Drumbeat: January 9, 2012

With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land

CHIOS, Greece — Nikos Gavalas and Alexandra Tricha, both 31 and trained as agriculturalists, were frustrated working on poorly paying, short-term contracts in Athens, where jobs are scarce and the cost of living is high. So last year, they decided to start a new project: growing edible snails for export.

As Greece’s blighted economy plunges further into the abyss, the couple are joining with an exodus of Greeks who are fleeing to the countryside and looking to the nation’s rich rural past as a guide to the future. They acknowledge that it is a peculiar undertaking, with more manual labor than they, as college graduates, ever imagined doing. But in a country starved by austerity even as it teeters on the brink of default, it seemed as good a gamble as any.

Oil hovers below $102 ahead of Europe meeting

SINGAPORE – Oil prices hovered below $102 a barrel Monday in Asia amid investor concern that a meeting between the leaders of Germany and France won't yield a plan that will keep Europe from recession this year.

Cost of gas rises for the first time since October

The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States increased for the first time since mid-October, rising by 12 cents to about $3.36 over the last three weeks due to higher crude oil prices, an industry analyst said on Sunday.

"The higher crude prices pulled up wholesale prices by about 19 cents a gallon, but retailers have passed through only 12 cents of that so far," said Trilby Lundberg, editor of the Lundberg Survey.

Shale Bubble Inflates on Near-Record Prices

Surging prices for oil and gas shales, in at least one case rising 10-fold in five weeks, are raising concern of a bubble as valuations of drilling acreage approach the peak set before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Chinese, French and Japanese energy explorers committed more than $8 billion in the past two weeks to shale-rock formations from Pennsylvania to Texas after 2011 set records for international average crude prices and U.S. gas demand. As competition among buyers intensifies, overseas investors are paying top dollar for fields where too few wells have been drilled to assess potential production, said Sven Del Pozzo, a senior equity analyst at IHS Inc. (IHS)

Gulf Coast working to fill a fuel void in Northeast

Northeastern states are slated to lose half of their regional capacity for fuel production by midyear as financial woes push refineries there to idle, a trend likely to increase the region's dependency on Gulf Coast supply.

A Houston-to-New York pipeline is making major expansions to accommodate growing demand to transport gasoline and other fuels up north from the Gulf Coast to fill the potential supply void.

Speculators Raise Wagers on Price Gains by Most in 17 Months: Commodities

Hedge funds raised their wagers on higher commodity prices by the most since July 2010 after signs of accelerating U.S. growth bolstered optimism that demand for raw materials will strengthen.

Forget inflation: Is deflation the real threat?

Prices of raw materials have plunged this year. The prices of copper, coffee, aluminum, cotton, nickel, natural gas, wheat and silver are all down more than 20% since the end of April, according to Bloomberg. Gold, widely viewed as a barometer of inflation, has fallen 11% since its September high of $1,900 an ounce.

Inventories of commodities have gotten so high that metals dealers have had to buy extra warehouse space for them.

In November, copper warehouses in New Orleans were 98% full, and aluminum inventories in the U.S. are at an all-time peak, according to FastMarkets.com.

Statoil makes large oil discovery in Barents Sea

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Norway's Statoil said Monday it has discovered a large oil reserve in the Barents Sea, its second major oil find in the Arctic region in less than a year.

The state-controlled oil company said a well drilled in the Havis prospect in the Barents Sea proved both oil and gas at an estimated volume of between 200 million and 300 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents.

Thai energy demand seen up almost 5 pct in 2012-ministry

(Reuters) - Thailand's energy demand is expected to rise almost 5 percent in 2012, driven by economic growth and restoration work after last year's flooding plus work on flood defence systems, the Energy Policy and Planning Office of the Ministry of Energy said on Monday.

Bangladesh to build new pipeline for Chevron gas

(Reuters) - Bangladesh will build a new gas pipeline to bring output from Chevron Corp fields to the capital Dhaka and to western regions as it combats shortages.

Statoil Wants Access To New Norwegian Acreage Despite Oil Finds

OSLO -(Dow Jones)- While recent Norwegian oil discoveries by Statoil ASA (STO) are exciting, the Norwegian oil sector needs access to new acreage to avoid a substantial production fall after 2020, Statoil Chief Executive Helge Lund said Monday.

Lund revived the call for Norway to open up new acreage where development has been blocked because of environmental concerns.

Angered by gasoline prices and corrupt government, Nigeria begins strike paralyzing nation

LAGOS, Nigeria — A national strike paralyzed much of Nigeria on Monday, with more than 10,000 demonstrators swarming its commercial capital to protest soaring fuel prices and decades of government corruption in the oil-rich country.

Some protesters pulled metal barriers into the street, while others took gasoline from motorbikes to set tires ablaze. Others waved placards bearing an effigy of President Goodluck Jonathan with devil horns and fanged teeth, and showing him pumping fuel at a gas station.

Nigerian Fuel Price Strike May Disrupt Shell’s Oil Production, Close Ports

Nigerian workers began a national strike after fuel costs more than doubled, threatening to shut ports and disrupt output from Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp. in Africa’s largest crude producer.

Kazakh leaders face a testing time as trouble looms

Recent events in oil-rich Kazakhstan seem at first sight reminiscent of last year's Arab Spring revolutions. Is this Tripoli on the Caspian?

Iran nuke work at bunker is confirmed

Vienna— Diplomats on Monday confirmed a report that Iran has begun uranium enrichment at an underground bunker and said the news is particularly worrying because the site is being used to make material that can be upgraded more quickly for use in a nuclear weapon than the nation's main enriched stockpile.

Iran Has Ability to Block Strait of Hormuz, U.S. General Dempsey Tells CBS

Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time,” and the U.S. would take action to reopen it, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey said.

“They’ve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz,” Dempsey said in an interview aired yesterday on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.”

Hormuz Bypass Oil Pipeline Is Delayed

A pipeline that would allow crude oil from the United Arab Emirates to bypass the Strait of Hormuz separating it from Iran has been delayed because of construction difficulties, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Iran confirms has $2 bln oil debt with Italy's Eni

(Reuters) - An Iranian oil official has confirmed that Iran owes Italian energy major Eni some $2 billion worth of oil that Rome is concerned could be put at risk by a European Union embargo on crude imports from the Islamic Republic.

Oil speculators stay cautious on Iran risk: John Kemp

(Reuters) - Escalating tensions between Iran and the West have so far drawn only a small amount of extra speculative money into oil-linked futures and options contracts.

Far fewer hedge funds and other money managers are wagering on a big price increase than after the Libyan civil war last year, according to position data released by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and exchanges.

Indian refiners, govt meet on Iran oil payments

(Reuters) - Indian refiners and oil ministry officials are meeting on Monday to discuss alternative methods to pay for Iranian oil imports should an existing mechanism via Turkey's Halkbank be halted under U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Syrians mourn protesters amid tension

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- Tens of thousands turned out Monday for funerals in the Syrian capital of Damascus, holding up pictures and lining the streets in tearful processions.

At one funeral, crowds chanted, "overthrow Assad, overthrow the regime!" as they blamed the man's death on government forces.

Venezuela Won’t Accept World Bank Ruling on Exxon, Chavez Says

Venezuela won’t accept any verdict from the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, including Exxon Mobil Corp.’s claim for its nationalized Cerro Negro project, President Hugo Chavez said.

The Washington-based court is considering Exxon’s claim in one of about 20 suits filed there against the Venezuelan government. Chavez, a self-professed socialist revolutionary, has taken over assets in the energy, metals, cement and telecommunications industries.

An Oily Case: Chevron’s Never-Ending, Record-Breaking Lawsuit in Ecuador

How long has the legal battle between indigenous groups in the Ecuadorean Amazon and the oil giant Chevron been going on? So long that Texaco—the company originally accused of dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic sludge in and around the Ecuadorean town of Lago Agrio—no longer exists, having been acquired by Chevron in 2001. So long that six separate Ecuadorean judges have been involved in the case, and one federal judge in New York died before he could make a ruling. So long that former President Bill Clinton had just moved into the White House when the lawsuit was first filed in 1993. And until recently, it looked like it could easily go on for another 18 years—as a Chevron spokesperson once said: “We’re going to fight this until Hell freezes over—an then we’ll fight it out on the ice.”

Shale Game

New York State is a lonely holdout against the natural-gas revolution.

Locals call BP's feel-good Gulf ads 'propaganda'

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly 20 months after its massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill — and just as Americans focus on New Orleans, host of the college football championship game — BP is pushing a slick nationwide public relations campaign to persuade Americans that the Gulf region has recovered.

Battery cars face an uphill climb to acceptance

A spectacular flop, or just a slow start?

One thing is certain, the battery car is going to have to gain some serious momentum if it’s going to have a real impact on the U.S. automotive market -- or come anywhere close to meeting the White House’s target of putting 1.5 million battery-powered cars on the road by mid-decade.

Battery Warning: Why Electric Vehicles Have Yet to Take Off

But as electric vehicles moved from the showroom to the driveway, certain facts became hard to ignore—facts that could slow down the adoption of EVs even more. In a piece for the website Jalopnik—which, to be fair, seems to really dislike EVs—Joel Johnson explained why Americans aren’t going electric. It essentially boils down to cost: electric cars cost too much and deliver too little, especially for Americans who don’t live in dense urban areas.

Congressional Inaction on Extending Commuter Benefits Leads Public Transit Riders to See Taxes Increase More Than $550 in 2012

Due to Congressional inaction during last month’s tax deliberations, the new year ushered in a tax increase to public transit riders. Currently, commuters who use public transit, commuter buses and van pools may see their annual commuting costs increase by more than $550 based on a bias in the tax code that benefits driving over taking public transit. In addition, the failure to extend the benefit has resulted in a tax liability increase for companies offering the benefit.

Possible U.S., China trade dispute looms

The U.S. government will decide whether China-made solar cells, high-pressure steel cylinders, galvanized steel wires and steel wheels from China are dumped, or sold below cost, in the U.S.

If so, it could impose tariffs that impair Chinese companies' ability to sell those products in the U.S. China's Ministry of Commerce, meanwhile, has launched its own investigation of American solar cell makers, and is also probing such U.S. industries as photographic paper. The agency could decide to impose duties as early as this year.

Could Saudi Arabia Become the Next Solar Market Hotspot?

Oil’s more than likely the first thing that pops into your mind when Saudi Arabia is mentioned. Sunlight might follow close behind, though, and for good reason. Located within the equatorial “Sun Belt,” where more solar radiation hits the earth than any other part of the globe, best available measurements are that Saudi Arabia receives an average 2,200 thermal kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy per square meter of land area every day. That’s an abundant amount of freely available solar energy just waiting to be harnessed. Crafting policies that would stimulate adoption of solar energy systems and development of a solar energy economic value chain could also make significant contributions to critical social and environmental challenges the country faces.

Dubai launches $3.27 bln solar energy project

DUBAI (Reuters) - The emirate of Dubai on Monday unveiled plans to build a 12 billion dirham solar energy park, with potential capacity of 1,000 megawatts as part of its efforts to reduce its energy reliance.

Under Dubai's Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, it plans to reduce energy imports and climate warming carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, using its own solar power and nuclear power imported from neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi to reduce reliance on gas.

Renewables making inroads in emerging global energy mix

Renewables are to be a significant pillar of the global energy balance of tomorrow. This is where the future lies, insist the green lobby, the environmentalists and indeed the peak oil pundits. Most agree, if this crude driven civilization has to keep making strides, then renewables have to make a bigger and significant contribution to the global energy mix over the next decades or so.

Can a cleaner environment create jobs?

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The tactic du jour for environmentalists trying to sell a skeptical public on tighter regulations is this: spin the thing as a job creator.

Liberty for Light Bulbs -- The Next Battle In America's Fight for Freedom

Two hundred and thirty six years ago, in January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, the wildly popular pamphlet that made the case for American freedom and helped to spark a revolution.

This year, the Tea Party hopes to turn the 2012 elections into a fight for American freedom. Their first salvo -- the electric light bulb. Last month, they threatened to shut down the government unless new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs were delayed. They succeeded and the final budget deal prohibits the Deparment of Energy from spending on the new rules.

Americans make up half of the world's richest 1%

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The United States holds a disproportionate amount of the world's rich people.

It only takes $34,000 a year, after taxes, to be among the richest 1% in the world. That's for each person living under the same roof, including children. (So a family of four, for example, needs to make $136,000.)

One step closer to local food security

How close are meat producers to having a working mobile abattoir in the Boundary region?

In January 2011 Boundary meat producers met with government representatives to discuss the future of the meat industry in the Boundary. At this meeting livestock producers said their number one priority was a licensed mobile abattoir, or mobile processing unit (MPU), with processing and marketing facilities a close second.

Sahel's looming food crisis gets swift response but no long-term answers

Late rains mean trouble for the "lean season", when food from the last harvest runs out. This year's lean season could begin in some countries as early as March, three months earlier than usual. Brown sounded the alarm in October and since then there has been a flurry of warnings about the looming crisis in the Sahel.

Carbon emissions 'will defer Ice Age'

In the journal Nature Geoscience, they write that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years - but emissions have been so high that it will not.

"At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we'd probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down," said Luke Skinner from Cambridge University.

The Next Ice Age and the Anthropocene

If you’ve wondered where to look for signs that Earth is entering a geological epoch of our own making, the Anthropocene, what’s a good place to start?

I’d suggest the growing body of research concluding that what was once seen as an inevitable descent into the next ice age has been put off for a very long time by the building blanket of greenhouse gases generated by humanity’s burst of fossil fuel combustion.

Study: Rising sea levels will hit hard in South Florida

A sea-level rise of just a few inches will bring flooding to South Florida cities, contaminate sources of drinking water and lead to sharp increases in utility bills over the next 20 or 30 years, according a study released Wednesday by Florida Atlantic University.

The study found that projected sea level increases of 3 to 6 inches by 2030, due to global warming, could overwhelm flood-control systems that in many areas are more than 50 years old. The authors provided a list of steps to be taken in the coming decades, from moving drinking-water wells inland to installing more pump stations, that could help the region cope with the higher water.

The other day a regular poster was asking 'what are the problems with fission power' and was asking about deaths.

So enjoy this new info. (for certain values of enjoy of course)


According to her post, after the earthquake of 1/1/2012, the pipe of spent fuel pool for reactor 4 was broken, the pool completely lost its water.
The worker stated, Sooner or later, the truth will have to to be widely known. Believe it or not, you will only regret. Wear a mask at least.
The pool was boiling without water.


He asked if it’s true that a lot of police officers ,who were sent to Fukushima, die of taking too much radionuclides.
The man answered, that is true, his parents are in Fukushima too.
The activist told him to arrest them (METI and Tepco)
He said no words and walked off.
Actual number of death is not disclosed.

Yes, but that won't help the Greeks get work, or start a new enterprise.

On that same site you link to, and another one I found, is perhaps a way.

Why not open a mutant vegetable restaurant, perhaps called The Neon?

The PR is to convince people that glowing in the dark is enlightenment?

If oil barons can convince us to eat, sleep, and drink oil why not a mutant vegetable restaurant?

The human brain, encased in bone and thoroughly nourished with blood, is the interpreter between itself and all else. Images and sensations go in and slowly an analog world is built, and possibly with some effort an intellect is born. The human system cannot truly be separated from its environment from where it derives its building blocks and returns its waste. It is a product of the environment, the flow of energy and matter. We have not evolved a tongue that can taste the cesium, strontium, lead and mercury in the air and water, nor olfaction that can sense the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Instead we have designed and created technological sensors that can extend our perception. Unfortunately the results these sensors display are not wired into our limbic systems so as to elicit a panicked response.

We have alarming data, but the alarms are not sounding, we do nothing, because we have no motivation. There is no pain, no primate fear-invoking stimuli like growling predators, snakes, spiders, and so on. So we sit and slowly euthanize ourselves and our children in front of our faux reality televisions. As long as there are no shocks that arouse our evolved fear circuits our civilization will slip quietly into a coma, helped along by little dribbles of propagandist's morphine, just enough to blunt any perception of our near terminal situation.

Awesome ... I agree, we're screwed like a frog in water heating to a boil ...

Wow..., I think I'm going to need a psychologist now....
You must be close to Darwinian....

I love your style of writing though....

Nice bit of writing, good stuff.

For what it's worth (~nothing) ... I agree. Such a wide range of thoughts and ideas here on TOD. Thanks.

@Dopamine, yes very well said with only a scant few brush strokes. You are writer of the year here at TOD.

Thanks for the compliments. There's so much I can't say on TOD because it might be frightening or somehow insulting to some readers that come only for guidance on energy related matters. Maybe they should be frightened, but I don't think their edification, if it were possible, will make much difference at this point. I think many of us are trying to build a road map through the insanity of our civilization to arrive at a safe and peaceful destination, unmolested by the those who want to use and control our lives. My map is almost complete. Getting to the destination will be the hard part.

There's a huge assumption in those posts: you can hide deaths resulting from a publicly known point source of a known hazard, and that somehow TEPCO and the Japanese government are competent enough to do so and yet incompetent to handle the site itself.

I'm patient, if the rumors are real (and all those articles are is rumors) the truth will come out. If they are just rumors from scared people who don't understand what is really going on they will continue to be the same stories 30 years from now.

As I commented before, top bad-boy in the nuclear game Chernobyl had dozens of verified immediate deaths and news got out through the Iron Curtain. There is no way that Japan has the level of control over domestic media (let alone foreign) that the USSR had in the '80's, and it is an open country that has foreign journalists in and out all the time.

Of course one could argue that TEPCO is hiding nuclear deaths in amongst the tsunami deaths, but I'd need to see some evidence of that degree of evil from folks that look like petty bureaucrats that chose their position because it was one that was expected to be a quiet, trouble-free geekfest for a full career's span.

As I commented before, top bad-boy in the nuclear game Chernobyl

And when you made that comment you were asked to back up such a statement.

Consider yourself asked again to back up the statement.

There is no way that Japan has the level of control over domestic media

Provide proof of how much control is over the media. There are fans of the "Iron Triangle" who want to have solid, verifiable evidence of the proof of the control over the media.

And now here, you - poster r4ndom - who is spending time mentioning how what is presented is "just a rumor" has made a statement which must be backed up by facts. So do share these facts that you know well enough to claim how there is no chance for your statement to be wrong.

dozens of verified immediate deaths and news got out through the Iron Curtain

Now my memory may be wrong but "the world" didn't know about Chernobyl until some Swedes noticed higher readings from their radiation detectors.

just rumors from scared people who don't understand what is really going on

VS the hard hitting facts of 'no way there is such a level of control'?

It took us a while to find out all the details about Chernobyl, but there was no hiding either the incident or the fatalities even in the medium term. Since even a few fatalities from a common pipeline explosion makes the news and is trivial to find, any claim that TEPCO and the Japanese government are hiding deaths from Fukushima is an extraordinary claim and the burden of proof is on the claimant.


• April 26, 1986: Reactor Number Four at the Soviet-designed Chernobyl nuclear plant explodes after an experiment when staff temporarily cut off the reactor's safety systems, aiming to test the unit's capacity.

• April-October 1986: Soviet authorities try to hush up the scale of the tragedy, admitting reluctantly that about 30 people had died in the first few weeks after the blast.

So TEPCO is better at hiding bodies than the Soviets, now? It only took the Soviets 6 months to start coming clean because they couldn't hide the evidence.

There are plenty of people with ready access to mainstream media sources who have interests opposed to nuclear power, if you have to resort to obscure third-parties for all of your confirmation then I'd say the odds are bad for your case.

More followups for "enjoyment"

(watch video yourself - in case you don't like "rumors")

And one can listen to Arnold Gundersen

Now who's Arnold Gundersen

Arnold Gundersen of Goshen

Ten years ago, Arnold Gundersen of Goshen was a senior vice president with Danbury-based Nuclear Energy Services, a card-carrying member of the nuclear industry. Since then, he has become a dedicated whistleblower, taking on the industry that once supplied him in his family with a comfortable lifestyle and a bright future.

Mr. Gundersen made the transition between these two worlds after he uncovered what he felt were safety violations at NES and reported the problem to management. Soon after making this report he was dismissed from his job and began a five-year effort to prove his case. He asserts he was blacklisted by the industry for discussing the alleged violations with state and federal regulators and was eventually sued by NES $1.5 million for defamation. The suit was settled out-of-court.

(what's the lesson? Report wrongdoing and get fired. A fine incentive of going to the media eh?)

Fukushima nuclear plant worker in coma after collapsing at site

A worker in his 60s at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is in a coma after collapsing at the site, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has announced.

Since the outbreak of the nuclear crisis in March last year, three workers have died of sickness and other causes at the disaster-stricken plant.

This unfortunate gentleman illustrates my point for me. I am somewhat disturbed that it takes someone actually dieing to do so, however.

Re: With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land (Uptop)

They acknowledge that it is a peculiar undertaking, with more manual labor than they, as college graduates, ever imagined doing.

I think that what Greece is going through continues to serve as a roadmap for where many other developed countries are headed.

As previously noted, one advantage of having a small garden/farm is that one can take an incoming liability, unemployed family members, and turn them into productive assets, i.e., agricultural workers.

re: Greeks Go Back to the Land (Uptop)

At least the first couple mentioned are trained in agriculture and had some seed money, though their choice to raise snails wasn't what I expected. Do you suppose there will always be enough rich folks to afford escargot? I've considered devoting an acre or two to truffles, and I started a large ginseng patch several years ago (within sight/shotgun range of the house).

I had a long talk with my daughter this weekend about what direction she and her husband should take. Her mother wanted them to move closer to the city where she lives but seems to be rethinking that. Perhaps her sense of the future is becoming more realistic.

My daughter and her husband have two children and no education beyond highschool. That said, they both have or are developing skills that may prove to be more useful going forward than a four year degree. He'll never go to college, though he grew up on an Appalachian homestead and has "mountainwise" skills that I consider to be quite valuable. His family has been sustainably harvesting wild ginseng for decades, producing a nice supplement to their income. They are both hard workers and not afraid to get their hands dirty.

My daughter wants to build a small house here on the place (they live in a singlewide on her inlaws' place, soon to be lost to the bank(?). I told her the requirements:

House must be a smaller version of my home; earth bermed, off-grid capable, passive solar, wood heat and cooking (allowing for propane stove as well).

They have to build the house themselves, with the help of family/friends. Must be to code.

House located approximate to the main family garden; easy access and security; great water.

No recreational vehicles (ATVs, motorcycles, etc.).

Dogs must be fenced/kenneled.

Expect regular work on family farm chores, kids included.

No loans or leans on property or house, even if it takes years. Pay into the family's property tax escrow account. Pay in additional savings to wean home from grid.

Start making your plan now (unbeknown to them, I started a "plan" years ago).

Any TOD wisdom or suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks for the tips on living with the homestead;;;;;

I'm going to print off the requirements and paste them on the front door, so that when my siblings come asking for a hand out, they can read the list and decide if they want to try to make it here on the 40 acres.

I suggested it to them the last time they gathered here, and all I got was "whatever"

the old hermit

Thanks, hermit. I'm hoping to refine the list and perhaps make some items deed restrictions at some point. We already have minimum lot size on some of the property, primarily to discourage development.

Ghung, requirements seem reasonable. Are you taking applications? Please forward address. :-)

good to know you can plan over there. here in the UK the Crown will own everything again - not a chance of getting such land or planning permission here in Surrey ...

back to the past for us serfs - Harry Harrison had it right in his futuristic SciFi series - Home World was the first book of the Triology

"Hundreds of years in the future in a rebuilt United Kingdom, Jan Kulozik is a top-flight computer engineer. His private life is one of luxury privilege, but in his work he struggles with the incompetence of the workers who use and abuse the products of his skills, ( that was ethanol production although the reviewer did not mention it and no schools for the poor either - such a waste of money ! - why do I think Republican now ?? .)

education and power all in the top 1% hands - bit like today really........


"Code" is the minimum requirement. I realize that beyond code for insulation is expensive
and may be beyond their reach right now. I would say that they should design their home for additional insulation down the road.

