Drumbeat: May 18, 2011

Oil output cut as Alberta wildfires rage

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian oil production cuts could more than double by Wednesday as companies move to protect employees and property from wildfires raging through northern Alberta and cope with the shutdown of a key pipeline.

Oil companies had shut in close to 50,000 barrels per day of production Tuesday because of wildfires in the Western Canadian province, one of the largest suppliers of crude to the United States. Further cuts are expected as big fields are closed in because they cannot ship their oil to market.

Spurred by warm temperatures and gusting winds, 100 wildfires are burning in Alberta, with 23 considered out of control in a fire season unlike any seen before.

Ahmadinejad at OPEC will hamper output increase

LONDON/TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plan to attend an OPEC meeting next month is likely to hamper any move by Saudi Arabia to raise the group's oil output targets and bring crude prices down.

Mexico Stepping Up Natural Gas Imports as Pemex Focuses on Oil Production

Mexico, which is building about six new power plants this year, is likely to step up natural-gas imports because slumping prices for the fuel are deterring state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos from developing its own fields.

ANALYSIS: Where Are Oil Prices Headed?

Robust worldwide demand, along with the lack of Libyan output, will keep crude oil prices trending above $100 per barrel for some time to come, according to a review of current statistics from Rigzone and interviews with leading analysts.

"From a long-term perspective, we're just in a different world than we were in the 1990s, when there was $10 to $20 oil," commented Ruchir Kadakia, director of global oil fundamentals for IHS' Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA.)

Kazakhstan set to freeze major gas project, minister says

Kazakhstan will freeze further development of its most promising gas field, Karachaganak, if it fails to resolve its dispute with foreign shareholders in the project, the Kazakh oil and gas minister said on Wednesday.

Kazakhstan, a vast Central Asian nation holding 3 per cent of the world’s recoverable oil reserves, has grown more assertive over its abundant natural resources in recent years, pushing to revise agreements signed with foreign energy majors when its budget coffers were empty following the Soviet collapse in 1991.

The gas price blame game

More Americans actually believe in UFOs and ghosts than blame President Barack Obama for causing their pain at the pump.

Three years of hammering away with the “drill, baby, drill” mantra hasn’t gotten the GOP very far politically despite fuel costs crossing into the $4-a-gallon no man’s land.

Now, public angst about the cause of soaring fuel costs centers on Big Oil and market speculators — the same bad guys that Obama and Senate Democrats have targeted with tax increases and federal investigations.

Drilling offers only a political benefit

If past data turn out to be at all accurate, there's not much oil or natural gas off Virginia. There's another treasure, the real lure of Virginia's outer continental shelf: the prospect of prying open the ocean floor off America's populous and prosperous East Coast.

There's no other plausible explanation for this eagerness to drill off Virginia. Unless there is a major surprise discovery, drilling will do nothing for the punishing price of a gallon of gasoline. And because oil goes to international markets, it would do nothing to lower the specific price Virginians pay at the pump.

Western Australia's Gas Policy Seen Preventing New Entrants

Western Australia's domestic gas reservation policy is interventionist and may prevent new entrants to the market, the petroleum sector's peak body says.

Former state premier Alan Carpenter in late 2006 introduced the policy, whereby 15 percent of gas from offshore projects must be set aside for domestic use.

Poland to develop shale gas despite environment risk

(Reuters) - Poland reaffirmed its commitment to developing its shale gas reserves on Wednesday despite French plans to ban drilling, but officials and industry experts said tough regulatory and environmental challenges lie ahead.

The U.S.-based Energy Information Administration (EIA) said last month Poland's technically recoverable reserves of shale gas are the biggest in Europe at an estimated 5.3 trillion cubic meters, though some experts are skeptical about the figure.

Kenya-Economy: Small Oil Marketers Say Another Shortage Looms

Kenyans should brace themselves for more fuel shortages in the months of June and July because of market manipulation by major oil companies small oil marketers said yesterday. An association of small oil firms warned that the country was facing the acute shortage after some major oil companies manipulated the award of supply of 95million litres of product that only caters for their requirement and locking out the small players.

EDL to step up crackdown on electricity theft

BEIRUT: Electricite du Liban (EDL) will intensify a nationwide crackdown on electricity theft in an effort to enhance power grids ahead of a summer season set to witness heightened energy demand, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Tohoku Electric to set up 800-meter-long levee near Onagawa plant

SENDAI — Tohoku Electric Power Co said Wednesday it will construct a coastal levee about 800 meters long near its Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture, which shut down in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami.

Can Batteries Replace Power Generators?

When the Long Island Power Authority said last summer that it was going to need new power capacity in the next few years, most people assumed that meant new generating stations or new transmission cables. But of the 16 companies that submitted proposals, one, AES Energy Storage, took an entirely different tack: it proposed batteries.

Land use claims against biofuel industry fall flat

Based on what they describe as a “‘bottom-up’, data-driven, statistical approach,” researchers at Michigan State University have concluded that biofuel production in the United States through 2007 “probably has not induced any indirect land use change.”

Forget the gas tax - a driving tax may be next

Earlier this year, North Dakota Democrat and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad asked the Congressional Budget Office to study the idea. In March CBO issued a report that said such a tax was feasible and had many advantages over a gas tax.

"Because highway costs are more directly determined by miles driven than by fuel used, appropriately designed [mileage] taxes can do more to improve the efficiency of road use than fuel taxes can," the report said.

The only way forwards is backwards: A budget reply

This is a budget reply from the hypothetical leader of the hypothetical catabolic collapse party, placing the not so hypothetical predicament of industrial society into budgetary perspective.

Richard Heinberg - Shrinking Pie: Competition and Relative Growth in a Finite World

In this chapter we will explore the growth prospects of the Asian economies. We will also examine the dynamics of currency wars. And we will see how rich and poor countries, and demographic sectors within those countries, are likely to fare in post-growth economy, and how increasing competition for depleting resources may drive nations toward conflict.

The best place to start this survey of prospects for short-to-medium-term relative growth is with China, which not only exemplifies rapid residual economic growth, but also points the way to how currency and resource rivalries, as well as old/young, rich/poor, urban/rural divisions might play out as the global economy contracts.

Review: A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

There are two common reactions to news about our species’ present-day crisis. One is confusion and bewilderment arising from the fact that even the experts can’t seem to agree on which threats are real or what to do about them. The other is despair at the sheer number of crises and the dire implications of each, which can eventually lead to tune-out, apathy and annoyance whenever they’re mentioned. Neither response is productive, and thus there’s a dawning recognition on the part of experts, activists and educators that the way in which these issues are presented to the public must change if we’re to keep people engaged.

Saudi Aramco speeds up Manifa, eyes full output by 2015

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - State oil giant Saudi Aramco plans to accelerate the development of its 900,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Manifa oilfield and reach full capacity by early 2015, an Aramco executive said on Wednesday.

Aramco had said in its 2009 annual review the project would not pump at full volume until January 2024, as the company looked to cut costs across its energy projects following the oil price slump in 2008 in the wake of global economic slowdown.

But in 2009, Aramco's chief executive Khalid al-Falih said the company decided to push on with the project despite the fall in oil prices then taking place.

Saudi Sweet Oil Supply Too Low to Offset Libya, al-Husseini Says

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, won’t be able to produce enough low-sulfur blends to replace lost Libyan output for refiners in Europe, said Sadad al-Husseini, a former Saudi Aramco executive.

The country doesn’t have enough Arab Super Light to create sufficient amounts of low-sulfur, or sweet, oil similar to Libya’s grades, al-Husseini, Aramco’s former executive vice president for exploration and development, said today by e-mail.

Aramco 'Keen' to Develop Shale, Tight Gas to Meet Local Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil exporter, wants to develop unconventional gas resources such as shale rock to reduce the burning of crude for power generation, a company official said.

"We are in the early stages of assessing the kingdom's resources of unconventional gas but the company is very keen on developing it," Brian Gratto, manager for exploration resource assessment at the company, said today in Khobar, in the east of the country.

U.S. sanctions target Syrian president, Iranian commanders

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama Wednesday imposed tough sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six other senior Syrian officials in an effort to stop the regime's fierce crackdown on protests, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The sanctions also target two top Iranian officials whose unit was a "conduit for Iranian material support" to Syrian intelligence, according to a copy of the executive order issued by the White House.

Sechin says BP-Rosneft deal failed, praises BP

(Reuters) - BP's $16 billion share swap and Arctic drilling deal with Russian oil company Rosneft has failed but BP is still a good partner, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said on Wednesday.

Sechin, Russia's top energy official, said Rosneft could sue over the breakdown of talks on Monday to buy out BP's partners in Rosneft rival TNK-BP (TNBP.MM) who opposed the tie-up.

Jeff Rubin takes questions on global oil and gas prices

What's next for global oil and gas prices?

Author and economist Jeff Rubin will take your questions in a live chat on Friday May 20 at noon ET.

Portland hearing on Hanford radioactive waste plan

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Energy Department is holding a public hearing Thursday night in Portland on a proposal to store more radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington.

The Oregonian reports the state of Oregon opposes the idea because of the risk of radioactive contamination in the Columbia River.

Surprises on list of cars, trucks in shortest supply

You'd think the list would be dominated by Japanese models whose production was stopped or reduced because of the March earthquake. And, sure, some are on the list. But it's actually a pretty mixed bag.

If there anything in common, it is that gas savers prevail. A year ago, more SUVs were in short supply.

As for the vehicle in shortest supply, Edmunds.com says it's Nissan's all-electric Leaf.

Book Review: Seth Fletcher's "Bottled Lightning"

In 1976, Forbes declared that "the electric car's rebirth is as sure as the need to end our dependence on imported oil." As we all now know, that exuberance was dead by the end of the decade. Japan later picked up Exxon's detritus and made lithium-ion batteries a fabulously profitable industry, but for everyone else, they were old news.

Now we are in an age that sounds eerily similar to those days three decades ago. Yet Seth Fletcher reports that this time may be different: Oil prices are higher, and there is more concern about fuel economy, not to mention alarm about global warming -- and 9/11. Plus, batteries are much more advanced -- electric cars have reached commercial critical mass, he writes.

Peak Oil Has Shattered The North American Housing Sector

Of the many asset classes to be victimized by the end of cheap energy, residential real estate is perhaps the most vulnerable. A call option on future wage growth, and, leveraged to our liquid-fuel based transport system, housing in North America is currently making its way back to the stable, but barely appreciating asset it once was. However, having started this journey only recently there is still a long way to go. A long way in price that is, for housing to fall.

The housing crash is currently in the midst of its next leg down. In similar fashion to those who missed the initial crash, the past year has seen a number of observers calling for a bottom. One of my favorite calls came last year from Karl Case’s in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. In A Dream House for All, Mr Case made the following argument: because house prices had fallen so much already, housing was now more affordable. But of course that wasn’t true at all. Not then, and not now.

Oil Rises From Three-Month Low as Cushing, Fuel Supplies Fall

Oil rose from a three-month low after an industry-funded report showed U.S. gasoline stockpiles dropped and crude inventories at the delivery point for New York futures declined the most since June.

Prices gained as much as 1.1 percent today. Gasoline supplies last week fell 676,000 barrels, the American Petroleum Institute said. An Energy Department report today will show they increased 950,000 barrels, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Crude inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the benchmark West Texas Intermediate grade, slid 1.5 million barrels, the API said.

Jim Rogers says Oil Price to Rise “beyond anyone’s expectations”

Speaking with the BBC, Tuesday, Jim Rogers said he believes oil prices will rise “beyond anyone’s expectations” in coming years.

The billionaire investor, author and co-founder of the legendary Quantum Fund also said the U.S. economy will “slow down” as a result of headwinds brought on from higher oil prices.

In firm responses to the host of BBC Hardtalk Stephen Sackur’s contentious questions, the 68-year-old Rogers reminded viewers of last year’s published IEA data, which strongly suggest that world oil production appears to have peaked in 2006—though the agency’s 2010 annual report didn’t make a definitive statement along the lines of the ‘peak oil’ theses.

JPMorgan Says Crude Oil, Gold to Drive Rebound in Commodities on Shortages

Crude oil and gold will lead a rally in commodities as production fails to keep pace with demand, said Ray Eyles, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s commodity business in Asia.

Oil supply will trail consumption in the second half as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers won’t increase output fast enough, the bank said in a report May 6. Rabobank Groep expects shortages in corn and cotton this year while Barclays Capital is predicting deficits in copper, nickel, tin, lead and platinum.

Jeff Rubin: Will export restrictions on energy echo those on food?

Higher prices are supposed to encourage more world supply. It’s standard textbook economics. But what happens when, instead of export-oriented global firms, it’s governments that control supply. They may not respond to price signals the same way as profit-maximizing companies. In fact, they may respond in the exact opposite way.

Instead of soaring food and energy prices encouraging food and energy producers to export more, they may export less and divert more of their output to domestic markets. The reason is simple: to keep domestic prices from matching soaring world prices.

7 in 10 Americans say high gas prices hurt

As gas prices hover near $4 a gallon, nearly seven in 10 Americans say the high cost of fuel is causing financial hardship for their families, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

More than half say they have made major changes to compensate for the higher prices, ranging from shorter trips to cutting back on vacation travel.

For 21%, the impact is so dramatic they say their standard of living is jeopardized.

Bring on the gas hikes

“Peak oil’’ theorists argue that someday soon — maybe even now — we’re going to run out of new oil supplies and prices will rise permanently. Maybe. But today’s rise seems more ephemeral, a consequence of the Arab Spring, the newly reviving economy, and speculation by oil traders. Indeed, a week ago per-barrel prices were almost $105. Now they are down in the high $90s. Gas, I’m betting, will soon be inexpensive again.

High gas prices depress Ohio Turnpike car traffic

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Turnpike says fewer cars used the toll road during the first month of its new, higher speed limit.

A spokeswoman says high gasoline prices have hurt passenger vehicle traffic.

The turnpike upped its top speed from 65 mph to 70 mph in April, partly to lure more traffic onto the highway and off smaller, parallel roadways.

Russia's Vankor to ship 13 mln t crude in 2011

PURPE, Russia (Reuter) - Rosneft's Vankor oil field, a key source of new output for Russia as it struggles to sustain production, will deliver 13 million tonnes into the pipeline system, pipeline operator Transneft said on Wednesday.

China forced to ration electricity

Chinese provinces are rationing electricity as soaring coal prices squeeze power generation companies, underlining the challenges facing the world’s largest energy consumer as global fuel prices rise.

While China experiences power cuts each summer, some provinces have started rationing earlier than usual this year. In recent days Hunan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces have implemented cuts, alongside Shanghai and Chongqing.

Iran president to chair next OPEC meeting

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will head the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna in his capacity as the country's caretaker oil minister, state media reported Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad dismissed Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi last week as part of a Cabinet restructuring plan under which the government is required to merge eight ministries into four. The move puts him temporarily at the helm of the country's most vital sector. Iran also holds the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' rotating presidency this year.

Libya rebels eye OPEC meeting as oil minister 'defects'

Rebels fighting to topple strongman Moammar Gaddafi's regime by contrast were growing in confidence and laid claim on Wednesday to being able to represent Libya at the June 8 meeting of oil cartel OPEC in Vienna.

Tunisian source: Libyan oil minister defects

TRIPOLI, Libya - Libya's oil minister defected and fled to Tunisia, a Tunisian security official said Tuesday, one of the highest profile figures to abandon Moammar Gadhafi's government.

Shukri Ghanem, the head of the National Oil Co. and Libya's oil minister, crossed into Tunisia by road on Monday and defected, the Tunisian official said. The official, based in the region around the Ras Jdir border crossing, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Rebels accuse Gadhafi fighters of shelling mountains in west, say people lack food, medicine

TRIPOLI, Libya — Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi shelled villages and towns to try to take control of the high ground in a western mountain range as NATO widened its campaign of bombings and leafletting to persuade government troops to stop fighting.

Frustrated U.S. warns Pakistan of cuts in aid

Washington — Congressional Republicans and Democrats warned Pakistan on Tuesday that billions of dollars in American aid are at stake if Islamabad doesn't step up its efforts against terrorists, a clear sign of the growing exasperation after the U.S. takedown of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.

Pakistani troops, NATO helicopters engage in firefight

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Pakistani paramilitary troops shot at NATO helicopters that crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan early Tuesday, triggering a firefight that left two soldiers wounded, military officials here said.

Syrian government denies mass grave found near Daraa

(CNN) -- The Syrian government is denying claims that a mass grave was found near the embattled city of Daraa, a focal point in the nationwide wave of anti-government rage.

The country's Interior Ministry said the news was untrue and is part of a "campaign of incitement and slandering," Syrian state TV reported Tuesday.

Interior chief asks for shorter drilling time

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is asking Congress to shorten the time energy companies get to start drilling on public lands they lease, as part of the government's strategy to boost oil and gas production.

US Senate blocks bill targeting oil firm subsidies

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Senate defeated a bill taking aim at some $2 billion in annual subsidies to some of the world's largest and most profitable oil companies amid deep voter anger at high gasoline prices.

Lawmakers voted 52-48 to end debate on the measure, falling short of the 60 required and effectively killing a proposal that the White House's Democratic allies had portrayed as a belt-tightening step in cash-strapped Washington.

Is Obama’s call for more drilling bad messaging or cynical policy?

One thing we know for certain -- more domestic drilling starting now will have exactly the same impact on prices that the increased domestic drilling in the last two years had. Zilch.

BP Defeat Puts Arctic Oil Trove Back in Play

The collapse of BP Plc (BP/)’s alliance with Russia’s state-run oil company brings one of the world’s largest untapped drilling opportunities back onto the market.

