Drumbeat: January 11, 2012

Peak oil can fuel a change for the better

The advent of peak oil means we should prepare for a downscaling of our highly energy and resource-intensive lifestyles.

What is peak oil and why does it matter? And what effect will it have on the Western lifestyles we take for granted? These are not questions that many people are asking themselves yet, but this decade is going to change everything. Peak oil is upon us.

The Peak Oil Crisis: Gasoline in 2012

A lot has happened in the past four years that will affect gasoline prices in 2012 so this year is unlikely to be a repeat of 2008. Europe and the Middle East are coming unstuck and at this stage, it is impossible to say which will have the most influence on prices. A European recession will moderate the demand for oil and possibly spread the contagion over much of the world. An interruption of oil supplies from the Middle East would instantly send prices higher to much higher depending on the nature and duration of the interruption.

Investing In The Future Of Oil: Offshoot Oil Plays

There is a finite supply of oil on this world. Even as its population appears to awaken to this reality, there appear to be few viable solutions available in addressing the issue of Peak Oil, the period in which oil production begins to decelerate. One of the greatest problems this generation may soon face is the realization that the crisis over a sustainable future energy supply might be more dire than many might anticipate.

Why I’m saving and investing for the disaster to come

Some people are preparing for the end of days. A fall or retreat of civilisation, linked to peak oil or the collapse of the global financial system or environmental disaster. Or whatever.

The solution is extreme diversification – up to and including buying your own remote and defensible farmstead, complete with independent water supply, power generation capabilities, and the ability to feed your nearest and dearest until the smoke clears.

Boom And Doom: Revisiting Prophecies Of Collapse

New Scientist - Forty years ago, a highly controversial study , The Limits to Growth, warned that we had to curb growth or risk global collapse. Does the prediction still hold?

The return of "The Limits to Growth"

On the whole, the article by McKenzie is very well done and it summarizes all the main points of the story: how Limits never made the mistakes it was accused to have made, how the study was demonized, and how its scenarios are still relevant to our situation today. The article has been extensively researched and it cites the opinion of most of the researchers who have been working on the reappraisal of the study and of its methods, including my book, "The Limits to Growth Revisited".

Unsustainable Population Growth Is The Elephant In The Room

Whereas Morgan presents a relatively benign view of things, even wondering if there are ways to reverse stage 5 decline, Paul Chefurka in Population: The Elephant in the Room sees things quite differently, primarily because of oil usage.

Oil Falls From Near a One-Week High as German Economy Approaches Recession

Oil fell from near the highest settlement in almost a week amid concern that a shrinking German economy may drag Europe into a recession, reducing demand.

Crude fell as much as 1 percent, equity markets retreated and the euro weakened against the dollar after Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said the biggest economy in the euro region contracted in the fourth quarter. Spanish factory output declined the most since 2009, a separate report showed.

Current oil prices are 'very reasonable: Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY (AP) - Kuwait's oil minister said international markets need more oil, and that the Gulf country considers the current price of crude 'very reasonable.' The country's official news agency quoted Mohammed al-Busairi as saying that Kuwait's daily production exceeded 3 million barrels last month.

Saudi Aramco starts oil products trading firm

(Reuters) - A new Saudi Aramco subsidiary for trading refined products started commercial operations on Jan. 1, the state oil giant said on Wednesday.

Romanian watchdog bares teeth at oil pact

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's competition watchdog levied 880 million lei ($257 million) of fines on oil companies, including the country's largest firm Petrom , for breaking anti-trust rules, the agency's head said on Tuesday.

FP Energy Letters: ‘Shale reserves may soon be discounted’

An FP story on ExxonMobil’s long-term forecast highlighted the hydrocarbons’ continued dominance as an energy source over the next few decade.

But S. Donald Moore, President and CEO of Phoenix Canada Oil Company Ltd. says the energy industry may be over-estimating the oil reserves and suggests caution.

Chance for Qatar in US gas glut

Qatar Petroleum could reconfigure its US import terminal to export gas in a bid to cash in on the US supply glut arising from the shale gas revolution, says Qatar's deputy prime minister.

Kiev must pay for unused gas says Gazprom boss

Ukraine must pay for unused gas ordered under its 2009 contract with Russia, despite announcing its intention to cut imports to 27 bln cu m, below its contracted minimum of 33 bln cu.m. Gazprom head Alexei Miller said on Wednesday.

Are energy prices finally coming down? EDF Energy cuts gas bills for 1.4million customers by 5%

EDF Energy has become the first of the major energy suppliers to cut gas prices today, raising hopes that rival firms will follow suit.

Norway pipes less gas to European clients in 2011

(Reuters) - Norwegian gas deliveries by pipeline to the rest of Europe declined by more than 3 percent in 2011 after a decade of rapid growth, North Sea pipeline operator Gassco said on Wednesday.

Cnooc Starts Its First Shale-Gas Project in Eastern China

Cnooc Ltd. (883), China’s biggest offshore energy producer, started drilling at its first domestic shale- gas project, joining rivals including China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (600028) in the search for unconventional natural gas.

Shell CEO Says the Potential for Shale Gas in Europe Is Limited

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) chief Peter Voser said the potential for shale gas development in Europe is limited by the region’s regulations and its dense population.

Cabot Cited for Faults in Fracked Well After Gas Fouls Water

(Bloomberg) -- Cabot Oil & Gas Co., the best- performer last year in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, was cited by Pennsylvania officials in September for “improper” well construction after natural gas polluted drinking water.

Inspectors found defects in the liner intended to prevent oil or gas from leaking into groundwater at a Susquehanna County well, according to a Sept. 19 notice of violation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The violation was reported earlier today by the Scranton Times- Tribune.

Group: Study Needed On Shale Gas Effects on Health

The public health effects of shale gas development need to be rigorously studied as production rapidly spreads in the United States, public health professionals and advocates said on Monday.

Fracking risk is exaggerated

Frack away, there's no reason not to. Two of the main objections to "fracking" for shale gas have been blown out of proportion, according to British geologists.

Drilling Critics Face a Divide Over the Goal of Their Fight

With a deadline looming this week for the public to weigh in on gas drilling in New York State, the antifracking movement itself has become divided over what its goal should be: securing the nation’s toughest regulations, or winning an outright ban?

Hydrofracking energizes New York residents

ALBANY — With only one day left to comment, input from those opposed to permitting hydrofracking in New York is overwhelmingly outweighing that of supporters.

Hinchey calls for New York to withdraw proposed fracking regulations

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, on Monday called for New York to withdraw its proposed regulations to allow the controversial natural gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Such a move would indefinitely delay drilling permits for areas like Sullivan County, which sit above the gas-rich Marcellus shale.

Deep wells shaken; State not stirred

As state regulators in Ohio ponder the role that deep injection wells have played in a series of earthquakes near Youngstown, Pennsylvania regulators have yet to express any serious concern about up to 25 such wells that the drilling industry might develop in the commonwealth.

Iranian ‘Bluster’ May Overstate Threat to Strait of Hormuz’s Oil Shipping

“Do I really think that they’re going to go ahead and try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz?” Dennis Ross, who served two years on the National Security Council as Obama’s special assistant on Iran, said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s office in Washington. “I do not. They will be the ones who suffer the most from that.”

Obama Ready to Use Military Force to Stop Nuclear Iran, Ex-Adviser Says

No one should doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if sanctions and diplomacy fail, the president’s former special assistant on Iran said.

Russia concerned about Iran's uranium enrichment

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia expressed regret and concern Tuesday about Iran's launch of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent at an underground facility, but urged all parties involved in the nuclear standoff with Tehran to avoid hasty moves.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement mixed cautious criticism of Iran, an important trading partner, with a call for more talks — a fine line Moscow has walked in the past.

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed in New Attack

An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a Tehran bomb blast, state media reported, in at least the third assassination targeting the nation’s atomic program which the U.S. and Israel have vowed to halt.

Saudi: 'Internal' matter if Japan buys Iran oil

CAIRO (AP) — A Saudi oil official said that whether Japan or other countries continue to buy Iranian oil was an "internal matter," reflecting the unease in many nations after the latest U.S. sanctions on Tehran and Iran's threats to choke off the Strait of Hormuz in response.

China Balks as Geithner Presses on Iran Curbs

BEIJING — Timothy F. Geithner, the U.S. Treasury secretary, pressed Chinese senior leaders Wednesday to join an American-led campaign to put pressure Iran over its nuclear program by sharply reducing Tehran’s lucrative oil export business. And as they had before Mr. Geithner’s arrival here Tuesday, Chinese officials said publicly that they wanted no part of it.

China defends Iran oil trade despite U.S. push

BEIJING (Reuters) - China gave no hint on Wednesday of giving ground to U.S. demands to curb Iran's oil revenues, rejecting Washington's sanctions on Tehran as overstepping even as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner lobbied for Beijing's support.

US House leader meets with Saudi oil minister

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - The U.S. Congress' House majority leader has met with Saudi Arabia's oil minister, marking the latest stop by an official from a major oil importing nation to the OPEC kingpin since Iran threatened to shutter the vital Strait of Hormuz.

A statement released Wednesday by the Saudi Oil Ministry says Ali Al-Naimi and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, discussed the importance of coordination between oil exporters and importers to stabilize oil markets.

EU Said to Weigh Iran Oil Embargo Exemptions for Member States

European Union talks on an oil embargo on Iran are becoming bogged down over discussions on exemptions for existing supply contracts and the length of a planned phase-in period, according to four diplomats.

Investopedia: Possible Effects Of An Iran Embargo

Iran is the third largest oil producer in the world and an integral OPEC producer. OPEC as an organization will face a dilemma if the EU embargo takes place. It can do one of two things: boost oil exports from other OPEC producers to cover the shortfall and stabilize prices, or allow a shortage and have prices skyrocket. It is a political decision as much as an economic one....

If other OPEC countries rush in to dam the shortfall, it will be seen by Iran as support for the EU and could cause further conflict in the organization and the Middle East in general. On the other hand, if overall production is not increased and prices rise precipitously, OPEC runs the risk of tipping Western countries over the edge into developing more efficient and domestic sources of energy.

India Said to Be Told Turkey May Stop Iran Oil Payments Help

(Bloomberg) -- Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS told Indian oil refiners it may no longer be able to act as 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 importLLHPCLing from other countries, they said. Indian officials are scheduled to visit Tehran for trade talks starting Jan. 16, two of the people said.

India to cut Iran oil imports, may not seek waiver

NEW DELHI: Government has told refiners to reduce Iranian oil imports and find alternatives as New Delhi may not seek a waiver that would protect buyers of Tehran's oil from a fresh round of U.S. sanctions, two industry sources said on Wednesday.

North Dakota Surpasses OPEC Member Ecuador in Oil Production

North Dakota oil production surged 42 percent to 510,000 barrels a day in November, exceeding the output of OPEC member Ecuador, as energy explorers accelerated drilling in the Bakken Shale formation.

The state’s daily crude output topped a half-million barrels for the first time during the month, North Dakota’s Oil and Gas Division said today in a statement. North Dakota’s 6,300 wells produced enough oil to displace imports from foreign suppliers such as Iraq or Colombia, Lynn Helms, division director, said in the release.

U.S. inspects Repsol for Cuban oil work

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- U.S. regulators said they have examined an offshore drilling unit planned by Spanish energy company Repsol for Cuban waters.

Deadlock in dispute over fuel subsidies

NIGERIAN President Goodluck Jonathan and striking unions are deadlocked over their demands the government reverse its decision to lift fuel subsidies, after petrol prices more than doubled.

Government: Ongoing Nigeria strike invites anarchy

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Nigeria's government is warning that a paralyzing national strike risks "anarchy" in the oil-rich nation, as demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and government corruption entered their third day Wednesday.

Nigeria strike threatens oil halt

Nigeria's biggest oil trade union said it would decide on Wednesday whether to shut down output from Africa's largest oil producer as part of an ongoing protest against the government's removal of popular motor fuel import subsidies, according to a report.

China warns US to be 'careful' in military refocus on Asia

BEIJING — China's Ministry of defense warned the United States on Monday to be "careful in its words and actions" after announcing a defense rethink that stresses responding to China's rise by shoring up U.S. alliances and bases across Asia.

Delay for UAE crude oil pipeline

A pipeline that will allow Abu Dhabi's oil exports to bypass the Strait of Hormuz is facing a six-month delay. The disclosure by a Federal Government minister comes amid growing diplomatic tension over the strategic waterway that carries a third of the world's seaborne crude supplies.

Canada seeks alternative route for Keystone XL pipeline

While President Obama wants to delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is stepping up efforts to explore an alternative pipeline that would allow Canada to ship their tar sands oil to China.

Congress dirtied by tar ... sands

You might ask: “What in the world does approval of a tar sands pipeline have to do with avoiding a tax hike on working Americans?” The logical answer is nothing — unless you’re one of the congressional pipeline supporters who has received campaign contributions from the oil industry (which stands to make billions if approval is granted). Some members of Congress even hold stock in TransCanada, the pipeline company.

Washington Governor Gregoire Seeks Refiner Fee to Fix Roads, Run Ferries

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, whose state ranks sixth in U.S. oil-refining capacity, wants to charge a fee on the industry to help maintain roads, bridges and ferries over the next decade.

ConocoPhillips: No decision on demolishing Trainer refinery

ConocoPhillips says no decision has been made about demolishing its refinery in Trainer if the company cannot immediately find a buyer.

BP Seeks Recovery of All Gulf Spill Costs From Halliburton

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc seeks to have Halliburton Co., its cement contractor for the Macondo well project whose blowout set off the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, pay all of the oil company’s related costs and damages.

Embrace Cuomo's energy plans

New Yorkers didn’t seem to mind so much when weekend temperatures soared into the 60s, but climate change, and the wild weather patterns it produces, is very much on the radar screen of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Recalling the havoc and flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee, and against the backdrop of the Republican presidential candidates’ anti-science preaching on the campaign trail, Cuomo is pitching new efforts to promote earth-friendly solar energy. New Yorkers should embrace the cause — for the energy and the related jobs.

Wind-power: inordinately expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 emissions

The focus on wind-power, driven by the renewables targets, is preventing Britain from effectively reducing CO2 emissions, while crippling energy users with additional costs, according to a new Civitas report. The report finds that wind-power is unreliable and requires back-up power stations to be available in order to maintain a consistent electricity supply to households and businesses. This means that energy users pay twice: once for the window-dressing of renewables, and again for the fossil fuels that the energy sector continues to rely on. Contrary to the implied message of the Government’s approach, the analysis shows that wind-power is not a low-cost way of reducing emissions.

Electricity Costs: the folly of wind-power, by economist Ruth Lea, uses Government-commissioned estimates of the costs of electricity generation in the UK to calculate the most cost-effective technologies. When all costs are included, gas-fired power is the most cost-efficient method of generating electricity in the short-term, while nuclear power stations become the most cost-efficient in the medium-term.

Fish and Wildlife Service Permit Would Allow Wind-Energy Company to Kill Golden Eagles

According to KTVZ, the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service has released a proposal that would give West Butte Wind Power LLC a permit to legally kill golden eagles in central Oregon. The permit is the first of its kind and in this case, West Butte's wind turbines would be able to kill up to three protected golden eagles over a five-year span as long as the company contributes to conservation efforts for the species.

A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist

WASHINGTON — When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

Solar lamps replace toxic kerosene in poorest countries

While it might seem that the obvious solution is to expand electricity grids, in recent years more environmentally sustainable and immediately accessible alternatives have emerged. Chief among them is the solar-powered light emitting diode (LED) lamp.

"When we started out 15 years ago, there were no scalable solutions -- large energy-hungry fluorescent bulbs required large, expensive solar panels and complicated installation" says Mills. "Now, LEDs the size of a cherry can generate light 100 times brighter than a kerosene lamp at a very low wattage, while solar cells have become much more efficient."

Daimler's Dr. Zetsche talks about internet-connected electric cars at CES

It's clear that Dr. Zetsche intends to address the looming problems with fossil fuel supply many know as "peak oil". Electrified vehicles, a.k.a. electric mobility, offers not just a method to clean up automobiles and reduce emissions, but additionally offers freedom of the source of energy to drive the vehicles. Electrons can come from any source, many of which do not involve burning fossil fuels and mucking up the environment. Battery and electric drive technology has reached a tipping point of usefulness where electrified vehicles are beginning to be capable of replacing the usefulness of gasoline powered cars. Note, that is "beginning to be capable", not "are capable".

Study: Car supersizing explains modest mpg gains

Cars haven't improved their miles per gallon much in recent decades despite technological advances. A new study quantifies the culprit: supersizing.

Can a hotel room ever be too big? A GM in Asia says yes

I would never expect an American to complain that the "room is too big." In nine years as a General Manager, I have never met an American who has turned down an upgrade or who has asked for a smaller room.

Culturally, Americans seem to be subconsciously pre-programmed from birth with a "bigger is better" mentality. Frankly, as an American I am also always happy to be upgraded, whether it is on a flight or in a hotel.

A Crisis of Civilization? Live Chat with Security Analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Back in December I posted a trailer for The Crisis of Civilization. Based on the work of security analyst and political scientist Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, this new documentary explores the interconnections between climate change, peak oil, terrorism and our ongoing financial crisis. Mat has also written about Ahmed's work on the connections between peak oil and the Egyptian revolution.

Given the increasingly convincing evidence that no government is prepared for peak oil; that worst-case climate scenarios are looking more and more realistic; and that the Global economic order as we know it may be coming to an end, we thought it might be a good time to talk to Dr Ahmed in a little more detail about how this all fits together.

Resilience Has Not Been Lost (It's Been Willfully Ignored)

As I noted in my post on why "hipster" urban farmers are doing nothing new, there are many communities—both rural and urban—for whom resilience has always been a way of life; where the trickle down economics has never really trickled down at all; and where sharing, collaboration and an informal economy are the primary forms of organization—not a fancy new idea for saving the world.

The trouble is that these communities are the ones who have been economically, socially and politically marginalized. For whatever reason, their voices have rarely been heard in any discussion, and we as a culture are not used to viewing poor communities as anything other than charity cases, objects of derision or a cause for suspicion.

EPA reach too far? Justices hear case of interest to big business, Ron Paul

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a case that sounds small but could have huge implications for property owners, corporations and federal regulations.

Some of the justices were clearly critical of the Environmental Protection Agency, calling its actions in the case heavy handed.

Obama Drops by the E.P.A.

President Obama, who has been both applauded and jeered for his record on environmental issues, paid a brief visit to the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington on Tuesday to try to raise spirits at an agency that has been under siege for the past year.

Elections no threat to global climate deal - U.N.

(Reuters) - Leadership changes this year among some of the world's heaviest polluting countries should not undermine progress towards setting up a new global legally binding climate deal by 2015, the United Nations' climate chief said on Wednesday.

An online model of methane in the atmosphere

I’ve put together an easy-to-play-with online model of methane in the atmosphere. I’m going to use it for teaching along with the rest of the Understanding the Forecast webmodels, but it was designed to be relevant to the issue of abrupt new methane burps as we’ve been ruminating about lately on Realclimate.

Link up top: Unsustainable Population Growth Is The Elephant In The Room This is a great article, don't miss it. It explains that overshoot always leads to degradation of the environment which lowers the carrying capacity to a point much lower than it was before the overshoot.

Populations in serious overshoot always decline. This is seen in wine vats when the yeast cells die after consuming all the sugar from the grapes and bathing themselves in their own poisonous alcoholic wastes. It's seen in predator-prey relations in the animal world, where the depletion of the prey species results in a die-back of the predators. Actually, it's a bit worse than that. The population may actually fall to a lower level than was sustainable before the overshoot. The reason is that unsustainable consumption while in overshoot allowed the species to use more non-renewable resources and to further poison their environment with excessive wastes.


Ron P.

True of course. Until now it (population growth) goes on thanks to massive inputs of fossil fuels. However one has to notice that there are countries where fossil fuel use per capita is relatively low, but population growth is strong. I guess that when 'world economic growth' halts, that paradox will come to an end.

The "Limits to Growth" article is a good companion piece to the population one.


LTG actually had projections of much more rapid population growth. This article suggests that this is one warning that the world may have heeded to some extent (along with messages from books like "The Populations Bomb."

I wonder what kinds of analyses they did in China before deciding on the one child policy? I see that it was initiated in 1978 and LTG came out in '72, so it could have had an influence. If so, the author of this article is probably right in calling LTG one of the most important works in the history of the human species.

It appears that China's focus on family planning was sharpened by the '62 famine which killed 30 million out of a population of about 700 million. Thus, an emphasis on population control started before the LTG, even though the one child policy was later.

A Brief History of
China's One-Child Policy

Before long, however, population growth was taking a toll on the nation's food supply. In 1955 officials launched a campaign to promote birth control, only to have their efforts reversed in 1958 by the Great Leap Forward — Mao's disastrous attempt to rapidly convert China into a modern industrialized state. "A larger population means greater manpower," reasoned Hu Yaobang, secretary of the Communist Youth League, at a national conference of youth work representatives that April. "The force of 600 million liberated people is tens of thousands of times stronger than a nuclear explosion."

It also proved to be nearly as destructive: with many communities collectivized and converted from farming to steel production, food supply slipped behind population growth; by 1962 a massive famine had caused some 30 million deaths. In the aftermath, officials quietly resumed a propaganda campaign to limit population growth, only to be interrupted by the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in 1966; it began it again in 1969. A push under the slogan "Late, Long and Few" was successful: China's population growth dropped by half from 1970 to 1976. But it soon leveled off, prompting officials to seek more drastic measures. In 1979 they introduced a policy requiring couples from China's ethnic Han majority to have only one child (the law has largely exempted ethnic minorities). It has remained virtually the same ever since.

Note that even with fairly draconian controls, China's population has about doubled since the famine.

A famine on the same scale globally would be (30/700)*7000 = 300 million deaths, and would likely cause a family planning to be taken more seriously globally.

The New Scientist article by Debora MacKenzie, "Boom And Doom: Revisiting Prophecies Of Collapse," said to be behind a registration wall, turns up here on a Google search.

That link is posted up top.

In 1975 when Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in India her son tried using strong arm tactics to limit family sizes to 2 children. Needless, to say when the Emergency was lifted Mrs Gandhi was soundly beaten in the subsequent election. However, going back to the 60's there was strong campaign to encourage people to limit family sizes to 2-3 children. By the 90's that had become 1-2 children.

The next graph in the article (Population with Excess Deaths) shows what might be a path for the future. Once carrying capacity begins to fall off and population begins to decline, as many as 200 million more people would be expected to die prematurely every year. The Four Horsemen would sweep thru nations with awful results. Since the "die back" would likely hit some nations before others, it's possible to think of entire nations being destroyed in some sequence as those which are at the margin falling before the better situated states. Recent events in Egypt, Somalia and now Nigeria may be the beginning...

E. Swanson

Blackdog, I think your POV is pretty accurate.

It sounds like the basic outline followed by Clinton-Bush-Obama (the first three heads of the Hydra).

"The Plan" is to contain the Four Horsemen to "other people's countries" - and as they fall out of the industrial competition we can eat their dinner and send "aid packages" to make our selves feel better.

And even if Americans understood the situation, I suspect the majority would be more than willing to pretend along with the Hydra that "protects" them. As long as the suffering is one or two degrees of separation away from them and their families, they go along with just about anything The financial-military-industrial complex tells them.

Just like Higgins said in Three days to the Condor.

Higgins: Not now - then! Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!

Humans are smarter than yeast, though. Birth rates started falling generations ago, and the rate of population increase has been declining worldwide - in a few decades the average population increase will be zero, and in a number of countries it is already negative.

The global population is asymptotically approaching a limit of around 9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely.

Humans are smarter than yeast but humans are also far more destructive to their environment. When the yeast are all dead, you just have to flush out the alcohol, dump in some more sugar water and introduce more yeast. When humans are done you have to wait thousands of years for the radiation to clear up, wait a few million years for all those skyscrapers and ugly box stores to dissolved and all that concrete to break down to bring back the ability to grow plants.

Someone seriously thinks Earth can sustain a human population of around 9 billion indefinitely? That means without fossil fuels? How can someone think that? We are currently so deep in overshoot that we are drawing down ocean fisheries, forests, clean air, fresh water aquifers, minerals and metals so fast that it would make a teenager with their first credit card blush.

