Drumbeat: June 9, 2012

Iran hits out at oil quota 'violators'

Sanctions-hit Iran on Saturday blasted fellow OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as oil quota "violators", accusing them of depressing global crude prices by over-pumping.

Iran's OPEC representative, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said Tehran had officially protested to the cartel that Saudi Arabia was "saturating the market" under pressure from the United States and the European Union, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Iran Seen Drawing Fewest Tankers Since October as Sanctions Loom

The fewest supertankers in at least eight months were headed for Iran as the deadline neared for a Europe Union embargo against the nation’s oil, ship-tracking data showed.

Platts survey: OPEC crude oil production rose to 31.75 mbpd

Crude oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rose 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 31.75 million bpd in May, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts showed June 8.

The May production marks a rise from April's output level of 31.71 million bpd and is the highest level since October 2008 when OPEC volumes averaged 32.26 million bpd.

Saudi cuts oil output in May to at 9.8 million bpd: source

May's oil production was lower by 300,000 bpd from April when the Saudi kingdom pumped 10.1 million bpd, its highest for more than 30 years, as it bids to meet growing demand and curb oil prices.

Oil Pares Losses on Spanish Bailout Speculation

Oil pared losses and struggled to the first weekly gain in six weeks on the possibility that discussions by European finance officials this weekend would yield a bailout for Spain.

China’s Refiners Face Biggest Fuel-Price Cut Since 2008

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and PetroChina Co., the nation’s biggest refiners, face more losses from processing crude after the government cut fuel prices by the most since 2008 as global crude costs tumbled.

Rules Set by IEA to Usher in a Golden Age of Gas

A special World Energy Outlook report on unconventional gas, Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, released in London by the International Energy Agency (IEA), presents a set of "Golden Rules" to meet concerns about natural gas resources exploitation.

The report calls on various government bodies, industry and other stakeholders to work together to address legitimate public concerns about the associated environmental and social impacts.

What Happened To Oil Speculators?

The point is that all of us, in varying degrees and through our investments, contribute to high oil prices, and speculation is not the exclusive domain of the people in the trading pits. And even when someone or a company is the subject of an investigation, the length of time that it takes to prosecute hardly resolves the present price pressures. A recent case highlights the point, while it took five years to get a verdict. The paltry fine when compared to the daily trading of the WTI contract that accounts for over $2 billion on margin requirements alone, is hardly evidence of widespread manipulation.

Bombs target Iraq oil pipelines, exports not hit

(Reuters) - Two bombs exploded on Saturday close to minor oil pipelines carrying crude from a major oilfield near Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, according to security and oil sources who said exports to the Ceyhan port in Turkey were not affected.

Saudi approves US$430m in new aid to Egypt

Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had approved US$430m in project aid to Egypt and would allow Cairo to use a US$750m line of credit to import oil products.

Gazprom Neft Said Likely to Pass on African Offshore Drilling

OAO Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia’s natural gas exporter, may opt against drilling in two blocks off the West African coast after disappointing seismic studies, according to company officials.

Tanzania invites UAE to explore for oil and gas

Tanzania's president has invited investors from the UAE to join the rush for oil and gas in the east African nation, after recent gas discoveries along its coastline, the president's office said on Saturday.

Together with oil finds in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, significant gas finds in southern Tanzania have raised the profile of the region in the global energy industry.

Gazprom to Finance Bulgarian South Stream Segment – Source

Russian gas giant Gazprom may finance the Bulgarian part of the South Stream gas pipeline, intended to carry natural gas to Europe, in lieu of future payments for gas transit, a source close to the project said late on Friday.

"Gazprom may pay for [the Russian] part as well as for the Bulgarian part and then cover its losses by transit payments," the source told reporters.

Somalian pirates release oil tanker

Muscat: Oil and chemical tanker MT Liquid Velvet, hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, was released from captivity on June 4, and is heading to Salalah, Oman, according to international maritime security forces.

The tanker was hijacked on October 31, 2011 by Somali pirates while it was approaching the Gulf of Aden on its way to Mormugao, India. The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker is owned and managed by Athens-based Elmira Tankers.

Power leakage control : 28 power pilfers held

CHITWAN: Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Distribution Centre Bharatpur conducted surprise checks in various areas of Chitwan and arrested 28 persons including ten women under the power leakage control campaign.

Transco urged to relax power cut timings

Officials of AP Transco on Friday assured consumers of discussing with the government the issue of reducing the power cut timings from the existing seven hours to three hours in the city.

Queen could be living in 'fuel poverty'

The definition used to decide which households need hand-outs to help pay heating bills is being changed after Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, realised the Queen could be considered in "fuel poverty".

Meals on Wheels facing volunteer crunch

Service has expanded in recent years to Lakeland, Auburndale, Davenport and Haines City, necessitating many more volunteers to make deliveries.

But recruitment efforts have suffered in part because of high gasoline prices, agency officials say.

US Air Travel Plateau

I think this is more or less exactly what a peak oil moderate would have predicted. Air travel is an interesting case in that there's no way it's demand limited. Cars, for example, one might make a somewhat plausible case that further American demand for more vehicle-miles-traveled was going to be limited by already high car ownership and congestion and inability to fit more roads and parking into already crowded cities. However, it seems clear that, unconstrained by costs, many Americans would be jetting around every weekend for fun.

Crews battle Tesoro refinery blaze in Salt Lake City

Firefighters rushed to the Tesoro Corp. crude oil refinery early Saturday as flames and thick, black smoke filled Salt Lake City’s northern dawn horizon.

Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman Jasen Asay said the three-alarm fire, spotted just before 6 a.m. in a field on Tesoro property just north of the refinery plant itself, was being fought by about 60 firefighters and numerous engines.

Oil Companies Are Dumping Millions Of Gallons Of Drilling Waste Around North Dakota

Oil drilling has sparked a frenzied prosperity in Jeff Keller's formerly quiet corner of western North Dakota in recent years, bringing an infusion of jobs and reviving moribund local businesses.

But Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, has seen a more ominous effect of the boom, too: Oil companies are spilling and dumping drilling waste onto the region's land and into its waterways with increasing regularity.

Japan’s Premier Seeks Support for Using Nuclear Power

The restart issue has polarized Japan for months now, as the country’s still-functioning reactors went offline, one by one, for regular maintenance. In the uproar that followed the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the government had said it would not restart the reactors without local approval, but officials did not anticipate the depth of public skepticism about the government’s ability to oversee the politically powerful nuclear industry.

Court Forces a Rethinking of Nuclear Fuel Storage

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted hastily in concluding that spent fuel can be stored safely at nuclear plants for the next century or so in the absence of a permanent repository, and it must consider what will happen if none are ever established, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

Spotted owl could be game-changer in Tombstone water war

At the center of the debate is the Mexican spotted owl.

"What is more important, owls or the people of Tombstone?" James Upchurch, a Forest Service supervisor who oversees the wilderness, was asked in court earlier this year.

Upchurch responded that there was no easy answer, which left jaws dropping on Tombstone's side of the courtroom.

Twitter Storm to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Campaigning organizations from around the world will join forces on June 18 for a 24-hour ‘Twitter storm’ in which tens of thousands of messages will be posted on the social networking site demanding that world leaders use Rio+20 to agree to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Are 'super farms' good for the environment?

The NFU says that large-scale, intensive farms can help reduce the environmental impact of farming and increase food security. Is it right?

Environmental benefit of biofuels is overestimated, new study reveals

Two scientists are challenging the currently accepted norms of biofuel production. A commentary published today in GCB Bioenergy reveals that calculations of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions from bioenergy production are neglecting crucial information that has led to the overestimation of the benefits of biofuels compared to fossil fuels.

The critique extends to the Life Cycle Analysis models of bioenergy production. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a technique used to measure and compile all factors relating to the production, usage, and disposal of a fuel or product. The authors conclude that LCAs are overestimating the positive aspects of biofuel use versus fossil fuel use by omitting the emission of CO2 by vehicles that use ethanol and biodiesel even when there is no valid justification.

No credits due as forests plundered

The REDD schemes in Indonesia funded with Australian government money have come under serious criticism for overstating their aims and under-delivering on results. Greens leader Christine Milne recently labelled the largest of them a ''total failure''.

The private sector has fared even worse. Most of the for-profit schemes in Indonesia have faltered or fallen spectacularly, recriminations flying.

Canada Can Help Russia With Northern Sea Route

Russia and Canada face a single, common source of opposition to their claims — namely, the United States, which insists that both the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage are "international straits."

New Jersey Sued for Pulling Out of Climate Initiative

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Environmental groups sued New Jersey on Wednesday for Governor Chris Christie's decision to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state compact that aims to cut air pollution from power plants.

N. Carolina Senate decides to include science in sea level projections after all

The Committee was therefore considering a bill that would mandate that any projections of sea level rise at any level of government in the state would be done by a single state agency, and that agency could only do a linear extrapolation using last century's data.

This attracted significant national attention, leading the Committee to pass a modified version that tones down the initial language. Now, the Coastal Resources Commission can consider accelerated rates of sea level rise, provided "such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends." That language appears to provide enough space for the CRC to use the best available scientific information, provided "historic trends" isn't limited to written history.

How are VMT(vehicle miles traveled) calculated?Who/what is the agency incharge of this data?We don't have this in Europe,so would be interesting to know how and why we arrive at this data.

Each state collects data via axle counters and reports it to the
U. S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.


Tks Turnbull.Visited your link but does not make sense to me.Maybe you can elaborate?

Open one of the reports and it's pretty self explanatory.

Wow.. Good timing Governor Christie! Never saw a good plan that you couldn't trip up, huh?

RGGI States Cut CO2 by 23 Percent in First Three Years

And the predictions of economic collapse and suffering ratepayers? Not happening.

The progress report follows a study from the Analysis Group finding that RGGI added $1.6 billion in value to the economies of participating states, setting up ratepayers for more than $1.1 billion in savings through improved efficiency and development of renewable energy. All this activity created 16,000 jobs in the first three years of the program.

“Five years ago, critics were saying climate programs like RGGI couldn’t succeed in the U.S.,” said David Littell, Commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Vice-Chair of RGGI, in a statement.

“Now, we are seeing significant emissions reductions in the context of economic recovery as we switch to cleaner fuels and learn to use energy smarter. In fact, RGGI has allowed companies to stay competitive and reduce their energy expenditures to weather the recession and come out stronger.”

... ok, ok. The economic recovery part is pretty glowy, and no doubt the recession gets some considerable credit for the emissions downturn.. but it doesn't sound like RGGI sent us spiralling..

Meanwhile, our Tea Party Knucklehead is slamming the Penobscot River Dam removal, pretending he's green as the PRRP restores Fish-spawning habitat (tying into several key Maine Industries and Protien sources), while uprating/upgrading other dams so they don't lose a watt.


The removal of the 1,000-foot-long Great Works Dam in Bradley on Monday is a milestone in an unusual, 13-year, collaborative effort by a coalition of conservation groups, hydropower producers and state and federal agencies to tear down two out-dated, inefficient dams on the Penobscot and restore sea-run fish runs.

What's also unique about the project, known as the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, is that hydropower will not be decreased as a result of the dams' removal. Laura Rose Day is the executive director of the Trust.

"When the Penobscot project is over there will be at least as much hydropower generation on the Penobscot system, and likely more," says the trust's executive director, Laura Rose-Day.

Doesn't matter, any chance to slam the Environment.. the Suburbs will rage far into that dark night.

(This is the Video I edited for them.. so clearly I'm biased..) http://vimeo.com/35427324

While our Teabag Governor Christie here plans on still more Green transit cuts, wants more tax cuts for the rich he has managed to plunge New Jersey into the company of Red States like Mississippi and Alabama for worst economic downturn:
New Jersey is the 5th worst State for economic loss as reported by money.cnn.com:


5. New Jersey
5 of 7
New Jersey
2011 growth rate: -0.5%
Economy size: $487 billion*

A 'Twitter Storm' to end f.fuel subsidies - symbolic relief reaches new low, at least OWS got people into the open air. I know that token behaviours have substituted for real material action for eons, but it seems now the default behaviour in all fields... could this be another symptom of resource limits?

It's liberal astroturfing, that's all. Nobody seriously believes that tax subsidies to corporations producing FFs are really a major factor. But the gesture sounds vaguely important to those who have never heard the real story of energy use. The real FF subsidy is the public's ongoing funding of cars-first transportation. That, of course, is far off the table among the Democratic Party posers in question here.

To be clear, my initial point was about the merely symbolic relief of the 'twitter storm' notion of activism, rather than deriding the issue of subsidies itself.

That said, I'd agree the subsidies don't decide whether the f.fuel are extracted, but they surely are significant to the profits and power of f.fuel businesses. Imagine if those subsidies disappeared, might not many f.fuel corp's go broke/be more easily nationalised? Wouldn't that make adapting to our problems a little easier - no more Petroleum Institute PACs or revolving book tours for AGW-deniers for example. I know i risk a deluge of rhetoric from other posters about how badly govt manages everything, to which i'd say they could hardly do worse common-good-wise than the 'free'/autistic market.

Exxon Mobil is in absolutely zero danger of going broke, tax breaks or no.

It's a hugely exaggerated issue, promulgated as a trick to keep well-meaning liberals from thinking harder about what needs to be done, and to keep them seeing tiny gestures by the Democrats and brand-name Greens as profoundly important acts. The tax breaks in question are extremely marginal to the cash flows involved, though one would never know it from the deceivers running the "Twitter storms," etc.

Meanwhile, I love your idea of nationalizing the production companies, as part of a bigger transition plan. How far off the table is that? Why is that? It certainly isn't because the idea is crazy and unworthy of public debate...

$61.6 billion was transferred from General Funds, Property taxes and other unrelated taxes & fees in 2009 to maintain and expand highways and roads.


Half of that would be as much as I could efficiently spend on Oil Free Transportation each year. And $30 billion could buy thousands of miles of electrified railroads, hundreds of miles of Light Rail and streetcars and dozens of miles of subway/elevated "rapid rail" EACH YEAR !

Best Hopes for Lower Oil Based Transportation subsidies,


only "thousands of miles of electrified railroads"?

The road system in the United States is 3.9 million miles, the vast bulk of which is local access and paid for by property taxes.

Huh? Automotive roads in the US are built and maintained by taxes on fuel at the federal and state levels, plus annual subsidies from the general federal budget. There is no federal property tax.

Meanwhile, you seem to be missing Allan's point. Thousands of miles of modern inter-city electric rail plus would radically alter the level of fuel used in transportation in this society.

