Drumbeat: June 17, 2011

U.S. Oil Supply Highest for May Since 1980, API Says

U.S. oil supplies rose to the highest level in 31 years for the month of May as refineries processed less crude amid a decline in gasoline demand, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Inventories increased for a fifth consecutive month to 367.6 million barrels, a record for May in data going back to 1980, the industry-funded group said today in a report. Supplies were up 0.7 percent from April and 2.6 percent from a year earlier. Refineries processed 4.8 percent less crude than during the same month last year, at 14.7 million barrels a day.

“Consumers of gasoline may have been adjusting to higher prices by increasing use of public transportation, more telecommuting, more purchases of fuel efficient vehicles and cutting down on discretionary travel,” John Felmy, chief economist with the Washington-based API, said in a statement.

US Gas Rig Count Falls By 9 This Week, To 870 - Baker Hughes

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- The number of drilling rigs seeking natural gas in the U.S. fell for a second consecutive week, oil-field service company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.

There were 870 rigs targeting natural gas this week, down by nine from the previous week.

What Peak Oil? — US oil and gas reserves grew in 2010

According to Ernst & Young’s 4th annual US exploration and production benchmark study, oil reserves grew by 11% to 17.8 billion barrels in 2010 and natural gas by 12% to 174.3 trillion cu. ft., the strongest oil and gas reserve growth in the last five years.

The World of Oil According to BP - 2010 In Review

As I have stated in other postings, I feel that the reserve-to-production (R/P) number or reserve life index is the key to the future of oil production and consumption. As shown in the graph above, this number has remained static since the late 1980s despite ultra deepwater drilling, drilling in increasingly hostile environments, the growing exploitation of oil sourced from tar sands and the massive upgrade to the volume of recoverable oil in Venezuela.

In my estimation, the reserve life index number is telling us that peak oil is on our doorstep….or behind us. Only time will tell.

Iran warns China over South Pars gas deal-report

TEHRAN (Reuters) - China should fulfill its duties in developing a phase of Iran's South Pars gas field or the contract would be cancelled, the semi-official Mehr news agency on Friday quoted the country's top oil company as saying.

TEPCO panel sizes up its task / Talks to cover compensation, breaking monopolies, pension cuts

An independent committee tasked with examining the financial situation of beleaguered Tokyo Electric Power Co. will discuss the option of cutting TEPCO employees' corporate pensions, according to a provisional agenda disclosed by the panel.

During its inaugural meeting Thursday, the government-appointed panel also signaled it might discuss changes to the current framework for the electric power industry, under which regional utilities are responsible for both power generation and transmission.

Neb. nuclear plants prepared for flood, say feds

(CBS/AP) OMAHA, Neb. — Federal regulators say the utilities running both of Nebraska's nuclear power plants have taken the steps needed to protect them from flooding from the Missouri River.

Obama Hydrogen Fuel Failure Conceded by Chu Paring Budget: Cars

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose mandate includes getting more fuel-efficient cars on U.S. roads, is disregarding advisers in his own department and seeking to cut almost half the federal funding for hydrogen-powered autos.

Canary in a phosphate mine

Not long ago, Nauru was one of the wealthiest nations on Earth: The phosphate mines, before they dried up, gave the nation the second-highest per-capita GDP in the world. But today, 90% of its residents are unemployed and the nation's economy sags under enormous debt. The phosphate mineral money that brought Ferraris to the island in the 1970s and '80s has dried up, leaving all those sports cars to rust. Today, most Nauruans live on about 90 to 100 Australian dollars a week.

Australia: Fertile plains under frack attack

Durum wheat is going head-to-head with coal seam gas in a battle over the state's top agricultural region.

Climate change 'will end economic growth'

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Well as we've seen today in Canberra, getting agreement on how to respond to climate change is proving to be hard work.

Two men who share a deep interest in the economic impact of climate change are Paul Gilding and Thomas Friedman.

Sustainability consultant Paul Gilding is a former CEO of Greenpeace International and he's also the author of The Great Disruption: why the climate crisis will bring on the end of shopping and the birth of a new world.

A world of 10 billion

In some places, the challenges are so vast as to steal one’s breath. Within two decades, the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is expected to balloon to 148.5 million, up from 66 million today. Congo and other poverty-stricken African countries, where fertility rates remain high, will produce much of the world’s future population growth: Germany and Ethiopia now have comparable populations (82 and 83 million people respectively), a UN report notes, but by 2050, Germany’s population is expected to decline to 75 million people, while Ethiopia’s will hit 145 million. It makes the problems of one child in Visoko, Bosnia, look eminently solvable—though even there our best intentions don’t add up to much. Despite brave promises of lifelong financial support at the time of his birth, Adnan’s family now survives on about 250 euros per month. “Had I known back then what I know today, I would never have allowed the UN to declare him the six-billionth person,” Fatima Nevic recently told Maclean’s. “Basically, everyone forgot about us.”

Yet speak to experts whose careers revolve around the population equation, and you’ll also hear notes of surprising optimism—in part because population growth is moderating toward a more manageable pace. With fertility levels slipping in many parts of the world, it will take an estimated 14 years, from 2011 to 2025, for the world to add its eight-billionth person, and another 18 years to add its ninth. Adding number 10 billion won’t happen until 2083, a full 40 years after the nine billionth is born. These forecasts are based on the UN Population Division’s “medium-variant” scenarios, which are considered the most likely to come to pass. The bureau’s highest possible projection puts the world population at an appalling 15.8 billion in 2100, but its lowest would have us at 6.2 billion. That latter figure bears repeating: the human race might actually shrink.

Oil Producer Deadlock Leaves Saudis Calling Shots on $100 Crude

More than a week after Saudi Arabia failed to persuade its fellow OPEC members to increase oil output, analysts and investors are still trying to sort out the meaning of the fracas. One of the consequences may be the death of OPEC, or at least its irrelevance for the foreseeable future.

China is World’s Largest Energy Consumer

San Antonio, Texas – World consumption of energy has increased 5.6 percent in 2010, according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. This is the largest increase since 1973, which happened to be a memorable year in energy history. At the time, the U.S. was by far the largest consumer of energy, devouring 1,812 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe)—more than 30 percent of the world’s total—as the country faced an energy crisis, oil embargo and record high oil prices.

In 2010, another pivotal moment occurred in energy history: The country consuming most of the world’s energy was no longer the U.S., but China.

Kurt Cobb - Shale Gas: Not a 'Game Changer' After All

Newly accessible natural gas from deep shale deposits around the world has been touted as a solution to everything from oil dependence to climate change. But our actual experience with shale gas extraction is telling another story.

Ohio Senate Passes Bill Allowing O&G Drilling in State-Owned Lands

A bill allowing drilling for oil and natural gas in parks, forests, and other state-owned lands passed the Ohio Senate Wednesday after the chamber again rejected an attempt to place Lake Erie off limits.

Obama's opening up Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve. Does anyone care?

The Obama administration says it will expedite lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, holding one sale this December and then sales every year after that.

The news, coming during a congressional hearing Thursday morning on a bill that would require annual lease sales in NPR-A, among other things, makes good on a promise President Obama offered in May, when Americans were first beginning to grapple with high gasoline prices. The president used a nationally-broadcasted speech on the energy crisis and rising pump prices to vow to do more to bring domestic oil to market, including in Alaska.

But now, the real question is: Do oil companies really care about NPR-A anymore?

Analysis: Latin America Rig Activity Grows

Latin America oil and gas activity is booming, with year-on-year rig activity increases from April 2010 to April 2011 in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, according to a recent report by London-based Evaluate Energy.

Fuel crisis attributed to cash transactions

Malawi Government has attributed the current fuel shortage to the expiry of Letters of Credit which forced suppliers to demand cash payments for fuel destined for Malawi.

In a statement released on Thursday to explain the current crisis, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, however, assured Malawians that the situation will stabilise soon as it is expected that new Letters of Credit would be put in place and foreign exchange being provided by commercial banks.

Pakistan: Many areas still facing fuel shortage

LAHORE: Many areas in Punjab and Malakand are still facing fuel shortage however the supply resumed in many cities including Faisalabad and Sargodha, Geo News reported.

Majority of the fuel stations in Chechawatni are short of fuel and therefore the locals are facing difficulty in carrying out day-to-day activities.

Madagascar Calls for Calm Amid Gas-Station Queues, Express Says

Madagascar’s mines and hydrocarbons minister, Mamy Rakotoarivelo, called for calm as queues formed at gas stations across the country for a third day amid speculation of a fuel shortage, l’Express reported.

UAE: No end to fuel shortage after three weeks

Petrol shortage in Sharjah and northern emirates entered third week with no signs of ending soon, even as officials remain silent over the reason behind the crisis.

A public statement by the ENOC group, the parent company of Eppco and Enoc stations, is still forthcoming despite Sharjah Executive Council’s plea and the sustained silence is only fueling speculations, UAE’s oldest English daily Khaleej Times reported.

Syrian security forces shoot dead 8 protesters

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces killed at least eight people Friday, activists said, as thousands of people poured into the streets across the country calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad's autocratic regime.

The protests came hours after Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships seized control early Friday of another northwestern town in the latest military operation to quell the dissent.

Since the protests erupted in mid-March, Assad has unleashed the military to crush street demonstrations. Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained.

Utility Starts Filtering Water at Stricken Japanese Nuclear Plant

TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power, the utility trying to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, took a significant step forward on Friday when it began operating a huge filtration system that it hopes will ease the amount of contaminated water produced at its damaged reactors.

Japanese ordered to take siestas to save power

Faced with an energy crisis as the summer arrives in Japan, one prefecture is adopting a habit that was previously anathema to hard-working Japanese - the midday siesta.

Oklahoma tribe unveils solar energy project

An Anadarko-based American Indian tribe unveiled a solar energy project on Wednesday that tribal officials said would save it thousands of dollars and could lead to new jobs coming to southwestern Oklahoma.

DOE Loves Solar, Offers $150M Loan Guarantee to 1366 Technologies

Solar has emerged to be the government’s favorite source of renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy announced loan guarantees for four solar projects earlier this week and on Friday named 1366 Technologies as the fifth winner.

Review: Reinventing Collapse – Revised and Updated by Dmitry Orlov

Reinventing Collapse is intended to give readers a concrete sense of how they can change their lives to better face the reality ahead. Everyone's starting point, argues Orlov, should be eliminating his or her need for money. He’s certain that America will choose to inflate away its debt à la the Soviet Union, making the dollar effectively worthless. Those who divest themselves of exposure to dollar depreciation will be poised not just to survive but to flourish in these trying times. For example, someone with the foresight to stockpile basic supplies like razor blades, medications and soap will be well-positioned to barter for other things.

How Do Doomsayers Cope When the World Doesn't End?

Perhaps the best-known example of a failed scientific prophecy came from Stanford biology professor Paul Ehrlich and his wife Anne, who in their 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted massive global starvation due to overpopulation in the 1970s and ’80s. Was there starvation in those decades? Yes. Was it massive and global? No. Were the Ehrlichs chastened? Not so much. While they concede their scariest doomsday scenarios were “way off,” on the larger question of looming disaster they say they were “too optimistic.”

These cases give us insight into the doomsayer’s mentality. Are they flung into an abyss of existential despair when their predictions don’t come true? I won’t say it never happens. The leader of the Japanese sect Ichigen no Miya (“The Shrine of the Fundamental Truth”) predicted an earthquake would destroy his country on June 18, 1974, at 8 a.m. Distraught when proven wrong, he attempted suicide. But he’s an exception. More commonly the reaction is: eh, so I messed up on the scheduling details. From a meta point of view I was right.

Richard Heinberg: The Shrinking Pie: Post-Growth Geopolitics

As nations compete for currency advantages, they are also eyeing the world’s diminishing resources—fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural land, and water. Resource wars have been fought since the dawn of history, but today the competition is entering a new phase.

Nations need increasing amounts of energy and materials to produce economic growth, but—as we have seen—the costs of supplying new increments of energy and materials are increasing. In many cases all that remains are lower-quality resources that have high extraction costs. In some instances, securing access to these resources requires military expenditures as well. Meanwhile the struggle for the control of resources is re-aligning political power balances throughout the world.

China evacuates 500,000 as flooding breaks worst drought in 50 years

China has evacuated more than 500,000 people from deadly floods that are devastating areas in the south of the country following the worst drought in 50 years.

...The dramatic shift is in line with weather trends identified by the Beijing Climate Centre, which says rain is coming in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought.

Dog-walking collective strolls thin line between anarchist principles, profits

Moving from would-be anarchist to successful business owner brings a few quandaries. If you oppose the idea of a state, should you pay taxes? Is it ethically sound to care for the animals of professionals while they are at work at institutions such as the International Monetary Fund? And if you don’t believe in corporations, should you buy health insurance from one?

From the start, Brighter Days has taken a path in the middle, keeping as close to its anarchist ideals as possible while running a legitimate business.

Rare Earth Prices Double on China Controls

Prices of the rare earths used in lasers and plasma televisions more than doubled in the past two weeks as China tightens control of mining, production and exports, according to market researcher Industrial Minerals.

The cost of dysprosium oxide, used in magnets, lasers and nuclear reactors, has risen to about $1,470 a kilogram from $700 to $740 at the start of the month, Industrial Minerals said in an e-mailed statement. Europium oxide, used in plasma TVs and energy-saving light bulbs, has more than doubled.

Oil Heads for Biggest Weekly Decline in Six on Concern Over European Debt

Oil dropped to its lowest price in four months in New York on concern the Greek debt crisis will threaten Europe’s economic recovery, curbing fuel demand.

Futures fell as much as 3 percent after Luxembourg’s Jean- Claude Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, was cited in a newspaper as saying Greece faces “an extremely difficult process.” Crude is down 4.8 percent this week as data showed U.S. manufacturers turned pessimistic in June and demand for diesel declined. Prices will slide further next week, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

Natural Gas Declines to Three-Week Low in N.Y. After Inventory Increases

Natural gas futures dropped the most in six weeks on speculation that U.S. supplies are adequate to meet summer demand from power plants.

Gas fell for a fourth day after the Energy Department said stockpiles rose 69 billion cubic feet in the week ended June 10 to 2.256 trillion, matching estimates made by analysts before the report was released. Gas reached a 10-month high on June 9 on forecasts for hotter-than-normal weather.

Could We See A Summer Oil Shortage? This Economist Says Yes.

Oil prices might be high, but there’s no shortages around the world, right? Think again, says Anas Alhajji, chief economist at NGP Energy Capital Management in Dallas. The U.S. might be getting all the oil it demands, but the story is different in places like China and Iraq, where because of electric power shortages governments and private citizens are turning to diesel. China has banned exports of diesel in efforts to secure enough to combat outages and has reduced production of chemicals to conserve fuel. Iraq in March bought 50 diesel generators to ease outages, with the nation’s electricity minister promising 16 hours of power a day by 2012.

Venezuela to begin rationing electricity

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela will soon begin rationing electricity in several regions because of recurring power outages, the country's energy minister said Wednesday.

Mexico says $250 million in oil stolen in 4 months

Mexican officials say increasingly sophisticated gangs stole about 20,000 barrels per day of oil products from government facilities in the first four months of 2011. The stolen oil was worth about $250 million.

