Drumbeat: October 28, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Energy Trap

The Energy Trap study found cases in which more than 50 percent of a family's income was going into paying for and fueling the car. What is most alarming is that 30 years ago the spike in gasoline led to a 12 percent reduction in the demand for gasoline as consumers drove less, switched to smaller cars, and sort of adhered to the 55 mph speed limit that had been put in place to save gasoline. It is now more than three years since the $4+ price spike of 2008 and demand has only fallen some 3 percent.

Oil Drops, Paring Biggest Gain Since March After Japanese Output Declines

Oil fell in New York, paring its biggest weekly gain since March, as a drop in Japanese industrial output prompted traders to lock in profits from yesterday’s price surge.

Futures slid as much as 1.5 percent after Japanese factory production declined 4 percent in September, almost twice as much as the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Oil rallied yesterday after data showed the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at the fastest pace in a year and European leaders agreed on a plan to curb the region’s debt crisis.

Qatar not cutting oil output, sees no surprises at Dec meet

(Reuters) - OPEC member Qatar is not cutting production as supplies from Libya come to market, the Gulf country's oil minister said here on Friday, adding he did not expect any major changes in output from the oil producers' group when it meets in December.

"Qatar is not cutting (oil output)," Oil Minister Mohammed al-Sada said after a meeting in New Delhi when asked about the impact of increased Libya supplies.

Gasoline Cargoes to U.S. May Rise as Refineries Cut Production of the Fuel

Gasoline shipments from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean may jump during the next two weeks as U.S. refineries cut production.

Thirty-five tankers were booked or due to be chartered for loading in the two weeks, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of six shipbrokers, one owner and two traders yesterday. That’s the highest number since the survey began four months ago, and eight more ships than last week.

PetroChina Third-Quarter Net Beats Estimates, Sinopec on Higher Oil Prices

PetroChina Co.’s third-quarter profit growth outpaced gains by rival China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. as higher crude oil prices helped counter refining losses at Asia’s biggest company by market value.

Total profits up 17 percent for third quarter

PARIS, France (AP) - French oil company Total said Friday that soaring crude prices boosted its third-quarter profits despite a weak dollar.

France's largest company by market value saw its net profit rise to euro3.3 billion ($4.6 billion) in the third quarter, up 17 percent from the same period last year. Revenue was euro46.2 billion in July to September, up from euro40.2 billion last year.

Exxon’s Tillerson Needs Record Oil Output to Meet Production Growth Target

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson may struggle to reach his full-year production target after rallying oil prices reduced the company’s take from wells in Africa and output slumped in the U.S. and Europe.

Exxon, the world’s largest company by market value, needs to boost production in the current quarter to the equivalent of 5 million barrels a day to meet the 4 percent growth target for 2011 that Tillerson set forth during a March presentation to analysts in New York.

Higher oil prices help Chevron more than double 3Q net income, but production slips

Chevron Corp.’s quarterly profit more than doubled as a jump in oil prices made up for declining production.

Why is gas still priced so high?

I can't understand why the TV news says that the price of oil is about $80 a barrel but the price of gas nationwide averages $3.40 a gallon. When oil was that price two years ago, a gallon of gas was about a dollar less. Why is gas still priced so high? Also, the politicians are always talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil and saying we should allow a pipeline from Canada to Texas and also drill offshore more. Where’s the oil really coming from? Can pipelines and drilling really solve our problem or is this some sort of conspiracy by the oil industry?

Missouri's Cold Weather Rule Takes Effect November 1

"The Cold Weather Rule has helped more than two million Missourians maintain heat-related service during the harsh winds of a Missouri winter," said PSC Chairman Kevin Gunn. "A temperature moratorium and notice requirements prior to a service disconnection are two of several Cold Weather Rule provisions that exist for customers during the winter."

Heating Oil Dealers Steering Away From Price Lock-In Contracts This Winter

Around the state, fewer heating oil dealers are offering customers fixed-price plans this winter with many citing the oil market's volatility as their reason for discontinuing the option. The U.S. Department of Energy is predicting that this winter's heating oil prices will be among the highest ever.

Africa's oil scramble heads east

Africa's new scramble for oil is heading east, where the potential could be huge but the risks are far higher than in the well-established sector on the continent's west coast.

Waters off East Africa have yet to produce a commercially viable oil source but gas discoveries off Mozambique and Tanzania have prompted lots of interest.

Is Asia heading down the wrong energy path?

The focus of Asian countries appears to be more on grabbing as many energy resources as they possibly can in order to boost economic growth so the region's economies can industrialize as fast as possible.

The underlying philosophy is that Asia deserves the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the developed world and that energy is necessary to power societies where consumer goods are king.

The problem with all this is that it is just not going to be possible to reach the level of energy intensity needed to match the lifestyle of the average American, European or Australian.

Direct subsidies to fossil fuels are the tip of the (melting) iceberg

The problem with tallying up direct subsidies is that it misses the two greatest sources of public support for fossil fuels, both of which are indirect, both of which dwarf direct subsidies.

EU Seeks Stricter Offshore Oil Rules After Spill, Extends Liability Zone

European Union regulators proposed stricter safety standards for offshore oil and natural-gas exploration to curb the risk of a major accident after BP Plc (BP/)’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in U.S. history.

Pipeline Plan Stirs Debate on Both Sides of Hudson

A debate that pits energy needs against safety risks is playing out in the New York region as federal officials weigh approval of a natural gas pipeline that would terminate in the West Village in Manhattan.

N.Y. Advisory Panel Delays Report on Fracking

In a sign that New York State may have to slow down a bit before authorizing a new kind of natural gas drilling, an advisory panel is delaying its recommendations on how the state should pay for new staff members to enforce regulations on the drilling operations.

Nuclear Promotion Dropped in Japan Energy Policy After Fukushima

Japan’s government abandoned its policy of promoting atomic power, saying it will reduce reliance on the sector in its first annual review of energy since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The energy white paper, approved by the Cabinet today, calls for a reduction in the nation’s reliance on atomic power in what was the third-biggest user of the fuel before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It also omits a section on nuclear power expansion that was in last year’s policy review.

5 Myths About Energy in America

Myth No. 1: The world is about to run out of oil.
Yergin believes that this isn't exactly true. In his book, he discusses evidence from studies of oil fields and oil wells that show that "the world is clearly not running out of oil." In fact, the "estimates for the world’s total stock of oil keep growing."

Yergin understands that this is very surprising for people to hear. Essentially, "[T]echnology opens up new frontiers and there's new supply coming on, including in the United States." Ultimately, Yergin disagrees with the peak oil adherents, those who believe we're running out of oil. He writes, "[T]he world has decades of further production growth before flattening out into a plateau -- perhaps sometime around mid-century -- at which time a more gradual decline will begin."

Welcome to Earth

Peak oil is the moment when the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached. You’ve probably heard the rumors: Once the easy oil is pumped from the ground, corporations will go after the hard-to-reach oil that’s located in more remote areas of the world and ever greater depths of oceans—potentially resulting in environmental degradation like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some say we’ve already reached this point.

And, guess what? Difficult oil is expensive oil.

The success humanity has had in the daily feeding of 7 billion people is reliant on inexpensive (dollarwise) oil products. All those bulldozers for deforestation, tractors for tilling fields, computers for calculating yields, diesel fuel for shipments, nitrogen for fertilizer—all of it, everything—called “modern agricultural techniques” are utterly dependent on cheap petroleum products.

America's Predicament: The 7Th Billion Human On Planet Earth

The biggest question: as we face water shortages, Peak Oil energy exhaustion, resource depletion, accelerating air pollution and quality of life decaying in our cities--why aren't Americans concerned and why aren't American leaders taking any steps toward a stable and sustainable future for all citizens and fellow creatures? Why do we think we enjoy immunity from the problems out there in Haiti, Egypt, India, Mexico and Bangladesh?

Today, the United States imports 7 out of 10 barrels of oil. In other words, we exceed our carrying capacity for energy. It's not sustainable. Every added American equates to 25.4 acres of wilderness being destroyed to support that person known as "ecological footprint." Take 100 million X's 25.4 acres, which means 2.54 billion acres of land must be destroyed to support that massive addition of humans to America.

Women Dethrone Malthus

At its heart the book conveys a simple fact. The rate of population growth has been decelerating for decades – well before the publication in the 1970s of Paul Ehrlich’s alarmist, implicitly racist, and dead wrong neo-Malthusian tract, The Population Bomb. It is amazing that many environmentalists are unaware of the crucial fact of slowing population growth, and that some react with hostility to it. Further, somewhere between 2050 and 2100, growth will stop and then come crashing down. It is not the sky that will be falling but the population. From Eastern Europe to Southern Italy to Singapore, that day has already arrived and sooner or later it will come to all parts of the planet. In fact, it may well be that in the next century the problem will be a population that is not large enough to be optimal; but that will be for the 22nd century humans to decide and act on.

Satellite shots show human impact on Earth

(CNN) -- On the last day of October 2011, the U.N. says the world population will hit seven billion people -- an increase of one billion since 1999.

To show some of the impacts of this vast human upheaval, Canadian anthropologist Felix Pharand has created a series of visualizations mapping the presence of technology onto a selection of satellite images showing the Earth from space.

Ignoring gen Y while the world sleepwalks to catastrophe

On the denial of the limits to growth, The Australian is more hardline in my opinion than say The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald, but in general the major dailies push this line, especially with respect to immigration and population issues. So lend me your ears, I implore you, for what I have to discuss today affects not only human beings but every single species on the planet.

Fixing instead of fretting

Boulder’s Bioneers sets out to conquer fears of something much scarier than the typical Halloween mask: Visions of a post-peak-oil apocalypse, pictures of the collapse of the world food system, the dismal view of a country run by corporate monopolies.

Mr Unflappable, the great green persuader

The head of Irena, the UN's clean-power agency, is tasked with persuading nations to sign up to a renewable-energy agenda. He says being based in a major oil producing country is an advantage.

Drive For Free

The premise of this article is that every American household with a place to plug in an electric vehicle (EV), and a place to put in solar photovoltaic system (PV), should get that EV and that PV, because then you drive for free and thereby save over $60,000. This opportunity might apply to 100 million of America=s 256 million vehicles. In addition to saving a great deal of money, you’ll be supporting the American economy, reducing global warming, and improving health, and even helping to bring peace to the world. Yes, dare to think big.

Exclusive Q&A With Elon Musk And Chris Paine: How The Electric Car Got Its Revenge

Documentary filmmaker Chris Paine is obsessed with electric cars: he's driven one for the last 12 years, and his 2006 movie, "Who Killed The Electric Car?", followed GM's recall and forced destruction of the EV-1, one of the first mass-produced electric cars.

But the electric car is back, and Paine is documenting its return.

Brazilian Amazon Groups Invade Site of Dam Project

BUENOS AIRES — Waving bows and arrows and dressed in war paint, hundreds of members of indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon invaded the construction site of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on Thursday.

Windmillers’ Tradition Hangs on in Remote Areas

Windmills were crucial to 19th-century settlers of West Texas and the Great Plains because little surface water existed. Thousands of them, far smaller than the giant electricity-producing turbines that have sprouted around West Texas in recent years, still twirl in remote pastures. The windmills go where electricity cannot reach and cattle need to drink, though cheaper solar pumps are starting to push them out.