Medvedev raps Sechin over BP-Rosneft deal failure

SKOLKOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has rapped Premier Vladimir Putin's top deal maker for lapses that contributed to the collapse of a major oil deal between Rosneft and BP.

Rosneft receives new proposals from BP

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia's state-run oil firm Rosneft said on Wednesday it had received new cooperation proposals from BP after their joint Arctic exploration agreement collapsed this week.

The Russian giant did not give details nor make clear whether they included a potential new Arctic agreement covering joint exploration of Russia's northern reserves.

Russia's Medvedev says Ukraine gas price may change

SKOLKOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday the gas price formula for its neighbour Ukraine could be subject to change in future.

Ukraine's government has called the current price agreement, set in January 2009 when the government of Yulia Tymoshenko was in power, "unfairly high". It hopes new talks will lead to lower gas prices that would benefit Ukraine's economy.

PetroChina to expand overseas, eyes progress in Sino-Russian pipeline

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- Senior executives of PetroChina Co., Ltd., said Wednesday that the company will continue to seek opportunity for overseas merger and acquisition (M&A) and further expand its Latin American presence.

In an interview with Xinhua at PetroChina's annual shareholders' meeting, Chairman Jiang Jiemin said current high oil and gas prices don't make it an ideal time for overseas M&A, but the company won't miss a profitable chance when it comes along.

Pennsylvania fines Chesapeake Energy $1.1 million

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania has fined Chesapeake Energy Corp. $1.1 million for contaminating well water and causing a tank fire during natural gas drilling operations.

The state environmental protection department said Tuesday that the well contamination fine was the largest it ever imposed against companies drilling in the Marcellus shale, energy-rich formations under the Appalachians.

Judge at Heart of Landmark Oil Pollution Case Unfazed by Spotlight

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador -- Sitting in a dimly lit office with blue paint peeling off the walls, Judge Nicolas Zambrano is remarkably relaxed for a man responsible for the biggest environmental damage ruling in history.

In February, Zambrano ordered Chevron Corp. to pay up to $18 billion for oil pollution in the region around this hard-edged frontier town on the fringe of the Amazon jungle.

Sasol Considers Plans to Produce Fuel from Shale Gas, Coal in China

Sasol Ltd. (SOL), the world’s largest maker of motor fuels from coal, is open to adding plants to convert coal to fuels in regions of China such as Xinjiang, said John Armstrong, company president for the country.

The Johannesburg-based company will also consider projects to turn shale gas into liquid fuels should the nation allow access to such an industry in the future, Armstrong said in an interview in Tianjin today.

ID Summit: Warning over oil liability cap

MUNICH Re’s controversial plan to pull together a $20bn drilling liability product for the Gulf of Mexico created an unrealistic sense of available capacity among US regulators, and with proposals to lift the oil spill liability cap back on the agenda, oil companies are anxious that the same mistakes are not repeated.

According to Robert Stauffer president and chief executive of Bermudian energy industry mutual Oil Insurance Ltd (Oil), US legislators had considered using Munich Re’s aspirational $20bn figure as the basis for setting the new cap, which he said would have left only the largest oil companies able to afford cover.

Tepco revises plan for cooling reactors

TOKYO — Confronted with worse-than-expected damage at its battered nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Tuesday revised its strategy for cooling Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors. However, the utility company reaffirmed its goal of stabilizing the facility — and ending the country’s nuclear crisis — within six to nine months.

A Worldwide Nuclear Slowdown Continues

Aftershocks from Fukushima shake political confidence in nuclear—and provide a boost for rewewables.

Why Japan's Shift Away from Nuclear Is Good for Business

Seven/Eleven convenience stores in Japan may seem like just another chain of 24/7, overly lit, electricity-burning businesses wasting this island nation's precious energy resources. But in fact, they are among a host of forward-looking companies helping set the pace for change within the nation's energy policy. With over 13,000 locations nationwide, the convenience store chain plans to spend over $123 million to switch to energy efficient LED lighting at about 6000 outlets in Tokyo, and will install solar panels on roofs of 1,000 stores around the country over the next few months. The plan will not only save 125KW a day per store, but also benefit manufacturers of LED lighting and solar cell panels — a win-win for all.

Americans ready for vacation, despite high gas prices

Many Americans, fed up with being pent up, appear determined to go on vacation this summer — even though they know it's going to cost them more than in recent years.

More seniors going hungry

Although programs that address senior hunger also are on the rise, Ziliak says the growth hasn't been enough to compete with the growing need.

An AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of data released last fall showed that between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of poor and near-poor seniors who were hungry more than doubled, from 4.7% to 10.1%.

Six irrational ideas about oil and gas prices debunked

It's not pretty when several irrational ideas collide. On May 12, the Senate conducted a hearing to discuss the removal of a $2 billion per year tax break for the top five oil companies. The New York Times called the testimony at the hearing "a big whine for big oil." Eliminating a tax break like this should be a no-brainer, but that idea is blocked by six irrational notions from the right that come together in an explosion of false logic:

Beyond Petroleum. Or Not.

Can Big Oil figure out the climate-friendly future of energy? Does it actually want to?

Can natural gas fuel the U.S.?

The United States does not have a decades-long supply of inexpensive, locally sourced natural gas, according to a new report commissioned by the Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit think tank that examines issues related to the economy, energy and the environment.

No silver bullet for energy crisis

Mount Carroll, Ill. — The search goes on. Because we are so resistant to the idea of conserving energy, we hope for the silver bullet. Since the disaster in Japan has fueled doubts about the safety of nuclear energy, concerns for powering our future have taken a front seat.

Australia: Solar dishonesty

Last year I entered into a contract with the NSW Government to feed solar electricity into the state's power grid. It was a contract without deception, one in which both I and the NSW Government knew what was offered and expected. I was to pay to install a solar system at my home and the NSW Government was to pay me 60 cents a kilowatt-hour until the end of the 2016.

Late last week the O'Farrell government announced that it was going to renege, that it was going to reduce the payment from 60 cents a kilowatt-hour to 40 cents. The O'Farrell government tries to portray me and the other 120,000 contracted producers of solar power as greedy and selfish by describing its payments to us as windfall profits. Windfall? Unexpected? Accidental? What nonsense! The government knew very well what the scheme was to cost, what it was to pay, what solar producers were to receive, and Barry O'Farrell and his fellows supported the introduction of the scheme in 2009. The government made an offer and I, somewhat late in the day, accepted it. I have met my obligation in the contract by installing the solar system, at a cost to me of $15,000, now Barry O'Farrell and his Coalition government say it won't meet their obligation.

Wind resistance

Opponents of Horizon Wind Inc.’s wind farm plans have a message for Ontario’s premier and the area’s two MPPs – no Liberals, no turbines.

Open house

"It’s not something that Western society really has a choice about. You’ve heard the term peak oil I mean there really isn’t any more so the prices of that are going to escalate. We know the problems that it is causing so we have to make a switch," Zwig said.

But most questions raised by the over 120 people attending the first open house, in a large tent on the grounds of Blake Hall, were more concerned with location than green energy. Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee spokesman Mike Payne said the committee came to get answers about the project but none were given despite six Horizon representatives on-site.

Group responds to potential NW wind power shutdown

PORTLAND, Ore. – Wind power companies facing a springtime shutdown to accommodate a surge of hydropower in the Northwest said Tuesday the region's main power manager has a conflict of interest, using authority over transmission lines to protect its business interests.

The claim by the American Wind Energy Association follows the Bonneville Power Administration's announcement last week that it plans to curtail use of wind power because of a surplus of energy from hydroelectric dams.

The month in sustainable development

Last month was a tough one. As a card-carrying optimist working on the sustainable development agenda, I was struck by how pessimistic the expert community has become about humankind's prospects this century.

Do More With Less Or Things Will Get Ugly: Study

As it stands, economic growth is largely dependent on resource consumption. As a country grows, so does its use of natural--and limited--high-quality resources like oil, gold, and copper. But this is untenable in the long run, especially as growing countries like India and China model themselves increasingly on American habits of consumption (a car, two cell phones, and 30 pounds of meat for all!). The seemingly impossible solution: separating resource use and environmental impact from economic growth--a process with the unfortunate moniker "decoupling."

Our potential can become our reality

The city centre attracts visitors and local residents alike as a safe, friendly and culturally vibrant place. A beautification project launched by the city has resulted in the planting of many trees, flower gardens and community vegetable gardens that have added to the character of the neighbourhoods.

The once dominant car culture is receding as the impact of peak oil sinks in. The majority of our food is grown locally. Readily accessible and affordable public transit makes it easy to travel around and appreciate the natural beauty and architectural heritage of the area. The streets are people friendly and there are many pedestrian areas throughout the city that limit or are closed to traffic. Weather permitting, cyclists are a common sight on bicycle lanes and trails.

As Aired on Discovery's Planet Green, Passion River Films Releases on DVD "Houston We Have A Problem," Documentary About the Future of Energy

Featuring interviews with the Chairman of BP Capital, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, the Former President of Shell Oil, and other top oil companies, "Houston We Have A Problem" seeks the truth about our nation's dependence on foreign oil. Screened at our Nation's Capital and nationwide for Earth Day, and featured on Discovery's Planet Green as part of its Reel Impact series, the documentary is now available on DVD.

The Draw of Doomsday: Why People Look Forward to the End

Apocalpytic beliefs have been on rise for the past 40 to 50 years, said DiTommaso, who has been researching doomsday believers for an upcoming book, "The Architecture of Apocalypticism." What ties these disparate groups together is a sense that the world's problems are too big to solve, DiTommaso said.

"Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able as human beings to solve these problems," DiTommaso said. "From a biblical point of view, God is going to solve them. From other points of view, there has to be some sort of catastrophe."

Stagnant wages, high unemployment slam Wal-Mart US sales

CHICAGO — Wal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. same-store sales have fallen for two straight years, as customers struggle with high unemployment and wages that are not keeping up with rising prices for food and other basics.

"Rising gas prices, high unemployment and increasing inflation continue to be the most important issues facing our customers today," Bill Simon, chief executive of Wal-Mart's U.S. stores, said on a recorded message for investors.

Blacks' exodus reshapes cities

Taylor's decision to live outside Chicago makes him part of a shift tracked by the 2010 Census that surprised many demographers and urban planners: He is among hundreds of thousands of blacks who moved away from cities with long histories as centers of African-American life, including Chicago, Oakland, Washington, New Orleans and Detroit.

At the other end of the spectrum, in Maine, is the Lewiston-Auburn area, which saw a 476% increase in its black population from 2000 to 2010. Most of the newcomers are refugees from Somalia, says Phil Nadeau, deputy city administrator in Lewiston.

Habitat ReStore outlets growing

Habitat for Humanity officials say ReStores are finding success in part because more people are doing home improvement projects themselves to save money, and partly because of a greater concern for the environment.

There's also the chic factor associated with thrift stores, which have seen a resurgence in popularity among those who enjoy hunting for unique or eccentric items, Gluth says.

Climate Panel Announces Reforms

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rocked by controversy in recent years, has adopted a series of reforms of its management and governance to increase transparency and improve the quality of its hugely influential climate change reports, the group says.

U.K. to Cut CO2 Emissions in Half by Mid-2020s, Most in Industrial World

“Our ambition is to effect the transformation of our economy into a new low-carbon model,” Greg Barker, a minister in the energy department, said in an interview last night after Huhne’s statement to Parliament in London. “This will give investors the certainty they need to invest in clean energy and will put Britain at the cutting edge of the new global industrial transformation.”

Carbon rule may clip wings of China's aviation sector

The European Union has set Jan 1 as the starting date for all flights, incoming and departing from the continent, to meet emission limits or pay penalties for breaking them.

The four Chinese airlines - Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and HNA Group - that operate flights between China and Europe have been asked to abide by the rule.

The airlines have protested strongly, criticizing the EU's emission program as a "unilateral and indirect" mechanism that violates widely accepted principles on fighting climate change. However, experts say China's chances of being exempted from the program are slim.

Central China Hit by Drought, as Reservoirs Become ‘Dead Water’

As of Sunday, 4 medium-size reservoirs and 1,388 small reservoirs in Hubei had dropped below the allowable discharge levels for irrigation, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the director of the reservoir management office for the Hubei Provincial Water Resources Department. One-fourth of all small reservoirs had what officials called “dead water” remaining, which could be pumped for use only in an emergency.

The drought adds to concerns over the effect that a gargantuan water-diversion project will have on the central provinces of China. The project, called the South-North Water Diversion, is supposed to move water from the Yangtze and its tributaries north to Beijing along a canal, and to Tianjin along an eastern route.

"WikiLeaks cables show that it was all about the oil"


"Of the 251,287 WikiLeaks documents McClatchy obtained, 23,927 of them — nearly one in 10 — reference oil. Gazprom alone is mentioned in 1,789."

The GELM, Government Export Land Model

The link to an interesting column by Meredith Whitney is shown below.    

I have suggested something called the GELM--Government Export Land Model.  The premise is that as governments see flat to declining revenue, versus generally flat to increasing fixed expenses, especially for items like grossly underfunded pension plans, the net effect is that revenue "exported" out of government will fall at an accelerating rate of decline (assuming a requirement for a balanced budget, which is generally true for local & state governments in the US).

For example, for the sake of argument, let's assume that in Government Land (GL), total overhead costs (debt service, salaries, benefits, etc.), account for 50% of tax revenue (at peak tax revenue). And let's assume that tax revenue falls at a rapid clip, 5%/year.  Let's further assume that GL cuts staff, but because of rising pension costs, total overhead costs stay flat.   

Let's assume tax revenue, at peak, of $100 million, with overhead of $50 million at peak.  So, $50 million is "exported" out of government in the form of services and benefits to citizens, at peak tax revenue.  

So, tax revenue falls at 5%/year, while overhead expenditures stay flat, even as government employment declines.  The net result is that revenue "exported" out of government would go from the peak rate of $50 million to zero in 14 years, when all tax revenue would theoretically go to government overhead costs.   

Based on the foregoing, tax revenue over the decline period would fall at 5%/year, while "Net Exports" out of government would fall at an accelerating rate, with an overall long term "Net Export" decline rate of 24%/year (starting out more slowly and accelerating with time).  

It seems to me that the GELM math is quite similar to ELM math, to-wit, given a decline in tax revenue (and assuming balanced budget requirement), unless government overhead costs are cut at the same rate as, or at a rate faster than, the rate of decline in tax revenue, then the "net export" decline rate (the rate of decline in government services and payments to citizens) will exceed the rate of decline in tax revenue, and the net export decline rate will accelerate with time.

The Hidden State Financial Crisis
My latest research into opaque state financial statements suggests taxpayers will be surprised by how much pensions are underfunded.

What concerned us the most was the fact that fixed debt-service costs are increasingly crowding out state monies for essential services. For example, New Jersey's ratio of total tax-supported state obligations to gross state product is over 30%, and the fixed costs to service those obligations eat up 16% of the total budget. Even these numbers are skewed, because they represent only the bare minimum paid into funding pension and retirement plans. We calculate that if New Jersey were to pay the actuarially recommended contribution, fixed costs would absorb 37% of the budget. New Jersey is not alone.

The real issue here is the enormous over-leveraging of taxpayer-supported obligations at a time when taxpayers are already paying more and receiving less. In the states most affected by skyrocketing debt and fiscal imbalances, social services continue to be cut the most. Taxpayers have the ultimate voting right—with their feet. Corporations are relocating, or at a minimum moving large portions of their businesses to more tax-friendly states.

GELM 2.0 would say that inflation will cause the refinancing of debt to be at increasingly higher rates, so the "nut" to cover gets larger over time. If so, your model will be conservative.

As I've long said, you have to get to where you depend on yourself and those around you. It is not prudent to expect the gov't to do much for you, as it will mostly be doing for itself.

So, in little more than a decade, taxation will become a tithe, a simple 'protection' cut to keep the bankers and their heavies in the style to which they have become accustomed. No more government for the people.

I bit like the Norman conquest, to put it into an English historical context.

Unfortunately I can see this happening.

It's pretty tough to make projections, but as noted above, the "Net Export Math" is straight forward, for oil, food and for (local & regional) government services. Regarding national governments, which can and do run deficits, I have used the following metaphor:

The OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff

“Thelma and Louise” is an American movie that ends with the two main characters committing suicide by driving off the edge of a cliff. I’ve often thought that this cinematic moment is an appropriate symbol for the actions of many developed OECD countries that are in effect borrowing money to maintain or increase current consumption. The central problem with this approach is that as my frequent co-author, Samuel Foucher, and I have repeatedly discussed, the supply of global net oil exports has been flat to declining since 2005, with “Chindia” taking an ever greater share of what is (net) exported globally. Chindia’s combined net oil imports, as a percentage of global net exports, rose from 11% in 2005 to 17% in 2009.

At precisely the point in time that developed countries should be taking steps to discourage consumption, many OECD countries, especially the US, are doing the exact opposite, by effectively encouraging consumption. Therefore, the actions by many OECD countries aimed at encouraging consumption in the face of declining available global net oil exports can be seen as the OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff. I suppose that the “winner” could be viewed as the first country that can no longer borrow enough money, at affordable rates, to maintain their current lifestyle. So, based on this metric, Greece would appear to be currently in the lead, with many other countries not far behind them.