The actual number, of course, depends on how the remaining people expect to live. If everyone wants to live like the average person living in a developed country then the resulting population is less than 500 million, total. Just do the math. What was the population before fossil fuels? Don't forget that this was mostly the Kings and Serfs model where most were just generating enough extra energy to make the King's family happy.

This is why I think we need to do far better modeling of Earth's resources and how humans interact with them. I think it would be eye opening at the very least.

wait a few million years for all those skyscrapers and ugly box stores to dissolved and all that concrete to break down to bring back the ability to grow plants.

How much % of the earth land surface is filled with concrete ?

Someone seriously thinks Earth can sustain a human population of around 9 billion indefinitely?

The first that comes to mind inhibiting that is lack of cooperation and not wanting to scale down (lifestyle not negotiable). Indeed, with no fossil fuels and human race not having found a way to ramp up other fuels (such as oil from algae) and energy, there is no chance. And there are the threats from universe and certain volcanoes that makes indefinitely impossible.

When humans are done you have to wait thousands of years for the radiation to clear up, wait a few million years for all those skyscrapers and ugly box stores to dissolved and all that concrete to break down to bring back the ability to grow plants.

The Earth is already mildly radioactive, and the hotter isotopes decay quite rapidly, so the radiation will decline to background levels in a shorter period of time than that.

The skyscrapers and ugly box stores will decay to rubble in less than a century if they are abandoned and not maintained - they aren't built to last like the old castles and cathedrals were. Concrete will disappear - the plants will break it down when they get their roots into it. All it takes is a little dirt on top, a few seeds, and away they go.

If you don't sweep the dust off something regularly, on average it will sink into the ground about 5 cm (2 inches) per decade, so after a hundred years it will buried roughly 50 cm (20 inches) deep, and after 1000 years it will be about 5 metres (16) feet underground. I'm speaking from experience - I used to own a house that was 100 years old, and it really had sunk 50 cm into the ground, which was a problem because the yard drained into the basement. I had to lower the yard to match the house.

However, I don't expect humans to go away anytime soon, so they will most likely bulldoze all the structures you see and build new ones to replace them. I'm not a big believer in the "We can't live without fossil fuels" theory.

The global population is asymptotically approaching a limit of around 9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely.

That sounds like a completely unjustifiable statement based on multiple flawed assumptions. The fact of the earth's carrying capacity being significantly reduced due to long term ecological damage, being a big one. Just curious, on what data do you base such a statement?!

In principle, population should be a very solvable problem (and I don't mean by wiping out large swaths of humanity). It is already starting to angle toward its own solution--death rate seems to have stalled out at about 8/1000/y and should start rising just from the demographic bulge moving through the system. Birth rates have been falling fairly steadily, down to about 19/1000/year. All it takes is this rate falling by one per year and the death rate rising a couple of points, and we could have zero population growth within a decade, probably topping off under 8 billion. Continuing the same trajectory (slowly rising death rate and falling birthrate) could then lower population to five billion by mid-century or sooner.

Urbanization, education and empowerment of women, higher ages of giving birth to first child, and some other factors (not just affluence=high consumption) are putting continuing downward pressure on birth rates. Encouragement of these and other factors could further spur developments in these directions.

But I fear that as PO and GW take hold, carrying capacity will shrink faster than these more gentle routes to population reduction can take hold. In 2010, Russia went from the world's largest exporter of wheat to an importer. If that can happen with one bad season in one place, what will happen when the US, China and Russia all get hit with crop devastation in the same year?

Countries like Egypt, Yemen and others--where the populations has quadrupled in just a few decades fueled largely by oil sales that are now going away under the pressures of PO and ELM--are feeling overshoot particularly severely, and there are no good ways forward at this point that I can see for those countries. Sharing more equally the crumbs that are left is certainly better than huge concentrations of wealth among vast swarms of devastating poverty. But even perfect distribution is not going to create a carrying capacity for 80 million people (in the case of Egypt) in country that is largely desert and that never supported more than 20 million before oil revenues started flowing in. I have not heard that a major demand of the Arab spring is for immediate access to contraception for all women...but maybe I missed it.

My Muslim students tell me that their religious leaders preach not to worry about population; that for every human born, Allah takes one away. I just have to shake my head. It is as if, because for every raindrop that falls, one eventually makes its way to the ocean, flooding can never then be a problem anywhere.

If that can happen with one bad season in one place, what will happen when the US, China and Russia all get hit with crop devastation in the same year?

Then France, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan will have to pick up the slack. Those are the #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7 wheat exporting countries. The US is #1 and Russia is #8 at this point in time. I bet you didn't know that France is the #2 exporter and exports more wheat than it consumes domestically.

Crop failures are never global in scope and one continent is always having a bumper crop if another is experiencing a crop failure. The weather tends to average out and all major producers carry large inventories from year to year. However, in the event of a shortage in major consuming countries the prices could rise beyond what people in some third-world countries could afford to pay. It is more a problem of economics than of production.

It would help enormously if the US would stop converting 40% of its huge corn crop into automobile fuel and send it to countries with food shortages.

I bet you didn't know that France is the #2 exporter and exports more wheat than it consumes domestically.

I'll bet I did not know that either. Wheat Exports by Country in 1000 MT

1	United States	    25,174.00	
2	Australia	    21,500.00	
3	Russian Federation  19,000.00	
4	Canada	            18,000.00	
5	EU-27	            17,000.00	
6	Argentina	     8,500.00	
7	Kazakhstan	     8,500.00	
8	Ukraine	             7,000.00	
9	Turkey	             3,700.00	
10	Uruguay	             1,200.00

All 27 members of the European Union combined comes in at #5. But if you take all countries separate then no European Union country is in the top 9. (This link only gives the top 9.).Wheat Exports by Country

# 1   	  United States: 28,500 thousand metric tons  	
# 2   	  Australia: 	 15,000 thousand metric tons  	
# 3   	  Canada: 	 14,500 thousand metric tons  	
# 4   	  Argentina: 	  9,000 thousand metric tons  	
# 5   	  Kazakhstan: 	  6,500 thousand metric tons  	
# 6   	  Russia: 	  3,500 thousand metric tons  	
# 7   	  India: 	  2,000 thousand metric tons  	
# 8   	  Turkey: 	    800 thousand metric tons  	
# 9   	  Ukraine: 	    100 thousand metric tons

And notice that Russia comes in #6 but the Russian Federation is #3. I cannot explain that. I know that the Russian Federation is supposed to be Russia and all the FSU countries. But I also thought Kazakhstan and Ukraine were both members of that club. So how can they all be on the same list?

Ron P.

The first website gave me "This is a future home page", so that didn't work.

The key factor is in fine print on the second site, so I'll put it in boldface:

Figures for 2003/2004

I should have given my reference The World's Biggest Wheat Exporting Countries

It doesn't really give the date, but it's much more recent than 2003/2004. It is USDA data, but I don't know where on the USDA web site to find it.

The thing to note is that national crop volumes jump around from year to year because crops vary year to year. Fortunately these fluctuations average out for the world as a whole, so generally speaking demand is covered by supply from somewhere.

The thing about France vs. the EU27 is that France exports wheat to the other members of the EU27, so those exports wouldn't appear in EU27 export statistics, which I assume are net. And maybe 2003/2004 was a bad year for French wheat.

The "Russian Federation" is the official name of Russia.

Yes the first site apparently went off line for an hour or so, but it is okay now. The link now works fine.

And your link does say that France is the second largest exporter. My two links say otherwise. So I have you two to one. ;-)

Seriously there is something wrong there. No way is France the second largest exporter of wheat. However let's explore it further. Let's gather more export data. I will post later on any updates I have.

Ron P.

No way is France the second largest exporter of wheat.

Way. France claims second place among wheat exporters

Agrimoney.com 13 October 2010

France is set to overtake Canada and Russia to become the world's second-ranked wheat exporter this season, as buyers scramble to replace Black Sea supplies lost to drought.

The European Union's top wheat grower lifted by 400,000 tonnes to 18.3m tonnes its forecast for exports of the grain in the year to June, reflecting in particular higher hopes for shipments beyond its neighbouring countries.

Exports to countries outside the EU will hit a record 11.5m tonnes, a rise of nearly 1.2m tonnes year on year, French farm office FranceAgriMer said.

The estimate for total shipments places France above Russia, which has banned grain shipments after its worst drought on record, and Canada, which suffered an excess of rain in the spring, in the export league, which is headed by the US.

You are correct, that's what it says. Found this site which lists wheat production, not exports by country. Wheat production (most recent) by country But someone posted a note at the bottom of the page:

You have omitted European data from this data set. France and Germany should be prominent in the global production figures but do not appear.

I guess for some reason Europe just does not count. Well hell, why should they? ;-)

Ron P.

The trouble is that people don't realize that France is much larger than the other European Union members - the second biggest country in Europe after Russia - and much of its land is ideal for growing wheat. The EU agricultural policies encourage overproduction of food - farmers are highly subsidized - and the result is that France grows much more wheat than it can consume itself. Twice as much, in fact.

They also don't want to believe it because it doesn't fit into their theories of looming food shortages. There are only looming food shortages for countries which can't afford to spend as much money subsidizing agriculture as France does.

I should have known better than to pull a stat out of my @ss in this crowd. I should have said Russia went form one of the top five wheat exporter to putting a ban on exports.


I think I was crossing wires with the fact that Russia had been the top exporter to Egypt, the top wheat importer.

Over all, total ag production is predicted to fall by 10% for every degree C that global temperatures go up.

Since we are now at the high end of the projections from IPCC, and since those projections did not fully factor in global dimming or carbon cycle feedbacks which are now kicking in, it looks like we will bu blowing past the two degrees that earlier agreements had claimed as their goal to keep us under. How far above that will we go? Know one knows. But loss of at least a third of global agricultural production would seem to be pretty well locked in, and possibly much more, certainly by the end of the century and probably much earlier.

Besides giving up cars, we have to give up on grain-fed meat and cars.

Crop failures are never global in scope and one continent is always having a bumper crop if another is experiencing a crop failure.


Even for the future mentioned more than once on TOD where temps rise and rainfall patterns change?

It doesn't matter if it's global in scope or not. Our markets are so tightly optimized that there's no scope for any redundancy, problems in one area propagate to another.

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns don't affect all places negatively. For instance the area I am in (Alberta) will probably see increased agricultural production because of rising temperatures and increasing rainfall.

Past episodes of global warming (people hate it when I say that) have resulted in increased rainfall in Alberta. Between ice ages (we are still technically in an ice age), the Canadian prairies - Canada's breadbasket - expanded right up into the Northwest Territories.

So the effects of Global Warming will be highly uneven.

Just to placate the Doomsters on this site, I'll mention that the American Midwest turned into a desert at the same time.

You're trying to compare apples and oranges. Northern forest soils just aren't as productive as the US midwest prairie.

You also allude to steady states, what we see as the transition presently means periodic failures in all areas. Drought one year, normal the next, bankruptcy for farmers as they try to predict fluctuating yields.

This is interesting to me Rocky. Any suggestions on finding out what Eastern Washington/Idaho looked like warmer? I can't for the life of me even come up with a good phrase to google.

Also, I'm not the most knowledgeable, but I thought we'd been in interglacial period for 10-15k yrs. Can you clarify "technically in an ice age"?

I'm not Rocky, but the Pleistocene (darn I had to do a web search cause I couldn't get the spelling close enough for ispell to correct), era has had two metastable states, full on ice age, and half on ice age. The interglacials are the half on stage. Most of the pas few hundred million years have been nearly ice free (except at very high elevations).

Thats one reason what we are doing doesn't have very good paleoclimate data to suggest what things will be like, we are going to have global temps that haven't been seen for millions of years. And the further back intime you go, the more the evidence is lost.

Climatologists have reasonable confidence in where global parameters (like average global temperature) are going, but local and regional changes are still pretty uncertain.

You could try Googling "interglacial period", "climatic optimum", "thermal maximum" "hypsithermal", "altithermal", or "megathermal", and attach "Washington/Idaho" to it.

We are currently in an interglacial period of the current ice age. The ice age will come to an end when the polar ice caps disappear. For most of its geological history, the Earth has not had a permanent polar ice cap, never mind two of them.

For most of its geological history, the Earth has not had a permanent polar ice cap, never mind two of them.

Of course there has never been a permanent polar ice cap. But I think you are mistaken about "most of the earth history" part. Ice caps have come and gone many times and there have been at least five very long ice ages and one period when the entire earth was covered with ice.

The history of ice on Earth

In fact, the planet seems to have three main settings: "greenhouse", when tropical temperatures extend to the poles and there are no ice sheets at all; "icehouse", when there is some permanent ice, although its extent varies greatly; and "snowball", in which the planet's entire surface is frozen over.

Try Googling "polar ice caps history" and you will get this:

Polar Ice Caps And Geologic History

At least five times since the formation of the earth, because of changes in global climate, the polar ice has expanded north and south toward the equator and has stayed there for at least a million years. The earliest of these known ice ages was some two billion years ago, during the Huronian epoch of the Precambrian era. The most recent ice age began about 1.7 million years in the Pleistocene epoch. It was characterized by a number of fluctuations in North polar ice, some of which expanded over much of modern North America and Europe, covered up to half of the existing continents, and measured as much as 1.8 mi (3 km) deep in some places. These glacial expansions locked up even more water, dropping sea levels worldwide by more than 300 ft (100 m). Animal species that had adapted to cold weather, like the mammoth, thrived in the polar conditions of the Pleistocene glaciations, and their ranges stretched south into what is now the southern United States.

Exactly what percentage of historical time have both poles been covered with ice? I could not find that information anywhere but it looks from what I did find that it was at least 50% of the time. But if you can post a link that gives the percentage of time ice caps have covered the earth, it would be greatly appreciated. I would be glad to be proven wrong here because I really would like to know.

Ron P.

Crop failures are never global in scope and one continent is always having a bumper crop if another is experiencing a crop failure.

If we just look at weather this is true. In the long run. But then there is this thing called climate, and it changes. But I know you don't worry about that.

Indeed I have heard a spokesman for the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt call (on the BBC) for Egyptian people to have larger families because only a tiny percentage of the land has so far been populated and there is so much (empty, waterless) desert still to be filled.

The fact of the earth's carrying capacity being significantly reduced due to long term ecological damage, being a big one. Just curious, on what data do you base such a statement?!

It's based on some papers I have seen on the dynamics of population growth which were much more convincing than the "people are like yeast" theory. People look at an exponential rise and automatically assume that it will go on growing exponentially until there is a crash. Normal populations don't behave that way, they usually follow a logistic function.

A logistic function or logistic curve is a common sigmoid curve, given its name in 1844 or 1845 by Pierre François Verhulst who studied it in relation to population growth. It can model the "S-shaped" curve (abbreviated S-curve) of growth of some population P. The initial stage of growth is approximately exponential; then, as saturation begins, the growth slows, and at maturity, growth stops.

Standard logistic sigmoid function

Normal populations don't behave that way, they usually follow a logistic function.

Yes, that's assuming you have a functioning stable ecosystem and a 'Normal' population! I would contend that humans do not comprise a normal population due to their access to fossil fuels during the past two centuries or so. Furthermore the global ecosystem has already been severely destabilized and can not possibly continue to support even the current population with diminishing inputs of fossil fuels.


Factors Influencing Population Growth

Nearly all populations will tend to grow exponentially as long as there are resources available. Most populations have the potential to expand at an exponential rate, since reproduction is generally a multiplicative process. Two of the most basic factors that affect the rate of population growth are the birth rate, and the death rate. The intrinsic rate of increase is the birth rate minus the death rate.

Two modes of population growth. The Exponential curve (also known as a J-curve) occurs when there is no limit to population size. The Logistic curve (also known as an S-curve) shows the effect of a limiting factor (in this case the carrying capacity of the environment).
Image from Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com), used with permission.

My personal view is that a human population crash is practically inevitable because fossil fuels have functioned to counteract the natural limiting factors of a stable environment allowing us to go into deep overshoot.

In the case of human beings, the main factor limiting population is the use of birth control, not resources.

I think the decline might be more gradual than the word "crash" suggests. For whatever reason, the population did not grow nearly as fast as Limits To Growth feared.

Came across this article the other day, in which someone in 1900 tried to predict what the world of 2000 would be like. He got a lot of things right, and some things very wrong.

They counted this one as correct:

"There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America [the US]."

That is way off, but they counted it as a "hit" because he got the direction right.

The figure is too high, says Nilsson, but at least Watkins was guessing in the right direction. If the US population had grown by the same rate it did between 1800 and 1900, it would have exceeded 1 billion in 2000.

"Instead, it grew just 360%, reaching 280m at the start of the new century."

Thanks for the link. I have archived this.

Amazing predictions, some of them are dead on, we have our Nostradamus.

The population predictions were off because people did not predict the effects of the birth control pill. They still underestimate the effects on population growth. In Europe, where its use is more widespread and encouraged by governments, birth rates are significantly lower than in the US.

Other factors which had unexpected consequences were the effects of urbanization (it is more expensive to raise large families in cities than in rural areas), and the effects of education and employment on women (they tend to have fewer children later in life).

I think you overestimate the impact of the pill. That was only an option for the latter part of the century.

The lowest growth rates were during the Depression. Clearly, the driver was economics, not contraceptives. (The death rate actually went down, but not as much as the birth rate.)

Urbanization did play a big role. In particular, the end of homesteading. While homesteading continued until the 1980s or so, the good farmland was all taken by the turn of the century.

That's true, the economy does have a major effect on birth rates. The fertility rate in the US decline to 2.1 children per woman in the Depression. OTOH, it declined to 1.7 in the inflation of the 1970s, but has since recovered.

Negative Population Growth
20 countries with zero or negative population growth

Country Annual Decrease Decrease by 2050
Ukraine 0.8% 28%
Russia 0.6% 22%
Belarus 0.6% 12%
Bulgaria 0.5% 34%
Latvia< 0.5% 23%
Lithuania 0.4% 15%
Hungary 0.3% 11%
Romania 0.2% 29%
Estonia 0.2% 23%
Moldova 0.2% 21%
Croatia 0.2% 14%
Germany 0.2% 8%
Czech Republic 0.1% 8%
Japan 0% 21%
Poland 0% 17%
Slovakia 0% 12%
Austria 0% 8%
Italy 0% 5%
Slovenia 0% 5%
Greece 0% 4%

If you like looking at historical charts that show how population growth/decline has evolved you might try out the Population Trends databrowser.

To put what Fred says more briefly, the sigmoid-curve idea works when the carrying capacity is fixed. That's not the case here.

Carrying capacity is a 'flow' - the ability to continuously support a population. Oil is a stock, which we're using up to temporarily boost carrying capacity. This is compensating for decreases in other flows (from environmental services such as soil fertility and fish stocks.)

As the flow of oil declines, the carrying capacity will return to its non-oil level, which is lower than it was before.

I think it's because I grew up on a farm and worked in the oil industry for 35 years, but I don't consider oil a limiting factor in agricultural production. The limiting factors are soil and/or water.

The production of oil is not going to collapse overnight, farming would be a priority use, and farmers would have a great deal of time to adapt to oil-free farming. They can run the equipment on things other than petroleum.

As far as the city people go, they can get used to walking.

"As far as the city people go, they can get used to walking."

The city people I know can walk the socks off most non-city people.

Written by RockyMtnGuy:
... farming would be a priority use...

Here is how the USA might prioritize a limited fuel supply:
1. Presidential demand, Secret Service, Air Force One
2. military
3. police, emergency services
4. corporate donators
5. general government
6. agriculture
7. mass transit
8. personal transportation & uses

This environment would foster a black market in transportation fuel causing fuel on the farm (as in a tank of diesel fuel for an irrigation pump) to be stolen. It happened in 2008.

Written by RockyMtnGuy:
They can run the equipment on things other than petroleum.

As in decreasing crop yield to make available land to grow plants to fuel the tractors and trucks (to get the produce to market)? Oh, wait, that means less food.

"grow plants to fuel the tractors"

That is one of the options.

All kinds of stuff can be turned into liquid fuel, such as plastic or coal. SRI has an interesting Coal-To-Liquids process:
http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/39430/?ref=rss ... any thoughts?

There was a discussion in the last Drumbeat about solar-electric tractors.

Scrub Puller has a circular-patch electric farming machine that offers a great energy savings.

A tractor, or a bulldozer, does just an incredible amount of work quickly. The replace whole farm families and communities of the old days. The harvesting machines are quite impressive, with their single driver. On the central coast, I watch these hybrid machines at work. They consist of a tow-motor pulling a wide cat-walk that flys a dozen people over the plants: more people, less machine.

"Forget Oil, Worry About Phosphorus"

We may have to quit throwing it away.

People adapt when the usual routines fail them.

There are a number of mechanisms that offer, in the meantime, to readjust the population numbers downward dramatically.

Oh, wait, that means less food.

Having no Hydrogen-Carbon inputs into the food system will mean less food.

Rudolf Diesel had a model using plant oils - and that used less land/food than the old horse powered method.

Other pitch Hydrogen/Carbon/Oxygen http://www.mikebrownsolutions.com/ethanol.htm

Electric based Ag machines could use even less land, but would require them to be designed/made and a shift away from the 800HP tractor model of today. That shift will be hard, perhaps impossible.

It is also possible that plants can have more energy added into them to enhance growth http://www.rexresearch.com/elculture/elculture.htm

The global population is asymptotically approaching a limit of around 9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely.

With cooperation and 'government understanding of the situation and being able to act': maybe.

That seems not having a chance considering what can be read in an article above:

Given the increasingly convincing evidence that no government is prepared for peak oil

"9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely."

Did you leave off the "sarc" tag?

What is your definition of "sustainable" ???? And "indefinitely" ????

Maybe we could build many little pens to house people like chicken factories and be able to make the future "sustainable" for 10 billion - or maybe even 12 billion?

Sustainable, in my definition, is that they can get by without starving. I didn't say it would be a fun life for them.

Maybe we could build many little pens to house people like chicken factories

No, I would recommend higher density urban developments - a lot of condos, apartments and the like. The vast ranch-style house on the vast ranch-sized suburban lot, however, is not sustainable and should probably be turned back into farmland. It's going to be tough breaking up all that asphalt, though.

The majority of the world's population already lives in such pens. The number of nomads sleeping under the stars at night is startlingly low.

RMC,Disagree with your premise.Yes,percentage wise the growth rate has fallen but in the meanwhile the base has increased and so the lower rate is irrelevant since we have more mouths to feed irrespective of the lower rate.

RMC,Disagree with your premise.Yes,percentage wise the growth rate has fallen but in the meanwhile the base has increased and so the lower rate is irrelevant since we have more mouths to feed irrespective of the lower rate.

This is the argument I've contended numerous times. The total is still rising and by quite a bit, especially in light of oil having peaked in 05. It's obvious there is no planning regarding population in relation to energy supply. Once the descent of oil production begins in 2015 or whenever, nature will be the moderating factor as the numbers are forced downward.

One snag may be that owing to the power of exponential growth, all it takes is for just one single group anywhere in the world - and for whatever reason, very possibly religious - not to reach replacement rate, and presto, no more asymptote. So perhaps the global population will instead swell to 16 billion by 2100, who can say? Naturally it would be far more convenient for it to reach an asymptote without forcible intervention, but, then again, the universe doesn't really seem quite to be arranged solely for our convenience.

Current projections are that the world population will peak at about 9 billion around 2050.

It might start to decline slowly from that point, but that depends on how enthusiastic people become about have small families or no children at all. Odds are, a lot of them will become quite enthusiastic about it because resources will be strained by that time.

Even at this point in time the birth rate any many developed countries (e.g. Italy and Japan) is well below the replacement level.

Some scenario varients say 9 billion. Others such as at the UN link don't. I wouldn't count on it; we just don't know. But it would be more convenient than having to intervene with force.

RMG- doesn't the size of the sustainable population depend on the dispersion of the population? If certain number of countries have declining populations but don't permit immigration then other countries will have much large populations and will in fact go into overshoot resulting in a lower carrying capacity.

Seems to me coming up with a sustainable number based on the most rational dispersion of people and public policy is a meaningless exercise. What is relevant is what is the sustainable population based the most likely policies.

They are going to have to rely on lower population growth rates in countries with large populations because the countries with declining populations won't be able to absorb them.

China has the largest population in the world, with 1.3 billion people, but its population growth will stop in the next few decades because of its one-child policy. On the current trend line its population will peak at 1.4 billion in 2025 and be back down to 1.3 billion by 2050.

