Drumbeat: May 21, 2011

Oil tanker terror hijacks easy, attacks complex

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Supertankers — the hulking, slow-moving ships that transport half the world's oil — have few defenses against terrorist hijackers like those envisioned by Osama bin Laden, security experts said Saturday.

Al-Qaida operatives with enough training could easily manage to capture ships carrying millions of gallons of oil or liquefied natural gas. All they would have to do is imitate the tactics of Somali pirates who already use small boats to overpower tanker crews in mostly remote locations, the experts said. Few supertankers have armed guards, due to gun import laws and the risk of accidental gunfire igniting explosive cargos.

Saudi Aramco, France's Air Liquide in nitrogen deal

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia May 21 (Reuters) - French industrial gases group Air Liquide signed on Saturday a long-term agreement to supply nitrogen to state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Under the 20-year deal, the French firm will supply at least 5 million standard cubic feet per day of nitrogen to support sea water injection in Aramco's oilfields, officials from Aramco and Air Liquide said during a signing ceremony.

NATO widens Libya pressure amid questions on goal

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO widened its campaign to weaken Moammar Gadhafi's regime with airstrikes on desert command centers and sea patrols to intercept ships, the military alliance said Saturday, amid signs of growing public anger over fuel shortages in government-held territory.

Yemen leader says he'll leave, warns of al-Qaida

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's president said Saturday he will sign a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators for him to step down, but he condemned the deal as a "coup" and warned al-Qaida will take control of the country.

Pakistan: Heat, prolonged load shedding hit residents hard

RAWALPINDI: The rising temperature and frequent unscheduled power outages have made the life of Rawalpindi residents miserable.

The residents are facing 12 to 14 hours unscheduled load shedding when the mercury in the city is touching 43 degrees Celsius.

Protest Against Power Loadshedding

A large number of people, including traders, transporters and students, staged a protest rally on Peshawar Road here on Friday against unannounced electricity loadshedding in the city and its suburbs.

‘Saving energy only viable solution to power crisis’

Karachi - Tormented by a persistent energy crisis and hostage to the rapidly rising cost of electricity, Pakistan’s only viable option is energy conservation; which is why it is the driving force behind the Energy Conservation Bill tabled in the National Assembly that calls for the use of energy-efficient products at home and industries.

Solar energy vital to defeat power crisis in Karachi: study

KARACHI: Turning Karachi into a solar city will help resolve the energy crisis, a recent study revealed. The concept of running major urban cities on solar energy is gaining popularity with every passing day, the study said.

Govt must share burden of compensation for N-crisis

TEPCO can't bear whole load.

We consider it unreasonable for the government to have TEPCO alone bear the costs related to the nuclear accidents. The government must clearly show that the responsibility will be shared collectively.

Planner seeks city where you can walk home

Greenberg describes how, intoxicated by the promise of unfettered automobility, planners and city dwellers alike embraced and internalized this latter vision of city-dwelling and accepted it as desirable, normal and permanent.

However, as he stresses, this type of city can have no permanence in an era of energy scarcity, climate change and food insecurity.

The Young and Hopeless Greek Return to their Cheaper Countryside. Could it Happen here?

We all know what is happening in Greece: austerity, joblessness, bankruptcy, ongoing failed politics, corruption, and ineffectual government which has gone on for years. Now, for lack of better alternatives, Greece's younger generation is returning to the rural areas. They say that with any encouragement from their government, the movement would gain momentum.

No, the U.S. is not Greece... yet... and I don't want to sensationalize as that's not my style. But, there are some interesting parallels going on here that I can't help but point out and pose the question, "What if?"

Study: Realtors Confirm Gas Prices Are Changing U.S. Housing Demand

The word is already out that Americans would probably be healthier (and probably a lot happier) if we had shorter daily commutes.

Now it seems that the cost pressure of rising gas prices could be forcing us to do just that--rethink where we're living. If a new survey of real-estate professionals is any indication, American home shoppers are thinking more than ever about shorter driving distances and being closer to shops and services.

Back when gas prices surged in 2008, Americans were cutting back on spending and vacations but few families were doing anything so drastic as moving because of them.

Now, three-quarters of real estate professionals polled said that the recent surge in gas prices has influenced clients' choices on where to live, while 93 percent of real-estate pros said that if gas prices continue to rise, more home buyers will choose to live somewhere that allows for a closer commute to their work.

Crude Oil Rises, Follows Heating Oil, on Report of Increase in Fuel Demand

Oil rose for the second time this week, following heating oil, after the American Petroleum Institute reported that fuel consumption increased in April as economic growth bolstered demand for diesel by truckers.

Oil gained 1.1 percent as the API reported total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, climbed 5.2 percent last month from a year earlier. Heating oil, a distillate fuel like diesel and jet fuel, jumped 0.8 percent on the Nymex. Refineries such as Valero Energy Corp.’s St. Charles refinery in Norco, Louisiana, are restarting after planned work.

Expect a pricey summer with rising energy costs: report

Fuel prices in Canada will go up, and stay up, for the summer according to the National Energy Board.

In the organization's 2011 Summer Energy Outlook released Friday, the board said rising crude oil costs will drive up gas prices at the pumps.

Federal agency releases revised environmental draft for Chukchi Sea petroleum leases

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The federal government released a revised environmental review Friday for petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast, but environmentalists said it still contains critical gaps.

Louisiana Refinery, Residents Gird Against Flood

In Krotz Springs, La., preparations continue as residents wait for an expected flood below the Morganza Spillway.

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources says there are 592 oil- and gas-producing wells in the path the water is expected to follow down the Atchafalaya Basin.

"Operators are typically reporting that they are making preparations as they would for a hurricane event," says department spokeswoman Anna Dearmon.

Why Oil Speculation Is Actually Necessary

The downswing in oil prices over the past two weeks has once again introduced supply/demand questions while, at the same time, renewing suspicions that speculation is the cause of oil pricing instability.

Discussion of the supply/demand question usually gravitates to the "peak oil" debate: How much oil is left, and when will the markets conclude that over 50% of the total supply has been exhausted? This latter consideration has become a mainstay of the debate. That's because it cuts to the core of how traders view the relationship between available supply and price.

Shell’s U.S. Shale Gas May Be Refined Into Diesel, Jet Fuel

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Europe’s largest oil company, said a $19 billion investment in Qatar may prove that abundant natural gas coaxed from shale rocks across the U.S. could be converted into diesel and jet fuel.

Iran says finds light oil in offshore gas field

(Reuters) - Iran has discovered a deposit of light oil offshore of an estimated in-place reserve of 756 million barrels valued at $13.6 billion, the state TV website reported on Saturday quoting a senior oil official.

Ahmadinejad has fuelled Iran's power struggle

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disregard for the constitution has brought him up against both the supreme leader and parliament.

Qaddafi Is ‘Effectively’ in Hiding as NATO Aircraft Attack Libyan Warships

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who is “effectively” in hiding, has only limited ability to communicate with his loyalist forces as a result of NATO’s air campaign, an alliance spokesman said.

“We’ve increased the pressure by striking military command and control centers,” Wing Commander Mike Bracken of the British Royal Air Force said yesterday at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. The attacks have “limited Qaddafi’s ability to give orders to his forces. It has also constrained his freedom of movement. Effectively, he’s gone into hiding.”

Libya's defected oil minister seeks interim refuge in Algeria: report

Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem, who has defected his country and crossed the border with Tunisia, is seeking an interim refuge in neighboring Algeria, Algerian An- Nahar newspaper reported on Friday, citing well-informed sources.

Oil Tanker Explosion Kills at Least 15 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 15 people were killed when an oil tanker carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan exploded on Saturday in the northwestern tribal region, government officials said.

...The tanker was damaged when a bomb went off near a boys’ college in Landi Kotal in the tribal region of Khyber Agency. “Fire brigade officials put out the fire but in the mean time, people from neighboring areas had gathered and were trying to take away the oil while another explosion took place, killing 15 people,” said local government official Abdul Nabi.

Belarus to sell gas pipeline to Russia - report

(Reuters) - Belarus plans to sell its stake in the country's gas pipeline network to Russia for $2.5 billion and to unify rouble exchange rates once it receives a bailout loan from Moscow, Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich has said.

Leak from Japan reactor 100 times more than permitted

TOKYO (Reuters) - A water leak from Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear power station earlier this month resulted in about 100 times the permitted level of radioactive material flowing into the sea, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Saturday.

Japan quake could raise concerns elsewhere

They are not predicting another quake, Simons stressed in a telephone interview. But the area where the deadly March temblor struck "was believed by many to be not likely to produce a big quake, and that was wrong." So that raises questions about other, similar regions, he said.

"We learned we have to be much more suspicious about what we know for sure, and more explicit about what we don't know," Simons said. Monitoring the region will give scientists clues to the movement of the undersea plates that slipped in the quake.

Who Will Reap the Dividends of Fuel Economy?

There are two basic arguments over whether and how the country should respond to climate change and other environmental challenges. One focuses on government’s right to regulate industry, and the other on the costs and benefits of such regulation.

A new, almost biblical twist to one of these arguments was presented at a recent conference organized by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit that brings together investors, companies and environmental organizations who embrace sustainable business practices. twist. When it comes to automobile fuel economy, two analysts suggested, the worst shall do best.

The Fracking Debate, to a Funk Beat

If you prefer your environmental journalism rapped to a funk beat, then you can’t miss with “My Water’s on Fire Tonight,” a music video out of Studio 20, the media innovation lab at New York University’s graduate school of journalism.

In a snappy two and a half minutes, the song outlines the pros and cons of fracking, the drilling technique that has unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas but come under sharp scrutiny for its apparent links to water contamination and other environmental harm.

Are These Three Innovations the Path to a Greener Future?

As the world continues to face the challenges of global warming, peak oil, and economic downturn, scientists are constantly searching for cheap and renewable sources of fuel or production. In recent years, researchers have developed innovations such as Bloom Boxes, BacillaFilla, and algae biofuels. But are these developments realistic answers to our energy problems?

Prairie strong no longer? Harper's renewed attack on the Canadian Wheat Board

With the Board gutted and the Grain Commission hobbled, foreign grain markets would no longer be able to count on Canadian quality and reliability. Much of our harvest would be mixed with American grain, and customers in Europe, Asia, and here at home would lose a strong bulwark against the risks of genetically modified (GM) wheat.

Transnational corporations would get a global lock on grain supplies at a time when skyrocketing prices and shortages are already causing a massive global food crisis. As Roger Petry duly notes, to forgo the CWB monopoly in a time of restricted supply would be akin to OPEC dismantling itself during the onset of peak oil.

'Agroecology' no silver bullet

The farming method enhances soil productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

But Mr Bradley is not impressed by the report's suggestion that pre-industrial agriculture was a more sustainable food production method.

He said the report implied that the only hope for the world’s industrialised farmers was to revert to peasant farming systems and give up current practices involving the use of fertilisers, chemicals, machinery, fungicides, Genetically Modified crops and other proven production tools.

Indonesia Outlines Plan to Curb Forest Clearing

JAKARTA — Indonesia on Friday released the details of an eagerly awaited $1 billion deal to curb forest destruction and cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it faced criticism from environmentalists, who said the plan gave industry too much leeway for further clearing in key ecosystems.

California: Judge Blocks Cap-and-Trade Plan

A California judge ruled on Friday that state air regulators must stop carrying out a cap-and-trade plan until they examine alternatives to emissions trading to meet the state’s aggressive greenhouse gas-reduction targets. The judge, Ernest Goldsmith of the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, said that the California Air Resources Board should “take no action” to put its cap-and-trade plans into effect until it completes the analysis of the alternatives.

Regulators Find Design Flaws in New Reactors

This NYT story might be placed up top. Apparently, the new Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design might not be as safe as claimed...

E. Swanson

Gee... While the nuclear industry and it's supporters have been finally admitting that reactors currently in place and having problems are less than perfect, they've been climbing all over each other to inform us that the latest designs are as perfect as anything can get, that the have complete safety. Hmmm...

Safety is relative, the old plants aren't particularly dangerous compared to any other power generation tech.

The oldest nuclear reactor we could utilize is also the safest: The Sun.

All we need to do is to continue to increase the harvest of its output via wind turbines, PV, and CSP systems....


"The oldest nuclear reactor we could utilize is also the safest: The Sun."

And yet, "Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for about 68,130 cases of skin cancer in 2010 and most (about 8,700) of the 11,790 deaths due to skin cancer each year."


So how safe is safe, again?

Shut 'er down.

Aren't you conflating issues of ozone and random distribution with sunlight? Besides, if the system calls for a few tens of thousands out of tens of millions to die from natural interaction with the environment, that seems like a fairly expected feedback within a balanced system.

"if the system calls for a few tens of thousands out of tens of millions to die from natural interaction with the environment, that seems like a fairly expected feedback within a balanced system."

So you would be alright with a few hundred deaths per year from fission power?

And we are provably OK with a few dozen direct deaths per year from coal mining, as well as some vague number of other deaths from the effects of burning said coal.

We hold nuclear power to higher standards than almost anything. (The French are fishing pieces of Airbus out of the Atlantic as we speak, yet not one flight was cancelled as an effect of that crash, which killed 228.) We are not consistent in our expectations of safety, a point which has been made in this blog before.

So you would be alright with a few hundred deaths per year from fission power?

In way would that be via "interaction with the environment?"

One of the memes that have created the most evil in the world is the meme that the "natural order of things" should be accepted and the rest should not. Much of the oppression of gays, women and various etnicities stems depends on this meme, as well as opposition to real medicine and favouring of stupid natural remedies. There is nothing good about the environment. It just is. We humans create meaning and value. We rightly create environments in which we thrive and has some defences against the relentless forces of nature and evolution. Nuclear power is an excellent part of this.

And btw, as most who like "natural" phenomena interpret whatever they fancy as "natural", let me suggest that you view nuclear power as a form of concentrated geothermal power. The heat in the Earth's core is due to nuclear decay of uranium and thorium. We just enhance and speed it up a bit in nuclear power plants.

First paragraph, first two lines: assumptive, insulting and factually ignorant (not only are there natural remedies that work, much of what we "create" comes directly from natural services, the rest indirectly).

First paragraph, last two lines: Your definition of "thrive" appears to include global suicidal behavior and a poor appreciation of what Chernobyl and Fukushima could teach you.

Second paragraph: Streeeeeetch.

So much commentary this last week that is flat out partisan. What gives?

It seems you just stuck your head in the sand. Oh well.

You make a lot of assumptions. This does not help move a conversation forward.

So you would be alright with a few hundred deaths per year from fission power?

Versus many thousands from the effects of coal? Or close to fourty thousand from automobiles (over a million worldwide IIRC)?

Ah, bringing up the lovely myth that we only have a choice between fossil fuels and nuclear. I was expecting this.

Look, nuclear fission has the same problems as fossil fuels - it pollutes the environment, endangers human health, relies on finite fuels and thus is ultimately unsustainable. Why is anybody wasting their time proposing nuclear as a solution to our energy problems when it is not a solution but a method of postponing the inevitable at great risk to everyone? Exclusion zones and poisoning of agricultural land and the food supply are not trivial risks. And let me remind everyone here that the only reason Tokyo did not see severe contamination was due to favorable winds. Counts for nuclear death suppress the long term cancers while counts of deaths from fossil fuels are based almost entirely on long term health effects.

I am sick of pulling my punches on this. Let's face reality. Nuclear fission has the same problems as fossil fuels, and is an unsustainable solution.

You can say the same thing about other so called clean technologies. Solar cells do not make themselves out of thin air. The process uses a bunch of chemicals which do cause pollution. Wind turbines use "rare earths" in their construction which always has thorium in the ore where they are found. They also use a large amount of steel and concrete. Neither of which do not make themselves either. Better to burn this thorium then let it sit around potentially causing problems.

No one is asking you to pull your punches.

semiconductors are very hi-tech, and do use nasty chemicals and lots of embedded energy. There is no particular reason for using rare earth magnets in wind turbines. It's only an alternator on a propeller.

if you do not care about how much power you generate you are right. The better magnets means more power per capital expense. http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2010/12/rare_earth_element_short...

Neodymium is one of the rare earth metals typically used in permanent magnets. Modern high-efficiency neodymium magnets for wind turbines use close to half a metric tonne of the element per turbine. Other rare earth metals used in wind turbines include praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium.

You should read up on nuclear power. Nuclear power fully sustainable. The finiteness of its fuel is as irrelevant as the finiteness of the Sun's hydrogen fuel.

We hold nuclear power to higher standards than almost anything.

And rightly so. The consequences of a nuclear accident are so potentially devistating both over the short term and over the long term, that the standards have to be incredibly high. A nuclear accident can both cause a huge number of both immediate and longer-term casulties AND contaminate nearby land to a degree where it remains dangerous to live/work/visit there, even many years later. The Chernobyl exclusion zone is one such example... 25 years later, people are still not allowed to return/live there and undamaged infrastructure is left to decay due to radioactive contamination. Note that it is still unclear at this point if/when people are going to be allowed back into the current Japanese exclusion zone.

Are the consequensces so devastating?

That is an assumption right there, and one that frequently goes unchallenged. Where are the devastating consequences of Fukushima? Natural gas pipeline explosions have killed more people in the past year.

People aren't allowed to go places where they might be exposed to radioactive material that has passed through a nuclear reactor first, as if that somehow makes it special.

Where is the Nagasaki exclusion zone? That was a deliberate release of kilograms of radioactive material directly into the environment, and only 60 years ago! Hardly the permanent salting of the earth implied by your argument.

Nagasaki is not comparable to Fukushima in terms of local and especially long-lived fallout - the latter is far worse - as was the case at Chernobyl as well.

You won't find reports of 1 sievert per hour (or anything remotely close) anywhere in Japan 2 months after the bombs. You do find reports of 1 sievert per hour in debris about the Fukushima plant today - 2 months later.

Are the consequensces so devastating?

That is an assumption right there, and one that frequently goes unchallenged. Where are the devastating consequences of Fukushima? Natural gas pipeline explosions have killed more people in the past year.

I think this is a weasel-y line of reasoning. It is analogous to saying we can't blame a given weather event (such as hurricane Katrina, or the Mississippi flooding) on AGW therefore AGW is of no consequence. The claim keeps coming up that rising levels of cancer and other 'diseases of civilization' such as neurological conditions, can't be specifically linked to radiation levels close to (or even far away from) nuclear accident sites, therefore there aren't any devastating consequences of Fukushima, Chernobyl, TMI etc.

The more I read about the issue, the more I'm convinced that nuclear power is too dangerous and has already caused immense environmental and epidemiological problems for not only the human race but the biosphere in general. ('The Angry Genie' is definitely a good read)

For a catastrophe like Fukushima it is, in some ways, more important to look at the human reaction to the event than the ill consequences of the event itself. All the bad nuclear accidents that have happened have been met with panic, finger-pointing, obfuscation and cover up, and the obvious fact that the technology is beyond human abilities to handle safely when it goes awry, which it seems inevitable to do.

The human animal, even with all its vaunted technological know-how is not capable of handling the nuclear genie safely.

Radiation is a threat to subtle to detect and to terrible to contemplate.

Did I get that right?

"The human animal, even with all its vaunted technological know-how is not capable of handling the nuclear genie safely."

"Fukushima owners failed to follow emergency manual.":

"NHK obtained the manual for the No.1 reactor... The manual calls for releasing air from the vessel when the pressure is projected to rise to 853 kilopascals - double the operating limit. ...But the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), did not start the operation... "

There is a Simpsons episode for every occasion. Every kid knows you're supposed to hit the button selected as eenie meenie miny MOE!

Deaths by sun-induced radiation are not a function of choosing to use 'solar power'. Those Melanomas and Heat Strokes would be an issue in any case, so your comparison is not valid. Those 'deaths' are not a result of choosing this power source.

Nuclear Power has rendered large areas unusable for decades to centuries now, and we don't know the long-term effects that these poisons will reap on the biome.

The original claim was; "The oldest nuclear reactor we could utilize is also the safest: The Sun."

My counter argument is that this "safe" source of energy kills over 8,000 people in the US alone every year. And no one thinks twice about it.

And the comment about "Solar cells do not make themselves out of thin air. The process uses a bunch of chemicals which do cause pollution." is correct. Those chemicals are also pyrophoric, and tend to be corrosive (do not add water) and if they do get loose the sirens go off, and we run for it. Upwind. (We have an official procedure for this event.)

There is no perfectly safe source of energy. The question is how safe is safe enough. Our rating system is not consistent. That model of Airbus is still being used to fly over oceans, so that risk is acceptable even with 228 dead, and no idea what went wrong? If Fukushima had killed 228 people by radiation in the first day, would you be that blase? Obviously not, as look how excited you are already.

My counter argument is that this "safe" source of energy kills over 8,000 people in the US alone every year. And no one thinks twice about it.

Natural phenomena should not be counted in this way for two reasons: they are what they are and there is nothing to be done about them and 2. the benefits to the ecosystem so far outweigh the losses as to be a ridiculous point to even raise.How many other points could I raise? That if we hadn't become inside dwellers we'd have more melanin? That one can simply cover up when outside? Use siesta schedules to avoid the most intense parts of the day?

This is a bizarre and pointless tangent. I, for one, do not appreciate wasting space and time on such rationalizations regarding real issues with energy sources. We literally don't have time to waste on such trivialities.

The other silliness of the argument revolves around the fact that the sun will continue to shine on us whether we try and harness its energy or not. Similarly for people killed and injured by windstorms. That is analogous for me blaming all deaths due to fire on fossil fuel energy, since both use combustion.

There are, however, quite a few deaths by fire that can be directly attributed to the use of fossil fuels for energy.

Pipeline explosions in particular are quite nasty, since they are alarmingly common and the victims are frequently innocent bystanders rather than professionals who have knowingly taken on the risk.

We hold nuclear power to higher standards than almost anything... We are not consistent in our expectations of safety, a point which has been made in this blog before.

Nuclear advocates can't even define what the risks are (If TEPCO can say that they anticipated Fukushima, that would make the company criminally liable, non?).

As adamx pointed out upthread, fission is a dead-end. I can't imagine how a future generation, stuggling with resource depletion, rising seal-levels and over-population issues , would deal with tens of thousands of "decommissioned" nuclear power plants. Talk about hell on earth...

Nuclear opponents can't even define what the risks are.

The most terrible nuclear disaster since Chernobyl hasn't killed anyone yet.

Don't be silly. We all know what the risks are. Otherwise, why would Japanese technicians be working around the clock to contain the damage?

Hey, I've got a cool idea for a t-shirt, r4ndom: "More people have died in the backseat of Ted Kennedy's car than have died at Fukushima."

Get real.

Real risks leave bodies.

Yes, I know my obsession with this seems ghoulish, but fossil fuel power kills people. If you can't show bodies from nuclear power in the second worst nuclear power incident ever I doubt that your estimate of the risk is entirely rational.

Real risks leave bodies.

Yes, and real investigators acknowledge and count those bodies. Nuclear cheerleaders seem to prefer denial and obfuscation.

BTW, how many fatalities can you prove are caused by FF? You know: death certificates with "coal burning" listed as primary or contributing cause.

Google says more than Fukushima so far, without even needing to dig.
Top of the chart:

"Transporting natural gas by pipeline is the safest way to move that energy," says Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, an advocacy group in Bellingham, Wash.

"Still, every nine or 10 days on average someone ends up dead or in the hospital from these pipelines. More needs to be done for safety," he says.

That's from "safe" natural gas.

Tell me again how nuclear is too dangerous to use?

Or is it a conspiracy hiding all the nuclear deaths from Fukushima that we aren't hearing about?

r4ndom, you are becoming a joke. The fatalities and ailments caused by radiation occur for years and years after an accident (or bombing). You don't have a pile of dead bodies that day (just a few - 31 died at Chernobyl from acute radiation poisoning).

