Drumbeat: May 5, 2012

Fuel Policies Bedevil Asia as Price Increases Hurt Poor: Economy

For K. Indrani, who cleans homes in Colombo to support her invalid husband and 16-year-old daughter, living on the 600 rupees ($4.70) she earns a day just got harder because the Sri Lankan government raised fuel prices in February.

“We have only three lights in our house, but we try to keep them off as much as possible,” the 46-year-old said. “This is affecting my daughter’s studies. We are forced to keep the fridge running, but we are having to cut down on food as we can now afford less on the same pay.”

Indrani’s plight highlights the dilemma for Asian governments from Indonesia to India as they struggle to rein in rising subsidies for energy and food that are inflating budget deficits. Sri Lanka’s inflation doubled to 5.5 percent in March after the island raised fuel prices the previous month to curb the trade gap, and concern that higher costs will distress the poor and spur voter anger has restrained increases elsewhere.

Oil Falls to Lowest Since February Before U.S. Jobs Data

Oil fell below $100 a barrel for the first time since February as U.S. employers added fewer workers than forecast, stoking concern that demand won’t be enough to reduce inventories from their highest level in 21 years.

Futures declined 3.9 percent after Labor Department figures showed payrolls rose 115,000, the smallest gain in six months. An advance of 160,000 was projected, according to the median of 85 economist forecasts in a Bloomberg survey. Euro-region services and manufacturing output contracted more than initially estimated in April.

Quick Vote

How much does your family spend on gasoline per month?

Libya's Arabian Gulf Oil Company cuts oil production

PanARMENIAN.Net - Libya's Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) has cut oil production by another 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to protests that have closed off its headquarters for nearly two weeks, a spokesman said on Saturday, May 5.

Reuters reported that protesters have prevented employees from entering Agoco's office since April 23, calling for more transparency over how Libya's new rulers are spending its money and more jobs for youth.

UAE Hormuz Bypass Pipeline To Export In 3 Months

The UAE's strategic oil pipeline for bypassing the Strait of Hormuz is complete and exports are expected to start within three months, UAE Oil Minister Mohammed al-Hamli said on Thursday.

Feds likely could push pipelines through B.C. after long legal struggle

VANCOUVER — Legal experts say the federal government probably has the power to push the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to completion despite opposition in B.C. which grew Tuesday to include B.C. hockey hero Scott Niedermayer.

Niedermayer said Tuesday the Northern Gateway pipeline and its associated tankers are too great a risk to run through B.C.'s so-called "Great Bear region."

Shell shuts down Nigeria pipeline over theft

Royal Dutch Shell PLC says it has shut down a major pipeline running through Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta because it had been repeatedly targeted by thieves.

Chesapeake Seen Offering Biggest Gain in U.S. Shale Boom: Energy

Chesapeake Energy Corp., battered by a glut-driven collapse in natural-gas prices and growing investor distrust of its management, still is the cheapest way of buying into the U.S. shale revolution.

Warm winter limits Spectra's earnings

Record low natural gas prices and the warmest winter in 100 years translated into a lower first-quarter profit for Spectra Energy, a Houston-based natural gas pipeline operator.

Net income fell to $333 million from $357 million in the first quarter of 2011, and operating revenue fell to $1.54 billion from $1.61 billion a year earlier.

National Fuel sees 42% drop in earnings

National Fuel Gas Co.’s second-quarter earning tumbled by 42 percent as lower natural gas prices hurt its oil and natural gas drilling business and the warm winter cut into earnings at its utility operations.

Russia's Rosneft signs deal with Norway's Statoil

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's state oil company Rosneft has announced the signing of a deal with Norway's Statoil to jointly develop deposits in Russian sections of the Barents and Okhotsk seas.

Rosneft, which is Russia's largest oil producer, said Statoil ASA will take a 33 percent stake in the joint venture and will finance the initial exploration.

Russia shows interest in exploration of oil and gas in Pakistan

KARACHI: Russia has shown interest in exploration of oil and gas in Pakistan.

This was stated by the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural resources, Dr Asim Hussain, here on Saturday.

He further pointed out that the Russians are willing to explore oil and gas in Pakistan.

Ahmadinejad rivals rout president in Iran runoff

TEHRAN, Iran – Supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been reduced to a small fraction in Iran's legislature, hugely outnumbered by the conservatives who once backed him but then turned against him after he was perceived to challenge the authority of top clerics, according to final results from a runoff parliamentary election announced Saturday.

Iran has touted the turnout for Friday's vote as a show of support for the country's religious leadership in their confrontation with the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Iran May Lose 9.5% of Oil Contracts as Asian Buyers Cut Imports

Iran is poised to lose at least 192,000 barrels a day of crude-supply contracts, or about 9.5 percent of its global exports, as Asian buyers curb purchases amid western sanctions targeting the nation’s oil trade.

Iraq aims to double power supply by next year

Iraq plans to double its electricity supply to 12,330 megawatts (MW) by 2013 as it brings new sources of power online, the electricity ministry said on Saturday, but is still seen falling short of demand.

Iraq needs investment in most of its industries after years of war and economic decline. In a country where temperatures can top 50 degrees Celsius in summer, power generation is especially crucial.

Fracturing rule offers a concession

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Friday unveiled a proposed rule that would force companies to reveal the chemicals they use when drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands.

But the long-anticipated regulation includes a major concession to oil and gas companies - allowing the disclosures after a well is drilled and the chemicals are pumped underground instead of a month beforehand as federal regulators originally considered.

Frack First, Disclose Chemicals Later Under U.S. Rule

“This is a free pass to the oil and gas industry at the expense of public health,” Jessica Ennis, a Washington-based legislative associate for the environmental group Earthjustice, said today in an e-mail.

New Keystone Bid Gives GOP Political ’Ammunition’

A fresh application from TransCanada Corp. to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline assures that the project, strongly opposed by environmental groups, will remain an issue through the November U.S. presidential election.

Russian nuclear power plant 'explodes' Bulgaria

Bulgaria is protesting against the government's decision to abandon construction of NPP "Belene". The facility erected by Russian specialists was to help the Balkan country to meet stringent EU requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the political situation was more important for the Sofia politicians than the national interests.

Japan nuclear power-free as last reactor shuts

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese utility Hokkaido Electric Power Co began shutting the country's last active nuclear reactor on Saturday, leaving the world's third-biggest user of atomic energy with no nuclear-derived electricity for the first time since 1970.

Debbie Chachra on "peak plastic"

If we’re running out of oil, that also means that we’re running out of plastic. Compared to fuel and agriculture, plastic is small potatoes. Even though plastics are made on a massive industrial scale, they still account for less than 10% of the world’s oil consumption. So recycling plastic saves plastic and reduces its impact on the environment, but it certainly isn’t going to save us from the end of oil. Peak oil means peak plastic. And that means that much of the physical world around us will have to change.

Transition reaches Latvia

Ikskile Transition Initiative is a pioneering project that promotes the Transition Movement and permaculture in Latvia. It became an official transition initiative in March 2011, and a registered NGO in July 2011. The website has been visited more than 26,000 times. ITI aims to be a platform that connects the local inhabitants and organizations who value self-sufficiency, localization and sustainability. Meanwhile, the initiative is bringing a new awareness regarding global and local peak oil and climate change challenges, so that a new motivation, focus and energy is brought to ITI member's already existing activities and services.

A Recycling Czar for New York City

In a sign that New York City is getting serious about improving its poor recycling record, the city’s Department of Sanitation is appointing a recycling industry innovator as its new “deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability.”

Degraded environment threat to national security, says retired general

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews) – For retired Lt. Gen. William Hotchkiss III, the greatest threat to national security is not the rebels but environmental destruction.

Hotchkiss, the 24th commander of the Philippine Air Force and former Philippine Eagle Foundation president, yesterday issued a statement challenging the government to keep a close watch on the environment saying its degradation is the greatest threat to national security.

When Global Warming Ate My Life

It never occurred to me that my status quo confronted a mortal threat and could be extinguished forever. My mind did not conceive that in a few hours everything we had worked for and cherished would no longer exist.

I committed a cognitive error that I call "the error of predictability." It is the deeply ingrained tendency of every living system -- from the human brain to microorganisms to complex societies -- to operate as though the near future will follow from the near past. As a social scientist I have studied this pattern for decades. I've pored over control room transcripts in which operators ignored catastrophic data, preferring to think "bad instruments" rather than "CATACLYSM!" I have worked closely with hundreds of adults in crisis struggling to cope with change. I've consulted with companies reluctant to let go of the past. The morning of the fire I completed work for a chapter in my new book. The title? The Error of Predictability. Apparently knowledge did not inoculate me from this error.

While the Resource Cornucopians are engaged in a furious debate as to whether ultimate cumulative oil production from North America will best be measured in billions, or trillions, of barrels of oil, the US is graduating millions of frequently heavily indebted young people every year, whose college degrees very poorly prepare them for the realities of todays economy.

In my opinion, the principal reality of today's economy is that we have seen global annual (Brent) crude oil prices double from $55 in 2005 to $111 in 2011, as the developing countries, led by China & India, continue to outbid developed countries like the US for a declining supply of Global Net Exports of oil. While increasing oil production from the US is encouraging, from 2004 to 2010 the combined decline in net oil exports from the seven major net oil exporters in North & South America was about fives times greater than the increase in US total petroleum liquids production (BP data base, 2011 data not yet available*).

Instead of "Waiting for Godot," i.e., waiting for policy makers to acknowledge resource limits, which is something that may not happen, at least for the foreseeable future, perhaps we should work toward fundamental reform of our educational system, with a much stronger emphasis on vocational and agricultural training.

Jeffrey J. Brown

*US Total Petroleum Liquids production increased from the pre-hurricane rate of 7.2 mbpd in 2004 to 7.5 mbpd in 2010, and probably to about 7.8 mbpd in 2011. From 2004 to 2010, the combined net oil exports from the seven major net oil exporters in the Americas and the Caribbean declined by 1.4 mbpd, from 6.2 mbpd in 2004 to 4.8 mbpd in 2010 (BP).

Learning That Works (Behind Paywall)
by Joe Klein

Vocational education used to be where you sent the dumb kids or the supposed misfits who weren't suited for classroom learning. It began to fall out of fashion about 40 years ago, in part because it became a civil rights issue: voc-ed was seen as a form of segregation, a convenient dumping ground for minority kids in Northern cities. "That was a real problem," former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein told me. "And the voc-ed programs were pretty awful. They weren't training the kids for specific jobs or for certified skills. It really was a waste of time and money."

Unfortunately, the education establishment's response to the voc-ed problem only made things worse. Over time, it morphed into the theology that every child should go to college (a four-year liberal-arts college at that) and therefore every child should be required to pursue a college-prep course in high school. The results have been awful. High school dropout rates continue to be a national embarrassment. And most high school graduates are not prepared for the world of work. The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates who are not in school is a stratospheric 33%. The results for even those who go on to higher education are brutal: four-year colleges graduate only about 40% of the students who start them, and two-year community colleges graduate less than that, about 23%. "College for everyone has become a matter of political correctness," says Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University. "But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a quarter of new job openings will require a bachelor of arts degree. We're not training our students for the jobs that actually exist." Meanwhile, the U.S. has begun to run out of welders, glaziers and auto mechanics--the people who actually keep the place running.

In Arizona and more than a few other states, that is beginning to change. Indeed, the old notion of vocational education has been stood on its head. It's now called career and technical education (CTE), and it has become a pathway that even some college-bound advanced-placement students are pursuing.

Young Italians flock to become shepherds

As Italy’s unemployment rate topped 10pc this week, it emerged that young people are flocking to become shepherds. Traditionally the preserve of older men, the profession has recently attracted 3,000 young Italians, according to agricultural body Coldiretti. They are choosing a simple life in the great outdoors because their aspirations to become doctors, lawyers or engineers have been thwarted by Italy’s negligible economic growth, which has been compounded by grinding austerity measures.

No argument with the basic premise, but I might point out that "two-year community colleges graduate less than that, about 23%." is probably misleading. Most who go to CC are not after the formal AA degree. They go for the industrial electronics class, or truck driving, or welding. If a class is not required for their training area of interest, then they don't take it.


I agree with all your statements in regard to the need for educational reform. Indeed, I think the need to reform and improve education in the U.S. is as important and as difficult as making a successful transition away from fossil fuels.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate just how bad things are now and also how bad they have been over the past fifty years. My first job was at the University of California, Berkeley, as chief teaching assistant in charge of the Prose Improvement Program in the Business Administration department. At that time--1963--U.C. Berkeley admitted only appricants who graduated from the top twelve percent of their high schools. Of those admitted to UC, about half had to take Subject A, a non-credit course in remedial English. I was working with juniors in the Bus Admin department, and my mission was to improve their writing skills. Their writing skills were at about the fourth grade level, with many sentence fragments, run-on sentences, glaring punctuation mistakes, etc. Only one student could write coherent paragraphs, and he was just off the jet from China. Recall that these were "elite" students at an elite university, and they were not mere freshman; they were juniors who had already survived their freshman and sophomore years. Clearly, the level of education in writing skills in grades five through twelve in California was during the nineteen fifties and early sixties extraordinarily low.

When I began teaching at the community college level in 1970 in accounting, economics, sociology, and philosophy we had open enrollment. The distribution of abilities was bipolar--roughly half who should not have been in an academic college at all and about half who, if they were motivated enough, could handle academic material at the college level. Writing skills were terrible, even among some of the brightest students, e.g. students in the pre-engineering. program. I retired in 2001, and writing skills among my students were substantially worse at that time than they had been thirty years earlier.

If weak writing skills were a major problem, the prevalence of innumeracy was even worse. About half my economics students could not understand even the very simplest graph. In the fall I would start with forty-five students in my principles of accounting class, and by spring quarter I'd be down to twelve or fifteen. One of the biggest reasons that people do not understand Peak Oil is that they are innumerate. My belief is that fewer than twenty percent of those with a bachelor's degree in the U.S. can understand ELM. Another barrier to understanding Peak Oil is lack of critical-thinking skills. Without good critical thinking skills, a person is likely to believe what the "authorities" say and be unable to spot biases in the main-stream media.

By all means, let us have more vocational education. Perhaps we can learn from the German model of education. At the same time, we need to focus much more on basic math, reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills.

Don, I took a couple of Voc Ed courses from a Cal CC back in 1973. There were few students in the courses at the time, but that might have been due to the fact that the college was in Eureka and had a small enrollment. I wonder what things were like after Prop 13 passed in 1978, when there was quite a cutback in state spending and the hit on schools was said to have been painful. Do you have a comment as to the effects of this cutback in the years which followed? I think one of the impacts of the recent economic troubles has been a reduction in teachers in the K-12 system. This might appear to result in even lower proficiency for new grads as time passes...

E. Swanson

IMO, the huge decline in the quality of teaching in the K-12 system in the U.S. over the past sixty years is mainly due to one big fact: Prior to roughly 1965 the great majority of schoolteachers in the U.S. were the most intelligent and motivated women who worked at all. Fifty or sixty years ago, few jobs were open to women--teaching, nursing, secretary, barmaid, and maybe a few menial jobs. Now the best and brightest women are going into engineering, law, finance, and medicine. Now, IMO, the average teacher is mediocre or worse--neither especially bright nor especially motivated.

To the best of my knowledge, there is not a strong correlation between spending on schools and outcomes for students. The real wages of teachers have gone up enormously over the past sixty years, but they are still way too low to attract the best and brightest people into teaching. Schools of education are now academic dumping grounds--easy to get into, and easy to graduate from. Currently there is a large surplus of teachers--in large part because schools of education are so easy to enter and so easy to graduate from.

There are still some very fine teachers in U.S. public schools (including one of my daughters), but they are a relatively small minority, and also they tend to burn out and leave teaching within several years.

The fundamental problem the US has in education is that the goalposts have been moved, and the US is about number 23 in the world in terms of academic standards.

I came out of an educational system in Alberta, Canada that graduated high school students at what would be approximately first year university level in the US. Since then, I think standards have been pushed up and they are now graduating grade 12 students at close to second year US university level. This can be a nasty experience for US expatriates in Alberta because they discover their kids are a year or two behind in high school, and are unlikely to get into an Alberta university without at least one year of university in the US.

It is great for Alberta students going to the US, though, because they can breeze through a four-year university program to a degree without working all that hard.

The big problem for the US is going to be China, because Chinese standards, as analyzed by testing in recent years, are even higher than in Alberta. It is really scary what the Chinese are doing, at least in their most advanced provinces. In particular, their universities are cranking out engineers like there will be no tomorrow, which for the US there might not be.