India is second with 1.2 billion, but it is still growing and will soon pass China in population. India needs to get its birth rate down because it can't support many more people. Its projected population is 1.6 billion by 2050.

The US is third with 300 million, and actually has more farmland than China, so it could support a lot more people. Not at its current extravagant rate of resource consumption, though. Its projected population is 420 million by 2050.

The global population is asymptotically approaching a limit of around 9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely.

If that were the case then the ocean fisheries would have not almost disappeared by now. If that were the case then water tables in India and China would not be falling by meters per year. If that were the case then rivers would not be running dry, lakes and inland seas would not be drying up, to soil would not be washing away, rain forests and dry forests would not be disappearing, deserts would not be expanding and thousands of species per year would not be going extinct.

The sustainable population, without the aid of fossil fuel, would likely be around one billion people. With fossil fuel it would definitely be no more than three billion people.

How in heaven's name can you look at what is happening to the earth right now and say that could continue indefinitely, much less say we could add two more billion people and maintain that level indefinitely?

Ron P.

If we did everything right, we could squeeze much moore people in on this round world without destruction than we do now. Problem is, we don't do everything right, and probably never will.

I have heard the "9 billion is sustainable" argument many times before, and my guess is they assume we do everything right "in the future", and add some new fancy tech to that, and we'll all be fine.

I don't share that optimism, as I know you to don't.

I think that there is a lot of underutilized farmland in the world, and the world's fish are largely going to come from fish farms in the future.

I also don't think we're going to run out of fossil fuels any time soon. The supply of oil is going to be a problem and production will probably start to fall in the near future, but there are huge amounts of natural gas and coal that have not even begun to be exploited. And, of course, there are other sources of energy than fossil fuels.

Heavily invested in tar sands. You deny overpopulation and global warming.
Classic example of not understanding a problem because your livelihood depends on it.

I didn't deny overpopulation and global warming, I just believe we'll survive them better than most people think.

And, actually I'm more into gold and banks than oil sands lately. Battening down the hatches to weather the storm.

Classic example of not understanding a problem because your livelihood depends on it.

Last year I saw a documentary on t.v. about Canadian tarsands. Impressive, with those gigantic power shovels. The shocker was that at the end of the documentary was said that IIRC 'in 50 years Canadian tarsands could produce all the oil the world needs.'

I think that it is highly unlikely that the oil sands will produce all the oil the world needs by 2050. I think it is more accurate to say they can produce all the world can afford in 50 years, which is an entirely different thing.

How much oil can the world afford at $1,000 per barrel? How many people will be driving SUVs to work from the suburbs when gasoline is $40 per gallon? (in 2012 dollars)

Is that really a shocker, or something they read off a shiny brochure?

(or maybe I misread you, and the Shock is just that anyone would even say something like this..?)

I think that it is highly unlikely that the oil sands will produce all the oil the world needs by 2050. I think it is more accurate to say they can produce all the world can afford in 50 years, which is an entirely different thing.

Yes Rocky, unless a 'Black Swan event' like WW 3 or an 'ever lasting' recession', so the documentary-maker(s) are ignorant about a lot of things.

(or maybe I misread you, and the Shock is just that anyone would even say something like this..?)

That was meant indeed, jokuhl.

but there are huge amounts of natural gas and coal that have not even begun to be exploited.

You state that as if it were a good thing...

Have you perchance taken a look at the consequences of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and the marine food webs?


The supply of oil is going to be a problem and production will probably start to fall in the near future, but there are huge amounts of natural gas and coal that have not even begun to be exploited.

If you mean especially shale gas: it was ROCKMAN e.g. who described the drawbacks of it. Maybe he is too pessimistic.
Regarding coal, you expect hundreds of CTL plants to be constructed ? Can society afford that and can it deliver the cheap liquids the economy needs to grow ? And what about all the new infrastructure that must be built together with the CTL plants, in order that 'above ground' Peakcoal will not occur ? And again, can society, allready suffering from Peakoil, afford that ?

And, of course, there are other sources of energy than fossil fuels.

Geothermal is a nice one, but not a solution for the consequences of Peakoil. The world has sooner or later to scale down on energy-use and somehow make the economy grow. Without awareness, understanding and cooperation that won't happen. One can start making toys for adults that produce electricity. In Japan they make toys like that for children.

I said there were lots of fossil fuels, not including oil. I did not say they could be turned into liquid fuels. The supply of liquid fuels is the problem.

In addition to geothermal, there's wind power, solar power, biofuels, nuclear, etc, etc. The supply of energy is not the problem, it is the lack of oil, and the fact the other sources of energy are not a direct replacement for oil.

Peak oil is the problem we are facing here, peak anything else is a different problem.

Ummm, a lot of those fish farms (farmed salmon, an ongoing disaster) are feeding 3-4x as much wild-caught protein to their CAFO fish as they are producing in marketable protein. "The world's fish" are not coming from fish farms, they are going into fish farms -- as feed.

If you're talking land-based aquaculture of tilapia and other bottom feeders, that's a different story.

But raising predators to eat is never an efficient proposition, and that's what a lot of fish-"farming" is about these days. And don't even get me started on the collateral damage...

As a solution to the world's food supply problems, I was indeed thinking in terms of tilapia, catfish, and similar fish. I don't think 9 billion people can all eat salmon.

What I really meant, though, is that the world's wild fish will all be reduced in numbers to the point that most of our fish will have to come from fish farms. There won't be enough wild fish to feed many people.

I've seen estimates that a population around 2 billion is considered sustainable, but it depends what standard of living and consumption level we're aiming for.

Supporting current world population at a European level would require 3 Earths. Supporting everyone at a US consumption level would require 5 Earths.

Using actual living standards and consumption levels (much less on average than European) the world went into overshoot into the 1980s at a population around 5 billion. But 5 billion was clearly not sustainable, as most countries were seeking to raise living standards above a pitifully poor level at that point.

We're now at 7 billion and the overshoot is getting ever worse, at a faster rate each year. Plus carrying capacity will fall following fossil fuel exhaustion, soil and water table depletion, pollution, climate change and so on.

It's hard to look at these numbers and predict anything other than a colossal crash, coming soon.

Incidentally, I note the New Scientist report on Limits to Growth. It basically admits the Club of Rome were right all along; but starting from where we are now, there are no plausible model runs which avoid the crash. So, politically, we are now at the final stage of excusing inaction: "Yes there is a problem, and maybe we could have done something about it, but too late now..."

the ocean fisheries would have not almost disappeared by now

Do you have any good links for this info Ron? I ask because I have a brother who is trying to talk himself into investing in becoming more than just crew on an Alaskan boat because fine carpentry is not so steady right now. He's telling me Alaska fisheries are coming off 10 yrs of bumper production compared to the historical trend. Maybe that's limited to just Salmon or something, but he's not always a very thorough fact checker. Thanks.


This might have some detail that will help, from the UN Food and Ag Org...

One little snapshot they offer is this...

Of the 600 marine fish stocks monitored by FAO:
3% are underexploited
20% are moderately exploited
52% are fully exploited
17% are overexploited
7% are depleted
1% are recovering from depletion

I didn't see any date refs, but it points to this doc, published in '05 it seems.

One of the reason the salmon fisheries collapsed in the lower 48 states was that they built dams on all of the salmon rivers, which pretty thoroughly destroyed the salmon runs.

Alaska hasn't built any dams on any of its major salmon rivers, and British Columbia has largely kept its major rivers dam-free as well. The result is that the Alaska salmon runs are a lot better than elsewhere.

Although a lot of the collapse happened LONG after the dams were in place, which leads me to believe it was multi-factor and the dams are a convenient scapegoat.

Actually, most of the salmon run decline happened BEFORE the dams were built. It is estimated that by the time the first major dam was built on the Columbia in 1933, the salmon run was only 1/5 of what it had been in the 1850s. That decline was probably due to overfishing. However, building dams certainly reduced the amount of the river basis that was available for salmon spawning.

The global population is asymptotically approaching a limit of around 9 billion, which is probably sustainable indefinitely

At what living standards? Like third world peasants...sure no problem. Like westerners, not a chance in hell. Everyone in my country wants a car, an AC and a fridge. What are you going to tell them?

With 9 billion people, the majority of them will not have an American life-style, that's for sure.

However, if they are willing to live within their constraints, Chinese-style, then they can all do relatively well. This does, however, require a highly controlled, highly organized society - Chinese-style, again. A disorganized society will be one in which people starve.

I like to point out that China has less agricultural land than the US, and manages to feed 1.3 billion people on it, versus 300,000 for the US. They don't have the surpluses that the US does, though.

9 billion people can't all live in the suburbs and drive SUV's to work. The problem for Americans will be that they won't be able to, either. There will be too many other people competing for the same resources, and those Americans who believe the US will automatically win this competition are delusional.

A small apartment, a refrigerator, a wide-screen TV, and a computer are within reach for all of them. A car and an A/C? Only if they are extremely efficient and they don't use them much. Most people will have to walk or take the train or bus most of the time. The world's resources will not support American-style car use.

A small apartment, a refrigerator, a wide-screen TV, and a computer are within reach for all of them.

Your statements don't reflect reality, in Asia hardly 30-40% of the population has access to the things you mentioned above and even that is putting unimaginable pressure on the infrastructure, if everyone had access to these you'd need to increase power consumption by 2-3 times. Even with increased efficiency it would come to 1.5-2 times, an extremely difficult task and one that would destroy the environment. And I haven't even counted Africa and Latin America.

Earth's carrying capacity with everyone getting a small apartment, refrigerator etc is no more than 3 billion not 9.

You have to reduce the power consumption so you can run them off a solar panel, and then reduce the cost of solar panels so the average family in a developing country can afford one (assuming economic growth quadruples their income).

That's why I took the car and the A/C out of the picture. I don't think you can run them off solar panels at the price a middle-class family can afford (and I'm assuming that most families in the developing countries will move into the middle class).

By middle class, I mean middle-class by developing country standards - no SUV, no 3000 square foot house, no large lawn. Just a small apartment with a small refrigerator, wide-screen LCD TV, and a notebook computer. The more affluent will have a small car and an A/C.

Or how about a non-electric refrigerator??

This engineer in Tochigi Prefecture is designing and producing non-electric appliances. That's right, zero elctricity. I would really like one, when my life gets more settled down.

Atelier Non-electric

I don't think you are in touch with reality. In India 40% of the population is not connected to the grid. The average consumption per user is very small. Yet, the country suffers from massive power shortages with daily blackouts lasting several hours in major towns and cities. The problem (in addition to high transmission losses and theft) is that Indian power plants are not running at anywhere close to full capacity because the fuel is unaffordable. Two thirds of the Indian coal fired power plants have less than 7 or less than 4 days worth of coal on premises.

The overall rate of car ownership in India is very low (10 per 1000?). Yet the roads are completely clogged with chaotic traffic, there is no space for parking and in a typical Indian city it takes forever to cover a distance of just 5-10 miles.

In India 40% of the population is not connected to the grid.

But in China the proportion without power is 9% of the population. What does that tell you? China is much better organized than India.

the country suffers from massive power shortages with daily blackouts lasting several hours in major towns and cities. The problem (in addition to high transmission losses and theft) is that Indian power plants are not running at anywhere close to full capacity because the fuel is unaffordable

It has massive power shortages, but the power plants are running at much less than capacity. What does that tell you? The problem is economic in nature. Most likely that is due to poorly designed and implemented government regulations. You have to solve the government and economic problem before you can solve the power supply problem. Again, I think China is ahead of them on solutions.

I agree that China is better organized than India. China also has more money.
Right now in India the fundamental problem is that the government cannot afford to import more coal, NG, oil etc to burn in the power plants. So how are they going to give a middle class standard of living to 1.2 billion people?

S - I suspect the real reason is that China has/had a lot more coal to fuel development locally than India has and that coal is of higher quality for the purposes of industry and generation of electricity. Up until recently I believe that China was completely self sufficient on coal which meant that they've been able to fuel development on artificially low energy prices.

So how are they going to give a middle class standard of living to 1.2 billion people?

Power sources other than coal, NG, oil ! The rest of the world will be having to transition to these "other sources" as well. India should have good solar resources, and the seasonal variation is a lot less than it is in China or Europe. Its mainly just a matter of going ahead and doing it. Of course the old standard model, central power stations creating power on demand isn't going to fly, you have to contend with time of day and weather dependent sources. But, so will the rest of the world. It will be tougher IMO for the ROW, because they were spoiled by fossil fueled on demand power, rather than flow based -when available power. But, you could still construct something resembling middle class living around "when available" power sources.

70%-80% of the population of India lives on <= $2/day. I think bottom 40% lives on <=$0.60/day. They cannot afford to pay for electricity from renewable sources or even fossil fuels unless the price drops to 2001 level (unlikely).

But, could the Indian economy pay for it -presumably by taxes on the wealthier parts of society? Maybe you have a distribution of wealth problem? Besides at the current rate -especially in small isolated areas, PV is going to be cheaper than FFs (although part of that is FFs becoming more expensive).

In theory, yes. In practice, no. India is extremely corrupt and tax evasion among the rich and self-employed is extremely common. Who is going to crack down on the rich? The government is full of crooks with billions of dollars in offshore accounts. They are not going to prosecute themselves.

China's per capita energy consumption is also almost three times that of India (source : World Resources Institute)

It doesn't take a major technological advance to solve India's electricity problem. The problem is that the cost of electricity necessary to ensure sufficient supply will be too high for most people to afford. This is exactly the same point that people are making about oil in the future- we can produce enough of it but not at price people can afford to pay.

You thus end up with the great paradox- a country with an electricity shortage but one that has perfectly good plant(the Enron one) just sitting there. Even theft can't be cut down because the politicians need the votes of population that is stealing the electricity. They steal it in large part because they can't afford to pay for it.

The Chinese have one major advantage- because their economy is so much globally oriented they can afford to pay a much higher price for electricity which in turn makes it much easier to avoid the shortage.

I agree. As I said above the fundamental problem is that the government of India cannot afford to import all the coal, NG and oil they need to burn in the power plants.

However, if they are willing to live within their constraints, Chinese-style, then they can all do relatively well. This does, however, require a highly controlled, highly organized society - Chinese-style, again.

Regarding human behaviour and how clueless they are or want to be it would be a miracle to me if the world succeeds in growing to 9 billion inhabitants. Tensions are building because of Peakoil, so a 'Black Swan event' is looming.

"their constraints"? Please define. And what would be your constraints, my constraints and our constraints while you're at it?

The shocker is that China is actually exporting food...

Yes, China is actually exporting food despite the fact that it has four times as many people as the US, but somewhat less farmland. The technocrats who run the country realized some time ago that their historic food shortages and famines were really a result of bad economic management, rather than a lack of resources, and changed the economic system to encourage the farmers to grow more food. The result was that the food shortages and famines disappeared and they ended up with a food surplus.

Yes, China is actually exporting food despite the fact that it has four times as many people as the US, but somewhat less farmland.

Rocky, I know China exports food but I think they import a lot more than they export. But if you have a link that says otherwise then please post it.

And the link should be recent because Chinese imports of grain and other food products have increased quite dramatically in the last few years.

Chinese Agriculture Imports See Sharp Rise

China imported 1.57 million metric tons of corn last year, an 18-fold increase on year, the General Administration of Customs said Friday, confirming semi-official statistics released earlier this week.

Private-sector and exporter estimates show China may import 1-2 million tons of corn this year, a sharp increase from when corn imports were just 49,000 tons in 2008 and 83,000 tons in 2009.

China corn, soy imports to jump Dow Jones Newswires 01/04/2012 @ 7:57am

Separately, the government plans to buy 6 million metric tons of rice this year for reserves expansion, the person said, adding that the authorities will also help some companies set up commercial pork reserves in a bid to mitigate volatile price swings.

China is also set to raise imports of corn, soybeans, edible oil and cotton this year.

Ron P.

China has become a net exporter of food recently. The UN considers them self-sufficient. However, it varies widely year to year. Some years they have large exports, some years they must import. They tend to have a lot of surplus corn (which is not eaten much in China), while needing to import soybeans. And it's probably not sustainable. They use four times the global average of artificial fertilizers per hectare.

In addition to ramping up their own food production, the Chinese technocrats have realized that there is nothing wrong with importing food if they suffer a crop failure in China - as long as they can export enough manufactured goods to pay for them.

As I said elsewhere, crop failures tend to be localized to one continent, so if for example China suffers a failure in its wheat crop, odds are that Australia, Canada, Argentina, Russia, or France will have a surplus and they can import enough wheat from them to fill the gap.

They are, however, very sharp traders so they will maneuver to get the best price on it.

WTO Charts China's Growth as Food Exporter

The new World Trade Organization (WTO) report criticizing Beijing's policy on export curbs also paints a picture of China as the largest agricultural producer on the planet.

WTO's third review of China's trade policies and practices and their impact on the functioning of the multilateral trading system also charts China's dominance in food production.

"China is the world's top producer of agricultural products by value, with total production of about Y 4,078 billion (US$536 billion), says the WTO report.

It goes on to note that the share of agricultural production in the economy is falling as the Chinese economy grows. This is typical of a country undergoing an industrial revolution and a rapid growth in its manufacturing sector.

"Low labour productivity in agriculture reflects, inter alia, its high labour intensity, low average size of farms, and the lack of mechanization. The Government has been implementing agricultural reform to improve farmers' welfare and mitigate rural-urban disparities, and more recently to stimulate domestic demand in the face of the global economic slowdown since late 2008."

The agricultural sector is falling behind the manufacturing sector in terms of productivity, but that is because the manufacturing sector is growing so fast. The WTO then goes on to criticize the Chinese government's restrictions on agricultural exports and says they are unnecessary and an unfair barrier to world trade.

Don't forget the cellphone charger, cooling fans (highest penetration electric appliance in India) and sewing machine.

Japan, being islands with few resources, may be the first to experience overshoot.

Asexual young Japanese

Young Japanese farmers

Japan is an island culture which evolved over thousands of years of limited, self-evidently finite resources. It is extremely homogenous racially. and extremely conservative in the sense of sticking to traditional ways of doing things.

Although industrial Japan peaked at least 20 years ago, it did so basically because the people lost interest in economic growth. They are a declining population and have an extremely low birth rate. They have the longest life expectancy in the world (I think).

Once the economy collapses completely, there will be die-off as they will no longer be able to import enough food, but they are socially cohesive, and family and community will come first. Life expectancy will fall sharply, but it will be the old who will die. Society will get stronger, not weaker. Population will fall rapidly back to sustainable levels.

Japan has not completely forgotten how to live sustainably. There will be worse places to be living in the next 50 years.

I think certain periods of Japanese history can be seen as models of how to live sustainably in something like a no-growth economy.

But then, of course, there are other more expansionist periods of Japanese history. The existence of one does not negate the existence of the other.

Also, from the perspective of a place like the US, Japan may look very homogeneous, but keep in mind that the (dwindling) Ainu in the north are of a strikingly different stock and culture. Also there are many Koreans that have lived there for generations but are still seen as outsiders. The lowest cast 'Eta' are also seen as essentially non-persons, still widely discriminated against in a variety of ways. But ultimately none of this takes away from the main point that Japan is (or at least has been) a far more cohesive society, for better and worse.

Your first point makes me wonder if other 'Asian Tigers' such as South Korea or Taiwan, will turn away from growth soon.

Ralph,Your argument is incorrect.Why?
1.The past is not the future.
2.Modern Japanese youth has no affinity for the past.This is the MTV generation.
3.All skills that the ancient Japanese society had are dead and gone.
4.Japan of old was self sufficient because of low population and people lived austere lives since they had no FF.The new Japan is more populated and has had a taste of FF living.Try weaning them off this and see the outcry.
5.If Pi is correct that most of Japan is now irradiated then we are in deep trouble.
I have no idea how this will pan out but I see the collapse of Japan as a study case for the forthcoming collapse of advanced societies.Your points are relevant to a certain extent but the chain is strongest as it's weakest link and I see no way that the Japanese can survive this crisis without a major hit to their way of living.

My impression is that the northeast part of Japan is badly affected by radiation, but the rest is maybe OK, and the US has some areas affected by radioactive fallout too...
It's particularly Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba (parts), Tokyo (parts) Kanagawa (parts) that are pretty bad.

Collapse in Japan?? Don't you all think it is such a dual/binary issue? There are areas of the countryside where people will just go on, like in any traditional type of culture, not just Japan, and there are huge urban areas that haven't got a chance in the long run. But that long run could be years away....People are struggling hard to postpone this bleak vision of abandoned skyscrapers and shopping centers....it's like coming face to face with yourself, you know. You did it, you built it, you wanted it. Now look.

It's a bit too much reality for many. And I think that is why people in Japan have stopped wanting to be in relationships, there is a kind of sickening feeling of failure and excess. Who wants to share that? Better to stick it out alone.

but the rest is maybe OK, and the US has some areas affected by radioactive fallout too...

Quantities do matter. It's detectable on this side of the big pond, but nothing to cause harm. Most likely most of northern Japan is livable, but with measureable increase in cancer rates. Given how many people will accept an even higher increase in cancer risk, becuae smoking is cool, or life in the big city is more exciting, its only a big deal if people make it out to be one. The wildlife around Chenobyl is happily living without human interference, if they knew about the tradeoff (radiation or humans), they'd probably vote for the former.

The wildlife around Chenobyl is happily living without human interference,

The reason the Humans are gone from the area is based on the past Human interference. And increased cancer rates, smaller body size and smaller brains doesn't strike me as "happy".

I'm just saying, that life goes on, even in diminished form. The animals there have what to them appear to be natural lives.

Moving goalposts again: a slow, inexorable slide into biotic poverty and ever-meaner, less healthy, shorter lives for everyone who isn't in the exclusive elite ingroup of the dominant species.

In the toxic garbage dumps where Third World people pick over the detritus of industrial consumerism, "recycling" metals and small parts with bare hands and primitive tools, the children laugh and run and play -- even though they're not sure of their next meal, even though their small bodies are soaking up the chemical contamination, their projected lifespan truncated by marginal nutrition and toxicity. Because they are unaware of this, because it's the local "normal," what appears to them to be a natural life, because they are kids and can laugh and play anyway... doesn't really make it OK.

The animals around Pripyat can't know that their gene pool has been pissed in. Maybe they are lucky in that ignorance, but that still doesn't make it OK...

Oh gawd, it's just not a pretty picture. The consequences are coming home to roost. Ain't nowhere you can run...

You nailed that one.

Yes. I believe Japan has a chance to "not notice" the die off. Just increased poverty, and old people don't live as long. I know countries where I just don'tknow how they will avoid massive die offs and starvation. Japan does not have to be one of those.

Jedi,Can you explain why "Japan does not have to be one of those"?

They have massive techs, and a good healthy pop decline, wich is accelerating, to sugar the deal. I believe there will be at least some good years before the whole building comes down. In the meanwhile, they can keep exporting stuff while pop declines. If they also start building on their domestic food production, and reclaim land once people wont need the buildings and infrastructure, they will have a head start over most of the rest of us.

They will howerer not be spared, and they will be poorer. But this will kill off old people, who wont work on the farm anyway, thus accelerating de-pop further. With proper and timely management and planning, they may actually ride out this storm and have a controlled crash landing.

All this is based on the assumption climate change will not bite their face of and have it for breakfast, wich is of course wishfull thinking.

Why do you think the old people won't work on the farm?

They do now, why should they stop?

Sorry Jedi,not a good enough explanation.Tech is not the answer to the problem and the export juggernaut is coming to an end (with no electricity)after Fukushima.The rest of your post is "If" they do this and do that, which we know they will not.Maybe a few good years due to momentum from the past but not a pretty scenario even in the medium term.

export juggernaut is coming to an end (with no electricity)after Fukushima.

Electricty isn't the only reason to stop exports. One resin plant for semiconductors was shut down due to radiation contamination.

I can't predict what they are going to do. But since they have an ongoing and accelerating de-pop already now, they have options. They can shrink out of this. If they do the bst of the situation. Wich is in no way a given. As you point out.

The part about the young not wanting to have sex is crazy to me. I mean, we (wife and I) loathe children - we can't stand them, don't want them, don't want to be around them. Blech.