“Obama wants everybody to go green,” said Bob Bracher, the president of Aermotor Windmill, a company that has manufactured windmills for more than 100 years and still makes a few thousand a year in a warehouse in San Angelo. “Well, hell, we’ve been green since 1888.”

White House Garden Activist Calls for National Garden Strategy

"Although a kitchen garden revolution has started, we're still scratching at the surface of what gardens can do and will need to do in an increasingly hot, crowded and malnourished world," says Doiron who is Founding Director of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International. Citing statistics about obesity, hunger, projected population growth and peak oil production, Doiron makes a strong case for investing more heavily in food garden education and promotion as part of the solution to the world's health, economic and environmental challenges.

Industry warns carbon tax could cause huge job losses

By setting a minimum price, he was hoping to introduce some certainty and stability.

He hoped that would provide ideal conditions for investment in low carbon forms of energy and encourage businesses to cut their emissions.

But it also looks likely to cause a big cut in jobs amongst the biggest energy users.

Denmark welcomes China in from the Arctic cold

(Reuters) - China has legitimate economic interests in the Arctic, Denmark's ambassador said on Friday, welcoming partnership with Beijing in the rapidly thawing polar region but adding that a possible resource rush would come with obligations.

With climate change linked to melting ice caps in the Arctic, the prospect of untapped hydrocarbons, fishing grounds and new summer shipping lanes has whetted China's appetite for polar research and exploration capabilities.


"Fresh oil pollution reported in Nigeria region – ‘It’s a very severe spill’"

Yenagoa, Nigeria, October 24 (AFP) – A Nigerian environmental group on Monday claimed an oil spill from a pipeline operated by Italian firm ENI had badly polluted an area in the south of Africa's largest oil producer.

The spill which reportedly occurred on September 27 is said to have polluted the swamps of the Ikeinghenbiri area of Bayelsa state in the main oil-producing Niger Delta region.

"The volume of the spill is very high and in some cases it is difficult to separate the crude from the water," Environmental Rights Action field monitor Morris Alagoa told AFP a day after he visited the village.

The group's executive director, who is also chairman of Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, said, "I understand it's a very severe spill."

Alagoa said he found that "in some places the whole length of the swamp is black (with oil)."

I like the drive for free article. The trouble I have is that batteries aren't free. We really don't have much of an idea how long they will last either. Our Prius is doing fine after 120,000 miles, but my friend's first generation needed battery work with only 90,000 on it. I also wonder about the longterm reliability of some solar equipent. The micro inverter systems make a lot more sense because if one goes down you are still producing power.

I don't think solar panels will ever get that much cheaper or more reliable. I hesitate to buy the rest of the kit at this time, though.

I don't think you need an inverter to charge your car. And why don't you think solar will continue its long term drop in price? "I also wonder about the longterm reliability of some solar equipment." Based on...??

But I agree with the rest. Not only are batteries expensive, so are up-front costs of solar systems, and of course the car itself.

Having tried an EV, I found very large reductions in performance in winter and as the batteries aged. Now this was a first generation Zenn, and friends tell me that the ones that came out the following year perform much better. But my general conclusion is that we should spend much more time and energy working to make cars largely irrelevant as a transportation option, rather than trying to salvage the ill-conceived car culture by going electric.

All the cars I've heard about plug into ac power. Solar panels produce dc power. I don't think panels will get much cheaper, the silicon technology is mainstream and requires a lot of energy. Anymore, the cost to install is about as much as the panel price, and I can't think of anything that will make installation less expensive.

"All the cars I've heard about plug into ac power."

Good point. But batteries use dc power, so there must be an inverter in there. I would think it wouldn't be too difficult (for someone who knows what they're doing) to get rid of these 'middle men' inverters so you can directly charge your dc batteries with your dc solar power. Has anyone out there done this with an EV?

Silicon technology has always required a lot of energy, and yet the price has come down steadily. I think there are still technical innovations that could bring down price, and economies of scale as plants become truly massive.

Installation prices will drop to zero as they develop plug-in-ready systems and simple ways to attach panels to your roof.

As I understand it, in the early days, to get a personal computer at a reasonable cost, you had to essentially build it yourself. That kind of post-purchase construction has essentially disappeared as they became mainstream. I'm guessing the same trajectory will happen with solar.

As it reaches grid parity, and as financing mechanisms become more available so the up-front coast isn't such a barrier, solar sales will skyrocket and prices will continue to plummet. We are just about at that tipping point, and if there were a rational price put on the costs we all have to bear for the coal industry's dumping of billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, solar would be even more competitive.

But batteries use dc power, so there must be an inverter in there. I would think it wouldn't be too difficult (for someone who knows what they're doing) to get rid of these 'middle men' inverters so you can directly charge your dc batteries with your dc solar power.

I'm not an expert, but the problem may be more difficult than you suggest. Keep in mind that the battery pack in today's EVs and hybrids is a sealed unit operating at >200VDC. Matching your PV array to a 200V battery may be problematic. Even worse, to a 200V "smart" battery that provides features like thermal management, and may expect complex signaling to/from the external charging system in order to work properly.

There are emerging standards for DC charging, but the focus there has been on high-speed charging at very high currents and voltages (eg, up to 600VDC at 400A). It's not clear (at least to me) whether those connections consider the case of low-current "trickle" charging.

I thought that most cars have lighters and that lighters are DC? It seems to me that there are windshield size solar panels that can both shade your car and keep a trickle going to the batteries to keep them charged if you leave them at say an airport for a long time. But maybe my memory deceives me (it wouldn't be the first time).

ISTR that is a separate 12V battery for the accessories etc.


Yep. Most of the universe of electrical bits in a car -- headlights, cabin/instrument lights, fans, stereo -- run on 12VDC. Usually there's a DC/DC converter to power that circuit from the main traction battery in a hybrid/EV. I believe the US DOT requires a separate 12V battery so that safety components like emergency flashers and door locks will operate for some amount of time even if the traction battery is exhausted.

The electrical environment in a conventional ICE car is pretty nasty: voltage can drop from 12V to 5-6V when the starter is cranking, turning components with major power draws on/off produces spikes as high as a couple hundred volts, weird induced voltages, etc. IIRC, the reason the auto makers designed the system to disconnect the stereo from the power system when the starter is engaged is that it was too expensive to add the circuitry to protect those electronics from the nasty stuff.

A rectifier, not an inverter, is used to convert AC to DC. DC to AC requires the inverter.

Solar cells and batteries may need a DC/DC converter. In some circumstances, solar cells could be matched (ie, put enough in series) to trickle charge a battery at whatever voltage you want. For example, a 12V battery in a car can be trickle charged by a small solar cell designed to be about 14v (at low wattage). At larger powers (for example in an electric vehicle) you would want to "buck" or "boost" the solar cell output for maximum safe power transfer.

As I recall, capacitors, perhaps the next electrical storage breakthrough, were best charged with half-wave rectifiers. At least that is what we used to put a charge in the old electolytic caps to zap the heck out of someone. Of course, it can be easily fatal and a rather stupid move, but I was young once too.

Charged capacitors and tin foil hats are NOT a good mix !

Best Hopes for Felt Hat Liners,


Yes but we need rise and fall to do the trick with capacitors, no? Also, most rectifiers today are silicon controlled or SCR's. As I recall, they are more efficient than the old fashioned square wave rectifiers. Still as we move to capacitors, will not some form of AC charging do the trick. What about a nuclear sub? They have strange AC cycles. Is that used to charge the batteries? As I recall, nuclear subs still have batteries too. The Honda Civic hybrids I used to work on had a 130V circuit marked in red for charging the assist batteries. The car could also start from the assist batteries. The car had a conventional battery only for backup purposes, or at least that is what I was told.

I don't see us moving to Caps for storage. If caps adavance some more, they may be used in conjunction with batteries to absorb supply/demand spikes. But the cost per unit of energy storage is many times higher with caps.
Yes, they are easy to charge, -you are not too worried about damaging them by overchareging, just keep the supply voltage below the max cap voltage and you are fine. With batteries, its best to have a smart controller that knows how to go easy on battery life.

"What about a nuclear sub? They have strange AC cycles. "

No they don't. 60 Hz AC for nearly everything, 400 Hz AC for certain servos and a few other uses, and DC. AC to DC and back was with motor-generators, although I heard they were experimenting with inverters and rectifiers to get rid of another vibration/noise source.

English boats ran 50 Hz as I recall, but that's not odd either. Just matches their home port for easy shore-power connections.

A lot of industrial electronics runs 3-phase, maybe that's what he is referring to?

As I recall, capacitors... were best charged with half-wave rectifiers.

At least in the simple case, no. The capacitor will only charge while the output voltage of the power supply is higher than the voltage of the charge stored in the capacitor. The output from a simple half-wave rectifier will be at zero half the time. Other things equal, a full-wave rectifier has to charge the capacitor to a given voltage level more quickly.

OTOH, it's pretty easy to build a half-wave rectifier that also functions as a voltage multiplier. Given an appropriate version of that, you could charge (slowly) a high-voltage capacitor to, say, 480VDC using 120VAC input. Not that I would try it -- I'm much more a 5VDC or even 3.3VDC electronics kind of guy. When I built my wife's programmable whole-house fan controller last winter, I designed it so that the 120VAC portions were isolated "way over there".

It was long ago but maybe because we used polarized electrolytic capacitors, I seem to remember a full wave rectifier did not work or work as well.

That might depend on the overall circuit but for basic charging go with mccain.


2 or 4 ECG 125's and an isolation AC varistor plugged into the wall. The simplest circuit we designed. 2 as a half wave design worked well. 4 as a full wave design did not. I am going by observation not design. Did I do something wrong?

Edit: Go easy on me, you know I went digital ASAP, LOL. That is probably why I now collect tarballs.

Ordinary tarballs, or gzip'ed tarballs?

I hate tar (sticky tar, or unix-tar), both suck!

I would need to know a lot more about it but what springs to mind is that there was a miss-match somewhere. I suspect we are straying too far off topic though.


Back when I was a teenager, I used to make voltage multipliers (I was fascinated with high coltage). It takes a lot of capacitors and diodes to do the trick, and the output current is pretty meager.
A simple half wave rectifier takes a single diode, a full one requires 4. The peak voltage with sinusoidal AC is 1.41 times the rated voltage, thats as far as you can go. For better charging rate you'd like to have three phase power (three different AC's sixty degrees out of phase with each other), with full wave rectifiers that gives you six peaks per cycle.

Charge controllers are available to charge car batteries DC direct; not very hard to do.

Not easy to do without violating a warranty. I'm sure some sort of automated system could be designed to allow dc to dc charging, but I personally have no desire to mess around with several hundred volts dc without one.

I'm more comfortable with higher DC voltages as lower voltage usually means higher amps. The warranty is another issue. Manufacturers may be well served to provide PV direct charging options for their vehicles in the future, and there has been some discussion about using EVs as a backup power source. Flexibility and redundantcy will be important in the future, IMO. Some discussion of this at my link, below.