In yesterday's DrumBeat, I mentioned a new report from the World Bank, entitled Global Development Horizons 2011 — Multipolarity: The New Global Economy (PDF). The report, including an opening section signed by the Chief Economist of the World Bank, postulates a future of "sustainable growth" in the next 15 years. I scanned the report and nowhere did I see any mention of limits of energy supply or limits on growth. The basic projection is for increased consumption, with most of the increase occurring in the developing nations. It would appear obvious that this projection will be wildly off base if the energy required to fuel the growth is not found. Worse, if we are in fact at or past Peak Oil and are thus already on a downward slope of Peak Exports, the projected growth in the developing nations can't happen without major dislocations in the OECD countries as the economic system would tend toward a Zero Sum mode. What I find really scary is that the economists at the World Bank are so far off base as to appear delusional...

E. Swanson

There was a fairly senior person from the World Bank at the last ASPO-USA conference. He was there in an unofficial capacity, and he was quite Peak Oil aware. He said that a top official with the World Bank had told him that the World Bank had "No official position" on Peak Oil. However, there were some IMF representatives there, in an official capacity, and Sam Foucher and I exchanged several emails with them, post-conference.

...postulates a future of "sustainable growth" in the next 15 years.

That's really all you have to see to know that the underlying assumptions are fatally-flawed and inconsistent with the reality of a finite planet on which a single species is appropriating a third of net primary production--and its source of go-juice is drying up.

Not exactly. A tithe is 10%.

For example, New Jersey's ratio of total tax-supported state obligations to gross state product is over 30%, and the fixed costs to service those obligations eat up 16% of the total budget. Even these numbers are skewed, because they represent only the bare minimum paid into funding pension and retirement plans. We calculate that if New Jersey were to pay the actuarially recommended contribution, fixed costs would absorb 37% of the budget.

On these figures, the state obligations -- 30% of all the income in the state -- should be the budget (assuming a balanced budget). In order to satisfy actuarial considerations, the "fixed costs" should be 37% of that budget, or 11.1% of the total income in the state. That means the protection money which should be paid is already over a tithe.

In a little more than a decade it will be the whole budget, or three tithes. Even after the Norman Conquest the theoretical taxation was only a tithe to the church, a tithe to the king and a tithe to the local robber baron. In this brave new world we will have several tithes to the king (Federal authorities) as well as the three to the state. Then there are local taxes . . .

There are some important difference between the ELM and GELM situations.

In ELM, the large majority of the population regards domestic use of domestic resources as being a good thing. In GELM, the large majority of the population will not have the same opinion about government revenues staying "in" the government. In the long run, legislators that allow too much of the wrong sorts of retention will be voted out.

In government, not all moneys are the same. That can make the situation both better and worse. For example, in many states fuel taxes are constitutionally required to be spent on roads. The good news is that protected revenue streams will continue to be "exported"; the bad news is that overhead costs that are 10% of the total budget may be 20% of the general fund budget. The ongoing state budget crises are general fund crises.

Salaries are "overhead" only in certain cases, primarily those where the service is really a revenue transfer. State and county employees that oversee Medicaid payments are overhead -- an indirect cost not associated with the actual provision of the service. Teacher salaries, OTOH, are not overhead -- teachers are the service. The issue really comes down to revenues that are "retained" for non-productive purposes -- like payments into the pension fund.

State/local governments have made pension promises that they can't keep. The US steel industry did the same thing. The US airline industry did the same thing. And like those cases, the outcome will be that the state/local retirees will not receive the pension payments they were promised. Not massive tax increases to pay for the contributions to the pension fund; not shutting down K-12 education to pay for those contributions; the pension payments will eventually be cut.

I was primarily focused on municipal and state governments. And financial aid to school districts from state governments is one of the many items likely to see large cuts. As you know, the size of the cut in financial aid to school districts is the key topic that the Texas legislature is wrestling with right now.

But here is the key point, IMO:

It seems to me that the GELM math is quite similar to ELM math, to-wit, given a decline in tax revenue (and assuming balanced budget requirement), unless government overhead costs are cut at the same rate as, or at a rate faster than, the rate of decline in tax revenue, then the "net export" decline rate (the rate of decline in government services and payments to citizens) will exceed the rate of decline in tax revenue, and the net export decline rate will accelerate with time.

There is also Working Age Land.

As people spend more of their lifetime in Retirement Land, the proportion of people paying taxes drops as the proportion receiving entitlements rises. The consequence will be defaults on the entitlements.

Whether everyone gets a similar haircut, or some fat cats get to keep all their cream while others lose the lot, will depend on how the politics plays out in particular cases.

Peak Pension Plans happened about ten years ago in the UK, and private sector benefits have plumetted. The squeeze is only just starting to go onto what are now obviously gold-plated public sector ones though.

The investigation into the Fukishima reactors failures are now pointing in the direction of damage caused by the Earthquake itself and the tsunami being icing on the disaster cake.

Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami.

That would be on top of the profit seeking motivation of pressing forward with a reactor suffering from manufacturing flaws and the 'not advised in the manual' storage of spent fuel in the reactor housing unit - both things having nothing to do with the forces of Mother Nature but in the force of Man and the profit seeking of Man.

It is doubtful that we'll ever know the full extent of the damage caused by the quake vs. tsunami vs. explosions vs. meltdown(s). As spelled out in Martenson's Fukushima Update this week, reactor #1 core is in meltdown, the primary containment almost surely has been breached, and any useful inspection of the reactor will be impossible. IMO entombment is the only option (albeit, a very poor one).

Well, it now turns out that many of my worst fears about Fukushima have been confirmed with the news that TEPCO has finally admitted that Reactor #1 has experienced a meltdown event that may have breached the primary containment vessel. Further, truly alarming levels of radiation are now being reported in and around Tokyo.

So, IMO, TEPCO and the Japanese are now faced with a worst case scenario. Plans to restore power to the cooling system, especially in #1, seem absurd at this point. As I stated the day after this incident began, once the geometry of the core is degraded (melted) beyond a certain point, water's effects for cooling and reaction control will be minimal, and may only result in spreading high level contamination much farther. From the Martenson article:

TOKYO, May 13 (Xinhua) -- A radioactive substance of up to 170,000 becquerels per kilogram was detected in incinerator ashes at a sewage plant in Koto Ward, east Tokyo, in late March, the Kyodo News Agency quoted government sources as saying Friday.

The highly-contaminated ashes were discovered following the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant which escalated through March as a hydrogen explosion exacerbated the disaster and highly radioactive water was both discharged and found to be freely flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The ashes have since been recycled into materials used for construction, such as cement, sources with knowledge of the matter said...

If true, this boggles an already boggled mind ...... I'm not sure there are words sufficient to describe this ongoing debacle. Hell on earth?

I'm not sure there are words sufficient to describe this ongoing debacle. Hell on earth?

I'm rather sure the record speaks for itself - there is no major problem per posters here on TOD. Like how Toxic Sludge is good for you, this radiation thing is a boon to the ocean as less fishing will be done.

Besides, if you lack a geiger counter how would you ever know?
via http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/01/should-owning-a-geiger-co.html

. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it's just a matter of time. That's why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it's not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you "will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety," the first draft of the law states.

Got your data logging geiger counters yet?

Well, the New York City government has a long history of seeking to be everyone's hovering overbearing Mommy and Daddy, and the supercilious Bloomberg carried that to unprecedented heights lows. And of course we never never would want to inconvenience New York's "Finest" by even purely hypothetically having them chase down a false lead once in a blue moon, instead of the more usual donuts. More to the point for those here who want Ever Bigger Government micromanaging every detail of everyone's life ever more closely to make them "safe" from utterly inconsequential or even purely hypothetical millions-to-one risks - this sort of thing is the inevitable consequence. Give government an inch and it'll take a mile every time, no, in New York City make that a light-year. You Can't Have It Both Ways, at least not for very long. Unwarranted anxiety indeed - oh, the horror.

Unwarranted anxiety indeed - oh, the horror.

Yes, the stress of the expenses of TEPCO worries the Japanese Government

Japanese government remarks calling on lenders to forgive some of Tokyo Electric Power's debt

Without electrical power - Oh how could the lenders keep the balance of what is owed?

Yes, TEPCO finally released records they had that showed that radiation levels in the reactor 1 building spiked after the quake and before the tsunami hit.

Quake, not tsunami, may have caused damage that led to meltdown

Data taken by workers entering the No. 1 reactor building at the crippled plant on the night of March 11 showing the radiation level was as high as 300 millisieverts per hour suggest a large amount of radioactive materials from nuclear fuel in the reactor was already released.
Kyodo said a source at TEPCO admitted the possibility of key facilities having been compromised before the tsunami waves, saying, "The quake's trembling may have caused damage to the pressure vessel or pipes."

As Ghung speculates, I think the situation is far, far, far worse than is showing up in any news story that we are reading.

TOD needs a new General Fukushima post uptop. The old is -yeah - old and choked.

This site http://enenews.com/ has "all the latest" coming out from Fukushima
All 3 reactors are in 'confirmed' meltdown- so I expect to see some molten lava images within a short time now, given that Japan is the land of the robots with Asimo and Aibo already Camcorder ready. A meltdown situation has been questioned/confirmed from several sources for a couple of months already .... then finally 3 months after the catastrophe Japan/Tepco comes clean and 'believe' the same.What?

What is the point with this International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) anyway? Have they no power at all when an emergency happens? In case that must change - IAEA's best men should promptly be sent to the scene to enact the most proper actions at the most proper time.
Tepco/Japan Gmt have done everything WRONG so to speak, even I ,a layman, see this.

Today's WSJ has a good article about the confusion in the first few hours. The operators didn't initially realize that the tsunami had damaged the backup batteries.

Fresh Tales of Chaos Emerge From Early in Nuclear Crisis

At 3:37 p.m., Teruaki Kobayashi, a Tepco nuclear-facilities chief in the company's Tokyo war room, remembers Fukushima Daiichi calling in a "station blackout." One of Japan's largest nuclear plants had just gone dark.

"Why would this be happening?" Mr. Kobayashi recalls thinking. A full blackout is something only the worst-case disaster protocols envision. His next thought was that the plant still had an eight-hour window to restore power before things really turned bad. That's how long the plant's backup batteries, its final line of defense, were supposed to last, cooling the reactor fuel rods and powering key instruments.

Tepco engineers now believe the tsunami knocked out most, if not all, of the batteries, according to documents from Tepco on Monday. But they didn't know that then. They thought the batteries were still working, giving them the eight-hour cushion.

Radiation tests lacking / Nuclear plant workers unsure of internal exposure levels

Nearly two months after the start of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, only 10 percent of workers there had been tested for internal radiation exposure caused by inhalation or ingestion of radioactive substances, due to a shortage of testing equipment available for them.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear compound, is finding it impossible to use testing apparatus set up inside the facility because of high radiation levels recorded near the equipment.

A number of personnel working to overcome the nuclear crisis at the facility are increasingly alarmed by their lack of internal exposure testing. Some have said they may have to continue to work at the facility without knowing whether their radiation exposure levels have exceeded the upper limit set by the government.

..."My measured value [of radioactive exposure] exceeded the standard value by a double-digit factor. That's never happened before," said a plant worker in his 20s, recalling the time he saw the results of a test he took outside Fukushima Prefecture in early May.

The man, an employee of a company that works with TEPCO, installed power cables near a reactor building at the plant for a month beginning at the end of March.

The test is conducted by a device called a "whole-body counter."

While a normal internal radiation level would range from several hundred cpm to 1,000 cpm, he was told his level was 30,000 cpm.

...He ate in a building that houses an emergency headquarters and accommodates plant workers. At the end of April, he was notified that the building was also radiation-contaminated.

"I've probably taken in radioactivity while eating," he said.

I'm saddened by reading this. .... 20y something and eating plutonium for lunch , what do you give me?
The Japanese (people?) have a problem with improvising and ad hoc actions, it seems. Take this for instance..

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear compound, is finding it impossible to use testing apparatus set up inside the facility because of high radiation levels recorded near the equipment.

My understanding is; these are per-installed equipments.. and if so ...

It took me about "one second" to think of the idea of borrowing clean and functional instruments from some of the other nuke-stations they have in that country. When will Tepco get this point, after reading TOD today? Again - where is the International Atomic Energy Agency professionals and necessary extra functional equipments AND EXTRA BRAIN_POWER in this picture?

Anybody in telecom, where 8 hour backups are the norm, knows how often you get failures much more rapidly. If you do not real-world test your backups, you will not know how they will perform when called upon. Batteries fail, equipment fails, and loads change without documentation.

Thinking inside a box seems to be a highly cultivated TEPCO norm.

Edit: And that's when everything is working right. For anything important, you really need a backup plan for your backup plan.

Interesting you use the Telco example.

The 8+ hour fuel, spinning flywheels for cutover, the -48vDC banks are not on the DSL or parts of the Internet stuff.*


Government regulation on various lines. If the line is down, you can complain to the FCC and the telco has historically feared them. Its why stuff is NEVER the fault of the Telco, but "came clean while testing".

Unlimited Dial in Direct numbers are $2 a month as VoIP from some vendors. $9 a month for 24 months gets you 'unlimited' domestic calls in/out. $14 can get you a DSL. Yet home phone service is more than $16 from the Telco over copper wire. Why? The government regs and the desire of the Telco to not get dinged for downtime.

So government regulation seems to be able to work - and Don Sailorman may be right when he mentions France and fission power. But I was under the impression that Japan regulation was rather good - as more finger pointing goes on post-failure - it seems that impression I has was incorrect.

*yes, there is backups on parts of the internet, sometimes sharing the same infrastructure.

The 8+ hour fuel,

The 8 hours are for the batteries, which runs everything but the HVAC & lights.

Every CO I worked in had about a weeks supply of fuel for the generators.

"I expect to see some molten lava images within a short time now..."

Your "molten lava" images can be found at the Martenson link I posted above.

It's interesting to go back to some of the TOD threads the day of the incident. While speculative and not spot on, some of us had a pretty good sense of things.

I was more thinking of some unquestionable close up stuffs like this from Chernobyl >>> http://smbhax.com/stuff/_chernobyl_368.jpg

Video from where that image is taken : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tfmnrt0R1I

IAEA's best men should promptly be sent to the scene to enact the most proper actions at the most proper time

Too late. They need to get in to ALL nuclear stations with a suitable expert team and do a full risk assessment right now. Find out what the true state of functionality of the safety critical equipment is and what the preparation is for disasters. It is beginning to sound like the loss of power to a nuclear site is a major catastrophe that nobody has planned for as it is so frightening they are keeping their fingers crossed it will never happen.


ASPO: 2020 crude oil production down by around 8 mb/d

Yemen to import crude oil, fuel from Saudi Arabia

But Yemen only needs 130,000 bpd, so Saudi Arabia can cover that easy. They have 5 mbpd spare capacity just sitting there waiting for something like this. It shouldn't effect what is available for export to the open market. And, even though this offline oil in Yemen was light crude, I'm sure that Saudi Arabia can mix several different heavy crudes together to produce a suitable substitute. :)

Re: Wind resistance

A bit of a different tune for us.

Wind farm proposed for Victoria County
Project would be biggest in province

A planned 100- to 300-megawatt wind farm and transmission system project in the Cape Breton Highlands could be under construction by 2013, says a director of the new company.

A consortium of Nova Scotia and U.S. companies wants to build a $2- to $3.5-billion wind farm and transmission system in the Cape Breton Highlands.

Highland Power Co. Inc. of Sydney is proposing a 100- to 300- megawatt wind project in Victoria County with a transmission line to other parts of Nova Scotia and New England.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1243156.html


Shear Wind Officially Opens Phase 1 of Glen Dhu Wind Farm
Shear Wind, has observed the official opening of its 62.1 MW Glen Dhu Phase 1 wind farm located in a place between Antigonish and Pictou counties in Nova Scotia.

Shear Wind, has plans to continue the phase two and three of the wind project to reap the benefit of the steady winds from the Northumberland Strait. It estimates that the phase two and three expansions will bring in an additional 170 MW wind power generation.

See: http://www.azocleantech.com/news.aspx?newsID=14980

And in neighbouring New Brunswick:

Renewable energy: Is the wind at NB's back?
N.B has made a strong push to harnessing wind energy, but is it as sustainable as they say?

The recent addition of ACCIONA Energy's now commercially operational Lamèque Wind Power Project marks another giant step forward in New Brunswick's vision of a sustainable province powered by renewable energy.

The 30 1.5 megawatt wind turbines stretching across a vast 3,100-acre territory produce a combined 45 megawatts, increasing the province's total MW generation to 294 - enough power to support 45,000 homes. New Brunswick is Canada's fourth largest producer of wind energy, behind Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

See: http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1406731

Collectively, in the past ten years, Price Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have added some 750 MW of wind energy to their respective networks and I fully expect we'll double that again in the next ten (the combined peak demand of our three power systems is roughly 5,500 MW).


Thanks for passing that along Paul. I am from the North Shore area in Victoria county and am glad to see they are doing some more renewable energy near the Wreck Cove hydro plant. My cousins gave me a tour of this hydro plant years ago and it is a great energy resource at about 200 MW.

You're most welcome, Jim. Our family property in St. Ann's stretches from the bay back towards Big Baddeck and this news came as a complete surprise to me.

Given our wet spring, I suspect Wreck Cove has been working overtime. Hydro production is up in neighbouring New Brunswick as well.

See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/news/article/1407359


Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending May 13, 2011

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.3 million barrels per day during the week ending May 13, 239 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 83.2 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging 4.0 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged just under 8.6 million barrels per day last week, down by 394 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.9 million barrels per day, 868 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 862 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 112 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) remained unchanged from the previous week. At 370.3 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.1 million barrels last week and are in the lower limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.2 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week and are below the lower limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 0.1 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged about 18.7 million barrels per day, down by 2.9 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged nearly 9.0 million barrels per day, down by 2.3 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged about 3.8 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, down by 2.9 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 2.1 percent higher over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.

the rapid exploitation of shale gas will only confirm Eric Sevareid's law: "the chief cause of problems are solutions."