Venezuela's businesses wary of energy rationing

CARACAS, Venezuela - Business leaders on Thursday warned that the government's plans to ration electricity because of recurring power outages could curb production and thereby slow Venezuela's economic recovery.

Russia must reduce reliance on oil prices- Medvedev

(Reuters) - Russia must reduce its reliance on high oil prices and must press on with modernisation of its economy in the next few years, regardless of who is in charge, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

Russia May Sell Rosneft as Medvedev Urges More Privatization

(Bloomberg) -- Russia said it may surrender state control of its largest oil producer as President Dmitry Medvedev urged a bigger privatization program to lure investors and speed up the lowest rate of growth among major emerging economies.

Russia, China postpone major gas deal

The presidents of Russia and China have postponed the signing of a major deal to supply Siberian natural gas to energy-hungry coastal China.

How China gained the upper hand in Russian gas talks

China is eager to import Russian gas to help meet its surging energy needs and reduce dependence on environmentally damaging coal.

However, during the five years that the Russian gas deal has been under negotiation, China has moved to secure alternative supplies, signing contracts with gas producers in the Middle East, Australia, Burma and central Asia. China has also discovered large reserves of shale gas that could eventually provide a large source of indigenous energy, easing the pressure to import gas.

BP committed to Russian venture: Dudley

(Reuters) - British oil major BP remains committed to its Russian joint venture TNK-BP, CEO Bob Dudley said on Friday.

Dudley also told Reuters that BP was looking at cooperation with state-controlled oil major Rosneft outside Russia, after the co-owners of TNK-BP blocked a deal to search for oil in the Russian Arctic and do a $16 billion share swap.

Four foreign firms ready for Arctic development says Rosneft

State-run oil giant Rosneft has chosen three or four foreign companies for cooperation in the development of Russia's energy-rich Arctic shelf, CEO Eduard Khudainatov said on Friday without naming them.

"The number of companies that have enough potential for this partnership in the world is small. They are three or four companies. We are working with all of them," Khudainatov told RIA Novosti.

Pemex Plans Refinancing After Yields Reach Seven-Month Low: Mexico Credit

America Movil SAB and Petroleos Mexicanos, the biggest Mexican issuers of debt in international markets last year, are considering selling bonds to refinance debt after their benchmark yields fell to a seven-month low.

Billionaire Cisneros to Team With Chinese Banks in Latin America Oil, Gold

Cisneros, who first traveled to China about 30 years ago with billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller, is expanding into deals with the Chinese after shedding beverage and consumer-goods companies and America Online Latin America since the early 1990s to focus on his Venevision television network. Banks in China, the third-largest source of foreign direct investment in Latin America, lent Brazil’s state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA $10 billion in 2009 in exchange for oil supplies, among credit provided to secure resources from the region.

Kuwait ruler warns against unrest, security threats

KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait's emir said Wednesday the Gulf state would show "zero tolerance" to anyone threatening the OPEC oil exporter's security, after the opposition held weekly rallies demanding that the prime minister step down.

Thanks to a generous welfare system, Kuwait has avoided the mass protests that have forced out the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia.

Philippines to China: Don't intrude into our water

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine President Benigno Aquino III insisted Friday that his country won't be bullied by China in a territorial spat over the Spratly Islands, but also announced an end to oil exploration in the disputed waters that had angered Beijing.

China to boost coastal forces amid sea tensions

China will boost offshore surveillance by adding ships and 6,000 personnel by 2020 in a move likely to raise tensions with South China Sea neighbours staking rival claims to waters thought to hold vast reserves of oil and gas.

Gas Terminal Shut Down Due To Flooding

OMAHA, Neb. -- A terminal that supplies a large amount of gasoline has been shut down due to flooding. The Magellan Midstream Partners Terminal near Abbott Drive closed Sunday.

While there’s adequate supply elsewhere, there’s uncertainty about when this terminal will be able to reopen.

EON ‘Acted Early’ to Buy Back German Power After Nuclear Reactor Halts

EON AG, Germany’s biggest utility, has bought back lost future electricity production it had already sold from two nuclear plants that were ordered to shut by Chancellor Angela Merkel in March.

NRC members refuse to answer Vt. Yankee questions

The five members of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission refused to say Thursday whether they had voted in secret a day earlier on whether to ask the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Entergy Corp. against the state of Vermont over the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Russia takes nuclear power seaward with 8 floating power plants

Russia is putting the finishing touches on the first of 8 new massive floating nuclear power plants. It plans to use the behemoth energy generators in the Arctic ocean to power the search for new oil and natural gas deposits. The reactors are built on giant platforms that resemble huge cargo ships, each one carrying a staggering $336 million price tag.

With its new power plants, Russia hopes to secure as much of the unclaimed Arctic resources as possible, further cementing its position as a major player in world energy resources.

Nuclear Plant, Left for Dead, Shows a Pulse

The Tennessee Valley Authority says a half-built nuclear plant shelved 23 years ago may be its best bet for new energy.

The Tricky U.S. Reactor Tally

At the entrance to the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant in Hollywood, Ala., are morale-building posters for Tennessee Valley Authority employees. In bold type, they proclaim “106.”

The number refers to how many nuclear reactors the United States would have if the Bellefonte 1 reactor were finished, but such prognostications are dicey.

International Energy Agency fears higher emissions if nuclear power is cut

The International Energy Agency has warned that the world faces higher energy costs, more carbon emissions and greater supply uncertainty if it turns its back on nuclear power.

U.S. solar power industry booms, gains globally

Solar energy remains one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy as its photovoltaics produced 66% more power in the first quarter of this year than during the same time last year, the industry reports Thursday.

Mapping Sun’s Potential to Power New York

Two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map to be made public on Thursday.

One million Bangladesh homes on solar power

DHAKA (AFP) – The number of households in electricity-starved Bangladesh using solar panels has crossed the one million mark -- the fastest expansion of solar use in the world, officials said Wednesday.

In 2002, just 7,000 households were using solar panels but now more than a million households -- or some five million people -- gather solar energy, said Nazmul Haq of the Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL).

Plan for Hydroelectric Dam in Patagonia Outrages Chileans

SANTIAGO, Chile — A white gas mask hanging from her neck, Paula Bañados strode side by side with 30,000 other marchers through this capital one recent Friday, a determined look on her face.

“Patagonia without dams!” Ms. Bañados, 19, shouted with the others, pumping a fist in the air.

John Michael Greer: Profligacies of Scale

Promoters of giant wind turbines, and for that matter of centralized power generation schemes of all kinds, tend to talk quite a bit about economies of scale. In an expanding economy with a stable or growing resource base, that sort of talk often makes sense, though the extent to which those economies of scale are a product of direct and indirect government subsidies to transportation, financing, and large businesses generally is not something economists like to talk about. Still, in a world facing economic contraction, resource depletion, and a loss of complexity potentially capable of rendering a great deal of today’s infrastructure useless or worse, the balance swings the other way. In the face of a future where small, cheap, localized approaches that are sparing in their use of resources, relying on massive, expensive, centralized, resource-intensive power plants of any kind is not an economy but a profligacy of scale, and one that we very probably will not be able to afford for much longer.

Monbiot - Peak oil: 'Nothing to worry about' – but Labour knew the real facts

Were official warnings brushed aside by ministers or was the government knowingly misleading the public?

Finnish president: 'We've overestimated the Lisbon Treaty'

As co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, do you think governments are taking the right action to tackle scarcity of raw materials, peak oil and rising populations? Or are we heading for a worst-case scenario?

The panel takes into account a number of factors. I call it a 'modern trinity' of economic, social and environmental priorities.

It means that we welcome economic growth. It's needed. But we also respect planetary boundaries and we want economic growth to also be inclusive and contain social justice. A few words on what I mean by this...

Energy efficiency can avert disaster

About 1,500 people from Canada and around the world will meet in Toronto beginning Sunday for a world conference on disaster management, sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness.

The conference will deal with planning for disasters of all shapes and sizes. And what intrigues me is the fact that conference officials chose to have Lester Brown as their opening speaker.

Made in USA: Overseas jobs come home

This trend of reshoring or insourcing is likely to grow in the coming years, as the cost gap between building overseas and building at home narrows. It's an encouraging sign in a job market where hiring has stalled in recent months.

Senate Rejects Effort to Cut Ethanol Subsidy

WASHINGTON—A Senate effort to take away ethanol subsidies came up short Tuesday but exposed weakened support for a $6 billion tax break, suggesting that the incentive could be eliminated.

The Senate didn't reach the 60 votes needed to proceed to a vote, undermined by Democratic leaders frustrated at the procedural maneuver used to bring the measure to the floor. But in the process of reaching the 40-59 vote, a coalition of conservatives and environmentalists challenged the legitimacy of the subsidies as their peers became entangled in a larger debate over tax breaks in an age of deficits.

Engineering a Cleaner Way to Fly

Biofuels, especially second-generation methods that don’t cut into the food supply, are increasingly seen by the aviation industry as a way to offset the volatility of traditional fuel prices. The exploration in the industry has also been in response to increasing emission regulations and the potential for an aviation biofuel credit market in the European Union.

“As an industry, we have to find a way to eliminate the volatility,” said Scott. “We won’t predict when peak oil is going to happen, or whether it has already happened. But you need to get going on this.”

Farm Jobs Lost? Blame Environmentalists! (Or Not.)

The Pacific Institute, one of the premier research organizations on water issues, has undermined the conventional wisdom in California’s Central Valley with its latest report.

Farmers and most other residents in the state’s breadbasket blame environmentalism run amok for forcing them to leave fields unplanted when the water they hoped for was diverted to benefit the endangered ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. But the institute’s report, based on an extensive analysis of federal and state data as well as the records of water districts, argues that environmental constraints played at best a minor role in water shortages and rural unemployment.

How Calif. Farmers Finessed Impacts of Long Drought but Could Stumble in the Next One

Christian-Smith cautioned that the methods used to adapt are not, in her view, sustainable for longer periods of dry weather predicted for later in the century, which could be harsher and prolonged by global warming.

"California was relatively resilient in this last drought," she said. "But we have very little in the way of long-term adaptation or mitigation strategies. This state is precariously situated."

Asia’s Food Security Conundrum: More Apparent Than Real? – Analysis

There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet one billion people are hungry. Biotech approaches to food production will not enhance food security in Asia unless severe distortions in existing food production are first addressed.

Global Food Price Volatility a Fact of Life

In effect, however, the authors skirt gingerly around the issue that drives price volatility and everything else about food production, and that is a population that is rising faster than the earth can adjust. The report notes that by the end of 2011 global population will rise to 7.7 billion. It is rising population that strains resources, is driving global warming, diverting water from rural to urban populations and increasing pollution of the world’s rivers and oceans.

Japan says it won't extend carbon reduction pledge

BONN, Germany - Japan affirmed Thursday it will not extend its legal commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gases after they expire in 2012.

Arctic melts faster than IPCC's forecasts

As a fortnight of climate talks wrap up in Bonn, the latest scientific data on the rate of Arctic warming show dramatic levels of melting and sea level rise occurring far faster than previous estimates.

Re: Russia May Sell Rosneft as Medvedev Urges More Privatization

I see the monetarist disease is still afflicting the Russian leadership. Magic privatization of profits is a recipe for transfer price scams to move the money offshore a la Yukos. Recently Khodorkovsky in an NTV interview claimed it was absurd for Russia to expect Rotterdam prices for oil. This sums up privatization quite nicely; the oligarch owners think the whole operation is just for them. No way, the oil wealth really does belong to the people. Arguments about market efficiencies are academic flatulence in this context.

I don't see a problem as long as oligarchs remember that they are not owners, but mere managers of their empires. That way they can always be rallied to do what the state wants. Chukotka project and olympic buildup come to mind.

There can be a problem if Medvedev really believes what he says. But then he won't last long at the top.

Re: Times they are a-changin'

Ethanol Subsidies: Regarding the Senate vote on ethanol, the WSJ reports that there was a second, and successful, vote on ending ethanol subsides, but I gather that it was mostly symbolic at this point.

Social Security Benefits: The WSJ also is reporting that the board of directors of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is dropping its opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits.

The story up top regarding Ethanol subsidies from the WSJ was dated 14 June. The main subsidy, which is given to the blenders, not the producers of ethanol, may yet be killed...

E. Swanson

Here's an excerpt from today's WSJ (as noted above, the vote at this point may be mostly symbolic):

Ethanol suffers loss in Senate

Gasoline blenders currently get a tax credit of 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol they blend with motor fuel. Tuesday's amendment would repeal that as well as a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol.

This double whammy, aimed at the US domestic ethanol industry
is criminally stupid. It helps Brazilian imports, hurting the dollar as well as US corn prices, because the mandate remains.
You can be sure this will accelerate the destruction of tropical rainforest as more cropland gets moved into Amazonia. The beneficiaries are speculators in Brazilian land/ag.

I see your concerns...ideas:

1. Eliminate the blend mandate

2. Keep the imported ethanol tariff.

3. Mandate higher MPG standards for U.S. vehicles...eliminate exemptions for SUVs/Pick Up trucks, etc.

4. Impose a small but continually rising fuel tax in the U.S., to bring our gasoline prices to ~8/gallon after 5 years and make that the 'floor'. This will provide the much-vaunted 'certainty' which consumers and especially businesses so crave in order to be able to do anything useful wrt planning future operations.

If Brazil turns the entire Cerrado into sugarcane plantations, under the ideas I enumerated above, it will be their and the Rest of the World's (ROW) fault...we can sleep in peace.

Include legislation to require the U.S. government to make an annual determination as to whether or not ethanol importation and production is having a negative impact on the Brazilian rain forest. If if it is determined that the negative impact is being created, ban imports of Brazilian ethanol.

Anyway, this isn't going anywhere in the U.S. House of Representatives and I believe that Obama doesn't support doing away with the blender's credit as he needs to get every vote he can get in the next election.

It is a shame that the House does not believe in reducing government expenditures, particularly tax-giveaway subsidies which would corrupt the so-called free market.

The yearly determination idea is unnecessarily complex: let the Brazilians do what they may, but we won't be party to it. They are growing and will have plenty of their own demand, as well as no shortage of buyers from places such as China, if the product isn't all sopped up by other SouthAm counties.


1. The blender's credit helps oil companies buy ethanol to meet the EPA mandate and indirectly helps US corn farmers.
Remove the 10% cap on ethanol in gasoline.

2.Absolutely, we don't need any more energy imports. Actually we should be exporting energy to an energy poor world( Reverse ELM).

3.Higher mpg ratings is imperative but people still love their
SUVs and trucks.
Let's be reasonable--nobody is going to build Light Rail in a corn field, so we're going to need IC transport in the future. Therefore we'll need E85/M85 flexfuel vehicles as most here believe(myself included) that world oil production is going to decline or at least not grow. We can most easily move from oil to alcohol, so I have no objection to flexfuel vehicles that reduce
the amount of gallons of petroleum used per mile. Ethanol comes from biomass and methanol from 'plentiful' natural gas (or coal).

4. Raising the fuel price is doing things the hard way.
People have to buy fuel, it's not a choice.

A $30k 25 mpg car might use $75k in fuel over its 15 year life span, it's easier to pay up front.

The easy way is to force the car companies to increase the mpg.

