Drumbeat: May 30, 2011

Phantom Efficiencies: US Economy Still Running Very Slow

The US economy is consuming 2.00% less energy than its five year average seen prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Some will be cheered by this data, and indeed there are small nuggets of good news here. First, US consumption of oil—which turned flattish after the 2004 repricing—is down significantly, by over 10% since 2007. Also, as America turns increasingly to the power grid, consuming more natural gas and coal, the addition of renewable power from solar and wind is growing strongly. Eventually, these nascent trends will convert to larger structural changes. So let there be no doubt that energy transition is underway in the United States.

The problem remains, however, that in order to carry debt loads both public and private the US is still very dependent on strong industrial growth to generate revenues, and support wages. Accordingly, in the near term less energy inputs into the US economy more immediately aligns with less output. In other words, a more efficient economy is slowly being born. But until then, we will struggle with the transition.

Consumer Corner: What's the real answer to replacing oil?

The darlings of the alternative energy debate long have been wind, solar and biofuels. But how practical is it to replace oil consumption?

Scientist/futurist Chris Martenson says it's not. In "The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment," alternative fuels -- even some combination of all forms -- cannot replace world oil consumption -- 30.8 billion barrels in 2009.

The Great Energy Challenge

Like food, air, and water, energy is essential to human existence. The hopes of billions for a better life depend on plentiful and accessible sources of energy. But with the world’s population fast approaching seven billion, how do we meet the growing demand for energy in a responsible, equitable, and sustainable way? It’s a question we must ask ourselves as a society and as individuals. That’s why National Geographic, in partnership with Shell, is launching The Great Energy Challenge.

The Great Energy Challenge is an important three-year National Geographic initiative designed to help all of us better understand the breadth and depth of our current energy situation.

Energy crisis slows down industrial progress

ISLAMABAD: The framework of economic growth approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) of Pakistan has identified corruption in public sector enterprises and the non-availability of electricity as the main factors for lack of industrial development in the country.

The paper titled ‘Grow Pakistan’ prepared by the Planning Commission suggested that the government should reduce subsidies enjoyed by various sectors.

Petrol shortage woes continue in Sharjah

Sharjah faced petrol shortage for the fourth consecutive day as most Enoc and Eppco fuel stations remained closed.

The closure of many stations have led to snaking queues at other stations which are too few and far between, causing chaos on the streets and panic among motorists, Khaleej Times reported.

The hot, sticky summer of our discontent

Last summer went on record as Japan's hottest ever, as the daytime mercury seemed stubbornly stuck in the 33 to 36 degrees Celsius range while at nighttime it usually refused to budge to below the 25 C mark.

Now we have summer 2011 to look forward to. The temperatures will probably not be as extreme, but even so for residents of Kanto and other areas affected by the March 11 disaster, it could well go down as the most brutally uncomfortable summer on record.

Post-disaster energy lines

The nuclear disaster at Japan’s earthquake and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has again underscored both the need for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its limited authority and resources.

It will cost billions of dollars to stabilise the plants, close them down, decommission their reactors and mitigate the radioactive contamination. Equally important, the Japanese crisis has exposed flaws in global safety and emergency response networks, underscoring the need for urgent remedial effort.

Africa must supply its own nuclear fuel - Peters

Security of supply of nuclear fuel is important for Africa as the continent slowly becomes nuclear energised, South African energy minister Dipuo Peters says.

African countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Niger and Gabon are rich in uranium and this should give all African states the confidence that they can rely on the continent for their uranium supplies, said Peters, adding that the mineral must also benefit Africans through job creation.

Aramco discussing globalization strategy

Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil company in terms of oil reserves and production, is discussing a strategy to extend its operations into more than 50 countries in the next 10-20 years.

"We want to transform Saudi Aramco from a leading oil and gas company into a fully integrated, truly global energy and chemicals enterprise with extensive operations in the kingdom and around the globe," said Aramco President and Chief Executive Officer Khalid A. Al-Falih in an interview posted on the company's web site.

Empty Quarter drilling on cards

Two Saudi-based gas joint ventures are planning to resume drilling in Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter by the end of this year or early next year.

Saudi Arabia, which has kept its vast oil reserves off-limits to foreigners, invited investors to find and produce gas in the desert in Saudi Arabia's southeast.

Libya rebels running out of crude stocks

Libya’s western-backed rebels have used up their stock of crude oil, with no certainty about when production can resume from vulnerable south-eastern oil fields, the main exporting company under opposition control has said.

The small refinery at Tobruk, the maritime export terminal near the Egyptian border, shut down late last week after using up the last oil in storage, according to Abdel Jalil Mayouf, spokesman for Arabian Gulf Oil Co (Agoco).

Fortis to buy Vermont power company for $470M

The Canadian utility Fortis Inc. says it will purchase smaller electricity distributer Central Vermont Public Service Corp. for about $470 million.

Companies look for power way, way up in the sky

The world's strongest winds race high in the sky, but that doesn't mean they're out of reach as a potentially potent energy source.

Flying, swooping and floating turbines are being developed to turn high-altitude winds into electricity.

E. coli infections kill 6, sicken hundreds in Germany, officials say

The European Food Safety Alert Network said EHEC, or enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, a strain of E. coli that causes hemorrhage in the intestines, was found in organic cucumbers originating from Spain, packaged in Germany, and distributed to countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Spain.

China Raises Industrial Power Prices in 15 Provinces to Help Ease Shortage

China will raise electricity prices for industrial users in 15 provinces starting June 1, the first increase in more than a year, an official at the National Development and Reform Commission said.

Prices paid by residential users will remain unchanged, the official said by telephone from Beijing today, declining to be identified because the economic planning agency hasn’t released a statement on the decision yet. Li Puming, a spokesman at the NDRC, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Indian Oil Corp may borrow up to $1.3 billion a month

NEW DELHI: State-run Indian Oil Corp . , the country's top refiner and oil marketing firm, plans to borrow between 50 billion to 60 billion rupees($1.3 billion) every month if there is no compensation from the government on subsidised fuel sales.

Malaysia's energy ministry to hold briefing today; power hike eyed

The government is expected to increase power tariffs in a bid to rein in its subsidy bill, which is expected to double to almost $6.9 billion this year from last year.

However, Prime Minister Najib Razak is treading carefully as a rise in fuel or electricity tariffs could trigger widespread price increases, angering voters.

Oil Drops on Speculation Fuel Demand May Falter as U.S. Economy Weakens

Oil dropped in New York, headed for its first monthly decline since August, on speculation fuel demand may falter amid a slowdown in the U.S. economic recovery and Europe’s continuing debt crisis.

Futures slipped as much as 1 percent before reports this week that may show U.S. employers hired fewer workers in May and manufacturing cooled. Oil also dropped as concern that European governments will struggle to resolve the region’s debt crises weakened the euro against the dollar, reducing the appeal of commodities priced in the U.S. currency. Trading volumes were lower than average, with public holidays in the U.S. and U.K.

Motoring groups demand petrol price investigation

An alliance of European motoring organisations has written to the European Union calling for an investigation into the price of fuel.

Who's to blame when gas costs $1 more than last year?

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gasoline costs $1 per gallon more than it did last Memorial Day, and the the Wall Street speculator, more than Texas oilmen and OPEC ministers, is often seen as the bad guy at the gas pump.

"There won't be another drop in the price of gasoline this weekend, and it's due to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley," said Mark Meyer, president of Keck Energy. On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, both major investors in crude oil markets, issued forecasts of higher crude oil prices this summer -- even as prices at the pump in some areas began to descend.

Higher break-even price for Saudi oil sets new normal for auto fuel

Considering that Peak Oil has already been reached in the world, or at least cheap Peak Oil, that also means you will never see $30 oil ever again in your lifetime; likewise, $85 and lower is probably a long shot, too, unless America wakes up and goes like a steam engine with balls-out on its use of natural gas, thus upsetting the supply-demand scenario.

For the record, there are indeed alternatives to oil like coal and natural gas. America has lots of coal. Coal, unfortunately, is not clean despite the “clean-coal” ads on television; and it cannot be burned directly in automobiles.

Venezuelans protest US sanctions against oil co.

CARACAS, Venezuela - Thousands of government supporters are taking to the streets of Venezuela's capital to protest U.S. sanctions against the state oil company for doing business with Iran.

President Barack Obama's administration has slapped sanctions on PDVSA and six other companies from other foreign countries.

Iran to invest $150bn in oil, gas

A top Iranian Oil Ministry official says some USD 150 billion will be funneled into the country's upstream oil and gas sector during the Fifth National Development Plan.

The investment will bring in USD 179 billion in five years' time, IRNA quoted Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr as saying on Monday.

Alwaleed Says Saudi Arabia Seeks $70 to $80 Oil to Preserve Sales to West

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said an oil price of $70 to $80 a barrel is in the best interests of Saudi Arabia because it diminishes the urgency in the U.S. and Europe to develop alternative energy sources.

“We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives,” Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, said in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” scheduled for broadcast today. “The higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives.”

Medvedev insists Ukraine pay price agreed for Russian natural gas

Moscow - President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday rejected calls from Ukraine for a cut in the price of natural gas imported from Russia, insisting that 'signed agreements need to be respected.'

Vietnam accuses China after fracas

Vietnam has accused China of increasing regional tensions and said its navy would do everything necessary to protect its territorial integrity after Chinese patrol boats interfered with a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship in the South China Sea.

Iraqi tribal disputes pose challenges

Sitting in his reed meeting house in what was once Iraq's marshes, sheikh Rashash Imara warns of potential trouble if his poor tribesmen are driven off their land by foreign companies digging for oil.

CNPC Ships Back First Crude Cargo From Iraq's Rumaila Oil Field

SHANGHAI -(Dow Jones)- China National Petroleum Corp. said Monday it has shipped the first crude oil cargo produced by its joint-venture oil field in Iraq back to China.

Iraq warns last chance for Shell deal

Iraq has warned supermajor Shell it needs to finalise a $12 billion gas deal by next week or negotiations over the agreement would be cancelled, the country's Deputy Oil Minister said today.

Iran hopes to agree oil payments with India by Tuesday

(Reuters) - Iran hopes to resolve a payments issue with India over oil shipments by tomorrow, the country's envoy to India, Seyed Mahdi Nabizadeh, said on Monday.

Israel orders Leviathan halt

Israel's Infrastructure Ministry has instructed US-based Noble Energy not to resume drilling at the Leviathan natural gas field until it provides details about an earlier mishap, sending energy shares sharply lower.

Total Acquires 25 Percent of Qatari Exploration License From China’s Cnooc

Cnooc Ltd. (883), China’s biggest offshore oil producer, sold a 25 percent stake in a license to explore for hydrocarbons in Qatar to France’s Total SA (FP) as the Chinese company seeks to reduce risk.

The Beijing-based producer, which secured rights to the offshore concession two years ago, will retain a 75 percent stake and operate the area called Block BC, according to an e- mailed statement yesterday.

Agencies’ Lack of Coordination Hindered Supply of Crucial Gas, Report Says

WASHINGTON — The United States is running out of a rare gas that is crucial for detecting smuggled nuclear weapons materials because one arm of the Energy Department was selling the gas six times as fast as another arm could accumulate it, and the two sides failed to communicate for years, according to a new Congressional audit.

The gas, helium-3, is a byproduct of the nuclear weapons program, but as the number of nuclear weapons has declined, so has the supply of the gas. Yet, as the supply was shrinking, the government was investing more than $200 million to develop detection technology that required helium-3.

Japan nuke plant workers likely exposed to radiation far beyond legal limit

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese government officials said Monday that two of the utility firm's employees who have been working at the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant in northeast Japan may have been exposed to radiation exceeding the legal limit of 250 millisieverts.

Fukushima Risks Chernobyl ‘Dead Zone’

Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan’s crippled nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a “dead zone” remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded.

S&P cuts Tepco rating to junk

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ratings agency Standard and Poor's cut its credit rating on Tokyo Electric Power to junk status on Monday, saying the utility's bank lenders were more likely to be forced to write off debt as part of a restructuring scheme to compensate victims of an ongoing nuclear crisis.

Saudi nuclear capacity to more than double in 20 yrs

DUBAI: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which is eyeing nuclear options for power generation and desalination, expects it nuclear capacity to more than double in 20 years, a senior offical said on Monday.

"Saudi nuclear power capacity is currently at 52 gigawatts, that is expected to rise to 120 gigawatts in almost 20 years," Abdullah al Shehri, governor of Saudi's Electricity and Co-generation Regulatory Authority, said at an industry conference.

Germany to abandon nuclear power by 2022

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's coalition government agreed early Monday to shut down all the country's nuclear power plants by 2022, the environment minister said, making it the first major industrialized power to go nuclear-free since the Japanese disaster.

Plug-in, two-mode hybrid Ram pickups hit road in testing

Chrysler's two-mode hybrid Hemi is back -- and in plug-in form to boot.

Chrysler Group this week delivered 10 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Ram 1500 pickups to Yuma, Ariz. -- the first of 140 to go to state and city governments in a 3-year test with the Department of Energy (using $100 million from the 2009 recession stimulus bill). Other cities also will get 25 PHEV Chrysler minivans later this year.

The House Wants to Slow the Military’s Clean Energy March

The Department of Defense is the largest energy consumer in the nation. It’s made significant efforts to wean the military services from their sole dependence on fossil fuels—particularly jet and diesel fuel made from oil—to power their planes, ships, and vehicles. Pollution from burning these fuels contributes to global warming, which, according to military leaders, is a “threat multiplier” for national security. Instead, the services are developing more efficient aviation, naval, and terrestrial heavy equipment, and various cleaner domestic advanced biofuels.*

Unfortunately the House Armed Service Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 1540, would reverse this progress. Section 844 of the bill would actually allow the military to use alternative fossil fuels that produce more pollution than conventional fuels. The additional pollution would exacerbate global warming, which in turn would make our nation less secure. The House plans to debate H.R. 1540 over the next several days. Congress must remove this provision to enhance national security.

Russia Lifting Grain-Export Ban May Fail to Alleviate Global Crop Shortage

Russia, once the second-biggest wheat exporter, will let a grain-shipment ban expire on July 1, a move that may fail to ease a global shortage caused by drought and flood damage to European and the U.S. crops.

Futures climbed 79 percent in the past year in Chicago, the global benchmark, helped by Russia’s export ban in August after the worst drought in at least 50 years. Poor weather from Canada to Europe destroyed harvests and Ukraine imposed shipment quotas. Rising prices drove global food costs tracked by the United Nations to a record in February.

Murder of Activists Raises Questions of Justice in Amazon

Whether an investigation will result in punishment for the killers -- or those who hired them -- is uncertain. More than 1,000 rural activists, small farmers, religious workers and others fighting deforestation have been slain in the past 20 years, but only a handful of killers have been successfully prosecuted.

Canada leaves out rise in oilsands pollution from UN climate report

OTTAWA — The federal government has acknowledged that it deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in annual pollution from Canada’s oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations.

An Unclear Course on Emissions Policy

SAN FRANCISCO — Opposition to cap and trade, a regulatory tool for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, normally comes from the right end of the political spectrum, where it is derided as “cap and tax.”

But in California it is the political left that has been most successful in challenging the effort, creating a legal speed bump of sorts that might even delay the nation’s first statewide cap-and-trade system, set to start on Jan. 1.

An Unlikely Power Duo Emerges in the Global Fight Against Climate Change

WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton and Michael R. Bloomberg have circled each other warily for a decade, ever since Mr. Clinton landed in Harlem after leaving the White House and Mr. Bloomberg ascended from a hugely successful business career to become the mayor of New York City. They have appeared together at a few civic functions, dined out a couple of times a year and hacked at golf balls on the same course.

But until now they have never joined forces on a project with global reach that could advance both of their legacies. They are taking on an issue — climate change — that may well shape the world’s economic and social future for decades to come.

Global carbon at record high: IEA

PARIS (AFP) – Carbon-dioxide emissions hit a record high last year, the International Energy Agency said on Monday, dimming the prospects of limiting the global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates," the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a statement.

Trucks lose, ships win in warmer Arctic

Global warming will have a devastating effect on roads in the Arctic but open up tantalising routes for shipping, according to a study published on Sunday in the specialist journal Nature Climate Change.

"As sea ice continues to melt, accessibility by sea will increase, but the viability of an important network of roads that depend on freezing temperatures is threatened by a warming climate," said Scott Stephenson of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

As a metaphor, our final defense petered out on the last lap.
"Torque" News

What the hell am I missing here. In one of the above articles above it states that Saudi has 52 GigaWatts of Nuclear Power, where the hell did that come from, Tinkerbell been busy with her magic wand, or is it just some stupid reporter that doesn't know his anal orifice from his arm joint.


What I found quiet refreshing was the honesty of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal here


even then I wonder how true it is they seem to have committed themselves rather heavily the last few months what with committing about 40billion in free bee handouts to keep the local population happy that is apart from the 4 billion to Egypt in a loan to stop that country going bankrupt when it runs out of money to import wheat later on this year. Oh yes and let not forget to add in those atomic bombs they have bought from Pakistan with the delivery rockets they don't come cheap neither does the 2 divisions from the Pakistan Army they have recently hired. I just wish my Grandchildren had not been born into such interesting times.

For starters Miner, you are missing the fact that if you "reply" to a post then your post should be a reply to that post. Yours is totally unrelated to the post you replied to. Please learn how to post properly. Second:

Oh yes and let not forget to add in those atomic bombs they have bought from Pakistan with the delivery rockets they don't come cheap neither does the 2 divisions from the Pakistan Army they have recently hired.

There have been such claims made by some of Saudi's neighbors about atomic bombs and missiles but nothing substantial. And there was a rumor out of Pakistan that they had two divisions "poised" to go into Saudi Arabia. Nothing about them having already being "hired" by Saudi.

You can very easily find anything on the blogosphere. Finding the truth there however is a little harder to do.

Ron P.

What the hell am I missing here.

The US military sponsors auto-racing and expects it to turn out anything but badly.

And this is the fuel-efficient US Army vehicle showcased at the Indy 500, a cross between Road Warrior and Rat Patrol.

Yorkshire Miner,

I will echo Ron P. above.

Do you have any links to any sources claiming the obtaining of nuclear weapons by KSA?

If such a thing went down, I might expect to hear about it on these sites:




Same with the 2 divisions of Pak Army...what is the stated threat...Iran? How would the Pak Army be transported and employed? Is the threat internal uprising? Do you have references?

Break break:

Regarding Alwaleed's statement about keeping the West from developing alternatives (alternative supplies OF oil to KSA, AND alternatives TO oil in general):

We should use taxes to impose a 'floor' price of oil at /at least/ $100/bbl in the U.S. Take the tax proceeds and support development of high-efficiency vehicles and give Domestic drillers/produces the difference between their costs of production (if below $100/bbl and the $100/bbl floor). Maybe $120/bbl should be the floor. Tax proceeds from foreign producers (with a nice Canada exception) would be confiscatory (no rebates to them).

Provide the vaunted 'certainty' demanded by domestic producers and by consumers to inform rational future investment and purchase decisions.

Eliminate the 'saw tooth' price pattern which have inhibited large gains in efficiency and which have hurt domestic producers in the 'boom-bust' cycle.

We could do the same thing with NG and provide it with a floor price as well...set the floor above the costs of production and split the diff between subsidizing efficiency improvements for consumers and rebates to producers. Again, certainty for planning is key.

Here is a graph i found at the Swedish Television web site.


You should be able to read it with this dictionary:
Igång = operational
Bygger nya == building new
Inga = None, no, or no one depending on context
Planerar att = is planning to
förändring = change
And the black field means "Have illegal nuclear power". What does that mean?

As you see according to this source KSA is planning to build. Hey, everyone seems to be planning to build if they can afford it.

Click the image for a list of nuclear reacors operational/beeing built/planned or sugested, by country.

And the black field means "Have illegal nuclear power". What does that mean?

It means that Austria (the country in black) probably lies about its energy mix.

You see, they despise nuclear energy and have no nukes and they are criticizing other countries for having one. This would be all well and good, but they buy electricity from other countries and it seems that this energy is from nukes, too. They say that only 6% of their grid electricity is from nukes, but the real number is probably around 14%. This means that they buy "dirty" energy and sell it as green, which is a pure lie at best and hypocrisy at worst. Or vice-versa. :P

Some people even say that they engage in "dirty energy laundering"... You know, they don't launder dirty money, they launder nuke power! :oD

Re: An Unlikely Power Duo Emerges in the Global Fight Against Climate Change

One has to wonder how the guys at C40 think they are going to actually make a difference. Especially given comments like this one:

“We are putting a stake in the ground around the idea that national and international governments have failed, possibly quite permanently, or at least in a way that they will not make any serious progress before it’s too late,” said Kevin Sheekey, a former deputy mayor of New York and principal political adviser to Mr. Bloomberg. “If you address the problems of the cities, there will be no need for China and India to sign onto some international accord. And thank God, because that’s not going to get done. It’s time to say it.”

Where's the motivation for actually doing something, absent an agreement to do something? Worse yet, they want to work thru the World Bank, which still officially looks forward to "sustainable growth" as the prime goal of their activities. Can the World Bank be turned around to a sustainable development, power down direction? It's going to take more than bike lanes to do it...

E. Swanson

Reading the news on India, Malaysia, China et al, I think that the time of subsidies are over. The question is if the governments can afford it - coupled with increasing food prices, which drives inflation and reduces the disposable income of their citizens - without serious unrest.

On the other hand, subsidies will bankrupt the power companies unless they are getting propped up by their state owners, which is in effect a 'hidden' cost.
This portal and many other energysites have been tracking Pakistan for months now. But despite blackouts for at times 14 hours a day with a regular basis, the country somehow manages to get by.

I think that shows that people are remarkably resilient, and it adds to my doubts of a 'fast collapse' scenario.
There may be a sudden awakening, but it's likely that people will hold their heads down after the initial outburst and somehow try to just muddle through once it appears that no quick fix is doable, including blaming the government, the immigrants and capitalism.

Neither will help the situation and no amount of government intervention will stave off the inevitable, and so, instead of panic I think a lot of people will just block out the outer world and concentrate on their narrow lives and take life day-by-day, simply because it may be too painful to think ahead as nothing looks good. Perhaps the same mechanism that makes people religious and believe in miracles. People have a remarkable ability to block things out and believe whatever they want to believe(like over 90 % of all people think they are above-average drivers, or over 90 % of all harvard students think they are in the upper half of the class etc etc, perhaps a necessity for survival, blind hope/ignorance in the face of a bleak future).

Huh? This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Clinton/Bloomberg alliance story that Black_Dog's post referred to.

Please guys, if you want to start a new thread, you don't have to go all the way to the top post and click on "Post a comment". At the bottom of each post there is a Start new thread link between "Reply in new window" and "Flag as inappropriate (?)" that is exactly the same thing (http://www.theoildrum.com/comment/reply/7984#form). It's kind of frustrating to read a "reply" to a post, especially a long one, only to find out it should really have been a new thread.

Alan from the islands

Correct, I pressed the wrong button and now it's there and stuck! :)

There are many people convinced the future will be built from the ground up. I agree. Governments are too busy worrying about... remaining a government to commit soon enough to solve the problems we face. How do you get the US gov't, for example to champion a steady-state economy? Ideology absolutely prevents this.

It is easier for governments to let the people lead until the point has been proven then jump in and proclaim their own great leadership in helping the nation change.

"Trucks lose, ships win" above.

Loss of permafrost has been reported for many years - I found this SeattlePi report from 2003, regarding difficulties being experienced with oil drilling in Alaska. Of course, instead of stopping drilling, the response has been to weaken the law regarding use of winter ice roads.

Arctic Tundra recovers only very slowly from disturbance, per this article from 2010. (pdf warning). It documents effects of seismic exploration in ANWR.

Edit : For anyone with Netflix, watch the film 'Ghost Bird', regarding the sightings of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Alabama. The film has been described as "heartbreaking, ironic and infuriating". I would agree with that assessment.

From a distance the law change seemed reasonable. When the law was written, the ground was frozen to great depth long enough that they could afford to be very conservative (i.e. the allowed season was easily long enough). But then with climate change, the number of days where it was frozen deep enough dropped dramatically, so it made sense to figure out where the safe limit was. Of course that doesn't mean commercial influences might not have been able to influence the new limits beyond what the science said. But the idea that the limits needed to be revisited was a sound one.

I think we've seen an uncomfortably large number of events lately where commercial influences have pushed the limits beyond what the science said. Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima, to name just two. It's a real problem of myopia.

On a different track, Hospitals hunt substitutes as drug shortages rise.

"The shortage that's made the most headlines is a sedative used on death row. But on the health-care front, shortages are wide-ranging, including:

-Thiotepa, used with bone marrow transplants.

-A whole list of electrolytes, injectable nutrients crucial for certain premature infants and tube-feeding of the critically ill.

-Norepinephrine injections for septic shock.

-A cystic fibrosis drug named acetylcysteine.

-Injections used in the ER for certain types of cardiac arrest.

-Certain versions of pills for ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

-Some leuprolide hormone injections used in fertility treatment."

I do think we can manage without fertility treatments....

Can we do without one of the most common and inexpensive blood pressure treatment meds? Triamterine/HCTZ, a water pill, generic version of Maxzide & Dyazide has been available for pennies per tablet/capsule and is extremely common. The HCTZ part is currently available seperately, but the combo is suddenly "unavailable" due to "supply issues" at all the major drug wholesalers.

These shortages have become ridiculously common in recent years, many due to buying up all the raw materials, some due to stupid FDA policies (thank you FDA for causing the cost of Colchine, one of the few effective gout treatments to go from a few dollars for 30 pills, to a couple of hundred dollars for 30 pills, only available now as a brand name product).

The price of prescription strength potassium went up 5-fold. This is real and I forsee more of a problem, with more drugs involved as time goes on. These kind of shortages weren't happening 5 years ago. I don't know what the root causes are, but they are definately getting more common.

This article offers some opinions on the drug shortage issue:


Here’s the reality behind the warm-n-cozy “caring” tone in nearly every drug advertisement on television. Drug companies care deeply about your health, as long as your health issues can be treated with a popular name-brand statin, antidepressant, prescription NSAID, etc. in perpetuity.

But when it comes to generics, or antibiotics, or anesthesia, or any drug you may only need for a short time, all that caring drops off sharply.

Although Oncology Times adds that they’re also considering an idea to “remove barriers faced by FDA and drug manufacturers to minimize the impact of the shortages.”

You’ll never guess what the primary “barrier” is. It’s the ban on buying drugs from foreign countries. And if you’re sputtering in disbelief, I don’t blame you. Aren’t the drug manufacturers the ones that were erecting those very barriers when it was Lipitor and Viagra people wanted to buy from foreign lands? Suddenly, when the profits aren’t enough to bother protecting, it’s safe enough for us to buy from Canada or other countries?

From this article:


Part of the problem, says Bona Benjamin, director of medication use quality improvement at the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, is that drugmakers are not required by law to alert the FDA when they expect a shortage. "If the FDA knows about a shortage ahead of time, they have more latitude to get plans in place and work with other firms to start ramping up production," she says. "We've heard that FDA has been able to avert about a dozen shortages after getting early word of supply problem. But that's an exception to the rule."

In early February, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduced the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, which will require prescription drug manufacturers to give early notification to the FDA of any incident that would likely result in a drug shortage.

From yet another site:

...pharmaceutical industry consolidation in recent years has left fewer manufacturers for both branded and generic drugs. There have been at least nine major pharmaceutical mergers since 2000, most of them valued at over $ 40 billion each. Just two years ago, in 2009, for example, there were three major mergers - the $ 68 billion Pfizer/Wyeth merger, the $ 41 billion Merck/Schering Plough merger, and the $ 47 billion Roche/Genetech merger. And just a few weeks ago, two of the leading generic drug companies, Teva and Cephalon, announced their intention to merge, a transaction valued at $ 7.5 billion. The impact of this consolidation may be having a serious effect on the availability of prescription drugs.

As the article points out, this problem may be caused in part because of consolidation resulting from drug company mergers. As the number of drug manufacturers decline, there are fewer and fewer manufacturers of older and less profitable products, "meaning that when raw material runs short, equipment breaks down or government regulators crack down, the snags can quickly spiral into shortages."

It is inconceivable that the ingredients for these drugs are in short supply...

So what are the likely problems?

Greed...Too Big to fail...a closed-market industry (Oligopoly)

Soon, on cue, we will hear exhortations to greatly weaken safety/purity regulations (right after the pharma companies told us that we would be in grave danger by importing drugs from sketchy countries such as Canada). No doubt to be followed by drug deals to give pharma cos tax breaks, credits, etc. and guaranteed prices to achieve 'certainty'.

sketchy countries such as Canada

Typically the precursor biochemicals come from places like China or India. They are then formulated and packaged in Puerto Rico under favorable tax breaks, labeled made in the USA, and shipped nationwide.


Cookie factories still run and make enough profit to pay the bills even though the recipes are common knowledge and there is no monopoly. I haven't heard of a chocolate chip cookie shortage yet.

Privately funded researchers, who often were educated in public universities, and who stand on the backs of advances made in the past by publicly funded researchers permit large pharmaceutical companies to patent important medicines. To ensure profit the companies then stage large advertising campaigns to influence the doctors writing prescriptions and the patients looking for treatment. As if having a monopoly on a life saving (or health improving) product isn't enough.

I firmly believe that the correct way to manage pharmaceutical development is to have publicly funded universities concentrating on doing research that will benefit the population followed by the development of generic medicines and educational campaigns. It is disheartening to think that more money is spent every year on finding a cure for baldness than on finding a cure for malaria. Or *parphrase of bad joke warning* that more money is spent on improving viagra and breast implants than on treating alzheimer's resulting in a generation of elderly people that could have great sex lives if they could just remember how.

It's not clear why acetylcysteine is in short supply. It appears to be available on drugstore.com.

OTOH, it is not clear that it confers any benefits to cystic fibrosis patients.

Systematic review of N-acetylcysteine in cystic fibrosis

A systematic review was carried out to evaluate whether the use of N-acetylcysteine to improve lung function in patients with cystic fibrosis is supported by published evidence. Medline and the Cochrane Library were searched and the reference lists of all retrieved papers and of relevant chapters of three major textbooks were scanned. Data on lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)) were extracted from controlled clinical trials and pooled as weighted mean differences for analysis. Twenty-three studies, mostly uncontrolled clinical observations, were retrieved. Only three randomized controlled clinical trials on nebulized N-acetylcysteine in cystic fibrosis were found, not showing any beneficial effect on lung function. Six randomized controlled clinical trials on oral N-acetylcysteine in cystic fibrosis were found, with a total number of 181 patients. There was a tendency towards a beneficial effect on lung function of oral N-acetylcysteine therapy on FEV1 but it was small (2.3%, 95% CI from (-0.3 to 4.9% of predicted) and of doubtful clinical relevance. In all studies, follow-up was 3 months or shorter. In conclusion, at present there is no evidence supporting the use of N-acetylcysteine in cystic fibrosis, although a beneficial effect with long-term use of N-acetylcysteine in cystic fibrosis cannot be excluded.

and Exacerbations in cystic fibrosis: 2 · Prevention

"It's not clear why acetylcysteine is in short supply"

An epidemic of tylenol overdoses?

Re the shortage of the death row drug...

Many years ago, I worked from time to time in a computer center that had a Halon fire suppression system (before they were banned). Halon is an colorless odorless gas that is heavier than air. In the event of a small leak, the gas tended to pool under the raised floor. Anyone who had to work under the raised floor was required to have a partner who stayed standing and watched for trouble -- by yourself, it was possible to stick your head down into the pooled Halon (if it was there) without realizing it, pass out from lack of oxygen, and quietly suffocate.

A doctor of my acquaintance says that a simple nitrogen "dump" into the ventilation for an otherwise sealed room accomplishes the same thing: pass out after about 30 seconds, permanent brain damage in a few minutes, heart stops permanently after 10-15 minutes. Because there's no build-up of CO2 in the bloodstream, there's no panicky suffocating feeling or other pain before you pass out. The doc was making the point that the means for painless suicide — small tank of nitrogen, regulator, hoses, breathing mask — are readily available at your nearest well-stocked welding supply store.

We make executions more complicated than they need to be.

This is correct. I am trained to make sure there is always a leak somewhere belowmy feet when I weld with thiskind of gasses. If working on a large industrial concrete floor I could not care less. But inside a container of some sort you gotta drill a hole if you don't find any. Or ask the manager. In worst case you may be equiped with a fresh air mask. That has never hapened to me.

Argon is a kiler to, but more expensive.

Is is a bit odd that nitrogen is never even considered for that sort of thing.

They euthanize nuisance canadian geese by stuffing them into an airtight box and filling it with CO2. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that's a horrible way to die. There's both the suffocation response of CO2 in the blood stream and the pain response of carbonic acid on mucous membranes. Death is the same as N2: anoxia by displacing oxygen. The only possible advantage is capital cost, because CO2 liquifies at room temperature and fairly low pressure, instead of heavy high-pressure cylinders or expensive cryogenic systems.

Rock music was basically a technology replacement in music. These follow logistic curves, and the derivative wrt time is a Hubbert Peak.

Rock music reflects the introduction of electronics to musical instruments. This is different from mechanical or electronic recording, which was done for orchestras, chamber ensembles, brass bands, choirs, singers, etc. In the case of recording, the instruments were not electronified, and in fact, the objective was to obtain a recording which, when reproduced by speakers, was as close to the original acoustic experience as possible.

And orchestras, being culturally conservative, were not going to put pickups on their fiddles.

The instruments most adaptable to being electronified were the plucked string instruments like the guitar and bass, as well as the keyboards in the form of electric organ and synthesizers. Drums could be easily outfitted with pickups.

These instruments in their acoustic forms had been used by folk, bluegrass, blues, R&B, country, and jazz musicians individually and in groups. So these were naturally the ones to develop and exploit the new musical possibilities of the newly electronified versions of their instruments. Strides in amplfiers and speakers made it unnecessary to increase group size as the popularity of rock increased since a stadium could be filled with sound from an array of 500 watt horn speakers.

On the other hand, once the musical wells of the existing forms ran dry, it was harder and harder to create new rock music in the mainstream. There was a great increase in the number of types of music from rap to new age as musicians explored smaller and smaller fields.

Could we be at peak civilization? Certainly feels like it.


Ha! I predicted this eight months ago!

See if you can spot the parallels with the oil industry

Have we hit Peak Coffee?

One can only wonder at the societal collapse that would happen if we ran out of coffee...

Come we all know the magic of the invisible hand will provide substitution if prices get high enough. Tea? Caffeinated soda? There is some plant that truckers in Taiwan chew to stay awake. I'd say there is a great investment opportunity here.

There is some plant that truckers in Taiwan chew to stay awake.

Yes, they are chewing betel nuts from Areca catechu - betel nut palm. :)

Turns the teeth red, darker and darker red.

One can only wonder at the societal collapse that would happen if we ran out of coffee...

Don't worry Paul I happen to know someone who has a Guarana plantation... I don't care about peak coffee, now peak caffeine, THAT would be a serious problem. >;^)

Guarana (play /ˌɡwɑrəˈnɑː/, from the Portuguese [ɡwaɾɐˈna], Paullinia cupana, syn. P. crysan, P. sorbilis) is a climbing plant in the maple family, Sapindaceae, native to the Amazon basin and especially common in Brazil. Guarana features large leaves and clusters of flowers, and is best known for its fruit, which is about the size of a coffee bean. As a dietary supplement, guarana is an effective stimulant:[1] it contains about twice the caffeine found in coffee beans (about 2–4.5% caffeine in guarana seeds compared to 1–2% for coffee beans).[2]

As with other plants producing caffeine, the high concentration of caffeine is a defensive toxin that repels pathogens from the berry and its seeds.[3]

Ha, yes well, peak caffeine is indeed the issue, but can you imagine Americans being forced to drink guarana or tea instead of coffee? I did address the "alternates" when I wrote that Peak Coffee article which I linked above - I think the reaction would be similar to what we see with alternate energy.

You also have peak tobacco. When we run out of food they will have to convert tobacco plantations to food plantations. That one is one i actually look forward to. Tobacco makes no good.


coffee, tobacco, chocolate, qat... More population and less production from arable land due to climate change etc might mean we have to give up lots of our addictions. Of course I maintain that browsing the internet is a great use of energy fully worth the coal burning generators necessary to power its servers...

Link up top: Iran to invest $150bn in oil, gas

It doesn't look like that investment is a sure thing. Iranian officials are still warning that if that investment is not made then Iran oil output may drop drastically by 2015.

"If the investments are not realised..., the country's oil output will drop to 2.7 million barrels per day" from the current production of 3.7 million, he said.

Bottom line is we really have no idea what is about to happen in Iran. And the situation in the rest of the Middle East is just about as uncertain.

Ron P.

Bottom line is we really have no idea what is about to happen in Iran.

If Iran's oil production drops by 1 million barrels per day by 2015, it can only mean one thing -- Iran's oil production has most certainly peaked.

Even if Iran's oil production increases by 1 million barrels per day by 2015 Iran's oil production has most certainly peaked. It peaked in 1974 at just over 6 million barrels per day.

Iran Oil Production, C+C, 1970 thru 2011 in thousands of barrels per day according to the EIA.
The 2011 data if average for the first two months only.

Iran Oil production 1970-2011

Iran's current crude only oil production is about 3.66 million barrels per day according to OPEC's Oil Market Report and 3.56 million barrels per day C+C according to JODI. The EIA currently has most OPEC nations producing quite a bit more than either JODI or OPEC's OMR reports.

Ron P.

The 19 through 30 segment in that graph looks suspicious to me.

Jedi, I think it just a coincidence that the chart looks suspicious. However it is well known that the EIA just estimates when they cannot get real data. For instance their figures for Norway and Mexico are exactly what Norway and Mexico publishes on their web sites. However their figures, when they cannot get the figures directly from the source, are always a little higher than everyone else's. However about two and one half years ago their figures for OPEC began to show figures way above what anyone else estimated. In 2010 the EIA's OPEC figures were some 2 million barrels per day above most other estimates for OPEC for most months.

This leads to the obvious conclusion that, for the last few years anyway, all EIA numbers must be taken with a grain of salt.

Ron P.

Re: Who's to blame when gas costs $1 more than last year?, up top:

Goldman Sachs sees $5 gas this summer:


This is after calling for lower crude prices before the recent crude sell off.

I have followed grain markets for many years. One thing I have learned is that there is never peace in markets. If there were, market participants could not make any money. So it is constantly run 'em up and run 'em down.

The witch hunters who think speculators are to blame do not understand that what is to blame is human nature. We all want to make a gain. Consumers want to gain by lower prices. Producers want to gain by higher prices. Those playing the market want to gain by price movement.

Market participants to not react much to small incremental movements over time until these movements reach extremes. Animals tend to ignore small movements. Watch the cat sneak up on a mouse. The cat moves slowly and the mouse pays no attention. Then when it when it is too late for the mouse the cat pounces.

The frog in warming water is the same idea. Only by going to extremes can markets do what is necessary to adjust supply and demand. Speculators facilitate this and are performing a valuable service.

Most here are de facto experts on the Peak Oil situation. We understand the need to reduce oil consumption dramatically. We also understand the inability of government and consumers to do anything significant unless they are hit upside the head with high prices.

I say so what if speculators are causing high oil/gasoline prices.

Saying speculators cause high prices solves nothing. To me it is like saying gravity caused the airplane to crash.

In a system where government and consumers refuse to adjust demand and producers can not increase world supply, high prices are the only tool left.

Those who bring that tool to solve the problem should not be condemned. It is like shooting the messenger who brings bad news.

Goldman Sachs have been much better than most establishment analysts recently, but they have ricocheted wildly among a wide array of positions on both the oil price, but also commodity prices.

Just 6 weeks ago, they claimed that the 'peak' of the commodoties boom was nigh. Last week, they said this is the start of the bull market.

Same with the oil price. They started out pretty bullish, then said the price will now stabilise, and now we're seeing their bullish side just a few mere weeks later. They can't seem to make up their minds, but at least they are contemplating different scenarios than the usual BAU delusions.

Golden-Sacks talks their book, and nothing more.

They make announcements hoping investors will move that way, while they have taken the opposite bet.

Nothing matters but keeping the bonus pools filled.

I've heard this a lot, it must surely be well known on Wall St., so how would people still fall for it if that's the case?

They probably bet their best predictions and sometimes make the predictions public that they think will give them the greatest advantage being well known.

Maybe their flipflops are calculated attempts to move the market. Diss commodity X: buy low, pump commodity X: sell high, rinse repeat... Laughing all the way to the bank!

That's exactly what they do!

Best to remove yourself from the equation by taking ownership of gold and silver, as well as mining shares, on the dips until the financial system implodes.

The good thing about precious metals is that the physical market is very tight, which it makes it harder for the banks to play their games with the paper value. And unlike with oil and other commodities, higher metals prices are reinforcing.

Bernanke and his boys Geithner and Blankfein have made an enemy of me, and I'm going to fight them to the death.

Bernanke and his boys Geithner and Blankfein......

It is the other way. Bernanke and Geithner are Blankfein's boys.

X, great post but a few things need to be clarified. A lot of people, in fact, the vast majority of people, simply do not understand how the commodities market works. In this article: Who's to blame when gas costs $1 more than last year? Commodity trader Don Roose of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa, asked:

"You tell me: Did the supply of crude oil suddenly increase enough in a single day to justify a $10 drop in the price of crude oil?"

No, obviously not dumb butt, but news affects the market. If there is a storm over Canada and wipes out half the wheat crop then wheat prices will jump on that news long before it has time to affect the actual supply and demand. It is the knowledge that this news will soon affect supply and demand that causes the price of wheat to jump immediately.

Likewise if news broke that a revolution had broken out in Saudi then the price of oil would jump immediately on both the spot and futures market long before this revolution had any actual affect on supply and demand. And if the news broke that there would be no revolution, that the King had made a bargain with the people, then the price would drop just as quick.

So it is supply and demand, along with the perception of what supply and demand will be in the future that causes the price of oil to move up or down. And it affects both the futures market and the spot market at the same time.

But some people just cannot get that very simple fact through their heads. But you are a farmer and have seen it happen first hand, so I am quite sure you do.

Ron P.

It looks like the Chinese are getting more serious about investing in Canadian oil sands.

Trade Mission: China targeting tens of billions in Alberta oilsands investment

SHANGHAI - Alberta government and business leaders who sat down with Chinese energy executives this week were told tens of billions of dollars in new oilpatch investment will flow in the coming years — if export capacity issues in Canada are improved.

Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove said Sunday that senior officials from Chinese state-owned oil firms anticipate future investment will dwarf — potentially tripling — what they have already spent in Canada’s energy sector in recent years.

In the past 18 months alone, Chinese oil companies have pumped more than $13 billion into developing crude oil and natural gas prospects in Western Canada.

China is having difficulties finding enough oil and natural gas to support its continued economic growth, and Canada has the second largest oil reserves in the world, complements of its vast oil sands deposits. It also has huge shale gas deposits in British Columbia. Canadian politicians are supportive of this expansion because they want an alternative to depending on the American market for all of their oil and gas exports.

However, future spending is contingent upon Canada building new pipeline capacity to transport oilsands — such as the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project planned by Enbridge Inc. — and natural gas to the West Coast, where liquefied gas could be shipped by tanker into the Chinese market, he said.

“They said the critical part to them was having access to the product and now it’s stranded in the North American market. They believe we need the Gateway pipeline ASAP,” the finance minister said in an interview.

Good news for you! I'm sure you stand to make out well on this.

Yeah, most likely I'll do okay on it. Somebody has to pay for my comfortable retirement, and I'm not sure Americans will have enough money. The Chinese seem to, though.

I would consider investing in the oil sands, but I'm not comfortable enough in the net energy/finance dynamic at this time to do so. I still look at them as an uncertain mitigation play.

So I'm long metals and only metals. If I lose out, so what, I'll have my hoard, which will not be worthless.

If some sort of sanity returns to the financial system, I might consider them as well as agriculture.

Australia: The Nexy Golden State

From: The Economist


From the teaser to the article, here is the only reference to population:

Instead of pointing to the great benefits of immigration—population growth is responsible for about two-fifths of the increase in real GDP in the past 40 years—the two parties pander shamelessly to xenophobic fears about asylum-seekers washing up in boats.

From the teaser to the article, here is the only reference to water (and energy):

Better themes for politicians would be their plans to develop first-class universities, nourish the arts, promote urban design and stimulate new industries in anything from alternative energy to desalinating water.

The Economist 'Special Report' titles 'No Worries?"


Same issue, different article "The Anthropocene" quotes below are from the article's 'teaser':

The full artilcle:


Increasing the planet’s resilience will probably involve a few dramatic changes and a lot of fiddling. An example of the former could be geoengineering. Today the copious carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere is left for nature to pick up, which it cannot do fast enough. Although the technologies are still nascent, the idea that humans might help remove carbon from the skies as well as put it there is a reasonable Anthropocene expectation; it wouldn’t stop climate change any time soon, but it might shorten its lease, and reduce the changes in ocean chemistry that excess carbon brings about.

More often the answer will be fiddling—finding ways to apply human muscle with the grain of nature, rather than against it, and help it in its inbuilt tendency to recycle things.

The last two paragraphs or so talk about how increases in availability of solar and nuclear energy will hopefully allow mankind to fashion the Anthropocene to be a new revolution in human affairs, vice trying to "retreat onto a low-impact path that runs the risk of global immiseration."

Massive desalination is one of the solar/nuclear energy driven technologies that apparently can ride to our rescue!

The Economist is so darn plucky optimistic!

I used to read "The Economist" but seldom do so now. Not only have they been wrong about oil for a long time, but the news articles seem to reflect more editorial slant than they used to. Twenty years ago "The Economist" had some of the best reporters with some of the best prose to be found anywhere. The prose is still good, but the reporters seem to be more timid than they used to be.

A similar problem is found in "The Wall Street Journal," which I still read. The quality of the reporters now does not seem to be as high as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Also, the editors seem to be stricter in censoring the reporters compared to earlier times. Why has there not been extensive reporting on Peak Oil in the WSJ? Because the editors have decreed that Peak Oil is not to be mentioned in those words and that the content of articles cannot state or directly imply that Peak Oil is at hand. Instead, editorial policy has been to accept KSA's claims to excess capacity at face value; I've never seen these claims questioned in the WSJ. Articles on oil tend to accentuate the positive (new technologies, increased reserve growth, etc.) and ignore the negatives.

I agree..The Economist seems to paint with an awfully broad brush and more and more tries to invoke increasingly fuzzily-described techno-magic when it attempts to describe World and regional problems and solutions.

I still read it because I like the more international flavor than I get from U.S. publications...but if they keep waving their magic wand to soothe the readership I may not renew in the future...

Seems as if after Jimmy Carter attempted a little bit of truth-telling there has been some kind of lid put on LTG topics in favor of worshiping at the growth and free markets altar.

I stopped purchasing the economist a decade back, then I just didn't have the time to read it. For a few more years I used to look forward to Wednesday when the free electronic version was updated. But now they have maybe one article per week worth spending the time to read....

The WSJ was purchased bu Murdock's News Corp, so expect it to morph into a highbrow version of FauxNews.

Don, have you noticed a difference in the WSJ since it was taken over by Rupert Murdoch? What's your opinion of the Financial Times of London?

Yes, I have noticed a difference in the WSJ since it was taken over by Rupert Murdoch: the paper has generally declined in quality, though some sections such as book reviewing are still maintaining former standards.

I seldom read the "Financial Times of London," but when I do read it the articles are good.

Over the past ten years I've come to rely much more on the Internet and much less on paper editions. It is remarkable how much good free stuff is available on the Net. Even though 99% of websites are pure garbage, the remaining 1% is huge. For example, look at theoildrum.com where every day there are many links posted to good articles. There are not enough hours in the day for me to read all the promising links on TOD.

I drink from the information fire hose--but cautiously. There is just too much high-quality information out there for a fair sampling of articles that I'm interested in. For example, science is one of my interests; I subscribe to "Science News" and read their website regularly--lots of interesting stuff, and well-written and well-edited articles plus highly selective links to other very good articles.

Neil King at the WSJ has written extensively on oil issues and has been at times skeptical/critical of Saudi claims. He spoke at ASPO-USA a few years back. It is true, though, that (aside from GOM oil spill coverage) he has written about oil less in recent days.

The Economist seems to be falling into the same "head-in-the-sand", "maybe if we ignore it, it will go away" mentality that the UK as a whole seems to be falling into.

Since North Sea oil production peaked and started to decline in 1999, and is now getting to the steep part of the decline curve, they really should be taking immediate action to deal with the acute energy crisis that is about to hit them.

They are talking about "renewables" - wind and solar power - but a few back-of-the-napkin calculations show that these are not really able to fill the gap. It is the hold-hands-and-sing "Kumbaya" solution which never worked to keep the lions away in Africa as far as I know.

Britain is a rather cozy, overpopulated, and not very big island (I'm looking at it from a Canadian perspective), and really doesn't have a lot of options to work with. They need to sit down in crisis management mode and do some hard engineering calculations to figure out what will work for them and what won't, but I think they fear the results so much that they prefer to ignore the problem.

I agree the UK has issues. But it is hard for anyone to analyze ones self. This analysis should be done by outsiders. It will give a more honest answer.

I won't speak to The Economist's credibility WRT the UK, but they blew their US reputation in the early 2000s when they decided to be unabashed cheerleaders for the Bush administration. Tax cuts, two wars, unfunded Medicare Part D -- didn't matter what the program was, they found some way to justify it as exactly the right policy.

Part of me hated giving up my subscription, because their factual reporting on the US was still pretty good. But the editorial content got to be more than I could stomach.

Britain is in deep trouble in just about every way possible (especially in terms of "overshoot"). When I was looking at my options on mitigating the effects of financial, energy and climate crises it quickly became evident that it was impossible if I remained in the UK. Britain's future looks ghastly.

Even Mother Nature has it in for her:

Wind farms: Britain is 'running out of wind'

According to government figures, 13 of the past 16 months have been calmer than normal - while 2010 was the “stillest” year of the past decade.

Meteorologists believe that changes to the Atlantic jet stream could alter the pattern of winds over the next 40 years and leave much of the nation’s growing army of power-generating turbines becalmed.

Amongst its other problems, Great Britain is still an empire in decline and my "rule of thumb" is that this won't end until the Union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has dissolved. From being an outlandish view some 8 years ago when I first discussed this with people, it seems to be slowly seeping into the British psyche:

Queen concerned that United Kingdom will be broken up

The monarch is understood to have expressed her anxiety about the Scottish National Party’s plan for an independence referendum during her weekly meeting with David Cameron at Buckingham Palace.

Palace officials have asked Downing Street to provide a constitutional expert to advise on how the referendum will be staged and the dismantling of the UK in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.

The breakupof the Roman Empire took a milennia. Or more. Sometimes we look at a slow collapse. It does not always happen soviet-style.

It took about 100-120 years for the decline of the Dutch empire from its peak until it dissolved with the French invasion during the Napoleonic wars so we are about due about now. We peaked in power and influence in 1913 when our coal production peaked at around 300,000,000 tons.

I recently notified the Economist of two significant numerical errors I found in oil articles, but did not receive any response back from either.

In this article, they show this chart:

Since when is Saudi Arabia number three in oil supply, after the US (#2)? The only way I could get to this result was by mixing together total liquids and crude oil numbers.

Also, in The Price of Fear, the Economist makes the ridiculous statement:

When prices spiked in 2008, the Saudis said they had capacity to spare. Terrified oil markets doubted its existence, and prices rose anyway, to reach $145. Yet the subsequent collapse in the oil price in the second half of 2008 was only partly caused by the credit crisis and the rich-world recession that resulted. Saudi Arabia also pumped extra oil: nearly 2.5m b/d on top of the 8.5m it was already providing.

What in the world? Saudia Arabia didn't add anything like 2.5 million barrels a day of production. At the time this statement was made, I sent the Economist this list of EIA numbers regarding Crude and Condensate Production:

Jan. 2008 - 9.2 m b/d
Feb. 2008 - 9.2
Mar. 2008 - 9.1
Apr. 2008 - 9.1
May 2008 - 9.4
Jun. 2008 - 9.45
Jul. 2008 - 9.7
Aug. 2008 - 9.6
Sep. 2008 - 9.4
Oct. 2008 - 9.4
Nov. 2008 - 9.0
Dec. 2008 - 8.5
Jan. 2009 - 8.1
. . .
Nov. 2010 - 8.64

I don't know why I didn't get any response back from either e-mail. I have concluded that Economist staff do not to have the most rudimentary skills in reading published oil data.

Does anyone have any idea how one gets the Economist staff to understand the basics of what is going on?

I think trying to get "The Economist" to correct errors is a lost cause. Good for you for trying; those are very glaring errors you have pointed out.

Twenty years ago "The Economist" was a really good news magazine and much better than most of the mass media, but it has been going downhill for a long time. What I cannot understand is that "The Economist" still has the prestige of being a well-written and reliable source of information. Clearly, they could use some fact-checkers. Their prose is still good, but their numbers are not to be trusted.

When I look at "The Economist" I just read the book reviews now. Twenty and thirty years ago I read it from cover to cover.

Yes, immigration can grow GDP but without growth in per capita GDP it is only of value to the owning class. Has immigration and its resource depletion acceleration increased per capita GDP?

I read somewhere that immigration had added the equivalent too the GDP of the British Isles of a mars bar per immigrant. Personally I don't believe it. Denmark has an immigrant population of 4% who according too statistics consume 40% of all welfare payments.

This link (http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=foreign+born+unemployment+in+Denmark) from Wolfram Alpha would seem to suggest that their isn't much of a correlation between immigration and economic problems in Denmark.

In fact, this data suggests that the biggest employment problem that Denmark is facing is a labor shortage, as 3.3% unemployment is most likely below the marginal rate.

Now Denmark might have a situation where the state is essentially subsidizing low-wage labor with social programs (similar to how Wal-Mart operates here) but there's nothing here to suggest that immigrant are causing economic hardship.

That Economist article about Australia suggests that it should become the "California of the south" - I can;t imagine a worse goal to strive for!

Australia is already a much better place than California, there is no need to dumb it down to Ca levels.

It makes me wonder if the writer has actually spent much time in Australia.

the two parties pander shamelessly to xenophobic fears about asylum-seekers washing up in boats.

That is not a "fear", that is reality - asylum seekers wash up on boats all the time. Malaysian and Indonesian people smugglers do a great business in this. They charge people from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan etc $5-10k to fly to Indonesia, put the on a leaky boat and point them towards Australia. While en route, they throw their passports etc overboard and then claim asylum. Last Xmas a boat heading for Australia washed up on rocks at Christmas Island (of NW Australia) in a storm near and dozens of its occupants died. Survivors blamed the Aust govt for "forcing them to do this". If you put 70 people on an old boat with a bad engine and try to land at night in 4m seas - you are asking for trouble.

There are defined channels for immigrating to Australia and anyone can try them - the people have little patience for those who break the law and try to jump the queue - nothing xenophobic about that.

As for wanting more immigration, well, Australia does have some limits with things like water, so there is a debate going on about whether population growth, for its own sake, is really a good idea. I think that is a debate well worth having.

It's strange how the Anglo countries want to commit suicide.

We can't grow or rule the world forever, so we'll invite the world to our countries and destroy ourselves in the process.

The human drama never ceases to amaze me.

Australia really should stop immigration in order to allow its water and other natural resources to be divided over a smaller population. The same reasoning applies to the US. If we are going to suffer from resource limitations in the next few decades then more people are not an asset. A small number of geniuses yes, but general immigration no.

If you are interested in de-population, stoping imigration is the only way. You have 4 wheels to spin, and imigration is the only oneat your disposal. You can't reduce births much more, you shall not reduce lfe span, and increasing emigration is exporting your problems to other places.

Today we see a new wave of anti-imigranters whos motives have nothing to do with rasism, but the rasists will follow as a tail you can't shake.

How about sponsoring primary education for girls and family planning clinics in the countries that produce the immigrants? Or politically manoeuvring to pressure those countries to do it themselves. It might be a cheaper option.

Well, western countries have been doing just that for decades, with aid programs etc. We have seen appeals for money to send telegenic young African girls to school for over three decades.

So how well has it worked out?

The schooling may have helped, but a lot of the rest of the aid has not. The governments, and people, in those countries become complacent, because they know they worse they make things out to be, the more the aid agencies will help.

A side but related note, that gets back to immigration. The policies of most western countries is that you need to have some amount of education/work experience/money to immigrate. (There are, of course, people who come in as refugees, or family sponsored, but let's leave that aside for the moment).
So what happens is we educate them, over there, then the best and brightest come here (the "west"), go to university, and decide that life here is much better than there, so they apply to stay here. We celebrate that someone from Kenya or wherever can become a successful whatever in our western countries, but what have we achieved?

We are draining the best and brightest from those countries, and they are left with the remnants. I think (substantially) halting immigration would benefit both us (the western countries) and them, as their best people would have to stay there and sort out their problems, instead of just escaping from them.

A good example is the Haitian community in Canada - there are hundred's of thousands of them, many with good jobs here. They send a stream of money back home, which is better than nothing, but better still would be if they were back home, because then they could put their education and experience to work and make their own country a better place, instead of abandoning it.

So, I think immigration is at the point now where it is a bad deal for both countries. Having work and education exchanges etc are good, as it shares learning and experience, but if the person then stays in that country, their home country is going backwards - and that has been the path of most third world countries.

From "Global carbon emissions at record high: IEA"

For this goal to be achieved, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to around 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent, only a five percent increase compared to an estimated 430 parts per million in 2000.

430 ppm in 2000? Am I missing something? http://co2now.org/

Oh, nevermind, it's probably total GHG vs CO2-only...

Wait. You mean they are talking about PPM CO2 equivalents? Yeah, that could be about there. CO2 itself is about 390.

Yeah, I meant CO2-equivalents. According to the example at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_equivalent it was 412 in 1998.

Its probably CO2 equivalent. How much CO2 would be needed to give the same forcing as ALL anthropogenic greenhouse gases (i.e. methane, Nitrous Oxide, flourocarbons...). But they must be mixing meanings apples to oranges.

This is a disturbing article. It means we are rapidly moving in the opposite direction from where we need to be moving.

"After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt, the IEA said.

Moreover, the IEA estimated that 80 percent of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today.

"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than two degrees C," said Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist."

We need to be posting 5% and more DEcreases every year, not increases.

In spite of being trained as an economist, Birol seems to be undertanding some basic aspects of our multiple predicaments quite well.

Even with such a prominent spokesperson, GW and PO are not getting anything like the attention they need.

What is the total damage done if we burn through all the oil, gas and coal? If a cheap sustainable no carbon alternative is developed then I can see the world stopping short of burn it all. But I do not see poor, hungry people placing global warming at the top of their list over food, water, housing and heating. Nor do I see greedy people placing GW first. I expect even if the US stopped burning coal the capitalist owners of US coal would still export coal to China.

From this point of view the only solution to end carbon emission is to deliver a cheap carbon free alternative as soon as possible.

"total damage done"

There is a very good chance that the system is in positive feedback already. When cold, the tundra sequestered CO2. When warmed, the tundra releases CO2. The CO2 causes more warming. When cold, the ice reflects the sun. When warm, the ice melts. The sun reaches what the ice covered, causing more warming. Systems in positive feedback tend to slew very quickly to another state.
ShiShi Odoshi:

Good point (and nice video).

Few who are aware of the research think we can now stay below 2 degrees C. A study by top scientists at MIT over a year ago concluded that we had are already committed to at least 3 degrees. And last fall the Royal Society committed an entire issue of their journal to the study of consequences of a four degree rise. These studies admitted that they were not including methane feedbacks.

So including even moderate methane feedbacks would probably put is in the four to six degree range that we are committed to.

Six degrees is near total mass extinction on land and ocean. (See Mark Lynas's book of that title.)

And of course the latest studies from the Arctic show that methane feedback, from sea and land, has indeed started, and it does not look moderate.

And now we find that we are accelerating the rate at which we are unsequestering safely stored carbon and dumping it in the atmosphere.

What have we done to the lovely planet we inherited?

OK, just to lighten the mood a bit and contribute my own video, may I present the famous last five minutes of "The Italian Job" (we have made our choice and gone for the gold):


What people forget is the ocean lag effect. It takes time to heat up water, espesially with something much ligher like, say, air. And the oceans are full of water. Hence it takes decades to heat up the oceans once the CO2 levels have increased. This lag effect is at about 30 years. This means that if we stop emitting today (the Zombie Apocalypse Scenario), we still have the equivalent of 30 years BAU already in the atmosphere. It will however pan out over much longer time, more like 1000 years. But the short line is; we have the climate today you would expect from the CO2 levels of the late 70ies.

What will happen in 30 years? We will without doubt see an ice free North Pole in september one year. With that ice mirror gone, ocean waters will begin to heat up much faster. This will boost the already ongoing permafrost[*] thaw. And emmit ridicoulus amounts of CO2 and methane.

If this is enough to start an uncotrolled spiral of climate destabilsation is still not known, but remember that I am still talking about ZAS as above. In a BAU world we will without doubt emmit those extra tons of GHGs to push us over the brink.

And then next step is Amazonas burns down. There is enough carbon to raise temperatures another degree, plus an important CO2 sink is gone. Then we also have al the CO2 in the oceans wich are warming up and getting more and more willing to give back that C02. Forest fires allover the world, methan leaking from everywhere, you are now looking at 10+ Celsius warmer climate. The last one to leave turn of the lights and lock the door.

[*]The Tundra can not thaw. "Tundra" is a biotype, not the frozen soil itself. It is the permafrost that melt.

"poor, hungry people" do not make these decisions, nor are they made in the interest of poor hungry people. Wake up and smell the corporatism.

What you are missing is that they assume current power stations will continue to burn fossil fuels for their lifetime, and substitution will only happen with new generating capacity. 430 is what they calculate as locked in on the basis of emissions that existing infrastructure will make during its lifetime.

You might be right, but I'm not so sure since it does say right there "CO2-equivalent", so it's not just CO2 they're talking about. Thanks, though.

Many of the anti-nuclear people in this forum seem to believe that pro-nuclear people are simply trying to maintain BAU. While I cannot speak for everyone who is pro-nuclear that certainly isn't the way I feel.

As production of oil declines it will have a profound impact on our society and our standard of living will inevitably decline. While BAU isn't an option, there is the question of how much of a decline we have to endure before we reach a state that would be sustainable for a reasonable period of time. Without nuclear power our decline will be much more extreme. With nuclear we have a reliable source of non-fossil fuel base load power that can be used to operate an electrified transportation system (the return of street cars in the city and electrified inter-city trains). Nuclear power is in no way a complete replacement for fossil fuels and many of the oil fueled things we have now will disappear or only be partially replaced with some other technology.

One poster also alledged that anyone in favour of nuclear power must also believe in unlimited exponential growth. Yes, we do have limited resources and we need to stop population growth. I just see building nuclear power plants as a better use of the limited resources we do have.

here, here!!!

I do think that synthetic fuels derived from heat or electric from nuclear and CO2 from air and H from water can supply whatever liquid fuel we choose.

Darwin and other pointed out that population levels always push against available resources. We as thinking being can choose how that will happen. Wither it will be the four horsemen (war, disease, starvation, and pollution) or wither it will be something else.

If a good source of sustainable energy is developed then we will not have the issue of peak oil but we will still have the issue of over population in its many forms: soil erosion, potable water, agricultural water, pollution, etc.

"Without nuclear power our decline will be much more extreme. With nuclear we have a reliable source of non-fossil fuel base load power that can be used to operate..."

"...synthetic fuels derived from heat or electric from nuclear and CO2 from air and H from water can supply whatever liquid fuel we choose."

In other words, in spite of what you say, you two still are desperately trying to cling onto something like BAU.

We need to cut energy use in half, then in half again, then in half again. Then continuously see how much we can go down from there. At that point, supplying our needs with renewables becomes quite realistic. The more we hold on to grand schemes to power vast new infrastructure, the more we delude ourselves and condemn all to the hell we have prepared.

For the US, the first half cut takes us to the level of Europe. The second, to that of the average Latin American country (where I might point out measured levels of happiness and satisfaction tend to be higher than in the US). So we get the first two cuts without any real pain. But why shouldn't there be any pain?? We're facing a freakin' existential threat, here. So the third halving will be more painful as will future cuts, but survivable.

Massive nuclear accidents and GW, on the other hand, are not so survivable.

Pretty clear choice (if we had made it ten to forty years ago--as it is, it is almost surely too late to avert catastrophic climate change that will end most life on earth, including ours).

I agree entirely. There seems to be this tendency toward broad-stroke categorization and over-simplification: it seems either you are a crazy pro-nuke who wants to sustain BAU and set the world glowing with radiation from unmanageable waste or an anti-nuke who believes nuclear power is too dangerous and cannot be a solution regardless. I think the real solution will be a pragmatic combination of social/economic change (not BAU) and a progressive shift to more non-fossil carbon sources of power, mostly in the form of nuclear power. The shift will start with nuclear in its current form (Gen III, III+ designs) as we slowly transform the the technology into a more aggressive posture for many new applications (modular units to retrofit coal-burning plants, small reactors for transoceanic shipping, small units for industrial process heat, etc.).

BTW, I agree with Bill Gates' recent comment:

“In a conversation with Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson today at the magazine’s third annual Business Conference, Gates said that one of the best aspects of nuclear power at the moment is its lack of innovation thus far, which leaves it ripe for disruption in the coming years.”

We need innovation in nuclear power to make it safer, to fix the problems (waste, sustainability, etc.), to lower costs, and speed time-to-market (faster ramp-up). This is the only potential source of MASSIVE new on-demand energy supplies without emissions, and with the smallest amount of physical plant construction per reliable MW delivered. To ignore what this offers in the crisis ahead would be beyond foolish, IMHO. E = mc2 is pretty hard to ignore!

Bill Gates has increased his investment in TerraPower which is designing nuclear reactors.

I emphatically agree. We all know BAU isn't in the cards. The question is how fast the changes will come.

We are headed for hard times with declining availability of importable oil. Jeffrey Brown's recent comments about Available Net Exports shows we are already effectively post-peak in the Western nations. We can't afford to abandon another major energy source.

If nuclear reactors are very risky even when not at risk from a tsunami then we ought to look at how and see if they can be fixed. Nukes generate 20% of US electric power. Giving up on it would be very costly at a time when the economy is already headed for worse times.

We can't afford to abandon another major energy source.

Agreed. However I've given up nuclear as an (almost) lost cause no longer worth wasting effort and reputation fighting for. The problem is that politics and human opinion making don't leave much room for fixing a past mistake that lead to a publicly visible horror show (Fukishima). But rather enough people become absolutely deadset against it, and it becomes political suicide to go against that emotion. Look at Angela M. in Germany. They are giving up nukes completely within a decade. So now they plan to double renewables in that time frame, but that doesn't quite make up for the loss of N, so their carbon emissions at best will stay even now.

Alas, I think you are right. Civilian nuclear power in the trilateral countries is a hard sell. But China which has the tiger of growth by the tail has no good choices but to build every kind of energy generation possible and hope it is enough. The other nuclear customer is the US military. They want "base islanding" for 200 bases in the US and I suppose hundreds more outside the US. They want their bases to have on site power independent of the outside world. They want to be able to operate after an enemy attack on the civilian infrastructure. All the nuclear reactor company are courting this selling opportunity big time.

Al Jazeera has an interesting panel discussion regarding Germany's decision to abandon nuclear in favor of renewables.


My apologies if this is a duplicate link already posted.

We can't afford to abandon another major energy source.

We can't afford NOT to abandon nuclear energy. The sooner the better.

FuturePundit, perhaps your crystal ball is cracked, distorted and/or fogged, or it's one of those sparkly snowstorm balls that you have to shake up.

Nukes generate 20% of US electric power. Giving up on it would be very costly at a time when the economy is already headed for worse times.

Not giving up would be even costlier...

At the very least, we have a desperate future. Our children may never believe that we had surplus food. It is mainly because of utterly ridiculous things. The entire output of atomic power in the United States is exactly equivalent to the requirements of the clothes-drying machines.
~ Bill Mollison

In the case of Fukushima the threat was known and described by geologists and ignored by top management. Okay, which known threats to US nukes are being ignored? Or are you worried about unknown threats?

In the case of Fukushima the threat was known and described by geologists and ignored by top management.

The thinking of geologists prior to Mrach 11, was that the max possible earthquake in the seas east of Japan was 8.2. This really was an important event for waking up geologists to what they don't know. Ditto for the height of max possible tsunami. Now, clearly I woulda argued for much higher seawalls, simply because for an N plant you gotta build for the 10,000 year event not the 100.

Since it was known that in 869 AD a tsunami swept as far as 4 km inland on the Sendai plain I do not see how Tepco could argue (aside from not wanting to spend money) it made sense to ignore the threat.

This is what worries me most about nuclear power: In what countries for which nuclear reactors have risks been brushed away that shouldnt't have been.

"In what countries for which nuclear reactors have risks been brushed away that shouldnt't have been."

Probably in all countries that have them... or want to have them...

Diablo Canyon Power Plant

Diablo Canyon Power Plant is an electricity-generating nuclear power plant at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California. It was built directly over a geological fault line, and is located near a second fault.

What?!! They Built the Largest Nuclear Power Plant on an Earthquake Fault Line?

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, closed since Monday following the major earthquake in the north of Japan is now known to be placed directly above a significant geological fault line. This line was thought to be inactive until it caused Monday’s earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale.

And Fukushima has not changed plans to build more on or near faults!

Turkey Coastal Nuclear Plant To Be Built Near Earthquake-Prone Area

Turkey plans to build a coastal nuclear power plant close to an earthquake-prone area, dismissing neighbors' fears that Japan's nuclear disaster shows that the new plant could be a risk to the whole Mediterranean region.

Indonesia still plans nuclear reactors near fault

Indonesia says four nuclear reactors it plans to build near a volatile fault will be safe and more modern than the Japanese plant critically damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

Speaking as someone who lives fairly close to Diablo I gotta say I do not share your concern. Earthquakes happen in California. It is possible to design and build for them. A whole lotta shaking going on? So what. I need more specific reasons to be concerned, like a certain aspect of the plant's design that would cause it to fail catastrophically in response to an earthquake.

The Fukushima tsunami was a problem because it knocked out power by basically drowning the back-up generators. Then the water evaporated and the reactors got too hot and bad things happened. Okay, how's an earthquake going to make that happen?

What we really worry about around here: Fires. I've had to evacuate for fires. So have most of my friends.

Did you miss or are you ignoring the recent stories of the damage to the systems caused by the earthquake pre-tsunami?

So then does Diablo suffer from the same design flaws? Did US regulators fail in the same way as Japanese regulators?

The US suffered thru TMI and then Chernobyl happened. Each of those events caused a separate ratcheting up of regulations and costs for nuke plant operators. I've read about this with dollar estimates of the costs of each ratcheting of regulation. Did the Japanese ratchet up as much? I've read claims they didn't. So I see Japanese regulators and reactors as different than US regulators and reactors.

So, again, I need more specific worries.

So then does Diablo suffer from the same design flaws? Did US regulators fail in the same way as Japanese regulators?

Why do you refuse to understand the Earth ultimately wins in any direct confrontation? You cannot know how large an earthquake or tsunami might hit Diablo. Get over it.

Humans defeat nature very often and on enormous scales.

Tsunamis: geologists say subduction zones make the biggest tsunamis. But the Cascadia subduction zone stops hundreds of miles north of Diablo. At the same time, Diablo's site is 85 feet above sea level. So how is a wave 90+ feet high going to sweep in there?

I'd be more concerned about an earthquake than a tsunami since Diablo was only designed for 7.5 quakes. So that's a specific worry. What would happen to Diablo if it was hit by an 8.0 earthquake. I'd be curious to know the answer.

You're essentially supporting my contention.

Asking a question is not the same as saying there's a bad answer for it.

I don't want to throw out 20% of the US electric generating capacity based on vague worries. I need more specific worries. I'm asking for specific worries.

As production of oil declines it will have a profound impact on our society and our standard of living will inevitably decline.

Our standard of living is an illusion-- see quote below. The sooner we rid ourselves of nuclear energy, the sooner quality-of-life will rise.

From my post here:

It's not so much that I'm exactly against nuclear power, but rather, I'm against humans practicing it.

If we evolved in small populations, in small tribes of roughly 150, then I hypothesize that, while we may be able to rationally or logically make sense of the scaling-up of our activities and effects on our planet, I question our inherent capabilities to do so "instinctually" or "instinctively".
Evolutionarily, our brains may have a harder time processing scale beyond a certain level.

This is not to preclude evolution in that regard, but, in the mean time, the increasingly-unaffordable costs mount.

But when is enough, enough, anyway? That's a question of scale. Can we answer it-- or better yet, respond to it?

Japan already has more than enough energy; it is BAU that does not.

With BAU, quality-of-life is an illusion borrowed on credit. BAU, ironically, is an illusion borrowed from the past, from fossil fuels. It is a slow, controlled explosion.

Paradoxically perhaps, it may well be that "die-off" is what ultimately saves us, because then, we will be back in scale, back to where the err of our ape-like ways are more likely to be absorbed (but where we can continue to pretend to be more evolved).

I just see building nuclear power plants as a better use of the limited resources we do have.

Then I respectfully suggest you do more research and/or thinking.

What's wrong with nuclear power?

We haven't shown the ability to control it when it breaks down, for one thing.. and as a complex system with several layers of hi-test materials, exposed to high heat and pressure and radiation, it seems clear enough that many will face the threat of breaking down as they quietly age around us.

We haven't shown the ability to adequately control anything else when it breaks down, either. Nuclear just isn't that special.

What green energy source can lay an area to waste the way we've seen in Chernobyl, and Japan?

Even if a refinery blows up, you can at least get in there and clean up within a few days/weeks..

If a whole Windfarm were to fall over in a freak Tornado event, the danger would be 'kid, don't climb up that thing!', not a kilometers/wide evacuation zone for months and years for all residents...

What's the worst that a broken CSP plant can do to the area it's in.. to the areas downwind and downstream?

Nuclear is very Special.

He's one of us. No, really. Like r4ndom.

Here's an example of one of our workplaces that Murphy's Law's got nothing on.

That I imagine Unca Charlie would feel right at home in:

It's funny how y'all attack me since you can't show that the actualized risk from nuclear is worse than the fossil fuel energy that replaces it in the real world.

Coal has risks that leave bodies, so does oil, so does natural gas. It is a trivial exercise to find dozens of fossil fuel production and transport fatalities on an annual basis.

Nuclear has risks, too, but the number of people killed by nuclear is much less. Heck, the number of people made ill by nuclear is less than the number made dead by fossil fuels over a similar time period (and fossil fuels make people sick, too).

I am sure those people and their families take great comfort that they weren't disabled or killed by radiation...

Not perfectly safe, no, but still a whole lot safer than the real-world deployed alternatives.

r4ndom, by chance have you ever read this publication by the New York Academy of Sciences?:

Consequences of the Catastrophe
for People and the Environment


From the forward (emphasis mine)

"The present volume probably provides the largest and most complete collection of data concerning the negative consequences of Chernobyl on the health of people and on the environment."

From the conclusion of chapter 2:

"Chernobyl’s radioactive contamination at levels in excess of 1 Ci/km2(as of 1986–1987)is responsible for 3.8–4.4% of the overall mortality in areas of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.In several other European countries with contamination levels around 0.5 Ci/km2(as of 1986–1987), the mortality is about 0.3–0.7%(see Chapter II.7). Reasonable extrapolation for additional mortality in the heavily contaminated territories of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus brings the estimated death toll to about 900,000, and that is only for the first 15 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe."

From the introduction to chapter 12:

"Average levels of incorporated Cs-137 and Sr-90 in the heavily contaminated territories of Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia did not decline, but rather increased from 1991 to 2005. Given that more than 90% of the current radiation fallout is due to Cs-137, with a half-life of about 30 years, we know that the contaminated areas will be dangerously radioactive for roughly the next three centuries."

After you've had a chance to read the document, I'll be interested to hear your reaction to it. Now, in addition to Chernobyl, we have Fukishima. We don't yet know how catastrophic this event will ultimately be, but surely you recognise that the outlook is grim. Sometime in the coming decades there will be a third catastrophe, and then a fourth, and so it will go; toxic exclusion zones blooming upon the surface of the only home we've got, radionuclides widely dispersed over our farmlands, our cities, our seas, where they remain and eddy, bringing sickness and death for centuries.

Renewables are a viable and proven alternative future that is available to us. To migrate to them entirely, we will have to make significant adjustments to the way we interact with energy. We will have to invent and adapt. We will get efficient. I don't see this as a bad thing. Efficiency is beautiful. Waste is ugly.

I'm excited that Germany has made the bold decision to pursue that option. The world's fourth largest economy is engaging in an experiment to demonstrate that a major industrial country can be run solely on renewable power. I hope for their success.


1. Not "by the NY Academy of Sciences", but "Published by the NY Academy of Sciences"
2. Makes claims not supported by other papers I have seen translated from Russia and Ukraine.
3. Makes claims so extreme that they could not be hidden, even by Soviet Russia.

Assumptions of LNT risk result in estimates of "dangerously high" radiation levels long after the additional radioactive load would have dropped below natural background in places considered perfectly safe to live in.

Have you read any of the mainstream public health studies from western Asia published since Chernobyl? Unless those researchers were being willfully blind, Yablokov's results imply that they would have to be accounting for health effects from Chernobyl all over the place. You can see a noticable effect in cancer rates from Chernobyl fallout, but the increased morbidity appears to be much less than he claims.


There's no attack per se on my part, except for maybe a jab that relied on you walking into it ;) except to suggest that Charles Manson is one of us. He's a flawed human, like you, like me. Ok, maybe he's a little more flawed in some areas, but pop a human into that nuclear control room-- a completely unnatural setting-- and watch the fun begin.

Your question, 'What's wrong with nuclear' might do well to be rephrased as maybe something like, 'What's wrong with people, scale, population, nuclear power and statistical probability?'

But that's just one of many-- Many-- points I could make (don't really know where to begin, frankly) in the complex, convoluted world of 'people, politics, and plutonium' (etc.).

Speaking of poetry, I suspect that if you back up more, you may find some pixelly things actually form part of a larger picture. But even if you are not missing the forest for the trees, not looking under the carpets...

Pick your poison: You seem to freely admit there are concerns with nuclear, but there are also concerns with coal, etc.. Ok, fine, so pick your poison, and run with that.

Some of ours is nuclear. Together we can rid our world of them.

The world isn't simple.

As you point out, scale is a large part of the problem.

Nuclear is a simplifying technology, it allows power to be generated by fewer people managing fewer machines. Those machines are dangerous, but so are the machines they replace and there are a lot more of those machines and the fuel they run on has dangers of its own.

That is why someone like me can look at the dangers of nuclear power and say "good enough for now". I don't believe that it is perfectly safe, but what it replaces also has dangers that poison the air, water, and land on a daily basis in normal operation. Nuclear *power* is only a problem in the event that something goes wrong. Coal, oil, and natural gas poison the earth when used as directed.

Nuclear weapons are a whole different kettle of fish, and opposing nuclear power isn't going to put that genie back in the bottle, no matter how many people might wish it to be so.

The world isn't simple.

In a way it is, and in a way it isn't. And sometimes it doesn't have to be, with nuclear being one example I'd offer.

As you point out, scale is a large part of the problem.
Nuclear is a simplifying technology, it allows power to be generated by fewer people managing fewer machines. Those machines are dangerous, but so are the machines they
replace and there are a lot more of those machines and the fuel they run on has dangers of its own.

Where did you get the term, 'simplifying technology'? Nuclear seems quite the antithesis. That term sounds like some kind of newspeak that is expected to be swallowed and internalized with hardly a critical thought, and, perhaps worse, to color subsequent thinking.

That is why someone like me can look at the dangers of nuclear power and say "good enough for now".

Did you read my quote by Mollison about the clothes-dryers? That very simple quote begs to differ. And there's another, more poetic, quote floating around too that I imagine you've read, something about that using nuclear energy to boil water is like cutting butter with a chainsaw. I quite like the metaphor.

You suggest something to the effect that I/We can't argue for nuclear: Well, for one, just because we won't doesn't mean we can't; for another, many already have-- as some like to say; 'Google is your friend'.
For many, as per the quotes above, the issue is really very simple, and can be boiled down to the concept of 'powering down'. If we did that, I suspect we could turn off every nuke overnight with hardly a wince, and be better for it to boot.
I would argue for powering down first.

Some people make things more complicated than they need to be and vice-versa.

I don't believe that it is perfectly safe, but what it replaces also has dangers that poison the air, water, and land on a daily basis in normal operation. Nuclear *power* is only a problem in the event that something goes wrong.

That's part of it and also what's of great concern.

But ok, well? As I already wrote, pick your poison. I think it's a far better use of your time. I'd rather have us devoting our time and resources to making this world a better place than quibbling on what's worse. If you despise coal, etc. more than nuclear, then maybe you can find ways to subvert that area, even quiet personal ways, like riding a bike, planting a food forest organic garden or something.

Coal, oil, and natural gas poison the earth when used as directed.

In the scale they're being used, vis-a-vis our population and its lifestyles, I'm tempted to agree. I don't own a car and I hang my clothes to dry. :)

Craig Mackintosh wrote:
When I get down to root considerations, I think the big question is: what kind of lifestyle are we really expecting to maintain into the future? Unless we get realistic about that, in arguing over power sources, aren’t we just arguing over firebrands, and burning the house down in the process? You probably expected this article to attempt to hammer home either a pro- or no-nuclear message. I hope instead to leave you seeing this deliberation is a diversion from the really important decisions that need to be made. As permaculturists, I think these decisions must begin with ethics: do we have the right to live, not only outside the means of our own labour pool, but also well outside that of future generations — future generations who will inherit a world in far worse state than we ourselves?

I see answers in biology — in nature’s perfect ability to cycle waste streams within an ultra-diverse biosphere. This means a life on the land, a life transitioning, as quickly and peacefully as possible, towards reliance on real time energy systems within communities who appreciate what it’ll mean if we fail. It’ll take design, it’ll take permaculture, and more than anything, it’ll take cooperative community interdependence.
~ http://permaculture.org.au/2011/03/24/what-to-do-with-nuclear-boy/

Foretelling Fukushima
Insane Resource
Race to Bottom
Never Nuke

Simplifying technology is mine. Been working on it for a while as a concise way to express what I see when I look at nuclear power in comparison to the alternatives.

Thank you for the links and a civilized defense of your position. I still don't agree with your conclusions, but I think I understand where you are coming from.

It's already been posted many times on these forums: Until or unless you can find an end use for nuclear waste, it does not fit into the system. It really is that simple. The permaculture concept is that every output have an input and, in fact, that output have more than one input/function. Nuclear waste does not fit that principle, thus it cannot be part of a sustainable system at this time, and likely ever, though the future alone knows that for certain. As of now, the risks do not outweigh the benefits because we have other ways of generating power, or, better yet, not using it in the first place, that do fit this principle.

A core problem is we tend to act as if the growth of the past couple hundred years was preordained, but it was not. There is no inherent value built into what we have created. If, over the long run, it reduces resilience and sustainability, it has been a mistake, in fact. Tainter argues that energy does not drive growth and complexity, but that the need for complex systems derives from the increase in populations and greater social complexity leading to needed technical complexity. Conceptually, this gives us an opportunity to emotionally disengage from complexity when we recognize it is something we brought forth based on what was wanted at the time. Change our wants, complexity follows.

We value what we have merely because it exists. We need a framework to make decisions about the future that can help us create systems that are not littered with mistakes like nuclear power. The principles developed by Mollison and Holmgren give us a very effective framework. They are not a panacea in that it requires insight into what we need vs. what we want and an understanding of just how our systems do work and what complexity really is and what it gives us - eventual diminishing returns. I believe our current knowledge base provides us an opportunity to recognize where diminishing returns might begin, enabling us to make choices that don't take us beyond that point of diminishing returns.

Tainter also points out that resilience is not just the number of parts in a system or the differentiation, but is primarily the ability to adapt to changing conditions, the universe not quite being static. Fukushima was not in any way resilient, nor is any other nuclear plant. Robust, perhaps, but not resilient. Sustainability without resilience = collapse just as surely as the diminishing returns of complexity do.

The simple reality is humanity does not need nuclear power. Since it does not fit into a resilient, sustainable framework and is not needed it should be abandoned at this time.

Nuclear is a simplifying technology

This is incorrect. Complexity is not defined by the number of parts involved. Look at a millipede. Complexity is more about differentiation. Nuclear is a very complex system that creates huge problems when it collapses.

To illustrate, 100,000,000 home bio-digesters vs. 400 nuclear plants: which is more complex? The nuclear plants, and by orders of magnitude. The former is a much better example of resilience than complexity.

Yeah, the bio-digesters are more robust and simpler, but 100 Trillion bio-digesters can't match the electrical output of one nuclear power plant.

Maybe there's a comparison that you can make that isn't apples and hand grenades?