And there are plenty of people who insist that nuclear is THE solution... Problem? What problem?!

How is PADD1 looking, in terms of gasoline supply? Are they still bumping along at MOL?

This week's stock report was absurdly unchanged from last week. Crude and total within rounding, gasoline up .1. Other oils supplied went up 300k/day to make it balance.

It used to be that every 4th week had a full survey & the rest were full of estimates. Not sure which week the full one is, but this week's smells like estimates.


How is PADD1 looking, in terms of gasoline supply? Are they still bumping along at MOL?

PADD 1 fell slightly again this week after a "surprise" gain last week.

Some physical shortages have been reported over the last week See - Casey Calls on the FTC to Investigate Summer-Blend Gas Shortage in Southwestern PA

Thanks, undertow. Truly amazing that these points of national concern do not even garner news awareness.

US Gasoline: Who’s Winning - Demand Destruction or Supply Shortfall?

In the downward race between ‘demand destruction’ and declining supplies, demand destruction is getting most of the attention, but in reality, steadily falling gasoline stocks are clearly winning the race, and diminishing significantly faster than demand destruction.

After a brief and small respite this week and last from the relentless decline of gasoline supplies that started shortly into 2011, the downfall in gasoline supplies may soon resume. Refiners did step up output last week, but are still well behind last year’s rates (82.6% vs. 88.7 in latest four weeks). While refiners lately were attempting to resume normal operations to pump out ‘summer blends’ of transport fuels, extended maintenance and natural forces did their best last week to impede the full operation of the fuel distribution system. This resulted in a temporary gasoline shortage in western Pennsylvania, and in other locations in the Midwest and South, some fuel barges could not make their normal runs in rivers well over flood stage. In addition, some oil supply terminals in Louisiana, such as for Magellan and Exxon, were not distributing oil through their pipelines.

While flood conditions worsened early on this week, the Mississippi River infrastructure was tested to its limits – and so far held up. The largest and longest US fuel pipeline system, the Colonial Pipeline, with a main section near the now opened Morganza Spillway, late yesterday said that contingency plans will allow safe operation of the mainlines at normal flow rates.

Despite the fact that a severe disruption of national gasoline supplies was only narrowly avoided, gasoline futures prices have plunged in the last few weeks. Perhaps such optimism is premature. Due to falling imports of oil, now running about 870,000 bpd less than last year (in latest four weeks), it is by no means clear if the US will have sufficient supplies of the right type of oil in the right place in time for refiners to build up oil product inventories before the summer driving season shortly gets underway. Due to increased demand for gasoline imports from countries like Brazil and Japan, and restrictions of gasoline exports from Russia, plus foreign refiner operational problems in southeast Canada and the Caribbean basin, the US will have some difficulty increasing gasoline imports if needed.

More related flooding problems:

Motiva La. refineries sending products by rail, truck


El Dorado Refinery Update


Re. Draw of Doomsday (up top)

I'm a doomer and prepper but it sure as heck isn't because I'm looking forward to collapse. The last thing I anticipated as an old guy was worrying about it all going down the tubes. I would love to be able to discount what is going on in the world but I can't. To do so would be to deny reality. I also recognize that, as an old guy, I may be dead by the times things get bad so my "efforts" may be in vein. On the other hand, I feel a responsibility to help friends and relatives if I'm still here.


As a younger person (27), I think that overshoot-induced collapse is the best thing for the world at this point. It could be great. I don't see why people are so scared of it, you know.

Have a look at William Catton's OVERSHOOT: THE ECOLOGICAL BASIS OF REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE (1980) as well as his sequel to that book, BOTTLENECK: HUMANITY'S IMPENDING IMPASSE (2009).

Yeh. Why should young people be scared of collapse and mass dieoff? After all, it will just be other people dying.

Other than the dying thing, I would be interested in hearing why you think collapse is a good thing.

I can't speak for squarewave, but I'm 30, and if economic collapse will save the planet, and the species, from permanent catastrophic disruptions of global ecosystems, well, "bring it on". Humans are smart, and adaptable, and we have books to rely on. People will survive the loss of fossil fuels, and will eventually figure out how to use draft horses, compost humanure, and make needed goods mostly by hand and with water, wind and animal power.

But tell me how we survive a 70+ meter sea level rise, extinctions of half of all plant and animal species, and the loss of most currently existing arable land.

I'm in my late twenties. I used to be in the camp of 'collapse -> less humans = a good thing'.

But that was back when I thought I was still invincible. More recently I've been ill and it's changed my outlook somewhat. I'm all for a controlled, humane reduction in population but to achieve that through a catastrophic system shock leading to global suffering and destruction... well, not for me thanks!

If you are in Flagstaff AZ, the government there has announced you don't have to worry, not at all.

Fleas collected from a remote area of Coconino County have tested positive for plague.

Its like the replacement for the 4th horseman - Pollution has the original horseman - Plague making a bid for being one of the 4 riders.

I'm for keeping Pollution as that 4th horseman - due to regular job performance.

It's the smallpox vials that I'm worried about in the event of a collapse..

Plague (Yersinia pestis) is endemic in the rodent population(s) of the West. In the Denver suburbs, you used to see signs from time to time put up near prairie dog villages that the village had tested positive for plague so keep your pets on lead (in other words, it wasn't a big deal). The US averages 10-15 cases of plague per year, almost all in the West. Unless someone dies, it's third-page news at best. Antibiotics in the streptomycin and tetracycline families are very effective and readily available.

I made the mistake long ago of buying "The Black Death" by Cravens and Marr to read on an airplane while I was flying to New York City. Pneumonic plague loose in Manhattan.

Plague is endemic in various populations the western U.S. Now and then, outbreaks crop up.

I'm 30 and I too welcome collapse, but not because I'm concerned about climate change.

I welcome collapse so that all the baby boomer fat cats finally understand that they don't own the world and that they aren't going to live forever.

30 is a good age at which to start growing up.

I agree.

Though I must say the real "growing up" process for me really started when I was 27 and witnessed the 2008 collapse and subsequent bailouts of financial institutions at my expense.

Those events taught me everything I need to know about this country, and the length that wealthy, connected people will go to to keep their assets and power intact.

Nothing lasts forever, that's my consolation.

Though I must say the real "growing up" process for me really started when I was 27 and witnessed the 2008 collapse and subsequent bailouts of financial institutions at my expense.

At your expense and that of many, many others, including millions of non-fat cat baby boomers, for whom livelihood, even simple survival, is at stake in the near future. Many, perhaps perhaps most, of them have more limited options than you do, although you will likely suffer the consequences for quite a lot longer, if you survive.

Those events taught me everything I need to know about this country, and the length that wealthy, connected people will go to to keep their assets and power intact.

Yes. Wealthy, connected people of all generations.

A little more rigor in the labeling would be greatly appreciated, Oilman, especially by those of us who were fighting this battle long before you were born.

I promise you: We're all in this together. The odds are heavily against us.

The choices are "win-win"—in a modest, powered-down style—or "lose-lose"—in spectacularly ugly fashion.

I assure you that the baby boomer are well aware that they are not going to live forever. Besides, most of them will be dead anyway before collapse sets in.

Selfishly, I hope so.

Maybe my sarcanol detector is broken, but this comment is what scares me about doomers.
There is a huge moral/ethical difference between feeling collapse is likely, or even inevitable, and feeling that collapse is desirable.

Some people are similarly troubled at the idea of assisted suicide, where, if you haven't experienced some raw, unending pain for yourself, you're in no position to judge the morality of The Final Exit.

Collapse being desirable depends on your framing.

If you feel the best chance for Man (or mother nature) is to limit the number of people as to limit consumption - a mighty fine die-off is a fine solution.

Another pro-die-off theme is a re-shuffle of the deck so they think they'll be on top of the heap.

My guess is a die-off isn't gonna exactly go their way however.

The Apocalypse has historically often been interpreted as being equivalent to the "Final Restoration of Justice". At its core is the belief that there is such a thing as divine justice and this will be the instrument for the restoration of a world where good finally defeats evil. It is also associated with the concept of rebirth and renewal.

Igne Natura Renovatur Integra
Through Fire Is Nature Restored Entire

...and we don't have long to wait:

Doomsday On The Way, Staten Island Resident Says
Robert Fitzpatrick: May 21 To Be 'Hell On Earth' Based On 'Solid Mathematical Proof'...

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New Yorkers only have a week left to live, according to advertisements plastered all over the city’s bus kiosks and subway cars. Video here

CNN and others are taking the story seriously:

(CNN) - For months they’ve been spreading the word, answering the biblical call of Ezekiel 33 to sound the alarm and warn the people.

Their message, which they say the Bible guarantees, is simple: The end of the world is near.

And now, it’s suddenly really near - so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.

My doom-o-meter must be failing; I bought bananas this morning :-/

This 60 year old guy spent his life savings putting up those billboards in NYC.

World will end on May 21 says ex-MTA worker Robert Fitzpatrick, who's putting money where mouth is

The retired MTA employee has pumped $140,000 into a NYC Transit ad campaign to warn everyone the world will end next Saturday.
"Doomsday cults are money-making enterprises," said David Silverman, of the American Atheists group, which ran counter-ads to Camping's earlier billboard campaign.

"I wonder what is going to happen on May 22 when people no longer have their possessions or their savings and we are all still here and they don't have their rapture," he said.

Fitzgerald said there's no chance that will happen and he has had no doubt about plunking down his retirement.

I'd love to see the interview with him on Sunday, he's not going to have a good retirement!

"I'd love to see the interview with him on Sunday..."

....or his obituary.

I have a sister who pays no attention to peak oil or any of the other predicaments we face, but has suddenly decided that Nostradamus and the Mayans were right: 2012, celestial alignments and all that stuff. She's saying we need to store food, stockpile ammo, and she wants me to come up with a backup for her well for when the grid goes down. Ammunition? She's never even fired a gun, much less owned one.

I don't get it. These folks will reject any scientifically based ideas about difficult times ahead, yet they'll spend all of their time and money worrying about baseless prophecies. I guess in my version of things we humans have to take the blame; in her version, not so much :-/

I suppose I'll eat a lot of crow(s) if TSHTF next year....

And because he has the veil of religion nobody will sue him for fraud this time either.

Well, my Mexican calender ends on the 31st December 2011 so that must be the real date for TEOTWAWKI.


Collapse is more than desirable - it is essential to our survival as human beings.

Yes, billions will die. But this is not as bad as imagining a future of 10 billion hyper-capitalists directly plugged into the global net selling each other bits and bytes, which is what some here seem to want.

No one knows what the future will look like.

Declaring that billions of people dying is somehow "essential to our survival as human beings" seems a bit presumptuous to me. (Not to mention those billions of people.)

Presumptuous? Then please provide me with a scenario where billions don't die. The reality is that we all die eventually, the question is how do we live before that. I'd much prefer a short fulfilling life than a long drawn out empty one. And the later is what we're headed for if the future is a straight line from here.

Presumptuous is exactly right. According to you, billions of people need to die in order for the world to be the way you think it should be.

Out of curiosity, if you do believe that collapse is inevitable and billions of people will die, do you imagine yourself as one of the survivors or the victims? Does it matter to you?

There are about 7 billion people in the world, and I have some shocking news for you - every single one of them is going to die (with the possible exception of Ray Kurzweil). Yes, even you and me.

Just not all at once :-)

Seriously, saying that a sustainable human population is x billion doesn't mean that 7-x billion people have to die off in some cataclysmic famine/plague scenario, or be lined up against the wall and executed. If birthrates go below deathrates for a while, the population will decrease.

So please, don't think that advocating a (perhaps much) lower population is advocating a mass die-off. Or that, should it come to some sort of famine/plague scenario for some reason, said advocate would be happy about it.

It's not about billions of people dying to make the world the way I or anyone else thinks it should be. It's about what's physically possible, and how to get there with the least misery.

sgage pretty much answered your presumptuousness. But just to be clear, I did not say that billions NEED to die - I said billions WILL die. And its not so that the world will be how I think it should be, but because the present way of doing this is not sustainable.

To satisfy your curiosity - of course I will be one of the billions to die. The only question of any importance is how well I will live before that. My children will also die, but if I've raised them well they will, perhaps, have a quality life even while the outhouse collapses around them.

565, you should not be scared of doomers, but you should be scared. Doomers should be scared also. If it gets as bad as I think it will then it will be a time of hell on earth. In the worst places it will be like the Donner Party multiplied by several million.

And it will be far from the best thing that ever happened to the earth. The collapse will bring about the worst ecological disaster ever experienced on earth. People will cut down the trees and even the bushes for firewood. Every animal large enough to eat will be hunted to extinction.

People who look forward to the collapse should have their head examined.

Ron P.

Every animal large enough to eat will be hunted to extinction.

I keep hoping there is some way humankind can go through a bottleneck without taking all the other large species with them. How about a nuclear war that just targets large cities, then the resulting nuclear winter cuts food sources - oh, that doesn't work either. Ok, how about...

Oh that's easy - some kind of hitherto unseen potent pandemic could remove a large portion of humanity whilst leaving other species untouched.

You were expecting a lucky accident that such a virus would just appear? Or perhaps you were thinking someone might manufacture it? I don't think either scenario is very likely. Though it might work I think it is just wishful thinking on your part. ;-)

Ron P.

Oh, it depends upon the time frame you are envisioning. Pandemics resulting in quite significant populations reductions, locally and across broad regions, aren't particularly unusual in human history.

If we don't have the energy to maintain much of our modern, high-tech pharmacology-based medical system, and given that we have already permitted much of our western public health infrastructure to disintegrate... I wouldn't bet against pandemics taking big chunks, here and there.

Now, a rational course might be to prioritize energy and resource allocations to essential goods and services. Will we be willing to give up gadgets, trinkets and rugged individualism for the greater good?

How is Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa, S. America, and the rest of Asia dealing with HIV? That one is not so well contained. Heck a lot of countries flat out deny HIV causes AIDS. But influenza is the one to watch for. It will rip through the population in a matter of months and could take out 10-15% with harsh consequences for places without a public health plan in place.

None of these are the big one though. The population would continue to grow.

During the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (the last of the Antonines, the "good emperors") plague (probably mostly typhus) hit Italy and killed roughly half the population. The Roman Empire never recovered from this drastic and rapid population decline, and it was a key factor in the long-term decline and eventual fall of the Roman Empire. Birth rates also fell in the second century C.E., and between the rise in deaths and the fall in births, there just were no longer enough citizen soldiers to keep the Germans (Goths) at bay.

Demographic trends are always key elements in the rise and fall of nations, cities, and empires. When Rome lost half its population, many of these were slaves--the main source of real capital in the Empire. Others who died were farmers, and without enough people on Italian fields to grow grain, Rome became ever more dependent on grain imports from Egypt and other parts of North Africa. After the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180) piracy in the Mediteranean Sea became worse than in earlier years, when the Roman navy had virtually eradicated piracy in the Med.

It is interesting--and not encouraging--to see piracy on the high seas once again increasing. The British and American navies are too puny to do much in the way of piracy suppression, and nobody else is going to do it. Piracy becomes endemic in decaying empires.

Too puny, or just too politically correct? I hate to say it, but I've often wondered if a few well-applied torpedoes wouldn't have a salutary effect.

The U.S. Navy is woefully short of the kind of craft that are good at cleaning out pirates: PT Boats, fast frigates, and destroyers. To keep their central mission intact the U.S. Navy has lavished its appropriations on aircraft carriers and submarines. We don't have any where near enough mine sweepers to keep the Strait of Hormuz clear, should somebody decide to lay a few thousand mines in it. IMHO, that is really really dumb. By giving up one aircraft carrier task force, we could have plenty of sailors and little ships and patrol boats to vanquish piracy from the globe.

No way is the U.S. Navy going to go for that tradeoff. Note that little ships and boats require a lot of junior grade officers, but there is no employment for senior grade officers on the boats and small ships. And who runs the Navy? The admirals, all of whom came up the ranks either through aircraft carriers or submarines.

When my father served in the Navy, back in 1918, the U.S. Navy had more boats and small ships than it has today. In other words, in 1918 we had a Navy that was more effective at piracy suppression than our current Navy. We used to send our small ships and boats all over, wherever there was trouble--e.g. up rivers in China. See the excellent movie, "The Sand Pebbles" for a good notion of what the Navy did in the good old days of gunboat diplomacy.

My first ship was a Knox class frigate deployed to the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and western Indian Ocean. At 4200 tons, it was a bit larger than a 'Corvette' class ship, used by many Navys. While Corvettes and Frigates historically have been smaller, cost effective ways to maintain a presence and control of seaborn commerce, the US Navy has struggled as of late with the concept. Its latest try, the LCS (Littoral combat ship ) has had all sorts of troubles: too many levels of complexity (and costs) seem to be getting in the way of progress. How many times have we seen that?


The Knox-class frigates were designed as convoy escorts and were to replace the hundreds of destroyer escorts built during World War II which were being disposed of in the 1960s. ....

...The program cost as reported in 1974 was $1.425 billion or an average of almost $31 million per unit. They were part of the low end mix of naval building strategy.

The Littoral Combat Ship? LCS-1, USS Freedom:


On 13 December 2010, both production teams extended their current contract prices until December 30 in order to enable to Navy to push through Congressional headwinds. If the Navy fails to achieve approval by that date it will be forced to award only one of the two contracts. The Navy has apparently budgeted $490 million per ship for the 20 ships, while the Congressional Budget Office has projected a cost of $591 million per ship.[56][57] Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley testified to a Senate panel that the actual price range was $440 to $460 million.