The big problem for the US is going to be China, because Chinese standards, as analyzed by testing in recent years, are even higher than in Alberta. It is really scary what the Chinese are doing, at least in their most advanced provinces. In particular, their universities are cranking out engineers like there will be no tomorrow, which for the US there might not be.

Highly educated does not a useful mammal make. I've noticed a lot of the Chinese/Indian expats who are highly educated here as an anecdote are uptight and inflexible. I would have to argue that academic rigor is not the whole sum of a persons ability or usefulness. This is the problem of a command type economy, you can dictate that people be skilled in highly academic disciplines and you can measure that skill. What you can't measure is the intangible differences made by different experiences outside of academia.

"I would have to argue that academic rigor is not the whole sum of a persons ability or usefulness."

Much of what passes for academic rigor is rote memorization, a skill which the internet has rendered pointless. I have a full set of the Handbook of Metals on my bookshelf, and it's usually quicker to find the information I need with Google. Same thing with the CRC handbook. The skill of taking square roots by hand is also dead.

What passes for educated in the age of the internet is still very much open for debate. The Chinese may have it figured out, or they may not. This also implies the US may not have have it figured out either.

PVguy - Isn't the debate really about the shape of the human world in 20-30 years and therefore the educational needs of society? On the one hand you've got the problem of whether or not you can teach with the expectation of ever higher levels of technological development and thus the question of whether simple arithmetic is even necessary for children to learn or paramount. Perhaps the real question is what expectations do you have of the future that children just entering the school system today will have compared to what actually transpires.

On the one hand you've got the problem of whether or not you can teach with the expectation of ever higher levels of technological development and thus the question of whether simple arithmetic is even necessary for children to learn or paramount.

Precisely because the future is so uncertain, if it were up to me I would definitely teach basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. I would also want to inculcate critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as a good grounding in the scientific method. I'd also invest in a solid base in physics, chemistry and biology. Then I'd focus on practical skills in things like plumbing, electricity and some kind of farming, permaculture, aquaponics, hydroponics, etc... I'd skip Economics, Law and Business Administration...

One of the most useful courses I took when I was getting my minor in mathematics was "Elementary mathematics from an advanced standpoint". It explained from an advanced standpoint why and how all the simple mechanical arithmetic algorithms you learned in grade school worked. Once you have that figured out, you can use a calculator much more effectively, or even design a better calculator.

The rest of the things you said are very useful, but I wouldn't skip Economics, Law or Business Administration. If you want to survive in today's high-tech world you need to know everything about everything.

but I wouldn't skip Economics, Law or Business Administration. If you want to survive in today's high-tech world you need to know everything about everything.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a well rounded education!

My point was that since the future is very uncertain those subjects may no longer apply in their current forms because there will by necessity be a shifting of paradigms. Whereas a foundation in basic math and science will still be generally useful regardless of any new social, political and economic paradigm.

Of course the subjects of Economics, Law and Business Administration will still be interesting from a historical and anthropological perspective and their study might help in preventing a civilization of the future from repeating our mistakes.

I just wouldn't want to study or teach them as basis for going forward into uncharted waters!
I have a hunch that the way tomorrow's world is structured may be very unlike today's so called high-tech world. I think we will see a more biophysical and ecological approach to economics, hopefully something approaching a steady state system and completely new social, political and legal organization.

Precisely because the future is so uncertain, if it were up to me I would definitely teach basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. I would also want to inculcate critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as a good grounding in the scientific method. I'd also invest in a solid base in physics, chemistry and biology. Then I'd focus on practical skills in things like plumbing, electricity and some kind of farming, permaculture, aquaponics, hydroponics, etc... I'd skip Economics, Law and Business Administration...

I could not agree more ... I have 6-8 nieces and nephews reaching the end of high school. To the extent that they ask me, I advise them as per above - get a good science and technology background, plus the ability and confidence to design, make, maintain, and/or repair very useful things - from engines to water systems to cars to roofs, to even CD players.

If you are comfortable around the physical realities of our world, especially how energy systems constitute themselves, and how physical systems are put together, then you can work with anything.

Those who've spent their time in the formal educational system look down on the autodidactics.

Yet the more successful people in "fast moving" fields are self-learners.

Perhaps ... but many of the extremely bright people in the IT world (even including the founders of Google, Dell and Apple) got their start in a good computing science school ... and I think most (or certainly a majority) still do. You don't really become a coding genius playing Space Invaders at home, or working in a cubicle at WalMart

The US education system needs to be seen for what it is - a huge govt program that is 100 years outdated and needs to be started over from the ground up.

We need to stop asking the DOE what it needs to perform better. No matter what the circumstances, the DOE is only ever going to answer the question one way: "Give us more of the students' time and more of everyone's tax money." If they had the students in class for 365 days a year and a million bucks to spend on each, it still wouldn't be enough.

IMHO teaching long division in this day and age is right up there with teaching kids pre-industrial farming techniques. The point is not whether or not those skills have merit, the point is that you have a finite amount of learning that you can ever invest in each student and IMHO there is too much other more relevant stuff they need to know. Yes the future is uncertain, but IMHO a lot of the old-school educational subjects were hardly useful in the pre-computer era. Kids have been asking "Aww, come on, when are we ever gonna need to know this stuff?" for generations. The complaint has become such a time-honored thing in our culture that we have forgotten that it's perfectly valid.

Right now we are producing quite a few high school students who are functionally illiterate. Until we fix that, NOTHING ELSE matters. Not basic math, not geography, not history, not economics, not spelling, not environmental awareness, not anything.

I admire a person today who knows pre-industrial farming techniques. But I don't think my child needs to know those skills more than he needs to know how to navigate the modern world he lives in. Even if PO and resource depletion put those farming techniques back into popularity, there will be sources to learn those techniques again - but in the meantime we are living in an industrialized world.

IMHO, kids need a thorough ground in the basics, which might be called the Three R's - "Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmetic", or in modern terms as English, Mathematics, and the Sciences. If they don't know those, they are going to be completely useless at doing anything. Once they have the core subjects mastered they can start working on fringe subjects, which while useful are not critical to coping in the modern world.

Educators usually get obsessed with fringe goals such as making kids feel better about themselves. I personally think that if the kids can't read, can't do simple arithmetic, and don't know why the sun rises in the East, they have no reason to feel good about themselves because they aren't going to make it in life.

"Educators usually get obsessed with fringe goals such as making kids feel better about themselves. I personally think that if the kids can't read, can't do simple arithmetic, and don't know why the sun rises in the East, they have no reason to feel good about themselves"

You and I have occasionally disagreed, but I certainly agree with you on this one.

I began working with young offenders in 1975, and have been a special education teacher of behavioural kids for the past 30 years. By the time the kids get to our program, they've usually had many years of special placements and numerous psycho-ed assessments.
Often we get recommendations that we scribe for the student, let him use a calculator or assistive reading device, etc. We usually ignore this.

The backbone of our learning program is some out-of print phonics and "read & answer" workbooks (circa 1965) which I rescued from a dumpster in 1983. They are progressive and cleverly written (we have an outstanding Grade 2 reading book which even 14-16 year old boys are very happy to work on... it's about the various adventures of a boy and his dog).
Parents are thrilled since their kid is finally catching onto reading, etc.

After a few months, the kids not only make progress, but (more importantly) they suddenly recognize this in themselves. The result is that progress feeds on itself: they keep attending & working, their chronic misbehaviours subside, etc.

Kids are well aware of what meets their needs, and they often grumble about not being allowed to use calculators and times-table grids the way the 'regular class' kids are.
But deep down they seem to know (perhaps for the first time in their lives) that learning fundamental skills like word-attack/phonics and basic computation are: 1. important & relevant, and 2. satisfying when you master them.

When the kid "feels better," it's because he knows he has achieved something important, not because someone said kind & flattering (but often untrue) statements about him.
As for making it in life, several of our high-risk students did not: some are doing federal time (one very memorable student was recently sentenced as a dangerous offender, ie. probably forever), some committed suicide, etc. But many others were eventually able to turn the corner, stay out of jail, and some have actually done quite well.

Perhaps the most significant aspect for these kids is this: previously, many of them believed that if they were ever to obtain the "good things" in life (ie. stuff/material things), they would have to steal them, since they had no hope of obtaining them via conventional, law-abiding means.
Once they acquire essential skills, they start to believe that there could actually be a place for them in the mainstream work-place, however modest as that might be.
For a kid who may be the son of cons & druggies, this can be a life-changing revelation.

"IMHO teaching long division in this day and age is right up there with teaching kids pre-industrial farming techniques."

One of the questions then is "Where do you stop?" After a long absence (decades) from the teaching side of the classroom, I'm teaching a Calculus I section at the local community college this term. Let's face it -- Mathematica running on a laptop is far better at symbolic integration than my students or I will ever be. Or if you don't have your laptop with you, you can pull up their app on your smartphone and it connects to the computation engine on their server. Few engineers are ever going to directly solve an integration problem -- they're going to run it through an appropriate software package. So why do I put students through the misery of learning to do integrals by hand? Other than "revenge of the math majors"?

"Few engineers are ever going to directly solve an integration problem -- they're going to run it through an appropriate software package."

You have that one right. Even if they have to solve an integral, it will likely be with Runge-kutta or some other numerical method. The last one I had to do ( about three years ago!) was a secant search because the derivative was also not explicitly solvable. So let the computer beat on it. It took like 4 seconds.

So why do you put students through the misery of learning to do integrals by hand?

The best reason is to make sure they understand what the computer is doing. Derivatives are the slope at a given point. The integral is the area under the curve between the start and stop lines. And it's also important to understand expected magnitudes, as computers will lie to you while looking completely innocent :-)

When I was in grad school, my data analysis required some pretty complicated statistical models. My advisor (who was a stats wizard) would not allow me to use the computer until I did one by hand (well, with my calculator). Then I set up the model in SAS. When we got the same results, I was allowed to use SAS going forward.

You can set up your model in SAS incorrectly, but SAS is going to give a result. You have to know what you're doing...

You can set up your model in SAS incorrectly, but SAS is going to give a result. You have to know what you're doing...

Just because you can enter the data and get a result doesnt mean it is correct. Getting the number correct make a huge difference then reality hit.

A simple way to get a good result is to do the measurement yourself. If you for example regularly do an investigation their you ask people about there oppinion:
1. Do the investigation.
2. Check which questions do not give the answer you want and do not use them again.

"Just because you can enter the data and get a result doesnt mean it is correct."

Yes, that was the entire point of my post.

The best reason is to make sure they understand what the computer is doing. Derivatives are the slope at a given point. The integral is the area under the curve between the start and stop lines.

Of course, derivatives and integrals are so much more than that. Derivativates are rates of change for any continuous process, in one variable or many. Integrals let you add up so many more things than just "area under the curve" -- volume, mass, probability, field strength, etc. For many students, calculus is the introduction to fundamental modern mathematical concepts of limits, sequences, and more. I'm concerned that once you drop out the mechanics (and the development of the various methods), it creates a hell of a hurdle for those who are going to go on to more advanced math.

I did wonder on the calc stuff, last year my twin boys had the college course, and they sure did give some tricky intagration problems for homework. Lots of mental gymnastics required. I don't remember having to do ones as hard as those. Back in the day, I actually needed analytic solutions (since computers were barely getting started), I can remeber correcting mistakes in thos etables of integrals books. Funny thing though, don't do that stuff for a couple of years, and you forget how. So I figured it was a lost art form, but I see they still make first year math students struggle through it.

IMHO "revenge of the _____ majors" has at least as much to do with our current education system's curriculum as anything else.

IMHO when a student asks "Awww, when are are ever gonna need to know this stuff?" the teacher should be able to whip out an answer off the top of their head. If they can't, then the subject probably shouldn't be getting much attention in K-12. I think very little of the current high school curriculum passes this real world test.

The common responses to my suggestion typically run along the lines of either "these subjects are needed for prerequisites higher up" or "how dare you say these subjects aren't valuable?" To the former argument, I think the unnecessary subjects run all the way to the top levels of the education system. To the latter argument, I would say the subjects' value is beside the point. The point is to help the students live better lives, and that means teaching them what is most important for them to know next, whatever that might be.

I agree. Public education is a crock, designed to indoctrinate impressionable American children into being useful servants of Empire.

I've learned more in 3 years of reading TOD, and other internet blogs, than I did in 12 years of public education.

I'm now very sympathetic to alternatives to public education, including home schooling.

Oilman: Have you seen this:

Changing education paradigms


It seems that you go through 4 years of higher education for the privilege of not having your CV dumped into the trash immediately. It seems that there isn't much respect for learning outside of academic institutions and the value of your supposed 4 years of learning seems to be some sort of 'proof of character'. Since that seems to be the case you may as well cut it down to a single year of difficult study to 'prove' your worth. Why waste four years to prove something which oughtn't take longer than a year at worst? It seems to be about making the job of HR easier and even after you have your degree which supposedly prepares you for your particular field you likely won't get anywhere without first also having experience in your industry, the second cull of applicants.

Oilman, would you consider making your statments just a little more carefully if you value keeping the discussion in TOD at a high level?

"Public education is a crock.." - I'm sorry if you've had a bad experience with Public Schools, but you're committing the 'Weather isn't Climate' fallacy. We certainly need to keep that level of thinking from becoming the norm here, don't we?

There are many highs AND lows.. and you also have to notice where they've simply stumbled, and where they've been intentionally and repeatedly tripped up by ideologically driven opponents.

Portland's public schools are doing some great things, and still doing some regrettable things, but my daughter's school is in its first year of being totally Teacher-led.. and this is a city school with several hundred kids and a constant influx of non-English speaking kids, and a wide income range in the student body. Our teachers are very charged up by it, and schools across the district and across the globe are watching what they're doing.

Please be careful with that Broad Brush.. this is an area where the details are absolutely critical.

The quality of teaching is a major factor in educational outcomes, but there are many others. I grew up in a family with educated parents who read. My mother, now aged 87, has legible handwriting and continues to read books every day. She graduated from high school in 1942. When I read her writing, it is exceptionally clear and easy to understand. Her thoughts are coherent and most sentences are simple with a few compound or complex sentences to add interest. She majored in English and Psychology at Brooklyn College. When I was a child, she read Moby Dick to me. It was a children's version with illustrations, but nonetheless, it was much more exciting than Dick and Jane. My father valued science and scientific reasoning.

Yesterday, my mother and I were eating in a family-friendly restaurant and saw a child of about three years of age, entranced by a hand held internet device. He was paying attention to nothing but this device. I think there are a great many good things about the internet, but a child reared in this way, allowed to attend to the device to the exclusion of almost all other material, will develop in a rather skewed manner. Social development, the ability to interact with others, is as important as reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Sophisticated software can capture the attention; it can spur development in a certain direction. But it does not help develop the generation of a free imagination the way reading does. Certainly a modern education ought to include the use of media that are available, but not be ruled by it. Intellectual development requires coherent, logical thought, best developed by speaking and writing. Look magazine, not known for its intellectual content, had a 20 page article on race relations and the public schools in Arkansas in 1957 (when I was born). It was expected by the editors that the general public would have no problem in reading such an article. Because of changes in the culture, fewer quality teachers are available. Teachers have been raised in an environment with degraded intellectual content due to a variety of factors mentioned in other posts.

In 2007, as part of my year long exercise in undergoing teacher training, I was most impressed by how the local Quaker school educated children in grades one through eight. First, social development was preeminent. Conflicts were mediated by third parties throughout the school. The result was that the children were quite good at self-expression and actually seemed to enjoy one another. I observed well-mannered first graders engaging in relatively deep conversation at lunch, something unlikely in a traditional school. Eighth graders displayed rather sophisticated projects illustrating the use of the scientific method. Of course, this is a private school with students whose parents elected to send their children to a school with these values and practices. Would the general population of children fare better in such an environment? Perhaps.

Don, I retired from working as a business analyst in the oil and gas industry in 2007. Although I was hired as a technical person because of my knowledge of the industry, in my last job I had to proofread every single document that went out of my group in the consulting company I worked for because apparently I was the only person in our workgroup who understood basic English grammar.

Certainly none of the computer programmers could write documentation that anybody could understand, but we had a technical writer with a master's degree in English, and she couldn't write user's manuals that anybody could understand, either.

The fundamental problem is that they don't teach basic English grammar in school any more. The process is all very mechanical, just the nuts and bolts of putting together coherent sentences and paragraphs, but apparently the educational community has decided that the rules of English grammar are too restrictive and students should be allowed to do whatever they feel like doing regardless of whether it makes any sense at all.

Fortunately it was in Western Canada, where the standards for science and mathematics are much higher than in the US, so I didn't have to check the basic math or science in the documents as rigorously. The only problems arose because sometimes the science or mat was wrong, and they didn't really believe me when I said so, despite my two science degrees, because they thought they knew what they were doing.

