Drumbeat: May 19, 2012

The age of extreme oil: ‘This used to be a forest?'

Over the course of three days spent visiting reserves, band offices and the vast sand dunes left behind by the bitumen-scrubbers surrounding Fort McMurray, the Achuar confronted a reality that may one day be their own. And they didn't much like what they saw.

This encounter was born of a new dynamic: the age of extreme oil. Gone are the days of sweet Texas crude and boundless Arabian oil fields, when petroleum lay so near the surface that all a company had to do was prick the Earth's crust and let the black gold gush. To the environmentalists who worry about reaching “peak oil” (and a subsequent decline in fossil fuels), critics can point out accurately enough that the world is flush with new hydrocarbon reserves. They are less quick to acknowledge the epic complexity and risks of most of these new finds.

Alberta's oil sands are the obvious example: Here, on average, two tonnes of earth must be strip-mined and seven barrels of water heated to steam in order to produce a barrel of oil. It takes a barrel's worth of energy to produce just three barrels of oil; 30 years ago it would have been 100.

Oil Falls to Six-Month Low on Europe

Oil dropped to a six-month low in New York on concern that Greece will have to exit the euro system, compounding Europe’s debt troubles and curbing fuel demand.

Futures declined 1.2 percent after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that market turmoil caused by the euro- zone crisis may last two more years. Crude capped its third weekly decline as U.S. consumer confidence fell and oil supplies rose to a 22-year high. Prices are down 11 percent this quarter after climbing 4.2 percent during the previous three months.

Expect lower gas prices heading into Memorial Day

If you’re lucky enough to live in some parts of the United States, you may see gas pump prices fall to around $3.25 a gallon or less in the next week or two. Even West Coast drivers should get some relief from prices that are still above $4 a gallon.

Total: Fallout Of Arab Spring Will Sustain High Prices

LONDON (Dow Jones)--High oil prices will be sustained in part through increased social spending by Middle Eastern governments in the wake of the Arab spring, Total SA Chief Economist Pierre Sigonney said Friday.

A wave of uprisings against long-entrenched rulers in North Africa and the Middle East last spring, which led to the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, means that the region's leaders will have to spend more of their oil revenues on social programs in an attempt to keep a lid on popular discontent.

$85 the make or break price for the oil patch

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has rolled out two key numbers: 85 and 75.

Réal Cusson, the company’s senior vice president of marketing, on Wednesday told investors where the price of oil must trade in order for energy companies to make a go of it in the oil sands and shale gas formations.

Qatar Producing Crude Oil At Full Capacity -Energy Minister

SEOUL (Dow Jones)--Qatar is currently producing crude oil at full capacity and is sticking with its OPEC quota, Minister of Energy and Industry Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada said Friday.

Colombia says will increase natgas flow to Venezuela

(Reuters) - Colombia said on Friday it would send 50 percent more natural gas this year to neighboring Venezuela, which has yet to start producing the fuel commercially despite huge reserves.

Colombia currently exports about 200 million cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas per day to OPEC-member Venezuela, but Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas said that would rise to 300 mcf in September.

Gasoline Cargoes to Brazil May Rise on Ethanol Drop in JBC View

Gasoline shipments to Brazil from the U.S. and Europe may rise as slumping ethanol production encourages consumption of the auto fuel, JBC Energy GmbH said.

Brazilian ethanol production fell more than 40 percent from a year earlier in April, the Vienna-based consultant said in a report today, citing data from the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, or Unica. Output of hydrous ethanol, sold at pumps in Brazilian filling stations, slid 18 percent, JBC said.

Japan extends steep Iran crude oil cut to May

TOKYO (RTRS): Japan’s crude imports from Iran in May will be little changed from April, extending a sharp cut in purchases that began after the United States and Europe said they would impose sanctions against Tehran, traders said on Friday.

G-8 Leaders to Discuss Oil Market as Iran Embargo Nears

The impact on oil prices from sanctions on Iran will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama meets with other leaders of the Group of Eight nations, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said.

Iran plans to expand oil exploration

PanARMENIAN.Net - Iranian officials announced that the country plans to expand oil exploration throughout the country, especially in Northeastern provinces, Fars News Agency reports.

Wheat exports to Iran near certain; to help settle fuel import bill

NEW DELHI: The government is working out the details of wheat exports to Iran, a move that can help India settle part of its fuel import bill with the oil-rich nation and also reduce its grains stockpile at warehouses.

Venezuela says third diesel shipment sent to Syria

(Reuters) - Venezuela has sent a third shipment of diesel to Syria, the energy minister said on Friday, underscoring President Hugo Chavez's support of the Middle East country despite its intensified crackdown on protesters.

Earlier this year, Venezuela's government said it had sent at least two shipments of fuel to Syria, potentially undermining Western sanctions as a rare supplier to the increasingly isolated regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey warns gas speculators to stay away from Cyprus waters

ANKARA // Turkey on Friday called on major international oil and gas companies seeking licenses to search for gas deposits off Cyprus to withdraw their bids, saying it will not allow exploration to go ahead and threatening to ban them from Turkish energy projects.

FG loses $7billion to crude oil theft

The Federal Government said it is losing about $7billion annually to crude oil theft in Nigeria, at the rate of 180,000 barrels per day.

To stem the trend, which government claimed rose rapidly in the last 12 months because of the collusion of some foreign nationals , a new industry joint task force, JTF, has been set up to tackle the menace.

Proposal to turn Kuwait into world’s oil capital – State’s energy consumption up 66%: Study

KUWAIT: The concept of ‘Kuwait as the world’s oil capital’ will see the light after being studied comprehensively, said, Fadhel Safar Minister of Public Works and Planning and Development revealed on Thursday. On the sidelines of a preparatory meeting for the country’s second mid-term development plan, Safar told KUNA that the idea of turning Kuwait into a world oil capital goes falls in line with the vision of turning it also into a financial and commercial hub. This can be accomplished by offering a complete set of Kuwaiti oil and manufacturing industries by providing job opportunities for 21,000 potential employees, the minister said during last night’s meeting that included the presence of representatives for the Kuwaiti oil and industrial sectors.

Consultant: nimble footwork on gas exports, energy rethink needed

However, the high oil prices have brought to light the weakness of a theory that the world is about to pass an unsustainable peak in oil supplies. New oil and gas resources have magically appeared in improbable locations such as Uganda, offshore Mozambique and the eastern Mediterranean, Chow said.

“The other thing that we’ve learned in the last few years … is the peak oil theory is bunk,” he said.

It turns out that the availability of oil and gas supplies is determined by people’s imagination, their ability to harness innovative technology and by the amount of investment that people are willing to risk, and not so much by geology, he said.

Peak oil debate is over, and U.S. energy independence will be obtained by 2020

Amazingly, a growing chorus of analysts are arguing that the peak oil debate is over and the U.S. will soon achieve energy independence. I agree. It is over, and the U.S. will soon achieve energy independence. However, the implications of this are negative for the economy and jobs, and prove that analysts like Matt Simmons and Richard Heinberg were right in their dire peak oil predictions, as a careful analysis clearly shows.

First India Shale Gas Seen in 4 Years, China Output Nears

Oil & Natural Gas Corp. of India and competitors may drill for at least four years before producing the first commercial shale gas in the nation as China expects to commence output next month and Australia boosts reserves.

Chesapeake Cash Crunch May Shrink as Gas Prices Rise 42%

Rising natural-gas prices have provided some relief to Chesapeake Energy Corp., which has seen its shares plummet this year on management controversy and a looming cash-flow shortfall.

Chesapeake Turns to Jefferies’ Eads in $28 Billion Deals

Fitch Ratings estimates the company’s cash-flow shortfall may reach $10 billion this year. The stock has dropped 36 percent this year and McClendon said this week that Carl Icahn, the activist investor, may be buying shares. Chesapeake rose 6 percent to $14.36 at the close in New York.

Sudan set to devalue pound amid oil crunch

(Reuters) - Sudan will allow foreign exchange bureaux and banks to trade dollars at a level close to the black market rate, effectively devaluing the pound, a senior banking official said on Friday.

Sudan's economy has been battered since the country lost three-quarters of its oil production to South Sudan when the latter became independent in July. Even though the pipelines are in Sudan, the two have been unable to agree on how much the South should pay to transport its oil.

Ghana Loses GH¢583 million Oil Revenue

Ghana has failed to achieve the targeted oil revenue of GH¢1.250 billion for 2011 as the nation has only raked in GH¢666 million from the commodity.

This represents a shortfall of GH¢583 million, which the Jubilee partners have attributed to the inability of the Jubilee field to produce the estimated 120 barrels of oil daily.

Ethical Oil challenges Harper, Mulcair to back reversal of Ontario pipeline

A pro-oil-sands lobby group is calling on politicians to support a proposal that would see an existing Southwestern Ontario pipeline reversed to send oil from west to east.

“This decision should be a no-brainer,” said Jamie Ellerton, executive director of Ethical Oil. “But it will still be opposed – it will face opposition from radical environmental groups.”

Reviving Arctic oil rush, Ottawa to auction rights in massive area

Ottawa has placed 905,000 hectares of the northern offshore up for bids, clearing the way for energy companies to snap up exploration rights for an area half the size of Lake Ontario. The scale of the offer indicates eagerness in the oil patch to drill for new finds in Canada’s northern waters less than two years after such plans were put on hold following the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a major Arctic drilling safety review.

Exxon Valdez-like oil disaster in Arctic feared

One of Canada's top experts on Arc-tic issues is warning of the "near-inevitability" of an Exxon Valdez-scale oil spill at a fragile choke point in Alaskan waters if Canada ends up shipping oil-sands fuel to China via pipeline terminals on the British Columbia coast.

Two women charged over WA gas hub protest

Two women have been charged over their protest against the $30 billion gas hub planned by Woodside Petroleum at James Price Point in Western Australia.

Green Peak Oil Stock Expanding in North America

In our new peak oil world of $4 gas and, more and more people are opting for bus travel. The young like it: My girlfriend’s daughter travels by bus almost exclusively, even though she owns a car. None of the problems above are likely to get any better. Airline and gas prices will go up with oil prices. TSA procedures are ever more invasive. Amtrak needs fundamental reform and rail lines that are separate from freight to deliver better service.

Hence the Bus.

Many benefits of wind power make tax credit a smart idea

Entrenched special interests and their friends in Congress are blocking an extension of the production tax credit that has helped drive much of my industry's growth and helps level the playing field for wind energy. (Oil, coal and other fossil fuels are all highly subsidized and have been for most of the last century.) If the tax credit is not extended soon, 37,000 U.S. wind-industry workers could lose their jobs, according to Navigant Consulting. Not a week goes by now when I do not hear of layoffs due to tax-credit uncertainty. Ohio will be especially hard hit without a production tax credit, as orders for wind turbine components dry up completely.

Break Up Big Wind’s Subsidies

Not that long ago, we noted that the wind power industry has not fulfilled the lofty expectations it generated or met the claims of its more zealous advocates. Expectations and government subsidies are the only sure things that wind farms are creating.

Wind power 100 times cleaner than coal, Colorado NREL researchers say

A kilowatt-hour of of electrcity generated by wind power emits less than one percent of the greenhouse gases as a kilowatt made by burning coal, according to a new National Renewable Energy Laboratory study.

Swapping Out Charcoal With Ethanol

Africa used to boast nearly three million square miles of forest, only about one-third of which remain today. The principal culprit is charcoal production for cookstove fuel, which emits soot that leads to endemic health problems.

Last Ones Left in a Toxic Kansas Town

At the entrance to Treece, something strange happens: Mountains appear on the horizon. Except they’re not really mountains. They’re mounds of toxic stone. Gray, treeless monuments to the town’s more profitable past.

Obama unveils US food security plan for Africa

US President Barack Obama has announced a $3bn (£1.9bn) plan to boost food security and farm productivity in Africa, US officials say.

They say the initiative is aimed at alleviating shortages as world food supplies are being stretched by rising demand in Asia's emerging markets.

Worse than Keystone

Environmentalists are focused oil and gas, but a bigger carbon disaster may be brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

With Natural Gas Plentiful and Cheap, Carbon Capture Projects Stumble

WASHINGTON — A federal proposal to ban the construction of coal-fired power plants that release all of their carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would seem to smooth the way for carbon capture, a budding technology that traps the greenhouse gas for storage or other uses.

But even as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to open hearings on the proposed rule, unveiled in March, industry experts say the persistently low price of natural gas is threatening the viability of the nation’s carbon capture projects.

Harm (and all),

On the previous DB you spoke of the current generation of 'not your grandmother'' trikes, referencing brands including Cattrike, Greenspeed, ICE, and TerraTrike?

Does anyone have any further information...reviews, tips,...on brands (customer support, quality of construction, durability, handling, etc)?

My primary intended use would be commuting ~ 12 miles each way to/from work...trips to the grocery would be a secondary use.


I ride a Catrike 700 (recreationally - I'm retired so I don't commute to work). My reason for selecting the 700 was its speed, which translates to ease of pedaling, its low center of gravity which contributes to stability and the aluminum frame which makes for easier lifting when necessary. The skinny tires reduce weight and rolling resistance but need an asphalt or concrete surface. If any part of your commute is off road the Catrike Expedition (fatter tires) would be more appropriate than the 700.

It handles great and at 3500 miles so far I am quite satisfied.

lowtech architect,

thank you for your review.




I noticed that the TerraTrikes were //much// less expensive than the Catrikes or ICE or Greenspeed brands.

I take it that this represents 'you get what you pay for'? As in, the TerraTrikes have inferior durability, and/or they are heavier, and/or they doesn't handle as well?


Hello, Hesisenberg,

Although you can direct order a trike from just about any manufacturer in the world, I'd strongly recommend, before plunking down up to $2-3,000 (US) on a new recumbent, that you find a local retail shop and take a few for a test spin. Recumbent trikes are just not as standardized as regular bikes, and there are tons of different designs and options out there, so you really need to ride a few to find one that suits you.

That said I have a personal preference for tadpoles from HP Velotechnik and Catrike, which are generally better than average in terms of riding comfort and stow-ability. However, as I said, it's largely a matter of personal preference and what you want (speed vs. comfort?), and Greenspeed, ICE, etc. all make quality bikes too. To learn more, get advice and narrow down your list, here are some links:


If you live in the Bay Area, I can point you to some shops. If not, I'd just Google "recumbent trikes" and your city/state and go from there.


Thanks...I realized that it would be foolish to plunk down that kind of coin w/o test-riding a selection of different brands.

Thank you very much for your recommendations and the links.


These guys are in Asheville and have pedal/electric models.

Here's a dealer in Alfred Station NY, who carries many different types of recumbents, both trikes and two-wheelers...


In my experience, a recumbent 'tadpole' trike or enclosed velomobile should be considered to be more of a very small automobile rather than a bicycle. Trikes are best suited to smooth roads or pathways. Curb hopping, lifting over obstacles or hauling up stairs is generally impractical. Securing a trike in a public place is very difficult. That being said, they are lots of fun to 'drive', and can carry lots of stuff on the back. Electric assist is a helpful option for many of us.

The guys at FFR use KMX trikes (http://www.kmxus.com/), a proprietary belt reduction drive designed by Matt Shumaker (http://www.recumbents.com/wisil/shumaker/default.htm), Astro Flight R/C motors, and an R/C ESC.

If you live in a hilly area it might be more advantageous to use a mid drive such as what this guy set up: http://www.endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=18606&sid=f0c3...

Going a bit further...with a 12 mile ride if you have the cashish you might want to consider a velomobile: http://www.bluevelo.com/

I agree with the guy below about skinny vs. fat tires...the fat tires also survive the road a lot better than skinny tires. I rode thousands of road miles on a mountain bike with semi-slicks without a whisper of trouble, bought a skinny tire bike - three flats in a few hundred miles and put that thing to pasture.

On a 12 mile ride - you WILL want e-power.

I just found this local ad on Craigslist 2004 Catrike Pocket recumbent trike - $950
Almost new trike, red in color, ridden less than 200 miles. Has been in indoor storage for several years.
The pictures look great, I might check it out.
Here's another one...
RARE Recumbent Trike TerraTrike Bicycle Cruiser cost almost 2000 new this one is perfect for 999.00

Now I'm excited!

I ran into Arne the guy who makes ecocycles last year and tried one out. The seat 'leans' in the corners making it a more stable design than it looks. Very fun, but I really don't know how it compares with the others mentioned.

A question for all those replying here. Where the blazes do you put the 30Kg of shopping?


For most of my shopping, I use my BOB trailer. For bigger stuff, I use my Bikes-at-Work trailer (I have the 5' model). I'm good up to 300 pounds. I park near the front of the store. I use a Rubbermaid bin for my groceries, and panniers as well. Easy in, easy out. No circling the parking lot looking for a space. People don't need to die in the Middle East just so I can get to the store.

People don't need to die in the Middle East just so I can get to the store.

But the stuff gets to the store on the back of oil and much of what is made in the store is on the backs of oil.

Kinds of like the downthread 'we won't need oil soon because we'll all be on electric cars' seems to forget the roads are made on the backs of oil doing the heavy lifting.

People don't need to die in the Middle East just so I can get to the store.

People don't die in the Mid-East because we buy oil . . . they get rich. In fact it is very much the opposite of dying, they have reproduced like rabbits. Look at the population grow in Saudi Arabia.

The scary part is going to be when they run low on oil like they are in Yemen. Then you have 10s of millions of people and desert. Not a good combo.

And then you add a fanatical fundamentalist form of Wahabbi Islam with a literally Medieval mindset, very low levels of literacy and women denied even basic civil rights. And then there are those nuclear weapons programs in Iran and Pakistan, and... who knows?

In just a few years, I will be able to say they have FIVE-FOLD their population during my life time. Oh my...

A minor sanity check on recommendations; skinny tires do NOT have lower rolling resistance than fat tires, assuming properly constructed (thin wall) fat tires (Schwalbe makes some). I have measured this myself; this is also reported at some of the tire manufacturers' sites (Continental and Schwalbe, I believe).

Why do bicycle racers use skinny tires? Mostly, because of wind resistance; the top front of the tire hits the wind at double your speed, and the power to overcome the wind drag rises with the cube of speed.

If you want maximum speed, ride a recumbent with an aerodynamic fairing. Why do bicycle racers NOT do this? Because the governing organizations for bicycle racers make silly rules that ban recumbent bicycles and explicitly aerodynamic enhancements.

Me, my choice is a cargo bike (Big Dummy) with 2.35" near-slick tires. It's plenty of fun.

When I bought a new tandem triple I didn't have access to a big enough motor vehicle to bring it home.
I love my Big Dummy (15s video)

I like the handling of a trike but I ride an HP Velotech Speed Machine for most commuting - mostly to get it through doors & lock to stores. I can't ride either of my recumbents in loose gravel or snow.


"If you want maximum speed, ride a recumbent with an aerodynamic fairing."

For flat land and straight downhills, this is true. Once any significant climb or tight turn is encountered, the traditional diamond frame bike is far superior.

"Why do bicycle racers NOT do this? Because the governing organizations for bicycle racers make silly rules that ban recumbent bicycles and explicitly aerodynamic enhancements."

A recumbent bike would offer an advantage only in a relatively small portion of bicycle races, and would be a massive disadvantage in almost all of the rest.

Check the history. In actual races, recumbents beat diamond frames handily. That's why they were banned.

And similarly, though I hear people say that recumbents are not good climbers, I have neither tested this myself, nor seen it tested in rigorous studies. There's loads of woo and hooey in the bike-racing culture, so it could be utterly false.

PS -- I don't think "tight turns" of the sort that would be harmed by a slightly longer wheelbase are an issue in any race. People race tandems. I ride a Big Dummy (14" longer wheelbase) in traffic and on MUPs (i.e., dodging joggers and baby strollers and dogs). The one and only time I ever heard of turning radius as an issue for a bicycle race was in an out-and-back time-trial on a 2-lane road, where a guy riding a track bike with wheel-toe-interference had to time his U-turn just so. But simply doing a U in 20+ feet of road? Totally not a problem, even on a tandem (I own a tandem).

My heart-felt thanks for all the folks contributing info on the recumbent bike trike question!

You are correct that there is a load of BS in bike culture. However, there are only certain types of races where recumbents would provide an advantage over a diamond frame, as I said. Those races are timed events, on the track or on relatively flat roads. These are the races for which recumbents have been banned. If you put a recumbent in a typical road race with big hills, with riders being equal, the recumbent would not be competitive, at all. If you put a recumbent in a flat road race, and the recumbent was indeed faster on the flats than the other racers, the other racers would just draft off the recumbent for the entire race then sprint past it at the end (you also can't sprint on a recumbent). So... no need to ban recumbents for road races.

I assure you that recumbents are terrible at climbing hills relative to traditional bikes, for a few reasons. One, the weight. (When the road turns upward, the primary consideration becomes power-to-weight instead of aerodynamics.) Two, the position doesn't allow for standing on the pedals.

Tight turns and general maneuverability are a problem for recumbents not due to wheelbase, but again because of the position of the rider. (On a traditional frame, turning radius can be as low as the wheelbase of the bike.) Any low speed maneuvering becomes very difficult on a recumbent. Someone else mentioned curb-hopping, which is pretty much impossible on a recumbent.

People thinking about buying an expensive recumbent or trike need to understand that there is a great deal that a traditional bike will do well that a recumbent or trike simply can't.

Yes, but. The original request was about commuting. For most people, that's on-road, very similar to the races from which recumbents are banned. Most of the other bikes I see on the road around here have skinny tires that (I know from unfortunate personal experience) would be well-bent by most off-road riding, as well as by some of our indigenous potholes. My commute has some curb hops (which require a little bit of special effort on a long wheelbase 65-lb cargo bike, but I do them), but if his commute does not, then it's not an issue.

I am not sure that "recumbents are bad at climbing" is not more BS. There is contrary advice for climbing (possibly more BS) of "stay in the saddle". A whole lot of the weight discussion in the bicycling world is through-and-through BS; I weigh 220lbs; adding 11 pounds to the bike weight is only a 5% reduction in climbing speed. A 600-second climb would instead take 630 seconds; I wait longer at some stop lights. (10 minutes = 1 mile at 6mph, or a 370-foot climb up a 7% grade -- 183 watts for my weight, more when you add the bicycle, but well within limits for a moderately fit human). This would matter a whole lot in a race, but hardly at all in a commute.

So please, if you have measurements or studies showing that your claims are true, please describe them, cite them, explain them. And it's important to consider the whole cost -- cleats and special pedals make you slightly faster, but then you have to take the time to change at one end or the other -- does the time gained beat the time spent changing shoes?

I have a neighbor who has his own homebuilt 'bent Tadpole, and his wife has a storebought one. He used to bike all over Boston with it, and now is in Portland.. He gave a talk to our local Alt.Vehicle workshop a few weeks back, and said that for longer rides, the great advantage of his Bent Tadpoles over Traditional bikes is that he as a Sixty-something can ride comfortably for MUCH longer stretches in a Seat rather than a saddle, and with his Head/Neck in a more natural position. (According to him)

Sorry.. no hard numbers.. but also no hard Seats!


RE: Peak oil debate is over, and U.S. energy independence will be obtained by 2020

The article title is a bit confusing. The author actually speaks of Peak Oil in detail and references TOD. He claims that US energy independence will happen, not because of a large increase in production to supply present levels of consumption, but that our demand will decline and our main use of oil, which is transport, will begin to be powered by electric vehicles. He thinks nukes will provide much of that electricity, concluding:

By the time these people figure out that the nuclear fission breeder reactor is the only thing that will work, as Hubbert predicted, probably by around 2030, we will be living radically different lives, and we will have become used to a shrinking population and shrinking economy.
By 2050, everything will run on electricity from nuclear power, but things will still be radically different. I am confident that nuclear just won’t be pursued for predatory growth the way fossil fuels were. People just don’t like nuclear. But, the laws of nature are non-negotiable.

E. Swanson

I think that we could swing using nuclear power to some extent if we all were rational adults and realized and implemented the non-negotiable concept that we have to pay, and pay dearly, to 'do it right'. For example, the need to properly address solve the issue fuel being kept in on-site pools is non-negotiable.

How about quintuple the average current electricity rates to pay for all that?

Of course, once folks swallow that, they should realize that higher rates, even short of 5x, would make solar and wind more attractive, as well as making paying for negawatts more attractive...and then there will be the simple concept of becoming energy-misers...using absolutely only the minimum lighting needed at any given time in any particular room in a house/building/office complex...learning to tolerate it being a couple of degrees cooler in the inter and warmer in the summer...

How about we aim to reduce per-capita electricity demand by 0ne-third, modulate immigration to achieve a zero population growth in the U.S. ASAP, and work real hard to pay the piper for up to 25% electricity generation from various solar (CSP, PV), 25% from wind, 25% from nuclear, and the balance from hyrdo, coal, biomass, NG...of course, this scheme would require non-trivial build-out of transmission lines, energy storage capability. etc.
Or, in lieu of a coordinated plan, we can keep stumbling into the future and trust that the 'free market' will sort it all out for us...

We should at least keep an eye on Japan and Germany and other countries which are attempting to manage their energy futures to glean dos and don't from them...

.I think that we could swing using nuclear power to some extent if we all were rational adults and realized and implemented the non-negotiable concept that we have to pay, and pay dearly, to 'do it right'. For example, the need to properly address solve the issue fuel being kept in on-site pools is non-negotiable.

How about quintuple the average current electricity rates to pay for all that?

I agree that nuclear *currently* is as expensive as you suggest, and I don't care to pay for more of it at that price. However, I don't see why nuclear *fundamentally* must be so expensive. Rather, what I see at the moment is unchanged 1950's submarine power technology that, when built today, is pushed towards reliability with endless regulation and backup upon backup system, all of which is, in the end, fragile. A too cosy nuclear industry and regulatory system likes to keep it that way (IMO), no changes, just keep the $1 million/day cash cows (1 GW reactor) running, thank you. It is as if the world was still flying 1950's jet liners (which crashed once a month or so), and had resolved that the fix was to stop innovating, stop building any new planes, add tons of regulation, and just keep the old ones flying by patching them up.

It does not have to be this way. It is *known* that nearly all the fuel can be burned up. It is *known* that there are alternatives to pressure water reactors and their 300 ATM steam systems, requiring extraordinarily expensive containment structures.

You make some thought-provoking points...but...how do we pay for the safe operation and decommissioning of the current 104?-strong PWR/BWR fleet in the U.S., and how do we more safely store the spent fuel assemblies until the day when we have built out the safer types of reactors you advocate (LTFR perhaps?)?

We have already soiled our cage and need to pay to clean up our mess...before we have an incident or two that even the most ardent nuclear supporter would run away from...that bill has to be paid somehow...charging electric customers seems a reasonable way to do that. Otherwise, use tax revenues, perhaps in concert with lower electric rate increases to pay for it. In the end, the people have to pay for it one way or the other.

Harvey Keitel's FBI agent character in 'National Treasure': You know, someone's gone to have to go to jail! (or at least pay the bill)

As for these newer, safer reactors that can burn up a much higher percentage of new fuel and indeed burn up spent fuel/wastes:

The U.S. isn't the only game in town...why hasn't Japan Inc, China, inc., Eurozone counties, Russia, etc. taken this ball and run with it yet?

...how do we pay for the safe operation and decommissioning of the current 104?-strong PWR/BWR fleet in the U.S...?

Living in one of the states of the Western Interconnect, I'm always tempted to respond with the old punch line from Mad Magazine, "What do you mean, we?" Only eight of the 104 are in states in the Western Interconnect, and they account for about 10% of total generation in the Western (EIA figures for 2010). At least two other reactors in Western Interconnect states have already been dismantled: the Ft. St. Vrain reactor in Colorado and the Trojan reactor in Oregon. The remaining spent fuel in both of those cases is in dry cask storage. In the ten years from 2000 to 2010, the Western Interconnect increased generation from wind and natural gas by more than the total generated by nuclear in 2010. Consider that all to be a Western proof by example: on the order of ten years to replace the existing Western nuclear, if push comes to shove.

OTOH, in 2010 nuclear accounted for about 21% of total generation in the Eastern Interconnect, and in absolute terms, accounted for about twice as much generation as the total for the Western. Nuclear power is very largely an Eastern resource, and problem. By 2035, almost all of that 21% of generation will have reached the end of the license extensions, be 60 years old, and need to have been replaced by efficiency or new generating capacity. By the same token, US coal and its carbon dioxide is largely an Eastern problem: in 2010, almost exactly 90% of all coal-generated electricity was produced in the states of the Eastern Interconnect.

Over the next 25 years, I expect to see steadily increasing tension between East and West over sharing of the pain associated with keeping the lights on reliably in the East.

Our federal hydro system has always been a thorn to those in the east where power bills are higher. They always want to raise rates on us. California once suggested they build a pipeline to take water from the mouth of the Columbia to supply fresh water. The NW has advantages but is not the magic bullet to solve our energy problems.

After Fukushima I'm surprised anyone with a pulse can look at nukes. What kind of war would it take to set all those storage pools on fire? We are very, insanely, foolish.

Our federal hydro system has always been a thorn to those in the east where power bills are higher.

Financing of the federal hydro system is... complicated. For practical purposes, all of the dams themselves are owned and operated by either the Army Corps of Engineers or the Bureau of Reclamation and are charged with multiple purposes: flood control, irrigation, navigation, recreation, power. Excluding the physical dam, all of the costs of producing and delivering the hydro power, including capital costs for transmission, are recovered from power rates, with some modest exceptions. As far as the dam, some value is assigned to each of those major purposes, and the irrigation and power components are recovered from sales of water and electricity. Depending on where in the country the dam is located, some or all of the other components' shares are recovered from power sales. Arguably, the states served by those dams have repaid the federal outlays for initial construction and ongoing operations, including interest.

The flip side of the hydro system issue, at least for the 11 western states of the contiguous 48, is ongoing federal land ownership (from 30% to 85% of the area of each state) and the ills that have gone with that. Mismanagement of forests; land-use restrictions that block development of non-federal land; large military reservations and their associated problems; nuclear testing. I'm sure the Columbia River power system is a thorn to those in the East. The fact that eastern voters and their officials in Congress get a big voice in how land is used in the 11 western states is a thorn out West.

These kinds of issues involving regional control of resources, chiefly energy and water, will come to the surface as collapse progresses. It will certainly be interesting to see how it goes. If people don't feel invested in the project as a whole, they won't want to share their resources or pay for infrastructure in other regions.

Your statement about nuke plants being prevalent in the Eastern U.S., and the idea that our winds prevail roughly West-to-East, are correct.

However, I am not sanguine about the chances and consequences of a major incident at Palo Verde in Arizona.

Look at the satellite pic of the smoke plumes from fires in Arizona in the recent past (2011)...plumes arcing up through Minnesota into Canada...plumes which passed directly over Albuquerque.




One of many articles (and a government PDF) on contingency plans and possible consequences of of a Palo Verde nuclear incident.

I wonder if their spent fuel assemblies are stored using dry casks, or in pools (yes, I am aware that fresh 'hot' assemblies have to spent some time in a pool before being transferred to dry cask storage)?

Wikipedia claims that Palo Verde has a marginal operating cost for producing electricity of some 1.3 cents per KWh...another 1.4c if one includes other lifetime costs assuming a 60-year plant life and a 5% long-term cost of capital.

These numbers look enticing...as long as there isn't a major incident.


"What do you mean, we?" Only eight of the 104 are in states in the Western Interconnect, ....

And the WI states hold only about 20% of the US population (~68 million), so per head Westerners use a fair share of US nuclear. BTW, before cutting loose of any Eastern nuclear clean up problems, do be sure to send in the tab for all that federally funded hydroelectric in the West.

The relative reliance on nuclear is much higher in the East (about 2.5X), and a lot of the power for uranium enrichment and aluminum production historically came from federally funded hydropower. The East is also reliant on Western coal which would be taxed much more heavily if Wyoming had a higher population.

The feds made loans to build hydropower, develop irrigation, improve navigation, and provide flood control. The locals pay for it. That's true in the East as well. The USACE spends most of its money in the East. Pick-Sloan and TVA are in the Eastern Interconnect. Navigation on the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and between the Great Lakes is federally funded.

...on Western coal which would be taxed much more heavily if Wyoming had a higher population.

And if the state got to set the tax rates, instead of having to take what the federal government gives on coal produced on federal land. It's a nice day and there's a good partial eclipse to see later -- don't get me started on federal land ownership and land-use policies in the West.

Personally, I don't think the US lasts another 50 years as a single entity. With an increasingly depopulated Great Plains as the buffer, I think East and West go their separate ways. Too many fundamental differences in geography and its consequences. Too little contact as Peak Oil cuts into transportation and trade between them. Too much isolation of the West from the political power center on the East Coast.

Severance, property, sales/use, and state income tax are set locally. The Feds only control royalties.

Federal lands and assets are not subject to any state or local taxes, period. The federal government voluntarily makes "payments in lieu of taxes" and shares federal mineral revenues, but does so on its own terms. For example, the state of Alaska gets a bigger share of federal royalties on oil pumped from federal land in Alaska than Wyoming gets on oil pumped from federal land in Wyoming; the difference is arbitrary. The feds don't ask the local county governments what their property tax rates are; the feds decide on their own whether or not to make payments in lieu of property taxes, and at what levels. In 2007, Congress said that PILT payments would total $232M, for all federal lands, in all states, period. Payments to any given county are capped (at $2.9M in 2007) without regard to the costs of services provided by the county. PILT payments are made only on certain properties; the federal government owns 670 acres of quite valuable property in one of the suburbs west of Denver, on which no PILT is made.

East/West? The East & West get along pretty well. The North/South divide remains. ~150 years later and presidential electoral maps still look largely like civil war maps.

Take a look at the composition of the Supreme Court. Where's the understanding of Western issues? I don't see the union splitting up in the next 50 years barring a catastrophic collapse (after all, the present contiguous United States predates trans-continental steam locomotive travel or the telegraph).

What are the constitutional issues dependent on an understanding of western issues?

Contiguous territories, sure. At least ten of the 48 states came in after the trans-continental completion.

I grew up in the Baby State (#48). Trust that I know when we attained statehood AND when we came under U.S. sovereignty. The last significant piece of the contiguous U.S. was the Gadsden Purchase in my home state...which was purchased for the purpose of providing an alternate route for the transcontinental.

I expect multiple western water cases to reach the Supreme Court over the next 20 years. As Garreau accurately noted in The Nine Nations of North America, in much of the West there's only enough water for two of agriculture, cities and wilderness (and in some cases, only one of those three). Because of their very large land holdings, the feds -- whose primary interest is in wilderness preservation -- control large amounts of water. Given that states aren't allowed to limit population inflows (largely relocating easterners), there will be increasingly serious conflicts about that water.

Over the past 100 years, water issues (and water law) have developed very differently depending on whether you're east or west of about 105 °W. West of the line, it's all about storage, management, prior appropriation, and fixed property rights. East of the line, it's much more about riparian rights that can vary drastically over time. I am nervous about a Supreme Court with no westerners deciding such cases. I admit to a parochial interest in this, and fear the SCOTUS deciding that the 70M people living in the BosWash urban corridor have an equal "right" to Western water in order to preserve wilderness areas they'll never visit as the 70M who live in the West have to that water to support cities.

Aluminum production?

The feds made loans to build hydropower, develop irrigation, improve navigation, and provide flood control. The locals pay for it.

What? Many of the major dams in the West were directly funded, not loaned out, by the federal government.

How much aluminum is there in the Eastern interconnect, and where did the electricity come from for its production? The price of aluminum was kept low for many years by federal hydropower. Incidentally that's largely true of copper as well, although it has lower energy content.

While technically not a loan (that was shorthand), federally funded hydropower projects are typically structured to require local payback from the project beneficiaries to the Treasury.

"Reclamation records an intragovernmental liability for
appropriations determined to be recoverable from project
beneficiaries and decreases the liability when payments are received
from these beneficiaries and, subsequently, transferred to Treasury’s
General Fund. Interest is accumulated on this liability pursuant to
authorizing project legislation or administrative policy. Interest
rates used for both FY 2008 and 2007 ranged from 2.63 and 9.84.
Repayment is generally over a period not to exceed 50 years from
the time revenue producing assets are placed in service. Repayment
to Treasury’s General Fund is dependent upon actual water and
power delivered to customers; as such, there is no structured
repayment schedule. This liability may increase or decrease due to
actual costs incurred, collections, and repayments. It may also
increase or decrease due to the annual preparation of the Statement
of Project Construction Costs Reconciliation (SPCCR), which is a
review of a project’s original estimate of costs compared to actual
costs and revenues."

How much automobile production has there been in the Western I., or steel? That is, I asked the question about aluminum because I did not see the relevance. Of course every region of the country will have its own particular strengths.

The fact that aluminum production historically constitutes a very large portion of electricity consumed, as well as forming most of the Interconnection itself, perhaps?

Very few new damns have been built, most of the biggies out west were built/funded before the lifetimes of most of us. The (mis)distributional effects across time are greater than those across regions. I shudder at what would happen to current federal lands if the local politicians got control. I imagine they'd would largely end up being controlled by mining companies, the public be damned.

Yes, the present day water storage and flood control benefits are out of all proportion to what the country had to put into them back in the day. They've appreciated nicely.

It should be noted that about 20,000MW of new capacity could be added to existing Western dams which currently do not have turbines at a lower cost than almost any other generating technology.

It should be noted that about 20,000MW of new capacity could be added to existing Western dams which currently do not have turbines at a lower cost than almost any other generating technology.

benamery21, it seems that adding turbines to existing dams is something that should be a high priority.

" I imagine they'd would largely end up being controlled by mining companies"

Mining companies don't buy land with no mineral potential. Based on the historical data, about 3% of the land actually has minerals under it.

A lot of federal land is not forested either. Barren, dry, rocky; a great place for wind or solar. Or nuclear tests back in the bad old days.

...how do we pay for the safe operation and decommissioning of the current 104?-strong PWR/BWR fleet in the U.S.,

I'd say the US enjoys safe operation of its plants so far, and the cost of safe *operation*, as opposed to new nuclear, seems to be reasonable. Some of lessons from Fukushima should be applied, but I doubt those are hugely expensive. As for decommissioning, i) there have been a couple plants decommissioned in the US and returned to grassy fields. Are those costs large? Not to my knowledge, but I have no direct experience. I do know decommissioning plants should be about low level radioactive waste; ii) the industry pays into to a fund for decommissioning.

and how do we more safely store the spent fuel assemblies until the day when we have built out the safer types of reactors you advocate (LTFR perhaps?)?

The onsite dry cask storage seems to be safe enough for the moment; longer term the newer type IV nuclear technologies would burn up waste.

Moving the majority of spent fuel into dry cask storage would be a low cost measure with significant risk reduction benefits. I suspect that is one of the things (for U.S. regs) which will come out of Fukushima, shortly after the election, if Obama wins. Implementation requirements will probably be something like 10 years, to get down to where only a couple of years of fuel are allowed in the pools, however. I'd prefer it to be more like 2 or 3 but that's not going to happen.

And if Obama doesn't win -or congress gets a big tea-party majority, I'd expect the regulations to be seriously relaxed, and enforcement funding to be decimated.

Disappointing having to root for somebody to the right of Nixon to avoid the Birchers.

Moving the majority of spent fuel into dry cask storage would be a low cost measure with significant risk reduction benefits.


The Chinese are working on molten slat reactors. Operating at room pressure.

Do you have any links? Every time I've brought up Gen-IV MSRs, I've been roundly torpedoed as being unrealistic and cornucopian, as there aren't any commercial MSRs reactors in operation yet.

'The China Academy of Sciences in January 2011 launched a program of R&D on thorium-breeding molten-salt reactors (Th-MSR or TMSR), otherwise known as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), claiming to have the world's largest national effort on these and hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology. A 5 MWe MSR is apparently under construction at Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (under the Academy) with 2015 target operation.'


This is not the same as a small demonstrator reactor for LWP's etc, as many of those designs are only practical at large sizes, so to hold costs down the initial prototype would be small, and progressively scaled up through other builds to full size.

A LFTR is happy at any size, from a few MW up to 20GW or so, so commercial designs could be developed much earlier in the design cycle.

And how many are currently producing power for the public?

The US built a 7.4 MWth molten salt research reactor almost fifty years ago.

We had worked on these decades ago. Molten salt reactors are probably our best shot at making nuclear a reasonable long-term option for our base load electrical needs. There is still interest in these. See http://flibe-energy.com/. Kirk Sorensen is a very eloquent spokesman for this technology.

What really interests me about these is that the concentration of nasty byproducts in the reactor and molten salt loop is kept low by continuous or at least frequent reprocessing of the molten salt mixture. What Fukushima highlighted is how dangerous the large inventory of byproducts and actinides is in a conventional reactor or spent fuel cooling pond. The other big advantages of the molten salt reactors are the low pressure operation and passive shutdown. The main disadvantages are the fact that the molten salt is a nasty and corrosive chemical (hexafluoride), so the metallurgy and chemical reprocessing could use more research. But overall, it looks like the best option we have. I don't know why DOE is not funding serious work on these.

Uranium hexafluoride UF6 is a covalent molecule, which is crystalline under cool atmospheric conditions and sublimes at 56°C. The gas is used in centrifugal and gas diffusion uranium enrichment, and vast quantities of "depleted" uranium (238U) are stored in this gaseous form, in big drums in open fields, at places like Seversk and Oak Ridge.

Uranium tetrafluoride is a salt, solid under atmostpheric conditions, melting point 1036°C, of uranium fluorine ions, UF3+ and fluoride ions, F-.

They're related, but not the same thing at all.


That's interesting. 56C = 133F. The temperature of, say, aluminum metal in the sun might pass through 160F... so UF6 existing as a gas is likely. Also, the wet air must be kept out.

"Within a reasonable range of temperature and pressure, it can be a solid, liquid, or gas."
"It can conveniently be used as a gas for processing, as a liquid for filling or emptying containers or equipment, and as a solid for storage, all at temperatures and pressures commonly used in industrial processes."
"The... UF6 is placed into steel cylinders and shipped as a solid..."
Image, Storage cylinder:

Storage in gas cylinders
"About 95% of the depleted uranium produced to date is stored as uranium hexafluoride, DUF6, in steel cylinders in open air yards close to enrichment plants. Each cylinder contains up to 12.7 tonnes (or 14 US tons) of solid UF6."


"A molten salt reactor design, a type of nuclear reactor where the working fluid is a molten salt, would use UF4 as the core material."

Uranium Chemistry:

Nothing to see here:

Underground Russian x-ray film music records:

Actually, Dog, I found the article not only confused, but quite disappointing toward the end. He seems to make a cogent, rationale argument with regards to the onset of Peak Oil, then goes into a xenophobic tirade about liberals wanting to make America a minority white country. He completely sabotaged his credibility with me at that point.


RE: Peak oil debate is over, and U.S. energy independence will be obtained by 2020

The "A" word, austerity, is getting plenty of ink, paper, and blog appearances. Europe is experimenting with it.

This article about peak oil even had essences of austerity in it:

However, this will mean a dramatic reduction in the pattern of living, Japanese-style electricity rationing, called Setsuden, rolling blackouts, tens of millions of lost jobs, and half the cars on the road. But, we will indeed have achieved energy independence, as the article predicts. The idea that this will create jobs is absurd, as the article sites citigroup as predicting.

The argument made in the article is that energy independence and peak oil are tied to economic austerity, which is what the peak oil discussion has always been concerned with.

Some environmentalists want to see peak oil in the sense it will represent peak pollution, so long as better sources of energy are used to replace them.

The article also points to uncertainties because the price of energy cannot be known for certain, tying once again, economic considerations to peak oil notions.

U.S. energy independence would be much like a smoker who quits because they can't afford cigarettes anymore.

Is that good or bad when it means they can't afford food or shelter either.

Good question. Some of these things probably won't become clear until we get closer to the event.

The "A" word, austerity, is getting plenty of ink, paper, and blog appearances. Europe is experimenting with it.

If austerity means cuts in *spending*, who exactly in Europe is undergoing austerity? I'll grant Greece has cut a little, 10% maybe back to 2008 spending, Spain and Italy cut 2%. But largest economies of Europe, the UK, France, Germany and most of the others continue to increase spending.

" McClendon said this week that Carl Icahn, the activist investor, may be buying shares. Chesapeake rose 6 percent to $14.36 at the close in New York." Icahn is not an "activist invesor". He is a Wall Street raider. About 20 years ago he succeeded in the hostile take over of a small public company I helped to start. In 5 years that company disappeared from the face of the earth. If there were a better indication of the limited time CHK has to remain independent I don't know what it is.

Rockman, Back in 1987, Icahn took control of TWA, which was in bad shape. I was responsible for manpower planning for pilots and flight Attendants, and was TWA's work rule specialist for flight and duty time limitations. Icahn laid out cost savings he expected from both groups which could be in payroll or work rule savings. This was a first for me because I was the bad guy when the company negotiated with the pilots in the past, and here I was helping the pilots find ways to offset deeper payroll cuts. We reached agreement with the pilots, and that night Icahn and the rest of the Company negotiating team went around the corner to the Blarney Stone, where Icahn treated us to sandwiches and beer.

We weren't so lucky with the Flight Attendants. They couldn't come anywhere close to Ichan's target. So, the flight attendants went on strike, but the company had a thousand or more replacements ready to go. In a couple of months, those Flight attendant who remained on strike were completely replaced.

As a result of the concessions TWA went from one of the highest cost operators (in terms of labor costs) to one of the lowest. In fact, without those labor concessions, I doubt TWA would have lasted as long as it did.

I retired in 1991, and TWA hung in there for another 12 or 13 years.

Joe - Which is what the CHK folks need to worry about. If Carl takes a big position in the company he'll do what ever it takes to make the effort profitable FOR HIM. That could mean capitalizing the company and carry on or strip it to the bones and sell their individual organs at a profit. I couldn't predict what he might do but I have no doubt it will be done without regards to the effects on the employees, other shareholders, the creditors or anyone else. There's nothing personal about it. It's just business.

Icahn has a reputation for filling his pockets and leaving the company in a worse state. May not be every time but enough that CHK should worry. Recently went into Yahoo, kicked them round, made his profit then left. Yahoo is currently in trouble.


Yahoo! was in trouble the day they decided to buy search results from Google. Why should I go to Yahoo! and get pop up or pop under ads when I could go to Google and not have the pop'n windows?

Ummm, they use Bing not Google.


Are those large rectangular stacks of material sulfur?

S - I asume the locals are only opposed to this unethical sulpur (similar to the EU's dislike of unethical tar sand oil) but not against ethical surfur produced in other areas of the world. After all they depend on that ethical sulfur for the hundreds of products they consume daily. Thank goodness we have ethical sources for all these nasty commodities most depend upon to some degree. Hopefully none of the current suppliers develop morals anytime soon.

Did I detect a hint of sarcasm ;-) ?

HARM - A bit of sarcasm delivered with a sledge hammer combined with some bad memories that obviously still p*ss me off. We all know there are various sh*tholes around the world but many don't have the pleasure of witnessing them first hand. Why I suppose I reacted harshly to the EU's holier than tho attitude

Maybe they can use some as fertilizer: Sulphur Fertilizer Application in Crop Production


Canola, in particular, needs adequate sulfur.

A consequence of removing sulfur emissions from powerplants is the need to begin incorporating sulfur into fertilizers for cabbage, sugar beets, and other high-sulfur requirement crops in certain regions.

The amino acids methionine and cysteine contain sulfur, so it is quite essential to all life.

Or eventually, batteries. There seem to be some new developments in battery chemistry and/or structure that can take advantage of the inherent high energy density sulfur allows while avoiding or overcoming the various problems of sulfur (eg, nanoscale expansion and contraction during charge and discharge tends to break down the materials, limiting the number of cycles).

No need to look for exotic uses, chemistry IS sulfuric acid and without sulfuric acid most chemical processes are impossible or vastly more expensive.


Most sulfur is used to make sulfuric acid. Most sulfuric acid is used to make chemical fertilizers.

Back during the 2008 commodity spike wasn't sulphur getting close to a thousand dollars per ton. This was a side benefit for sour-oil refiners, and smoke stack removal of sulpher dioxide. Sulpher does have a certain industrial value. That doesn't make having a mountain of it in your backyard a good thing. But, the stuff does have its uses.

It's worth something sitting next to a sulfuric acid production plant. It's not worth near as much sitting in Alberta. Sulfuric acid production in North America is concentrated in the East. The piles they are talking about are a couple years of provincial production, as prices for Alberta sulfur went strongly negative during the recession (it was only worth a few dollars a ton AT the sulfuric plant during the bust). The oil sands do not represent the majority of Alberta sulfur production yet, only about 1.2 million tonnes a year. Incidentally the U.S. imports significant elemental sulfur (mostly from Canada) in addition to that produced from U.S. oil refineries.

Look for July 1960 National Geographic.


Beauty of Butanol

... [Professor David Mullin] says, if you drain your tank of petrol, the clear Butanol liquid can go into a Ford, Fiat or Ferrari (please add your vehicle here - it doesn't have to begin with an F) right away without the need to modify their engines and without damaging them. He says road tests prove Butanol returns the same kilometres per litre as petrol ... but with much less pollution.

There's just one problem, David explained.

"The development of technologies for scaling up this process so that you could produce billions of gallons, instead of just millions of gallons, produce billions of gallons."

In other words, how to produce enough Butanol to supply the global chemical industry plus enough to drive the world's engines?

David tells me several US corporations - with a wary eye on what happens when oil eventually runs out - are expressing interest in his work and that's what keeps him going.

Butanol is interesting because it seems to be a direct natural substitute for gasoline. I seem to remember reading that it can be relatively efficiently produced from sugar beets? Of course it won't scale up to the volumes we're using today, but may have a role to play in the future.

I seem to remember reading that it can be relatively efficiently produced from sugar beets?

You are looking for the ABE rabbit hole.

Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol fermentation.


1915 Weizmann issued British patent for process using C. acetobutylicum and maize mash in addition to potato: First ABE process.
1930s Molasses developed as a substrate, leading to isolation of new strains.

If one could make booze from it, one should be able to make ABE and thusly obtain Butanol. Not sure what you'd do with the Acetone. There is a Butanol process that has a step where the pre-Butanol product has an intense rotting milk odor and would make you unpopular with your neighbors.

Robert Rapier has some experience with ethanol and butanol. Last I checked with him by email, he was not very optimistic about butanol scaling up. It would make a viable substitute for gasoline for many reasons (low corrosion, BTU content), but scalability is a long-standing problem.

US House Approves Use of Force as Iran Option

The Republican-led House of Representatives has approved the use of force if Iran threatens the US and its allies with nuclear weapons.

According to a section of the National Defence Authorisation Act, "It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies or Iran's neighbours with a nuclear weapon."

Friday's measure would make the possible use of force a key plank in US policy to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb.

The House legislation would require the US military to prepare a plan to boost the presence of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Middle East, and conduct military exercises "or other visible, concrete military readiness activities".

related to yesterday's post

Although Iran would be pretty stupid to join the United States and become the second nation to drop nuclear bombs on human beings, it's equally stupid on the part of the United States to attempt this never ending bullying in the Middle East to acquire their resources.

The only result will be blowback and bankruptcy.

I don't know that you can equate efforts to prevent a radical fundamentalist Islamist regime from getting the bomb to "bullying", but, yes, the U.S. (and Britain) has a horrible record of meddling in the ME.

And for the record, dropping the bomb on Japan probably *saved* millions of lives, Japanese as well as American, by preventing the invasion of Japan. I am probably here today because of it (father served in the Pacific). Based on what happened on Iwo Jima and other islands, a mainland invasion would probably have been a mega bloodbath. Of course, it's quite easy for us armchair warriors to argue about it from a position of hindsight, safety and comfort, as we weren't there.

The most decisive event leading to the Japanese surrender was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, as Japan's last chance at peace were then sealed. An invasion that had been agreed upon at Yalta. As the Americans were well aware of this (Japanese attempts to make peace, that is) through interception of Japanese messages, and the dropping of the bomb was only days away from the planned Operation August Storm, I really have to wonder...

The Japanese War Cabinet was debating whether to surrender or "The Glorious Death of the 100 million" - a fight to the death, when word came in of the second atomic bomb attack at Nagasaki.

The vote was split 3-3, so they went to the Emperor to break the tie. There was an abortive coup to prevent the broadcast of the surrender by the Emperor. The recording was smuggled out of the Palace with the laundry.

It does not sound as if Japan was ready to surrender without the atomic bombs.

My father was in Paris Island, getting basic training for the US Marine Corps when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

If Japan had not surrendered, he would have been unlikely to survive unwounded. His best hope would have been a "Million Dollar wound" - severe enough to send him out of battle permanently but not so disabling that he could not live a close to normal life.

Unlike Okinawa, the kamikazes were to focus on the troop ships in the next invasion. Many Marines would never have gotten ashore.


The "either nuclear bombs or invasion" choice is more of a sort of post-war moralization on the part of Americans, and is highly problematic. I suggest reading Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman and the Surrender of Japan for a more accurate depiction of events, as well as the chapter regarding possible "what-if" scenarios.

H - I can only speak for this one American but I know of no moral justification for dropping the bomb. OTOH there was no moral justification required IMHO. It was expedient. Which is the object of war: to destroy a country’s will/ability to wage war against you. Was it moral for the allies to bomb German civilians? Was it moral for Germany to bomb British civilians? In what manner do you consider killing another human being to be moral? I can think of none. But I can think of a number of justifiable reasons.

Which is exactly why every effort possible be made to avoid war. Every society that has ever killed its adversaries, military and civilian, can claim moral rationale. But IMHO what they are actually doing is trying to justify any and all methods to achieve the end goal. Taking a human life is never moral even when it’s unavoidable IMHO. But I suppose some folks have to make it a “‘moral” enterprise to deal with the guilt. Others can just accept the necessity of doing horrible things to others. Regardless it’s still war and should be avoided if possible. Of course many societies have been unable to avoid it and I’m sure others will continue such paths in the future.

Again, just one American’s opinion so it doesn’t really count for much.

Peace is impossible so long as war is profitable, imo.

Similarly, cure(s) for cancer are impossible so long as chemotherapy is so profitable, imo. In other words, the petrochemical solution.

The petrochemical solution applied elsewhere:have coackroaches, call Orkin. Have termites: call Orkin. Have black mold: call Orkin(or your own favorite petrochemical supplier).

Petrochemicals won't get rid of coackroaches, termites, or black mold. They have to be evicted - terminate their invitation to the party.

What I find interesting is how the attitudes change once wars begin. Bombing civilians was considered immoral, and a breech of international law. But before the end of the WWII, all sides were doing it. And you're right, there's always a justification. From Britain bombing civilians in Iraq in the '20s to the atomic bombs in WWII to the US in Vietnam, bombing civilians was justified as humane and merciful in the long run.

As for Japan...I don't think there's any way to know how it would have unfolded without the bombs. FWIW, historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa believes that it was not the atomic bombs that caused Japan to surrender. He says it was Soviet Union entering the war that was the real reason Japan chose to surrender.

All good points..

I think the lesson from the two Atomic Bombs, not unlike the Allied Bombing campaigns, is at it's core a stark reminder of what us English and Americans (no less than any of us) are capable of behind our sweet boyish grins and confident outfits.

A bit of a rhyme with what Yeats called 'The Terrible Beauty' .. I just watched the Boyish TINTIN racing sweetly around the world, noble goals and guns all blazing brightly.. but a little UNlike the first great Action Hero that Spielberg offered us, I think it missed the all-important tinges of irony and regret that Indiana Jones somehow incorporated into his Comic Book metaphor of 'The American Century'..

Bureaucrat: Well gentlemen, I guess that just about wraps it up.

Marcus Brody: Where is the Ark?

Bureaucrat: I thought we settled this. The Ark is somewhere very safe.

Indiana Jones: From who?

Marcus Brody: The Ark is a source of unspeakable power and it has to be

Bureaucrat: And it will be. I assure you Dr. Brody, Dr. Jones. We have top men
working on it right now.

Indiana Jones: Who?

Bureaucrat: Top... Men.

.. I'm trying to decide if it's a matter of Physical Power, or Bureaucratic.. or is Bureaucracy simply the Panel of Meters that reports the Power Sources that it has tapped?

These decisions to drop a bomb, apply a shock.. or administer a course of Antibiotics looks like a relationship with technology that has abdicated responsibility, while hiding behind a screwy vision of 'hard truths' to justify brutal behavior, regardless of actual efficacy.

Good Hobbit, toss that ring into the fire, now..

One of the few examples of restraint I know of was in Iran after the Iraqis invaded them and used chemical weapons on their troops.

A massively unpopular decision by the Government was to *NOT* retaliate in kind. They said that it was against Islamic morals to use chemicals weapons - so they didn't.

They say the same thing about developing or using atomic bombs.

Credit where credit is due.


One of the few examples of restraint I know of was in Iran after the Iraqis invaded them and used chemical weapons on their troops.
A massively unpopular decision by the Government was to *NOT* retaliate in kind. They said that it was against Islamic morals to use chemicals weapons - so they didn't.

Which is an interesting framing. Because another framing of the situation has Iran being "Persians" before being "Islamic".

While its nice we are discussing dropping nukes/not dropping nukes and how acceptable such is, perhaps we should turn towards TOD's Westexas and one of sides of his Iron Triangle - the Media. An older version of "the Media" would be branded propaganda. How much of what 'we' "know" would be referred to as "propaganda"?

How much of the use of fission weapons is "propaganda"?

(and with Chicago being in the news http://www.rense.com/general5/blast.htm - not the link I wanted about the book explaining why the explosion was a mis-handled fission weapon but It'll do.)

It is interesting that the American Civil war was largely forgotten by the European military establishment but it presages the events of WW2. Sherman's March to Sea was described by Bruce Catton as the 19th century equivalent of the bombing campaigns of WW2 whose goals were identical - destroying the will of the enemy to resist by targeting the civilian population. The notion of "total war".

Targeting Civilian populations was only made illegal by the 1949 Geneva Conventions ( the 4th Geneva Convention) which made the deliberate targeting of Civilians or what they need to survive on a war crime. During the air war over Serbia in the 1990's the US dropped aluminum chaff on the Serbian power lines in order to take down the power to the air defense system as opposed to bombing them which would have adversely impacted the civilian population and would have been deemed a war crime since there was an alternative to achieve the military goal.

As I said in an earlier post morality is only determined in hindsight and the events of WW2 made it clear that the unrestricted warfare of WW2 could not be allowed to continue because the projected consequences to humanity were so grave hence the 4th Geneva Convention.

The Libyan people and resistance were quite impressed by the precision of French, British, Danish, etc. bombing. Mistakes were few, fatal and generally forgiven.

Hopefully the age of carpet bombing is over. It is too much to hope for that the age of war is over.


Indeed. Some of the newer tactical documents from the US Air Force make interesting reading. The B-52 is being repurposed as a stand-off weapons platform performing support for anti-insurgency ground troops with smart bombs in place of artillery: "Just keep the laser pointer on the window in that building you want the 500-pound bomb to go through -- it'll be there in three minutes." Even with only GPS for guidance, ten feet is a fairly typical error. Mission thinking used to consider planes-per-mission to hit a particular target; they're beginning to think in terms of missions-per-plane, because they can get dead-on hits on three different targets on the same flight.

New opportunities to screw up, though. I have heard rumors of at least one friendly-fire episode in Afghanistan when the spotter read off his own GPS position to the bomber, instead of the building 200 meters down the way. The bomb went exactly where it was told to go.

The B-52 has also been considered as a potential 'stand-off' launch platform for any non-nuclear strike against hardened Iranian nuclear sites.

More often the errors are target misidentification, rather than missing the aim point. HUMINT, is often unreliable. During t Iraqi Freedom, we had something like 50 strikes on leadership targets, -but none of the targetted indivuduals were killed by them, but a lot of civilians were. A big problem is the time urgency of the go nogo decision. If you wait to have a reasonable level of certainty (about who is within the kill radius), the opportunity may be gone. So we seem to tolerate a high (to the subject population) level of collateral casualties per official bad guy we get. We are seeding future hatred and future conflict. But, if you make your living in the defense industries this would be considered a feature -not a bug.

Sherman's march to the sea would not have been too dissimilar to European wars, such as the movements of armies across Germany during the Thirty Years War or the movements of armies during the Napoleonic Wars. Take for example, the march on Moscow. The movements of armies of a few tens of thousands of men and their horses required widespread foraging which would commandeer the grain, hay, and animals of the peasants within a wide swath. These peasants would then become refugees and/or succumb to starvation in place during the next winter. Note that fighting season was summer and fall when forage was available.

The example from the American Civil War that the Europeans should have taken account of was Grant's campaign in Virginia at the end of the war, which was an example of trench warfare between massed armies supplied by rail. Unfortunately, there had been wars such as the Franco Prussian War of 1870, where armies had been able to maintain momentum and defeat the other side quickly.

Around these parts (mid-South USA) Sherman's march is well remembered 150 years later. The U.S. Army would simply come onto a farm, take everything, and march on. Private railroads were left in ruins. Rails wrapped around trees were known as "Sherman neck-ties." Modern thought is that he likely had a serious mental illness. Early in the war, one superior officer called him "unfit," and a Cincinnati newspaper called him "insane" after he was relieved of duties in Kentucky. Unlike most generals of the Civil War, Sherman saw no action in the earlier Mexican War. By his own account, he did more than $100 million in property damage. To his credit, however, he proposed very generous terms of surrender, but he was overruled by then President Johnson's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. The long punishment of the South was underway.

Just for the record Sherman failed to file an environmental impact statement in advance of his march.

He was almost certainly bipolar, but his actions on the March to the Sea are generally attributed to his being one of the finest military stategists in military history as well as having an outstanding command of logistics. He managed to inflict immense damage on the ability of supporters of the Confederacy to provide material support while limiting the loss of civilian life. The Confederate general whose surrender he accepted became a lifelong friend and died shortly after serving as his pallbearer 25 years later. Not only were the original terms of surrender he accepted repudiated by Washington as too kind to white Southerners, so were his earlier Special Field Orders #15, giving Southern land to black freedmen, repudiated. When the war started he was serving as the superintendant of what is now LSU, then a Louisiana state military academy.

And WWI started as a mobility war. It remained so on the eastern fronts, but not in the west.

Geneva was just another in a long line of laws against targeting civilians that are ignored during actual war. Examples:

Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague, II), July 29, 1899

The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited.

Draft Rules of Aerial Warfare, The Hague, February 1923

Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorizing the civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of military character, or of injuring non-combatants is prohibited.

The war crimes laws are a big joke, they are only used when it's politically convenient to do so.

I think you are wrong about there being no moral requirement. The Hague Conventions make it clear that even when the goal is to kill the enemy there are still standards e.g. banning the use of poison gas or dum dum bullets. The Geneva Conventions also make the kind of carpet bombing and targeting of civilians of WW2 a war crime. However, Morality is something that can often only be determined in hindsight and therefore to expect that there would be an established morality prior to the use of the weapon I think is absurd. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been spared from conventional bombing so that it would be possible to determine the exact magnitude of the damage.

There is the alternative view which holds that by dropping relatively small nuclear weapons it made the use of much larger nuclear weapons morally impossible and the prospect of nuclear war all but impossible. What if there had been no nuclear weapons dropped on Japan would the Cuban missile crisis have ended exactly the same way? I think not and the consequences to the planet would have been far far worse.

Incidentally, I worked with the son of Hans Bethe (who was one of the key participants in the Manhattan project and subsequently the Hydrogen bomb). I asked him about the view that the bomb would never have been used against Germany and that it was dropped on Japan only because they were "not white". His reply was quite interesting- he said that his father and colleagues regarded the Germans as the greater evil- sort of looking at your evil twin in the mirror. Japanese conduct could be explained away as the product of a different culture. The Nazis were the product of the same culture as they were and therefore the need to destroy this aberrant twin was paramount.

I agree ... there is no moral component in the fog of battle ... it is just expediency - whatever it takes. And of course everyone from Truman onwards has argued that the dropping of the two bombs saved lives ... and of course it did - American lives not lost in a big bloody Japanese invasion.

But it is a long stretch to claim the dropping of these two bombs were somehow a net benefit to (American and Japanese) humanity ... that is a total crock. The US dropped the bombs ... because it could, it might have even met a military objective - but mostly it desperately wanted to test it. No mystery.

Henriksson -

I do not believe the following historical facts are in question.

- The Japanese War Cabinet was debating whether to surrender or not when they received word that Nagasaki had been bombed.

- The vote ended in a 3-3 tie, with the Emperor to decide the tie. He chose surrender.

- There was an attempted coup, which required that the recording of the surrender speech be smuggled out with the Palace laundry.

Looking at the above, I do not see the case that the Americans used excessive force to compel Japanese surrender. It appears that the USA just barely used enough force.

It is reasonable to speculate that without the second atomic bomb, Japan might not have surrendered.


The American demand prior to dropping the A-bombs was for total surrender -- the end of the Emperor. This was of course unthinkable to the Japanese, and so the war continued as the bombs were developed. Once both bombs were dropped, so was the demand for total surrender. It is reasonable to conclude that the dropping of the surrender demand, rather than the bombs, is what finally ended the war with Japan.

I'm in the "we can't know" camp concerning how counterfactuals would have played out. Certainly the Russian declaration of war plus massive invasion of Manchuria (rushed because Stalin wa afraid the A-bomb might end the war before he could seize territory in the east), coming nearly simultaneously with the A-bombs had to have been quite a shock. There are also tragic decisions that happened. The Japanese made the worst possible choice of peace mediator -Russia (when Stalin's interest was to join in and claim territory and spoils). The US war planners made an assumption regarding civian casualties, -they assumed that most of the population would be in bomb shelters, as was the case for massive conventional bombing raids, but the US had "trained" the Japanese not to fear overflights by two or three B-29's, so no-one took shelter, and civilian deaths were massively greater than anticipated.

The Japanese were still making unrealistic demands as conditions of surrender. Not just survival of the Imperial system, but continued military governance, and no occupation. So the negotiating positions were still lightyears apart. The Japanese had no real reason to expect the nearly benign occupation which actually followed the surrender. That Hirohito was allowed to remain emperor in even a symbolic role, rather than face war crimes trials (he was clearly complicit), was not expected by either the Japanese or the Americans.

From wiki..

Operation Ketsugo

Meanwhile, the Japanese had their own plans....

... The Japanese defense relied heavily on kamikaze planes. In addition to fighters and bombers, they reassigned almost all of their trainers for the mission, trying to make up in quantity what they lacked in quality. Their army and navy had more than 10,000 aircraft ready for use in July (and would have had somewhat more by October) and were planning to use almost all that could reach the invasion fleets. Ugaki also oversaw building of hundreds of small suicide boats that would also be used to attack any Allied ships that came near the shores of Kyushu.

Fewer than 2,000 kamikaze planes launched attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, achieving approximately one hit per nine attacks. At Kyushu, because of the more favorable circumstances (such as terrain that reduced the US's radar advantage), they hoped to get one for six by overwhelming the US defenses with large numbers of kamikaze attacks in a period of hours. The Japanese estimated that the planes would sink more than 400 ships; since they were training the pilots to target transports rather than carriers and destroyers, the casualties would be disproportionately greater than at Okinawa. One staff study estimated that the kamikazes could destroy a third to half of the invasion force before its landings. [20]


America had already killed half a million Japanese civilians thru firebombing, and destroyed the residences of another 5M. The A-bomb was a mental weapon (technical terrorism). Shock and awe, if you will.

It didn't seem to impress the Japanese war cabinet very much, though.

Without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the vote would likely have been 0-6, unanimous against surrender.


All is fair in love and war. I'm not trying to make any sort of moral argument, and wouldn't attempt to.

But facts are facts. The United States, the country that developed the bomb, is the only nation to have ever deployed it against living human beings.

Granted, America has been a leader in nuclear disarmament, and that is to be recognized.

I'd give America a lot more credit for proliferation than for disarmament.

Oilman Sachs,

"All is fair in love and war."

The laws of war define war crimes, which means not everything is lawful or fair in war.

But it turns out that, as General LeMay (burned 100,000 Japanese civilians alive in fire bombing after they had agreed to a cease fire) once said, "war crimes trials is what happens to the losers of wars."

So, I guess his version would be "To the winner, all is fair in war."

US House Approves Use of Force as Iran Option

The House has passed a plethora of "brown paper" bills. Those are bills that will stay in a pile turning brown because the Senate will not touch them, thus they are used for puffing the news.

What will happen to this one is uncertain in that light, however, in another light it may be that it is being pushed by the military which is being pushed by the weapons industries:

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that if the U.S. invades the sovereignty of countries like Syria or Iran, it could lead to nuclear war... Russia and China have previously stated that an attack on Iran would be considered a direct threat to their national security ... Iran and Syria have had a mutual defense pact for years. China and Russia might also defend Syria if it is attacked. So an attack on Syria could draw Iran into the war … followed by China and Russia.

(Washington's Blog). Usually tons of propaganda material goes out when these incursions are anticipated.

Talk about how good nukes are for saving millions of lives could precede killing millions with nukes. Never forget that there are sociopaths and psychopaths in positions of power in all of these countries, including the U.S.eh?

RE: Gasoline Cargoes to Brazil May Rise on Ethanol Drop in JBC View

Wow, 40% drop in total production. I had assumed when sugar prices moderated a bit over the last year that their ethanol production would increase quite a bit. The real is down 25% yoy when compared with the dollar so exporting sugar is more profitable for the country, of course, the opposite is true for liquid fuel imports. With this new drop for 2012, it looks like Brazil ethanol production shows a peak in the annual data. It will be interesting to see if this is a true peak or a temporary downturn. It would also be interesting to go back to the mid-2000s and pull some projections of Brazilian ethanol production for this year. My WAG is they were predicting over 1 MBD.

From Wikipedia:

Since 2009 the Brazilian ethanol industry has experienced financial stress due to the credit crunch caused by the economic crisis of 2008; poor sugarcane harvests due to unfavorable weather; high sugar prices in the world market that made more attractive to produce sugar rather than ethanol; and other domestic factors that resulted in a decline of its annual production despite a growing demand in the local market.[76][77][78] Brazilian ethanol fuel production in 2011 was 21.1 billion liters (5.6 billion U.S. liquid gallons), down from 26.2 million liters (6.9 billion gallons) in 2010.[3] A supply shortage took place for several months during 2010 and 2011, and prices climbed to the point that ethanol fuel was no longer attractive for owners of flex-fuel vehicles; the government reduced the minimum ethanol blend in gasoline to reduce demand and keep ethanol fuel prices from rising further; and for the first time since the 1990s, ethanol fuel was imported from the United States.

Eurozone crisis dominates G8 summit

... After an early morning bilateral meeting with Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he detected a "growing sense of urgency that action needs to be taken" on the eurozone crisis.

"Contingency plans need to be put in place and the strengthening of banks, governance, firewalls - all of those things need to take place very fast," he told reporters.

... Ya Think?!

"... Ya Think?!"

LOL. Expect the usual politicians' approach to this sort of "planning", with a nod to EU style: OK, everyone, when the guy wearing the sash and the funny hat bangs the ancient gavel, form up the exploding scrum - each of you rush headlong towards every point of the compass at once, 'cos by God it's not good enough to have everything both ways, we'll all bloody well have it as many ways as there are points on the compass, and then some.

Maybe they would do better if there were some one-handed economists to advise them, but then again, even in an alternate universe where there were, they wouldn't bother to listen anyhow...

One thing I have learned for sure while trying to figure out what has been happening to the world economy in the last 5 years:

Economists have lots of ideas but really don't know much about reality.

There are a few economists who do understand reality. Charlie Hall's co-author (Energy and the Wealth of Nations), Kent Klitgaard, for one. Most of the ecological economists (e.g. Herman Daly) are really trying to let reality in.

But the mainstream economists not only DON'T know about reality. They don't WANT to know. I recently had an e-mail exchange with Robert Reich re: the futility of growth orientation. He is SO ideological it is impossible to even get close to having a reasonable conversation. Same with Paul Krugman. These are the liberal brain trust economists (so-called salt-water economists!) who, one would hope, would be concerned with reality. But that isn't the case. They really just want to justify Kenysian economics for the benefit of the working class. A noble sentiment, perhaps, but completely divorced from the reality of resource depletion.

Neo-classical economics is so devoid of science or reality based theory that it is absurd beyond belief. Unfortunately, all politicians, talking-heads, and the common person, believe they actually know what reality is. Oh well.


It really is astounding, isn't it? That our leadership is so completely out to lunch in this day and age when science and technology can do so many amazing things, have learned so much about how the world works ... and then we have mainstream economics. They really have absolutely no clue what they're doing.

I see layers of danger going forward. Firstly, of course, our brainless economic leadership who never took a science class in their lives will push the growth freight train forward until the system collapses, because they believe that the way to solve the current economic problems (which they see as the world not producing enough stuff) is to try to produce more stuff....

Another layer of danger is that when the system does collapse, even then we will not take the actions needed to hold society together, because the same brainless economists, or slightly different versions, will still be at the helm.

But the third danger, and this is the one that if you are a doom and gloomer, could be the one that seals the fate of modern humanity, will be that once collapse occurs, the average person will likely reject academics since obviously it was academics (Krugman, Bernanke types and friends) who got us into this mess. I fear that scientists and engineers will be lumped in with this condemnation of academics, which will be very unfortunate because it will be scientists and engineers who will be needed the most to steer us forward if we are to avoid total catastrophe.

Well . . . with most scientific fields you can isolate other variables and do a controlled experiment. But with the global economy, we only have this one world and most experiments are done as simulations. You can look at the policy effects in different countries, states, etc. but it is really impossible to hold everything else constant. So economics is a difficult area to do hard science.

That said, clearly some economists are better than others. But it is difficult to identify the better ones since over time, the view of which ones are better changes.

But the third danger, and this is the one that if you are a doom and gloomer, could be the one that seals the fate of modern humanity, will be that once collapse occurs, the average person will likely reject academics since obviously it was academics (Krugman, Bernanke types and friends) who got us into this mess.

I would not blame Krugman nor Bernanke. I think it is ourselves who got us into this mess. We voters all want lots of government services and no taxes. So the politicians gave us what we wanted via debt. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

So economics is a difficult area to do hard science.

As is Astrology!

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Mostly I agree with that!

That vast majority have swallowed hook line and sinker the corporate Kool aid, gratuitously distributed by the various propaganda outlets of Wall Street and Madison Avenue that we should all be good little consumers. God forbid any of us should try to be informed rational citizens... If you disagree with the current path you must be either a freak or evil incarnate.

Someone recently sent me this link: http://uncloaked.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/an-open-letter-to-the-world-on...

I don't intend to single out Canada because it is typical of what is happening pretty much everywhere in the world, wherever inconvenient reality conflicts with the infinite economic growth paradigm that continues to enrich the few who hold the reigns of power.

This paradigm cannot and therefore will not continue.

An Open Letter to the World on the Governmental Destruction of the Environment in Canada

May 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM (Environment, Health, Movement, Pollution, Water, Worldwide)
Tags: canada, conservatives, contaminants, environment, environmental protection, fisheries, global stewardship, petition, politics, pollution, protection, Science, water

Dear Everyone,

My name is Naomi. I am Canadian. I worked for Environment Canada, our federal environmental department, for several years before our current Conservative leadership (under Stephen Harper) began decimating environmentalism in Canada. I, along with thousands and thousands of federal science employees lost any hope of future work. Their attitude towards the environment is ‘screw research that contradicts the economic growth, particularly of the oil sands’. They have openly and officially denigrated anyone that supports the environment and opposes big-money oil profit as ‘radicals’ (http://tinyurl.com/7wwf8dp).

Here, have a sip of the Kool aid:

Right.. it's how 'Environmentalism has Failed' because it couldn't somehow magically survive being pushed off the cliff. Again and again.

Yeah, I recently traveled through the Brazilian Amazon and saw first hand how endangered and fragile that ecosystem is. Especially when it is being attacked by the forces of global Brazilian agribusiness.

Kátia Abreu, a senator representing Tocantins State and the president of the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, lashed out at international environmental groups that have been pooling together to petition Ms. Rousseff to veto the bill.

“There are NGOs out there that are compromised with their countries of origin, particularly from Europe,” said Ms. Abreu, referring to nongovernmental organizations and describing their actions as an “attempt to paralyze the growth of Brazilian agribusiness.”

And it gets worse!


Are those of us concerned about the growing and dire threats to the Amazon and its peoples fantasizing about President Dilma Rousseff's dismal socio-environmental policies? She seems to think so. This week she belittled the critiques of leading Brazilian human rights and environmental organizations calling their objections to her government's disastrous plans to extensively dam the Amazon's rivers a "fantasy."

Telling assembled representatives of 36 NGOs that their concerns about her government's unprecedented backsliding on socio-environmental issues are "absurdly ethereal or fanciful", Dilma has launched a counter-offensive to the growing and well-deserved criticisms that she is presiding over a catastrophic dismantling of the hard-won social and environmental gains enshrined in Brazil's 1988 constitution.

The timing of this vitriol is not accidental: in the months preceding the Rio+20 conference the Brazilian government urgently needs to reinforce its credentials as a country that has balanced economic growth and poverty reduction with respect for environmental sustainability and human rights. However, Dilma may find it challenging to keep the wool pulled over our eyes; disasters like the gutting of Brazil's conservationist Forest Code and the illegal construction of the Belo Monte dam on the Amazon's Xingu River irrefutably undermine her government's socio-environmental record.

She may yet turn out to be the worst Brazilian president of all time! So much for women in power...

We won't need AGW to turn Amazon into a savannah, agribusiness will do it for us.

Stephen Harper is a disgrace to his country and the world. He should be removed from office and charged with crimes against humanity.

Uh no, that would Trudeau, who has the disgrace category all wrapped up.

I've come to think that comparing economists to astrologers is unfair to the astrologers. If an astrologer in the Middle Ages gave advice as consistently bad as the majority of today's economists do, he'd have had his head rotting on a pike over a castle gate!

I saw on TV once, they had some experts bet on the stock market. Also, monkies in a tree was given darts. News papers with the stockmarket pages where spread out under the tree. Then the monkies lost interest in the boring darts and dropped them. The stocks they nailed were bought.

The monkies made better money than the experts.

Concurring with Fred, to some degree...

So economics is a difficult area to do hard science.

To which Fred replied, "So is Astrology".

Actually what came to my mind is that there is a lot of myth about what "hard" science is and isn't. Some of our sciences have an inherent difficulty practicing experimental empiricism. Astrophysics, for example. That does not present a real problem since they are careful to base their hypotheses generation on first principles from physics. There are many sciences that are dependent on observation and modeling and they do quite well. They just always base their hypotheses on principles from other (especially experimental sciences) and very careful observations of system behaviors.

Neo-classical economists had no first principles. They made their principles up in order to look like the physicists they envied. And they never, ever, try to rectify this mess.

Please let me highly recommend Charlie Hall's and Kent Klitgaard's book. In there you will see, very carefully laid out, how economics could become a real science. Biophysical econ is an attempt to bring very rigorous principles and observations of the most meaningful variables into economics.



Neo-classical economists had no first principles. They made their principles up in order to look like the physicists they envied. And they never, ever, try to rectify this mess.


I admit to painting with a rather broad brush when I use the term 'economists', I would be more precise if I were to say, as you have, Neo-classical economists! As I myself have very little quarrel with Biophysical economists.

I know this link has been posted before but it might be worth revisiting just to keep things in perspective.

The physical theory that the creators of neoclassical economics used as a template was conceived in response to the inability of Newtonian physics to account for the phenomena of heat, light and electricity. In 1847 German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz formulated the conservation of energy principle and postulated the existence of a field of conserved energy that fills all space and unifies these phenomena. Later in the century James Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann and other physicists devised better explanations for electromagnetism and thermodynamics, but in the meantime, the economists had borrowed and altered Helmholtz’s equations.

The strategy the economists used was as simple as it was absurd—they substituted economic variables for physical ones. Utility (a measure of economic well-being) took the place of energy; the sum of utility and expenditure replaced potential and kinetic energy. A number of well-known mathematicians and physicists told the economists that there was absolutely no basis for making these substitutions. But the economists ignored such criticisms and proceeded to claim that they had transformed their field of study into a rigorously mathematical scientific discipline.

Emphasis mine.

I would agree with George.Mobus.

with most scientific fields you can isolate other variables and do a controlled experiment. But with the global economy, we only have this one world and most experiments are done as simulations.

I somewhat agree. This is why economics should not be called a science, it should be considered conjecture at best. Certainly, economists should not be holding the highest positions of power, setting policies that impact everything beneath. We should instead have scientists and engineers in charge (including social scientists).

Economies could be better managed and simulated, if not through direct scientific experimentation since as you point out we can't really do controlled experiments, instead by understanding the "hard science" first principles developed by scientists and engineers -- ecology and energy flow are the ones of paramount importance. Unfortunately, except for ecological economists, no economist has a clue about how this works.

I think it is ourselves who got us into this mess. We voters all want lots of government services and no taxes. So the politicians gave us what we wanted via debt.

Sorry but I have to heartily disagree there. Voters want what they had a few decades ago, which they were able to achieve just by working hard. Now, working hard will not bring the same benefits it used to. Many people can't even find a job in order to work hard. Blame this on decades of currency manipulation hollowing out the economy, resource constraints as America ran out of oil, and the propaganda media machine convincing everyone to continue with the status quo, to just keep consuming. So of course the masses are ultimately responsible for this mess, but only because they allowed themselves to be brainwashed and they allowed a parasitic leadership of oligarchs to set these suicidal national economic policies.

And you may not realize, but when you factor in real inflation as per Shadowstats, per-capita US government spending has actually been going down for 25 years. The debt spiral we are witnessing is from devaluation of the currency (money printing), not from overspending. We have a debt based monetary system, all money is created from debt. This requires perpetual growth to function, so it's not surprising that it's ending with an increasingly out-of-control debt spiral.

And it's the rich who can avoid paying taxes more so than the middle class.

95% in agreement. I don't think this part is right however:
"The debt spiral we are witnessing is from devaluation of the currency (money printing), not from overspending."
Money printing is caused by the imbalance, which is caused by the refusal of our political system to raise sufficient revenues. Of course resource depletion adds additional stresses to the system, which we try to paper over by various schemes (such as economic bubble blowing). But, given that our electoral system largely works by "Are you better off than 4years ago?", its hard to fault politicians (and whole political parties), for fudging things, otherwise they will be thrown out.

We voters all want lots of government services and no taxes. So the politicians gave us what we wanted via debt.

Is this "we" because one has a turn in their pocket and wants to share?

United States 41.0% 41.7% 37.8%

So less then 50% vote.

My memory of TARP was various Congressional office staffers stating things like 'most of the calls are against' - yet that passed.

So how "true" is this idea of "getting what we want"?

From your source, over 62% of the voter-eligible population voted in 2008. A lot of this is due to voter suppression tactics. For instance in Minnesota 78.1% of the voter-eligible population voted in 2008. Minnesota doesn't actively try to make it difficult to vote.

To expand further then - if 62% vote and the votes are split 1/2 - 1/2 that translates to less then 1/3 of the people vote FOR the person who ends up in office.

Now - how does that make a valid "A will of the people" argument?

Oh, it's not one man, one vote. Plutocrats buy the policies they want, including who votes and how.

I hate to say it, but science and engineering have also caused their share of today's problems. Engineering in particular has been a double-edged sword - the "built environment" designed around cars, shorelines turned to concrete (a much worse problem in Japan than the US), the creation of factory fishing boats, hydroelectric dams, cars themselves... Even computers are very far from a universal boon. All of these things have massive downsides along with their massive upsides. When rivers like the Colorado and Rio Grande don't always reach the sea, you have to wonder whether anybody realized the end result of massive engineering.

Science has it's own list of sins, though it tries to put itself behind the barrier of being research into the way the world works, that doesn't explain the nuclear bomb or genetically modified crops (the problems of which are actually more environmental rather than on personal health, but are very serious just the same - herbicide and insecticide resistance through an attempt to get around nature, basically).

And what about nuclear power? The people that seem to support it the most are very smart, scientists and engineers... Hubris comes with knowledge. You think because it makes sense in theory it is a good idea. Not always so.

I would say the essential problem of all of the human race has been hubris.

In 1913 railroad engineering had reached a very high level of technical knowledge. Engineers and scientists, along with railroad executives, were prepared to offer an excellent 20th Century transportation system. Consumers, however, chose the automobile instead. Elected officials finally told engineers to build roads rather than railroads. I have spent a career trying to convince elected officials, private developers, and citizens of the need for energy conservation, environmental integrity, public transit, sidewalks, and every other part of sustainable development. It is a very tough sell. Just recently I talked with old college friends at a gathering; all were much more politically liberal than me. Yet none of them rode a city bus, few recycled, and all flew instead of taking Amtrak. All I can do is make changes in my life and show people it can be done.

Relatively few new tram lines, or major railroad improvements were made anywhere in the world after WW I.#

The great exception was Switzerland. And national defense/survival in case of another major war was one driving factor - another was the keen Swiss sense for economic efficiency.

That continues today.

About 17 years ago, a majority of the Swiss people (61% from memory) voted to invest 31 billion Swiss francs to improve their already superb rail system.

Many goals, but #1 was shifting freight from trucks to electrified rail.

Almost half the amount went to the Gotthard Base Tunnel and shorter base tunnels. Basically, an almost flat, sort of straight rail line from Zurich to Milan, plus a much better rail line from Bern towards both Milan and France.

Adjusted for population & currency, this was more than the USA investing $1.1 TRillion in better rail lines.

Separately, Zurich invested about 1 billion Swiss francs to expand rail capacity.

Best Hopes for the Swiss - Although they are investing wisely for their "luck",


# Stalin did double track the Trans-Siberian railroad, which was crucial during WW II. Not just in moving supplies & troops from the Pacific port and Far East, but also from factories relocated on the other side of the Urals.

Electrification of the Trans-SIberian Railway was begun in 1929 and completed in 2002. (Wikipedia)

Which makes it difficult to argue that 'we' cannot electrify our railways because they are too remote, cold, long, hot, snowy yadda yadda yadda.

And imagine a government of Canada or the USA that could plan a 70 year project, let alone the 1000 years or so it took to build China's Grand Canal. Boggles the mind, really.


I have tried to follow the history of this.

The early electrification was 'spot" electrification. Difficult mountains, long tunnels (imagine steam locos !) where the advantage of electric locos was significant.

Then areas with good hydropower and little use for it, far from coal mines. Why haul coal 2,000 miles, taking up valuable (critical in WW II) rail capacity, when hydropower was nearby ? Plus fewer men were required (no coal mined, no stokers on the locomotives).

And then the gaps were filled. Fewer places to change locos (fun in Siberia in February).

And finally all electric - one reason being because capacity on the diesel stretches was becoming an issue and diesels break down more often than electric locos. Not good on a very busy rail line !

Voltage switches from 3 kV DC to 25 kV AC a dozen or more times from Moscow to Vladivostok.

OTOH, the electrification from St. Petersburg to Murmansk was done in one project and completed in 2005. The Turksib electrification is well along I understand.

Best Hopes for Russian Rail,


The tide is turning though. Building lots of public transport was a hard sell with $1/gallon gasoline. But with $4+/gallon gasoline (it is still up there where I live) and eventual higher prices . . . well, public transportation starts to make a lot more sense. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is going down. Politicians can't help but notice that and need to provide people with other options.

Granted, there are still flat Earthers that refuse to see that things have changed. But they have. And the politicians will need to provide what is best for the community or they'll start losing voters.

economics < science < sapience.

I hate to say it, but science and engineering have also caused their share of today's problems.

Anthropologist Marvin Harris used to say that the only technological innovation that has truly helped humanity is birth control.

(Contraception does not get much traction without low infant mortality? Fewer maternal deaths in childbirth seem to help. Soap helped a good deal in the good old days.)

His argument was that technology that increased human lifespan had the drawback of increasing population. Without contraception, anyway.

...I would say the essential problem of all of the human race has been hubris.

That's not just a problem, but *the essential* problem? And not for some people, but for *all* seven billion people, everywhere, for all time?

there is no limit to human greed and folly.

I recently had an e-mail exchange with Robert Reich re: the futility of growth orientation. He is SO ideological it is impossible to even get close to having a reasonable conversation.

Harsh reality is just that. Ole Reisch is making a few correct calls elsewhere.


Wrapping his head 'bout growth may take some time.

But to discount any discussion about it, out of hand, seems something less than cordial. He is on a liberal roll. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story.

Given that resource constraints aren't fully binding on the economy yet, I suspect they see you as distracting from the main (near-term) point that the lack of recovery from the Lesser Depression is a matter of choice by our oligarchs which is making (almost) all of us poorer. I've seen good stuff from Krugman on the 'energy gap,' i.e. the fact that energy efficiency investments with high economic returns are not implemented by the market due to market inefficiencies. I'm sure both of them also support carbon taxes, and higher fuel taxes, etc.

I have no idea what you mean by "fully binding on the economy". Neither Krugman nor Reich have a clue re: the physics of energy conversion. They are stuck in the mind set of techno-cornucopianism. The truth is that the market (for alternative energy sources) is actually spot on. Alternatives do not have high returns and probably never will. It is a matter of energy density of the source. Sunlight = diffuse. Oil = dense. What you have to invest to make up for the difference is huge (large collection apertures). And to build those apertures you need to use, guess what(?), fossil fuels!

I mean the economy can grow strongly at the present time, despite energy resource restrictions, if we let it. You also missed the part where I said energy efficiency, not alternative energy sources. Folks who talk about energy gaps, carbon taxes, fuel taxes, etc. aren't exactly cornucopians. They have a defensibly different focus.

It starts by people suggesting that Economics is a science. I think they get it right (although not for the reasons they believe) when they call it the dismal science because it really is a poor excuse for science. To me the essence of science is the repeatability - I challenge any economic theory to meet that test. A tax increase in 1993 gave us 8 years of growth a decrease in 2001 gave us 8 years of economic contraction. Increased budget deficits have resulted in both lower and higher interest rates - and on and on.

I wonder if a 1000 years from now people will be as amused by our deferring to economists as we are today amused about the ancients listening oracles augures and astrolgers? IMO the Economics departments should be merged with those of Astrology if they will have them. I can think of nothing more stupid than to build a body of "knowledge" on the assumption of the rational human being when we now know from serious experimental research that human beings are anything but rational.

A big issue with economics, is that the economy is composed of human actions, which are strogly affected by psychology, and culture -even fads, etc. Then the closeness to political power generates pressure to join one ideological camp or the other.
And many experiments are only "half" performed, as the political system pushes back against experimentation. Which leads to both (political/ideologic) sides shouting past each other "X doesn't work!", no "X was never tried -halfhearted doesn't count"!

Oil well in Cuba comes up dry, raises questions about future exploration

Cuba’s dreams of an oil bonanza suffered a tough but possibly temporary setback Friday when the Spanish Repsol company confirmed it hit a dry hole when it drilled a well off the island’s northwest coast.

... Repsol spokesman in Kristian Rix confirmed to journalists in Havana Friday that the Scarabeo-9 floating drill platform found nothing in a well in more than 6,000 feet of water about 20 miles northwest of Havana. The well will be capped, he added.

The dry hole also will put more pressure on Castro to ensure a continuation of the ultra-close relations with Venezuela, which ships an estimated 110,000 barrels a day to Cuba, part of it for the domestic market and part for refining and export to Caribbean nations.

Drilling the well cost an estimated $100 million to $150 million, financed by a consortium made up of Repsol, Norway’s Statoil and ONGC, an Indian oil company, Piñón noted. Repsol owns 40 percent of the partnership, so it will be hit with that portion of the losses.

Does that mean we will no longer have to hear about the "Well Cuba is drilling just off Florida's coast!!!" stories?


Maybe I have misunderstood some of your previous posts- but I got the sense from reading them that with the use of modern technology the odds of drilling a dry well are a lot lower than they used to be in the past. Much more expensive but much higher probability. Is not coming up dry with the fist well (presumably drilled in the most confident part of the formation) a big deal?

IIRC, the Florida Shelf is part of the microplate that carries Florida, and is not part of the same plate as the rest of the Gulf of Mexico. Since there is not a lot of oil and gas in Florida, it is not clear why anyone would expect that the Florida Shelf (or the Gulf east of the meridian through about Pensacola) would have any oil.

Cuba is also on yet another microplate, and does not share geology with either Florida or the western Gulf.

Repsol cancels Argentina gas exports

Spanish firm Repsol has cancelled a contract to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Argentina.

... Currently Argentina relies on LNG imports to meet 20-30% of domestic natural gas consumption.

Repsol was due to provide 10 of the 80 cargo shipments planned to meet peak demand between June and September.

In European Crisis, Iceland Emerges as an Island of Recovery

VESTMANNAEYJAR, Iceland—Three and a half years after Iceland collapsed in a heap, Dadi Palsson's fish-processing plant has the air of a surprising economic recovery. Mr. Palsson arrived at 4 a.m. on a recent workday. Twelve tons of cod were coming in. Soon, his workers would bone, slice and pack the fish for loading onto towering container ships headed abroad.

In 2008, Iceland was the first casualty of the financial crisis that has since primed the euro zone for another economic disaster: Greece is edging toward a cataclysmic exit from the euro, Spain is racked by a teetering banking system, and German politicians are squabbling over how to hold it all together. But Iceland is growing. Unemployment has eased. Emigration has slowed.

Iceland has a significant advantage over stressed euro-zone countries—a currency that could be devalued. That has turned its trade deficit into a surplus and smoothed its recovery . . . . unlike Ireland, for example, Iceland let its banks fail and made foreign creditors, not Icelandic taxpayers, largely responsible for covering losses.

Thanks for posting W. Tex. Too bad it is behind a firewall. Of interest to this forum might be this excerpt from that article:

"Icelanders head and power their homes with geothermal energy; the Greeks [by contrast] import their energy and would suffer a huge price shock after a devaluation [should they leave the Euro]"

Greece has excellent solar potential, and solar could be one of their exports, either in electron form or virtually:

Greece Urged to Sell ‘Virtual’ Solar Power to Help EU Meet Goals:

Greece, planning a 20 billion-euro ($26 billion) solar venture, would do well to sell the power “virtually” to help other European countries offset more- polluting generation, according to an adviser to the project.

Greece could strike energy-purchase deals whereby nations buy output from the Helios venture without actually taking delivery of the power, said Alex Papalexopoulos, chief executive officer of energy consultants Ecco International Inc. The transaction, essentially an investment in renewable energy abroad, can help buyers meet clean-power goals at home, he said.

“It’s a very imaginative way of allowing renewable energy from countries which have plenty to meet the requirements of other countries where renewable energy is expensive,” Papalexopoulos said by telephone. The Helios development, a “national priority” for Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, may comprise as many as 10,000 megawatts of solar panels by 2050.

Considering the current situation, this idea may be moot, but if I were a Greek looking for long term investment in Greece, converting some euros into PV may be a way to go...

See also: Solar Power Just Might Save the Greek Economy ...or at least soften the landing a bit :-/

Greece also has quite a bit of potential for pumped storage of wind and solar. Some discussion as applied to remote islands in the Aegean: Energy balance analysis of wind-based pumpedhydrostorage systems in remote island electrical networks.

CAPEX needed!

It would appear that Iceland's per capita oil consumption in 2010 was about 50% more than Greece:


Of course, this not total energy consumption.

This website, from the Economist, indicates that total global public debt, from 2005 to 2010, was growing at about 7%/year, on track to double in 10 years:


Meanwhile, I estimate that the post-2005 Cumulative Supply of GNE and of ANE* respectively fell at about 5%/year and 10%/year from 2005 to 2010, on track to respectively fall by 50% in 14 years and 7 years, after 2010.

In any case, it occurs to me that if most oil importing countries are following Iceland's path, just at different rates, perhaps the following quote is relevant:

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly

*GNE = Global Net Oil Exports, top 33 net oil exporters in 2005, total petroleum liquids, BP + Minor EIA data; ANE = Available Net Exports (GNE less Chindia's combined net oil imports)


This CNN Report from ~ 9 May 2012 lauds the assertion that Icelandic fishing fleet hauled in 21% more Haddock this March compared to the year prior...the show's host spread the good news that Iceland is returning to its roots and its fishing industry will lead it to relative prosperity compared to the recent past.


The shows host also lauds the future of Iceland due to the fact that its leading candidate for President is female, smart, gorgeous, and has 6 kids (she showed a pic depicting the woman, her hubby, five kids, and one on the way).

I suppose this is par for the course nowadaze with U.S. television 'news' channels...no discussion about sustainable fisheries..no discussion about carrying capacity of the island...the facile cheerleading message was 'more is better'....the unspoken corollary was 'limits? what limits?'

Iceland went to war twice with the British Royal Navy (and won both times) for the right to manage their fisheries.

They believe that they have the most sustainable fisheries in the world. certainly their cod stocks are in fine shape - while Canadian and British cod fisheries have collapsed.

The quota for haddock had been cut in 2010-11

The Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries has set the annual cod quota for coming fishing year, which starts on September 1st, 2010 at 160,000 tones -10,000 tons more than the current year, and exactly as predicted by Fishupdate just over a month ago.

However, there is not such good news on haddock which is popular in Britain. The quota has been set at 50,000 tons, a reduction of 20 per cent or 13,000 tones on the current year. It is the second large scale reduction in successive years...

more at

So apparently, they increased the haddock quota back up in 2011-12 fishing year after two years of strong cuts.

The last female Icelandic PM was a lesbian, so it kind of balances out.

And the carrying capacity of Iceland (just 300K people now) is likely increasing with global warming. Provided they are willing to eat fish and smelt aluminum.

Best Hopes for Iceland !


Amen, Alan
After the collapse of the herring fisheries and the complete devastation of some of their east coast communities in the late ‘60s, the Icelanders got it. They established a 200 mi limit, confronted the Brits and others, and have tried to hold on the remaining stocks of cod and haddock. Their self-imposed restrictions on fish size and load size are enforced by the same converted whale boats that challenged the Royal Navy. Living isolated for centuries on that desolate rock with few resources taught them much about “sustainability” and “carrying capacity.” The rest of us in the bounteous New World should watch and listen. (a shame they still like to murder whales)

It is heartening to know that some group of people have established and enforced sustainability limits, and I appreciate the information.

Somehow I think Erin Burnett didn't have the memo on Iceland's embracing of sustainability...she came off as having a blindingly simplistic 'more is better' (ad infinitum) outlook.

Iceland's fishery success comes from private ownership of the fishing rights in their waters, which can be bought and sold. The results have been spectacular. Operators that were poor fisherman, inefficient, and had no long term interest in Icelandic waters quickly sold out to those that were the opposite, and who consequently could work the waters very profitably.

As an aside Id like to see the same kind of thing done in US waters for the benefit of the fishing stock but also especially as a balance to offshore oil and gas drilling. Nobody would watch the drillers as closely as those who had a ownership stake in the marine life of the waters, especially not bungling government overseers.

And the carrying capacity of Iceland (just 300K people now) is likely increasing with global warming.

Well, maybe, maybe not. I saw a claim that during the deglaciation roughly ten thousand years ago, volcanic activity (due to removing the confinement pressure of ice), was fifty times the present rate. I don't know if that is actually supported by the evidence -I figured the effect would be more like a factor of two. But, if a new round of deglaciation due to AGW, spikes volcanic activity, it could be problematic.

IT is no nonsense that changes tosea level and glacialcoverage affect the mass balance of geological active systems. Much more than I would guess when I first read about it. Iceland is the most geologically active island on the world so they will see more of this. But there are entirely unactive areas as well. They can grow crops there instead.

Here a link to your claim:

The link between volcanism and deglaciation in Iceland
Temporal variation in the eruption rate and lava composition in the rift zones of Iceland is associated with deglaciation.

behind paywall:

google cache full text:

From the conclusion:

Eruption rates immediately after deglaciation were 30–50 times higher than those from more recent times. These high eruption rates persisted for <1.5 kyr after the deglaciation of each area.


The high eruption rates and low REE [Rare Earth Elements] concentrations in the lava from early postglacial times can be accounted for by increased melt generation rates in the shallow mantle caused by unloading of an icesheet.

A list of Icelandic volcano eruptions from Settlement till today. The most devastating one was 1783.


30 to 50x as many eruptions would adversely affect most of Northern Europe and even Central Asia.

Icelandic glaciers are in full retreat now.


The one mitigating thing. I don't know the actual numbers, but I strongly suspect the amount of ice loss at the end of the last glacial (in Iceland) was several times greater than the current ice mass. So the effect should be proportionately smaller.
But, one large Laki style eruption would still be catstrophic for the country.

Interesting anecdote from Jared Diamond's Collapse on sustainability in Iceland:

Almost everywhere else in the world, my archaeologist friends have an
uphill struggle to convince governments that what archaeologists do has
any conceivable practical value. They try to get funding agencies to under-
stand that studies of the fates of past societies may help us understand what
could happen to societies living in that same area today. In particular, they
reason, environmental damage that developed in the past could develop
again in the present, so one might use knowledge of the past to avoid re-
peating the same mistakes.

Most governments ignore these pleas of archaeologists. That is not the
case in Iceland, where the effects of erosion that began 1,130 years ago are
obvious, where most of the vegetation and half of the soil have already been
lost, and where the past is so stark and omnipresent. Many studies of me-
dieval Icelandic settlements and erosion patterns are now under way. When
one of my archaeologist friends approached the Icelandic government and
began to deliver the usual lengthy justification required in other countries,
the government's response was: "Yes, of course we realize that understand-
ing medieval soil erosion will help us understand our present problem. We
already know that, you don't have to spend time convincing us. Here is the
money, go do your study."

in iceland many have suvs, and some for a good reason: lots of roads are good enough for standard cars just in summer. and even in summer if you want to go to the interior of the country it's better to have a land rover or something similar. so it doesn't surprise me that their oil consumption (per capita) is very high. (fishing boats use oil too)

iceland has a lot of hydro, that's why there is aluminium production there.

president in iceland has no power (like in germany).

A significant fraction of the Icelandic oil consumption goes to power fishing boats (see about 1 ton of fish caught per Icelander each year).

They are looking at ways to catch the same fish with less effort i.e. oil. Quotas and very professional fishermen help in this.#

The other is that they are looking at methanol - formed from carbon monoxide and steam. Some small amounts of CO from geothermal steam, but a better source is their electric arc steel furnaces making silicon steel (used in transformers).

The financial crisis has slowed down innovation.

Best Hopes for Iceland,


# Third hand - Some Icelander fishermen that watched "Deadliest Catch" - They fish comparable waters but thought the Alaskans were irresponsible cowboys.

It is hard to replace the energy density of liquid fuels, so fishing fleets will continue to require oil.

But Iceland, with its abundant energy from geothermal, should move to an all electric car fleet.
They've got cheap geothermal electricity and they are an island nation with limited places to drive.
Why not go all electric for cars? That would slash their oil imports.

FIshing fleets used no significant oil until the 20th Century. It is possible to go anywhere, apparently, in a sailboat. Although a motor is very nice for harbours and docking, but that limited use might be possible with solar electric.

Propulsion is relatively efficient using wind, on the other hand I'm not sure if you could run the freezers with the wind & solar collected on board.

Electrification would not reduce oil use by the fishing fleet. I'd guess long-time-at-sea fishing fleets will likely be the very last thing to electrify, even after aviation and transport shipping switches over.

As for costs, the high cost of importing electric cars might be causing Icelanders to wait and see a bit, maybe hoping for some biofuels.

A significant fraction of the Icelandic oil consumption goes to power fishing boats (see about 1 ton of fish caught per Icelander each year).

Yes, about 2/3 of automobile transportation, which is a huge fraction compared to everywhere else.


I see where the fishing is becoming more efficient - as planned when I worked there. But auto and aircraft are more than making up the difference !

Best Hopes for the Islanders !


Iceland has no fossil fuel resources but yet is an increadibly car dependent country. Aside from some transit buses in Reykjavik and Akureyri and a few intercity (intervillage) buses along the Highway 1 ring road, there's no public tranportation and not a single railroad in the whole country. And for some strange reason, Icelanders are in love with massive 4x4 SUVs, which they can barely afford to operate.

On the plus side, Iceland's population is tiny (320,000) and they have a glut of hydroelectric power. If push came to shove, Iceland could certainly electrify a significant portion of their land tranporation although it would cost a bundle.

And for some strange reason, Icelanders are in love with massive 4x4 SUVs, which they can barely afford to operate.

Strange reason? The country is north of the artic circle. Give them a break.

After doing some load rejection test on a recently completed dam in the uninhabitable Highlands of Iceland, we drove to another dam to spend the night. One meter of fresh snow and we "swam" though it in a 4WD Subaru (USED to be the favorite rural car) - driving right between the 2 meter tall orange sticks on either side of the road.

I asked what would they do if the snow was 2 meters deep and not one, and covered up the sticks. "Well, you shouldn't be driving then".

The 4WD Subaru was a favorite - relatively economical and it could get through snow & ice.

Best Hopes for SOME mobility,


I saw an H1 Hummer (US military version type Hummer) hauling a trailer full of sheep to market in Iceland. Only time I ever saw one being useful.

We call our 4wd Subaru the 'Snow Flea'.. she just hops through whatever you put her into..

There's very little practical need for 4x4s in Iceland. Almost all the population lives along the relatively mild coastline where there isn't much snow accumulation in the winter and where the main roads are regularly plowed. Most of the 4x4s in Iceland are used strictly for recreation just like in the US.

A decent percentage of the population lives in small towns, mainly fishing villages and rural areas. And even in Reykjavik, snow & ice is problem for much of the year.


Almost two thirds of Iceland's population lives in the Reykjavik area which does not get much snow in the winter.
Reykjavik Weather

Yes, and from which I assume they *travel* to other parts of the island from time to time (e.g. Alan's dam visit post), or regularly for work, made possible in part by 4X4s.

Actually, the whole island is *south* of the arctic circle.

Yes, my mistake, it is *just* south of the arctic circle.

Does the following approach make sense to you guys?

First the debt clock (which I think considerably underestimates total obligations like Social Security):


They show total global public debt increasing from about $27 trillion in 2005 to $40 trillion in 2010.

Following are my estimates of post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) for key countries and regions:


I show post-2005 Global CNE at 357 Gb at the end of 2005 and post-2010 Global CNE at 277 GB at the end of 2010.

I show post-2005 Available CNE (GNE less Chindia's net imports) at 168 Gb at the end of 2005 and post-2010 Available GNE at 100 Gb at the end of 2010.

So (if my math is correct), total global public debt per barrel of remaining cumulative exported oil would be:


GNE: $76/barrel

ANE: $161/barrel


GNE: $144/barrel

ANE: $400/barrel

Total Global Public debt per barrel of remaining Global CNE increased at 13% per year from 2005 to 2010.

Total Global Public debt per barrel of remaining Available CNE increased at 18% per year from 2005 to 2010*.

*At this rate of increase, the debt to Available CNE ratio would be $2,400 per barrel of oil in 2020.

“Total Global Public debt per barrel of remaining Available CNE increased at 18% per year from 2005 to 2010”.

I think you are once again on to something here WT. 18% a year makes for some evil exponential doubling times. I wonder how long the global economy can limp along before the next round of massive bailouts.

I think large parts of the global trade will spring to a halt once the banks collapse under the pressure*, since normally a bank is needed mediate the transaction, since one usually doesn't send letters with money in them to pay for a ship full with steel or wheat. In international trade letters of credit are used. They have so far (for centuries) been seen as very safe, since if the receiver can't pay the banks can seize the commodities used as security for the trade and sell them to pay the supplier. But when banks fall like bowling pins all over the world the trust in letters of credit will fall as well. The problem will probably be remedied through states going in and putting up letters of credit for the commodities deemed important. But what happens to the states not deemed credit credible?

*How long this process could take is uncertain, but it seems rather inevitable when considering that entire nations, of the acronym BIGBIPS (Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain) could/will default on their debts, with the crisis worsening with every country defaulting.

BIGBIPS (Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain)

An awkward term - by swapping 'Great' Britain with Portugal you get the much more memorable

Britain's debts are sterling denominated. They control their own currency. They aren't going to default. The fact that the morons running the country have less sense or understanding of the economy than a typical British banker back in the 19th century is certainly powerful evidence of the blinders imposed by ideology and tribalism.

I'd say massive inflation is a sort of default.

In a NYT article today, a Spanish citizen noted that at the same time that they were being asked to "Tighten our belts we are being told to drop our pants."

The conventional wisdom approach appears to be that debt financed stimulus spending is necessary to keep the economies in OECD countries at least stable, while we wait for the inevitable return of cheap oil prices and strong economic growth. But many countries now have critical levels of debt, so, at least in the Eurozone, some countries are being forced to curtail public spending, leading to the above observation.

I've thought for a while that most debt and stock market values are mispriced, because there will not enough be exported oil available to generate the economic activity necessary to pay back the debt and to generate the corporate earnings that the stock markets are expecting.

It seems likely to me that it is not if, but when, that most oil importing OECD countries will face the problems that Iceland and Greece are facing. So, as noted above, it occurs to me that it may be better for debt ridden countries to default earlier versus later.

Yes, WT, I think that this is a very useful measure. May I suggest that it deserves a name?

First, it is valid mathematically, in the sense that both dollars and barrels of oil are ratio scales, and hence can be unambiguously divided one by the other. Not all "scientific" measures enjoy this property (mathematical validity). If this is of any interest, the topic is dissected in "Foundations of Measurement" in three volumes.

Second, the measure can be thought of as the amount of debt which must be carried by each remaining barrel of oil. Then, since oil is a physical quantity and money is an artificial construct, it is an inverse measure of the health of the global economy, and can form the basis for a real measure of global inflation. Like global warming, it is a global average, not a universal local measure. It's utility is not undiminished by its being beyond manipulation by interested parties (like governments).

Nicely done.


A political pundit on British TV, discussing the current politico/economic shenanigins in the UK, was clever enough to incorporate into his missive the observaton that all current political initiatives (odd idea) are based on the assumption that economic stability will return within the next two years, thus making victory in the next election possible.

This is why I drink too much!

...too bad it is behind a firewall [paywall]...

Copy the headline into Google and open the WSJ link from there.

Wagoner backs tax on [Ohio] state oil, gas

COLUMBUS -- So far, Gov. John Kasich's idea to expand taxes on a burgeoning shale oil and gas industry to underwrite an income-tax cut for Ohioans is just that -- an idea.

... In a statement issued this month, Tom Poorman, president of the Zanesville-Muskingum Chamber of Commerce, said the shale oil and gas industry in eastern and southern Ohio is too young to risk with higher taxes.

"We are competing for oil and gas investment with other areas of the nation and the world, just like in all types of business attraction," he said. "Higher taxes will make it more difficult to compete with other places. We are not willing to risk this new opportunity."

... Taxes now could be as low as 20 cents a barrel for oil.

“Tom Poorman, president of the Zanesville-Muskingum Chamber of Commerce, said the shale oil and gas industry in eastern and southern Ohio is too young to risk with higher taxes.... Taxes now could be as low as 20 cents a barrel for oil.”

On some perverse level I hope Tom was just bought off by the local oil patch and that a person in his position just isn’t that ignorant. In the very hot Eagle Ford Shale trend in Texas the severance tax on oil is 4.6%. And that’s a bargain compared to Louisiana where severance tax is 12.5% on oil. Additionally counties/parishes in both states collect production taxes of a few percent.

So the Ohio citizens may collect $0.20 per $100 bbl of oil while the citizens of Texas collect $4.60 per bbl and in Louisiana $12.50 per bbl. IOW Louisiana operators will be paying over 60X more severance tax per bbl of oil than operators in Ohio. Makes you wonder why Devon and other companies are spending tens of $millions trying to turn the new Marine Tuscaloosa Shale play north of New Orleans into the next Eagle Ford exploration model.

If my Yankee cousins buy this BS they deserve to get screwed by their politicians and the oil patch IMHO.

Anyone know what Alberta / BC charges? RMG?

I understand that in 1960, Saskatchewan (adjacent to Alberta) charged 12.5%.

Re: "Here, on average, two tonnes of earth must be strip-mined and seven barrels of water heated to steam in order to produce a barrel of oil."
Exaggeration. The industry typically assumes 3 barrels of water heated to steam per barrel of oil for SAGD. = SOR Steam to Oil Ratio. See Oil Sands 101
Cenovus uses 2.5 SOR

Interesting trade-off: Keep the status quo or not?

On one hand, this action could be accused of being protectionism and conflicting with the ideals of 'free trade'...

...on the other hand, to what extent is China subsidizing this (and other) industries in order to gain market share, drive down competition, and ensure employment for its people?

if China is engaging is considerable subsidies, to a considerably greater extent than the U.S., how does this square with the ideals of 'free trade'?

Are always low, low prices the sole criteria for goodness when sourcing products, or should there be some consideration to husband domestic suppliers to hedge against monopolistic price gouging and/or cutoff of supplies due to societal strife in the supplying country, political or military hostilities, etc...and to preserve/generate some decent jobs and a knowledge base in this country?

Perhaps if we attempt to self-supply, the panels we would have bought could be sold to Japan from China...seems like Japan needs lots of inexpensive double pronto....maybe their companies and government would be amenable to outsourcing 97% of their PV production to China?

These are difficult issues...

One word: Solyndra. Obama gets criticized for guaranteeing loans to these domestic producers, and now for tariffs... No way to even the playing field without applying pain somewhere.

It's a matter of COMMITMENT, Simply, China is committed to Future Energy. Hello? At last year's www.solarpowerinternational.com there were head spinning 1000+ (?) Asian vendors of Modules as well as slim and sexy 10kW Grid Tie Inverters the size of current 5kW Inverters to plugup all those 260 watt panels we were tripping over. Hell, in the 90's I lived less than 400 watts of PV. What you going to do with those watts? Occupy (Support) the aging grid or something?

Quote from WSJ Article: "Washington has long ensured that American taxpayers subsidize solar power as much or more than any energy source. Now the political class wants consumers to pay even more in the form of tariffs on imports of Chinese solar cells. And we thought the Obama Administration liked green energy."

MSM Lies... FACT - Solar's share of DOE Funding 1948-2012 was 11.6% Ya think that's commitment to Future Power? www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22858.pdf
Oh wait, Bill Clinton to the Rescue, keynote speaker for SPI2012. what's he got to say? I'm Sorry for a million Solar roofs?

You are right, Longtimber.

The important point that must be brought up again, and again, is that the people in power in the United States have abandoned the country. They don't care about it's people, it's environment, it's infrastructure, or it's well being. They only care about unlimited global business that brings fiat profits to themselves, enabling a lifestyle of massive consumption.

China is slightly more enlightened. Maybe not by much. But in the world we live in now, the little things will make a difference.

I find it amazing that in 2010 the Germans installed more PV than the U.S. had
in 60 years,since we invented the stuff. Ok, so that's the Germans. But the friggin
Italians did the same thing! The Italians! Together, last year, they installed something like 3x
more than we have in six decades. A local installer here tells me that he has been routinely receiving
cold calls quoting module prices under $1 per watt. When I bought my system about 14 years ago I paid
nearly $4 per watt for modules. Solar is going to surprise to the upside, indeed it already is.

Together, last year, they installed something like 3x, more than we have in six decades.

Try 4x according to the data on this Wikipedia page. What is even more amazing is that according to reports, in December of 2011 alone, Germany installed more PV than the total US capacity up to the end of 2010!

When I think about the growth rates of solar PV capacity in the fastest growing markets, It appears to me that it is far easier to install large amounts of solar PV and wind capacity than it is to install other types of generators. I mentioned wind because China has installed almost 20GW per year over the past couple of years and th US installed close to 10GW per year during it's fastest growing two years.

Just as an example, if Italy were to continue to install PV at their 2011 rate, in Just 6 years they would have installed enough PV to have a peak PV capacity equal to the output entire Japanese fleet of Nuclear reactors! I know full well that intermittent, daytime only PV cannot be compared to baseload nuclear but still, that would mean installing that much PV in the time it takes to design and plan much less in the way of nuclear power!

I can't imagine that the FF power industry likes the idea of being a backstop for renewables so, that might explain why there is not much enthusiasm for the subject in the corporate owned mainstream media.

Alan from the islands

Why We Need a Greener Military
Congress banning the U.S. military from using biofuels is just plain dumb. Article below)


To hammer home the point, the committee’s Republican leaders passed an amendment barring the entire Defense Department from using any alternative fuels, for any purpose, if they’re more expensive than oil. But then, in a shameless disclosure of who’s paying the tiller, they tacked on a provision exempting coal and natural gas from this prohibition. As Noah Shachtman put it in Wired’s Danger Room blog, they “didn’t put limits on all alternative fuels—just the ones with environmental benefits.”

This kerfuffle is just a distraction...a trivial side-show to the main event down the road: The U.S. will at some point need to live within its means..both with respect to Military-Industrial-Spy Agency-Homeland Security-Complex spending, and all other spending...the clock is ticking for the Sequester.

The Majority faction in the House wants to exempt the military from the day of reckoning...and indeed would like to shower it with yet more largesse, while taking the balance out of the hide of 'everything else' whilst preventing tax revenues from rising one iota.

This thing is a slow-motion colossal train-wreck:


Good thing we spent some twenty (20) years (and lots o'money)developing this machine (including a lengthy and expensive Development and Operational Test regime), only to find out that is has a significant problem:


and the 'Party of No' refuses to cut /anything/ in the MIC, regardless of any cost/benefit analysis considerations:


Time for that budget 'Grand Bargain' folks...or else we let the sequester happen...but I do not buy this weaseling out of any MIC cuts while decimating 'all else'.

Shared sacrifice...is the only reasonable way for our Union of States to deal with reality.

Right, but it's not going to happen. This isn't fatalism. It's reality.

Only the threat of a currency collapse will force the hands of the mandarins in charge of this sinking ship.

It's difficult to believe, isn't it? That the most powerful nation on the planet is reduced to status games and bickering?

But yet all of the evidence points in that direction. Human nature I guess.

Welfare is plenty alive and well in the U.S.

MIC welfare...not just swelling the coffers of KTRs, but a rather large jobs program, and a sop to the localities where MIC bases are located...the very first thing is trumpeted when thee is a threat of of base closure is the amount of money the base pours into the community...

Just as a general reflection, I took a look at Bloomberg's "pain at the pump" slides:


I find it very problematic that they arrive at the "pain at the pump" number by comparing the average price with the average daily wage, particularly when one looks at the US where (2010) 46 million people live under the poverty line ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html?pagewanted=all ), or over 15% of the population! A few people thus have a very high income which gives a high average income. The price at the pump in the US and many other countries are thus higher than Bloomsberg shows. It is either through sheer ignorance or an attempt to make things look rosier than they are that median income isn't used.

I find it very problematic that they arrive at the "pain at the pump" number by comparing the average price with the average daily wage, particularly when one looks at the US where (2010) 46 million people live under the poverty line

The pain at the pump is the US is minor compared to India where, according to this survey, it takes 135% of the average daily wage to pay for a gallon of gas. The real reason that Americans feel more pain than warranted is that they're used to low prices and have adapted their transportation infrastucture accordingly. It's not so much a poverty issue in the US, but a long term misappropriation of transportation resources and poor urban planning practices. This has led to a strange phenomenon where even poor people in the US own and operate vehicles, which is not the case in other countries that are rated higher up the pain-at-the-pump index.

All the time I've lived in the US I've owned a car or a truck, but when I lived in Scotland I didn't own a car - just took buses and trains. Most people own cars in the US because everything is spread out far and wide. Bus routes are few and far between, unless you live in a big city.

I was in the parking lot of a big grocery store the other day and there was a very poor family that had a car with different colored doors and panels on it, a junker or as some say a beater. The father was perusing the store, stealing small items and taking them out to his family. If he gets caught the item stolen doesn't warrant a lot of legal action. But after numerous trips saundering through and scuttling away tasty morsels it adds up. But you can see that even a family like this has a car, a station wagon in this case. They probably sleep in it on most nights. It's their home, their RV, their transport, their living room, their kitchen, their everything. A lot of the poor in america live in their vehicles.

What I've seen lately seems a bit scarey though. Which is many people selling what appear to be very nice, not very old cars and trucks. It does not look like they are trading up either, but rather selling to continue treading water.

What I've seen lately seems a bit scarey though. Which is many people selling what appear to be very nice, not very old cars and trucks. It does not look like they are trading up either, but rather selling to continue treading water.

You mean like selling your car for food?

Mad Max ......?

Govt lays out power cuts for summer

The government officially decided Friday on summer electricity consumption reduction targets, setting power savings goals of up to 15 per cent of electricity demand seen in peak hours during the exceptionally hot summer of 2010.

A minimum reduction of 15 per cent was set for the service area of Kansai Electric Power Co., or KEPCO, while minimum targets of 10 per cent and 7 per cent were set for the service areas of Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co., respectively.


The government did not set any numerical targets for the users of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which are expected to have surplus power.

See: http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20120519-3...


Worse than Keystone

It annoys me when countries that pay lip service to reducing global emissions then export fossil fuels like coal. It's beyond hypocrisy, more like a pimp or a non-using drug dealer. What makes it more sleazy is that when the coal is used to power Asian sweatshops it takes away jobs from the exporting country as well as worsening global emissions. The Salon article suggests that US coal exports to China nearly trebled in one or two years. Australia's domestic annual net emissions are about 550 Mt (a lot for 22m people) but I estimate emissions from exported LNG, black thermal and coking coal are about 800 Mt. Now there is a proposal to export pelletised brown coal.

If India and China need to import coal then they have overreached their resource base, which I guess is little different from the rest of the world and oil. Even if China and India can achieve energy independence via low carbon there is no sign this is going to happen soon. Therefore I believe countries with carbon constraints (carbon tax or cap&trade) are entitled to penalise imports from China and India. Because the CO2 embodied in individual items is too hard to calculate I suggest an arbitrary import tax of around 20% of the landed value. When China and India get serious carbon taxes of their own the tariff is lifted.

Therefore the deal is... have all the coal you want but your exports will be carbon taxed when they are landed in other countries. Already I sense a kneejerk reaction along the lines that the 2.5 bn people in Chindia have to be lifted out of poverty. That assumes that coal is the only way to achieve that. Carbon taxing goods made in China and India shares the pain because the West pays more but they sell less. Thus US and Australian coal exports to Asia have yet another hidden price tag. The first hidden price tag is global warming the second is that the coal trade is less financially rewarding.


While I agree that burning coal is likely to prove to have been insane when factored into climate change:

Hansen & Sato 2011: "Earth today, with global temperature having returned to at least the Holocene maximum, is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to even modest additional global mean warming."

My guess however, only a guess, is that the 'funny-money' pseudo-prosperity 'enjoyed' in bubble form in USA/EU this last decade or more has been on the back of China's coal miners. Their share of the world coal production was 28 % in 2000 and 48 % in 2009 to reach an astonishing 3000Mt/annual. Its only when WT's oil ANE (available net exports of oil - see elsewhere this DB) catches up with us, that the wealth-pump in our favour stops working? Or maybe it did already? Who dictates to who?

This looks like an important document. See Aleklett's comment http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-05-20/oil-report-%E2%80%9Ddip...
My point seems valid about trade flows and deficits and financing of those deficits by China et al.

Net billing licences awarded

Under the net billing system, licensees are expected to see huge reductions in their electricity bills after balancing the amount owed for energy used and what is earned from the excess energy sold to the grid.

"The bill from JPS is netted against the bill from the production and at the end of the month, the net bill to the customer," explained Hopeton Heron, deputy director general at the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).

"At the end of three months, you will see whether you owe JPS or JPS owes you and a cheque is cut somewhere to settle the matter," he added.

The system will be governed by a five-year standard offer contract that each licensee is required to sign.

Addressing concerns about the impact of adding new facilities to the grid, Heron said for the next two months, the OUR will be conducting a pilot project that will limit the new connections to two per cent of the existing capacity.

I have several issues with the article, chief among them being the claim that "licensees are expected to see huge reductions in their electricity bills". This is only true if licensees invest in systems that, are almost four times larger than they would need to be to achieve the same savings using a net meetering scheme.

Net billing uses two meters, one for production and one for consumption with the licensees being paid about 11 US cents per kWh for electricity produced while paying about 34 US cents per kWh for the first 100 kWh and roughly 42 US cents for every kWh beyond the first 100. Do any of the guys here who know solar PV see this scheme as offering much of an incentive at all?

They way I see it, licensees must invest thousands of dollars in order for the utility to generate three to four times the amount of revenue that the licensee get per kWh. With net metering the utility would only get that opportunity after the licensee has offset all of their consumption at retail rates. If, following the US NEC for residential, load side, grid interconnected systems, the size of the system is limited to 20% of the power capacity of the premises, the savings under the current arrangement will be about 6% at best. Net meetering would offer savings closer to 20%.

Alan from the islands

If you put a hybrid system between you loads and the consumption meter, you get full price for the solar power since your are offsetting consumption, but the 2 meters complicates this once you have surplus. Could use a Generator transfer switch to sell meter, but there would be a 5 minute delay for US Inverters to check Grid Health. A balancing act a Hybrid Inverter could do, Hmm, there must be a easy solution for this using a Standard GT Inverter. Opportunity for someone.
The Utility should to be able to make a FAIR ROI on the Power they purchase, It's the only way to get them to swallow DG which will "Nuke" their revenue stream. In many US State NET Metering laws, you give the Utility annual surplus. NET Metering is a Legal workaround to get around all the obsolete FERC, PUC,& Utility rules setup for Old School Centralized Generation. Best would be a FIT with rates based at what power would cost from a NEW plant minus some fair profit (15%?). It all about who owns and profits from the Power generation.

In Austin (at least for Austin Energy), the electricity bill is broken out into electricity charges and fuel charges, both priced per kWh. The net metering allows you to sell electricity back to the grid at the fuel rate (usually about $0.04 per kWh, which is 30-50% of the total depending on consumption). This seems fair to me, since it's their infrastructure, and all the net surplus does for the utility is offset fuel use.

I'm about to take the plunge, and I'd like to talk economics. I think I can fit up to 300 sq ft on my roof, and I'm leaning towards covering all of it (3 kW). This is going to be expensive, but it will accelerate the pay-off date and ROI. The A/C is the primary load, and incidentally, both upstairs and downstairs units consume a combined 3 kW. So I'd be over-building mostly just to offset summer A/C use. Since summer lasts 5 months here, that's a lot of energy. In a typical July, I'll consume about 1600 kWh. A typical winter month is about 400 kWh, so that means my A/C consumes 1200 kWh during my worst month, mostly during the day. I think the standard 5.6 daylight hours per day is low for Austin during the summer, so I'll bump that up to 6.5. ]

6.5h * 3kW * 30 days = ~600 kWh saved per month, or about $65 per month during the summer/early fall/late spring, assuming the A/C uses more than 600 kWh during those months. During the winter, I only pay about $30/mo, and I think that will become basically nothing, assuming excess daytime generation during the winter at $0.04 per kWh will offset my night-time consumption at $0.08 per kWh.

A 1 kW unit will only make a small dent in consumption during my highest demand month.

Has anyone else had a system installed recently? Do these numbers and assumptions look right? The decision to maximize wattage seems pretty obvious.

dlt - Unfortunately no but good luck with it. My boss built a large home in the hills above New B. and ran the numbers. He's a true wizard with such calcs. Didn't come close for him. But he built a super insolated concrete/foam home which worked against the economics. I have the same dilemma: I bought a 35 yo townhome that had been redone with all the energy saving angles. My August bill is half or less than most of my neighbors and I’m in an end unit.

Ironic, eh? The same folks who can’t afford solar often can’t afford to upgrade their insulation.

When I hear all this talk about economics of PV, I wonder- do you people take into account the awful fact that "prices" are almost unrelated to real cost of ff electricity- which, due to global climate change, is almost the planet?

That being my attitude, I paid no mind to the cost of my 1kW worth of PV, which with all the DIY plus the little boxes and batteries, added up to "cost" me less than 5K total.

So now, aside from having loads of fun running around optimizing and changing everything every other day, I have dropped my import from the grid to near zero.--

Right, that means that I was using less than 5kW-hr/day in the first place. How is that possible? Gee, maybe it isn't. Could be I am only deluding myself into thinking I am getting along just fine, when in fact I am a goner from juice deprivation.

Except that-- my wife, who is totally non-delusional, thinks we are getting along just fine too- and she's the one who does all the work.

Ya, it's not a great investment, but it is much better than treasury bills. On that note, using dollar bills as wallpaper is probably better than treasury bills. Anyway, even with the higher wattage, I'm still looking at a little over 10 years to pay out, to use oilfield terms, 12-14 years to pay out depending on the discount rate.

This website has a nifty calculator with location-specific costs and other parameters:

Here's what they estimated in terms of cash flow over a 25 year lifetime:
Appreciation (Increase) in Property Value: $14,700 to $29,386
Return on Investment (ROI): 213% - 512%
Internal Rate of Return (IRR): 9.7% - 19.8%
Net Present Value (NPV): $7,768 - $28,228
Profitability Index: 1.6 - 3.2
Greenhouse Gas (CO2) Saved:
over 25-year system life 137 tons
274,000 auto miles

They calculate that I need 4.9 kW to satisfy 50% of my yearly demand ($12k installed cost after rebates and incentives). That might be possible with some additional framing on the roof, but some of their assumptions might not apply to me. Even with low electricity prices, PV in Texas isn't a terrible investment right now.

And for what it's worth, I've seen drilling programs green-lighted with projected IRR's of around 15%, but those were in unconventional plays with joint venture money.

As for the discount rate, it's probably not fair to apply it to renewable energy investments (the calculator did not), but until the solar industry embraces the fact that our entire economic system is based on the time value of money (rightly or wrongly), they can't complain too much that most folks aren't going to make the investment. That is, unless electricity prices double or they go on the most effective awareness campaign in the history of ever.

I think I'm going to pull the trigger now while the market is flooded.

Wimbi, by "you people," I assume you're not referring to the moron about to drop $10k on a "bad" investment?

Well,, terra, I was saying all the cost numbers you guys are so good at don't give the right weight to - as far as I can see- the overwhelming fact that we are burning up the planet (terra del fuego?) and no dollar whatsoever is worth doing that. In other words, we gotta quit what we are doing and get to doing it the way our grandkids will be glad we did.

Or, we get to blowdry our hair today, but we pay for it in dead grandkids tomorrow. Bad buy.

In my humble opinion.

Besides, and I think this gets far too little attention here- solar is way more fun than golf or driving around in a stupid sport car. And you get to be ostracized at parties for being insufferable.

Your choir-preaching skills are quite good, and rather obnoxious.

You missed, AGAIN, that I'm about to drop a whole bunch of money on something that most people would consider a bad investment from a purely financial standpoint? Obviously, there's something else motivating me. Perhaps that something else is very much in line with your condescending lecture? Though you did admit to being insufferable, so maybe I missed something too. I believe there could be children walking on your lawn. Maybe you should go yell at them.

It appears to me that Wimbi is not suggesting that YOU don't get it, even if he hasn't mentioned your upcoming project.. he is working on the framework of this broader conversation that keeps getting shortsheeted by so-called pragmatists that can do some simple math to 'prove' that 'Nope, Solar just isn't THERE yet. Sorry..'

I am constantly looking for ways to handle the elevator speech with those who want to figure out maybe just the lifetime price/kwh from an array, and assume it is up against a stable grid with unwavering prices. (And no great concern about any 'old source review') I suspect it's not about you, personally.

Good luck with the install!

dtl - Good for you. And good for wimbi. There is an “off book” value to such efforts IMHO. And that’s the personal satisfaction you garner from the effort. And then you can add in that bit of independence from the grid that you get. Even if you’re a TBC (Texan By Choice) like me I’m sure you’ve adopted some of the native desire for standing on your own two feet.

And if wimbi gets extra satisfaction from the effort by imagining it will help the planet and future generations that’s all the better. Even if it's wrong, unfortunately. With China bringing on several new coal-fired plants a month your effort as well as wimbi’s are completely negated and thus not of any meaning benefit to the rest of the world. If everyone in Austin went solar it would be irrelevant. Now if everyone on the planet went solar that’s a different matter.

But that’s not the subject at hand. You or wimbi going solar is only going to increase the count by two. Obviously that won’t cause the rest of the world to go solar. The “if everyone went X to save the planet” is another topic. The question is the benefit of you’re going solar. A 10 year payout isn’t terribly attractive but maybe when you kick in whatever level of independence/security it offers plus what personal satisfaction you garner it would be a good investment for you. In the case of my friend it was about a 23 year p/o. That didn’t appeal to him. He had spent much more on the insulation effort of his home than the solar would have cost him. And he is very satisfied with that investment. In my case I’m very satisfied from buying an older and smaller home and paying a bit above market for its insulation value. My August ac costs me less than $100. I could have bought a McMansion that would have cost $600/month to keep cool in the summer. My individual choice wouldn't have been better or worse for future generations IMHO given the increase in AGW by other sources.

So I hope you stay focused on what satisfaction you receive be it monetary or social.

In (big) part, it goes to being the change you advocate or deem necessary, the gist of Greer's post this week. Being off-grid has gained me a decade and a half of bitching rights; can't count the times I've dropped that bomb on growth nuts at parties, etc., who've accused me of being as 'guilty' as anyone. I have little control over what China does, or the guy down the road. Doesn't mean I have to help push us off a climate cliff just because they are. Most of all, I've taught my kids, in very tangible ways, something they'll carry with them for life; they don't have to drink the koolaid that everyone else is drinking.

I also like paying things forward, since I'm of the camp that believes this mess is going to play out faster than most think. I may be wrong, I just hate being wrong on the down side. It's a "bird-in-the-hand" thing. Not having utility bills was a big help when my wife and I both lost our full-time jobs in '08. It made muddling through much easier. Those of you on the PV fence, trying to time the market, or bogged down in ROI math, may be playing a fool's game; certainly missing the bigger picture. I suppose most of you are all-in on being utterly reliant on hyper-complex centralized systems. You have 'them' just where they want you :-/

I disagree.

Every ton of CO2 emitted, or not, has an impact on the speed and depth of Climate Chaos we are heading into. We are heading towards disaster- that is clear.

What is still variable is how fast we will have to adjust and just how bad will it be. Each ton not emitted, or absorbed by new trees planted where there were none before, is a step in the right direction - and will have a VERY minor impact.

The Chinese are building one high efficiency coal fired plant each month - that generates the same power for 2/3rds the coal. Would that they would replace all their coal fired plants with these (and there are indications that may be considered).

China has over half the world's solar water heaters and seems headed towards over a third of the wind turbines, massive hydro building, 25 or so nukes under construction and plans for 100. *LOTS* of low or no carbon power coming.

Austin Energy customers generate about half the carbon emissions of Houston or Dallas customers (higher efficiency/ lower kWh use + more renewables).

My retort to "My individual effort will not have a noticeable impact on the larger scheme of things" is "That statement would be true if there were but 10,000 humans on this earth. It is just an excuse to NOT do the right thing. The right thing to do is the right thing, regardless of how many people there are".

And enough people doing the right thing WILL make a difference !


PS: The Chinese are quite concerned with status & prestige. If they percieved themselves as being "the odd person out - the bad guy" regarding carbon emissions - concerns about prestige and international standing would impact decisions they take.

A fairly small group of largely rational people make the important strategic decisions for China. They can be influenced.

Rock - So he's your 'friend' now and not your 'owner'? Did he sign your emancipation papers? ^_^

I'm with you all the way on this one, tierra. My floundering around with that half baked message did nothing but enhance my insufferablity, not the highest goal toward which to aspire, and, besides, which I already have in abundance.

So here's another line on the same target- Why does Joe down the road not have to trot out a bunch of numbers to justify his BMW, which I think is a silly waste when my middle aged toyota gets me there for a dime on the dollar?

Joe of course retorts, with a sigh of resignation- " You don't understand, do you? My BMW satisfies other needs, and dollar justification has nothing to do with it".

Ok, Joe, so my PV panel does ditto.-- Joe, you just don't understand, do you??

So then the word gets around, and pretty soon, people with some disposable resources start putting them on PV, the market for BMW's takes a fatal nose dive, and we all live happily until time to be recycled.

PS, Oddly enough, there ARE kids walking on my grass- they are waving around a metal detector trying to find the pocket knife I lost last week, and that inherited Rolex I lost about 25 years ago. Please note I did not buy that Rolex, it fell into my lap by luck- very nice, too.

There are lots of numbers Joe ignores, even on the utility bills he pays. The income required to pay these things is generally taxed, not to mention the associated costs of earning and maintaining that income. Joe's electricity is further taxed, taxes I don't pay.

No worries, perhaps I got defensive. I do lots of economic analyses for energy/ff for a living, so this type of analysis is like crack. It is indeed very entertaining, and I'm sure I'll get endless amusement tracking output. I've been conditioned, as have most in this country, to look at things from a purely economic perspective. It takes a conscious departure from this thinking (psychosis?) to invest in solar. I run the economics because it's fun and I want to tailor the system just for me. There's nothing wrong with making a an investment in solar as cost-effective as possible.

But the problem with widescale solar adoption is that most people in the US have been conditioned to think from a purely economic perspective. There will be oddballs (including people posting here) who get some unquantifiable satisfaction that easily offsets the financial cost, but we're in the minority. So to change that, something has to happen:
1. We hit a very painful wall that convinces even the most stubborn deniers that, perhaps, we shouldn't have been evaluating energy options from purely short-term economic perspective. Human psychology makes this the most likely turning point.
2. Solar becomes trendy/pop culture. People on the fence (and with the means) take the plunge because solar impresses their friends just as a BMW does now. I like that analogy. There's some movement in that direction, but not enough to make significant impacts in this country.
3. Solar economics improves to a point where it is competitive with fossil fuels (or fossil fuels become prohibitively expensive, see #1) within the framework of our current economic system. That's an ugly reality we all have to face.

#2 requires diplomacy on the part of advocates and early adopters. We can't insult people and call them stupid when they make arguments that renewables are a fad, have poor economics, etc. That's extremely polemic and counter-productive. It creates an "us vs. them mentality," entrenches their current beliefs, and makes you/me/us, the renewable advocate, a haughty, insufferable enviro-snob who likes to smell his own farts. Making people defensive is the worst thing we can do.

People respond much better to positivity, enthusiasm, and pack mentality.
Instead of "you idiot, you can't think of these things in economic terms, you small-minded, big-picture-missing barbaric excuse for a human!"
we should say this......
"My solar system is awesome! I didn't really care that it's more expensive in the short term than buying FF power off the grid because it makes me feel like I'm making a difference, it's fun, impresses people, and actually out-performs a lot of mutual funds over its lifetime."

That latter will get more people on board 11 times out of 10.

"We can't insult people and call them stupid when they make arguments that renewables are a fad, have poor economics, etc. That's extremely polemic and counter-productive. It creates an "us vs. them mentality," entrenches their current beliefs,...

Funny that...you clearly haven't been an early adopter in a neocon neighborhood. Early on I rarely mentioned that we had chosen to go solar. In a small community, one learns to not invite scrutiny when one is deviating from the consensual path. But word gets out and, in my case, resulted in a lot of patronizing, even stifled, hostile comments from the more conservative members of my community. #1 comment has been resentful insinuation that I have spent their precious tax dollars on an idiotic attempt to make a point and buck the system (I've even gotten that here on TOD). Then the same folks will say I'm a fool for not taking any credits or incentives. Jeez...

Lately it's been the suggestion that people like me have encouraged the installation of PV farms which spoil the beautiful views. Ongoing has been the underlying sort of sympathy that I've been the victim of a scam and bought a lemon, or that we must live like paupers.

Two things: I've always remained the reserved and private person I started as, and it's not something I flount or bring up in discussions. I will bring it up once I've given someone enough "solar-doesn't-work rope", give the chair a bit of a kick, helping them to hang themselves. It'll quickly become clear that I'm vastly more educated on the subject, and that it has worked very well for us. I do the same with peak oil or global warming, quietly asking if they've read "these authors", or studied these reports, etc. I'll ask them for their sources so that I can further educate myself... always digging for the truth, attempting to avoid bias. The question I'll ask the most insufferable Tea Partiers and libertarians (after informing them that nobody has the legal right to enter my property; no easements or rights-of-way) is; "Have you read your power easement lately? Blanket easement, huh?" I'll also tell them that it didn't make sense to me to spend $16K (the cost of bringing power in) for the right to send the powerco a check every month.

To the locals, especially the older ones, I'll tell them that I don't give TVA one red cent. Nuf said to that group. Only in the last few years (after several electric rate hikes) are attitudes changing. I also think folks are getting scared, since they know things aren't going well and they're hopelessly committed to external/centralized control of their lives. I've been getting more unsolicited inquiries lately.

One of the reasons I come to TOD is it's an outlet, a safe place to be the insufferable PV braggart snob that I am ;-)

Having ranted a bit, I am becoming more militant with those who have the knowledge and means to MAKE THE CHOICE. I don't buy the cop-outs, especially the economic ones. Our society is in some serious sh@t and those who can should make the effort, no matter how tiny the effects. It's my attempt to save them from the dark side.

I've stayed away from PV for a long time, most recently because my house is surrounded by so many trees. The trees give valuable summer shade and are a store of wood for future space heating, if it comes to that. The massive decline in the price of PV has actually cost me money, since I had some stock in a solar company (Evergreen) which went belly up. However, I'm just now started playing with a tiny system, having purchased a 60 watt panel and a 10 amp controller. I intend to mount the panel on a 10'x20' awning, which I think I will take to a few fiddlers conventions this summer. I'm trying out the system today, charging an old car battery for a representative load, then draining the battery thru an inverter and 75 watt lamp to measure it's capacity. With a small amount of power, perhaps 200-300 whrs, I think I can run a 5m string of LEDs that are rated at 24 watts and which can be dimmed, which should give 4-5 hours of light for night time music. Way better than stumbling around at midnight by candlelight and no generator noise.

The rig may also attract some attention from the crowd of country boys who pass by, perhaps giving me an opportunity to discuss energy issues. Sooner or later, we need to get these issues out on the road, instead of preaching to the choir here on TOD...

E. Swanson

Sounds like fun.

I bought a 10A controller off ebay for >$20... like this:
The software within it was not right. It would not fully connect the 20W panel to the battery... or even more than half-way. I could hear the PWM running (as interference on an AM radio). The battery charged really, really slowly compared with what the panel could do. So, I just hooked the small panel to the battery through a rectifier and a switch: compared to the battery, the panel was just a float-charger anyway. The rectifier also keeps the panel wiring from catching on fire if the panel leads short-out. Fuses are your friends!

Playing with an old car battery may not be such a good investment in time. They self-discharge when left unattended. Even one very deep discharge (like down to 9 or 10 volts) may ruin the battery and cause it not to accept much of a charge.

A group-27 battery is much more useful than a group-24: by comparison, a group-24 seems sort-of broken. Even a new group-27 is really only 20 amp-hours. 150 amp-hour reserve?: It will do that once, one-time. The gelled electrolyte car and boat batteries don't spill acid... but they are more touchy. A marine deep-cycle group-27 battery in its plastic battery box is a nice thing.

A battery voltage indicator is very nice to have. This one runs off of the battery and displays 4-digits:
Equus Innova 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor
Try not to let the battery discharge below 12.25 Volts as read with the load turned off and the battery given half a minute to recover. Try not to let the battery sit around for long discharged like this.

The larger the inverter, the more power it may draw just running itself when running a small load. Size the inverters to the loads: 1kW, 300W, 100W, 50W.
Some inverters never turn completely off: the microprocessor might still draw ~0.06 Amps. Disconnecting the inverter from the battery when not in use avoids this.

Shading even just part of the panel may greatly reduce its output while shaded. Dust on the panel does not make much of a difference.

Have fun!

I have a very similar charge controller that works fine. What was your battery voltage when it appeared not to be charging? They start tapering down at 13.8 volts.

Edit: I'm pretty sure you and BlackDog below are talking about AGM batteries when you say gel.

Gel batteries are pretty much obsolete and very rare as Absorbed Glass Mat batteries have evolved.

About 12.5V... Perhaps the unit had hardware problems? But it was not worth the returning.

We were probably using the term in place of "sealed"... which does seem now to be AGM.
Science marches on!

I bought the bits and pieces off eBay. The controller (which cost less than $5 with shipping) and the dimmer were sent directly to me by mail, which took about 2 weeks. The LED string hasn't arrived yet, as the package wasn't sent until a week later.

So far, the controller appears to be working as advertised. It charged the battery up to almost 14v, then went into trickle charge mode. Running the test load, a 75 watt incandescent bulb, thru the controller driving a small 400 watt inverter resulted in a low voltage cutoff when the battery dropped to about 10v. I also hooked up an analog clock to the output, adding another 5w to the load, and my nearly dead car battery kept the combination running for almost 2 hours. That should be sufficient for my purpose, which is a few days of LED operation. As I go forward, I would need to buy a better battery, if only because my bad back protests the lifting of the lead acid car battery. Or, I may be able to use the gel cell batteries from the 1500w usp I acquired, if the ups can operate without them when hooked to the 15kwh battery bank sitting in my garage...

E. Swanson

I was all set to quote the kiddie-car batteries... but figured they were too small for your needs. But, they exist in my world of "What can I get at a store":
Data sheet (350k PDF):
$68 12Ah 9Lbs ...funny connector

I've had very reliable service from a mini PV setup for the last 3-4 years, consisting of a small 12v-12ah Sealed Lead Acid mounted in a tacklebox with a Morningstar Sunguard 4.5a charge controller (~$35) and the needed fusing, plugs and meter on the walls of the box.. an old Shell 40 watt panel just outside the window.

Running a handfull of LEDs in the Office and the Kitchen, and always available to pick up odd, 12volt jobs.. it's a very hand bit of backup power.

I applaud your very early adoption efforts and empathize with your situation. I work in upstream oil & gas and I'm anticipating some strange looks (at the very least) once word gets out that I went solar. Fortunately, most of the engineers and geoscientists will understand my rationale, so hopefully I'll get one or two to follow suit once I show some numbers. It's the finance/bus dev/accounting folks who will likely give me a hard time (exceptions abound, just talking percentages here) as they have before for other perceived eccentricities.

In the end, after a perhaps annoying interim, you will be proved right. It sounds like you place some value on that and being that eccentric guy who didn't go with the flow. I certainly do. So hopefully that's enough for now. And if folks are already coming around, you'll eventually go from strange to sage.

With all that said, I still think putting people down is a bad idea, even if they deserve it. But I can't speak for you as I don't live in a small community full of neocons. I just think people have to come to these conclusions themselves. And I think the best way to encourage that is to be a non-judgmental case study and source of information. People only realize they're ill-informed when they're not on the defensive.

As for economic cop-outs, there are diplomatic ways to put things in context that will make the economic excuse fairly weak. Once I convinced myself that PV is a better, safer investment than a 30-year treasury bond (even before rebates and subsidies), any reservations I had left were put to rest.

Jeez, Rock, hows that new coal-fired plant across the road coming along?

Ghung - They haven't broken ground yet and I've seen no updates. I suspect the drop in NG prices may be the reason with a lot of plants switching.

And above you make my point perfectly. Just flaunting your achievement getting off the grid is worth a lot of off book value. OTOH there is nothing you can do that can have any measurable effect on AGW, sea level rise, resource wars, etc. Even Allan's very laudable efforts to push choochoos won't have a meaningful effect. Which isn’t the same thing as saying the world switching to electric trains wouldn’t be of great benefit. Or that Allan’s efforts are pointless. But not becasue he isn't correct. I do truly admire his dedication to the cause. And just as I appreciate westexas pushing ELM. But the world isn’t taking his model any more serious than Allan’s. As a common sidebar on TOD claims: Anyone can fight a battle when their victory is certain. But it takes true courage to fight against what appears to be insurmountable odds.

The real value in those your efforts as well as Allan’s, dlt’s, wimbi, etc is the satisfaction each of you derive. The sad reality is that the path society is on will be unchanged by any of your INDIVIDUAL efforts. Again, collectively if many others took the same paths it could make some difference. But that’s not the subject matter at hand. We can discuss the value of collective actions the rest of this lazy Sunday if folks like. We’ve been chatting about the value of the efforts of various individuals here on TOD. And virtually all that meaningful value has been gained by those individuals…not society IMHO. If dlt goes solar it will be of no meaning to any other electric consumer on that shared grid. Now if dlt’s experience is communicated to a few thousand consumers on the grid and causes them to go solar we could be talking about a more significant local affect. But, again, that’s a different topic.

Smoking is addictive, but quitting is contagious. Behaviors and thought patterns in a society can reach tipping points and critical masses, thus it can be difficult to see the impact of one's behaviors until after a great realignment in behavior has occurred.

Right now, Allan and the rest of us here are by far the crazy minority, on the fringe of society pushing ideas that are not yet ready for the main stream. The immediate reality is not sufficiently painful and obviously tied to resource constriction to enable the widespread adoption of Limits to Growth style thinking. Just the other day I spoke to a guy who works somewhere in the oil patch in Houston, and he was convinced that high oil prices were caused by economic recession and other financial considerations, along with the fact that world oil production was 300 mbd!

Still, we had a friendly debate, and I helped push the concept of Peak Oil and Global Net Exports. The more of us there are, the better the chances come for us to reach critical mass and start converting entire swathes of our social network. Walking the walk with regards to solar installations and low-impact lifestyles makes us more effective proselytizers for the Peak Oil belief system. As the decline in energy resources becomes more obvious, it will be important for leaders to help infuse the general populace with the right framework for understanding and solving the problem. It is entirely possible (perhaps probable) that most Americans will continue to believe in conspiracies and blame speculators, Iran, and other scapegoats for scarcity, and thus fail to take the proper actions. Still, it is not inevitable, and perhaps we can help guide the thinking of our fellow humans towards what we believe as a better truth and a better set of actions.

a - Can't disagree with a word of your post. But maybe you got to thread late. The discussion was about how an individual, dtl, should value their personal gain by going solar. The financial gain, in his particular case, was not so great. But I added that their was more value than the numbers allow. Ghung noted his non-monetary satisfaction with going off grid. In my case and that of my friend there was no financial gain because we had both invested significantly in insulation and thus had very lttle to save on the energy side by going solar. But even though I may have a good bit of satisfction by having a relativelty small energy footprint my individual situation has no relevance in solving the problems we face. Just makes me feel good when I open my electric bill.

Also, sounds like whoever you spoke with in Houston mustn't work on the exploration side. I've mentioned many time my first mentor in 1975 explained PO in detail to me. Of course we've didn't call it "PO" but the reserve replacement problem.

...and there's always the hope that, if there is a God, (s)he'll reserve a cleaner place in heaven for those who at least tried ;-)

Ghung - Doesn't help us atheists much, eh? LOL. The closet thing I have to a diety is Mother Earth. And she doesn't give a damn how much we screew up life for ourselves. She's endured much worse calamities than man, shrugged it off and just carried on. At different times Colorado was once under several hundred feet of ocean, temps in Canada were 30+ degrees warmer and the atmospere was filled with as much C02 as oxygen. Didn't bother Mother at all. She's killed off more species than are present on the planet today. That's why I smile a bit when folks worry about th earth. Man can't endanger her but he can certainly endanger himself. If man eventually wipes himseelf out it will be just one more of the many milions of species she has seen come and go. And she couldn't care less IMHO.

If man eventually wipes himseelf out it will be just one more of the many milions of species she has seen come and go. And she couldn't care less.

Would be a anomaly if we didn't go extinct, as 99% of all species that have arisen are no longer with us.

It is the multi million year recovery cycle I worry about.

One of the bene's may be that once TSHTF, our kids will recognize that their parents were among the few who weren't part of the problem.

And I do like to dabble. Otherwise I'd be bored silly. I believe our building ought not to require large amounts of external energy to run. I've been playing with how to get a typical McMansion, in a very hot climate, to not need a lot of AC. I've made considerable progress.

It is not just the person satisfaction. When done properly, efficiency & power-conservation actually does save money. Given the tax-deduction, progressively tiered electricity tariffs, electric cars, etc . . . this stuff can pay back handsomely.

And that is the way to get people to switch. If we don't like what China is doing, the world could easily address the issue . . . put a carbon tax on Chinese exports. But we just don't have the will to do it.

Good comments, Rockman. I'll just add a short note then go back to my lurking.

I'm typing from a PV-powered system while a PV-powered fan keeps me comfortable, and that's not going to solve any problems for anyone. It makes no sense from a $ point of view. Moreover, although it's an interesting hobby, personal satisfaction isn't the benefit. Rather, knowing what I do, I consider the use of fossil energy abhorrent, so it's a way of slightly lessening that spiritual malaise, to lessen the shame slightly at what I'm doing. In that sense it's a pure self-indulgence.

That may seem a point hardly worth making, except that significant cultural adoption might depend on something like abhorrence. PV is fun, but it isn't all THAT fun. It'd be nice to see a bit of planetary patriotism; like the old WWII carpooling posters - "When you drive alone, you're driving with hitler", etc.

My own concern is mostly for CO2 levels, and when it comes to CO2, the only thing that matters is fossil carbon left in the ground for the next several thousand years. By that standard, there's not a lot useful getting done, nor is my PV making any difference. But a bit of shame might help humans past what's coming a bit easier, and I'm noting that pragmatically rather than as a value judgement. Might as well make a virtue out of scarcity since it's coming anyhow...

just sayin'...

greenie - "That may seem a point hardly worth making..." Actually I think that's a great point to make. People are very good at motivating themselves to do things that make them feel good. Just consider the continued high sales volume of Blue Bell ice cream despite the recession. LOL. And what's the payout on a $5 tub of BBIC? I feel good by buying a smaller home then I could afford as well as paying more for one that was super insulated. I don't run ac or heat for about half the year so my bills are typically less than $60 during off months. Temps in the upper 80's now and still haven't turned the ac on. So going solar wouldn't make me feel proportionally better so I ain't. The obvious trick is to get folks to feel that same sense of community that led to those wartime compromises. OK: now I've stated the solution to our problem someone else can find a way to impliment it. LOL.

eos - Another excellent point. And a valuable bennie IMHO. Did you catch my note a while back about my 12 yo daughter getting a trophy from the county for her report on soil and water conservation? Even though daddy does his best to satisfy the public's addiction to wasting energy doesn't mean I can't teach her important lessons.

Just as a general clarification--there are almost no plants actually switching bewteen coal and natural gas. The change in fuel consumption mix you see in the news is a result of unit dispatch changes. When the price of gas is low relative to coal, old coal plants shut down for more of the year and the gas plants run instead. Only about ~30% of the U.S. generation fleet (by capacity) is coal. The reason coal was supplying more than half of our kwh's is that the plants were on ~80% of the time. The 'black spread' is actually negative some places.

The net metering allows you to sell electricity back to the grid at the fuel rate (usually about $0.04 per kWh, which is 30-50% of the total depending on consumption). This seems fair to me, since it's their infrastructure, and all the net surplus does for the utility is offset fuel use.

No, it really isn't fair! You should be getting more than that. You are selling them electricity at peak demand times . . . during the day, especially hot sunny days. You are saving them from having to build additional generating capacity that will sit idle most of the time. So the electricity you are selling them is worth much more than simple fuel rate, it worth the fuel cost plus the extra CapEx they have to spend on equipment that will largely sit idle.

You are selling them an umbrella when it is raining outside and they are paying you what a Chinese factory gets for an umbrella purchased in bulk.

Good point, but Austin Energy also gives a $2500 rebate up front with the installation. Forgot to mention that. So I think part of that $2500 represents some of the levelized cost of peaker CapEx with the cheap electricity they expect to get. It might be worth more than $2500 in NPV to them if I don't install PV, but I'm not immune from the temptation of instant gratification. So I won't complain.

Ah, that is more like it. Sadly, the California rebate program has pretty much run out of money and the amount it now provides is trivial. (And given our budget situation, I doubt it gets renewed.) But the Federal tax-deduction is still worth a lot.

It's not that it's run out of money, it's that so much PV has been installed that the declining tiered incentive structure is (as intended) declining to the point of near expiry. Simultaneously, install costs have dropped like a rock, as intended. I thought this was a wastefully incentive structure, personally, but ignoring costs, the results seem to be largely what was intended.

You are selling them electricity at peak demand times

This is, at best, a half truth.

In the winter (and ERCOT Texas had a rolling blackout on February 2, 2011), solar PV is not an ideal match with load.

Nor is it in the summer.

Solar PV typically peaks a bit before solar noon for two reasons. Output drops as the temperature climbs. Better in the morning than the afternoon.

In most areas, but particularly those with high humidity, both haze and clouds increase in the afternoon, reducing solar PV production. In Florida, I found data that maximum production was typically 50+ minutes before solar noon.

OTOH, summer demand peaks in late afternoon, often with a primary or secondary peak at 6 PM weekdays (people come home while office & commercial demand is still high). Solar PV production is minimal that time of day.

And the insolation peak is June 21st while the summer load peak is typically early to mid August.

Solar PV may reduce the hours that peaker plants run, but they often do not keep them from running.


The California ISO is predicting peak demand today at 9 PM. Not ideal for solar PV


OTOH, yesterday (and likely many days), solar was a near perfect match with wind. Wind dies down midday and solar picks up then. With twice as much solar in California, it would have coupled with wind for base load - except for a combined wind + solar peak between 6 and 7 PM. Interesting.

The PV peak output and the electricity peak demand are not perfectly aligned . . . they are shifted by a few hours. Most demand charts tend to put the peak at around 3pm. But that does not mean he is not generating power at peak demand! He certainly *is* generating power at time at peak demand!

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Now that PV is "cheap", you just oversize the Array, Often design for 100% generation on cloudy days, cheaper than storing power, the issue is what to do with the 300% excess on Sunny days, Divert some to Hot water heaters or pumped storage. Some new controllers like the 96 amp Midnight classic will do this in the 3 stage charging process. Of course if you have a friendly and Hungry grid, you SELL BABY SELL. I'm searching for efficient ice-machines.

Well, the tariffs may change things. But the market has changed so much. People were eager for cheap thin-film to hit the market . . . but then silicon prices dropped. Now thin-film seems like a bad idea unless you have massive amounts of area. I'd rather my valuable roof space get silicon that has a better efficiency %. And be sure to get an inverter larger than you need in case you want to add more panels later.

Friday night I reviewed two small (14.4kw and 13kw) residential net energy metering applications in SoCal, which I assume are receiving what's left of the CSI incentive, as well as sales tax and property tax exemptions and permitting fee exemptions, as well as the 30% federal income tax credit. Both of them will be allowed to net at full retail price, and to sell back any excess. Both of them will require relatively major rebuild (costing on the order of the installation cost of the PV) of the local distribution system due to causing excessive local voltage rise. 6.8% and 7.5% voltage rise will drive transformer replacement and secondary conductor replacement, as well as primary line extension in one case. In my considered opinion, both of them impose major costs on ratepayers and taxpayers which are not borne by the installer and which exceed the positive externalities of the PV. If I had the ability to limit the size of those installs to the point where upgrades to my system were not required, and the funds saved on the applicant's side were used by the applicants to reduce their power consumption, I think everyone would come out ahead. Unfortunately, despite largely acheiving stated aims of supporting the infant growth of PV manufacturing and installation, advocates of the PV industry want to twist the interpretation of NEM to further expand this program beyond the current 5% cap. The CPUC's ratepayer advocate supports the utility position as to the meaning of the 5% cap. For those of you unfamiliar with ratepayer advocates, they are not noted for supporting utility positions.

Net metering is not a subsidy to the utility, it is a strong subsidy from the ratepayer to the installer/applicant. As PV becomes more mature, incentives become less necessary. Once the sliding CSI incentives have entirely phased out, I would like to see upgrade costs borne by the applicant, NEM export credits decline toward avoided cost, and imported power billed at retail rate (just like PURPA gen). Time-of-use rates would be available, so the positive aspects of the PV load profile would be compensated. I can see continuing subsidy at some level to account for positive externalities.

OTOH, I am aware of how utilities price service upgrades and "full costing" would be an understatement. And the engineers, if they know a customer will pay, err of the side of $$$ upgrades (other peoples money). So I fear that approach.

Significant savings would be had (say 1+% of total demand) if there was wholesale changeover to metal glass transformers (the Chinese are installing quite a few). It seems that adapting to widespread solar PV installations could be accommodated at the same time.

Your thoughts ?


DG doesn't usually make sense if it drives much in the way of grid upgrades (it's more expensive to start with than central plant, savings (if any) relate to not having to distribute the power or to positive externalities of the gen type). It would make a lot more sense to size the PV install below the point that it requires upgrading the existing facilities and use the savings to improve efficiency. I'm not sure how it works elsewhere, but my company bills wholesale generator upgrades at actual cost (as required by tariff), and usually actually below that level because we aren't great at capturing associated costs. We do put plenty of contingency into the initial estimate, because it's a lot harder to get somebody to pay up an overrun than it is to refund an underrun. It isn't always easy to see from the outside where the money is going, and I'd be the first to admit that large enterprises can be wasteful. However, I guarantee we aren't making money constructing service upgrades (owning and maintaining them is a different story).

Changing out any existing distribution capital infrastructure is probably not warranted in terms of cost savings. Negawatts are cheaper at point of use. My company was using amorphous core distribution XFMR's back in the 70's, it isn't new. We stopped as the drawbacks outweighed the costs, at least then. If we ran the numbers and it was more beneficial to have an amorphous core than a laminated core transformer, all else being equal, it would make sense to use them for new installs and changeouts driven by other factors. We'd have to go a long ways toward higher power prices before losses paid for transformer changeouts.

I've said before here that I think warehouse/bigbox/factory roofs are better (global-cost-wise) for grid-connected PV than either central plant utility PV or residential PV. That's still true IMO as long as you don't put too many megawatt scale DG installs on the same distribution feeder and start driving upgrades.

benamery21, forgive me if I'm wrong but, I seem to remember you expressing some reservations in response to a post of mine, supporting the introduction of strong incentives for renewable, in particular solar PV, in my country. You seem to know a good deal about these matters so here is my situation.

The local utility was privatized some time ago with 40% being owned by Marubeni Corporation, 40% by Korea East West Power and 20% by the government. Part of the terms of the sale (originally to Mirant Corp.) was a 25 year exclusive license for transmission and distribution with very favorable terms for the new owners. Upwards of 96% of electricity is generated using petroleum derived fuels the rest being hydro and a smattering of wind, Apart from Biomas and methane from landfills or sewage Jamaica has no local fuel resources, I found a report titled Options to Bring Down the Cost of Electricity in Jamaica that summarizes some aspects of the situation pretty well in the introduction and under the heading "Electricity Tariffs in Jamaica"..

Since becoming aware of Peak Oil, I have become increasingly concerned that Jamaica will be forced to become energy independent as fuel prices rise and competition for the remaining stocks restricts availability. AFAIAC the only true options for energy independence for this island and probably many others, are biomass landfill/sewage gas and renewables. I would not want to lean too heavily on biomass since it wouldn't last long and we'd end up like Haiti.

As with most places, Peak Oil awareness is very rare around here so most pundits see the issue as a fuel replacement problem. From the stand point of the utility, do you see a way out of this mess? I am anxious to see a more aggressive move to renewables, especially distributed PV but, as you previously mentioned, the downsides outweigh the advantages from the utility POV.

Alan from the islands

Nice report, although it might be a bit too staid for my tastes. I'm willing to say, based on the report, that I agree with the writers that it would be beneficial to change the structure of the net billing program to allow payment of short-term avoided cost (with the prospect that this may drop), rather than the current program which only pays about 40% of that based on an assumed long-term average (but guarantees the payment level over that time). I'm not prepared to support net metering in this instance, as I think it would be a boondoggle. However this would result in payment at 2/3rds of the residential retail rate for production instead of less than 1/3rd.

The reduction of non-technical system losses (i.e., theft, which are larger than technical system losses) is huge. This is currently adding about 4.5 cents a kwh to the residential rate (more if the theft is by folks using more than 100kwh).

I disagree that energy conservation should be 4th priority, and suspect the report missed some low hanging fruit (lower cost per kwh saved than estimated) in its focus on the latest tech. This should probably be the highest priority after fuel-switching. On the other hand I've never been to Jamaica, maybe it'd be hard to save energy, though somehow I doubt it.

I agree the biggest short term issue is to reduce fuel costs. It is probably more important to do this quickly, rather than well. I do not think waiting to build an LNG plant, secure a supply, and build a new combined-cycle plant is the way to go about that short-term. Longer-term it may well be although I would look at a submarine cable, and look harder at utility scale renewables (Hawaii and Saipan should both go geothermal, for instance, but in the interim the same kind of short term fuel switching is needed). Gas can be burnt in all the plants currently burning oil. The key issue is getting gas to the island. Instead of trying to make that happen commercially, Jamaica should just do it. The quantities involved are small enough, and advantages of speed and low capital high enough that it's possible CNG is worth looking at, also more medium speed recip diesel engines (1/4th the capital cost of combined cycle) instead of running combustion turbines is worth looking at..


I attended a course in PV Technical Sales and Business Operations at the Florida Solar Energy Center in September last year. I was very disappointed when they covered the financials of PV in that, it showed us that, at US electricity prices, even with net meetering, it is impossible to justify grid tied solar PV on the basis of ROI alone. They taught us how important it is for US interests to use the dsireusa.org web site to track down all the incentives available for the particular location in the US.

I was downright depressed when, during the exercises, I plugged in the variables for Jamaica and realized that the then proposed net billing scheme would make it impossible to justify grid tied solar PV, based on the financials alone. I did the calculations for a comment I posted to the newspaper article I linked to in my original post yesterday. I'm hoping the analysis provide by my comment will spur some debate and maybe result in raising the payout to a level close to what you suggest.

I plugged that higher payout into my spread sheet and the cost of the system is recovered from saving in 10 years instead of over 25 years at the rate being paid at the moment. Using the lowest interest rates available locally, the savings using the current rate cannot cover the interest payments on the loan so, it makes no sense to borrow money to do this. At your suggested rate, at least the interest payments could be met out of savings.

Alan from the islands

People around here generally don't like to hear that PV on every residential roof, may not be the best way to do it. I think it has something to do with not wanting to be beholden to large organizations -especially those that are for profit. I've always claimed the only way PV will reach a decent level of penetration -enough to make a real difference, is with a lot of large commercial roofs, and utility scale plants, the volume of small rooftops just isn't great enough. And the economies of scale aren't there.

I totally get that at a gut level. I have been absorbed by the prospect of self-gen and grid independence since I was about 8 years old. My brother lived off-grid with his family for years, my folks place has PV and solar DHW (I rent from an individual). Every man an island is not going to work well for the masses, though. I took to working for an investor-owned-utility in part because I take the historical "power to the people" "public service" part of the regulated utility world seriously (unlike most people left in the industry). IOU's are typically better run for customers than munis in my opinion. After some time in the industry I think co-ops tend to provide the best value to their customers. IOU's typically pay employees best.

Take a look at the solar PV output in Germany, where both large commercial and domestic roofs are in play.


They are often getting 15 GW towards their peak demand at mid day of 60 GW.

The problem is finding away to store the PV output of those long high latitude days in the summer, because they get goose egg in the winter, making for some very expensive silicon based roofing shingles. Try Jan 21 on sma.de: 800MW peak.

Every homeowner with a typical shingle roof will have to replace it on the 10-20 year time frame. That new roof could be a solar shingle roof, e.g. a Dow powerhouse (rolling out in several US markets now). The installation cost is slightly more than the standard and the shingle costs somewhat more than the standard. But the solar shingle roof (which is the sealing system for the roof and not just mounted on top of the sealing system) under good conditions produce 1-4 kW peak power. So the "economy of scale" for the small roof can now be viable for millions of homeowners. I fully expect that the more progressive utilities will offer significant incentives/leasing arrangements for homeowners to do this in selected markets. I believe this is what the CEO of NRG, David Crane is implying in his recent talk at the cleantech forum (http://events.cleantech.com/sanfrancisco/).

While those systems are 'small" if the comparison is a utility scale plant, thats a heck of a lot of juice for a single family residence (if thats what these represent). It doesn't surprise me that that scale of systems might create costs to the utility. Of course when customers increase demand -by purchases energy hungry stuff, how often does the utility recover the cost of needed upgrades?

Either of those would have created problems if it were half the size. The meter was 550' from the transformer in one case, and nearly that in the other. Large rural lots. If the load is added all at once, almost always. Even if it isn't they pay us more for power (tiered rates).

Net metering is not a subsidy to the utility, it is a strong subsidy from the ratepayer to the installer/applicant. As PV becomes more mature, incentives become less necessary. Once the sliding CSI incentives have entirely phased out,

It is a subsidy to both the utility and the installer/applicant. The utilities now have renewable mandates and these PV installations help them meet their mandates, so they benefit too.

And yeah, the California PV program really perfectly worked out as far as the decreasing prices go. They gave big subsidies years ago when PV was expensive and not much now when it is cheap. I'd like to say it was an amazingly well design program but it probably benefited from a lot of luck in the way as prices dropped just as the subsidy dropped. It was partly the fact that they help build a big PV market and partly dumb luck.

NEM's don't count toward RPS at least in CA, afaik. It's clear from my other comments which IOU I work for (not PG&E). None of my comments represent them in any way (as should also be clear, since I frequently disagree with the party-line).

Mostly dumb luck, but yes, CA was part of the coincident global stimulus that led to more global silicon capacity being built and thus to prices dropping for panels. Over 95% of residential installs are smaller than those two (though not in my part of the company, since usage tends to be higher than average due to climate, well pumps, etc). As I pointed out to someone else here, those both would have caused problems even if they were half the size.

Well, it sounds like you deal with a rural area. We subsidized getting electricity out to them in the 30's and 40's and now it looks like we are subsidizing getting electricity back from them. I assume that adding a 3KW system in a typical suburban neighborhood doesn't cost too much for the utility, does it?

Interesting question on whether residential PV systems count toward the RPS. I always assumed they did since that would help explain why they they get subsidized. But if they don't count toward the RPS, then California is going to have a really high renewable production total if you add up the RPS stuff AND all the residential/commercial PV systems that are not part of the RPS program.

My company is big enough and old enough that we have a good cross-section of different area characters. I have worked in most of those areas and also have taught the folks working there now in many cases, as well as largely developing the company technical response to detecting and solving this type of problem. In my current area I can think of a half-dozen 1MW NEM systems off the top of my head, none of which required utility upgrades. I can also think of dozens of small systems which did. Also, every one of those small systems required free utility review, usually while dealing with folks who either didn't know what they were doing, or knew, but didn't want to follow simple rules. Trust me, ratepayers are subsidizing small NEM significantly.

3kw? How many of these 3kw systems are on the same 120/240V transformer (for reference about 1 percent of customers have NEM and about 10 customers per transformer is average, but neither of those things is evenly distributed)? How far down the block from the transformer is the house? How big is the lot? How far from the substation is the transformer? When was the secondary system built or last upgraded (what voltage drop standards were in effect)?

What it boils down to is that if grid costs are ignored, we will waste capital putting DG in dumb places and not be able to afford as much DG. Ratepayers will only bear so much cost before the subsidies are dialed down. Here's hoping for intelligent subsidy policies which maximize societal benefit.

Friday night I reviewed two small (14.4kw and 13kw) residential net energy metering applications in SoCal, which I assume are receiving what's left of the CSI incentive, as well as sales tax and property tax exemptions and permitting fee exemptions, as well as the 30% federal income tax credit. Both of them will be allowed to net at full retail price, and to sell back any excess. Both of them will require relatively major rebuild (costing on the order of the installation cost of the PV) of the local distribution system due to causing excessive local voltage rise. 6.8% and 7.5% voltage rise will drive transformer replacement and secondary conductor replacement, as well as primary line extension in one case.

Do you work for PG&E?

BTW, 14.4KW and 13KW are far beyond a typical residential installation. Those are some big systems for damn big houses . . not what I'd call "small residential". I'd say small residential is more on the 1KW to 7KW scale.

One can delay the average PV peak, by favoring SW oriented mounts. Make the incentives more generous for afternoon peaking, as opposed to morning or noon. It is also possible to modify thermostat settings so as to move consumption forward (i.e. let the AC run the indoor temp down at say 10am, and let the temp recover during the afternoon (i.e. let the indoor temp act as load shifting battery).

It would be better to have time-of-use pricing (including for excess solar sold back), then given a suitable spread (between retail use charge versus and payback for sellback of instantaneous sellback), one could capture true cost/benefits. That would also allow people to arbitrate power usage (use when power is cheap, and save when its expensive, -or if one has storage buy low, sell high), thus encouraging the provision of grid services.

I'm pretty sure that as smart meter penetration spreads, some jurisdictions will go to mandatory TOU for residential. It didn't make as much sense when it required a meter changeout.

I have been following the Solar vs. Wind production today - REMARKABLE mirror images.

If California had 2.5 as much solar as they do, a base load of 1.7 - 1.8 GW would result, with a 3 AM to 7 AM droop and a late afternoon bulge.


But the peak is still forecast at 9 PM and solar is shutting down for the day.

Add some pumped storage, and a VERY nice system could result. Unfortunately, California's best wind potential has already been tapped.

I wonder how many days of the year California has this wind + solar combo ?


I'd like to see that wind generation year round. Wind tends to do well at night as indicated, but also in the Spring and Fall, and not so much when it it is either very cold or very hot (periods of high demand). I believe it was PG&E that stated CA wind generation dropped to 6% of capacity in the last major CA heat wave.

Here's ERCOT (Tx) year round:

I.e., if *annual* average wind capacity factor is ~33%, it will likely drop to 20% when needed.

However, wind was significantly above ERCOT minimum expected during the ERCOT rolling blackout of February 2, 2011. 3,500 to 4,000 MW generated by wind during the blackout.

Natural gas had run out and many coal plants were frozen. Had wind not been doing well before the blackout, NG would have run out sooner, making a deeper and longer blackout.

Best Hopes for More Wind + Solar in Texas,


Yes that's correct, when the water sources for the heat engine plants froze unexpectedly. The point however was whether or not wind+solar can become baseload based on the hopeful CA production graphs you posted above. I don't the term is justified for a source that falls to a fifth or less of capacity several months out of the year.

The failure of the fossil fuels was two fold.

Many coal fired plants froze up - not properly insulated pipes inside the plants froze up (just cheap construction - but free markets push that) and some piles of coal got covered in ice. Again, poor plant management & under investment.

With natural gas, there was simply not enough to go around. Direct heat for residential & commercial users got first priority and NG for power plants was curtailed. Old NG plants kept fuel oil on hand as back-up but not new ones.

So the NG plants just ran out of fuel.

Had wind not been producing well (4 GW range) before the rolling blackout, even more NG would have been burned and the rolling blackout would have been much longer and deeper in a record cold front.

Likewise more solar in Texas would have reduced the NG fuel burn beforehand, and reduced the rolling blackout as well.

Best Hopes for More Texas renewables,


Obviously south Texas has had freezing weather before, even if rarely so, without knocking out power. The difference this time was that the freeze was unexpected, without adequate time for preventative measures.

No doubt wind helped in the Ercot outage, but that does not make wind+solar base load capable on their own.

But all power sources have their weaknesses.

See nuclear in California today as one of two sites may need both power plants to be shut down for years (this has happened multiple times with nukes elsewhere).

Coal miners strike on occasion - and floods can wipe out tracks between the coal mines and power plants.

Natural gas, despite the glut on the market in the major NG exporting state, simply "ran out" on 2/2/11 in Texas.

There will be a need for some FF back-up to renewables as long as I live.

You are simply attacking a straw man.


California's wind potential is hardly tapped out. The transmission out of the 3 pockets (Tehachapi, Altamont, and San Gorgonio Passes) of wind production has been, however. That changed about 5-6 quarters ago, when the first phase of a multi-billion dollar transmission project designed to allow wind power in Tehachapi Pass to be increased by a factor of ~10X went into service. Since then CA has added more windpower than any other U.S. state over the same period. Much additional solar (with associated transmission) is currently under construction as well. One of the nice things about CSP is that it provides its own emergency dispatchable backup if you run a gasline to the plant.

Today was a crappy one for solar production. That large pasky spacerock got in the way. My system dropped to a hundred watts at the peak of the eclipse.


Just curious - are you taking account of the generous rebates offered by Austin Energy for PV?

Edit - oops - I see now that you are getting the rebate.

Summer production is a bit dissapointing to me. Solar cells are rated at 25C (68F) cell temperature. But a nearly black cell protected by glass, can easily be 20-30C over ambient air temp. cSi performance degrades about 1/2 percent per degree C. So you summer production to spring production (say) scales less than the amount of sunlight.
As as first attempt, trying to fix your house so it rejects heat is probably more cost effective -but not nearly as sexy as PV. I sued to run over 1100KWhours in July, but now I've got it down to more like 600. But, it took several steps:
(1) Added attic foil, which reflects IR heat transfer from the attic ceiling to the floor 9insulation).
(2) Added attic insulation.
(3) Lots of strategically placed trees and vines to reduce insolation heating of outside walls. These are still not fully grown. But I least I can expect each year will be a bit better.
(4) Built wood "awnings" over some windows to reduce solar radiation hitting the windows.
(5) yesterday I build a "pergola" shade structure for the deck (which also partially shades the house in the afternoon). I just measured the deck temperature, its about 25F cooled under the pegola (shade is lath that blocks 5/9ths of the sunlight), and the plants in that area which have been struggling against too much sun, now maybe can grow!

The PV (2.4KW) also added shade to a portion of the roof.

Generally, (at least while low hanging fruit remains), negawatts are cheaper than PV watts. But, I love PV. Last months electric charge was minus $15.20 (but spring is the best season, soon AC demands will ramp up).

Don't forget, a white roof reflects much of the incident solar heating in summer. Along with extra insulation, that should cut your A/C load considerably and make your roof last a few years longer. Asphalt shingles are said to fail because of the heating, which "cooks" the asphalt over time...

E. Swanson

Enemy, the standard advice back in the Seventies was "weatherize before you solarize," and as your experience shows, it's still the best strategy around. For economic as well as practical reasons, a conversion to alternative energy works best if you start by decreasing your load, and in most cases there's plenty of low hanging fruit to be had. Those tattered old Seventies-era handbooks of energy conservation still have a lot of useful information on that, too.

Growing up we used to hang 90% shade cloth down from the eave (S-hook to grommet) to just above the ground (staked down with twine) to keep the sun off the long wall of the house in Phoenix. You could feel the difference.

If the grid's such a bad deal, I'm sure they would pull the meter if asked.

From the lead article up top:

It takes a barrel's worth of energy to produce just three barrels of oil; 30 years ago it would have been 100.

That would indicate that extracting oil from tar sand is actually below the social break-even point of 10:1 and only slightly better than solar electric. Canada must be subsidizing it in many ways.

Hamster – “Canada must be subsidizing it in many ways.” Why? If it takes 1 bbl of oil worth $80 to produce 3 bbls and sell them for $240 why would a sub be needed? And as I understand from RMG they are typically using NG which on a btu basis is costing them much less that the price of one bbl of oil. In fact Alberta is making a very nice bit of income from the royalty from the tars sands.

I do get what you mean by the “social break-even point” of the EROEI but that number is no more a factor in the process than the more conventional EROEI. It’s about ROR for the companies and the revenue for the govt.

From memory, Alberta gives a long and deep severance tax holiday for new tar sands operations (i.e. almost all of them).

Alberta makes money off conventional oil & gas, but only tax revenues off "increased economic activity" from tar sands (again from memory, maybe a native can correct me).


Another way to put it is, if an EROEI of 3 to 1 is economically viable for tar sands, then that puts into play enough additional CO2 emissions from unconventional oil sources, that there probably is no way to stop emissions from continuing to increase to at least 500 ppm, which is only a little over 100 ppm higher than the current level.

I wonder with increasing carbon emissions, acidification of the oceans and deforestation reducing carbon sinks, how long it will take until the average CO2 ppm increase per year is 5? At that point 100 ppm will be added every 20 years. Let's say by 2040 we are adding 5 ppm per year, then by 2100 the CO2 ppm total will be approx. 750. The average Summer temp. in North Dakota will be 123 F, world population will top 10 billion but per person calorie daily intake will only avg. 1100. Racoons, rats and seagulls will be endangered species (because the alternative is soylent pink slime green). A first class flight from SF to NY will cost 1.3 million and a loaf of bread will set you back 265 dollars. Minimum wage will be a dime an hour. The US healthcare voucher will buy you 3 marshmellows or one pop tart a year. 1/10,000 of 1% of the population will own 99.9999% of the worlds assets. US debt will be 17 quadrillion but whoever is running for President will be offering 20% tax cuts to the top 1/10,000 of 1%, who live in well fortified concrete bunkers to avoid contact with the disenfranchised masses, and own the election process outright via a Supreme Court decision in 2085 that requires a ten million dollar deposit to secure the right to register to vote.

Some alien species will land on Earth and like Rachel Welch in Seinfeld, put their hands on their hips and say, "What the heck do ya think your doing?"

EROI of tar sand is 3 if you include the internal consumption but the EER (External energy ratio) is about 10. This is how the manage to make some profit.

What does that mean, that the internal use of natural gas is costed in as being very cheap to the producers?

I never thought applying some arbitrary cutoff to EROEI is wrong. If something had an EROEI of 1.01, it would still be possible to extract net energy. Even below 1, if the value of the product exceeds the cost (i.e. the consumption is a cheap form on energy -say stranded wind, or solar), and the output has high value -specialty fuel perhaps.

Des nouvelles de la Belle Province...

MONTREAL - Ford Motor Co. is in town showing off its new all-electric car at an environmental fair in Montreal’s Rosemont-Petite Patrie borough.


Meanwhile, the folks at Hydro-Québec expect to shortly announce more corporate partners for the Electric Circuit, a network of public charging stations in the Montreal and Quebec City regions.


There are now 34 240-volt charging stations in the Montreal and Quebec City regions, in parking lots of RONA and Metro stores and Rôtisseries St-Hubert restaurants.

That number is to grow to about 120 over the summer.

See: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Electric+vehicles+charge+into+market/6647...


Tinley Park Restaurant Mob Attack: 10 Hurt When Group Attacks Diners With Bats, Hammers

Ten people were hurt Saturday when a group of about 18 people wearing black hoodies and face-concealing bandanas entered a southwest suburban Chicago restaurant and attacked a group of diners with metal batons and hammers. The attack happened around 12:45 p.m. at the Ashford House restaurant, a popular Irish restaurant, on 159th Street in Tinley Park, Ill., the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to Fox Chicago, the group -- described by witnessed as white and in their late teens or early 20s -- stormed into the restaurant and appeared to target one group of diners. One witness said they overheard the group chanting political slogans before entering the restaurants.

Perhaps 5 years cooling off in Joliet will mellow them out.

I think this is a tactic that expands the uncertainty, and gets around direct confrontation with the established paradigm, which one can only win symbolically, not materially.
Interesting. It is hopeless to go up against the 101st Airborne.

Perhaps a provocateur attack to discredit the real protests?

Who knows? I wonder what would have happened if someone had decided to use a steak knife to attack the attackers? Or, one of the people eating had been an off-duty cop with their sidearm?

Saw a news summary that indicated it was to do with race.


"Investigators say the alleged attackers targeted a group of people they believed had ties to a white supremacist organization."


Well this is how people respond when they realize they don't have a future.

Some of us may buy bikes and solar panels, others gold, others will do this.

It's going to be messy, not clean. Clean is abundant fossil fuels. Messy is poverty and dysfunction and broken promises and a world gone mad.

Too bad the diners did not have guns.

Clearly false flag propaganda.

ed - I had the same tought. Lucky for the "protestors" they didn't try it in Houston. There are hundreds of thousands of carry permits in the state. On any given night with 30 or 40 folks in a restaraunt there's a good chance a few are packing. And way too many of those folks fantasize about the chance of getting to drop a hammer on someone. One reason why I'm very careful about approaching anyone at night.

As I have previously said, my assumptions about driving in Texas are that drivers--especially drivers of pickup trucks--have the following characteristics: (1) They just left a bar; (2) They just lost their job; (3) Their wife just left them; (4) Their dog just died and (5) They have a loaded handgun. So, I tend to be a polite driver.

LOL. I'd be with you...

To me it sounds like there could be some major violence should the Texas economy ever turn into something like the Greek economy. Can you imagine protesters not just burning things and throwing rocks but also shooting everything in sight.

There would certainly be some of that in the cities, particularly Dallas and Houston.

Though I think outside of a few problem areas, it wouldn't turn into Thunderdome. And despite its negative stereotypes, I'm confident rural Texas would be comparatively civilized, despite all the guns. Country folks here may believe in God and guns, and hate gays, but I think they'd be remarkably immune from mass hysteria. There are lots of societal expectations that would prevent devolving in to that sort of thing.

Frugal - I think such events would be much more likely in NY than Texas. Armed rioters would likely be out gunned down here. Add that to the basic Texas philosophy that if you damage my stuff, let alone endanger my life, we have not just the right but an obligtion to kill you. It would be even safer in rural areas where my daughter lives, There is limited road access. If civil unrest broke out you would find a few pickup trucks on the local roads checking ever vehicle. And I can promise local law enforcement wouldn't stop them. And forget them just being armed with deer rifles. There are more than a few full auto assault rifles out there. And a bunch of rednecks who daydream about emptying a full clip into a deserving crowd.

Which reminds of a line I recently heard from the Texas comic Ron White: there's a current bill proposal to amend our death penalty law. If you're ssntenced to death and there are at least 3 witnesses you don't get to sit on death row for a decade or two filling appeals...you get moved to the head of the line. As Ron noted while other states are dropping the death penalty Texas is putting in an express lane.

Rockman described it better than I did. Here's another example: I've seen two drunk old boys outside a country bar have words and they decided to settle it like men. They were both armed, but they each unholstered their handguns and put them aside as they proceeded to have a fist fight. There are lots of guns, but it's very safe as long as you don't take what isn't yours or trespass.

Or in the famous words of Walter Sobchak, "This is not 'Nam. There are rules."

So, on a complete tangent, where do people think the most competent drivers are? Outside of my own area, where I'm used to the group quirks, my opinion of the places I've visited puts California at the top of the list. Granted that the typical following distance on the freeways makes me twitchy because I'm not used to it, but overall it was the place where it seemed least likely that someone was going to do something truly stupid in front of me.

*NOT* the most competent, but the most laid back, city drivers may be in New Orleans (taxi drivers not included !). Most streets have 25 mph speed limits and the larger, divided streets - 35 mph. More drivers at or below the speed limit than above, even 2 or 3 mph above.

Live and let live attitude towards pedestrians and bicyclists.

And we ALL know how to parallel park :-)

OTOH, sobriety is not a universal virtue.

PS: 42% of the drivers that run into streetcars have Texas plates.

Best Hopes for LOW speed limits,


Agreed Mc.

LA first, by a wide margin. SF second, again wide margin. Then CA, then other. And I'm from Canada.

Faux News isn't skewed enough for some people apparently.

Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban
Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy.


I'd vote false flag.

Newspaper reports are that the group attacked were white supremacists, and that the attackers were also white. Sounds like a little rival gang action from where I'm sitting.

Towards a sustainable energy future and economy

Energy is set to wreck the weak CARICOM. Energy is a ball and chain hobbling the Jamaican economy. Energy, if it is true that human action is the principal cause of global warming and climate change from global warming, is set to wreak havoc upon the entire planet.

Omar Azan, a former president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, in a blistering speech last week, said government-subsidised electricity cost in Trinidad & Tobago was giving an unfair advantage to that country's manufacturers in CARICOM trade. At US$0.05 per kilowatt-hour, the cost of electricity in T&T is some six times lower than the cost of electricity in Jamaica. Azan has threatened to lock down the country over the issue. Others have been openly advocating that Jamaica should withdraw from CARICOM.

This is a long, wide ranging article almost to the point of being incoherent, the writer jumps around so much. During his ramblings he let this one slip, which I found surprising since, this paper appears loathe to acknowledge anything like limits to growth of any kind.

Fiddling with 'liberalising' the electricity sector, fiddling with the rate of the GCT on electricity, and fiddling with conservation measures, as necessary as these may be, won't, of course, resolve the energy crisis confronting this country. The fundamental issue is the cost of the energy source. Jamaica relies on oil for 90 per cent of its energy needs, and prices have jumped by some 350 per cent over the last five years and are set to continue the upward spiral.

The International Energy Agency estimates that oil, a non-renewable energy source, has reached its peak output this year. Other non-renewables will follow.
Our payments for the commodity account for the second-largest outflow of foreign exchange after debt servicing.

Maybe, just maybe, Peak Oil is creeping into more and more peoples consciousness in baby steps.

I submitted a comment to this story highlighting the success that Germany has been having with their renewables program and suggesting that there are things that Jamaica might want to acquire from Germany apart from luxury automobiles. I'm trying to raise the level of the debate about solar PV by bringing some facts to the table that are not common knowledge.

I must thank everybody here at TOD for the education I have received. Without it I could not write the comments that I do with the confidence that I have my facts and logic straight.

Alan from the islands

More on the developing helium shortage occasionally discussed here. Our local Genesee Country Village and Museum is having difficulty procuring 50,000 cubic feet to fill and launch a commemorative Civil War era surveillance balloon:

Museum's helium hunt is falling flat

Maybe they should use hydrogen for historical accuracy?

WindWise Radio. Today's webcast is a discussion about the construction of industrial scale wind projects in the south California area. The projects impact parks, Bighorn sheep, raptors, residents and aesthetics.
From East County Magazine:
May 20, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Tonight from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery will be a guest on WindWise Radio. The network, which specializes in wind energy issues, broadcasts nationally via live-stream over the Internet.



According to the Prairie Advocate, Terrence "Terry" Ingram of Apple River, Ill., owner of Apple Creek Apiaries, recently had his bees and beehives stolen from him by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDofA), as well as more than 15 years' worth of research proving Monsanto's Roundup to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) destroyed.

And some nice (for certain values of nice) pictures of last years seeds near Fukushima.

You missed the part about his bees having AFB. Wide consensus exists that the best way to prevent spread of this highly contagious apian disease is total destruction of the hive. I am certainly open to the idea that pesticides are causing CCD, but downplaying or failing to recognize serious hive disease is not the way to get me to believe Terry knows what he's talking about.

You missed the part about his bees having AFB.

Not at all. Given the spores of AFB are everywhere - one can detect 'em all over.

downplaying or failing to recognize serious hive disease is not the way to get me to believe Terry knows what he's talking about.

So you trust that the Government is right and a beekeeper with 100's of hives doesn't know what's going on?

I hear from the Japanese government that TEPCO states there is no problem in Fukushima.

I am certainly open to the idea that pesticides are causing CCD

When did Roundup (his claim) become a pesticide?

The definition of pesticide includes herbicides like Roundup as well as insectisides, fungicides, etc.

No, I didn't say I trusted the government inspector, but the cartoonish quality of the article and the way it blew off concerns about AFB with a reference to a remark by Terry is not confidence inspiring. Apparently Terry thought the government inspector had some chops or why'd he shove the diseased comb under her nose at a picnic?

Read this,

It sounds a lot like a refusal to deal with a long-standing serious AFB problem that was finally dealt with.