Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?

This is Richard Heinberg's Foreword to the new report 'Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?' by Post Carbon Fellow David Hughes. Download the report here (13MB).

Post Carbon Institute undertook this report in order to examine three widespread assumptions about the role that natural gas can and should play in our energy future:

  • Assumption #1: That, thanks to new techniques for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling of shale, we have sufficient natural gas resources to supply the needs of our country for the next 100 years.
  • Assumption #2: That the price of natural gas, which has historically been volatile, will remain consistently low for decades to come.
  • Assumption #3: That natural gas is much cleaner and safer than other fossil fuels, from the standpoint of greenhouse gas emissions and public health.

Based on these assumptions, national energy officials at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) foresee a major expansion of natural gas in the coming decades. President Obama touted natural gas as a cornerstone of his Administration’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future”[1] and endorsed plans for converting a sizable portion of the vehicle fleet to run on natural gas.[2] Some environmental groups, rightfully concerned about the greenhouse gas emissions of coal, have called for large-scale replacement of coal-fired power plants with those that burn natural gas, despite increasing concern over the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

As this report details, all of these assumptions and recommendations need to be re-thought. What emerges from the data is a very different assessment.

But if this report is right, then how could mainstream energy analysts have gotten so much so wrong? It is not our purpose to analyze in detail the social, political, and economic process whereby public relations became public policy. Nevertheless it is fairly easy to trace the convergence of interests among major players. First, the shale gas industry was motivated to hype production prospects in order to attract large amounts of needed investment capital; it did this by drilling the best sites first and extrapolating initial robust results to apply to more problematic prospective regions. The energy policy establishment, desperate to identify a new energy source to support future economic growth, accepted the industry’s hype uncritically. This in turn led Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, 60 Minutes, and many other media outlets to proclaim that shale gas would transform the energy world. Finally, several prominent environmental organizations, looking for a way to lobby for lower carbon emissions without calling for energy cutbacks, embraced shale gas as a necessary “bridge fuel” toward a renewable energy future. Each group saw in shale gas what it wanted and needed. The stuff seemed too good to be true—and indeed it was.

The biggest losers in this misguided rush to anoint shale gas as America’s energy savior are members of the public, who need sound energy policy based on realistic expectations for future supply, as well as sound assessments of economic and environmental costs.

Implications for the National Energy Conversation

It is understandable that the shale gas industry would fudge supply and price forecasts in the interest of drumming up investment capital. However, the EIA is supposed to be an impartial purveyor of data and analysis. Yet that organization has historically been overly optimistic with regard to fossil fuel supplies and prices. During the past decade several non-profit energy groups, including Post Carbon Institute, warned that depletion of giant oilfields and declining oil discoveries would lead to a situation of higher petroleum prices and tight supplies beginning before 2010. Indeed, a leveling off of world crude oil production and a simultaneous steep rise in oil prices during the past few years have arguably marked the most significant shift in the history of the petroleum industry—a shift whose consequences continue to ripple throughout the entire global economy. Yet EIA oil forecasts in the early years of the decade contained no hint of this impending and wholly foreseeable supply-price shift. In our view, the EIA is making similar mistakes in its too-rosy projections with regard to shale gas supplies and natural gas prices.

With mounting evidence of the environmental and human health risks of shale gas production, environmental groups are rightfully questioning the “cleanliness” of shale gas. But if these groups focus their arguments only on the contamination of ground water supplies of shale gas without at the same time questioning the economics of shale gas drilling, they will have helped set up conditions for a political battle that could undermine their own influence and credibility. Political interests traditionally funded by the oil and gas industries will once again claim that environmentalism is the only thing standing between Americans and energy security. And if environmentalists are successful in enacting regulations to minimize the risks of water contamination without clarity about the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas, they may inadvertently exacerbate the very crisis they are trying to address.

The stark reality we face is that humanity has embarked on the era of extreme energy, where there are no simple solutions. The inexpensive, high-yield fossil fuels that powered the industrial revolution and that helped make the U.S. the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation are dwindling, and all of them emit dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. While enormous amounts of natural gas, oil, and coal remain, the portions of those fuels that were cheapest and easiest to produce are now mostly gone, and producing remaining reserves will entail spiraling investment costs and environmental risks. Moreover, while alternative energy sources exist—including nuclear, wind, and solar—these come with their own problems and trade-offs, and none is capable of replicating the economic benefits that fossil fuels delivered in decades past. There is no likely scenario in which the decades ahead will see energy as abundant or as cheap as it was in decades past.[3]

None of the major participants in our national energy discussion wants to utter that dismal truth. Yet continued appeals to wishful thinking merely squander opportunities to pre-adapt gracefully and painlessly to a lower-energy future.

The Unavoidable Solution: Energy Conservation

It is past time for policy makers to get serious about the most important strategy we can and must adopt in order to succeed in this new era—energy conservation. Reducing demand for energy and using energy more efficiently are the cheapest and most effective ways of cutting carbon emissions, enhancing energy security, and providing a stable basis for economic planning.

Unfortunately, energy supply limits and demand reduction do not support robust economic growth. This is probably the main reason why policy makers and many energy analysts and environmentalists shy away from conveying the real dimensions of our predicament. However understandable this response may be from a political perspective, it is one that only compromises our prospects as a nation and a species. There is much we can do to ensure a secure social and natural environment in a lower-energy context, but we are unlikely to take the needed steps if we are laboring under fundamentally mistaken assumptions about the amounts of energy we can realistically access, and the costs of making that energy available.

[1] The White House, Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future (Washington DC, 2011)

[2} Dave Michaels, “Obama Endorses Pickens Plan for Natural Gas Vehicles,” The Dallas Morning News, March 30, 2011, accessed May 3, 2011.

[3] See Richard Heinberg, Searching for a Miracle: “Net Energy” Limits and the Fate of Industrial Society, A Joint Project of the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute, September 2009.

Full Report here

Here is a sampling of some of the graphics from the main report:

Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century? Full Report here

J. David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As team leader for unconventional gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential.

Over the past decade he has researched, published, and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. He is a board member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas–Canada and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He recently contributed to Carbon Shift, an anthology edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon on the twin issues of peak energy and climate change, and his work has been featured in Canadian Business, Walrus, and other magazines, as well as through the popular press, radio, television, and the Internet. He is currently president of a consultancy dedicated to research on energy and sustainability issues.

As usual, short and to the point.

Having previously read Heinberg's Searching for a miracle, I trust what Heinberg has to say.

You might want to read his museletter 189.

to wit:

"Meanwhile, what can any of us personally do in the cause of techno-sanity? To the degree that we are dependent on the current energy regime, we are all complicit in its depredations. The only solution therefore is to reduce our dependence, and thus our complicity, by conserving energy and making a personal transition to appropriate technologies.

However, this personal solution is by itself insufficient to prevent significant harms that may result from some of the authoritarian technologies now being designed and implemented. More people need to be alerted to the increasingly compromised position in which their dependency is placing them, and to the side effects of the authoritarian megamachine. Thus there is the requirement for activism of all sorts - from opposition to genetically modified foods to journalistic analyses of global trade agreements. Many people who are doing this necessary work will be unable immediately to put much effort into building alternative, off-grid dwellings, and may have to continue using computers and jet transport, at least in modest ways." (emphasis mine)

In other words, you will bust your butt; he will lord it over you as is appropriate for a member of the new nobility.

As this is a family blog, I am not able to tell you what I really think of him. I do admit he is honest, but the true madmen usually are. They have a gift for not being believed until it's too late.

To be fair, Heinberg's house (to my knowledge) is run with grid-connected solar, has substantial gardens, and he tends to give talks via videoconference far more often than others.

PVs just getting into one of his cranky moods. I've been known to have those on occasion, too. ;-)

Oh yeah? What does he heat and cook with, and what does he power his home with at night and in the winter?

Whoa! If Richard Heinberg, one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and considerate people I have ever met, is a "true madman," then we are so screwed it is not even funny. If you want to have a debate on whether the idea of using current technology like computers and jet transport (in modest ways) is a legitimate strategy or not, that's one thing. But to personally attack someone who has worked so hard to make our world a better place is insulting.

PVguy, you should retract that statement.

Stephen Hren

"PVguy, you should retract that statement."


The man condemns himself in his own words. And he is consistent. Look up his 50 million farmer routine. Those people are to be marched out in the fields and put to work, and "government action will be required". No kidding. As in forced marches at bayonet point.

I'm not the one who first called him Pol Pot Mark 2, but I certainly agree with the sobriquet.

As I said though, I do give him full points for honesty. He has laid out his vision of how I will live, and how he will live. If I ignore him and let him have his way until it's too late, then it's my own fault.

You have so mis-read what he has written, it would be comical if I didn't think you were serious.

This Heinberg-as-Satan stuff has got to be just nat-gas industry hacks.

Any argument that Heinberg equals Hitler without addressing the hard data he is presenting is just trolling

First, the shale gas industry was motivated to hype production prospects in order to attract large amounts of needed investment capital.

And an organization named "The Post Carbon Institute" is also quite motivated to dismiss the prospects of a large new source of fossil fuels in the (futile) hope they can convince society to not burn the stuff.

The hope that they can convince society not to burn the stuff may be futile, but burning the stuff is suicidal and geocidal.

Your suggestions?

...ummm...yea, because the Post Carbon Institute is gonna get OH so rich when they fiendishly convince everybody in the country to start using way less energy. What a scam!

You ARE a perceptive little sleuth, sir!

As someone on the Board at PCI, I would say there is a diversity of opinions represented, and the one you mention isn't one of them. My own view is we will burn whatever we can afford, and that amount isn't sufficient to power the globalized industrial economy of the structure/and claims we now have.

Have you read 'searching for a miracle'? It gets into energy quality and scale and is a pretty compelling report. I am open to the possibility of a scalable energy source/technology that doesn't drag in immense non-energy inputs, but at the scale needed to support ~500% of GDP in total money supply, I think it unlikely.

In the end, we don't have an energy shortage, but a longage of expectations.

Nate, I have read "searching for a miracle", and it is the best single report that touches on most of the sources of energy as well as the characteristics of each source of energy.

If you know of a better one, please, do not hesitate to tell me (Patrick.Morcillo@gmail.com)

motivated to dismiss the prospects of a large new source of fossil fuels..

That is a bit of a truism. So we have two competing claims, and the participants on either side are not to be wholly trusted. How do we judge where the truth lies? I think we need to look at the reasons for both sides arguments, and try to determine where the truth is likely to lie.

(1) Drilling the first propects first. That only makes sense, and to the extent that the best prospects can be identified early on will be the way the resource is developed.

(2) High depletion curves for individual SG wells. I think this is being seriously neglected by the SG will save the day(century) folks. Assuming a fixed rate of effort, net production of the resource will be approximately equal to the initial rates of the average well, multiplied by the number of wells drilled in one depletion lifetime. We have reason to believe that depletion lifetime for SG is two years or less. So the achievable net production rate won't be hugely more than the current SG production rate. And current SG is a decent supplement to the existing convention NG, but still represents only a fraction of it. So at most SG represents a significant contributor to our energy supply, but by no means does it look like the panacea some tout it as.

(3) Cost. Can drillers make a profit drilling SG at current prices? What price for NG is needed to maintain the scale of SG drilling needed?

(4) Environmental opposition to hydro-fracking is growing, and may cause some SG prospects to be placed out of limits.
I think this is unfortuate, and seems to be a result of unscrupulous drilliers (or subcontractors) taking advantage of naive regulators in states with little history of the industry. Nevertheless, we've seen what can happen as a result of a few highly visible catastrophies. One example if off-shore oil in California. This has been essentially politically unthinkable as a result of a blowout in the Santa Brabara channel back in the sixties. Bad PR can last a very long time. It looks like SG drillers are accumulating it today.

(5) Greenhouse gas effects. Personally, I think these are overblown. The recent study clearly didn't represent best practices with regard to methane emissions. With decent regulation, actual methane emissions should be greatly reduced. But again, the prospects for bad PR which can persist for decades is real.

(6) Horizontal drilling, while an old technology has been advancing and becoming more effective/economic. The increasing (oil) production from the Bakken formation is an example of this. Although higher oil prices were also a major driver of this increase. It is possible that we will get better at producing SG faster than we use up the better prospects.

EOS – Not so much disagreeing with your points but some clarification.

“Drilling the first prospects first” – Not necessarily. In the case of the SG plays it’s not easy to qualify any specific drill site on a geologic basis. Even with a conventional play it’s difficult to have such expectation. Doing so is an interpretive process. And it is well established that if you give the same data to 3 different geologists you’ll end up with at least 5 different interpretations.

This is the reality of how a fractured play develops. Company A decides to give a relatively untested shale reservoir a fling. Usually based upon some encouraging results from previous wells. So they begin leasing in those areas. A lot more leases available then they want initially. So the go after the ones with better access to pipelines but, more importantly, the leases that will cost less. Once the process starts and positive results become known across the oil patch lots of folks start leasing. But a rule they don’t tend to generate a geologic model to determine where to lease…they lease as close as possible to the folks having success. To be blunt: it ain’t rocket science or much of any kind of science at all. And what technology do the new players tend to use? Yep…what the initial players began using. So why the dependency on closeology (that really is the tech term we use) and consistency in methodology? Because the plan has to be sold to management/investors. And that’s what sells.

But the reality often doesn’t meet expectations. The initial wells drilled in any play often aren’t the best especially in such fractured reservoir plays. There’s a very long tech explanation for this I’ll skip. Oddly enough the area where a play kicks off will often see less new leasing/drilling after a while. That area becomes so hot the leases get too expensive and the promote on the latest wells becomes high enough to discourage activiity to some degree. So now the play will jump way down the road to where leases are cheaper and more available. Notice I’ve mentioned nothing about geology driving this process. For the most part it’s a “land play” and not a geologic play. I’ve sat in many management meetings when leasing decision were made when the only map on the wall showed the location and size of available leases and with zero info about geology to be seen. It truly is a “land rush” in every sense. It typically takes many hundreds of depleted wells before we can map the “sweet spots” and know where the best prospects actually were. It’s actually not uncommon for some of the more profitable areas in a play to be drilled long after the hunt began.

Now the economic factors. You covered is very well IMHO. But let me now apply a sledge hammer. The SG pays are not driven by the profitability potential of the wells…never has been and never will be. My company isn’t in the SG plays because they don’t provide enough profit. It’s really that simple. We aren’t in business to provide the country with energy independence. We don’t care if Yankees freeze in the dark without our efforts. Remember we are those heartless lying bastards everyone talks about. Most importantly we don’t give a crap about what Wall Street thinks about our operation…We’re not a public company. We make a much better profit drilling conventional NG. It’s just that simple. My company exists solely to make a profit and the best avenue for that is not the resource plays. We were created strictly because if PO.

THE DRIVING FORCE behind the SG frenzy is reserve addition. Wall Street’s primary metric for rating public oil companies is not profitability but the y-o-y increase in “booked reserves”. And that’s what makes the SG plays the proverbial Golden Goose: if NG prices are sufficient there appears to be an almost endless supply of opportunities to satisfy WS. And, as a result of the high initial decline rates you’ve described, there has to be for this approach to work. And when NG prices fall below such a support level? Death and destruction on a large scale. I was on contract with Devon during the height of their SG efforts in E Texas. And when NG prices collapsed in the fall of ‘08 they dropped 14 of the 18 rigs they had working in the trend and paid $40 MILLION IN CANCELATION PENALTIES to do so. And cut the drilling effort and y-o-y reserve growth evaporates. And with that WS trashes Devon, Chesapeake et al.

Just my humble opinion but without the reserve growth demand of WS I doubt we would have ever had much discussion of shale gas on TOD or elsewhere. There are not enough conventional drilling opportunities to support all the current public companies in the US. Yes…you heard me correctly: IMHO, at current price levels for oil/NG there are not enough profitable drilling opportunities in this country to justify a large portion of the existing companies. It should be obvious: Peak Oil = Peak Oil Patch. This is what ExxonMobil et al try to hide frpm the public every day. And if prices increase significantly? I doubt it would change the dynamics very much. There would be more conventional wells drilled but not a big jump IMHO. I do this for a living every day. Some folks might think there’s a huge pile of marginal drilling opportunities out there just waiting for the right price point and suddenly we’ll have a surge of profitable new production. That’s not true today and it wasn’t true 30 years ago when the jump in oil/NG prices led to 4,600 rigs drilling…about twice the activity we have today. The embargo induced drilling frenzy of the late 70’s led to probably the most unprofitable period in the history of the oil patch. If we had all the data I’m certain we would calculate the lowest generation of oil/NG volumes per $ of capex in our history. And that was at a time when the US had many more drilling opportunities than we have today. So if “drill, baby, drill” didn’t work 30 years ago should we expect it to work in the future? Folks need to remember why this country had as much oil production as it did back then: the North Slope. Without that one discovery PO would have been a hot topic decades before today. Right now we’ve gotten a nice greasy kiss from the DW GOM trends. But that play won’t have the legs the N Slope or Ghawar had. IMHO about 30 years or so in the future the production increase from the DW GOM fields will represent a nice little bump in the production curve that will eventually be lost in the down slope.

OK…”Sunday Morning” is coming on and time for me to shut up.

For some quantification see www.foslnrg.blogspot.com . Comments/criticism welcome.

This is brilliant stuff. It's nice to see the data looked at from different perspectives, in this case evaluating the amount of material and rigs necessary to ramp up production.

Heap good magic. 350Kbpd now, 3000Kbpd if if if

This is the kind of stuff that makes me read the comment sections on TOD.

Yeah. Me too.

Rock, you are my all-time-favorite selfish capitalist pig.

After the revolution, we're gonna keep you alive just to listen to your stories in awe--and to do the geology for our nationalized wind-up O/G industry, at the officially-approved living wage. You will also receive your share of Blue Bell, but only your fair share.

k - Just consider me the resident compassionate oil patch bastard who would sell out anyone (except my 12 yo daughter, of course) if the amount of BBIC is right. And, just like the KSA, my fair share is exactly what I can demand. LOL

Rock, you are the man! We can only wish for this kind of realism from IEA/EIA, et al. Thanks for the time you put into this kind of insight.

THE DRIVING FORCE behind the SG frenzy is reserve addition.

Rockman rocks, but I will add an important sidebar. Namely the fallacy of 6mcf=1boe.
Gas does not "replace" light sweet crude at the refinery. Nor does it make a hoot of sense financially. 6mcf=$25 1bbl=$100

There is a joint SPE-AAPG event in Houston July 19-20 "Reserves and Resources Estimation and Reporting." All the big players will be there: Ryder Scott, Netherland Sewell, DeGolyer & MacNaughton, and John Lee from A&M. All the cards will be laid on the table, including recent SEC letters upbraiding blue sky reserves estimates. I plan to be there. I hope Art will too.

Meanwhile, a recent rant "Beyond Monte Carlo"

We were created strictly because if PO.

Any company that ever made money off of valuable resources used this as a rationale, although it may have been subliminal behavior. They get there first and take as much as they can, because if they get there too late the pickings won't be so good.

Is this Michael C. Lynch in disguise?

If it is, the good professor needs to work harder on camouflage techniques. ;^)


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IMO we're so far into overshoot that everything remaining will be eaten. All the coal, natural gas and oil will go into the belly of the beast. We'll get a little more net growth and then it will be a losing struggle to support existing populations and infrastructure. First we will lose the lifestyles that we are accustomed to (happening now) and then we will be in a permanent survival mode. Energy that should go into transition will instead support a terminally ill society that will be buffeted with one catastrophe after another. Look at the response to Hurricane Katrina and Fukushima, do you think these lawyers and politicians are capable of holding anything together or figuring anything out for anyone but themselves and their patrons? No, they've taken a grow or die stance and because of the immense magical potential of their minds are certain that technological innovation will save the day.