I think we can see the problem...

Perhaps we can build an updated version of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class (FFG-7) instead of the LCS:


Replaced the Knox Class.

While they were great little ships when designed, the Perry class designs suffered from a lack of adaptability/upgradability, as is generally the case with 'cost constrained designs', limiting their service life.

Modernization potential is the ability of a warship to accept new equipment to avoid obsolescence. The long life of warships (25 or more years) and relatively short life of systems installed on the ships (7 to 10 years) made modernization potential important. Over its lifetime, a warship will usually have mucn of its original equipment replaced by new, more capable systems. From the outset of the program, space, weight, and stability margins for growth in the FFG-7 were minimized. The low margins were linked to the Navy's determination to restrain the size and cost of the ship. As a result, the FFG-7, unlike most new warships, was unable to accommodate any new equipment beyond what was planned, unless compensating removals were. The two areas of particular concern were the reductions in (1) the service life weight margin, and (2) the future growth margin. More here.

They were obsolete within a few years of being launched. Many were sold to other Navys; still in service.

This is one idea behind the (smaller) LCS designs: Modularity, allowing for reconfiguration to differing mission parameters, technology changes, etc., theoretically increasing service life. It also contributes to costs. The Swiss Army Knife of small, fast ships.

Great info, thanks!

Seems as if FFG-7 was relatively inexpensive but too inflexible and the LCS candidates are potentially rather flexible (IF they get the bugs out) but are very expensive.

Here is a new aircraft weapon system which seems analogous to the LCS...the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.


With words such as "jaw-dropping" on the cost estimates to produce and operate the fighter, several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee even challenged Defense Department officials on the once-unthinkable: looking at alternatives to the F-35, arguably the most technologically ambitious aircraft ever built.

"The fact is that, after almost 10 years in development and four years in production, according to outside experts, the aircraft's design is still not stable, manufacturing processes still need to improve and the overall weapon system has not yet been proven to be reliable," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel's top Republican. "Notably, it has taken Lockheed about 15 years and cost the taxpayer $56 billion to produce and deliver nine of 12 test aircraft. Over that period, Congress has authorized and appropriated funds for 113 F-35 jets. Lockheed has, however, delivered just 11."

Quotes below the link from:


The U.S. will ultimately spend $1 trillion for these fighter planes. Where's the outrage over Washington's culture of waste?

In other words, we're spending more on this plane than Australia's entire GDP ($924 billion).

This is for an airplane that is supposed to replace the Air Force F-16 and A-10, the Navy F/A-18, and the Marine F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier. Not as low-observable as the F-22, with a limited payload and range. Australian, Canada, and numerous other allied nations are interested in buying it.

Stephen Harper up in Canada doesn't seem to mind the price:


Gods and stars above, we are having a big debate about budget deficits in the U.S...we have better things to do with our resources than piss them away down this Lockheed-Martin rat hole/money pit.

The enemy is typically armed with these http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47 so if they just can make it fly high enough to be out of range I guess it will be good enough.

OK, if that is the case, why don't we just build some fresh A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and some more AC-130 Gunships?

You seemed to miss the main point about the astronomical (and guaranteed to grow) cost of the F-35.

Australia is interested in buying it, as the oldest of its FA/18's reach the end of their design life in 2015 - but no one is confident the F-35's will be ready by then, or what they will cost. I am glad though that the US spent the money on the plane rather than buying Australia...

Australia did buy an other 24 FA/18's a few years ago, to "bridge the gap" until the F-35 arrives. Maybe we will see anti gravity devices first? They could hardly be more expensive. Stephen Harper has been getting a very rough ride about the F-35 here in Canada. That is why he was so quick to send planes to Libya to show that Canada needs fighters for things like that, while they still use 30yo Twin Otters for Arctic patrols!

A side note - Australia finally retired its fleet of F-111's last December, after 37 years of service. The air force wanted to keep their favourite toys going for another 10yrs but the gov pulled the plug after one had an engine fire a year ago. They were ordered way back in 1963 when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said Australia "needed a plane that could drop a nuclear bomb on Jakarta" - they didn't mince words back in those days!

Australia can't afford to buy US ships any more, just too damn expensive!
Mind you, when you what they used the Navy ships for you wonder what we are getting for our money - still, gotta do something for fun on those long sea voyages - I wonder if Ghung ever did this behind his submarine. Spectacular end to this ship too...


The Navy has apparently budgeted $490 million per ship for the 20 ships, while the Congressional Budget Office has projected a cost of $591 million per ship.[56][57] Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley testified to a Senate panel that the actual price range was $440 to $460 million.

I think we can see the problem...

Yea, it came in under budget.


The idea of the WWII Liberty Ship - cheap and a risk to life - won't work in the grandstanding of Congress where "We must protect our fighting men and women" - then rhetorically money is no object.

If I understand the page at this link the US has more destroyers than I care to count:


When we maintain an environment that produces Pirates, just as it helped produce Al Quaeda (a little more directly).. then torpedoes don't solve the problem. It would be like using a sponge to deal with a rainstorm.

Combating the current piracy situation does not necessarily need advanced military capability - although surveilance is always very useful. Annectdotal reports from friends selling shipping contracts into the European area from the far east suggest that many flag carriers now simly take on board armed security personnel for the 'troublesome' journey through waters where Somalian pirates are active. The weapons and or the security are then unloaded in a Red Sea port, so that the vessels do not breach any current leegislation upon arrival in Europe.

The majoriy of the pirates operate in small craft and are easily repelled by well trained and armed security who are liable to respond to any attack with live rounds.

I just sailed thru the anchorage in Singapore and was surprised to see many ships with shiga wire on their rails. There have been recent piracies in the port on anchored ships.

I am at an island in the gulf of Siam that regularly gets entire barges pirated away.

Piracy is a growth industry.

Shiga wire?

No entry in Wikipedia, I assumed it was like Concertina_wire.

Hey, if I was sailing through there, I'd want to be able to defend myself, I'm just saying that there are ways to support economies like Somalias that don't necessarily mean (in fact would probably preclude) massive handouts, but would also help devolve the economic malaise that has made Fishermen and Farmers choose to take up arms against rich first world ships.

"I love my new implants.. now if I could just get all those wierdos to stop leering at me!"

Haha, no I don't think either scenario is likely. But I do think it is a possibility. Was just trying to cheer Perk Earl up really..

As food for thought - it couldn't be something as potent as ebola as it would tend to eradicate the carriers before they have a chance to pass it on. Conversely it couldn't be something that emerges too slowly because that would give science a chance to try to combat it.

HIV hasn't quite been the scourge that was feared (although of course it's awful nonetheless) because the transmission can be fairly easily prevented.

Perhaps something similar to Spanish Flu, but a couple of times more deadly would make a fair dent, but the urgency of the situation would soon become apparent and may give governments time to react (although perhaps not if Swine Flu was anything to go by).

What would really be needed is some kind of vector that could innocuously infect nearly everyone worldwide and then have a delayed fatal activation. Something like a cross between the Epstein-Barr virus (infects 90%+ of global population) and HIV.

Yep, I think a version of the flu is just waiting to have a crack at humanity. We're a pretty juicy target now in the numbers and densities that we currently live in.

Ebola Reston was as close to being something really nasty as I'd like to get. An airborne Ebola. Luckily the mutation that made it viable in air also meant that humans appeared to be immune.

The book "Hot Zone" recounts the discovery of the Reston strain (named after the quarantine house near Washington where it was discovered). It was also the basis for the film Outbreak.

Luckily, after about 80% of a population is infected with a virus, a natural immunity usually begins to emerge. Not so good if you're one of the 80% infected and it's a lethal strain, but Hey, nature doesn't care about you.

As food for thought - it couldn't be something as potent as ebola as it would tend to eradicate the carriers before they have a chance to pass it on.

Ebola's limitations (as an effective plague) aren't due to potency. They arise from the facts that it has a short latency period and hasn't (so far) evolved to take advantage of airborne transmission methods.

Of course, killing too many of your hosts is a poor strategy, unless you have a big, comfy reservoir to hang out in while the host populations recover, but that isn't always obvious up-front.

Sorry, that's really what I meant by potency - the fact that everyone that gets it dies before they have a chance to travel very far and spread it around.

Areas of Africa that are in conflict have pretty much done this already. Large wildlife has no natural defence against gangs with AK47s.


People who look forward to the collapse should have their head examined.

Aw, Come on, Darwinian, I'm starting a little street cart, barbecued radioactive cockroach, franchise. I can let you in on it for next to nothing! It's the ground floor opportunity of a lifetime. Don't worry it's going to be a "GREEN" enterprise, the cockroaches will be roasted in solar ovens.

Think positive man! We can easily feed the entire remaining population of a few million humans and get filthy rich while we're at it. So what do you say, eh?

Every animal large enough to eat will be hunted to extinction.

I have a lot of trouble envisioning how the collapse would actually take place. Would there still be any humans left shortly after all large animal species are extinct?

If the last enxtinction of large animals means the end of humans, then most humans will already be dead by the time this event takes place. Decreasing number of humans means that the rate of extinction will slow as the human population gradually dies off.

So it boils down to which has the fastest die-off, humans or the other species??

Dude, you're buzzing their harsh, man~!

My vote for fastest die-off goes for the other species. Once we wipe one species out, we'll just eat the next ones available. That's the problem with being an omnivore.

I still believe that it must have taken a very hungry man to find out that oysters were edible.

Wouldn't that suggest, though, that the primary "control" on human population was starvation?

I'm imagining that the world will continue to try to keep everything going. Countries, populations, possibly even entire continents may be written off, but the center(s) will continue to exploit in anyway they can. Collapse won't come everywhere equally all at once. And in such a scenario I would think that war and disease will play their fair part in reducing human populations. (Although war has historically not been responsible for population declines, except for Germany in WWII).

We will not wake up one morning to discover that the world as we knew it has ended. Witness that most people don't even guess that we are already in collapse. albeit the early stages.

In the wild, I would suggest the primary control is probably a combination of starvation and disease. War tends to only put a mild dent in the long term population.

It's just the same with most large animals. Predation only removes a small percentage, old age and disease get the majority. Not forgetting that with old age teeth become worn out and the animal starves.

I think individuals may well wake up and feel their world has ended, but collectively we'll ignore the problem until it happens to us.

Indeed. And of course the two frequently work hand in hand. A malnourished person is much more likely to succumb to illness than a well nourished one. And a sick person is less likely to be able to expend the energy needed to feed themselves.

'the worst places it will be like the Donner Party multiplied by several million.' darwinian

a very good read is at


it is free as is in process. book 1& 2 are out, but free online. the most recent chapter [57] is right to Darwinian's point. i think it is better than the 'Postman'; gardening, social organization, protection[military], ecology/polution, global warming, etc.

Darwinian re 'the worst ecological disaster ever experienced on earth'; i hope you are wrong, & the industrial revolution was no. 1; but regarding people & trees you are almost certain to be right.

Don Sailorman: what is your take on the movie "The Secret of Oz", a link to which was posted on TOD a few days ago? It's a wonderfully earnest look at L. Frank Baum's insights, cloaked in metaphor, about who controls the quantity of money (private banks vs. the government), and therefore the pace of depressions and growth.

Now that is interesting. But we know that Banks are the Government so they control the show. LOL. They only need to curb fiscal policy to prevent inflation. Seems they are after that one too with the whole Debt argument we hear about all the time.

Money is an illusion. It is not real. Likewise Debt (another type of money) is also an illusion of sorts.

Look at the careful orchestration of the oil price being held at $100 a bbl. It is beautiful clockwork they have going, no?

Look at the careful orchestration of the oil price being held at $100 a bbl. It is beautiful clockwork they have going, no?

Yes, I've noticed if the price of WTI gets below 100, it's not long before the price recovers to a hundred. Guess it's here for good now.

Yeah, like... right about now. Again.

I blame... reality.

I revise my statement. The media wants oil to stay just a fraction below $100. That is the agreed upon price I suspect. I think $100 is taboo to the consumer sentiment and the masters of the universe know that.

Oil producers want is higher but they know >$100 is bad medicine if they market collapses again. The consumer goods people need it lower to get people in their cars. LOL. They must have a round table where they hash it all out.

I honestly think they are hoping they can get Americans to buy stuff on credit cards again and they need to keep oil a fraction below $100 to make that happen this summer.

Call me crazy. I know it is conspiracy-esque-BS-(TM). ;-)

I can imagine the conspiracy. I just can't believe that any sufficiently powerful and organized group of entities could assemble, plan and execute the conspiracy for more than about 13.234 minutes before competing interests, disagreements, suspicion and incompetence crashed the whole thing.

I know. I know. I am being a nut. But the whole $100 (just a little bit below thing) is a little weird.

I think it's a sign that the economic forces around it are pretty balanced at the moment, and somewhat stifled on all fronts by the flood.

Once the Mississippi gets back into it's banks I think we'll see if WTI wants to move off $100/barrel in a bit of a hurry.

Those 'speculators' running the market aren't that smart. They don't accurately price any goods, they try to balance competing understands of the future of the marketplace to arrive at a joint consensus. Given that they are very much human, that consensus can easily end up being a round figure like $100. One set thinks a fall is on the cards, but will accept <$100 as a reasonable short term position. The other thinks growth will continue and is sure the price should be >$100. Net result is it bounces around that mark till it becomes clear which group is right.

Dynamic equilibrium with an admix of human dumbness. Doubly so since this is only WTI which is not reflecting the real market at the moment.

I don't think you can label market manipulation a conspiracy but rather a systemic tendency. This was easily seen in the housing crash as inventory outside of the "market" built up effectively holding prices elevated by constricting supply. Of course, lots of finger pointing ensued but the net effect was banks balance sheets were protected and the construction business got to keep on chugging along. Whether is was a coordinated effort of not is irrelevant, aggregate decisions caused this supply constriction with a net positive effect on certain industries functionality.

Call me crazy.

You're crazy!

There is undoubtedly plenty of symbolism in "The Wizard of Oz." The Tin Man represents industrial workers, the straw man, farmers, and I forget who the Cowardly Lion represented. The yellow brick road was yellow because the bricks were gold bars, and so on.

Baum was a populist and favored the free minting of silver, which began, I believe, in 1896. Gold (e.g. William Jennings Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech) was associated with tight money and high interest rates. The more abundant silver was associated with easy money and low interest rates.

However, having said all that, "The Wizard of Oz" was written as a fantasy for children, and Baum probably put in the symbollism pretty much to keep himself from being bored with writing the book--or at least that is my best guess.

The Cowardly Lion was reputed to be Bryan:

The Cowardly Lion, according to Henry Littlefield, represents William Jennings Bryan, who made the first of three unsuccessful bids for the presidency in the election of 1896. [1]Bryan was the Democratic Party's nominee for president and he embraced some Populist issues, most notably "free silver," the bi-metallic monetary standard that Populists thought would allow farmers greater access to credit.

Symbolism of the Cowardly Lion

Then, again:

The imagery of The Wizard of Oz is so rich that the preceding discussion is only the beginning. Could The Wizard of Oz really be a Freudian coming-of-age story? Why is this story of particular interest to the gay and lesbian community? Is it an allegory of drug usage, as Planet Groovy suggests? "Turn Me On, Dead Man" has already examined the connection between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, so perhaps The Wizard of Oz is a story of sex, drugs and rock & roll!

DS: I was asking about the underlying premise of the film - that government-issued money is inherently less prone to causing economic gyrations than is bank-issued money (which we then have to go into debt to buy). Lincoln's "greenbacks" vs. gold standard-based money.

The whole Oz/Baum thing is a catchy vehicle for this group to argue for moving to government, not private banks, controlling the quantity of money in circulation. They make the claim that this down cycle was caused by too little money in circulation (down about 40% if I remember correctly). This seems like a very strange claim when we hear about "helicopter Ben".

DS: I was asking about the underlying premise of the film - that government-issued money is inherently less prone to causing economic gyrations than is bank-issued money (which we then have to go into debt to buy). Lincoln's "greenbacks" vs. gold standard-based money.

But right now the "money" is some kind of weird hybrid. The government issues bonds that get sold and then a private banking concern called the Federal Reserve 'issues' the money.

we hear about "helicopter Ben".

Ben claimed he'd 'print his way out' of a depression at some point in the past.

Regular gasoline was $0.30 a gallon in 1964.

Right now a 1964 quarter gets you 1.5 gallons of gas (melt value - $6.41)

In the "Austrian" "School" of economics, inflation is the result of more money printing. And no reasonable person can deny the US of A has printed more money from 1964 to today. So - is the bigger numeric value on a gallon of gas due to money printing, as the Austrians would claim or something else?

You are correct. The Fed has constantly broken the monetarist rule that the supply of money should be increased at the same rate as real growth in GDP (with perhaps some adjustments for changes in monetary velocity).

Since the end of World War II the Fed has been an engine of inflation. The main reason the price of oil is "high" today is that the value of the dollar has diminished greatly. The supply of money has increased much much faster than has the growth in real GDP.

Your example of the 1964 silver quarter is a cogent argument to support your position.


You feeling ok?

Melt value is not the same as value of money. The silver is worth $6.41 today... the quarter is worth $1.75, which will buy you about 0.4375 gallons of gas.



Wind power companies facing a springtime shutdown to accommodate a surge of hydropower in the Northwest said Tuesday the region's main power manager has a conflict of interest, using authority over transmission lines to protect its business interests.

