Drumbeat: May 6, 2011

Another way to beat al Qaeda: Energy independence?

Behind the wheel of his Volt on a Maryland country road, Woolsey notes bin Laden once stated he'd like to see the price of oil reach nearly $150 dollars a barrel.

"He thinks it can break the economy. He thinks it could hurt us big time and he has a point," Woolsey told CNN three days before bin Laden's death.

For Woolsey, the only solution is to break OPEC's dominance on global energy supplies.

"In the interest of everybody, we need to undermine oil's strategic role. We need to be able to drive on things other than oil," Woolsey said. "Even if they have a monopoly of oil, they don't have a monopoly on transportation. We need to break that link," he said.

US natgas rig count climbs by 8 to 890-Baker Hughes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States rose by eight this week to 890, its second straight weekly gain, data from oil services firm Baker Hughes showed on Friday.

Stuart Staniford: Energy Prices and US Recessions

So I would argue that this data is at least consistent with the narrative that, in the post 1973 era, energy is consistently in somewhat problematic supply, and you can think of many of the recessions as showing a pattern in which energy prices are rising as the world overshoots what can currently be supplied, or what can currently be supplied drops as a result of geopolitical events, and energy prices rise until some pre-existing weakness in the global economic fabric tears in the course of a recession, and prices fall back again. In some cases, perhaps, like 2001, the thing was about to tear on its own anyway, and energy prices fall almost immediately at the onset the recession. In other cases, like 1990 or 2007, it perhaps wasn't quite ready to tear, and energy prices had to rise substantially more before finally breaking.

Obama presidency depends on the pump price at your local gas station

The fate of the Obama presidency hangs not on a birth certificate or the red ink on the federal budget but by the hose nozzle of your local gas station.

Electoral discontent is measured by the price of a gallon of gasoline. Heading past $4 toward $5, that is a lethal trajectory for President Barack Obama.

Death toll in Syrian protests jumps, activists say

Syrian security forces killed at least 21 people during widespread protests Friday, a human rights group said.

Thousands of protesters held rallies in major areas across the country, including the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs.

Sneak Peak: Oil Markets in the Next Issue of Foreign Affairs

Bob McNally and I have an essay on oil markets in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs. We argue that big oil price swings are here to stay for awhile, outline the consequences for economics and geopolitics, and describe some ways that the United States can cope with the situation. The issue won’t hit the newsstands until June, but I sat down with FA editor Gideon Rose to talk a bit about what’s in the article.

Peak oil: Weaning Europe off its oil addiction

A Greens/EFA conference. Part II: The EU and peak oil - analyses and policy measures

With bin Laden Gone, the Oil Threat Remains

The U.S. Navy has been using nuclear power in its ships and submarines safely for decades. There are scientists who say we could easily install these same small reactors in cities all over America, rather than construct the large-scale nuclear power plants that elicit so much anger from environmentalists.

In many countries, cars operate on both gasoline and natural gas, or methane. The mechanism to have such a switch in cars is inexpensive, but it is not available in U.S. cars. With natural gas so plentiful in the United States, why not?

Kenya: Govt blames fuel shortage on power outage

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi now says that the current fuel shortage was caused by power outage at the oil refinery company in Mombasa forcing a shutdown on April 27.

Motorists take to streets as fuel shortage hits city

Karachi - People took to the streets in several areas of the city on Wednesday, as petrol pumps remained shut due to the non-availability of petrol in the wake of a strike by the oil tankers associations.

“I had to push my car to home, as I found petrol nowhere in the city,” said Javed Ikram, a carpenter. “I went to as far as Khayaban-e-Ittehad in search of petrol. But all the pumps were shut.”

Pakistan: Spinning industry compelled to close down 43% capacity

The SNGPL and PEPCO, in spite of instructions from the President Asif Ali Zardari, are both curtailing industry supply to the textile industry. It has brought industry to a situation to take prudent decision not to run on alternate fuel during the disconnection of gas supply period for three days a week i.e. 12 days a month until May 2011.

This will bring production capacity down from 225,000 tons per month to 110,000 tons per month.

Canadian Natural blasts UK North Sea oil tax hike

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the country's largest independent oil explorer, said on Friday that the British government's increase in North Sea taxes has prompted it to scale back activity.

BP Gets Right to Rosneft Swap for Ceding Arctic to TNK-BP

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc gained the right to carry out a $7.8 billion share swap with state-owned Russian oil producer OAO Rosneft in return for ceding the right to an Arctic oil exploration deal to its TNK-BP venture.

Pemex’s $3 Billion Bond Sale Program Gets Boost From Rally: Mexico Credit

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, plans to sell as much as $3 billion of bonds as soon as this month as speculation the company will reverse a six-year decline in output drives yields to a four- month low.

Shell loses Nigeria Bonny Terminal land dispute

The oil giant Shell has lost its appeal against a ruling that it is not the rightful owner of land where it runs Nigeria's biggest oil export terminal.

Three years ago, a lower court said the oil firm should pay rent to the local community for Bonny Terminal, but Shell says it bought the land outright.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Joins Bipartisan House Members to Introduce Open Fuel Standard Bill

Washington, May 3 - Congressman Roscoe Bartlett today joined a bipartisan group of House members led by Congressmen John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19) and including Eliot Engel (D, New York-17), and Steve Israel (D, New York-2) to introduce the Open Fuel Standard (OFS) Act (HR 1687), which is intended to bring fuel competition to the pump.

The OFS would require that 50 percent of new automobiles in 2014, 80 percent in 2016, and 95 percent in 2017, would be warranted to operate on nonpetroleum fuels in addition to or instead of petroleum based fuels. Compliance possibilities include the full array of existing technologies – including flex fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, plug-in electric drive, and fuel cell – and a catch-all for new technologies. This requirement will then provide certainty to investors to produce alternative fuels and fueling stations to have a variety of pumps supplying those alternative fuels.

Wind industry and Decc urged to come clean on output of wind farms

With a new analysis showing UK wind farms operating at just 20 per cent of their capacity in 2010, the potential of wind power has been called into question. Eifion Rees examines the arguments from both sides

The efficacy of wind power has been called into question by a new report suggesting wind turbines are not living up to their billing by government and industry. Opponents are now urging both to make public data they hold on wind power.

AES Building World’s Largest Lithium-Ion Battery Grid Projects

Power company AES has been experimenting with using lithium-ion batteries (large forms of those found in your laptop and mobile phone) as energy storage for the power grid, and currently has several pilot projects underway. But now AES tells me it’s in the process of scaling up its lithium-ion grid battery projects to a commercial size, and by the third quarter of this year, plans to start operating a 32 MW lithium-ion battery project in conjunction with grid operator PJM in West Virginia.

Can the world feed 10 Billion people?

Collier’s contempt for peasants seems, however, to rest on something other than the facts. Although international agribusiness has generated great profits ever since the East India Company, it hasn’t brought riches to farmers and farmworkers, who are invariably society’s poorest people. Indeed, big agriculture earns its moniker — it tends to work most lucratively with large-scale plantations and operations to which small farmers are little more than an impediment.

It turns out that if you’re keen to make the world’s poorest people better off, it’s smarter to invest in their farms and workplaces than to send them packing to the cities. In its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank found that, indeed, investment in peasants was among the most efficient and effective ways of raising people out of poverty and hunger. It was an awkward admission, as the Bank had long been trumpeting Collier’s brand of agricultural development. Farmers organizations from Malawi to India to Brazil had been pointing out that access to land, water, sustainable technology, education, markets, state investment in processing, and — above all, access to level playing field on domestic and international markets — would help them. But it took three decades of lousy policy for the development establishment to realize this, and they’re not quite there yet.

On Small Farms, Hoof Power Returns

Now, as diesel prices skyrocket, some farmers who have rejected many of the past century’s advances in agriculture have found a renewed logic in draft power. Partisans argue that animals can be cheaper to board and feed than any tractor. They also run on the ultimate renewable resource: grass.

“Ox don’t need spare parts, and they don’t run on fossil fuels,” Mr. Ciotola said.

ASPO 9 Conference Presentations

The era of cheap energy is ending due to the depletion of low cost high quality fossil fuel deposits. First effects are being felt in Europe in the growing reliance on Middle-East, Caspian and Russian Oil & Gas, significantly higher fuel and chemical prices, and an international struggle over remaining fossil fuel extraction contracts.

These effects will become more apparent with the peak and decline in oil production approaching for reasons of geologic, economic and political nature. The challenge of this predicament is to reduce our dependency on oil while maintaining economic stability, within Europe and beyond.

The ninth international ASPO conference aims to provide insights in the challenges that we face in maintaining economic stability as fossil fuels get more expensive to recover and produce. The attendees will have the opportunity to obtain updates on the latest research on fossil fuel availability, on long and short term economic consequences of expensive energy, and on solution pathways from alternative energy to infrastructure, all within the context of European Energy Policy.

Aramco finds little interest for its new oil blend

Saudi Aramco is finding little interest among buyers for the new, light-crude blend that it developed to replace Libyan supplies curtailed by an armed rebellion, five people with knowledge of the matter said.

European refiners that have been offered the crude declined to take additional cargoes because of its quality, said the people, who asked not to be identified. One of the people said bids from buyers didn’t meet the price expectations of Aramco, the world’s largest crude exporter.

Saudi Aramco joins the switch to natural gas as oil wanes

Saudi Aramco will attain a production rate of 15.5 billion standard cubic feet of raw natural gas by 2015. Focus has shifted from crude oil to natural gas following the addition of 2 million bbl/day of capacity in the 2004-2009 period. While the focus of exploration and development will be directed toward conventional resources, the company is studying the potential of unconventional resources. Saudi Arabia's gas consumption has risen by 7%/year. Most goes to electric power and petrochemical.

Obama forms panel to improve fracking safety

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After a series of high-profile natural gas drilling spills, the U.S. Energy Department named a panel to recommend ways to improve the safety of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that has expanded the country's potential to extract the fuel.

President Barack Obama asked the DOE to form the panel of academic and environmental experts to identify any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of fracking, the DOE said on Thursday.

Putin urges Russian government to solve gasoline shortage

MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday instructed the agriculture and energy ministries to solve the problem of gasoline shortages in the country to ensure the start of spring cultivation, local media reported.

Putin accuses oil groups of price-fixing

Vladimir Putin has lashed out at Russia’s oil groups and accused them of price-fixing amid fuel shortages across the oil-rich country.

Speaking at a government presidium, the prime minister cut off his deputy Igor Sechin who mentioned the fuel shortage, which had forced drivers in certain regions to queue up for petrol.

Ukraine's long natural gas row rolls onto U.S. shores

This latest episode in the saga centers on Rosukrenergo, a Swiss-based middleman company that earns billions of dollars by arranging for the shipment of natural gas from Turkmenistan and Russia through Ukraine and on to Europe. Granted, it's no simple matter to move raw materials of any type across former Soviet borders, as any trader will tell you. But this company has been the source of much mystery because of its scale of fees. Some people have wondered why Gazprom, for example, the mighty, muscular Russian natural gas giant, has been willing to share fees with this comparatively no-name company with no visible sign of geopolitical leverage.

Statoil is 'worst incident offender'

A total of 166 incidents were recorded on the Norwegian shelf in the first quarter, with Statoil responsible for more than 78% of the most serious occurrences, according to a new report.

A booze blowout for China’s oil giant

HONG KONG — Oil companies usually focus on barrels, but Chinese petroleum giant Sinopec is struggling to get a grip on bottles — or, to be more precise, 1,176 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and expensive Chinese liquor.

The alcohol, purchased with $245,000 in company cash, has created a public relations debacle for Sinopec, China’s biggest company by revenue. The scandal is also a headache for the ruling Communist Party, which controls the oil behemoth and appoints its top management, and has reinforced a widespread belief that big state-owned corporations serve the interests — and lavish lifestyles — of a tiny group of insiders.

ExxonMobil CEO's speech draws criticism, 'counter-speaker' at Worcester Tech

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has invited a “counter-speaker” to Graduation Day after some students vowed to walk out on a commencement speech by the chief executive of ExxonMobil Corp., a college spokeswoman said.

Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, will speak after the May 14 graduation ceremony, during which seniors will hear a speech from Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and then receive their diplomas, WPI spokeswoman Eileen Mell said.

Peak Oil In Perspective

Have we really even begun to take this in yet?

You and Your Slaves

In 2009 a British family living in a four-bedroom house became the subject of a subversive energy experiment about modern slavery.

While the foursome flicked on gadgets one Sunday with the abandon of Roman patricians, an army of volunteers (The Human Power Station) furiously pedalled 100 bicycles next door to generate the needed energy.

The unsuspecting family, of course, had no idea they had been unplugged from a power grid fueled largely by fossil fuels.

At the end of the day the slave masters literally dropped their jaws when a BBC television crew introduced them to the exhausted slaves that boiled their tea. (Get this: it took 24 peddlers to heat the oven and 11 cyclists to make two slices of toast.)

At the end of the experiment many of the cyclists collapsed. Several couldn't walk for days. The peddlers actually consumed more energy in food than they generated by peddling.

The Peak Oil Crisis: Peak Oil Elasticity

One would think that with an increase in gasoline prices of over a dollar a gallon in the last year sales of gasoline would be slipping – and indeed they have, but not very much. With U.S. gasoline consumption running around 9 million b/d in last couple of years, consumption has only fallen by about 150,000 barrels a day, or 1.6 percent, compared with last year. Three years ago during a similar price spike, U.S. gasoline consumption fell by closer to 400,000 b/d. So far this year’s drop in consumption has not been enough to stem the rise in prices which in recent weeks have become more closely tied to the global supply/demand balance and the falling U.S. dollar.

The World has Passed Peak Oil, says Top Economist

Despite high prices, crude oil production has stayed basically flat for roughly five years. It seems this is the all-time high-water mark, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency. “We think that crude oil production for the world has already peaked in 2006,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I think it would have been better if the governments have started to work on it at least 10 years ago.”

At a European Parliament conference on peak oil, the European Commission’s director-general for transport and mobility policy warned if actions are delayed to reduce oil dependency, “we may be forced to drastically reduce all our mobility.”

Already, rising energy costs are taking their toll around the world, with U.S. economic growth stumbling and raising the spectre of stagflation, as well as, helping to drive up food prices in Latin America, and driving inflation in Europe.

Jeff Rubin: Where will China find the oil to power its economy?

With OPEC tapped out, where will China find the oil to power future economic growth?

The obvious answer is it will take a big chunk out of the 19 million barrels the U.S. economy burns every day. And China doesn’t have to build a blue water navy or engage in an arms race to take a big slice of the U.S.’s energy pie . All it has to do is stop showing up at the U.S. Treasury auction, and Washington’s massive budget deficit will do the rest.

Five facts that will turn your world upside down

Fact #2: China has 21% of the world's population but only 1.8% of the world's oil

A Common Thread Between Horse Manure and Peak Oil

Anyone recall the massive economic plight wrought by the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894? It’s ok if you don’t because it turned out to be…well…a pile of manure. And no, this isn’t made up. In the late 19th century, growing global urbanization led many to extrapolate then-present trends into the future ad infinitum and ad ridiculum. At the time, most local transport was horse powered—cabs, buggies, and wagons conveyed the bulk of goods intra-city. Seeing this, many who failed to fathom the power of human ingenuity believed London and New York would, in a handful of years, be buried in nine feet of dung. It’s easy to look back now and realize the flaw. But underpinning those beliefs was a Malthusian, doomsday-ish belief in a finite world to which we humans, as a group, are susceptible even today. Here’s one example: Peak Oil.

Oil has biggest 1-day drop in more than 2 years

NEW YORK — Oil plunged nearly 9 percent to settle below $100 per barrel. Investors who had ridden a months-long rally fled the market Thursday because of concerns about weakening demand for fuel in the U.S.

..."More and more people were saying that oil was just too high," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. "That got a lot of investors ready to run for the door. That's what they're doing now."

Oil falls $5 as rout continues

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell 5 percent on Friday, after a 10 percent crash on Thursday, as fears about global economic recovery pushed investors to further unwind commodities positions.

"The big drop yesterday has scared the bulls, so now only bears are left," said Thorbjoern Bak Jensen, an analyst at Global Risk Management.

"The instinct is to liquidate. Even if you are a bull, you need to have deep pockets to ride this out," said one Singapore-based trader.

Nomura Says Crude Oil Prices May Peak This Summer on Libyan Curbs, Demand

Oil prices are likely to peak this summer as the loss of Libyan crude production has an increased impact on the market amid rising demand in Europe and Japan, Nomura International Plc said.

Oil has “a potential to spike higher” as European refineries resume after maintenance in coming months while demand may be boosted further by a surge in Japan’s electricity needs in the summer, Nomura analysts including Michael Lo said in an e-mailed report today. Prices may moderate later in the year amid “reduced global liquidity,” according to the report.

OPEC delegate sees oil drop to $90-$100 ideal

(Reuters) - The steep slide in oil prices this week is welcome because crude above $120 a barrel may hurt the world economy, while crude at $90 to $100 is ideal, an OPEC delegate said on Friday.

Where will oil prices go from here?

“It is important to emphasize that even as oil prices are pulling back from their recent highs, we expect them to return to or surpass the recent highs by next year,” Goldman Sachs’ analysts said in a research note. “We continue to believe that the oil supply-demand fundamentals will tighten further over the course of this year, and likely reach critically tight levels by early next year should Libyan oil supplies remain off the market,” it said.

Gas prices could slow job growth this year

WASHINGTON — A brightened outlook for employment growth may dim this spring as rising gas prices weigh on companies and prompt some to rethink their hiring plans.

James D. Hamilton: Will gas prices trigger another recession?

