Drumbeat: July 8, 2011

Shell to produce more gas than oil from 2012-report

ZURICH (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc will produce more gas than oil from 2012, Chief Executive Peter Voser was quoted as saying on Friday.

"The future belongs to gas. The known reserves will last for 250 years. Gas power plants complement renewable energies perfectly because power production can be adjusted to demand," Voser told Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft.

US natgas rig counts fall by 1 to 873-Baker Hughes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States fell by one this week to 873, after two straight weeks of gains, data from oil services firm Baker Hughes showed on Friday.

The gas-directed rig count is hovering just above the 16-month low of 866 hit seven weeks ago, as companies cut back on natural gas drilling in the face of weak prices.

Horizontal rigs -- the type most often used to extract oil or gas from shale -- were unchanged at 1,073, the firm said.

Russia to pump more oil, cut export duty - Putin

(Reuters) - Russia will cut its oil export duty to ward off stagnation in its Soviet-era production base, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's long-expected announcement was coupled with strong pressure on refiners to produce more fuel.

Russia is pumping at peak levels after an annual record of 505 million tonnes (just over 10 million barrels per day) last year, but older fields are getting tapped out and incentives are needed to stimulate production.

"Last year Russia became the world's top oil producer," Putin said. "This is exactly the level of crude which allows us to cover our own needs as well as export requirements. This year we expect 508-509 million tonnes."

Natural gas imports from Canada eyed / Plan aims to cover 10% of annual total

A Japanese consortium including Mitsubishi Corp. has begun talks with a major Canadian energy company to jointly build a large plant on Canada's Pacific coast to export shale gas to Japan.

It would be the first time for shale gas produced in Canada to be exported to Japan.

Canadian shale gas plan boon to Japan / Low-risk region should provide stable supply amid ballooning demand for LNG

The plans being jointly studied by major companies such as Mitsubishi Corp., Tokyo Gas Co. and Osaka Gas Co. to build a large liquefied natural gas plant on the Pacific coast of Canada to tap shale gas are aimed at ensuring a stable supply of natural gas, global demand for which is rising sharply.

Reflecting moves to lessen dependence on nuclear-based electric power, shale gas has become an increasingly important source of energy worldwide. Production has been growing especially fast in North America.

BP argues Gulf recovery so strong that future loss claims should end

NEW ORLEANS — BP is arguing that most victims of last year’s Gulf oil spill should not get any more payouts for future losses because the hardest-hit areas are recovering and the economy is growing.

Worker exposed deception / Whistleblower informed JCP of Kyushu Electric's plans

FUKUOKA--An employee of a Kyushu Electric Power Co. subsidiary blew the whistle on a recent deception in which the utility ordered employees of its offices and subsidiaries to send e-mails supporting the restart of two nuclear reactors to a meeting for local residents, the Japanese Communist Party said.

Italy solar capacity to hit 30 GW in 2020: Enel CEO

(Reuters) - Italy's booming solar power market is expected to grow nearly four times to 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2020 as part of incentive-driven efforts to fight climate change, the head of Italy's top utility said.

GOP tries to block eco-friendly light bulbs

Amid the debate over raising the nation's debt limit comes a vote in Congress on ... light bulbs.

The U.S. House is going to try next week to block the federal government's transition from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options. The vote could come as early as Monday.

Volvo meets energy reduction target set by DOE

Greensboro-based VolvobizWatch Trucks said that its New River Valley manufacturing plant in Dublin, Va. has reduced its energy intensity levels by roughly 30 percent within a one-year period. The reduction means that Volvo has become the first company to meet a 10-year challenge set by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Soaring Costs 'Forcing Drivers Off Road'

Some 1.3 million people have been driven off the UK's roads this year as a result of rising motoring costs, according to new research.

The staggering figure, released by Sainsbury's Car Insurance, suggests one in 30 drivers have given up their cars over the past 12 months.

The report found the average car owner is now spending around £1,720 annually to fuel their vehicle - a rise of almost 23% year-on-year.

The State of the Union's Roads: An Investigative Report

Now massive sections of the interstate, including almost all of  them near major ­cities, have reached the end of their useful life; the interstates were designed to last 20 or 30 years, but now some areas are pushing 50 years and handling far more traffic than their planners anticipated. But as we reach into our wallets, we run into our generation’s big dilemma: We’re nearly broke.

When you go to the pump, every gallon of gasoline you buy includes 18.4 cents for the federal government, plus whatever your particular state charges in taxes. The federal money is collected by the Treasury Department, which puts it into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Since the trust fund’s creation in 1956, the gas tax has only been raised three times: to 9 cents per gallon in 1982, to 14.1 cents in 1990, and to 18.4 cents in 1993.

Tapping our oil

By dampening volatility in oil markets, it's possible for the SPR to make the long term depletion of oil obvious. Careful management of the SPR to maintain a very slowly increasing price point would aid in the transition to alternatives.

For petro-autocrats, is that all there is?

When you are the wealthy and powerful leader of a petro-state, what gets you up in the morning? Saving your job -- which has occupied Saudi King Abdullah on and off -- can be motivational. But when you have $130 billion to throw around for such purposes, it still goes only so far. The same with fun missile strikes at a neighbor, the one-time preoccupation of Saddam Hussain -- you can aim at only so many targets before it gets old.

David Strahan: Germany will use fossil fuels to plug nuclear gap

Germany's clean, nuclear-free future may have a difficult birth.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government claimed to be "ushering in the age of renewables" as German MPs passed legislation this week to phase out nuclear power by 2022 – but the basic arithmetic of the energy-switch policy suggests the country will struggle to fill the hole left by nuclear power.

Big Dreams for China's Energy 'Golden Zone'

China's economy has enjoyed robust growth for the past three decades and transformed into the world's second-largest economy. Nevertheless, China faces obstacles on its path to greater prosperity. The country struggles with electricity power shortages and underdevelopment in rural areas, particularly in northwest China.

Accordingly, China's National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration have pledged their whole-hearted support for the establishment of an energy "golden zone" to connect the energy-abundant region of Yulin City in North Shaanxi Province, Ordos in southwestern Inner Mongolia and the Ningdong energy and chemical base in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Russia's Putin: Oil Firms Failed To Modernize Refining Segment

MOSCOW -(Dow Jones)- Russian oil companies have failed to live up to their obligations to modernize the refining sector, the country's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday.

"I say with regret that most of our companies haven't met their responsibilities to increase the depth of oil processing, even though they have taken full advantage of tax breaks from the government," Putin told oil industry executives and energy officials at a meeting in Kirishi in Northwestern Russia.

Energy crisis: Govt mulling power theft crackdown

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to enact stricter policies towards those involved in stealing electricity, with the water and power ministry proposing jail terms of up to one year and fines of up to Rs500,000.

Pakistanis' anger mounts over growing power chaos

KARACHI - Public anger is growing at the Pakistan government's failure to ensure adequate power supplies for industrial and private use, with two people killed and more than 30 wounded by police this week when a crowd of about 8,000 marched towards Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in Mianwali, Punjab province.

Power cuts were also a factor in protests in the industrial center of Karachi this week that have left at least 35 people dead. Karachi is facing 10 hours of power outages a day, severely damaging industrial output and undermining economic growth. The shortages of electricity and gas have forced hundreds of units to shut down in the textile district of Faisalabad, in Punjab

Argentine deal expands Qatar's LNG business

Qatar, the holder of the world's third-biggest gas reserves, is steadily lining up long-term international buyers for its lucrative export.

Its latest coup is a two-decade agreement signed with Argentina last week to supply 5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year, equal to more than 15 per cent of that country's natural gas demand. It follows deals with the UK, Japan and other major consumers.

11 die in Yemen after president's TV appearance

SANAA, Yemen — President Ali Abdullah Saleh's supporters have opened fire, killing at least 11 people across Yemen after their leader's first television appearance since his injury last month.

Hospital officials say most of Friday's shooting was in celebration of Saleh's TV address the previous evening but it's unclear if all the deaths were accidental.

U.S.D.A. Ruling on Bluegrass Stirs Cries of Lax Regulation

The Agriculture Department has exempted a genetically engineered grass from federal regulation, a decision that some critics say could portend a loosening in oversight of biotech crops.

Richard Heinberg: Rising hydrocarbon costs: A quick summary for policy makers

During the past century, world economic growth has depended largely on ever-expanding use of hydrocarbon energy sources: oil for transportation, coal and natural gas for electricity generation, oil and gas for agricultural production. It is no exaggeration to say that the health of the global economy currently hinges on increasing rates of production of these fuels. However, oil, gas, and coal are non-renewable resources that are typically extracted using the “low-hanging fruit” principle. That is, large concentrations of high-quality and easily accessed fuels tend to be depleted first. Thus, while the world is in no danger of running out of hydrocarbon energy sources anytime soon, oil, gas, and coal extraction efforts are increasingly directed toward low-quality, hard-to-produce fuels that require higher up-front investment and entail increasing environmental costs and risks.

These trends are easily demonstrated in the case of oil.

Resilient to what?: a fascinating new look at risk

I was reading through the Executive Summary of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2011 this afternoon (as you do) and the chart on page 3 (see above) caught my eye (click on it to enlarge it). In it, the authors set out all the risks they see in the world on a matrix which positions the various risks by their perceived impact on the global economy and by the perceived likelihood of their happening. What you might expect to be at the top, given recent media reports, would be the threat of terrorism or perhaps some hideous computer virus that knocks out nuclear power station. But no. There at the top, leading the pack, are climate change, ‘extreme energy price volatility’ and fiscal crises.

Green Energy Bank: A Win for Us, A Loss for the US?

In late May, The City broke with some 350 years of protocol and announced the establishment of the Green Investment Bank, the first ever public bank in the UK. With an initial £3 billion, GIB will invest in clean energy technology, with the goal of lessening the country's reliance on fossil fuel and developing technologies to keep the UK competitive in the economies of the future.

John Michael Greer: Salvaging energy

We are all going to be poor in the decades and centuries to come. Yes, I’m including today’s rich in that; the stark folly that leads today’s privileged classes to think they can prosper while gutting the society that alone guarantees them their wealth and status is nothing new, and will bring about the usual consequences in due time. Voluntarily embracing poverty in advance may seem like a strange tactic to take, at a time when a great many people will be clinging to every scrap of claim to the fading wealth of the industrial age, but it has certain important advantages. First, it offers a chance to get competent at getting by on less before sheer necessity forces the issue; second, it sidesteps the rising spiral of struggle that’s waiting for all those who commit themselves to holding on to an industrial-age standard of living; third, as I’ve already pointed out, buying cheap used items frees up money that can then be applied to something more useful.

Preparing for the end of the world as we know it

The neo-liberal global economic system is on its deathbed, and Israel may soon have to provide for all of its own food and fuel needs, instead of trading for them with other countries, says a senior Israel agronomist. Dr. Elaine Soloway of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura says that the main cause for the collapse of international markets and subsequent retooling of Israeli industry to produce almost all necessities locally will be the end of the age of cheap fossil fuels.

"The idea that everybody's going to produce specialties, and them fly them around all over the world, that's going to be history," Soloway insists. "Raising vegetables and shipping them to places that are up to their eyeballs in water doesn't make any sense. We are selling our water cheaply to the Dutch, who are drowning," she says, referring to the large amounts of water necessary to grow vegetables, which are then exported. "The Dutch have to put up greenhouses, and we have to stop selling them peppers."

Shale Oil vs. Peak Oil

I had one such argument with Everette DeGolyer just after World War II. he insisted that we were going to be desperately short of oil by 1956. I remember saying: ‘De, that prediction has been made almost since the beginning of the oil industry. Are you sure that you are right this time?’

He said he was sure, and I suggested we wait until 1956 and find out. In that year, we had oil running out of our ears, and I said, ‘De, what happened?’ He responded that some unforeseen things occurred, and I remember asking, ‘Isn’t it always that way?’

I have come to the conclusion it is always that way.

Peak Oil and the Front Office

If you are a regular reader, you know that from time to time I write about things that appear to be tangentially related to CRM -- at best. My favorite alternative to straight ahead research and reporting on CRM is a strange sounding thing called "peak oil."

For those of you not familiar with the idea, peak oil refers to a not-so-hypothetical ceiling on how much oil we can coax out of the ground daily. Indirectly, it also refers to the fact that we have not found nearly enough oil to replenish supplies we are consuming, and we never will. There's only so much of it. While there is undoubtedly oil left in the ground to be exploited, there isn't enough in part because global demand and consumption keeps rising. That leaves a gap that now goes unfilled daily.

Higher fuel prices coming regardless of carbon tax

A Greens senator has warned of "savage" petrol price increases regardless of any government attempt to shield motorists from the carbon tax.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is trying to ease concerns about carbon pricing by saying households, tradespeople and small businesses using light commercial vehicles will be exempted from the tax on fuel.

But speaking at a public transport conference in Canberra this week, Senator Scott Ludlam told attendees the impact of a carbon tax on petrol prices “fades into insignificance” when considering the role of peak oil.

Oil Declines, Trimming Weekly Gains, as Payroll Growth Misses Estimates

Crude oil dropped, paring a second weekly gain, after the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in June and the unemployment rate climbed, damping optimism for the economic rebound and fuel demand growth.

Futures fell as much as 2.3 percent after the Labor Department said U.S. employers added the fewest workers in nine months and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest level this year. The premium of London’s Brent oil over New York crude rose above $20 for the first time since June 15.

British Gas hikes power bills

Millions of British Gas customers are to face higher utility bills after the company said it is putting up the price of both gas and electricity.

Gas prices will rise by an average of 18% and electricity bills by an average of 16%.

Oil Prices May See Further Rise

It’s all speculation over the future of the commodities market.

But Goldman Sachs Group is predicting a significant upturn.

And they’re particularly bullish when it comes to crude oil.

Petrovietnam eyes oil assets in disputed South China Sea

HANOI - Petrovietnam and its partners may buy $1.5 billion in Vietnamese oil assets in the contentious South China Sea from ConocoPhillips to help protect Hanoi's territorial claims, the chief executive of the state oil group said.

Vietnam and the Philippines have protested against aggressive action by China in the resource-rich area, which covers the world's busiest sea lanes and straddles oil-and-gas deposits. It is also rich in fishing grounds.

Gazprom Seeks $40 Billion Advance in China Gas Deliveries, Vedomosti Says

OAO Gazprom may be seeking an advance payment of as much as $40 billion against future deliveries of gas to China, Vedomosti reported, citing unidentified people close to the Russian gas export monopoly and Russia’s government.

Sudan Braces for Renewed Protests, Violence as Oil-Rich South Breaks Away

The secession of Sudan’s oil-rich southern region tomorrow may rekindle unrest over soaring prices and stoke violence in outlying regions against President Umar al-Bashir’s northern government in Khartoum.

“Austerity measures are likely to fuel discontent,” Jean- Baptiste Gallopin, the Control Risks associate analyst on the Middle East & North Africa, said in a phone interview from London. “Bashir is in a very tricky position.”

Egypt Brotherhood Courts Investors With Pro-Business Stance

Only a few months ago, Khairat El- shater was languishing in an Egyptian prison, put there by the Hosni Mubarak regime. Many of his businesses were shuttered.

Now the deputy general guide, or No. 2 leader, of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s dominant political-Islamic group, El-shater shuttles between meetings at one of his once-closed offices in a grimy building in Cairo’s Nasr City district. His visitors include bankers and investors from the U.S. to Australia, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its July 11 edition.

Egyptians protest, demand justice after Mubarak

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptians held one of their biggest protests in months as tens of thousands took to the streets in Cairo and other cities on Friday to demand justice for victims of Hosni Mubarak's regime and press the country's new military rulers for a clear plan on transition to democracy.

There is growing frustration among Egyptians that little has changed five months after the 18-day uprising forced the former president to step down on Feb. 11. There has also been confusion over what comes next, with some demanding the military push back parliamentary elections that it set for September.

Pakistan security to shoot on sight in Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Security forces were ordered to shoot gunmen on sight Friday in Pakistan's largest city, as four days of violence left at least 71 people dead and prompted political leaders to call for a day of mourning that shut businesses and kept public traffic off the roads.

This week's violent spate in Karachi was among the worst this year for a city that has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and political tensions. At least 34 people died on Thursday alone, when gunmen strafed buses and went on shooting sprees in several neighborhoods.

Ghana’s Jubilee to Reach Peak Oil Output Later Than Planned, Tullow Says

Ghana’s Jubilee oil field may reach peak production in August or September, a month later than planned, after boosting output to as much as 80,000 barrels a day since the start of this month, according to Tullow Oil Plc (TLW), the field’s operator.

Kosmos Says Transocean Rig Damage May Delay Ghana Drilling

Kosmos Energy Ltd. said damage to Transocean Ltd. (RIG)’s Marianas rig may delay drilling of a well off Ghana’s coast.

A force majeure notice was delivered to the government of Ghana and Ghana National Petroleum Corp. after an anchor- handling accident damaged the rig, Dallas-based Kosmos said today in a statement. The Marianas was scheduled to arrive July 10 for drilling, Kosmos said.

China orders offshore oil risks review after spill

SHANGHAI (AP) — China's ocean administration has ordered oil companies operating offshore wells to assess risks of accidents following two spills off its east coast in a field operated by American energy giant ConocoPhillips.

Pa. seeks stronger look at drilling near water

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania environmental regulators have agreed to take more precautions before they approve certain permits for oil and natural-gas drilling sites where well construction poses a pollution threat to some of the state's highest-quality waterways.

The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to the measures to settle a complaint by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation first filed in 2009 that also asserted the agency had approved three deficient permit applications.

Auburn to ban wastewater from gas drillers

Auburn, N.Y. — The city of Auburn is banning natural gas-drilling wastewater from its treatment plant.

City councilors voted Thursday to stop the city’s practice of accepting the chemical-laced wastewater from hydraulic fracturing of gas wells. The city has been under pressure from the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance to enact the ban.

Gov cuts ties to oil spill command post

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The state of Montana has cut its ties to a joint Exxon Mobil-government command post overseeing an oil spill along the Yellowstone river, after the state's Democratic governor said the group was defying state open government laws by denying public access.

The move underscores mounting tensions between the state and the world's largest energy company over its handling of pipeline rupture that spewed tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the scenic river.

'Isolated' oil reported at Exxon spill

BILLINGS, Mont. (UPI) -- Exxon Mobil said it discovered two "isolated spots of oil" more than 20 miles from the site of a spill on the Yellowstone River.

Japan's Shikoku Electric delays restart of nuke reactor

TOKYO (Reuters) - A power company in western Japan delayed on Friday the restart of an idled nuclear reactor as confusion spreads over the safety of nuclear power and the future course of the country's energy policy.

Shikoku Electric Power Co said it will delay the planned July 10 restart of one of its reactors, because it didn't think the public would accept it. The firm has no idea when it will restart the unit, a spokesman also said.