1. Local streets are largely paid for by local property taxes; fuel taxes, not so much. And snow-plowing even on Interstates is often done by counties and supported in part by country property taxes.

2. Even "thousands of miles" of rail is so risible compared to four million miles that it might only alter fuel consumption by a small amount. Most people wouldn't be anywhere near it, so it would be useless for short trips. And on long trips they'll fly, it's cheaper and may remain so even at substantially higher fuel costs, because, in effect, the rail vehicle has to be rented for a far, far longer time to go the same number of miles (plus it requires a roadbed as long as the entire length of the trip instead of a runway at each end.)

A runway instead of roadbed must be a very large advantage for airports. Building a good fast rail thru a city or town is incredible expensive. One large advantage is however the possibility to locate a train station in the middle of a city. In some cases it could be very convenient to take the train and end up in the middle of city, shopping mall or within walking distance of the exhibition but the planning required I guess could only be done by strong governments.

Even "thousands of miles" of rail is so risible compared to four million miles that it might only alter fuel consumption by a small amount. Most people wouldn't be anywhere near it, so it would be useless for short trips.

Au contraire, mon ami!


In the United States, the tipping point from a majority rural to a majority urban population came early in the late 1910s, the researchers say. Today, 21 percent of our country is rural although some states – Maine, Mississippi, Vermont, and West Virginia – are still majority rural. In North Carolina, a rural majority held until the late 1980s.

Which means that the remaining 79% of the US population would most definitely benefit greatly from those paltry "thousands of miles" of rail.

Given the consequences of Peak Oil, what is risible is the notion that an automobile and air transport based transportation system is more cost effective than an electrified rail based system.

BAU is a dead horse, it's time to stop beating it!

The roughly 55,000 miles of interstate highways carry a disproportionate share of VMT and an even higher percentage of freight for the 3.9 million miles of highways, roads and streets.

The roughly 36,000 miles of main-line railroads carry almost all of Amtrak and a large majority of the freight ton-miles of the 190,000 miles of rail line.

Electrify the main rail lines and then evaluate each branch line. In the EU, under BAU, the "break even" for electrifying a rail line is 6 or so trains/day. But EU freight trains are smaller than North American trains and a much higher % are passenger, so that "rule of thumb" is likely not valid here but it is a starting point.

Rail is more concentrated than roads for several reasons (and no, I do NOT support a rail line down every street ! That is a strawman argument).

One is the more a rail line is used, the cheaper it is to operate per unit. The marginal cost to expand track capacity is lower than the average historical costs. And expanding track capacity also tends to speed up rail traffic. the opposite is true for roads.

More Later,


This is pretty amazing. The chart Alan links could hardly be clearer: We are spending $196 billion a year on automotive roads (and almost everybody agrees even that is not enough to prevent continued decline of road quality!). Less than five percent of the revenue comes from property taxes.

So why the repeated lame attempts to link the two issues? Methinks we've tapped into a core of "conservative" ideology here. "Conservatives" are sure the automobile somehow embodies their belief in individual property rights and the "free market." Hence, they have to deny the huge public subsidies and also their source, which has almost nothing to do with ownership of real property.

In reality, cars-first transportation derives from corporate (not classical) capitalism and gigantic, undiscussable, politically sacrosanct public subsidy.

Meanwhile, what's even more amazing than this denial is the repeated missing of the point of this whole thread and whole website, which is energy use. You could hardly imagine a transportation order more energy-wasteful than cars-first. Either we face and fix this, or America is doomed.

Interesting that "conservatives" literally won't (can't?) think about it...

Less than five percent of the revenue comes from property taxes.

I think that chart applies only to the federal government. "All units" of the federal government. It's not counting all the other roads. State roads, county roads, city streets, etc. Often, there's some federal aid available for local projects, but the numbers on that chart don't account for non-federal spending.

Maintaining roads is usually the biggest expense for local governments. It's less for states - about 20% of the budget of states last time I checked. They do get some money from the feds, but a lot of it is provided by property taxes and sales taxes.

is that not true for roads as well- I imagine that there are a million of miles of road that at any given time don't have car on it?

The heading of the link states that the table was for "All Units of Government". One can deduce that the 4 middle columns are "Federal", "State", "Local" and "Total"

Of the unrelated tax income, $8.77 billion of the $61.6 billion was from property taxes. General Funds were $42.12 billion and "Other Taxes & Fees" were $10.66 billion.

In the related column were $9.35 billion in tolls and $84.22 billion in Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees (such as license tags).

Also interested, is we are Borrowing a *LOT* to maintain and expand roads.

State & Local Bond issues $26.23 billion, Debt Retirement $9.73 billion - $16.5 billion net borrowing !

Best Hopes for "User Pays",


The heading of the link states that the table was for "All Units of Government". One can deduce that the 4 middle columns are "Federal", "State", "Local" and "Total"

I think that's the amount given to the state and local governments by the feds. The Excel version of the chart has more detail, and it looks to me like it only has federal funding on it.

"And $30 billion could buy thousands of miles of electrified railroads"


"a revised business plan released in November 2011 by the CHSRA put the cost at US$65.4 billion (in 2010 dollars)"

"As planned, the track from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be 432 miles long"

So the cost looks like $150 billion per thousand miles. I cheerfully admit this is with CA inefficiency and featherbedding, plus payoffs to everyone and their mother. But can that be avoided?


If I am not mistaken, much of Alan's vision involves analyzing existing rail lines, which mostly carry freight trains, and selectively electrifying and (double-tracking in some cases) the route segments with the highest usage which would provide the most bang for the buck...measured in terms of not only the replacement of diesel burned with electricity, but also by the displacement of a certain amount of diesel tractor-trailer (18-wheeler) long-haul freight from trucks to these electrified freight trains.

Since this concept uses existing right-of-way and track(albeit requiring additional kit to provide the electricity to the motive units and of course requiring the electric locomotive themselves to be purchased)and also since there is no mandate for 'high speed' such as the speed regimes for the Japanese Shinkansen or the French TGV, the cost per mile of Allen's plan should be considerably less than the fiscal monstrosity plan in CA.

There is much more to his plan than this, but I will disengage and he can fill in his details properly..I am just going from memory describing this one part of his vision.

Quick Note: Limited time ATM

Matt Rose, CEO of BNSF (#2 North American RR - CN is close) said that it would take $10 billion to electrify their main lines. Including electric locos.

Best Hopes for Good Investments,


Alan, no response asked for, as you stated your time ATM is limited.

For all:

BNSF (formerly Burlington-Northern and Santa Fe) and Union Pacific (UP) both are currently reporting robust profits:



BNSF Railway reported net income of $789 million for the first quarter, up almost 16 percent from a year ago.

Owned by Berkshire Hathaway, BNSF still files quarterly federal financial reports.

Revenues for the three months ended March 31 were $4.9 billion, up 10 percent compared to a year ago.


BNSF's principal rival, Union Pacific, reported first-quarter revenue of $5.1 billion, up 14 percent a year earlier, and a first-quarter profit of $863 million, or $1.79 per share, up 35 percent from a year-earlier profit of $639 million, or $1.29 per share.

With profits like these (assuming they are not atypical right now..but keep in mind this is in the midst of our current lackluster economy!) it seems to me as if both BNSF and UP could easily afford to finance a $10-billion electrification...each...especially given that these efforts most certainly would require at least several years to complete. These quarterly profits (I am assuming they are net) look like they should amount to some $3B/year.

I keep hearing that private enterprise has some $2T of cash parked somewhere in the finance system...waiting for 'certainty' (or for President Obama to get replaced by President Romney)...

Heck, Warren Buffet, according to Wikipedia, has a current net worth of some $44B USD.


Mr. Buffet owns BNSF.

It seems to me that if the business case for electrification is sound (and I suspect it is) then if the $10B cost estimate is accurate, I cannot see why this deal isn't struck already...seems like reducing operating costs on these huge top-tier RRs is a license to print money. Add in the capability to host long-range high-power electric transmission lines along these RR's existing rights of way, and there is another money-printing operation from rent charged to the electric utilities for these power lines. Not that they even need it, but I imagine that it would not be too hard to get some nice tax credits and loan guarantees from Uncle Sam for this deal...after all, these RRs are proven and established money-making machines, not some risky start-up like Solyndra.

So...I am at a loss as to what;s the hold-up...if it is such a good long-term investment/great business case, why doesn't Buffet fund the $10B from his coffers?

$10 billion *IS* too big a chunk to bite off.

Last year the five big US railroads (UP, BNSF, CSX, N-S amd KCS) had $63.8 billion in gross revenue and capital expenditures of $11.5 billionfor all five combined# . That is 18% of gross revenues for capex, an unheard of ratio outside the hottest of Silicon Valley corporations.

And this does NOT include electrification - but other measures. The "biggest target" is track capacity and intermodal centers (truck <> rail) with rolling stock a close second. All required to take an increased fraction of freight off the roads.

Electrification would steal from the capex budget, and the RRs see it as "all or nothing". Norfolk-Southern has said they will electrify a major line (say Heartland or Crescent) in it's entirety or none at all. So they spend $321 million here increasing clearances for double stack containers, $195 million there for a new multi-modal center, buy 250 new locos, etc. instead.

Matt Rose has asked for public sector help to make the transition. Given the $61.6 billion ANNUAL subsidy for roads, a, say 33% tax credit for electrification seems reasonable.

The RRs have a fuel economy advantage already. They are duopolies in much of the USA (monopolies in some states, 3+ some states) so as long as the competition does not electrify, their capex is better invested getting more premium cargo off trucks.

the bottom line for Rrs is much narrower than the public interest "bottom line".

Best Hopes,


#$12.3 billion in capex according to AAR which includes US operations of Canadian RRs and smaller RRs.


Thank you for the great information.

So..I will state this:

Warren Buffet is verging on 82 (this August).

Wikipedia reports his net worth as ~ $44B USD.

If he so chose, if he believed that the U,S, needed a 'pathfinder' or jump-start to get this RR electrification ball rolling, he could invest $10B of his net worth into the BNSF electrification project you mentioned. No begging for tax credits, no smooching banks backsides, he would be in the driver's seat.

As you say, RRs are duopolies in may markets, and West of the Mississippi in the U.S. the two big boys are UP and BNSF.

As you said, right now one road isn't going to step out on limb and electrify...they don't want the first innovator risk of potential lost opportunity costs for investing in the things you cited (inter-modal centers, etc).

If Buffet finances the BNSF electrification, then UP will perhaps step up to match...I would not be surprised if UP has some multi-billionaires in its stable of investors.

Simultaneously, Buffet can enact a media and lobbying blitz to attempt to get the USG to provide the tax credit you describe.

It takes people with a war-chest of money, combined with a bold vision to leave the World a better place, to enact such a plan.

After all, we have folks like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk allocating gobs of money into space launch systems to take cargo and someday people to low-Earth orbit..a high-stakes risky venture indeed. It seems to me that appropriate increases in double tracking, double stacking, additional routes, and electrification would provide the citizens of North Am a pretty substantial return on investment.

If I had a $44B USD net worth, I would put my money where my mouth is...at 82 years old, or at 42 years old...but it is Mr. Buffet's money and his business...sometimes it takes a bold person making bold moves to engineer a tipping point propelling an industry to undergo major recap to solidify its operations many decades into the future...a future most assuredly featuring the ever-declining availability of oil at manageable prices...

It costs on the order of $5 million per mile to string wire and electrify railroads at 24 kV, so if they electrified the 36,000 miles of US mainline railroad it would cost about $180 billion.

This is not actually a large amount of money for the US government compared to, for instance, the cost of fighting the Iraq war, but it is a large amount of money for the railroads, who are expected to show a quarterly profit. They won't do it unless something forces them into it. They are only competing against each other and the trucking companies, and all of them use diesel fuel. If diesel prices go up, they will take business away from the trucking companies regardless of whether they electrify or not.

If one railroad was electrified, and the others were not, and the price of diesel fuel went up it would be different because the electrified railroad would have a cost advantage over the others. However, if none are electrified it makes no difference and none of them have an incentive to initiate the process.

The only way the US railroads are going to be electrified is if the US government subsidizes and/or mandates the process. This is how it has worked in other countries, and I don't think the US can escape that. If the US government wants to electrify the rail systems, it has to pass laws to make it happen.

See how to finance it for "free" on my new blog "Oil Free Transport & More".


Electrified railroads are the second June 8th entry, title starting with "Free".

Best Hopes,


PS: I would like to know your source for costs of "$5 million/mile". I have a range of cost estimates and a lot "depends" but none at exactly $5 million/mile (or $3 million/km).


You never get anything for free. If you are estimating the cost of electrifying rail lines, you should first calculate how much it costs net of direct and hidden subsidies, do a cost/benefit analysis, and then figure out how to finance it. Subsidies are among the options.

My $5 million/mile estimate is based on taking a whole bunch of different cost estimates and then averaging them without worrying about details. It is a ballpark number. In reality there will be a wide variety of different costs, and the American costs will likely be among the highest since other countries are much more advanced in the process.

Cost estimates for electrifying railways in India, for instance, seem to about $135,000/km ($200,000 per mile) which should be a source of concern for Americans since India seems to be playing in a different ballpark than the US. Likely most of the difference is in the lower labor costs of manufacturing and stringing the wires. Likely China is playing in the same ballpark as India rather than the US.

If transportation costs in China and India are lower because they are running double-stacked container trains on electrified railways, and the US is trying to compete by running diesel trucks down the Interstate highways, manufacturers in China and India will have a competitive advantage over manufacturers in the US, over and above their lower labor costs.

One interesting innovation is British electrification.

They are buying a 24 car work train from Germany that can electrify 1.6 km (1 mile) of track per shift.

I could see a dozen of these working across the USA in an oil emergency.

Special crews will still be needed for bridges, tunnels, yards and special work.

Best Hopes for Faster & Cheaper Electrification,


And read the blog to see why it would be "free" money for financing.

The railroads would not have to purchase the easements. clear the land nor construct roads to erect a transmission line and trolly wires over their tracks. Consequently electrifying them should be less expensive than erecting a new high voltage transmission line.

Earlier I and ROCKMAN was in dissagreement about wweather the Norwegian Church selling of Statoil stocks when they got involved in tar sand developments was hypocritical (ROCKs view) or just uninformed (my view). In the discussion that followed, I had the sad epiphany that people will stick to empty symbolic actions because they have hope that this will be enough. Taking real action require one to first understand how bad the situation realy is, and there is a fair share of hopelessness in that.

In short, we hope symbolic actions will be enough, because we hope we can maintain our current ways of living and save the climate ate the same time. And as long as this hope lingers, real action will lag and lack.

In short, we hope symbolic actions will be enough...