Sleep in peace? I doubt it.

The rainforest everywhere on earth is poorly suited to agriculture.
The soil is poor, the erosion is torrential and on the monsoon cycle--dry winter wet summer.
It is best suited as a carbon sink and habitat to tropical animals.
The temperate zone has always been the breadbasket of the world, the home of modern agriculture.

If we 'encourage' the Third World to destroy their environment in pursuit of our wonderful/wretched lifestyle, we will bear the guilt also.

"4. Raising the fuel price is doing things the hard way.
People have to buy fuel, it's not a choice.
A $30k 25 mpg car might use $75k in fuel over its 15 year life span, it's easier to pay up front.
The easy way is to force the car companies to increase the mpg."
To fairly incorporate the externalities created from "producing" energy from oil, the price of gasoline should be much higher. That's what's got us into this mess ultimately in the first place in my opinion since artificially cheap gasoline has stagnated the development of other better energy systems. And with gasoline becoming expensive, electric cars would look even more favourable than they do right now.

With respect to (3): add countless pages of rules to redraw the boundary now set at SUVs/pickup trucks. After all, if you set a blanket limit of X mpg, whatever X may be, there will still need to be trucks etc. that simply can't run on X mpg. So, then, if you draw the boundary at legitimate business trucks, add hundreds of pages of regulations to define what legitimate business might be for this purpose, and to try to seal off all the loopholes that will be seized at to game the definition. As long as considerable numbers of people still want to drive large vehicles, and irrespective of whether you or I or anyone else approves of that or not, this will never end.

I think the legislators have this one half right.

Since ethanol has a mandate, in the form of the RFS, the 45c tax credit is redundant.
And since, as you say, people buying fuel "is not really a choice" , and the refiners don't really have a choice either, as they are required to to blend the ethanol into the fuel that people have no choice but to buy, why is the credit necessary?

It is the equivalent of paying drivers to obey the speed limit.

So getting rid of the credit is fine - but I would leave one exemption that still gets the credit - and that is any and all ethanol sold as E85 (or methanol as M85 for that matter). Currently E85 is a tiny fraction of the total ethanol sales. Most people with Flex fuel cars don't use it. But if it was going to be significantly cheaper, then people would use it, and there is much more incentive to buy and build flex fuel cars.

In fact, I have proposed before, to double the tax credit on E85.

There is also more incentive for the carmakers to optimise the performance of those cars for ethanol fuel - a bit more development of projects like this can unleash the true potential of alcohol fuels - which is diesel like efficiency.

Ricardo’s EBDI engine technology solves many of the shortcomings of current generation flex-fuel engines, which are typically only optimized for gasoline operation and do not make full use of the properties of ethanol. Unlike existing flex-fuel technologies EBDI takes full advantage of ethanol’s properties of high octane and latent heat of vaporization to deliver near-diesel levels of engine efficiency at substantially reduced cost.

The import tariff should stay, and should also be matched by an equivalent tariff on (imported) oil - the idea is to make domestically produced fuels, of all sorts, more competitive, while simultaneously reducing imports. To be politically palatable, this would likely be offset by the elimination of the federal excise on gasoline, but that would still be an improvement.

So, by subsidising alcohol fuel (instead of alcohol in fuel) there is a much better incentive to use it, and develop vehicles that use it. And with the RFS still there, there is still the hammer to force the hand of the oil co's, if need be.

AARP is advocating a necessary, but not in itself, sufficient move towards balancing the U.S. budget.

In order to get to the promised land, next we need to see three things:

1. A similar consensus to contain health care costs.

2. The 'Grover Norquist crowd' announce that it is time to sunset the GW Bush tax cuts, as well as eliminate some personal and corporate 'tax subsidies' in the current tax code. Also, implement a significant, phased-in-over time gas/diesel tax.

3. Politicians of all stripes embrace cutting the Military/Defense budget.

IMHO, all this bickering about which things to cut most from the federal budget is just a handy distraction from the real economic problems in the USA. My best estimate is that the USA is currently spending about $2 Trillion per year, that's two million millions in BBC talk, to keep our highway based transportation system going, and most of that is spent by individual citizens. That's the biggest avoidable expense in the country, and the one that could most easily be cut by significant amounts. For example, a 5% cut would come to $100 billion per year. We could probably get that just by most people voluntarily cutting their annual auto mileage by about 10%.

Breadman, two questions:

1. If the $2T is 'mostly spent by individuals', then what is the mechanism by which individuals cutting their auto travel expenses helps balance the U.S. government public expenditures and revenues?

2. By what mechanism do you propose achieving a 10% voluntary cut in U.S. auto travel mileage (and thus a cut in their travel expenses)?

I would offer that a fuel tax of sufficient magnitude would cause a reduction in miles driven. In addition, the revenue from that could be used to help balance budgets.


1. The effects on the federal budget would be mostly indirect. For example, people might not be so strongly opposed to small tax increases, if they had a little more breathing room in their personal finances, due to spending less on their cars.

2. While I’m not opposed to gas tax increases, there are other approaches that might be tried first. For example, Obama hasn’t been very bold in his use of “the bully pulpit”, and in fact, hasn’t even been willing to acknowledge the possibility of peak oil. As far as I know, he has never even said the words, as if he was living in a bubble, with no contact with the outside world.

And BTW, when I used the word bickering, I was thinking mostly of the Washington politicians, and not anyone here on the Oil Drum. Discussion here on the Oil Drum is quite civil, compared to some of the news coming out of Washington.

Many of the costs of owning and driving a car are essentially fixed, and there's the rub. That 10% would average on the order of 1200 miles per car per year, saving a whopping $148 on gas at $3.70 and 30mpg. Throw in incremental wear-and-tear and bump that to, oh, $240, for a round $20/month (remember that rust and deterioration never sleep even when you don't drive the darned thing.) $20/month isn't zero of course, and we can nitpick the exact amount, but for the great majority it will be lost in just the noise of shrinking grocery packages, never mind galloping medical inflation.

Really, there's no noticeable breathing room to be had that way, so there's no particular reason, save for a physical shortage, why it would happen. (In this economy, of course, we must note that becoming unemployed would remove the commute, making possible a large reduction, which is probably the main reason we saw the dip in oil use - but that would be changing the subject to a different scenario.)


More realistically, rust is drastically slowed down if you can keep a car clean and dry all winter, and not drive it when roads have been salted.

For the past two winters I've been using a taxi 15 to 20 times over the winter in order to leave my clean car sitting in the driveway. My usual taxi trip only costs $5, so twenty trips is only $100 per year.

The big savings will be from stretching the useful life of this 15 year old car by another two or three years. That translates into two or three more years before I have to make any more car payments, with savings of $3 to $4 thousand per year. Not a bad return for a $100 annual expense, and I don't even have to shovel the driveway!

Another good way to reduce car costs is to choose where you live. Roughly one out of every seven Americans moves in a given year. If you choose the new location carefully, you can probably reduce your driving far more than 10%.

And if you can reduce your driving enough, you can sell your car and join a car sharing outfit, with typical savings of $3 to $4 thousand per year.

All true, so, agreed - if one changes the subject from that original 10% cut, and abandons the subject of the "USA is currently spending about $2 Trillion per year" and the subject of an effect on the Federal budget, then, yes, after all that, one can certainly identify tactics that an occasional person here and there might be able to use to save more than a mere $20/month. Remember that parking the car in winter means it's not on-call at work, or available for picking up the kids or for going out or grocery shopping, so it may work best for singles whose job site is rigidly fixed, in locales where snow is infrequent and quick to melt. In the great white north, there's salt on the streets for several months, so those taxi rides ($5 gets one nowhere at all) will add up big time, and let's not mention where the kids' next soccer match might be located. Moving to just the right place worked a lot better back in the mid-20th-century days of jobs-for-life than in today's volatile economy (and again may be best for singles; the right place for one spouse probably won't be the right place for the other, not for long.) And of course, car sharing is just that, not car ownership, so don't count on getting a reservation when you actually need it (which may be when it snows and you can't get a taxi to save your life because the bus schedule has gone to pieces.)

So if any of those fine things work for you personally, good on you. However, I would return the subject to the main, broad-brush thesis that enough savings might be (widely) found so that "people might not be so strongly opposed to small tax increases". In the domain "anything's possible", anything's possible, but I'd estimate the odds of that measurably affecting the Federal budget at nil, zip, nada. [And in the broad picture we must offset the positive effect on the Federal budget from increased willingness to pay taxes (LOL) by the increased draw on transit subsidies from those who substitute transit for some driving.] Nice try, no cigar, at best a microgram or two of loose 'baccer.

"let's not mention where the kids' next soccer match might be located"

When I was a kid, we had this great invention called a bicycle to take us where we wanted to go. Whatever happened to them (I see so many references to Moms driving their kids all over...)?

They don't let kids ride to the soccer match as they might be run over by Moms driving their kids all over in SUVs.


we had this great invention called a bicycle to take us where we wanted to go. Whatever happened to them

We have the main stream media, to make a huge psychological issue every time a kid vanishes. The number of kid abductions per million is no greater than in the bad old days when we never worried about it. Peoples perception of danger has almost nothing to do with quantitative probability, and everything to do with the psychological salience of the perceived threat. So now letting your kid walk or ride anywhere, is nearly unthinkable!

For the main stream media its a win win. They create the conditions that favor SUVs over bicyles, and the sheeple are suckers for crime and kidnapping stories. From their standpoint "whats not to like?"

101 excuses why nothing can ever be done?

Somehow this reminds me of the late 1980s when I worked for the Department of Energy in DC. We were trying to get electric utilities to convert electric power plants from oil to something else, which generally meant coal.

The management of companies that didn't want to convert would routinely come up with dozens of excuses for why it couldn't be done.

But when the governors of a few states (read Mass., Maryland, and Virginia) made it known that they thought fuel conversion was a good idea, all the excuses from the utility companies would melt away in about ten days, as if by magic.

I think I see a similar situation here. If you are determined not to reduce your driving (the "you can't make me" approach to energy savings) there are lots of excuses that any normal person can come up with. But if someone wants to reduce their driving, and their expenses from driving, there are plenty of good ways to do that.

101 excuses why nothing can ever be done?

Yup, so it goes. Like it or not, that's the politics and practicalities regardless of your or my personal taste. And yes, there are effective ways for some people to reduce some of their driving. But those do incur costs, often non-monetary, and sometimes considerable.


I guess the other point I was trying to make was that as long as the politicians in Washington remain focused on the federal budget, without ever looking at the larger economy, then they will probably be faced with perpetual budget problems as the economy contracts.

But if they could broaden their outlook to include the total economy, and maybe do something about the biggest leaks in our economy, then maybe it could get easier to balance the budget over the longer term.

With Brent crude still in the $100 per barrel range, we are probably spending about $1 Billion per day for foreign oil, but very few people in Washington will acknowledge the problem, let alone propose some constructive changes to reduce it.

So the only good option left for those of us who are not in denial about the larger economic problem is to find our own individual solutions.

I want to start by cutting the military by 1300 billion.

Re: Arctic melts faster than IPCC's forecasts

It is really bad that the IPCC has somehow become the voice of climate science. This is a government organized talking shop which makes bureaucratic decisions about the scientific content it includes in its reports. For example the sea level rise estimates are plain silly lower bounds that do not consider many processes. No consideration of permafrost CH4 release, whatsoever. "If in doubt, leave out". There is also lobbying by various governments to water down the reports. The media should not be replacing published articles in peer reviewed journals with the political pamphlets produced by the IPCC.

When you are doing politics statements it is better that you stay on the conservative side than making wrong alarmists prediction. Two mistakes on that side have been blow out of proportion.

CH4 release from frozen reservoirs is not alarmism. Neither is galcier melt. Both processes have been completely ignored by the IPCC when it comes to both the temperature and sea level rise by 2100.

It takes 150 gigatons of CH4 to produce the same warming as 3000 gigatons of CO2 (current atmospheric content) on the 100 year timescale. On the 20 year timescale it is the same as 10,500 gigatons or 3.5 times the current atmospheric amount. There are trillions of tons of CH4 trapped in the land and shallow sea shelf permafrost.

An example of alarmism is the nonsense being spread around that there are 3.5 gigatons of CH4 being released per year from the east Siberian Arctic shelf already. There is zero evidence for any associated atmospheric concentration increase that would reflect a six-fold rise in emissions. However, the real problem is that such release *will* occur in the not so distant future. If the IPCC treated these topics seriously they would not be left to internet hysterics to create perfect excuses for the "do nothings".

I don't think the methane alarmism is supported by the science. We had a similar massive (and rapid) warning coming out of the last ice age, and no evidence of a methane catastrophe has been found. The time period of the probable release is long enough that the additional methane will be oxidized to CO2, so the true concern is the aditional CO2 release.

Aside from having to mollify various national political forces, the IPCC rules mean they can only use settled peer reviewed stuff. The accellerated melting evidence was too new for the last cycle. I don't think it was a willful omission, just following the rules of their charter.

"Aside from having to mollify various national political forces, the IPCC rules mean they can only use settled peer reviewed stuff."

This seems to me to be a bit back-to-front. As I understand the process, the peer reviewed stuff is presented to the panel, where only the least controversial items that nobody objects to are accepted to go to the next stage. Then the politicians object to everything that doesn't fit their agenda, which is then deleted, and the final wishy-washy non-statement becomes the official release.

Only those persons who have access to, and time to read and absorb, the original peer reviewed documents, have any hope of understanding the problems that we face. Because of the multiple dilution steps in the information trail, we end-readers are unlikely to get much more than a glimpse of the real situation, and the effects that it will have on our lives.

My personal response is to assume that the problems will be at least twice as bad, and happen twice as soon as the official pronouncements. That's on a good day. The rest of the time I assume an order of magnitude instead of a mere doubling.

Not sure what you mean by the loaded term "methane alarmism."

By your hedge "time period of the probable release" suggests that it is at least possible that the methane could be released much faster and so its 105x more powerful effect on GW than CO2 over decadal periods would be significant.

As I understand it, the reason that fast release is possible is that there are large pools of free methane beneath and capped by the relatively thin layer of frozen methane hydrate. So when the latter starts to melt, it is not just the clathrate methane that bubbles up, but the enormous quantities of free methane that are suddenly liberated to sea and air. The area of greatest concern is, of course, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, an enormous expanse of mostly quite shallow water.

Odd that you mention the end of the last ice age, since as I understand it, it was exactly then that much of the methane deposits in that part of the world was formed--vast regions of vegetated land was covered as the sea rose.


"Northeastern Siberia was not covered by a continental-scale ice sheet"

HERE's a brief commentary about the report from AccuWeather.
HERE's a link to a PDF of the Executive Summary.

E. Swanson

Yes, it is a very large problem that the media tend to portray the two poles of the "Climate Debate" as denialists on one side and IPCC on the other.

But this is like presenting general science as a debate between flat-earthers and childrens books on science from the '50s.

The real range starts from considerably beyond where the IPCC is and goes to:

the MIT study from a couple years back that pointed out the high probability that we are already committed to at least 3 degrees C;

the Royal Society's volume late last year that looked at the probability of a four degree rise (still leaving out methane feedbacks)

the a number of the very top climate and planetary systems scientists in the world, people like Hansen and Lovelock, who are warning that planetary death looms

to those working most closely on precisely the study of methane feedbacks--people like Semiletov, Shakhova, Joye, and Leifer--who are saying that this tipping point has now been reached and we are already well into runaway global warming.

