Drumbeat: December 23, 2011

‘Secret’ Environment Canada study warns of oil sands’ impact on habitat

OTTAWA — Contamination of a major western Canadian river basin from oil sands operations is a “high-profile concern” for downstream communities and wildlife, says a newly-released “secret” presentation prepared last spring by Environment Canada that highlighted numerous warnings about the industry’s growing footprint on land, air, water and the climate.

The warnings from the department contrast with recent claims made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent that the industry is being unfairly targeted by environmentalists who exaggerate its impacts on nature and people.

Oil rises to near $100 amid improving US economy

SINGAPORE – Oil prices closed in on $100 a barrel Friday in Asia amid expectations an improving U.S. economy will boost demand for crude.

Oil May Rise on Middle East Geopolitical Tension, Survey Shows

Crude oil may rise next week on speculation that further sanctions against Iran will curb supply from the world’s third-largest oil exporter, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Twelve of 32 analysts, or 38 percent, forecast oil will gain through Dec. 30. Ten respondents, or 31 percent, predicted prices will drop and 10 estimated there will be little change. Last week, 53 percent of surveyed analysts expected an increase. Oil is up 25 percent this quarter, the biggest gain since the second quarter of 2009.

Shale gas is shaving bills

In the raging shale-gas debate, there is much disagreement about the economic benefits of drilling.

An Ohio State University report released this week argues that industry-funded studies hype the number of jobs created in Ohio from drilling the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations. The 27-page study is already providing ammunition to anti-drilling activists, who believe that the environmental risks of shale gas outweigh the economic benefits.

While rival academics can argue about which econometric model is better at predicting the future, a relatively narrow measure of the benefit of shale gas is already affecting our monthly utility bills.

Q1 2012: The Safest Places to Invest

Here are some predictions for 2012:

• $2,000 gold, $40 silver, and $150 oil on any Strait of Hormuz disruptions;

• No recovery for housing;

• The euro will finally fail;

• The Dow will test 9,500;

• Israel will attack Iran;

• Natural gas will fall to historic lows on the Marcellus Shale finds;

• The Great Depression 2.0 and/or the Great Revolution of 2012 will hit as Americans become even more disgruntled over the deceptions of Wall Street;

• Facebook will withdraw its IPO based on the performance of other social networking IPOs;

• Rare earth prices will run up again, as China just barred the world's largest rare earths producer, Baotou Steel, from exporting due to “environmental concerns” (Baotou accounts for just about half of the world's rare earth production, and was excluded from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce's list of 11 approved exporters for next year); and

• Peak Oil deniers will finally understand what Peak Oil really is.

Americans continue to buy less gasoline

U.S. fuel demand in November dropped, pulled lower by a decline in gasoline consumption, the American Petroleum Institute said.

Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, declined 1.1% to 18.8 million barrels a day last month from a year earlier, the industry-funded group said today in a report. Year-to-date consumption has averaged 19 million barrels a day, down 0.7% from the same period in 2010.

US and UK drivers cutting back on mileage

American cars are traditionally, big, brash and eye-wateringly inefficient. Research suggests that the pursuit of fuel efficiency, for one reason or another, is changing all this.

More Americans to hit the road this holiday, AAA predicts

U.S. airlines are expecting the smallest number of holiday travelers in years, as more Americans choose to travel by car.

India aims to boost oil stockpile

India plans to increase its stockpile of oil in the aftermath of the Arab Spring as conflict in source countries such as Libya has shaken the government's faith in the security of supply.

China: riot police fire tear gas at power station protesters

Chinese riot police fired teargas to disperse a throng of protesters in a small town in southern China on Friday, the fourth day of demonstrations against the construction of a power station.

Tear gas fired at Sudan dam demo: witnesses

Sudanese police fired tear gas to disperse about 200 students who demonstrated on Thursday in support of residents displaced by the giant Merowe dam, witnesses said.

It was the second time this week police forcefully broke up a rally over the hydroelectric project.

Egyptians rally after days of deadly clashes

CAIRO (AP) — Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Cairo's central Tahrir Square Friday to denounce violence against protesters, especially outraged by images of women protesters dragged by their hair, beaten and kicked by troops.

As Russia Braces for New Protests, Anger at Suspect Election Results Persists

According to the official election results, Putin's party got just under 50% of the vote, barely allowing it to keep its majority in parliament. But it may actually have been as low as 30%, if the detailed accounts released by election officials, monitors, pollsters and journalists are to be believed. If so, that means the party would have needed to falsify an incredible 12 million votes.

Russian oil rig sinking casts doubt on Arctic plan

MOSCOW (AP) — The sinking of a floating oil rig that left more than 50 crew dead or missing is intensifying fears that Russian companies searching for oil in remote areas are unprepared for emergencies — and could cause a disastrous spill in the pristine waters of the Arctic.

Chevron, Transocean Face Brazil Indictment Over Oil Leak

(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp., the operator of the Brazilian offshore well that triggered oil leaks, and rig owner Transocean Ltd. will defend executives threatened with criminal indictments in the South American nation.

Chevron, Conoco Entrapped in Post-BP Crackdown on Oil Slicks

Brazil’s threatened indictment of Chevron Corp. and Transocean Ltd. executives after offshore oil leaks shows that regulators from the North Sea to the Indian Ocean are stepping up scrutiny after BP Plc’s 2010 disaster.

100 miles of oil: Spill likely Nigeria's worst in decade

LAGOS, Nigeria — Oil from an offshore spill has spread roughly 100 nautical miles after a leak occurred while loading a tanker, a Nigerian official said Thursday.

Royal Dutch Shell shut down a deep-water oil field off Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta on Tuesday.

Consumers have more options to reduce energy bills

States and utilities are spending more on energy-efficiency programs such as home energy audits. At the same time, an array of energy-saving products arrived this year, such as LED light bulbs that replace incandescents and the Nest thermostat that automatically adjusts heating or cooling when no one's home.

Approval of Reactor Design Clears Path for New Plants

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved a radical new reactor design on Thursday, clearing away a major obstacle for two utilities to begin construction on projects in South Carolina and Georgia.

Canada hunts for rare earth metals as China cuts back

A steep decline in Chinese exports of rare earth metals used in many hi-tech gadgets has forced a global search for new crucial supplies and hopes are high for major finds in Canada, analysts say.

Saudis kicking off major move into solar

Saudi Arabia will take the first step to becoming a large-scale producer of solar power next year as it uses the private sector to build a first batch of solar parks.

A steep increase in demand for electricity and rapidly falling prices for photovoltaic panels have convinced decision-makers in the kingdom to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-based power generation, setting the scene for sustained investment in alternative energy.

Foxconn’s Entry Into Solar May Cut Margins for Chinese Makers

Foxconn Technology Group’s decision to start making modules for solar power plants may speed the rate at which margins are narrowing for Chinese manufacturers, hurting an industry already coping with a plunge in prices.

Charities give Christmas gift of water

December donors who open their hearts and wallets will send millions of dollars flowing to villages and urban slums in Africa, South Asia and Central America.

And, drop by drop, lives are changed. Countless children are spared killer waterborne diseases. Countless women are spared backbreaking hours fetching water in 40-pound, 5-gallon plastic jugs.

Iran Navy to Hold War Games Near Crucial Sea Lanes

Iran put neighbors on notice Thursday that it was about to conduct vast naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, including war games near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil traffic.

S.Sudan seeks food and farmland investments

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan hopes to attract investors from Gulf Arab states, Israel, China and fellow African countries to boost production of basic food items, a government official said on Thursday.

A Call to Protect Humble Fish, for Seabirds’ Sake

When people talk about the environmental effects of salmon aquaculture, they usually focus on water pollution and the spread of disease to wild fish stocks. But there is another big problem: It takes more than a pound of fish to produce a pound of salmon.

China: Stricter Air Pollution Monitoring Standards to Start Next Year, With Results Made Public in 2016

China will introduce stricter air pollution standards next year to monitor tiny particles of pollution in Beijing and other cities, but it may not start releasing the results to the public until 2016, state news media reported Thursday.

The 12 most-read 2011 articles in Environment

The environment section covers issues which raise debate such as those concerning climate change, green living and nature. Here we take a look at the most popular articles of the year followed by an insight from our environment editor as he chooses his favourite stories.

A visualisation of Europe's energy - interactive

This interactive visualisation, created by the Open Knowledge Foundation, shows how energy is produced and consumed across Europe. It demonstrates how widely European countries vary in terms of their reliance on energy imports, their renewable generation and the CO2 emissions created by their energy production.

Africa: Climate Zombie Tripped By Dying Carbon Markets

Looking back now that the dust has settled, South Africa's COP17 presidency appears disastrous. This was confirmed not only by Durban's delayed, diplomatically-decrepit denouement, but by plummeting carbon markets in the days immediately following the conference's ignoble end.

China threatens trade war over EU jet emissions tax

The "environmental squeeze" that helped prompt British Airways owner IAG's takeover of BMI is set to ignite a trade war between China and Europe after the EU's top court upheld a move to charge airlines using the Continent's airspace for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Beijing yesterday threatened disruptions to trade with the EU after the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the emissions tax would go ahead as planned on 1 January. The move added China's voice to that of America, which last week warned that it would take "appropriate action" if the proposed charges were not amended or delayed.

A real sea change

International diplomats met two weeks ago at the UN Durban Climate Change Conference in South Africa to discuss a greenhouse gas reduction plan—displaying no urgency to reach any meaningful agreement. Meanwhile, researchers at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco are reporting what many scientists have suspected for a long time but have been thus far not been able to prove convincingly—that the world’s sea level is likely to rise by at least 3 feet in the next 100 years.

The vast Greenland ice sheet is melting at an increasingly rapid rate—much faster than most conservative estimates made by, among other authorities, the UN’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the last decade, scientific technologies have made fast advances toward more confident and precise measurements of the complex changes in the Greenland ice sheet.

Link up top: Russian oil rig sinking casts doubt on Arctic plan

Picture of the rig, or one just like it. It is a monster.

Ron P.

Ron - Actually that's not a drilling rig but a production platform. Here's a pic of that class of jack up rig.


Don't let the pic confuse you. The rig is riding on a transport ship. Jack ups steam very slowly and are notorious for being unstable in rough seas: top heavy and flat bottomed.

Thanks Rockman. Then the article was misleading. They published this picture with the article.

Yes, I now remember that it was a jack up rig that sank but I just forgot. One of the problems of old age. :-(

Ron P.

This link was was provided in drumbeat discussion of the sinking several days back.


The rig was ~225'x260'. Another story I read stated it was illegal to tow in those waters from Dec 1 to Mar 1. But didn't state whose authority that law rested with. Seems they were caught in a bind, the rig couldn't overwinter there, and yet for whatever reason, was not moved till it was too late. Must have been stressful to the nth degree working that rig in November. I was under the impression that rapid ice buildup in the tow had ultimately capsized the rig, now it seems loss of structure in high winds was the culprit. Probably a combination. It seems the captain chose valor and elected to go down with his ship, but maybe he was forced.

Other rig specs links from earlier:

people have mentioned the escape capsules on rigs before. I am wondering, if it is posible to launch these while the rig is being towed or is it too close to the water?


NAOM - They should have been deployable undertow if the release systems were like ours. But in rolling seas it can be dangerous. I've no idea what their capsules are like but our are unsinkable even if the become flooded.

Has this article been Drumbeat'ed?

A boom in shale gas? Credit the feds.

jim - First I've seen it. And it is total BS. Don't have time for details now...on the way to spend Christmas day on a drill rig. In the meantime hoefully someone can't point out how utterly misleading the article is.

At this moment there are 29 comments on the article, most of them pointing out how misleading it is. But they are all over the map.

I am confused -- what do the oil/gas experts think the role of the government is? Is R&D a proper function of the government?

Surely, the government shouldn't be investing directly in production, or should it? Isn't that partly how canals and railroads and highways -- our whole transportation infrastructure -- got built?

Personally, I'm almost to join the Ron Paul campaign-- I mostly see the government as my adversary, not an advocate. But it hasn't always been that way.

Seems like the American Dream has been distorted by incoherence, allowing a relatively few sociopathic opportunists to profit massively at the public's expense. The Progressive hope is that collectively held wealth can be managed for the benefit of the entire society. If that is true, we are going to have to find a way to identify and extirpate the parasites before they bring the whole enterprise down.

Good luck!

On the one hand, you have the large amount of people near the bottom: the people reliant on food stamps, section 8, disability payments, welfare, etc. I'm wholly sympathetic with these people because they wouldn't be in that condition if we actually valued paid employment in this country. But, it is what it is: a massive drag on the productive economy.

On the other hand, you have the small amount of people near the top: the banksters who put a gun to the government and say, give us 700 billion dollars or this market comes down and the ATM's stop working; the corporate CEOs who somehow manage to pay themselves large bonuses and severance even as their companies are going down the tubes, the unprofitable businesses which milk federal subsidies for all they're worth, the people in charge of the defense bureaucracies, etc. These people have absolute control over the system, and they aren't going away anytime soon.

How are you possibly going to, as you say, "extirpate" all these people? I don't see how. I think the whole system is coming undone.

Right. It is your second category that I consider to be the parasites.
Giant tapeworms.

Humans are corrupt.
Governments become corrupt. They then fear observation.
Corporations desire money. They nurse at the very root of evil.
Humans invent superheros that can see all and destroy the evildoers.
Their followers drown in hypocrisy.
No "-ism" matters.

This reminds me of a situation illuminated by Eugen Weber in his series "The Western Tradition". "Civil" cases, dog bites neighbor, for example, are heard by civil authority. But in the past, they were heard by clerical staff. Actually, who hears these cases has oscillated back-and-forth several times as each body alternately disgraces itself in the eyes of the populace.

The internet at least allows a chorus of observations.
Consensus of action has brought about changes.
A ray of hope.

Humans are corrupt.
Governments become corrupt. They then fear observation.

And in America - this is why the founders on try #2 did what they did.