I'm glad I'm not responsible for the weird hybrid market schemes that US policy has moved us towards. The BPA dams have multiple functions: power generation, flood control, irrigation storage, maintenance of habitat. Given the design they are saddled with, the dam operator is faced with the need to release water in a way that has to generate power. In a pure short-term market system, the wind generators would have no complaint: they would shut down some production because the dams are selling power at negative prices. In a pure centralized dispatch regulated system, the wind generators would have no complaint: they would know in advance that there would be times when they would have to shut down some production because power from the dams has dispatch priority. Only in some sort of hybrid system do they get to whine that they are being treated unfairly.

Of course, coal and nuclear in the region was not shut in. That would make too much sense. When we have record waters, we do not use the surplus energy to save our fossils and nuclear materials. We are seriously challenged as a species.

According to the article, output from both coal and natural gas plants was reduced to the minimum needed to protect their equipment and the grid. Generally that means at least enough steam to keep things turning; the shafts in the big turbines can deform permanently if you let them stop for too long. Coal or NG was likely the "spinning reserve" available in the case of a major failure. And old-style nukes do not take kindly to big changes in output.

However, I do agree with you that the system ought to maximize dispatch from renewable sources, and then consider other factors.

Last summer, BPA asked the Columbia Nuclear Generating Station to cut way back for awhile.


Columbia is accustomed to reducing power to 85 percent and sometimes 60 percent. In the following days, however, BPA asked the plant operators to go down to just 22 percent. “This year was extraordinary because it all came so heavy and so fast,’’ Mr. Milstein said.

Yeah, I know. It is the last 25% that kind of blows my mind. These monster plants are designed to never turn off. Thus they force renewable genration to have to stop on a dime. This is a problem with the system currently. Renewables need to dance around the fossil/nuke monsters, and nukes/fossils never pay for that service.

Maybe nukes and fossils need to find someone to buy their power while the water and wind is free. Make fertilizer, aluminum, do quantum-mechanical calculations or something other than ramming electrons into resistors.

All of this can be resolved by the price mechanism, IMO. there is nothing to stop the nuke plants or the hydro plants from keeping their turbines spinning and just dumping the electricity to ground In fact, that should be a requirement for every generator - that they can take care of themselves if denied market access.

Then just let the companies bid each other down. Wind can underbid everyone else (except solar and overflowing hydro dams) as its marginal operating cost is zero.

For the market to be fair, no one should have entitlement. Even though wind, solar and hydro are "clean" that should not necessarily guarantee them first place in the loading order it should still be done by price, with suitable carbon taxes on the fuel consumers. If they can meet that carbin tax obligation and then underbid wind, then they can sell their power.

The northwest (OR, ID, WA) has 10 GW total in nuclear, coal, natural gas and petroleum, but 37 GW in hydroelectric and renewables. There's 1 major coal plant (1.5 GW in Centralia, WA, out of ~2 GW regional total, contracted to shut down by 2025), and 1 nuclear plant (1.1 GW in Hanford, WA). Grand Coulee by itself is 7 GW... the region is dominated by hydro power.

There is a lot of water this year. Enron killed the aluminum plants a decade ago, so there are no big users to suck up extra power. Spilling over the dams causes problems, and the generators can't flow water without creating power (although they're being set for the least efficiency). The nuclear plant is taking an early maintenance outage, and the BPA is offering free power to other producers.

Many MW of stupidly cheap power is available, but the DC link to California is limited. Hopefully there are some transmission line upgrades coming, as there are lots of new wind plants coming in the next few years.

We are seriously challenged as a species.

Ya think?

Where I live we are officially under a drought warning which means that folks can only water their lawns at certain times and days of the week. So everyone has dialed in their sprinklers for those times and days.

Now despite the fact that we are under a drought warning, the local climate, since we are near the ocean is actually quite wet and it often rains.

So I often see sprinklers active during downpours which means they are drawing water from a drought stricken area to water lawns that are flooded due to heavy local rains.

Yeah, humans are absolutely freakin brilliant! And I won't even mention what the reaction is to a question of: "Why do you need lawns anyway?"

"So I often see sprinklers active during downpours ..."

...though we wouldn't want to force folks to spend 12 bucks on a rain sensor.

First off, that 12 bucks is just for a cable. The sensor controllers are in the $250 range, and without wading through the manuals it's not clear what-all you have to buy beyond the sensor controller for a full working setup tied into the irrigation controller. Then, if one is retrofitting, there's the small matter of whether the irrigation controller even has a sensor input to connect to.

Then there's the expensive labor by someone with a "license" to install the whole mess to "code". And possibly more bucks for more time from a helper assisting with trenching the cables. And a day off work if one is retrofitting. Meanwhile the marginal cost of water might be 0.1 cent/gallon. What would the payoff time be to avoid watering on the few rainy-enough days typically encountered in drought-prone regions? 50 years? 500 if it's a retrofit?

Yeah, you just can't count on "market" solutions.

Three days picking up roadside litter for first offenders.

Whoops! Wrong link. $28.99 Gosh! Sorry.....

Both of my irrigation controllers have a connection for a (and yes, this is a compatible rain sensor, for $29) rain sensor. If these people have an irrigation system/timer it has a connection for a sensor or they got ripped off (have one, salvaged: works perfectly). My six zone Toro controller (with a rain sensor connector) was $59 at a discount store. It's the zoning valves, fittings and sprinkler heads that add up. This is standardized 24vac stuff, and as you saw, the commercial stuff is way too pricey for the homeowner.

Back to the point, a rain sensor would save water and money and should be required by code, same as lots of things are. We have our own water source (plenty of water) but I still use one, because it just makes sense and saves energy (and plants from overwatering).

p.s. Put the thing where it rains and hook up two wires to the controller, where it says "Rain Sensor". Real men don't need no directions (or lawns, for that matter).

p.p.s. Don't forget to flip the switch that says "Rain Sensor On".

Back to the point, a rain sensor would save water and money and should be required by code, same as lots of things are. We have our own water source (plenty of water) but I still use one, because it just makes sense and saves energy (and plants from overwatering).

It makes sense?! That could be a problem right there. I'm pretty sure there is something in just about every local ordinance that automatically disallows anything that actually makes sense. I'll bet there is a hefty fine for it... especially if you installed it yourself and didn't even read the directions. Acquiring knowledge on your own and making use of it is pretty much illegal nowadays. Just ask PaulS, ROFL!

You missed the $84 display to tell people what the weather is doing outside ;)


See I believe in a electric-shock method. If you received a small painful electric shock if you watered your law during a rainstorm that would happen less often. People should be fined for such actions.

In Indiana, I know you can get a second water meter for lawns. Imagine this. The 2nd meter has an electrically actuated valve hooked to a smart meter that cuts out the darn thing when it rains.

I know I sound like the second coming of Hitler now. So I will shut up.

Here in Chicago, the Big Dandelion Debate is underway.
On one side, the city has stopped spraying most city parks with herbicides, because it is cheaper and healthier. On the other, are people who like "pristine" lawns, including lawn service companies.

Dandelions. Who decided the beauty of lawn care anyway? The little flowers in the lawn add character imho. I love social convention. Ponder it for 5 minutes and you realize, "What a waste of resources." In CA, we have GIGANTIC dandelions. Dr Seuss ones that grow 5 feet tall if allowed. I just pull them and move on. Takes me about 15 minutes on Saturdays to pick them and mulch them down and throw them in the worm bin. LOL

But sure dump chemicals on them all day long and flush your money down the drain too. I reckon about $500-$1500 a year wasted on the average lawn in unnecessary chemicals.

Heh - "Dr Seuss Ones" ? Are you smoking them ? ;)
I just make wine...

Dandylions? You could just eat them,,before you poison the crabgrass.

I've probably posted this before, but one can buy imported dandelion greens at a certain high-end grocery chain for $6.95 a pound... of course, this price will rise as transportation costs rise...
Another post-collapse business opportunity...

Dandelion greens are very nutritious (better than spinach, they say), but they can be bitter. I used to mix them up with red leaf in salads, adds character and isn't overwhelming the way they tend to be on their own. You can cook with them as well.

Personally I can't see why anyone in their right mind would find beautiful yellow flowers offensive, especially in Spring after months of brown and white. But that's just me.

They also bring nutrients up from deeper in the ground.

If you pick just the leaves without the sharp 'teeth' (the eponymous "dents de lion"), they aren't quite as bitter. My daughter used to wrap mulberries in them and the clash of sweet and bitter was quite pleasant. But then she has always liked strong tastes--used to eat rhubarb stems and lemons plain.

deeper in the ground

So does alfalfa and you can make a green curd which can be processed and saved as food for people.

I've been loving the Yellow and Green together, it's lovely!

Sadly, we can't eat ours, since the soil has just tons of lead in it from housepaint and gasoline.. alas!

And I get treated to the sound of my neighbors AC compressors when the temp in in the 60's (and dry) so all you need do is open a couple of windows.

But, if they did that, they'd have to listen to the other neighbors' compressors.

Good News from the Pacific Northwest

It looks like the move toward non-fossil fuel electricity is well on its way in Washington state: Washington begins transition off of coal power.

Granted, the availability of hydropower means that we only use coal and natural gas to provide 20% of our electricity:

As I've pointed out before, our snowpack this year is so huge that the BPA may limit wind power during snowmelt. I have heard that coal, natural gas and nuclear generators are being operated at minimum levels already.

As we shift off of fossil fules, replacement power will come in part from more wind projects in the works, albeit with some growing pains: NW wind power could double, cause grid problems. However, the combination of wind and hydro is usually an excellent match (except in massive snowpack years) as hydro can be dialed up and down to match the intermittency of wind power. We will have to add additional transmission capacity which will present all sorts of political challenges but not any technical or EROI ones.

We also have some folks with money setting a good example by installing solar even in Western Washington: Seahawks and Sounders going "green" with new solar energy plan. It doesn't really matter whether it's a promotional gimmick -- every little bit of extra solar that is installed helps.

Washington is also following Germany's lead by attempting to build up it's own reputation in green technology. There are lots of examples at the policy level but I'll just highlight recent grants to two of our second tier universities: WWU Receives $970,000 NSF Grant for Solar-Energy Research and University Receives Grant To Develop Renewable Energy Program .

Moving to renewable energy will be a generational shift as seen in this example in my own neighborhood: Young couple on a budget builds Ballard's first zero-energy house.

I have always maintained that the coming energy crunch will play out differently in different parts of the country and the world and that in the middle of all the crisis there will be many opportunities.

I think Washington state -- food exporter, electricity exporter, technology exporter, maritime transportation -- will do pretty well in the coming years as people learn how to adapt from single driver commutes from distant houses to more sustainable patterns of living and moving around.

Best Hopes for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to us.


Looks like the Pacific Northwest will be in better shape that other parts of the country as fossils get expensive.
They will probably make better transmission lines to No. California as well to suck down a little of that power. ;-)
They only need to couple in some smart grid, small solar projects, and efficiency measures drive the remaining fossils away.
Time to get EVs on the road there too to suck down those practically free electrons in the system.

Things aren't quite that rosy, Jon. What is missing from your graphic is that it does not include power generated out of state. Puget Sound Energy (the largest electricity provider) has part ownership of a coal plant in Montana. Here is the PSE mix as delivered to customers:


Note the lack of wind power. What is generated by PSE windfarms mostly goes to California.

I suppose WA could also claim credit for the fact that it produces no oil or natural gas, but that sort of misses the point.

The one coal plant in WA will be phase to natural gas in a few years, but I haven't seen any calls to ban the import of coal-sourced electricity.

WA electric rates are the cheapest in the country, and they are generating far more from renewables than anywhere else currently. The details may not be exactly this way without a detailed balance sheet of electric imports and exports. Agreed. But there is a possible endgame to curbing a lot of coal and nat gas in the Northwest.

Thanks for that detail Joules.

Montana supplies PSE with coal fired electricity while BPA hydro and PSE wind goes to California. Interstate transmission makes it challenging to know what the electric consumption profile is in a given state. The EIA data I used for the chart I think only tracks generating plants (production) within state but those pesky electrons are so damned fungible!

And doug fir below is correct that the BPA is run by the feds so Washington doesn't really 'own' those hydro plants even though we are the primary beneficiaries.

My main point is that there are some places where the transition away from fossil fuels for electricity generation is not only imaginable but well under way. Dealing with space heating and transportation will still require significant improvements in effciency and conservation but these changes in behavior and expectations are also underway.

For those who don't know it, Seattle's mayor is famously pro-bicycle and gets a huge amount of flak for it. When the mayor rides an electric bike to city hall and young, professional couples aspire to build small, zero-energy homes you know that times are-a-changing.

Are you working for Gregoire now?

Kidding, but Burn upthread has a point. And Avista, eastern WA, gets 13% of its mix from Montana coal also.

I wonder if Washington will be able to keep its hydro when push comes to shove. Much is federally generated, and I imagine large portions may move south. Just a decade or so ago, Montanans owned all their hydropower and water rights too. The only state to have nearly all it's water come from instate. Judy Martz and the legislature sold it off.

Nothing like the Mississippi valley, but we're in the midst of a mammoth snow runoff now. Town and highway flooded yesterday, I lost several hundred yds of road, washout. Back to work.

Of course, explain why you would ship coal to WA from MT or WY, when it is cheaper to ship electrons?

Because stockpiling coal is cheaper than stockpiling electrons?

They are shipping electrons.

That washout was a gully 6 ft wide, up to 2 ft deep. It took me over a day to rebuild, with a wheel tractor. Couldn't help but think of totoneila, and having to do it with one of his wheelbarrows.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

Isn't that the truth. The washout started from my road culvert overflowing. A small creek, 3' diameter culvert, it's been there 40+ yrs.

"We are used to certain conditions and there's a lot going on these days that is not what we're used to, that is outside our current frame of reference," Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists."....

"What we're seeing is the new normal is constantly evolving," said Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of Swiss Re's Global Partnerships team. "Globally what we're seeing is more volatility ... there's certainly a lot more integrated risk exposure."


I'm unmoved by the person in NSW, Australia who spent $15k on PV expecting to get 60c per kwh til 2016. Now he or she gets 40c. I spent $20k on PV in chronically overcast Tasmania which you can see on this table
I get 20c. Twenty is plenty after all PV is an unreliable power source and doesn't deserve premium rates. I think the NSW person is selfish after all others are helping to paying for his toys.

On Western Australia wanting to reserve 15% of natural gas production for domestic use the captains of industry evidently prefer a policy of 'get the money'. It's not just gas but iron ore, nickel, uranium, bauxite you name it. The cornucopians must tell us what we will do when Australia is left with large holes in the ground and the money has stopped coming.

Perhaps but it appears that the government just completely reneged on the contract. Shouldn't the panel owner sue the government?

In a year where everything had to go perfect for corn inventories to grow after the harvest, it has not happened. I haven't figured out when ethanol refineries start shutting down but I would be surprised if the corn prices don't rise high enough this summer when compared to gasoline prices to make it uneconomical.

Soggy spring is putting Hoosier crop in jeopardy

The wettest spring in a century has agriculture experts forecasting a potentially staggering loss to the state's precious corn crop.

Typically, Hoosier farmers would have planted two-thirds of the state's corn crop by now, but this year, just 29 percent of the crop is in the ground -- a scenario that agriculture experts say could mean a billion-dollar loss.

Considering the rising cost of oil, a somewhat ironic headline in the WSJ:

Mideast Staggered by Cost of Wheat

Wheat prices jumped on Wednesday, taking the week's gains to 17%, an ascent that threatens to put fresh pressure on fragile Middle East governments that import the grain to feed their people.

Good find.

People forget that China had the worst drought in over 60 years this winter.
This year, and next, will be very hard for wheat importers.

I've been following a lot of news centering around Tunisia and it's quite clear you have a fierce backlash, combined with a lot of internal bickering. Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer, will likely meet the same fate.

No doubt the Arab Spring has been a genuine movement, but it's unlikely to lead anywhere better in the long run.
It's all downhill now for countries like Egypt or Tunisia that has no oil and an ever-expanding population which consumes more and more and produce very little of value.

As we have discussed over the years, it's not hard to imagine a long term trend of a lot of world trade being gradually reduced to food exporters trading with energy exporters. Large net importers of both food & fuel would be in the most trouble, e.g., Japan.

With more than just grain.

US quietly expanding defense ties with Saudis

the United States and Saudi Arabia are quietly expanding defense ties on a vast scale, led by a little-known project to develop an elite force to protect the kingdom's oil riches and future nuclear sites.


Unless you expect the exporters of energy and food to find the equipment they need to operate their extractive industries laying on the beach (not to mention everything else from communications equipment to plumbing supplies), I wouldn't worry about the lot of a people who can turn food energy and machine energy into useful and/or necessary goods and services at a competitive cost.

The impact on their currency from higher food and energy prices makes the exporters of these goods less competitive in secondary and tertiary industries vis-a-vis countries like Japan. At the same time, countries like Japan have ever more incentive to increase their energy efficiency (food and machine). And because fossil fuels, in particular, have a limited future, a country like Japan can look forward to provisioning the market with substitutes, including the means to achieve more food and machine energy efficiency.

By the way, I see elsewhere that you are interested in the workings of public finance.

Here is a link to an insightful analysis by another resident of the lone star state:


It always helps to carefully read what people write. As I said "it's not hard to imagine a long term trend of a lot (not all) of world trade being gradually reduced to food exporters trading with energy exporters."

Regarding Mr. Galbraith's work, I didn't notice any discussion of constrained energy supplies. I estimate that Available Net Exports (Global Net Oil Exports less Chindia's combined net oil imports) fell at a rate of about 2.6%/year from 2005 to 2010.

Here is a link to a video featuring Galbraith on "The Great Crisis in the US and the World: Debt, Inequality, Fraud and Oil".


If you've had enough talk of banksters, debt and fraud, you might want to move forward to about the 25 minute point. You will see the hubbert curve close to the 28 minute point.

Here is a part of a transcript of another address of Galbraith (to the Association for Evolutionary Economics):

This is joint work with Jing Chen and it’s work in progress addressed to a question that we believe has not be adequately dealt with, in fact barely dealt with at all, in any major tradition — neither in the mainstream nor in the Keynesian or progressive responses to the crisis so far.

The question...we would like to address, is to the implications of rising resource costs for economic systems in general and for the structure of economic society.

Our approach is to treat the economy as having the same form as a biophysical system — something that it obviously does — insofar as economic life is part of human life and involves interaction between organized society and the natural world.

The meaning of this idea, in essence, is that you have to be able to get more value out of your environment than it costs to extract it. Otherwise, you cannot live.

That is true for any form of living organism and...is true, for society as a whole.

The key to extracting resources in an efficient way is...to build up that part of the economic system which works on the basis of essentially fixed physical resource costs.

And the appropriate analytical framework for thinking about this issue is therefore very much akin to the Marshallian theory of the firm and its treatment of diminishing and increasing returns — topics which seem to have dropped out of economic thinking in modern times but which were, of course, very much alive in the early days of the Keynesian revolution with Allyn Young and Nicholas Kaldor talking about, in particular, the importance of increasing returns.

A system which operates with a high level of fixed costs, that is to say, with a substantial prior investment can achieve a high level of efficiency at a high rate of utilization. To get there you have to have a perspective that involves thinking ahead for a long duration, that is to say, making plans and investments in systems that are expected to last a long time. And for that you have to have a reasonably low uncertainty about the implications of making those investment decisions.

These systems reach their maximum profitability when resource costs are relatively low and thus we think it is not accidental that the Keynesian era debuted in the 1930′s and was able to be pursued for 30 or 40 years without significant interruption because this period occurred in the moment in world economic history when the cost of resources fell by an unprecedented extent. That is to say, we had massive discoveries of cheap energy, of oil and other resources as well as the addition of other ways of extracting energy from the environment, provided you made sufficiently high front end investments.

On the other hand, systems of this kind are quite fragile and vulnerable to rising resource costs. Why? Because physically they require the same level of resources and therefore the cost of operating them rises proportionately to the cost of extracting the energy, the underlying resources, in real terms.

Systems which operate with very low fixed costs and a much higher proportion of variable costs are, on the other hand, more flexible, they’re more resilient. They can contract and expand with the changes in the cost of resources. And therefore they are more likely to survive in a form that is recognizably similar to what they are presently in the face of rising resource costs.

But, they are much less efficient and they operate at a much lower standard () of living.

It is not a smooth transition to move from a system that is built up on the basis of high fixed cost to one which does not have those high fixed costs. It is, on the contrary, abrupt, brutal, and may well involve the disappearance necessarily of a large part of the population supported by the system.


That last sentence will be fuel for the gloomsters' fire.

Why don't you send your data and comments on 'available' imports to Galbraith. I'm sure they will be appreciated.

I think you might also ask him for a response to your take on government deficits and debts, GELM, and so on.

James K. Galbraith
Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and Professor of Government


Yes, westexas, bugs has a good idea. I'm pretty sure Jim Galbraith would find your ELM, GELM, etc. work fascinating and enlightening.

He is one of the very least dismal (in terms of ability to recognize physical reality) of the dismal scientists. His dad probably passed on significant advantages, both "natural" and "nurtural."

Post-Mubarak Egypt 'running out of food'

...According to Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading daily, hoarding of rice by wholesalers has pushed prices up by 35 percent this year.

Egypt's foreign exchange reserves have fallen by $13 billion, or roughly one-third, in the first quarter of the year amid a flight of capital.

Ethanol exported does not generally qualify for the blender credit. Interesting that the US has exported so much -- the plant that closed in the UK also sited high ethanol imports from the US.

Brazil: We will import U.S. ethanol when needed

Brazil imported a record amount of ethanol in the first quarter of 2011, because of a poor sugarcane harvest last year, high sugar prices and higher domestic demand, said Platts, an energy information service. Most of that imported ethanol came from the United States; Iowa is the nation's largest producer.

Actually, if the ethanol is blended with gasoline before exporting, to make E85, then it does qualify for the credit.
Regardless of blending, there is aslo th 10c/gal "small producer" credit, for those making less than 60m gal/y. Not surprisingly, most ethanol plants are 50m gpy.

So, if they want to, they can export and get all their credits too - paid for by the taxpayers!

I didn't think much ethanol was blended before exporting but I haven't seen any government stats on that. The 10c/gal small producer credit is for the first 15 million gallons.

FOR ALL: Marcellus Frac'ing laws - Today Penn is enforcing a new law making it illegal for oil companies to dump those nasty produced fluids from their frac'd wells into municipal treatment plants. Turns out the bromides in the frac fluid combine with the chlorine in the plants to produce carcinogens which are then dumped into the streams other municipalities source for drinking water.

Sounds like the Yankee regulators are finally coming down on the oil industry. Actually not. The law was written to stop the local govts from allowing the nasties to be dumped into the system. Turns out the local water treatment folks were charging the companies a fee for helping with the disposal. I haven't been able to get the numbers but I assume they were charging less than the cost for safe disposal as we do here in Texas.

So it turns out most if not all of the contamination wasn't coming from illegal dumping by the oil industry as I've speculated in the past but from the then legal (an profitable) dumping of the nasties by the local govts. "Midnight haulers" weren't the problem...local politicians were. The new law isn't aimed at the oil companies...it's directed at the municipal treatment authorities.

Another odd thing: the EPA is trying to institute laws that force the industry to report exactly how and where they dispose of those nasties. Industry spokesmen are telling the EPA they don't have authority to do so. Once again I'll be a tad more harsh with my Yankee cousins who are responsible for regulating local drilling activities: get your heads out of your butts and start regulating. The state has all the authority to make the industry do whatever they want them to do. They don't need the EPA to do anything. No company can drill a well anywhere in this country without a permit from the state. And the state can write the rules anyway they want. As I've gone into great detail before: In Texas the Rail Road Commission controls the industry with an iron fist. Not only does the TRRC tell us how and where we can dispose of the nasties but we also have to sign certified reports verifying everything. Break the rules and pay a big fine. And maybe get a little jail time or at least lose the right to do business in the entire state. We don't even hear of the EPA in Texas. Their level of environmental protection doesn't come close to how our state regulators handle the matter.

Folks can complain about how the damn oil companies are handling the situation up north but so far it looks like they've been following the law. A screwed up and harmful law but legal none the less. Maybe it's time to vote some folks out of office and get someone in there that will drop the hammer on the oil industry. We really are good about following the rules. But someone has to produce a set of good rules in the first place. And that isn't hard: they can dpwnload all the regs at the TRRC and then just cut and past. In no time at all the northern states will have regs just as tough as we have in Texas.


I'm curious as to how those comparably tough Texas rules evolved. I've always imagined Texas controlled by a few indomitable interests/players. Could it be the earlier cattlemen wouldn't put up with it?

doug - Exactly. The oil companies always had their enfluence but real control is always local. And the land owners always control the local politics IMHO. Back in the bad ole days Texas was much worse than anything you see going on in the Marcellus these days. But over time, and enough civil lawsuites, the rules evolved. We went into a lot of details on the Texas Rail Road Commission thread last week.

There's also a practical side to keeping a peaceful relationship with your landowners. I might have $500,000 worth of production equipment sitting on someones property. I'll have a production hand check the equipment for half an hour each day. The other 23.5 hours that landowner has complete access to my assets and there's no one there watching what he does. You p*ss a landowner off (even if it's really his fault) then when you hand shows up the next morning you find a $200,000 piece of equipment burned up, 100 bbls of oil spilt on the ground (that you'll pay a $50,000 fine to the TRRC), pay a remediation company $300,000 to clean the spill and then hire a lawyer to represent you in a $2 million suit filed by the land owner. Yes: I've bowed my head and kissed a landowners' butt more than once just to keep the relationship "friendly". Life in the the oil patch: even when you're in the right it can still cost you dearly. Always the same rule when dealing with the TRRC, Texas Rangers and landowners: smile and play nice.

Makes alot of sense. Like a form of mutually assured destruction, local level. :) Sorry I missed the TRRC thread, but it seems it would have to have evolved with the wildcatters. Before the Majors were so major. Granted, most of my Texas knowledge comes from heresay, stories of the King Ranch, and McMurtry's Duane and Sonny.

So pointing a finger re land owners, PA local landowners don't have much clout. They're relatively small, diffuse, the money and control lies elsewhere.

doug - Given the budget problems many municipailites are dealing with today it's easy to see small landowners ignored over the prospect of Penn counties sharing the wealth with the oil patch. Not sure how it works up there but Texas counties get around 1-2% of the gross revenue from all oil/NG production.

Jobless claims down - but 4-week average is up. They say it's due to "seasonal factors."

Amazon says they're selling more e-books than paper books. That doesn't include free e-books.

Imagine getting a virus on your iPad and your entire book library, worth thousands of dollars, is wiped out. Sure, your house can burn up and you'll lose your books(along with everything else too) but somehow I'm not just comfortable with these changes, if e-books will totally replace paperback.
Maybe I'm a Luddite but it's just how I feel.

That would be the least of my worries. You can always re-download the titles.

That's an easy one.
Hard copy survival books, cook books, gardening books, educational books, etc.
E-copy fun books, fiction, etc.

Edit: By the way, is there a hard copy of the best of The Drum Beat? I would like to explain what happened to my grand kids.

I have printed out several TOD articles complete with comments. Then I three-hole-punch the sheets of paper and put them in big three-ring binders, with divider pages each having a label with the title of the article.

True, one can access all those articles by consulting the archives of TOD. But how long will TOD be around? I hope for at least another dozen years, but there is no way to know how long a website will last. Anyway, I find the hard copies very good; I can add marginal comments with pen or pencil. BTW, you will find that printing out a Drumbeat with a couple hundred comments on it requires a lot of paper--but, IMO, it is worth it for the choicest articles and Drumbeats.

Exactly my point in the previous comment I made.
(Although Don made it in a better, clearer way)

An Update On Japan

The Japanese authorities released the latest growth figures for their country a few days ago.

To put it mildly: Japan is toast.
Here's the details: GDP decreased by 3.4 % in Q1 of this year - twice the median amount that was expected. Here's the twist: the Fukushima disaster only occured in the last few weeks of the entire Q1, as you remember, yet the impact was so immense.

All analysts are now in unison agreement that next quarter, Q2, spanning from April 1st through the entire month of June, will show even worse figures.

In other words, Japan is now in deep recession and it will only get worse. They have horrible birthrates(hovering around 1.0), and a debt-to-GDP of well over 200 %. Everyone expects them to use more oil in their reconstruction for trucks, helicopters and a whole assortment of other uses to bridge the energy gap and help rebuild the country. This in a context of contast $110+ crude prices for their local blend.

With Greece already more or less needing a second bailout(which won't save them), and Ireland and Portugal likely to be next, we could have a genuine slowdown in the world economy. What will Japan do then? How can they cope with yet another slowdown, yet another shock to their GDP?

Good points, except that a low birth rate is an absolutely necessity on a relatively small island with over 126 million people on it. So a birth rate of 1.0 (presumably that is children per woman) is probably too high if they are to rapidly get to a population that is reasonably supportable on an island with essentially no ff resources and which is likely to turn away from nuclear. Note also that much (most?) of their land mass is very steep hills covered with trees--they do not have any place to expand ag, and, even with very compact cities and towns, much good ag land has been eaten up with urban development.

They are indeed in deep trouble, and having few kids and an aging work force is a problem. But having far more mouths to feed than can be supported by their own ag is an even more profound predicament.

(Oh, and the fish and seaweed off their coasts that formed a basic part of the diet are now largely radioactive. One more way that they, and their ill considered turn to nukes, have screwed their future six ways to Sunday.)

Heh, well, in a worst-case scenario they are well off in the sense that they will have a very strong natural decline, plus they have a very homogenous island(less internal strife in a crisis).
Also, most of their debt is owned by their own people. All these factors are good in a scenario of catastrophe, but one has to remain a position of ambivalence.

What if we merely get a steep, very protracted decline but no global massive die-off?
In such a 50/50 scenario, Japan has extremely little going for it.

They have a couple other things going for them--a tradition that does not stigmatize sepuku and other forms of self-immolation. They also have a strong sense of duty, and many people who remember the very hard times of the late forties and fifties.

But it just going to be hard to get around the enormous burden of supporting so many people on such little land. I'm guessing that there will be more and more intense calls for a return to the days of empire.

Japan may have fewer old people to support than the official statistics indicate --

More than 230,000 Japanese centenarians 'missing'

10 September 2010 - More than 230,000 elderly people in Japan who are listed as being aged 100 or over are unaccounted for, officials said following a nationwide inquiry.

Theories about how the Japanese diet contributes to long life may also be open to question.

Also note that the small villages in Fukushima and other northeastern provinces had a large number of older residents, since many of the younger people had moved away to jobs in the cities. It would probably have been in the interest of local leaders to under report deaths in order to overstate populations. Some of the "missing" following the tsunami may not have been alive when it happened.

Europe may ban plastic bags

The EU Commission launched on Wednesday a public consultation which will run until August to decide the best course of action to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Europe produced 3.4 million tonnes of plastic carrier bags in 2008 -- the equivalent in weight of two million cars, according to the European Union's executive arm.

Bring it on! About time!

After Japan Nuclear Power Plant Disaster: How Much Radioactivity in the Oceans?

..."When it comes to the oceans, however," says Buesseler, "the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl."

..."Levels of some radionuclides are at least an order of magnitude higher than the highest levels in 1986 in the Baltic and Black Seas, the two ocean water bodies closest to Chernobyl," says Buesseler.

More importantly, what percentage are isotopes that will bioaccumulate?

China admits Three Gorges Dam problems

...The government said last August that billions of dollars would be needed to address environmental damage along the river, including sewage treatment.

...Chinese experts and officials have warned of the potential for seismic disturbances -- including landslides and mudflows -- caused by the massive weight of the reservoir's water on the region's geology.

Yet another project built without concern for the failure modes.

Most of those are unanticipated or unaddressed side-effects more than failure modes. When the dam collapses from poor concrete, now that will be a failure mode!

Is that a difference or a distinction? Semantics never had it so good!

The weight of the water on the geologic formations is one I never heard of before.. just like filling the Fukushima Pressure Vessels with water might overload them.. heavy stuff.

joker - It might not be weight so much as the potential to inject water down fault planes that reach the surface under the reservoir. It's been a rare occurance but there were some tremors caused by injecting water via wells into some fault planes under Colorado many years ago. The water essentially lubricates the faults and caused slippage. And unknown to most of the world except for a few Texas A&M Aggies a very small earthen dam failure occurred in Texas about 40 years ago when the water in a shallow reservoir cause a couple of surface faults to shift which caused the clayer soil to heave and brought about the collapse of the dam. In theory, at least, that phenominon could develop with the Chinese dam.

Seismic issues were raised, anticipated and, apparently, ignored/underestimated. How is that not failure?

450 Toronto school roofs to go solar

The Toronto District School Board and AMP Solar Group Inc. have teamed up to install solar panels on hundreds of school rooftops in a deal that could be worth $1.1 billion in green electricity generation over 20 years.

The TDSB said late Wednesday during a board meeting that it has signed a deal with AMP, which will build, install and maintain solar photovoltaic panels on as many as 450 school rooftops or 12 million square feet of roof space.

The board said there is no cost to the TDSB and that AMP will be responsible for all project costs. The panels will go only on roofs that can support them, and in return the schools will get $120 million worth of roof repairs.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/05/18/tdsb-amp-solar-ro...


Isn't snow and ice buildup a problem in winter? How do they keep the panels clear? How much solar radiation is there on those dank, dark, wintery days?

Hi Earl,

Well, as noted in my comment (Collie Guy), Ontario is summer peaking and so it's the energy that's produced during the summer months that's most valuable to the OPA, particularly in terms of voltage support.


I went to school in a Toronto suburb in 1961-62, before we moved to California. I was only 6 in 62, but remember the rips across the bones on the back of the hand with a ruler all too well. Geez, they expected a kid to learn so fast and if you didn't, oh my, they let you know alright. The idea of raging on some kid that's only 6 is pretty strange and sick IMHO.

The idea of raging on some kid that's only 6 is pretty strange and sick IMHO.

I was treated the same way, a few years earlier, in US schools, by teachers who were attempting to "correct" my left-handedness.

I started hitting back, early, and didn't stop until they stopped hitting me. It took a long time. In 8th grade, I decked a Spanish teacher for breaking a pointer over my shoulder. Since he was a lot bigger than I was, and clearly intended to keep coming after me, I kicked him in the head to keep him from getting up fast enough to catch me. He was on sick leave for some time, after that.

Hitting kids is a really bad idea if you don't want to produce successive generations of adults with nervous trigger fingers, which is especially problematic when the triggers control multi-megaton devices. Humans have been very slow learning this lesson.

Very interesting to hear your story kalliergo. I had no idea such things happened in US schools as well. As unfortunate as it may have been to have fought the good fight, it probably acted to make you a more independent thinker, and here you are on TOD as evidence.

That gol darn spanish teacher probably never laid another hand on a kid again! You knocked the chip off his shoulder.

True, violence begets violence. When will they learn?

Some bright lights up the road are looking into this.

Queen's Leads Development of Cutting-edge Solar Panel Testing Facility

The first project for the OSOTF forms Rob Andrew's graduate thesis at Queen's, which quantifies the losses due to snowfall of a solar PV system, generalizes these losses to any location with weather data and recommends best practices for system design in snowy climates. The results of this study will be available at the end of the summer.