But this range of discussion, where the science actually is, barely gets mentioned in the MSM, giving most people the impression that when such actual science comes up it must represent 'hysterics'.

But this range of discussion, where the science actually is, barely gets mentioned in the MSM, giving most people the impression that when such actual science comes up it must represent 'hysterics'.

A special on CNBC aired last evening entitled, 'Surviving the Future'. Here's a link to an article about it:

In that program they mentioned there is a lack of concern by most people regarding climate change (GW) due to the fact people have always determined the stability of the weather by what they experience locally. 'Locally' of course being the operative word, because the most dramatic changes are occurring in the Arctic, out of sight and out of mind evidently.

I remember Inhofe explaining his assertion the weather was fine because he had not noticed any changes in his neck of the woods in Oklahoma over several decades.

Unfortunately, such simpleton viewpoints won't see runaway GW until its smacking them around, and then it's too late. However, it appears from many of these latest reports of 3-4 degrees centigrade already built into future climates, that we've already cooked our goose. Not sure at this point what a few mountains less of carbon emissions will mean. It won't stop the release of methane from the Arctic, and that will of course mean runaway GW.

Maybe humankind needs its butt whooped to humble the specie into equilibrium with the environment.

I'm of the opinion that those like Inhofe who don't notice changes are a different breed than those of us who are actually somehow connected to the planet through outdoor activities, gardening, farming, interest in meteorology / astronomy etc. Spend 3/4 of your life in the sterile confines of the indoors - be it Congress, the corner office, or the factory floor - chances are the weather becomes just an abstraction - something you pass thru but you lose the cognitive ability to recognize patterns or trends in over the long term - everything probably does just blend together for these people (nevermind that he also probably comes from one of the worst places as far as being able to recognize climate change - a state whose climate and landscape was basically "re-set" by the dustbowl so that any change there is probably perceived as being positive).

For many years now I have been hiking, camping, kayaking, doing field work as a geologist - things that put you in tune with the natural rythms and cycles of the planet; you'd have to be completely non-observant to not see the changes that have occurred over the past 20-30 years "out there".

And you know what ? The data is starting to pour in supporting our "anecdotal" observations. As I posted a couple days ago - case in point - it sure seemed to me that in the past decade or so nearly every rain event that occurs turns into some ridiculous ("extreme") event either in terms of volume or intensity. Well, lo and behold, check out Figure 3 from Dr.Jeff Masters posting on extreme precip:


And in keeping with my contention that climate change already is and will ultimately be the thing that breaks the economic back of the US (the hits just keep on coming):


If you want to watch day by day to see if we break the 2007 record low ice extent -


We have a lead now, but 2007 really took off in July.

This page of arctic graphs and the related blog are the best on the internet.

Neven's Page of Graphs


Now this is scary stuff. PIOMAS is quite reliable too. Ice free september 2015 is likely according to this.

Thanks for the link goghgoner on arctic ice graphs. In particular the graph showing the step down losses of multi-year ice starting in 2006 is most startling. It's dropping off a shelf! Looks like it won't be long now until multi-year ice is gone, then Arctic ice will only be comprised of 2nd year and 1st year ice. I'd imagine once the multi-year ice is gone, 2nd year ice won't be far behind on it's exit.

Once it reaches a point where it is only 1st year ice, seems like it will melt in Summer very quickly and methane will release in much greater quantities.

I check out that site every few days (as to theirupdate interval). If you look caresfully at the 2007 graph you see the melt staled in june and picked up speed again in july. The way I see it that was just a blob superimposed on the actuall trend. I have no guess on what caused it. Now, if you shave off that blob you see we are on track to get a close match to the 2007 september minimum. Wich means the upward trend from '07 and forward wich was broken last year will continue to be broken.

Bottom line is; either this year set a new september record low, orwill be very close to it. Add to it that the ice is much thinner this year than 2007 we are looking at the smallest ice ever.

I agree to an extent about the blinders to climate from indoor occupations, but find a high degree in others with outdoors bents.

I think we like to verify things, and much of that is visual. Folks live generally evidenced based lives, and understand a timing belt slipping a few notches, or a frayed wire, clogged drain can break a system they otherwise have little knowledge. I think many simply can not fathom that unseen carbon, or that which dissipates so quick, could change the weather of the world. It doesn't make sense, there's no reference.

I use a little analogy, take them back to pre Pasteur, to folks who couldn't believe a little thing so small they couldn't see it, would kill them. "It doesn't even have teeth" To when the solution for 2nd floor emptying of chamber pots wasn't sewage treatment but wider brimmed hats.

People understand the germ analogy. With more climate variation in population centers, it'll be driven home.

People swallowed the BS "medical" advice that eggs are bad for your cholesterol levels without verification. Do people even try to grasp biochemistry? Yet somehow climate science is open to debate by anyone with only weather experience. Accepting the fundamental physics of radiative transfer and spectroscopy is not optional. These subjects are nothing like the fuzzy, speculative dabbling that passes off as acceptable medical research (for example, feeding powdered eggs to rabbits fails on two counts: powdered eggs are heavily oxidized including their cholesterol content and rabbits are poor animal models for humans).

The media dumbs down the subject way too much. And the paid shills like the "conservative" talk show drones have managed to politicize the issue. AGW is being treated by people as a political issue and not a scientific one.

People swallowed the BS "medical" advice that eggs are bad for your cholesterol levels without verification.

And a good deal of BS about salt, and maybe even a touch of BS about obesity. And then there's all that contradictory stuff about coffee, still a breathless new report of this or that at least once a week. The professionals threw statistical significance out the window years ago in the interests of being "precautionary" and making names for themselves as renowned 'elf'n'safety world-saviors. And lately it's been coming undone at the seams and the public is starting to knows it. (Of course, on top of that, lots of people weren't following the advice anyway, or we wouldn't have to be reviewing airliner weight capacity and the like.)

So here's a sociopolitical conundrum: after all these years of strident, moralizing "knowing" of this, that, and the other thing, all the hyping of utterly trivial or even nonexistent risks and hazards (often in the interest of promoting expensive prescription drugs having no effect that can properly be called statistically significant, but, hey, we're "saving" Grandpa's heart to a tenth of a standard deviation, so who cares that we're dissolving his liver and making it impossible for him to get out of bed without falling over dizzy?), why should the lay public believe anything from the scientific establishment any more? Irrespective of the field of study, it all looks like more or less the same bunch of scientists and academics engaged in obtuse magic that often turns out to be hooey anyway. (And whether it's radiative transfer or oxidized cholesterol, it's all meaningless word salad, so it will be mediated on its way to the larger public.)

And here's another sociopolitical conundrum: most people don't need to give a stuff about the media dumbing things down. The actual science is beyond them. What they're going to be very upset about is the government making their lives more expensive with a gasoline tax, and other things like that, which affect them in ways they can see.

So many conundrums, so little time...

Thanks for the link catskill on precip. extremes, from 1 in Texas to the 117's in many other states, including states feeding the record Mississippi river flooding. Sure is taking a lot to get through to the populace, most of which still doesn't buy into GW.

Maybe the illusion for people indoors most of the time, is changes in weather doesn't matter because of heaters and AC. However, if things get too out of whack houses will offer no escape.

No problem Earl - in the second link I posted there's a great photo that really drove the point home to me and is a great illustration of the really nasty positive feedback inherent in our knee jerk response to all this. Check out where they are building a second berm further away from the river after the first, closer one, having been breached. Think about how much diesel is being used in earth moving equipment to facilitate that - all the while pumping yet more carbon into the atmosphere. Now repeat similar scenarios both small and great a million times over worldwide - a million fossil fuel intensive programs to mitigate the impacts from climate change. Too much water - "let's build levees", too little water - "let's build dams". And not once do the policy makers and the "movers and shakers" of the world stop to try to comprehend the corner we've backed ourselves into.

to those working most closely on precisely the study of methane feedbacks--people like Semiletov, Shakhova, Joye, and Leifer--who are saying that this tipping point has now been reached and we are already well into runaway global warming.

When you find some published peer reviewed research backing this claim, let us know. This is a perfect example of personal agendas (doomerism, politics) replacing actual science. Crying wolf does not help the cause even if the wolf eventually comes around.

You know the sources as well as I do, and perhaps I could have hedged a bit here. The sticking point seems to be the issue of extrapolation from the measured area. When asked, the researchers would not rule out the possibility that such an extrapolation could be justified.

I do think the ongoing lack of measured extreme increases in atmospheric methane concentration levels, even at high altitudes, tells against this happening now at the enormous rates mentioned. But when the evidence presents conflicting signals, assuming that the less threatening evidence must be the right one amounts to wishful thinking.

My personal 'agenda' is to get the clearest idea of the range of actual scientific understanding of what is happening now. Wanting to avoid considering any evidence that could lead to despair, be called alarmism, or be seen as crying wolf is as much a personal agenda as any other, of course.

The EIA has a new web page: What Drives Crude Oil Prices?

This site has some very interesting (clickable) charts on supply and demand as well as other things. Most of these will be updated monthly, others quarterly or yearly. Makes for some very interesting browsing.

Ron P.

Re: Peak oil: 'Nothing to worry about' – but Labour knew the real facts

A powerpoint presentation released at last by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in response to freedom of information (FoI) requests by the indefatigable Lionel Badal, shows that in 2007 the Labour government spent six months secretly gaming the likely impacts of declining global oil supplies. The results were not pretty.

PPT at http://www.decc.gov.uk/publications/basket.aspx?filetype=4&filepath=What...

Report on the risks and impacts of a potential future decline in oil production...

A DECC report summarising the main outputs of an internal project undertaken in 2007 by then BERR officials on the issues surrounding peak oil.

Having read the report it is clearly written by intelligent non-experts who were trying to make sense of contradictory data and forecasts by many parties, and doing a reasonable job. It made predictions of the likely impact of an early (pre 2010) peak of oil supply which are looking increasingly like the nightly news reports, but it failed to fully imagine the extent of global economic and geopolitical instability.

Being written from a neutral point of view it was easy for it to be buried as 'just a what if' exercise, not worth mentioning. Safe enough to release it now because it is rapidly being overtaken by events.

It does not go beyond the early impacts of peak oil, because that was beyond the scope of the report.

Economics as Metaphysics and Morals


what if this is what many academic economists are doing today? They sit around universities, as the shamans sit around their tents, constructing cryptic intellectual systems that few outside the circle can understand which lends these systems a certain gravitas. The economists then pass these on, in watered-down and half-explained form, to students who then go on to govern us, directly or indirectly, and dictate how we live our lives.
The shaman guides the actions of the village elders; the pope crowns the king; the economist equips the educated citizen for civic life.

"The number of households in electricity-starved Bangladesh using solar panels has crossed the one million mark -- the fastest expansion of solar use in the world, officials said Wednesday."

This is surprising. It would be a major financial hit for most of us to use solar panels, yet people in Bangladesh are adapting it. Explanations? Perhaps the people there are just using it for a few basic functions--rather than keeping the temperature 72 degrees year around...

"Perhaps the people there are just using it for a few basic functions..."

That's how I started, in an old RV with a couple of damaged Siemens 75 watters and a marine battery. A few lights, a radio, and enough juice to keep a propane refrigerator going,,,,some food, cold beer, that's all one really needs, and a 12 volt fan to beat the heat. The rest is just gravey...

From the article:

Rural households in Bangladesh are frequently not on the state electrical grid and so have embraced solar power, helped by NGOs providing panels which can be paid for in small monthly instalments.

Also...I have never lived in Bangladesh, but I have lived in other developing nations, and it's a mistake to think everyone in them in poor. Even in rural, off-the-grid areas, there are rich people. Mexico has more millionaires than the US, as well as more poor people, because wealth is less evenly distributed. I would guess that rich people who used to use diesel or gasoline generators for electricity are switching to solar (and could easily afford it).

Mexico has more millionaires than the US, as well as more poor people, because wealth is less evenly distributed.

The US has 2886200 (2009) millionaires, Mexico has ~70,000(2001)
High Networth Individuals (+$1million).


Maybe Leanan meant millionaires per capita?


Maybe Leanan meant millionaires per capita?

The US has only three to four times the population of Mexico. Per capita would not change the ratio by enough to have a appreciable effect.

Even that seems highly unlikely.

2,886,200 is 0.93% of the current US population of 309 million.

In order for Mexico to have the same percentage, given a population of 110 million, it would need 1,033,000 millionaires. This would require a growth rate of 40% per year from the cited 70,000 figure in the eight years from 2001 to 2009.


Ah, but it only takes $84,038 to be a Mexican "millionare", because the exchange rate is 11.8995 Pesos to the dollar. Note that no one stated which currency we were talking about being a millionare in.

Good point!

I do enjoy looking at the balance in my Thai bank account when I withdraw money here in Jakarta. I am a multi-millionaire.

By that logic everyone in Zimbabwe is a millionaire or close to it.

$1USD = $369,881.92 ZWD


Almost all measures of income inequality in the U.S. have been worsening for 30 years now. Even though our Gini coefficient is still lower than Mexico's, it is increasing while Mexico's is stable or decreasing.

There are many complex reasons for this, but it's partly because so many poor Mexicans are immigrating to the U.S. Also, financialization and public policy have allowed the rich to keep getting richer.

I would classify the U.S. has neither a developed nor developing nation, but rather as a "deindustrializing" nation.

Basics, yes.

It is a similar phenomena to what we see with oil use. The poorest countries will still be willing to pay a high price for gas, cause hauling huge quantities of just about everything around on your moped is so much easier and quicker that doing so on foot or on your bike.

Comparative advantage and all that.

Going from nothing to something is a huge step.

Going from something to a slightly better (or simply more wasteful) something, might be desirable for some, but at some point diminishing returns on ever greater investments become the dominant factor.

If you are off grid, solar is the cheapest option to produce electricity. Electricity from PV is now substantially cheaper than from diesel generators, if you amortise it over 20 years. It also means you are safe from inflation in energy prices in the next 20 or so years.

"A World Bank report last month said solar panels had "changed the face of the remote, rural areas of Bangladesh," by providing cheap, reliable electricity"

The main problem for poorer people is that all of the investment in PV is up front. But as the article states ("helped by NGOs providing panels which can be paid for in small monthly instalments.") this is helped by credits from NGOs.

The nice thing about solar is also that it scales really well. From a single panel powering a battery operated light or radio, to a village wide micro-grid.

The main problem for non-poor (and non-rich) people is also the huge up-front costs of PV.

We have far more and better options to pay ~$30,000 for a gas-hogging SUV/Pick-up Truck/Sports car (that may last ~ 10-12 years) than we do to finance a comparably-priced PV system for a house.

Where is the implementation for the ideas where the utility or city would front the up-front cost of the PV then charge the resident(s) (not just the original resident if ownership changes) a monthly fee to recover the costs and provide a small profit to the utility/city to boot? Cities can capture the payments through home taxes surcharges.

A personal-public/private corporation partnership.

The rugged individualist/go it alone approach will not result in wide and deep market penetration for PV. RRs were not build from private whole cloth (in many cases in the beginning the land was provided by the government for low cost)...Interstates were not built privately...neither are airports.