It requires an engaged citizenry - people willing to stand up and say "no". Alas, in the 1920's the ability to engage based on you may be harmed was taken away. (You can only sue for relief if you were harmed) And after the 1940's when New York State Supreme Court Judges were sent to jail did another round of "reforms" happen - thus denying the ability of citizens to go to the Grand Jury directly with evidence of crimes was "changed by policy".

'Tis far easer to try for 'harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, more especially of ours' than to fight with corrupt courts and corrupt power tripping local officials.


I believe there is a pretty good case to be made for the argument that the primary source of problems is solutions.

If those of us who think more government is the answer to every problem would make a TRULY effort to see things from a different , farther removed from the trees perspective, perhaps they might be able to appreciate the conservative/libertarian point of view.

Every time we add another program, we bind ourselves a little tighter in a web similar to the one Gulliver found himself in when the little folks captured him.In the end, the citizenry winds up having not even the foggiest idea what the vast majority of the bureaucrats are up to, unless a particular program touches directly upon their employment or personal life, and even then most of us have a tough time dealing with the office dwellers.

Now it is generally accepted as conventional wisdom in biology (and sfaIk in the social sciences) that any organism ororganization (ant colony, flock of crows, organized business) must either grow (reproduce at a positive rate) or perish.

After a while , a school acquires a principal, janitors, department heads, guidance councilors, a band, athletic teams, , etc, etc, etc, including a school board, a state bureaucracy, and a federal bureaucracy.At some point, any real hope of change from within is lost due to the organizational structure hardening into bureaucratic concrete.

But the process doesn't stop even then;the teachers as a group align themselves with political parties with the intent of looking after themselves first and the kids second maybe, and cut all sorts of scratch my back, I'll scratch yours informal defacto deals with various special interests groups.

The ambitious ones move up and out and laterally throughout the monster overall educational system in search of personal/professional status and advantage , and usually find it.

I offer up the schools as a single example well known to everybody.

It keeps getting worse-the businesses and industries that are supposedly regulated by the bureaucrats wind up in control of the bureaucracies by way of the revolving door an as a result of big biz controlling the media and buying elections.

In the end, the big boys are able to sell the rest of us fleece bearing quadrupeds just about anything you can imagine, and HAVE sold it to us, from welfare checks for farmers to lifetime dream jobs playing chamber music to professors drawing fat salaries at state supported universities writing poetry and studying medieval music all the way up to the military industrial complex and banks to big too fail.

Politicians of every stripe at every level grow altogether too fond of their favorite constituents, who in some cases happen to be the entire population, and just naturally make promises that cannot be kept, comforted by the fact that they expect to be retired or dead before the bills comes due.

Now I am not asserting that these obscenities are direct consequences of big government, but I do maintain that there is a case to be made that they could not have come into existence in a country devoted to the two basic conservative principles that government undertake only such jobs as are necessarily done by governments and protect the citizens from harm done by individuals or groups or businesses.

Now I am most not emphatically in favor of ding away with the EPA, or rescinding clean water laws or any of that sort of thing;conditions change over time, and therefore the proper responses of government must also change.In an industrialized world, it is a proper function of government to protect the environment, as this is both obviously necessary and obviously something that cannot be done by individuals or even by the individual states.

A government operating under true conservative /libertarian principles would pass a carbon tax, which would work exceedingly well in every aspect of it..A government captured by business and grown so bloated as a result of that capture will pass a law mandating carbon credit schemes that will accomplish very little if anything and cost society an arm and a leg for the little that is accomplished-while all the while enabling the cancerous infection of non productive paper pushing drones tpo grow even larger-we must remember the informal defacto deals;only an idiot would expect the lawyers or the CPA's to oppose such a free(to them) gold mine..The IRS so far as I know has never offered up an argument in favor of simplifying and streamlining the tax code.

No police chief ever tells his community he has enough cars and cops;and if a reduction in force is suggested, such tired old arguments as the drug wars are trotted out.

Gambling used to be a vice until big business in collusion with big government decided it is a virtuous way to further fleece the poor;I have never seen an obviously rich person buy a lottery ticket, nor known anybody who knows of such an occurrence.It used to be ok to smoke a little pot or do a little cocaine if you were so inclined, and , well, if you suffered the consequences, you suffered the consequences of ill health.The nanny state, which is one aspect of big government syndrome has provided us with a drug war that has never stopped people from getting high, but it has succeeded in creating a parasite class of growers, smugglers, dealers jailers, criminal lawyers, judges , etc, etc, etc. which is obviously far far more dangerous than the drugs it has failed to control, and beyond that , a parasite class which is many times more expensive than would be the societal costs of stoners buying their favorite poison at the local liquor store.I have it on first hand authority from local guys who KNOW that if pot were legal, even the super premium one toke and you are buzzing stuff would not cost more than five dollars an ounce wholesale- an ounce is enough to keep a house full of people stoned out of their gourds for an entire weekend.It's cheaper by far than beer or booze, even on the black market, most of the time.

Nor would cocaine and heroin cost any more than booze and cigarettes.If a few people kill themselves because the stuff is cheap enough to buy it on a dishwashers wages, well the gods themselves contend in vain against stupidity, and the gene pool will be the better for it. Society would be far far better off if all these cops and lawyers and jailers were to find themselves new jobs doing something useful -perhaps chasing burglars and white collar crooks would be a good place to start.

It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Since sometime back in the fifties or sixties, we have had so much government that is has been impossible to keep an eye on it.Even when I have occasionally abandoned myself to spending a leisurely week reading newspapers and cruising websites, I haven't been able to scratch the surface of all the government sponsored or enabled activities which affect my own local community in some direct fashion.


I'm older then you and grew up in the late 40's and 50's. What has happened is that society changed. The village I grew up in northern Ohio had about 700 people when I was a kid; it is now over 30,000 and is a city with all the associated complexity costs. So that younger people understand this, our septic systems didn't have leach lines but rather ran out to a ditch on the side of the road - you always knew who was screwing because the rubbers would float down the ditch.

My mom was an elementary school principle. As the area grew it went from a small school to one with over 1,000 K-6 students. But she and a secretary managed it with little district support.

My dad was the volunteer fire chief. They were funded by a summer fireman's "carnival" selling beer, taking a chance on a wheel and a polka dance at night. It was simple. I used to play in the town jail when my dad was working on fire department stuff - the jail was at the back of the area where the fire truck was parked.

People had a shared belief system and common values at that time. We no longer share anything and I think this is a major problem. When we can't agree on the basics it is impossible to accomplish anything.

Further, I believe that the media has had a profound effect. Aside from intermittent TV (at that time TV was only on a few hours a day) and papers, people had to "talk" to one another and have real personal contact. Society has lost this as have families who no longer get together on weekends. It used to drive me nuts as a kid sitting on the glider as the older people mostly sat there with a word now and then.

Now was all this simply conformity? No, life was different then and it's not coming back.


Yes, media played a role. But the biggest damning influence I've seen is the rise of what Cobb and Daly have called Homo Economicus--humans with a hyper-individualized mind set that embrace (worship, really) the notion that the first and last measure of ultimate GOOD is what ever is good for themselves. This arose in its current virulent form mostly since WWII and is the main reason that most Americans are not likely to willingly sacrifice for any cause, no matter how dire or urgent.

I also distrust concentrations of power in the government, especially power to wage war and take life and liberty; but other concentrations of power are equally or even more dangerous. A corporation is not elected by anyone, but it can have vast power over our lives and over the government. I would likely be a libertarian if they extended the logic of their basic concern--the danger of concentrated power--beyond the government, to include at least large corporations.

I would likely be a libertarian if they extended the logic of their basic concern--the danger of concentrated power--beyond the government, to include at least large corporations.

For Laughs - find a Libertarian. (ok, that part isn't funny)

Then ask them about their Court Watching program.

Point out how many courts have corruption and how, in the Libertarian future where everything is contracts and voluntarism a court system where people don't feel screwed would be needed. Then point out the present 2 party system is where it is because the local parties actually delivered on services to the citizens - a demonstration on their ability to manage a complex system as it were.

Any political philosophy carried to the extreme, or the logical conclusion, or whatever you might wish to call it, or ALLOWED to evolve to that end state, is an absurdity and an abomination.Unfettered capitalism would result in in fascism or worse, an out right capture of ALL power by the ultrarich.Unfettered socialism and theoretical or idealized communism do not remain benign or result in the withering away of the state, but grow in a police state wherein the servants of the people become the absolute masters of the people.

Any workable philosophy of community and government must include some elements of all kinds of governments in order to result in a functioning and stable society. The key to a successful society, meaning in my intended context, is to arrange things in such a way that no particular form of idealized government can arise, but rather that whatever government does evolve is constrained from going to extremes unless extreme circumstances absolutely require extreme measures.

Moderation in all things is a necessary condition to stability and happiness, including moderation itself ; moderation itself is necessarily tossed overboard in (perceived) emergencies. Hence countries as far opposed in style and substance as Nazi Germany and the United States both engaged in forcing young men into a defacto state of slavery wherein very many of them killed partly in order to avoid being killed and even more were subjected to hardships far worse than are usually imposed on slaves, who after all are valuable income producing property and worth looking after in order to preserve that value.

We have paradoxically allowed the politics of both fascism and socialism to become to prevalent in this country.The government collectively has grown so big and so powerful that it takes care of it's own with the fervor of the most ardent socialist, and the interests of the moneyed classes with the abandon of the most enthusiastic disciple of Ann Rand. The rest of us are left mostly to our own devices except for being forced to submit to daily involuntary sex without a lubricant to ease the pain.

But evolutionary theory properly understood allows us to understand these things as being no more and no less than the results of the competitive process wherein once the species achieves mastery over the environment, the competition turns to competition between factions within the species.

Good morning and Merry Christmas, Tod.

I agree wholeheartedly, but our comments as I view them are complementary in the geometric sense;we are both describing parts of the whole.Taken together they each buttress the other.

Personally, I'm almost to join the Ron Paul campaign

The popularity of Paul is a commentary on how busted the politics-as-usual are not popular.

If Paul was to get what he wants - the influx of unemployed solders and ex-MIC workers would be damaging.

The economy and people of the U.S. would adjust, albeit with significant short-term pain.

A couple of points:

1. If Ron Paul were to be elected, he would likely have few allies in Congress. Congress controls the purse strings. Paul could and likely would veto a budget that had more MIC spending than he wanted, but Congress would assuredly overrule his Veto and the MIC would get what it wants, more or less, because the Congress folks could not stand the heat from their middle-class and wealthy constituents who would be looking for jobs.

2. Even if Ron Paul magically had sufficient allies in Congress to enact his vision, I doubt they would be foolhardy enough to go from MIC BAU to his end-state military/spy complex spending level in one fell swoop. It likely would take two full terms (~8 years) to implement a sweeping draw-down....providing time for people/society to adjust.

I find it disheartening how some folks (this is not directed at you, Eric...I don't know your position on this) who would rail mightily at a modern Civilian Conservation Corps / Works Progress Administration, perhaps structured to conduct a large-scale program to insulate homes, install PV, teach people to garden and build community gardens, etc. etc. have zero issues with an out-of-control MIC.

The idea of U.S. military might being essential to our prosperity and exeptionalism has been thoroughly planted in our minds.

The MIC-Government Matrix is so ingrained in U.S. society that it is very difficult for me to imagine it being shrunk significantly anytime soon (years...maybe decades). Too many people are feeding very high on the hog at the government/taxpayer/debt trough.

Indeed, Paul's predilection to significantly downsize the MIC is not my concern, rather, it is his predilection to likely disband the EPA and dismantle most government rules/regulations to prevent industry/business from largely ignoring most externalities to their operations.

Let me channel a past LP pres. candidate.

Note how Harry pointed out how he'd veto stuff, the Congress can override.

Paul's first "feat of clay" moment would be the executive orders. The next - as "large and in charge" of the military - what orders he'd issue.

Would be interesting to see.

Agree that it would indeed be interesting.

However, I predict that we will not get to witness such a spectacle...we in the U.S. seem to be locked into the current two-party paradigm.

LNG - Can only toss out a little bit right now...spending the weekend on a rig in S. La. But here's some very specific poop. George Mitchell is a master at fleecing the govt out of tax payer money to fund his for-profit efforts. And I say that with respect. That big frac plan he co-developed with the govt: 6 month before he did his I did the same frac with the aid of Halliburton. I can't tell you how PO I was after reading the press release in the WSJ. He used $500,000 of govt money to subsidize "a portion" of his 500,000 lb frac. My identical 500,000 frac cost me a little under $400,000. So not only did the govt cover the entire cost of his frac but he also pocketed over $100,000 of tax payer money. I had the very same Halliburton hand run my job as did George's. Like I said: he is The Master. I almost went to work for GM 30 years ago but that's another strange tale. And no: the govt didn't get one penny of from that well. But the govt worker bees got to publish reports of their great contribution to the oil patch. Certainly justified the salaries.

When I have more time I'll explain how he got govt financial support to develop "low income housing" (The Woodlands) just north of Houston. BTW: the Woodlands is the most affluent bedroom community in the county filled with multi-billion $ McMansions built on beautiful private lakes. They even have their own private mass transit system to bring their folks to downtown Houston quickly thanks to a free designated commuter lane...built with tax payer money. Today there is also a toll road that runs parallels the free HOV lane the Woodland buses use for free. He really is The Master.

"...what do the oil/gas experts think the role of the government is? Is R&D a proper function of the government?" Just speaking for myself I would be very glad to take any money the feds want to throw my way to help pay for efforts I would have covered out of my pocket anyway.

Here is a little history on fracking.

On 17 March, 1949, Halliburton conducted the first two commercial fracturing treatments in Stephens County, Oklahoma, and Archer County, Texas.

I doubt the fed was involved then.


Let's hope this spreads like a prairie wildfire....

KCP&L plan shifts to efficiency, seeks payback for saving energy

Kansas City Power & Light, in a historic shift for the utility, filed plans Thursday with Missouri regulators to sell less electricity.

The company, like other utilities in the region, has depended on selling electricity to recover its costs and earn a profit. Building more power plants was the gauge for its success. Its conservation efforts, such as rebates to customers for buying energy-efficient air-conditioners, were pilot programs and not part of KCP&L’s long-term plans.

