Drumbeat: May 18, 2012

David Strahan - Dump the pump: could peak oil be voluntary?

People have fretted about when the world’s oil will start to run out ever since M. King Hubbert came up with the idea of “peak oil” back in the 1950s. The American geologist, who worked for Shell, pointed out that we are destined to reach a moment when oil production stops rising and goes into terminal decline. With it, the era of cheap oil that fuelled the post-war economic boom would end. The idea still provokes great debate, and many forecasters are predicting that global production will peak by the end of this decade as supplies dwindle.

Now there is a different view. A small number of analysts forecast that oil production will start to fall by 2020 – not because we are running out, but because we just won’t need it. They argue that the world will wean itself off oil voluntarily, through major advances in vehicle technology. Peak oil will not be a supply-side phenomenon brought about by shrinking reserves, but by motorists buying electric cars and conventional cars with highly efficient engines. If they are right, this shift will start the long-term transition from oil to electricity as the main transport fuel, reduce economies’ vulnerability to spikes in the oil price, and cap greenhouse emissions from crude oil.

Oil hits 2012 low under $107 on euro zone turmoil

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices slipped below $107 a barrel on Friday and hit a 2012 low as investors fought shy of riskier, growth-oriented assets on fears that Greece would leave the euro, and after a downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by Moody's added to the contagion gloom.

..."The driving factor is still what is going on in Europe with the downgrades of the Spanish banks and very negative sentiment towards risk investments," said Eugen Weinberg, an analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "It's not surprising to see further falls in Brent today."

Oil May Fall as Seaway Insufficient to Ease Glut, Survey Shows

Oil may decline next week on concern that the reversal of the Seaway Pipeline will not be enough to alleviate a record supply glut in the central U.S., a Bloomberg survey showed.

Nineteen of 34 analysts, or 56 percent, forecast oil will drop through May 25. Nine respondents, or 26 percent, predicted prices will rise and six estimated they will be little changed. Last week, 48 percent of surveyed analysts expected a decrease.

Unlike the East, gas prices stay stubbornly high out West

LOS ANGELES – Declining prices for crude oil have brought relief at the gas pump for much of the nation, but not for drivers on the West Coast, where retail gasoline prices have been rising this month.

"We are seeing a tale of two coasts," says Michael Green, spokesman for AAA, which monitors pump prices. "On the West Coast, gas prices are rising steadily, while on the East Coast they are steadily decreasing."

Oil markets vulnerable to more than 1 mil b/d loss of Iran's oil: IEA

Oil market fundamentals could become much tighter in the second half of 2012 if EU and US sanctions keep more than 1 million b/d of Iranian oil exports off the market and non-OPEC output disruptions take a turn for the worse, the head of the International Energy Agency's Oil Industry and Markets Division said Friday.

Obama may tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Despite the recent fall in oil prices, analysts say President Obama may tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as sanctions on Iran take hold.

While oil prices have fallen from over $110 a barrel to near $90 in recent weeks, tougher sanctions on Iran begin to take effect at the end of June.

That could mean up to 1 million barrels a day could soon be taken off the table, resulting in a possible spike in oil prices.

IMF tells Kuwait to cut spending or risk running out of oil money

Kuwait faces the risk of running out of oil revenues by 2017 if it continues its spending policy, the IMF has warned.

The wake-up call from the fund comes as public finances deteriorate from rising public sector wages, pension costs and rapid population growth.

The Biggest Threat to High Oil Prices

The biggest threat to oil prices isn’t excess supply, uneven demand or slowing global growth.

It’s the rise of the U.S. dollar – or more precisely, the fall of the euro.

UK gas at two-month low as Norway imports treble

LONDON (Reuters) - British short-term gas prices fell to a two-month low on Friday after a high increase in imports via Norway's Langeled pipeline flooded the market with gas and balanced out supply losses resulting from maintenance work elsewhere.

Gas for within-day delivery fell nearly 3 pence, around five percent day on day, to 55.50 pence per therm as the market was oversupplied by more than 20 million cubic metres per day (mcm/d).

Excelerate Energy plans natural gas export vessel for Gulf Coast

Excelerate Energy announced Tuesday that it will develop the nation’s first floating liquefaction facility at Port Lavaca on the Texas Gulf Coast, to export U.S. natural gas.

Enterprise And Enbridge Announce Completion Of Seaway Pipeline Reversal

Houston, TX and Calgary, AB (Marketwire) - Enterprise Products Partners L.P. and Enbridge Inc. today announced that modifications to the Seaway crude oil pipeline allowing it to transport crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to the U.S. Gulf Coast have been completed. The pipeline is in the process of being commissioned, and the first flows of crude oil into the line are expected to begin this weekend. The reversal of the 500-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline, which had been in northbound service since 1995, provides North American producers with the infrastructure needed to access more than 4 million barrels per day ("BPD") of Gulf Coast refinery demand.

Gazprom Is Still Calculating Discount for Bulgaria - Russian Media

Bulgaria managed to negotiate special terms for the supply of Russian gas regardless of its abrupt withdrawal from the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the Belene NPP energy projects, Russian media outlets note.

Gazprom Hopes to Build Second Baltic Sea Pipeline

With the planned Nabucco natural gas pipeline in southern Europe hitting snag after snag, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom is considering the construction of a second Baltic Sea pipeline to go with the just-finished Nord Stream. With unconventional natural gas from the US flooding the market, however, the strategy is not without risk.

ANALYSIS: Russia sets European oil export, benchmark grand plan

Paris (Platts)- Russia's investment in new oil transportation infrastructure is part of a grand plan that owes much more to long-term profit maximization than it does to short-term economics.

This is evident from state oil pipeline company Transneft investing billions of dollars in significantly more oil export capacity than it expects to see growth in crude oil output.

Bulgaria, Gazprom hope to ink deal to cut price of Russian gas

Bulgaria and Russian gas giant Gazprom are preparing to sign an agreement to cut the price of Russian gas, with Sofia seeking a 11.1% discount, according to market sources Friday.

China's Ningbo Shuhua opens largest crude oil terminal in Asia: Sinopec

Ningbo Shihua Crude Oil Terminal Co Ltd has opened a crude oil shipping terminal on Daxie Island in east China's Zhejiang province -- Asia's largest -- joint venture partner Sinopec said in a statement on its website Thursday.

China to exclude foreign firms in shale gas tender

(Reuters) - China will exclude foreign firms from bidding in its second tender for shale gas blocks, despite a need for overseas technology to help exploit massive reserves of gas trapped within shale rock formations in the world's top energy user.

Mitt Romney vows immediate approval of Keystone XL on first day in White House

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney is vowing to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline on his first day on the job if elected U.S. president in November.

Enbridge Pipeline That Ruptured Will Be Enlarged To Carry More Oil, Company Says

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Enbridge Inc. will enlarge a pipeline that ruptured nearly two years ago in southwestern Michigan so it can carry more oil from deposits in western Canada and North Dakota, a company official said Thursday.

Shell's Majnoon deal highlights Iraq oil target verdict

(Reuters) - Shell is pressing ahead with talks over final development of Iraq's Majnoon oilfield, a senior executive told Reuters, and a lower, more realistic oil production target is a core part of discussions.

Majnoon is one of four southern super giant fields that are vital to Iraq's ambition to at least double its oil output and put it firmly back among the world's top producers.

But crunch time is approaching.

Iranian protesters denounce Saudi-Bahrain union plan

(Reuters) - Thousands of Iranians rallied on Friday against plans for union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, state television showed, and an influential cleric denounced the idea as an "ill-fated plot" that will never be tolerated by Muslims.

Tension between Iran and U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states has run high in recent months with Arab leaders accusing Tehran of fomenting Shi'ite Muslim unrest in Bahrain - a charge that Shi'ite Iran and the protesters deny.

Japan trade minister: considering options on Iran oil payments

(Reuters) - Japan's Trade Minister Yukio Edano said on Friday the government is examining options for paying for oil imports from Iran after a U.S. court ordered a freezing of Iranian assets held by Japanese banks.

Energy-deficient India turns to UAE for oil supply

Under pressure from the US to cut its oil imports from Iran, India has decided to set up a high-level joint task force on investment which will also look into securing more oil supplies from UAE that has assured it of "increased" energy exports.

India looking at Saudi, Iraq to diversify its oil sourcing

WASHINGTON: India is looking at Saudi Arabia and Iraq to diversify its global oil purchase while making efforts to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil, a top Obama Administration official has told US lawmakers.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on South Asia that India is working to cut down the import from Iran not because of the American influence but because of commercial considerations as well.

East Timor Ends First Decade Fighting Oil Curse

The Southeast Asian nation of East Timor celebrates 10 years of independence tomorrow night facing a challenge that has eluded emerging economies across the world: How to stop oil wealth wrecking your economy.

After a decade of contract delays, deadlocked oilfield negotiations with Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and a political crisis that almost precipitated civil war, East Timor has moved from the poorest country in Asia, dependent entirely on international aid, to one with a $10 billion resources fund and almost entirely dependent on oil.

The U.S. Has A Lot Of Shale Oil, So What?

Quite a few conservative commentators are making waves about a Government Accountability Office statement (PDF) which says that 1.5 trillion barrels of shale oil in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming may be recoverable.

Their reactions are all along the same lines: this shale-oil reserve could “by itself supply domestic oil consumption for more than 200 years”, and “will Obama, in a possible second term, block the development of the resources that can assure America’s economic supremacy for generations?”

Typically simplistic. If only it were that easy.

Technology can unlock new fields, curb fears of peak oil

Technology advancements in the energy sector can boost oil and gas production, improve safety and curb fears that fossil fuels are rapidly running out, a Chevron official said today.

During the opening session of a Houston energy conference this morning, Jay Pryor, Chevron’s vice president for business development, touted a number of technology advancements that have improved the efficiency and safety of fossil fuel production, including enhanced oil recovery, 3D seismic imaging, horizontal wells, and hydraulic fracturing.

“Because of technology, we are producing in places once just dreamed of,” Pryor said, at the 10th annual KPMG Global Energy Conference. “In lifting those reserves, we’ve raised doubts about the eminence of peak oil.”

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Several articles in the international media in recent months have claimed that worries about peak oil – the peak and decline in yearly world oil production – are unfounded because vast new reserves of unconventional oil are coming on stream. But a closer look at these new sources of oil casts doubt on this assertion.

Data from the US Energy Information Administration show that conventional crude oil production – oil from wells accessed using typical drilling techniques – has been essen- tially flat at around 74-million barrels per day (mbpd) since 2005. Looking at the history of con- ventional crude oil discoveries, this is not surprising – they peaked in the mid-1960s and have been on a declining trend ever since.

The Energy Revolution on Our Doorstep

A major plank in my golden age scenario for the 2020’s is the collapse of the cost of energy. This won’t occur because of a single big discovery, but from a 1,000 small ones that aggregate together to create a leveraged effect. The upshot is that we may be free of OPEC in 3-5 years, and completely energy independent not long after that. The impact on financial markets and global standards of living will be huge.

Author’s no-growth prediction runs out of gas

EDMONTOIN - Jeff Rubin says we’ve entered a new era. The world just doesn’t know it yet.

In his new book, The End of Growth, the former chief economist at CIBC World Markets says high energy prices are here to stay.

Not for a month, a quarter or a year, but forever. The result? Economic growth has hit a brick wall, and the good ol’ days will never return, he warns.

Legislation Is Proposed to Extend Helium Sales Deadline

In 1996, Congress passed a law to privatize the Amarillo helium by requiring the federal government to sell nearly all of its reserves. But the law expires at the end of 2014, years before the sell-off will be complete. Last week a Senate committee heard testimony about the bipartisan Helium Stewardship Act, which would extend the time period for the sales. Walter Nelson, an official with Air Products and Chemicals, a Pennsylvania-based helium refiner, warned that without such a move, chaos would ensue, with significant disruptions to industries like semiconductors and fiber optics.

“Imagine the impact on global markets if 30 percent of the world’s oil reserves were off limits,” he testified.

Shell Kulluk Air Permit Contested By Environmental Groups

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Environmental and Alaska Native groups on Wednesday appealed an air permit granted by the Environmental Protection Agency to a Shell Oil drilling ship that could be used this summer in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska's northern shore.

The groups claim the Kulluk and support vessels will put harmful pollutants into the skies, adding problems to a region already beset by climate warming, and that the EPA granted the permit without consideration of all national environmental laws and regulations.

How much impact did the North Sea gas leak have on the environment?

While the Elgin North Sea natural gas leak that was plugged on Wednesday was a massive financial blow for its operator Total, it appears the incident had little impact on the environment in terms of global warming and local marine life.

Vt. becomes 1st state to ban hydraulic fracturing

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground.

The Democrat, surrounded at a Statehouse ceremony by environmentalists and Twinfield Union School students who pushed for the ban, said the law may help Vermont set an example for other states. The ban may be largely symbolic, though, because there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil beneath the surface in Vermont.

Siena Poll: New Yorkers are evenly split on fracking issue

LOUDONVILLE - A new poll shows that New Yorkers are evenly split on the fracking issue. That's according to the latest Siena Poll.

North Korea Seen Restarting Work on Nuclear Reactor

The reactor, for possible completion by 2014-2015, would be able to supply needed electricity as well as fissile material for a nuclear weapon, the report says. It quoted a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, as saying that once the reactor is operational, it would be capable of producing enough plutonium to add “a little more than one bomb per year” to North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

Global generation capacity for nuclear power has grown to over 346 gigawatts since 1955

Nuclear generating capacity additions began in the 1950s and now top 346 gigawatts worldwide (click on animation above to assess trends). The first nuclear reactor to produce electricity was a very small experimental reactor in the United States in 1951. Currently, 30 countries have nuclear power programs.

From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, nuclear power steadily grew around the world with brief periods of relatively slow growth following the accidents at Three Mile Island (North America, 1979) and Chernobyl (Former Soviet Union, 1986), as the nuclear industry absorbed the lessons learned from both accidents. Since then, nuclear power capacity has remained relatively stable throughout most of the world, with the exception of rapidly developing countries in Asia. An upcoming Today in Energy article will address post-Fukushima impacts on Japan's nuclear capacity.

Denmark aims low with green energy policy

SAMSO, Denmark (Reuters) - Over a beer or two, Danes like to tell a story that goes like this: One night the energy ministers of the countries around the North Sea got together to divide up its oil and gas wealth. The Danish minister got very drunk, but the Norwegian managed to stay sober. As a result, Norway carved out a jagged shape that included Ekofisk, which has proved to be a major field, and Denmark was left with the dregs.

Regarded as a model of how to spend oil and gas wealth wisely, Norway has stashed away surplus revenues from exports while hydropower caters for the bulk of its domestic electricity needs.

But Denmark has also found its own path to energy pragmatism, supplementing its relatively few oil rigs with wind turbines and a deep commitment to energy saving.

Is There a Clean Energy Standard in Our Future?

Americans want it, but how much will it cost?

Just because Congress is unlikely to pass a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade bill anytime soon does not mean the United States can't work on lowering its greenhouse gas emissions. It turns out there's more than one way for America to skin that carbon cat.

Ford C-Max hybrid to start at $25,995

The C-Max is a five-passenger crossover that looks like a small minivan but with conventional doors.

Here are the top 10 'bikeable' cities. Did yours make the list?

A score of 90 to 100 means the city is a "Biker's Paradise"; scoring 70 to 89 means the area is "Very Bikeable," while 50 to 69 means the city is merely "Bikeable." Any lower than that, and the city is deemed only "Somewhat Bikeable." A trio of public health professors at the University of British Columbia helped develop Bike Score.

Healthy food no more costly than junk food, government finds

Contrary to popular belief, many healthy foods are no more expensive than junk food, according to a large new government analysis.

In fact, carrots, onions, pinto beans, lettuce, mashed potatoes, bananas and orange juice are all less expensive per portion than soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate candy, French fries, sweet rolls and deep-fat fried chicken patties, the report says.

Will 3D printers make food sustainable?

Before the end of the year, if Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University gets his way, the world's first test-tube burger will be flame-grilled by Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in Bray and served to a celebrity guest. Meals at this restaurant don't come cheap, but this one will be the climax of a €250,000 research project – and a milestone in Post's quest to find new ways of feeding the world, without destroying the planet.

His petri-dish patty will be made from a mixture of fat and cow muscle grown from stem cells in a culture of foetal calf serum (that's blood plasma without the clotting agents) – a technology trialled in February. It may sound less appetising than a Big Mac – but it could bring huge environmental benefits. Producing beef this way results in a 96% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to rearing animals, and uses 45% of the energy, 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional beef production.

U.S. Solar Tariffs on Chinese Cells May Boost Prices

The U.S. yesterday imposed tariffs of as much as 250 percent on Chinese-made solar cells to aid domestic manufacturers beset by foreign competition, though critics said the decision may end up raising prices and hurting the U.S. renewable energy industry.

The U.S. Commerce Department ruled that Chinese manufacturers sold cells in the U.S. at prices below the cost of production and announced preliminary antidumping duties ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent, depending on the manufacturer. China criticized the action, saying the U.S. is hurting itself and cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.

Solar sector looks to Saudi plan

Huge investments in solar energy by emerging nations such as Saudi Arabia could spell the end of a crisis of overcapacity in the panel-making industry, according to one of the biggest producers of solar panels.

Hawaii first state to ban plastic bags at checkout

By now, it’s hardly news when a city bans plastic bags at checkout counters -- but an entire state? That’s happened in Hawaii, where Honolulu County has joined the state’s three other counties to give Hawaii a first-in-the-nation title.

"Passing the bans did take an effort -- change always does -- but people seemed to understand the need for such an effort," Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, told msnbc.com of the two-year campaign across the islands.

Brazil’s Leader Faces Defining Decision on Bill Relaxing Protection of Forests

RIO DE JANEIRO — President Dilma Rousseff is facing one of the defining moments of her presidency as pressure builds on her to veto a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming, potentially reversing Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation.

District Energy Systems can reduce carbon, save money - but only if well-regulated

Centralized heating systems known as District Energy (DE) Systems generate heat at a central plant and then pipe it underground, providing heat and hot water for a cluster of buildings or even an entire community. DE has exceptional potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a lower carbon economy.

But unless they’re properly designed and regulated, DE systems risk high costs and overestimated greenhouse gas reductions.

Billboard Wars, Chapter 2 (or Is It 3?)

Pfizer is not the only corporation Forecast the Facts had hoped to plaster across the freeway. It also planned to call out Microsoft and Comcast for donations to Heartland.

“Our goal was to highlight Pfizer and other corporations’ support of the Heartland Institute,” Mr. Johnson said. “The question to ask is whether these corporations are based on a foundation of science or on a foundation of profit.”

Canada pledges oil and gas pollution rules by 2013 at climate conference

Facing questions about its upcoming withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and "gaps" in its existing policies, Canada told international climate change talks in Germany Thursday that it planned to crack down on oil and gas pollution through draft regulations by next year.

Critical time as Qatar hosts talks

The naming of Qatar's former oil minister to the presidency of this year's climate change talks reflects the conflicting priorities of Gulf states.

Parts of Japan see record-high CO2 levels

The average monthly concentration of carbon dioxide has topped 400 parts per million in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, the first time this level has been reached in Japan, raising alarm about greenhouse gases that can cause global warming.

Temperatures rise across the ditch

The last 60 years have been the hottest in Australasia for a millennium, most likely thanks to human-caused climate change, a new report says.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne used 27 natural climate records, including tree rings, corals and ice cores to create the first large-scale temperature reconstruction for the region over the past 1000 years.

Summer forecast sparks concern over fires, water shortages

As the nation swelters through its warmest year on record, a new forecast for a broiling summer is raising concern about wildfires and water shortages, especially across parts of the western and southern USA.

UK climate policy can curb energy price shocks-report

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's climate policies can help shield the economy from oil and gas price shocks triggered by external factors such as the Arab Spring, an analysis commissioned by the government showed on Friday.

Q. and A.: How to Save Bangladesh?

Bangladesh is a prime example of a vulnerable developing nation that faces formidable challenges in all these areas, and it will be directly affected by the decisions that are made — or not made — at the conference. Firm commitments have often been elusive on the international level.

We asked Thomas Rath, the country program manager for the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development project in Bangladesh, about the development obstacles the country faces, some of which are linked to climate change and environmental degradation.

A small number of analysts forecast that oil production will start to fall by 2020 – not because we are running out, but because we just won’t need it. They argue that the world will wean itself off oil voluntarily, through major advances in vehicle technology.

The world will wean itself off oil voluntarily when oil cost $240 a barrel. Yes all entirely voluntarily.

UK climate policy can curb energy price shocks-report

A nice tailpiece in this Drumbeat to balance that headline entry. Building renewable energy supplies could soften fossil energy supply shocks.

Knock me over with a feather.


The author may not have thought about it in terms of addiction. We have a lot of material that tells us the addiction to oil is not casual, it is chronic, so your statement about $240 a barrel makes sense.

That is to say, we will be forced off oil against our will, either by peak oil production, the price going over the top, or by the environmental catastrophes that are approaching in both the near and the long term.

We only have to look at countries with cheap gas..ie Saudi Arabia and see how they have reacted. Are they driving small fuel efficient cars? No when the price of oil comes down people will use more of it. At $1.50 a gallon of gas you will see a lot of R.Vs on the road...but then again you will never see that unless we have a complete deflationary fall from grace....and if Greece exits the European Union I think that is a 50/50 chance.

Efficiency gains will eliminate our need for oil? In an ever-growing world?!

Jevon's Paradox anyone?


Efficiency gains will eliminate our need for oil? In an ever-growing world?!

Population is not so ever-growing. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1 and more and more countries fall far short of it.

I'm about as pro-EV as you can get, but I'll admit that I've said things in the past that were in hindsight overly optimistic. But anything to get more EV's out into the market, the better. I think this article somewhat misses the point in that it is trying to paint EV's as a way to continue BAU, and that's just not going to happen. As mentioned in the article, we have the overwhelming factors of continued worship of economic growth, Jevon's Paradox, and the fact that most of the electricity still comes from fossil fuels. There will not be nearly enough renewable power to offset the fossil fuels in time. And of course, it takes fossil fuels to build EV's.

I am so gung ho about EV's simply because we have no other choice. If we can convert over 10% of the fleet to EV before the back side of the Hubbert Curve, I'll consider that a success. It's not about continuing growth -- it's about continuing society. All the recoverable fossil fuels will be taken out of the ground. Given that, we should be doing everything we can to build out renewable infrastructure with it. A Nissan Leaf bought today will still be able to drive in 50 years quite easily, powered by solar panels purchased today and arguably with a battery replacement in 2020. In contrast, an ICE built today will not be driving in 50 years. I see EV's as cushioning the blow from Peak Oil collapse, and to provide a framework for moving forward afterwards, at a smaller scale, because it is undeniable that they COULD be built and powered using renewably generated electricity. Just because they aren't now doesn't mean those EV's built today won't be around decades into the future.

"EV"s (coal cars) are a stall tactic and a very dangerous diversion, actually. The real question is when we will decide to rebuild our towns to eliminate the need for private automobiles. Every "EV" that gets sold in the mean time perpetuates the insane delusion that using 3,500-pound, 95% idle machines for daily locomotion is anything but a suicidal pipe-dream, regardless of fuel source.

Meanwhile, Strahan's report of progress in this area is a joke. Any serious transition to coal cars would require a complete rebuild of the nation's electrical grid. Ain't gonna happen.

When did I say that I envisioned EV's to be a continuation of BAU? I also think it's absurd for 3,500 lb 95% idle machines to be used to commute.

How are goods going to be transported from electric trains (which I also agree we should be developing -- the two aren't mutually exclusive) to stores, and on the production end, from the farm to the trains? Horses? Why not EV's?

People don't understand the degree of ecological overshoot humanity has achieved as a result of fossil fuels. It's not about going back to some simpler more pastoral existence relying on animals and bicycles for transport once FF's run out -- it's about DYING or NOT DYING, because the planet won't be able to support 9 billion people without additional energy beyond what can be provided by biofuels (which is in direct competition with food production). We absolutely must do everything we can to replace fossil fuels, while we still can, and that includes solar panels, wind, and EV's -- to avoid the energy trap. Again, it's not about continuation of growth, it's about continuation of humanity.

I agree with you.. but it's hard to have a discussion involving any kind of middle-ground on this issue here, however.

Any form of moderation makes you the traitorous enemy to those at either of the extremes.

One reason that such a discussion is so difficult is that the middle ground evaporates under the weight of reality. If the only future involves many fewer people, the real issue is, what happens along the path to that future. How do we go forward when the future is shanty towns and dog-eat-dog daily fight for survival? Who wants to be first in line to enter the euthanasia chambers or to be killed and eaten by one's neighbors (or children)? Heck, in the US, we still can't even have an honest discussion about abortion as birth control of last resort...

E. Swanson

All the more reason to be cranking out as many EV's and solar panels as we can now before we end up in shanty towns.

Actually, in the U.S. we can't even have an adult discussion about birth control. Or healthcare, or fiancial reform, or taxes, or gay marriage, or race, or light bulbs, or...

"The real question is when we will decide to rebuild our towns to eliminate the need for private automobiles."

Trouble is, there's a severe shortage of giant magic wands. If anything, the pace of rebuilding for any purpose seems likely to slow down, for lack of money and resources. After all, if, as you assert, they're having trouble with something as economically minor to rebuild as merely the electric grid, then they're certainly not going to be rebuilding everything at the snap of anyone's finger.

Coal cars, indeed.

I once fell for the EV pipe dream but then I learned. The batteries may get cheaper, but they have major limitations. Cold weather, running a heater/ac, up hills, heavy foot -- that leaf 160km capacity will be more like 80 in real life. Plus they all start with roughly 1000 charge cycles in their lifetime. Once they're not so new, the capacity dwindles... 80%, then 70/60/50. The author compares it to laptops. Anybody have a 3 year old laptop? The batteries barely run 25% of when new.

Solar to charge an EV? LOL! With a 220v line installed at your house it may only take 4-6 hours to charge. 16 hours of more on standard outlets. You'd spend $40,000 to install the solar, then if it's cloudy forget it.

"You'd spend $40,000 to install the solar.."

Show me the math.

Fronius IG Plus 7.5-1 UNI 7500W GT Inverter: $2825

SolarWorld Sunmodule SW230 230W 20V Solar Panel Pallet (qty 30): $7,278

Allow $5000 for balance of system and $5000 install (both very liberal) I could easily have this system feeding the grid and offsetting my EV consumption for slightly over $20K. With tax credits, horse trading, and some DIY, a system like this could be in the $12-14k range, and offset much of your domestic consumption for two decades or more. Maybe that's just me...

I have no affiliation with the above links; just a random sample of current costs.

That is a pretty darn big system too! That would provide far more than my house uses. I think that would cover my house and an EV. Of course I get pretty good sun here in California.

If I lived in SoCal, and IF I had a stable residential/job situation, and IF I had a good location, and IF needed a car to commute <60 miles per day, and IF I was buying a car, I would find a way to do this.

That's a lot of IFs, but not for everyone.

OK, let's see how much FUD we can clear . . .
1) Coal cars. Coal recently dropped to only 36% of the grid power due to low natural gas prices. The grid has generally been getting cleaner. And even if it is coal . . . so what? EVs are very efficient such that emissions of a coal powered EV are no worse than a typical gas car.
2) Cold weather? heat the batteries just a little bit.
3) heater/AC? climate charge the vehicle while still plugged in. Use an efficient heat pump system. PHEVs
4) 1000 charges cycles? You really think they'd be giving 8-year 100K mile warranties if they only could do 1000 charge cycles?
5) Yes, the capacity dwindles. When it is down to 70% of its original ability to hold a charge then swap it out with a new battery. Use the old battery for stationary application. Laptop batteries are not a good comparison . . . they are not designed to last long because they know people get rid of their computers after like 3 years.
6) All houses have 220V and installing a 220V charger is not a big deal.
7) $40K for solar? You are like 3 years behind the times. Much cheaper now.

EVs are still struggling. But they are very close. PHEVs like Volt solve many of the issues people complain about. And if gas prices double again? Well, I think people won't complain so much about the limits of EVs.

Any serious transition to coal cars would require a complete rebuild of the nation's electrical grid.

Nonsense. Electrifying half the the US auto fleet would require a small fraction of existing grid capacity.

Electrifying all of it would be 17% to 21% of total US electrical demand.


...As mentioned in the article, we have the overwhelming factors of continued worship of economic growth,...
If at some point economic growth does not entail more energy and physical resource use (e.g. iphone 4 vs iphone 3, then what is wrong with more economic growth.

... Jevon's Paradox...
...arguments are often overstated, and almost never checked. How many streetlights does one person want? Washing machines? Refrigerators? It seems to me the most obvious and relevant check would be miles drivev per person versus efficiency. Jevons forecasts where we see more efficiency we see more use. US average vehicle efficiency of new cars/trucks is up to 28 mpg currently from 24 mpg in 2000, yet miles driven driver per person peaked in 2000, and total VMD has been declining since 2006.

...and the fact that most of the electricity still comes from fossil fuels...
About 67% in the US, and the fossil fraction is currently declining ~%1 a year. Natural gas fired generation, which is amply sourced for decades, is currently taking share away from coal at about the same rate. US electricity consumption per person is declining.

A Nissan Leaf bought today will still be able to drive in 50 years quite easily,
Regardless of the drive train, body and chassis do not last close to 50 years continuous use in the average road environment.

...As mentioned in the article, we have the overwhelming factors of continued worship of economic growth,...
If at some point economic growth does not entail more energy and physical resource use (e.g. iphone 4 vs iphone 3, then what is wrong with more economic growth.

Too bad that is simply false! Information is not exempt from the laws of thermodynamics. A system employing iphone 4s ultimately ends up using more energy. Higher bandwidth and higher resolution images not to mention streaming video especially when it contains high resolution noise, also known as gibberish. Producing more iphone 4s and selling them to more people just compounds the problems caused by this particular facet of economic growth. It means More energy consumption by the server farms... All Economic growth that depends on any form of increasing use of energy is a problem! Unless of course you can find a way to eliminate let's say 90% of our current fossil fuel based transportation system and substitute it by using iphone 4 technology, then I might agree with you!

Case in point to illustrate the issue.

...converting an uncompressed image file, such as a BMP file, to PNG can result in a much smaller file. However, the amount of compression depends on the general nature of the image. A simple structured image, for example consisting of a set of colored squares, is highly nonrandom and gives a big compression ratio -- a casual way of putting this is that the image contains a lot of "air" that can be squeezed out of it. A very "busy" photograph full of tiny detail is much more random and doesn't compress well. An image consisting of completely random noise, sheer "static", compresses even more poorly. Consider the following image file containing a simple pattern: ...

...In any case, the bottom line is: which of these three images contains the most information? As far as information theory is concerned, it's the one full of noise. The intuitive reaction to that idea is to protest: "But there's no information in the image at all! It's pure gibberish!"

To which the reply is: "It is indeed gibberish, but that doesn't matter -- or to the extent that it does matter, it has lots of information because it's gibberish. The information content of the image is simply a function of how laborious it is to precisely describe that image, and it doesn't get much more laborious than trying to describe gibberish."

See also:


But, still power use by an iPhone is pretty small. Its a matter of how the culture evolves. If people you woulda become drag racers, become Iphone/facebook adicts instead, the net decease in resource consumption would be very large.

If people you woulda become drag racers, become Iphone/facebook adicts instead, the net decease in resource consumption would be very large.

I think I kinda alluded to that...

Unless of course you can find a way to eliminate let's say 90% of our current fossil fuel based transportation system and substitute it by using iphone 4 technology, then I might agree with you!

Keep in mind the power use by the production network to make those iPhones. Also the power use of the support network/equipment that makes that iPhone work. It ain't so small!

Too bad that is simply false!
??? "That"? Exactly *what* is false?

Information is not exempt from the laws of thermodynamics.
Thanks for the tip on information theory and thermo, but nobody made any claims of exemption.

A system employing iphone 4s ultimately ends up using more energy.
More energy *than* what? Consider what it might replace: a desktop at 400W, a laptop at 40W. How about replacing a wasted trip to the store in a two ton hunk of metal to find this or that?

...All Economic growth that depends on any form of increasing use of energy is a problem!
Yes, ever *increasing* energy Thus my thesis, that economic growth *may* occur on fixed or even declining usage of energy, such as in the information or entertainment fields. Energy use per capita in developed countries has been declining for some time now. Occasionally we've even seen economic growth during periods of declining oil use (e.g US in the early 80s). The overall point of the various technical and economic advantages was perhaps best expressed by physicist Richard Feynman when he said, "there's plenty of room at the bottom", drawing attention to the value which could be provided in the world of the small.

To successfully convert 800 million cars to EVs before serious oil decline starts is an untested assumption. Moreover, the energy problem is just moved from oil to other fossil fuels with similar CO2 problems. The 1st priority must be to get rid of coal fired power plants. If we then have still enough power to run electric trains, we'll be lucky. While there will be car-pooling and less driving because the 1st phase of peak oil (which started in 2005) has already damaged our economy, the real worry is the oil dependence of agriculture and transport of food. That should be our focus for solutions. Cars will be the least of our worries.

1 billion vehicles in year #7 of peak oil

Look at cars - a 1 or 2 tonne vehicle capable of 60 mph+. How much energy does it take to push 1 or 2 tonnes of metal to 60 mph? Even without doing the math it must be a lot. Kings and emperors of old didn't have access to that sort of energy, yet here we've built a society which only works when the majority of adults have their own 2 tonne metal chariot capable of 60 mph. If not fossil fuels, then where does the energy for this come from? It looks like a car-dependent society isn't the way of the future, but a dead end which was only enabled by fossil fuel energy.

I have sympathy for this point of view . . . and you know what is even worse? If want to build car-like vehicle that doesn't weigh so much but can drive 60mph, it is practically impossible since the regulations require so much crap with regards to crash tests, bumper requirements, etc.

Now don't get me wrong . . . I want vehicles to be safe. But we need to figure out ways of building safe cars that are not massive heavy hunks of metal. I guess the Smart Car figure out some of it . . . but that thing has a crap transmission and it incredibly non-aerodynamic. It gets crappy MPG.

Actually it should be possible to build light weight electrically driven vehicles that does not need a lot of safety equipment. The problem is that you then need to put the safety measures "outside the car", in the infrastructure. In other words make rails and transportation "tubes" that will not allow any pedestrian, animal or non-automatically driven car into the system. I applaud the efforts of Google to make automatically driven cars, but its built on the same principle that it should coexist with existing traffic, hence requires a lot of metal to keep the driver safe. Additionally it will never be completely automatic as it would require the user to be alert at all times just in case the system fails.

An automatically driven car (preferably based on electric powering) would essentially be like a lift with regards to safety (automatic brakes, but wont end up in the wrong lane in nasty front to front accidents), and would follow the rails and work in a closed system communicating with the other vehicles through a central system. The transportation device would be extremely energy-efficient compared to any car of today including all EV's as well as much safer. Vehicles could be reused by many like a taxi system too so no real need for people to own a car (although very possible). Car accidents would be far and few between compared to now (some dude will always be able to get onto the rails - just like people are walking through tunnels and get hit today).

But who will have to power and money to build such a system? Interestingly, most of todays roads can work as the infrastructure but would require a lot of work to make safe in a contained system. Another observation I have made is that a lot of people are more stressed about cutting down time from A to B when they drive themselves than sitting on public transport, as in the latter you would be able to play Angry Birds or work at your laptop if the seating comforts are good. Since you could be travelling in a small efficient "bubble" a bit of effort into making it comfortable would be easy to add with a table to prop your laptop on or whatever you feel like doing while you travel. As long as you are busy while travelling you wouldn't have to be moving at break-neck speeds either, hence making the system much safer as well.

But personally I think the world will have to think differently and form society to one that requires less transportation, small walkable communities that provides the essentials and an infrastructure of goods transportation between these that is way more efficient than todays trucks and free trade causes (perhaps that could use automatic systems like the one I have described above). I think its essential that we dont try to shoe-horn todays living standards into a future, but adapt both to converge with something more sustainable, even if it means getting "less stuff" for many.

I am so gung ho about EV's simply because we have no other choice.

I strongly disagree. Which fuel to use for automobiles is not the only problem, or even the biggest problem. For most people, and most parts of the USA, the real problem is the high cost of auto dependent living.

In Maine, people spend over $8 Billion each year to keep the highway based transportation system going, and nearly $7 Billion of that, out of a total economy of roughly $44 Billion, is drained from the state each year, because we don't build the cars here, we don't have any oil wells, or even a refinery, etc.

So the real solution is to become much less dependent on cars, and spend much less money on them, not to buy even more expensive EVs. This trend started in Japan, and is rapidly spreading through Europe, and now to the USA. Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) has reportedly already dropped about 25% for the 18 to 34 age group in the USA.

But you really do not disagree. Europe and Japan have a lot of cars. Yes, less than the USA, but they still have a lot of cars. Both Japan & Europe have more different car companies than the USA!

I agree we need more public transport. But how do Europeans & Japanese get to train stations? They drive cars.

So I find it very odd when people are trying to argue cars out of the conversation.

But how do Europeans & Japanese get to train stations? They drive cars.

Not so much. Most European cities now have tram systems to get people around within the cities. For example, France is building or expanding tram systems in about twenty cities, including some that most Americans have never heard of.

Many Japanese cities also have trams, and in the Tokyo area many people walk to commuter rail stations. Check out some of the posts in Nathan Lewis's blog, "New World Economics" for example.

European and Japanese cities are not devoid of cars yet, but they have fewer cars per person, and they drive many fewer miles, and the trend is growing quickly.

Many take the bus as well.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, third richest county in the USA, I have seen lines of passengers get off the Orange Line Metro and walk to waiting buses. No doubt taking them to the very well hidden slums of Fairfax County (per PaulS).


As of two weeks ago, one barrel of unleaded *gasoline* in the UK at the retail pump costs $346

David Strahan - Dump the pump: could peak oil be voluntary?

So this is the new attempt to ignore peak oil that is permeating the BAU articles. Pretending that most people "wanted to cut down anyway". The fact they couldn't afford not to being a merely incidental and utterly academic point.

This from a recent CNNMoney article. So much for voluntary cut backs:
"During the height of the so-called "SUV craze" in the late 1990s and early 2000s, about one in five vehicles sold in America was an SUV. Today, in an era of near $4 gasoline and heightened environmental awareness, nearly one in three vehicles sold is an SUV.

There are SUVs and SUVs.

In 2000 the best selling SUV was the Ford Explorer which probably got about 15 miles per gallon downhill with a tailwind, at least with optional 240 horsepower V8. And this top selling SUV was only the third most popular vehicle: the two more popular vehicles were Ford and Chevy trucks, both of them worse gas guzzlers.

Today, it looks like the best selling SUV is the Ford Escape, and the 2013 model claims 33 miles per gallon highway, even with the top-of-the-line 237 horsepower four cylinder engine.

So Americans are still buying a lot of SUVs. But the most popular ones are not the gas guzzlers which dominated the roads twelve of fifteen years ago.

One reason SUVs such as the Ford Escape, Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4 are so popular is that most Americans with enough money to buy any kind of new car are at least fifty years old, probably overweight, and have joints which do not work as well as they used to. Such people have trouble getting into and out of a car, particularly a small car.

Ird - Glad you brought that up. It always bothered me a tad when folks knocked SUV's. To me SUV is a body styling...not a type of vehicle. Most of the folks I know who drive 4-door sedans get worse mpg than my Kia Sorrento SUV.

An SUV is a "sports UTILITY vehicle", (aka a "light truck"), designed to have a weight greater than 8,500 GVWR to avoid the CAFE passenger car efficiency standards.

CAFE has separate standards for "passenger cars" and "light trucks", despite the majority of "light trucks" actually being used as passenger cars. The market share of "light trucks" grew steadily from 9.7% in 1979 to 47% in 2001 and remained in 50% numbers up to 2011. [4] More than 500,000 vehicles in the 1999 model year exceeded the 8,500 lb (3,900 kg) GVWR cutoff and were thus omitted from CAFE calculations.[5]

This was a legislative "loophole" leveraged by Detroit!

Chrysler in 1984 exploited one of those CAFE loopholes by introducing a truck-based "minivan," which, because it was regarded as a truck, had a lower CAFE standard than a car. Ford Motor Co. and what was then the American Motors Corp.'s Jeep went several steps further, turning trucks into "sport-utility vehicles" -- family rides that had a higher sex appeal than minivans.

Chrysler in 1984 exploited one of those CAFE loopholes by introducing a truck-based "minivan," which, because it was regarded as a truck, had a lower CAFE standard than a car. Ford Motor Co. and what was then the American Motors Corp.'s Jeep went several steps further, turning trucks into "sport-utility vehicles" -- family rides that had a higher sex appeal than minivans.

This is a curious bit of just making stuff up devoid of any facts. The minivan was not based on any truck parts at all, rather it was made from front wheel drive car parts. The AMC Wagoneer (by then called the Grand Wagoneer) dates back to 1962. It, along with the International Travelall and the Chevy Suburban were the original SUVs - in an age of cheap fuel they made a certain kind of sense, much more so than 18' cars with giant tailfins. Eventually Ford had the Bronco and Chevy the Blazer, and they got bigger and bigger V8's, but all of these got crushed after the first fuel crisis.

AMC Jeep introduced the smaller Wagonner and a truck, a fresh design with lighter unibody construction, and Ford brought out the Bronco II. These were popular and were the beginning of the present SUV craze, but they, along with the minivan were smaller vehicles with smaller engines.

It was the really cheap fuel prices of the late 1990's combined with people's access to and acceptance of much higher levels of debt for something like a vehicle that really distorted everything. So everything got huge, expensive and wasteful after that. In fact a small minivan can be a fairly efficient vehicle for transporting a bunch of people, without the added weight of the full frame and/or 4WD drivetrain.

My recollection is that there was a big tax break in the US for business purchases of vehicles over 6000 pounds?

There was probably also some clever marketing to build the impression that such vehicles were safer in a collision (though also much more likely to be involved in a roll over).

The Chrysler minivans were built on front-wheel-drive car technology. The initial Ford and GM minivans (the Aerostar and Astro/Safari respectively) were built on rear-wheel-drive light-truck platforms in order to get a product to market more quickly. All were classified as light trucks for CAFE purposes. CAFE had made selling low-mileage station wagons undesirable for the auto companies; marketing dollars were spent on the minivans instead, finishing off the full-size station wagons.

The big tax debacle -- making it possible to qualify as "heavy" equipment and increasing the depreciation schedules -- occurred much later.

The most interesting sales pitch I saw for the early minivans was based on clothing styles. The skirts associated with women's business suits at that time were knee-length or above, and rather tight. The salesperson was pointing out to women that it was possible to get out of the minivan modestly while dressed that way.

I think you are thinking of the disallowance of normal depreciation for luxury sedans (which exempted vehicles with low price or high GVWR) to prevent folks from hiding luxury vehicle consumption as a business expense. Long after it was enacted, the luxury SUV end run began.

You clearly either don't know what you are talking about, didn't read what you wrote, or wish to spout rubbish for ideological reasons. SUV's may or may not be light trucks as defined by CAFE although most of them are. Light trucks may or may not be SUV's, the most popular light truck models are not SUV's. Vehicles with GVWR greater than 8500lbs are not light trucks but may be SUV's. Light trucks are not exempt from CAFE and never have been.

A big part of the growth in popularity of domestic light trucks had to do with consumer value for money (at low fuel prices for which CAFE was responsible in part, although FUA played a bigger role) due to trade policy with Japan differing for different vehicle classes.

Such people have trouble getting into and out of a car, particularly a small car.

Exactly! My wife for example purchased a Mazda Tribute (SUV) in 2002 after she got tired of getting in and out of a Nissan Sentra. We both prefer the ability to fairly quickly straighten back up after a long drive, so my vehicle is a Ford Ranger. More SUV's and trucks probably has more to do with the baby-boom generation growing older than anything else. It's not about the size of the vehicle for us, but rather a more upright sitting position.

The new SUVs, however, are the exact same thing as the old ones were: The automobile corporations' efforts to continue selling the most car per car. The somewhat better MPG is merely an adaptation to prevailing conditions. The trend remains wildly insane.

It's partly a vicious cycle at work. As engines became more efficient, automakers were able to make bigger cars.

And when you drive around in a little car now, you literally feel threatened, pushed around, and wonder what would happen should you ever suffer a collision with something bigger.

I enjoyed driving my '96 Corolla for years, but sometime in the mid 2000s I began to notice just how small it felt compared to all the other cars. I flirted with buying an SUV for years, thankfully I did not.

But it's at least part of the reason why I upgraded to a mid size sedan. It feels safe, secure, sure footed on highways and large enough to hold its own.

And as the roads deteriorate, people will buy even more SUVs. Imagine that! Forget off roading... the future is one in which you buy an SUV just to navigate the roads.

So unless everybody downsizes all at once, then you actually sort of lose if you downsize. You gain some in savings, but how much is open to debate.

Game theory at work.

It's partly a vicious cycle at work. As engines became more efficient, automakers were able to make bigger cars.

Actually, what really made big vehicles popular was power steering and power brakes. How many of today's drivers would tolerate driving a 4600-5300 pound vehicle such as the Ford F-150, or a 3240 pound front wheel drive car such as the Toyota Camry without power steering or power brakes?

The F-150 is currently the best selling vehicle in the U.S.

The second most popular vehicle is the Toyota Camry. Its most popular version has fuel economy of 21/30mpg, compared to 17/23 for the most popular F-150.

Both of these vehicles use more fuel than the Ford Escape, currently the most popular SUV.

David Strahan is a peak oiler. Or was. He's the author of The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man.

The article does point out some of the problems that might block the optimistic scenario of the title. Still...I wonder if Strahan has changed his mind about peak oil.


I think you are right. I just read Strahan's book and he understands peak oil very well. I read this particularly article today as his just wanting to discuss the possibilities of reduced fuel consumption and how that might play out.

I think his use of the word 'voluntary' was a very bad choice. I think his point is that the same one that Jeff Rubin is currently pushing and even Dan Yergin admits . . . peak oil will reveal itself in the west by way of "peak demand". Oil production will decline because people can't afford to pay more and will instead modify their behavior to use less oil. Thus more public transport use, less flying to places, more efficient cars, etc.

I agree with that view. I do think EVs will eventually become popular . . . not that people really want them but when faced with the choice of $10/gallon gas, an up-front expensive EV that can do ~100 miles, or walking to work. Then they'll buy the EVs. Look most people would rather drive a V8 and fill up with $1/gallon gas. But those days are long gone. And the long-term trend for oil is higher prices. Eventually, EVs will become obvious economically viable substitutes.

It might not apply to whatever strange neighbourhood you live in, but there are places in the world where the choice is not solely between "drive a personal car" or "walk".

True enough, I suppose, at least in theory.

Even in the USA, there are some places where one could instead bicycle. However, it consumes time that busy people may not have. On top of that, most of the USA has a phenomenon called "winter" for a good part of the year, when the streets and tracks are often hazardously icy - and which, it being mid-May, we're apparently choosing already to forget about. Even here in the Berkeley of the Midwest, you can have the cycle lanes and tracks almost to yourself during "winter". For decades, people have been well trained by the "consumer" and "environmental" movements to be militantly averse to any risk at all, however utterly insignificant; and in reality, for most people, the risks from slipping and falling on ice are not at all insignificant. (In that light, the YouTube videos of people in Amsterdam flopping over on their bikes after a coating of ice hits are really not very amusing at all.)

There are a few places with trams or trains. But the odds of being able to make most of one's trips that way are quite slim; maybe in carefully cherry-picked spots in New York, Chicago, and some other major cities. The bigger problem is that places that are crowded enough to have any sort of even semi-comprehensive tram or train services tend to be ruinously expensive; the housing rent - in the pejorative economic sense - will pay for a small fleet of cars with plenty left over. So not only is a mass movement to such places unaffordable, but the worse the economy gets, the less likely it becomes.

What's left is a moderate selection of places with buses. However, people who don't have time to cycle, absolutely won't have time to attempt to use random, infrequent, tardy, unreliable buses. I'm thinking 70 min. one way by bus, versus 30 min. by train and 15 min. by car, including walking and waiting, for selected trips (both ends just so happened to be near enough to the train) where I grew up. And sane parents won't want to ferry their children around by bus - there could never be enough hours in the day, plus, at certain hours in some areas, the bus itself, or the environs of the bus stop, may well be infested with unruly, thuggish, hormonally-raging teenagers.

So I wouldn't recommend looking for cars to die out even at $10/gallon, especially in light of the awful traffic in the UK and Western Europe, with a lot more trains, trams, overcrowding, and ... $10/gallon gas or diesel already. Most in the USA do indeed live in "strange neighborhoods" where there is light and air; as opposed to, say, the unbearably hot and stuffy (any time it reaches even 20C outdoors) six- or eight-story aged-out rabbit-warrens of Paris that foolish foreign tourists affect to admire for just exactly as long as they need not actually live there. All in all, and despite responses some may give to loaded survey questions that cost nothing to answer, there are plenty of reasons for this to not change quickly.

for most people, the risks from slipping and falling on ice are not at all insignificant.

Well, how about a recumbent trike then? Much more comfortable to ride, provides back support for the elderly/injured, and a lot more stable over lots of rough terrain.


Btw, agree with your comments on mass transit. People here tend to fall into the "TOD solves everything!" mindset, forgetting there was a very good reason people migrated away from mass transit in favor of cars decades ago --and it's not just because oil was cheap. You simply cannot get to all the places you need to go solely with mass transit, unless you are lucky (and wealthy) enough to live in the most densely populated portion of a major city, where train/streetcar service is ample and most places you need to go are nearby.

Yes, the car centric culture of the past century is partly to blame for the sprawl, but part of the reason people *choose* sprawl over dense urban apartment housing is... they want things like more living space, privacy, a backyard, fresh air, quiet, etc. Living "downtown" may be great for young hipsters who don't mind living communally or rich people who can afford the gargantuan rents and housing prices, but for working and middle class people raising a family? Not so much. There's a reason the word "ghetto" came into common use.

"Well, how about a recumbent trike then?"

Oh, please, not on your life. We have entertaining chats about this now and then on rides or at the bike shop. Slow and clumsy, a bit like riding a lawn chair. Still subject to sliding around on ice, especially rutted ice, so still unsuitable around any sort of motorized traffic. Often too wide for the typical bike path, even if that says more about the paths than the trike. Not visible to drivers, who have their ways of not seeing a pennant of practical size, so again unsuitable around any sort of motorized traffic. Prone to sliding under trucks or high-riding cars, which tends to be even worse than bouncing hard off them. Oh, and please let's not talk about where, even in a rather slow crash, the chainwheel is rather apt to dig in; it's too painful to contemplate.

Fine for the sort of isolated recreational paths you might see here and there in places like Sun City; less fine for functional use.

Hey, Paul,

Evidently, you didn't read the rest of my post (the part where I mostly agree with you re: TOD).

That aside, there are a lot of different recumbent trike designs out there --tadpole, delta, lean steering, etc. and aside from riding uphill, modern day trikes are actually *faster* than conventional bikes and hold many speed records. Not "slow and clumsy" at all, and I've ridden enough to know. Visibility to drivers can be a problem, I agree, but riding in heavy auto traffic is *always* a hazard, even on a bicycle, but there are plenty of dedicated bike paths where I live (SF East Bay). I don't see how the the chainwheel "digging in" would be a huge issue with most modern designs (and would be the least of your worries in a collision with an auto). There are lots of good designs nowadays --check out Greenspeed, Catrike, ICE, etc.

Now... if you live in rural Alabama, where there are about zero sidewalks or dedicated bike paths, then I definitely see your point. However... how hard would it be to create plenty of bike paths if there was the political will to do so?

I passed a bike the other day that had an LED whip which couldn't be missed. The red and blue focused LEDs really got my attention.

The reason for the growth of Suburbia was NOT because of it's attractions, but

- massive gov't subsidies (GI Bill after WW II could not be used to buy a house in an established neighborhood, "free"ways, etc.
- White Flight from minorities
- GM buying up the competition in order to destroy it.

Without those above, only a few % of Americans would live in Suburbia. Overcrowded two lane roads would limit the % and desirability for one.

And the 222 miles of streetcars in New Orleans could certainly get you anywhere in town. I have talked with men that, as young boys, took their cane pole to the Lake to go fishing on a streetcar.

Best Hopes for reality,


Your post seems to be more of a criticism of the sad state of public transport in the US and misconceptions of alternative means of trasportation in general than any sort of coherent critique. As deep as the car bug seems to have bitten over here sometimes, I'm glad there is an inbuilt alternative to that state of affairs for the vast amount of majority of people who won't be able to afford the automobile, which is after all a luxury good for the rich which has been attemped to be democratized, with obvious results.

Perhaps or perhaps not. Even in Europe, the kind of public transport that really gets you where you need to go when you need to go is only generally available in extremely crowded and thus usually very expensive places. (Hence ordinary people being relegated to the awful cités and such-like, while the cores of the well-known cities become more and more like theme parks for tourists and the affluent.) Most of Europe is not within walking distance of any kind of rail line. Away from the rail lines, and even in, say, the Randstadt region of Holland, which at its least crowded is still more crowded than where most Americans live - it's often only a desultory bus every half hour or so, and that bus goes only where it goes, which may or may not even be in the direction you need to go.

Hardly anybody has time for that nowadays. Which is probably why even in many places in Europe, never mind North America, public transport seems to have been mainly a transitional technology between horse-and-buggy or just plain feet on the one hand, and motorized vehicles, mainly cars, on the other hand. (Though it obviously remains in hyper-crowded places.) And it's why, as I noted, the traffic is so bloody awful there. (I've said it before, the Autoroute du Soleil becomes a parking lot in summer, every bit as bad as the Garden State Parkway.)

Now, in theory you could rebuild North America (Canadians who smugly object to this, two words: Rob Ford) to cram most people into places resembling Paris proper, but that would be hopelessly and absurdly expensive (and it gets ever more hopeless since no one seems willing or perhaps even able to "revive the economy.) So in the real world, people will muddle along in strange ways, using strange tools such as battery-operated cars.

All in all it will not be pretty. Of course, it will be especially un-pretty to the sort of technical- and social-engineering types who delude themselves that they can remake the world uniformly according to their own personal aesthetic du jour, and at a snap of a finger no less. Never worked that way, never will.

Just curious, have you read Randal O'Toole's The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future?

Can't say I agree with every conclusion he comes to (he leans too conservative and Free Marketish for my taste), but it makes for a very pointed and well researched critique of TOD and New Urbanism.

No, can't say I was aware of it. Maybe I'll take a look.

I am familiar with Randall O'Toole. He is a paid shill devoid of intellectual integrity.

He quite artfully "makes up" statistics and facts as needed, mixed with real ones and "interpreted" ones.

Daniel Yergin is a paragon of integrity by comparison.



Like I said, I read his book and did not agree 100% with his interpretation or conclusions, which tended to reflect a pronounced right-libertarian bent (no surprise given that he's a CATO Institute senior fellow). However, it's one thing to disagree after having reviewed the same material and coming to different conclusions and quite another to accuse someone of lying. Where in the book did O'Toole "'make up' statistics and facts as needed"?

I think it's useful sometimes to read arguments from the "other side" (and I mean the thoughtful, well researched kind, not Fox News diatribes) just to give us a broader perspective and challenge our own assumptions. Occasionally, we may even learn something new.

I read some of his stuff over a decade ago. After catching him a couple or four times, I wrote him off as a whore (with apologies to "working girls", most of whom have more integrity).

He and Wendell Cox are unworthy of debating.

Yes, he lies and half-lies. His "well researched" is well ....


Randal O'Toole is a pathological liar.

My favorite thing about him is how he deliberately confuses the cost of building new urbanist homes and the price those homes sell for, in order to portray new urbanism as a luxury.

I'm not sure I understand your point here. How would the cost of building a new urbanist home ever be *less* than the price it sells for unless: (a) the builder is taking a loss (not a great way to stay in business), or (b) those homes are being subsidized by the taxpayer (which means that the selling price is masking the true cost)?

Because of the shortage of TOD (30+% want, supply today for <2%) this creates a scarcity premium.

An 1,100 sq ft Townhouse may cost $110,000 to build (not including land) but sell for $325,000 or $575,000. The extra value is scarce TOD environment. Scarce because the gov't spent $1+ trillion building "free"ways and streets and saturated the market for SFR McMansions - but spends almost nothing on Urban Rail to create TOD.

He pretends that TOD housing costs $300 or $500/sq ft and thus can never be affordable like "every man" McMansions. He presents this premium as immutable. Exurban McMansions will always be MUCH cheaper & more affordable than TOD housing according to him. And McMansions are much more desirable as well - according to him.

All one needs to do is build more Urban Rail (see France) and the TOD premium would shrink significantly. A concept O'Toole absolutely refuses to consider.

Best Hopes for Reality,


Hi, Alan,

Thanks for the break down. I was approaching it from the opposite direction (assuming that TOD units were selling for less vs. more), so now I understand the original point.

Now as to your points...

TOD housing is very big up here in NCAL, as you might imagine. From what I've observed, the exact opposite of the dynamic you've described is true. There is tons of high density TOD housing all around me, much of it recently completed (near the local BART stations) and much of it vacant. Walnut Creek alone has hundreds of brand new "see through" condos built next to one of its stations, most of them *asking for* (not selling at) astronomical prices vs. regular detached SFRs.

There is a strong preference --even here in the land of ecofriendly TOD-loving hippies-- for detahced SFRs over condos and high density housing, that typically kicks in about the time these granola loving folks get married and start having children. Even liberal people tend to like having things like a yard a garage, plenty of windows, privacy, and the freedom to rennovate as they see fit. Also, condos come with a lot of "gotchas" in California, including additional Mello-Roos taxes (thanks Prop 13!), HOA fees, special assessments, covenant restrictions, etc. Add to that the likelihood that a condo will typically be harder to sell than a SFR (given all the minuses listed) and... I suspect many of these see-through TOD condos will remain empty for a good while.

You are describing but one type of TOD. I live in a city that was built almost entirely (except post-WW II New Orleans East) as TOD.

222 miles of streetcars when most of our buildings were built.

Quite liveable, and much more varied, with *FAR* more human interaction and less social isolation.

Saturate the market with transit (see Grenoble future map) and 1) the premium will decline sharply and 2) the variety of housing options will expand significantly.

You only see through a keyhole on what should be at BART stations.

Today, "only" 30% of Americans want to live in TOD. Once we get enough for 25%, I strongly suspect that 50+% will want to live in TOD - but there will always be some that prefer other options.

Best Hopes for Building enough "T" for 25% of Americans to live in TOD,


Saturate the market with transit (see Grenoble future map) and 1) the premium will decline sharply

Does that mean the price of housing in dense urban cores would fall, or that the price of suburban housing would rise?

There will be more housing in urban and "close in" suburban areas.

Working on possible expansions of DC Metro, with one of the original planners (late 1960s), the question is raised about cost effectiveness of Metro vs. Light Rail expansion for a system where demand is going to be > capacity.

The technical answer seems to be to build Metro largely inside the current boundaries (with one exception) and add parallel or cross-connecting lines, increasing density of service inside the current service area.


The extra value is scarce TOD environment.

hmmm. How do we know that the high housing prices in urban cores are due to mass transit?

The distance from the nearest station is one determinant.

Same neighborhood, comparable housing, seven block walk costs less than 1 or 2 block walk.


Sweden also has something called "winter" and a population density lower than the USA sans Alaska.

But they also have trams.


And those trams best serve the expensive, crowded parts of cities, and elsewhere only take you towards or away from downtown even if you happen to live near the line at all. So you live very expensively, or just maybe you live in a village close to a main-line train stop but you will be using a car for trips that are not to stops on that rail line (i.e. most of them), or you will spend absurd amounts of time waiting for buses - or else you will pretty much use a car quite a bit. So despite the trams, and despite confiscatory taxes, levied in some small part to pay for them, they still have plenty of cars and plenty of traffic.

You are constructing a reality that does not exist - or in Paris is about to cease.

Paris is going to double the size of their Metro (plus new tram lines) from 2013 to 2025 with an expected 2 million new daily riders,

The solution to the high price of TOD is to increase the T. Substantially increased supply will reduce or eliminate the premium for TOD.

When 30% of the population wants something (TOD or beachfront property) and there is only enough for less than 2% of the population, there will be a substantial premium.

Increase the supply till there is enough for 10% of the population, and the premium drops. Increase supply till there is enough for 50% of the population, and there will be almost no premium.

Grenoble Population 156,659, Metro 664,832


- Line B will be extended from Cité Internationale to the Polygone Scientifique early in 2013.

- A new line, Line E, will run from Grenoble city centre to the suburb at St-Egreve, replacing bus line number 3. and is projected to be complete by 2014.#1

- In 2013, Line A will be extended both from Fontaine to Sassenage, and from Échirolles to Pont-de-Claix.#1

- Extensions to line D, probably from Saint-Martin-d'Hères to Grand'Place or/and towards Meylan are also planned.#2

The future:

The above map also has city streets and gives a good idea of the density of the trams vs. city streets and how far most people would have to walk or bike to a tram station (not far for most !)

Google Earth shows what looks like farmland within sight of the tram line in a few places.

Best Hopes for Reality,


#1 - population for suburbs from (currently served by tram) and to (in 2013 or 2014)
St. Egreve - 15,752
Fontaine - 22,068
Sassenage - 10,634
Échirolles - 35,868
Pont-de-Claix - 11,475

#2 - Saint-Martin-d'Hères, already served by tram, is a university town of 35,565.
I could find nothing about Grand'Place. Meylan has a population of 17,207.

In 2008, with a smaller tram network, and less TOD built, Grenoble averaged 201,600 passengers/day. Undoubtedly higher today.

Thanks for those.
London (~7.5M) would cease to function without mass transit.
It used to mostly have a radial commuting structure and there is still massive daily movement to and from the centre for work. I do not have up-to-date numbers but the ratio of radial public transport journies to individual radial car journies a decade or so ago was 10:1. Total transport use across the whole is more recently calculated as: London: Public transport 36% ‐ Cars 40%. http://www.worldenergy.org/documents/annex_3_london_paris_1.pdf (This doc has interesting comparisons with the Paris agglomeration).
Despite a heavily used 'metro' ('tube') network, there is a lot of walking during rush hour. Crazy place in most other ways of course, and I remember the last tram when I was a child. These had replaced the horse-trams when my dad was a child. Buses and cars do not mix well, although recent congestion charges in the centre have helped transit time.
The future 'business model' for these places seems very uncertain. At the moment London is a global hub, heavily dependent on financial 'industry' and the intentions and attentions of the global mega-rich. Oh yes - one day the place is going to get irrevocably flooded when they lose it to the rising tide, but not yet.
PS I just found these numbers here http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/Travel-in-London-report...

There has been a substantial net shift away from private transport and towards
public transport in London. Between 2000 and 2007, the proportion of journey
stages made by public transport rose from 33 percent to 40 percent, while the
proportion made by private motorised transport, principally car, has fallen from
44 percent to 38 percent.

Very good information.

But let me tell you my favorite story about Stalin (from the Soviet press to illustrate his sublime genius).

He was shown the plans for building the Moscow subway system, as he was drinking coffee. He listened carefully, but said not a word. At the end, he placed his coffee cup on the center of the drawing and left, again without saying a word.

The engineers lifted the cup and saw the brown ring - and instantly grasped his genius. A ring subway was needed !

Today the Brown Line circles Moscow. Every station it serves is a transfer to a radial subway line.

From both a passenger and a systems perspective, it greatly enhances the utility of the subway system. Density of ridership in the peak direction inside the Brown Line ring is reduced, and transfers in the center of Moscow are reduced, which raises the overall capacity of the system significantly.

Stalin was onto something !

Best Hopes for Circumnavigating Rail Lines,


I wouldn't recommend looking for cars to die out even at $10/gallon, especially in light of the awful traffic in the UK and Western Europe, with a lot more trains, trams, overcrowding, and ... $10/gallon gas or diesel already.

Cars are already dying out. The absence of credit and a usable currency (Greece) means no fuel imports. All of Europe is on Greece's track as euros vanish into mattresses then disappear altogether. No fuel = no cars.

Cars are dying out: no credit means car factories go out of business. Peeps can afford the $10 gas but not a new car. Peeps cannot meet their mortgage payments, they require food-aid. How can such things be the foundation of 'prosperity'? No credit = no cars.

Elephant in room department: driving a car cannot pay for the car. Driving the car does not pay for the (imported) fuel, either. We've been able to fake paying ... because we've been able to borrow immense sums.

Not any more. It's not so much the end of oil as it is the end of our ability to fake it to our creditors.

C'mon, Steve... it's Friday. Let'em dream ;-/

Sorry, I get 'whack attacks' sometime ...

Yeah, that's the price of clarity.

Good grief, and people wonder why TOD has a reputation as a "doomer" site.

Yes, as we start on the downslope of peak oil (made worse by ELM and continued population growth), gas will get more expensive and scarce. It doesn't mean it's the end of everything. Autos will have to become a lot more fuel efficient, and probably lighter and smaller (not too hard given the small tanks in vogue today), and hybrids and EVs will take a growing % of the market as time goes by. But they are not likely to "die out", at least not in our lifetimes and not in the developed world. And driving can in fact pay for the car (mine does right now --I pay for my new Prius by driving to work each day).

As to whether or not the current financial system of debt-fueled growth can keep on going forever, I have my doubts too, but... as Keynes said, "Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent." And, "In the long run, we're all dead." I've seen the End of Finance As We Know It forecast not just here, but many times in many venues over the past couple decades. Yet, amazingly, the plutocrats running the show always manage to find a way to keep on kicking the can or inflating the next bubble. I'm actually amazed how the bank bailouts engineered by the Fed and all the "extend and pretend" tactics seem to have prevented a worse crash/depression than actually occurred. If you had asked me back then if things were likely to be as good as they are now (despite not being so great), I'd have said "no".

No matter how confident we are in our predictions and timelines, let's not be so certain of them that we lose all perspective and ignore alternate possibilities. I think Paul Ehrlich will eventually be vindicated by history as basically correct, and yet... he lost his famous bet with Julian Simon by missing the Green Revolution and being overconfident in his timelines and predictive models. And all models are just simplifications of reality with limited data and variables, because reality is too complex and unpredictable.

I've seen the End of Finance As We Know It forecast not just here, but many times in many venues over the past couple decades. Yet, amazingly, the plutocrats running the show always manage to find a way to keep on kicking the can or inflating the next bubble. I'm actually amazed how the bank bailouts engineered by the Fed and all the "extend and pretend" tactics seem to have prevented a worse crash/depression than actually occurred. If you had asked me back then if things were likely to be as good as they are now (despite not being so great), I'd have said "no".

Do you remember the comparatively tame Dot-Com Bubble? It could've been like the late 2000's recession with different policies being taken, though the policies that were pursued led to the late 2000's recession, which could've been much worse without the bail-out policies. What policies will be, can be taken the next time the dust under the carpet inevitably pops up?

And driving can in fact pay for the car (mine does right now --I pay for my new Prius by driving to work each day).

I think that's a microscopic view, while Steve is talking about the big picture use of oil, and the net return we get from that. Basically the question is, if the activities we use oil for are of positive net return, how come we have to borrow ever more to keep doing them?

As for the commute, when oil was really cheap then it could be ignored, so maybe the entire system/process that includes your job and the commute you do to get there was of net benefit. That doesn't mean it still is at these prices, or tomorrow's. This is a time of transition, so the fact that you still get paid to do it is of little meaning. I'm in the same situation - at some point I expect I will find out I'm no longer paid enough to make the fuel cost workable. That may be because I'm no longer paid, because my salary isn't keeping up with the costs, rise in fuel cost relative to dollars,etc.

Steve isn't just talking about oil and debt. Like me, he understands that, systemically, we've created the potential for the mother of all perfect shitstorms.

Yes, I understand that - Economic Undertow is on my regular reading list. I was simplifying a bit for this discussion.

I totally "get" that at some point I may find my current job outsourced or *dot poof*. And there's no guarantee that I'll find another at the same salary, or that real wages may decline to the point where out I'm not paid enough to make the cost of gas viable. However, I'm not 100% certain that any of this will happen in my lifetime.

Which means that, for this semi-rational man ape, I continue a sort of BAU, trying to reduce my waste and consumption as best I can, making better purchasing decisions, and gradually preparing for the *possibility* (not certainty) that things could get much rougher later on. What may or may not happen in 100 or 200 years (aside from environmental impact, which I care about) simply cannot have much impact on my present day economic decisions because I'll be dead by then. For now, I have a very real need to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education to my family, and I have little choice but to adapt to the world around me as it really is, not how I wish it would be.

Yes, as has been analyzed many time here, human beings heavily discount the future and are very "here and now" BAU micro focused in their personal decision making. The fact that so many are married to a cargo cult like mentality and political ideology that devalues science and rational thinking makes the situation even worse. Nonethess, I live in one of the most liberal, open minded, pro-environment, pro-science places in the entire U.S. (Bay Area), and it's still quite far from being one giant green hippie commune.

I wish your average person (and the politicians they elect) were more forward thinking, but they're not and likely not going to be, human nature being what it is. One day, when Hubbert's downslope and ELM really start biting, people will go into defensive/reactive mode and be forced to change by circumstances. My only hope is that this happens gradually, not suddenly, because sudden will not be pretty. And if it does happen suddenly, I will hopefully be dead. For now, I adapt to the world as it is while keeping one eye on the horizon.

As someone who lived in a 6 story rabbit warren in Tel Aviv (and for whom his first trip to Paris was a major dose of deja vu), I can say there are ways to make that way of life work even in 30C heat. I was not blind to seeing the big crowds form along the canal du midi as the day warmed up. They were hanging out there because their apartments were not climatisees. That's why it's the canal du midi..

"I think his use of the word 'voluntary' was a very bad choice."

Rather than voluntary, I believe that the psychological term is an "ipsative"; a forced choice. Most people will have to choose between continuing their current auto-centric lifestyle and other things that are either essential or more important. In a pureer form, it's like someone on a fixed income having to choose between food and medication, or someone smoking a cheaper brand of cigarettes so they can still afford beer. If prices of EV's drop enough, folk's may view them as a compromise; save on fuel, thinking they'll be able to afford other things. IMO, it'll all become a sort of triage for many. Many will be stuck with some form of personal transportation, x-burban and rural folks especially.

I'm considering selling my pickup and using the money to buy an offroad EV for the farm, and PV panels to charge it, perhaps buy an old beater farm truck. When My wife's Subaru needs replacing (if ever) we may be able to find a used EV or hybrid. The extra PV could feed the house batteries when not needed for EV charging, our auto insurance and taxes will drop, our emissions could drop somewhat, and I could do 90% of work I now do with the pickup using the EV. Not yet a 'forced choice', but perhaps an attempt to head one off. Maybe enough money left over to get a new bike or buy some goats :-0

"Look most people would rather drive a V8 and fill up with $1/gallon gas."

Actually I've always been partial to the straight-six. Dodge 225 slant six, AMC 258, Ford 300. And assorted John Deere products ;-)

No argument otherwise though. I was actually debating this topic on the way home. If I got a Leaf 2 in a few years, and replaced the pickup (with that 300 straight-six, it's 22 and showing it), even if I end up driving the pickup twice as much as now, and for all long trips, the EV would be able to handle such a large proportion of the total annual miles that I would still save gas over all. All that's needed is that Leaf 2 be at least 1.5 times Leaf 1. Toss the back seat floor space and put another battery there.

And yes, I have a 240 V, 200 Amp electrical service to the house. And the local power is mostly hydro, so no "coal cars" here.

And the local power is mostly hydro, so no "coal cars" here.

The issue is what the sources are for the wider region of the grid you are on, not what the physically closest generation source is. It's a connected system, so if there is X% coal generation on your system then you are using X% coal supplied power.

What you are looking for won't be known as the Leaf although it shares much of it's underpinnings. It's called the eNV200, also known as the electric version of the new New York City Taxi. There is some speculation that it could be available as early as late 2013. If they continue the pricing trend they have set, I want one!

Alan from the islands

I want one!

Thank you for the perfect definition of when the EV stops making sense. As a taxi fleet, as postal delivery vehicles, as local delivery vehicles, in these capacities as transitional public transportation they may make sense. It's when they are viewed as continuations of the personal automobile transport system that the concept fails and becomes a problem.

I want one!

Thank you for the perfect definition of when the EV stops making sense.

Huh? My parents and I have driven nothing but vans and station wagons since the mid eighties. My Mom passed away in 2002 and my Dad still lives on the six acre plot they bought in 1976. I intend to try and turn that land into a decent farm. Vehicles with a lot of cargo space are very useful on farms.

At the moment I operate a business that involves carrying a lot of stuff around and I am preparing to get into the PV installation business so, a van or small truck is more than just personal transportation. Right now I am without a vehicle and I am torn between buying a small box truck (U-Haul style) or a van that, is just as suitable for carrying small amounts of cargo as for running personal errands but, whatever I buy, it's prime purpose will be as a "local delivery vehicle".

Alan from the islands

In an economy like this, disasters-and-the-kitchen-sink can be leveraged to make money somewhere.

So, as such, 'peak oil' has/will have strings attached, like a marionette, only with many more strings. Hey, it's a plateau, a stage.
Sometimes the legs go up and you wonder why and then the head sort of tilts and you wonder why, and maybe there's a tag that appears on one of the stings that says, US energy independence- 100 years of natural gas, or a pair of scissors that cuts two strings and ties back one of them, etc..

But, assuming no perpetually-replenishing bon-bon-Earth creamy-nougat-center-of-oil*, there will be a final show.


Scraping the bottom of the barrel - Engineering News linked up top

A refreshingly calm and informed article about where we currently find ourselves in the Peak Oil predicament.

Probably a good article to send to someone who is new to the concept, open minded and willing to consider the reality of peak oil. It does a good job of painting a broad stroke and covering the geologic, technical and economic challenges.

I tried to write a post on Dailykos that tied together the financial crisis in Europe with a slowing of the economic growth rate of the OECD, with decreasing oil consumption due to high prices causing a slowing of the economic growth rate. The post may have gotten some 50-100 views and a few recommendations on a site where top posts get hundreds of recommendations and thousands of views. People generally didn't get it, and I think I made a few mistakes in my presentation (notably, beginning with the phrase Peak Oil). What are the key concepts that might be used to present a convincing case?

1. Gail put together a chart that tied GDP to oil consumption. I'm having trouble locating that specific one, but it is useful for making the case that oil consumption and GDP go hand in hand, and it is very difficult to have growth in one without growth in the other. Some people will argue that substitution makes this irrelevant, but substitution has its own costs associated with it, and cannot simply be done 1-for-1.

2. Global Net Exports are declining. Thanks to westtexas.

3. I have not seen a single unifying graphic, but there is much talk about the fact that capital expenditures per new barrel per day of supply. It would be even more dramatic to plot total capital expenditures versus net increased world oil production, but this sounds like a difficult data set to generate.

4. How much more money are we spending on oil now versus in 2000? Using Wikipedia plots, I end up at $40/barrel versus $110/barrel, and world GDP at $41 trillion versus $70 trillion. Total oil consumption was approximately 75 mbd in 2000 versus 85 mbd now. Crunching the numbers, this results in 2.7% of world GDP spent on oil in 2000, versus 4.9% today, or an increase of 2.2% over 10 years.

I know the problem is more psychological, but I like to believe that, if only the presentation were improved, the number of people who engage on the issue could be increased dramatically.

I know the problem is more psychological, but I like to believe that, if only the presentation were improved, the number of people who engage on the issue could be increased dramatically.

As a character in the movie "American Beauty" said, "Never underestimate the power of denial."

In any case, a link to a short discussion of the CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) Depletion factor:


The Cornucopian Crowd routinely claims that Peak Oilers believe that we will "run out" of oil. Of course, this is a deliberate mischaracterization of the concept, but it is actually somewhat accurate for net export declines, in the sense that net exports from an exporting country can hit zero, even while they are still producing significant quantities of oil. And given the inherent characteristics of net export declines, we can, in my opinion, make some reasonable ballpark approximations for remaining CNE. As the chart in the above link makes clear, it's not a pretty picture.

And five annual "Gap" charts follow, showing the gaps between where we would have been at the 2002 to 2005 rates of increase, versus the actual data in 2010 (common vertical scale):

EIA Total Liquids (including biofuels):

BP Total Petroleum Liquids:

EIA Crude + Condensate:

Global Net Oil Exports (GNE, BP & Minor EIA data, Total Petroleum Liquids):

Available Net Exports (GNE less Chindia’s net imports):

I would particularly note the divergence between the first chart, Total Liquids, and the last chart, Available Net Exports (ANE). 

I had this conversation yesterday with a cornucopian neighbor. He believes that oil will become more scarce, but is convinced that he will always be able to get the fuel he needs, and will be able to afford it. It's sort of like "smoking causes cancer, in other people." :-0

Or that line from THE AVIATOR I dropped in the other day..

"We don't care much about money.."

"Yeah, because you HAVE it."

One of my favorite scenes ;-)

PV Wars:

U.S. Solar Tariffs on Chinese Cells May Boost Prices

“China-based manufacturers would certainly have to raise U.S. prices to turn a profit,” Mehta said in a statement. “This is likely to lead to module price increases in the U.S., which would serve to dampen demand and installation growth.” ...

...The tariffs “will increase solar electricity prices in the U.S. precisely at the moment solar power is becoming competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity,” Shah said in a statement. “This new artificial tax will undermine the success of the U.S. solar industry.”

...The U.S. decision to impose import duties on Chinese solar panels will raise their price to $1.11 per watt, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a London-based researcher owned by Bloomberg LP. That price is 17 percent higher than the current spot price of non-Chinese panels.

I'm looking at some really great prices on PV panels right now. It may be time for those considering PV to lock in prices, even if you have to stack them in the basement for a while. A friend took delivery of some excellent SolarWorld Sunmodules yesterday; 6.9 kW at $1.05/watt (he only paid the insurance on the shipping). Rack'em Up!

I was almost ready to bite the bullet this spring. Still should but it's the app. Our sun here is only a summer thing, pv won't do much most of the yr. Yet there was this one app, besides fencing, that intrigued me.

I'm getting way too on in years to keep lugging dozens of 40 ft handlines up hill and dale every day to irrigate. But with gravity feed water, and neighbors paying a K or more/month electric, I keep lugging.

So I was really taken with this solar water reel. Pricey, yes, but so's my back. The first negative I encountered was folks who said the attached panel couldn't operate it, that it only recharged the battery enough when not in operation. They went to using only at night, leaving it idle for recharge in the day. Thought I could do that, that maybe I could attach a panel large enough to do operate and charge. So I took one on demo last weekend. It went back to the dealer Monday. A toy still, great for municipalities or watering a level football field. By time I gave it enough juice to negotiate my lateral, even side hill, it was moving so fast it hardly left any water. A larger nozzle wouldn't work, the alternative was a bigger machine with a gas or electric booster pump. (Reels need 60-75 psi, I have 35. Same problem with large water guns) Back to lugging, but maybe some day.

The Kifco reel I looked at only has a 12 watt panel. Adding an extra 10 watts would only cost about $85; easy to do, almost double your solar. Install an 85 watt panel and add a 12 volt booster pump for about $300. We irrigate our garden with a 12 volt RV pump and an old 75 watt panel. Such may not provide the GPM you require, but these things can usually be done far cheaper than retail if one is handy.

The way I'm thinking, add a large solar booster pump to the mainline, let a conventional reel work on the laterals. I don't know if would work. To make the concept a go, I'd like at least 500 ft travel on the lateral. Not sure what kind of power it would take to turn a larger reel than the Kifco-ie maintain the high pressure. But I think if the solution was so simple, it'd be marketed at the irrigation supply firms. They keep telling me to go gas.

It was the Kifco E-110 I demoed. At 300' pipe, it was going to be very marginal, require reworking mainlines, and more runs. I assume above you are talking of adding the booster pump to the Kifco reel.

How much elevation do you have? We installed a tank on the hill above the spring and pump to it with solar. Gravity from there almost doubled our pressure and flow.

Hydraulic ram and a header tank? If the water flow is right maybe even making a small tower from scrap, to hold a tank, might work. Just a throw away thought.


Joseph de Montgolfier attained patents in England and France, and is considered to be the "father" of the Hydraulic Ram.

Wow! That dude is a "father" of a lot of stuff.

A miniature pumped storage? Reservoir would be too big for the gpm needed.

How much storage do you need? Look for tanks at salvage. I got two 1600 gal. tanks for $600. How much are your knees worth?

Would your property be a good fit for Key Line irrigation?

Yeah, I'm wondering if I should buy a stack of them now.

I noticed one of my sources has removed the per-pallet pricing on some of their less expensive panels; now showing "call for pricing". They were showing $1.12/watt yesterday on one model I was looking at (Canadian Solar). Not sure it's related to the announcement, but it could be that buyers are bidding the prices up anticipating a run on PV.

Canadian Solar panels are subject to the tariffs. Isn't it remarkable how quickly the market responds to such changes? The tariff isn't due to go into effect until after a final determination due in October...

E. Swanson

I think they are retroactive to the announcement, so someone in the supply chain will be liable for the difference (assuming October verifies the announced tariffs). I don't suppose vendors are willing to take the chance.

I just ordered six of these(minutes ago). Cheap shipping to the Northeast, they just opened a warehouse in Boston.


Congrats! What will you do with them?

Heh-heh. My "hunting cabin" in the Adirondacks.


"Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground."

Given the fact that there is little if any potential fractured shale production in VT it reminds me of a decades old situation. After the oil price spike of the late 70's a group solicited donations to help support their cause to prevent drilling in Long Island Sound. I sent them $10 and got as nice certificate I mounted in a frame and hung in my wall at Mobil Oil. The group was completely successful in their goal. Given the Long Island Sound is igneous rock and virtually no oil potential pretty much made it safe from drilling.

Now if the good folks of VT wanted to prove just what good stewards of the land they are they would ban the sale of NG in their state that originated from frac'd wells in NY, PA, etc. But maybe the environmental well being of neighbors in the adjoining states doesn't have the same priority. Time will tell.

The term "limousine liberal" was popularized decades ago in New York City as an epithet for those folks' likely mindset (it pertained to people who thought it was good for other people to ride the subway; does that kind of thinking sound familiar?) ...

Greer, this week uses the term "bobos" (bourgeois bohemians), like Al Gore putting solar panels on his mansion, while insisting that we all power down, cut emissions, all that.. It's how I felt about one of my clients bragging about his Lincoln Navigator Hybrid... We all do our part, it seems :-/

ghung - And to be fair I'm sure there are some VT folks who do have concerns about the well being of their neighboring states. But the hype against frac'ng may have them in a bit of a panic. Still it's human nature to be more concerned about direct affects on yourself vs. someone else. Especially when you're benefiting from the other person's situation.

Yeah, Rock, how many folks really worry about child labor laws in Asia when they're shopping for running shoes?

"Those poor, exploited kids...I'll take the Nikes that're on sale!"

To be honest, I found Greer's article this week to be smug and not very insightful. What about all the people in America living on less than the median income? Blaming "bobos" for the failure of environmentalism is cheap, and telling people to "walk the walk" is equally cheap. What about the poor and near-poor? Most of them have already cut most of what they can. Why don't they count? Why don't they vote for environmental protection? Not only that, he started out the article talking about protest movements, but in my opinion failed to really explain why, say, the civil rights movement succeeded but OWS or anti-war protests have not. Perhaps those in power are better at controlling and discrediting protesters than they were in 1960? Perhaps fewer people are involved? There could be any number of reasons, but I don't think he knows anymore than anyone else.

"Bobos" are a tiny part of the population, the top 10% maybe. To David Brooks and Greer it may seem like they're everywhere, but that's not the reality.

I think environmentalism was a victim of the electronic (video games, internet) and consumer (disposable everything) society much more than it was a victim of "bobos". Of course, that's a "cheap" thing to say in some sense as well, but I think it is not malice or conspicuous consumption that are killing us but death through a thousand cuts and lack of reverence. Like the plastic bag thing here in Hawaii - why do we have those anyway? Or the recent flap about beaches in danger here - well, why did we ever allow people to build right on the water? Why not tell them to move? Florida has reasonable set-back laws that it has managed to maintain even though it has a bunch of realtors and republicans trying to end them. Why not Hawaii, a democratic state with better "environmental conciousness"?

There is such thing as a "system", as much as it sounds cliche. Yes, we all have personal responsibility, but where is the framework for supporting that? When I go to a resturant and they give me plastic utensils or put my food in a plastic bag, is this my fault? Sure, I could not go there, but this describes most cheaper places. You can say, "eat at home", but really, is that gonna happen for everyone? If I use the streets of my city (on my bike), am I supporting the destruction of the environment? I didn't decide that they would put all the streams and rivers here in Honolulu into concrete channels and the Ala Wai canal - that was done long ago. I didn't rip up the streetcar lines that used to serve this city.

Perhaps a better thing to say is that the environmental movement was a victim of humanity. Perhaps we are just a plauge species - there are too many of us, and it can't be fixed. For us to not be destructive is to fight our own nature, perhaps. Maybe that's cheap too, but it's closer than the truth than blaming "bobos".

Gosh, adam, I'm glad you got that off your chest. Calling a particular group to task and blaming the whole damn mess on them are very different things. BTW, I live on less than a median income and still try to set an example. I guess I'm just being smug...

"Perhaps those in power are better at controlling and discrediting protesters than they were in 1960?"

