Drumbeat: May 14, 2011

Obama to open Alaska petroleum reserve to new drilling

Reporting from Washington — President Obama will open Alaska's national petroleum reserve to new drilling, as part of a broad plan aimed at blunting criticism that he is not doing enough to address rising energy prices.

The plan, unveiled in Obama's weekly radio address Saturday, also would fast-track environmental assessment of petroleum exploration in some portions of the Atlantic and extend the leases of oil companies whose work in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean was interrupted by the drilling moratorium after last year's BP oil spill.

Morganza Spillway Expected to Open Today, Flooding Louisiana Cajun Country

When the Morganza Spillway is opened, an estimated 15,000 acres of farmland will be initially underwater in the south- central part of Louisiana along the Mississippi River, Kyle McCann, a spokesman at Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.

Opening the spillway will also affect Louisiana’s energy production. Inside the threatened area are 2,264 wells that produce 19,278 barrels of crude oil a day, about 10 percent of Louisiana’s onshore total.

Exxon Mobil shuts oil pipelines due to flood threat

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co has shut three crude oil pipeline segments near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, out of concern about Mississippi River flooding, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Kentucky sues Marathon for price gouging during flood

(Reuters) - Kentucky has sued Marathon Oil Corp (MRO.N) for price gouging on gasoline and other motor fuels across the state during the recent flooding along the Mississippi River.

"Gas prices jumped 30 cents overnight," said state Attorney General Jack Conway.

Oil rises on lingering refinery concerns

Oil rallied in the last hour of trading on Friday to settle higher, finishing the week up more than 2 percent after plunging the week before.

Last-minute buyers may be guarding against the chance that refineries in the Southeast will be affected by Mississippi River flooding over the weekend.

Oil Market Is ‘Structurally Bullish,’ Goldman’s Currie Says

The oil market is “structurally bullish” and prices are likely to be higher in 12 months, according to a senior analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The market will get into “critical shortages” in 2012, Jeffrey Currie, head of commodity research at the bank, said today in an interview in London. “Long-term and medium-term we’re still structurally bullish.”

Oil Price Outlook: Correction or Crash?

In the face of a harsh sell-off after a run-up to $115 per barrel — a 22% gain since we rang in the New Year — crude continues its struggle to stay north of $100 per barrel today.

But we're not backing down from our bullish stance...

5 Reasons Oil Prices Will Likely Stay High

The Saudis are always up to something. Recently, Saudi Arabia announced it was going to spend $100 billion on solar, nuclear and other renewable energy sources. That is a lot of money for a country that is supposedly floating on all the oil and natural gas it should ever need.

The Saudis say they are doing this to boost the amount of spare oil they have for export. And to be sure, the Saudis currently consume 2.7 million bpd (27% of total production) and that is expected to grow to 8 million bpd by 2025. In case you’re wondering, us fuelhog Americans consume 19.5 million bpd.

Still, if the Saudis have all that spare oil, why don’t they just sink a few more wells? Unless, maybe, they don’t have that spare capacity. Hmm…

How to invest for long-term inflation

t’s no secret that food and energy prices are volatile and rising of late. Yet what’s missing from the latest inflation hand-wringing is what’s down the road. Some commodities are becoming scarcer and that will drive long-term inflation.

While few invest based on scarcity, it’s a prudent long-term strategy. This is not something that will turn up in the latest inflation numbers. In the most recent Consumer Price Index report, core inflation climbed at a 1.3-percent annual rate in April. Gasoline prices accounted for half the increase.

Blaming gas prices on the oil companies won't solve problem

Our government must stop condemning Big Oil for high gas prices. This attack on free enterprise is untrue and un-American. If this is our government’s only response to rising oil prices, we’ll soon see gas prices at $5 per gallon and beyond.

How the oil industry saves $4.4 billion a year on taxes

NEW YORK — Motorists are paying nearly $4 for a gallon of gasoline as the oil industry reaps pre-tax profits that could hit $200 billion this year.

This makes another big number hard to take: $4.4 billion. That's how much the industry saves every year through special tax breaks intended to promote domestic drilling.

Even Oil Companies Know That Oil Prices Are Rigged

In a surprise statement, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson told the Senate Finance Committee that oil prices did not currently reflect supply and demand. “When we look at it, it’s going to be somewhere in the $60 to $70 range if you said: ‘If I had access to the next marketable barrel, what would it cost?’”

Since the price of oil barrels is currently over $100, it is clear that something beyond the laws of supply and demand is driving the high price of oil, and with it, the high price of gasoline. Well, if it isn’t supply or demand that is driving the price of oil up so high, there’s really only one other culprit: oil speculators.

Indian state firms raise petrol price from Sunday

(Reuters) - State-run Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp will raise petrol prices by 5 rupees a litre.

Gas may pose problem for oil

Many LNG marketeers are still in denial about the long-term capacity of U.S. shale. In this, they echo the disparate groups who depend on a view of insecure or expensive gas to make the economics work. Groups such as nuclear, coal CCS, renewables and Russia normally have nothing nice to say about one another, now find themselves united in the face of the sudden emergence and looming permanence of shale. One commonly shared objection is that by 2014, U.S. gas will prove environmentally unacceptable or start depleting instead of growing, thus leading to U.S. gas becoming too expensive to compete in world markets.

3 Disappointing Conclusions About The Shale Gas Revolution

The discovery of tremendous shale gas resources around the world has led many to proclaim the end of the world's energy problems. But there has been one big problem: price.

Poland fears European-wide ban

French deputies' Wednesday decision to ban hydraulic fracturing, a key method used in shale gas extraction, has raised fears that the European Union may create regulations that will put an end on Poland's shale gas dreams.

The Natural Gas-Renewable Energy Industrial Complex

For a fossil fuel guy, David Crane doesn’t have much nice to say about natural gas, the “it” fuel of the moment.

“The market left to its own devices will only build natural gas plants and that’s an enormously bad outcome,” declares Crane, whose company derives a big chunk of its $9 billion in revenues from natural gas, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of its electricity production.

Iraq's oil deals going faster than planned - Shahristani

(Reuters) - Work in Iraqi oilfields being developed by foreign oil companies is going ahead "normally" and faster than contracted, the country's deputy prime minister for energy Hussain al-Shahristani said on Saturday.

Oil employs the arts of Silicon Valley to turn water into gold

AMSTERDAM // Veronique Hervouet was searching for the next big thing in water.

The senior vice president, investments, for Total Energy Ventures, a unit of the French oil giant, had been dispatched to Amsterdam for a meeting of start-ups and venture capitalists. Her goal was to find - and eventually fund - a business offering technology that could help Total clean water brought up with oil from fields.

No more pipeline bombings, Nigeria militants say

Militants in Nigeria's oil-rich delta say they will not bomb pipelines, despite a military crackdown on militant camps.

A Niger Delta Liberation Force spokesman said in a Friday statement that they would "not let President Goodluck down by engaging in pipeline bombing" after an April 16 vote made Goodluck Jonathan the first elected president from the oil-producing region.

Ahmadinejad Fires Iran Oil, Industry Ministers Amid Feud With Parliament

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked three government ministers, including Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi, to step down as part of plans to combine some ministries.

Mass sackings in Bahrain crackdown

More than 2,000 private sector employees, most of them Shia, have either been sacked or suspended in an expanding Bahraini crackdown on anti-government protests, an Al Jazeera investigation has found.

The General Federation of Bahrain's Trade Unions puts the figure of those who have been fired at 1,300, with Bahraini rights groups reporting that hundreds more have been suspended from their government jobs.

New violence rocks Yemen: Gunmen kill 6 soldiers, police injure 15 protesters in southern city

SANAA, Yemen - A Yemeni security official says gunmen killed six soldiers and wounded a seventh in a central province. Activists say police clashed with protesters in the southern city of Taiz, injuring 15 during a rally calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster.

Qaddafi: "I live in the hearts of millions"

(CBS/AP) Taunting NATO, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi said Friday he had survived recent airstrikes and is "in a place where you can't get me." His government accused NATO of killing 11 Muslim clerics with a strike on a disputed eastern oil town.

US stops short of recognising Libya rebels

The United States has stopped short of granting full diplomatic recognition to Libya's rebel council, but the White House has said the council is a "legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people".

EU,IMF pushing Greece to fully privatise utilities - reports

(Reuters) - EU and IMF inspectors are pushing Greece to fully privatise public utilities in exchange for the release of its next tranche of aid and a possible extra loan, Greek newspapers wrote on Saturday without naming sources.

Radiation ‘Bias’ Threatens Fukushima Manufacturers Recovery

More than two months after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima nuclear plant started leaking radiation, manufacturers in northern Japan are still trying to dispel rumors their industrial products are tainted.

“We lost a deal worth several hundred million yen” because a customer was concerned about radiation, Yoshimasa Sekiguchi, an executive at Tohoku Bolt Manufacturing Co., a parts maker based in Iwaki about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the crippled power plant, said in an interview. “For us, it’s a significant amount of money.”

Nuclear Waste Needs Permanent Disposal, U.S. Panel Says

The U.S. should set up one or more sites to store radioactive nuclear waste for millenia, members of an Obama administration panel said.

“Permanent disposal is needed under all reasonably foreseeable scenarios,” according to a subcommittee’s report to the Energy Department’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The commission, which includes former elected officials, industry executives and environmental advocates, met in Washington today to prepare for its draft report due July 29.

Green Technology Race Booming, but Not Yet in United States

It seems counterintuitive to think that China would be leading the green technology race. After all, the world watched as the country struggled with air pollution in the capital city during the Beijing Olympics. China has been notorious for its environmental disregard in many ways, but it appears that a turnaround is taking place, at least in its contribution to green technology.

China's growth in this sector of the economy has been remarkable, nearly 77 percent per year (compared with the United States' 28 percent).

Spain Finds One in Four Solar Power Operators May Earn Excessive Subsidies

The National Energy Commission, in its latest wave of investigations, suspended subsidy payments to 157 photovoltaic power installations for not meeting regulatory requirements, the regulator said late yesterday in statement. That brought to 808 the number of operators penalized this way out of 3,042 investigated so far this year.

BPA may limit wind power during snowmelt

PORTLAND — The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) released a plan Friday under which it can limit wind-power production to prevent overloading the grid during the melt-off of a huge mountain snowpack.

Cape Wind loses out on US loan guarantee

Cape Wind’s attempt to win a US Department of Energy loan guarantee has been placed on hold, in a setback to efforts by the nation’s first offshore wind farm to secure financing.

Petrobras Cuts to Ethanol Prices May Deter Plant Investments, Analyst Says

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4)’s “unprecedented” move to control ethanol pricing in Brazil may reduce investments in the industry’s production capacity, an analyst said.

The state-controlled oil company’s BR Distribuidora distribution unit will cut the price of ethanol at the pump by 13 percent and gas by 6 percent, to slow inflation.

Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil

Goodstein wrote this back in 2004, when Americans were paying $2 per gallon at the pump and screaming to high heaven. Prices went down and we went back to SUVs. It’s time to pick the book up again.

Your cell phone may be killing the honeybees

The world's population of honeybees is dwindling, and for years scientists have been trying to discover the cause. Bee researcher Dr. Daniel Favre thinks he may have found the problem, and you, dear reader, might be part of it. The doctor believes that mobile phones may be a major factor in bee colony decline, leading to massive population issues within the species.

Can we weather the energy descent?

Genesis – the name says it all. This is a place for beginnings, an organic farm that’s run on solar power and located 10 miles from the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey.

It is also a center for ecological learning or “earth literacy,” led by Sister Miriam MacGillis, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, N.J. With an international reputation, she has been named as one of the planet’s top 15 “green religious leaders” by Grist magazine. Sister MacGillis’ insight has made Genesis Farm the focal point of “deep transition.”

Can low carbon growth save us from catastrophic climate change?

Most people know by now that cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon, is the only way to back off from a global warming “tipping point”– maybe around 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit)—that could trigger chaotic climate change. We are already nearly halfway there—the earth has already warmed by 0.75 degrees Celsius– and going strong. Under a “business as usual scenario (BAU),” carbon emissions will double by 2050 over current levels. Given the inertia in the climate system—carbon is very long-lived in the atmosphere–and the momentum of the fossil-fuel-based global economy, is it possible to reduce emissions enough and in time?

Banning inefficient baseboard heaters one of energy commission's recommendations

With just weeks to go before the New Brunswick Energy Commission offers the province an energy plan for the future, one recommendation is generating more discussion than any other: banning baseboard heating in new housing.


While it might seem like a no-brainer to gradually wean New Brunswickers off the most expensive, most inefficient form of home heating, the law of unintended consequences is not lost on Shay, who recalls how the province actually encouraged New Brunswick homeowners to adopt baseboard heating more than 30 years ago. That was a time when NB Power was building more capacity than the province needed, ushering in what was thought to be an era of power plenty, with ample generating capacity to keep prices at rock bottom and a brand new nuclear power plant that came with the promise of "electricity that is too cheap to meter."

A generation later, that "cheap" nuclear power plant is mired in a years-late, multi-billion-dollar refit and the province is generating power that often costs more than imported electricity.

See: http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1404953

The law of unintended consequences.... can't we strike that one off the books?


Speaking of baseboards...

I'm looking at adding an mini-split air source heat pump to a fairly small, quite efficient place that currently is heated exclusively with electric baseboards (not counting the open fireplace - or idle talk - as heating). The cost of installing ducts, radiant floor heat, etc. has me looking at ASHPs, among other reasons.

I'm trying to figure out what rated heating capacity to go with, and am curious about your experience.

If you don't mind me asking, what percent of your home's heat loss does the rated capacity of your heat pumps cover? And how does that translate into percent of your home's annual heat load?

As you would guess, I'm trying to minimize the installed cost, while maximizing the share of my heating load that the heat pump carries.

If your home is relatively small and energy efficient and you have reasonably good air circulation (e.g., open concept), then a 12,000 BTU/hr unit is likely your best fit. Our home is 2,500 ft2 and we live in a fairly cold climate (7,860°F HDD), and our two 12,000 BTU/hr ductless units satisfy virtually all of our space heating requirements.

A standard 4 ft. electric baseboard heater consumes 1,000-watts and supplies 3,412 BTU of heat (250-watts per linear foot). Thus, the nominal heating capacity of a 12,000 BTU/hr ductless heat pump, which is typically 14,000 to 16,000 BTU/hr in heat mode, is roughly equal to that of sixteen to eighteen feet of electric baseboard.

Bear in mind the amount of heat that is supplied will vary according to outside temperature. The following table shows the heat output of our Sanyo KHS1271:

At 43°F/6.1°C, it supplies 14,300 BTU/hr or 4.2 kW of heat; at 23°F/-5°C, that falls to 11,050 BTU/hr or 3.2 kW and at 0°F/-18°C, we're now down to 7,980 BTU/hr or 2.3 kW. This particular model continues to operate to about -8°F/-22°C, although at that point you might as well switch over to electric resistance.

It doesn't generally make sense to size a ductless heat pump based on 100 per cent of your space heating needs; if you shoot for 80 or 90 per cent, you can likely get away with a smaller and more affordable system.

I should also note that there are more energy efficient systems available. For example, the Fujitsu 12RLS has a nominal heating capacity of 16,000 BTU/hr in heat mode and supplies, on average, 1.3 times more heat per kWh consumed.


Thanks for your feedback Paul.

Do you know what the annual heating load for your house is in Gigajoules?

The HDD for us is a bit less than you in Halifax - about 7600. I calculated the heat loss for the house as being about 27,000 Btu/hr - plus we are thinking about insulating the slab - currently the only uninsulated part of the house. That might reduce heat loss by about (I'm guessing) 4,000 btu/hr. The slab is always about 12 degrees C.

So if you can get away with 24,000 in capacity, that should be plenty for us, or more than we need. Even if we do put on a small efficient addition. We were quoted about $14,000 (with HST) for a multi head (three indoor units) Mitsubishi, with a rated capacity of 36,000 btu/hr. That was sized to allow for the said small, efficient addition, but still sounds like overkill. (Besides being crazy expensive. I saw the system selling online for about $4400 - which would mean $8,000 for maybe 16 man hours of work).

It's a raised bungalow - the basement is all finished living space - so I've been thinking of installing at least one air handler on each floor, just to get better distribution.

One air handler per floor is a must and I would personally shy away from any dual-zone system because a single point of failure such as a faulty control board can bring down both heads.

Prior to the installation of our first heat pump, we consumed about 2,000 litres of fuel oil per year. I'm guessing roughly 80 per cent of that was space heating related (the balance being DHW) and at 8.77 kWh(e) per litre at 82 per cent AFUE, that suggests an annual heat demand of a little over 14,000 kWh or 50 Gigajoules/year (60 kWh/m2).

I estimate our home's average heat loss at 0.175 kW/°C when temperatures fall below 13°C -- above 13°C, passive solar and other internal heat gains are generally sufficient to keep things at a comfortable temperature. Thus, at 0°C, I would expect our heat demand to be about 2.3 kW and at -20°C, 5.8 kW.

Locally, there are no more than twenty hours in any given year when temperatures dip below -20°C and it's typically a couple hours overnight scattered over one or more weeks. Our two heat pumps can basically satisfy all of our needs down to -15°C at which point they start to lose ground. Living on the east coast, our temperatures tend to bounce all over the map and there's generally enough thermal mass in our home to ride through most momentary shortfalls unnoticed. I closely monitor our weather forecast and crank up the thermostat whenever temperatures are about to fall so that I can "bank" surplus heat for later use. I'm also willing to let room temperatures fall a degree or two in anticipation of the next recovery if it permits me to avoid firing up the boiler.

In terms of cost, our Friedrich and Sanyo ductless heat pumps came in at $4,200.00, installed, and the simple payback was four years (it would be even less at today's fuel costs).


HiH, Was that $4200 each or for both units? Is the Friedrich made by Fujitsu? From info learned on your posts & doing lots of research research, I just finished installing my third 12RLS, will pump it down when I'm fresh tomorrow. I had previously installed some lower SEER & priced mini splits, and they worked beyond my expectation, but the 25 SEER Fujitsu 12RLS is in a class by itself. People can not believe it when I tell them there are no heat strips as they feel the dry heat. Fujitsu ran a promotion, so a group of us got some investors and customers and purchased a dozen thru an HVAC connection, Figured they can't stay at such a reasonable price with copper rising daily. They are not difficult to install if you have a construction background, but there are various details in each install, you want an HVAC tech for install check, pump down and startup. The bigger job is removing the crappy ductwork. The pile of used leaky ductwork is getting bigger, now got to find a use for it. Best thing I can think of is Fish house at the bottom of a pond. The money wasted on ductwork is amazing.
Next week I will have a 12RLS and a 1.5kW PV system each on monitored channels of a TED 5000 IP Power Meter, Appears (hoping) that only 6 - 250 watt PV Panels with microinverters should annual net zero a 12RLS , we shall see, With the DC Inverter Logic in the 12RLS, consumption wonders, so the only way is to look the kWh consumption for each season. An estimate for kWh production per kW of PV for each month/location can be found at NREL's PVWATTS. Solar Powered AC/heat has been a Dream, Technology like these splits and the reduction in PV prices will make it an economical option for many.

Hi LT,

The $4,200.00 is the combined cost of the two units, however, I should note that I bought both through local distributors and had them installed by a friend of mine and a buddy of his who is a licensed refrigeration technician.

The Friedrich is, in fact, a re-branded Fujitsu but it's an older non-inverter model. I'm sorely tempted to replace it with a 12RLS but it's hard to justify the cost of doing this versus what I could expect to save on my utility bills. It has logged some 20,000 hours of operation to date and its performance has been flawless thus far. I'm really pleased to hear that your experience with these products has been equally gratifying. And I wholeheartedly agree, the 12RLS is in a class of its own.

I've lived in homes with conventional forced air heating systems and I confess I much prefer any of the alternatives. If I were to build a new home at some point, I would go with a concealed duct mini-split to take advantage of their extraordinarily high efficiency, amazing quietness and superior comfort.

One of the nice things about a high efficiency inverter heat pump in relation to a PV power source is that they have a "soft" start (i.e., they draw a few watts initially and then slowly ramp up from there) and they pull precisely the required amount of energy to maintain the living space at its set temperature, often as little as a few hundred watts. Compare this to a non-inverter system that cycles on and off as the thermostat calls and operates at full power each time it starts.


All very interesting info, gentlemen, thanks.

First question- why not get out of the stone age, chuck all that BTU and EER stuff, and talk about COP, kilowatts and kW-hr like god intended us to do?

Then, having got our arithmetic straight, why not go back to the old, old idea of a domesticated CHP thing that takes fuel ( like wood or solar) and turns it into electricity, which then runs the nice efficient heat pump?

It is "easy" to make a 20% fuel to electricity stirling-- I have been doing lab prototypes for decades- so that the combo takes i kW of wood burn, turns it into 200 watts of electricity and 800 watts of heat (approx), and uses the COP 7 heat pump to put a total of 2+ kW of heat into the well insulated house, which should be enough for those who live righteously.

On second thought-- way to complex. Just put better insulation on the house, south windows, and use the wood burner when a boost is needed--or --put on a sweater.

OK, now that I have done my civic duty, I go back to that summer time wood water heater (solar heater booster) I am putting up, and try to do it so that the wife will quit asking which it's gonna do first--blow up or burn the house down.

Sure, but have you ever tried to explain kilopascals or even Celsius to Americans? You might as well be talking stones and hands :-)


Metric becomes a huge stumbling block for Americans when they are travelling. The tour guide will tell a mixed group of Americans, Brits, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders what the height of some mountain is in metres or some distance is in kilometres, and some American can be counted on to say, "What is that in feet/miles?"

The tour guide will have no idea because he never took American units in school (although he probably is a university student or graduate). The Brits, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders could convert it for the Americans, but it's a lot of work and after a while they tend to say, "Just shut up and learn metric". This goes over badly with Americans because they expect people from other countries to cater to them.

And then they say things like, "Do you think the US should invade Iran?" to which one can only reply, "I don't know. If you liked invading Iraq, you'll love invading Iran, because there will be four times as many people blowing up your soldiers." Or, "What do you think about Obama's policies?" - "Well, I don't think about them at all, actually."

This is why a lot of Americans travelling in foreign countries can be found wearing Canadian flags on their backpacks and saying "Eh" a lot. World travel is much easier if people don't know you are American.

The Mexican police love them. Americans cannot understand why they get ticketed for speeding when they do 50 MPH in a 50 KMH zone. No idea of the local currency or fines so just open their wallets for the 'on-the-spot' fines ;)


Man, I want to deny Americans in general are dimwits - but I know you're absolutely right. :( Sigh.

Metric units, on the other hand, do not fit well with song lyrics:

Eg. "The Pie in the Sky turned out to be many miles too high" sounds better than "The Pie in the Sky turned out to be many kilometers too high"

"Metric units, on the other hand, do not fit well with song lyrics:"

Coming Into Los Angeles
Words and Music by Arlo Guthrie

Coming in from London
From over the pole
Flying in a big airliner
Chickens flying everywhere around the plane
Could we ever feel much finer?

Coming into Los Angeles
Bringing in a couple of keys
Don't touch my bags if you please
Mister Customs Man

Sigh:) High percentage of folks still associate SI units with illicit drugs. Most of the world is NOT going to but a product designed/spec in units you can't even add - period not fractions. Yes we are talking JOBS. Imperial/SAE units don't measure up anymore in most markets.

I have a Black Shepard I named kilo. His dad I found later is Papa Kilo and responds to pico. Best friend at the dog park is PI. I have a lot of fun explaining the math dogs.

The UK situation is even more illogical. We use a mixture of imperial and SI units depending on the context, and some measures (eg. gallons ) are different from US measures for the same.

We buy fuel by the litre but measure car efficiency in miles per gallon. We buy beer by the pint, orange juice by the litre, and milk can come in either unit.

We run the 100m race but walk miles. We haven't a clue about pressure. My tyre pressure gauge has 2 scales on it, but the car manual reports recommended pressures in a third. Half of UK houses have natural gas metres calibrated in cubic feet, and half use cubic metres. God knows what pressure that they are calibrated to.

I am 49 and I was educated in both systems, but even I find it confusing.

Beer is sold by the pint - there is no future for the metric system.

I found this thread funny because those quaint old units Americans use are from Europe of course!

SI units are very nice when one needs absolute measurements that can be transferred and/or high precision. But for local relative use measurements based on parts of the human body are quite handy and often good enough. It all depends on what you are tying to do, and of course what you've gotten used to.

I wonder what units they'll use to demark the dead zones around the remains of today's nuclear power plants?

Ahh... and yet odd curiosities remain even with metric "standards". For example, just how did Meteo Canada come to report barometric pressure in kilopascals, rather than the much more common hectopascals? (Is it a matter of stones and heads rather than hands - an Easter Island effect - no matter how small the territory, we'll find a way to divide it up and add frontier controls?)

Kilopascals are engineering units, whereas hectopascals are... I don't know what they are. "Hecto" is a rather rare prefix, although a recognized one.