But sex? Is there some sort of hormonal thing going on over there? With contraceptives nowadays there's no requirement to associate sex with children at all so I don't see how it just has to do with kids. If those numbers are true, it leads me to believe there's some sort of sinister biological problem in the works. At 30yo, I can't even imagine not being interested in sex, much less back when I was in my early 20's.

The only thing I can relate to was when I was competing in bbing and toward the end and immediately following a steroid cycle you had no desire for sex for a few weeks until everything evened back out. That's why I wonder about some environmentally-induced defects going on over there.

Sex drive is something that is very much shaped by culture. You have some Arab men who consider impotence to be having sex only four times a day. And you have people like the Dani, who abstain from sex for five years following the birth of a child.

US anthropologists were sure that the Dani could not possibly abstain that long. They expected that there was a lot of sneaking around at night. But there wasn't. The men all sleep together in one large hut, and there was no sneaking around.

They attributed it to the generally "low psychic energy" of the culture as a whole, and perhaps that's what's happening in Japan. To me, it doesn't look like they turned away from growth, so much as gave up on it.

I can see in scenarios where there is an extreme social/religious prejudice against sex where it could be done, it's just I've never thought of the Japanese culture as one where that was embraced. It seems like the government is trying to do the exact opposite, actually (at least from my USA viewpoint). I don't know what media is like over there though, but I've always thought of their media as more sexually liberal than ours.

Still, I just can't imagine not being interested in sex, even if I tried. It seems like a biological urge that rears its head about 100 times a day, no matter how hard I try to concentrate at work :) Maybe I just have high psychic energy.

Still, I just can't imagine not being interested in sex, even if I tried. It seems like a biological urge that rears its head about 100 times a day, no matter how hard I try to concentrate at work :) Maybe I just have high psychic energy.

Try a blue collar work in a dirty noisy enviornment, with only blokes as work mates. Works for me, there is just nothing in there that triggers any sexual responses for me.

Ha ha, now take that and add several hundred thousand horsepower worth of rotational equipment and enough hydrocarbons to incinerate you a million times over and that's me. Though as an engineer most of my time is spent in my office...and strangely enough that's when these thoughts pop up (no pun intended). But yeah, out with the guys working with machinery I do find my thoughts more focused on the task at hand :)

Still, I just can't imagine not being interested in sex, even if I tried. It seems like a biological urge that rears its head about 100 times a day, no matter how hard I try to concentrate at work :) Maybe I just have high psychic energy.

Or maybe you frequent the dark side of the internet ... as the judge said - I know it when I see it.

A young friend of ours recently came out as asexual, and he wrote an article explaining himself:

The guiding principle to understanding asexuality is recognizing and appreciating diversity in human sexuality. There are billions of sexualities in this world and for each individual a unique interplay of libido, attraction, and behavior. Within the asexual umbrella, there is a wide range of how people experience their own individual sexuality. There are asexuals who desire and even seek out romantic relationships or sexual outlets; there are those who do not. In fact, many asexuals are quite sex-positive, seeking to understand other sexualities just as they want to be understood. There are even those for whom sexual attraction might be possible. I fall into this gray area, sometimes termed “demisexuality,” since I can develop sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection with an individual.

Then there are people like me, who do feel sexual attraction,but just is not interested in sex outside of a relation. In short terms, you get my body after you've won my soul.

But I'd never get the idea to label me asexual.

At the risk of offending sensibilities, it should be remembered that procreative sex between man and woman is just one of many types of sexual behavior.

There is also "nonprocreative sex" (using contraceptives), sex that doesn't involve penetration and ejaculation, homosexuality, bestiality, masturbation, etc.

Sex doesn't necessarily involve reproduction which I suppose is a good thing in these times.

Yes-- cultural and psychological. It's now pretty well accepted that sex addiction and sexual anorexia are often different sides of the same coin, and part of the same pathology.

This seems completely counterintuitive, but after you've seen this repeatedly in clinical practice, it starts to make sense. Think of binging and purging, and you start to get the picture.

Except with sexual anorexia, once the behavior flips over to abstinence, it can stay there-- you can live without sex, but not without food. And after a few years of that, re-establishing intimacy starts becoming much more difficult.

Personally, I feel that the desire to have sex can shut down-- fast, and in large populations. And I would suggest that the desire to have children is weaker than the desire to have sex, and could be shut down even faster.

I know not all of you agree. (KalimankuDenku, you raised some excellent points when we discussed this last, and there are real concerns about how this would play out in terms of genetic and cultural diversity.)

Another point: Asexuality and sexual anorexia are not synonymous, and differential diagnosis in this area is very, very challenging.

So, while I am probably more optimistic than most folks here about population control, I am also keenly aware of unintended consequences. This is partly because we don't want to lose demographics that have genetic potential that we need as a species. But I'm also really worried about the loss of intimacy in contemporary culture.

I do think intimacy is critical to survival. Or, perhaps more to the point, without intimacy, survival might be rendered existentially pointless.

Lots of ways to live, my friend.

"I've looked at love from both sides now.."

'Loathe Kids?' .. wow. Well, vive la difference, I guess.

Yeah when I'm driving my motorcycle down the street and see a kid, I pull over and kick 'em and then wheelie off. Actually I think it's the whole image and pressure society puts on procreating that puts us off. Everyone always asking why we have no kids, being bombarded with "think of the children!" craziness, the media/advertising pandering to kids... My wife associates being pregnant with "having a parasite growing inside of you".

It is technically true; the mothers imune system is attacking the fetus, but it has a counter measurement that confuses the imune system and fence of the attack. If this counter system fail, you have a spontaneous abortion. In most cases the woman will just experience a slightly delayed period. It realy is a whole other beeing, sucking your blood for 9 months.

(I know, they have independent blood circulatory system, but poeticly speaking...)

A substantial number of women (probably not a plurality) liked the way their body worked when they were pregnant. Some types of growth temporarily restart, gaing half a shoe size is common. Maybe the hormones are like a temprary fountain of youth. For others it can be darnright uncomfortable. Kids certainly change your lifestyle. You might lose the opportunity or desire for sex. And over the next twenty years, they place quite a large financial burden on you.

I refer to my kids as "the boat anchors"...

Hey, you're the one who said 'Loathe'.. I get that you truly have no interest in having kids, and that's fine with me, just that the language you used was a bit much.

I agree there is a lot of Cloying and Superficiality in many of the messages our society puts out about kids.. but there's a difference between buying into that pandering, and being connected to real kids who are growing up to become the next group of adults.

Japan, being islands with few resources, may be the first to experience overshoot.

No, almost every country on earth is currently experiencing overshoot. It has happened many times in the past. It happened to the Mayans, to the Easter Islanders and to several societies in the past. But this is the first time it has happened worldwide.

Remember overshoot starts long before people, or animals, start dying from the effects of it. In Eastern India, near the Burmese border, the bamboo fruits every 48 years. In a patch of bamboo that normally supports 100 black rats, sees the population swell to 4,000 at the height of the fruiting period. But when the population was only 3,000, the area was already deep into overshoot but the rat population was still growing. Rat Attack (53 minute NOVA program)

Ron P.

The author, Paul Chefurka, used to post here on TOD as gliderguider. In fact, this article (an earlier version?) was a guest post here, twice. Great stuff. Miss his insights.

And one of the first population supports seen to crumble are meds.

Greek Crisis Has Pharmacists Pleading for Aspirin


Shortages for half of the 500 most used meds in Greece.

Just in time inventories throughout US hospitals are the norm, the high cost of drugs has forced hospitals to cut out any surplus. The result is that just a blip in demand causes hospitals to scurry to other hospitals for late night loans of meds and hope that suppliers can fill the backlog in the next few days. Delivery services, commercial cabs, you name it already employed. Even several hundred mile night drives by the sheriff transporting narcotics. Makes for even more expensive meds.

Staving off death is more than chewing on willow bark. Shortages impact both ends, cheap vaccines we take for granted to prevent illness, and targeted drugs to combat existing diseases. To say nothing of evolving resistance, and the new #1 US killer, pneumonitis. Years of raising fish in high densities have proved one thing-it's not food supply per se that knocks out 80% of the crop. It's lowered resistance from sub optimum conditions that allows resident, background infection to destroy a population.


From above: "...the congressional pipeline supporters who has received campaign contributions from the oil industry (which stands to make billions if approval is granted)." In reality only a very small number of US companies will profit from the pipeline. The great majority of US oil companies, especially those in the Gulf Coast, will lose $billions of income if the pipeline is built as the influx of Canadian oil drives down domestic oil prices. It's the pipeline company and the refiners who want the line...not US oil companies. Makes sense once you remeber there is no "oil industry" per se. There are pipeline companies, exploration/production companies and refinery/product marketing companies. They have different objective and motives.

As usual in our capitalistic economy, some companies would win, others would lose:

Marathon Petroleum warns of fourth-quarter loss

E. Swanson

I think it depends on where your oil production comes from. If your production is in the Rockies, Mid Continent, West Texas or Canada then you are already loosing roughly $10/bbl (down from $20/bbl) because the Canadian oil currently makes it as far as Cushing and pretty much dead ends. You Gulf Coast producers are getting the "world price". If the pipeline gets built to take the oil all the way to the Gulf Coast refiners then your price might drop some, producers in the mid continent should get a little better price, and the American consumer should get a bit of a break at the pump. Then we can all go buy an SUV and use up our oil more quickly.

I would think the Canadians would be extremely pissed at the Obama administration for blocking the pipeline. They are the ones loosing billions of dollars for that $10/bbl discount they are giving us. I would also think that building a pipeline over the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific Ocean would carry a higher environmental cost than building it across the Nebraska prairie. One way or another I bet Canada eventually finds a way to sell their oil to the world.

A few years ago I saw a story wherein a Canadian railway executive said that they were ready to run a "pipeline on rails" to move petroleum from Alberta to other markets. Eastern Canada imports about as much oil as Western Canada exports (although I understand they are different grades and may not be fungible). Would it not be possible for western Canadian oil to move to this way Ontario and Quebec, or eastern USA ? I would think that the fact that the rails are in place and rolling stock could be found sooner than the pipeline could be finished (or even started) would make overland transport of fuel cost-effective.

Even better, why do the Albertans not refine their oil themselves and ship finished product?

Eastern Canadian refineries can't process "heavy sour diluted bitumen"

As well, incremental crude from Western Canada is largely heavy sour diluted bitumen. Other than the Irving refinery in the Atlantic, this type of crude cannot be processed in eastern North America. Without customers, a pipeline cannot be filled. One could try to export lighter crudes instead, but this will be more costly than importing sweeter crudes.

As far as I know, of the six refineries that once operated in Montreal, only one is still in operation and it is owned by the oil sands giant, Suncor. Suncor's two options are to convert the refinery to process heavy, sour oil, or shut it down because I don't think it is economic to continue to operate it on imported light oil. The former requires reversing the Sarnia-Montreal pipeline, the latter probably means abandoning both it and the Montreal-Portland pipeline.

And, yes you're right. Except for the Irving refinery, none of the other Eastern Canadian refineries can handle heavy, sour crude. The crude supply on the world market is increasingly sour and heavy, so their feedstock supply is diminishing. Eventually, they are going to face the same choice - convert to handle heavy crude, or shut down.

I suspect that in the face of falling demand, their choice will be to shut down, and eventually the whole Eastern Canadian market will be handled by the two remaining refineries - the Suncor refinery in Montreal and the Irving refinery in New Brunswick.

If the Montreal refinery shut down instead of converting to handle heavy oil, then Western Quebec could be supplied by the Ontario refineries and Eastern Quebec by the Irving refinery. I think the government of Quebec would be really, really unhappy about that.


I grew up in Montreal (my father grew up in the east end refinery district) and am only aware of three refineries.
Can you please provide details re. six refineries?

List of oil refineries in Montreal

  • Suncor (formerly Petro-Canada) - Montreal Refinery: 160,000 bpd.
  • Shell Canada - Montreal East Refinery: 161,000 bpd (closed in 2010)
  • Gulf Canada Oil - Montreal East Refinery: 65,000 bpd (closed for years)
  • Petromont S.E.C. - Varennes Refinery: 58,000 bpd (on standby)
  • Texaco - Montreal East Refinery (closed in 1980s)
  • BP - Montreal East/Anjou Refinery (closed in 1980s)
  • Imperial Oil Esso - Montreal East Refinery (closed in 1980s)

The three refineries that closed in the 1980s were probably demolished shortly thereafter and are now either storage terminals or empty fields. (Oil companies don't like to sell old refinery sites for redevelopment because the ground is usually heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals.)

I think that one of the reasons for the National Energy Policy was that Trudeau grew up in Montreal and didn't like to see all these refineries closing. However, they all ran on imported oil, and the OPEC price increases of the 1970s made them uneconomic - he was fighting the global economy. The oil price increases of the 2000s put the final nail in the coffin for the rest.

The sole exception is the Suncor refinery. Suncor produces over 500,000 bpd of oil from the oil sands, but they can't get it to their Montreal refinery unless the Sarnia-Montreal refinery is reversed. Petro-Canada was probably operating it at a loss, but I don't think Suncor is keen on doing that.

Thanks for the info, RMG


How difficult is it to retrofit a refinery to handle heavier sour crudes?

If there is already an existing east west pipeline wouldn't that be a simpler option than dealing with the political uncertainty in the United States?

The cost of retrofitting a refinery to handle heavy sour crude runs into the billions of dollars. It is worthwhile for a big refinery, but oil companies tend to just close the smaller ones instead.

The existing east-west pipeline only goes as far as Southern Ontario - and even at that is the longest oil pipeline in the world. It would require reversing the Sarnia-Montreal pipeline to get it to Montreal (already in the approval stages), and reversing the Montreal-Portland refinery to get it to the coast. The trouble is that Portland, Maine is in the US, so it again becomes necessary to run the gauntlet of the American political system.

And, once it gets to the coast of Maine, it is still a long way from the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the refineries are.

There is already a pipeline in place from Alberta to Ontario (Ontario gets most of its oil from Western Canada), and the pipeline companies are applying to reverse the pipeline that currently takes oil to Ontario from the East Coast to take Western Canadian oil to Montreal and possibly points beyond. These are very long pipelines and using trains would be much more expensive.

There are a lot of people in favor of building oil refineries in Alberta and shipping finished products rather than crude oil. It makes sense from a transportation standpoint. The problem with it is that there are already too many refineries in North America, and building more would just depress the already poor refining profit margins. It would be uneconomic to build new ones in Alberta and the investors would not be able to recover their money.

And the biggest beneficiary of all is Koch Industries, which is also the biggest supporter of the Tea Party movement in the US. Koch Industries, having purchased teh Republicans in Congress, now wants a return on its investment. That is understandable enough.

Recently the U.S. unemployment rate is put at 8,5%. Is that figure just election propaganda making ?

It depends on how you want to count it.

I think that reporting the unemployment rate without also reporting the workforce participation rate is always misleading.

I tend to look at shadowstats ( http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts )


calcuatedriskblog ( http://www.crgraphs.com/ ) for US unemployment values, but take them at face value for trends.

Concerning New York fracking articles uptop:

Hydrofracking New York: Energy Independence

Re: Wind-power: inordinately expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 emissions, up top:

Vestas cuts 3,000 jobs

Fossil fuels deplete and can have wild price spikes; wind does not. CO2 emissions are not the only reason for wind power. Wind is supplemental, the back up facilities mostly already exist.

Despite building hundreds of turbines in Iowa, no new back up facilities have been constructed as far as I know. Iowa now produces about 20% of its electricity from wind.

There is a good discussion drawing from a number of contributors here:


From the conclusion:

"Wind energy remains a highly controversial way to generate electricity for a variety of reasons, not least the costs and aesthetic impact. Claim and counter-claim dog any discussion on the topic and it is very hard to source impartial information. Therefore, when making a claim as grand and as eye-catching as "wind power can increase carbon emissions" (in order to support their objection to wind power), you would expect Civitas and Ruth Lea to cite some nailed-down, compelling research. But, instead, Civitas offers up a non-peer reviewed report published on the website of a long-standing critic of wind power. That is clearly not a high enough standard to convince someone of your argument and I feel Civitas and Lea are wrong to give this unsubstantiated claim such emphasis in both their report and the accompanying press release."

Near as I can tell, Civitas is what we would call a Libertarian think tank here in the US. So they have an agenda.

We are loaded with such here. Organizations which can't get their stuff published in reputable journals, set up their own non-peer revued journals, so that they can give the impression of respectability to politically motivated misinformation.

Do they have an agenda because they are a think tank? Because they are Libertarian? Or for both reasons?

Both. Think tanks are generally meant to influence policy. And they declare their political affiliation up front.

I think Nigeria may become the Libya of 2012. Several big things seem to be going on. First there is the "Boko Haram" group stirring things up in the north. Second: the riots from the fuel price increase. Finally, MEND seems to be quiet for the time being but perhaps they may decide to wake up amidst the other crises to resume their activities. Disruptions in Nigeria would affect the US a lot more than Libya did.

Nigerian oil union threatens to shut down crude output

With the government and unions locked in a showdown which has paralyzed Nigeria for three days, the biggest oil union said it was ready to halt oil production, although industry officials doubted it could shut down crude exports completely.

"Now that the Federal Government has decided to be callous minded, we hereby direct all production platforms to be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown," Babatunde Ogun, president of oil union PENGASSAN, said in a statement.

... Oil industry officials said a complete halt to oil exports was unlikely because processes were automated and some workers non-unionized.

I want to thank leanan for posting links to the ongoing discussion of Arctic methane over at RealClimate.

The latest post presents a program for graphing methane accumulations under various scenarios. Unfortunately, it is not possible to graph on it the most likely (and scariest) scenario whereby methane emissions from land and sea in the Arctic increase exponentially (because of feedback) until essentially all the carbon from those areas have been released into the atmosphere.

This is a good example of how the assumptions that go into constructing a model can limit the efficacy of the results.

Alder Stone Fuller: Why large-scale climate change (probably) cannot be stopped


Fear, despair, and denial are indulgences we cannot afford

This essay is not about good news. In fact, it is about some of the worst news our species has ever faced. Period. As I explain in detail below, climatologically-speaking, the future looks like a very rough ride. And I don’t even address other big issues like peak oil and global economic meltdown because I think climate change is going to have a much greater impact on humans (and other species) than the other issues.

In a nutshell, he makes a detailed argument that we are not facing a gradual change in the Earth's climate, what he calls type I, but that there is good empirical and theoretical evidence that the climate will shift very abruptly, or type II change, and probably within decades not centuries.

Not good news indeed.

I believe this is essentially the same thing James Lovelock has been saying, which would probably make the good folks at RealClimate turn their oh-so scientific noses up. Thank God for James Hansen, probably the only climatologist on the entire planet willing to pull his head out of his, um, database and risk being branded as "alarmist" by telling people how bad it really is.



I am a big fan of information but not all information is useful. It is interesting to know, for example, the concentration of gold in seawater but it is not what I would call "actionable information". Having that information does not lead me to change anything that I do.

Is there any "actionable information" in the report you link to? What should I, as an individual, do differently from my present eco-oriented lifestyle. I have little expectation that "they" will do anything intelligent. So what can "I" do? I believe most people are much more motivated by suggestions for individual action than they are by gloomy forecasts.

Not trying to be flip. I'd really like to hear some suggestions of things concerned individuals may not already be doing.




We're sitting around complacently watching the train wreck happen instead of getting angry at the idiots who have delayed action.

There are lots of 'actionable' things that can be done but without the political resolve to put a price on carbon emissions, mandate ambitious building energy efficiency standards (like Passive House/Passiv Haus), and invest in good public transport amongst a whole bunch of 'actionable' things then nothing gets done. And that political resolve isn't going to materialize if the extent of 'actionable' things we do is to live an "eco-oriented lifestyle"!

I am starting to get a feeling that the those in their teens and twenties are starting to realize that their inheritance is being destroyed and that they are facing greatly diminished expectations. Their anger at how little we did may leave little room for compassion as their parents generation age and becomes frail.


At this point getting angry only hurts me, (blood pressure, greater chances of having an accident, etc.). I can't mandate building standards or any such thing, that requires essentially the same societal realization as we would need to motivate real actions.

At least my kids will remember that my personal lifestyle was low energy (PV, using less, hybrid cars...), so it will be my generation, as opposed to me....

the political resolve to put a price on carbon emissions,

But putting a price on carbon emissions leads to entites placing themselves into that pricing scheme and enriching themselves - an enrichment that is guarenteed due to government fiat.

For every unit of money actually spent on Carbon control, a unit goes to places like Golman Sachs. Like health insurance companies are a parasitic load to healthcare, Goldman Sachs is a parasitic load to actual Carbon reduction.

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/12/08/uk-report-just-30-of-carbo... for the report on how little is actually spent on the actual goal.

Figure out a way to make the pricing providing actual meaningful change and you'll find your "political resolve".

I believe this is why a carbon tax is preferred by many over cap-and-trade systems.

Not trying to be flip. I'd really like to hear some suggestions of things concerned individuals may not already be doing.

Your question is entirely based on the assumption that we can "do" anything. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, I would suggest that the opportunity to "do" something passed several decades ago. This is primarily due to the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere, as Fuller describes in the essay I linked. Somewhat surprised you didn't glean that from your reading of it, assuming you did read it.

For example, if we stopped all carbon emissions today, completely stopped everything we do:

  • no cars, buses, trains, planes, or ships
  • no power plants,
  • no factories
  • no hot showers
  • no hot food

If everyone on the planet, all seven-billion-going-on-nine-billion of us voluntarily did nothing else but sit in the cold and dark and eat cold raw food from now on, guess what? The climate would continue to destabilize and sea levels continue to rise for decades if not centuries to come.

That said, I was recently skimming through an article on human evolution, so if it is any comfort to you then I am pleased to report that humans have demonstrated the ability to adapt to chaotic climate in the distant past.

I won't speculate on what sort of adaptation we currently face, or how many breeding pairs of humans will come out on the other side of this particular bottleneck, but given the damage we've already managed to do then I would say, in my opinion, there really is only one thing any of us can "do" at this point:

Adapt or die.


For example, if we stopped all carbon emissions today, completely stopped everything we do:
no hot showers

Perhaps burning the straw man being erected would provide enough Carbon neutral energy?

Because 'hot showers' can be obtained without Carbon emissions. Evacuated glass tube technology is the path to take for that.

Yeah, the "hot showers" thing is very low hanging fruit for many. I've been astounded by those who wring their hands, scratch their heads "what to do? what to do"?

And the "it's too late so party on" attitude, jeez....

Yeay for no showers from october to april, living in Sweden as I do.

And this "shower failure" is due to Evacuaed Glass Tubes not working?

"no power plants,
no factories"

There will be no one to build your Evacuated Glass Tubes.

There is no technology that I can afford that will alow me to get hot water from the sun in the winter. First of all, the sun must be above the horizon, and when it is, I am at work. And I live in the south parts.

Less than 4% of electricity in Sweden is from fossil fuel (hydro, nuclear, biomass, and wind make up 96% of generation), so if you use an electric water heater, switching to solar would be rather pointless from a carbon perspective.

"I am pleased to report that humans have demonstrated the ability to adapt to chaotic climate in the distant past"

Not so distant. The Younger Dryas and the 8200 year event were both drastic onsets and recoveries. People migrated as needed. You can do that if you are not a farmer.

If you want to read some more on the topic, read "The Long Summer" by Brian Fagan.

Alder Stone
The Sciences & Mathematics of Gaia

I have to say that I tend to move along the instant I see the name "Gaia", denoting the nonexistent ancient Greek goddess - or some likewise nonexistent New Age counterpart hallucinated by some addled 20th century mystic who, unlike the ancients, had no excuse whatever for failing to know better. The very use of this name-of-nothing tends to indicate that nothing more will follow than some magical mystical New Age crackpottery devoid of any possible significance. So why not indeed leave these matters to the scientifically-minded "good folks at RealClimate"? Especially when the proffered alternative is merely a bunch of assertions adding up to "the end is nigh, for the system is complex"?

I normally don't respond to trolls, but in this case I do feel compelled to point out that despite obtuse, knee-jerk rants about "mystical New Age crackpottery" to the contrary, all the Gaia theory really states is that the Earth has developed a kind of homeostasis that is conducive to life.

Fascinating, really, if you take the time to do a bit of homework and make even the tiniest bit of effort to form a cogent, semi-intelligent thought on the subject.


