Drumbeat: May 28, 2012

Saudi Aramco 2011 crude output tops 9 million barrels per day

Saudi Aramco’s crude oil output in 2011 rose to 9.1 million barrels per day (bpd) from 7.9 million a year earlier, the state oil firm said in an annual review released on Monday.

“In 2011, the company supported global energy security and petroleum market stability through the continuing reliability of its operations and its investment in significant spare production capacity,” Ali al-Naimi, Aramco’s chairman and the kingdom’s oil minister, said in the review.

PILING UP: Saudi’s foreign aid bill is mounting

Egypt Jordan, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen - the Arab spring has elicited a string of pledges of loans and grants from the oil-rich kingdom to its troubled, resource-poor neighbours.

Oil Climbs for Third Day on Greece Outlook, Iran Nuclear Tension

Oil advanced for a third day in New York on signs voters in Greece may back austerity measures needed for a European Union bailout, boosting confidence that the bloc’s debt crisis can be contained.

Driving season begins, as does griping about gas

NEW YORK — It's Memorial Day weekend and our national obsession with the price of gasoline is in focus once again.

We'll spend a little less at the pump than a few weeks ago, but that won't stop us from muttering to ourselves, griping to friends and pointing fingers in many directions.

Consumers cast off fears, purchase boats

“I think this summer is going to be huge, as long as gas prices stay where they are or go lower,” said Jim Power, the owner of BT’s Marine Service in Titusville. Gasoline prices spiked recently over fears of a conflict with Iran. As those fears calmed, prices have fallen and Brevard residents begin looking for ways to have fun on the waterways.

“You see an immediate response to gas prices,” Power said.

LNG Exporters Sail by U.S. Manufacturers

Natural gas could be as good as gold. But winning that medal won’t be easy. At issue is whether the unconventional natural gases derived from U.S. shale formations can be legally exported overseas where they would fetch higher prices.

No plan to revise diesel, LPG or kerosene prices

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The government has no immediate plans to raise the retail prices of diesel, kerosene and LPG, Oil Minister S. Jaipal Reddy said on Monday, days after a move to raise petrol prices prompted a backlash that may result in a partial rollback.

Funds May Wrong-Way Bets Before Price Slump

Speculators raised bullish bets on commodities before signs of Europe’s deepening debt crisis and slowing Chinese growth drove prices lower for a fourth consecutive week, the longest slump since September.

Repsol Seen Cutting Dividend to Defend Rating After YPF

Repsol YPF SA is expected to cut the highest dividend payments among major oil producers to defend its credit rating after Argentina’s seizure of YPF SA.

Will the Seaway Pipeline Make a Difference?

The reversed Seaway pipeline has finally come online. Enbridge, along with pipeline operator Enterprise Product Partners, have turned on the taps to feed refineries in the Gulf coast and alleviate the bottleneck of crude oil in Cushing, Oklahoma. Now the big question is, how will this development affect crude oil prices?

TNK-BP CEO resigned for "personal reasons"-BP

(Reuters) - Mikhail Fridman told directors he was stepping down from his role as Chief Executive of TNK-BP , the Russian oil group owned by BP and AAR, a group of billionaires, including Fridman, for "personal reasons", BP said on Monday.

TIMELINE-BP's business in Russia

(Reuters) - Mikhail Fridman, a Soviet-born billionaire who is a partner of BP in Russia's third-largest oil company TNK-BP, has resigned as TNK-BP's chief executive officer.

Here is a timeline of BP's chequered history in Russia:

Five Police Officials Jailed Over Kazakh Unrest

AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh court has sentenced five police officials to jail terms of between five and seven years for their roles in the deadly unrest last December in the oil town of Zhanaozen.

Three of the defendants are high-ranking regional police officials.

Shell to start oil production in Kazakhstan

Dutch oil giant Shell is one of the members of a consortium which will invest almost one billion dollars in the next stage of oil exploration in Kazakhstan, the energy minister announced on Monday.

Shell, ExxonMobil and Eni will pay a total of 986 million dollars (779 million euros) in 2012 and 2013, the minister said.

Moment of truth for EU gas pipeline

BRUSSELS - The EU-endorsed Nabucco pipeline project is shrinking and might vanish by the end of June.

ExxonMobil Makes US Energy Policy

Exxon "functions as a corporate state within the American state, constructing its own foreign, economic and human rights policies," Coll wrote in his new book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power."

Growing Pains: Scenes from the North Dakota Drilling Boom

To understand the magnitude of the current oil and gas boom in North Dakota, you need only stand alongside U.S. Route 85 anywhere just north or south of Williston at night. The area’s 200 drilling rigs are lit up like carnival rides: towers of floodlights make up a luminous vertical cityscape amid the surrounding darkness. Semis hauling heavy equipment, pipe, water, fuel, oil, rigging, and any number of other loads roll past -- an unyielding train of oilfield supplies and products. And in the spaces where there aren’t semis, there are pickups hauling men back and forth to the drill sites.

Spent Fuel Rods Drive Growing Fear Over Plant in Japan

TOKYO — What passes for normal at the Fukushima Daiichi plant today would have caused shudders among even the most sanguine of experts before an earthquake and tsunami set off the world’s second most serious nuclear crisis after Chernobyl.

Fourteen months after the accident, a pool brimming with used fuel rods and filled with vast quantities of radioactive cesium still sits on the top floor of a heavily damaged reactor building, covered only with plastic.

The public’s fears about the pool have grown in recent months as some scientists have warned that it has the most potential for setting off a new catastrophe, now that the three nuclear reactors that suffered meltdowns are in a more stable state, and as frequent quakes continue to rattle the region.

Say so long to cheap oil, economist says

In his book The End of Growth, Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, argues that the end of cheap oil will mean much slower economic growth in the future.

He says the one belief that unites all economists is their conviction in economic growth, so his premise is controversial.

"Growth is sacrosanct to a lot of people, particularly among economists," Rubin said. "But a lot of people do instinctively recognize that when you change the price of oil, you change the speed limit of the economy."

Energy switchover leaves unanswered questions

A year ago, the German government announced its plans for an energy switchover. The country's biggest post-war infrastructure project is taking shape, but there is still plenty of resistance to it.

Former oil exec leads charge on biofuels

Sapphire Energy, the Sorrento Valley company that’s on a mission to turn algae into the fuel of the future for cars and jets, is on a roll.

And Cynthia “C.J.” Warner — who joined the company in 2009 as president and was tapped as CEO this year — should know.

Lebanon pledges 12% green energy by 2020

In the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, the Lebanese government made a pledge to develop renewable energy production capacity to reach 12 percent of the total electricity supply by 2020. That same commitment was reaffirmed by the current government. This “political” commitment is a major milestone of the “policy paper for the electricity sector” that was developed by the Lebanese Energy Ministry in 2010.

Bjorn Lomborg on the Rio Green Summit: Poverty Pollutes

To solve global warming, we need to concentrate on innovating cheaper green technology through a massive increase in R&D. We will get nowhere until we can make green energy less expensive than fossil fuels.

But perhaps more important, what really matters to most people is not global warming and other problems on the Rio+20 agenda. There is a deep and disturbing disconnect between the mighty who walk the plush carpets in the U.N. arena and what the majority of the world’s inhabitants need.

A Tiny Florida Outpost Divides Over Getting on the Power Grid

NO NAME KEY, Fla. — It is the promise of tranquillity that attracts the hardy few to this tiny wooded island that lies unspoiled off the road to Key West and off the grid altogether. What keeps them here is the pristine fishing, fantastic vistas, ambling Key deer and winter breezes blowing in sighs of contentment.

But these days, good karma is sorely missing on No Name Key. The 1,200-acre island has been riven by two warring camps of residents who have pleaded, sued, offended and, ultimately, turned their backs on each other in a fight over power, the kind that gets piped in by an electric company.

Computer model pinpoints prime materials for efficient carbon capture

Current technologies would use about one-third of the energy generated by the plants – what’s called “parasitic energy” – and, as a result, substantially drive up the price of electricity.

But a new computer model developed by University of California, Berkeley, chemists shows that less expensive technologies are on the horizon. They will use new solid materials like zeolites and metal oxide frameworks (MOFs) that more efficiently capture carbon dioxide so that it can be sequestered underground.

Kenya's bid to become the first African nation to set up a climate authority

Even as drought persists in parts of Kenya's arid north, intense rains are claiming lives in other parts of the country – flooding slums in the capital Nairobi, sweeping away hikers in the Rift Valley, and destroying crops.

Many Kenyans shake their heads in dismay at the increasingly extreme and volatile weather, which is costing money as well as lives in east Africa's economic powerhouse.

Wilbur Ottichilo, an environmental scientist and member of parliament, wants to equip Kenya to deal with these extremes. He has drafted a bill to set up an independent Climate Change Authority to advise on adapting to global warming and cutting the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Emirates Pipeline to bypass Straits of Hormuz set to open in June

Just past the Straits, on the other side of the Horn of Arabia, is the off loading port for the pipeline.

1.5 million b/day at first, later 1.8 million b/day.

Now used by many supertankers to "top up" their bunker fuel before sailing off.



[sarcasm] yay now iran can be 'regime changed' without fear of raising oil prices. [/sarcasm]

I know you meant that as sarcasm...but I could about guarantee that there are people thinking that right now seriously. There's a problem in that the past couple of wars we've basically gone into a fistfight with an M16...if we wind up engaging a country with actual potential to fight back and send missiles to blow up say, an oil pipeline meant to circumvent their threat to the straight of Hormuz, all of these armchair generals who've never engaged a country capable of fighting back are going to soil themselves. Iran has teeth.

From the article above about growing paind in North Dakota:

Five years ago, say locals, this stretch of U.S. 85 was as quiet as a dance floor on a Tuesday morning, and the small towns of western North Dakota were drying up like shallow lakes in the desert. Now some are predicting that Williston, where fewer than 13,000 people lived a decade ago, could reach 35,000 by the year 2020. The more fevered projections have it eventually reaching 100,000 -- almost the size of the entire Bismarck metropolitan region.

Williston becoming as big as Minot was when I left? As big as the entire Bismarck area?

What next, will Minot be as big as Fargo?

Wow, if you need money and are breathing, go to ND and open a business in the oil patch (bar, gentleman's club, eatery, etc...get in on the ground floor (or now maybe the first or second floor) for the next 20-40 years!

Attention oil companies: If you need a place to stage your ops from (store/repair/dispatch heavy equipment, fly stuff in/out, house and entertain your folks, etc.) go check out the former Glascow Air Force Base, in Glascow, MT. Should be close enough to the play on the Western side to fill the bill.

It has a rarely-used 12-13K-foot long by 300 foot wide runway stressed to handle the heaviest aircraft around.

Talk to Boeing, cut a deal.

Boeing Glasgow Flight Test Facility.




Last I heard the base had some 64 buildings which were still in OK condition and needed tenants...there are even dorms to house oil workers. The place was in stasis...a ghost facility.

Ahem, I would appreciate a finders fee check from the local development organization/chamber of commerce...

Bakken oil has low EROEI, perhaps only 7 or 8 IMO, but still better than tar sands

I just returned from eastern ND. My customer in Fargo is shipping diesel fuel to Bismark to relieve shortage there. The oil operations, along with agriculture demand, is sucking up all the production of Tesoro's local refinery. Read that about 20,000 trucks are consuming about 2 million gallons of diesel fuel per day keeping Bakken oil E/P operating. That's 50,000 barrels a day fuel consumed (more if you include trains hauling supplies in and oil out, plus personal trucks hauling work crews) versus about 600,000 barrels of oil production.

great report!

If only I would have bought some land near Tioga, Stanley, Williston, Minot...maybe even Plentywood, MT!

I can envision folks who own a section or two up in ND making bank from farming, oil royalties, and if they could pull off the deal, from wind turbine pad leases. If their land was adjacent to a decent road, set up some convenience stores/eateries...build a Dairy Queen...Texans love them their DQ, although I cannot for the life of my fathom why...

maybe they should build a rail line between Minot and Williston along U.S. 2...it is certainly flat! rail-coney stuff to Tioga and Stanley and truck supplies in and out of there...oh wait, there is a rail line from Minot to Stanley and Williston and points beyond in each direction...used by the Empire Builder AMTRAK line...maybe add some passing sidings and some N-S spurs and a yard in Williston?