The effects go on and on. In the Fukushima case, there are large releases of radiation getting into the food supply, both on land and in the marine system. The consequences of this will be felt for years, if not decades, and will show up epidemiologically.

You'd know this if you did a little googling, or cared about reality, or anything else besides boosting the nuke industry.

"The IPPNW/GfS Report "Health Effects of Chernobyl - 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster" documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor
accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data:

50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids;

Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future generations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated;

Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the numberof fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000;"

The effects go on and on from lots of things.

Googled IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

No bias there, I'm sure.

Why aren't we hearing about these devastating effects from WHO? The AMA?

Honestly, why weren't these deaths being covered on US news stations to show the inherent inferiority of the Russian way?

Yet deaths from favorite son Natural Gas are covered in a matter-of-fact way in USA Today.

Point me to a mainstream organization that supports these claims or explain why they don't without invoking superior information suppression abilities on the part of the nuclear power industry.

And all sort of additional deaths will now take place from Fukushima.

Ministry of Education Quietly Released WSPEEDI Simulation, It Shows Very High Organ Dose of Iodine-131 for Infants in Wide Area

One of the maps, "Organ dose of I-131 for infant [less than a year old]", shows that the extremely high dose along the coast of Fukushima, with the dose in the area around Fukushima I Nuke Plant over 500 millisieverts (deep pink color). I added the prefecture names:

Another map, "Surface deposition of I-131", shows a very wide area in Kanto and Tohoku in green, which indicates iodine-131 deposition of between 100,000 to 1,000,000 becquerels per square meter. In Tokyo, one green band goes over the densely populated eastern Tokyo (23 "ku" or districts) and another one goes over the middle. That pretty much corresponds with the higher air radiation level that continues in the 23 districts, particularly the eastern most districts, and the elevated level in cities like Fuchu, which sits in the middle.

I am ignoring the top nuclear cheerleaders here, they ignore anything that doesn't promote more nukes! They only put forth the false choice of coal vs nuclear. Nobody will close down a coal plant just because a nuclear plant is built.

Nobody will close down a coal plant just because a nuclear plant is built.

You're wrong. The law of supply and demand applies to electricity.

They just ordered tens of thousands of livestock to be 'eliminated' in the restricted area, one of the workers at Fukushima just collapsed and died after an intense exposure, apparently..

There'll be bodies. Be careful what you wish for.

I don't wish for them. Ye gods, what kind of ghoul do you take me for?

There are plenty enough without adding to them.

Yet you are talking about animals being killed by human action because of fear of radiation as if the radiation itself were to blame.

If this is such a great and terrible danger, to terrible for humans to handle, I would have expected more than one worker fatality by now. A disaster of this scale there will probably be more, both from radiation and from standard industrial hazards, but how many counts.

It isn't a walk in Central Park, but the fearmongering is way overblown here.

We don't make decisions about threats on a totally rational basis. Perception about the nature of the threat enters heavily into the calculus. As an individual, is there anything I can do to evade the threat? Did I have any choice about my proximity to the threat? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the threat? The visual images of the people of Japan fleeing the tsunami while Fukishima explodes magnify the threat perception. The nuclear power plant was built without the consent of the residents (directly). People have to depend on others for their safety and have little knowledge of how to address the threat. Many more people die in auto accidents, but people have the illusion of control in that situation because they are driving and many people believe they can avoid accidents by a) staying sober and alert while driving; b) being a better driver than those around them. To some degree this may be true, but there is some measure of delusion given the facts. The perception of powerlessness on the part of passengers on airliners creates much more terror (911, airline hijacking, airline crashes) and lower acceptability of fatalities than for automobiles. The threat of skin cancer through solar exposure is something many believe they have control over, therefore the threat is viewed more benignly. The perception of threats has much less to do with the actual lethality or harm caused by the dangerous events, but more to do with the fear caused by the threat.

Please provide a link to the intense exposure that worker was supposed to have had. The reports that I have seen have stated that he did not receive a high exposure. The circumstances sound very much more like a coronary or other medical incident and little like radiation exposure.


EDIT: spelling

Real risks leave bodies.

As a former health and safety rep, I can say that this is true.

However, the way you have phrased it - implying that if there is no immediate trauma that you can see, there can't be any risk, well- we're supposed to be polite here, so I won't use any of the words I'd use if I had you in the room.

This line of reasoning suggests that since there are no immediate deaths associated with mining asbestos, well, how bad can it be?

Fukishima is a massive industrial accident, and the dangers are measured the same way as with other industrial contaminants: by looking at levels of exposure, and number of exposure events(or total time exposed.) There are reasons for the exposure limits on chemicals and radiation: so you don't shorten your life.

In many cases, cancers associated with industrial contaminants were discovered by looking at epidemiological studies around industrial plants. I still remember the map with the radiating circles around the Hamilton steel mills, the close rings having massively higher cancer rates than those a few miles away.

Real risks do leave bodies- it's just that they leave them 10 or 20 years from now. We are talking about a significant loss of lifespan; just because it's not immediate and total does not make it any less important.

With Fukishima, I don't think we're going to have to wait decades to see deaths- I can't see how they can have avoided some massive overexposures beyond the ones we know about.

Yes, r4ndom should get real. There are plenty of bodies associated with use of nuclear energy. They may not all appear immediately but they slowly rot from within and their lack of close time proximity to the radiation releases gives a convenient way of denying a connection.

r4ndom's arguments are getting less rational all the time. I plan to ignore his(her) future posts.

Is it irrational to want proof of a risk when avoiding it has serious consequences?

Evidence even. Something that doesn't require a belief in magic radiation faeries that can hurt people in ways that don't show in the official mortality and morbidity statistics.

Here's just a bit of what a real risk looks like:

Fukushima is over 2 months along, how long do we have to wait for the realization of this risk that is so terrible that humanity cannot handle it?

Evidence even. Something that doesn't require a belief in magic radiation faeries that can hurt people in ways that don't show in the official mortality and morbidity statistics.

From the EPA's web page: (http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html)

How do we know radiation causes cancer?

Basically, we have learned through observation. When people first began working with radioactive materials, scientists didn't understand radioactive decay, and reports of illness were scattered.

As the use of radioactive materials and reports of illness became more frequent, scientists began to notice patterns in the illnesses. People working with radioactive materials and x-rays developed particular types of uncommon medical conditions. For example, scientists recognized as early at 1910 that radiation caused skin cancer. Scientists began to keep track of the health effects, and soon set up careful scientific studies of groups of people who had been exposed.

Among the best known long-term studies are those of Japanese atomic bomb blast survivors, other populations exposed to nuclear testing fallout (for example, natives of the Marshall Islands), and uranium miners.

Your response reminds me of the comment from one of the duller workers at the Westinghouse plant where we campaigned to stop the management from installing a type 2 containment for a type 3 asbestos problem: "They pay us, don't they?" (Management eventually used a type 3 containment at another facility.)

They paid us, but not enough for me to shorten my life for them.

The risks are known and have been quantified. The information is easily available. The fact that it doesn't kill you right away doestn't make it safe.

I know radiation causes cancer. So do some viruses and many chemicals.

How do you pick out the cancers that were caused by radiation in a reasonable way?

Most of the seriously anti-nuclear material I have seen simply attributes ALL cancers to radiation.

You should know quite well that that is a bogus measure.

I am willing to listen to the anti-nuclear case, but you have to give me material that is acceptable by the standards of mainstream medical organizations, not just material that is acceptable to anti-nuclear activists.

If the only organizations publishing papers that support a position are organizations explicitly in favor of that position that is a strong indication that the evidence isn't so strong.

(Oh, and there is no need to insult my intelligence again. Last person to do that was advocating cold fusion so you can guess the impression I get)

You are in a remarkably good position. You could live there with assured confidence. The flight of the easily frightened presents an unparalleled investment opportunity. How calm, how quiet, how peaceful it would be. The sliding, giggling laughter of the children as they run and play and kick up the dust! And, it's farm land; not a gas line for MILES... Perfect.

Very impressive pathos, but I'm not persuaded by pathos and you've been around here long enough to know that.

The Mysterious Stranger
Mark Twain

So, are you implying that in criticising people for taking their fears so seriously I am evil?

I see the evil in the opposite direction, people letting their fear do all their thinking and not taking care to see that their fears are well grounded.

You are in a remarkably good position. You could live there with assured confidence...

A new friend!

...but you have to give me material that is acceptable by the standards of mainstream medical organizations, not just material that is acceptable to anti-nuclear activists.

Do the Health Physics Society & National Academy of Sciences qualify?

BEIR VII Report Supports LNT Model

The newly released BEIR VII Phase 2 report, "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation," concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the "linear no-threshold" (LNT) risk model. The report also presents risk models for exposure to low-level ionizing radiation based on a sex and age distribution similar to that of the entire US population and refers to the risk that an individual would face over his or her life span. The BEIR VII lifetime risk model predicts that approximately one individual in 100 persons would be expected to develop cancer (solid cancer or leukemia) from a dose of 100 mSv while approximately 42 of the 100 individuals would be expected to develop solid cancer or leukemia from other causes. Roughly half of these cancers would result in death.

A press release summarizing the report, the full report, and a report brief are available on the National Academies Web site. The BEIR VII committee was chaired by Richard R. Monson, MD, ScD, School of Public Health, Harvard University. Other committee members are listed in the National Academies' press release.


Just to head you off at the pass: Please don't assert that 1% additional risk is minor, unless you are able to provide some evidence about absorbed dose in whatever population/set of circumstances we're discussing.

The BEIR VII lifetime risk model predicts that approximately one individual in 100 persons would be expected to develop cancer (solid cancer or leukemia) from a dose of 100 mSv while approximately 42 of the 100 individuals would be expected to develop solid cancer or leukemia from other causes.

Sounds about right, It's a good reason to regulate exposure.

On the other hand, if allowing that 100mSv exposure can reduce the exposure to other environmental sources responsible for the other 42 cancers alone it seems to me to be a reasonable tradeoff, and 100mSv is beyond the normal exposure limit for radiation workers. No risk has been detected at lower exposures so LNT is not supported by this.

You don't get to pick your risks in isolation, the power generated by nuclear in the past 40 years would have been generated in any event (it has been so expensive to produce that conventional power would have been cheaper, so it would have been done).

On the other hand, if allowing that 100mSv exposure can reduce the exposure to other environmental sources responsible for the other 42 cancers alone it seems to me to be a reasonable tradeoff,

It doesn't work that way. You are talking about risks across a population, not to an individual. You cannot tell someone that they will take a far greater proportion of known risk than others in the population, for the greater good (not if you want them to work for you.)

Well, you can, but you'd have to compensate them. Or suffer the lawsuits.

Anyway, your opinion really doesn't matter. The corporations have voted with their feet- they all use the exposure limits by those commie b@$tards at OSHA. The evidence was good enough for them; you're going to have to live with it.

Nuclear power has to control exposure on the individual level, by law, and those wild men in the bureaucracy decided to go with the most conservative model when writing the regulations does not give it the force of natural law, it just means they were employing proper CYA techniques.

I actually think the OSHA exposure limits are just fine though, and a well run nuclear facility doesn't even need to brush up against the normal limits unless something goes seriously wrong.

Now if they just applied the OSHA limits to coal facilities we'd be really making ground, no?

Most of the seriously anti-nuclear material I have seen simply attributes ALL cancers to radiation.

Got even one example?

I am willing to listen to the anti-nuclear case, but you have to give me material that is acceptable by the standards of mainstream medical organizations, not just material that is acceptable to anti-nuclear activists.

Let me get this straight. The EPA is not acceptable to mainstream medical organizations? OSHA is not an acceptable source?

It seems to me the last time I had an X-ray, the guy.. oh yeah, he was- a doctor! left the room after he put the lead apron on the areas not to be imaged...because the exposure limits were to his liking. This might be because doctors use lots of nuclear sources in their work, and were the first to be exposed and the first to die. Madame Curie died of radiation poisoning. Your contention that mainstream medicine does not back up exposure limits is ludicrous. Again, any examples? Do you wear the lead shield when you have an X-ray? (Please say no... )

If the only organizations publishing papers that support a position are organizations explicitly in favor of that position that is a strong indication that the evidence isn't so strong.

These are standards set by the government, not by workers. The only reason we have any standards at all is because corporations started to lose lawsuits around wrongful deaths, and decided it would be cheaper to have standards. This is also the reason for Worker's Compensation benefits (not sure what they're called in the states or if you even have it.) They are the least problematic to corporations. The fact that the corporations decided this was the low-cost alternative is a strong indication that the evidence is overwhelming.

Please don't reply without citations. Your lack of knowledge on the topic must be obvious to everyone else by now.

How about the Granddaddy of the lot, the Yablokov book.

I checked his morbidity numbers against an independent study of cancer in Ukraine, and his final count was suspiciously close to the worst-lot cancer incidence among the study groups times the population of the area.

So the EPA and OSHA have access to studies showing worse mortality and morbidity from radiation sources than the WHO report on Chernobyl shows?

I assume you are rather referring to the use of the LNT model to set the acceptable exposure limits (even though you do not say so explicitly). Well, of course they did! It's the most conservative model by a long shot so nobody could be blamed for not taking the risk seriously.

Claiming that even those limits, set using the most conservative model and with ample safety margins even with that, are inadequate is ludicrous. Especially when concrete evidence of harm below 100mSv exposure is lacking.

I've been reading up, you see, because I wondered what the big deal was. It turns out to not be such a big deal except in some people's imaginations.

How about the Granddaddy of the lot, the Yablokov book.

This is not a citation. You don't say what part of the book, or how it attacks my position.

I checked his morbidity numbers against an independent study of cancer in Ukraine, and his final count was suspiciously close to the worst-lot cancer incidence among the study groups times the population of the area.

Oh... so you're attacking the book.

That's so cute! You think you've de-bunked something!

So your "evidence" is your private, unpublished, unreviewed analysis? Which you don't present here? Where the nearest you come to quantification is the phrase "suspiciously close?"

It would be a citation if you had published. It would be a good citation if you had publnished in a peer-reviewed journal. You know, that "you have to give me material that is acceptable by the standards of mainstream medical organizations, not just material that is acceptable to anti-nuclear activists" you're so big on from others, but incapable of delivering yourself.

So until you've published, stop wasting my time with your conspiracy theories.

I assume you are rather referring to the use of the LNT model to set the acceptable exposure limits (even though you do not say so explicitly).

You assume wrong.

I really don't care about how they arrived at the numbers. I care about obeying the laws and protecting the workers.

I am all for more conservative standards.

And I am especially enthusiastic about the laws that say you have to train workers in safety practices and discipline them if they don't follow them(and that fine management or send them to jail when they fail in this duty.)

That last part is in there to protect workers who are too ignorant to realize the standards are to protect them, and to punish management who think the rules don't apply to them for whatever reason.

People don't die from standards that are too strict.

They are, however, protected from people who make wild-a$$ guesses about topics they're not trained in when people's lives are at stake.

Your intellect is obviously too potent for me to oppose.

Except for the part where you don't actually provide any of what you are demanding from me.

Have a nice day. Done here.

Except for the part where you don't actually provide any of what you are demanding from me


From the EPA's web page: (http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html)

How do we know radiation causes cancer?

Basically, we have learned through observation. When people first began working with radioactive materials, scientists didn't understand radioactive decay, and reports of illness were scattered./snip

I'm not sure(cause you is so surely smarter than li'l ol me) but I think that's a reference. There are also lots of examples that I didn't bother to fully document because they are common knowledge, like Madame Currie dying of radiation poisoning.

I guess it must be hard to be math-challenged as well as having this tendency to just make stuff up.

You say that like I ever denied that radiation can cause cancer.

Can't argue with someone that won't read what you post.

You are in a remarkably good position. You could live there with assured confidence, yes?

Nothing's ever as simple as it first seems..

Strauss-Kahn was in the process of making drastic changes in the IMF to benefit the developing world when he was suddenly caught up in a sex scandal

DSK - a super smart economist, lawyer and negotiator - started to make his mark. He immediately seized the opening of the 2008 crisis being discussed inside the G20 instead of the G8 - and thus including powerful voices from emerging markets.

In 2010, he even convinced the Europeans at the IMF to share some of those obscure leadership quotas with emerging economies. Talk about bias. The US holds no less than 16.8 per cent of voting rights; Europe a whopping 35.6 per cent. Germany, the UK and France, among them, hold over 15.5 per cent. China has only 3.6 per cent. Brazil, which represents nine South American countries, has only 1.3 per cent.


It's as if the IMF had seen the light, Blues Brothers-style, and was now on the road to global wealth redistribution; in Stiglitz's analysis, "strengthening collective bargaining … restructuring tax and spending policies to stimulate the economy through long-term investments, and implementing social policies that ensure opportunity for all."

No wonder what DSK was trying to do was not exactly praised by great swathes of the Western financial elites. Only a week before his spectacular, arguably self-inflicted demise, he said at George Washington University, "the pendulum will swing from the market to the state" and urged "a new form of globalisation to prevent the 'invisible hand' of loosely regulated markets from becoming 'an invisible fist'".

DSK was one of the most powerful (and connected) men in the world.
His allies have been briefing the press furiously hinting not-so-subtly at a conspiracy at work.
Either Sarkozy's behind, and a few days ago his apparent Jewishness would suddenly be a problem
And now we see this.

The man's trying to clear his name via the media.
No doubt the man was doing a lot of good for the world(a man like DSK was a far choice better than a neoliberal like Summers), but a sleazebag he remains and was.

His downfall is his own fault, plus he has already raped another woman in 2002.
She was hushed to silence by her own mother(!) because he had to 'take it for the party'.
France has disgusting sexual mores and morals.
One of their 'philosophers' Bernand-Levy, even questioned the victim's story and said 'the Dominique I know wouldn't...'

Great, blaming the rape victim. What's next, attack her for the length of her skirt?
DSK's and his allies media campaign is disgusting and vile.

Let's allow the court process to conclude before passing judgement.

Tend to agree - let the court process run. Conspiracy is possible but unlikely, and we'll have to see whether DSK even tries to run that as defence. More likely it will be a standard "she consented" or at least "I thought she consented" approach.

If there is a political angle to this, with some sort of "fall from favour", it may be that he has plenty of previous, but his backers/minders always protected him in the past. But this time they decided not to.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to condone his actions or his posse's reactions to the situation by any means.

It's just that, no matter how many times it happens to me, I always find myself falling into the trap of trying to pigeonhole people/events into 'good' or 'bad'.

Human nature I guess.

If he did, indeed, rape the woman, then I think it would be permissible to put him in a pigeon hole of good or bad. I would choose the pigeon hole, "bad". I don't think his relatively egalitarian point of view would in any way make it more difficult for me to conclude that he is bad.

Alleged actions. Yes, he has a reputation as a womanizer. The perfect kind of guy to set up for this kind of charge. He has enemies. He might be his own worst enemy.

What do we really know?

Where does it lead, when making charges is enough to justify punishment?

A fair and open judicial process is a cornerstone of democracy. Citizens defend democracy by keeping an open mind.

A woman stepped forth and claimed she was raped by him in 2002. She has everything to lose and she was hushed before. Her mother was a one of the higher-ups in the Socialist party that DSK belongs to. I'm surprised so many men jump to the defence of people like DSK.

And I'm not even speaking about the current case which, as Leanan points out, does not exactly entail a romantic femme fatale we are used to see in Bond movies, but a poor immigrant cleaning lady from Africa: not exactly the stuff of dark conspiracies?

And why would the woman raped in 2002 lie? Given how apparently many in France think like you, and blame the victim, she faces an incredible media torrent of hate and villification and is basically told, implicitly, DSK is our hero; so what is he is a rapist?
Just take it, woman(and you probably enjoyed it anyway), and let our male hero save the world.

We've left the stone age. And it's about time some people realise this too.

Hang on a bit, I think that's unfair to insinuate that bugsbunny was blaming the woman - he was merely saying don't jump to conclusions.

It seems likely that he's guilty, but it's not proven.

Additionally, in the UK at least, there has been an increase of women falsely claiming to have been raped (for god knows what reasons). It's ruined a lot of men's lives: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7265307.stm

So, nothing's set in concrete just yet.

Let's not forget, Thomas Jefferson loved the ladies and especially his slaves and most of all Sally Hemmings and yes he had children with her (based on genetic testing). Good, Bad, somewhere in between?

Jefferson's relationship with Hemings, his late wife's half-sister (!), seems wrong to me, and was deeply, deeply inappropriate by today's standards (he first had sex with her when he was in his 30s and she was about 14), but such relationships were incredibly common back then (despite the very funny history of eminent historians denying that the relationship was possible), and we don't have evidence that he was as violent as DSK is reported to have been. Tom and Sally's relationship was conceivably mostly monogamous (she was his chambermaid and had a bedroom right off of his, if I remember my visit to Virginia correctly) and they had several children together--children he freed, despite his massive indebtedness, at his death. Nevertheless, I am very happy that our standards of sexual behavior have shifted.

The genetic testing of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson's family and the Sally Hemings lines do not prove Jefferson fathered her children only that he could have. There is possible of 25 other relative that could have been the father and that is not counting any unknown Jefferson clan related mulatto children from a previous generation being the father. http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-a...

Never the less, the comment hold true that this kind of behavior did go on, on the plantations and is not pleasing to our sense of right and wrong.

Means, motive and opportunity: Who had all of these in case of who fathered Sally Hemmings' children? Thomas Jefferson, of course.

In US Criminal law, means, motive, and opportunity is a popular cultural summation of the three aspects of a crime needed to convince a jury of guilt in a criminal proceeding. Respectively, they refer to: the ability of the defendant to commit the crime (means), the reason the defendant had to commit the crime (motive), and whether or not the defendant had the chance to commit the crime (opportunity).

Who owned the slave Sally Hemmings? Whose wife had recently died? Who was in the house with her every night and even took her to Paris with him? Thomas Jefferson, of course.

Sure, there are people who will argue that, despite DNA evidence, that it must have been someone else very closely related to Thomas Jefferson who was responsible for fathering her children because there is no possible way that a southern US gentleman and politician of such stature would ever become intimate with a female black (well, actually 3/4 white) slave even though it was really, really convenient, her bedroom was just next door, and she looked very much like his late wife because she was - due to previous indiscretions in the family - his late wife's half sister. No, couldn't ever happen, just no possibility, no, no, no.

Yes, but he was not the only one to have means, motive, and opportunity. Motive was she was pretty. several relatives visiting could have opportunity and the means. These relatives could have been either black or white. The plantations were a small gene pool at times.

I do not care if he did or did not father a child( or 6) with his black slave/mistress. My view of him has not changed because of the times he lived in.

Anytime you mix men and women in close proximity you will have relationships, and moreso if powerful men and disadvantaged women are involved. The social mores of the slave owner were different than today, and certainly different than a businessman raping a hotel employee. Or of slave owners raping slaves (which I'm sure happened as well).

A new book, "Wench" explores this topic:

Of the many peculiarities of the peculiar institution known as slavery, perhaps none is as hard to fathom as the relationship between slave owners and the slaves who were their lovers and sometimes the mother of their children.

It is this relationship that Dolen Perkins Valdez explores in her novel "Wench." Set mostly on a resort in Ohio, where Southern slave owners sometimes vacationed with the slaves who were their mistresses, the story focuses on four of these women.

Between owners and slave women, the situation was as complex as any male/female relationship could ever be, yet it was far from uncommon and there were genuine feelings in both directions. It is not out of the question that wome were in love and living largely as man and wife, only there was no way it could legally be so. There are many current marriages with heavily asymmetrical authority levels, too -- where the woman has almost no say in decisions.