Before the latest gasoline price increase, sales of SUVs in the U.S. were significantly below the levels to which the industry had become accustomed in 2006. The U.S. auto sector should not be quite as vulnerable today as it was when gas prices approached $4 a gallon for the first time in 2007-2008.

Another critical factor is that although higher gasoline prices are squeezing household budgets, the gains we've been seeing in employment and income as the economy continues to recover from the last downturn have been an even bigger contributor on the plus side.

Crude oil prices slump; are gas pump prices next?

Has the soaring price of gas finally peaked ?

Possibly. Crude oil prices sank Thursday, pushing the benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude down 9% to $99.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the first time it has closed below $100 since mid-March.

Natural Gas Tumbles on Bigger-Than-Forecast Supply Gain, Economy Concern

Natural gas futures fell the most in 19 months, following declines in commodity markets, on a bigger- than-forecast U.S. inventories gain and concern that economic growth will ease.

Dissecting This Week’s Oil Price Tumble

There’s a saying in the oil business: The best cure for high oil prices is high oil prices. In other words, when prices are high, consumers are supposed to buy less at the pump and oil companies are supposed to produce more because it is more profitable to do so.

So, is that the explanation for today’s plummeting oil price? In late Thursday morning trading, the principal oil benchmark price in United States trading was down more than 6 percent, and the price has been tumbling for the last three days. Gasoline prices, which normally are a week or two behind oil prices, have peaked and are poised to start falling.

Your monthly gasoline bill: $368

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Round-trip airfare from New York to Los Angeles. More than a dozen dinners for two at Applebee's. Two 16 GB iPod nanos.

These are just a few of the things you could have bought if you weren't spending $368.09 a month on gasoline.

Russia's Lukoil to quadruple overseas oil production

Moscow - The Russian energy giant Lukoil plans to quadruple its overseas oil production with major projects in Iraq and the Aral Sea region, Interfax reported Friday.

The planned increase will take place over six years.

Shale gas: a welcome energy shock

And what is becoming clear is that there is a lot of gas down there. Estimates of just how much gas there is have been zooming upwards in recent years. For example, in the Marcellus shale which lies partly under the US state of Pennsylvania, estimates in 2007 suggested there could be 50 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Given that the US uses just over 20 tcf per year, that seemed like a handy new resource. But by 2011, some estimates put the amount of gas recoverable from the Marcellus shale at 516 tcf – equivalent to about 25 years worth of total US gas consumption from just one (admittedly enormous) gas field. In 2010, Ridley notes, total US estimated shale gas resources stood at 2,000 tcf (discovered) and 3,000 tcf (‘expected’) according to one report. That’s 150 years’ supply at current levels.

German Refiners Cut Greener Gasoline Production on Slower Demand

German refineries are reducing output of cleaner, high-ethanol gasoline known as E10 after motorists shunned the fuel.

Midwest Senators Aim to Extend Ethanol Tax Credit

Several U.S. senators from Midwest states, as part of a bipartisan coalition, have introduced the "Domestic Energy Promotion Act of 2011," a bill that would slowly reduce the tax credit incentives for ethanol -- but still extend them for another five years, reports Reuters.

US House votes to boost oil, gas drilling

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Amid a political war over painfully high gasoline prices, US President Barack Obama's Republican foes on Thursday pushed a bill to boost offshore oil drilling through the House of Representatives.

White House slams Republican offshore drilling bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House sharply criticized a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday that would expand offshore drilling as part of a broader Republican effort to stimulate domestic production in the face of rising gasoline costs.

The bill, which easily cleared the Republican-dominated House, would require lease sales to proceed that were canceled or delayed by the Obama administration offshore Virginia and in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill.

PG&E appoints new exec. to realign gas operations

SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has appointed a new vice president to realign the company's natural gas operations in the wake of a pipeline explosion in a San Francisco suburb that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

North Sea oil and gas firms flare up over tax

Some of the biggest names in the British oil and gas industry are plotting a fresh attack on George Osborne with an open letter urging him to reconsider his windfall tax on North Sea firms.

Sunoco blames high oil prices for wider 1Q loss

Petroleum refiner and seller Sunoco Inc. reported a much wider first-quarter loss than expected on Thursday, and said it was hurt by unplanned maintenance work at two of its refineries.

On the retail side, the company said it wasn't able to fully pass higher crude oil prices on to consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices.

Iraq pays Kurd oil contractors

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq has paid oil contractors in its autonomous Kurdistan region for the first time, the region's premier said in a statement released on Thursday, a significant step in an ongoing energy dispute.

Libya rebel leader says oil sites damaged

(Reuters) - A number of oil installations in areas controlled by Libyan rebels have been damaged in recent fighting, the head of the interim rebel government, Mahmoud Jabril, said on Thursday.

Libya faces fuel crisis as oil supplies dwindle

Police officers in riot gear and armed with wooden staves have been manning fuel pumps at a petrol station in Tripoli as long queues of cars caused traffic chaos in western Libya, amid fears that the Gaddafi regime is running out of its most precious commodity.

Queues of vehicles, sometimes five or six deep, stretched up to half a kilometre from some petrol stations last week, most of which are shut behind makeshift barriers. Two men in a queue near the city of Zuwara said they had been waiting for five days in the hope of a fresh delivery.

Qaddafi’s Cash Hoard Will Be Made Available to Libyan Rebels, Clinton Says

The Obama administration said it will permit Libyan rebels to draw on the $33 billion in Libyan assets frozen by U.S., as allied nations opposing Muammar Qaddafi looked for further measures to force him from power.

Still gas left in China's slowing auto market

In recent years, the sky has been the limit when it comes to car sales in China, with growth at levels not seen anywhere else in the world.

But now reality is kicking in and that growth is slowing, forcing foreign auto makers to adapt with the times. Estimates are for 10 to 12 per cent growth in sales this year, slowed by inflation, rising fuel prices, an end to government subsidies on new car purchases and regulations designed to limit the number of new cars on the road in congested Beijing – still a healthy number by world standards, but a long way down from the 32 per cent enjoyed by the industry in 2010, and 45 per cent in 2009.

Japan orders 3 reactors shut

Japan's government has told the Chubu Electric Power Co. to halt three nuclear reactors over safety concerns.

The reactors, located at Hamaoka on the south coast of central Japan, could be affected by earthquakes.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a news conference Friday that experts have forecast a 90 per cent probability of a major quake striking the region within 30 years.

Tepco starts flooding No. 1 reactor vessel

Tepco on Friday started increasing the amount of water it is injecting into the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in hopes of providing stable cooling for the damaged nuclear fuel inside.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to fill the reactor's primary containment vessel with enough water to submerge the fuel over the next 20 days or so, and start operating by June an air-cooling device it hopes will reduce the temperature of the water circulating around the reactor, company officials said.

Calif. OKs PG&E rate hike to pay for old meters

California regulators have approved a plan allowing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to charge its customers more for electricity to make up for profits lost when SmartMeters were installed.

This $1.4bn deal may be a sign that Big Oil is taking the renewables industry seriously

Total, which also has a small French wind-power business, has just unveiled plans to buy EDF’s stake in Tenesol, while continuing to partner GDF Suez in solar cell manufacturer Photovoltech.

The move for SunPower is a substantial leap forward. As Philippe Boisseau, the oil company’s gas and power divisional boss, puts it: “Total is executing on its strategy to become a major integrated player in solar energy.”

China doubles solar power target by 2020: report

SHANGHAI (AFP) – China has more than doubled its target for solar power capacity to 50 gigawatts by 2020, state media said, as the world's largest polluter steps up efforts to boost clean energy sources.

The increased target follows a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan that triggered a nuclear crisis in the country's northeast and fuelled worldwide debate about the safety of atomic power.

Sunshine on tap in Sweden's dark winter

ANNEBERG, SWEDEN // It is a country better known for cold winters than for hot summers, but solar technology being developed to keep homes in Sweden warm could help to keep Gulf homes cool.

Stig Ram, a former Ericsson employee, is conducting a unique experiment in solar heat storage for the municipality of Danderyd, 10km north of Stockholm.

Motor-dependency is an addiction we can help cure

OK, I'm a starry-eyed optimist and would love to think we could all ditch cars and ride bikes instead (heck, this doesn't even happen in the Netherlands, car use is still rampant there despite the bike paths) but, of course, we're not going to easily prise motorists out of their cocoons and on to people-powered transport. It's like motorists are super-glued to their cars, no amount of carrot-flavoured cajoling seems to work. And the present Government doesn't seem too keen on wielding any sticks, as these sticks would lose them votes.

However, Peak Oil and the Tragedy of the Commons will eventually force the Government to act.

After 50 years of decline, household size is growing

A half-century slide in the number of people living under one roof has ended and has even reversed in some places, according to 2010 Census data released today.

...Just as growing affluence let many Americans live with fewer people, the recession, high unemployment and the housing bust now are forcing some people to double up.

Weak economy causes some to cut back on kids

The U.S. fertility rate fell 4 percent from 2007 to 2009 — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Those years coincided with the worst recession in at least 30 years. The CDC cautions that there is not enough data to prove cause and effect, but independent researchers do see a trend.

Japanese language traced to Korean Peninsula: study

At the same time that China was undergoing one of the most remarkable explosions of culture and philosophy in human history during its Spring and Autumn Period, Japan was just emerging -- perhaps by choice -- from the stone age.

"What puzzles me is that the hunter-gather population who live in Japan seemed to have chosen a 'harmonious' lifestyle over an 'exploitative' agricultural lifestyle," he said.

"They had knowledge of cultivation but never developed it into full-scale farming."

In the persuasion game, beware the backfire effect

For a generation, activists have built their protest movement on the scientific facts of climate change. But the facts of another kind of science -- neuroscience -- indicate this only reinforces the point of view of the unconvinced.

How Clean is Clean?

“Clean” is a broader category than “renewable,” but just what is it?

Mr. Obama wants nuclear energy, natural gas and “clean coal” — or plants that burn coal more cleanly or use their technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions — counted in the total.

Energy projects should help poor areas thrive

California once again is at the forefront of national efforts to address the crisis of global warming and achieve a thoughtful transition from fossil fuel to clean and renewable energy sources. By signing a law that requires 33 percent of the energy produced by all of the state's major retail electricity suppliers to come from renewable sources by 2020, Gov. Jerry Brown has positioned the Golden State to lead the nation in reducing greenhouse gases that threaten the future of Mother Earth.

What has been somewhat overlooked is Brown's commitment to build 12,000 megawatts of distributed energy infrastructure. "Distributed generation" refers to smaller, local renewable energy projects built close to where electricity is consumed, a contrast to the distant large solar and wind farms that receive a significant amount of media coverage.

Wyoming project will help CO2 storage research

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The drilling of a single 14,000-foot deep well in southwest Wyoming will go a long way toward proving whether the area and others like it across the U.S. can permanently store vast amounts of greenhouse gases underground.

UN Climate change panel concludes renewable energy will be key tackling global warming

DOHA, Qatar — The world’s top scientific body concluded that renewable energy in the coming decades will be widespread and could one day represent the dominant source for powering factories and lighting homes, according to a draft report obtained by The Associated Press Thursday.

But the report also warned that such expansion will be costly and policy changes will have to be enacted to ensure that renewable energy can achieve its potential in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane Will Wreak Havoc in Changing Climate

A two-part study investigating the impact of methane - one of the most potent of greenhouse gases - has found that millions of tonnes of methane currently frozen in sediment beneath the Arctic Ocean will wreak havoc if released into the oceans.

Feeling Climate Change Down on the Farm

A new worldwide analysis of agricultural trends blames our warming global climate for a 3-5 percent decline in corn and wheat production during the last 30 years -- a period that saw a 6 percent rise in food prices.

The research, just published online by the journal Science, links yield declines in these two important food sources to temperature changes in major agricultural regions around the world -- with the singular exception of North America.

Does there exist (anywhere) a list of organizations that would get priority access to fossil fuels as the final remaining stock gets drawn down? Has anyone given any thought as to producing such a list? Not that it would - in my opinion - do much good.

Not that I have ever heard. In the US during the 1973 Oil Crisis, I have heard that the rationing was more thought out than this wiki entry details but it was still obviously pathetic.

1973 Oil Crisis

In the U.S., odd-even rationing was implemented; drivers of vehicles with license plates having an odd number as the last digit (or a vanity license plate) were allowed to purchase gasoline for their cars only on odd-numbered days of the month, while drivers of vehicles with even-numbered license plates were allowed to purchase fuel only on even-numbered days.[30] The rule did not apply on the 31st day of those months containing 31 days, or on February 29 in leap years— the latter never came into play, since the restrictions had been abolished by 1976.

gog - An interesting thing about the fuel shortage that led to that rationing system: there wasn't an actual fuel shortage per se. Despite reporters filming tankers supposedly circling at sea and rumors of a giant fuel bunker under the White House. Long after the headlines died down they figured out where the US fuel inventory suddenly disappeared over night...it really did disappear from the inventory. The missing fuel was "hidden" in tens of millions of fuel tanks. Because of fear folks started filling up when they dropped to half a tank...some times more. Think about it: unless you're about to start on a long road trip who fills the car up before it reaches the bottom half of the tank. When they did the math the numbers worked out perfectly. Folks were carrying around a 1/4 tank or more than usual. IOW some folks were sitting in gas stations for hours when the still had more than a half tank left. I saw the same phenomenon recently when a hurricane side swiped Houston. I filled up before it hit. But for days afterwards, when many stations couldn't pump for lack of electricity, there were lines of 100+ cars waiting before sun rise to fill up. Some may have been low but you can bet many weren't. So I drove around as needed and within several days the lines disappeared. In fact, when it was time for me to fill up there were few folks buying.

So if the country finds itself in a similar fix maybe a better "rationing" might be to not let anyone fill up if they had more than a 1/4 tank left. Thus if it's just a short term supply disruption matters may go a little better. OTOH a long term disruption would have to be dealt with differently.

This topic came up a week or so ago on drumbeat. There was some technical study done that showed exactly that - the inventory was not in takers circling around but cars driving around!
150m cars x an extra 5gal in storage in each is 750m gal of gasoline in "driving storage" .

Another way of rationing is to just limit the purchase to X gal per purchase. After that, drive on or go back to the end of the line. People would hate it, but it would discourage unnecessary driving, and keep the average tank fill level lower.

Funny thing is we have governments encouraging us, for emergency preparedness, to keep a stock of things, and some people keep fuel - which can be dangerous, and, if kept long enough, the fuel (especially ethanol blends) degrades and can damage engines.

I guess that fuel shortages, real or perceived are just a pain in the butt, and as long as people don;t panic, are not the end of the world - even if the world ending is the cause.

Rock, there was another factor at work -- US Government bumbling. Retailers were given "allotments" which limited the volume of fuel they could purchase from their wholesaler, and wholesalers were in theory only allowed to sell to their group of retailers. On top of that prices were controlled to prevent gouging and those retailers that complied with the price controls tended to run dry before the month was over as a lot of others fudged the limits.

My father had a small service station in the Great Basin region, where the reduction in supplies as a result of the embargo had little [probably no]effect on local supplies.

I suspect large profits were made and that kickbacks and bribes were common. If not, it is difficult to understand the process for getting allotments modified [some suceeded some did not]. And the joy of dealing with a cadre of braindead Government lackies is beyond description. Definitely not a model for how to deal with a real fuel motor fuel given the mess they made of a manufactured shortage.

"[Who] would get priority access to fossil fuels as the final remaining stock gets drawn down?"

At first, the big kids'll get the last bits of candy: military, military-run agriculture (to keep the peasants pacified), the well-positioned 'nobility' in their gated communities.

But I imagine the last bits won't last that long -- for reasons Gail Tverberg outlines nicely.

Then it's Sunshine (& Salvage) Nation!

producing such a list?

There are various COG (continuity of government) plans in the US of A.

You can track 'em down. Or look at the WWII list of who gets what fuel.

IIRC, WWII rationing gave priority to doctors, farmers and clergy. I would imagine that other emergency services were on there too. Once you start making exceptions beyond such bare-bones ones, it can quickly spin out of control.

doctors, farmers and clergy.

Don't forget the 'boys fighting for your freedom!'.

For such a supposedly ignorant fellow, you have raised a very intelligent question.
Yes, there are such lists... there is quite a bit of consistency in the Priority User/Essential User lists in the liquid fuel emergency plans of Australia and Canada, and probably UK and USA as well.

Your point about such lists not doing much good is equally valid: emergency planners have correctly identified certain sectors as priorities, but appear to have overlooked the fact that sectors do not show up at fueling stations: vehicles driven by humans are what get fueled, and it is much more difficult to identify qualified users within sectors than it is to identify the much broader priority sectors themselves.

On every list that I have seen (to take food, for instance), the agri-food sector is right up there with the military and first responders. But where does one draw the line: some farmers are clearly hobby farmers, many are part-time, what about pleasure riding establishments, what about farms which produce cotton, flax and other non-food commodities, etc.

It is only because we have not experienced a major oil supply problem that the inadequacy of these definitions has not been exposed years ago. However, it seems a near-certainty in the years ahead that we will not be so lucky.
Virtually all of the military analyses of future oils supply warn of the likelihood of oil supply disruptions and price spikes, and of the need to have well-thought-out contingency plans for such eventualities.

Other than the recent concoction of "full price pass-through" as the primary response measure, I see little that has been added to these plans in about 30 years, and simply allowing price to do the allocation has risks which are as serious as they are obvious.

Priority list for Liquid Fuel Emergencies (LFE)

The most detailed work on how a federal government might plan for and administer a LFE is probably the excellent work of Alan Smart in Australia which was conducted in 2004.