The linked page by A. S. Fuller suggests that the Earth's climate is due for some rapid changes. He weaves a story with bits of factual information, but misses some big points. For example, he points to rapid changes found in the ice core data, but glosses over the fact that these changes may be the result of ice sheet dynamics, a situation which does not fit our present warm interglacial world.

Fuller also repeats the usual incorrect impression of the sea-ice/ocean albedo feedback, writing:

Loss of ice is a positive feedback that accelerates warming. Why? Because whereas ice reflects more than 80% of solar radiation, cooling a region, dark ocean water absorbs more than 80% of solar radiation, heating the region, accelerating ice loss, etc.

While these differences are true at lower latitudes, they do not apply in the Arctic. The ocean albedo is much greater because the low elevation of the direct beam increases the amount of energy reflected from the surface. Add in cloud cover and the amount of energy reaching the surface can be quite small. At the same time, in summer, the albedo of sea-ice decreases as melting proceeds and ponds form on the surface, thus the albedo of the sea-ice becomes more like that of the open ocean. That's not to say that there's a difference in albedo on land between fresh snow and bare ground, but in forested areas the trees stand above the snow and keep the albedo lower. These processes are not as simple as Fuller implies.

I am not denying that rapid climate change can happen, just that I think his scenario is a bit off. He doesn't appear to consider changes in the ocean thermohaline circulation, which is known to exhibit different modes of sinking, switching to these different states rather rapidly. Worse, when one reads to the bottom of the page, he hits you with a "please contribute" link...

E. Swanson

BD/ES - What are your thoughts on the role of the latent heat of fusion? I can't help but wonder what impact it has that as ice mass declines, each year there is less to be melted, so there is additional incoming solar radiation that can be absorbed by ocean/atmosphere as heat, rather than being used for the phase change from ice to water. The ratio as I understand it is 80:1 - it takes 80x more energy to melt ice than to raise the temp of water by a degree. So what effect does all that extra available heat have on the possibility of abrupt climate change? Or even just on the acceleration of arctic ice decline?

Edit - Anybody?

Heat of fusion isn't a big deal wrt. the global energy balance. The amount of heat needed to warm the liquid part of the oceans is very much larger -because of the depth. So melt a meter of ice, or heat 80M of water by 1C, both require the same heat input.

OK, so in the 'pre' phase, with ice covering the Arctic Ocean to the extent of 6-8 million kms2 in summer, some 80-90% of incoming solar radiation is reflected away, and of the remaining 10-20%, it goes to melting that meter of ice. Then, in the 'post' phase, with the ice gone in summer, some 80-90% of incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the water, and can raise the temp as you note. 1C to 80 meters deep seems like a lot of heat over millions of kms2. And it's not just 80x more heat, it's something like 320x more heat (assuming 80% absorption vs. 20% [of the radiation the gets through the clouds] before the ice melt). Seems a big deal to me. Certainly enough to: accelerate further ice loss, prevent ice re-forming in fall, alter ocean currents, affect heat transfer over land and therefore weather patterns, NAO etc...

And melt the trillions of tons of methane hydrate at the bottom of much of the ocean.


The albedo change is still significant. Obviously it doesn't go from 80% to 20%. Especially considering that the polar oceans are pretty cloudy places. But a change from say 50% to 30% sounds entirely plausible to me. I don't think the heating is going to be quite so fast, as much of the extra heat is transmitted into the ocean where it gets incorporated into the oceans circulation. The delay for a given extra BTU, may be quite long because of that.

We don't know all the sorts of potential rapid changes of state that could happen. You are right that during the melting of the big ice age glaciers, there were a lot of places where large amounts of water could be dammed up, then suddenlt released. Also floating ice shelves in places like Hudson's Bay which could collapse fairly rapidly. There still is a lot of ice, but most of it doesn't seem vulnerable to those sorts of precarious states.

But, we will just have to see. Since the summer/fall sea-ice has been greatly reduced, winters seem to charcterized by extreme values of the arctic oscillation (eith positive (like now) or negative. Perhaps this is a new normal? In any case variability of shortterm climate (on the order of several months), seems to have gone way up. Lower polar versus equatorial temperature gradients, make for a slower jetstream. And a slower jet is thought to be more vulnerable to large scale kinking, and getting stuck in a pattern for months at a time. So maybe we've already flipped the system into a less friendly state?

The ESAS (East Siberian Arctic Shelf) contains about 1500 Gt of methane. If you enter it into the model as a pulse lasting 20 years, the model shows the solar forcing staying around ~16 W/m2 for 100 years. This would approximate an exponentially increasing release similar to a bell curve. Unfortunately the graphs do not show the effect on ozone.

Unfortunately the graphs do not show the effect on ozone.

And it is interesting to note that there has been an increasing trend in the UV index with more 'watch out for UV radiation' warning days than in the past.

Saudi Arabian Oil Production near limit


This newspaper is owned by a member of the Dubai Royal Family.


I can't help thinking that this is to dissuade an attack on Iran, and under different circumstances, they would be once again claiming they could turn on the taps and flood the market.

An interesting aspect of this story is where it was published.

Fairly obscure news source - UAE & KSA are VERY tightly allied - owned by ruling family of Dubai.

Not in Reuters, Bloomberg, WSJ, The Times, Der Spiegel or any other "major" outlet.

Before, this paper has shown that they have access inside KSA that others do not have.


Alan -

Reuters posted it yesterday http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8829#comment-863569 but I agree it is significant.

Now to fathom why the royals chose to reveal this info now.

To paraphrase the line from 'The Hunt for Red October'... The 'Saudis' don't take a dump without a plan.

The 'Saudis' don't take a dump without a plan.

And simulate said dump before and after with a gigacell model.

As Seraph said, it's a Reuters story. He posted it in the Drumbeat yesterday.

Better stock up now. Fortunately, Twinkies last forever.

Twinkie-maker Hostess files for bankruptcy
The maker of Twinkies, the well-known cream filled sponge cake, files for bankruptcy protection in the US, citing the economic downturn.....


If I remember correctly, Twinkies have a shelf life of roughly one month.

The Wiki article on the subject say the shelf life is greatly over stated in popular culture, and is realy in about the length you sugest.

They would have an extremely long shelf life here. They would stay on the shelf as I pass, shuddering at the thought of them, until they finally get up, walk out and hurl themselves into the bin in despair.


I sometimes succumb to the chocolate variation of Twinkies, the Susie Q. When I do, I'm reminded why it's been so long since I ate the last one. But occasionally the banana Susie Q will appear. I'm a sucker for fake banana flavor in anything from caramels to pudding.

Incidentally, I remember the original Twinkie -- a round cake with a depressed top filled with creme. Messy to wrap, hence the present version.

Twinkies last forever.

Maybe we acquire a bunch real cheap at the firesale (like some people bought solyndra panels at $.20/watt). If they are indestructible, they might make good building materials.

Anyone remember the episode of "Family Guy" where they're hit with a nuclear disaster. And they're only hope is to trek to the Twinkie factory in Natick Massachusetts.

The Y2K episode :)

A military coup might soon occur in Pakistan as the civilian government tries to assert its authority and the military fights back: http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/11/pm-sacks-secretary-defence.html


Pakistan Army Warns Clash With Gilani Government May See ‘Grievous’ End

“The government is moving on the presumption that the Supreme Court and the military have ganged up against it,” said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of the Center for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad research institute. Lodhi’s firing suggests that the government is “in a confrontational mode” against the army and court, Gul said in a phone interview.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Dec. 30 ordered a judicial commission to probe allegations by businessman Mansoor Ijaz that Zardari’s former envoy to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, sent a memo to senior Pentagon officials seeking help to prevent any military power grab after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in an army garrison town.

The intensifying clash between army and civilian leaders comes amid Pakistan’s worst-ever energy crisis, which has shut factories and sparked violent street protests in the biggest cities. The government cut its growth forecast for the economy in the fiscal year ending June to 3.6 percent from 4.2 percent.

Why is the Obama administration worried about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons while turning a blind eye to Pakistan's real nuclear weapons? This is an unstable, dangerous country where powerful elements in the military and ISI are in cahoots with the taliban and al-qaeda. After all OBL was caught hiding within a mile of Pakistan's military HQ.

I think its a double combination of factors. The first is our obsessive attitude ever since the national indignity of the hostage crisis a third of a century back. I think too many people are secretly hoping for payback. Associated with that is the propensity to believe only bad/scary things about the Persians. Then you have the Israeli influence. They are concerned about Iran, which bankrolls both Hezbolla, and Hamas, and likes to make noises about the palestinian issue. And well the US has plenty of millenarian Christians, who want to see prophesies that they think must be fulfilled before the second coming come about. It all makes Iran bashing an easy way to political popularity. And they have done some genuine harm in the meantime. The marine barracks bombing in Beirut being the most serious incident that was carried out by their Hezbollah proxies. In the current US political climate, trying to makeup with former enemies is hugely risky (politically), so it just isn't done.

Pakistan is just a mess, as far as the US is concerned. During the long cold war, the US sided with Pakistan, against Russia with India as a mild Russian ally. Old habits die hard. Then we (US) are really in quite a pickle with them, we need their help to fight AlQaeda (which by now is largely in our very active imaginations). yet we don't trust them. And they absolutely detest us. But, we try to muddle through with the current situation for a bit longer.

I agree with everything you said.

The day before Pakistan tested their first bomb, they were a dangerous military dictatorship with Islamist tendencies in a low level war with our democratic ally India.

The day after Pakistan tested their first bomb they were a valued democratic ally in the War on Terror (tm).

Because we already own them?

Because, perhaps, the issue isn't really nuclear weapons?

Wherever nuclear weapons are present they are always the most important issue. The possession of nuclear weapons turns men into gods in a very concrete way.

Gods deal with other gods differently than they deal with men.

@r4ndom it is rare for us to agree :-) but that was well put.

Not so rare as you might think, and I appreciate the feedback.

Exactly. Watch the birdie...

Axion sees future in lead-acid-carbon hybrid battery

... The PbC battery is a combination of conventional lead-acid battery lead-dioxide positive electrode with a proprietary activated-carbon supercapacitor-like negative electrode.

According to reports, Axion has been able to improve the durability and charge rate while reducing weight over the typical lead battery by 30 percent. One advantage that Axion points to is the battery’s fast rate of charge--minutes or even seconds depending on the application. Another advantage the company points to is that its PbC batteries are fully recyclable and a fraction of the cost of non-recyclable chemistries.

OU researchers to test 'quad porosity simulation' model for shale gas reservoirs

... One of the key developments of the research team over the last year is predicting the phase behavior of gas condensates in nanopores. As development activity, spurred by low gas prices, is focusing on the liquids-rich regions of shale gas plays, a concern of immediate significance is how to model gas condensates in nanopores. In conventional reservoirs, at low pressures, a phenomenon called condensate dropout occurs, which restricts the available pore space for gas to flow, thereby impairing well performance.

The OU research team has been able to show that in very small organic and inorganic nanopores, the influence of pore walls on fluid behavior is such that gas condensates tend to behave as dry or wet gases leading to a considerable decrease in condensate dropout. This development further explains the prolific production of rich gas-condensate fluids from these extremely tight reservoirs while conventional knowledge tends to indicate higher well productivity impairment.

also http://shale.ou.edu/

The OU research team has been able to show that in very small organic and inorganic nanopores, the influence of pore walls on fluid behavior is such that gas condensates tend to behave as dry or wet gases leading to a considerable decrease in condensate dropout.

Sound a little gibberishy ?

....project was funded by the Research for Partnership to Secure Energy for America...

Someone selling something to someone ? Sponsored research needs to be taken with a grain of salt, IMO.

The path less traveled: Research is driving solutions to improve unpaved roads

"One of the problems with unpaved roads is that they are made from loose granular soils with particles that are not bound to each other on the road surface," Smith said. "This limits the speed of vehicles and often generates a lot of dust, denigrating the quality of the road."

But possible solutions could come from lignin, a biomass product that is present in all plants, including wheat straw, sugar cane and corn stover. Lignin is a waste product from other industries, including the production of biofuel and paper. These industries take plant mass and use the process of hydrolysis to separate useful materials, including cellulose and hemicellulose, from lignin.

Several properties make lignin a valuable material. It is adhesive when it becomes moist, making it good for binding soil particles together and providing cohesion. As a result, lignin works very well on unpaved roads by providing better support for vehicles and protecting the road from erosion.

Interesting. 70% of KS roads unpaved - that was a jolt for me (in OH). County Engineers here make a point of telling you there are no unpaved roads in their county. Maintenance costs may make that unsustainable long term, and this approach may make unpaved roads more acceptable.

Summary for those who don't like toread long texts:

They will pour glue on the roads.

Dirt roads up here used to get sprayed with used crankcase oil.

Curious to know what the other factors in Lignin might turn out to be..

I'd take lignin over breathing in VOC's and PAH's anyday.

Or Erionite - present in North Dakota roads though I don't know about the area where the drilling ruckus is occurring.


Good summary!

I wonder if it would be possible to just use the black liquor from pulp making? This stuff is basically a lignin "solution", and somewhat acidic, and is just burned for heat recovery in most pulp mills.

Neutralise it with lime, and then apply and work into the road surface, compact and call it a day.

Of course, the use of wheat straw in earth building materials is nothing new, that is how the Egyptians strengthened their mud bricks.
Another way is to use animal dung, which is, really, processed lignin.

See Top-Seal. Reading the Company info leads me to believe the product contains lignin.


Thanks for that link. I may print off a copy and drop it into our local Ayutamiento. It looks like just what we need here.


Actually, their product is not lignin, it is a proprietary vinyl-acetate polymer. This is also known as PVA, and is in fact the base component of common carpenter's glue! (Jedi Welder was right!)

The US Army did an extensive trial on dust control products, including Top- Seal, Lignin and the gold standard, calcium chloride. CaCl2 came out on top, with lignin a close second, and Top-seal was the shortest lived. (It may perform better when used under roadways or permeability reduction applications, as the Top-Seal website suggests.)


The most amazing thing from reading the report is the amount of vehicle driving the US Army does at their bases!

How does the Calcium Chloride help? I can understand the other two but not that. I can't help but think it could be as nasty as the dust either. Maybe I need to try mixing a few buckets of PVA and pouring it around the road, see what happens.


From the report;

Dust-Fyghter, a 38% calcium chloride solution, is a hydroscopic surface penetrant that binds fine soil particles together by absorbing moisture from the air. Dust-Fyghter has been used effectively on gravel roads throughout the United States by State Departments of Transportation for dust control on unsurfaced roads. This extensive use indicates its ease of application and adaptability to a wide range of soil types and climatic conditions. Dust-Fyghter also offers good soil surface penetrability, especially if soils are somewhat damp from recent precipitation or application is preceded by prewetting. Curing times are relatively short (0 to 4 hours) depending on weather conditions. Dust-Fyghter can be applied with a water truck or asphalt distributor capable of metered application at rates generally between 0.45 and 0.55 gallons per square yard.

I am surprised that it works this well too, but clearly it does.
CaCl2 also makes a good ice melter, not that you need that in Mexico!

He would be more than welcome to come here and test it - PLEASE!


Plants at risk from seed dispersal threats

Drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat fragmentation and climate change, are threatening seed dispersal around the globe, a study has warned.

Scientists said plant species that were unable to adapt were being driven "to the brink of extinction in most human-modified landscapes".


More efficient, smaller crew 757's on the trans-Atlantic routes can't always make it all the way to their intended destinations, and are forced to re-fuel mid-way. Another adaptation to high fuel costs and reduced passenger volumes: the end of the non-stop flight.

There's a climate change angle here to, maybe? The industry is citing unusual strength of the head winds over the Atlantic.

A friend of mine who works for the City of Summerside, PEI tells me that the City's promotion of ETS (Electric Thermal Storage) heating systems is going well.

See: http://annonces.transcontinentalmedia.com/pdf/10JP/5385393.pdf (PDF format)

The ETS heaters that are being installed are linked to the city's municipal utility by way of a two-way fibre-optic network and can be recharged whenever excess wind energy is available, day or night. The City generates much of its electricity internally at its own wind farm and purchases additional power from a neighbouring wind producer under long-term contract. Unfortunately, there are times when the supply of wind energy exceeds demand and in the past this meant it had to be sold at below cost to other utilities, and so this is where these ETS heaters come into play. Now, this excess energy can be sold to local residents and businesses for space heating purposes, at 8-cents per kWh, a rate that's locked-in for five years. That's roughly the equivalent of fuel oil priced at 70-cents a litre (82% AFUE), or about one-third less than the going rate.

With this in place, the City can continue to add additional wind capacity to its system without incurring a financial penalty. Secondly, local residents can heat their homes and businesses at a reduced cost and keep their dollars within the local economy as opposed to exporting them overseas (profits generated by the municipal utility support local services). It also helps reduce the province's dependence upon foreign energy and it's exposure to price volatility (some 90 per cent of homes in the province are heated by oil). And, of course, it reduces the province's CO2 emissions and makes for a cleaner, healthier environment.


Way to go FTW. Down here, our lightbulb exchange is still going strong and every time I am in the supermarket there is someone changing their bulbs. Interestingly it is also clearing the shelves of traditional bulbs as people buy 4 bulbs, to exchange, then scuttle round to the services counter to exchange them :)



Glad to hear the lamp exchange programme is going well; the sooner we abandon incandescent lighting, the better.

Here in the Maritimes we have great wind resources and wind output is strongest during the winter months which is precisely when this energy is most needed (our utilities are winter peaking). In fact, in some parts of Nova Scotia wind guts of up to 200 km per hour are not uncommon (i.e., Les Suêtes) so, ironically, the problem can be too much wind, not too little.

See: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2012/01/11/ns-wind-turbine-cape...


Interesting turbine, I wonder how it scales up? I read something, a while back, about research on vertical turbines that could mean they could be placed closer together than the 3 bladed ones. Wind and storage heaters are a good match, hot water too. Now we need storage fridges and freezers. My parents had storage heaters for many years, the cats thought they were wonderful. In winter you always knew exactly where to find the cats.



Good question. I confess I'm not overly optimistic about its prospects.

With respect to cats and storage heaters, see the 48-second mark of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv2tdCEBkKg&feature=related


That turbine is another version of a drag turbine, which produces torque because of the difference in drag between the receding vanes and the advancing ones. This one is much like the Savonious Rotor design, except that there are extra curved vanes. The baffles around the outside might help a bit, but the internal air flow within the "cage" is going to be very unsteady. I suspect that the overall efficiency of this system will be much less than that of a horizontal bladed design. By efficiency, I mean the percentage of that possible from an area perpendicular to the wind, with the Betz Limit representing 100% efficiency. Of course, the story doesn't go far enough into the description to tell us what the efficiency might be. Still, there's a resource to be captured and these might do well with the high wind speeds in the area, since the design is automatically speed limited.

HERE's a link to the manufacturer's web site, GUAL STATOEOLIAN. The tech data for their 8m diameter by 3 meter high machine shows an output of 1.3 kw at 54 km/hr, 4.4 kw at 90 km/hr and 10 kw at 140 km/hr...

E. Swanson

There used to be some vertical axis turbine on the Altamont. But, they were all torn down about a decade ago. It was concluded they weren't a good way to go. The problem is the offaxis torque. If you only are mounted on the bottom, the horizontal forces great quite a moment (torque), that is bad for wear on the rotor. They really did look cool though.....

The new 2.3 MW three bladed machines look real nice. And they seem to have a much larger range of wind speeds that they operate in. I read that the practical size limit for land WTs, is transport difficulties for the blades. Roads have bends in them, which limits blade length. For ocean turbines, the assumption is you can barge them around so lareg WTs are doable. I guess if someone can figure out how to make good blades in two pieces which can be put together on the deployment site, then maybe 10MW land WTs might be doable?

"I guess if someone can figure out how to make good blades in two pieces which can be put together on the deployment site,"

The Navy had folding wings on carrier aircraft since WWII. It's certainly possible to make them in sections. There will be a weight cost though.

http://www.wwea.org/ for yet another turbine design.

the sooner we abandon incandescent lighting, the better

I guess we should not be surprised that the ever-reliable Know-Nuttin Party (aka Tea Party) has designated the incandescent lightbulb a precious endangered species to be preserved...

Congress Grants Reprieve to 100w Incandescent Light Bulbs, Victory for Tea Party

“The light-bulb ban is government overreach at its worst,” Nick Loris, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, which says it promotes conservative public policies, said in an e-mailed statement. “Washington has absolutely no business in dictating what you can and cannot purchase.”

FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group affiliated with the Tea Party that said it backs limited government, had urged activists in a blog post to resist the “federal light bulb police.” Website visitors were encouraged to sign the group’s “Free Our Light” petition sent to Congress.

You can't make this stuff up....

We just swapped out a string of 4 300w incandescents in the workshop. My partner was working in the dark out there because he hated to turn the damn things on -- 1.2KW just for lighting!! -- so we exchanged two for fairly bright CFL and two for 100w floods (at least they are silvered). Long term plan is for tube fluorescents, when we can afford to throw some more bux at the lighting issue. We were shaking our heads over the previous owner... what was he thinking?

I'm trying out some of those new Phillips LED Edison bulbs (there was a pretty serious sale on them in November at a local hardware superstore); they give a good warm white light, but some of them "sing" at a high frequency which I find a bit irritating. The light is far preferable to CFL imho so I think I'll just have to put up with the electronic whine.

Hi RA,

If they're MR16s what you're hearing is the internal cooling fan. I tried one in our home and I can't stand it because the high pitch whine drives me nuts. We use Philips LED products exclusively in our retrofit work, but I never specify their MR16 replacement for this reason (it's a shame because, otherwise, it's a really nice lamp).

With respect to your shop lighting, give Efficiency Nova Scotia a call at 1.877.999.6035 and see if they can help you out.


Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending January 6, 2012

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.9 million barrels per day during the week ending January 6, 181 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 85.6 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 8.7 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging about 4.8 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.9 million barrels per day last week, up by 883 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged about 8.9 million barrels per day, 152 thousand barrels per day above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 444 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 163 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 5.0 million barrels from the previous week. At 334.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 3.6 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 4.0 million barrels last week and are in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories decreased by 0.9 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 9.4 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged 18.4 million barrels per day, down by 6.5 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged 8.6 million barrels per day, down by 4.8 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged about 3.8 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, down by 2.2 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 1.4 percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.

Gasoline Demand and Gasoline Imports both in sustained fall

Starting about a month ago, gasoline use in the US suddenly decreased from the levels that prevailed through most of 2011 – which was a gradual decline in the range of 1% to 2. Although the fall in gasoline demand may be possibly partly related to more 'holiday time off' than is usual around New Year’s, a trend has become clear - the US may be entering some type of renewed consumer downturn affecting total gasoline usage. There is accumulating evidence that reasonably good Christmas sales were mostly financed by a credit card binge - and mostly confined to some high priced consumer items like plasma TVs. So superficial gains in total retail sales, spurred by large ticket items, may be concealing a fall in demand in other retail categories. Also about December 27, the EPA set forth new mandates for the use of ethanol, which consequently will reduce the need for gasoline. It is expected ethanol use will grow by about 10% during 2012 because of these mandates.

However in the downward race between falling demand and falling supply, imports of gasoline also fell sharply. In addition, Northeast refiners - planning for a virtual or actual shutdown due to falling imports of high quality oil from Africa - reduced their output to barely above 50% of potential capacity (see comments on this by EIA administrator below). Another source of supply, gasoline imports, have been severely impacted by the closing and reduced operating rates of various Petroplus refineries throughout Europe, restricting the regular flow of excess gasoline in Europe as imports into the US to about half normal levels.

Somewhat surprisingly, Midwest refiners are operating nearing flat out, at 98% of capacity. Midwest refinery companies have invested heavily in upgrades and have turned around their refineries to be better equipped to process cheaper, lower quality oil from the 'tar sands' region of Canada.

Crude oil imports last week were well above average for the latest six months, although most if not all of the extra imports could be related a bounce back from two factors which reduced imports very late in 2011. The first is the unusual shipping delays in the Texas-Louisiana region due to fog and also a ship collision. The second is an intentional seasonal effort to reduce oil supplies in storage, where they may be subject to state and federal inventory tax based upon the increase in the market value of oil during 2011.