Per my design (about 1200 square feet) the roof can be brought to R-50+ for about $1000 (blown fiberglass). Three sides, fully earth bermed, require only R-13 per code (appropriate to climate). The south facing exposed side will be offset framing (2 x R-13) or 6" SIPs (R-20+), and windows/glass for passive solar. Roof overhang will be calculated for seasonal shading. Slab floor with radiant heat to supplement passive solar. Only one load bearing internal wall. Wood heat in center of home with heavy thermal mass surround (local stone), and integrated water heater. 400 gallon water tank for heat storage in utility room behind fireplace (allows for thermal syphon or active pump). All living spaces on south side for passive heat, excepting bathrooms, closets and utility spaces. Recommend sound insulation for bedroom walls. High ceiling proposed in central living area for passive cooling. Load bearing roof designed for possible green roof system or container gardening. Solar/wind pumped gravity potable water.

We've been re-building this house we bought a bit up the Blue Ridge from you. Trying to incorporate as many passive solar attributes as possible (always a challenge retrofitting). Regarding sound insulation in bedroom walls, have been experimenting with a clay/straw mix, about halfway between clay-slip and cob, for both sound barrier and additional thermal mass. Really like the way it's coming out - and materials are free (or nearly so, if you have to buy straw).

Do you have neighbor issues that require fencing in dogs?

Everybody around here lets a dog or two run loose with virtually no problems, excepting when somebody abandons a dog to get rid of it when they move or something of that nature.On rare occasions, we have a feral dog pack kill a calf or two, but these dogs are not the property of local people.

I deny permission to people to ride atv's for recreation, as do most of our neighbors nowadays, due to an influx of obnoxious yahoos from town disturbing the peace and quiet and making ruts through the woods and fields.

But we have a couple of ATV's and they are very useful on a small farm-cheaper to haul a few tools to an outlying field , for hauling in just a couple of bushels of beans or peaches, or to check fences, or to cut through family owned woods and fields and visit nearby neighbors.

A gallon of gas burnt in my Honda Fourtrax utility atv saves somewhere around six to ten ten burnt in the truck."Utility" horses are nice but they must be looked after and fed every single day,and they are far more dangerous than the atv if the atv driver is careful and conservative about going too fast or crossing overly rough or steep ground.

Yeah, Mac, one of my pet peeves (pardon the pun). I expect pet owners to take full responsibility for their pets, and if their pets are free to roam, someone else inevitably ends up taking responsibility for them. My brother lets his dogs roam and they have damaged others' property, stopped cars on the road, caused other folks dogs to bark a lot (rove alert!), often at bad times (during my nap!). Other neighbors have roaming dogs that pack up and chase our wildlife and cause havoc when they invade my dogs' territory. Good dogs, bad owners.

My brother has lost 7 dogs in 10 years, to what/where he doesn't know. He has also spent far more on vet bills due to injuries, from what/where he's not sure. Our dogs have a fenced 3/4 acre run via a doggy door, and never roam free without "adult supervision". We certainly don't assume that the neighbors should be required to deal with them. We also occasionally breed one of our bitches, and lax attitudes toward dog ownership gives radical binary-thinking opposition groups like PETA and HSUS plenty of ammo against responsible purebred owners like us.

As for ATVs, as long as their purpose is other than joy riding and fuel/resource consumption, as with log splitters, tractors, etc. they will be carefully considered, knowing that the time limit on their usefulness is likely limited. I prefer people walk. What's the hurry anyway.

Your blanket laws seem harsh, another reason to fear dictatorial rule. :)

It is the responsibility of the owner to teach the dog, and consider the breed and the task. A malamute or hound will pack and run regardless, and with the Hienz 57's, look at the dominant types.

But to cage all dogs is to lose so much. Just a howling, barking box, neurotic beings waiting for feed, maybe a pet.

I've always let our dogs run free, they are not allowed in the house period. And they are old animals, one 16 yrs, before they die or I have to put them down. They know our property boundaries, and they know livestock. We train them as pups, the older dogs reinforce some lessons. Territories are set here, often by urine. It's a very rare deer that leaves it's tracks around house shrubbery or gardens.

They are an early warning system for anyone coming up to the place. (I know the caged variety can function like this, but there's so many false alarms to wade thru.)

And perhaps the biggest plus is coyote control. I'm sure a pack could kill a domestic if they can splinter it off alone. But it hasn't happened. Coyotes can patrol much of our place, but as soon as they reach the calving pasture fence, our dogs will meet them step for step, howl for howl. The boundary is set, neither group seems to step over. I've watched them do their dance many times. Young coyote pups seem to learn fast, if they come over, they're hightailing it back in short order. I doubt we could have sheep if not for the dogs.

We've had timber wolves into the barnyard, and the dogs set up a fracas, but really seemed fearful. That lone time that I observed, the wolves were chasing a doe they'd injured up the mtn. She careened down on 3 working legs, guided by a sectional fence into the side yard and house, where she stopped. The dogs kept the wolves at bay till I got a rifle, and fired into the air. Wolves took off, the doe was dead when I walked over.

"Your blanket laws seem harsh, another reason to fear dictatorial rule. :)"

Yeah, when you're the guy paying the insurance, the one who gets yelled at or sued because your dog... was being a dog, dictator fits. And "caged" really doesn't apply at our place. They have plenty of room to run (400 x 120 feet), a kennel built in the house, take naps in our bed, regular grooming, the best food (often homemade raw), and my kids say they're jealous. Three are also Grand Show Champions, two have won national breed championships (one three times), have finished top ten nationally several years, and would LOVE to chase the coyotes. We have a mongrel named Gutter Dog who does that. A friend raises Great Pyrs and will give (trade) me one when we get the goats.

I would love to chase the coyotes...
...but Pappy won't let me :-(

Nobody sneaks up on our place...

Here in Alberta, farmers and ranchers have the legal right to shoot any dog "pursuing, worrying or destroying livestock." And they will do that.

Alberta owners lose 44 dogs

A Northern Alberta couple whose dog was found dead by the side of the road — and then discovered dozens more had met the same fate — are blaming a clash of cultures between dog lovers and a local rancher protecting his livestock.

Bill and Carrie McElwain of Redwater, Alta., say local residents have told them as many as 44 dogs have been killed in the area, apparently by a local rancher who has lost stock to a dog. But they say the rancher is too trigger-happy, and the police have closed the file on the one case they investigated.

two weeks after the dog went missing, the couple found its body by the side of a local road. The McElwains say it had been shot in the head.

“Her beautiful white coat was perfect,” said Mr. McElwain. “Her only wound was a neat, round hole in her forehead, just over her left eye”

The sights must have been off on the gun, otherwise he would have nailed it right between the eyes. Most ranchers, though, would quietly bury it in a shallow, unmarked grave and nobody would be the wiser.

Sergeant Jennifer Jackson of the Redwater RCMP followed up on the McEwlain incident but said nobody will be charged, citing a lack of evidence. “That case has been resolved,” she said, adding it is the only complaint of its type the force has received in three years.

44 missing dogs, only one complaint. Everyone else understands how the system works.

Crystal Hundy, Mr. Mercier’s neighbour, said that years ago a dog got onto his ranch and killed one of his deer. The dog’s owner refused to reimburse Mr. Mercier for the loss, and that’s when the shootings began.

Ranchers are sensitive about dogs harassing their deer, too. Also it's not safe to ride an ATV across their property without permission, because otherwise they might mistake it for a dog.

Local law enforcement around here sides with farmers-I'm not even sure what the law is, but nobody ever prosecutes a farmer for getting rid of feral dogs.

The thing that strikes me as strange is that we so seldom ever have a problem with dogs and livestock-just about everybody around here owns breeds that have become adapted to farm life, and the only dog I ever had that would bother stock was a full grown Lab given a home, which had never been out of the city.She chased ducks and chickens.She had to be sent back to town.

But a Lab raised around chickens and ducks won't chase them.I have never heard of a rabbit dog or a coon hound chasing a cow or a pig, although puppies will try to play with them.None of our hunting breeds have ever shown the slightest inclination to chase cars but we do currently have an intellectually challenged blue tick that barks at the tractor every time I start it up.

By some means or another even cats are able to learn to distinguish baby chicks from birds;ours are very quick to grab any careless bird-they get a few by ambush, and more that bounce off the picture windows, but they have NEVER bothered a hen's chick, even when it gets separated from its Momma.

It seems to me that the car and cow chasers are dogs of more aggressive breeds most of the time, or dogs that were raised in confinement like overly protected kids which aren't allowed out enough to learn how to act outside the house or classroom.Lot's of that kind get in trouble no sooner than they manage to get out on their own due to lack of judgement.

I kept a dog for company when I lived in the city, but I always felt guilty about having him penned up in the yard.Mine will always run free here so long as I can manage it-if they bother somebody or their stock, I will shoot them myself, or find them a city home someplace if I can.

This sounds harsh I know, but it is the sop used to breed dogs to match the environment, and it has always worked..

My dogs are self actualized dogs-I wish I were half as happy as they are!

Hopefully there won't be too many houses built within a mile or two of here for many years, as nearly all the land that close belongs to working farms, so we are good for a few more years of free roaming dogs.

All good things come to an end.The last people who were able to allow hogs to roam freely in the woods around here have been dead for close to a century now.

When I lived near Richmond on our place there, I found it necessary to "shoot , shovel, and shut up" as the local sheriff put it, on several occasions-nearly all of them involving aggressive breeds running loose from a nearby subdivision;the people there got into owning pit bulls and such, and there were little kids around my place often. Nobody who owned them had a clue, as I posted a reward for information leading to the recovery/arrest/ conviction of thieves of (non existent) dogs of my own.

It depends on which state you live in. Was that Richmond, Virginia?

Virginia Consolidated Dog Laws

§ 3.2-6552. Dogs killing, injuring or chasing livestock or poultry

It shall be the duty of any animal control officer or other officer who may find a dog in the act of killing or injuring livestock or poultry to kill such dog forthwith whether such dog bears a tag or not.

Any person finding a dog committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section shall have the right to kill such dog on sight as shall any owner of livestock or his agent finding a dog chasing livestock on land utilized by the livestock when the circumstances show that such chasing is harmful to the livestock.

Any court shall have the power to order the animal control officer or other officer to kill any dog known to be a confirmed livestock or poultry killer, and any dog killing poultry for the third time shall be considered a confirmed poultry killer. The court, through its contempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian, or harborer of the dog to produce the dog.

So, the law in Virginia is not a great deal different than that in Alberta.

Farmers, of course, will shoot their own dog if they go after the livestock or poultry. I remember the day our father caught our pet dog Trixie with chicken feathers on her muzzle, and *BOOM* Trixie went to 12-gauge heaven.

I would add that passive solar alone isn't going to make much difference without super insulation and low infiltration design. For example, in your (and my) area, walls should be at least 12 inches thick, which is roughly double what the Building Code requires. One should remember that code levels of insulation are actually minimums and more is usually better, given the expected limits of available energy in future. Much greater insulation would also be required as thru the roof area and 2 story buildings are more efficient than single story in terms of energy use.

Living in a structure with more than 1 level is different and requires a change in perspective from that typical in the post WW II Sunbelt. The most obvious problem is: what does one do as age related loss of strength and mobility makes climbing stairs more difficult, then impossible? Something I worry about, as I'm getting closer to that point in life everyday...

E. Swanson

"...what does one do as age related loss of strength and mobility makes climbing stairs more difficult, then impossible?"

This was a primary design factor for our house, one I struggled with a bit. I decided on single story with wide doors, easy access, and even built a curbless shower wide enough for wheelchair access. After careful planning and consideration (and being my own builder) it didn't add much to the cost compared to some other designs I considered. As for aesthetics; form follows function. It amazes me how much folks will spend trying to impress the neighbors. Of course, if one's ultimate goal is to resell the home for a profit.... well, good luck with that these days. It depends on one's definition of "home", it seems.

Ghung: excellent suggestions. I also have had the same discussion with my kids. I would add that there is no way to afford even a small house if you have to pay retail. Plan to accumulate building materials well in advance of the construction and use recycled everything from windows and doors(easy to find and cheap) to lumber and fastenings. Our second lumberyard here just went under and much of the inventory went for 50 to 90% off. Building to code USUALLY is a good idea and mandatory for electrical, plumbing, spans, snow load etc. I would add: no loans on ANYTHING especially vehicles. Do not ever buy a depreciating asset in this economic environment. Accumulate durable used clothing and the tools, appliances needed to survive and learn how to maintain them. Some appliances like old Maytags are durable and repairable indefinitely. Avoid appliances with eg superfluous gadgetry and expensive motherboards which are not serviceable. Do not EVER buy cheap Chinese junk of any description unless that is absolutely the only alternative. I would strongly second the wood cookstove and we recently sold our beautiful antique Engman-Matthews cookstove with a small firebox for a brand new Amish Kitchen Queen cookstove with a huge firebox holding logs overnight and an oven with superior baking qualities.


Ever thought about straw bales for the walls cheap and would help with the insulation. Wouldn't fly here in Holland, too many regulation, but it might in America.

Ghung - And if interested checkout the straw bale builders in Austin, Texas. I've researched them: good points and bad. I would also look at monolithic concrete/foam construction....a home your great-great-great grandkids could live.

I have had the opportunity to inspect a couple of straw bale houses here in Alaska, and to talk at length with the owners. One house is near McCarthy in the Wrangell Mtns, and one north of Anchorage. I am not particularly knowledgable about straw bale construction, and I was quite skeptical that it would work well in Alaskan conditions. However, after touring these two houses I was extremely impressed.

I found the McCarthy house particularly interesting for several reasons. The climate in McCarthy is rather severe, with temperatures routinely below zero F (minus 18 C) in winter. Winter temperatures of minus 40 F (minus 40 C) are not uncommon. The owner first built a smaller house, a decade or more ago, to test the concept. That building is still in fine shape and serves as a guest cottage. The main house, in use for several years, is extemely comfortable and attractive, and would not seem out of place in any nice US suburb. The owner travels extensively, leaving the house unattended, even in winter. He says that even in typical sub-zero McCarthy winter weather, should the heat fail the interior would stay above freezing for at least a week. (He is kind of a techy guy, and has instrument data to back this up.)

I've looked into straw bale (and cordwood and cob) building, though I opted for more conventional construction. We get lots of rain and humidity here, plenty of termites, carpenter and fire ants, and the building inspectors were already at the limit with many of my ideas. All things considered, the costs/labor numbers were comparable since I got much of my materials at salvage and auction. These were also building techniques that I was/am very familiar with. I decided to apply any learning curve to alt energy strategy, PV, passive solar, wood/solar heated radiant floor, etc..

Temperature lows have been in the low 40s, highs in the low 50s, cloudy and wet for 4 days, we haven't closed the thermal curtains, we fired the woodstove one evening during the period, mainly to heat DHW, and it is currently 70 degrees F in the great room. I can live with that. Maybe I'll build a fire tonight for fun.

I think straw bale is a great idea for dryer climates, as is cob or rammed earth. I love the NM Earth Ships made with old tires, though I doubt our inspectors would.

Love your fierce self-sufficiency Ghung. Never had truffles, but we do pick Morels every year!

Could substitute Earth Bermed for any efficient wall design imo. Maybe that's just because I've seen a few ill thought out earth bermed barn/shops around here with buckling walls, or that a good retaining wall is something I would be wary of as a DIY'er. Off hand it seems like the increased cost for a good earth bermed foundation would equal out against the increased cost for dbl stick, sip, icf, or straw bale walls.

Only thing I disagree with is the no mortgage part. With so much distortion in the market in favor of cheap home lending and imo an inflationary monetary environment it seems wise to take on an AFFORDABLE mortgage especially if building a house in cash would leave a person's investments lacking diversification and possibly increase their risk. I would also diversify rather than pay into escrow.

Our foundation walls were the only thing we contracted out. I did the grading, layout and footers, so the costs weren't bad at all. Still quite reasonable. I have a great foundation guy, quite the perfectionist and well worth the money. Some folks object to the huge embodied energy factor of concrete, but it certainly has its advantages.

As for earth berming, our choice is as much site specific as anything. The choice was to earth berm into the hill, build on-ground and put in a retaining wall, or use good bottom land with less solar exposure. Earth is also a moderator during hot summer months.

As for mortgages, I suppose you're more of an optimist than I. Also, construction loans are tough to get these days for kids just starting out, and they place time constraints on the construction process. It took me 6 years to accumulate materials and build our house, but saved us, IMO, about 70% of the cost of building with a loan and contractor. One can always get a mortgage after the fact, but again, doomer that I am, I do very little business with banks. We took a very small mortgage (less than 25%) after the house was finished to avoid some high interest debt (12 months, same as cash!); much easier and cheaper after the fact. Prior to that, I was trailer trash for 10 years ;-) I still miss living in the RV sometimes...just me and the cat.

And I miss living out of my backpack/bivee sack:) I agree construction loan terms can be a big downside--one of the reasons we bought existing. I still dream of building new, smaller, and smarter and will admit I'd like to do it in cash, but consider it a luxury just to not have to deal with another overseer not an especially good investment.

I think the doomer in me is exactly what likes the huge, low interest rate, socialized risk, leverage being force fed down our throats. If things get bad enough they'll print so much money you can pay your fixed mortgage off for the price of a pack of gum--or a bushel of truffles:)

If collapse happens faster than they can print, and deflation wins, well then, take your solar panels off the roof, pass on most of the losses, and move. Of course that only works if the diversifications you made haven't gone to zero and you're out on the street I suppose.

In that sense I can see the upside of paying cash. It's agreeing to forgo the upside of a near negative real interest rate on mortgages (and possible VERY negative future real rate if inflation spikes) for the near certainty of at least having shelter and a garden.

Maybe I'm just being greedy.

I just can't for the life of me imagine a non-inflationary future. (Famous last words lol)

Hi Ghung,

Thanks for sharing.

Since it's still holiday season - (more or less) - I'll add a couple of cents:

1) Mandate "fun." Let's see...some new (or expand on current?) family traditions - singing, guitar-lessons, guitar-playing - music making together? If the adults don't know how...let them learn along with the kids. Some silly time - some play time. Perhaps reading aloud? Acting? Story-telling? i.e, deliberate, set-aside, "preventative" time for creativity and laughter.

2) A little time set aside to nurture relationships and relationship skills. Now, this may sound...well, however...here's a version of what I mean: learning some "soft" skills, such as conflict resolution, different kinds of decision-making (group and individual)...explore some of these things.

They may come in real handy. One's family may be perfect. OTOH, it may be passing along some ways of relating that might be open to improvement.

And then, there's the "outside world."

Here are some old references, but I haven't posted them in a while: www.cnvc.org, www.gordontraining.com. There's a lot of great info around. The Harvard Program on Negotiation, despite the price tag and the H name - there are some really good books that are classics: "Getting to Yes" is one title. "Crucial Conversations" is another. "Crucial Confrontations" is also quite nice. Most available in the library.

My favorite Thomas Gordon (author) book is called "P.E.T. in Action" and can be got for $1 used from Amazon.

I would agree about Greece. Notice in the article how it's presented in real time as a choice between options, one being worse than the other. The required macro changes are being expressed.

This I found very interesting, how decaying infrastructure(roads)changed the way things were transported for centuries.- The Chinese wheelbarrow. This paints a very detailed picture of our future, more or less.


aptly titled -

How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow

Thx for that. Reminds me of our old friend here on TOD, Bob Shaw, aka Totoneila. Wheelbarrows, spiderwebrings and bags of NPK...

Are humans smarter than yeast?

If anybody is in touch with the old regulars who don't post anymore, I would like to have help forwarding a message to them.Thanks!

Put an e-mail address in your profile. People have no way to contact you unless you do that.

Thanks for the Chinese wheelbarrow link. Who knew!

The same site has an article on wood-gas cars with photos I've never seen:

Here is a woodgas car made of wood:

Reminds me of a cartoon posted on a machine-shop wall in New Mexico:
"Wood Stove! Guaranteed to burn for at least four hours!"
...and there's two monkeys jumping up-and-down in-front of this flaming kitchen stove made entirely out of wood.

Here is a link for the cargo trikes that we use here in Mexico and were discussed the other day:-



Thanks! I've never seen one of these bare-bones.

Now imagine that basket containing a large insulated box of food or icepops, a large (metre tall and half in diameter) cooking pot of tamales, a block of ice and jars of flavourings to make shaved ice, tanks of barley water and tamarind water, gourds filled with various flavoured waters, a glass display box on top filled with sweet bread (not sweetbreads), a freezer chest full of ice cream, a bench seat for a couple of passengers, a load of scrap metal to take to the recycler, etc. Oh, they don't show the large umbrella over the top or the battery with tape player and megaphone. Half the time the guy (or gal) is pushing it as the chain on the fixie is broken and they won't get around to fixing it.

Hope this fills in the picture.


"The land" may not be as supportive as it was a while back. Much of the Balkan peninsula, including pretty much all of western Greece, is in going through a long term drying that is only likely to accelerate as zones move north, as southern Europe becomes an annex of the Sahara.


See final image

RE the iceage links, the best quote is from Hansen, as usual:

"What would have been (absent humans) is only of academic interest. The two principal mechanisms by which the orbital effects on the regional/seasonal distribution of insolation instigate climate change are melting/growth of ice sheets (thus albedo change –> temperature change) and the slow feedback effect of GHGs responding to temperature change, thus increasing the greenhouse effect. But the huge human-made GHG changes cause ice to be melting all over the planet. So the growth of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets to start the next ice age can’t happen — on the contrary, as you can see, the tundra, Greenland and sea ice are melting and shrinking in area. So the increasing albedo mechanism needed to move the planet into the next ice age can’t happen — unless humans go extinct. Of course I know this is already well known by you

In otherwords, we are the enemy of the ice, the converse will now never be true.

The Arctic will soon be ice free for some, then longer and longer parts of the summer.

Even if the reports of huge increases in methane are found to be in error or if the emissions are somehow self limiting, a new open ocean on the earth is itself a huge new source for a very powerful GHG--water vapor.

the next ice age can’t happen — unless humans go extinct.

If any of the supervolcanos cover the planet in ash or the solar system drifts into an interstellar dust cloud - a new ice age could happen.

a huge new source for a very powerful GHG--water vapor

And this kind of change in the hydrological cycle will change where things are grown and that will effect the present farm-business models.

You're right--one can never completely rule out comet strikes and super-volcanoes.

My impression, though, is that even super volcanoes' effects would be extremely severe, but relatively short lived as the dust settles out in a few months to years. Net GHG's like CO2, on the other hand, stay in the atmosphere for centuries and millennia. But I have not made a careful study of the subject.

It doesn't HAVE to be 'the humans' fault. Just because the odds favor Humans being the cause does not mean that they will be the cause.

People like Lucas http://rabbithole2.com/ think ice ages are due to a solar system visitor. (claims an uptick in earthquakes in March and Sept is an expression of this visitor) The pro rock dust people http://remineralize.org/ think when plants stop growing well (due to a lack of rock dust) the biosphere makes more rockdust via the grinding of glaciers.

Human economic/population models do not favor an ice age - so if Humans can stop one they will.

Thanks for the links. I needed a good chuckle this morning.

The remineralise people are the least 'out there' of the 2 links. If you are growing your own garden/making compost you may wish to look into adding rock dust. Not like it can hurt, eh?

As observed elsewhere in this drumbeat:
Siberia did not have an ice sheet on it over the last glaciation, at least.

Lucas has 'an answer' to that one - the tilt of the Earth was different with North America being where the North Pole is now. And how did the axis get changed - well his hobby-horse of the solar system visitor.

The remineralise people are the least 'out there' of the 2 links.

Adding rock dust to provide minerals for crops is a well established science.


Ironically, the U of G is located at 50 Stone Road East.

BTW, I didn't see the Remineralize folks claiming that glaciers are going to jump into action for us. They actually said that glacial till is a good place to look for pre-ground rock dust. That seems like a pretty smart approach.

I didn't see the Remineralize folks claiming that glaciers are going to jump into action for us.