In the final report done by ACIL Tasman for the Government of Australia, six priority sectors are listed, each with various sub-categories:
- Law & Order Services (12 sub-categories)
- Public Health & Social Services (11)
- Essential Goods & Services (3, including agri-food and banking)
- Municipal Services
- Transport & Communications Services (12)
- Government Services (2 general criteria)

As Alan Smart pointed out in this report, the formidable task of determining priority users is still far from resolved: “However, once the general list is agreed, the task remains of identifying individual vehicles or users that would be eligible within the general categories” (Dec. 04, p. 38).

Unfortunately, this report is no longer available on the internet. That is most unfortunate, as Smart's thoughtful analysis (totaling about 400 pages in various documents) is worthy of consideration by emergency planners in all jurisdictions.


At the end of the experiment many of the cyclists collapsed. Several couldn't walk for days. 'The peddlers actually consumed more energy in food than they generated by peddling.'

er... yes

Curse you, Second Law of Thermodynamics!

BBC did it again ... the best broadcaster on this planet.

Can 80 cyclists power a house for a day?

Bang Goes The Theory is an excellent series - it's made me re-think some scientific concepts that I thought I already had a grasp on.

Thoroughly recommended.

Assuming 80 cyclists of Lance Armstrong equivalent, that never get tired == 80 * 500watts/hour == 40kWh

( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/14/science/14cycl.html )

Hm. I would believe a wasteful house (central a/c and such) might burn 40kWh/day, so they must have meant 80 cyclists rotating shared effort so that the power was about 2kW continuous....

Much simpler and reliable to install some PV instead? ;D

I think this refers to the fossil fuel embedded in the food, rather than the actual calories ingested. i.e. more fossil fuel was used to produce the additional food the cyclists ate, than would have been burnt in the power station if the house had stayed connected to the grid.

This is a likely result, with the current dependence of agriculture on fossil fuel, but not one required by thermodynamics.

Whatever may be intended by the reference, thermodynamics certainly does dictate that the cyclists will consume more energy than they deliver to the bikes, that less energy than is delivered to the bikes will be delivered to the generators, etc.

Re: the 78 cyclist required to power the shower.

We had some discussion of electric water heaters in Wednesday’s drumbeat, so this BBC video provides a little perspective on the energy use of water heaters. However, the water heater in the BBC video appears to be a tankless electric water heater, so the peak load is much higher than for a typical tank type water heater.

A typical 40 gallons electric tank type water heater used in the USA has two 4500 watt heating elements, but only one operates at a time. At roughly 300 watts per cyclist, it should only require about 15 of them to provide 4500 watts of power, instead of the 78 cyclists in the video, but they would have to peddle much longer to bring the 40 gallons back up to normal storage temperature.

I have worked out on several different exercise machines that had a wattage readout. I can only maintain a 300 watt output for about 45 minutes to an hour. It's not reasonable to expect a person to put out over 2/5 of a horsepower for very long.

Yes...I'm a cyclist, and though I don't ride with a powermeter I know some guys that do. For most in very good shape, good numbers would be something like 900 watts for 1 minute (a sprint), 500 watts for 3 minutes (a very hard effort), 300 watts for 20 minutes (a strong effort), 200 watts sustained "tempo" riding.

Pros can do better, but there aren't very many of those guys.

I'm late to this party and just wanted to comment. I used to do these measurements for a living using calibrated lab equipment. I have never seen anyone outside of an Olympic caliber athlete that could hit 900 watts for a minute.

Typical peak readings for very strong cyclists would usually max at around 500 watts x one minute.

However 200 watts for an extended period is reasonable. But for most folks it would be closer to 50 to 80 watts.

We're a two person household and a 70 litre 115-volt/1.38 kW tank is more than adequate for our needs. We have it plugged into a Kill-a-Watt monitor and it averages a little less than 5.0 kWh a day.

Our hot water system is grossly inefficient as currently configured. This electric water heater feeds a larger side arm attached to our oil-fired boiler. Originally, our plan was to simply pre-heat the water feed to this side arm so that we would burn less oil. Now, because we rarely turn on the boiler, we're forced to draw more hot water than we would otherwise to offset the standby losses of this second tank. These additional draws (e.g., washing all laundry in hot water) likely account for a third or more of our usage.


Well now, that makes me sorta pleased with my crude junkpile water heater system. We have lots of hot water for everything we need from wood stove in winter (40 north), solar heater in summer, and a small trashwood burner any time of year if we need a boost. It all goes into a 50 gallon storage tank, which is also a propane water heater, but we never turn on the propane.

I have not measured kw-hr/day, but we are using the same amount of hot water as before when we used propane, and our water is hotter.

BTW, I have just read Al Gore's pitch on the Ipad called "Our Choice" I think it is good. I have asked my grandkids to read it. After all, it will be their world that we are choosing on right now. Gore is more hopeful than I am. Hope he is right.

Congratulations, wimbi. Firing up the boiler to recharge the main tank even once a week would eliminate much of the hot water that is being needlessly wasted, but I have such an aversion to burning oil that I can't bring myself to throw the switch. The system was never intended to operate this way (this small electric tank was added simply to lend a hand), but at this point I'm not going to redo all the plumbing. Live and learn.


For most of the time we use an electric 15 litre hot water tank (more like a large kettle really), its sufficient for our daily needs, including showers. When we have visitors or need more hot water we switch on a secondary 150 litre tank. Hopefully this winter we'll be switching over to wood for our hot water needs and, when we can, solar for summertime water heating.

The standby losses of a newer 200-litre electric water heater generally fall in the range of 50-watts or less (~1.2 kWh/day) and it may be possible to cut that by a third or so by adding an insulating jacket. That's your cost of admission, so to speak, and the rest will be determined by the hot water demands of the home owner.

According to the ACEEE, at $2.40 a gallon, it costs $654.00 a year to operate a conventional oil-fired water heater ("typical family of four"). Locally, we pay $1.123 a litre ($4.25 a gallon) and so our water heating costs are closer to $1,200.00 a year. To that, you add the cost of an annual cleaning and burner service.

At $0.095 per kWh, an electric water heater with an EF of 0.95 can reportedly do the same job for $439.00 per annum.

Source: http://www.aceee.org/consumer/water-heating

At $2.40 a gallon, electricity is your lower cost option at up to $0.14 per kWh and for us, the cost curves intersect at 25-cents per kWh.

Even though we consume more hot water than we would otherwise to overcome the limitations of our system, our water heating demands are less than 1,800 kWh/year and bear in mind our inlet temperatures are a hair above freezing six months of the year. At 12.5-cents per kWh, the cost is $225.00 per year and if we were to bypass the side arm, we might get that down to $175.00 a year.

I'm not anti-solar -- far from it -- but the cost to install a solar DWH system would be $4,000.00 to $6,000.00 and it might reduce our water heating costs by roughly $100.00 a year. As it is, we can't go this route because our roof faces east-west and our southern exposure is heavily shaded so, for us, electricity is our best option.


Solar hot water need not be so pricey, esp. for the handy. Here's a system designed by a retired engineer in Montana that costs about $1K

That's true, but this is not something I would tackle myself (way beyond my skill set). I see the City of Halifax's "Solar City" initiative (http://www.halifax.ca/solarcity/) pegs the cost at between $6,000.00 and $8,000.00 before rebates (source: http://www.halifax.ca/solarcity/SolarCity-FrequentlyAskedQuestions.html). For perhaps one-quarter this cost, I could install a heat pump water heater which would cut our water heating costs by more than half. In fact, for six months of the year it would eliminate the need to run our dehumidifier, effectively providing us with "free" hot water, i.e., two services for the price of one.


Hi Paul,

The high cost of commercially available solar systems is quite depressing - they are never worth the cost unless you can use them for space heating - otherwise they are a large misallocation of resources. The DIY ones can be good, but if you were paying someone to build it, the cost would get up there also.
The heat pump units look good - though I am disappointed the COP is only 2.35 - I don;t know why they can;t do better than that when the similar capacity ductless units are COP 4+

My local plumbing outfit is a Daikin dealer, and they are quite excited about their new Altherma system, which is an air to water heat pump for doing hydronic heating and DHW. This can then have solar HW as an input, and the beauty here is that the solar could be low temp, which opens up more options.


Not a refit option unless you already have hydronic heating, of course.

Hi Paul,

Daikin's Altherma and Mitsubishi's Ecodan are great products and, potentially, a good fit for homes here on the east coast where oil-fired hydronic systems predominate, although installed costs are a stumbling point (older homes may also require a service upgrade).

With regards to HPWH COPs, the lift is quite high, i.e., air temperatures ranging from 15° to 20°C in most cases and water supplied at 60°C or more; that's akin to an ASHP operating at -15°C or -20°C, so from that perspective a COP of 2.35 doesn't seem unreasonable.


Leanan, you stole my thunder. I had a post all prepared just in case you missed the links, but you did not. But please allow me to post it anyway.

Some think peak oil is like horse manure:
A Common Thread Between Horse Manure and Peak Oil

For those new to peak oil, this isn’t a theory simply stating oil prices will rise because demand growth outstrips production growth. Peak Oil holds that, at some point (many proponents argue in the next couple decades), global oil production will peak then steadily decline—ultimately and utterly depleting oil reserves...

But those who believe in Peak Oil fear it’s imminent—with dire economic consequences. That we won’t discover an alternative to oil and it will simply run dry—very soon. As in, just a few years from now...

But when hearing of theories projecting today’s technology, knowledge, and consumption far into the future without improvement or discovery, I encourage you to think of horse manure.

And others see peak oil in a different perspective:
Peak Oil In Perspective
A chart showing the rise and predicted fall of oil usage.

But this just points out that the debate still rages. That is there are those who see peak oil in perspective and those who think it is all horse manure. I am glad that National Public Radio, the source of the second article, puts things in their true perspective.

Ron P.

I wonder..
At what point on that green curve, if people knew they were there, would they dramatically alter behavior?
I hypothesize 3 main reactions:

A) most people wont know such a curve exists or what the implications are (i.e. they don't know energy is non-substitutable for human throughput and energy has a cost in natural resource terms and that these costs increase). Heck most people don't even know the economy is a subset of the environment not the inverse.

B) Humans living on the early side of that green would be like "Score!, its gonna be quite a while till that steep downslope begins! Party on!"

C) when it becomes apparent that the downslope is upon us, most will either 1)rationalize it away as being temporarily due to something else 2)cognitively dissonate away the urgency by pointing out how conservation and some alternatives and technology will create a lighter green wedge as to make it irrelevant.

i.e. showing that graph or similar is likely to trigger behavioral action in 1/10 of 1% of those seeing it. To most its more like a funny Far Side cartoon.

At what point on that green curve, if people knew they were there, would they dramatically alter behavior?

It's really more than behavior. Lots of people might change their behavior without changing their belief systems, i.e., they'll use less gas while blaming some outside entity. Rather, people need a sea change in their beliefs, i.e., that their old reality is dead and a new reality has arisen.


"outside entity" you say like the Arabs, the Chinese, The Indians, The BRIC nations, the Speculators, the Oil Companies. Yes that is exactly what people do.


I am very convinced that my life has been under the green curve and my response since I figured this out has been basically no change at all. I am also aware of the population growth curve and of lifestyle changes occurring in China and India and elsewhere. Therefore, what difference does it make if I reduce my oil usage? It would have absolutely no noticeable effect on worldwide usage, but it would have a huge effect on my families lifestyle. My personal opinion is that the only thing that will make people lower their use of oil, electricity, or energy in general is if the cost rise and rise significantly.

Greer's answer:

Imagine, then, that you’re on the proverbial ocean liner at sea, and it’s just hit the proverbial iceberg. Water is rising belowdecks and the deck is beginning to tilt, but nobody has drowned yet. Aware of the danger, you strap on a life preserver and head for the lifeboats. As you leave your stateroom, though, the guy in the stateroom next to yours gives you an incredulous look. "Are you nuts?" he says. "If you leave the ship now, somebody else will just take your cabin, and get all the meals and drinks you’ve paid for!"

This would be a valid comparison if there was going to be a severe collapse and the 'life jacket' represented a PO lifeboat (yes, metaphor overlap).

If a person simply stops driving as much as they did before, then the question remains.

However, if they change their life(style) to where they permanently (incrementally or otherwise) reduced their oil consumption and started a large garden, then the metaphor may be shifted to where they transfer to a sailing ship that caught the evening dinner every day.

a sailing ship that caught the evening dinner every day.

Not for 7+ billion people it won't. Remember how we got to that population.

Yes, that occurred to me, too. It's not evident to all that the ship has hit an iceberg. Even peak oilers do not agree that a severe collapse looms.

That is my opinion. I definitely see the peak oil problem and I am sure it is not going to end well in the long run, but in the short to medium time frame I am not personally worried. In other words, I don't see the ship sinking tonight or anytime soon. I can see it taking on water and I am glad I'm not on the lower decks, but what can I do to help them? (See the graph on population growth that Ron posted below.) They are still cranking out babies like crazy down there ;)

Our contribution to the Titanic analogy:

Consider the first 15 minutes after the Titanic hit the iceberg versus the last 15 minutes before the ship sank. In the first 15 minutes, only a handful of people knew that ship would sink, but that did not mean that the ship was not sinking. In the last 15 minutes, it was readily apparent to everyone that the ship was sinking, but by then it was far too late to try to get to a lifeboat.

Egypt, a classic case of rapid net-export decline and a look at global net exports

I guess in general I don't think the Titanic is the most realistic analogy. I can see the iceberg and I think the ship is going down. I just don't see it going down tonight. I think it will be more like floating around on a ocean liner for the next several decades as it slowly takes on water and then eventually sinks. The people that immediately run for the lifeboats are going to be sitting around for the next 20 years while the rest are finishing off the booze. How frustrating will it be to give up all my fuel consumption (ie. "slaves" from the article above)and just watch as my idiot neighbors party on?

On a serious note it is obviously the wrong decision to ignore peak oil and take on more debt, etc. However, if you give up everything and go live in a bomb shelter you might be pissed to come out in 10 years and find that things are still kind of BAU.

As I have once or twice opined, things looks a little different from a Peak Exports point of view. To use another transportation analogy, Peak Oil is like a commercial airliner doing a gradual descent for landing, while Peak Exports is more akin to a terrifying near vertical dive into the ground. Just my 2¢ worth. From the article linked above:

However, a key question is, how are post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) going to be distributed? Note that in four years Chindia’s net oil imports as a percentage of GNE (Global* Net Exports) rose from 11.3 percent to 17.1. If we extrapolate this rate of increase, it suggests that Chindia will be consuming 100 percent of GNE around 2025.

While we can all agree that something will change, and Chindia will not be consuming 100 percent of GNE in 2025, it appears likely only a question of what the long-term rate of increase is going to be for Chindia’s net oil imports.

In any case, for purposes of illustration it’s useful to carry out the Chindia extrapolation to its logical conclusion. If we define Available Net Exports as the volume of net exported oil not consumed by Chindia, then the estimated post-2005 total volume of Available CNE will only be about 150 Gb; and in 2006 to 2009 inclusive, non-Chindia importers have consumed about 56 Gb, or one-third of projected post-2005 Available CNE.


My specific (ELP) advice from four years ago:


Good point. (You mentioned this before?). I still don't think the ship is going down tonight, but maybe in the next few years. I still am not going to devote all my energies to a bomb shelter and a vegetable garden. I'll probably just keep bringing on a new well every couple of weeks.

"I still am not going to devote all my energies to bomb shelter and a vegetable garden"

You'd be right not to devote energy on such a poor scheme. But really it sounds more like a strawman argument to make doing nothing seem acceptable.

Transitioning one's lifestyle from high risk, high dependency and unsustainable to low risk, low dependency and sustainable takes years. That's the whole point of having advanced warning so transition can commence well ahead of it being absolutely essential. No one will ring a bell when its time to change, what will happen is people will try to continue living as they are until they become trapped in place, with little choice to do anything to mitigate their failing lifestyle.

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…”
—Winston Churchill, November 1936

No easy answer although I'm sympathetic to your point of view, jimb.

I personally am going to try to keep one foot in, one foot out. I think it will be a challenge, but worthwhile, and it makes life interesting.

For example, I continue to try to do a good job at work, because I get money, keep my job, and will be able to get good references when I decide to relocate.

But I'm not going to go to work every day with a sour attitude and tell everyone "I'm outta here, you better save yourselves too." That's not constructive.

People don't really care what you do as long as it doesn't harm them, and as long as you don't criticize American Empire (a no-no in the land of free speech). So I can tell them "I'm moving to such and such place in year's time" and they might be curious, but I'm not going to tell them "I'm moving to such and such place because this whole crappy suburb, city, and state is going to go down the drain on the downslope of Hubbert's curve, and I want to find a quiet spot to sit out the collapse of America."

TPTB are attempting to do the same thing. They are printing just enough money to keep the whole rotten structure going, but not enough to cause hyperinflation. In the meantime, they are hoping for some sort of energy or economic breakthrough.

IMO they will fail spectacularly. But I can see where they are coming from, because we all attempt that to some degree or another.

Jimb,When collapse happens it goes real fast.The Soviet Union(70 years old) was in tatters in a period of 2 years.At this stage difficult to say when it will happen.Quote JHK we are for the first time in a convergence of 3E collapse(Energy,Ecology,Economic).What will be the tipping point?The failure of the monsoon rains in India?A drought in USA ?Default in PIGS? Just too many Black Swans swirling and difficult to counter.I agree with you that it is no use waiting and best to go on living knowing that what you are enjoying is a bonus before TSHTF.

However, if you give up everything and go live in a bomb shelter you might be pissed to come out in 10 years and find that things are still kind of BAU.