Do you know if it is the case in Western Canada that the standards of education are still much higher than in the U.S. for science and math? If that is still true, I wonder how it is possible. Perhaps good jobs outside the oil industry are hard to find in rural areas, and hence more bright and highly motivated people teach than in most of the U.S.

In the U.S. there are very large regional differences in quality of K-12 education. For example, I went to grades one through three in White Bear Lake Minnesota, where there were not enough textbooks or desks to go around, and teacher pay was extremely low, but class discipline and most of the teachers were good. My next school, starting in Orinda (an upscale suburb of the East Bay Area) had plenty of books, brand new furniture and relatively good teacher pay for that era (1949). At Orinda Elementary school, standards were a joke: They used in the fifth grade the same reader that I had finished in third grade at Washington School in White Bear Lake. If the teacher left the classroom for twenty seconds, the classroom turned into a zoo, where the students (all lily white, by the way) rioted, broke up furniture, and threw erasers at and otherwised abused and bullied the one retarded boy in the classroom. For a long time, the saying that "California is the future" has had a good measure of truth to it. California has slipped from near first place in K-12 education performance down to slot number forty I read in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago. Predictably, the WSJ editorial page blames the teachers' unions for this drastic decline in performance. IMO, some of the blame for the decline in public education is due to teachers' unions, but most of the blame lies elsewhere.

The standards are high in Western Canada because the provincial governments have constitution authority over education and have pushed them as high as they can. It's probably a result of having been a British colony and taking an educational system designed to educate the British elite and rolling it out to the entire student population. The same applies to Australia, which also has much higher standards than the US.

The standards are lower in Eastern Canada than Western Canada, but as I say it's administered at the provincial level and it's their choice. Canada is probably the only advanced country that has no centralized educational authority. However, in no province are standards lower than in the US.

There is also a lesser urge in Canada to cut taxes by cutting educational standards, which seems to be a major problem in the US. There has been a presumption that if the taxpayers want good education, they have to pay for it.

IMHO the US public would be willing to dump a lot more money into the system if we saw much correlation between spending and results.

We also feel shut out of the system.

Example: I don't know anyone who would vote against a minor local tax increase to pay the teachers more. And yet we vote against minor tax increases for the school systems all the time. We know the money would not really end up where we want it sent.

I used to be an adjunct teacher of statistics at the Ny CUNY system. I have never had a student with math literacy problems, which actually surprised me given how lowly americans view the state of the level of math education. What surprised me was that my students used to ask me about the meanings of words. In the beginning I thought they might be pulling my leg, since my english is poor and my accent is as thick as a wall. From my limited understanding, I think that diction might be a weaker link in basic education rather than mathematics.

No offence RMG, but isn't it a natural law that when writing about grammar & speeling (!) it is required that one make a grammatical or spelling error?

the science or mat was wrong


Of course it is mandatory that when one talks about grammar or spelling that one has to make at least one grammatical or spelling error.

I have a sticky "h" key on my laptop, and "mat" got past the spell checker because "mat" is a legitimate word. That is why, when you are writing a serious document, you should have at least one other person proofread it for you. When you are blathering away about some non-serious subject on a Web site like this you just type as fast as you can and let the spell checker catch the typos for you.

Good proofreading, however, requires that you understand the English language and that you also understand the subject material.

If you must go solo, it really helps to read something you've written out-loud. I'm not at all sure how this works, but it's very effective, at least for me.

Also, if you're having trouble with getting a sentence so sound right to your ear, it's probably overloaded. Break it into two.

Glad you mentioned that, Joseph Palmer... I was going to add the very same suggestion. It's something that I encourage all of my students to do before submitting their papers - read it out loud! Awkward and nonsensical phrasings and grammar that survived several edits will make themselves obvious upon reading the thing out loud. It is simply amazing how powerful a method this is.

I am not an educator, but I do try to help with expression of ideas in my work.

The suggestions above are all good practical suggestions. For the people who report to me, if I don't follow their complex sentences or the organization of their memo, I ask them to tell me what the main points they would want their readers (me, CEO's, CFO's, judges) to understand. Then, usually, the statement is made more concisely and clearly. I find it useful to review my own work this way.

As to the specific point above, after reading it out loud to oneself, it would probably be useful to try telling your wife or other about this on your way in to work.

You would think that on a site filled with people willing to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture, folks might think a little beyond "well our schools must be the problem." Yeah, nothing to do with the economic or social structure of our country... it must be the teachers.

School curricula have become societal triage in a desperate bid to compensate for middle class parents unable to afford the time to raise their children, and for poor families beset by poverty, drugs, violence, and increasingly fractured family bonds.

But yeah. Blame the teachers. That sure is an easy explanation.

Of course the institution of the family is more fundamental and more important than the institution of education for almost any variable sociologists can measure; ask any sociologist.

A major reason I did well in school is that both my mother and father were college graduates, and they imbued in me the importance of education. By the age of seven my father was teaching me tricks with arithmetic. With such a family background, I was bound to succeed in college.

I still think quality of teacher is the most important independent variable when it comes to effectiveness of education, but there are plenty of other factors that affect learning, for example, social class, race, ethnicity, and I.Q.

""I still think quality of teacher is the most important independent variable when it comes to effectiveness of education,""

Sorry, gotta slap this one up side the head.......It is the most fundamental part of Breeding.....The education of ones Spawn is the responsibility of the Parent. No one else.

The "most important" variable, is the Parent, not some government run babysitting service. You said it your self. As the twig is bent.....

Hopefully, the coming collapse will get the priorities straightened out.

Choose Wisely.
The Martian.


What about curriculum and delivery approach? There is so much controversy over exactly what a good teacher is that it seems unfair to claim that bad teaching is the problem.

I have long thought that our whole approach to education is dead wrong in terms of what and how we conduct schooling. Most of the format of classes, age cohorts, subjects, majors (in college) and so on is geared toward some kind of efficient assembly line process. The notion that tests are somehow good ways to measure learning is badly antiquated (and standardized tests are worse yet).

In my profession as a college teacher I am in a constant battle with colleagues and students alike because I work hard at challenging students to think and not just regurgitate facts. Testing thinking ability is a lot harder than testing facts or testing skills in specific problem solving. And I actually have colleagues (ironically who do research in computer science teaching) who are intimidated by my methods, claiming that my lower student evaluation scores (don't get me started on that mess) shows that I am not a good teacher (actually they aren't that bad, but I refuse to game the system to get stellar scores).

Even our subjects, as taught in disciplinary silos, are stultifying to many students. They too often just want to get through a class, remember what they need for an exam, and then, once out, forget the whole ordeal.

A number of schools have started experimenting with so-called problem-based learning (PBL) to one degree or another. Early results are pretty impressive. The point is that the role of a "teacher" is quite different from what we normally think of as the person who stuffs our kids heads full of knowledge. PBL teachers are more like facilitators and coaches. Of course there can still be poor coaches, but it seems that most kids start out with a high motivation to learn on their own and that is what PBL leverages on. It is the modern school that systematically pounds curiosity and experimentation (with the option of being wrong and not being penalized for trying!) out of kids. By the time I see them in upper division courses they have been greatly brainwashed.

Forgive the rant, but I am quite keen on reforming the education system in a way that will really be meaningful. Just pushing math and science down the kids' throats harder isn't going to do the job. If anything it will make matters worse. Humans are born wanting to learn. It takes a school system to teach them that isn't in their best interest!


I agree with Mortimer Adler's three paidea (spelling?) books on how U.S. schooling should be reformed. I also agree with Richard Paul's books and articles on critical thinking and educational reform. Even on a Saturday night Drumbeat, I think it would be going too far afield to describe in any detail the thinking of these two men, but I imagine that with Google it would be easy to find something. Or you could search used books on amazon.com for very cheap copies of their books.

Though somewhat popular during the nineteen eighties, both Mortimer Adler and Richard Paul totally failed to get implementation of their reforms in U.S. public schools. I know of a few private high schools that have gone a long way toward implementing Adler's proposals, but in general the educational establishment has totally rejected the work of both men.

Indeed, one of the problems of U.S. public schools is that fads drive out genuine attempts at major reform. Indeed, when I was at a big critical thinking conference headed by Richard Paul, I asked him whether there is a kind of Gresham's Law in education, whereby bad ideas (silly fads) drive out good ideas and genuine reform. He was somewhat excited by this question, thought about it for a while, then said "yes" to my question and gave several recent examples of this happening. Bad money will always drive good money out of circulation. In education in the U.S. the evidence of the past sixty years at least shows a strong tendency for bad (or trivial) ideas to stop major and constructive reforms.

...work hard at challenging students to think and not just regurgitate facts...

Students fresh out of highschool are used to learning to regurgitate facts. It takes a fixed amount of effort per fact. They have been regurgitating facts their whole acedemic life, with the number of facts they need to learn to regurgitate increasing with grade level. Freshman college students often are surprised when required to think. It seems unfair that they can't just keep doing what they were doing at a higher level of effort and get the grade they want. Some stubbornly refuse to ever learn to think and gravitate toward areas where that is not required.

Why does the K-12 educational system teach regurgitation of facts? It is because the student body largely does not want to be there. The educators are held responsible for the success of the students, so the students are force fed facts. One can not force feed understanding or teach thinking by force. Critical thinking requires the student to take an active role.

In real learning, sometimes understanding happens immediately, and sometimes only after great effort. In cramming trivia facts, the relationship between effort and success is predictable and linear.

Also, in K-12, there is a tendency for busywork to displace productive work. Suppose a student is flunking Geometry, and doing well in their other classes. They really need to spend time studying Geometry because they don't understand something important, but could blow off some other stuff without any real problems. Except that the study schedule, and manner of studying has been legislated by the fact that assigned homework is mostly graded.

If the student has a fixed time budget, they would be better off GPA wise by doing the easy homework, and vocabulary cross-word puzzles, and doing just enough Geometry to get a D. This is the opposite of the optimal learning strategy of blowing off everything else until whatever was the problem in Geometry has been overcome.

Some teachers may not grade homework. This only results in no studying for that class even if studying is needed for the same reason as above. Because teachers are accountable for the success of students, no good deed goes unpunished.

Of course this is in addition and subsequent to the students least suited to force feeding being labeled as somehow disabled early on, so that the school, their teachers, their parents, and they are not held accountable for lack of learning. Such students learn that if they suck enough, nothing more will be asked of them, and that there is something wrong with them that means acedemics are not their talent, and that they better look elsewhere for places to shine. These are often some of the brightest students.

Why don't the students want to learn? It is because they are being force fed. Would you want even your favorite meal crammed down your throat? The school system is held responsible for teaching learning students the curriculum whether the students like it or not.

Learning is in the best interest of students and they naturally know it, except that if there is even one student that for whatever reason does not want to learn, the methods, the rules, the way the whole student body is treated begins to be tailored not to teach that student, but to learn them the curriculum against their will. ( Yes I have coined a differentiation between 'teaching someone' who wants to learn and 'learning someone' who doesn't against their will )

As subjects are less taught and more learned into students, more and more students find the experience distasteful, and cease to want to learn. The whole rot stems from K-12 education being mandatory instead of an opportunity.

In the 1700s it was ordinary for students to complete four year college degrees at age 18. What is done to children and teenagers nowadays is a useless unfunny joke.

My two cents: Life is brutal, there will be blood, some will not survive. Attempts to limit the brutality of life generally make it moreso, especially in the medium to long run.

I think the full-time student track will be questionable for many. The experience I gained while working through college ended up being more valuable, in some ways, than the college curricula I was exposed to. My first two years I worked as the baker's assistant (in at 5 AM), and learned skills I value to this day. I also took a part time job as a construction grunt, building the school's new science building. After a stint in the service, I went back to school and co-oped my way through (commercial mechanical work, utilities surveyor, eventually CS/IT and utility survey/design).

After that, I never applied for a job that I didn't eventually get. In fact, I usually didn't have to apply, as one job lead to another, learning new skills along the way and getting paid to learn, and employers often reimbursed me for additional courses I took. It was mostly contract work, and I watched many folks struggle to find jobs when contracts were completed (or cancelled).

I expect that experience without a degree will prove more useful than a degree without experience, going forward. Having both will be a major advantage. And I agree with Don, above; basic literacy is an imperative, IMO. That said, my speeling still sux ;-)

Yup, for sure and you bettcha. Upwards of 90% of the jobs in this country can be done with a ninth grade education, that being actually getting a decent education through the ninth grade and retaining it well enough to function. High school is about keeping young people out of the workforce. My mother was surprised when they told her that in teacher training, in 1960.

We have a gross mismatch between the skills we need to keep the place functioning and the skills we are training people to do. This is particularly bad in the case of agriculture. Attempts to replace the Spanish speaking labor force which comes pre-trained from their own agricultural traditions with the native born have consistently and completely failed.

In fact, my take on the mushrooming of college education is that it is a way to soak up the excess labor-hours and initiative of the millions of people "freed up" by labor saving devices.

Countries which focus on providing compulsory education through the eighth or ninth grade do a much better job of it. Most people go into vocational training and a smaller number into "academic" or college preparatory tracks. This does not close off people's future prospects as much as you might think. Germany has a lot of older college students. For example, it's not uncommon for people to start out with a vocational program and become dental hygienists, go back to school several times for more training, and graduate as dentists at 40.

It's the belief that more and more education will solve all problems, even if it's meaningless. In the end it boils down to the law of diminishing returns. Getting 10% of the population to become graduates over the previous 8 will make a great impact, 80 over the previous 70, not so much. The march of technology is relentless and so is the phenomenon of globalization. In the west wages will continue to fall and jobs continually lost till the time economy collapses, more graduates won't change a thing.

Still almost every parent wants their child to have a prestigious white collar job with an academic title after their name. Every middle class parent believes, almost without question, that their children can and will have this life if they go to college and its the other people's children who will have to do all the skilled manual and semi-skilled jobs. That's who Obama was appealing to when he promised college education for everyone.

When did he promise college education for everyone? He didn't.

You are right, I thought he had said everyone should aim to go to college (and presumably the government would be throwing more money at colleges to enable this) but what he said was that everyone should aim for at least one year of post secondary education, even community college, which I think is reasonable.

Early in the 20th century, education through the 8th grade was supposed to give you the basics -- history, math, writing -- and high school was for more advanced students. Rather like English O levels and A levels. My dad graduated from Big Pasture High School in southern Oklahoma in 1917 with two years of German under his belt; his twin sister went to work teaching school for a couple of years, no further education required.

European high schools train up to the equivalent of a US junior college. American high schools have become, as noted above, holding pens to keep unemployed youth off the streets. College often begins with remedial education, making up for the lacks of el-hi. My husband worked for several years in the Expository Writing department of New York University, helping freshman students learn to put words on a page. US education is a mess, purposely downgraded in part because the Powers that Be want consumers and clerks, not informed and reasoning citizens, and in part simply to save money -- charter schools (education for profit) can hire people to stand in the classroom and read lessons off a script (no deviations allowed), saving the expense of experienced teachers who interact with students. We're in trouble on many fronts.

Article in Sunday's NYT:

The Jobless Young Find Their Voice

No one wants to see millions of young people sitting idle. So what can be done? Can policies and programs be created to channel them into full-time jobs?

Those questions are entangled in certain truths about the political process. Teachers have the American Federation of Teachers. Gun owners have the N.R.A. The older population has AARP. But where are the advocacy groups for jobless youth?

They are coming. Two movements have sprouted to fight for this generation’s right to move out of the parental basement (or avoid it altogether): the Campaign for Young America and Fix Young America:



As we come to the end of 2011, it’s worth taking note of the fact that stunningly high youth-unemployment numbers are increasingly a global phenomenon — and that this is a new thing, which postdates the financial crisis, and which doesn’t seem to be improving anywhere.

Different countries measure unemployment in different ways. To compare numbers is tricky, but the historical factor becomes clear if one compares the fast increase of young unemployed almost everywhere. It's nice to see attempts at trying to do something about it, but the thing is: If youth unemployment is a global and historical phenomenon, it is not a "political question" which can be pulled out of the greater context of the world crisis.

Mechanisation and globalisation have rendered much of the working population obsolete in the production of consumer goods.

A difficult one to solve without a complete change in attitude from business & political leaders.

Player Piano, Vonnegut's first novel, was fairly prescient, looking at how automation will make many workers redundant.

I thought of this book while reading Farhad Manjoo's series on robots replacing people. The first article in this series is subtitled:

You're highly educated. You make a lot of money. You should still be afraid.


A video embedded in the second article is worth watching - pharmacists beware!


That was really interesting - as a former pharmacist from S. Africa, in the 1980's, it totally resonates with me.