Basically just another riff on the concept behind "Don't tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind that tree."

I really doubt that the general societal "we" has any particular aspirations yet with respect to "climate", one way or another, regardless of the answers the few who still respond to polls might give to the customary loaded questions. As long as the lights come on when the switch is thrown, and the "gas (petrol) station" always has "gas" ("how can they call it a gas station if it has no gas?"), and the jets to warmer places still fly, that will do just fine for now.

I still think the real driver is that it's seen as good sport to condemn evil business "elites" whenever possible, merely for existing. (But only business elites - Rex Tillerson's salary is wicked and immoral, but dumb-ballplayer salaries several times as high, for working only part-time, are perfectly fine, thank you.) The important thing is that any action should leave the campaigners and deciders unaffected. After all, the instant the oil money stopped rolling in, or it became too costly to fly away from the endless dreary winter every year, or they had to use Skype for church "business" in lieu of physical travel, they'd scream blue murder.

In short, I'm voting for hypocrisy; the required level of innocent ignorance just doesn't seem creditable.

(But only business elites - Rex Tillerson's salary is wicked and immoral, but dumb-ballplayer salaries several times as high, for working only part-time, are perfectly fine, thank you.)

Well this is true to some degree for a very rational reason. The ball-player pays ordinary income tax rates. Rex Tillerson gets options, exercises those options, and then pays taxes at a long-term capital gains rate that is is less than half the rate the ball-player pays. By what rational standard is that fair? Such gross unfairness is evil but when when the rich people have the power to say how the laws are written, that is the result you get.

Rex Tillerson gets options, exercises those options, and then pays taxes at a long-term capital gains rate that is is less than half the rate the ball-player pays.

I don't think that is true. Income is taxed as income regardless of what form it comes in. Rex Tillerson pays "ordinary income tax rates" on the market value of the options at the time they are given to him. I expect that he then pays capital gains taxes on any increase in value when they are exercised.

Also, the ball-player usually has a very short career, and may pay dearly for it the rest of his (sometimes drastically shortened) life. Still...a lot of people think pro athlete salaries are outrageous and obscene.

You had a sound epiphany.
That's what all the talk about electric vehicles, trains, windmills and solar is all about. Symbols, not actually doing anything to prevent the burning of FF's, it's about taking from the future, spending billions now for infrastructure for when the FF's get expensive and scarce. Of course if that means continuing to add people and send biillions of tons of CO2 up, so be it.

What use are all the fantastic electric machines in a world of economic collapse, depleted soils and oceans and people looking for work. Like Detroit the populace will leave areas which provide no work. People will move to where the perception of work is and set up shanty towns and tent cities. Electric vehicles and trains will be symbols to desperate people. So the electric world would be for the lottery winners that have a job, the rest can eat cake.

To actually make electrification work, the cost should include taking the equivalent amount of FF's off the market. If an electrified railroad "saves" a given amount of coal or oil, then that given amount must be taken off the market forever. (Surely we don't need it if we have replaced it with a "clean" alternative). Then the amount off FF that would have been burnt must be somehow sequestered, if that means fencing off more FF's then that must be the goal. It's the cost we must pay to save some of our future.

That is the only true way at this stage (we are burning nearly everything at peak) for electrification to make a difference. To just build and throw it out there achieves absolutely nothing in regards to land, sea and atmospheric pollution, in fact it fortifies it.

That is, IMVHO, the second step.

As long as low FF use is unimaginable to most people - there is no hope for significant sequestration.

But *IF* a low energy, low FF, low energy lifestyle is seen as not only possible - but desirable - THEN major steps for sequestration will be possible.

Too late to prevent a disaster - but the amplitude and duration of the disaster may be reduced.

Best Hopes,


Well Bandits, one big stumbling block with your vision is that even if the U.S. displaces a certain amount of oil with electrified trains, etc, that oil will be purchased by other buyers in the World.

I think Alan's plan focuses, at least in its first phase or two, on reducing the amount of oil used in the U.S. for transportation, and not on reducing the total FF consumption (we are all talking about ole King Coal here).

You are lamenting the lack of a comprehensive systems approach and strategy/energy policy for the U.S., and ideally the entire World...I share your lament.

That would be nice, but I for one will not let my wish for the perfect/optimal plan and implementation impede my support for potentially achievable incremental change.

If the U.S experiences a significant nuclear plant mishap with significant radiation release, then we will be in a whole new World of hurt. I find it hard to believe that there is not an energy-emergency triage plan buried somewhere in the USG.

It would be swell to have an intelligent conversation about logical systems approach strategy for energy going forward in this country, but the ~ 50% of the U.S. Americans in the Faux-Noise tribe will brook none of that, and to be honest, most of the other 50% will not face the music either.

Hopefully people such as Alan are working with the appropriate folks to craft triage emergency responses to potential future energy emergency scenarios, because we can't get our act together to plan rationally.

What I say is not US centric.
We have "global" warming. The pollution problem relates to the world. The problem with acidifying oceans, forest destruction, species extinction, soil depletion, resource depletion and air pollution is universal.

I've heard it all "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" blah, blah, blah. It's rationalizing a flawed reaction to the universal predicament of overshoot, EROEI, pollution and depletion.

Do you understand what caused the predicament? It's one thing, one thing only and it's ENGINEERING. Overpopulation and consequently resource utilization and resultant pollution came about from day one because humans have engineered.
Now YOU and many others continue to push the technology and engineering solution to a problem brought about by the very thing you advocate as an answer.

We have to be saved from ourselves.
If you want to engineer something, go ahead but unless your engineering solution is accompanied NOW, by an immediate offset to the problems caused by previous engineering you are only making things worse.

This is the inane garbage written here,,
"Just buy a Prius"
"If this doesn’t work we will try something else"
"We have to do something".... as opposed to what? Doing nothing?
"We have to start this now and we can get on with the real mitigating later"
There is obviously much more "rationalizing" but the theme is always the same....more engineering, more building. It's like parents consuming all the food so they can MAYBE find a way to get more food later to feed the children.

Of course my ravings are always dismissed because the insult of doomer is used. I am that, no denying but when you look at a population graph of the last four hundred years if alarm bells don’t ring, well you simply have no comprehension of what is definately coming to the world. The solution is not about saving us, making it better for humans or even saving something for our descendants. First we have to save the planet from us. Good will follow from that.


At your convenience, would you be amenable to presenting your action plan to the readers of TOD (or to any other venue, with a notification/link for TOD readers to use to navigate to your document) to deal with these predicaments?

I take this opportunity to upstage Bandits and his doomer message.

The global action plan to avert impacts from declining oil supply security is to implement very aggressive fuel efficiency improvements and actions to destroy demand permanently, with the overall goal of reducing in the next 1-4 years global crude oil demand by 5-10 million STB/day relative to today.

This will cause a rapid crash in oil prices similar to 1986, 1997 and 2008. The reduced income and profitability of oil exploration and production will cause investments in new production to reduce to a trickle. This will postpone or kill entirely

arctic exploration,
deep water exploration and development,
new tar sands development,
new tar sand export pipelines,
oil shale development,
shale oil development
and more that are too expensive for 50 $/STB oil.

This will ease current economic pressures on a long list of the severely weakened economies of the oil importing nations. It will severely weaken the national economies of some rogue oil exporting states. But perhaps more importantly, it will free capital to flow into investment in renewable energy solutions, allowing an even more dramatic scale-up of what we know already works. Including electrification of transport, e.g. bicycles, microcars, and rail.

But for this to work, the demand destruction for oil must be permanent. Fuel efficiency laws must not be riddled with loopholes or rescinded. The unrealized economies of scale of electrification of transport must be realized, such that the momentum of the technology transition to renewables is unstoppable, and the old paradigm of oil-Internal-combustion-engine-profligacy is broken for good.


I agree with the gist of your vision and outline of what should be done.

I have two questions:
1) How do you get the masses to understand and share your vision?
2) How do you convince TPTB do go against their own self interests and get with the program?

Fuel efficiency laws must not be riddled with loopholes or rescinded. The unrealized economies of scale of electrification of transport must be realized, such that the momentum of the technology transition to renewables is unstoppable, and the old paradigm of oil-Internal-combustion-engine-profligacy is broken for good.

I'd love to see this paradigm change come to pass sooner than later but my experience in the 'REAL' world has made me rather skeptical that it will happen soon enough...

On the other hand, this particular project has given me a very tiny smidgen of hope as a symbol of how my two questions might be answered: http://solarimpulse.com/

You can't have your hopes soar if you keep trying to fly with turkeys!

Best Hopes for Real Change!

Decarb and Fred, are you guys really serious that you think there is a cure for overshoot? Will solar eventually solve the problems of overshoot? I don't know about Decarb but from his previous posts I doubt very seriously that Fred really believes that. You are just trying to remain upbeat in a downbeat world. Right?

Ron P.

Germany, with 1.4 children per woman, has the cure for overshoot. In two generations, the births drop by half. Same for Japan, Italy and several other OECD nations as well.

Russia has no problems with overshoot. Siberia may be China's salvation - who knows.

China maybe. Low fertility, and pollution & cigarette smoking are keeping life expectancy down. *MAYBE* the population will decline enough, in time.

The USA is also on the bubble. Massive agricultural losses coming with Climate Chaos. Reduce immigration and drop birth rates a bit and our cliff may not be that tall.

Much of the rest of the world ? Some will get by, many/most will not.


Hi Ron, Parts of the human world are in overshoot already or will be soon (Sudan, parts of E. Africa, parts of India, parts of China, etc.). This will likely impact billions of people in the very near future. But will the whole world go into overshoot all at once? I do not believe so. There will be more than enough resources available in a number of viable pockets on all continents to re-establish a solar-wind-hydro-biomass-based economy with electricity, electronics batteries and transport, cement production, and yes, some fossil fuels as feedstock for selected applications. But a lot of the current energy-guzzling junk we take for granted today will definitely be sacrificed. The reason I believe that overshoot will be relatively local and soon is that I expect acute water shortages will hit hard, crippling agriculture many places where they are effectively mining fossil water, or are already just scraping by on rainfall that will soon disappear for years at a time, long before the worst of climate change impacts are felt.

Alan and Decarb, the world is deep, deep into overshoot. There are problems all over the globe. The world population is still increasing by about 70 million people per year. Species are going extinct at the greatest rate in 65 million years. The total number of great apes, other than humans, are about 200,000. The world population increases by that much every day.

We live in an anthropocentric world. You guys seem to think that even if we wipe out every other vertebrate on earth we still will not be in overshoot as long as most humans are still being fed.

This is a human population graph.

If I could find a graph of all other land vertebrates it would look also be a hockey stick but turned in the other direction. We went into overshoot at about the year zero on this chart.

Ron P.

I think this problem might well fix itsef. Question is, will there be anybody/anything around to miss us? :_(

Alan from the islands

By that definition, we are truly deep into overshoot.

As a diversion/fantasy, I watched the 7 episode "Terra Nova". Terrible writing, but premise was dying world of 2149 found time rift back 85 million years. Dinos, etc. The new settlers were VERY aware of the devastation of the past.

1,000 settled when contact with 2149 is broken.

I am writing how the society could have developed into some thing both sustainable and worthwhile (Edo Japan may have been sustainable, but I question the "worthwhile").

At population 5,000, about 60 ALP (after last pilgrimage) the Council of Elders call for smaller families (say 4 children/woman, mortality is still high). In part so the children can be better educated.

At 524 ALP, with 2.6 million humans, they call for trending towards zero population growth. The first year with a slight decline is 777 ALP at 3.75 million. In the early 800s ALP, they call for building a time portal to go back to "Old Earth". It takes about a century (and population inches up to 3.9 million) but they finally do it.

Story on return to earth shortly after our year 3000 AD (the time rift has a constant time delta, a MAJOR question at the time).

A fair amount of fun (for me) in seeing how one might keep some technology (plans, blueprints, etc. for all 2149 tech available, but only a small fraction can be duplicated with the small population).

249 settlements, the Council of Elders have decreed that no one city shall have more than 10% of the population (to prevent dominance, etc. - "The Greatest Enemy of Humanity is Man himself" Avoiding war is of paramount importance). Two cities have 9+% of the population. Terra Nova City (site of first settlement & capital) and Elysian Fields, a city established fairly high in the mountains with a desirable climate.

Intercity transportation is by battery operated rail (1.1 meter gauge) and, by 900 ALP, two dozen zeppelins. For transport to remote areas, emergencies, over sized cargo, observation of wildlife, etc. No manned aircraft.

All settlements with children are within a 2,250 km diameter circle. And trains go by every settlement (except three on islands) several times/week. There are numerous social and cultural ways to make sure that "No one is ever a foreigner on Terra Nova". This prevents the schisms that can lead to war.

100% renewable energy, bio-plastics, metals are extracted but also recycled.

A rough symbiotic relationship is established with the larger carnivores, but humans spend 99+% of the time behind fenced (electric) areas or on trains (armored and with sonic weapons to repel dinos). Slightly more than 1 hectare is fenced per capita.

Basically a "do over" in an environment where humans just do NOT "fit". So we appropriate about 1% of the area on one continent.

The settlers brought domesticated plants but not animals. Major efforts to keep the food grasses from escaping.

Anyway - too long.

Human nature, as modified by society, is very difficult to restrain from destruction of the natural world. Hypothesizing how too is quite difficult, but not impossible.

Shrinking human numbers - much preferably NOT driven by famine - is the only way out now.


You are just trying to remain upbeat in a downbeat world. Right?

Well, truth be told, since I keep losing friends by telling them what I really think, I've been practicing my cheery hopeful facade... No I don't really think solar will solve the overshoot problem but who knows it may keep a few things going once BAU hits the fan.

Cheers! >;^)

John Michael Greer on peak oil and the end of the industrial age.

Topics discussed include: peak oil, the energy crisis, nuclear power, the myth of progress, the myth of apocalypse, the global financial crisis, population growth, technology, societal collapse, survivalism, getting rid of your TV and – the good news – beer.

Great podcast interview with John Michael Greer. I am only about 30 minutes into it so far, it is one hour and 20 minutes long.

Ron P.

Thanks for this :)

Read above: Oil Companies Are Dumping Millions Of Gallons Of Drilling Waste Around North Dakota

That state is being turned into a living trashcan- shows just how little regard Americans generally have for nature. Show me the money!

illegal dumping? - calling Rockman!

C8 - On it. Sitting here almost spitting blood I'm so PO'd.