This is a good point.

Whatever proclivities DSK may have, it's clear he was the fall guy because he had ideas about the IMF that ran contrary to the interests of the Anglo-American banking and corporate establishment.

Expect more of this as we go on - the rich and/or politically connected eating their own and handing the small fry to the dogs, all to cover up massive fraud which has permeated the entire system.

Raj Rajaratnam was another one. How convenient was that? A fat brown guy to feed to the justice demanding masses.

I will stop saying these things when Lloyd Blankfein and Hank Paulson have all their assets stripped and get life sentences in prison, or when George Bush and Dick Cheney are charged with war crimes.

Until then, all of you can enjoy the show you are meant to enjoy.

I'm with you on this one Leiten. It's happened so many times before, that when someone powerful does something like this his powerful allies tries to influence public opinion. But from what I understand, the woman in question is an educated, intelligent woman with a clean employment and police record. This so called dignitary didn't even ask why the police were escorting him off the plane, and if that plane had gone airborne he would have gotten off scot-free. He's a womanizing scumbag and good for those that have the guts to call him on his perverted routine.

According to the NY Post, which is admittedly a bit tabloid-y...his lawyers were indeed prepared to impugn the morality of the victim. They were reportedly very surprised and disappointed to find that she was "not very seductive." She's an immigrant from West Africa, a Muslim who wears the hijab. She's worked at the hotel for years. A widow with a teenaged kid. Just not the type you would send in if you were planning to set him up.

For cultural and other reasons, it sounds like the IMF was sort of a wild west when it came to sexual harassment.

I guess it really is true that power corrupts.

I suspect this isn't really new behavior for him. It's just that he reached a position where it couldn't be overlooked. One of our European staff members said middle-level politicians get away with murder. If there are complaints, the victims are quietly paid off. But once you reach a really powerful position, you kind of have to keep your nose clean. It becomes difficult to keep things quiet. DSK failed to realize this.

All of which may turn out to be true.

But it's not a big step from judgement without, or prior to, due process in the case of big shots with unsavory reputations to lynching.

Science and technology makes enormous strides on the basis of probability, but justice doesn't.

Bugsbunny, you're just wallowing in semantics. Nobody is asking to 'lynch' anybody, but do you honestly believe a woman who has everything to lose going up against such a powerful man would lie about being raped, as well as having numerous witnesses?

Also, if you've read the reports(and I can tell by your furious backtracking that you haven't), the mother even asked DSK 'why did you rape her?'. He didn't deny it, he said "I lost control".

So he already admitted to one rape, but the recent one is still under investigation.
Just drop the ball. You've tangled yourself in a web and you can't get out.

I am not backtracking. In fact, let me add something which I deleted from a previous post: you are shamelessly smearing someone based upon unproven allegations. You've decided, on the basis of press reports and the state's decision to charge him, that he's quilty - no trial necessary.

I say that your attitude supports lynching, kangeroo courts, McCarthyism, unjustified wars of aggression...

Personally, I favor democracy with an independent judiciary and a presumption of innocence.

The man in question has no particular interest for me. If he is found innocent, it might well be a miscarriage of justice. It might also mean that no rape took place and that would be good.

This case came up in the course of a few rounds with friends yesterday evening. One woman said, What! You're telling me she was forced by a guy without a gun or knife to perform oral sex? Did she leave her teeth at home? My response was that oppressed women often submit to unwanted, even aggressive, advances by men. Is the alleged victim an oppressed woman? I don't know. Is he a creep? I don't know.

Nor do you.

I'm with you Bugs. I think he's probably guilty but let's let the court decide. Maybe someone besides the two people involved know exactly what happened, but probably not.

The "power corrupts" thing certainly is plausible. We've helped elect a couple of smart, progressive friends to office in city and state and have watched as they've tried to maintain their ideals in a money-driven system. Hey, they were elected to represent all their constituents, even the crooks.

Nevertheless, a recent article on AlterNet makes the interesting suggestion that power doesn't so much corrupt as attract psychopathic persons who need power to fill the vacuum in their souls. Some politicians, CEOs, and movie stars are like black holes that suck up attention from people around them. They can be fascinating while devoid of conscience or scruple.

Yes. Was it here or elsewhere I read about 1% of the pop are what they call pyschopathetic. The description sounded a lot like autism, weren't affected by others obvious suffering. Obviously if its that common, the vast majority of sufferers must get through life without becoming monsters.

I also think there is simply a lot of delusional thinking involved. DSK probably had the "god's gift to women" syndrome. Figured he was such a good lover all women absolutely love his attentions, and even if forced unwillingly will be delighted with the result... And you can bet his lovers reinforced this delusion by saying "you were the best". Since he allegedly attacked (or something pretty close to) women reporters, I suspect his way of responding to threatening females was attempted rape. Probably not a rational decision, but I think humans often aren't rational, but respond in programmed ways in certain kinds of emotional situations. Someone should have made him get help years ago, that would have saved a lot of grief, both for himself, and his victims. But apparently the culture at the IMF was very bad in this respect.

I do think humans are very good at compartmentalizing their lives. DSK could well have been a monster sexually, and a saint in other ways. In fact the later behavior might even be an unconscious attempt to feel good about himself.

Isn't it obvious?

It's actually a brilliant set up, precisely because the female in this case is so hard to malign.

The actions of the individuals at the top of the American system disgust me. They keep feeding us these distracting stories - a little Osama here, a little DSK there - to cover up the fact that the Fed is looting us dry.

Don't worry about jobs or oil or healthcare or education! Our heroes have gotten that Muslim terrorist and that socialist Frenchie!

The idea that a top politician like DSK was attempting to reform the IMF because he was motivated by some high ideals, rather than for personal political gain, is just romantically silly.

He certainly has some political goals since he was just a few weeks away from being oficially candidate for the 2012 presidential election in France... and he was leading in the polls. So having a leftish reputation (for a banker) was certainly helpfull for his bid under the socialist flag. Even if he cleans his name, he still lost his powerfull job and his chance to become French president in 2012, which is why some suspect a plot to make him fall. The timing is perfect from this point of view. If people can swallow dozens of conspiracy theories about 9/11, why not in this case. It would have been easy to pull out, specially since the hotel workers were informed of DSK presence and even had a picture of him. We will probably never know the thruth, his lawyers will probably find a way to get him out... they did it for Michael Jackson.

If it was a plot, then the next question would be whether it was an operation by his opposition in France or by some forces who wanted him removed from the IMF?

They're one and the same. And really it's not a queston at all.

The man had dangerous ideas about the IMF and needed to be removed, so he was set up. Sarkozy is a friend of the bankers so it works out for all parties.

You see, it's just all too obvious at this point. Back in JFK's time they had the decency to do things more secretly and cover up a bit. Now it's all out in the open. And what are we going to do about it? Nothing! That's the way it is and they know it. Everyone is bought and paid for now in the dollar vortex.

Or, maybe he was just, umm... Randy. Why is every event that occurs supposedly part of some huge conspiricy. Was Arnold set up as well? Was it the same people? Did the international conspiricy force John Edwards to have a love child as well? He could have been the president of the US for heaven's sake! Was he "set up" as well? Why would he risk that kind of behavior while running for president? Face it, when it comes to natural urges, guys in general just aren't that bright.

Laws are different in different countries. Maybe this whole affair would have been swept under the rug if it happened in France, or elsewhere. At the same time, if he was leading a US company instead of the IMF when he was caught sleeping with an employee, he might have been sued for sexual harrassment.

The IMF itself seemed to condone such relationships, stating in its internal rules that "intimate personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates do not, in themselves, constitute harassment," a rule at variance from typical corporate or organizational policy in the U.S. (CBS News Story)

The truth will come out one way or the other. Maybe its an elaborate shake-down for money or suchlike, but it could simply be as simple as he though he could get away with it.

Hard to say, isn't it?

I normally don't subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I have a pretty good BS detector. For example, doesn't it bother you that the administration kept on changing the story on Osama's death? First, it happened a week ago, then it happened today? First, everyone was watching it live on screen, then, they weren't? Much of it appears sort of staged. Why did they dispose of the body so quickly?

See, there's no accountability at the highest levels. And thereby, the ability to deceive is also greatest.

Arnold is nobody. He's an Austrian immigrant former actor who is governor of a peripheral state. DSK on the other hand, was freaking head of the IMF, headquartered in D.C., and closely aligned with the heart of Empire and the dollar system.

Then he starts to get a big head, grand ideas about reforming the IMF in favor of the third world, and he's running against Sarkozy, a friend of America and the banks, and leading in the polls, and all of a sudden, a shocking sex allegation out of NYC!

Forget about conspiracy for a second. You almost have to be naive to the point of blindness not, at the very least, to suspect that something is fishy here.

I never pretend to know exactly what's going on. In fact, who can? I try to, in my mind, at least consider all manner of possibilities.

When you are considering really big interests: American Empire, Wall Street, etc., you always have to think about how far they might go, or what things they might do, to keep in power, to keep the system going, to cover up fraud, etc.

Hank Paulson went in front of Congress and said, give me 700 billion dollars or the whole thing is coming down. The House initially said no. Then the Dow tanked in one of the largest one day drops ever. I'm not making this stuff up, people.

And they are capable of anything precisely because of their concentrated power: the world's most extensive and powerful military and intelligence operations, capable of infiltrating anywhere on the planet at moment's notice, and the world's reserve fiat currency, in which the most concentrated energy source is priced, capable of unlimited expansion without consequence.

I doubt even the Romans and British of old could even dream of such unbridled total power.

But America is literally rotting from within now. This is partly, but not entirely, due to the fact that much of the wealth has just been stolen by the rich and bankers, and they don't want to give it back. Ordinary people help them with this, for two reasons: they themselves think they will strike it rich, and they don't want a dime of their money going to the ghetto. And can you blame them? This, is, after all, what the American Dream is all about: getting rich. It's not about sharing with people who live miles away who you really don't have much to do with.

So that's how the system ends. Americans themselves will likely get increasingly discouraged in the coming decades as nothing they do works, and there are no good policies from above. Either the dollar collapses in hyperinflation, or all of the assets - stocks, real estate, bonds, will drop and stay worthless, wiping everyone out. Nothing can save the system now, and we should all take consolation in that. Only when the present system goes down can something new and different and smaller and better take root.

California a peripheral state? :} Has the 8th largest economy in the world!


Yeah, but Oilman is correct that Arnold was (and now, definitely, is) a comparative nobody.

California governors don't wield anything close to the power exercised by IMF chiefs.

As I recall Arnold did marry someone with connections.

Yes, connections. Nothing like running the IMF, though.

And, BTW, he has, now, decidedly lost those connections.

I don't have any numbers available, but I bet Ahhnold has more money than DSK. I noted the other day that the latter has to pay $200,000 a month for the security guards to keep him in his apartment. Seems like NYC is making out like bandits.

The former governator certainly has a much higher personal net worth than DSK. But he doesn't have nearly enough to be a major player in world finance, while the IMF chief is one of the most significant of all players, by virtue of his office.

Indeed, Schwarzenegger is a political and intellectual lightweight by almost any measure. Lots of lightweights have held the office of governor in California, while our goofy political infrastructure keeps the state in sufficient turmoil that they usually don't make all that much difference.

FWIW, Arnold's wealth is rumored to be in the neighborhood of $800 million, while DSK's lawyers told the judge, the other day, that his net worth is approximately $2 million.

So DSK could be wiped out by the NewYork incident. I'm sure Maria will get a big chunk of change, but Ahhnold will still be quite wealthy.

Yup. Correct on both points.

If DSK's net worth is only $2 million, legal fees alone will likely eat up most of his money.

Schwarzenegger will still be really rich, but he won't have any serious political or financial influence.

DSK's wife is the one with all the money. She just sold a painting to cover his legal fees.

Ah. Well, as the gory details emerge, I guess we'll see how committed she remains to standing by her man.

One imagines there's a bit of marital tension in that expensively-guarded, high-rent apartment.

Well said. Only a minor quibble: you forgot to add that Obama's administration has not released any photos of the victim, citing fear of Muslim/Arab offense. So yet another piece of hard evidence is suppressed, over alledged fears of offense over someone they just assassinated and quickly buried in circumstances that cannot easily be traced. Then again, maybe the Russian MIR submersibles are actively searching the seafloor of the Persian Gulf for the body as we blog. But I digress.

Also will quibble with the overly optimistic view expressed in your last sentence. Other than those, it's a superb summary.

IMF... Plot... Forces... Hmmmmmmmmm...


I have noticed a recent shift in certain media's willingness to discuss peak oil instead of keeping it hushed up. It was until only fairly recently that none of the conservative radio talkers would broach the subject of resource depletion at all and specifically of peak oil. Recently the flood gates have opened as the memo apparently went out that they were "authorized" to talk about it. Of course the memo reads that the world has plenty of oil and we just have to drill for it, especially in the USA. What is more incredible, now that they are free to discuss the "crazy" peak oil idea, is that they are talking about fossil fuels as abiotic, not deriving from a prehistoric biological origin but as a naturally replenishing physical process.

I monitor right wing radio for these memes, and the two talkers that are regular peak oil skeptics are Jason Lewis and Jim Quinn, who are nationally syndicated and have satellite radio shows. They both point to the abiotic theory.

I am curious if anyone else has noticed an increase of this willingness to bring up the subject of peak oil by right wingers and libertarians, either in blogs or media?

One of the online articles quoted by the talkers is this:

So Con #2 is that oil is a fossil fuel (which it isn’t), that it is scarce and being depleted (which it isn’t), that it is nonrenewable (which it isn’t), and that, as a result, catastrophe looms (which it doesn’t) unless we drastically curtail our use of petroleum.

Lies one and all, which lead us to the granddaddy of con—Con #3:

Which is a link to an anti-global warming rant.

and this one:

Inherent in that idea is the notion of the limited nature of the supply, its scarcity. What always bothered me about the fossil fuel idea was, as far as I know, no oil exploration geologist made it a part of the rationalization behind exploration, i.e., he didn’t think “Now, where would a bunch of dinosaurs likely have died all together and formed a pool of oil?” Abiotic oil challenges the notions of scarcity, and the paradigm that serves the large petroleum companies.

Which points to the idea that oil depletion analysts are in collusion with the oil companies.

The big question is how much of an impact the talkers and pundits have on the way that their listeners act. The listeners essentially represent a cross-section of the tea-party movement, so they do have an impact even though their numbers are not at the majority level.

Well, for the media folks willing to discuss the idea of resource depletion, hurray!

I am sick to death of the progressive talkers talking points of oil prices being driven 'above natural market prices' by 'Big Oil Company greed' and 'Greedy market speculators'.

I imagine speculation may affect the prices at the margins, but really, the absolute lack of talk about resource depletion by the progressive media is ludicrous.

They are as dense as the super-conservative folks I work for/with...one of them, a 'Master Engineer' for the government who used to work on TX and LA oil rigs, was leading a water cooler conversation about how the U.S. was awash in oil and how we could burn hydrocarbons for the next 100+ years if only we could drill more in Alaska and in the OCS, and if we could only abolish the EPA and never elect any more Demoncrats.

Many liberals: Blame speculators and 'Big Oil'
Most conservative/right-wingers: Blame environmentalists and government regulations

In certain circles, yes I see that.

I actually sponsored an hour of one of the few national progressive talk shows in existence this last week. It was a good investment, The Mike Malloy Show, and he has always been on the truth-seeking side of the Peak Oil debate. Call him up sometime in the evening and see how it goes.

I think the distinction we have to make is between a populist progressive and deep progressive. The populists by their nature will always take the temperature of the masses and lean in that direction. The rest make up their own mind.

Mike Malloy is on in the evenings where I live...I only listen to the AM Progressive talkers during 'drive time' to/from Dilbert Land. I have heard MM on occasion, and he seems inclined to go on rant tangents...

Thom Hartmann seems pretty intelligent, but I do not agree with everything he says...I have heard him say some things that indicate he was ill informed about the technological topic at hand.

Rachael Maddow certainly seems intelligent, and she seems to do a lot of research when she presents her topics...but I have not heard her say much of anything on resource limits/sustainability.

Sees a if talking about Limits to Human Growth is the ultimate taboo and not a ticket to ride the airwaves.

Heisenberg, that's what I thought too about Hartman, but don't be fooled, he knows the stuff quite well, he just doesn't really admit it always. I'm not sure why, maybe he needs to keep various topics from spinning out of control, but every time I've thought I caught in some technical error especially re peak issues, it turns out not only does he know the stuff really well, he might even have published something on it.

But I suspect what hartmann is doing is simply constraining the topics, and avoiding despair, which is as he notes, for him 'not an option'. But he does know this stuff, maybe not perfectly on the geek technical level, but certainly functionally well enough to get the core points. He's the only one of these guys I can actually listen to in general because he always surprises me with his breadth of understanding.

I would consider that there is virtually no chance he's not very well aware of the Limits to Growth, it just doesn't help much to talk about it I think on a radio show where other issues are more direct and pressing, like the Republicans striving to destroy today's system and hand it directly to the corporations. Just have to prioritize.

Hartmann wrote the book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" (referring to fossil fuels created by ancient sunlight) which by itself raises him well above the typical talker.

Point on, he doesn't talk about it too much because of the despair factor, yet we can all laugh and enjoy the stupid End-of-Days prediction for today because we know it it is all just a joke. Reality is not a joke, so people tend to clam up.

You get full marks, WHT (as usual). I was beginning to think I was the only person who frequents TOD who had read "The Last Hours..."

Also, I am a bit disappointed that Thom does not say more. And I always end up agreeing that it is probably the dismal nature of the topic that puts off Hartmann and Maddow. Both are aware... neither really deals with the topic.

Maybe we should all email, or otherwise get on them to start dishing out a bit of it at a time. Their hesitance is symptomatic, and they could be a powerful influence in getting people to take PO seriously. Not as an impossible problem, but as perhaps the most difficult and important one out there. Considering that the other elephant in the room is AGW, and that the two are tied together, shows dealing with both simultaneously would be appropriate.


These shows are about getting attention. this translates into market share. Their purpose is to deliver receptive listeners into the next commercial spot.

During the oil spill, both sides were worse than useless. The conservative hosts continued their hate Obama routine: they were getting good traction with it. The oil was dismissed as nothing. On the progressive side, it was presented as the end of the world. The Gulf might actually explode and the seas be poisoned. There was no real information or meaningful interpretation from either the left or the right. Just gathering flock and upping ratings.

TheOilDrum was a place where everything available was hauled in and a multiplicity of opinions offered. This could be integrated into a gestalt view to one's own tastes. This was much better than the emptiness or panic offered by the right and the left commercial radio programs.

Mike Malloy froths. It's sort of funny, but the listener is immersed in the speaker's anger... And then he gives his big power-sigh; Absolutely eviscerating to any energy within the audience.

The progressive ladies do the "mad at YOU" thing too, and are then dismissive going into commercial. No wonder the left loses.

The right presents daddy telling you like it is and how wonderful DADDY is. The ditto-heads eat it up and parrot daddy's words everywhere.

Get it on The BobandTomshow - they love to break taboos and they have direct access to the cortex of most US citizens between 5 and 9 am everyday. Make up a song about "Camel Toe" and your taboo will be on everyone's lips in a week.

Yeh. One thing both the con media and lib media agree on is that we need to drive down gas prices. The liberal media generally supports the idea that we should do something about carbon emissions but seems to forget all about emissions when it comes to gas prices. So, we should be concerned about burning too much carbon and we should be concerned about middle east dependency, but we should also encourage consumption by lowering gas prices. Makes perfect (not) sense.

Makes perfect (not) sense.

I think it makes perfect (emotional) sense. People want to think that having to pay an arm and a leg to fuel thier vehicle is because of some nasty evil person ripping him off. They don't want to look themselves in the mirror, and consider it is their own fault for falling for the big SUV long commute lifestyle.

H - It might surprise many folks that the majority of the hands on the drilling side of ops have similar cornucopian ideas about "all that oil left out there". Don't like knocking my hard hat bro's but when it comes to oil/NG resources they are typically as ignorant as the general public. From hands slinging around dumb iron to operating complex electronic systems they know almost nothing about geology. Most don't even understand the very basics of how hydrocarbons accumulate. They also understand little about the exploration process. But it cuts both ways: geologist and "desktop" engineers appreciate little of the actually drilling effort. Due to wearing a lot of different hats (and also enjoying life on the well site more than in the office) I bridge the gap fairly well. Most geologists think I'm an engineer and vice versa with the engineers.

In my younger days I would try to explain earth science to the rig hands but eventually gave up...too much ground to cover. The college educated tech types absorb it better but it's still an uphill battle. And then there's the obvious emotional need to believe that life in the oil patch will go on for ever...along with their jobs.


Once again, thank you for unique perspectives.

I do not think this is a matter of intelligence...it is a matter of getting trapped in belief systems.

I know another Master Engineer at work who believes that his/her special bracelet absorbs all the hurtful positive ions and emits healthful negative ions into his/her body....or the other way 'round. I think he/she has magnetic shoe sole cushions as well. PT Barnum was correct...

I have learned that many folks with fancy degrees and certifications believe in majik stuff.

It's not just drilling hands - in my experience most of those working in the oil patch are at least as clueless about Peak Oil as the average citizen. Maybe even worse. No-one likes to think that they're working for an industry with a limited future.

The senior management, geologists and reservoir engineers of oil companies must have a fairly good idea, as they look at their dismal reserve replacement ratios. The main contractors - Halliburton, Schlumberger, Saipem etc - probably have a similar understanding at top level.

In the past, extraction of a finite resource generally took many generations - we hit Peak Coal 100 years ago, but there were plenty of coalmining jobs for two more generations to come. I expect that the average coalminer in 1911 firmly believed it would go on for ever. Even now, most of my fellow citizens seem to believe the rundown in our coal industry was due to the unions, or to Maggie Thatcher, or unfair competition from oil: anything except resource depletion.

But modern extraction rates are so high that we don't have several generations to make the post-peak transition. UK oil production started in 1975, and by 2035 will be near total shutdown. That's less than a single lifespan.

But modern extraction rates are so high that we don't have several generations to make the post-peak transition.

Via super straws, yes, so fast that once high percentages of water hit for the House of Saud or Russia, the jig will be up. I agree it will happen too fast to make a transition.

Scotty - Sad but true. If you hadn't seen my post: when I started at Mobil Oil in 1975 my mentor sat me down my first week and explained PO in great detail. He didn't call it PO...almost none of us do. It was the "reserve replacement problem". He made it clear that the RRP was going to be the pressure point for my entire career...and he was 100% correct. I've seen more than one public company (actually many, in fact) self destruct fighting this demon. The most recent being Devon in their shale gas plays.

I bounce in and out of TOD chatting about PO. But the subject never comes up with my fellow workers. It would be like two OBGYN’s talking about how babies are made...not really much new to say on the matter. And it might not sound very nice but I don't know anyone in the oil patch that really cares if the public understands or not. We gave up on such hope long ago...if there was any to begin with. The only thing the public hears is from the PR folks with Big Oil is "Don't worryy...be happy". And the rest of us just laugh at those commercials.

Yes, I usually keep my mouth shut too. However, when mentoring younger guys, it's only fair to warn them that a full 40-year career may require moving Beyond Petroleum for real.

So you say that certain industry people are clueless (upthread concerning the iron slingers) while others are knowledgeable enough to not even bother bringing it up. Sounds like a cross-section of the rest of the population.

No-one likes to think that they're working for an industry with a limited future.

I have made that observation before here. Does the degree of Petroleum Engineering eventually just go away? Of course it will eventually, but not until the career of the student completes. That is essentially the time frame for decision making. This will repeat until when exactly?