This paragraph is on page 2 :-

"The fundamental problem, for pharmacists, is that their jobs are marked by insufferable repetition. This should serve as a lesson for every professional in America. If you're wondering whether your career is under threat from robots, think about what you do every day. Machines excel at doing small routines over and over and over again. Anyplace where you find humans engaged in repetitive tasks—even if those tasks aren't all physical, and sometimes require deep intellectual problem-solving skills—there's a fair chance they'll be replaced by computers."

I left pharmacy because of the "insufferable repetition". Even the fabulous opportunity to sell an electric toothbrush or fit an orthopedic sandal didn't light up my day.

I actually think I might want to back if it really offered the opportunity to use deep, intellectual, problem-solving skills. In reality, though, the computers track even the most complex drug interactions.

I switched to computer science in the 1990's. Now, computers are designing and writing programs.

So I went back to 18th and 19th Century pharmacy practice, where I grow, pick, formulate and process my own, from a 19th Century pharmacopoeia.

The fundamental problem, for pharmacists, is that their jobs are marked by insufferable repetition.

One pharmacist told me that when the hospital she was working at needed extra help in the pharmacy to count pills, they just brought in some obsessive-compulsive patients from the psych ward to help them.

The OCD patients just absolutely loved it! They would spend the whole day counting pills, making sure the numbers were exactly right, and putting them in little tubes with precise little labels which were exactly right, and just be absolutely ecstatic about the whole experience.

It's like bipolar people in the movie industry, where they do particularly well as long as their manic and depressive phases matched those of film production. Sometimes it helps to be crazy to do your job. The rest of the time you have to take your medication.

Heh - OCD patients counting pills - that's a great one !

The other part of the job I hated was having to call up a doctor, and try to explain, in the least-offensive way possible, that perhaps he/she made just a teensy-weensy little dosing error on a prescription...headache material...perhaps psych patients would have been good at that too.

A bit of a stretch in terms of relevance to the topic but bear with me. Maybe a serious look needs to be taken at the fertility of of our societies especially the youth. IOW stop producing so much young people! I know a lot of them are already here but for heavens sake we don't need more. So maybe the following stories are relevant:

Stop this pregnancy, please!

Although elective abortion remains illegal in Jamaica, a survey has found that many women are asking their doctors to perform the procedure and some doctors are complying.

The survey which covered 35 obstetrician-gynaecologists and 228 general practitioners in Kingston found that more than 95 per cent of the group had been approached by someone seeking an abortion......

It concludes, "Demand for abortions is high in Jamaica but many doctors refer clients to another provider. Patient assessment is good, but support services need improvement."

Jamaican law does not permit abortions for rape, incest, fetal impairment, economic and social reasons, or contraceptive failure.

However, a loophole in the Jamaican law, "a detriment to mental health", has been used to perform abortions illegally in Jamaica.

Abortion for sale - Black market thrives on baby-killing pills

Some local health professionals, including a radiographer employed to a public hospital, are illegally selling a powerful ulcer treatment drug to persons wanting to have an abortion.

The health practitioners, who sell the pills to be misused as a baby killer, fail to warn the buyers that the use of the drug can cause death.

The drug - Cytotec (Misoprostol) - is prescribed by some doctors to treat serious stomach ulcers and should not be dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription.....

Asked if he was sure the pills would work, the health professional said: "The pill is good. All you need to do is swallow two and insert three."

The government-paid health professional also bragged that he had helped to terminate many pregnancies.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that prophylactics are sold at every 24 hour gas station and that contraceptives are readily available and inexpensive. Some organizations even give away free condoms.

Alan from the islands

Contraceptives fail, people make mistakes. People get randy and aren't able to "hold it in" to go to the drug store and get condoms. Also, rape, etc.

There will always be an abortion market. You can't expect perfect responsibility, so it's better to just accept it and deal with it in a less harmful way. Abortion is still preferable to our ancestor's way of dealing with extra babies - infanticide.

It's the level of demand for abortions that gets me. Maybe I just don't understand why people seem to get caught with their pants down so often. Excuse the pun. What is sad is that, on the face of it, abortion is taboo and to repeat

Jamaican law does not permit abortions for rape, incest, fetal impairment, economic and social reasons, or contraceptive failure.


Contraceptives fail, people make mistakes. People get randy and aren't able to "hold it in" to go to the drug store and get condoms. Also, rape, etc.

won't cut it as an excuse in Jamaica.

However, a loophole in the Jamaican law, "a detriment to mental health", has been used to perform abortions illegally in Jamaica.

A stroke of genius on the part of the legislators if you ask me. How is anybody going to prove that little Jenny wouldn't have gone crazy if she had the kid? >;^) Only problem is that it's usually when a rich kid gets knocked up that the loophole is used.

Girls from lower income areas, who are the ones that really can't afford to have the kid, have a rougher time getting the advice and support including finances, they need to pull it off. In some cases, they still do, despite the odds.

Alan from the islands

Perhaps it's hard for young people (the ones getting pregnant, presumably) to get contraception? Will pharmacies sell condoms to teenagers, even young teenagers, over there? Or perhaps it's lack of sexual education and repressive social norms that force young people to hide their sexuality, which leads to more risk? If little Mary or Joe has condoms in their room and the parents find out, what happens?

Here in the US, we have the beautiful irony of Texas (a conservative state) have the MOST abortions, while Massachusetts (one of the most liberal states) has the fewest. I think that speaks for itself.

Will pharmacies sell condoms to teenagers, even young teenagers, over there?


Or perhaps it's lack of sexual education and repressive social norms that force young people to hide their sexuality

If anything I'd say too much sex education and too much sexuality. Have you seen some of the music videos that youngsters watch these days?

If little Mary or Joe has condoms in their room and the parents find out, what happens?

Usually what happens is a storm in a teacup. Regardless of their morals, parents are usually relieved to know that, if their child is sexually active, they ARE using condoms. HIV infection is a clear and present danger as we are constantly reminded by the ads run during prime time (the nightly news) on the local television. Several ads are run by a government STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Control progject, one of which features young people encouraging others to "get tested". Another features a rapper doing a song about "Real Men" not riding without condoms.

Here in the US, we have the beautiful irony of Texas (a conservative state) have the MOST abortions, while Massachusetts (one of the most liberal states) has the fewest. I think that speaks for itself.

Funny you should mention that. You'd never guess which country it is that has the most "churches" per square mile of any country in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Alan from the islands

As far as number of Churches- if it is the US (Though Bermuda came up in one quick search), don't forget that part of our history is the protestant 'Church Factory', where a congregation would have a rift, and the solution was (and sometimes still is) to 'break off and make our own G-D..med Church!' ..

I looked up the Guinness World Records reference, and the record holder there is indeed Jamaica.

Nature (putting it politely) is the biggest abortionist on the planet. I don't think it is so bad if humans abort some unwanted pregnancies.

I have been trying to decide whether or not to jump into this thread. I am raising and homeschooling my autism spectrum grandson. In the US there are approximately 1.5 million children that are homeschooled. Some even continue to homeschool or self-school at the college level. Some homeschooled children like my grandson will need to find alternative ways to support themselves as adults. But if he had gone to public school with the IEP and and all the support systems in place that would still be true.

Generally speaking, homeschooled children are better educated than public schooled children. Spelling bees, science bees, geography bees and all the studies done by people trying to disprove the validity of homeschooling say so. Most graduates go to college, start businesses or get jobs and otherwise are successful young adults.

I homeschooled my grandson through the second grade and then let others talk me into putting him into public school for social skills. Unfortunately, his social skills were not greatly improved and he lost many of his academic skills. When I started homeschooling him again in the middle of fourth grade he still couldn't read. Shortly, after bringing him home he not only started reading but reading well. His other academic skills continue to improve.

I see homeschooling as a valid and important part of the educational future. Not everyone can or should homeschool their children but I hope more will.

Homeschooling is dominated by the Christian right. I really hope that will change. One reason I hope so has to do with curriculum. I have had a very difficult time finding a good science program that is not oriented toward young earth creationism. It's not impossible just difficult to find non-christian oriented homeschool curriculum.


try Oak Meadow. I've been very pleased with their material. Use with their teachers or on your own. (Disclaimer - no personal connections, just IMHO :)

In his weekly newsletter, the Master Resource Report, Jim Hansen thought the following item was interesting:

GMX RESOURCES INC. Announces Financial and Operational Results for the Three Months Ended March 31, 2012

Natural gas production for the three months ended March 31, 2012 decreased to 2.5 Bcfe compared to 5.5 Bcfe for the three months ended March 31, 2011, a decrease of 54%. If we add back the VPP (Volumetric Production Payment) volumes of 1.2 Bcfe, natural gas production decreased by 1.8 Bcfe, or 33%. The decrease in natural gas production resulted primarily from the natural decline in the Company's Haynesville/Bossier (H/B) wells as a result of the Company's suspension of its H/B horizontal drilling program in mid-2011, as well as the conversion of more natural gas into NGLs.

A report on tsunami debris showing up in Homer, AK:


Interesting that there are "hundreds" of small fuel cans coming on shore and I wonder why Japanese homes had so many of them. At least one official says the environmental damage will likely exceed that of Exxon Valdez.

If you look in a typical residential garage or at boats in a marina, I think you would find many gasoline cans used to store fuel for lawn mowers, chainsaws and speed boats. There would be some empty ones from stores that were awaiting sale. The stuff that floats and is rugged enough to survive a journey across the Pacific Ocean, arrives on the waves.

I can only speculate, but the fuel cans may be for space heaters. Central heating is still unusual in Japanese houses, and space heaters that run on propane are pretty common.

Kerosene space heaters are still used in older homes as well. Some even have a place to keep a tea kettle on top to make tea.

And presumably fuel 'cans' are one of the lightest, wind affected items floating around out there, so they will arrive first.


Regarding high fuel prices in Sri Lanka; the unfortunate people cited are forced to choose between refrigeration and electric lights for their child's homework. How different is it here in America? Sure folks can carpool to a distant supermarket or to work if they can't run their cars, but can the retail-based infrastructure withstand the deprivation? Our isolated dispersed suburbs can not fall back to an agrarian economy.

That's the face of peak oil, rising oil prices. More and more people will get squeezed out, disenfranchised from their chance at success. Those that can still keep the game going will, but it will be difficult to watch those millions falling by the wayside. It's death of modern civilization by way of slow constriction from the perimeter inward, inching inexorably towards the core. How long will the core be able to keep up BAU? What will be the oil price break point, not to just cause demand destruction, but to close out the oil age?

Choosing between refrigeration and an electric desk light is a false dichotomy because an electric light uses much less power than a refrigerator.

But the refrigerator is much more useful.

And you can always open the door and have some light

The times they are a changing. Back in the 70s when I was a teenager, I don't remember electricity bills being much of a big deal. To be honest, Jamaica's "democratic socialist", government was in the process of nationalizing the power company and was very concerned about the effects that rising oil prices and electricity prices would have on the poor. Much to the chagrin of the multinational mining companies operating bauxite mines on the island, the government instituted a Production Levy that, in effect, taxed the production of bauxite by indexing the price of bauxite to the price at which the aluminium companies sell aluminium. This initially provided a nice stream of revenue for the government to use on it's subsidies. Maybe that's why things seemed so different in my youth.

Now electricity cost are a very big deal, forcing some businesses to fold and leaving many poor people spending a sizable chunk of their income just to "keep the lights on". Electric fridges were fine and dandy when oil was cheap but, now represent the major part of electricity bills in the tropics. Unless the technology changes, I fear refrigeration is going to become the province of the wealthy.

With CFLs and now LEDs, running costs to "keep the lights on" have come way down. Although the lamps cost more, the savings in electricity cost easily pay for the difference between the cost of the energy efficient lamps and incandescents. As Blue Twilight said up top, keeping the lights on won't be nearly as difficult as keeping the fridge running.

Alan from the islands

Low-voltage DC refrigerators can run on PV or small wind turbine:


The efficiency of consumer refrigerators has been improving very significantly. Perhaps these folks are mistakeingly trying to save money by using very old very inefficient refrigerators. Perhaps they need to make the "capital" investment in good efficient modern appliances. Of course not understanding that buying an efficient appliance, rather than the cheapest -or trendiest requires a bit of numeracy, which is lacking for many.

Recently I went into a furniture and appliance store in the main shopping area near me. I walked around looking at the appliances looking for some indication as to how energy efficient they are. NOTHING! so when one of the sales people came over and asked "can I help you", I told her that, I didn't think so since I was looking for energy efficient appliances to help me reduce my electricity bill and then I turned and walked out the store.

On one of my visits to the US, I was walking around in Walmart, looking at the flat screen TVs and when the salesperson approached me, I told him I had a question he had probably never been asked before. He was curious so, I asked him how much power the TVs consume. Bingo! Never been asked.

Until consumers start asking the right questions energy efficiency is not going to be a big selling point. Since electricity is relatively cheap in the US and it seems to be the only market in this hemisphere that really matters to the big appliance manufacturers, I don't see any big focus on efficiency. I'm curious as to how big a market there is for appliances in developing countries with expensive electricity.

Alan from the islands

India is in most cases a bloated democracy with inefficiencies all around but it seems there are islands of excellence here and there. Here we have a star rating system mandated by the govt which rates appliances on power consumption. All electric appliances must carry this rating to be sold on the retail market.

I can frequently see consumers asking retailers to show them only five star appliances.

Here's the site explaining the star rating system, there's even an on-line calculator for one to find out how many stars one's appliance has.

Maybe worth emulating elsewhere.

Looks like the same idea as the Energy Guide labels found on appliances in the US but, are consumers in India actually interested in what's on these labels? I have never heard of anybody making a decision based on the numbers on the Energy Guide label.

Edit: I should point out that here in Jamaica one often sees the US style Energy Guide label, especially on appliances sourced out of the US but, my point is that most people looking to make a purchase don't seem to give a damn about what's on the label.The result is that merchants have no incentive to display the labels, even if the appliances come with them.

Alan from the islands

The Indian consumer is very price conscious and electricity is very dear in India so it automatically translates to an energy conscious consumer. Though I must say that it's not that people are environmentally conscious, if power was as cheap as it is in western countries, it would be wasted here as well and sometimes it is, for example by farmers who run all their appliances on electricity because it is subsidized by the government.

We see these labels here in Mexico too. The trouble is you rarely see anything at the good end of the scale, well, I don't recall seeing any. Some articles are poorly equipped for our climate. Compressors have PTC starters that are not advisable for high humidity and freezers have fibre insulation is their lids that will collect moisture and turn to fibre reinforced ice.


Electrical items sold in European shops all carry labels showing their energy ratings.

I walked around looking at the appliances looking for some indication as to how energy efficient they are. NOTHING!


As a work-around, perhaps visit your local library, and read recent issues of Consumer Reports. They are usually pretty good at advocating products, including in regards to energy efficiency. Then take your written list of candidates with you to the store, so you can examine them in person.

(I have written down a few TV models Consumer Reports recommended, for when I my 15+yr old analog CRT TV finally stops working.)

Fortunately for most appliance types (not TVs unfortuantely), stickers which estimate annual energy consumption are required. At least that way some consumers can make rational choices. Although I think the percentage is low. For the most part most customers are too innumerate to make much sense over it.

For TV's it is indeed hard to find the consumption numbers. The main key, is go for LEDs. I bought a thirty-two inch LED for Christmas, that sucker only consumes 40watts! Our older 42in LCD takes 220. But LCDs outsell LEDs (they are a bit cheaper, and the picture is slightly nicer).

One wonders why TVs monitors and desktop computers are exempt. In the last 18 months or so I replaced my CRT and a very old low res LCD at my dads place with LCDs with LED back-lights. Both are significant improvements over the previous monitors with one consuming 20W down from 50W and the other 25W down from 80W IIRC but it required some digging to find them. I had to look at detailed specs and even then, the power consumption was often not disclosed.

My desktop is always on since, I use it to do some data logging so. it was an early target for my energy conservation upgrades. As I have outlined here before, I went from 117W (2.6GHz single core "Northwood" Pentium 4) to less than 40W (1.6GHz dual core Atom) without a significant performance hit.

Judicious selection of appliances can result in significant energy savings. In many cases it just requires too much effort on the part of the consumer and most people, it seems, cannot be bothered. It is my hope that one day soon it will be possible to get paid for my knowledge and experience.

Alan from the islands

Agreed about the difficulty of finding out consumption figures at purchase time. Even the energy star label doesn't mean that much. That energy hig LCD TV I have has the energy star label -probably because the standby useage is low.
Also what happens when your computer monitor is on, but in sleep mode? The one on my desk still continues to consume 30watts (sleeping or awake). I've made it a habit to turn the monitor off, when I'm gonna be away for a while -but not so long I want to shutdown/reboot.

Malware warning

I read the article re UAE by-pass pipeline (no problem).
But twice, when I clicked on the article's print option, a malware warning appeared immediately.