In any case, in engineering units you go up and down by multiples of 1000. Pascals, kilopascals, megapascals... nothing in between.

hectopascals are used, because they produce a number around 1000, not 100 like kilopascals. And it comes from the atm and bar confusion. weather people longtime ago used used mbar (milibar, so they had a thousand of them). Now they have 1000 hectopascals. The problem is that bar is not equal to one atm.

1 bar = 100,000 Pa
1 atm = 101,300 Ps = 101.3 kPa = 1013 hPa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torr explains all the mess.

In the Canadian oil industry we decided to use 101.325 kilopascals as standard atmospheric pressure. Nobody used hectopascals, or anything with the "hecto" prefix. We weren't at all interested in bars or millibars.

There was an argument made for going with 100 kPa as standard pressure, since it's a nice round number, but the industry made a decision to go with 101.325 kPa, which is what average sea level atmospheric pressure actually is.

It's reassuring to know that the CEO of Exxon- Mobil is here to tell everyone what the price of oil should be.

Even Oil Companies Know That Oil Prices Are Rigged

It's also good to know that executives are here to support more consumption built upon a solid foundation of burning up capital that costs more than it 'should'.

What is outrageous is the blatant disregard of one cartel -- OPEC -- by another -- Exxon- Mobil.

I guess nobody else got the 'joke', certainly not in the US Senate.

Nice that oil companies get to divert blame to the "speculators". 90% of Americans believe that a major reason for high oil prices is the speculators. All the TV commentators believe that speculation is a major cause of high oil prices. Everyone "knows" that speculation is the problem and Obama is investigating this. But as Darwinian says, no one can really explain how this works.

I watch MSNBC and, for the most part, I tend to agree with the commentators on most issues. Unfortunately, I have never seen anyone on any of their shows who has argued that speculation has little or nothing to do with oil prices. I guess there is no one available.

Personally, I don't care who is responsible for high oil prices and I don't care whether or not the tax breaks are necessary for the oil companies. If taking away the subsidies reduces drilling, so be it even though I find it hard to believe that would be the case.

Obama is opening up additional areas for drilling. He knows this will have little effect on prices and supply. We know that he knows and he knows this must be done to get reelected. Even many people calling for more drilling know it is all a sham. Sadly, this all diverts everyone from the reality that we need to cut back and will cut back. And so it goes.

Lots of speculation about speculation wrt oil prices:


Drill, Baby, Drill Drill here, drill now! (Did Newt coin this turn of phrase?)


U.S. oil production rose from 4.95 million bpd in 2008 to 5.36 million bpd in 2009, followed by 5.5 million bpd last year, even with the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The Energy Information Administration forecasts U.S. production to hold at that level this year and rise again next year, to 5.54 million bpd.

Teach...the children well...


Unfortunately, people tend to be unaware of what is going on in the rest of the world. The increase in US oil production is miniscule compared to the growth in oil consumption in the rest of the world. Demand from developing countries, particularly China, is growing rapidly, while exports from OPEC, particularly from Saudi Arabia, are not keeping up.

The numbers are getting bigger. Chinese imports are now at 5 million barrels per day and are growing at 1 million bpd every year. Saudi Arabia is now burning 2.8 million bpd of its own oil. On the current trend lines, Chinese oil imports will exceed oil US imports by 2016, while Saudi Arabians are going to be consuming all of their own oil production by 2030.

The situation is clearly not sustainable, and something in the system is going to break in the near future. Most likely demand destruction will cause a sharp decline in consumption, but that implies a global economic downturn rivaling that in 2008.

The risk of blaming it on speculators is that people will be blindsided by events when the fundamentals kick the props out from under the economy. People should not assume that governments will bail them out of the upcoming crisis, because I don't see any sign that governments are moving to deal with fundamentals. It's easier to deal with cosmetics. For politicians, blaming the evil speculators is a much easier solution than shattering peoples illusions about what kind of lifestyle they are going to be able to afford in the future.

The basic question people should ask themselves is, "How am I going to get anywhere if I can't afford to drive?" People need to ask themselves that question because that is the situation they are going to have to deal with in a few years (if not this year). Blaming high fuel prices on speculators is not going to change the question, it is just going to obscure the answer.

... blaming the evil speculators is a much easier solution than shattering peoples illusions about what kind of lifestyle they are going to be able to afford in the future.

I'm seeing a similar sentiment expressed with respect to electricity prices, i.e., that rates are going up to satisfy the needs of "greedy" corporate executives and their money grabbing shareholders.

N.S. Power files rate hike application
Increase could top nine per cent

The utility revealed last month it's projecting electricity costs to increase 20 per cent by 2015 and proposed two scenarios to deal with the hike.

The original plan included an average residential rate increase of nine per cent next year, four per cent in 2013, two per cent in 2014 and five per cent in 2015.

The alternative, which the company discussed with customer representatives and regulators last week, is a 12 per cent increase spread evenly over the next three years. That scenario would not cover $139 million in fuel costs, which would be put off until 2015.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2011/05/13/ns-rate-hike-...

The reality is that the utility is being squeezed by rising fuel costs (principally, coal and oil) and the cost of switching to more environmental sustainable generation sources (for the most part, wind). It's also coming to grips with the years of chronic underspending on its infrastructure, all in an effort to keep rates artificially low. This same story is being played out all across North America.


It's my understanding that the wholesale rate increases are being expressed as transmission cost increases, but it all comes from the same place. Most generating utilities increased their ff generation capacity in the face of rising demand over the most recent decade or two, then just a few years ago the increase in demand began to slow due to recession and mandated energy use reductions, as well as an increase in competing generation from renewables. Obviously, it's no small matter to be forced to run a billion dollar power plant at any capacity less than design rate, much less have to literally pay agencies to accept the energy generated. Recent LMP pricing has been incredibly low. I have even heard stories the last few years about Generators diverting electricity to ground on occasion.

I think that the G&T's are feeling the the pain now, due to excess capacity, and I have noticed an uptick in events similar to the legislative attempt here in Minnesota to kill net metering for example. That's really getting down to the nitty gritty.

To relate the issue more directly to TOD, it doesn't appear that U.S. coal mine mouth prices will increase dramatically in the near term, but the cost to transport coal from mine to power plant depends to a large extent on the price of diesel. I've pondered why The Oracle bought BNSF in whole a year or two ago, and I can only conclude that his analysts calculated that railroads will transport more of our goods in the future, simply because diesel trains are more fuel efficient than diesel trucks. Anyone have any better insight about this?

M, in your part of the world, has there been any 'demand destruction" from industry closing down - that would be one cause for spare capacity.
As wind increases, with it's tendency to produce more power at night, off peak wholesale prices have been dropping in most places, and sometimes going to zero or negative. Since wind has zero operating cost, they can underbid any other power generator, except run of river hydro and solar.

I don't think the G&T's have anything to fear from net metering - it is a drop in the bucket. It is the retailers where that is a pain, and a cost.

As for Buffet, I think you are right on the money -sort of. It's not just the fuel efficiency, it's the overall cost efficiency. Trains with double stack containers not only save fuel but increase line capacity, reduce man-hours and wheel-hours per ton, etc etc. BNSF has lines into the Montana and Wyoming coal areas, where they are seeing volume growth. All the US railroads are doing good business, at or near capacity, and will likely remain so, as oil gets higher in price. Also, since many rail lines function as effective point to point monopolies, they can raise their prices in lockstep with fuel. So up go the margins, while the truckers suffer. Buffet is always on the lookout for businesses where you can do that.

It is also a long shot that he might look to electrify some lines too. High capital cost, but the payback will be there if fuel and volumes are high enough.


I don't think this region has suffered a serious decline in industrial demand. I believe that part of the issue is the huge response to legislated mandates for renewables. Currently, the two major electrical providers for the region, Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, are both years ahead of their mandated renewable percentages. Typical electrical demand for the state of Minnesota is around 10,000 MW, currently well served. Currently, there are wind projects - including my own - that represent over 20,000 MW of capacity waiting to interconnect. The only potential market is the low wind regions to the southeast - Chicago and points farther south and east. I suspect that might be why the G&T's are marking up transmission costs.

Thanks for your comments re Buffet. What effects do you think increasing rail use might have on the U.S. lifestyle? Your comment about "point to point monopolies" caught my attention. Do you think "railroad towns" will thrive relative to others as fuel prices rise?

Jon F.

Hi Jon, - you are involved in a wind project? Can you give any details?

Did a quick search on Minnesota wind, was surprised to find it ranks 4th in the US. Also some references there to "rates rising because utilities are losing on wind"

You can be sure that if you are having to move your electricity out of state that you will be paying for it! This is something the wind industry at large fails to address, in my opinion - they always seem to want someone else to pay for additional transmission capacity needed for wheeling wind back and forth. And if the capacity is kept spare for wind, then the capacity factor for the lines is low, but if you load it up with other stuff, it is not there when the wind blows!

With the trains, I saw some report in Canada a few years ago looking at competition between the two Cdn railways, Cdn Pacific, and Cdn National. While they do compete on long routes, like Vancouver to Toronto, on many point to point sections, they are only served by one, so they have a local monopoly. For example, Vancouver to Edmonton is only CN and Vancouver to Calgary is only CP, but both carry on across the prairies to Winnipeg and T.O.
The report compared it to the airline industry, the trunk routes have high competition and the the branch routes have low, and sometimes no competition.
But also, like the airline industry, the branch routes (which includes point to point sections on the cross Canada line) have lower capacity factors, partly because the local monopoly leads to higher prices, and partly (just like short air routes) it is easier to send stuff by road.

This would suggest "railroad towns will dow well, but in reality it is not so simple - there aren't many railroad towns left - the train may go through them, but unless the rail co has a yard/maint facility etc there, the town gets little benefit. But the railroad cities certainly do - no one would locate a factory somewhere without rail service, and the yards are mostly in/near cities.

The towns would benefit if there was a passenger service, but in most cases, there isn't, and the freight lines don;t want to give capacity for it either.

As for the effect on the American lifestyle, well, there's good fodder for a TOD key post! But here's how I see it playing out, assuming we have BAU with higher oil costs.

-There will be more and more rail freight, and less trucks on the roads - a good thing, IMO. But the railroads will hit their limit, and then stay there - I am not sure if they will make the substantial investments needed for double tracking lines, etc

-There will be more passenger rail, but it will not be done in the best way. The politicians can't help but to get too involved. Those that want it, want sexy high speed trains, even though in most places they aren't needed. The trains need to out compete cars, not planes - you save more oil, faster, and move more people, at lower cost with medium speed "express" trains instead of high speed ones. As long as you are going faster than cars, and people can have internet, cellphone and a coffee or beer on the train, you will fill them. I addressed this in yesterdays drumbeat.

- In cities, they should be doing Calgary style light rail wherever possible. This is the gold standard - it is the cheapest built , cheapest operating, and 3rd highest use per track-mile of any rail system on the continent. But, again the pols get too involved, wanting cadillac systems that go places where they shouldn't or stop so often that they are too slow.

The Hiwatha line in MN is a good example - 19 stops in 12 miles? way too slow, you could cut out half those stations, especially the close spaced ones at the ends of the lines. Less stations and more frequent trains is the way to go - then when you are on the train you are going faster, faster than you can drive. Make it slower and you end up with students, shoppers and retirees, but not many commuters.

The Calgary trains have about one stop per mile outside the city centre, and in the city centre, stations alternate between the two lines (NE and NW) so each only has to stop half as often. The official average speed is 22mph, but this is slowed by the city centre mall. The av speed from the end of the line to the edge of the downtown is closer to 30mph, and is almost always faster than driving. Calgary does 260,000 rides per day!

London underground is average of 0.96 miles per stn.

The New Mn-St Paul line seems even worse - 20 stops in 11 miles? You could cut out half those stops no problem. Now, it will remain faster to drive from one to the other, defeating the greatest benefit.

Trains can't be all things to all people, and when they try, which almost always means to many stations and too few trains, they are only good for those with lots of time on their hands. I sometimes think they are done like that to prove they are no good.

This is why trains in the US get a bad rap - they are not done properly. If they were, they would be much better utilised.

And the more train/transit availability, and the less people need to own/drive cars, the better off the city becomes, as people spend less on cars/fuel/insurance and more on coffee shops, restaurants etc, and have generally less debt. I lived in central London for a summer, car free, and it was great. Any city where you can choose to be carfree, and still live well, is a good city. But this runs counter to mainstream American thinking, and would be an admission that "Europe was right", so I can see it only happening slowly and grudgingly, when it could be done so much better.

Like I said, there could be one or more key posts on this topic (and there probably has been, at that)

"The New Mn-St Paul line seems even worse - 20 stops in 11 miles? You could cut out half those stops no problem. Now, it will remain faster to drive from one to the other, defeating the greatest benefit."

That's my impression, too.

After the great success of the first light rail line here, people concluded "light rail = good."

But nothing is always good everywhere. The first line was along a corridor well suited for it. It covers most of its route quite quickly, though it slows down considerably in the downtown area.

This new line will be like staying in the downtown area the whole way. I can't see how it will be much faster than a bus. And it will usually be much slower than taking a car on the interstate that runs parallel just a couple block away for most of the route.

Now if they had taken a lane or two out of the highway and had far fewer stops, you might have had something that would really attract riders. As it is, I fear it will be a very slow means of getting anywhere that few with resources to travel the route by car will utilize. I really hope I'm wrong on this one, though.

Make it slower and you end up with students, shoppers and retirees, but not many commuters.

Maybe not even them. Years ago when I was in school, my car broke down- of course, the day before a test. I needed to get from Marysville to Seattle- about 45 miles, about a 50 minute drive in light traffic. I needed to be there at 10am, and would be done and ready to go home by noon.

Here's what I discovered about the local mass transit:
I would have to walk 6 miles to the nearest bus stop- a 2 hour hike through the rough stuff at the side of a busy road, no sidewalks. It came through in the morning to Seattle only once- at 5:30 am (which meant getting up at 3am to walk). It arrived at the campus at 8:30- a 3 hour drive, and putting me there an hour and a half before I needed to be. The only one back to Marysville didn't leave the campus until 5pm- leaving me cooling my heels waiting for 5 hours. It arrived back in my town at 8pm- a 3 hour drive. And my son would have been home alone for five hours by that time. And then I still had to walk 6 miles back home. Arrival home: around 10pm.

3am to 10pm, for one final exam from 10am to noon.

I called around until I found someone who could loan me a car.

It may be better now, but I bet not by much.

Lesson there about mass transit:

If you only use it when you absolutely need it, it won't be there for you.

If you and others around you used whatever was available as much as possible and insisted continuously that more and better such services were provided, then there would likely have been a much more convenient way to make the trip you refer to when you really needed it.

Like much else in life, if you don't use it, you lose it.

I think the light rail line under consideration will end up having fewer stops with bigger stations at each, but it will be a contentious battle over which stops to drop.

You suggest that he should have been doing the 3AM to 10PM 5-hour-each-way commute every day in hopes that they might some day add another bus?

Nobody could do that for long, it doesn't leave any time for sleeping.


Having a 50mile commute to school will not be saved by any transit alternatives.

In my opinion, It's all BAU thinking.

The non-BAU alternative is to live closer to school, work, food, and other needs.

Having a 50 mile commute to school will not be saved by any transit alternatives.

Right. It's simply a ridiculous arrangement that could only have developed during a tidal wave of cheap energy and an orgy of consumption.

There is no solution to that commuting problem, other than to "stop that."

Ah, but why was I 45 miles away??

You made a big, bad assumption there. You assumed, with no basis, that my choice of living location was voluntary.

Total money available to cover all living expenses: $1,000 a month. Rent, just rent mind you, for an apartment within walking distance of the campus: $1,600. That was for a 1 bedroom, which by the letter of the law is illegal for a parent and child to occupy.

I started at the campus, and spiraled outward, and outward, and outward, until I found housing I could afford. Not every university student is attending on Mommy and Daddy's millions. Marysville is an armpit of a town- and has the low rents that go with such places.

I think you may also be assuming I was driving an SUV. I wasn't. I was driving a Geo Metro, the original 3 cylinder version, 52 miles a gallon. How I miss that car. I wish they could make them again. Basically a motorcycle engine with a lightweight car built around it.

I didn't make any assumptions about your circumstances, your intentions or your morality.

I understand, quite well, that many have been forced by circumstance into such outrageous choices. I see examples, everywhere, every single day.

I merely point out that it's over. Kaput. History.

No solution is going to appear that permits (very many) quick, efficient, affordable 50-mile commutes in the Age of Permanent Constraints.

Nor should such a solution appear. The very notion was imbecilic from Day One.

The solution is to Stop It--and we shall, one way or another.

Kaput. History.

On that we are in perfect agreement. I think the Stopping is going to be very ugly. In many parts of the world, food is the biggest expense for most of the people. In America, we have chosen to make housing the biggest expense, followed closely by transportation.

Now the expense ratios we have been accustomed to for generations are going to change. But the system is deeply entrenched that keeps housing the biggest expense, regardless of whether suburban house or city apartment. So there is no wiggle room. As food and energy rise, and people must have food and energy, the only outcome I can see is the widescale development of slums. Housing must come down when the others all go up.

I can see a future where people are still making the ridiculous 50 mile commutes, and returning home to tin and tarpaper shacks. Instead of 50% housing- 30% transportation- 10% food- 10% discretionary, it will be 60% transportation- 30% food- 10% housing and no discretionary. Or some similar such transformation.

But yes, the Stopping of the accustomed spending proportions will happen.

In America, we have chosen to make housing the biggest expense, followed closely by transportation.

It used to be that food was a bigger expense, hence the pressure cooker and garden tradition.

5% is a quoted US number. 1/3 is a "world average" for food expense.

The US of A will shift back.

And here is a way to use solar power to can food.

The Puget Sound metropolitan area's biggest flaw is its layout - all North-South, and everyone's got to pick which portion they want to live in - and hope there's stability in their particular area, otherwise it's either move or commute - Seattle's geographics favor the automobile. This contrasts with Portland's layout, a nice big bowl with a spider-leg layout for their light rail system - rolling right onto the downtown core streets.

Seattle's too constricted by Sea and Mountains - when PO starts to be felt there there's going to be a lot of emigrants.

it will usually be much slower than taking a car on the interstate that runs parallel just a couple block away for most of the route.

Now, the obvious thing to do would be to drop the LRT tracks into the median of the Interstate. It would be relatively cheap to do, the operational speeds would be much faster since it could take advantage of the grade-separated overpasses, and it would be able to serve the same commuters and shoppers as the Interstate, who probably won't be able to afford to drive much longer the way oil prices are going. However, it would probably cause heart attacks and strokes among the highway lobbyists.

I do take credit for the two wind turbines here in Willmar, thank you for asking, as I proposed the project, wrote the feasibility study, calls for bids, some of the contracts, etc., and supervised construction and commissioning (09/09), working closely with the utilities throughout. Two DeWind D8.2 2-MW machines owned and operated by our local municipal utilities. It was a three year project and we're quite proud of the results. The turbines are 600 feet from a waterfowl production area - thousands of ducks and geese - but no one has found a dead bird or bat yet. The financials are an ongoing discussion. We had to place the turbines in less than ideal locations, we had to stay within city limits, but we projected the production and determined that it was a good long term investment. However, small utility-owned, small wind projects are generally not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a quick return on investment. The energy produced by these turbines will be higher cost than local retail electricity for a couple more years, but over the (at least) twenty year lifespan of the project, the total cost for the electricity produced will be cheaper than the same amount produced from coal at the local power plant, presuming a minimum two percent annual increase in the cost of coal electrical energy production. (Industry projections for wholesale cost increases currently range from 5-10% annually for the next five years.) I have two more, larger privately owned projects in development but I am growing pessimistic about their chances for the reasons stated previously.

Very interesting stuff about railroads - I wouldn't argue with any of what you stated, particulary the point about too many stops on the Hiawatha line. Rode it once and could have got there faster on a bike. Still it's very popular - ridership is much higher than pre-construction projections. Out here in the hinterlands, we have been stumping for years to get any kind of rail service to/from the metro area. Never enough money. Somebody suggested that we would be happy to host a new metro airport and a Vikings football stadium if we could get a high speed rail line out here.

I wouldn't argue with any of what you stated, particulary the point about too many stops on the Hiawatha line.

I ride a surface rail route regularly (TTC 506, Carlton.) The 506 carries 41,000 riders a day, about 16,000 more than the Hiawatha. Only the terminating stops are stations; all other stops are street stops (passengers wait on the sidewalk and cross to the centre of the street when the car arrives.) Some of the stops in my neighborhood are only 250 feet apart, though 1000 feet is more typical, and of course, the car only stops if there are people getting on or off. We have a problem with our stops being too close together (It has been suggested that we could easily eliminate half the stops, resulting in shorter trip times and lower overall system costs.) You guys, not so much.

The average spacing of the Hiawatha line is more than twice as long as the 506. Much more than this, and the lure of the car becomes too great. Also, transit riders include the time it takes to get to the station in their total times: if you space the stations farther apart, fewer riders are in the sweet spot for transit acceptance. Light rail stop spacing is more like bus spacing than subway spacing.

I have taken a look at the Hiawatha line (Google Maps is so cool), and notice that most of it is on a divided right of way- the stops can't be changed very easily, and there is no allowance or requirement for stops between stations. The stops seem to have been planned based on natural use points (the airport, stadiums, and the Mall of America), peak usage concerns (rush hour and stadium exit times) and bus connections. The stops coinciding with bus routes are no-brainers (if a transfer requires a walk, it is a major hinderance to system acceptance), and the downtown stops have to be close together to control boarding times (better to space them out than to have a massive crunch at one spot.) I would have a hard time choosing which to eliminate. So did the transit planners: as money has become available, they have built stops that were removed from the original plans to lower the costs. If anything, I would want to see more stations in the central section of the line.

To my eye, the spacing is fine, and the location of stops well planned. The fact that they are over their ridership projections backs this up.

Rode it once and could have got there faster on a bike.

How about in February?

I can (and do) outrun the 506 easily, but you don't always want to show up sweaty in spandex for business meetings.


I ride a surface rail route regularly (TTC 506, Carlton.) The 506 carries 41,000 riders a day, about 16,000 more than the Hiawatha.

Yes, but that's a classic streetcar line. Modern light rail transit systems should be much faster and more efficient than classic streetcars, which is to say they should have fewer stops and higher maximum speeds between stops, and they should carry more people. The Calgary LRT carries about 270,000 passengers per day at much higher speeds than the TTC streetcars.

I can (and do) outrun the 506 easily, but you don't always want to show up sweaty in spandex for business meetings.

The point behind modern LRT is that you should not be able to beat it driving in your car, nevermind outrun it in a flashy spandex running outfit.

Yes, but that's a classic streetcar line. Modern light rail transit systems should be much faster and more efficient than classic streetcars,

The Hiawatha is much faster than the 506: The 506 does 8 miles in 59 minutes (a very easy conversion to 8 miles an hour); the Hiawatha does 12 miles in 40 minutes, about 18 miles per hour (this is according to the transit company's trip calculators.) If it were an express from terminus to terminus, you could probably run it in 15 minutes. I think being able to stop for passengers is a worthy compromise.

The point behind modern LRT is that you should not be able to beat it driving in your car, nevermind outrun it in a flashy spandex running outfit.

You misunderstand me. The point was that it's real work to outrun the streetcar, and not all cyclists can do it. It's only possible because the streetcar has to stop for passengers, and therefore has to spend more time accelerating and pays a disproportionate penalty at stoplights. After doing the math, I now think Minnesota exaggerates when he suggests it would be faster to take a bike; my guess is I'm 25% faster than the 506, so about 10.5 MPH average along Gerrard St. That's a lot less than 18MPH. I think being able to beat the Hiawatha would depend on which part of the route you were talking about, and for how many miles. I'm pretty sure that except in the downtown core, or for short distances where the point to point discount effects kick in (time gained by not having to wait for the train or by taking a more direct route), it would beat me, because of the seperate right of way and distance between stops. Perhaps Minnesota is a club racer with huge b@lls?

As for beating a car, unless you have Manhattan densitities, there are only specific conditions under which even the best subways and interurbans can meet that standard, especially when you factor in end to end journeys including all time inputs, or if you have to leave at a time that doesn't coincide with the railway's schedule. Those conditions are typically living right next to a station and going to somewhere on the same line that is right next to a station. In most cases, if you transfer, or have to walk a distance to the station, or leave at a non-standard time, the car will be faster.


The Calgary LRT system averages 35 km/h (22 mph) end-to-end, including stoplights, right through the downtown core. I doubt you can beat that in a car on the parallel roads during rush hour - Calgary has no downtown freeways and the streets are quite narrow. The congestion isn't as bad as New York City, where rush hour traffic averages 7 mph, but it's trending in that direction. Trains run every 5 minutes during rush hour, so there's not much waiting for one.

Isn't Calgary LRT park and ride? It keeps cars out on suburban parking lots rather than downtown, but it still relies heavily on people having cars to get to its stations.