Does the degree of Petroleum Engineering eventually just go away? Of course it will eventually, but not until the career of the student completes. That is essentially the time frame for decision making. This will repeat until when exactly?

It keeps getting offered until people stop signing up for the classes. College is a basically a business, just like any other. Deep down, they don't really care if you can get a job after you leave, they just want your tuition money so they can continue on their own merry way. Teaching the subject is their goal. Graduates actually getting a job in the field is the graduate's problem.

Rune – More of a biz them most understand. Back in the mid 80’s the Petroleum Engineering Dept. at Texas A&M was so concerned about getting shut down they hired professional athletic recruiter to find new students for them. Armed him with scholarships, free campus housing, fellowships, etc. It worked well. Had I not picked up a contract I was seriously considering going that way to supplement my geology degree (geologists tend to be more expendable than engineers).

The boom/bust cycle in the education system supplying the oil patch has led us to where we are today: a lot of gray hairs getting close to retirement with very few replacements behind us.

Well, for the last 150 years, political ideologues on the right as well as the left took the industrial revolution and a cheap energy as a given.

On the right, people claimed that the gifts of the industrial revolution are best produced under a free market system. On the left, the ideologues said that the wealth of the industrial revolution will be hogged by a plutocracy unless they are confronted either by unions, by the democratic process, or by armed revolution. The first two were the domain of socialists and progressives, and the last, by the communists, the less said about whom, the better. But all of them took for granted that the industrial revolution would continue and produce all this wealth to squabble over.

But, confronted with energy scarcity, political types on both sides of the spectrum are equally liable to be dumbfounded, to engage in scapegoating, or to grasp at straws and reach out to inane crackpot ideas.

Double-plus good comment.

Conversations about how best to arrange an industrial civilization and who should get the benefits from it become irrelevant when the industrial civilization itself is failing.

If by failing, you mean a decrease in GDP, I think these conversations are actually more important as the system fails. The preferred solution for now, at least in the U.S., is that we concentrate the wealth at the top and screw just about everyone else. That requires a conversation. Right now, the basic paradigm is that we just accept and even praise whatever is delivered to us by the so called free market. But maybe Wisconsin shows that the conversation might be changing.

The US system was designed to protect wealth and property, which it does well. The concentration of wealth and property was quite extreme by the early 20th century, and severe social strife resulted. It was the massive wealth created by the establishment of a global empire and the oil age kicking in for real that enabled the creation of a large middle class after WWII - a large enough group of people with a vested interest in the system to serve a buffer between the few at the top and those at the bottom. Essentially there was so much to be had that it was easy to give enough back to keep it stable.

That situation is changing, as there is no longer enough to go around, and the concentration of wealth is now even more extreme than in the guided age. As it has always been in times when there is not enough to go around. I'm not saying that's a good thing nor that I accept it, but picking some other organization based on the assumption of growth and plenty or a continuation of prosperity, to more fairly run an industrial society, is not going to matter. I'm all for what the people in Wisconsin are/were doing, but I think their expectations of the future are erroneous, and it is a shame that the organizations that existed in the early 20th century are mostly gone/corrupted, while those at the top are very well organized. I think people would do better to focus on other things than trying to recapture a failing system.

The economic history of the US is unique since during the 1800s it had a small population relative to its natural resources recently acquired from the natives. This led to an inordinately high value placed on both peasant and hourly labor which encouraged considerable migration of peasants and laborers of all types from Europe. Even during the Gilded Age, the distibution of incomes was more equitable than in the major Empires of Europe and Asia.

The general level of wealth in the US was increased relative to the rest of the world by our being the supplier to the successful side during two World Wars. At the end of the wars, we had the only large intact industrial plant, all the gold in the world in Fort Knox, and were in a position to dictate financial terms to well over half of the planet.

This enabled the US to replace the normal disparity in wealth between classes within the nation state with an unusual disparity in wealth between the US and other nation states. In effect, the middle class in the US became a priviledged class relative to most of the global population.

Since WW II the US has spent most of its accumulated wealth, and now faces the prospect of becoming a country with a more normal distribution of wealth, like the countries of Latin America or India today or the various major countries prior to WW I.

Conversations go through stages.

First there are a just a few people in the conversation and membership growth of the conversation is very slow.

As the membership increases (i.e. people speaking the same conversation in the network of conversations that we engage in), other people are drawn into the conversation simply to assert the existing thinking.

At first it might appear that this is a bad thing because so many people are saying the opposite of what you are. But it's better to notice that even if they are saying the opposite thing, they are at least in your conversation.

Eventually enough people speak the new conversation that it becomes "what everyone knows" — it becomes the dominant conversation in the network.

Another way of looking at it is to note that dominant conversations defend themselves (for a variety of reasons I won't go into, I have to get back to preparing for the Rapture).

When a new conversation attempts to gain traction in the network, the existing conversation attacks it just like antibodies attack a pathogen.

We will see a lot more antibodies attack the idea of peak oil as our conversation expands in the network.

P.S. Happy Rapture Day everyone...see (most of) you at the Pearly Gates!

I agree with that. The fact that it was hushed up for so long is actually worse than having an open discussion, even though the new discussion is terribly slanted.

No worries, we may have a thousand years of fossil fuels left, at current rates of consumption:

Inconvenient Truths About 'Renewable' Energy
By Matt Ridley

The hydrocarbons in the earth's crust amount to more than 500,000 exajoules of energy. (This includes methane clathrates—gas on the ocean floor in solid, ice-like form—which may or may not be accessible as fuel someday.) The whole planet uses about 500 exajoules a year, so there may be a millennium's worth of hydrocarbons left at current rates.

And of course, Peak Oilers are generally considered to be the wackos, roughly akin to a space alien cult.

Ridley is quite adept at criticism and blame,,, a bit short on solutions.

Of course what he failed to mention is that it will take 499,000 exajoules to extract it. OK maybe that's a slight exaggeration! But you all get the point.

There is a PT Barnum born every minute.

ASPO, Post Carbon Institute, etc - they do not stand a chance in the realm of public opinion. I am grateful for their efforts, but it is a fools errand trying to "educate the public."

And the reason he has not started a business to supply all the worlds energy needs and make him self rich is??????

. . . so there may be a millennium's worth of hydrocarbons left at current rates.

I'm not equating Matt Ridley to Hitler, but the last 1,000 year prediction that I am aware of did not turn out so well:


. . . I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years!... Don’t forget how people laughed at me, 15 years ago, when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!
—Adolf Hitler to a British correspondent in Berlin, June 1934

At first it might appear that this is a bad thing because so many people are saying the opposite of what you are. But it's better to notice that even if they are saying the opposite thing, they are at least in your conversation.

That's a point well taken aangel. At least once they are discussing it, they can over time move over to the other viewpoint. At the same time though, it's amazing how many times conclusive information like oil is finite, etc. have to be regergitated to finally penetrate into people's brains. They really are good at simply believing what they want irrespective of hard facts.

I've often wondered the same thing - how much of an impact do the 'loons' have?

It can be quite scary as you then think "Well, perhaps we should go out there and shout louder?" but then you're at risk of joining the clown parade.

Another thing that I wonder - is the topic discussed in the developing world amongst the average citizen - i.e. are the Chinese even aware of a potential problem?

I don't know about the Chinese but I do know about the guys in India.They have no idea what is coming there way.Not only India even in Belgium where I live the situation is no better.Visited a Citroen dealer recently and asked him about "peak oil".His reply was "Is it a new brand of synthetic oil"?This was the owner's son about 30years old.

Hahaha, good one!

As a practical concern, it doesn't really matter if the traps where oil can be extracted on a commercial basis were filled slowly by biotic-sourced oil, or filled slowly by abiotic-sourced oil. If they're refilling, the pace is enormously slower than the pace at which we extract the oil, and the new traps that we're finding are harder to reach and smaller.


Another point I try to lightly raise, rarely, from time-to-time with acquaintances is that even if there is plenty of oil, all the easy to get oil is running out, meaning the gasoline prices will be unlikely to ever be below US$3/gallon...

Peak Oil 101 stuff for TOD, but hopefully plants a seed in their mind for their future lifestyle.

Web, I listen to a fair amount of talk radio (all sides) and have never run across either of the right-wing hosts you mention. I do know that Newt made a reference to abiotic oil in a "research" press release, and of course Rush has pounded the "drill-here", "drill-now" position.

I'm an old Howard Baker Republican trying to figure out what the heck happened to my party, but I can say that my liberal friends are no more receptive to resource depletion and lifestyle changes than are my conservative ones. Read the comments on the Huffington Post when an energy story appears (usually next to a blazing headline about Sarah Palin's hairstyle), and you will find that most people, regardless of political viewpoint, simply cannot make the jump to Kunstler's World Made By Hand.

Part of this is just personal experience. I'm probably one of the last people 60 or under who attended an elementary school without running water. Most urban dwellers have no contact with the soil or agriculture, cannot relate a Quarter Pounder to a steer in a feedlot, and have never walked behind a mule. The idea of doing without, conserving energy, recycling food scraps into a garden, or any other lifestyle change just does not compute. They "don't have an app for that."

I used to manage a stormwater program for a municipal government. No one could understand what a "100-year flood" meant, and probability curves didn't help. I had a young couple in my office whose basement had flooded out. They had violated their building permit and installed their daughters' bedrooms in the basement along with a two car garage; all of it below the adjacent flood plain. When I explained that they would have to remove all of that, the wife asked "if it happens again, how long will it flood?" Puzzled, I responded, "an hour or two at least." "Oh," she replied, "then we'll just bring the girls upstairs and watch TV."

That's how most people plan to deal with the energy crisis. If they can't drive anymore, they're just going to watch TV.

They "don't have an app for that.

Thank you DFT, that pretty much sums up the mental state of most "citizens." I think it also sums up the mental state of most of our leaders.

That's how most people plan to deal with the energy crisis. If they can't drive anymore, they're just going to watch TV.

Or surf the internet, or text and tweet...

I wonder what all of these mouths are going to do as our economy crumbles and they discover they are nothing more than vestigial organs of a dying organism we called a Capitalist empire.

I used to manage a stormwater program for a municipal government. No one could understand what a "100-year flood" meant, and probability curves didn't help.

Really? It's important to know what these things mean.

A friend of my brother built a house near a river. He later sold the house to a friend of his.

A couple of years later, there was a 100-year flood on the river (it was a bad experience for a lot of people). Shortly thereafter the buyer happened to meet the seller in a bar. He said, "Man that was quite a flood, you wouldn't believe how close the water came to the house!" The seller said, "Six feet."

The buyer looked at him and said, "How do you know how close the water came to the house?" and the seller said, "Before I built the house, I had a flood survey done. I had it designed so that in a 100-year flood, the water stops six feet from the house."

It's important to know these things. Otherwise you end up with your house being flooded.

It's important to know these things. Otherwise you end up with your house being flooded.

Rocky, I found that the term "100-year" flood gave many people false hope, much as saying we will exhaust oil supplies in 40 years. In the first one the response is "oh, a hundred years is a long time, so it won't happen while I'm living there." In the second, as we are seeing, it's "forty years and I'll be dead; who cares, party on!" There is no sense of what happens in the intermediate period, or that disaster can strike without notice. After 20 years in municipal engineering I got tired of fighting the battle with elected officials and with citizens.

It really comes down to a lot of people not wanting to be realistic or take responsibility for their own safety and livelihood. I keep hoping some presidential aspirant will look around, decide that it is time for a reality check, and start speaking the truth about debt, depletion of resources, and transition to something better. It would have to be a high-profile person to gain the media attention and someone who needs a do-over, changing an image by taking a risky but sober and thoughtful position. I know one potential candidate who just might be persuaded to try it.

Agreed, DFT, people think it is just not on their horizon.

Another problem is that the nature of the catchments are changing, and the runoff coefficients are trending higher. Forest is cleared to farmland, and farmland is paved over for urban land. For a city/town near the top of a catchment (my home town in Australia) the difference between the 70's, when much of the flood hydrology was done, and today, can be significant, with what was the 100 yr flood often being revised to the 40 or 50yr flood.

Of course, most non engineers, and especially politicians backed by property developers, don;t understand this either.

Then, when the riverfront homes get flooded, owners of said homes demand compensation. Part and parcel of being on the water is the water might be on you.

I think we have a lot going on wrt so-called hunderd year events. As you stated watershed changes can be changing the distribution of flood heights. Also AGW is making high precipitation events more common. Even without these complications, we've inferred the tail of the flood distrivution from some pretty indirect proxies, so we probably wouldn't have a good handle on the tail of the distribution even if landuse and climate were unchanged.

If you live on a 100-year flood plain, it doesn't mean it will be 100 years until the next flood. It means you have roughly an 80% chance of experiencing a 100-year flood during your life if you have an average life expectancy of 80 years. Most people don't think of it in those terms, which is why it comes as a shock when it happens to them.

Also, that's just for individuals. Worldwide, millions of people experience 100-year floods in an average year because they happen to live on 100-year flood plains. Countries have to prepare for that happening because it is a regular occurrence for countries as a whole, and people demand compensation when it happens.

The obvious solution and least expensive solution is for countries to forbid people to build on flood plains, but unfortunately many people seem to think they have a right to do so, and to be rescued when it turns out to have been a bad idea.

Re: Are These Three Innovations the Path to a Greener Future?, above. From the article:

Bloom Energy claims that a single server can generate 100kW of electricity, or “enough to meet the baseload needs of 100 average homes or a small office building.” The server is roughly the size of one parking space, and, while it does use fossil fuels to produce heat and gives off some CO2, experts at the consulting firm Gerson Lehrman Group say the Bloom Box is twice as efficient as a gas fired power station.

[emphasis mine]

From the Bloom Energy site, here's the "ES-5000 Energy Server" data sheet. Perhaps someone knowledgable in the efficiency of NG fired power plants can work this out. [ 0.661 MMBtu/hr of natural gas producing 100KW ].

Also from the article:

However, these new technologies are not without problems of their own. Bloom Boxes have not completely shed a reliance on fossil fuels, and Bloom Energy has not revealed the official costs of operating these generators. According to a 60 Minutes report, the company has received over $400 million in funding, and it is working on developing smaller models that can be used on a mass scale. However, each server currently costs $700,000–800,000, not including the costs of operation, and they only last for 10 years...

"...only last ten years". Not sure how this was determined. What only lasts ten years? The solid oxide fuel cells?

Also from the Bloom Energy site: Bloom Energy Quadruples Size of its Manufacturing Operations Providing Over 1,000 California Jobs

Sunnyvale, CA – April 15, 2011— Bloom Energy®, today announced a significant expansion of its California manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, CA increasing the company’s footprint by four times to over 210,000 square feet, and providing over 1000 new jobs for Californians. Bloom Energy expanded its workforce by over 70% in 2010 alone, and has grown 525% over the past four years, company officials announced.

Looks like full speed ahead at Bloom Energy. If these boxes are as efficient as claimed, with their modular design and distributed nature, these could make an impact. From what I've seen, there is no reason production costs couldn't be cut significantly. Who knows?

Then again, I'll bet the boys of Bloom are watching Rossi's cold fussion gizmo closely ;-)

Also of interest in the article, "BacillaFilla":

....an innovation developed by students at Newcastle University, is not an energy source per se, but it does provide a way to cut back on energy costs and carbon emissions. The students genetically engineered bacteria to travel down cracks in concrete and then produce a mixture of calcium carbonate and bacterial glue, which together harden and fill the crack.

"Ultimately hardening to the same strength as the surrounding concrete...."

I have a few small cracks in my slab, be glad to test the stuff. The bacteria is designed so it won't grow concrete on people. Nice to know :-0

More on BacillaFilla here.

From the Bloom Energy site, here's the "ES-5000 Energy Server" data sheet. Perhaps someone knowledgable in the efficiency of NG fired power plants can work this out. [ 0.661 MMBtu/hr of natural gas producing 100KW ].

Hi Ghung,

This would suggest an operating efficiency of 51.6 per cent, which whilst quite good is by no means exceptional. For example, Siemens’ new 578 MW SGT5-8000H gas turbine reportedly operates at just over 60 per cent as do GE's H-series turbines.


How much loss in power transmission are we going to apply to the 60%? At 10% the central turbine still wins but at 20% the distributed bloom box wins. But of course we would have to subtract the energy loss of driving trucks all over town to deliver the natural gas to the bloom boxes. So maybe we are back at even.

Transmission and distribution losses are not as high as some of us may think; in the United States, it's about 6.4 per cent and in Canada the number is just slightly higher (hardly surprising given that Hydro-Québec's transmission system alone spans over 32,000 km).


No only that, but the big advantage of GT plants, even the big ones is that they can be built close to the load centres, so the transmission losses are actually quite low. Hydro of course, is usually built in the middle of nowhere, and Quebec has a lot of that.

The Bloom box is on site, so the transmission loss is zero, and they would not be running off "gas delivered by truck" it would either be a gas source like landfill etc, or piped natural gas.

There is also the issue that in winter the waste heat from such a device could be used for heating the building. I've seen fuel cell numbers indicating that in that situation the overall energy use could be close to 90%. You can't get that with a megaWatt sized remote plant.

And I think the economics only works out due to major tax subsidies. Unless you have substantial ability to benefit from local co-generation (i.e. use the waste heat), I think it is a non solution.

Ghung, the Bloom box is actually a very efficient device, it is just not very cost efficient!

The stated gas consumption of 661,000 btu/hr is equal to 696MJ/hr. there are 3.6 MJ per kWh, so this fuel consumption is 193kWh of gas, per hour. The output is 100kW, so the thermal efficiency is 51.8%, but let's call it 52%.

That is outstanding efficiency in a small unit, bettered only by large combined cycle NG plants, on the scale of tens/hundreds of MW.
The world's largest diesel engine gets 51% efficiency. At 80MW and 2300 tons, its power to weight is actually 3.5x better than the Bloom Box.

The real advantage of a the Bloom Box, or any SOFC (solid oxide fuel cell) is that they eat just about any gas that burns - NG, flare gas, landfill gas, blast furnace gas, wood gas, government documents, you name it. It allows you to tkae the power plant to where small sources of fuel are, such as landfills, that could never justify a CCGT unit.

The few available woodgas systems get half the fuel efficiency of the Bloom Box, as do most microturbines.

BUT, the problem is the eye watering cost of this thing - $800k to do the same as a $40k NG engined genset.

I'd like to think their production costs will come down, and if they get to under $200k for 100kW, then they will take off - but that's a 75% cost reduction and we haven't seen any evidence of any cost reductions to date.

If they can do it, it's a game changer - right now, it's just an expensive, sexy toy. At least, unlike cold fusion, algae, and all sorts of other overhyped things, this is , and does, exactly what they say.

Thanks guys. Part of my interest is the "Reversible – our technology is capable of both energy generation and storage" claim. If it can use the (stored) hydrogen it produces it would make a good partner to intermittant renewables if costs can be reduced. Dump surplus RE production into these things to be used later, like a battery. I'm sure they're working on this. One wonders how this reverse process compares to conventional electrolysis (efficiency).

Also, as Paul mentioned (discussed on their website as well), these things can be distributed around the grid, much like the smaller PV farms being built in our area. Worth watching, IMO...

I guess it could be used as a storage system, though it would still be much less efficient than a battery. If you use the most efficient electrolysis, at say 80%, then your round trip efficiency is 40%. Even lead-acid batteries can get 80%, and they cost less.

Let's say you got the off peak wind for free, and so your hydrogen is "free", and you are operating the box for 10hrs a day on the free fuel, or 1MWh/day

Your annual production is then 365MWh of peak power and if you can sell it for 10c/kWh, then it is worth $36,500 per year. The Bloom box is $800k, and add another $200k electrolyser and H2 storage, to get $1m, so the rate of return is 3.6% - with free fuel!

So you need a dramatic reduction in cost, or increase in electricity price, or both, for this to be worthwhile.

I agree it is worth watching, and I have been doing so for some time, but it is still in the same realm as all the other fuel cells - just too damn expensive!

Does the efficiency increase using pure H? No need to reform the hydrocarbon fuel? Do most of the losses occur due to a need to heat the SOFC?

There isn't any improvement by using H2, though, unlike Hydrogen fuel cells (PEM type) you don't need high purity hydrogen. When you are using hydrocarbon fuels, there is no reforming necessary - this happens in the fuel cell itself, which operates at high temperatures (800+C) and cracks the hydrocarbons.

Because it is a high temp fuel cell, you can also get heat out of it and do a CHP system, and get about 80% total fuel efficiency.

A similar type of fuel cell is the molten carbonate fuel cell, which is molten, not solid, but otherwise does the same thing, and about the same high efficiency.

This company has several industrial installations of their MCFC, and take a more "engineering" approach than does Bloom Box;


Enbridge is doing a trial of using a air cycle turbine with their fuel cell, so the electrical output would be even higher.

A 100kW, high efficiency CHP-in-a-box would be a great product, IMO. It could be sized to heat a multi family building, or an office, school, etc. But, unlike most CHP plants, its electrical output is high enough to make it profitable to operate all summer (you can still get hot water out of it).
With minimal moving parts, and just attache to the gas main, it doesn't get much simpler than that.

A side note - these devices (both SOFC and MCFC) can run very well on gasified coal, with higher efficiency than the state of the art supercritical steam coal plants. But with coal so cheap, it is not worth spending $8/W when a normal coal plant is $1.20/W

You're welcome. BTW, you may be pleased to know that CollieGuy is hard at work championing solar power and Ontario's feed-in tariffs (an attempt on my part to atone for past sins).

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

Feed-in tariffs are perhaps one of the few things that Paul and I don't see eye-to-eye on.


Wow! The school windows in the photo actually open. Most newer schools around here no longer have that feature :-(

Actually, it's not the concept of the FIT's I don;t like, it's just the very high rates paid for solar.

For small renewable systems a FIT obviously allows a good estimation of the return on the investment, but having a solar rate up to 4x the rate for everything else tends to push $ into solar, where you get less kWh per $ spent. Something else that can produce midday power should get the same rate, as it is just as useful.

I think a peak/off peak FIT, that is the same regardless of the generation source, is better, and perfectly doable with the new smart meters. Solar would be almost all at the peak time, which is its natural advantage, and it would get the pricing benefit accordingly.
In fact, the peak/off peak would also vary seasonally, to reflect the importance of summer peak supply, so then the system builders can decide accordingly.

I think Germany is the best example of the FIT gone crazy. For all the $ in solar panels, and an average capacity factor of just 11%, they would have far more energy by spending the same $ on wind, even though their wind resource is only average.

Ontario is at least sunny in the summer, so the panels will have a good capacity factor.
I do applaud the partnership approach too, as I'm sure the schools do.

What do you guys think of the solar leasing programs? Here is an article from the Fort Worth paper:


SolarCity, still partnering with TXU, will now offer a three-kilowatt solar array on a prepaid lease for approximately $7,000 upfront. A five-kilowatt prepaid lease costs about $12,000.

SolarCity will also sell solar arrays outright, but for a higher tab, Wittenberg said. The three-kilowatt system would cost about $12,500, including the 30 percent federal tax credit, he said, and the five-kilowatt system could cost more than $19,000. "A prepaid lease is the least expensive way to go," he said. Just like with an automobile lease, SolarCity estimates a value of the solar array at the end of the lease and subtracts that amount from what the homeowner pays. The prepaid lease from both electric retailers includes installation, insurance, maintenance and a guaranteed performance level.

"The guaranteed performance gives us incentive to keep the system repaired as needed," he said. "We own it. If the system doesn't live up to our estimate, we'll write you a check for the difference."

I've always preferred to buy/own my own. If you have the cash available, I'd recommend going that route. But if you have to finance, then that could be an iisue, and if you are concerned about the risk of breakdowns, or what happens if you sell the house, these solutions might be an alternative way to aprticipate in the solar market.