Going forward into this quagmire we will sink deeper and deeper into the mud under the weight of our growth until eventually we cannot move at all, forward or backward. There we will waste the very last of our energy hopelessly thrashing about until we become motionless and disintegration accelerates. Natural gas, fed into BAU, only makes our situation more intractable.

Natural gas, fed into BAU, only makes our situation more intractable.

Yup. What we need is serious, prolonged and unavoidable pain, ASAP, to encourage the slight possibility that we might awaken to our fate and attempt to change it.

Unless and until that happens, cornucopian fantasies and denial will prevail and every brief reprieve will merely steepen the downside curve.

As for SG (and whatever other FF's you can name), Nate almost certainly has it right: we'll scrounge and burn whatever we can, as fast as we can, until we can't.

There is no reason for optimism. But that's insufficient reason to give up--give up trying to disabuse the optimists of their fantasies, that is.

I was looking for a good post this Sunday and you provided it Dopamine - thanks.

First we will lose the lifestyles that we are accustomed to (happening now) and then we will be in a permanent survival mode. Energy that should go into transition will instead support a terminally ill society that will be buffeted with one catastrophe after another.

In a nutshell, that's where we're headed. There is no plan B or inclination to even try a one, so the oil age must completely collapse for something different to replace it. My advice to all the young one's out there is to try and find a way through the bottleneck.

There is no plan B

The book "Plan C" is excellent - to bad it is not taken seriously.

Plan B is already being implemented.

We are 1) conserving, 2) installing non-fossil fuel electricity generation and 3) rolling out both public and private transportation powered by electricity.

Moreover, while alternative energy sources exist—including nuclear, wind, and solar—these come with their own problems and trade-offs, and none is capable of replicating the economic benefits that fossil fuels delivered in decades past.

Nuclear power and "...consequences {that} continue to ripple throughout the entire global economy." are intricately and fatally bound in a nightmare scenario that I've been plagued with of late. Tied in with peak-oil supply and red herrings such as the false hope of "bountiful gas supplies".

The volatiltiy of markets and their shortsightedness, along with currency valuations, commodity pricings, and sovereign debt considerations and rating agency formulations, convince me that once the dip in energy supply becomes steep and sustained the financial system that greases the wheels of industry will collapse permanently. This of and by itself is not a consideration that many others haven't already considered, but the consequences beyond a power-down re-evaluation of modern civilisation may not have been considered with all the due alarm it deserves.

The recent Fukushima nuclear disaster, that continues to snowball in seriousness (despite the minimal media scrutiny), caused me to look deeper into the nuclear option than I'd done before. What I discovered was a doomsday scenario I'd not expected, one that I see no way around. Again, as with peak-oil, misunderstandong scales of magnitude come to the fore.

With around 440 active nuclear power plants scattered across the globe, and with each of these having up to six reactors, and also including additional navy-ship-powered reactors, there are thousands of reactors that require constant stewardship over a host of national bounderies. Stewardship that will cease to be once the industrial financial wheels and cogs sieze-up and fall off. To bring this number into perspective it must be noted that the Chernobyl meltdown was in only one of four reactors at that site, the other three were decommissioned over the following decades - the last was decommissioned in 2000, fifteen years after the accident.

Adding to the possible conflagration should all these reactors be abandoned is an additional 250,000 tons of radioactive waste stored mostly at the power plants themselves. Further figures to contend with include the cost and time involved in decommissioning a nuclear power plant - I'd only ever bothered with the construction time before, which seemed unhelpfully too long at up to ten years. As it turns out decommissioning takes a similar amount of time and costs between US$350 to US$500 million each, which goes some way toward explaining why so many nuclear plants have their used-by-date extended. Though America may be able to finance the large sums required to decommission all of its nuclear power plants, finance to decommission them elsewhere in poor nations is not likely to be possible, and ceratinly not after a world-wide permanent recession, and no-one would have a decade to it all either.

Apparently you can't just turn off a nuclear reactor and walk away, left to themselves they will all eventually go into meltdown. This is also like deepwater oil wells, you can't just turn them off and walk away, they have to be plugged at a time and skill cost that is prohibitive, and certainly impossible to do if they all had to be done at the same time. I can't imagine how long it would take for all the world's oceans to die if every deepwater oil-field were allowed to escape into the seas, but I don't think that would be long at all. A thousand Chernobyls would have a similar effect on the rest of the biosphere.

So, in this instance, where the unreasonable expectations of shale-gas fortunes are concerned, I hope that the optimists are right, a hundred years of cheap gas for America might be able to slow down the imminenet collapse long enough to do something about the "consequences", but I somehow doubt it.

(For those who might be interested in a recent Fukushima update an independant American organisation has the gist: http://fairewinds.com/
the latest video representation is worth watching, titled "Fukushima - One Step Forward and Four Steps Back as Each Unit Challenged by New Problems")

Nicely put. We've doomed ourselves in so many ways, but scattering these lethal nuke plants all over the planet was surely one of the dumbest ways. I expect we will start having a Fukushima-level event or higher every few years, with the intervals getting smaller and the consequences getting vaster and more deadly.

Extinction anyone?

That would be a factor 1000-10 000 improvement over what we have, which is a coal-chernobyl every ~2 days. There's also a biomass-chernobyl every day; cooking with twigs and cow dung indoors without a proper smoke-stack is a terrible bad idea; of course, if they could afford a smoke-stack they wouldn't be cooking with biomass anyway.

cooking with twigs and cow dung indoors without a proper smoke-stack is a terrible bad idea;

far more important is having designs that encourage a pyrolysis zone.

Just let me mention that there is 440 commercial reactors, not 440 plants. Also, you probably should do the math before concluding that abandonment would be doomsday.

What I discovered was a doomsday scenario I'd not expected…

Apparently you can't just turn off a nuclear reactor and walk away, left to themselves they will all eventually go into meltdown…

I can't imagine how long it would take for all the world's oceans to die if every deepwater oil-field were allowed to escape into the seas, but I don't think that would be long at all. A thousand Chernobyls would have a similar effect on the rest of the biosphere.

Mighty grim IC, by any chance have you just finished reading “On The Beach”?

If civilization collapses the nuclear issue will not be a big problem. The fact is that spent fuel rods can be air cooled by natural convection two weeks after shutdown. They only melt when assembled in large numbers in a close packed array in a poorly ventilated container.

Operators will have numerous options before they abandon the site.

1… They could remove the fuel rods and spread them out on the ground with some scary signs and monuments. Smart aleck visitors who ignore the signs will add their bodies to the array making it clear to others that the risk is real.

2… Better yet, they could spread the rods over a huge coal slag pile representing an equal energy output. In a short span of geologic time they will be less toxic than the coal slag.

3… Better yet, they could dissolve the spent fuel in acid and pump the liquid waste into the deep ocean. The oceans already contain billions of tons of naturally radioactive material, and in some places the water takes over 1,000 years to make its way back into our environment, long enough for the cesium and strontium to decay.

4… Better yet, they could dump the spent fuel rods whole into the deep ocean. The fission products will remain locked up in the ceramic fuel pellets and will gradually be buried in sediment where they will decay to insignificant levels.

5… Better yet, they could burry the spent fuel rods UNDER the deep seabed


where they will do no harm at all.

There is no likely scenario in which the decades ahead will see energy as abundant or as cheap as it was in decades past.

How cheap was that energy of the decades past?

We think of coal produced electricity as cheap, but if we admit the 'hidden costs' of coal then we've been paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $0.20/kwh for that power.

Was oil cheap if you add in the military costs of keeping the supply lines open and the associated health costs?

Nuclear from those decades old reactors wasn't really cheap if one adds in the approximately six cents per kWh subsidies we've been paying with tax dollars and if one accounts for all the unfinished and abandoned plants, decommissioning/waste storage costs ahead, and the 21.5GWs of pump-up storage we built for nuclear.

We haven't had cheap energy, just cheap power bills with the rest of the costs paid for via tax dollars and health/insurance costs.

And why wouldn't we have abundant, cheap power in the future?

Wind, which we have plenty of, can be harvested and crammed onto the grid for something less than a dime per kWh. Solar, both PV and thermal should be down in that range in the near future, they my both go below a nickle. And neither wind nor solar bring with them the health costs of fossil fuels, nor the environmental costs.

Geothermal is already under a dime. Wave and tidal could easily get to that level.

Sure, we'll have to create some storage and will have to be clever with demand response to make the system work, but that's not going to add appreciably to the cost of the power we use.

Driving an EV on average $0.1275/kWh power is like running the typical American car on $1/gallon gas. Won't that be abundant, cheap future transportation? (Especially once volume production brings the cost of batteries down from where they now are.)

I think the good 'ol days might well be ahead of us....

In the November, 2009 issue of Scientific America Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi published an article titled A Plan for a Sustainable Future: How to get all energy from wind, water, and solar power by 2030

Jacobson and Delucchi present a blueprint for getting almost 100% of the world's energy needs (electricity, transportation and heat) from renewables.

They used population projections and increased standard of living projections to determine the amount of power for both electricity and transportation needed in 2030.

Result: 10.5 terawatts (TW).

They surveyed the world’s available energy sites to determine how much power was available.

They report that:
1) Solar power in sunny locations can power the entire world for all purposes 30 times over.
2) Wind in windy locations on or near land can power the world 6 to 15 times over.
3) Only 0.4% of the entire planet’s physical land would be needed to power everyone, everywhere with wind, water and sunlight.

Roughly sources of power break down in the following proportions:
1.1 TW tidal, geothermal, and hydro (9%)
5.8 TW wind and wave (51%)
4.6 TW solar (PV and CSP) (40%)

At this point in time we have about 70% of the hydro installed, about 2% of the wind generation, and less than 1% of each of the others.

They acknowledge that some liquid fuel will likely be need for some types of transportation.

They calculate the amount of each technology we would have to install each year in order to reach the goal of essentially 100% renewable in 20 years.

They calculate the amount of materials needed to build renewable systems and find no significant problems meeting the need.

Here’s the entire article. (Minus the reference section.)

Thanks for the link. Did they figure what enormously powerful interests would have to be overcome to move to this alternatively powered future?

With great reductions in demand, we could probably get close to 100% renewable, perhaps even faster than their scenario.

Ultimately, though, we have to remember that our problem is not just with PO and GW. We have use all that cheap carbon energy to rape the world. If we find new, cleaner sources of energy and keep using it to rape the world, we will not be in much better shape.

Improved means to unimproved ends, anyone?

J&D spoke about the "political" barriers.

But since they published this article we're seeing large powerful corporations such as GE (turbines and PV) moving into cleantech energy.

We've seen fossil fuel interests try to block wind turbines in rather conservative states and fail because the states are starting to see the green jobs and the ranchers and farmers are enjoying leasing out bits of their land for turbines.

We're seeing all sorts of large corporations filling their rooftops with PV and even some installing their own wind turbines.

And efficiency - that is something that corporations are really starting to understand. Energy not purchased goes straight to their bottom line.

I'm a lot more hopeful than I was a couple years ago.

Hopeful about what, exactly? Utopia?

Human beings are swimming in energy, and yet we still continue to massacre each other, we still continue to climb over one another in the quest for more fiat money, we still breed like rabbits.

Wind turbines and solar panels won't change any of that.

In fact it will be amusing in the future if one could watch it from a distance. One group of apes who still run the coal and oil powered machines takes over another group of apes who just want to peacefully live in their magical gardens forever, like Adam and Eve.

Hopeful that we dodge the big climate crash bullet.

Pretty hopeful that we will get both greenhouse gases and other pollutants under control.

Pretty hopeful that we will continue to mature as a species, continuing to cast aside dictators and hereditary rulers in favor of citizen control. That's what leads to equality and peace.

Pretty hopeful that we will continue to make the societal changes which lead to lower birth rates and will enjoy lowering population levels (without relying on mass die-offs) once we peak in a few more decades.

Turbines and solar panels, along with EVs, computers, biomeds, improved crops - all that is what progress is made of. We're not a bunch of apes stuck at a pre-technological level of development. We're certainly not perfect, but anyone who thinks we are not overall improving is looking at history through opaque glasses....

Hopeful that we dodge the big climate crash bullet.

The sun is cranking out less energy ATM - when it swings back into production it'll get warmer and more crashy.

(and a nice big CME from El Sol would kick off a crash.)

The sun is cranking out less energy ATM

But, the solar modulation is pretty slight, roughly a tenth of a percent. It takes statistical analysis to detect its effect on global temps, so it won't make much difference.

I wonder how prepared we are for a well aimed CME? At least the issue has been widely publicized the past few years, but it anybody with control over grid operations actually hardening the grid?

Population growth has been slightly less than linear since the 1960's. Death rates drop first, then birth rates, that is the pattern every country has followed.

Year Birth rate Rank Percent Change Date of Information
2003 20.43 0 2003 est.
2004 20.3 0 -0.64 % 2004 est.
2005 20.15 0 -0.74 % 2005 est.
2006 20.05 0 -0.50 % 2006 est.
2007 20.09 0 0.20 % 2007 est.
2008 20.18 0 0.45 % 2008 est.
2009 19.95 0 -1.14 % 2009 est.
2010 19.86 0 -0.45 % 2009 est.
2011 19.15 0 -3.58 % 2011 est.

Births per 1,000 total population.

That's a 6.75% drop in birth rate in the last eight years.



Years TFR Years TFR
1950–1955 4.92 2000–2005 2.67
1955–1960 4.81 2005–2010 2.56
1960–1965 4.91 2010–2015 2.49
1965–1970 4.78 2015–2020 2.40
1970–1975 4.32 2020–2025 2.30
1975–1980 3.83 2025–2030 2.21
1980–1985 3.61 2030–2035 2.15
1985–1990 3.43 2035–2040 2.1
1990–1995 3.08 2040–2045 2.06
1995–2000 2.82 2045–2050 2.02

A 58.9% drop in fertility since 1950.

The averages mask the more rapid birth/fertility rates in the most developed countries.

"The replacement fertility rate is roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries (2.075 in the UK for example), but ranges from 2.5 to 3.3 in developing countries because of higher mortality rates."


"Current projections show a continued increase of population (but a steady decline in the population growth rate) with the population expected to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion in the year 2050"

"Projected figures vary depending on such things as the underlying assumptions and which variables are manipulated in projection calculations, especially the fertility variable. Such variations give long-range predictions to 2150, ranging from population decline to 3.2 billion in the 'low scenario', to high scenarios of 24.8 billion, or soaring to 256 billion assuming fertility remains at 1995 levels."


I think we can dismiss the 256 billion level as we've long dropped below 1995 fertility levels. And unless we find some way to greatly increase life span over what it now is the fact that we're below replacement levels on a worldwide basis suggests that we're headed toward peaking in a few decades, then slowly dropping.

We would be well-served by dropping birth/fertility rates lower. That would make getting past the crunch we are facing much easier.

Humans are not "breeding like rabbits." Have you ever watched rabbits breed? The problem is not high birth rates but low death rates. The world population exploded, NOT because people started breeding like rabbits; it exploded because we stopped dying like flies.

Death rates are going to go up. Where and exactly when I do not know, but the short answers are in poor societies and in much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where the poorest people in the world are still increasing in numbers due to (temporarily) lower death rates than have been the historical norm.

What would it be liek to live in a world with _no_ planet rape? What would life for the average person be like, exactly?

A recent estimate was that all humans could live sustainably today at the rate of resource use of the average Parisian of the '50's. Get population reduction going, and things improve from there.

But we certainly can't all live at the level of the average modern American, much less at the rate of the wealthiest.

There is a sweat spot where basic quality of life measures (such as low infant mortality, high literacy...) are reached while negative impacts on the long term prospects of the planet are minimized.

But basically we have to start matching sources and sinks--not taking any more out than can be regenerated. That means essentially no more extraction of fossil fuels, other fuels or minerals and no draw down of natural resources faster than their capacity to regenerate.

For most, this means:

a largely vegetarian diet (as is common for most of the world, and was even more so earlier before the much more unhealthy meat centered modern US diet became the global fad);

most items used coming from local sources

reuse, re-purposing, recycling...of minerals already available

almost total elimination of ff and uranium use as fuels

Beyond these basics, there could be a wide variety of different lifestyles and social structures that work. The only set up that doesn't work is using up the planet faster than it can regenerate resources. But that one non-functional path is the one we have very unwisely chosen.

This is doubtless to cue for all of our horribly spoiled small selves to whine, "You can't take away my XYZ, it will be the end of the world. We may as well go back to living in caves." and all the other brainwashed BS that we are prisoners of.

As the song goes, free your mind, and the rest will follow.

Does that mean absolutely no more new steel, aluminum, concrete, carbon fiber, fiberglass? What do you intend to make your bike frame and tires from?

I'm pretty sure that we'll be able to make a lot of bike frames by recycling useless junk, like cars. Gotta do something with them and they're too big for planters, in most gardens.


Bamboo Bike Studio

Yeah, really -- if there's no growth, then we've got all the metal we need already mined. The only reason we mine more is because of growth. So without growth...

I think you are confused. Growth measures current production, not the amount of stuff we possess.

I need to see some evidence of a little more thought going into the proposition than that. Really. What rate of recovery for metal recycling are you using? Time frame is simply your lifetime?

This sort of nonsense is what gives sustainability promotion a bad name. And I've probably known about the "bamboo bike" as long as you have. Cute, but don't sell your horse.

So then are you suggesting that even with no growth at all, no more increase in population, no more increase in amount of "stuff" wanted on average, then we would still need to "unsustainably" mine more metal?

Growth is the acceleration of production of stuff. With zero growth, there is a steady production of new stuff. The decommissioning of old stuff may or may not be done quicker.

Also, metal rusts and get lost in other ways.

So what do you propose would be needed here, to reduce the needed amount of mining?

To reduce mining cannot be a goal in itself. Mining provides us with needed resources, so the more, the better.

However, if we for some reason (energy scarcity, for instance) find ourselves unable to do much mining, then we need to keep the market economy functioning, so that our resource use gets optimized, scrap metal has the correct prices and so on.

The only reason we mine more is because of growth.

A lot is lost to the system. Just look at those mountains of tsunami debris in Japan. How much of the basic materials do you think will get recyled? Add in all the flooded (or soon to be flooded) structures along the Mississippi, with undoubtedly an even lower recycle rate. Even with great care, iron/steel rusts, and some of that rust washes away -i.e. we can't collect 100% of the iron and 100% of the rust and make the same amount. A true steady state economy would still be mining stuff, albet at a lower rate than present.

Bob - Did they also calculate the amount of capital required to make this transition? And the source of these monies? I can readily accept the validity of the plan without further analysis becaus it's not worth the effort UMHO. No plan, regardless of its viabilty and need, is of any value if there isn't sufficient capital to fund it. There have been countless tech solutions to our situation posted on TOD. I've yet to see one big scheme offered along with a viable source of funding. Some small viable projects for sure but nothing on a scale to make a difference IMHO.

The capital required to make this transition?

Did you consider the fact that we are currently using a lot of older plants to produce our electricity and will have to replace them with something one way or another? So rather than building a new coal plant, new coal trains, etc. we build wind turbines, solar farms, geothermal plants, ....

We turn over our vehicle fleet for most part within two decades. What's the difference in cost if we build EVs rather than ICEVs? Plus look at the immense amount of money we save on petroleum. In the US we would save well over a billion dollars a day by getting off oil. A trillion dollars in less than three years.

If we are now paying around $0.20/kWh for coal-generated electricity and over $0.10/kWh for nuclear-generated electricity and can replace that with <$0.10/kWh renewable-generated electricity do we need to ask where the capital comes from? Especially since we can build and bring on line wind turbines and solar panels in only months, letting them produce a cash flow which returns our capital in a reasonable amount of time. The capital will come from people with money to invest.