Of that I'm certain. The handlers read Chomsky's book, applied a bit more technology,, voila! Clusterf**k Nation. Greer's just pointing out that those who should've known better went ahead and drank the koolaid.

This ain't no hobby.

I'm with you Adam, and find Greer tiresome and postmodern.

Good writer though.

There was a study in Sweden a couple of years ago which showed that, on average, the environmentally conscious middle class person had a far worse impact on the environment than the working class person who didn't give a squat about it.

Does that mean the middle class in Sweden doesn't work? That would be upper class right?

Yes, probably something like that. My use of terms were probably not the best as sociology goes; I wish I could find that study again to give it a more accurate picture than the one tumbled around in my memory.

Note added - I didn't get to the Intertubes yesterday so I missed this closely related gem:
And in related news, Florida has banned mountaintop removal for coal:

[Vermont] Gov. Peter Shumlin yesterday signed into law the nation’s first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique [etc. etc.]

I still think "Florida banning mountaintop removal" will remain the primary model for action for quite some time to come - just because this is so often about beating up on the subject du jour of envy and spite ("the 1%", "big oil", etc.), rather than about remote mountains the speaker needn't give a stuff about, or joules the speaker takes for granted. When the negative impacts of bans, regulations, etc. (there is never a free lunch in this regard; even when the benefits may exceed the costs, there are still costs) hit home, instead of only sticking it to somebody else, most folks will hastily flip to a different hymnbook page... or else, as in high councils of Europe, they will go on snobbishly mouthing the pious words but actually do something else entirely...

Wisconsin, a source of hydraulic fracturing sand, recently had a spill of sediment and water into the Saint Croix River, a National Scenic Riverway under the protection of the National Park Service. The cause: failure of a holding pond at a frac sand mining and washing operation.


Now if the good folks of VT wanted to prove just what good stewards of the land they are they would ban the sale of NG in their state that originated from frac'd wells in NY, PA, etc.

States don't have the power to block interstate commerce under the Constitution.

Who needs real world industrialism, which requires OIL?
We've got Facebook!!!

Looks like the Facebook IPO is falling a bit flat; jumped to ~42 and fell back to 38.??. Perhaps just a little slow out of the gate?


The powers that be attempted to reflate the tech bubble, but all they got was an Apple bubble and an overblown Facebook IPO.

Diminishing marginal returns, people.

Load up on gold and silver now, while they're low.

On Saturday morning, can we now say that Facebook did a Faceplant yesterday.

Forget Peak Oil, Time To Worry About Peak Oil Labor


It's probably going to get worse than this predicts, especially in North America, and it hits me close to home.

My brother-in-law, an engineer in his early sixties working for one of the largest oilfield service companies was admitted to hospital yesterday with heart trouble. He had quadruple bypass surgery last year. This latest problem does not look good.

He started working in the oil industry in Houston as soon as he graduated, mainly designing completion equipment. When the bottom fell out in the mid 80s he was laid off, and went to work for a much smaller company in South Texas. A couple of years later, he was laid off again when the company went out of business. After about six months without work he found a job in the Mid-West, working for a manufacturing company which had nothing to do oil. He stayed there, becoming quality control manager overseeing manufacturing in the U.S., Germany, U.K. and Mexico. About seven years ago the company owner (who had no succession plan) had a stroke. My brother-in-law decided the future did not look bright, and found another job, this time with a manufacturer (non-oilfield) in Houston. After about two years in Houston he was recruited by his present employer, and now is deployed as needed anywhere in the world: recent trips have been to Angola, Scotland and Nigeria.

But it looks as if his health could bring his career to an end, or at least stop him from traveling. Another step down in the number of experts available.

Delta Airlines is offering New York Rangers hockey fans a 20-mile flight from Queens to Newark, New Jersey to watch Saturday's playof game against the New Jersey Devils.



For anyone who supports mass transit, or believes we're going to think our way out of the Peak Oil phenomenon, I weep for you....

Please, one of you bicyclists living over there needs to call the paper and race the airplane. It's great airline publicity but who would subject themselves to 2 hours of removing shoes, TSA nudetube, negotiating the parking garages etc?


That's a lovely idea in theory, but good God, man, are you familiar with the region? If only there were some practical, safe way to bicycle across the Hudson River at a suitable spot.

Oh, wait a minute, this is the New York metro area, where they talk big about such things but many of the major bridges and all of the tunnels are closed to anything but motor vehicles. That's so even on the Verrazano where it's pure dog-in-the-manger - they've got a full lane they effectively don't use for cars due to some idiot "designing" the ramp with what proved to be too much curvature for New York's aggressive drivers, and tourists would probably go just for the view. You might be able to go by way of the George Washington Bridge and Fort Lee but that's rather the long way round. Or via the Staten Island Ferry and the Bayonne Bridge, if the Port Authority happened to feel like letting you cross the bridge that day (it "costs too much" to patrol the walkway routinely, you understand, although this is the very same agency that had billions to p*ss away to build the superfluous, surplus office space comprising the original World Trade Center.) But either way, circuitous routings to be halfway safe would push it beyond 40 miles, and I doubt even Lance Armstrong could do it in just 2 hours. Way too many lengthy waits at traffic lights, if nothing else.

Get a folding bicycle. Bike (or walk) to nearest subway station. Take to PATH station, or water taxi. Take NJ Transit as needed, bike last mile or so to entrance.


Standard frame bicycles are allowed on NJ Transit. http://www.njtransit.com/rg/rg_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=BikeProgramTo

NY Waterway has a $1 surcharge for standard frame bicycles.

Alan, it ain't 400 meters from Penn Station Newark to the Prudential Center.

My ignorance of local conditions :-)

If they live fairly close to a subway entrance in Queens, then no need for the folding bike.

I know a little about NYC, but across the Hudson Ocean, it is Terra Incognita.

Best Hopes for Good Public Transit !


Maybe this is a reason for a chat with the Gov. of NJ, then, since NYC has become a cyclist's mecca. The Hudson seems to be a line in the sand at this point, eh?

Even if the George Wash Bridge is a considerable dodge to the North for the suggested challenge, I rode over it out to the Palisades from Midtown, some 12 years ago, and before most of these ( http://www.nycbikemaps.com/ ) were even put in place, and had a great day at it. Zipping up through Manhattan to the GWB was unbelievably brisk, whether you're hopping through Central Park, Running the Avenues, or find the Perimeter Path..

As ever, you like to paint all these things with the dire pallette of Mephistopheles.. I have to wonder if you have some Swell, Gothic Organ Music to accompany these phantasies..

NJ Transit preps for customer onslaught as state hosts Devils playoff game, major music festivals

A confluence of three major spectator events in New Jersey is turning this weekend into a logistical nightmare for NJ Transit planners, who say it could be the busiest weekend in the history of the statewide transportation agency.

Between the Bamboozle music festival in Asbury Park and the Electric Daisy Carnival electronic dance fest at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, both being held today through Sunday, and the Devils-Rangers playoff game at the Prudential Center in Newark tomorrow afternoon, train seats on the ride home could be hard to come by.

"This is going to be a big weekend," NJ Transit spokesman John Durso Jr. said.


It is amazing how quickly weather can drive grain prices. It appeared that we might have been headed for a respite from high food prices but Mother Nature interfered again. My WAG is record high food prices again this summer despite the always optimistic USDA projecting record harvests at the end of the season. Thinking about a blog linked in the DB a couple of days ago, I do believe prices are a much better indicator of the fundamentals than global stock reports. USDA stock numbers can have huge random revisions and I cannot imagine other countries are more accurate.

EU Wheat Settles At 11-month High On Weather Woes

Frontier Agriculture said such a turnaround in wheat values, given the very negative sentiment just a week ago, reaffirms concerns that still underpin the cereal complex and highlights the requirement of all the major crop regions around the world to deliver in upcoming harvests.

While wheat and corn have jumped quite a bit recently, both are showing @15% price decline, YOY, wheat in blue:



Yes, prices had been in a very slow downturn since the beginning of last year. This current spike will cause an uptick in prices when this graph is updated but it has to be sustained for prices to reach new highs. With ethanol production still high, China importing corn like crazy, and livestock prices near record highs, I don't see why we can't take a run at a new record.

Just saw this tidbit.

COMMODITIES-Wheat, gold make stunning runs in nervous markets

For the week, wheat was up almost $1 a bushel, or 16
percent. Reuters data showed that was the biggest weekly gain
since 1996 for a front-month CBOT wheat contract on a spot
continuation basis.

The journal, Energy Economics, recently featured an article written by two economists who concluded: "Oil is a non-renewable natural resource par excellence, yet the results suggest that the Hotelling principle is not an important determinant for oil prices, yet the Hubbert curve and the theory surrounding the Hubbert curve is an important determinant of oil prices." This is a good sign, recognizing that "future analyses ... will make it necessary to combine economic principles with those of mining, engineering and thermodynamics." The article can be read at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140988311001010. Note, they cite Murphy and Hall on The Oil Drum (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6961).

In fact, as you'll see in the references, The Oil Drum is cited numerous times.

Craig Venter Wants to Solve the World’s Energy Crisis

Venter: ... We’re trying to coax our synthetic cells to do what’s happened to middle America, which is store far more fat than they actually were designed to do, so that we can harness it all as an energy source and use it to create gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel straight from carbon dioxide and sunlight. This would shift the carbon equation so we’re recycling CO2 instead of taking new carbon out of the ground and creating still more CO2. But it has to be done on a massive scale to have any real impact on the amount of CO2 we’re putting into the atmosphere, let alone recovering from the atmosphere.

Goetz: You’ve been working on synthetic life for 15 years or more. How long until we reach scale? There must be many experiments between here and there.

Venter: We’re looking at this as a 10-year problem, not a 10-month problem.

Goetz: Really? You think that we can get to industrial-scale energy production in just 10 years?

Venter: If we can’t get some key scientific breakthroughs within the next couple of years, it probably won’t happen in 10 years. So it’s something that’s really dependent on fundamental science.

"Cracking" photosynthesis is one of those few things I'm really excited about as science goes, given that it is both plausible and would open up so many possibilities. Aber, I think it is pretty clear that all this is on a pretty basic stadium, on that it is not something that should be counted upon, and indeed the timescale is in decades rather than years or months. Given that our problems are short-term (they should've been solved yesterday) it is sadly something we could perhaps hope for once the worst part (however long that may be) is over.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)FY 2013 Authorizes War Against Iran

This week, Congress is considering two pieces of legislation relating to Iran. The first undermines a diplomatic solution with Iran and lowers the bar for war. The second authorizes a war of choice against Iran and begins military preparations for it.

H.Res.568: Eliminating the Most Viable Alternative to War

The Former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that this resolution "reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war."

H.R. 4310: Authorizing War Against Iran and Preparing the Military for it

While H. Res. 568 undermines our diplomatic efforts and lowers the bar for war, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 begins military preparations for war. Section 1221 makes military action against Iran a U.S. policy. Section 1222 directs our armed forces to prepare for war.

... Pursuing these non-diplomatic options, contrary to popular myth, does not help negotiations.

A plain reading of these provisions in H.R. 4310 taken together with H.R. 568 makes it clear: Congress is setting the stage for war with Iran.

I thought the U.S. military had already moved equipment and personnel into position for an attack on Iran. Congress is preparing to put their stamp of approval on it prior to the next negotiation.

Doomsday 'preppers' stockpile food, arms, tools to ensure survivability

... Costco has issued its mainstream seal of approval to prepping. Featured in an e-mail to customers last week was a "disaster preparedness" package that includes a nine-month supply of food for four people and a portable power supply for $3,199.

... When Lundin began preaching the value of self-reliance almost 30 years ago -- whether surviving for weeks in the woods or living off the grid -- he was a voice in the wilderness. He turned his beliefs into a business in 1991 as the Aboriginal Living Skills School. Since then, he's taught thousands of people how to endure the roughest conditions.

But Lundin is having a difficult time bearing all the doomsday-prepper chatter. He shakes his head at the extremism espoused by those who want to store mountains of food and an arsenal of guns in a remote bunker.

"If your survival intentions are spurred by a knee-jerk reaction to fear, you're screwed," Lundin said. "Your lifestyle will be s--- unless you learn to live in harmony with others."

The Inequality Speech That TED Won't Show You

The idea--that the rich should pay more taxes to close the income inequality gap-- that TED organizers recently decided was too controversial to spread is being shared anyway.

Prepare to meet Nick Hanauer. He's a venture capitalist from Seattle who was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com. Today he's a very rich man. And, somewhat jarringly, he's screaming to anyone who will listen that he, and other wealthy innovators like him, doesn't create jobs. The middle class does - and its decline threatens everyone in America, from the innovators on down.

Here's a look at venture capitalist Nick Hanauer's slides from the TED talk that was deemed to controversial to share: ...

I'm a little surprised no one has put it together like this before. Highly plausible (but not automatic) that there is correlation and causality there....

From a physical standpoint I have always thought it made a certain amount of sense. If you think of the economy as money moving from station to station in one direction and goods/services moving in the opposite direction, then the problem with concentrated wealth becomes apparent. It is not the rich people are evil/greedy, their main limitation is they are inefficient movers of money. Buffet has made the same essential point (and so have some economists). A thousand people will spend a thousand dollars much more quickly than will one person spending a million. Even if that person is very good at investing (like Warren Buffet) it is still hard for a small group of individuals to invest capital efficiently, from the standpoint of the entire economy.

That's the justification for higher tax rates on the wealthy, in a nutshell.

I doubt he is the first to put something like this together. As you can see the powers that be are doing their best to bury it. Same thing has happened with "Its Worse than you think", which states that the problem with US politics is republicans obstruct -because it doesn't do the mandatory false equivalence (both sides equally guilty), its getting no airtime... It just goes to show that figuring something out isn't the key bottleneck. Its getting TPTB to allow it to be widely publicized.

I'm no economist but it seems logical that there there is some causation here. I don't think that it was random coincidence that the greatest levels of inequality were right before the great depression and the recent financial meltdown.

If so much money get concentrated at the top then the bottom lacks the money to buy things. There is an lack of demand in the economy not a lack of supply.

I think there needs to a good balance. The Greeks obviously went way too far with early retirement and too much deficit spending. But when we have people making $20Million+ who only pay a 13.9% tax rate, something seems a bit off in other other direction here.

Isn't it obvious?

TED is just another shiny but hollow show for American "optimists" who believe we're all going to become millionaires and live forever, through innovation and technology.

Have any of these people cleaned a toilet or picked up a shovel before?

I kinda like this TED presenter, as he focuses on DIY machinery to help people. Things like DIY tractors for farming, for example.


TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines that can be built cheaply from scratch.

But, in general I think your observation is correct. Seems that TED-ers are mostly technocopians.

then I guess you should also love Chinese goverment. From 1960s and on, they published a set of books like "How to design, install and maintain small hydro plant in rural areas using minimal tools" "How to build and service a small fertilizer factory for your county" and they made pre made toolkits, tutorial with those books.

I can eat ramen with chopsticks, or a hotdog with my hands: so I am fine with both.

Q&A: Could Greece experience a bank run?

Sam Bollier: Do you think a full-fledged bank run in Greece is likely within the next few weeks?

Allister Heath: It could well happen. What's been happening is you had two years of small-scale, gradual bank runs which have substantially reduced the amount of money in Greek bank accounts. The [country's] average net withdrawals totalled about 2-3bn euros a month. People were pulling this money out, holding it in cash, buying property and mainly taking it outside of Greece. …

That has now accelerated probably to three to four times that rate, or so it seems. We don't have the latest data, but it does seem that the rate at which the run is taking place is getting close to out of control. We're not out of control yet. There's not yet queues in front of banks, as far as anyone can tell. But I'm very concerned that there may well be a full-scale run on Greek banks during the next month.

SB: You've written that you're surprised by the amount of deposits remaining in Greek bank accounts, given the fact that, if Greece leaves the euro, people's deposits will probably become worth substantially less. Why do you think that is?

AH: I don't fully know the answer to that question. I suspect [Greeks] are being told by politicians that they can have their cake and eat it, and they believe that. ...

SB: In the event of a serious bank run, is it likely that the European Central Bank (ECB) would step in to provide liquidity to troubled banks?

AH: The problem is they would effectively be providing liquidity against no collateral, because the banks would just be emptied out. … They'd be providing liquidity knowing full well that the chances of them getting any money back were constantly falling. ...

And the Euro summit at Camp David today is not expected to do much.

In other news,


'Bout this time 32 yrs ago, it was awe, giddiness, and then fear as I drove around watching night fall in the early afternoon. By 4 pm we were wondering if we'd see the sun rise next day. All that ash may have been a fertility boost, but was death on engines and chainsaw chains.

New report from GAO ...

Air Emissions and Electricity Generation at U.S. Power Plants

This report responds in part to a Congressional request for information on electricity generation and emissions at U.S. electricity generating units and the implementation of NSR. Our objective is to provide information on how older fossil fuel electricity generating units compare with newer units in terms of their air emissions and electricity generation.

The difference in emissions between older and newer units is likely due, in part, to significant changes in the fuels used to generate electricity—in particular, a shift from coal to natural gas. Compared with coal, natural gas produces substantially lower emissions per unit of electricity generated, largely because natural gas contains less sulfur and carbon.

On average, coal-fired units—both older and newer—produced over 90 times as much sulfur dioxide emissions per unit of electricity as natural gas-fired units in 2010. Compared to natural gas-fired units, coal-fired units also produced over twice as much carbon dioxide and over five times as much nitrogen oxides per unit of electricity in 2010.

Jim Hansen highlighted this in his weekly report:

Enbridge pledges $3.2bn in pipeline expansions

Enbridge kicked off one of the most sweeping expansions in its history on Wednesday, a C$3.2 billion ($3.2 billion) series of projects across its pipeline system aimed at moving western Canadian crude to Eastern refineries and preventing bottlenecks in the US Midwest.

Enbridge, already the largest transporter of Canadian oil exports, said C$2.6 billion worth of the plan would support the reversal in flow direction of a pipeline between Sarnia, Ontario, and Montreal to move crude from the Alberta oil sands and North Dakota's Bakken Region beyond southern Ontario.

The massive initiative would include additions of capacity to the company's mainline in Canada and the US Midwest with an in-service target of 2014.

Maybe they'll reverse one of the Portland, ME to Montreal pipelines in order to get Alberta oil to the East Coast.

Merrill – I don’t care how they do it as long as they ship it to anywhere but the US. I’ve gotten use to selling my Texas crude for $100+/bbl. And besides Americans appear to have accepted higher fuel costs so it would be a shame to have them slip backwards. The same amount of Canadian oil will be burned whether it goes to their east coast or China instead of the US. So any effort by the feds to prevent that oil from getting to Gulf Coast refineries is effectively a big subsidy for producers down here. Thank you very much.

Forecasting oil production and pricing is very, very hard.

"Bloomberg’s survey of oil analysts and traders, conducted each Thursday, asks for an assessment of whether crude oil futures are likely to rise, fall or remain neutral in the coming week.

...The oil survey has correctly predicted the direction of futures 49 percent of the time since its start in April 2004. "

That means that we could achieve better accuracy by flipping a coin!


rise, fall or remain neutral

There are three options here so the 'monkey score' would be 33%, not 50%.


True, there are three choices.

But, there are 34 analysts & traders, so they wouldn't have an even split (or all choose neutral) very often - that might happen, say, 4% of the time.

So, maybe they do as well as a coin toss after all...

Incremental crude oil production update Jan 2012

Wonder if they should knock off 600,000 bpd of Texas crude from those graphs.

Elizabeth Warren Expresses No Confidence in Current Bank Accountability Measures

FDL News: You have made another point throughout this past week, one that’s a little under the radar, one about Jamie Dimon serving on the Board of the New York Federal Reserve. This gets back to the importance of the regulators, especially if they’re being advised by the people that they end up having to regulate. Is that the kind of coziness you need to eliminate to get effective oversight of Wall Street?

Warren: I think that many people just weren’t aware that Jamie Dimon was advising the New York Federal Reserve. So part of this conversation is just having a lot of people say, “What?” More broadly, Jamie Dimon should resign, but it’s also time to look at the structure of the New York Fed.

FDL News: Of all the regional Fed banks, no?

Warren: All of them, certainly, but let’s remember. The New York Fed decided to bail out AIG, and they set the terms for that bailout. When I was at the COP, we did a massive investigation to understand the process that the New York Fed went through. How they decided not just to bail out AIG, but to pay the counter-parties 100%. I’m sure you remember my questioning of a certain Secretary of the Treasury on that matter. The point is remembering the origin of that as coming from the New York Fed. The basic decisions and execution were shaped by NYFed. So Jamie Dimon should not sit in a position of responsibility, advising that bank, when there’s so much at stake.

h/t Eschatonblog

Redford fumbles the oil sands file G&M

Initially, it looked like the report by Jacobs Consulting backed up that claim. It appeared to show that oil sands crude has an emissions rating not much greater than many common crudes consumed in Europe, a far cry from the 23-per-cent higher value that the EU has been suggesting is the case.

All that was fine until some bright minds at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute carried out a more in-depth examination of the Jacobs tract. What they found was a study that focuses on oil sands projects using extraction methods that emit fewer greenhouse gases but are not representative of the technologies most widely used in the province.

To put it another way, Pembina contends the report cherry-picked the best examples of oil sands emissions and compared them to the worst GHG rates in Europe. It’s significant to note that even the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers acknowledges that Jacobs zeroed in on future technologies that currently are not widely in use in Alberta.

Now, if Pembina was able to see through the apparent limitations of the Jacobs report, the EU will too. And so there seems little chance the report will do anything to move Europe off its present position as it pertains to its proposed fuel-source initiative.

Alberta government misinterprets findings of Jacobs report on oilsands emissions Pembina Institute

Initial media coverage presented the report as a new tool for those fighting criticism that oilsands fuel has a greater climate impact than conventional oil (because of the higher per-barrel emissions associated with producing and refining oilsands crude).

But we took a close read of the report, prepared for the Government of Alberta by Jacobs Consultancy, and there seems to be a problem: the report’s findings about how oilsands compare to conventional oil do not tell the full story, and government documents appear to misinterpret the implications of those findings.

Rather, the Jacobs report shows that the very best (i.e. least emissions-intensive) examples of Alberta’s oilsands production are still almost entirely more emissions-intensive than other conventional oil production methods around the world.

In other words, the Jacobs study clearly reinforces the conclusion that the oilsands are a significantly more polluting feedstock than conventional crudes used in the EU, and should be treated as such.

Dr. Yurganov has uploaded the 400 mb (~7,200 m altitude) atmospheric Arctic methane map for April 2012. There is less methane than last month, but there are still some spots where the concentration exceeds the scale which is unusual for April judging from the maps for prior Aprils.

AIRS CH4 Atmospheric Concentration at 400 mb

Two More Ethical Challenges to Canada's Oil Sands Nikiforuk

Several industry experts say that oil sand mines have an average EROI of 5:1 or much better returns than Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) plants. In fact, a detailed energy balance analysis sponsored by the Alberta Government for SAGD suggests that its EROI is close to 1:1. That makes bitumen a source of energy as pathetic and tragic as corn ethanol.

A few SAGD projects have even recorded EROI in negative numbers. When a nation gets less energy out of system than it puts into it, "the process is ultimately unsustainable," explains Tertzakian in The End of Energy Obesity. Given that natural gas has an EROI almost as high as conventional oil, many energy experts regard the use of natural gas for bitumen production as folly.

None of these deposits are homogeneous and controlling steam in deep formations has become as problematic as hydraulic fracturing. In one celebrated case, Total injected steam into bitumen formation at too high a pressure. The steam then blew out a 300-metre hole in the forest in what regulators called "a catastrophic explosion."

If the technology worked really well, it would use less energy and steam over time to produce more bitumen. But exactly the opposite has happened. In the late 1980s, 2.38 barrels of steam was consumed to produce a barrel of SAGD bitumen. In 2010, the steam industry average increased to 3.3 barrels. That's a 50 per cent decline in efficiency over a 20 year period. For some companies, such as Opti-Nexen, the steam to oil ratio is now a dismal six barrels. More steam just means more energy and more emissions and less production.

Nikiforuk's article was part of his series last Fall pointing out the absurdity of the Industry funded "Ethical Oil" spin. Worth reminding people given the Pembina Institute post mentioned above.

Dang those unethical Canadians. Why can’t they be like their cousins in the EU? Those folks ethically import about half the 400 million bbls of oil produced annually from Equatorial Guinea, a lovely country on the west coast of Africa. And I’m not sure of the volume but all of the EG LNG goes to the EU also. This allows the citizens of EG to have one of the highest incomes per capita not just in Africa but the entire planet: lots of oil income and a small population. Which makes it difficult for folks to understand why the vast majority of the public lives in extreme poverty. Perhaps it has something to do with being ruled by a homicidal maniac. Life was a bit better for those folks before the current El Presidente had the previous president for life killed. He had eradicated malaria on this island nation. Unfortunately after he had his uncle killed the current resident for life stopped the program…much easier to control the populace when they are infected.

Folks in EG can’t really complain: El Presidente can have them executed any time he chooses. And the process is very ethical by EU standards since he had the constitution amended to grant him this authority. And that is ethical to him and apparently to the EU: since he says God speaks directly to him and since God has no problem with it then the ethical EU folks get a pass for financing his regime. Apparently neither God nor the EU has a problem with EG flaring over 10 billion cu fit per year of NG from their offshore oil fields. I am very thankful to know on days when the smoke from the flares extended from horizon to horizon that it was, in fact, ethical pollution. Thank you for that my EU cousins but I wish I had known I was participating in such an ethical enterprise before I gave up my contract and refused to go back after my last hitch. The job was easy, the money was great and I only worked 6 months a year. But I suppose I still might have unfairly questioned the ethics of the situation seeing the walking skeletons I bused from the base camp to the chopper base.

So bottom line when it comes to pollution caused by oil extraction one could describe Canada as being pregnant and the EU isn’t quite as pregnant. But it does make me wonder if the EU lost all that African oil if they would import Canadian tar sand oil? Naaa…that wouldn’t be ethical.

Oil has an ugly way of corrupting every country it touches.

Shell pays out $15.5m over Saro-Wiwa killing

The Ethical Oil spin is remarkable bull.

As you point out we have a dependency on oil, that don't make it ethical though.

aws - Every hydrocarbon burner contributes to the problem. Some situations are unavoidable: we have to burn some fossil fuels. One can easily argue against the more wasteful processes but we can't get rid of all of it. So it comes down to judging but typically judging others and not themselves. And that's where such criticisms have a blow back effect. If you were to ask the folks in the EU if they would be willing to pay more for their enegy if Canada agreed to stop producing the oil snads many would probably say yes but not really mean it. Remove tar sand, EG and every other "unethical" source and what would happen to prices? The environment would benefit but what of the many tens of $millions who would suffer? And most of those folks would be at the poorer end of the scale. Now if all us energy hogs cut our consumption proportional to the loss of "unethical oil" then it might come close to a win-win. So why do't we hold our collective breaths and wait for that to happen. OK...deep breath now. LOL.

I’ve been driving an EV for about 2 ½ years now. The specification for the batteries in it is 3000 cycles, not 1000. It and our house receive their electric from solar panels on the roof of the house. The system is 5.6kW, and has averaged 26kWh per day over the last 3 ½ years. It cost $20k installed. In winter I heat the batteries while the car is in the garage. Total heater power is 350 Watt, on only part of the time. The battery boxes are insulated. I find the batteries remain above 50 F when parked outside without heating for 5 or 6 hours with temps in the mid-20’s or above, which doesn't affect my range significantly. I mostly use an electric seat in winter, 35 Watt. If I use the 3kW electric heater it cuts my range by about 15%, from about 75 - 80 miles to about 65 miles. I don’t leave it on constantly as I get too hot. Presently I use a 4kW 220V charger and it takes about 4 hours to fully charge my batteries if discharged 80%. I plan to upgrade to a 10kW charger this summer to cut the time to less than 2 hours, but I don’t use that capability often. I usually charge overnight at low charge current. I don’t pay any attention to gas prices, and laugh at people who say they have to have a car that has at least 300 mile range. I converted the car to electric myself. I got tired of waiting for the car companies to do anything. I also installed the solar panels. I think Jevon’s paradox is not a given. I certainly don’t behave that way. I usually only have one light on at a time even though we produce more electric than we use and are not paid for it. That’s no reason to waste it. The fuel for my electric car is free, but I ride my bicycle a lot in summer rather than drive to save energy. I think what we have a real shortage of is discipline and integrity.

Thanks for sharing that, Tom.

Mind telling us what part of the world you're in, and if you've done a website showing your work? I'd love to know about your Conversion. (Sorry If I've asked or you've shared this before..)


Hi Bob,
I'm in northern NV. Some details on the car are at http://www.evalbum.com/3060