My memory is that was a statement on the old site - 2 to 3 site revisions ago.

See this info about an active caldera around Mammoth Lakes, California.


During the early 1990's, trees began dying off at several places on Mammoth Mountain on the southwest edge of Long Valley Caldera. Studies conducted by USGS and U.S. Forest Service scientists show that the trees are being killed by large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas seeping up through the soil from magma deep beneath Mammoth Mountain.

So much for the "more CO2 is good for the trees" slogan presented by the climate change denialists. There are, after all, something called "to much".

Horseshoe Lake in the Mammoth Lakes area of California has large CO2 releases. Been there, many dead and dying trees. Two rangers died after one fell into a vent where the snow was unstable and the second man tried to rescue his co-worker. Typical for confined space deaths.


I'm a former resident of Mammoth Lakes.
The Long Valley Caldera was one of the biggest eruptions ever.
It 9s just a matter of time.

If any of the supervolcanos cover the planet in ash or the solar system drifts into an interstellar dust cloud - a new ice age could happen.

Given the fact that the majority of extra energy from climate change is stored in the oceans and the CO2 will likely outlive any dust/sulfur dioxide by a factor of 100 I doubt that a super volcano could cause an ice age. We have a lot of energy already banked in the ocean and eyeballing the graph it does seem to be increasing quite quickly which is likely enough to offset any long term cooling due to an eruption.


Whether a supervolcano could cause an ice age or not may be debatable however it could certainly cause a very severe little ice age. But that may all be academic. A supervolcano, would very likely cause enough climate change that would last at least a decade and wipe out most of the earth's crops. That would wipe out at least 90 percent of the earth's human population.

When Yellowstone last blew animals as far east as Ohio died from inhaling the glassy ash particles. Toba, the last supervalcano, wiped out all but a few thousand of the earth's human population.

Ron P.

That would wipe out at least 90 percent of the earth's human population.

Almost any impulse event that could bring on an ice age would do a fine job of killing many Humans.

A super volcano probability of eruption is less than 0.1-0.01% chance per year depending on whether or not you choose VEI of 7 or 8 as your Armageddon criterion. It is a risk but at the same time it isn't something that is likely enough to lose sleep over either way as it is definitely something you can't do anything about. It is something worth keeping in mind however as even a VEI eruption of 7 is enough to cause something like the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tambora#Aftermath or year without summer.


year without summer

Yeah, we should worry more about a "year without winter", which seems to be what we have NOW.

Not quite....

The climate may have changed but we haven't got rid of winter just yet..

"Yeah, we should worry more about a "year without winter", which seems to be what we have NOW."


It was 14 F Saturday morning, up to 24 for the high, then Sunday there was warming to freezing, with light snow, then fog today.

Seems wintry enough.

Heavy snow in Alaska: 5' (that's 18' in FoxNews speak).

"Anchorage is off to its snowiest winter on record with more than 80 inches so far."

Icebreakers are trying to reach a stranded town:

...In keeping with predictions of displaced and confused weather patterns.

"Anchorage is off to its snowiest winter on record with more than 80 inches so far."

Yup. We got lots of snow. It has stayed cold too, so the skiing has been great.

In Anchorage we have a very nice network of trails right in town. They are paved bike trails in summer, and groomed for cross country skiing in winter. One of those trails runs within a few blocks of my house. It leads about 9 miles (14.5 km) along the coast to Kincaid Park, which is a superb nordic ski area. Some of the nordic trails at Kincaid and other parks are lighted at night (which is handy this time of year at 61 deg North Latitude). Many of the trails are built, maintained, and groomed by the non-profit Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.

I have been doing my best to get out often after work to make use of this fine community resource. Skiing has been great!


I headed down to Seward at the end of October, nothing but drizzle then. Damn!! That would have been a beautiful drive in some snow. The locals were complaining about how it used to be -20F and lots of snow by that time of the year, were they pulling my leg?

They were mildly pulling your leg. A lot of snow wouldn't be unusual by late October, but minus 20 F sounds a bit cold for Seward, especially in October. Seward and the Kenai Mountains has a very strongly marine influenced climate. While they get a lot of precipitaion (both rain and snow), and it often blows hard, temperatures are usually not that quite that cold (though it sometimes happens).

As I type this, the Seward Highway is closed between Anchorage and Girdwood due to avalanches and blizzard conditions.

Damn! Next time I need to get a trip scheduled in January sounds like.

Here is what you are missing: Wind, avalanches close highway to Girdwood.


Edit: Turnagain Arm, south of Anchorage, is somewhat unusual in that one could be driving on a main highway, at sea level, and be killed by an avalanche.

I spoke with my friend in Kansas today. Winter never really started... it is spring-like. Last year it was well below freezing.

Winters not in Kansas anymore! :-)

Chicago is experiencing warmer than average temperatures. So far, we have had just one small snowfall - unlike "Snowpocalypse" from last year.

High temperatures have been in the 40's and even 50's.

We are expecting snow on Thursday and a drop into the 20's for a day or two.


Yes, across much of North America and Europe, we are having an unusually warm winter, and some are calling it no winter at all.

Here's what Jeff Masters has to say about it:


"Flowers are sprouting in January in New Hampshire, the Sierra Mountains in California are nearly snow-free, and lakes in much of Michigan still have not frozen. It's 2012, and the new year is ringing in another ridiculously wacky winter for the U.S. In Fargo, North Dakota yesterday, the mercury soared to 55°F, breaking a 1908 record for warmest January day in recorded history. More than 99% of North Dakota had no snow on the ground this morning, and over 95% of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover. High temperatures in Nebraska yesterday were in the 60s, more than 30° above average. Storm activity has been almost nil over the past week over the entire U.S., with the jet stream bottled up far to the north in Canada. It has been remarkable to look at the radar display day after day and see virtually no echoes, and it is very likely that this has been the driest first week of January in U.S. recorded history. Portions of northern New England, the Upper Midwest, and the mountains of the Western U.S. that are normally under a foot of more of snow by now have no snow, or just a dusting of less than an inch. Approximately half of the U.S. had temperatures at least 5°F above average during the month of December, with portions of North Dakota and Minnesota seeing temperatures 9°F above average. The strangely warm and dry start to winter is not limited to the U.S--all of continental Europe experienced well above-average temperatures during December...."

Weird winter weather: Want snow? Head south

Where's winter? If you're in the lower 48 states you might try Midland, Texas. At some 20 inches so far this season -- more than half of that dumped on Monday alone -- it's got more snow than most U.S. cities much farther north.

As for Minnesota ... Folks there are even beginning to wonder if they'll see a below-zero temperature this winter. Every previous winter in 140 years of records has seen temps below zero, but this year could be different. As for Tuesday, Huttner expects the area to see a record high 52 degrees, shattering the 49 set in 1990.

Yair...it's been hot alright...127 near Windorah yesterday.


Good grief. I experienced the famous 119 F in Tucson, AZ in the summer of 1989. Walking outside in an urban area in that weather was like pushing against a wall of fire.

I can imagine that high temps are a little less intense in the open desert.


My daffodils are coming up ...

The last few lines of the Jeff Masters blog post are troubling...

"If we don't get significant snows during the latter part of winter, the odds of a damaging drought during the summer in the Midwest will rise. The soils will dry out much earlier than usual without a deep snow pack to protect them, resulting in a much earlier onset of summer-like soil dryness. Water availability may also be a problem in some regions of the west due to the lack of snow melt. Fortunately, most Western U.S. reservoirs are above average in water supply, due to the record-breaking snows of the previous winter."

A super volcano probability of eruption is less than 0.1-0.01%

So worst case (0.01%), one every 100 years. When was the last one again?

No. That makes nce in a milennium.

.01% is once per 10,000years which is far to frequent (may depend on the lower boundary of "supereruption". I think its more like one in a million, or at least 1 in a hundred thousand.

I submit that it does not matter as the survivability of most life in North America drops to a very low percentage should a Yellowstone "super volcano" event happen.

This is why the History Channel (bless their heart) has so much traction with the "super volcano" and other "global event" disaster films.

We're likely to experience infrastructure failures on a grand scale well before the big 'un takes us all home -- but talking about dams, levies, bridges and 40 year old nuclear plants is kind of boring. (Kudos to them for at least trying, when they're not showing Ancient Aliens)

Sorry misread the percentage. Too used to using 1.0=100%. I thought it was a bit high at the time.

"In otherwords, we are the enemy of the ice, the converse will now never be true. "

I was recently at the Museum of Natural History in DC. They had an exhibit there on the ice age. I had never realized just how regional the ice sheets were- largely a North American and Northern European event. The rest of the world and certainly all the places that heavily populated today were completely free of ice and enjoyed very good conditions. Of course since so much of what we read and learn (and have done so for the last 400 years) is written from North American and European perspective it is easy to see how the "Ice Age" would be built up to the same degree as global warming.

Yes, I too was surprised when I first learned that Siberia did not have an ice sheet on it over the last glaciation, at least.

That is actually where some of the methane hydrate we are now worried about came from. What is now the Asian continental shelf in the Arctic was then mostly dry land, since so much water was taken up in the American and European icesheet that sea level was considerably lower. All the vegetation that was growing there got covered with water and its carbon turned to methane trapped in ice crystals with pools of free methane further down.

That methane is now emerging, apparently at a rapidly accelerating rate.

And if we went back to the peak of the last ice age, and used present state boundaries, Alaska would still have more icefree land area than any other state! (And much of that was in the northern part of the state). Siberia was/is too dry. Take a look at a map of Greenland, there is some dry land in the north of the island, the big outlet glaciers are mainly in the southern half to two thirds.

While I have only the linked news story to discuss, (NATURE charges to read their reports), I think the jury is still out. Looking back at the climate record does not tell us the exact mechanism(s) which have been involved with ending an Interglacial period, such as we now enjoy.

We don't know, for example, the effects of the actions of the Asian "invaders" who crossed the Bering Strait and proceeded to kill all the large megafauna in North America. Those creatures had an indirect impact on the climate, which was the result of their consumption of large quantities of plants. More recently, the spread of European populations across middle America also had an impact, as most of the forests were cut and replaced with fields and pastures for agricultural production.

We also don't fully understand the possibility of changes in the thermohaline circulation (THC) at higher latitudes of the North Atlantic and Arctic Mediterranean, which have been implicated in the onset of our present glacial conditions some 3 million years ago. A shutdown of the THC would be expected to cool the land areas around the North Atlantic and produce winter sea-ice at much lower latitudes in the North Atlantic as well. I think the location of the great ice sheets during glacial times is indicative of much cooler conditions over the North Atlantic and changes in precipitation patterns on our now warmer Eaarth may lead to much more snow fall in places which do not now experience this during Winter.

Think back to the extreme cold and snow conditions over Britain and Northern Europe these past 2 winters. Or, consider the relative lack of snow fall over much the US so far this winter, with some exceptions, such as the hit on Cordova, Alaska:

The city is used to snow, but not like this season's blanketing.

The Guard reported more than 18 feet of snow has fallen in the past weeks, although the National Weather Service did not immediately have a measurement.

The high Arctic which was once covered by ice sheets is now called a "snow desert", meaning that it's too cold for the atmosphere to carry moisture into the area and for snow to fall. Cordova, AK is at sea level, not some location with high mountain glaciers...

E. Swanson

BD/ES, I always find your posts informative and thoughtful, but I could not figure out what your main point was with this one.

Which Nature article were you referring to? What particular claim do you find least convincing?

Of course, there are all sorts of uncertainties about the paleo-record as well as about the exact causes of specific aberrant weather patterns now? But you seem to imply that this all adds up to something, but I can't quite suss out what that would be. Maybe I'm just tired and am missing the obvious?

Some recent news on modeling the thermohaline circulation (THC) [Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)]

Researchers can predict Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Climate scientists around Dr. Daniela Matei and Prof. Dr. Jochem Marotzke from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Prof. Dr. Johanna Baehr from Hamburg University have now shown for the first time that the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation at 26.5 °N can be skillfully predicted for up to four years.

... Ensemble forecasts initialized between January 2008 and January 2011 indicate a stable AMOC at 26.5°N until at least 2014, despite a brief wind-induced weakening in 2010.

Thanks for the link, I hadn't seen that one yet. From what little I've seen previously about the RAPID program, which is based on measurements taken along an array instruments measuring current at latitude 26.5°N, I am a skeptic. The authors note:

However, the forecast initialized in 2010 shows a pronounced AMOC minimum in March 2010 that arises from a minimum in EK, which in turn is induced by an extremely negative North Atlantic Oscillation in winter 2009–2010 (28). The real AMOC minimum in March 2010 may turn out to be even deeper than predicted, because our ensemble mean underpredicts AMOC amplitude. We are confident, however, that the AMOC minimum in March 2010 will be a short-lived phenomenon...


We cannot readily generalize our results for 26.5°N to other latitudes; recent studies reported a change in the character of AMOC fluctuations around 40°N, with a strong decadal component to the north and enhanced higher-frequency variability to the south (29–31). However, for 26.5°N, we have established AMOC hindcast skill, we understand that this skill arises from the mid-ocean transport, and we confidently predict a stable AMOC at least until the end of 2014.

Sorry, I don't share their "confidence" as it relates to the THC, which is a rather localized phenomena at higher latitudes...

E. Swanson

On the Saudi Arabia solar article. I love (NOT) these imbecilic reporters, who take the annual insolation and add "every day". No wonder SA is an inhospitable desert, it gets a years worth of sunshine every day!

Yup, journalists seem to never miss an opportunity to mangle energy units. My favorite is statements like "the proposed power plant will power xx,xxx homes for a year". After the year is over it self destructs, I suppose? This is not only the wrong number, or even unit: it's the wrong dimensions, as a physicist would say.

Another thing they (and even some peak oilers) often get wrong is ratios. E.g., the recent article that said:

"the market exchange rate was at 16,400 [Iranian] rials to the dollar in mid-day trading. The rial has lost nearly 55% of its value against the US dollar since January 2011, when it was traded at 10,850 to the dollar."

- not quite as bad as the articles that quote a 245% decrease in something, but still...

The article gives the solar insolation in kWh/m^2/day. To get the annual insolation, multiply by 365. Now you have 365*2200=803000 kWh/m^2/year.

On further review, solar insolation is usually given as one kilowatt per meter^2. Which is the same as 24 kWh/m^2/day. I think there are two extra zeroes.

I think there are two extra zeroes.

A factor of 365, is a bit more than two and a half decimal digits. Incidentally, if that was allowed to reach radiative equilibrium (the heat wasn't carried away), the surface temperature would be over 1000C. Take that Mercury!

On further review, solar insolation is usually given as one kilowatt per meter^2. Which is the same as 24 kWh/m^2/day.

You are aware that the sun doesn't shine at night, right?

On the Saudi Arabia solar article. I love (NOT) these imbecilic reporters, who take the annual insolation and add "every day". No wonder SA is an inhospitable desert, it gets a years worth of sunshine every day!

Re: Shale Bubble Inflates on Near-Record Prices

I think "Bubble" is the definitive word here. The enthusiasm for shale gas has reached mania proportions in the US, and we are now looking at a repeat of the Dutch Tulip mania of the 1600s.

It has all the classic signs of a commodity bubble - companies are spending more and more money on natural gas leases and drilling, despite the fact that the price of natural gas is severely depressed due to excess supply and most of the companies can't possibly make money in the face of increasing costs and declining prices. We are now into the "irrational exuberance" phase of a classical market mania.

From the linked article:

Surging prices for oil and gas shales, in at least one case rising 10-fold in five weeks, are raising concern of a bubble as valuations of drilling acreage approach the peak set before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Yes, all the classic signs of a Tulip mania are there, and "collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings" is a hint of what happens when bubbles burst. The problem is, investors have very short memories, so you get the mania-panic-crash cycle over and over again.

For more information about classical manias, try reading This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart; Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises by Charles P. Kindleberger; or any of a large number of other books describing various crashes such as the 2008 mortgage meltdown.

One difference: Natural gas is a necessary commodity which gives it a price floor. Tulips were a vapor commodity; no critical use except to generate income and vanity. Not sure if this matters much to investors.

Ghung - True but what would you guess that floor is? Back in '86 after the Saudies opened the taps and flooded the market with oil, I was selling NG for $0.90/mcf thanks to the recession. OTOH I generated some of the best returns of my career. In addition to drilling costs sinking (to less than 20% of what it would cost today) to rock bottom I hit 23 out of 25 shallow NG wells. My best discovery only cost me $0.12/mcf to develop.

Granted we're not likely to see $10 oil again, but that only represented about a 60% drop in price. Is $40-50 oil a possibility in the future? I wouldn't hazard a guess. OTOH no one in 1980 predicted a global recession that would kill demand big time by the mid-80's either.

I understand, Rock. I guess my point was that society has a MOL of gas consumption. Not so with tulips.

Ghung - I knew what you meant...just wanted to use it as an opportunity to brag about my success rate. LOL. Actually, did you catch HO's post about how "new" technology has helped increase production in some areas? In reality it wasn't new but just hadn't been applied in those areas for various reason. It was something of a counter point to cornucopians expecting the oil patch to come up with the next magic bullet. With the exception of horizontal drilling (which is about 25 years old) it's been a very long time since we've come up with any new significant tech.

My success rate is more impressive when you consider the historical success rate in the trend was less than 20%. But those folks drilled strictly on geology. I drilled on seismic utilizing "bright spots" or amplitude anomalies. In some areas you can see the NG directly on the seismic. It was a common tool I used more than 10 years earlier in the offshore GOM. But the small independents that drilled in the play didn't buy seismic and, if they did, didn't have the expertise to use it. First seismic line I saw it as obvious. At that time only a handful of us understood the potential.

But that brings up another point: most of the world isn't drilled by small independents but Big Oil and the NOC's. The big guys can't efficient enough to go after small reserves. The first discovery I drilled in the subject program was clearly seen 5 years earlier on a seismic line that had been purchased by 22 other companies. And I can promise you that every geophysicist with those companies recognized the anomaly as a probable NG reservoir. But those companies didn't chase relatively small NG reservoirs in S Texas. So as some have speculated the Mega Project forecast may be missing a huge amount of COLLECTIVE reserves from fields far too small to make the list. OTOH, if an area is controlled by an NOC and there is no small independent class of companies: who will develop those small fields? Even if such fields were economical to develop someone has to chase them.

As my numbers show the project was very economical. And who funded my project: an ex-Wall Street broker who didn't know crap about the oil biz. But once I hit my first well (which turned out to be my largest find) he couldn't wait to dump more money into the play. He didn't have any idea how I did it and didn't care. He was selling my projects to investors who also didn't understand or care. Just as long as I kept hitting the money rolled in. Didn't drill my first dry hole until #14. One last brag. LOL

Rock -

But once I hit my first well (which turned out to be my largest find) he couldn't wait to dump more money into the play. He didn't have any idea how I did it and didn't care. He was selling my projects to investors who also didn't understand or care. Just as long as I kept hitting the money rolled in. Didn't drill my first dry hole until #14. One last brag. LOL

Say, why aren't you retired then!? Don't they pay production geologists enough? Is there even a cut of royalties/production for the little guy in the patch?

S - A very sad story...I did have a shot at retiring in my 30's. Until recently it was the best financial deal I've had in my career. But the butt head Ex-Wall Street broker turned out to be a crook. Not only cheating the investors but screwing the service companies and landowners. Once my engineer and I discovered what was going on we rolled over on him. And that ended that. What still chaps my ass is that we couldn't get any of them to go after him criminally once they recovered what cash they thought they could get back. Before I could set up another operation lots of other folks caught on and the seismic became very difficut to acquire first. With these seismic bright spots the rule is simple: he that gets the data first WINS.

Now me and my cohorts are chasing bright spots. But instead of drilling 2,000' wells for $30,000 we're drilling 16,000' wells for $5 million. Once again, life is good. Be even better if NG prices weren't in the toilet. LOL.

With the exception of horizontal drilling (which is about 25 years old) it's been a very long time since we've come up with any new significant tech.

I was drilling horizontal wells 25 years ago Rock, and I certainly didn't invent the concept. Credit goes back before you were born, and there are some hilljacks who would argue that the history of horizontals goes back even farther.

1929 gets the credit according to DOE.


It might seem a little flippant Ghung, but tulips can be eaten and the death toll her in Holland would have been much higher than 10,000 during the hunger winter of 1944-45 if it was not for the supply of tulip bulbs.


The economics of coalbed methane are negative at this point in time, too.

Did you notice that the big black coal blotch that they showed on the first map nearly covers all of Alberta?

I would agree with Rockman - there's no real floor price on natural gas. If there is, it would be measured in cents per thousand cubic feet, rather than dollars.

The price of natural gas is currently about three dollars, but that is uneconomic for nearly all new drilling. However, if the bottom fell out of the market, it could fall a long way from there. Companies will produce gas just to get cash flow to pay the lenders and keep the lights on in the head office.

When they can't pay the lenders or the power company, then the bust comes. By that time it's far too late for the investors to do anything.

far too late for the investors to do anything.

If history is any guide, they can look for a tall window to leap out of.

Remember, the cure for low prices is LOW prices!

"This Time Is Different":

"That Used to be Us" By one of the same authors:

I remember reading here that the fracked shale-gas wells declined in production quickly. The hucksters job was to gather investors, drill and start to produce, and then gather investors for the next round while things still looked good. Did I misread?

Re: Gulf Coast working to fill a fuel void in Northeast

There is all kinds of good information in this article, possibly because it is in a Houston newspaper and they do keep their ear to the (oil soaked) ground there. If you want to be completely misled about what is happening in the oil industry, read some paper in the Northeast US or California.

The basic theme is that half the refineries in the Northeast are going to shut down in the near future, and the demand is going to have to be made up by the Gulf Coast refineries, who already supply half the demand in the Northeast. This is driven by the current realities of the oil industry, which have been discussed on the Drumbeat many times (although not always productively).

The article's POV on the shutdowns is:

Pressure points

A combination of the sagging economy and improved fuel efficiency in vehicles and equipment has caused demand for some fuels to plateau. Meanwhile, competition from larger and more efficient refineries on the Gulf Coast and imports from Europe put pressure on local fuel producers, said Bill Day, a spokesman for San Antonio-based refiner Valero.

"They found it very difficult to compete," he said. "If there was demand for product there, those refineries wouldn't close down."

Valero pulled out of the Northeast in 2010, when it sold its Delaware City, Del., and Paulsboro, N.J., refineries.

The struggling European economy has left refiners on the continent with plenty of gasoline to ship overseas.

Now, this is in the face of exuberant claims in the MSM that the US is now a "Net oil exporter". Not even close. What is happening is that refineries in the US are sending their surplus diesel fuel to Europe, and the European refineries are sending their surplus gasoline to the US. However, refineries in both the Northeastern US and Europe have to buy their crude oil from OPEC, and OPEC is charging significantly more than domestic North American producers. This narrows what the refiners call the "crack spread", and they are losing money. (European refineries are closing as well.)

Room to grow

The Gulf Coast is replete with refineries that are expanding or have room to increase production, he said. Motiva Enterprises, a joint venture of Shell and Saudi Aramco, is nearing the end of a massive expansion of its Port Arthur refinery to increase production of ultra-low sulfur fuel and other petroleum products.

In 2010, Gulf Coast area refiners produced a net 3.4 million barrels per day of ultralow-sulfur distillate fuel oil, a category that includes the clean heating oil,

And the Gulf Coast refiners are sending a lot of that fuel oil and diesel fuel to Europe and Asia, hence the MSM claim that the US is a "Net oil exporter". Once the Northeast refineries shut down, though, I think that consumers there will have to outbid the Europeans and Asians for the supply. Good luck.

Bottom line: Fuel oil consumers in the Northeast should have switched away from oil heating long ago. I warned you. For now, your best alternative is bulky sweaters and long underwear.

There's more good stuff in this article, but it's time for my morning aquasize class. Maybe later.

Unstated bottom line: Gulf coast refineries will need the inputs provided by the Keystone pipeline.