Analysis: Summer to test Japan resolve over nuclear power

TOKYO (Reuters) - Two months of baking heat will test Japan's resolve to wean itself off nuclear power and show whether an energy-saving drive set off by meltdowns at the Fukushima plant will bring lasting efficiency gains the way the 1970s oil crisis did.

There are some signs that there is no going back to the pre-March 11 status quo as businesses and consumers change behavior in ways that will last beyond the summer electricity crunch.

Japan May Be Nuclear Free by May as Tests Delay Restarts

Japan may have no nuclear reactors running by May next year should the round of tests announced by the government this week cause further delays to restarting units idled for maintenance, a Bloomberg survey shows.

Prairie Island nuclear plant licenses renewed

MINNEAPOLIS - Federal regulators have renewed the operating licenses for the Prairie Island nuclear power plant for another 20 years, Xcel Energy Inc. announced Tuesday.

The utility also said it plans to invest at least $500 million in the plant near Red Wing through 2015, and even more if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves an increase in generating capacity at the plant, which the company plans to apply for later this year.

Dirtier Air and Higher Costs Possible if Indian Point Closes, Report Says

Shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant would lead to significantly dirtier air and higher electric bills for New York City residents, according to a report commissioned by the city that is circulating among state officials in Albany.

France includes nuclear power exit among options

PARIS (Reuters) - France raised the possibility for the first time of pulling out of nuclear power although its energy minister stressed on Friday that this was just one of many scenarios, not the one favoured by the government.

Abu Dhabi hosts Africa meeting on renewable energy

United Arab Emirates (AP) - African governments should consider investing in renewable energies like wind, solar and hydro power to help feed the continent's growing energy demands and combat threats of climate change, the head of a new international energy agency said Friday.

UN says green energy investment at record level

Investment in renewable energy last year amounted to a record 211 billion dollars, a rise of 32 percent over 2009 and 540 percent over 2004, a UN-backed report said on Thursday.

China, investing 48.9 billion dollars, up 28 percent, accounted for more than a fifth of the total, marking a year in which developing countries for the first time outstripped rich economies in renewables investment, it said.

Jellyfish scourge threatens Israeli swimmers - and electricity

More than 200 million jellyfish, known here as “Meduzot,” have been attacking Israel, and there is not much anyone can do about it. The jellyfish are an invasive species called Rhopilema Nomadica that originally migrated from the Red Sea.

They're coming here for one reason: They have few natural enemies lurking in these waters. The sea turtle is one such enemy, but massive construction along the Israeli coastline has devastated the turtle nesting habitat, leaving a paradise for the jellyfish.

Dr. Dror Angel, who works at the Department of Maritime Civilization at the University of Haifa, says the problem of jellyfish is only increasing. "People bathing get stung, and for the fishermen it's a disaster, they catch them in their nets. And of course the electric plants suffer as well.”

U.S. Backs Project to Produce Fuel From Corn Waste

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department plans to provide a $105 million loan guarantee for the expansion of an ethanol factory in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that intends to make motor fuel from corncobs, leaves and husks.

Corn-Crop Stunner for Morgan Stanley Means U.S. is Overestimating Supply

U.S. corn supplies may be smaller than expected this year, according to analysts including Morgan Stanley’s Hussein Allidina who were surprised by a government forecast for the second-highest planted acreage since 1944.

Ethanol Industry Greets Compromise

Any other year, the ethanol industry would have declared a defeat, not a victory.

Poor Countries Seen Likely to Be ‘Hammered’ by Food Costs, Water Shortages

Developing economies will be “hammered” as declining water supply adds to problems confronting farmers who are already struggling to meet food demand, pushing prices even higher, said CH2M Hill Cos.

Countries in short supply of water including China will continue to boost food imports, draining resources in some of the largest agricultural producers including the U.S. and Brazil, said Lee McIntire, chairman and chief executive officer. The company provides services from treating waste water and building irrigation systems to cleaning up nuclear sites.

Small towns try to save vital grocery stores

"Small groceries are part of the critical infrastructure of rural communities," along with post offices and schools, he says. "When one of those goes, it really does begin to have a domino effect."

Albany Garden to Table: An Edible Initiative of a Different Kind

Would you like to see your plump, homegrown organic radishes blush crimson on a bed of sea salt in a sweet little restaurant? Interested in sharing your extra lemons with locally owned businesses?

Community organizer and hyper-locavore Doug Reil is creating a new program that may be perfect for you.

Albany Garden to Table, a fledgling Albany Edible Initiative, hopes to provide independent, locally owned restaurants and other institutions in the city with organic produce, courtesy of backyard gardens.

Sharon Astyk: The High Cost of Restaurant Culture

Even Michael Pollan, who I admire a lot in many ways, is guilty of selling us the idea that food must be fancy and complex. Consider the last meal in _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ the one that he describes "fully paid for" - the one he produces himself. He ultimately concludes that the truly sustainable and homegrown meal isn't viable, it can't be done every day. But what was his meal? Roasted, hunted wild boar. Ummm.... On the other hand, you can make and eat a salad with a varying cast of greens and vegetables with some hardboiled eggs tossed in it with not a lot of effort. Yes, it takes some infrastructure work and attention - but the idea that the home produced meal must be complex, elaborate and ultimately a failure is part of a larger narrative that says that cooking and growing food are just too damned hard.

Preparing for a post-oil world

A casual glance at the greylynn2030 website paints a convivial picture of vegetarian cooking, marmalade making, movie screenings, sewing groups, craft events, meditation evenings, community gardens and farmers' markets. So far, so Grey Lynn.

But, as part of the international Transition Towns movement, this group's focus is firmly fixed on aims considerably more serious than its gentle timetable of events suggests.

Sacred Economics: Chapter 2, "The Illusion of Scarcity" (Pt. 3)

An indication that greed reflects the perception rather than the reality of scarcity is that rich people tend to be less generous than poor people. In my experience, poor people quite often lend or give each other small sums that, proportionally speaking, would be the equivalent of half a rich person’s net worth. Extensive research backs up this observation. A large 2002 survey by Independent Sector, a nonprofit research organization, found that Americans making less than $25,000 gave 4.2 percent of their income to charity, as opposed to 2.7 percent for people making over $100,000. More recently, Paul Piff, a social psychologist at University of California–Berkeley, found that “lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth.” Piff found that when research subjects were given money to anonymously distribute between themselves and a partner (who would never know their identity), their generosity correlated inversely to their socioeconomic status.

While it is tempting to conclude from this that greedy people become wealthy, an equally plausible interpretation is that wealth makes people greedy. Why would this be? In a context of abundance greed is silly; only in a context of scarcity is it rational. The wealthy perceive scarcity where there is none. They also worry more than anybody else about money. Could it be that money itself causes the perception of scarcity? Could it be that money, nearly synonymous with security, ironically brings the opposite? The answer to both these questions is yes. On the individual level, rich people have a lot more “invested” in their money and are less able to let go of it. (To let go easily reflects an attitude of abundance.) On the systemic level, as we shall see, scarcity is also built in to money, a direct result of the way it is created and circulated.

EPA tells coal-fired plants: Reduce pollution or shut down

The EPA’s tough new air pollution regulations will force scores of older, dirty, inefficient plants to shut down. Those that remain open must dramatically clean up their emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency hopes these and other measures will improve air quality across 27 states.

Clean Air, Mortality and Cost: A Thought Exercise

Studies indicate that the new Environmental Protection Agency rule expanding controls on coal-fired power plants would save up more lives than are lost on the highways annually. Is that worth $1 billion a year?

Militarization of the Arctic

Canada has announced that they will be conducting large-scale exercises in the Arctic. NATO also announced claims on the Arctic. What can you say about the militarization of the Arctic?

Nigeria: Niser Chief Raises Alarm Over Atlantic Ocean Surge

Acting Director - General of Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Prof Femi Olokesusi has raised the alarm that about two million Lagos residents risk being submerged by the Atlantic Ocean.

Olokesusi in a paper titled, Lagos: The Challenges and Opportunities of an Emerging African Mega - City, who cited the ocean surge as part of the challenges of Lagos as a mega city however advocated policy consistency and strong political will in making Lagos mega city a reality.

Wars, food shortages and mass immigration: How global warming poses dire threat to Britain's security

Global warming will threaten Britain's security by triggering wars, food shortages and mass migration, Energy Minister Chris Huhne warned today.

Although the UK may escape the worst physical impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels, the UK will still be exposed to 'alarming and shocking' consequences of climate change elsewhere, he said.

Meanwhile in Washington...

Just 18K New Jobs Added(Expectations Were 105K)

The Full Report

Does anybody know the number needed to catch up with population increase?
Is it 150K? 200K?

I found it interesting that the U6(the broader unemployment measure) jumped from 15.8 to 16.2 % in June alone.

The U3('regular) unemployment went from 9.1 to 9.2, although the 9.1 number was really 9.053094 %, so it's almost 0.15 % in one month, not 0.1 % uptick.
Since March, 0.4 % have been added.

The U.S. is now in de facto halfway through a lost decade.

Wasn't much surprise to me. Not sure how the disconnect between relatively higher cost of oil and lower economic activity is not better understood by MSM. How much evidence does there need to be to connect the dots? There's this perception by sources like CNBC that somehow the economy should just jump up and run. They keep asking when is this recovery going to really get moving? Hey kids look at the very commodity prices you post, and then look at oil.

One of my pet peaves is the relative change in price that causes reactions like, "Oil is down from its highs!" Yeah, but it's still really high, especially when compared to the 90's.

If you count college grads stuck in counters at Starbucks long after they should've left, unemployment is 20 % in America.

The U.S. economy must create close to 400 K jobs each month for the next three years in order to bring unemployment(U3-type unemployment)down to 6 %.
To do this, you'll need growth to consistently be around 5 % over these years.

How will this happen with increasing government layoffs as states and municipalities continue to slash budget deficits in the increasingly harsher austerity drive is beyond me. And this not even counting stagnating/declining oil supply, this as a stand-alone issue.

Anyone willing to bet against my lost decade pronouncement?


Via the Financial Times, some further drilling down into the jobs disaster:


(It's free to view and doesn't require membership)

Leiten, wait until this upcoming debacle between the party's to get spending under control. Yes, we all see the need to reduce spending when 1.5 trillion a year deficits are being racked up, but deep cuts will translate into many more layoffs.

Almost seems like the writing is on the wall Obama will be out 2012 as voters 'hope' the next person can change the dynamic of high oil prices dampening economic activity. Good luck!

Jobless '99ers' have fallen though the safety net

Unlike in much of Europe, the safety net of the U.S. welfare system times out for the long-term unemployed. The federal government and many states have provided extra help for those caught up in the worst labor market in decades but the U.S. debt crisis rules out further extension of the programs.

Leanan - I believe I am correct in saying that the first 6 months of unemployment benefit in the US gives a significant percentage of the wage you were earning? Is this correct?

Here in the UK, a single man on Job Seekers Allowance gets a little over £60 per week. Hardly enough to live on, but one is allowed to work 16 hours a week before losing it so if something menial comes up then it is just about possible to survive.

It is often thought, by those across the Pond, that we live in Welfare Bliss. Unfortunately this is just not the case. Being unemployed in Britain is no laughing matter, and it is getting dramatically worse. Recent announcements will mean that indeed benefits will time-out in future.

Leanan - I believe I am correct in saying that the first 6 months of unemployment benefit in the US gives a significant percentage of the wage you were earning? Is this correct?

Not really.

It's a pretty complicated situation here, because it's administered through the states, and each state has different rules. The idea is for unemployment benefits to provide about half your previous salary, but the reality is more like 1/3. Low-income workers may be shortchanged because the benefits lag pay increases. There's a max limit as well, so high income workers will get maybe a tenth of their previous salary, rather than a third.

The cap for unemployment in some states doesn't even approach 25% of normal wages. It's quite small, perhaps just a modest house payment or rent per month where the cost of living is lower, like the SW.


It's a pretty complicated situation here, because it's administered through the states, and each state has different rules.

Correct. For a while, I was the staffer responsible for legislative oversight of the UI program's budget in my state. UI is a federal/state program. Among the complications (numbers from memory and will be in the ballpark, if not exactly right):

  • There's a federal tax on payroll of 6.4% on the first $7,000 per person each year. Of that, 5.6% is refunded (never paid, actually) if the state has a qualified program. Most state taxes are less than 5.6% on $7,000, so employers generally support their state's UI plan because their taxes would go up if they had to pay the full federal tax.
  • States are allowed, but not required, to set tax rates based on firms' history. A business that is seasonal or highly cyclical and regularly lays off workers that then collect UI benefits will often be charged a higher rate than businesses that never lay anyone off. This is one of the factors that cause the residential construction business to hire "independent subcontractors" rather than have employees.
  • Tax receipts are deposited into a federal per-state trust fund. Payroll taxes can be diverted before they are deposited to be used for other purposes -- many states fund other labor-related activities from such diversions -- but once deposited, you can only use the trust to pay benefits and administrative costs.
  • If a state's trust fund runs out, the federal government loans the fund money so the state can continue to pay benefits. If the state stops paying benefits, its program is no longer conforming, and the federal tax mentioned above must be paid in full. For the first several months, the loan is tax free, then the feds charge 6% per year or so on the balance. Historically, many states have negative balances by the end of a recession. IIRC, Texas used to officially plan for their balance to go negative on a regular basis, because it let them keep their state UI tax rates lower.
  • The federal Department of Labor looks closely over the shoulder of the state agency that administers UI. One year I made an error in a footnote in the budget bill that the state agency didn't catch during their review. After the bill was passed and signed, the feds called the state agency to point out the mistake, and demanded that it be corrected.

One of the more interesting conversations I ever had with a state legislator was with a very conservative member who wanted the state to get out of the UI business, and couldn't understand why the businesses in his district were opposed to his proposal.

states are allowed, but not required, to set tax rates based on firms' history.

I remember meeting quite a few people during the eighties would did forestry work during the summer, and collected unemployment during the winter. Defineately huge scope for abuse if you don't do something like that.

I suspect most states did impose some sort of tests, cause employers really hated having ex-employees recieve the benefits. For instance when I was laid off I got the max allowed severence: six months (for a very long term employee), but they paid me with regular paychecks over the six months. That way I couldn't apply for unemployment until the six months were over.

For me it's 75% of my 'weekly' salary. But my total benefits are 1/4th of my former yearly income.

In NJ is 60% of salary/wages up to a maximum benefit of about $600

(per week)

wow! and who pays that? Is it the former employer, some kind of insurance or the State (a.k.a. the taxpayer)?

$600 a week is waaay more generous than British unemployment benefit.

I thought NJ was bankrupt? I saw a youtube clip of the Governor being heckled by a pissed off teacher and he put her in her place with all the force and elegance of Tony Soprano !

Employers have to pay in. The state may also chip in. Often, states borrow money from the feds to pay unemployment benefits in bad times.

Few people would actually get $600/week. That's the maximum (it's based on your income). Also, part-time workers and the self-employed do not get benefits. They are only for full time workers who were fired through no fault of their own. People who quit or were fired "for cause" do not get benefits.

All correct for NJ. Employers pay into an "insurance fund" an amount based on their experience with layoffs(I guess you could say as layer-offers). This is usually fairly small(1-2%)of gross payroll. The fund is usually sucked dry in recessions and then, as you say, borrowing from Uncle is supposed to tide things over until the economy recovers.

I should point out most employers deduct this as additional with-holding from employees, so typically it is the employee paying.

Pardon me, but you can only deduct but what state and federal regulations tell you to deduct. The only way for the employer to compensate is to pay people at a lower rate. The rule of thumb is that an employee costs 1.4 times their nominal pay once taxes, record keeping, hiring costs and training are included. This could be higher for companies that have significant benefit packages. And not really, it not always possible to pass the costs to the customer. A lot of service companies like mine are making razor thin margins, or just trading dollars to keep the doors open.

The company sees all of it as cost for that employee, and the employee gets what is left after everybody gets their slice.

The best way to spur employment is by reducing the cost spread between the employer and the employee. The less off the top, the cheaper an employee is to hire and/or the more the employee gets to pocket; both encourage working.

So, if employment is really desired (and I'm not at all sure the gov't thinks it is), their are key points to address:
- federal personal income taxes
- state income taxes
- cost of healthcare
- cost of social security and medicaid
- overhead costs, including hazard insurance, safety, etc.

It would be interesting to consider an approach by which the gov't rebated costs of employment at a rate indexed by unemployment, with the rebate going half to the employer and half to the employee. This would encourage working and hiring alike, versus any welfare program which encourages, well, surviving on welfare.

During periods of high unemployment, having ANY job would result in a greater work-bonus to the worker, and would reduce the incremental cost of hiring add'l employees by the employer. During periods of better employment, the bonuses would drop and companies and employees alike would be competing more stringently.

A recurring theme for my ideas is to get the gov't out of the service-delivery part of societal support, and more directly feedback aid to individuals and companies rather than the existing duality of trick-down economics which favors the biggest and best connected, and mass welfare which encourages both a bureaucracy and a dependence on the state.

I can recall hearing of programs that would effectively subsidize the cost of hiring the long term unemployed. At least on papaer it is win win, the government gets most of its money back in taxes and reduced welfare benefits, and the employer gets cheap labor. Of course the competition for that labor would howl, and usually that means unions throwing their weight around. Even if a program is net positive sum to the economy, there will be some users. If the losers are well organized, they will probably manage to stop the program.

Of course the competition for that labor would howl, and usually that means unions throwing their weight around.

And I heard the Wobblies were coming!
The Wobblies!
---The Wobblies---
------Fear Them!------

so typically it is the employee paying.

Assuming an efficient labor market (I know discredited economist speak here), the wage that would be offered for a given job would be by supply/demand. Supply, as employers figure out at what cost to them it doesn't pay to hire. Demand, (are worers willing to take the job). In any case if the employers costs change, his willingness to hire will change, thusly the market clearing wage will be adversely affected by charges that don't show up in the paychecks. So yes, one way or another, the employee pays.

Washington State sets rates by industry category, putting the construction related businesses in the pushing 6% bracket. Add $1 - $3/ hour for workers' compensation insurance, and it makes hiring a construction laborer painful for small business owners. By comparison, I pay $0.16/hour to the workers' compensation fund for my technician, in case he drops a computer on his toe.

Some construction work is seasonal and some workers collect unemployment in the off-season. Carrying computers is probably less seasonal.

Yes, well I haven't had to look at this in several years because I'm not in bookkeeping, but I know you get a circular from the state every so often that tells you what your rate is based on your experience laying people off. I'm sure this is due to the fact that many employers are seasonal, landscaping for example being very large in NJ. Retail too.

If I remember correctly the lowest rates are(were) in the 0.5% range, doubtless for companies that very rarely had layoffs over the past several years. Such a company may choose to eat that rather than deduct from employees. Also if I remember correctly these rates may go as high as 5%(?) for very seasonal employers.