Most of the suburban Calgary LRT stations have parking lots, but there is also a large feeder bus system. You can also bicycle or walk to the stations if you want. I always walked when I was commuting on the system.

Perhaps Minnesota is a club racer with huge b@lls?

Ok, you got me. I'm not a club racer. But I did run a 5k this morning in 20 minutes. I think that would just about tie the Hiawatha at rush hour.

When I lived in downtown Toronto I'd generally walk to work unless the weather was inclement; on those days I'd hop on the Carlton 506 and transfer to the Bay (No. 9?) trolley. The old Red Rockets and trolley buses where brutally jerky at the best of times (hard to hold on to your your morning coffee let alone drink it), but I recall them with considerable fondness. And even though they were like riding a bronco in heat, I miss the trolley buses the most.

Addendum: One of the things I'll always associate with my nineteen years in Toronto is Carl Banas's Toronto vignettes which aired on CKFM back in the '70s and '80s. I hope they'll become available on CD at some point because I'd enjoy listening to them again. You'll find a sample on: http://rockradioscrapbook.ca/air1979.html (Real Media format).


For example, Vancouver to Edmonton is only CN and Vancouver to Calgary is only CP, but both carry on across the prairies to Winnipeg and T.O.

There is limited competition between the two railways, but there is competition. Both CN and CP have lines between Edmonton and Calgary, so if you don't like CN's price from Edmonton to Vancouver, you ship the goods on CP from Edmonton to Calgary to Vancouver. Similar conditions apply to CP's price from Calgary to Vancouver - Calgary to Edmonton to Vancouver is always an alternative. It does keep them relatively honest on the prices they quote.

If you don't like either CN or CP's prices, you ship the goods to Sweetgrass, Montana and have BNSF haul them to Vancouver. I don't know how often that happens, but I do see an awful lot of American freight cars moving on Canadian railway lines between West Coast Ports and the midwestern US instead.

In cities, they should be doing Calgary style light rail wherever possible.

Even Calgary has gold-plated its new West line. It will cost $700 million to go 8 kilometres and will have the city's first underground station and first elevated station. The West route has a few technical issues that the first three lines didn't and City Council decided to go the expensive route to deal with them. However, Calgary is growing very fast, transit ridership is increasing, and the city doesn't exactly lack for money to build it. Also, LRT looks really cheap compared to what it would cost to make the freeway system work, given the past design errors they've made in road planning.

The New Mn-St Paul line seems even worse - 20 stops in 11 miles? You could cut out half those stops no problem.

Yes, that is ridiculous - it's Paris Metro standards. It kind of makes sense in densely populated central Paris, but Minneapolis is not nearly as densely populated (You're not in Paris anymore, Dorothy). Cutting the stops in half would make it more efficient.

The New Mn-St Paul line seems even worse - 20 stops in 11 miles? You could cut out half those stops no problem.

Yes, that is ridiculous - it's Paris Metro standards. It kind of makes sense in densely populated central Paris, but Minneapolis is not nearly as densely populated (You're not in Paris anymore, Dorothy). Cutting the stops in half would make it more efficient.

Funny to see people complain about it that likely don't ride the Mpls LRT regularly.
On DrumBeat especially, TOD is starting to obey Parkinson's Law of Triviality. People arguing about stuff that they can argue about, simply because they can argue about it.

In any case, what style of bicycle sheds should be built at the train stops?

I've used the Hiawatha line to cross downtown, where the stops are densest.

It's pretty darn good.

I am truly impressed by the number of Minnesota people who post on TOD. I think there are about ten of us, but I do not know what has become of beggar. I always enjoyed his posts.

I, for one, think the new light-rail line in the Twin Cities between St. Paul and Minneapolis will do just fine with a lot of stops. It is the most densely occupied area in the five-state region; why shouldn't it make as many stops as the Paris Metro? We would be extraordinary fortunate to develop as good public transportation as is found on the Paris Metro. Anyway, it the future we are all going to have to get used to slowing down. Why should anything within city limits move at more than 35 m.p.h.?

I'm also very fortunate to live on good bus lines. Of course, I planned it that way.

Funny to see people complain about it that likely don't ride the Mpls LRT regularly.

Well, so what? The concept of a stop every bloody half-mile can be understood by anyone who has ever used any similar system. It's simple: the train never gets up to any speed, and right away it's stopping again.

More importantly, the underlying tacit meme here is surely that we should have more such systems and more riders of such systems. To that extent, it might be wise to find out why the non-builders and non-riders aren't building and aren't riding. Any such inquiry will probably suffer from a fairly low signal-to-noise ratio, but such is life, so tough.

In the meantime, advocacy for such things will be heard as snapping one's fingers and saying, it ought to be done because I say so - and because I know best I need not explain. Now, that sort of thing has gotten a token line - such as the Hiawatha line itself - built here and there on occasion, but on the whole it doesn't go over well socially or politically in the US of A, home of many who immigrated (or whose ancestors immigrated) in part to escape it, or to escape the oppression it fosters. So it's an unlikely way to get anything built and used on any scale that could actually matter.

In any case, what style of bicycle sheds should be built at the train stops?

Actually, I could go on about this at considerable length because I recently researched the topic of bicycle sheds for train stations. It's actually quite interesting. There are a lot of new designs recently. Some of the Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish systems are just mind-boggling in their size and efficiency. Thousands of bicycles in storage, each instantly accessible at the flick of an access card.

However, I think that's off-topic. We were discussing how to make LRT systems in North America faster, cheaper, and more convenient. I think that is relevant in the context of you not being able to afford to drive very much in the post-peak oil era.

How many Metro systems have you ridden on, globally speaking? How many countries have you bicycled in?

One problem with making a go of rail lines is that enough people need to have efficient enough access to make them worthwhile to run. (E.g. the fraction of the Minneapolis-St.Paul population both living and working within walking distance of the Hiawatha line will be vanishingly small.) If a lot of potential riders would have to wait an hour for a shuttle bus in order to go from the rail stop to home, work, or both, the time-cost might prove prohibitive even if the fare were subsidized to zero. So if, for the sake of discussion, we assume your scenario, i.e. that many or most can't drive to the station, the bike sheds might not be entirely off topic, since they might make usage cost-feasible (time consumed being every bit as much of a cost as the fare) for some additional riders.

Sorry but I only mentioned Bicycle Sheds as a bait.

Parkinson's Law of Triviality, also known as bikeshedding or the bicycle shed example, is C. Northcote Parkinson's 1957 argument that organisations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.

This comes up in arguments that flare up about the use of the English vs the metric system, the use of commas as decimal point indicators, and other seemingly trivial issues that take hold here on occasion.

You will probably be horrified to learn that the Dutch spent about 340 million Euros putting bicycle sheds at train stations. This is likely outside your realm of imagination as an American.

Bicycle parking at the Dutch train stations

In the Netherlands the bicycle is not only a much used means of transport, but also a major link in the public transport chain. The Dutch railway companies have particularly large numbers of cyclists amongst their passengers. Approx. 30 percent of train passengers reach the station by bike. Approx. 10 percent leave stations by bike. And every year, these percentages increase.

It's only trivial if the costs don't get into the hundreds of millions.

The issue around English versus metric units is easily resolved, though. We'll just get rid of the English system. All in favor, globally? All opposed? Only the Americans opposed, plus a few stubborn Brits. Motion carried. English system of units abolished.

"Approx. 30 percent of train passengers reach the station by bike. Approx. 10 percent leave stations by bike."

On its face this poses a serious conservation-of-bikes issue...

Seriously, joyfully, entertaining, laugh out loud,thread. That WHT can be a sht, can't he? Brilliant!

You captured my essence perfectly.

Americans are used to getting what we want, when we want it.

The personal automobile was a perfect fit for America, it really was.

In fact, it's this attitude that drove Americans to innovate and develop and get rich. Americans actually don't have much wisdom or patience. What we do have is an insatiable desire to succeed on our own terms, everybody else be damned.

If we didn't have this attitude, we'd be Mexico or Brazil.

But now it's going to cost us big time, and we'll end up being Mexico or Brazil anyway.

Our situation is somewhat unique. Increasingly more stringent environmental regulations are forcing NSP to switch to higher grades of coal (i.e., reduced mercury and sulphur), the bulk of which is imported from Columbia and to a lesser degree Pennsylvania as I understand it. Also, when our existing coal-fired plants reach end of life, the federal government requires that they be replaced by something other than coal, which is a huge burden for NSP given our heavily dependence upon this fuel and rapidly ageing fleet. Lastly, the Province of Nova Scotia has mandated that 25 per cent of our electricity be generated by new renewable sources by 2015 and this increases to 40 per cent by 2020. Currently, we're at 13 per cent so, clearly, there's much work to be done (NSP's two billion dollar investment in the Lower Churchill Falls will bump us to a little over 20 per cent).

Ratepayers are staring at a freight train -- they just don't know it yet.


All I can say is, wow. In the short term that will be difficult. In the long term...likely your children will be grateful.

The de-commisioning continues at the Wabumun coal fired power plant I watch the building being dismantled each week as I drive by. A reliable source has told me that the Sundance plant on the south side of the lake has shut down two of the boilers because they are beyond repair. I listened to a CEO of a steel company on the east side of Edmonton suggest that building out more power transmission to the south would cause his company to fold because of higher costs.

I listened to a CEO of a steel company on the east side of Edmonton suggest that building out more power transmission to the south would cause his company to fold because of higher costs.

It's not so much the cost of the transmission lines, it's the cost of the indirect subsidies (built into the cost of electricity) to the wind generators in the south that make steel production uneconomic. I can't imagine any scenario in which wind-powered steel mills would be competitive with coal-powered steel mills, and of course they are competing with China, Japan, and Korea, where all of the steel production is based on coal.

And, of course, as Canadians, we are selling a lot of cheap coal to China, Japan, and Korea to make them more competitive than we are. There is a lot of money to be made doing it.

It would be nice if governments would explain the indirect consequences of their decisions to the public, but if they did that, nobody would ever vote for them.

Increasingly more stringent environmental regulations are forcing NSP to switch to higher grades of coal (i.e., reduced mercury and sulphur), the bulk of which is imported from Columbia and to a lesser degree Pennsylvania

The sad thing about that is there are vast amounts of high-quality, low-sulfur coal in Western Canada which is uneconomic to ship to Eastern Canada. It goes to Japan, Korea, China, and other Asian countries instead. Canada is a very, very big country and ocean transportation is much, much cheaper than land transportation. Canada has managed to locate most of its population at the other end of the country from most of its energy resources, and until the situation equalizes (by the population shifting West because it is too expensive to move the energy resources East), Canadians will have to live with this situation.

Lastly, the Province of Nova Scotia has mandated that 25 per cent of our electricity be generated by new renewable sources by 2015 and this increases to 40 per cent by 2020.

And, of course they failed to add, "And that is going to cost consumers a lot of money", because if they explained the facts to people, nobody would ever vote for them.

Well, as Jon F. noted above, the transition will be painful, perhaps more than we realize, but I trust the results will ultimately prove worthwhile. Believe me, I'm as thrilled about paying more for electricity as the next guy, but I wholeheartedly support the move to low-impact, renewable sources which is why I subscribe to Bullfrog Power (http://www.bullfrogpower.com/). Burning coal to generate electricity is akin to selling cigarettes to minors and I can't support it no matter how financially advantageous it may be.

As for moving out west, aren't you guys already complaining about the number of easterners your way? I'm extremely thankful I can live anywhere in this great country I so choose, but I'm a Maritimer at heart and happiest now that I'm back home where I belong; as I've said before, there's a special magic to this place that sets it apart from the rest. I think the commercials for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism capture this quite well (see: http://www.youtube.com/user/NewfoundlandLabrador).


This increase from 4.95 to 5.36 million is almost all due to an increase in the number of greater 12,000 barrels per day rigs in the Gulf from 13 to 30. It is becoming obvious that the recent yearly ~10% up and down fluctuations are caused by instabilities in the Gulf rigs, via hurricanes, etc.

We really have to take the long term view of the trajectory and not get swayed by the yearly data which can fluctuate as it follows the decline.

P.S. Wind energy fluctuates as well but doesn't decline over the years :)

RMT and WHT,

Thanks for the dose of reality.

We need to get folks like you on the TV machine to 'splain to the people what the deal is.

I don't know how much that I can help with the assault on science

“A key element of the Revolution for later American history", says McCalla, "was its rejection of elites of all kinds. For a period after the Revolution, anyone could practice as a doctor or a lawyer, for example. The governing ethos was the populist credo that no one has the right to tell me how to understand the world. While certain professional groups have been able to reassert their professional status, in many areas of American life -- including science -- the questions of elitism and expertise seem to be hopelessly muddled. There is a great suspicion of experts."

So I have no knowledge of the innards of the oil industry. Put me up there as a numerical idiot savant who figured out what the industry experts couldn't. That would be my 'splaining tactic.

Web - I know a lot of industry "experts". And they are not the "experts" you speak of but I suspect you already know that. I bet you haven't read one public statement by any of our experts for years...probably decades. You certainly have seen a ton of press releases, etc, put out by the industry PR machine. You have a pretty good idea of my views. And they are shared by the vast majority of my cohorts...even the ones who aren't the sharpest pencils in the box.

But we don't get invited to "Meet the Press" or to have lunch with Dr. Chu. But you don't either...welcome to the club. How much do my cohorts scoff at those PR pieces? Not at all actually...they don't even hear them. I really don't know how to express how irrelevant most of us view the "official position" of the oil industry. There are two oil industries. The one the MSM shows the public and the real one. The one you see here occasionally on TOD like Rocky and westexas. Think about it for a moment: when have you seen a self identified oil patch hand on TOD ever support the BS put out by the PR machine? This may sound like an overstatement (and a bit of bravado) but the folks at TOD have been exposed to more of the reality as understood by the oil patch than the public and politicians ever has…and probably ever will.

Think about it for a moment: when have you seen a self identified oil patch hand on TOD ever support the BS put out by the PR machine? This may sound like an overstatement (and a bit of bravado) but the folks at TOD have been exposed to more of the reality as understood by the oil patch than the public and politicians ever has…and probably ever will.

That's why we luv ya Rockman!

Always good to get it straight from the horses's mouth - the riders have delusions of control.

when have you seen a self identified oil patch hand on TOD ever support the BS put out by the PR machine?

Yes, the head honchos can say, "We need to find more oil to improve our stock market price", without adding "So I can cash in my stock options before the roof falls in on us." But the guys in the trenches say, "Sure, I'll try to make it look good, but even squinting at it very hard wearing rose-colored glasses, it still doesn't look very good."

I can remember a classic January when I was running the data for the annual reports for a mid-sized oil company, and I noticed that the company had abandoned more oil wells than it had drilled. I suddenly realized that it was time to get my resume out on the street, and sure enough, two months later I was gone, and six months later the company was gone.

But, yes, the guys who actually have to find oil will be a lot less optimistic than the CEO's who have to keep the stock prices up so they can cash in their stock options before the shareholders notice they are not finding any oil. They often have second homes in tax havens with no extradition treaties just in case things get really bad.

You could tell I was kidding about that. The news media will only talk to the villagers in the inner circle. Or they will talk to the guy from http://GasBuddy.com, or on the radio I hear soundbytes from the Lundberg gang who have been around for decades. In other words, they only go to people they know.

The Lundberg Letter case is actually kind of interesting because Jan Lundberg who used to run the operation is a big sustainable energy advocate. None of this comes out in their news analysis however.

Web understands the nature of Deep Water GM oil production but for the few that may not: those impressive oil rates are relatively short lived. The classic yet old onshore giant fields produced at peak rates for decades. But that won’t happen in the GOM. Of course, 500 million bbls of recoverable oil (a large DW GOM field) seems like a lot. So does a flow rate of 300,000 bopd. But at this rate the field depletes in 4.5 years. The rate will hold rather steady until the water reaches the perfs in individual wells. It will then drop step wise. The production rates are not typical for fields with URR potential. The high development cost of DW fields requires maximizing rate and not URR.

There are more DW GOM oil fields to develop but not nearly as many as some might expect. A 100 million bbl onshore field would be considered a huge find. Under current economic conditions it might not be developed in the DW GOM. I can only offer an unsupported WAG but I don’t expect the play to have a significant impact on global PO. Certainly a good play for the oil field workers and the fed royalty collectors. But as others have pointed out the growth in global consumption will likely offset these gains…and then some perhaps. IMHO we need to keep developing the DW GOM is a responsible manner but it won’t change the playing field significantly especially long term (15+ years).

A 100 million bbl onshore field would be considered a huge find. Under current economic conditions it might not be developed in the DW GOM.

When I was working for a company drilling in the Canadian Arctic Islands, one of our competitors found a 500 million bbl offshore field. It wasn't economic and was never developed. Onshore, South of 60, it would be considered a huge find, but in the Arctic Ocean, it just wasn't big enough. We drilled up all of the other likely prospects, but none of them were even that big. Prudhoe Bay scale (10 billion barrels) is the size you need to recover your costs.

In the Arctic Ocean, you need to find a supergiant oil field to recover your drilling costs, and frankly, something that size just can't hide from you. With modern technology, you could spot a field that size from an orbiting satellite using gravity and magnetic data, and I don't think the satellites have spotted any.

I am of the impression the infamous Maccondo field was was around 80. The reason they decided to give it a go was there was a pipeline in the neighbourhood due to another already operating field. But basicly it was small potatos.

Add in the short life span of an offshore field, and the entire offshore industry seems to be a paranthesis in the entire history of the petroleum industry.

Ts – Though we don’t always agree I enjoy the clarity of your posts. So let’s reframe the discussion if for no other reason than a mental exercise. So the premise: current oil prices are exactly “what they should be”…they are not “high”. So who do we blame (or give credit to) for the years of cheap oil?

Oil exporters: they dumped oil into the world market at below cost. The best example: 1986 the KSA floods the market with $10 oil to reclaim market share from other OPEC countries. The KSA gave up profitability for cash flow.

The US govt: not only did they charge minimal fuel taxes they expanded the interstate road system and thus encouraged more fuel consumption. The refiners thus had huge sales volumes allowing them to minimize per unit profit. This allowed fuel pices lower than its true value to the world.

The oil industry: Similar to the KSA the industry values cash flow over profit. When oil prices fall the industry doesn’t reduce supplies to push price back up to levels to support additional resource development. In fact, it’s not uncommon for companies to push production even harder to stimulate even more cash flow even if that means selling oil for less than it cost to develop.

The US consumer: When the rare politician, like President Carter, proposes implementing policies that would increase the cost of oil to reflect its real value they are forced out of office. This set the policies of all following politicians: maintain the cost of oil below its true value and you might get re-elected. Promote a contradictory policy and you’re toast.

So there you go: there is no one to “blame” for the current price of oil. It’s selling for exactly what it should be. Had it been doing so for the last 30 years perhaps have our vehicles would be electric. Perhaps half our homes would have solar panels atop. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to be “exporting democracy” to countries with rulers who have little desire for democracy. Perhaps the winner of the next presidential election won’t be determined by the price of gasoline in November 2012.

"Effective virtue, as Socrates pointed out long ago, is knowledge; and a code of right and wrong must await upon a perception of the true and the false."

"Knowledge is Power" -- Sir Francis Bacon


Thanks, Rockman.

That last paragraph is on the head of the nail!
And perhaps we would not all be enslaved by the grid.

Are they opening the Morganza tonight? I heard it will be shown live on USTREAM. Hope none of your business is at risk, but fear it might be.


Lizzy - No risk but a very painful loss of cash flow. Had to shut a well in that was generating around $150,000/day in gross revenue. No danger to the well per se but if we had a spill it would be nearly impossible to deal with under the current conditions. Safety first no matter the cost. I also have a barge rig drilling in the way of the flood but it's at no risk (it is a "boat" after all) but had to move our shore base to one that wouldn't flood. Probably ran our daily costs up aronf $20,000. Jsust part of life drilling in a swamp.

I grew up in New Orleans so sitting back and waiting to see how damaging the next flood will be is just the same ole same. As a child I've waded thru waist deep water more than once. Such is life when you live below sea level. LOL.

One of the recurring comments in the Blogosphere is that gasoline prices are now higher than in 2008, while WTI is lower than in 2008. Of course, as many people have noted, WTI is currently pretty much irrelevant to global oil markets.

Note that the EIA shows that the average Brent spot price for the first four months of 2008 was $100, while the average spot Brent price for the first four months of 2011 was $110--with April, 2008 at $109 versus April, 2011 at $123.


Why is WTI irrelevant to the global markets? (I'm out of the loop as to why there's the gap between them as well.) Thanks!

Much of the oil at Cushing, OK which is represented on the NYMX as WTI, comes from land locked sources of crude: near mountain west (CO and WY), Bakken formation of ND and MT, and OK and West Texas. Canadian tar sands oil also hits the Cushing hub, then can go in pipelines to the midwest refineries near St. Louis and Chicago.

Tough to get this oil to a port in the GOM or east coast as no pipelines flow that direction from Cushing.

If the oil cannot reach a port where it can compete with foreign oil, then the price for WTI may be much different (lower) than imported oil.

I see. Thanks again (both of yous).

Are there other geographic locations that can have similar issues. Is the oil market going to become more regional going forward? How much oil is traded using the WTI price?

Most north american consumption is benchmarked of WTI.The deviation from the benchmark can be significant btw.
There should be a pipline built by Q1 2013 which should cause the price of WTI priced crudes to be arbitraged vs global (mainly Brent)prices.


Australian 2011 budget allocation road/rail will not mitigate oil crunch

Sydney now beyond point of no return

From the article Your cell phone may be killing the honeybees:

But if mobile technology ends up being the culprit, will you be willing to abandon your phone to enjoy some honey?

Honey? If bees continue their decline, honey shortages will be the least of our worries. The linked article is a little short on substance, though the source article has a bit more:

"But one hypothesis is that electromagnetic fields could be contributing to the disappearance of bee colonies around the world,"

Could these signals interfere with the bee's navigation systems? The article also states:

...most bee experts say the creatures are suffering from the loss of wild flowers, meadows, rough pasture and untidy gardens.

While we've seen a remarkable decrease in honey bees on our place in the last decade, I have been mowing much less, especially fallow pasture and brushy areas; I only mow sections every other or third year unless there's a good reason (cutting hay in the bottoms, access, fence lines, etc.). While folks around me choose a more manicured look on their places, keeping things under control and 'visually appealing', we enjoy a wilder look to things, as do the song birds and other wildlife. The "unkempt" look has drawn some comments during idle conversation, though I'm saving fuel, equipment wear, restoring habitat,,, and it's none of their business. There are lots available in the golf community down the road.

For whatever reason, the honey bees are back in a big way this year. The blackberries are buzzing with them and we're looking forward to a bumper crop :-)

I just yesteray took 60 lbs of one of my hives. Soooooo many bees; I guess they haven't gotten the CCD memo, and I'm in suburban SoCal!

I seem to be finally getting through the initial "untidy" look of my perennial front yard - a mix of everything from roses to healing herbs.

It looked wild at first until the perennials started getting big enough to fill in the spaces where "weeds" were flourishing.

I am pretty specific about each plant having a function - anything else gets removed.

Now I mulch every year and make wine from the early dandelions, and neighbors are starting to say how nice it looks - one person said it was very "untidy" at first, particularly the parkway, until I cut back the very low branches of the tree to get more light under it, and allow more flowering plants.

Most people are unaware that everything in my front yard is either edible or medicinal. I add bush beans and other annual edibles in the spaces.

I have a lot of bees too. Not just honeybees. I watched a pair of bluejays yesterday at the feeder, and saw a male cardinal feeding seeds to a female cardinal. There is love in the animal kingdom.

I keep my neighbors happy with free honey.

Spring tides-

Same thing here. My front yard looks like a jungle. The neighbors I know think i'm crazy (good thing) and they'll love the 12x24 high tunnel that will go up next spring :) Having 40+ trees on 1/5 an acre does cause a few people to slow down. Just wait until the 18 foot sunflowers get going in the next month. I do as much as I can for the bees. I plant a lot of annuals and other flowers and then shove in onions, garlic, strawberries, etc amongst everything. Most people have no clue what I'm doing. My neighbor thought the huge 6 foot raspberries canes full of flowers were weeds.

I like having a succession of flowering. I have all kinds of fruit trees flowering...the McIntosh apple right now looks like one giant flower. Smells so good. The sweets cherries are about done and the apricots have already set fruit. Pear blossoms smell like fish.

It's a great time now - my apricot is completely done flowering - it is the earliest. Then peach, cherry and nectarine, then apple. I have to prune things really well - I have less than 0.1 acres. Just a bit bigger than a standard city lot here, which is 25ft x 125ft. I have eight fruit trees now - several espaliered to save space.

Which is why I'm expanding to the parkway. There, I do edible bulbs such as daylilies and jerusalem artichoke, nasturtium, hostas and edible ferns, small berries such as elderberry, and herbs such as wintergreen, which makes a great ground cover.

Edit : a local park here has an organic greenhouse and does a plant sale every year - veggies, herbs and some flowers. I was amazed to see it was completely mobbed with people this morning. Everyone seems to be growing their own !