Bob - A valid point about the replacement issue. But the relacements are being done now. I've already mentioned a new coal-fired plant going in on top of a small NG field I'm crrently developing. It's also just a few miles from the S Texas nuclear plant which had a $48 billion expansion planned before the problems in Japan.

Again, I'm not arguing against your logic. But those folks chose to spend many, many billions on the coal and nuke development. Not your alternatives. Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly: there is a lot of private capex out there. But the vasy majority isn't going towards your solutions. So again, where is that part of the biz plan that brings this capex into play? Understand: I'm not saying yours isn't a better plan. What I don't see is the capital moving that direction. At least not voluntarially. Now if the govt demanded all coal and NG plants be shut down in X years and no replacement built it would be a different matter. But bear in mind that coal-fired plant I mentned above just got final approval from the current fed govt. BTW: the never ending trains will be hauling coal from Illinois all the way down to the Texas coast. Nice to have friends from the Land of Lincoln, eh? If the current administration prefers coal over you alts what chance do you think your model will have when the R's shift back into power?

So please understand: I'm not knocking you or your hopes. I'm taking a shot at our system. Good intension just aren't enough to level the playing field IMHO.

Wish we had some replacement data at hand. You know about one coal plant being built. I know of some coal plants being replaced by natural gas burners and others converted to biomass. But I don't have totals.

(TVA is shutting down what amounts to 6% of our total coal production, I seem to remember.)

I do know (I think this accurate) that we have not permitted nor licensed a new coal plant in the US for the last two years. Instead we are either avoiding new plants via conservation or moving to NG and renewables. All the coal plants now being completed were started before wind and solar reached their current price points.

We certainly haven't built any new nuclear plants and are very unlikely to build more than two in the next decade. (And I wouldn't bet that even those two will get built.)

If you look at the big energy companies like Duke and Exelon, they are getting heavily involved in wind and solar. They aren't building coal or nuclear. What push for coal or nuclear that exists seems to come from "conservative" politicians and the fossil fuel/nuclear industries, not from those who invest money in electricity generation in order to make profits.

In the United States, the share of renewables in new capacity additions skyrocketed from 2 percent in 2004 to 55 percent in 2009, with no new nuclear coming on line. In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines (193 gigawatts*), biomass and waste-to-energy plants (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 GW prior to the Fukushima disaster. Total investment in renewable energy technologies has been estimated at $243 billion in 2010.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011.

Now, that "installed capacity" for renewables is nameplate, not output so it's not good to read that quote to mean that we're getting more electricity from renewables than from nuclear at this point in time, but it is important to look where the investments are going. Two hundred and forty-three billion is hardly chicken feed, especially considering that we are emerging from a very significant economic hole.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we've turned a corner and most new energy money, be it replacement or new generation, is flowing to renewables (and natural gas), not coal and nuclear.

And, as this article points out, NG prices are likely only temporarily low. As NG demand grows prices will increase and at the same time the cost of wind turbines and solar panels will continue to drop.

Wind, solar, geothermal, etc. are fuel-free. Generation methods which depend on extraction fuels can't compete with a source that pays roughly the same for infrastructure and zero for fuel. Coal plants are expensive to build and require fuel. Gas plants are cheap to build but they require fuel.

Gas plants will likely continue to be built, but pushed into dispatchable service for those times when wind and solar are not available. And then, later, they will likely be largely replaced by storage.

So back to the original question that started this page - no, I don't think natural gas will power the 21st Century. I think it will play a significant role during the first half, but drop in importance during the second.

NG prices are likely only temporarily low. As NG demand grows prices will increase and at the same time the cost of wind turbines and solar panels will continue to drop.

A few data points. Research is being done to enable 10-20MW wind turbines. This is being done to decrease the cost per MW. And bigger turbines are also taller ones, which means the wind reliablity will go up (wind is stronger and steadier as you go higher up)...

Then panel manufacturing prices are moving downwards at an almost shocking rate. FirstSolar claims $.75/watt, and the near term roadmap has $.55-$.60 penciled in for just a few years from now. AltaDevices aims for $.50, and claims 30% efficiency to boot. And this is the first year that concentrated PV plants of any size are being built (we'll see if they can compete against cheap flat panels [IMHO no]). So the other manufacturers are under unprecedented price pressure as well. So complaints that these sources are too pricy, mainly derive from fossil fuel misinformation, who want to compare yesterdays, solar (or wind), because tomorrows will be shockingly affordable, and they don't want the public to know that.

Data on construction of coal plants is easy to find - it is all here;


In 2010, there was 6,682MW of coal that came online - the largest build of coal in 25 years!
In 2011, 2500MW will com online and another 4500MW in 2012 (these are all ones currently under construction).
There is 3500MW permitted for 2013 and another 2000MW permitted for 2014.

There has been as much again as ll this "announced" but that doesn't mean anything until it is permitted.

So, basically, there will be about 20,000MW of coal coming online from 2010 to 2014.

Wind for the same period is expected to be about 19,000MW, but accounting for capacity factor, this is really equivalent to about 6000MW of coal, or 1/3rd as much. There have been lots of wind plans "announced", but again, that doesn't mean anything, really.

And just to ruin your day completely, over the same period, China will commission about 130,000MW of coal fired generation!

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we've turned a corner and most new energy money, be it replacement or new generation, is flowing to renewables (and natural gas), not coal and nuclear.

Wish it were otherwise, but you are, unfortunately, wrong.

One of the reasons is that it is easy to build coal and NG where the elec demand is. Look at the map in that report and you will see a lot in the southeast, where the wind resource is very average - it just can;t compete.

There is lots of wind generation planned for the PNW (10,000MW over next five years), but there is no transmission capacity to get the juice into California. And any attempt to build it is opposed by all and sundry in Ca, and gets tied up in the courts for years.
Even as we speak, wind turbines in the PNW are in forced shutdown, dams are overflowing and every power line to anywhere from there is running full, and then some.

So to build more wind, you need more lines. To build more coal and (especially) NG, you can build it very close to the load centres, and that is what is happening.

in 2009, wind electricity for the first time, produced more than biomass electricity {source EIA

But as a primary energy source, wood is still 2.5% of primary energy and wind is 1.1% - it has a *long* way to go!

there is a lot of private capex out there. But the vasy majority isn't going towards your solutions. So again, where is that part of the biz plan that brings this capex into play?

Add carbon taxes. The taxes should be national, but there should be an agreed global floor, and each climate summit's primary function should be to raise that floor. (Or better, agree on a tax hike schedule.) The goal should be to get up to at least 5 cents/kg CO2 over a 20 year time frame. That would add $0.5/gal gas and $0.05/kWh to the cost of coal electricity.

I saw a presentation about meeting the US's electricity through Silicon based PV, they said that it would take the financial capital, employment, et al of the following companies:
(1) apple, (2) intel, (3) TI, (4) Motorola, (5) AMD, (6) HP. They would essentially stop doing what they are doing and convert to PV manufacturing. The Wind solution was by taking
all the car manufacturers in the US, John Deere, CAT, and getting them to stop doing their normal products and making wind turbines. I believe it was for 10 years. A WW2 equivalent
conversion effort.

First, we'd have to get incredibly more scared than we are right now to commit to a ten year get-off-fossils program. I'd bet on a rate that looks like forty years but is likely to speed up as time goes on and ice melts faster.

When we start having to build dikes around our coastal cities our attention is likely to focus.

Second, who says we would stop making iPods and Caterpillars? Might not we have a great period with lots of manufacturing during which many of us have great jobs?

Just take the >$365 billion we spend on imported oil and add that to what we routinely spend to replace existing power plants and think about how our factories could hum once more....

Pull back a bit if you are capable and look at the big picture.
The USA is not the world. One country alone burns over 3.5 billion tonnes of coal annually with aspirations to burn 4 billion and more.

What do you think would happen if the USA stopped buying oil?
In your dreams do you see the rest of the world not taking up the slack?
Cheap oil would be back on the market and economies based outside the USA would take immediate advantage.

If the USA didn't need coal it would export it, the same goes for oil and gas.
The world will continue to burn fossil fuels until that pursuit is no longer viable. Windmills and electric vehicles will not as you proudly proclaim substitute for fossil fuels. All they do is extend our ability and the time we have to burn it all.

What that means for AGW is the death of us all. Sixty years ago we should have been well underway to getting off FF's before we doubled the population. In that time the world has become accustomed to cheap energy, it's now an impossible task to voluntarily change.

Electric substitution, unless accompanied with a plan to take off the market permanently an equivalent amount of FF's, is nothing more than a plan to enable us to eat longer at the table of hydrocarbon energy.


Can't you decide to not export coal? That all oil will be used up is quite likely, but we can and should phase out coal. It's not that difficult.

As I said, carbon taxes with an agreed global floor can fix this.

Under NAFTA we can't stop the export of coal to Canada and Mexico, don't know about other treaty arrangements. I suspect Canada doesn't want the coal.

Mexico might be a different situation when they are no longer exporting oil. If anyone has the data handy on a breakdown of their use of oil that would
be interesting. Any possibility of internal substitution in Mexico of Coal for oil would be useful.

In the US the easy one (technically) would be the replacement of fuel oil for heating which in 2009 was 4.4 billion gallons (down 26% from 2005)

In economic production, the binding constraints are knowhow (technology) and real capital--machines, tools, trucks, computers, railways, trucks, etc. Finding financial capital has seldom been a barrier for developing profitable opportunities. If push comes to shove, the Federal Reserve can always buy more Treasury securities and thereby create (quite literally) unlimited amounts of financial capital.

Financial capital is not very scarce in the U.S. at the present time, and I question the extent to which it will become more scarce in the future. (And yes, my MBA is in Finance.)

Show me a profitable opportunity, and I'll find you the money--and pick up a hefty finders-fee in the transaction. There is tons of financial capital (i.e. money) seeking profitable opportunities for investment. Now I know that Gail the actuary disagrees with me on this issue, and I have a great deal of respect for her, but what she is talking about is a scarcity of financial capital IN THE FUTURE. In the present, there is plenty of financial capital.

If you have a good drilling prospect for gas or oil, you will be able to find the money with little trouble. Similarly, if you can show good payback and internal rate of return (or present value) numbers, you can build any amount of wind turbines or PV or CSP.

There are plenty of things to worry about. IMO, shortage of financial capital is not one of them.

In economic production, the binding constraints are knowhow (technology) and real capital--machines, tools, trucks, computers, railways, trucks, etc. Finding financial capital has seldom been a barrier for developing profitable opportunities.

Thanks, I've been trying to say this, but mostly p[eople don't want to hear it.

And that has been my experience continuing to the present.

I agree with your statement FOR THE TIME BEEING. But some people (ecomomists and politicians among others) need to learn from the beuty industry: There are a hughe demand for an anti-wrincle cream. So large that they can sell pretenders in place of the real stuff. But despite a market with billions of any currency of your choise in it, loads of research going on since before they built the pyramids there are no such thing. As far as we know yet, it can't be done.

Lesson learnt is; it has to be physiclypossible, or it won't be done. Wich is why we will not drill ourselfs out of the energy crisis, nor "renew" us out. Laws of physics do not allow it.

But in all of this there are still opportunities for a smart investor to make boatloads of cash lingering around.

Show me a profitable opportunity, and I'll find you the money--and pick up a hefty finders-fee in the transaction. There is tons of financial capital (i.e. money) seeking profitable opportunities for investment.

Example of the finders fee in solving the energy problem:

30 percent – Investment banks often buy up carbon offsets before a project is up and running, and they take an average 30 percent of the total in profits and operations.
15 percent – Shareholders of the companies putting the offset project together tend to take 15 percent in profits.
15 percent – Taxes, bank interest and fees.
10 percent – The margin normally taken by the retailer of carbon offsets, who sells them to corporations, individuals and other entities.

Only 30% goes to the actual project.

Another example
A $250 million project becomes 5 billion because of the monied interests.

And they're getting better at it all the time. Compare any estimate of a large construction project from 10 or 15 yrs ago to now. Unit costs are up far more than the input costs have risen.

Bob Wallace notes that there is plenty of renewable energy, and cites a Scientific American article by Jacobson and Delucchi. In “A Path to Sustainable energy by 2030” they show convincingly that powering the world with their measures is infeasible. The current infrastructure required a century of investment: the authors cite World War II as an example of the industrial effort needed to replace it in 20 years. The civilian economy was put on hold then; no civilian automobiles were made, no tires, no toasters. Such a reorienting of resources cannot be sustained for two decades. WWII’s production, and the interstate highway system, required huge quantities of cheap domestic oil (the key factor neglected in the article). The new infrastructure must be built while maintaining the current economy, all on a declining oil base.
Producing 3.8 million wind turbines in 20 years means 520 every day, each a major industrial project with blades 100 meters across, each generating 1/200 as much power as one fossil fuel powerplant. Each turbine must be sited, NIMBY objections overcome, installed and hooked to an expanded electrical grid. Don’t even think about the 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems costing twice as much per KwH as wind. The capital required for all of this is on top of that required to maintain the current economy.
The article missed some obvious and more cost-effective options, though. In areas that do not freeze (home to more than a quarter of the US population), simple rooftop or backyard solar heaters can supply most hot water, a significant fraction of home energy use. Good insulation and passive solar designs can nearly eliminate need for heating in those areas, and reduce it in others, at less cost than the energy otherwise required. Electricity demand would still far exceed the authors’ estimates, though, as it would have to replace most other uses of fossil fuels. No combination of renewables comes close to replacing them, so per-person use must decline. Further, population increase will eat up any savings if growth is allowed to continue – in the end the problem isn’t too little energy, but too many people.
I sent a letter to this effect to Scientific American. It wasn't published, of course.

Yep, and http://www.energyadvocate.com/sokal.pdf (PDF) is another neat article putting it all together.

Jacobson and Delucchi point out that we could switch to renewables in 20 years were we motivated to do so.

We aren't. At least not at the moment.

Many climate scientists are telling us that we have to get mostly off fossil fuels in 40 years. That's only half as hard. I'll bet that we build slowly for a while but in 10-20 years from now when more old fogies die off and more people get really worried about the water washing around in the streets of New York, Miami, etc. we'll apply force to accelerator.

J&D didn't dwell on ways to cut energy uses, there's only so much one can put into a journal article least it turn into a book. Certainly efficiency is a major tool we can, and should, use to get ourselves off fossil fuels. Switching from incandescent bulbs alone would allow us to close many coal burning plants.

Population increase will only be an energy problem if we try to supply those extra people with fossil fuel energy. If we set them down the path toward 100% renewable then they can have lights and a TV without driving us all into caves.

The capital required is not on top of what is required to maintain the current system. A large part of it will be re-purposed capital. No need to rebuild worn out coal/nuclear plants, use that capital to build wind/solar/geothermal/storage.

We will need no additional capital to transform our personal transportation system aside from what is being spent on the initial battery plants. After that the capital will come from selling EVs rather than selling ICEVs. And we'll save trillions by not purchasing oil from outside our boarders.

Many climate scientists are telling us that we have to get mostly off fossil fuels in 40 years. That's only half as hard.

I'd say its much less than half as hard (as 20years). Thats because we are climbing major learning curves on renewable generation (and have barely even started on the energy storage learning curve). And 20years would require a very very rapid rampup, meaning we gotta commit bigtime to designs before they've been adaquately tested, but with a somewhat longer timeframe you can avoid a lot of the haste makes waste problems.

You've made some good points over the last few minutes.

In terms of renewables, we may still be in "Model T"-land. We're debating how long it will take a rather primitive car to replace horses.

As time goes along the "Model A with its electric starter, fuel pump, heater, windshield wiper and roll down windows" will likely appear and we'll jump to a better technology and accelerate our installations.

In the meantime we can go ahead with our Model Ts and avoid a lot of horse poop....

We can do without cars for the most part, but the main issues are heavy transport trucks, tractors, mining equipment, construction equipment and ships. These things use diesel exclusively and no electric powered replacements are on the drawing boards, as far as I know.

There's clearly sufficient fossil fuels remaining to handle rationally electrified agriculture (eg. let the unit energy cost of fossils go above electricity and see how fast farmers will get creative). Transport also, electrify main rail lines, re-open a lot of sideline railroads, implement short-trip hybrid delivery trucking.....

Obviously one would hope that some policy incentive would be put in place to keep the farmers away from puting grain crops into liquid fuels for usless purposes.

I think the demand for biofuels in general and soybean-oil biodiesel is going to be strong enough that substantial acreages will go into producing biofuels. The demand for liquid fuels is strong enough to expand biofuel production ten or twenty fold, plus I expect to see coal to liquids greatly expanding over the next twenty years as oil imports diminish and approach zero.

Please note that I do not advocate these things happening, but my education in finance and economics suggests that they will happen--and happen fast when the results of westexas's ELM really begin to bite in a very few years. CTL will, I think, be much bigger than biofuels--at least for the next twenty years. Indeed, I think CTL will be "the next big thing" in the oil industry. After all, Germany kept a huge war machine going on CTL during World War II; the U.S. could do what Germany did and ramp up CTL quite rapidly.

Just looking at things from a purely economic position, in places where transportation can be electrified can biofuels or natural gas compete?

Let's take a high cost for electricity, the US average of $0.1275/kWh. (EV charging will likely be done with cheaper off-peak power, but let's put our thumbs on the liquid fuel side of the balance.)

An EV like the Nissan Leaf or BYD e6 uses about 0.35kWh/mile which works out to $0.045/mile.

If you were driving a 50MPG hybrid on bio-fuel you'd have to be able to fuel it for $2.25/gallon(all prices exclusive of taxes). Can anyone grow, refine and distribute bio-fuel for that amount?

How about natural gas? I haven't found any numbers online which were very convincing.


Taking off thumb - off peak electricity should fall well below ten cents per as we move to TOU billing.

Then, with a liquid fuel vehicle you are going to have additional costs such as oil/filter changes and more frequent brake rebuilds.

Liquid fuels represent Business As Usual. IMO, we are going to do everything one can imagine (and some things we cannot now imagine) to maintain BAU. Natural gas to liquids, sure. CTL, big time. Biofuels--at least ten times current levels and maybe twenty times within twenty years.

I love the idea of driving an electric car. My son plans to buy a Chevvy Volt next year; maybe after ten years or so he will let me adopt that car for my final years of driving. But we are going to stay with liquid fueled ICE engines longer than most people on TOD think we are, IMO.

Some people will do everything they can to continue to do business as usual. They'll do so either because they don't like change or because they're poor with math.

But for those of us who are going to make our decision based on checking account balance, are we going to pay more to keep driving ICEVs? Sure,if we can get some kind of fuel at something sort of affordable we'll keep our purchased ICEV on the road, but when it's time to go shopping?

IMHO, based on frequent and consistent statements in the car and battery manufacturing businesses, EVs will drop to about the level of ICEVs in the next few years. And perhaps lower. It's all about economies of scale, there's no more material or labor inputs to batteries/electric motors than internal combustion engines with their fuel, cooling and exhaust systems.

So, back to my question. Is there any indication that either biofuels or natural gas will be able to beat three to four cents per mile?

Who's going to spend $20k for a gas Ford Focus that costs ten cents a mile to drive (40mpg and $4/gallon fuel) if they can get a electric Ford Focus for $20k and drive it for four cents a mile?

That would be over $700 a year for the average US 12,000-mile driver. Not counting oil/filter changes.

I don't see how bio-fuel production could be increased in the U.S where about a quarter of all corn goes to bio-fuel. I suppose Brazil could expand its bio-fuel production 10 fold.

Soy fuel for hybrid tanked diesel vehicles.

It's now almost half.

Someone made a good illustrating example;

We know we ca make electricity from solar energy.
We know we can make pottable water from salt-water and electricity.
We know we can grow crops in deserts if we have irrigation.

So; why is not yet North Africa turned into meadows and fruit plantations if all technology to do so exists already?