I think this program, as laid out, is not great value for the customer, but they are a very clever way for the utilities to game the system at ratepayer expense.

For the customer, we can use the Kyocera Solar Calculator to see just what they get.
For the 3kW system in Forth Worth, it produces 3594kWh/yr. Using TXU's rates of about 10.5c/kWh, this is worth all of $378/yr, so they are getting a return of 5.4% per year on their $7k investment.
BUT, at the end of the 20yrs, they don;t own the system - they have to give it up. Assuming the electricity price goes up with inflation, would you invest in a 20yr inflation indexed bond at 5.4%, where you don;t get your capital back?

Now, for TXU, they get a good deal out of this;
-assuming they go to bid for the supply and install of all these homes, it';s a big contract and bulk buying , so TXU will get a better deal than the homeowner could
-TXU gets to keep the 30% tax credit
-TXU records the system as an asset, which they get to depreciate, and claim maintenance costs
-Under the PUC regulated energy rates in Texas (and many other States), the utility is entitled to "make a reasonable rate of return" on their invested assets, typically 10-12%. So TXU gets to make *double* what the homeowners do
-Because the solar system actually reduces TXU's electricity sales, while increasing their asset base, at their next rate case they can argue for higher rates to maintain their rate of return while having decreased sales.
-If there is ever any CO2 tax/trading, TXU gets the benefits.
-during the hot summer days, the wholesale power price is probably well above the 10.5c they are "paying" the solar customers.
-if the panels produce more than the house uses in a year, any extra power is paid out at a paltry 7.5c/kWh!

So, it is a very good deal for the power company, and an average one for the owner who takes it. And for the neighbour who doesn't, they end up paying higher rates because of it, and since the company is depreciating the asset, they are paying less tax, which has to be made up somewhere...

If I was a business, like a Home Depot, with a large roof area, where there will be some economy of scale in installation, I suspect it might be better to buy the panels, and claim the tax credit and depreciation, though I am still not convinced it would be a good investment.

Better yet, go the school route and rent the roof space to a solar company - no capital and positive cash flow!

For the homeowners a gov bond or something would be better , as you always get your money back.

Or see if someone like Fred Magyar can do them a better deal on buying and installing the system so they own it themselves - it would then add resale to the house.

Over here in the middle of Maine, the typical solar PV project still has a simple payback in the range of 20 to 25 years. So why would they work any better in Toronto? Are there millions of dollars in government subsidies that didn’t make it into the news article?

Ooops! False Alarm. I soon found the massive subsidies in later posts, in the form of the Feed it Tariffs.

Paul. I am glad that you are on the ball and can inform us of this sort of stuff. All very interesting.

When I hear the great news about fuel cells, I have to ask myself "are stirlings doomed? They can't even get half that system efficiency." But then I see the real world, in which for example, the army asked for a small generator, and the stirling guys quickly came up with running hardware that did the job, and the fuel cell people came up with a big, expensive, long development program that might eventually get to the goal if all went well. No hardware at all.

And my understanding was that the fuel cell had some components that were not only very expensive, intrinsically, but also vulnerable to contaminants. But I don't know.

So here's the Q. Which does the tech ignorant but well meaning homeowner pick- the fuel cell that costs $8 per watt (1kW domestic), and stirling that has less than half the efficiency, but costs 1/10 as much, and maybe lasts even longer, and can eat the same fuel or worse without harm?

I for one would have no trouble making that choice. In winter, 7kW of heat goes into my house from wood, and we use 300 watts of electricity. Efficiency no problem.

Now of course I know that all you folks have good reason to scoff at this stirling claim. But, I know it's solid now that, at long last, some serous money is going into a small stirling that has about the same tech challenge as a lawnmower.

Hi wimbi, any links to small sterling generators?

Ghung. I would love to blab about all this, but the money guys say that they will do the talking, at their time and place, and not before they have real results to sell, not just smoke, ashes and words.

As for small stirlings in general- a sad story over and over- lots of hot air, no hardware. But you know all that. My excuse for the stirling community- oil too cheap, IC engines too cheap, Why bother?

But one shining counter-example- space power. Stirlings use less Pu 238 by far than thermoelectrics, so they win. For a mere megabuck, you can have one of your very own. The Pu is extra.

As for small stirlings in general- a sad story over and over- lots of hot air, no hardware. But you know all that. My excuse for the stirling community- oil too cheap, IC engines too cheap, Why bother?

I agree that IC engines are "too cheap" to compete with, in most cases, but...

Given that the components of a Stirling are similar (pistons and cylinders) what I don't understand is why someone hasn't come out with a cheap Stirling based on ICE components. It doesn;t have to be high tech, it doesn't even have to be particularly efficient - it just has to work. It is now 199 years since Rev Stirling came out with what we now call the "Stirling" engine, and back in the day, if you applied heat - they did work. Today we have many sources of waste heat that we can apply, but no engines that will work.

It seems that all the Stirling co's have gone for the high efficiency approach, which inevitably means very high tech and even higher costs - ensuring they will never be an option for anything other than Nasa/military.

Much as I hate to say this - but if this is what it takes - develop a cheap simple Stirling and then get it made even more cheaply in China - I will buy the first one off the boat.

Trying to make it "compete" with the ICE is the wrong approach..,all you need is a "box" that you put heat into, and get motion/electricity out - something ICE's can't do.

I think Stirlings are going to be left behind by the ORC systems- they are working well at industrial scale, and it's only a matter of time before someone does it with ordinary refrigeration components to make a 1-5kW unit.

Oh boy! a chance to give lecture no.1 in stirling design 101. Since you, Paul, are obviously an A+ student, I will give it in very brief summary and cut all the boring detail.

Stirlings are, alas, heat engines, not combustion engines. That means that the hot energy has gotta go across a wall, in fact, a pressure wall. Hot pressure walls cost money.
That means delta T, that means lower thermal efficiency- about 50% of carnot is all you gonna get, unless NASA, of course. (Combustion engines can get fantastic working temps with cold walls made of dirt cheap materials since they have NO heat transfer in the cycle.this gives them a huge thermodynamic advantage over stirling)
Power of stirling is a simple multiple of the product (Pressure x displacement x frequency). That means, for example, an atmospheric air charged low temp stirling is real weak for its size and cost. For decent power/mass, you need high pressure, preferably with a light gas (hydrogen, helium). So then what to do about the shaft seal? Problems, problems.
Stirlings have a regenerator, which is inadvertently a great oil soaker- upper. You get a little oil in it or any of the heat exchangers, and you have a dead stirling engine. The crank mechanism is a never solved problem for engines with cranks in them, since any oil leak at all is a killer. So-called sealed roller bearings aren't, really. And rollers only roll a known number of rolls.
free piston stirlings need no oil. Great, but that means they get their power out by moving a magnet by a wire, or by blowing a gas over a rotating turbine-alternator. Both of these ideas are foreign to most managers, which may sound like an absurdly trivial problem, but actually is , so far at least, a fatal barrier to investment.

End of lecture 1. All of this will be on the test.

PS. organic rankine cycles (ORC) are great, But the ruthless second law will not allow much efficiency at their low temps. $/watt is impeded by the same old size problem.

PPS All this palavar merely shows how much we are not doing by putting all our doers on doing stuff like spy drones.

Hi Wimbi, good condensed lecture, though I could have sat the test without it - I have been quietly studying Stirlings for 10yrs now.

A hot pressure wall is not that hard to do - that is what a boiler, or even a DHW tank is, after all, though a monotube coil is the simplest and cheapest way to do it.

For decent power/mass, you need high pressure, preferably with a light gas (hydrogen, helium).

This is my point - why the obsession with power/mass? Unless you are powering a vehicle, it doesn't matter. T he Bloom box has the advantage, like a Stirling, that it can run in any combustible gas, and weights 10 tons for 100kW, that is 100kg/kW, and companies are buying those. Why go to the expense and subsequent troubles with H2 or He, pursuing lightweight , when lightweight is not important?
Sealing pistons and hot air (not superhot air) is mature technology, so why not use it, and accept the temperature limitations?

What is important is $/watt, and Stirlings aren;t in the ballgame on that score - the ORC's are.
The PureCycle system sells for around $1/W.

When Carrier/UTC was developing it their objective was simple - lowest cost per watt produced. They did not focus on efficiency, as with a waste heat source, the heat is free, but if the $/W is too high, the project will not get done and so the efficiency is irrelevant.

Their unit is only about 10-12% efficient, but who cares? If you have unlimited hot water from some industrial process, or a hot spring, or CSP, then just plug in and go. At $1/W (exclusing BOS), if your cost of power is 10c/kWh, your system will pay for itself in 1.3 yrs! For the solar situation, it will be cheaper to simply add more collection than spending $10/W for 20-25% efficiency (like the commercial Stirlings).

So, like UTC, do whatever is needed to get the $/W down to a level where people will buy the thing. High efficiency, high complexity and high cost is a guaranteed market failure. Stirlings started out as simple ways to convert heat into energy, they will never compete with ICE's and gas turbines, and anyone who thinks they will, will go broke. The SOFC' and MCFC's will eventually dominate for use of dirty fuel, but they can;t do heat to energy.

Waste heat, landfill type fuel, and CSP is where its at for Stirlings, and right now, ORC's are leaving them in the dust.

Paul. I had mislabeled you as a student. You are of course a member of the faculty, and a mighty good one too. Thanks for the info on PureCycle. Looks Good! Why wouldn't this tech beat out PV? My rude home made solar water heater could drive it.

I myself keep going around and around on the best design and commercial target for stirlings. I think we have a handle on designs that last a long time and cost something close to a third of a dollar a watt to make. Concentrated solar, and small CHP look good. At a few kW of power, i don't think there is anything to beat it for first cost and cost to operate.

But I agree with you on combustion engines. If you have diesel fuel, run it thru a diesel.

On air vs He. Problem is, you have a nice little air engine that does what you need, then you put He in it, all of a sudden you have a really great little He engine. This is a huge temptation! Hydrogen is even better, but magnets turn into powder in hydrogen.

The only "problem" with the PureCycle is that it comes in just one size - 250kW. It has been used for waste heat recovery from boilers, engines and low grade geothermal. It runs the world lowest temperature geothermal power system at Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks, Alaska, using an input temp of 165F, and cooling temp of 40F. The Carnot effciency at that level is just 20%, and the actual efficiency is something well below 10%, but when you have unlimited warm water, who cares? They put in two of the units, and get 480kW of power out - just need to look at your return on capital (an avoided cost) to see if it is worthwhile

What your market will be for small units, I'm not sure - though CHP will indeed be the best one. Solar might be one, at $0.33/W, and use a Fresnel lens systems for your concentrators, or better yet, the Scheffler reflector

If substituting He improves the performance that much, then fine, but as soon as it involves changes to the engine, then you have to look carefully at the cost/benefits. I agree that H2 is asking for trouble on many levels.

Anyway, if you can get it done at that price, then you should sell lots - I will take one of them.


From the Bloom Energy site, here's the "ES-5000 Energy Server" data sheet. Perhaps someone knowledgable in the efficiency of NG fired power plants can work this out. [ 0.661 MMBtu/hr of natural gas producing 100KW ].

Just convert the units. In round numbers its 50% efficient, which is pretty close to as good as its possible to get with SOFC.

Solid oxide fuel cells have had a niche for a long time. If you happen to have a gas supply and a need for 100kW of baseload electricity, this is a good way to get it.

Interesting IAEA/ISO-approved radiation hazard sign I had not seen before:


You are not supposed to see it normally as


The symbol is intended for IAEA Category 1, 2 and 3 sources defined as dangerous sources capable of death or serious injury, including food irradiators, teletherapy machines for cancer treatment and industrial radiography units. The symbol is to be placed on the device housing the source, as a warning not to dismantle the device or to get any closer. It will not be visible under normal use, only if someone attempts to disassemble the device. The symbol will not be located on building access doors, transportation packages or containers.

However I think I've seen it in a photograph at a roadblock near Fukushima plant but can't find it off-hand with a quick search. Not sure though whether it was put there by the authorities or protestors.

It works better for me than this one did:


In the highly recommended movie What Happens To Nuclear Waste? Into Eternity 1of6 they discuss hazard signs for the future ... and they've come up with the idea that Munch's painting "the Scream" leaves nothing to out in the darkness --- not to be understood --- not even for the FutureMan. I could agree..

BTW there is a new Icelandic volcano just erupting .. ...

How about Katla, is it still all stable there?

Hmm, couple of recent small earthquakes over the glacier, but I have no idea if that's normal or not:


"WikiLeaks: A battle to 'carve up' the Arctic"


"The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources," Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying in a 2010 cable. "Russia should not be defeated in this fight."

"Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and perhaps even China, have competing claims to the Arctic, a region about the size of Africa, comprising some six per cent of the Earth's surface."

then the irony exposed...

"The idea that global warming will melt polar icecaps and allow for new petroleum exploitation in the far north represents a terrible irony, says Andrea Harden-Donahue, a researcher with the Council of Canadians, a social justice organization."

"Climate change is making these resources easier to exploit, while burning these resources will only contribute to more climate change," she says.

"The idea that global warming will melt polar icecaps and allow for new petroleum exploitation in the far north represents a terrible irony,..

Last week I mentioned it's a bit like God dangling one last big carrot at the edge of the cliff. Ironic indeed.

Or like an addict going back for 'one last hit'...

Given that most of the Arctic Sea shelf area is within Russia's economic zone (take a look at a bathymetry map) one has to wonder what claims all these other countries have. There ain't no oil or gas under the north pole. The constant stream of contextless propaganda about "Russians, this...Russians, that" in the Arctic smells like another drang nach osten by the have nots.

Google Earth shows the continental shelf quite well. Just zoom out to see the whole Arctic Ocean, and you can see that most of the shelf area is north of Russia.


Question? -
I am wondering at what point a decline in petroleum fuels availability or increase in cost (or both) might affect the cost and ability to drill the ever increasing number gas wells that will be needed to try to keep production up in the future in the USA (and the world)?
As to the ability to keep extracting current or increasing quantities of minerals of all types, once petroleum fuels get expensive or scarce I suspect that raw materials of all kinds will get unaffordably expensive or just unavailable - Regardless of how much ore is in the ground?
Trucks, trains, airplanes, construction equipment and many other petroleum fueled things are so common and normal to the vast majority of people that they really can not conceive of them not being available to do the job their were built for. This is going to be a big problem in trying to convince people of the major paradigm shift that we are about to start experiencing.

Interesting look at Mass Transit and errors in reports that are done on the subject:

It's behind the NYT 20 views paywall, but viewable through Google if your 20 views have expired.

On the Economics of Mass Transit and the Value of Common Sense


Let’s say there’s a public transit line near your house. Your commute from home to work on this line will average about 40 minutes, door to door. Are you going to take it, or not?

Obviously, I haven’t given you enough information to answer the question. You’ll almost certainly take public transit if driving would take 60 minutes instead. And you’ll almost certainly avoid it if driving would take 15 minutes. If it is relatively close between the two, it would come down to factors like cost, comfort and reliability. The point is simply that you have a choice, and questions about the utility of a public transit system make sense only in the context of that choice.

But a new report on public transportation from the venerable Brookings Institution, which is getting a lot of play in local newspapers around the country, fails to make this very basic distinction.

Even if the drive is 60 minutes and the bus trip 40, if you have to pick kids from day care and go three other places on your way home, people will choose to drive, or drive some days.

You really read to read the whole article to see how messed up the report is. Lots of things wrong.

The report caught my eye because it came to some surprising conclusions. It ranked the top 100 American metropolitan areas on the basis of “access to [public] transit and employment.” I know that I’ve become something of a New York partisan since moving here two years ago, but I was pretty sure that New York was going to rank somewhere near the top of the list, probably along with Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

New York, however, ranked just 13th. Washington ranked 17th. And Chicago ranked 46th — well behind Los Angeles (24th).

Instead, the top 10 metro areas according to Brookings were Honolulu; San Jose, Calif.; Salt Lake City; Tucson; Fresno, Calif.; Denver; Albuquerque; Las Vegas; Provo, Utah; and Modesto, Calif.

This seems really strange.

Among other things the study used a fixed qualifying threshold time - 90 minutes - to assess the transit commute, instead of comparing it to the (local) alternatives. In smaller cities - like Provo - this represents an enormous implicit devaluation of the traveler's time, since it may be nearly impossible to stay inside the coverage area of the transit system and yet have a trip take more than a few minutes by car. Gushing TOD comments on transit or bicycles often indulge in the same fallacy, so Brookings isn't the only one, but they ought to know better. (See Driving costs money, but biking costs time for a back-of-the-envelope on cycling in a place that's not the big city.)

Clearly, no sensible study could rank Provo over NYC for transit in any overall sense. But the thing about NYC is that a lot of trips take forever by any means - it's best if you are able to cherry-pick both endpoints, plus the day and time of travel - so 90 minutes is fine for a rough threshold. The same holds, or very nearly so, for Brookings' own Washington DC, where, in many places for large parts of the day, nothing moves, just as in NYC. Throw in the way big-city think-tankers and politicos can't imagine any living-environment other than a crowd-container - they dwell in their local versions of the NYC box - and maybe it's unreasonable to expect a sensible study...

But the thing about NYC is that a lot of trips take forever by any means

And there's the rub. Transit, especially by train, is a great alternative to being snarled in traffic. But in smaller cities with free(er) flowing traffic, the point to point convenience of driving is hard to beat.

cycling offers point to point also, but it may or may not be convenient depending on the city. I spent a few months in Bakersfield, Ca, which is, amazingly, a very bike friendly city - a 30 mile bike path along the river valley, and bile lanes on all the main roads. I could cycle into town along the bike path faster than driving in peak hour traffic.

Where cycling and transit really win is if you are able to give up your car altogether - which is possible in some cities, and depending on your live-work situation. Then bicycles are faster than cars , and healthier too.

I'm guessing from the "gather the resources" phrase at the link that "faster than" means in the sense of factoring in the time spent to earn the operating cost as if it were part of the travel time. Indeed, I recall some of us students, inspired by the first round of shortages, entertaining ourselves with rough "net effective speed" computations. It turned out that, using median-level wage-rates, transportation of any sort was simply time-consuming. In modern numbers, for example, driving, $US15/hour, $0.50/mile, maximum speed 30mph even if the car moves infinitely fast. (But irrespective of costs, the notion of cycling more than about one block in 110F Bakersfield summer heat seems utterly horrid despite the customary interior-California rationalization, "it's a dry heat"! OTOH there would essentially never be any ice on which to break one's neck.)

The catch in the USA, of course, is that most folks cannot trade off time in the required manner, since "jobs" come mainly in just two sizes - "full time" with possibly some benefits; or else "part time" at a risible hourly rate and certainly no benefits. In addition, we've now got a gargantuan new health-care head tax, or, more precisely, a fiendishly complicated set of booby-trapped rules which will function as a gargantuan head tax in the absence of coverage at a job. (Note that Margaret Thatcher's infelicitous experience with head tax will be unknown to most of our politicians, since it occurred overseas.)

So whenever possible, one must take a "full time" job. But those are often all-consuming (there is, e.g., no 48-hour ceiling), so one then becomes more than willing to pay well over the odds to claw back a few odd bits of time here and there in which to "have a life", or at least the dessicated remains of one. That's done by driving and rushing as fast as possible, hastily grabbing expensive bad meals at fast-food restaurant drive-through windows (sit-down takes way too long), and so on. The problem is further aggravated by hyper-competitive 24/7/365 sports regimens for kids as young as five (no kidding), typically requiring frenetic near-daily travel over non-trivial distances. (For whatever reasons, parents can't seem to say "no".)

The implied marginal value of time can climb very high indeed, which is a major reason (aside from 110F heat, utterly nonexistent in, say, The Netherlands or Denmark) why I tend to be scornful of airy hallucinations that people (except in places like NYC) would take up cycling or transit anytime soon on enough of a scale to matter, even if idiosyncratic personal circumstances do permit that sort of thing to a few individuals (who, incidentally, may become quite unaccountably snippy at the mere suggestion that their circumstances aren't scalable.)

N.B. it also follows that our deeply held modern notions of infinite entitlement, even with respect to good things like genuine medicine, education, or safety, can never conceivably be reconciled with rational use of time or money. However, that's a Thought That Must Never Be Uttered in politically-correct company, so there's nothing to be done about it in any time-frame that needs to concern us. So most folks must remain confined within the hamster-wheel, as the flip side of government fiat-of-entitlement if nothing else.

I could probably get 3/4 of my errands done with one of these electric scooters:


Except they are not legal to ride on the sidewalk, and what they call bike lanes around here are just this side of a death wish (google on sharrows).

If there were a temporary shortage of gasoline, every place I've ever lived has been within an easy bike ride of at least two different supermarkets. Average distance 1 to 3 miles.

Most times I could get to work on a bike too, but it would be a workout and take awhile. Average distance 8 to 15 miles with hills. However once again it's suicide to ride a bike on the roads around here.

If I could catch public transpo to work, a lot of suburbs are actually quite liveable without a car. It would suck getting on a bike before dawn on a pouring down rain day, but I could do it.

...and what they call bike lanes around here are just this side of a death wish (google on sharrows).

Sharrows are not bike lanes; they are indicators (for cyclists and motorists) that both types of users are expected to share the traffic lane.

Driving a bike, safely, in traffic is a learned skill, and most people can acquire it. The first fear that must be overcome is the common one that you will be hit from behind by an automobile. That seldom happens in city riding.

The fear of overtaking traffic keeps cyclists imprudently (and improperly) close to the curb/parked vehicles, where they are in much more danger at intersections, where most collisions actually occur.

Where do you live? I'd be surprised if your "suicide" impression is an accurate one.

That fear also puts some of them on the sidewalk, and roughly half end up going the 'wrong' way, that is, against the traffic in the adjacent lane. At an intersection, that puts them precisely in position to be plowed into by someone making a left turn from the other side of the same street, or making a right turn from the cross street (which necessitates driving over the crosswalk.) The left turner probably overtook the cyclist but never noticed through the traffic and parked cars, and feels no need to look backwards for fast-moving traffic. The right turner, being on the cross street, never saw the cyclist in advance, and is now gazing fixedly left into the traffic waiting impatiently to stomp on the gas and burn rubber at the first opening (right turn on red), so never sees anything coming from the right at any speed, fast or slow. Either way, wham!

In all such cases the sidewalk is serving as a separated lane, so the very same problems exist with those - absent the very complicated signals one sees at some Amsterdam intersections, and those are essentially always absent in the US. But separated lanes do make some people feel "safe" (from overtaking cars) - while politicians like them not for real or imagined safety, but simply because, out of sight, out of mind: if drivers can't see cyclists, then they don't bug their politicians with complaints that cyclists exist.

Where I live, we lose one of those sidewalk riders at an intersection every now and then. Any turn operation is a candidate, but the two I described seem to be prime ones. N.B.: IIRC the proportion of overtaking crashes in straight travel is on the order of 2% depending on the exact study, with the other 98% at intersections. And no matter how many parked cars you deploy as bogus barricades, it's physically impossible, in the city, to eliminate very many intersections. But alas, as with Rockman's comments on frac'ing, people resolutely insist on worrying their fool heads off about all the wrong things.


Note that the major bicycle organizations offer traffic-safety workshops from time to time in many localities.

Note that New York City and Washington DC prohibit right turn on red, which was ironically made the default standard by the Feds in the 1970s to "save oil" (in a trivial amount.) Very bad human engineering for a safety-critical practice - it's much simpler when unblinking red means "stop, period".

Good and accurate points, Paul.