Given that PV without an inverter is a large opportunity wasted, i.e. when your car isn't plugged in and needing charge all those electrons are wasted, I thin you will have the inverter anyway. And the built for the EV chargers will be designed to run off of house current (whatever that is in your market). So thats the natural choice to make, sure a few percent is lost in DC to AC to DC conversion, but you buy a lot of flexibility (such as charging at night or on a cloudy day, as well as being able to use the power for other purposes.

Frankly I think the "must have rapid charger" is a serious mistake, both in expense, and battery life. But, right now thats what EV people think the market wants.

But, right now that's what EV people wants the market to think.



I think its more a matter of asking people who claim they might wannabe customers what they think. I remember when the place I worked at did that with the first massively parallel computer. Spent all the compiler resources writing some wacky language extension, that was actually never used. As a result the per CPU performance was about a thrid what it could have been, if the effort had been spent making the compiler generate efficient code. At least I got to be a hero, since I was great at knocking off assembler.....

So people, (who haven't thought about the technical issues), say "Fast Charging, long range". But fast charging means expensive electrical work, plus a pricy charger. And then it hurts battery life if you use it. And long range, means an expensive battery pack, ruining the cost effectiveness of the product. Thats what happens if you try to produce the pink-ponies customers think they'd like, rather than making the best engineering compromise.

Why does this all remind me of the old man, the boy and the donkey :(


Why does this all remind me of the old man, the boy and the donkey :(

The moral of this particular story is, I think, something along the lines: "you can't please everyone", or as it is used more frequently: "damned if you do, damned if you don't".

For me, Enemy's experience rather reminds me of the good ole: "There are three types of service: Good, Fast and Cheap. You can pick two." :-P

Then the post office is like US car company not profitable due to excessive pension costs. The only way to fix this is bankruptcy. This of course does not fix the problem of the retirees that will get no pension. Buyer beware.

diamond engagement rings - makeityourring diamond engagement rings

"But I agree with the rest. Not only are batteries expensive, so are up-front costs of solar systems..."

Jim Puplava interviews Stoneleigh, on preping and avoiding energy traps (seems to be today's TOD theme). I suppose Nichole and I have similar world views, as we've taken virtually the same path on the home front. Paying some things forward has been a win/win for us, though your world-view may vary.

"The micro inverter systems make a lot more sense because if one goes down you are still producing power."

Some thoughts on this:

A friend who opted for micro-inverters lost virtually all of his inverters to a lightning strike (13 of 16). I've never lost a charge controller or inverter, despite living in a lightning prone area. All of my components are in a protected area in our earth-bearmed utility room (which is basically a Faraday cage) and have disconnects.

Mico-inverters are generally suitable for grid-tie only, limiting their versatility.

"I also wonder about the longterm reliability of some solar equipent."

As I've stated before, after 16 years living off grid, we have yet to have a single failure (that wasn't human-caused). We've upgraded some stuff, but kept most older equipment as backups/spares.

Mico-inverters are generally suitable for grid-tie only, limiting their versatility.

Bingo! As someone who thinks that grid reliability is going to be a major issue in the future the less individuals need to rely on it the better...

My wife and I were about ready to pull the trigger for a $60k system for our house that was microinverter-based. The company was constantly praising the efficiency and diagnostics capabilities of the microinverters vs. a single inverter. It was pretty cool how you could get on the internet and pull up the statistics for each panel in your array.

But eventually it became clear that they wouldn't work if the grid went down and my enthusiasm for them went right down the drain. Not to mention that I'd end up with 40-50 of the damn things, one for each panel...and they're all located up on the roof under the panels. I can't even get on my roof - it's too tall with a steep pitch! We balked at the installation because they wouldn't support us wanting to use a single inverter in the basement with a battery backup.

Hurricane Irene came through some weeks ago and wiped out power to my area for 6 days - I was extremely happy I punted on the system since it would have been a $60k lead weight on my roof doing absolutely nothing...and I would have been furious for not going with a single-inverter, battery-backed system.

60K....Wow! I could spec and install one great battery backed grid-interactive system for that, allowing you to feed the grid as well as buy off-peak power to resell on-peak. Getting the powerco to go for it is another problem. My experience is that the utilities want to keep you on the grid leash. This is one reason they want you to opt for micro-inverters. It prevents you from reconfiguring your system later, and they can "keep an eye on things". They can't even enter my property without permission.

I'm not sure what their push was for the microinverters - we weren't dealing with the electric co-op directly. I assume most of their customers are more interested in fancy web interfaces and buzzwords than grid-down backup...it is the DC area afterall. Also, unfortunately for us, since we have a co-op they won't pay us for surplus generation. I get a credit on my bill but that's it. As an Electrical Engineer, I don't care how fancy you make something out to be, because if you have 50 opportunities for failure vs. a single failure point then it makes no sense.

Err, not for nothing, but if you have 50 potential points of failure rather than 1 then if you suffer a failure you lose a 1/50th of your capacity, rather than all of it.

Also, what is the MTBF of the microinverter vs the series one? I'll bet they aren't the same.

From a resilience standpoint an engineer might look towards splitting the array in half and having two inverters - giving a larger measure of resilience.

I can buy a spare inverter if I want and just have it ready if I need it to install on the fly in my basement. Unfortunately I have to pay somebody to go up on my roof and deal with a microinverter if it goes south. Not to mention with microinverters I can't have battery backup! It's a no-brainer.

If you undersize your system, then grid connected way isn't bad. During good days or months you can bank a credit. My bill is rectified on an annual basis, so I could overproduce for eleven months, then use the remainder in the final month and end up even steven. If off grid resiliency is important to you thats another consideration. But off grid (meaning batteries for 24hour service) adds greatly to the price. If you decide to power down your emergency power usage -to say a few LEDs lights, plus a fan, plus a computer, and a frig, you should be able to get the price way down. If you plan on powering a full power lifestyle even through four clody days running, then it will cost you a lot.

I hope your luck continues. With the advent of lead-free requirements, though, and the problems that can be caused by tin whiskering, I don't know if I'd bet on new products performing like the old ones. From what I've read the only way to prevent tin whiskering in lead-free solder is to coat the board. I sure hope all of that works out over time.

I'm afraid solar systems may have more in common with residential construction than computer construction. Putting anything on a roof requires complexity, and doing most anything with electricity involves permitting and inspections. That alone will keep the costs high. Panels are being dumped below the cost of production according to to some. I just don't see any improvements on price in the near future.

I don't have the link now, but I saw an add for a ready-to-plug in system that was not very expensive the other day. If such a system gets clearance from a the local authorities, the permitting process could be greatly streamlined.

Saying you don't see price improvements is not much of an argument. I think we may have a near term increase soon, since the current price drop is due to partly to temporary circumstances, but there has been a very clear long term drop in price per kwh, and one needs a better argument than "I don't think it can happen" to convince anyone that historic trend is over.

The micro inverter systems make a lot more sense because if one goes down you are still producing power.

Which is the more likely to fail, 2 inverters or 40 micro-inverters? Inverters that you selected because they are a robust, high spec device with a good reputation or units built as cheap as possible to keep panel price down?


The cheap components just get pushed inside the expensive inverter. Remember how many electronics companies got hit with the bad cheap caps a few years back?

I had a Statpower inverter go poof many years ago. It was memorable.

The microinverters are not sold with the panels, at least none that I've found. You have to install them on the panels yourself.

Seriously? "Drive for free?"

This article is a woefully unserious piece of deluded puffery.

There are a dozen or more cost factors the author simply neglects to mention. Permit me to mention just one: Electric cars are never going to be charged exclusively at personal residences. As a result, any genuinely massive deployment is going to require a total rebuild of the national electrical grid, plus a huge new demand for coal, NG, and nuclear power generation.

Cars-first transportation is inherently wasteful and radically unsustainable, regardless of fuel source. That's just Physics 101.

Coal needs to be replaced as rapidly as possible. That simply cannot be done if cars are providing yet another use for electricity.

ts - Very good point. And exactly why I'm pessimistic about any expectation in the reduction of GHG. We may burn up a lot of FF in the transportation sector. But the economy is absolutely dependent upon electricity. There is no substitute for it. So it's a question of the source of this life and death commodity. And coal seems the be the cheapest source in our future IMHO. And don't the world economies always demand the cheapest distance between Point A and BAU? Change that calculus sigificantly and you might change my expectations. Get back to me when you've got that ball rolling. LOL.

To mineral oil.

Actually it takes more electricity to refine the gasoline used in an ICE car than an electric car uses to propel itself. It takes between 4-6 KW/H per gallon to refine a gallon of oil and that is probably going to increase as America relies more on heavier oil to fuel her cars. Long term electric cars are cheaper than gasoline cars typically even though the upfront cost for batteries are more expensive. You have to remember than batteries are an excellent target for recycling so once a car fleet is electrified the cost of the batteries will come down significantly.

Edit: I was wondering if you could email me on the account listed in my profile. I just wanted to ask you something briefly about pragmatic conservatives such as yourself. I am trying to figure out how to build consensus because I am trying to reinvigorate dialogue between liberals such as myself and conservatives like yourself.

Squilliam, being "better" than the ICE automobile is hardly good enough, since that technology is unsustainable by orders of magnitude.

Meanwhile, you are aware that proper EROEI analysis of electric cars requires looking at the entire process of getting the energy to the wheels, right? The process starts at the mining point and moves through electricity generation and transmission. The amount of electricity an electric car "uses to propel itself" is hardly the whole story, particularly if you are simultaneously talking about what it takes to refine gasoline.

It was/is wildly crazy to imagine that using complex, 3,000-pound machines to accomplish almost all daily inter-urban locomotion tasks is something that can last long, not to mention forever.

Primarily, Electric cars have a number of clear advantages over ICE cars, as Squilliam declared, with the easy potential for having much simpler range of parts and repair needs, and while I don't disagree that fair boundaries have to be drawn for comparing the sources of energy for each.. an EV has the immediate opportunity to use a very broad pallette of 'quite clean' sources for its propulsion like wind, hydro and solar, as well as its ability even in very small vehicles to recapture some of its braking energy back into propulsion, simultaneously reducing another sacrificial part (brake pads) that is a regular cost and worry to essentially all ICE owners.

Finally, there is no reason EVs or any vehicles really HAVE to be 3000 pounds. This assumption needs to be challenged, just as the one that assumes everyone needs to do everything with personal vehicles.. but that's not to forget that as EV's get smaller, they don't get harder and harder to make clean and green, unlike micro-sized Infernal Combustion vehicles, where the complex carbs and emissions equipment is hard to justify or just to fit into ideally miniaturized personal transport rides.

Not everything about making an improvement on the status quo is actually a liability, while that view certainly gets a lot of play around here.

Small, 2 seat highway capable EVs will unfortunately weigh close to 3,000 lbs or so just to meet crash standards + battery weight & associated support structures.

The best out is aluminum and/or carbon fiber structures, which add to the cost.


I thought the "drive for free" article was excellent. I had done a similar calculation myself.

>Electric cars are never going to be charged exclusively at personal residences.

Oh, really? I have a Nissan Leaf, and I have never charged it anywhere except at my residence, and probably never will.

>any genuinely massive deployment is going to require a total rebuild of the national electrical grid

No, not really. For one thing, it is easy to use solar to charge the cars while at work. For home charging, since the car has a timer, set the timer to charge in the middle of the night (I start mine at 2 AM). Night is a time of low power usage, so charging at night works great for the utilities. Night is also the best time for wind power (at least in Texas).