Because it is very hard to scale up these things.

It's not done because you would need to irrigate a lot of land and distill a lot of water. It's possible to distill a lot of water but you would need a big energy source and quite a bit of land area.

Ah, but North Africa has plenty of land area, and about as much solar energy as it is possible to find on the surface of the planet. And the Mediterranean, of course.

So, why, really, is it not happening?

I suppose it's doable, but it would be a very large scale project. This project in Dubai, UAE - http://www.zawya.com/projects/project.cfm/pid110307063924?cc will be the largest desalination plant in the world when completed, with production of 300 million metric tons / year of desalinated water. The project uses a 2 GW power source.

Apparently Singapore relies heavily on desalinated water at a cost of 0.50 cents a cubic meter.

Mind you, I'm not an expert (far from it) in these issues - so I can't answer your question. You should ask a qualified project leader working on some of these projects to get an answer. :-)

Why? Likely some combination of:

a) The technology is relatively very new in any cost-effective form.

b) North Africa, where the solar resources are, is fairly dominated by gas producers (Algeria) and oil producers (Libya).

A lot has to do with costs. Saudis were experimenting with desalination (oil powered I think) to grow wheat. Its just too darned expensive. Even if we get $.50/watt solar panels, i dount desalinated water is cheap enough to grow desert plants. Maybe to keep a few golf course green so the elites can play, but bigtime crops is a much tougher proposition.

It takes about 1000 tons of water to grow a ton of wheat. It's pretty much impossible to make the economics of that work using desalination. It is much cheaper to grow the grain in some place which actually get rainfall. That is why the Saudis are buying up farmland in other countries.

It's pretty much impossible to make the economics of that work using desalination.

Ahh, but not if you are in central California! Their plant is to build two 1600MW Areva nuke plants to desalinate salty groundwater at Fresno, for irrigated farming (about 50,000ac) . They will sell the electricity as a "side product" - yeah right. Value of the produce from the land - about $5m per year. How long does that take to pay of $20b of nuke plant!

Anyway, it just goes to show that California can still come up with loony schemes;


Anyway, it just goes to show that California can still come up with loony schemes...

Oh, yeah, we're second best in the world at loony, right behind Hayek & the Chicago Boys.

However, I think they are actually proposing a CSP facility for desalination. Nukes are in the background/future, in some way I don't remember.

Anyway, I hereby boldly predict that nobody is going to build any new nukes in California for a long time. You can take that to the bank (but it would be smarter to invest in tools, land, stored food, a cooperative bakery or bicycle shop in a pleasant neighborhood...).

Hmmmm, I wonder how the Saudis will feel when those nations nationalise the foreign owned land to feed their own people.


They will feel hunger, then starvation for millions. In twenty years food will be so precious that the trading ratio will be roughly a bushel of wheat for a barrel of sweet light crude.

KSA needs imports of food way more than any nation needs imports of Saudi oil. We can find substitutes for oil, but there are no substitutes for food. KSA is hugely overpopulated and has an extremely high rate of population growth. Given westexas's ELM model, Saudi exports of oil will diminish, at first gradually (as in recent years), then faster and faster. The exact year that oil exports from KSA stop does not matter, but that year is one that I may live to see if I live to age ninety. This year I'm seventy-one years old.

I've come to belive they will have to keep exporting. Keep it away from their own population, by force if necesary. If they don't export, they have no bargain chips with wich to make us (I live in food surplus territory so I can say "us") send them our food. In declining amonts off course but they will simply have to.

Of course, if you want to grow crops using seawater, you could just find plants that will actually grow using the seawater directly.

There is a whole branch of terrestrial plants called halophytes that can grow using saline or sea water.
They actually desalinate the water themselves to use fresh water for their metabolism. Why build a solar powered desal plant when you can have the plants do it themselves? This actually takes more solar energy to do this (you can't get around 2nd law of thermodynamics), but let's face it, sunshine is not a limiting factor for growing plants by the sea.

There is a family of plants in Australia called saltbush that are halophytes, and grow on salt scaled ground - they are well know as excellent sheep and cattle feed. the plants secrete the salt under their leaves, so having the stock eat them saves the farmer on buying salt block!

A promising crop plant is Salicornia Bigelovii, also called pickleweed, a native to N. America, that can be irrigated with seawater;

The terrestrial halophyte, Salicornia bigelovii Torr., was evaluated as an oilseed crop for direct seawater irrigation during 6 years of field trials in an extreme coastal desert environment. Yields of seed and biomass equated or exceeded freshwater oilseed crops such as soybean and sunflower. The seed contained 26 to 33 percent oil, 31 percent protein, and was low in fiber and ash (5 to 7 percent). The oil and meal were extracted by normal milling equipment, and the oil was high in linoleic acid (73 to 75 percent) and could replace soybean oil in chicken diets. The meal had antigrowth factors, attributed to saponins, but could replace soybean meal in chicken diets amended with the saponin antagonist, cholesterol. Salicornia bigelovii appears to be a potentially valuable new oilseed crop for subtropical coastal deserts.

{emphasis mine} [source]

So, why not let the plants do the work for you - a self replicating, carbon negative solution. It's just not wheat or corn, that's all.

Enemy and Rocky, I think you are setting up a straw (wheat) man that is easy to blow over in this particular thread of discussion.

Hard to see wheat being economically grown in the desert using desalinated water from anything other a than a nearly free energy supply like nuclear fusion. On the other hand, there are highly efficient forms of agriculture that use very little water and recycle what they use.

The prime example is AQUAPONICS, the co-cultivation of fish and produce. The primary energy input into the system is solar, and the efficiency is such that a single 120' x 30' greenhouse can supply the majority of food to feed a small family year-round. Now if you refine the process with a second greenhouse to grow fast growing algae-like duckweed as the food for the fish, you have a nearly closed cycle biosphere which can run indefinitely with little fossil fuel fertilizer input. It is a solar collector that produces food rather than electricity.

And yes, supplying water from desalination would make little difference to the annualized cost of production.

There's something wrong here - it would take quite a bit more than 0.4% of the world land area to develop 11 TW (more or less) of power from wind and solar.

Factor into that, that you would literally have to double (and probably far more) that land area needed because you have to dig up the stuff to make the solar panels, wind turbines and their service roads, transformer substations, main and peripheral electric grids and upgrades to the end-user wiring; the land and materials to make the factories that make the wind turbines and solar panels (plus transformers and electric grid); the materials, land, and the factories to make the machines that dig up the raw materials, make the factories, and transport the finished product to their final position.

It's this production multiplier factor that makes a real large scale project of getting terawatts out of wind and solar into a super-duper large scale project. That just covers the production side - then you have the electric batteries needed for the electric cars, trucks and buses, etc.

And all this is only really becomes doable when the costs of setting this up come down enough to make it worthwhile as compared to conventional natural gas and coal power. Add on top of that the real difficulty of getting access to land. It's not like the wild west anymore where land could just be seized by claiming it on sight (or bought for a very small sum). Land is almost completely owned and used for something now and must be bought before it can be developed for something else.

In fact, I'd say the only way a super large scale renewable energy project can be done is by using land that is not being used for anything else (and thus cheap) - and that's in the world's deserts: the Mojave in North America, the Sahara in Africa, and the Gobi in China, and perhaps in Saudi Arabia which is pretty much desert. This would lend an international character to the effort as power lines would have to be run long distances.

And all this is only really becomes doable when the costs of setting this up come down enough to make it worthwhile as compared to conventional natural gas and coal power.

If you accept the principal of personal responsibility, that each should pay for the mess they make, and extend it to corporations then let's do the math.

The wholesale price of coal-electricity in the US somewhere around $0.05/kWh. But if you add in the

The United States' reliance on coal to generate almost half of its electricity, costs the economy about $345 billion a year in hidden expenses not borne by miners or utilities, including health problems in mining communities and pollution around power plants, a study found.

Those costs would effectively triple the price of electricity produced by coal-fired plants, which are prevalent in part due to the their low cost of operation, the study led by a Harvard University researcher found.

"This is not borne by the coal industry, this is borne by us, in our taxes," said Paul Epstein, a Harvard Medical School instructor and the associate director of its Center for Health and the Global Environment, the study's lead author.

"The public cost is far greater than the cost of the coal itself. The impacts of this industry go way beyond just lighting our lights."

Coal-fired plants currently supply about 45 percent of the nation's electricity, according to U.S. Energy Department data. Accounting for all the ancillary costs associated with burning coal would add about 18 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of electricity from coal-fired plants, shifting it from one of the cheapest sources of electricity to one of the most expensive.


The $345 billion annual cost figure was the study's best estimate of the costs associated with burning coal. The study said the costs could be as low as $175 billion or as high as $523 billion.

"This is effectively a subsidy borne by asthmatic children and rain-polluted lakes and the climate is another way of looking at it," said Kert Davies, research director with the environmental activist group Greenpeace. "It's a tax by the industry on us that we are not seeing in our bills but we are bearing the costs."


Full cost accounting puts the price of coal-electricity over $0.20/kWh, perhaps as high as a quarter per.

What this is telling us is that we are shifting costs from our utility bills to our health care bills and taxes. It's part of the problem we're having figuring out how to save Medicare for future generations.

Add on top of that the real difficulty of getting access to land.

There are some NIMBY problems and some 'not the best place, environmentally' issues that arise, but overall wind and solar are not having problems finding places to put turbines and solar panels.

Ranchers and farmers are loving wind turbines. It's a guaranteed income source that uses a very small percentage of their land and gives them a per acre profit that is many multiple times what they can earn from beef or crops. Efforts to halt turbines in conservative states have been squashed by ranch/farm interests.

Solar panels meed little resistance in rooftop installations outside of some upscale neighborhoods. Commerical buildings are either installing rooftop/parking lots for their own use or leasing out their space to solar companies and gaining a new income source.

Solar is a great use for wasted farm land, such as in the southern end of CA's Central Valley. It's great for industrial brownfields.

Europe is starting to link to North Africa and install solar in the vast deserts on the other side of the Med. (Read up on Desertec.)

Wind is moving offshore where the wind is best and the towers sit on the ocean floor or float.

And, think of the land that won't be spoiled with open pit coal mines, mountain top removal, and uranium mines. We're going to use less land for renewables than we would have if we stuck with fossil and nuclear sources.

Sure, I agree with pretty much everything you say. Wind and solar is the way to go, no doubt about it. However, I've been following the installed capacity of wind and solar and they are still a small fraction of the energy component compared to everything else. Right now it looks like wind is really going ahead of solar. The total land area needed is still going to be enormous for terawatts of renewable power.

The cars that replaced horses rolled off the assembly lines one at a time. Before long there were enough companies producing cars that horses quickly faded into the background as a form of personal transportation.

Look at the rates of wind and solar installation and you will see accelerating, not linear plots.


Land use - look for the Jacobson and Delucchi data I sites elsewhere in this discussion.

I have looked at them.

This is a bad analogy Bob. ICE cars replaced horses because cars were fast, have a long range, were more powerful and more comfortable than riding a horse - plus you didn't need to keep a horse stable and hay, which wasn't possible for most city folk without a good income. EV cars have far less range than a typical ICE vehicle, are less powerful in general and are typically smaller in size, and recharging stations are far less available. It is true that an ICE is a dinosaur because as we oil drum posters know, oil is going to become fairly scarce and very expensive soon (it is already) - so the risk of an ICE vehicle bought today just sitting rusting while petrol stations close down in 10 years is a distinct possibility.

Now I know the first cars had a lot of problems and weren't even that fast - but the issues remain. EV's are just not as of right now attractive to buyers who value the qualities I mentioned above, unless they know of the future issues of availability of cheap gas/diesel.

Now for a person like me, who walks or rides a bike in fairly poor condition, an electric vehicle of any type looks quite attractive - but how to sell them to the masses ?

ICEVs appeared long before they really replaced horses. They were of limited use at first, mainly in towns that had decent streets and no steep hills. Over time they improved and horses disappeared.

Fueling started by dipping gas out of drums. It progressed to hand cranked pumps mounted on drums. And later to gas stations as we know them.

EVs, right now, work for a significant percentage of US drivers. All those households with two or more cars where on is used for <100 mile per day driving could easily be served by a 100 mile range Nissan Leaf.

Toss in those people who don't drive a lot and use public transportation when they take longer trips. Lots of older people here, they drive to the store but fly to visit/vacation.

Most people have an electrical outlet in their garage or on the side of their house. A 240vac outlet does not cost much to install. We are already installing rapid charge stations between selected cities, installing 'electric corridors'.

Can you see how the analogy holds?

How do you sell EVs to the masses? First we have to get the initial costs down and that should come from higher manufacturing volumes which we should hit in 2012 -2014.

As soon as you can buy a Ford Focus EV for about the same price as a Ford gas burner they will sell themselves. Cost of driving, not having to visit gas stations, and not getting jerked around by oil prices will take care of that.

Small quibble: in most circumstances I'd not want to actually count on more than half or conceivably two-thirds of the nameplate range. Very hot weather, very cold weather, orange barrels and detours that pop up without warning, lengthy stop-and-go delays due to accidents, the need to stop off somewhere on the way home. All that plus battery wear and the occasional less-than-ideal charging cycle.

BYD is reporting (at the end of one year's use, avg. 36,400 miles) that their EV taxi fleet has averaged >160 miles per charge while mostly being 'rapidly recharged'.

With rapid recharging one generally cuts off at 80%, so if their e6 has a 200 mile range those numbers make sense. And they report no battery damage with mostly rapid recharging.

Cold weather, I'm not convinced that's going to be a real problem. EV batteries cast off heat as they are being used. Ford, Tesla, and GM use liquid cooling systems and Nissan uses air cooling. That suggests to me that if one can pre-heat their batteries in the coldest of climates (simple if you're plugged in) then the batteries will take care of the cold while driving.

Volvo has added an ethanol heater to their C30 EV that will heat the batteries and passenger compartment. You might recall that one could add a gas heater to the VW Bug if you lived somewhere really cold.

AC might be a bigger problem than heating. But some significant passenger space insulation should help a lot. Something more than a vinyl headliner between passengers and steel roof, for example. And remember that you're not sitting next to a heat producing engine.

The Leaf, and I think Volt, can be pre-cooled while plugged in. That should help a lot.

Stop and goes are where EVs shine. They burn nothing while stopped.

"They burn nothing while stopped."

True, but you'll expend extra energy starting and stopping the mass, compared to moving at a steady speed. Even with regen brakes, they're far from perfect. And in most US places in summer many folks will need A/C when stopped, to avoid a health danger (due possibly to age, medications, or even simply the great heat that can build up in stopped traffic in calm air over a dark asphalt surface.) And if you're trying to cut it too close, every little bit counts. So it's simple: best not to cut it too close.

Even with regen brakes, they're far from perfect.

The number i heard for the Prius Nickle metal hydride is 60% efficiency for a round trip. Supposed Li-Ion (which I think is planned for the plugin model) has a roundtrip efficiency (regen brake to accell) of 90%. If we had an ultracapacitor to absorb simple stop/starts the efficency could be in the high nineties. Unfortunately ultracaps are still pretty pricy, and capacity is low enough you really want a battery as well -especially if you wanna go the plugin route.

Once we get cheap flexible PV, covering the roof and hood with it will make sense. That would add a few hundred watts on a sunny day, gaining you maybe a mile or mile and a half per hour of sunshine. A useful increment to your range(?), but again if you count on it and the clouds roll in, oops!

Something more than a vinyl headliner between passengers and steel roof, for example.

I measured the inside ceiling temp on my Prius (a light colored car, using reflective shades on the dash, and windows cracked an inch), at 140F in the afternoon. And that is like one inch from my head! He obviously has a real point here. Of course once your traveling, wind flow will cool your vehicles exterior to something closer to ambient temp.

You might recall that one could add a gas heater to the VW Bug if you lived somewhere really cold.

and it almost doubled my fuel consumption on a 68 VW fastback back when gasoline was about a half buck a gallon in the balmy southern clime of Michigan's UP. Much of Japan has a cool, damp winter so I'm sure defrost-more important than heating-issues are getting attention. Lots of fun engineering challenges, if the economy can limp along well enough to keep things cranking.

Yes. I'm with Paul on that one. You really don't want to be relying on something like a Leaf at near max range. Once in a while police close the road due to an accident, and suddenly my trip home is thirty miles longer. Or I get a hurrican headwind, and my fuel (battery) economy plumments for that day. So you will have to be real conservative if you want to avoid the major hastle of running out.

Or we have to have an ample number of places to grab a quick charge, just like we now have plenty of places to buy gas.

BTW, we now have 15 minute 80% chargers coming to market.

Norway-based electric car firm Think announced yesterday that it has teamed up with charging technology specialist AeroVironment to produce a new system that promises to recharge a flat battery to 80 per cent capacity within 15 minutes.

The tests have confirmed that the technology is ready for commercial deployment and Think said that it would now work with AeroVironment to roll out fast-charging stations to fleet customers and commercial sites such as shopping malls, convenience stores and parking garages.


MIT has a ten minute rapid charger (which does not damage batteries) working in the lab.

Grabbing the emergency "30 miles" you need once a year or less is not a problem which won't be solved.

But what about the whole idea of not overloading the grid by only charging EV’s at off-peak hours? The power transfer rate required to supply an 80% charge level to a 100 or 200-mile battery pack in one hour or less is simply enormous! This is something that will work only if a very small fraction of the motoring public adopts this technology. At very low adoption rates, the peak loads they place on the electrical grid will probably not be noticeable. But once a large % of motorists start adopting this technology, power companies will either have to take control over when vehicle charging is allowed to happen (and also the rate of charging) or else we will have to build a bigger grid, and the cost of that construction will have to be factored into the selling price of the electrical energy. If we get to a point where people can’t get whatever power charging level they want – when they want it – I’m afraid it will turn people off to this technology and slow the adoption rate.

Also, the cost of road maintenance is partially built into fuel taxes that EV owners currently do not have to pay. As with peak loads on the grid, this is not a problem when EV’s represent only a tiny fraction of cars on the road, but it will become more of an issue when the % increases. Several states already have legislation in work to tax EV owners on a per-mile basis so they pay their share of road maintenance. This will also tend to make the economic comparison less favorable for EV’s as they become more wide spread. You know how politicians like to jack up the rates once the intial hurlde of putting a new tax in place has been covered?

Don’t get me wrong – I think electrification of the automobile fleet is an intriguing possibility that represents a growth opportunity for the near term future. I think adoption rates will indeed increase. But this will be a paradigm shift requiring monumental infrastructure, logistical and political changes to happen. No laws of physics need be violated, but the obstacles that will be encountered along the way are real and significant. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen as quickly and seamlessly as some people like to imagine.

Most would charge at night. But on a long trip or under special circumstances rapid chargers would be brought into play.

As for off-peak, we most likely are looking at very cheap PV solar not that many years down the road. Peak/off-peak might not be what we're used to now. During parts of the year we might actually have lots of power available in the middle of the day if panels are pumping and AC demands are low.

There's no reason why EVs couldn't pay a road use tax based on miles driven. Many states already have required annual inspections, checking mileage wouldn't be difficult. Those states which don't, a simple drive through once a year, clerk with a digital camera snaps your odometer as a robo-camera snaps your license plate.

State of Washington (or Oregon?) is already in the process of implementing a road use tax for EVs but I don't know how they plan on setting it up.

Utility companies already see EVs coming. My guess - as always happens, some will be ready and some won't. Apparently this will speed the installation of solid state transformers as the weak spot in many cases are the traditional transformers which generally aren't sized for full night-time service. It was expected that they would have some hours to cool down. This will cause them to fail/need to be replaced sooner.

I would expect most utilities will make some effort to monitor the number of EVs appearing in a given zone so that they can make the adjustments needed.