The dangers of sidewalk cycling are significant and little understood. Very few people intuitively understand the point you make about riding the "wrong way" on a sidewalk, because they think of sidewalks as two-way facilities. That works for pedestrians, but cyclists are typically moving at least three to five times faster than peds, even on sidewalks. Combine that speed with the fact that drivers aren't expecting or looking for them there and every intersection and driveway becomes a conflict zone.

In the U.S., the League of American Bicyclists (always just called "LAB") provides a wide variety of training material and programs (for cyclists and motorists), as well as advocacy for cyclists.

If you're at all interested in cycling in American traffic, and not already an expert, or if you're a motorist interested in the right way to share the road with other users, spending some time on the LAB site may be well worthwhile:


Even if you are travelling the right direction, motorists making a right turn typically look at the crosswalk and maybe the curb, but not thirtyfeet down the sidewalk, so entering the crosswalk at speed is a recipe for a nasty surprise.

Yes. Indeed, almost anything you can do is a surprise. It's just a bigger or more likely surprise when you pop out of a place where essentially no one looks at all.

Yep, the US really has made life difficult to live for its people, and I don't really know why. I'm sure Teddy Roosevelt would be shocked and dissapointed that no one has the time to go to his National Parks.

On a related note, parts of modern cities are bad enough for your lifestyle that they can cause diabetes.

The work as part of travel time is an interesting calculation, and to have to work one day in order to afford a car for the others is not always a good deal. anyone I knew in Australia that had a four day work week loved it. Kelloggs did the six hour shift for their workers in the depression, but I'd take the shorter week, given a choice.

I think people would take up transit, even in the hot places, if it were convenient, clean and safe enough - and fuel was expensive enough, or they knew it was going to be. Still a step down for many, but that's coming anyway.

My time in BK was Oct-Dec, so missed the heat, but the flatness of the place made cycling easy. Their bus system was surprisingly good too - and all on clean burning CNG!

Predictable yet unaccountably snippy rant against people that get unaccountably snippy when confronted with claimed evidence that their circumstances do not scale.

I have to demonstrate the EXTREME SUPERIORITY of bicycling from an experience I had today. I happened to go into work for a short time today. As I rode my bike in to the parking lot, I passed a coyote on a little stretch of grassland south of the building. I then parked my bike against the building. After an hour or so, a tornado came through from the southwest and ripped the roofs off of some pole-barns north of my building. I talked to a guy who said his car got totaled in the parking lot and said he was waiting for a ride home. I decided to check the situation of my bike, figuring it might be tossed around. It's a light-weight carbon-fiber bike weighing between 15 and 20 pounds. It didn't move an inch! I went to retrieve the garbage can sitting next to it which was sitting a good 20 yards away. Of course the bike didn't move because it is a SUPERIOR DESIGN simply impervious to wind. They ordered everyone out of the building because of possible natural gas leaks. So I rode out of the parking lot heading back home. The grassland that the coyote was jogging on was now strewn with all the uprooted trees from the other side of the driveway. The tornado ripped every tree out of its roots that was sitting in the savanna.

Ha Ha Ha, PaulS loses, Tornadoes lose, I win, Bicycles Rule!

Thank you for letting me vent.

And this great story to tell the grandchildren validates scalability how?

There is another metric that I am not seeing. That is, "How do you get to the bus?" Assuming the transit line is right outside your door is one thing. Here, it is about 3 miles to any transit stop, 4 to 8 miles to the major transfer point where there is public parking. To take DART, you need to be there by 5:45 am, or the walk from car to station will take you half an hour, at least. Morning, with temps in the mid to upper 70's are not so bad... coming home it is 95+! I can survive, but there are many who cannot do that.

The problem is that the people who planned the system had no idea what they were doing. The did not create sufficient parking, underestimated demand so there is insufficient running stock, and when I asked one board member about it, he had no clue. Said, "we have plenty of rolling stock, and more parking than we need. No one takes mass transit in Texas, anyway, so who cares." And that is a direct quote. Said it on an overcrowded DART train about 8:30 am.


Well, the park and ride is the first problem. You actually want to have people living around the station, and shops and stuff right there. Those people don;t need to drive at all - they can just walk right onto the train.

That is what so many American cities get wrong - they see the train as part of a car journey, instead of trying to create a pert of the city where you don;t need a car in the first place. No surprise that Texas would take the opposite approach.

Calgary has the happy medium. Most of its C-train stations are at shopping centres or other "nodes". The outer ones have park and ride. but what they also have is a very well thought out network of feeder buses - that just do relatively short loops to collect people and take them to the train station. That way, you don;t need the car at all, and a family can be a one car family, if they choose.

Having a train station surrounded by a massive park and ride ensures the train station will be nothing other than a hub for car based commuters, and hardly anyone else will use it. Having the train station as part of a shopping/school/high density living area means that more people will use it, more of the time, and use their car less, it they own them at all. For those that live in the nearby suburbs, a bus should be able to get you to the station in good time - assuming that a planner somewhere considers that important.

Yup. What Paul said.

"No one takes mass transit in Texas, anyway, so who cares."

LOL 1: in some sense that's probably culturally true. But to hear it from a board member is strange; normally they tend to be blind to such truths. In many US cities they'd almost have to be to spend time serving on such a board.

LOL 2: "no one takes transit in Texas", and yet Dallas has DART. Likewise no one dances ballet, and yet Dallas has a professional ballet company. So is Dallas not quite part of Texas?

LOL 3: if Dallas is different, how does your board member stay unaware of it?

Ah, Texas. Part of the USA and yet another country...

I worked for Tucson Transit (Suntran) from 1979-1990. The system during that time won awards for its coverage, shelters, bus paint jobs, etc. It was truly a good transit system, and it sounds like they've continued to keep it that way. Tucson is very easy to navigate by bus for a sprawled-out city.


Tucson is laid out in a grid, almost perfect squares, which gives it an advantage in some respects. I lived there in '74-'75 and (coming from Atlanta) was amazed at how easy it was to get around in. I didn't have a car, didn't need one. Very walkable/bikable. It doesn't seem to have quite the same character these days. Got too damn big.

I grew up in Tucson, lived there 1961-1993 and visited just last year. The bus system actually worked quite well, the only problem is that every time the economy went down, they cut service and raised rates. Also Tucson is growing at such a rate that the transit system just can't keep up with the growth. On the northwest side, it's growing around the mountains there and just keeps stretching out.

There have always been those foothill / edge of town areas that the Tucson transit system was / is always trying to catch up to. True when I worked there and still true now. The transit system still apparently works pretty well even though Tucson has mushroomed in population - I have friends and relatives there. Used to be lots of charters by the transit system serving U of A sporting events and some big companies in outlying areas long before most sprawling western cities thought about doing such things - don't know if they still do that. I'm sure SunTran has a web site with such details.

A story I heard, visiting there years ago, was that part of the impetus for putting that system in was that parents were going crazy with driving their kids around, and the system was one way that some high school kids could find their way home if they stayed for an after-school activity. (I had wondered out loud what possible use a bus system could be in such an area.)

It IS strange. I live in Honolulu now, and have lived in Boston. Boston has better transit within the city. TheBus in Honolulu is quite comprehensive, but it runs on a different assumption from Boston subways - buses assume you can afford to wait or are commuting (on commuting routes they run very heavily during morning and around 5 pm, but otherwise with much longer gaps), while the subways ran fairly frequently and fairly late. TheBus has a maze of routes and transfers, much more than you could keep in your head, so while you can get most places on Oahu by bus, you will need to plan and it will take a lot of time. The T trains in Boston are a limited system backed by a bus, but it was very easy to use and did not require any real planning. If I wanted to get somewhere by train, I went to the station and caught the next one that came along - generally I wasn't waiting more than 10 minutes, and I was in a station protected from the elements if it was in the city center area.

Heck, if I DIDN'T know anything about where I was going other than there was a subway/streetcar station, I could navigate in Boston. You go in, look at the map, see where it is, and go. In Honolulu? You would either never get there or it would take all day. Planning is absolutely essential.

As for why so many use TheBus in Honolulu - have you seen the prices in Honolulu? Gas is expensive, insurance is expensive, taxes are expensive... Lots of people don't have a lot of money here. Anyone with the cash has a car, but that leaves a big section of the populace who don't have the cash.

Frankly, public transit in most of the USA is for the poor. The catch is that more Americans are becoming the poor that need to use public transit, only when they get down to that level they will discover it is not there or is useless. Most Americans don't know anything about what makes good or bad public transit, or why trains are much nicer than buses, or anything like that. They don't care, either, until they can't use their car.

That "planning" thing is indeed another vexation with bus systems. The vaunted "flexibility" of buses means you can have one complex of interlocking schedules (that the drivers can't be bothered to adhere to anyhow) in the early AM, another in the AM rush, another in the middle of the day, another as school lets out, another in the PM rush, and another in the evening - and rinse and repeat differently (or maybe no service at all at times) on Saturdays, again on Sundays, and again on holidays. Every trip has to be custom-planned as if it were a military campaign, and the plan falls to pieces at the slightest unforeseen delay.

So in most places that aren't dense enough to have something like the T or the NYC subway, it's just incredibly simpler, as well as vastly less time-consuming, to drive the car. Just point it where you need to go and drive - no tedious, complicated campaign of planning needed, and you can depart whenever you need to rather than only at some arbitrary time set at the whim of some politician.

Frankly, public transit in most of the USA is for the poor.

With respect to bus systems, sure. Well, plus, as in Tucson or Phoenix, students going home following an after-school activity. Who else would have a low enough imputed-value-of-time to be able to use it? And how could it change? The actual cost seems roughly comparable to solo driving (the figures bandied about during the budget kerfuffles over the winter were: Chicago CTA, $7/ride; (IIRC) Minneapolis-St.Paul, $6/ride), so without it being subsidized to the hilt, the poor couldn't substitute it for driving. But that means the authorities can't afford (within voters' willingness to pay taxes) to expand it beyond the barest minimum.

So not only would it be unavailable (as a practical matter) in the event of, say, a fuel shortage; it would take quite some time to become available. The buses would have to be manufactured first, and even before that, some factories would have to be retooled under modern regulations, far more complex and time-consuming than were in force during, say, the 1942 changeover.

Okay, I feel an uncontrollable urge to make Americans feel bad.

Availability and use of nearby public transit for selected census metropolitan areas, 2007

Metropolitan Area Had access to
public transit
Used public transit
(households with access)
Toronto 90 59
Montréal 88 49
Vancouver 90 51
Ottawa–Gatineau 86 45
Calgary 79 44
Edmonton 86 36
Winnipeg 90 53
Victoria 91 40
Canada 68 41

Without wading through a lot of definitions that I suppose must be somewhere, I don't know what "had access" means (at what times, on what days, how often, going to how many places), and I don't know what "used" means (daily, once a week, once a month, once a year, by how may of a household's members - and by how many of the household's adults, being that the systems in Phoenix and Tucson were partly aimed at students.) And even if I knew those things, I probably couldn't find US statistics based on the same or closely similar definitions. For example, most or all of Paris proper is within 1km of a Metro station, and nearly all of those provide frequent service much of the time. Where I am, "had access" could mean one bus in the morning, one in the evening, weekdays only, which might well be entirely useless to most households.

It's also impossible to tell from those numbers what percentage of trips or trip-miles was completed by transit, versus car, which in some ways might reveal more about the character of a particular city.

Also, since transit service seems to be very costly (as I mentioned elsewhere, CTA in Chicago recently said $7/ride), I'd have to weigh relative levels of taxation in order to take a stab at whether the benefit might be worth the cost.

So you see, the problem is, I'm left with insufficient data to evaluate just how bad to feel ;)

Well, here's a link to the main page so you can read it and weep at your leisure:

Study: Public transit

In 2007, two-thirds of Canadian households lived within five minutes of public transit. When work and non-work travel was combined, 41% of these households used public transit regularly during that period.

And as for cost:

Only 4% of households indicated that the cost of public transit was a factor.

If you don't live within 5 minutes of public transit yourself, and can't use it because it's not available or because you can't afford it, It's probably because you're living in the wrong country (the United States).

And still the blanks are unfilled or at least misunderstood.

Within 5 minutes of a usefully frequent service, or just one bus in the morning and one in the evening, weekdays only, and then only when the drivers feel like it? "Regular" use meaning how often? What fraction of trips? Trips by adults, or mainly by students?

I doubt the affordability-of-fare issue is any worse in the US than most other places. Maybe I wasn't clear enough: $7/ride isn't the CTA fare in Chicago, it's the cost of provision ex many or most capital costs. That easily matches or exceeds solo driving for a trip confined within the service area, which makes it a laughingstock ("maybe it would be simpler and cheaper just to buy everyone a 'free' car") in legislative debates.

Still can't decide whether to weep, or just shed a crocodile tear or two.

Or, perhaps, wake up and feel better.

Else, prepare to watch our neighbor to the north do a much better job of handling PowerDown than we will.

(So much for the "vast distances" of North America making transit impractical.)

Another reason to reserve a special spot in Dante's seventh circle of hell for our financial elites.

U.S. Banks Picking Mexican Drug Cartels’ Side In The U.S.’s War On Drugs

...A recent scandal involves Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, in which Wachovia was found to have laundered (and profited off said-laundering) $378.4 billion in drug money for Mexican drug cartels. It is just the most recent in a string of examples of the onerous dynamic between U.S. banks and Mexico’s criminal element.

...More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4 Billion – a sum equivalent to one-third (1/3) of Mexico’s gross national product (GNP) – into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.

...“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank’s $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement. ...nobody went to jail for this, not even the executives who ignored the whistle blowing efforts of certain courageous employees concerned about the lack of AML controls in place, going so far as to fire one of them for speaking out.

Also mentioned ...Barclays Bank, Bank of America, HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and American Express Bank International


We should make a deck of cards for the USA.

Aces would probably be Clinton, Bush, Obama and Greenspan.

Kings, maybe Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson and Phil Gramm... er, wait,... maybe Cheney... hmmm... and ...

So many criminals, so few cards ;)

The banks only care about money in the end. That is their function. The fact that this mission corrupts the people who run the banks is not surprising. At this point there is almost nothing they could do that would surprise me.

As for the "War on Drugs", that's a shame as big as the two wars overseas, a waste of human talent and time. Most of the money is from cannabis, which is effectively non-toxic (no lethal dose) and a major cash crop across the US as well as Mexico. Throwing people in jail over this stuff makes their lives much, much harder, costs everyone a bundle of money, and only benefits criminals and the prison industry. Frankly, these drugs should all be legal, even down to heroin. Barring that, legalizing cannabis would deal a major blow to these criminal institutions.

Sorry, you cannot put all those drugs under one umbrella. You don't seem to have seen what some of them do to people and the business that surrounds them.


My former upstairs neighbor was a math major, he graduated but seems to have fallen back into drug use, he lost his one job, alienated his friend who had hired him, and ended up on the streets, most likely due to heroin. Last I saw him he told me the police had arrested him claiming he was dealing, while he claims it was his friend and he was set up.

Now, while I appreciate how bad his situation is, putting him in prison is not making it better. He may have ended up jobless and on the streets if drugs were legal, but because they are illegal he may be in jail or prison right now. Would you say this is a better outcome?

If he was just an alcoholic, you would be defending the morality of legal alcohol while talking about his need for better care/his irresponsibility, depending on your political views.

I've known druggies and alcholics, and I know that each drug has it's dangers. I have thought about this quite a bit. You can't tell people not to do drugs, and putting people in jail is not a good answer to public health issues.

Ok, from your previous comment you sounded like you were advocating those drugs to be legal full stop. If, from this comment, you are saying that the user should not be punished then I would agree provided that treatment was made available. The question is what about the dealers on up? Sorry, but we see the mayhem that these people can do around here and they really need to be taken off the street.


Ummm... don't you think that the "mayhem" arises from the fact of illegality and, thus, the potential for huge, untaxed cash profits?

On the one hand yes and I have suggested before that marijuana might be better legally available then that would kill one big cash cow. On the other, one sees the destruction that some of the other drugs do and I can see no way that they can become allowed we need to deal with the consequences of dealing with them.


Would you be in favor of re-enacting prohibition of alcohol?

It should ALL be illegal.
Not hugely illegal, just enough to take it out of stores...
Not encouraging of large-scale production and distribution.
To return it to the community level.
Plant based, OK. No chemistry.
Grow something for the neighborhood, OK.
Brew and dispense at home, OK
Offer a ceremony... even better.

Remember when we use to commonly make music for each-other?
Now we buy the music. The songs make money. They are empty.

OK, I'll "buy" that. As long as you're not sending people to prison; I'm really tired of that lame-ass approach and its unintended consequences.

I'll make beer and you can drink it while playing real music for us.

Good deal all around.

This may well have been discussed before as it is dated March 2011, but I've only just stumbled on it:

European researchers chase billion-euro technology prize

Blimey, €1 billion!

Some very interesting projects on the shortlist:


The six shortlisted projects include:

- Human Brain Project which aims to build a supercomputer simulation of the brain.
- Graphene which will develop the thinnest conducting material known for data storage and processing platforms.
- Guardian Angels a project to develop nanoscale sensors and interfaces for detecting and responding to environmental danger.
- Robot Companions which will develop soft-bodied 'perceptive' robots as companions for the lonely.
- FuturICT for planetary-scale modelling of human activities and their impact on the environment.
- ITFoM (IT Future of Medicine) which will develop ways to apply research data more efficiently in health care.

Personally I think I'd like to see FuturICT and Graphene come out victors.

Nick,not questioning the prize money only the stupid projects.What a waste of time and money.Bureaucrats will be bureaucrats.

Oh I don't know, I think graphene could come in handy...


"Our research establishes graphene as the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel," mechanical engineering professor James Hone, of Columbia University, said in a statement.

"It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap [cling film].


"It is not even one material. It is a huge range of materials. A good comparison would be to how plastics are used."

Much has been made of graphene's potential. It can be used for anything from composite materials - like how carbon-fibre is used currently - to electronics."


Today, we know more about the universe than about our society. It's time to use the power of information to explore social and economic life on Earth and discover options for a sustainable future. Together, we can manage the challenges of the 21st century, combining the best of all knowledge.

The FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator is a previously unseen multidisciplinary international scientific endeavour with focus on techno-socio-economic-environmental systems.

The ultimate goal of the FuturICT flagship project is to understand and manage complex, global, socially interactive systems, with a focus on sustainability and resilience. Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies probably constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century and is equally important for the development of novel robust, trustworthy and adaptive information and communication technologies (ICT), based on socially inspired paradigms.

We think that integrating ICT, Complexity Science and the Social Sciences will create a paradigm shift, facilitating a symbiotic co-evolution of ICT and society. Data from our complex globe-spanning ICT system will be leveraged to develop models of techno-socio-economic systems. In turn, insights from these models will inform the development of a new generation of socially adaptive, self-organized ICT systems.

It would seem like a worthwhile project to develop a model of how the world actually works, rather than to continue the speculation and bloviation.

I've been trying to get such a project going. Can't get anyone interested. In the end it's not really necessary. Sustainability is what it is and there aren't that many pathways because we are so far down the road. it would possibly still serve a great purpose in creating awareness.

The human brain is dysfunctional. Why would we want a simulation of it?

At least the simulation can be reprogramed, unlike many folks I know.

Because being able to simulate it is the first step to being able to copy it.

Going too far down that path leads to some interesting religious ideas.

Maybe then we could better understand the dysfunctionality. Maybe even to the point of learning how to better live with it.

I was more wondering about the Robot Companions - what's wrong with a dog?

My thought exactly. Then it occured to me that dogs just shouldn't have to deal with certain people, and alot of folks I know don't deserve a dog. Woof!


Ending 2 song
Ningyo hime
Mermaid princess
Rae Tanaka:

Chobits is about the interaction of people and machines called Persocoms. The end song shows a character from the book "The City Without People" that informs Chii of herself.

(Elfen lied uses similar elements but with the arrow of destruction pointing outward. Elfen Lied is a bloodbath thereby. It is also of no redeeming value. It is oftened mentioned with Chobits.

Elfen Lied Lilium:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QLP4DCcOZA )

Also see "Hand Maid May", "Boku no Marie", and at an even more creepy level, "Gunslinger Girl". Thematically, human females are way too alien for human boys to actually relate with; let's just use robots instead.

Elfen Lied is partially redeemed through its negative commentary on incest. And the awesome Latin (the language, not the ethnicity) opening.

For obligatory on-topic conversation, I've noticed that a lot of anime lately has poorly situated windmills whirling away in the background; "Haibane Renmei" and "Tou Aru Majutsu no Index" are good examples. WHY do they place them in cities where the buildings will totally screw up the wind patterns? At least the artists are thinking about the energy problem.

What's amazing is that there is a Wikipedia page for every one of these. One could speak in nothing but references, like Darmok.

Meh, cats do a good job.


Texas politicians knew agency hid the amount of radiation in drinking water

HOUSTON— Newly-released e-mails from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show the agency’s top commissioners directed staff to continue lowering radiation test results, in defiance of federal EPA rules.

The e-mails and documents, released under order from the Texas Attorney General to KHOU-TV, also show the agency was attempting to help water systems get out of formally violating federal limits for radiation in drinking water. Without a formal violation, the water systems did not have to inform their residents of the increased health risk.

S - TEXAS LIARS – “why the TCEQ did not simply file a lawsuit against the EPA and challenge the federal rules openly in court, White said that in federal court, “Legal challenges, because of law and not because of science, are almost impossible to win.”

I suspect this story will have some legs…at least within the state. There will be thousands of folks with some cancer history from the areas in question. Maybe none were caused by the water born radiation but it will be a feeding frenzy by the lawyers. And rightfully so IMHO. I’ve mentioned before how even oil patch hands don’t tolerate illegal dumpers. The folks in the affected areas will have one concern first: their kids. Second will be anyone who developed cancer. And if someone’s kid has developed cancer? Those board member better get some personal security. It’s not just a running joke: in Texas we really do have a propensity for violence and we are all well armed.

Interesting contrast: we recently discussed how the Texas Rail Road Commission watches over the oil patch with an iron fist. And now a story of how one group of politicians intentionally covered up facts over public safety to help out another group politicians with the budget problems. If you didn’t read the link here’s the critical short story IMHO: clear evidence that state politicians violated fed law. Reminds me a bit like the recent story that it was local Penn politicians who were facilitating, for a profit, oil companies dumping those nasty frac fluids into the drinking water supply. Got to make folks who trust their politicians to protect them from evil corporations wonder a bit.

One bit of good news, Rock: Texas has the highest rate of capital punishment in the US, so they have plenty of practice. Time for the hangin' judge, IMO :-/

Ghung - As you know Texas is a very conservtive state. But if there are as many smoking guns as the link implies there are going to be some big time R's burned at the stake. Depending on who rolls over on who this might cut our ever smiling gov off at the knees. The names in that story won't be known to folks outside the state but they are a well known part of our inbreed PTB structure. The story sounds as though they may actually have some admitted guilt in the public records. If I read the story right it was the Texas Att. General who blew the whistle. In this state that was an equivalent of a Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Typically TPTB keep such matters secret and then use them as chips in the game. It's appears to be war and our politicians don't tend to take prisoners. This could become very intertaining.

If you didn’t read the link here’s the critical short story IMHO: clear evidence that state politicians violated fed law

That isn't there yet. The EPA knew what was going on, and was giving them time. Eventually the EPA decided it was long enough and formally audited them. You need evidence that they were continuing the practice after the 2008 audit before you throw them in jail.

Throwing them out of office is another matter. Politicians should realise that people get a lot more upset about cancer from radiation than cancer from arsenic, and not let the expense of removing arsenic get in the way of meeting the radiation standards. There is not a word about arsenic in the press story, yet its arsenic that the politicians were talking about. That quote is about challenging the EPA arsenic limit not the radiation limit.