Going forward, oil imports are expected to return to the lower levels seen in late fall - maybe slightly less. Excluding some recent weather delays near Mexican ports, China has grabbed a larger portion of world oil and product exports in recent weeks. While China's December oil imports slowed, its diesel imports picked up sharply (see below). China's year end deal making surge, for January delivery dates, appears to be related to worries about Iran's sanctions, and also buying in advance of Chinese holidays. In the last month, per the tanker tracking consultancy, Oil Movements, OPEC exports have remained remarkably stable following the last widely publicized OPEC meeting in December.

Dayton Daily News (OH)
January 11, 2012

Cost of gas likely will rise in Ohio
East Coast refinery shutdowns will ripple through the region.
John Funk The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

Refinery shutdowns on the East Coast this year could force Ohioans to pay more for gasoline, a leading energy official says.

“Your region’s refineries might become a source of products to the western part of the East,” said Howard Gruenspecht, acting administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Midwest has been a good place to operate a refinery, he said.

Midwestern refineries have been able to use lower-cost crude oils shipped here from the Gulf Coast by pipelines. Gasoline also can be shipped to the Midwest, if needed.

But by this summer, all bets about incoming oil supplies and outgoing gasoline and diesel fuels will be off.


Chinadaily.com.cn , Source: The Financial Times Limited
January 11, 2012
Rate of crude oil imports falls
Zhou Yan

As China's economy slowed in 2011, so did the growth rate in the amount of crude oil it was importing.

In December, China imported 21.92 million tons of crude oil, down 3.4 percent from November.

Customs' figures also showed that China imported 4.04 million tons of fuel and diesel in December. That was the most since August 2008, when a widespread shortage of diesel fuel prompted refiners to try to meet the demand by increasing their refining capacity.

The amount of diesel and fuel imported increased for three consecutive months, starting in October.


EPA: Ethanol production expected to grow in 2012

U.S. Gasoline Use Declines to Seven-Year Low, MasterCard Says

Retail Sales Unlikely to Tell True Spending Story

ConocoPhillips to demolish Trainer refinery if no buyer found by March

Somewhat surprisingly, Midwest refiners are operating nearing flat out, at 98% of capacity. Midwest refinery companies have invested heavily in upgrades and have turned around their refineries to be better equipped to process cheaper, lower quality oil from the 'tar sands' region of Canada.

The Midwest refineries have been upgraded to handle Canadian crude bitumen (because Midwest oil production has declined drastically over the past few decades) and they can buy Canadian bitumen cheap, cheap, cheap because of increased oil sands production and the pipeline bottleneck at Cushing, OK which prevents it from getting to the Gulf Coast refineries.

At the same time they can sell products at nearly the same price as the Northeast refineries, which are closing because they have to use expensive North Sea and OPEC oil. The result is that their "crack spread" (the difference between their feedstock price and their product prices) is enormous.

No wonder they're running at 98% of capacity while the Northeast refineries are closing.

Great point. Midwest refiners may before long have to supply the Northeast, where the huge investment to upgrade to lower quality oil or crude bitumen won't be made.

New Study Says Rule Requiring Special Gasoline, Refinery Closures Could Greatly Increase Chances of Shortages, Higher Prices in Southwest Pennsylvania
Published: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 - 10:22 am

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 12, 2012 -- /PRNewswire/ -- The closing of three refineries in Southeast Pennsylvania and a rule requiring special gasoline in the Pittsburgh region during the summer are creating conditions which could result in much higher prices for gasoline in Western Pennsylvania and the potential for fuel shortages, according to a forthcoming study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (PPMCSA).


Rethinking the Growth Imperative

Cambridge, United Kingdom - Modern macroeconomics often seems to treat rapid and stable economic growth as the be-all and end-all of policy. That message is echoed in political debates, central-bank boardrooms and front-page headlines. But does it really make sense to take growth as the main social objective in perpetuity, as economics textbooks implicitly assume?

... There is a certain absurdity to the obsession with maximising long-term average income growth in perpetuity, to the neglect of other risks and considerations. Consider a simple thought experiment. Imagine that per capita national income (or some broader measure of welfare) is set to rise by one per cent per year over the next couple of centuries. This is roughly the trend per capita growth rate in the advanced world in recent years. With annual income growth of one per cent, a generation born 70 years from now will enjoy roughly double today's average income. Over two centuries, income will grow eight-fold.

Now suppose that we lived in a much faster-growing economy, with per capita income rising at two per cent annually. In that case, per capita income would double after only 35 years, and an eight-fold increase would take only a century.

Finally, ask yourself how much you really care if it takes 100, 200 or even 1,000 years for welfare to increase eight-fold. Wouldn't it make more sense to worry about the long-term sustainability and durability of global growth? Wouldn't it make more sense to worry whether conflict or global warming might produce a catastrophe that derails society for centuries or more?

Even this "skeptical" article is still confusing money with wealth...

There may be more money around than there once was. But there is less of everything really essential that money can buy, so even with more money we are poorer than we once were. There's a fixed pool of "assets" -- a fixed amount of topsoil, water, fertility, fish, trees, cheap oil, etc. -- if the money supply grows, all that means is that money is worth less Real Stuff than it was -- especially when the Real Stuff is dwindling in quantity and degrading in quality with each passing year.

Leaked document reveals Rio+20 sustainable development goals

According to a leak of the draft agenda document seen by the Guardian, they will also be asked to negotiate a new agreement to protect oceans, approve an annual state of the planet report, set up a major world agency for the environment, and appoint a global "ombudsperson", or high commissioner, for future generations.

Although the agenda could change in the next six months, it looks likely they will be asked to pledge to use stretched resources better and reform the subsidy system of fossil fuels which encourages climate change.

Rio+20 Earth summit draft agenda

Super Fracking Goes Deeper to Pump Up Natural Gas Production

As regulators and environmentalists study whether hydraulic fracturing can damage the environment, industry scientists are studying ways to create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and natural gas.

Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) has set its sights on “super cracks,” a method of blasting deeper into dense rock to create wider channels in order to funnel more oil and gas. The aim for the technology, branded “DirectConnect,” is to concentrate fracking power to target oil or gas buried deeper in the formation.

Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) has developed its own version of a super crack after six years of research. Called HiWay, it injects material to prop open wider pathways for the oil and gas to flow. The number of companies using HiWay in North America has grown from two a year ago to more than 20, the company said in October. Initial production at a well in the Barnett Shale was “significantly higher” with the technology ...

“If critics already think fracking is bad, theoretically, super fracking would be super bad,” Sherr said

Steeper decline curves?

So we really are crack addicts.

s - To put it into perspective fracture widths are measured in millimeters...or fractions of a millimeter. A really great frac might open up a fracture 1/10 of an inch. But that's not the trick: the key is getting enough proppant into the fracture to keep it open. Once the pumps are turned off the rocks heals itself completely without the proppant. The secret in the superfracs is the fluid design so that it carries enough proppant sufficiently far enough into the fracture.

"Steeper decline curves?" More than likely. How fast a well declines is a function of the volume drained and the permeability of the fracture. A wider frac should flow faster. If the frac didn't create additional drainage volume then you would have a steeper decline rate. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: remember the game typically hinges on cash flow. The faster the recovery the better the ROR.

and perhaps higher IPs. This has been simulated in reservoir models for the Marcellus, I believe the paper was released in Morgantown during the sectional meeting in the fall of 2010. Oil companies measure things by NPV, and having a larger IP, and steeper decline, isn't always a bad thing by that measure.

Shell Oil Company President Addresses Nexus of Water, Food, Energy With Texas Top Scientists

... "The challenge of our time is to secure a more sustainable future," said Odum. "At Shell, we are taking an especially close look at the nexus between water, food and energy. All three are dependent on each other for production, and all three are becoming increasingly scarce," he said. "The TAMEST conference will provide an important opportunity for key stakeholders to engage on this critical topic and discuss new and innovative ways to optimize Energy for Life."

From their 2011 Presentations: http://www.tamest.org/events/2011_energy_summit_presentations.html

Example: Stephen S. Roop, Ph.D - Options for Freight and High-Speed Rail: Electrifying Freight Transport
Texas Energy Policy: A Regulatory Perspective, etc.

A Pipeline of Oil Dollars Flowing to Members of Congress Pushing Keystone XL Decision

A new analysis of two years of campaign contributions to House members conducted by the non-partisan research group MapLight shows a strong correlation between money flowing to Congress and House votes in favor of pushing a decision on Keystone XL.

In total, American oil and gas industry lobbyists have spent nearly $12 million in campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats since 2009, when the Keystone XL building permit was originally filed.

Of the 195 representatives who list oil and gas lobbyists in their top-20 campaign contributions, 185 voted for a bill in July that would have expedited the approval and construction of Keystone XL. That bill eventually died in the Senate. However, in December, the House passed an extension of the payroll tax cut that included a mandatory executive decision on the pipeline by February.

•In total, Representatives who voted for the pipeline have received $10,922,161 from the oil and gas industry while those who voted against the pipeline have received only $717,552. In other words, those that voted for the pipeline have received 15 times more money from the oil and gas industry.

•Maplight’s data also shows that the oil and gas industry has contributed more than ten times as much to members of Congress as environmental interests have. This is worth noting in particular because Maplight’s presentation referenced “high-contributing environmental groups” without this important piece of context.

So when American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard threatened “huge political consequences” if Keystone XL isn’t approved, he meant it.

Does anyone know how many rigs are running in Ecuador ?

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Energy Wars 2012

Over the last decade, this country has been so strikingly militarized that no one can imagine 10 years of serious government planning or investment not connected to the military or the national security state. It’s a dangerous world out there -- so we’re regularly told by officials who don’t mention that no military is built to handle the scariest things around.

So when the U.S. faces a problem in the world -- say, keeping the energy flowing on this planet -- the first thing that’s done is to militarize the problem. It’s the only way Washington now knows how to think.

Danger Waters: The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk. With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch -- the Geo-Energy Era -- in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs. In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

Child leukaemia doubles near French nuclear plants-study

The study, conducted by the French health research body INSERM, found that between 2002 and 2007, 14 children under the age of 15 living in a 5-kilometre radius of France's 19 nuclear power plants had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

This is double the rate of the rest of the country, where a total of 2,753 cases were diagnosed in the same period.

The article notes that the researchers did not suggest a causal mechanism for how the plants were linked to the higher incidence of leukemias. Leaking tritium? Exposure to high-voltage electric fields? If I'm reading the article correctly, the overall effect has been 19 reactors "causing" 7 excess cases over a period of 5 years; about 0.07 cases per reactor per year.

Off on a tangent -- fine particle emissions from coal-fired power plants in the US cause about 4,000 excess cases of lung cancer per year, via a well-established mechanism. The US EPA has issued new rules for such emissions; the power industry in the eastern half of the country is howling, one of the major political parties is screaming about regulatory overreach, and for the most part, the public has been indifferent. I suspect the French public will be equally indifferent.

I suspect the French public will be equally indifferent

But Nuke stuff is just so much scarier. Humans don't do rational risk assesment. Those risks which fire up the imagination and create fear are grossly overestimated.....

So what you're saying is that engineers and actuaries are inhuman, eh? I reserve comment as I may resemble that remark.

Individuals can be trained out of it, somewhat, but even people well trained in risk assessment are subject to the same perceptual and emotional biases as everyone else. They just learned to compensate.

Practice doesn’t make perfect when it comes to understanding risk

... practice isn’t enough to get people to make good decisions based on risk, Maloney says. “You could imagine taking someone and saying, well, let’s practice them over and over and over again until they’re experts and maybe their decision-making will be perfect.” But that’s not what happens, he says. “Basically, the key idea is that people have a distorted appreciation of probability and it doesn’t go away even when you become one of the world’s experts ...[regarding that risk]

No. The rest of the population won't take the output of engineers and actuaries seriously. Every parent drives their little ones to school in an SUV, because of the scary thought of adbuction by sickos. Yet the chances of that are slim. The chances of them getting diabetes goes way up, (compared to walking), but that doesn't fire up the Amygdala, so it doesn't translate into actual policy.

It's ofcourse comparing apples to oranges and playing with numbers.

E.g (1). comparing only nuclear child leukemias to all coal lung cancers. Where child leukemias are very rare and lung cancers very common and certainly not only occuring from coal plants.

E.g. (2). comparing nuclear cases per reactor (0.07) vs coal lung cancer cases for all units (4000).

But let's assume child leukemias are the only way nukes kill and lung cancers are the only way coal kills and compare numbers in a few different ways.
- The US has 1436 coal production units, resulting in 2.8 deaths per unit per year.
- All US coal plants have 338723 MW combined capacity, resulting in 0.012 deaths per MW capacity vs 63236/1,4 0.000022 deaths per MW capacity per year.
- French nuclear produced 426 TWh, US coal produced 2133 TWh giving 0,0033 vs 1.88 deaths per TWh per year respectively.

Lastly, uncertainties are ofcourse very large in either case.

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of coal nor nuclear. Just doing some number juggling myself.

Bumper 2011 Grain Harvest Fails to Rebuild Global Stocks

The world’s farmers produced more grain in 2011 than ever before. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show the global grain harvest coming in at 2,295 million tons, up 53 million tons from the previous record in 2009. Consumption grew by 90 million tons over the same period to 2,280 million tons. Yet with global grain production actually falling short of consumption in 7 of the past 12 years, stocks remain worryingly low, leaving the world vulnerable to food price shocks.

Carryover grain stocks—the amount left in the world’s grain elevators when the new harvest begins—now stand at 469 million tons, enough to cover 75 days of consumption at current levels.

China imported a net 5 million tons of grain in 2011, the most significant inflow since the country declared a national grain self-sufficiency policy in the mid-1990s. Though still a tiny fraction of the country’s 451-million-ton consumption, the potential for China to import increasing amounts of grain is a concern to those who watch grain markets and prices. China’s grain imports would be far higher had it not ratcheted up imports of another key field crop, the soybean. Climbing from almost nothing through the mid-1990s, China’s soybean imports hit 56 million tons in 2011, close to 80 percent of the country’s total soybean consumption and nearly 60 percent of all the soy traded internationally. Most of the high-protein soy is used in livestock and poultry feed.

Corn estimate holds steady, low supply expected

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that there will be 846 million bushels of corn on hand at the end of the summer. The forecast was mostly unchanged from last month's estimate.

The surplus would satisfy demand for less than 25 days. A 30-day supply is considered healthy.

Pricier corn has been a key driver of food inflation this year. When grain prices rise, food processors and meat companies tend to pass on the higher costs to consumers. It usually takes about six months for changes in corn prices to trickle all the way down to the retail level.

I find the cause for Whipple's gasoline price forecast for 2012 posted atop somewhat astonishing given the recent levels of US gasoline exports:

We also have a looming refinery problem in the U.S. and Europe coming up this summer. As demand for gasoline has dropped, refining has become less profitable, causing refiners to shutter or if possible sell some of their less-profitable refineries -- some 2.6 million barrels a day (b/d) of refining capacity has been closed in the advanced economies. In Europe, the continent's largest independent refiner is shutting down three refineries halting about 250,000 b/d of refining. In the northeastern U.S. however, the situation is much worse. Three large Pennsylvania refineries, which can refine 550,000 b/d and which constitute half the refining capacity on the East coast, are for sale. Two have already been shut down and the third is due for closure if a buyer cannot be found. While this loss of US refining capacity can be made up by increased shipments of refined products from Europe and the Gulf Coast, there will likely be added costs and delays that could result in shortages and higher prices.

I long ago noted the problem the USA faces by not having a national oil company as the IOCs are under no obligation to produce anything for the US market, particularly if no profits are to be made. IIRC, even when gas was over $4 refineries were closing or curtailing production because of poor profit margins. Will refined products ever be priced to enable refiners to continue to produce or is something in play that not allowing for that sort of an adjustment?

The issue is somewhat complex but the bottom is - yes NE refiners are not making enough profit to continue operations.

The main source of oil for NE refiners is high quality oil from Africa, in particular Nigeria. Even casual followers of the oil market know by now that Nigeria has been plagued by internal strife, and has reduced oil output.

While technically the US could replace lost Nigerian oil from elsewhere, the lower US oil prices paid and increased shipping distances make getting supplies from elsewhere a problem. To put it simply, the US would have to 'outbid' other countries to get more quality oil.

Last March I posted there was some type of secret East-West agreement after the fall of Libya to split supplies without starting a price bidding war. It actually appears to have been mostly effective, as the 'East' grabbed 85% of Mideast oil exports after March 15, and the 'West' resorted to using 60 million barrels of oil/products from strategic reserves to replace lost supplies.

While NE refiners could adjust their refineries to lower quality Canadian oil, the cost would be great and profit uncertain.

Lacking any alternatives, the NE refiners have chosen to shut down.

Thanks for providing a more nuanced explanation. Do you know if Canadian refiners in Ont and Que have similar issues?

Yes, refineries in Quebec are closing. Of the six or seven refineries that used to be in the Montreal area, only one is still operating. It is now owned by the oil sands giant Suncor Energy, so I think it will either be upgraded to handle oil sands production, or closed.

  • Suncor Energy, Montreal, 130,000 b/d
  • Ultramar (Valero), Quebec City, 235,000 b/d

The problems of the U.S. east coast refineries

The input price differential is not isolated to the U.S. In fact, Valero Energy’s last quarter numbers were lower than expectations due to the fact that their Quebec City refinery dragged down results as this facility uses Brent priced crude.

Ontario's problems are not nearly as serious. Shell Canada, Imperial Oil, and Suncor Energy operate oil refineries at Sarnia, and those companies are all major oil sands producers. Imperial oil also operates a refinery at Nanticoke. All these refineries are in southwestern Ontario and are connected to the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta.

  • Imperial Oil, Nanticoke, 112,000 b/d
  • Imperial Oil, Sarnia, 115,000 b/d
  • Suncor Energy, Sarnia, 85,000 b/d
  • Shell Canada, Sarnia, 72,000 b/d

Thanks for your additional input. Will the public become irate when refiners continue to export mogas and diesel in the face of rising domestic pump prices?

Some of the Eastern Canadian refineries export MOST of their production to other countries. People there may complain about the local price of fuel, but exporting fuel is what those refineries do for a business. If they weren't allowed to export, they wouldn't be in business.

Military Leaders Urge Action on Energy Security to Counter Iran's Sustained Efforts to Rattle Oil Markets

Members of Securing America's Future Energy's (SAFE) Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC) today said that Iran is likely to continue actions aimed at keeping oil prices at elevated levels in 2012, and urged action on a broad set of energy security policies designed to combat the threats posed by America's dangerous and ongoing dependence on petroleum.

"We are in a situation that is full of dangers and absurdity," said Admiral Dennis Blair. "The U.S., which gets no oil from Iran, carries the burden of breaking any blockade that the Iranians may impose and U.S. consumers will pay higher prices for oil. We need to reduce this trend. We need to drill for more oil in our waters, draw every drop of efficiency from our vehicles, and over the long-term, we need to transition our heavy-duty vehicle fleet to natural gas and our light-duty fleet to electricity."

I've wondered why ASPO-USA doesn't leverage some of this energy crisis news to get a little PR out about PO.

What a howler: "Iran's Sustained Efforts to Rattle Oil Markets." I'd say it's the US Empire's "Sustained Efforts" to establish Full Spectrum Dominance that's "Rattl[ing] Oil Markets."

Because lack of credibility doesn't lend itself to developing leverage?

"Securing America's Future Energy's"

I wonder if they're funded by the SuperPac "Americans for a Better Tomorrow. Tomorrow"?

Actually 'Securing America's Future Energy' is actively investigating 'Peak Oil'. They are not a Super PAC

The Oil Shockwave: An Oil Crisis Executive Simulation was organized from 2005 onwards by the Securing America's Future Energy

I am not aware of SAFE investigating PO, but surely it makes sense that they would.

Seraph is correct in his over-all point that SAFE has been on the issue of oil shocks since June 05... almost uniquely so.
SAFE regularly points out that USA [and Canada, perhaps even more so] are highly vulnerable to a major oil shock and that this vulnerability continues to be ignored, "warrants sustained attention at the highest levels of government," etc.

My understanding is that SAFE's leading spokesman, Robbie Diamond is/was Canadian, from Toronto.

Greeks reclaim the land to ease the pain of economic austerity

A group of community-minded gardeners have turned a former Athens airport into a blooming vegetable plot, showing how Greece's eroded soil holds the keys to a revival in farming and a way to buck the jobless trend

Northeastern states will likely depend more on our refineries in 2012

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 their dependency on Gulf Coast supply.

... the shutdown of production at two major Pennsylvania refineries last year and potential closure of a third could put the region in a precarious position and stress supplies of gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil, the agency concluded in a new report.

The report noted that Northeastern states could experience "spot shortages with price hikes" for gasoline and other fuels as refineries discontinue operations.

A bigger concern for the Northeast is heating oil.

Demand for ultra-low-sulfur heating oil is expected to rise next fall, when regulations taking effect in New York will require use of the cleaner fuel in boilers that warm buildings. A limited number of refineries are equipped to produce it.

related http://www.eia.gov/analysis/petroleum/nerefiningactivity/

AARGH! Stop using heating oil already.

That's one of those "easier said than done" scenarios, given that much of the north east has limited or no access to natural gas.


Heat pumps or wood stoves.

I don't know how much fuel oil is consumed in New England, but I'm guessing it's in the billions of litres per annum. Heat pumps and wood stoves won't cut it.


Heat pumps could replace oil heat, but that's a lot of infrastructure change and can't happen quickly.

Trust me, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone more sold on heat pumps than me, and I fully agree that infrastructure and time are two key considerations, but the reality is that they're not a direct one-for-one replacement. You can't, for example, replace a 30 or 40 kW oil-fired boiler with a comparable capacity heat pump (they simply don't exist). And if your home consumes three or four thousand litres of fuel oil a year (or 5,700 litres/year as in our case), you'll need to cut that by half or more before you even consider replacing your current heating system.


People are going to need to make those cuts anyway, that's part of the infrastructure that needs to change and the biggest reason why it can't happen quickly.

The local electrical grids would also need to be upgraded, and all those oil heaters need to be physically replaced.

And since when to large capacity heat pumps not exist? There are quite a few data center managers who would take issue with that assertion.

Large capacity heat pumps exist for commercial buildings, but residential heat pumps typically top out at five tons (nominal) or about 17 kW at 8°C, with output tapering off as outside temperatures fall. At 08h00 this morning our outdoor temperature was -13°C and a conventional air source heat pump would have most certainly switched over to backup electric resistance heat by that point, in which case it would likely be pulling anywhere from 20 to 30 kW.


There's a large difference between "it doesn't exist" and "it isn't sold for that market".

I get 9F for -13C, which is only a couple of degrees below the current temperature here. If a conventional air-source heat pump would be on resistance heating mode at this temperature I can see why they are considered unsuitable for this part of the country by most people.

You could always make that distinction, but if I can't buy a residential air source heat pump beyond five tons that's pretty much the end of story, unless I install two or more such systems or opt for a commercial-grade model.

And, FWIW, I don't recommend conventional air source heat pumps which I consider to be technologically akin to a 1973 Ford LTD. I do, however, like inverter models.


Noted on the air source heat pumps. I know a couple of people around here with ground source units that are quite happy with them. I just hadn't realised before that the air source units were that bad at low temperatures.

On the thought of multiple units, many older homes are built with a primitive version of zone heating and rooms that weren't in active use were cut off from the heat supply to make an inadequate heat source do "well enough". I suspect that it is a practice that will come back as energy prices in general rise.

My Mitsubishi is rated to work all the way down to 0 F. It worked fine at 8 F, the coldest day of winter so far. It's rated as a 2 ton unit, but there is no reason you can't have more than one on a house.

The base board heat in living and dining rooms have not been on this winter at all. The bedrooms are on, but not running too much either. They are set lower than living room.

A major part of the problem will be upgrading or replacing the actual structures. Going to super insulation would cut the energy required, eve were it heating oil. However, a major effort to reduce consumption isn't on the horizon, as long as it is still less expensive to buy the oil than it is to completely gut a structure and add extra insulation and better windows. Most people wouldn't attack the problem all at once, but would do something each year, given that it's difficult to come up with a batch of money over and above one's normal expenses. The incentive would immediately increase if oil and oil products were rationed, as the threat of doing without would capture the average man's attention. I submit that slow price increases in the market or incremental tax increases would be accepted as "normal" in the same way that the slow boiling of a frog continues until it's too late...

E. Swanson

Or we could adjust our expectations of how warm a house must be kept, wear warmer cloths and get big comforters.