False dichotomy. If I saw it like you do, I'd have the same attitude, but the issue is not one of bomb shelter vs. decent life, it is one of transforming to a powered down, but quality life vs. waiting until the ship's keel is rising out of the water to do anything.

We need to get over this idea that a world made up of social interactions vs. external, manufactured stimulation is somehow a hellish goal or end for civilization. Most of the world never left that "deprived" state of actually enjoying and engaging in social interactions as their primary function each day. Surprise of surprises, many nations with far less than we have in the U.S. are much happier/more satisfied.(hint)

I can see it taking on water and I am glad I'm not on the lower decks, but what can I do to help them? (See the graph on population growth that Ron posted below.) They are still cranking out babies like crazy down there ;)

You could always redecorate your office...

"End of the Ship" by Roy Zimmerman


yes most people have not even heard of icebergs. but the problem remains what a single person can do. not much if the whole establishment is convinced that the "growth" must continue.

I think peoples behavior will follow the Maximum Power Principal.

In college I noticed that the Indian and European students did not shower every day. A posting of college employment rules from the 1920's had required bathing once a week, so Americans (pre massive oil, natural gas, coal and nuke) behaved the same.

2 years ago people teased those who lived with their parents as being lazy or socially or mentally incapable. That is fading and I think in the years to come that kids who move out will be seen as wasteful and irresponsible spenders of hard to earn cash.

When energy is free then there is no value to efficiency because it just limits how fast you can burn the energy. When you don't have much energy, you need to think carefully about how to use it. Plan for the long term. Here in the city of Minneapolis in the US the town founders had a careful city plan. It was full of parks and fancy avenues. Monuments and buildings built to be looked at (and last forever). There were even buildings with glass floors that allowed sunlight to light multiple levels. Most of that was trashed in the rush to build sky scrapers and highways.

It will be interesting to see thinking downshift from speed to efficiency and how that will play out. I am guessing that soon American's won't think it odd to shower only once a week. (After all, a lukewarm shower in an poorly heated house on a winter morning is not much fun.)

I doubt most people will understand what happened. But I do think they will end up acting as if they knew.

When energy is free then there is no value to efficiency because it just limits how fast you can burn the energy. When you don't have much energy, you need to think carefully about how to use it. Plan for the long term.


And our realization that 'we don't have much (cheap) energy' has been delayed by throwing more central bank credit into the system, thus further forestalling that moment when we need to think carefully how to use it!

I think so too. It's the animalistic just-in-time response.

A) most people wont know such a curve exists or what the implications are

Or they've become infused with doubt due to the likes of CERA and pundits with similar affinity that inhibits any real action.

B) Humans living on the early side of that green would be like "Score!, its gonna be quite a while till that steep downslope begins! Party on!"

"Get while the gettin's good..." or "The invisible hand of the market will take care of that". And indeed it will, in a way quite opposite to the expectation, however.

C) when it becomes apparent that the downslope is upon us, most will either 1)rationalize it away as being temporarily due to something else 2)cognitively dissonate away the urgency by pointing out how conservation and some alternatives and technology will create a lighter green wedge as to make it irrelevant.

Yes, I have a father-in-law who is a retired attorney with whom I've had many discussions on the topic. He now admits there is a problem, but his main suggestion (repeatedly) for fixing it is to drill in more off-limits areas in the US. I always then ask him what steps we should be taken to steadily decrease demand as more drilling won't keep up with depletion (at least in the mid and long term) - he becomes quiet, because he does not want to give up water-skiing or his big car (which he _has_ to have to haul his ski boat around).

So many people look at what others are doing as 'normal' and continue to do the same thing day in and day out, living out the stereotype of 'creatures of habit'. The habit is so strong that a relatively small percentage realizes the implications, and a much smaller percentage are actually taking steps to implement long-lasting change.

I wonder..
At what point on that green curve, if people knew they were there, would they dramatically alter behavior?

A most interesting and profound question. We have a pretty good idea that we are somewhere on that green curve... Most here on TOD probably think we are at or near the peak. But how we react may be influenced by which one of two possible ways we are looking at where we are on the curve.

I'm deeply ashamed of the rest of the story, but there was something really instructive happening here, because there are two ways of looking at a problem; the inside view and the outside view. The inside view is looking at your problem and trying to estimate what will happen in your problem. The outside view involves making that an instance of something else—of a class. When you then look at the statistics of the class, it is a very different way of thinking about problems. And what's interesting is that it is a very unnatural way to think about problems, because you have to forget things that you know—and you know everything about what you're trying to do, your plan and so on—and to look at yourself as a point in the distribution is a very un-natural exercise; people actually hate doing this and resist it.

There are also many difficulties in determining the reference class. In this case, the reference class is pretty straightforward; it's other people developing curricula. But what's psychologically interesting about the incident is all of that information was in the head of the Dean of the School of Education, and still he said two years. There was no contact between something he knew and something he said. What psychologically to me was the truly insightful thing, was that he had all the information necessary to conclude that the prediction he was writing down was ridiculous.

COMMENT: Perhaps he was being tactful.

KAHNEMAN: No, he wasn't being tactful; he really didn't know. This is really something that I think happens a lot—the outside view comes up in something that I call ‘narrow framing,' which is, you focus on the problem at hand and don't see the class to which it belongs. That's part of the psychology of it. There is no question as to which is more accurate—clearly the outside view, by and large, is the better way to go.

Edge Master Class 07

For some reason, this morning my mind coalesced more clearly the fact that solutions will be from the bottom up, and will remain most successfully embedded in small scale solutions for a long time, and for practical reasons likely end up there with large-scale installations and solutions eventually falling off.

essentially, with all the research coming out on beliefs trumping facts and data, with the knowledge that we are due socially for a swing to the right based on long term trends and the fact that historically people tend toward conservatism in crises, that conservative/monied interests have more to lose as things fail, so will do as they have been and pull out the dirty tricks and propaganda, that the general public doesn't have knowledge of all the concepts we discuss here (Jevon's, Dungar's, receding horizons, tech being unable to arrest collapse and on and on)... all of this leads to one inescapable conclusion: Our one, bestest tool for changing the future is not and will not be talking about it, but simply doing it.

We shouldn't stop talking, but we need to do a hell of a lot more doing of it at all levels.

Eh, the Peak Oil perspective just means that we know that oil production will decline, it says nothing about a belief in alternatives being discovered.

I love how people with a point to prove just love putting ideas that have nothing in common with each other together like that.

R4dom, how do you pronounce that name, is the 4 silent? Yes I do have a point to prove and yes the ideas do have something in common. One thinks peak oil is all Horse Manure and the other, with a simple graph, points out that Peak Oil is very serious, that the oil age is about to end, and should be taken seriously, not horse manure at all.

Yes there is a belief that alternatives will be discovered. I have no idea where we might find them but to be sure, we are searching everywhere for those elusive alternatives. We had better hurry too because as the chart points out, time is running out and the population is still growing.

Ron P.

Yes, but Peak Oil is very specific and has nothing at all to do with alternative energy sources. The original article ties Peak Oil together with a no alternatives philosophy, and it is quite clear that on this board there is no such connection.

There are people that believe the entire spectrum from "no alternative is possible" to "we've got something in the lab that just needs a bit more work and oil will be obsolete", all of whom believe in the basic concept of peak oil.

R4dom, how do you pronounce that name, is the 4 silent?

Showing your age a bit there ;-)


The 4 seems a bit, shall we say, 'arbitrary'.. like it just emerged out of no discernible pattern, a crazy fluke of the universe. Or maybe that's just the filter I'M looking through. I've been called worse.

(Not trying to give you a hard time, Ron.. just funnin' is all.. << the 4 is supposed to resemble a letter >> )

Yeah, I messed up my original signup as Random, wasn't really planning on posting anyway, so I signed up again as r4ndom.

That was on TOD 1.0, I probably could have fixed it sometime between then and now, but I don't think it's really that important. You know it's me, even if you don't know anything more about me than what I've posted in the past.

Showing your age a bit there ;-)

And/or r4ndom is showing hers/his. I don't know many older geeks who have been attracted to leet.

Yes, leet is a bit old hat these days, but then again she did choose it over 5 years ago, so can't really blame her.

Five years. 11.423 product lifecycles, counting only major revisions.

It's a wonderful world.

I consider the Urban Dictionary a better citation for slang, till the Oxford makes it official....


Yes, as I read it the horse manure article is promoting the idea that society should just count on some unknown unknown to always pull our fat out of the fire.

For any number of reasons of historical accident, the auto may have ended up being developed ten or twelve years later, and then the people who had warned about a horse manure crisis would have been seen as wise and prudent, as indeed they were.

It is not a sign of great wisdom to go on with unsustainable and harmful practices just because you have great faith that something is sure to come along at the last minute and save you from the consequences of your actions.

"Human ingenuity" seems to be the secular equivalent of "God won't let that happen."

This is a true statement.

I would add, though, that for some of us "human ingenuity will win out" does not mean that anything like BAU will survive (or that anyone dependent on BAU will survive), but that someone, somewhere will throw out enough BAU to get by and eventually thrive.

Civilization did not begin in 1858, nor will it end abruptly when the last grasshopper goes still.

Random, (I will call you that from now on), no one is claiming that civilization will end with the oil age, only civilization as we know it will end. Some believe that the human species will become extinct. I strongly dispute this claim. We occupy every niche on every continent except Antarctica. I think it likely that humans will be the very last of the megafauna to ever become extinct. But that is another debate for another time.

What is at stake right now is the collapse of the economies of the civilized world. Can they survive the eventual demise of the fossil fuel age. I consider that extremely unlikely. And just relying on "human ingenuity" will not suffice. To make the human ingenuity argument is really to make no argument at all. That is like, as suggested above, saying that God will not let it happen.

It is getting late in the day. Peak crude oil happened in 2006. Peak crude oil exports happened in 2005. Peak oil is clearly in the rear view view mirror. Those "alternative forms of energy" have not shown up yet and they do not even appear on the horizon.

Ron P.

I expect rough times ahead, but I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.

Sorry.Not pleasantly surprised but unpleasantly surprised.;-)

I guess this means you aren't willing to be pleasantly surprised.

""human ingenuity will win out" does not mean that anything like BAU will survive"

Indeed, as shown in the example, the horse-centric BAU referred to did indeed die out very quickly. The oil-based BAU will fade out in two more generations if not sooner. The question is what will the new BAU look like.

Can I be first to coin a new acronym? BAUU - Business as Unusual.

the auto may have ended up being developed ten or twelve years later, and then the people who had warned about a horse manure crisis would have been seen as wise and prudent

This may come as a surprise, but no. This is my area of expertise (look at my screenname). I was really surprised to see a reference to Manure-lypse in a Drumbeat article. A writer of the day had even called it Manure Pompeii. A writer who believed it was true, that is. But there was derision from all sides for these revelers in doom. The reason being that there was an entire, well-developed industry built around horse manure disposal. Some places, little boys could even make the odd penny; similar to gathering aluminum cans for recycling in modern times.

It's just like those articles you see now and then along the lines of 'if we keep discarding electronics at such-and-such a rate, in x years the earth will be buried to the moon'. Maybe John Q. Developed World can get a horror-off imagining it, but there was never any real chance of it happening.

belief in alternatives being discovered

Yes, I believe in the alternatives being discovered. All we need is:

no particulate emissions
no radioactive waste disposal problems
no poisonous air or water pollution
sustainable on a multi-generational timescale
more economically efficient eg cheaper
drop-in compatible with our current infrastructure or cheaply replaceable in a decade or less
able to replace an oil energy equivalent of 1000 barrels a second + some mind boggling coal consumption rate
acceptable in any backyard
expandable to raise the standard of living of all humans to the modern first world
expandable to accommodate any increase in human population
no climate change emissions, preferably CO2 consuming
it would be nice if it included a way to preserve the current species living here with us

So I'm using my dilithium regulated matter-antimatter conversion powered replicators.

The unicorns will be delivering your magic pixie dust and heavenly manna tomorrow at noon. Don't be late!

I think you must be looking for the absolute zero of all conceivable risk. However, the only way to shuck off all risk is to die.

putting ideas that have nothing in common with each other together like that.

Economists have a belief in the idea that things are substitutable and that Humans will figure a way out. Like conspiracy theorists pointing out the conspiracies of the past - the Econonmists have the past successful substitutions to point out.

And if you feel Economists are somehow precise people driven by mathematical formulas you'll embrace the idea of 'people will figure something out' - even if that is an expression of faith based on past data points.

Look at the old posters who kept telling us about EESTOR and its magical solid state capacitors (it seems a shift to a gel/liquid is needed) or the advancement with the Polywell reactor or even the Rossi cold fusion thingie majigger.

After all this time, you'd think I'd get used to it, but some of those comments sent a chill. And that from the NPR crowd!

We're doomed.

Agree completely. This was my favorite by commentator Steve O

This graph seems to me like it would violate known economic principles. The ending tail should be more drawn out.

And as you say, this is NPR.

Well, it really should be drawn out. However, I would argue the graph violates physical principles as much as economic principles. The fact that oil will be slowly seeping out of Ghawar a thousand years from now does not change the fact that our current hydrocarbon burning lifestyles will be long over.

Right. There may be a tail, but it may be so thin as to be indistinguishable from the x axis.

When I see the oil_bellcurve on this time scale - it would have been more interesting if the average human lifespan was ... say at 500 years..

Would we then have behaved differently,I mean less like yeast?

I find it interesting how people invent strawmen in order to try and disprove peak oil. This guy says peak was first predicted in 1970, but he never bothered to look and see what was really predicted - he assumed this to mean world oil production.

Note that during George Bush's first four year term--January, 2001 to January, 2005--globally we consumed about 10% of cumulative global crude oil (C+C) production to date, through January, 2005.

In 2005, globally we produced about 74 mbpd. If production had kept increasing at the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase (3%/year), we would have produced 86 mbpd in 2010--versus the 74 mbpd that the EIA currently shows.

To quote from the scene in Lonesome Dove in which "Gus" says his final words to Capt. Call... "It's been quite a party ain't it..."

Re: A Common Thread Between Horse Manure and Peak Oil

But underpinning those beliefs was a Malthusian, doomsday-ish belief in a finite world to which we humans, as a group, are susceptible even today. Here’s one example: Peak Oil.

What a load of Horse Sh!t! Guess what?! We really do live in a finite world with limited natural resources. At some point no amount of ingenuity will change that reality no matter what the vodoo priests economists wish to believe.

As for everything in that article. Fractally Wrong!

If you take out some of the hyperbole, you get a sentence that is pretty revealing...

But underpinning those beliefs was a Malthusian, doomsday-ish belief in a finite world to which we humans, as a group, are susceptible even today. Here’s one example: Peak Oil.

I think we need to be much more than just "susceptible to a belief in a finite world": it should go without saying that we inhabit a finite world.

Just for kicks, how about updating the oil graph to show human population growth over the same period?

It took me awhile but I found it, on the Oil Drum of all places:
So let's talk about population Posted by Stuart Staniford on December 20, 2005. I wish I could superimpose a chart of oil consumption like the one above but I do not have that capability. Anyway the uptrend started with the industrial revolution. Coal first then the uptrend really started in earnest in about 1900 when oil came into wide scale use. Of course there are those out there who will argue that fossil fuels had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right!

Growth of human population since AD 0. Click to enlarge. Source: US Census Bureau. Also here -- my graph before 1900 is an average of the McEvedy/Jones and the Biraben estimates. After 1900 I use the UN numbers.

Ron P.

Very crude:

Here is longer time frame (I use this in presentations to show timeline of demand (when our brains were formed) vs timeline of supply (when fossil fuels were formed) vs timeline of problem.

Too big.

Dunno if Nate's still around, so I edited it for him.

Thank you.

It's always gratifying to know someone out there understands what I was trying to say -- that the only relevant period for oil production is from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until now, not some distant and arbitrary point in the past.

Also, showing oil production without human population data implies that somehow it is a stand-alone phenomenon, when in fact it is the direct result of excess human population and activity.

When peak oil arrives, which is likely to be very soon, perhaps we will get acquainted with Christ again, possibly through the Second Coming to save us from our own folly, since nothing else seems able to do that.

However, although the chart undeniably has shock value, that would be the only way I can see for the birth of Christ and oil production to be related as the chart shows.

Without specifically linking human population to oil production by juxtaposition of these two in a relevant time frame, I think the answer to the question posed of "Have we really even begun to take this in yet?" would have to be a resounding NO.

Even then, it would definitely be a "hard sell." But without attempting to link them at all, it will be a guaranteed "no sale," and "no dice" for our chances of survival.


This graph, from THE INTRODUCTION, INCREASE,AND CRASH OF REINDEER ON ST. MATTHEW ISLAND By David R. Klein, Alaska Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Alaska, is the one that should concentrate anyone's mind. It shows what happens when exponential population increase is limited by a large, but finite resource.

I'm not a techno optimist, but I do believe that human ingenuity will at least smooth the decline.

You can't discount the human brain altogether. We'll find creative ways to harness new energy and feed ourselves.

What we won't do, of course, is to control speculative finance, ration "healthcare" for the elderly, and voluntarily have fewer children. That's beyond our ability, and that's what will cause the inevitable downfall.

I don't have children, but I do have an 18 month old nephew and I cannot express the heartbreak of knowing the kind of world he's growing up in and not knowing how far he's going to make it.

"What we won't do, of course, is to control speculative finance"

Nice point. That ol' human ingenuity seems to be a bit of a double edged sword.

While some kudzu monkeys are figuring out clever ways for the whole tribe to survive, others are finding even more clever ways to milk all the value from any such schemes to magnify their private wealth even as it undermines the whole system.