I'm just wondering if this has happened to anyone else.

True. Printer-friendly version of this page contains javascript leading to third-party webpage: kazdar.com/kazdarads/www/delivery/ag.php, which forwards to kazdar.com/kazdarads/www/delivery/afr.php?n. This php script then fires up the malware alert.

So... Either kippreport.com has been hacked and malicious script inserted into it's page(s), or, more likely, kazdar.com ads were hijacked.

Either way, good antivirus and sandboxed browsing are highly advised.

I ran across this article which claims to potentially cut marine fuel use by 75%.
my guess is they are using the same system as they use on seadoos.


To find out more on how your company can participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity contact us.

Yea sure.

Not likely a jet drive, like in personal watercraft. They are inherently much less efficient than the standard propeller.

I'll file this one away alongside cold fusion.

On the story about the shutting down of the last operating nuclear plant in Japan, I decided to do a little digging around the net to compare Japan and Germany. I looked at land area, electricity consumption, installed capacity of solar PV and installed wind power capacity. I've excerpted data from four Wikipedia pages and have posted four tables. Please forgive any formatting problems with the tables. It's my first stab at formating tables wirh HTML and boy, is it tedious!


Rank Country Total in km² Land in km² Water in km² % water
62 Japan 377,930 364,485 13,430 3.55
63 Germany 357,114 348,672 8,350 2.3


Rank Country Electricity consumption (MW·h/yr) Year of Data Source Population As of Average power per capita (watts per person)
1 China 4,603,700,000 2011 CIA 1,347,350,000 2011 389
2 United States 3,741,000,000 2009 CIA 312,884,000 2011 1363
3 India 905,974,000 2010 NIC 1,210,193,422 2011 107
4 Japan 859,700,000 2011 CIA 127,960,000 2011 766
5 Russia 857,600,000 2008 CIA 142,856,536 2010 783
6 Canada 549,500,000 2008 CIA 34,721,000 2012 1804
7 Germany 544,500,000 2008 CIA 81,799,600 2010 759


Country Total 2010 Total 2011
Germany 17,320 24,700
Spain 3,892 4,200
Japan 3,617 4,700
Italy 3,502 12,500


# Nation 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
1 China 1,266 2,599 5,912 12,210 25,104 44,733 62,733
2 United States 9,149 11,603 16,819 25,170 35,159 40,200 46,919
3 Germany 18,428 20,622 22,247 23,903 25,777 27,214 29,060
4 Spain 10,028 11,630 15,145 16,740 19,149 20,676 21,674
5 India 4,430 6,270 7,850 9,587 10,925 13,064 16,084
13 Japan 1,040 1,309 1,528 1,880 2,056 2,304 2,501

The data raises quite a few questions in my mind and points to some interest moves by some countries. There seem to be some countries that are talking less about renewables but, doing more. Some countries have a lot of catching up to do. What do other people here think?

Some interesting facts:
Germany has more than a third of the world's total installed capacity of PV
Germany and Italy combined have more than a half of the world's total PV
Between 2009 and 2011 China installed more than the total the total existing capacity installed up to 2009 of the former wind power leader, the US.

Alan from the islands

The PEW Charitable Trust produces a report every 2 years on clean energy. The latest report for 2011 is at:


The most interesting metric is what the Trust calls "Investment Intensity" which is the amount spent on clean energy per $ of GDP. Italy is number 1 at 1.58%, China is fourth at 0.45% and the US is eighth at 0.33%. (see page 16 of the report).

Also, the web address for the PEW Charitable Trust's Clean Energy Program is:


Alan, I've mentioned it before but if you use Firefox then the XinhaHere add on is a HTML editor that makes adding things like tables and fancy stuff easy.


Thanks! I knew it had been discussed here before but, I wasn't paying attention since I thought I'd never be using tables in a post<:-(

Alan from the islands

Peak oil means peak plastic. And that means that much of the physical world around us will have to change.

An example - back in my youth one had metal dental tools. The dentist had an autoclave and after you were done with the grinder head and other stuff got cooked.

Today - plastic disposable polish heads. Used on you, then tossed.

Plastics of various types can be made with other raw material than rock oil. The end of cheap oil SHOULD lead to an end of cheap disposable consumer stuff. But higher end items? I'd expect them to continue as before for some time.

Because plastic is manufactured from natural gas too, peak oil will not cause peak plastic nor even peak cheap plastic.

How much oil is used to make plastic? EIA:

In 2006, about 331 million barrels of liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL) were used to make plastic products in the plastic materials and resins industry in the United States, equal to about 4.6% of total U.S. petroleum consumption.

In addition to petroleum, about 11 billion cubic feet of natural gas were used as feedstock....

LPG = ethene in this instance?

Because plastic is manufactured from natural gas too, peak oil will not cause peak plastic nor even peak cheap plastic.

It is hard to predict how peak oil might affect the use of LPG and NGL as plastic stock. I expect there will be upward pressure on prices of all of these fossil fuels, especially those that can be converted into auto fuel by some means. Peak oil will is bringing about many difficult trade-offs in terms of what use we make of 'oil-equivalent' type stuff.

They strip the heavier components off the natural gas stream and feed them into petrochemical plants to make plastic rather than selling them as fuel. Ethane is used to make polyethylene, propane is used to make polypropylene, and butane to make polybutylene, among other things.

Thanks. I was not sure if LPG included the others when making plastic.

Yeah, I'm not exactly worried about peak plastic at this point. Natural gas and plant materials can be used to make a lot of plastic or plastic-like materials.

Perhaps but keep in mind peak oil is fundamentally a liquid fuel, a transportation problem.

If we don't burn fuel in our cars, trucks, planes, and ships, there's alot leftover for plastic.

My new found friend the detal nurse sometimes complains about how much plastic the dental care uses. Aparently, they use a lot. She is also enviornmentaly aware - the type who wear multi cloured clothes she bought on a second hand shop - and she tells me it is crazy how much they use up there. It looks like this is a global phenomena.

In my email in box from "Energy & Capital", but it has not hit the net yet. Most of the stuff I get from them in my email also appears on the internet, but not everything. Anyway...

The Saudis Drop a Bomb!

Crude oil has now been trading around $100 for months.

You've undoubtedly noticed the translation to prices at the pump...

Things aren't going to get any better.

You can count Iranian production out, thanks to international sanctions.

And in another sign of Peak Oil, we learned this week the Saudis won't be able to compensate for lost Iranian production. In fact, Saudi Arabia is predicted to be a net importer this summer.

I have no idea where they got that idea. I seriously doubt that Saudi Arabia will be a net importer anytime soon. That idea has to come from someone who hasn't a clue as to what they are talking about. And it would have helped if they had given their source for this "bomb". But of course they did not. I searched the archives of Energy & Capital but this story was not there.

Ron P.

They always do this

"In fact, Saudi Arabia is predicted to be a net importer this summer."


Saudi Arabia may be a net importer of Diesel or Gasoline this summer, but so what!

The big story is that they are still exporting the same amount at $100 per barrel as at $80

The Saudis also do not sell crude oil at the price of WTI, around $100 / barrel, because they use the Argus Sour Crude Index. That mistake suggests the author is an American.

Saudi Arabia is going to be a net importer ... no problem!

US is going to be a net exporter. Don't worry, be happy.

No different than claiming the US is a net exporter. Peak (media/journalist) brains was a long time ago.

“Chesapeake Energy Corp., battered by a glut-driven collapse in natural-gas prices and growing investor distrust of its management, still is the cheapest way of buying into the U.S. shale revolution.” In case some are getting bored with the Chesapeake story and don’t want to plow thru this piece I’ll offer a short summary.

Why is CHK stock such a bargain today: “Chesapeake lost 43 percent of its market value in the past year as new wells in shale fields unleashed more gas…” . IOW it’s a bargain because its stock price has plunged into the toilet. If you waste your time reading this obvious hype piece you’ll notice that the optimism is being tossed out by major CHK shareholders stuck with this dog. It reminds me of years ago when a cohort asked if I thought Enron would be a good buy are $22…after all it had been selling for much more. How much worse could it get, he asked. I suggested he wait a while.

And the source of this optimism: ““One thing that everyone is choosing to discount is a continued recovery in the gas price,” Nelson said in a telephone interview yesterday. “If and when that comes to pass, and we think it will in the next 24 months, then Chesapeake is in a very strong position.” A quick reminder about the source of CHK’s great potential: fractured shale reservoirs. Fractured shale gas reservoirs that have been proven to deplete 60-90% in the first 12 months. IOW all the wells CHK is currently producing and will drill in the next year will be contributing very little cash flow IF there is a price rebound in 24 months. And even less if there is no significant rebound. If CHK management and their major shareholders really believed in a 24 month rebound wouldn’t it make more sense to suspend all drilling activity immediately and prepare to ramp up efforts quickly in a couple of years?

Suspending drilling makes even more sense when you consider their lack of drilling capital today:”After raising $2.6 billion from asset sales during the first four months of this year (BTW they had already sold over $5 billion in shale leases before this year), the company plans to sell another $9.5 billion to $11 billion in oilfields and other properties, including everything it owns in Texas’ Permian Basin, Mobley said.” BTW the bulk of those west Texas fields they are proved producing NG reserves. So they are going to sell proved NG reserves with a longer life than fractured shale reserves, assets which are bringing the lowest price in a decade, so they can drill wells now that will be being selling the bulk of their production at current low prices and will be fairly well depleted by the time we see the miraculous NG price rebound. BTW this fantastic price they are forecasting is about half of what NG prices were in late 1980 when Devon decided to drop 14 of the 18 rigs they had drilling in the E Texas shale gas play. And paid the drillers a $40 million cancellation penalty for the privilege of not drilling at price 50% greater than the current optimistic proection being thrown out by CHK et al.

So again the optimism of the folks currently holding CHK is based upon selling proven and producing NG reserves at true fire sale prices in order to have capex to drill wells now that will have produced the bulk of their URR before the anticipated NG price rebound. A price level last seen when it forced shale gas developers to suspend most of their drilling activity due to poor economics. And they are raising a substantial amount of this capex by selling off large chunks of the very same shale leases they are touting as the future of CHK.

As I asked the other day: do these folks even listen to what they are saying?

The only way I'd be interested in CHK is if the take over sharks were swimming. Anyone who wants to make a play on NG going up (which it has to, so it will) should just go long NG futures. NG will double before CHK increases by 50% so why bother with a mismanaged dog of a company that may very well go down even when the price of NG goes up?

But, like any other dog the current bag holders are looking for new bag holders so I expect there to be a long line of CHK pump and dump going on.

Hazbro - Exactly. I’ve done dozens of acquisition evaluations and we’ve never used optimistic price expectations to raise future value. Typically just the opposite is often done. I also suspect CHK’s liquidation of assets is as much about reducing their value as a takeover target as generating operational capex. Debt load lowers the stock value and thus lowers any tender offer. Current CHK shareholders have seen a dramatic drop in value in the last 12 months so at some point they make a choice: hang on waiting for improvement or bail before the tender price drops even more.

A potential acquiring company is looking primarily at just one aspect IMHO: picking up CHK cash flow at a bargain price. The CHK debt reduces the price such cash flow garners. Additionally, a well funded company like ExxonMobil can often reduce the cost of servicing that debt. A while back XOM acquired XTO. Folks took that as a sign that XOM saw great value in XTO’s undrilled shale leases. XOM got XTO’s cash flow at a bargain price and the XTO shareholders got a premium price for their stock. A win-win, eh? Actually it has turned into a damn good win-not so good win. I doubt XOM used the current low NG price in their valuation. And I suspect the XTO shareholders received significantly more for their stock then they would today.

And no…XOM didn’t acquire XTO for their expertise in the shale plays IMHO. Don’t mean to take anything away from the skills of the XTO employees but the technology used to exploit the shales plays didn’t belong to them. They did their job to put an X on a map and say drill here. But the technology employed to drill the play is owned and implemented by the service companies like Halliburton and Baker Hughes. And that technology was just as available to me, XOM or any member of TOD. And the value of those XTO shales leases had a time limit. Most leases automatically expired in 3 to 5 years if they aren’t drilled and put into production. Many of those shale leases that CHK took at very high prices the last few years will terminate before the NG price rise if they are drilled soon. But drilling them now means receiving current low NG prices for the bulk of their URR before the projected price increase. So there’s the choice: drill those leases now and accept the poor economics or let the leases expire undrilled and write off hundreds of millions of booked assets.

And the major sophisticated shareholders understand this. Which, IMHO, is why we will see more hype pieces by CHK management and those shareholders. Management wants optimism to force the acquisition price higher than the XOM et als are willing to pay and the current shareholders want new smucks to rush in and save their butts.

XOM's subsidiary in Canada was talking about building an LNG plant on Canada's West Coast to take British Columbia's massive shale gas resources to Asia (the US market for gas is saturated). However, he did make the same point you did - to sustain production you have to drill like there's no tomorrow, because if you don't there won't be a tomorrow.

Imperial Oil eyeing Canadian LNG plant

"This is a much different development with shale gas as your gas source than any of the LNG developments that are built in the world today," he said. "The amount of commitment and the amount of spending required to support this for a 40-year life is significant ... This is a commitment to sustained drilling activities that practically never stop."

He was talking of decline rates of 60% a year on the shale gas wells if I recall correctly, which means they would have to drill like mad to sustain production rates. This does not bode well for Chesapeake because CHK doesn't have nearly as deep pockets to keep drilling as Imperial Oil does. In addition, Imperial can burn its own natural gas in its huge oil sands plants to make money if the price of gas is low.

Rocky - The article seems to hint they are really more focused on the MacKenzie Delta proven NG reserves as a source. It's difficult to imagine anyone spending $10+ billion on LNG trains without having a significant volume of NG committed to the project. Given the several years it takes to build a plant most of the shale gas wells drilled the same year as construction begins will be greatly depleted by the time the LNG plant comes on line. Thus enough wells will have to be drilled the same year as the plant becomes operational to supply its capacity. And then a continuous major drilling program to keep that volume up as wells rapidly deplete. One thing to build such a plant on top of field with a TCF of proven gas in existing wells. Another matter if the supply wells will only be drilled if the LNG price justifies new drilling. Once the wells in conventional NG fields are drilled it can cost just much less than $1/mcf to produce them. But if the LNG plant is sourcing from fractured shales it will costs several $'s/mcf to supply them with new wells. If LNG prices fall those new shale wells may not be economical to drill and the LNG plant has to go idle.

I suspect the shale gas/LNG Asian export is more about hyping their stock than anything else.


The Shale Gas plays are the Montney and Horn River Basin. Montney is located around Chetwynd-Dawson Creek-Ft. St. John area, and Horn River is in the N.E. corner by Ft. Nelson.

According to Shell, this is one of the better economically viable jurisdictions on the little blue marble for the LNG stream. However, you should see what the "realistic" industry growth forecasts does to the demands on the existing electrical system. (I use "realistic" not sarcastically, but as reflected in sober expectations).

If the current government wants to hand onto their 93% clean, renewable energy supply mandates, we are going to see an exercise in adapting non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources to the demands of 24/7 heavy industry. This ought to be interesting...

The MacKenzie River Basin is still stranded due to gas prices, and will probably uphold the wishes of GHG campaigners by keeping it in the ground for years to come.

Hydro can be turned up & down easily. BC Hydro already does this with California et al. Up & export power when prices are high, down & import power when they are low.

Alberta is building a LOT of wind (7 GW from schedule I saw a while ago) plus BC is building some.

Great Plains winds tend to peak @ night and in the winter. The second is important since replacement hydropower fuel supplies have this solid state problem at that time of year I understand. So winter is a very good time to use less hydro and more wind.

If solar were in the mix (see Germany) the night peaking and winter peaking of wind would be a good balance.

BC Hydro, or Shell, just needs a HV DC line to Alberta,

Best Hopes for More Renewables,


Rockman, most of Imperial's stock is owned by ExxonMobile, so hyping the stock is not one of their priorities. If they need money, and can make a good economic case, XOM will give it to them.

They have absolutely massive gas resources in both the Mackenzie Delta and in NE BC shale gas. Their problem is making the economics work out. At this point in time the netback of North American gas sales to their wells is less than $2/Mcf, which is uneconomic in both cases.

However, if they build an LNG plant they can sell it in Asia for up to $17/Mcf. The real question is, can they pay for the cost of the LNG facilities before the market changes and it becomes uneconomic?

The Mackenzie Delta gas is clearly uneconomic at this point in time, but they are trying to see if the NE BC shale gas can be made to pay.

Rocky - Sorry for the late reply: been out perf'ng a well. And that's the point I was trying to make: if the economics (p/l or LNG) are tough to justify for those huge conventional MD proven reserves how do shale gas, hydrate or any other nore expensive development help?