When you’ve got 10’s of millions of EV’s on the road, special circumstances will happen a lot. A 200-mile battery pack contains more energy than an entire American household uses on an average day. When any significant number of people start dumping a day’s worth of energy for a household into a battery pack in less than an hour, some significant reengineering of the grid will have to take place. I’m not arguing that it can’t happen, or even that it won’t happen eventually, just disagreeing with the “no-big-deal” attitude expressed by some advocates of this technology.

You are correct when you say that we will need significant work on the infrastructure to make rapid recharging available. But there's nothing new about bringing larger wires to a particular place.

We do that all the time when we knock down a small little used building and replace it with a multistory commercial building with all its power needs for lighting, computers, and environmental conditioning.

------ edit/addition

I once came close to buying a small house - two bedroom, one bath type place - but passed. A few months later someone else bought it, knocked it down and built a McDonald's.

Consider the amount of electricity a fast food place must use. All those grills and deep fat fryers, all the AC to offset the heat from cooking, all the lights, the computer systems, ....

Think knocking down the house and putting in some rapid charge outlets would have required anything significantly different in terms of providing power to the site?

Agree that it's nothing new for a power company to upgrade capacity as needed at a given location. But the scale and scope of the changes that will be needed to accomodate a rapid shift in a vehicle fleet as big as the human population itself (in the US at least), where any one of those vehicles at any given time might want to suck down 24hours worth of power for an entire household in less than one hour, well that'll be a huge paradigm shift that will dwarf the kind of incremental increases associated with normal growth patterns of the past. And this will be happening at a time when our financial system may be suffering the inevitable consequences of a debt load of monumental proportions. No laws of physics need be violated, but it'll be a tall task indeed.

Toss in those people who don't drive a lot and use public transportation when they take longer trips. Lots of older people here, they drive to the store but fly to visit/vacation.

If I look at how my late parents used vehicles after retirement age, they just didn't drive enough miles per year to jsutify a new vehicle. They just kept the old ones running, till they couldn't drive anymore. So I doubt these older people are much of a market for EVs.

Quote : "Ranchers and farmers are loving wind turbines. It's a guaranteed income source that uses a very small percentage of their land and gives them a per acre profit that is many multiple times what they can earn from beef or crops. Efforts to halt turbines in conservative states have been squashed by ranch/farm interests."

I know that there are big wind farms in Texas so this has been done in some places, but having a good access road to a wind turbine is a must for repair.. and that means a lot of road to reach every turbine. I don't think driving a heavy repair vehicle with a heavy replacement part on a even slightly soggy field will do. So there is a continued destruction of the environment and loss of cropland.

Btw, I have looked and read through reliability data for wind turbines and solar panels, I found some on solar panels that didn't put the newer high-efficiency ones in such a good light, but wind turbines seem to be doing OK overall.

jen - Depends where you are. Those ranchers in W Texas where the windfarms are going up value a maintained road across their prairie much more than the loss of that little strip of land. Across much of this area you need in excess of 100 acres per head. So X miles of road built and maintained at someone else's expense is an easy trade off. Even along the Texas coastal areas most ranchers and farmers welcome construction of my oil field lease roads. Last year I actually got a thank you letter from a conservation group that owned land I spent $300,000 building a nice hard pack rock road across. Gave them much needed access for nature tours they conducted. Just a shame I drilled a dry hole. But they were very happy with the lease money and new road. But they badly wanted that royality check every month also. They still had a big mortgage to pay on that land. Probably sounds odd to some folks that a conservation group would welcome an oil company but that's Texas for you. But, then again, they also sold dove hunting leases on this same land. Even more confusing for some folks I'm sure.

What an interesting story ROCKMAN. Thank you for the anecdote.

I wonder how many members were secretly praying for a dry hole? They still get the access road and lease. Maybe the man upstairs was listening?? I'm sure the treasurer wanted a good well, but he's only one member.

eos - Why would they pray for a dry hole? Our drilling/production efforts interfer very little with the environmnet. OTOH if they default on their mortgage and the land returns to the family that controls the land an option deal with a developer has already been cut to rip the land apart and build a big subdivision. The land is in the fastest growing quadrant of Houston.

Ironic, eh? By not making a NG well that would have helped the conservancy to pay off the mortgage (yes...contributions aren't getting it done and a ballon payment is getting close) this nice little piece of prarie land might be paved over and a bunch of McManision built. Hard to tell who your real friends are sometime, isn't it?

Why would they pray for a dry hole?

Agreed. I’ve always thought the best way to save the Alaska wildlife refuge was to develop the oil/gas and use the money to build a fence around it and hire armed guards to keep people out.

The most natural ecosystems in the U.S. are like that; Kennedy space center, the nuclear waste repository in south Carolina, rocky mountain wildlife refuge {former nerve gas production facility}, etc.

. I’ve always thought the best way to save the Alaska wildlife refuge was to develop the oil/gas and use the money to build a fence around it and hire armed guards to keep people out.

You must be joking. Keep who out--other than gas and oil people almost no people will ever see the place. No doubt development in ANWR could and will be done with a far less intrusive footprint than the one being left at Prudhoe Bay, but disingenuous drivel like your statement won't help move that development forward one bit.

The North Slope is a hostile, unforgiving place for humans but nothing looks more hostile up there than the miles of raised road, pipes and big steel structures on built up pads. I can't tell you how out of place it looks and feels, you must experience that for yourself. Now mind you the caribou do use those pads to get up into the breeze and away from the mosquitoes so its not all bad for 'the locals.'

Fenced with armed guards describes the gates to the oil fields and their needs not the tundra's. Eight to nine months of snow, ice and cold bracketting a few months of intense mosquitoes have done a wondrous job fencing people off the slope to date.

I should have made it clear that I was talking about the future Luke. In two hundred years there will probably be a big city with an international airport and a Disneyland there with its own modular underground reactor.

No matter, these comments will soon disappear.

We are talking about the North Slope and it is a major gas province, they might stick around.

Disneyland on the balmy Beaufort Sea. Well at least you're an optimist about humanities future--I'd love to stick around and see how it turned out if I didn't have to get any darned older in the process ?- )

There is more than passing interest in modular reactors in this state, so who knows you may be the seer.

I personally am holding out for the high end resorts on the beautiful black sand beaches (miles upon miles long) along the south shore of the Bering Sea-with soooooo much available wind power. Of course my family holds shares in the small corporation that has title to the property ?- ) A great place to sit on the beach and watch the grey whales rub off barnacles on the sand bars thirty or forty feet out when the tide is in.

Nuclear waste repository in South Carolina? Where is that? What is it's name? Thanks if you see this and answer.

Not one that handles Power Plant waste!


The Barnwell site is limited to the disposal of Class A, B and C radioactive waste as defined by federal regulations. Waste that exceeds Class C concentration limits for radioactivity cannot be disposed at the Barnwell site and must await the development by the federal government of a deep geologic repository.

And, according to this story from 2007, it's pretty much closing in 2008


At issue is the Barnwell County dump site, a 235-acre expanse that opened in 1971 close to the Georgia line. The equivalent of more than 40 tractor-trailers full of radioactive trash from 39 states was buried there each year before South Carolina lawmakers in 2000 ordered the place to scale back because they no longer wanted the state to be the nation's dumping ground.
As of July 1, the landfill will take waste only from South Carolina and the two states with which it formed a partnership, New Jersey and Connecticut.

having a good access road to a wind turbine is a must for repair.

And the roads are the limitation for the upthread 10-20 MW wind machines.

They may only come into play where they can be made/serviced next to large bodies of water so the bits can be moved.

I can't recall the details, but I think they are marine turbines. Not so much for the access issue, but because the economic optimum for marine is pushed to larger size than on land.

I also believe in renewables and had we gotten serious about it long age with the research and dollars we sure would find ourselves in a whole different scenario.But as usual greed and ass kissing politicians killed it all.Who knows now,probably to late to catch up.

I'd like to see the high altitude kites/wind generators get much more attention,these wind generators have the capacity to be a game changer since the wind way up there is so much more powerful and consistent.

And too for the longer term I think space based solar is a huge game changer since it would be 24/7 limitless clean energy.

If only huh!

Good points about externalized costs. And of course the biggest costs are externalized to the future.

I can't quite share your final optimism, though.

If there were any indication that the corporate and political structures, as well as the general population, were ready to look at the situation coldly and maturely and take the hard (though sometime beneficial) choices necessary to power down and transition, I might be a little less gloomy. But even then, really the process need to have been started decades ago. We all failed ourselves and the world when we failed to strongly rally behind Carter's call for reducing our energy use and moving to alternative. Corporate take over of nearly everything, and imperialist state, and a dumbed down population make it even less likely that the sanity you rightly call for will prevail.

Clearly Europe is going full blast ahead toward a clean grid. China is becoming a very, very major player. And Japan just tossed any future nuclear plants and is heading toward renewables instead.

I mentioned US corporation involvement in an above comment, but let's add the fact that every (as far as I can determine) major car manufacturer is introducing one or more EV models in the next couple of years. Plus you've got the new companies such as Tesla and BYD. Nissan is planning on being able to build 500,000 EVs in 2012 and Ford is setting up a dedicated assembly line for their Focus EV. GM is planning on at least 120,000 Volts in 2012.

IMHO there's a very good chance that "corporate take over of nearly everything" is now extending to the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Thanks for the interesting points. I will just point out that neither Europe nor China have drastically cut their GHG emissions, and the US certainly hasn't either. It's great to have the beginnings of some other options on the table, but they are just part of a growth pattern that doesn't reduce the total negative affects, they aren't really moving us in the right direction very far.

Corporations are required by law to prioritize one thing over all others--maximize profits. If we can construct ways that minimizing energy and resource use leads to maximizing profits, perhaps corporations can become part of the long term answer. But mostly this is not the case, so most such corporate efforts amount to window dressing intended to wash themselves green.

The whole structure is based on limitless growth, a model that is inimical to living on a limited planet. Growth based economics systems and the corporations that operate under that model are not likely to lead the way in creating the steady state or un-growth economy that we will need (and will get one way or the other, eventually) from now on. Some may be dragged into some 'efficiencies,' but that will mostly mean doing bad things more efficiently.

Here's to hoping that I'm wrong and that the whole corporate, capitalist system is on the verge of becoming something that is essentially the opposite of what it has been since its inception. But I think we are much more likely to see a big increase in carefully crafted press releases to make that impression than the actual fundamental changes needed.

China no longer has its Yellow River, as it traded it for a Yellow Sky.
Not even remotely survivable.
There are large parts of the country without flowering plants, as the pollinators are extinct.
Merely the last great industrial power, a dinosaur mating.

I participated in a march yesterday in Denver called the I Matter March, a march through Denver protesting the fact that we are doing little or nothing to halt the emission of greenhouse gases. The march started in a park. The park was directly in front of Interstate 25. There appeared to be about 700 people participating in the march. Someone remarked that they wished we had had a bigger turnout. I opined that this was in contrast to the very large turnout we had on the freeway behind us. Car after car hurtling at 60 miles per hour plus through the Denver metro area which consists of over 2.5 million people. The stream of cars was incredibly loud and unstoppable grinding up the planet's resources and emitting millions of tons of emissions. If they would just stop for one second, they would do far more for the planet than the people in that march. We marched through town with a police escort, so the cars could not use the parade route and were inconvenienced because they had to stop longer at the cross streets. The people in the cars mainly just glared at us as we encouraged them to get out of their cars and join the march. We yelled to the rooftops to encourage people to join our little band and the roar of the engines, the millions of engines just played on.

When I hear about EVs, this just encourages everyone to continue the madness. This just encourages everyone to stay in their cars. This just encourages the outward sprawl we have forever. This just discourages people from walking, biking, and taking public transit. And even if these EVs were fed by wind or solar, this just eats up what little electricity we get from wind and solar.

I just see EV as a way to keep the machine going and the machines going. It is just a way to continue the infinite growth machine as if these machines were supposed to run on fairy dust. I think EVs could have a place if they were used in a very limited way, say as NEVs in small communities by those who could not otherwise get around by walking or bus or transit. But I fear that they are just going to be used to be plugged into the machine so the band of destruction can just play on.

tstreet - Explain the processes to me, if you will, that would march us to destruction were we to convert our personal vehicle fleet to EVs built with sustainable materials and powered by renewable energy.

You don't need to go into the "suburbs using up all our farm land". We understand that.

Hi tstreet,

I fully appreciate what you are saying. But, it is doubtful that we can get many folks to listen. For various reasons (I'll refrain from grinding my axe here), most people on the planet seem to hold a deep seated belief that humans are entitled to dominate every habitable space on the planet with scant regard for the necessary balance of the biosphere - a balance that we will need for long term survival. The car culture is so pervasive that it is inconceivable for most people to think in terms of any other form of a personal transportation model. EVs (other than minimal NEVs) along with fuel cell, compressed air, NG vehicles, et al are just more ways to extend BAU. There is almost no vision of a really sustainable world that might actually be more satisfying. Life without a car is just not negotiable for most people. And forget trying to get the average US citizen to consider the implications of our lifestyle for someplace like North Africa and the misery of millions trying to live there.

Trying to debate the "EVs built on a sustainable model" is mostly a waste of time and energy. Unfortunately, any realistic discussion would involve the actual science of CC, the condition of oceans and fisheries, depletion of aquifers, air quality beyond GHGs, pandemic issues, species extinction, soil erosion, food production, mineral depletion, deforestation/desertification, potential for resource wars, and other factors related to the total health of our planet and the health of humans.

A narrow discussion about cars is just bizarre.

What would a "sane" world look like, though? One with no growth being required, no corporate greed (or at least not on this kind of destructive scale), a significantly smaller use of energy, and so on? What would it be like for most people living in such a world? What would be possible then that's not possible here, and possible here that would not be possible there?

You're really stuck on this.

Beyond what I wrote above, a vast, vibrant and differentiated set of human cultures are possible in such a world, just as there was before the industrial revolution. Globalization has corresponded with a vast increase in the number of humans, but a vast decrease in the number of distinct cultures and languages. This process would reverse in a saner world living within its ecological means.

Humans lived basically sustainable lives for all but the last hundred years of their many millennia of existence, but somehow we moderns find it mind-numbingly incomprehensible to even begin to imagine life as it was always lived, not only by humans but by every other species that ever existed.

The transition could be difficult, unless fully embraced as an opportunity and an obligation to our progeny and to the living world. But once we regain a low energy, low impact status, most will not miss living out of balance with the world, any more than pre-industrial humans longed for microwave ovens.

Nicely crafted, dohboi.

Beyond what I wrote above, a vast, vibrant and differentiated set of human cultures are possible in such a world, just as there was before the industrial revolution.... Humans lived basically sustainable lives for all but the last hundred years of their many millennia of existence, but somehow we moderns find it mind-numbingly incomprehensible to even begin to imagine life as it was always lived...

With no disrespect, there are reasons that for the large majority of people in the dominant pre-industrial cultures life is described as "nasty, brutish, and short." Ancient Egypt; Classical Greece; Rome at its peak; feudal China; medieval Japan; the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs; in all of them, "culture" was something created/enjoyed by a small minority at the top, supported by a massive peasant class. Arguably, aside from some features dictated by local climate and/or geography, there was little fundamental difference in the peasant lifestyle in any of them.

...there are reasons that for the large majority of people in the dominant pre-industrial cultures life is described as "nasty, brutish, and short."

That, I think, is a misapplication of Hobbes' famous description. He was talking about the conditions experienced when strong government is absent (he was a Royalist, albeit a rather enlightened one), the conditions of what he called a "state of nature," which he abhorred.

You should also note that he wrote Leviathan in the 17th century, somewhat before the industrial era, at least as we usually use the term.

Peasants and workers have suffered while elites prospered in cultures around the world, at all stages of industrial and technological development. In various places, at various times, more or less of the wealth has been concentrated at the top, more or less has been distributed widely or has "trickled down."

On average, it's been downhill since the Neolithic I'm afraid.

dohboi - You might want to take a look at this movie clip. A classic.


So then basically this would be a net-zero thing is what you're saying, i.e. there'd be nothing enduring that would come from this age? The kind of thing I'm wondering about especially is death rates -- especially due to violence. How much would the percentage of deaths due to violence and _war_ change? Is it possible we could get an overall _more peaceful_ (even if not "perfect" peace, just _more_ peaceful) world than we have now _and_ than we had 1,000 years ago? Also, what about, e.g. people's world-views and thought systems? For example, superstitious and non-rational beliefs. Would "rationalism" wind up dead and we'd all be believing in goblins and how disease is due to "bad ghosts" or whatever and other forms of nonsense that rationalistic science has thorougly refuted? What about stuff like racism? How far back would it have to go: about stuff like human rights -- going back to using the rack and using barbaric methods of "trial" to get "justice"? I sure hope not.

Anyway, I don't know what you mean by it being "mind-numbingly" incomprehensible -- I don't know of much that is.

While I agree with you, I don't think we have a viable path for getting there in time. So we could go through a transition -maybe even a dieoff, before we get there. We certainly aren't trying (at least not in the US), and every day we delay only makes the mediumterm shortfall worse.

Of course I agree with bohboi about "Improved means to unimproved ends, anyone?". If we just plug in some magical clean and abundant power supply into a BAU psychology, the damage to the envirnment (and ultimately to ourselves) will be immense. So maybe the painful transition, that we didn't get ready for, will be a good thing?

If the magic point is 2050 I think we're likely to be fine.

Europe clearly will be 'good enough' long before then. Africa and South America are likely to largely skip the fossil fuel age and go straight to renewables as they bring new parts of their continents on the grid. China sees climate change as settled science, they intend to get their house in order. China has been setting clean energy goals and then beating them for some time.

It's only the US (and perhaps Australia) who are still giving ear to the anti-science crowd. And I think the economics of renewables vs. increasingly expensive fossil fuels will override our anti-green politics.

China (BYD) already has a 200 mile range EV (the e6) and it's been road tested for a year as part of a 50 EV taxi fleet. The cars averaged 36,400 miles (three years driving for a US car) and were mostly 'rapidly recharged' with no appreciable decrease in battery performance. Increased production volume should bring the price down to 'affordable' for most new car drivers.

Give us five years to produce a 200+ mile EV and install enough rapid charge points to make long drives practical. (Drive200 miles, stop twice for 10 - 20 minutes for another 160 mile charge, and you've done a 500 mile day with two meal/coffee/pee breaks.) When people can buy a ~$20k car that lets them take long trips and costs "$1/gallon" to drive most will turn their backs on petroleum.

Let's say, worst case, it's 2020 before we get our $20k/200 mile EV. How many 30 year old cars do you see on the road? Who's going to bother buying a 15-20 year old ICEV once used EVs hit the lot?

I'd predict almost 100% EVs by 2040 given we hit the 2020 target in the previous paragraph. Classic/collector cars excepted.

And I'll take my crystal ball out one more time. Given that we're already seeing an increase in extreme weather and the number of extreme events will likely increase over time I'm betting that there is going to be a lot of pressure to fix things fast. Already 71% of Americans say that they want something done about climate change, even if it costs money.


(Look at the U.S. Climate Extremes are Increasing graph on this page - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/indicators/ and think how people will react if that green line keeps going up.)

Do you have an EV?


I really need 4wd, so I've got my eye on the Rav4 EV, but it won't be out for a year or so. Furthermore the initial units may go to government and corporate fleets.

And since it's a 150 mile RT to town I'll have to wait until our small 'city' gets at least one place to do a rapid charge.

I have owned one for four years.

I am quick to counter misinformation about them, most of which is of the negative variety. But I don't see them as a panacea. They are very much an example of the "improved means to unimproved ends" point I mentioned above, or perhaps in this case, improved means to unimproved means.

If we replaced all ICE cars with EVs tomorrow, we would still have traffic jams (though they might be a bit quieter), we would still be tempted to create ridiculous settlement patterns like the suburbs, we would still suffer all the other maladies that go along with a car culture, and we would have used an enormous amount of resources to build all those new vehicles in the mean time.