What a way to run a planet!


Full text:

Yesterday's drumbeat brought up the subject of computers and such. Since the general consensus was that people didn't want to be part of botnets and viruses, here's my non-expert opinion how you can improve your computer's security:

(1) Update your browser
--I'm partial to google chrome, arguably the fastest browser and automatically updates Java and Flash, and sandboxes tabs (hackers can't hack one tab through what's going on in another).
--Other good browsers are Firefox 4 and Internet Explorer 9, it's important to check which version you have.

****If you use Internet Explorer 6 you're practically asking for a virus.

(2) Update Flash and Java
--Flash and Java are fairly common security vulnerabilities, and updates are often security-related.
--Both will often alert you that they're supposed to be updated, if not, updates are available on their respective websites.

(3) Do Windows Updates (for all Windows Users)
--Can be a pain (having to restart your computer), but often has important security updates.
--Check for any relevant "optional updates". Until recently having some audio problems. I looked under Optional Updates in Windows Update and found out I didn't have the latest drivers for my audio card.

(4) Install antivirus software
--Good FREE antivirus software is available
--Microsoft Security Essentials is generally considered pretty sold (even better than some paid software)
--A lot of people I know have luck with Ad-Aware

Doing all these things shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, and you'll be doing yourself a huge favor.

I've found Chrome to run very well except for the annoying frequent crashing of Shockwave. Anyone else seeing that?

Don't have too many problems with crashes in general, but Shockwave (Flash) is the usual culprit. Flash is one of the more buggy pieces of software out there. I usually find this happens if I have too many videos loaded at the same time.

Yes, I agree.
So many news pages come with small video clips now, I suppose that's the problem. Happens most frequently if I go Pufffington Post (embarrassed to say).
Otherwise, I've found Chrome very stable.

I usually find this happens if I have too many videos loaded at the same time.

Sounds to me you have a recourse problem. Small memory or something...

Some people go so far as to recommend against using Windows as a means to avoid malware. Especially for computers on which you do online banking.

If you use Firefox, use a couple of the addons like "AdBlock Plus", "FlashBlock", and "NoScript" to prevent things from running that you might not want.

I'm a software engineer. Nobody I know has used Internet Explorer in years, because it's a perceived security risk. Several coworkers and I avoid Windows at home for anything sensitive, including online banking. At work Windows is OK because we have a full-time administrator who deals with security.

Linux and Mac machines aren't individually any more secure than Windows, but criminals are less likely to target these platforms because their market share is small. I have never personally known someone with Linux, Mac, iPad, or iPod who got a virus. Nearly everyone I know with Windows has a new virus story to tell several times a year.

Linux and Mac machines aren't individually any more secure than Windows, but criminals are less likely to target these platforms because their market share is small.

No. This is FUD circulated by Microsoft. It is not simply down to quantity in use. The basic design of Linux and Mac is very different to Windows and the core vulnerabilities simply do not exist. Also internet servers are very much more likely to be *nix based rather than Windows based and, historically, have not shown the same rate of vulnerability.

Please note that you should still keep up to date with all operating systems and applications no matter which you choose.


It's a combination of both.

It's a valid argument by MS that there are simply more machines to target. *nix users are less susceptible because their software configuration is likely individually customised making it less vulnerable to mass exploits and because it is open source which effectively translates into a computer version of a 'neighbourhood watch'.

But the very thing that makes *nix more secure prevents its mass uptake as it then becomes too technical to appeal to the masses.

Nice comparison here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Windows_and_Linux#Security

*nix users are less susceptible because their software configuration is likely individually customised

Not really nowadays. There are many distributions that being used pretty much straight out of the DVD fur example Ubuntu. Don't forget the many tens thousand of OLPC computers that are shipped as standard builds.

But the very thing that makes *nix more secure prevents its mass uptake as it then becomes too technical to appeal to the masses.

More FUD. Just what might that 'very thing' be? People who've used Linux that I have set up have just used it without issues. The modern distros are easier to install than Windows.


I didn't know that MacOS X was individually configured or unpopular.

It is a *nix for the masses.

Good point and despite their rising popularity have few malware problems.


It may not be unpopular per se but 7% of the market compared to Windows' ~87% is a pretty significant difference!


Anyway, it looks like hacking individual machines may become old hat soon. People are turning to the cloud for computing power. Plus it's much easier to gain access to a large amount of data in one fell swoop - a la the recent Sony scandals.

My two cents of suggestions:

For non-M$ systems

For M$ systems

Even if a person runs a Linux workstation (like I do), it is polite to scan your file system now-and-again, retrieved attachments and downloads, so if needed you can contact the source to report if a file or system has been compromise ;D

All kinds of technological systems are inherently unsafe to some degree
This is especially the case when it comes to the internet.

As someone already mentioned, it's more about how common it is than anything in the structure of the software. Linux is very safe because it is so rare. IE is just a total nightmare but Firefox isn't as safe as it used to be, because it's growing that much more. Opera might be a better browser to use.

Linux and Opera is probably the best combination to use for online banking and other sensitive matters. I keep a laptop for that stuff with said combination and a multimedia PC for games, movies etc which uses windows.

Also, smartphones are seeing a huge increase in viruses, so it's no longer that safe to surf from them.

As for Firefox, I do use several plugins that blocks scripts and ads. It helps, but isn't perfect of course. But once you get used to it, it's rarely a problem or even inconvenient.

Opera (v 11.10) has a built-in feature that prevents automatic video loading. To enable it, go to Settings > Preferences > Advanced > Content, and choose "Enable plug-ins only on demand."

Videos won't play until you click their play buttons. Opera also has a built-in url blocker. If you want Add Block Plus in Opera, all you have to do is copy-paste an ABP blacklist.

I've used both Opera and Firefox for years, and have experienced Flash related memory leaks in Firefox, and Flash related processor drains in Opera. Opera is more stable, imo, but some websites won't load unless you use Explorer or Firefox. Opera has a built-in feature for spoofing those sites ("mask as Firefox"), but it doesn't always work.

I made the mistake of trying Chrome once. I just can't bear any other browsers now - they're so sloooooow!

'If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor..'

Obviously a little tongue in cheek, but nicely put together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCgQDjiotG0

Although I admit Opera is a nice little browser, just not as widely supported as Chrome.

With the massive decrease in the price of oil yesterday, we can all go back to sleep now. See, Saudi Arabia was right. The market is apparently well supplied.

The jobs report came in much better than expected this morning.

If yesterday's commodities crash was due to fears of an ailing economy, that might be reversed today.

No joke I saw oil gain $3 in a nanosecond with the 224k in added jobs.

We are heading for the superspike after a few speculators lost their hats I guess the last week.

BTW, an artistic question. Why the Green oil peak? Shouldn't it be black? I thought green was the official biofuel color.

Oct - A friendly reminder: for every speculator who lost his hat one made a fortune. And, of course, all the brokers still made their same fees.

Hey...watch it fella...green has been the oil patch color for oil for many decades. Don't mess with Texas...and don't mess with my Crayolas. BTW: Water is blue and NG is red. Why red? I have no freaking idea.

Are you referring to the speculators who had long positions or the ones who had short positions?
Or perhaps "speculators" as a group neither made nor lost any money because every long has a corresponding short?


Comissions are(in)significant depending on your point of view. A crude contract (so that is 1000 barrels) @100bucks each = $100,000 costs you $2.32 in comission - so that is 0.000232% of the value of the contract.
However, in aggregate it looks different. As every contract bought is a contract sold and on an average day perhaps 600,000 contracts of front WTI trade a total of 600,000*2 (buy and sell)*2.32=2.7mm of comissions is generated. in a year that is 2.7mm*220(trading days)=612mm - almost real money.

No, the jobs report did not reverse it. I think we will have to "congratulate" Undertow for spotting the first real sign of the dip. In my preliminary opinion, for the next few months oil demand will be less than oil supply.

Most professional analysts say the price collapse was just a blip. As always, Sachs predicts a higher prices.

What do analysts say about the commodities crash?

The latest data have also fueled concern that the high price level is starting to curb demand. US gasoline demand fell last week by over 2%, week-on-week, although demand normally picks up in the spring.

I'd like to shoot the journalists (well perhaps not quite literally) who write "fell by 2% week on week" (from your quoted link). That's in the noise of the weekly reports. If you take the 4 week EIA gasoline supplied average then you find that US gasoline demand is at the highest for the year (just) so far..

US Gasoline Supplied 4-week average

Not to mention that PADD 1 is running on fumes - nobody look behind the curtain!

Oil 'goes crazy' after jobs report

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Commodities made a comeback Friday, after a stronger-than-expected report on the labor market sparked a rush into equities.

..."Oil prices are going crazy," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at PFG Best. "We had this huge correction because people were concerned about the economy slowing down and demand weakening, and now we're rebounding from yesterday's selloff because we got a good jobs report and people are saying maybe demand will be okay."

I've already posted in the other drumbeat but worth putting it here again as it's a nice graph. It may be that the downturns in oil, copper, gold etc. are all ripple effects from the panic in the market as the silver bubble burst due to the hike in margin requirements on Monday. Silver has plunged 30% in the 4 days since then and the other commodities were dragged down with it:


Commodities were looking for a sell-off trigger due to a weakening economic prospect and may have silver provided it.

The sell off in paper silver is a wonderful opportunity, a gift from the TPTB.

I've already ordered more from APMEX.

Buy metals on the dips, never sell. I'll do it for as long as it takes. Either TPTB give us hard, valuable currency, or I'll be a metals investor until the day I die.

The sheeple can play with their stocks and bonds, which I consider to be useless trash not worth the paper it isn't printed on.

Yes, if you're in it for the long game there shouldn't be any trouble with the precious metals. Although personally I'd still favour gold as silver is much more of an industrial metal these days. Gold is really approaching an unsustainable inflation adjusted level though so is due a big dip soon. Unless the world goes to pot that is...

While the effect of job creation reports on markets is very real, I don't put much stock in the veracity of the data. Among other things many of the "created" jobs are assumptive ones that are assumed to exist because of a rate of new businesses that are predicted to have been founded. There are going to be certain assumptions in any model, but a very rosy picture is painted by the one the federal government usually uses. Same for the unemployment stats, in which people magically become not-unemployed (nor employed, just disappeared) after a certain period of not being able to find work. Dean Baker often writes about these issues.

For me McDonald's getting a million applications to fill 62,000 slots tells me all I need to know.

This story caught my attention this morning:

Pay per mile: A timely tax idea, or a privacy threat?
Obama administration draft proposal for study of mileage fee spurs interest.

As transportation officials struggle to raise enough tax dollars to maintain the nation's highway and transit systems, a tentative new proposal could put Americans on the hook for every mile they drive.

Department of Transportation officials have drafted legislation that would study a vehicle tax to track how far drivers travel and charge them by the mile. The proposal would create a “Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office” to conduct trials of the concept.

We were discussing this idea about a year ago here. Can't find the thread, though privacy/surveilance issues seemed to be a big sticking point. It also occured to some that it would disincentivize sales of more efficient vehicles and carpooling, etc. ; how to account for miles driven vs. passenger miles and all that.

Leave it to the gov't to propose an expensive (in electronics, monitoring, and billing) and invasive solution where a simple and existing model would suffice. Simply add a gas tax per gallon with a rebate to each taxpayer. Then you penalize those who consume and subsidize those who need it and reward those who don't use any.

The tax would be hard to pass and this will be even harder. It's a waste of time to even research and propose.

The aim of plans like this is not to discourage gasoline use. It's to deal with the aftermath of discouraging gasoline use.

How do you pay for roads if everyone's driving an electric car?

An overall energy consumption tax would do the trick, but if it were implemented, then the battle would be over dividing up the tax revenue. Unfortunately, this is a step that we should have taken in 1948, when the US became a net oil importer.

In theory, but do you then have to differentiate between energy use for on-road vehicles, and then everything else?

To some extent we already have that problem. There is the concept of "off-road diesel", which has a red dye added to indicate that road tax was not paid on it. This doesn't stop people from trying to use off-road diesel however - every so often you hear about checkpoints where they dip something into the fuel tank to check for red dye. The fines can be quite severe if you get caught, but that doesn't stop people from trying.

The problem is far worse for electric cars. You can't add dye to a battery to indicate that the electricity wasn't taxed for on-road use, so there is really no way of knowing. In theory you could tax all electricity consumption, and while you would have howls of protest from every corner, large industrial users would be especially hard-hit and would demand exemption. And once you open that door to some users, everyone else would want one too. And what then happens if people go off-grid and charge their vehicles with wind/solar?

While people may not like a mileage tax, trying to tax energy in general seems even less practical to me.

People, as a poster pointed out a few weeks ago, all one has to do is check the odometer once a year at tax time. Money then goes to the local of registration.

You'd have to ensure somehow that the odometer hadn't been, say, "temporarily disconnected" for a time between inspections. The incentive to do that would much more than it is now.

The article notes that that is a possibility with a federal mileage tax (as opposed to the state mileage taxes that have been previously proposed). Travel in Mexico and Canada might be an issue, but I guess they could check the odometer at the border, or allow people to apply for exceptions and hope they don't bother.

However, 1/3 of states do not do yearly vehicle inspections, so they would have to arrange some other way to check the odometer.

Maybe by making the electric car measure distance traveled, and require a once-a-year read-out of the data at a inspection location (or maybe a regular read-out at each charging station)..

You'll need penalties for tinkering with the distance measurement, of course.. but that is also the case with continous location monitoring.

It can be done easier and less bureaucratic and invasive than continous location monitoring.

Maybe by making the electric car measure distance traveled, and require a once-a-year read-out of the data at a inspection location

The problem with that is these initiatives are on the state and local level. So you have to keep track of not only miles driven, but miles driven on roads within the state.

That'd indeed be hard without some location-based measurement or signalling.

In theory the car could get some kind of signal that it passed a certain border, but that would make the measurement device and its administration quite a bit more complicated.

Or you could collect the distance-based taxes and pay them to different states proportionally based on general road usage data.

It's a tough nut to crack!

You move, you pay.

Cars cause essentially no wear and tear on roads. Because the damage done to roads is proportional to axle loading to the fourth power, a heavy truck axle with 10,000 pounds (or more) load causes over 600 times the road damage of a car axle with a 2,000 pound load. And a heavy truck usually has more axles and travels more miles than a car. Current tax systems based largely on fuel taxes have car drivers subsidizing heavy trucks: heavy trucks are generally more fuel efficient (because they use diesel engines, have high pressure tires, and have a lower power/weight ratio), and there is no way of relating fuel consumption to axle load.

Taxing heavy trucks on a mileage and axle load basis is technically very feasible (many heavy trucks have computer systems which log everything they do anyway) and should be politically much more palatable than a mileage tax on light vehicles. Such a tax would also encourage greater use of rail and barge freight and help local industries and farms to compete.

If taxes on heavy trucks reduced the number of them on the roads, it would also reduce the amount of road maintenance needed. That would benefit state and local budgets, as well as making road conditions better for the remaining traffic. The only people who would really suffer would be construction companies and the politicians they buy.

Cars cause essentially no wear and tear on roads.

I don't think that's correct. While it's true trucks cause a lot more wear, even roads that don't allow trucks (the "parkways" in the northeast, for example) wear out and require repair and replacement.

Speed is also a factor - a road that has a high average speed will get more wear than one that is low-speed, even if it's cars-only.

I don't think that's correct. While it's true trucks cause a lot more wear, even roads that don't allow trucks (the "parkways" in the northeast, for example) wear out and require repair and replacement.

Speed is also a factor - a road that has a high average speed will get more wear than one that is low-speed, even if it's cars-only.

Of course, where only light vehicles are allowed, they cause all the damage. And I did ignore the effect of frost, which causes a lot of the road maintenance in some states. But even roads which don't allow heavy vehicles often have some heavy vehicles on them. For example, many such roads allow large tourist buses, and they often allow local delivery vehicles which may be very heavy. A single trip by a pre-mix concrete truck to deliver concrete for the foundations of a new restroom block in a park may do as much damage to the road as a year or more of light vehicle traffic.

A single trip by a pre-mix concrete truck to deliver concrete for the foundations of a new restroom block in a park may do as much damage to the road as a year or more of light vehicle traffic.

That would have to be a very lightly traveled road. The rule of thumb is one heavy truck causes the same wear as 10,000 passenger vehicles. Sounds like a lot, but that's less than 30 cars a day. Few roads are that lightly traveled.

And you're right about freeze-thaw cycles. That is probably the major factor. Even if no vehicles were driven on them, they would require repair.

cf. the old joke about the four seasons of the Mid-Atlantic: summer, fall, winter, road construction.

10,000 is the normal number, but there is more to it than that. When I was doing pavement design in my civil engineering undergrad we went right into this (and there is an insane amount of detail when you get into it). The road damage, caused by pavement deflection (bending) is proportional to the 4th power of the axle load. The axle load on a truck is typically 10x that of a car, so 10^4=10,000. Interestingly, the axle load of an F-350, which weighs in at a kerb-crunching 8500lbs, is 3x that of a compact car (civic, etc), so it is doing 81x the damage to the roads of the compact car. The reality is though, the roads are designed for the semi trucks, and smaller vehicles don;t really do any "damage".

When designing suburban streets, the limiting factor was, believe it or not, the number of garbage collections! A fully loaded garbage truck is the heaviest load any suburban street will ever see, and it happens at least once a week. When people want twice weekly garbage pickup, they are actually shortening the life of their roads! A study of some Sydney suburbs that had the same garbage collection route for decades found the road repairs were greater at the end of the routes than at the start - they started reversing the routes to "even up" the damage. The obvious solution to this is to have smaller garbage trucks, but if you look at any garbage trucks, small is not the word. It is more efficient for the garbage co's to have bigger ones - since they do not pay a tax according to axle weight!