Not sure why I found this disturbing:

“There is no other country in existence today that has basically told the entire world that if we are going to go down we are going to take the rest of the world down with us,”

But this one - why the shrug and "par for the course"? Is this what should be expected from the leadership?

The U.S. government right now is engaged in its own kabuki theatre to protect the U.S. industry from the real costs of the lessons at Fukushima,” [Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear] said. “The NRC and its champions in the White House and on Capitol Hill are looking to obfuscate the real threats and the necessary policy changes to address the risk.”
There are 31 G.E. Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors (BRWs) in the U.S., the type used at Fukushima. All of these reactors, which comprise just under a third of all nuclear reactors in the U.S., store their spent fuel in elevated pools located outside the primary, or reinforced, containment that protects the reactor core. Thus, the outside structure, the building ostensibly protecting the storage pools, is much weaker, in most cases about as sturdy, experts describe in interviews with AlterNet, as a structure one would find housing a car dealership or a Wal-Mart.

Yeah, those spent fuel pools could be one heck of a nasty terrorist target. Who needs a dirty bomb? They are already all over the country. All you need to do is get in there with a large amount of conventional explosives and you can set off the mother of all dirty bombs by blowing up an elevated spent fuel pool. If you can drain it and cause a fire, then you've created one heck of a mess that will make Fukushima look like child's play. :-(

The security isn't exactly insurmountable, either, although I'm told it has been beefed up considerably since 9/11.

Given the 'tin shed' nature of the holding tanks and the reality of long distance* weaponry I don't see how any castle and moat style security will do much good.

In asymmetric warfare reactors become targets. Just like solar panels are targets in the Middle East now.

* Fortification used to be done by walls. That became obsolete once cannons were introduced. Today we have things like .308 rounds that go though 3/8 plate steel, .50 cal that make bigger holes and can do that over longer distances along with even more "tools" Man has used to kill other Men. I doubt security has been "beefed up" that much - any "beef" is security-kubuki-theatre. Because if it has, that makes Fission power even more uneconomical. The "lets extend the plants lifetime" applications are all about economics not "oh hay, we Humans have a good understanding of reactors and can run 'em without problems. We just ain't sure how long they can go so lets run a few longer than we had planned to figure out how our lifetime modeling is wrong."

Thanks for the link, above, eric, though it's a hell of a thing to wake up to on an idyllic Sunday morning. From the link:

Fuel pool number 4 is, indeed, the top short-term threat facing humanity.

Anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere. This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast.

And nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen recently said (at 25:00):

There’s more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground…

But of course it would happen all at once.

It would certainly destroy Japan as a functioning country…

Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.

Perhaps it's time to go to the garden and practice my anger management strategy.

Perhaps it's time to go to the garden and practice my anger management strategy.

Would this be looking at your 10 inch high black crims you saved from seed and compare them to the 4 inch high replants in the same flat to replace the ones frost killed?

it's a hell of a thing to wake up to

And at what point do we, as a collective group who needs the biosphere, decide enough is enough and tell the fools not only that they are fools but restrain them so they can not continue with their foolishness?

They would be Rutgers determinates, among a few others; doing nicely at about 14". The hodge-podge of tomatoes my garden guests planted are all stunted from frost (eager beavers just couldn't wait and planted early).

I've likely alienated some of our group here, posting my objections to fission ad nauseam. That said, many here could, IMO, benefit from an outlet from the realities of understanding (in some sense) where we are, and where we're assuredly headed. Certainly helps to unwind the knots of truth, despair, and inevitability. Each tiny weed I pull is a personal victory, difficult to achieve in the surreal world of human folly. Time for a large, cold glass of sangria leftovers; back to the garden to watch things progress,, perhaps search out and destroy a few early chinese stinkbugs :-0

Maybe I should just get in the business of selling passports and shares in a TSHTF retreat to the various members of TOD? We do have the dual advantage here of being in the arse end of nowhere and having a not too inhospitable climate.

There was a serious tornado in Japan, there are typhoons, and earthquake danger as well. The weakened condition of Unit 4 was brought to the attention of the U.S. Senate via Senator Wyden recently.

The bottom line is that Unit 4 is in a weakened state and could release 8-10 times the Chernobyl release amounts.

The article at ENE News, The Worst Yet to Come? Why Nuclear Experts Are Calling Fukushima a Ticking Time-Bomb, Alternet, Brad Jacobson, May 4, 2012, (full article); uses weasel words,"... nuclear waste experts...." It identifies Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear as a nuclear waste expert, but his biography does not list his academic credentials. Robert Alvarez is mentioned as a nuclear waste expert who "crunched the numbers", but his biography at the Institute for Policy Studies also does not list his academic credentials.

Has anyone with a degree in nuclear physics crunched the numbers to determine whether there is enough energy remaining in the spent nuclear fuel rods in Fukashima Daiichi reactor building 4 to vaporize and mobilize their radioactive constituents 1.5 years after some of them were active?

From The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Is Far From Over (Huffington Post, Robert Alvarez, 4/22/2012) Alvarez asserts without a credible source:

The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating and can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

"Can cause" is a weak verb. I get the impression all these experts are activists making qualitative (not quantitative) assessments.

... Pool No. 4. This pool is structurally damaged and contains about 10 times more cesium-137 than released at Chernobyl.

Even if it is released at 10 times the rate as when the reactors cores were melting down, it would still be low level radioactive fallout in the U.S. Dr. Helen Caldicott, MD, might consider moving to the southern hemisphere because she is from Australia making it an easy relocation, not because she would be desperately fleeing high level radioactive fallout.

I do not see substance in these articles. Maybe doomer porn?

Has anyone with a degree in nuclear physics crunched the numbers to determine whether there is enough energy remaining in the spent nuclear fuel rods in Fukashima Daiichi reactor building 4 to vaporize and mobilize their radioactive constituents 1.5 years after some of them were active?

You are asking for classified information. The most recent studies on this are secret and could not even be revealed in full to the Japanese to help at Fukushima according to NRC FOIA documents.

However in earlier non-classified literature we have this study from the NRC

Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants (NUREG-1738)

However, the staff concludes that the possibility an SFP accident will lead to a large fission product release cannot be ruled out even many years after final shutdown

...In its thermal-hydraulic analysis the staff concluded that it was not feasible, without numerous constraints, to establish a generic decay heat level (and therefore a decay time) beyond which a zirconium fire is physically impossible. Heat removal is very sensitive to these additional constraints, which involve factors such as fuel assembly geometry and SFP rack configuration. However, fuel assembly geometry and rack configuration are plant specific, and both are subject to unpredictable changes after an earthquake or cask drop that drains the pool. Therefore, since a non-negligible decay heat source lasts many years and since configurations ensuring sufficient air flow for cooling cannot be assured, the possibility of reaching the zirconium ignition temperature cannot be precluded on a generic basis.

Note: it also appears from NRC FOIA documents that the Japanese broke safety rules at Daiichi and did not spread the hottest fuel around the pool (to reduce ignition risk) during the shutdown. Where exactly the core of Unit 4 was located and what exactly happened to it, sufficient for its emission signature to be detected worldwide, also remains mysterious - but it was apparently all in one place.

As to Robert Alvarez, here is his 2002 report on spent fuel pools for The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists - What about the spent fuel? (PDF)

The law of diminishing returns again

The Jet That Ate the Pentagon

Now they are talking about costs of $1.5T for the development of a jet fighter. That's more than the GDP of Spain.

A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion -- making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain. And that estimate is wildly optimistic: It assumes the F-35 will only be 42 percent more expensive to operate than an F-16, but the F-35 is much more complex. The only other "fifth generation" aircraft, the F-22 from the same manufacturer, is in some respects less complex than the F-35, but in 2010, it cost 300 percent more to operate per hour than the F-16. To be very conservative, expect the F-35 to be twice the operating and support cost of the F-16.

I think it's time to stop manufacturing fighter planes, drones seem to do the job much better and cheaper. They will trump fighter pilots in a few years as AI catches up fast.

Defense spending may ultimately destroy the USA the way it destroyed the USSR. You just can't keep spending so much money that you do not have on it.

Look at what happened to England when "a Pound is a Pound the world round" stopped being so.

Spain was a world currency at one point and it can be argued when that stopped being the case what happened to Spain?

What happens when the imported oil stops flowing into the US of A when The Dollar isn't trade able for that oil? What happens if, due to smart phones, consumers in other nations can pull up a history of the product to determine what percentage of its profits go back to the US of A and a buying decision is based on that?

The same thing might happen as with the great stone walls and the cannon. A good enough anti aircraft weapon. There is nowhere to hide in the air they might be to easy to spot.

Iran fooled a UAV into landing at an Iranian airport by tinkering with GPS signals. Drones are by far too stupid.

That was one incident and we don't even know how the drone landed there. By logic anything on a network can be hacked, same goes for a drone but going by their operational record they have proved themselves on the field of battle and they only have one direction to go, better.

Humans can't compete with machines in the long run, a drone can outmaneuver a fighter pilot at 10's of G's and they don't require expensive safety systems or pressurized cabins. There is no comparison to even begin with.

I'm not sure whether this has been posted here, but I'll toss it out for fun.


It's a lecture by a cold fusion guy. Yeah, I know, I'm a huge skeptic that there's something going on, and the Rossi stuff feels like a scam. That said, this fellow seems pretty competent and doesn't make over-the-top claims. Far and away the most likely situation is that he's simply wrong, but there's some verisimilitude to his manner, comments, and claimed achievements which left me surprisingly intrigued. I didn't think my time was wasted watching it. Your mileage may vary...


That said, this fellow seems pretty competent and doesn't make over-the-top claims. Far and away the most likely situation is that he's simply wrong, but there's some verisimilitude to his manner, comments, and claimed achievements which left me surprisingly intrigued.

Well, unless they have been fudging the data, or he is out and out lying, he seems to have presented the beginnings of a working hypothesis and a consistently reproducible and measurable result in which energy out is significantly higher than energy in. Whether or not this is scalable for practical commercial applications of energy production remains to be seen.

It was worth watching, TKS!

Glad you liked it, Fred. I realize this may have been posted as a link in the past, but since people here may know I'm heavily skeptical, not overly credulous, and with a decent science background, I thought I'd recommend this one. There has been a lot of arm-waving about cold fusion, but this fellow comes off as competent and has interesting stuff to say, even side-remarks about him seeing a cloud chamber going nuts when the device's core is set near it. It actually seems like something is happening, and the claimed effect is pretty large considering that they don't actually know what's going on. Moreover, I like his explanation that Rossi may have found an effect but doesn't understand it. And the comment that he'd be arrested for making tritium if authorities believed his results, and copper being a red herring. It's very unusual for me to recommend viewing such a thing, but as I say, I'm intrigued.

Now even if there's a little miracle hiding in there, it wouldn't necessarily change our situation, but I've adjusted my opinion on the odds of something interesting going on.

Moreover, I like his explanation that Rossi may have found an effect but doesn't understand it

- greenish

This has been my take for quite a while; since a ZPE portal started covering the topic. More so, I don't think anyone else has a more substantial understanding of the specific causal chain.

In addition Rossi has be busted for fraud, once upon a time, so he has additional obstacles to overcome.

Now even if there's a little miracle hiding in there, it wouldn't necessarily change our situation, but I've adjusted my opinion on the odds of something interesting going on

No, it wouldn't change our situation, cause our situation is not a technical issue, but a social/psychological issue.

I've long considered the possibility of something interesting going on. A related matter, or even the same matter, as not enough has been discovered to make relationships clear, is Bernard Haisch's Zero Point Energy and Zero Point Field.

Given the age of the comments its possible its been posted.

Its possible that cold fusion can be done here on Earth by Humans and be replicated.

Stirling Cycle engines exist, can be made by Man and yet where are the Caterpillar Solar-powered dishes*? The SOLO dishes? The original $250 Sunflower by Energy Innovations? How about "affordable" Combined Heat and Power units like the $40K 3kW Whispergen? (now down to $10K) The base tech exists and has for years - yet no buyable product.

It won't matter too much energy wise if Cold Fusion exists but can't be made into a product.


And the less appealing to TODers as the people behind this believe in the idea that if one talks/thinks about something it comes into being (aka The Secret)

And the latest (to me anyway) company chasing cold fusion dreams:

*Trick question. Cat sold off the rights years ago.

No buyable stirlings? Sure there are, but only in the places where they make sense relative to the competition. Two are obvious- cryocoolers, and space isotope power. People buy stirlings for these apps for the simplest of reasons- they do better than the other things they can buy to do the same job. Cost a lot? sure but still cheaper than what else is there, You can't use a Briggs lawnmower, no matter how cheap, to do cryocooling or 15 years in orbit running on an isotope. Stirlings can do those things, and do.

But, on the other hand, if your game is mowing lawns, then sure, stirlings are silly. Simple reason. Briggs engines are made out of dirt cheap cast iron or aluminum. Stirlings take at least 300 series stainless for their heater head. Stainless costs more than cast iron. Game over.

Domestic combined heat and power? A great application for stiirling, but there again, the IC looks cheaper until you get down to real life cycle analysis. And who wants to get real? Just take another swig of underpriced gasoline, and be happy until tomorrow morning.

Solar? I love my PV. Sort of like getting electricity from a rock. Astounding! But then the sun don't shine. Fire up the Honda? Or, stick some sticks in a stirling/water heater and go from there. Can't buy one? Right.

" If this here thing is as good as you say, how come somebody else hasn't jumped on it areaddy?

"Because they can't get past that question you just asked, that's why"

" Aright smartass, I'm takin' my chips to Honda. Have fun."

No buyable stirlings? Sure there are,

And I'll take the "no" side for $1000 Alex.

Who was Caterpillar in the 1970's with their solar dish and stirling. (United Stirling 4-95 kinematic Stirling
I believe Cat held patents on the solar receiver)

Stirling Energy Systems http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/09/solar-shake...

Solo Dish - go to http://solousa.com/store/ Can't even BUY a stirling from that page.

How about the Japanese licensee of the ST-5 for the Asian market - where can I go to get an ST-5?

http://discovermagazine.com/2003/aug/featfire (from 2003)

Gross estimates that he can mass-produce the gadget, which is capable of generating 250 peak watts of power, for sale at $250 a unit. At one dollar per peak watt, the power from solar electric generators could compete with power from the national grid. Forty of the devices would produce as much electricity as one of the Sandia labs dishes but at one-fifth the cost.

I tried today to go to http://energyinnovations.com - the domain seems to be having issues.

Pictures of 'research projects'

And from http://www.solarpaces.org/CSP_Technology/docs/solar_dish.pdf

By 2010 dish/engine technology is assumed to be approaching maturity. A typical plant may include several hundred to over a thousand systems. It is envisioned that a city located in the U.S. Southwest would have several 1 to 50 MWe installations located primarily in its suburbs. A central distribution and support facility could service many installations. In the table, a typical plant is assumed to be 30 MWe.
2020-2030 Technology
Production levels for 2020 and 2030 are 50,000 and 60,000 modules per year, respectively.

Given there aren't the "approaching maturity" systems on something that has been known for 100+ years - perhaps the systems just can't be done. And perhaps cold fusion is like the Stirling - not gonna be a mass produced item on anyones timescale.

Otherwise - one can go buy How I Built a 5-HP Sterling Engine:
The Story of the Rice Husk Energy Project in Bangladesh by Merrick L. Lockwood and figure out how to make your own.

Odd you didn't mention what I said was on sale- cryocoolers, and, if you are NASA, space isotope power units. If you are defining buyable as "at the local hardware store".. Right. For the reasons I mentioned-- IC engines are cheaper. Simple as that.

But "can't be done" is not sensible. Stirlings are after all, just plain hardware like any ordinary bang-bang engine. Actually, a hundred years ago, you COULD buy one at the local hardware store. "Any serving maid can operate it". But the bang-bang beat it on cost- no secret there.

PS- I have known Merrick Lockwood for a long time. He is impressively energetic and effective, and did a super job on that engine he wrote about. Didn't go commercial. Why? -Surprise, Surprise- cost more than a bang-bang.

Big news. (yawn) Time for my nap.

A surplus store here used to carry focal-plane coolers like these:
Very trick... The cooler head was about 2 1/2 inches tall. The driver would fit in the palm of your hand.
Cryocooler fundamental design:

apparently rossi has stated that there are no nuclear reactions occurring in his device


Rossi is clearly a somewhat dodgy character. One of the things I liked about that lecture is that the fellow pointed out that Rossi may not understand what's going on, and the claim of copper transmutation is probably a red herring. Moreover, that if the observed production of helium and tritium were stated, it would be illegal for Rossi to be commercializing it in the USA. That could plausibly create a scenario in which Rossi might be hoping to make some initial money before the physics is understood. As I say, it was an interesting talk.