Very true. The problem is not that we burn oil; it's that our buildings are woefully inefficient and that it would be difficult and prohibitively costly to remedy this.


To what degree can heatpumps be used as partial substitutes. I.E. add a HP that covers maybe 25% of the annual needs, then maybe a couple of years down the road add another one. Does it have to be all or nothing?

It's a fair question and an approach that I think makes good sense. As you may recall, we've reduced our home's heat loss to the point where we can offset virtually all of our fuel oil demand with two 3.5 kW high efficiency ductless heat pumps. But to get there, we had to gut our entire home to the bare walls and spend well over a hundred grand in the process. For most homeowners, that's not a realistic option.

Our neighbour's home was built in the late 1930s and is heated by steam. If I recall correctly, their new oil-fired boiler is rated at 60 kW. I don't know how much fuel oil they consume over the course of the year but I'm guessing it's probably in the range of 7,000 to 8,000 litres. As a rough guess, a single 3.5 kW high efficiency ductless heat pump could conceivably trim that by perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 litres, or about 15 per cent.


Trust me, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone more sold on heat pumps than me,

Never a truer word has been spoken here!

If they are using 30 to 40kW of heat, then their house needs some serious attention and/or downsizing!

Still, if they must remain on oil, because there is no NG, and the grid can;t handle any significant number of them going to heat pumps, then maybe a solution is to use the oil to run diesel cogen units.

Here is an interesting 6kW CHP+heat pump unit;


and a cheaper, slow turning, diesel generator that could be easily set up for CHP;

If you needed 8kW of oil heat, you could run the generator a 2/3 load, for 4kW, and get 8kW of waste heat, and "resell" the 4kW of electricity. At NE rates of around 15c/kwh , the electricity would be worth $15/day, and the oil to produce it, at $3/gal, and 0.33 gal/hr, would cost about $23 per day. To get 8kW just by burning oil (85% efficiency) you need about 1/4 gal/hr, costing $18/day. So the 8kW of CHP "oil heat" is costing just $5/day, or equivalent to $1/gal.

Now add 4kWe of heat pump to this, and your total heat output, at average COP of 3, would be 12+8=20kW

This would deliver heat at an average cost equivalent to oil at $1.50/gal.

If I was using that much heating oil, and had no other choice, I'd be looking at these sorts of options.

Hi Paul,

You guys out on the west coast have it so easy !

Over the past 24 hours our average outdoor temperature was -11.5°C. I estimate our home's nominal heat loss at 0.175 kW per degree Celsius whenever temperatures fall below 13°C, and if that's more or less correct, that puts yesterday's space heating requirements at about 103 kWh (had it been windy, it would have been higher). Over this same period, our two ductless heat pumps consumed a combined total of 43.7 kWh, for a COP of just over 2.35. As you know, these are both high efficiency inverter models and so the results are not bad; a conventional air source heat pump wouldn't have faired nearly as well and, as mentioned, would have most certainly thrown things over to the backup coils.

At -11.5°C, each of these units is supplying about 2.7 kW of heat or 5.4 kW in all. Allowing approximately 5 per cent overhead for defrosting purposes we would have, in theory, about 120 kWh of space heating service at our disposal. That's cutting it pretty fine.

As for our neighbour, I'm guessing that their space heating requirements are three to four times greater than our own.


Yes we do have it easy here - this winter - was + 12 two days ago!

When we are talking heat pumps, why would you use anything other than the inverter based mini-split systems? Given that these have the best cold weather performance, and that is always the sticking point, I don't see why people would use the larger but less efficient units. Unless, I suppose, if they are using the duct system from the oil furnace, but it sounds like you didn't do that.

That's correct, Paul. We have hot water baseboard and in-floor electric radiant heat, so a ductless heat pump is our best option. My business partner has a forced air oil-fired furnace and so he opted for a conventional ASHP add-on (a Lennox). The nice thing about his dual fuel setup is that it switches over to oil whenever it goes into defrost mode or needs a helping hand. Had he ditched oil altogether, he would have had to upgrade his main panel to 200 amps which would have been a costly proposition because at that point everything else in his home would have had to been brought up to code. And, of course, it's not heavily taxing the utility's distribution system at precisely the worst time, and the air coming out of his registers is hot rather than moderately warm, which is a nice plus comfort-wise (his wife wasn't all too keen on having an "ugly box" on her living room wall either). The downside is that his HSPF (heating season performance factor) is 7.7 whereas ours is 9.3, and our heat pumps will continue to operate down to -22°C and his will be wheez'n, hack'n and cough'n by -15°C.

I was talking to someone else earlier this evening who spends between $300.00 and $400.00 a month on oil to heat his bungalow. He has a forced air heating system and is now weighing his options. I suggested that he install a ductless unit to take advantage of their greater efficiency and superior cold weather performance and replace his blower motor with a variable speed ECM drive. That way he can concentrate the bulk of the heat in the living room, dinning room and kitchen where it will do the most good and run his furnace fan on its lowest setting, continuously, to distribute some of this warmth to the other parts of his house (e.g., the bedrooms). If he does go this route, it will cut his installation costs by more than half and trim his operating costs by another 20 to 30 per cent.


As of 2009, of the 20.8M homes in the Northeast, 6.8M (1/3rd) used fuel oil or kerosene (this number is 2/3rds for the 3M households of New England ex-Massachusetts). This compares to 2.5M out of 92.8M (2.7%) for the rest of the country. For 6.0M households in the Northeast this was their primary form of space heating. interestingly, 40% of those households are not using that fuel for water heating. This indicates to me that they likely have adequate service of electricity to use a heat pump, since water heating is a large intermittent load. I would guess that at least half of the remaining 60% also do. A return to historical levels of fuelwood consumption in the NorthEast would supply the remainder.

Just as quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, if we assume 6.8 million homes and, to be conservative, an average of 2,000 litres per household, that works out to be some 13.6 billion litres of fuel oil per annum. And that's just residential demand... no institutional (e.g., hospitals, universities, schools, municipal buildings, etc.), no commercial nor industrial users, and presumably no multi-unit residential buildings. You would then need between three and four kWh of electricity to displace each litre of fuel oil, so that suggests some 40 to 50 billion kWh of incremental electrical demand, just for this one segment alone. That doesn't seem plausible to me.


678 gallons a year per house using fuel oil as main heating source in the NE per 2005 RECS (2009 numbers not out yet). I'm told this number will have dropped dramatically due to high prices and colder houses. That's about 100 million BTU per house. If provided by resistive heat (perish the thought) the NE would have to increase annual electric generation by about 40%. However, given that most of that is low efficiency old furnaces and boilers, and that insulation is woefully lacking: with ground source heat pumps, hydronic output, thermal mass, weatherized houses, and small high-duty cycle heat pumps and wood stove backup for power outages or supplemental heat, I calculate only a 4% increase in region annual electrical generation (3MWH per house). Given your expertise in the area, I must be smoking something, we differ by a factor of 2-2.5X.

Commercial fuel oil consumption is only about 25% of residential in the Northeast.
One of the nice things about winter peaking electrical areas ... and even though I'm in SoCal I do have a few ... is that your generation output and your system component ratings go up as ambient temps go down.

Well, 678 gallons works out to be 2,566 litres, so the 2,000 litre estimate I used above is not too far off the mark. After much hard work (and considerable expense) we got our fuel oil consumption down to about 2,000 litres/year and that's at the low end of the scale for a home of its size and vintage.

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy estimates the space heating demand of a "typical" older (pre-1980) 1,700 sq. ft. home in our climate at 80 MM BTU (23,447 kWh/year).

Source: http://www.gov.ns.ca/energy/publications/reports/space-heat-survey.pdf

Our home which was built in 1968 is 2,500 sq. feet. or approximately 1.5 times larger, which would theoretically put our demand at about 35,000 kWh/year. Our boiler's AFUE is 82 per cent, so we net 8.77 kWh(e) of heat per litre; on that basis, we might expect to use just over 4,000 litres. Recently, I posted a link to an MLS listing for an older, nicely renovated Victorian in this city that consumes just under 10,000 litres a year so, obviously, there can be significant variation from one home to the next.


I assumed, perhaps a bit optimistically, the typical heating appliance being replaced had an AFUE of 70%, that the houses were weatherized to consume 50% as much heat, that a seasonal COP of over 3 was obtained using a ground source heat pump with hydronic output, that thermal mass allowed small high load factor heat pump use to minimize local distribution grid impacts, and that a wood stove was installed for supplemental and backup (power outage) heating. My preference would be to fund all of this thru utility on-bill financing or federal mortgage guarantee.

If I use your numbers 100% replacement of domestic oil heating in the Northeast adds only 10% to regional electrical consumption, which could be simultaneously reduced by an equivalent amount relatively easily if necessary. As you well know, there is a lot of low hanging fruit on the energy efficiency tree. It's primarily a matter of overcoming individual and institutional inertia, incompetence, and incuriousity. Unfortunately there's a LOT of inertia.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but in terms of peak demand, 6.8 million homes at an average of 3.5 kW each, say (feed pump, compressor, indoor air handler/circulation pump and any supplemental/backup coils) represents about 26 GW of incremental load, allowing for 7 per cent T&D losses. Further allowing for a 20 per cent reserve margin, we're now up to 32 GW. I believe New England has about 37 GW of installed capacity, so we're looking at almost doubling the electrical infrastructure in this region to support this one new load. Any guess as to what that might cost and what impact it would have on electricity rates? Also bear in mind that we still haven't taken into consideration institutional, commerical and industrial users.

One other thing... much of the region's electrical infrastructure was put in place in the 60s and 70s and is quickly approaching retirement. And much of the new capacity installed in recent years is gas-fired and that has strained gas supplies to the limit.

New England power grid facing challenges

The low price of natural gas and an aging fleet of soon-to-be-obsolete power plants are among several factors that could dramatically change New England’s power grid, says the region’s electricity grid manager.

And those changes could threaten reliable electricity delivery if not addressed, according to an analysis by ISO New England released yesterday.

The report spells out several challenges facing the region in the next seven years. It says the region is increasingly relying on natural gas for both heat and electrical power, and must build capacity to handle simultaneous spikes in demand for both uses.

Meanwhile, a full quarter of the region’s electricity generation capacity is tied up in plants older than 40 years that are likely to soon be retired.

See: http://www.boston.com/Boston/businessupdates/2011/10/new-england-power-g...


6.8 million is households using any fuel oil or kerosene in the Northeast. 6.0 million is those relying on one of the two as the primary heating fuel. This number is 2.4 million in New England (1/3 down in Massachusetts). The other 3.6 million are Mid-Atlantic Northeast, with a much bigger population and electrical infrastructure (though not exporting power). Electrical consumption in the NorthEast was 562 million MWH's. Individual incremental home demand cannot be directly multiplied to arrive at cumulative peak demand, unless it's 24/7 base load. Particularly when discussing heating, thermal mass allows load shift to improve capacity factor of the system. Most importantly, the NorthEast is actually, surprisingly, summer-peaking, although individual utilities aren't necessarily (NPCC had a summer peak of 128% of winter peak in 2010, and summer peak has been significantly higher than winter peak for the entire past decade that I looked at). Commercial fuel oil consumption is about 1/4th of residential in the region.

Aging utility infrastructure is a problem most places in the U.S. I have lines in the air (in CA) where the conductor dates back to the 1800's, and a LOT of 1920's, 1940's and 1960's equipment corresponding to growth booms. The short story is that replacement has been and will be incremental, although the pace needs to increase, and in most cases system topology needs to change to mitigate the reliability impact of increased failure levels.

Looking only at New England, since the amount of oil to displace is larger in proportion to the grid size, the area is summer peaking on a monthly basis (the NPCC data I gave were on an hourly basis), and the generation capacity factor for the peak month in 2010 was only ~50%. In the highest winter month (Dec) it was ~42%.

Additional gas storage is needed (physically to mitigate supply risk, and financially to moderate price spikes) in most importing regions, including New England. Most generation in the Northeast is owned by IPP's not utilities. They have no incentive to reduce consumer risk. Historically fuel oil was stored onsite at most of the old regulated generating stations to mitigate supply risk. Natural gas is not hedged physically to the same extent, resulting in a potential loss of reliability. Perhaps some regulation is in order. About 2/3rds of New England's generating capacity is 156 generators that are gas or "dual fuel" originally run on oil and now run on gas. New England has zero underground storage. There is some LNG storage, there needs to be more. Cost of one day's LNG fuel storage at each large plant less than 1 cent per watt.

Kyodo News: Japan planning to reduce Iranian imports

An Oil Strategy in Case Iran’s Navy Shuts Down the Strait of Hormuz: View
Jan 11, 2012 7:14 PM ET


EIA world crude oil and lease condensate production from January 2000 to August 2011 with a rolling annual average. The data is from EIA International Energy Statistics on January 11, 2012.

EIA World Crude Oil and Condensate Production 2011-08

Blue Twilight, this is the last one you will ever be able to make using EIA data. The EIA International Energy Statistics was last updated in November, with the August data, and will not be updated again. Budget cuts caused them to cut several programs. This was one of them. Pity.

Ron P.

Results of a chemistry-based study into the fate of oil from the Macondo Deepwater Horizon spill have been released. It concludes that the average daily release rate during the spill was 11,130 tons of gas and oil compounds a day, very close to the official estimate.

The visible surface slick represented about 15 percent of the total leaked gas and oil; the airborne plume accounted for about another 7 percent. About 36 percent remained in an underwater plume of droplets about 3,300-4,300 feet below the surface, and 17 percent was recovered directly at the surface through a marine riser. The location of the balance, about 25 percent of the total, was not directly accounted for by the chemical data.


They claim students are being locked in unsupervised “scream rooms,” where some children have harmed themselves, reports CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

Disturbing allegations have surfaced of teachers locking students in closet-sized concrete “scream rooms” for punishment.

And how is this a good idea?

Well, they're not allowed to kick problem kids out, and I'm sure staff cutbacks have made separate supervision impossible. So I guess someone thought this was the best of the bad remaining options.

Why I’m saving and investing for the disaster to come

The solution is extreme diversification – up to and including buying your own remote and defensible farmstead, complete with independent water supply, power generation capabilities, and the ability to feed your nearest and dearest until the smoke clears.

OK, I know that link is just to some dude's investment blog and it's more about how he's thinking things through. I'm fine with that, but I take issue with the idea that a small family unit can defend a home and farm.

They simply can't.

Even if the home and farm are in the most ideal location, you need a resilient community to make this work. Somewhere around 50 people, probably no more than 100. And they all have to be invested in community and work.

The ideal, resilient communities, purpose built, and diversified through various skill sets, can work through most anything thrown at them -- or at least stand a chance.

The lone-family-survivor meme is just that, a movie plot. Now put an extended "family" of 30-50 people on a few hundred acres and give them time to develop multiple food sources -- whole different ball game.

Now put an extended "family" of 30-50 people on a few hundred acres and give them time to develop multiple food sources –

Sounds much like a Shaker Village to me. One of the largest and best preserved is at Canterbury, NH. You can probably find it on Google maps.

Militants bomb oil equipment yard in Iraq -sources

Gunmen wearing military uniforms bombed an equipment storage yard belonging to Angola's national oil company near an oilfield in northern Iraq, police sources said on Thursday.

Maine’s State Economist Clueless about the Economy

A recent newspaper article reported on the Maine State Economist’s gloomy outlook on the state’s economy. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/maine-economist-curbs-his-enthusiasm_...

But if you are good at reading between the lines, you can easily see that the state’s economist is clueless about the real problem with the Maine economy. Because of the state’s current cars first approach to transportation, the 1.3 million people of Maine spend about $8 Billion per year on their highway based transportation system. But because Maine has no auto plants, no oil wells, and no refineries, for example, at least $6.5 Billion of this money leaves the state every year. Once these facts have sunk in, it should be easy to understand why Maine is considered to be one of the poor states.

It is also easy to understand why newspapers and TV stations never mention this problem. Newspapers typically get about 40% of all their revenue from auto advertising, and about one third of all TV commercials are for automobiles.

But I’m puzzled about why the state’s own economist appears to have no clue about this huge problem. Can anyone on TOD offer some useful insights about the state economist’s huge blind spot?

My wife saw his talk 'to the state' this week, and while he did say that IF there were really going to be a closure of Hormuz, he expected Oil to find $150 again, and the US to end up in a war with Iran.. but I didn't see a lot of other signs that energy prospects or transp. dollars are a key factor in his analysis.

That said, I'm quite relieved that he didn't come up with more of the Happy Talk that we hear from so many economists, who feel that their duty as American Screenwriters is to insist on a happy ending where nobody dies. I think that's at least a good step in an honest direction for him.

I'm a little surprised that you are surprised by him or anyone in the spotlights of power when they fail to put energy and a sensible fear of our future energy situation into their calculations. He's surrounded by a business and economists culture that is simply immune to that set of possibilities..

He did recommend that the crowd should read Lester Thurow's "Zero Sum Society", from the 1980's .. as summarized in my wife's notes.. "The future is about the fight for distribution of finite resources." .. so I wouldn't call him clueless, but certainly hindered by some of the blindspots that are endemic all around us.

Because the politicians are businessmen or at least represent businessmen. They do not represent workers. Sounds like auto dealerships and gas stations and highway paving are big business in Maine and I would guess every state. Nobody bites the hand that feeds them.

The big question for me is why do the workers never figure out what is going on and do something to help themselves?

Not to mention the interest paid on all of that, which is shipped right out of the state to Zurich, London and Manhattan. How about a state bank?

A state bank would be a step in the right direction, but I suspect that the benefits would be rather small compared to the benefits of reducing our dependence on automobiles.

I think it is way too late for anyone in Maine to try to get back into the auto manufacturing business. With oil prices high and likely to go higher, and the economy not doing well, I expect new car sales to start falling again fairly soon.

I think the real economic gains will come from reducing the number of cars needed in the state. We need things like better public transportation, more car sharing, and even government policies to encourage most new housing to be built in urban areas instead of 10 miles out in the country.

Another good change would be a shift to a two tier property tax system. Several cities in Pennsylvania have changed to a system of taxing land at a higher rate than buildings. This makes it easier for landlords to upgrade their buildings, while also encouraging owners of vacant land to either develop it or sell it to someone who will. Over a number of years this also helps to reduce housing costs.

If the Maine state government served the people it could start a car manufacturing company. The engine and transmission would be bought from out of state but that is only 30% of the value. The other 70% would be brought in state for the benefit of the citizens of Maine.

Ed, With all due respect, I think the State of Maine could do a lot of other things that fits our location better than trying to get into Auto MFG, in order to serve its people.

A decent effort at getting ALL our housing stock up to snuff in weatherization would be a good one, also providing a lot of skills training and jobs in the process.

Also reinstating the 'Interurbans', and various forms of Rail Service akin to what we had 6 or 7 decades ago. That could also go far to keep the most rural, northern reaches of our state from getting ever more isolated, as their highways get more and more brittle, broken and costly.

We DID have a Locomotive Manufacturer here, called the Portland Company.. that might be a way to get back into heavy industry, particularly as Bath Iron Works struggles to get enough contracts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_Company

'could also go far to keep the most rural, northern reaches of our state from getting ever more isolated"

Chuckle.. some of us think that isolation is not all that bad a thing.

Don in Maine

I get it. I don't think you have to worry about being isolated 'enough'.

But I have to guess that you'll appreciate having at least a Hardware and a Grocery Store with something on the shelves..

I think it's a very poor time to get into the automobile manufacturing business - in the post-peak oil era it is going to be a declining industry rather than a growing one.

Most likely it would end up like the Bricklin car plant in New Brunswick. It built a grand total of 2,854 cars before the company went bankrupt, owing the government $23 million.

Bricklin SV-1

Under the direction of New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield, the provincial government provided financing of $4.5 million for Bricklin's car. The money had been advanced on the assumption that Bricklin needed it to begin the production of cars. In truth, it had paid for the engineering and development of Bricklin's car as well as many of the costs, including salaries of keeping Bricklin's U.S. companies in operation.

During production, the Bricklin manufacturer was constantly in debt, and had relied on provincial government support to keep the company running. One reason is the vehicle was estimated to cost $16,000 to build, but sold for $5000 each to the Dealers, so the company lost the equivalent of sales of more than two Bricklins for every car built.

To further complicate problems, Richard Hatfield was discovered to have secretly funded the failing company to win reelection. After the funding scandal, the government turned down a request for an additional $10 million to keep the company running. The factory shut down, and was put into receivership on September 25, 1975.

Nexen CEO fired because SAGD underdelivers and upgrader problems.

But Long Lake, hurt by operational problems, has fallen far short of production targets. The project was expected to churn out about 30,000 barrels of oil per day by the end of 2011, compared with a design capacity of about 72,000 barrels of oil per day, once promised to be met by the end of 2009. Nexen in early 2011 admitted the bitumen reservoir has watery patches that hamper production, and that it drilled its initial wells in some of the poorest sections of the property. Nexen has spent $4.5-billion on the project over a decade, but it’s over budget and has problems with the upgrader.

Technology sure sounds good though! (pdf)

The end result of this unique configuration of conventional and proprietary technologies is a superior crude oil produced at the Long Lake site, at the industry’s lowest operating costs.

I find it disconcerting that Nexen would drill the poorest part of the lease first. It seems not to be a good strategy for making money in the near term.

It never rains but it pours on them:

The company’s problems, however, extend beyond northern Alberta. In Yemen, the state government did not renew Nexen’s partnership agreement in December. The project contributed 9.5 per cent of the company’s production, after royalties, in the third quarter. Further, its Buzzard oil field in the U.K.’s North Sea has fallen short of production targets. Nexen cut its overall production forecast twice in 2011 – first in July, then again in November.

And, of course, in the North Sea, production in general is falling, so the UK government has raised taxes on production so that its revenue doesn't fall.

Nexen has done a number of things which don't look good from the perspective of 20/20 hindsight. They probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

I've seen Nexen take over twenty days to gain access below the production wellhead on a shallow GOM deepwater well, just so they could P&A the well. The problem was due to a short cut that would have saved them two days. They had two well site leaders that had never worked on a deepwater rig, had no subsea experience and this was AFTER the GOM blowout incident. During critical work they would sit for hours in the rigs "smoke shack" texting on their I-phones and periodically ask people passing by "hey what are they doing out there".

One of the biggest hurdles that oil companies have in front of them is themselves. When you finally do get to work with quality people that use common sense, good judgement and logic it's a real pleassure.

If NYMEX investors could spend a little time on the average offshore oil rig they would return to the market pits and implore everyone they knew to buy oil futures, because they think we can't keep going on like that forever and still get new oil out the ground. Obviously they would not be totally correct, but we in the oilfield could do much better than we do.

I would bet a large chunk of energy prices is tied up in complacency, laziness, systematic inefficiency and ego. Try to fill your car with 20 gallons of common oilfield ego and see how far you get!

As shale deposits multiply, energy self-sufficiency becomes a reality

This was a good day’s work. Good days of this kind are occurring more and more often. In the first two weeks of January, huge fossil fuel discoveries have been confirmed around the world – including in Brazil, India and Cyprus (where Houston-based Noble Energy confirmed a fifth large gas discovery). Cyprus declared that these finds would, by themselves, “make a substantial contribution to energy security in the EU.” With every good day’s work, the world moves a little closer to energy independence – for almost everyone.

It's a wonderful piece of cut-and-paste journalism!

How does Brad Delong phrase this problem... "Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?"

Not much is said here about how a country such as Japan can wind down as the national population falls, the world economy continues it's expected(here in this forum at least) down hill slide, and peak resources take an ever larger bite out of living standards.What is said here is almost invariably negative in terms of describing the future of Japan.

It seems to me that the Japanese have a well deserved reputation for cohesiveness and adaptability, and that their situation is not nearly so bleak as some picture it.

My expectation is that they will roll with the punches, learn to play by new rules, and do very well, considering their lack of indigenous mineral resources.

Now it does look as if it will be hard for them to pay for keeping up their big bulge of very old folks, but old folks consumption ios limited mostly to medical care-which is costly mostly because it requires so many highly trained professional people.When things get really tough, the medical professionals will just have to share the hardships with everybody else, and work for less money.

An elderly person consumes very little, except food, living space, and medical care.A funeral need not cost much at all.When he dies, a house or apartment becomes available.Japan, with a declining population, will need to construct very little housing-just enough to replace what is lost due to natural disaster or obsolence.The country will probably actually be able to abandon some older and less energy efficient housing, or poorly situated housing, every year before too long.