The limited amount of resources and carbon sinks we have left should be put toward a more thorough solution that moves us rapidly away from car travel almost completely.

It is my impression that as 'solutions' start to become more mainstream, the time that they could have played a major roll in actually improving our chances of survival have passed.

The issues you bring up are separate from 'plentiful and cheap energy'.

Sure, we would still have traffic jams and many of us would still choose to not live in densely populated cites, but we wouldn't be filling the atmosphere with carbon in order to drive and live with some elbow room.

Traffic jams will decrease as public transportation gets better and cars get smarter. Did you notice that Google is pushing to legalize self-driving cars in Nevada? Self-driving cars means less 'dead' time while commuting and cars will be able to maintain closer distances while moving once we get slow-reacting humans out of the loop.

As for suburbs (and those of us living way past the suburbs) you look at that lifestyle through your glasses, not the glasses worn by those of us who hate living that close to other and want some, or a lot, of nature around us. Get the transportation energy solution solved and exactly what is the problem with people owning a bit of personal land (aside from using good crop land for that purpose)?

Personally I can see little problem with individual transportation "pods" as long as they are made with sustainable materials and powered with renewable energy.

Traffic jams will decrease as public transportation gets better and cars get smarter.

Yes to the first, only marginally to the second. Taking cars off the road makes major decreases in traffic. Automated control makes minor decreases, but at the cost of enormous complexity. You now have to load the cars with more digital equipment, consuming more rare earths etc, there will be more maintenance and cost than they achieve. A real world example of this exists here in Vancouver, which has a driverless train system. Now, a train system is as perfect a place as you can get to do an automated system. The result? it costs more to operate and maintain than Calgary's system which has drivers!

In an energy constrained world, the idea should be to get people to drive cars less, not fit more of them more tightly on the road - that is the traffic equivalent of enhanced oil recovery - you are only delaying the inevitable.

The real solution is cities not based primarily on My Personal Transportation Device -as they have been for several thousand years before bikes and cars. Doesn't mean you can't have them (and in rural areas of course you can and will have them) but when you have a city where people choose to go vehicle free, and life is better for it, then you have your solution.

All that's needed is really good light rail systems - that are not automated. Employ local local drivers instead of computer techs in Korea - the local community is much more sustainable that way, and that's what the future is all about.

On the BYD car - they are still yet to let any third party verify their range claims, they have repeatedly pushed back in service dates,a and still don;t have the vehicles in mass production. None of this looks good, and I am totally unconvinced of 200mile range. if you had a ass market ready EV that could do that, with thousands of auto journalists chomping at the bit to test drive it and give you free publicity, would you keep it in the dark? The whole things sounds like another EEstor, only in China, which makes it that much less believable.

Nicely put. As I recall, someone somewhere once said something about greater complexity not generally being the primary solution to the problems of complexity.

Quite so - though I'm not sure who said it.

Having grown up. on a farm and then study/work as a civil engineer, I am firmly in the camp of solving (human) problems by reducing complexity, not increasing.

Part of the problem is that for engineered systems, max efficiency usually means more complex. In the case of an ICE, to get max efficiency, you need cascading combined cycles - each extra step gets progressively (exponentially) bigger for progressively smaller improvement. There are very few examples where even a third cycle is worth it.

I was amazed when I learned about the Sky Train, not only does it cost more (2x), that money leaves the local economy. You can always hire and train more drivers but what happens if the Korean company that makes/maintains the equip dissappears? I see similar things with scada systems - lots of money spent on data gathering, and then analysis, for marginal efficiency improvements, many of which you could intuitively deduce anyway. And then you need outside people to maintain or "update" the equipment.

The 80/20 rule holds good, but we seem intent on getting that last 20, and pay the price in ways that are not always obvious.

Sorry to be obscure. It was of course Joseph Tainter in his "The Collapse of Complex Societies."

It's almost as if complexity has become its own end, even as we crest the peaks of complexity and resource depletion, and slip into climate chaos and runaway gw.

Thanks, I haven't actually read Tainter, so i didn't make that connection.

I think one of the reasons for complexity growth, is that it has been possible for many people/companies to make their livings out of exploring niches in the complexity, and even growing them, like Microsoft, though there are many smaller examples.

One of the things about a free society and free markets is people are free to go in any direction they want - many "consumer items" created for the US market (e.g. the slap chop) would never have been created in soviet Russia.

The tax dept of any country loves complexity - my theory here is that most people will give up and not seek out all the deductions they are entitled to.

So complexity is benefitting many people. Simplified society, simplified taxes, etc benefit the recipients, but not necessarily the providers, and the providers are driving the economy today. The people;s job is just to consume!

Complex and constantly changing tax laws provides big incomes for tax lawyers and tax accountants. If we simply went to a VAT, for example, to provide all government revenue, there would be mass unemployment (in the hundreds of thousands of high-income jobs) among tax lawyers and tax accountants.

And who do you suppose WRITES the tax laws? Bingo!

Milton Friedman, in one of his better ideas, advocated leaving tax laws unchanged and as simple as possible. But of course economists only advise . . . .

As we've made our cars smarter we've decreased the required maintenance. Smartness is not expensive, it's silicon and code.

Smart cars will be able to keep themselves moving along at an orderly rate with minimal space between them. They will be able to avoid crashing into each other, thus blocking traffic lanes. Will they eliminate slow moving traffic in urban areas? No, but they can greatly improve the flow of traffic while removing driver stress.

Would we be better served if everyone used public transportation? Almost certainly. But how do you purpose accomplishing that, at gun point?

Many people do not want to ride public transport or have specific reasons why it does not work well for them. Just as some people hate living in cities there are those who will pay extra in order to have personal transport. We need to accept that fact and move on. We need to build good public transportation for those who will use it and also create the best possible solutions for those who want a different approach.

"how do you purpose accomplishing that, at gun point?"

The vast network of trolley systems was demolished essentially at gun point--through vast corruption and heavy handed manipulation by car and oil companies.

And every car that is driven holds everyone around it essentially at gun point.

There are zillions of ways to discourage auto use and encourage alternatives.

"Gun point" is just one (though it can be fun if you like that kind of thing ;-P).

Many people do not want to ride public transport or have specific reasons why it does not work well for them. Just as some people hate living in cities there are those who will pay extra in order to have personal transport. We need to accept that fact and move on. We need to build good public transportation for those who will use it and also create the best possible solutions for those who want a different approach.

In cities (especially), accommodating cars necessarily means inconveniencing and impeding all other users of the streets. It also means endangering all more-vulnerable users and significantly degrading the environment and the quality of life for everyone not ensconced in automobiles. Further, it means giving over half of the land area of the city to cars and ancillary uses. It means building and operating cities for cars rather than for people.

That's a bad deal for everyone, except the drivers to whom everyone else is expected to defer, while simultaneously subsidizing their selfish transportation choices.

Now, in the spirit of compromise, (and only for quiet, zero-pollution vehicles) I think we could consider an alternative: woonerfing all streets on which private auto traffic is permitted. You can look it up.

Of course, we're still going to have to charge fairly large fees for parking. Cars can't keep taking up half of the city without paying their share.

China and clean energy goals...
Take a look at
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/countries/country-data.cfm?fips=CH#undefined (coal consumption is especially telling)

Packing more energy into a battery certainly makes it more useful, but it doesn't make it necessarily greener. A massive adoption of EVs means a massive increase in electricity production. We can dream about all sorts of pixie dust driven energy sources, but the reality is that we MUST decrease out consumption, not just play a shell game!


Packing more energy into a battery certainly doesn't necessarily make it less green.

A massive adoption of EVs does means a massive increase in electricity production but that is of no real consequence if we power those EVs with the ample sun and wind energy we have at hand. And it means an incredible decrease in petroleum extraction, refining and distribution.

We must decrease our consumption of those things for which we have limited supplies and of those things which create environmental degradation, but we can use all the sun light we want without hurting ourselves.

The real danger we face is by following those who tell us that we must stick with fossil fuels because renewables won't do the job or following those who tell us that it's no use to attempt to solve our problems because we're going to crash and burn regardless of what we do.

Yes, but there's an increasing number of vehicles on the road, particularly in China, and the last time I looked EV's still use a lot of petroleum-based plastics in their body panels. Heavy mining machinery and construction vehicles, semi-trucks, ships and planes are all still using diesel fuel or kerosene and likely will be for the next decade, and road asphalt is still a oil derivative. Granted, I suppose these issues are all resolvable to some extent, but I don't see the possibility of maintaining the status quo. How is the existing road network going to be repaired with a decreasing amount of asphalt ? I haven't seen any plans for replacement of petroleum fuel-based semi-trucks, construction vehicles or ships.

That's why there's no doubt that overall vehicle use will decrease in the near future. The poor saps buying petroleum fueled cars in China will be forced to let them sit idle as oil prices spiral way up. Many of them will just become rusting heaps of junk soon.

I can't answer your highway question as it's a question I haven't researched.

But as far as EVs, auto manufacturers are already researching and using bio-plastics in place of petroleum based plastics. Other materials such as super-strong glass and graphene are showing promise.

It would make tremendous sense to move freight from semi-trucks to electrified rail. California's high speed rail system is being designed with four sets of tracks, two sets for passengers - north/south, and two sets for freight - north/south. All of that stuff that gets hauled around behind diesel engines could move just as well with electricity.

Large commercial fleets such as UPS and Coca-Cola are already test driving EV delivery trucks.

Ocean going transport probably will be something that will require oil. (Remember, we are not running out of oil. Just running out of cheap oil.) Some of that oil is being offset with more efficient ship/engine design and some with kite/sails.

(Perhaps the asphalt from the oil used for ships and a few other uses will pave our highways. Besides, it seems like some of the gunk we're extracting now might be best used for roads rather than fuel.)

And we're already hearing about how the cost of cross-ocean shipping is causing some manufacturing to move closer to markets. That will mean a return of some manufacturing jobs to the US as it will be cheaper to pay more for labor here in order to offset shipping costs.

Quote : "Large commercial fleets such as UPS and Coca-Cola are already test driving EV delivery trucks."

Now this is interesting, I did find this but it sounds way out there - a hydrogen-powered semi rig. http://www.gazettes.com/news/environment/article_e2dcae42-0e23-11e0-96b1...

Could you give a source for the UPS truck testing ?

edit : I did find this, best for a fully loaded semi-truck is 64 kph for 30 to 60 miles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_truck#Semi-trailer_trucks

UPS has almost trebled the size of its London-based green fleet, taking delivery of 14 Modec electric vehicles.

Twelve of the new vehicles will join the existing six electric vehicles based at Camden, while the remaining two will operate out of UPS' Barking depot. Each vehicle can run around 60 miles on a six-hour charge.


Wow! 14 green vehicles! 14! And 60 whole miles!

We can all go home now.

Seriously, Bob, you've provided a lot of anecdotes, but no evidence that you understand the problems of scale and of stock-and-flow delays. Or what's involved in mass adoption of a new technology.

EVs will be used by people who want to use them. Everyone else will use whatever is cheapest in overall cost, including, in the case of EVs, the disamenities of long charging times and short, fixed range.

Amenity is ignored by EV boosters. People like to give the examples of the transition from horse to car, and sail to steam, and so on. What they ignore is that in each case it was immediately clear to the user that the new technology was overwhelmingly better. This is not so with EVs. EVs are just an option, and one that has significant disadvantages in use, compared to other choices.

For this reason, after the early-adopter rush, I expect there to be a distinct lack of enthusiasm for EVs.

Well, I was asked a question about this statement I made...

Large commercial fleets such as UPS and Coca-Cola are already test driving EV delivery trucks.

Is there some magic rule for how many trucks it takes to do a test? And are you knowledgeable as to the practicality of a 60 mile range delivery van in London? If so, what are the average and minimum in-city ranges?

Now, this...

What they ignore is that in each case it was immediately clear to the user that the new technology was overwhelmingly better.

Do you really think it was immediately clear to horse owners that the 1860 gas engine car built by Etienne Lenoir was overwhelmingly better than a good Tennessee Walker? I think not.

If fact, many horse owners stuck with their horse long after Henry introduced the Model T in 1908. It took over a half-century for the ICEV to gain a foothold and a couple more decades for horses to largely disappear from our streets.

I've been around long enough to observe some major transitions up close. Let's see, there's props to jets, mechanical calculators and slide rules to electronic calculators, radio to TV, B&W to color TV, crank phones to dial phones to push button phones to cell phones, film to digital, manual typewriters to electric typewriters to word processors to desktop computers to laptops, 78s and 33s to 45s to 8 track to cassettes to CDs to the clouds, wire recorders to tape recorders to digital recorders....

Need I go on? Each time one of these new technologies appeared we moved at first slowly from old to new, but then rates accelerated faster than most had predicted.

I do agree that people will make the EV/ICEV mainly on cost. Cost and convenience.

It's very clear that EVs cost less per mile to drive. That's settled math. And it's highly likely that initial costs of EVs will drop to about that of ICEVs within the next five or so years. EVs will win the cost battle.

It's also clear that we'll be able to purchase 200 mile range EVs in the next few years. BYD's e6 is on the road and Tesla's Model S is in alpha stage, due out next year. We've already got 20 minute rapid charging with 10 minute likely. That means a 500 mile driving day with two short stops. Almost anyone can live with that.

It's also likely that people are going to appreciate the ability to plug in and go inside when they get home rather than wait in line at the gas station and get out in inclimate weather to fill their tanks. A 200 mile range means that one will plug in about twice as often as standing by the pump for a while. I'm guessing EVs win big here.

So, ....

It takes them up to a total of 20 just for servicing inner London. In London 60 miles will cover a LOT of ground. As much of the driving will be start/stop, electric is a big advantage over infernal combustion engines. A 6 Hr charging time is very comfortable for overnight.


Thought this might be another knee-slapper for you gregvp -

A UPS study of (gasp!) six hybrid delivery vans verses (OMG!) six diesel delivery vans in Phoenix, AZ.

During normal in-town delivery use the hybrids averaged 71 miles per day, the diesels 84.

A 60 mile range EV van could do an 80% rapid recharge while the driver was taking their lunch break and have a 100+ mile range. An afternoon tea break would take it to 150 miles.

The hybrids had a 29.8% lower fuel cost. An EV could have run the same routes and saved a bunch more.


The 60 (or 100) mile range depends on vehicle weight too, and driving style, according to the specs : http://www.modeczev.com/content/vehicles.asp. Yep, EV's are an option - but a good one based on the coming unavailability and increasing price of gasoline and diesel.

Keep in mind that all expectations are that battery range will double over the next few years. Today's 60/100 miles will be 120/200 miles with no increase in battery size/weight.

There's a lot of new technology working its way through the process of coming to market. Not all of it may pan out, but there have been so many developments that some are almost certainly going to work.

This advocacy report frankly looks like a committee effort;
filled lots of sweeping conclusions along with the usual resource denialism.

One weakness was the fact that it downplays the urgency of addressing GW in the energy sector.

The most commonsense observation was that the US energy supply is 'nicely' balanced between oil, coal, gas and nuclear, meaning we can't suddenly replace all cars with CNG or all coal plants with natural gas. The natural conclusion is that it is quite difficult to move from one fuel source to another.

It also seems logical that at present gas prices a huge increase in shale gas drilling is unlikely to do much more than keep up with the decline in conventional gas.

Where the report fails is in its unsupported dismissal of CCS,
except as a method of enhanced oil recovery.
Clearly PCI doesn't comprehend the vital importance of reducing energy source GHG as soon as possible.
CCS is the cost we must pay for our fossil fueled civilization.

But PCI instead plays dumb alledging that the cure is a green economy of renewables which they refuted in the commonsense observation made above but mainly drastic energy conservation.

Energy conservation is the equivalent of advising an overweight
person to reduce his daily calorie intake from 2500 kcal to 500 kcal while keeping up all this daily activities. It's impossible.
For example, they advocate CHP schemes though it would require powerplants be built in urban areas with a vast heat piping networks.

Their solution to running out of resources is to rebuild civilization we can barely maintain with the resources we presently use to keep everything powered as is. Illogical.

What they are ignoring is the fact that there are more fossil fuels in the world than they will admit under their belief in the size of the tap PO argument.

They will lose that argument in the next decade. There is far more coal, unconventional gas and unconventional oil(+100 years worth) than will fit into their apocalyptic timetable, though there will be difficulties along the way.

The real ticking timebomb is global warming which threatens to swamp, starve and paralyze the world in the next 100 years.

As far as the oil goes, the CO2 emissions from oil are 20% more than those from coal in the USA so getting off oil is more important than getting off coal from a GW viewpoint. That CO2 can be reduced if oil is replaced with coal CCS electricity , carbon neutral ethanol or natural gas CCS hydrogen/fuel cells from FF.

CCS offers a proven way if expensive of feeding ourselves without damaging the planet as we break our addiction to fossil fuels.

It's just a cheap smear to say it's 'the politician's solution'.
There are extensive documentation of how and where to store the CO2 in North America(5700Gt CO2).


A lot more documentation than PCI has gathered in this feeble report.

Maj, I like a lot of things that you say, but when you keep coming back to these coal endorsements, you come off as an industry shill. I hope you're not one, since, as I say, many of your points are valuable contributions to the conversation. Very few people outside of the coal industry believe that it can be a major part of a survivable future. That's not to let oil or NG off the hook, of course.

CCS offers a proven way if expensive of feeding ourselves without damaging the planet as we break our addiction to fossil fuels.

Given that there is not one single, full scale coal fired power plant operating with full CCS today, how can you say this is "proven"?

The handful of commercial projects in operation collect CO2 from gasification/industrial processes, where they do not have to capture it from air blow combustion.

I'll even grant you that storage is "proven", as the Weyburn, Saskatchewan project has shown, albeit at only small/moderate scale, but the gov's map represents, at present, just a best guess, on where and how much can be stored.

The fact is, no one has done large scale storage, and no has done even medium scale capture from coal fired plants.

Carbon capture and storage is only proven when it is being done on full size power stations, and establishes an operational record. Until then, it is still developmental, and that is a big difference.

The principle of storing huge amounts of CO2 deep underground without significant leakage is proven. 5% of US oil production comes from EOR now.

There have been coal gasification power plants like Tampa Electric and the Wabash River operating for over a decade.


The reason why these processes have not gone the final step to IGCC-CCS is absolutely clear. The people and the politicians won't put a price on carbon dioxide pollution.

As I have pointed out before, a real CCS coal plant is being built in Buggenum, Holland as well as Schwarze Pumpe--Europe being more serious on GW than the looney-toons USA.



Obviously CO2 capture and sequestration costs money. It's rather
amusing that PCI only approves of carbon sequestration when money can be recovered in the form of enhanced oil recovery.
It's hard to see daylight between the ironically named Post Carbon Institute and the GW deniers in their
complete brain-freeze when talking about putting a cost on CO2 pollution.

The 2007 price of IGCC-CCS electricity with a 50 mile pipeline to burial is estimated at an additional 11 cents per kwh. For the average US household which uses 12000 kwh per year that's an additional $110 per month, a big hike but also a big motivator for energy efficiency.


So what does PCI support?
It's not clear.
They are highly skeptical about renewables taking the place of fossil fuels and have soured on natural gas.
They are probably fantasizing about rebuilding the world in a 'green image' which will undoubtedly mean a FAR lower standard of living without fossil energy.
They will not succeed in convincing the majority of people to go down the road of energy conservation more than perhaps 10% in their wildest hope.
Perhaps they believe they hope they can convince politicians to implement their program over the objections of TPTB and the voters.
CCS offers the opportunity to provide expensive energy while reducing CO2 pollution from coal by 90%.
for the next 100 years in the US

CCS is a waste of time and energy. We are already into the downside of the 60 year climate cycle and looking at global cooling, with a probability of relatively cool temperatures lasting for upwards of 80 years. We will want the CO2 as plant fertilizer. Believing that CO2 is a problem, and that we can have unabated generation thereof for 100 years is simply ignoring a huge body of evidence to the contrary on both counts.