That is true. The Gulf Coast refineries' supply of heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela is on the decline, which is why they are interested in getting cheaper oil from Canada via the Keystone pipeline. Otherwise things could get even worse for heating oil users in the Northeast and diesel fuel consumers in Europe.

But I thought I had heard (from a Motiva employee friend) that the new very large Port Arthur refinery was being designed to handle very low quality crude from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco owns 50% of the refinery.

Could be wrong - I have no link to prove that.

I mentioned it in my post:

Motiva Enterprises, a joint venture of Shell and Saudi Aramco, is nearing the end of a massive expansion of its Port Arthur refinery...

Saudi Aramoco may own 50% of the refinery and have heavy oil it wants to process, but Shell owns the other 50%, and has an oil sands mine in Canada.

There is actually not a great deal of difference in quality between Aramco's heavy oil and Shell's bitumen, if Shell can get it to Port Arthur.

But isn't the tar sands stuff already processed into a lighter grade, so it can be put in a pipeline?

No, the big market now is for crude bitumen, which is basically oil that is so heavy it won't flow. They have to dilute it with something to make it flow through the pipelines, so they use syncrude, conventional oil, and/or condensate. However, the big refineries in the Midwest and on the Gulf Coast can handle some very heavy oil, and they prefer it because the price is lower.

Typically, the refineries strip the diluent off the bitumen stream and send it back to the oil sands to dilute some more bitumen. There are some reverse flow diluent pipelines parallel to the import pipelines for this purpose.

So they don't crack it, they just mix it with a "transport" fluid, which is recovered/reccycled. So the downstrean refinery has to be able to use bitumin, and recover the lighter transport media.
What sort of ratio of bitumin versus lighter stuff do they use?

The ratio depends on a number of different things. From the Wikipedia article on Dilbit:

The most common diluent used to dilute bitumen is natural gas condensate (NGC), especially the naptha component. Due to insufficient quantity of natural gas condensate, bitumen shippers also use refined naptha and synthetic crude oil (SCO) as diluent.

Although SCO requires a higher volume percentage to achieve the same viscosity, at least one study found that SCO provides better blend stability than NGC. Shippers dilute bitumen before shipment in order to meet viscosity and density requirements found in common carrier pipeline tariff rules. By selecting different diluent types and blend ratios, bitumen shippers attempt to lower component costs, increase blend value, and maintain pipeline transportability.

The blend ratio may consist of 25 to 55% diluent by volume, depending on characteristics of the bitumen and diluent, pipeline specifications, operating conditions, and refinery requirements.

That is very interesting. So if they strip the dilutant and send it back, they need to move 25% to 55% of the pipeline fluid volume back the other direction. Still much cheaper than rail, but still another trim on the net energy.

Western oil firms remain as US exits Iraq

... "Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq's oil market," oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera. "But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973."

Juhasz, author of the books The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, said that while US and other western oil companies have not yet received all they had hoped the US-led invasion of Iraq would bring them, "They've certainly done quite well for themselves, landing production contracts for some of the world's largest remaining oil fields under some of the world's most lucrative terms."

counterpoint ... Iraq: A country in shambles

also ... Fallujah babies: Under a new kind of siege

As home prices fall, more borrowers walk away

Until recently, borrowers like Martin and many industry analysts held out hope that a housing recovery would reverse the rising tide of "negative equity." But after stabilizing this summer, home prices began falling again, dropping 7.5 percent in the third quarter alone and leaving more homeowners underwater.

Even if prices stabilize this year, millions of underwater borrowers face a long wait before they can sell their homes without having to write a big check to their lender to cover the shortfall. Economists at Goldman Sachs recently forecast that after bottoming in 2013 house prices won't recover their 2006 peak until 2023. (No, that's not a typo.)

Many homeowners simply can't wait that long.

The man in the article is 68. I'm 69. As one ages credit scores mean less and what other people think also means less and less. I find there is little that I want to buy anymore. Investing makes little sense in one's final years. Warren Buffett loves it, but I don't. What's the point if one has enough. Ego?

What matters is living without stress and surviving as best possible. That often means cutting expenses and downsizing.

I wouldn't walk away because I'm not under financial stress at the moment. But walking away is a good option for some IMO.

The walk away song:

Kelly Clarkson-Walk Away Lyrics-By SecretCelebs


I expect that home ownership is in the process of reverting back to a previous (pre-suburban?) meme. I had relatives who lived in their first houses, ones they built in the 1920s and 30s, until they died. They didn't view their home as a "financial asset" or an investment as much as folks do today. They didn't plan on "moving up" or making a profit. They planned to stay put, pay it off, and making improvements to their existing home to improve livability, etc,, and they focussed on improving the neighborhood and community. They seemed to have more loyalty to their surroundings. Methinks we may be returning to that idea on some level.

Of course, if your neighborhood goes to crap.... as Kunstler likes to point out, most neighborhoods built in the last few decades aren't worth preserving. Many don't even qualify as "neighborhoods".

One problem with the idea of living in one house your entire life is that changes in the economy can leave one stuck in a place without a job. The old economic concept of "mobility of labor" means more than "moving up", it means that workers can/will follow the job market as development moves from place to place. We now see stories about people who have bought houses and then later lost jobs, becoming chained to the home when there are job opportunities in other areas which they might be able to take advantage. This is aspect of our present situation has resulted in many people being unemployed long term while job openings are offered in other areas. Of course, this does not apply to those who are able to find a local situation that is likely to be recession proof, but technological change has limited those opportunities for many...

E. Swanson

There is going to be a considerable amount of retrenchment to the inner city areas in coming years as people increasingly find that life in the sprawling outer suburbs is unaffordable in the era of higher cost fuel. The trend toward urban sprawl will reverse, and the suburbs will start to look like Detroit does now.

This, unfortunately, means that the people in the outer suburbs will lose the money invested in their huge houses (if they haven't already), as will the mortgage holders. It also means that they won't be able to afford to buy new houses in the inner city and they will have to rent cramped apartments instead.

It's the reversal of several decades of what many people thought was an inevitable trend.

life in the sprawling outer suburbs is unaffordable in the era of higher cost fuel.

Sheesh. Buy a Prius, and lower your fuel costs back to 7 cents per mile. 10% of the cost of moving.

Goldman Sachs knows that house prices may never recover, but they have to throw off 2023 to satisfy whoever is paying attention to their increasingly meaningless forecasts.

If house prices ever do recover, it will be through fiat inflation. There is no shortage of housing in America, at all. We have too many buildings, yet too little cheap fuel. In fact, it's fair to say that nobody knows what the fair value of all this overbuilt residential and commercial real estate really is, because there hasn't been a genuine free market in awhile. Not with the government and the central bank buying up everything.

The thing to remember is that we now live in bizarro world as peak oil has checkmated debt expansion, leaving only the scorched earth policy of fiat monetization in its place.

How anyone can make any "predictions" in this environment is beyond me.

OS - "How anyone can make any "predictions" in this environment is beyond me." You've reminded me of a couple of instances from my consulting days. Was run off twice because I wouldn't make a prediction. Had to do with evaluating the drilling potential of some leases. Basically I refused to qualify the leases even if I gave a low probability of being correct. There just wasn't enough data to even make a foolish estimate. Both times the companies said they had to have an answer. I told them I understood but sometimes the only answer is "I don't know or even have a rough guess". Amazing how upset both got with my answer.

And the outcome? Years later I found out the leases of one company had absolutely no value and they spent over $20 million proving it...after another consultant wrote a very optimistic appraisal. The other company sold their leases and the new owner made a tremendous discovery in a zone they weren't even drilling for. Just pure dumb luck...the only objective of the well wasn't productive.

Just sometimes the smartest guy in the room is the one who admits he doesn't know the answer.

And what happens to housing prices if there is a global pandemic that kills 10+% of the population?

This week, we are beginning, what will be a long and probably painful process up here in Canada regarding another pipeline, Enbridge's Northern Gateway. Our Minister of the Environment, and other government agents are using a "frame" that I find confusing. Maybe someone here can clear it up for me. Here is a recent quote from Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources:

"In particular, there will likely be extensive discussion of the benefits of diversification of markets for Alberta oil sands products, and access to world oil prices which are higher than those in the U.S. Midwest."

I thought we were all basically paying the same world price for oil. Are we (Canadians) giving the US some kind of discount?

S - "I thought we were all basically paying the same world price for oil." No one is paying "the same world oil price". That number only exist as some estimate someone makes up. A crude oil seller is paid what he and his buyer negotiate. Canadian crude shipped to Cushing is being bought at such a price. It might even vary a bit between local buyers depending on the volumes/time frame contracted. The Canadian complaint is that the oversupply of crude at Cushing is forcing them to sell at a lower price than, say, La. sweet light. Mid-continent producers complain that the influx of all that Canadian oil is forcing them to accept lower prices then they would otherwise. And if you're referring to those prices put out by the MSM those numbers have nothing at all to do with what any crude is being sold. They are almost always referring to some futures price bid for crude anywhere from 30 days to years into the future.

By diversification of markets he means having one more place to sell the oil, like China through a west coast port or maybe piping it all the way to the east coast. As long as all the oil goes to Cushing they'll be forced to accept whatever that market offers.

Thanks R. Getting a handle on the financial data associated with exploration, production, sales etc. of crude oil is mind-boggling (to me). The same could be said for (constantly changing) electricity markets which I also find frustrating to follow. That's "the beauty" of the "free" market, I suppose. Helps explain why "energy" issues are so difficult for the average Jo(anne) to understand:)

S - Ya welcome. Not something they teach in school. But given how the MSM keeps putting out misleading and erroneous info it's difficult for the public to self educate themselves. Then overlay the various political views from both sides of the fence and suddenly many folks are talking past each other.

Closing prices:

North Sea Brent Blend: $113.56
West Texas Intermediate: $101.56
Western Canadian Select: $83.66

No, we're not all paying the same price for oil. Canada is giving the US Midwest refineries a substantial discount on oil, and Canadian governments are not happy about it. They would prefer to skim royalties and taxes off the money and use it for Canadian Medicare.

(European and Northeast US refineries are paying a premium for oil, and they are really, really unhappy about that).

Argentina May Impose Fuel Discount on Shortage, Cronista Says

Argentina may force companies including YPF SA (YPFD) to sell premium gasoline for the price of lower-quality fuel in the case of shortages, El Cronista reported, without saying how it got the information.

The measure means Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4) and other distributors would have to sell premium gasoline at an 18 percent discount, the Buenos Aires-based newspaper said.

If Argentina forces oil companies to sell premium for the same price as regular in a shortage, it pretty much ensures that consumers will get no premium at all.

It costs more money to produce premium, so the refiners will divert all the production to regular instead. Of course, the government could pass a law against that, but the refiners would find some way around it.

Hi Rocky, hope you had a good holiday. [following edited for grammar not content]

Since you are talking South American oil here thought I'd post my less than timely reply your historically accurate Christmas Eve reply to me--I've had a fine holiday by the way.

Yes Canada, like two other Commonwealth members, shouldered far more than its share of the WWII burdens--one reading Churchill's WWII wonders how quickly the Allies (read Great Britain) would have been run out of North Africa if it weren't for the fighting of the New Zealand and the two Australian divisions.

The final line of your reply I just thought I'd mention it since you seemed to think that Canada was completely incapable of protecting its interests at sea does deserve some answer.

If the huge US ship does founder it is very likely conditions within the US will be less than lovely and that Canada's long, long southern border which has generally been a huge asset would become a huge liability. I truly do doubt Canada's ability to protect international shipping in that situation, especially Pacific shipping as Canada has very limited west coast port infrastructure with only a few large arteries feeding it. The world is a much different place with a US in shambles--nothing like the 1939-1943 interlude which saw Canada step up to the plate so well.

A couple of years back I came up with the idea of a 'crossover point'. That's the point at which it is more economical to substitute one's own labor for fossil fuel energy. Another crossover point might be when money is so scarce that wages can't buy all you need to survive regardless of how much fossil energy is available. We will all be energy limited some point eventually. Another way to look at it is to ask the question: buy or make? If the wage labor system still works for you, then buying veg rather than growing it is probably more time, labor, and cost effective. When you've become one of the permanently unemployed, things may be different. The trick is to know when to make the transition from a wage economy to a labor economy. Not an easy task. If you leave the wage system too soon, you could find yourself alone with no community to trade with. You're out of luck if you have to compete with fossil fuel subsidized production. If you're too late, you'll have missed your chance to tool-up or relocate while you still have cash in hand. It looks as if many Greeks have found themselves at the crossover point. Wage paying jobs are scarce. The quantity of money in the domestic economy has shrunk to the point where bringing in currency through foreign exchange is easier than selling locally. In the Greek case, we see a situation that was brought about by policy, not a fundamental limit on energy resources. Presumably, the snails are going to market by truck or ship and not under their own power. I suppose as the rot creeps through the rest of the EU, we'll get to see the crossover imposed by monetary problems. Money does flow faster than oil.

Another crossover point that worries me is when oil and gas become more expensive than charcoal for heating and cooking. Soon after, the whole world will look like Haiti.

Drilling an oil well with a sharpened 60-foot-long eucalyptus tree trunk?
Using telephone poles to plug a well?
The Clampitts?
Only in Los Angeles.

From the LATimes:

I saw pumpjacks in residential areas of the Los Angeles area and visited the La Brea (the tar) pits.
Tar was oozing from cracks in the parking lot.


Thanks for posting that!

The oil was found at 200 feet:
"used picks and shovels and, finally, a sharpened 60-foot-long eucalyptus tree trunk to drill about 200 feet down"
"Soon, drillers were sinking their pumping pipes as deep as 900 feet. When oil at that level started to run out, they bore down to 1,200 feet, then 1,500 feet. Most Los Angeles oil was found no deeper than that."

I read it last night and envisioned the FoxNews/Beck/Limbaugh version where them hippy en-vi-ro-mentalists shut 'em down! ..."Wouldn't let 'em use a tree that way! ...Drove 'em out into the deep waters with their nanny-state rules and regulations! ...Dang! Double Dang! If we could just get back in there and drill, drill, drill ...we could all be rich again! With jobs! And job growth! We could bring back the 50's!!!" Of course, we wouldn't tax the rich at 94% or anything stupid again...

Our American Promise is at a crossroads


WHAT IS THIS thing that has us by the throat?


We're living through something different, a defining event in the life of the nation. Not for nothing do so many statistics come with the somber qualifier, "the worst since the Great Depression." This is a recession and aftermath unlike any other since the end of World War II.

Robert Reich, secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, uses "the Great Regression" tracking the decline of the middle class since 1980.

"The Long Emergency" comes from urbanist James Howard Kunstler and was the title of his prescient 2005 book, which warned not only of the dangers of unsustainable sprawl building and globalization but of the convergence of higher energy costs and climate change. Writer Dmitry Orlov calls it "the Permanent Crisis."

I've used the term "the Great Disruption" of which the economic collapse is only a part. In addition to energy, debt, the hollowing out of the economy, climate change and global competition, it is marked by all manner of painful discontinuity. The next 30 years won't be a replay of the past three decades, and Americans are ill-prepared for their changing circumstances.

As seen in Pacific NW magazine, a color insert found in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times. Jon Talton is one of that rare breed of economic reporters who are clearly peak-oil aware.


"ill-prepared for their changing circumstances"

Actually, a slow system-wide collapse makes preparation perhaps both unnecessary and impossible.

For example, people are having fewer children, just out of economic necessity. Having a small family or no kids would help a person "prepare" for a slower and weaker economy. But they didn't limit their reproduction to "prepare" but more as a response, the right response, a good one.

A person out of a job for many years might start to think about going to live for free (if they were lucky enough to have this option) in grandma's old house and fixing it up and doing some farming...it isn't preparation, but a reaction to his/her desperate circumstances.

Moreover, a person who has a good idea for a book would do well to try to get it published, focusing on writing and buying the things they need, rather than "prepare" in the countryside.

And likewise, someone who can make a go of it in a bad economy, because they can play music, or cook well, or fix engines, or teach....that person would do well to keep working (perhaps with awareness of the surrounding issues)----it may be impossible to prepare for peak oil or the long emergency, or whatever you want to call it. We react, we respond, we re-think, we are like water rushing down the mountain in a stream and when we come to a rock that blocks our path we must go around it.

Topography played key role in Deepwater Horizon disaster, researchers say

... The model revealed that one of the key factors in the disappearance of the hydrocarbon plumes was the physical structure of the Gulf of Mexico. "It's the geography of the Gulf," Valentine said. "It's almost like a box canyon. As you go northward, it comes to a head. As a result, it's not a river down there; it's more of a bay. And the spillage happened in a fairly enclosed area, particularly at the depths where hydrocarbons were dissolving."

When the hydrocarbons were released from the well, bacteria bloomed. In other locations, those blooms would be swept away by prevailing ocean currents, but in the Gulf of Mexico, they swirled around at great depths like a washing machine, and often circled back over the leaking well, sometimes two or three times.

Chemical measurements confirm official estimate of 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill rate

... The new chemistry-based spill rate estimate, an average of 11,130 tons of gas and oil compounds per day, is close to the official average leak rate estimate of about 11,350 tons of gas and oil per day (equal to about 59,200 barrels of liquid oil per day).

Re toplinked articles

Battery cars face an uphill climb to acceptance

Battery Warning: Why Electric Vehicles Have Yet to Take Off

Finally some realistic assessment of EVs. The value proposition isn't there yet.

That might change if one of the metal-air battery technologies turns out to be usable and gives the expected capacity increase over lithium-ion (three times). But I doubt it. To get more market share than a few early adopters, what's needed (alongside a car you can actually get somewhere in) is an unconditional, no questions asked, life of the car, totally free replacement guarantee for the battery.

Better Place had a system that offered this peace of mind about the battery. But we haven't heard anything about them for a while now. From their website, they still seem to be active, mainly in Israel. Perhaps they'll have a significant market share as soon as 2035. We can't really expect metal-air batteries any sooner than that, either.

Of course in the long term electric vehicles will gain market share for sure. They'll be trains.

I should say: I like EVs. I wish things were different. But they are how they are.

Hybrid vehicles like the Prius may continue to grow. Or they may not, if the new generation of IC engines is as efficient as they say. The electric drive train and battery will just be extra expense for no gain in fuel economy.

The economics of the EV don't need to change much.. it's the coming degrading economics of the Gas cars that is going to shift the balance. As is repeatedly said in this topic here, that doesn't mean EV's will simply replace today's fleet.. the money surely won't be there for most.. but there will still be MANY who need cars and trucks, and will find ways to make electrics and the jobs at hand meet somewhere between what's wanted, and what's possible.

There will surely be more E-trains.. but also countless E-bikes, as well. Still, the EV-car will be out there in numbers as well.. it's not a failed concept, it just can't battle against cheap gas and diesel. The recurring astonishment that it hasn't thrived in that lopsided contest is hardly proof of that charge.

The economics of the EV don't need to change much.. it's the coming degrading economics of the Gas cars that is going to shift the balance.

This. Anyone who expected EVs to take off quickly was dreaming. They cost much more, they have range limits, they are slow to refuel, and they are a brand new unfamiliar technology. But they are off to a decent start. Certainly many more EVs have been sold in their first real year than hybrids were sold in their first real year.

But it will take time for them to gain market share. They need to bring the price down a little more (and they should be able to reduce prices a little bit by hitting larger manufacturing scales and getting more experience). But mostly it will be higher oil prices that will make EVs much more popular. Fueling EVs is dirt cheap compared to gas cars. It is hard to know where and when the cross-over point is but at some point the additional up-front cost of the EV will be less than the cumulative savings in fuel costs.

Who knows . . . A $27K Leaf (After tax-credit) may be a better purchase than a $18K 30MPG gas car right now if gas prices climb up to $5,$6,$7 per gallon over the next decade. Just read both of those articles . . . the unspoken assumption in both articles is that gasoline prices will remain around where they are now. What happens if gas prices go up 50%? Or if they double? It is not so far-fetched . . . oil was $20/barrel in 2000 and $100/barrel now.

..and someone was referring to a comments section where an EV critic was talking about his 100 mile commute. He should just be getting laughed out of the conversation, if he's thinking he can expect to keep that lifestyle going. But for now, it just doesn't reveal itself as being all that unrealistic.

A $27k Leaf combined with fuel savings of $1,500 per year seems pretty good to me: over 10 years that's a net cost less than a Nissan Versa.

Finally some realistic assessment of EVs. The value proposition isn't there yet.

EVs as electric bicycles may be the choice for the future.

I have a Nissan Leaf, and I love it.

Note that the Leaf comes with an 8-year guarantee on the battery, and an extended warranty for 7 years ($50 deductible per visit) only costs $1,000.

When people say "the value proposition isn't there" ... that is under the assumption that gasoline will remain cheap and there won't be any shortages.
Does anybody who frequents this site believe that?

Cinderella arrived at the ball in a fine carriage ... but at midnight, it turned into a pumpkin. Your gasoline vehicle is a fine carriage ... and it is 11:45 PM.

Would you rather pay a $33K (near the average new vehicle cost) for a Leaf, or would you rather walk? That is the question.

It is inevitable that gasoline and diesel prices will soar into the four and five dollar range in the next few years, and eventually much higher.

When that happens, the waiting list for a new Leaf or Volt will be a mile long.

Kunstler and his buddies may be right about the death of the suburbs, but those who talk about all the suburbanites moving to the city haven't given much thought to the fact that very little vacant desirable housing exists in any city of consequence.

I believe the typical working suburbanite will tackle hell with a bucket before he gives up his little palace with the driveway and backyard and toolshed for a cramped apartment.

If he has a decent job, he will certainly buy an ev, phev, or subcompact car.

Taking a ten thousand dollar lick on trading his suv in will be a lot easier thing to deal with than taking a hundred thousand dollar or larger lick by selling his house in a down market.

If he doesn't have a good job, he won't be able to afford city rents or prices anyway, unless he moves into a pretty decrepit neighborhood.

Furthermore, a good many jobs can and will migrate out to the suburbs.My MD practices out of the first floor of his house and lives on the second floor, and saves not only 100 percent of commuting time and expenses;he saves a very substantial amount of money by not renting or purchasing space in an artificially expensive business office park or business zoned neighborhood.

All his clients , or nearly all of them, live closer to his office than to the nearest town.

A suburban homeowner deep underwater is not necessarily in that bad a spot, unless her really needs to move in order to work.A better measure by far is his monthly living expenses.Anybody with a low interest mortgage who bought a few years before the peak is apt to have a manageable payment, and while real wages are stagnant or falling, nominal wages are sure to to up, given the fact that that old stimulus cough syrup is hundred and forty proof printed money.

We hear never ending claims that it will take well over a decade to turn over the vehicle fleet, which are probably true, but which gloss over a lot of potential positive compensatory change as gas prices rise.

If we can somehow manage to kick the safety nannies a good hard one right in the crotch, we can have affordable seventy or eighty mpg commuter cars in pretty short order.I really and truly believe that any hundred automotive engineers, given a free hand, could have an eighty mpg car design ready for production in a year.It would have to be very small of course, and lacking in amenities such as power assisted everything , and have two seats by arranging them front and back rather than side by side.But no new technology whatsoever would be needed.

Such a car fitted with a Leaf sized battery would probably go two hundred miles on a charge.

People will give up a PORTION of their autocentric suburban lifestyle and buy such a car rather than give ALL of it up.

In the last analysis,everything depends on how fast the economy goes downhill as we descend the backside of Hubbert's curve.

When people say "the value proposition isn't there" ... that is under the assumption that gasoline will remain cheap and there won't be any shortages.
Does anybody who frequents this site believe that?

The other part of the 'value' is that the roads will remain repaired and passable.

Say gasoline goes for $10 a gallon (and milk remains at $3/bread at $3) - would the population support taxation on fixing/keeping the road system? How about $50 a gallon? $100?

At what point does the population decide the spending on roads they don't use is worth it?

When people say "the value proposition isn't there" ... that is under the assumption that gasoline will remain cheap and there won't be any shortages.

Well, not so fast...

As noted downthread, you can buy a Toyota Yaris - the same body size as the Prius - for about $14k, and you can get some Kia/hyundai models for even less.