Once again I’m forced to blast citizens for allowing their politicians to give the oil patch a ridiculous pass on how they conduct business. I’m supposed to be one of those lying bastards. This is starting to hurt my standing in the oil patch. LOL

“Under North Dakota regulations, the agencies that oversee drilling and water safety can sanction companies that dump or spill waste, but they seldom do: They have issued fewer than 50 disciplinary actions for all types of drilling violations, including spills, over the past three years.” I’m sure some are getting tired of hearing it but fine the hell out of the companies and threaten to not let them ever drill another well in the state as the Texas Rail Road Commission does and companies will immediately change the way they are doing business.

“Keller has filed several complaints with the state during this time span after observing trucks dumping wastewater and spotting evidence of a spill in a field near his home. He was rebuffed or ignored every time, he said. Again, these at state employees. Go after them and if the politicians don’t back the citizens then vote them out of office. We all get what we elect. The citizens are responsible for who gets elected...not the oil patch. Do I have to brag again about the 3 times I helped the TRRC and Texas Rangers bust some oil patch bad guys?

“Kris Roberts, who responds to spills for the Health Department, which protects state waters, agreed, but acknowledged that the state does not have the manpower to prevent or respond to illegal dumping.” Again, monumental BS. They are receiving enough oil severance tax from the Bakken oil production alone to hire a small army of regulators. I estimate $300 million in 2012 alone. Again, that's just from the Bakken. And they tax Bakken production at just 2%. If they taxed at the Texas rate they would collect almost $700 million this year alone. And at the Louisiana rate: $1.8 billion for just 2012 and just for Bakken oil production.

And the argument that companies would stop drilling is utterly foolish. The Eagle Ford players in Texas aren’t holding back though they pay at 2.5X the rate of ND. Texas and La. are two of the heaviest drilled regions on the planet. Their taxes are just the cost of doing business. And business is good, thank you. These two states have collected many tens of $billions from the oil companies over the decades. PA has never collected one penny of severance tax...ever. And both of these states are heavily regulated and monitored. And all the costs to do so are paid by the oil patch...plus a lot left over for the citizens of both states. And folks like to think Texas govt is controlled by Big Oil? What a joke. Sounds like the oil patch is doing a fine job of screwing the complicit citizens/politicians in ND

Yes...I’m starting to get rather ticked off by all the whining. The citizens/politicians have the ability to change the game anytime they choose. The oil patch in ND, PA, NY, etc can afford the costs. I’m starting to feel like a smuck drilling in Texas and La. Maybe I need to start operating in those northern states, pay fewer taxes and pollute with near immunity.

I lived in Minot, ND for nine years.

In my opinion, the majority of North Dakota citizens are very nice, and very trusting of everyone, including big business....to the point of being naive and easy marks.

Many entities are more than willing to take advantage of their hosts' shy and deferential ways.

It is incumbent on the good folks in ND to wake up out of their haze and take charge of the happenings in their state.

Or maybe the majority of them don't want to cause a fuss and are willing to take one for the good of Team America...

If anyone living in ND reading this gets thundering angry....Good! That is what you need to do...then channel you anger productively into creating good governance!

I do recognize that businesses will simply go as far as you let them, so it is impingent upon the State and her people to draw the line.. but I have to say I found you guys previous two posts a bit remarkable in how much the responsibility was heaped upon the citizens, and I didn't actually hear anything about some expectation that we might develop to insist that companies, run by citizens as well, I could add.. that THEY bear the principal and Initial responsibility in all of this.

I mean, we used to blame rape on the victims, (and it's hardly unheard of still today) with the fairly common assumption that 'Men just can't help themselves..' etc etc..

I think this is the same issue. It's not alright to just keep doing the wrong thing until someone catches you at it, and leverages the system to make you stop. Maybe let's raise the bar a little, huh?


I have re-read your post a few times and I don't think there is any daylight between our positions...just semantics

Yes, it would be swell if companies/firms/private enterprises/businesses would step up and do the right think with respect to minimizing their negative impacts on the environment.

However, in many cases, ignorance, mis-information, or desire to bolster the bottom line trumps such considerations.

Hence, the people elect a government to conduct many types of public policies and provide public services...one of these functions is to determine what harmful practices exist, and pass laws to control or regulate business (and private citizen) actions to keep negative consequences which affect the entire society within pre-determined acceptable limits.

The real issue here is the phenomenon of governments elected by the people being held in thrall to well-monied business interests instead of optimizing outcomes for the entire spectrum of society.

This is the reason that government openness and sunshine laws are so very important...there should be precious little government business that is not accessible to the people in a very timely manner...the government is supposed to be for the people, by the people, and continuously and truly open and accountable to the people.

Pollution is an externality, and w/o government regulation (including court enforcement and redress), the commons will be used as a dumping ground.

I am certainly not anti-business...the business of the World is business...I am most certainly for businesses and people to have their actions circumscribed to ensure their outputs do not harm others more than a pre-determined, societal-agreed-upon series of bounds...yet still be able to function successfully, meaning be able to cover costs and make a profit if run well.

I have been to other countries where their water if filthy, their air noxious, and garbage is strewn everywhere...I, and I imagine many others, would prefer the U.S. environment not be be severely degraded.

You're more than likely right that we're not really in any disagreement.. just painting the elephant from different angles..

I saw that I had written a bit of a Moebius strip in my post's logic up there.. but I really just want to keep some attention on our tendency to both expect and even applaud when businesses 'overreach', if you will, but we chastise the little guys or the system who didn't manage to stop them.

I don't think it's unworkable to shift our definitions and expectations a little in this regard.

"Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.."

Ok, back to my dungeon/laboratory..

I feel our pain...'bang head here'..I wish you fulfillment in your laboratory endeavors!


joker - Sorry buddy...wrong analogy. Here's the right one. A counselor who has worked his whole career trying to help the addicted at a halfway house. So one morning he leaves his car outside the group home running and unlocked. He also leaves $10,000 in cash sitting in plain sight on the front seat. At the end of his long day he goes to his car and...OH NO...someone stole his car.

And I'm going to be sympathetic? I don't think so. Citizens are not helpless. Unless, of course, if they don't educate themselves and don't act in their best interests then they are responsible for their part of the mess IMHO. I'm sorry but personal responsibility is just that...personal. These are not helpless women walking home in the dark. They are not 5 yo children. They are adults with a world full of easily accessible information. It's their state, their land, their economy, their future. Their responsibility. Texas is the home of BIG OIL. Always has been. A huge and vital part of our economy. And some operator you never heard of is getting away with polluting the environment in ND while ExxonMobil would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in Texas. What’s wrong with that picture?

Personal responsibility takes place always and only within specific institutional contexts, a.k.a. learning environments. In this case, the context includes things like ALEC, a Republican Party that paints every public regulation as a threat to business, and thereby, everybody's ability to survive, and commercial television that is run as a business to promote other businesses, and, hence, is always loathe to question business priorities. You might think it's "easy" to pick one's way through such things and acquire the real story. That's not necessarily so, however.

How long did it take the Texas public to figure out this issue? It certainly wasn't quick and easy, right?

State legislatures, btw, have always been even more susceptible to business lobbying and office-buying than Congress. The lobbying buck goes farther, with less opposition, in ND than it does in DC.

While ever this type of thing takes place it just about makes it immoral to castigate countries like Indonesia, Burma Rwanda, Haiti, Brazil etc for destroying forests for palm oil, charcoal and ethanol.
Looks like we're gonna ravage, strip and burn, until for any number of reasons we can't anymore.

Michael – So what are you saying: you’re smart enough to see through the demigods but in general the citizens of ND just aren’t sophisticated enough to understand? That doesn’t sound very nice. Sorry but it really is that easy. First they go to a website and find out ND’s severance tax rate and also check on the volume of oil coming out of the Bakken wells. That takes two minutes top. Then go to the website showing the severance taxes charged by other states, especially Texas and La. That’s another two minutes. Then search “Eagle Ford” and dozens of sights pop up that go into great detail about how companies can’t drill wells in the play fast enough EVEN THOUGH Texas charges 2.5X more severance tax that ND. I’ll allow 6 minutes for that. So for a total of 10 minutes everyone would know how bad they are getting screwed. Of course, it really isn’t necessary for everyone in ND to do this. Are there no MSM outlets in ND to put out these simple facts to the public? What about the folks opposed the drilling in ND for whatever their reasons? Are they all as ignorant of the simple facts as you imply the general population may be? Am I going to have to start sending letters to the editors in ND? Why should I make more of an effort that a citizen of ND?

I don’t know. Maybe folks are more intimidated by the effort to understand how relatively simple this all really is. True story…honest. Just yesterday I was checking on 3 drill sites I’ll be moving onto soon. Had my 13 yo daughter (birthday today, in fact) with me. In less than 30 minutes I explained the difference between surface ownership, mineral interest ownership, lease bonuses, royalty payments (she thought the term “mailbox money” was cute) and severance tax. Then I explained what was going on in these other states. Granted she’s way above average but she understood how folks up north were allowing themselves to be taken advantage. “Pretty dumb”…her words. Not that she was that interested in the subject but I had her trapped with me I the car. LOL.

I’m starting to get a tad annoyed by all the folks who explain the public’s bad choices because they are swayed from the truth by 30 second TV spots. The implication is that the general public isn’t smart enough to understand the issues. Of course the folks making such assertions aren’t that dumb and see right past the smoke and mirrors. I think that often these folks are just making excuses why they are sometimes in the minority on certain issues. IOW: “If everyone understood the facts they would all agree with me because I’m right”. If the folks in ND, PA, etc make bad decisions then they are responsible for their position. This ain’t rocket science: it’s about tax rates and not letting companies get away with dumping poison on the ground. It really is very simple.

How long for Texas to get its act together: Was done many decades ago. OTOH oil has been develped in ND for many decades. And I would bet we have many times the oil patch lobbysts in Texas as NG. So what...are ND politicians easier to buy? Again an easy fix: fire them and elect ones that can't be bought. Opps...can't go there...that's that personal responsibility thingy again. LOL.

"[T]hey go to a website and find out ND’s severance tax rate and also check on the volume of oil coming out of the Bakken wells."

If you think this is common, easily thought-of, pursued, and understood individual activity, you are seeing a very different culture and society than I am. And commercial TV is a massively-sponsored, heavily biased activity, btw. It tends to work, alas, at its primary purpose, which is to get people to maximize their time thinking about "consumer" issues and themes, not the way the world works. When it makes concessions to the latter, it's almost always in sound bites, and almost never in 30-minute, on-target, careful explanations such as your talk to your granddaughter.

Meanwhile, I'm not in the least saying people aren't smart enough to comprehend the issues. I'm saying both individual pursuit and access to the technical information you seem to think is obvious to everybody is way more complicated and unlikely than you seem to think and expect.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it? You immediately see me as saying people are too dumb to understand, but it's you who ends up dismissing an entire state of human beings for their supposedly inexcusable and inexplicable laziness. Why, then, the laziness? Are they just naturally dumb up in ND? Corrupt?

Contra Margaret Thatcher, there is such a thing as society. Collective and inherited conditions and institutions exist, change, and have big effects on what people are able and likely to do. Some of those conditions and institutions are even used by the most powerful (and most responsible?) among us to distract and confuse and divert ordinary folks.

Michael - Got you. LOL. Yes I did intentionally over state your position. But to emphasize my point more than yours. I don't think the folks in ND are lazy or too unsophistiated to understand the situation. The fact is they do and most fully accept it becuase the perceive a sufficent benefit to themselves. Bottomline IMHO they are not fully taking advantage of the finacial situation while accepting the negaives. And that is simply dumb.

Rock, I can tell you that even a libertarian capitalist pig like me can see that strong, common sense, well defined regulation can be the answer, in our states(Tx&La)it was the answer. I remember when "Zero Discharge" regulations came about in portions of the GOM depending on what type of drilling fluid was used and in Louisiana's inland waters for almost any kind of drilling fluid. The oil companies had all the locals thinking that the end of the oilfield was about to occur and everyone would be unemployed because the oil companies would simply close up shop. It didn't happen, as a matter of fact millions if not billons were made buy service companies who employ thoussands of folks still today. Land owners that allowed diposal wells to be drilled on they're properties are still making pretty good money.

Yep . . . people need to stand up and call their bluff at times. A question they should always ask is "If these regulations are really about to put you out of business then how is it you can afford to hire all these lobbyists, public relations people, and make big political donations? Stop blowing smoke up my ass and use that money to clean up your act instead buying the right to pollute.

Yeah, I someone that grew up in neighboring Minnesota, I understand what you mean. There is a politeness that can be taken advantage of . . . I know I have been taken advantage of several times because of it. ;-)

Rockman is dead on right . . . fine the heck out of people that don't follow the rules and ban them from drilling. There are plenty of people willing to follow the rules and still make lots of money so don't worry about losing business.

H – I like your answer. I’d rather believe they are pushovers vs. dumb/foolish. Maybe I’ve lived in Texas too long with mean vindictive folks who are heavily armed and daydream about dropping the hammer on someone. LOL. Well, at least some of them. We don’t tolerate politicians/companies that displease us. Which doesn’t mean we don’t end up with some buttheads in office. But they were known buttheads who got elected because folks knew they would deliver what they wanted…even if you and I thought their desires were wrong. How do you Rick Baby holds the record for the longest governorships. LOL.

I mentioned to someone the other day about the Rockman posting some hellfire and brimstone letters to the editors of my Yankee cousins. I started tracking down likely newspapers in PA but got distracted before I found someplace to post my polite but to the point message. Maybe I need to find some ND newspapers while I’m at it.

BTW talking to a hand involved in drill site construction in the Bakken play: of all things they are running very short of gravel. So they are trucking “boards” from Texas to ND. Well site boards are pallet like contraptions the measure about 8’X8’ and usually 2 or 3 2x8’s thick. We connect them together to make a continuous pad sometime as large as 400’X400’. And double up underneath where the rig will sit. Usually cost about $40,000 to mob them to the site and install. Then pay rental about $60,000/30 days. Can’t imagine what they are charging in ND. They are also marketing some kind of polymers spray they use on earthen pits that supposed virtually stops all leakage.
Speaking of boom times he also told me some details about the Eagle Ford in Texas. All over the trend land owners have signs along all the roads offering to sell their water. One land owner sold his small lake holding 1.6 million gallons for a small fortune. Told me of one stretch of highway where EOG had an 8” water line running down both sides. Sounds like the landowners are making a lot more profit selling water than growing crops. You and I might not agree with their decision but they understand what they are doing and making the choice themselves. Unlike my cousins in ND who may not fully understand the big picture.

I was on pads last week that were covered with polymer filter-fabric, which seems to do a good job of keeping down dust, and at that site apparently the drainage was such that mud was not an issue. Another was getting a solid 8" to 12" of gravel, and that was a mudpit before the gravel trucks came in.