Mind you, I haven't been involved in that end of business for 6-7 years but those numbers are approximately correct with some adjustment.

Here's the numbers for Washington State: Joe's House Painting wants to hire a new apprentice painter. Joe pays New Guy $10/hour. New Guy won't be allowed on ladders, so Joe pays the "ground only" worker's compensation rate.

New Guy $10/hour

Employer's Social Security share 6.2%: $0.62
Employer's Medicare Share 1.45%: $0.145
WA State unemployment insurance, paid by Joe: $0.58
WA State worker's comp, paid by Joe: $1.03

Total hourly cost to Joe for New Guy: $12.375/ hour plus the share of time for the cute young lady in the back office who keeps track of all this and gets the paperwork in on time, Joe's safety equipment ($150) and Joe's training time.

New Guy pays $0.23/hour for his share of workers' comp plus his share of social security and medicare.

When New Guy is allowed on ladders, his total workers' comp will go up to $3.20/hour.

Average weekly wage in NJ is a little over $1000. In this recession a lot of the unemployed are in the above average wage range and would be capped at $600. Note that NJ is one of the highest cost-of-living states in the US.


Here in the UK, a single man on Job Seekers Allowance gets a little over £60 per week.

If you can get it, that is.


Are there other allowances for food or shelter in the UK? People on unemployment in the US may be eligible for food stamps (federal money handled by states), and to pick up food at food banks (which are greatly stressed at the moment) etc.

On top of the basic payment you get your rent paid (but not a mortgage). This can be several hundred pounds per week depending on the cost of rented property in the area. It is the payments at the high end that the government intends to cut.

Housing benefit for rent is available, again if you can get it, but the policy is dependent on the local authority. I don't know what food help there is but I don't recall anything though it is a while since I lived there. Various charities do give food out to certain groups of people. Avoiding or delaying giving people their due allowances keeps them off the unemployment statistics and the numbers down.


I got about 10% versus what I made working.

"we all see the need to reduce spending when 1.5 trillion a year deficits are being racked up"

The deficits topped out at $1.4 trillion 2 years ago and are currently below $1.3 trillion and falling. Tax revenues are up 15% in the past 18 months, and overall spending is essentially flat since July of 2009 at $3.5 trillion per year.

Heading down the right path means making sure our facts are straight at the outset. Spending is presently around 23% of GDP, which is a bit high, but the real crisis is taxes at 15% of GDP. Taxes were over 20% of GDP in 1989 and in 2001, and 19% in 1995.

Heading down the right path means making sure our facts are straight at the outset.

I don't think any of us here with precisely correct numbers or slightly off numbers at the outset will change anything. What happens will occur by way of lobbyists via their bought and paid for congressional and senate leaders pulling the purse strings.

And intersting a study was done that said what if congress was forzen (i.e. could change actually nothing, just let current law proceed). The long term result is that the budget would be balanced. But of course politicians will continue to demand (and get) their pieces of flesh, so that won't happen.

But you are correct, the budget crisis, is really a crisis in tax (non) collection. Brought to you by the same forces that are screaming about the deficits. Starve the government, is thought by aristocrats to be good for aristocrats.

What was the unemployment rate just before the US Civil War?

I'm guessing 0%. Same in any pre-petroleum society.

There will come a time when everyone will be required to roll up his/er sleeves and do some real, sweaty work just to survive.

The reason modern economies have such a thing as 'unemployment' is because we are all supposed to specialise in something productive. When everyone is 'specialising' in growing their own food, fetching their own water, making their own clothes, collecting their own energy and raising their families there won't be anyone left to compile the unemployment report!

See the Panic of 1857.

After Snidely Whiplash shows up with the mortgage and the Sheriff and takes your farm, what are you going to do?

Dudley Do-Right and the Mortgage Crisis!!:

It's hard to see how the UK won't be the poster child for a Malthusian catastrophe.

They have a population of 60 million in an area the size of Wyoming. There is no way that country can transition to anything like food independence, so when the UK's access to global markets collapses under the weight of economic decline, die off ensues. The UK economy consists of piles of financial shenanigans, so it will collapse at some point, cutting off access to foreign goods (unless the military is used to secure access, but that can be only a short-lived solution in a world of growing conflict).

There is no way the carrying capacity of the UK, minus imports, is anything close to 60 million.

As you point out, in pre-fossil fuel societies there is always an incentive to work because for most people, money is not the medium of exchange. As Nicole Foss has pointed out, money has been reserved for elites in pre-industrial societies, because only they can access services in pre-industrial conditions. Commoners have to be self-sufficient within their families and small communities.

Most people barter and gift in non-industrial economies, so indeed there will be opportunities for work when the fossil fuel era unwinds.

Nonetheless, most of the world's population has to die for societies to get from the fossil fuel era to the post-fossil fuel era.

Not sure I totally agree. Currently fully one third of all food bought from supermarkets in the UK is left to rot at the back of the fridge and then chucked. One third! Britain has more than enough fertile farm land and fisheries to feed itself, albeit at a markedly different diet and 'fridge efficiency rate'. Yes, we import a lot of food but it is all stuff we can easily do without with a more 'boring' diet. Do we really need kiwi fruits from halfway around the world or yellow-fin tuna from the China sea?

I don't think food waste has gone up over time. With less energy, it is more difficult to get food from the farm elsewhere and keep it fresh. If memory serves, I think 40% of UK food was wasted in the 18th century.

but we have the means now to get food waste right down to single figures. The biggest reason people still waste food is lack of imaginative culinary skills to use left overs up.

HA - Maybe I should send you some of my Cajun/creole recipes. When the other little boys were out playing ball I was in the kitchen in New Orleans with grandma learning how to cook. I can still feed a family of 4 with a healthy and tasty dinner for less than $6. And no waste. I didn't even comprehend the term "left over" until I went to college. LOL. Really. You ate till the food was gone, cleaned the pot and then started thinking about what you were going to have for supper the next night. That's the thing about my still of cooking: takes planning and time. But that's why it's cheap. Like you said: there's a lot of consumption you can live without...and maybe even live a healthier life. I still prefer a good pot of beans, rice and pickle meat over a thick steak most days. And that's after eating a million #'s of beans as a kid.

I understand :-)

Best Hopes for Good Food,


Tour The Creepy New Orleans Six Flags That Was Abandoned After Hurricane Katrina

A glimpse of the future?

Coming to the amusement parks of America?

When you start seeing recipes like "Roast leg of bus conductor" you'll know the end is nigh.

The biggest reason people still waste food is lack of imaginative culinary skills to use left overs up.

In my house it is the huge hastle of sorting through the fridge. Try to grab that item in the very back, and you are likely to knowk over something that will make a terrible mess. So stuff that migrates to the back, is out of sight, until it is too late....

Yes. There was a study on this awhile back. Food waste is massive, both in third world and western nations. The reasons, however, are different. In countries like the US, a lot of food is discarded because of aesthetic standards, or gets thrown away by the consumer - because it's not used before it goes bad, or they buy more than they can eat and pitch the excess. In third world countries, the waste is due food going bad during shipping or storage (due to rats, etc.)

It will take a very different approach to life and food and waste and consumption...for many to get through the coming crunch.

On the other hand, the UK has at least one advantage over some of the MENA countries, the demographic age distribution:


Natural rates of death of the aged will take out about seven million in the next decade, and about 15 million in the next one or two. And that large bulge above 45 years old are people not having kids anymore.

If they don't over-produce kids or over immigrate, they will have a much reduced population, probably down to about 40 million or lower, by 2030 just from natural death rates of the aged and from the usual set of other circumstances that shorten peoples lives.

Compare this with the population pyramids of, say, Egypt:


or the demographics of Yemen: "in 2007 about 46 percent of the population was under age 15; slightly more than half the population, 15–64; and less than 3 percent, 65 and older. ...birthrate ... 42.7 per 1,000"

(Global average birth rate is about 19 per 1000.)

Need it be mentioned that these countries are mostly desert?

In the UK we have a lot of economic migrants (well we do in London), as the economy continues to decline more and more people will leave. I suspect its rather pointless trying to make predictions of future population densities, too many unknowns. Also, when it comes to food, what effect will climate change have on food production? How will the UK fair with other countries?

"one third of all food bought from supermarkets... is left to rot at the back of the fridge"

It's the vegetables that do so poorly: out of sight, out of mind, in the dark, suffocating in plastic bags, nearly freezing cold... they turn into ick. Those things were alive. A nice green cabbage turns white in the dark. Squash respires water and then molds almost immediately if left a plastic bag. Tomatoes lose their flavor in the very cold and shouldn't even be in there.

The way to keep them is shown in the market displays. They all want light and free-flowing air (though the potatoes will get ambitious!). Some need a spray of water so they don't wilt. Some cooling, perhaps, but only to 70 degrees. There are exceptions, but the answer is there. A similar display for the home might even be a good product.

Interesting. Had not thought of that.

Unfortunately, most veggies are nearly inedible when placed on those supermarket displays!

The UK has fisheries ? You must be kidding ! Fish stocks are at all time lows, the fish have been almost completely fished out. They may never recover, even if left alone (see what happened to the US atlantic cod).

What? You don't like jellyfish?! Beggars, can't be choosers... They are a source of protein after all and they have become quite plentiful in most places. Humans! They just don't get it...

Drain the potatoes and mash them, adding butter, salt and pepper. Next, in a bowl mix your toasted sesame oil, ginger, coriander, sweet chilli dipping sauce, spring onions together. Now in one bowl add half of the herb mixture with the mash potatoes. In another bowl, add the other half of the herb mixture to your chopped jellyfish.

Read more: http://www.jellyfishfacts.net/jellyfish-burgers.html#ixzz1RbWdzAt2

Now there's a, must have skill, for future generations of chefs, jellyfish chopping!

Oh, and don't forget the side dish of sauteed grasshoppers.

HAcland, not sure I'd agree with that. During WW2 Britain couldn't feed itself and that was with a population of some 30-40m and a far greater proportion employed in agriculture. Climate change, economic woes and energy shortages can all have a devastating impact upon agriculture. And fertile land? There is probably less fertile land available now due to economic and population growth since WW2 and even less people who know what to do with it (what's the average age of a farmer today? 60+ IIRC). The fisheries and the fishing industry aren't exactly healthy.

A population of unskilled workers, employed to attend meetings and other non-productive endeavours in the artificially large service sector. A country that's run a trading deficit with the rest of the World for 30 years (ie. produces little of interest that anybody wants) sustained only by selling assets and borrowing. The malinvestment in the UK is massive and the likely deflationary unwinding massive too.

The UK is toast and can't even revert to militarism to expand carrying capacity. Even if the overly large population was herded back into the satanic mills, the country probably couldn't compete with Asia et al.

I left Britain for a good reason.

By the way, Ms. Foss discusses the rarity of money among non-elites in non-industrial conditions after ten minutes into this video.


Financial economies are created to paper over what John Michael Greer calls "scarcity industrialism," which follows the phase of "abundance industrialism" after growth in the real economy is no longer possible. Financial bubbles allow countries that have passed their peak of industrial production to continue to access goods by importing them. But they must eventually implode.

During abundance industrialism, money is increasingly available to ordinary people. During scarcity industrialism, money concentrates among elites, because pre-industrial patterns start to reassert themselves. When the fossil fuel binge is over, we have a society that looks more like a few hundred years ago, with a small elite that have access to imported goods and services and ordinary people who must be self-sufficient.

Most people barter and gift in non-industrial economies,

A predominant financial transaction in non-industrial economies is the payment of taxes, either in the form of a share of crops or other production, or in the form of Corvée labor or military service. However, there would typically be a large class of slaves who did not pay taxes.

In Tainter's talks referenced in yesterday's DB, he has an interesting discussion of taxation in the Roman Empire.

It is also because only work that is exchanged for cash is counted, and only then when it is not in the black market.

We could reach full employment tomorrow by reducing the work week to 30 hours and increasing vacation to a month a year.

We have to get over the idea that growth is going to come along and revive the economy and reduce unemployment. Its not going to happen, and it shouldn't happen. We have to find new strategies to give people meaningful things to do with their lives besides getting money for doing things they mostly hate, money they use to buy things they mostly don't use. The consumer society is killing the world and the sooner it ends, the better.

We need to return to historical norms, where a large portion of the population were involved in growing or procuring food, and in living radically minimal lives devoted to spiritual and intellectual goals. We need more spiritual geniuses and fewer technical geniuses. Einstein said something about human happiness depending more on spiritual than technical geniuses.

Government employment was down 39 K jobs in the Seasonally Adjusted Establishment Data, while Private employment was up 57 K jobs.

This is generally the right trend, with public employment declining and private employment rising. Private employment would likely be rising more briskly if not for declines in businesses that are suppliers to government. Allowing for that the private sector is reasonably robust at this point.

There was a 0.2% decline in the percentage of employed to population. However, this percentage should decline over time as the baby boomers retire. Note that there is somewhat of a bulge of retirements in the public sector as the 55+ employees retire while they can under existing benefit plans.

It is not a "lost decade". It is the "new normal".

Obama, of course, is being blamed for this, as that is just the way it is when you are the President. It is the decrease in government jobs that makes the number worse than it would otherwise be. The Republicans blame the President, but their solution is to double down on a policy that has had no positive effect. During the budget debates, we were told that business would implode if we didn't keep the tax cuts. Well, it is imploding, anyway, so now we are going to double down by massively decreasing government expenditures. I would not be surprise if we saw unemployment well over 10% by the next election. Obama is adopting the Republican mantra that the problem is the deficit. By doing so, he is ensuring his defeat.

And after, the budget has been imploded as the result of the debt ceiling crisis, and the employment situation gets much worse, will the people blame the Republicans? Dont' think so.

Sell, sell, sell.

And so he should be.

His stimulus program was sold on the basis that it would keep unemployment below 8.5% !!! It is quite likely that the stimulus kept the unemployment rate from going to 12-13% but that is not the point. Obama and his advisers had diagnosis for the economy which has turned out to be totally wrong. 2008 was not a bump in the road as they thought but rather a gigantic "road washed out sign" that the President and his advisers ignored. Rather than detouring and setting a new course for the economy they decided to floor the accelerator.

On the single most important issue Obama got it wrong.

More like: Obama got "the message" wrong. In all honesty though, what else could he do other than to spin positive and shore up BAU? It would have been political suicide to have labled this economy "the new norm". A "heads you loose, tails you die" situation that he was unlucky enough to inherit.

Deficit spending to spur consumption was the wrong idea. Going into debt to fund consumption was what the private sector had been doing during the '00s and that was what caused the bubble/bust.

The better approach would have been for deficit spending to have been used for investment. But that was probably infeasible since the Democrats wanted immediate relief for the unemployed and Republicans would oppose any "competition" between government investment and private investment.

Deficit spending for investment rather than consumption. I can buy that argument if you mean investment in jobs and infrastructure - Civilian Conservation Corps, etc. The stimulus should have gone much further in that respect.

Not just any job, and not just any infrastructure. Only those jobs and infrastructure which will generate a future stream of income to offset the current expenditures.

Locally they tore up perfectly good concrete sidewalks in the downtown and put in decorative brick sidewalks. This created jobs and infrastructure, but it is just consumption. It is likely to increase future maintenance costs.

Electrified rail - like it or not its our destiny

Locally they tore up perfectly good concrete sidewalks in the downtown and put in decorative brick sidewalks.

Yes. They keep tearing up the road a commute on, to make things that only a highway engineer (who stands to get a cut of the project) would find worth the cost. Sure the road will be marginally better, but it was "good enough" before. People see that and then reject stimulus. Thus austerianism wins out.

Sell, sell, sell.

Sorry Merril, you are so far off base it is hard to know where to start. There is plenty of capital available even though the velocity of money has dropped dramatically.

There is plenty of private capital available in the sense that investors and financial institutions can't find enough low risk / modest return enterprises and borrowers to invest in and lend to. This is also why cutting tax rates will not stimulate the economy -- wealthy people will just have more capital to invest abroad.

So government needs to step in and invest in higher risk, larger, longer return projects that will provide future returns to pay back the debt incurred. Even if the returns are risky and uncertain, it is better than stimulating consumption by spending on decorative sidewalks.

Or by things like cutting down the curb to comply with ADA requirements in Detroit on blocks that only still have a couple of houses.

Here is the complete post, sorry about the early submission error,

Hello Merril,

There is plenty of capital available despite the drop in the velocity of money. There are no investment opportunities, because the US has a demand problem. Why does the US have a demand problem, because all new income goes to the investing class. As the middle class can no longer increase its indebtedness, there are no consumers increasing consumption. All it takes is common sense to understand this.

I do not mean there is never a situation where increased savings and private capital is beneficial, just that we are not at that point. All things being equal, the most useful arguments in this discussion are those distinguishing the investment level where reasonable return can be had from those where it cannot.

Of course, all things are not equal, we are also in or near a liquidity trap where few investments that will not lose money are available. In this age of peak oil, nearly the entire private sector of the US, with the exception of energy, is likely to shrink. Nevertheless, consumption must at least be stabilized to allow transitional investment and prevent diminishing returns.

WWII did not end the Great Depression because military hardware had a good rate of return. Unfortunately, as you note, we are also in the age of resource limitation and the potential that expending ordinance will allow sustainable growth is small.

Fortunately, US Treasury bills are at near historic lows. Indeed on average they are below zero interest adjusted for inflation. Consequently the government can profitably invest at the lowest rate of return of anyone in the US by far.

Indeed, in this situation, the Government is not only the consumer of last resort, but also the investor of last resort. That is why the US government is still the safest place to bank ones money, despite the deficit.

From the Republicans, we can expect their most vitriolic attacks to be focused on the best Government long term investments, such as those in mass transit and renewable energy and changes that enable sustainable development such as a carbon tax to address global warming and energy decent.

Indeed, anything that contradicts the stupidity that government cannot be made to work.

P.S. having read your posts above more thoroughly, I see our disagreement is only on the Keynesian benefit of increased consumption in and of itself.

In Keynes day, a proportional increase in consumption was more directly related to a requirement to hire and invest in order to produce good. Now manufacturers are able to increase production without a proportional increase in labor or capital requirements. Furthermore, in an economy which is dominated by services, the relationship between increased consumption of services and hiring and investment may be even more tenuous, depending on which services are being consumed.

Therefore, government "pump priming" really needs to be directed towards investments that have an ultimate return.

The better approach would have been for deficit spending to have been used for investment.

Fully agree. Once the talk turned to "shovel ready", rather than to prioritize for long term investment needs, the die was cast.

In all honesty though, what else could he do other than to spin positive and shore up BAU?

One always has choices.

It would have been political suicide to have labled this economy "the new norm"

The 'new norm' exists because of the energy flow and its cost. Its why TOD exists and why "we" show up here trying to figure out how the worlds problems are gonna get solved.