That price difference will buy you a lot of fuel, even at inflated prices.
If you don't drive that much, say less than 10,000 miles/year, then the balance shifts even more in favour for the gasoline car. At say 30mpg average, that is 330 gal/year, or $1320 at $4/gal. You need fifteen years to make up that difference to $33k. And if you had to buy the Leaf on financing, then it is even longer.

I think the real question will be "do you want to spend $33k on *any* car in an economic recession? if you are concerned about your money situation/job security, then an economical $12k car seems a much better bet.

I think what needs to happen is for the Ev's to go downmarket. Come out with a barebones model that is as cheap as possible - under$20k - for it to really start to appeal to people who want to save money, as opposed to spending it.

While I agree that would be nice, the problem is battery cost. At $700 per KW-Hr, a 4-passenger car meeting current crash protection standards and offering the meager range of the Leaf will require $15K of batteries alone. As OFM mentioned up thread, the way to extend EV range and reduce cost is to build a minimalist people-pod, where size and weight have been pared to the absolute bare minimum. Unfortunately, such a vehicle would likely fail current crash standards, and – the in the US anyway – very few people would ever buy one even if the standards were waived. When/if gasoline becomes REALLY expensive (think >$10/gal) or genuinely scarce, then maybe the rules will change and people will change their attitudes. I don’t see either of those happening anytime soon however. In the meantime, I expect hybrids and plug-in hybrids to drive the technology and sales growth.

I’d like to see a car company offer something that currently does not exist as far as I’m aware: A compact 4-passenger plug-in hybrid that offers a 50-60 mile battery range, but incorporates a very small, relatively low-power, very low-cost backup ICE that offers extended range at much reduced performance levels. When the battery runs out, the backup ICE powers the vehicle at the reduced pace a 25-30HP engine can deliver. If the car were small-ish (e.g., Mini Cooper, Yaris, Aveo, etc.), the backup ICE performance would be acceptable, with perhaps a 70MPH top speed and sub-20-sec acceleration to 60MPH. Good enough to coexist with current vehicles. Performance in battery mode would be like a regular car.

Such a vehicle would address range anxiety, lack of charging infrastructure, etc., and could surely be built for much less than a VOLT, especially if one omitted all the complex dual-drive hardware the VOLT uses to squeeze out the last few percent of efficiency. We’re talking about a $10K battery pack and <$5K for ICE and generator. The whole vehicle might be built for approximately the same cost as a Leaf. But it would offer a much bigger operating envelope and almost as much reduction in fuel use for a typical consumer. Drive to work and run errands all week long under plug-in battery power alone, and drive out to Grandma’s house in the countryside once a month.

Battery cost is only part of the problem. Given that the aftermarket converters can by batteries for about $500/kWh, the manufacturers should be able to do it cheaper. Of course, they are not using commodity batteries, they have to have "proprietary" types, to -specifically- make them not interchangeable, and to be able to claim battery costs are "higher".

The other part of the problem is in designing a car to meet the requirements you have just laid out. A four passenger car than can do the road trip to Grandma's is *far* more demanding than a simple two seater car that is designed for city driving. You end up with a car that is over designed for what it gets used for 90% of the time.

I think GM actually came close to the mark with the original EV-1. It was a two seater, set (and holds) the world record for the lowest drag coefficient of a production car, and had a 100mile range with 1999 battery technology. The design engineers specifically resisted the marketer's wants for a four seater, as it would have made the car longer, heavier, needing more batteries etc.

Given that Smart sells over 20,000 cars a year in the US (4x as many as the Volt), none of which can take four people to Grandma's, i would say there is definitely a market there.

I am on the fence about the integral backup generator - for daily city driving, it is an extra weight to drag around. Personally I like the idea of a compact, modular generator, (likely air cooled) that can either fit into the trunk (which would be suitable vented and isolated from the passenger space), or be mounted on a towing hitch.

For the EV-1 style two seater, getting 6miles/kWh, that generator only needs to be 10kW to maintain hwy speed of 60mph.
So a 20hp Honda v-twin engine (or similar unit from Kohler/Lombardini) could handle this.

Or, use the integrated permanent magnet generators like these from
Polar Power

They are a bit over built as they are designed for 10-20,000 hr run times, and the car one would only need to be a 1000hr engine, hence my preference for the air cooled v-twin.

In any case, the key to making the EV affordable is making it small and simple enough that it does not need a Leaf sized pack - a compact two seater is the best way to achieve this. Sure it won;t appeal to as many people as a four seater, but in making it a four seater it becomes so expensive, like the Leaf, that it starts to price itself out of the market.

Less is more in this case.

Paul – Your US sales figure of 20,000 Smarts per year is off the mark. Like many quirky new cars, initial demand was high, but it fell off a cliff shortly thereafter. No surprise either, many folks who follow the automotive industry widely predicted this trend before the first US car was ever delivered.



I realize a 2-seater can be built lighter and more fuel efficient than a 4-seater, but if the 4-seater is very compact, it needn’t be heavy or large. See the specs on the Scion IO for example (~2100 lb) with it’s 94HP motor that could be significantly reduced if one only needed a small backup ICE.


A 4-seater that is smaller and lighter than the Leaf, and only delivers 50-60 miles in battery mode (instead of 100 miles) could use a much smaller pack than the Leaf. I believe that such a car with a small ICE backup capability could hit a sweet spot of utility, cost, fuel efficiency, and operational envelope. Of course, any set of design attributes one chooses will represent a compromise. Today, we have pure EV’s whose success has been modest so far. We have a very expensive extended range hybrid with a full performance ICE capability, whose high price has hampered sales. We have a very successful line of hybrids whose fuel efficiency is only a bit better than a well-designed pure ICE alternative, or on par with a diesel, but people buy lots of them because they don’t represent much of an operational compromise or price premium relative to conventional cars. What I’m suggesting is a small next step beyond the hybrids that have been successful. Time will tell what people are willing to buy.

Fukushima - early release of report card

Sobering. Thank you razrmon!

Meanwhile, across Japan, 48 out of 54 nuclear reactors remain out of service, almost all because of safety fears.

Eh???? how is the country even functioning? How come we're not hearing anything on the news about blackouts or power rationing?


How come we're not hearing anything on the news about blackouts or power rationing?

Poster r4ndom seems to know all about the media and how it works - you should ask her. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8829#comment-863387

Because just after the quake there were worldwide news reports about rationing.

Someone in the 'news business' back in the later part of the 1800's
John Swinton had this observation:

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?"

How would reporting on the continued lack of power due to nuke plants being shutdown help the fission reactor industry? How would that help Japan? Where is the benefit for reporting such news?

And elsewhere on the topic of "news and reporting" the SOPA legislation.

The folks over at Media Matters decided to check in on this and have confirmed that the big TV news players have almost entirely ignored it, despite the widespread controversy found elsewhere in the mainstream press:

As the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes its way through Congress, most major television news outlets -- MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have ignored the bill during their evening broadcasts. One network, CNN, devoted a single evening segment to it.

So lets see - NBC which owns the Universal studio (all those movies) would not benefit from raising awareness of SOPA if one has the position that the more one knows about SOPA the less support it gets.

Media firms and media coverage are self sensoring. Just because one doesn't hear about something doesn't mean the issue doesn't exist.

If somebody with media access stands to gain from something making the news, it makes the news.

Is it really any more simple than that?

Media companies stand to gain from SOPA passing in the quiet of night (or at least they think they do), so they are doing their part to keep it quiet. Even at that they haven't been able to avoid reporting on it completely and the full text of the bill is available through official public channels as well.

If you want to understand media you need to understand the concept of multiple powerful competing interests. Nobody gets to act in a vacuum.

To answer the original question: How come we're not hearing anything on the news about blackouts or power rationing?

Because you aren't listening for them?

On my listing most of those are mainstream outlets.

I'll side-step Eric whilst he has his own private hissy fit.

As for Japan, there were reports of mothballed gas and coal fired plants being brought back into production and also of "emergency" gas powered units being brought in. Siemens were offering to ship some in not long after the disaster.

There has been a degree of load shedding and with this combination they seem to be muddling through.

Sometimes you get the details in a completely unrelated way.

Since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in March, Japan has been suffering power shortages.

People in Japan are getting fed up with power outages.

The March 11 disaster has forced the Japanese people to get very serious about reducing their dependence on both energy-hungry vehicles and homes. Electrical power rationing is now a way of life in Japan.


That is probably the difference between a well working society and one that is likely to collapse.

In Japan people are "fed up". Well who wouldn't be after such a rapid loss of quality of life, but you don't here of any riots or other break down of order. People just "muddle through" and put their industrial and creative resources to use for comming up with solutions to deal with the situation and adapt. Like the example of the example of the electric cars and smart homes or the shift of their weekends to spread out the load.

Recently looking at portable USB hard drives, saw a note on a vendor's web site, wtte: "Many disk manufacturers are experiencing difficulty supplying as many units as we order; therefore, we are restricting hard drive orders to one per customer."

Now, could that have anything to do with a bit of a damper on the Japanese production lines due to tsunami damage and reduced electric service? or am I so hopelessly behind the times to even think that disc drives are made in Japan any more? maybe they are all made in Malaysia... I can't keep up.

No, it is due to the factories in Thailand getting flooded.


How many rabbits can one hat hold?

See: http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/in-compact-segment-dodge-dart...

At reportedly 5.9 litres per 100 km, combined city and highway, fuel efficiency is surprisingly good for a car of its class, and presumably once the nine-speed automatic is introduced next year (http://www.automoblog.net/2011/02/07/chrysler-automatic-gearbox-to-featu...) the results will be even better.

I wouldn't write-off the personal automobile quite yet.


Nigeria fuel strike brings country to a halt.

Fuel and transport costs doubled after the subsidy ended on 1 January, angering many Nigerians, who saw it as the only benefit they received from the country's vast oil wealth.

Most of Nigeria's 160 million people live on less than $2 (£1.30) a day, so the sharp price increases have hit them hard.






Fuel crisis in Togo?

Togo has recently been experiencing heavy disruptions in fuel supply. The storage and distribution company, STE (Société Togolaise d’Entreposage), was reportedly battling to get new supplies. A situation many consumers have linked to the petrol price hike in Nigeria. While Togolese authorities deny rumours of any fuel shortage, the illegal fuel trade is flourishing.

Meanwhile, some motorists have turned to dealers of smuggled fuel on the roadsides. “I don’t like this type of fuel but the circumstances force me to put it in my engine”, explains Magloire, a civil servant.

They were surprised by the sudden increase in the price of even smuggled fuel, from 500 CFA francs to 800 or 850 CFA francs in some areas of the Togolese capital, Lomé. This has forced some motorists to park their vehicles. “My tank is empty and I cannot afford petrol at this price, so I am forced to park my motorcycle”, a moto-taxi driver admitted.

Saw this in NY Times Science


But as Dr. Blanch of the Joint BioEnergy Institute noted, “there’s always something.” The catch with butanol has been that it is difficult to separate from the rest of the fermenting mixture because it boils at a higher temperature than water and needs more energy to be distilled.

The second difficulty, peculiar to Dr. Mullin’s bacterium, was that his microbes held the tools of their own destruction. When the concentration of butanol in the container reaches 17 grams per liter, he said, the bacteria cells die.

Dr. Mullin’s solution to both problems was to find a very light liquid that would bond with the butanol and bring it to the top of the vat, where it could be siphoned off, like fat from the surface of broth, before it could kill the culture.

He found the liquid he needed. He is vague about how he did it and what it is, but it is cheap, easy to find and readily available in large quantities. And there is no doubt that it works. When he shook a bottle of butanol and broth, he quickly created an emulsion, but within seconds, the yellow butanol and its secret solvent had risen to the top.

The above, from the linked article, is at the heart of what Dr. Mullin has going on (he is using a cellulase found in zebra dung to produce butanol)--anyone know more about this?

Interesting article. If the process is efficient at converting woody biomass that would be quite a break through! Especially if it would lend itself to smaller scale plants than is typical for gasification.

too bad these lines

He found the liquid he needed. He is vague about how he did it and what it is, but it is cheap, easy to find and readily available in large quantities

brings to mind such incredible breakthroughs as 'vehicle runs on water' and the like. I was hoping someone out there knew a little about Mullin's and his work.

The mystery liquid is probably something like hexane. It must be a bit embarrassing explaining how one needed to use gasoline for the solvent.

"If the process is efficient at converting woody biomass that would be quite a break through!"

yes we could finally get rid of some of this annoying biomass up here on the surface! not like it's doing anything.

you know, this gets me thinking - if only there were a way to turn topsoil directly into liquid fuel, or even burn it directly, then we wouldn't need this whole growth cycle to produce all the energy we need from biofuels either.

Also good candidates for liquid gasification: trees, grasses, buffalo, grains, vegetables, panda bears, gummi-bears, spiders (my girlfriend would be eternally grateful), fleas, and roaches. And apartment buildings (eyesore).

What we really need is a universal "muncher" that kind of trawls over the surface gobbling up everything in its path a pooin' out full on barrels of oil. awesome.

There is always hope while we still have something to burn. We had better do that before the biomass self combusts in a few decades.

Teh and Bandits, trees grow whether you want them to or not and out in the west the fire cycle will burn them up eventually. With housing starts at low levels that could very well be permanent, there is plenty of woody biomass piling up in the woods that could be utilized. If your worried about ecosystems relax, there are plenty of areas that are too steep or remote to make biomass harvesting economical. If you want to grow larger trees you can do that too since the understory will still need to be reduced occasionally.

Biomass isn't the whole answer to sustainable energy but it can play a part without destroying the natural environment.

Biomass isn't the whole answer to sustainable energy but it can play a part without destroying the natural environment.

That almost sounds like you think we will achieve sustainability.

One can only hope. Not to many other positive alternatives after 100 yrs or so.

In the natural cycle, the dead wood rots (or burns) in place leaving the trace minerals behind. Also you don't have heavy wheeled or treded vehicles tearing up the ground. If we had small biomass plants distriubted among the forest, and the ashes were dispersed in the woods, we would probably have a sustainable system. I'd bet dollars to donuts, thats not how we are gonna do it.

Actually, that is probably how we are going to use woody biomass. Wood chips are too bulky and wet to move any distance economically. Most of the trace minerals are in the roots, branches and leaves that can be left in the woods. Clean wood chips only produce 1% - 2% ash and this ash can easily be spread for fertilizer.

With housing starts at low levels that could very well be permanent, there is plenty of woody biomass piling up in the woods that could be utilized.

They just keep piling up eh? I wonder what the woods did without people utilizing all that wood before it piled up. Where would the natural balance be without us people keeping things square?

all snark aside, i really don't know how to respond to a comment as curious (for lack of a better word) as yours. Did you not know that most of the forest in N. America was utilized before the age of oil, to burn and keep a significantly smaller population warmed and sheltered? How long do you think the woody biomass will last if it is used in place of fossil fuels to satiate our thirst for liquid energy?

Advocating teh casual transition to biomass fuels is something you do with the best of intentions no doubt, but the best intentions and pure suicidal madness can be one and the same when those intentions are guided by poor understanding. The road to hell they say is paved with them.

The biomass isn't just another resource to burn, it is us, and we are it. We burn it, we die. Why is that so difficult for people to understand? We're already destroying ourselves quite rapidly at the current rate of consumption. Tropical forests have an estimated 40 years left at current consumption rates. The impact of deforestation on the planet is ugly, and it is not reversible in any human-friendly time span.

Read up:

There is more forest cover in the NE US and Eastern Canada than there would have been, say 100 years ago. A lot of marginal land was cleared for agriculture and than abandoned once people realized that much better agricultural land was available out west. More recently, demand for wood has declined due to the reduced amount of home construction and lower demand for paper (especially newsprint). So there certainly is an additional amount of wood that could be harvested sustainably. Harvesting of wood from publicly owned land has been regulated for quite some time now, and the goal is generally to only cut an amount each year that is sustainable into the future.

yea agreed, a sustainable wood harvest is possible, and we have let large swaths of forest regrow in parts to of the country - but that's due more to the use of fossil fuels for heating as well as the use of the use of materials other than wood for building.

But...our use of fossil fuel is in the first stages of decline, and we have a much larger population of people and houses, as well as a much advanced standard of class living than we had 100 years ago.

While the goal might be to only cut the amount each year that is sustainable into the future, that goal is a luxury of the oil age here in the 1st world. Look to countries like Brasil to see how quickly deforestation continues without that luxury.

Even putting aside converting "biomass" to liquid fuel, just the mass of wood required to keep 300 million Americans warm without coal or oil will knock the northern forests out.

But the biomass folks are seriously suggesting we invest in a universal biomatter converter - an industrial process that converts plant cells to fuel. Sure it works nice in a lab, but once this process has started, the vast, desperate demand for liquid fuel will push it forward, inexorably. It will eat all forests, and gobble up grass, weeds, and everything else. There is not a sustainable balance between using plant matter for liquid fuel, and a living planet, there's an unstoppable swallowing of every thing, an autotrophic orgy. Therefore his is not only a dangerous proposal, it is insane.

"I wonder what the woods did without people utilizing all that wood before it piled up. "

As has been pointed out before, before people the Western forests burned, and the Eastern forests rotted. From the CO2 footprint point of view, you may as well use the wood for biofuel.

look, I'm not arguing that a co2 economy where the molecules are reclaimed and recycled through the system isn't sensible - it's what the plants do.

what I'm saying is that it's insane to think that the dead-wood of the forests is going to be enough to replace fossil fuels. not even close. If we develop a universal cellulose converter and put it into production, we'll eat up every last plant. Think we won't, with 9/10 billion people demanding food? Goodbye forests. Goodbye plains.

People who advocate this kind of thing are themselves horribly misinformed about their own substrate. We humans are not living in some kind of friendly universe that obeys are whims. We're sitting on top of a pile of biological accretion that is 3.5 billion years old - that's our buffer. against an absolutely hostile environment.

a metaphor: suppose you're tired of lugging your body around - who needs all the trouble of bodily functions? the head is where all the thoughts are. in todays day of automated machinery, it should be pretty easy to simply detach your head from your body and place it on a set of computerize wheels and get around that way. simply replace the body with a simpler, more high tech solution! Simple right? but of course, as soon as you detach your head, you die.

the same is true of humanity as it struggles to free itself from the onerous regulation of the biosphere - we can simply detach ourselves from the planet, and rely on our good technology to sustain us! However, the biosphere is exactly like a body. We may take for granted the many complex processes that sustain it, but we certainly need them to survive. Woods needs to burn, and forest debris needs to rot where it is, for example. It might look like a quick resource to us, but it's a resource in the same way that you can remove your lungs and use them as air balloons at a party.

And the forests that rotted produced topsoil. Which people then liquidated (good fertile soil, yum!) when they cleared forests for agricultural planting.

You can't remove the biomass without, well... removing the biomass. And if it gets turned into fuel and burnt, then it doesn't feed the forest, build the topsoil, etc.

Plasma Gasification looks like a good way to go for garbage, certainly better than biomass incinerators. The overall efficiency appears to be similar to other gasification processes. The savings in transport fuel alone would be significant. Hopefully, it is still being combined with the recycling of metals otherwise, a lot of embedded energy is being lost.

For woody biomass, steam gasification may be a more cost effective approach for producing a high quality syngas and maintaining a high overall plant efficiency. Although, at current oil and electricity prices in the US, none of these approaches is currently cost effective unless the plant is receiving tipping fees.

There was a big buzz about a "thermal de-polymerization" process that apparently worked quite well technically a few years back.This process involved heating organics such as abattoir wastes or food scraps to a rather high temperature, around 500 plus F IIrc, under high pressure, maybe a hundred atmospheres while grinding them and subjecting the slurry to a violent agitation by means of forcing it through something like a turbine wheel.Supposedly the process could be run on a modest portion of the final product-oils and combustible gases , with the mineral and metallic components falling out as ash.

If I understand what happened, the plant operators had based the business plan on obtaining the feedstock for little or nothing, and got burned when the price of the waste , which is used in manufacturing fertilizers and pet foods, rose to a level they couldn't pay.

Has anybody heard anything about this process recently?

Such a process would not do much for maintaining bau, but it could solve a lot of expensive garbage disposal problems at the local level.

They were also depending on government subsidies. Last I heard, they were trying to relocate to Europe were subsidies are more generous.

Europe were subsidies are more generous.

Yeah, I wonder how long that will last?


The thing about that process (TDP) is that you needed oil-like substances - i.e. fatty animal wastes - to start with. And there is only so much of that available, and the process doesn;t work on plant biomass, though it can - supposedly - be used on things like old tyres and certain plastics - which are really just solidified oil.
The process produced nasty odours, and ended - of course -in all sorts of lawsuits.

That company - Changing World Technologies - is still around

A rough equivalent for plant biomass would be supercritical steam gasification

These processes produce hydrogen rich syngas, while conventional oxygen or air blown gasification produces more CO and CO2

The process can be tweaked in a few ways, such as supercritical partial oxidation;


There has been lots of research on this stuff, but I'm not aware of any commercial plants producing energy in this way.

An interesting aspect of this is that it could be done at small scale. A supercritical steam generator can be as simple as a coiled (high pressure) pipe. Think of a pressure espresso coffee machine on steroids and you've got the idea...

yes we could finally get rid of some of this annoying biomass up here on the surface! not like it's doing anything......

...What we really need is a universal "muncher" that kind of trawls over the surface gobbling up everything in its path a pooin' out full on barrels of oil.

A good trend projection, but I think the gold standard will be a way to directly generate immediate human pleasure from destruction of the earth's future and its complex ecosystems, cutting out the annoying time lag, intermediate steps and instrumentalities now employed toward that end.

Embrace the evil.

Sell the whole thing to some shady space-aliens for its recycle value?

Actually, what the dismantlers have been doing to whole countries, like the U.S., looks much the same as a leveraged buyout, only on a larger scale.


After all, if you have a company with;

-> Low existing debt loads;
-> A multi-year history of stable and recurring cash flows;
-> Hard assets (property, plant and equipment, inventory, receivables)

What do you do? Run it for the benefit of the employees? What, are we running some kind of welfare system here!? That's socialism!... NO, no,... the clever fellow sells-out the whole thing for their own immediate personal gain.

the gold standard will be a way to directly generate immediate human pleasure from destruction of the earth's future and its complex ecosystems

i think you're onto something - have you thought of a career in investment? but... the gold standard you say. what's wrong with good ol' greenbacks? good enough for grampaw good enough for me

Re: One step closer to local food security, up top:

At this meeting livestock producers said their number one priority was a licensed mobile abattoir, or mobile processing unit (MPU)


US seeks to avoid price and supply "shocks in the oil market" while tightening sanctions against Iran.

By definition, if these sanctions are effective, there will be less oil to go around. In the last month, overall OPEC exports have curiously leveled out - even while oil exports from Libya have picked up rather rapidly. So it remains to be seen if OPEC can or will make up for any drop in Iran's exports.

Despite some recent media reports that exports from Iran to China fell in December, possibly foreshadowing a change in China's policy towards Iran, near the end of 2011 China went on a Mideast oil buying binge of sorts - showing little if any sign of reducing purchases from Iran. Those purchase arrangements will be for shipments leaving the Mideast in January.

US hopes to apply Iran sanctions without shock to oil market: White House

Washington (Platts)--9Jan2012/311 pm EST/2011 GMT

The Obama administration hopes to protect the US and its international partners from "shocks in the oil market" by gradually implementing tougher sanctions on Iran, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

"Our belief is that for these sanctions to be most effective, they need to be multilateral and have multilateral participation, they need to be timed and phased in a way that avoids negative repercussions to international oil markets and in ways that might cause more damage to ourselves than to Iran," Carney told reporters during a daily briefing.


Opec to stay out of Iran dispute

News wires 10 January 2012 04:07 GMT

Iran is facing toughened sanctions by the US meant to force a halt to its uranium enrichment program, which Washington says is aimed at creating weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

"Opec will not get involved in the issue with Iran," Reuters quoted Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez telling reporters following a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Ramirez said the sanctions were "causing instability in the market."