"The rate of population growth has been decellerating for decades." ???

It took us 33 years to get from two to three billion people, 14 years to get to 4 billion, 13 years to get to 5 billion, 12 years even to get to six billion, and 12 years three months to get to 7 billion. Population growth is barely starting to slow down. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

The phraseology in that leftist screed may be technically accurate, but is misleading.

I always scoff at folks who minimize the population situation, often the same folks who minimze our energy (climate, environment, etc.) situation. Grasping at straws they are, as the slope increases.

Unfortunately, there will be no rational solution to the population problem. It will be left to sort itself out and will do so very effectively and unpleasantly.


As you can see, population growth rate has, indeed, been declining steadily for since the mid sixties, or about fifty years.


"In demographics and ecology, population growth rate (PGR) is the rate at which the number of individuals in a population increases in a given time period as a fraction of the initial population."

Apparently it is actually true that reality has a liberal bias (as does the dictionary, apparently.)

Would you have preferred that the term 'population rate' be used according to some definition it does not have so it would more comfortably fit your world view?

But, of course, just because the growth rate is declining, it doesn't mean that population is not still increasing dramatically and scarily. I think it is likely that death rates, which seem to have stalled out at about 8/1000/year will start rising soon, if for no other reason that the earliest coohort of the global postwar boom is reaching that age, but also because of accelerating food (and other) shortages from PO, AGW, peak phosphorus, peak fossil water, financial unraveling and any number of other impending catastrophes that are now upon us.


Meanwhile, birth rates have been falling, and, given increased urbanization, education, female empowerment of various sorts, and other factors (including all the looming disasters just mentioned), I have to assume that the drop in birth rates will continue and accelerate.


If (a very big if, I know) the birth rate, which dropped from about 20 to 19 in the last two years accelerates that rate of drop over the next few years to an average drop of one per year, and if death rates stabilize and rise slightly (as is predicted just from demographics), we could have zero population growth within a decade.

Where the article does go wrong is: "We have gone from a revolution in agriculture, where it takes an ever smaller fraction of the population, and an ever smaller amount of land per capita, to feed us, to an advanced technological revolution..."

These 'revolutions' came at a great energy and ecological costs, and those chickens are now starting to come home to roost.

"In demographics and ecology, population growth rate (PGR) is the rate at which the number of individuals in a population increases in a given time period as a fraction of the initial population."

Technically that's true. However, what good is that definition if a billion more people is being added on a repeating time scale? Adding a billion more every 12-14 years means there are another billion mouths to feed, house, educate, cloth, insure, etc.

In fact, this tells us the higher the population reaches, the more difficult it is to lower birth rates enough to lower the total population of the world.

How low would reproduction rates need to be to increase the population one billion more if the total population is 10 billion? See what I'm saying? It won't take but a few trips into the back of the Chevy or grass hut and presto, another billion.

The fact that one billion keeps being added in similar time frames proves humans are unable to regulate births sufficiently to stop the overall world pop. from increasing. The only thing that will are natural resource depletion constraints. In this respect humans are no different than any other specie.

Supporting the global population isn't a problem yet, but it will be.

The general timeframe I see going forward is about like this:
1) Financial problems starting now, peaking around 10 years time, and lasting from then on
2) Real energy problems starting in 3-10 years (shortages, rationing, etc), peaking 15-20 years time and lasting from then on
3) Population decline starting 20-30 years from now and lasting until who knows when

"As you can see, population growth rate has, indeed, been declining steadily for since the mid sixties, or about fifty years."

The graph in your first link is misleading because the 1960s growth rate, 2% of 3 billion, is an annual growth of 60 million. The 1999 growth rate, 1.2% of 6 billion, is a growth of 72 million annually.
Unless you are deliberately trying to minimize the population problem, it would be better to discuss population growth than population growth rate.

I am not trying to mislead anyone. But if someone is using the term "growth rate" you can't complain about them using it accurately. But you are right that emphasizing the rate exclusively over the actual growth numbers could lead the unwary into unwarranted complacence about this important issue, I suppose.

Population growth rate is heavily decreasing (we had only one year of re-growth, 2006, in the last 30 years):

Globally, the growth rate of the human population has been declining since peaking in 1962 and 1963 at 2.20% per annum. In 2009, the estimated annual growth rate was 1.1%. (...) The actual annual growth in the number of humans fell from its peak of 88.0 million in 1989, to a low of 73.9 million in 2003, after which it rose again to 75.2 million in 2006. Since then, annual growth has declined

data and words from :
the PGR (population growth rate) .... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_growth
U.S. Census Bureau .......... http://www.census.gov/population/international

Still, that means 75 million additional people each year will need feeding and housing. Yes, the growth RATE is decreasing, as it's comforting to see that the NUMBER of added humans is also declining. If this trend continues all the way to zero growth, that would be a good thing for the planet.

However, that's just the summary view. In actual fact, some countries are already experiencing negative population growth, while others, including some with severe resource constraints, are experiencing strong population growth. So it will play out differently everywhere...

PT in PA

In actual fact, some countries are already experiencing negative population growth, while others, including some with severe resource constraints, are experiencing strong population growth.

Exempli gratia:

Charts from the Population Trends databrowser.

Happy Exploring!


That's right, some countries like Russia are already experiencing negative population growth, and the number will increase in future. After about 2050, MOST countries will have negative population growth rates and the world's population will peak out at 9 billion people or so.

In fact, the population growth rate curve is really a bell-shaped curve, much like the oil production rate curve is going to be. The population growth rate curve actually peaked in the early 1960's and is now in steep decline. There is no point in extrapolating world population as an exponential curve to infinity because the total population is just another example of a logistics curve, which is to say a sigmoid (S-shaped) curve.

That is not to say there are not going to be problems. For instance, by the time Saudi Arabia's oil "runs out", which is to say its oil production goes into steep decline, it will have more people than Canada. It has no way other than oil to support all those people.

In the long term, the problem is self-resolving. Countries which have cut their population growth rates (most of them) will see themselves developing into comfortable middle-class societies, and those which don't will see their overpopulation problem resolved by the four horsemen of the apocalypse - famine, war, disease, and death.

will see their overpopulation problem resolved by the four horsemen of the apocalypse - famine, war, disease, and death.

Will see? Top 8 global people killers.

Cardiovascular diseases 29.34%
Infectious and parasitic diseases 23.04%
Ischemic heart disease 12.64%
Malignant neoplasms (cancers) 12.49%
Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke) 9.66%
Respiratory infections 6.95%
Lower respiratory tract infections 6.81%
Respiratory diseases 6.49%

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On the leather steeds they ride

Edit: Sources: Wiki causes of death article and Youtube Metallica.

TFHG - Great stats...mucho thanks. It also bring to mind the stats we've seen regarding how a huge percentage of medical costs (at least in the US) is generated in just the last few years of life. And it would seem logical that your list represents much of the base for those costs. Nasty circle, eh? The more we spend to preserve life the longer we keep the population static which drains the system even more as we extend life expectancy. Solution? "Soylant Green" pops to mind. OK..you first. LOL.

No, the solution is the first half of your working life you work for yourself, the second half you work for the community. When you enter the second stage, all things are provided. Participation is voluntary and if you have the resources, you can stay in the first stage if you want. Based upon the average age of the local volunteer pool, it fits what we are doing now, it just formalizes it. With any luck, over time the first stage will disappear. Maybe a thousand years from now, but we have our framework. Did I mention I have been off the beach for two hours and have already killed a 6 pack. Since I have to get up at 4 AM, I try to finish my beer by 6PM Central time. So I am now wearing my beer thinking cap. Beer taste better than Solyant Green but not as good as Bluebell Ice Cream. The blackberry is awesome.

Top 8 global people killers.

Most of these are diseases of age. Everybody dies eventually. If cancer doesn't get you, heart disease or stroke probably will.

The first half of your working life you work for yourself, the second half you work for the community.

Yes, now that I'm retired, I'm busier than I ever have been. Somebody has to be on all these planning and zoning committees and get things done, and the young whippersnappers are spending too much time working on their careers and raising kids to do it. I just spent three weeks sea kayaking, snorkeling, and camping on the beach on the Sea of Cortes, but now it's time to get back to work again.

I knew I should have included more cowbell Metallica. I was considering the diverse TOD audience. I am guessing that heavy metal (music anyhow) probably is just not that popular amongst the TOD posters.

...You've been dying since the day you were born
You know it's all been planned
The quartet of deliverance rides
You have been dying since the day you were born
You know it's all been planned
The quartet of deliverance rides...
The Four Horsemen Lyrics


The World Health Organisation has a different list from 2008.

29.4% Heart and circulatory system diseases (including strokes)
6% Lower respiratory diseases
4% Diarrheal disease
2.4% Cancers
2.4% Tuberculosis
2.2% Diabetes.

In the rich world, cancer is #3 and dementia is #4. That's one to watch as the population ages.

I've got to say that I find RMG's attitude above a bit strange. The "comfortable middle class" countries are going to be spending quite a chunk of their money, a lot of their young people, and a large part of any freedoms they may have had, keeping out the Malthusian victims.

I don't think RMG has been keeping up with events. The "comfortable middle class" is being crushed, something that isn't going to end soon.

No, I have been keeping up by visiting quite a number of different countries. I just got back from Mexico, in fact.

The American middle class is being crushed, but the Chinese middle class is growing rapidly, and the Indian middle class is getting started nicely. People in China, particularly, are far better off than they were a generation ago. They're buying more cars than people in the US these days.

The US has 300 million people, while China has 1.3 billion and India has 1 billion, so more people are moving ahead than are falling back.

It is kind of sad to see what is happening to the bottom half of the US population. They're starting to slide into 3rd world conditions. The top 10% are doing very well, though, which is kind of typical of 3rd world countries.

Which bit of Mexico?


We were in Baja California Sur, which is one of the least populated and most affluent parts of Mexico. We were sea kayaking and spent 14 days on the water, plus a few days in La Paz. We paddled from Loreto to La Paz along the cliffs of the Sierra de la Giganta and circumnavigated Isla Espiritu Santo. It was all very mellow camping on the beach and snorkeling in the waters.

A certain amount of reality intruded into the trip. It hasn't rained for two years in the area and the cattle were dying of starvation (they get most of their rain from hurricanes and the hurricanes have missed them recently - two hurricanes missed them while we were there). The guides were originally from Mexico City and were quite happy not to be there any more. The local Pemex power plant was burning oil to generate electricity, which I don't consider a smart thing to do, and a lot of the affluent Mexicans were driving around in big SUV's and 4x4's burning government-subsidized fuel.

And many of the clients on the trips were Canadians because, as the tour company owner said, Americans and Brits don't seem to be able to afford to travel any more.

That certainly sounds like a good area, if I can sort things out here that is one area I'd like to go diving. I'm not sure I would go for camping on the beach, the sound of waves tends to wake me. Those may have been the hurricanes we were trying to dodge. Plenty of rain over here, 6' in August, though the rains have now come to an end. SUVs and 4x4s are common around here though there are many areas where 4x4s are handy, still, they are over the top for around town. Our local paper had an article about the fuel price rises for the next few years and was complaining about the 'high' prices holding things back!