Good morning TOD,

More on Education (@ George M. I wish you luck on that reformation)

One thing teachers learn to deal with is all the opinions about K-12 education from non-teachers. The thought goes, "well, everbody has been to school so everyone is an expert". Kind of like me telling my automotive engineer nephew what Detroit should be doing.

As a soon to retire disillusioned teacher I submitted this to my colleagues. Think of me as a well-read shop teacher who has made his living flying and building before, and during a varied teaching career. It references Dave Cohen's article. Sorry for the length Leanan...I will edit and simply point TOD to DTE (Decline of the Empire. Dave covers this stuff a lot).

I am the teacher nut colleague who builds windmills, heats with wood, lives on our own food production system, (and they humour me, I think) I have gone on record at staff and union meetings saying the ed system needs to collapse along with the economy before parents wake up and demand services. (We ain't there, yet)

Hi all, (email to my staff)

The grad discussion continues.
I ran into an article yesterday and thought it was worth sharing. The stats are from the States which has a higher tendency for university streaming, however, the situation is much the same for our young people. As you know, I come from a trade and flying background. (Yes, some days I have fervently wished I had not strayed.) When my son completed his marginalized graduation due to excess screwing around when he should have been focused and working, I urged him to become an industrial electrician. My reasoning was that he could be paid right away as he learned his craft, and then if he desired to go on to engineering at a later date, his part-time job would be $50 an hour as opposed to min wage. He is now planning on obtaining a dual ticket with instrumentation as a specialty. As a contractor this should put him in the $1500 per day range with the dual ticket and oil field experience. Which brings me to our discussion and where our District is going with shop classes and industrial education.
Yes, I did say $1500.00. (I know numerous folks who pull down this kind of money in the energy sector. They are hard-working, well trained, and smart. They are in the Trades.)
I know many of us started teaching in District 72 fifteen years ago. In this short time frame I have witnessed the closing of 7 industrial ed shops in just our District, alone!! With reconfig in the works we will probably be losing another shop next year. (Phoenix metal/mech is what I have heard) Maybe all the middle school shop classes? Who knows at this point? IMHO, Carihi should have 3 full time shop teachers. Instead, we have two part-timers. Much of this is due to the changing culture of our shops, and the course selections of our students and parents….I admit this. Many of my students, quite frankly, have nowhere else to be as we strive for higher grad rates in our school. I understand this, too. But we are really falling behind in offering what our students could use for future success. It is my humble opinion that we should offer a heavy duty mech ace-it program taught by a certified mechanics teacher. (probably couldn’t find one willing to go into teaching in BC, though). We could teach machining if we replaced some 40 year old equipment. These decisions are not made at our level, I know this and am not pointing fingers at our school leaders or anyone else. But the pop up of Safety Sam on my desktop reminds me that all of our practical arts instruction, shop support and maint, as well as supply budgets, have gone to IT over the last 10 years. 15 years ago we had a full time millwright employed to fix and maintain shop equipment. We now have no one to do this as he has been reassigned to HVAC with our newly installed sophisticated ventilation systems. When my equipment breaks down, I am told to ‘lock it out’, and that it will get fixed….maybe, maybe not.
I don’t want to see our school get into a raiding mindset…..you know when we try to score students from other programs. However, I do think it is long past the time for families and educators to realize that a degree is not the automatic ticket into the middle class that is was 30 years ago, and that high school graduates headed for technical fields have bright and vibrant futures ahead of them. The degrading of our shops has limited student exposure of many opportunities and it is discouraging to see the results.
If anyone would like to find out how students can get started in a technical field, Rob, Jeff, or myself are who to ask. To end my rant I have a couple of examples for you. T..... P.... (last year grad) is now working at what he loves, mechanics. He is on a service truck, starting wage $23.00 per hour. I predict that within a year he will be in $35 zone due to his work ethic and abilities. A college instructor friend of mine has recently quit NIC to return to the tools at twice the pay and none of the politics. Perhaps 21st Century Learning should be a resetting of our education paradigm, and not a vehicle based on instructional entertainment and declining budgets.
Respectfully…..Paul S

Dave's opening

Half Of New College Grads Are Underemployed

After 30 years of steady decline followed by rapid disintegration after 2008, America has become a country which no longer provides good opportunities for its young people to do the natural things—get a decent paying job, form households, get married, have children and all the rest. In short, American society has become so rotten that it has effectively abandoned the young.

More evidence for this grim conclusion comes from Hope Yen's 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed.....and so on (DTE)

[Edited to remove excessive quoting. Link instead, please. Just post the URL if you don't know HTML; it should linkify automatically.]

About a week ago there was an article in "The Wall Street Journal" about the dismal job prospects for law students graduating this May or June. According to the article it is likely that about fifty percent of these students will never practice law. Why? Supply and demand. We have way too many lawyers. This trend of law schools graduating way too many lawyers has been going on for decades in the U.S. Back in Grand Rapids, MN twenty years ago more than one lawyer was on food stamps. There is a small minority of lawyers who make very high incomes. My guess is that if you look at the median income of those who have graduated from law school and passed the bar exam during the past ten years is roughly $40,000 per year (in year 2000 dollars).

People go into law school believing that they'll become rich, and anyone who's paid $400/hour for a lawyer believes lawyers must be making a fortune. I have no idea why people think it's OK to pay lawyers such high hourly charges. You would think that with all these unemployed lawyers, the price of a lawyer would drop precipitously.

From an economic point of view, lawyers' wages should fall as the surplus of lawyers increases. But economics does not rule in this case--politics does. The large, rich, and high billable hours law firms have immense special-interest power at the state level. They have used this power very effectively to keep the incomes of the very rich lawyers and law firms to get even higher, while a significant fraction of lawyers work as bartenders, driving taxis, or they are on food stamps and rent supplements because they have been unable to get any fulltime job at all.

A law degree is of little help in getting a job outside the field of law. Thus, for about half of those now getting law degrees, they may never have a decent job--but the student loan debts incurred by these unemployed or greatly underemployed stay on forever--cannot be cancelled through bankruptcy, and can never be paid off from menial work.

Don - That's been my observation. My step daughter was one of those high paid lawyers. The local big firms had a gentlemen's agreement to hold the line on salaries for new hires. Didn't work...not enough gentlemen lawyers I suppose. She got a nice salary bump when her firm started hiring new graduates at a salary greater than hers. And then a couple of years later she was one of the last new lawyers laid off. Not only did the survivors not get salary cuts but modest raises. She now works for the State Dept overseas making half of what she was with the firm but is much happier.

Saw the same thing with geologists and engineers over the years. Salaries were rarely cut...they just laid people off to cut overhead. My day rate slide a tad but what was worse was getting only a few days a month. But I was lucky in the worst of times in the mid 80's and hit 23 out of 25 wildcats for a client...most money I ever made for myself or a client up to that point. But IMHO most geologists couldn't find oil in their driveways. Many I've worked with just shuffled paper and filled slots on the organizational chart. Today me and my cohorts work on a compensation plan rooted in successful efforts. The $160 million we've spent of our owner’s capex is considered "borrowed". When we sell the company eventually this debt is subtracted from the gross and we get a percentage of what's left...if anything. My owner had learned previously the mistake of giving his geologists/engineers overriding royalties so they got a nice kiss even if he lost money in the end.

Fifty years ago there were lots of engineers in the U.C. Berkeley MBA program. Why? Mainly because companies would hire cheap engineers right out of school, then employ them only until they were about forty-five years old and at the top of the salary scale for engineers. Then the high priced engineer would be fired and be replaced by another cheap one right out of school. The only way (or the main way) to get around this was to get into management to keep a job until retirement age. The engineers were almost always among the top MBA students, mainly because they were so used to thinking quantitatively.

Is this practice of firing engineers when they get to the top of the salary scale still in vogue?

Don't know about the firing thing. But, I can second your thing about the engineers in the MBA program. A guy I worked with -who was both a great engineer, and a great guy, wenet to the same UC Berkeley MBA school. Say's most of the students didn't really get math, so he a had a huge advantage.

It's not just the (salary) money. Guys who've been around the block a few times are a lot less easy to manipulate. Machine managers like pliable material.

I'm only 33, but I've been working seriously since I was 11, and have older relatives in tech fields; I know exactly what you are talking about. You should have a conversation with a guy going by cm over at Economist's View.


as you probably know,

The future is still very bright for graduates of the country's top law schools.

lucrative positions are widely available for students at the nation's top 35 law schools, even those with average grades.

There's little doubt that this is the case at the nation's top three law schools: Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. But this is also the case at top 35 schools like Georgetown and Fordham. On the other hand, students at third- and fourth-tier law schools may struggle to find law-related jobs in the public or private sector.


You are quite right: students graduating in the top half and especially the top quarter of high-prestige law schools start at good salaries and often double their initial salaries in only a few years.

However, most of the new graduates in law are graduating from diploma mills. There is a notoriously bad private law school in Saint Paul, MN that grinds the law diplomas out like sausages. I will not name it.

My best friend from college graduated from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Law School in the top eighth of his class; he has always had job offers with very high salaries and often a lot of prestige.

The students of mine that I taught at Itasca Community College who went on to get law degrees almost always attended the cheapest law school they could find. At least one has been highly successful, but others have struggled to find decent jobs. A lot of lawyers are now seeking work as part-time instructors at community colleges. In general, the only course they are qualified for is the business law class.

I would be delighted if the worst fifty percent of U.S. law schools just shut their doors.

We have a lawyer at our corp. Most of the work he does is only peripherally related to law, accounting, tax prep, negotiating with insurance companies, overseeing the 401K programs etc, writing contracts with customers etc. I wonder how many of these unemployable young lawyers could be imployed as a sort of jack-of-all paperwork plus contracts sort.

People go into law school believing that they'll become rich

I'm hoping to take a local 2011 cum laud grad down a peg or 2 tomorrow. If I'm REALLY good I'll have him disbarred over his conduct - that'll help the other lawyers - right?

People go into law school believing that they'll become rich

That hasn't been my experience. I've known quite a few lawyers, and in general, I've found their motivations to be idealistic more than materialistic. They want to help people, and/or change the world. Often, they've tried another method, such as teaching or working for a nonprofit, and found it doesn't work. So they go to law school instead. Planning to sue evil corporations that are polluting the environment or protect little old ladies being kicked out of their homes or maybe go into politics.

I've known one lawyer who made it big (landed a job with a big name law firm in NYC) and a couple who really struggled (had to work part-time or take a night job at the mall to make ends meet), but most seem to have fairly ordinary jobs, and are content with that. They expected it. Working for a local government suing corporate polluters, or as a public defender, or at small law firm doing a variety of different kinds of work.

There is always an odd dynamic for any field of advanced study. The schools take as many students as they can handle without sacrificing too much on the standards. But the schools don't provide any guarantee that you will find a job. That's up to the student - in good times, it usually isn't a problem for most.

When I was in grad school in physics, we were vaguely aware of a similar dynamic. Many schools would admit a good number of grad students - usually because they needed some number of teaching assistants for the undergrad classes. Eventually the grad students would have to take the qualifiers, and through this they would cull the numbers down to something considerably smaller - those that didn't make the grade got what they called a "Terminal Masters". Those that did go on got the PhD.

It is really only when you have scores of unemployed recent graduates being talked about in the media that a student would second guess going to something like law school, and choose something else entirely. But the pipeline of students might already be overfilled for the next couple of years before the supply of graduating students drops down to something closer to what is actually needed.

Many prestige career targets have a 'bubble'.

I think in the past few years there were news stories about regional airline pilots that were financially doing very poorly as well.

My two cents would be for people to be flexible when getting an education, and have many areas they might be willing to go into.

Also people should be flexible to change careers a few times throughout their life.

Not so sure about the bubble thing. I've been reading about the problem of newly minted lawyers having poor prospects for years. Its probably one of those professions, like movie star, that despite very long odds, lots of people are willing to take a chance on.

Goodbye and good riddance. No offence intended to lawyers, but you guys do not have my sympathies.


And for anyone interested in the reform of higher education to meet the original intentions of what that means...

This is the culmination of several years of research in education effectiveness as well as grappling with "how people learn" concepts from cognitive psychology.

We have gotten so far from the original intentions of higher education. Today it is all about jobs and fitting bricks in the wall (nod to Pink Floyd for that evocative phrase). Where is the humanity in that?

Looking for angels in funding a new kind of education for the good of humanity!!!!

Question Everything and I do mean everything.

US claims 'unprecedented' success in test for new fuel source

Backed by an oil industry giant, the Obama administration recently tested a drilling technique in Alaska's Arctic that it says might eventually unlock "a vast, entirely untapped resource that holds enormous potential for U.S. economic and energy security." Some experts believe the reserves could provide domestic fuel for hundreds of years to come.

Those crystals, known as methane hydrates, contain natural gas but so far releasing that fuel has been an expensive proposition.

aug - A couple of reality checks for folks. Even the experts in the report say it will take a minimum of a decade before commercial production is possible...and maybe a good bit longer. But I'm not sure that matters. If they were able to prodce that NG tomorrow would it be produced? There are trillions of cu ft of proven NG reserves in Canada that are closer to the US but aren't economical to pipeline to us now. All someone needs to do is spend the $billions for the pipeline and that PROVEN AND ALREADY TECHNICALLY RECOVERABLE NG will flow to us. For NG to be supplieds from the hydrates it will require even more expensive pipelines and very expensive drilling. Seems obvious that the Canadian reserves would be produced long before the hydrates are developed. And no one was willing to build those pipelines when NG was selling for several times greater than currnt prices.

Thanks, that was why I posted this. Just more things being put out there to assure us that "everything's all right, nothing to worry about, no need to change how you do anything, BAU will continue for hundreds of years to come!"

If all the available NG is produced, all the MH produced and they are burned then what would that do for the oxygen content of the earth's atmosphere, let alone AGW?


Angry Greeks vote in key parliamentary election

The election is unlikely to produce any clear winner, leaving the party with the most votes to seek coalition partners to form a government. Opinion polls ahead of the vote indicated the leading party would be New Democracy, headed by Antonis Samaras — who has insisted he will not enter into another coalition with his socialist rivals, arguing such an arrangement would require too much haggling to be effective.

The leading party will have three days to form a government, after which the mandate will go to the second party for a further three days, and then to the third party. If none can form a coalition, the country will head to new elections — a prospect that worries Greece's international lenders. If, on the other hand, a government is formed, Parliament will convene on May 17.

I wonder if the average Greek realizes that it won't make much difference who's elected. They're pretty well screwed no matter what.

There are still many choices that can be made in Greece that will make a real difference, for good or ill. True, at least in the short and medium terms we are talking about degrees of pain, but Greece is nowhere near the point where every decision will create the same degree of suffering. There are plenty of bad decisions to be made, actively or passively.

The biggest question facing Greece re. their economy is whether they stick to the Euro or not. Right now they are locked into a currency that is overvalued for the proper functioning of their economy. If they had their own currency they could devalue (like the U.S. has done recently?) to make their economy more competitive. As a Euro user they have no control over this - decisions are being made in places like Frankfurt that, let's just say, aren't primarily based on what is best for Greece.

Leaving the Euro poses risks (and not just for Greece of course) but right now it is acting like the gold standard, preventing necessary devaluation.

OK so what choices does Greece have:
1. Leave the euro and go back to the drachma, which would instantly devalue leading higher prices for all imported goods including food, pretroleum, etc. In other words, a lower standard of living for the average Greek. Long term it would make the Greek economy more competitive because wages would be lower.
2. Hard default on all debt. This would instantly get rid of the elefant in the room and avoid wasting money on debt repayment. On the other hand, Greece could no longer borrow money to fund pensions, welfare, education, etc, so the standard of living for the average Greek would go down. They would be forced to live within their means.
3. Continue along the current path by keeping the euro and going through an endless stream of bailouts and austerity. As everyone can see, this also implies a lower standard of living than before the crisis.

I can't see anyway out of this predicament, at least not over the medium term. They can protest all they want, but unless they become more productive, there's no way they'll live like the average German.

Over the long term there are real differences that should make Greeks care about who their elected officials are.

Whether they live like the average German is not the question, it is whether they start living like the average Albanian.


I agree. The Greeks are between a rock and a hard place. I don't think the Greeks will accept the necessary changes to solve their dilemma. A NYT magazine article was quite illuminating. It is scary reading.

Frugal, "unless they become more productive" sounds an awful lot like "…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious." The average German works fewer hours and gets longer vacations. Now many Greeks are dumpster diving. A bailout was given to Greece equivalent of a more than decent salary for every man, woman, and child of Greece, and yet people are dumpster diving? The money is going to the bankers as usual.