Here's Leon Panetta on Face the Nation last Sunday, admitting Iran is not developing Nuclear Weapons

Its probably (at least they hope it works out that way) Kibuki theatre. For political reasons they gotta appear to be tougher than tough. For practical reasons, they gotta hope the sanctions regime is quitely leaky, but that the leakage stays off the media radar screen. Its kind of a tough balance to strike.

New Coal to Liquids Process

SRI announced a new CTL process using methane.

The process is not Fischer-Tropsch. It is a version of the methanol synthesis means of coal-to-liquids.

It might be a version of a hybrid process that combines the features of GTL and CTL:

I gathered-up some information:

I'm having trouble finding or figuring the overall yield of the process in terms of the feedstocks.

There is already a lot of misinformation and conflicting information out there in internet land. I'm not finding any academic papers.

It looks very interesting.

Any thoughts?

Re: Congressional Inaction on Extending Commuter Benefits Leads Public Transit Riders to See Taxes Increase More Than $550 in 2012

This is part of the continuing bias of American governments against public transit. There is a widespread belief among the American public that the private automobile gained the upper hand due to some natural cause, but the fact is that the private automobile has received far more in government spending than public transit.

Other countries prefer to tilt the balance in favor of public transit because of the high environmental and social impact of automobiles, and the large balance of payments deficits that result from importing large amounts of oil. The result is that US public transit ridership is much lower, and automobile use is higher, than in other developed countries.

At this point in time, the low fuel taxes in the US do not even cover the costs of maintaining the roads. This is different from most other developed countries, where fuel taxes cover not only road maintenance, but go into general revenue to fund other government services as well.

It would be very instructive to see the lobbying behind the scenes on this one. It does look to be a typical overly complex income tax based program to start with. Why not put all these ridiculously fragmented fuel related tax programs into one complex basket--the graduated fuel tax system?

At least a single fuel tax system could layout a road-map of fuel use goals and weigh alternative approaches to gaining them. What we have now is a hopeless morass of conflicting tax incentive programs aiming every which way. Of course since I've never seen anything approaching a graduated fuel tax system mentioned anywhere other than in a handful of my own posts here it is very unlikely such a system will ever be brought into being.

Statoil makes large oil discovery in Barents Sea

(This month:)
large oil discovery!
large oil reserve!
second major oil find in the Arctic region in less than a year!
200 million and 300 million barrels!
(It's a mix of oil and gas)

(In August 2011:)
biggest find... in 30 years!
massive discovery!
500 million to 1.2 billion barrels!

At 85 million barrels per day, the finds are a few days worth for the world, yes? If Norway hangs on to it for local consumption, perhaps it is exciting!:

http://www.indexmundi.com/norway/oil_consumption.html ...About a quarter million barrels per day... so the discoveries are years worth.

200 to 300 million barrels is enough to supply the world for about 2.5 to 3.5 days. We need discoveries in the multi-BILLION barrel range to keep the world supplied with oil.

Norway will sell all the oil and rely on its hydroelectric plants to keep the country supplied with energy. Norwegians view oil as something they sell to other people but use as little of as possible themselves. It's a source of money for their national pension fund.

Crazy socialist Norsemen! Don't they know you're supposed to "Drill, baby, drill", externalize any environmental problems to the (poorest) locals, then deliver all the economic rents to the banking elite as fast as possible? They'll never amount to anything with that kind of thinking.

So, then, this is another example of the press "being totally irresponsible"... or responding quite loyally to their owners agenda... But certainly not serving the people.

The article below is of the opinion that jobs in farming and wellhead operations are going to decline greatly by 2018. I would have certainly thought the opposite in both cases, what with a forced return to the land and frantic drilling.


mass - "...proving that demand is trending away from domestic oil extraction." Obviously not true. How long the surge in fracture shale oil production continues is another matter, of course. The main drivers in these plays are the public oils who have no choice but to drill these plays as fast as possible even if the returns are marginal. They either expand their reserve base y-o-y or Wall Street will kick them to the curb and stock value goes down the crapper.

Pumper jobs: very misleading point. Pumpers make up a completely insignificant percentage of field hands. Many pumpers are retired oil field hands picking up some pocket change. Often they aren't doing much more than babysitting those wells. With the fractured shale play activity there is a bigger demand for pumpers today than there has been for many years. If the pubcos can keep drilling I would be expect there to be some difficulty finding pumpers especially since many of the current pumpers will be getting too old to carry on...if they're still breathing at all.

The big demand right now is for experienced hands that do the more technically challenging jobs. And the low skilled (and typically young) blue collar hands who spend back breaking days slinging dumb iron.

The number of jobs in agriculture has been declining for over 100 years, and there's no reason to expect it to stop now. It has been a trend of fewer and fewer people producing more and more food. The basic principle is that machines work cheaper than people, and peak oil won't change that. If necessary, they'll just run the machines on something other than conventional oil. Farmers are quite flexible in that regard.

As Rockman notes, pumpers are a relatively minor part of oil industry personnel, and their jobs can be automated out of existence. I spent much of my career automating their jobs out of existence. The pumpers are often part-time workers who happen to work in the area and are picking up a few extra bucks looking after some oil wells. It's the technical and professional staff who do the planning and design of the oil facilities that are hard to get rid of.


“Over the last year we have hundreds of cases of parents who want to leave their children with us – they know us and trust us,” Father Antonios says.

“They say they do not have any money or shelter or food for their kids, so they hope we might be able to provide them with what they need.”

Requests of this kind were not unknown before the crisis – but Father Antonios has never until now come across children being simply abandoned.

BBC Radio 4 have had a series of reports lately on how the austerity measures in Greece have been affecting indivduals.

It sounds like the heart is being ripped out of the country. How bleak must the situation be to think that your children would have a better future with someone else?

your children would have a better future with someone else

Before the welfare state existed - orphanges were common and bleak enough to be plot points in stories and things to attempt to scare childern into behavioural compliance.

The end of cheap energy and collapse of the fiat currency growth model will have many ugly outcomes. Greece is just the 1st on the way down.

In Sweden we got a new holder of the "most hated in the country" title yesterday, thanks to "the bandy dad". He thought his son was playing to bad on a bandy game, and decided he did not deserve to be driven home. He left him at the stadium (in Uppsala) and drove home to Stockholm. Several tens of Kms away. The boy was wearing match clothes, and it was -7 celcius cold when an adult saw him. Calling the father on the phone he was told "it's none of your buissiness, and the boy was playing so f**king bad, he deserved to walk home."

Off topic I know, but hey.

I can see how that went down in Sweden! BTW, what is a 'Bandy Game'?


Didn't bother to check it was realy called "Bandy" in english,maybe I should do that. I don't know much of this stuff, since I am no sport geek. Very popular sport in Sweden though. It is sad we invented it.


Ah, thanks, looks like a form of hockey.


In the US schools something like it is played in the gym classes, but it isn't played even as an intramural competitive sport to my knowledge.

We have two varitys. "Bandy" is like a form of hocky, just larger nets and less violence. "Indoor Bandy" (we call it inne-bandy) is played indoors and you need a pair of shoes. The ordinary Bandy-ball is orange (to be seen on the ice) and made of rubber. Indoor-bandy have hollow white plastic balls with holes through the ball.

China Dec crude imports dip from Nov despite high refinery throughput


This time, it may be China's turn to lose manufacturing jobs to the US.

Smart unveils pint-sized pickup

America is about to meet a pint-sized pickup.

Calling it the perfect vehicle for an urban society, Smart on Monday unveiled the "for-us," its tiny take on the classic U.S. pickup truck.

Smart, a division of Germany's Daimler AG, said the concept vehicle is so small that it could fit in the bed of a traditional pickup and be barely noticed. At the same time, it provides enough room for two people to sit comfortably. The truck's cargo bed hold spaces to charge the front wheels of two electric bicycles.

The electrically powered concept truck combines the fun and freedom of a pickup with the practicality and ecofriendly aspects of an economy car, Smart Chief Executive Annette Winkler told reporters at the North American International Auto Show.

More here.


It is tiny, electric, and yet has some of the ground clearance needed to survive decaying asphalt streets. Not quite as good as a Fritchle, but the right direction: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/05/the-status-quo-of-electric-cars-b...

More photos here

The technology behind the new pickup is similar to Smart’s previous ForTwo model shown at the Frankfurt Auto show in 2011. The technology used is lithium-ion from Deutsche Accumotive with a 17.6kWh capacity and a magneto-electric motor delivering 55kW (74 HP) and 130 Nm (95.9 lb-ft). This allows the car to reach speeds around 75mph and go from 0-60 in 5 seconds. The driving range is slightly lower than a standard For-Us, topping out at about 87 miles.

...plenty of room to put your backup generator in :-0

Pretty Cool.. I could see delivering Bakery Goods with it.. but for a Small Work Vehicle that can get it's hair a bit more mussed up, I have to say I'd do my shopping here.. (and probably end up doing a conversion in the end, just the same)


The Polaris Ranger EV seems appealing, depending of course on the work you need to do with it.

My daughter's neighbor has the electric Polaris and loves it. Says it has more torque than his previous ICE model. He charges it with PV, (he has 10kw installed), and has ordered a Leaf. He has $$$, and plans to be weaned from fossil fuels by year's end. Not sure how he plans to till his garden, but he has an electric chain saw and log splitter for his wood stove. He's not even really peak oil aware.... says it's just common sense. His system is 'grid interactive' with a large battery bank.

I hope these electric ATV's/UTV's catch on - they seem an ideal application for electric. The ATV's on my family farm get used almost every day, but don;t actually do that many miles, but lots of stop-start and slow moving. The electric utility vehicle would be really good, especially if set up with an inverter to provide 120V ac power.

And, with an electric atv and the the right equipment like this, you can put the kids to work, and put your own feet up - that makes them really worthwhile!

LogRite uses less power

Don't know if you've seen this one, but John Howe up here in Maine has put some PV onto a golf-cart, and with a hefty inverter on it, hops out to the woodlot and electric chainsaws his firewood off the Cart Batteries.


Pete Seeger was doing much the same with a converted pickup, but the PV on his barn. The 'Portable Power Vehicle' seems to be a very sensible combination.


Gary Reysa managed to get ahold of an electric tractor and also uses it as a backup battery system for his house if the power goes out!


I've admired the Elec-trak for a while now, too.

This restoration has that great combo Inverter/Charger, which lets them run tools in the field..

Another fine example of a durable, clean and powerful use of simple, Electric Work Tools. It's amazing how many arguments it seems to start.

I've admired Gary Reysa and his Built it Solar site for some time now. I think he has done more to advance the cause of solar than Solyndra ever did!

The concept of an electric tractor seems ideal except for one thing...

And that is that if it is not getting many hours use per year, or is being used for unproductive things like mowing one acre (!) of lawn, then all this tech is either idle or being used for some relatively unproductive luxuries (snow clearing is productive)

I won;t fault Gary for doing this, it's a great project and an inspiration to many of us.

What I would like to see is the concept taken just a bit farther to produce a really useful electric "farm" tractor - as opposed to "lawn" tractor, that could be used for a small organic farm, as then it can be used for a real productive purpose. An electric tractor with (switchable)4wd, a 3pt hitch, pto and a front loader would be incredibly useful, and the bonus of 120V anywhere plus grid backup would be welcomed. For the small farm, the tractors tend to do lots of short runs, with lots of engine cold starts etc. It is rare for them to run all day like broadacre tractors.

The front loader could have a bobcat style universal mount, so it can use the smaller end of the many attachments already made for skid steers. One "implement" could be a small self contained generator, that could mount to both the front and the 3pt hitch, for the rare times the tractor will work long hours.

Between the compact diesel tractors, and industrial electric forklifts, I am convinced that all the tech needed already exists to produce such a machine- it just needs to be put together.

Gary's project is not it, but it comes close.

Best hopes for electric powered farms!

Yair...Paul this bloke has been building some interesting stuff.



Thanks Scrub.

I have read this guy's articles in Mother Earth News, and he is on the ball. He has there an electric crawler tractor (rubber track) that can have a front end loader and pto - it is the closest incarnation to what I am talking about that I have seen. He can build and sell for $35k, and the loader an pto options take it up to $47k - that is a *large* chunk of change for a small farm, and one that I expect most could not afford - certainly not the ones I know of and am involved in.

At this point, the electric utility vehicle would make more sense.

Regrettably, the best business decision for the farm is still likely a small diesel tractor, but with the relatively low fuel consumption, it would be cost effective to run it on biodiesel.

Hi Paul;
Did you see this one? Maybe you're looking for Production Tractors, but I'm also pretty encouraged by the ease with which these conversions seem to have come together.


It's on a small organic CSA farm up in NY State, and now he provides key parts for others who have seized-up old Allis Chalmers rigs lying around that they want to change. Says they've done hundreds of them nos. He has also reported putting a bunch of PV onto a Pallet and drags it out to the field where they're working, keeps one tractor charging while the other one works.

"Dec 2009 Update: LOTS more Electric G's have been made. We stopped counting at 100+. Even after all these years we still love ours and the batteries are still working fine (see my note in battery section, though! I'm kind of blown away by how popular they got in 2008! Herman Niekamp is the machinist that we write about in these pages and last year he created his page with more pictures and by far the most up-to-date information on what's happening with the G's. He sells kits that make it even easier to do this conversion yourself (you STILL NEED instructions and pictures on these pages, but his work eliminates 100% of the "hard parts" that I write about in the conversion..."

"...Many of you have reported having trouble finding old Allis Chalmer G Tractors. This inspired me to build a "From Scratch" electric tractor. We have three prototypes now, and they will be available for sale for around $5500 (complete, not as a kit) starting in 2010. That's not to say that the electric G's aren't AWESOME! If you find an old G, you should definitely build your own! It's fun! Otherwise you can contact me for more information by going to the "CONTACT US!" page on the www.flyingbeet.com website. "

As for the smaller 'Lawn-tractors'.. I think they're really important as well. Gary makes a very good point about the pollution of the smallest ICE motors, for one thing.. and I'm also thinking of changing expectations where tools like these are either co-owned by a group of families, or go out on loan to neighbors, (and of course are part of small businesses) instead of the current model where many garages have one and they mostly sit idle all the time. I think that problem corrects itself economically, but doesn't change the usefulness of the device.

The Assumption that Refuses to Die

Earlier this morning I an across an article from the NY Times called “The Myth of Japan’s Failure”, By Eamonn Fingleton, published in the New York Times: January 6, 2012


Near the middle of the article, right after several paragraphs criticizing the usefulness of most conventional economic indicators, he wrote the following paragraph:

Luckily there is a yardstick that finesses many of these problems: electricity output, which is mainly a measure of consumer affluence and industrial activity. In the 1990s, while Japan was being widely portrayed as an outright “basket case,” its rate of increase in per-capita electricity output was twice that of America, and it continued to outperform into the new century.

This is yet another statement of the assumption that energy use, including electricity, must always rise linearly with any increase in industrial output. This theory was disproved in the USA during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when energy use, including electricity consumption, per unit of output declined. But most economists, and apparently many journalists, never noticed, apparently because they just didn’t want to notice.

This is an article pointing out that the ratio of oil to natural gas prices has reached historically high levels. On an energy content basis, oil is now 5 times as expensive as natural gas, meaning that anyone who can possible switch should do so. Most industries which can switch easily have already done so.

Oil and Natural Gas Prices Move Even Further Apart

For many years, oil prices (as measured in $ per barrel) were typically 6 to 12 times natural gas prices (as measured in $ per MMBtu). That ratio blew out to around 20 in 2009 and again in 2010, a severe break with historical trends.
At the time, that seemed like an enormous disparity between the two prices. In retrospect, we hadn’t seem anything yet. As of yesterday, the ratio stood at more than 33

But the current ratio is unprecedented. Each Btu of oil is now worth about five times as much as each Btu of natural gas. Thanks to a torrent of new supply, natural gas prices are down at $3.00 per MMBtu even as oil (as measured by the WTI price) has risen back above the $100 per barrel mark.

But of course, it's my understanding that publicly held companies continue to report natural gas reserves as Barrels of Oil Equivalent (BOE), using a six to one ratio, versus the cash flow comparison of about 33 to one.

That's true, it is highly misleading for companies to report their reserves as barrels of oil EQUIVALENT without reporting how much of that is oil and how much is gas. The oil is worth 5 times as much as the gas, so if most of their reserves are gas, they are worth far less than they claim to be.

The same applies to oil field sizes reported as BOE. If a field contains 200 million barrels of oil and 4.8 tcf of gas, reporting it as 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent is going to gave a misleading picture to the public. On a cash value basis it's not worth $100 billion, it's worth $34 billion.

Gas is not oil. They are not equivalent even if the the BTU's are equal. Things that are different can not be added or compared. Energy analysis if full of this nonsense.

Oil and gas have different uses. They have different prices. They are distributed differently. Oil is relatively easy to ship across oceans. Gas not so much.

This is basic stuff. Gas can not help much ameliorate an oil shortage when the vehicular infrastructure is made to use oil and is very expensive to convert to gas. The distribution system is set up for liquid fuel. It is not ready for gas fuel even if the vehicles existed, which they don't.

When gas and oil are the two most common options for heating your home up here, then you are going to compare them, check their BTUs against their cost, and wonder which might fail to be delivered first.. just as you will compare electricity and wood-heat with them as well for exactly the same reason.

NOT comparing them would just be foolish.

.. I know YOU seem to know what you mean, but it makes NO sense to many of us. Maybe you are trying to say 'Don't EQUATE them.'.. which is different to 'Comparing' them.

Will Tensions With Iran Really Push Gasoline to $5 a Gallon?

... Recent tensions with Iran have pushed up oil above $100 a barrel, and commentators warn of much bigger price increases to come. If oil does go to between $150 and $200 a barrel, analysts say that gasoline could hit $5 a gallon. Is that really likely? And if so, what would the impact be on the economy and the markets?

... •The real risk is a shooting war. If the conflict were to expand beyond sanctions and a fight over control of the Strait of Hormuz, the global oil supply would face an entirely different level of risk. In particular, warfare or terrorism that damaged the Saudi oil fields would cause supply disruptions that could not be made up elsewhere.

•High oil prices could reduce demand and cause a temporary pendulum swing to below-average oil prices. ...

Hybrids in U.S. Losing Appeal as Vehicles Run on Less Gas: Cars

While past auto shows have been stocked with gas-electric hybrids and SUVs, slow hybrid sales have brought a dose of reality to the industry. Carmakers are realizing they can give buyers what they want and avoid the expense of electric motors and batteries by shrinking cars and wringing better fuel economy from traditional gasoline engines.

"The advantages of hybrids are getting harder to justify," ... The challenge with selling hybrids is that gasoline engines have become more efficient and the cost of hybrids haven't come down fast enough to justify the added expense for many buyers, ...

sub $19k Prius C (that price is $U.S.)

53 mpg city
46 mpg highway
~50 mpg combined

Using the NRCan car comparison page the Yaris (same body as the Prius C, I'm comparing against the regular Prius which is supposed to have the same combined mileage as the C) would cost $460 dollars more a year in fuel (using Regular – $1.05/L, regular has been ~$1.20/L for a good while now) So since gas is 15% more than what NRCan was using for it's calculations, the real fuel cost difference is $529.

A new Yaris is ~$14K in Canada (plus taxes, for simplicity I'll leave them out of the calculation)

So the payback for the Prius C versus the Yaris at ~$1.20/L is 9.5 years. Though I think my province will be providing a $1000 rebate so the payback is 7.6 years (($5000 - $4000)/$529)

But if we start paying ~$2/L then the cost of gas is 90% greater than the reference price used. So the difference in annual fuel consumption is ($460 * 1.9) is now $876.

Assuming no rebate the payback is now 5.7 years. ($5000 / $876/y)
With a $1000 rebate the payback is 4.6 years. ($4000 / $876/y)

Of course the question is what will the price of gas be? One thing to consider is how a fuel efficient car helps ease the pain of price spikes.

Anyway, mostly playing here as I consider what to replace my 99 Honda Civic hatchback with. Maybe I'll try and get another year out of it!

I can't guarantee my calculations. : )

Well it's all a question of class, in the end. Who can afford what.

Prison for the criminal class. Walking, cycling, and buses, combined with section 8 rent, for the underclass. Compact cars and old pickups for the working class. Hybrids for the middle class. New ICE cars and the occasional airplane trip for the upper middle class. The same as always - Bentleys, limos, yachts, and private jets, for the upper class.

Some things never change. What hybrids do is allow the middle class to get around for awhile. They have their place.

The Canadian price for the Prius C will be sub $21 000.

And the combined mileage will be 3.7 l/100km

Toyota's press release

Probably will buy a Bionx kit and retrofit my commuter bike which I haven't ridden much in the last few years. It was too hard to bike commute with kids in pre-school, along with everything else! From what I've heard the Bionx should flatten out the hills; and I have hills!

India Said to Be Told Turkey May Stop Routing Iran Oil Shipment Payments

Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS (HALKB) told Indian oil (IOCL) refiners it may no longer be able to be an intermediary for their purchases of Iranian crude, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

Executives from the crude-processing companies met with Indian oil ministry officials yesterday to discuss alternatives, including routing remittances through Russia, the people said, declining to be identified because the information is confidential. Other options include stopping purchases from Iran altogether and importing from other countries, they said. Indian officials are scheduled to visit Tehran for trade talks starting Jan. 16, two of the people said.

This is a serious issue,” Praveen Kumar, an oil and gas analyst at Facts Global Energy in Singapore, said in a telephone interview. “India doesn’t seem to have a plan B at the moment. The refiners will be worried about what they are going to do.”

Coupled with fuel shortages and load shedding (and the Pakistan situation, and northern Maoists), loss of Iranian oil to India could add alot of volatility to India in 2012

IMO a non issue. If it were there would be a simple barter arrangement- the Indians would sell the Iranians what they need in exchange for oil. No money changes hands. After all the oil in the ground does the Iranians no good- they need "stuff". Another alternative would be to settle in gold. Both of those would bypass the US banking system.

The point is Turkey has probably come under US pressure not to operate a pipeline sending oil that hasn't been paid for in US$.

Two new reports from Congressional Research Service (CRS) ...

Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues

and National Infrastructure Bank: Overview and Current Legislation

The Congressional Research Service paper is a pretty good summary of the issues around the Keystone Pipeline, and reflects a number of points that I have been making here for some time. Some excerpts:

Among the largest sources of U.S. gross oil imports are Canada (2.5 Mbpd), the Persian Gulf (1.7 Mbpd), and Mexico (1.3 Mbpd). Imports from the latter two sources have decreased in recent years in part due to lower need for imports described above and in part due to developments in those countries.... Imports from Venezuela, another key
source of U.S. imports, have also fallen....

Meanwhile, Canadian production and exports to the United States have increased, primarily due to growing output from the oil sands in western Canada.

The U.S. Gulf Coast region already has a large amount of complex refining capacity and is considered potentially well suited for processing Canadian heavy crude oil. Gulf Coast refiners currently process heavy crudes from Venezuela, Mexico, and elsewhere. Complex refineries in the Gulf Coast may be best equipped to handle a large increase of heavy oil sands crude, though they may still need to adjust processes and make new capital investments in equipment to accommodate particular crudes’ characteristics, especially if the new Canadian crudes will be used in large amounts.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy suggested that:

if pipeline projects to the BC [British Columbia] coast are built, they are likely to be utilized. This is because of the relatively short marine distances to major northeast Asia markets, future expected growth there in refining capacity and increasing ownership interests by Chinese companies especially in oil sands production. Such increased capacity would alter global crude trade patterns. Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) crudes would be “lost” from the USA, going instead to Asia. There they would displace the world’s balancing crude oils, Middle Eastern and African predominantly OPEC grades, which would in turn move to the USA. The net effect would be substantially higher U.S. dependency on crude oils from thoose sources versus scenarios where capacity to move WCSB crudes to Asia was limited.

The unstated point above was that oil supply from Middle Eastern and African countries is less secure than that from Canada.