Individuals do not have enough capital/certainty in their future cash flow to bankroll PV installation up front and by themselves. Collectively, utilities and/or municipalities could pull it off.

Some nincompoop invented the Public Private Partnership or PPP recently and perhaps because it has an acronym is now considered to exist. Partnerships are so legally inept that only law firms use them. The only possible arrangement between the public sector and the private is via contractual obligations. Otherwise you have a partnership between the fox and the hens.

What is so attractive about a PPP that a simple and binding contract could not achieve other than a sweetheart deal for the private party vs. the immune to bankruptcy public side? We already get this sort of nonsense from the cost overruns on contracts which are dutifully paid by government. This has become so epidemic that the bidding process has become laughable, and the overruns - who could have known? - have sometimes been larger than the original bid. Might as well just give it to the guy with the nicest smile or the biggest backhander and then go cost plus.

I'll be the first to agree that our current system of credit hasn't sufficient forward scope to handle long or multigenerational finance. But spare us the PPP. Partnerships are crap and between parties with diametrically opposed long term interests they are just loopy.

I'm not quite sure exactly what sort of relationship amongst utility, government and homeowner you are envisioning here but sharing the ownership of the installed system between public and private hands looks messy indeed. Too messy for a partnership unless you want the losses to be public and the profits to be private. Rant over.

I am referring to a novel arrangement whereby a utility invests in the residential user's PV and charges the resident a fee from then on.

Or, the same arrangement whereby the municipality invests in the resident's PV system, and the resident pays a 'fee' to the municipality from then on to cover the amortized costs.

I have such an arrangement already with Bernalillo County, NM. I purchased my home from the bank holding the previous owner's note and now owe my bank landlord on the new (current/my) mortgage. But, the story does not end there: In order to have the privilege of living in Albuquerque, I must pay the tax office the amount they specify every year, or else I would find myself out on the street. The tax pays for schools, road upkeep, utility upkeep, police and fire protection , and more.

So...ergo, I (and everyone else) has a defacto private citizen-government partnership/arrangement/relationship. I also have an arrangement/relationship/partnership with PNM for electricity.

They can both be seen as contracts: There is an offer, acceptance, and consideration.

Perhaps I have been sloppy in my use of the word 'partnership'.

The arrangement I speak of could be between a private citizen/resident and a utility; or between the resident and a municipality; or there could be a 'three-way' whereby the municipality subsidizes the utility to provide this innovative financing scheme.


Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs represent one of the newest mechanisms available for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvement projects. They allow qualifying energy improvements to be financed through assessments on a property owner’s real estate tax bill. The special assessments are used to secure local government bonds issued to fund the improvements without requiring the borrower or the sponsoring local government to pledge its credit. By allowing participating property owners to pay for energy improvements to their properties via a bond issue tied to a special assessment on their property tax bill, PACE financing enables property owners to reduce energy costs with no upfront investment.

Although new to the clean energy realm, the PACE financing model is quite familiar to public finance professionals. As the Policy Framework noted, “[i]n a typical assessment district a local government issues bonds to fund projects with a public purpose such as streetlights, sewer systems or underground utility lines. Property owners that benefit from the improvement then repay the bond through property assessments secured by a property lien and paid as part of the property taxes.

Perhaps these ideas have little merit...but perhaps ideas such as this are workable and could be beneficial. We have little problem in this country pissing away $Trillions of dollars to prop up financial corporations and underwrite their irresponsible actions, and also have absolutely no qualms about squandering $Trillions of dollars down the military-industrial complex rat-hole...but try to float the idea of some innovative financing for a durable, distributed, energy-producing system which can allow cost avoidance for building future power plants, etc. and you get crapped upon for being a nefarious Socialist!

Try some decaf please.

We have this option in Boulder County, Colorado. The county provides a low cost loan to the homeowner for PV and it is paid back through the property tax which is passed on to the next owner. I believe it is also available in Sonoma County,California and perhaps elsewhere.


Thank you.

This is exactly one of the ways I have read about to help homeowners 'get over the hump' of up-front costs.

Do you (or anyone else here) have a link to a web site and/or PDF describing the arrangement? a link to the text of the actually law/statute would be great.

I can print it out and hand-carry it to the Albuquerque city government.

We have at least 310 sunny days a year here...what is 'criminal' is that we do NOT have such arrangements here to help spread the market penetration of PV to residences, apartment buildings, commercial and industrial buildings, etc.

Maybe we could get into a virtuous cycle where we get some PV manufacturing in ABQ, and some more jobs from solar system installation, maintenance, marketing, etc. Maybe we could even contribute to less coal being burnt at four corners and the coal-fired plants in AZ we buy power from.

It is pretty windy in Eastern NM...we should develop more wind power here as well.

Bad news. I should have said Boulder County had a program until last year when it was put on hold because of problems with the FHFA, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. See this web site for the gory details


Pretty sickening how the fed screwed up the Boulder County program. Excerpt from the web site:

"NOTE: The Climate Smart Loan Program has been put on-hold until issues with the Federal Housing Finance Agency and federal mortgage regulators, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, can be resolved."

Sad and I assume same issues would apply to you in New Mexico. Maybe there is a work around. I don't know.

If I recall correctly, the last time I brought up PACE and programs like it either FMagyar or Ghung mentioned that he/he was going to a local meeting to discuss with the competent authorities how to get beyond similar (if not the same) roadblocks in the program.

IIRC, ~ a year ago I read that Berkley or some plce like that was going to implement such a scheme...if the hangup is a Federal problem, then I guess programs such as this everywhere in the US are dead in the water.



They are not dead everywhere. Sonoma County, Ca, has had their PACE version up and running for over two years now.

The program covers energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy generation. They charge a nominal interest of 7%, and give 5 oir ten yr terms (20yrs in some special cases)

The loan debt is registered against the property title, and paid off as an add-on to the property taxes, and treated the same way. if you default, they can foreclose. If you sell the property, the debt stays with the property (though I think you have the option to pay it out.)

The home page shows how many projects of different types they have funded.

It seems ljke a well run, and very popular program. if I had one of these available to me, I'd use it. And for whoever is putting up the money and getting 7%, that's not bad either.


Thank you for sharing this info...it is good to know the spectrum of ideas out there which we can perhaps emulate.


I actually met with these folks a couple of years ago when they were just starting, wanted to use their funding for some water efficiency projects at some hotels and rental properties in the county. This was exactly what the program was designed for, but the clients got cold feet - they were suspicious that it was "too good to be true"!

But it is good to see it going strong, I think it is a great model that should be replicated.

In the case of Sonoma, the money came from some part of state or fed government, but I see no reason why it couldn't come from private investors. You could set up a an income trust structure, where anyone can buy units when they are needed (i.e. to match the funding stream to the projects) which is used for the loans. After paying the annual administration costs, the returns are then paid out to the unit holders. You then know what the rate of return will be, and your capital is guaranteed by the property tax mechanism - which actually has first right of repayment in a bank foreclosure event!

So a modest rate of return, say 5%, capital guaranteed, better than the bank, and actually achieving something useful. The county could make it where only residents (and maybe businesses) of the county could invest in the program - keep all the benefits local.

Lots of ways to do this, but the county participation, and the property tax mechanism is key - no other investment vehicle has it.

Microfinancing for renewable energy - not just for Bangladesh!

Here's ours.. don't know how it fits up against the others..


Maine PACE Financing
Low Monthly Payments Mean
Big Energy Savings!
Low Monthly Payments Mean Big Energy Savings

"Ballpark" payments based on 4.99% APR.
Final payment depends on actual loan amount.

Borrow up to $15,000, at 4.99% for 15 years, for energy efficiency upgrades that make your home more comfortable. Upgrade your heating system, weatherize your home, and make other improvements to cut your heating bills month after month.

It is pretty windy in Eastern NM...we should develop more wind power here as well.

There had been talk of large windfarm plans for Johnsom Mesa. But, its been nearly ten years since I've lived in the state, and I've largely lost touch.

I am referring to a novel arrangement whereby a utility invests in the residential user's PV and charges the resident a fee from then on.

There are PV companies that offer just such a service. I haven't paid much atention to them, so I can't remember the names, but it is available in some localities. I think the problem is New Mexico, is you are addicted to cheap coal based utility rates. That means if you signed up for such a service your bills would go up, not down. In states with high electric rates, I think such business models are viable.

Large upfront costs are the killer.
This is especially so in a declining housing market.
I wouldn't do it and I could physically pay for it out of savings. But I've got an older house and I have no way to predict what my neighborhood will look like in ten years. What if it degenerates into a slum?

I've seen this kind of problem in inner city Philadelphia. The neighborhood goes down the toilet and even people who have maintained and improved their homes are trapped in worthless, unsalable houses.

It's a bad bet right now to sink valuable, irreplaceable capital into an immovable object like a house; in a declining market.

You can always take the system with you. I have a 6 kW system on my house in Pennsylvania and I'm tempted to take it with me if I cant get a good boost in my house value from it. Especially with the PA solar rebate money gone.

The problem is that the installation cost is a major proportion of the system cost.

Just curious — how much repair would be necessary to the roof after the PV panels and associated frames were removed?

Moving the PV system from house to house is a bad idea: Too much cost for human labor on both ends, too much wear and tear on the equipment, transportation costs, etc.

Leave the system with the house, and implement a concept such as tstreet describes:


"Moving the PV system from house to house is a bad idea.."

Strongly disagree. While circumstances vary, if the new buyers aren't willing to pay a premium (@ enough to install PV on your new place), find a way to move them. It's not like trying to move an in-ground swimming pool. JMO

[envisions Heisenberg sitting in the dark thinking "I wish we had brought those damn panels when we moved." ]

As for roof damage, there should be none at all if they were properly installed. Perhaps some discoloration where they weren't.

Depending where you are you would need to be careful with the contract for the sale and explicitly state that you will be removing them. In the UK they would be a fixture and so part of the house being sold so removing them would be like theft.



Ha! You made me laugh!

I have sat in the dark plenty of times, but not due to abandoning PV from a previous house...

I like low lighting and darkness...I am no fan of streetlights, for example...guess I shouldn't be a city-dweller!

I did manage to ask and get Albuquerque to change out the 'fly's eye' streetlight luminaire on the streetlight next to my house (I live on a street corner) to a flush luminaire. I only needed to send one email to the city 311 system and it happened ~ 2 weeks later. Result: intersection still lighted the same as before, with less light spilling into my windows and second-story deck facing the mountains. The deal is, I live across the street from a sizable patch of undeveloped land w/o lights, and I enjoy my darkness...I can actually see some stars.

Back to PV...In all the places I have lived, I have not had PV on the roof yet...maybe someday.

I admire your can-do/take-charge spirit and actions, but I fear that the idea that most folks will go to that effort (installing, moving , and re-installing a PV system) seems like a non-credible planning assumption for future PV market-penetration scenarios.

But, I have been wrong before, and will be wrong again on numerous subjects...


Yair...our 2.2 Kw system (12 panels) would come down in a couple of hours...the same screws that hold the roof on were backed out and screw through the mounting brackets for the panel mounting rails.

The inputs from the panels plug into the inverter, like wise the out put from the inverter to the mains.The inverter just lifts off its hook. It is all extremely portable and if I didn't get my money I would'nt be leaving it behind.

Perhaps NONE, Depends on the mount system, but you could take or leave the rails - the roof would be PV ready either way. Just Leave the L Brackets and make sure they are flashed properly and leakproof. The spacing on the roof brackets depends on the wind ratings. Anyway there are LOTS of hungry roofers to help if needed.

If panel costs drop as expected the next few years (to well under $1 a watt, then the balance of system issues become really important. Those are mainly, the mounts, the wiring, the inverter, and the electrical inspections and paperwork. I think only the inverters and panels will transport, and they only represent about half the cost.

If you are off grid, solar is the cheapest option to produce electricity. Electricity from PV is now substantially cheaper than from diesel generators, if you amortise it over 20 years. It also means you are safe from inflation in energy prices in the next 20 or so years.

While there are a lot of cases in which off grid solar is the best option, this statement is inaccurate.

First your calculation assumes that the location will remain off grid the entire time required to pay back capital. If a given location is likely to get grid access in the near future, it is likely that use of a temporary diesel generator prior to connection is going to provide more useful electricity at a lower cost and with a payment structure that is better aligned with users ability to pay.

Second, there are often a lot of other renewables that provide much cheaper, and sometimes better power such as micro, mini or small hydro and biomass gasification. These have problems as well, and similar access to capital issues, but they are cheaper. There are also business models that are in many cases commerical viable or require lower subsidies than solar.

Solar also tends to produce power when villagers least need it and storage adds to the cost.

I am in Indonesia where the utility PLN pays 2 1/2 to three times as much for power generated by diesel as for other renewable sources, even after a 2009 law virtually doubled the rate for them. But I suspect that PLN would tell you that diesel can be set up quickly, contracted on short-term arrangements, and moved when not needed.

It is still an inefficient way of doing things, but it is not nearly as simple as you make it out to be.

In over 15 years being off grid, some cost breakdowns, high to low:

Upfront costs-

PV, BOS and mounts



Operational, repair, replacement costs-

Generator(s) (by far)


PV, BOS and mounts (operating costs near zero)

Time/money spent on normal maintenance-


Batteries (very little with auto watering)

PV, BOS and mounts (some tracker maint./adjustment, seasonal)

Thanks. I don't know nearly as much about solar as you do, but do work in renewable energy in developing countries.

It is clear that the calculations are quite different in different situations. I would guess that you were able to make the upfront payment without a unique or complex financing arranging, which is not the always the case, particularly in developing countries.

You are also an indiviudal with limited access to other resource and without the scale that would make other technologies work. Small hydro and gasification are harder at the level of the individual and impossible without flows of water or biomass.

Finally, I guess that you expect to stay off grid. For poor villagers, getting grid access is almost always better than running their own small systems. Although grid access for a village may not mean access to reliable power, or for everyone in that village. But is is still a step in the right direction.

Small hydro and gasification are harder at the level of the individual and impossible without flows of water or biomass.

Impossible without the flows, obviously, but small hydro is not really that hard, if you have a water source. Maybe more work than a solar system,. but that doesn't mean it is too much for an individual.

You can buy several different off the shelf hydro units, that can put out Dc or AC, battery charge or grid tie(via inverter).

These ones, in particular, are good, and cheap, and will produce far more kWh/yr/$ than solar, if you have a constant water supply;


The gasifiers are coming along too. Here is a ready to run unit made for Honda sized generators and Listeroid motors;

So this is not more work to set up than solar, actually not even more expensive, but is more work to keep running, but that's ok if you are in an area that has lots of wood and not much sun.

Watts from PV are now a fraction of the cost from a generator. The kicker here is how affordable PV is now compared to 18 months ago. Expect the second million SOON - perhaps in just months. A ~1kW PV Array will make power a lot of "stuff" - now just 4 panels.

The highest efficiency panels one can order now source from Big Oil. French Panels anyone?


"" - "SunPower's Class A shares plummeted 15% to $17.66 Wednesday after French oil giant Total SA's (TOT) $1.3 billion purchase of a 60% stake in the company. The stock traded in the midteens for much of the past year before jumping in April when the deal was announced.
But not everyone is now running for shade.