I am pretty specific about each plant having a function - anything else gets removed...everything in my front yard is either edible or medicinal.

This is my strategy too, and I am seeing it more and more around my area. Fruit trees and Concord grapes are going in everywhere. Everything I have is food, cooking/canning/pickling seasonings or spices, or medicinal. "Food", though, includes non-human food.

I found out my allergy to grasses got much, much worse than when I was younger. Weird, I always heard they get less as you get older. So, lawn grass bad. To my surprise and gratitude, my neighbor said "no problem!" And I got to rip out both my yard and his and replace it with clover. I chose Dutch White because it has the shortest mature height, to mollify the homeowner's association.

The clover's nitrogen-fixing makes it plant food, my rabbits love it so it's bunny food, and the bees have a whole yard of flowers to enjoy. I wonder if the blossoms could make wine like dandelions do?

I have less than 0.1 acres. Just a bit bigger than a standard city lot here, which is 25ft x 125ft.

Wow, that's even less than me, I have exactly 0.1 acre. But my house, deck and driveway cover over 50% of my total space. How about you?

When you say you're expanding to the parkway, do you mean like a city-owned road greenbelt? That's what it means here. Won't the city just rip out your plants when it discovers them? They would here, God forbid someone would alter the expensive, non-food-producing layout of the head of the city parks department.

My lot size is 3375 sq ft. The house has a footprint of 1500 sq ft, including the front porch. Add another 360 sq ft for garage and maybe another 300 sq ft or so for walkways, deck etc, I end up with about 1200 sq ft of actual planting space.

Yes, the parkway is city property, but I applied for permission with the Alderman through a program we have called Greencorps, where the space gets certified as a community garden. Technically, of course, anything I grow belongs to the city, and they do free plant giveaways throughout the year. So any passer-by is within their rights to take whatever they want (if they recognize it as edible).

I add surplus plants from my own yard, as they grow and need dividing.

I have another 240 sq ft of roofdeck for beehives and containers.

I know what you mean about associations, though. I used to live in a condo building where folks were less than amenable to anything other than lawn and topiary evergreens.

Hi Guys (and Gals?)

I am very keen on any sources you can recommend regarding intensive food gardening and beekeeping. Especially, perennials.

I have read Jeavons Bio-intensive, and my copy of Sq Ft Gardening is on its way. I am working/have worked my way through a number of mini-farming books and beekeeping books. (Idiots and Dummies books and the barefoot beekeeper blog). I have also joined a local community garden and am tapping the knowledge of local Greeks and Italians whom seem to have this knowledge embedded in their DNA.

But any suggestions of what I must add to my library and knowledge would be appreciated.

You might want to try these :-

"Perennial Vegetables" - Toensmeier
"Growing 101 Herbs That Heal" - Hartung
"Organic Gardening" - Rodale
"The Backyard Beekeeper" - Flottum
"Gaia's Garden" - Hemenway

Here's an exhaustive list of honey plants.

Plants for a Future is a great reference site for edibles and medicinals.

All I followed the first year was Jeavon's short book (Amazon link) and I had a lot of vegetables. I use the plant descriptions as a reference from Smith's book (Amazon link). No gardening book is complete and the only way to learn a good bit of it is through experience and finding answers as they pop up through garden forums or friends.

Intensive gardening:
Fresh Food From Small Spaces. R.J.Ruppenthal, 2008. Even less space than square-foot gardening.
The Winter Harvest Handbook. Eliot Coleman, 2009. How to artificially extend growing season.
Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. Brett Markham, 2010. Lots of good basic small-scale info.

I have not found one for beekeeping I thought worth writing down or purchasing. I would love to hear suggestions for this one.

Disease and pest identifying:
What's Wrong With My Plant? D. Deardorff and K. Wadsworth, 2009. Uses a cool format, for example:
veggie chapter, page 1- list of probs- my plant is yellow...go to page 6, my plant's leaves are puckering...go to page 8, etc. Then you go to that page, and there are more symptom lists that take you further, until you arrive at the page with your plant's most likely problem.

Rodale's Pest and Disease Problem Solver. Gilkeson/Peirce/Smith, 1996. Real photos of bugs and fungal diseases.

Making Plant Medicine. Richo Cech, Horizon Herbs, 2000. How to correctly make herbal meds.
Seed to Seed. Suzanne Ashworth, 1991. How to save your own seeds, much growing info too.
Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants. Christopher Nyerges, 1999. Common weeds that are food.
Field Dressing and Butchering Rabbits and Squirrels. Monte Burch, 2001. For desperate times.
Peak Oil Survival: Prep for Life After Gridcrash. Aric McBay, 2006. Just the facts, how-to, short and simple- water, septic, cooking, lighting, cooling, heating.
Humanure Handbook. Joseph Jenkins, 2005. Essential info on a taboo subject.
There are many good books on composting, take your pick.

This covers more than you asked for, but I consider this the essentials for a broad-based library. Also a book on the best alternative energy for your particular area- in my case microhydro.

If you are poor like me, all is not lost. Ask your library for it! They can even get ones they don't have through Inter Library Loan. Then I tediously hand-write reams of notes, cutting out all the chaff and writing down only the critical stuff. I can reduce a 300 page book to 10 pages of notes. Saves a lot of money. That way I can spend my meager bucks on ones that are all photos or images, like the disease identification books.

Edit- readability

Disease and pest identifying:
What's Wrong With My Plant? D. Deardorff and K. Wadsworth, 2009. Uses a cool format, for example:

Anything like that online?


EDIT: corrected oopsie

I was surprised no one answered by now. So I looked around a little and found one that is built on the same kind of design:


I go for physical books because I operate under the assumption that at some point in the future, I will lose access to the internet. As the cost of food, water and electricity continue to skyrocket, eventually the luxury of internet access will have to get cut.

At some point, I can even envision a time when the electricity will go bye-bye. Either because the cost of food and shelter prices it out of my reach, or because the grid itself becomes unreliable or fails. And then, all the stuff stored in my computers is lost. (Along with all my pictures for the last 10 years, all my music, and all my videos and movies.) We have become spoiled rotten and complacent about information availability.

So I have a strong preference for physical books, that remain usable even without electric.

Thanks, though that seems more dedicated to the cooler climes than universal but it is a good start. I have some books but they are packed away, too long a story. It is more the short term, adjusting and getting back to growing stuff that I want to use the internet for plus orientating to a new climate and system of plants. For example I would have been used to getting a systemic spray for fungus but here the remedy is copper sulphate, all the leaves fell off the oranges when I used it :((


A railway to Arctic riches: economic boom, environmental threat?

The proposal is to build a railway in the Canadian Arctic Islands, from the Mary River iron ore mine in northern Baffin Island to a port on the west coast of the island, where ore ships will take it to steel mills across Europe.

No one has built [a railway] this far north, anywhere. But now – thanks to an insatiable global demand for minerals, and climate change that has opened up northern shipping routes – a rail line across part of Baffin Island is about to become a reality.

There will also be a townsite with an airstrip capable of handling commercial jets, and a deepwater sea port fit for 10 ice-breaking cargo ships roughly 15 times larger than any vessel currently sailing the eastern Arctic.

Linking everything together will be a 149-kilometre railway that is designed to carry trains stretching more than one kilometre in length from the mine site to the port. The mine, the trains and the ships are intended to operate every day for 21 years and move 18 million tonnes of iron ore annually to ships that will take the metal to blast furnaces in steel mills across Europe.

This is a very big mine, at least 10 times as big as any other mine in Northern Canada. The railway will cost $2 billion and take 4 years to build. It will have 31 bridges, 2 tunnels, 11 locomotives and 367 cars, which will be in constant use in trains at least 110 cars long. The port will see one giant ore ship go in and out every 32 hours.

To put it in perspective for British readers, Baffin Island is over twice the size of Great Britain (507,451 km2 vs 228,919 km2), but has a population of only 11,000 people, mostly Inuit natives. Most of the Inuit are onside with respect to this project, though, because they collectively own the mineral rights and are first in line for the jobs.

The "Polar Express"?

RMG - it sounds like you are trying to sell train trip holidays and/or real estate to the Brits!
Which is not actually a bad idea. Just point out how few rainy days Baffin Island gets (ignoring the snowy days, of course), and say that you can get beer on the train, and see some wildlife, somewhere, and you're done!

That is quite the project - they have been talking about the Mary River mine for some time. I wonder where all the iron ore will go? - maybe time to build a new plant at Hamilton!

BU researchers identify extensive methane leaks under streets of Boston

Earlier this year, Boston University researchers and collaborators conducted a mobile greenhouse gas audit in Boston and found hundreds of natural gas leaks under the streets and sidewalks of Greater Boston.

...Their work updates earlier findings that unaccounted-for gas amounted to eight billion cubic feet in Massachusetts, costing about $40 million. Such gas leaks have been implicated in damage and mortality of urban and suburban street trees. Evidence from other cities indicates that the situation in Boston is likely similar to cities and towns across the nation.

also http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/annualconference/abs.php?refnum=99-110418-A

Methane doesn't kill trees in low concentrations. In fact, a lot of plants produce methane themselves, more of it than people think.

What does kill trees in urban areas is the air pollution from cars and the salt that governments put on the streets to melt the snow and ice.

Flying manhole covers are not that unusual around Boston.


Pump it out and use it for power/heating.


Rising Mississippi River may take toll on businesses

“Some of the plants are attempting to make provisions to try to ship cargo that would have gone by barge by truck or rail, instead,” Borne’ said. “But that doesn’t automatically happen because trucks are few and far between and are already committed.”

...Instead, Scott said concern should be on whether or not a network of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines that run under and over the Atchafalaya River will be disrupted. There are 15 major natural gas lines and 13 hazardous liquid lines in the area, Scott said. The former carries natural gas to the northeastern part of the country.

“The questions are ‘Are those very old pipelines? Are they buried properly so that they’ll stay down? If they are over (the river), are they high enough that they won’t get hit by debris?’” Scott said. “That’s something that would affect the entire nation.”

I have this little list (in my head) of giant infrastuctures to be worried about in a time of resource and budget constrains. One of them is the Mississippi meander control system. Basicly the revier wants to meander about but humans want it to be still, so they invest hughe amounts of cash in making it so. Once we (they) no longer can afford that, the Mississippi will once again meander about freely.

Now what will that do to bridges and pipes crossing the river, roads, railroads and houses alongside and other instalations? There are lots of damage waiting to happen once the river no longer can be controlled.

I was wondering if I have my numbers right, can someone please help me out.

I'm trying to put all this "drill baby drill," nonsense into perspective.

It looks to me like the U.S. has produced 201 billion barrels of oil between 1859 and 2010.

201,785,491,000 barrels of oil as of 2010

And, there are about 20 billion barrels of proved reserves in the U.S. left as of 2009

Am I correct?

and secondly, how much probable reserves do we have in this country?

US proven reserves are 26 Gb according to EIA.

Undiscovered recoverable conventional US is estimated at ~80Gb (83).

There is also 32 Gb of Utah oil sands and +400 Gb of Colorado oil shale.

Is there a credible, demonstrated, large-scale, environmentally feasible (for example, water supplies) process to recover the majority of the 400 Gb of Colorado oil(kerogen)shale?

A process that is economically feasible at or below $150/bbl oil prices?

No, there are no working pilot projects to recover US kerogen. Most of the experimental projects were shut down years ago due to economic and environmental problems. Most of the recent proposals fall into the "If wishes were horses..." category. Sure it would be nice if companies could convert US kerogen into oil on a large scale at low cost with minimal environmental impact, but nobody can do it at this point in time.

No, there are no working pilot projects to recover US kerogen. Most of the experimental projects were shut down years ago due to economic and environmental problems.

Isn't there a project being implemented in the Piceance Basin, by Shell (or some other firm)?

** Nevermind...should have keep reading

The poorer Estonians (who have a per capita income of ~$18.5k per year versus US average of ~$47k) have been producing oil from shale for 30 years,
providing about 250,000 tons of oil from kerogen per year. A new 290,000 ton oil shale plant is currently under construction.


If you want the most environmentally safe method, that of Shell's Mahogany ICF is economically feasible at $30/bbl.

The Piceance basin alone has 175Gb of technically recoverable shale oil(Alberta has proven reserves of 178 Gb of tar sands oil.

Royal Dutch Shell has announced that its Shell ICP technology would realize a profit when crude oil prices are higher than $30 per barrel while some technologies at full-scale production assert profitability at oil prices even lower than $20 per barrel ($130/m3).




as far as i know estonians have never produced oil from the shale. they have burned it to produce energy for heating, like burning the coal.

Exactly. They burn large amounts for generating electricity, using it like very low-grade coal. Not an attractive application in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, at least for a few decades, because of the large amounts of real coal in the same general area.

Well, you know now.

Please read the references(290000 toe Narva Oil Plant above) which I provide for YOUR edification!

Note that the Estonians begun doing that when their country was still named "The Soviet Republic of Estonia". And as pointed out below not forruning cars but electric generators. This is for when you onlyneed electricity and realy don't care about the enviornment.

Sweden did produce oil until the 1960ies from some sort of oil stained soil. We dug it up and heated it untill the oil liquified and dripped out. Buissiness was closed when it lost price competition with North Sea oil. Even if prices climbs now we could not rely on it as an oil replacement; we have lots of more cars now than in the 1960ies.

No. The Estonian shale oil industry actually started going in the 1930s.

Permanent kukersite mining started as soon as Estonia got its sovereignty in 1918. One of the oldest oil shale enterprises, State Oil Shale Industry, was established. The private companies formed almost at the same time and were owned by Estonian, as well as by German, English, Swedish and Danish owners.
First fifteen years, all mines used strait works technology, which meant handwork. First stripping shovels and locomotives appeared in thirties. At the same time electric drilling began. Transition to the mechanized mining began in fifties. After that, longwall mining, which was widely used by Russian coal mining, was applied. For oil shale mining, double unit face method was used. Mines applied cutters, conveyors, electric locomotives and force ventilators. In all of the mines electrification was started. .... The technologies of oil shale retorting that were used elsewhere in the world, failed because of local oil shale properties and partly because of economic reasons. In Estonia reliable, inexpensive and productive technology for shale oil retorting was worked out at the beginning of thirties, during The First Estonian Republic.
Since 1937 shale oil export value exceeded import value of other fuels. So Estonia achieved the independence in power what was the result of the government policy. The arrangements made by the government for oil shale industry were high depreciation rate, such as 20 per cent, relief inventory from import tax and great export subsidy. This launched the progress of shale oil industry in the Baltic Basin.

Oil shale processing products became some of Estonia’s essential export items. Forty five per cent of it was exported in 1938.
The oil shale products and shale oil accounted for eight per cent of Estonian export.
Oil shale petrol was also produced, in 1938 only 6.4 per cent of that were exported that formed 1.6 per cent in 1939 of total Estonian export. The cement industry started using oil shale to improve the quality and economy of cement production.
Thanks to oil shale, Estonia became independent of foreign fuel and energy.


All in the pre-Soviet Estonian Republic.

Wich begs the queston; How much of the stuff is left? With modernmining technolgy it is much quicker to deplete a mine.

I'm glad your enthusiastic skepticism is not detered by facts.
The Estonian oil shale deposite is 3000 Mt of proven oil shale and 3000 Mt of probable oil shale.


Current production is around 15 Mt per year. Shale oil of 250 Mtoe/yr represents about 1/5th of total Estonian oil demand.
It takes 15 tons of shale rock to make 1 ton of shale oil so by increasing shale mining by 19 Mt per year from 15 Mt to 34 Mt
Estonia could be energy independent and the shale reserves could hold out for 88 to 176 years at current production rates.

Oh. Great to read that one of the dirtiest energy sources on the planet will last for a good long while. The good news keeps coming.

There is also 32 Gb of Utah oil sands and +400 Gb of Colorado oil shale.

I was only interested in conventional oil, but thanks.

Bees and Cellphones.....

I suppose the solution is to stop putting cell phones under the beehives!

It could be that cell phone tower radiation is affecting the bees, along with bad pesticide choices, invasions of pathogens, climate change, etc. The Pac NW is having a record cold spring and I've seen very few bees (including the hardier bumblebees) out and have had to hand pollinate some of my fruit trees. I suspect that it is a large combination of factors and what we are seeing are signs of ecosystem collapse. If so, the single bullet solution approach is not going to solve this.

Bees may respond defensively to other things too - such as dark clothing (possibly it makes them think one is a bear) and strong smells. As I found out the day I worked near the hives after putting manure on my vegetable beds...

They sometimes respond aggressively to certain fragrances, such as strong shampoos or hand lotions.

I don't see that being connected to colony collapse disorder - an affliction I believe is associated with multiple factors, including all the ones you mention - diseases, pesticides, poor nutrition, loss of habitat and being generally immunocompromised.

Honey Bees, in particular, have fewer genes for immune response than other insects.

I know these well. At one point I had 12 hives I was running. Was working on them when my smoker ran out of fuel. One of the hives got pretty upset and were all over me - but fortunately my suit protected me. Still it was unnerving! I loved working them and our fruit trees were always full of fruit. The next summer though I became allergic to the stings. Had to give it up. Went through 2 years of desensitization. Kind of hard on the liver so I had to stop early but now at least I don't react. But I don;t want to encourage it so no beekeeping for me.

From above article about Iraq oil.

"(Reuters) - Work in Iraqi oilfields being developed by foreign oil companies is going ahead "normally" and faster than contracted, the country's deputy prime minister for energy Hussain al-Shahristani said on Saturday."

Shahristani is still claiming that Iraq oil production will be 6 mbpd by 2013 and 12 mbpd by 2017.

Why even bother with deep water GOM, arctic shallow water (or ANWR), and Brazilian deep water subsalt if oil companies can get this much more production by just strolling into Iraq and punching a few holes in the ground? Or maybe Iraq does not have anywhere near this potential for oil. I recall the US inteligence agencies (back about 2003) seeing the potential for Iraq oil production to reach 4.7 mbpd eventually. I don't think US information gatherers could be off by a factor of 2.5.

Has any independant agency (IEA?) done an assessment on Iraq's reserves since US invasion?
Also, how much oil, percent wise, is being developed by Chinese companies, as this oil will likely never reach the global market, but be sent directly to the homeland.

More on the current power situation in the Northwest.

"PORTLAND, Ore. – The manager of most of the electricity in the Pacific Northwest is running such a surplus of power from hydroelectric dams that it put wind farms on notice Friday that they may be shut down as early as this weekend."


"When water levels are this high, the agency said, it has no choice but to use the water to generate electricity in hydroelectric dams. Laws protecting endangered species prevent it from sending all the excess water through spillways and around the dams. That beats up salmon and steelhead."

Although it won't be as bad as the Mississippi, the local area is a bit wet too, following a soggy winter.


Energy Department Offers Deep Discounts On Its Patents

...By simply submitting a business plan and signing a generic agreement, available as a template on the DOE website, interested start-ups can apply to license up to three patents from a single laboratory at the reduced $1,000 fee. Applying for a patent license usually costs $10,000 to $50,000 and involves months of paperwork. As part of the challenge, DOE will also make it easy for companies to conduct their commercialization R&D at the national laboratories.

...“Our goal is simple: unleash America’s innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu in a statement.

Patents that are up for grabs include a system from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to convert solar energy to chemical and thermal energy for transportation purposes; semiconductor materials from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that have potential applications in solar cells, solid-state lighting, and high-speed transistors; and a catalyst from Argonne National Laboratory that removes up to 85% of NOx emissions from diesel fuel combustion.

Time to brush off that Zero-Point Generator I have in the basement.

Yes, I was just thinking about my plans for "flux capacitors" as I read that.

This will bring all the Tesla's out of the woodwork!

Fracking Proposal Worries Farmers in South Africa’s Karoo Region

...Although farmers may own their land, the state owns the rights to underground minerals in South Africa and can grant permits for drilling without the consent of landowners. Pockets of natural gas are known to exist within shale rock thousands of meters below the Karoo’s surface. Shell believes that fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, will allow significant amounts of natural gas to be mined there. But the effect that the technique could have on the region’s scarce water resources, as well as soil quality, has created strong opposition among Karoo’s farmers and communities.

Permanent disposal is needed under all reasonably foreseeable scenarios

Is this an Onion article?
Or has someone in the nuclear industry just decided that keeping 50 years of trash in a pimped-out swimming pool in the back yard is not such a great solution?

TEPCO drops the final veil:

TEPCO: Meltdowns in Reactors 2 and 3

The water gauges for the Reactors 2 and 3 are not to be trusted, said TEPCO's Matsumoto in the press conference on May 12 (I watched the live-recorded video) when the company officially acknowledged the meltdown of the Reactor 1.

If the water gauges for the Reactors 2 and 3 have been overstating the water levels, just like in the Reactor 1, it is very likely that all three reactors have hardly any water inside the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPV), and the reactor cores are likely to have been melted.


90,000 tons of leaked radioactive water a Level-7 nuclear accident by itself

As if Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, didn't have enough problems, another daunting task is what to do with an estimated 90,000 tons of radioactive water. This vast amount remains from the pumping of water to cool reactors after the plant's regular cooling systems were disabled in the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and seawater from the tsunami. The problem is growing by the day, as the volume of contaminated water keeps increasing.

More radioactive water leaks into sea near Fukushima nuclear plant – ‘A very grave issue’

A major new leak of highly radioactive water into the ocean near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was discovered May 11. Local authorities and the embassies of the United States and other countries, including neighboring nations, were notified of the latest setback at the stricken plant, which has been out of control since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Greenpeace finds high radiation levels in Japan seaweed

Environmental activist group Greenpeace said Thursday it had detected radiation far above legal limits in seaweed samples taken from the ocean off Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. ... Ten seaweed samples showed levels of over 10,000 Becquerel per kilogramme, the group said.

Radiation-contaminated area spans 800 square km, new map shows

The total area contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is estimated at about 800 square kilometers, or about 40 percent the size of Tokyo, according to a radiation map created by the science ministry and U.S. Department of Energy. The report uses the same level of contamination (555,000 becquerels or higher of cesium-137) that was used to issue compulsory evacuation orders in the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

Chain reactions reignited at Fukushima nuclear plant after tsunami: study

Today, Tetsuo Matsui at the University of Tokyo, says the limited data from Fukushima indicates that nuclear chain reactions must have reignited at Fuksuhima up to 12 days after the accident.

U.S.-Japan joint survey reveals high radiation beyond evacuation zone

The first map of ground surface contamination within 80 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant shows radiation levels higher in some municipalities than those in the mandatory relocation zone around the Chernobyl plant.

Over 900 tons of radioactive sludge from Fukushima sold for cement

Fukushima I Nuke Plant has been one big "dirty bomb." ... At one facility in Horikawa-machi in Fukushima City, 446,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium were found. At Koriyama, it was 26,400 becquerels per kilogram. They say they'll have to find out where the sludge has gone. ...

Fukushima Daiichi plant worker dies

A worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant fell unconscious at work on Saturday and later died.

The worker in his 60s complained of ill health while working at a waste processing facility. He worked for a subcontracting firm of Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The man was taken to a medical office in the plant, where he was found to have lost consciousness. He was then taken by ambulance to a hospital in Iwaki City and confirmed dead shortly after 9:30 AM. The cause of his death is unknown.

TEPCO looking into radioactive water leak

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is trying to identify where highly radioactive water from the No.1 reactor's containment vessel is flowing to, as the reactor is believed to have suffered a meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, says the meltdown at the No.1 unit created holes in the reactor and damaged the containment vessel.

A large amount of highly radioactive water is believed to be leaking out, but it is not known where it is flowing.

All Hamaoka reactors shut down

The last operating reactor at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in central Japan was shut down on Saturday as part of the process to suspend the plant's operations.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the suspension of the plant last week, saying it is located in an area where a major earthquake is predicted to occur in the near future and safety measures are inadequate.

Yes, thanks.

Cue the nuclear proponents:

"How many people have died from radiation at Fukushima Daiichi? One person. Chernobyl? Forty-eight, total. How many people are killed every year by coal emissions..."

There, I've done it for you.

Of course you are right: By my WAG coal is roughly twenty times as deadly as nuclear, counting both the coal and the uranium miners. What gets my goat bigtime are the deniers, those who claim that coal and nuclear are the only two big candidates for major baseload electrical energy over the next twenty years. Either we develop nuclear bigtime, or coal will get even bigger, dirtier, and more deadly than it is now. I think those who oppose the buildup of nuclear have a lot to answer for, especially in light of coal's critical role as the major source of CO2 pollution.

Coal is an abomination. Nuclear has problems, but none we cannot deal with. France gets about 75% of its electricity from nuclear, but they are yet to have a major nuclear mishap. Is there any good reason why the rest of the world cannot get 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy? I think not. There is a lot of high-grade uranium ore left, and immense resources of lower grade sources of uranium.

Reactors are much safer now than the ones built thirty years ago, and they are somewhat (not much) more efficient than the old designs.
The biggest problems with coal are the external costs of mining and burning it--together with the regrettable fact that there is a lot of coal (of lower grades) left. Do we really want to fry the planet? If we do, we should just continue with current policy and practices.