There may be nothing choices but painful ones, but the pain can be spread more evenly. I think Greece probably can find a way to keep its people fed and housed, if the government and people of Greece truly so desire it. Iceland defaulted and somehow, magically, is doing better than all of the countries that have faced "bailouts". If you can't connect the dots as to what is a scam here, I can't do anything for you.

If you can't connect the dots as to what is a scam here

Are you suggesting that if you shot all the bankers, not just the Greek ones, the Greek economy would soon be in a lot better shape? And that borrowing hundreds of billions of euros that they can't repay doesn't matter to the Greek economy?

Iceland defaulted and somehow, magically, is doing better than all of the countries that have faced "bailouts".

That's because Icelanders are more productive than Greeks.

"…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious."

That's not what I'm saying nor suggesting.

You got it. Deeper into debt slavery is never the solution to debt slavery.

I have an opinion in between. I also think that Greece has a lower productivity, maybe it can be improved maybe it can't. What I do find objectionable is that they are being forced to live under this Euro regime through forceful means. Let them default or depreciate their currency and find their natural state.

IMO Europe will revert to it's earlier state, though it won't be anything like the 30's and 40's, nationalism is on the decline in Europe and the culture is far more peaceful. There will be a smaller Euro core with Germany, Netherlands, Austria and others and the PIIGS will take up their role as as a source of cheap labor pool and a tourist destination for wealthy northerners.

Agreed 200%. We've constructed an economic system whereby everyone has to be competitive with the best where-ever they are. The second place (and lower) finishers are screwed. So every has to jump on the treadmill and run as fast as possible (or fall off the end). There needs to be a way to accomodate variable productivity -and what we are doing today ain't it.

When all engines are burning, you want the best pilot. Not that he can keep the plane from crashing to the ground, but he can make it crash in the least bad way possible. I read the neo nazis made it to the parlament. This is not good news.

Yes, we're just one big happy family...

Union: SNC-Lavalin’s demands put nuclear industry at risk

MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin is threatening the future of Canada’s nuclear industry by pushing for employee concessions months after it bought Candu from the federal government, says the union threatening to launch a strike on Monday.

“Their quest to maximize short-term profits at the expense of employees is placing a major Ontario-based industry in jeopardy,” said Peter White, president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates.

The union representing nearly 900 scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians said more than 94 per cent of its members sanctioned the strike action on Thursday.

White said the vote was “a stinging indictment of SNC-Lavalin’s cavalier management style and brinkmanship bargaining.”

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/93144-union-snc-lavalin-s-demands-...

Not that these are particularly joyous times for SNC-Lavalin

SNC-Lavalin won't name execs who OK'd $56M payouts

SNC-Lavalin is refusing to identify which of its company executives signed off on $56 million in 'improper payments' under the direction of a former executive of the company's construction division who was arrested in Switzerland last month.

Authorities in Switzerland are holding Riadh Ben Aissa on accusations of fraud, corruption and money laundering tied to his dealings in North Africa where he won billions in contracts for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin in Libya from the Gadhafi regime.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/05/04/snc-lavalin-probe.html?...

I've had the pleasure of working with these folks on behalf of the RCMP. And, yeah, like I'd want to go through that again.


These unions crack me up. When was the last time anybody bought a Candu reactor. Nor are there any prospects of future sales, not even in Ontario where these reactors were developed by federally-owned AECL.
The taxpayer had to pay $75 million in reactor develoment costs before SNC-Lavalin agreed to by this dog of a company for $15 million.

I don't follow this industry all that closely, but my sense is that CANDU is dead and so too nuclear power in this country. There's talk of two new reactors being built at Darlington, but no decision has been made as yet and, in any event, there's a good possibility they may not even be CANDU. Darlington came in at $4,100 per kW some twenty years ago and effectively bankrupt the utility, and I'm guessing anything built today would likely cost two to three times that, if not more. The financial risks are simply far too great.

Addendum: It's interesting to see what's happened to Ontario's appetite for electricity over the past five years. Ontario's population increased by a full ten per cent between the years 2006 and 2011 (13.37 versus 12.16 million) and yet peak demand was 5.8 per cent lower (25,450 MW versus 27,005 MW) and energy use was down 6.3 per cent (141.5 TWh versus 151.0 TWh). Taking a slightly longer perspective, Ontario's population has increased by 25 per cent over the past fifteen years, but electricity consumption in 2011 was only slightly higher than in 1996 (141.5 TWh versus 138.0 TWh).

I was flipping through my Ontario Hydro 1983 Statistical Yearbook and in that year peak demand came in at 18,791.5 MW and total resources including firm purchases stood at 21,485.7 MW, for a ratio of reserve of 14.3 per cent. Today, Ontario has 34,079 MW of installed capacity on hand with the ability to import up to 4,800 MW from its neighbours; excluding imports, that puts its current ratio of reserve at 33.9 per cent, and that's after retiring over 4,000 MW of coal-fired capacity.


And HiH is working hard to single handedly close more coal-fired stations.


I only wish it were true, NAOM. My team eliminated just over 436,000 kWh/year of incremental load in April, or an average of 14,535 kWh per calendar day. If we can continue to ramp things up, my hope is that we'll eliminate between 5 and 6 GWh of customer load by the end of the year. If we can hit 5 GWh, then we will have cut Nova Scotia Power's annual CO2(e) emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes. [This is just our firm's "Small Business" work; our savings with respect to our larger C&I customers far exceeds this.]

Last year, Nova Scotians consumed 11.8 TWh of electricity, down from 12.0 TWh the year before and 12.7 TWh in 2007. Q1 consumption is down 15 per cent year over year (3,010,502 MWh versus 3,532,096 MWh). Much of this can be attributed to a milder winter (mean temperature Q1, 2012: -1.7°C versus -3.5°C this same period last year) and a somewhat sluggish economy (provincial GDP is expected to grow 1.7 per cent this year and 2.75 per cent next).

That said, Nova Scotia Power's current 10-year System Outlook calls for electricity consumption to fall an average of 1.3 per cent annually over the next ten years due to various Efficiency Nova Scotia's DSM initiatives (in their absence, load could be expected to grow an average of 0.8 percent annually). Last year, these DSM investments were projected to cut provincial demand and energy requirements by 22 MW and 120 GWh respectively and we actually topped that. This year, the cumulative savings are pegged at 60 MW and 306 GWh and next year that jumps to 113 MW and 570 GWh; by 2021, the cumulative savings are expected to reach 557 MW and 2.74 TWh respectively. To put this into perspective, net provincial load as I type this, including exports to neighbouring New Brunswick, is 846.8 MW.


What I find stunning is that simple scheme like this can churn out so many negawatts just from one team and how many other teams are doing it too. OTOH a country to your south bitches about swapping out a lightbulb while fretting about an overloaded grid that may collapse and how much it would cost to prop the whole mess up. The contrast is huge. Even Mexico, with all its issues, can manage to run out programs to swap out lightbulbs and help finance new refrigerators with more stuff in the pipeline.


Rather ironic, isn't it? Our province is divided into six zones and we bid on just one of them. There are literally thousands of businesses within our territory that could potentially benefit from Efficiency Nova Scotia's Small Business Lighting Solutions programme. I audited three adjoining businesses on Friday and each one could easily reduce their lighting load by more than 100,000 kWh a year.

For example, the first facility that we audited has two main service bays, general offices, a parts department, etc. There are eighteen 1,000-watt metal halide steelers in the bay shown below for a total connected load of 19.8 kW. We can replace these eighteen fixtures with thirty-six 6-lamp T8 high bay fluorescents that will draw, in total, just under 8.0 kW and provide more and considerably better light. The shop operates an average of ninety hours per week, so the savings in just this one area alone come to 55,216 kWh/year.

Now, if you were to amortize the cost of this work over ten years, the cost per kWh saved is less than half-a-cent. Does anything think that nuclear power can touch that? As I've said many times before, the potential savings are truly enormous and the cost can often be dirt cheap.


Socialist Francois Hollande wins French presidency

Socialist Francois Hollande has been elected as France's new president.

He got about 52% of votes in Sunday's run-off, according to early projections, against 48% for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy has admitted defeat, saying: "Francois Hollande is the president of France and he must be respected."

Analysts say the vote has wide implications for the whole eurozone. Mr Hollande has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in member countries.

IMO, it's another example of "Revolving Door" politics, as the votes turn against the party currently in power. Based historical trends in US elections, it seems likely that the Romney will "win*" this year, but it does seem that the Republicans are determined to make a race out of it.

*As Tom Brokaw said about the 2008 presidential election, the "winner" should have demanded an immediate recount (which I think was true for 2008 and for all subsequent presidential elections).

I agree wt. I think people see the one running against the incumbent as someone waiting in the bullpen ready to come in. If the current pitcher isn't generating enough growth, then enough delegates make the motion to the pen. Unfortunately it probably does not make any difference who is prez, because high oil prices are nixing growth/profits.

From a high water mark in Jan. for new hires, each subsequent month including April has been lower. I'm of the mind that since the Stimulus and QE's are done, while oil prices remain high, the US economy will contract. If the EU folds and US numbers keep tanking Obama will get the hook.

Of course ol' helicopter Ben could crank up the presses just one more time for the upcoming election. A five trillion dollar QE ought to be enough to get Obama re-elected.

Doesn't the 16 trillion (27?) dollars to the bankers buy him enough love for re-election?

As much as Obama may be disliked even on the left, between him and Romney? Seriously, Romney is unelectable, even given all the problems. He's a perfect 1%er, pays less than 15% in taxes, child of privledge, former venture capitalist... If he gets elected despite having a background like that AND the gaffes to prove it, I'll eat my nonexistent hat.

It's like they picked him to fail.

If gasoline prices and unemployment rates both rise significantly between now and November, Romney is almost sure to win. If gasoline prices go down (which I think they will due to low or no growth in global GDP) and the unemployment rate falls even a little bit, then Obama is almost sure to win.

IMO those two numbers will be decisive in determining which way the swing states will go.

What would be really interesting is if things got so bad that polls showed that Obama is sure to loose and he does the unthinkable, plays the Peak Oil card.

Imagine his address to the nation/campaign speech in which he outlines the facts:
1)Discoveries have been declining since the sixties and that the so called giant finds that have been made recently are no replacement for the super giants of the past. (Introduce M. King Hubbert, make him a household name)
2)Production has been essentially flat since 2005 despite a doubling of the price, in stark contradiction of what free market economics says should happen.
3)Consumption of subsidized oil in some major oil exporters and even former oil exporters is growing at a frightening rate. (Introduce Jeffery Brown and his ELM)
4}On the scale at which oil is used, there are no quick fixes, none.
5)That the US is the most profligate user of oil in the world outside of major oil exporters consuming roughly a quarter of the worlds daily oil production while being home to only 2% of conventional reserves.

His pitch would then be, with the world entering this tumultuous period, can America afford to have his opponent, that deluded guy, in the Whitehouse?

I can only dream.

The irony is that he could get some of the best material for such a speech from a congressman from the other side, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. His most recent, Feb 9, half hour Peak Oil presentation on C-Span can be watched at:


It is an abridged version of his usual, standard 1 hour Peak Oil presentation. I admire that guy. Roscoe Bartlett has the persistence of a Beagle that has picked up a scent and just won't let it go. He keeps on hammering on that Peak Oil nail.

Alan from the islands


Obama is no Jimmy Carter. When Carter proposed a five cents per gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax it doomed his chances for re-election. The media crucified him for this proposal, and the Republicans put the "no new taxes" into the platform of their party.

I've always liked Jimmy Carter. For one thing, he was a trained nuclear engineer, and he could and did think quantitatively. (Our other engineer president, Herbert Hoover has been unjustly vilified for lack of action to prevent and to fight the Great Depression. This criticism is almost entirely unjust: What Hoover did was to follow the advice of the most prestigeous economists of the time. The economists gave exactly the wrong advice. Interestingly enough, Franklin Roosevelt followed the correct advice of John Maynard Keynes, long before JMK became the conventional wisdom of most economists.)

Before we get more constructive economic policies in the U.S. the economy will have to get much worse, e.g. unemployment at 20% and inflation at 10%. What I fear most is a populist dictator who is also a master demagoge, a Hitler type.

I agree adamx, however the polls show it to be very close in national polls and in swing states like Ohio and Florida where they are in a statistical tie. Why 99ers would vote against their own interests I have no idea, but it appears they may do just that depending on how the economic numbers play out between now and november.

If Romney gets the nod and the Senate goes over to the R's, then the middle class is going to get shanked.

Hi Perk

re: "...the middle class is going to get shanked."

A lot of things worry me about both parties. There's stayin' alive and then...stayin' alive. Always a challenge.


National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush

Down the Road a Piece
Cutting heating costs and air pollution -- a lot

Outside air has heat? In the winter? In Maine? I’d heard that, but now Dolores and I are hoping to bring some of that winter air indoors to heat our house.

I have in the past rejected the idea of a heat pump, because they are for forced hot air heating systems. We have baseboard, not forced hot air. Also, because heat pumps are said to not work well in cold Maine winters.

But we may have found a heat pump for our house, a house with baseboard heat.* And one that will heat down to about zero, according to the owner of the company that sells them.

See: http://waldo.villagesoup.com/member/story/down-the-road-a-piece/820346

Our heating season is pretty much over; I'm keeping a little bit of heat on in the basement just to keep the relative humidity in check, but for all intents and purposes, she's done.

At a blended cost of 13.42-cents per kWh, our total outlay this year comes to $508.00, and had we closed off the basement it would have come in at just under $250.00.

Our winters are comparable to those of Maine and not once did we have to call upon our oil-fired boiler to help out (our two 3.5 kW inverter units serve a total of 232 m2/2,500 sq. feet spanning three floors and operate down to -22°C/-8°F).


U.S. shale causes rise in waste gas pollution

The U.S. shale energy boom is fuelling a rise in the burning of waste gas after years of decline, a World Bank source told Reuters ahead of the release of new data, giving environmentalists more ammunition against the industry.

Global gas flaring crept up by around 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, the first rise since 2008, preliminary data from the World Bank shows.

The increase is mostly due to the rise in shale oil exploration in North Dakota, propelling the United States into the top 10 gas flaring countries along with Russia, Nigeria and Iraq.

I just fueled up the family car.

It seems in my area, gasoline prices that hover in the US$4/gallon range is the "new normal".

I hadn't noticed before, but it seems California fuel taxes inched up from the last time I had bothered to look:

Hmm, here in Euroland (UK), tax (incl VAT) is $4.88 per US gallon. I would willingly pay the $0.54 Federal/State tax instead :)

Let's each pay an average of those taxes = 2.71

It will be more realistic here in the US and more reasonable in the UK.

That Federal tax rate is obscenely low. It really needs to go up. But no one will do it because it is electoral suicide. Bill Clinton was the last person that had the balls to do it.

Raising the tax would get us to buy more efficient vehicles and raise some revenues. It is a win-win.

But it won't happen because the voters are greedy. We all want everything and pay nothing.

We all want everything and pay nothing.

speculawyer, I agree with you.

I would be fine increasing the federal gasoline tax and using the money to maintain the highway system.

Good point about net imports in terms of BTU's:

Seven myths used to debunk peak oil, debunked
by Andrew McKay

The rise of tight oil extracted through fracking has been hailed as a new era for US energy independence. Some have even gone as far as saying that the US is now a “net oil exporter.” The devil is in the details however. On a Btu basis the US imported 58 percent of the oil it consumed in 2011.

Ezra Klein Q&A with Paul Krugman

Let’s step back for a moment. What do you think we should be worrying about in 10 years?

I really think 10 years from now the signs that we’re on a runaway climate change will start to become a lot more obvious. It won’t be big rises in temperature yet, but will be enough to make people look around and say, oh my God. But by then, it will be very hard to bring it under control.

Are you a technological optimist on this?

Well, there are different kinds of technological optimists. One kind of technological optimist says we’ll spontaneously develop technologies that give us perfectly clean energy. I think so long as fossil fuels are cheap, people will use them and it will postpone a movement towards new technologies. And then there’s geoengineering, which we may eventually use out of desperation, but is full of unintended consequences and political questions. That won’t affect all countries equally. It will hurt some countries and help others. It would be a helluva thing to throw into the global situation.

I’m a technological optimist in that I think if we had appropriate pricing, we’d find it remarkably easy. The cost of getting out of rising emissions would be much lower than legend has it. But I’m not politically optimistic that we’ll do that.

H.G.Wells had it wrong: the Morlocks get to live above ground and frolic in fields of flowers, carefree. The Eloi get to toil their lives away as debt slaves.
The system isn't broken; it's fixed!

A web of privilege supports this so-called meritocracy
On both sides of the Atlantic, the social ties that bind our political, legal and corporate forces lie exposed

Good article.
Sad but true.
I guess we know much less than half of it.
Phil (on the Scottish Border)