"When component pricing comes down, more markets open up," said John Hardy, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. in New York, in a telephone interview. ""

Watts from PV are now a fraction of the cost from a generator. The kicker here is how affordable PV is now compared to 18 months ago.

I am not sure I agree with the first part, and I haven;t seen much evidence of the second part. Retail costs for pv systems (homeowner sized) don't seem to have come down that much, in my opinion. Perhaps install rates have.

A quick web search of pre-packaged systems shows that prices still seem to be $7-10/W.

I like the micro-inverter systems, but, beiong relatively new to the market, they too are not really cheap, yet.

Good description of a micro inverter system in operation is here; http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/EnphasePV/Main.htm

The markets will indeed open up when costs come down, but at the homeowner level, they haven;t changed that much.

A quick web search of pre-packaged systems shows that prices still seem to be $7-10/W

If you are still paying $7-$10 / W then you are getting ripped off.

Panels alone are now at about EUR 1 - 1.3/Watt. PV systems on the roof of a commercial building can now be built for around 1.7Eur / W ($2.4/W), including professional installation and grid connection in Germany. Smaller PV systems for individual homes are slightly more expensive but still only about 2 - 2.5Eur / W ($2.9 - $3.5), again including professional installation and grid connection.

At those prices a typical 5kWp domestic system would be only about $15000, so it is getting into the range of not needing much financing anymore.

Also at those prices, if you assume 1400kWh/kWp over 20 years, it costs you only ~$0.10 / kWh, and that is safe from inflation.

Prices are still dropping at about 10 - 20% per year. Solar PV is getting pretty affordable.

Solar Silicon Price Plunges to Six-Year Low, Helping Trina

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Polysilicon, the main raw material in solar panels, has plunged more than 33 percent in the spot market during the second quarter, lowering production costs in the $35 billion global market for the photovoltaic devices.

Prices for immediate delivery fell to an average $50 to $53 a kilogram as demand dropped after European nations slashed clean-power subsidies, said Rupesh Madlani, a renewable energy analyst at Barclays Capital in London. The bottom of that range is the lowest in more than six years, and a drop from $78.90 in March, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.

The global PV market is supposedly going through a tough period. The bright spot is North America, which is (finally) experiencing rapid exponential growth. But the American market is much smaller than the European one. We have cutbacks or chaos in Spain, Italy, and Germany, all at the same time, and those were very large markets.

PV systems on the roof of a commercial building can now be built for around 1.7Eur / W ($2.4/W), including professional installation and grid connection in Germany.

Thats pretty darned good. I keep hearing they have installation costs about 40% better than we have. The best I've heard here is upper three dollars for utility scale projects. 1.4 time $2.40 , is upper $3, so that in consistent with those reports. For residential scale, it is claimed that permits/paperwork is easily $.50 to $1.00 per watt. Vermont, and Colorado have recently passed legislation to attack these "soft" costs. This would be a good thing to bring up with your state government. Supposed there is over twenty million bucks in Chu's Sunshot budget, to push just such rationalization.

Yeah, Paul, prices are way down, in the US anyway. 210 watt Kyoceras for $1.85/watt. Wish I had a couple of grand to add another KW to my system. These are really nice, top quality panels too.

BOS and install should add another $2-$3 / watt, less if you do the work.

Full grid tie kits around $4/watt.

Thanks Ghung,

As usual prices are higher here in Canada - even for Canadian Solar brand!

$4/W is certainly getting better, though that is still about $2.67 per annual kWh produced. Almost worth it for my family farm in Oz where the daytime electricity price is $0.25/kWh.

I really like the Enphase system, as you can start small and keep adding incrementally, or have different arrays on different buildings operating independently.

I really like the Enphase system, as you can start small and keep adding incrementally

There is some concern about the lifetime of the microinverters. Its generally though electrolytic capacitors degrade in a hot environment, such as will be found on the rooftop. Non electrolytics are much bulkier and more expensive. It will be quite a while before they can establish a track record.
Another plus however, is efficiency. Typical systems are strings of panels. My system is two strings of seven panels each. deliverd current for a (series) string is essentially governed by the weakest panel. So panel mismatches (or partial shading) reduce the overall efficiency. With microinverters, each panel can produce at its maximum powerpoint. That might be worth tenpercent or so overall improvement in output.

Any decent ways to modestly upgrade an existing system? Mine is delivering about 72.5% of my use? I'd love to add a couple (or four) panels. But that means either a second inverter -or a tradein. And presumably new wiring and inspections, etc. So the price per watt for a modest addition may not be so hot?

Micro's are ~ $1 watt for the Inverter, 2-3 times sting Inverters. Lots of Balance of System stuff with them also. That will change, Micros save a lot of install costs and allows PV to be installed where you would not normally (part shade some months) and gets customers hooked. Never seen an micro Inverter system not upgraded if we lay extra rails down. Dealer cost for a COMPLETE GT 3-8 kW System KIT now under $3 watt. Sunnyboy Inverter, Rails, 25 year modules, 150 mph winds, FL Eng certs, etc. 18 months ago mid 4's was a good price. This year - 50% of the systems I'm slapping down are now over 10kW!! Panels and Inverters are cheap to what we were used to. Permits are the barrier for Grid Tie, we have to train Inspectors, often they want stuff that is wrong. Efficient Installers are quoting low prices to get business. This is not your daddy's PV anymore.

Cool. If you start with a micro inverter system and then later put in more panels, do u have to re permit?

Most Utility agreements have a clause that you file notice of expansion, some don't bother until you get to the point where you have monthly excess. Once rare - now becoming common. Of course if you are not grid Interactive, DKS - It's only your business.

Recently, I was forced to think about this when, a man I employ as a casual labourer on my fathers property in rural Jamaica, asked me if I could source a battery operated television for him. When I considered that he charges his cell phone at my father's house every day he comes to work, it suddenly dawned on me that he is not connected to the grid.

I sort of had an epiphany. There is a growing class of people that can no longer afford to buy electricity from the traditional sources, to do what we have grown to take for granted. It definately applies in Jamaica but, probably is just as true in many developing and underdeveloped countries all over the world. When you consider just how usefull electricity is you begin to understand that there are some very high value uses of electricity that could easily justify the cost of PV. Some of these high value uses of electricity can easily be planned for when the sun is shinning, a modern equivalent to making hay while the sun shines.

I seem to recall reading an article linked to from a drumbeat that, spoke to PV being used to charge cell phones in Africa (for a fee) and other scenarios where, for example, a battery charged by a small PV panel could run an LED light for some time after dark. This might not seem like much to most of us but, for folks who are struggling to provide the basic necesities of life, it can make a huge difference. This has resulted in solar PV use showing up in what have traditionally been considered unlikely places including rural India, Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti among others. I can imagine that Pakistan with their 14 hour daily power cuts, must also be a likely place for PV to gain a foothold.

I had a discussion with someone locally the other day where he was pointing out that, Jamaica has taken the route of expanding it's electrial grid to deep rural areas to provide electricity. The irony being that after considerable public expense, as energy prices rise, the targeted consumers are now finding it increasingly difficult to afford this modern convenience. In countries that are much larger the cost of running long electrical distribution lines just to provide a little electricty, exceeds the cost providing the same quantity of electricity using PV.

I plan to attend a big solar industry trade show in San Francisco next month and now realize that, what I need to be searching for are small, low cost, off-grid systems that would be suitable for people like my employee. Many of us, who have become accustomed to the convenience of reliable, grid supplied electricity, have been unaware of just how much demand there is for basic electricity.

Alan from the islands

"This might not seem like much to most of us but, for folks who are struggling to provide the basic necesities of life, it can make a huge difference."

It occurs to me that they have a better understanding of what really are "the basic necessities of life" than most of us here.

"..look for those Bear Necessities ..."

Alan - Your story brings me back to my childhood in New Orleans. Probably hadn't thought about it for many decades but we seldon had a light on at night. Not too big a problem given we typically live in a "shot gun double" with tall windows in each room. If the moon was bright plenty of light to walk around. It also reminded why I had to get homework done before dark. I can just barely recall keeping an old Zippo lighter handy if I needed to dig thru a draw looking for something. We did have electricity but as grandma would ask if you left a light on: " What...you own stock in the electric company?". LOL

Obviously the great majority of us in the US can't imagine the joy of a single lite bulb when you need it. We go camping with electric and propane fueled lanterns and battery powered DVD players and call it roughing it. Sometimes I think we need to do without the "necessitites of life" to recalibrate what is really necessary and what's just nice to have.

Germane too, I think, to the idea promoted by I think Westexas(and others) that developing economies will outbid the developed countries for at least a share of declining oil exports globally. The Kenyan farmer and Chinese factory will find higher value added uses for it then will SUV driving soccer moms.

I plan to attend a big solar industry trade show in San Francisco next month and now realize that, what I need to be searching for are small, low cost, off-grid systems that would be suitable for people like my employee.

If you are interested I can easily teach you how to make these solar generators with off the shelf components.
Basically a small PV panel, a solar charger, a deep cycle marine battery, a DC to AC inverter, some switches, an AC wall outlet, a 12 Volt car cigarette lighter outlet, some wiring, a digital volt meter, all packed in a heavy duty PVC tool box. Voila! Instant electricity for small AC appliances, DC LED lights, chargers for cell phones, laptops, batteries for power tools, etc...


Even smaller and simpler, good for charging and running cell phones, is a foldable solar panel assembly. Only 'special' thing to buy is the cigarette-lighter (aka car 12v accessory plug) adapter for the devices you want to run or charge.

I bought my wife one, too, so if we were camping or stranded, we'd be able to keep using the cell phone.

If you use google's shopping URL and search on "5 watt foldable" there are many for sale around US$99 .

I have a small solar radio which has this capability and can also be charged with a little hand crank. How well this works, I don't know.

Please be aware that those little units vary all over the lot. Some are very much as advertised, but some, especially among the "flexible" ones, don't generate even 20% of the stated wattage. (No FTC standard yet?) Buyer beware.

Here's another little, simple and very portable variation..


A plain-jane tacklebox (gutted and cleaned) with a 12v 12ah (ideally 144 watt hours) Sealed Lead Acid cell and a MorningStar Sunguard 4.5a charge controller inside.. and you paste on whatever connectors and meters you like. (No Inverter on this one, so far, and the next chg controller up would have a Low-Volt Disconnect, which is recommended for keeping healthy batteries)

This lights my office for now.. will probably run a muffin fan for my face this summer. The 50w Shell PV is hanging just outside the Dormer Window, and all the DC connections are 5.5/2.1mm Coax Plugs, even the PV.. Plugs like the ones you have on the transformers for your cordless phones, etc. Very easy to mix and match.

Sunguard ~$35
Battery ~$10 (surplus.. usu $30 new)
50w PV ~$400? in 2005.. a bit better today
( http://www.altestore.com/store/Solar-Panels/BP-BP350J-50W-12V-Solar-Pane... $295)
"Shell Panels.. BP Panels".. sheesh!

.. and a Kyocera KC-215 215 watt panel is 4.5 times the power and only $475.. so size matters.

Kyocera 210 watt for $388. See my link, above. The smaller panels are pricey these days.

The smaller panels are pricey these days.

Yeah, tell me about it, I just purchased a 40 watt generic panel for $199 retail a week ago for a little project.
The one on my generator in the picture is a Generic 50 watt Chinese panel that one cost me $160 a couple of months ago but they are out of stock right now.

Fred, I plan on attending some solar thermal training at FSEC on my way back from San Francisco so, I just might take you up on that!

Alan from the islands

Sure, just contact me via my posted email

Dang, Fred, that looks alot like a Parmark solar fence charger. Nice job.

Which of course brings up-would it be worth it to recondition an old fence charger for such a purpose as portable power, assuming the panel still functions? I've no idea of what the charger has vs what's needed.

Which of course brings up-would it be worth it to recondition an old fence charger for such a purpose as portable power, assuming the panel still functions? I've no idea of what the charger has vs what's needed.

Can't see why not. I'm going to guess the panel is fine, they last a long time. You'd need to find out what the specs are on the panel and if it charges a DC battery it must have a solar charger. You might just need to replace the battery since that's the weakest component in such a set up. You also need to find out Amp hour capacity of your battery so you can figure out what you can power with it and for how long. Once you have that information you will know if you can add a small inverter or if you just want to run DC lights or chargers.

I read where the OLPC program found people using the laptop for lighting in their dwelling, discharging the battery.
They began to provide a simple PV system so people could have a light in the evening and kids could use the computer for learning, not lighting.
One Laptop Per Child

Thanks for the story and insight, Alan. A few years ago, I read about possibilities like this and go quite exited about it. And I still do think that simple PV and other sustainable techonologies have a great chance of increasing the well being of many people enormously.

But I do want us to stop for a moment and look at what it was this bloke wanted the juice for--


I know anthropologist that lived on obscure Pacific islands and saw the effect a TV had on the local cultures. It was propped up looking out from the chiefs hut, on 24/7.

And the main impact was that everyone started to see themselves as backward and unsophisticated.

They wanted all the things that were being advertised on the tube--the things and lifestyles promoted both in the ads themselves and also on the shows between the ads.

I concluded that probably the main thing that bringing electricity to remote areas will do is to bring the full force of materialist industrial capitalist propaganda to the minds and cultures that so far have only been exposed to it in bits and snatches if at all.

And what we all desperately DON'T need is billions more people who had been living hard but ecologically local and relatively sustainable lives, suddenly inflamed with a desire to join the shopping masses that are rapidly turning the beautiful living systems and mineral wealth of our planet into globe-choking and life-ending toxins.

All of these swords have two edges (at least) and we should be mindful of which way they are most likely to cut.

You can never do just the one thing that you intend--all sorts of un-intended consequences flow, sometimes in disastrous directions.

Ignorance is bliss?

Those TVs won't be going away:

Our research on this question has taken us to rural villages and teeming urban slums around the world, collecting data and speaking with poor people about what they eat and what else they buy, from Morocco to Kenya, Indonesia to India...

And don't underestimate the power of factors like boredom. Life can be quite dull in a village. There is no movie theater, no concert hall. And not a lot of work, either. In rural Morocco, Oucha Mbarbk and his two neighbors told us they had worked about 70 days in agriculture and about 30 days in construction that year. Otherwise, they took care of their cattle and waited for jobs to materialize. All three men lived in small houses without water or sanitation. They struggled to find enough money to give their children a good education. But they each had a television, a parabolic antenna, a DVD player, and a cell phone...

No use romanticizing the ancestral village life from a faraway armchair. The unfortunate people who still have to live it are apparently - surprise - bored out of their skulls and willing to go to great lengths to relieve their boredom.

"people who still have to live it are apparently - surprise - bored out of their skulls and willing to go to great lengths to relieve their boredom"

The kind of rationalization that crack pushers use to explain that they are actually providing a valuable and needed service to their customers.

It seems that the amount of power the Bangladesh folks use vs here in the US is a bit different.

My eyeball guess from the photograph was that the single PV panel shown on the roof was perhaps 50watts, and the energy it provides used to run night lighting.

For the US, my personal advocacy is for as many people as possible to eventually have 1kW of PV generation, as that would probably offset their refrigerator, and help reduce summer peak utility load from air-conditioning.

Three Big (Troubled) Fields & Three Big Net Export Declines:
(North) Ghawar (Saudi Arabia);
Cantarell (Mexico) &
Burgan (Kuwait)

Production - Consumption = Net Exports
(mbpd, rounded off, BP Data, total petroleum liquids)

Saudi Arabia;
2005: 11.11 - 2.00 = 9.1
2010: 10.00 - 2.81 = 7.2

2004: 3.82 - 1.99 = 1.8
2010: 2.96 - 1.99 = 1.0

2008: 2.78 - 0.36 = 2.4
2010: 2.51 - 0.41 = 2.1

If we measure from 2005, when their combined net exports were 13.1 mbpd, to 2010, their combined net exports dropped by 2.8 mbpd, to 10.3 mbpd--a 21% decline in net exports in five years (versus an 11% decline in production).

Curious that Mexican consumption would be exactly the same after 5 years of, lets say, interesting times. Is that due to [(population growth) - (business declines due to gang violence)]?

Their consumption was up slightly in 2007, to 2.07 mbpd, before declining in subsequent years.

But the bottom line is that in order to just keep their net export decline rate down to the same rate as the (2004 to 2010) production decline rate, 4.3%/year, they would have had to cut their consumption at 4.3%/year, which would have put 2010 consumption at 1.54 mbpd.

What happens to that place when the government receives the last petrodollar?

I don't know, but their nominal cash flow from export sales this year is probably roughly the same as 2004. Note that the net export decline did slow quite a bit in 2010, as David Shields predicted it would (I thought that Mexico would be approaching zero net oil exports by the end of 2012).

Somewhat like when the the Easter Islanders cut the last tree down.
I guess the market will create more.

Did you guys already talk about this? Very interesting that they would start to play games with the quality of crude available on the market.

What modern oil market intervention looks like

In the weeks leading up to the failed June OPEC meeting, U.S. and Saudi officials met to discuss surprising the market with an unprecedented arrangement: exchanging urgently-needed high-quality crude oil stored in the U.S. emergency reserve for heavier, low-quality oil from Saudi Arabia, according to people familiar with the plan.

I posted it Wednesday. Rockman had a comment. Me, I'm not sure what to make of it.

One more conspiracy by a corrupt government to steal more wealth from the American taxpayers.
That's what I make of it.

Hell, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

So...If I was a bank, and I had control of Obama, and I had investments in Europe...

jabber - I suppose we could just see it as a simple dumb idea or a complex bit of political theater. Maybe we were pitching the deal to the EU in exchange for helping the PIIGS out. Or maybe leveage for some other political ploy in the war on terrorism. Or maybe we just wanted to make the world like the US better. Given the state of global affairs almost any weird idea could have some merit.

Curiously this plan mostly helps Europe and not US refiners. Southern Europe and Ireland were seriously affected by the shut in of Libyan oil, which as you say, is the very same PIIGS that need bailing out.

So oil supply disruptions couldn't have come at a worse time.

However the US may also be somehow involved in a less noticed objective of letting Mideast oil supplies heading 'West' to go mostly to Europe.

As strange as it might seem, the US is about to let supplies of higher quality domestic oil to drop to critically low levels in the next few months. Although it now seems those inventories building up in Cushing, OK are considerable, in addition to being mostly land-locked they are also of lower quality than most US refiners can use.

US oil imports are now running well behind last year's rates. From June to August 2010, US imports were also augmented by 'floating storage' coming into the US. No such floating reserve of oil exists today like in 2010. Shipping reports indicate that Mideast exporters sent less oil to the US from about March 15 to June 15 as compared to 2010. In addition, the US also lost all oil imports from Libya.

So it's not surprising then that using higher quality oil within the SPR is being actively considered to be used in some way by the US government.

"in addition to being mostly land-locked they are also of lower quality than most US refiners can use"

Could you explain this in more detail? Maybe link us to info?

A lot of the oil which is piling up in Cushing is non-upgraded bitumen from the Canadian oil sands, which is heavier and higher in sulfur than most US refineries can handle. The ones which can handle it are saturated with the stuff, which is flowing into the US in large quantities.

If producers could get it to the the big refineries on the US Gulf Coast, many of those refineries could handle it since they are designed to process Venezuelan extra-heavy and Mexican heavy oil, which are of a similar low quality. However, the pipelines to move it do not exist yet, and politicians are resisting approving them. (If companies could get it to the Gulf Coast, they could also put on a tanker and send it to China, which really wants it).

Not all Canadian heavy oil transits through Cushing. Check out this http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/junior+profits+from+rail+route/496...

You know, when they start shipping oil from Lloydminster Alberta/Saskatchewan (the city straddles the provincial border), to the Gulf Coast by train, that price spreads are getting crazy.

Daily Oil Bulletin yesterday:

Posted Cenovus/Lloydminster $81.04 CAD/BBL
North Sea Brent Blend $114.02 USD/BBL

I can just visualize the oil marketers pacing rapidly around in tight little circles, muttering, "How can we get our Lloyd crude into the Brent market?!!! How, how, how? Hey! How about trains!"

CN rail, fortunately for them (and for Bill Gates who owns a big piece of the company), has tracks that run from Northern Canada to the Gulf Coast (and the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast). They are standing by to accept your call. Phone 1-800-TRAINS-R-US.

(I'm just kidding. Not about them waiting for your phone call, but that's not their telephone number, I don't think.)

I think that if Rock Energy can make a $6 per barrel profit shipping heavy crude by rail 3,600 km to the Gulf Coast refineries, (implies transportation cost of $14 per barrel), then one could make proportionally more by shipping oil by rail from Cushing to the Gulf Coast.

Shorter distance of 800 km vs 3,600 km would reduce cost to around $3.00 per barrel, profit becomes $17.00.


The decrease in shipping costs is not linear. They could probably ship oil from Cushing to the Gulf Coast for $6/bbl, leaving a profit of $14/bbl. It's still not too shabby.

If the pipeline were a private line to the coastal refineries, everybody would be happy. China could be diesel and lubricants, the coastal refineries would be humming along again, and the glut would abate. And US companies would make money on the differentials, which would then split with the Canadian suppliers.

Doesn't Conoco do this already?

Conoco is making money NOT moving crude oil to the Gulf Coast.

Conoco's Pipeline Play Boosts Refinery Profits

March 23, 2011 ConocoPhillips's (COP) control of a key pipeline to the Gulf Coast is keeping cheap oil--and hefty profits--at its landlocked U.S. refineries.

Due to a supply glut in Cushing, Okla., a major U.S. storage hub, oil is roughly $13 a barrel cheaper in the middle of the U.S. than in other parts of the country. The situation is a boon for companies with more refineries in the region, including Conoco, who have access to cheaper crude than competitors along the coasts.

Unlike smaller, independent refiners, Conoco holds the trump card for keeping heady profits at these refineries: The company has a controlling interest in the Seaway pipeline, which runs from Freeport, Texas, on the Gulf Coast to Cushing, with a capacity of 350,000 barrels a day.

Note that the spread has widened considerably since the article was written. In a more equitable world, Conoco would reverse the pipeline to take oil to other companies' refineries on the coast.

Or they could buy the refineries on the coast as they become worth less due to the differential cost of oil?

Or the coastal companies could buy an interest in Conoco?

Free enterprise was not intended to be equitable, I would say. That's not usually a bad thing. I'm not sure it's bad now, either.

Well, I've heard that BP's massive Texas City refinery is for sale, but I'm not sure that Conoco is interested in buying it. Owning a refinery has been not very lucrative since the US got on the down-slope of the oil production curve. Mostly, it's been a money pit for the last 40 years.

They were supposed to pay it back.

I think it was more of an attempt to make political use of the Cushing oil glut that's keeping oil relatively cheap for the US.

Leanan - Maybe cheaper for some folks in the mid west. It's been difficult to get any good numbers because the oil traders are a secretive lot. But a good bit of that "cheap" Cushing WTI is being hauled to the Gulf Coast refiners and being resold to reiners at anything but cheap prices. If fact I just found out yesterday some of my GC Texas WTI quality oil is being sold close to La. sweet prices. Yesterday there was an $8/bbl difference from two of my local buyers. Who has how much oil available at what price is tough to guess right now.

Well, of course, if oil marketers could physically get WTI to the Gulf Coast, they would sell it for the same price as Louisiana Sweet, which is about $20 higher.

I imagine they are booking every barge, railroad tank car, and tank truck they can find, given the current price differential.

Obama reelection needs low gas prices.

Yes, but it needs them in 2012, not now.

Too early.

And a fairly steady decline for the last few months before the election would be ideal. Get people to thinking, "Yeah, gas prices are even lower this month!"

The election is November 2012 that is 17 months from now. So the 24 month supply at 1mbpd seems about right. Can even pump it up to 2mbpd from August 2012 to November 15, 2012.

To me that sounds like a strong admission by KSA that they have no spare capacity (of useful oil) left and the only way they have now to influence things is by playing short term tricks with storage.

It also shows that the market appears not to be "adequately" supplied, or one wouldn't have to come up with these slightly odd ideas.

It would be interesting to know though who initiated these ideas.

Simply amazing!

From the article:
It was to be a swap felt around the world – a plan privately discussed by the world’s largest oil exporter and the globe’s biggest consumer to take the heat out of US$120-plus oil prices.
U.S. and Saudi officials met to discuss surprising the market with an unprecedented arrangement: exchanging urgently-needed high-quality crude oil stored in the U.S. emergency reserve for heavier, low-quality oil from Saudi Arabia.

The idea involved shipping some of the light low-sulphur, or “sweet,” crude out of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to European refiners, who needed it after the war in Libya cut off shipments of its premium crude varieties coveted for making gasoline and diesel.

In return Saudi Arabia would sell its heavier high-sulphur or “sour” crude at a discount back to the United States to top up the caverns that hold America’s emergency stocks.

Seems like this would be a strategy that a country would pursue only if the world had zero or little extra capacity of light crude.

At a million barrel a day the US strategic reserve will last two years. To well after Obama's reelection.

Political turmoil, financial markets in vicious cycle

Across Europe, people are complaining that they are unfairly paying the price for the mistakes of their governments while they are growing increasingly resentful of the international banks and the preferential treatment they seem to receive. And they are getting louder.

“They took everything, and we have to pay,” said Katerina Fatourou, 30, an elementary school music teacher in Athens, summing up a common sentiment here after a large and sometimes violent general strike. It is not likely to be the last in Europe this summer.

In a vicious cycle, the rising political turmoil is sowing unrest in global financial markets, raising the interest rates paid by heavily indebted nations in Europe to ever higher levels and threatening their solvency.

I don't see how the euro can survive this.

Repudiate the debt. That is cancel it. Tell the bankers they loose this time.

From what I've read: my understanding is that the people at the top (the ones that
"really" count) cannot tolerate a "credit event", i.e. anything that is similar to
a default.....because the companies world-wide cannot and will not pay out on those
contracts that are supposed to be "credit default" insurance. You may recall that
Chris Cox, in charge of SEC at the time these contracts were dreamed up, decreed that
these instruments were not "really" insurance; ergo--the companies that were issuing
them are not regulated, do not report to anyone, and most importantly, do not have
any requirements to have reserves for the amount of risk they have put out there.

After all, no one ever expected to have to pay off on these contracts. They were
created (it seems apparent) so that the banks/institutions making loans & issuing bonds
would not have to put these 'risks' on their balance sheets.....after all, they
were "insured" against loss. What a crock. IMHO you never file a lawsuit without
willing to go to trial and you never insure something without willing to take the

Does anyone have recollections different about the origins of CDS?

Fraudulent "insurance" was sold at fraudulent rates and all parties knew the rates were fraudulent (so low that the policies could never be covered by the premiums). So let them all go bankrupt. Put on trail all parties involved in the fraud.

My underlying point not well stated is that after Greece,etc
defaults, it will be companies like AIG who once again come
begging for taxpayer money...not to mention those bond holders who
thought they were "insured" against loss by default. I recently saw a piece that said Jamie Dimon was bitterly complaining that capital requirements were being raised.

Maybe someone, somewhere is finally
getting ready for an explosion.
The big banks are not lending much
anyway according to reports....so
increased capital requirements might actually cut into the top-dog
perks, obscene compensation.

"Does anyone have recollections different about the origins of CDS?"

In the case of Baker v. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages. The punitive damages amount was equal to a single year's profit by Exxon at that time.[citation needed] To protect itself in case the judgment was affirmed, Exxon obtained a $4.8 billion credit line from J.P. Morgan & Co.
J.P. Morgan created the first modern credit default swap in 1994, so that Morgan's would not have to hold as much money in reserve (8% of the loan under Basel I) against the risk of Exxon's default.[29]

[bold mine]


Oil .... Imagine that.


Blythe Masters is generally credited with inventing the modern CDS. I believe that she worked in the London offices of J. P. Morgan & Co. at the time. This was before Morgan merged with Chase and before JPMC merged ith Bank One, Bear Stearns, and WaMu to become the current bank.

London was the center of financial innovation. This was just after the end of Maggie Thatcher's term as Prime Minister, during which manufacturing died and Britain became reliant on finance, insurance and similar service industries.

Regulation and law was favorable to shady finance in London. AIG's Financial Products division whose derivatives book forced the rescure of AIG was run out of their London offices. Also note that Lehman's shady bookkeepping was enabled by their getting an favorable legal opinion from a London law firm.

London is the central cesspool of international finance.

"London is the central cesspool of international finance."

Is that a Triple A rating or does Wall St. get that honour as well?

I just wanted to comment on the remarkable collection of energy related stories in today's edition of the New York Times.

International Section:

Business Section:

I was impressed by both the number of articles and the range of issues they cover. As a believer in the power of information to help transform societies (see current events in North Africa), I am hopeful that this is part of a trend and that we will regularly see this level of coverage of energy issues going forward.

Wouldn't it be amazing if there were a daily Energy section in the paper as opposed to the one-off, industry supported Special Section on Energy this past March 30'th.

Given the importance of energy issues today it seems this topic should at least be upgraded from its current position in the Green blog to a regular once-a-week Energy section. I think the Times is missing out on an opportunity here to organize articles from different sections around a common, unifying theme.

Organizing things this way would bring some clarity to editors, reporters and most importantly to readers.


Hopefully someone with some influence from the NYT staff reads TOD DrumBeats regularly!

I might add: from The Economist, from CNN, from MSNBC, from Fox News...

I did condense my post into a 150-word letter to the editor and sent if off the the NYT.

It might be interesting if the NYT received several more letters suggesting the same thing.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Meade

I salute you for walking the walk.

I am motivated by your actions.

I will send my own letter forthwith.


Edit: Mission Accomplished...112 words.

They should have both an Environment and an Energy section. Most of their climate change stuff, for example, goes in the science section. I guess they are afraid to step on toes by acknowledging environment or energy important enough to have their own section. However, you can go to Huff Post for a Green section. But they do not have an energy section per se.

Anyway, we have TOD and it, of course, aggregates better than anyone.

ts - Hech...here in the Houston, the enegy capital of the world, the one local paper dropped it's Sunday energy section years ago. I assume it's still gone but I haven't read the local paper in years.

And for electricity there's always the AOL Energy site. They're doing more than just aggregating -- they actually have reporters and editors and an editorial advisory board.