The lack of resistance against coal may have something to do with the severity/frequency issue which is so emotionally laden.
People are way more sensitive to big numbers then to smaller numbers.
Something like 38,000 or so people died last year in (terrestrial) traffic accidents – the equivalent of 90 747-400s. If a 747 fell out of the sky every 4 days people would be up in arms, but having 100 people die every day in all 50 states barely registers.
We’re hardwired to ignore seemingly small numbers and that is used aggressively by stakeholders.

Rgds WeekendPeak

I'll accept that I "have a lot to answer for" (as a nuclear opponent) when everyone breathlessly chasing energy abundance (conventional, nuclear, renewable, whatever) stands up to take responsibility for:

* Their collective refusal to accept that a world human population of seven-going-on-ten billion is at the core of our sustainability crisis, and to work on addressing that issue.

* Their nearly-universal failure to recognize that the most affordable, achievable and rewarding approaches to our energy and other resource shortages arise from rigorous conservation and large net reductions in consumption.

* Their blindness to the staring-us-in-the-face reality that western (contagious) car-culture and the insanely energy-intensive (and dehumanizing) built environments it demands, creates and perpetuates cannot continue if we are to have any hope of a soft landing and livable communities.

* Their brain-dead hostility to urbanism and fanciful imagining that there is some other alternative to accommodating our bloated population (as we reduce it) humanely, rather than abandoning billions to the Four Horsemen.

* Their utter and complete inability to understand that a total reinvention of the world economic system, with major redistribution of wealth and resources, is essential to any scheme that could possibly cushion our fall, and that following such a path requires dismantling corporate industrial capitalism.

When the cornucopians of various stripes address those issues, meaningfully, I'll be ready to talk about the extent to which choices between coal and nuclear are relevant. Until then, the questions seem about as crucial as the choice of the final tune played by the band on the Titanic.

Sheesh. No wonder I'm a doomer

...a total reinvention of the world economic system, with major redistribution of wealth and resources, is essential to any scheme that could possibly cushion our fall, and that following such a path requires dismantling corporate industrial capitalism.

The track record of vague utopian mashups of this sort has been unremittingly awful so far - USSR, N. Korea, etc. on the large scale, and a centuries-long series of short-lived psychologically unsustainable villages of starry-eyed idealists of various stripes - kibbutzim, communes, etc. - on the small scale. So we're left with either already-failed, useless methodologies, or else wholly untried woolly-minded vaporware. No wonder few if any "serious" people (apart from some ivory tower academics, who, with presumably guaranteed lifetime incomes, i.e. tenure, may feel especially free to ignore or trivialize horrific economic consequences) would head in any such direction, aside from, maybe, a bit of tinkering at the edges. Anyway, angrily waving a fist or magic wand at the universe won't produce a legible roadmap, nor a roadmap capable of guiding most people anywhere they would ever actually want or even consent to go.

The track record of vague utopian mashups of this sort has been unremittingly awful so far - USSR, N. Korea, etc. on the large scale, and a centuries-long series of short-lived psychologically unsustainable...

I really love this knee-jerk reflex of a non-response.

Leaving aside the question of whether any of those examples bear any meaningful relationship to the options now before us (they do not), the inescapable fact is that global industrial capitalism, with its inherent growth imperative, is the biggest and most catastrophic failure of them all--the failure that has very-nearly destroyed the possibility for sustainable human civilization and will very likely complete the job before this century is out.

Anyway, angrily waving a fist or magic wand at the universe won't produce a legible roadmap, nor a roadmap capable of guiding most people anywhere they would ever actually want or even consent to go.

Nor, apparently, will the most blindingly-obvious set of facts ever assembled for human consideration.

Thus, my doomerism.

Real doomers have no road-map, nor hope for one.
Covering one's posterior as best one can, shuffling along the road to extinction,
is all there is.

Oh, wait, that is a road, isn't it?
Maybe need a map to find one's posterior.

Never mind.

global industrial capitalism, with its inherent growth imperative

In biology - something that has inherent growth is cancer.

And cancer can be kicked off via the power of Nuclear reactions :-)

And in other, less snarky comments....

One might find the unfolding case of http://www.google.com/search?q=Dominique+Strauss-Kahn - Head of the IMF. Can this case be framed about people in power or people in charge of piles of money?

Leaving aside the question of whether any of those examples bear any meaningful relationship to the options now before us (they do not)...

What other options, and what other validated examples, would you like to bring to the table? Discussions like this remind me of the young child who "wants a pony" but has no concept whatever of logistics, of keeping it fed, sheltered, and healthy. Even if it feels good to advocate for dreamy outcomes, it's futile without at least some notion of how to get there - other than waving a fist or a magic wand.

Paul: Please stop being gratuitously insulting and deliberately obtuse. It's boring and it tempts others (some of whom might prove better at the game) to respond in kind.

The answer to the question about proposed alternatives has been posted several times, by several posters, in this and contemporaneous threads, among others. Last time, for the moment:

* No single political-economic solution is either necessary or desirable. The most sensible foundations for various possibilities are likely the concepts of city-state and/or bio-region.

* The non-negotiable core element of all such systems must be that they are not based upon growth (or its corollary, profit), that they operate on a steady-state basis, drawing from resource pools no faster than the replenishment rate, and filling the sinks with waste no faster than it is naturally re-processed.

* Capitalism, because it is inherently violative of the above requirement, is disqualified as a candidate.

* As a general guide, the models most likely to be sustainable are variations on the theme of eco-socialism.

Except for innumerable details (in which lie concealed innumerable devils), that's the essential outline.

If you'd like to begin working toward a sustainable model in your own community, many of us here will be glad to help put you in contact with potential co-conspirators.

Nice post. Do you live like this yourself?

I would like to second that: any attempt to convert people into a "new type of human being" quite typically at a later stage is followed by the attempt to physically remove those who refuse to accept this conversion.

Whereas I see communism only as one of these attempts. Neocon-ism is another one.

-- exk

Having an economic system without growth requires a complete revamping of the financial system – which, in theory, has the double function of connecting producers to consumers (so you don’t have to barter) and savers to investors. It is especially the second function (because that is where interest comes in) where revamping is tricky and extremely disrupting.
My guess is that ultimately there will be no choice but to have an aggregate no-growth world, but we are going to do are damndest to postpone that……


Even before "neoconism" (however you wish to define it) got going, capitalist consumerism, now global, has indeed converted people into a "new type of human being." The 3000 or so commercial messages that the average American encounters every day has succeeded in convincing us to consume vastly more natural resources than any humans have ever consumed.

I don't have a sharp clear vision of what the alternative system will be, but a system that effectively convinces humans to consume the planet hundreds of time faster than it can regenerate is doomed.

I don't have a sharp clear vision of what the alternative system will be...

We don't necessarily need a single, monolithic system. The most appropriate foundations for political-economic organization are likely to be on the order of city-states or bio-regions.

Because it relies upon unlimited consumption and endless growth, which are simply physically impossible, industrial capitalism is not a qualified candidate, but various groups may adopt different alternatives.

Global corporate capitalism is over. It is dinosaur-dead. That is, it is already dead, but it's a long way from the tiny little brain to the huge muscles of the legs and tail, so the twitching continues yet awhile.

Failure to recognize and accept this reality, and to adopt workable alternatives, will result in human civilization suffering the same fate as our current economic system. That's probably what will happen.

Dead dinosaurs are already killing us in the form of fossil fuels. (OK, OK, I know that ff are not really decayed dinosaur bones, but the comparison was just too sweet to resist.)

And I'm afraid, dead though it may be, that the lashings of the tail of global consumer capitalism will continue to wreak havoc with the planet and with attempts to construct alternatives.

Do you see any promising ones on the horizon or in the shadows of the beast?

And I'm afraid, dead though it may be, that the lashings of the tail of global consumer capitalism will continue to wreak havoc with the planet and with attempts to construct alternatives.

You're forgiven for the lame FF reference. ;^)

You should be afraid. The most likely outcome is exactly that.

Do you see any promising ones on the horizon or in the shadows of the beast?

I don't see any serious possibility of changing the course of the dominant culture before the crash becomes obvious to all. Whether it is too late by then, and whether the right choices will be made if it isn't, I don't know. But I'm very skeptical.

I think there may be "pockets," here and there around the world, where a critical mass of awareness exists to drive planning and decision-making in the right direction. Whether such places could develop into models of sustainability in the midst of the likely turmoil and opposition... maybe.

Because it relies upon unlimited consumption and endless growth, which are simply physically impossible, industrial capitalism is not a qualified candidate, but various groups may adopt different alternatives.

We have never had unlimited consumption, and growth tends to be interrupted by those pesky economic cycles. Yet capitalism rumbles on. Capitalism does some things well while failing miserably at other things.
Capitalism does not inherently require growth in the overall economy at all. Of course, investors want a return on their investment. If the investment is a business, it needs to eventually make a profit,
but a stable profit will attract investors, it need not be a constantly-increasing one. The largest investors are usually interested in stability above all else.

For those investors who demand growth, they can invest in technologies that improve energy efficiency. There is also the information economy. Plenty of room for growth there too.

If you are going to claim that the economic system under which most of the world operates needs to be replaced, you really need to elaborate a bit on what you want to replace it with.

Capitalism does not inherently require growth in the overall economy at all.

Capitalism is a system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

Please describe a version of that system in which net overall profits do not require net overall growth.

If you are going to claim that the economic system under which most of the world operates needs to be replaced, you really need to elaborate a bit on what you want to replace it with.

Actually, that is not a logical requirement, as you will realize if you reflect a bit.

However, as I have said elsewhere, I don't think a monolithic, unvarying replacement system is appropriate or desirable. All of the qualifying possibilities (that is, those that could conceivably result in sustainable human civilization (for some reasonably extended period of time, in human terms--in the looong run, we will be gone and, eventually, so will the planet, the stars and everything) are versions of what is coming to be known as environmental socialism.

Actually, I think that's pretty easy to figure out--although it seems quite difficult for many to accept.

lol, we just went through this yesterday:

And of course there's the Herman Daly--Robert Smith exchange. According to jensv, the topic has been discussed at length here before, but I guess it was before I started reading this site. At any rate, when I read David Harvey and understood why capitalism requires growth it was eye-opening. I have yet to see any plausible argument to the contrary (e.g. an explanation of how investment for profit could be sustained without expansion).

Yes, the assertion that capitalism requires growth was also made yesterday.
No proof was offered in that thread either, in spite of a fairly compelling counterexample.

Yes, the assertion that capitalism requires growth was also made yesterday.

No proof was offered in that thread either, in spite of a fairly compelling counterexample.

It is certainly true, Andy, that some classical economists envisioned a possible future in which growth had ceased and profits flowed at a low, steady rate. Most of them were dedicated to growth and thought that such cessation would be a pretty undesirable thing. John Stuart Mill did suggest that steady-state capitalism could be a good thing for humans--but he also thought that it would need to be coupled with population control.

You would, today, have a very hard time finding economists with an influence on public policy, or practicing capitalists of almost any kind, or investors in capital markets, who would be enthusiastic about adopting a no-growth model of capitalism, even if you could diagram it (actually, they'd rather fight to the death). Remember:

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

In the real world (taking the human economy as a whole), it's pretty hard to keep profits flowing to all the profit-seekers without growth.

If you just read the (not too bad) Wikipedia entry on capitalism, it is easy to see that there is general agreement on the centrality of growth to the system:


Karl Marx, and later Marxist economists, hold that capitalism in the absence of growth is simply impossible. As YesMaybe has observed, David Harvey makes a very compelling argument for that position.

Harvey is a really bright, interesting (and entertaining) guy. If you haven't been exposed to much Marxist theory, here's a great starting place:

Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey

It's really not a matter of blowing you off or not having proof. It's just that (1) "growth" and "capitalism" go together like "gravity" and "down" and (2) "proof," to the extent that it is possible, is complex, involved, controversial in its details, and far beyond the scope of any conversation we could have here.

He's probably not feeling very friendly toward me right now, since I've been rough with him, but this is a question on which it would be useful to have Don Sailorman's comments.

* Their collective refusal to accept that a world human population of seven-going-on-ten billion is at the core of our sustainability crisis, and to work on addressing that issue.

The PNAC gang had a plan for that: "advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes, may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." Rebuilding America's Defenses, PNAC, 2000.
I don't like that idea at all, and I bet you don't either. Absent a "kill-off", the best way to keep population from growing so fast is education. Educated people have fewer babies.

* Their nearly-universal failure to recognize that the most affordable, achievable and rewarding approaches to our energy and other resource shortages arise from rigorous conservation and large net reductions in consumption.


* Their blindness to the staring-us-in-the-face reality that western (contagious) car-culture and the insanely energy-intensive (and dehumanizing) built environments it demands, creates and perpetuates cannot continue if we are to have any hope of a soft landing and livable communities.

We are so inexorably wedded to our cars as you think. Build the transit systems and we will come. Especially as the gas prices continue to rise.

Reasonable people may differ as to what constitutes a "liveable community".

* Their brain-dead hostility to urbanism and fanciful imagining that there is some other alternative to accommodating our bloated population (as we reduce it) humanely, rather than abandoning billions to the Four Horsemen.

Not everyone is cut out for city life. The kind of social instincts required to thrive (or even survive) in such close quarters are far from universal. This has always been the case, especially in the USA. The need for more space is the reason many of our ancestors moved here.

Even if one does live in the city, the jobs are often out in the suburbs (or get moved there shortly after being hired).
The frequency of worksite moves, combined with a historically unstable job market, have made it more difficult than ever to live near work. At least one in most couples has a long commute these days.
There is little point to cramming ourselves into the city (which is already full) as long as the workplaces are so spread out (and often out of the reach of public transport).

You tell us that everything is going to collapse, including the power grid, and you want us all to live in high-rise apartment buildings? Where the elevators won't work, nor the heating or air conditioning? Or all that wonderful public transit?

Those owning and living in detached homes are at least not so massively dependent on the continuous functioning of the power grid and similar infrastructure. We can install insulation, solar panels, windmills, gardens and all that.
We have enough windows so that there is cross-ventilation so we may be able to stay cool in the summer without air conditioning, which is rarely the case in apartments. We can cook outside if the power is out.

We can lose the lawns, many of us already have, to replace them with vegetable gardens. Roofs can either be solar panels or more gardens.

* Their utter and complete inability to understand that a total reinvention of the world economic system, with major redistribution of wealth and resources, is essential to any scheme that could possibly cushion our fall, and that following such a path requires dismantling corporate industrial capitalism.

What do you propose to replace it with?

OK, I'll keep trying.

Even if one does live in the city, the jobs are often out in the suburbs (or get moved there shortly after being hired).
The frequency of worksite moves, combined with a historically unstable job market, have made it more difficult than ever to live near work. At least one in most couples has a long commute these days.
There is little point to cramming ourselves into the city (which is already full) as long as the workplaces are so spread out (and often out of the reach of public transport).

Those arrangements of trip origins and destinations are the idiotic (and perfectly predictable) results of decades of legislating, planning and subsidizing a built environment specifically designed to cater to, and require, the private automobile. They are not somehow "natural" features of urbanization and they are becoming unsustainable even as this discussion develops. See, e.g., gas prices.

To put it in the simplest terms: Life ain't gonna be like that for very much longer.

I don't know what cities you are familiar with, but I'm willing to bet that the reason terms like "cramming ourselves into" them occur to you, and the main reason that you see them as "full" is rather different than you think: American cities are full of cars!

Urban spaces that are scaled and designed for humans feel very different:

Herestraat -- Groningen, The Netherlands

You tell us that everything is going to collapse, including the power grid, and you want us all to live in high-rise apartment buildings? Where the elevators won't work, nor the heating or air conditioning? Or all that wonderful public transit?

Well, first let's try to get past this feeling of being threatened so many Americans feel when the issue of urbanism is discussed. Nobody told you that you must, or even should, "all live in high-rise apartment buildings." For the moment, depending upon your circumstances, you are permitted to choose your domicile.

It is important, however, that you understand that we aren't talking about you, or even about me. We are talking about the seven to ten billion human beings who do and will overpopulate the planet before there is any hope of substantially reducing our numbers (barring war, famine, emerging plagues, etc.). In an energy- and resource-constrained (and therefore necessarily financially-constrained) world, the majority of those billions must live in cities if we are to have any hope of providing them with decent lives, or any hope of preserving some of the functioning ecosystem of the Earth.

The energy, materials, transportation and other costs of living are inherently so much lower in sanely-designed and operated urban environments that the choice is an absolute no-brainer. The concentrations of population make it more likely, for instance, that we will be able to keep the grid up.

Further, the environmental impacts of spreading billions of people across the landscape are immeasurably greater than reserving rural areas for those (likely many, many more than now) who are engaged in agricultural and other appropriately rural activities.

High-rise construction is ugly and stupid, expensive to maintain and incompatible with simple, passive-assisted HVAC systems and efficient use of natural light. The buildings are also disturbing to occupants and make the streets below into shadowed wind tunnels that are inimical to the human spirit. They are artifacts, almost entirely, of greed and hubris. Fortunately, we simply don't need them to create more-than-adequately dense urban environments.

Four stories, on average, does the job nicely, and can result in delightful spaces with a balance of privacy, social opportunity, proximity to services and plenty of greenspace. Here's an example of how one might do it if starting from scratch:


The task requires a different approach in existing cities, of course, but any number of serious people have been working on the issue for a long time now. It is clearly within our capability. Whether it will be recognized as essential, soon enough, by enough of the right people, remains doubtful. At least in North America.

Those owning and living in detached homes are at least not so massively dependent on the continuous functioning of the power grid and similar infrastructure. We can install insulation, solar panels, windmills, gardens and all that...

You are entirely dependent upon the functioning of the civilization around you. If we were to reach a level of collapse at which the grid failed, essential goods and services were unavailable to large numbers of your neighbors (including, of course, those in your nearby cities), etc. you would find that either government action or, in the worst case, mob violence, would compel you to share both "your" wealth and "their" misery.

I solemnly assure you that the developing crisis is not one in which you can win while others lose. If your fellow citizens lose, so, too, will you. You should, therefore, recognize a strong vested interest in their wellbeing.

What do you propose to replace it with?

I can't imagine a socioeconomic system that could have any chance of sustainability in the developing age of scarcity other than some form of eco-socialism.

At the moment, it looks as though we are drifting more toward neo-feudalism. Not only would that be unsustainable, it would also be extraordinarily ugly.

As Ben Franklin (not a socialist, but those were other times) said, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Herestraat -- Groningen, The Netherlands

On a fine chilly spring or fall early evening (the folks pictured are wearing coats), just maybe. On a humid 95F evening in a typical US locality in July, no, thanks, no way. The racket from the shops and street - slamming doors and windows, people screaming into their cell phones, drunks shouting curses into the wee hours, the pub blaring "music" at countless decibels every time the door opens for someone to enter or leave (or maybe blaring continuously through a loudspeaker), and so on - will be unremitting. And in typical US summer heat, it will not be possible or safe to shut the windows to try to get some peace and quiet, much less any decent sleep. In short, it brings to mind Ralph Kramden's noisy, crummy apartment (and given incessant racket and consequent lack of sleep, no wonder he was always cranky.)

However deplorable single-use pod zoning may be in some respects, it didn't come about without good reasons. Now this may be only a "detail" beneath the interest of academics or would-be social engineers who care only about implementing hallucinatory grand plans and not a whit about practicalities. However, life is composed largely of "details", which often cause far more day-to-day conflict than big picture issues which few understand anyhow.

Paul, I'm beginning to think that your default position is essentially sociopathic.

I recognize that there are many like you among us. I rather fear that there may be enough of you to insure that we really are doomed.

Alternatively, perhaps you will just form your own self-centered, rugged-individualist enclaves and leave the rest of us to work on sensible, cooperative solutions.

Probably not, of course. . .

Herestraat -- Groningen, The Netherlands

People have this thing about the Netherlands being this ideal of wondrous perfection of urbanism. Well, I've been there, for months, and had visitors from there for months.

The Netherlands is about the size of West Virginia. What they call a province (a state), is about the size of a county in America. My friends dwelt in a 5 story apartment building there. Yes, it was all walkable. Yes, there were nice green spaces around. And the public transit system has got to be the best on the planet.

When I was there, my eyes were opened to what a mass transit system can be. It was incredible. You can get where ever you need to go, on a schedule that doesn't leave you stranded for hours some place you don't want to be.

But the density was claustrophobic. It just about made me ill. So my friends drove me across the country to the area around Groningen, to prove to me that their country had a few areas left with some rural character. A whole 2 hour drive, they thought it was such a huge trip.

They could see how I responded to the more open landscape, and they just didn't get it. They didn't know any different, couldn't understand my feelings. Just like they couldn't understand my attitude toward mass transit, or why I found the system there so amazing.

Then they came to visit me. They were stunned by the sheer size of our nation. Just the drive back from the airport was 2 hours. And to an American, that's no big deal. I took them to see some of our natural wonders. We drove down the coast. We kept talking about, how if this drive were happening in Europe, we'd already be in Italy. But in America, we had only crossed two states!

The differences in scale are just impossible to get unless you physically go and do it. By the time they left my friends were saying, our mass transit system could never work in America. It's just too big. They got it, they understood. And they looked at the transit we do have, the cost and schedules and routes, and said this is ridiculous and useless. And they got it, they understood why the system in Holland so amazed me.

One of them also responded strongly to the open land. He said going into the city, after having experienced so much open and beautiful and quiet, made him feel sick. Even the others, who didn't have this strong reaction, said they got it, for the first time they understood why some people feel that way. Because they had seen and experienced it for themselves, and they said the contrast is very strong and noticeable once you have been to the other side for awhile.

When they got home they were much more sensitive to the sardines-in-a-can aspect of life there. They seriously noticed all the noise from the neighbors above, below and on either side. The one who responded so strongly to rural surroundings started trying to find a place in a more open and quiet location. But competition for housing there is fierce, and apartments are awarded on this weird seniority-based lottery system that would have Americans rampaging in the streets.

Bingo. This is in a general sense just the sort of reaction I've seen from West European and Japanese visitors. Quite obviously, they're bright enough to grasp the concept of wide-open space in the abstract, but getting it is another matter altogether. And contrary to k's gratuitous response, I hardly think they're sociopaths for getting it once they see it. Indeed, if Napoleon had gotten it instead of following thickheaded uneducated intuition, maybe he would have seen what a colossally stupid idea it was to invade Russia with the resources he had, and France would have been spared some grief.

N.B. for land area, which is what counts, The Netherlands is only a touch more than half the size of W. Va., or less than half again as big as New Jersey. And almost all dead flat - I actually know someone who bicycled the length of it within the same day. There is just absolutely no comparison between the ministates of Western Europe and the USA (or Russia), no matter how you slice it, and certainly not in terms of the places where people actually live. (Sure, there are deserted northern regions of Scandinavia, but they're, well, deserted.)

P.S. and yes, I remember the trams running pretty much on time even though, being on tracks, they can't even steer around obstacles and traffic the way a bus can. We should get some of their driver-trainers over here to teach the idiots who manage and operate our erratic public buses how to drive, or more precisely, how to pace themselves...

VT & Paul: This particular variation on American exceptionalism would be funny, if it were not both so prevalent and so damned sad.

Perhaps the US is hopeless and will have to be abandoned. Much of the world will be rather relieved if that happens.

Actually, it's not so exceptional. There's a seventeenth century (long before the oil blowout) English proverb that's also well known in the US, "Good fences make good neighbors." That proverb fails even to rise to the level of being true or false if you try to fit it to the cramped, noisy, apartments jammed into that Groningen pic - it simply doesn't scan. After all, it tacitly assumes a landscape with enough room for fences between neighbors. And that assumption applied (and applies) better to the US of A than to England. (Surely you're not seriously trying to claim that implying that the US is less crowded than The Netherlands represents "exceptionalism"?)

As to the US having to be abandoned and the world being relieved, I wouldn't be so cocksure, at least not within any time frame that needs to concern anyone here. It's been said before, and more than once. Not so long ago, Japan was going to rule the world, and look where it got them - and I don't mean Fukushima, I mean before that. Then the EU was going to rule the world - and their pompous officials sure do preach up a mean streak - but lately they seem instead to be doing quite well indeed in the competition to determine who can create the worst financial mess by promising the "bestest and mostest" something-for-nothing to all and sundry. And they still rely on the US to provide military power when they decide they need it. This isn't the sort of thing that can or will play out by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

American exceptionalism...so damned sad.

LOL! I, who regularly criticize America for not being able to recognize the Roman Empire in itself, I, who regularly bemoan the arrogance and wastefulness and uselessness of American interference with other nations, accused of exceptionalism!

In what way, pray tell, does acknowledging the vast distances of the American landscape and the challenges that poses for mass transit represent exceptionalism? How does learning firsthand about public transport in Europe, and being impressed by it, represent exceptionalism? How does that apply to my Dutch friend who now has a distaste for the urban environment? Is he now an American exceptionalist?

