get in the UK this time.

Trying to sustain the un-sustainable is like lifting a boulder over your head. The higher it goes, and the harder you push, the more it's going to hurt when gravity finally wins.


Found this interesting little tidbit about Ghawar and some other fields.


Ghawar field
Modeled the Arab-D reservoir in the �Ain Dar and Shedgum areas under various operating scenarios. Studied the effects of production-rate increases on facility and well requirements and on ultimate recovery. Also determined the effect of gas-cap blowdown timing on ultimate oil recovery. Revised reservoir description, assessed water movement, determined permeability distribution, delineated the tar mat and determined effect of aquifer on tilt of oil-water contact. Also performed reservoir simulation studies of the South Uthmaniyah and Hawiyah areas to evaluate reservoir potential and to assess the timing and capacities for water-handling facilities. Also, performed horizontal-well simulation studies as well as buildup test analyses, core analyses and other miscellaneous technical studies. Also, evaluated and delineated reservoir, conducted and supervised well tests, performed reservoir simulation and recommended development program for undeveloped zone in the Arab D reservoir.

The time is before the southern end was developed and they are looking at gas cap blow down and overproduction issues ?

Maybe the sleuthing on Ghawar is pretty dang close after all.

it appears ryder scott has done auditing of saudi aramco's simulation studies, including a review of seismic information on exploratory wells and studies of gas cycling prospects.

or ryder scott may have hired consultants/engineers/geologists/whatever who have worked for saudi aramco.

Article about high-speed rail:


From my own perspective, given our limited resources and even more limited will, I think we should focus on a robust rail freight network along the line of Alan Drake's ideas, and on a less complex, slower, cheaper, and more durable less-than-high-speed (~70-100 mph?) passenger rail network: focus on reliability, comfort, and pleasant traveling experiences.

What is so important that everyone is in such a big hurry to go from San Fran to LA and back?

Maybe we should re-focus this high-speed inter-city rail into intra-city urban light rail for commuters?

IMO, before we have rail, we need to have density. And in the US, with the exception of the Northeast, I don't see it. Our focus should be on the cities and designs that help create density. Or perhaps they view this as a "build it and they will come" type approach to creating density?

Check out this guy's article:

High-speed rail should be quick cut

Just ignore for a moment that noone (including the author) is foresightful enough to realize the ramifications of ever increasing gas prices/shortages and focus on this:

Why would parents get on a train, pay a separate fare for each kid and then rent a car at the station when you could more easily get one at the airport?

That is a big problem, but not in the way he is thinking. The simple fact of the matter is that there is no infrastructure in place to get these travelers from the HS rail line to Disney World without some gas powered mechanism. And there shouldn't be one (a rail infrastructure) because Orlando is, like many other cities in the US, not designed properly for rail. It suffers, as do almost all of the US cities, from sprawl (Orlando).

Where is the density that would be needed for any of this to make sense?

Another bump for rail

Lakeland's leading site was just west of U.S. Highway 98, the city's main north-south corridor which connects the downtown to Interstate 4, where the high-speed trains would run. Residences and commercial and industrial sites are nearby. A stop there would be expected to spur development opportunities, helping Lakeland to grow upward instead of outward.

I guess this kinda confirms the "build it and they will come" approach, at least in some people's minds. Will Lakeland become the new Orlando? If cities build-out rail and grow upward around them, would outlying areas eventually become wastelands? Looks like the misallocation-of-resources error would take care of itself "naturally".

Another Preview of "Coming Attractions," The "Stone Age" comes back to Texas

I ran across the following WSJ item, from July 2010, in a newsletter that I receive. Leanan probably posted the WSJ article when it originally came out, and she has talked about the same phenomenon, but it's relevant to Texas now since the legislature is proposing to eliminate all county funding for road maintenance.

Roads to Ruin: Towns Rip Up the Pavement
Asphalt Is Replaced By Cheaper Gravel; 'Back to Stone Age'

SPIRITWOOD, N.D.—A hulking yellow machine inched along Old Highway 10 here recently in a summer scene that seemed as normal as the nearby corn swaying in the breeze. But instead of laying a blanket of steaming blacktop, the machine was grinding the asphalt road into bits. "When [counties] had lots of money, they paved a lot of the roads and tried to make life easier for the people who lived out here," said Stutsman County Highway Superintendant Mike Zimmerman, sifting the dusty black rubble through his fingers. "Now, it's catching up to them." Outside this speck of a town, pop. 78, a 10-mile stretch of road had deteriorated to the point that residents reported seeing ducks floating in potholes, Mr. Zimmerman said. As the road wore out, the cost of repaving became too great. Last year, the county spent $400,000 on an RM300 Caterpillar rotary mixer to grind the road up, making it look more like the old homesteader trail it once was.

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

Good idea there...the handful of folks living in and around Spiritwood ND can drive down County Highway 62 ~ 5-6 miles South and then get on I-94 and drive along I-94 West to Jamestown or I-94 East to Valley City or points further in either direction as required.


Now if you want a case study on a challenging car/truck transportation infrastructure to maintain in the future, take a good look at Pittsburgh PA with all of its bridges and tunnels!