Yeah, the bio-digesters are more robust and simpler, but 100 Trillion bio-digesters can't match the electrical output of one nuclear power plant.


100 Trillion?

That must be the biggest hand wave I've ever seen on this forum.
According to the EIA, last year, bio gas produced 18,577GWh of electricity in the US
That is equivalent to a constant output of 2,120 MW, which would be two or three nuke units.

Now, granted, a good portion of that gas is landfill gas, but that is just a large bio digester in itself.

If you want to talk about anaerobic digestion plants, using just cow manures, there are 146 of those in the US, and they produced 427GWh last year, or about 48.7MW, so to get to 1000MW, you would need 20x146=2920 of them - a far cry from "100 Trillion"

And, unlike nukes, these won't run out of fuel, as long as there are people and cows, and , again, unlike nukes, the "waste" from AD plants is a very useful product - it makes great fertiliser and can be spread out on the fields - closing the nutrient cycle.

This forum is a great place for discussing these energy matters - but it's hard to take you seriously when you make ridiculous statements like that. especially when the facts are readily available.

A biodigester doesn't produce electricity, and if you add a generator and supporting equipment to the system to generate electricity it is no longer simpler. Certainly not simpler on the million to one scale pri-de started from.

If you want to change what is being referred to in the middle of the discussion, I've got teenagers that can do that for me.

We haven't shown the ability to adequately control anything else when it breaks down, either.

Exactly. And here, we're talking about nuclear.

Nuclear just isn't that special.

Special is relative.

Here's a better question: What have you learned about what others, including myself, have been telling you about nuclear power in context with things such as scale, numbers, delayed effects, genetics, environment and so forth?

Fire away.

I have learned that anti-nuclear activists who are well informed are greatly concerned with germ-line impacts of low-level radiation exposure, as well as cancer risk.

I have learned that anti-nuclear activists consider any release of radioactive material from a nuclear power generating facility to be a grave sin directly equivalent to killing babies (I have had that direct comparison aimed at me).

I have learned that the numbers coming from anti-nuclear activists as far as magnitude or extent of radiation release, exposure, and damage need to be checked against neutral sources because they are frequently exaggerated by orders of magnitude.

I have learned that anti-nuclear activists get downright hostile when any attempt is made at comparing the risk from radiation sources to other risks, even when those risks are clearly comparable.

The only thing I have learned that helps your case is that power companies and governments also lie about radiation exposures and releases, but in the other direction. This only emphasises the need for neutral sources.

"it may well be that "die-off" is what ultimately saves us"
You can feel free to participate. I decline to participate.

it may well be that "die-off" is what ultimately saves us

You can feel free to participate. I decline to participate.

Seeing as we're on the same planet, good luck with that.

TEPCO believes stabilizing Fukushima reactors by year-end impossible

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501.TO) is coming to the view that it will be impossible to stabilize the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the end of this year, possibly affecting the timing for the government to consider the return of evacuees to their homes near the plant, Kyodo News reported, citing senior company officials.

Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking like a sieve

As more details leak out about the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it's become clear that something else is leaking—radioactive water from the cores of three damaged reactors.

It is like watching the keystone cops. I used to think the Japanese had great engineering skills but now I wonder what happened to them.

You can only engineer to things you expect. I guess they simply did not forsee this scenario.

Japan seems to have the Bush Administration approach to disaster recovery. Michael "Heck of a job" Brown of Hurricane Katrina fame seems to have set the standard for inept response, and Japan seems to have followed his lead. Great strategy - put the "cover-your-a$$-first" businessmen and politicians in charge of disaster recovery and watch the job get bungled.

I think that we will see more and more bungled disaster recovery efforts around the globe in the future as the world reacts to resource and CC related issues by putting idiots who promise impossible technical and cornucopian solutions to exceedingly difficult problems.


p.s. I have never experienced the dazzling lights of downtown Tokyo or New York City (although I have seen Las Vegas at night). I wonder if Tokyo is simply the first of the great, dazzling cities to go dim, and if it will ever go back to it's immense waste of electricity? Perhaps we can send Paul from Halifax over to Japan to teach them some conservation and energy-saving techniques!

I personally think that the Japanese government is not doing any worse than any government would; rather, the problem is not a "fixable" one so things naturally suck. If you can't fix it you can't fix it.

As for the spin they are putting out - I doubt many people really buy it here, I look at the news and the nuclear issue is all over. On Saturday the local news (I am in Shikoku over the summer) was talking about the one local reactor and how it sits next to a fault. It was not reassuring, and I don't think people are reassured. However, the government simply can't go out and admit that a lot of people are NEVER going to move back into their homes. Or rather, they could, but that sort of candor is not really common in Japan. It's considered important to admit fault, but saying "it won't happen" or "it can't be done" is impolite. Instead, you say, "that's kind of difficult..." That "..." part means "and I can't do anything for you".

Still, it should be admitted that certain areas will be off-limits for generations. That's simply the way it is when you have a high level nuclear accident. Admitting that would be admitting that Japan's economy is screwed for a long time into the future, though. Can any politician be THAT honest? Anywhere?

Frankly, nuclear fission is just a stupid idea, with the same problems as fossil fuels (pollution? check. limited resource? check. threat to health? check.).

All this is doubly tragic in a country that actually seems to care about local food. I can go to a convenience mart and by 5 types of local orange juice. The supermarket has tons of local fruit. I understand why that farmer in Fukushima hung himself; his farm was really his life, he cared about his land. Unfortunately, caring alone is not nearly enough.

How hard to patch the leaks?

Very. Covered in debree, sometimes under water, and radiation is high enough to kill people and even robot electronics in some places.

A couple of items on Greece, from Calculated Risk:

Reports: Next Greek bailout to include external supervision

ECB Official: "Orderly" Greek restructuring is a "fairy tale"

I've described the attempts by many OECD countries to maintain relatively high consumption levels by borrowing money as the OECD "Thelma & Louise" Race to the Edge of the Cliff. The "winner" would be the country that can no longer borrow enough money, at affordable interest rates, to maintain consumption levels. Based on that metric, Greece would be currently in the lead, with many other countries, including the US, not far behind. Of course, then we have the Quantitative Easing issue, which can't continue indefinitely either.

Of course, the operating assumption is that high oil prices and constrained oil supplies are a transitory phenomenon, and we will soon be back to a rapid increase in global oil production and global net oil exports.


Translated from Swedish using one of those lame tools:

The battle of Greece and Portugal is already lost. It says Edward Altman, one of the world's most influential researchers in the world of finance, on a temporary visit to Stockholm.

And other countries are pending. Italy is the country that will determine the whole future of the euro.

-The game is over for Portugal and Greece. The only thing that can extend this is continuing record bailouts and stimulus packages and selling off government assets, but it is not enough, says Edward Altman, who is a professor at the Stern School of Business.

The crisis is already here
Edward Altman is working on a new model that will be better able to predict future economic crises, and in some ways the new crisis already here, said Altman. The only question is how big it is, something that neither in Greece or Portugal.

-For Greece, Portugal. Ireland is already there, and then comes the key countries that determines whether the euro will survive. First Spain and then, I think that the decisive battle will be in Italy, "says Altman.

Cannot afford to save Italy
-Europe can afford to pay for a State bank route in Greece, Portugal and even in Spain, but not in Italy, as Italy's public debt is so large. Why is the entire extent of the crisis and the euro's future on how Italy will succeed with their savings.

-Once it falls, it is game over.

re Alwaleed's Best Interests...

I guess my response to Prince Alwaleed's honest statement about lowering oil prices (so we don't go looking for alternatives and how this will keep us hooked on Saudi oil) is probably going to be similar to the response of may Americans and Europeans.

Simply - to Prince Alwaleed: Screw You!!!!!!!!!!!

That 'primal scream' may feel good for a moment, but how does it change the game?

Or is there policy which is designed to achieve certain outcome more favorable to us that could be implemented?

Such policy would not be about lowering our price of oil-based energy...quite the opposite.

It would, however, be about lowering our dependence on ME oil, and thus, lowering our requirement to be militarily engaged in the ME.


Typhoon could carry radiation to Korea

Researchers claim that if a typhoon were to touch down in Japan, its counter-clockwise spinning winds may carry radiation to Korea.

Roughly 11 to 12 typhoons are expected to form in the northern Pacific Ocean this summer, with at least one or two directly affecting Korea, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

"Japan is still unable to block radiation from floating up into the atmosphere after the initial damage to Fukushima nuclear plant," a researcher for a state-run research institute told Yonhap News agency.

"There is a danger that a typhoon's easterly winds will spread (the radiation) not only throughout Japan but also towards the Korean Peninsula as well," he said.


Time Label 0118Z indicates June 11 0800 Zulu. Let's hope not.




Yeah, that 'tropical disturbance' is going to pass over some hot water on its way to Japan. And that projected winding course should keep it in the hot zone long enough to become quite powerful.


Hmm, hot water, eh? I guess It'll be even hotter when it leaves Japan... Kinda gives a whole nuther meaning to hot zone as well |:-(

This is the sort of thing that cities will face in the post-peak-oil era as they try to retrofit their car-oriented suburbs for a population which will not be able to drive everywhere.

Small steps toward more walkable suburbs

Toronto’s suburbs were not built for walking. When planners laid out the sprawling subdivisions and apartment-tower parks of Scarborough and Etobicoke, they assumed that most people would have cars. What they did not foresee was that these suburbs would one day be populated by hundreds of thousands of new immigrants, many of them too poor to afford an automobile.

They walk the suburbs because they have to. They walk to work, walk to shopping, walk to transit stops, walk to drop off or pick up their kids. With things so far apart in the grand scale of the suburbs, they can walk a kilometre for a jug of milk or a bag of rice.

In Toronto's case it is because half the population consists of immigrants and many of the more recent ones are too poor to afford cars. This is not a situation the surburban planners anticipated. However, in future Americans may find themselves in the same predicament because fuel prices will be too high for many of them to afford to drive. They will have to walk to work and shopping, and the suburbs are not at all designed to permit that.

Retrofitting them to make them walkable will be a major effort, particularly since very few American cities have the extensive urban transit systems that Toronto does.

Zoning could be changed to allow more businesses to co-mingle with residences.

The opposite-to-Big Box strategy...more, smaller, more closely located, businesses.

Well, where I live, we have a certain amount of that co-mingling. The trouble is, the relatively tiny co-mingled businesses have to charge an arm and a leg just to survive, since they can't get good quantity discounts, and partial-truckload delivery is woefully inefficient. So one can often expect to pay 50% over the odds, or even occasionally double, for groceries or anything else. If poorer folks can't afford even a rundown used car, they can't afford that kind of obscene overspend either. So it's a complex trap.

Back in student days, one approach was to connive one's way into joining the occasional joint trip out to where prices were reasonable (another form of "drive until you qualify", I suppose), and come back with great gouts of stuff. That of course works only for non-perishables. Another was to get the perishables from the farmers' market (after it was established), which was doubly OK since the small stores only ever had stale perishables and sometimes sour milk because nothing moved at their outrageous prices. OTOH, yuppie-level "organic" pricing has taken over the farmers' market to some extent. A complex trap indeed.

Then there's the way businesses have changed since the Victorian heyday of the co-mingled vision. Traditionally, hours were restricted (even more so in Europe), but nowadays most things are open till all hours. Nobody in their right mind really wants to live over, or next to, all that incessant racket. (The sleep-deprivation literature should give serious pause to anyone who wishfully thinks otherwise.) But Victorian hours restrictions would cut sales volume somewhat, ratcheting up the already outrageous prices even a bit more. Yet more complexity.

Once a sufficient number of people no longer have personal transportation we will see more neighbourhood grocery stores. Prices relative to big stores elsewhere should also drop as the volume of business increases. The current trend for food costs to take a larger share of the household budget will continue and this will further pressure people to drop down to having only one or no vehicle.

Cost isn't the only reason most people shun smaller local stores. Variety is a big reason too! We expect stores to have much more variety than they did a couple of decades ago, and since it doesn't make sense to drive to a big store to buy a couple of items we just skip the smaller neighbourhood store and drive to the big store. Of course, if living standards take a big hit, we probably won't demand as much variety as we do now.

We are seeing a greater demand for shopping in our downtown area because condo developments have increased the downtown population and a growing number of people living there have chosen not to own a vehicle.

How well are the big-box stores going to do if people can't afford to drive to them?

Probably not very well. Retailers will have to abandon them (vast parking lots surrounding collapsed ruins) and move to smaller stores at the center of smaller communities.

The key parameter is that it takes at least 5,000 people to support a full-service grocery store. You can put 5,000 people within a 5 minute walk of a store if you build out the community to at least 8 dwelling units per acre, and make sure walkways lead straight from the residences to the stores with no interruptions.

The problem with many modern suburbs is that the combination of cul-de-sacs and loops ensures that the walking distance between any two points is three times as great as the straight-line distance. This is because they are designed for cars instead of people. The old city designs of the pre-automobile era with their rectangular grids and occasional diagonal street were much better for walking.

This problem will be quite difficult to fix (i.e. by cutting pathways straight through the suburb across the cul-de-sacs and loops), so in many cases the suburbs will have to be abandoned. Suburbs will end up with vast tracts of abandoned and ruined houses near the ruins of old shopping centers. You've probably seen this kind of thing, but only in post-apocalypse and zombie movies.

The inner city areas with their multi-use buildings and rectangular grids of narrow streets will be much more viable in the post-peak-oil era. However, the process of gentrification will put housing costs in the inner cities out of the range of average people. In order to make them viable, future suburbs will have to be built more like the old inner cities than the current car-oriented suburbs.

I should mention that I'm on the town planning commission where I live, and what we are going for is option A (walkable community) rather than option B (zombie movie hell). Just so you know.

How well are the big-box stores going to do if people can't afford to drive to them?

That's probably too Manichean. If EVs etc. don't work out, there still won't be a day when all those stores close at once because all of a sudden no one can afford to drive there. There will be a long period, possibly a very long period, when enough people will find ways to get to them (less often than before) to keep some of them open; hence the remark about student days.

This problem will be quite difficult to fix (i.e. by cutting pathways straight through the suburb across the cul-de-sacs and loops), so in many cases the suburbs will have to be abandoned.

Again, possibly too Manichean/Kunstlerian. Even if it's difficult, it's mainly a political problem. Run the path straddling a fence line, there's often lots of room, just not room for a full-fledged street. People may oppose that, but they may prefer it to outright homelessness owing to the lack of any place else where they can go, as you yourself indicated:

However, the process of gentrification will put housing costs in the inner cities out of the range of average people.

Agreed, absolutely, a corollary of "drive until you qualify". And this is precisely the problem with trying blindly to turn the clock back to Victorian times. Until the market becomes saturated - if it ever does so - the same gentrification and astronomical housing costs will be encountered in any suburb that rebuilds itself to the form of an inner city. People who cannot afford that will simply have to improvise, and we may not yet imagine some of the things they will do.

Sure new adaptations that we have not imagined will occur.

But realistically, new people who cannot afford to drive cars will likely mostly do what people who cannot afford cars do today (just as the article describes), which include walking long distances in pedestrian-unfriendly areas, riding crappy bikes in bike-unfriendly environments, sharing crappy cars that are expensive and unsafe to operate, sharing crappy housing with many tenants near work in defiance of occupancy laws, and using whatever crappy transit is available whenever possible.

In any city in the world, the "invisible people" glimpsed in passing from a car window by the more affluent are already making these adaptations to expensive energy and transportation. Public policy can make this adaptation easier, but being the weed species that we are, humans figure out how to exploit all the niches that exist, whether it means sleeping under an overpass and collecting cans in a shopping cart, or burning 8 mpg in a chromed-out F-350.

Sure new adaptations that we have not imagined will occur.

Yeah, whoever woulda thunk commuters in Virginy would have a slugfest due to high gas prices.


Mongo, Like!

I would have. I'd expect the same anywhere else in the world, also (though the threshold price is different in different places).

Paul - Though I hope it never comes to it I can drive for about $0.50 r/t to my local Wal-Mart once a week and get 99% of everything I need to live comfortably: cloths, shoes, medicine, food, ammunition, tires, plumbing supplies, software, music cd's, fluorescent bulbs, eye glasses, pedicure, blood tests, immunization shots, etc, etc. And at no additional cost I can stop along the way for a bite of sushi, Italian, Middle Eastern food or a half dozen other restaurants.

Might not always be the brand or quality I would chose first but still very survivable. I don't tend to shop much at Wal-Mart because my new wife worked for them for 18 years. So even at 60 yo I still occasionally enjoy sex. And since my sweetie has Irish Alzheimer’s I avoid that store as much as possible. Irish Alzheimer’s you ask? She forgets everything but grudges.

everything I need to live comfortably: ...... ammunition

!!!! :)


I'm still chuckling at that one too. Thanks R.

NAOM - Well I'm not some wing nut survivalist with a million rounds hidden away in my bunker. I have enough to get me thru one hunting season or one attempted home invasion. I've never really been a stockpiler. Although less than an hour ago my wife asked if we should start stocking up with hurricane season upon us. Maybe some extra dog food.

Rockman, I will knock in a special pattern when I show up. Please don't shoot me. My wife must have that Irish disease too. My wife and I do all our shopping local. Never use an expressway, but here is the rub.

Our house is expensive -- perhaps gentrified -- it is a 1950s house. So the money saved on low fuel is sucked right into the monthly payments to Goldman Sachs and thugs.

So either pay the Oil Thugs or the Banker thugs. Someones mafia needs to be paid off ;-)

Two rounds then? One buck. One burgler. Good to go.

When I finally get my papers here I will probably equip myself. Trouble is we can only buy through the ministry and only selected weapons. I expect ammunition would be expensive and restricted so would probably have to find another source. Not for the bunker but for making darn sure I know how to use the thing properly.


NAOM - In another life I taught weapon safety/marksmanship. Always have the same advice for home defense: 12 guage pump shot gun with #4 steel pellets. Can't miss and less penetration (so you don't shoot a friend thru 2 walls).

The pump action is the most important IMHO: in the dark when someone hears that unmistakable sound of a shot gun being racked they usually give up their plan and go away. The best defensive shot is the one you don't have to take IMHO. As a very wise man once said: only the insane kill if there's any other option.

Yes, that's the gold standard in home defense - a pump-action 12-gauge loaded with birdshot. You don't want to use buckshot because you don't want to inadvertently kill a family member in an adjacent room or a neighbor across the street, and the sound of a shotgun being pumped is enough to cause the most experienced criminals to drop their guns and scream, "DON'T SHOOT!"

The less experienced ones might turn around and point their gun at you, but they will never repeat the mistake, even if they survive. The sudden drop in blood pressure caused by blood leaking out through all the little holes in their body causes them to collapse on the floor immediately, and after they get to the hospital, all the little pellets take just about forever for the doctor to pick out of their skin with tweezers.

For people messing with your car out in the street, rock salt is the preferred load. I have it on good authority from someone with experience in the field that being shot in the butt with rock salt while stealing parts off someone's car is much more painful than crashing your motorcycle into a car at 80 mph while fleeing from police.

""As a very wise man once said: only the insane kill if there's any other option.""

Bush2 killed about 1 million Iraq, probably close to 8 Thousand US.....

Just a thought......

The Martian.

And the present occupant has killed more than all the other Nobel Peace Prize winners combined!

Rock, I will certainly take note of your and RMG's comments. I think one can hold more shotguns here than handguns but I don't know about the pump action but I do take the point. As a big hazard here is being a foreigner so personal protection may mean a handgun with a shotgun for the house. If I go that route I wish to know how to use it rather than use the 'spray and pray' technique that I have heard some advocate. Your 'best defensive shot' technique has been my strategy so far and I have resisted 'acquiring' anything but it sounds like that is a changing. Still, it will be a few more years till I am allowed to apply.


Run the path straddling a fence line, there's often lots of room, just not room for a full-fledged street.

Yes. My 1 mile walk to elementary school was about 1/2 mile shorter if I left from the back of the house, cut thru the alley to the next street, cut thru a (fenced) side yard on the opposite side of that street, and cut thru their alley to the next street. The sideyard should have been a sidewalk. The development was from the 40's and 50's. Things have only gotten worse.

Wal-Mart could run buses from different neighborhoods on different days to bring shoppers.

Also, build apartment buildings next to each store.

Also, use the stores as warehouses for online stores to do deliveries from to neighborhoods.

...many of the more recent ones are too poor to afford cars.

In most of the US, as someone pointed out a few days ago, the unstated rule is "no car, no job", since employers generally don't want to futz with the logistics of covering employees who arrive late or not at all, and since they may well operate on weekends or late at night. Poorer workers tend to work odd hours (e.g. janitors) when many US transit systems are barely running, or not running at all. Even something like VRE, in the huge Washington DC metro area, only runs weekday mornings and evenings. Do Toronto suburbs have comprehensive and usable 24/7/365 service, be it bus or rail? Would they be able to keep up the subsidies if money became really tight?

In most of the US, as someone pointed out a few days ago, the unstated rule is "no car, no job",

Well, I guess that's going to be the fate of many US workers in the post-peak-oil era. No car and not job. It sucks to be them.

Even something like VRE, in the huge Washington DC metro area, only runs weekday mornings and evenings. Do Toronto suburbs have comprehensive and usable 24/7/365 service, be it bus or rail? Would they be able to keep up the subsidies if money became really tight?

Oh, heck, the Calgary light rail system runs 22/7/365 on 15-minute intervals off-peak, 5 minutes peak. I think they only shut it down for a couple of hours in the wee hours of the morning in case they want to do track maintenance. The Toronto subway runs 6:00 am to 1:30 am, but that's probably because its operating costs are higher. The Calgary LRT system only needs two guys in the control room and one driver per train, and its total operating costs are about $650/hour. It's like keeping a convenience store open 24/7 because you have to keep the lights on and the refrigeration running and somebody on watch whether you close it or not.

You may have skipped over the word "comprehensive". That light rail is just a miniature two-line skeleton system. Fine if you can afford astronomical downtown or near-downtown housing costs, which we already agreed the folks we're talking about simply won't have the money to pay - and if your job just so happens to be near a station - and if you can afford outrageous downtown prices for everyday shopping. Thus the answer to "comprehensive" seems to be a resounding "no".

What then about the broader population? Don't most just get the same old bus once in a half-hour even in the weekday rush (if the driver even feels like arriving on time), that they'd get in US cities of similar size, a bus which may or may not even head towards the direction they need to go? On the face of it, most will be living Tommyvee's scenario just like anyplace else, the only difference being that "riding crappy bikes in bike-unfriendly environments", or waiting forever for buses and transfers at outdoor stops, seem like especially daunting prospects during the long, cold, dark Calgary winter.

That light rail is just a miniature two-line skeleton system. Fine if you can afford astronomical downtown or near-downtown housing costs, which we already agreed the folks we're talking about simply won't have the money to pay - and if your job just so happens to be near a station - and if you can afford outrageous downtown prices for everyday shopping.

It's a what? The Calgary LRT system has 49 km (30 miles) of track, 37 stations, and carries 270,000 riders per weekday. That's more riders than any light rail system in the US, including Boston and San Francisco. The Calgary bus system carries slightly fewer - 250,000 riders per day.

The three legs of the LRT system run to the outer fringes of the city in the South, Northwest, and Northeast sectors of the city, and a fourth leg is being built to the West edge with completion in 2012. There are major shopping centers on each of the existing legs, and the fourth leg will have a station underneath the parking lot of another major shopping center.

It's primarily designed to move commuters who don't want to pay the steep downtown housing costs from the outer suburbs to the downtown core, but it also serves several industrial parks, and provides university, technical school and grade school students with cheap transportation as well.

You need to ride the Northeast line in the evening and join the throngs of turban-wearing South Asian immigrants as they head from their cheap houses in the suburbs to their cleaning jobs in the downtown skyscrapers to get the real flavor of the system.

"It's a what?"

A miniature two-line skeleton system. 2000 square miles of metro area, 280 square miles of the city proper, and a mere 30 miles of "track" (I hope that's actually "routes" rather than "track".) So at most 1.5% of the metro area (and rather less than 11% of the city proper if the routes extend outside) can be within half a mile of the track. Most of the riders must endure the usual bog-standard circuitous trip involving bus transfers.

"It's primarily designed to move commuters... to the downtown core"

And this is what's getting to be the problem. Just about every transit system in the USA, even New York City, is the same way. Worked great in big Victorian cities back when "everybody worked downtown". But it's not the late nineteenth or early twentieth century any more, and people don't want to go just downtown, and a good many hardly ever go downtown.

So it's nice for those who can use them that these things exist, but those folks represent only a fraction of the population, very often a tiny fraction. In the Big Picture it's nothing. It doesn't even begin to be enough to obviate the "no car, no job" rule for the majority, much less an overwhelming majority.

Just because so many American cities are dysfunctional, and have dysfunctional transit, does not mean that all cities do.

The fact that Calgary has relatively few miles of track, compared to the size of the city, and the large number of riders, is an indication of how successful it is.

The system was never intended to be all things to all people, all over the city. It was built with the concept of "how can we get a reasonably fast service, available to a good portion of the city, at an affordable cost".

The three spokes run out to the three of the four main satellite commercial areas, with the fourth to be joined in 2012. The presence of the lines has concentrated commercial and residential development along them - office buildings within walking distance are more desirable, as is housing, so most multi- family housing is within walking distance of the train, or else walking distance to the downtown itself.

Worked great in big Victorian cities back when "everybody worked downtown". But it's not the late nineteenth or early twentieth century any more, and people don't want to go just downtown, and a good many hardly ever go downtown.
So it's nice for those who can use them that these things exist, but those folks represent only a fraction of the population, very often a tiny fraction.

Well, I can understand why people don't want to go downtown in many American cities, that's why Calgary made sure it isn't like an American city. The downtown core is the most dense employment centre in Canada, partly because you don;t need to waste as much space open parking when you have such good train access. To get to a meeting, you just walk - end to end in the city is less then ten minutes.

it's not that hard to do, and Calgary even tells you, for free, how the did it here

From this 2005 report;

LRT plays a significant role in allowing Calgary Transit to carry over 42 percent
of Calgary‟s 112,000 downtown workers.

That is hardly what I would call a small fraction.


Peak hour travel by LRT entering the downtown is
equivalent to the capacity of about 16 free flow traffic lanes.
LRT does not just serve downtown travel. During peak hours, 25 percent of LRT trips
are heading away from the downtown, many towards jobs in the northeast and southeast or
classes at post secondary schools in the northwest.

I'll take six rail lanes over sixteen freeway lanes anyday.

Most of the riders must endure the usual bog-standard circuitous trip involving bus transfers.

Well, you are half right, from that report, just over 50 percent of train passengers get there by bus. But that's actually a success, not a failure. They planned the feeder bus routes very efficiently, so the bus ride to the train is actually surprisingly fast. It means they do not waste too much space at the stations for park and ride, and instead sue the space for value generating commercial and residential development, so that some of these stations become the destination in themselves. By making the bus service good enough that so many people use it, many families can be a one car family - something almost impossible in most American cities.

So, just because most American cities are transit basket cases, doesn't mean it can;t work - it just means that they aren't doing it the right way.

The system was never intended to be all things to all people, all over the city.

No argument there, the system map makes it obvious. But folks on TOD who want to replace automobiles on a large enough scale to matter need to identify (or find someone to identify) some set of options that together can serve everyone, not just commuters to and from downtown.

"LRT plays a significant role in allowing Calgary Transit to carry over 42 percent of Calgary's 112,000 downtown workers."

That is hardly what I would call a small fraction.

Agreed, but again provided one cherry-picks the downtown workers.

The fact that Calgary has relatively few miles of track, compared to the size of the city, and the large number of riders, is an indication of how successful it is.

Yes and no. Yes on an "it serves who it serves" basis (namely those with trips beginning or ending downtown, and precious few others), though even that would improve a lot of US systems. But not so much if one is looking towards broad application in the future.

For now, it seems like the takeaway is that it works on a modest scale when one focuses on a part of a city that has been commanded-and-controlled into a sort of quasi-Victorian form, and turns something of a blind eye towards the remaining nonconforming parts of the city or metro area. And in addition, if you can set it going, it may be self-reinforcing to some degree via, oh, let's call it a yuppie self-aggregation effect, although I'm sure Thomas Friedman could come up with grander terminology. I'd still hate like the dickens to be the one charged with selling it to voters in some city resembling, say, Phoenix, Arizona, or with selling it to a certain kind sort of hardheaded American who's not terribly impressed by folks who spend like drunken sailors on prestigious-sounding downtown business addresses while skimping on the quality and cost-effectiveness of their products or services.

Americans seem to think there is some kind of inevitableness about the kind of sprawling, car oriented metropolitan messes they have. In fact, they have been created by American government subsidies to automobiles and freeways, combined with the deprioritization and downgrading of public transit systems.

This has been a more-or-less deliberate decision on the part of American politicians. Other countries have not followed this route - for instance, transit ridership in Canadian cities is two or three times as high as in comparably-sized US cities, and this would be typical of the developed world. In Canada as a whole, suburbs and rural areas included, 68% of the population lives within a 5-minute walk of public transit. In Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and several other cities, 90% or more of the population lives within a 5-minute walk of transit. Canadians don't always use public transit, but they can if the want to. This differs from the US in that most Americans live nowhere near a transit route and are stuck if they don't have a car.

The main factor in the US has been an obstinate refusal to face the fact that US oil production peaked and started to decline 40 years ago, and the country now imports 60 percent of its oil. US politicians still act as if the US was awash in cheap oil, which it obviously is not. Americans are living in a fool's paradise. The US really cannot afford the kind of car-oriented urban sprawl it has now, as evidenced by its huge trade deficit and its recent mortgage meltdown. The lack of public transit is going to hurt an awful lot of Americans as they ride down the global oil production curve and up the fuel price curve.

For now, it seems like the takeaway is that it works on a modest scale when one focuses on a part of a city that has been commanded-and-controlled into a sort of quasi-Victorian form, and turns something of a blind eye towards the remaining nonconforming parts of the city or metro area.

You really need to go and take a look at Calgary. It is vastly different in form and character than the city you are imagining.

I'd still hate like the dickens to be the one charged with selling it to voters in some city resembling, say, Phoenix, Arizona, or with selling it to a certain kind sort of hardheaded American who's not terribly impressed by folks who spend like drunken sailors on prestigious-sounding downtown business addresses while skimping on the quality and cost-effectiveness of their products or services.

There are an awful lot of hard-headed businessmen in Calgary, and they put their head offices in downtown Calgary because it is cheap and efficient to operate there. It's not hard to sell it to them when they run the numbers past their computers.

Calgary is unusual among North American cities in that the vast majority of the population lives inside the city limits. The 2000 square miles of the "metro area" is somewhat misleading because it is mostly shortgrass prairie and cattle. The LRT system is designed to service the 1 million plus people in the city proper. The people who live outside the city limits were largely ignored in designing it.

The LRT basically runs from the southern city limits to the northwest and northeast corners, with another leg to the west city limit under construction, and two more legs to the southeast corner and the north city limit planned. That will pretty much service the whole city population (the southwest corner is an Indian reservation and the east side is a heavy industrial area). The feeder bus system is designed to get people to the nearest LRT line as quickly as possible.

Calgary is also unusual in that it has arguably the densest downtown core of any city in North America. It is only about half a square mile in area but over 120,000 people work there now. There are no downtown freeways, so there is really no possibility of moving 120,000 people in and out using cars. OTOH, the LRT system moves commuters in and out quite efficiently. 42% of the downtown commuters use it. There is also a substantial group of people who travel to the outer areas using it.

I think of it as being the prototype for the post-peak-oil era when only a minority of people will be able to commute to work by car. The American standard of "no car, no job" is going to translate into "no job, period" for many people when global oil production starts to decline steeply. I think that trend is already underway.

"It is only about half a square mile in area but over 120,000 people work there now."

OK, I see, it's a mini-Manhattan with a density characteristic of certain poor-ish Asian cities, Jakarta comes to mind, or of the Lower East side of Manhattan itself circa 1900, and possibly encountered at very few spots, or even none at all, in Europe. How'd that happen out in the endless wide-open prairie?

OK, I see, it's a mini-Manhattan with a density characteristic of certain poor-ish Asian cities,

Downtown Calgary is certainly a mini-Manhattan in its density, with huge skyscrapers everywhere, but it's not at all reminiscent of "poor-ish Asian cities". The main thing that looks different from Manhattan is that the buildings are a lot newer. The ultra-modern nature of it actually upsets a lot of the touchy-feely artistic crowd. It is one of the most affluent cities on the planet, with a skywalk system that runs the length and width of the downtown core, and a high-tech light rail system running through the middle of it.

How'd that happen out in the endless wide-open prairie?

I could go into the economic forces driving it in great detail, but I'll just say that Calgary is the main head office and financial center for resource-rich Western Canada, and has the second largest number of head offices in Canada after Toronto. It has more office space than most cities four times its size (e.g. Montreal).

In particular, the vast majority of Canadian oil and gas companies have their head offices within walking distance of each other in the half-square-mile of downtown Calgary. It's like Houston would be, if Houston had been designed around a rapid transit system rather than freeways.

OTOH, the LRT system moves commuters in and out quite efficiently. 42% of the downtown commuters use it.

But your original quote reads

LRT plays a significant role in allowing Calgary Transit to carry over 42 percent
of Calgary's 112,000 downtown workers.

implying that the transit system, which includes both the LRT and buses, moved 42 percent of commuters.

This is not a situation the surburban planners anticipated. However, in future Americans may find themselves in the same predicament because fuel prices will be too high for many of them to afford to drive. They will have to walk to work and shopping, and the suburbs are not at all designed to permit that.

I think the die was cast for this design in Los Angeles in the early 1900s (through the 1920s and beyond). The captains of industry -- oil, tires, cars -- decided everyone would have cars. They systematically dismantled public transportation. Around 20 - 25 percent of the world's oil supply was coming from Los Angeles back then. Now, the oil is gone and auto culture remains.

First of all, stop letting in poor people as immigrants.

Second, build stores closer neighborhoods and build sidewallks.

Third, build bike lanes.

Lots of ways to adjust. Our societies need to start adjusting.

"stop letting in poor people as immigrants" Where did your family immigrate from?

What does 1843 have to do with anything today?

First of all, stop letting in poor people as immigrants.

Yes. I always thought the best long term nationalist immigration policy was to welcome only the best abd brightest, and exclude the rest. Kind of use immigration as a tool to impose a reverse brain drain. But, that requires longterm thinking, and present sacrifice -at least by some groups of powerful economic/political actors. So instead we mostly bring in the most desperate in order to use them as cheap labour for the things we don't want to do ourselves.

In any society someone needs to clean the toilets, butcher the chickens, lay the bricks etc. Perhaps if the people who did those jobs were treated with some respect and had decent pay it wouldn't be necessary to pull in poor immigrants....Wait, that costs money or it costs energy to implement technological alternatives :S

There never was a need to pull in those poor immigrants. The jobs were getting done. But the immigrants were cheaper. It is all about the battle between capital owners and labor.

In the past average living standards were rising because lots of natural resources were untapped and waiting to be exploited. More capital accumulated to enable more resources to be exploited. The rising tide lifted all boats. Now the boats have leaks in them.

If we really are resource-limited then more cheap labor is not an asset for anyone besides a fairly small fraction of the population that owns most of the capital. If we really are resource-limited then more people means less resources per person.

Finally finished my Big Dummy after 7 months of gathering parts.
Its a littlebit amazing. To years ago i could barely tell the front end from the backend on a bicycle. On the Dummy i built the backwheel from schratch and it still seems to be holding up.
It rides really well, you hardly notice that you are riding a longtail. It got a 8 speed alfine hub wich is almost as good as a cold Newcastle Brown Ale. Im very impressed with the hub. And the cargo capacity is amazing, even without the Wideloader pair. This is what i managed to stack on the bike today: http://i191.photobucket.com/albums/z195/Meatsheia/Lasttest001.jpg
And it was still very stable even with quite abit of wind. If you want to reduce your car or public transport usage you should defintly look into getting a Longtail bike.

Saw a 'big dummy' bike eastbound in the back of pickup on Hwy 24 in the am hours last week. Yours?


Not likely since i live in Norway and dont own a car.

Ah. So why a 'cargo' bike?

I'm still baffled by people who think riding in winter is unpleasant.

riding crappy bikes in bike-unfriendly environments",... during the long, cold, dark Calgary winter

After years of commuting in Vancouver Rain, Yellowknife Cold, Darwin Heat I have to say any weather is perfect for riding.

And if you're wondering how to carry things on a bike, how about carrying this triple tandem in a 14s Big Dummy Winter Video

any weather is perfect for riding.

I always considered riding during electrical storms to be over the limit.

Hail sucks. The helmet only protects your head from the nasty little ice balls. Lightening freaks me out. Snow and ice are very challenging to ride on. Ride very slowly and expect to dump every other ride. But cold weather just means wear more clothes and perhaps a ski mask from my personal experience.

Oct - This past year I bought a pair of snow tires for one of my bikes. They are great! I bought a good pair, so I hope to get several seasons out of the deal. There is really no substitute for good gear. I ride every day, and quickly stopped trying to "make-do" with inappropriate clothing choices. And, yeah, hail sucks ...

Hard snow or slippery ice is no problem at all if you get some proper studded tires, like Shwalbe Ice Spiker. Ive used mine for 2 seasons now and havent lost a studd yet.
You will probably have better grip than most cars and pedistrans. Its actully very easy to fall when you are getting of your bike and you suddenly find out how slippery it actully is. I have almost did that a couple of times.
Riding in the winter witout proper winter tires is just stupid imo.
Right now its not alot of good studded tires for 29 inch wheels so most people use 26 inch bikes for winter biking.
And cold temperatures is not a big problem. Ive been out in -20C and the biggest problem is keeping my feet warm and not overheating riding up long hills.
What stops your bike or kills your legs is deep slightly wet or compacted snow.
Heres a excellent webpage about winterbiking: http://www.icebike.org/Default.htm

Lucky for me I only saw hail twice last year in No. California! But in Chicago I needed those studs for sure. I was just young and stupid then!

Hail though is very interesting to ride in. It is in the physical ponding that gets to you really.

Maybe this has already posted on DrumBeat, if so I missed it
Ranking Of US States By Vulnerability To Gas Prices

Percent of income spent on gas ranges from 2.83% in Connecticut to 7.2% in Mississippi.

Really sucks to be some of them. Some states are going to see a lot of migration. Mobile homes located closer to work. Electric bikes too.

Ahh, but the NorthEasterners burn their oil in their houses. 6.8million households in the NorthEast use fuel oil or kerosene.

Another interesting article that I did not see on Drum Beat.
Seniors are adapting to lower incomes and higher gas prices by using public transit.
My own 92 year old mother uses the local bus network frequently, and the drivers seem to make a special effort to make sure she is safely in her seat before pulling away (but the skateboard punks better hang on).

Seniors Jump On Public Transit

""Transit use by people age 65+, as a share of all the trips they take, increased by a remarkable 40 percent between 2001 and 2009," the report observes, adding, "This is particularly significant in light of previous declines in public transportation use among persons in this age group." In past decades, people had made less, not more, use of transit as they got older."

But transit still makes a small percentage of trips by US seniors.

"Walking should not be discounted. It is the second most popular means of travel among people 65 and over. "Older adults now take 8.8 percent of their trips on foot," AARP reports. "Walking accounts for a greater share of their trips than either public transportation (2.2 percent) or taxi (0.2 percent).""

OK, so the "remarkable" 40% increase is from 1.6% to 2.2% of all trips. That puts the overstated title in proper perspective. Good on those who can do it. OTOH it would have to grow at that rate for a very long time to make any difference to the Big Picture. But there may be limits. Many seniors will - in some cases correctly - feel very unsafe in the presence of those skateboard punks. Many more will not really be in physical condition to navigate streets and buses safely. Or they will move so slowly that in some neighborhoods they might as well be wearing "mug me" signs.

GE has a new combined cycle gas turbine specifically designed to allow rapid response to demand and supply (from wind,etc.) fluctuations. This matters because some have claimed that integrating intermittent renewables into the grid will require use of inefficient simple cycle gas turbines, which are inherently less efficient than combined cycle gas.

But GE has addressed this problem with a combined cycle turbine that can start and modulate quickly (probably helps out the GE wind turbine division too).


"General Electric (GE) says that it has developed a combined cycle power plant consisting of a gas and steam turbine which has a unique quality:
The ability to increase or decrease electricity production quickly and efficiently. The emphasis on speed and efficiency is because other baseload power plants cannot do that, which complicates the process of compensating for/meeting sudden spikes in electricity demand. Peaking power plants are usually powered by gasoline or natural gas burning engines which can be switched on and off quickly to meet demand, but they are not the most economical generators. They are normally used to backup coal, nuclear, thermal natural gas (steam), combined cycle, geothermal, wind, and other types of power plants when electricity demand peaks.
GE says that this FlexEfficiency* 50 power plant enables its operators to increase its power production at a rate of up to 50 MW per minute. GE says that this invention can also start in 30 minutes."

Was only a matter of time before they got this worked out, though I'm sure they have been working on it for some time.

This is good news for the wind industry, as the NG backup they require need no longer be less efficient simple cycle GT's.

Of course, GE is a major wind industry player, and they know that for every MW of wind, there has to be a MW of something else, somewhere, and NG turbines are the cheapest way to do it.

The only question is, for a peaking operation, whether the extra cost of combined cycle, for a low duty cycle, is really worth it, but GE wouldn't have built this if it wasn't.

The only question is, for a peaking operation, whether the extra cost of combined cycle, for a low duty cycle, is really worth it, but GE wouldn't have built this if it wasn't.

If EVs with battery swap becomes widespread, peakers will see very little use. Retired, semi-retired, and stored (charged and ready to go back in a car) batteries will be able to feed power into the grid at peak times.

Car makers are just starting to look at battery swap. Nissan has some partnership with Renault.


If EVs with battery swap becomes widespread, peakers will see very little use.

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The current peak loads are substantially greater than off peak loads, it will need a lot of EV;s charging at night to make up that difference. But assuming we do get a lot of ev's out there, let's look at what might happen.

Firstly, they do nothing to change existing load patterns during the day, and in fact, the rapid charging stations that are getting built will actually add to peak loads. The half hour fast chargers are in the order of 50kW, so if we have ten million EV's and just 0.1% of them are fast charging at some time during the day, you have added 500MW of peak load. if we see restaurants etc putting charging stns in their carparks, the ""lunchtime" charging load could easily add up fast.

Secondly, doing V2G is still on paper at this point, and we just don;t know how many people/cars will do it, so it's hard to know how just how much it will achieve.

Now, what we do know is that as we have more wind generation, we have to have more peaking capacity to back them up. And when we get those hot, still days of midsummer (or cold still days in midwinter) we see very high electrical loads and little or no wind generation, and must be met by peaking plants, which are hydro or NG (or solar, but for the next decade or two at least, we won;t have large amounts of that).

So V2G can be out in there as another "peaking plant", but it would be a a very brave grid operator that would get rid of their dispatchable peak generators and rely on enough cars plugging in.

I think the "retired" batteries will get recycled into new ones too quickly to have enough around for significant peaking capacity.

I think the "retired" batteries will get recycled into new ones too quickly to have enough around for significant peaking capacity.

That is not a good assumption. I have been talking with a lot of industry and utility people and that's not what they're thinking. They're looking at the car battery pack as a potentially valuable resource lasting many years. It would be insane to recycle them after their service life in a car. The battery in a Leaf is expected to retain 70 - 80 percent of its capacity after 10 years. It could retain over 50 percent for many years beyond that. The lower capacity of the older battery does not carry much of a penalty if it is just sitting in a vault as opposed to being carried around in a car.

If EVs take over for gas cars -- which they must do because of the much cheaper fuel cost -- then there will be a very large number of battery packs available for grid storage. For example, in California, we have something like 20 million cars (a lot more, actually, I think). If we had a leftover battery pack (say with 50 kw capacity) from each of 20 million cars, that's 100,000 megawatts (about 3 times the peak of a normal day in the spring or fall, or twice the peak in the summer). So, the storage potential is quite large.

The timing of the peak is late afternoon on work days. How many people will be willing to sacrifice their ride home to contribute to the grid just before the evening commute?

There is a big difference in time scale. GE can ship an efficient and flexible combined cycle gas turbine tomorrow, with as many gigawatt total capacity as the customer wants to pay for. Meanwhile the number of car batteries connected to the grid in the US can probably be counted on one hand.
While vehicle to grid has real long term potential, I expect pumped storage and natural gas generation to be with us for a long time. Cycling a battery with a finite number of lifetime charge cycles may never be more economic than pumping water uphill. Right now pumped storage is a couple of orders of magnitude cheaper than cycling a battery. 20 years of doing product development engineering has made me quite sensitive to the difference between shipping product and rumored vaporware.
Utility scale storage in car batteries is currently solidly in the vaporware category.

Utility scale storage in car batteries is currently solidly in the vaporware category.

. n
Aww, let's stay it's a ways off. It think it will happen because the economies are there, and battery swap makes more sense than having the driver be responsible for charging.

Battery swap is the thing that will enable EVs to catch on in a big way. And the reason people will want EVs is because the fuel cost is a fraction of gasoline.

With the battery swap model, you don't need to worry about charging your battery. You will drive into a station and have your battery swapped, like so:


When the battery pack drops to 80 percent of its original capacity, you won't want to drive around that dead weight. However, the 80 percent battery still has great value for energy storage... useful for 10 - 15 years. So, these used batteries can be used in a stationary setting (imagine a large vault under the swap station). Suppose you have 200 batteries old batteries with average of 50 kw capability. Such a station could contribute 1 megawatt into the grid at peak hours. In California, for example, we have something like 12,000 gas stations. If these stations all had the battery swap capability and the large bank of batteries stored, you'd have 12,000 megawatts ready.

The cost of electricity depends largely on meeting the peak. In our case, that peak is something around 55,000 megawatts that happens around 4 pm on a July afternoon. Utilities are required to maintain an extra reserve above the maximum peak, so we have something 75,000 megawatts in generating capacity.

Peak kwh are very expensive. 12,000 megawatts of storage would have tremendous value and this type of storage is absolutely required to make renewables work -- which, btw, utilities are now required by law to meet 30 percent renewables here by 2020.

This is down the road a ways, but it is bound to happen due to the economics involved. We're not building nat gas peakers because of the high cost per kw and low capacity factors. Spare batteries from EVs will make sense for this purpose. EVs will make sense -- once we get some mass production going -- because of fuel costs. A 30 mpg costs 15 cents per mile for fuel. An EV costs maybe 3 cents per mile for fuel -- especially if the battery is charged off-peak, which will always be the case with the battery swap model.

If EVs with battery swap becomes widespread, peakers will see very little use.

I don't think so. You also have stuff like peak demand (or supply minimum) week. Say a several day heatwave, and btw those EVs won't want to give it all back (with substantial loses). In any case batteries might cover a breif (hour or two) shortfall, but not anthing lasting days. And if this demand comes during a period of little wind and/or little sun, then the peakers will be quite busy.

I don't think so. You also have stuff like peak demand (or supply minimum) week. Say a several day heatwave, and btw those EVs won't want to give it all back (with substantial loses).

A few qualifications: I am assuming that EVs replace gasoline cars. This is possible since EVs cost considerably less for fuel.. Not only that, they have far fewer moving parts. Over time, there may be several times as many battery packs as cars. This represents a large potential capacity... 100 GW for 20 million packs.

You have a point about the peak not necessarily happening when we have renewable power. It depends on where you're at. Certainly, in California, it is the case that the peak always happens on sunny days. It is very predictable. Coupled with solar, EVs and the battery swap model could knock off 20,000 or so megawatts off the peak and pretty much completely level the load, in which case peakers would not run much at all. Your mileage may vary.

Also, you suggest batteries would have "substantial" losses. This is misleading at best. It is roughly the same as pumped hydro ... around 20 percent energy loss. Li ion batteries may be slightly worse than pumped hydro, but not much.

The power does not have to be stored for days. You only need to make sure they are charged off peak (roughly 1am to 5am). If solar is developed in a big way, they you'd charge them in the middle of the day. In any case, with the battery swap model, you can charge the batteries at exactly the optimal times, most efficiently.

I'm thinking about the next couple of decades. Ee won't have spare (half worn out) car batteries that soon. My presumption is that the worst of the bottleneck will be over before we have the old battery stockpile. By, then we will probably have learned to live with serious demand management, and will consider that option as better than storage. basically because it is cheaper, and we won't have money to burn on luxuries, like power on demand.

Thanks, dechert for putting the case for battery swap. Funny tht the comments did not hit the swap idea itself, just went on to the other stuff.

Range is what worries people about EV. Battery swap gets rid of that. I am playing around with doing my own EV, and using my own battery swap, charged with PV. That sort of play is my hobby, but I try to make it useful as an example for the more timid of my community. So far I have only gotten a rep for being a nutty inventor, but some people are slowly getting the idea.

Actually I believe energy is an easy one to solve. The real problems are everything else, including what we do to the world with the energy we have. See current Energy Bulletin entry by Traintor who makes that p;oint very well.

Well, the focus of the discussion was about peak electrical loadings, so battery swaps don;t really come into that, except if they displace fast chargers.

And given that we are seeing municipalities falling all over each to build fast chargers, and nary a word of any organised battery replacement system, I'd say the EV future is looking more likely to be fixed batteries and fast charging - and higher peak electrical loads.

The battery swap idea is, in principle, great. But it will require an unprecedented level of co-operation among the car makers to happen. It has been hard enough to get them to standardise the on board diagnostic systems, and that is just using a common protocol. Having them to agree to someone else' batteries going into their car - that is a big deal.

I may have missed it, but I have not seen any press releases from the carmakers to say they are pursuing a universal, swappable, battery standard.

So, like V2G, I put battery swap in the niche category, for at least the next decade.

And with those batteries being so enormously expensive, I'd want to have an ironclad guarantee with respect to not being stuck with the financial tab someday when (not if) some crooked swap station gives me a dud or counterfeit battery that proves unacceptable for further swapping. (Or, more likely, that a legitimate station has failed to detect and remove from service.) Which raises another question. Somehow a functional end-of-life wearout level would have to be set. But there's no super-precise way to measure that. So do I arrive at a station one fine day and they refuse to do the swap, saying the battery is too far gone to be exchangeable?

The only real solution seems to be that we all in effect rent the batteries from a universal battery monopoly, with private charging somehow prohibited. Of course, we can rest assured that such a monopoly would never price-gouge us, because monopolies never do that, right? And we can also rest assured that governments wouldn't respond to perceived gouging by gouging even more via punitive taxes, since the battery monopoly couldn't possibly be vulnerable to dysfunctional politics as with, oh, let's say, oil companies?

Now, as the hand-wavers are wont to say, "don't worry about these logistical, social and legal issues, they can always be worked out." But we aren't swapping cheap D cells here; the perverse incentives will be enormous. Nor are we talking about a closed company fleet, where the perverse incentives don't really exist. So I wonder how long that working-out might take, how tall the mountains of deceit-laden fine print might be, and what financial hazards the battery user might be forced to risk.

And with those batteries being so enormously expensive, I'd want to have an ironclad guarantee with respect to not being stuck with the financial tab someday when (not if) some crooked swap station gives me a dud or counterfeit battery that proves unacceptable for further swapping. (Or, more likely, that a legitimate station has failed to detect and remove from service.) Which raises another question. Somehow a functional end-of-life wearout level would have to be set. But there's no super-precise way to measure that. So do I arrive at a station one fine day and they refuse to do the swap, saying the battery is too far gone to be exchangeable?

The only real solution seems to be that we all in effect rent the batteries from a universal battery monopoly, with private charging somehow prohibited. ...

Okay, PaulS, I see you are giving this some thought. But you are missing some key pieces of the swap model I'm talking about.

I don't see any reason for a "universal battery monopoly." Quite the contrary. I'd say anyone could own the battery pack, including you. Why might you want to invest in a battery pack? Even if you don't own an EV, you might want to invest in a battery pack. This is because there is substantial profit to be made charging at off-peak and selling power at peak or partial peak. What if you could buy something for 8 cents then sell it later the same day for 14 cents?

In this model, the swap station is going to take part of the profit, and it will depend on what kind of PPA (power purchase agreement) the swap station has with the utility.

This is why your comment about the swap station not wanting the out-of-spec battery doesn't make sense. Swap stations will be glad to take the battery pack because they can make a profit from it -- even if it has dropped to 50 percent capacity.

Here's the other piece: The swap station in this model serves as a broker between the driver and the battery pack owner (who could be any entity). There would be some standard regarding when a battery gets recycled. The swap station sends out the battery pack for recycling once it drops below the spec for stationary use -- which could be many years after it falls below spec in a car. My guess is that you won't want a battery in your car that is below 80 percent its original capacity and the swap station won't want to have it sitting around if it is less than 50 percent of original capacity (the 80/50 numbers may not be exactly right, but I use them for sake of argument).

When you swap the battery, the swap station collects the fee and passes along the rental portion to the battery pack owner. The swap station charges for the swap service and for the electrons. You leave with a fully charged battery pack and you know it is a battery pack with at least 80 of the original capacity.

The swap station also makes money buying electricity off peak and selling it to the utility at peak or partial peak. The swap station shares the profit with the battery owner based on some standard agreement.

To get an idea of the peak/off peak difference in kwh value, have a look at the PG&E E-20 schedule.


You'll see there is profit to be made year-round, although summer is where you could make a killing buying off peak and selling on peak. Of course, the power purchase agreement has to be negotiated and there will be several fingers in the pie, but it is clear there is money to be made. This is why you won't recycle the battery pack immediately after it falls from spec for cars. It is too valuable for power storage.

Of course, there is potential for funny business, but that is also true with gas stations. Just as gas stations are inspected to ensure they are not cheating, battery swap stations will be subject to regulations and inspections. The battery packs will need a tamper-proof ID number that the swap station can read automatically and instantly.

In summary, this model works economically because,

  1. EVs can be sold for much less money "batteries not included"
  2. EV drivers pay less per mile for the battery (rent + electrons) than for gasoline
  3. EV owners pay less for maintenance than for ICE due to few moving parts
  4. Battery pack owners make a profit from battery rental and from elec sales once the battery pack is no longer used in EVs
  5. Swap stations make a profit from swap service, electron sales to EV drivers, and by selling electricity to utility on peak according to PPA.

With a swap station you would not only have to standardise the battery but the fitting of it. It will be heavy so you will need a mechanical system and that will need to be the same each time. Also the vehicle design will need to provide easy access for that mechanism and not have the batteries buried under a back seat or behind luggage.


There is a technology called "Flow Storage Battery" (FSB). Thanks to a post from heisenberg near the end of this Drumbeat, there is also the name "Flow Battery". He offers this link and more:

The positive and negative "plates" are liquid. The battery extract energy from these liquids. The liquids flow. The liquids are pumped out and replaced to recharge the system. Another interpretation has the liquids as the electrolyte.

OK. The owned batteries and the swapped batteries live in separate economic compartments. No one in his or her mind would ever swap a battery they owned unless they knew it was in bad shape. Many thousands of dollars at stake and no way whatever to independently verify that the battery one receives is at least about as good as the battery one gives up.

Yes, the "universal battery monopoly" is oversimplified, but only a little, since what you are describing still retains most of the characteristics, namely very tightly applied universal administration. That someone might want to speculate in battery-pack ownership is obviously likely in a capitalist system, and there's no need to tie it to ownership of any particular pack. Many models are possible, the most obvious of which might be owning common stock in the swapping agency.

This is why your comment about the swap station not wanting the out-of-spec battery doesn't make sense. Swap stations will be glad to take the battery pack because they can make a profit from it -- even if it has dropped to 50 percent capacity.

That would be true if the capital cost of the battery were essentially zero, and if they were taking the battery. But the capital cost is not zero, and it depreciates. And they're swapping the battery not taking it. So what swapping outfit would want to risk giving up near-new batteries for ones worn down to 50% of original capacity? They could be out of business in no time. The easiest way by far to fix that is to close the system so that the swapping outfit fully controls the charging and cycling. Which is why this already works for some fleets, which are closed systems where the huge incentives to game the system aren't in play.

But the capital cost is not zero, and it depreciates.

Fail to see the problem. All of this would be factored in. The swap station would guarantee the battery is going to give x percentage of a new one -- for the sake of argument, say 80% or better. If you get a 24 kwh battery and it looks like you are only going to get 17 kwh out of it, and adjustment would be made to your account. The penalty to the swap station should be stiff enough to ensure such a thing doesn't happen very often (Nissan says it should take 5 to 10 years before the capacity drops below 80% ... this seems gradual enough so it should be easy to predict if the battery you get is good enough).

One of the key features to the SEA swap model is that you are billed in arrears. You pay for what you got, not what they say you're going to get. You are never penalized for getting a less-than-new battery pack. The battery rental fee takes into account the condition of the battery.

The different between an 80% battery and a brand new one should only mean you'll have to swap sooner with the 80% one compared to new. The cost per mile for rental plus kwh should be about the same, and should be less than any gasoline power car. If you drive an average of 33 miles per day (typical, 1000 miles per month driver), you'd be swapping, usually, every other day whether you have an 80% battery or a brand new one.

If you own the battery, you pay the depreciation. If you rent it, you pay the rental fee.

If you own the battery and don't swap, then you have a lot of limitations on the usefulness of the car. You can only go about so far before you have to stop and charge the car. You watch the capacity of the battery drop over the years and have to think about the $12,000 or so you'll have to shell out for a new battery pack to replace.

If swapping becomes prevalent, very few drivers will want to own the battery pack for their car. This is because you won't find fast chargers anywhere. If you own the battery, you'll be effectively limited to a range.

But here is the biggest difference between the present model and the swap station model: the battery packs have a value for electricity storage that goes well beyond their value for use in cars. If the rent or depreciation amounts to $100 per month, you could conceivably get a third to a half that back (in summer months, depending on location) buying off peak and selling on peak -- if swap stations are set up to do this. And you could earn revenue for years after the battery pack is no longer useful for cars.

The swap model would relieve strain on the grid (lowering costs system wide, while fast chargers would greatly increase the strain (increasing costs system wide).

Which Handwavers, Paul?

Why do swappable batteries instantly become a clear Monolithic Option of having 'one universal Battery Monopoly', one 'which prohibits private charging' ??!! Where do you come up with this stuff? Where's the logic that says battery mfg wouldn't have competition, or that this problem is somehow intrinsic to the onset of that sort of EV's? It would be a matter of our choosing our rules for Corporate Boundaries, no less than today.. It would seem that if you're going to be shelling out bucks to do each swap, you'd have a fine incentive to make each pack last as long as possible, and to charge them yourself however much you can to extend time between changes. If one system doesn't allow for 'self-charging', it would probably get undercut by another brand that did offer that option.

I'm not a 'let the market solve all our problems' type, but it does no good pretending there aren't flows within the businesses we're considering, just the same.

No More Comic-books, Paul. Eat your spinach and get outside with the other kids for a while!

Swappable EV batteries would probably follow the propane cannister model, with the exception that you could get a home charger.

Depending on the model, not for long. One propane canister model is that somebody has to buy a brand new tank for whatever reason, and when it's empty, has to exchange it for a rusted-out hulk on the verge of failing inspection. And they're always rusted-out hulks even if there's paint hiding the rust. Still, propane tanks are cheap enough relative to the typical transaction for that to work.

OTOH EV batteries aren't propane tanks. A 15kWh battery might cost $10,000 and it holds merely $1.50 or so worth of electricity. The engineering mismatch, put that way, simply boggles the mind. Orders of magnitude difference in the perverse incentives, relative to propane. It's simply senseless to own a battery that one intends to swap, and put a substantial fraction of $10,000 at risk at every $1.50 transaction, unless one also owns and controls the battery one intends to swap it for. The way to do that is to have one (or maybe two or three) nation-wide agencies that essentially rent them. Or to do the battery-swapping within the confines of a private fleet, which I think has already been done.

If one system doesn't allow for 'self-charging', it would probably get undercut by another brand that did offer that option.

There should be no issue there. In the swap model I am describing, there would be a secure database that swap stations would access. For each battery pack, the swap date/time would be recorded. The battery owner should be happy if the driver keeps the battery pack and self-charges because the battery owner will earn rent according to how long the driver has the battery.

For round numbers, let's say a battery pack rents for $100 per month (or 14 cents per hour). If the self-charging driver keeps it for 3 months, they're going to be charged $300 for rent when they swap it and maybe $5 for the kwh. If the driver is on a trip and swaps it after 2 hours, then the rental is minimal and the kwh is still $5. There would also be a swap fee. The swap should be quick and automated (Better Place demo shows this happening in a minute or so), so it should not cost a lot ... maybe a couple of dollars.

Highway taxes could be assessed at the time of swap or for per kwh usage. Many possibilities there. EV hotrodders could opt for the high output option. Comes with free car wash and coffee ;-) Contact cleaning and de-ox, no charge!

Highway taxes could be assessed at the time of swap or for per kwh usage.

Good point about taxes. Currently EVs are getting a free ride when it comes to highway use. If EVs take over, something will have to be done there.

I'm not suggesting this will be simple. On one level it is simple: you drive into the station when you need some kwh and drive out with a fully charged battery. You pay for it just like you'd pay for gas (although the total will be a combination of battery rent, kwh, and swap fee). There would be competition on many street corners for your business. At Coulomb Corner they say, "6.99 cents per kWh! LOWEST SWAP FEE IN THE COUNTY!!"

There will be insurance policies for battery packs, separate from the car insurance. Some battery packs may be worth more than the car. The kwh charge and battery rent charge will vary depending on many factors -- including season, climate (temperature, especially), geographic location. For example, if you start on a trip in the summer from California and drive north to Washington state, the parameters will change. A battery pack may have a very high value for stationary grid storage in the summer in CA. By the time you get to WA, the battery has less value for stationary use because they don't do much air conditioning and power is much cheaper anyway. And the peak is in the winter instead of summer.

I imagine there would be a very active market buying, selling, trading battery packs. Ideally, you'd want to park your battery pack in someplace like PG&E territory in the summer where you could make some money buying kwh off peak and selling at peak. Some investors might pay to have their battery pack moved from one place to another to improve ROI.

Battery pack owners will sign a contract with Swappers Inc., the swap station consortium. For stationary use, Swappers Inc guarantees so many hours of rent (factoring in peak shaving profits). They charge a space rental fee (x number of sq feet on a shelf) for stationary use. For auto swaps, they guarantee so many hours per month in a car.

And so on...

Well, the focus of the discussion was about peak electrical loadings, so battery swaps don;t really come into that, except if they displace fast chargers.

That the way these conversations go, you know ... one thing leads to another. But, seriously, batt swaps do play into load leveling. You have to imagine that EVs could take hold in a big way. This should not be that hard to believe. It was a very small group of people in Los Angeles (circa 100 years ago) who decided everyone was going to have gasoline powered cars. Within a couple of decades, everyone had gasoline powered cars. Think about the infrastructure that involved -- gas stations, oil wells, refineries, tire manufacturing, car repair shops, roads, and so on. It all happened practically overnight in Los Angeles.

And, yes, fast chargers are a factor. Fast chargers are a very very bad bad bad idea. They put an enormous strain on the grid. If widely deployed, they would dramatically increase the peak load. Most of the cost of electricity is to meet the peak. In CA, the peak is about 3 times the baseload (60 GW v 20 GW base). Utility companies are very concerned about this. Keep in mind, they are now required by law to meet 33% renewable by 2020.

And given that we are seeing municipalities falling all over each to build fast chargers, and nary a word of any organised battery replacement system, I'd say the EV future is looking more likely to be fixed batteries and fast charging - and higher peak electrical loads.

Fixed batteries and fast charging w/higher peak electrical loads can only work temporarily. It makes no sense economically in the long run.

The battery swap idea is, in principle, great. But it will require an unprecedented level of co-operation among the car makers to happen. It has been hard enough to get them to standardise the on board diagnostic systems, and that is just using a common protocol. Having them to agree to someone else' batteries going into their car - that is a big deal.

This part you have exactly right. I happen to be working on this problem. Battery swap standards is a project of Safe Energy Association. The first researchers said "you have to have the utilities on board." So, I talked with utility companies. I think they are very receptive. This is not the problem. The problem is with car makers, as you suggest. Nonetheless, standards do happen and the reasons for resistance are similar in other settings. Not long ago, you got a different battery charger for every cell phone you ever bought. I have a box full of old cell phone chargers. Now, they all use the same mini usb charger. Obviously, it makes a lot more sense. Still, it took a long time, but the important thing to realize is that it did happen.

I may have missed it, but I have not seen any press releases from the carmakers to say they are pursuing a universal, swappable, battery standard.

It is happening. So far, you have to dig to see it. It is happening in Europe with Nissan and Renault. You can now buy an EV in Europe with "batteries not included." Then you can lease a swappable battery pack. I think the lease model is wrong, but it is a start. To make batteries work, you have to be able to rent, for a short time (like for a matter of hours), a battery pack. If you are on a long trip, you may need to rent several battery packs over the course of a day, just as you might need to stop at a gas station more than once while on a long trip. The model I am promoting has the driver paying for battery rent + electrons after the swap retrospectively (like you pay your elec bill after the fact for elec used). Rent would depend on how long you had the battery pack and the condition of the battery. It is likely battery rent (including swap service) will be as much or more than the electrons... perhaps something like 6 cents for battery rent and 4 cents for electrons per mile. 10 cents per mile is going to beat gasoline, and EV maintenance should also be less because so few moving parts.

Battery swap standards is a project of Safe Energy Association. I also know some people at Tesla, and they are also thinking about battery swap. We don't need them all to use exactly the same battery -- there could be several standard models (the fewer the better, but it is unlikely we'll have one size to fit all). My friend, Rachel Konrad (formerly of Tesla) recently wrote (on FB), "Renault is launching the Fluence ZE with a swappable battery later this year in other markets. The price in France is €21,300 and you can lease the battery for €79."

One of my first comments on TOD was about the idea of standardized swappable batteries for EVs. As mentioned above, battery stations could also function as storage units for intermittant sources, diagnostic centers, recycling centers, etc. Folks would lease the batteries via a subscription service or, if prefered, pay-as-you-go. The issue of eventually having to replace your battery would be eliminated because you don't actually own it, just the car. As battery technology improves, one could upgrade the service to include the newer, longer range batteries. Seems like an idea worth considering. BAU required :-/

It was a very small group of people in Los Angeles (circa 100 years ago) who decided everyone was going to have gasoline powered cars.

It most certainly was not. Everyone wanted cars - they were better than horses, just expensive. The early electrics ere great - as long as you don;t want to go too far or fast, and the early gas cars were noisy smelly cantankerous beasts - little better than the horses! But that changed, and the gasoline cares became the best, cheapest, longest range etc. And this transformation actually started in Britain with the RollsRoyce "quiet" engine - the whole world does not do something just because LA does.

Fast chargers are a very very bad bad bad idea.

but no one is saying this - they are seen as a necessary thing to speed the adoption of electrics. The problem, form a drivers point of view - what if they are all full at the charging station, how long are you prepared to wait to then wait longer for a charge?.

It is happening in Europe with Nissan and Renault.

Well, they are the same company, so of course it is happening. But where is the co-operation with Toyota, GM, Ford, Mistubishi, etc?

The critical thing for the battery swap concept to make it from vaporware to real world, is to get agreement on a standard shape/size, and connection points - the "form factor". Lead acid batteries have standard sizes, and some LI's are being packaged to match those sizes. For Ev's we need something a bit bigger, but small enough to be manhandled easily. One model would be to have "blocks" of 8kWh, so the Leaf would take three for 24kWh, and a Miev two for its 16kWh.

But what about the voltage - will all the makers agree on a voltage standard? You want to have all the batteries in series, not parallel, for best battery performance. But this means the 24kWh pack is 50% higher voltage than the 16. I guess you could use a converter or transformer in the vehicle.

IF a suitable form factor is developed, it does create the interesting option of having a generator unit that can substitute for one, or maybe two "blocks". When you are doing a road trip, you swap out batteries and in a generator./ there are still some details to be sorted on that, of course, like fuel, exhaust, heat management etc.

I will return to the position, that it will need unprecedented co-operation between carmakers to make this work. And the only way I can see that happening is by government mandate, to avoid the cellphone mess that we had. The problem is, that it is too early in the game for the government to make such a mandate - who knows what it the best size/shape/voltage/kWh for the battery "blocks". There needs to be more experience with the EV's to avoid the risk of creating a standard that inhibits, rather than helps EV development.

All this being said, for the battery swap concept to have any hope of reality, the standardisation must be on the agenda. This does not standardise the battery chemistry, or performance, but it must standardise the physical dimensions.

there is the additjonal complication of the battery management systems, and the heat management, required by different chemistries. There are many variables that need to be standardised - I can;t see agreement happening for some time to come.

It was a very small group of people in Los Angeles (circa 100 years ago) who decided everyone was going to have gasoline powered cars.

It most certainly was not. Everyone wanted cars - they were better than horses, just expensive.

hmmm. I grew up in the LA area and that's not what I heard: There was a systematic effort by Firestone, Standard Oil, GM and others to dismantle the public transit system. One thing I can tell you for sure, there was no public transit system of any note when I was growing up. Everyone had cars. The whole infrastructure there was designed for cars.

See the picture in this article? That's the street cars in LA stacked up in a pile at the junk yard.


In 1949, Firestone Tire, Standard oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, General Motors and Mack Trucks were convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by National City Lines and other companies; they were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies. The verdicts were upheld on appeal in 1951. The corporations involved were fined only $5000. In addition, the jury convicted H.C. Grossman, who was then treasurer of General Motors. Grossman had played a key role in the motorization campaigns and had served as a director of PCL when that company undertook the dismantlement of the $100 million Pacific Electric system. The court fined Grossman the magnanimous sum of $1.

I'm not saying you're wrong ... exactly ... but those companies did more than a good sales job convincing everyone to buy the cars. If the public is saturated with ads 24/7 about how great cars are, then I guess it's fair to say they want them. The death and destruction the cars brought was never in the ads.

As I conceded already, it will be tough to convince the car makers. However, if just one or two of them get behind the swap standard, the others will have to go along.

Also, again, I don't think there will be a one-size-fits-all standard. There will be several types, most likely. Small, medium, and large.

You correctly point out some of the main issues the standard must address. One thing about standards: the government doesn't necessarily get involved. If a good standard exists for something and industry is working with it, government will generally lay off. There are even some laws on the books about that, as I recall. Standards are something that consortia do, with or without government involvement. There are already a number of relevant standards for EVs - connectors and such.

BTW, what I am talking about is sometimes called the SEA battery swap model. "SEA" stands for Safe Energy Association. There are competing concepts, but I think the SEA model is unique and that it is the best.

In 1949..

Well, that is 60 years ago, you did say circa 100 years ago. 100 years ago, the Model T had been out for just three years, all gasoline cars were hand crank to start (the first electric starter appeared on a1912 Cadillac), and gasoline, electric and steam cars were still duking it out for supremacy. It was the electric starter that clinched that battle.

Not saying those companies didn't do what you said they did, but that was much later - 30's and 40's.

One thing about standards: the government doesn't necessarily get involved. If a good standard exists for something and industry is working with it, government will generally lay off.

My experience is the opposite. The government sets standards for everything from thread pitches to electrical connectors to the set out distance of toilet bowls. Where it is not done directly by government agencies (e.g. ANSI) then it is often done by industry associations (e.g. SAE), but government is still involved, especially when there are safety aspects. It took a government directive to get the cellphone co's to go to standard sockets, the car OBD systems, unleaded fuel, etc etc.

It is theoretically ;possible that the carmakers, alone could come up with some standard, but if the battery swapping concept actually starts to gain traction, I'll bet the government gets involved pretty quickly to avoid a repeat of the cellphone situation - we are no longer talking about $10 chargers and $30 batteries.

As for the competing concept, well, just like beta/VHS and HDVD/Blue-Ray, they will have to duke it out amongst themselves. VHS shows us that it is not always the best one that wins, either.

In 1949..

Well, that is 60 years ago, you did say circa 100 years ago.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I said a group of people "decided" to do this around 100 years ago. 1949 is when they were convicted of the conspiracy to dismantle the electrified rail system. Certainly, it took a number of years after they decided to do it before that had actually done it. Then it was some number of years for some lawyers to figure out what had happened and file the law suits. Then it was some number of years to bring the cases to trial and get a judgment (slap on the wrist, not even).

I wasn't in the room, but since oil production in Los Angeles peaked around 1920, I'd guess 90 years is closer to the decision point. But 100 years is good enough for this discussion.

The main point is that people didn't just wake up one day and say, "we want gasoline powered cars... Let's get rid of all the street cars!" There was a concerted effort to make this happen, coupled with very heavy advertising, palm grease, political maneuvering, and suppression of the negative aspects.

As a kid, half the time I went outside the freaking sky was brown. The ads never featured dead teenagers, but a number of my classmates never graduated HS -- killed in car accidents. Car ads featured beautiful women. Driving a nice new car was to epitomize the fact you have been successful. "He drives a new Cadillac," meant he's rich.

The cost of the car culture in LA is staggering. No one decided it was worth it. The captains of industry formed a juggernaut to sell it come hell or high water.

The government sets standards for everything from thread pitches to electrical connectors to the set out distance of toilet bowls.

This is a gross exaggeration. There are many important standards the government had nothing to do with. What did the government have to do with USB? I'd say zero. USB was developed by an industry consortium led by Intel. Likewise with PCI. Intel has led the way for many PC standards. IBM, too.

Standards are often led by industry leaders. Why would Intel care about USB or PCI or any of the multitude of other standards they've been involved with? They make processors. It's because these things help to make devices ubiquitous which use their processors. Intel is the leading processor maker partly because they know how to fuel demand for their processors. BTW, I worked at Intel on modem technology in the 1990s, before high speed Internet was available. Intel had no interest at all in selling modems. They were interested in pushing the envelope in modem technology as a way to increase demand for processors.

If a car maker is smart and wants to make their products ubiquitous, they understand there are related technologies that need advancement in order to facilitate what they want.

Since some major companies have committed to selling EVs, they'll want to figure out how to make them ubiquitous. Battery swap enables this. Home charging and fast charging can only work temporarily for enthusiasts. There is no way home charge and/or fast charge can work on a large scale.

Manufacturers will indeed need a very high degree of cooperation to standardize batteries for a national swap out system, and right now that is utterly contrary to the interests of the lead players. Unique battery IP is probably the key differentiator for a company such as Nissan – their ability to build batteries in higher volume for lower cost that are exactly optimized for their particular vehicle. Once you get to a standardized pack, the batteries themselves will have been reduced to mere commodities. And I’m not so sure that only the form factor need be standardized. Limits for max output current, the electrical characteristics of batteries under regenerative braking, even the charge counting systems that report remaining energy level may very well need to be accommodated by the on-board electronics and firmware built into the vehicle, and thus may need to be standardized. Even the type of charger you can plug the vehicle into may need to be different for different chemistries and different arrangements of series/parallel combinations of cell clusters within the overall pack. So the cooperation will have to go beyond simple form factors.

And on the topic of using depleted battery packs to supply peak demand on the grid, a used Leaf pack at 70% capacity can only deliver 50KW for something like 20 min (not counting AC-DC conversion losses), so you can’t just add up all the used packs of all the cars in the world and multiply by 50KW to obtain the peak load they will be able to supply to the grid for any significant duration of time. Also, when you are combining a bunch of old packs with different remaining capacities into one cluster to dump power onto the grid, there will also be not insignificant high-power electronics needed to control and blend the output of these packs, and of course the grid will have to be modified in thousands of local spots so that 1 megawatt of input power can be dumped onto it at any random point without causing problems. All of this is doable, but I’m not yet convinced it will be economically viable in the near term, especially given that no big fleet of depleted packs is likely to be available anytime soon, and the new packs being put into service now are no where near standardized.

Once you get to a standardized pack, the batteries themselves will have been reduced to mere commodities.

Fail to see the problem. What about gasoline? Isn't that a mere commodity? Often, branded gasoline is coming from the same refinery as unbranded. What is Techron? Where does Techron come from? Why does Chevron put it in their gas?

I also don't think we'll wind up with a single battery pack all the cars will use. I guess at least three, and maybe more (for example, likely you'd have small, medium, and large ... or maybe simple, medium, and more complex, each with an extended range version ... so six standard battery packs might be more likely).

Feeding power into the grid at peak times that was stored from off peak generators is not exactly new. It is done every day. Storage will have to increase as solar and wind contribute more. I've heard of instances around the Texas panhandle where they had no place to use some of the wind electricity the turbines were generating.

Using depleted EV batteries for grid storage could be done apart from the battery swap model. I think there are efficiencies to be gained by combining the functions, utilizing not only depleted batteries, but spare batteries for EVs. For example, you could have an extended range version (like Tesla offers). If you are commuting shorter distances, rent the regular battery. If going on a long trip, rent the extended range. The extended range battery can feed power into the grid at peak, and then go into a car the next morning.

Anyway, swap stations would house thousands of battery packs. Just as a gas station may have 10 or more pumps, I'd expect the swap stations to have many swap bays. The station may have hundreds of customers per hour. Fully charged, ready-to-go battery packs would be picked from the racks by robot and put in a que for each bay. As soon as the battery is removed from the EV, a replacement is only a few feet away. Better Place claims that a 40 second swap is feasible.

At any given moment, the swap station would have thousands of battery packs in various states. At the end of peak (say 11pm on a summer eve), most of them would be discharged. By the end of off peak (maybe 5 am), most all of the battery packs would be fully charged. The station would maintain a reserve so they can meet unusual situations, with fully charged batteries always ready for swapping.

For any given moment, they'll be able to figure out how much they can feed into the grid and still retain the reserve they need to meet needs of swap customers.

For California, here's what sounds about right to me: 12,000 stations with 5,000 battery packs each. That's 60 million battery packs and around 20 million EVs.

Coupled with solar and wind, it's a good start to solving the energy problem.

Fail to see the problem

The problem, for the near-term future at least, is that it seems very much contrary to the interests of the lead players to cooperate in such a manner as to commoditize the batteries they are putting into their cars. Nissan has spent huge sums on R&D and is spending many hundreds of millions (billions?)more on manufacturing plants to crank out batteries for their EV's. I'd be stunned if it wasn't baked into their business plan to recover this enormous investment and turn a profit by selling batteries with enough margin built into the selling price to provide an attractive return to their shareholders. Adopting a universal standard at this point in the game, where Wal-Mart or its battery selling equivalent could come along and sell the replacement batteries at razor-thin margins wouldn't be in Nissan's interests, so why should they support such a scheme?

It's nice to see that you are enthusiastic about EV adoption. For the record, I am too. In my professional life I've been responsible for the commercialization of industrial equipment that used battery technology in applications that traditionally used ICE's. It taught me that back-of-the-envelope calculations so often used by EV advocates to promote an idea are almost never anywhere close to reality when you actually try to build a business, as opposed to arguing about it on an internet forum. Unfortunately, napkin business plans never take into account all the other real-world factors that make the outcome less rosy than initial expectations. I see too many EV enthusiasts who dismiss these hard realities with a "no-big-deal" attitude that makes me cringe as someone who's been there and done that. And BTW, I'm currently involved in another businesss venture based on rechargeable battery technology, so please don't misinterpret my feedback as a belief that the automotive fleet can never or will never be electrified. I just recognze that the hurdles are a lot bigger than many enthusiastic advocates of the technology understand or acknowledge.

IMO, rechargable hybirds, such as the Chevy Volt, are a much more feasible bridge to electrification of the auto fleet. Such vehicles allow a significant segment of the driving public to run purely on electricity - mostly taken from the grid - for 90% of their travels, but gives them a way to keep going when they need to make long trips, when they have to drive some place where a charger isn't available, when the temperature plummets and the performance of the battery is greatly diminished, when they have to drive uphill with a full load of fat passengers and a boot full of groceries, when an emergency pops up in the middle of the night and the car hasn't had time to recharge from usage earlier in the day. And such vehicles allow all of that to happen without grandiose schemes for millions of swap-out stations all across the land for battery packs that are nowhere close to even being removable, let alone standardized. I applaud Nissan for great work, and I suspect their product will have a large intital adoption rate among the very small sliver of the population that can live with its shortcomings. But I think rechargeable hybrids are a more serious offering, with more potential to make a difference in the near term and no grandiose new buildout schemes necessary. If only Chevy could cut the cost of the damned Volt, I think they could have a real winner.


Good comments, appreciate the background of someone who's actually done it. Can you give any more details of what you were/are doing?

I agree with you that the ER-EV style of the Volt seems a better near term bet - it makes electricity a fuel of opportunity, but not necessity. And without needing such things as fast charging stations or battery swaps - but all this gives the dreamers lots to talk about.

Agreed that the Volt is too expensive, and I'm not sure why it had to be so. I think part of the problem is that GM was obsessed with doing it on a medium sized car. I remember some quote from one of the GM guys, on small EV's was that he wanted to be able so sell volume, so it needed to be a midsize car. But now it is so expensive, compared to the benefits delivered, that they aren't selling in volume anyway!

The car is too big, the engine too big and the battery is too big! Let alone their system is way too complicated - they spent massive amounts of money chasing those last few efficiency points, that they could have achieved by making the vehicle smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic etc

But that's GM...

Paul – Unfortunately I can’t say a lot about the application, but the systems we’ve commercialized before, and the new systems we’re commercializing now include large rechargeable battery sub-systems, several times bigger than the biggest battery packs used in any passenger car today. They operate in a wide range of locales and environmental conditions. Some of the challenges have been technical – aging and balancing issues for cells, temperature performance effects, effects of large deviations from target loads, cell manufacturing QC issues, nanny electronics for cell management systems, creation of new diagnostic tools for these unique systems, chargers and power systems adequate to supply the chargers, etc.

Apart from the technical, there are commercial challenges, and those are without a doubt tougher than the technical issues – perceptions by potential customers and marketing efforts to overcome these, obtaining financing from partners bold enough to take a risk on a new paradigm, international shipping restrictions, personnel and environmental safety issues, disposal costs for decommissioned cells, training and availability of service technicians, competitive threats, etc. At the end of the day, the challenge is to create a business plan that encompasses all the above and projects enough profit at the end of it all to justify the investment. And when you are successful at all of that, then you have to execute the plan, deal with the surprises nobody anticipated, and still find a way to make a profit! I’m happy to report we’ve done quite well with proprietary technologies, proactively avoiding commoditization thus far, and it’s part of our business plan to keep it that way!

Adopting a universal standard at this point in the game, where Wal-Mart or its battery selling equivalent could come along and sell the replacement batteries at razor-thin margins wouldn't be in Nissan's interests, so why should they support such a scheme?

It is nice to hear of your industry experience and your warnings about "napkin business plans."

I'll tell you a bit about some of my experience. Do you know how PC users get software updates automatically? Do you know how that came about? I do. To a large extent it was my idea. I introduced the idea, and I was in on some of the first discussions about it when I was working at Intel's R&D center in 1995.

Before that (early 1990s), part of my work involved network administration (and managing the PCs in the system). Trouble shooting was a constant nightmare. For one thing, there was no good way to find out exactly what was in any particular PC. Lots of times, the only way was to take the PC apart and document every component. For software bugs, you had to contact the manufacturer and see if a fix was available. It was a royal PIA. For the network OS, they'd send a box of diskettes (patches to apply). I had to stay afterhours, shutdown the servers, apply the patches, then bring everything up and see if everything was working.

IBM partially addressed the issues I was having with Microchannel architecture. It is relevant to the current discussions to understand why IBM failed and Intel succeeded. Hint: Microchannel was proprietary and closed. Intel pushed open standards. IBM is no longer in the PC business. IBM is still a viable company, but for the mass market, their concept just did not work. The companies who succeeded in the market figured out how to play nicely together.

So, a couple of jobs later, I was in a cube at Intel's R&D center. I was immersed in test automation (writing scripts to make PCs do things automatically in the lab), and I learned about DMI, a new thing Intel invented -- a database that kept track of everything in the PC.... types, capabilities, operational status, installation date, and other information about the system components. DMI was exactly the thing I wished I'd had when I was trouble shooting in previous work.

Another new thing at the time: the Internet. So, I put two and two together and said, "what if when I log onto the Internet, my PC automatically sends my DMI info to some server (or servers) and asks 'what updates do you have for me?'" The remote server would have a database of updates and send me the updates (or sends a signal to have it sent to me) over the Internet. I thought that the answer that came back to me should give me a list of updates available with approximation of size and how long it would take. I could deselect anything I didn't want to do at the moment, or I could just elect to do it later (or never). Today, 16 years later, the PC I use (I run Linux ... Ubuntu) works exactly as I proposed back then. Windows works a bit differently, but it is still the same basic concept (somewhat bastardized by MSFT).

I am an analyst, problem-solver, idea person. I was sitting in a cube at Intel and thought about this solution. Just how hard would it be to get everyone to go along with this idea? I really did not know or care how hard it would be. I realized, however, that I was sitting in a place where I had access to people that were deciding the future of the PC industry every day. So, I started talking with people.

I got to a point where a lot of people thought I had a good idea but I wasn't finding the right person. I wrote an email to CEO Andy Grove. He liked my idea and I got a phone call from the VP in charge of the R&D lab. He put me in touch with other top people and I had a chance to fully present my idea.

I wasn't involved (I was too low level) with any of the discussions about it with MSFT or other industry leaders. But I know those discussions took place. Within a year or so, I noticed I was getting "updates available" messages when I logged into the Internet. Maybe it would have happened without my initiative, but I really did not care. That was the Intel way: do things to make PCs ubiquitous. Remove hassles. I was also there when the first USB devices were demonstrated (cameras, keyboards, and mice). USB solved a lot of problems. IBM would have tried to make it theirs. Intel wanted everyone to use it. Intel was right. IBM was wrong.

So, when you say car makers will likely want to keep the proprietary stuff close, we are seeing the same issue as IBM v. Intel. If you are trying to own a highly specialized market like IBM is in, the "we own it" impulse may work. For the mass market, you want the whole enterprise (which consists of many players) to succeed. To be successful, you just need a piece of the pie and see the whole pie grow. In short, you want to think like Intel, not like IBM.

Chevy Volt, are a much more feasible bridge to electrification of the auto fleet.

This is a false dilemma. The SEA swap model is not a bridge. I am describing how we want it to work, ultimately. It is not either/or. I like the Volt, too. If you have a commute of 15 miles or less (each way), it would be great for everyday use. If you make many long trips, it is not worth it... may as well buy a Prius. The Volt is no long-run solution.

Home charging and fast chargers is not a long-run solution either. This just doesn't work on a large scale. 5000 cars hooked to 200kw fast chargers would eat the output from a 1000 megawatt nuclear power plant. California has 20 million cars ... multiply by 10 for US.

It is hard to imagine how we can get to thousands of fast swap stations each with thousands of battery packs. But the model absolutely will work. It works because it takes into account the larger issue of renewable energy conversion. We are not going to produce significant amounts of liquid fuels with renewable energy. Wind and direct solar will be delivered in the form of electricity.

A little more about the SEA swap model: These are admittedly back-of-the-envelope figures, but this is good enough to get the concept across.

Figure you have three standard battery packs, A, B, and C. They are for compact, mid-sized, and full-sized cars. They will also have extended range versions, say A-ext, B-ext, and C-ext. Say A, B, and C are 100 mile batteries and the ext versions are 200 mile batteries.

Guesstimated rental rates in cents per hour:

Style 80% capacity 90% capacity 100% capacity
A 12 14 16
A-ext 24 28 32
B 15 17 19
B-ext 30 34 38
C 18 20 22
C-ext 36 40 44

So, here's how it works: if you drive into a swap station around midnight, you get an 80% battery. If you go first thing the next morning, you get a 100% battery (or close to it). At other times, you get something in between (with rental rates adjusted accordingly).

The batteries will be used to feed power into the grid while still ensuring that fully-charged 80% batteries will be available at the end of the day.

If you have a short commute, you'll want to rent your battery late in the day to get a battery pack with the lowest rental rate. If you're going on a long trip, you'll want to get the ext version because even though it has twice the rental rate per hour, you'll only have it a few hours and it won't make much difference in how much you pay.

Sure it looks good on paper, but do you realise how big a 200 mile battery pack is for a full sized car? The Tesla has 50 kWh and is tiny, and gets 200 mile range, a full size would need closer to 80kWh. At current battery density, that is about 1800lbs of battery pack to swap in and out!

The model always works if you assume all these details that make it not work, can be worked out. But in the physical world the limits are very different to the computer world.

The extra weight of that long range battery is in itself decreasing the cars range.

And you might get some people to buy into the concept of renting the batteries and gaming the system to get them later in the day etc, but unless you are a tech geek or a wannabe market player, who really can be bothered doing that on a daily basis? After work you just went to get home and out of the car as quickly as possible. This system would make the driver feel totally dependent on that swap system.

I'd rather have the ability to charge at home, on my time and terms, than be totally dependent on the swap stations. Part of the appeal of a car is the "independence" - with your model it seems the driver is more dependent than ever.

with your model it seems the driver is more dependent than ever.

I don't see it. Drivers are pretty dependent now on the gas stations/oil companies. I think drivers would have more independence and flexibility.

One thing I mentioned earlier that I think you missed: there is nothing here to preclude self-charging. You'd be renting the battery by the minute. The rental rate should be no more than what you pay in depreciation if you owned it. To a certain extent, the battery rental would be subsidized by profits made selling power at peak.

Dec – There are lots of examples of companies that succeeded and failed by standardizing their offerings with the offerings of competitors, and lots of examples of companies that succeeded and failed that didn’t. So you can cite anecdotes to support whatever position you want to believe. There are very long-standing historical precedents of deliberate (and successful) non-standardization within the automotive industry itself.

As someone who stared out in a technical background and moved into business development many years ago, I can tell you there’s a big difference between a good technical idea and creating a successful business. People in primarily technical roles quite often don’t grasp just how much bigger the commercial hurdles typically are in comparison to the technical hurdles. And that’s what usually leads to the “no-big-deal” attitude I often see from advocates of new technologies that require massive buildouts of new infrastructure and supply chains. I’ve spent a big part of my career making transitions like this happen on a relatively small commercial scale, so I see the difficulty on a daily basis. It really is a big deal. My expectations for the speed or even the inevitability of the electrification of any significant % of the automotive fleet have been tempered by a decade of personal experience working with the same technologies and grappling with the same commercial and technical issues that are in play here.

IMO, a nation wide system of battery swap out stations won’t happen for a long time, if it happens at all. I have the same expectation for V2G schemes of any national significance (i.e., any significant % of total national grid power) for decommissioned battery packs. And if it does happen eventually, I think rechargeable hybrid EV’s will play an important bridging role by helping to create the technical advancements, economies of scale and commercial infrastructure necessary for widespread adoption of pure EV’s, by giving people a product that is easier to live with before all those solutions exist. So you and I just have different expectations for the way things will play out, and that’s okay. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my part to the move the ball down the field one inch at a time.

Yes, gasoline is a mere commodity. The various brands are extremely similar. But, no, batteries are not a mere commodity. They differ in many dimensions including performance, cost, longevity.

Since batteries are an area with a high rate of innovation trying to standardize them prematurely is likely to fail.

Better Place says their batteries provide a small cost savings of 10% to 20% as compared to gasoline at $9 per gallon. Battery costs need to fall much more before pure EVs make much sense for the vast majority of car drivers in America.

If the battery pack is made from sub-packs then the vehicle wiring can do the configuration series/parallel. Also beneficial for the charging station as the sub-packs can be charged at the same time from different chargers keeping the power per charger down for better cost/life.


One of the problems that will occur here is that if you have different sub packs, of different ages (cycle life), you get instability problems, as aged cells lose their charge faster than newer ones. In a series configuration, this can then limit the discharge, and the voltage across the failing cell can even go negative - usually leading to total cell failure.

In a parallel configuration, then current will flow preferentially through the string without the bad cell, but it means the string with the bad cell is contributing little or nothing. You will get your normal volts, but half your amps. This is why complex battery management systems are needed to monitor and balance cells. If some packs are being swapped, and some aren't, there will be extreme challenges for the BMS, and the performance of the battery pack will by limited by the weakest cell in it.

And then what happens when someone develops a new cell chemistry that has superior properties, but is incompatible with any existing batteries. Then you are back to the classic situation of entrenched interests working to keep a disruptive technology from being implemented. In this situation, the standards become a barrier to innovation.

There are many potential failure mechanisms - which can be sorted out, but who will offer what warranties on what? if a failure occurs, is it a bad cell, or failure of the BMS? Or because the previous user of the swapped batteries was a lead foot driver, or completely discharging the batteries and then left them in a discharged state? You could have the BMS systems stay with the batteries to record this, but then the battery company would always be trying to pin battery failure, even from aging, on the renters.

The opportunities for gaming the system are so great, that, in keeping with modern American business practice, this system probably will be implemented for that reason only!

No, I didn't consider the sub packs to be separated from the main pack for that reason. The separation being on the electrical circuit and connector. For example a pack with 12 sub packs could connect to the vehicle as 3x4 or 4x3 etc while being charged on a 12 way charger to keep current/voltage stress on each charger down (a fast charge would be a lot of amps). The same 12 sub packs staying together the whole time, just the connection to it changing.

I wish I couldn't agree with your last paragraph :(

If there's anything remotely like the sort of promiscuous swapping and charging we debated upthread, there's also a need to validate the condition of a battery with respect to wear and capacity efficiently, quickly, and to wholly unprecedented accuracy. That blasted battery monitor on the laptop that doesn't always warn you before the battery dies simply won't do. EV batteries are so expensive that any gaming that can occur by accumulating fraud or misunderstanding with respect to battery condition on even the tiniest scale will occur.

Range is what worries people about EV. Battery swap gets rid of that. I am playing around with doing my own EV, and using my own battery swap, charged with PV. That sort of play is my hobby, but I try to make it useful as an example for the more timid of my community. So far I have only gotten a rep for being a nutty inventor, but some people are slowly getting the idea

wimbi, you are a pioneer ... a trailblazer. Please get in touch with me off list. See http://www.safeenergyassociation.org ... we're just getting started. I'm also dechert at gmail.com

dechert- will do. It's great to see somebody doing all the work! Ideas are 2 cents a million, but they get nowhere without the grunts and grind of the kind you are doing.

It's fun to think of 1) all the problems with battery swap, and 2) all the solutions to 1. Like we used to do in the grad house on a snowy saturday night after about 4.68 beers.

How about, to make battery swap a happy thought, a contest to figure out the most challenging objection, and the most fun solution. When I brought up the swap subject here a long time ago, I remember Engineer-Poet, for whom I have much respect as a good engineer, objected that it would make the car hard to handle. Well, if you did it right, maybe so. So the contest is, how to make the swap de-stableize the car the most, and how to solve that design challenge. My off top of head entry would be - put the battery up on a long pole sticking out the top of the car, and swap it out by running under an arrestor hook which will simultaneously snatch it off the pole and toss another one ahead on a trajectory calculated to make perfect landing on the pole some meters out the gate. Success would garner accolades from beautiful young ladies standing at the exit, and failure would put sulphuric acid all over your nice toupee--and a metric ton of lead..

Re: "Higher break-even price for Saudi oil sets new normal for auto fuel"

mild dopiness:

Considering that Peak Oil has already been reached in the world, or at least cheap Peak Oil, ....

Let's not confuse the issue: It's net energy that counts. Oil has long since peaked in terms of net energy. If there is another peak of non-cheap oil, it is just a sign of desperation.

serious dopiness:

Natural gas, on the other hand, can be burned directly in vehicles, especially trucks. Furthermore, it is plentiful in America, but the auto industry has somehow shot itself in the foot by selling its soul to the electric-car phenomena which must be subsidized. Go figure, unless we use nat-gas for the grid and everyone buys a subsidized EV.

I haven't converted my car to run on natural gas because it would cost a fortune to do so -- far more than the car is worth. Then, it would less power and would not go as far. Is it that hard to figure why I have not converted my car?

Re-tooling the auto industry to produce nat gas cars would cost more than they are apparently willing to spend. Then there is the small matter of fueling stations. Given that cost per mile for elec would still be less than nat gas, I don't think any rush to nat gas cars has any impetus. How hard is that to figure?

The economics might work for large short-haul vehicles ... like garbage trucks and buses. So, go for it.

Elec vehicles, combined with battery swap technology (so drivers swap the battery rather than re-charge), are a key component of a renewable energy economy. Car batteries can have a useful service life long after they are not longer good enough for use in a car. Batt swap stations can feed power to the grid at the right times for energy storage (or load leveling).

The economics might work for large short-haul vehicles ... like garbage trucks and buses. So, go for it.

The economics absolutely work for commercial vehicles, for two main reasons;
1) they are often driven all day, every day, so if NG is cheaper per mile, the miles add up fast
2) They often operate out of a home base, which can have the refueling station.

This is why many cities do indeed have NG buses, and we are starting to see it on some city trucks. There is also a large potential market for dual fueling tractor-trailer trucks too. The advantage is that you can run NG at the same time as diesel, so the engine runs on 20% diesel, 80% NG. This is relatively easy to setup, whereas doing complete conversion is not. The dual fuel also has the advantage that it can run on diesel only, so running out of NG is not a big.
It would not take too much to set up CNG fueling stations at the major truck stops on the busy highways.

When it comes down to the level of the average driver in an average car doing the average of 12,000 miles/year, then yes, you are right, it is not worth it. The lower the daily driving, the better for an EV. Of course, smaller vehicles help in that regard too.

But there are plenty of situations where CNG can work, and they are often the ones least suited to battery power, so it is not either/or

The advantage is that you can run NG at the same time as diesel, so the engine runs on 20% diesel, 80% NG.

Learn something new every day. I was looking for something to disagree with you about, but could not find it.

It kinda surprises me how few people know this, but then, this really is only known to people who have either worked with NG engines, or seriously looked at implementing it, which is not many.
Converting a diesel to pure NG, which is often done for stationary power, requires spark plugs, ignition system etc, and a gas fuel system.

Doing the dual fuel, the diesel injection serves as the pilot ignition. The simplest way, and I have done this with a tractor on the farm, is set the diesel throttle at idle, which injects only a small amount, and then you just put your gaseous fuel into the air intake. First time I did it by spraying methanol in, and watch as the engine revs up, but you can also do it with ethanol, NG and propane and numerous "other gases" like landfill gas, woodgas, blast furnace gas -even - if controlled properly - gasoline.

Of course, for proper truck conversion you have a proper system, like this;

Natural gas then becomes a fuel of opportunity - if it;s available and cheaper, use it, if not, carry on as normal. What this means is we don;t have the normal chicken and egg situation about vehicles being dependent on a fueling infrastructure that does not yet exist - in this case the dependence is removed, and as more fueling stations get built, you can use it more often. Simple, really.

Since I first learned about this in the late 90's (at the Tulare farm show, I think) I have been very surprised at the limited adoption of this technology. I wonder if it's emissions related?

I don't think it's emissions at all - NG actually burns cleaner than diesel, even when still using the pilot diesel ignition, that's why so many city buses are NG (usually pure NG).

I think the reason for the limited adoption is that, until three years ago, diesel was cheap enough that there was no compelling reason to adopt it. keep in mind you still have the CNG tank and some other equipment, so there is still a set up cost. For an urban fleet, operating out of a base (buses, trucks, delivery vans) it would make perfect sense. For hwy trucks, well, at present there are very few CNG stations, and certainly less five years ago.

So, it still needs something to jump start it - this would have been a great one for the Fed to have been doing over the last decade instead of messing around with hydrogen demo projects. A fed sponsored stimulus project to get CNG's into truckstops on all the Interstate, some kind of cost sharing with the NG industry, and then also some support for doing heavy trucks, say $10k grant and/or some interest free loans for doing the conversions. A $100m program would have gotten the ball rolling, and is far less than has been wasted on hydrogen or some of the failed biofuel plays.

With CNG there is no technical risk - is simply economics and a bit if suspicion/conservatism from the truck industry. but the fact that you can run 100% diesel if you want is a big plus as they are not tied to this alternate fuel, unlike a hydrogen vehicle.

Actually, with hydrogen you could do the same co-fuelling as with CNG, the hydrogen wouldn't need to be as pure as for fuel cells, and in heavy duty trucks, where you get 40% efficiency already, you are very close to the 50% of H2 fuel cells, without the expense of the fuel cells! Finally a "hydrogen highway" that can actually work!

With the co fuelling system, the diesel engine can be a true multi fuel engine - there is huge potential there, but no one is doing it. It is just not as sexy as fuel cells and batteries, but you could save more oil in less time for less cost, than any other option short of taking the trucks off the road.

I have long thought this would be the best transition vehicle -- TDI plus CNG. Use CNG around town in a TDI Jetta and what would you get? About $2 per 100 miles? Then on the road, just use diesel when CNG can't be found.

Same would be true for trucks, of course.


Yes and no, in my opinion. Yes, it would be a great transition vehicle, for exactly the reason you state, but you have a significant expense of the CNG fuel system for that vehicle, and even more for a home fill station. If it is being driven a lot, then it may be worth it, but for the 12,000 mi/yr person, probably not.

I used to drive a dual fuel gasoline/LPG car years ago, and the two fuel ability is great, but in a small car, like a Ford Fiesta diesel, with the CNG system you are adding weight and losing internal space, on what is an already efficient car.

Different story for larger vehicles like SUV's and minivans, but we should be getting rid of those anyway - if going dual fuel helps to keep those on the road, then we have Jevons paradox in operation!

Willingness to spend money in the auto industry is there if the expenditures return a big enough ROI.

CNG has a number of obstacles, notably including:

- Cost of the CNG tank.
- Space taken by the CNG tank.
- Lower driving range.
- Lower power.
- Need for refueling stations.

Out of these obstacles the biggest by far is the first one: CNG tank cost. Why is it so high? Lack of production volume? US safety regulations? Steve Kopits thinks the cost problem might be due to regulations.

Honda's natural gas Civic costs more than their hybrid Civic. But given a sufficiently high cost for oil versus natural gas even that price premium will become a smaller obstacle.


'Arab oil faces higher ‘break-even’ price'

Charles Seville, a director in the sovereign debt team of Fitch Ratings, wrote in emailed comments that the world economy is adjusting to higher oil prices, and that $100 oil is “less of a shock second time around than it was in 2008,” when Nymex crude-oil prices peaked at $146 a barrel.

That's an interesting perspective, and I wonder if it is true. Less of a shock to our psyche's or to the economy itself?

Earl - I've been surprised also by how the global and US economy has absorbed the price run up. Or at least so far. Maybe all the other economic upheaval in '08 compounded the situation. But maybe the worse is yet to come. But maybe my personal desire to see an oil prices collapse leads to misinterpreting events.

It just occured to me if folks are confused why this oil company geologist longs for an oil price collapse. Maybe you understand.

It just occured to me if folks are confused why this oil company geologist longs for an oil price collapse. Maybe you understand.

Rockman, specificially relating to the geology of your business in NG & oil not sure, but understand from the standpoint of providing cheaper energy to generate higher GDP. 1.8% this past qtr is anemic, especially considering the slight of hand QE's being orchestrated.

Something I've written about before is wondering if the oil price run up, or at least the time period at elevated prices will cause a greater economic step down than in 08. The reason could be that in 08 there was a release valve so to speak with the bursting of the real estate bubble (via the mortgage meltdown), but now there isn't necessarily a specific sector that will cause the system to readjust to a lower oil price, so the whole system must at some point step down. That should mean a much bigger leap for mankind.

Does that seem plausible?

earl - yes...seems plausable now. But a year ago I would have said no. We all know consumer spending drives the economy....from buying socks to buying McMansions. And buying has a strong basis in our emotional expectations of the future. So perhaps with so much more bad news beyond energy prices folks were pushed further than had it just been energy prices.

BTW - re: our biz plan - lower oil prices today would encourage more consumption and would eventually increase the impact of PO. It would have driven more of our competitors out of business also. Both would be positives for our company. Not that I would wish such developments on the public or the oil patch. Though we can't control those situations it doesn't mean we can't try to profit from them. As I've said before: the oil patch ain't the public's mommy. And I'll also add that my company ain't the oil patch's mommy either. We exist to make the max profit we can while conducting business in a legal and environmentally sound manner. It's not personal...just business.

I know this has been said before but the economy (of the U.S. at least) has not absorbed the price run-up. The stock market is not the economy. The economy of goods and services - the one that provides jobs - is really sick.

It is measured traditionally by the growth of GDP. The growth of GDP quoted by the ruling government has been hijacked to tell a better story but John Williams "Shadow Government Statistics" corrects that by measuring inflation the way it was measured back in 1990 before the tinkering with the numbers became so blatant.

William's GDP growth numbers show that the economy began serious contraction (negative GDP growth) in 2004 and has been contracting every since. We are not experiencing a jobless recovery - we are experiencing a broad systemic contraction of economic activity.

Here are the numbers:


Both. But I am not surprised.

First, we have QE II under full swing which is an artificial prop to the US economy.
Second, U.S. growth has declined from 3.1 % in Q4 of 2010 to a mere 1.8 % in Q1 of 2011, growth is seriously slowing already despite a massive stimulus program from the Federal Reserve.

Second, oil prices have been above $90 for about 6 months. The lowest average before it hits the economy in full at those prices(if it's kept above that area continually) is 9 months minimum, and this is during normal circumstances(and we have a situation which is artificial, due to QE II), so there's still time for things to go southward, to put it mildly. Plenty of time.

If Bernanke is not bluffing when he says he won't extend the massive stimulus, then look for the autumn and winter of this year for serious problems. But he just might keep the stimulus going, because he knows that without the crutches, the U.S. economy would very likely double dip with relentlessly high oil prices(and Goldman is predicting oil to keep climbing during the year and reach over $140 dollars per barrel next year).

Still, I think some low-hanging fruit was taken down in the last recession and people are much more costaware. But nontheless, the outlook for the next year is very bleak, not the least since we are still early in the timeline, and are having an artificial, propped up economy.

I'm in agreement, also thinking Bernanke might reconsider continuing QEII or opting for a QEIII installment when the alternative presents itself as 'better do it or suffer a double dip'. Obama probably won't want to risk losing favorability (with 2012 looming) by pulling the crutches from underneath this stagflating economy.

It seems like a strange point in time right now. Oil is priced high, the stock market has recently corrected to a slightly lower level, unemployment is high but steady, GDP is anemic at 1.8% last qtr., new construction is minimal, huge real estate backlog of existing homes for sale, etc. It's like a ship becalmed at sea - not sinking, but not going anywhere either. People are saving more fearful of another downturn, not complaining too much about the economy, just treadmilling it. Battle hardened by recession the populace have their heads down and are simply going about the business of their lives, hoping that simply by focusing on day to day issues will save themselves and the country from another bout of an economy gone 'TILT'.

And once it's 'game over' again like 08, what impetus or sources will be available to jack this sucker up again? Afterall, too many QE's and the risk could be a fiat currency blazing into the ethers of hyper-inflation. At some point the economy will have to simply stand on its own. No borrowing, no stimulus, no QE's. That will be like that moment from the 1987 movie 'Wall Street' when the head broker, Lou Mannheim says to Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."

It appears the politicians choose pleasure now (the economy is so-so) versus pain now (double dip). No surprise here. They will QE as long as they can.

"At some point the economy will have to simply stand on its own. No borrowing, no stimulus, no QE's."

tongue in cheek on

Step one repudiate all government debts explicit and implied. Step two bring the army home and stand it down expect for step three. Step three take Venezuela and Canada if they sell oil to the Chinese. Step four live happily ever after.(?)

tongue in cheek off

But he just might keep the stimulus going, because he knows that without the crutches, the U.S. economy would very likely double dip with relentlessly high oil prices...

Via news.google.com: I noticed that 'double dip' made it to their front page, in stories about Boston's Housing Mkt today.

When I saw that article title on MarketWatch I was worried. But the cost basis isn't the cost of oil extraction. It is the cost of subsidizing all the people who are placated to accept their ruling regime.

Despite high fuel prices Chinese auto buyers move up market and so does auto production.

In the process, China Becomes Audi’s Largest Market:


I just completed another lighting retrofit where we replaced 60-watt halogen-IR PAR38s and 75-watt 2xPL36 fluorescent wall washers with 17-watt Philips EnduraLED lamps on a one for one basis -- not only did this reduce their lighting load by 75 per cent, light levels went up and the improvement in light quality is absolutely phenomenal. Colours are rich and vibrant and the merchandise looks so much better (the halogen and fluorescent wall washers cast everything in a dirty, yellow-greenish hue).

Here are a few "before" pictures (all photos untouched):




And a couple "after" shots:




This is one of the smaller retail outlets that we've updated on behalf of a major Canadian retailer (one thousand stores operating under seven banners) and the first ever to be converted to LED (prior to this, we had been using Osram Sylvania integrated ballast Powerballs, but that turned out to be a bloody disaster). Coast-to-coast, there are an estimated one hundred and fifty thousand halogen sockets waiting to be upgraded and I suspect the good folks in Montréal will be adopting this Philips product as their new corporate standard. BTW, the rated life of this new lamp is 45,000 hours whereas the halogen-IRs they replaced were rated at 4,200 hours which means the store's staff won't be hauling out their stepladders quite as frequently.


Remarkable improvement - even to my moderately red-green deficient color-vision.

Will there be a decrease in A/C requirements for this store?


Thanks, Dave. The initial lighting load was quite high and the air conditioning system runs pretty much all year round for this reason. I don't know about this particular location, but most newer roof top units would have outside air economizers and this would help lessen the penalty on cooler and less humid days, but when you add it up it's likely to be a reasonably sized number, in this case, I'm guessing in the order of 10,000 kWh/year.

These pictures don't adequately convey the improvement in light quality –– this is one of those things that you have to see with your own eyes. But, quite honestly, I'm absolutely awestruck by this Philips product and I'm a real fussbucket when it comes to this type of thing.


That's quite a combination of small and big numbers.

So if the average saving is 50W per fixture, and 12hrs on time per day, and 150,000 of the things, that is a load reduction of 7.5MW and an annual saving of 33million kWh. If we assume an average price of 10c/kWh, that is worth $3.3m per year ($22/yr/fixture)- not bad.

If I understand the LED's correctly, there is also little or no UV produced, so there should be little or no fading of fabrics, paint etc under the light?

For the a/c savings, is there a discrete system for that store, or is it part of the mall? If part of the mall, then the mall operator is getting a great deal out of this!

Hi Paul,

For this particular store we replaced one hundred and forty-eight 60-watt PAR38 halogens and twenty-six 75-watt PL36 fluorescent wall washers. We also replaced twenty-four 60-watt T60 halogens in the change room pendants with Philips' 12.5-watt AmbientLED A19s, sixty-eight 32-watt T8s with 25-watt high performance T8s and three 50-watt MR16s with 7-watt AmbientLEDs. A standard size store might have as many as two hundred and fifty halogen heads, forty or so fluorescent wall washers and upwards of thirty-six 60-watt T60s so the potential energy savings (lighting + a/c) at these larger locations is rather significant.

Most of these stores are separately metered and the ones that are bulk metered (mall locations) are generally sub-metered so that these costs can be charged back by the landlord (often at a hefty premium). This chain has a sophisticated real-time energy monitoring system in all their stores and so head office can tell, for example, if staff have raised or lowered any of the thermostats (and if they did, they can soon expect a call from Montréal).

And you are correct; these LED lamps eliminate any risk of UV or heat related damage which is a big plus for any fashion retailer.


UV damage??!! From Wikipedia

Fluorescent lamps emit a small amount of ultraviolet (UV) light. A 1993 study in the US found that UV exposure from sitting under fluorescent lights for eight hours is equivalent to only one minute of sun exposure.

Of course that's only a very rough statement. But still, if something sits in the store for three months (and these days, how many stores can afford to let stuff sit that long), that would add up to around 130 8-hour periods at, say, mall hours of 10AM to 9PM (no legitimate need to keep bright lights full-on all night.) So they're saying that their fabric would be visibly damaged by being worn outdoors for on the order of just two hours? Amazing.

To be clear, I'm not making any specific claims, but I can tell you that fabrics exposed to high levels of halogen light will fade over time. Some of these product displays are illuminated to 2000 lux an average of twelve hours per day so, yes, UV damage from halogen light sources is a real concern.

Department stores like Macy’s and Dillard’s depend on lighting to showcase their merchandise and create a positive atmosphere and environment. But when the lights are shining for twelve hours a day, traditional store lighting can be expensive and damaging to the merchandise. Switching from halogen lighting to Phoster Industries’ fixtures illuminated with OSRAM Opto Semiconductor LEDs solved all these problems for Macy’s flagship Herald Square store and Dillard's shoe and handbag department.


Using OSRAM Opto Semiconductors Golden DRAGON Plus LEDs, Phoster Industries’ experienced design team was able to deliver a lighting system that met all the requirements. Lighting energy consumption in the bedding department was reduced by 85%, and inventory erosion was eliminated, as LEDs contain no UV.


Dillard's shoe and handbag department also turned to Phoster Industries for a similar solution to replace its halogen lighting. Dillard’s was looking for an alternative lighting source that would be more cost-effective and would also reduce the damage to inventory caused by the heat and UV output from the existing halogen lighting.



Interesting. And like fluorescents, the halogens have soda-glass outer envelopes that have the side-effect of absorbing most UV, or not the ones used in stores?

Well it would seem obvious that the outer glass envelope cannot absorb 100 per cent of the UV generated by the lamp; if it did, there wouldn't be a problem. Are you aware of any halogen PAR lamp that can do this?


No. It simply seemed surprising that one could possibly encounter enough UV to cause enough fading to matter in a store, in the short-term display of fabrics that might well be worn outdoors in full sunlight. It's not as though the concept of lightfastness was invented just last week, so it's a wonder that anyone would bother with fugitive dyes nowadays. (In an art gallery, with works displayed for decades or even centuries, rather than mere weeks, works possibly made before anyone understood lightfastness or by later artists who possibly didn't want to, it's another matter altogether.) The silly things people do, something new to learn every day...

Now, the next question to ponder is, how fast are those fugitive dyes against actinic blue light (ca. 420 to 450 or 460 nm), because even some of the warmer LEDs supply that fairly generously.

I know the MR-16 Halogen fixtures I've used would always include a sheet of UV absorbing Glazing that was supposed to cover the beam, and it would make sense that on many display shelves and racks, they would focus these very tight beams from Halogen Track Fixtures to brightly highlight their product so they stand out visibly in daylit stores, so that between the IR and the UV, the clothes/bags/shoes under such a spotty and nonmoving beam could be pretty abused.

As Paul notes above, it is the halogens that are notorious for UV. This has long been an issue for art galleries, who want the good colour rendering of halogens, but don;t want to fade the artwork. I expect they will be very interested in the LED's

The CIA Accurately Predicted How Long World Oil Supplies Would Last—in 1978
by William Hicks

Business: Oil: What's Left out There
Monday, Oct. 16, 1978

A new study delays doomsday, but there is still a crisis

The Epidemic Detectives - The Hunt for the Source of Germany's E. Coli Outbreak

By Veronika Hackenbroch, Samiha Shafy and Frank Thadeusz

Germany's E. coli epidemic, which has killed as many as 15 people so far, has alarmed doctors, who have never seen such an aggressive intestinal bacteria before. Epidemiologists are desperately searching for the origin of the deadly bacteria.

Interesting article that describes the difficulties of hunting down the source of E. coli bacteria in the modern food production and distribution system.

Why is TOD getting into e. coli?

Maybe it's a riff on the all-modernity-is-bad meme.

Folks interested in sustainable agriculture are interested in this issue.

Thanks for the post, Merrill -- very interesting and quite scary.

I know something about microbiology. The idea is that modern food systems are basically tied to means to use oil more efficiently, and these systems are making it hard to track the source of virulent strains of bugs, since they are at such a massive scale.

Now the recent method used to identify the exact flask of anthrax spores used after 9/11 is fascinating indeed. The bugs can be sequenced (whole genome) for pennies today. So they sequenced all the major sources of the Ames strain (not from Iowa but from South Texas) and that strain was housing in a US Army lab in Washington DC. One flask had the combination of silent mutations found in the letters in the Senate building and elsewhere.

[I will not speculate on who did the act. If you have a gun you do not know who fired it without direct evidence of the firing of the gun.]

Amazing but even identical strains have fingerprints of subtle mutations that may be used to track the culprit strain of bacteria.

The forensics of food borne disease may very well resort to this method to find sources of pathogens in the food pipelines.

From the story with emphasis added:

In the email, Karch speculated over why the disease wasn't happening in children, as is normally the case, but only in adults. And why was the infection striking more people that ever before in Germany -- so many, in fact, that dialysis stations in several hospitals were almost full?

Karch and others speculate that the problem could lie in the pathogen itself. Perhaps the genetic material of this rare bacterium has mutated again, so that its toxin or its bond to the intestinal cells it damages has become stronger. Doctors hope that a complete sequencing of the genome, which is now being performed in Münster, will offer some answers.

On Tuesday, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Karch had discovered that the O104:H4 bacteria responsible for the current outbreak is a so-called chimera that contains genetic materia from various E. coli bacteria. It also contains DNA sequences from plague bacteria, which makes it particularly pathogenic. There is no risk, however, that it could cause a form of plague, Karch emphasized in remarks to the newspaper.

On the other hand, it could be engineered.

They should tone down the language there. There is the Type III secretion apparatus in pathogenic E. Coli. That apparatus is found in many pathogenic strains including plague. There are cousins of plague that are benign of course. I doubt we have a real hybrid of plague and E. coli but perhaps it is a novel isolate. We will see.

BTW. Type III secretion is a large nanomachine that directly injects proteins from the bacterium into the host cell to debilitate the cell, kill it, or otherwise mess it up. The thing looks like a giant needle.


Or the Germans will stop cultivating a taste for vegetables that don't grow in their homeland. Much easier to take care of the quality of white asparagus when you know who grew it by name..

Food has always been one of the issues we cover here. Not on the front page anymore, but in the Drumbeat, definitely.

Sure seems like an awful lot of E. Coli food related incidents in past few years that were rare not that long ago. My wife is sick to her stomach as I write this from tainted food bought at the local grocery store. Makes me wonder if the different strains are becoming more virulent.

Good argument for sustainable agriculture. I would like to see food grown locally indoors. Under lights and heated by the power from our local energy generators. Tended by robots again powered by our local energy source. Farm fresh food all year round would be great. Fruits all year round would be great. Anyone have an energy estimate for this form of farming (KWhr/person/year)? There is that MIT mechanical engineer graduate who grows food indoors out in the mid west somewhere on an industrial scale.

I cannot imagine anything worse than that scenario.

Sterile food, grown in sterile conditions. How do the bees get in to pollinate? How do you get the essential soil microfauna that certain plants need? Yes, tomatoes etc are grown like that today, and they are not nearly as good or healthy as ones grown in real sunlight and soil.

And powered by local generators - making your food supply even more dependent on energy inputs than it already is? needing artificial fertiliser inputs?
Tended by robots - to further remove people from stewardship over food production?
Trying to grow fruits out of season? Why not just eat the food that is in season at the time?

I don't have a problem with greenhouse assisted growing - it has some definite advantages, but what you describe sounds thoroughly clinical, and is increasing energy dependence, not reducing.

Sunlight is free, and plants are the original solar cells, I see no reason to use artificial light when we have plenty of the real thing.

What Paul said. How ironic you support sustainable ag and then describe the opposite. Also, do some studying on soil biology. You can't have sustainable ag without sound soil biology. After all, the microbes and worms and such are free.

Maybe this is a useful variation on the basic gist of what you're talking about..

..even up at the Northern half of the Maine Coast, we enjoy the latitude of Southern France, and so ample amounts of Solar Gain through Winter for many appropriate crops.

Eliot Coleman-

At the start of our foray into commercial winter vegetable production in unheated greenhouses, we boldly declared that we wanted to be the "backwards farm." We would produce salads and main course vegetables from October 1 to May 31 and then take a long summer vacation. It's amazing how close to that prediction we came. We do have an eight month, October to May, harvest season but our vacation time is limited to half of June and half of July before we have to get back to work preparing everything for the season to come. Still, we have no complaints. We're having a ball and the response from our customers is the most gratifying in all my years as a professional grower. People love the idea of having really fresh winter food harvested either that day or the day before on a local farm, instead of the usual week-old winter produce from faraway places.

... At whatever level you get involved in the winter harvest, you will discover some of the best food and easiest gardening you have ever experienced. Remember, the winter work is mostly harvesting. All our winter crops were planted during what we now call the "second spring," September and October. Furthermore, there are almost no weeds, the pests have all left for warmer climes, and there is no watering because evaporation is low and the soil groundwater table is high. As crops are harvested and empty spaces appear in our home greenhouse, we sow more seeds whenever the spirit moves us. This gives a wonderful sense of the home garden as an ongoing process or cycle, not the start-and-stop operation it was when we were just summer gardeners. We are forever released from the madness of canning and freezing that once overtook us each fall. And remember, we are doing this in Maine. Over 85% of the United States is farther south than we are and has more sun and warmer winter weather.

..no robots, though.. and the Greenhouses aren't even heated.

Good link Bob,

That is the sort of greenhouse production I can live with (and eat).

Not to be outdone, some folks in Winnipeg have come up with a greenhouse design that lets them grow during Manitoba's frigid (but often sunny) winters.
They can have 0C inside temp when it is -30C outside - which it frequently is there.


This is much better than electric lights and robots!

The Four Season folks are quite well known in the regenerative/permaculture community, of course. The idea here is not to pretend there is no summer, but to use appropriate technology (the least possible energy/tech) to extend the season.

I remember that one. Those are great! It's how I'd do a greenhouse if I had my druthers, partly so I could create 'Hoppers' up against that north wall for masses of composting material as an insulator and heat-source while they decomposed, tapped for heat and biogas... (ala Jean Pain; http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/methane_pain.html )

but I still want a robot.. just not for gardening.

I presume you meant inside the greenhouse, against the north wall?

Ahh, Jean Pain, much talked about but rarely emulated, though I am not quite sure why.

BUT, if you want to see a good scientific study of this concept, with more equations than you can poke a stick at, and comparing the cost efficiency to solar and geothermal, then take a look at this, from the International Journal of Chemical Engineering. full text is downloadable;


And, a rather verbose description of a slightly different way to achieve the same result


And to think that I was mocked for stating that food irradiation is a good thing.

There's 15 bodies we wouldn't have if it were widely accepted, but people are more afraid of second-hand radiation than they are of e. coli.

Food irradiation to get rid of E.coli sounds a lot like where our medical system has gone today. Give the patient a pill or surgical procedure to get rid of the symptom instead of curing the root cause. Stomach stapling to attempt to cure obesity instead of eating less. Nasty medication for blood pressure or cholesterol instead of diet or lifestyle change.

Yes, I know the medications/surgeries are sometimes the only cure. But nowhere as often as they are used.

This is an example of Tainter's admonition about adding complexity to solve problems of complexity. How about we just grow some healthy food in a healthy way?

For 7 billion people.

It's inherently a complex problem, and the only simple solution is to let people die without trying to save them.

That's the problem, isn't it, and I'm always at least bemused by folks who seem to want to depopulate the earth to the tune of billions, in order supposedly to save dozens or hundreds or just maybe thousands.

For years now, the most-asked question by detractors of the good food movement has been, “Can organic agriculture feed the world?” According to a new United Nations report, the answer is a big, fat yes.

The report, Agro-ecology and the Right to Food, released yesterday, reveals that small-scale sustainable farming would even double food production within five to 10 years in places where most hungry people on the planet live.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,” Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, said in a press release. “The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

This story has been covered in various places, I picked one at random.

What people tend to forget or wilfully obfuscate is that monocrop ag is *less* productive per hectare than polyculture. It is more productive of the selected cultivar, but less productive of food in general -- by a factor of anywhere from 2 on up to as much as 10, depending on climate, polyculture mix, etc. What monocrop plantation ag is really good at is capital accumulation (particularly by non-food sectors like equipment and chemicals). But as far as the task of growing enough food to feed 7 bio people, it's far from the sharpest pencil in our box. In fact it's kind of yesterday: a C18 mechanistic-universe model inappropriately applied to highly complex living systems, in defiance of all the last few decades' worth of research on soil biota and nutrient cycles.

To continue fossil-intensive "factory farming" at this point -- liquidating the food-producing capacity of millions of hectares and producing far less nutrition per acre than polyculture in the process -- seems more like condemning people than saving them from where I sit. The UN appears to agree, which would be hopeful if anyone with secular power actually paid any attention to the UN.

Well, if that UN report is to be believed, then Africa has solved, or is on its way solving its food problems.

i should point out that large scale farming, in western countries certainly has solved hunger in those countries - there is no famine or malnutrition in OECD countries.

While it is true that monoculture ag is less productive in terms of food/ha than polyculture, the reason monoculture ag is so widespread is that it is very suited to mechanised farming, so the productivity in food per farmer, is orders of magnitude higher than manual polyculture farming. I western countries with lots of space and relatively few people, monoculture farming is a good fit. In overcrowded third world countries with lots of (unemployed) people then manual polyculture is likely a good fit

I wish Africa success in ending their perpetual hunger, and then we won't need to have all these aid appeals anymore.

I do hope, however, that these farming practises do not end up supporting 9bn people by 2050. Even if we can feed them, I don't think that is a great result for the planet.

"so the productivity in food per farmer, is orders of magnitude higher than manual polyculture farming"

Good points, but the west is getting more and more unemployed people, so maybe it's time to reconsider?

And of course what are all those people who are employed doing? Selling crap to people who can't afford and don't need it so that other people who they don't like will be impressed?

It gets back to very basic questions, as raised by Wendel Berry in his essay "What are people for."

For some reason, the answer for those planing the rural economy was a resounding "NOT FOR FARMING" even though many found this a very satisfying if demanding way of life.

But people on largely self sufficient farms don't tend to spend a lot of money buying crap. And at some point someone decided that making (well not that any more), packaging, transporting, buying, selling, storing...crap was what the economy was going to be about--essentially what they decided people were for.

"no famine or malnutrition in OECD countries"

I agree with the quote below that obesity is a form of malnutrition and OECD countries have just has many malnourished folks as poorer countries.

Obesity and Malnutrition in the United States

The world has 1.1 billion overweight people, the same number as underweight people. Because of the efforts made to reduce the underfed population of the world, this number has decreased a little since 1980, but obesity has soared all over the world. A few South American countries and other developing nations have the same obesity population as European countries. Due to the rise in obesity and the success of nutrition programs, some critics are calling for cuts in these programs. Some would even call hunger and obesity a paradox, but it’s not. The effects of hunger and obesity can vary greatly but someone suffering from starvation does have similarities to one who is obese. Only one suffers from hunger, but both are subject to malnutrition. Obesity is more dangerous for adults because it increases the chance for chronic illness including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, gall bladder disease, and some types of cancer.

there is no famine or malnutrition in OECD countries

This is inaccurate. There are most definitely under-fed and/or poorly fed people in the OECD, and certainly all across the U.S.

While it is true that monoculture ag is less productive in terms of food/ha than polyculture, the reason monoculture ag is so widespread is that it is very suited to mechanised farming, so the productivity in food per farmer, is orders of magnitude higher than manual polyculture farming.

This not a good thing. You are not thinking of the whole system here. We have 20% or so real unemployment, with more coming as things unwind. How is it a good thing these people have no jobs?

Then we look at the FF end of things and it's a sick joke to say mechanization is a good thing.

In terms of soil biology, this massive, FF-fed farming is a true disaster. Those soils are typically 1 or 2 percent carbon because all the fertilizer is chemical, not natural. These are dead soils that will produce next to nothing once the chem fertilizers are ended. It will take several years to turn them around and much longer to actually make them highly productive and full of carbon/organic material.

As they are repopulated with carbon and other organic materials, they will be a massive carbon sink.

You solve all the world's problems by simply gardening well.

I western countries with lots of space and relatively few people, monoculture farming is a good fit.

It is never a good fit anywhere, but that is said with an understanding that we are systemically very f'ed up and need to change the whole game, and very, very quickly.

There are most definitely under-fed and/or poorly fed people in the OECD, and certainly all across the U.S.

This is true, but not because the countries concerned don't have enough food - it is just that many are too poor to buy it, or don;t know how to buy cheaply.

This not a good thing. You are not thinking of the whole system here. We have 20% or so real unemployment, with more coming as things unwind. How is it a good thing these people have no jobs?

Well, i didn't say monoculture was the best thing (I absolutely agree it is not) I was saying it has worked, in terms of producing large amounts of food (though with many external costs). It has also been, generally, the most profitable way to farm, that is why it has proliferated.
It is not a good thing that lots of people have no jobs, but that alone doesn't mean they can get jobs on farms. In order for a farmer to employ someone, they have to pay at least the minimum wage, probably (in the US) provide health insurance, make sure their farm meets all sorts of safety standards, and likely take out some workers compensation insurance, etc. How do you produce large amounts of grain, with manpower, at anything like today's prices? Employing a tractor instead looks pretty simple by comparison.

For these people to get work on the farms, there will need to be more labour intensive farms out there -and while they are growing in number, they are drop in the bucket of monoculture farms.

Then we look at the FF end of things and it's a sick joke to say mechanization is a good thing.
Actually, a certain amount of mechanisation is a good thing. It has eliminated much of the back breaking (and often unsafe) work. Now, the FF part is not so good, but that is the fuel's fault, not of mechanisation. I will also add, I am no fan of ploughing up the earth either - I prefer the methods of no kill, or pasture cropping . It is even possible to do the seeding using an electric vehicle

In terms of soil biology, this massive, FF-fed farming is a true disaster. Those soils are typically 1 or 2 percent carbon because all the fertilizer is chemical, not natural. These are dead soils that will produce next to nothing once the chem fertilizers are ended. It will take several years to turn them around and much longer to actually make them highly productive and full of carbon/organic material.

Yes, conventional tillage and herbicide farming has done this, but that does not mean that all mechanised farming will do this. This is really an issue of poor soil management - which is made easy by large machines.. But a farmer that can practice good soil management, and appropriate use of mehcanisation can actually improve this process;


We have used a simplified system of this (contour ripping) on our family farm to good success - had we known about this system and followed it to the letter it would probably have had outstanding success!

It is never a good fit anywhere, but that is said with an understanding that we are systemically very f'ed up and need to change the whole game, and very, very quickly.

Well, I'll disagree a little. not total monoculture (continuous corn cropping) but rotated crops (wheat, canola, oats etc) along with mixed pastures/livestock provide a manageable multiculture and can work quite well - that is the pattern for many Australian farms. They are not as productive as intensive fertilised systems etc, but low input, and for broadacre, low rainfall land, I think they are a good fit.
The American system, or parts of it, are well, and truly unsustainable in post FF era. But that does not mean it all goes back to gardening. Even the Romans worked out you needed vast wheat fields to feed a city - it will still be a part of our future, but I am all for more participation of more people in food production and (especially) preparation - as opposed to "processing".

Organic agriculture is great. It is far superior to factory monoculture for the quality of food, and can probably generate sufficient food to deal with at least a sizable chunk of our current population.

It does not mitigate risks in the food handling system from bacterial contamination, however. It is also significantly more complex than monoculture factory farming.

There is no magic button you can push to make everything safe, all you can do is choose your risks.

US 'to view major cyber attacks as acts of war'

The Pentagon has adopted a new strategy that will classify major cyber attacks as acts of war, paving the way for possible military retaliation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said the Pentagon plans to unveil its first-ever strategy regarding cyber warfare next month, in part as a warning to foes that may try to sabotage the country's electricity grid, subways or pipelines.

"If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," it quoted a military official as saying.

So what happens if the cyber attackers are a bunch of unemployed computer geeks in their basements in San Francisco?

Local cops will break in and shoot them, obviously.

Attribution is not necessarily easy.

Country X could send an agent to Country Y to launch an attack on Country Z.

Country X could send an agent to Country Z to plant a logic bomb that operates when triggered from Country Y.

The Generals have about a 1 in 20 chance of retaliating against the right country.

Attribution is not necessarily easy.

Attack is done via remote attack-bots, that hapless (but otherwise innocent) users pick up as some form of virus/worm. Then special forces break into houses with infected computers and kill all occupants as if they are enemy agents!!!!

And imagine if they got the address wrong ...

Drug Raid Turns Ugly as SWAT Guns Down Marine Vet

He was a vet so in the eyes of the government he was a domestic terrorist.

He owned a legal gun so in the eyes of the government he was a domestic terrorist.

He was a vet with a gun so in the eyes of the government he was an enemy combatant.

War is Peace.

Clearly Osama Bin Laden does all the bad things. So we just blame him. ;-)

It feels like Y2K to me. Not worried about cyber boggyman.

Lockheed Martin computers under 'significant attack'

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's biggest IT and arms supplier, has thwarted a "significant and tenacious attack" on its computer network, it emerged yesterday...

...A senior Pentagon official recently said that more than 100 foreign intelligence organisations were trying to break into US defence and government networks.

In a world of diminished real capabilities, where the mightiest army on the planet cannot even subdue a religious rebellion, it would seem natural progression for warfare to transition to the low cost digital arena. It would square the circle and allow a wholesale move into the technological fantasy world inhabited by an ever growing portion of the world's population.

They say "attack". I say spying. Every nation on Earth spies on every other nation on Earth. Always have, always will. They are desperate for an excuse to justify their existence.

Its a truism that if you want to know what questionable things a country is doing on the quiet, see what things they complain about others doing.

Industrial/defence spying via IT is are preoccupation of the US, so ....


This just in! The Pentagon announces that any funny faces, rude gestures, or utterances of the word "ni" made in the general direction of the United States will be considered an "Act of WarTM."

"Throw a "ni" our way, maybe we put a missile into one of your shrubberies," a military official was quoted as saying.

Sorry, the preceding was necessary in order to keep my sanity. What little is left...

"If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," it quoted a military official as saying.

So it officially begins: ctrl+alt+killkillkill

Probably the US does more cyber spying than any other nation of the world and they have direct lines to all major Communications equipment and providers all over the world.

NY Fed Investigating Goldman Sachs for Systematically Denying Borrowers’ Attempts to Lower Mortgage Payments

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has begun an investigation into the mortgage-servicing arm of Goldman Sachs, looking at whether it systematically rejected borrowers’ efforts to lower their loan payments through government programs.

The inquiry by the New York Fed arose from a letter sent by an anonymous employee, who accused the Goldman unit, Litton Loan, of denying loans without properly reviewing applications.

... The unidentified person familiar with Litton said some loan modifications were denied because Litton employees made mistakes in calculating the borrower’s income or on the grounds that documents were missing, even if the computer system showed the appropriate paperwork was received, the Financial Times reported.

Big Dams = Big Droughts?

TANSTAAFL, Environment Division:

The region below the Three Gorges Dam has been in severe drought ever since the dam was opened. This headline had me looking again at the correlation between big dams and weather changes. Sure enough, just last February, a collaborative effort by Tennessee Tech, Purdue, U. Georgia, U. Colorado, and Pacific NW Labs confirmed what I had heard 20 years ago. The existence of a dam is directly associated with regional climate change according to the study

Study is here.

Weird! You'd think a large reservoir would cause lake-effects and increased precipitation.

It probably works more like Congestive Heart Failure.. keeps the systems from flowing as they had developed over eons to do. Blocked flows upsets all the other balances..

As I use to like to say: Leave the rivers alone. Waterways are key features in the eco system. They do so much it takes a catalouge to list it all. Spreading corridors for speices, delta build up, soil mixing, providing grounds for complex ecosystems. All this having effects on economical factors such as fisheries and agriculture. Building dams just ain't worth it long term.

Dams are just strip mining rivers and destroy ecosystems.
The sooner they go, the better the planet will be.
Lets start with the Snake.

Japan pensioners volunteer to tackle nuclear crisis

A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.

The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60.

They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

That is a reasonable response, since the most significant threats from radiation are pretty irrelevant by the time you hit 60.

Of course, they are more likely to fall victim to the conventional hazards present, so it is still a brave stand.

I didn't realize that the elderly were immune to melting eyeballs.

If you stand in the middle of a forest fire the radiation will indeed melt your eyeballs, but that isn't what they are volunteering for.

r4 - Yes...brave for sure. In the oil patch we only see two types of reactions when a well tries to blow out: a hand either runs or stands his post. We all like to think we're the latter but you never know for sure until that moment comes. For those volunteers their moment has come and they've made an honorable choice.

Using cost numbers from http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html and 3TW as the US energy use rate. I calculate 2.5 trillion dollars to power the US with on shore wind. That is about four years of the official military budget. So for four years of war we could have energy independence and a carbon free nation. What am I missing here? What have I mis-calculated? Or why not? This does set aside the whole storage issue. Let's hope wind is not correlated across the US. And the cost of the heavy duty electrical grid (aka smart grid) to deliver this across the US.

Can anyone offer a crack at storage costs?

Can anyone offer a crack at heavy duty grid build?

Looks like 100 $/KWhr for pumped hydro. So for 16 hour of US total energy 5 trillion dollars. Throw in another 2.5 trillion of PV and for 10 trillion dollars, 14 years of nominal military spending (8 years of real military spending) we can be energy independent, carbon free, with 100% availability. Better than BAU.

We get what we value.

ed - Exactly...couldn't agree with you more. And thus it is the basis for my very low expectation for a change in BAU. Forget PO for the moment. Consider what we accept for value vs. what it costs us: many folks still smoke because they value it above their health. And many more of us over eat for the same reason. And many drink excessively and then drive because they value it over the prospect off death/injury to ourselves or others.

How many more examples of trade offs can we come up with that don't seem worth it to you, me or many on TOD? And many of these choices would be much easier to accept then changing our energy BAU? That's why I may applaud some of the very clever ideas folks toss out on TOD but in the next breath ask the same question again and again: but what is the doable plan to have that idea implimented? And I've yet to hear one credible idea to get the public/politicians/TPTB on board. Yes....small positive steps here and there. But nothing on a national level.

I'm looking at doing a pumped hydro between and 2 ponds ( almost 200 meters of head ).Batteries are too expensive and disposable and use should be minimized. The last NiFe Battey plant in the US was shut down in the 70's. The Grundfoss Solar SQFlex pumps are amazing, I have many in the field. Any sources for the $100 per kWh number, That must be per kW. Then it would take ~1000 cycles to break even?

Try this one


I make that out to be $1,000/kWh from their site.

True, but they are rumoured to be better than Lead Acid with deeper discharge capacity. The main point though was they are 'made in Montana'.


Chicago area gasoline supplies are very low, due to recent refinery 'upsets' and now this weekend, new problems with the Enbridge pipeline system.

5/31/11 Reuters News 20:58:33

NEW YORK, May 31 (Reuters) - Chicago gasoline rallied on Tuesday after a few of Enbridge Inc's Midwest oil pipelines were shut on power outages in Michigan on Sunday.

Gasoline in the Chicago market rose 15 cents a gallon to 36/38 cents over July RBOB futures.

"Someone definitely had some buying to do," one Midwest trader said.

Chicago gasoline was up 5.00 cents a gallon in the morning, extending its late Friday rally after sellers left the market and refinery problems persisted in the region.

[no link]

Storms cut power to Enbridge U.S. pipelines
Tue May 31, 2011 4:29pm GMT

CALGARY, Alberta, May 31 (Reuters) - Storm-related power outages have shut down a number of Enbridge Inc's (ENB.TO: Quote) oil pipelines in the U.S. Upper Midwest, the company said on Tuesday, exacerbating problems transporting Canadian crude that have pushed oil futures higher.

Severe storms cut electricity to three pumping stations along Enbridge's 290,000 barrel a day Line 6B in Michigan on Sunday, causing a ripple effect on a number of connected lines, spokeswoman Gina Jordan said. Line 6B runs to Sarnia, Ontario, from Griffith, Indiana.

Crews restored power to one 6B station late on Monday, and the line is now running at reduced rates, Jordan said.


Flow Storage Battery (FSB)

Here's one you don't hear about.
The Chinese are making a peak-shifting array?
No wiki page for it.
Very few google hits.




Is a FSB similar to a Flow Battery?






There are more references out there...

Maybe we can use all the Vanadium and Sulfur we will get as by-products from heavy oil/bitumen and use them to make Vanadium-Sulfur flow batteries?


Yes, that looks like it. Thank you very much for the research and the right words. It is all done with words. FSB came from the examples I stumbled across.

This looks very interesting.

Vanadium is what makes the Saudi oil unsuitable for replacing the Libyan, indeed!

An economist's view of history and the reason for the USA "Great Prosperity" of 1945-1970

(Needless to say, no mention of US domestic Peak Oil or World War II):

The Great Prosperity

During three decades from 1947 to 1977, the nation implemented what might be called a basic bargain with American workers. Employers paid them enough to buy what they produced. Mass production and mass consumption proved perfect complements. Almost everyone who wanted a job could find one with good wages, or at least wages that were trending upward.
The Middle-Class Squeeze, 1977-2007

During the Great Prosperity of 1947-1977, the basic bargain had ensured that the pay of American workers coincided with their output. In effect, the vast middle class received an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth. But after that point, the two lines began to diverge: Output per hour — a measure of productivity — continued to rise. But real hourly compensation was left in the dust.

link to source is here

Saudi to build 16 nuclear reactors

RIYADH - OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of 300 billion riyals (S$98.47 billion), an energy official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Newspapers cited Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civilian nuclear agency, as saying the kingdom would launch an international tender for the reactors to be used in generating electricity and desalinating sea water.

'After 10 years we will have the first two reactors. After that, every year we will establish two, until we have 16 by 2030,' he was quoted as saying at the Gulf Environment Forum in Jeddah on Tuesday.

They will sure need the nuclear, if they are to keep exporting oil. Wich they must, since they have nothing else to offer.