But the company says it’s time for a change, for energy efficiency to take on a more serious role. So its latest plan takes advantage of new Missouri regulations that make it possible for utilities to curb consumption and not be penalized financially.

See: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/12/23/3334494/kcpl-plan-shifts-to-efficie...


Good morning Paul,

I always read your posts with great interest and learn a lot from them. If I were younger and in need of a job, your field would be very near the top of my list.

But there is one thing you could do that would make your stuff even more useful.That would be to provide links to websites that explain just what the stuff you talk about actually is , physically, or just type a few more lines about each .

Personally I am acquainted fairly well with the construction trades in general, but I am sorely handicapped by a lack of knowledge in respect to the names and characteristics of various types of electric lights and the fixtures associated with them.


The plan also envisions cutting overall electricity use 0.5 percent at first and eventually 0.9 percent. And if it meets those goals, KCP&L would get a performance bonus.

0.9% .... I guess that's something. Perhaps it depends on your point of view, but fairly frustrating for those of us who've cut net consumption far more dramatically. It just shows that where we are and where we need to be are parsecs apart. Thanks for the link Paul. I'm trying to get into the spirit of this thing....

On a related note, from above: Approval of Reactor Design Clears Path for New Plants

From the Westinghouse site: AP1000

Nuclear power is a proven, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation, and Westinghouse Electric Company, the pioneer and global leader in nuclear plant design and construction, is ready with the *AP1000® pressurized water reactor (PWR).

...but I just can't get past this: High-level waste

High-level waste (HLW) is produced by nuclear reactors. It contains fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and often thermally hot. HLW accounts for over 95 percent of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation. The amount of HLW worldwide is currently increasing by about 12,000 metric tons every year, which is the equivalent to about 100 double-decker buses or a two-story structure with a footprint the size of a basketball court.[23] A 1000-MW nuclear power plant produces about 27 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel (unreprocessed) every year.

...so if these programs results in fewer of these things being built......any port in a storm, huh?


Thanks for the post and the link.

I went to the site and watched the animations outlining how the core, containment, and spent fuel passive cooling systems are supposed to operate.

I have questions...

...it still seems that the plan to get from ~ 36 hours to ~ 7 days relies upon the on-site diesel-electric generators functioning.

Also, the 'plan' for beyond 7 days assumes some measure of BAU...additional water being brought in somehow from off-site, additional diesel fuel, human tending...

The first 36 hours seem to be under a sort of passive cooling scheme, although there still may be the need for human control inputs (I need to re-read that part carefully).

Are thee no 'near-ready' nuclear plant designs which are have truly passive shut-down (no humans, no diesel fuel, no bringing in extra water from off-site, etc)?

Also, I would like to insist that Westinghouse build a pilot plant and execute a loss-of-commercial-power test to evaluate whether these system actually work...not just 'on paper', or in a computer simulation, but to see if the actual production-representative hardware with a crew trained to expected commercial standards, operating the reactor in a realistic environment/scenario, can perform to specifications.

I think it would be reasonable to have the government subsidize such proof-of-concept pilot plants. Pebble-bed, traveling-wave, sodium-cooled, lead-cooled, Liquid Fluoride-Thorium, etc. It would seem worth while, to me, to make these kind of R&D investments to explore the possibilities of future nuclear fission electric power production.

I would do the same for wind, solar, geothermal, negawatts (insulation, efficient appliances,vehicles, electrified freight and passenger trains, etc.).

Perhaps re-programming a sizable portion of the MIC budget to a robust and enduring energy generation and efficiency applications RDT&E program would potentially useful for our future civilization.

I've started a new thread below as we've (rudely) hijacked Paul's thread. Sorry Paul :-/

No apologies required, Ghung. It's all good.


Research in the right areas needed, but payouts uncertain. FIT's work now and don't have to be costly anymore. The continuing evolution of affordable distributed generation technology is rapid & exciting. What if you could only receive emails and not send? Well that is currently the reality of the US Grid. Yes it's sad, Net Metering is just workaround the convoluted regulations that were not dissolved during the botched deregulation attempts short-circuited by the likes of Enron and paid off lawmakers. Often, king coal must be dispatched 1st. More info on FIT's: www.wind-works.org
"Welcome to Wind-Works- An on-line archive of articles and commentary on wind and solar energy, community power, feed-in tariffs, and Advanced Renewable Tariffs."
While it may be paltry, but there is some DOE $$ spent on boots on the roof deployment. www.solarabcs.com

Are the[r]e no 'near-ready' nuclear plant designs which are have truly passive shut-down (no humans, no diesel fuel, no bringing in extra water from off-site, etc)?


Back in the 1980s, the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) conducted two successful passive safety tests. In the first, the primary coolant pumps (primary coolant was molten sodium) were shut off and the normal safety systems blocked from acting. Reactor output dropped to essentially zero in about five minutes. The second test shut down the secondary cooling loop (steam loop for power generation), with the same result. The EBR-II program led to the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program, which was defunded by Congress in 1994. GE-Hitachi has signed a memo of understanding with DOE to build a demo version of their S-PRISM modular reactor, based on the IFR design, prior to pursuing a full license application at NRC. I've lost track of the status of that effort.

Fundamentally, under decisions made (or pushed through Congress) by Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, the US got out of the reactor research business.

My understanding was that at the time of cancellation, all of the design elements of the IFR including proof of passive safety were fully tested. It is basically ready for commercial demonstration, and has been since 1994. GE-Hitachi is talking to the British since they are spending vast sums minding a pile of plutonium and are considering spending a great deal more on trying to get rid of it. GE-Hitachi can build an IFR (S-PRISM) and destroy the Plutonium and other nasties making masses of emissions free energy instead. Waste turned from a liability to a massive asset.

For a lot more on the IFR, see Steve Kirsch's Discussion.

The bottom line: the IFR system is passively safe, proliferation proof, and consumes LWR spent-fuel nuclear waste as new fuel. It makes use of the other 99% of energy available in the uranium instead of tossing it. It destroys long-lived transuranic actinides turning them into short-lived radioactive fission products, many of which have valuable commercial uses.

This technology is so valuable, I don't know why everyone isn't SCREAMING for its massive deployment. Its capabilities are the product of a 30-year research / demonstration effort with the EBR-II (Experimental Breeder Reactor).

If you want massive amounts of reliable, emissions free energy without environmental problems associated with mining and waste disposal... THIS IS IT.

This technology is so valuable, I don't know why everyone isn't SCREAMING for its massive deployment.

Because the Corporations involved lied in the past and so are not trusted now?

""If you want massive amounts of reliable, emissions free energy without environmental problems associated with mining and waste disposal... THIS IS IT.""

Let's see...Reliable? Check! ....Emissions Free? Check!....No Environmental problems really to speak of? Check! This is it!!!

My rooftop Solar Panels...THANKYOUVERYMUCH!!

This technology is sooooo valuable, people WILL BE screaming for it when the Black Death starts to dwindle from the holes in the ground.

Choose Wisely.
The Martian

The bottom line: the IFR system is passively safe, proliferation proof,

It is not proliferation proof and the fact that it has certain "safe" failure modes does not make it passively safe in all circumstances.

Hi OFM and Ghung,

I agree that a one-half to one per cent net reduction in sales seems modest, but bear in mind that the "natural" growth in KCP&L's electricity demand is said to be in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 per cent per annum, so you're swimming against the current, so to speak. Also, the initial investment of $25 million will presumably grow over time once the state utility commission and KCP&L can verify the efficacy of their various DSM initiatives. Godspeed to them.

Nova Scotia Power and Efficiency Nova Scotia are working hard to reduce this province's electrical demand. In the absence of their efforts, NSP's net system requirement over the next ten years would be expected to grow an average of 0.8 percent annually; with them, it's forecast to decline an average of 1.3 percent per annum (here's hoping they're right).

What's particularly encouraging to me is that a few short years ago some 80 per cent of our province's electricity was generated through the burning of coal; today, coal's contribution has fallen to 57 per cent and we can expect further improvements on that front in the years to come, e.g., our wind capacity is growing by leaps and bounds, and come 2016/2017 ten per cent of our electricity will be supplied by the Lower Churchill Falls project. DSM + renewable energy + TOU/real time pricing are the way to the future.


From your linked story;

But in 2009, state legislators passed the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act, which called for treating investments in curbing consumption in the same way as investments to deliver electricity. It took a couple of years to work out the regulations to put the law into effect, including how to measure energy savings.

I think this is key to enabling this. I ran up against exactly this problem when working with California water utilities on efficiency programs - they were NOT allowed to treat efficiency as "investments", and therefore make a return on them, they were only allowed to treat them as "costs", and therefore lose money on them.

So how much do you think got spent on efficiency v expansion?

someone high up in the CA utilities commission even said "we are not comfortable with the idea of the water companies making money off conservation projects" !

Which shows how he completely missed the point. if they make more money off efficiency than expansion, then they will direct their efforts at efficiency and not expansion - and the end result will be less water (or electricity) used - which was the original goal.

As long as people think that efficiency/conservation programs must be "not for profit", there will not be a lot of it done.

If it is more profitable than expansion, then there will be a lot of it done - but this is viewed as a *very* disruptive business (and political) scenario.

...but I just can't get past this: High-level waste

Ghung, just repeat this phrase 100 times every day!

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Nuclear power is a PROVEN, safe, plentiful and clean source of power generation...

Ok?! now you can sleep better at night!

KCP&L is my utility company and they are pretty decent at supporting alternative energies (big into wind energy in central Kansas) and being decent environmental stewards.

See link below for more info:


So its latest plan takes advantage of new Missouri regulations that make it possible for utilities to curb consumption and not be penalized financially.

Critical statement there. Since the 1990s, federal policy to separate generation, transmission, and retail distribution into independent entities has made it increasingly difficult for utilities to make investments in efficiency on behalf of their consumers. It has been left to the states to find ways around that problem.

Interestingly, much of the behind-the-scenes push for the separation has come from large businesses who wish to be able to buy electricity from "private" providers at discount rates, and use the highly-reliable "public" grid to move it. If you go back far enough, the initial push for the vertically-integrated utilities with regulated rates was also done by large businesses, who wanted reliability at controlled prices.

Interestingly, much of the behind-the-scenes push for the separation has come from large businesses who wish to be able to buy electricity from "private" providers at discount rates, and use the highly-reliable "public" grid to move it.

There is nothing actually wrong with that business model - in fact, I think it is a good one - as long as they (and everyone else) pay their share of the costs of maintaining said public grid.

Most utilities have schemes where people can buy green power, though they don;t get to choose exactly where it comes from.

There is no real reason why the situation can't be taken to its logical conclusions - where all customers of any utility- residential to industrial - have the option of buying electricity from whatever generators will sell to them,(or from the general "pool") and pay the appropriate transmission and distribution charges.

In this way the "utility" does not actually buy and sell the electricity at all, they merely charge for T&D - and their rate structure might evolve to where more of that is fixed (or demand charges) rather than volume dependent rate - the grid needs to be operated and maintained regardless of how much is actually flowing through it.

That said, since the grid might run into capacity issues before the generators do, the utility might then offer incentives for conservation to ease pinch points etc.

There is no real reason why the situation can't be taken to its logical conclusions - where all customers of any utility- residential to industrial - have the option of buying electricity from whatever generators will sell to them...

It is my understanding that the independent generators generally have zero interest -- and in some cases negative interest -- in serving the individual residential or tiny business customer. Negative interest in the sense that they will spend lobbying money to ensure that policy makers don't require them to serve that customer group.

I find this completely unsurprising. Local distribution to a million small customers is a royal pain. I'm old enough that I worked in the telecom industry back in the 1980s when the Bell System was dismantled. One of the goals of the break-up was to bring in competing local phone service -- in the sense of someone else putting in switches, running billing systems, etc. Companies were allowed to resell the local telco's existing local phone service for a few years (at a wholesale price that was, by FCC mandate, lower than the local telcos' actual costs), but had to have a plan for installing their own system with a specific deadline. Many companies got into the resale business -- and disappeared once they got to the deadline for installing their own systems. An obvious exception today is the cable companies, who had their own wires (and billing systems) in place to which they could add phone service at reasonable expense. At the company where I worked, the break-even was about a million subscribers in a reasonably compact area -- until we got up to that size, we lost money on residential service.

I think you misunderstand me. I am not talking about a direct connection, or duplicate grid/distribution etc - I am just talking about having a "market" where the consumers can buy directly from the generators.

We already have electricity trading like this on the wholesale markets, it would be very easy to extend this to the end customers - someone will design an iphone app for that. if they can do it for the stock market, they can certainly do so for the electricity market.

As for the generators, they will do it if there is money in it for them. For some, selling to a customer on a long term contract may better than taking their chances on the spot markets, and vice versa.

If I am setting up a wind farm, and know of a customer who has discretionary loads, and can use all I produce, at any time, then I may better to deal with him than in the spot market .

Such a system would also mean that all electricity that all people buy is identified by its source, and the open market prices could be categorised by that. Think about that for a moment. If the bill you get identifies that X portion came from coal at price A, Y portion from nuclear at price B and Z portion from renewable at price C, then customers might start to vote with their feet as to which sources they truly want to buy.

Would people pay a premium for nuclear power, or would they only take it if it was significantly cheaper, or would they reject it at any price?

Such a system connects the consumers to where their electricity is actually coming from, and gives them the ability to buy from elsewhere. I can see why the legacy generators might fear such as system, but in my opinion, that is *exactly* what is needed to wake consumers up and really mobilise support for renewables, and local ones at that.

"Retail competition" is the jargon for what you're talking about. It has a lot more bugs than features from my perspective. Given that the failure of the wholesale market in CA had alot to do with shaping my economic and political views as a young engineer, I guess that's predictable.

Actually, that's not quite what I had in mind - at least not as I have seen retail competition implemented.

Where it has been done, you have various electricity "marketers" that you buy from, but no control (or, sometimes, even knowledge) over who they buy from.

Australia has gone this direction, and as far as I can tell it has added a lot of marketing and overhead for little actual value.

My model would actually retain the monopoly wires operator and retailer (as we have here in BC), but you can choose where your actual source electricity comes from.

Kinda like if you go to Expedia or any of the travel websites, you get, from that service provider, to choose from a bunch of different airlines. prices etc. This wouldn't be that much different.

As I understand the "market failures", where they have occurred, it almost always seems to be because of political interference to try to limit prices.

Setting up a "source competition" electricity buying system would be easy. The utilities website lists the available suppliers - those connected to their grid) and the real time prices, plus any fixed/term deals the generators may offer. The customers transmission fee will be different for different sources, depending on where they are.
And there is the option of the utilities default mix, which is what remains after all the direct deals. So, if people buy up all the available wind power directly, then the utilities default mix has none.

The whole point is to allow the customer to choose what type of electricity they want to buy. Presently, you just get whatever the utility says. There is little/no mechanism for people to vote with their buying patterns.

That, as I understand it is why the city of Boulder decided to take back its electric utility from Xcel, so they could have more control over generation sources, rather than the ones Xcel owned. When all customers are similarly empowered, it will be interesting to see which way they move. I don;t think it would be good for nuclear, in particular.

I guess the smart meters will let me turn people off when "their" generator is off, or they vote to congest transmission.

It sounds like another exercise in bookkeeping, to me. I already do enough studies to figure out how to bill people for wire use and losses for hypothetical electrical flows, as opposed to how the electrons really flow. You might be surprised about nuclear, though, there are a lot of people who like cheap carbon-free electricity.

I don't have sufficient Christian charity this morning to talk much about how the blackouts were primarily about criminal behavior and agency problems, rather than artificially low retail prices. The politicians and regulators really screwed up, but most of them weren't crooks, and didn't know any better. Most of the sellers (including BC Hydro) did participate in clearly illegal activity to artificially raise wholesale prices. Their lawyers talk a lot about how flawed the markets were. Absent bad actors, even the relatively fragile markets designed would not have caused blackouts when they occurred. I guarantee my company would have made a profit and had no blackouts without raising retail prices if we'd owned the generation we were forced to sell. There was gaming in the emission credit market, in gas price indices, in gas pipeline operation, in gas storage, in withholding of physical generation, in creation of artificial electrical congestion, etc.

Re: China: riot police fire tear gas at power station protesters, up top:



this is also interesting. is one of the defense contractors playing both sides? or do we have some parties playing a 'shadow game' like in the recent Sherlock Holmes film to start a war between china and the u.s.? there is no possible way such things could be loaded on by mistake considering what they are.

The Finnish authorities have impounded an Isle of Man-flagged ship bound for China with undeclared missiles and explosives, officials say.

Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found aboard.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said the missiles were marked "fireworks".


Link up top: Q1 2012: The Safest Places to Invest, this article appeared yesterday in Wealth Daily with quite a bit more text than is shown in the above link.

Here are some predictions for 2012:

• Peak Oil deniers will finally understand what Peak Oil really is.

The author, Ian Cooper has been trading stocks and options for 12 years. He contributes options, stock, and energy commentary to Wealth Daily, Wealth Wire, Options Trading Pit, and Pure Asset Trader. . Some may say that one should discount what he has to say because he is a stock and options adviser. But I say that these are the guys who count the most. This guy writes for several publications and is read by thousands. He is a peak oiler and it helps that stock and options bloggers and news article writers is spreading the word. He is obviously combating the deniers. Every little bit helps.

Ron P.

Oil going to $150 and the DOW falling? Bold prediction. The only way Ian is right is if Iran and/or Iraq experience massive civil unrest.

The article said:

* ... $150 oil on any Strait of Hormuz disruptions;

* Israel will attack Iran;

The second would cause the first, if it happens. As for "civil unrest", it's already happening in Iraq (and Syria, etc). And in Iran the dispute over the last elections has never been resolved, only repressed. As economic conditions deteriorate further, unrest may return.

The $64T question though is the bubble popping in China. That may make all predictions for 2012 mute?

Since $100 oil is already forcing reduced consumption in the west, I suppose it'll be up to China, India, et al, to pick up the slack, huh? I think those predicting 100-200 dollar oil need to rethink that; maybe a spike, but not for long. The Dow bubble is another matter.

I am curious about the NYT Science Times article cited above, 'A Call to Protect Humble Fish, for Seabirds’ Sake'. I do not understand why they stopped at salmon aquaculture when chicken meat production consume much larger quantities of meal made from forage fish. Perhaps we should feed those aquaculture salmon 'soylent green' , oops we're too contaminated with food chain chemicals to be edible.

The seabirds were dying from starvation.

Here's a pet peeve of mine: Why is "vertical farming" getting so much attention when it's obviously (to me) a crock. E.g., on EB today they quote a recommendation by Ralph Nader for the book "The Vertical Farm" by Dickson Despommier. Check out the reviews of the book on Amazon and you'll see some of the issues one might have with the book, and with "vertical farming" in general.

There are two basic issue:

(1) if by "vertical farming" one means using natural sunlight directly, then the geometry of the matter precludes much growth in a multi-layered vertical structure, since the sun is generally overhead. (Or, when it is low, such structures shade each other.)

(2) if one means growing plants under artificial lights, the energy and money accounting, when done, shows that to be a ludicrous proposition. Most often the proponents dream of the lights being powered by PV panels. Besides the issue of not enough collecting area on the roof, consider the inefficiencies of the panels and the lamps (even if they are LED lamps), and the embdded energy in all that equipment (not to mention the pipes, pumps, elevators, and so forth).

Additionally, the real-life examples always seem to be of some leafy veggies delivered to a high-brow restaurant. Some proof of the promise of "a city feeding itself"!

It seems to me to be about wealthy New Yorkers being able to buy clean local food. It is OK if it costs 10X normal food as long as they do not have to eat the dangerous foods that "the people" eat. It is artificial lighting tended by the poor serfs for the benefit of the owning class. Hydro Quebec has lots of energy for New York City.

If they can actually grow produce for ten times the normal price, the rich will buy it in tony restaurants.Another ten wholesale dollars for a serving or two of veggies hardly matters if the dinner tab is well over a hundred bucks anyway.The really rich could afford to have fresh vertical greenhouse produce delivered on a daily basis.

I have no serious idea how much it would cost to do greenhouse electrical vertical farming in New York City, but I doubt that given the labor costs, city bureaucracy,taxes and real estate costs that veggies could be produced for twenty dollars a pound there.

Vertical farming as a general thing is another pipe dream being sold to those so ignorant of the basis sciences and practical day to day realities of agriculture that when I see it favorably mentioned I know instantly without a shadow of doubt that the author or speaker is at best a fool appallingly ignorant of agricultural and real estate fundamentals,a con man, or maybe (best case) just a cynic collecting a paycheck .

Vertical farming will NEVER feed more than a minute number of the very wealthiest people, but I will concede that so long as industrial civilization stands and there are such people around, there may be a few vertical farms built in places like NYC and Hong Kong.The veggies won't be any better in any respect than those grown in a green house near the city, but otoh, there is perhaps a certain amount of status to be harvested in the consumption of them.Such veggies will probably come wrapped in disposable gold plated foil.

IIrc, the children of the captains of industry and banking often enjoyed fresh grapes and other such greenhouse delicacies in the days before it was possible to ship them to winter markets.

It sounds to me like both sides are overstating the case.

I can't believe that OFM or anyone else would get too upset about people growing things on the porches of their high rises. With more than half the people now living in urban settings, this will be a larger and larger segment of the population. This vertical space is otherwise unused agriculturally. And remember that many who live in tenements and high-rises are far from being pampered elites.

I agree that this kind of thing will never 'feed the world,' but it could be one little wedge to get fresh vegetables to people who otherwise may not get any.

So we are right to dismiss the hype, but wrong to belittle anyone living in 'vertical' dwellings who choose to grow what they can with what little space they have.

IIRC, 40% of Hong Kong's vegetables are grown inside the city limits. I imagine much of this is 'vertical' in some fashion.

Very sensible comment, thanks!

Yes, I'm picturing how some existing multistory buildings could have the Sunny-side Balconies refitted with glazing and insulation in order to have both extended garden space as well as solar heating gain for these buildings.. (the ones without another multistory just South of them, anyhow) This would probably more in the realm of a cooperative system within the building itself, and not what people would call 'farming', as such.. but ultimately, it's just putting food on the plate, from wherever you can scrabble it, no?

In any case, as with any Renewables, EV's etc.. it's a set of tools that people can look at and choose from, if their particular situation fits the scheme in one way or another. I don't notice a 'Lot' of noise on this, though. Is it really getting all that much attention?

Tall structures would have some advantages in temperate climates in terms of less surface area that will be LOSING heat, and better Solar Access in Wintertime, allowing for more multi-season growing.. plus the possibility of devising a water management scheme for storing irrigation water for gravity feed, which could also serve as Renewable Power storage of a sort, running the pumps harder when the supply is good, etc.. And there could also be a set of systems working to clean and filter the water supply, graywater, etc.. as the Aquaculture Growers are doing ( see 'Growing Power')..

I do find the snipes at 'Rich New Yorkers' to get old, though. We've got enough stereotyping going on out there, don't we?

The vertical farming noise is not big in the MSM, but seems to keep coming back in the peak-aware circles. There are many young people out there eager to do something good, and they are being misled by such sexy but useless proposals. That's a shame. We really need better science education.

As for the worth of stored water higher up in a building as a form of energy storage, do the math:

If we were willing to hoist a mass 3 m high, how much mass would we need to replace the AA battery? Have a guess? The answer is 360 kg, or about 800 lb.

...but it could be one little wedge to get fresh vegetables to people who otherwise may not get any.

Neat way of framing it, as a wedge approach. Maybe we need to identify a bunch of urban ag wedges.

(Sort of like Pacala and Socolow did for poly/tech emission wedges http://www.sciencemag.org/content/305/5686/968.abstract?ijkey=d8bce6ac22... and Dietz et al. did for behavioral wedges: http://www.pnas.org/content/106/44/18452.full.)

Indeed, vertical farming is a crock. On the other hand, rooftop veggies and small animals are already working for those who work at it. Hong Kong produces something like half its vegetables and poultry in the city. Rooftop gardening adds roughly 10 psi, well within the building design load. In particularly the mid-century, mid rise buildings in NYC are deliberately over engineered for a monster snow load. Since people grow things in summer, not a problem.

The soil piled up on the roof (if any) would still be there in the winter, and likely soaking wet too.

OTOH, can probably do quite a bit of private-scale gardening with much less than 10 PSI worth of soil.

Porch gardening is limited by the sunshine available, depending on orientation and shading from nearby buildings. Where it can be done, certainly a nice thing.

But the hype I'm chafing against is about commercial scale, multi-story, pipe dreams. Some envision retro-fitting existing high-rise office buildings that have a lot of glass, never mind that the glass is usually tinted to greatly reduce sunshine entry. And of course there are the orientation issues.

I suppose biodiesel from algae "farms" is just as much a pipe dream, but visionaries and funders havn't yet woken up from that dream.

As for using artificial light, George Monbiot once computed that just the electricity for growing the wheat for one loaf of bread would cost $10 (or was it 10 UK pounds). That's with electricity from the grid at today's price, not PV electricity.

"Rooftop gardening adds roughly 10 psi, well within the building design load."

10 psf I'd believe. 10 psi is 1440 psf, which is way over the 70 psf 'up in the mountains' snow load used in the building code.

And 5 psi is the "total destruction line" on the old civil defense maps.

Good point, thank you, it is psf of course and not psi. The soil doesn't have to get that wet. Containers may even be emptied and stored as part of soil rotation, vs. crop roation. Raised beds can be covered to avoid saturation and weather damage.

10 psi, would correspond to the weight of a roughly 20 foot deep layer of water. Soil is somewhat denser than water so maybe a 15 foot deep soil layer. Shrink that to 1.5 feet (45cm) and the load drops to 1psi. You could probably cut it back to about a third of that or .33psi.

Wet soil will be heaver than that. 10 foot would be safer.


Can't the soils be made lighter in various ways?

Add more porous material, water is lighter than stone.


Yes, wood chips/sawdust and charcoal are excellent for this.

But you really don;t need much soil to grow a lot - see my post below about commercial greenhouses. The bags are about 2gal/7L and one pre sq.m produces 8o kg of tomatoes/yr.

Volume of soil is not the limiting factor - it is nutrients, heat and light (assuming enough water is available).

Even just run them in hydroponic trays, cut the soil out.


Vertical farming is perfectly viable!


That's not vertical. It's sloped. And probably not viable on the north-facing slopes (if in the northern hemisphere). There are not shading structures nearby, not even trees. And it certainly is not based on artificial lighting. Nor is it soil-less hydroponic.

Oh fer crimminies sake! Is it necessary to add a sarcanol tag to every darn thing I write?!

LOL. To ask that question is almost to answer it...

[Especially in a context that involves harebrained proposals by folks who don't seem to grasp that if you build a 40-story tower, most of the area of most of the floors will be in deep shade most or all of the time, unless the tower is very skinny and is also distant from other towers. But if you've got enough land to isolate a skinny tower for such a purpose... why not just skip the tower and plant on the land? ]

I'm pretty sure that his comment was meant to be a joke.

It seems that the fresh tomatoes these days in Chicago are coming from Canada (typically Compari brand) replacing the Florida tomatoes (as apparently the humid weather in Florida isn't condusive to tomato growing.) Does anyone know how they do it in Canada? As I recall it's cold and dark up there.

Campari tomatoes are grown in Kingsville, Ontario, which is actually the about the same latitude as Chicago - so chances are it is no darker, and possibly not any colder, than Chicago.

One third of the US is actually north of the southernmost point in Canada, (and Kingsville is about it), but I'd guess at least 2/3 of Americans, including those in that northern part, don;t even know this.

Toronto is actually to the south of Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland (Oregon or Maine)

It is also just 311 road miles from Kingsville to Chicago, where it is 1150+ from Orlando to Chicago (google maps)
When trucks get about 100 ton-miles/gal, that difference works out to $24 in fuel, per ton, and, for refrigerated trucking, the other costs will be at least double that. So say $75/ton difference, when the wholesale price of tomatoes is about $10/25lb box ($900/ton) and you can see this difference in transport cost alone has taken 7% right off the top of someone's margins.

AS for how they do it, they grow them in greenhouses heated by natural gas, and they use electric lighting (fluorescent grow lamps) for supplemental lighting in winter - the idea being to give the plants about 16hrs of light a day. Tomatoes are actually a perennial, in the right (frost free) climate - so greenhouses can easily replicate this. They grow tomato species that are "indeterminate", meaning the plant just keeps on growing - the vines can be up to 50' long, and grow at 3' per week.
Greenhouses can also do something the outdoor growers in Florida can not - control the humidity. When humidity gets above 85% the growth rate slows down and at 90% it stops altogether. It costs money/energy to dehumidify, but if that is that is between you and your harvest, then you will do it!

When they do all this, they can get 70-80kg tomatoes per sq. metre of greenhouse, per year (in stone age units that is about 16lbs per sq.ft per year).

So, when a greenhouse allows you to control all the factors of production, you might as well site it close to where your main markets are, as then you can control - to some extent - the transport costs too.

As side note to the discussion above about growing on rooftops, and roof loadings, the commercial tomato greenhouse don;t use any soil at all. They use a "gro-bag" which is a pillow sized bag of sawdust/compost, that is the root medium. One bag has two plants, and you have about one of these every metre, in rows about a metre apart. They would weigh, when wet, about 10kg, so, the floor loading is about 2lb/sq.ft (plus the greenhouse itself). From this *one* bag, in the right conditions, with enough water+fertiliser, you can get 80kg of tomatoes. I find that quite amazing. Such an arrangement would also et lots of free heat from the building below.

The roof top of a supermarket that is 100,000 sq.ft could be used as a greenhouse and would grow about 1,600,000lbs of tomatoes a year - or 4200lbs/day. I don;t know how much they would sell in a day, but I doubt if it is that much!

This has already been done on a commercial scale in Montreal - a 30,000sf greenhouse was set up earlier this year;


and that company now has some contracts to do the same elsewhere.

The cost - $2m - or about $66/sq.ft. Normal greenhouses are about $10-20/sq.ft, so I'm not sure why this one was so expensive, other than being the first one.

Best hopes for intelligent use of empty rooftops!

I am not ranting about balcony gardens, or roof top gardens , or even roof top green houses.Sorry I failed to make that clear!

It is perfectly feasible to raise some onions, radishes, carrots, tomatoes , and that sort of thing on a sunny patio or porch.It's fun, and economical too, when the grower is otherwise in the position of paying retail prices for that stuff.It's perfectly feasible to raise a small numbers of chickens or ducks or pigeons or rabbits mostly on table scraps and a bit of purchased grain and get some cheap eggs and meat for the family table..

I am all in favor of such undertakings.I understand that such activities really help in the aggregate by recycling nutrients and reducing not only grocery bills but also reducing garbage collection and land filling costs.

But I am extremely doubtful as to whether it is economically feasible to enclose space on the sides of vertical high rise walls-I suspect that those who believe this is possible simply don't have a CLUE as to what such enclosures cost when built way up in the air and when they are subject to building codes.

Now if the enclosed area were to be a previously existing balcony, and after enclosure it is is serviceable as additional cold weather living space, the dollars and cents might work out. A sun room/balcony would be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month in a tony neighborhood, and the people living in the apartment associated with it could enjoy some homegrown tomatos, etc.Winner!!!

If such an enclosure were to be built with unpaid labor, no paperwork, and salvaged materials, it could be a winnerin a working class neighborhood-so long as the landlord or building and zoning inspector or fire marshall doesn't haul the tenant into court!

But I have read pieces wherein the authors are advocating actually building new high rises, or converting existing high rises, for the express purpose of growing food in them.

THAT is the sort of utterly clueless foolishness I had in mind when I wrote my comment.It's no doubt technically feasible to build and operate a factory farm high rise with a cost no object budget, but it's economic insanity.

I find it hard indeed to conceive of it ever being cheaper to grow food in such a way than it would be to grow it in the usual way and putting it on a train or even a truck and hauling it to town.Fuel for the truck or train would be way cheaper than the electricity needed to make the high rise greenhouse concept work.

I can conceive of it becoming fashionable to live in a building which has a portion of the walls and rooms best situated in respect to the sun to be devoted to growing food-but this would only be feasible if the tenants were to be willing to pay a considerable rent premium in order to cover this uneconomic use of the space.

Under prevailing ordinary economic conditions, the rent premium would likely be several times the value of the food so produced. Now in a mad Max scenario, in a city with its own well secured power and water supply... perhaps deep wells and a nuke.......such food might be VERY economic.

"But I have read pieces wherein the authors are advocating actually building new high rises, or converting existing high rises, for the express purpose of growing food in them."

I agree that such visions are foolish and ignorant.

You could try this somebody has crunched the numbers and it is going ahead. and it certainly looks more attractive than a normal skyscrapper



I have read your comments now for a while, and you have always come across as a person possessed of huge common sense and considerable wisdom-until now.;-(

I presume you forgot to add your sarconal warning.;-)

I won't go so far as to say that such an apartment building cannot be built, but only the extremely well heeled would have a shot at living in it.

I'm not an engineer or architect, but I am a rolling stone who has worked in construction, and I would bet my last dime that the per square foot of heated living space cost of building such a palace would be at least double to triple the cost of a building otherwise comparable to it.I would place a smaller bet that it would run four or five times as high.

Steel and concrete aren't cheap any more!

Ah, I must enter the fray and defend my people's honor. :-) I think, folks, that your bias against Big Bad NYC clouds your perception.

As a transplanted Jersey Girl, I still follow developments at home. The city's ambitious FoodWorks plan (full report or recent PDF update on progress) focuses quite a bit on expanding help and services to lower-income folks, and the only glancing mention of "vertical farming" is making it easier for rooftop gardening.

"FoodWorks" provides a blueprint for addressing issues at every phase of the food system - from agricultural production, processing, distribution, consumption and post-consumption. The proposals focus on combating hunger and obesity to preserving regional farming and local food manufacturing to decreasing waste and energy usage.

Speaker Quinn outlined 59 policy proposals spanning five phases of the food system. The proposals included new legislation, funding initiatives and far-reaching goals that present a long-term vision for a better food system. The Council worked with experts including farmers, gardeners, chefs, partners in government and labor, as well as hunger and environmental advocates throughout the process of developing the Food Works report.

Jersey G. and any others, I apologize for casting aspersions on the ultra rich of New York.

Next time I will try to remember to pick on London or Chicago or maybe Beverly Hills.;-)

I used to visit the city frequently when I was married to my very own NYC girl a long time ago.It's a truly great place to visit, so long as you have plenty of spending money.

But it is also the home of Wall Street , and that is enough to make me think sour thoughts whenever the subject comes up. :-(

As an aside, when I asked the question "Where are the women?" a while back I was not asking only about women and TOD, although everyone took it that way.

I was pointing out indirectly that women will soon dominate many of the professions once the exclusive province of men, and that in another decade or two women are apt to have control of the levers of power to an astonishing extent.This promises to bring about some serious change.

Nobody seemed to pick up on the blunt hint that women would be marrying us guys for our good looks more so than for our brains and high status jobs as is the case now. The roles will be reversed-a successful woman will want a good looking house hubby and a good Daddy for her children, because she is going to be too busy to pay them much mind; and even though she may not be physically attractive, she will have no trouble finding one.

The women are out there, every where, quietly taking charge.

Oldfarmermac, you're about 20-30 years behind the feminization curve. US peak crude production in 1970 coincided with the onset of deindustrialization, financialization, militarization, and feminization of the US society and economy. The fastest-growing employment sectors since the 1980s have been "education" and "health care", primarily nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, assisting and "health care" administration, insurance-related occupations associated with "health care", and teachers, teachers assistants, and "education" administration.

In fact, total full-time private full-time employment has not grown since the late 1980s to early to mid-1990s, whereas male full-time employment per capita is back to the levels of the early 1960s. (Goods-producing employment is back to the levels of the late 1930s and the late 19th century and early 20th century for males.)

"Health care" and "education" employment per capita has grown at 2 1/2 times population since the 1980s-90s, whereas "health care" spending has grown at TWICE the rate of private GDP (total GDP less gov't spending, including personal transfers). "Health care" and "education" employment is 80-85% female, which constitutes all of the incremental gains females have made over males WRT obtaining bachelor's degrees, as nursing and teaching require bachelor's and post-baccalaureate credentials.

Public and private "health care" spending makes up 17% of US GDP and is approaching 50% equivalent of private US wages (!!!).

Private "health care" spending plus total gov't spending (including public "health care" spending) and household debt service accounts for an equivalent of 80% of private GDP and 140% of private wages (!!!).

Growth of private "health care" spending and total gov't spending has accounted for 100% of net annual nominal GDP growth since 1998-2001, even as the average annual rate of real private GDP per capita is now negative since 2000-01.

50% of "health care" spending goes to the most chronically ill 5%, as well as another 25-30% going to end-of-life care for elders at an advanced age.

A disproportionate share of incremental growth of gov't spending, of course, is associated with endless wars against Radical Islam and to contain China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan. War spending since 9/11 has grown at TWICE the rate of GDP, as has the US debt held by the public.

Thus, along with deindustrialization, financialization, and feminization of the US economy and society since the 1970s-80s, a growing disproportionate share of our labor product, tax revenues, and imperial treasure is being spent on endless wars, keeping (economically unproductive) ill elderly people alive, and funding profits and incomes of insurers and medical professionals. The recent so-called "health care" reform was a massive giveaway to physicians, insurers, benefits management firms, and hospital companies.

"Health care" today is a financialized industry, not unlike real estate and retail, as spending is primarily funded by insurers' payments from firms paying premia on behalf of employees for which the gov't permits deductions for firms' expenses. Effectively, corporations collect taxes for the gov't and premia for insurers to fund the costliest "health care" in the universe. (No one can afford to self-insure and actually pay the deductibles and co-insurance should one become ill and need to make claims on one's "insurance".)

The typical American male age 24-35 today earns just 40% (!!!) of his generational predecessor in 1970 after price inflation, higher payroll taxes, and the higher cost of housing as a share of disposable income.

Females have gained overwhelmingly disproportionately at the expense of males from imperial wars (militarization), aging and illness, and financialization of the economy, i.e., the bottom 90% of households borrowing increasingly from future after-tax real incomes for subsistence today.

80% of married or co-habitating females effectively have to "work in order to work", as they spend 75-80% of disposable income on a second vehicle, wardrobe for work, meals out at work, child care, and other work-related expenditures; their incremental disposable income permits renting or mortgaging a dwelling.

That females have gained disproportionately from the deindustrialization, financialization, militarization, and feminization of the US society and economy, by definition they (especially Baby Boomer and older Xer females) will experience disproportionate job losses, pay cuts, and loss of pension payouts and benefits over the next 10-20 years.

Don't count on females "taking over", quietly or otherwise; they already have in the sectors in which growth has occurred for 30 years; however, that era is coming to an end coincident with Peak Oil, falling oil exports and net energy, and the effective end of growth of real GDP per capita.

Our social situation in the US since the 1970s-80s is reminiscent of the social transformation during the 2-3 decades preceding the French Revolution during which females left the countryside to seek paid employment in the cities because of a dearth of self-supporting agrarian or artisan males who experienced falling income per capita from overpopulation, increasing competition for marginal agricultural acreage, and climate change reducing agricultural output. The resulting fracturing of social relations, privation, and population migration led to mass-social violence and "regime change" in which many lost their heads and militarist dictatorship followed.

The historical and social pattern implies a shift from feminization to increasing tribalism, regionalism/nationalism, and to martial values.

The women are not yet in control in the sense in which I intended to convey, because the last generation of alpha men has not yet retired.When these men are gone, then and only then will there actually exist enough openings at the top for the girls to have a fair shot at the corner offices and political careers.

There is no power quite like the power of incumbency.

Now just how much change we can expect in a society where from let us say for example sixty to eighty percent of all key professional jobs and political offices are controlled by women is an open question, but my personal guess is that it is you who are the one behind the curve.The CONCENTRATED power STILL resides in black robes, high political office, and top floor corner offices occupied almost exclusively by men who have spent decades fighting their way up.

I get tired of always qualifying my remarks by stating that they are dependent upon the continuation of bau, but this is extremely important in this particular case.The economy may deteriorate so fast that a lot of change that would otherwise take place simply won't happen.

But otherwise I will bet my last dime that we will have Euro or Canadian style health care within twenty years for example.

MIC spending will decline slowly but surely ;it will take a long long time to unwind and dismantle policies set in political concrete, and a Madam congress lady will be ALMOST as reluctant as a man to close a munitions plant or military installation in HER district of course.But three hundred of them will chip away at it,slowly but inexorably.

To channel the TAE position about Peak Oil - its about the money:

Part of England's rise to power was due to the Pound Stirling being the International unit of trade.

At the point where the US Dollar is shunned by the rest of the world - the value of military power projection would be reduced to a point where funding the MIC is no longer worthwhile. Look towards past 'bring material into our location' nation-states. The Roman's of BC 1. England. Spain. The Netherlands. Where are these Nation States now?

And to channel someone else: http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/solariRising.html

their mutual funds would go down and their government checks might stop

as reasons to keep things going.

But otherwise I will bet my last dime that we will have Euro or Canadian style health care within twenty years for example.

might not be a bad idea Mac a few years ago went too my doctor one Thursday morning with a pain in the gut appendicitis, under the knife that afternoon and walking with the wife around town Saturday morning. Total health costs as a percentage of GDP is only 7% here in Holland. I don't know what it costs in America but I will guess that it is hell of a lot higher when the name of the game is to make as much profit as possible out of the sick. I hardly noticed the inconvenience and I didn't even get sent a bill

Plants are only about 2% efficient because chlorophyll only absorbs the deep red and deep blue wavelengths - the bulk of the power in sunlight is the green wavelengths that plants just reflect. Artificial lighting only needs to be 1/10th as bright as the sun to produce the same results if the light is mostly deep red and deep blue. This means the energy requirements are a lot lower then most people expect.

It's still way to expensive from a capital expense point of view right now, but for New York with something like lettuce it's less energy to grow it indoors under LED lighting then to transport it in refrigerated trucks from California. Growing indoor also means no pests, no pesticides and water can be recycled in a closed loop.

I could imagine a sort of small V vertical farming. So maybe three or four layers deep, and light pipes taking sunlight to the two or three lowerest layers. Add in a bit of temperature control, and you may be able to grow three/four crops simultaneously with a 365day growing season (perhaps the top layer is fallow during winter). So you might be able to expand agricultural production five to ten fold, over unprotected surface farming only. So in a capital rich sci-FI sort of world you might be able to increase the planets carrying capacity several fold. If you have to add artificial lighting to add more layers (assuming you have unlimited fusion power), you will soon run into planetary thermal dissipation limits!

Link up top
Saudis kicking off major move into solar

Is there any article on the elements that go into a solar panel and their mineral reserves worldwide ? What is the theoretical production limit on solar panels with the current technology ?

I don't think its such a simple number to come up with. One could model, perhaps all the moving parts involved (transportation, mining, etc.,). Something on the lines of the LTG study applied to just solar. But, why do it when we know its got no long term future? Isn't it better to just tend to the soil?

Any tech is limited by it's weakest link. For solar I thought it may be the some of the rare elements involved, it may be something else as well, just wanted to know. It would be wrong to dismiss solar at this point, the industry has shown tremendous resilience in bringing down prices year after year, it's about to achieve price parity with hydro, that is a big achievement.

Silicon production and Indium metal supplies are present concerns.

Indium is used in some crystals and in the conductors.
Indium headed for prices at over $1,000 per kilo:


There are new technologies mentioned everyday.

Indium isn't essential and Silicon is being ramped up, plenty of it about too.


Saudis kicking off major move into solar

They also have announced the building of Fission power plants.

What is the theoretical production limit on solar panels with the current technology

Depends on the technology. There is a 66% efficient experimental plastic version mentioned a few drumbeats ago. Far different than the experimental nanomaterial or the traditional Si wafer forms.

Currently, crystalline silicon tops out in the low to mid twenties, say 24%. The best triple junction cells are about 42% (under several hundred sols worth of concentration). The people pushing thin film GaAs are throwing out numbers like 35%. One research approach, which doubles the number of electrons an electron can kick off (from one to two), claims it might be able to almost double Si efficiency (say to 40%). The fancy stuff like Eric refers to uses clever techniques to separate off several different frequencie ranges of photons, each of which uses its own frequency optimized cell, on paper can reach well into the sixties. Of course paper efficiencies, and real world device efficiences are different animals -as is a single experimental device (hero cell) versus production panels. So its really pretty wide open. Will we be stuck at roughly 20%, or will some of these more exotic approaches lead to something way better?

There are a variety of solar panel technologies, some of which involve rare earths.

For good old-fashioned silicon panels, though, it is basically just quartz sand and carbon (usually carbon black from natural gas for purity). Basically just like making iron in a blast furnace: the carbon removes the oxygen from silicon dioxide, producing CO2 and leaving metallic silicon. There are doping elements such as arsenic, but in tiny amounts.

In other words, for silicon solar panels, we have an effectively infinite supply of raw materials.

Bottom line, a 50 lb sack of sand and 50 lb sack of coal will provide 1 KW of solar. The raw materials are cheap; the cost is all purification and manufacturing.

12 KW of solar will fit on your roof, and will power your house and 2 cars.

One train-load per day of sand and coal would put several KW of solar on every roof in America in 5 years.

How many fifty pound sacks of coal must be burnt to purify and process the fifty pounds of sand and fifty pounds of coal?

That is the REAL question.

Reducing car use is the key to better health

With just 39 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women reaching the Department of Health’s recommended level of health-enhancing physical activity, the answer to the UK’s growing obesity problem could depend on people choosing to swap car journeys for walking and cycling, according to a new study by researchers at UCL

Full report: Transport, Physical Activity and Health: Present knowledge and the way ahead

It's hard to even get people to use the stairs instead of the elevators, despite the fact that the stairs are faster!

When I ride my bicycle to work instead of driving I arrive stronger and happier. Alas this thing called "winter" gets in the way half the time.


It's hard to even get people to use the stairs instead of the elevators

no, it's not!

But you have to understand human behavior and use it - (and a sponsor with a deep pocket!)

Fun with escalator

It is fun watching!



Great clip! thanks

I started cycling to work 6 years ago, mainly for environmental reasons, but now I really miss it if I don't start the day on the bike. I reckon it is the best remedy for stress and winter depression.

Moved thread RE: Approval of Reactor Design Clears Path for New Plants, above:

While there are design criteria for passive cooling of the reactor itself (as you said, for a relatively short period) I've seen little regarding the storage of "spent" fuel; a major factor in the Fukushima incident. There seems to be no plan B to Yucca Mountain regarding long term storage. Thousands of tons of this waste are now being stored in cooling pools at reactor sites which also need to have adequate backup systems to replenish/cool the water. I'm digging through NRC regulations looking for items related to backup systems requirements for onsite storage facilities. Perhaps someone can steer me in the right direction. I consider this at least as critical as safer reactor designs.

You (Heisenberg) said:
I think it would be reasonable to have the government subsidize such proof-of-concept pilot plants. Pebble-bed, traveling-wave, sodium-cooled, lead-cooled, Liquid Fluoride-Thorium, etc. It would seem worth while, to me, to make these kind of R&D investments to explore the possibilities of future nuclear fission electric power production.

All of these things are reasonable and have been for decades. I'm convinced that all of these issues are becoming moot; we'll have neither the time nor capital to implement "reasonable" planning and regulations regarding nuclear, coal, etc. The frustration I was expressing regarding Paul's excellent post, above is that this program being will hopefully (their goal) result in a 0.9% reduction in electrical consumption. IMO we need:

Massive forced reductions in energy consumption of all kinds.

Massive reductions in the use of all non-renewable resources.

Massive forced reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

A Super-Manhattan style project to extract ourselves from the nuclear nightmare we've created.

A no-holds-barred buildout of renewables while adjusting society to their limitations.

Programs to totally revamp our use of fresh water and agriculture.

Deal with the ongoing changes to economic conditions as they occur.

Educate, educate, educate the public. Prosecute those who knowingly, willingly, or due to negligence or greed misinform the public regarding these matters as threats to national security....

I could go on, but, of course, none of these things will happen by design. Many of these things will occur, nevertheless. These changes will be forced upon those who may survive our shortsightedness, denial, hand-waving and half-measures.

The spent fuel pools could be kept full passively with the kind of technology used to fill your toilet. You just need a large enough tank at higher altitude.

Westinghouse has designed a system, though I've found no requirements that they be installed. Hopefully this is occurring.

New system to keep fuel pools cool
26 May 2011

A stand-alone emergency fuel pool cooling system (EFPCS) developed by Westinghouse would be able to keep used fuel cool in emergencies including the loss of all plant power, the company claims.

Developed from the company's existing and patented temporary fuel pool cooling system, the new EFPCS includes a permanent primary cooling loop installed inside the reactor building or spent fuel pool building. The secondary cooling loop is designed as a separate mobile system to be stored off-site, complete with support equipment required to drive the system such as diesel generators, air compressors and switchgear.

Still, I'm in the Stoneleigh camp on this issue. These materials must be managed and protected far longer than any human civilization has endured. My confidence is low that we'll be able to do so through this century. While damage from coal plants is ongoing and enduring, at least, in the event of collapse, they can be powered down and walked away from with little further damage. I'm not promoting coal, mind you, just making a comparison.

Still, I'm in the Stoneleigh camp on this issue. These materials must be managed and protected far longer than any human civilization has endured.

Come now, Stoneleigh is just parroting the WIPP research.

This place is not a place of honor.
No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here.
Nothing valued is here.
This place is a message and part of a system of messages.
Pay attention to it!
Sending this message was important to us.
We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

Those are fun.. I keep thinking it might be better to go for misdirection, and put all the markers several miles away, where the newcomers can spend lots of time trying to figure them out, worship their ancient power, dig down a bit, just for giggles or bragging rights, etc..

Kind of drags me back to this old wisdom..

Ralph Wiggum: Wanna play stuffed animal parade?

Bart Simpson: Maybe later. Come on, Ralph, your dad's a cop! There must be some cool stuff around here, bullets, dead body photos, what have you.

Ralph Wiggum: He keeps that stuff in his closet. But he says I'm not allowed in there.

Bart Simpson: Did he say *I'm* not allowed in there?

Ralph Wiggum: Yes.

Bart Simpson: [pause] Well, I'm goin' in anyway!


Chief Wiggum: You know you're not supposed to go in there. What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?

THE SIMPSONS- 'This Little Wiggy'

Those are fun..

Yea. Fun. For values of F UandN, sure.

I worked in the WIPP Integration Office in Albq. for a while in spring of '93. I managed correspondence between DOE and the EEG (Environmental Evaluation Group), which was basically citizen oversight of the WIPP project. That was certainly interesting. My own feelings about nuclear power and uranium mining and enrichment are very strong. I suspect that, behind the scenes, there are things in motion to license WIPP for other than the transuranic for which it is intended. Just a suspicion. There is NO PLACE to put HLW now, so far as I know. The amount of it that is sitting "onsite" all over the country should be terrifying. Interesting how few are even aware of it, or of the hazards.

P.S. I was a well-paid tech editor doing the job of a good clerk at WIPPIO (we called it WiPPIO ti yay!), and after a while somebody in DOE noticed and I got "laid off AGAIN" and scooted myself back home to Tennessee.



The technology that fills your toilet is STILL backed up by a complex and expensive Water Supply Infrastructure that has laid pipes all over your town. How often every year does your community hear about a water main bursting?

Happens quite a lot for us.. and we at least can expect our water supply itself to just be there from decade to decade, but as Global Temps mess with the Hydrologic Cycles, all bets on stable water supplies are OFF.. and Nuke Plants and their Fuel Pools can get tossed from having either Too Much, OR Too Little.

Ok, everybody, Please Place your Bets!

(and as a landlord, one of my most common tasks is replacing or 'nudging' those bloody toilet refill valves!)

in kansas city there are water pipes no one has fixed for months or years that have been leaking all the time. they talked about this on the local news recently along with how the water and fire departments don't share information yet only the fire department is allowed to test the hydrants themselves, yet only the water department can touch the pipes. the water department doesn't know the fire department codes and because of that they don't know if a hydrant works or not..


I feel your pain.

Sure, whatever. I can already picture the endless (and endlessly distracting) witch trials over just precisely what constitutes "misinformation" and who gets to parse the last comma and decide. One more little catch: it's not going to happen under democratic (small-d) governance, so how can one possibly give a dictator the almost inconceivably unlimited and unchecked power needed to successfully order all that privation to happen, without said dictator going drunkenly and possibly genocidally mad with said power?

OK, maybe it was a primal scream that readers shouldn't take literally, and maybe it's fun to tilt at windmills, but I do wonder what's practical.

As I said, it ain't gonna happen. I'm just pointing out the absurdity of the fix we've gotten ourselves (and our offspring) into. I'll give pretty good odds that, at some point, people will be willing to give this kind of absolute power to those that promise to ease their pain. It won't be the first time.

...but I do wonder what's practical.

I'm convinced very few practical options remain.

The heat from radioactive decay declines over time. After enough years (range of 8) air cooled casks are adequate. No cooling pool required.


"After enough years (range of 8) air cooled casks are adequate. "

So we (actually our heirs) end up with millions of casks, lethal for thousands of years. Nice legacy. I refuse to rise to that level of rationalization Alan. Do you really expect that these casks will outlive their contents, or that our descendants will have the resources or ability to deal with this filth? An immoral assumption, IMO, the ultimate Faustian bargain, to maintain the obscenely energy intensive culture folks feel they're entitled to.. I've pondered this for years, yet even my most sociopathic inner self can't justify it.


I agree with you that the amount of long-term highly radioactive waste generated by large-scale once-through fission reactor designs is a huge concern.

There do exist reactor concepts which could consume much of the existing waste and produce considerably shorter-lived wastes while using a much higher percentage of virgin fuel, therefore greatly reducing the long-term waste problem and stretching supplies of nuclear fuel.

Are these reactor designs practical?...do they have acceptable risks? I don't know.

"Are these reactor designs practical?...do they have acceptable risks? I don't know."

How many of these reactors do we need just to reduce the waste already produced? How long to build them? How to pay for them? It took the EPA decades to try and clean up coal plants; nine years in courts to enforce half measures. We don't even maintain the infrastructure we have in place. After 40+ years of warnings about CO2, mercury, etc., much of the public still isn't convinced it's a problem. It's taken decades to just break ground on the first two "safe", passively cooled AP-1000 Westinghouse reactors which are neither safe nor self-cooling for long...

IMO, we are at least 30 years late and trillions of dollars short on so many critical issues, all screaming for our attention, time and resources. The EU economy is in shambles, glued together with bubble gum, the US economy just a shell of debt, China and India are in the midst of the mother of all economic and population bubbles, all the while producing thousands of tons of this stuff annually,,,and we're just beginning to put it in casks??

To all: Sorry for the holiday rants,,,I tend to get grumpy this time of year.

"Have yourself a minimizing Christmas
All these things will wait
Until New Years
Everything should just be great
So have youself a minimizing Christmas Day..."

You ask great questions, the answers to which I do not know.

But they need to be asked, and they need to be researched.

I find it interesting that you and I find yourself in a conversation similar to a previous one on this subject I had with another TODster...but I was the one asking the questions you asked of me.

The other fellow, in his good faith, gave what I considered to be 80,000-foot facile 6-10 word 'answers', and when I asked for more details on such sweeping considerations, he got all PO'd and announced he was taking his ball and going home.

I think it would be great for TOD to host some key posts on nuclear power, written and moderated by some folks who have serious cred in this area.

Much as I would love to have all of our power generated by solar, wind, and geothermal means, it seems that we will need some portion of baseload power generation.