I don't find the idea of people finding new comprehension to be sad. I learned to comprehend how good mass transit can be, ideally implemented. My Dutch friends learned to comprehend open space in a new way.

Sorry, kalliergo, but people don't fit your cookie-cutter boogeyman scapegoat stereotype just because you take comfort and superiority from it.

In what way, pray tell, does acknowledging the vast distances of the American landscape and the challenges that poses for mass transit represent exceptionalism?

The vast distances of the American landscape have absolutely nothing to do with mass transit.

Get back to me when you understand why that is true (the learning process will also help you to recognize your attitude as the variation on exceptionalism that it is).

On the contrary, they have everything to do with it.

Transportation is only useful if it can get you from where you are to where you need to be. Vast spaces make shared transportation more expensive and more difficult to coordinate.

It is as simple as that.

No. Just as confused as VT's post.

The expanse of the American landscape is completely irrelevant to transit issues (except, of course inter-city travel).

The key factor, the governing factor, is the built environment.

Unless and until that difference is understood, really grokked in its fullness, there is no hope of thinking clearly about transportation or energy issues in America, much less effectively addressing them.

Unless you are going to rebuild every city in North America it is relevant, because that is how those cities are already built.

Wishful thinking is not an argument.

Enough with the name-calling. Criticize ideas, not the people who hold them.

I think most of the rest of the world would prefer we stay here than to come there (except to visit).

When I was just out of High School, I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in a friend's uncle's high-rise Manhattan apartment, located on 51st, just a block from the UN. I got to experience life as a New Yorker - dropping rubbish down the chute; greeting the doorman; looking into bank offices across the street; but most importantly, getting around Manhattan Island on foot or subway (the old grafitti-covered ones), the cost per token then was 90 cents for any distance, unlike DC's Metro which I am very familiar with that electronically deducts a card - farther costs more.

For most of my time in NY, it was about 95F and 95% humidity. All sidewalks had a water-line where the window AC units would drip onto the sidewalk - one walked either closer to the building, or closer to the street to remain dry. The subways were not air-conditioned, a breeze was provided by opening the windows, evening entertainment was to walk over to Times Square (about 1.5 miles) and hang out until 1:00am. It was hot, but it wasn't unbearable at all - unpleasant, yes.

The person I was staying with was a wealthy architect of sorts, didn't own a car, and walked or taxied to work each day. In fact, everyone I met had no car, and those who did have a car were paying big bucks for parking in a variety of contraptions such as a garage for six turned into a garage for 18.

Was it claustrophobic. Not at all. I'm from Eastern Washington - just a few miles and south, I'm in the Palouse. I do remember, however, on my return noticing how "clean" everything seemed - no newspapers fluttering about - though looking a little closer the it's just more vegetation to cover it all up.

All this said ... my point I'm trying to make is: Groningen may be the wrong "American" example. Instead, America has an example for car-less living already available that we can study for an American solution.

PS. I did manage to spend some time on floor 107 and roof of the World Trade Center, a choice I'd made with my limited funds to visit rather than the Empire State building - one I am glad I made since 9/11 of course but at the time, I regretted it. The view from the top of the WTC was a dull one; up in the smog, midtown far away - like being in a plane whereas the Empire State is smack-dab in high-rise country.

Sounds like a great visit. NY in the summer can be kinda dreary in the heat, but there's still a lot to get from it.

I think even with FAR less dense centers than NYC, the price of gas and of keeping a car will ultimately lead more communities to have figured out how to make some forms of Mass Transit fit their places. We're not too stupid to figure it out.. but not many folks reach to the back of the table for an Apple when the Cookies and Brownies are right at the front. We're still too distracted by the easy travel offered by this bounty of cars. I suspect this will be adjusting sometime.

I just paid my first $4.00 Gas today.. "..I'm coming, Elizabeth! I'm coming to join you!!"

I think even with FAR less dense centers than NYC...

Absolutely. Also, remember that density in NYC varies widely across the boroughs, and that the very densest concentrations are actually in NJ suburbs, like Union City.

Further, although few New Yorkers (comparatively) drive cars, much of the perceived crowding (and the low average speed of surface transit) is due to the fact that the streets are overrun by motor vehicles. They don't have to be.

Finally, adequate density for efficient transit does not require high-rise buildings or lack of greenspace. It can work just fine with four-story averages and 40% building footprints, leaving much more land for recreation, gardening and natural habitat than most car-cluttered suburbs.

Possible alternative for dense cities without high-rises?

Aerial View

View on Foot

In Caracas they are fixing the water and sewerage problems with pipes and pumps, and electricity is easy as it's just a wire. As far as I can tell, the problem with crime doesn't have much to do with the physical infrastructure, but you don't have many shopping options because getting inventory in is difficult due to limited truck access. They have tried a gondola system for transportation that doesn't really convince me of it's useful-ness, and a slide system for garbage removal that isn't perfect but has reduced garbage burning a lot. I believe they have tried to solve the precarious nature of owning a house in a shanty town by developing a system to register communities and grant ownership, but I don't know the details.

According to Wikipedia 1 billion people live in slums, they have many downsides, but well... they are densely populated, have low energy consumption, are urban and don't necessarily include high rises.

Do you really think Columbia or Nigeria or Indonesia or any number of poorly managed and ill equipped second and third world nations are going to start building nuclear plants and undergo a cheap electricity renaissance? If so I've got a bridge to sell you.

I think of nuclear in the same way I think about sending a man to the moon. It's an enormously expensive and technologically advanced undertaking. The developed world has to be at the absolute top of its game to even consider bringing it to the levels you talk about. It's a testament to France that they've kept it going for so long. And the problems in Japan, one of the most advanced nations on Earth, should give us pause.

With a global economy that's progressing, yes, it may be possible. But it's too late. Peak oil is upon us, which forces deflationary contraction, which forces the postponement or abandonment of complex energy projects. Especially in the third world, as they are reliant on first world help, and that help may not be available in the coming years.

"The developed world has to be at the absolute top of its game to even consider bringing it to the levels you talk about."

Indeed, and they have to stay at the absolute to of their game to have any hope of operating them safely, and even then 'unexpected' events can bring about catastrophic consequences, as we've seen.

I think some cling to nukes because it is the only thing standing between their current mindset and absolute doomerism.

Give in.

Give up your dream of techonocopian paradise.

Join the dark side...;-)

Join the dark side...;-)

You know you want to.

""Join the Dark Side""

Yes, so many live lives afraid of the Dark. More Power, more Techno Merrygorounds, more Street Lights, more LED's for the obscenely large Dwellings...To quote a previous Poster here a few days ago, "my Den is larger than His whole House"...

When a Human grows to true maturity and can accept the life of Zen, they will see the light for what it is.

Choose Wisely. Choose the Dark Side.
The Martian

The problem is that we still have several 30 and 40 year old reactors in operation and these are decidedly not safe - and yet we are being asked to keep them operating for at least 20 more years. It may be that the years 40-60 are when the years of corrosion etc. finally take their toll and the accident rate goes parabolic. We have had too many near misses that point to this possibility. Thus the irrational fear of nukes may have some legs to it. It will not be easily dismissed.

We can certainly build new reactors with safer design. But this fact doesn't hide the fact that the old ones are not safe, the industry still wants to keep these clunkers operating and that we have no place to put the waste! The same industry that promises these new reactor designs is the same industry that runs these corrosion-plagued and radiation-embrittled clunkers and they are the same ones that once promised us electricity too cheap to meter. They have close ties to Wall Street and investment bankers and people similar to the Koch Brothers by virtue of their size and the investment required. The industry shills been telling us that Fukushima isn't that bad, and that nobody has died (and quoting industry supported mythology saying the same about Chernobyl, TMI and Hanford). Similar people say that there is no problem with fracking, but are then at a loss to explain the flammable gas coming out of the tap.

And we are asked to trust these industries?

The Coal versus Nuclear argument is also a stupid smokescreen. Even if they choose to build all the nukes they want to, they will still build as many coal plants as they would in a nuclear-free future. Instead of debating it this way (one or the other) we should be exploring ways to get rid of both. Instead, they plan to build both.

Its too early to tell with Fukushima as to the long term health effects due to ionizing radiation. Radiation from releases at Hanford caused several cancers and fatalities (look up "Downwinders") and studies on Chernobyl and TMI suggest that this is also the case. Peer reviewed independent studies to confirm this should be done, if they haven't been done already. However, its hard to find the culprit behind a cancer that shows up 20-30 years later. So this unfortunately biases the safe side of the argument. If Fukushima is safe, why are they keeping people away from it?

I think one reason why the industry wants to extend the operating licenses of these old nukes is they can't afford the decommissioning costs at present. Will they be in a better position 20 years from now or will they be telling us that duct tape and bailing wire is good enough for another 20 years and after that, then what? They will still be promising us a waste repository, funded by the taxpayer.

We already own the liability since the insurance companies see Nuclear Power as too big a risk. We are seeing the economic impact of this devil's bargain in Japan presently. But here, the shills for the industry tell us to look the other way and not be worried. Geesh!!!

Casey Burns,

I am no fan of nuclear either, and I agree with some of what you say; however, I think I should do what I can to police the truth (and justice, and the American Way). In any case, your arguments will be better served if they are bullet proof, but in your remarks you said "Similar people say that there is no problem with fracking, but are then at a loss to explain the flammable gas coming out of the tap."

Not bullet proof. There may be people who say that but then there are also people who think that schist just happens. Really, the flammable gas is methane that is neither injected into the well nor released by fracking. It is the result of the large drawdown of water from wells that are drilled to provide the fracking fluid. The fracking company withdraws water rapidly in large volumes, creating a large cone of depression in the aquifer - maybe miles across. The rapid drop in water level, thus aquifer pressure, releases methane across the entire cone. This methane is then typically drawn to the surface through any nearby pre-existing wells, where the owners light it on fire for You-Tube. Happens all the time, wherever there is a large cone created.

Thanks for this explanation.

This is the first identified mechanism I've seen offered to plausibly explain the 'tap-water' phenomena.

Is there any chance you can point me to an online source in industry literature which states the same thing ? Ideally I'm looking for a single-sourced document as this is obviously not my area of expertise.

In general, the flaming tap water issue is caused by shallow gas reservoirs in close proximity to water aquifers. If you drill a well through both a water aquifer and a shallow gas field, you may connect the two and methane may leak into the water. Alternatively, the two may have been connected before and nobody noticed it, or consumers may have over-produced the water in the aquifer and sucked methane into it.

Methane being introduced from the drawdown of water reservoirs to produce frac fluid is possible, but in my experience it doesn't happen because the government regulators don't permit companies to withdraw very much water. However, I don't know what happens in the Eastern US; I only know what happens in areas where hydraulic fracturing is a routine procedure. In such places, the regulators watch the fracturing companies closely.

So, I see the term "shill" continues to be used for anyone on this site that disagrees with someone else. Better to just stick to the facts and spare the ad hominem attacks. Howevre, you sure are not the only one doing this.

Sorry for the language. Will use something less inflammatory.

Similarly, calling anyone who opposes nuclear power a "nuclear power denier" kind of implies that we are misinformed, haven't studied this etc. - given the use of that noun "denier" with the nonscientific "global warming deniers" and 'peak oil deniers". Many of us who have been opposing nuclear power for years have studied it well, attended hearings and offered testimony. Some have even succeeded in blocking the building of nuclear plants, or contributed to shutting them down. I suggest calling us "nuclear power opponents" as a less loaded term. "denier" in this context is rather irritating.

I myself was arrested at the Trojan plant north of Portland in non-violent protests in the late 70, something I am proud of. I also investigated the geological siting of that plant and managed to drag the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries into it, resulting in a hearing. Using DOGAMI and USGS data it was easy to postulate that this plant was located on a fault that diverts the Columbia River 45 miles northward, which lines up with known fault and graben structures south of Portland and the suspected Portland Hills Fault. At the time they lacked the data to prove/disprove this, but eventually it turned out to be the case. They had built the plant on an active thrust fault slice, on an en echelon fault system that runs potentially 200-300 miles! This was one of the many nails in the coffin that eventually led to Trojan's shut down. The final nail was the discovery of large megathrust earthquakes here, which exceeded Trojan's design capacity. There was no way they could retrofit it - and so they shut it down, citing other reasons.

An amusing footnote to Trojan. When we would travel to Portland from Seattle I'd point out the plant and my history of opposing it. My daughter is also a fan of the Simpsons cartoon. I have the same initials as the nuke plant owner "C. M. Burns" in the cartoon. Matt Groening and I are the same age and I knew people at his high school which was in the same district as mine. I may have met him at a party and rubbed him the wrong way at some point in the distant past and may thus be the namesake for the "C. M. Burns" character on the Simpsons (this is all speculative - but worth joking about).

My young daughter absorbed all of this at an early age. Once, while traveling south with her and classmates in the back seat on our way to see plays in Ashland, she pointed out the plant to her classmates and said "See that nuclear plant there? My dad worked there once!"

I always thought that C. Montgomery Burns is a subtle allusion to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the civil rights era and therefore to generally evil people. See Montgomery Burn.

I disagree vehemently that "nuclear has problems, but none we cannot deal with". We haven't found a way of dealing with the waste, there is no way to magically undo the contamination of areas from accidents and the poisoning of the food supply caused by them, we can't stop the contamination from spreading across the globe when these problems occur, and on top all of this nuclear energy has many of the same problems as fossil fuels - it's a finite resouce that will run out.

Thinking in terms of generations, and you get the same result with nuclear as with fossil fuels - should we poison the planet for a short term gain? What will we do when it runs low?

We are stuck with striking out into the unknown - we have to find a way to live with less energy while trying to maintain the most vital advances of civilization. I think we can maintain the most vital aspects of modern medicine and likely even feed the world, but it won't happen easily.

Then again, I think human civilization will burn everything we have (down to so-called oil shales), China and other countries will build lots of nukes anyways, and nothing you or I or anyone on this board says is likely to change that.

We have a way of dealing with the waste: reuse the stuff that gives off enough radiation to be dangerous, set the rest aside for a while to cool down.

The simple fact of the matter is that people are more afraid of nuclear *anything* than the raw risks justify.

Look up "irradiated beef" to see a prime example of this effect in action.

Fear kills.

We have a way of dealing with waste theoretically. In fact there doesn't appear to be a way to deal with waste that has happened in the 60 year history of nuclear power or that is likely in the foreseeable future.

Dealing with nuclear waste fits in the same catagory as dealing with coal related problems. Not worth the cost to those in positions of decision-making.

Look up "irradiated beef" to see a prime example of this effect in action.
Fear kills.

And the beef needs irradiation *BECAUSE* of the lowering of handling standards, thus bumping up the contamination and therefore needs the irradiation.

Look at the BPI treat-the-meat-with-ammonia process as an example of taking contaminated product and rather than process the meat so it is not contaminated, the idea is to clean up the flaws afterword.

You completely skipped my argument that a 100% safe process that has a significant chance of saving people's lives has been tossed to the curb because of the word "radiation" and the fear attached to it.

Classic distraction technique and I almost bit.

Nice try.

You completely skipped my argument that a 100% safe process

Because, like the meat full of E Coli contamination from fecal matter - so is your "argument" that:

because of the word "radiation" and the fear attached to it.

I presented a reason to not support the process that had nothing to do your position.

Classic distraction technique and I almost bit.
Nice try.

Your argument was incorrect. Rather than admit "Oh, hey, I never thought that people might not want meat with fecal matter contamination" you go with "nice try".

It doesn't matter how the meat gets contaminated, or the nature of the contamination, the irradiation process prevents that contamination from reaching the people using it and is 100% safe.

It was killed because people are more afraid of radiation than they are of food poisoning.

You are trying to distract from that very salient point with an argument about one source of contamination.

Nice try.

Fear kills.

the irradiation process prevents that contamination

So now irradiation stops fecal matter from getting INTO food?

What an absurd claim you are making. Good thing people exist who can call out such claim as what it is. Bull Fecal matter.

What are you afraid of Eric? That I am right?

Fear kills.

Yes, the fecal matter contamination is not removed via the process of irradiation.

The microbial contamination that makes people sick (and kills some) is killed and rendered inert by the irradiation. No matter the source of the contamination and whether it is e-coli contamination or something else.

Yet the process that does this has been eliminated by people who are more afraid of radiation than they are of food poisoning.

You will not bait me into losing my temper, nor will you distract me from my point, you are just giving me more chances to state it.

Meat irradiation is 100% safe and reduces incidence of food poisoning when it is used, yet it has been stopped by people more afraid of radiation than food poisoning. (Salmonella anyone?)

Fear kills.

(Oh, and bovine fecal matter isn't even as disgusting as you imply, cows being herbivores and all)

Yet the process that does this has been eliminated by people who are more afraid of radiation than they are of food poisoning.

And proper food handling also prevents fecal matter from being introduced to the meat.

Producers like BPI want to lower their loss rate via poor handling via allowing fecal material to be post-processed via things like ammonia or radiation.

Fine, you have your own version of why people want to irradiate meat as part of the food processing chain, that doesn't change that it is 100% safe and prevents food poisoning from all potential contamination sources where the exposure occurs prior to treatment.

The lack of meat irradiation in the food processing chain isn't going to make them any more careful, you know. Always cook all meat thoroughly. I had food poisoning once, it would be a very messy and painful way to die and people do die of food poisoning.

Meat irradiation heads off food poisoning from sources prior to treatment of the meat, and it's completely safe.

Since 1986, all irradiated products must carry the international symbol called a radura, which resembles a stylized flower.

So if you want to vote with your wallet - be it because you don't trust the unclean conditions at the processor who NEEDS to do a microbial post cleanup (As r4ndom admits is why its done - to kill microbes) or the reduced Thiamin levels are a concern - look for the radura.

I'd love to vote with my wallet, but my local grocers get to vote with theirs first.

I have never seen that symbol on any product in a grocery store or I would preferentially buy it, just like I won't buy milk that isn't pasteurized.

Not because I think that dairies are more casual with sanitation because they know the pasteurization process will "clean up" the microbes after them, but because when you are producing food for millions of people small odds add up fast.

And I have never seen that symbol because the grocery store chains in my area know that people are more afraid of radiation than they are of food poisoning, and might avoid their stores completely if irradiated meat is seen there.

Because they think it's radioactive, or that they can somehow catch radioactivity from it.

So the 100% safe meat irradiation process is not used, even though it can prevent many cases of food poisoning, because people are afraid of radiation.

Why are they afraid? Because they are told to be afraid. They have no adverse experience with radiation to base the fear on.

afraid ... afraid ... afraid ... afraid ... fear

You keep making the claim, and I've posted how that doesn't actually fit the process used.

And when pointed out the unacceptability of fecal matter in food, you make statements about how the danger of herbivore fecal material is ALSO overblown.

Thank you for being a fine example of the irrational position of pro nuclear advocates.

You and your obsession with cow dung worries me.

Pasteurization does not make dairy farmers any less careful, why would meat irradiation make meat packers any less careful?

Meat irradiation protects people from food poisoning from cow dung contamination as well as from bacterial contamination from other sources (like salmonella which is not from excrement contamination of the meat).

And people are more afraid of the process of irradiation than they are of food poisoning, which is a silly and irrational fear and the ONLY reason it isn't a widespread process.

And why are they afraid of it? Because radiation is involved, and radiation is magic evil stuff.

And the microbes stay away why? Because the meat is now radioactive.
"Just a little, it can't posssssibly hurt you (much)."
"Well maybe just a teeny tiny increase in your chance of getting cancer in a few years, but just a teeeny tiny chance."

The microbes stay away because the meat gets sealed in plastic as soon as it exits the machine.

The meat is never radioactive, and that is exactly the kind of fear I'm talking about.

The radiation used to treat meat is Beta, or electrons, and it cannot make the meat radioactive. It is essentially diffuse lightning.

Often the meat is packed and sealed before the irradiation. Absolutely no way it gets radioactive, nothing there that can do it. I went to a lecture, many years ago, by some of the people developing it in the UK and asked the question then. It is not just about making the food safer, it also improves the storage time and reduces deterioration. Oh, irradiated bacon tastes fine:)


Nuclear has problems, but none we cannot deal with.

And yet history is showing Man can not with the structures in place.

"Man" can't deal with walking to the store with 100% safety.

Be afraid!

There's a very FAT line between the 'less than 100% safety' of walking to the store, and the existing and potential devastations that Reactor and Waste Storage sites represent.

Be aware.

I am aware, and I disagree with your risk assessment.

And yet you've not opted to go live in the Chernoybl or Fukishima.

I wonder if an economics professor could tell us that buying land next to these places due to the irrational risk assessment would be the rational economic choice?

Are you willing to support me and my family while I do so?

Unless you are, your point is invalid.

RE nuclear vs coal:

I see absolutely no reason to believe that use of coal will be diminished if we go whole hog into nuclear power generation. With ever rising energy needs, fueled by a still burgeoning population, we will likely seize upon any kind of fuel available. We simply are not going to leave all that coal in the ground. Let's get real about this.

Maybe you're right. The meme I hear a lot, especially from the Republican right, is that we should choose "all of the above" when talking about future energy alternatives. The idea, of course, is that you can never have too much energy or enough energy and so we should exploit everything. Nonsensical, of course, but only if you believe there is a problem with some of the alternatives included in "all of the above".

Choosing all the above is kind of like the way I used to eat before I discovered this weird thing called good health.

I do tend to think that nuclear is better than coal, but maybe we would just choose both, which we have.

If we go "whole hog" into nuclear generated electricity, it won't pay to mine most of the low grade coal that is left. France has plenty of low-grade coal left, but they do not mine any of it because their electricity is 75% nuclear generated, and coal cannot compete.

Burning coal is an absolute and unqualified recipe for ecocatastrophe. Nuclear has its problems, but none is insurmountable.

Probably major climate change is already baked in the cake--and most of this result is due to the burning of coal over the past two hundred years. In terms of contributing to global warming, oil and natural gas are pretty small potatoes. Coal is primarily what is toasting us.

In addition to nuclear, I am a big fan of CSP, which I think is better than PV. Windmills are also good at generating electricity, and in combination with a lot of pumped storage windmills can provide base load. If we were to put enough funds into the development of an improved electrical grid, pumped storage, and windmills, then we would not need nuclear or coal either.

The monstrous problem with coal is its immense and unquantifiable external costs. How do you quantify frying the planet? Coal must go, and the sooner the better.

If we go "whole hog" into nuclear generated electricity, it won't pay to mine most of the low grade coal that is left. France has plenty of low-grade coal left, but they do not mine any of it because their electricity is 75% nuclear generated, and coal cannot compete.

One of the main problems with nuclear power is its cost. see this article on the rising expense of building nukes. That is on top of the not-yet-solved problem of waste disposal. Also, the recent events in Japan are certainly not going to make any future nukes cheaper, rather more expensive than ever, possibly more expensive than even mining the low quality coal.

Now I understand that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of arm chair nuclear engineers who have their pet designs and simple solutions to waste-disposal (just re-process it, no problemo! Easy google to dig up articles on problems with disposal of French nuke waste) but the real world rears its ugly head and things just won't conform to these facile scenarios.

Someone has already alluded to the curious fact that we haven't, to my knowledge, had a poster on TOD who actually works in the design and operation end of the nuke industry who is willing to work up a good article on how simple and cheap it will be to go nuclear. I'd really like to see some 'real' experts comment on nuclear power.

I'm not in any way 'in favor of coal' but I can't see where this seemingly unqualified faith in a nuke industry yet-to-be comes from.


Radioactive cesium detected in tea leaves

Radioactive material above designated safety limits has been detected in tea leaves harvested in 5 municipalities in Kanagawa Prefecture, neighboring Tokyo.

The prefectural government checked samples of leaves harvested in 15 municipalities in the region.

Officials say that samples from 5 of those were found to contain unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

"Reading the tea leaves" just acquired a new meaning.

Even reading the tea-leaves in the traditional sense gives more timely and accurate info than waiting for TEPCO/Japanese government.

Rapid meltdown in No.1 reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, says most of the fuel rods in the No.1 reactor had dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel within 16 hours of the earthquake on March 11th.

The utility revealed its study on the subject on Sunday.

TEPCO rethinking roadmap

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, says it will revise the method it is using to cool down the No.1 reactor, whose fuel rods are believed to have melted. But TEPCO says it is still aiming to achieve a stable cold shutdown of the reactor by July as planned.

...This situation is making it virtually impossible to fill the containment vessel with water as planned, forcing TEPCO to come up with an alternate method of cooling the reactor.

Radioactivity at No.3 reactor leaking into ocean

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant announced that radioactive materials continue to leak into the ocean near the plant.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company said 140 becquerels of cesium-134 per cubic centimeter, was measured on Saturday morning near the water intake of the plant's Number 3 reactor. That represents 2,300 times the legal limit.

It also detected 150 becquerels of cesium-137, which is 1,700 times the legal limit.

And now more evacuations

Evacuation begins in Fukushima

Evacuation of some people who live outside the 20 kilometer radius from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun.