Now, even without heavy vehicles, roads do deteriorate. Asphalt oxidises and UV degrades - that is why new roads are very black, but as the asphalt at the surface weakens it gets worn away faster leaving more of the lighter coloured aggregate. Initially, the oxidation increases strength - first year or two (well know fact for racetracks)- but after that slowly degrades, whether or not it is being driven on.

So even if all heavy trucks were off the roads tomorrow, the roads would still need resurfacing etc - but we wouldn't see the damage from rutting.

paul - Thanks for nuthin, buddy. One of the things that really bothers me about tod: we're filled with so many smarty pants of every background imaginable it's gets impossible sometimes to avoid have to absorb so many damn facts. For goodness sakes...I'm a geologist and thus have only so many functional brain cells. thanks for tying up another big chunk of them. THANKS FOR NUTHIN!

Haha - no worries mate! It's a nice change to have a topic where I can reveal a nugget of information from my long forgotten education - but am sorry if that is overfilling your tank!

I think, as far as the balance of useful information goes between you and I, I am still very much, and likely will remain, a net importer - but it is nice to have some of my own production!

Another interesting element, at least here in the US...the rise in Internet shopping has been hell on the roads. Because now you have trucks going door to door (with eBay sales and whatnot), instead of going from factory or port to warehouse to mall. It means heavy trucks on roads that traditionally didn't have it, or didn't have as much of it.

Paul, you remembered your paving course very well. I still get blank looks when I ask developers how many trucks, what axle configurations, and what weights they anticipate coming to their site so that I can design the roadway pavement.

An interesting issue I encountered as a city engineer was the impact of a city not having a garbage franchise. Some communities like the idea of "free enterprise" in solid waste collection, meaning five or more garbage trucks may visit my residential street in a single week. The result, of course, is a shortening of pavement life and a waste of resources and tax dollars in the long run.

A lot of our current ideas are going to have to change radically in the post-peak age.

Thanks DFT, it is one of those pieces of knowledge remembered, but never put into use, as I have worked mostly in water/wastewater, and energy areas. Having been the utility engineer for a developer at one time, I share your frustrations - there are many things they don;t have a clue about. For residential garbage collection I have always thought there had to be a better way, that could be done with smaller vehicles and lighter loads, but it hasn't happened - probably exist in Japan though. A garbage truck is also the most stop-start vehicle ever invented - and with an empty one weighing 15tons there is a lot of wasted energy there. Hybrid (hydraulic) trucks are starting to appear, but are still big and heavy.

The other interesting thing I learned in that course was about segmented block pavements (my prof was the leading authority in Australia on them). They always seemed to me like an ideal solution for residential streets/low speed streets - easy to lay with minimal heavy equipment, when digging a trench across a road you just pick the blocks up first, and then out them back down, they don't oxidise, look great, etc etc. And yet the only place where they have really taken off is- of all places - ports and container yards!

Agreed that many things will have to change - including a lot of "over engineered" stuff, and it is not too bad if we can plan for it, but getting anyone to agree to what they see as unneccessary change is very difficult.

Are "segmented concrete pavements" what we call concrete pavers here in the US?

There was a lot of excitement about those several years ago, but as usually happens, the reality was more nuanced.

They are used here mostly in urban areas, either off the road (utility strips between the sidewalk and road, which used be brick-paved in previous generations, private driveways, etc.) or in areas with low-speed traffic. They may use them to mark out crosswalks and such in places where aesthetics matter.

I don't think they stand up to high-speed traffic very well. And the freeze-thaw cycles are brutal on them. The subbase tends to wash out, and the pavers heave. Even in sidewalk areas, this is can be a problem.

They look really nice when first installed, but very soon weeds grow up between the pavers. People tend to find this unattractive, and so installing pavers in public areas often means a commitment to apply herbicides periodically. For this reason, colored and patterned concrete is becoming more popular. It's concrete that's dyed to various colors, then stamped to look like brick, stone, or whatever.

The proper term is segmented block pavements, because they can be made of things other than concrete, but yes, concrete pavers are in that group.

As with any road construction, you have to do it properly. Some property developers and shopping mall owners looked on it as a cheap way to do roads - it is a different way to do them. Cheap out on sub-base preparation and you will have frost heave problems with any road, but the the permeable nature of block pavements does mean you can get problems in some places where the asphalt cap won't.

They need lateral restraint to prevent the base washing out - not a big deal - but it has to be there - concrete kerb and gutter usually does this.
Agreed they are not good for high speed, but they are not meant for that either. Suburban roads at 50km/h (35mph) are where its at for this stuff. And when it is done right, it lasts a long time - many Euro cities have cobblestone streets that are very old . the container terminal in Sydney is still going strong after decades on the block pavement, and there are suburban concrete block pavements that are still there after 20yrs.

Many places also cheap out and just use rectangular pavers, you need the ones with the w shaped edge, to get better interlock, and also the joints need to be spaced (2-4mm) and sanded - many cheap out on this one too. Done properly, the pavements are great and have a lower lifecycle cost than asphalt. Also, they don't use any asphalt =oil saving, and they tend to use more labour and less machinery - A skilled supervisor with even an unskilled team can do a lot of block pavement roads (since the Roman times) - that sounds like a solution for today.

The coloured/stamped concrete is becoming popular, but for heavy traffic roads it is the most expensive way to build them. Driveways, carparks etc it is fine.

Lot of this stuff in Korea. Great solution on the unemployment side, as were the ladies cutting large areas of grass with hand shears.

Long haul roads should be toll roads - many are already.

City streets have plenty of options. It would be better to let each decide locally.

Rural roads are the issue. Why not let the states work that out? Sales tax, property tax, tag fees, or any combination. These will be the ones that will eventually return to gravel, I suspect.

Efficiency should be rewarded. Gas taxes should suffice for a while, and the electricity fees should come after that. If I charge my EV from solar panels at home, I'd still pay the tolls and non-fuel taxes. How much damage can my limited-range EV do, anyway?

It would be interesting to see what damages a well-built car-only parkway. Other than surface damage from freezing, it's hard to envision wear damage. Rust will affect bridges though.

Those roads are also probably built to a lower standard as they don't need to take the heavies. Net result might not put so many years on the life of the road as you would think.


This is silly.
There are no electric cars and only a tiny number are expected in the next decade. You might as well tax unicorns.
Trucks damage the roads. Tax them. Probably will boost rail shipment.

Also put a big fat luxury tax all 'light truck'(behemoths).
The humble pickup has morphed into a giant ego-statement.

Of course truck owners will contend they don't even use the roads
as they four-wheel it over mountains.

There are no electric cars and only a tiny number are expected in the next decade.

The point is to put the system in place well before it's needed, both so it's ready when needed, and so people aren't blindsided.

Give the government some credit for thinking ahead (for once). Most of us here agree that in the future we'll all be using less gas. So how will we pay for roads, if the fuel taxes are gone or much lower?

Some of us think we just won't have roads. But clearly, the government doesn't think that. So how to replace fuel taxes?

Road taxes per gallon will have to rise as car become more fuel efficient to cover aging of share infrastructure.

C'est la vie.

The life span(30 year?) of a roadway is a function of climate, soil condition and traffic level as measured in 9 ton equivalent single axle load in trucks(ESAL).

The damage to roads is calculated by the 4th power law(AASHTO);
(Weight of truck/9ton)^4=damage;


The trucks do the damage but we need trucks so everyone must pay something, but trucks need to be taxed more for the damage they do to begin with.

It's unfortunate that we must increase road traffic to pay for road upkeep in a vicious cycle.

We should look at cheaper alternatives like delisting roads as well as permeable pavement or even going back to gravel roads in some cases.

Road taxes per gallon will have to rise as car become more fuel efficient to cover aging of share infrastructure.

It won't be enough. They aren't talking about eliminating fuel taxes, mind. The mileage charge will be in addition to fuel taxes. I think it's clear that they are looking forward to an all-electric future. How to pay for roads then? Clearly, phasing it in will be better than scrambling around trying to figure it out when hardly anyone's using gasoline any more.

As for trucks...actually, that varies from state to state. In most states, they don't pay their share. In some, they do. Some states already charge trucks a mileage tax. Trucks are more fuel-efficient than smaller vehicles at what they do, so we may not want to discourage them too much.

And everyone, cars and trucks both, doesn't pay for the damage they do to roads. Fuel taxes cover only part of the cost. People complain about trains and airlines being subsidized, but highways are as well.

I don't think your statement "In some, they do." is correct. Given the disproportionate damage and massive subsidies, the measly $20K or whatever is trivial. Of course, such costs will either be passed on or slow, heavy freight will shift to rails (as it should!) if taxes proportionately. Truck taxes should by ton-mile, but again a simple toll mechanism would mostly suffice.

Local roads and bridges should have much lower weight limits, and only light-weight delivery trucks should be promoted in town. UPS is efficient compared to everybody driving to the depot, but semi's aren't energy-efficient compared to trains.

There are a bunch of different studies and different ways to count it, but here's an article that refers to a recent study.

From 1982 to 2009, 22 states conducted highway cost-allocation studies. Of the 22 studies, 19 found that payments from the heavy truck class fell short of cost responsibility. In three states (Delaware, Montana and Oregon), heavy truck payments were equal to or greater than their cost responsibilities.

I'm not sure how the states that have a mileage charge enforce it. Do most trucks have GPS trackers these days?

But there is little justification for applying new mileage charge to cars.
The number of miles driven on a road by cars doesn't accelerate a road's degradation, heavy loads do that.
If you elimated all cars from heavy roads and still ran the trucks it wouldn't extend the roadway life.
On top of that, hybrid cars are lighter weight so
ideally they would reduce maintenance. The Honda Insight is made of aluminum and is significantly lighter as are carbon fiber body cars.
As Alan Drake would argue trucks at 2400 Btu/ton mile are a lot less efficient than trains at 696 Btu/ton mile. The average US passenger vehicle weights 2 tons so at ~5900 Btu/ mile driven
that works out to 2950 Btu/ton mile maybe 20% less efficient than a truck which is far more destructive of pavement.

On top of that, hybrid cars are lighter weight so
ideally they would reduce maintenance. The Honda Insight is made of aluminum and is significantly lighter as are carbon fiber body cars.

I wonder where you got that idea? Hybrid cars are generally significantly heavier than a similar car with a conventional powertrain. The Honda Insight weighs 2735 pounds and seats five persons with 85 cubic feet of cabin volume. The Honda Fit (let's keep to the same manufacturer to make the comparison more relevant) seats five passengers in a 90 cubic foot cabin volume and weighs 2489 pounds. The conventional vehicle weighs nearly 250 pounds less than a hybrid from the same manufacturer with 5% lower capacity.

Honda, along with many other manufacturers, is too ashamed of the payload of their passenger vehicles to publish payload figures, but I suspect ferreting out the payload of these two vehicles from the owner's manuals would show that the Insight also has a smaller payload than the Fit. Both of them are probably overloaded with five real adults on board, even before any cargo is added.


The 40/43 mpg Insight hybrid is 10% heavier than the 27/33 mpg Fit, which is tiny. Over a year and 12000 miles the difference in fuel used is ~600#. Both are much lighter than the average for cars.

A small 120# woman takes up a volume of about 20 cubic feet so a 5 cubic feet difference is meaningless.

I 2nd this point. Large 16-to-18 wheel trucks do exponentially more damage than a passenger car. How are the taxes apportioned? Not favorably to the little car. Of course we know the answer why.

There are no electric cars

Not true. The Nissan Leaf has been out for 4 months. Currently, almost 200 per week are being delivered in the U.S.

I'm pretty sure he means 'statistically, EV's make up such a whisper of what's on the road', that taxing them specially will not offer much of substance to the Highway Funds.. besides the point that this would be another disincentive to taking the plunge and getting an EV.

How do you pay for roads if everyone's driving an electric car?

Say - why not ask the Economists who claim the rich will be on the roads in SUVs and will find a way to have 'em paid for?

Local roads may be paid by local land taxes.

A politically feasible "tax" would be one on oil imports. We could impose this tariff on the grounds of national security--say $10 or $15 per barrel.

And twenty years from now the rich will be driving around in their armored SUVs, with armed chauffers. Really, Collapse is going to be a serious annoyance for the very rich.

Study the fall of the Roman empire for a good example of what happened to the rich after the great plague of 165-66 A.C.E. that killed off perhaps half of the Italian population and ultimately was a blow from which the Western Empire never recovered. The Roman rich were still doing fine during the late 300s and into the fifth century.

In rebuttal, two thoughts.
1. It is not only those people that have children in public schools that pay for the public school program.
2. Why try to make a solution to a problem that will not exist in the present or near future?

For 1: Forget a 'fair use' pricing, and just have it become part of a region(s) annual tax burden, whether someone drives a gas or electric car, or drives at all. Public schools are funded by everyone.

For 2: Once there is a 'real' fraction of electric vehicles on the roads, then figure out how to do the 'pay as you go' on them.

As others and myself have noted, it seems people are unwilling to finance any pay scheme, as exemplified by gasoline fuel taxes for both the State of California and the Fed have been locked at about 18cents/gallon for... years? I'd rather see fuel taxes slowly rise for the present situation, and will stick to #2 for #2.

Leave it to the gov't to propose an expensive (in electronics, monitoring, and billing) and invasive solution where a simple and existing model would suffice.

Just because you could do it in a complicated way does not mean you have to.

Lest everyone think that this is a new idea, or that only the US can come up with new ideas, there is *exactly* such a system, of road user charges based on vehicle weight, and mileage, already in existence elsewhere.

A system of Road User Charges has has been implemented in New Zealand for diesel vehicles, and it has been operating for some time (gasoline vehicles pay conventional gasoline tax, but this may change)


This came up in the March 26 Drumbeat, courtesy of Merv_NZ, and I did some digging on it.

The tax is levied according to the maximum allowed vehicle weight, and the number of axles, and the number of tyres (singles or duals). Basically, the heavier the vehicle, the higher the tax per mile, but the more axles and tyres to spread the load, the lower the tax. Of course, vehicles with lots of axles and tyres typically have a high gross vehicle weight, so it's not quite that simple.
There is a table that has all this laid out, and you just find where your vehicle fits.

Basically, you will try to choose the lowest GVM vehicle for what you are carting, and for trucks/trailers, have as many axles tyres as you can without going over the GVM you want.

So, we have a system, which the US does not, that encourages people and businesses to buy the smallest vehicle needed for what they are carrying around

As I read it, a diesel car/pickup/suv, of up to 3 tons weight, pays $44.31 per 100-km (621 miles), or about 7.1c/mile

A tractor trailer, rated for say 10T GVM tractor and 20T trailer, would pay $86+241=$347, or about 56c/mile.

It is an interesting system, because, it really does tax by (approximate) road damage by not taxing the fuel, off-road users are not being penalised.
It also provides a mechanism for taxing electric vehicles, under exactly the same scale - though I see they have a temporary exemption from any tax until 2013.

For a diesel car driver getting 50mpg, the tax would be 50*7.13= $3.56/gal - actually the tax is the same regardless of the mileage, of course, though you are still buying less fuel.

While the system seems complicated, what it achieves is a separation of taxation for roads, and for energy. Anyone who buys diesel fuel for any purpose, pays the energy tax. Anyone who puts a vehicle on the road, powered by anything other than gasoline, pays the appropriate road user charge. NZ could even invent a sheep powered car for all we know - but it would still have to pay its road taxes - and that is as it should be.

I read yesterday that this idea has already been dropped. Anyway. This idea is totally absurd unless you adjust the charge for mpg and vehicle weight. Great. So, under this proposal, I get to pay the same amount per mile with my Prius as someone with an F350. How about just raising the damn gas tax? Even this, however, would not reflect the proportional damage that large vehicles cause versus small vehicles.

Why not tax the tires? Bigger tires would mean higher taxes. ICE or electric, the car needs it's shoes (so to speak!).

As good an idea as that may be on the surface, it would lead to people driving their existing tyres long after they should be changed. More crashes caused by bald/blown out tyres creates different costs for society t deal with.

The main purpose of fuel rationing in the us in WW2 was to limit driving and thus tyre wear, since rubber was in shorter supply than fuel!

This caught my eye too, Ghung. What is the phrase?....reality hidden in the details? Trust the US to create a complex system to raise money for taxes, (and they know better!!!) with loopholes for some. The easiest way to get rid of toll roads, toll bridges, tax initiatives for infrastructure improvements, and raise money....plus encourage fewer vehicles on the road, cleaner air, etc etc is to tax all fuels/energy as per European rates. Even Canada should tax more. I find it amusing/amazing that many exporters actually charge their citizens higher taxes for fuel than buyers charge their folks. You would think it would be the other way around. This is the true meaning of user pay, isn't it?

Oh well, I have to go pick up my tractor which might cost a great deal more in BC than if I were across the line in WA, but hey, if I hurt myself loading it into the truck I won't have to pay a deductible on my medical....actually, all I would have to do is have someone sign me in at the admitting desk. God forbid.

Converting energy is the basis of all life and activity. Time to stop giving big business and over consumption a cheap fare and pay the world rate. Do we want a cleaner environment and liveable communities, or cheap french fries and lots of bling?

The tractor is a BCS walk-behind...the truck a 25 year old Toyota. Raise those taxes and watch the increase of recycling and repairs. It just feels good to repair old stuff. It feels so much better than throwing away and buying new. Increasing fuel taxes will force a paradigm shift and activism can force Govt to use this new money for worthwhile activities for citizens and environment IMHO. Maybe SUVs and Govt limos have to be sugared and keyed, but it's possible.