Which planet are you from Murray?

Here on planet Earth we are experiencing frightening increases in global temperature which, if we don't get under control in the next very few decades, will roast us.

And our plants just don't grow well in high concentrations of CO2. They operate on an 'enough is enough' principal. They need water, but give them too much and they drown.

Wouldn't it be interesting to have a discussion between your physicists with their "huge body of evidence" and ours with an enormous body of evidence that tells us that the issue here on our planet is settled science. We're in trouble.

Best of luck to you guys in your alternate universe....

Best of luck to you guys in your alternate universe....

I've always wondered what color the sky is on the planet they live on?
Skies cannot possibly always be blue.

Is it ? I have no doubt human activities cause global warming, cutting down about 40% of the trees or thereabouts just by itself is enough to cause it - but when is the next ice age due ?

Interesting graph, tnx


I don't think I've seen that one, although I think I once saw a graph showing 83F, somewhere at the Smithsonian. So it's saying the very long-term normal state of the world is a good 13C warmer than now? Wow. And yet we're here to talk about it - all life was not roasted to a smoking cinder during those immensely long warmer periods?

That's true, the normal temperature of the Earth is much, much warmer than today. It's abnormal for the Earth to have polar ice caps, or for the Arctic Ocean to freeze over in winter.

We are, in fact, living in an ice age, albeit an interglacial period in which the ice sheets have retreated considerably from their maximum extent, when they covered almost all of Canada and most of Europe. That was a bad time for anybody who lived in Canada (nobody) or Europe (bye, bye Neanderthal Man).

Just to make the global warming doomsters more upset, during the Jurassic Period, the CO2 levels were around 1800 ppm - almost 5 times as high as today - and the Arctic Ocean was as warm as the water off California is today, but the dinosaurs seemed to love it. Among other places, they lived in balmy Alaska and ice-free Antarctica. Crocodiles lived in Hudsons Bay. During the Cambrian Period, the CO2 levels were 7000 ppm - almost 20 times as high as today - but it seemed to be no problem for the strange creatures that lived back during the diversification of life called the "Cambrian Explosion".

There will never be another ice age. Not in the age of humans. We know what causes global warming, what makes you think we would ever allow an ice age to occur.
There is a remote possibility a few million years after humans die off but even by then, the sun will be so much brighter.

There will never be another ice age. Not in the age of humans. We know what causes global warming, what makes you think we would ever allow an ice age to occur.

We are living in an ice age right now, we have no way of stopping a glacial advance from reoccurring, and scientists really have no idea what caused most of the temperature swings the world has seen. Their models don't predict them. The current computer models don't even predict the climate we have now, never mind what it is going to do.

During the late Ordovician Period there was an ice age while CO2 levels were 4400 ppm - nearly 12 times higher than today. In theory, the Earth should have been extremely hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today.

"what makes you think we would ever allow an ice age to occur"

Bandits must have tongue way far very far in cheek.

In an ice age right now LOL, What did you pull that out of? Ever heard of inter-glacial..............
An ice age while CO2 was at 4400 ppm! I've never read about that, you had better enlighten me and........... "scientists really have no idea what caused most of the temperature swings the world has seen. Their models don't predict them. The current computer models don't even predict the climate we have now, never mind what it is going to do". I need some corroboration for that, do you have a link?

Anyway why don't you take that garbage over to realclimate.org and tell them what you know, I'm sure someone will chat with you. Let me know how you get on.

There is lots of info there for you, written by scientists.
You are simply ignorant but yours is a willful ignorance and its deplorable.

I'm just going by what the glaciologists define "ice age" as.

Wikipedia: Ice age

Glaciologically, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres; by this definition we are still in the ice age that began at the start of the Pleistocene (because the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist).

These ice sheets are relatively recent. For most of Earth's history, except during ice ages, Greenland and Antarctica were ice free, and there was no permanent ice anywhere on the planet.

In the oil industry, when you are drilling an oil well, you are drilling back in time, sometimes back to the start of the Cambrian period (when oil formation seems to have first begun). The climate during that time changed drastically, but the oil geologists can tell you in great detail exactly what the climate was like during any particular age they are interested in (i.e. any formation in which they are likely to find oil.) That's where data for graphs like the one above came from.

As it is my first comment here on TOD I have to hank all of the contributors here in particular the core team (sorry for not mentioning the names but I know everyone know who it is) for the outstanding topics.

@ Rocky - I have to support you in that.

However, according to Swensmark there are some much higher (galactic) forces in play. In fact the impact of the clouds coverage on the surface temperature and the correlation of the cosmic radiation to the cloud build rate is unmatched to anything other over the longer time frame (to the displeasure of the AGW community, who are reacting to this new research results like vampires to the cross & garlic).
Finally, taking the sources of the cosmic radiation into account, there is a high probability that the ice ages are the result of the movement of our solar system through the galaxy. Our solar system is moving counter clockwise through the galaxy passing from time to time the more dense "populated" spiral arms. Whenever the solar system passed a spiral arm an ice age occurred (with or without CO2) due to higher cosmic radiation resulting to a higher cloud coverage.

As far as I know we are currently moving out of the spiral arm 5a (or 4a - I cloud be mistaken, I have to check again). That is supporting your point that we are in fact on the end of a relative cool period or mini ice age.

For me it would be interesting to see if there are in the core samples (i.e obtained from oil drilling) any traces that may be used to verify past cosmic radiation levels.

If Swensmark's theory is right in deed human has to keep a long tough period alive in order to witness the next ice age (even without co2) because the gap to the next galactic spiral arm is quite big (I estimate something like 40000 years).

It may not be radiation, it could be gas or dust clouds associated with those arms. Then again there are many, many ideas as to why the ice ages.


Well dust could play certain role (but maybe minor one) too. But cloud coverage has an major effect on earth surface temperature! More than CO2 and more instant!

What a cloud in the heat means that I have experienced by myself some years ago – in fact this single cloud may have spared our lives. My colleges borrowed my 4x4 for a weekend trip into the desert. Then they called me (with one point signal) that they got stuck in somewhere. I found them some 60km from the next village away. They blow up a tire and then buried themselves incredibly between the dunes. I had some good stuff with me but we had a very hard time digging, our heads where read like an infrared bulb, water almost finish – nearby giving up.

And then there was this single little cloud that came and covered up the sun for just 10 minutes. The whole day no clouds at all, but in this moment there was one.

In that 10 minutes we got our forces back and got out – thanks. BTW that was in August and somewhere on the edge of the Rub-Al-Khali - so no joke!!!

Therefore, I can only recommend, have a look at the studies of Swensmark – the radiation issue is quite compelling. If you see the correlations with respect to the solar protons and the modulation by the cosmic radiation compared to the earth surface temperature - you will be shocked.

Swensmark's thesis is being tested at CERN, the cosmic ray/cloud mechanism should get fleshed out considerably there.

In the mean time the arctic ice cap is on average thinner and less extensive with minimum ice extent coming later later every year. These factors will also affect atmospheric water vapor as evaporation in the arctic should noticeably increase as more sunlight reaches more open water more of the year. At least that seems a reasonable assumption.

Interesting times to say the least. No doubt the sun is the biggest player in the game but its intricate interplay

with all the earth's gasses and all the space rays
could be quite could be hard to put together for men

I was going for a bit of 'Humpty Dumpty' but really had to force it ?- )

It seems Luke that you are following up the same. Honestly, I am very excited about the CERN experiment whatever it brings new about Swensmark’s works. I admit that I am a supporter of him. It’s because he and his hard scientific works has been disregarded and side-lined so long only because it didn’t fit in to the current scheme.

Science should be free, as per the golden bull of 1356, and so with any new ideas.

No doubt that the sun is the biggest player, I fully agree. For me it is more interesting to find out what is the real timing factor.

Until now it seems that the sun’s forces are part of the static “configuration” in our solar system (in fact semi-static) and the cosmic radiation is the modulating factor. The reasons behind the sun’s activity changes are not clear – they could be nature of gravitation or of radiation pressure. We will see what the future experiments brings.

Finally, nicely said, 'Humpty Dumpty' will never get out of fashion. He is a mirror of our (human’s) being.

The general science actually works reasonably well. Measurements of long ago CO2 concentration aren't very good. Every hundred million years you go back the sun is 1% dimmer, and you need almost double the CO2 to make up for that. So go back several 100 million, and you need a few doublings of CO2 to break even.

Had humans developed a few hundred million years ago, we wouldn't have had much problem with AGW, because there would have already been so much CO2 in the air, that our additions wouldn't have made much difference. Had we come along even later in the planets history, the climate sensity (per molecule) would have been even greater.

During the late Ordovician Period there was an ice age while CO2 levels were 4400 ppm - nearly 12 times higher than today. In theory, the Earth should have been extremely hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today

Of course it is thought the Gondwana drifting down and settling over south pole may have had a bit of influence over climate of the late Ordovician Period. Where most of the earth's above sea land mass sits relative to the equator might be a tad important climate consideration don't you think?

There will never be another ice age. Not in the age of humans.

That might be true, but not because of CO2. I saw a paper where someone came up with an optimum rate of fossil fuel burning, -optimum for staving aff the next ice age as long as possible. He came up with about a half million years. But that requires carefully husbanding the carbon, leaving just enough in the atmosphere to keep the glaciers at bay. We're using it up much too fast (which means the geological drawdown of CO2 will proceed much faster), and probably only get a bit over a hundred thousand. Of course we could manufacture a bunch of engineered greenhouse gases, with long lifetimes, and infrared absorption bands in atmospheric windows, so you might be correct. Then there is geo-engineering. I suspect throwing dark powder on glaciers and snowfields would be pretty effective....

New support for my position from some other extra-terrestrials http://sc25.com/index.php?id=304&linkbox=true

Take the hint, Murray. Your AGW-contrarian diversion is not particularly welcome in this thread.

interesting-a shutdown of the North Atlantic converyor due to a cold freshwater melt cap on the North Atlantic (coming from the glacial shrink that raises sea level-which Nils claims won't/isn't happen/ing) produces the same local effect in NW Europe Nils is predicting a solar minimum and increased earth rotational speed will produce. Good chance my kids will live to see which scenario lies closest to what happens.

Still doesn't handle your 80 years of cooling in a 60 year cycle--one, the other or both of your numbers is/are whacked.

CCS may well be a waste of time and energy but probably not for the reasons you think it is.

Let's make new sea ice

interesting concept but that presentation doesn't carry much past the bar napkin stage ?- )

It violates the laws of thermodynamics. Kind of like thinking that a refrigerator can be used to cool your house if you place it in the middle of the living room with the door open. Making ice with flared gas will not cool the environment.

Makes one wonder if it was meant as a kind of Rube Goldberg piece.

Gas that's otherwise flared put to work. You would prefer it flared?

Put it to work to do something useful?

"Stranded" gas is flared because it can't be transported and it's too dangerous to vent. Small quantities are burned to generate electricity on the platform. In a mature field gas is sometimes reinjected, but it has a tendancy to mix with liquids and get produced again. Same thing with miscible CO2.

Where it makes most sense to make new sea ice is the Norwegian Sea and future Arctic platforms, especially offshore Greenland, Newfoundland, Kara, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. USGS now ranks the Arctic Ocean as the second largest oil resource on earth (after Siberia). Flaring in the Arctic and heating up the Arctic atmosphere is a really bad idea. Making ice is considerably less bad. It adds to reflectivity and has the potential to marginally chill North Atlantic Drift. It's also fairly cheap to deploy. Proven off-the-shelf components.

Thinking that making ice in a closed system and thus cooling something violates the laws of thermodynamics. You end up generating more heat. This is pretty obvious unless you haven't been trained in thermo, and explains why you can't cool a room by opening the door of a refrigerator.

Well, thinking it doesn't violate any laws... ;^)

Case 1 - burn gas, heat atmosphere

Case 2 - burn gas to drive compressor and make ice

Knock off being so silly about a "closed system." The refrigerator in a room canard ignores context. We're flaring 100 billion cubic meters per year.

When it comes to the enduring battle between freezing and thawing in the Arctic region, a definite "seesaw" effect can be observed both on land and out to sea. Ice and snow are very reflective surfaces, so they don't readily absorb solar radiation. This means that it takes a long time for sunshine to have a defrosting effect. In fact, it only really begins to take effect one the air molecules start to warm up, and their contact with the ice transfers sufficient energy for thawing to take place. However, once it begins then there is a significant acceleration in the rate of thawing -- hence the "seesawing." This occurs because the exposed ocean and land surfaces are generally nonreflective of solar radiation, and hence they absorb energy and warm up. (Cheshire, 2007)

More ice, more reflectivity, less absorption. Period.

What again is it going to produce?
Will it make huge slow-melting icebergs, or bolder-sized ice-cubes that will melt in no time?

Sounds pretty energy intensive per photon of sunlight reflected. A more interesting idea is bubbles. Modify ships so that they leave really tiny bubbles in their wakes. The lifetime of bubbles is longer the smaller they are, so they are shooting for the micron range. These increase the reflectivity of the water.

Yep, this issue is where Kunstler (I'm sure you're all familiar with this author) makes his most valid point. The existing infrastructure is so extensive - including non-petroleum related structures like houses and their piping - that it will be impossible to maintain just the existing infrastructure along with all the new mining and construction required for the new electric world. FF depletion will make it impossible to maintain current transportation infrastructure which still relies on petroleum. The energy and materials needed for new electric vehicles and its infrastructure will have to come from fossil fuels, which as stated are stressed to the limit as they are.

The U.S will suffer the strongest contraction, but Europe is also heavily dependent on fossil fuels and in the position of not really having much in the way of nat gas or coal resources. The fact that all low hanging fruit has already been picked will mean that that much more energy will be needed to mine the metals and other resources needed to maintain the current infrastructure - contraction is already assured and I'm already seeing signs of it, and have been for a long time.

Or the issue where Kunstler falls hardest on his keister.

Are we really that dependent on petroleum? What is it we can't do without petroleum?

We can drive and run trains with electricity. We can fly using biofuels.

We can wear clothes made out of plants and we can grow, harvest and process those plants without petroleum.

We can farm and distribute food without petroleum.

We can make plastic without petroleum.

Kunstler grabbed on to an idea and spun into a end of the world story that spooked the herd. Nothing more.

Back to the topic of this article. Natural gas can help us make the transition away from black crude. We'll transition rather than return to caves.

It's not an end of the world story. He just thinks we'll go through a period of contraction in material wealth and economic well-being (if those are indeed not the same thing) because of fossil fuel depletion and because of previous investment.

I can grow and harvest plants too but I don't own any land.

Kunstler grabbed on to an idea and spun into a end of the world story that spooked the herd. Nothing more.

That's neither accurate nor fair. Kunstler's view of the future is much more nuanced than that comment suggests. Further, it is necessary (if one wants to do meaningful analysis) to treat fiction and non-fiction differently. Kunstler writes both.

I bought Kunstler's book (The Long Emergency) - it's a mixture of non-fiction and fiction in my opinion, particularly his section on a global pandemic I find to be pure speculation - I don't share his pessimism in this regard. He is certainly correct in that a tremendous investment has been made in everything people have made to date (he specifically focuses on fossil fuel use), and it requires energy to maintain everything we have made. Anything more on top of that - just requires more energy. Although I have to admit that Dickens made some of these observations in a much more concise and less explicit manner.

He really strikes the mark on issues in the Middle East, and history has unfolded there almost following his story like clock-work.

One things for sure, he is a very aware person overall and has an excellent writing style, but his picture is overall very bleak, but he does identify social issues / problems, and the fact we have become too overdependent on tech and probably just spend far too much time tapping the keyboard.

Certainly, all work like The Long Emergency is necessarily speculative. As for the possibility of a pandemic, although nobody can predict such a thing with accuracy, the notion certainly isn't fanciful. Google "emerging infectious diseases" and take a look a couple of books by (Pulitzer winner) Laurie Garrett: The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust.

He really strikes the mark on issues in the Middle East, and history has unfolded there almost following his story like clock-work.

He's a very bright guy and he does his homework. He's far from perfect, but it's a real mistake to write him off--he gets things right far too often for that.

...an excellent writing style, but his picture is overall very bleak...

Yes, in many ways. Part of that is, I think, because the picture really does appear, to him, to be increasingly bleak. It seems that way to me, too. In addition, I think there's a kind of frustration that builds over years of feeling like Cassandra--being able to see the future developing (only to some extent, of course, for mere humans without special god-given powers), constantly trying to warn and explain, and mostly being ignored--or worse. Tends to make folks grumpy.

Jim's certainly not getting less curmudgeonly as he ages, but few of us are. I think of him as a sort of savage poet of the latter days of the FF age--flawed, as are we all, but one of my favorites.

Bob – Just been sitting in the bushes following the “NG is here and is the future” theme. Not disagreeing per se but I suppose it depends on one’s perspective. I got out of grad school and began with Mobil Oil in 1975 and bumped right into the beginning of the “Age of NG” IMHO. I was working the offshore GOM when NG prices jumped 400% seemingly over night…comparable to oil jumping from $30 to $120 per bbl. Sound familiar? And just in the nick of time as most of the oil producing trends were passing from their prime. And now, for the first time, we had a tool that directly indicated the presence of hydrocarbons (primarily NG) in the reservoirs. On seismic data we could see amplitude anomalies (“bright spots”). I don’t know how to express this tech leap. If frac’ing SG reservoirs is a 3 then bright spots were a 20. It improved the success rate offshore from 10-15% to as high as 80% in some areas. NG consumption (and the infrastructure distribution system) exploded. Power plants began switching from fuel oil big time. The big money maker for the domestic oil patch became NG. Around 1985 seismic onshore finally developed in quality to allow bright spot exploration to begin in that arena. I was very lucky to be in the forefront of this effort. In my first program I hit 23 out of 25 wildcats. And that success was critical. At the start I was selling my NG for less than 25% of what it’s selling for at today’s low prices.

Now jump forward to today. NG might have a similar impact in the future. But IMHO it will take a comparable step change in pricing. IMHO when we see NG prices above $10/mcf the SG potential some folks offer as our salvation may begin to materialize. The question I can’t answer is whether the economy can handle it. I’ll leave that to our resident economy smarties. As I’ve mentioned before I was on contract at Devon when they bet all in on the SG plays. And watched as they busted when NG prices collapsed. That lesson won't be forgotten very quickly by the oil patch...or our capex sources.

Perhaps the big difference between then and now is the need for a substitute for motor fuel. Back then it was easier (and maybe cheaper cumulatively) for industrial oil users to switch to NG. I suspect it will be more difficult to switch 100 million vehicles than several hundred power plants. Just my WAG, of course.

I got out of grad school about the same time, in a very different field. It seems both of us have been around long enough to see "good ideas" come and go.

I can't see us converting 100 million existing vehicles to NG(SG). Most people will overpay at the liquid gas pump or switch to public transportation/car pools rather than plunk down the money to convert their current ride. That would be my guess. Few people can get themselves to invest up front for longer term gains. (If they did we'd have a lot more rooftop solar.)

I don't see a rapid move to NG, the infrastructure will have to appear first along with NG models in the show rooms.

I have a little experience with converted vehicles. I spend part of the year in Thailand and quite a few of their taxis, some private vehicles, and a number of large trucks have been converted. Every time I've been around for a refilling it takes quite a long time. That is not going to be a selling point.

I suspect that we'll have 200 mile EVs at no more than a small price premium over fuel vehicles in the next 3-4 years. I don't see NG fueling stations and new NG cars in the showroom happening that quickly.