B.C. presses ahead with controversial hydro dam despite $2-billion jump in cost

The BC government has been talking a baout a third hydro dam "Site C" on the Peace river for three decades now, and finally decided last year to go ahead with the controversial project.

The B.C. government is vowing to move ahead with the proposed Site C dam despite soaring costs, adding pressure to the Hydro rates it is trying to rein in.

Estimates released Tuesday put the cost of the 1,100-megawatt project at $7.9-billion. That is a $2-billion jump since the government announced with great fanfare last year it would proceed to an environmental review.

Five years ago, the project was forecast to cost a maximum of $3.2-billion.

Sounds like we had better get moving before it becomes $10 or $20bn.

In an interesting example of declining ERO$I, the first project on the Peace river, the massive Bennett Dam and 2730MW power station, was completed in 1967 for the then cost of $900m. That is about $6.5bn in 2011 dollars, and works out to $2.36/W. The current estimate for Site C works out to $7.2/W

Obviously, you build the best hydro sites first, so just like Rockman's drilling efforts, we are now spending more money, in farther away places, for less energy return. Still better than solar or wind, but the gap is narrowing.

A controversial project as you well appreciate, Paul. When you say it's "[s]till better than solar or wind" I'm guessing that you're speaking in terms of its expected cost per MWh and not the social and environmental costs which are presumably much higher.

BC Hydro's rates have always been the second or third lowest in Canada for as long as I can remember and certainly among the lowest in North America. Thinking back to the chart you created the other day comparing per capita consumption and price, I'm wondering if BC could limit future load growth by adopting an aggressive mult-tier rate schedule like that used in California. Your thoughts?



You are correct,I have not added in any of the external costs. In this case, there are more than usual for hydro projects. The area to be flooded is not a river canyon, but actually an area of floodplain, which includes about 6000ha of fertile, irrigated farmland, and a close knit community. It actually has a bit of a microclimate there, and stuff grows very well in the summer. BC Hydro bought that land 30yrs ago and has leased it to farmers, so it's not like they didn't know it was coming. But still, a real world example of food v energy!

The problem for BC is that it doesn't meet its own demand today, let alone load growth. So we are a bit of a California - reliant upon (off peak) imports.

This presentation has the numbers, the trend for the last few years has been of demand increasing faster than domestic supply, so Bc has been a net importer 4 of the last 6 years


You could limit load growth with tiered pricing, but how politically unpopular is that? Especially here where BC Hydro has been telling everyone for years their rates are among the lowest, so there is little support for an increase - this is the "BC advantage".

And people are opposed to any new developments, saying the gov has "sold the rivers" to developers.

But we canl;t have it both ways. Population is increasing, Power Smart has not been able to materially reduce per capita demand. If we up prices to what industry is left (e.g the Kitimat aluminium smelter) they will leave.

One of the problems with being Canada's retirement central is that we have all these retired people who no longer need to earn a living, can easily downsize their own life and expect everyone else to do the same (while paying for their health care, of course). so they have no problem with driving jobs away, and they think that is a good thing, and they are such a large voting block that they can't be ignored!

BC Hydro had said it needed a 50% rate increase over the next five years - lots of 1960's and 70's power stns and transmission lines needing upgrading.
But 50% of the current low rates, is still not that much.

residential customers pay 6.27 cents per kWh for the first 1,350 kWh they use over a two-month billing period. Above that amount, customers pay 8.78 cents per kWh for the balance of the electricity used during the billing period.

So, it is tiered, but not aggressively . Also, any new renewable generation is costing over 10c/kWh, and there is a provincial moratorium on coal fired electricity.

As you know, I am, a big fan of ToU, and I think that is the way to go here - the flatter the load curve the better for trading, the better for in-province wind, the better for the grid, etc.

Make the peak 10c and off peak 5c, or something like that, and raise them both as needed. My brother's farm in Australia pays 24c peak and 10c off peak!

For Power Smart, I think they should put all their eggs in the basket of heat pumps and lighting - there are a lot of baseboards here.

But lots of competing interests, and everyone thinks it should be cheap, and that it should not be exported (which is the only thing keeping it cheap).

The freight train coming may not be as severe as yours, but it is coming. Site C is an attempt to mitigate the supply gap, but the price shows you that there are no cheap options.

To paraphrase Jeff Rubin, we aren't running out of electricity, but we have run out of 2,5 and 10c electricity. From here it only gets more expensive.

Which is not the end of the world - i think put up the rates and carry on with encouraging renewables - we have lots of potential on all fronts except solar. A stable and productive electricity sector is better than a cheap one, IMO

I agree, Paul; there are no easy solutions. I recall watching a CBC documentary on the proposed Site C and the impact it would have on the Peace River Valley and it would break your heart.

In my ongoing debate over the Toronto school board's solar initiative and Ontario's FIT, I mentioned that Ontario is about to spend $33 billion on two new nuclear reactors and the refurbishment of ten more, and pointed out that no nuclear reactor in Canada has ever been built (or rebuilt) on budget. I fully expect the final price tag for Ontario ratepayers will exceed $100 billion. Now that's a freight train, or as you might say "You call THAT a knife? THIS is a knife".


I have not been to the Peace region, and I'm sure a lot of nice country is being lost.

but for inundating a natural wonder, it's hard to beat what Australia did to Lake Pedder, in Tasmania. An amazing, post glacial lake with a 1x3km pink quartzite sandy beach, was a unique ecosystem and a great tourist attraction.. It was flooded as part of hydro scheme, the extra 12m of water yielded all of 60MW at the cost of a world heritage site.

With Ontario, what I have never understood is how the Ont gov ends up on the hook for these cost overruns? Why not just offer the nuke plants a (ToU) feed in tariff, and say take it or leave it? Or establish an Alberta style power market and tell them to take their chances, same as everyone else. That way, after they go over budget in the first, they can decide if they really want to do another nine!

It would seem the CANDU plants have just not been that successful?

Mind you, I don;t know what other alternatives Ontario has - you need a lotta wind to replace nuke or ten!

My understanding is that Ontario power rates are artificially cheap too, so the people have an adjustment coming - might as well get it over and done with!

btw, the precise wording was "that's not a knife - THAT'S a knife!"


Hoges used up all his good lines in the first movie, and should have stopped there. Back in the day, he and his screen partner "Stropp" were Australia's equivalent of Bob and Doug McKenzie, and like those two, the show's don't seem as funny now as they were in their day.

Alaskan well to test innovative hydrate production

A fully instrumented well that will test innovative technologies for producing methane gas from hydrate deposits has been safely installed on the North Slope of Alaska. As a result, the "Iġnik Sikumi" (Iñupiaq for "fire in the ice") gas hydrate field trial well will be available for field experiments as early as winter 2011–12.

Saudi Arabia Gives $4 Billion Egyptian Economic Aid, SPA Says

The assistance will be granted in “soft loans, deposits and grants,” it said, citing a statement issued today by Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling military council.

Massive Canadian fires linked with beetles, climate change

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildfires in Canada have burned 909 percent more than the average number of acres this year, mainly due to a number of blazes in northern Alberta that have been described as “freakish firestorms” by forestry officials.

Some scientists in Canada are conjecturing that the unusually large fires are linked with global warming and the pine beetle infestation that has spread through millions of acres of boreal forests

Natures way of debugging the forest. It's how the Forest service does it around here; burn the infested area and replant. Sometimes they miscalculate, burn during an inversion and the valleys fill with smoke. It's about as bad as the TVA coal plants running full out in August.

Quite true, the problem here is that the area of beetle kill forest is so large that many towns are at risk of being debugged in the process.

This rather depressing map tells the story;

You will notice that since the beetles don;t have passports, they are not allowed across the border!

From the Cdn gov site on MPB;

The MPB infestation in British Columbia now covers about 16.3 million hectares of forest, an area twice the size of New Brunswick. From 1998 to 2009, MPB killed an estimated 675 million cubic metres of pine in British Columbia. That represents 50% of the province's commercial pine.
The outbreak peaked in 2004 and although still expanding it is doing so at a slower rate. In British Columbia, annual incremental area of beetle spread is expected to continue to decline as the outbreak collapses over the next 10 years. According to 2010 provincial projections, the infestation will have claimed about 67% of the province's mature pine by 2020.

That is an area larger than the State of Georgia!
And almost 500 million tons of standing, dead trees - just waiting for lightning to start some big fires.

The lumber companies can use the dead trees for lumber, if they get to them within three years. After that, the wood is too dry and cracked and tends to split or shatter when milled.

The standing dead trees also greatly inhibit the regeneration of new trees - a fire does clean them out, and open the seed pods - Lodgepole pines in particular need fire to open the seeds.

I have long been a proponent of actively removing these trees and using them for energy - burn them on our terms, not Nature's, speed up the regeneration, and get some energy out along the way. The 500mt would provide about $50bn of electricity - enough energy to power the entire province for six years!

The press likes to connect the dots, but the fact is that most of Alberta's forests burn down a couple of times per century, regardless of what human beings do. Almost all of Alberta's forest burned down during the 30's, 40's and 50', and it will likely happen again.

If you compare the areas in Alberta which have been infested with the mountain pine beetle with the areas in which the forest fires have been occurring, you will not that they are not at all the same. The areas which are burning down have suffered little in the way of trees being killed by pine beetle.

It just a natural cycle that has been going on for thousands of years. Unfortunately, when human beings build towns in the path of these forest fires, the results are disastrous from a human perspective, but less so from the perspective of the forests. The forests are used to it. I've been there when they have been having massive fires, and actually the forests look a lot healthier after the new trees start growing back.

Are you telling me you have no idea whatsoever of the difference between temperate and rain forests, or is it just that important to you to deny sound science for some odd reason?

Also, if most of the forests in Alberta burn down a couple times in a 100 year span, I'm Superman. This would mean there could statistically be virtually no forests older than about 60 years old, even if untouched by human beings.

Not buying, but willing to listen.

In old forests, with regular fires, the larger trees survive and regenerate. Old growth and fires are not incompatible and fires are good for the health of the old growth.


Are you telling me you have no idea whatsoever of the difference between temperate and rain forests, or is it just that important to you to deny sound science for some odd reason? Also, if most of the forests in Alberta burn down a couple times in a 100 year span, I'm Superman. This would mean there could statistically be virtually no forests older than about 60 years old, even if untouched by human beings.

The forests which are burning down in Alberta are not temperate or rain forests, they're boreal forests.

I am living in a forest in Alberta, and the trees around my house are about 80 years old. This is unusually old for Alberta. The biggest forest fires were in the dry years of the 1930's, when they covered most of the forested areas of the province, but many of the forests in the oil sands area last went up in flames during the 1960's. Some of the forests near here have burned down twice in the last 40 years - and I've watched them burn. It's quite spectacular.

The forest management people do controlled burns every year to reduce the fire hazard and eliminate the mountain pine beetle in this area. They've got some controlled burns going on right now. If they set the forest on fire in a controlled manner, when fires are unlikely to spread, it's a lot safer than if it catches fire on its own.

Boreal, yes, yes, yes, a huge difference in how they burn and what is left when they do.

Let's look at this: Your area has trees 80 years old, arguing somewhat against your original comment. Also, to what extent have the tar sands eroded the hydration of the land there? Definitely not inconsequential. Further, do you have stats on forests burning? Finally, controlled burns have fallen out of favor. Why does Alberta do them, other than the beetles?

But all this is trivial in relation to my primary question: do you not understand the difference between boreal and rain forests? And, to expand for clarity, are you claiming the results from burning them are the same?

Your area has trees 80 years old, arguing somewhat against your original comment.

I said that most forests in Alberta burn down a couple of times per century. These are averages. Many forests burn down twice a century, some ten times, some not at all.

Also, to what extent have the tar sands eroded the hydration of the land there?

Not at all. It just looks tidier afterwards because all the ponds are artificial, and they put in picnic tables so people can sit and look at them.

do you not understand the difference between boreal and rain forests? And, to expand for clarity, are you claiming the results from burning them are the same?

Of course I know the difference. The boreal forests in Alberta burn down an average of twice per century, the rain forests on Vancouver Island burn down once every 700 years on average. Naturally, the trees in the BC rain forests (those few of them that haven't been logged) are much, much bigger. The ones here aren't very big.

Further, do you have stats on forests burning?

Frequently Asked Questions About Forest Fires

2. Why is the boreal forest often referred to as a forest shaped by fire?

Fire is a frequent disturbance in the boreal forest because of the combustible nature of the trees and a warm, dry climate that facilitates severe fire weather. Fires in the boreal typically kill most trees, and as a result the boreal forest is a patchwork of forest stands that reflect the time since the last fire. The species composition of plants and animals changes over time through a process called succession.

3. How often do forest fires occur?

The percentage of annual area burned within a region is often used to estimate the frequency of fires. If an average of 1% of an area burned each year for 100 years, the fire frequency would be estimated at 100 years. Fire frequency varies widely and depends on the location and the period over which it is calculated. For Canadian forests, historic fire frequencies can be as short as 10 years or as long as 1000 years. The boreal forest typically has a fire frequency of 50 to 200 years, fire being more frequent in the west and less in the east.

We're in the West, so the fires occur toward the more frequent end of the scale.

The boreal forest typically has a fire frequency of 50 to 200 years, fire being more frequent in the west and less in the east.

looks like averages don't support your contention very well. Also, claiming those ponds don't affect hydrology much is truly ludicrous. They are designed to keep water in. Evaporation and infiltration are very different processes. The former, which is the primary result of those ponds, moves water out of that areas. Infiltration keeps more water in the area.

I don't think you understand natural systems very well.

Of course I know the difference. The boreal forests in Alberta burn down an average of twice per century, the rain forests on Vancouver Island burn down once every 700 years on average. Naturally, the trees in the BC rain forests (those few of them that haven't been logged) are much, much bigger. The ones here aren't very big.

Now you are getting somewhere. "Other" forests store their carbon in plants and soil, with more in the soil than in the plants, so the carbon impact of forest fires in an "other" forest is lower than with a rain forest burning down and is roughly neutral over time.

A rain forest burning down, however, releases some 80 of all carbon stored there because most of the carbon is in the plants, not the soil. Also, the ecosystem is much more vulnerable and far less likely to grow back relatively intact. One of the far-reaching impacts is a larger and longer-term effect on the hydrological cycle of the areas in question.

Take off your blinders; the view is much more informative.

I seem to recall that the average area burned per year in Canada's boreal forest in the last decade is about twice the area that used to burn per year back in the 1970's. So I suspect that it's not just a natural cycle. Correlates quite nicely with climate change and pine beetle.

At some point the Rocky Mountain states in the US will be getting their own versions of these big fires. There are several states that each have over a million acres of beetle-killed trees.

The normal state for much of the Rocky Mountains is "open" forest: stands of mature trees separated by meadow. Fires occurred at least once every several years, but were ground fires that burned off the tops of the grass, the mild underbrush that had accumulated since the last fire, and most of the tree seedlings. Mature trees were almost always left unharmed. US Forest Service policy for much of the 20th century was complete suppression of all fires; by the time they realized that it was a mistake, huge areas were grossly overgrown. Fires today are much more likely to be massive crown fires that wipe out everything and burn so hot the ground is fused into an almost waterproof surface. Today's crowding contributes to the beetle problem by making it easier for the bark beetles to move from one area to another.

There's a long history of Western resentment towards the US federal government (the West's relationship with the federal government is... complicated). One of the factors contributing to that resentment is the implicit federal attitude that "We know suppression was a bad policy, but it's too expensive to undo except in relatively small selected areas."

This is a situation where leaving the care of the public lands in the hands of the states would probably have had a better outcome. Not because the states knew any better, but simply because the states would not have had the financial resources to implement a policy of complete fire suppression.

Re. "The Young and Hopeless Greek Return to their Cheaper Countryside. Could it Happen here? "

The most hope-inspiring article of the day.

"They simply cannot find jobs in a service-oriented economy that depends on low-paid cheap labour."

Reading today's TAE, Will The Pain Start In Spain", maybe the young and hopeless spanish will soon follow their greek counterpart's lead.

You did notice that the fine article defined countryside as not-Athens.

LOL PV Guy, yes indeed. But "not Athens" is a start in the right direction.

This morning my wife and daughters decided they would move the wood pile... to make it easier to mow the lawn...

I quit.

Carib Cement says it may not be able to continue as a going concern

Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL), despite its best performance to date on export sales, this week reported one of its worst years of operation in which cement supplied to the market hit a seven-year low and its operating losses climbed above J$2 billion.

Tax credits reduced the net loss to J$1.56 billion, or -J$1.83 per share, a result that was 10 times worse than the loss of J$144.5 million, or negative 17 cents per share, of 2009.

That result, some of it due to higher production costs linked to energy prices, as well as Caribbean Cement's lack of working capital, has forced the indebted company to acknowledge its vulnerability.

Why am I bringing this up on the drumbeat? From Wikipedia

Portland cement clinker is made by heating, in a kiln, a homogeneous mixture of raw materials to a sintering temperature, which is about 1450 °C for modern cements.

Production of portland cement is a very energy intensive process which has been facilitated largely by abundant, cheap fossil fuels. This particular operation actually used to use oil as a fuel for producing the heat before rising oil prices led them to switch to coal.

The outlook for this operation in the long term is extremely gloomy as it faces several challenges.
1)Heavy indebtedness
2)High capital costs, likely to require further borrowing to finance efficiency upgrades/improvements
3)Energy intensiveness
4)No sources of (heat) energy other than biomass (wood) or solar.

Wood is out of the question and as far as I know, no solar powered portland cement production facilities exist, if such a thing is even possible. Seems to me that the effects of Peak Oil, high energy/transport costs couple with a recessionary climates (little or negative growth) are already impacting this operation. Seems to me that, portland cement may one day go the way of the dinosoars, at least on the scale that we've been using it. As the favorite construction material for those in my island who can afford it, it's hard to imagine that one day, only the very rich will be able to afford it. Right now even the poor in Jamaica avoid building with wood if they can as a hot, humid climate combined with lots of bugs that eat wood, make life with a wooden structure a relatively high maintenance affair.

Alan from the islands

The ancient Romans made high quality cement without fossil fuels. Maybe it is time for modern Jamaicans (as well as others) to study old recipes. Some of that 2,000 year old concrete the Romans made is still functioning, still bearing loads.

The best of the Roman cements -- the one that demonstrates the longevity you mention -- was pozzolona, a somewhat unique volcanic dust. If volcanic heat has produced and left you an adequate supply, terrific. If not, you need some sort of fuel to produce the necessary high heat to form similar materials.

I'm not sure how the Romans made cement but I do know that the Phoenicians smelted metal with charcoal and, perhaps Diamond, suggested that their decline was associated with the devastation of forests around their smelters. It became too "expensive" to provide the energy needed to melt the metals. I suspect the islands are in the same fix. There simply isn't enough cheap energy to make the cement.

I don't recall any large forests extent on the Italian peninsula today either.

I agree, Don
Those Romans certainly knew how to build.
We have 60-year old schools and 70-year old bungalows which are apparently beyond repair, yet Roman viaducts still function and Westminster Abbey is still gorgeous after almost 1,000 years.

The Romans and Normans must have made amazing mortar, and one has to wonder what's wrong with ours. The mortar at my school (1968) is so soft that kids can damage it with their pencils.

Our barn (for example) is over 100 years old and we had some major pointing done to the limestone 25 years ago.
But that newer mortar is clearly not as good as the original, which is as hard as rock and has only had to be replaced where winter frost has somehow worked behind it or where something has dislodged the limestone blocks.

Our island would have been a rather isolated place a century ago, and I presume that they used local sand and mortar purchased in town, but whatever those old-timers did, they certainly did it right.

It seems that we have lost many practical skills, skills that we and our kids may someday wish we had.

The Roman mortars are not particularly hard but they have a very long active life. Some are still active today. 2000 years and still not fully set. Properly laid, modern mortars should not be that soft. I'm afraid your school probably had poorly used mortar, mixed too weak or constantly wetted during slow work - a big problem here where workers let their mix get hard and mix it down with more water.

Many large stone buildings, eg Westminster Abbey, had much of their stone held together without mortars but used the fit between stones and v-groves filled with lead. Masons still use those techniques today.


The Romans and Normans must have made amazing mortar, and one has to wonder what's wrong with ours.

Well, it's not just the mortar, though they did have good mortar. It is also the fact that they mixed in as little water as possible, to make it a stiff paste, and then pounded it into place - when have you seen a bricklayer or plasterer do that?

The strength of concrete is inversely proportional to the water/cement ratio, with a theoretical maximum strength at around 0.27units water to one of cement - look at how any modern brickie or concrete finisher works - they always want their mix "workable" as it makes their job easier, and they won't be around in 20, 50 years when it starts to fail. so the Romans did it by a combination of good mortar and real workmanship.

For an excellent explanation of Roman concrete, it is all here; The Riddle of Ancient Roman Concrete

It is interesting that we have the modern equivalent of pozzolan in the form of fly ash from coal fired power plants, but until recent decades, the concrete industry didn't want to know about fly ash!

And then there's Roman Stone which my Scottish stonemason ancestors had the pleasure of working with in its early days in Toronto.

Roman Stone and other Decorative Artificial Stones

Thanks for the link. IMO, there is much we can learn from studying Roman culture and history. For example, they ran a huge empire for hundreds of years without fossil fuels. When their soldiers were not fighting, they built roads--better roads than we build now. The Roman legions were effective in fighting asymmetrical warfare and were much much better at it than are U.S. forces. True, the Romans depended on slave labor, but that was because they had no fossil fuels or much in the way of windmills or CSP or other sources of solar energy.

At the moment, I find striking parallels between the politics that ended the Roman republic and what is happening today in the U.S. Out of somewhere will come the modern-day equivalent of Julius Caesar to end the effective rule of our Senate and House of Representatives. By the way, the ancient Romans far exceeded modern Americans in vice, concentration of wealth, corruption, and conspicuous consumption.

the ancient Romans far exceeded modern Americans in vice, concentration of wealth, corruption, and conspicuous consumption.

Indeed, but the Roman Empire fell when they became virtuous, frugal and meek, stopped the Gladiatorial Games, forbid the worship of Pagan Gods and exalted a new Eastern Faith that promised rewards in the Afterlife, and little by little gave political power to a caste of ambitious priests and querulous monks -in Classical Rome political and military leaders were also religious leaders, like Caesar Augustus Pontifex Maximus.
Christianity was their undoing.

One hundred centuries later the first political leader who claimed to be also the Head of the Church was England's Henry VIII a strong leader who in viciousness, tyranny, covetousness, vice and criminality has been unsurpassed in the West -we can laugh at the vegetarian and bachelor Hitler.

Five centuries afterwards the British still are in fear of the Tudors, and their Queen holds the same titles as the Tyrant: Supreme Head of the Church of England; Defender of the Faith and God's chosen representative in England.

Twitter censors UK "trends". No "Freedom of Speech" here.

Here in the UK it seems we can't say anything these days due to superinjunctions.

He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named (In The UK) Sues Twitter Over A User Naming Him

Earlier this month, a random Twitter user wreaked havoc on the lives of a bunch of British celebrities by publishing a series of tweets claiming they had affairs, were into prostitutes, and harassed their employees. The tweep claimed that the news had been suppressed by “super injunctions,” legal gag orders that British citizens can get to prevent news agencies from mentioning their names or that an incident happened at all

...Though he-who-cannot-be-named filed the suit as “CTB,” the American press, which is not subject to the power of the super injunction, have pointed the finger at footballer (or soccer player to folks on this side of the pond), **** ***** (I am a coward and in the UK, not censored by Forbes at link - Undertow) who plays for Manchester United.