For railraod buffs and folks who like the MidWest and folks who would enjot reading about ghost towns and how they came to be in ND, I recommend 'Silent Towns on the Prairie: North Dakota's Disappearing Towns and Farms'.


Basic premise is how the switch from 50t to 100t grain hopper cars along the several SE-NW-running rail spurs in ND stranded numerous small towns which slowly withered.

Looks like the oil boom is reversing the 'withering away' trend for the next (xx?) years...

Also means that there exist several SE-NW-running rail spurs in ND already....maybe some are unused...but they could come back.




According to North Dakota Public Service Commission data, miles of railroad track (also known as miles of road) in North Dakota peaked in 1920, at nearly 5,400. By the end of the decade, the system it was down to about 5,300 miles. It fluctuated between about 5,100 and 5,250 miles during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. There have been 1774 miles of track abandoned in ND since 1936 (Appendix B). The ND rail system has approximately 3,700 miles of road today. Miles of road is a primary indicator of system coverage

Best hopes for approriate rail use...

Also, I wonder how much NG is in NG, and if trucks could be converted to use that...the hauls are not all that long in the Bakken oil patch...a couple of well-located NG stations would do the trick.

Don’t forget the energy consumption of all 23,000+ new people moving in to the area to support this endeavor. Each new person added to the endeavor directly or indirectly comes with an energy budget his/her own, and that’s all part of the net energy/EROEI story too, however difficult it may be to compute.

Not really.

Humans are an end in themselves, and their normal daily energy consumption isn't an input to the oil industry.

When the oil field workers must commute 50 to 80 miles each way because of lack of housing, the oil boom does in fact need to factor personal consumption as part of EROEI.

Another factor in lower EROEI is lack of local supplies for drillers and producers. A company in Fargo ND is making many of the tanks used for well site storage of the oil and used frac fluids. These tanks are 10 feet diameter and 20 feet tall. They are built from steel brought in by both railcar and truck. Assembled tanks are then shipped by truck 350 to 400 miles each way to the Bakken formation area, with truck returned usually empty. So each tank requires 150+ gallons of fuel getting it to the well site, thus more embedded energy. Down in Texas the tank suppliers are scattered though out so not as much energy needed to get supplies in position, thus higher (better) EROEI for Eagle Ford production, IMO.

When the oil field workers must commute 50 to 80 miles each way because of lack of housing

Yes, that's not normal daily energy consumption.

OTOH, it's a temporary boom & bust kind of thing, and not inherent in the form of oil production. The same applies to lack of local supplies.

If you assume they would have jobs, income, and energy consumption san's the oil job yes. If not, no. In general it would be the change in their consumption that matters here. Being away from home, in the field, their consumption might go up -but it could go down. The few weeks I spent jugging in the Wiliston basin in the seventies, I left the car at home -so in this case my personal energy consumption went down. Mostly I think though, if these guys have family, they probably commute weekly (or maybe monthly) to/from the job site, and the family at home is still consuming energy, so their personal+family consumption has probably increased.

If you assume they would have jobs, income, and energy consumption sans the oil job yes. If not, no.

You have to keep the scope within the bounds of what it is taking to produce the oil. How it is otherwise used is of no consequence. If it requires more people to produce the oil then that does reduce the EROEI. People are an "EI." How much of their activity associated directly producing the oil, including transportation, the increase/decrease in heating/cooling of their living establishments versus where they came from, etc, is debatable. Possibly negligible in comparison to the rest of it, but it is there.

Yes really.

If one accepts the definition of “net energy” as the energy available to society to do things other than just producing more energy, then lots of things that might be considered part of “normal daily life” can legitimately be assigned to the energy extraction budget. Not just obvious things, such as driving back and forth to work, but less obvious things such as: a big portion of the food the workers in a given industry consume each day, a big portion of the roads and infrastructure that must be built to accommodate the people required to expand production, etc. From an energy budgeting standpoint, these things are just inputs necessary to yield a given output, philosophical views of humans as “ends in themselves” aside.

If you consider that the average worker spends close to half his/her waking hours at work, preparing for work, driving back and forth to work, the portion of each person’s total energy budget that can legitimately be assigned to energy extraction is significant. And all of these people rely on other members of the human supply chain, so there is a multiplier effect.

lots of things that might be considered part of “normal daily life” can legitimately be assigned to the energy extraction budget.

Just because those things are part of net energy on the output side, doesn't mean that they are part of the energy budget on the input side.

big portion of the food the workers in a given industry consume each day

I doubt their diet changes much because of the work. Most of those involved are knowledge workers, and even truck drivers don't work up a big sweat. Yes, there might be a small increment there, but it's pretty small.

a big portion of the roads and infrastructure that must be built to accommodate the people required to expand production

Sadly, the roads aren't getting more maintenance, they're just more beat up. The pipes and such are included in any normal E-ROI calculation.

If you consider that the average worker spends close to half his/her waking hours at work, preparing for work, driving back and forth to work, the portion of each person’s total energy budget that can legitimately be assigned to energy extraction is significant.

That energy consumption will stay pretty much the same whether they're at work, at a public aid office, or retired.

all of these people rely on other members of the human supply chain, so there is a multiplier effect.

Again, these people are ends in themselves - the services they consume are not part of the energy input calculation.

Nick – You’re missing the point because you’re confusing two separate concepts: computation of incremental energy consumption and allocation of energy consumption (both incremental and non-incremental). When a given industry needs to add a worker to create product X, the resources consumed by that worker get allocated to product X when accounting for the inputs necessary to create X. It absolutely doesn’t matter if the worker would have consumed those same resources had he/she been doing something else. There will be many cases where no incremental consumption occurs (see example below), but that doesn’t invalidate the allocation of the consumption to X. And the distinction between incremental consumption and allocation of consumption is absolutely critical.

I occasionally report financial results to my Board and other investors as part of my job. That exercise includes accounting for the cost of creating certain products and services. Part of that cost is human labor, and sometimes part of that labor comes from minimum wage workers. Were these people not working for me in creating products, they’d either be collecting a wage elsewhere, or they’d be collecting unemployment compensation and other government benefits whose value is probably close to the amount I pay them. Just because that’s true, doesn’t mean I get to exclude them as an expense in my financial reporting. If they work on my project, their cost gets allocated to me – period. It doesn’t matter one bit if that cost is not incremental from some global perspective.

A simple hypothetical example can demonstrate why allocation of consumption is so important in its own right (completely apart from incremental consumption). Imagine a hypothetical world where total energy consumption stayed absolutely flat year after year, but a higher and higher percentage of the world’s workforce was allocated to energy extraction each year. To make the point, extend the concept to a fictitious limit where 100% of the world’s workers and 100% of their work activity was directly focused on energy extraction, and in that endeavor they consumed the same total energy was we do today (no incremental consumption). There would be no capacity to provide for any other critical needs in such a world. If your position is that No incremental energy consumption = No problem, this hypothetical case shows why you’re wrong and why allocation of resources matters.

I understand your argument - I've helped set up indirect cost allocation plans for very large organizations, as well as done many cost studies and financial analyses that require comprehensive allocation of costs.

But, this is the key difference: that applies to financial analysis in general and $-ROI in particular, but not to E-ROI.

You're talking about labor costs, and they're very different from energy inputs and outputs. Yes, labor is crucial, but it's different, and $-ROI and E-ROI are very different.

Its EROEI, you leave out an "E". Financial analysis or not. Energy = Work. If you have buisness that caries out work without using energy it's unique.

Consider a fly-in-fly-out workforce, that's housed and fed by a mining operation. You can ignore the energy used to supply the workforce if you like but in the end, in the real world it would bite you on the ass. The business that supplies and houses the workforce is using energy and as their EROEI decreses they must raise their costs or fail which of course would bankrupt your business. The cause being the high cost of energy or its availability.

There is always an energy cost, whether it's your own in a closed system or an external parties', it's there whether you like to account for it or not.

If I have to dig a hole to sell dirt for my living, the dirt I sell had better provide for the energy I use to dig. As the hole gets deeper and further away I use more energy. You would obviously know the consequenses of not enough energy to sustain the worker. Just because we substitute energy slaves for much of the work, doesn't mean it doesn't have to be accounted for. To make matters worse as the EROEI declines it's equivelant to the energy slaves demanding increased pay for doing the same or less work.

In this world EROEI is everything. Every living thing is dependant on a positive EROEI including humans and we waste and have wasted much more than we ever needed. Because the "financial analysis" failed to account for it, it is now bringing down the economies of the world.

In this world EROEI is everything. Every living thing is dependant on a positive EROEI including humans and we waste and have wasted much more than we ever needed. Because the "financial analysis" failed to account for it, it is now bringing down the economies of the world.

Great final paragraph on this issue/thread. Gail Tverberg has a video of her talking about just that at this link:


In this world EROEI is everything. Every living thing is dependant on a positive EROEI including humans and we waste and have wasted much more than we ever needed. Because the "financial analysis" failed to account for it, it is now bringing down the economies of the world.


Or in other words, sooner or later, the pied piper has to be paid! Unfortunately he doesn't take American Express.

All that says is that any energy conversion/capture process has to have a good net energy.

We already knew that: we need to be able support our population, whatever they're doing. E-ROI tells us whether a process is a useful way of getting energy. $-ROI tells us whether the overall costs are worth it. Trying to include labor costs in E-ROI just confuses the two.

The question here is: how does adding the energy used by your workers in their daily life improve the usefulness of an E-ROI calculation.

And, yes, I leave out the 2nd E: it's redundant, and confusing when comparing to $-ROI. No one says "money returned on money invested" - it's just ROI, with the $ part understood.


Here's another way to think about it: any E-ROI needs to establish a boundary. You can't include the whole economy which serves the needs of the population, or E-ROI will always be exactly 1:1. I suggest that the most useful boundary is generally at the point where we expend incremental extra-somatic energy.

how does adding the energy used by your workers in their daily life improve the usefulness of an E-ROI calculation.

Because the real question is this: What are we really trying to assess when computing net energy or EROEI in the first place? My view: we’re trying to determine if the world is doing better or worse at supplying its energy needs in a way that allows scope for other important endeavors besides just supplying more energy.

Philosophically, the workers are a requirement to produce the energy. The energy required to sustain the workers is thus also a requirement to produce the energy. Without those inputs, you don’t get the output you want. Philosophically, it’s absolutely legitimate to count the whole energy budget as an input.

But forget about philosophy and think about the practical implications of devoting more workers to an endeavor. If we had a world 50 years from now where a much larger fraction of the workforce was engaged in energy extraction – to yield the same level of gross energy production we have today, and with a correspondingly big reduction in the production of other goods and services, enough to keep people fed and alive but a lot less of the things we view as enhancing quality of life – a very narrow boundary for considering inputs might result in net energy and EROEI metrics not much different from what we have today. But the practical reality is that the world would be a lot different, and in a bad way. So the “narrow boundary” computation of net energy and EROEI wouldn’t have much value in assessing what we really care about.

The bottom line is this: You can draw the boundary for counting inputs as narrowly as you want; there are no EROEI police to stop you. But beyond some point of narrowing the boundaries, these metrics quit telling you anything of value.

I understand what you're saying. Really I do.

My first question: isn't the comprehensive analysis you're thinking about really $-ROI??

From my point of view, the purpose of E-ROI is to evaluate an energy source: is it a a good idea? Is it distorted by subsidies? Financial analysis can be misled by accounting problems (mostly subsidies), which E-ROI helps avoid. OTOH, E-ROI can be pretty misleading, especially when the energy inputs and outputs are different, and have very different supply, pricing, and external cost profiles.

My 2nd question: don't we want to be consistent with general practice in developing E-ROI calculations? I believe what I'm suggesting is consistent with the general professional practice.


It might help to get down to specific examples: we're being pretty abstract here, and we can talk abstractly for a long time and not get anywhere if it's not grounded in specifics.

So...are we thinking of Bakken oil? Ethanol?

Nick - My take on the answers to your questions:

(1) No, the broad-boundary definition of EROEI isn’t about $-ROI. It’s about evaluating whether we’re doing better or worse at producing energy in a way that allows scope for other important endeavors. If a bigger and bigger chunk of humanity’s collective efforts are being devoted to energy production, then we’re doing worse. Any input boundary definition that doesn’t reflect such reality defeats the purpose of doing the computation in the first place.

And because of that, I don’t think you can answer the question “Is energy source X a good idea?” without broadening the boundaries enough for our metric to tell us if we’re just treading harder to keep our noses above water. That’s exactly the kind of thing EROEI and net energy metrics are supposed to be giving some sense for.

(2) You may consider there to be an “industry-standard” practice for defining boundaries in EROEI calculations, but I certainly do not. How much haggling do we read about it on this website alone? And even if some influential organization were to establish such a standard tomorrow, if their standard was defined so narrowly as to not tell us what we really care about, I’d just quit paying attention to published EROEI figures altogether, because they’d have very little value.

the broad-boundary definition of EROEI isn’t about $-ROI.

I'm really not sure what you mean. E-ROI is a narrow measure. $-ROI is a broad measure. If you try to make E-ROI measure everything, it measures nothing.

E-ROI is an alternative to $-ROI which is needed because of accounting problems with $-ROI, like subsidies, right?

Now, if we include the somatic energy used by employees, is it just their energy for the 40 hours on the job? Is it their whole life? Does it include their families? The people who sell them food and housing? Where do we stop? After all, everybody partakes of the whole economy, so is the whole economy necessary for energy production? Doesn't that make E-ROI always equal to 1?? Surely, net energy is a surplus, so there's some part of the economy we wouldn't interpret as an input?

I suggest the simple answer: use incremental energy inputs needed to produce incremental energy outputs.

How much haggling do we read about it on this website alone?

There is a lot of uninformed argument on TOD. That doesn't tell us much. There is a reasonably large body of literature which is intended to answer these kinds of questions, and it's probably a good idea to be informed about what they do and why, if only so new ideas are as comparable as possible.

If somebody claims that Bakken oil has an E-ROI of 5, what does that mean? Is it better or worse than, say, deep-water oil? If we don't have standard ways of calculating things, we can't make much progress.


If you really want to include somatic energy, then I think you can only include that consumed by employees during those hours devoted to the job: their 8 or so hours on the job and their commute. As a practical matter, I think you'll find that's trivial.

Nick – Including everything would have no value, but excluding almost everything also has no value. So where do I propose drawing the boundary? Far enough out, such that we can see it reflected in our metrics when our efforts at producing energy begin to constrain other endeavors. The standards used by the accounting profession to track cost and revenue aren’t too far off from where I think they should be for energy accounting.

If you want to only consider energy inputs and outputs around the wellhead or some other small zone, good for you and everybody else who chooses to constrain themselves to the narrow view. But I honestly don’t care about the metrics you cite in that case, because they have very little utility in answering the questions whose answers I do care about.

The standards used by the accounting profession to track cost and revenue aren’t too far off

Well, that's straightforward - cost accounting includes direct expenditures for an operating unit, as well as indirect expenses that are directly related to identifiable allocation criteria: the cost of HR gets allocated to operating units based on number of staff, for instance. That's pretty close to what I suggested (marginal investment as a ratio to marginal return), right?

energy inputs and outputs around the wellhead or some other small zone

I'd include energy inputs and outputs related to the operation (and indirect costs, as noted above) wherever they are, just as an accountant would for cost accounting.

The problem of allocation of indirect overhead is analogous to our boundary problem: allocation criteria have to be justifiable - for instance, an operating unit can't ooperate without hiring, which is a service provided by HR. So, we allocate the cost of HR to the operating unit. Taxes, likewise, are a real cost because you can't operate without government provided infrastructure. But, you can't just include anything willy nilly.

No, cost accounting doesn’t work anything like what you’ve advocated for energy accounting. An employee is paid a salary. His salary is counted as a labor cost for his employer. He might only use a tiny portion of his salary to cover costs related to his work (e.g., driving a car to and from the office, buying lunch in the company cafeteria, etc.). But most of his salary will be used for other purposes not even indirectly related to his job (e.g., paying his mortgage, taking his family to Disney World, etc.). despite this, all of his salary is counted as a cost for his employer, regardless of the fraction that gets used for work-related expenses. Put another way, all of the cost required to sustain the employee’s professional and private lives are allocated to the employer.

Salaries of providers with whom the employee does business are counted as labor costs for their own employers. This is the boundary that sets the limit for considering labor cost inputs for a given employer, and it’s what stops the tally from including every salary in the world. If energy accounting worked the same way, all the energy needed to sustain the employee’s private and professional lives would get counted against the project on which he was working, regardless of the split between the two.


Well, yes, cost accounting is different. If it weren't, there wouldn't be a need for two complementary methods, I suppose.

Ok. Cost accounting uses the employee's salary, and one can think of that as being the market cost of those services, which could in theory be used for something else. Please note that this is not the employee's cost of living: he/she could sleep in their office and shower in the local YMCA, and save 95% of their salary. I think it's reasonable to say that the minimum cost of living (aka subsistence level) is much smaller than the typical salary, and the difference represents a social surplus used for living, just as an energy surplus sustains the majority of civilization that's not related to energy production.

E-ROI is intended to pierce the veil of cost accounting, and measure the actual marginal energy inputs and outputs.

Although some people will save more or less than the norm, at any given salary level there will be a modest range of living standards within which most people at that salary level will choose to live. So as a practical matter, a certain level of actual spending will occur within a group of X workers in profession Y, just as a certain level of actual energy use will occur within a group of X workers the energy extraction business.

Financial cost accounting does a pretty good job getting all the costs rolled up into one number. EROEI - not so much when it comes to energy. And maybe the version of EROEI that you care about doesn’t intend to or need to. The version of it that tells me what I care about (you can give it a different name if it helps you rest easier) does.

a certain level of actual spending will occur within a group of X workers in profession Y, just as a certain level of actual energy use will occur within a group of X workers the energy extraction business.

Yes, but some of that consumption is spending the surplus of net energy that energy extraction is all about.

Think of Foxconn workers who sleep in dorms and who live to work: they use very little energy outside of work - that's the minimum level necessary.

Ok, think of a lion: the normal definition of E-ROI would be the 5,000 kilocalories derived from eating a gazelle compared to the 100 kcalories required to chase it down = 50:1. Now, you could include the overhead of her basal metabolism for the rest of the day; or the "overhead" of her playing in the veldt and exploring for sunny spots; or the overhead of her fellow pride members who defend the cubs and groom the den; or their "overhead" of play and exploration....but that's not the normal definition.

You're free to create your own definition, I suppose.

We could call it E-ROIv2, and define it as including the minimum necessary overhead required to support the energy production project. That might include 24 hour basal metabolism for workers; some portion of IT and transportation infrastructure; some portion of supporting services such as government; etc. This is roughly the same concept that people are reaching for when they suggest that there is a minimum E-ROI necessary to support a society (perhaps 2-4).

It certainly shouldn't include entertainment, and a variety of pursuits, professions and industries not strictly necessary to support the energy production. For instance, a very significant portion of the economy of oil boomtowns is entertainment for all those overstressed, lonely, male workers...

It doesn’t matter how much of their energy consumption is unnecessary or excessive. The market sets the conditions that determine how much energy a given set of workers will be able to consume, and they will consume some fraction of that amount as a practical matter. So society has essentially devoted a given slice of energy to people who are part of the energy production business and not some other business. If the same amount of energy could be produced with fewer workers, the size of that energy slice would be smaller. The people not used would be available to work on other endeavors, and their energy budget would be allocated to those other things. This is precisely the kind of effect that I believe EROEI should be taking into account. It’s completely analogous to cost accounting, where the sum of all the expenditures (essential and nonessential, work-related and non-work-related) by a given set of workers on a project will ultimately get rolled up into a single labor cost that gets allocated to that project.

It doesn’t matter how much of their energy consumption is unnecessary or excessive. The market sets the conditions...

Markets allocate labor to their highest and best use, we hope. That has a lot to do with scarcity and supply and demand, not as much to do with costs as we might hope.

The whole point of E-ROI is to look beyond market pricing, and at the actual energy flows.

The people not used would be available to work on other endeavors, and their energy budget would be allocated to those other things.

Entertainment is not part of someone's basic energy budget.

It’s completely analogous to cost accounting, where the sum of all the expenditures (essential and nonessential, work-related and non-work-related) by a given set of workers on a project will ultimately get rolled up into a single labor cost that gets allocated to that project.

Cost accounting doesn't work that way: don't forget overhead and indirect costs. It allocates necessary overhead, not anything else. There are some departments and costs that have to be allocated among the operating units, but most departments and operations are not allocated - instead, they receive costs. And, of course, there's always a significant portion of the enterprise's revenues that turns into profit, which is the surplus that is distributed outside the enterprise.

Ultimately, if all expenditures are included in one's budget, then one includes all of society as an input, and E-ROI is equal to 1:1. That's how macroeconomics deals with dollar flows: income equals outgo. That's not how we want to do E-ROI.


Right now the cost of ethanol, and the cost of gasoline are fairly comparable. KSA sells it's oil for $100 per barrel, even though it only costs them perhaps $15 to produce. KSA manages to spend all of it's revenue, so it has pretty high energy consumption - the method you're suggesting would include all of those expenditures But, we know that ethanol has a very low E-ROI, and KSA oil has an E-ROI that is very, very high.


Sustainable Rail International, University of Minnesota Announce Coalition to Develop the World's Cleanest Passenger Locomotive

Plans to create the world’s first carbon-neutral higher-speed locomotive were announced today by the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), a collaboration of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI). CSR draws on the carbon-neutral solid biofuel research expertise of the University of Minnesota and the modern steam mechanical engineering capabilities of SRI to develop the most powerful carbon-neutral locomotive to date.

CSR Project 130 has a simple goal: create the world’s cleanest, most powerful passenger locomotive, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology. The Coalition will put its technology to the test by planning to break the world record for steam locomotive speed, reaching 130 miles per hour and demonstrating the viability of this revolutionary, clean transportation technology.

The locomotive will run on torrefied biomass (biocoal), a biofuel created through an energy-efficient processing of cellulosic biomass. Biocoal exhibits the same energy density and material handling properties as coal, but unlike coal, it is carbon neutral, contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke and volatile off-gases. Since it exhibits such similar characteristics to coal, biocoal has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States generates clean electricity.

'Biocoal' fuels steam train comeback

The university, along with Sustainable Rail International, are to restore a 1930s locomotive – 3463, a 4-6-4 Hudson-type loco built by Baldwin that’s spent its retirement at the Kansas Expocenter in Topeka – as a test bed for bio-coal. The locomotive has already been stabilized prior to the trip to Minnesota for restoration.

Refurbish something from the 1930s? They would be better off to build a new one from scratch. I don't even want to think about what kind of rust is creeping around in those riveted seams. And you wouldn't be able to take advantage of any of the improvements in materials over the last 80 years.

If they wanted to take it apart due to lack of accurate and detailed steam locomotive plans, that would be fine. I hope they plan to run it by remote control.

Conventional steam locomotives only had a thermal efficiency of around 7%. The diesel-electric locomotives that started to replace them after the second WW were roughly four times as efficient and required vastly less maintenance. Hundreds of communities that existed primarily to service steam locomotives were abandoned. Much as I love steam locomotives, I am pretty skeptical that they could stage a comeback.

Where did 7% come from?

At the University of Missouri's Columbia Campus engineering labs a lot of testing of steam locomotive components was done in the 1920's up until WWII. Our thermal dynamics class taught us that modern steam locomotives (non condensing) circa 1940 were 17% efficient. Condensing locomotives could achieve close to 25% overall efficiency. Modern diesel electric locomotive is 32% efficient, chem energy in versus power at axles. Although I graduated with BSME at U of MO 31 years ago, I have worked in an engineering capacity on transportation equipment design for my entire career.

15% thermal efficiency for a non-condensing locomotive may have been state of the art for locomotives built in the 1940's but the vast majority of locomotives in service at that time would have been far older than that.

Start from scratch plus all we know about gas turbines and bottoming cycles. What you end up with, quick and easy, is a closed cycle gas turbine and a steam bottom cycle. Wow! Runs on biochar, way better than a diesel in every way, and the hardware is already there, just put it together.

That sure would be a fun project to work on.

Well, how big would it be? For stationary applications this might not matter, but for transport apps, it could be crucial. Also how well does it handle vibrations? There is a lot more than just energy conversion efficiency that goes into the economics.

It's super simple - you just use satellites in space that track the boiler and heat it with laser beams.

(This is meant of a jocular nature)

SBB, Swiss rail has them beat by a century and the Milwaukee Railroad has them beat by nine or so decades.

Electric locomotives powered by hydroelectric (or wind or solar PV or geothermal) power are carbon neutral.