Families with babies and children up to kindergarten age and pregnant women are the first of the 7,700 residents of two towns to evacuate.

Municipal officials say they have secured temporary housing for almost all of the residents who want it.

One evacuee says he and his family have to move out for the sake of his children, but it is very discouraging to leave.

From BBC

Japan nuclear: Tepco halts Fukushima cooling plan

Japanese engineers have abandoned their latest attempt to stabilise a stricken reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The plant's operator, Tepco, had intended to cool reactor 1 by filling the containment chamber with water.

But Tepco said melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing 3,000 tonnes of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building.

...Tepco says it will come up with a new plan to stabilise the reactor by Tuesday

The plan is to cover the reactors with polyester tarps.


Glad they have an effective plan!

Thanks for these ugly updates from Fukushima - to me it seems they have to add some steps onto the severity scale going to 'only' 7. I can actually imagine even worse nuke-accidents than this one ....

There is a quite interesting video linked at the bottom of the latest TAE article.. High Radioactive Radiation Levels Over North America ...
Note:-Give the video-man a shot- it takes a few minutes to get his points - BUT he has got quite a few good ones IMHO. Yesterday , less than 1000 viewers ... today 80 000 viewers. wow

All sorts of oriental_radiations are in the very red area- drizzling down on Americans - but your national weatherman wont tell you ...

Yes, interesting. But...
Because it's too easy for me to buy into worst case scenarios, I'd like to
see some comments from those who might be able to debunk that video.
I know those are computer generated projections of fall-out patterns, but
where does the data come from for those in that Zardoz file. Yeah, and what
about that file, huh?
Old feeble enquiring mind wants to know much more.

G.O.P.'s "Security Act" Will Repeal Due Process and Declare Permanent War
...Opposition to the Detainee Security Act of 2011, which is lumped together with the National Defense Authorization Act, has been minimal for the simple reason that the public has no idea what's going on.

Here's an excerpt from a letter from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to Buck McKeon (R-CA) expressing his concerns about the Detainee Security Act:

We are writing concerning certain troubling provisions in H.R. 968, the Detainee Security Act of 2011, which we understand are likely to be considered as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of the Fiscal Year of 2012. ...Among the many troubling aspects of the Detainee Security Act are provisions that expand the war against terrorist organizations on a global basis. ...By declaring a global war against nameless individuals, organizations, and nations "associated" with the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as those playing a supporting role in their efforts, the Detainee Security Act would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval. Such authority must not be ceded to the President without careful deliberation from Congress...."


Sadly, this battle was lost long ago. Presidents have fully, firmly and, probably, permanently arrogated to themselves all meaningful war-making powers and Congress has been consistently complicit in the process.

The last measure of control available to legislators is the power of the purse, and they simply don't ever use it to limit military adventurism.

America--its governments, its elites, its people--loves its "little wars." Why not? They're very profitable for key sectors of the national economy (sectors that contribute handsomely to political campaigns/careers); they feed the national self-image of "the land of the free and the home of the brave" (remarkably, they do so even when "bravery" consists of bombing or starving poor brown children, far, far away); and they keep the masses focused on caricature Bad Guys, instead of on the few at home who are busy sucking the last crumbs of wealth, power and opportunity into their insanely-greedy clutches.

Great, great comment: you just nailed it! Thanks!

Yes this is one of the reasons I'm so pessimistic.

You can't ever win a war against terrorism, which makes it perfect as the excuse for permanent war.

The war on terrorism is never going to end! Ever!

Well I take that back. The war on terrorism will end when we have civil war at home.

Won't that just make the war absolutely universal?

Has anyone seen the movie 'Lord of War'? I have...kind of like the movie 'Thanks for Smoking'...


The following site come up 'greyed out' for about 30 seconds before behaving normally and allowing me to scroll...


War is BIG bucks...

And now for something different...Huckabee won't run for Pres in 2012...his Fox News and book and speaking gigs are way too lucrative...

'Lord of War' - excellent movie

After watching that and 'Why We Fight' back-to-back, I had to take a long walk. War is insane.

'V for Vendetta' is another excellent film

The war on terrorism is never going to end! Ever!

Could that be why the Bush White House never did find bin Laden? Because he was more "useful" alive and "out there" as the justification for permanent trillion dollar wars?

From the news coverage after the killing, it appears that upon taking office Obama had to tell the CIA to focus on finding bin Laden... anyone who saw those towers coming down on live TV would be forgiven for thinking that the CIA should not need to be asked to focus on that mission!

"Never end." Of course not! Because it's not a war on Terrorism. It's a fricken
war over control and access to resources, especially oil.
Why so many highly intelligent folks so quickly, even eagerly, bought into
this government/media B.S. festival of the last couple of weeks, in the face of the tsunami of lies preceding it, e.g. our weapons of mass deception invasion of Iraq, soon to be Pakistan, etc, etc. is beyond my understanding. Could it be that we just can't accept that there's no-one, especially politicians, willing our able to save our sorry butts but ourselves?
Sure, hope, positive thinking, Obama, or god will bail us out.
Hold your breath.

Read: The Grand Chessboard. Zbigniew Brzezinski
Yeah, he recommended diplomatic means, but the Neocons could see that winning hearts and minds would be massive waste of time. Killing is so efficient.

Bah Humbug!

Since I can't think of a 'defensive' act by the US since about Dec 1941, I would love to see the name changed back to "the War Department".

I've been telling people that since the late 1970's! Great idea! How about some honesty in government?

Hey, rebranding "Propaganda" as "Public Relations" has worked so well.

(ya'll know that the book Propaganda was re-issued as Public Relations due to the "bad association" of Propaganda, right?)

OPG has completed the boring of the new Niagara Tunnel. Once the generators start spinning in 2013, the water flowing through this tunnel (at a rate of 500 cubic meters per second) will generate enough electricity to supply the needs of 160,000 homes.

See: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/531616--big-becky-finally-sees...

Meanwhile, in Newfoundland and Labrador, another 3,074 MW of hydro-electric power is expected to come on-line within the next ten years.

The Lower Churchill project will be developed in two phases. Phase one will include the Muskrat Falls generation facility, the Labrador-Island Transmission Link and the Maritime Transmission Link.

Phase two will consist of the Gull Island generation facility and any extra transmission required to transmit that power to market. Muskrat Falls will be able to generate 824 Megawatts of power; Gull Island will generate 2,250 Megawatts.


Phase two of the Lower Churchill project will be the development of Gull Island and is expected to start no less than three years after the Muskrat Falls project is underway.

See: http://www.thecoaster.ca/News/2011-05-12/article-2501059/Nalcor-official...

I hadn't realized a decision on the development of Gull Island had been reached. The question I have is where is that 2,250 MW going and how will it get there?


The question I have is where is that 2,250 MW going?

I don't know, but they presumably won't fall for Quebec's sneaky tricks again - once bitten...

Possibly, but Hydro-Québec could make good use of this energy domestically and for export*, and now that the Labrador-Island and Maritime Transmission links have been approved, they may not be as cocky this time around. Lots of bad blood and bruised egos, for sure, but money trumps all else.


* On January 25th of this year, electricity demand in Québec hit an all time high of 38,286 MW. The utility issued desperate appeals for customers to conserve energy, turned down the heat and lights in its own buildings and even switched off its iconic head office logo (see: http://www.hydroquebec.com/4d_includes/surveiller/PcFR2011-007.htm).

Very true! I think Labrador will be a lot more canny this time around - they'll be looking to make sure they get a slice of the pie for sure.

Instead of issuing "desperate appeals", like they do in third world countries like Pakistan, Hydro Quebec should simply raise their electricity rates, like first world countries do, so that people don't waste the stuff!

That 38MW works out to 4.8kW per person - a very high demand indeed!

Here is the peak kW/capita (excluding aluminium production) for the Canadian provinces, compared to the residential price - is there some kind of a trend here?

Given that anything they don't use can be exported to the US, you would think that Quebec would be all over this.
Sadly, it is easier for them just to import money from the rest of Canada - perhaps this may change with the new majority government.

I threw in the two Australian states (which have similar climates to BC) just to show what their electiricity rates are, and that rates over 20c are not The End Of The World As We Know It - they are just the end of wastage. (Tasmania doesn't use much gas, so it is mainly electric heat)

Hi Paul,

I'm replying to my own message so that you still have the opportunity to edit your chart. Nova Scotia Power's peak demand in 2010 was 2,121 MW and I believe our all-time peak occurred in 2004 when it reached 2,238 MW. Thankfully for us, unlike Québec, we don't have any aluminium smelters to skew the results!


Turns out Quebec's aluminium industry "only" uses 4500 MW, and half of that is generated by the Alcoa and Alcan directly. It appears that H.Q doesn't count their direct generation, only the 2300MW that they supply, so it didn't change the calculation much.

H.Q. does admit there is a lot of electrical resistance heating happening - I'm expect they could save more than NS' total demand by replacing baseboards!

Per our discussion below on per capita etc, this is certainly a case where the residential per capita is the real number to use, but there are no figures for demand, only total kWh.

And even then, to get a really accurate picture of the price impact on consumption, you would need to go to "occupant paying hydro bill", since renters have a tendency to keep their places toasty warm!

Still, I think the general trend is clear, not that we didn't know that already.

Residential rates for all Australian states are in the low-mid 20's and they all offer TOU rates too, peak is about 30 an d off peak in the low-mid teens. You can also get a separate meter for "residential controlled load", for specified hours of 12pm to 5am, or so, and then it is under 10c.
Given the wholesale prices are usually 3-5c, there is a lot of T&D (and retail) cost in there, though I am not really sure why it is so high compared to similar sized/populated Cdn provinces.

There's no question that Québecers and indeed all Canadians could use electricity more wisely. Québec and Atlantic Canada have limited (or no) access to natural gas and so electricity and oil are our two fuels of choice, with wood and wood pellet taking on a lesser role. Naturally, our electricity consumption per capita will be higher than that of Alberta where natural gas is the dominate heating fuel.

Rightly or wrongly, Québec has reserved a block of its hydro-electric production -- a volume patrimonial or "heritage pool" of 165 TWh a year -- as a low-cost source of electricity for its residents, and anything required in excess of this to meet domestic needs is supplied at market prices (provincial demand in 2010 was 185 TWh). This is really no different than Alberta's natural gas rebate that capped the price of this fuel at $5.50 per GJ, so our good friends out west aren't exactly setting the best example !

As we know, the unfortunate thing about keeping the price of any commodity artificially low is that it does little, in and of itself, to encourage responsible use. To its credit, Hydro-Québec launched its ambitious Energy Efficiency Plan in 2003 and this work in combination with that of the Agence de l'efficacité énergétique has reduced provincial demand by some 5.3 TWh to date. Hydro-Québec's 2006-2015 Strategic Plan calls for 8.0 TWh in savings by 2013 and its 2009-2013 Strategic Plan has raised the bar to 11.0 TWh come 2015. To put this into perspective, that's nearly as much electricity as what is consumed by my entire province !


Here's a link to H-Q's energy efficiency initiatives: http://www.hydroquebec.com/sustainable-development/themes/index.html

And speaking of domestic hot water, check out their innovative three element water heaters in which the bottom element draws just 800-watts versus a conventional residential tank that consumes anywhere from 3.0 to 5.5 kW. Over 90 per cent of all Québec homes are fitted with electric water heaters, so operation in this low-power mode has the potential to reduce peak demand substantially.

See: http://www.hydroquebec.com/residential/chauffe-eau-trois-elements/index....


Québec and Atlantic Canada have limited (or no) access to natural gas and so electricity and oil are our two principal fuels of choice, with wood and wood pellet taking on a lesser role. Naturally, our electricity consumption per capita will be higher than that of Alberta where natural gas is the dominate heating fuel.

Except that Atlantic Canada has huge offshore natural gas reserves, which at this point in time are mostly sitting idle or being sold to large cities in the US. All that is missing is the political will to put in the natural gas distribution system to deliver it to onshore consumers in the Atlantic provinces.

Alberta had the political will to put in a natural gas distribution system, and now has the largest rural natural gas distribution system in the world. However, much of this was driven from the bottom up by member-owned gas cooperatives which put in the distribution systems themselves and pooled to buy their natural gas from large gas producing companies.

Except that Atlantic Canada has huge offshore natural gas reserves, which at this point in time are mostly sitting idle or being sold to large cities in the US. All that is missing is the political will to put in the natural gas distribution system to deliver it to onshore consumers in the Atlantic provinces.

I don't follow this industry closely, but I understood that natural gas production in this province is in terminal decline and that Deep Panuke is, in effect, our last hurrah. Am I wrong?

Sempra was originally awarded our natural gas distribution licence and promised to provide service to 70 per cent of the populace; a short time later, they turned off the lights and handed back the keys. Heritage Gas, a subsidiary of Alberta's AltaGas, scooped up the remains, but they don't seem to be overly interested in expanding the residential side of their business; they're quite content to target larger commercial and industrial loads because, as one would expect, they're far more profitable. Should the Province be twisting their arm?


The deep Panuke fields has about 1 billion gigajoules of natural gas. That's about $4 billion worth of natural gas at todays rather depressed prices, which would be a lot for Nova Scotia's purposes if you reserved it for your own use and didn't sell it to the Americans, which you appear to be doing. It would be something of a conscious decision to so, though.

You could buy the reserves from Encana and just hold them in the ground until you wanted to produce them, which might be a bit of a conceptual leap for people in Nova Scotia. Encana needs the cash, so they probably wouldn't mind selling the gas rights in advance of production.

Offshore of Newfoundland, the Hibernia oil field actually has more natural gas than oil, although oil is the only thing producers are currently interested in. In future it could be developed as a gas producer. The same is probably true of other oil fields offshore of Newfoundland.

Over and above that, there are a few billion dollars worth of natural gas in shale gas and coalbed methane reserves under Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However to develop those you would have to convince people to avoid freaking out over the media circus surrounding hydraulic fracturing.

I double-checked an SI Units page with respect to the "home" as a unit of energy or power (being unable to recall any such thing) and came up empty. ;)

Yes, it is amazing how pervasive this term has become. Why don;t they just call a spade a spade and say it will supply "X voters"?

The smaller the projectm, and the greener it is, the more likely we are to see the "homes" unit. They never say x% of the load or anything useful.

David Mackay gives this unit the drubbing it deserves in his excellent book Sustainable Energy -Without the Hot Air, p 329;

The “home” is commonly used when describing the power of renewable
facilities. For example, “The £300 million Whitelee wind farm’s 140 turbines
will generate 322 MW – enough to power 200 000 homes.” The
“home” is defined by the BritishWind Energy Association to be a power of
4700 kWh per year [www.bwea.com/ukwed/operational.asp]. That’s 0.54 kW,
or 13 kWh per day. (A few other organizations use 4000 kWh/y per household.)
The “home” annoys me because I worry that people confuse it with the
total power consumption of the occupants of a home – but the latter is actually
about 24 times bigger. The “home” covers the average domestic electricity
consumption of a household, only. Not the household’s home heating.
Nor their workplace. Nor their transport. Nor all the energy-consuming
things that society does for them.
Incidentally, when they talk of the CO2 emissions of a “home,” the
official exchange rate appears to be 4 tons CO2 per home per year.

13 kWh/day/home seems a very low number to me - here in BC the average is 10,000kWh/home per year.
This is done, of course, to make the projects seem better than they are.

They will drop the use of "homes" when talking about coal plants, and then talk about "emissions", so that you don't realise just how many homes a coal (or other) plant can power.

Very clever greenwashing, and most people swallow it.

Albeit imperfect, I don't consider it green washing or intentionally misleading. I think this metric is popular because so few of us can relate to the standard units of measurement without comparing them to something else (e.g., one kWh of electricity will power a 100-watt light bulb for ten hours). Most of us realize that some home owners will use more energy whilst others will consume less.


No question that that is why it is used - everyone can relate to it, same as a passenger rail project is in terms of "x cars off the road" .

But there are two problems I have with this approach.

The first is from a standard technical/mathematical writing viewpoint. It is understood in technical writing that you can use any term or unit you like, as long as you define it first.. yet we never hear or see a definition of what this is. on every press release there should be a footnote or reference to what the standard "home" is, and then, gradually, everyone will get educated.

When I was doing the utility planning at the ski resort, we worked in terms of "bed units" which was an official BC gov planning unit for resort communities - recognising that at peak times all "beds" are occupied, even though many of them are in hotels, not homes. It is a rough equivalent of "per capita", though anecdotal evidence suggested there were about 1.2 people per "bed unit"

There was a table of bed units per dwelling based on floor area. A hotel room was 2 beds, town homes 2-6 depending on size, houses 4-8.
I was able to model, quite accurately, the electricity, gas (propane) and water/sewer per bed for the place.
You could just choose an average for the homes, but the average would be different from a normal town - people with enough money to build a second house at a ski resort did not hold back - largest one there was 7500 sf! But the bed unit measure was far better than just "houses"

Ultimately, I think a better metric is "per capita" - not all people live in houses, but all people use electricity.

The second problem I have is the double standard when objecting to some other generator, be it a coal, biomass, hydro or even a nuke plant, is that it is not measured in the same way. Greenpeace is notorious for this, as are some other environmental groups (whom I have had to deal with) and in these cases it is disingenious, and deliberately misleading.

Per capita is easier less subjective, hence my use of it in the chart above.

I'm not convinced either approach is going to take us where we want to go. For example, does per capita consumption relate to just residential demand or is it based on all customer classes? If the latter, then the numbers are going to vary considerably from one service territory to the next according to the particular mix of commercial and industrial clients. And when comparing two service territories, what if one has a highly compact urban population whereas the other is largely rural/suburban? Are the 5,000 residential customers in this first territory, eighty per cent of whom are apartment dwellers, directly comparable to their suburban counterparts in terms of their energy requirements? Most likely not.


Paul, I don't disagree that the measure is still not ideal, we can certainly parse the per capita use into residential, and then residential urban, suburban, and rural, and we will of course get a much better picture. And we should do this whenever we have the information to do so. But working in reverse, when we are not analysing a community, but a power source, is it right to benchmark it against just one part of a community?

If I had to choose one metric that I think is the "least flawed" that would be overall per capita.
I choose overall ahead of residential, because a town/community province is overall, not just people or houses. So if everyone knows the city has 10,000 homes, and then the wind farm owner says wind farm can do 10,000 homes, some people seem to think it can power the whole city, and that, of course, is not the case.
Much more useful is the per capita for the city, because then you know how much you need to make that city self sufficient. The first step then is to separate commercial and residential, of course, but at the end of the day you can take X power for Y people, and there's the number, which you can then benchmark against other places.

Full disclosure here - this is the way all us civil engineers do it with planning water supply for cities/towns - benchmark per capita, and split your model if there is (or is going to be) abnormally high comm. or residential use. Part of that is a "home", but it is more important per capita overall. For the ski resort, I model separately for hotel beds, townhome and house, as they do have increasing water (and energy) use per capita/bed.

Of course, in the real world, you can't just supply 10,000 homes with water (or electricity) you have to supply the whole community, and in serious shortages, the homes are often cut back first (hospitals, schools etc being last).

So, that's why I prefer per capita, or a community of X people, and it makes people think they are all in it together (which in the case of water supply/shortage, they certainly are). Just using houses implies they can be taken in isolation, and I think that's a less realistic approach. When you get to smaller communities, like my ski resorts, and they are fed by just one single 25kV 3ph line, you can't just think of houses, they entire community depends on that one lifeline, and the more people realise that, the better.

After all, we want to encourage more "community", not just more "houses" :-)

Appreciate your discussion as always - it;s good to talk to someone else who is in the business of making people use less, not more.


Thanks, Paul; I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these sorts of things with you as well. I've gained much in the process even when our POV don't always match.


I suspect I am ahead in the information gained - your knowledge of heat pumps and lighting is 2nd to none. I may have a project later this year to implement both.

Change of subject - I was speaking today with the owner of the local plumbing and heating co that does all the alternative energy stuff. On the topic of solar HW, he says they don't try to justify a payback, because you can't. It is simply a case of if people want it, they will do it, and do a good job, of course, but they never try to "sell" them on the energy savings payback.. And with elec here at 8c/kWh, there just is not much payback on $6-7k system.
he tells them if they are serious about saving energy, to buy some of his high efficiency showerheads (which my client company supplies), put in a front load washing machine and leave it it that. He also tells them doing that will push out a solar payback from 20 to 30yrs (unless they have a hot tub) - refreshingly honest!

I mentioned the idea put forward by Ghung last week about doing a few PV panels and connecting them directly to a DC element in the heater - no inverter etc needed, and no through the roof plumbing. Would be about $4k for 1kW of system, and would be better than the tubes, but still expensive.

I think that GE Geospring is the way to go for a normal family, though even the payback on that gets longer once you have all the high efficiency fixtures.

Heat pumps have to be one of the best inventions that are in widespread consumer use. I keep trying to think of some way to advantageously use them with cheap intermittent wind power, but nothing so far. They are great for meeting a heating demand, but not for using lots of cheap power!



There are a number of reasons to install a solar DWH heater, but for many of us the economics are marginal at best. As previously noted, the DHW consumption of our two person household is a little under 5.0 kWh per day and the configuration of our system requires that we use more hot water than we would otherwise. Be that as it may, at 12.5-cents per kWh, our water heating bill is less than $20.00 per month and if our home were eligible for TOU rates, it would be half that. A $1,600.00 or $2,000.00 heat pump water heater would provide comparable savings but at roughly one-third the initial cost and at the same time dehumidify our basement -- something we have to do anyway (sadly, our EnergyStar dehumidifier uses about as much energy as our water heater).

Depending upon the season, we use between 100 and 120 litres of water per day (50 to 60 litres per person) and I'm guessing no more than a third of that is heated.


if our home were eligible for TOU rates, it would be half that

I fail to understand why tou rates are not the norm in this country. Given that almost every province has some hydro power, and some means of exporting power, the value potential from shifting demand with tou is huge.

You hot water case is a great example, efficiency first, then load shift, and then you are spending so little that you don;t need to worry about solar - a perfect 80/20 example.

In many cases it is far easier to shift electrical load than eliminate it, and the benefits can be almost as good, if the system can export/import.
BC Hydro has said they are really more interested in saving kWh than kW, and I think the reason there is that day/night shifting doesn't make that much difference to the wholesale price for much of the year. What they really want is water behinds dams in the summer, when it can be sold to Ca for a small fortune.
Still, shifting winter loads to off peak means they can be met by cheap imported electricity, and leave more water behind the dams. It's the one case where we can game a Canada/US system to our advantage, but it is not being maximised, in my opinion.

A side effect that I have observed is that the act of load shifting is almost always is accompanied by load efficiency/minimisation - a double benefit.

we use between 100 and 120 litres of water per day (50 to 60 litres per person)

That is impressively low. The average Canadian indoor residential use is in the order of 200(!)L/person. Average urban use (all customer types) per capita is about 330.

A house with all high efficiency fixtures, and diligent occupants can easily get under 100L/p/day. A house without teenage kids can typically do much better still, as you are.

Currently, NSP's TOU-rates are limited to residential customers with electric thermal storage heating systems. This may change as more wind generation is added to the system and excess night-time energy becomes presumably more problematic (the "preferred" solution may be real-time pricing).

Thinking back to H-Q's three element electric water heater, I'm wondering if you could incorporate some sort of fuzzy logic in their operation. For example, we're a two person household, kinda miserly in our hot water usage and we tend to shower at different times of the day. If the tank were to monitor our usage patterns, it may decide that it doesn't need to energize the upper 3.8 kW element (or at least delay the point at which it kicks on), knowing that the bottom 0.8 kW element will have sufficient time to recharge the tank before the next major draw (add a "guests" or "high usage" switch so that you can override this if need be). I'm guessing there are between three and four million electric water heaters in Québec and this sort of adaptive logic could prove useful in reducing peak demand; I wouldn't expect the added cost to be unreasonable in relation to the potential benefits, and it would have little or no discernible effect on performance. You could also add a "critical" response mode that would turn off the higher wattage elements in the event of a sharp drop in frequency.

I just paid our water bill the other day. During our most recent billing cycle, we used a total of nine cubic meters over the span of eighty-six days, which works out to be a little less than 105 litres per day. The amount paid was $86.61, of which just $3.72 was water related ! We have low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, a high efficiency Bosch front load clothes washer and a Bosch dishwasher and, as noted, we're both pretty stingy when it comes to our water usage.


Why have they limited tou just to those with thermal storage? That would seem to discourage anyone else from load shifting, as they have install retrofit storage to do it. The only reasons I can think of is that maybe they think without, the savings are not enough to justify it.

Even so, a normal household can shift lots of load to off peak with changes to daily routines. I always set the timer on the DW to run at about 3am.
I also do the same with the washing machine, I have one of those Euro style units that is the washer and dryer in one -it washes, and then dries, just like a dishwasher, so that you set, it, walk away, and take out clean dry clothes. Can set a time delay start for up to 12 hrs. Set it to finish at 0700 and take out warm clothes and put them on! I will never go back to separate units again.