If you visit this part ping me and I'll buy you a beer.


I'm not remembering the quote exactly right, but I seem to recall an official confronted by a person who pointed out that heart disease was the #1 cause of death.

His reply was "What would you prefer the #1 cause of death be?"

There's always gonna be a top 8. At this point it's stuff that tends to kill people after much of their lifetime. In the future it may get more interesting. Radiation burns, starvation, weaponized plagues, exposure, cannibalism, superbug sepsis & tuberculosis, childbirth, machete wounds, gangrene... that is, stuff that knocks people off sooner.

And it's the logical consequence of BAU now.

Globally, the growth rate of the human population has been declining.

If one jumps off a tall enough structure, he will stop accelerating and reach terminal velocity before hitting the ground.

And then splatter anyway.

If the population is past carrying capacity and still increasing, the status of the second derivative is arguably less important than the fact that the cement is rising fast to meet us.

Yes, yes, yes



Unfortunately true,


‘Conserve, conserve, conserve’

Doing more with less fuel or electricity could reduce humanity’s energy demands by as much as half. No technological breakthroughs are needed for such savings, just some well-designed regulations and policies.

Improving energy efficiency is not only a good idea, says Daniel Nocera, it is “absolutely essential, at an unprecedented scale.” How big a scale? According to Nocera, MIT’s Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy, what’s needed, as human energy consumption grows over the next few decades, is to save an amount of power equal to today’s total consumption — about 14 terawatts (trillions of watts).

But efficiency is something we already know how to achieve; we just need to figure out how to pay for it. “We know exactly what to do, but it costs money,” ...

But efficiency is something we already know how to achieve; we just need to figure out how to pay for it. “We know exactly what to do, but it costs money,” ...

It may not cost as much as some people think. How about installing a $30 vacancy sensor?

This came up recently when I came home to find two things:

1) My wife, knowing my interests, had opened up and placed on my desk a letter from Seattle City Light inviting us to sign up for a Community Solar Project -- for only $600 we could purchase one PV panel to be installed with others at a city owned park. Until 2020 we would get the very generous credits associated with our panel. Estimated production is 50KWh/year = 137 Watt-hours/day.

2) My wife and kids had also left plenty of lights on in the house since they left six hours earlier. Even with all fluorescents, that amounted to ~600 Watts * 6 hours = 3600 Watt-hours or 26 days of output from one solar panel.

Now I may still join the Community Solar project because I understand, as do the Chinese, that developing a new industry requires making investments that don't necessarily have direct payback. But I'm also going to put in some vacancy sensors as that has an immediate and direct payback.


The #1 priority for now and the near future is to deploy existing technology to consume much less.

Best Hopes for paying attention to your energy usage.


Jonathan - A little side note about vacancy sensors and unintended consequences. We moved into our new office space a couple of months ago. All our rooms have vacancy sensors. Despite producing oil/NG for a living our owner is a big believer in conservation. BUT: running operations I'm in the office at 6 AM. The light switches, with their built in vacancy sensors, are just inside every door way. As I walk down the hall way I activate almost every light in the office. Oh..what to do...what to do?.

Actually a simple fix: I asked the night cleaning lady to close the office doors behind her. Gave her 10 pounds of Cajun sausage (a gift from one of my vendors) in appreciate of her extra effort.

BTW: you got a cat/dog in the house?

Also, I keep thinking community coops of the sort you mention is the most likely way to see a rapid deployment of residential PV. Back to the same ole point: economics of scale

Hi Rock,

Actually, these are occupancy sensors as opposed to vacancy sensors; the former automatically turns on the lights (whether you want them on or not) whereas the latter requires that you manually turn them on and then shuts them off when activity is no longer detected.


Paul - Thanks...didn't realize there was a distinction. I can manually turn mine off after my motion has activated them. Besides having fair natural light, I like a dark office since I have a dual monitors glowing in my face 10 hours a day.

dual monitors

One for TOD and the second for "that other stuff"

Best Hopes for Setting Proper Priorities,


BTW: you got a cat/dog in the house?

My parents' neighbours' cat discovered it could walk up my parents' path and set off the outside light. It could then have a good wash while basking in the spotlight. Sensitivity got trimmed next time I visited.


That reminds me of my brother's cat. It used to push the button on the clothes dryer so it could have a nice warm place to nap.

Yeah, cats are nasty, raising one's energy bill and all that.
We had high phone bill once, phone calls to some expensive premium rate numbers. It got blamed on our cat... :D

Hi Jon,

Just a word of caution regarding Watt Stopper. We've had nothing but one problem after another with this brand -- horrible, horrible experience all around. By comparison, we've had excellent luck with Sensorswitch and now use their products exclusively. Take a look at their WSD VA (http://www.sensorswitch.com/OnlineCatalog.aspx?sn=WSD%20VA).

Best of luck on the home front (take no prisoners) and with the Community Solar Project.


Thanks for the heads up Paul. I'll follow your advice.


Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts: study

Wintertime droughts are increasingly common in the Mediterranean region, and human-caused climate change is partly responsible, according to a new analysis by NOAA scientists and colleagues at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). In the last 20 years, 10 of the driest 12 winters have taken place in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

“The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” ...

A Conceptual Idea for a Cable TV Show

A series of families are examined (think "This Old House" perhaps).

In each case they sell one of their two cars and replace it with a bicycle, eBike/eTrike or transit pass.

They use the money saved on a series of energy conservation measures - starting with the most economic/ quickest payback (sealing ductwork is usually #1) and progressing to solar hot water and solar PV as well as extreme measures (Adding $9.99 bales of R-30 insulation on top of existing R-40, scrapping working refrigerators and air conditioners for more efficient models, etc.)

Energy conservation pays for more energy conservation - till returns from further energy efficiency rival bank CD rates of return.

If anyone knows anyone in the film industry (or a company that sells conservation products and might sponsor such a program), please consider passing this on.

Best Hopes for Truly Educational TV,

Alan Drake

Seen similar things in the UK - usually focused around saving money or reducing carbon. Usually involves screaming kids moaning about how they don't want to do 'X'.

Maybe it's a less common programme type in the US?

Could I suggest an alternative? Two families bid against each other as to how much they could reduce consumption/bills/CO2, highest bid gets a bonus IF they meet it. However they have to do that reduction on the OTHER family's house. Expand that out to various rounds of multiple families and you have a reality show. We know how much the media loves reality shows...

I dunno, there might be a constraint or two, rendering said TV program into yet another dull sermon preached to the choir. At the very minimum I guess they'll have to goose it up artificially. For starters, much of the country (the Big Easy being essentially exempt) experiences a phenomenon called "winter" every year, when the bike options will feel insanely unsafe to most people. Few or no takers there, so not much TV unless they wait around for some foolish young chap to take an "exciting" header. Which wouldn't be very persuasive.

In addition - and winter aside - as someone pointed out some months ago, Driving costs money, but biking costs time. At the margin, many or even most employed folks might very well prefer to enjoy some time with the family rather than take the money (see The Overworked American and all that.) OTOH one might at least make some exciting (though again wildly unpersuasive) TV patterned on the hair-raising bike-messenger videos.

The time issue goes in spades with respect to the transit pass - unless one is both in Manhattan and traveling uptown-downtown, or else extraordinarily lucky, a trip is likely to be partly by bus, an execrable waste of time taking an eternity. Offhand, I can't think of any local bus I've ever used that exceeded about 10mph, with 6mph being more typical (and 1 to 1.5mph being characteristic of crosstown Manhattan buses due to the traffic lights and sometimes the traffic itself.) And none of that includes walking to and from the stops and waiting, which can easily double the waste of time.

Probably the TV producer should hire extras to fill in with song-and-dance routines. Judicious use of animated CGI fast-motion clock might also speed the pace, by analogy to the "transporter" that Gene Roddenberry invented for the same purpose. Otherwise there will be many extraordinarily dull scenes of folks cooling their heels for an hour or so until some shiftless bus driver who can't be bothered to tell time finally happens drifts oozes along.

Theme song:

We're moving on down
To a less deluxe apartment
On the solar side of town
We finally hit the fan with the pie

Original lyrics: Movin' on Up [Theme from The Jeffersons]

Obama administration announces desert 'solar energy zones'

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled its road map for solar energy development, directing large-scale industrial projects to 285,000 acres of desert land in the western U.S. while opening 20 million acres of the Mojave for new development.

"These 445 square miles of zones are … where development will be driven," Salazar said on a conference call with reporters.

and http://solareis.anl.gov/sez/index.cfm

also Interior Dept. Anoints Solar Energy Sites

I was looking at the map and noticed how most (12/17) of the sites are located north of the AZ/NM border, even though AZ and NM have better insolation (see http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

Could the Feds have already 'written off' the SouthWest (due to climate change/drought) and assumed that migration in the next 20 yrs will de-populate that region anyway?

Can't picture this being a problem in New Mexico, but far-right politics in Arizona may not permit cooperation with the Federal government in areas other than military/law enforcement.

Hostility due to the political climate may also impose high security costs of large scale solar installations.

Existing transmission lines and population centres may have more to do with it. Anyone able to overlay these?



If you check the map of transmission lines it all fits a lot better. There is efficiency and then theres efficiency. I suspect the government is right on this one.

Add in terrain, off-limits areas like tribal lands, active military reservations, and wilderness areas, and the picture gets even clearer. For example, the Colorado locations are all in the San Luis Valley where there's flat open space. Go much to either the east or west and you're back into mountains.

I like the map, but it's worth mentioning that nothing gets built in straight lines like that in the West. I'm always entertained by maps of high-speed rail that draw a straight line from Denver to Salt Lake City. Such a link would go well north from Denver into Wyoming, and then across the Continental Divide in the vicinity of the South Pass. There are relatively few corridors where you would build long-distance transportation or utilities across the West.

Cargill: Inside the quiet giant that rules the food business

... Cargill is bigger by half than its nearest publicly held rival in the food production industry, Archer Daniels Midland

The UN says that a billion people go to bed hungry every night, and that we need to double food production by 2025 just to keep up with population growth -- grim truths that concern Cargill deeply, whether Cargill believes that solving world hunger is its job or not.

"We're not a philanthropy," says Page [CEO], in one of a series of rare interviews that Cargill granted to Fortune over the past several months. "I think we have to be careful not to lay claim to an altruism that doesn't exist."

... It's hard to think of an organization anywhere in the world with a bigger stake in understanding potential disruptions to the food supply wrought by global warming than Cargill.

"Clearly the volatility can be an opportunity," ... acknowledging that sharp price swings can play to Cargill's vaunted trading expertise. ... "The big part of our business is the physical handling of tens of millions of tons of food. If we believe the world is headed toward a varied weather pattern, those services become more important."

Stalemate over organic farming slows progress in effort to combat food insecurity in Central Africa

The polarized debate over the use of organic and inorganic practices to boost farm yields is slowing action and widespread farmer adoption of approaches that could radically transform Africa's food security situation, according to a group of leading international scientists meeting in Kigali this week.

"The ideological divide over approaches to farm production are a distraction from the actions needed to address food security now and ensure it in the future," ... "For many, fertilizer is a dirty word,"

"African agriculture is already organic. It's not working," said Sanginga. "We need to focus on practical things that help, not ideology."

Have you ever wondered how food will be triaged? My guess is Cargill will be a large part of the process.

No, they are not a philanthropy. Their CEO let's you know, their services will become more important. They will sell their services. Food will become ever more expensive. People with money will eat, and as for the rest... Well, maybe a lot of people will die, but in the meantime there is a buck to be made.


Too bad it's not public.

Unless there is a quick massive die-off, people need to eat and are willing to pay a premium to do so.

Alaska governor wants big switch in gas pipe plan

(Reuters) - Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said on Thursday that a plan to build a massive natural gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada should be dumped in favor of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that would ship gas to the Pacific Rim.

TransCanada Corp and partner Exxon Mobil Corp have been unable to win customers for the 1,700-mile natural gas pipeline they propose to build from Alaska's North Slope to Alberta.

The companies' plan, which has a price tag of up to $41 billion, is doomed by a major shift in natural-gas markets, said Parnell.

"If market demand for gas has truly shifted from the Lower 48 to Pacific Rim markets, then the state of Alaska should be ready to shift along with that," said Parnell.


U.S. natural gas price forecasts cut for 2011, 2012

Higher prices boost Big Oil profits as production slows

Big Oil's third-quarter financial results highlight a growing problem within the industry. New petroleum sources are increasingly tough — and expensive — to find. The best new deposits are found more than a mile under the ocean, or in vast layers of sticky Canadian sand, or in the frigid Arctic.

Costs have increased dramatically as the industry digs deeper.

A decade ago, tapping a new well used to cost about $10 to $20 for every barrel of oil produced. Now it's estimated at about $50 or $60 for wells in the Gulf of Mexico and $70 or $80 in the Canadian oil sands.

To boost production, oil companies not only must find new sources of oil, they need to make up for production losses at aging fields. Exxon's fields, for example, are declining by 5 to 7 percent each year, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said.

People in Seattle are reading this in their newspaper today. It's not very far from what I would write. Combined with the excellent economic reporting from Jon Talton, it seems Seattlites are beginning to come to grips with reality.



Re: how my Yankee cousins with pay for regulating the upsurge in drilling in their state: "... an advisory panel is delaying its recommendations on how the state should pay for new staff members to enforce regulations on the drilling operations." I wonder if any of them read TOD or maybe they don't think I'm serious. It's a very easy fix: make the oil patch pay. That's how it's done in Texas and La. And has been for decades. All done with permit fees, bonds and production taxes.

And no...the companies won't pack up and go away. They didn't in our states and won't in yours. It's easy: a company sees an economic opportunity to drill a well that will costing $6 million (to lease, drill, complete, frac and install production equipment/pipeline. But if the state adds on to the costs they won't spend $6,010,000 to drill the same well. The deal killer will be an extra 0.16%??? Right. Add that $10,000 per well (a small fraction of what Texas receives) and the next 5,000 wells will generate $50 million in revenue to pay for regulating the system.

Again, it ain't hard: go to the Texas Rail Road Commission web site, copy the hundreds of pages of regs and fee/tax schedules and implement them. And it's all free....compliments of your Texas cousins.

Yes, that's true Rockman. Experienced oil and gas producing regions usually make the oil and gas companies pay for the cost of regulating themselves. Like Texas, Alberta is particularly good at this. Just attach your check to your application to drill your well and mail it in. The check will pay for the salary of the regulators to enforce the regulations on the well.

The novice governments also don't seem to have grasped the concept of leveling royalties and severance taxes on the oil and gas produced, to pay for maintaining the roads and other infrastructure to produce it, and also the schools to educate the children who are going to be the next generation of energy company employees who are going to find and produce more energy.

For some reason they assume that the governments should pay all of the costs and the oil companies should keep all of the profits. It's important to disabuse them of that assumption. The oil companies may complain, but they won't go away if there's enough money to be made.


"Fukushima: 20 times more radiation spilled into Pacific Ocean than thought – ‘Largest one-time contribution of artificial radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed’"

Bad as I think Fukushima was/is, I can't help but wonder how it could have released more radionuclides into the marine environment than, for example, the Bikini bomb tests.

It's polluted the Pacific to twice the level all the nuclear tests put together managed. Well so far anyway and that's probably still an underestimate. And it's only for caesium. Also from your link

Finally, the possible presence of other persistent radionuclides such as strontium-90 and plutonium was not sufficiently characterized by measurements.

Which can be interpreted multiple ways...

Fukushima nuke pollution in sea 'was world's worst'

The IRSN said that, for the Pacific generally, caesium levels would ultimately stabilise at 0.004 becquerels per litre thanks to the diluting effect of powerful ocean currents.

This is twice the concentration that prevailed during atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1960s.

Silver Lining Department

For oceanographers interested in modeling flow patterns in the North Pacific this is an amazing opportunity. With a half-life of 30 years it will be possible to follow not only the North Pacific gyre but perhaps even some longer timescale vertical advection. This "experiment" is similar to A study of water circulation in Monterey harbor using rhodamine b dye but on a much larger scale.

A 2003 paper: Numerical simulation of 137Cs and 239,240Pu concentrations by an ocean general circulation model already describes using the cesium from 1950's era weapons test fallout to ground truth the transport processes in their ocean model. The Fukushima release is sure to generate a lot of interest.

This is not to diminish the magnitude of the disaster in Japan.

But ocean modelers in various academic institutions are probably already busy writing proposals to use this accident for something positive.


Just like the 1960 Chilean earthquake (the most powerful EQ of the modern era by far) was a real boon for seismologists and earth scientists interested in the planets interior.

Well the bombs added a lot of short lived stuff. So the radioactivity was probably much higher than with the reactors -most of whose short halflife stuff had long since decayed. But, wait a period of time and you are left with the long lived stuff (Cesium Strontium...)

"how it could have released more radionuclides.."

As it was being described in March/April here, there are two points to this.

One, is that explosive tests tend to burn off their radioactive components in the detonation/reaction, while waste fuel from a fission reactor comes out more potent with radionuclides than when they began fissioning.

Two is that the Fuel and Spent fuel loads from four reactors is orders of magnitude more mass than the materials that are detonated in an atomic weapon.

I don't wonder. A power plant producing power for decades, thats a lot of U fissioned. A bomb only consumes so much U and Pu (probably more depleted U if the outer case is made out of it -(high energy fusion neutron plus U 238 = fission, releasing a large multiple of the energy from the fusion). So power plants contain many times the inventory of the nasties as a bomb.

Thanks, eos and others. I had heard a while back that, though they are not likely to immediately kill as many people as nuclear bombs, nuclear plant failures tend to emit more radioactive material over the long term. I guess that is what we are seeing now.

So we banned atmospheric testing throughout the planet to avoid these kinds of releases, but every single nuclear plant in the world has the potential to spew many times the amount of the average bomb into the air, sea and land.

What very clever little apes we are!

Atmospheric atomic tests created a spike in C14 - which is present in DNA and every cell in our bodies. The bombs irradiated nitrogen, much as cosmic rays do, and created C14.

Nuclear reactors do not do this.

One delta between bombs and reactors.



Correct me if I'm wrong Alan but, as I understand it, C-14 has a relatively low decay energy (approximately 1/10th of caesium-137 or potassium-40 for example and 1/40th of radon-222). The doubling of atmospheric C14 still left it about an order of magnitude behind potassium-40 and two orders of magnitude behind radon prone areas in terms of human annual internal dose due to "natural sources" using standard ICRP models.

Further, according to many of those studying internal emissions damage, the size of the atom plays an additional role alongside the decay energy in calculating biological damage. Roughly, the bulkier the decaying atom, the more likely the decay to hit something immediately neighhouring thus concentrating the damage in a smaller area. I realise a lot of the internal radiation research remains controversial though but I note that caesium is a very large atom.

So although atmospheric C-14 almost doubled briefly, and that certainly wasn't a good thing, its average worldwide effect can't really be compared with the, especially local, fallout from a severely damaged nuclear reactor (which does include some carbon-14 in any case again thanks to neutron bombardment) in terms of long-term health damage - as I understand it.

The Chernobyl RBMK reactor with its graphite moderator and helium/nitrogen gas mix looks like it was particularly bad for C-14 even before it blew up. Hopefully BWRs aren't as bad when running - until they are open to the air anyway.



That said, being exposed to large quantities of C-14 from whatever source, as opposed to dispersed fallout at a long distance, is obviously very bad for you.

What I have read is that natural C-14 exposure is 1/40th of natural potassium exposure. And I did not think of Chernobyl, with it's large C-14 release due to the chosen technology.

None-the-lass, atomic bomb tests (+ Hiroshima & Nagasaki) will raise background radiation by a small fraction for many thousand years. The total human dose (assuming we do not kill ourselves off) will be significant.

Several cases of cancer in 8409 will be due to radiation from a mythical civilization that is further back in time than the building of the pyramids are from us.

Best Hopes for Fewer Long Term Negatives,


Today's Heating Oil Price $3.799

I have a 250 gallon tank at my house, but a fill up needs about 190 gallons.

THAT IS $721.81 for about a month!!!!!

I don't know if I can afford this economic recovery for very long, if you know what I mean.

Maybe a solar heater? How about concentrated solar (get a bunch of mirrors... align them so they all reflect on your house)? Geothermal (start digging a moat, and throw the dirt on and around your house)?

Meanwhile, if all else fails, there is always AGW.


Solution:Shift to a smaller house.Downsize,downsize and downsize.Believe me I went from living in a five bedroom house to a studio and have no regrets.Less bills,less cleaning,less repairs.Why the five bedroom house??Too egoistic.Gotta be better than my friends and associates.Thanks to TOD I flicked my ego and am much saner and happier.

Is your house well insulated?

Blowing insulation into the hollow walls and attic spaces cost us < $1500 and has made a huge difference.

Using oil to heat your house is a very bad idea, and has been for some time. It will become even less affordable in future.

Personally, I can use wood, natural gas, or electricity to heat my house, which of course is super-insulated and has passive solar features. I use whatever is cheaper. Oil will never be cheaper than any of the above. At the moment natural gas is about 1/3 the cost of oil, and I can get my wood for free if I cut it myself. It depends on how hard I want to work.

I think my heating costs are about 1/8 of yours, again assuming I don't feel like chopping wood.

Where would coal fit in your cost per BTU scale?

Well, coal would be cheaper than almost anything.

As it happens, the foundation of my house is sitting on the largest deposit of anthracite coal west of Pennsylvania. I could take my pickax, sink a shaft in the back yard, and have a near infinite supply of free coal, but at the price, it's not worth it. If you have free wood and cheap natural gas, why would you bother with free coal?

That being said, there are hundreds of years of coal reserves in the world (most people do not realize how much there is), so it may be the last resort of a lot of the world's population. Most people do not have free wood or cheap natural gas available.

So is there a coal option for East Texas (the poster not the geographic location)? Assume he lives in Dallas. Would home electricity generation via coal be the way to go or are there coal fed furnaces for residential central heating applications? Coal fired electric generators? At the very least, can East Texas eliminate the power company middle man and burn the coal himself, with the cost savings justifying the effort? How much does a ton of anthracite coal cost for his location? What would be the pollution ramifications? Has the home coal use industry advanced any lately? To be honest, I have seen few residential coal discussions here. Why? Is it the CO2 and pollution problems? Is the power company technology that much better than what a homeowner can do?
Not picking on you, just wondering out loud.

Texas burns more coal than any other state, and 95% of it is used for electricity generation. Texas has about a 400 year supply of lignite coal at current rates of consumption.

However, I doubt that eastex could just dig a hole in his back yard and start digging coal out. If there's any there, it's probably a long way down. On the other hand, in my back yard I would only have to dig down about 6 feet before I hit coal. They hit a coal seam when they were excavating the basement and the footings of my house are sitting on it.

Unfortunately, the coal in Texas is mostly low quality lignite, which generates a lot of pollution and is not suitable for burning in fireplaces, whereas the stuff in my back yard is high-quality anthracite which I could burn directly in my fireplace without generating nearly as much pollution. Anthracite burns with a hot and smokeless blue flame.

There is no market for the local coal because we have a lot of better alternatives. I burn the local trees instead of the local coal because it appears to be much more environmentally friendly. If I really wanted to go completely carbon free, I would use electricity from the two hydroelectric power plants within walking distance of my house.

Yes, I like Anthracite. My grandfather's house had an old coal fire. Ash box at the bottom, fire had a set of horizontal bars with Anthracite fed in at the top. Either side were cast iron ovens and hot plates. I suspect that the chimney even had a pot hanger though I cannot remember. The heat from that fire had a penetrating quality that I have not met elsewhere.


THAT IS $721.81 for about a month!!!!!

What about switching to natural gas? Take advantage of NG being extracted from fracking shale.

Earl - Same ole booger: NG distribution system. I sit in the middle of a gazilion BTU's of NG and run a 100% electric home. No NG lines to our development. But I do have a super insulated house with a very efficient AC so I'm probably running pretty close to NG economics. Especially on the heating side. I don't expect turning it on much at all until Christmas if not later. Fortunately botht he wife and I like a cool house.

I can't imagine Houston heating season is too bad. Unless perhaps because of that houses are built with almost no insulation?

EOS - True...hardly worth mentioning. Some years ago I had to cut the grass on Christmas eve. It's all about AC down here. But even with that Houston has always been poor when it came to insulation. Just one reason we tend to have the cheapest home construction cost in thhe country. As they say: Pay me now or pay me later.

I was very lucky: the previous owner spent $40,000 remodeling and up grading my townhome anticipating retirement. And then Halliburton made him an offer he couldn't refuse and he was off to Africa. Even luckier since he had to sell during the housing bust and I got the 2,300 sq ft for $110,000. Twice as big as we needed but so cheap. I suspect he made Halliburton make up the difference...they wanted him real bad.

I suspect I'll start considering PV soon as prices keep falling. I've got a big flat top carport available as well as half the roof flat. Given the insulation and the mild yet typcally sunny winters I could be off the grid for half the year.

I could burn free wood (i'd have to cut and haul it, so not exactly free)...I still use natural gas. Its just too cheap not to. My biggest monthly bills were $160 last winter (Wisconsin) and that includes and electric hot water heater and 4 people (2 youngsters).

The plan is to move to burning wood and solar hot water, I just haven't made much time to implement those things yet.

Well, I'm sure everyone is painfully aware by now of my personal recommendations with respect to home heating systems. With an indoor set temperature of 19°C and an outdoor temperature of 5°C, and with winds at 30 kph gusting to 48, our two ductless units are each pulling in the vicinity of 235-watts. So less than 500-watts to maintain a forty-three year old, 2,500 sq. ft. Cape Cod at a comfortable temperature; at this rate, the energy equivalent of burning 1.3 litres/0.33 gallons of #2 a day at a boiler AFUE of 82 per cent.


Re: Heating Oil Dealers Steering Away From Price Lock-In Contracts This Winter

Locally, fuel oil is currently selling for $1.084 a litre or $4.10 a US gallon, so a tank fill could very well set you back $1,000.00 or more. It could be worse... in Sault Ste Marie, a litre of #2 retails for $1.396 ($5.28/gallon) before tax. I don't ever recall fuel oil being this expensive so early into the heating season.

After a relatively mild start to the month temperatures have turned notably colder and with winds gusting to 50 clicks it surely feels like winter is not too far away.


Huge nor'easter hitting the east coast this weekend. Up to 20" of snow expected. With all the leaves still on the trees, this could be as bad as Irene when it comes to infrastructure damage. Pity the poor state and local governments.

I'm sitting here right in its sights (central NH). I expect we'll lose power for a day anyway. We're kind of used to it, though - we're at the end of the line, and power goes off all the time. So we'll top up our water storage, check the batteries, etc. Plenty of firewood in the shed. I'll get some groceries tomorrow morning, and we'll "enjoy" the storm. Or maybe it'll go out to sea and miss us altogether :-)

Hmmm... the arctic oscillation goes negative for the first time in a couple of months and the first winter blast happens.

Oh oh, that doesn't sound so good. Hang on for the ride and hopefully everyone makes it through unscathed.

In a perverse twist, our week ahead forecast ain't look'n too shabby, with the exception of Sunday when we can expect some rain.

Best of luck to our southern neighbours.


Best to the Maritimes, Paul.

I'm picking layers of plastic gack off my fingers where my Foam Insulation Nozzle kept backfiring on me, but I did find a bunch of good voids to seal up!

Yeah, I'm going to start leaving Ductless Heater Brochures out where my wife can find them.. gotta move this plan forward!


By any chance were you using any of the newer DIY'er spray foam insulation products ? I've been checking out the 3M line recently.

So you didn't vaseline your hands first :)


No, does that work?

Sounds like I would have just dropped the can a lot and it would just explode on my shoes!

(RBM, nothing fancy, just 'Great Stuff' .. I've been meaning to buy the nice pricey PUR-FILL gun from our local Green Building Supply store.. but I haven't taken the plunge yet!) http://www.mainegreenbuilding.com/products/building-materials/insulation...

Anything that leaves your hands greasy cuts down the sticking - hand cream, vaseline, barrier cream. Won't stop it but it makes it a whole lot better. Don't put it on thick just leave a slightly greasy feel. Also cuts down on chemicals absorbed by the skin. Down here I am sweaty enough that stuff doesn't stick much even superglue. Max-Fill is the best one I have tried that is available around here, doesn't expand much at first but keeps on expanding a lot until it sets. Don't over estimate how much to put in on the first expansion.


Thanks for the reply.

The Pur Fill 1G is a new product to me. I see it's from Germany, which is usually a good sign due to engineering quality.

I'm looking for a DIY product (line) that can accomplish a deck floor of 24X28, 8 inches deep. The floor was built in '47 and has poor workmanship added to the natural wood aging issues. Shrinkage and knot holes are prolific.

The time for the Atlantic Provinces to switch away from heating oil to other sources (e.g. natural gas or hydroelectric) would have been a long time ago.

Canada has vast resources of natural gas and hydro, so supply is not the issue, distribution is.

Canada also has vast supplies of non-conventional oil, but these are 1) mostly located in the West and 2) expensive, so we're going to sell them to the Americans and (potentially) Asians. You can't expect to be subsidized in the current economic and political realities, so you need to get your alternative solutions in place before things go south, rather than after.


As we've discussed before, natural gas is a non-starter in Nova Scotia because Heritage Gas, the wholly owned subsidiary of Alberta-based AltaGas, is not the least bit interested in serving the residential market; they'd rather chase after the larger and more profitable commercial and industrial loads. With respect to hydro-electricity, Emera/Nova Scotia Power has partnered with Nalcor to develop the smaller of the two Lower Churchill Falls sites and when this power begins to flow in 2016/2017 it will supply up to ten per cent of this province's needs, with the option to go beyond this should circumstances warrant. In addition, Nova Scotia Power has 300 MW of wind capacity on tap and at times wind supplies over 20 per cent of our requirements.

I believe 60 per cent of all homes in New Brunswick are electrically heated and electricity is, in fact, quite a bit cheaper than natural gas (Enbridge New Brunswick is a particularly cruel joke).


No wonder the Creoles left Acadia and became Cajuns, LOL. For the record, I am a Spanish Creole living on Alabama. My great X 9 was installed as the Spanish Royal Treasurer of Mobile, Alabama, in 1760. All Cajuns are Creoles, but not all Creoles are Cajuns. A stop in Acadia (NS, NB, and PEI) being the differentiator. That and they were all French Creoles, not Spanish. We chased our French out of this area after 40 years, during the French and Indian War. Our first Spaniards arrived in the area in 1519, some 100 years before the Mayflower left England. The Anglos were the illegals then, as written in the Treaty of Torsedillas. We Creoles did not care, we brought them in anyways. We were tired of the King of Spain and needed the wives.

Well, the Sable Island offshore gas field produces enough natural gas to heat about 1 or 2 million houses, and Nova Scotia only has about 350,000 houses, so I think you had more than enough gas to heat every house in the province.

Odds are, the companies are selling most of it to New England and New York at considerably lower prices than you are paying for heating oil.

Your gas supplier, which sounds like it is in a monopoly position, is likely not passing on the savings to the consumer.

Here in Alberta many of the consumers formed cooperatives, built their own NG distribution systems, and then went out for competitive bids for gas rather than waiting for companies to come to them with an offer. There are advantages to being proactive.

The simple fact is that the numbers for natural gas in this part of the world don't pencil out due to the high cost of building up the supporting infrastructure. It's so bad that some of the customers in New Brunswick who have switched from oil to gas are now switching back.

Killam Properties may shift back to oil heating

HALIFAX - The head of Killam Properties is threatening to switch back to oil heating in many of the company's New Brunswick apartments if Enbridge is allowed to jack its natural gas delivery rates.

Philip Fraser, president and CEO of Killam Properties Inc. (TSX:KMP), says Enbridge Gas New Brunswick's promise of cheaper rates - when comparing natural gas to oil - have not materialized.

So, he is considering a major shift back to oil heating, despite recently converting many units to natural gas.

In fact, the Halifax-based company has already switched one Saint John apartment building back to oil heating.

See: http://nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/942980

In Nova Scotia, Heritage Gas presently charges a monthly account fee of $19.22, a distribution charge of $7.443 per GJ and a gas recovery or energy charge of $4.700 per GJ ($12.143 per GJ, combined). The gas recovery rate is reset monthly and at at one point had climbed as high as $14.24 per GJ ($7.443 + $14.24 = $21.683/GJ).

Moreover, distribution rates have been kept artificially low and so the shortfall has been steadily accumulating in a "revenue deficiency account". Heritage Gas thus wants to increase its distribution charges by 9.8 per cent in 2012, 9.5 per cent in 2013 and 5.6 per cent in 2014 to begin recouping some of its losses, with further rate increases sure to follow. Oil heat customers look at this and say "thanks, but no thanks, I'll stick with what I got" or convert to electricity.


The monthly account fee alone would cover off half of our home's annual heating costs.

Well, apparently Heritage Gas likes to make large amounts of money by charging extortionary rates for overhead and distribution, and the NS government is willing to let them do that.