You will like that BCS unit. My small one is 18 years old, going strong.

The big one (853) we use at our community garden is a genuine beast. Best 2 wheel tractor made.

When you say "and they know better" you are quite simply wrong. We don't know any better. I'm American, and believe me, when I finally figured this out, it was shocking because it changed my perception of the country I was living in.

Read Morris Berman, he's written books about this.


A gas tax would do exactly what they are trying to do. They are either incompetent for bringing this idea to the table or looking for more room to social engineer beyond providing a disincentive for using automobile fuel (disproportionate taxes for cost of vehicle, etc.)

Exxon just wants the Gov to tax electric cars so people will see another reason not to buy them. LOL.

I am just demonizing Exxon for fun, since they are sensitive ;-)

Oct - DING DING DING! We are finally on the same page. I knew the day would come...eventually. Who knows...next thing you'll be embracing the beauty of all fossil fuels and kneeling before the SOR (Shrine of the Rockman). LOL

Rockman, I am just being a big meany ;-) Poor electric cars though. They could have had a tax break at least for a few years.

The bigger issue is why the Gov is short on cash to fix the roads. There is a bigger taxation issue at play. We need to address that one.

Or there is a bigger spending issue at play. I would address that first.

Oct - As much as I'm not a fan of the govt supporting projects that can't stand on their own two economic feet, the govt could do things to help the effort. Consider the trillions of $'s the feds put into the interstate highway system of the many decades. Cetainly a big plus for the oil patch and Detroit. Maybe the feds could have funded a similar development of recharge stations/battery exchanges. I could get behind such a plan. Otherwise private enterprise will continue to be stuck with the chicken and egg problem. I don't like the idea of our tax dollars paying someone to buy a car they wouldn't own without the tax payers' money being chipped in.

Also, the govt has all the money they need to keep the roads repaired. But they chose to spend it elsewhere. Thus when the roads turn to cr*p the govt can say:"hey...you told us to cut spending...so the cr*ppy roads are your doing...not ours." Just my usual HO.

As a kid, I was told that none of these taxes really went to their intended purpose: They were used to offset the national debt or went into a common pool or some such. Airline tax, too. Also remember hearing that the Social Security trust fund has long ago been raided and now just holds an IOU.


Problem is, our solutions are structured sanely.

Lets combine a fuel tax with quantitative easing and call it "patriot dividends". A $5 per gallon fuel tax is passed, to take effect in 2 years. However, as part of the enabling legislation all US citizens start IMMEDIATELY getting $1,000 per month in patriot royalties credited to their bank accounts, to "prime the pump". There would be two years to shuffle vehicles around in advance of the tax. The US dollar would be debased, accomplishing the Fed objectives and erasing the national debt through inflation while smoothing out the GINI coefficient. And the monkeys would evolve to be utterly dependent on that thousand bucks appearing in their account each month. By the time the tax kicked in, it'd be "keep your goddam socialist hands off our fuel tax royalties!" and those who still owned hummers would be the butt of "he's so dumb that..." jokes. Link the legislation itself to Bin Laden getting shot, using that political capital with a "never again" spin.

The problem with proposing sensible policy is the assumption that those you're making it for aren't dysfunctional.

The most absurd thing about this comment is that it would work better than anything we're doing now. Free money for all americans, oil prices stop rising, funny money goes to the proletariat rather than the bankers, the US auto fleet rapidly changes, people start planning around shifting to public transportation and adjusting their lives to predictably expensive fuel, CO2 emissions reduced, deflation avoided, etc etc.

And AFTER I have my coffee I reckon I'll have even BETTER ideas...


We've had discussions about how to store intermittant and seasonal energy, or off-peak production. Lots of opportunities here, as Leanan's link above shows:

Sunshine on tap in Sweden's dark winter

Storing summer heat in the bedrock for winter space heating:

Anneberg, a community of 50 families, has an unusual district heating system that draws on the sun's energy, even in the depth of the dark, cold Scandinavian winter. The trick is to use the community's bedrock - a pink granite - as an underground heat reservoir.

"Seasonal uneven distribution of solar radiation makes storage of solar power necessary for winter use," says Mr Ram, a Sunbeam sports-car enthusiast whose Anneberg apartment features Persian, Iraqi and Turkmen rugs and carpets. Beneath the wooden floor runs an intricate system of pipes carrying solar-heated water.

Off grid folks use diversion loads (sometimes "dump loads") to divert excess energy to other uses or storage, usually in the form of heat. Micro-hydro folks sometimes dump excess production into the water via heating elements. We use excess PV production to pump water uphill or to accomplish high energy tasks, once our batteries are fully charged. I have also installed a DC heating element in our hot water storage tank where surplus PV production can be used for space and DHW heating. The point is to not waste the energy or capacity.

There was a short thread yesterday on the subject of PV direct water heating and DC heating elements for standard electric water heaters. A couple of links for those interested:



Interesting Ghung. So far the only geothermal source that seems to make economic sense was shallow low temp methods like you've described. Not as sexy as geysers of steam but cost efficient: shallow reticulating system a couple of hundred feet deep (near Atlanta) with heat recovered through liquid heat pumps. Was going to be used to supplement heat for a nursing home under construction. They didn't mention using solar gain but in that part of Georgia I can envision a lot of heat potential dumped down the system during the summer months. And for folks who don't know rocks are very good insulators...the heat won't slip away quickly. Actually that's one of the problems with many geothermal projects: as the heat is recovered it's replaced very slowly in the rocks due their low thermal conductivity. I would think the cost of adding a hot water solar system to that nursing home would be cost effective since much of the hardware is already in place from the geothermal system.

Speaking of rocks, and Georgia (USA), one wonders how many BTUs could be stored in this big hunk of stone.

Stone Mountain, Georgia  ...Jefferson Davis...Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. 'stonewall'  Jackson

Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock in Stone Mountain, Georgia. At its summit, the elevation is 1,686 feet (513 m) amsl and 825 feet (251.5 m) above the surrounding area. Stone Mountain granite extends underground 9 miles (14 km) at its longest point into Gwinnett County. Numerous reference books and Georgia literature have dubbed Stone Mountain as “the largest exposed piece of granite in the world". This misnomer is most likely a result of advertisement by granite companies and early park administration. Stone Mountain, though often called a pink granite dome, actually ranges in composition from quartz monzonite[1] to granite and granodiorite.

Something similar to the system in the article could be done for numerous communities around the Atlanta area, though the fairly moderate climate may not make it cost effective. If all of the heat pumps in the area were geothermal, utilizing this formation for seasonal storage, cooling costs could be reduced in summer, heating in winter. As the quote states, this formation runs for miles underground; likely the same one you referenced.

Isn't it high time we just blow that thing up. It would be fun, too!

(Let's see if that riles up some good'ol boys from the state I used to call home.)

Ghung- Actually the system I mentioned was just sunk into the soil...not granite or any other bed rock. That's why it was so cheap: just drilled with shallow water well rigs. Drilled a half dozen in just a day. The idea is rather simple: the ground temperature below several dozen feet is constant and is rather representative of that area's average temperature. So just a guess but if the average temp in Atlanta is around 74 degrees than they are drawing heat of such a system when outside temps are in the 30's. I know it doesn't sound like much but it's really a $'s in/$'s proposition. It may not supply all the winter heating demand but it does substitute part of it with very cheap energy. Many decades ago I saw a map showing what area in the country had the best FINANCIAL advantage from solar collection. It wasn't AZ or any other sunny clime...it was MT/WY. No...they didn't collect the same amount of energy but what they did collect added up to a huge savings over conventional sources.

Lest we think those damn (but very nice) Swedes beat us to it, there is a similar system operating in Canada. The town of Okotoks, (pronounced the same way you do Oaklahoma) near Calgary, Alberta, has a community, called the Drake Landing Solar Community of 52 houses connected to a community solar-goethermal storage system.

The houses are arranged in E-W rows, and behind them, abutting the rear lane, the garages for all are covered with flat plate collector panels, and the roof pitch is built to the optimum angle. The system collects heat during the spring/summer/fall and pipes the hot water to a borehole field, and extracts it in winter. Okotoks is a very sunny place - gets more sunshine hours than Miami - so it is a good spot for this - even in winter as you can see here

The system has been operating since 2007, and took the first few years to get the ground warm, but output has now steadied and it provides 90% of the space heating requirements. The out-of character brown building in the upper middle of the photo holds the pumping equipment and heat exchangers, and the borefield is the playing field to the immediate right. There are 144 35m (100') deep wells in that field that some local version of ROCKMAN drilled, so you can easily see where the money goes ;-) And even though there is deep NG in the area, they didn;t find any this shallow- though there would have been some interesting decisions if they did!

Each of the houses has a separate flat panel on the roof for domestic HW, which are the small darkspots on each roof. Winter temps routinely hit -30C, so the systems have to be built for it.

I was personally involved in this project - I wrote the water efficiency guidelines for the entire 770 lot development, of which this is part - a rare case of environmental pro-activism by the developer. In return for a 20% decrease in design per capita water use, they got a 10% increase in density - quite a carrot for them. By minimising all the DHW loads we reduced the size of the DHW panels by 1/3. The DHW wasn't done directly from the geothermal system as the water temperature requirements are higher. A simple heat pump could have addressed that, but they didn;t go that route - people wanted solar panels on their roof!

But here's the rub - the system cost $5m to build, or $100k per house - so it is an expensive way to do it. A lot of that was first time engineering cost, so you could probably do it for half, but still expensive. You could actually provide 90% of the winter heat, on average, without seasonal storage, using a system like this one

The gas utility company still provides gas service, and will take over operation and maintenance of the solar system from the government (who has been operating this trial) after year five. Sadly, having the big utility co take over the community system disconnects the community from active responsibility for it, thus diminishing one of the positive aspects of this project. As a former community utility manager, I am strongly of the opinion that communities are stronger when they own and operate their own utilities - this would have been a perfect example.

As good a demo system as it is, i think it has demonstrated that this sort of system is too expensive to do. Better design of the houses and their individual systems would provide 90% of the winter heating of this one, at 10% of the cost, and without any involvement from an outside utility company. A classic example of diminishing returns on complexity here, that could only be built if it was taxpayer funded (w.hich it was)


Thanks for sharing the details, Paul.

The gas utility company still provides gas service, and will take over operation and maintenance of the solar system from the government

I wonder how much time it will take before the gas utility company have figured out away to calculate that operating costs are to high so it would be cheaper to tare down the system.

I'm not so sure that will happen. The gas utility, ATCO, has been involved from the start, and they are a part owner of the system. I should say they are have been operating it as well, but the costs for the first few years, since it is an experimental system, have been paid by the govt.
The actual operating cost is quite low, but future maintenance, especially if in involves the wellfield, could be expensive.

I think this will operate happily until something major goes wrong with the thermal storage system. By then, if not before, the homeowners will have worked out they are almost as well off just connecting the panels on their garage directly to their house, and doing some further improvements to the house, like thermal storage, super insulation, etc.

Of course, if they had built the houses as connected row houses, instead of the silly 2m gaps between them, they would waste a lot less heat to start with, and have more useable south facing roof for panels, but that's just not they way they do it here.

Interesting stuff, Paul. Thanks for your inputs.

"they are almost as well off just connecting the panels on their garage directly to their house, and doing some further improvements to the house, like thermal storage, super insulation, etc."

This has been my preference since I began looking at this, partly because I'm not sure how well utility scale systems will fair in the future; too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. As you say, the increased complexity, not only in the system, but in its management, maintenance costs in the future, etc., require a level of inter-reliance I'm not comfortable with over time. One thing that won't change is individual residents trying to stay warm, and their investment in their own comfort.

I've been an advocate of installing simple thermal storage units in homes and other buildings, with multiple inputs, combined with great insulation and thermal mass. Solar, surplus PV, waste heat, and even off-peak electric resistance heat can all be dumped into such a system to be used over time. As in our home, a tiny pump slowly moves hot water through the floor of the house, keeping it's energy level up. Since, excepting solar HW panels, the entire system is contained in the home, their are little to no losses.

The caveat is that it is a slow response system; no instant-on, push button warm-up. If that's a problem, small space heaters or woodstoves can be used to fill the gap. We tell our friends and family to give a day or two notice before a visit so we can bring the guest bedroom up from its standby 55 degrees to a toasty 70 before they get here. If they decide to just pop in, they get an extra blanket ;-)

Hi Ghung,

Yes this is a classic case of letting the engineers design "the best" system when the brief should have been "the simplest" or "the most cost effective". But, it was partly a research project by Nat Resources Canada so fair enough. The fact that there are no plans to replicate it, even by the same developer, shows that it is not really worth the trouble.

I like the concept of people taking control of their own energy - when you cut your own firewood you don't waste it! It amazes me how many people don;t understand the thermal mass concept, but then most don't understand heat flow and storage anyway - it should be part of high school!

i saw an interesting take on the shipping container housing idea, which was to seal and insulate outside the containers (this was 3x20' for a 480sf cabin. The steel is the vapour barrier on the inside, and stays warm so won't get condensation and rust. Also, with three containers you have over six tons of steel for thermal mass in a 480sf cabin! Made me think about the brick veneer houses built in Australia, brick is on the outside, stud walls and batt insulation on the inside, so all that thermal mass is on the wrong side!

I grew up with the in-floor hydronic heat and wood boiler + solar - great except for the slow response, but as you say, you learn to live with that, as did the unexpected guests - we did have the advantage of being able to plug in electric fan heater in that case.

I will make sure to give you at least a day's notice if I am coming there from here!

Cheers, Paul

There was an interesting map in the IEA OMR April 2011 on who controls which oil fields in Libya

Libya oil field battle lines

Behind a paywall, but viewable via Google....

Oil's Drop Tests Russia's Budget

MOSCOW—Russia's ability to balance its $375 billion budget has come under threat after a sharp drop in crude prices, especially since the Kremlin plans on boosting spending during a year of parliamentary elections and preparations for the 2012 presidential vote.

Russia's annual budget is expected to lose $36 billion from Brent crude's $18 drop from a recent high of $127.02 a barrel, assuming prices don't rebound. The crude drop threatens to put the budget into deficit, since Finance Minister Kudrin has said the budget needs an average 2011 oil price of $115 to balance, although many economists say the crucial oil price is somewhat lower.

Hmm, and what does the price of oil have to be in order for the USA budget to balance?

About $20 or $25 a barrel. If the price of oil fell drastically and stayed down for a few years (not going to happen), there would be a tremendous stimulus to real economic growth plus an easing of inflationary pressures.

At current oil prices U.S. real GDP can grow little if any. My guess is that with oil around $100 per barrel we will start into a recession maybe in the third quarter of 2011 or maybe the fourth quarter of 2011. Note that real GDP growth at an annualized rate of 1.8% is roughly half the rate of growth of the preceding quarter and roughly half the rate of consensus forecasts among economists.

Most economists still do not acknowledge the importance of changes in oil prices. I find this fact both discouraging and surprising, because back in the 1970s there was a ton of economic research on how higher oil prices contributed to stagflation.

"What puzzles me is that the hunter-gather population who live in Japan seemed to have chosen a 'harmonious' lifestyle over an 'exploitative' agricultural lifestyle," he said.

Rice varieties adapted to the colder climate were not developed and did not reach Korea much before 2200 years ago. It is also possible that the Japanese waters and forests offered a relatively productive environment for hunter gatherers, so the advantage of employing agriculture prior to the availability of rice was not as great as elsewhere.

Both linguistic and DNA analysis is tending to show that agriculturists expanded and in many cases largely replaced the indigenous hunter gatherer populations. Examples are the Indo-Europeans, the Han Chinese, and the Bantu speakers in Africa.

It is also possible that the Japanese waters and forests offered a relatively productive environment for hunter gatherers, so the advantage of employing agriculture prior to the availability of rice was not as great as elsewhere.

Could be. But in other parts of the world, it's the most fertile areas that converted to agriculture, while the less productive areas remained the domain of foraging societies (the Kalahari, the Artic, the rain forest, etc.).

Maybe Japan is uniquely productive. Diamond picked Japan as a society that succeeded, and one reason is that they were lucky. Japan gets a ton of rainfall, and that makes it much easier to live off a solar budget.

My takeaway: people don't farm if they can avoid it, and it's better to have water than oil.

Farming with metal tools is an easier life than hunting and gathering with stone tools. Once the farmers with metal tools arrive, they always submerge the prior populations. The hammer, the ax, the plow and the sickle began the transformation of the environment.

Dating the origin of Japanese languages with Bayesian phylogenetics
In his anthropology blog, Dienekes writes:

What I find fascinating is the widely different manifestations of the farming/language dispersal phenomenon: the earliest attested one is the expansion of Indo-European languages from Asia Minor ~9,000 years ago, and the latest one the expansion of Japonic languages from mainland Asia ~2,400 years ago. Bantu, Austronesian, Semitic languages fill the void between these two dates. The law-like regularity with which farmers fill lands, transform the landscape, grow in numbers, and start diverging linguistically as they do so is a rare instance of mathematical regularity manifesting itself in the recent history of our species.

Farming with metal tools is an easier life than hunting and gathering with stone tools.

I don't think it's an easier life. It's a more difficult one, but it allows a denser population. That means farmers will out-compete foragers. And that is why foragers now live only on land that doesn't support farming.

The main reason that most hunting and gathering societies became horticultural ones (gardening, relying on digging sticks or primitive hoes) is that
1. They were conquered by adjacent horticultural societies or
2. Population pressures eventually forced them into horticulture.