Perhaps political suicide is what's needed? Perhaps it is time to 'shrink the size' of the government and figure out how to do that in a planned way VS a note that says: 'Ohppps, outta cash. Sorry for the closed and locked door.'

Here are 2 examples of The State and in the 'new norm' as 'seen' from TOD why The State may need some shrinking:

no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor


A COUPLE living an "off-grid" lifestyle say they face prison unless they move from their own land in Willand and return to an existence in the benefits trap.....Mid Devon District Council is turfing them off as officers do not consider them to be conserving an agricultural area.

A "heads you loose, tails you die" situation that he was unlucky enough to inherit.

He did choose to put forth the effort to get the job. The upside to the job is:
"I got mine"

Its why TOD exists and why "we" show up here trying to figure out how the worlds problems are gonna get solved.

Solved? That's not a concept that's crossed my mind. Our civilization is based on economic growth, economic growth is based on the ever increasing consumption of natural resources. The whole thing is going to end up being a train wreck, I'm here to watch it unfold in slow motion. It's just a matter of timing.

Okay, perhaps I'm feeling a little cynical this evening...

I don't think that is correct.

He could have started by making it clear that going into debt was not a good thing. That people who did it didn't do so because they thought is was cool but because they had - because median wages haven't gone up. He could have made it clear that for 20 years we have had a Ponzi economy - and recovering from that was going to take a number of years. I think following what happened in 2008 people would have been ready to hear that message because it would resonate with what they had gone through in the last 10 years- going deeper into debt just to stay in place.

If you can't diagnose the problem correctly you can't find the correct solution. In that context health reform was necessary. If the economy was going through this readjustment process then it was important that people were not insured.

...Sell, sell, sell.

And the R strategy is to force him to do things that will hurt "insure his is a failed presidency". So right off the bat they made a huge stink over the stimulus. Obama fell into thjeir trap by not fighting toothe-and-nail, it got whittled down in size, and much was mistargetted (to things with small economic multipliers). So his fate was largely sealed with the first month.

Then he feels so boxed in by appeals to "folk economics" [if the economy is hurting government should share in the pain]. So he has allowed himself to manuveuered into self defeating behavior. All that wouldn't have happened if we had an honest opposition, that put the countries welfare first. But lacking that, his strategy should have been to expose that, not compromise with it. The too-timid army will almost always be defeated by a smaller bold army!

I hear ya' regarding the "disconnect". It's a real disconnect from reality. And it makes me feel more and more like some sort of refugee, marooned on the opposite side of the looking glass as I watch the MSM/Kudlow/CNBC, etc. I feel like a character in a Kafka novel; it has gotten just too bizarre.

One of my pet peaves is the relative change in price that causes reactions like, "Oil is down from its highs!" Yeah, but it's still really high, especially when compared to the 90's.

I just caught some economist commenting on NPR that it was obvious why the number of jobs had not grown in June, he said it should be obvious to everyone paying for gas at the pump... Then he went on to say that oil was now back below a hundred dollars a barrel! Talk about disconnect. It is quite sad to observe all the people who truly believe that it is only a matter of time before the recovery really gets rolling.

Then he went on to say that oil was now back below a hundred dollars a barrel! Talk about disconnect.

Arabian Gulf Arab Light Crude Oil Spot Price

But as long as WTI is flashed up constantly on US media then it seems that's the "price of oil".

Alaskan North Slope Crude Spot Price

Talk about disconnect.

That's not disconnect, that's:

Reality Control
Orwell Today

All that was needed was unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control,' they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.

In the ramifications of Party doctrine Julia had not the faintest interest. Whenever he began to talk of the principles of Ingsoc, doublethink, the mutability of the past, and the denial of objective reality, and to use Newspeak words, she became bored and confused and said that she never paid any attention to that kind of thing. One knew that it was all rubbish, so why let oneself be worried by it? She knew when to cheer and when to boo, and that was all one needed.

The price is dropping because if we say that the price is dropping frequently enough it's all you ever hear and therefore true.

And there's a rise to about $3.80 already baked in over the next few weeks based on current wholesale and futures gasoline prices - barring a rapid oil price drop next week.

What are you some sort of factualist? The price is dropping: Huzzah!

L - A few months ago I heard it was about 160,000 new folks coming to the job market every month.

Rockman, what doesn't show right off the bat is that the labour pool of job seekers was actually slashed by over 200 K.

If it hadn't, the unemployment would have shot up much more.

But creative accounting has it's merits, as we've seen with today's report.
It's why the government is addicted to it, but is never held accountable.
(but Enron et al are.)


An update of the dismal graph with the newest (very distorted) figures factored in:


Even with the extreme creative accounting you get total stagnation.

This graph is interesting, but it ignores the obvious question: What about the Great Depression?

The closest graph I've found is here (I forget how to post it directly):

Obvious skews are caused by differing ways of calculating the rates, but the biggest point is that non-farm is a much bigger category than it was then. My folks were farm-based then, and their knowledge of the depression was they couldn't sell milk, their only real monetary income. But they could and did trade it to locals, and nobody went hungry.

With a far greater fraction (95+% now versus maybe 20% then?) in non-farm work, the economic pain is probably similar now, but the problem is larger. Then, all you had to do was keep the small-percentage of unemployed workers fed. Now, we have the same problem, multi-fold, hence the surge of those on food-stamps.

The change in recession recovery pattern correlates with the Reagan change in tax structure. Since then we have had a demand problem during recoveries.

Consumption can lead investment but investment has trouble leading demand both because investment is a smaller part of the economy and because it can move over seas.

The Great Depression and the current recession both involve particularly deep demand problems.

The service sector is large and hard to restart. The Service Sector and the “Great Recession” – A Fifth District Perspective

The recent recession had a lasting effect on the service sector, both nationally and in the Fifth District. The Fifth District Service Sector Index of Revenues provides valuable insights into the nature of the service sector’s downturn, and its links to downturns in other markets. In particular, breaking down the aggregate index into its component industries reveals important differences in each subsector’s decline and relative recovery.

I know this is your view and I have no doubt it is a important factor. Still, look at what is happening right now. The moneyed classes have bounced back, while working and middle class are still decimated (in aggregate).

While it is not hard to understand the persistence of the current recession given the 4 indicators of apocalypse (overbuilt housing, bank problems, high energy prices, absent income growth)], why was recovery so slow from the prior two recessions, which were rather shallow.

I also think this argument avoids the issue. Why is service sector recovery so slow? Perhaps because the service sector picks up when demand picks up?

L - I've seen that plot before. It really tells the whole story. It's a shame the majority of Americans couldn't understand it. One of the key skills for a geologist is pattern recognition. We might not be able to explain how a pattern developed but it is what it is. Of course it's always better to know what caused the pattern but until you do this what you have: we are obviously in unchartered waters when it come to the post-recession re-employment trends.

Having said that I notice we seem to be following the slope of the 2001(?) recovery. A coincidence or maybe this is the PO related new normal? Again, not so much an interpretation but just recognizing a possible pattern.

Well, here's a pattern for you, from that chart.

The last four recessions (1981 onwards) have all had the same shape of curve - a wide flat bowl - and each one, has taken longer to recover than any recession before it (not counting The Depression). It sounds like I am describing the capital spending required to find/produce more oil - always costs more per bbl than in previous decades....

The earlier recessions seemed to be much more a v shape curve, with a definite bottom, and then a fairly rapid recovery. Probably things like factories that laid off staff rehiring. Since 1981, when the factories (or any business) close in a recession, many never re-open, and I'd guess that trend has increased each decade.

As some one commented here a few weeks ago, "economic activity" is increasingly being decoupled from employment.

I think the most likely solution for government is going to be to redefine unemployment, just like they redefined inflation a few years ago.

Bingo - a new normal economic environment thanks to shifts in employment patterns and computerization/automation!

Between WWII and 1981, US recessions were what are often called "inventory" recessions -- inventories got out of whack with demand so employers made layoffs while things got balanced again. In such recessions, those laid off were often hired back by the same employer. V-shaped recoveries: once the inventories are straightened out, production goes quickly back to previous levels.

The 1981 recession was somewhat different in that it was created intentionally -- Paul Volcker, then head of the Federal Reserve, was determined to break the wage/price inflationary spiral from the 1970s, and pushed interest rates high enough to create enough unemployment that workers no longer expected to see 10% annual wage increases.

The 1990 and 2001 recessions were structurally different. In those, workers were not rehired into the same jobs to nearly the same degree. Employment was much slower to recover because it's harder, and takes longer, to find a different job than to be hired back to the old one. Retraining may be necessary, and that takes time. Or it may be necessary to move, which is not undertaken lightly.

The 2007 recession was/is a "balance sheet" recession. The financial sector, grossly inflated by massive amounts of debt, collapses and takes a sizeable chunk of the real economy of goods and services down with it. The history on balance-sheet recessions in various countries is that employment recovery is very slow because everyone wants to shed debt rather than buy goods and services, and businesses don't hire until they think demand is going to grow.

Just a personal opinion, but when the historical evidence suggests that any time the financial sector gets out of control the situation will end badly, it's a good idea to keep the banks chained down pretty tightly. From the mid 1980s through the late 1990s the US and other countries took the Depression-era chains off their banks -- and got the results that a historian would probably have expected.

It seems hard to argue that the slow recoveries from the 1990, 2001 and 2007 were due to common problems with financial institutions.

Didn't say they were. Said that the slow employment recovery following the quite mild 1990 and 2001 recessions was due to structural changes in employment. Workers were not hired back to the same positions -- those positions were automated away, or outsourced, or simply disappeared as industries shifted their share of the economy, so workers had to find different jobs, a much more time-consuming process.

A very good diagnosis. The religion of free market, gave enough ammunition to those who didn't want regulations to hold them back. So the political class allowed then to get their way. The rest, as they say, is history. Didn't some of the long cyle folks say this was a big part of the longcycle dynamic. The people who experience the last serious crash die off, and the lessons are forgotten. Then the abuses build up, until is crashes... Rinse and repeat. "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."

Table A-11. Unemployed persons by reason for unemployment
[Numbers in thousands]

                        Not Seasonally Adjusted   Seasonally Adjusted
                           June 2010  June 2011  June 2010  June 2011 

Job losers and persons 
who completed temporary jobs   8,769      7,940      9,097      8,261 
Job leavers                      847        923        897        965 
Reentrants                     3,628      3,836      3,272      3,430 
New entrants                   1,642      1,710      1,147      1,222

It appears that compared with a year ago there are now somewhat fewer people being laid off, and more people who are leaving jobs and reentering or entering the work force. This may indicate that the structural change in the economy is being worked through with workers moving out of declining sectors and geographies.

Furthermore, the number of new unemployment applicants still seems to be high, while the number of workers employed is rising slightly. This must mean that hiring is fairly brisk.

Are the reentrants and new entrants (both down y-o-y I would add) applicants? How does that statistic derive?

Doesn't sound like hiring is very brisk to me. The numbers you see are coming from unemployment claims. How many 99ers have fallen out of the market and are not shown. And, as someone asked, how many college grads are serving coffee or hamburgers? How many technicians are mowing lawns or clerking at WalMart?

The party is over, Merrill. Last one to leave, please turn off the lights.


The reentranst and new entrants are actually up Y-O-Y. I couldn't find a detailed description in the BLS notes, but these statistics are from the household survey, where the BLS contacts households and interview people about their employment situation. I would guess that the survey asks whether someone has started looking for work in the last 4 weeks and whether that person has worked before.

People are classified as unemployed if they meet all of the following criteria: they had no employment during the reference week; they were available for work at that time; and they made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons laid off from a job and expecting recall need not be looking for work to be counted as unemployed. The unemployment data derived from the household survey in no way depend upon the eligibility for or receipt of unemployment insurance benefits.

But, weren't last years numbers skewed by government census hiring?

Try http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts - accounting for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers the US unemployment rate has been about 23% the past 2 years.

Does that factor in those on short hours?

How is someone defined as employed? 20 hours a week? 30? 10?

If you do any work at all, you are employed in the eyes of the government. You are also considered employed if you didn't work, but have a job (if you're on maternity leave, vacation, sick, etc.)

You may also be considered employed if you work for free - kids helping out the family farm, say.


Are people dropping cell phone contracts or not renewing? Dropping cable/sattleite TV? Very high speed internet? iPad data plans? Notice a rash of people dropping off spare leased cars at the dealer and saying keep the keys? Isn't it really the exact opposite?

The costly frivolities of modern life cost hundreds of dollars per month. If 1/4 of the population is jobless and broke, why aren't they breaking the addicition?

We recently laid off a fellow in the office who is now "unemployed" and collecting unemployment. Boohoo for him. Now he will have to live off only his unemployment, $3000 per month Air Force pension and his $3000 per month city pension and he can't get his $6000 per month (post-tax take home) paycheck anymore.

So what part of the 23% do you think are like the fellow from your office? You sound out of touch to me. I see hardship and a sense of desperation here in Maine. Fear too.

US employment has been stagnant since 1999.

This is the result of an aging population with a growing number of retirees, young women exiting the workforce, and now an end to the flood of Mexican immigration.

The first baby-boomers hit government retirement age of 55 in 2000 and early retirement age of 62 in 2007.

The population might be increasing, but the working age population - not so much.

Does anybody know the number needed to catch up with population increase?
Is it 150K? 200K?

To answer my own question:

I first wrote almost 400 K(382 K jobs to be exact) new jobs per month if he wants to get to 6 % unemployment in three years, but that just isn't realistic so we'll give Obama the benefit of a second term and he will use the remaining years he has until early 2017.

It's 254 K new jobs per month if you stretch it out to the very end month of a potential second Obama term, where you count the full amount of jobs needed to get back to the pre-crisis employment ratios, as well as accounting for population growth and 90,000 new employees joining the labour pool each month from those that weren't already there.

Read more here:
U.S. Needs To Generate 254,000 Jobs Per Month For 65 Months Straight To Get to Pre-Depression Employment

The interesting thing is that the number keeps growing about 5,000 each month. Yet the net added jobs keeps declining.


As someone stated above, what's happening is the decoupling of the stockmarket from the employment of the nation as 'American companies' are increasingly global behemoths who are loyal to nobody but their owner, whoever that may be for the time being.

Many companies, like GE, don't even pay any tax at all. Many others have more employees in Asia than in America. America is increasingly irrelevant to many large 'American' corporations, although not entirely irrelevant by a longshot - yet.

In any case, this is a new scenario as we are now entering the final stages of the new Gilded Age, where corporations rule and we try to feed off the crumbs. Trickle down turned out to be Trickle Up(with the extra help of a gullible public, corrupted politicians and salivating lobbyists).

To keep up with population growth we need about 250,000 jobs created per month.

Of course if we ended illegal immigration this numbers would be more like 125,000 and if we lowered legal immigration this number would be more like 70,000.

Re: Shale Oil vs. Peak Oil

I have come to the conclusion it is always that way.

Until it isn't...

FM - I was also drawn to comment. His words are spoken by a man with no concept of geology and petroleum exploration. Prior incorrect predictions are easy to understand. You can't find new oil until you look where you haven't looked before. It follows one of the basics of logic: you can't prove something doesn't exist. All you can prove is that you haven't found it yet...whether it's there to be found or not. And even then you can't produce it until you develop the technology needed to do so. These are the two prime reasons previous prediction were eventually proven wrong. But today isn't 1900. With the exception of the Arctic we've poked holes in most areas of the globe. And there's still a lot of oil left to be produced in those proven areas. But not enough to replace what we've produced. New Deep Water production technology is giving us one more play to add to the book. But it's future is still somewhat limited to what we've already produced and, more importantly, what we'll need in the future.

IMHO the only major source of really big new oil reserves would be the kerogen rich shales. But someone will have to develop a very major technology breakthrough in exploiting this resource. IMHO at the moment that time very far away...if ever at all.

Besides the Arctic there is also the Antarctic.

Antarctic next, says oil expert

In Hobart yesterday, Dr Bakhtiari told a conference of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research that more than half of the world's 1900 billion known barrels of oil had been used, leaving more difficult and expensive reserves.

"In the near future there is no way to go but on the decline," he said. "[Consumption] will decline to 55 million barrels by 2020" from a peak of 81 million barrels this year. In the mid-1990s the only unexplored frontiers were the poles, but now energy companies were moving into the Arctic. "There is only one frontier left and that is Antarctica," Dr Bakhtiari said.
Minerals exploration was banned under the 1993 Madrid protocol to the Antarctic Treaty but, at the insistence of the United States, a clause was inserted allowing for the ban to be reviewed after 2048.

Plus, aren't the Canadian and Venezuelan tar sands deposits larger than the remaining oil reserves?

Also, after reading about some of the early drilling which involved wells only 10s of meters deep, would it be possible to strip mine some of the first oil fields and process the sand/rock to more completely extract the oil.

And in deeper deposits it may be possible to use robotic mining machinery to excavate and raise the oil bearing rocks for processing.


Also, after reading about some of the early drilling which involved wells only 10s of meters deep, would it be possible to strip mine some of the first oil fields and process the sand/rock to more completely extract the oil.

Ummm? you are joking? being facetious? Please.....?

Merril - I don't know much about Antarctic geology but from what I recall it's most igneous and metamorphic rock. I.E. very little pertoleum potential. But it is a big chunk of land so maybe they haven't looked in the right spots. But I do know if there was petroleum potential and it was located in a nice hospitable climate it would take decades to develop any significant level of production. And given the conditions down there it could take the better part of 20 years just to get a very basic handle of the oil potential.

I suppose that any production of oil would be limited to off-shore on the continental shelf. Antarctica does appear to have deposits of coal, although I've found conflicting references regarding their quality. Coal is shown in the strata diagrammed in The Permian–Triassic boundary in Antarctica.

I spent a year in the "Banana Belt" of Antarctica (Casey). Most of the outcrop I saw is Precambrian gneiss. Most of the surface is ice, mostly several kilometers thick. There is some sedimentary geology, but it's mostly Permo-Triassic Gondwanaland sediments -- not known for high hydrocarbon production. Moreover, the sediments are deeply incised by glaciers.

Offshore there are definitely some possibilities. But the environment is, well, challenging. The water is deep, perhaps 500 meters on the shelf. Icebergs, some of them the size of a New England state, wander around unpredictably, scraping holes in the shelf. For nine months of the year there is heavy pack ice over much of the shelf, freezing into one solid sheet for several months. The edge of the pack is where the winds really pick up. Even in summer, winds in the Southern ocean can exceed 70 knots for days at a time, and gigantic waves (up to perhaps 50 meters) build up.

Not that the weather is benign onshore. The highest wind speed we recorded was 127 knots. That's the limit of the anemometer scale. After several hours off scale the impeller usually flew to pieces.

I don't know how high the price of oil would need to be to pay for developing a production system which could operate in waves up to (say) 30 meters, winds to 100 knots, temperatures down to about -20C, and dodge icebergs the size of Rhode Island. All of this, of course, with a supply line over a thousand miles long.