How much pipeline capacity currently exists out of Alberta? The BC pipe is proposed at 0.5 mbpd (yes?). If production were to rise to 5 mbpd, then both pipelines would be needed? Are there other pipelines in progress for taking the remainder?

Well, according to the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, there's 300,000 bpd to Vancouver and Washington State on Kinder Morgan's TransMountain pipeline, 2 million bpd to the US MidWest and Eastern Canada on the Enbridge Pipeline, 450,000 bpd to the US Midwest on the Alberta Clipper, 280,000 bpd to the US Rockies and Midwest on the Kinder Morgan Express, 120,000 bpd to the US Rockies on Plains Midstream, 85,000 bpd to the US Rockies on Rangeland, and 590,000 bpd to the US Midwest on Keystone Phase 1.

That is a total of 3.8 million barrels per day of capacity to take oil out of Alberta, which is about 1.5 million bpd more oil than Alberta can produce (about 2.3 million bpd). The pipeline companies got carried away building excess capacity to the US in the last few years.

The thing is, the demand does not exist to take all this oil in the available market areas because of declining demand in the US and Canada. They either need to get the surplus oil all the way to the US Gulf Coast, where half of US refining capacity is located, or send it to Asia.

What happens to the young and educated without a job?

A new study led by the University of Oxford is looking at how young educated people who are unemployed become politicized in different ways - either through violent struggle or as reformers working for a more equal society. The project is one of the first to compare in depth the experiences across different countries of the young who are educated and yet unemployed.

"Young people have invested time and money in their education and yet find there are very few salaried jobs for them. This has left them feeling short-changed and frustrated and this is a big problem across the world. Educational levels have risen rapidly but there is a big gap between their aspirations and the reality of the current jobs market.

"Scholars know surprisingly little about the resulting political actions taken by the educated young who have not had their aspirations met.

Russia hints at foul play in its space failures

The head of Russia's beleaguered space programme hinted on Tuesday that foreign powers may be behind the string of failures that struck his agency in the past year.

Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar.

Pictures taken inside Russian rocket facility by fence-hopping adventurers:

Wow! Exploring all the abandoned places from the main site lana-sator.livejournal.com gives you the feeling of being a Ruinman in Greer's Star's Reach

Install the computer game "S.T.AL.K.E.R - Call of Pripjat". Play it. Advance to the second map. (There are three). Locate the "Jupiter plant"). Enter it and explore. Locate the plant on Google Maps, satelite mode. Say "Wow, it feels like I have been there!".

Japan's Lost Decade: All Too Real

Some interesting graphs...and a possible glimpse of our future? Japan has handled it pretty well. Doesn't mean we will, but it's at least possible.

Japan has handled it pretty well

I know it's a contentious topic but I wonder if being of one single race has played a part in it. History suggests that Multicultural and Multiracial societies cope poorly with high internal stress. External threats on the other hand tend to unite various factions in a society.

They aren't really of one single race. Westerners may think "they all look alike," but that's not how they see things.

Even if there weren't historical divisions, people have a rather ugly history of making divisions where there might not have been any before.

Yes. Most of the people of Japanese descent in Hawaii are the descendents of people who left Japan in the Meiji era. The historical divisions seem silly to people raised in the US, but they are still there, often expressed by grandparents and great-grandparents. People with Okinawan names or Ainu looks are looked down on. There's also some sort of religious schism between different sects of Buddhism. Most young people don't even know what the difference is, but some in the older generation react like it's Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland.

Yes true but the total percentage of people from other cultures/groups is very low. IMO 100% purity is impossible to achieve. Another evidence of their aversion to multi-culturalism is the fact that they don't encourage immigration in-spite of a shrinking population. In fact going by user accounts they actively discourage it.

New oil leak as wreck's stern sinks off N.Zealand

Fresh oil leaking from the wrecked cargo ship Rena off the New Zealand coast is expected to reach shore overnight, salvage officials announced on Tuesday.

The US seems to be in a permanent state of election campaign. Seems more time is spent campaigning than actually running the country. You guys must be soooooo bored of it all. It's like it's own huge industry. Election campaign has to be up there alongside industry and finance!

Just a wee random though for the day!


I've been avoiding TV news for nearly a week, due to all the blather about NH primary.

US elections: Funding unlimited?

… The Supreme Court says money is a form of free speech, but critics argue that corporations are not people and therefore do not have the same right to free speech.

Democracy Index 2011: Democracy Under Stress (.zip file)

… Global backsliding in democracy has been evident for some time and strengthened in the wake of the 2008-09 global economic crises. Between 2006 and 2008 there was stagnation; between 2008 and 2010 there was regression across the world. In 2011 the decline was concentrated in Europe.

The decades-long global trend in democratization has come to a halt in what Larry Diamond (2008) called a “democratic recession”.

A political malaise in east-central Europe has led to disappointment and questioning of the strength of the region’s democratic transition. Media freedoms have been eroded across Latin America and populist forces with dubious democratic credentials have come to the fore in a few countries in the region.

In the developed West, a precipitous decline in political participation, weaknesses in the functioning of government and security-related curbs on civil liberties are having a corrosive effect on some long-established democracies.

The unprecedented rise of movements for democratic change across the Arab world a year ago led many to expect a new wave of democratization. But it soon became apparent that the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt would not be repeated so easily elsewhere and that democracy remained a highly uncertain prospect. Many MENA autocracies resorted to a mix of repression and cosmetic changes.

Economic crises can threaten democracy, usually with a lag, through increased social unrest. So far, social unrest related to the financial and economic crisis has affected about two dozen countries.

Other key developments in 2011 include:

- Popular confidence in political institutions continues to decline in many countries.
- US democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening of the polarization of the political scene and political brinkmanship and paralysis.
- Mounting social unrest could pose a threat to democracy in some countries.
- The US and the UK remain at the bottom end of the full democracy category. There has been a rise in protest movement. Problems in the functioning of government are more prominent.
- Although extremist political forces in Europe have not yet profited from economic dislocation as might have been feared, populism and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise.
- Rampant crime in some countries—in particular, violence and drug-trafficking—continues to have a negative impact on democracy in Latin America.

I watched an election debate once - it was in about 1960 I think. Never again.

Super PAC windfalls: How deep pockets are funding the 2012 election

Newt Gingrich just got a big financial boost: a $5 million check from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson that’s intended to boost the ex-House speaker’s campaign.

We’ll note here that this cash isn’t going to Mr. Gingrich directly, but to an outside organization, a "super PAC," that’s endorsing him. And we’ll also note that this news reveals one way in which the 2012 presidential campaign is different from previous election cycles: It’s a lot easier than it used to be for rich people to shovel bags of cash at their favorite candidates.

Seems more time is spent campaigning than actually running the country. You guys must be soooooo bored of it all.

The politicians No. 1 priority is time spent campaigning and fund raising. Everything after that is guaranteed severance for life and lucritive lobbying options.

For us viewing it we are bombarded with information overload and pronouncements that this election will be the most important ever! To do what? More of the same, because some things change and some things never change.

A good graph of the 2012 presidential election season ...

Infographic: US presidential election 2012

... if you think it's crazy now - wait until March

Amazing that if you do not watch TV or listen to the news on radio, you barely even notice. If it weren't for the news feeds on my Yahoo home page I would see it at all. And of course, it makes no difference at all - regardless of who is (S)elected, there will be a seamless transition from one imperialist flunky to the next, just as there was last time. The partisans will scream "socialist" or "fascist", but there will be no detectible policy changes.

Every now and then I will read an article, mercifully relieved from the emotional manipulation inherent in tone of voice, body language, etc. The absurdity of what is actually said is obvious.

Vote PRI! THEY will make a HUGE difference!
It is fun to look at Mexican politics. All the debate. All the opinions. None of it matters a bit. The few families that own the place will continue to run it.

Google news, Mexican edition:

Tonight, the page looks just like the U.S. google news page, with a string of political candidate pictures underlying the first articles about poll results.

"Mexico City • Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI candidate for President of the Republic, said in their social networks that has a lead in the polls, which encourages, also said that assumes that advantage "responsibly."

"2012 is not just to win the presidency, but the return of peace and hope for Mexico," Peña Nieto published on his Twitter account"

In the U.S., I hope the voices of the young have not been crushed. They are the only real hope for change.

The PRI will roll over to the drug gangs, it will not be nice. The only 'peace' will be that what goes on no longer gets reported. To give you an example, I can put in a complaint to our local PRI run council about a corrupt official but only if I leave a name, address and telephone number - anyone think I am that crazy?


Tick tock on Doomsday Clock

Through the years, the Doomsday Clock has become an indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophes from nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies in the life sciences such as biochemistry and ecology.

Purdue University senior Kyle Borders isn't worried. Asked him about Iran, "dirty bombs" or nuclear missile attacks, and Borders didn't sound too concerned.

"My parents are 50 and have never spoken about the Doomsday Clock," said Borders of Avon. "I'm not scared. I am shortsighted, obviously."

'Doomsday' ticks closer on nuclear, climate fears

... "It is now five minutes to midnight ... one minute closer to midnight," said Allison Macfarlan, chair of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which created the Doomsday clock in 1947 as a barometer of how close the world is to an apocalyptic end.

Increasing nuclear tensions, refusal to engage in global action on climate change, and a growing tendency to reject science when it comes to major world concerns were cited as key reasons for the latest tick on the clock.

"The world is in a pickle," he added. "More people want to live better than they live now on a planet of finite size."

Twinkies Maker Preparing for Chapter 11 Filing

... Those familiar with the company blamed the skyrocketing costs of flour, sugar and other key baking ingredients as well as snowballing debt.

... Hostess also has had trouble attracting consumers who have migrated away from white bread to whole grains and other healthier foods. Hostess also kept prices relatively high, making it harder to charge even more as costs for ingredients and fuel rose.

Although bankruptcy is not the same as collapse and we can afford to lose 'Twinkies'; what happens when a 'too big to fail' food company fail?

This is especially sad news for the legal community.


Good catch - Paul

The Twinkie defense is a derogatory term for a criminal defendant's claim that some unusual factor (such as allergies, coffee, nicotine, or sugar) diminished the defendant's responsibility for the alleged crime. The term arose from Herb Caen's description of the trial of Dan White, who was convicted in the fatal shootings of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk. During the trial, psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that White had suffered from depression, causing diminished capacity. As an example of this, he mentioned that White, formerly a health food advocate, had begun eating junk food. Twinkies, specifically, were never actually mentioned in the case.

Twinkies are a highly processed product and should not be consumed in large quantities. Many of the ingredients are not of organic origin and have questionable health effects


That's OK, they'll always have the "Chewbacca Defence".

And geeks.


what happens when a 'too big to fail' food company fail?

Well, this makes a bit more sense if we say " what happens when a TBTF food *processing* company fails?",
and the answer is, we will eat less processed food and more real food.

And that, IMO is a good thing. May Kraft, Sara Lee, etc be next.

As Michael Pollan says " Rule No. 19 - If it’s a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”

"...skyrocketing costs of flour, sugar and other key baking ingredients..."

Sure, whatever, a likely story, LOL. The basic ingredients account for, what, 1% of the price of a highly processed item like this?

Aw, c'mon. There's at least 5-10% of 'honest to goodness' real food in that product. Add another 10% for the industrial extruder that produces these little turds. There's 20% right there.

They need to explore new markets. Twinkie pellet stoves comes to mind, and they make great bait for coon traps. Since they don't seem to spoil, they could be marketed as high-energy survival food along with MREs.

For the cost of one Hostess product, you can buy a box of these:
Made in the U.S.A.

Noatak and Kobuk Facing Crippling Fuel Shortages

NORTHWESTERN ALASKA-All eyes have been on Nome as they await their shipment of diesel and gasoline to be delivered by the first ever Mid-winter Bering Sea re-fueling.

But, there are other villages that face the same or increased risk of running out of fuel as the the winter progresses. Two of those villages, Noatak and Kobuk, run the risk of no heating fuel for their homes. The community of Noatak ran out of heating fuel on Saturday. The store there has been borrowing fuel from the pump house while the village has been put on rationing. Each family is allowed 10 gallons of the precious liquid. Heating oil prices are running between $9 and $10 a gallon.

Some more details here: Noatak and Kobuk have just about run out of fuel oil too".

Meanwhile Heavy Bering Sea ice slows delivery of fuel to Nome. While the headline says "Heavy Bering Sea ice", it sounds like the problem is more that the ice is shifting.

I've watched "Flying Wild Alaska" a few times on Discovery, a cute little 'reality' show about the airline Era Alaska, "the largest air carrier in the state of Alaska". Much of what they do is shuttling people and goods to the many remote villages there. Often these planes are loaded down with things like sugary cereals, fuel for ATVs and snowmobiles and soda. Must be the most expensive soda on the planet, excepting Antarctica, perhaps. Most of these villages aren't oil or mineral producing, lucrative fishing or tourist destinations, etc., so I ask: What do these people do? Who/what pays for this hugely expensive and ultimately unsustainable shadow of Native Alaskan life? What happens when these inputs are no longer available?

"Heating oil prices are running between $9 and $10 a gallon." I question if liquid fuels can be flown in to these villages for even $10 per gallon without large subsidies. Perhaps I'm missing something...

What do these people do? Who/what pays for this hugely expensive and ultimately unsustainable shadow of Native Alaskan life? What happens when these inputs are no longer available?

The good news for you Ghung, is that you don't pay for much of it.

Like many rural areas in the lower 48, unemployment and underemployment is a serious problem in rural Alaska comunities. The remoteness of bush villages greatly exacerbates the problem. Most villages still do active subsitance activities (fishing and berry picking in the summer, hunting in winter). Cash comes from a variety of sources.

In Alaska we don't have "Reservations" as in the lower 48, or "First Nations" as in Canada. The ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) was passed to provide legal clarity for the right of way for TAPS. ANCSA formed a series of regional native corporations, who recieved title to large chunks of land. The regional corporations are now the largest private landholders in the state, and attempt to make money from their lands (oil and gas on the N Slope and Cook Inlet, timber in SE Alaska, mining in NW Alaska, etc). A clause in ANCSA puts a portion of resource generated revenues from each corporation into a kitty, which is then distributed amoungst all the others. This was an attempt to even out somewhat the revenues, since some native landholdings are more resource rich than others. They are also investors in various businesses within and outside of Alaska. Nearly every Alaska Native is a shareholder in one of these corporations. Each shareholder gets an annual dividend, and the regional corporations also spend money to improve village life.

Also, the State of Alaska has set aside a portion of oil revenue in the "Alaska Permanent Fund". Each year every resident of the state (both native and non-native) recieves a dividend from the permanent fund. Last year, it was about $1100 per person. Many bush residents work seasonally outside their villages. For example, quite a few of the "Hotshot Crews" who fight wildland fires in the lower 48 are Alaska Natives.

Between subsitance activities, Native Corporation dividends, Permanent Fund dividends, assistance from the Native Corporations, and seasonal work, people in the bush manage to eak out an existance. Villages vary greatly in how well they manage, and in the level of problems they have from alcoholism, drug use, and suicide. Some villages are much more healthy than others.

By the way, I never watch Alaska "Reality TV" shows, since they are almost invariably totally bogus and contrived. In fact, I watch very little TV in general.

Thanks for that, Geo. I knew about the Permanent Fund, and met quite a few Alaskans when I lived north of Seattle who worked winters down there. It just seems like a very expensive, financial/energy system reliant culture; a long way from their roots. I hope they're using their income to return to more self reliance. Overbuilding wind systems along with thermal storage for dump loads would seem useful. The high delivered costs of fossil fuels would make a wholesale transition to renewables sensible, IMO. e.g: Wind powered electrolysis, hydrogen storage and fuel cells; seems like the perfect case to prove the concept.

I've only seen the show a couple of times, but one episode featured the trials of getting a diesel mechanic to one of these villages because two of their three gensets were down, and the third was jury-rigged. The fixes were fairly simple. Maybe it's just me, but if I lived where I was utterly reliant on my (very simple, really) diesel generators for survival, I'd make damn sure someone in the village was qualified to do basic maintenance and repairs. This is indicative of something. I guess there are plenty of vendors to take care of these people. The guy that runs the trading post always makes a killing :-/

Looks like Nome will get its oil soon. Icebreaker's web cam

Under normal conditions, fuel prices in villages vary a lot, depending on whether or not they have water access for barges. Normally this is how Nome gets fuel. In villages without water access, it is very expensive even when weather doesn't interfere.

There are some places that have it better. Barrow has its own local small natural gas field, discovered years ago during an early round of oil exploration. The native corporation operates the gas utility that supplies the town. The state has done some work testing the feasibility of small coal bed methane operations to supply some villages. Some people along the lower Yukon River heat with wood, even though there are no trees there. A lot of wood washes down the river from upstream forested areas, and they gather the driftwood and use it for heating. Alaska is a big place, and the issues (and possible solutions) vary a lot from place to place.

I don't know what the situation was regarding flying in a diesel mechanic. Most villages do have a local guy trained to operate and maintain the generators. An aquaintence of ours used to do that in a village, but when he died it took them quite awhile to select and train a replacement.

I'm not sure what I think about the future (or lack therof) for small northern villages. Things like education and health care out there are huge problems. The State now won't support a school unless there are a minimum of 10 students. Health care is provided by the Alaska Native Health Consortium ( the native corporations banded together). Each village has a "Village Health Aid" with some training, but for anything serious they have to fly at least to one of the small regional hospitals, and usually into Anchorage. Obviously health care and education are extremely expensive, no matter who pays for it. Depending on the village, alcohol and drugs are huge issues.

On the other hand, these are incredibly tough, ingenious, and resilient people. They were here, living in a very harsh enviornment, thousands of years before the rest of us. Although it isn't always apparent to outsiders (who only tend to see the negatives), those traits are still there. I often think that after TSHTF, the Alaska Natives will overall be doing a lot better than the rest of us Gussaqs. ("Gussaq" is a mildly derogatory Yup'ik term, loosely translating as "typical dumb white guy".)

Not going too well in the Fuel delivery.

the Renda, only advanced about 50 feet on Tuesday.


Progress Wednesday:

The vessels made nine miles but drifted with the ice while at rest for a total gain of just six miles,

An Ice ridge will prevent the tanker from entering the port:

The ridge is too big to get past, but it shouldn't prevent the tanker from offloading its fuel through its mile long hose.

Also using a drone to find best path.


We have a lot more of that in Canada -- remote communities that have no economic reason for existing. Some communities may be reachable by ship in the summer or by an ice road in the winter, but generally they are depending on air transport for most of their necessities. It takes a lot of Federal tax dollars to subsidize these communities. To compound the problem, the birth rate tends to be much higher than average which further adds to the cost of maintaining these communities over time. As fuel costs continue to rise it becomes less and less sustainable.

I would think there is some residual value in having some small population in these areas, along with a few outposts of civilization. You never know what needs/desires may come along (maybe a solid gold asteroid will crashland), and having a small base of "civilization" will make getting at it a lot easier.

If we do indeed face a greenhouse feedback loop because of warming induced permafrost thaw effects, perhaps we could pay these people to babysit the permafrost (i.e. pack the winter snow so the cold is conducted deeply into the ground)?

Job opportunities in the Post-Peak world ...

L.L. Bean boot gets a kick from retro trend

The boots carry the "Made in the USA" label, something that's hard to find these days in footwear. Nationwide, the number of shoe-manufacturing jobs dropped from more than 200,000 in the 1970s to 12,500 this year, according to the U.S. Labor Department. In Maine, shoe-manufacturing jobs peaked at more than 25,000 in the 1960s, and last year there were 1,300 jobs, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

If 310,000,000 people suddenly find that they need to do alot more walking - and global trade dries up; will 12,500 shoe-makers keep America in footware?

also ... an example of catabolism at work

Moving evicted tenants is big business

Property owners across the country bear a burden from the recession: paying a fortune in moving and storage costs to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent.

But the owners’ losses are a boon for the companies that clear out homes. Their business has skyrocketed, “making money out of people’s misery,” ... Hardest-hit are ethnic urban neighborhoods, where about twice as many renters are forced to leave as in the general population, according to housing experts.

For the movers, “it’s a lucrative business, absolutely,”

For some strange reason it brings to mind the 2010 movie Repo Men

I have a pr of the original gum boot, at least the uppers, resoled quite a few times over the last 30 yrs. The new ones I'm not as thrilled with, but still a great concept. For cold, snow, ice and wet conditions.

For all other seasons I like Whites, where they build and custom fit the boot to your foot. Vintage or Logger, they can really take the abuse and last.


I love my Whites and am rarely found without a pair on my feet. I even got a black pair in case I have to go to a wedding or something. ;)

True, they are a bit spendy up-front, but they last a really long time, so I think it's a good investment. Plus, you're going in style the whole time.

I think they're such a good investment I just bought a 4th pair. Not to wear, but to add to my doomer cache. Whatever happens, I should have good footwear (with arch support) for the rest of my life.


4 prs Whites? For yourself? That's serious. Getting up to 2K for boots. They are the best tho. Great line about the wedding pair, hope they aren't caulked.

Many folks around here get seasonal work with Beans during the 'Santa season'.. and the word I get from them is that it's SO Chinese in the shelves now, you may as well be at the mall.

If they've kept the Boot Factory here, I'm glad for that much of it.. but it's got so much PolyUrethane shellacing to their surfaces, so to speak, it's really hard to convince yourself that you're getting anything Real or American there these days..

India Reports Completely Drug-Resistant TB

Well, this is a bad way to start the year.

Over the past 48 hours, news has broken in India of the existence of at least 12 patients infected with tuberculosis that has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease. Physicians in Mumbai are calling the strain TDR, for Totally Drug-Resistant. In other words, it is untreatable as far as they know.

And as a followup, the Hindustan Times reported yesterday that most hospitals in the city — by extension, most Indian cities — don’t have the facilities to identify the TDR strain, making it more likely that unrecognized cases can go on to infect others.

Good reason to get your Vitamin D level checked. (My doc has found that 90% plus of her patients are below 30 ng/ml, using the 25(OH)D test to measure Vitamin D levels; optimum is 50-70).

Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system – T cells - will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body.

For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or viruses, the cells must first be 'triggered' into action and 'transform' from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen. The researchers found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, 'naïve' to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.

When it comes to heart health, how much is too much vitamin D?

New research by Johns Hopkins scientists suggests that vitamin D, long known to be important for bone health and in recent years also for heart protection, may stop conferring cardiovascular benefits and could actually cause harm as levels in the blood rise above the low end of what is considered normal.

... Healthier, lower levels of inflammation were found in people with normal or close to normal vitamin D levels. But beyond blood levels of 21 nanograms per milliliter of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D — considered the low end of the normal range for vitamin D — any additional increase in vitamin D was associated with an increase in CRP, a factor linked to stiffening of the blood vessels and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

In addition, 'high normal' levels exacerbate cardiac arrhythmias.

An on point comment by "Deatopmg" in the comments section:

"When it comes to heart health, how much is too much vitamin D?"

Answer: When the profits of the Industrial Medical Complex, JHU being a tier 1 member, start to be negatively impacted.

This report is one dimensional, possibly for obfuscation purposes. dogbert took the bait and I'm sure the media will too.

We need to know the effect of 25-HO-D3 concentration on overall mortality rate. Lowest mortality presently appears to occur at considerably higher than 21 ng/ml! Elevated CRP w/ optimal 25-HO-D3 may not be a significant marker for anything.

From what I have read, being deficient in Vitamin D is empirically correlative with a greater risk of dying in a given year, than if one is a smoker.

They tell people to get more vitamin D, which one can get from being in the Sun, but then they tell you not to go out in the Sun because you'll get skin cancer.

It's like that Jimmy Durante routine “Did You Ever Have the Feelin’ That You Wanted To Go, Still You Have the Feelin’ That You Wanted To Stay ?”

I believe that every cancer except skin cancer increases as one moves away from the equator, and I have read that a given woman's chances of dying from breast cancer is about 55 times higher than her risk of dying from skin cancer.

And Jon Steward as part of his bit WRT Iran claimed that if you want to stop Cancer you need to stop making nuclear weapons.

So there ya go - cure Cancer by stop making Nuclear Weapons.