As you correctly pointed out, coal power generation has many significant environmental issues of its own, which, most unfortunately, seem to have been accepted and waved away by the majority of folks.

I would like to think that we could craft and execute an energy infrastructure which is more sustainable/less environmentally damaging in the longer term (this would include negawatts from efficiency, /and/ from simply doing less with less), but I am afraid that Ron's (Darwinan's) characterization of us being in predicaments (w/o solutions) rather than having problems (with solutions) is more correct.

Although it is true that individuals can choose take actions which reduce their own energy/resource footptrints, I don't think enough of a course correction can be made w/o government structure and leadership/direction.

...and I do not hear any political figures out there seriously knowledgeable and willing to try to lead the people by telling the hard truths.

And fundamentally that is the people's fault...our eternal optimism / inability to face the music seems hard-wired into our genes (great discussions from TODsters over time on this human psychology/sociology topic).

Back to the future: We need a comprehensive energy plan/policies from the DOE, and we need to actually execute such a plan.

If wishes were fishes, we would all be full...

I'm with you, Ghung. In time of war, what would be done with someone spreading the enemies propaganda, or other lies that would result in the deaths of millions?

The threat is every bit as existential, yet we see people knowingly telling dangerous lies as just folks exercising their free speech rights.

There are well accepted limits to free speech. The most commonly used one is yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire.

I would think that loudly denying that there is fire when there is one--shouting louder than the people issuing the warning so that the crowd is confused and just go back to their merry movie watching ways as the building fills with smoke, heat and fire--would be even less protected.

And when the NDAA passes and TOD management decides they personally no longer want the risk of our collective loose lips sinking their personal lifeboats - what then?

I'm certainly not advocating free speech be curtailed, just that we pay a high price when it's abused. A society that spends its time and energy debating non-truths has little hope of solving its problems, no matter how critical they may be. Feeds my doomer side it does...

The enthusiasm for rising sea levels at accelerating rates is unfortunately dampened by recent evidence of declining sea levels! See: Message to Maldives president Mohammed Nasheed: your claims are BS e.g. by all 3 satellites

The graphs shown only go back to 1992. Try the following graphs and do the math. Compare rate of change from 1992 until now with the rate of change for the Holocene as a whole. Watts is a well known science denier. And then he quotes Morner, who says that sea levels haven't risen in 50 years -- totally opposite to what Watts' graphs show. This is just grasping at straws.


Sea levels have risen over 120 metres (400 feet) since the last glacial maximum, and there's no real reason to expect it to stop now. Prudent people would plan for a 1 metre to 2 metre rise over the next century.

The sea level rise depends on location. Southern England has been sinking into the sea at about 1 foot per century since the Romans were there, which means London is now 20 feet closer to sea level than it was back then. This is a matter of some concern to Londoners.

Meanwhile northern Scotland has been rising out of the sea at 2 feet per century, and the land is 40 feet higher above sea level than it was in Roman times - not that it made much difference to the Scottish highlanders or to the Romans who failed to conquer them.

Here is a website that is associated with google and shows all sea level monitor sites in the world. It is quite apparent that there is a wide range of sea level change/time.


I think this was called isostatic readjustment when I was at school forty-five years ago.

You have several reasons why local/regional SLR may differ from global. One is vertical displacement if terrain (tectonic), isostatic readjustment of areas depressed during the ice ages, soil compaction (usually by removal of groundwater). Then when ocean (and wind) current change, sea water redistributes on a global scale. Lastly with melting ice sheets, the earths momenets of inertial change slightly, so the rotational axis shifts slightly as well, and this also redistributes sea water. This makes the actual measurement of global sealevel challenging.

Short term versus long term.

Until you realize they are falling, because massive amounts of water is being dumped onto the land (think 20% of Pakistan and Thailand being under flood waters). The total volume of liquid is increasing, but that doesn't preclude short periods where redistribution reverse the secular trend. The oceans are warming (which increases volume at fixed water mass), and the land based ice sheets are melting, adding more water mass, so the long term trend is inexorably up.

Bahrain forces attack opposition headquarters

Bahrain's security forces attacked the headquarters of the Shi'ite al-Wefaq party on Friday and forcibly broke up a weekly meeting. Police also dispersed several hundred opposition supporters who had gathered in the capital to protest, attacking them with tear gas.

Shi'ite clerics held prayer services on the rubble of mosques bulldozed by the government and Saudi Arabian troops earlier in the year. The Interior Ministry banned al-Wefaq leaders from meeting on Thursday.

also Government deploys riot police to break up meeting

Fuel pipeline blast kills 11 in Colombia

A huge explosion at a gasoline and diesel pipeline in Colombia killed 11 people, injured at least 70, and destroyed dozens of homes on Friday ...

"Ecopetrol regrets the incident in which several people were killed and others injured when an explosion occurred in the Salgar-Cartago pipeline ... apparently caused by people who were stealing fuel," the company said.

Colombia, once dismissed as a failing state, has been improving its image by combating leftist rebels and attracting foreign investment through looser regulations, a more streamlined hydrocarbons agency, and lower taxes.

Colombia's national oil production has ramped up to a record 950,000 barrels per day as the improving security situation has allowed greater exploitation of heavy crude areas, in addition to incremental production increases at existing fields.

also http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-23/several-people-killed-as-ecopet...

The Most Important Graphs of 2011

What is it about graphs and economics? In a discipline where facts are murky and certainty is elusive, graphs offer a bright light of information and a small confidence that the world can be summed up between two axes.

Here, from economists on left and right, and from economic journalists from around the beat, are the graphs of the year. Click through the gallery or scroll down to find the graphs organized under categories including Europe, spending & taxing, and energy.

Article titled 'The End of the Chinese Dream' from Foreign Policy Magazine:


Best hopes for China realizing a stable and sustainable future.

Another article that I found on the so called Asian century


As Asian economic growth has increased, consumption in the region has also risen. Multinational companies and Western countries – both of which stand to benefit greatly from Asia’s increasing consumption – have encouraged Asians to aspire to a Western standard of living, with its high energy usage, electronic toys, and meat-heavy diet. Asian governments seem willing partners in this one-dimensional approach to development, and are eager to lead global economic growth. Yet it is neither desirable nor possible for Asians to consume in the way that Westerners do, and Asian governments should face up to this reality.

I mentioned it before as well, that governments in Asia (esp. mine) are selling a pipe dream to their citizens that one day they will be able to live and consume like westerners, that is simply not true, at least not for a vast majority of them. All atrocities and associated criminal behavior by the governments is tolerated because people think it will bring prosperity. The day people find out that it isn't possible, all of these governments will collapse.

Exports help Iowa ethanol reach record output in '11.
Production rose about 200 million gallons, aided by sales to Brazil.

Shaw said about 1.34 billion bushels of corn, about 62 percent of Iowa’s 2010 corn harvest, were used to make the 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol produced in Iowa.

He noted that Iowa’s ethanol plants produced 11.5 million tons, or about 448 million bushels, of dried distillers grains that are sold for cattle feed.


Gingrich takes credit:

Looking for votes in Iowa, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich touted his support for ethanol on Thursday and said it would be part of his all-American energy plan.


“If I have to choose between the next billion dollars (for energy) going to Iraq or Iowa, I prefer Iowa,” Gingrich said. Gingrich complimented Iowa on its investment in alternative energy, noting that the Hawkeye State is second to the country of Denmark in wind-generated power.

I think he's using percentage of electricity production from wind which is the correct way to compare wind production. Texas produces far more from wind than Iowa but has a much lower percentage of total electricity production from wind.


And he knocks Obama on XL pipeline:


The other side of the argument:


Keystone oil sands pipeline: Obama's hot potato

Obama, who was originally expected to green light the 1,700-mile long pipeline slated to carry crude from Canada's oil sands region in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, last month postponed a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election.

The president cited problems with the pipeline's route, which took it over a major aquifer in Nebraska and sparked opposition from even Republican lawmakers in that state. But analysts said the move was mostly political, with the administration bowing to pressure from environmental groups which don't want the pipeline built at all.

I think he's using percentage of electricity production from wind which is the correct way to compare wind production. Texas produces far more from wind than Iowa but has a much lower percentage of total electricity production from wind.

Actually, that is a misleading way to represent wind power.

if you pick a small enough area, you can claim it has 100% wind power - but what about the rest of the US?

And, wind power alone is of little value unless it is backed up by dispatchable sources like hydro and NG. In which case, it is better to look at the "grid" as a whole, not just an arbitrary state boundary.

For Iowa,its "grid" it is part of the Midwest Independent System Operator which controls the system for 12 states and the Cdn province of Manitoba. It has control of all the generation sources within these areas and manages who does what and when.

When you look at their electricity sources, full 49% of it is coal, another 32 is NG. Renewables at 12%, are ahead of nuclear, 6%, but I'll wager that half or more of the renewable is hydro, so wind is probably losing out even to nuclear.

In any case, the overall picture is quite different from Denmark, but I'm not surprised the Newt doesn't know that.

I didn't think the midwest had much hydro. When I lived in Wisconsin the Chippewa river accounted for maybe half of the alleged midwest hydro, and it was maybe 200MW. Theres a lot of water, but not much elevation change.

Manitoba Hydro has 5 GW of hydro, and not a lot else and they are in that group.


You can also say that their 'grid' is the whole Eastern Interconnection and dilute the penetration even farther. Talking about wind penetration at state levels is actually quite useful in the U.S. because the regulatory, legal, and political climate differs quite a bit from state to state, and this tends to be a determining factor in wind penetration. If you want to talk grid resource area, Iowa actually corresponds fairly well to Zone 3 of one the MISO zonal schemes used in grid planning (although it is split between 3 zones by another scheme governing reserve capacity). Also, high penetration of wind also exists in other adjacent parts of the MISO.

For the 9 months ending in September 2011, EIA shows Iowa generation (MWH) as 16.8% wind, compared to 2.7% for the U.S. as a whole (this is percent generation, not percent consumption). This is 20.2% in SD, 14.1% in ND, 11.2% in MN. By this measure these adjacent states are the only states over 10 percent. The MISO has more wind installed than ERCOT on a capacity basis, and a kwh basis.

There was a discussion in yesterday's Drumbeat about the cold weather performance of electric vehicles. If I may extend this conversation:

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/12/22/mb-electric-car-mitsu...

A 50 km range under brutally cold conditions may still prove acceptable provided you can top up the battery at work and/or pre-heat the vehicle prior to your return trip (it's not uncommon to find parking spots in some of the colder parts of Canada fitted with 120-volt outlets to feed block heaters and perhaps some of this infrastructure could be tapped for this purpose).


Parking lot outlets, which are usually 115 volts x 15 amps, are designed for engine block heaters, which are usually 115 volts x 4 amps or less, and you can usually plug two block heaters into a duplex outlet without tripping the circuit breakers. Diesel trucks may be an exception because they have bigger block heaters.

The Nissan Leaf "trickle charger" is 115 volts x 12 amps, so you would be limited to one per duplex outlet. Don't park next to another EV if you want to recharge.

Also, many parking lots use power cycling - they turn the outlets on and off during the day to save electricity, and some may use load shedding - they turn the outlets off when electrical load is high. This may screw up your recharging plan.

Realistically, if people are going to be plugging in EV's, you need 240 volt x 40 amp circuits, and this is the sort of thing you normally use for electric stoves and arc welders, not parking lots.

115 volt charging for a Leaf would work.

The Leaf charges at a rate of 5 miles per hour at 120 volts (20 hours for a 100 mile full charge) or 12 mph at 240 volts (8 hours for 100 miles). 8 hours of charging at 120 volts would give you 40 miles of additional range.

8 hours of charging at 120 volts would give you 40 miles of additional range.

Maybe you missed the part where the cold weather cuts the effective energy available from the battery by half, so you would get, at best, 20 miles. but, I'll bet the charging, outdoors in the cold weather, might well be slower too, so you might end up with even less.

The point is, the electric cars are meant to be suitable for urban commuting. If you can't use them for four months of the year, without finding some charging location at the destination end, then there is a serious issue with range anxiety. What happens if all those available charging points are already taken? Maybe not even by EV's - an ICE is parked there, but what are you gonna do?

Range anxiety for long trips can be worked around, but for an ordinary daily drive, in conditions that occur regularly on much of the continent, these cars have to be able to get you there and back, without *requiring* intermediate recharging, otherwise precious few will buy them.

Road tests by journalists seem to indicate that range anxiety and cold weather are going to be the killing factor for EV's in Canada:

Terrific inner city electric car — if you can take the range anxiety

Yes, the Leaf has a claimed range of 160 km, but it’s November, it’s chilly and I won’t be able to plug in when I get to the Big Smoke. Plus, I ran a couple of errands in the neighbourhood, and without the 240 volt charging station (approx. $2,200 installed) that all Leaf owners must purchase — and I don’t get as a tester — I’m not running on a full charge.

I hum out of my driveway with the colourful digital display showing a range of 144 km, suggesting I have a 50 km cushion. Piece of cake.

Merging on the QEW I glanced down at the screen. What the heck? My projected range was dropping faster than my stock portfolio. Within a mere 5 km from home, I’d lost about 30 k of range.

I dropped below 110 km/h and changed the default drive mode to the more frugal and less sprightly Eco mode. When firing up a Leaf, the auto climate control defaults to off, and here the screen informed me if I turned it on I’d lose another 19 km of range. Well then, it’s going to be a chilly ride.

Getting home was a close one. Factor in the headlights and a bloody stiff headwind and I rolled in with only one bar remaining on the charge display. Chanting, “There’s no place like home... there’s no place like home” may have saved my bacon.

In the morning, I took the Leaf to my local Nissan dealer to top it up using their 240 volt charger. After a full night on 110 volts it wasn’t even half there.

Range and charging point issues notwithstanding, this present setup is hardly a sustainable business model. While it’s very nice of the Ontario government to wave the green flag and toss $8,500 in the direction of early adopters, if the populace started buying EVs en masse that would change in a real hurry. Could the grid handle it? How would the government make up for the shortfall in revenue from gasoline taxes? Would it tax the bejeezus out of our hydro bill to keep our roads smooth and bridges from crumbling?