Interesting, some older sites had gravel and occasionally tarp dikes around tanks and equipment. The newer ones have staked-down composite berms with a fully sealed poly floor under ALL equipment. They suck up and dispose of everything in the pits every day or two -- including rainwater. Other than a few blown-in leaves and dust, all the pits were spotless. At least as clean as my garage floor (any my cars don't leak either!).

Every truck onto every pad is signed in and out, and logged by company security. I guarantee they know everybody who trucks anything out, and it would not take long to pinpoint a dumper....and when they went to jail or bankrupt there would be somebody else willing to run the truck and haul properly.

In some areas, the locals are positively angry at the oil company from frack propaganda, and some take out their frustrations at the company people directly. I know some companies don't label their trucks anymore -- they've gone from proudly blazing their logos on uniforms, hard-hats, and trucks, and now try to go incognito instead. I hear some local cops consider it a sport to pull over employees and write tickets -- more free money, I guess. One guy had picked up a new truck with no tag and no insurance form by mistake, and was pretty sure he was headed to jail. Funny thing is, there is no unwillingness to work the jobs or serve the workers, as the oil money is definitely welcome. Doesn't take long to pay off a nice new 4x4 truck when you're working 12/7 shifts on a gathering pipeline, or pay for a remodel on the local restaurant from the job traffic coming through Noname or Podunk. Those collecting lease payments probably don't complain either.

A pad-site takes 30 days from dozer to production for a tightly run operation, and good crews can expect to have steady work for years unless prices crash. The local firms are hiring anybody and it shows; I've already learned to smile when I see La or Tx truck plates on the work trucks, since that often means an experienced hand will be there, and the work will be quick and competent. Even granddad can get in on the action, as those who would otherwise be Walmart greeters can work the guardshacks and watch for safety violators and trespassers.

I can see those who live in or lease picturesque summer or hunting shacks in the mountains would be irritated by the truck traffic on the gravel roads, but in many places they simply complement logging traffic. In fact, the loggers are the first ones in, cutting the pipelines and pad-sites before the dozers and track-hoes come through.

Some lease-holders write tight access clauses, too. Only one visit of less than 30 minutes in a given day without additional authorization or fees, for example. Lots of anxious calls trying to resolve trouble before the clock runs out and the teck has to shut-in for a day or two and go file paperwork instead.

In some areas, the locals are positively angry at the oil company from frack propaganda

I was expecting the below to be blamed on UFOs - instead fracking. Like the tree breakage up high...wonder how fracking does that?

I mentioned to someone the other day about the Rockman posting some hellfire and brimstone letters to the editors of my Yankee cousins. I started tracking down likely newspapers in PA but got distracted before I found someplace to post my polite but to the point message. Maybe I need to find some ND newspapers while I’m at it

You can add North Carolina to that short list, Rockman.

I have linked to more than a couple of your TOD posts at the blog of Ed Cone. His blog is a personal one but vocationally he is a journalist who writes well. He is concerned about the fracking industries advances in NC.

Wyoming Oil and Gas Commissioner Tom Doll said this week that Pavillion area residents who are complaining about their water are motivated by greed. (reported on several news sites.) His statements were later repudiated by the Governor, but he has not been asked to step down. Honestly, any replacement would be as rabidly in the industry corner. With all due respect, it is hard to see any citizen-led movement to force the oil companies to clean up or pay for their messes as being successful in this state. The energy industry appears to have a steel lock on the political process here...

Small - Easy solution. Is Doll's an elected position? If so then if they don't vote him out then the majority of the voters agree with him and they deserve him. If the position is appointed same rule for who ever made the appointment: fire him or don't get elected. If he doesn't fire him and still gets elected the good folks of WY are getting exactly what they deserve. And don't toss out campaign contributions: no one is going to vote against their best interest regardless of how many commercials are run. Especially with such a simple issue as polluting the environment they live in every day. Likewise if they are too lazy to spend 20 minutes on the web to learn how Texas and La deals with the oil patch then, again, they deserve what they get IMHO.

Here is a graph showing why drilling in the Bakken Formation must stop:



No problemo, as they used to say (and no doubt, still do)... "Don't worry, we'll make it up in volume".

N. Carolina Senate decides to include science in sea level projections after all

This is a case in point for the notion that psychoanalysis of various groups, conducted professionally in the public's view, may be an effective treatment for that group's mental maladies.

About the Iran article, the pattern we see now on Iran and the sanctions, and SA over producing, is the exact same patteren we saw before the 03' invasion of Iraq and before the 91' Desert Storm operation. Is this a sign that the West is trying to isolate and damage Iran to the point that an invasion can take place? Looks like it. The last time I checked, Iran had about the same amount of oil and gas as Iraq, if not more...

It is likely that Iran has a lot more oil than Iraq and no, this is not the same thing as you saw in 91 or in 03. Also you speak of Desert Storm in 90 and 91 as if it was as unjustified as the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Not even close.

In August of 1990 more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers backed up by 700 tanks invaded the Gulf state of Kuwait. Saddam wanted it and he took it. And if you think the US and the World should have not raised a hand to stop him, then that is your political opinion but not mine and I will not argue with you, or anyone else, about it. And Saudi did not overproduce during either of those periods.

Also the situation in Iran is totally different. The sanctions are an attempt to avoid conflict, not an attempt to soften them up to make an invasion easier. And Saudi is afraid of high oil prices causing a recession and oil price collapse as it did in in 2008. I think they would like to see prices stay around $100 a barrel but don't want them to go much lower. But of course Saudi is as much afraid of Iran getting the bomb as Israel or the US. I think that if there is anything they could possibly do to prevent it, they would do it. Can you blame them?

Ron P.

Ron, can you expand on why KSA is afraid of Iran getting the bomb? Beyond reducing KSA influence in the region, I'm not sure what else is at stake for them.

You are joking aren't you? Iran is Shia and Saudi is Sunni. Saudis are Arabs and Iranians are Persians. (Actually they are Azeri Turks, Kurds, Lurs, Balooch and a few others but that's another story.) The point is they just don't like each other very much. And the current Iranian leaders are just unpredictable.

Pakistan has the bomb and that does not diminish Saudi's influence in the region. I really don't think they are worried about that. They would definitely be worried about Iran blowing up Ras Tanura or some Saudi city. Or just threaten to do so if Saudi did something they did not like. They would simply be a bully with a bomb and shake it at every nation in the region and demand they do as Iran directed.

Ron P.

More likely its just the extra influence a Nuclear armed Iran would have. Yes the Sunni/Shia divide has been great ever since Karbala. And then you throw in Arab v Persian. Saudi see's itself as the spiritual head of the Sunni Islamic world (they got the two most holy sites), and Iran as leading the Shia. SA is threatening to annex Shia majority (but Sunni led) Qatar. Then add in normal regional power politics (everyone wants to be undisputed top dog).

SA is threatening to annex Shia majority (but Sunni led) Qatar.

Really? You mean like Iraq, under Saddam, tried to annex Kuwait? I really don't think so. But if you have some evidence of this I would dearly love to see it.

Ron P.

Saudi Arabia-Bahrain union plan set to inflame tensions with Iran?

Bahraini activists, who complain of systematic discrimination against the Shiite majority, call the move a blatant power grab by Sunni Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia sent around 1,500 Gulf troops into its tiny neighbor to quell protests during which dozens died and hundreds were detained, tortured and received unfair trials, according to human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

Not sure about Qatar, but they are heavily involved in Bahrain.

I *might* have got Bahrain & Qatar confused (like most people here, the various emirates all seem the same to me). I was thinking its the one with the Shia doing the arab spring thing -and the USA won't act, because it has strategic interests (Qatar has a bigtime US military base). I don't know how much its driven by the Saudis, and how much its driven by the local powers that be. perhaps they feel sufficiently threatened, that merger seems attractive? But, no, not an invasion plan.

The royal family of Bahrain is Sunni but the majority of population is Shia and they are marginalized in their own country. Saudi troops are already in Bahrain to "maintain order". There is talk of a political union which is alarming to those who think of Bahrain as a comparatively liberal oasis.

And it has to be viewed in 'Domino theory' context. The oil-rich region of Saudi Arabia has the highest density of Shia in Saudi Arabia. If Shia dominated Bahrain were to fall into Shia control would that mean the Shia-heavy Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia would be next? Saudia Arabia decided to nip that in the bud. And with world oil politics being what they are, the Bahrain uprising is one that is not going to get any support from western governments.

Correct. I don't see the Saudi occupation of Bahrain as any more legitimate than Saddam's occupation of Kuwait. In both cases, the majrity of local population didn't want it.

The point is they just don't like each other very much.


And how does bombing party X stop Parties A-W from taking a pound of flesh from you? What happens if you are aware that there is a strong chance that you, your children and family are killed as a response?

For your position to go from "I don't like anybody very much!" to 'bomb them' puts MAD into question. For years people have pushed "MAD" (Mutually Assured Destruction) as valid policy. For Iran to be "feared" to get "the bomb" that shows MAD is not valid. And if MAD is not valid - then there needs to be an entirely different conversation that EVERY nuclear weapon owning and nuclear weapons capable needs to be a part of.

And the current Iranian leaders are just unpredictable.

So you claim. Want to back up that claim with proof? Folks - this is just an attempt to place a framing on an agenda without proof.

They would simply be a bully with a bomb and shake it at every nation in the region and demand they do as Iran directed.

Lets say that analysis is true - who did they learn that from? And were any other lessons like "if you have a bomb or 2 you don't attacked" also "learned"?

You forgot to put "jews" up on your list Ron.


I can't answer for Ron, but I think the basic "difference of opinion" between Iran and Arabia is Shia vs Sunni. I've tried a few times to figure it out (ie, what are the actual conflicts), but I just can't stay with it before becoming disgusted. Further research MIGHT reveal something comprehensible.

The whole religion thing could overpower all rational discourse worldwide, as it has already here in the US.

Reminds me of that old John Lennon song....

I don't disagree that some of the Religious Arguments are causing havoc, but looking at the situation we're in with Peak Oil, our electoral system, our overall resource exploitation.. it sure seems like Hard-headed rational number-crunchers are doing a better job of destroying the planet than the most extreme Bible, Talmud and Koran Thumpers do.

'Imagine no possessions'.. as the fellow also said. I wonder if we can?

It was all about the leadership of the ancient Caliphate. One group supported Mahammet's grandson, and the other another unrelated guy (can't recall his name). The later prevailed, Hussein and his folloers fled, and were massacred at Karbala. The followers of Hussein became Shia, the others Sunni. Shia have a bit of a persecution complex -and also feel collective quilt for not having been able to save Hussein and his band, Shia consider them to be Apostates.

Of course if your perspective is just two groups with slightly varying stone aged beliefs duking it out, it's going to be hard to see the differences between them. To understand we have to immerse ourselves sympathetically in both groups history (imagine you -or a loved one was brought up that how), how would you fell/think?

Its amazing how long historical wrongs can leave a trail of bad blood. Jews were persecuted by Christians who blame them for Jesus' crucifiction (Judas...) almost two thousand years after the alleged attrocity took place.

Thank God for Atheists ...

Well I think both views are very important. One needs to both understand the nuanced differences between Shia/Sunni and understand that it is ultimately two groups with varying stone age beliefs. Both views are accurate, important, and relevant. Which view is more important depends on the location, regional scale, and time scale.

The Iranians are Aryan- the title of the former shah was aryamehr - protector of Aryans. The Arabs are a semitic people (which makes calling Arabs anti-semitic so laughable). Based on my experiences from living in Iran - the Iranians are very conscious of the difference. They are also conscious of their history as Persians- and the fact that under Cyrus the Great Persia was the worlds first super power. In fact in 1971 the Shah celebrated with great pomp the 2500 anniversary of the Persian monarchy.

Currently I guess no one have to be afraid of a bomb from Iran unless of course if they are attacked by someone. As far as I know the difference between the government in Iraq then USA attacked and the current government in Iran is quite large.

The regien is full of people who would like any kind of bomb in Israel and I am pretty sure Israel mentioned something about bombing Iran.

Since when does whatever the KSA cares about have any legitimacy beyond their own borders? Their own version of theocracy makes Iran's look like Utopia. And since when do the overthrower of Mossadegh and active violator of the NPT + the war-criminal, scofflaw Jewish theocracy that won't even sign that treaty get to participate in enforcing said treaty, let alone talking about and enforcing sanctions?

Meanwhile, nobody is saying there's no difference between Iraq I and II. But, again, why war in either case, and why does the sponsor of Saddam Hussein get to make the call, especially without a full-scale investigation of what April Glaspie said and why?

And yes, there are very serious and scary parallels between the Iran sanctions and W's ploys to justify his Iraq II crime. A phantom program that's just got to be there, despite the lack of evidence. The profound, Orwellian disregard for international law being sold as a concern for international law. A threatened war that just so happens to potentially open oil fields and regional politics to the threat-makers' hypocritical, indefensible, and blowback-inducing priorities.

I strongly doubt that the US sacrificed 4,500 Americans just to "free the Iraqi people". I'm not even gonna mention the WMD. I doubt most people with respect for their own intelligence will believe the excuses used against Iran either.

I think the problem with Iraq was that we wanted them to ramp up production but we didn't want the resulting profits to go to Saddam who wasn't inclined to recycle the dollars back into the US. So we took him out and installed a more compliant government who is busy awarding contracts to western companies. Mission accomplished!!

I don't see where I ever talked about justice? Americas Imperialism for resources is a fact, not an opinion. I don't see how justice has ever been a part of grabbing the last petroleum resources. I don't believe for a second that any of the US effort to stop Iran's nuclear program is a part of US attempt to please Israelis. It's all about grabbing oil and controlling the region.

Well hell, I say the next time we go grabbing for some petroleum resources, or grabbing oil, we should get some resources, or at least get some oil!

Ron P.

In which we are. If it wasn't for the removal of Saddam, all oil would go to China, in Euros. Anyone with Economics 101 knows how catastrophic that would be to the US economy. Now, the Iraqi oil flows freely to whomever needs it, in US dollars of course.

Petro, oil is fungible. If Iraqi oil went to China then oil that now goes to China would go elsewhere. Saddam sold his oil to the highest bidder, just like Iraq does today. And it makes no difference what currency they sell it in. The dollar is just a price benchmark. Iran, or anyone else, can accept any currency they desire for their oil. There is no international law that says oil must be sold in dollars. It is only priced in dollars. Any currency can be exchanged for any other currency, on the FOREX, in a matter of a fraction of a second.