*tries to find doctor to remove tounge from cheek as Vitamin D isn't shown to help.

I believe that every cancer except skin cancer increases as one moves away from the equator

Dark skin is not very good in 'making' vitamine D.

The UV light interacts with fat in the skin to create the hormone known as Vitamin D.

Thus, being as large and fat as possible would be the best way to make Vitamin D.

http://www.grc.com/health/vitamin-d.htm has links to a 1 hour audio talk, in case reading is "not your thing".

Going out in the sun every day is the best way to make vitamin D:

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D

It has been suggested by some vitamin D researchers, for example, that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis

Window glass blocks UV radiation so staying indoors doesn't allow you to produce vitamin D.

However, here in Canada you can't really run around outside in a T-shirt in the middle of winter - mittens and a wool hat and scarf are usually required - so most people are vitamin D deficient for at least part of the year. Vitamin D supplements are usually required.

I usually take 1000 units of vitamin D supplements a day in summer and 2000 units in winter, on my doctor's recommendation. The summer here in the Canadian Rockies can be an awful lot like winter in other places.

Prior studies have tended to confirm 99 ng/mL as the maximum safe Vitamin D level, emphasis added:

Too Much, Not Enough Vitamin D Poses Health Threat

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.–Americans with higher vitamin D blood levels have substantially lower risks of degenerative disease, but levels that are too high can harm the heart, according to a study presented by the Intermountain Medical Center (IMC), Murray, UT, at the 84th annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA), Nov. 12 to 16 in Orlando, FL.

The study, which measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels in 132,000 Americans, found those whose vitamin D levels were in the 61 ng/ml to 80 ng/mL range had a 52-percent reduced risk of diabetes compared to those with deficient levels below 20 ng/mL. Those whose 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels ranged from 81 ng/ml to 100 ng/mL had a 36-percent reduction in hypertension rates when measured against the deficient group. Compared to people in the deficient range, those with higher blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had significantly lower risk of heart failure, depression, coronary artery disease (CAD), kidney failure and prior stroke.  

However, results showed vitamin D levels can get too high. Those whose 25-hydroxyvitamin D level exceeded 100 ng/mL had an atrial fibrillation incidence greater than those whose levels were below 100 ng/mL. Atrial fibrillation refers to irregular rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart.

Americans with higher vitamin D blood levels have substantially lower risks of degenerative disease, but levels that are too high can harm the heart

I'm starting that Durante routine again...

From your BBC link, there is a story about the other end of the transport scale - a new high speed train for Britain.


The HS2 will link London and Birmingham, cost f26bn to build, will not be ready until 2026 at the earliest, and this will save all of 1/2 hr compared to the current train trip.

Talk about diminishing returns on increasing complexity!

Much of a leap from "radical" to "eco-terrorist"?

Radicals working against oilsands, Ottawa says
Environment groups 'threaten to hijack' system, natural resources minister says

Environmental and other "radical groups" are trying to block trade and undermine Canada's economy, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Monday.

Oliver's comments came one day before federal regulatory hearings begin on whether to approve Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver crude from Alberta's oilsands to Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to Asia.

More than 4,300 people have signed up to address the proposed pipeline over the next 18 months.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/01/09/pol-joe-oliver-radical-...

The attitude of this government beats all.

[No] Cheers,

The Canadian government is getting disturbed about the amount of foreign money coming into Canadian environmental groups to lobby against Canadian pipelines - it's running into the millions of dollars. When Hugo Chavez's Venezuelan state owned oil company CITGO registered to testify at the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings, they got particularly concerned.

Everybody knows that Sinopec is owned by the Chinese, or Total is owned by the French, Exxon is owned by the Americans, and Shell is owned by the Dutch and English (well, those who read financial papers know that).

But did you know that the US based Tides Foundation has funneled more than $10 million in US donations to Canadian environment groups to protest the Canadian oil industry, or that the Rockefeller Foundation gave $200,000 to the West Coast Environmental Law Foundation to protest the building of the Northern Gateway Pipeline?

This is the sort of thing that is getting the Canadian government upset - foreign lobbyists paying millions of dollars to screw up Canadian environmental hearings. US billionaires and companies doing this kind of behind-the-scenes lobbying may just be Business As Usual in Washington, but it goes over badly in Ottawa.

See: Blogger fuels PM’s claim U.S. is backing Canadian environmentalists for more details.

Yes, can't have the review process tainted by anyone who's views do not coincide with those of the Harper government.

Addendum: Interesting news item at the bottom of your link.

Enbridge reports leak from U.S. pipeline as Northern Gateway hearings begin

Canadian pipeline builder Enbridge reported a leak from one of its pipelines on the day public hearings began into the company’s planned Northern Gateway pipeline.

U.S. pipeline regulators told Enbridge about the possible leak. A subsequent helicopter over-flight discovered a metre-wide patch of bubbles over the company’s Stingray pipeline, which can carry 560-million cubic feet a day of natural gas from offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The bubbles were found about 100 kilometres from the Louisiana coast.

Enbridge plans to keep the pipeline running until it can get a dive boat in to inspect the pipe – that should happen by week’s end, although it is weather dependent. If it’s broken, it will then make repairs.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/enbridge-reports-leak-...

No worries, we'll take a little look-see later this weekend, weather permitting.


Yes, can't have the review process tainted by anyone who's views do not coincide with those of the Harper government.

Well, to be fair, I think the government has a legitimate right to be concerned about lots of foreign lobbying on what is a domestic issue.
When BHP was trying to take over Potash corp, the same thing was happening, and eventually the government made its decision on what it thought was best for Canada, despite finger pointing from the business community that it gave the message that Canada was not open for business.

There is so much of this backroom support going on that the public has no hope of really knowing if people are speaking on behalf of themselves, or someone else.

Here in BC, there has been almost hysterical opposition to the development of any windfarms, and the lead "environmental" group is actually being supported by the BC power workers union - who naturally want gov owned hydro projects instead of private owned wind.

Anyone can say whatever they want at these things, but the job of government is, and always has been, to try to decide in the best interests of their country/province/city. They don't always do that, of course, but I do hope they can at least identify when outside influences are at work.

Hi Paul,

We can rest assured that other foreign interests are well represented in Ottawa and that if the outcome were to be determined by dollars alone there would be no contest. For me, it's the sheer arrogance of the Harper government; to be branded a "radical" simply because you don't tow the official line is reprehensible. Moreover, the government shouldn't serve as the self-appointed cheerleader and corporate mouthpiece of the oil and gas industry nor interfere with due process.

Harper interfering with Northern Gateway process: Liberals

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government was blasted Tuesday with allegations it is intimidating witnesses and interfering with the National Energy Board's hearings into Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

Liberal interim leader Bob Rae said recent comments by Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver show disrespect for the NEB's independence, and violate the rule of law.

See: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Harper+interfering+with+Northern+Gat...


The Canadian government is getting concerned about things like this:

Northern Gateway hearings mystery: Some 'intervenors' were signed up without their knowledge

What exactly does a woman from Santos, Brazil, know or care about the Northern Gateway proposed pipeline project? It turns out, nothing at all.

In fact, even though Ines Gudic is listed to give an oral presentation to the panel reviewing the proposed Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to B.C., she says she knows nothing about it and never signed up to speak.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said the 53-year-old woman on Tuesday from her home.

“I have never heard of this pipeline and I did not apply to speak in Canada,” she said, in broken English.

Somebody signed her up to speak at the pipeline hearings without her knowledge or permission. The government would probably like to know who did that. This kind of thing is apparently an attempt to sabotage the hearings by flooding it with bogus presenters - which is actually illegal.

Canadian environmental organizations accepting foreign money to intervene in the hearings is also borderline illegal. It could result in their status as a charitable organization being revoked by the tax department. The government does not consider lobbying for a third party to be a charitable act.


Do we know who signed up these "mystery intervenors"? If I wanted to discredit the legitimacy of the review process what would stop me from signing up my neighbours without their knowledge or consent? And who do you think would be best served by this? Another question: is it illegal for Canadian charities to accept money from foreign donors? If so, that's news to me.


As I understand it, charity organisations, with their tax-deductible status, are not supposed to get involved in "advocacy" - regardless of who the donors are

An organisation can do advocacy, but that is not charity, and I expect we'll see some tightening up of these definitions, as we start to see more political action through third party advocacy groups, as is happening in the US presidential race.

What was has been a well intentioned process for many years - public hearings - is increasingly being manipulated.

Might be time for a restructure of the process, though I don't know what to.

Hi Paul,

I haven't investigated this at all, but I assume PETA and Greenpeace are considered advocacy groups, are they not? If not advocacy, what would they be?


Neither Greenpeace nor PETA are considered tax-exempt charitable organizations in Canada. They are both considered advocacy groups rather than charities and as such cannot issue tax deduction slips.

Greenpeace had its tax-exempt status revoked in 1989 due to non-charity activities, and although it tried to make a couple of end-runs around the law by, first by creating the Greenpeace Canada Charitable Foundation, which lost its charitable status after a tax audit, and then the Greenpeace Environmental Foundation, which Revenue Canada refused to register because of their history.

Greenpeace avoids talking about it. At least PETA admits that it's not a registered charity in Canada:

Frequently Asked Questions About Donating to PETA

I live in Canada. Can I get a tax credit for my donation?

Unfortunately, no, unless you have income that was generated in the U.S.

Although PETA is registered in the U.S. as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, we are not registered as a tax-exempt charity in Canada, primarily because most of our animal protection campaigns would not be categorized as "charitable work" under Canadian law, which states that only activities directly related to the health, education, and welfare of people constitute charitable activities. That has been interpreted to cover animal sheltering and rescue work but not other campaigns, such as those that PETA undertakes.


Then I take it this charity-cum-advocacy concern is really not an issue?


The charity vs advocacy issue is not a concern for Greenpeace and PETA because they are considered advocacy groups and not charities under Canadian law.

However, the environmental groups who ARE registered charities are concerned about what might happen to them because the government is reviewing their status:

Foes of Northern Gateway pipeline fear revocation of charitable status

Environmentalists are fearful that the Conservative government is planning to limit their advocacy role after Prime Minister Stephen Harper complained that groups flush with “foreign money” are undermining a controversial pipeline review.

The Conservative-dominated Commons finance committee is set to begin a review of the charity sector, and several activists say government MPs have told business groups that the committee will look at the environmental sector’s transparency, its advocacy role and the flow of funds from outside the country.

PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall dismissed as “speculation” the concerns that the government is targeting the environmental sector. He said Ottawa is focused on streamlining the environmental-review process so that groups can’t employ delaying tactics, echoing Mr. Oliver’s pledge to introduce new rules in the coming months.

James Rajotte, chair of the Commons finance committee, said the study is aimed at finding ways to make Canadians give more to charity. He acknowledged that MPs are free to raise issues such as accountability of charities – but Mr. Rajotte said he couldn’t prejudge where things will go, noting the review hasn’t even begun yet.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but environmental charities have every right to participate in this review process and to make their views known publicly, so long as their conduct is not deemed to be overtly "political". So, don't cross that line and all's good as far as the CRA is concerned, n'est-ce pas?


We don't know who signed up the "mystery intervenors", although they are members of some international environmental groups. No direct connection has been found yet. Authorities will probably investigate

If you signed up your neighbors without their knowledge or consent, they could probably sue you under various laws pertaining to fraud and slander. If you stated an untruth and/or forged their signature on a government form, it could be jail time for you.

It is not illegal for Canadian charities to accept money from a foreign donor, but the circumstances can raise eyebrows if they look suspicious.

Think about the following:

The Rockefeller Foundation donated $200,000 to the West Coast Environmental Law Foundation to "prevent the development of a pipeline and tanker port" in B.C.

The Rockefeller Foundation was created in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller as something of a tax dodge. He donated shares of his Standard Oil Company to them, and got a tax deduction for it. At this point in time, the Rockefeller Foundation still owns billions of dollars in shares of its successor companies, notably ExxonMobile.

ExxonMobile, however, is a direct competitor of the companies who are backing the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and might suffer a reduction in its stock value if they complete the pipeline and put Canadian oil into ExxonMobile's global market areas. The Rockefeller Foundation is at a conflict of interest because of its billions of dollars of ExxonMobile stock, so it's not a neutral party.

The West Coast Environmental Law Foundation can therefore be considered a front organization for a major shareholder in ExxonMobile, and is therefore also at a conflict of interest in the hearings. It's something that they should have disclosed voluntarily. As it happened, they were outed by a blogger who went over the Rockefeller Foundation's tax filings with the IRS.

This sort of thing is what gets the Canadian government on edge, and is something they could make illegal if there is too much of it.

My point is that anyone could have signed up these people without their knowledge and consent, and it could have been done with the sole intent to discredit those who oppose this pipeline and/or to cast the entire process in a poor light. We may never know the answer, but to simply assume that one of the aforementioned environmental organisations is responsible strikes me as unwise.

As for interveners or advocacy groups who may have received funds from outside Canada, I say welcome to the real world. How much money do you think TransCanada spent lobbying members of the House and Senate, state legislators and the State Department with regards to Keystone XL pipeline? More than my weekly allowance, I bet.


Well, the Canadian and Alberta governments have done considerable lobbying of the US government, too. They are not exactly disinterested parties in the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. There are billions of dollars in taxes and royalty income at stake for them.

The Canadian government basically doesn't like foreigners lobbying in Canada against its financial interests.

Inexpensive sensor gives advance warning of catastrophic failure in lithium-ion batteries

The sensor is based on the researchers' discovery of an intrinsic relationship between the internal temperature of lithium-ion cells and an easily measured electrical parameter of the cell.

"We discovered that we can measure the temperature of the protective layers between the electrodes and the electrolyte of the battery during normal operation," Srinivasan says. "These layers are where the conditions that lead to thermal runaway and catastrophic cell failure begin. This discovery enables us to detect potentially unsafe thermal conditions before surface-mounted temperature sensors, which are the current state of the art, are able to register that any change has taken place."

"Thank you, Mr. Smart. This phone will now self-destruct in Ten, Nine, Eight... "

Viva la revolucion! Mercedes channels Che Guevara for car tech

... "Some colleagues still think that car-sharing borders on communism," Mercedes-Benz Chairman of the Board of Management Dieter Zetsche said onstage at CES today, speaking about Mercedes' new CarTogether initiative. "But if that's the case, viva la revolucion!"

... Mercedes' car-sharing technology is part of the company's larger vision for a smart-car future, one it's already implementing in its cars, and which it thinks can help drivers save money on fuel, and save the earth from excess emissions at the same time.

Future Mercedes cars will feature CarTogether, an app that can help drivers find people with whom to share rides. This is not quite the same thing, of course, as lending out your Mercedes, as services like Getaround or Wheelz would like to have you do. Rather, the app will help owners find riders. And this is all in a bid to cut down on emissions by cutting down on the number of car rides people have to make.

Zetsche said onstage that car-sharing is sustainable. And with cars with electric drive, "we can effectively push zero-emissions mobility."

The more things change the more they remain the same!
Back in the 70's there was a very low-tech non-consumer people oriented and very simple method of car-sharing - it was called
But then the powers that be scared the hell out of everybody
and scared people from picking up hitchhikers and police harrassed hitchhikers from roadsides hitching rides...
Hitchhiking was actually a very interesting way of meeting people
and encountering adventures you would never encounter in the
bourgeois Mercedes high-tech car-sharing.
One time because I was carrying my guitar I got picked up by
a lonely truck driver on the way to Nashville who wanted to
hear some music and brought me to a Diner where he said a waitress
he knew would be singing. I played guitar for her and got myself
a free dinner in one of those places where the walls are covered with autographed pictures of Nashville Stars with greetings for the Diner. It was a major hangout for musicians.
One older man asked if he could borrow my guitar and he played
and sang very well a song he said he wrote.

Amazingly on the next day's ride that very song was playing on
the radio as we hit the road again!

I actually hitchhiked a while back-- its easier than ever!
And I'm a 63 year old white guy.

Saudi oil Output Nearing Capacity Limit

DUBAI/RIYADH, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is nearing its comfortable operational production limits and may struggle to do much to make up for shortages that arise from new sanctions imposed on Iran by the West, Gulf-based sources said.

The kingdom, now pumping just under record rates of 10 million barrels per day, has poured billions of dollars into its vast oil fields, which on paper should ensure it has the ability to ramp up to 12.5 million bpd.

But industry sources said pumping anywhere near the declared production capacity might involve extracting heavy crudes the market might not want. It would also be difficult to sustain higher rates for lengthy periods.

"There is very little unused capacity in the Gulf," said an oil official in the region. "Saudi Arabia could comfortably manage an extra 500,000 barrels a day or so and, if pushed, could go up to 11 million (barrels a day)."

As Westexas once noted, it is the net exports that really matter. I presume that they could use the heavy oil for some of their domestic consumption - power generation, in particular. But then if they can, we have to presume they are already doing so.

In any case, it seems that they are unable to export more, and are just trying to feed that fact out bit by bit...

One wonders what a frank, all out admission from KSA would do to the markets....

Cause a major panic, because everyone would believe that they were still overstating their position and would interpret "at full capacity" as "major decline imminent"

Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official says

The official, speaking this week on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the administration hopes that sanctions “create enough hate and discontent at the street level” that Iranians will turn against their government.

Because it worked so well in Cuba. Or Iraq.

ClearEdge Power Signs Market-Defining $500 Million Multi-Phase Agreement to Deliver 50 Megawatts of Clean Energy to Güssing Renewable Energy

Date Tuesday the 10th, January 2012
When Completed, Agreement Will Be One of the Largest Ever in the Stationary Fuel Cell Industry

HILLSBORO, Ore. – January 10, 2012 – ClearEdge Power, a manufacturer of scalable, continuous onsite power systems, today announced that Güssing Renewable Energy GmbH, a provider of carbon-neutral energy solutions, has selected ClearEdge systems to achieve its goal of producing 50 megawatts (MW) of clean distributed energy generation from fuel cells in the Republic of Austria by 2020. In the first phase of a multi-phase $500 million agreement, one of the largest ever signed in the stationary fuel cell industry, ClearEdge Power will deliver 8.5 MW of clean energy over the next 36 months...

..."With its flexible and modular power systems, ClearEdge Power has developed a distributed energy solution that will fundamentally change the way people receive power,” said Michael Dichand, Chairman, Güssing Renewable Energy. “We see these fuel cell systems as the perfect complement to our sustainably cultivated biomass facilities and are pleased to be able to partner with a forward-thinking company like ClearEdge Power as we aggressively move to achieve our clean energy goals.”

Biogas to fuel cells.....who'da thunk :-0 Order your residential unit today!

$10/watt! Might as well buy PV.

Aww, C'mon, Clear edge gave them a deal!

These units are normally $56k for a 5kW unit


So yes, PV are a better deal - except - if you have a lot of biogas (from anaerobic digestion) that you need to do something with - then PV are no help at all.

A 100kW cogen plant like this one from Tecogen is just the ticket - you can even connect PV or DC wind to it and use its inverter;

I don't know what they cost, but I do know they are much cheaper than $10/W

Also, Austria is the home of the world's best large natural gas engines - Jenbacher. They would have gotten much better value, and efficiency, but installing five of these 9MW monsters, that get 49% electric efficiency - better than the fuel cells, cheaper and made in their own country!


I can't imagine 50MW in 5kW fuel cells - that is 10,000 of the units - how cost inefficient is that?

So yes, PV are a better deal - except - if you have a lot of biogas (from anaerobic digestion) that you need to do something with

A Stirling cycle engine will allow you to burn the gas for heat - and the external combustion will allow all the nasty acids formed to not be on the inside of the piston wall - thus alloing for a simpler change to the combustion surface.

Except that -despite many attempts - there are no commercial stirling cycle generators available, of any size to be useful. The ones that were, before they went broke, didn't get over 30% electrical efficiency - no better than microturbines and worse than these fuel cells and the Jenbacher style ICE's (which start at 35% for their smallest - 250kW - engine). The Jenbacher ICE's also go for 80,000 hrs between rebuilds.
Any, recovering heat from ICE's is easy, and they are set up for that.

Though the Stirling promises mechanical simplicity, getting it to work efficiently, and affordably, have been the hurdles since it was invented.

"but installing five of these 9MW monsters, that get 49% electric efficiency - better than the fuel cells,..."

They're claiming 90% efficiency overall:

What is a CHP Fuel Cell and what makes it an ideal choice?

A combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell is a more efficient power solution for the end consumer. A majority of the energy lost in electricity production is given off in the form of waste heat, which a CHP system recycles and transfers to the customer in a usable form. When both the electricity and the waste heat are used by the customer, the efficiency of converting fuel to usable energy is high- 90%!

Well, yeas, but you can get 80-90% efficiency by recovering the heat from an ICE system too.

The key metric, in my opinion, is the electric efficiency - turning fuel into heat is easy.

The Tecogen 100kW units get 30% efficiency, but at far lower capital cost
The Clear Edge units get 40% at higher capital cost
The Jenbacher units get 49%, at a lower cost (per kW).

And with those large ICE's, putting out MW's of exhaust heat in the 300C range, you could then go further and add these units to the exhaust, which recover 25% of the exhaust heat as electricity - bringing the "combined cycle" total to about 55%;


Though this would up the capital cost per kW.

It seems to me that this project is just not good value for money at all - the Austrian government is obsessed with having "fuel cells" even though they are not necessarily the most practical large scale solution.

Ghung - "ClearEdge Power will deliver 8.5 MW of clean energy over the next 36 months..." By "clean energy" we must assume no GHG is created in the making of the fuel cells? Wouldn't you consider fuel cells to be more a energy storage system much like batteries? Perhaps "cleaner" might have been more appropriate. Perhaps even much cleaner than any other energy source could apply though. My home is 100% electric so I also use "clean energy" and produce no GHG. Except on those rare days in Houston when I light up the fireplace. Granted much of my e comes from burning FF but I don't burn any myself.

They're presenting their electrical/energy production as "carbon neutral", though we all know that's unrealistic when all processes involved are considered. Still, even if things pan out, it ain't going to "save the planet", but it's more than a marginal improvement over coal and fossil gas. Worth watching, IMO, better than sitting around with our thumbs up our .....

The Clear Edge systems run on methane (usually natural gas), and the "clean" they are referring to is the lack of NOx, SOx, HC and CO that come out of normal ICE's. (the ICE's I have linked to are optimised for gas running and produce exceptionally low levels of emissions)

There is still CO2, of course, but if you run them on biogas, which is what this project is, then they are - nominally - carbon neutral.

The real issue here, is whether these fuel cells are the best way to make use of biogas - in my opinion they, and their larger competitors the Bloom Box - are a very expensive and complex way to do what ICE's can do simpler and cheaper.

Ghung - I agree: something is better then nothing. hat's why I think many of the "all or nothing" propositins are likely to fail. It seems like even finding compromising positions is getting that much harder. But as paul mentions below; is this the best use of that resource? Way beyond my base to guess.

A link for ROCKMAN and the rest of the rock lickers here


The link between anatomist and geology boggles me.


Well how about these:


and the explanation as to why they serve beer at Geologist conventions!


For the geologists out there! :-)

S - Mucho thanks. I suppose in order to be politically correct they didn't offer the real reason geologists drink a lot of beer: we work with engineers.

NAOM - There is a link. "...layers of rock are arranged in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top". Think of an aging geologist who, after decades of running up and down mountains/drilling rigs, just doesn't have the stamina anymore. It won't be easy but think about it.

Will Scotland vote to 'sever ties' with the UK in 2014?


The Soviet Union split into independent states...Czechoslovakia split into to two states...

...is there a slow trend towards nations breaking into smaller, more manageable parts?

Who would control the British North Sea oil?

I think the vote might be influenced by any further large discoveries in the North Sea. I suspect if there are a couple of billion barrels discovered in what would be Scottish territory they may have a lot more incentive to split than if they don't find anything as they'd have to share the revenue otherwise.

Looks like more covert/non-attributed operations are being conducted in Iran:

Magnetic bomb kills nuclear scientist in Iran; Israel accused: