Drumbeat: May 7, 2012

What Is the Limiting Factor?

In yesteryear’s empty world capital was the limiting factor in economic growth. But we now live in a full world.

Consider: What limits the annual fish catch — fishing boats (capital) or remaining fish in the sea (natural resources)? Clearly the latter. What limits barrels of crude oil extracted — drilling rigs and pumps (capital), or remaining accessible deposits of petroleum — or capacity of the atmosphere to absorb the CO2 from burning petroleum (both natural resources)? What limits production of cut timber — number of chain saws and lumber mills, or standing forests and their rate of growth? What limits irrigated agriculture — pumps and sprinklers, or aquifer recharge rates and river flow volumes? That should be enough to at least suggest that we live in a natural resource-constrained world, not a capital-constrained world.

Oil Falls to Four-Month Low on European Votes, U.S. Jobs

Oil fell to the lowest level in more than four months after European election results fed speculation that austerity efforts will be derailed and weaker-than-expected jobs data underscored concern the U.S. economy may falter.

Futures pared losses after slumping as much as 3.2 percent to the lowest intraday price since Dec. 20. The euro declined to a three-month low after France elected Socialist Francois Hollande as president and Greek voters backed anti-bailout parties. Crude extended a 4 percent drop on May 4 after U.S. payrolls rose by the least in six months.

Survey: U.S. gasoline prices drop 7 cents

"The price decline comes from lower crude oil prices," said publisher Trilby Lundberg.

That's good news for consumers, but it comes from a negative place, she said.

"Oil prices themselves are down because the oil market sees economic weakness in Europe and the United States, which is a negative for oil demand," said Lundberg.

OPEC output target rise not yet on agenda: Algeria

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Raising the output target set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is not on OPEC's agenda for now but probably will be, Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Youcef Yousfi said on Sunday.

Asked about the prospect of increasing the target, Yousfi told state radio: "For the moment that is not the object of our discussions, but probably that will come at the OPEC level."

MidEast oil supply reliable - Qatar energy min

Qatar's energy minister said on Monday oil production in the Middle East remains reliable and there is no shortage of supply in the market.

"Supply from the Middle East has been reliable despite perceived disturbances in the region... there is no shortage of oil," Mohammed Saleh al-Sada said during a Middle East Petroleum & Gas Conference in Bahrain, organised by Conference Connection.

South Korea says UAE, Saudi promise more oil

(Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have promised to fill any gap in South Korea's oil imports if supplies from Iran are disrupted, South Korean Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan said on Monday.

"So far the UAE and Saudi Arabia have promised to provide more oil than now if things get worse. They have promised to fill the gap," he told reporters on the sidelines of a bilateral economic meeting with UAE officials in the capital Abu Dhabi. He said no oil volumes had been specified so far.

Effects of Arab awakening on the global oil industry

The MENA region has massive hydrocarbon resources (some 60 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and 45 percent of global gas reserves). Most of those resources are concentrated in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which is home to approximately 40 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and 25 percent of natural gas reserves. So, the MENA region, and the GCC region in particular, is of great importance to the global energy market and to the economic stability and prosperity of the world. The current political unrest has already been reflected by a surge in oil prices, but the world hopes that this will be the only short-term effect of the transitional phase that the region is currently experiencing.

Fuel-Oil Shipments to Singapore Rebound in June; 16 Ships Booked

Fuel-oil shipments to Singapore rebounded from May, with 16 tankers carrying 3.38 million metric tons scheduled to arrive in Singapore from outside Asia in June, vessel-charter data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The tankers, including 10 very large crude carriers, have been booked to collect the fuel for ships and power generators from ports in Europe and the Caribbean, according to data from shipbrokers including Poten & Partners Inc. in New York. The cargo volume compares with 2.68 million tons reported for June arrival as of last week.

Record Gas Use by U.S. Utilities Fails to Drive Up Price

U.S. utilities led by Southern Co. (SO) are burning a record amount of natural gas for generating electricity without triggering a forecasted boost to the fuel’s price from near 10-year lows.

The power companies used 34 percent more gas in February than a year earlier, Energy Department data show. Even Atlanta- based Southern, historically one of the largest U.S. coal-plant operators, is on pace to consume more of the cleaner-burning fuel than coal in 2012 for the first time in its 100-year history. Utilities are the nation’s biggest gas consumers.

Hedge Funds Bet Wrong Before Biggest Slump Since October

Hedge funds raised bets on higher commodity prices for the first time in six weeks, just before the biggest three-day slump since October as U.S. jobs data fell short of expectations and European manufacturing contracted.

For China, Oil Helps Lift Other Exports

BEIJING — A $1 trillion oil-fueled trade windfall could not be better timed to help companies move into higher-value products and rebalance the economy in China, the world’s biggest exporter.

Fast-growing countries producing oil and other commodities are taking advantage of the windfall from the recent gains in prices for those commodities, buying about half of the $2 trillion worth of goods sold by China overseas.

Iran government denies plans to treble gasoline price

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's government denied on Monday it would treble the price of gasoline as part of subsidy reforms that have been commended by the IMF but caused anger at home among a population struggling under Western trade sanctions.

In a statement carried by the Fars news agency, the office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said talk of a threefold price increase - broadcast on Friday by Ahmadinejad's bitter critic, the speaker of parliament - was "entirely false".

Clinton presses India to cut oil imports from Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged energy-starved India on Monday to reduce its Iranian oil imports to keep up pressure on the Islamic republic to come clean about its nuclear program.

In meetings in the capital, New Delhi, Ms. Clinton was expected to push for India to find alternative sources of oil on the international market.

Iran's strategic relevance for India

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement in Kolkata urging India to curtail its oil import from Iran signifies increasing pressure that India is likely to face on its dealings with Iran from the US in an election year.

It is not to undermine the threat to global peace that might emanate, should Iran decide to go in for nuclear weapons, but the US also needs to understand India's strategic compulsion and its critical dependence on Iran for its sustained growth and development. India and Iran have had long civilizational links, but that did not prevent Iran from providing material support to Pakistan, in its wars with India, both in 1965 and 1971.

India Said to Plan 20% Cut in Iran Oil Imports This Fiscal Year

India plans to cut its oil imports from Iran by 20 percent this financial year, four Indian government and refinery officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Asia’s third-biggest importer of crude will curtail its purchases from the Persian Gulf nation to 14 million tons from 17.5 million tons in the 12 months ending March 31, the officials said. They asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak on the subject.

India Said to Deny Local Branch for Iran Bank on U.S. Pressure

India barred an Iranian bank from opening a branch in the country because of U.S. pressure, making it harder for the Persian Gulf state to settle oil trades with its second-biggest crude customer, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Polls open in Syria amid heavy security, scattered violence

(CNN) -- Polls opened Monday in Syria, with more than 7,000 candidates vying for 250 seats in parliament amid mounting international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.

The opposition urged Syrians to boycott the elections, saying a vote for any of the candidates amounted to a vote for al-Assad.

Airstrike in Yemen kills al-Qaeda leader on FBI wanted list

SANAA, Yemen (AP) – An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaeda leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.

Aquino Open to China Sea Oil Deal Separate From Territory Spat

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he’s open to an agreement with China that would allow companies to exploit oil and gas resources while the governments separately resolve South China Sea border disputes.

China's 1st deep-water rig to drill in S China Sea

The first deep-water drilling rig developed in China will be put into service in the South China Sea on Wednesday, the country's largest offshore oil producer said Monday.

Argentina Taps Ex-Schlumberger Executive Galuccio to Oversee YPF

Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner named Miguel Galuccio, a former Schlumberger Ltd. executive, to head YPF SA after Congress approved the government’s seizure of its biggest energy company.

Kuwait's Gulf Oil wants 350,000 bpd by 2014-15 - KUNA

Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC) is aiming to increase its oil output to 350,000 bpd by 2014-2015 from 250,000 bpd now, the company's chairman told state-run news agency KUNA.

KGOC, a unit of Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC), is also aiming to boost the gas it extracts from oil fields to 500m cubic feet by the same date, Hashem al-Rifaee said.

Libya’s NOC Says Arabian Gulf Oil Co. Hasn’t Cut Crude Output

Libya’s Arabian Gulf Oil Co. has not reduced crude production, its parent National Oil Corp. said on its website, refuting an earlier statement from the company known also as Agoco.

Aramco to increase trading in oil products

(Reuters) - Saudi Aramco Products Trading Co expects its refined oil products trading volumes to rise to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) as its downstream business expands, the firm's chief executive said on Monday.

Aramco Trading, a subsidiary of state-run Saudi Aramco which plans a major increase in its refining capacity, started commercial operations in January.

Bahrain to award LNG terminal contract this year

(Reuters) - Non-OPEC producer Bahrain plans to award a contract to build its liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by year-end, Bahrain's energy minister said on Monday.

Debate over continued incentives for energy companies

Public money supports the development of nearly every form of energy -- a point not lost on a budget-conscious public after California solar company Solyndra Inc. wasted a $500 million federal loan and oil companies continued to rack up profits with nearly record gasoline prices.

A hodgepodge of incentives, from loan guarantees and grants to tax breaks, support coal, oil, nuclear, solar, wind and other projects.

Total ‘on track’ to begin Elgin well operation within days

Total SA (FP), Europe’s third-largest oil producer, said it’s “on track” to begin a well intervention operation to plug a North Sea gas leak in the coming days.

The monthlong gas leak has shut production at the Elgin and Franklin fields and cost the company 50,000 barrels of oil a day. Total’s three platforms at the Elgin and Franklin fields are about 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Two Years Later, Grim Photos From the BP Disaster

It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster unleashed 4.9 million barrels of oil on the Gulf of Mexico. In the midst of the disaster, BP and its contractors did everything they could to keep people from seeing the scale of the disaster. But new photos released Monday offer some new insight to just how grim the Gulf became for sea life.

The government does a poor job of estimating what it will cost to tear down a nuclear reactor, Congressional auditors say, and it may not be overseeing plant owners well enough to assure that they set aside enough money to do the job.

For a study it plans to issue on Monday, the Government Accountability Office scrutinized 12 of the nation’s 104 power reactors and found that for 5 of them, the decommissioning cost calculated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was 76 percent or less of what the reactor’s owner thought would be needed.

Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor

Tokyo (CNN) -- As Japan began its workweek Monday morning, the trains ran exactly on time, the elevators in thousands of Tokyo high rises efficiently moved between floors, and the lights turned on across cities with nary a glitch.

What makes this Monday so remarkable is that for the first time in four decades, none of the energy on this working day is derived from a nuclear reactor.

Ford Focus will offer choice side by side: gas or electric

LOS ANGELES -- Car shoppers will soon find two Ford Focus sedans sitting side by side when they visit the dealership -- one with a gas tank and another with batteries.

The case for interdependence

The physicist-turned international environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva gave the opening keynote address at the Living Future “unconference” on May 2 in Portland, Oregon. Shiva is the author of Earth Democracy and Water Wars, among other books, including Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (South End Press, 2008). This book posits that the triple threat of climate change, peak oil, the food and agrarian crisis, together, represent a “triple opportunity”—but only if we change our thinking and our systems.

Amid Brazil’s Rush to Develop, Workers Resist

JACI PARANÁ, Brazil — The revolt here on the banks of the Madeira River, the Amazon’s largest tributary, flared after sunset. At the simmering end of a 26-day strike by 17,000 workers last month, a faction of laborers who were furious over wages and living conditions began setting fire to the construction site at the Jirau Dam.

Throughout the night, they burned more than 30 structures to the ground and looted company stores, capturing the mayhem on their own cellphone cameras, before firefighters extinguished the blazes. The authorities in Brasília flew in hundreds of troops from an elite force to quell the unrest.

Food fears feed global scramble for land

LONDON (AlertNet) - It was designed to increase production and exports of vegetable oil, a commodity in short supply after World War Two, and foster growth in post-war Britain and Tanganyika.

Instead, Britain's scheme to carve out million-acre plantations for growing groundnuts in what is now Tanzania ended in disaster - scuppered by the thick bush that rendered machines to clear land for cultivation useless, and a lack of suitable soil and rainfall for the crop to grow.

Food competition to leave poor hungrier by 2050-expert

LONDON (AlertNet) - In 2008, as world food prices soared as a result of drought-hit harvests, growing grain demand and high oil prices, South Korea had an uncomfortable glimpse of the future.

The country, which imports 70 percent of the grain it needs, suddenly found major wheat and maize producers such as Russia and Argentina imposing export bans, aimed at keeping enough food at home to satisfy demand.

'Green bullet' innovations aim to feed world of 9 billion

LONDON (AlertNet) - In flood-hit fields in the Philippines, farmers are testing a hardy new variety of rice that can survive completely submerged for more than two weeks.

In Kenya's Kibera slum, poor urban families are turning around their diets and incomes just by learning to grow vegetables in sack gardens outside their doors.

And in India, a push to help marginalised rural communities gain title to their land is leading to a significant drop in hunger.

Curbing food speculation - right step to stop hunger?

Some experts say speculation does nothing more than aggravate other factors blamed for price rises, such as climate change, rising demand for food, export bans and soaring oil prices.

However, critics accuse banks, hedge funds and traders of exploiting the deregulation of the global commodity markets, initiated by the United States in 2000, to make a financial killing at the expense of the world's poor.

FACTBOX-Innovative ways to tackle urban hunger

NEW YORK (AlertNet) - With the world's population set to swell to 9 billion people by 2050, hunger and undernutrition is expected to take on an increasingly urban face, as 70 percent of the planet's population become city dwellers.

One promising, if limited, solution is urban gardening.

From Bangkok to Boston, gardens are sprouting on the roofs of high rises, former factories, churches, and garages. Chicken coops and beehives dot rooftops and back gardens from London’s Hackney neighbourhood to the grittiest sections of Chicago.

Here are some innovative urban food projects:

Kenyan villagers grow their way out of food aid

They started to invest in ways of harvesting and conserving water, and to experiment with a mix of indigenous and innovative methods of dry-land farming. The approach quickly bore fruit.

The scheme now has a membership of 3,000 registered households, with 2,000 more hoping to take part.

“It is the first programme I have seen that has managed to end dependence on food aid,” says Lawrence Kiguro, associate director for livelihoods and resilience at international aid group World Vision Kenya, which helped the community-led scheme get off the ground.

Sipping From the Garden Hose? Think Again.

The group tested nearly 200 gardening products, including hoses, gloves, kneeling pads and tools, for lead, cadmium, bromine, chlorine, phthalates and bisphenol A. Over all, they found that two-thirds of the products tested contained levels of one or more chemicals in excess of standards set for other consumer products.

For example, 30 percent of all products tested contained lead exceeding the Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s standard of 100 parts per million for children’s products.

EU nations get cold feet over climate change fund

(Reuters) - EU nations are dithering over how to fill a multi-billion-euro fund to help tackle climate change, just as the region's executive body hosts talks with countries likely to bear the brunt of extreme weather.

The Climate Fixers

Is there a technological solution to global warming?

Safeguarding Mammoth Trees, Champs of the Ecosystem

Among their many other invaluable roles, the oldsters also store a lot of carbon. In a research plot in California’s Yosemite National Park, big trees (those with a diameter greater than three feet at chest height) account for only 1 percent of trees but store half of the area’s biomass, according to a study published this week in PLoS ONE.

Glacial lake bursts in Nepal, flood kills at least 13 people

A glacial lake burst Saturday in the Nepalese Himalayas, causing a flash flood that killed at least 13 people and left 60 more unaccounted for, PTI reports.

Another signal of the potentially deadly mounting cost of climate change, the flash flood, like several other glacial lakes that have burst in China, is believed to be the result of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

NREL develops more precise look at cradle-to-grave greenhouse gas emissions for energy technologies

(Phys.org) -- A new approach to assessing greenhouse-gas emissions from coal, wind, solar and other energy technologies paints a much more precise picture of cradle-to-grave emissions and should help sharpen decisions on what new energy projects to build.

The method – a harmonization of widely variant estimates of greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – is being heralded as an important step forward in life-cycle assessments that paints a clearer picture of the environmental penalties and benefits of different technologies.

Another signal of the potentially deadly mounting cost of climate change, the flash flood, like several other glacial lakes that have burst in China, is believed to be the result of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

Seems like it wasn't long ago there were articles claiming the Himalayans were gaining snow/ice mass. In fact, here's one of those articles:


Himalayan glacier region 'gaining ice' is the article's title.

So, I'm a bit confused. Gaining or losing?

IIRC, the ice gain was in a part of the western Himalayas (the Karakoram range), while these events are happening in the eastern Himalayas. The gains in the Karakoram range seemed to generally be attributed to increased precipitation there. You could, of course, still have increased melting, so long as the precipitation gains were enough to offset. The two reports don't have to be contradictory.

Many lower level glaciers are shrinking. For example the Gangotri is shrinking, it's a well known phenomenon, though there is some confusion about the recent incident in Nepal as to what triggered it, deforestation and illegal construction are also equally responsible for some of the recent flood disasters in this area.

Deforestation and/or construction sound like unlikely causes for a glacial lake outburst. Glaciers are high above tree line, and almost all human construction is well below treeline.

Now, such things do happen naturally, although I think the frequency (considered over a large sample) is greater in a warming climate/

Well glacial lakes have to empty somewhere, if downstream isn't littered with illegal construction or stripped soil damage tends to be a lot less.

Glaciers are high above tree line, and almost all human construction is well below treeline.

Sorry to be a little pedantic, but on New Zealand's South Island, both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers extend almost to sea level - essentially running through temperate rainforest - in fact, they remain some of the most accessible glaciers world-wide.

Such glaciers have a growth zone above tree line. They then move like a river downhill. If they are covered with dust they will melt slower. Thus they can reach down far into the melt zone, without melting away.

But still, a glazier in a rain forest, must be a spectacular sight.

Yes - what you say is true - they form well above the tree-line - and the reason they survive (and reach the very temperate coast almost) is the huge amount of rain that falls along the main range, falling as snow above about 2,000 metres I expect. The rainfall at sea level is above 2800mm per year, which is pretty wet.

I don't have the data, but can make a long shot anyway. When climate change took up speed after the 1940-1960 stall, glaciers responded in large parts of the worldwith growth. Not very intuitive, but it was caused by snowfall increasing faster than the ice-melt. Glaciers in many parts of the worldgrew in the 1990ies. But then it got even warmer, and mostof those growing glaciers are now melting: the melting can accelerate forever (or till the ice is gone) but the growing can only accelerate for as long as the grow-area on the glacier is not reduced. Sooner or later, the melting will catch up.

My guess is the higher altitudes of the Himalayas simply makes this "day of reconing" coming later than in other places.

Re: The Climate Fixers

This article appears as a good summary of the climate change problem. However, at the end, the author makes it seem that all that's needed is the addition of sulfate aerosols to the upper atmosphere and that this can be done for little expense. However, since the aerosol will eventually be removed by rain out, once begun, the additions must continue over hundreds of years to be effective, which is essentially forever on a human time scale. Worse yet, climate change is more than just an increase in temperature, it also appears as different weather patterns due to changes in the vertical heat transfer and the tropic to pole flows, both of which would still be impacted and continue to change. Still, the rest of the article is worth reading for those who don't understand how much trouble we are facing...

E. Swanson

However, since the aerosol will eventually be removed by rain out, once begun, the additions must continue over hundreds of years to be effective, which is essentially forever on a human time scale.

But even that does not stop acidification of oceans, and provides an excuse to burn all economically available FF. And if and when the world economy collapses, then no flights means the thermostat gets bumped up until we've decimated all land life as well.

IMHO the sooner the oil age ends the better it will be for the planet.

Yeah well - possibly true in planetary terms, but none of us reading or writing on here will survive a seriously oil-depleted world ... we baby boomers have been terribly spoiled, so we are totally unprepared.

Don't speak for me, please.

Unfortunately, a sulfate-cooled world probably is a drier world: Climate change methadone?

So what are the problems? Robock’s study looks at a subset of the potential ones – in particular, the impacts on precipitation. These arise because evaporation is more sensitive to changes in short-wave radiation than it is to long-wave radiation – so increasing LW and decreasing SW (as you would have in a geo-engineered future) gives a net reduction in evaporation even if the temperatures stay pretty constant. In the experiments they report on, there is a substantial reduction in rainfall in the northern tropics (especially the Sahel and the monsoonal belts). This is actually quite a robust result: reductions in tropical precipitation were reported in simpler tests of this idea in papers by Matthews and Caldiera and Bala et al.

If you decrease SW, outgoing LW will go down as well (at least if measured top of atmosphere), otherwise we would have a (strong) cooling or warming trend. Basically SW minus LW equals the heat storage term.

The problem isn't as simple as just "heat", i.e., temperature, there's also the distribution of the energy as it flows into the atmosphere from the Sun and then out to deep space. Over time, SW and LW must equal. Storage as in the heat content of the atmosphere and oceans will reach some equilibrium point, after the GHG emissions stop. The heat capacity isn't the problem, although some denialist would have one believe that it is. Compensating for AGW via reflection of some of the SW coming in won't necessarily produce the same climate as that which existed before the GHG's were added. For example, there's no reason to expect that the lapse rate would return to pre-emission values over the entire Earth. The poles would still be warmer in Winter, since the extra insulating blanket would still be there...

E. Swanson

I never said you could get it the same. Assuming you created enough SW forcing to (on average) cancel out the LW forcing (greenhouse terms), then the gobal temp would be near the old value. Also you need to note that the net change in both SW & LW would be on the order of a percent or two, so the system wouldn't be all that different from the way it used to work. At least the difference in climate states would be a lot smaller than what were gonna get.

I don't really think this is a 'fix' at all. Just a temporary mitigation.

OK, so you spend a certain amount each year to dump hundreds of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. You'd need to equal the amount of the Pinatubo eruption every three years to counter the forcing effects of current global greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The results?

1. Halting global warming for a period of years to decades.
2. Increasing damage to the world's ozone layer.
3. Increasing levels of acid rain.
4. No mitigating effects to ocean acidification.
5. No lowering of the concentrations of poisonous CO2 in the atmosphere.

Eventually, as CO2 concentrations increase, more and more SO2 would have to be pumped into the upper atmosphere to just keep temperatures flat. By the middle of this century, you might need a Pinatubo worth of SO2 every two years and by the 2100s you might need one every year. Damage to ozone and resulting UV radiation increases might wipe out all the positive effects by doing severe harm to humans, livestock and crops over time. Furthermore, CO2 concentrations wipe out large portions of ocean life at 600 ppm and start to have deleterious effects on land animal life at 1000 ppm.

CO2 is a toxin that raises world temperature now, acidifies oceans and makes life more difficult for animals at higher levels. Pumping another toxin, SO2, into the atmosphere to counter the harmful effects of CO2 would just create another series of harmful consequences while failing to address the issue of harm caused by CO2 long-term. It also creates a dangerous over-hang of warming if the program of SO2 dumping were ever stopped.

The best way to deal with this problem is to stop burning fossil fuels. Mitigations, like the one described in the article, are most likely to have powerful and long-lasting unintended consequences.

I fear that it is already too late to stop burning fossil fuels to mitigate climate change because the Arctic appears to be on a crash course to be ice free in the summer (positive feedback from lower albedo), Arctic methane emissions are increasing (positive feedback from another greenhouse gas) and land based permafrost is melting (positive feedback from methane again). Maybe we must stop releasing fossil carbon into the atmosphere and withdraw half of it that has already accumulated in the atmosphere.

About one third of the warming from the climate models comes from human emissions. Another two thirds comes from feedback. Of course, the feedbacks may be stronger. And that's what everyone's afraid of.

SO2 may be an emergency fallback. But it's sure as hell no pretty solution.

The best solution is to put a boatload of these unemployed folks to work building a renewable energy infrastructure to last. I know that's not what the rich want because it's not so great for their short-term profits. But we're all in this together and the rich will be much better off with a vital economy, an active labor force, higher rates of employment, and a climate system that doesn't bite them in the arse. Continuing to burn the fossil fuels is like cutting down the last of the big trees on Easter Island. A very, very bad idea.

Regarding What Is the Limiting Factor?, up top, I happened upon an interesting article this weekend:

Decreasing Metal Ore Grades: Are They Really Being Driven by the Depletion of High-Grade Deposits? in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

I'm not sure about permissions so I won't quote the article directly, but it posits that, with oil as a possible exception, the increasing use of lower grade resources, such as copper, is not driven by depletion of higher grade sources, but by technology; improvements in extraction and refining techniques. These lower grade resources are the new low-hanging fruit, it seems.

Perhaps someone with proper permissions/access can dig a little deeper and comment more on this idea.

Perhaps they have another definition, but I would define "high grade resource" as one that gives you more ore for the buck. This could be due to concentration, accessibility, remoteness, political factors, etc. So if somebody is mining one and not the other, it is because it is more profitable to do so. Nobody is mining the less profitable ones first because the technology makes it fun.

With oil and coal it seems the best quality was also the most accessible, or at least not harder to get to than the poor stuff. But that doesn't have to be the case with other resources - it could well be that the good stuff is harder to get to, and if they've found a way to use poorer grades without adding too much to the cost, then it becomes economically viable to use lower grades.


A 1% ore that you can get to easily can be more profitable than a 10% ore that is in an inaccessible location if you have the technology to exploit it.

"...if you have the technology energy to exploit it."

No, I meant the technology. Though energy availability is a large portion of the accessibility side of the equation.

You can throw energy at the refining problem all you want, but it is techniques that allow you to spend your energy more effectively that make low quality ores more useful.

Of course you can go straight for the 95% ore at a fraction of the cost...

It's called urban mining.


With copper, most US production is from tailings - ore that has already been processed once to extract the copper. Slow leaching of this depleted ore (reminds me of processing 1.1 million b/day of East Texas "oil stained water" to extract 12,000 b/day).

OTOH, China has the concession to mine copper in a valley in Afghanistan. A large and I presume high % ore body of copper. Not yet in production.


OTOH, China has the concession to mine copper in a valley in Afghanistan. A large and I presume high % ore body of copper. Not yet in production.

Yep. Of course, China measures the benefits of winning such a concession in terms of jobs that move peasants up the value-added chain, so is willing to pay a price that profit-driven private companies can't. IIRC, the price they're paying includes a hydroelectric dam to produce electricity for both a copper smelting operation and the surrounding "civilian" area, infrastructure improvements (roads, schools, grid upgrades), and a rail spur to connect the smelter with a line in Pakistan that provides access to both a seaport and China. The speculation I've seen is that very little of the copper will go anywhere but China.

The speculation I've seen is that very little of the copper will go anywhere but China.

In theory that would mean less need for China to go elsewhere for its Copper.

Like deploying Mimes at Ren-Fairs. (by the same people who ask 'is Copper the next Silver?' http://aocscopper.com/)

This concept is discussed more in this PDF:


There is a debate about the long-run availability of mineral commodities since 1972 when Meadows et. al. asserted in their book Limits to Growth that unrestrained consumption and economic growth was prompting a surplus in the carrying capacity of the Earth [1]. On the one hand there are the pessimists who fear for mineral depletion as well as for the environmental and social external costs associated with the production and use of mineral commodities. On the other hand there are the optimists, who see no risk because they believe that as cost and prices go up new technologies will be developed, and more recycling and conservation measures that reduce production cost and consumption will come up [2]. Furthermore, authors like West [3] highlight that decreasing ore grades is much more a manifestation of improving extractive technologies than of the depletion of high-grade deposits.

It is a fact that in the mining industry, technology has always played an important role to transform mineral resources into mineral wealth and useful end-products. Nevertheless, technology breakthroughs of mineral extraction had been relatively slow until the Industrial Revolution when it showed a growth demand in commodities like coal, iron or copper. This fact lead to ever greater technological advances that even now are still used such as flotation, the blast furnace, railways, geophysics, drilling, trucks and transport, etc., allowing the mining of lower ore-grade mines.

Of course, going back to Daly's article, energy is the key limiting factor, the one most technucopians fail to account for. Funny that the "Decreasing metal ore grades" article I linked to begins by stating that oil may be the exception to their hypothesis.

What struck me as so good about the Herman Daly article ("What Is the Limiting Factor?") is his way of framing the argument in the second paragraph (in the box up top.)

Whether those who cannot or do not wish to see the force of Daly's argument will be persuaded—well, who can say? Cornucopian economists may be locked in by their paradigms to seeing natural and finite resources as "products" (like petroleum) which can be "produced" without limit so long as sufficient ingenuity and investment are forthcoming.

Ultimately, of course, it will not be cogent arguments such as Daly's that will change their minds, but the relentless depletion of oil and other limited resources.

The problem with ALL economic theories, except for ecological economics, is that the base assumption underlying all of their theories and charts is that human labour and ingenuity "produces" stuff, which is of course false. We merely convert stuff, using energy. This misunderstanding is what forms the rift between economics and the real world, of why our economic leaders seem so blind to the blatantly obvious. They see the problem as the world economy not producing enough stuff, and they devise ever more ways to try to speed up the locomotive to even more dangerous speeds. But since our economies don't produce, they actually consume (it is the natural world that produces), then the mainstream economic policies will have the opposite effect of what their originators believe. It's suicide.

Well said. Language is important to framing the way we think about things. it is also important to try to see the world in terms of flows of energy, not just concentrations of stuff.

Mainstream economics has been "Pooh poohing" Peak Oil and the arguments in "Limits to Growth" since the early seventies. Their crucial assumption is that there will always be good substitutes for things like oil. They mostly predict that we will switch away from oil long before there is any shortage. In other words, they think that as the price of oil increases in real terms, we will of course use less oil, and these higher prices will bring forth technological advances and new fuels that are better than oil products and cheaper than the fuels we now have.

Looking at the historical record, it is impossible to disprove this position. The great majority of economists believe these things, and the argument is explicitly addressed in most principles of economics textbooks. The favorite example to illustrate this position is that people worried needlessly about running out of whale oil, because entrepreneues, technological advances, and capital investment produced abundant oil as a cheaper and better source of fuel than whale oil was.

Yes there are few ways to disprove the economists' fantasies without getting into more technical energy analyses which then fly right over their heads. But it can be shown that the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants has pretty much hit limits imposed by Carnot's theorem, and that the EROEI of extracting that FF has been decreasing as we run out of the easy deposits. And it can be shown that vehicle mpg is nearing limits and is ultimately limited by a ceiling, so it is possible to counter these ideas with information and facts that are not too difficult to ponder. And the biggest of all is the point that all of the innovations that spurred energy substitutions in the past were from poor sources to bigger, easier sources. Now, there are no bigger sources of energy. But still, economists will usually manage to pull perpetual motion machines out of the sky to justify their charts.

EXACTLY. There is a real 'magical thinking' involved in economics. Yes, the past 300 years have had ENORMOUS progress. But innovation is slowing down. It continues but the improvements are marginal instead of revolutionary. There are now more scientists and engineers alive today than the sum total of scientists & engineers in all past generations combined. Innovations is great but it is constrained by the laws of physics and thermodynamics . . . laws that economists just don't seem to understand or appreciate. There is still lots of innovation rich target areas like bio-engineering but in the basic physics and mechanics, we just don't have much room to innovate like we once did.

What about innovation in tar sand extraction - and adapting to ever more extreme Climate Chaos ?

Best Hopes for Innovations in Efficiency,


But innovation is slowing down. It continues but the improvements are marginal instead of revolutionary.

Indeed ... those of us being brainwashed by afternoon TV in the 1960s were promised all manner of amazing technology in the subsequent 30 years - especially in the Jetsons, but also projects like the EPCOT Centre.

But almost all the space age technology in the Jetsons has failed to materialise, because of gravity, energy limits, and The Second Law, mostly. Even robots have hardly made a dent in the modern world, other than for packing biscuits and tightening bolts in factories. Some things are here of course - in particular computers, mobile phones, the Internet - but even video-telephones haven't happened (outside of low-res Skype).

Basically cars, homes, planes, and most jobs haven't changed that much since 1962. We were misled for sure.

And the biggest of all is the point that all of the innovations that spurred energy substitutions in the past were from poor sources to bigger, easier sources. Now, there are no bigger sources of energy.

I agree with the bigger comment. I don't know about easier. Easier is hard to pin down as once certain tech is developed what was impossible may become easy. Is drilling even a few hundred feet for oil easier than killing whales? Depends on what your technology at hand is.

As for bigger, solar is bigger(way bigger), nuclear is bigger. Solar is in some ways easier too actually. Maybe along with bigger you need to think more concentrated. Solar is bigger, but too diffuse. Nuclear is much more concentrated, but not too easy. We need bigger, easier, and more concentrated.

Why do we need concentrated sources?

With Distributed Electrical Generation, disparate sources can be concentrated Electrically, but the OWNERSHIP of the generation is spread out, helping to defeat the tendency for Central Ownership of Power to be abused and create conditions for increased inequalities.

We do want to find more storage solutions, though even that could be fed from numerous small sources, and used in higher levels at the grid.

Thanks esldude, you caught me. Yes the capacity of solar is not limiting in terms of size. And some day it may become easier to install solar panels on your roof than drill for oil.

But jokhul has a point too, that diffuse solar energy may actually be a good thing for breaking up fossil fuel cartels.

Thanks esldude, you caught me. Yes the capacity of solar is not limiting in terms of size. And some day it may become easier to install solar panels on your roof than drill for oil.

Some day? It is much easier now to install solar panels on your roof. For less than $10K in parts I can install a solar system that will generate enough electricity to power an electric vehicle for the next 30 years. If you can't do it, you can easily hire local installers to do it. There are even lots of financing options such that the monthly payment will be less than your current monthly electricity+gasoline bills. Drilling for oil . . . that is hard. It requires tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for leases, seismic, drilling rigs, pipelines, etc. Solar power is FAR FAR easier.

The issue with solar & EVs is that EVs cost more than conventional cars up-front, have limited range, and take time to recharge.

Their crucial assumption is that there will always be good substitutes for things like oil. They mostly predict that we will switch away from oil long before there is any shortage.

And it has proven to be a bad assumption. We've been using oil for 150+ years and for transportation purposes, we have yet to find an adequate substitute. I'm an EV advocate but I'll admit that EVs are struggling and are not yet competitive in the minds of most consumers. They cost too much up front, most people do not know of the savings in driving on electricity, the range issue scares off people, etc.

The best substitute for crude oil has been non conventional tar sands synthcrude. The same thing just with a higher price.

Their crucial assumption is that there will always be good substitutes for things like oil.

In defense of a couple of my good friends who are economists, let me argue that the situation is somewhat more nuanced than that. The assumption is that there will be substitutes for particular goods and services that are now oil-powered. To choose an example where I'm more than somewhat familiar with the underlying technology and problems, good multimedia conferencing over an IP network is a substitute for some kerosene-powered air travel. It's a substitute for some gasoline-powered commuting. It's a substitute for some gasoline-powered trips to school. In similar fashion, IP distribution of now-printed media is a substitute for some diesel-powered delivery of a million copies of my new national best-seller (and while I admit that the net energy trade-offs for this one are not well understood, it's still substitution of an electricity-based service for a diesel-based one).

It has now been 18+ years since I was writing prototype conferencing applications that ran over IP networks, exploring the kinds of media that would be useful inside a large organization distributed across several western states. I find it appalling that today I still can't routinely and cheaply conduct office hours for my calculus students from my home, with them located almost anywhere. Good low-latency audio, good high-res digital paper (with a stylus, on a horizontal display, so that you can actually write quickly and clearly), the ability to pull in a page from the textbook in order to point at something, a little video window up in the corner (in conferencing, the main purpose of video of the participants is to allow body-language signaling and you don't need a life-sized full-color image to do that), etc. IP multicast to keep the bandwidth down when several people are involved. Simple signaling protocols that allow a good virtual classroom, with the ability for students to "raise" their hand, for the instructor to call on students, for all the students to follow that interaction, to allow non-distracting side conversations between students, and so forth.

At my place of work management will frequently travel from the US to Europe and sometimes Asia to attend some meetings and fly back either that night or the next day.

We do have the ability to video conference but people prefer to travel. When this has been brought up in meetings suggestions of using the video conferencing equipment or replacing it with better equipment/services has been shot down because it's not 'the same' as a real face to face meeting.

I suspect it might really be due to people enjoying all the frequent flier miles, expensed meals, and getting away from their families.

Like a lot of related issues it makes you think, wow, how can people be so wasteful and short sighted? Then I think that if people weren't so wasteful or short sighted to begin with we would likely not be in this peak everything predicament.

But it's ok, they'll enjoy their freedom to jet around, drive boxy monstrosities, live in the suburbs, eat meat with every meal, and take no personal responsibility for their choices.

We do have the ability to video conference but people prefer to travel... When this has been brought up in meetings suggestions of using the video conferencing equipment or replacing it with better equipment/services has been shot down because it's not 'the same' as a real face to face meeting.

I'd be among the first to suggest that there are some interactions for which multimedia conferencing is poorly suited. One of my rules of thumb when I had people using my prototypes was that if video of the participants was going to be the primary medium in use, face-to-face was probably better. Certainly the big money in conferencing today is in attempting to replicate face-to-face presence, with video walls, ever higher bandwidth, etc. That's a service that is intended to be sold to managers, not workers.

If some other medium is the center of attention, then conferencing can work well. In the calculus class I'm teaching, as with most math classes, the primary media are the whiteboard and the audio -- video of me is secondary, although feedback from the students' expressions and body language is useful. The most common use for my prototype software was discussions between the developers of new software tools and their users, all inside the same company but separated by 800 miles. Their usual meeting was "Here's the inputs I gave the program and here's a screen shot of the output, is the code wrong or is it me?" Everyone involved knew each other from face-to-face meetings, and they generally used the software as an audio bridge plus one or more text/graphic windows -- no video at all.

The most amusing feedback I got was from someone who had just come out of a local face-to-face meeting. It went something like, "We should use your software for documents at all the meetings. When we discuss something with the people in Minneapolis online, whoever's talking moves the shared pointer to the paragraph they're talking about. I just got out of a meeting where we wasted 20 minutes arguing about something, and the cause of the disagreement was that some people thought we were talking about paragraph two and the rest thought we were talking about paragraph four."

Usually there is a renewed interest in video/multimedia/computer-aided conferencing around September/October, when top management decides that the travel budget must be cut. This results in a freezing of travel requests for all except essential customer visits and an implementation of stringent pre-approval processes.

This is sufficiently draconian that people will move out of their comfort zone and learn new ways to do business. Change happens under stress.

Well there's a larger question here: why is the meeting even needed in the first place?

We've all bought into this idea of globalization, and doing business in the global world, when half or more of it may not be needed at all.

It will be difficult and challenging to turn back, but good riddance, I say. Forget the air travel, and forget teleconferencing. Have meetings with people that live and work in your community.

I am late on this string, but let me just provide a personal note on top of what everybody else knows.

I was in Beijing for Christmas and beyond, and while there I had several very high-quality video calls with family and for business via SKYPE. It was quite good -- with only a glitch or two.

On Christmas day, I was on line with Illinois, Virginia, Denver and Connecticut from my Beijing hotel room. Remarkably I had Denver and Connecticut on line at the same time. I could see and talk to people (my kids, grand kids, other family) around the world while it was difficult to see two blocks away from where I was.

I found many contrasts fascinating. For one, the food was great, but the air was bad -- grossly bad -- and I was there to help do something about the air.

I was in awe of my ability to talk to everyone back home -- while coughing.

I am still in awe, and I await the next generation of video conferencing.

Tele-commuting is like a band-aid. It will push back the day of reckoning but won't make it disappear. Will people stop taking holidays ? Enjoy far away beaches on their desktops ? No. Some things cannot be replaced. Many jobs can be done through the web, Esp desk jobs(like mine) but I don't think they can be done away with completely. Also you have to consider what will happen to the automobile industry, secretaries, security guys and tourism industry ? Who will employ them if everyone commutes from home? It's basically a vicious circle, to improve efficiency we must rely increasingly on machines but the more we do that more people become unemployed.

There are no technological solutions to our problems, our salvation lies in changing our collective behavior esp as we march towards a population of 9 billion.

Edit : Take the example of online shopping, first all the mom and pop stores disappeared under the attack of supermarkets and now all the supermarkets are disappearing under the attack of online stores like Amazon. And what's the common thread between these transitions? more machines and less people. The entire online shopping market is now split between a handful of companies and how many people do these companies employ? A fraction of what they brick and mortar stores used to.

It's basically analogous to your example of tele-commuting. I am sure we have saved millions of gallons of fuel but look at what it has led to.

Will people stop taking holidays ? Enjoy far away beaches on their desktops ?

All of my vacations have either been in good ol' Sweden, or the neighbouring Finland and Denmark. Not being able to visit foreign continents on vacations is a non-issue, honestly. Though I suppose that was pretty much your point.

You can take an electric train to:

parts of England (more soon)
many parts of Russia
and soon China

Of course going to & from China will take most of your vacation on the train.

BTW: when I saw ...sson I thought Islandi, not Sverge.


Henriksson is very swedish. If s/he was icelandic, the name would have been Gundirsdattir or something similar.

... dóttir if a woman in Iceland, ... sson or ... son if a man in Iceland.

About 12% of the population do have family names, but no more can be created if born in Iceland.

Members of the Alþingi, the world's oldest representative democracy.


Best Hopes for Island !


My point was that people are not going to give up on their habits just because someone says that there's a replacement. If people start giving up on international travel you can assume that we are in a severe recession at that point, personal preferences are pretty much a moot point at that time.

You're right, these things will only extend the unsustainable for a while longer.

People will keep doing what they're doing for as long as they can and when they can't they'll invent new wasteful, destructive activities to pass the time.

I found this entry in Tom Murphy's blog 'Do the Math' interesting and relevant to the economist vs physicist debates:


The physicist made one blatant mistake: In his famous 1930 article, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren," John Maynard Keynes said that if we assume 2% real growth in GDP, by 2030 the economic problem problem would become how to use leisure constructively. He worried about that, because, in England and elsewhere, the idle rich tended to have self-destructive lifestyles.

(Keynes also assumed that the 100 years starting in 1930 there would be "no important wars and no important increase in world population." Obviously, Keynes was wrong about those two assumptions. But that fact does not destroy his line of reasoning, because there is no good reason to insist on a 2% rate of growth. If you assume a 1% rate of growth to account for wars and population growth instead of a 2% rate, the end of growth would just take 200 years instead of 100. Also, I think Keynes hit the nail on the head when he predicted that economic growth would come to an end around 2030, because I expect world population to stabilize and begin a decline due to increased death rates at some year close to 2030.)

IMO, Keynes was the smartest and the best and the most original of twentieth century economists. No economist after Keynes has even come close to his stature.

We have leisure time problems already. The problem today is how to keep everyone working. We can already produce everything everyone need, by usng only a fraction of the work force. What Keynes could not know is that the "leisure time" would be spelled "unemployment".

I am now talking about the western world.

If we removed the shame from getting money from the government/society, the idle people could be left to their own devices and would probably do better than expected. It's the issue of being in grinding poverty and socially handicapped if you are unemployed that really make it terrible. Give them free education too and something interesting will probably result.

Back in the 1800s, many people in the church in England basically had very, very light duties, which led to them taking up things like science and producing many brilliant amateurs (doing professional level work), who never had to worry about money due to working for the church. The church was the dumping ground for the educated sons of the upper classes who weren't in line for inheritance and didn't want to go into the military.

Though in the case of the modern west, a big part of this is the mismanagement or misdistribution of everything. We have people being poor when working 2-3 jobs (in the US), and of course all the other issues of wealth and time misdistribution.

Maybe the time has come for "basic income", if we're really that rich in the West? It's just getting over the social programming of hard work = virtue that would really be difficult.

Milton Friedman advocated a negative income tax to replace the plethora of welfare programs that have existed since the New Deal. He thought the minimum level of benefits should be enough that people could afford to rent in decent neighborhoods and eat a variety of nutritious food. He advocated universal provision of catestrophic health insurance--100% government funded. He belived that there were huge administrative wasted cost in existing transfer of income programs. Finally, he structured his plan so that a person or family would always better off--even at part-time menial low-wage jobs--than if they did not work at all.

Nixon was ready to adopt Friedman's negative income proposal, but then came increased spending as the Vietnam War was escalated ever more. The U.S. could not afford to implement both Friedman's plan and substantial increases in the cost of Vietnam (both the cost of U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force and also a lot of aid to the South Vietnamese) in the final years of the U.S. participation in the Vietnam War.

IMO, speaking from both and economic and a sociological perspective, I think Friedman's plan would be a great improvement on existing transfer of income programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Aid to families with dependent children, Medicaid and rent supplements.

Don, if I recall correctly, Social Security has an administrative cost of around 1%. Basically all they do is cut checks, so it would be hard to beat that. Not to say that the overall design of transfer of income programs couldn't be much better, I'm sure it could be.

For older people the negative income tax would give people over 66 a strong incentive to work. Social Security, on the other hand, provides a strong incentive not to work past the age at which one begins collecting Social Security benefits.

The best thing we could do to improve the quality of life of most older people is to get them back in the labor force. At the supermarket where I shop there are many bag boys in the age 70-78 range. I do not know if they need the money, but they get a lot of satisfaction from bagging groceries and carrying them to your car on a two wheel cart. Also they usually do a better job of bagging than do teenagers and other young people.

If you know anything about economics you will be able to figure out that more jobs for old people most emphatically does not mean fewer jobs for young people. (Google "lump of labor fallacy")

The best thing we could do to improve the quality of life of most older people is to get them back in the labor force.

Really? Do you have any evidence to back this up other than anecdotes?

There is a large quantity of sociological research on the question of well-being of older Americans. There is also research on this question from other disciplines, but I am most familiar about the literature in sociology. There have been at least two dozen papers published in major journals on this topic during the past twenty years, mostly based on survey research--roughly half using questionaires and half using interviews.

There is quite a lot of research done on this question in European countries, especially Britain, France, Germany, and Sweden. The conclusions are unambiguous: most older people (who are not disabled) are happier when they are working than when they are not. Retirement is a powerful cause of depression, especially in men. Also, people who work through their seventies live longer (on average) than do their idle age mates.

For more, Google is your friend.

The 47% of Americans dependent upon government programs for sustenance don't agree. This is not to say that some of these people don't work, many work 'off the books' or have little side businesses.

Most I know would think a job as a senior bagging groceries would be no different than breaking rocks in a gulag. Much better to go to flea-markets or buy and sell guns.

Personally, after 35 years of back-breaking labor there is no way I would go back to work. One reason is the old job (most jobs) required 4-6 hours of daily driving. I'd rather cook meth instead, it's less destructive.

Modern industrial jobs of all kinds (including office work) are little more than slavery/punishment. This excludes the truly horrid jobs such as work in meat packing or foundry labor. No senior would survive such jobs, few younger workers make careers out of them.

Easy, cowboy.

Look, maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking you're a little pissed off right now, so you're painting with pretty broad strokes. I'm guessing you're being hyperbolic and blowing off steam when you say that you'd rather cook meth, or that it's less destructive.

That's one of the things I do, actually-- help people stop using meth. We're actually pretty good at that where I work.

I take your general point about modern industrial jobs. My office jobs sucked at 40 hours a week; I have two colleagues who consented to the forced overtime management demanded (60 hours + per week). One is dead and the other has cancer, pretty bad. I thought about changing careers when I got a blood clot; I went ahead and did it when my systolic blood pressure hit 175. It's 130 now.

At 20 hours a week, it would have actually been tolerable, even fun.

Here's my point: I've seen people quit meth. I know how hard it is; I know it can be done. It requires a complete change in thinking. So does beating an eating disorder, and a lot of other problem behaviors, but people do it.

I think we can change our habits with fossil fuel, too.

I'm just saying that I believe it's technically and psychologically possible for us as a species. I'm a little-- a LITTLE-- more optimistic about that than drillers, engineers, economists, and those in the hard sciences because I've seen people, and even communities, turn their lives around.

I don't know if we will.

Ha! Catalyzt, meet Steve... he has a pretty good bead on things.

Modern industrial jobs of all kinds (including office work) are little more than slavery/punishment.

I agree ... easy cowboy. I also agree that many, many jobs in today's world (whether in a mindless cubicle, shop, or factory) are soul-destroying and not very exciting, but you are in danger of being seen as a real whinger.

The reality is that more and more people (at least in OECD countries, but also increasing in some developing countries) now have more income, a better quality of life, and more leisure time, than any humans have had for the last 8,000 years.

I agree that the modern world is a bizarre place, and many people are FITH, but the past was ALWAYS worse.

I agree that the modern world is a bizarre place, and many people are FITH, but the past was ALWAYS worse.

Hmm, Wonder what future generations, should they still be around, living in a depleted, ecologically damaged world will think of that statement 8000 years from now?!

The reality is that more and more people (at least in OECD countries, but also increasing in some developing countries) now have more income, a better quality of life, and more leisure time, than any humans have had for the last 8,000 years.

Yeah, and how much longer do you think will that last? And how many of the 7 billion plus living today would actually disagree with that even today?

I agree about other things but leisure time?? We work more than any other time in history. Even the medieval serf didn't work 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Even if he/she did the tempo of the work was a lot lower.

The reality is that more and more people (at least in OECD countries, but also increasing in some developing countries) now have more income, a better quality of life, and more leisure time, than any humans have had for the last 8,000 years.

All or most essentially illusions, stolen/borrowed from future generations as well-- climate-change threats; environmental degredation, increasing wage gaps, military industrial complex activities, high-rate species extinctions, nuclear problems, unmanageable personal/national debt, increasing meaningless in work/life, corporate land-grabbing, lack of real democracy, overconsumption, etc....

What do some of the economists call some of these? Externalities?

Yes. "negative externalities" is the term for bad externalities. Many externalities are good--the ones Adam Smith talked about in "The Wealth of Nations."

Older Americans today live in a particular sociopoliticultural context, so any research worth its salt would seem to need to take that into consideration.
Ostensibly, in times past, older people were important members of the family/band/tribe/village. It was healthy. Now, it's illness across the board.

One of my pet peeves is some people's apparent notions of work. Is it something meaningful that you do for yourself, family, and/or true community, etc., or something you do because someone else thinks that they know what's good for you, and/or because corporations/governments stole/despoiled all the land/water you could live comfortably on, and/or because of government coercion at the point of a cop's gun/threat of prison, etc.?

Go back 150 years... beginnings of the industrial revolution... At that time, the mills were being formed around Boston. They were bringing in working people, what were called factory-girls-- young women from farms. Irish workmen from Downtown Boston... had a very free and lively press at the time, which they, themselves, ran. This was before the period of commercial press-domination... And the press is quite interesting. It was written by the participants- their assumptions are what are relevant here- they just took for granted that wage labour was virtually the same as slavery. They had no influence from European radicalism-- never heard of Marx, nothing of this-- it's just the ordinary assumptions of people who think reasonably about the world. Wage labor is illegitimate, it's like slavery. This is right around the time of the civil war. Northern workers in the American Civil War fought under that banner; that wage slavery is like chattel slavery. In fact it was even the position of the Republican Party. It was a fairly mainstream position. You've even got editorials in the NY Times about it, believe it or not. And they also took for granted that the industrial system is totally illegitimate. It's just a form of feudalism to which people are driven by essentially violence or starvation, and has to be overcome. Those who work in the mills should own them is taken for granted. The feudalistic industrial system was destroying their culture... These are understandings about the nature of freedom and domination that have been lost. So it's not pure progress. How far they've been lost is an interesting question. My suspicion is that they're right below the surface..."
~ Noam Chomsky

Did you know that before the Industrial Revolution, the average person worked for about two or three hours a day? Studies from a wide range of pre-industrial civilisations show similar data-- it takes only about fifteen hours a week to provide for all of our basic human needs. And that's using hand tools.
~ Walden Effect (online)

Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400%. Says, Rauch:
'… if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week.'
...Since the 1960s, the consensus among researchers (anthropologists, historians, sociologists), has been that early hunter-gatherer societies enjoyed much more leisure time than is permitted by capitalist and agricultural societies...
~ Wikipedia

The important thing to understand about collapse is that it's brought on by overreach and overstretch, and people being zealots and trying too hard. It's not brought on by people being laid back and doing the absolute minimum. Americans could very easily feed themselves and clothe themselves and have a place to live, working maybe 100 days a year. You know, it's a rich country in terms of resources. There's really no reason to work more than maybe a third of your time. And that's sort of a standard pattern in the world. But if you want to build a huge empire and have endless economic growth, and have the largest number of billionaires on the planet, then you have to work over 40 hours a week all the time, and if you don't, then you're in danger of going bankrupt. So that's the predicament that people have ended up in. Now, the cure of course is not to do the same thing even harder... what people have to get used to is the idea that most things aren't worth doing anyway...
~ Dmitry Orlov

We live in an economy which takes 80% of our each new generation and educates that 80% to obey orders and to endure boredom, and stifles their creativity, and stifles their capacities, and curtails them. They're systematically crushed by a system which does what? Which fills slots, and 80% of the slots need people who just do rote tedious repetitive labour at least at work, and therefore are acclimated to doing that...
If you're callous to the effects on others, you have a potential to rise. The odds are that you can 'compete' your way up. If you care and are socially concerned about others, you're at a tremendous disadvantage. So I think the competitive dynamic that we have does sort of weed out a set of people for success. But I would say that what it weeds out for success is not competence, not creativity, not intelligence, but callousness far more often.
~ Michael Albert

The evidence on this is inconclusive and very mixed. Yes, older people who work are happier and live longer, but this appears to be largely because they are healthy enough to work. Older people who are not working are often not working because they can't, and that skews the data.

Exactly. Imagine if most, even not all older people were put back into wage labour. The results would be quite catastrophic. I mean, that's why the developed world has retirement in the first place.

As others have pointed out...the problem right now is not enough work, not not enough workers. Young people can't get a job, not even at McDonald's. It's going to be worse if more retirees decide to start working.

Please Google "lump of labor fallacy" You are mistaken in your assertion that more jobs for older people causes fewer jobs for young people. Having more jobs for older people means higher aggregate demand due to higher aggregate disposable income. More older people working actually increases job opportunities for everybody. To the best of my knowledge, all (or almost all) mainstream economists accept the position I have stated.

My neighbor is 71, retired (and maiking $150K in retirement income). He has been working about 30hours a week at Safeway (a groceery chain). Obviously he doesn't need the minimum wage employment.....

What was he doing to make that amount in retirement and what else could he be doing with his time and with that kind of retirement income?

Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.
~ V. S. Naipaul

Indeed ... I was thinking the same thing. What has been their career to wind up with $150k in retirement income - why aren't they living in a chalet in Aspen, or have a massive condo in Florida, or something? I guess there are lots of extenuating factors here we are not privy to.

I was thinking more along the lines of charitable/community/etc. work/donations. (Some depth compared with the corporate grocery-packing)
Given your example, though, maybe the chalet/condo could be "rented" for free once and awhile for particular/similar causes.

Keynes was not an economist, he was a mathematician, but dabbled in the black art, writing a rather interesting book on the subject in I think 1935, called (The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, You must be confusing him with his Dad, who was an economist.

When Keynes was an undergraduate at Cambridge he majored in Medieval Latin poetry and got first-class honors. Keynes only had nine weeks of formal education in economics in his whole life. He learned economics from his father, John Neville Keynes, a well-known 19th century economist; some of the work John Neville Keynes did is still in 21st century economic textbooks. He also learned economics from the famous Alfred Marshall, and to some extent Marshall was his mentor. When J.M.K. took a civil service examination, his lowest scores were on the economic section of the exams. To which Keynes responded: "Of course I scored low in economics; I know far more about economics than the examiners did."

Keynes led an extraordinarily interesting life. For example, just after World War I ended he worked as a spy master, supervising several agents overseas. For example, he was the one who sent Arthur Ransome to both the Soviet Union and Egypt as an intelligence agent. Arthur Ransome, of course, later became famous as the author of the enormously popular "Swallows and Amazons" series of books for children.

Again going back to what I read in one of the interviews with a futurist, sci-fi writer I recall him saying that it probably makes more sense to mine our abandoned cities for metal rather than digging up the earth since they represent much higher grade ore deposits, probably the best ores in the history of the planet.

How much copper do you think is left in the Detroit ruins? As we've seen a test case in action, the tenets strip the place bare on their way out.

I've been on some fairly large demo projects too. The thick elevator shaft cables are usually the first thing stolen (usually by some mid level superintendent or foreman on the job).

Then I guess you could say that Detroit has already been mined for metal ore to some extent. By the way, is there any possibility of mining old garbage dumps for copper and/or and other valuable materials?

By the way, is there any possibility of mining old garbage dumps for copper and/or and other valuable materials?

Not only is it in part of the long term business plan (my memory is 100 years out) but the laws are written NOW to have the dump owners exempted from various laws that might come about in the future to limit exactly that.

Separating the ingoing waste stream of new dumps is more efficient.

How much copper do you think is left in the Detroit ruins?

It's a good question. I guess it depends on the type of construction. A typical reinforced concrete building contains lot of steel in the ruins. You'd have to mine five to ten times the same volume of dirt and hundred plus hours of processing to get that steel. Similarly a PCB contains lot of copper compared to a rock of the same weight.

I think there is a lot of scope for recycling all that metal. Tenants usually go for the stuff that is easy to get out not things that require lots of effort.

The EIA's International Energy Statistics is now over two weeks late with their monthly update. They have not published the production figures for January yet. They were this late once before, several months ago, and I assumed then that it had been discontinued. I am now wondering that again. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Ron P.

My guess would be it's another sign of budget cutbacks.

Incidentally, note the “slight” difference between the Texas RRC and the EIA for Texas December, 2011 crude oil production (600,000 bpd). Kind of makes you wonder what’s going on with global numbers.

The Texas RRC, which sums the reports from Texas producers to generate production numbers, puts Texas December, 2011 crude oil production at 1.05 mbpd:


The EIA, which apparently uses a sampling approach to estimate Texas production, puts Texas December, 2011 crude oil production at 1.65 mbpd:


The discrepancy in the annual Texas data for 2005 was still material, but only 110,000 bpd (1.05 mbpd for EIA, 0.94 mbpd for RRC).

And of course, Ron has noted the discrepancies between the EIA and other data sources for Saudi Arabia in 2010, e.g., the EIA total petroleum liquids number for 2010 is 500,000 bpd higher than what BP shows.

Right, the grand divergence between JODI OPEC C+C and the EIA C+C began in November 2008 and reached 2.6 mb/d in June of 2010. During 2006, the year that JODI has for peak oil, JODI had OPEC C+C higher by an average of about .3 mb/d.

Which one is closest to being correct. Well From January 2005 thru October 2008 the difference between the OMR Crude only only and both JODI and the EIA was about 1.1 mb/d. Of course the difference is OPEC condensate production. But since that date the difference has been .57 mb/d for JODI and 2.1 mb/d for the EIA.

Of course JODI just reports what the OPEC nations report to them and the EIA does their own estimates.

OPEC production in kb/d. The last data points are December for the EIA, February for JODI and March for the OMR. The funny color is the best one I could get where all three colors were visible.


Ron P.

wt - "The EIA, which apparently uses a sampling approach to estimate Texas production..." Sampling what??? This is something I've never understood. How could anyone use production numbers other than the TRRC? As you know every operator is required to submit accurate monthly production figures of every well they produce in Texas. Besides any misrepresentation of those numbers being subject to both civil and criminal charges, they are independently audited by mineral owners and purchasers. Other than a very minor amount of oil thievery by others than the companies, how could anyone come up with more reliable production numbers. In 37 years I've never reported production numbers to any body other than the TRRC. In 37 years I've never seen any company I was dealing with report production to any body other than he TRRC. Am I missing something? Why would any organization spend $1 trying to gather that data when the TRRC would supply it to them for free? To varify the accuracy of the TRRC numbers? How could they do that analysis if the companies don't supply that data to anyone other than the TRRC?

I thought maybe there was a timing issue involved (but I would need to look at the data more to see for sure).

My impression is that there is a delay in getting some of the TRRC reports, so on the most recent month or two or three, some estimation of the missing data was necessary. This is an issue actuaries deal with all of the time with insurance data. The data is correct; it is just not complete right away.

Gail - As a rule the TRRC data is very complete. But the updates are usually 3 months behind current. That shouldn't present much of a problem IMHO. The production from Texas wells changes very little from month to month as a percentage of total production so projecting forward 3 months isn't much of a challenge. Also, why bother to even make such a projection in the first place? How does the TRRC producing data Feb 2012 data vary from anyone else's estimate for that month? IMHO that would be a very good metric to rate any effort by any organization to estimate Texas production. The TRRC production numbers for Feb 2012 are accurate down to a small fraction of a percent. Essentially it is THE gold standard of production reporting on the planet IMHO (although the La. Office of Conservation is just as accurate): highly regulated, authenticated and extremely transparent. Compare it to the KSA. By how ever much the estimates of any other group vary is a clear indication of the validity of any of their numbers for any other area IMHO. If their numbers don't match those of the only organization on the planet that has the correct numbers then they are wrong.

The new International Energy Statistics just came out with the data for January 2012. No big surprises. For January they had OPEC C+C production down by 47 kb/d, Non-OPEC C+C production up by 175 kb/d and world C+C production up by 128 kb/d.

They had Russian C+C production up by 25 kb/d while JODI had them down by 427 kb/d. Someone got the wrong data. And concerning OPEC from December to January:

                 EIA     OPEC OMR
Saudi Arabia	   0        -60
Iran		-100        -77
UAE		-200        -23
Iraq		 -50        -33
Kuwait		   0         26
Nigeria		 100         29
Venezuela	   0        -12 
Angola		   0        -29
Algeria		   0         -3
Qatar		   0         -1
Libya		 200        254
Ecuador		   3          1
OPEC 12          -47        101 

Ron P.

Maybe due to budget cuts it is being released quarterly.

Freight Train Late? Blame Chicago

CHICAGO — When it comes to rail traffic, Chicago is America’s speed bump.

Shippers complain that a load of freight can make its way from Los Angeles to Chicago in 48 hours, then take 30 hours to travel across the city. A recent trainload of sulfur took some 27 hours to pass through Chicago — an average speed of 1.13 miles per hour, or about a quarter the pace of many electric wheelchairs.

With freight volume in the United States expected to grow by more than 80 percent in the next 20 years, delays are projected to only get worse.

Six of the nation’s seven biggest railroads pass through the city, ... Today, a quarter of all rail traffic in the nation touches Chicago. Nearly half of what is known as intermodal rail traffic, the big steel boxes that can be carried aboard ships, trains or trucks, roll by, or through, this city.

In the olden days of passenger rail, an often heard quip was: Only pigs and presidents could get through Chicago without changing from one train to another. The expression was 100% true. For live pigs it was just too hard to unload them from one car and reload them into another. Presidential rail cars caused the schedules to be changed temporarily.

Back in the Penn Central days (thirty years ago now), the Santa Fe would turn over some eastbound trains to the Penn Central at Streator, IL, to save over 24 hours in transit time for traffic headed farther east. In other words, they made the transfer many miles southwest of Chicago in order to bypass the big traffic jams in the city. My best guess is that somebody must be benefiting from the current situation or there would have been big changes by now.

Railroad companies probably crunch the numbers and found out that in the short-term the change was unprofitable. Also, it would have a long payback period, maybe eight or ten years. It is really hard to get financing (either bonds or new equity stock shares) for a project with a long payback period. Professors of finance have argued strongly for more than fifty years that the only criterion a company should use for deciding on whether or not to invest in a capital project is the present value technique or the equivalent internal rate of return method. However, financial and chief executive officers of real-world companies know things that the Ph.D. professors of finance do not know.

The only way we got track infrastructure built in the first place was by subsidizing it to the tune of 10% of the U.S. land area. Railroads have been dramatically underinvesting in fixed infrastructure since de-regulation...actually de-investing until recently. They do this because the positive externalities of rail (as with transit) are not captured by the railroad companies. We need to put large sums (say $100B) of present day dollars (government money) into trackage and signalling.

Rober Heilbroner and some other notable economists have advocated government ownership and government maintenance of railroad tracks with private ownership of rail cars and locomotives. There are strong economic theory reasons to believe that this is the best, most efficient, and most effective way to finance and run railroads.

I tend to agree, I just don't see any possibility of it happening politically.

It would take somebody of the stature of Franklin Roosevelt to get the Congress to agree to nationalization of our railroad tracks. But it would actually tend to increase the profits of railroad companies, so the rail companies (which have a lot of special-interest clout in Congress) might push the idea. If the railroad companies got together and jointly pushed the idea--which has been aroud for at least forty years--I think it could be done, especially if a Democrat was in the White House and both houses of Congress had Democratic majorities.

The RR companies have made tons of money on real-estate over the years; is that played out, or would it be so costly to nationalize their big-city real estate that it would never happen?

I don't know how much it would cost the government to buy the RR land rights. But do you need these rights to own and maintain tracks? I do not think so.

It would cost "government" quite a lot, since government ownership of the land would remove it from the property tax rateable base. Local governments would be most unhappy.

Property taxes are a large incentive for abandonment of right of ways and for the ripping up of double tracks by the railroads.

Exactly. That is why it is best if government owns, maintains, and improves the track. A system of rails is what economists call a "natural" monopoly. There are three ways to deal with a natural monopoly.
1. Do nothing. In that case companies will restrict output to jack up prices, and they will invest too little in capital goods. Not a good idea.
2. Regulation by government, including regulation of prices. Messy, but sometimes it works pretty well, as with U.S. public utilities, most of which are privately owned but also strictly regulated.
3. Government ownwership. Sometimes this works well, sometimes it doesn't; there are a whole bunch of variables involved. A great many (possibly a majority) of economists think government ownership of the track system and private ownership of rail cars and locomotives is the best solution. That includes some conservative Republican economists.

I agree .. plus I think the definition of "natural monopoly" should be broadened a great deal (notwithstanding right-wing ideology to the contrary), so to more be in accord with reality.

It should cover everything that effectively goes down the same pipe, and especially where taxpayer money was involved in building the infrastructure - and this includes roads, rail, trams, airports, water, electricity, natural gas, mail deliveries, and communication services too (many anyway - although I concede that competing cable TV, telephony, and so on can share the same pipe).

CREATE is a public-private $3.2 billion project to reduce bottlenecks in the Chicago area.

25 new roadway overpasses or underpasses at locations where traffic (auto, pedestrian, bicycle, bus) currently crosses railroad tracks at grade level

6 new rail overpasses or underpasses to separate passenger and freight train tracks

37 freight rail projects including extensive upgrades of tracks, switches and signal systems

Viaduct improvement projects – improvements to existing viaducts in Chicago

Grade crossing safety enhancements – improvements to existing railroad grade crossings throughout the region

Common Operational Picture (COP) – integration of information from dispatch systems of all major railroads in the region into a single display.


IMHO, the most effective of those measures is rail over rail bridges. Overpasses instead of at grade crossings.

All six Class I's that service Chicago plus Metra (local commuter rail) plus various gov't bodies.

IMHO, all $3.2 billion should have been as part of the stimulus bill.

Later, I believe CN pulled out. They bought a rail line from a steel company that bypassed a lot of the problem areas.

There is a good technical argument to do more to bypass Chicago (thru St. Louis for example) BUT Chicago wants the jobs.

New Orleans is doing a smaller scale version of CREATE (we also have 6 of the 7 Class I RRs and a lot of railroad to railroad transfers.

Best Hopes for More,


Petroleum volume: Getting calibrations in the can

The volume of oil and oil products moving through America’s pipelines, waterways, roads, and rails borders on the unimaginable.

“Look at it this way,” says John Wright, a Project Leader in PML’s Fluid Metrology Group. “Per capita consumption of petroleum in the United States is 10 liters per day. And there are 300 million people. That’s three billion liters moving around each day, and usually being metered several times along the way. The infrastructure requirements are mind-boggling.”

So is the value. Three billion liters is about 19 million barrels. And with crude oil priced around $100 a barrel these days, approximately $2 billion worth of petroleum travels from multiple sellers to multiple buyers every 24 hours. Clearly, even tiny errors in measurement can amount to a great deal of money.

... The petroleum industry expects uncertainties less than 0.05 % for custody transfer or billing applications. The other variable of intense interest is how the measurements change or “drift” over time. “If our calibrations or our customers’ calibrations or the pipe-provers’ change too much,” Wright says, “then there’s a lot of retroactive money that changes hands. It can amount to very large sums because the volume is extraordinarily high.”

FORTUNE 500: A NEW No. 1

It's tough to beat the kind of year Exxon Mobil had in 2011. Shares rose by 20% and profits surged by 35% to $41.1 billion. Revenues jumped 28% to $452.9 billion, helping Exxon reclaim the top spot in the Fortune 500.

Move over Walmart... The article goes on to credit, in part, natural gas and fracking with XOM's success in 2011 :-/

Rex Tillerson: "...the shale gas party has just begun. "

The fact that they can become the #1 company while domestic consumption of their product has declined should really tell people something. But the addict will pay more because the consequences of quitting are even more difficult. :-/

Author Steve Coll, in his book "Private Empire", calls ExxonMobil "a sovereign corporation," indicating that it has more say than many governments do.

Strange weather ...

Tornado hits France; unprecedented April heat in Europe

According to the European Severe Weather Database (ESWD), this was the first tornado in France in 2012. French tornadoes are rare; there were just three tornadoes in the country in 2011.

Deadly tornado strikes Japan

Snow in Scotland as Met issues early weather warnings for next week

April was cold in Scandinavia. This new climate is tossing around air masses in new and interesting ways. One area get colder, and the other area warmer.

More strange weather.......by no means an F5 but the weather does seem to be getting more "aggressive" by leaps and bounds.

Tornado hits Oxfordshire as more stormy weather forecast for UK
'Supercell' storm reported in several places as thunder and lightning sweeps across southern England


Antarctic octopus tells story of ice-sheet collapse

Scientists have long been concerned that the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet could collapse if global temperatures keep climbing. If it did, sea levels are predicted to rise by as much as five metres.

Now, genetic evidence from an Antarctic octopus reveals that this may have happened at some point in the not-too-distant past – possibly as recently as 200,000 years ago.

That article confirms this article, ca 1,5 years old.


Putin Orders Navy Development in Arctic, Far East

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to ensure the development of the Navy, first of all, in the Far East and Arctic zones, the Kremlin press service said on Monday.

... Putin also said the number of contract servicemen in the Russian Armed Forces should be annually increased by no less than 50,000 people.

Given the demographics of Russia, increasing the size of the armed forces will be difficult.

The population pyramid for 2010. The # of 18 y/o males drops significantly every year from now to 2018 - with a minimum for those born in 2000 (10 y/o in 2010).


Not Much Hope for Russian Army recruiters,


Gets potential, idle troublemakers off the street. They've seen what happens elsewhere.


Tullow Oil says finds more oil in Kenya well

Tullow said it had encountered a total net oil pay in excess of 100 metres across multiple reservoir zones in the Ngamia-1 well, over a gross oil-bearing interval of 650 metres. The well has so far been drilled to a depth of 1,515 metres.

Tullow had said in March it had encountered in excess of 20 metres of net oil pay after drilling to a depth of 1,041 metres.

... No mention of barrels/day.

Could a Changing Climate Set Off Volcanoes and Quakes?

A British scientist argues that global warming could lead to a future of more intense volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. And while some dismiss his views as preposterous, he points to a body of recent research that shows a troubling link between climate change and the Earth’s most destructive geological events.

... The most solid evidence for climatic influence on geology comes from the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, says McGuire, who is a volcanologist and professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. Analysis of volcanic deposits, published in the past decade by several authors, has found that this period of rapid climate change, when ice sheets retreated from much of the planet, coincided with a sudden outburst of geological activity. The incidence of volcanic eruptions in Iceland increased around 50-fold for about 1,500 years, before settling back to previous levels.

Tomgram: Ernest Callenbach, Last Words to an America in Decline

[This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia author Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) after his death.]

... it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times.

How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?

I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture.

But let us begin with last things first, for a change. ...

... very worth a read!

Did Callenbach have an answer to over population? Solve that problem and the human problem is solved, no need for Ecotopia. My guess is, it was probably tossed into the too-hard basket, where it will remain until the problem solves itself naturally. In the meantime we will have solutions like, electric cars, windmills and solar panels. BAU, consume, burn and breed.

From the "Ford Focus will offer choice side by side: gas or electric" article:

The electric Focus has a sticker price of $39,995 with destination fees. That compares with about $25,000 for a similarly equipped gasoline model. ....

"Compared to a Nissan Versa, a Leaf owner would have to hold on to the Leaf for seven years in order to recoup the price difference through fuel-cost savings' with gas at $4 per gallon", Plache said. ....

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said the company's plan to sell electric- and gas-powered versions of the same car gives consumers what he called with a smile "the power of choice."

Here, once again, is the circular logic gas prices don't justify buying an EV.

If gas taxes were raised sufficiently to eliminate America's oil imports, it would 1. encourage the purchase of EVs; and 2. stop the flow of about $365 billion to Oil exporters every year (assuming Oil at $100/bbl).

If 10 million EVs were produced every year, do you know how large a credit the US could give on every EV purchase from the savings of not buying foreign Oil?

$365,000,000,000 / 10,000,000 = $36,500 per EV

That assumes 1) free electricity (& expanded electrical grid) and 2) the rest of society continues to pay the majority of road maintenance costs.

A *FAR* investment is fewer cars & trucks and expanded Urban Rail, bicycle paths and electrified railroads.

EVs are the "Light Brown", not Green option,


EV's offer more freedom than either mass transit or gasoline options, but as with any freedom there is a price to claiming it.

Tell that to a citizen of Zurich.

The "freedom" exists only because so much of our built environment is devoted to cars lanes & their parking - and proportionately less to humans.

Best Hopes for Cities Optimized for Humans and not Cars,


This brings to mind a dilemma that I've been wrestling with for nearly a year now. I've been thinking of moving to Portland, Maine, because that's the only city in Maine where the city bus service runs seven days per week, which would make it relatively easy to live there without a car of my own. But the Portland area also has the highest concentration of cars in the state, which means that I would have to tolerate high traffic and congestion, in order to avoid having a car of my own. It is probably also one of the most dangerous places in Maine to ride a bicycle, due to all that auto traffic.

Portland has at least a dozen parking structures in the city, which act as magnets for cars. In fact, the downtown transit hub is on the ground floor of a parking garage!!

I've driven around Portland and the Portland downtown at the height of tourist season, and it wasn't bad. It's nothing remotely like Boston or Hartford in terms of traffic congestion. I've never been stuck in bad traffic in Portland and I've been visiting the city on and off for years.

I think the city plan will come around, largely because it will have to..

We're still in the world ruled by cars, but I do think the balance will shift. If we started to create a light rail or trolley system, or even express busses- that branched out towards Saco, Windham, Gray and Brunswick, I bet those parking monstrosities would be memories in a decade.

The bike/hike trails are still growing, too. It's just going to be hard to see what these and the bus lines will flourish out into until it really becomes unreasonable to do the typical car commute for a bunch more people.

I think this will become a more and more livable city going forward. (I'm a little pumped tonight.. I just went to a Permaculture Potluck and Class on 'Using your Scythe'.. over in South Portland.. there's a lot of good work going on out there. If the Reaper comes pokin' around here, we'll fight back!

As long as said citizen needs/wants to travel only at the time and in the direction his/her local tram/train just so happens to go, and only to destinations the line just so happens to connect to in some reasonable way, and as long as said citizen can afford the astronomical cost of living, and as long as said citizen wishes to live in a noisy place with wall-to-wall people, it's all good.

It may also help immeasurably if said citizen has never known anything else (except in a movie.) I've been very impressed by the way European (and Japanese) visitors, especially first-time ones, will often gaze and gawk wistfully at the comparatively endless and wide-open spaces of Wisconsin - never mind that we're actually in the relatively crowded 1/3 of the USA east of the Mississippi, rather than in the legendary wide-open West.

Alternatively, it may help a great deal to be a tourist spending north of $400/day in Zurich or some such place. There's nothing like spending at a wholly unsustainable rate to make almost anything all-good for a moment. And indeed, one sometimes hears many more than just six impossible things before breakfast, being spouted by an American just back from an overseas package tour. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, especially when said grass is well-fertilized by that other kind of green.

So for people of normal means, spending at a sustainable rate, maybe it's good or maybe it's not. And for people of normal means who want access to uncrowded places, it's likely not good at all, since almost by definition, train and tram lines provide reasonable service only to crowded places. Of course since Europe is so crowded that it's a wonder it doesn't simply sink into the sea, maybe such access isn't a practical issue there.

All told, one really ought to expect reactions to the various downsides of hyper-crowded megacities, even the smaller ones, to vary all over the lot, since people (thus far) are "diverse" rather than being fabricated by cookie-cutter. It does seem that in regions where it's actually practical to do so - North America and Australia come to mind - a good many apparently prefer to live someplace roomier, quieter, saner, and less absurdly expensive, especially once they have children. Notwithstanding fads that come and go among a certain class of footloose, well-heeled young singles, that overall preference has been around for well over a century, and it might not change anytime soon.

Zurich has a population of 376,008 in 34 square miles.

It ranked several times as #1 in "Best Quality of Life in the World".

Metro area population of close to 2 million - all connected by frequent trains.


It must be TOUGH living in a city with the highest quality of life in the world !


You failed to note that making room for easy driving by car means less room for people.

According to a link out of the Wikipedia page:

Mercer conducts the [quality-of-life] survey to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Mercer’s Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for major cities throughout the world. Mercer’s Quality of Living index list covers 221 cities, ranked against New York as the base city.

Ummm... yup, precisely what I had anticipated. High quality, as measured on behalf of those living in gold-plated circumstances. Sure, I suppose it could theoretically happen, but really, ordinary folks with median-ish jobs are not terribly likely to be placed on "international assignment". And even if they were, well, low-end European hotels and apartments are often unbelievable pestholes.

The shtick therefore need not concern most people in the slightest. Nonetheless, it runs on:

Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: “Companies need to keep on top of current developments to ensure that their compensation packages remain competitive and continue to motivate expatriate employees.

We can safely take it for granted that while well-paid executives and entertainment stars, plus a small handful of well-paid (though less so) scientific/technical consultants and such, will receive this sort of gold-plated consideration from their companies, those holding more ordinary jobs, such as everyday Swiss or other citizens, almost certainly will not. Many of the latter will end up instead in the local version of what the French call cités, and will rarely if ever be able to fork over $15US for a cup of fancy coffee at a trendy café of the sort that counts for a lot in such surveys.

So we badly need a reality check. The transit map looks fairly typical. It's very impressive but only for a moment - until you look at the key and realize that it's mostly bus lines. Sure, many in the hyper-expensive downtown areas - the sort of people on whose behalf the surveys are made - will have good access to the train lines. But the vast majority in the metro area will live where they must in order to afford it: outside the city proper. Most will be consigned to bus hell, well beyond reasonable walking distance of a train station, and in any event completely out of luck with respect to trains except when they just so happen to be traveling towards or away from the downtown core. (But they'll still be paying through the nose in taxes to buy train rides for the downtowners.)

In that respect, it looks little different in principle from New York City, where much of the money is spent on/for Manhattan, and to a lesser degree downtown Brooklyn. Everyone else is stuck with an interminable and unpredictable wait for a complicated, circuitous trip by tardy, unreliable, snail's-pace bus. Is it any wonder then, that the traffic in New York is such a terrific mess, and that the traffic is generally no better in the famous tourist-Europe cities even despite their confiscatory, manipulative fuel taxes?

"Everyone else is stuck with an interminable and unpredictable wait for a complicated, circuitous trip by tardy, unreliable, snail's-pace bus."

Your exaggerated comments ALWAYS need someone to sweep up afterwards. Say it as often as you want, it's still barely got a thread of truth to it.

Yes, NYC is a big jumble, and has blockups and delays.. but I spent 20 years there, using Subway, PATH and Commuter Trains, Buses, Cabs, Bikes and Feet, and was able to get a variety of options for getting around from Way out in Queens, Brooklyn, Jersey City/Hoboken, Staten Island, Upper Bronx, etc..

The WORST option in NY was usually if you were stuck with a car or van, as I would be for jobs often enough.. as you had to both get around, and then deal with parking at every waypoint.

The trains are there day and night, with a broad range of society on board.. pretty much all but the 1%, probably.

Actually, from more peripheral parts of NYC, the BEST option is often a van - provided it's a company van, which solves the parking problem. Usually takes less than half the time if the trip would otherwise be by bus, maybe 2/3 the time if the trip would otherwise be mostly subway and/or ferry. There's a fair bit of that sort of thing from places like Staten Island and harder-to-access parts of Queens.

And yes, there's a variety of (mostly slow) options, and yes, you CAN get around. As you're fond of pointing out, people CAN survive under lousy conditions; but merely surviving isn't living. It remains that in many parts of bus hell it "takes all day" to get much of anywhere. People wouldn't enter that awful maelstrom of traffic as often as they do if the transit - except, again, for Manhattan - was halfway decent where they actually can afford to live and/or must work. For example, since you mention Staten Island, it will take about an hour to get to the ferry from the middle of Staten Island by bus, i.e. to cover the gargantuan distance of five or six miles, and that doesn't count the time wasted waiting. Absurd.

Not hardly.. but do keep trying.

I've used van services.. out in Jamaica you can grab a dollar van (Usu. waiting at the Subway stops, as they are essentially symbiotic..) to cover the 'last mile', if you need to.. But when I lived in Flushing, Queens, it would be the 7 train, and I could easily transfer and get to Midtown, Brooklyn, The Village, Inwood.. it's a stable and known network with countless destinations. Asking the van driver to get you down to Wall Street after everyone else gets out at Union Square? That's easily a lost Hour of the driver's life, if you're in some kind of magic van service that would do such a favor for you. On the train, 9 or 10 minutes more. Change of plan and you want Brooklyn Heights? another 10 min. or so.

They were NOT 'lousy conditions'.. there are downsides, and there are MANY benefits.. and I and my neigbors didn't simply SURVIVE them.. I'm sorry you are so committed to finding only negatives. The positives are tremendous, and I hope we make them happen up here in Portland soon.

Yes, if you live close to a subway station and work close to another, it may work quite well. And yes, if you live in the outer boroughs, there are some places like that, here and there. But it's not Paris or Amsterdam; much of the population does not live close to a station. "Countless destinations" served by the subway count for very little, unless you just so happen to be coming from one of them and going to another. And considering how many decades it is taking to get the Second Avenue built, the situation will not improve noticeably within any time anyone needs to be concerned about in the slightest. It would take millennia to attain Paris coverage.

Everyone else gets to crawl along part or all of their trip in a bus, stopping forever at every bloody corner, and likely waiting for two or three different buses. Unless, as I specified, they have a company van (not some random unlicensed jitney "van service" that's up to who knows what) that takes them right where they're going, a system that works very well indeed if one is lucky enough to have it - and yes, even going into Manhattan, because the multiple waits and random delays getting to and from the more outlying locations often well outweigh the traffic delays on a well chosen route, hard as that may be to believe.*

Really, it's very much simpler and vastly less time-wasting to do what most of the US population has done, which is to live someplace where, despite true stories about exceptional "supercommuters", almost everyone can drive to almost any everyday place they're going and be there in ten or twenty minutes. And they can do it at any time of the day or night as needed, or as dictated by work shifts; and even on Sunday or a holiday; and without having to pre-plan every trip like a miniature military campaign, with buses that may even take different routes depending on the time of day and/or day of the week.

* I'm thinking 40-45 rush-hour (!!) minutes by company van for a relative of mine before he retired, vs. 95-115 minutes on transit. Look, I don't really understand why transit service is so awful (n.b. distinct from sparse) in the USA, but there it is. When I visited Amsterdam, and despite the traffic there, people were getting visibly upset because the surface trams were 90 seconds late due to some special event. And unlike buses, those trams cannot even steer around obstacles, such as idiot drivers stopped without warning in the middle of the street to discharge passengers. But in the USA one is supposed to be supinely grateful for a bus that shows up an hour late. Whatever. That US bus seems to exist not to provide a service, but so that city officials can brag at "conferences" that they are from a "real" city, i.e one with transit, and maybe also as a sort of quasi-charity - "provides jobs" - for the employees.

Oh FrogSwabble, Paul.

One of the OTHER great things about the NYC Subways, is that these strings of stations leave a great number of people in REASONABLE Walking Distance from a station or three, and this both allows AND forces people to do a BIT more walking than they would with the car that some absurd number of americans will drive the two hundred feet to their mailbox, in addition to ANY other travel needs they have.

Your incessant exaggerations are tiresome and childish.

PaulS has a visceral and unreasoning hatred for public transit. There's nothing you can say.

Perhaps that's true, maybe not. However, it also seems true that many here have a visceral and unreasoning hatred for personal transit, i.e. cars --even the electric or hybrid varieties.

I've taken subways, elevated trains, cable cars, buses, you name it in different U.S. and European cities, and what PaulS claims is often true --subways and light rail typically exist only in (and are economically viable only for) densely populated city centers. It would be great if all of us great unwashed could afford a luxury townhouse downtown, right next to the train station, but that's generally not the case. Most working class Americans tend to live in the suburbs or exurbs due to the typically exorbitant cost of housing downtown combined with a desire *not* to live in a dense, crime riddled ghetto.

There are always exceptions to the rule (Manhattan being one of them), but when it comes to getting somewhere relatively quickly at a reasonable price, almost nothing beats a car... as things stand today. As the old Happy Motoring cliche says, "a car is your freedom". Try living without one for a week and see how easy it is to get around and do business or errands.

That said, your average American could be making a lot better choices --e.g., buying EVs, hybrids or even motorcycles vs. hulking gas guzzling SUVs, keeping fewer autos per household, etc. Nonetheless, cars are not the Enemy of the People, as they are sometimes portrayed here.

I mostly agree with PaulS. I lived in Singapore for over a year after living in the US for 7 years. I had to take a bus every day to work (cars are super expensive in Singapore due to a quota system). It took 50 minutes (door to door) just to cover a distance of 4 miles. Walk to the bus stop - wait for the bus - bus does not take the shortest route to my destination and stops and starts frequently - get off at the destination bus stop - walk to work. Repeat the same thing at the end of the work day. Not fun in a country which sits just 1 degree above the equator.

It rains practically every day in Singapore. If you carry an umbrella in one hand and briefcase in the other, it is hard to maintain balance everytime the driver hits the brakes or makes a sharp turn. Having moved to Singapore after getting used to the comfort and convenience of a car in the US, it was not an easy adjustment.

For most people, public transporation is a pain in the a@@. It cannot match the flexibility and convenience of a car. Most of us will continue to drive until we can no longer drive. My next car will be a Prius or a Prius PHEV or a EV.

Early in my career, I commuted into a major city by bus and later, after moving, by train, both of which were within walking distance. There is definitely a qualitative difference among modes of mass transit. The bus left me haggard at the end of the commute. The commute by train was a much more pleasant experience and, in fact, was preferable to a car. But again, I was within walking distance of the train station, which most people aren't.

Try living without one for a week.

I took my car out of service 6 weeks ago. Just comprehensive insurance coverage till hurricane season.

I am losing weight by walking more with groceries (my prior main excuse to drive). soem more time required - but all in all, acceptable.

MUCH more Urban Rail - plus a road and parking diet - is needed in this country.


So we badly need a reality check. The transit map looks fairly typical. It's very impressive but only for a moment - until you look at the key and realize that it's mostly bus lines.

This merely goes to your lack of experience and knowledge about Urban and Transit planning. All transit system break down this way. The density to justify exclusive (or even majority) heavy rail usually exists only in the most heavily developed downtown areas.

Heavy rail is always used with feeder lines; subways and divided surface rail are usually backbone service, providing longer distance, high frequency, high capacity and higher speed transit. Those places with bus service do not have the density to justify a rail line, or are not directly on the way to someplace else. Using buses or streetcars allows more frequent service.

I will admit that as a transit user, I prefer streetcar, followed by subway (subways are boring with nothing to look at, but trip times are usually shorter), followed by bus. However, I will take the bus rather than walking if one shows up on the 8 minute walk to the subway (the odds are about 50-50.) I won't wait for one, though.

Of course they break down that way. It's nothing whatever to do with me being an urban planner or not; it's everything to do with it being the inevitable, immutable problem. Indeed we seem to be agreeing partially here. You danced around it yourself: "I will admit that as a transit user, I prefer streetcar, followed by subway (subways are boring with nothing to look at, but trip times are usually shorter), followed by bus. ... I won't wait for one, though."

That's quite well aligned with my attitude towards buses. The trouble is that even in crowded, expensive New York City, much of the population has no other choice for at least a good chunk of any trip they might make, and fairly likely all of it. They're most emphatically not within reasonable walking distance of a train station, and even when they are, the train may well go in a direction perpendicular to where they're headed.

The anecdotes we've been bandying about do not alter one jot that the good service simply doesn't scale very effectively to ordinary folks, partly for the very reasons you just listed. One has to be very lucky indeed to land a reasonably safe and affordable apartment at one of the right spots for decent service and a job at another of them. It would help to be very affluent, though not so affluent as simply to take a chauffeured limo everywhere as the TV stars do. Or one must be very, very foolish about living in a formerly affluent area that has become high-crime, as were some of my college classmates. But that is of course typically cured by marrying or having children, which is why one tends to find the families living in single-family houses or duplexes in New Jersey, Queens (think Archie Bunker), or Staten Island, and typically (though not absolutely always, a thorough search will find exceptions, more of them in Queens) and enduring absurdly time-consuming commutes.

So when we get down to brass tacks: I'm not at all surprised that the public might use transit when they are forced to. Those classmates and I did so. Nor am I all that surprised that some people will put up with almost anything to live in a megacity. Some of those classmates qualified nicely, thank you - the "culture", "excitement", and all that, even though they couldn't actually afford to participate in very much of it.

What does puzzle me is a strange expectation among some that the broad public - after all most USA-ians do not live in Manhattan, the Chicago Loop, or downtown San Francisco, and will never be able to afford it - will voluntarily forsake their cars for something else, namely buses, that as it is implemented in practice and will go on being implemented for the reasons you gave, provides immensely inferior service that will prove exceedingly and utterly ridiculously wasteful of time.

Nor do I see, as an alternative, the broad public magically becoming able to afford to pile into the already astronomically expensive "heavily developed downtown areas" that do enjoy decent service, nor into even yet more expensive newly-built ones; nor magically becoming able to afford to pay triple for often stale groceries etc. (or five- or tenfold for halfway decent stuff at trendy shops) within walking distance in "heavily developed downtown areas". Even under extrapolated business-as-usual, never mind less-prosperous scenarios, where would the immense resources to do any such thing come from?

"We" seem to be becoming more like Europe all the time, or rather a spread-out version since at the moment we still have land, more land, and more land besides that, and yet more beyond that, vide what I've said about first-time European visitors with mouths agape, gazing wistfully at the vast, inviting emptiness of a moderately crowded county in the relatively crowded east-of-the-Mississippi USA. The European model means the Beautiful People mingling and living in selected areas in or near "heavily developed downtown areas" unaffordable to anyone else, with regular folks more and more often consigned to sometimes rather awful peripheral cités. And cutting down mobility for policy-wonk reasons of whatever stripe will intensify the stratification.

Of course they break down that way. It's nothing whatever to do with me being an urban planner or not; it's everything to do with it being the inevitable, immutable problem.


You point out a map of a well designed, practically model transit system, used by the public and praised by professionals, and you adopt a tone that suggests that those crazy Swiss commies are pulling the wool over our eyes, because they use buses.

That's quite well aligned with my attitude towards buses. The trouble is that even in crowded, expensive New York City, much of the population has no other choice for at least a good chunk of any trip they might make, and fairly likely all of it. They're most emphatically not within reasonable walking distance of a train station,

This is, of course, crazy talk.
New york is riddled with Subway stops, which use, you know, rails. Links from Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan are almost entirely heavy rail.
According to Wikipedia: "Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 41% use the subway, 24% drive alone, 12% take the bus (emphasis mine.)

Nor do I see, as an alternative, the broad public magically becoming able to afford to pile into the already astronomically expensive "heavily developed downtown areas" that do enjoy decent service

Once again: new home prices and market value are not the determining costs. Your monthly costs based on your mortgage are the issue. Toronto is affordable for those of us who are here. The rest of you are on your own.

I'm not suggesting you all move here. Toronto didn't always have excellent transit, and didn't always have the passenger levels they have now. It was built up over more than a hundred years. Other cities should be building out their transit, and intensifying their built form.

will voluntarily forsake their cars for something else, namely buses, that as it is implemented in practice and will go on being implemented for the reasons you gave, provides immensely inferior service that will prove exceedingly and utterly ridiculously wasteful of time.

I was able to afford, and purposely chose, a location that meant I didn't need to take the bus often. I have taken the bus in the past week, because it was faster. The route I took that day was the fastest possible route from my house to the city centre. At 3:00 in the afternoon, bus to subway to subway (there's a transfer) is faster than by car.

Or one must be very, very foolish about living in a formerly affluent area that has become high-crime

This would be solved by, oh, taxing the rich and reducing income inequity. This is a social problem, and speaks more to your problems as a society than to issues with public transit.

the good service simply doesn't scale very effectively to ordinary folks,

This is your usual "only the rich ride transit" screed. Toronto Transit is used by a broad cross section of the public, from the poor to grade school students to professionals. I'm sure it's the same in New york and Chicago. There are several small apartment buildings with supported housing in my neighborhood (as there are co-ops and other types of public housing throughout the city.) They ride the streetcar the same as I do.

So when we get down to brass tacks: I'm not at all surprised that the public might use transit when they are forced to.

We are not "forced" to. It's part of the deal when you live in Toronto. Either you can afford to pay for parking (because that is what will kill you, cost wise), get a job close to where you live (or move closer to where you work) or you use transit. There are not enough spots in the centre of the city for everyone who works there to drive. Your wide open spaces, freedom, blah blah blah breaks down when you all work in the same place.

regular folks more and more often consigned to sometimes rather awful peripheral cités.

The edge cities of Toronto, and the outer suburbs, do not fit this model.

nor magically becoming able to afford to pay triple for often stale groceries etc.

This is so ridiculous as to hardly require mention. Prices are competitive between the suburbs and the city; supermarkets are run by national chains, with the same standards of service across their stores. You rarely see even a 10% difference.

The European model means the Beautiful People mingling and living in selected areas in or near "heavily developed downtown areas" unaffordable to anyone else

Once again, not the case here. I lived downtown (a 1/4 mile from city hall) for 10 years. You can still rent a 2 bedroom in the $1200 a month range, probably $1500 a month where I used to live.

Are you suggesting that building transit will lead to an invasion of eurotrash and a resulting degradation of public morals? 'Cause I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way.

And cutting down mobility for policy-wonk reasons of whatever stripe will intensify the stratification.

Public transit increases mobility for the very poor, and increases affordability of travel for the middle classes (I know this because it allowed us to eliminate a car.) It allows children, youths, and young adults without driver's licenses to travel without having to be driven by their parents. It decreases stratification.

As always, Paul, you show a profound misunderstanding of the realities of cities, the motivations of people for using transit, the economics of homeowning... what can I say. Don't ever change.

So we badly need a reality check

And you completely fail to give one.

The suburbs of Zurich are slums filled with miserable people living in "bus hell".

A check of the map shows most bus lines lead to rail.

I have seen residents of the 3rd richest county in the USA, Fairfax County Virginia, leave DC Matro and then board buses - without any screams or moans of agony. I am sure they are bused to a very well hidden slum in Fairfax County.

However, the map of Zurich shows tram lines in virtually every corner of the canton. And many Swiss buses are electric trolley buses, a step up from diesel buses.

There are quite a few lines crossing in the suburbs of Zurich. Going from one area to an adjacent area would require local knowledge - but quite doable without going downtown in many cases.

Best Hopes for a More Realistic View of the World - And the Hell of Living in Zurich,


I have known a couple of graduates of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. Neither complained about living in Zurich as poor students.

We spent 10 days with friends in Zurich last October ... I'm not sure how many Americans have spent 10 days in Zurich in the last year, or even the last decade, but it doesn't matter - it qualifies me a little (I guess) to make a few comments:

Zurich in the bigger sense, is like everywhere else - we were picked up at Zurich International Airport, and drove along freeways and tollways that you will see between any airport and city anywhere in the world. Zurich is not cute on its outskirts at all - it's like anywhere.

However once you get off the freeways, Zurich does become a 19thC (and therefore pre-car) city in the very best sense - there is a level of urban architecture that is outstanding and everywhere, and it is not dependent on six-lane roads, gas stations, and all the other car-based reality - it is simply not there.

Then you delve even deeper and of course there is a seriously Mediaeval component to the city, and it is wonderful (and of course to Australians and Americans, Mediaeval cities are always a source of joy and wonder).

Our friends lived at Regensdorf - a suburb 12 km from Zurich. They had a 5th floor apartment in a medium density estate - not unpleasant but a bit dull in a Swiss-style Soviet way, however it cost her one million Swiss Francs, so it as obviously desirable. They both had cars and drove to work in Zurich (they both had company carpark spots), but my point is this: the quality of public transport in the Zurich region was spectacular - we could get trains and buses to everywhere during our stay.

I cannot really describe how much better the city public transport was, compared to almost anywhere in the US, and also in most of Australia. There was a quality of non-car living in suburban Regensdorf (ie, fringe Zurich) that hardly any American or Australian can conceive of ... unless they go there and experience it.

And I suspect your friends could have gotten to work by public transit if the need arose.

Best Hopes for Zurich Suburbs,


since almost by definition, train and tram lines provide reasonable service only to crowded places. Of course since Europe is so crowded...

Most Americans have forgotten their Transit history as it has all been paved over with
Auto Addicted asphalt. In fact small and middle-sized towns all over the US had
thriving trolley and Rail lines even when the US had half the population it does today.
( http://www.npg.org/facts/us_historical_pops.htm )
Wisconsin, Vermont, Los Angeles all over the US towns were joined by trolleys.
See this article for trolleys in Wisconsin:
Today according the Federal Highway Administration 79% of Americans live in urbanized areas.
It has been a lie repeated over and over by the same Auto/Oil/Sprawl lobby that was sued 3 times for destroying all these trolley and transit systems all over the US that the US is "too spread out" to support anything but Auto Addiction. It is also constantly repeated that somehow Europe only has Rail and public transit because of its density.
Notwithstanding that my own State of New Jersey is more densely populated than China,
and as AlanfromBigeasy pointed out Zurich actually has only 340,000 people.

Fortunately a lot of these Rail and Trolley right of ways or even tracks still exist.
For example Northeast Kingdom in Vermont still has an Active Railroad paralleling I-91
which still carries freight and tourist passenger Rail and ties small towns like Lyndonville, St Johnsbury etc all the way to Canada. If that Rail is good enough to carry tourist trains it should not be incredibly expensive to allow at least hourly or even 30 minute Rail service between Main Streets.
Where you live in the US chances are good you are already only a few miles at most from some Rails.

What is this nonsense you are talking about? There have always been cars. God created people so there would be someone to drive the cars. Without cars there would be no way to get to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail or transfer the kids onto the school bus. Without cars were would the people at my work go to eat lunch (with the heater running in the winter and the A/C in the summer)?

To understand America, start first with the assumption that there will be cars. Everything else flows from there. The reality that once we had a thriving nation with an excellent transportation system before there were any cars is hearsay - probably akin to terrorism.

As long as said citizen needs/wants to travel only at the time and in the direction his/her local tram/train just so happens to go, and only to destinations the line just so happens to connect to in some reasonable way, and as long as said citizen can afford the astronomical cost of living, and as long as said citizen wishes to live in a noisy place with wall-to-wall people, it's all good.

As always, you ignore the fact that these places exist and that people can afford to live in them (I've linked to the 24 hour Gerrard St. Street Car schedule before; anyone interested can look it up themselves.) And yes, we live in them in different ways than one does in the suburbs- I put less than 30 miles on my car last week.

What exactly is your point?

Are you suggesting that there are enough resources to continue American BAU, and that the American way of life is non-negotiable?

That we want to have endless space, so we should be able to live wherever we want, and cost and resource availability don't matter?

That families can only be raised in the country?

That anyone who considers the future when they plan is some kind of shmuck?

Having lots of space is all well and good. Does the space exist? Do the jobs exist where the space is? Will that space support the next generation having the same options (will the space accommodate the next generation having as much space as the last one?(Which is pretty much an impossibility, and the root cause of the dilemma of which peak oil is a part. ) This space thing seems to be the crux of the matter.

In my opinion, you speak from fear and a distrust of change. Your default position seems to be that the suburbs will not change and will exist exactly as they are despite peak oil.You have no explanation of why, and offer no solutions.

Do you think that we won't have some kind of energy/liquidity crunch in the next 20 years, and therefore don't have to worry about it?

Or do you believe that transit can be built, and the built environment changed overnight when the problems arise?

My reality (riding Toronto Transit , biking, and spending most of my time within 5 miles of my house) is different than yours. Not better or worse. Different. Is it sustainable? No. More sustainable than yours? Probably.

Cuba went through an Oil Crisis in the '90's: one of their solutions was "the Camel", a semi-tractor pulling a trailer carrying 300(!) passengers. Each. They were used as commuter transit.

My sister just returned from Cambodia, where the most common car is a Toyota Camry sedan. With helper springs on the rear shocks, because they typically carry 10 people. And that's how the well off Cambodians live.

You complain about the cost, crowding and the lack of freedom and choice in transit systems. Not having transit infrastructure when you need it is exponentially worse. Being someplace that is so isolated that you can't even get a bus is going to be the definition of the middle of nowhere: you'll be a farmer or a labourer. I don't think there'll be commuters.

Written by Canuckistani:
Do you think that we won't have some kind of energy/liquidity crunch in the next 20 years, and therefore don't have to worry about it?

During the next 20 years the U.S. will likely decrease its liquid fuel consumption below 10 Mb/d mostly by improving efficiency and reducing it consumption. North America will likely be energy independent in transportation fuel and the suburbs will still exist. Canadian tar sands will probably produce synthetic crude oil for 100 years at a rate less than 10 Mb/d. A high price for crude oil will force the changes. Later, around 2040, when global peak natural gas arrives, the stress will increase making collapse more likely. The Limits to Growth model generally forecasts population decline (i.e. collapse) circa 2060 after peak coal. This assumes neither climate change nor wars cause significant problems first. Expensive transportation fuel or a hyperinflated U.S. dollar would attract manufacturing back because imports would be expensive.

Here are some strategies that will allow the suburbs to adapt for decades, all forced by high price:

1. get a more fuel efficient vehicle.
2. carpool
3. change zoning and homeowner association rules to allow local businesses.
4. Rent a bed in the city near the job and travel home once per week.
5. public transportation
6. get a vehicle that is not powered by crude oil.
7. higher unemployment resulting in increased occupancy of homes (more people living in one house while there is an increase in vacant houses).

The question that no one can answer: What is the minimum operating level for crude oil for modern society with 7 billion to 9 billion people? It could be zero or maybe 5 Mb/d for the entire world. Although I do not have an answer, I suspect the MOL will not be reached for several decades.

Best Hopes for Cities Optimized for Humans and not Cars,

Do present American cities have the wastewater, potable water and electrical grid infrastructure for such?

New Orleans certainly does. Peak population was low 600,000 @ 1960.

Water & wastewater are designed for Mardi Gras crowds (we can handle toilets for over 1 million drunks :-)

Greater efficiency (and TOD is inherently efficient) means reduced demand on the electrical grid. New MUCH more efficient refrigerators, lights and a/c will keep grid demand within historical limits I suspect.

Likewise, new water saving toilets and shower heads will reduce demand on water & waste water systems (which were designed for 5 gallons/flush toilets and old shower heads).

Century old systems will need to be replaced - but that is true in any case.

Best Hopes for Old Cities & Inner Suburbs,


(we can handle toilets for over 1 million drunks :-)

IMHO with the amount of public urination at the Mardi Gras celebrations I have been too, they city can handle a Max of about 250k :)

I question that.

Public urination will get you quickly arrested if a cop sees it.

Tip the bartender $1 and use their bathroom.


New Orleans certainly does. Peak population was low 600,000 @ 1960.

And without very large electric pumps moving that sewage -

Century old systems will need to be replaced - but that is true in any case.

And with what funds will that happen?

Replacement efforts have public examples of Birmingham AL - where the parasite class took a $250 million sewer project and made it a $3+ billion project.

When will such fraud result in the parasites getting punished? I'm rather sure if any of the actual Human people of TOD took a public project from $250 mil to $3+ bil and paid off various other people (be they Human people or Corporate People per Citizens United) the TOD people would be in jail for a long time. Depending on the Nation-State - Dead.

When will the Corporate-People be made equal with Human-People?

If you live in a car oriented environment the car that has the most flexibility gives the most freedom.

It's not like one can flip a switch and rebuild every urban area in North America, but an individual can choose to use an EV (whether truck, car, or cycle) and that will make a difference. Once they are dependent on electricity instead of liquid fuel they can make other choices about how they get their electricity.

It doesn't fix everything, but nothing will.

Written as early as 1973, André Gorz lays out the social problems of the car, not taking into account environmental considerations.


If the car is to prevail, there's still one solution: get rid of the cities. That is, string them out for hundreds of miles along enormous roads, making them into highway suburbs. That's what's been done in the United States. Ivan Illich sums up the effect in these startling figures: "The typical American devotes more than 1500 hours a year (which is 30 hours a week, or 4 hours a day, including Sundays) to his [or her] car. This includes the time spent behind the wheel, both in motion and stopped, the hours of work to pay for it and to pay for gas, tires, tolls, insurance, tickets, and taxes .Thus it takes this American 1500 hours to go 6000 miles (in the course of a year). Three and a half miles take him (or her) one hour. In countries that do not have a transportation industry, people travel at exactly this speed on foot, with the added advantage that they can go wherever they want and aren't restricted to asphalt roads."

I'm quite happy that mass carism is so extremely irrational that it will be absent in the future regardless of EV enthusiasts, hopefully it won't do too much damage in its death throes.

"EVs are the "Light Brown", not Green option"

Well, it depends on whether the EV is powered directly from the Grid or is powered by a battery.

It also depends on the tires - rubber or steel.

Trolley buses, wire powered, use about 5x the electricity/pax-mile that streetcars do.

Batteries are dead weight to haul around. Extra energy for structure and the batteries themselves.

Wonderful for eBikes and eTrikes, not so much for EVs.

Best Hopes for fewer cars,


"Best Hopes for fewer cars"

Thanks for the uplifting message.

Nothing is powered by a battery. It is merely the place you store the energy, not the source of the flow.

It assumes motor fuel prices in the U.S. continue not to reflect most externalities, including only covering 1/3rd of direct road costs. It also assumes no tax incentives for EV, and moderate annual mileage by the purchaser.

Ever since its inception, I've been calling it the Ford Bogus.

But, to be fair, I think bogus pretty much covers everything.

Hey; another week and it will be two years on the ironic Oil Drum! One-stop shop discussions of drilling-for-oil and climate change... They should have a looking-for-love-in-all-the-wrong-places section to round it out.

It would be more accurate to call Detroit bogus because the domestic auto manufacturers have pursued the higher profits of large vehicles to the detriment of American society.

Detroit and everything else.

You and I both know that the legal-cum-money-system upholds/forces greed/antisocial/anti-environment-based behaviors, right? So speaking of it within its own narrative seems also bogus in a way. The auto manufacturers are simply "functioning" within a dysfunctional system.

...Once you plop a small band/tribal species into a(n) state/over-population, it becomes dysfunctional-by-default. Everything.

So talking about the details within the dysfunction feels a little pointless. Like always talking about every-which detailed symptom, rather than the freaking disease.

The post-WW2 period in America is an anomalous one in American history due to the maintenance of a large standing military. For much of America's history, the military was very small. In fact, there was opposition to the very creation of West Point. The Revolutionary Generation was very well aware of the hazards of a large standing military from history, and that early hostility to a large military characterized American society throughout the period prior to WW2. The creation of the massive Military-Industrial Complex after WW2 fundamentally corrupted American society, much as the Revolutionary Generation said a large standing military would.

"Compared to a Nissan Versa, a Leaf owner would have to hold on to the Leaf for seven years in order to recoup the price difference through fuel-cost savings' with gas at $4 per gallon", Plache said

It is definitely still not easy to justify the higher price of an EV these days but even with the above:
1) Even if it takes 7 years . . . IT STILL PAYS OFF!
2) The Leaf bigger & more equipped than the Versa
3) This assumes the price of gas will remain constant at $4/gallon for the next 7 years. Does ANYONE believe that? LOL.

The gas guzzler bubble will continue to be inflated.

The one EV that I might be attracted to is nowhere on the horizon.

The "specs"

- Two seats and built like the original (1990) Honda Insight. About 1,600 lbs w/o battery but with 45-55 hp electric motor. Top speed <80 mph, say 71 mph.

- Different battery options (a la Telsa) with the smallest battery being @ 35 mile range under optimum conditions (@ 40 mph or less, minimal braking, daylight, no rain, no snow/ice, no heating or cooling required, no wind). I would chose the smallest battery (say 12 kWh or so).

Even with age, the small battery should be able to get me there & back. (Is 12 kWh about right ?)

- Hatchback and optional sunroof for occasional outsize cargoes.

- Capable of hauling a small trailer (say up to 500 lb) - optional diesel generator trailer (for hurricane evacs mainly) and/or battery pack trailer with perhaps a few ft3 of extra space.

The above would be perfect for my occasional car needs.

And the environmental impact (including parking space) would be less than current EVs.

Small, and hence light and hence energy efficient - car body, electric motor & battery.


I'll take one, although I'll probably want the next size up battery option. The one thing I would ask is some sort of standardization on battery pack physical packaging so that there's an option to replace if new tech comes along.

Very neat, Alan! I played around with EV conversions a while back and decided that instead of doing hardware i would rather dream up the "right" car for me. turned out to be almost exactly what you have described. Doesn't that mean (small sample tho it might be) that there has gotta be a big market for what you said? Surely there are millions of folks who think exactly like we do?

I especially like the trailer with the diesel. If I need to go (god forbid) to the big city, I can do it with the diesel. I was also playing with the idea of a smart trailer that allows a duffer to back up into a park place without doing any thinking.


Not exactly, but very close. I think the next generation of that, that fixed some questionable design decisions, might be workable. Reviews are positive.

I like it.

Affordable (no subsidy required), less likely to kill pedestrians & bicyclists, minimal space for parking, narrow enough for thinner roads, low energy consumption. Put bags in second seat as well 55 l storage space.

A good personal EV for the near term future.

Best Hopes for an Alcohol fueled heater for the winter,


The one EV that I might be attracted to is nowhere on the horizon.

My daily commute, (and close to home errands) design would be:

Basically a 4 seat "golf cart" NEV, with
- 700W of Solar for the roof (as the roof? guessing three ~6ft X ~3ft 235watt Sharp PV panels), plus associated charge controller for the batteries
- enough batteries for a 10mile commute, and
- on-board 120v/240v charger to 'plug in' as needed.
- ability to go 35mph, for regular residential and business streets.

The Leaf bigger & more equipped than the Versa

The most recent season, and very last episode of Top Gear U.K. available to streaming in the U.S. on Netflix had a review of the Leaf, and gave it favorable mention.

That actually means the Leaf is a big winner, since after seven years it will still have 70-75% battery capacity left, and can be driven for another 7 years much more cheaply than continuing to drive the Versa. Presumably, that also means it would have higher resale value, since the cost of fueling it is so much less than for the Versa. Great commuter car, I am very happy with mine after 10 months and 9,000 miles.

"Compared to a Nissan Versa, a Leaf owner would have to hold on to the Leaf for seven years in order to recoup the price difference through fuel-cost savings' with gas at $4 per gallon", Plache said. ....

I think there is something missing in your calculations. At 10 million EVs per year, how many years would it take to eliminate all the imported oil?

The plan would be to raise gas taxes enough so demand for gasoline would be lowered enough to eliminate Oil imports. The US then could use the bonanza of retained funds to encourage people to purchase EVs. Or, the US could offer EV rebates/credits in anticipation of the eventual financial savings.

Raising gas taxes sounds good to me, but I don't think we are going to eliminate all those oil imports in one year. How many years do you think it would take?

I said it's one option. Since you have taken a liking to it, why don't you figure out long it would take?

See? This is precisely why "EVs" (read: coal/nuke/NG cars) are dangerous when they are not merely a distracting joke. If we ever reach a point where the overclass is willing to permit such radical changes as a gas tax high enough to slash automotive fuel use by more than half, people like bmiller would have us use the savings to build more automotive infrastructure! This, despite the wild insanity of using 3,000-pound machines that sit idle 95% of their lives to accomplish what could be accomplished with feet, cycles, and public transit. It's like a heroin injector switching to laudanum.

The damage of running 250 million "EVs" would not only be direct. To make it work, the electrical grid would have to be profoundly distorted in favor of cars. Given the question of how we will make enough sustainable electricity to sustain hospitals, schools, and basic scientific activities, I find that proposal derelict in the extreme.

Just for the humor of it, what would you have the tens of millions of people living in auto accessible only residences do?

Same thing we did from 1950 to 1970+ with well built, conveniently located, established neighborhoods (called "Inner Cities") and 99% of prime commercial property (called "Downtowns").

We did it before with government subsidies - lets do it again !


I admire your idealism, but I have the feeling you're deliberately setting the bar so high so as to discourage people from trying anything.

Not so !

1) 30% of Americans today want to live in TOD, but <2% do because there is not enough "T" to "OD" around.

And once, say, 20% of Americans move to TOD and the poorly built, badly located outer suburbs have started their inevitable decay, more than 30% of Americans will want to move to TOD.

2) *IF* Americans can work with the speed, efficiency and determination of French bureaucrats (under BAU for said French bureaucrats - shut down the nation for one month/year, occasional strikes, short work weeks, long lunches) *THEN* we can build enough Urban Rail ("T") to orientate development ("OD") around.

Add 10+% of urban trips by bicycling as well.

This decade the French are building 1,500 km of new tram (Light Rail) lines (in almost every town of 100,000 & larger) and 200 km of new Paris Metro from 2013 to 2025.

Multiple by 4.75 for per capita effort and divide by 1.601 to get miles. This si enough "T" to ""OD" around for 30% of Americans.

And if Americans are incapable of equaling French Bureaucrats - what ratio would you suggest ?

Americans are half as good, two thirds ?

It will take a little longer, but we can still get to a nation that needs far fewer cars, and MUCH lower VMT.

Best Hopes for Best Choices (i.e. EV delivery trucks & postal vehicles :-)


Alan, the only way I see your ideas being given the support they should is for a certain sequence of events to take place that would result in the debate on resource limits being placed front and center. Very early this morning, I posted a comment in a thread from Saturdays dying DB. I don't know how many people caught it but, the thread was discussing the effect Peak Oil is having on the re-election chances of incumbents in various countries. I was responding to a suggestion that, Obama's re-election hinges on the price of gas the level of unemployment. The gist of my post is that, if things get so bad that Obama is almost certain to loose, he could play the peak oil card.

What I am suggesting is that, we are going to have to reach a tipping point in terms of the general awareness of the imminence of Peak Oil and the urgency to start mitigation efforts. Just as I suggested to you in a private conversation you and I had, as long as the general consensus amongst our business and political leaders is that there is nothing to worry about, nothing of real significance will be done.

I also posted another comment in the same DB, in which I regurgitated same data out of tables from a few Wikipedia pages that showed the top countries in electricity consumption, Installed Solar PV capacity an Wind Turbines.I also included a comparison of the land area of Germany and Japan. What I take away from the data is that, while there has been considerable debate going on in the US and the UK (Canada, Australia and Japan?) about whether there should be incentives for renewables etc., that debate is over in Germany, France, Italy, China and to an extent, India. With the exception of France, some of the growth of renewables in these countries in the last couple of years has been truly impressive and I think that it is being done under the guise of meeting emissions targets but, only time will tell what the true motivation is. France is different only in that, they have chosen the nuclear option to reduce emissions and FF dependence.

Alan from the islands

IMHO, the first step is to realize that something is possible.

If one looks at recent US experience in building urban rail, and nothing else, they would say that what I propose is impossible. Thus my French bureaucrat taunt.

And your examples in Europe.

A crisis will come, and a response to that crisis. I want to be prepared for that crisis.

And to make small steps in the right direction before the crisis.

France is moving to wind, and to a lesser extent solar PV, to reduce their already limited imported FF. They have a smaller target, so less effort is required.

Wind is winter peaking and solar is spring/summer peaking (June 21st being highest), which are the peak demands in France. (EdF turns off some older reactors in the spring & fall above what refueling would require).

It is my understanding that EdF has contracted for 5 GW of wind already installed and another 5 GW is on the way.

With 10% of French demand in hydro, 4 GW of pumped storage at home in France and another 12 GW in Switzerland & 1 GW in Luxembourg, 2 GW HV DC to England, they can time shift additional renewables and burn less Russian NG.

Best Hopes !


Hi Alan

Thanks. I just looked at your DB post. I also made a comment in the thread, and (unfortunately), the links I posted also probably relate.

re: "The gist of my post is that, if things get so bad that Obama is almost certain to loose, he could play the peak oil card."

This is really interesting.

IMVHO, even to play the card, POTUS (or anyone) would have to explain the underlying "peak oil" cause to the "so bad," i.e., declining economy, symptom.

This is really a problem. Alan from Big Easy says (can't look to quote at the moment) - there will be a crises.

The problem - I should say - one problem - is to connect the crises with the cause.

The second issue, as I see it, is to do some "top-level" analysis to show that the "mitigation efforts" - when they involve "alternative energy" - make sense. By that I mean, to answer the questions about: 1) Is it possible to run a global (or any - local?) industrial economy using an electricity basis; 2) If so, what is required in terms of material, energy, labor and...oil?


I'm not sure how to respond to you. I'm having a hard time these days reconciling reality as I see it, with the reality of the "normal people" I interact with every day. I visit TOD almost every day. I believe our civilization has a problem. I believe that unlike the best of bees, homo-sapiens has the ability to imagine, to think in the abstract, to conjure up scenarios based on available data juxtaposed with our experiences. That ability has led me to being a member of this community. What I find increasingly frustrating is that, the vast majority of my fellow travelers on this spaceship called Earth, do not seem to be able to "connect the dots". Either that or they don't want to "face the music".

IMVHO, even to play the card, POTUS (or anyone) would have to explain the underlying "peak oil" cause to the "so bad," i.e., declining economy, symptom.

I first became aware the words "Peak Oil" back in 2007, from material I was viewing on evworld.com or autobloggreen.com, I don't remember which one, it could have been both. I did a web search and ended up viewing several web sites and watching clips on you tube, ultimately watching several documentaries: Crude Impact, Crude Awakening (16,136 views), Crude the Incredible story of Oil, The End of Suburbia, Oil Smoke and Mirrors (54,928 views). They all connected the dots pretty well to me. Just look at the first few minutes of Oil Smoke and Mirrors or watch Roscoe Bartlett from May 24 2011, viewed 9,800 times.

I don't see how any reasonable, thinking person can come away from being exposed to this stuff without it changing their world view forever. The essential message is that, we have been living a dream that is unsustainable, not what most people want to hear, especially when they have aspired to that dream their entire life.

I have disagreed with your push to petition the President to commission a study on the grounds that adding another study to the studies that have been done and the data that is out there, will not be particularly useful. The most recent serious study to make the news IIRC was the 2010 Bundeswehr Peak Oil study, a 10.5 minute video summary of which was of uploaded to Youtube by somebody calling them-self PaulRevere2012 and viewed 10,993 times.

The report is also available at the following links:


It is the will to accept the consequences of acknowledging the reality that is absent. Skimming through the videos I listed, it is Paul Roberts at 17min 19sec into Oil Smoke and Mirrors that said it best

If you're a politician in a country that matters and you say "I've got a concern about oil depletion." What's your next sentence? What do you say after that? You've essentially just said "The world as you know it is going to end, end of you know, and that's all we have today." You really have to be able to follow-up with some policy, some solution and because there really is no easy solution at hand, politicians are really loathe to get into the whole notion of depletion. You know you can't raise a problem unless you've got a solution at hand, you know that's kind of the rule in politics unless you're criticizing your opponent and so no one really wants to raise the notion of depletion.

That quote is the basis for my original suggestion. I mentioned the amount of views some of the videos are getting to juxtapose that with the fact that the most watched video of all time on Youtube is a Justin Bieber song viewed over 700 million times!

Alan from the islands

Purely as a matter of tactics, and irrespective of one's political position, I simply can't conceive of how Obama or anyone else, could "play the peak oil card" in the present political climate, in any manner that they would see as fruitful, i.e. that would help them pull out an election win. I'd guess that both the electorate and the pundits would consign anyone who played that card to the Jimmy Carter box, and clasp it tightly shut.

A president in his final term has no concern for reelection. If Obama loses the next election, then he will be in office for 2.5 more months without concern for election.

If Obama loses the next election

Or if the polls indicate that he has a snowballs chance in hell of winning, with the price of gas remaining high and unemployment rising, what would he have to loose? The Peak Oil card would be his Hail Mary Pass and if it didn't work, he would go down in history as the first US president to utter the words Peak Oil and let that cat out of the bag. Depending on how effectively he delivered the message, it could make life very challenging for his successor.

Alan from the islands

Hello Alan,

Speaking of delivery trucks and postal vehicles, have you heard of any proposals to start using existing subway lines for cargo delivery in big cities? Presumably this would be done during the middle of the night when there is not much other traffic. Maybe older subway cars that are being replaced could have the seats stripped out and larger doors installed, for use in cargo delivery.

"Trolley freight" is a good idea. I think the proposed Dallas DART expansion to Southport would be ideal.

Use DART lines late at night to ship containers to 3 or so intermodal centers around the Metroplex, instead of having all of them picked up @ Southport.

But *WAY* too many institutional hurdles to cross in the USA.



And you hit my point about EV's in North America in general.

There's too many hurdles to doing it right, so we'd best do what we can. If you can't leap the hurdle duck under it.

You are mixing your assumptions, bmiller. You imagine that the suburbanized populations will sit still for your radical attack on their situation, but never listen to mine. Why is that?

I'm with Alan from BE. The facts of the matter are that cars are a huge detriment to human existence. They are right in there with TV and nuclear weapons as the worst-ever inventions.

Why are you so gone on cars, by the way? It's a patently insane technology, at least insofar as it is supposed to be people's very legs.

You haven't answered the question: What will the tens of millions of people who rely on an automobile for access to their residence do without one?

Move or buy an eBike/eTrike.

Most will move, a la from "inner cities" 1950-1970+.

It is VERY imaginable, we have done it once already in living memory.

Except, outer suburbs, unlike inner cities, are poorly built and poorly located..

Best Hopes for a Better Urban Form Next Time,


Gee, why didn't I think of that? [sarcasm]

Because you overlooked the obvious, and best long term solution.

Instead you promote a "patch" of EVs to slow down the inevitable when that money could be better used to build Urban Rail and bicycle paths.


I think it's best to agree to disagree.

I think it's best to agree to disagree.

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

/sarc off

Seriously though:

Ride a bike or take a hike, Peak Oil aware Tshirt designed by Fernando Magyar

Maybe it's time I added an electric train to that graphic!

Cheers, and best hopes...

"Seriously though"

Maybe to you.

The Oil Drum is a good place to explore the fundamentals of such disagreements. But if you prefer not to, so be it.


Maybe in a different forum. I believe the arguments are just repetitive here.

I guess rural folks are screwed unless they go the Amish route. We're already seeing it in sectors like telecom. As big networks get faster and bandwidth requirements are going up, outlying areas aren't getting the speed upgrades they were promised; so much for Al Gore's rural high-speed internet initiative, and the big tax breaks the telecoms got. The big companies just sold their rural liabilities off to smaller companies. I imagine rural areas like mine will be left to their own devices (something we're good at), except the govts. will still be taking our tax dollars. Rural Appalachia was pretty much ignored until our resources were needed (coal, timber, hydro). I expect (hope in some sense) that will be our future.

Our nearest rail spur is over 20 miles away, and I doubt there will be funds, public or private, to upgrade it for passenger rail. Small PV or perhaps micro-hydro charged EV's will make a big difference in areas like mine for necessary travel. Then again, hitch up the buckboard son. We're goin' to town!

That depends how far you are from "town".

EVs have limited "real world" range - limited even more if carrying more than one or two people.

Burning some "corn liquor" or sunflower seed oil in a generator trailer might help, but not enough to haul back a heavy load.

But for real farmers (not exurbanites), there should be enough oil left for trips to town every other Friday (or Saturday) - if the weather is good.

Best Hopes for Farmers,


Pretty much all of the EVs in the news - the Leaf and the Ford Focus EV - can manage much more than 20 miles, even in bad conditions. I expect horses may come back into fashion at some point, but horses don't have a very long "range", especially not at any speed, so even a so-so EV could beat them on range and keep a faster pace doing it.

Our machines are extremely useful, if we can find a way to keep them going. Even golf carts have tremendous advantages over horse drawn carriages. We will do a lot to keep vehicles around. For personal transport, I expect bikes to become more dominant, but for many things there will still be a need for "cars" of some sort.

20 miles one way = 40 mile RT

Of course, one might get a partial recharge after 20 miles. Fine if going to see a doctor or dentist. Not so good with a heavy load.

But towns are >20 miles for much of rural America.


I expect horses may come back into fashion at some point...

adamx, I think that is unlikely to be widespread due to the range and speed being too limited. Also, you need to feed them even on the days you are not riding them.

Horses are not going to be an effective means of "personal transport" - historically there were few people who could afford a means of personal transport beyond their own feet prior to the age of rail (if you want to consider rail to be personal transport). People didn't travel very far from home prior to rail either. If you could afford a horse, that meant it was being used in ways that paid for its keep, and a horse can do multiple tasks around a farm, from pulling a farm wagon to market to pulling a plow. I doubt many folks will have a horse hanging around in case they want to go to the mall, nor will many be able to afford an EV just sitting around until they have a whim to go somewhere. So this canard that "you need to feed them even on the days you are not riding them" is misleading - if you have a lot of time you are not using either an EV or a horse, you likely won't be able to justify having one anyway.

It's not just the automobile that no longer works absent oil, it's the automotive transportation system, and the entire infrastructure and physical layout we've created to serve the industrial system, with people commuting to remote jobs. Rail is the only possible way to extend/adapt that model and allow for some sort of time for an orderly transition away from it. People closer in can use bikes and electric bikes, but there are too many further out. Rail can allow us to salvage some of those remote communities (allowing time to turn them into real villages themselves), but if we try to do it with EVs we will fail.

Over here in Yoorp (probably in the USA as well) people did not have to own their own horses - there were horse-drawn bus services, and carters who would deliver goods.

Just as an aside, remember that suburban sprawl began along rail and trolley lines.

This is key - if we're talking about a weekly trip to town vs. daily 50mi commutes, many things become possible and workable. And bicycles are damn effective ways to move about a few miles for a person and a few items. It's the automobile and the way we use them that cannot work, there are ways to deal with the rest of it. And that includes the tail end of many technologies that could remain viable for quite some time, even if not indefinitely.

The question always seems to be "But how can this work without causing enormous dislocation and change - how can people keep doing what they've been doing or living like they've been living?". IT CAN'T and THEY CAN'T.

"It's the automobile and the way we use them that cannot work.."

That's two, separate statements, unnecessarily conflated together; and usually where we end up finding different conclusions, Twilight. I agree with the latter, but not the former.

The Automobile can work, even if the excessive way we use MOST of them, MOST of the time cannot. It just seems like just the idea of a vehicle in the scale of Cars to Light Trucks is so anathema to your vision of what we've got ahead of us, that you equate it all to being euphemistic of this current Car Culture.

All or Nothing is an ideal that pretty much kills a conversation that needs people to meet and find compromises in order to get anything happening. The fear is always that if you give an inch, they'll take everything.. but that's a fear that has to be met face to face, or those at the extremes will simply be mad and never budge..

I think our difference is simply that you seem to believe the automobile is a thing of use by itself, and that it can be scaled down and still be viable. I see it as part as a massively expensive and subsidized transportation system that cannot be scaled down, with parts that are all dependent on large quantities of cheap oil - so to me it is irrelevant if a few folks buy or make a few EVs. I assume that will happen, but it doesn't make any difference.

EDIT: in other words, I do not believe the automobile, including the industrial system needed to produce them, can remain viable when separated from the way we use them.

And again, I say you are unjustly conflating 'the automobile' into the entire system that it currently inhabits, with an implication that the scale and form of the various components of manufacturing are unchangable..

It's of course anyone's guess just how far down the manufacturing ladder we will fall. I think we'll fall, much harder in some places, possibly less in others .. but I don't think we're leaving the electric motor and machined tools behind, even as economies get 'taffied' and populations tumble. And if you have carts, and you have electric motors.. they will be used together, and in a lot of useful ways, though I doubt you'll be able to find a drive-thru anywhere.

The industrial revolution will have lost it's main backers (ie, energy sources..) , but I don't expect that the developments that came about with it will all just drop away. You say it's 'not viable'.. and again that seems to imply that it will somehow vanish, not morph into the nearest viable neighboring forms that it finds.

We are still using and modifying the architectural, agricultural and tool forms that came down from the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Greek(s?).. I mow my lawn with a Push-Rotary mower and a Scythe.. I truly don't think we're going to let 'Interchangable Parts' and the 'Assembly Line' disappear because they are Tarred by their association with Crude Oil, or are in fact dependent upon them.

They'll change, but the useful ones won't likely disappear, and not because some gadgeteer builds 'one' for himself.. but because there are businesses and groups and communities who will WANT vehicles, and will PAY 'gadgeteers' to set up shop and build them for them... Do you think they won't? You don't have to be FORD Motors to create carts and bolt motors and Iron Batteries to them..

There will be some who can cobble together some wheels and axles and suspensions with some electric motors and batteries. I'm probably one of those who could, as are you. But if you follow this thread all the way back up to the top, it began as a discussion comparing the gasoline and EV version of the Ford Focus, and a little further down about 10's of millions commuting to work, and how would rail be able solve that problem. My point was that it can't, and neither can the EV. And I'm pretty sure you even agree with that.

Would it make you feel better if I say I can even imagine a few folks showing up at market day with EV's along side the mules and farm carts? I can, although they'll be low production devices made with salvaged parts, as the industrial system to mass produce them won't exist. I just regard that as a different discussion.

But if we could switch to renewables for electricity generation (EROEI around 20:1) and use some of that to synthesize hydrocarbons to take the place of oil in VERY limited applications (NOT to make disposable shopping bags, but to make insulation for electrical wires for instance), then why couldn't simple EV's continue to be manufactured -- there's not a lot to them. They of course would be significantly more expensive than today, which I don't think any of us are going to quibble about since we all agree there will be many fewer cars around in the future.

As long as there is still one ICE mobile being manufactured today, then there is an argument to push hard (using people's BAU mentality and techno worship) to instead manufacture an EV with those resources, or a light rail car. And to develop a renewable electricity generation infrastructure. The greater the % of our infrastructure that COULD run off renewable power after the big oil collapse, the better we'll be.

You were editing while I was replying I think, so I'll just add a separate reply here:

You don't have to be FORD Motors to create carts and bolt motors and Iron Batteries to them..

No, but you have to be Ford Motors with a River Rouge PLUS the government of the US and the US oil companies to make an automobile transportation system. It is the automobile transportation system I am saying is not viable, and automobiles divorced from the system are irrelevant.

A horse on a treadmill, turning a generator, charging an electric cart, to go to town and back. That is my future ;-) The treadmill will be on a trailer, pulled behind the electric cart, to which the horse is tied, so I can recharge the electric cart for the trip home. That is the horse's future :-0 "Don't forget the sweet feed, Ma..."

Oh? Up here in the Northwestern corner of NC, we are now having a binge of fiber optic installations. There's a fiber cable pedestal sitting on the corner of my lot, which was installed last year, although I probably won't tie into it until the copper lines go dead. I don't watch TV, so it would be an expensive luxury for me. There are no trains up here, the last lines were torn up years ago. The Right-of-ways went back to the previous (or adjacent?) land owners, I suppose. Efforts to use the R/Ws for trails hit a dead end up here as the locals screamed "socialism". The big project in the county is the road widening to connect the county to the large city in the next county, since there are many folks who commute there for work. Our county is trying to live like it was still the 20th century...

E. Swanson

Hundreds of residences beyond me don't even have DSL; dialup only. My brother has been trying for years with no success, even though the DSL line ends 400 feet from his driveway. He has a dial tone from another direction which is all the phone company says they're required to provide. They're running fiber, but only to the golf community about 1/2 mile towards town. No plans beyond that.

A friend owns a small ISP and is building a wireless WAN, putting small repeaters on mountain tops all around the county, trying to get highspeed to the many folks who can't get it except, in some cases, via satellite ($$!). I plan to switch to his wireless system soon since the DSL hasn't been as reliable as we need and is a tad more expensive.

Going forward, his distributed wireless system may prove to be more resilient than the telecom's. He's established multiple/redundant links to the webb-at-large. The telecom relies on a single fiber trunk through Sylva to Asheville. Every time it gets cut it brings the whole area down. I'm with you; don't really need the speed, but wife needs it for work.

I think the Amish route will be used a lot, I can't really see any other, long term, solution for that.


Short answer: Adapt.

(Meanwhile, what exactly are you assuming? We built our society around the automobile, so the automobile is not optional? If that's true, then we are toast.)

Long answer: Either we undo cars-first transportation, or we are toast. That's just a fact. Not really debatable, given the facts of geology and the laws of physics. Capitalism, it turns out, is a very poor way to make a sustainable modern world.

The good news is that we have the capacity to help people adapt. If we are going to get radical enough to do something intelligent about the situation, people stranded in burbs will be fine. They will be factored into the solution.

The big question is how we get this topic on the agenda. The powers that be will go to all lengths to prevent it. "EV" jive is part of their diversionary efforts.

The only event that could possibly justify such a radical response will be a collapse -- by then it'll be too late.

My EV doesn't have feelings. It doesn't care whether someone bought it because they are captivated by car culture and believe that EV's present a way to continue on with BAU indefinitely sans oil, or whether it was bought by someone preparing for the worst. IN the end, in 10 years when EV's will be needed the most, all that matters is that the EV that person bought displaced the manufacture of an ICE mobile. It's still an EV.

Your EV will not always be an EV.

Tires never stop vulcanizing. After 6 years they're basically unsafe. Will you be able to get more? When that small unique part in your suspension or braking system fails, will you be able to get a replacement or adapt something else? How long will the electrolytic capacitors in the various circuits be good for? Will tin whiskers grow on the lead-free circuit boards? In ten years your EV may be a lawn ornament.

I'm a damn resourceful mechanic/scrounger/re-engineer, and fixing things may be the one thing I'm good at. But not everything is practical to repair. Keeping it running will depend on industrial infrastructure and a global supply chain to a greater degree than you may be assuming.

I think my EV will last longer than 10 years, and I think you know this too.

I guess that's where the difference lies. Some people believe that there's a chance that alternative energy sources with EROEI's of 20:1 could provide for that kind of manufacturing capability to a significantly lesser degree than now, but still in existence nonetheless (at least enough to provide for spare parts).

Technically it may be possible to pull something like this off and prevent humanity from re-entering the second Stone Age, which of course would shift tremendous pressure onto the planet's ecosystems and basically result in a Malthusian Collapse and mass extinction. Socially, it may be a different matter because on one hand we have the BAU deniers comprising 95% of the population, the hopeless doomers on the other end with say 2%, leaving only 3% of us to work constructively for the future (**entirely made up percentages based on my gut feeling)

Those who maintain a glimmer of hope keep trying, even though socially, the odds are against them succeeding due to the sheer numbers of naysayers. And the real doomers just give up from the get go.

We had manufacturing for quite a while before the automobile. We made quite a few trains in fact. Ships too. And a large variety of products not associated with transportation. Not all of that was made in mass production factories, some of it was more local and diverse, but still effective. I'm not a fast crash doomer, I think this will be playing out for generations, and there will be some (reduced) industrial capacity available for some time.

Shall we spend it on a desperate gamble to preserve the automobile? The money to maintain the roads and bridges, to rebuild (build) and maintain an electric grid to power our EVs, the generation to power it? How much must we pay to preserve the automotive transportation system? Is it the only measure of the worth of our society that anyone can conceive?

That's not a glimmer of hope to me, it's a vision of hell. Have you looked around and seen what the automobile has cost us already? Is a society where people transport themselves over large distances daily and at a whim a requirement? At its heart the "freedom" and "independence" of the car culture is just another symptom of a child-like refusal to accept any limitations, which is what all of this mess we're in is about.

We could use the manufacturing and industrial capacity we can retain for things of more use and value - manufacturing solar thermal hot water heating systems, bicycles, agricultural tools, building up rail, a million things. We can maintain the ability to move around when we need to, but with schedules of course. Or we can hope the EV will prevent us from having to accept limitations.

We had manufacturing for quite a while before the automobile.

So now you're arguing that we CAN manufacture things without an automobile transportation infrastructure? (I'm not sure if it was you who said this; I can't see previous posts while replying -- sorry if I put words in your mouth.)

Shall we spend it on a desperate gamble to preserve the automobile? The money to maintain the roads and bridges

It's not about maintaining the automobile! It's about maintaining a somewhat efficient mechanism of moving goods and people around in the future, because we WILL have a need for this to some extent, and clearly trains by themselves ain't gonna do it, and beasts of burden will be impractical for many purposes. We are going to need roads for horse driven carts and bicycles anyways, there's really not that much of a leap there to make them passable for cars too! Obviously not like 10 lane LA freeway traffic, but no EV supporter on this site is arguing for that.

And I don't understand at all your comment suggesting that anyone who argues that there will be a need for at least some cars in the future is somehow saying that cars are the "only measure of the worth of our society that anyone can conceive" I also think that we should continue to have reading glasses in the future but I don't use that as the only measure of worth for our society either!

We could use the manufacturing and industrial capacity we can retain for things of more use and value

But we won't until we collapse. The instant no more ICE mobiles are being manufactured I'll lend you an ear.

Yes I've looked around and seen the horrendous damage caused by the automobile. How am I suggesting that that should continue?

... and clearly trains by themselves ain't gonna do it

OH ?

They once did.

Tracks in streets in the warehouse district of town, dirt "roads" to the nearest railhead for farmers, etc.


Come on, Alan. Those Trains were supplied and unloaded with the help of numerous and ubiquitous Horse-drawn carts, carrying people, mail, luggage, produce. We're not going to have a rail siding behind every store and little company.

Or people, particularly in places like China.

The distances from the railhead were short - often <2 miles.

Small towns would have Main Street, with all the shops & stores, within a few blocks of the rail depot.

Larger towns would have warehouse districts, with boxcars pulled up to each warehouse. Loads would be broken down into smaller parcels and sent out by handcart or mule drawn wagon - occasionally trolley freight.

I noted a good place for EV's - delivery vans.


Alan, with all due respect, and you know I am a vocal supporter of substantial build-up in all forms of rail.. but the comment you replied to was

"... and clearly trains by themselves ain't gonna do it."

Which you then challenged.

My only objections in these discussions are when people try to paint absolutes. When these guys say 'EV's are a dangerous detour', but only because they're buying into someone else's assumption that EV's can ONLY exist if they supplant the whole Car Fleet.. that 'all or nothing' thinking is what I think is the greatest danger we keep driving into.


Good point !


not like 10 lane LA freeway traffic, no EV supporter on this site is arguing for that.

BMiller was. Just exchange EVs for ICE. That is a very common argument - and assumption - by many EV supporters (fewer here on TOD).

I agree that there will be a niche for EVs (postal delivery comes to mind immediately and many more), but not for everyone > 10 lanes in LA.

Best Hopes for a Better Society post-Peak Oil,


That seems key in the discussion; that it would appear to make far more sense that EV's have their place as, say, limited-production robust (built to last) vehicles for special/limited purposes as opposed to replacing, car-for-car, the ICEV that everyone-and-their-dog drives every-which-where.

You're mischaracterizing my position.

I'm open to any solution that mitigates the decline of global oil production. However, as I stated before, given the reality of people's dependence on the automobile, the easiest and most cost-effective way of mitigating that decline is to use EVs, in my opinion.

By the way, what is the most recycled material? Asphalt. Over 80% of Asphalt is recycled.

Even an enormous taxi fleet would be better than mass car ownership.

EVs are the most cost effective solution ?


Automobiles & their roads already consume (and that is the right verb) an obscene fraction of the GDP and household income.

EVs cost more than ICE cars. So a 1:1 replacement means even MORE $$$$$$ to support a "Drive Everywhere to Everything" lifestyle.

McMansions built in the book till 2008 were designed to last just 20 years without major repairs (down from 30 years @ 1990). Grossly inefficient as well in both design and location.

All I propose is building, as Step 1 is - massive conversion of road space to bicycles and enough Urban Rail for 30% of Americans to move to TOD. ZERO subsidies for EVs - pay the full price. Those subsidies $$ should go to bike & Urban Rail infrastructure that will last for a century. Let supply & demand create recharging stations.

And let the "White Flight" from the suburbs begin.

Best Hopes for more walkable & bikeable neighborhoods,


If Oil imports are eliminated ( @ $100/bbl), there will be enough money -- $1 trillion every 3 years -- to go around.

The lower, but NOT zero, fuel costs of EVs (with associated grid upgrades & new generation) plus higher purchase costs of EVs will absorb all of that $300 or so billion/year.

15 million cars/yr x $15,000 premium/car = $225 billion/yr + fuel costs

The best public policy is invest in those options that have the highest oil savings per $ *AND* the longest life.

Thus, the best public policy is zero subsidy for EVs. This includes EVs paying their fair share of road maintenance.

Contact me when -

- 250,000 miles of bicycle paths are open
- 40,000 miles of railroads are electrified, double tracked with rail over rail bridges
- 1,200 miles of new subways are open
- 10,000 miles of Light Rail & Streetcar are open
- TOD demand has been saturated with supply (kind of like Suburban McMansions today)

and we can discuss the relative merits of subsidizing EVs vs. more of the above after the "low hanging fruit" has been picked for the best options.

Best Hopes for Good Public Policy,


Our ability to manufacture things will be severely constrained, but I don't expect it to drop to zero instantly. I'm an engineer who designs products and have worked at a company that manufactures for 25 years - we're in one building. We have CNC machine tools and surface mount electronic assembly. We're pretty self contained, but still we are very dependent on a complex global supply chain. And the stuff we make is simple compared to an EV. I don't think people realize how much capacity we've lost, how few trained people there are. Our customers are the electric utilities, and I can tell you that the level of competence of the staffing there is becoming a sad joke.

The design and manufacturing situation in the US is the same though. That work has been gone now for longer than people realize, and those that know how to do it are getting older. Besides, after you've been out of that for a while you loose the edge, and you don't just build up such organizations, tools and equipment that quickly. And on top of that few of us are used to working in a development environment with the kinds of constraints that will exist as we go forward.

Also, I understand the costs of product development, and I think people miss this when they envision scaling down the volumes on something like an EV. Those are fixed, up-front costs that don't change much with reduced production volumes. You can cobble something together, but that is a far cry from what people expect out of even the most basic EV. I am also a fair mechanic, and I know what goes into the various assemblies in an automobile. Most of those parts are made somewhere else now, and someone would have to set up to make them here again if the supply chain breaks.

So we will have some manufacturing capability left, but it will be stretched thin. Any of it that is spent on dead-end endeavors is going to hurt quite a lot, which is why I'm down on the EV. And by EV, I mean exactly what everyone else means by EV - replacing, one-for-one our gasoline powered automobile. Outside of maybe a few on TOD, that is what is being discussed when anyone talks about EVs.

Outside of that paradigm, some standardized electric delivery vehicles might be worthwhile. They could be pretty spartan, but I think the free-market system will have a hard time making that work. Maybe if the design specification and assured production volumes came from a governmental agency (postal service, etc) it could be more viable.

The experience of New Orleans RTA is maintaining the world's oldest fleet of EV's - 34 Perley-Thomas streetcars built in 1923-24 and one 1897 Ford, Davis, Bacon workcar - is relevant.

Manufacturer support fell away after WW II, and they did more & more in house. GE lost the jig for rewinding motors - a genius came up with a different way, using square wire. Parts wore out, new ones were made, often to an improved design (steps were cast iron step supports rotating on carbon steel shaft - replacement was machined steel step supports with nylon inserts on a stainless steel shaft).

Pre-Katrina a crew of 16 or so kept 1920s technology operating, and they could fabricate almost every part from mahogany seats to motor controller parts.

Enough capability that they built two series of streetcars - six for Riverfront and 24 for Canal. The Riverfront streetcars were built in-house, except the trucks (from CKD). The Canal streetcars had major sub-components built near-by (except a/c from Czech Republic, motors from GE, Brookville trucks).

Lost a lot of people after Katrina, and recently hired a group of apprentices.

I have seen what it takes to maintain 1920s technology - with advanced materials working their way in (asbestos replacement for example).

Best Hopes,


Sounds like a job I would love, and I know of one other engineer who would be very good at it. Those are not common skills anymore. But look at the volumes involved - a few dozen units. These kinds of things are manageable and the volumes of units lower because they are public resources run on schedules to defined places, not private and personal and run on a whim.

I love old streetcars.

And you know-- and something that seems never mentioned-- multi-person transportation is or can be a social experience!

I hesitate to mention this, because it is location specific.

In New York City it is most definitely not. But in New Orleans conversations at stops and on-board cross every distinction.

Best Hopes for Communication,


Carpool/rideshare; public transit; bikes; organized hitchhiking; telecommuting; relocation; adaptive reuse of suburbia; etc..

The car is a glorified living-room-on-wheels. Why drag your entire living room around with you and plunder our world's resources-- batteries, metals, fuels, infrastructure, the grid, etc.-- in doing so? And I/we should have a say about your lifestyle if it impacts mine/ours. I mean, why should I pay for the infrastructure for your extravagance?

And apparently, after natural causes, the world's number one killer is vehicular accidents.

how many years would it take to eliminate all the imported oil

When will there be EV F22's and drones?

A cornucopian I talked to seriously suggested making *nuclear powered* airplanes. Apparently business flights is so important for the economy that anything else iis impossible to imagine.

Some old ideas never die - enjoy:

Between 1946 and 1961, the Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission spent more than $7 billion trying to develop a nuclear-powered aircraft.

Although very expensive, I believe biofuels can always keep aviation going at least on a very limited scale long after oil is gone.

Nuclear seems crazy. Some people have proposed hydrogen but that seems to be crazy due to low energy density.

"Compared to a Nissan Versa, a Leaf owner would have to hold on to the Leaf for seven years in order to recoup the price difference"

Seven years is no problem. The car is six, the motorcycle is eight, and the pick-up is 22. Why would I get rid of a car before it disintegrates?

Because last years model is, well last years model. ;)

Researchers Find Reducing Fishmeal Hinders Growth of Farmed Fish

Aquafarmers currently rely heavily on fishmeal as a protein source but it's expensive to produce and the resource from which it's derived—fish captured in the wild—is being rapidly depleted. One proposed remedy is to substitute cheaper and more environmentally friendly foods that replace some fishmeal content with other sources of protein.

When it comes to the food used to raise fish in aquaculture "farms," it seems that you may get what you pay for. In a new study,* researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) looked at the health effects of raising farmed fish on a diet incorporating less than the usual amount of fishmeal—a key but expensive component of current commercial fish food products. They learned that reduced fishmeal diets may be cheaper, but the fish were less healthy.

... The results showed that cobia fed the reduced fishmeal diets were metabolically different from those fed either the full fishmeal diet or the control diet. Fish fed the reduced fishmeal diets had higher levels of two metabolites linked to physical stress, tyrosine and betaine, and lower levels of a primary energy source, glucose. This suggests that these cobia were not receiving the necessary nutrition to support healthy growth.

... kinda like the difference between grass-fed and corn-fed beef

Fish don't like alternative protein sources.

And example - soy. My understanding it will kill fish.

Taking other sources and converting them into fly maggots (black soldier flies is most common) means a 'loss' of protein. But the BSF will harvest 'food' from chicken and pig fecal matter. And the various compost earthworm species (E. Foedita, P. evactus) and more fungal* (L. Rubellus, E. Hortenis) can do a further non-fish -> ok for fish conversion.

The "Issue" here is something that was underpriced is no longer underpriced and some peoples economic models are now broken.

Fish like Tilapa are opertuovores - plant or animal they eat it. And now perch are being genetically selected for non-skittish ones so they can be farmed.

* Fungus takes complex carbs like wood, leaves, cardboard and converts it into protein. LR's and EH's prefer such environments. White Paper has a higher dioxin level due to the bleaching and one never knows what is in cardboard from source X. White Paper with laser printing has issues for "worm treatment" due to the toner also.

Yeah substituting soy for fish meal in fish food when there's no more little fish left to feed the bigger ones in pens. But that soy is dependent on unsustainable agricultural and FF inputs. I wonder if we'll continue to justify farming soy to farm fish when oil's gone, or if we'll just eat the soy directly instead...

BTW, I work in the pulp and paper industry sporadically and the whole dioxin thing is a bit over-hyped. That was from when they used chlorine to bleach the fiber, now it's mostly chlorine dioxide which doesn't produce dioxins. Beach bonfires burning salt impregnated driftwood probably produce more dioxins than paper making (burning chlorine and carbon together produces dioxins).

Shell says two new leaks on Nigerian pipeline

Oil giant Shell on Monday said two new leaks had occurred on one of its pipelines in southern Nigeria after similar incidents in recent days blamed on crude theft.

"Two new leaks were reported today on the Trans Niger pipeline at Akpajo and K-Dere in Ogoniland, after a similar number of leaks caused by hacksaw cuts were repaired at the weekend," Precious Okolobo, spokesman for Shell's Nigerian joint venture, said in a statement.

Iran plans gas pipeline to Iraq

TEHRAN, May 7 (UPI) -- An Iranian energy official announced that plans were under way to build a 136-mile natural gas pipeline to its neighbors in Iraq.

Natural gas from Iran would be used by Iraq to fuel its power stations. Parts of Iraq still struggle with electricity generation more than nine years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Ford Focus will offer choice side by side: gas or electric

This puts EVs in a pretty bad light. :-( An over-priced out-sourced quasi-retrofit conversion versus a normal gas car. It is nice that Ford finally has an electric but it is basically a Ford Focus glider with a factory-installed EV powertrain completely designed by parts supplier Magna. The battery weight is not distributed well, the trunk loses a lot of space, and it is expensive. But again . . . it is better than nothing from Ford. But I'd recommend the Leaf, the Volt, the Model S, and even the Mitsubishi-i if you want a low-end EV.

Just looked at the Mitsubishi-i, and it just drives me crazy... a curb weight of 2,700 pounds is just inexcusable. I wonder what the range and top speed would be without:

Remote keyless entry
Power door locks
Power windows with driver's one-touch auto down feature
All airbags
All navi
Stability control
Traction control
Tire pressure monitoring

None of this crap makes me feel safer. It makes me feel like a rat in a cage.

And maybe a 35 watt stereo instead of 100. Who really uses that much power? I think my stereo is about 35-50, and it's still so loud I annoy other drivers if I turn it up as far as I'd like to.

Well I'm with you on getting rid of excess accessories. Lots of stuff that you really don't need and will eventually break.

But getting rid of all the stuff you listed probably would not change the range by even a mile. That is all pretty lower power stuff.

Given Cat's intro, I took him to be questioning the weight of those items. How much could weight be reduced by dropping them, and how would that affect range?

Fuel-Oil Shipments to Singapore Rebound in June; 16 Ships Booked

This made me wonder if oil will be shipped from or through Greenland ports in the future.

The Admiral in charge of global warming issues for the U.S. Navy (video), said he expected a Singapore type port in Greenland when the ice melts sufficiently.

He said Greenland is planning for it ahead of time - now.

Re: Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor

Once again we see that poorly hidden assumption that people have no control over how much electricity they use, and that their only choice is how to produce it.

Look up all the numbers and you'll see that the assumption you dismiss isn't entirely inaccurate for Japan.

They are indeed using less electricity, but not all their nuclear plants less.

Noticed today that Exxon overtook walmart on the fortune 500 list and it set off a chain of thoughts regarding different stats and stories in the news lately. Primarily the one about the production cost on a marginal barrel of oil nearing $100. While the production cost of oil in Iraq is $2. Just for fun I thought I'd check out Iraq's reserves and do a quick calculation, and Wiki tells me that Iraq's reserves have been revised upwards to 350 billion barrels and is now the top dog.

So the $98 per barrel spread times 350 billion? 3.43 × 10 13th power. Makes a few trillion spent on war seem paltry in comparison. Obviously that number is overly simplified since neither the production cost nor barrel price is static and "reserves" doesn't mean there's a tank of oil that big in the ground but it's quite an eye opener.

A more conspiracy minded individual might be inclined to believe that maybe the government and some corporate lobbyists knew oil supplies were getting tight and perhaps foresaw this situation, but it was most likely dumb luck.

Freeze $100M 'disaster' for Ontario fruit industry

A catastrophic freeze has wiped out about 80 per cent of Ontario's apple crop and has the fruit industry looking at losses already estimated at more than $100 million.

"This is the worst disaster fruit growers have ever, ever experienced," Harrow-area orchard owner Keith Wright said Friday. "We've been here for generations and I've never heard of this happening before.

"This is unheard of ... all fruit growing areas in the Great Lakes area, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ontario, are all basically wiped out."

Wright lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of apples and peaches Sunday morning when freezing temperatures killed the blossoms.

Warm temperatures caused fruit trees to bloom early and when temperatures plummeted Sunday morning it damaged or wiped out much of the $60-million apple crop and 20 to 30 per cent of Ontario's $48-million tender fruit crop which includes peaches, cherries, pears, plums and nectarines.

"It was just way too early," Tregunno said of blossom season that arrived a month ahead of time. "That just put us at a huge risk."

Dave Nickels of Nickels Orchards in Ruthven said he lost all his apples, peaches, cherries and pears. He said when talking to other growers you can't even get a word out of them because they're just sick.

"It's kind of like having a death in the family except there's no closure to this one," Nickels said.

I overheard a conversation a farmer at the Farmer's market I was at on the week-end had with a customer. The customer had asked him if he had planted early because of the warm weather. The farmer replied that he goes "by the calendar not the weather". You don't have the luxury of prudence if you are an apple and tender fruit farmer.

Warm temperatures caused fruit trees to bloom early and when temperatures plummeted Sunday morning it damaged or wiped out much of the...

That's the face of climate change.

Yup. Thats right! I wonder how many of the affected farmers were anthropogenic climate change deniers before Sunday? Wonder how many of them still are? The sad thing is that events such as this often do not punish the most rabid deniers but, people who were convinced of this reality early on in the game.

Alan from the islands

But, will they go away blaming nature for being too cold (the frost), and think the cure is still more AGW?

Reading the linked story from the Windsor Star, which is dated 5 May, it appears that the freeze hit over the previous weekend, 27-30 April. The historical data for the Last Freeze Date shows that such an event is not out of the ordinary, with around 40 new record lows set or tied each day. The problem was the remarkable blast of warm air which pushed much further to the north than in previous years.
US Record Temperature Events 2012, Data from the US NCDC
The plants were fooled into blooming early, then the normal cold air returned. The same cold blast hit our area and my old apple tree appears to have lost most of it's blooms. This might be an example of our future climate, with unsettled weather patterns hitting agriculture especially hard. The unusual warmth continues, with many more record high temperatures this past week...

E. Swanson

Wind turbine that conjures drinking water out of thin air offers hope to African communities

Eole Water modified your typical electricity-generating turbines to allow them to distill drinking water out of the air in a bid to help developing countries solve their water needs.
A prototype in Abu Dhabi already creates 62 litres of water an hour, and Eole hopes to sell turbines generating a thousand litres a day later this year.


An interesting concept but 1,000 lpd is nowhere near enough for 2,000-3,000 people, 200-300 people is more like it especially in a place like AD.


Perhaps it meant 1000L per hour and not day. If the prototype produces 62L per hour, that's already 1488L per day.

Another way to get water out of thin air- a duplex stirling engine. Looks like a piece of pipe. You heat one end with solar, the other end gets icy cold, you take the separated water and air off and run it thru a counter current heat exchanger to precool the incoming air. What you get is solar in and water and warmer and drier air out.

The engine-cooler is just two free piston stirling machines lined up in the same pressure enclosure, one a heat engine driving the other a cooler. Very simple.

Look up duplex stirling for all the tedious detail.

Wimbi, as you are very familiar with these machines are there any web sites you can suggest that show how to make a practical, simple one of these using as little precision engineering as possible?


NAOM- well, actually no I don't. I suppose it's like making that varment rifle sitting on the shelf in my shop. Really simple thing, good for what it does, not expensive.

But It would take me a hell of an effort to make one, since I don't know how and don't have the things that the people who do know how have so as to make 'em cheap,

The duplex stirling is the same kind of thing. Simple- if you know how to do it and have the experience and the skill at a lathe. The lathe skill ain't all that much actually, but it's a bit more than your garden variety home machinist would normally do.

But then there's the analysis. Just like that rifle barrel, it took a lot of thinking to get it right, even tho the final product looks really simple, and in fact, is. So I can visualize a motivated, skilled amateur taking a try at a duplex stirling, getting it close but not quite right, and then , not knowing enough to make the right move, tossing the whole works on the scrap pile.

But, as always, I have a solution. First, you kill all the capitalists, then you have a great big happy engineering- gadget man get together, with lots of libation and frivolity. Then, after sobering up, you have the wise ones among you decide on priorities of gadgetry to get done, and then you go for it and get it done. Somewhere in the melee, maybe a stirling will show up.

So what is the advantage of putting the compressors & condensers at the top of the turbine as opposed to on the ground?

It looks like only an electrical connection generator to compressors.

Gas pipelines have become a target for cyber hackers.
But don't worry, the Department of Homeland Security said "Leave the cyber spies alone" we'll get them.
From the Christian Science Monitor: "A major cyber attack is under way...."

Security Week says "Companies are requested NOT to take action...."

And from Wired "Everyone has been hacked" it's kind of like All your base are belong to us.

Water? Check. Rice and beans? Check. RV stocked up? Czech. Hey, I'm a Czech.


Thanks Tom,

I always knew those Czech genes would come in handy some day.

How many Americans who fought in the American Revolution are alive today?

Answer: Zero

The point is -- because you obviously missed it -- the ideas of the American Revolution transcend any one time or place or people.

Huh ?

Connection to cyber attack ?

Even Ben Franklin would have a hard time understanding that threat.


I guess maybe I'm too cynical.

CNN reports this a bit differently :-

"The cyber attack appears to have been reported by the private sector companies that would have had access to the information, namely, those under attack.

The self reporting of such attacks has been at the heart of cyber legislation debates on the Hill as lawmakers struggle to find more effective ways to convince private sector companies to not only report, but then to allow the government access to its databases so that it can better understand the source and intention of the attacker or attackers."


I heard something similar on the radio this morning. There are bills in the works to craft laws requiring companies to take action, which, of course, they don't want to do, since all they care about is shareholder value.

Of course, I don't know what shareholder value they'd still have if their systems went down completely, but I suppose they'd just hire a PR firm to fix the problem afterwards.

Interesting talk about Putin:
...in the first 20 minutes. Towards the end, about 1/3rd of the way through the total recording, the connection between modern Russian political power and oil is mentioned. It is all about oil and gas.

Putin is in the business:
Just like Cheney and friends.

Interesting talk about banking:
The 1st 1/10th of the recording is the news. The show starts after. Oil mentioned at a bit before the middle of the recording. Making petrodollar loans to 3ed world countries... In the mid 1970's, middle eastern oil powers had excess dollars. The money went to Citigroup to recirculate through 3ed world countries. It was enormously profitable to the bank. Rockefeller went along with the scheme. But, all the loans went bad in the 1980's and the banks had to be bailed-out by the taxpayers.

The Powers:
Finance / Banking - Work for symbols of work. "Oops again... Sorry! Work symbols gone."
Oil / Transportation - Work to get to work. Poison environment.
Pharma / Health - Work to counter effects of poisoned environment/weird food/lifestyle.
Agri / Food - Work for weird food. No free land to grow food on.
Housing / Real-estate - Work all your life for your hut to sleep in after work. Your hut is the foundation of the economy. If you have not enough work symbols, you can sleep in your car. If you have no car, you can sleep behind the bushes along the street... but in America it is an open-air asylum with schizophrenics, drunks, and lice.

Is this list in good order?
Perhaps it was better to build a little hut and hunt and gather good food. Of course, if you do that, then someone with stolen value and the men and weapons to steal value will steal you, your children, and your value to add to theirs in their civilization. So these "Powers" and the security of living in their civilization are the dimensions of a trap.

The Gazprom Song
Composed and performed by Vladimir Tumayev, director of the Gazprom subsidy Spetsgazavtotrans:

Other oil armies
Reasons not to mess with Syria:
...Don't forget these guys:
(the first two words are the name of the music)
Big screen T.V. at 0:53

Tycoon Fredriksen on ship buying spree

Shipping magnate John "Big Wolf" Fredriksen has quietly bought a dozen new, fuel efficient tanker vessels in recent months and said he may spend billions of dollars more as the global shipping crisis has created opportunities too good to pass up.

Norwegian-born Fredriksen, 67, predicted the crisis would last another two or three years, driving many shipping firms and shipyards out of business, and the survivors would be the few low-debt companies backed by long-term owners with liquidity and an established name.

"The good days we had are over for quite some time," Fredriksen told Reuters in a rare interview. "The market will return, but only in two or three years, and until then it's going to be pretty desperate."

"(Oil firms) are all short (on rigs) and will be short at least until 2015/2016 because there are just not enough rigs around... Oil companies will all have to stall part of their drilling programmes because there's limited drilling capacity."

Here a tanker, there a tanker, everywhere a super crude oil tanker

Proposed pipelines and pipeline expansions could result in as many as 800 crude oil tankers sailing through British Columbia coastal waters, warns B.C. economist Robyn Allan.

The former ICBC CEO reports in a new study that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline could result in 340 oil tankers a year sailing up the Douglas Channel while expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline could see the amount of tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet jump from 71 ships per year to 475.

The proposed $5 billion twin Trans Mountain pipeline is not intended to deliver crude to area refineries but to load it onto supertankers for shipment to Asia.

... “The frequency and severity of a potential spill increases at an increasing rate with greater throughput and traffic density,”

Robyn Allan in her own words...

Gateway Designed to Pump Far More Crude than Advertised

Pipes could carry 60 per cent more than now proposed. Result: hundreds more tankers off BC's coast.

Given the federal government's penchant for underwriting oil industry expansion plans, there could be more than 800 crude oil tankers a year traversing our coast line -- a little more than half of them dropping anchor off Spanish Banks while the rest struggle to navigate the inside straight.

Any insurance underwriter will tell you accident frequency increases with density. More than two crude oil tankers a day is very dense.

Unfortunately, that's not all that's dense.

And from her blog...

Taken together the two projects could expose BC to 2 million barrels of crude oil a day by land, and around 800 tankers a year transiting vulnerable coastal waters.

I have prepared an 11 page report – Proposed Pipelines and Tanker Spill Risk for BC (pdf)– explaining how this could occur if Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan proceed.

aws - Not to down play any concerns of my Canadian cousins, but welcome to a small taste of the risk Gulf Coast residents have faced for many decades. Doesn't matter what industrial activity it is you conduct there will be risks. As I've said many times: if the feds/citizens want a zero prossibiliy of another Macando nightmare the solution is easy: never allow another deep water well be drilled. Actions can always be taken to reduce such risks but never eliminate the possibility. If Canada wishes to be a major oil exporter than it has to accept the risks. IMHO that's up to the citizens of Canada and their politicians to decide.

A few years ago we had an oil laden (diesel I think) barge hit a pier of the Mississippi River bridge in New Orleans. I was over a mile away and I could certainly smell it !

Left oil on the banks of the River for many miles downriver.

And barges carry far smaller quantities of oil than tankers.

Ans Chinese freighter lost power on a turn in the Mississippi River and the pilot had to make a "dead stick landing". His choices were hitting a cruise ship amid-ship or wiping out a shopping center that was built over the river (site of 1982 World's Fair). He chose the shopping center - by a miracle zero dead (tourists shopping and look up @ freighter bearing down on shop with 100+ db horn blowing !)

Could have been an oil tanker.

Sh!t happens !


Unanticipated consequence of the shale gas boom ...

Plenty of Freight, but Fleets Worry About Driver Shortage, High Fuel Costs

Although very few fleets are expecting a shortage of freight to haul, lack of drivers, higher fuel and insurance costs appear to be dampening carriers' enthusiasm to buy new power units in the near future, according to CK Commercial Vehicle Research's Q2 2012 Fleet Sentiment Report.

... More and more fleets in the survey report they are seeing an impact to their operation of a driver shortage, with an increasing number needing drivers right now to fill current seats.

One fleet said it may downsize due to the lack of drivers. A few are changing how they do business, such as aligning freight with driver demands, doing more local and regional business and handling more driver-friendly freight.

Natural Gas Support a Mixed Bag, Study Says

"The survey results appear to be a mixed bag for natural gas supporters," says PLS Chairman and CEO Greg Burns. "On the one hand, LNG (liquified natural gas) is clearly on the radar and is being actively evaluated by some of the largest trucking companies in the industrial sector. On the other hand, less than 10% of senior executives currently believe LNG will be widely adopted of over-the-road trucking."

Although respondents were generally aware of LNG-powered vehicles, 72% felt that the technology had limited adoption potential for industrial freight.

Survey results also indicated that carriers are under no pressure from customers to move toward cleaner LNG vehicles. Just 3% of carriers say that their customers are actively promoting adoption by their carrier base.

With predicted adoption rates low, survey respondents were asked about the primary barriers to adoption. Topping the list, at 53.6%, was the inadequacy of the LNG refueling infrastructure. As of February 2012, there were just 46 public LNG stations across the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

46 is a pretty darn small number.

Yes it is.

Versus - the USA had 128,887 gas stations in 2007 according to the Census

Looks to me like the discussions about converting parts of our diesel freight system to LNG are more whistling past the graveyard. It's not impossible but it's simply not happening. I suspect that it costs too much and if the people who would have to finance it are smart they may understand that the gas bubble is about to pop (and won't that feel much better....).

Unrest in Yemen may result in local LNG shortage

Electric power plants in Greater Boston may experience fuel shortages this summer because exports from Yemen, a major supplier of natural gas, have been disrupted by attacks by militants, energy officials said Friday.

No shortages or outages are imminent, but officials are developing contingencies in case a heat wave drives up electricity use or a local power plant has an unexpected outage.

Natural gas is the dominant source of fuel for New England’s power plants, and about 25 percent of that is liquefied gas that is shipped, mostly from Yemen and the Caribbean, to three local terminals, according to federal energy and industry sources.

Climate change accelerating, complicating Idaho's spring runoff

The effects of global warming are making it more difficult for reservoir managers to control floods and manage flows for irrigation, recreation and fisheries.

Two days of record high temperatures and two days of record rainfall the same week in late April sent 26,000 cubic feet per second surging into the Boise River dam system, forcing federal river managers to increase flows to more than 8,100 cfs — the highest flow out of Lucky Peak Dam since 1998 and just the second time it has hit 8,100 in 30 years.

U.S. Experiences Warmest 12-Month Period On Record And Most Extreme January to April


Here's another commentary from the WaPo based on the latest NOAA data release:

U.S. completes warmest 12-month period in 117 years

Since the Sun's cycle of sunspots has been picking up steam lately, the denialist claims that the warming is all due to solar are sure to follow. However, if global temperatures this year turn out to be much warmer than 1998, the denialist will need to perform lots of gymnastics to continue their denial, as they have been predicting a long term cooling trend, perhaps a repeat of the Maunder Minimum...

E. Swanson

New Report issues a warning about humanity’s ability to survive without a major change in direction

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, by Jorgen Randers, launched by the Club of Rome on May 7, raises the possibility that humankind might not survive on the planet if it continues on its path of over-consumption and short-termism.

In the Report author Jorgen Randers raises essential questions: How many people will the planet be able to support? Will the belief in endless growth crumble? Will runaway climate change take hold? Where will quality of life improve, and where will it decline? Using painstaking research, and drawing on contributions from more than 30 thinkers in the field, he concludes that: ...

“We already live in a manner that cannot be continued for generations without major change. Humanity has overshot the earth’s resources, and in some cases we will see local collapse before 2052 – we are emitting twice as much greenhouse gas every year as can be absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans.”

Interesting details from the old and new reports of the Club of Rome:
- the old 1970ies report had the collapse about 50 years in the future (looking at the business of usual graph and triangulating the sparse labels on the x-axis), i.e. 2020 or so for the collapse of GDP
- the new report has world economy growing slowly until after 2052 and collapse about 50 years in the future (2060 or so)

That's not a very successful prediction record ... will the 2052 report of the Club of Rome predict collapse for 2100?

Wait until 2020 and we'll see.

Limits to Growth's predictions have been more or less correct up until now, BTW.

Couple of corrections.

The original LTG never made predictions - they used 12 scenarios to describe the the possible interaction between exponential growth and finite resources.

Also, the new report indicates that we are already on a collapse trajectory, and that fundamental changes need to be made to mitigate or adapt to it.

Interpol issues warrant for Iraqi VP

Organisation issues 'Red Notice' alert for Tariq al-Hashemi on suspicion of guiding and financing terrorist attacks.

The decision to charge the key Sunni Arab leader sparked a political crisis that saw the vice president's bloc boycott cabinet and parliament over accusations Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia prime minister, was monopolising power.

Greek election: Syriza 'to tear up EU austerity deal'

The leader of Greece's left-wing Syriza bloc has said he will try to form a coalition based on tearing up the terms of the EU/IMF bailout deal.

Alexis Tsipras, whose bloc came second in Sunday's vote, said Greek voters had "clearly nullified the loan agreement".

China buying oil from Iran with yuan

China is buying crude oil from Iran using its currency the yuan, an Iranian diplomat has said. China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil exports. The country buys some $20bn-30bn of oil from Iran each year.

Iran is using the revenue to buy goods and services from China, Mohammed Reza Fayyad, Iran's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, confirmed.

Rhetorically, could this be the beginning of the end for the exclusive pricing of oil in U.S.$?

Toyota unveils 'first all-electric SUV'

Toyota unveiled Monday what it says is the first all-electric sports utility vehicle (SUV) on the market, a version of its popular RAV4 with a top range of 100 miles and minimum six-hour charge time.

The car will be sold initially only in California with a base price of $49,800, and the Japanese car company hopes to sell a relatively modest 2,600 units over the next three years.

And the first, Obligatory comment at the article, an obvious reminder..

Shouldn't they be saying 'the second generation of the first all electric SUV'? The original RAV4 EV was in production from 1997-2003. Back then it had a range of 100-120 miles per charge, took five hours to charge, and cost $42,000. Nearly ten years later they haven't improved the range at all, it takes longer to charge, and the price has increased. I hope, at VERY least, they increased the 0-60 in 18 seconds acceleration.

Here's that gallery of owners again.. with the Nimh Batteries that keep crossing the 100,000 mile marker, and continue to have charge ranges of some 75 to 120 miles..


One testimonial;

.."Leased the RAV4 for 3 years starting 11.2002, bought it 3 years later. As of 02.2010 the odometer shows 100,000 miles. Have not had it in for service in 2 years / 30K miles. Seems to be doing fine. internal battery resistance obviously climbing over time. My 75 mile round trip commute still works, with 20% remaining when I get home!"

Shouldn't they be saying 'the second generation of the first all electric SUV'? The original RAV4 EV was in production from 1997-2003.

No! The 97-03 RAV4 was the first first all electric SUV. This one is just the second first all electric SUV. Actually, I had this discussion with a friend the other day. there can only be one first. How do refer to your current wife if you've been married and divorced before? Odd that Toyota would make that mistake.

Alan from the islands

The Challenge of Making Consumers Buy Electric Vehicles

The electric car might not be enjoying a good moment. General Motors Corp. stopped production for five weeks on the Chevy Volt, and sales of new all-electric cars such as the Volt and the Nissan Leaf are dismal. It's further evidence that transitioning American drivers to electric vehicles (EV) is simply a hard sell.

Q&A... There are a lot of groups who have realized this really is the future and it's not a question of whether or not we're going to get there, it's a question of how fast.

Q: Let's assume this is where we're going. What's the biggest impediment to getting there?

A: Consumer education. The statistics are pretty compelling that most people don't drive as far as we typically think about when we buy a car. I'll be standing there at the dealership, and the context that I'm holding is "freedom." I'm going to buy this so I can take my kids and the Boy Scout troop up into the mountains. As a result, I still have an SUV. But the vast majority of the time, I'm driving my car back and forth to work. That's the first-use vehicle. I drive a Volt. I have driven that Volt 8,200 miles and change. I've used 15 { gallons of gas.

... And then, at a slightly higher level, to get folks to step back and stop mapping electric transportation over our existing gasoline-driven system. Our transportation system was built on cheap gas. Gas is not cheap anymore. That's the real troll under the bridge, is that we don't control the price of gasoline in this country, and we never will. In the world of true freedom and independence, we actually do have an option.

The new RAV4 EV is quite a big of a disappointment with the $50K price tag. Rumors say it has a 40KWH battery . . . if it does have a pack that big, at least that helps explain the high prices.

This is clearly nothing but a "compliance car" that helps them meet the California Air Resource Board's ZEV requirement. More conspiracy-minded folks would say that Toyota is trying to make EVs look bad and make their Prius hybrids look good. The Prius is a great line of cars. But EVs can be done much better than this.

This $50K Rav4 makes:
1) The Chevy Volt look like a great bargain at $40K! (It has both 40 miles of electric range plus an ICE for 300+ more miles of gas range.)
2) Makes the pure electric Nissan Leaf look good at $35K.
3) Makes the little Mitsubishi-i look like an amazing bargain at $29,125 (That is only $21,625 after the $7500 tax-credit.)

Yeah . . . put me in the conspiracy crowd . . . obviously Toyota can do much better than this. They are just not interested in the market for now. (Heck, they could just triple the size of the battery in the Plug-in Prius and they'd have something much cheaper & better.)

Many US families are underwater with debts: study

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—As the country emerges from the Great Recession, a substantial number of U.S. families are underwater – and not just with their mortgages.
According to a new University of Michigan report (PDF), about one out of every five U.S. households owe more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other non-collateralized debts than they have in savings and other liquid assets.

The report also predicts continuing trouble ahead with home mortgages, with 1.7 percent of families surveyed in 2011 saying that it is “very or somewhat likely” that they will fall behind on their mortgage payments in the near future. This represents an improvement from 2009 when 1.9% of families had such expectations.

Novel battery system could reduce buildings' electric bills

The CUNY Energy Institute, which has been developing innovative low-cost batteries that are safe, non-toxic, and reliable with fast discharge rates and high energy densities, announced that it has built an operating prototype zinc anode battery system. The Institute said large-scale commercialization of the battery would start later this year.

Zinc anode batteries offer an environmentally friendlier and less costly alternative to nickel cadmium batteries. In the longer term, they also could replace lead-acid batteries at the lower cost end of the market. However, the challenge of dendrite formation associated with zinc had to be addressed. Dendrites are crystalline structures that cause batteries to short out.

... The CUNY Energy Institute's zinc anode battery system can be produced for a cost in the $300 - $500 per kWh range, which for many applications has a three to five-year payback period. The cost is being rapidly reduced and is expected to reach $200 kWh with a year.

Earth has less water than you think

If you were to take all of the water on Earth — all of the fresh water, sea water, ground water, water vapor and water inside our bodies — take all of it and somehow collect it into a single, giant sphere of liquid, how big do you think it would be?

New York’s expensive bikeshare

New York’s new bike-share program, sponsored by Citibank to the tune of $41 million (plus $6.5 million from MasterCard), will go live at the end of July, and the prices are public already. Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan called them “the best deal in town short of the Staten Island Ferry.” Which, not really.

The Staten Island Ferry is free, of course, but that aside, New York transportation has a very simple pricing scheme. To a first approximation, all rides, whether on the subway or the bus or some combination of the two, are $2.50, no matter how long they are.

And the bikes cost a lot more than that

If Citibank's involved you just know it's going to suck.

Pu-lease. After 5 hours of renting you could have bought your own bike... and why did it cost nearly 50 million dollars for a few bikes? Are they gold plated?

I can't see what the fleet size is in that article but for that outlay it should be around 100-120K bikes! Not happening I think.

Step 1- Take an opportunity to ease congestion and maybe improve quality of life.

Step 2- Turn it immediately into a money making racket/gouge fest.

No, but like the Birmingham AL 3 billion dollar sewer system and the 70% waste of Carbon control - when the Government and Banks get together - no pocketbook is safe.

Arab Grain Imports Rising Rapidly

The Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they take in more than 20 percent of the world’s grain exports. Imports to the region have jumped from 30 million tons of grain in 1990 to nearly 70 million tons in 2011. Now imported grain accounts for nearly 60 percent of regional grain consumption. With water scarce, arable land limited, and production stagnating, grain imports are likely to continue rising.

Across the Arab world, grain production is stagnating, yet grain demand is growing rapidly as population expands. Since 1960, the region’s population has nearly quadrupled to 360 million. By 2050 the region is projected to add another 260 million people, dramatically increasing pressure on already stressed land and water resources.

How will they pay the interest they owe to the global bankers?


"The price decline comes from lower crude oil prices," said publisher Trilby Lundberg.

That's good news for consumers, but it comes from a negative place, she said.

"Oil prices themselves are down because the oil market sees economic weakness in Europe and the United States, which is a negative for oil demand," said Lundberg.

This is the economic step-down discussed often here on TOD, in which high oil prices nix growth/profits then employment numbers start dropping, there is demand destruction of fuel/oil consumption, and that sends a signal to the commodity and stock markets to correct downward.

Then once oil price is low enough for the economy to gain some momentum, oil prices begin to rise and away we go again, stepping up, stepping down.

Now there are different sized step downs. The one in 08 was historic, and this latest one not so big, however it is a reminder that high oil prices are digging into profits and that has a cascading effect on oil importing countries economies.

The end of cheap oil due to a plateau of production is also causing a plateau or in some cases a recession (in the EU). Some argue the US would be in recession if the budget was balanced. What are we to do? Stuck between a rock and a hard place with the outlook only getting dimmer as oil exports worldwide continue to decline.

Note that the average annual Brent price in 2008 was about $97, but $111 last year, and probably around $120 this year to date.

I guess we're gonna find out how much this puppy can take. Do I hear 135? 145?

Spinning like a whirling Dervish....

Media Goes Silent as Gas Prices Fall After Obama Crack Down On Oil Speculation

The fact that Obama is of no consequence, up or down, is irrelevant.


Nova Scotia is currently converting all of its roadway lighting to LED, some 120,000 fixtures in all. Now it looks like neighbouring New Brunswick will follow suit.

New Brunswick Power will install 72,000 LED streetlights

New Brunswick Power Distribution (NB Power), a Canadian power distribution company, is in the process of qualifying suppliers of LED streetlight luminaires. The goal of NB Power is to replace approximately 72,000 existing high pressure sodium (HPS) streetlights with LED luminaires over a period of five years.

NB Power supplies power to over 380,000 customers throughout the province of New Brunswick, Canada. The power company also owns and maintains over 72,000 streetlights throughout the province. The existing HPS streetlights range from 100 watts to 400 watts, and all are targeted for replacement. Approximately twenty percent of the province’s streetlight inventory will be replaced each year for the duration of the project.

See: http://www.newstreetlights.com/index_files/LED_street_light_news_New_Bru...

We can reasonably assume that most of these luminaires are 100-watt HPS (120-watt with ballast)*, so I'm guessing that the savings potential might be in the order of 350 kWh/year per head, on average. If so, that would suggest a province-wide savings of approximately 25 GWh/year, which would in turn reduce NB Power's CO2 emissions by 12,000 to 13,000 tonnes per annum.


* I understand that Fredericton, the provincial capital, employs a large number of 150 and 200-watt HPS, so the savings could be somewhat greater than what I've stated here.

Hobbs, NM, Picked as Site of Scientific Ghost Town

Gov. Susana Martinez and a group of investors announced Tuesday that a city in the heart of southeastern New Mexico's oil and gas country will be the site of a new $1 billion scientific ghost town where researchers will be able to test everything from renewable energy innovations to intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks.

... It will be modeled after a typical American town of 35,000 people, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No one will live there, although they could. Houses will include everything from toilets to washing machines

... anything China can do - we can do better. One Ghost Town coming up.

If complete cities can be built like this, modeled after a typical American town, could other cities be built which are modeled differently so that traffic systems are not needed? People could experiment with completely different types of cities and living arrangements.

Looks interesting but I was thinking about something such as this http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archives/2012/040112.html

How will they earn back the billion dollars? and profit?

Canada Won't Attain Greenhouse Gas Goals: Government

Canada will fail to reach its target for reducing greenhouse gases by 2020, according to a government report which predicted that emissions responsible for global warming will actually increase by seven percent over that time.

The report follows an audit of national energy emissions which concluded that existing federal regulations are expected to reduce emissions by 11 to 13 million tonnes in 2020, but said an additional reduction of 178 million tonnes is needed to meet the target.

also Feds will likely fall short on 2020 greenhouse gas targets: auditor

Support for climate change action drops, poll finds

Americans' support for government action on global warming remains high but has dropped during the past two years, according to a new survey by Stanford researchers in collaboration with Ipsos Public Affairs. Political rhetoric and cooler-than-average weather appear to have influenced the shift, but economics doesn't appear to have played a role.

The drop was concentrated among Americans who distrust climate scientists, even more so among such people who identify themselves as Republicans. Americans who do not trust climate science were especially aware of and influenced by recent shifts in world temperature, and 2011 was tied for the coolest of the last 11 years.

... Next time, Do the poll in the summer!

Or better yet, wait until the next El Nino (instead of drawing conclusions about a simple La Nina slight downturn) and presto, higher, probably record temps, meaning the overal trend in world temps is rising.

What we see here is the inherent problem with black and white thinking, which is the hallmark of R's. For them it's either hotter in every successive year or there is no global warming, when in fact there are fluctations, periods like a La Nina's in which the trend is down, but in the next El Nino even if new world average annual temperature records are set, once another La Nina starts, they'll say, "See, no global warming!"

Support for climate change action drops, poll finds

Americans' support for government action on global warming - Perhaps a factor is seeing Government backed support for the parasite class is an issue? Did they ask about that?


30 percent – Investment banks often buy up carbon offsets before a project is up and running, and they take an average 30 percent of the total in profits and operations.
About 30 percent of the funds go into actual projects that reduce emissions

Why should anyone be excited about Carbon reduction when the present system shows everytime you spend on actual Carbon reduction the SAME amount of money goes to the parasite class. And in the case of Government backed parasites via Carbon mandates - there doesn't seem to be an option other than to say No.

Too many people think that when they see obvious corruption then that means there isn't really an underlying problem. Actually I think it is the opposite - the corruption is always there, if only latent, and in times of crisis finds more opportunities. It does make it tough to figure out what the best mitigation strategy is when corruption has become so pervasive in our institutions. That lack of trust in institutions is going to be a key ingredient in the coming collapse, as even things that could be done won't.

Groundwater pumping leads to sea level rise, cancels out effect of dams: study

As people pump groundwater for irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses, the water doesn't just seep back into the ground – it also evaporates into the atmosphere, or runs off into rivers and canals, eventually emptying into the world's oceans. This water adds up, and a new study calculates that by 2050, groundwater pumping will cause a global sea level rise of about 0.8 millimeters per year

Monster Sunspot To Unleash Powerful Solar Flares

Monday evening's eruption generated an Earth-directed CME, which should hit Earth sometime Wednesday morning (May 9).

Two Incoming CMEs:

A pair of solar eruptions on May 7th hurled coronal masss ejections (CMEs) toward Earth. Forecast tracks prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab suggests that clouds with arrive in succession on May 9th at 13:40 UT and May 10th at 07:54 UT (+/- 7 hours). The double impact could spark moderate geomagnetic storms. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

Big Hail Is Bad

See what happens to the windows of a parked car during a baseball-sized hail storm.

... Baseball-sized hail could have an impact energy of over 100 Joules. It isn’t really, the same thing but I can still compare this to other objects. What about a bullet? It seems that this large hail would just be around the kinetic energy of a .22LR pistol bullet. What about a 90 mph baseball? This seems to be pretty close in energy to baseball-sized hail (around 120 Joules).

Over 1,300 tubes damaged at ailing Cal reactors

More than 1,300 tubes that carry radioactive water inside the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California are so damaged that they will be taken out of service
A company statement said that as of Monday, 510 tubes had been plugged, or retired from use, in the Unit 2 reactor, and 807 tubes in its sister, Unit 3. Each of the generators has nearly 10,000 tubes, and the number retired is well within the limit allowed to continue operation.
About 7.4 million Californians live within 50 miles of San Onofre, which can power 1.4 million homes.

E. Swanson

Given the age of the plant that's not too bad, it is a bit disturbing that they don't have a good explanation for the excess, though.

The 1% with excess wear would be 200 of the tubes they plugged, which implies that they were already expecting to plug most of them.

Given the age of the plant that's not too bad

Yes, but the steam generators aren't as old as the rest of the plant, they were replaced in 2009-2010. Is that still OK for that age? Why are they aging so quickly?

Steam generators do age like that, even conventionally fired steam generators do.

You plug the tubes that leak or are at risk of leaking when you inspect (nuclear steam generators are inspected more frequently, of course), because even in a conventional plant you want to conserve the pure water as much as possible.

As far as what caused the excess wear? If they don't know with the data from the plant itself I'm not even going to hazard a guess. Too many possibilities, and there are two sides that the tubes could wear from, so which side the excess wear was on is significant.

I think that other commentaries regarding the failed steam tubes have contended that it's highly unusual for these tubes to fail so soon after the steam generators were replaced with new ones. Of course, if you actually have any data to back up your claim, please provide it. Otherwise, one must assume that you are blowing smoke out of some orifice that is usually associated with poop emissions from a steer...

E. Swanson

There are always some failures, 5%/year seems high but the main effect of that is going to be forcing them to replace the steam generators sooner than normal wear would require.

I'd note that where nuclear is involved you *always* assume beyond the worst-case scenario so I'm not too concerned about your opinion on my emissions.

You ignored that I was referring to the age of the newly installed (and quite a bit modified) steam generators, not the age of the plant. Talk about ignoring a glaring, staring you in the face problem! Even the operator calls the wear "unusual" and yet you don't!

Tubes in boilers wear out and have to be plugged. That is the part that is normal.

They are saying that they had a 1% excess, so they were already expecting to plug over 1000 tubes when they started looking.

Nuclear plant steam generators have a higher test standard than tubes in conventional boilers due to the containment requirements, but the operation on the whole is not unusual.

"Given the age of the plant that's not too bad...

From the article:

At issue has been the integrity of tubing that snakes through the plant's four steam generators, which were installed in a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2009 and 2010.

These steam generators are virtually brand new. Someone screwed up. I stood watch on similar (smaller), shipboard steam generators for 5 years and some level of tube attrition is expected and planned for, but not in this time frame, and not in a nuke plant. Few of the shipboard steam generators I've worked on had this percentage of tubes plugged after 5 years of service, especially on subs. These are 2-3 years old, operating in a relative steady state. Generator tubes are the boundary between the primary and secondary systems, one of the last places one wants a failure. Shut'r down!

The company is drafting a plan under which the reactors would run at reduced power, at least for several months, because engineers believe that will solve a problem with vibration that the company believes has been causing unusual wear in the alloy tubing.

This is likely to only lower the frequency of the vibration; could make thing worse. Shut'r down!

My understanding is that the clever folks at Edison modified the design of the heat exchanger by removing internal brace or support structures so as to make more room for 400 more tubes to transfer more heat to get a little more power*. The resultant increase in pump-driven vibration is intense enough to make the tubes rub and grind. That is why 60% wall erosion is seen in scattered spots. Edison told the authorities they were just replacing the heat exchanger.

Refrain: The management was greedy, lying, and grossly incompetent. The regulating authorities failed. Nuclear, fracking, finance, peanut butter... **




See that "Stay Cylinder"? This support was removed in the redesign so that its position could be drilled for more tubes in the heat exchanger above it. This is not a minor modification. It spawned a number of other modifications throughout the design in order to accommodate changes in load and flow.


*400 in addition to over 9000... <5%

**There's still lead in the candy
...but not enough to stop significant radiation. So, the animal that can't reliably make safe candy is going to make safe fission systems that contain a supercritical mass.

What bloody idiots. Something for nothing, push it harder, remove the waste, make it more efficient. Is there no competence in any industry anymore? Somewhere there are people who are personally responsible for these decisions. But will they be held responsible for them?

And before the plants demonstrated problems - look at the statements from the plant operator:
He said the upgrades at the San Onofre plant will allow it to operate safely for an additional 20 years after its operating license expires in 2022. and Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said the company has hired consultants and is using in-house expertise to figure out how much it would cost to keep the plant running past 2022.

Note the "faith" in the nuke industry: a bit disturbing that they don't have a good explanation for the excess Like somehow the industry has a correct model, understands what they are doing, and are not willing to lie if it means more money for them.

This one is for Alan.


Charles Marohn and his colleagues at the Minnesota-based nonprofit Strong Towns have made a very compelling case that suburban sprawl is basically a Ponzi scheme, in which municipalities expand infrastructure hoping to attract new taxpayers that can pay off the mounting costs associated with the last infrastructure expansion, over and over.

That has been well known - and used as an argument against "urban growth boundaries' or just not widening roads to new developments when the inevitable congestion appears. ("If we don;t widen the roads, then people will suffer (the new home owners stuck on two lane rural roads) and growth (sprawl) will stop. The city cannot afford that.)

If your planning horizon is <10 years, it makes sense.

Thanks for the Link :-)


Spain Has Been Shut Out

Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain, made a very interesting comment in the Senate today. He told the politicians that virtually EVERYONE in Spain, including banks, corporations and regional governments, have been locked out of credit markets.

It's getting ugly over there...

"The way is shut. It was made by those who are dead. The way is shut."