Ron P.

fun·gi·ble - adjective
(especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

And it makes no difference what currency they sell it in. The dollar is just a price benchmark. Iran, or anyone else, can accept any currency they desire for their oil.

Exactly. I can't believe has long long the "oil is transacted in dollars" idiocy has lasted. I am starting to think it is willful ignorance.

It does make a difference. It forces the dollar as the reserve currency. Everyone has to keep dollars around to clear transactions. This means there is a certain 'float' of the currency that helps the USA a bit. It is not a huge thing.

Everyone has to keep dollars around to clear transactions.

No they do not. Any currency can be exchanged for any other currency, at any time of the day, any day of the week, in a fraction of a second on the Forex. If you have Euros in the bank but no Dollars, you can change the Euros to dollars in a fraction of a second if that is what the seller wants. Or you can change them into British Pounds or Swiss Francs just as fast if that is what the seller desires. There is no need to hold any dollars whatsoever.

Ron P.

Yeah, but if you don't have any dollars around then you get a crap exchange rate since they know you have no dollars and must get them to purchase what you want. Thus, entities are forced to hold some dollars to get a better exchange rate.

Currency exchanges are the deepest and most liquid markets in the world. Transactions can be easily done instantly through numerous third parties and there are a huge number of willing counter parties.

No one has ever been been forced to take a "crap exchange rate" because of a perceived urgency, or lack of other options.

Countries hold dollars to manage their exchange rates, not to use them for purchases.

Countries hold dollars to manage their exchange rates, not to use them for purchases.

That is my point.

Cheaply, and in fractions of a second? I think that implies moderately small transaction size -otherwise the market clearing prices would move against you because you've changed the supply/demand (at a fixed price) balance point. This is the same reason really big mutual funds can't quickly liguidate -or acquire positions, the volume generated by such moves will have an effect on the market price.

Currency markets are far larger and more liquid than equity markets. I don't think any oil transactions could be large enough to significantly change the supply demand balance. In fact, since the size and direction of oil market sales are fairly predictable, it would take, in my view, a pretty exceptional event to bump up against liquidity constraints or impact prices. There is rarely any pressure to settle a transaction in full immediately.

Also countries don't have to transact oil deals in in dollars. If Germany buys oil from Iraq, SA or any one else, they can do the deal in any medium that is acceptable to both parties. I am sure that the vast majority of these transactions are done in Euros.

I have seen examples of oil sold for rice, chickens, and weapons.

So if some middleman (or exchange) were to grab too much of the value in an inefficient exchange, the two parties could figure out an alternative that doesn't leak value.

I think that implies moderately small transaction size -otherwise the market clearing prices would move against you because you've changed the supply/demand (at a fixed price) balance point.

Nonsense. Over $4,000,000,000,000 a day changes hands on the Forex. That's four trillion dollars. No one has enough money to swing the exchange rates for more than a single pip, or one basis point, which is one cent on one hundred dollars. And the cost to trade is almost nil, on the most liquid currencies it is one to two basis points, or one to two cents on one hundred dollars. Go here and watch the four very short videos and you will understand:

Forex Video Tutorials

Ron P.

The bigger part of the petrodollar is the dollar peg that KSA and several others maintain. Like China's dollar peg, it supports the dollar and forces the recycling of dollars back into the US. It also forces other countries to maintain a soft peg to keep their currencies from strengthening too much.

There is no direct connection between petrodollars (which are dollars exchanged by the US for oil, much like petroeuros are Euros exchanged for oil) and currency pegs or managed currencies.


China (like most exporters) maintains an artificially low currency to help their exporters. The US does not benefit from the weak Chinese currency and has threatened actions against China in an effort to force them to abandon the policy.

It does allow the US to borrow cheaply, which is mixed benefit.

Countries that export oil (or other commodities) do experience currency appreciation, which hurts their other exports (Dutch disease).

Indeed .. Australia has a very stark two-speed economy, where the mining and energy boom continues unabated, while our food, fibre, and manufacturing base has taken a hit - in the main caused by the high Australian dollar (historically high at least).

So a national growth rate of a very respectable 4% is actually based on about 7% growth in the mining states, and 1% (or less) in the farming and manufacturing regions. Mining provinces have widespread labour shortages, despite high wages on offer, while unemployment, investment, and opportunity, are chronic elsewhere.

You are descibing the typical curse of resource rich countries, often called "the Dutch disease". Essentially lots of commodity exports raise the value of your currency, so your other industries are uncompetitive. You get stuck with having most of the opportunities being in the commodities business, and the rest of the economy faces severe headwinds.

The problem with the "Dutch disease" hypothesis is that it assumes that other industries have some potential for expansion. The problem that Australia has is that it is adjacent to the major manufacturing centers of Japan and Korea, who are more likely to take advantage of any manufacturing export opportunities than Australia. Australia is unlikely to export more automobiles to China or India under any circumstances.

The key economic concept is that of "natural advantage". Certain countries have a natural advantage over other countries in certain industries. In Australia's case, it has huge amounts of coal, iron ore, and natural gas which have a ready market nearby in the overpopulated, highly industrialized countries of South and East Asia. By contrast, in manufacturing there are huge economies of scale in production, and while Australia has only 22 million people, some of its neighbors have billions. It is never going to compete in industries in which scale of production is important.

So, Australians have the alternatives of making billions of dollars selling their high-value commodities to these huge industrial countries, or try to eke out a living manufacturing goods for their local market. It's their choice, but most people would go for the big money. The compensating factor for them is that they are making far more money than the people in the nearby overpopulated, low wage countries.

A couple of strategies can be tried to try and manage the imbalances created.

One can be to create a sovereign wealth fund - storing wealth generated by a one-off mining boom in order to share the prosperity both across the whole country, and across generations. Australia is complicated of course (like Canada), since the states have the constitutional ownership of minerals, but the federal government has almost all the taxing powers.

Australia is now introducing a mining super-tax that is going some way towards addressing this, but not without strong opposition. We also have a carbon tax starting on 1 July - and while it has different policy objectives, it also has some levelling effect.

And yes - we will never compete with China etc on the manufacturer of almost all consumer goods (who does?), and the subsidies provided to Ford, GM, Toyota, and so on to keep car manufacturing alive in the country seems nonsensical to me. But lots of voters live in those more industrial electorates, and unemployment is always a threat.

What amazes me is why more young people do not up-stakes from Melbourne or Sydney, and head to the mining and gas provinces for 5-10 years, ad make their fortunes. But they won't leave their comfort zones ... and want a McMansion in a distant suburb, and start pumping out bambinos, and want grandma around ... oh well.

Yes, it is rather remarking that young Australians will not up-stakes and head for the job-rich areas. When I was a young Canadian, I kind of assumed that I would have to spend a lot of time working long hours under rugged conditions in some remote northern locations with many jobs but few people before I accumulated enough assets to settle down and buy a house somewhere where I could get a good cup of cappuccino any time I wanted to.

But having survived all that, I find I prefer to live in places where the mercury freezes at night and you have to check the street for large carnivorous animals before going out in the morning. Actually, we had a heavy snowfall here yesterday (it's late spring), and there was an elk standing out in the street yesterday morning.

In the Atlantic provinces, the economy went into a decline around the time steam ships replaced wooden sailing vessels, and and after 100 years of economic downturn, there's no real reason to expect it to recover any time soon.

Recently, however, the Canadian government has decided that it is not going to subsidize people to be unemployed just because they won't move, so they are going to cut off their unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept a job in another region with better opportunities. The Western provinces are much larger and have vastly greater natural resources which are in high global demand. Even the climate and agricultural conditions are much better. What they lack are people.

The Australian government has gone so far as to approve 1700 457 Visa workers (temporary work visas for overseas people) at one huge new iron ore project in Western Australia. The unions and many others have gone ballistic, but what can you do? There are many many jobs north and west that can't be filled internally - even though there is more than 5% unemployment in the eastern states.

Okay - many are fairly skilled, but many are not ... I wish I were 22 again - I would grab such an opportunity with both hands. And our drama is not cold and snow - but heat and desert - similar in most respects.

And a huge percentage of the mining province workforce is now FIFO - from Perth or Brisbane, and that creates its own social problems too, of course. In the old days, the big mining companies (BHP, Rio Tinto, etc) built whole towns with wonderful facilities - not any more.

Is it a 'curse' or a blessing to people in general. If one area of the planet is blessed with natural resources that they can live off then wouldn't it be nice to give another area of the planet an advantage for manufacturing so they can have a way of making a decent living? I'd say so. This is one of those nice things that economics balances out for us.

BTW, Canada is another example of a country that is having their currency rise (the petro-loony) because of tar sands oil that is hurting the manufacturing sector in Ontario.

Is it a 'curse' or a blessing to people in general.

Its a bit of both. Basically the theory of comparative advantage, country X is relatively better at building A than B, than country Y. So A specializes in A and trades excess A to Y who trades their surplus B. Utility is maximized by doing the trade. Note it is the relative local costs that matter here, not the absolute costs -currencies are supposed to find a relative value that roughly balances out trade. Now if you live in X, and your specialty is B -then you are screwed, as your country must import enough B to balance out the trade surplus from exporting A. So your B industry is small -or nonexistant. If you really wanna do B, better to move to country Y!

I had trouble following your A's, B's, X's, and Y's and I think you may have messed it up somewhat in the explanation.

However, let's take the case of Canada and the United States, and oil and automobiles.

In theory, Canada has vastly greater oil resources than the US, so it should export oil to the US. In theory, being a manufacturing powerhouse, the US should be better at building low cost automobiles than Canada so it should export automobiles to Canada.

In reality, Canada is a higher cost oil producer than the US, but the US cannot meet its own demand, so notwithstanding its cost disadvantage, Canada exports high-cost oil to the US and tends to use its own lower cost energy resources (hydro, NG) internally. In addition, the US for some reason can't seem to build low-cost automobiles, so Canada is also a net exporter of automobiles to the US. Basically, Canada has a competitive advantage in both oil and automobiles. Reality in this case diverges considerably from theory.

People in Ontario are arguing that if Alberta exported less high-cost oil to the US, they would be able to export more low-cost automobiles. Unfortunately American demand for automobiles is severely depressed because of the dismal US economy, and Japan and Korea can beat Canada in other export markets, so this is dubious.

Most likely, if Canada exported less oil to the US, gasoline prices in the US would go up, Americans would drive less and buy fewer cars, Canadian exports of automobiles to the US would change little or actually decline, and there would be a substantial net decline in total Canadian exports.

You are way, way off base here Nonconformist. Countries like Saudi, Qatar and China who peg their currency to the dollar do so because it benefits them, not the US or the dollar in any way. The US has been trying for many years to force China do drop their peg. And they would be delighted if Saudi Arabia did.

Ron P.

Actually, KSA and the other gulf countries did propose to drop their peg and adopt a floating currency or at least a currency pegged to a basket rather than just the dollar and Hilary put a very quick end to it. The US benefits by receiving the recycled dollars. As far as China goes, US companies have benefited greatly from the dollar peg which is why I suspect the US hasn't protested too much.

Hilary put a very quick end to it.

I don't believe a word of it. As Wiki always puts it: (citation needed). And needed real bad I might add.

The US benefits by receiving the recycled dollars.

Hey, you need to explain that one. That statement makes no sense whatsoever. The US pays a lot more to the Persian Gulf exporting nations in petrodollars than they receive for exports to those nations, and I mean a lot more. In other words the US does not receive dollars, they they pay them out.

The US benefits by receiving the recycled dollars. As far as China goes, US companies have benefited greatly from the dollar peg which is why I suspect the US hasn't protested too much.

Nonsense! China agreed, two years ago, because of enormous pressure by the US, to slowly let the yuan float.
China Eases Currency Peg

BEIJING—China pledged over the weekend to make its exchange rate more flexible, but quickly damped the idea that the move would trigger a dramatic revaluation of the yuan by saying it would make the adjustment "gradually."

The decision by the world's third-largest economy follows heavy pressure by the U.S. and other members of the Group of 20 major economies.

And from a couple of weeks ago: US says China's yuan undervalued, not manipulated

The Treasury said the yuan had appreciated 8.0 percent against the dollar since June 2010, when China moved off its peg against the dollar, through May 15, and adjusted for rapid Chinese inflation was up 40 percent.

With a very high inflation rate it is impossible to hold a peg. Mexico found that out back in the 70s. Anyway China is still holding the yuan down though there is no hard peg there is a "gradually sliding peg", and that really pisses the US off. They are still pushing China very hard to let the yuan float. The very idea that "they are not pushing hard" is just plain silly.

When any country pegs its currency it does so to gain a trade advantage. That should be obvious to anyone. And if they gain an advantage then someone must lose in that exchange... obviously! The idea that the US would go to war in order to make other countries keep their peg is laughable.

Ron P.

For the sake of argument: 2 points of view here.

1) That the US Dollar as the reserve Currency matters
2) That the above does not matter.

At the point where the US Dollar stops being the reserve currency we'll get this question resolved.

The historical fall of the British Pound (and others) and its effect argue for the #1 argument.

Rigged modern markets are put forth as the reason #2 is valid.

But I think that misses the point. We seem to keep getting into this argument because some folks insist on conflating currency reserves with currency exchange. As Ron tirelessly points out, currency exchange dwarfs all oil trade into insignificance - every day. So sellers of oil can price it in any major currency they want to blather about politically, and buyers can exchange into that currency in milliseconds at very low cost. So regardless, the sellers will take as much as they can get, or else, if they're flush with money, they might, for a time, take whatever pushes their political buttons.

What can matter is what currency they convert the proceeds into after they've sold the oil - provided that they're taking out bonds in that currency, or salting that currency away under some other virtual mattress, i.e. holding major reserves. Nothing requires those reserves to be in the same currency as any particular publicly stated oil price. The media and the conspiracy- and doom-mongers seem to care only about the currency of the public price, so, in the same milliseconds we just discussed, the reserve-holders can quietly convert to whatever they think best. As the industry experts here have pointed out time and again, the public price and its currency are only very modestly meaningful even at best.

In turn, that means that the fate of the dollar as a reserve currency is not going to be determined by the tiny quantity of dollars that might be needed in order to lubricate, as it were, oil transactions. It will be determined by what large-scale savers think is "safest", with little regard for whether the Saudis publicly list a price in dollars, euros, or wooden nickels.

Oh: and at the moment, what is "safest" is probably entirely unpredictable. It seems to come down to which currency-bloc leaders have the biggest guns pointed at their own feet, and the itchiest trigger fingers, at any given instant.

Y'all were the hired help to get the oil onto the corrupted market rather than sold off-market or consumed internally. Now you've got to bid for the oil like everybody else. The conquerer used to get all the spoils, back when it funded its own conquests.