And DRAMATICALLY more efficient !

But so were wood burning steam locos (just not very efficient),


Yes, this seems to be Yet Another Green Stunt (YAGS). Even a liquid biofuel would be better, since you could use more efficient engines and you can adjust the rate of combustion to power needs.

But electrification is definitely the way to go, especially for passenger trains, since weight can be spread out among multiple cars in the train set.

But electrification is definitely the way to go

The 'biogreen' power can be applied to a stationary plant and a train can be a 'dump load' or the homes/businesses/government serviced can be the 'dump' load. Add in district steam heating....

(The 'lets build a steam locomotive' sounds like the 'lets put solar panels in space' idea - someone wants a steam train/go to space and is trying to have others validate their desire by placing a different wrapper 'bout the package)

Here's Fox up to their usual "fair and balanced" coverage of current events. I am somewhat skeptical about anyone who talks about costs 7 years ago in relation to what is happening today. While it is true that BOS cost have not followed panel prices lower over the past couple of years, significant efforts are being made by BOS component suppliers to address this.

On the other hand when I watched all three parts of one of the last interviews with Hermann Scheer before he died, he spoke of a lot of the things that getting the way of implementing solar PV and how Germany addressed them. He spoke of the democratization of electrical power by allowing much wider participation in the business of generating electricity. I sometimes wonder how come the free market loving folks over at Fox rationalize that, encouraging individuals to participate in businesses traditionally dominated by large centralized corporate entities, by lowering the barriers to entry, is un-American. Of course I stop wondering as soon as I remember who's interests Fox really represents.

I guess I don't fully understand that North America has such huge reserves of coal and oil that, a few wealthy people will be able to extract these resources to provide cheap energy for North America, for decades or centuries to come (not).

Alan from the islands

Copied from your link.

"Bryce appears regularly on Fox, CNBC, and other networks."

Why limit your comment to Fox?

Because, the clip is from a Fox program hosted by what's his name, the guy with the non American (Australian?) accent.

edit: Hold on a sec,

Copied from your link.

my link was to a video of an interview with the late Hermann Scheer?

Alan from the islands

Sorry, I thought you were responding to joebbryner

Regardless of where he appears - recognize that Bryce is paid by the Manhattan Institute - a Libertarian think tank that has taken a strong position that since fossil fuels and nuclear are by far the most powerful energy sources we have the country should continue to support those industries and not subsidize weaker renewables. Bryce is a strong advocate of natural gas as our best long term fossil fuel because he recognizes that oil has a more limited future.. He is also relentlessly against subsidies from the government. He is smart and a good writer - I just happen to disagree with his conclusions.

His energy cohort at the Institute is Peter Huber. Another good writer who pushes natural gas as the answer to get BAU going.

Both are relentless pushers of perpetual growth.

Unlike most on this site I see little difference between Fox, MSNBC, CNBC, etc. They all abandoned journalism years ago.

What a pointless story. The program has essentially finished up and as everyone knows, California's finances are not in great shape so they probably just won't create new a program. The PV panels are much cheaper now and the Federal tax-credit still exists. This is not any affirmative action to kill solar subsidies as the Fox Business hacks try to portray it . . . no, it is just the end of an amazingly successful program that helped build the world's solar industry and helped bring down prices. Mission Accomplished!

The California Solar Initiative tracker:

and helped bring down prices

I was under the impression that prices are down because of the "economy" not "better" panels.

I'm also under the impression that the old more expensive panels keep generating power inot old age but some of the newer designs will not have such a long tail.

Crystalline silicon PV cell prices are down because the raw materials are cheap, and high demand (boosted by subsidies) led to investment in supply on a grand scale.

I'm sure the new "glut" of panels is quite variable in quality, but the technology is not different from the silicon PV cells mass-produced since the 1950s so I wouldn't expect a lot of difference in the lifetime.

Thin-film technologies have come down in cost for similar reasons. They are often using *older* chemistries (selenium, cadmium, tellurium), but the raw materials are scarcer and the techniques (using very small quantities of the crucial materials) are newer, so the longevity of these cells is less well understood.

Production keeps scaling up due to investments and state subsidies. But the subsidies for solar is still a drop in the bucket compared to oil. Worldwide production capacity is 40 gigawatts per year and around $1 per watt average. About half of the world's production capacity is now in China. Political attacks in the US have hampered the competitiveness of our industry. Let's hope this doesn't continue or we will completely cede it to the Chinese.

Poverty means entire disadvantaged communities have less to eat, get less education, and are more exposed to infectious disease. Allowing them to get richer enables them to satisfy their families’ immediate needs like food, clean water, and education. And then they can afford to start caring about the environment.

Yes, Björn Lomberg, that's why rich countries have a lesser ecological footprint than poor countries. That's why a rich, environmentally-conscious person have less of an ecological footprint than the poor global warming denier.

Wait, they don't.

To avoid hopeless confusion, one must argue with what he actually said:

"And then they can afford to start caring about the environment."

He didn't say, "they have a smaller footprint". Indeed it would be a surprise if they did. In the real world - and as we discussed at length a day or two ago - it is not news that those who emit the shrillest "caring" noises tend to stomp with the biggest footprints. Other folks tend to be far too busy eking out a meager living to have time to bloviate "care", even when they might like to. So folks in both Europe and North America remained fairly quiet until the 1960s, when steady and rapid postwar economic growth, for the first time ever in world history, gave substantial numbers the luxury and leisure to be able to kick up a fuss.

True, there's something of a paradox in that, but it won't be wished or moralized away. Campaigners on these issues seem doomed to remain mystified about, and disappointed in, the level of actual "action" amidst all the "caring" noise, until they choose to face the paradox squarely.

Although I think Bjorn is a blowhard, there is something of a "Truthiness" in this statement.

I point you to the island of Hispañola upon which two distinct nations have it divided in half. Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One which is very poor, the other which is quite wealthy.

Take a look at the island in Google Earth, but before you do...remove Google Earth's artificial border overlay. I will bet that you can draw the border accurately anyway. Haiti has been ravaged by deforestation...but wealthy Dominica, who doesn't use wood for fuel, is pristine looking.

The Dominican Republic is hardly super-wealthy, they just aren't dirt poor like Haiti - they are wealthy but not wealthy like Japan or Germany. But I will agree with you, there is some "truthiness" there. Poor people often have to rely on firewood, and when you have a large population relying on firewood, you get deforestation.

I think he's right that there is a lot of hypocrisy out there, but his alternative is "how about they all build a crapload of coal plants like China and get rich!" He claims that the rich are asking the poor to live with substandard energy (in the form of solar and other renewables), but ignores the true greens who actually live with renewables.

Lifting people out of poverty only to yoke them to non-renewable fossil fuels is a devil's bargain. When this whole house of cards falls over, it'll take them back down. It's already shaking just from all liquids being unable to grow much, and when it starts to shrink, how will that work out? But at least we won't have to hear Bjorn getting all sweaty talking about how fossil fuels and development are so great, when all the currently "rich" first-worlders join the poor!

Very true Adamx, and Haiti in 2007, had a population of almost 300 more people per square mile than did the Dominican Republic. Population Density per Square Mile of Countries

                    Population per square mile
Dominican Republic      492
Haiti                   781

However it must be added that the primary reason for Haiti's deforestation was the cutting of trees to make charcoal for sale. All countries where this has happened have experienced drastic deforestation. Ethiopia is a prime example and they have only 173 people per square mile.

Ron P.

Nothing to do with the forced reparations paid to France enforced by the US amongst others for Haiti to remain a *free* slave state? ... Hmmm.

Tonu, everything in history has an effect on events today. But NO, what happened in 1804 and the years that followed did not directly cause the deforestation of Haiti today.

If you wish to bring up very nasty things that the US and France did 200 years ago to vent your rage at those who committed atrocities, that is understandable. But don't try to point the crooked finger of blame on those who lived 200 years ago for the rape of the ecosystem today. There is no one to blame except the overwhelming evolutionary success of Homo sapiens.

Ron P.

Can anyone tell me what the population of Haiti was 200 years ago compared to today? I suspect that it has grown at least 10x??


Haitian Revolution

The slave population on the island totaled almost half of the one million slaves in the Caribbean by 1789.

That would put them at less than half a million at the start of the Haitian Revolution. I would expect there was a considerable decline in their numbers during the revolution. Anyway their population in 2010, according to your first link, was 10 million. That put their current population over twenty times their population at the end of their revolution in 1804.

It is likely that most of those who were members of the non slave population had either been killed or left the island by then.

Ron P.

I totally agree that there are too many humans. However why the Haitians are so relatively destitute does have some 'history'. Haiti only paid off its reparations in 1947 -- just what did they use for those payments? This 'cost' while incurred 200 years ago dragged down the country for 200 years. No question that the Haitian government over that period was flagitious but what do you expect the peasants to do?

Tonu, there is no doubt that the abject poverty of Haitians was the reason that so many had to resort to making charcoal in order to feed their families. And there is no doubt that reparations to France helped keep them in poverty for over a century. But if one goes back into history one can find causes for every major problem that plagues humanity today.

People have held slaves for as long as written history and likely long before that. And governments and tribes have extorted resources from other governments and tribes at every possible opportunity to do so.

Blaming long dead people for our predicament only masks the real causes of the problem. But that is just what we always do. It is far easier to find historical events and historical people to blame for the predicament the world finds itself in than facing the real problem. But it often makes us feel sanctimonious to say: "It was all their fault, shame on them."

The problem is in the nature of the species.

Ron P.

Do the Haitians have the "burn-forest-for-charcoal" gene, while the Dominicans don't?

Errr... Henri, the terms "Haitians and Dominicans" refers to their nationality, not their species. We are all of the same species, Homo sapiens.

Ron P.

I have not followed the debate in this thread, but just because we are the same species, does not mean we share the same genes 100%. I for example does not have the genes for social intelligence. At least I have not detected it. And if you look at a black and a white guy, you could detect some not shared genes with your naked eye.

Jedi, please consider my reply to Tonu below as replying to you also. As I told him it is the genes we have in common with all of our species that I am speaking of, not in any differences we have.

Ron P.

Jedi, chimp and human genomes are 99% identical. Let's not quibble about the differences among humans, they are for all practical purposes non existent! BTW, we are, ALL of us, of African origin, so get over it already! Sheesh!

I don't know if you know this, but although I am an evangelical christian, I'm still evolutionist. In fact I dislike the term "evolutionist". It is like calling them who belives in gravity "gravitationists".

I was trying to show the blindness of genetics as the overriding factor through a rhetorical question, but it seems I failed.

Errr.... Ron, Henriksson posed a rather important question --- why did the humans on the two halves of Hispaniola reach such a different short term 'homo sapiens' solution?

Tonu, it is my failure to fully clarify my point. First the reasons Haitians denuded their third of the island, (or 37%), first was because of their abject poverty as opposed to the Dominicans lesser poverty as well as Haiti being more overpopulated. It had nothing to do with genes other than the genes that all of our species have in common. I thought that was made very clear from the context of my posts but apparently I was mistaken.

When I speak of "species" I speak of the things we, as one species, have in common, not any differences. But really it is what we have in common with all species that is important. All species produce far more offspring than can possibly survive, (long term). All species compete with all other species for territory and resources. Homo sapiens have just been far more successful than any other species.

All species have a survival niche, an adaptation or adaptations that give them a survival advantage. The eagle has at least two, flight and telescopic sight. The wolf has smell and speed as well as other adaptations. But Homo sapiens has evolved one very primary survival adaptation. They have others but the one that really matters, the one that really gives us such a huge advantage over other species is intelligence. Our intelligence has given us the ability to develop tools and agriculture and many other things that gives us an overwhelming advantage over all other large species. Our advantage is so overwhelming that we are winning the battle for territory and resources... big time!

I do hope that makes my point a little clearer.

Ron P.

Dogs can be bred for different traits, aggressiveness, herding, hunting etc. They are still the same species. Why should there not be such differentials in H.S.? How much of the difference is nurture and how much nature?


Because humans don't have "breeders" that pick out the quality they like and breed for that one.

However that is a totally different subject than the one we are discussing. The nature - nurture debate is one I dearly love but I just don't feel like getting into it today.

Ron P.

humans don't have "breeders" that pick out the quality they like and breed for that one.

Don't they, really? Sure, there is no single, explicit authority that has the "right" to do such a thing, and such picking out is certainly not done as efficiently and totally as in non-human animal breeding, but surely it is a fact that some humans and human groups and sub-groups reproduce as well as die at significantly different rates compared to others. And those differences are not caused magically by God or some other such supernatural force, I think.

People tend to try to help the people they like and hurt those they don't like. Doesn't seem like there would necessarily have to be some designated "breeder" to do the picking.

It is intelligence plus opposing thumbs that is our advantage. Tool making. God I love my thumbs.

Hey, every primate has the opposing thumb. And think about this, every primate except one has an opposing big toe. And that primate, without an opposing big toe, is the most successful one of all.

Ron P.

Well, could you make usefull tools without a bodyprt to grip stuff with, with precision? It is the two combined that makes it.

Yes, but in Planet of the Apes the Chimps and Orangutans beat us down handily on account of their two extra thumbs.

This guy doesn't seem to have any problems.


Actually I would say it is because out of all the monkeys humans are the champions at 'monkey see, monkey do' or in other words, mirror neurons. It isn't that humanity has a huge abundance of innovators, we just learn and retain what our innovators learn better than any other species. Lets say we have a tribe of say 100 people including our dear Bob. Bob one day plays around with fire and he sticks his spear into the fire and plays with it, the fire hardens the point of the spear. Other members of the tribe now have access to fire hardened spear points so long as they take the time from general monkey business like sex, rumours, jokes and monkeying around.

Ron, the US has continued (for reasons that are truly beyond me) to interfere intensively with Haiti's government, up through and since the Duvaliers, and our Ag businesses have undermined and underbid their farmers and topsoil in lockstep with US foreign policy actions.

Correlation, of course may not mark the cause, but it sure looks suspicious sometimes..

Bob, you are correct of course but the reasons for the intervention are not as hard to understand as you seem to think. What few people fail to understand is that the choice is seldom, if ever, between good and evil. It is most always between the lesser evil and the greater evil.

We sold rice to Haiti at far cheaper prices than they could produce it. This undermined Haitian rice farmers. They went bankrupt. But had that not happened poor Haitians would have to paid much more for their rice. Those who could not afford the high price of Haitian rice would simply have starved.

So which was, or would have been, the lesser evil?

Ron P.

Ron - You could also argue that had they been protected from the competition of cheaper industrial rice imports they could have with time industrialised their production of rice too and made it competitive. There has been a lot said in favour of protective tariffs so local industry can develop to the point where it can compete on an international stage.

Sorry, Ron, I wish I could say I was surprised that you choose to boil the essense of this story down to such simple choices, but to do so is simply an insult to our history with the place. Here, have a taste..

BILL QUIGLEY: Well, as you — not everybody does know, but, you know, in 1804, the imported African slaves that were brought to work the island revolted against their French rulers and colonial folks there and established a free state, a free black state, first time in the world. And the United States responded very badly, because we clearly — you know, we still had enslaved millions and millions of Africans in the United States. And it wasn’t ’til after the Civil War that we even had any sort of relationship with them. And Haiti is much closer to the United States than even some parts of the United States.

France put a military blockade around Haiti to force them to pay reparations for their own freedom, to recompense people for the slaves that were freed. And in the last century, the United States supported dictator after dictator, and the elected officials, we supported the coups that knocked them out. We have kept the country dependent. We have kept the country militarized. And we kept the country impoverished. We have dumped our excess rice, our excess farm produce and that stuff on the country, thereby undercutting the small farmers who would make up the backbone of the place.

So, there are two really good articles for the people in the audience, today’s New York Times, Tracy Kidder, and also in The Guardian by Peter Hallward, saying the crisis that we helped create. We didn’t create the earthquake, but we created some of the circumstances that made the earthquake so devastating.


... I wish you hadn't decided to add the term 'Evil' into the discussion, which only serves to polarize and exaggerate the points I tried to make with sober language.

It's a complex, and very unfortunate series of events, which show I think a serious historical shortcoming that the US has replayed for one decade after another, with mistakes piling up on one another, and I think leaving the US holding a very heavy bag in all of it.. but which keeps getting repainted as some example of Haitian or 'Human' tendencies towards gross devastation in the extreme. Many poor lands do not end up in this state, when they are not in the crosshairs of a more modern system bent on extracting and manipulating ('managing') at full bore.

.. and from the same Democracy Now! segment, Naomi Klein puts a more concrete face on the upstanding Americans who can't wait to give Haiti another push whenever they're off balance from some ill-fortune.

Our Neighbors at the HERITAGE FOUNDATION, lending a hand.

“Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the image of the United States in the region.” And then goes on.

Now, I don’t know whether things are improving or not, because it took the Heritage Foundation thirteen days before they issued thirty-two free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. We put that document up on our website, as well. It was close down the housing projects, turn the Gulf Coast into a tax-free free enterprise zone, get rid of the labor laws that forces contractors to pay a living wage. Yeah, so it took them thirteen days before they did that in the case of Katrina. In the case of Haiti, they didn’t even wait twenty-four hours.

Good gravy Bob, I do wish you would lighten up. I was referring to choices our government makes on an almost daily basis. I was not referring to slavery or the actions of evil dictators. I did say "It is most always between the lesser evil and the greater evil."

I was making a point about population, whether to feed the starving or not. I was using a term Garrett Hardin made in "The Ostrich Factor" where he used that very phrase when referring to foreign aid to Africa. It feeds the starving only to make the situation much worse later on when they are even more people who will starve.

Ron P.

joker/Ron - Just a small sidebar to your conversation. One of my coworkers returned from her trip to Haiti last month. She and her group make annual trips to some hell hole on the planet. Her "vacation". Always uplifting for her...even previous trips to Haiti. But not this last trip. She came back furious. First time she's ever had such a reaction and she's seen some very desperate situations in Africa. What got to her was not that nothing has changed but she saw no mechanism for potential change. One my recent trip to an impoverished African country I did see some potential for improvement. Very slow moving but some progress. A generally reasonable life for the locals...just not by US standards, of course. But in her opinion she saw a very bad situation which will only get worse. And she's no young delusional optimistic with no knowledge how the world really functions. She's as hard-nosed as she is big hearted.

Hers is just one person's impression but given her background it's meaningful IMHO.

Rockman, what would you, or your coworker, consider improvement? What would be progress?

On someone's recommendation, I think it was Gail, I just received my copy of a 1978 book Atlas of World Population History. There is a chart of the population history of almost every nation. Almost every one of them, even the countries in Africa, looks like a hockey stick. They all start to slowly rise at the onset of the industrial revolution. Then about 1850 they suddenly start to accelerate upward, climbing faster and faster with each decade, finally going almost straight up.

Is that improvement? Is that progress?

Ron P.

Sorry I haven't lightened up on this one, Ron, but there it is.. I think it's not just simple 'unexpected consequenses' in cases like this. We've been as dumb as a sack of rocks, in this area.. (No insult meant toward Rockmen, there) and in that Dumbness, we've been cruel in very direct ways.. it's not some simple unavoidable blowback that comes with the territory.

What would be an initial improvement might be if the US just got out of the way. Haiti could have regrown, I believe, if not for our self-serving aid programs, political manipulations, and then our concurrent INaction when there were clear calls for actual help. CUBA had doctors and supplies on the ground after the earthquake within days, while we were still skitting overhead with aerial surveillance to see that it was safe to go aground.. and when we did, it was with Armed troops and fencing, not with water and food and medics.

No, we've been too busy arming Israel, so they can keep shooting themselves and their neighbor's hopes for peace in the face. The downside of many of our aid programs, and the open-market porkbellies that they're built upon is hardly unexpected or unpredictable.

We act like a Hammer that doesn't understand why you can't beat those licking pangs of hunger back into the ground. We must need more hammers.

No, no, it is not as simple as that. It is not a matter of black or white, good or bad. That is so simplistic. While it is true that Haiti would have fared better in the long run if we had not sold them rice at very low subsidized prices, but people would have starved had that not happened. I agree with you, that it would have likely been better in the long run if we had not done that. Of course you must realize that many would have just starved but in the long run even more will eventually starve because of our actions. Because far more will wind up starving in the long run.

But we are myopic in our outlook. We see the starving of today and don't realize that our actions in feeding them will only result in many more starving later.

Not feeding them will ultimately prove to be the lesser evil.

Ron P.

"Feed or Not Feed" ??!! Ron, it is YOU who persist in looking at this with an Either/Or set of choices. I would never boil it down to such a binary point of view. I brought in a number of factors and ways that we have tried to interact with Haiti over many years.. it was Nothing like 'Rice or no Rice?'..

There are countless more ways to approach it than just 'Do we send food aid or not?' - I GET it, that if you just 'give a man a fish' so to speak, you've created a dependency, AND allowed 'him' (that population) to have more kids. That's not such a hard concept to grasp.

The point is that there are All sorts of choices for how we could be both reinforcing and meanwhile NOT undermining that society.. and we have kept missing these opportunities.

I'm Done.

Ron - Improvement? I suppose it depends if you're talking about individuals vs. that society as a whole. Easier to see it at that personal level...especially when the situation worsens. The easiest and most obvious is personal survival. IOW not seeing folks die from very treatable illnesses. Of course that brings about the obvious downside of survival: more folks that have more babies which stresses any exisitng support system even more. She didn't go into detail but I think that was one aspect that bothered her most. Had this same conversation with my step daughter last weekend. One of her employees in Africa we've been helping has his 4th child on the way. She brought over a used baby bed she bought to their 3 room shack (and he's one of the better off locals). His comment that is wasn't a good time for another baby. She told him she didn't think anytime would be a good time. Took him to the store and showed him where he could by condoms. But will he use them? Progress is that they do have some birth control available to them. But if they don't take advantage? An improvement? Progress? Difficult to come up with a simple answer IMHO.

I would try to separate blaming, from acknowledging that history often produces effects that can last a very long time. The things that happened to Haiti 200 and a hundred years ago, set them on their current trajectories.

I think 1994 was a "year that followed" 1804, and so is 2012. Foreign political intervention in this country that dared to be different has never ceased, and has never brought long-term benefits.


"the overwhelming evolutionary success of Homo sapiens"

Ron, viewed in the short-term, I would agree. Long-term, not really.

H. sapiens has been around for roughly 200,000 years. We are on the cusp, arguably, of wiping ourselves out, or undergoing massive collapse. Compared with sharks, which have been around for roughly 400 million years, just to pick one group of species at random, I would say we have been a massive evolutionary failure.

Even H. neanderthalensis was around for approximately 500,000 years. Hominids don't appear to have much tenure compared with other species lines.

Spring, I guess it all depends on one's definition of success. I was speaking of our success in the competition with all other species, or all other large species on earth, for territory and resources. We are wiping them out like there was no tomorrow. And for many of them there will not be any tomorrow.

About one minute and forty seconds into this Ted Talk, Paul MacCready on nature vs. humans, MacCready tells us that 10,000 years ago humans and their animals, pets and domestic animals, occupied less than one tenth of one percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. Today we, along with our animals, make up 97 percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth.

As far as the other successes you speak of, they are really losing big time. Even the sharks are being wiped out. How long we, or they, have been here is not the point. It is what is happening right now that is important. We are winning and they ar losing.

Yes we will collapse but right now, at this moment in time, we are winning. I will not enter any argument about our probable or even possible extinction except to say that I just don't believe it. We occupy every habitable niche on earth. Our numbers may sink to a very tiny fraction of what they are today but we will not go extinct, not in this millennium anyway.

Ron P.

Evolution always aims at diversity. Every time there is a mass extinction or bottleneck event, what follows is an explosion of new forms into the empty niches.

We have no idea what will evolve to fill the voids we are creating, or what conditions those new species will need to adapt into. We may not like it a whole lot.

Even if we do end up reduced to relatively few small groups, some or other organism or group of orgamisms will grow to replace the mass lost. That mass may consist of what we would consider to be relatively simple forms e.g. jellyfish. I'm not saying there will necessarily be total extinction of H. sapiens - maybe that there will be an offshoot that evolves on Eaarth, better able to withstand whatever the new conditions are.

That, of course, is a long way down the road.

If sharks can adapt to eating jellyfish they will make it through the bottleneck.

The real problem we have created for ourselves, in replacing the huge diversity with relatively few preferred forms, is that it is inherently unstable and very vulnerable - to diseases, as one example.

If we screw up so badly as to whipe out all multi-celular species, recovery will take a lot of time.

We couldn't destroy all multi-cellular species if we tried. Set off every H-bomb, dump toxics everywhere, melt-down every reactor . . . we would make a heck of a mess. But some type of multi-cellular life would survive. I certainly wouldn't want to survive after that though.

Life will find a way.

Recovery from the Permian mas extinction took ten million years. Although the first five million was "wasted" bacause the environmental stresses were still goin on. In any case, it takes nature quite a long time to refill the lost niches. I would argue the anthropic extinction will have a similar magitude to the PT.

I've been doing a bit of reading on the topic of "Pioneer Organisms" - A pioneer organism is an organism that populates a region after a natural disaster or any other event that may have caused most life in that area to disappear. Common pioneer organisms include lichens and algae.

What we are embarked upon has the rapidity of a natural disaster - the Permian Extinction event took place over many thousands of years. Large vertebrates fare rather poorly. Plants seem to do reasonably well, although distribution changes dramatically.

I would guess that small animals such as rats and mice could make it through. We are already seeing a proliferation of new, chemical-resistant "weeds". And corn plants, having more genes than H. sap, may produce some new, unexpected forms. Then, there are the shrimps and tubeworms that gather around heated vents on the seabed. It's an interesting, if scary, thought experiment.

Early on in Scandinavia, after the ice melted away, we had basicly a 3 species eco system: Lichens, the reindeer who ate them, and the early hunter that followed them. In Scandinavia, we who live here can callalmost every species here "invasive" species, that came after us. We were here (almost) first! I like the shape of that ecological pyramid.

Just remember that you need to have fewer humans than reindeer.

Addendum to my post.

Delayed recovery of non-marine tetrapods after the end-Permian mass extinction tracks global carbon cycle

This study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, investigates various species lines' success and recovery after the Permian Extinction. During the period where there were relatively few species, with low diversity, there were "boom and bust" cycles of species - "Disaster Taxa" - spreading out and then collapsing.

Interesting read.

We are on the cusp, arguably, of wiping ourselves out, or undergoing massive collapse.

There is the 'outsider' viewpoint that there have been a cycle of advanced human cultures and they have been 'wiped out' to start anew. The green radioactive glass in the desert/radoiactive parts of India - old nukewar. Atlantis - not a myth. The logo for the Neumayer Station - http://roadsidemystic.blogspot.com/2011/12/stange-antarctica-vid-2011.html - "proves" Humans were there and advanced. Same for the "Bosnian Pyramid". Indulge 'em long enough and they'll claim blacked out parts on Google Earth and Google Sky are to hide this. Hell, they are willing to take the 'aliens have/are visiting myths' for their own - an artifact from earlier in history

Assume a collapse - what would be the tales and myth about this time?

As always, blame the poor people and also work hard to bring all those poor people out of poverty.

Both ways of thinking are wrong. Firstly, it is the rich that cause most of the problems, including doing "humanitarian" activities like giving food to the poor and thus creating dependencies. Secondly, there is simply not enough resources on Earth to bring everyone up to non-poverty levels.

The problems is, was and always will be about resources. It's the resources, stupid. Earth can only support less than 1 billion people after fossil fuels run their course and that is just the starting point. Just rolling that reality around in your brain can make you realize things might get a little dicey before a stable, steady-state situation emerges.

I recommend to all those that are concerned about the world's great problems to perhaps change the focus from helping more poor people get wealthy to start working on technologies that may be useful for sustainable communities, pockets of which will exist all over the planet, even during the population readjustment period.

Then again, just relax and enjoy your life, the time frames we are dealing with are extremely long and stressing out over them doesn't help the situation, nor comforts the ones around you.

Earth can only support less than 1 billion people after fossil fuels run their course and that is just the starting point. Just rolling that reality around in your brain can make you realize things might get a little dicey before a stable, steady-state situation emerges.

Before the Ind. Rev. 95% of the employed involved labor, and 5% had non-labor type jobs. Once the revolution got going for several decades those percentages reversed. So not only will people compete for a much smaller pie, but those that do win the game of musical chairs will work physically hard for it. Calorie intakes will drop as food availability drops.

We just saw Soylent Green via Netflix. For whatever reason (please wait while I clear my throat) it never plays on TV.
Anyway, its definitely worth another look. It takes place in 2022 - because of global warming and over population food is scarce - people line up daily to get rations of soylent various colors, including green - the green is made of plankton which is high in protein, however the oceans are dying so they replace the green by using people. Edward G. Robinson plays Heston's son or friend - not sure which, and he opts for assisted dying, in which he gets to view the way the planet use to look, with lots of trees, lakes, animals, etc. Heston who is a cop gets into the place Robinson is in and views the same big screen scenes. Robinson says, "See, I told you" (because he kept telling Heston how the Earth use to be and Heston didn't believe him) and Heston says, "Yeah, but how could I have ever known?" Later there is a shortage of soylent green squares to hand out and people begin to riot, so garbage trucks with scoops in front lift rioters into the truck for processing later into soylent green.

What's interesting about the dying oceans part is what is happening now with acidification and the accompanying warnings that it will lead to killing off the basic levels of the oceans food chain, initiating a die off.

The movie is amazing to watch from the standpoint of where we are headed which probably won't be much different.

Earth can only support less than 1 billion people after fossil fuels run their course

A lot of people on TOD take that argument on faith. I think they assume no fossil fuels equals preindustrial technology only. There is no proof of this. It certainly seems to me that you could have high tech without fossil fuels. What level of economic wealth would be (higher, the same or lower than today) remains to be worked out.

Even without high tech machines, having better selected crop plants, i.e. higher yield per acre would make a huge difference. Truly wild plants, won't have high food yield, natural selection didn't push them in that direction. many of our food crops have benefitted from thousands of years of seed selection. Something like corn would never have ocurred naturally. But primative Americans, planting seeds from the highest yielding plants, put artificial selection pressure on the plant lines. Post industrial peoples -if thats what happens post FF, would still have the benefit for the forced plant evolution thats ocurred since the industrial age began.

Most likely, renewables are enough to allow high tech -if not necessarily high energy lifestyles. How badly we collapse will mainly be determined by our organizational skills -or lack thereof, not by the technological potential.

Enemy you haven't being paying attention.
Look what we have destroyed on the planet with the run up to seven billion people over several millenia. We are now AT seven billion and expanding from there.

There is no technological solution to seven billion human inhabitants. There are no more new worlds. There is an armed ranger for every gorilla left and still they get shot and their habitat destroyed for charcoal. The orangatang is lost, their world obliterated for palm oil. Wild fish are all but depleted, every large species on land and in the sea exits only now on the whim of humans and they will be eaten in a world at and beyond seven billion.

You say there can be a technological solution to the food supply but what is the solution for rising CO2 and global warming, rising oceans and acidification, lost topsoil, fresh water depletion, melting glaciers and changing weather patterns.

This whole place appears to be going crazy, some whacko yesterday said we only have to change over to driving a Prius and the suburbs will be saved.

Dust in the wind w lyrics

Fall of Civilizations
Nice list follows this section



Things to do:
Have a really good time.
Have some kids.
Avoid the insane leadership.
Avoid the destroyed souls and "hungry ghosts".

The only power the people have in this capitalist system is to quit consuming en-masse.

Mahatma Gandhi: "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

Mahatma Gandhi: "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

Good one! Although, I have to wonder what the human population of the Earth was when he said it. About 6 billion less than today? Perhaps he had in mind a broad definition of "greed" which includes "unrestrained and totally irresponsible procreation"


"This whole place appears to be going crazy"

What happens when problems are terminal,
and there are no solutions.

Enemy, it is not about technology, it is about food, it is about natural resources such as water, it is about destruction of the world's ecosystem.

Already the rain forest in Indonesia is being destroyed to make room for palm oil trees, one of your renewables. Say goodby to the orangutan. Water tables are dropping by meters per year in China and India. Whole towns in India are having to have drinking water trucked in. The Yellow River in China no longer reaches the sea except in the rainy season.

The idea that organic farming could without chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides could equal modern day production is preposterous. And most of the world does not have the resources that good organic farming requires, like enough manure to put on the crops. There just ain't enough cow poop to cover even a tiny fraction of the crops that would be required. I have seen such farming first hand in Honduras and Guatemala. They call it "pointed stick planting". The yield per acre, in corn and beans which they plant, is pitiful.

Also you speak of "forced plant evolution". Very true, they all have a much higher yield per acre. But many require a lot more water which is require irrigation. Almost none of them are drought resistant. And virtually all require a lot of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. We will have to "evolve back" to what we had before the green revolution, drought resistant plants that are not so affected by pest and weeds. Plants that could grow on very poor land with virtually no fertilizer.

And such a world would not be likely to support one billion people.

Ron P.

"Also you speak of "forced plant evolution". Very true, they all have a much higher yield per acre. But many require a lot more water which is require irrigation. Almost none of them are drought resistant. And virtually all require a lot of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Right on, Ron. I had this conversation with a family member this weekend. He thinks that GMO crops, etc. will somehow produce increasing yields without increased inputs. IT'S THE INPUTS, STUPID!

Having the same problem at the community garden. I told the members guests that, if there isn't a multi-ton pile of mulch/compost on the site by first frost this fall, the whole thing will be shut down. Blank stares.

The fundamental problem here is the utter disconnect between people and what it really is that puts food on their table, clothes on their backs, and moves them around.

I'm reminded of the modern farmer featured in the PBS series "America Revealed" who told the interviewer that "..my grandfather was a farmer. I'm an input-output manager."

I got that blank stare recently having lunch with 2 PhDs(Med Dr and his psychologist wife) and their MA/psyc daughter when I mentioned that it took more energy to make a battery than you could ever get out of it. Most people will NEVER get the 2nd law.

I am quite sucessfull at explaining it to my church youth group teenagers. No problem geting the doom porn message out either, this is not America. Evolution don't stick as glue at this point though.

They were right to give you that look - it isn't true.

Because somebody else (nature) payed for some of the energy.

How is it not true? Do you mean we can have unlimited energy by simply building batteries? Awesome!

Batteries store energy temporarily, they don't create it.

Ummm, yes, I knew that. That'll teach me to leave off the tag...

My comment was to the whole weird thread. JJhman may have meant that the energy to fill a battery is more than you get out of it. That's the only thing I can think of.

I thought he meant that the energy required to manufacture a battery was more than the total amount that would be discharged by the battery over it's lifetime of charging and discharging.

So, a 1 kWh battery, which might discharge 300 kWh over it's lifetime (for a SLA) would take more than 300 kWh to manufacture.

Which, of course, is unrealistic.


Good insights.

I have been practicing no fertilizer (no manure), no chemicals, no herbicides, no pesticides, and it is working quite well.

I focus on "training" microbes to enrich the soil (their natural inclination), and later plan to enhance that with biochar usage, which is just an extension of microbial enhancement, since biochar is just "a city" for microbes which allows exponential microbe and fungal growth of a type that provides a nutrient link to crop roots.

I also make what I call "garden batteries", which are small ditches which become tubes when covered before planting. The are filled with organic material (leaves & grass, etc.) under the crops about a foot.

They capture rainwater and work as a small city for the microbes to eventually produce food for the crops. The crops grow their roots down to the "batteries", and can then draw nutrients at will.

But like you say, numbers are numbers. This cannot be upscaled as far as I know, which means more people are going to have to get wise with growing produce locally.

And as you also say, this will require some adaptation to changing climate. Where water is an issue, plants that are drought tolerant must be encouraged, or water tolerant species in places where rains increase beyond the norm.

Long story short, a localization revolution must take place. Big Farms Inc. will have to be replaced with Little Farms LLC, yes, a million big farms must become a billion little farms.

Hello Dredd,

Is there any chance you might write up a short (or long) piece on your efforts and include photos?

I'm curious about: 1) How you "train" the microbes; 2) what "garden batteries" look like - what do you cover them with? How is covering different than filling in? Do you add water first? Details, in other words. So, these are rows of small ditches? anyway...like I said...details and photos would be interesting.

I'm curious how you measure "quite well." And also on the "no manure" aspect.

Any chance? :)

Earth can only support less than 1 billion people after fossil fuels run their course
There is no proof of this.

What would you accept as "proof"?

Actually running the experiment and looking at the outcome?

How badly we collapse will mainly be determined by our organizational skills -or lack thereof, not by the technological potential.

Tech and org won't be the factor. "Political" will be.

I consider political to be part of org. If the politics goes stupid, then the org works against you.

Earth can only support less than 1 billion people after fossil fuels run their course

A lot of people on TOD take that argument on faith. I think they assume no fossil fuels equals preindustrial technology only. There is no proof of this. It certainly seems to me that you could have high tech without fossil fuels.

You can have highly sophisticated low tech without fossil fuels. Megaliths, intricate metal work, complex and highly productive agricultural systems, concrete, textiles, glass, sail power, etc.

High tech, not so much. Invariably you get into needing to make the tool to make the tool to make something. Even the intermediate tech of the 19th century required coal to make the engineered metals that were the basis of the machine age. The easy coal is gone. We are scraping the tops off mountains now.

Consider a thought experiment, just for grins. Remove fossil fuels from the modern world. What's left is human and animal muscle power, wind, water, trees, vegetable oils (such as the olive oil which was burned in lamps thousands of years ago), animal fat, direct solar energy, and some localized sources such as geothermal and tidal.

PV requires dragging along a semiconductor fabrication facility. Wind turbines require fancy alloys and rare earths. And then there's this whole spare parts scenario, and we're already going there even without apocalyptic scenarios, just from the "above ground factors" of economic chaos.

I will make the standard retort- wind does not require any rare earths or fancy anything. I always have favored wind just pumping water, with pumped water you can do most any energy thing.

And as for solar, please don't forget that solar thermal is very well known, easy to make even in small sizes, and requires only stuff that is universally available. So what if it requires direct sun. So in fact does my PV. Right now it's pretty dim out, and the wattmeter is reading pretty dim too. Most of my PV power comes from direct sun.

Besides, you can run a solar thermal on sticks. Not on PV you can't.

Hi Tanking,

re: "...doing "humanitarian" activities like giving food to the poor and thus creating dependencies."

We're supposed to use references here on TOD. Instead, though, I'd like to present another viewpoint.

First, one can argue that if "the rich" did not take resources from "the poor" - (that is, for example, from regions in which "the poor" live)- in the first place, then "the rich" would not be faced with the conundrum of "giving food" back. Examples abound. Let's take the global privatization of water resources, for example.

Second up, the need for food exists, regardless of whether or not the need is filled. "Creating dependency" doesn't mean much when one is starving.

Third, while "helping poor people get wealthy" only creates more consumers, it also depends on how one defines "wealth." A more sustainable way of meeting basic needs might be a better definition, which is what you might be alluding to. However, it's not a matter of "technologies" per se - those exist.

Anyhow, stopping armed conflict also would reap some resources savings.

Being poor does not always mean that one does not care about the environment, it's about knowledge, not money. Once your life is dependent on the survival of the forest around you, you will give your life to protect it. I am seeing this right here, right now with the tribes of central India.
They love their forests and will die trying to protect it from the mining companies. It's another story that they are fighting a losing battle.

Hello wiseindian,

I'd be interested in more specifics, say, if you might possibly write up an article to share - perhaps with photos?
Or, if you know of anyone who has done this.

I am a terrible writer and probably most of it would get clouded by my personal bias. I will mail you a few links to read.
Anyways the story is no different from what's happening to tribes anywhere from the Inuit to indigenous people of Amazon or Peru.
To add my two cents....
I think most of it has got to do with our myopic view of how we like to define 'rich'. We like to define riches mostly as bits and bytes in a computer or sometimes as titular land or a flashy car. We don't count access to clean air, water, pristine forests, fertile land as riches or traditions or the web of human connections we inherit as riches. If we started to do that we'd realize that these tribes are rich, richer than many of our billionaires. Which is why they are classified as poor and deemed to have no rights on what is rightfully theirs.

Hi Aniya;
I don't have any specific stories on hand, but I have heard a number of recountings of how poorer populations have been both passionate and effective advocates for their land and resources.

It's almost a sign of the poverty of the opposing argument that Haiti gets trotted out again and again to 'prove' the contrary somehow. Look at impoverished places where you can and ask whether there is a history of Colonialism and Industrialized Extraction that might 'really' be behind the decimation, AND of the poverty of the people left behind. ( Oil producing areas often seem to provide some very good examples.)

With those things in mind, who has REALLY been desperately gobbling up the landscape in order to secure a living?

Hope you're well!

People don't distinguish between agricultural/industrial and hunter-gatherer societies as much as they should and therein lies the problem. It's not about being poor or rich, it's about knowledge of what your environment means to you. The poor of Haiti are not the native tribes of Haiti, they do not realize the importance of forests. Even in Africa one just has to look at the deforested areas and realize that most exist in areas where the native tribes have been wiped out or converted.

The Indian tribe that took on a mining giant – and won

They said they considered the mountain their god, a living deity that provided them with everything they required to sustain their lives. They said they would fight to the death before seeing the pristine mountain destroyed. Remarkably, they won their battle.

Unfortunately Vedanta is back in action since this news.

I was thinking a large part if these diffs might be explainable by the rural versus urban dimension. desperate poor city dwellers seeing the countryside as a source of stuff to loot. Relatively unspoiled native communities operating in a largely hunter gatherer capacity at the other.

Again, Why would you point to the Urban POOR as the ones who will ravage the countryside?

Frankly, would'nt it be totally picked-over and burned off by the rich and their 'hired help' before families from the streets could make it out there? .. apart from those who are out there gathering FOR these entrepreneurial salvor bosses..

..I'd say follow the money before you target the poor.

I Agree. The basic premise is what happens to a community in poverty, when they have no hope and no prospects. Desperation and the will to live has appaling affects on the ecology. Hijacking the converstion to discuss why Haiti fell into such a situation is really beside the point.

Haiti is a population with nowhere else to go. There are great parts of Africa, Europe, Australia, The Middle East etc laid wast millenia ago even before over-population took hold. Colinization prevented even more destruction. The planet has a lot to fear from well fed humans, let alone hungry, desperate humans.

'Colinization prevented even more destruction.'

That's like standing over your mass grave and declaring that you have finally 'brought peace to the land'..

Colonialism not only raped and reraped the land and the people, but it consciously destroyed the cultural structures that had informed those people how to live and steward their home and society. They reform with little mutated imitations of their captors' systems, and get into cultural habits that mimic this overlording, raping and extractive model, and then we tell them that 'they're incompetent to rule themselves..'


HAITI is actually right TO the point, just not for the reasons many people seem to think.

Bjorn Lomborg on the Rio Green Summit: Poverty Pollutes

To solve global warming, we need to concentrate on innovating cheaper green technology through a massive increase in R&D. We will get nowhere until we can make green energy less expensive than fossil fuels.

Bjorn Lomborg is an idiot. Massive R&D doesn't create cheap products. You see cheap products coming out all that R&D in defense spending? You see cheap products coming out of NASA? No. Cheap products come out of creating a growing market for a product.

You need products being manufactured to get cheap products. Some cost-cutting refinements come from product designers . . . but they also from factory line workers, supply-chain managers, suppliers bidding on source material supply contracts, more efficient distribution, more efficient financing, cheaper installation procedure, streamline permitting processes, etc. Can't he get that through his thick skull? PV panels didn't drop in price because of a bunch of eggheads in labs. PV panels dropped in price because Germany, Spain, California, and other places provided incentives to create a mass market. With mass market scale you get manufacturing efficiency, competition, innovation, etc.


Having worked in a long career in R&D, product development, manufacturing, etc I concur. It is in the implementation phase where major progress in cost reduction occurs, and if your are not good at that the R&D is not that important. And in R&D the D becomes the most important part very quickly.

Cheap and easy is no problem per se. The problem is that it tend to be small scale. And that is not what we want or need. Not with 7 billion of us.

"PV panels didn't drop in price because of a bunch of eggheads in labs."

Actually, it did start with the eggheads in the labs. And thousands of designed experiments. And more eggheads with pilot-scale plants.

Then the comes the commercial scale, which is the end of the D part of R&D. And that is when all those research costs get amortized down to "cheap".

Then comes process optimization of the commercial scale plant, which gets the costs down another 30% or so.

The problems with defense and NASA projects is that the volume is so small that the R&D has to paid back over very few units, and the production lines don't run long enough to get optimized. But even then there is a learning curve. As an example, the last few LA class submarines to get built came in under budget and ahead of schedule.

Massive R&D doesn't create cheap products

R&D can bring you things like transistors, PV cells, and based on quantum effects - the little accelerometers in cell phones.

I've been thinking about European oil imports, and wondering how consumption will change.

The average European uses 18% as fuel as the US, for personal transportation. The big kahuna for European oil is diesel for freight, I think. I believe diesel for commercial freight is much cheaper, due to much lower taxes. That encourages commercial freight consumption in a way that's hidden.

I asked this once before: AlanfromBigEasy said "Diesel is cheaper in France. The Chunnel has a special rate to haul empty truck tractors to France, have them drive a few hundred meters, fill up their tanks with cheap French diesel, and then return to southern England." JN2 said "Here in the UK, diesel is approx $8.50 per US gallon. IIRC, there is no break in fuel duty for commercial users. The price does include VAT at 20% which can be offset against VAT charged on sales/services."

Are there different tax structures in continental EU countries like France for cars vs commercial long-haul trucks? And, if so, what are the rates?

Apparently this is something of an debate in the UK. Here's a video commentary I found on the subject.


That's pretty entertaining...

Do you believe that in 2009, after over 60 years of pumping oil from the Greater Burgan Field in Kuwait that only 7.5 percent of the oil in that field had been produced? Now we know how those Middle East OPEC nations have such massive reserves, they have only produced a tiny portion of their original endowment.

Evaluation of Infill Drilling in the Third Sand Upper Reservoir, Greater Burgan Field, Kuwait

The Third Sand Upper (3SU) is one of the three sub-reservoirs in the Third Sand of the Greater Burgan field, the world’s largest sandstone oil field. Initial oil production begun in 1948 and 3SU field development has not been aggressive due to its poor reservoir quality and productivity. After 60 years of primary production, only 7.5% recovery has been achieved.

Ron P.

That is apparently 7.5% of the OOIP - Original Oil in Place.

Perhaps with a smaller, poor quality reservoir that was above "the Big One", and was pretty much ignored till now, this could be true.

I believe that there are three small reservoirs above & below Prudhoe Bay (the largest reservoir in North America, now producing 13% of peak), and they did not bother to start producing them till @ 2000. Collectively, they produce <20.000 b/day (from memory).

My first guess is that 3SU falls into the same category. A handful of disappointing wells have been producing from there for 60 years. This overlooked small pocket of oil is now getting some attention, like the small reservoirs on Prudhoe Bay (I wonder why ?)


Alan - True: there are some reservoirs with very poor URR. There’s a series of serpentine plug fields in S Texas with recoveries less than 15% of OOIP. And this with the entire infrastructure, technologies, small operators who function well with marginal profits and over 80 years of production histories. As was said once on M.A.S.H.: God answers all prayers…just sometimes the answer is no. So no…Mother Earth says that’s all you get. LOL. Even $100 oil doesn’t seem to be encouraging folks to go after that residual of many tens of millions of bbls.

So this was long term, broad river bed environment, in the equivalent of the Mississippi delta millions of years ago? I had heard the offshore discoveries in Brazil were this way - high quality, but not large volume.

this could be true.

Yes and it could be true that they have 101.5 billion barrels of proven reserves also... but they don't.

Ron P.

Ron - Yep...maybe they do...maybe they don't. And as usual I don't really care much what that number might be. As you've pointed out many times what's really important is rate. URR numbers are of such realtively little significance to me in my world I just don' tend to take much notice whether they're from a cornucopian, a doomer or one of my geologists down the hall. It has always been about cash flow/rate of return and always will be. And cash flow/ROR hangs on rate and decline.

A good example are the fields I'm about to go recover some of those billions of bbls of residual oil via horizontal wells. Their URR is several billion bbl of oil with a typical recover of 50%. That might sound significant but by current economic analysis (NPV) their initial economic value wouldn't be very attractive. Due to very early premature water cut it took over 50 years to recover that URR. It's not uncommon for a field to have produced 80% of its URR at a 75% water cut or higher. Initially wells that came on at 200 bopd quickly (sometimes in just several months) dropped to less than 30-40 bopd and continued to fall. It wouldn't be long before a well might be doing 20 bopd along with 100-200 bwpd. To produce much of those billions of bbls of oil took 30 to 40 years and 100+ billion bbls of salt water. Many of those wells are still producing: several bopd and a 100 bwpd.

So maybe it's 10 billion bbls, 100 billion bbls or a trillion bbls. I really don't care what number anyone offers. I would want to see a realistic projection of future production rates and the price support assumed to reach those rates. That's something meaningful and worthy of analysis IMHO. URR...not so much. If the ROR is still low even with higher oil prices those reserves will be slowly developed if they are produced at all. And even if they are developed but the producion rate is slow they'll be of little or no significance with re: to PO. And that's the key question IMHO.

Rockman, we have been down this road before. Of course it doesn't matter to you or me what their true proven reserves are. But it matters to the prognosticators who are constantly telling us that Peak Oil is a myth because of all those massive reserves in the Middle East.

The IEA, the EIA and just about everyone else has projected that OPEC's production must clime to near 40 million barrels by 2035.

Oil prices and Demand forecast 2015, 2020, 2035

The report also includes OPEC’s assessment of supply and demand to 2035. Global oil consumption will climb to 109.7 million barrels a day by the end of the period, requiring OPEC crude production to reach 39.3 million barrels a day.

And from OPEC's own estimate: OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves 2010

According to current estimates, more than 80% of the world's proven oil reserves are located in OPEC Member Countries, with the bulk of OPEC oil reserves in the Middle East, amounting to 65% of the OPEC total. OPEC Member Countries have made significant additions to their oil reserves in recent years, for example, by adopting best practices in the industry, realizing intensive explorations and enhancing recoveries. As a result, OPEC's proven oil reserves currently stand at well above 1,190 billion barrels.

So those who are looking 23 years in the future say "No problem OPEC can increase production by 10 million barrels per day and hold that for over two decades." They can't, every OPEC country is today producing flat out. Many are already in decline and the rest soon will be. OPEC cannot supply the oil the world expects that they can and... it matters.

Ron P.

Ron - "Proven reserves....But it matters to the prognosticators who are constantly telling us that Peak Oil is a myth because of all those massive reserves in the Middle East."

So true but that's why I've decided to start pushing those cornucopians to complete their spin with a SUPPORTED production rate model. Real simple approach: I'll accept whatever optimistic projection of proved reserves they wish to toss out. But at the same time I'll still insist on a production time line. And not just some made up number: realistic price expectations/economic analysis, realistic drilling/infrastructure implementation, realistic capex requirements, etc. IOW if they can't show a reasonable forward plan for all those billions of bbls of oil to be brought to the market place then their proved reserve numbers are of little consequence. Obvious most won't comply either because they lack the capability to build such a model or, for those capable, won't because it would tend to deflate their spin. Either way: no more free passes from me. I'll be nice, of course. But unyielding.

Rock & Ron, I had to jump in and ask what if we hit Peak Consumption due to global economics? I haven't checked the numbers lately but that seems to be where we're at now. If our economic decline mirrors oil production declines maybe all of our thoughts about peak oil will be for nothing.

Wildborgman, peak oil is when production peaks, then declines, never to reach that peak again. That will be the date of peak oil regardless of what causes it. The decline in oil demand is entirely caused by the very high price of oil. And the high price of oil is because oil is becoming very hard to find and very expensive to produce. And that is the main driver of the economic decline.

It is all tied together. Look around you, look at the economies of the world and the mess they are in. That is what peak oil looks like.

Ron P.

Rock - What can you tell us about the fields you're about to develop? What's your angle here?

S - The key is that often what you learn in school as "fact" doesn't hold up when you hit the real world. I suspect other TODsters could point to similar examples in their field. What's that old joke:"Yeah, I got educated but I haven't let that hold me back".

Everyone one knows oil floats on water. You see whenever you pick up a bottle of salad dressing. So in Reservoir Engineering 101 when they show you the cross section diagram of an oil reservoir with the oil migrating upwards as the oil/water contact uniformly rises as the oil is produced. In reality in 37 years I've never seen such happen perfectly. Sometimes fairly close but many times nowhere near that model. The short story has to do with surface tension, surface area contact and the mobility of the specific oil. The fields I'm focused on have several common characteristics: very high porosity/permeability and a very viscous (thick) oil. As a result the oil, though of very good quality, flows very poorly. The water, OTOH flows very well.

And this brings us to "drainage radius": how far laterally will oil flow towards a producing well. In the classic text book model the oil flows uniformly from the entire area between wells. This actually rarely happens and, in the case of my fields, doesn't even come close. Instead of flowing laterally a thousand feet or two perhaps just a couple of hundred feet...sometimes less. But the water underlying the oil readily flows upwards. This leads to coning ("premature water breakthrough"). Thus the wells experience early and quickly increasing water cut. In reality it's the water flow that actually carries most the oil out of the reservoir.

So even though these fields typically have recovered 45-55% of the OOIP most of that production has come from just a few hundred feet from the well with little or none from areas between wells. Nothing I discovered: operators have known about this effect in the fields for many decades. I can show you dozens of wells drilled 50 years after a reservoir began producing that discovered the original oil/water contact at the same location. Unfortunately these wells were seldom commercially successful...except today many would be thanks to $100 oil.

My angle is to drill short (600') horizontal wells in between depleted wells. Despite what some reservoir engineers might assume my hz well bores won't prevent coning. Mother Earth has her physical laws that won't be denied no matter how smart I think I am. LOL . But what these wells will do is extend the drainage radius a bit and allow a much higher production rate than a vertical well would allow. Remember the basic rule: it's all about cash flow, baby. And that can generate a ROR that makes it work.

The window of opportunity is that it takes a very complicated but well proven completion method to make this work. It was perfected in the offshore fields. Lots of hands out there know exactly how to do it. Fortunately none of them work for the small independent operators who have produced my fields. Even more fortunate for me is that those small independents tend to not know anything about offshore hz completions. A few have tried it but failed because they didn't use the right technology. They stuck with the more conventional onshore hz completion techniques.

That was actually the more difficult explanation for my owner to accept. Yes: any company could call one of my offshore vendors and access the technology just as I plan. But they don't because they don't know the tech exists. And the companies that do understand the tech don't know about my fields because they don't deal with old worn out onshore oil fields. Worn out oil fields that contain over 4 billion bbls of residual oil.

So it's easy to prove the oil is there. It's easy to prove the hz wells will recover a lot of that residual oil. What's not as easy to prove is the rate at which I can recover that oil. And, again, rate equates to ROR. And that's how my owner judges his investments. So I'll drill 6 pilot project hz wells and produce for 6 months or so. If the ROR is sufficient we'll have over 100 wells to drill. If it isn't satisfactory he'll run my butt off and find another geologist that thinks he a tad smarter than the rest. That's the deal me and my cohorts have with our owner: succeed and we're richly rewarded. Fail and it's "deguello". Works for me. OTOH didn't work too well for the boys at the Alamo. LOL.

Also, I think you said you sent me an email. Havnen't seen it if so.

So they have produced 7.5% of OOIP, but URR may be as low as say 8%? Would explain a lot.

As One Of UK's Biggest Refineries Prepares For Shutdown, Drivers Concerned About Gas Price Spike


The author of this article "Will the Seaway Pipeline Make a Difference?" suggests a solution to the 90% gulf coast refinery utilization problem is to build more capacity!!

Clearly he missed the obvious PO solution, reduce the amount of overseas imported oil used as feedstock for current domestic production.

"Computer model pinpoints prime materials for efficient carbon capture"
"...and metal oxide frameworks (MOFs)..."
Metal Organic Frameworks

"Berkeley Lab Receives $4 Million in Recovery Act Funding to Develop Computational Methods for Energy-Related Research"

I had no idea there were 3-4 million different zeolite structures known.
Pretty zeolite page:
IM-5 used in petroleum industry:
"Applications of zeolites in petroleum refining":
"Atlas of Zeolite Framework Types":
...pages of framework drawings
"Understanding Zeolite Frameworks":

Really nice page:
Data representation in chemistry
All the various ways of showing structure

Adapting to the Great Contraction, golf courses going bankrupt but some being bought and managed by working members!:

With dozens of golf courses closing nationwide because of failed real estate developments, the Timberlake club is an example of a new model in the industry. Rather than watch home values plummet as a lush golf course is abandoned, nearby residents are banding together to buy the course — even if it means running it themselves.

In the wealthiest communities, this process often means that 10 or 20 of the most affluent member-residents write checks to save the course. In the case of another South Carolina golf community 35 miles from Timberlake, the WildeWood and Woodcreek clubs in Columbia, 574 members contributed an average of $4,700 to execute the purchase. Then scores of those members took on administrative duties that became like part-time jobs.

Another interesting fact from the article:

...22 courses in the once-booming golf haven of Myrtle Beach have all but vanished in the last decade, with young trees sprouting through the old greens.

So much for the "leisure class" in retirement....

Can one grow veggies on them or have they ruined it with chemicals?

They are badly ruined with chemicals. It can be done with bio-remediation and time. Plant horsetail or other bio-accumulators, harvest and dispose of the horsetails, repeat, plant cover crops, plow under, repeat, test soil.

We had a local example when the potential community garden spot was polluted by a dump truck load of literal bad poop. Hay had been treated with broad leaf herbicide, harvested and fed to dairy cows, then excreted and composted for a year. The herbicide still rendered the garden toxic to vegetables. The community garden's mother decided to use it as a test case for bio-remediation. She got six providers to do up a strip with their method and left a seventh one as a control.

I went by a year later and eyeballed the place over the fence. The best patch was the mushroom compost, but all the methods did something. The control was instantly recognizable.

I imagine that the age of the golf course and the characteristics of the water table and soil would affect the accumulation of toxins. Not to mention that the soil quality might be pretty dismal.

Hopefully someone will research and publish information of reclamation of urban sites (and golf-courses, mono crop plantations etc). For example, can you graze animals or plant crops on the edges of a highway? I don't think that there's lead in gasolina anymore, but I imagine that heavily used free-ways must have lead accumulation in the soil of the grassy strips on either side. Not to mention toxins in the soot from deisel trucks/busses.

Can anyone reccommend information sources on the subject?

The city of Seattle has been known to use goats for vegetation control along the interstate. The goats are useless for dairy for a while afterward. Perhaps a new career for retired or male dairy goats?

Paul Stamets has documented successful remediation with garden oyster mushrooms. The used substrate from commercial mushroom production also works.

Tuna contaminated with Fukushima radiation found in California
Scientists amazed that bluefins swimming in Pacific five months after Japanese disaster contained tiny amounts of caesium

Thank you Tokyo Electric Power Co., Ltd.


"Sorry, Charlie! Star-kist doesn't want Tuna with Good Taste, they want Tuna with NO WASTE!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-Wy_BRFElc

A little light reading while you ponder the structure around reactor #4 in Japan.

My local college is doing research on algae to rocket fuel:


The researcher sounds like a good scientist: "Let's run some experiments and see what it shows" to paraphrase him.

I like the image of astronauts, cruising thru space, relying on algae to produce more rocket fuel. The algae are fed with 'astronaut waste products':

"Captain! We've got 6 light years to go before we reach the next planet. We need all the fuel we can get. Those little buggers need more food. The crew needs to make every effort..."

From the link:

But the research also could have earthbound benefits as well. What Trent is trying to develop is a system of large-scale offshore algae cultivation. He envisions it becoming a primary alternative to fossil fuels, saying the technology has already drawn international interest.

"We've got to move quickly because we don't have much time to figure out how this is going to work," Trent said, citing problems with the country's reliance of foreign energy sources.

We don't have much time? What could this mean? :-0

Seems that while I was getting patriotically inebriated on Memorial Day, things have been stirring in Europe:


If the government wasn’t such cowardly liars they might have the decency to admit that scaring the population into voting for a “stability treaty” has become even more ridiculous since the death watch of the euro started on Friday night.

I like the image of astronauts, cruising thru space, relying on algae to produce more rocket fuel. The algae are fed with 'astronaut waste products':

Really? And I suppose those "astronaut waste products" are in turn fueled by a process not unlike that seen in the Great Hall at Hogwarts School of Wizardry? A mere flick of the magic wand and it's an all you can eat buffet straight out of thin air!

It never ceases to amaze me, how can otherwise smart people be so oblivious?


Its turtles all the way down. The final big Kahuna turtle on the bottom is powered by Di-Lithium cyrstals. The only thing in the known universe that doesn't have to obey the second law is Di-Lithium cystals; the designer of the universe made them an exception...

"Captain's Log.."