Oh, and about that word “hydro”. With 21 per cent of Ontario’s electric power coming from coal-fired plants and 8 per cent from natural gas, I’m not exactly off the hook environmentally either.

In the US the electricity would typically be 45% coal-fired, 25% natural gas, and 20% nuclear, so it would be considerably less environmentally friendly than in Ontario.

Oil patch pushes for immigration change

Canada’s energy industry is pushing the federal government to reform the country’s immigration policy as the oil patch grapples with the looming threat of a severe labour shortage.

Alberta is facing a shortage of 77,000 workers within the next 10 years, according to a recent report from Ernst & Young, which cited the provincial government. The oil sands’ projected growth is a key force behind the deficit, with bitumen production expected to double by 2020 as companies pour billions of dollars into their projects. While labourers enjoy higher wages as the employee pool dries up, rising salaries eat into corporate profits and put projects at risk of delay.

Bottom line: Manpower is the main constraint on Canadian oil sands development, not natural gas, water, or whatever else has mentioned by people who don't really understand it. There aren't enough oil workers in Canada to do it, so the oil industry will have to go outside the country to get more of them.

There aren't enough oil workers in Canada to do it, so the oil industry will have to go outside the country to get more of them.

Or train unemployed Canadians???

It depends on how trainable they are.

The unemployment rate in Alberta is currently only 5%, so the labor market consists of two distinct groups of job seekers: those who have the skills and qualities employers want, and those who do not. The latter group are the ones who are unemployed.

The oil patch doesn't employ many high school dropouts. Maybe for sweeping floors, but that's about it.

Some oil companies I worked for wouldn't hire *anybody* for any job who had only a high school diploma. To be hired as oil well operators, they required at least a technical school certificate. To be promoted to field foremen, they needed a university degree.

Update for Canadians: Your American cousin is now your poorer one

International Monetary Fund estimates show Canada will generate about $51,147 of gross domestic product on a per capita basis in 2011, compared with about $48,147 per capita in the United States. (The figures are quoted in U.S. dollars and are unadjusted for inflation.) If the IMF forecasts prove true, it will be the first time Canada outstrips the U.S. in GDP per person in records dating back to 1980.

Canada has benefited greatly in recent years from the commodity boom. The U.S. economic bust means Canada would have gained in relative terms simply by standing still. In 2009, U.S. per capita GDP was $43,348 compared with $39,728 in Canada.

This shift in relative wealth might not be as recent at the IMF data suggests.

An excellent report published this week by Statistics Canada’s Ryan Macdonald shows Canada has exceeded the U.S. in terms of real GDP per capita and real Gross National Income per capita for much of the past decade.

Bottom line: The US economy has been running in reverse for much of the 21st century, while Canada's has been marching ahead. During this process, I've been watching the Decline of the American Empire with a certain amount of consternation.

RMG - Question re the XL: You have discussed the shortsightedness of the US in not building the XL pipeline and how this will ultimately cause oilsands product to be diverted west and/or east to international markets, vs. south further into (and possibly through) the US. And of course the absence of the pipeline has been costly to Canada, as the market has been limited in part to the US midwest refiners where the oil is sold at below world market price. So how in your opinion did this situation develop? Was it just assumed that the pipeline would be built and ready by the time production was there to supply it? Or has the oilsands production ramped up faster and/or to a higher volume than was anticipated, resulting in temporary supply/demand imbalance? Or is the demand that can be supplied lower than had been anticipated, forcing the need to push out into the international market? Just wondering...


"A report commissioned by one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline questions the economic case behind the project, which would connect oil sands crude to Asia via Canada's West Coast."

The route west is blocked by internal Canadian concerns.

"To Asia": It is not intended for U.S. consumption... not at prices impoverished U.S. citizens can afford. It will be pumped right past them, just like it is pumped right past the population of Nigeria.

I wondered why there is such a drive for this pipeline. Now, I hear that Grover Norquist is the lobbyist for the pipeline. Norquist, who the politicians pledge to over their pledge to country. I wondered what this king looked like. Here is a picture of the king:


You're too focused on US politics.

The fact is, Canadian governments - the federal government and the governments of the oil producing provinces - are losing a lot of money in tax revenues because Canadian oil companies can't get their oil to market in the US. They have a very expensive free medical care system to pay for, and selling oil on the international market seems like a really good way to pay for it. They don't care whether the oil goes to the US or China as long as the taxes and royalties go to them.

These days they are seriously P.O.d at the US government for its foot-dragging, and are to the point where they would prefer to sell the oil to China rather than the US.

As far as the route West being blocked by "internal Canadian concerns", the biggest concern for the federal and provincial governments is tax money. Most of the western provinces are behind it. The BC government doesn't want to commit itself, but it's kind of over a barrel tax-wise these days.

Most likely everybody will wait until after the next BC election, and then the pipeline will be approved by legislative order. By that I mean using some of the Peace, Order, and Good Government provisions of the Canadian constitution, especially the ones which were used to build the transcontinental railways.

When the HOT resource wars start, Keystone oil will not pass outside the United States borders unless UNCLE SAM so decrees it;and it will not cross the Pacific at all, except under naval escort.One nuclear attack submarine is enough to sink every tanker afloat, given time to reload munitions from a mother ship a few times, and finding and destroying such a sub within a few hundred miles of our coast, given local control of the air, would be well nigh impossible for an enemy.

Forgive me for being one of those selfish people who looks first to family and community and native state, but personally I don't feel the least bit guilty, as once the chips are down,everybody will act same way and drop the holier than thous posturing.

I know a few military people, who are professionally qualified to talk about navies and blockades, and I read the news related to such things.

Despite our technological advantage, which will evaporate if bau doesn't collapse first, we have already lost the ability to defend Taiwan without taking the offensive and moving the fight from the skys and shores of Taiwan to mainland China.The navy dares not put the aircraft carriers within range of the enormous stock of shore based missiles and aircraft the Chinese possess already.One first line fighter can handle a dozen obsolete fighters, but not fifty .

We couldn't put a continuous combat air patrol over Taiwan even remotely large enough to control the air and shores there, the closest secure base is too far away. The flip side is that for the easily foreseeable future, the waters around North ans South America can be easily defended with our existent asserts, and the Chinese may never be able to build an offensive capability sufficient to challenge us in our own home waters.

Of course such scenarios as I paint here put the Canadians in a second class position , but otoh they have been sheltering under our gargantuan military umbrella , as has free Europe, for a long long time, and saved an unimaginable amount of treasure by doing so. Sooner or later they may wish they had built a serious military capability of their own.

Of course bau might collapse before China (or anybody else develops the necessary economic muscle) is able to take the offense against the Americas.As a matter of fact, I expect that collapse WILL overtake China before she possesses a blue water navy and air force capable of troubling us in our own home waters.As far as that goes, we ourselves will probably never possess a new fully deployed generation of ships and planes.

But if they are used conservatively, we have an ample supply on hand to defend ourselves for decades.

Walt, the builders of the pipeline (TransCanada Pipelines) just assumed the US government would automatically approve the pipeline like it has done in the past. The US has hundreds of thousands of miles of pipeline in the ground, and TransCanada has never had problems getting one approved before. Previous US governments have treated building pipelines as a strategic oil supply issue - obviously if the oil comes overland from Canada it can't be torpedoed by foreign submarines or seized by hostile governments or pirates.

I don't think the Canadian oil industry anticipated a bottleneck developing at Cushing, OK, either. They just assumed their would be enough capacity going out of Cushing to handle all the oil going in. However, some observers did comment that they were building far too much pipeline capacity for the demand. The drop in US oil demand is part of the problem since the refineries which did have access to it didn't need as much oil as anticipated.

Government officials in the Canadian and Alberta governments have been aware that they were going to have to build capacity to take oil to Asian markets at some point, since production is steadily increasing. They just didn't think the crunch would come this soon because they thought they would have to saturate the US Gulf Coast market first.

Book author predicts repeated "end game" financial collapses due to PO

(Probably someone already posted this one 'cause its a few months old):
Jeremy Rifkin C-SPAN Book Review:

Critical Watching Notes:

"Critical Watching" means you don't just sit back and absorb a video presentation, you analyze and critique it as it unfolds.

I'm still watching the Rifkin book review video
But at the same time, observing that this author confuses "energy" with "power" (units of energy per unit of time, in other words rates as opposed to the accountant's totaling, bottom line --the bottom line is not the bottom line)/ "Energy" is not "power".

The author has a lot of interesting ideas, but he is clearly not a "Do the Math" physicist.

I would not throw away all his ideas. But at the same time his ideas need a lot more in the way of physics and thermodynamic work up.

"Power" happens because "energy" flows at a rate from a point of concentration to a wide area of radiative disposal out into outer space.

The question, which is fundamentally no different than the one James Watt addressed in his "improving" of the steam engine is how we, as the human race, effectively and safely sink away (pump out radiatively into outer space) the solar energies that we collect and concentrate?

My five predictions for 2012 :: AGE OF TRANSITION

Oil price will soar to around a 2012 average of $120 a barrel (20% increase) - more due to supply/cost issues than demand. Dependant upon China growth model transition success away from export to internal consumer growth. If transition fails (possibility), than could see oil price collapse to as low as $50 a barrel.

Oil demand in the OECD region will remain persistently higher than forecast, chiefly due to manufacturing production pressures from China / Asia to move production closer to the USA / EU to avoid peak oil trade transport costs. Great uncertainty in how China will deal with trade growth GDP offsets / transition - internal consumer spending / wages ?

Euro will survive and prosper in 2012 as the economic argument moves away from anglo-saxon debtor thy neighbor policies to regional trade benefits of German power house (linked to global shipping costs - German EU regional import substitution). On downside, Europe needs the flexibility of regional transition states to a peak oil world - economic universalism does not allow for such flexibility, may or may not prove a critical long term flaw.

A move away from the financial to energy benefits of alternative energy - currently distorted by tax breaks / subsidies.

Dr. Ron Paul will become the next President of the United States, when voters finally realize that monetary policy is fatally flawed - economic growth obeys the laws of thermodynamics / physical world, while monetary debt obeys the laws of mathematics and politics.

Ron Paul will not be president. He's got way too much baggage. We might one day reach the point where we can overlook that kind of thing, but it won't be in 2012.

Right. The Madness of Ron Paul

As Ron Paul has increased in popularity in recent weeks, scandals have followed. In particular, Paul's involvement with wildly racist, anti-semitic and homophobic ramblings in a newsletter he funded and published in the 1990s.

And this article didn't even mention the silly conspiracy theories of his about tracking Americans through the new currency at that time.

Ron P.

I suspect that crazy stuff (bad as it is) is not actually the biggest problem with his electability. It's his response to it. He's been dogged by this stuff for years, and always said before that it was "taken out of context."

Now he's trying to say he didn't write it, it was sent out under his name without his knowledge. If he said he used to believe that stuff, but no longer does, he might be okay. If he said from the beginning that it was sent out without his knowledge, he might be okay. But lying about it - either he was lying before or he's lying now - is going to sink him.

Too bad that Paul seems to be the only candidate (of either party) willing to openly discuss some reality issues such as:

The US can no longer afford its imperial tactics, must become much less interventionist.

The US needs to reduce its military size and expenditures.

Mega banks need to be broken up into less powerful, more narrowly focused sectors.

Social programs need to become leaner and meaner before they implode.

The Federal Reserve needs to be reigned in or replaced.

Many here have reached these same necessity based 'crazy' conclusions, the same conclusions that will keep Paul from getting elected. These things are, of course, incompatible with BAU, but some will come to pass, nevertheless. It often takes a nut to see through the fog.

Yes...I have been avoiding mentioning the elephant in the room during my fluffing of the idea of Ron Paul as the 'different' candidate...

You are, of course, correct...I need to build a candidate out of piece parts from the available folks, and then some more who aren't in the running...

Some daze I think electing him would be worth it if he could seriously scale back the MIC and balance the budget...on the premise that he couldn't do anything substantively bad as Pres with his racism and homophobia.

I think we could deal with the scaling back of Social Security (folks would need to move their folks in with them in many cases I imagine), but I have to wonder how folks would deal being alone and unafraid with zero government medical subsidies...

...and I would gag on the closing/absolute castration of the EPA and consumer health/safety regulations by the various agencies.

I guess I have been intrigued by him being the only horse in the race who is willing to try to break the complete infusion of the MIC into the U.S. government, industry, and society...that he might be the one candidate who would try to reverse the growing police state tendencies.

I think that his homophobia and racism and even lying are not the torpedoes which will sink his candidacy...there are other candidates out there who certainly have that baggage, even if it is usually disguised in dog whistles.

The things that will prevent his Presidency are:

- The threat to the MIC (including spy agencies and all attendant black funding line)


- The threat to the Fed and the Banksters.

I think you are correct. And I doubt Paul could harm any action to arrest CC any more than it is now, or will be by the rest.

Your wonder about getting along without medical subsidies is so true, we can watch now some houses burn while the fireman stand by, it will be a different story when an empty ambulance leaves a bloody highway accident.

There hasn't been a candidate since prior to Ross Perot that could be a dark horse un-vetted by whomever. The past political season has just been shooting gallery of clay pigeon candidates. Been entertaining to watch, but yuk at the same time. Some have been fools to think that actions even while running wouldn't be seen, like flying right right into the gallery. I imagine Huntsman will get shot if should he ever grab steam.

There must have been some powerful horse trades to let the President get by Hillary.

So with this history, who would run that isn't a little nuts? Or alot.

And certain neo-con leaders haven't ? Also even if Dr. Ron Paul did express racist points of view in the 1990s, as you are allowed to have under the US 1st-amendment, it shows objectivity, even if wrong objectivity. As Ronald Reagan once stated - 'freedom is the right to be wrong'.. This is what will make Dr Ron Paul a perfect president, as we need objectivity in our hour of crisis, NOT MORE GROUP THINK.

I don't think you understand US politics. Because of the structure of our political system, we end up way more centrist than countries with a parliamentary system, like most European countries have. A candidate like Ron Paul has no chance in the US.

I believe he has been smeared too early - fatal error of judgment.