With current technology we could certainly record seismic data there, probably drill exploration wells. But production would be very expensive and very high risk.

I think it might be the other way round. Any deepwater oil or gas fields developed in Antarctic will use subsea production systems with ultra-long tiebacks to somewhere suitable for an all-year-round export terminal. Tiebacks are getting longer & longer, and who knows what might be feasible in 20 years time.

But the rig which drills the wells has to be above water, exposed to the full fury of the Antarctic weather, pack ice & icebergs. OK, you can transfer a rig from the Norwegian Arctic, add continuous monitoring of icebergs, with tugs continually on standby in case there is need for emergency disconnect & rig move. You'll maybe get 3 months drill-time in a full year, enough to drill 1 well perhaps. So the bill for each well is going to have at least 9 digits, possibly 10 if things go badly wrong. Difficult to get the economics to work...

I doubt that a replica of Hibernia would work with Antarctic icebergs: in shallow water exposed to serious iceberg gouging, wellheads would have to be countersunk into deep glory holes. Shallow-water production might be more expensive than deepwater.

Scottie - "if things go badly wrong". IF??? I didn't realize you Scots were such optimists. LOL. My last well, estimated to cost $124 million, turned out costing $198 million. And that was in the nice warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I can't imagine the price of oil ever reaching a level that would case anyone to seriously consider the Antarctic as a viable play.

It's certainly not going to happen soon. But I see the price of oil eventually going to $400/b (before inflation) and at that level a supergiant field in the Antarctic would probably be viable. If one exists. And if BAU lasts another few decades.

And most of it is covered in kilometers of ice. Can't let some geoligists just walk around picking up samples, then have conferences and papers to peice together the puzzle. There are whole buried mountain ranges we didn't even know existed until a few years ago.

I started to comment on the guy's delusional article, but I didn't have the strength. I sometimes think that we should just join the party and tell people what they want to hear--Party On Dudes.

Regarding Canada & Venezuela to the rescue, here are net exports from Canada and Venezuela through 2009 (BP):


Obviously, Chavez has not had, shall we say, a positive impact on Venezuela's production, but note that Canada's slow increase in net oil exports has not even been able to come close to offsetting the decline in net exports from Venezuela. Their combined net oil imports fell by about one mbpd from 1998 to 2009 (2010 was flat with 2009).

"I started to comment on the guy's delusional article, but I didn't have the strength."

I did exactly the same thing yesterday. Every day we witness a new sucker being born, with the same misconceptions as the sucker born yesterday. It's like playing Whack-A-Mole.


The following analysis shows that the Australian Howard government which came to power in 1996 should have detected peak oil in 1999 at the latest. Its peak oil denial mode continued until the very end in 2007 despite an increasing number of warnings. There can be no doubt that one day this failure will enter history books, on the wrong side of the ledger, as a serious violation of the principles of prudent governance.

"Yes, Prime Minister", peak oil 2006 under your watch

As a former pizza delivery driver, I can confirm that lower income people are more generous. A pizza guy (or girl, but usually a guy) will consistently get better tips in a trailer park than in Hyde Park.

The June production figures for Norway are out.

Preliminary production figures for June 2011 indicate an average daily production of about 1 889 000 barrels of oil, NGL and condensate. This is an increase of 50 000 barrels compared to May.

Norway Crude + Condensate production from January 2001 thru June of 2011 in thousands of barrels per day. Does not include NGLs.


Norway, for the first six months of 2011 declined 7.5 percent from the first six months of 2010. They are expected to decline slightly less for the rest of 2011 however.

Ron P.

Why did you have to post that graph?
You had me with "This is an increase of 50 000 barrels".

The little tiny uptick at the end of the graph IS the additional 50,000 barrels.

When you are dealing in > 150 million barrels a day 50,000 barrels is puny.

Fracking fluids poison a national forest

A new study has found that wastewater from natural gas hydrofracturing in a West Virginia national forest quickly wiped out all ground plants, killed more than half of the trees and caused radical changes in soil chemistry. These results argue for much tighter control over disposal of these “fracking fluids,” contends Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Interesting report. Especially if you bother to read the entire report and learn that the frac fluid was sprayed on a 1/4 acre site with the intent to kill the vegetation. It's a shame they killed that land to prove what everyone already knew: frac fluids are toxic and kill vegetation. Additionally it's not very healthy for a human to ingest it either. Fortunately the didn't experiment by feeding it to a bunch of kids.

And this is why Texas hasn't allowed surface disposal of such fluids for many decades: even Texans were smart enough long ago to know it wasn't a healthy thing to do. Unfortunately our Yankee cousins were that smart. For instance from up top: "City councilors voted Thursday to stop the city’s practice of accepting the chemical-laced wastewater from hydraulic fracturing of gas wells." So maybe I was wrong about those folks not testing frac fluids on living folks. BTW: PA had to pass a new law prohibiting municipalities from dumping frac fluids (for which they charged companies a fat fee). Apparently despite all the hype about oil companies poisening folks some towns didn't see a problem with their dumping frac fluids into water system upstream from their neighbors intakes. Some folks still seemed to be confused: the oil patch never said frac fluids were't toxic. They are terribly toxic. That's the reason hands mixing frac fluids on location wear hazmat gear. That's why Texas has for decades required such nasties to be injected into deep disposal wells. BTW: If some Texas manager of a municipal waste treatment system were caught taking money for letting frac fluids into the system he would end up in state prison. Interesting that there weren't even laws on the books in NY and PA until recently preventing it. Makes me wonder how many more dangerous fluids from other industries have been dumped into these sysems in the past. And maybe even today. AsI understand it even the new laws only forbid taking frac fluids and not all other industrial wastes.

I an effort to save prevent so more needless plant deaths I'll pass on some personal knowledge: don't spray Roundup on the plants...it will kill them just as quick as frac fluids.

I can't believe they needed to spray that stuff to find out if it killed plants. Why not just read the safety data for the ingredients. They should get hauled up for pollution.


NAOM - But look at what's posted. Consider the gut reaction of folks who read the title and short description and walk away totally misunderstanding the bottom line: "spray poison on plants and they die" vs. "frac'ng wells will kill all plants and trees." I try not to be too paranoid but the way it was posted on TOD it's difficult to not take it as propaganda.

So maybe I was wrong about those folks not testing frac fluids on living folks.

Well, apparently It didn't seem to have much effect on the dead folk, except to make them more difficult to decompose... maybe they figure it will make the living folk last longer too, even if they end up dead sooner.

FM - I know I've been teasing my Yankee cousins pretty hard on this subject matter. But I cannot comprehend the disconnect between how they view frac ops and how they handle the produced fluids. If you didn't catch it at the time I warned them to stop worrying about the frac ops themselves polluting the ground water...very little danger there. But pay attention to what they were doing with the produced fluids. My concern was that illegal haulers were dumping their loads onto the ground when no one was looking. Little did I suspect the haulers were LEGALLY dumping their poison into municipal treatment facilities. And I suspect they were paying a whole lot less then they would have if the local officials had known how much legal disposal cost. Between hauling and injection I can pay up to $10/bbl. Dispose of 100,000 bbls of frac fluid legally = up to $1 million. And that's in Texas where we have a lots of disposal wells. I have no way of knowing but I bet the municipalities were getting less than $0.10 on the dollar for what it was worth. Maybe not even 10% of that amount. But in their eyes it was free money.

And all they had to do was ignore the fact they were potentionally poisoning the neighbors. We just don't do that to our neighbors in Texas...especially the heavily armed ones...which is just about everyone.

If you didn't catch it at the time I warned them to stop worrying about the frac ops themselves polluting the ground water...very little danger there. But pay attention to what they were doing with the produced fluids.

I actually read you, loud and clear at the time you said that. See, I do pay some attention to what you say...

Little did I suspect the haulers were LEGALLY dumping their poison into municipal treatment facilities.

What really bothers me about this is, that someone is probably being paid good money to be on top of issues such as this. I mean, never mind the environment, didn't they even understand the potential windfall in municipal income?!

And all they had to do was ignore the fact they were potentially poisoning the neighbors.

And they weren't even getting paid to do that.

If you look at the total amount of Frac fluids disposed in waste water plants in PA vs. the outward volumetric flow of the Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac, and Ohio, you would note that the concentrations of contaminants are thousands of times below Federal limits, and the overall concentration of frac fluids vs. water is miniscule.

Avg. discharge
Ohio - 32,000 sec-ft
Delaware/Schuykill - 18,000 sec-ft
Susquehanna - 40,000 sec-ft
Potomac - 11,000 sec-ft

Compare to:
Rio Grande - 1,500 sec-ft
Brazos - 238 sec-ft
Colorado - 2600 sec-ft
Trinity - 6400 sec-ft
Sabine - 8400 sec-ft

That is why we allow it.

Texas does not have major rivers like we have in Pennsylvania, because Texas gets 15" of rain per year while we get 55".

'cause a little bit of pollution ain't no big thing, and if it gets to be a problem you can then regulate the much-more-prosperous, much-larger industry then?

"The solution to pollution is dilution" I heard from my mother, who learned it in the 50's. Even for her, by the 90's she didn't say that anymore. The world is NOT a big enough place anymore.

If it can be treated to be harmless, then that'd be fine. I wonder how much it would cost to ship frac fluids from TX to PA for disposal?

"I wonder how much it would cost to ship frac fluids from TX to PA for disposal?"


fish - And that reminds me of a story years ago about a coal-fired power plant in NY(?) that cut a deal to ship its toxic ash to a landfill in W. Texas. I think the particular county was larger than Manhatten and had a population less than 5,000. So lots of room to dump nasty stuff on the ground and not bother anyone. In theory, anyway.

Much of New York City's normal trash ends up in landfills in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, because those are the closest places with the capacity to accept it. They've had discussions with sites as far away as North Dakota. Shipping coal ash to semi-arid western locations where it's easier to keep it from leaching heavy metals and such into the ground or surface water sounds almost sane.

Many people argue that large cities are the best place to live in a post Peak Oil decline. I sometimes assert that big East Coast cities are a bad choice because of situations like this: dependent on large-scale transportation systems just to dispose of the volume of garbage produced. It seems to me too likely that they'll end up like one of the descriptions of Crazy Eddie in The Mote in God's Eye. When survival depends on everything going just right, something is bound to go wrong, sometimes because someone has good intentions:

When a city has grown so overlarge and crowded that it is in immediate danger of collapse ... when food and clean water flow into the city at a rate just sufficient to feed every mouth, and every hand must work constantly to keep it that way ... when all transportation is involved in moving vital supplies, and none is left over to move people out of the city should the need arise ... then it is that Crazy Eddie leads the movers of garbage out on strike for better working conditions.

"Crazy Eddie" is a nice notation for the frailty of a complex system running near the boundary of its tolerance zone.

The "three paydays from homeless and starving" perspective is a personal or individually-scoped variant of the same phenomenon.

With spare capacity in KSA dwindling, we're getting close to the same point for global oil.

"Optimizing throughput" leads easily to "thin margins" and then "frailty". Technology is the cure for wasteful safety margins, you know, so we can push the envelop. Ignorance really can be bliss -- stupid mistakes are ever so much easier to fix than really sophisticated ones.

However, New York City has an extremely robust water delivery system. Gravity feed of pure water to 6 stories. And building the Third Water Tunnel has added robustness in case of single point failure and increased pressure (Stages 1 & 2) with Stages 3 & 4 yet to be built.


Best Hopes for NYC,


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=3&sq=natural gas&st=cse&scp=5

1.3 billion gallons disposed of in 3 years.

River flows noted above 100,000 sec-ft. = 23.591 trillion gallons per year.

Ratio wastewater to river water 1 part in 18150.

Assuming no treatment at all of the wastewater, this is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon of waste water hitting your head during an 8 minute shower.

I like my shower water pristine. Using similar logic, in only a few more years I'll hit the 18000 shower mark, and have earned a relaxing shower in full-strength frac fluid.

My first mentor used to say, "If you have a drum of applesauce, and I have a drum of feces, what happens if you put a cup of your applesauce in mine? You still have a barrel of applesauce and I have a barrel of feces. What happens if I put a cup of my feces in your drum? We each have a barrel of feces." Except his wording was a bit more colorful.

Again, I would worry less if it is well treated, but if it's that easy to treat why doesn't somebody else do that as a business? If dilution is the issue, why doesn't TX just barge it halfway to Mexico and dump it -- the ocean is bigger still? Did Love Canal start a teaspoon at a time?

I'm not hard-over that river water needs to be absolutely pure with no tradeoffs, but I gotta say if TX has stricter rules than you do, you ought to see red flags.

paleo - And just how nasty are those frac fluids? Just talked to one of my landowners who is also a retired civil trial lawyer. Told him about my Yankee cousins' frac fluid disposal methods. He literally was speechless...a rare state for a Texan. He once represented two young men who got too close and personal with frac fluids. One had chemical burns over 30% of his body and the other fellow lost both feet.

Yeah...go ahead...dump it in the stream my kids swims in. What could go wrong? Let's dilute it and make some ice tea while we're at it.

One had chemical burns over 30% of his body and the other fellow lost both feet.

Or drill all good cropping land full with evenly spaced holes and pump them full with poison. What could possible go wrong?

I know it should be perfectly safe or our grandchildren will redirect the sewer systems to our grave yards.

Andrew - Then are you suggesting it's OK for them to be disposing of frac fluids into municipal treament plants from which it's being discharged unchanged back into local water supplies? Or am I misreading you? BTW: the vast majority of Texans source their drinking water from rivers including several million in Houston. Also, E Texas, the source of much drinking water here, gets many times the rainfall as that 15". Perhaps that's a statewide average. Then again just a few % of the state's population live in the arid lands. For much of the heavily populated areas of Texas too much rain is often more a problem than too little.

RIIIIGHT! And the GOM is a reeeally BIG OCEAN!


Proposed changes to ORSANCO's Pollution Control Standards could allow more mercury to be directly discharged into the Ohio River.

Over 30 million pounds of toxic pollution is dumped in the Ohio River every year - more than any other river in the United States. This pollution includes over 96,000 pounds of cancer causing toxins such as arsenic and chromium, and over 67,000 pounds of developmental and reproductive toxins such as PCBs, lead, mercury, and dioxin. Tests conducted by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) reveal over 800 miles of the Ohio River is currently polluted for mercury, and the problem is only getting worse every year.

What's a little Frac fluid gonna do in that huge riva, eh?

If it weren't for the TOD moderators I'd tell you what I really think of your thesis.

Much of the West and Great Plains have become steadily more conservative, politically, over the last 80 years. As a speculative question: If Texas' current laws weren't already on the books, and been there for decades, would the legislature pass a bunch of new restrictions on the oil and gas companies?

A couple of years ago, when the Democrats held both chambers of the General Assembly and the Governor's Office in Colorado, they passed a batch of new regulations for oil and gas production. The state Republican Party has made it clear that if they can get full control back (they won a narrow majority in the House in 2010), one of the first orders of business will be to roll those back.

mc - I can only offer a speculative answer so not only yes but HELL YES! LOL. During the early years the oil patch had much more influence than today IMHO. In Texas today the oil companies have little influence per se. Actually groups like royalty and mineral owners have much more stroke. The ExxonMobil et als are very minor players in the state. The oil patch is dominated by the small and very small independent operators.

In the 40's and 50's the oil patch was the dominant industry here. Actually outside of farming and ranching there were no other industries. So many might wonder why we have such protective laws and policies. First, they weren't always that environmentally friendly but did follow whatever the national norm was at the time. Second, there has always been a bit of an adversarial relationship between landowners and the oil patch. The mineral owners always loved their royalty “mail box money”. But, in the end, the land is permanent…the oil/NG production isn’t. Third, politics has always been a local game in Texas. Not sure if we differ much from other states but county politics have and still rule the day. Big oil can put all the lobbyist they want in the state capital but it won’t do much good when the county judge shuts their wells in because the landowner has pollution problem.

And today the vast majority of the state's oil/NG operators wouldn’t consider paying money to a lobbyist then they would vote for a Democrat. Maybe part of the reason is the self proclaimed demand to have total control of one’s life. We’re not anymore happy to be dominated by political forces then we are corporate powers.

Just my impression since I moved to Texas over 30 years ago. Yes...I'm what native Texans call a TBC...Texas By Choice. Not quit as good as native born but a hell of a lot better than a Yankee.

Is there an alternative to Obama? Here is a novel interpretation on why there really isn't one even while, IMHO, we really need one.


Just your bad luck George. You happen to have been born a member of an endangered species, Homo sapiens intelligensus. Much better to be a member of the dominant species, Homo sapiens doofus.

It kills me, how so many people can fully understand 'peak-oil', with all of it's ramifications for the future, but still get stuck in age old political bickering.

I mean, conservatives would like less government, so that individuals can "pursue happiness", which they define as making money any way they please, as the economy grows.

Liberals would like a more engaged government, which still aims to make everybody happy, by providing plenty. (read growth)

As peak-oil kicks in, and there isn't enough stuff to go around, neither of these political systems seam adequate to meet the demands of the people. If you truly believe in peak-oil, then how can you wast so much time trying to support a political party that is doomed to fail? Shouldn't you spend more time trying to figure out how you, personally, will deal with these trying time to come?

Oh, come on eastex, you have to take into account the entertainment value our political circus provides for even the most enlightened 'peak-oilers'

Case in point: GOP tries to block eco-friendly light bulbs

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, is pushing his BULB (Better Use of Light Bulbs) Act, which would repeal a provision in a 2007 energy law that requires traditional light bulbs to be 30% more energy-efficient beginning in 2012.

Oh, I could think of a few (Better Use of Light Bulbs) that the honorable representative might experiment with.

But Jeez, every time I think one of these clowns couldn't possibly sink any lower, one of them comes along and manages to lower the bar yet again.

Joe, be Limbo! Joe, be quick!
Joe go under Limbo stick!
All around the Limbo Club!
Hey, let’s do the Limbo Rock!

Chubby Checker- Limbo Rock

Then again perhaps he's just not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

Rock on dudes and dudesses!

And now back to my personal way of dealing with these trying times... a nice bottle of Cabernet.


If a GOP-driven light bulb bill does pass the House, it could face an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

I just can't for the life of me figure out how The Onion, manages to stay in business.

Ah, but Conservatives DON'T really want less government, thats a complete myth. They want government to regulate and abolish abortion. They also want government to enforce drug prohibition, spending large sums of money for both federal and state enforcement as well as tons of money thrown down the rathole to imprison non-violent offenders.

Oh yes, those self-same Conservatives also want to spend vast amounts of money on the military, which somehow doesn't count as government either. Judge them by their deeds, not by their words.

It kills me, how so many people believe the corrupt dysfunctional political system can somehow save their ass. Besides, governments are trend followers and reactionary, so civilisation is likely to be a smouldering ruin before they see a need to do anything.