Macrosociologists and anthropologists think that improved hunting technology killed off so much game that the hunting part of hunting and gathering became a small part of the diet. Two key technological breakthroughs in the late stone age figured in this--the throwing stick (atlatl) for spears and the bow and arrow.

Hunting and gathing societies did not want to give up their traditional ways of making a living--but they had to.

The Maori of New Zealand are a textbook example of (2), as are, I would expect, many Pacific islands.

When the Maori arrived, about 1600-2000 yrs ago, there were lots of emu-like large flightless birds, called Moa. Not surprisingly, these made excellent eating and were duly hunted to extinction. Examination of the midden pits shows that in the early days, the Maori just ate the best nits of the birds (breast meat, etc) and later on they ate everything, broiled bones etc, and then they had no Moa at all. During this period the cultivation of Kumera (sweet potato) gradually increased, and eventually they were as reliant on this crop as the Irish became on potatoes. Wars between neighboring tribes were all about the cropland.

They had to stay horticultural as there were no beasts of burden available to make agriculture possible, and they didn't have metallurgy either.

In Australia, the Aborigines never got to this point- they were all pretty much hunter gatherers until European settlement.

The Australian aborigines had some of the most clever population control techniques ever discovered by anthropologists. For example, they had extreme incest taboos, to the extent that there might only be one person eligible for you to marry--often someone much older or much younger than you. The cultures of the aborigines are just fascinating. What I cannot figure out is how they invented the boomerang; nobody else did.

Because of their highly effective means of population control, the aborigines could remain hunter-gatherers until their cultures were destroyed by contact with the British settlers.

Some Native American tribes also had ingenious and effective means of population control that allowed them to keep hunting and gathering cultures for many thousands of years. One thing that helped a lot was that their bows were relatively ineffective, compared to the highly developed bows in Europe and Asia. But of course horticulture dominated most of Latin America and also parts of North America before 1492.

The key advantage that organized agriculture has over hunting & gathering is that if done correctly, it usually will produce a surplus. This surplus is the margin upon which everything else comprising civilization is built; population, wealth/trade/commerce, arts & technology, etc.
Once those things are well established, hegemony over neighboring cultures naturally follows suit.

The connection of the spread of Indo-European languages with the spread of agriculture is a minority view. All the Indo-European linguists I know (and yes, I know quite a few--I studied the subject for 9 years at Harvard) think 7000 BCE is too early a date for the proto-language. It would require the language to remain essentially unchanged for some two to three thousand years. There are lots of other problems with the match of with lexical items, which mostly reflect a culture going through the second agricultural revolution of about 4500 bce.

Most non-native scholars of Japanese and Korean have long thought that the two are related and that Japanese can be traced back to early forms of proto-Korean. It was just virulent racism on the part of Japanese scholars that has kept this from becoming widely accepted. I don't think this new 'technique' adds a lot to the picture in this case. I do think the technique is useful. I came up with a similar approach thirty years ago, though not particularly inspired by genetics. The problem with most of these is being sure you are starting with good data in the first place--the old garbage in...phenom.

Before there was an agricultural revolution (with plows and draft animals) there was the Horticultural Revolution. For example, in China c. 4,000 b.c.e., there was a high and warlike civilization--including cities and quite a bit of specialization and division of labor--based on gardens. The agricultural revolutions came slowly, with hoes becoming, eventually, plows. Agriculture produces much bigger food surpluses than does horticulture, so population increased during and after the horticultural and agricultural revolutions, and so also trade, cities, and warfare increased.

It's not as simple as that. While there have been many attempts to link Korean and Japanese (more properly the Japonic family) with each other and the rest of Asia, they have lots of problems. That proto-Japonic came from the Korean peninsula is very, very likely, but that is not the same as saying Korean and Japanese are related. If there is strong evidence of a link between proto-Japonic and proto-Korean or Old Korean, I haven't heard of it yet - I've just heard of things getting proposed and not going far.

One thing that these researchers are not totally keeping in mind is that language movement (and cultural movement in general) is NOT the same as the movement or replacement of populationsn (though there is very often some of that going on too). I am very tempted to put this in caps; languages are not the same as populations. Just as English is spoken all over the world, languages in the past have spread to populations that formerly spoke other languages. Elites can impose culture over others (English and Spanish in the Americas), or former elites can be absorbed (Han Chinese absorbing Mongols and Manchus).

From what I hear, most likely there was a seafaring culture that covered the southern part of the Korean peninsula and the middle part of Japan (western Honshu and northern Kyushu) at some point in the past. This culture spread out to areas such as the Ryukyus, across Kyushu, and eventually across Honshu (the spread of Japanese across northern Honshu is historical, not prehistoric).

"language movement (and cultural movement in general) is NOT the same as the movement or replacement of populations"

Good point. Also, genetic studies are just as prone to error as other types of study. IIRC, preliminary genetics study on the other side of the supercontinent have come up with some conclusions pretty widely at variance with long established understandings of population shifts.

My knowledge of the situation re Japanese and Korean is not based on recent research, but on a few talks at a few conferences and casual conversations with people in the field of Korean dialectology, all quite a while back.

Would you deny that traditional Japanese linguists have not have been eager to link their language with that of the Koreans no matter what the objective merits of the argument?

After our record breaking April - Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly around UK and Western Europe.

SST Anomaly (degrees C) 5th May 2011

Zoomed from Full Global at http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/ocean/sst/anomaly.html

England is in hot water ;)

Looks like good water conditions for surfers and beach goers at Cornwall.

There is a rumor originating from Der Spiegel, that tonight, there will be a secret meeting of finance ministers in Luxembourg to discuss a possible unilateral exit of Greece from the Eurozone. Apparently the riots and austerity measures are too much for Greece's government. In my opinion though, this seems like more of a bluff from Greece in order to get Germany and France to agree to more favorable debt restructuring terms. Predictably, the Euro is down quit a bit as I write this.

why do we care if Greece defaults on its debts?

The world economy would probably collapse.

But wouldn't a collapse of the world economy lead to lower oil prices?

That's what people want, right?

(Yes, I know the other consequences, just trying to illuminate the danger of overfocussing on one facet of the world)

I've been wondering about that. I have read a lot about the towering pile of interlocking mortgage-based CDOs that the big banks and insurance companies have created worldwide. I've also been following the federal government's efforts to keep all the major players afloat. From what I've read it appears to me that there is no way this house of cards can be unravelled or kept afloat for long, even with the combined efforts of government and the finance industry.

So my question is, can someone (far more qualified than me) paint a semi-realistic picture of what such a collapse would look like? Specifically, what system of banking and money might be still standing? Any relevant historical examples to point at? For instance, I understand that most credit unions have far less exposure to the mortgage market than the majors. Might they emerge relatively functional, and what good might that do us? I wonder how the feds would go about reconstructing the money system, assuming a complete change of personnel.

Or is there some way I am not seeing that the whole mess might be kept afloat?

The guy with the white beard and the sign reading "The End Is Coming!" has been a cliche for decades for very good reason. Pundits have predicted all 111 of the last 3 collapses. Check out Kunstler's predictions for the last decade or so, and like the boy who cried wolf, he may eventually be right, but by then everybody will have stopped listening.

The powers that be have many reasons to try their hardest to keep the wheels turning. So my (uneducated) guess is that all sorts of transfers and tricks will be used to prevent collapse, often by "privatizing the profits, and socializing the costs". So countries and banks that are "too big to fail" will likely be engineered to at least fall slowly, instead of exploding and collapsing, at the cost of rewarding socially dysfunctional behavior and punishing responsible people.

That process is happening right now, with the PIGS, despite plenty of opposition from the EU public. Greece will not likely default, probably no states in the US will go bankrupt. Instead, the dollar will get weaker, the middle class will be taxed to bail out fat-cat bankers, "entitlement reform" will continue(some slanted Orwellian English right there, entitlement reform sounds better than kicking Grandma out of the nursing home onto the street, while not replacing the battery in her pacemaker, but the meaning is the same).

It's not going to happen. At least not tonight. The consequences would be so bad that no way will it be allowed to happen.

If it did happen, it would be like 2008, only worse. Everyone would be selling everything to meet margin calls, governments would be printing money like crazy to try and keep the banks from going under, and no, I don't think there would be any safe haven.

I agree, but I was wondering about after that. Let's assume for this discussion that a major bank does indeed go under. Say it drags others with it in spite of frantic government efforts. A couple things I thought might happen:

1) Say the feds decide that a complete banking collapse justifies use of emergency powers, and they temporarily freeze all CDO activity including buying, selling, and especially redeeming. Assuming the legislature will bend any laws necessary, could that maneuver be used to allow enough time to prop up the ailing bank? Or would the whole mess collapse anyway once confidence in the system was shattered?

2) It occurs to me that if there were a major collapse of commercial banking, the government will have helicopter loads of cash to supply and there will be a whole lot of unemployed banking talent. As a last resort, might the feds just hire an army of bankers and start making commercial loans directly? It couldn't possibly cost more than what they're doing now, and at least new loans would have a chance of being good investments. Of course a lot of extremely connected folks would be burned to the ground. But if at some point it became obvious to the politicos that their former masters were not going to be part of the future, I wonder if a thing like that could happen.

The Fed will provide the U.S. banking system enough loans and other means of support that I think the probability of a debt deflation is quite low. If we were going to have a deflationary collapse, it would have happened in 2008, but the Fed and the Treasury bailed out the big banks and have been printing money at a great rate with QE1 and now QE2. Whether or not there will be a QE3 later this year depends primarily on the unemployment rate. If unemployment (the headline number) goes back over 10%, then I think we will see QE3. If the unemployment rate stays below 10%, then probably no QE3, at least not this year.

There are not going to be any runs on banks either, because each of the twelve Federal Reserve District Banks holds huge reserves of currency, and they can deliver any amount of cash anywhere within their district in a matter of hours, if necessary. Part of the huge cash hoard held by the District Banks goes back to the Cold War, when it was worried that if the Russians attacked us with thermonuclear weapons, then there would be a run on the banks. The currency is kept in underground vaults (supposedly bomb proof) and guarded by highest-quality security people.

Am I the only one who scents a slight irony in Leanan's words?
If she's not ironic then she is (for once) misinformed. The EU already has a stable bail out mechanism. It can take a Greek default easily, but there would be some ruptures, and there are some worried when it comes to German and French banks especially, who are exposed to a minor degree of contagion risk.

But if Greece falls then that is not a problem in of itself. If Greece, Portugal and Ireland all fall down the road of default, then we're talking. I'm still keeping an eye on Britain and Italy, though. Italy because it's been sluggish at best in the best of times and Britain because it has an astoundingly huge deficit and because it is simultaneously seeing it's growth evaporate. It's lurching towards a Japan-style situation.

I don't think Britain can handle another serious shock long term without ending up in a situation not far off that of Ireland.

The economic system is in collapse.Actually running on fumes.TPTB are loading the system with junk money and praying it will hold at least till they are out of office and pass the buck to the next TPTB.What is unsustainable is unsustainable.When it will breakdown is not possible to pinpoint but we are really on the edge.The explosive is there,what will be the trigger,we do not know.
The PIGS problem has no solution except default or exit from the union.Spain is the next one on the block.They all say we don't need help until they do.As to UK I am in complete agreement with your assessment.It has even run out of fumes.

OPEC doesn't appear to be the source of a majority of the world's oil:


Nor of course is OPEC primarily composed of countries which are likely to have significant funds remitted to al-Qaeda; I count 3 or possibly 4 of the 12 member states being places with native al-Qaeda funding ties. This could go up to 5 depending on (oh the irony) how our Libyan fiasco proceeds (that is to say that one might be able to move Libya into the "possible source of al-Qaeda funding" column should the side the West is backing prevail.)

Thankfully thorium fueled nuclear reactors can supply as much energy as we need and synthetic methanol and dimethyl ether can fuel transportation. The only question is which country will be first.

Your link is here:

Well, it's still beautiful out, so me and the girls are going to bike over to South Portland and have Mexican in the Shadow of our Great Oil Tank Farms! Vaya con Dios, solamente sin Oleo!


(Just along the southeast boundary of the Tank Field, you can see a whisper of our bike trails.. these used to be rail-lines that brought materials to the Liberty Ship Shipyards that inhabited that piece of grassy shoreline, back during 'the big one'..)

Flooding shuts down Mississippi River traffic, forces more evacuations

The Coast Guard closed a five-mile stretch of the river at Caruthersville, Missouri, on Friday to prevent waves generated by passing barges from damaging levees and flood gates along the river, Chief Warrant Officer Lionel Bryant said.

The closure could last as long as eight days, Bryant said.

I haven't seen the link below on DrumBeat, but maybe I missed it because I was too busy flying around and adding carbon to the atmosphere (my bad).

Interesting that high upfront capital costs and zero fuel costs make the levelized cost per kWh for geothermal very sensitive to interest rates.


"Burning less fossil fuel by using renewable sources of energy—such as geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind—are clear, there's been a serious roadblock in their adoption: cost per kilowatt-hour.

That barrier may be opening, however—at least for one of these sources. Two recent reports, among others, suggest that geothermal may actually be cheaper than every other source, including coal. Geothermal power plants work by pumping hot water from deep beneath Earth's surface, which can either be used to turn steam turbines directly or to heat a second, more volatile liquid such as isobutane (which then turns a steam turbine)."

For the Pacific Northwest folks:

Art Berman will be speaking at the University of Washington on May 16th:


Exploring the future with modern information technology

Never before has mankind faced challenges as great as those of today. Climate change, destruction of the environment, conflicts, crises on the financial markets, and many more, are all problems linked to human behaviour. They are not isolated from each other, but interconnected with one another and interdependent in a complicated way. No human being can entirely comprehend this complexity, and much less foresee the consequences that social or economic activities will have elsewhere in the world.

A group of researchers, led by complexity scientist Dirk Helbing from ETH Zurich, has now proposed a visionary project, FuturICT, with which they want to address these big challenges. The project will develop a platform – the “Living Earth Simulator” – that allows techno-commercial-sociological-ecological systems to be simulated and analysed, to investigate, for example, how political or economic decisions affect our world. The computer model is planned to be capable of simulating systems on a global scale, considering interactions between up to 10 billion individuals.

Interesting. I have a concept in mind for a world simulation that could be played like a card game. Nothing complicated, just a simple world model based on something like the System Dynamics language, or H. T. Odum's Energy Systems language. Or perhaps a hybrid of the two.

The trick would be keeping the math to a minimum, the primary focus being not to teach differential calculus but to play "what if" with the world and test out different population/energy/pollution policies.

I already know the answer, or lack thereof, so I won't bother asking if anyone is interested in the idea.


To do this well it will need to include the distribution of wealth and power for all to see. I do not see that being allowed.

I've been thinking about utility scale storage, and I found this:

"a hydrogen/bromine regenerative electrochemical cell that is well-suited for energy storage applications such as peak shaving, load management and other emerging distributed utility applications. A regenerative hydrogen/bromine cell facilitates electrical energy storage by consuming electricity in electrolyzing hydrogen bromide into hydrogen and bromine reactants as stored chemical energy. The hydrogen and bromine are later reacted electrochemically in the cell to produce electrical energy. Hence, the cell is regenerative (reversible), in that it can efficiently operate as an electrolysis cell producing reactants and consuming electricity or as a fuel cell consuming reactants and producing electricity. In effect, the cell operates as a battery, exchanging electrical and chemical energy, with one difference: the reactants are stored outside of the cell as opposed to a battery where the reactants are inside. Therefore, to increase capacity (kWh) it is only necessary to add more reactants rather than more batteries."


What do we think of this?

Looks OK the big question is always how much does it cost? $/stored KWhr and how long does it last 5 years? 50 years?

Given that the report is from 2001, not much! - this project has obviously gone nowhere.

The problem: utility scale storage really isn't needed yet.

There's no demand yet, so whether or not we see implementation of theoretical possibilities like this isn't really a good test.

Well, the wind industry could sure use some cheap, utility scale storage.

I'm not even talking about the implementation of that technology - it looks like the technical development hasn't progressed at all. A google search shows all sorts of stuff from 80's and 90's but nothing recent - so I'd say it was a dead end -as it appears almost anything involving hydrogen seems to become.

Well, thanks for trying.

I guess one hopes in this situation to find someone who just happens to have an expertise in the particular area one is asking about, but that takes considerable luck.

The thought occurs to me that what is needed here is some sort of battery wiki (or a renewable energy wiki) that is the record Of Record for all this stuff. Seems like something that NREL should set up. There is a lot of knowledge out there, and it should be compiled in a coherent fashion, so that people don;t re-invent the wheel.

On of the things that google shows is just how often different places are re-inventing the wheel of technology X, often unnecessarily.

There are many cases, of course, where work that dead ended decades ago might be able to succeed now, with better materials, instruments etc. In the case of the H-Br battery I'm not sure it would ever be that much better - but I am no battery expert either.

The search goes on - it is THE thing that will enable wind to come in from the cold - so to speak.

Such a wiki would be a good idea. Heck, why couldn't it be part of the general Wikipedia? It just requires people to enter it in.

I just went over and added this tech to the "Hydrogen Bromide" and "Grid energy storage" Wikipedia entries.

"The Nuclear Cost Shell Game"

"UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2011 (IPS) - The nuclear energy industry only exists thanks to what insurance experts call the "mother of all subsidies""

"In Canada, this liability cap is an astonishingly low 75 million dollars."

"The skyrocketing costs of nuclear compared with the steady decline in costs of alternative energy has resulted in world alternative energy production topping global nuclear energy output for the first time in history in 2010. Total investment in renewable energy technologies was estimated at 243 billion dollars last year, according to a new study, "World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011"."

Two peak oil conferences right after one another: http://goo.gl/fb/o5Vxq
It seems like PO is happening ;)