Alberta has been playing at this game a lot longer, and the costs of building the distribution systems have been fully paid for long ago. The government has also been more supportive of consumers cooperatives, which put in their own distribution systems and try to cut costs as much as possible. It also helps that if the distribution systems are universal, which they are in Alberta, the per-customer costs are much lower.

Switching back to fuel oil is not a smart long-term strategy. There is far more natural gas available than oil, and the costs of oil are likely to continue to rise into the future. Controlling NG distribution costs are a better strategy, and something Alberta is much better at.

I think you're missing the point. It's not that Heritage Gas charges exorbitant rates; rather, it's that its rates are less competitive than some of the alternatives and that the company continues to lose money hand over fist due to the high cost of building out their network. That revenue deficiency account has to be paid down sooner or later and guess who's going to be footing the bill?

When I had Enbridge install gas service to our Toronto home it was pretty much zip-zip we're done, whereas here you're often dealing with solid granite. As I said before, Heritage is not the least bit interested in expanding their network to serve residential loads because it's a money loser. Sempra tried, quickly threw up their hands and scurried away in the cover of darkness and it seems our Alberta friends over at AltaGas can't do it either.


The point is that people in Nova Scotia need to switch away from using fuel oil while they still have the money to do so, and before it becomes completely unaffordable to them. The government should be proactive in encouraging that, and should have started the transition long ago.

Since NS has large reserves of NG offshore, that would have been an obvious alternative. NS could burn the NG in power plants and delivered the energy in the form of electricity, but that is considerably less efficient than putting 97% efficient NG furnaces in all the houses.

There are large up-front costs involved in the conversion, but the government could subsidize them just in the interest of protecting its citizens from future oil price increases.

Of course, I'm thinking like an Albertan, and Albertans have an awfully good idea what the global oil/NG supply is going to look like 20 years from now. People here think that if you are using fuel oil for heating you are absolutely out of your mind - the supply just isn't there, and we know because we own a large piece of it.

Oil is something we sell to the Americans, NG is something we use ourselves, and we've locked in the supply 20 years into the future. If NG supplies get tight we'll just cut the Americans off. If we cut off their oil supply they would get upset since we're their largest supplier, but if we cut off their NG they probably wouldn't really notice.

With respect to subsidies, the Province of Nova Scotia has a Gas Market Development Fund that is intended to help offset some of the cost of converting to natural gas. For example, the fund paid $367.000.00 of the $490,000.00 it cost Mount Saint Vincent University to convert to gas. Likewise, $1.4 million of the $1.8 million paid by Dalhousie University and $993,000.00 of the $1,300,000.00 spent by Saint Mary's University.

In addition, Efficiency Nova Scotia offers the following rebates to residential consumers:

Furnaces: $500 for equipment and installation (or up to 30% of the costs including HST, whichever is lower). All space heating equipment must be ENERGY STAR® certified and have an AFUE of at least 92%.
Boilers: $2,250 for equipment and installation (or up to 30% of the costs including HST, whichever is lower). All space heating equipment must be ENERGY STAR® certified and have an AFUE of at least 90%.
$6,500 for additional installation costs where a central furnace or boiler is replacing electric baseboards (not to exceed 100% of installation costs). This includes the costs to remove electric baseboards and install the new forced-air or hydronic heating system.
$500 for ENERGY STAR® domestic water heating (storage tank) equipment and installation (or up to 30% of the costs including HST, whichever is lower), with a minimum energy factor of 0.67 or higher.
$750 for ENERGY STAR® higher efficiency (tankless) domestic water heating equipment and installation (or up to 30% of the costs including HST, whichever is lower), with a minimum energy factor of 0.82 or higher.

Thus, a home owner replacing electric baseboard heat with a gas-fired boiler or furnace can receive up to $8,750.00 in provincial rebates.

Even so, it's far cheaper for me to heat our home with a high efficiency heat pump than it is to burn gas.



"The success humanity has had in the daily feeding of 7 billion people is reliant on inexpensive (dollar-wise) oil products. All those bulldozers for deforestation, tractors for tilling fields, computers for calculating yields, diesel fuel for shipments, nitrogen for fertilizer—all of it, everything—called “modern agricultural techniques” are utterly dependent on cheap petroleum products.Not to alarm anyone, but food that’s expensive to produce and ship is even more expensive to put on the table. The concept of peak oil is so apocalyptic, and the starvation it will engender is so profound, it’s difficult to find credentialed government sources to describe the full range of horror. Four billion people starve to death after Peak Oil and during the course of the 21st century? That’s what Peter Goodchild wrote in his oft-cited article for www.countercurrents.org in 2007. (While we’re at it, does anyone want to talk about the looming phosphorus crisis?)

The U.S. Department of Energy denied for years that Peak Oil is at hand, but officials have been sidling up to the possibility more recently, and in a widely reported interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, former director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the DOE’s Energy Information Administration, said, “if the investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a decline,” by 2011."


We need to build more Moai Heads!

... err, I mean more "transportation infrastructure" (a.k.a. concrete slabs laid flat so the gods can see them)

Stardate 3012: Captains Log: Arrived at small desert planet, 3rd from its local one star. Surface riddled with stone and hydrocarbon slabs. Apparently a semi-intelligent species that mostly went extinct by cutting down the last of their trees in an effort to build these slabs as homages to a sky god. Nothing much else to see here. Moving on. Warp drives engaged.

Perry running for President of Texas:

“First, his energy plan is a one-two punch in Iowa’s economic gut,” Wendland said. “It clearly indicates that the Texas Governor would eliminate the federal renewable fuels standard while leaving in place the federal petroleum mandate. It also would force renewable fuels tax credits to expire while allowing petroleum tax subsidies to continue indefinitely. The Perry energy plan picks a winner and a loser – and foreign oil is the winner.”

...“When Gov. Perry entered the Presidential race, Iowa’s renewable fuels community said it would keep an open mind and not hold past actions by the Governor in his state role against him,” Wendland said. “But we also noted it would be important going forward to determine if Perry is running for President of the United States or President of Texas. Unfortunately, that answer seems to be leaning toward Texas.”


Malcolm Gladwell talks about misgivings behind the idea of Techno-Utopia and why we should not expect complex technologies to fix all our problems


He explains taking the example of Norden Bombsight

From wikipedia

The Norden bombsight was a bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately. Key to the operation of the Norden were two features; a mechanical computer that calculated the bomb's trajectory based on current flight conditions, and a linkage to the bomber's autopilot that let it react quickly and accurately to changes in the wind or other effects. Together, they allowed for unprecedented accuracy in day bombing from high altitudes; in testing the Norden demonstrated a circular error probable (CEP) of 75 feet, an astonishing performance for the era.

A much needed dose of reality. Maybe someone can extrapolate this to energy scenarios and explain it to the people that technology won't fix peak oil.

Saudi Arabia's answer to overpopulation?

JEDDAH: Nearly three million expatriate workers will have to leave the Kingdom in the next few years as the Labor Ministry has put a 20 percent ceiling on the country’s guest workers.

The ceiling has been set to help find jobs for Saudis and protect the country’s demographic structure.

“The maximum number of long-term expatriate workers in the Kingdom should not exceed 20 percent of the Saudi population,” Al-Eqtisadiah business daily reported Thursday, quoting the Labor Ministry.

The ministry said the long-term plan to cut the number of expatriate workers was aimed at protecting the Kingdom’s demographic structure. Currently, the number of expatriates (8.42 million) accounts for 31 percent of the Saudi population of 18.7 million.


Canada will look to sell oil elsewhere if U.S. balks at Keystone XL

If the United States turns it back on increased supplies of Canadian oil by cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada will look to export more to other countries, particularly in Asia, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Friday.

Mr. Oliver told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board that he does not make this point to U.S. officials “unless they ask,” but “if they don’t want our oil....it is obvious we are going to export it elsewhere.”

The above is the Canadian resources minister putting the US government on notice that it is fish-or-cut-bait time on pipeline approvals for the Keystone pipeline from the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. The Canadian government is getting seriously P.O.d at the US government because the delays are costing them billions in lost tax and royalty revenues.

Actually, it probably is already too late and export pipelines are probably going to get fast-tracked to take the oil to BC ports and thence to China. It's hard to be sure because certain Canadian government departments have gone into stealth mode and are furiously rewriting regulations under a deep cloak of secrecy with strict orders to say nothing to nobody.

I'd say more but I'm concerned about the guys with dark glasses and earpieces standing around the van outside monitoring my internet link.

Rocky – “I'd say more but I'm concerned about the guys with dark glasses and earpieces standing around the van outside monitoring my internet link” And the key question may be: who sent them? Based upon public statements the US political system appears very inept compared to the Chinese. We should hope there’s more going on behind the scene they don’t want us to know about. I’ve only had a little direct dealing with the Chinese oil patch but know a few folks with a lot of exposure. But they play to win and there is only one rule: do whatever it takes. IOW: there are no rules. Don’t know how susceptible your folks are to bribery but if any of them can be had…then they’ve already been had by the Chinese. I would fully expect the Chinese to have multiple layers of lobbyists working to kill Keystone. And it’s not likely anyone could make the connection…probably have it layered through multiple international law firms. I know it sounds harsh but if it takes a $million bribe, photos of some fool with a hooker or an accidental single car fatal “accident” to achieve their goals then it will happen. I’ve rubbed elbows with some of their “fixers” twice. Even if 10% their drunken BS stories were true they were still chilling.

Rockman, I used to consult for Chinese-controlled companies, so I have a good idea how they think. For the most part, it's all about money, but they plan for much longer time frames than American companies. And, aside from being somewhat unscrupulous, they're very, very smart.

As for the guys with the earpieces, I don't know if you have ever run tests to see if your competitors are tapping your telephones, but we used to. A simple check is to have two executives conduct a conversation about a bogus "hot" oil play, and then see how long the information takes to get back to you from your competition. It's usually not very long. OTOH, if there is something weird going on at your own company that might affect your career, but your own management won't tell you about, the easiest way to find out about it is to take your opposite number at the competition out for drinks and ask him about it, because he'll know.

It's not the Chinese working to kill Keystone, it's certain American companies (and Arab and other countries) that have a vested interest in keeping cheap oil away from the Gulf Coast refineries. The American companies have mid-continent refineries with a supply of cheap oil that the coastal refineries can't get and are making a fortune off the crack spread, and the Arabs, Venezuelans, Nigerians and others are worried about Canadian oil taking their markets away from them. (The Canadian intelligence people have been tapping their telephones to identify them, and of course the Chinese have been tapping everyone's telephones.)

The Chinese are relatively neutral about Keystone since in the short term they are happy with any kind of profit, but their long-term goal is definitely to take the Canadian (and Arab and Venezuelan and Nigerian) oil to China. The pipelines to the Canadian west coast are their priority, and Canadian governments are onside with that agenda because they are uncomfortable having the US as a monopoly buyer. They'd like to play the two countries off against each other.

Rocky - We have wolrd class security. Not so much for our oil patch business but for our sister companies. But 35 years ago we knew our phones were being tapped by Mobil Oil...our employer. You recall those days in the late 70's when offshore lease sales were extremely competitive. our most senior exploration hand was a wild man and was always screwing with them when he knew he was tapped. Got away with it because they couldn't fire him.

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