Let's look at a couple of representative examples of what the advantages of down sizing might be.

A sewer line, or a water line needs to be replaced every half century or so;but replacement, everything else equal, id far cheaper than building new, as right of way, permitting, surveying, etc, are already paid for. A water or sewer line serving FEWER people can be sleeved , reducing the diameter and capacity somewhat but sleeving is DIRT cheap compared to all new construction.

The furthest out small tentacles of a highway system which must necessarily be well maintained in order to support the current population and life style can gradually be abandoned, or allowed to revert to gravel roads,likewise most of the electrical grid reaching out into far flung neighborhoods can eventually be cannibalized.

As the country gradually draws itself into a more compact form, existing mass transit can be utilized more efficiently, and new mass transit will be more practical.

Japan has the human and industrial capital to build out their own domestic renewable energy industries and deploy the products of these industries in a lavish fashion.

When the Japanese people make the decision to do so they will build out renewables in a hurry, and the energy thereby harvested will go farther by far, given a shrinking population than it would otherwise.

Furthermore, I believe they are politically savvy enough to make sure they don't make the mistake we Yankees have made-allowing our domestic industrial base to decay and the most of it to be moved overseas-which incidentally is the biggest and dumbest mistake we have ever made in the history of our country.

(At the rate we are going, if we ever have to fight the Chinese, we will have to try to swap them some coal and wheat for some munitions, because the too big to fail banks and fat cats can manage to move the mic itself overseas, and they will probably try to do so, unless we wise up soon.

The Chinese are going to be finished selling to us on credit pretty soon-Uncle Sam's checks are bouncing like superballs, but the reality of this truth is hidden for now by the electronic printing of giga bucks of funny money.)

There are those who will insist that the Japanese must have the jobs represented by their construction, retailing, and export industries to survive, but their education is limited to business and economics.Those of us who know a bit about biology understand that survival actually depends on food, water, and adequate shelter rather than jobs and money as such.

The Japanese will figure out how to keep the wheels greased and turning smoothly. Japanese wheels are not likely to fall off.

There is no real reason an existing unneeded office building could not be renovated into extremely energy efficient apartments, thereby allowing a shrinking population to shrink its physical footprint, reducing the need for transportation fuels, water and sewer infrastructure, and so forth.

As land is freed up by the eventual reduction of sprawl, local food production can rise significantly enough that in combination with a falling population, food imports can be significantly reduced.

It seems to me that the Japanese have a well deserved reputation for cohesiveness and adaptability, and that their situation is not nearly so bleak as some picture it.

My expectation is that they will roll with the punches, learn to play by new rules, and do very well, considering their lack of indigenous mineral resources.

Their fortunes seemed to take a tumble pretty much as soon as the U.S. lost interest in the cold war due to the collapse of the USSR. I think a significant proportion of their affluence came from being propped up as a counter to the spread of communism in SE Asia and given much more favourable terms of trade than they would have otherwise got. Going forwards I suspect that countries which have access to large quantities of resources per capita will do better than countries which don't as it used to be that resources were cheap and abundant whilst cheap manufacturing of any scale was effectively just the forte of China and previously Japan.

He who has the most food, cheap electricity, water, ore, fossil fuels per capita will do better than he who does not. Just look at Canada now having a higher per capita GDP than the U.S.A. simply due to the huge abundance of natural resources. I suspect however that as long as many of the resource rich countries remain corrupt their affluence will instead be offshored to other countries due to the short sighted and self serving nature of the fat cats, so effectively much of our western affluence and freedom relies on the corruption and captivity of people in other countries to dictatorships. This is the reason why the U.S. props up dictatorships in resource rich areas as if they were truly democratic they'd demand much higher prices for their resources and more equitable distribution of the spoils.

Two large Toronto investment firms have quietly shed shares in Corridor Resources Inc. as the Halifax junior oil and gas company struggles to overcome a string of setbacks.

The selloff comes amid continued low natural gas prices, which have caused mounting losses for Corridor.

In the three months ending Sept. 30, 2011, the exploration company lost $2.3 million, compared to a loss of $1.7 million during the same period in 2010.

Cash flow also declined during that period — $1.6 million for the three months in 2011 versus $1.9 million the year before.

EPA: Power plants main global warming culprits

Power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010, according to information released Wednesday that was the first catalog of global warming pollution by facility. The data include more than 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, or about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions...

The largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation in 2010, according to the EPA's data, was the Scherer power plant in Juliette, Ga., owned by Southern Company. That coal-fired power plant reported releasing nearly 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, in 2010.



The headline is a little misleading. Most of the industrial sources are power plants, but industrial sources are approximately 30% of the total. The rest is household, transportation and commercial not reported to EPA.

[India] Fuel crisis takes toll on Dang Cement Factories

Large scale cement factories that were planning to launch their products by Feb said fuel shortage has badly impacted their preparations, forcing them to postpone their plans. These industries have the capacity to substantially replace cement imports. Similarly, road expansion project in the district has also been affected.

The crisis has rendered thousands of daily wage workers jobless. Entrepreneurs, who were using fuel to supplement the electricity crisis, are now left with no option but to temporarily shut down the operation till the crisis gets over.

This news is from Nepal, not India. There are no fuel shortages in India to the best of my knowledge.

Sorry ... my bad. :-<

Although I don't have first-hand knowledge, news reports have been indicating for some time that there are major shortages of fuels in India presently.


Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure

Analyses of bees found dead in and around hives from several apiaries over two years in Indiana showed the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. The research showed that those insecticides were present at high concentrations in waste talc that is exhausted from farm machinery during planting.

The insecticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam were also consistently found at low levels in soil - up to two years after treated seed was planted - on nearby dandelion flowers and in corn pollen gathered by the bees, according to the findings released in the journal PLoS One this month.

Krupke and Hunt received reports that bee deaths in 2010 and 2011 were occurring at planting time in hives near agricultural fields. ... "Given the rates of corn planting and talc usage, we are blowing large amounts of contaminated talc into the environment. The dust is quite light and appears to be quite mobile," Krupke said. ... the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides - up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee.

Don't Panic, Go Organic!

Just a suggestion, but then of course we wouldn't be able to grow enough corn to turn into ethanol to power (waste on) our SUV's and personal pickup trucks.

Any other suggestions then?

One-third of car fuel consumption is due to friction loss

No less than one third of a car's fuel consumption is spent in overcoming friction, and this friction loss has a direct impact on both fuel consumption and emissions. However, new technology can reduce friction by anything from 10% to 80% in various components of a car, according to a joint study by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in USA. It should thus be possible to reduce car's fuel consumption and emissions by 18% within the next 5 to 10 years and up to 61% within 15 to 25 years.

Of the energy output of fuel in a car engine, 33% is spent in exhaust, 29% in cooling and 38% in mechanical energy, of which friction losses account for 33% and air resistance for 5%. By comparison, an electric car has only half the friction loss of that of a car with a conventional internal combustion engine.

Annual friction loss in an average car worldwide amounts to 11,860 MJ: of this, 35% is spent in overcoming rolling resistance in the wheels, 35% in the engine itself, 15% in the gearbox and 15% in braking. With current technology, only 21.5% of the energy output of the fuel is used to actually move the car; the rest is wasted.

I am very suspicious about these numbers.
38% is mechanical energy? Only in a very efficient diesel engine, most gasoline engines it is 25%
And one third of that in friction, compared to 5% in air resistance?

Lets look at what the X-prize winning Edison team had to say about that;

Clearly, at highway speeds, the aero drag is much greater, and this was in a car that was *highly* optimised for aerodynamics, which most modern cars are not.

More here;

At city speeds, aero drag is much less, but not 1/6 of the mechanical losses. The chart shows that at 40mph, they are equal, and for aero to be 5%, the car needs to be going at about 20mph.

While having low friction technology certainly helps, it is not where the biggest gains are to be made. To quote the Edison team from their Energy Analysis

The virtues that count are low weight and low aerodynamic drag

Modern car designers (Prius excepted) seem to spend little time on either of these things.

I like to quote the Edison website as they have some excellent tech info there, presented in very easy to understand terms. They started out the X prize expecting to build and electric car with regen braking. Their own testing showed that when you get light and aerodynamic, the benefits of both electric drive and regen braking diminish substantially. They were able to achieve the 100mpg using a motorcycle engine adapted for E85, at far lower cost and weight than any electric drivetrain.

And they didn;t have the high tech low friction devices referred to in this article either.

A small aerodynamic car will be far more efficient than a "low friction" Chevy suburban, and far cheaper to make too....

I don't keep up with links and such, but I read the better car magazines from time to time, and modern cars ARE mostly designed fairly well in respect to aero drag;the designs are a long way from optimum of course, but excellent in comparison to older cars of similar useful interior size, meaning passenger and cargo space.

I have a well equipped personal garage of my own, and frequently hang around with gearheads who swap motors and drive trains for fun and occasionally profit.Dropping a late model Camaro motor in an older car that weighs the same as the donor Camaro just about always results in an owner who is disappointed with the fuel economy;conversely , when an older big engine is transplanted into an equally heavy later model car, the cruising fuel economy generally improves beyond that achieved with the donor car.

Aero explains the difference.

I'm waiting for two seater fore and aft architecture, with vastly reduced frontal area, built by a major manufacturer. With synthetic lubricants,fully optimized aero, a small diesel, and minimal accessories, a hundred mpg is not out of the question at fifty to sixty mph.

modern cars ARE mostly designed fairly well in respect to aero drag;the designs are a long way from optimum of course, but excellent in comparison to older cars of similar useful interior size, meaning passenger and cargo space.

Well, there's the rub - many American cars are much bigger than what their drivers really need. Even a low drag coefficient is masked by a large frontal area.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on the designers, but most cars are Cd of about 0.3-0.35. The Prius is at 0.25 and the GM EV-1, developed in the late 90's, was 0.19. So I would say that while there has been improvement, there is more that can be done for most cars on this score.

- the full list is here;

In any case, their claim that mech friction is 6x greater than air resistance just seems way off the mark.

You will see on that list of concept cars things like the VW I-litre concept car explores tandem seating arrangements, though the most recent version has an offset side by side, like the Smart car. VW claimed mileage of over 200mpg, though this has never been independently tested...

There hasn't been a production tandem car since the 50's. It would be very interesting to see how well one would do today. In America, I think many people would be scared to be in it - they would not feel as protected as in a big car. But there would likely be enough people to make it sell a few.

Indeed, 95% of all my driving is with one person. I would love a one person car that weighted 1/4 of my 4+ person car. Half as wide except for the wheels which I would like to be a little bigger than 50% wide. I get 24.5mpg now. So, can I expect 90mpg? The VW is pushing it a bit too far for me.

So, can I expect 90mpg?

Well, that depends...
Look at the graph above for the Edison. You still have the static and mechanical drag to deal with. but they did, and got 100 mpg.

I'm not sure the VW is too far out there, at least, not the first version - would you want to drive this?

They then took this and "modernised" it to make this;

The problem, as I see it, is they they are trying to be too innovative here. Not only this shape/layout, but also a diesel hybrid with regen, carbon fibre body, etc etc.

They actually ended up with something similar to what a bunch of Aust university students built, though with only three wheels;

The real innovation in these is the body shape, make it safe, and just equip that with a small engine - even a gasoline one - and go. All the other innovations start to add back weight and cost.
200mpg is great, but 100 mpg will do fine.

Is the American dream fading?

With more people living on the breadline in the US, we ask if it is time to abandon the American dream.

I'm looking into Arctic methane as revealed by AIRS at present. There are some localised persistent anomalies and I'm wondering if they're due to oil/gas exploration (I think they're too big but wanted to cross this possibility off my list).

Take this video for example:
The large original images are here:

Two examples -
1) In the Yukon, between 130 and 140 deg West.
2) East of the Lena river in Siberia, inland from the Arctic Ocean coast along the 130deg East line.

Does anyone know of oil/gas operations in these areas?

Thanks in anticipation.

As far as I know, there are only two gas wells in the Yukon, in the southeast corner near the BC border, and nobody is drilling.

Thanks for that RockyMountainGuy.

The Age of Thirst in the American West

Coming to a theater near you: the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization


The aptly named Lester Snow, a recent director of California’s Department of Water Resources, understood this. His future water planning assumed a forty percent decline in runoff from the Sierras, which feeds the California Aqueduct. None of his contemplated scenarios were happy ones. The Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct make the urban conglomerations of southern California possible. If both fail at once, the result will be, as promised, the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization.

Only Patricia Mulroy has an endgame strategy for the demise of Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is, even now, tunneling under the lake to install the equivalent of a bathtub drain at close to its lowest point. At a cost of more than $800 million, it will drain the dregs of Lake Mead for Las Vegas.

Admittedly, water quality will be a problem, as the dead pool will concentrate pollutants. The good news, according to the standard joke among those who chronicle Sin City’s improbable history, is that the hard-partying residents and over-stimulated tourists who sip from Lake Mead’s last waters will no longer need to purchase anti-depressants. They’ll get all the Zoloft and Xanax they need from their tap water.

I don't have a link handy, but I recall seeing a graphic that snow cover in the continental US is a fraction of what is normal for this time of year.


Only Patricia Mulroy has an endgame strategy for the demise of Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is, even now, tunneling under the lake to install the equivalent of a bathtub drain at close to its lowest point. At a cost of more than $800 million, it will drain the dregs of Lake Mead for Las Vegas.

About three years or so ago on a trip to Arizona, I met a woman with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and she described the plan to tunnel under the lake. At first, I thought that she was joking. It sounds like something from "The Onion."

As Elmer Kelton said about West Texas, which is really true of the entire American Southwest, "West Texas is in a state of permanent drought, broken occasionally by rainfall."

I don't know that Las Vegas has an end-game when it comes to water! A large city in a desert doesn't make much sense without large energy inputs, and water!

That said, Vegas is certainly the most progressive of U.S. cities with respect to water. Still, there are still some pretty loopy things people do with water in Las Vegas, considering it's located in a desert.

A couple of good books on water, that both address in part the Southwest!



This article from Vanity Fair predicts that Las Vegas will be abandoned.

predicts that Las Vegas will be abandoned.

With all the foreclosures, is it already being abandoned? Where did the foreclosed people go? If they move away, then the abandonment process has already begun.

snow cover in the continental US is a fraction of what is normal for this time of year.

The number I heard on the new yesterday was 14% for California! The newcasters were getting excited about the predicted weather pattern change, but it looks to me like we will just go from having no rain/snow whatsoever, to having a few weak storms. We need some bigtime gullywashers, not subpar barely get the ground wet storms.....
Incidentally snowcover technically means the surface area covered by snow, snowpack usually referes to the water content.

Vegas only gets 4% of Colorado River Lower Basin water allotments. They're a rounding error. The intake location is an interesting anecdote, of no macro importance. They have to move the intake, they might as well put it where they can get at dead pool. It's all about SoCal and AZ (where a majority of use is still ag). While folks talk a lot about how AZ suffers allotment cuts before CA gets touched, they ignore the fact that most of the lower basin watershed is in AZ and that AZ has superior rights to all diversions before the mainstem. They also ignore the fact that AZ ALREADY forced CA to curtail consumption by about 25%, by taking the full AZ allotment and using it to recharge groundwater in AZ, instead of letting CA continue to steal it. This is why Californians are paying 5X as much as AZ for Colorado water. Even though the Colorado River storage is likely to fall this year, Mead will rise again this water year after jumping 32 feet last year. I'll take bets. Powell is nearly 3/4ths full and will be used to equalize Mead. The difference is so large that even without inflow, Mead will rise.

BTW, Salt River project snowpack is currently above average, and SRP storage is 66%.

Irrigation efficiency improvements will be more than adequate to put the Lower Basin in water balance with reduced long term average flows, and ag idling will handle any massive droughts, though not without plenty of price increase to municipal users.

Except that Phoenix needs to pump it 300 miles uphill.

SRP is 1 maf (not included in AZ's mainstream allotment since it is diverted before reaching the Colorado) of gravity flow water supply to Phoenix (which is more water than currently used for municipal use in the Valley of the Sun) with 3 years' storage upstream, it generates energy. CAP requires pumping energy of about 6 watt-hours ($0.0006 if it were 10cents/kwh) per gallon for all activities. Pumping is also one of those nice loads that pairs nicely with renewables to shape load profiles. That's about one watt of solar panels per gallon of water per day in Phoenix. Municipal deliveries are under 175gal per capita per day for Phoenix proper and per capita use is declining (-30% from 1990 to 2008 in Phoenix proper) with far less water angst than in SoCal or NV. Compare to heating energy use elsewhere in the country.

Iran's 'distressed' oil to keep flowing - at deep discount

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Despite tightening sanctions on Iran's oil industry, experts say the country's crude should still flow -- but perhaps at a deep discount.

In fact, the bargaining has already begun, two analysts said.

China, the largest buyer of Iranian oil, has sharply reduced its imports from Iran over the past two months.

But it hasn't been in sympathy with U.S. efforts to pressure Iran on its nuclear efforts. Rather, China believes it can negotiate a lower price.

"This isn't about Beijing trying to be a good actor," said Trevor Houser, a partner at the international economics research firm Rhodium Group. "The Chinese are trying to get a better price on what is now a distressed asset."

"Distressed asset"...how distressing :-/

Sounds like an opportunity for arbitrage! Buy cheap Iranian oil, and sell it at world prices.....

The CNN article in regards to Iran's oil exports to China, is technically correct, that China imported less oil in December - but shipping reports indicate that imports will grow substantially in January.

Per tanker tracker, Oil Movements, OPEC oil exports overall haven't changed one iota in seven weeks. Sanctions against Iran are either not working or being exactly offset by other OPEC members.

Jan 12, 2012 7:18 PM ET

Crude shipments from OPEC will reach the highest level in almost a year amid rising exports from Libya, according to tanker-tracker Oil Movements. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will export 23.66 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Jan. 28, the most since Feb. 12, 2011, the Halifax, England-based researcher said yesterday in an e-mailed report. The figures exclude Angola and Ecuador.


Exports will reach 23.65 million bpd on average, up from 23.51 million bpd in the four weeks to Dec. 3, UK consultancy Oil Movements said in its latest weekly estimate.


Dr. Zawodny: “It has the demonstrated ability to produce excess amounts of energy, cleanly, without hazardous ionizing radiation, without producing nasty waste.”

I await the debunking of NASA by posters like Darwinanian who in the past had expressed how Cold Fusion is 'bunk'.

A few skeptical observations:
- Google scholar returns 0 peer-reviewed articles given author=zawodny and search-term=lenr or search-term=fusion. As such he doesn't appear to be part of the fusion research community.
- The Youtube user Nasa TechnologyGateway has no video about LENR or Zawodny. All video's featuring Zawodny are presented by 3rd party users interested in LENR.
- The Nasa Technology Gateway website does not feature a video about LENR or Zawodny. At least I can't find it.
- In the linked video nowhere Zawodny claims they have a working machine that produces excess power.
- The only interesting sentence in this 2 minute long video is: "It has the demonstrated ability to produce excess amounts of energy [..]"

"Demonstrated" has multiple meanings, in academe this can also be interpreted as "demonstrated in theory" and Zawodny doesn't explicitly say it's demonstrated in practice. The wording is rather, no, very vague.

- No test setup is being shown, only computer screens.

My conclusion: this video is not proof of anything.

Google scholar returns 0 peer-reviewed articles given author=zawodny and search-term=lenr or search-term=fusion. As such he doesn't appear to be part of the fusion research community.


I did find that book in my search. Do you consider it peer-reviewed? I seriously doubt it as it isn't published in a Wiley journal, so didn't mention it. If yes, do you know who peer-reviewed it and how many cites it has?

It's main authors are journalist Krivit and a free-market think tank member. Zawodny contributed to one 5 page chapter on Widom-Larsen theory together with Krivit.

From Wikipedia:

Widom-Larsen theory[edit]

Widom-Larsen theory proposes that "heavy electrons" formed at the surface of palladium deuteride react with deuterons to form di-neutrons (d+ + e- -> 2n) with "ultra low momentum," and thus very high capture cross-section. These neutrons can then cause transmutation and energy release. It is claimed that this is not "fusion," but the effect is that a deuteron has been broken into pieces, which are then, so to speak, spoon fed to nuclei one at a time. That this is not "fusion" is purely a semantic distinction; the fuel is deuterium, the electrons are catalytic, overall, and the result is heavier isotopes with energy released. This theory has been heavily promoted by Steve Krivit, of New Energy Times, who has criticized the work that has led most in the field to conclude that the heat/helium balance indicates some kind of deuterium fusion. W-L theory, however, does not account for the isotopic distribution of alleged transmutation products found with cold fusion: Helium predominates (there is no doubt about that, the only question is the exact ratio, which would be dependent on the mix of reactions caused. Isotopic ash is found only at levels far below that of helium.

Most in the field think that the main reaction, whatever it is, produces only helium and energy, and that other products, such as neutrons, tritium, other transformed elements, and X-rays are the product of secondary reactions or rare branches. However, W-L theory still receives some level of positive comment, most notably, recently, from a scientist working in the government who was apparently happy to call his work "not fusion" because of W-L theory.

One guess who that scientist is... The circle of repeating names is very small, only two names.

What does this chapter of 5 pages say about the validity of the theory? What does this say about NASA's endorsement of LENR? What does this say about a working prototype that delivers excess energy? Nothing.

"Heavy electrons"? So LENR depends on the Standard Model of particle physics being in gross error in an easily measured way?

That is one of the primary markers on the crackpot checklist, I don't forsee that NASA announcement coming out any time soon.

"Heavy electrons"? That is one of the primary markers on the crackpot checklist, I don't forsee that NASA announcement coming out any time soon.


1. A method of producing heavy electrons, comprising the steps of: selecting a material system that includes an electrically-conductive material, said material system having a resonant frequency associated therewith for a given operational environment; and forming a structure having a surface, said structure comprising a non-electrically-conductive material and said material system, said structure incorporating said electrically-conductive material at least at said surface of said structure, wherein a geometry of said structure supports propagation of surface plasmon polaritons at a selected frequency that is approximately equal to said resonant frequency of said material system, and producing heavy electrons at said electrically-conductive material as said surface plasmon polaritons propagate along said structure.

Patents are not scientific papers, and patent examiners are not generally experts in particle physics.

Try again.

Note that it is not a NASA video and while Zawodny works for NASA, he has no expertise in anything related to fusion.

After watching the video, his comments seem to fit perfectly when talking about fusion in general, rather than LENR specifically.

A quick background check from NASA has him as being "senior research scientist in the Climate Science Branch". Sounds like just the fellow to know the deep ins-and-outs of cutting edge fusion research.

The story doesn't appear to have been picked up by main stream media either. Sounds a tad fishy to me.
I'd love it to be true, but it'll take more than this brief video to convince me (I'd expect a more professional feel from a video from NASA too).

On a separate note, the poor man has to deal with his name being Polish for "defective".

We can't be sure what he talks about at all. The quote about energy surplus could just as easily be a suggestive cut/paste while in reality he talks about something else then LENR.

Sure, as soon as NASA posts it on their website as an official announcement I'll be happy to eat my words.

No flash so I referred to the PDF.

It appears to be an overview, not an endorsement, and the inclusion of "shrunken hydrogen" is another alert from the Quantum Physics angle.

[Edit] Page 16 of the PDF illustrates quite nicely the sort of real-world test that can convince skeptics that there is at least a real effect, even if the effect is poorly understood.

Zawodny responded to all the hype.

His believe in Cold Fusion...

As for what people are trying to read into this video, specifically my use of the word “demonstrated”, it is my professional opinion that the production of excess energy has been demonstrated when the results of the last 20+ years of experimentation are evaluated. There has been a lot of work done in the past 20+ years. When considered in aggregate I believe excess power has been demonstrated. I did not say, reliable, useful, commercially viable, or controllable.

... is based on beliefs.

As to Poppers philosophy of science:

Every attempted demonstration of a LENR device that I am aware of has failed to meet one or more of these criteria.

For the eCat believers:

There have been many attempts to twist the release of this video into NASA’s support for LENR or as proof that Rossi’s e-cat really works. Many extraordinary claims have been made in 2010. In my scientific opinion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I find a distinct absence of the latter.

It's past time for critical rationalism to enter the discussion again. Where is the empirical evidence?