Exclusive: Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU

(Reuters) - Europe's biodiesel industry could be wiped out by EU plans to tackle the unwanted side effects of biofuel production, after studies showed few climate benefits, four papers obtained by Reuters show.

Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits.

"This study would pave the way for the demise of the European biodiesel sector," Philippe Tillous-Borde, chief of French oilseed giant Sofiproteol, which owns Europe's largest biodiesel producer, told Reuters.

The emerging picture that the EU has got its policy wrong has proved unpalatable, and the European Commission has refused a Reuters freedom of information request for the latest studies, arguing the public interest of disclosure is insufficient.

However, those documents have now been leaked.

Factbox: What EU studies say on biofuels' indirect damage

Wow, most of Europe's rapeseed (colza, canola) crops go to making biodiesel. I suppose the farmers will just turn the fields over to producing wheat or maize (corn) instead.

Horn of Africa drought: 'A vision of hell'

... At a makeshift cattle market in the middle of the refugee camp, herdsmen are trying to sell off what little livestock they have left. But no-one wants to buy the cattle and goats on sale here, for the chances are that very soon they will be dead. There is nowhere for them to graze: the pastures here are parched and arid, and it has barely rained for two years running.

"I'm selling my cattle at knock-down prices," said one man. "I'm practically giving them away." Not far away, the landscape is littered with the carcasses of dead animals.

In this part of the world, livestock are everything: they represent a family's entire assets, capital, savings and income. When the animals die, it frequently means the humans do as well.

I must ask you to cease and desist from clogging bandwith which is needed for coverage of the Casey Anthony trial with your unimportant drivel. Thank god the major media outlets have more sense than you.

So I take that as a 'No' on posting the 'Justin Bieber' and 'How to lose 20 pounds in 20 minutes' articles? ;-)

For those without girl-culture references:



GOP transportation bill targets Amtrak for cuts

WASHINGTON -- A six-year transportation funding bill that Republicans in the House of Representatives outlined Thursday would sharply cut highway and transit funding and seek to curb Amtrak and high-speed-rail projects that the Obama administration supports.

The plan would include no increase in the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax, which is the main source of funding for the highway fund and hasn't changed since 1993.

The fossil fuel industries are putting a clear effort into preventing a transition away from those fuels. As shortage looms, the market will put more and more money into those very industries that have a vested interest in preventing the successful transition.

Will this result in a political "export land"? A case where transition is prevented until well after peak because rising prices continue to increase funding to industries well into decline? I found it interesting that Wisconsin, a state that produces no oil or gas, would take a stand to cut a high speed rail line linking my city, Minneapolis, Minnesota, into the eastern passenger rail system. Then it was revealed that Gov. Walker had strong ties to Koch industries.

In the US we face two enormous structural hurdles to transition: our built infrastructure and our political infrastructure. I don't think we will make the transition with anything close to the (future) European standard of living intact. In a sense, our very wealth of resources has set us up for an extra deep fall.

When do you think our business leadership will realize that they need to begin the transition? 5 years 10 years? 20 years from now exports are projected to be done.

Our business leadership will begin the transition when they can make money at it. Money can be made when there is an economic problem to be solved.

Hopefully the economy will not have a heart attack, but instead will have a series of small strokes that can be treated.

This is a rather conventional, narrow-minded view of how the economy works. Usually you are a bit more nuanced in your considerable grasp of the situation.

Do you really think that mind sets, ideologies, emotions, imagination (or failure thereof), prejudices...never play any role in business decisions?

But really, I doubt there will ever be huge amounts of money to be made on most of the truly effective ways to prepare of PO and powerdown, since almost all of what we have to do is to do a whole lot less of nearly everything. Perhaps a book seller on having fun getting by (or to sell the book they will probably say something like 'thriving') with less.

I am dubious that the greed machine that is our corporate culture is ever going to play a major positive role in helping society live within it's means. So far it has mostly depended on us not doing so and has a lion's share of responsibility in convincing us to buy more than we need to the point of destroying our children's future.

The fossil fuel industries are putting a clear effort into preventing a transition away from those fuels.

Why would they need to bother? In round numbers, Amtrak is at somewhere around 5 billion passenger miles/year. Vehicle miles for cars and light trucks are around 1700 billion, with passenger miles substantially larger but who really knows by how much. What possible threat can lie in that huge ratio? (Especially since the NIMBY fights will take decades to resolve anyhow, vide California building a high speed line from nowhere to nowhere because nobody has the guts to roll over a few loudmouthed NIMBYs, and "hoping" to extend it to useful destinations "eventually".)

Or is it just convenient to embrace facile conspiracy theory rather than confront complex reality? Plenty of state legislators in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere are opposing the rail plans; most probably aren't strongly connected to Exxon, Chevron, Massey, etc. Is it possible that merely bashing those companies, however satisfying it might feel to bite the hand that feeds oneself, won't change those legislators' minds by even one iota?

[Also, BTW, and for the umpteenth time, no one "cut any high speed rail line" through Wisconsin. No high speed rail was ever on offer. Just the old 1930s speed of 79mph peak, with vague political (read: worthless) promises that "eventually" it might be upgraded to a late-1930s 110mph peak. Not the 130 to 170 mph average that's called high-speed rail all across the contemporary world. Dealing with bait-and-switch rail cheerleaders can be a worse nightmare than dealing with the slimiest used-car salespersons.]

In regard to the possible threat:

From the Republicans, we can expect their most vitriolic attacks to be focused on the best Government long term investments, such as those in mass transit and renewable energy and changes that enable sustainable development such as a carbon tax to address global warming and energy decent.

Indeed, anything that contradicts the stupidity that government cannot be made to work.

I do not know of a single issue that the Republicans are not on the wrong side of, as far as I'm concerned.

It's almost like a parody.

I'll give them tort reform. And maybe 2nd amendment/gun control by a nose.

I would agree that passenger rail is hardly a threat to Big Oil , or even the auto industry, and we don;t have concrete evidence the oil industry is behind efforts to "derail rail".

On this question of speed, as with many things, Americans seem obsessed with speed. You don;t need high speedvery expensive to build and operate. Which means many people, especially those who can;t afford cars, will be priced off the train. All this expense, just to save those who can afford to travel, one hour?

And train time is no longer "unproductive" time, unlike air travel. A person or group can be completely functional - laptops, internet, have a 4 person meeting, not spend 1/3hr plus standing in security lines, boarding lines, no laptop use intake off etc etc. So for business people, the increased productivity can offset a slightly longer travel time.
But the real convenience is if the trains can go downtown to downtown, which most can, and planes can't , and cars can, but you have traffic to deal with at each end.

So, compared to all that, even the 79mph train, is a pretty good option. The key thing is to have a clean, modern train, reliable on time service, continuous high speed internet, a coffee shop on board, and minimise intermediate stops - as long as it is faster than driving, then it is fast enough.

As you up the speed the costs increase as the square of speed, and the travel times decrease as (approximately) as the square root of speed - each incremental time saving costs much more, and fewer people can afford to pay it, so why bother?

All that may be true, but fraud is still fraud. Let the proponents and the lying politicians sell it as what it is, 1930s-speed rail, instead of tricking the public into thinking they'd be getting Shinkansen. Why should bait-and-switch be any more acceptable with this than with anything else?

Oh, and speed hardly seems like an exclusively American "obsession". Japan, Europe, and now China all have considerable numbers of trains that are far, far faster than 79mph peak, 50-55mph average. And Europe even has higher speed limits on motorways than many American states. So why disparage speed when others don't? What's the point in wasting time?

As for the trains going downtown-to-downtown, that was still a convenience in 1950. It's not clear that it's such a convenience now. People in Chicago aren't automatically heading to or from the Loop any more, more likely Rolling Meadows, Schaumberg, etc. One strong advantage of the Shinkansen or the TGV is that those are so fast that the total trip including the first and last miles may actually stand a chance of being quicker than driving. That's all but impossible with 1930s-speed intercity trains.

Fraud is indeed fraud, and for all of the spending on "high speed" rail, not one HSR project will be built, though there will probably be lots of "studies".

I don;t think they should call it "1930's speed" - personally, I like "express rail" - medium speed(80-100mph) and very few stops - that's all you need.

Speed is absolutely an American obsession - but that doesn't mean some other places don't obsess about it too, just that America does. Yes, the other countries have high speed trains, but they don;t actually carry that many people in the scheme of things. It is better than no (passenger) rail at all, but the Euro HSR is barely cheaper than flying.

The convenience of downtown to downtown for business travellers is very useful. Not all businesses are in the downtown of course, but many are, or a not that far away. A cab from DT to the office is likely shorter than the airport to the office. It also encourages business to locate in the downtown core, and for people to live near it, as the train is a major convenience.

Here's an example of two cities where a "1930's speed" train would be just fine - San Diego to Los Angeles. According to Google Maps, 121 miles, and 2hr 4mins driving. The Amtrak train runs between them, making 8(!) stops along the way, and takes 2hrs 40 minutes! Do some track upgrading to 79mph, and forget the intermediate stops, and your trip would be 1hr 40min, and no battling with So Cal traffic, use your laptop along the way etc. Once that service is available, people would find ways to use it - even if the company you are going to see isn't close to the station, they might come and meet you there for a lunch meeting, etc.

For this run, going from 79 to 100mph would turn 1h40 into 1h 20, but at considerable expense, and 170 mph HSR would make the trip about 50min at massive expense - how much money is that 50min worth to you?

I think 79mph is enough, but for "marketing" reasons, you probably want it to be 100, just so you can say it is 100. But. if that means the fare is such that as soon as you have two people doing the trip, it is cheaper to drive one car, then the train will struggle. You can;t please all people all the time, but the idea is to please the most people enough that they take the train .

Not that politicians are concerned about this, of course. The "idea" of high speed rail seems to appeal to enough people, even if it never gets built, that it is worth the politicians while promising it. And, in the US it seems, it never gets built...


Your analysis is right on track (sorry for the pun).

It is important for folks to move beyond being gullible for the simplistic, sexy marketing jingoism (High Speed Rail! Futuristic! Catch up with the French and Japanese!) and do some simple, common-sense number crunching for travel time and costs.

Let's focus on making costs as low as is possible, and making the trains comfortable,and reliable.

Comfortable seats, comfortable bathrooms, good climate control, good support for laptops, good food and drink services...things that airlines cannot match due to size and weight and fuel costs constraints.

Make the ride smooth, and quiet. Make the trains run on time, and have a reasonable (not excessive) number of stops. Make the trains safe.

Meet these criteria well, and 79 mph will be plenty fine.

Thanks H, and yes, that is a terrible pun.

The problem with HSR is obvious - the astronomical cost - that is why none have been built in the US. The dreamers push it becasue they are not the ones funding it - it is "government" money.

Pragmatic solutions are what's need here - HSR is the train equivalent of the Concorde.

When I was in Britain 11 yrs ago) I caught the train from Manchester to London - I actually flew from Vancouver to Manchester, and then took the train, as it was cheaper than flying to London Heathrow or Gatwick - so good business for Manchester! the train was operated by Virgin Trains , and it was indeed very clean, comfortable, had a nice coffee/snack bar, ran on time, and had just three stops. Total trip time is 2hr 08 minutes, and fares can be had for as little as f53 return. To drive it is a 208 mile trip, 3hrs 40 minutes, and an estimated fuel cost of f40 each way . No brainer...

One of the major costs of doing medium (or high) speed passenger rail is electrification, but you don;t have to start electric. A suitable diesel locomotive, or self powered train, such as the Diesel Multiple Units, will do just fine.

The Transwa Prospector DEMU capable of up to 200 km/h (124 mph) provides a passenger service between Perth, Western Australia and the mining town of Kalgoorlie

In your neck of the woods, I see that ABQ to S. Fe is 63miles, 1hr 9minutes driving. The 79mph train would do that in 49 minutes, in air conditioned comfort. Could go from one to the other for dinner and a show...

Note that Virgin trains is a for profit company too - not all trains have to be operated by governments. Imagine if Southwest Airlines got into the train business - the trains would indeed be clean, run on time, have friendly staff, be cost effective etc etc.

What's the bet, though, that the airline (and security) industry would lobby for passenger trains to have identical security to airports?


The Eagle has landed!



As you can see from the timetable, downtown ABQ to S.F. is ~ 1.5 hours.

The speed limit on I-25 is 75 mph most of the way, 80 is the standard flow.

Since I live at the Northern edge of ABQ, the time to get the car parked in Santa Fe is ~ 1 hour from my driveway.

All that being said, the train cars are nice enough, and the ride is much more relaxing than the nail-biting 6/4-lane raceway of I-25.

We have seen what is to be seen in S.F nice to take relatives when they are in town I guess, but not too exciting to us.

We much rather would drive to the Lava tubes out West near Gallup (closed now due to white nose disease in the bats)or drive up the Jemez Mountains and frolic in the river under waterfalls or hike (all that is closed now due to fires).

What the Rail Runner needs to do is partner with a firm to take skiers up to Ski Santa Fe, and have buses take us from the terminal up the mountain and back. That would be much nicer than driving back in the dark all tired out after a big day on the slopes.

Back to the workaday practical (If we are lucky we hit Ski Santa Fe twice a season)...lots of folks commute between ABQ and S.F. each way to work...hopefully the Rail Runner is full with commuters!

The cheapest gasoline is back down to $3.34/gallon here, so I don't perceive folks around here is a gasoline cost crisis mode.

A good investment of stimulus funds around here would be to subsidize solar on rooftops and subsidize small EVs for in-town commuting.

The Sun here just doesn't quit!

Also: For those up in SLC (Salt Lake City), I have been up there for business and that area has the 'Front Runner' (Looks identical to the Rail Runner but in a different color scheme [blue/silver with a splash of yellow IIRC).


Back to the I-25 corridor...theoretically a passenger train route using Rail Runner equipment could connect El Paso, Tx with Cheyenne, WY, following I-25. As driving and flying become more expensive perhaps this will become the way of things some day.

Concerning SWA: Was it true that the early, formative SouthWest Airlines (Early 1970s?...back when the stewardesses were called that and wore short dresses and white go-go boots?) had something to do in cahoots with TX politicians to kill proposed nice rail services between Dallas, Houston, Austin, and possibly San Antone?

SouthWest Airlines (Early 1970s?...back when the stewardesses were called that and wore short dresses and white go-go boots?)

Oh, you mean like this?


As opposed to this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dqtI4VXJho ;-)



I had to give myself the Heimlich to keep my fried egg sandwich from going down the wrong tube!

(+100) funniest TOD post ... ever.

Laughter is the best medicine!

And that pretty stewardess with that smok'n 737-100 hauling @$$ right over top at 100 feet...That was cool too!

OK, as a retired aviator, I can't resist seeing your first vid and raising..


That was crazy...that pilot has big brass ones

Then there are these cats...be sure to wait for the third plane to go by...


A-10...one of the last red-hot good deals the tax payer got from the Air Force!


And my favorite...this guy probably needed a new pair of dukes after this...


But then I found this...wow, this is pretty much a death-wish...


Cool videos H, and Paul - you had posted the SW one before, but not the Travelocity one - how times have changed....

You wouldn't want to try the stand on the end of the runway trick with this plane - the Vodka Burner taking off from my home town of Canberra.

As for the NM train, that seems just typical of the way passenger rail is done in the US. Heavy, slow trains with lots of stops. There are six stops between ABQ and SF, no wonder it takes so long! This sort of thing guarantees the train will only be used by tourists, students and retirees.

Get a modern, sleek lightweight train, and run dt to DT express, in less than an hour, and then you'll get some real passengers. If there were two of them, and they left each DT every hour, on the hour, then commuters and business people would start to use them.

I was surprised when I first learned many years ago there is skiing in NM - that sounds about as unlikely as skiing in Australia!

Vodka Burner!

HOLY ____ !

In the USAF and competent World airline outfits, takeoff and landing data (TOLD) are paid great attention to.

We always figured out exactly at what point in the takeoff attempt we could successfully reject (abort) the takeoff and still stop withing the confines of the runway. Of course we paid great attention to how much runway we estimated that we would use, both to take off and to land. Runway condition (ice, snow, rain, dry), winds, temperature, aircraft gross weight...all that was calculated, and cheeked at least twice (sometimes more). We also calculated how many zillion foot-ponds of energy the brakes would absorb from refused takeoffs...in our plane there were definite refused takeoff regimes where the brakes would absorb enough energy to heat up and blow the tires and catch the landing gear well on fire after ~ 15 minutes after brake application.

Those Ruskies cut it close for sure..or they made a mistake in their TOLD. We would never purposely cut it that thin...three ways to avoid cutting it that close:

1. offload cargo or fuel to reduce weight
2. wait for the temperature to get colder (engines make more thrusties)
3. Go DNIF (duty not including Flying), Get another crew

As for the Rail Runner, I don't think the kit (weight/size) is the problem...it is all about the number of stops. You are correct, downtown-to-downtown ABQ-Santa Fe would be the way to go.

Depending on the Winter, there can be good skiing at several places in New Mexico. Wolf Creek, Co, across the border, get a huge amount of snow each winter.

In every study of multi-stop commuter rail that I have read, electrification reduces travel time by 12% to 15%. Faster acceleration and braking.

Faster is cheaper (less labor & rolling stock) and means more riders.

Best Hopes for Electriifed Commuter Trains,


I don't doubt that, but that doesn't mean it has to be so. Part of the problem, in the US, is the buff strength requirements, which make these trains ridiculously heavy. The euro style DMU's would have better acceleration.

But also, if the train ran non - stop from ABQ to S.Fe, this wouldn;t be much of an issue anyway, but for multi stop, absolutley.

An alternative solution to the problem is this little commuter train, that uses a flywheel hybrid system to improve braking and acceleration, and runs off a Ford Fiesta engine.


For the particular short line (3/4mile link) this train runs on, it was able to do six rounds trips per hour, while the diesel Sprinter car it replaced could only do four, and used one -third of the fuel in doing so.


For getting new inter city services up and running, I think a diesel is quite acceptable, and not electrifying reduces the upfront cost dramatically. Once the service has proven itself, electrification can be added, and the diesel trains can be moved on to the next new project.

I do like your electrification-transmission corridor - wind turbines idea - seems like a good one for the upper midwest, which has wind but needs trains and transmission lines. If they ever develop a superconducting transmission line, this would be the place to put it...

Yep, that's quite the slow motion takeoff. You have to wonder if they knew it would be like that or not... "In Russia, we use the whole runway!"

But for a really good takeoff, of the best (civilian) plane of all time, check this one out. Just add Paul's Southwest girls to this plane, and people would pay a lot of money to fly on this instead of the modern plain vanilla planes and staff;


With your train, I am not sure what the max speed of that double decker is, and as you go faster, the ride quality on the top level decreases. I did catch a similar train from Sacramento to Davis, CA last year. It was good that they had that service, but you could tell it was a gov run operation. The train is so heavy that the pax mpg would likely not be much better than a Prius.

Anyway, an express is the way to go. I don't know why they couldn't add that to their schedule, even just a few per day, say once each direction, morning and afternoon. Once business people know that it exists, they will start to schedule visits and meetings around it. With the current service, your boss would accuse you of being a tourist on company time.

Mate of mine from NZ spent a winter working at Taos many years ago, said it was phenomenal. Have never even made it to Colorado, but have skied (snowboarded, actually) at Mammoth, Ca and a bunch of the Utah ski areas - pretty dry snow there!

Great, reminds me of a time I spent at an airfield. In thanks I return a collection of greats, the Frenchman only made #3, #1 is just too cool.


As for the train in the UK, note that the AVERAGE speed for the journey was around 100MPH. Allowing acceleration, deceleration, slowing for stations etc the maximum would be much higher. The UK has run services like that for decades.


PS During Iraq 1 the Tornado pilots were reporting that the positions of the fence posts at the Iraqi airfields were exactly where they were told.


I think the top speed was 140mph for the train, it was certainly plenty fast enough, without being true "high speed". Also, I noticed in Britain the the rail lines seemed to run fairly straight and direct between the major cities, while the highways were often more tortuous.

In the US it is the reverse - the highways run very straight, and the rail lines - built for slow freight, are often the more tortuous path. Running fast passenger trains on many of these lines would be impossible.

Brits often complain about the cost of rail (actually, they often complain about everything, but that's another story...) but I found it fairly cheap, especially if you booked ahead, and from the Virgin website it still is. Not as cheap as the bus, but almost always cheaper than single occupant driving, and that's the benchmark IMO.

Thanks, H, for sharing these.... top brass indeed. You have to have a lot of respect for these guys.

One of my favourite fighter jets:


BTW, this is how the Swedish fly boys have fun:


(and you know, everything was going swimmingly up until the pilot engaged the after burner)

De galna svenskar !


That sledding is pretty cool - you can;t buy tickets to do that!

Here is a warmer weather, and water, version of that, from the Australian Navy.


Interesting to see what they do to the ship at 2:43, makes it look like it was made of matchwood!

Viggens....very cool!

The sled tow was priceless!


Just to show you that the Russians don't just push their luck taking off in IL 76's - take a look at how they land them!


I can;t imagine what would happen to a commercial pilot in the US who did that...

That Pirate was in a hurry to go see his girlfriend!

It would be a trip to ride down in the glazed nose blister on landing!

That nose gear took a bit of a beating...

79 mph was the speed limit imposed by the ICC in the 1947 for tracks and trains without automatic safety stops (known as Positive Train Control - PTC) designed to prevent humans from overlooking signals and causing accidents.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates certain busy rail lines to install PTC by the end of 2015.


Assuming curvature radius, superelevation (tilt in curves) and track maintenance are good enough, track will go from Class 4 to Class 5 with PTC. This will allow passenger trains to operate at 90 mph and freight at 80 mph. Straight and gently curving sections of well maintained track with PTC can easily get Class 5 rating. Class 6 (110 mph) is not that difficult to get either.

Class 7 and 8 are more stringent and impose limits of axle loads on freight trains, etc. Only sections of Northeast Corridor tracks are Class 7 and 8 in the USA.

Bottom line - 90 mph top speeds will be common on several Amtrak routes by 2016, and 110 mph is within reach.

PTC also increases track capacity by increasing speeds and reducing required spacing between trains.

PS: Florida East Coast Railroad has been Class 5 track for decades and, I have heard, could get Class 6 rating easily if they wanted it.

San Diego has a decent light rail system in place and LA is expanding the Red Line subway to UCLA down Wilshire Blvd. Add the Expo Line and existing Light Rail and one can take Urban Rail to a number of destinations from the intercity downtown train station.

click to see full map


Good Urban Rail connections are a key to the success of the Northeast Corridor. NYC and DC are as good as it gets in the USA. Philly and Boston are a step below and Baltimore has something.

Best Hopes for Urban Rail and Intercity Rail connections,


German tank deal with Saudi Arabia in spotlight after 'riot control' demonstration video emerges

A contentious German arms deal to sell hundreds of battle tanks to Saudi Arabia has sparked fresh controversy after a demonstration video emerged showing one of the formidable armoured vehicles being used to suppress rioting civilians.

The video, highlighting the versatility of Germany’s 62-ton Leopard tank, shows the vehicle taking on rioters armed with sticks, and bulldozing a car out of the way. A voice-over claims the tank can carry a water cannon.

...The politician said the Leopard deal resembled that of a 1991 agreement to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, which was later shown to have involved a million Deutsche mark kickback to the then treasurer of the Christian Democrats, Walther Leisler Kiep.

This might have components of the video:
It is very confusing. The "rioters" "attack" a car and the tank then bulldozes the car aside. Could be they just like to trash cars with tanks in demos:

If that is the video, it is clearly an enactment. What ever is the case, the video was obviously shot in Germany. I guess this is a product demonstration video produced by the manufacturer or some retailer.

New riots in Moroccan phosphate region over jobs

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan security forces used truncheons, tear gas and water canons on protesters demanding jobs, local residents said on Thursday, in a bid to tame a third day of riots in the country's phosphate-mining central area.

"The riots started after OCP issued a list of few hundreds of beneficiaries of jobs which disappointed youths from the region as there had been more than 30,000 applicants," Assal said.

Previews of coming attractions?


Headed to Europe this summer? It's going to be a riot

If you're looking for a little adventure this summer -- a strike, a riot or maybe even a revolution -- skip the Middle East and head to Europe.

Traditionally quiet and predictable Western Europe, a magnet for many American tourists, hasn't seen this much political and economic uncertainty in a while. As reports of economic bailouts, work stoppages, unrest in the streets and fluctuating currencies find their way back to the States, travelers wonder whether it's safe.

..."With the present political climate, an American tourist vacationing or conducting business in a country with ongoing protests and heightened tensions is a serious potential target."

Previews of... wait a minute, didn't I just say that?


Craig, just get yourself a big bucket of popcorn a giant soda and sit back and enjoy the show!


So what's the deal with this? The Greeks think American tourists bankrupted them?

A mobile guide for buses and trains

... This mobile guide is being developed in the form of a navigation application for cell phones and smartphones. The goal is to make the app available from 2012 to help people find their way through the labyrinths of trains, buses and trams that criss-cross Europe's cities. "All you will need to do is to launch our SMART-WAY app on your cell phone and enter your destination. SMART-WAY will then guide you to the nearest station or bus stop and tell you where you need to change and what lines you need to take to get there,"

Old hat!

I've had exactly functionality on an app on my iPhone for the last 18 months! UK only. I simply press the 'guide me to my nearest station button' and the GPS system gets me there. All train times are bang up to date and any service disruptions displayed. Also, the platform number of the train. Very handy.

Defense Energy Security Caucus Launches

... On Thursday, a bipartisan group of congressmen announced the launch of the Defense Energy Security Caucus, a government group that will focus on educating Congress and the American people on the importance of deploying sustainable and renewable energy solutions in the US military.

also Md.'s Rep. Bartlett aims to cut military oil usage .

also Congress Opens Little Energy Schoolhouse

The Caucus will serve as a central hub for information and education on Defense Energy and will host briefings and tech events to bring together members of industry, academia and government.

ASPO-USA might want to touch base with them

Yair...there were few replies to my query about the low uptake of low tech solar water heating in the 'States...one commenter mentioned $7000 Wow! No wonder!

I havn't checked lately but I don't think the basic unit here runs much more than three grand...half that with subsidy (if it still applies).

A couple of links here to a couple of manufacturers.



Those are nice neat units. My problem with that design is a common one- my house is purposely well shaded from all directions, so roof top solar is no good.

So I put my swimming pool heater rubber rug on the ground out south of my house, where it catches good sun about 6 hrs per day. But then I have to pump the hot back to the storage tank. A PV driven pump would be great, but I already had an AC circulating pump and it works fine with a thermal switch on the collector.

Besides, I have a philosophical quarrel with PV. I can't make it myself. I can make a thermally driven water pump myself, but have been too distracted by "important" things to do it yet.

The whole hot water works was a few hundred bucks. Plus of course my labor, which I chalk up to recreation, and 20 minutes of my wife's labor putting bricks on top of the bubble wrap blanket, which I paid for by fixing the landing gear on her chicken coop.

Hi Scrub;
I'll weigh in.

I think many would 'like' to try, but would feel like they might be ridiculed (even just a little) for it.

It's the kind of 'Sober' decision I think contradicts the basic American Baccanalia, our drunken reverie at the unending possibilities, at limitlessness, at 'hope', at being fed powerful solutions from Industry. There is an implicit warning against being cautious and thrifty, if you want to be seen as headed for greatness.

Like all the generalizations I rail against, the above is just one very visible strain in the US's self-image, but I think it's a considerable force, just the same.

Many others would eagerly jump in, but there are no billboards for these things.. you don't see them on the front page of circulars that come out of the homegoods stores nearly as brightly lit as the new BBQ grills and Power Drills. The revolution has not yet been televised..

I think it comes down to cost.

We had a solar water heater when I was growing up in Hawaii. About as ideal a situation for solar hot water as there is. My dad had it installed thanks to tax credits given after the energy crises of the 70s-early 80s. It worked acceptably (and there was an electric backup if necessary).

When my parents built their dream home a few years later, they did not include solar hot water. The tax credits had expired, and it wasn't worth it without them. Doesn't add to the resale value, either, so it made more sense to invest their building dollars in things like fancy countertops, spa-type showers, and a bigger floorplan. They also installed a timed irrigation system for the lawn. (At pre-programmed times, sprinkler heads rise up out of the ground and water the grass. Otherwise, they're flush to the ground, so you can mow over them.) That might seem silly, given how tiny their lawn is, but it's a big convenience, so it was worth spending on to my dad. While solar hot water is not more convenient than electric. In fact, it's a little less convenient, since you have to remember to turn on the electric backup if you're expecting guests.

When my parents built their dream home a few years later, they did not include solar hot water. The tax credits had expired, and it wasn't worth it without them. Doesn't add to the resale value, either, so it made more sense to invest their building dollars in things like fancy countertops, spa-type showers, and a bigger floorplan.

So how'd that work out for them? Or perhaps Hawaii wasn't affected by the housing bubble that most of us on the mainland were hit with.

Sounds to me that your parents were just buying into the mainstream views of what constitutes a so called 'Dream House' and the idea that it will continue to appreciate in value ad infinitum.

But, I have a very difficult time believing that a passive solar hot water system is't worth it without tax credits.

As for the house guests, you post the house rules in the bathroom, they either abide by them or get to take a refreshing cold shower. Might work to wake them up...

So how'd that work out for them?

It's worked out very well financially. The area they happen to live in is the fastest-growing area of Hawaii. It's just exploded. From farm town to suburbia practically overnight. And Hawaii was never all that bubbly anyway, because real estate is so limited there.

Even if there had been a bubble, I think they'd have been fine, because they didn't really build it as an investment. They built it to live there. But they also built it knowing that they're growing older, and will have to sell the house when they can no longer handle it.

IMO, this is common for the average American: they don't really expect to live in a house forever, even if it turns out that they do. Unlike in some countries, we don't expect our children to keep the family homestead. It happens, but it's not expected. Kids move away, and even if they don't, they often want a new home, built to their personal tastes. And people expect to move - either to pursue a career opportunity or to a bigger house (or a smaller one, for empty nesters). That means there's a lot less incentive to invest in the house long-term (as opposed to conveniences and luxuries you enjoy now).

As for the house guests, you post the house rules in the bathroom, they either abide by them or get to take a refreshing cold shower. Might work to wake them up.

One, we would never, ever do that. Two, it wouldn't do any good. It's not that house guests use outrageous amounts of hot water, it's that the water heater was calibrated for our family, and couldn't handle more than that (along with the extra water for dishwashing, etc. after a company meal).

Part of the problem might be that the custom in Hawaii is to shower at night, before bed. This is common in the tropics, because you sweat like a pig in the heat, and who wants to go to bed like that. If we showered in the morning, the solar heater could handle a lot of showers, but showering in the evening means the solar heater can't replace water used. Switching to mornings might save some energy, but then you'd probably be washing the sheets a lot more often.

One, we would never, ever do that.

My mother's cottage in Brazil has the house rules in four languages posted in the bathroom. Most of it is tongue in cheek with a little kernel of truth hidden between the lines. Our house guests all seem to get a chuckle out of it.

IMO, this is common for the average American: they don't really expect to live in a house forever, even if it turns out that they do. Unlike in some countries, we don't expect our children to keep the family homestead. It happens, but it's not expected. Kids move away, and even if they don't, they often want a new home, built to their personal tastes. And people expect to move - either to pursue a career opportunity or to a bigger house (or a smaller one, for empty nesters). That means there's a lot less incentive to invest in the house long-term (as opposed to conveniences and luxuries you enjoy now).

Yes, I'm quite aware of American cultural norms and that particular mindset. I just don't subscribe to practicing it myself and I highly doubt that the majority of Americans will be able to pull that plan off as things change.
Americans in general, seem to take an awful lot for granted...

The WTI-Brent spread hit $22 earlier today. It is now back down to $21.27. Bloomberg Energy This is unreal. I don't understand how such a spread is possible.

Ron P.

I'm thinking of volunteering to personally start driving tanker truck loads of oil down to the Gulf Coast.

My hand-waving explanation runs as follows: too much supply is rolling in to WTI, more than can be moved to the coast and sold. So while econ 101 says the spread should be arbitraged down to the locational difference (adjusting for quality differences), there isn't enough capacity to move the bbls. Econ 101 might also argue that transportation rates should rise accordingly, but they don't move as readily as commodity spot/prompt prices.

The root cause, of course is lack of demand at Cushing. Domestic U.S. demand in general is still well off it's highs of 1-2 years ago.

The crazy spreads aren't just in oil. The difference between coal futures in Central Appalachia and delivered prices to Europe (Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Antwerp) is over $45/ton, well above the cost to move between these locations. Another symptom of lack of domestic demand.

And then there is natural gas, which can't be exported in appreciable quantities, completely dependent on domestic demand, and trading at low prices.

WestTexas is more right than he could have imagined: not only are we having a tough time affording foreign sources of oil, our energy producers are desperate to sell their supplies anywhere but the U.S.!

Intra-day Nymex WTI Crude (CLQ11) vs Nymex Gasoline (RBQ11)

What does the graph vs Brent look like? I bet it's more sensible, spread-wise.

Just from eyeballing the charts it does but I don't know of a free web chart that can show and compare both intra-day Brent and intra-day RBOB. Yahoo compare doesn't have ICE exchange data.

I'm sorry for asking a naive question but, here it is anyway.
The WTI price is lower than Brent because they cannot sell it locally in the 'States (lack of domestic demand) so it has to have a lower price to tempt buyers from further afield to buy it and cover the transportation costs?
Essentially, discounted because it's more difficult to get to a broader market.


Light Louisiana Sweet is currently trading at about $115/barrel - that's $19/barrel above WTI. It's just WTI that's "broken".

A reminder that the US sold its SPR oil at Louisiana Sweet prices not WTI.

And then there's the Tapis/WTI spread now approaching $30!

tow - I disagree. WTI isn't broken...LLS is broken because it's selling too high. I should know...I'm selling 400 bbls every day and we're getting paid way too much...eh...wait a second...never mind. Forget what I just said.

martin - a lack of domestic demand if you mean the midcontinent of the US. We still import half the oil we consume so there's is alway plenty of demand. WTI sells quite well in OK but there's only so much oil those folks can refine and sell. The lower price is partly because there's an additional expense to transport the WTI to distant refineries. The problem is the lack of transport for WTI from Cushing to the Gulf Coast refineries. IF there were pipeline capacity WTI might be selling closer to other oil like La. Sweet Light. Or just the opposite: all that WTI might drive down the price of LSL. Not sure what way I would bet. But if a tanker showed up in the EU with a load of WTI it would sell for Brent...maybe even a little higher. I'm told WTI is prefered by some refiners

I see, thanks for your answer.

It's because the speculators haven't been as successful with WTI as they have with Brent? (har,har)

Seemingly JP Morgan (the bank) bought 1.5mb of the SPR release. I guess they're speculating that prices are going to go higher. Why the IEA or whoever, would allow an emergency SPR release to be sold to a bank is another matter and probably indicates the true reason for the intervention... to reduce prices for economic/political reasons.

All part of the way governments and the economic system now depend upon the manipulation of economic, financial and confidence metrics as a form of propaganda to influence the crowd and enact policy. It also indicates how helpless governments really are, as they cannot provide solutions, only deceive people into believing things are better than they really are.

"JP Morgan Ventures Energy Corporation" did buy 1.5 million barrels but this division at least appears to be a genuine physical oil trading entity(with history).

Barclays Bank also bought 200,000 barrels I notice.

All of the buyers have already made a paper profit of about $8 barrel on average.

Admit it, that was pure speculation on your part, wasn't it... >;^)

Ron - So I'll ask the question: how many thouands of bbls of WTI would you buy if you had to pay $X/bbl every month for storage until you could pay $Y/bbl to ship it down to a Gulf Coast refiner? I figure the guys who make a living doing this know exactly how much they can afford to pay for WTI. And that's exactly what they offer and not a penney more.

Tapis (Asian Benchmark) Light Sweet Crude

One-Year Tapis Crude Oil Spot Price

Latest: $125.25 +2.610 (2.128%)

On the article about the state of the US highway bridges and their need for
major repairs there is this note about the Tappan Zee bridge:

One of the most notorious spans, the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, carries I-287 over the Hudson River. It is a crucial regional link, and it is rated both structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The Tappan Zee was built to handle 18,000 cars a day but now carries 150,000; for six hours a day, both ends of rush hour, the Tappan Zee is at a virtual standstill with bumper-to-bumper traffic that backs up for miles in either direction. The bridge is not about to fall into the river but does require constant work to maintain its current capacity. A replacement bridge built just to carry the current load is estimated at more than $5 billion. The state of New York will be more than $55 billion in debt this financial year.

This was my comment on rebuilding the Tappan Zee bridge primarily for cars and trucks:

Rebuilding the Tappan Zee bridge to sustain 150,000 cars a day is not going to resolve the basic problem of too many cars using too much fuel in too little space with cars which have to maintain safe following distance for safety reasons. How about using this incredible technology with the following characteristics:
1)Can be totally electric run by renewable solar, wind, tidal energy
2)Can run vehicle next to vehicle totally safely with virtually zero deaths or injuries
3)Takes care of the driving for 150,000 vehicles
4)Takes 12-15 times as many people in the same amount of space
5)uses 5-10 times less energy and generates 5-10 times less greenhouse emissions
6)Can allow passengers to eat a snack, read a newspaper while traveling

The answer is a TRAIN! Why would anyone try to handle 150,000 cars and trucks instead of getting 90% of those OFF the bridge and onto rails for far less cost, far less fuel use and far less pollution. The Tappan Zee Bridge already goes to Tarrytown which connects to the MetroNorth and Amtrak rail systems. If a
rail system was built from Tappan Zee to I-287 in New Jersey and down to the New Jersey Coastline it would take much of this traffic off the bridge and also connect 10 major Rail lines in New York and New Jersey.

I am sure I will hear tirades from Car and Driver readers....
But then again maybe not, especially if anybody such as myself has experience driving the
Tappan Zee bridge during peak hour daily traffic jams.

A new Tappan Zee bridge is supposed to have space for commuter rail tracks, but no connection on the West Bank of the Hudson. Several miles of new track will be needed.

I would like to see clearances & weight limits for at least one track for electrified double stack freight.

Some of that traffic is trucks. 97% of food in NYC area arrives by truck. Rail freight over the Tappan Zee to Hunts Point is one good way to get food into NYC by rail.

Best Hopes for Oil Free delivery of food,


Hi Alan. How long before we get to freight on barges, pulled upstream by oxen? (Downstream is 'free.')

Best hopes for endless electric.


It should be readily possible to create a flow-powered barge that goes upstream, given a connection to the bank or bottom or a cable to reel in. The energy passing the barge will be greater than the drag at ordinary barge speeds, and that energy can be captured to do the work of pulling the barge upstream.

Edit: The same mechanism could pull the barge downstream faster than river flow, too, probably. It's counter-intuitive, but I think the math works.

I see the truth of it...


Same basic argument as this?

That's my thought, yes.

It is easily done with a 3 component system and a wire. This system can only move you a certain distance, wich is that of the length of the wire.

You place a wheel floating centered around an axis in the river. The wire will be looped around this wheel. Two floaters are attached, one at each end of the wire. Both floaters have a "water sail", that can be opened and closed at will.

Now let's start with floater A up by the wheel, and floater B at the downstream extreme. B closes its water sail, A open its. Now A will have a greater water resistance than B, and will move down stream while B move upstream. When B is up by the wheel, turn the settings around, and B will flow downstream while A goes up again.

New York State owns some "endless electricity" at Niagara Falls, 2.5 GW worth from memory. Much more in Quebec (new 1 GW line to NYC under construction). 25 GW yet to be built there.

And average electric locomotive would use a peak 3+ MW and average a bit more than 1 MW.

One quibble I had with Kunstler novels. The NY side of Niagara was 13 identical 200 MW turbines, recently all reworked (up from 175 MW, one rebuild/year). "Good maintenance" practices suggests rebuilding them every 50 years or so. But 100 year old turbines are operating world wide.

Lack of demand post-SHTF (Kunstler novel's world) means one or two turbines supply all they need locally. At that rate, 13 identical turbines could last 1,000 years.

The Ontario side has 10 turbines in one plant and 16 in another, but not all are identical, so less opportunity for swapping parts, but they would also last a long time.



Best Hopes for Forever electricity,


I noticed that too, but in the first book he mentions that electricity does come and go. And when it's on the radio picks up many stations, all religious. So power is on somewhere.

However, his little town on the Battenkill is well off the path of what's left of commerce. A few trees across the power lines and it's lights out. And no one to fix them. The back to back plagues pretty much broke the people's spirit. No one is going out of their way to repair infrastructure.

Rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge and any other bridge or major infrastructure project in this country means that Jobs will have to be created. We can't have that! Creating jobs takes the money away from the more important things, like electronic speculating and hedge funds.

Oh, unless we have the Chinese build large parts of these bridges for us, like they are doing between San Francisco and Oakland. Still, wouldn't it be better to use that money for something of a more worthy purpose, such as shorting Greece? Even better, I bet we could get Government Backing for shorting Greece. And tax credits. Lots of them! How about a tax credit for me if I put all of my Hedge Find gains into a bank in the Caymans?

Go America!

Another thing we'll have to buy from china.


net product imports 4 week average went negative yesterday.
we are now importing oil, refining it, then exporting it again.


Historical inflection point.

Weakening demand in the U.S. over the last 5 years for everything except gasoline which has been somewhat flat since 2005. I guess that means we have lost some manufacturing (less petrochemical feedstock use) and economic activity (with trucking and airplane fuel down) but the passenger auto is hanging on.

Re: Pakistanis' anger mounts over growing power chaos

KARACHI - Public anger is growing at the Pakistan government's failure to ensure adequate power supplies for industrial and private use, with two people killed and more than 30 wounded by police this week when a crowd of about 8,000 marched towards Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in Mianwali, Punjab province.

Power cuts were also a factor in protests in the industrial center of Karachi this week that have left at least 35 people dead.

Great, now we have rioting mobs marching on nuclear power plants.

That will help keep all the wastes secure in the spent fuel pools!

Yeah, that's not fair.

Nuclear scientists and promoters shouldn't have to worry about things like this. Societies never break down into violent rebellion, after all. So there is no chance that political disruption would ever cause a nuclear meltdown.

Oh, wait. Maybe having nukes commits us to brutally crushing all acts of rebellion before they come close to affecting our precious little nukies. We can't have freedom of expression when it might get out of hand and lead to a meltdown that would leave the whole country uninhabitable...

Pakistan is falling apart. Chaos, violence and killings by armed militias have broken out in its largest city, Karachi.

Karachi continues to bleed and burn: http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/karachi-violence-continues-as-death-toll-...

Thousands trapped in war zone with no supplies: http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/thousands-trapped-in-war-zone-with-no-sup...

No end to killings as grenade, rocket attacks mount: http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/no-end-to-killings-as-grenade-rocket-atta...

Great, now we have rioting mobs marching on nuclear power plants.

And with it a glimpse of post peak human interaction.

Behind the lust for cars in China:

As per usual, Chinese have come up with a simplified but awesome name for the act, it is simply called Che Zhen which could be roughly translated as Car Quake and Doggers (those taking part in the act) are simply referred to as Car Quake Tribe (Che Zhen Zu)


This act comes to mind:


Yes, but do they have drive in theaters. Memories.

Re: Yellowstone River Oil Spill

Montana still keen on Keystone pipeline despite recent spill
By Sheldon Alberts / Postmedia News / July 8, 2011

WASHINGTON — From the moment Exxon Mobil's ruptured Silvertip pipeline dumped 191,000 litres of oil into the Yellowstone River, Montana Gov. Brian Scwheitzer has been after the giant U.S. energy company like "smell on a skunk" — accusing it of a laggard response and inaccurate spill reporting.

But the disaster on one of America's most iconic rivers has done nothing to dull Schweitzer's enthusiasm for Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The Democratic governor, if anything, has doubled down on his support for the $7-billion oilsands pipeline, which would run under the Yellowstone on its 2,700-kilometre route from Hardisty, Alta., to Port Arthur, Texas.

"I don't think one ought to confuse what happens with this particular old technology, Silvertip, with what will occur in the future," Schweitzer told the Platts news service, in one of several interviews he's given on Keystone XL.

"Unless people are willing to park their cars and move into a cave and live naked and eat nuts, we're going to continue to produce energy and that energy needs to be moved to the source of consumption." ...

Dude, you seriously have to upgrade your doomstead (unless naked nut-eating in a cave is your trip.)

Nothing wrong with caves or nuts.

I do have to admit that perennials are a solid foundation for permaculture.

Or with nudity??

The quote confirms my theory that once someone mentions living in caves, it is a clear sign that they have no actual argument so they are reaching for the most banal of modernist emotive images.

Truly pathetic.

U.S. government has approved Roundup-ready turf grass?


Just what we did not need...

The smell of Roundup makes me ill...

Better Living Through Chemistry? Oh, sorry, that is DuPont.

"U.S. government has approved Roundup-ready turf grass?"

That's dopey. 2,4-D already kills not-grass.

Roundup-ready strawberries could, no would, tempt me. Select kills the grass without hurting the berries, but all the other broadleaves also survive.

Last winter killed so many strawberries I'm going to relocate the survivors to a new area along with enough new ones to start over.

Must have the perfect lawn. I have never understood spending one penny to use herbicides or pesticides on lawns. But must have the perfect lawn, I guess.

Indeed, one definitely must have a perfect lawn lest the HOA exact a fine for having an imperfect lawn and causing the neighborhood to go to pot...

Except in Albuquerque, where Xeriscaping is not only accepted and encouraged, but mandated for new construction...and the city will reimburse you a little for tearing out your grass and putting in the crushed rock and desert shrubs (trees are cool too).

causing the neighborhood to go to pot...

A much more aesthetically pleasing plant than grass, if I do say so myself...

The Devil never sleeps.

Peak U.S. manned space flight:


Or maybe, Peak Human space flight (in realization that Limits to Growth will hit the whole World, not just the U.S....China may ramp up somewhat before the dookie hits their fan...

So much for 500-1000 folks living in orbit to construct space-based solar power systems...

The future of space exploration (barring some technocopian miracles) will be modest amounts of solar system probes and orbiting observatories (telescopes operating in various slices of the spectrum).


From The Economist (Into the Sunset):


But not Peak Military Space activities (U.S. Mil Space budget has met or exceeded the NASA budget since 1982?)


While this likelihood makes me sad maybe it is not that horrible. Perhaps we need to mature a bit as a race before we go to war with the Cosmos. If we survive the next 200 years with civilization intact, I imagine the technology will be there. Who knows, maybe we will even be invited.

Look at all the things the US made that were the biggest and when they were made vs. when US domestic Peak Oil was.

Completion dates of US engineering feats:

1963 US Largest Reservoir - Oahe Dam - 29 billion cubic meters of water
1968 US Tallest Dam - Oroville Dam - 230 meters high
1969 US Longest Bridge - Lake Pontchartrain Causeway - North Bound - 38,442 m (126,122 ft)
1969 US puts Apollo 11 team on the moon
1970 US 2nd Longest Bridge - Manchac Swamp bridge - 36,710 m (120,440 ft)
1971 US domestic peak oil production rates reached and permanent decline commenced.
1972 planned Apollo 20 moon mission which never was
1972 US 2nd tallest building - 1 World Trade Center (the North Tower) - 1,368 feet (417 m)
1973 US tallest building - Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) - 1,451 ft (442 m)

And then what? Everything smaller.

Supposedly by 2014 1 WTC will be finished, but what if it's not?

I will answer your last question with: So what? The sun will keep rising and setting.I am not sure that tall buildings or big structures in general are automatic markers of a country's greatness.

What is wrong with smaller? Did we really need that mile-high skyscraper built that was dreamed about in Popular Mechanics/Popular Science?

Do we need our own Three Gorges Dam?

Was the Central Arizona Project a great thing?

Did TAPs lay the foundation for our sustainable future?

Maybe that steel and concrete should have been used for more and better rail systems, and wind turbines and solar panels, and a lot of that engineering talent put to use to work real hard every years starting in the 1960s to increase energy efficiency...we could have engineered the advances in PV and wind technology and more efficient devices we have now much earlier had we focused on these things as a national priority, rather than the Vietnam War, the Space race, the Cold war, conspicuous consumption to prove that it is Morning in America...

It would have been swell to have focused heavily on family planning (2-child family as a cultural norm)and enacting strict immigration control as well starting in the early 1960s.

There are benefits to thinking small!

Yeah Baby I get your irony.
What was achieved with cheap oil and what will be achieved with expensive oil is only separated by size, not by an examination of the reason and the reality of actual diminishing returns.
In other words EROEI has us by the nuts,and the grip is ever tightening.

Feds just completed their review and rule that pot remains in the same class of illegal drugs as heroin in the U.S.


I wonder how much persecuting MJ users pumps into the prison-police industrial complex?

I am sure glad we don't have any bigger problems to tackle...

Don't forget about how much big pharma loves that you buy their potions over a natural remedy.

Edit: Context

The federal government claims THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has no medicinal value. At the same time, a synthetic THC (such as Marinol) is being prescribed to patients.

Meet Your New Pot Dealer: Big Pharma

The Drug Enforcement Administration told Legalization Nation in an e-mail last week that 55 unnamed companies now hold licenses to grow cannabis in the United States, a fact that contradicts the widespread belief that there is only one legal pot farm in America, operated under the DEA for research purposes. It appears as if the upswing in federally approved pot farming is about feeding the need of pharmaceutical companies who want to produce a generic version of THC pill Marinol and at least one other cannabis-based pill for a wide variety of new uses.

We can cut medicare for seniors but we must insist that MJ is a demon drug and we must spend billions ruining lives and incarcerating people for the evil weed use. In the 70s, I could not imagine that we would still be so retrograde in the second decade of the 21st century. So much for my generation. Hey, tax it and use it for renewables. "Smoke some weed. Your planet depends on it"

Yes, we are on a budget and society prioritization roll ladies and gents!

House boosts military budget in time of austerity
Measure includes $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan


On a 336-87 vote Friday, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly backed a $649 billion defense spending bill that boosts the Defense Department budget by $17 billion. The strong bipartisan embrace of the measure came as White House and congressional negotiators face an Aug. 2 deadline on agreeing to trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts and raising the borrowing limit so the U.S. does not default on debt payments.

While House Republican leaders agreed to slash billions from the proposed budgets for other agencies, hitting food aid for low-income women, health research, energy efficiency and much more, the military budget is the only one that would see a double-digit increase in its account beginning Oct. 1

And then there is this insightful, relevant action!

House votes to halt gay unions on military bases
Measure was attached to the defense spending bill


That'll put a dent in the whole Limits to Growth impending crisis! Look! Over there! Let's throw rocks at those scary gay folk causing most of our problems!

Way to go, Congress!

H - And for the sake of completeness: "the Republican-controlled House (and the majority of Democrat members) overwhelmingly backed a $649 billion defense spending bill".

As Telly S use to ask: Who loves you, baby?

Can the U.S cut ~$4T from its budget over the next 10 years?

Will that make enough of a positive difference?


I have been handed an example of how the non-mindlessness of alternative power can hinder its adoption. If it isn't as easy as squeezing a gas pump nozzle, most people's impulse is to give up.

My son's girlfriend's mom and her boyfriend were thinking about maybe a solar panel, thinking it would lower cost and make supply more reliable. They were informed enough to know that shadows are important. There is a large hill- some might call it a small mountain- to their south. When they tried to figure out if it would ruin the usefulness of solar for them, they couldn't find the information they needed, and gave up.

So my son asked me for the answer. I have all that college education, so I must know, right? Wrong. I haven't a clue. I looked around at some solar power websites, but the only formulas I could find involved the dreaded trigonometry... utterly useless to the people who originally asked the question, who I'm not certain graduated high school.

I had to take trig and calculus, but it's been literally decades; I never used any of it, not once, after completing the courses. I recognize terms like "tan" but can't remember squat about what you do with them.

The basic question is, if you live at X latitude, and there is a mountain (or a building, or a tree, or whatever) Y feet tall located Z feet south of you, will the mountain's shadow block your solar panel in winter? I was hoping to find along the lines of tables showing the length of shadow for assorted latitudes and heights of objects; with two sets of tables for summer and winter solstice.

No such luck. Lots of classes in astronomy and trig use it for a homework question, it turns out, but that does no good for a Joe Six Pack who's trying to do good and green. Nor for me, after all these math-less years. I don't even have the textbooks or own a scientific calculator anymore. Somehow it makes me feel even stupider than J6P, because about 30 years ago I could have answered the question. I find I feel very embarrassed. All the more so because of the mighty math minds that frequent TOD.

Few people have the patience to wait a year, going out in the yard and marking the edges of the shadows at sunrise, noon and sunset, to figure out whether solar will work at their site.

Is there a high school dropout way to figure this out quickly and easily?

Indeed there is. It's an ingenious gadget called the Solar Pathfinder (Yes, I own one, and no, I have no dog in the fight).

You set it up where you're considering locating your panels, and it superimposes a reflection of your surroundings over a little card with sun times laid out by season. If you have a lot of trees or hills, they obscure the sun paths on the card and allow you to total up how many hours of sun you'll receive at any time of year.

Come to think of it, it's a LITTLE tricky -- you might want to find a high school graduate to help out. Also, you have to buy or borrow the gadget.

Yes! It is not hard, and I found it fun, but you need to make a few card board survey tools.


I love the build it solar web site. Lots of good ideas for doing all kinds of DIY solar & energy conservation.

Well, it quite simply comes down to - is the house in permanent shade in winter, or not? Surely they would know the answer to that question?

Even if it is shaded in winter, so what? Winter is the least productive time for the panels, so you are not missing out on that much.

You can get a basic idea of expected PV production, by zip code, using the Kyocera Solar Calculator

If your panels are in shade for two months of winter, (16% of the year) you could probably just subtract 10% from the annual production and call it a day.

if you do want to work it, with a bit of trig - nothing to be afraid of, I might add, try this.

The midwinter, midday sun angle will be your latitude minus 23deg, facing due south. Taking the tan of that angle (opposite over adjacent), you get a gradient of X to 1. Make a cardboard triangle with these dimensions on the two sides of the right angle, hold it with the 1 side horizontal, X vertical, and look along the long edge (hypotenuse) at your mountain. If you are looking over the top, you will be in sun, if below, you will be in shade.

An easier way is to just ask a long time neighbour if they are in shade in winter.

But that is only in midwinter, not a big deal really.

But I would agree with the comments above about the build it solar site. if you are going to "invest" several thousands of dollars in a PV system, it is worth investing a few hours to educate yourself about it. Then you might know whether it is a bad investment, or maybe a really good, one, that you should invest $10k or more into. And you'll learn something along the way, about energy, how it is produced, and used.

As Fred Magyar has said before, leaving aside the energy merits, and costs, of PV, those who do put it up generally become more educated about energy production, consumption, and conservation, and that in itself has tremendous value.

Solar systems also add resale value too, and their value increase approximately equally to the price of electricity, which is likely to only head in one direction...

A quick google bring up this site, worth a shot!

I don't even have the textbooks or own a scientific calculator anymore.

Sure you do, you're typing your post on a computer right? You have 'Google' for the texts and this, at least...


Anyways, the responses from the other commenters below can steer you in the right direction. Could be a fun educational project for all concerned, you might even find that doing a little trig is a lot like riding a bicycle, you never really completely forget how to do it. You might even surprise yourself and impress the others. Go for it!


Wow! You guys are the best! There's everything I needed.

An easier way is to just ask a long time neighbour if they are in shade in winter.

LMAO!! We got so focused on "figuring it out"- it never even occurred to me! Duh.

We got so focused on "figuring it out"- it never even occurred to me! Duh.,/i>

That's the problem with tech stuff, it gets you so focused that you may not even notice the obvious things around you.

Taking the "neighbours" concept a step further, they should go for a drive around and see if there is a house anywhere with solar panels on it, and go and ask them. I can guarantee that anyone who has panels, will be more than happy to talk about them, share productivity information etc etc.

The value of local community...