Now **** ***** has taken legal action against Twitter with the result that his name was trending worldwide earlier on twitter but is not trending in the UK despite multiple posts per second with his name. Twitter is praised for the "Arab Spring" but it looks like if we ever have a revolution in the UK it won't trend on twitter thanks to the courts. If only Gaddafi had thought of it.

Still If I was **** *****, I would take legal action against his lawyers as suing twitter has just pushed it to the top of the news in the UK.

Footballer's Twitter disclosure order prompts online action

Hundreds of Twitter users have reacted to a footballer's bid to find out who is putting information about him on the website by posting new messages online.

The player, who an injunction says can only be identified as CTB, is taking action against ex-Big Brother star Imogen Thomas and the Sun newspaper.

He has now obtained a High Court order asking Twitter to reveal details of users who had revealed his identity.

Prior to the legal action against twitter, Wikipedia reverted any edits naming the player due to lack of suitable references. The action against twitter itself caused a large number of non UK media outlets to report the story complete with name so it is now in his Wikipedia entry having passed the reference test. So maybe twitter does win out and will tweet the UK revolution after all :-)

This whole censorship things gets me twitchy - especially coupled with the ongoing net neutrality issues we have here in the UK.

Berners-Lee has said how he fears a lock down on information and I very much share his fear. Thin end of the wedge..

The judges have been doing their best King Canute act, although he at least knew the limits of his powers, and it appears they don't.

Whatever Twitter might be doing, the name still trends on 3rd party providers, such that I doubt there is one person left in the UK that doesn't know the name.

The funny thing is the injunctions actually provided the truth of the earlier gossip leaks. The papers could only report on those that weren't injuncted, so Clarkson got coverage of how wrong that twitter was, but the silence on the other names made the truth of them obvious.

Frankly, if the courts don't change their attitude soon, it's going to be a rerun of the expenses scandal; with the people forcing change in what is a VERY democratic action.

Altogether quite positive for making clear where power resides and how 'authorities' can be bought to account by popular will.

Scientific basis for change or collapse, but mostly collapse. Via Guy McPherson.


No way out? The double-bind in seeking global prosperity along with mitigated climate change

if atmospheric CO2 concentrations are to remain below a "dangerous" level of 450 ppmv (Hansen et al., 2007), there will have to be some combination of an unrealistically rapid rate of energy decarbonization and a near immediate collapse of civilization wealth. Effectively, civilization is in a double-bind. If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv; but, if CO2 levels rise by this much, then the danger is that civilization will gradually tend towards collapse.

I.e. a double bind. Without a cheap carbonless source of abundant energy, we are cornered.

LOL! I'd like to see this presented on the evening news by some mathematically and scientifically illiterate pundit...


They keep finding higher and higher levels outside the reactors


Tokyo Electric Power Company on Friday found debris releasing 1,000 millisieverts per hour in an area south of the Number 3 reactor building. It is the highest level of radiation found in debris left outside.

Materials emitting 900 millisieverts of radiation per hour have also been found in the plant's compound. These materials are believed to be part of the large amount of debris contaminated with radioactive substances that had been blown off in hydrogen explosions.

Doesn't it seem bad to anyone else that they just keep finding things emitting radiation at a higher and higher rate/dose? These are ungodly amounts to have lying around outside a building holding a "contained" reactor. This isn't inside the building adjacent to the reactor, but outside!

It does seem a long time to get around to finding them, but it isn't surprising that they are lying around outside. They weren't contained to start with. The spent fuel pond of No3 got badly mangled in a hydrogen explosion and there are lumps of spent fuel spread around in the debris.

Its probably because finding lumps of spent fuel lying around would be quite easy if there wasn't wreckage all over the place, and clearing the wreckage would be a lot easier if there were no lumps of spent fuel in it.

But they keep saying that the spent fuel pond is "intact"! It's hard to express sarcasm!

I understand your problem, I am also having a hard time working out how fuel rods have found there way out of the SFP onto the ground if the SFPs are intact as TEPCO has shown on the video releases.

During reactor #3 explosion, there was a very large upward explosion, but as the SFP is still intact, I can not see how this could have launched the spent rods out of the SFP. As the SFP is still holding water then the walls are intact, therefore the rods could not have been blown out the side of the pool.

As nobody is suggesting that any of the reactor vessels have been breached to the point of discharging solid fuel, the only mechanism I see for fuel to be laying around outside the plant is, for some small localized explosions occurring at the bottom of the the SFP. At hydrogen rises, a hydrogen explosion in my eyes would put a downward force at the bottom of the pool.

Therefore the only method I could see for fuel to be blown out of the SFP would be molten rods or parts of the same, landing in the water at the bottom of the pool and then causing a small steam explosion and ejecting the material out of the reactor building.

Any experts care jump in and show me where my logic fails.

My gut feel on this whole affair is, we are closer to the beginning than the end.

My interest in this little problem is, I am currently working two islands north of the plant!

My guess is that the debris are from the reactors, not the SFP's. Now they have admitted to reactor breaches, what will they be forced to admit next? Given the doses at the plant, I would think we still do not have even a part of the full story. http://atmc.jp/plant/rad/

I think the other ponds are more or less intact, but not No3. No4 boiled dry but the hydrogen explosion that resulted didn't seem to mangle much but the superstructure. The most violent explosion was at No3, some of the videos released appear to show its fuel pond in a mangled state, and the highly radioactive lumps are mostly being found around No3.

Therefore the only method I could see for fuel to be blown out of the SFP would be molten rods or parts of the same, landing in the water at the bottom of the pool and then causing a small steam explosion and ejecting the material out of the reactor building.

The explosion doesn't have to have happened in the fuel pond to have damaged it. The fuel ponds are high up in the reactor buildings, not sunk in the ground, so an explosion below or to the side of them could mangle them.

I think the different nature of the No3 explosion shows that it took place at a lower position than the others. Something like chunks of its wall being blown into the pool might have spread some bits of fuel around in the debris.

Link up top: Saudi Aramco, France's Air Liquide in nitrogen deal

Almost every day, on this list, I learn something new. I had no idea that nitrogen was used to take the oxygen out of seawater in the oil reservoir injection process. And since ordinary air is 80 percent nitrogen, I really don't understand how that can work.

And is this a new thing? What have they being doing in the past? What has everyone else, especially those producers in the Middle East been doing? I believe there is likely more to this story than meets the eye.

Ron P.

Ron – I’m a little confused also. I’ve seen operators inject billions of bbls of produced salt water into reservoirs with no concern about O2 but maybe sea water contains enough to cause a problem. Any O2 librated from the sea water in a reservoir below 5,000’ (due to temperature) will oxidize the oil it comes into contact with. This is actually an EOR method (in situ combustion or “fire flood”).

But I’ve never heard of using N2 to get O2 out any fluid. Perhaps just a lacking in my education. But we use relatively simple separators to knock NG out of oil. Maybe that won’t work with sea water and O2 but I can’t imagine why. As you say there may be a lot more to the story. I do know you don’t need to use N2 to inject water down a well…a simple and cheap pump will get ‘er done. You do need to separate the O2 from the air if you want to inject just N2 for any reason to avoid oxidizing the oil. Maybe the press release writer just dumbed the story down too much.

ISTR nitrogen being used for oil recovery in Mexico though I may be mixing this up with something completely different.


I think they just want something that won't oxidize the hydrocarbons to inject for pressure drive. Methane or notrogen, whichever is cheaper. CO2 is even better, because I think it makes the oil less likely to cling to the rock?

NAOM - Nitrogen injection at Cantarell Field is how they kept production up all these years. It is a pressure depletion drive and the expanding N2 gas cap kept the oil flowing. In fact, that N2 generating plant was the largest ever built on the planet.

The reason that field went into such quick decline was the expanding N2 cap eventually reached down the level of many of the producing wells. This "gassing out" is similiar to "watering out" of water drive reservoirs.

Thanks, I thought I recalled something but was not sure. Could it be that the Saudis are planning on doing this in their fields?


NAOM - Certainly possibile. I know I don't know enough of the details about the reservoir to characterize what EOR methods might work or not.

I wouldn't expect produced water from deep down would contain any significant amount of O2. If it did it would have reacted with the hydrocarbons. Seems like reinjection solves two problems: disposal, and pressure maintenence.

Gas stripping is ancient technology.

If you have 0% oxygen in a nitrogen bubble, and the equivalent of 20% oxygen from air dissolved in seawater, then oxygen will move from the water to the bubble until the bubble is up to 20% oxygen.

Put lots and lots of nitrogen bubbles in the seawater, and you get enough oxygen in them to remove a noticeable amount from the seawater.

Pour the seawater continuously down from the top, while the nitrogen comes up from the bottom and you can get gas close to air composition at the top, and collect water with almost nothing but nitrogen dissolved in it at the bottom.

Its a pretty efficient way of removing volatiles from water, providing you have a gas you don't mind dissolving in to replace them.

If you have 0% oxygen in a nitrogen bubble, and the equivalent of 20% oxygen from air dissolved in seawater, then oxygen will move from the water to the bubble until the bubble is up to 20% oxygen.

No, the oxygen will migrate into the nitrogen until the pressure of the oxygen in the water matches that of the partial pressure the gas and nitrogen will migrate into the water until that is balanced too. This depends on temperature and concentrations also noting that nitrogen is a little more than twice as soluble as oxygen. It has nothing to do with the ratios found in air and, prehistoric times, atmospheric oxygen has been in much higher ratios to nitrogen.


No, the oxygen will migrate into the nitrogen until the pressure of the oxygen in the water matches that of the partial pressure the gas and nitrogen will migrate into the water until that is balanced too. This depends on temperature and concentrations also noting that nitrogen is a little more than twice as soluble as oxygen. It has nothing to do with the ratios found in air and, prehistoric times, atmospheric oxygen has been in much higher ratios to nitrogen.

Remember that the water starts out in equilibrium with air. Thus when it equilibrates with the bubble, the bubble will have the composition of air. When A is in equilibrium with B and B is in equilibrium with C then A and C are also in equilibrium. A being air, and C being a gas bubble, they have the same composition.

No, think about it a bit deeper. Let us accept the water has 20% O2 and 80% N2 to keep it simple. The bubble is 100% N2.If O2 migrates from the water to the bubble it will do so until there is equilibrium but the equilibrium point will depend on the relative volumes. If you had 1 cubic meter of water and 1 cubic kilometre of nitrogen there is no way the dissolved oxygen will form an 20% mix. Go the other way on volumes then expect the mix to be a lot richer than 20%. Actually we do something similar but reversed in diving to get rid of excess nitrogen that could cause the bends. Breathing pure oxygen speeds the flow of the nitrogen leaving the body (water) but will not suddenly appear as 80% in the exhaled air, that would mean the body absorbing 80% of the oxygen breathed, very bad juju.


EPA issues new guidelines for urban gardening around contaminated soils.

Lead is the most common concern, due to former use of lead paint and leaded gasoline. Lead is not very mobile in soils, so can contaminate leafy vegetables, more by adhering of dust to outer leaves than uptake by plant roots.

Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers, stone fruit do not take up lead in the fruit.

Basic guidelines :-

1. At least 40% organic matter in soil helps prevent lead uptake by plant roots
2. Placing a barrier over contaminated soil and adding clean soil on top (raised beds)
3. Thorough washing of leafy vegetables, and scraping of root vegetables to remove dust
4. If you live near a busy road, use a fence or hedge as a barrier to dust. Plant fruit closer to the road and leafy vegetables the farthest away possible.

Although these guidelines say "no" to phytoremediation, I have read that various species can help to remove heavy metals from soil, although it is a time-consuming process.

Edit : on re-reading the guidelines, they do suggest phytoremediation, just not for lead.

Thanks for posting this; it is an area of some concern to me, and very timely because I would be planting if I wasn't fighting off bronchitis.

Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers, stone fruit do not take up lead in the fruit.

This is the best news in the article from my point of view, because there was a car wash 15 feet away from my property 40 years ago, which is now a parking lot. Lead was the first contaminant on my mind, and it's good to know there are things you can grow without containers.

What it didn't cover well was termite poisons like chlordane (my house has been treated at least twice in the last 40 years.) I suspect that it is also highly prevalent; however, it is not mentioned in the common sources of contaminants.


This article may be of help regarding Chlordane.

I think you'd have to plant as far away from the contamination as you can, in containers, or raised beds lined with an impermeable layer to be sure roots don't come into contact with the toxin. Drainage could be an issue there - maybe you could put down a layer of landscape fabric, then gravel between the bottom of the raised bed and the contaminated soil.

Why would anyone listen to the EPA on gardening issues? Phytoremediation does help with lead, so why not use it? Ridiculous. it does accumulate in leaves, so, again, why not use it?


Here's one study on sunflowers bioaccumulating lead. The main issue is the length of time it would take to satisfactorily reduce the lead concentration in the soil. Also, then you have the issue of safe disposal of the contaminated plants.

If one is trying to start a backyard garden this year, or has already started, one might prefer to use other methods.

The city program I belong to is incorporating the recommended best practices into its guidelines for community gardens.

Obviously, if it does not fit all your requirements, don't use it, but how many gardeners need that production this year? If there is flexibility - and it is unlikely the entire yard is affected if it is, for example, house paint lead, but would likely only be areas close to the house - then more natural, less disruptive practices will build your soil into healthier, less costly, organic, non-FF-based soil.

Still, the simpler way is to not fight the problem, but work with it: grow fruits in the ground with leafy greens/sunflowers/what have you until the soil is remediated. Fruits are perennial, so it's essentially a non-issue because the soil will be remediated by the time the fruit trees are dead, eh?

Like I said, why would anyone listen to the EPA on food production?

Oil’s strange brew

Is the IEA prescient with regards to the potential economic damage or do they simply possess the ability to read? Offsetting the “sky is falling” call on oil supply was an announcement from the Conference Board that in April its index of U.S. leading economic indicators suffered the first decline since June 2010.

...the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of general business activity within the factory sector plummeted to 3.9 in May from 18.5 in April. Obviously there must be a shortage of oil in Philly.

pre·science -noun -knowledge of things before they exist or happen; foreknowledge; foresight.

Now I ask you, how can anyone have foreknowledge that a declining oil supply would cause economic damage? Yes, I would say that the IEA is not prescient but they can read, and they do have the ability to use common sense, something that seems to be lacking in a large segment of the population.

Ron P.

Ron, bear with me. I'm pretty dense; just how is the decline in the factory sector due to a shortage of oil? I would think that the decline would be related to the high price of oil negitively impacting economic activity.

Are you serious Joeb? Tell me, just what can we attribute the high price of oil to?

Ron P.

Speculators? Greedy oil companies? The shrinking dollar? Greedy Arabs? Sissy enviro-types who want to see everyone riding bicycles and eating beans and rice?

While you may well be right about scarcity driving prices, Ron, there are a lot of potential bogey-men to blame. Hence, the lack of agreement as to whether we have a real problem.

It is said that we will recognize PO only in the rearview mirror. I'll go further and say that we'll NEVER agree as to what caused it.

POT - Just to change the tone a bit: why should anyone be "blamed"? Why should fuel be selling for less than it does? Certainly not because some folks can't afford it or it cuts into discretionary spending. And that's not to say the need isn't real and critical. But exactly where did an entitlement that everyone should be able to fill their car up at a cost they like come from? I've seen nothing in the Bible or Constitution that makes such a promise. I've seen no law passed by Congress that assigns such a right to the public.

Obviously the primary reason for high fuel cost is the high price of oil. And the oil exporters own their oil and have no obligation to sell any of it at a price other than their choosing. The KSA sells every bbl of oil it produces at a price it decides. Speculators don't set the price. The US govt can't set the price. The refiners can't set the price. They can only choose to buy the oil at the posted price...or not.

When a light bulb burns out after its been on for its rated life do we need to blame someone because we have to spend more money for a new bulb? If folks think the blame game is going loud now just wait till folks can't fill up their car as often as they like even when they have the money to do so.

Gee, Rockman, always with the realism!

Haven't you been listening to Rand Paul or any of the other politicians - they seem to have a lot of people convinced that cheap oil is their entitlement, and as we know, if the pols are saying it, then it must be true - regardless of what the people who produce the stuff say.

You are clearly a loose cannon on the deck of the oil tanker - a very dangerous situation you should be looking over your shoulder!

I trust what I see in those oil and gas industry ads - that nice, soft spoken blonde woman wouldn't lie, now would she? Though she is wearing black, which always suggests that the person has a hidden agenda...

Paul -I lost any sense of self entitlement when I was driving a Yellow Cab around Houston in 1985 because I couldn't get enough consulting work due to $9 oil. A graduate degree in geology and 10 years expeience didn't entitle me to a full time job. But that was fine with the rest of country that was enjoying $1/gallon gasoline.

Gee...did my residual bitterness just slip out? LOL

Loose cannon, eh? Dangerous thing to have rolling around. Better ring the Blue Bell to sound the alarm!

That will neutralize the threat in no time!

The KSA sells every bbl of oil it produces at a price it decides.

Well I would word that a bit differently. KSA sells every barrel of oil at the price it can get. And so does everyone else. As the supply of oil declines the price goes up. Then after a certain point the high price of oil begins to affect the economy in a negative way and the price declines. The economy then starts to recover slightly and the price goes up again. Then the whole cycle repeats itself.

The supply of oil, the price of oil and the economy are all intertwined in a very complex way. Each one affects the other two. No one is to blame unless you wish to blame God. But an atheist like me is left with no one to blame. Pity.

Ron P.

As the supply of oil declines the price goes up. Then after a certain point the high price of oil begins to affect the economy in a negative way and the price declines. The economy then starts to recover slightly and the price goes up again. Then the whole cycle repeats itself.

A perfect capsule description of the "down staircase."

Aw, c'mon, Rock, haven't you been reading?

Article I. Section 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;...

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;...

(Emphasis added.) Now, OK, technically, Congress is only given the power, and not required, to provide for the "general Welfare". But surely their abject failure to pass a law (à la Hugo Chavez, and perhaps pursuant to that Power over Money) guaranteeing as many fillups as one might ever want at whatever price one likes must be seen as a serious dereliction of duty, no?

LOL - (edit) - Nation Down To Last Hundred Grown-Ups

I thought I would update the status of the US as one of the world's largest net NG importers. Following is what I put together. I started with the summary data and then tried to find annual EIA data that most closely matched the 2009 data points. There are some small discrepancies, but overall the data were a reasonable match:

Natural Gas Summary Through 2009:

Table One: Dry Natural Gas Production Through 2010:

2009: 20.6 TCF
2010: 21.6

Table Two: Consumption Through 2010:

2009: 22.8 TCF
2010: 24.1

Net US NG Imports (Table One Data Less Table Two Data)

2009: 2.2 TCF*
2010: 2.5

*The summary shows net imports of 2.7 TCF for 2009

Here are the consumption to production ratios for oil, natural gas and for coal through 2009 (2008 for coal):

Westexas or others...do you have a chart of avg. annual crude prices (WTI/Brent) since 2005? I'm curious if 2011 has the highest so far YTD.

The WTI spot price for 2011 to date is about the same as 2008 (around $100), but the average Brent price for 2011, through April, is about $110, versus $97 for 2008 (EIA).

Here is a chart of annual US spot crude oil prices:

And monthly data table:

And here are the annual spot crude oil prices and year over year exponential rates of change:

1998: $14 (-41%/year)

1999: $19 (+31%/year)

2000: $30 (+46%/year)

2001: $26 (-14%/year)

2002: $26 (0)

2003: $31 (+18%/year)

2004: $42 (+30%/year)

2005: $57 (+31%/year)

2006: $66 (+15%/year)

2007: $72 (+9%/year)

2008: $100 (+33%/year)

2009: $62 (-49%/year)

2010: $79 (+24%/year)

We have nine years showing positive year over year rates of change, and the median is +24%/year, within a range from +9%/year to +46%/year. Assuming that 2011 does show a year over year increase over 2010, based on these numbers, we would expect to see an average annual price for 2011 between $86 and $125, with a median expectation of about $100, which is the approximate average to date for 2011.

We have seen three year over year declines. As I have previously noted, each successive year over year decline fell to a price level which was about twice the level reached during the previous year over year decline. If this pattern holds, the next year over year decline would bring us down to the $120 range (average annual).

So it will be curious to watch this "two steps forward, one step back" pattern as the years unfold. It's been mentioned before that even though we have back steps, they are at a higher level than previous pull-backs in price. It will be interesting to see if the last two weeks or so of price pull-back was it for 2011. If so, 2011 avg price could very well top 2008's.

So, which way works better to acclimate global processes and systems to increasing crude prices, a "spike" like in 2008 or a gradual climb since 2008? The latter, obviously.

Have you plotted a slope through the EIA's data since 2000 to get the avg. estimates in the future if the pattern holds true? I do better with visual tools than merely stating the numbers.

Just curious on a rainy Midwestern day stuck inside.

Annual US spot crude oil prices rose from $30 in 2000 to $79 in 2010, about a 10%/year rate of increase. And of course, within that time frame, there were two year over year declines, in 2001 and in 2009.

As a "What If" scenario, if we show a 10%/year rate of increase from 2010 to 2020, we would be looking at an average annual price of $215 oil in 2020. Note that some grades of crude oil globally have traded at over $130 on the spot market this year.

Incidentally, looking at monthly data, US oil prices rose at about 11%/year from the summer of 1931 to the summer of 1937.

Libya crowd attacks bus carrying foreign journalists

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyans armed with guns and a knife stormed a bus carrying foreign journalists on Saturday and a soldier fired volleys of gunfire into the air to disperse the crowd, a Reuters journalist on the bus said.

The attack reflected Libyan anger at severe petrol shortages, a two-month-old NATO bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi's government and state media reports that foreign journalists misrepresent the news.

...A BBC production assistant on the bus, a government minder and a soldier managed to ward off the crowd, taking blows in the process. The bus's tyres were slashed and a soldier fired into the air to push the crowd back.

"I have no doubt that these guys pretty much saved our lives," Desmond said. The bus drove to a police station and the journalists later returned to the Tripoli hotel where foreign media are based.

Standard & Poor Downgrades Outlook For Italy

Standard & Poor's surprising decision to revise downward its outlook for Italy could mark the start of increased market scrutiny on the euro zone's third-largest economy, which faces tough challenges that it is probably unable to meet.

Italy's public debt stood at 119 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2010 -- second only to Greece in the euro zone.

But the real and interlinked problem for Italy is growth.
According to International Monetary Fund data, Italy was the world's fourth most sluggish economy between 2000 and 2010, ahead of only Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Haiti.

Read the whole thing

Could Italy's slow growth be in part due to lack of access to increased energy resources?

Wow. I just saw the aerial footage of the Minneapolis tornado damage. It looks like whole neighborhoods were wiped out.


North Minneapolis is one of the poorer parts of the city.

The poor just got poorer.

See upthread for my blow-by-blow account
It was pretty bad.

So you weren't just making that up. I spent a year there (although none of the places I lived were hit, my wife called her sister in law, and she was OK (but pretty excited). Can't find out about it on the weather channel because Joplin Misouri got hit worse, and apparently they simply cover the biggest story and ignore the rest....

It only sounded like I was making it up. It's one of those adrenaline rush experiences, ironically sandwiched in between contributions I made to a TOD thread on correlating wind distributions

Ain't nature grand?

MSM note: I've been recording "Inspector America", on History Channel. I watch this show because I cut my teeth crawling around cities, towns and boonies drawing and mapping utilities. Folks that do this see pretty much everything, under, on and over the streets. Manholes, bridges, pipelines, electric grids,,,peoples' back yards..

Anyway, this guy does pretty much the same thing; inspecting and recording infrastucture. Tonight's show is in Detroit, a real mess. They haven't had the tax base to maintain anything much, and it shows.

Coming soon to a town near you!