My HO is that we'll see a very fast transition away from fuel vehicles, not unlike the move from film to digital or slide rules and typewriters to computers. Slow at first as people get comfortable with the new technology and the technology gets up to speed and then a landslide.

But if you were to tell me that NG is going to stay 'cheap' or get cheaper then I might change my HO.

Most people will overpay at the liquid gas pump or switch to public transportation/car pools rather than plunk down the money to convert their current ride. That would be my guess. Few people can get themselves to invest up front for longer term gains.

My "guess" is that they will, and, in some places, they already are.

In Australia, there has been vehicle use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG - a 70-30 mix of propane and butane) for decades. It gets favourable tax treatment- an exemption for the $1.44/gal federal excise tax, and is typically 2/3 the price of gasoline.
Ity used to be that only taxis and really high mileage vehicles would do the conversion, but predictably, with fuel costs going up, more people are taking the plunge.
Australia now has over 600,000 LPG vehicles out of a fleet of about 12m, so all of 5%, but probably representing 10% of vehicles miles.
More importantly, last year, there were 100,000 conversions done, compare to new vehicle sales of 1million, so the acceptance rate is 10% and rising. Several carmakers offer factory/dealer conversions, and these are snapped up. LPG cars have higher resale value for obvious reasons, and the LPG equipment can often be re-used even at the end of a cars life.

So a good 2nd hand car plus and LPG conversion, and you have cheap motoring - an EV just can;t compete with that (residential electricity is 22c/kWh in Aust, about 10c off peak)

And a little Texas style marketing helps too;

I suspect that we'll have 200 mile EVs at no more than a small price premium over fuel vehicles in the next 3-4 years.

I suspect we won't. You can buy a Kia or Hyundai, brand new, for $12k these days, almost one third of the (unsubsidised) cost of an EV. And if they have to compete with EV's they'll make them cheaper, remove fancy stuff like the nav systems, power windows etc, for those who want cheap motoring, and the ability to do a road trip of more than 100 miles.

Not saying that EV's won;t get sold, but replacing ICE's won;t be that simple, and as more alternate fuel options become available (CNG, LPG ethanol, methanol) the fuel costs may not rise as much as oil.

Paul, how long do you think your government will give up that "2/3rds of the price of fuel" tax before they extend it to NG for highway use?

And we'll have to wait and see if EVs drop in price to that of ICEVs. Some of the major car manufacturers such as Nissan say they will.

I can't see why an electric Ford Focus would cost more than a gas Ford Focus when you consider the complexity of an internal combustion engine and its ancillary systems. Remember, the rare earth minerals in a catalytic convertor cost considerably more than the lithium in a Leaf's batteries.

I would expect those conditions to hold true for Kias and Hyundias as well.

There already plans to gradually reduce that tax exemption starting 2012, and everyone knows that, but it hasn't stopped them. Australia produces lots of LPG as a byproduct of NG production, but is a net oil importer. so it is good for all (except the Saudis, etc) to use more LPG and that is what is happening.

AS for ICE v EV costs, I have to disagree with you. At present, you can't even buy the EV's electric motor for the same price as the same power ICE, let alone the batteries, and electric motors are older than ICE's! The EV's have a lot of catching up to do.

"you can't even buy the EV's electric motor for the same price as the same power ICE"

Do you have prices for electric motors and 'factory new' engines? I've been looking for that data.

Conversion motors which I've found are less than a factory rebuilt used ICE.

Bob - Not only would I expect NG to not remain "cheap" if there is a significant expansion into the motor fuel market but a increase in price. That model was well established back in the 70's. Tomball a small town north of Houston. A nice oil field was discovered under it. It also contained a good bit of NG dissolved in it. It wasn't worth enough to justify a pipeline so the company, ExxonMobil, gave the NG to the city for free. Better than just flaring it which was SOP in many fields across the country at that time.

Needless to say as NG distribution expanded to industry and home owners the price rose. No one gives NG away these days. NG is under $5/mcf now for the same basic reason: supply and demand. The recession did its part to get us where we are today. I don't make predictions as a rule, especially about prices. But anyone usng a future NG price around today's cost for projections of the economics of a national NG powered auto fleet will likely be very disappointed IMHO.

Thanks Rockman.

Geothermal is getting further afield from the original topic, but I'd be interested in getting your take on this, since you have a lot of experience with holes in the ground.

As you probably know hot rock/enhanced geothermal development has been set back by seismic activity, seemingly, during fracturing. Not an unknown event in drilling for fossil fuels I understand.

GTherm, founded in 2008, says it has come up with an approach that doesn't require any fracturing or water cooling. It uses a kind of solid-state heat exchanger—what the company calls a "heat nest"— at the bottom of wells. The nest draws heat away from the surrounding rock more efficiently, with the help of a highly conductive grout that encases the heat exchanger.


"We're looking at depths of about five kilometers with down-the-hole temperatures of between 250 °F and 300 °F," says Cerezo. "With this, we're aiming to produce one megawatt net from each well."

One megawatt isn't much, but GTherm envisions a more distributed and scalable model of geothermal generation—from installations of a few megawatts to large clusters of wells totaling hundreds of megawatts.

Thousands of depleted oil and gas wells across the United States and Canada are prime candidates for development, Parrella says. Temperature data is already known in these fields, significantly reducing exploration costs. Parrella is convinced GTherm can deliver clean power for less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour."


Does that smell right to you?

(I suppose it is semi-relevant to the topic at hand. Any affordable, cleaner energy source which comes on line is likely to lower NG's role as we go forward.)

Bob - I can make a little more of a connection between geothermal and NG. About 30 years ago there was a bit of excitement about the prospect of geothermal recovery in S. La. There are areas where temps run 300F at shallower depths than your 5 km. And an added bonus: NG dessolved in all that very hot water to be produced...enough to add some economic value to the operation. I don't know the details but the projects, despite a lot of govt sub money, just didn't work out. Essentially the cost of the wells and the manitenance killed the projects.

But there may be a much more cost efficient geothermal play that could be applied across much of the country: low temp geothermal. Like real low: 75F. Saw a very interesting special where holes only a few 100' down were drilled and recirculating hoses run down and the water pumped through liquid heat exchangers. In this case the thermal gain was to suppliment a nursing home under construction in Atlanta, Georgia. The econmics seemed to make sense. There wasn't a huge heat gain but it was very cheap compared to the hot rock approach. And this was several years ago so the economics may be that much better now. I'm just guessing but I think the total cost was around $25,000 - $35,000. A lot cheaper than $800 million to develop a hot rock field like the Geysers in CA.

What's your opinion on using existing oil holes? That would certainly seem to bypass the drilling cost issue.

And one would expect a lot of old wells had grid connections, so hook-up issues might be minimal. At least NIMBY should be a small issue for running connections.

The folks I listed are planning on using a solid state device to make electricity from heat. Stick the probe down, grout it in, hook it up.

Dual cycle liquid exchangers are another, but more complicated approach. Use water to bring up the heat and then use that heat to vaporize a different liquid to drive turbines. But that sounds a lot more involved than one would want to get on a single smaller bore hole.

I suppose I'm asking a fairly simple question - are there actually a lot of unused wells with their passageways still open and are many of them hot at the bottom? Is this a sizable resource, if the technology works?

(Second try on this post. The other one went somewhere - might appear or might not.)

Bob - The original DOE project in S La actually gave tax credits to companies that donanted deep holes to the program. But one of the problems was that such holes weren't design for geothermal recovery. But even with that and a little kiss from the NG production it wasn't enough to offset the very high operational costs.

Won't offer a number but there are many deep wells plugged and abandoned every year. But I can't guess how much infrastructure and wells your plan would need even as a pilot project. The best approach might be to approach the state agencies in Texas and La. They often take ownership of wells left unplugged by operators who went bankrupt. We just picked up 18 such holes from the La. "orphane well" program. But they were all shallow not-so-hot wells.

Another factor that will undermines the 'gas bridge' is that a sudden rush to NG transport fuel will price industrial customers out of the market. That includes the gas fired plant needed most places to shadow wind generation. The forerunner could be CNG as a diesel replacement. In Australia truckers (those ineligible for fuel subsidies like mine trucks) can pay $1.40 or more per litre of diesel with a heating value of 35 megajoules. That's 4c per MJ or $40 per gigajoule. A GJ and mmbtu are close to the same amounts of energy. Think of NG priced at $40 per mmbtu not $4-$8. Not only that Australia uses twice the tonnage of oil as domestic gas though there is a growing liquefied gas export trade.

Therefore both in price and quantity terms truckers and perhaps NGV motorists will pay several times as much for NG as stationary power plants, office buildings, laundries, bakeries, ceramic goods manufacturers and so on. After just a few years of a shift to CNG in transport industrial users will be outbid. That's maybe just 5 years or so from now if oil stays over $100 a barrel. Where will industry get the cheap energy? What will load balance variable wind power?

Boof, I think the simple answer to your question of "where will industry get the cheap energy?" is that they won't get it cheap. And they may relocate to somewhere that it is cheap - just as we have already seen industry relocate to where labour is cheap.

But, in reality, does it have to be that cheap? In NSW (where I think you are, IIRC), the retail/small commercial price of electricity is about 22c/kWh, but the wholesale price is usually 2.5-4c. For natural gas, the rates are about $15/MJ, when the wholesale price is $4.

So presently, most of the "cost" for the laundries, bakeries, farms etc is something other than the energy itself.

In the case of Australia, if domestic NG use for vehicles east into export LNG volumes, I think that is the best possible outcome, as it will be eating into oil imports (in $value) even more. AS long as Australia remains an NG net exporter, which will quite some time, I think NG vehicles are the way to go - it will lead to an increase in NG prices, but I don't think it will put the bakery out of business. it might make a few more customers walk there, though. And if they have given up their cars, they will have more $ to spend on hot fresh bread, which is not a bad thing at all.

After all, those businesses you mentioned can;t be offshored, so if costs go up for all, well, then everyone pays a little bit more. but for most of those businesses, energy will be less than 10% of overall costs - labour and land/rent are always much greater.

I think Jeff Rubin has it right, expensive energy isn't the end of the world, just the end of globalisation - bring it on, I say.

Paul I'm in Tasmania. A truck operator asked me how come they advertise natural gas on TV but won't send gas lines out to country towns. His theory it was to protect diesel and electricity interests. My theory is they don't have the gas to spare. (amusing sidenote http://www.efarming.com.au/News/general/19/03/2011/133407/fur-seals-navi...)

The trouble with switching gas from export to domestic use is that locals then have to pay the 'world price' for something from their own backyard. Perhaps Export Land cutbacks will apply to gas as well as oil, just a few years later. Unlike a bakery I understand fuel cost is a hefty component of the operating expense of a combined cycle gas fired power station. I infer a figure something like 40-50% based on WNA fuel cost discussions. If that gas fuel cost doubles due to competition from CNG the cost of gas fired electricity must skyrocket.

The real reason why they won' put gas lines out to country towns is that the return on the cost of doing so is just not there. I know this because I sued to manage the utilities for a "country town" (ski resort) and we and the local real town went through this exercise with the gas company. The cost of putting in a pipeline is large, and the gas sales are modest, unless there is a large industrial user (e.g. drying kilns at a lumber mill) involved. That said, if the town want to pay for the pipeline, they can have gas, and I know of one town (another ski resort) that did just that - their gas rates are $10/GJ higher than everyone else, to pay for the line, but they have gas.

I don;t actually have a problem with locals paying the world price, I think that's a good thing. Keeping the local price artificially cheaper encourages wasteful use, and we see that in the OPEC countries. here in Canada they export more oil than they use, but it the domestic price is higher than US (because of taxes) and so Canada is, generally, more oil efficient than the US. Opposite example here in Canada with electricity (and see it almost everywhere with municipal water supply), where the hydro electricity is kept artificially cheap, and so Cdns are less electrically efficient than the US . Every kWh wasted on electric resistance heating could have been sold for export income. Of course, the state should then pay a rebate, to everyone, based on the export income, so the benefits do go back to those that bear the cost, but the unit rate for the commodity remains at market level to discourage waste.

Of course, if the cost of NG goes up so does the cost of NG electricity - California is a great example of that. But is expensive electricity the end of the world? It is still the single greatest enabler of quality of life, and I would pay5x the cost if needed. Higher NG costs may be the cost of oil independence for Oz, but what other choice is there? I would rather have high NG and be oil independent than the reverse.

That includes the gas fired plant needed most places to shadow wind generation.
Peak OCGT plants only operate when the MWh price is above the cost of NG, higher gas prices will result in higher electricity prices because peak costs will be higher, but OCGT will still be profitable, and therefore available. It will also mean wind power will be more profitable because prices will rise higher before OCGT comes on line.

It should stimulate TAS to use its hydro capacity to take better advantage of peak rates.

Richard Heinberg played a prominent role in the excellent energy series recently moderated by Dan Rodricks on Baltimore radio.


I've been reading TOD for a long time. Rockman, the realism of your comments is very much appreciated.

Denali (alska)NG pipeline cancelled


One thing to have gas, another to be able to use it...


The minders at TOD shutdown an active discussion of the Fukushima accident and replace it with nothing. Naturally, the subject comes up elsewhere, and we get this.

I thought we were kinda sorta talking about NG here! If you'd like to copy this thread to Drumbeats, please do. It will disappear soon.
All the best,

A wild emotional antinuclear post was allowed to stay but the response containing important countervailing facts was deleted.

Of course there are many other more important and timely subjects worthy of remaining on the natural gas post.

a shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor due to a cold freshwater melt cap on the North Atlantic…

Gondwana drifting down and settling over south pole…

we are currently moving out of the spiral arm 5a (or 4a - I cloud be mistaken…

We are, in fact, living in an ice age…

UPS has almost trebled the size of its London-based green fleet, taking delivery of 14 Modec electric vehicles…

Complex and constantly changing tax laws provides big incomes for tax lawyers and tax accountants. If we simply went to a VAT, for example…

How far back would it have to go: about stuff like human rights -- going back to using the rack and using barbaric methods of "trial" to get "justice"?...

Peasants and workers have suffered while elites prospered in cultures around the world, at all stages of industrial and technological development…

Ranchers and farmers are loving wind turbines…

I measured the inside ceiling temp on my Prius…

Volvo has added an ethanol heater to their C30 EV that will heat the batteries and passenger compartment…

it would take quite a bit more than 0.4% of the world land area to develop 11 TW (more or less) of power from wind and solar…

The terrestrial halophyte, Salicornia bigelovii Torr., was evaluated as an oilseed crop…

North Africa has plenty of land area, and about as much solar energy as it is possible to find on the surface of the planet…

These are all fine natural gas subjects, as are antinuclear Fukushima comments. But a mitigating comment on Fukushima is not worthy. Wow, it’s like I’m back in the second grade again. Ms. Pemberton has her ruler out and is whacking the naughty boys.

How about treating people like adults and letting them decide who or what to read. Adult conversation tends to be wide ranging, which makes it interesting.

Almost anybody can do a control F on ‘natural gas’ and skip the other comments.

When a comment like the one you are referring to disappears I never know if the moderators pulled it or an alliance of opponents 'flag as inappropriate.' By and large the flags don't seem to be abused, but you never know. The only things I ever flagged myself were late posted spam trying to sell some product or another--those were absolutely inappropriate.

There were several active and civil ongoing threads in that Fukushima discussion but the replies were spreading out in time--it probably gets to be too many open discussions to moderate so older less active ones get closed out just to keep things manageable. Tone of course can get any post quashed.

Thanks, Bill.

I was going to take Kate to task, myself, for irrational and unhelpful "moderation," but I just couldn't muster the energy.

This has been the most irrational post-article thread I've ever dealt with. There's very little here directly related to the topic. I've deleted entire threads and then restored them because they were intelligent discussions, though very marginally related to the topics.

In desperation, I've then tried to corral other posts that seemed out of place, and apparently missed others that probably should have gone as well.

IMHO, about 80% of this thread should be hidden, according to posting guidelines, which reflect the wishes of the editors. In that respect, commenters should be using the Drumbeats threads to have discussions unrelated to the article topics. In fact, we had one editor and frequent article poster who visited this forum, wondered why it was such a mess, and said he wouldn't come back. . .

In general, I've hidden only a very few posts during my 5 months of moderation, mostly due to spam, inappropriate language, rants, or disagreements that flamed out of control. Sometimes I've sent things into the ethers because I was asked to.

I feel schizoid every time I try to moderate this discussion. So please excuse my errors and oversights.


PS - I removed a nuclear / Fuku string that you're referring to and then gave up!

In desperation, I've then tried to corral other posts that seemed out of place, and apparently missed others that probably should have gone as well.

I think something like that is what happened, here.

In the long, it is always a question, in attempting to moderate forums permitting open posting, whether the needs and desires of the editors and participants can be kept in reasonable sync.

Leaving that aside, nobody envies you your job here, Kate. Thanks for giving it your best shot.



The discussion goes tangential very quickly, as people nitpick on other postings, or (in this case) say energy type X is the alternative to NG, and then the discussion is about X, not NG. I am one of the offenders!

At the risk of being the forum nazi, I think you could probably be a bit more proactive at asking people to keep it on topic/shift the discussion to Drumbeat, rather than just removing posts quietly.

The quality of technical discussions here is mostly be very good, but sometimes not. The mini "campfire" discussions can be held on Drumbeat, and I think we do owe it to the authors of these key posts to keep it relevant.

Maybe it's time to post a refresher article about the posting guidelines, along with a general request to keep the technical discussions technical.

I also think, and have said this before, that the campfire threads were worth having as they allowed and encourage these tangential discussions, on the topic of the week.

Happy moderating!

Suggestions appreciated. Moderating is an interesting exercise in maintaining awareness and equanimity!

I've tried to employ alternately suggesting and sometimes quietly removing, not wanting to be obnoxious.

With the thousands of hits and hundreds of comments posted on TOD, that method is probably not effective. Maybe I need to post a link to the guidelines when each article goes up.

Too late here, but - http://www.theoildrum.com/special/guidelines


I hadn't read those guidelines for over a year, but I always get a laugh out of;

Readers follow these recommendations at their own risk. The Oil Drum accepts no responsibility for adverse consequences that result from following these recommendations.

I don;t know how you get injured or some such from blogging, or what the adverse consequences are, other than getting hooked on this site!

;} My imagination is running amok.

What is the big deal regarding keeping every comment on topic? I thought the article on natural gas was very good. I had no questions or comments about it. I review the comments because I often gain new knowledge from the comments. If that knowledge happens to be on another subject, I see no downside to that. What is the downside?

Freedom is sometimes a dangerous thing in the hands of those who cannot handle it. That fact is sometimes wrongly used to deny everybody their freedom, in the name of safety or convenience. But that argument does not apply to TOD.

Moderation is a good thing in these cases.

Personal attack

Inappropriate language

Repetition of statements clearly and irrevocably proven false (like shouting FIRE in a crowd when there is no fire).

Self promotion, business offers, snake oil etc.

Readers are free to skip the off topic comments. If staying on topic is such a big deal to some people I suggest the following. Add a box to each comment labeled OFF TOPIC, that the writer or moderator can check. Give readers the option of seeing all comments, or just the on topic comments.

Thanks for your feedback. You might want to take this up with the editorial board http://www.theoildrum.com/special/about

I work for them and moderate per their guidelines. I believe they're looking for a lower noise to data ratio.

I don't know if the Drupal program will support some of the suggestions for collapse content or adding boxes.

At any rate, until further notice, we'll have to wing it as directed.

including - 7.Keep all comments on non-Drumbeat stories on-topic. If you have comment that is not related to a particular story, please post it the current Drumbeat story.

Sometimes it's just a judgement call. I understand that a particular topic might lead to a comment that looks more oblique to me than to commenters.

I regret any errors or misunderstandings and encourage people who aren't sure about a post to put it in Drumbeats for now.