I have no idea what you are talking about. Are you just being sarcastic? Not a good effort if you are.

The oil is still being sold on the exact same market today as it was under Saddam, the open market. It was sold to the highest bidder then just as it is today. And Iraq consumes all of its oil it needs, both then and now. And that is only a fraction of the oil it produces.

And errr... just what is corrupted about the world oil market? And what does the term "off market" mean? The only off market I know of is the black market.

Ron P.

I have no idea what you are talking about.

I don't think any of them do either. I have stated 100 times that oil does not have to be transacted in dollars. The vast majority of the time the response is silence. But occasionally, nonsense comes back.

I have yet to see anyone try to provide any evidence that oil has to be sold in dollars, let alone the claims that the US would go to war to preserve this condition.

The US will go to war to preserve the currency pegs.

How could they do that when the US has no currency pegs? Some countries, like China, try to peg their currency to the dollar but the US has no control over that.

As I said above the peg does not benefit the US in any way, it only helps the country that pegs their currency. The idea that US would go to war to keep Saudi, Qatar or even China to keep their currency pegged is ludicrous when we have been putting pressure on China for decades to remove their peg.

Edit: Actually China has removed their hard peg and replaced it with a sliding peg. They still keep the yuan undervalued but not so far that it becomes ridiculous.

Ron P.

You have no evidence for this and don't even seem to be able to prove a supporting argument. It has about as much of a logical foundation as belief in Santa Claus.

The only reason you believe this is that you want to believe it.

You are not being nonconformist - just wrong.

The currency pegs are what has supported the dollar for several decades and is what allows the US to run large trade deficits. Keeping KSA and others in the western currency sphere is the point of the US military.

Again, you are just repeating inaccurate statements that are, at best, things you believe to be true.

My comment holds. You might as well believe in Santa Claus.

I won't respond again until you present evidence, or at very least a supporting argument.

Nonconformist I think you are just deliberately trying to be silly. No one could possibly believe the crap you are posting. Other countries currency pegs support the dollar? Absurd. How does that work? Explain.

Ron P.

In order for a net exporting country to keep their currency from appreciating, they have to recycle their surplus back into the net importers currency. In the case of the US it means buy our debt. KSA sells oil and the US sells debt. This keeps the dollar from weakening more than it has over the last ten years of current account deficits.

Well there are several problems with that theory. First all the major oil exporting countries combined hold only 1.6 percent of the US debt. The TRUTH About Who Really Owns All Of America's Debt

Total Treasuries holdings of Oil Exporting Countries: $229.8 billion
Percent of US Debt that they own: 1.6%
Oil exporters include Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria.

Another problem with that theory is that the purchase of US debt does not support the dollar. That is it does not keep the dollar from inflating. The more debt we print and sell, the greater the chance it will add to dollar inflation. As explained at the link below, borrowing money can cause inflation.

What Causes Inflation?

Inflation can happen when governments print an excess of money to deal with a crisis. As a result, prices end up rising at an extremely high speed to keep up with the currency surplus. This is called the demand-pull, in which prices are forced upwards because of a high demand...
Inflation can also be caused by international lending and national debts. As nations borrow money, they have to deal with interests, which in the end cause prices to rise as a way of keeping up with their debts.

Also a country purchasing US debt cannot support that nations currency. What they hold in US debt will only inflate at the same rate the dollar does but it does absolutely nothing for their currency.

Ron P.

A decline in the relative value of one's currency with a trading partner can also feel a lot like inflation, as the local cost of imported items goes up.
Generally it is a supply demand balance, between spendable money and goods. More money chasing fewer (or fixed) amount of good pushes market prices higher. Less spendable money, chasing fixed (or increasing) supply of goods, means the market price of the goods must drop. A lot of "psendable" money vanished with the Great Financial Crash (GFC), so most of the newly minted money has gone to fill in that gaping hole.

Ron, there are plenty of other types of debt beside treasuries to buy. The banks and Fannie and Freddie produce MBS, the banks sell bonds, corporations sell bonds, state and local governments sell bonds. The Saudi's have also bought shares of Citi and the Chinese are busy buying into natural gas. In the case of the gulf states, they do a lot of their buying of US assets through London to mask ownership.

Creating debt does indeed cause inflation which the US has experienced. Inflation, to the extent that it exceeds other countries inflation rate, all other things being equal, will generally cause a currency to depreciate against other currencies.

Since exchange rates are determined by the buy and sell pressure on each side of a currency, I have a hard time seeing how the gulf states or China would not end up weakening their own currency and strengthening the dollar by purchasing dollar denominated assets.

Since I generally agree with most of your views concerning price points that induce demand destruction, I think the main difference between us rests on the dynamics of demand destruction. You seem to favor the idea of efficient markets distributing a scarce commodity based solely on ability to pay. My view adds a fat thumb on the scale that favors certain countries, primarily the US, that will allow the US to outcompete other countries for the scarce resources. The fat thumb being the ability to print and create debt for sale longer than other countries can get away with doing the same thing.

I think the main difference between us rests on the dynamics of demand destruction.

Not true. You started off with the old tired conspiracy theories about the U.S. using its military to force countries to maintain currency pegs, which is absurd. As Ron has patiently explained, the countries you mentioned don't have currency pegs, and the U.S. has been trying to get them to stop managing their currencies to keep them low relative to the dollar (and the dollar strong relative to theirs).

You said all of the things below, although you have refused to try to provide any kind of logic or evidence to support them.

The main difference between you and Ron is that he talking sense and you are not.

Keeping KSA and others in the western currency sphere is the point of the US military.

The US will go to war to preserve the currency pegs.

Actually, KSA and the other gulf countries did propose to drop their peg and adopt a floating currency or at least a currency pegged to a basket rather than just the dollar and Hilary put a very quick end to it.

The bigger part of the petrodollar is the dollar peg that KSA and several others maintain.

It was only three years ago that the gulf countries proposed going to a bask of currencies and after Hilary did a round of visits, what do you know, they dropped the whole idea, so you can take from that what you want but it was apparent to me that that was not acceptable to the US.

For the decade under UN sanctions Iraqs oil was not sold on the free market, it was sold at below market price via the UN oil for food program, and middlemen paid hefty bribes to get in on the action. That was a corrupt market, and in 99-2000 Saddam was making noises about escaping the trap and resuming control of how Iraqs oil was sold.

The UN sanctions also stopped development, Shock & Awe devastated remaining infrastructure further, lowering domestic oil consumption and making Iraq a desperate seller, both of which benefit importing countries. I am not pushing the sale-in-Euro's argument, i am saying that foreign oil consumers have or will benefit from razing Iraq, in response to your initial comment implying otherwise.

Consumption driving environment damage: UN

Population growth and unsustainable consumption are driving Earth towards "unprecedented" environmental destruction, the UN said in a report Wednesday ahead of the Rio Summit.

"If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and 'decoupled,' then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The phonebook-sized report, the fifth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO), was issued ahead of the June 20-22 UN Conference on Sustainable Development -- the 20-year follow-up to the landmark Earth Summit, also in Rio.

Slight correction:

"AS current trends continue, governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,"

There. Fixed it.

Meals on Wheels facing volunteer crunch

OK, I'll be the bad guy. I know they are trying to be nice but "Meals on Wheels" seems like a stupid system. If you are in such bad shape that you need to have meals individually delivered to you, then you should probably be put into a different living situation that doesn't require such an amazingly inefficient food transport mechanism.

I disagree. Is the alternative warehousing elderly people and folks with serious mobility issues into nursing homes? Those are horribly expensive.

Senior Apartment complexes (such as the type my MIL just moved into) provide a reasonable middle ground...folks still have independence in their individual apartments, don't have the isolation and overhead/upkeep of a too-big house, and at some of these places there are group meals offered. or an in-house restaurant/eatery.

For folks not ready to make the transition into the spectrum of senior living apartments/facilities, services such as home nursing and meals on wheels provide a reasonably efficient way to continue living.

I am not convinced MOW is 'amazingly inefficient', compared to old folks traveling out and back to the grocery via car, and often times having their fridge and possibly freezer packed with expired/rotted/freezer-burned food (I have seen this from experience).

Keep in mind that some older folks suffer from mental disorders, Alzheimer's, depression, isolation, etc, so the helping hand and human contact are part of the goodness...not just as if the truck/van comes by and shoves the food through the mail slot!

This. I worked on our state's Human Services budget (which included adult assistance) as a legislative staffer for three years. Except for extraordinary cases, it is simply not possible to spend as much on support services that allow an elderly person to stay in their own home as it costs to put them into an institutional setting. States are constantly seeking waivers from the federal government to spend federal dollars originally intended to provide institutional care on in-home services, rather than institutionalizing their elderly, because the dollars go so much farther that way. In addition, the elderly are much happier in their own home in their own neighborhood than they are in an institutional setting.

We recently had to place my mother in a retirement home. This was very much against her wishes, but things had got to the point where even if she was willing to take advantage of the available programs (she wasn't), leaving her in her home was no longer an option. It is really painful when there are no good, or even palatable, choices concerning such matters.

I don't know how much you imagine sheltered housing with meals provided costs, but it is way, way, more than the $3 per meal that meals on wheels costs:

'"We use a small expense budget for the party and the rest goes to our daily operations," Ashley said. "That includes delivering 650 meals a day at a cost of $3 per meal.'


A moment's thought will confirm the totally different order of magnitude of the costs.

Naturally, this low cost is dependent on the good will and good heart of the volunteers, but they certainly have not got the time to provide live in service to the old.

Be that as it may, the alternatives may be much more spectacularly inefficient, as has already been noted.

But the original article still shows how, as people have to spend more to drive, or they have to waste 90 minutes on buses for a trip they could have driven in 20, what is called "civil society" is going to take a real thrashing.

what is called "civil society" is going to take a real thrashing.


I made a series of trips by streetcar and bus today. All quite pleasant, despite the off & on rain, and some conversations were interesting. Probably most interesting was with an 80 year old retired mason at a bus stop who used to live (pre-Katrina) down the street from Fats Domino.

The greatest reminder of civility was the bus driver getting out and leading a blind man across the 4 lane street in the driving rain. The blind man had a rain coat, the driver came back quite damp.

IMO, the decline of the "civil society" is the social isolation of driving and the social isolation of TV/media watching.

Best Hopes for Civility, as we interact more with each other, and see that we are all people, some just older or more vulnerable,



OK, conceivably it was too much of a Europeanism to use "civil society" to mean community organizations or NGOs, such as service groups like Meals on Wheels, cultural groups, or even advocacy groups. But it never occurred to me that TOD was provincially USA-ian enough that anyone here would take the term to mean "good manners" or "pleasant idle chitchat at the bus stop".

Folks who are forced to spend 3 hours/day instead of 40 minutes to get to/from work (and never mind groceries, the kids' soccer games, and everything else, trips that well outnumber commutes), won't have much time left for what I meant by "civil society", just as exurban supercommuters don't now (but they are fairly rare, the average car commute is only around 10 miles and 20 minutes; it will take more time in mercilessly overcrowded megacities but most folks can't afford to live there anyhow.) True, folks forced onto the bus (or tram) might spend - or waste depending on POV - more time on idle chitchat (probably mostly about commercial spectator sports, i.e. about absolutely nothing) during the three hours aboard or waiting for that bus. However, for sheer lack of time they won't be delivering many Meals on Wheels, or doing much of anything else but eating, sleeping, working, and crawling along on that bus.


Best Hopes for Civility, as we interact more with each other...

Couldn't agree more.

We just had a bit of that interaction at a green energy fair in town last Friday. Now, I'm not deluded into thinking that by greening-up BAU all will be well. But very few others seemed deluded either. The many conversations (e.g., plenty of local breweries on Main Street to loosen things up) made it clear that people have moved beyond assuming we'll consume our way to stability. Trying to manage well the descent was mentioned more than once (and not by me!).

People seemed on-board with Wendell Berry who wrote that We must abandon the homeopathic delusion that the damages done by industrialization can be corrected by more industrialization (Source).


Here in Massachusetts we have a policy of building old folk's homes right in the middle of town. Has to be walking distance to the main square, or the government balks at funding it. Result:

No meals on wheels. Hell, we can get minors to deliver the meals. And, it coaxes the old folks to get out and about as long as possible so they don't become shut ins really until the very end.

In some downtowns, an old person moving slowly might as well wear a target on his or her back, even in daylight. So is anyone really crazy enough to go "out and about", except maybe in small towns that seem safe? What do the policy people say about the assaults/muggings issue, or, when asked, do they just stick their fingers in their ears and chant, "la, la, la, I can't hear you"?

Oh: I was forgetting: and is this policy intended in part to do what various strict/insane regulations do in New York City, which is to drive all but the richest and poorest old folks out to New Jersey, since the NYC regulations and expenses make it so costly that the only way to get admitted is to make oneself destitute and go on Medicaid?

You're right. In the U.S, at no point should anyone be outside their house over the age of 60 without an armed guard and several ninjas!

I think i'd rather take my chance with the "roving hoodlums" and have some kind of life, than rot slowly in a house i'm too afraid to leave.

In some downtowns, an old person moving slowly might as well wear a target on his or her back, even in daylight. So is anyone really crazy enough to go "out and about", except maybe in small towns that seem safe?

Either you're wildly exaggerating, or American society is even more brutal and violent than I could ever imagine.

That's not the problem Meals on Wheels adddresses, though. The point is to keep people in their own houses as long as possible. Not move them into old folks homes, no matter where they are located.


What is the line between energy/sustainability-related advice shared on DB and various key posts (such as a regular giving advice on LED lighting or another regular giving advice on PV inverters etc. and more off-topic obvious advertisements?

Leanan is the expert on this, and I'm sure she'll reply when she sees your message.


??? I'm not seeing the "obvious advertisement" in this subthread. Or was it already deleted?

It was removed.

As for Heisenberg's question...I think we all know spam when we see it. If you work for the company, if you are posting affiliate links, if you're asking for donations or investors, it's spam, and not allowed.

Does you removal procedure include notification to the offending party, if possible to, state TOD's dissatisfaction with the activity ?

No. There's no point. The vast majority of spam that is removed is posted by people who don't even speak English. (Top spam origins: China, followed by Bangladesh, India, and various former Soviet Union countries.)

They have multiple e-mail addresses, never check them, and when they are banned, they just create new accounts and post the same old spam. It is very rarely related to our topic, though we get do get occasional offers of bargain crude oil from supposed Nigerian insiders. Most of it is fashion related, for some reason. Designer handbags, counterfeit athletic shoes, discount wedding dresses, etc. Many blogs automatically block posts that contain the word "shoes" these days, because of the flood of Chinese fashion spam.