Hi Hugh,

I'm guessing these panels will be elevated on frames and that their tilt will allow much of the snow to simply slide off. I would also expect some gains due to light reflecting off the snow. And if snow accumulates to the point where it reaches the bottom of the panels (at 60 cm in depth, say), there's a good chance it will have to be cleared to minimize the risk of roof collapse.


.. and if my panels are any indication, they are dark colored and start to warm up when the sun hits them, melting them clear quick enough. But even melt tape or other 'extreme' solutions aren't that great a challenge if one wants solid results in the worst winter weather.

(I say send the little blighters up there with climbing gear and squeegees as part of their Physical Fitness program.. they'll dig it better than square dancing!)

Massey ‘Profoundly Reckless’ in Mine Blast: Report

...“A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk- taking,” according to the report released today. “The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices.”

Obama Addresses 'Extraordinary Change' in Middle East, North Africa

'In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,' says President Obama. 'Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.'

Translation: Libya has oil - Syria does not.

"Libya has oil - Syria does not"

Or "Lybia was first. But now we're busy. Syria, do something reasonable before we get done in Lybia."

Fierce forecast: Feds predict up to 10 Atlantic hurricanes in 2011

Federal forecasters Thursday called for an "above-normal" hurricane season this year. They predict anywhere from 12-18 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Of those named storms, six to 10 should become hurricanes, including three to six "major" hurricanes, with wind speeds above 111 mph.

As always Doc Masters' is on top of things like this:

Overall long-range estimate quality is still pretty poor, though.

I am wondering,and post this as a general question, whether or not there is a site available showing oil production in addition to the oil prices we now see on the right side on TOD?

It would be nice to have just below, or above, prices. Or just to know where I can go for such figures, if they even exist.



'Oil still an economic threat, watchdog says'

Here is an acknowledgement that high oil prices do crimp economic activity.

"There are growing signs that the rise in oil prices since September is affecting the economic recovery by widening global imbalances, reducing household and business income, and placing upward pressure on inflation and interest rates," said the IEA Governing Board in a statement.

Per the following statement by the IEA, the question of whether or not there is any spare capacity?, must be asked.

As global demand for energy typically increases from May to August, there is an "urgent" need for additional oil supplies to prevent further tightening of the market, IEA said.

In particular I liked this following quote because it acknowledges fundamentals, but is 'future expectations' code for speculation?

"Oil prices remain at elevated levels driven by market fundamentals, geopolitical uncertainty and future expectations," the IEA said.

Activated graphene boosts supercaps

PORTLAND, Ore.—The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE)'s Brookhaven National Laboratory recently characterized activated graphene fabricated at the University of Texas-Austin, concluding that it had an energy density that could rival batteries, an energy-release and quick-recharge rate that exceeded batteries, and a lifetime of at least 10,000 charge/discharge cycles. Used instead of batteries, activated-graphene supercapacitors could last 27 years for a plug-in vehicle recharged once a day.

At what price, I wonder? Is it stable (and therefore safe)? Easily charged? Sounds promising, though!

Carbon-Based Supercapacitors Produced by Activation of Graphene

Supercapacitors, also called ultracapacitors or electrochemical capacitors, store electrical charge on high surface area conducting materials. Their widespread use is limited by their low energy storage density and relatively high effective series resistance. Using chemical activation of exfoliated graphite oxide, we synthesized a porous carbon with a BET surface area of up to 3100 square meters per gram, a high electrical conductivity, and a low O and H content. This sp2-bonded carbon has a continuous three-dimensional network of highly curved, atom thick walls that form primarily 0.6- to 5-nm-width pores. Two-electrode supercapacitor cells constructed with this carbon yielded high values of gravimetric capacitance and energy density with organic and ionic liquid electrolytes. The processes used to make this carbon are readily scalable to industrial levels.

It would appear that the basic material is pretty inexpensive. So the cost would really depend more on the processes to manufacture the supercapacitors by coating films, saturating them with electrolyte, winding the capacitors, packaging, testing, etc.

Like lithium batteries, they would probably be packaged in multiple small cans for safety.

However, you might be able to used fewer of them and a lighter overall storage weight if they can be recharged quickly. Single charge range may not be so much of a limitation.

Record efficiency of 18.7 percent for flexible CIGS solar cells on plastics

..."The new record value for flexible CIGS [copper indium gallium (di)selenide] solar cells of 18.7% nearly closes the "efficiency gap" to solar cells based on polycrystalline silicon (Si) wafers or CIGS thin film cells on glass", says Tiwari. He is convinced that "flexible and lightweight CIGS solar cells with efficiencies comparable to the "best-in-class" will have excellent potential to bring about a paradigm shift and to enable low-cost solar electricity in the near future."

One major advantage of flexible high-performance CIGS solar cells is the potential to lower manufacturing costs through roll-to-roll processing while at the same time offering a much higher efficiency than the ones currently on the market. What's more, such lightweight and flexible solar modules offer additional cost benefits in terms of transportation, installation, structural frames for the modules etc., i.e. they significantly reduce the so-called "balance of system" costs.

The award for the most bizarre, hyperbolic reaction of the evening goes to Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Their reaction to Obama's Mideast speech where he called for a resolution of the I/P conflict based on the 1967 border?

"SWC: Israel Should Reject a Return to 1967 'Auschwitz' Borders"

Yes, these people are serious.

It would be funny, if it weren't so destructively stupid, for all parties.

The term "Auschwitz Borders" has a long history.

Israel’s "Auschwitz borders" revisited

In 1969, Israel’s legendary diplomat Abba Eban warned that withdrawal from the territories his country occupied in June 1967 would be a return to “Auschwitz borders.” Since then some Israeli politicians have used these provocative words to attack almost anyone who defies them.

...In 1992, for instance, the George H. W. Bush administration briefly suspended US loan guarantees to Israel to protest settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A symbolic sanction that cost Israel little, it was nevertheless unprecedented for the US to condition aid on Israeli behavior. Israel’s then Deputy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move as an American effort to force Israel back within the “Auschwitz borders.” He later attacked then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for signing the 1993 Oslo Accords which, he alleged, would also take Israel “back to Auschwitz.” Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli Jew brought up on such rhetoric.

The village I grew up in was in plain sight and mortar range from a high ridge on the other side of the "Auschwitz Borders." There is good reason why those words are used.

I presume, from your comment, that we can guess which side of the border your village was on.

Correct. And note that I do not i categorically oppose returning to those borders. All I'm saying is that there is good reason why they are known by that moniker.

OK. Thanks for the clarification.

Why Russians think Americans don't own their homes

..."Few Russians are willing to take out mortgages because the risk of foreclosure is unacceptable, and because they view interest payments – which they call overpayments – as unfair. As one Russian put it: ‘To enter into a mortgage is to become a slave for 30 years, with the bank as your master.

"In my interviews, people there often compared credit card debt favorably to mortgages, the inverse of here in the U.S., where mortgages are viewed as virtuous and responsible.

"Russia is completely the opposite. It may be a legacy of Soviet entitlement to housing, where housing is viewed as a right to them. Even thought the Soviet government owned the housing, people thought of it as their own and had the right to pass it down to their children, or swap with someone who wanted to trade with you.

"It was a kind of quasi-marketplace. It just wasn't financialized."

She said Russians find it odd that Americans call themselves "homeowners" from the day they close on a mortgage loan. For Russians, ownership only begins after all debts are paid off.

Maybe, the US will evolve into something like this when the banks implode

37%+ of area housing sales are now cash

With home prices low and financing options slim, the number of buyers purchasing homes in Tucson with cash has been growing steadily.

Through the end of April, more than 37 percent of this year's home sales have been cash purchases, statistics from the Tucson Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service show.

In contrast, about 13 percent of units sold in 2007 were cash transactions. Since then, there have been steady year-over-year increases in cash sales.

The trend in the US is for investors to buy real estate for all cash. This removes a lot of the leverage and risk from the transaction.

Consider if you buy a $400K house for $80K down that the best you can get out of it is $400K minus about $28K in closing costs and realtor commissions. Therefore, you immediately lose 35% of your down payment.

I'm pretty sure that most cash buyers are investors bottom-fishing for rental properties.

I'm pretty sure that most cash buyers are investors bottom-fishing for rental properties.

That is correct, at least per a guest on CNBC this AM. He says their investments are in apartment rentals (4,000 units recently) because people are now renting instead of buying. They are afraid of losing their shirts like people did in 08/09, especially with a huge inventory (2 million single family dwellings) on the market, which will take many years to sell. He said single family houses will lose at least another 10-15% of their value.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the flight of the middle class from border areas of Mexico (Tucson is 50 miles from the border)

It is not isolated to the border areas. A lot of it appears to be due to the low interest rates on bonds and CDs. Older folks with cash are turning to buying rental properties as a way of increasing their income through buying properties that they can rent.

All-Cash Buyers Preventing Collapse of Housing Markets

There is also a move away from home buying to renting as the preferred life style. Stephen Ross on CNBC this morning said that one of the few areas of residential building that was doing well was multi-family buildings.

The point of forclosure has me scratching my head, though.

Isn't there a better model than this (not that the RE industry would endorse it, necessarily), where you don't stand to lose your whole property if you've gotten much of it paid for..

Most people who have a mortgage haven't "gotten much of it paid for". The mortgage payments in the first half of the mortgage go mostly for interest, insurance, and property taxes. Very little goes for reduction of the principal.

Take the case of the $400K house with the $320K mortgage. Even after several years, the unpaid principal could be $280K. If the market price of the house has declined to $320K, the lender still has to pay the real estate commission of $21K and probably has another 20K in legal fees to go through the foreclosure process. So the lender will still take a small loss on the foreclosure.

The highly leveraged nature of home ownership with a large mortgage worked really well for the homeowner when houses were going up in price. It is disastrous for the homeowner when they are going down.

In many countries there is no property tax. So when you own your house you really own it. In the US after you finish renting from the bank you continue to rent from the government forever. You never own your house in the US.

Big Clue to Future Climate Change in Small Plants

..."Current state-of-the-art climate models assume that vegetation will soak up much of the extra CO2 we put into the air from fossil fuel burning."

But the new results, says biologist Tali Lee of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and first author of the paper, "show that the capacity of some terrestrial ecosystems to absorb the extra CO2 may be less than the models assume."

That means that today's carbon cycle models likely underpredict the pace of increase of future CO2 levels, and therefore the pace of climate change, say Lee, Reich and Susan Barrott of the University of Minnesota, also a co-author of the paper.

"What this all boils down to," says Reich, "is that the world could warm even faster than we thought."

Oops :-(

You can always count on this site to make a good day bad or a bad day worse.

It's the place to go if you absolutely, positively have to get a daily 'doomer' fix :-)

For something completely different, New York Times has this recent review of Area 51

Well.. in comparison to the 'days to come' that we keep talking about, I think today just became absolutely f-ing brilliant! Not to just contradict or anything.. just saying.

You can always count on this site to make a good day bad or a bad day worse.

If you look at something analytically, then the emotion is removed and it simply becomes an interesting topic.

I keep producing fairly accurate predictions on climate because i assume the scenarios are underestimates. There are three good reasons to do this: Scientific experimentation and measurement takes time, so even the most up-to-date info is anywhere from 6 mo. to one year old, and I'd wager most of the science is even further behind reality than that.

Another reason is that system really is very complex; hard to account for all the variables. I don't think the poor scientists can even begin to.

The third has to do with the nature of science as a conservative practices loath to make pronouncements about anything not proven, or as good as proven.

These three in combination guarantee a significant lag between Terra and publications. All of this is much supported by expectations vs. reality. Many measures of change are well ahead of baseline scenarios and at the leading edge of the worst case scenarios, or beyond them, and these include some of the most significant changes such as sea ice, glaciers, temps, particularly in the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland melt, permafrost and clathrates, changes in seasons, etc.

Did anyone anticipate the last 12 months of extreme weather? I fear the new normal is here and that climate sensitivity is significantly higher than 3C. How else to explain the speed of change thus far?

Oh, that's right, we can't attribute anything to climate.

The mental gymnastics are spectacular.

I don't think there's any question you're correct pri-de.

As I read your post I'm sitting through yet another thunderstorm with torrential tropical-like downpours - the likes of which I hadn't experienced except for the monsoon season in the southwest. May can be a rainy month up here so it's not necessarily unusual but the thing that is so blatantly obvious to even the casual observer is that we no longer experience nice soaking beneficial rain anymore. Every event is an absolute downpour of amazing intensity that may not add up to much overall because of the short duration or it is a drawn out affair of somewhat lower intensity that dumps ridiculous totals over the course of the entire event. By any measure these are extreme relative to how rain used to fall around here. Oh - and the other thing of course is that the really big events - those that really get the people talking - occur about every two years now - typically separated by periods of significant drought. It is feast or famine - that's not how I remember it in my younger days.

What we are seeing now is bad enough and nearly impossible to keep up with - either from an economic or morale standpoint. It will not be a pretty picture if we are just now getting to the point where the frequency and/or the intensity of these extreme events really start to accelerate.

You're a grower in NY State, right?

Have you got much in the ground already? How have these heavy rains affected your fields?

jokuhl -

I am actually an "aspiring" grower - if anything really works out it would probably be as a somewhat larger scale "market gardener"... but as with everything it is a work in progress.

That being said I have planted / started a few things - peas, potatoes, various greens (spinach etc.) but I have very much learned my lesson about this part of NY... do not get lulled into a sense of complacency with the weather and jump the gun on the season. For some things I don't mind pushing it a little bit but for the most part I know they are going to get taken out by rain or a late freeze. I prefer rolling the dice on the end of the season by hoping that a good late warm spell in September and October gets the later season stuff over the hump. I hedge my bets of course by planting a bunch of late season cool/cold crops that I try to overwinter so if a hard frost comes on schedule and cuts short the growing season for the things I was trying to get through into early Fall I'll still have something to work with.

We actually had a pretty warm and dry stretch for a week or so a while back but as I mentioned in my original post - we just don't get good soaking rains as much anymore so we get into this lousy cycle of the ground getting good and baked - then very heavy rain at an intensity that the soil can't handle - mostly it results in sheet flow and/or erosion. Any crops suffer as much from the pounding they take from the actual intensity of the rain as anything else - row covers help some but then they seem to just allow the rain to seep in and thoroughly give the poor plants a slow death by drowning...

Thanks for asking - and giving me a chance to rant :)

I don't even understand why they thought terrestrial ecosystems would take up the slack in the first place. If that was true we wouldn't still have rising CO2, and it wouldn't have risen to the current figure of 393ppm.

Because ecosystems do. Like PO, it's about rates, not process.

Executive rewards put banks at greater risk

...According to the research, which analysed US bank acquisitions from 1993-2007, banks are more likely to engage in risky takeovers when their executives are personally compensated for doing so.

Consequently, the amount of risk taken on by banks - a major factor in the ongoing credit crunch - is a direct result of the amount of incentives given to banking executives, according to the Business School’s Jens Hagendorff.

As the link between executive pay and bank risk encourages financial volatility, regulators should consider limiting the incentives, such as stock options, that bankers receive, he says

Newsflash: "Food Rewards Encourage Monkeys to Pull Dispenser Lever—Other Effects of Lever Actuation Seldom Inhibit Behavior"

First they built the Doomsday Seed Vault. Next ...

Smithsonian to help create frozen repository for the Great Barrier Reef

...Because the banked cells are alive, researchers can thaw the frozen material one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years from now to help restore a species or diversify a population.

..."It is crucial that we begin ex situ conservation on coral reefs while their genetic diversity is still high," said Mary Hagedorn, a marine biologist at SCBI. "Although we hope we'll never need to use these banks, the cost of not doing this work and subsequently losing valuable diversity and resources is too high."

There is a huge presumption there that the technology would be available after a bottleneck event to utilize banked cells, when in fact it probably would not.

Might have another well blow-out in the GoM:

Potential new deep water oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico-100 mile sheen reported


This update is at the bottom of the page, but the date is odd: I live in the ETZ and it is not yet the 20th. Still:

Update March 20, 2011: A Coast Guard officer with a command center in Morgan City, LA, said today the Coast Guard has confirmed that the new oil is not coming from the Deepwater Horizon well but that they have found new oil slicks in the Gulf. Their investigation continues. Additional photos from pilot John Wathen have been released and can be viewed in the slideshow attached to this article.

I'm going to guess the default time zone for the Examiner is GMT.

Not finding this report anywhere else. Keep us posted, please.


News is starting to spread. Like the oil...

Thanks. Yuck.

If the Times Picayune is on it, that will probably be the best coverage, unless and until it gets really big and ugly.

I really hope this is a problem of modest scope. Sigh.

It says March 19, not May 19.

Oops. It does.

Well that's a first for me... that's what I get for thinking other people know what they are doing and following on. Odd I noticed the time discrepancy but not the date.


Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

An easy mistake to make, but one that can only come if you're actually out there looking and are willing to bring these things to peoples attention. So I thank you for your efforts regardless. In fact, the quick analysis and retraction only helps to prove the rigour and worth of TOD.

God I love this site.

UK - That news made a big splash at the time. There was an apparent sheen in the water but many of the photos were of other natural phenominon and not oil. They tried to find a well leaking but the story dwindled down. They did find one operator (AngloSwiss ?) that had a 100 (?) gallon spill (not a leaking well) but it wasn't the source of the sheen. Last I heard the Coast Guard was specualting that the sheen came from dredging up bottom sediments near the mouht of the Miss. River. But there was no specualtion if the oil in the sediments was natural or man-caused.