"Maker of Silicon Wafers Wins Millions in U.S. Loan Support"

That one is truly huge. Continuous casting rebuilt the steel industry back in the 1970's, and will have a similar effect on the silicon PV industry. Assuming they can get it to work, but given how many other industries can do it I'm very optimistic.

Add to that the new fluid-bed reactor technology that cuts the energy requirements on making the silicon by 80%, and the cost of solar will come down a lot.

Then add on NGK's really big sodium sulfur batteries, and the "night problem" starts to look manageable. And the bulk materials required are silicon, sodium, and sulfur, none of which are running out.

There's about a half dozen startups pursuing similar goals (significantly thinner silicon PV wafers, leading to a dramatic reduction in panel costs. At least one of these babies ought to lay the golden egg.

Where Will Our Energy Come from in 2030?

That last fact alone argues potentially that the world is going to need a lot more energy, of one kind or another. "The Earth is a 14-terawatt light bulb that is always left on," notes chemist Jillian Buriak of the University of Alberta, who is working on nano-scale solar solutions and helped advise the summit. By 2030, "based on the most conservative numbers, we need 28 to 35 terawatts of power" to provide enough energy for more than 7 billion people.

And whereas the last century's technologies did achieve wonders, they may not be up to the task of meeting the needs of the present century. "What we learned to do in the 20th century, we learned to drill into the ground to extract petroleum and natural gas, convert it into food and eat the food," adds political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon of the University of Waterloo. That enabled the human population to double twice over the course of the 20th century while agricultural yields increased four-fold. At the same time, global energy use increased 80-fold.

To allow that energy use trend to continue was the main goal of the Equinox Summit. After four days of talks, presentations and work, the votes were in. The future leaders agreed on a course that includes the following: fast breeder and other alternative nuclear reactors, including a thorium-based fuel cycle; geothermal; massive renewable energy installations and grid-scale battery systems; building more energy-efficient cities (as well as retrofitting existing buildings); electrifying transport and using technology to spur better use of public transportation, for example with an app that allows bus-tracking to eliminate unnecessary waiting; and a rural electrification package that would pair flexible plastic photovoltaics with advanced batteries.

Also see http://wgsi.org/content/about-summit and http://wgsi.org/files/EquinoxCommunique_June9_2011.pdf

"To allow that energy use trend to continue was the main goal of the Equinox Summit."

Are they joking ?

That sounds to me to be EXACTLY the wrong goal we should be shooting for...

Just another of the periodic appearances of the "Act of God" articles about how much electricity we will need in the future. It seems to me that the people who write these things are engaging in willful ignorance, aka mass delusion.

I notice that the article comes from Scientific American, so I'm wondering if this is an unavoidable result of the scientific mind. Somebody posits a goal, in this case how to provide XX amount of electric power, and the narrow scientific minds set out to meet the goal, without noticing that the goal itself is stupid.

Well said Breadman.The goal itself is stupid.Better if the delegates stayed home and read Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory,then they would know what the solution is by 2030.

Stupid, as in "it's so blindly obvious that the goal is unreachable that, forget it", or as in "it's desirable for some outlandish philosophical reason to keep most of the world's population permanently impoverished"?

The alternative to developing energy generation technologies to replace the use of oil is most likely a period of total war during the 2030-2070 period. This is likely to include engineered biological weapons, and if some group feels sufficiently disadvantaged in the battle, they may implement a "doomsday bug" which will leave a very small residual population.

Inadequate energy supplies may well result in a 2080 population below 100 million, or less than 1 percent the 10 billion currently projected.

The 2 billion in Duncan's paper is highly unrealistic.

Sounds like the planet is headed for a reboot. Best hopes for a wiser and less voracious population the next time around.

There is no "next time around". The easily accessible resources to enable a recovery are exhausted. Hunter-gatherer societies equipped with bladed weapons salvaged from the ruins will wipe out all useful plants and animals in the final stages of collapse. Once the total war breaks out, it is probably all over.

The last hope for civilization will be the Encyclopedia Foundation.


Someone is thinking about how to preserve information in case of a catastrophe:


Most folks here likely already know about the seed vault in Svalbard:





Things that make you hmmmm...

I'd be more inclined to rely on "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" as it is not only cheaper than the "Encyclopedia Galactica" (originally put out by Isaac Asimov in the Foundation trilogy), but has the added advantage of the words "DON'T PANIC" on the cover. Relying on this sentiment and one's towel is at least as good as any other precaution that one can take in this insane world.


I will admit to a morbid fascination for your delicious pessimism. It seems somehow well-worded or framed and to have a clear, natural, not simulated, flavour that might unnerve if I didn't normally go for that. It is a delicate talent. Were you aware of it?

Some prefer simulations you know.

...Tragedy, paradox, irony can beautiful, comic.

Our technology allowed us to defeat all our predators and in the end may be what will predate us, as the Moa...

Nuclear this, space mirrors that... It's positive madness and it's playing out right before our very eyes and out of our hands... Like one of those sci-fi paradoxes of fate, ourselves prisoners within it, in spite of ourselves, desperate in the illusion of our capacity to change it.

Like stuggling to swim in the face and panic of our inevitable drowning that we briefly viewed in our crystal balls filled with heavy water and nanotech "snowflakes".

Ever heard of keystone species? But of course you have, yes? Well you might like the juicy idea of how many it'll take before the dominoes really start falling, never mind AGW.

(How was that? My own recipe, just for you. ;)

"According to him, the dystopia of the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix trilogy is already here: the technological-industrial 'machine' is already running the world, a world where individual humans are but insignificant little cogs with barely any autonomy. No single human being - neither the most powerful politician, nor the most powerful businessman - has the power to rein in the system. They necessarily have to follow the inexorable logic of what has been unleashed."
~ G Sampath on John Zerzan


Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown...

...Yes I fear tomorrow, I'll be crying...

No single human being - neither the most powerful politician, nor the most powerful businessman - has the power to rein in the system. They necessarily have to follow the inexorable logic of what has been unleashed."

That's certainly the way I see it, I wrote something similar in a previous DrumBeat:

Techniques are being advanced at all levels to become ever more efficient by very narrowly focused (savant like) technicians creating a synthetic evolutionary system. A system that is beyond human control, even though we are the ones that unwittingly created and maintain it, we can only do what is allowed within the defines of the system. We cannot restrain the systemic evolution, we cannot reverse it, we cannot modify it beyond its own internal requirements, we can only hone and improve its efficiency through technique - even though its beginning to destroy us and our planet.

Politicians, CEO's, financiers, et al. do not control the system, they're merely operators and work within defined parameters laid down by the system.

It's also why I believe we're going over the cliff, we humans are not in control, the system we created is. Every time we progress, improve our techniques or become more efficient we hand over greater control to the system and cede our independence and freedom to it. And as curbing progress of all kinds is anathema to us humans, our fate is therefore predetermined. The system is reactive, it will react to stimulus, such as our demise as we go over the cliff, but not before.


Just read the interview with John Zerzan, obviously a man after my own heart. I'm surprised that I've independently come up with exactly the same conclusions that he has. Have you read any of his books? If so which one would you recommend?

I seem to recall reading your very post.
It would appear that, generally, if we think enough about and investigate 'it' sufficiently, we should all draw roughly similar conclusions. And as we do, we can run into people after our own hearts.

I have read bits and bites of a few people like and including Zerzan, but nothing extensive insofar as an entire book from cover to cover. Maybe I should, if only for some refinement.

"Once the total war breaks out"

Total war against the planet's living communities commenced some time ago, particularly with the industrial revolution.

Adding more energy to this madness will likely further ensure the end of most complex life on the planet.

We should always be aware when we are falling into various mental traps.

You seem to be falling into the "my way or the highway" trap, also known as a false dichotomy.

Some one has some favored solution, in this case limitless global economic growth, and becomes blind to any suggested alternatives or fundamental flaws because they are convinced that anything but their own precious program will lead everyone directly to the lowest circles of Hell.

Claiming it is so does not make it so.

Maybe the bloodless Mr. Miller should take a few slugs of the stuff and show us all how silly we are to be concerned. Mendacious sack of excrement. Unbelievable!


Those industry guys are all so frackable: *Mwah*.

Isn't fracking what helped pass the time on Battlestar Gallactica when the Cylons weren't around?

Quite possibly... This may be us in the future after some more oil spills, frackings and Fukushimas, etc..

re. "Energy efficiency can avert disaster"

The World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM) is held annually in Toronto, and this year's keynote speaker is indeed Lester Brown, which is wonderful.
The article above mentions that the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness is the main sponsor & organizer of this event.

I would just like to add that a major force behind the success of these conferences and CCEP itself has been Adrian Gordon. Adrian is ex-UK military, a very practical-minded fellow, and he is very PO-aware.
I should also add that unfortunately many North American emergency managers remain PO-unaware, no thanks to the ongoing inattention to this issue at DHS and Public Safety Canada.

Adrian was instrumental in getting PO on the agenda of last year's WCDM, and the issue will be addressed next Monday (same day as Lester Brown's presentation).
A particular focus of this PO presentation will be the apparent disjuncture between the increasing concerns of military analysts, especially when compared with the ongoing unawareness & disinterest of many civilian agencies.

Here is a brief bio on Adrian:

Here is Monday's schedule at WCDM (PO is at 2:40):

Emergency planners could (and eventually, will) play a vital role in all of this, and it is important that they become aware, examine the military literature and plan accordingly. It would be very helpful if ASPO conference organizers made a special effort to attract both civilian emergency planners and military analysts to the annual ASPO events. The result could be win-win on many fronts.

WCDM is a perfect opportunity to get this issue in front of emergency planners from many countries, and Adrian is commended for making it happen.

According to zFacts.com, tomorrow the National debt will pass through $14.8 trillion. In 45 days, the $15 trillion level is reached. Off book debt from Federal Agency debt due to the housing bubble collapse and financial crisis is growing and may add one to two trillion dollars if properly accounted for. By comparison, the European debt crisis is much smaller and Brent prices are around $19 higher than WTI. Social Security is being shorted 2% in revenue by politicians of both parties that will hurt seniors if the drought around the world impacts food prices everywhere and benefits are reduced. Actually if inflation in seniors cost of living index was accounted for, benefits are continually cut and have been for years.

So true. The federal government is run using fraud. It is in rebellion against the people of the US.

Just to make you feel worse, as if you didn't feel bad enough already, the Canadian national debt is projected to reach $522 million this year. In 1997, it was $563 million.

Every barrel of oil Canada sells to the US takes a bit more money off the national debt, and helps pay for free health care as well. Canada is by far the largest supplier of imported oil to the US.

Enjoy it while you can Rocky. Might not be long before the US has to "export democracy" to Canada. Another plus: when we do we can also replace your busted healthcare system with ours.

The Canadian health care system is not all that busted. They fixed an arthritic joint in my foot last month, for free, and this month I'm getting physiotherapy to get it working again, for free. Next month I'm going sea kayaking, but I have to pay for that myself. Your oil dollars paid for the joint work. Well, not all of it, but a lot of it.

Probably the oil dollars help pay for the kayaking too?

Sea kayaking is not very expensive. The oil dollars pay for the cost of driving the car out to the coast, and for the next two or three weeks I leave my wallet hidden in the car while we paddle among the islands.

r4ndom Nuclear Energy post

r4ndom wrote:
I refuse to treat radiation as special... radiation isn't special...

Yes I've noticed you've written that before... How often do you think you'll have to repeat it before people believe it?

Perhaps the next time I get an x-ray, when the x-ray technologist is about to place that protection pad over my groin area, I should refuse it and say, "Radiation isn't special!" and see what happens. Maybe if I say it enough times, they'll finally leave the protection off.

Maybe if enough people from the nuclear industry repeat their mantras, they'll leave the protection off.

...Radiation and radioactive materials still have to follow the same laws of physics as everything else in the world...

Ya, so?

Is that supposed to make us feel better after our balls fall off?

Is that a logical fallacy? What kind.

(Same laws of physics; different effects?)

People say/write things for all kinds of reasons... What's yours? And do you believe them yourself?

Do you have both oars in the water?

Are you playing games?

Do you have an agenda?

These are some questions that can pop up in people's minds sometimes-- people, for example, who have loved ones to protect from things that smell fishy... which is not necessarily to suggest that about you, the nuclear industry, or fresh Fukushima sushi.

Ever heard of the expression, 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.'?
(Do you think that doesn't apply to the nuclear industry? 1. TMI;
2. Chernobyl;

3. Fukushima

Ever play baseball? How many strikes before you're out?)

...Or the expression, 'Trust your instincts/intuition/feelings.'?

Or (When in doubt) 'err on the side of caution.'?

What do you do for a living? What kind of experience do you have? How old are you?

At any rate, if I was to gamble my child's/grandchild's future on (the quality/integrity/etc. of) a particular position, what do you think the odds would be that yours would be chosen?

Better than r4ndom odds?

...I refuse to treat radiation as special and apparently that makes me some kind of monster...

--Your words-- and maybe a little manipulative (like a bad GeneMod)... But in any case, you tell us.

Or at least be honest with yourself.

Don't refuse yourself that.

Poison isn't special and poisons still have to follow the same laws of physics as everything else in the world...

Perhaps you could suggest that R4ndom refuse to treat poisons as special.

That would either make the logical fallacy a bit more clear, or solve this problem in a more permanent way.

Thanks for that.

What Happened to Peak Oil ... According to Ernst & Young’s 4th annual US exploration and production benchmark study, oil reserves grew by 11% to 17.8 billion barrels in 2010

Oh yeah, "growth" really happened in 2010 all right:

full excel workbook from 1965-2010 (almost 2 MB)

BP June 2011

Total world oil production in thousand barrels per day and million tonnes

Year  Barrel Tonne
2008  82015  3933.7
2009  80278  3831.0
2010  82095  3913.7

All the way from 82015 in 2008 to 82095 in 2010 or is that down from 3933.7 in 2008 to only 3913.7 in 2010? Either way it's not really growth--it's a plateau with a crater in the middle.

Re: The Price of Oil

I wonder if we might see an undulating plateau around $100.

I think we could go back down to $80 before going to $160 in late 2013.

Place your bets! ;)

I wonder if we might see an undulating plateau around $100.

Undulating is probably the operative word, with price reflective of economy strength. As the economy weakens, price drops, but also with that lower price is the range of oil products which producers can make a profit. Once most non-conventional like tar sands and deep offshore are off the table because oil companies cannot recover expenses in a weak economy, then we descend further along the net energy decline. That will be a much tougher situation than paying around a $100 a barrel.

"Once most non-conventional like tar sands and deep offshore are off the table"

An event greatly to be desired for the sake of the seas and the atmosphere/planet.

When I was young, I used to enjoy Ultraman (the original), a Japanese production.

And given recent events, I briefly thought to myself, "Where's Ultraman when you need him?"

And this evening, I spontaneously decided to do a search for 2 keywords; Fukushima and Ultraman:

"Authorities of Fukushima Airport in Japan...

...have turned towards their action hero, Ultraman to seek help and boost up the declining number of passengers. The airport got Ultraman’s statue erected at its terminal building, as the airport gears up to celebrate its 15th anniversary next month. Getting Ultraman’s statue erected, the airport officials hope it would bring good luck to the airport." [2008-02-05]

*sigh* :.( .

Problem solved.......