Another unique feature about this unit is that it is ventless. In the dry cycle an electric element heats the air, and it then passes the warm moist air through a condenser (which is cooled by a slow spray of domestic cold water), and collects the condensed moisture and pumps it out through a 5/8"hose just like a DW. This means you can put the thing anywhere you have plumbing, without needing to run a vent. It saves on hot air exhaust in winter too - a full size dryer can exhausts several thousand cu.ft of heated inside air, this unit is zero.

And, it just connects to a standard 120V power point (on a dedicated circuit with 20A breaker, like a microwave or DW).


The HQ three element tank is interesting, and clearly does a good job of load shifting - I will forward this to my local guy. Presumably, the bigger the storage tank compared to the daily usage, the better this would be. Certainly a cheaper option than the heat pump one, but only really saves on the monthly bill with tou. The pattern recognition is an interesting idea -would be easy to do, and as long as the top element can handle unexpected changes, I don;t see why not.

What I didn't see anywhere on the HQ site was any mention of air source heat pumps!

So, combine the 3 element heater, with my washing machine, and operate the WM and DW only at night, replace the baseboards with ductless heat pump, and you have achieved major load shifting and reduction.

I presume you could set/program the heat pump for off -peak preferred operation, but then you are working with cold night air, and the COP would decrease accordingly. You may shift the load, but increase it by 50% or more - depending on the tou rates that may still be worthwhile, though it still seems wasteful.

If you paid only $3.76 for nine cu.m of water, they are selling it far too cheaply. Do you pay sewer service by cu.m also?
My experience has been that you need a combined rate (water+sewer) of $4/cu.m before people/businesses will really start doing efficiency work, and even then, well, you know...

Just a bit of marketing speak for you in the water efficiency biz - those aren't low flow fixtures - they are High Efficiency fixtures! Same as your LED's are not low light, they are high efficiency. Also, for your toilet, ideally it should be the dual flush type - they are the most water efficient system of all. "half flush" of 3L for no.1 and full flush of 4.5L for no.2 - load management for toilets! Official number is 3 out of 4 uses are the half flush, so very good water savings there. Best of all, is if your dual flush toilet is the Australian one, the Caroma - it can keep your Breville company!

Actually, their new showerhead is what we are now using for our projects - 5.7L/min and very good!

Finally, you mentioned real time pricing - I think this would be a very interesting option to make available, and can easily be done these days. Would be interesting to see how much load shifting would happen when the rate goes to zero on a windy night!

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing NSP doesn't believe non-ETS households can shift enough energy to these off-peak times to make the switch worthwhile. I'm also guessing that it's just a matter of time before smart meters are rolled out province-wide. NB Power and NS Power's "PowerShift Atlantic" test project seems to be pointing us in that direction:

NB Power plans smart grid research project
Technology could lead to lower rates, more usage of renewable power

The federal government is investing $15.9 million in a research project led by NB Power into smart grid technology that could lead to more renewable energy being used in the Maritimes.


Liuchen Chang, a professor at the University of New Brunswick and the project's lead researcher, said the intent of the initiative is to make renewable energy resources, such as wind, which are unpredictable, more economically viable.

"This project is all about shifting the residential and commercial loads, to facilitate the variation of generation," Chang said.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/07/23/nb-nbpower-...

Thanks for the tip on the washer-dryer combo -- a smart way to go given that you don't have worry about shuffling your clothes from one machine to the other to keep within the off-peak period, especially if that also requires you to get out of bed in the middle of the night !

You can program ductless heat pumps to come on and off at preset times via their remote control, but from a comfort point of view it's probably best to just "set and forget" and let them do their own thing; given that they use one-half to one-third the energy of electric baseboards, their operation during these peak rate periods is still quite affordable.

Our bill does cover both water and sewer -- the fixed or base charges are $72.98, water is charged at 41.3-cents per m3 and waste/storm water is priced at $1.169 per m3, and then HST is applied on top of that.

Our toilets are made by Kohler and although they're not dual-flush, you can easily control the amount of water used by the length of time you hold down the handle.

Thanks, too, for the tip on "market speak". I remember someone else telling me that I should avoid using the expression "low maintenance" because listeners tend to pick up on the word "maintenance" and either ignore or forget the word that proceeded it.


Well, I guess (hope) it is only a matter of time before tou is available to all. Once the smart meters are in place, the owner should be able to request the information, at the very least, included with elec bill,s but even better if available in real time via net - just log into your account, and have your own energy graph going. Then watch what happens when someone takes a shower etc, and people will quickly learn. Same idea as how the instant mileage readout on cars is the best fuel saving device of all!

In the US, it is a federal law that all utilities offer optional tou rates!

The washer/dryer combo is the best thing since sliced bread, especially for small houses/condos. It gets you in the habit of doing a load each night, instead of leaving it all for the weekend - domestic load shifting! As for space, Instead stacking or side by siding two units, the laundry room just contains one dishwasher size appliance, with countertop space above it. One smart condo builder in Calgary who clicked onto these things worked out the savings as follows;
4sqft of footprint @$100/sf bldg cost $400
Not running ducting to outside$100
Not running a 240V circuit for dryer$30 (he never used gas dryers -plumbing was too expensive)

He was also able to downsize the primary electrical service for the whole building. I did see (a few years ago) some numbers from the company about energy savings in a rental apt bldg where they put these in to replace std machines. The energy savings from not losing inside heated air was substantial. Also avoided negative pressure issues too.

At $1.58/cu.m your water/sewer is indeed cheap. Most cities average $2-3. Most expensive place I have yet seen for utility water/sewer is Fairbanks., Alaska where it is $11/cu.m - they are fairly efficient with their water there!

One water utility in California uses exponentially increasing block rates to manage consumption;

Water commodity charges – actual water consumption
Low Volume (0 – 40% of allocation) $0.32/cu.m
Base Rate (41 – 100% of allocation) $0.42
Inefficient (101 – 150% of allocation) $0.875
Excessive (151 – 200% of allocation) $1.51
Wasteful (Over 200% of allocation) $3.31

The allocation is a fixed amount based on what a reasonably efficient house, with 1300sf of "landscaping" would be expected to use.
the water rates are actually not that bad, but the structure gets everyone's attention so needless to say, everyone in this area is very aware of how much water they use, and do anything to stay out of the top two tiers - conservation rates at their best!

I had been told the same thing about maintenance, that it was better to use sound bites like set and forget, bolt off-bolt on, plug and play etc, and only say maintenance if specifically asked. Hard for an engineer to adopt the language of door to door salesmen!

That fuzzy logic would also have to monitor electricity spot prices. There's a good wind blowing and the units are cheap - heat that water, baby, heat it.


yes, it wouldn't be that hard to do at all. Probably not worth the trouble for residential customers, but they can have fun gaming the system and save a few $. For commercial customers with hot water, like hotels, swimming pools, food processors etc there might be some real opportunity there, but if it means you need to increase your HW storage capacity then there is a cost to that.
Where it would get interesting is if the cheap energy at windy times, is less than the cost of gas for a commercial customer. Adding some elec resistance for space heating (air handlers) or hot water is easy, and could soak up quite a bit of cheap power.

A hotel at a ski resort I work with is doing this, with standard TOU rates, but their "gas" is actually propane, so it is almost as expensive as electricity to start with.

Well, the City of Summerside, PEI which owns and operates its own municipal utility is working on something similar using two-way communication via a fiber-optic connection.

Heater to help put wind energy to better use

SUMMERSIDE - The problem of storing excess power from the city's wind farm has been addressed and city officials are preparing a program that will offer homeowners a break on their electricity bills.


Murphy said the two pieces of equipment the city is looking at to do this storage are heating units; the Steffes room heater and hot water heaters.

"Basically, the electric heater you have today comes on and off based on the demand that is required at the moment," Murphy said. "From the utility side of things there's no control over when comes off and on."

The city is planning to install a fiber optic communications system that will be able to gauge the amount of power that is required to service the heater.

See: http://www.journalpioneer.com/News/Local/1969-12-31/article-2035057/Heat...

Note that the article which was published in December of last year indicates that fuel oil is priced at 85-cents a litre; the cost today is running in the range of $1.10/litre.


I think 13 KWh/day/home is reasonable in the UK. Electricity has always been relatively expensive here, we waste less, and use less for heating, because natural gas has been cheap and widely available for 30 years.

My home (of 4 ) uses 4.8 KWh/day, but then I read TOD :)

One wonders what national energy consumption would be like if everyone read TOD instead of the daily papers? But then, this site wouldn't be the same anymore - it's the best kept secret in the energy world.

4.8kWh/day is impressive - presumably no electric hot water or space heating, and possibly not even electric cooking in your house?

After a comment from, I believe Darwinian, I started to play with some data - specifically oil US consumption both in aggregate as well as on a per capita basis. one of the unintended consequences of this excersize was a realization how careful one has to be to just grab some data and graph it.
The thin black lines are linear regressions.
The first graph is oil consumption+products (series MTTUPUS1) from the IEA, raw and then divided by raw US Census population numbers from 1981 to 2010.
The second graph is the same data, but only to 2008.
The labels on the left are annual oil consumption in bbls, the one on the right consumption per capita.
Quite a different result. Data can support whatever viewpoint you have....

And here is the same graph only until 2008

What if find interesting that in the complete dataset the trend is clearly going in opposite directions whereas in the data with the 2008 end date they seem to be trending in the same direction.


Ask for the correlation coefficients for both curves, both up to 2008 and to 2010. I don't think they will be that strong.

the R^2 for the 2010 graphs are 0.84 and 0.015
the R^2 for the 2008 graphs are 0.95 and 0.23
Should have added them...
total demand seems to be on a pretty stable track but per capita demand not...


The 0.015 and 0.23 numbers are pretty low and so those trends are likely to bounce around.
Yet I don't understand why dividing by per capita causes the numbers to go haywire. I would think that population numbers from the census change gradually, so that would scale through. Very strange.
Maybe we can get some more opinions.

i'll see if I can monthly data and see if that changes everything. The difference in correlations was a whole lot more than I had expected also...


Plot the population numbers. That should show you where the correlation is being destroyed. The census is done every ten years, and by methods that change from one census to the next. Rather than removing a population effect from consumption and improving the overall correlation, you are adding in the census errors and bias and making the correlation worse.

If you want to compare US against Canada, then you do it per capita because there is a difference in population that is much bigger than the errors in population measurement. If you want to compare one year against the next in the US, you are better doing it on a total basis, because the difference in population is swamped by the errors in measuring it.

Actually the numbers make perfect sense. Look again at the curves and especially the Y-axis. For the per capita, we aren't seeing the origin and it is only the axis scaling that is making it look like the numbers have large fluctuations. If everything was scaled from the origin properly, I think the pairs of curves would appear to have similar ripple.

What we are actually seeing is that the consumption per capita is really flattening out and the correlation over time is going toward zero.

This is actually very interesting data and interpretation, it's just that it can get misinterpreted based on how it gets charted.

I played around with zero scaling, but as i'm using 2 scales it looks funny.
The population numbers are actual cencus numbers (every 10 years) with cencus estimates inbetween.
Something i've done for other countries is adjust the absolute number of people for age related relative consumption numbers. Consumption varies greatly with age - which, I think, is one of the reasons why for example Japan seems to be a complete disaster on a headline level but for most individuals life is pretty good. People over 50 consume very little compared to the 35-45 bracket except of course for a spike during the last 9 months of their life.


First reported a couple of days ago.

Gas supply shortage hits region

Gas stations across Western Pennsylvania are struggling to keep their storage tanks filled because of a supply problem linked to the region's annual switch to "summer blend" fuel, a local industry expert said on Wednesday.

Six or seven BP stations across Allegheny and Washington counties ran short over the weekend and were out of gas as of Monday morning, said Don Bowers, manager of petroleum and transportation at Superior Petroleum Group. Shortages are occurring as prices at some local stations go as high as $4.09 a gallon.

The Ross-based company supplies nearly 100 stations that sell BP, Citgo, Valero and unbranded gasoline. BP started running short of gas at both its Coraopolis and Greensburg terminals two weeks ago, Bowers said. "We are delivering half-loads instead of full loads" of fuel to spread the available supply around, focusing first on independently-owned stations rather than Superior's own locations.

And the response

EPA says no to Pennsylvania gas waiver

HARRISBURG -- With supplies of summertime-compliant gasoline running low in southwestern Pennsylvania, state officials had hoped to get federal permission to temporarily continue distributing the more plentiful winter blend.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it believed that supplies were adequate and turned down a request from state Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, who on Thursday asked the EPA to temporarily waive gasoline volatility requirements. Those requirements are intended to reduce auto emissions in summer, when ozone levels are high.

..."Everything lined up like the perfect storm, and we can't get resupplied. There's not enough product," said Nancy Maricondi, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Petroleum Retailers and Auto Repair Association.

research on super capacitors



From the article:

"The material, which was recently created at The University of Texas -- Austin, can be incorporated into "supercapacitor" energy-storage devices with remarkably high storage capacity while retaining other attractive attributes such as superfast energy release, quick recharge time, and a lifetime of at least 10,000 charge/discharge cycles."

On the one hand, haven't we been hearing about this technology being on the edge of a major breakthrough for a number of years now?

On the other, if this is all (or even 1%) of what it's cracked up to be, could it help provide a partial solution to the problem they are now having in the Pacific NW--to much alternative electricity coming in at one time? Is it scalable to that level? Under what time frame?

Because something can be done in the lab does not mean it can be done (at least not very quickly) in an affordable way and at industrial scales, does it?

But simply because there is a rather strong self-selection bias on site like this - towards doomerism - doesn't mean one should disregard things like this (and it's potential applications) or the fusion article which was posted yesterday - I think it wsa EMC2 which had a breakthrough on a very low cost budget (funded of course by the US military).
I've met a number of fairly senior military and they are not the idiots some people make them out to be. Some of the most perceptive, aware people i've run across are serving.


should disregard things like this

So long as you are inventing "new math" or hydrinos the technofixes have always gotten a hearing on TOD. The reactions are far more critical when the people making the presentations are made by the designer/owner.

The new capacitors where one can go see working units are exploiting material handling or effects on the atomic level via 'nanotech'.

I wonder how long humans in the area temporarily known as the United States can prevent the Mississippi River from changing course and draining down the Atchafalaya River?



I wonder how long humans in the area temporarily known as the United States can prevent the Mississippi...

Yeah. The answer has always been, "Only for a while longer."

It's looking as if it may be a shorter while, rather than a longer one, isn't it?

H - I grew up in New Orleans and undestand the hydraulogy of the river better than most geologists. Just like the the earth quake that will destroy L.A. It's not a question of "if" but "when" IMHO. Came close in 1973. Most folks outside of the state have no idea.

"The U.S.: Where Europe comes to slum"

"But slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies"
"because labor is cheap and workers have no rights."
"the price advantage of manufacturing in China instead of the U.S. will shrink to insignificance by 2015. "

"In Sweden, IKEA, like the vast majority of Swedish companies, is unionized and affords its workers a range of rights and benefits that are all but unimaginable to American retail workers."

"But slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies"

IMF chief does some slumming in New York, gets arrested:



Has diplomatic immunity:


Wikipedia entry:


I wouldn't be surprised if this is not the first time, but previously misdemeanour's have been covered up. If that turns out to be the case (we'll see what comes out over the next week), then it means that he's probably been "taken out" on purpose by the people who once protected him. So the real story would then be why the coup and why now?

I guess the same question can also be asked of OBL's take down.

Well that didn't take long; "Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces further claim of sexual assault". This time from a woman in France.

IMF chief does some slumming in New York,

A $3,000 a night hotel is slumming?

A charge of attacking a staffer in that hotel is slumming?

"But slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies"
"because labor is cheap and workers have no rights."

The US is becoming a great country for corporations, CEO's, and even small business owners due to tax advantages and limited if any workers rights. The workers are falling behind in wages and benefits, but it is only going to move more in that direction. Efforts are under way to reduce or eliminate entitlements in order to provide greater tax advantages to corporations and individuals in high tax brackets.

I chalk up people's willingness to receive less for their labor on the Lottery Mentality of American people. They think in terms of how they would want to be taxed if they won the lottery, not how they want to be treated if they remain in their current state. This may seem assinine, but why else would people be so willing to 'take it' so to speak, losing so much ground to management over recent decades?

They think in terms of how they would want to be taxed if they won the lottery, not how they want to be treated if they remain in their current state.

That certainly is an interesting observation. I have a slightly different take on the lottery though (and this is an outsider's view), which is that at least some people let it happen as long as the lottery keeps going, and therefore, they keep their ticket in the lottery. The attraction of being able to "make it big" seems to be enough that they are willing to keep "big" people around, as long as they have the chance to join them.

By what means they actually expect to achieve that I have no idea, not everyone can be the next Gates or Zuckerberg.

... as long as the lottery keeps going
... willing to keep "big" people around
... be the next Gates or Zuckerberg


You raise a number of interesting subtext topics here.

Certainly there are many kinds of "lotteries" taking place.

For example, how many wannabe's dream of getting in on the "ground floor" of the next MS, FBook or Google-like startup company and riding the coat tails of that job to the top of the heap?

On the other hand, how many wannabe's understand the predatory nature of being the next Gates or Zuckerberg, in other words that you have to be a ruthless business person; sometimes bending the rules and climbing atop a pile of dead bodies, so you can outrun the other ruthless business persons and get to the top of the heap?

Then again, is it the little people who have the "will power" to keep the "big people" around, or is it the "big people" who have a predatory ranch-owner's instinct to herd the sheeple and take advantage of their docile proclivities?

All interesting questions.

And where does "Big Oil" fit into this equation?
Is our main stream civilization being herded towards the cliff's edge by them that run the Big 'Awl Biz?

post script:

Not sure if someone on Drumbeats already brought up Paul Krugman's latest editorial: The Unwisdom of [the] Elites

But here are perhaps some related snippets from it:

The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

... [T]he Great Recession was brought on by a runaway financial sector, empowered by reckless deregulation. And who was responsible for that deregulation? Powerful people in Washington with close ties to the financial industry, that’s who. Let me give a particular shout-out to Alan Greenspan, who played a crucial role both in financial deregulation and in the passage of the Bush tax cuts — and who is now, of course, among those hectoring us about the deficit.

sb - Speaking for the "Big 'Awl Biz": Yes. Now shut up and rejoin the herd and get back on the trail. Opps...hold on...I don't see my brand burned into your butt. Get back here.

or is it the "big people" who have a predatory ranch-owner's instinct to herd the sheeple and take advantage of their docile proclivities?

Reads almost like it could be a line out of Animal Farm. Their docile proclivities - is when the sheeple say, "I'm ok with less money and or even eliminated benefits as long as I'm still employed." The "big people" will always be testing the limits of what the sheeple are willing to endure. And that line will keep descending until the sheeple speak up loud enough in spite of a fear of being fired. That's why unions are so important because they give the sheeple a big people voice. But that's part of the big people move via thier repub representatives, to faze out unions. Then the sheeple will simply have to work for peanuts with no benefits and shut up or get fired.

What's becoming the most important ideal in this country is the super wealthy person. Everyone else is quickly becoming no more than chump change.

Reads almost like a line out of Animal Farm

Not just Animal Farm. It could be HG Wells' The Time Machine (Eloi versus the Morlocks)

And more so, it could be a line out of "evolution" since a predatory species seem to always evolve where there is opportunity to take advantage of a more docile other species.

We humans are the Morlock keepers of the cows and the pigs.

And in their turn, a small class of predatory humans (a.k.a. the Elites) have become the Morlock keepers of the easily targeted sheeple.

See? It's "The Circle of Life". A nice game so long as you are a young and healthy lioness born to the right lineage.

KSA wants to burn less FFs for powergeneration....


I was in the middle east recently where I met with an NOC and a SWF - and when the topic of PO come up over tea people at both institutions more than acknowledged it - one of them looked at me over his teacup and said "how can anyone think that if I keep sipping my tea the cup won't empty?"


Of course KSA rulers and ARAMCO know about peak oil and the coming oil production decline in their fields. That's why former ARAMCO VP of production, Sadad Al-Husseini, was told to shut up about the fact that KSA production will not be rising. Also look at the investment by KSA in SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Co.) which is buying companies world wide that use oil & natural gas to make a product, plus KSA has invested many $$ billions in building petrochemical plants and refineries. When the oil production declines KSA can make more money on producing less oil by being the processor of that oil and thus supply a finished, higher priced product to the world.

These Saudis are not dummies, in fact quite the opposite.

Spending in Saudi Arabia to Increase by 41 Percent This Year

Increasing oil revenues should be enough to maintain a surplus for both 2011 and 2012 in spite of the increased spending amounts, according to Jadwa (Investment).

Saudi Arabia is in what I characterized as a Phase One net export decline, relative to their 2005 net export rate of about 9.1 mbpd (total petroleum liquids). In a Phase One decline, the cash flow from declining net oil exports is stable to increasing, because generally rising oil prices offset the decline in the volume of net oil exports. In a Phase Two decline, generally rising oil prices can't offset the decline in net oil exports.

Forsooth - such a high-level meeting, and yet the caterer failed to serve a 'bottomless' teacup?

I met the NOC guys actually after work when the SWF people took me for drinks (as in tea/coffee) to a place overlooking the Arabian gulf. To them (this particular group at least)PO was in the "duh" category. Literally all of them had been educated in either the US or the UK.
They were much more interested in talking about the narrow minded and, in their minds, completely misguided desire of the west to see the ME become more democratic. Their sense was that the push for democracy demonstrates a lack of understanding of the west's own history, the history of the ME and how it was shaped by the west, and generally extremely arrogant and selfserving.


So they are against the Western push for democracy because of past transgressions? That sounds really logical. The only other way to interpret that is that they don't think the arabs are 'ready' for democracy, a view common in Israel.

These people seem to have a view of the West as all-knowing and omnipotent. Sure, no other outside 'empire'/civilization has as much as power as the West but do they really think America is 'behind' the fall of Mubarak? Or that the U.S. even sped up the process? The Obama administration wailed notoriously long, Biden even called Mubarak a 'great guy'.

I know these are not your opinions, but if they said what you wrote, they strike me as incredibly stupid.
They may be Western-educated, but I wager they're all locals/natives in their origin.

yes, they were all locals, from one particular tribe actually.
I was the guest so I did a whole lot more listening than speaking.
One of the points they repeatedly made was that the west did not understand them and simply tried to impose on the ME whatever system worked for the west.


Postulate, as a gripping and tragic geo-political fiction book plot, some hypothetical country, ~5-10 years from now, bringing democracy to another hypothetical country with a flaky dictator and a whole lot of under-developed 'oil'...the liberating forces' leaders will be thinking of the children, of course.

Perhaps the plot will feature the flaky dictator being found to be trying to import yellowcake from across the sea from Africa, or developing biological weapons, or hatching a cyber-warfare attack capability...


Maybe Tom Clancy is working this plot vehicle...would make an action-packed movie.

UAE putting together its own mercenary battalion:


Same story from the NYT for those so inclined, or in case the MSNBC link breaks:


For those who haven't yet followed Heisenberg's links, the star mercenary is Erik Prince, of Blackwater/Xe fame.


And so the Condottieri rise again and the present rhymes with the past once more.

Seemingly the mercenaries may also be used to fight outside the UAE. So when they're not knocking the crap out of democracy inclined citizens, no doubt they'll be protecting their "land grab" acres and food security in Pakistan, Morocco, Sudan, etc. Not dissimilar to a discussion the other day where I suggested that Saudi Arabia will have to militarise to protect its neo-colonised overseas food acres. It begins.

Boy. What a year, so far, in MENA/Central Asia.

For a very long time, US (and EU) foreign policy toward those regions has been almost entirely predictable, regardless of which parties might be in power.

Something tells me things are getting a lot murkier.

I wonder what, oh, say, Obama, Sarkozy and Merkel think about Erik's Emirates Foreign Legion.

I wonder what Manmohan Singh thinks (50% of the UAE pop is Indian ex-pats), or the Iranians.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Extreme makeover: are humans reshaping Earth?

For the first time in Earth's 4.7 billion year history, a single species has not only radically changed Earth's morphology, chemistry and biology, it is now aware of having done so.

"We broke it, we bought it, we own it," is how Erle Ellis, a professor of geography and ecology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, put it.

Dinosaurs were most likely wiped out by a giant meteor that cooled Earth's temperatures below their threshold for survival. An analogous fate could await humans if temperatures climb by five or six degrees Celsius, which climate scientists say could happen within a century.

For the first time in Earth's 4.7 billion year history, a single species has not only radically changed Earth's morphology, chemistry and biology, it is now aware of having done so.

I'm convinced that the cyanobacteria had a plan... but humans weren't part of it >;^)

More on China halting diesel exports:


The NDRC has urged domestic oil refiners to increase imports of chemical light oil, which is used to produce oil products.

China's oil products imports declined year on year 5.57 percent to 3.22 million tonnes in April, while the total imports in the first four months hit 14.25 million tonnes, up 18.3 percent year on year, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Good launch of Endeavour, too many clouds for Me to see it from the house, but it shook the doors & windows good.