Thanks for the detailed reply.

"....though we get do get occasional offers of bargain crude oil from supposed Nigerian insiders. "

LOL. That is so hilarious. Who would fall for that?

OK, that's all good then. The thread structure made it look like the post about Meals on Wheels was the one being questioned, which was confusing.

This is why our usual practice is to remove all replies when a post is removed. It's very confusing to leave them, because the replies then look like they are in response to the previous comment.

This is also why you shouldn't reply to spam posts. There's no point. The spammer doesn't read them. Everyone knows it's spam, and doesn't need their attention drawn to the post. Just flag it and move on.

Perhaps substitute a "Spam Removed" comment but it would need to have no reply functions and I don't know if that is possible.


Get Those Big Bucks By Getting a Degree in Chemistry

The June 4th issue of Chemical and Engineering News has an article about starting salaries for chemists with no experience.

Comparing 2011 with 2005 in constant 2005 dollars:

BS $34.7k (2011)/$37.0k (2005)
MS $40.6/$52.0
PhD $73.8/$75.0

So, not only did the starting salaries not keep up with inflation, they went down! How the hell are you going to convince someone to get a difficult technical degree with these kinds of stats? These salaries aren't much better than a good blue collar job. Although it might be argued that these jobs are "safer" than blue collar jobs, the reality is that is no longer true. Yup, there's nothing better than being laid off with a PhD in some technical micro-niche.


Five years ago a friend of a friend with a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry interviewed with GE Plastics in Pittsfield, MA. They said they had a job for him at their new research center in Beijing, China and it paid $1000 per month.

So make that $12,000 per year with a Ph.D.

I work with quite a few PhDs...the GS-15s I work with get ~ 114 to 147 a year...but one of the guys I work for says that he knows more than a few PhDs who gladly accept post-doc jobs on the 30-40K range...I remember one instance he mentioned was folks he knew accepting jobs in this range at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The funny thing is...you don't need a PhD to be a GS-15 in many of the positions in the org I support...so you can draw GS-15 pay with or w/o the PhD...I also know PhDs who are GS-14s and even GS-13s, which make less than the -15 pay scale.

I imagine one gets a PhD for the love of being an expert in one's field...the PhD who told me about the JPL ~30K a year jobs said the folks he knew were ecstatic, because they were working in the realm of their dreams...for 30-40K a year in SoCal.

Often postdoc's are placeholdr's for a chance at academic jobs. Take an industry (or gov) job instead and you gotta give up that dream. Maybe your buddies don't want to give up that dream.

So how long does it take non PhD's to reach GS-15? I had the impression civil service pay grade advancements take a long time for each grade change. [I was once a USGS GS-4 in grad school].

From what I have seen at several two U.S. government/military organizations for which I worked, it seems that GS ratings are fairly 'sticky'..meaningin I have seen it take years for folks to advance a rating (GS-14 to 15 for example).

There are ten 'Steps' in each GS level..

THe GS level is determined by the requirements for each position,,,,the most expeditions way I have seen for folks to move up is when their organizations re-classifies their position...bam, move up!

Of course reclassifying positions is Not easy..a manpower study b y a classifier must be undertaken, and the front and center support and justification from the top dogs in the organization (the General, the senior science/technical advisory, who is often a SES [Senior Executive Service] person).

Whether on qualifies for the particular job depends on whether one's previous job experience and education meets the certifications (knowledge, skills, abilities) of the position.

I have seen some sharp young people (~24-ish) get hired into developmental positions with a defined expedited track for a defined GS level growth...for example a GS-9 Developmental 12...this involves some pre-defined course of formal training, both government-provided and in some cases additional higher education from University.

Or you can support the organization as a contractor...pay is generally superior, but now you have two organizations to keep happy (company and customer), you have to be very careful to not get stuck in a task with poorly defined and understood requirements, you have to be very careful to not 'show up' under-performing government folks on your team (there are some of those out there), and you have no job security.

Government scientists in Canada don't seem to do as well. If one ignores the currency differential, the best you could do as a scientist or mid-level R&D manager would roughly correspond to the lower half of the GS-15 range. Furthermore, the current government evidently considers science to be an extravagance - there is currently a downsizing process that seems to be resulting in staff cuts that are rarely less than 10% and sometimes considerably higher. Two of the people I work with are seconded from another government department; both of them are losing their jobs.

Compared to what's happening to starting salaries in other fields? I don't have the numbers, but these haven't fallen back all that much. I hacve the impression those starting out today have vastly lowered prospects -so this level of regression may in fact be a (relatively) good deal.

A good deal until you take into account rising college loans... Squeezed on both ends.

Where have you been? Good blue-collar jobs are hard to find. Huge numbers of these good blue-collar jobs have been outsourced to the third world.

Those are interesting stats. The drop for MS graduates is particularly striking. The PhD starting salary probably looks good to J6P, but, aside from the substantial investment in time and (probably) money, there is the further concern that there is a danger of finding that the specialization that one has selected is a dead end. I recall that, in Canada even as early as the 1970's, it was common for physics graduates to go from one degree to the next, possibly eventually taking temporary low paying jobs as Postdoctoral Fellows, until something came along.

In North America, one often hears disparaging comments about un or underemployed university graduates; there is often an accompanying argument that they got what they deserved for making bad choices and should have known to get a science or engineering degree. Aside from the practical reality that not everyone has the ability and motivation needed to succeed in such a program, the employment prospects for technical professionals are spotty at best, and can change dramatically in the time it takes to finish a degree.

"employment prospects for technical professionals are spotty at best, and can change dramatically in the time it takes to finish a degree."

Chemical Engineering has a definite boom & bust cycle. It was quite down in the early '90s, then went way up in the mid '00s. Metallurgical engineering and mining engineering were booming around the late '80s, only to be obliterated in the Clinton years. Electrical engineers with an electronic specialization went from shortage in 1999 to glut in 2001. Now electrical engineers with a power specialization are in short supply due to retirements and the need to upgrade the power grid.

By the way, a coworker (Ph.D. in chemical engineering) just got a new job in the Houston area for $125,000, which is a nice bump up from the local payscales here, and it's in field she finds more interesting. Except for the pending increase in humidity, it's a good move.

PV - If she hasn't found housing yet you might suggest eastern Harris County...like Baytown where I live Even though the Houston housing market took a hit it wasn't too bad. The east side of Houston had always been out of the boomtime expansion frenzy. Real estate about 20-30% cheaper plus not nearly as bad commute traffic. And if she'll be working in refinery row in the Channel area it will be even easier.

Humidity? That's only a factor if you leave your air conditioned space. And no one down here is that dumb. LOL

Humidity? That's only a factor if you leave your air conditioned space. And no one down here is that dumb. LOL

Urp. LOL indeed. And yet, in these threads, I keep coming across paeans to the wonders of walking around outside and standing around waiting for streetcars in the suffocating heat and humidity of NOLA, rather than getting around time-efficiently in a nice, comfortably air conditioned car. So am I to infer that either the Texan part of "down here" is different from the Louisianan part in some relevant respect, or else that wildly different definitions of "no one" are in use? Is there some crazy French influence at work in Louisiana that I must take into account to understand this? :-O

Texans are just wimps.

{See below}.


Houston has chosen to create a lifestyle of isolation - social, "cultural" and environmental. And spending hours each day, driving alone in their cars - listening to the stereo and otherwise isolated, is very much part of what they have chosen.

If one lives their lives in "air conditioned comfort", then the body never adapts - which it can do.

And if one lives their life in their car, the office, chain stores and home - there is little chance for social interaction.

I much prefer another way,


Paul - As`Alan offers below many Texans have wimped out when it comes to summertime. Especally the imported city folks. Not that I have found memories as a child of laying on sweat drenched sheets at nigt in Nawlins. But even now I avoid hanging out in an air conditioned traiier on a well site. Moving between hot humidity and too cold ac still tears my sinuses up. I'll usually just sit in the car with the windows down. I still enjoy a litte sweat especially if there'ss an occasional breeze. OTOH I'm not doing much physical labor either.I get paid to watch others do that. But I do ofen feel really bad for them. LOL

OTOH our imports - quite a few since Katrina - by and large learn to go outside.

It is a matter of adapting. Although the imports tend to agree that their first July & August can be rough.

And today, almost everyone turns on the a/c to sleep at night :-)

Best Hopes,


Humidity? That's only a factor if you leave your air conditioned space. And no one down here is that dumb. LOL

I always knew Texans were wimps ! >:-P

We New Orleanians bicycle and walk in even higher humidity.

Best Hopes for Lower Energy Lifestyle,


Over 50km of cycling today, 30C and 74%, nice exercise.


Dewpoint 25C/77F. Ugh.

Peaked out at 31C with 74% dewpoint 26C feels like 39.2C. Currently the conditions are 29C, feels like 34C. Forecast includes fog, rain and thunder. AFK - shower.



We lived for ten years in tropical Darwin (similar climate to Managua Nicaragua) - average about 33C every day, and 100% humidity or nearly that. No air conditioning either - just slow ceiling fans.

We could pour a glass of water onto the table (as you do after a couple of refreshing beers), and three days later the water was still there - so much humidity in the atmosphere that nothing could evaporate.

It was a good life though - the tropics bring out the best in people - unlike the frigid higher latitudes. Almost all the nasty ideologies and catastrophic wars have been generated from people living more than 35 degrees from the Equator. It's a well-known fact.

Read any article that points to the inhospitable job market for engineers and techies, and you will find the usual troglodytes in the comments section riducluing the graduates for choosing a major that can be outsourced to china.

Any major can be outsourced to China at this point.

So, not only did the starting salaries not keep up with inflation, they went down!

My undergraduate degrees are in chemistry and math. I was two years into my chemistry PhD when I saw that light: Chemical engineers just make a heck of a lot more money. So I switched, got my MS in chemical engineering, and have never regretted it.

Well, what do you guys think is going to happen when the bankers, lawyers, and CEOs take all the money, and the government takes the rest?

But alas, Americans will work for peanuts before they ever complain. Because America is a religion, you believe in until you die, and by then it's too late.

America is a religion, you believe in until you die

We have to. Otherwise after we die we will end up in a new abode with lots of fire and brimstone. So we convince ourselves to believe.

From link above:

Sanctions-hit Iran on Saturday blasted fellow OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as oil quota "violators", accusing them of depressing global crude prices by over-pumping.

This means that Iranian leaders aren't happy with $90 oil, they need $100+ oil to keep the population in check. My prediction: if the world enters another reccession and oil prices stay low for a few of years, there will be another revolution in Iran and the ayatollahs will be kicked out of power. On the other hand, if the US bombs Iran, the population will pull together and this will postpone the revolution.

Well, my first farmer's market of the year is scheduled for tomorrow. This year, I'm doing small herb plants, medicinals, and a variety of edible plants such as heirloom tomatoes. I'll, hopefully, have honey later on, too.

This is not my first year of food-growing for myself, but the first year I am turning my back yard into real production. I can attest to the fact that it is an enormous amount of work, relatively speaking, in terms of actual dollars per hour. Seed-starting, replanting, separating, weeding, watering, picking off the bugs by hand (I don't use artificial fertilizers or pesticides of any kind). Some kind of caterpillar got into the chives one night, and took those all out - I'll have to learn to be more vigilant. Fortunately, those are growing back.

The crazy spring weather was good for some things, rather bad for others. Warm weather items such as melons got off to a good start, and then we had a spell of cold weather that set them back.

I walk the rows of pots every morning in trepidation, in case the slugs got under the row covers. Funny how they really like some things and not others - the globe artichokes look like swiss cheese.

As I was reviewing my pricing this morning, I started wondering when people will start waking up and getting a real appreciation of the work it takes to produce food. That's one benefit of the farmer's market as an outlet - I think people who shop there do have some sense of it.

Good for you, Spring!

Gardening seems to always have been that way, labor intensive and difficult to generate a cash income from, something that people did for themselves if they could. Your basic 14th century peasant grew a garden and kept small livestock if he had any land at all, even if he had a day job as a laborer or tradesman. The nutrition and flavor came from the garden, the grains and legumes from fields.

I have to say some days I feel like a 14th Century peasant ;) Up at the crack of dawn to go set up...out in the hot sun all day, dragging one's wilted leftovers home afterwards ;) Drinking some ale and taking a siesta...

Mostly I'm potting up things for sale that I overseeded. I'm certainly not planning to give up my day job, any time soon. One can't really make any kind of living out of one's back yard. Just enough to supplement one's income to cover the costs of growing one's own food.

I feel for the guy today who had his strawberries for sale - it was 90 degrees, and by lunchtime he was virtually giving them away as they went all soft and mushy. Mostly the "real" vegetable and fruit farmers who make their living doing this go to a number of different venues though the year, and do all kinds of other things too, like run a CSA. He said most things were doing well, but he lost the cherries and apples.

"As I was reviewing my pricing this morning, I started wondering when people will start waking up and getting a real appreciation of the work it takes to produce food."

No doubt, s_t. Besides getting in a bumper hay crop this week (just in time for the rains to return), we got a great start on tapping our lower spring yesterday. The spring box is in (made from a 40 quart cooler found by the road), along with 300+ feet of piping down to the garden tank. We were pumping from the pond, which caused algae growth in the system, fouling the pump, tank and irrigation equipment. I was also concerned that some of my garden community would be tempted (or forgetful) and drink the non-potable water. We now have 3 GPM of sweet, clean spring water available, but still need to bury the upper and lower tanks and re-install the PV and pump systems. So far, I've spent almost no dollars on the new system, as the piping and tanks were free at salvage (over several years). A bit of fuel and a can of PVC cement were my largest costs.

The labor was free, helped out by my little garden community. A great time had by all, though I expect everyone slept well last night. The ladies provided support services, and enjoyed seeing their baby boomer husbands covered in mud from mucking out the spring and running pipe. We'll soon have plenty of potable water at the garden 'complex', not just for the plants, but also to water future livestock, and for the canning station and bar-b-que we plan to build under a giant oak nearby. My neighbor also wants to put in a horseshoe pit. It should be a great gathering place for all involved (already is, in fact). The best part is that, with our different schedules, I still get my time alone in the garden. Overall, it's a bit of hopebuilding.

My main point is that the time and effort involved in just assembling the infrastructure over several years has been significant, and while we haven't endured major expenses, ongoing scrounging is also a significant factor. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" takes time, practice, and a good eye for what may be useful in the future. The primary goal is to reduce the amount of effort required to actually grow things going forward, especially in a manner that doesn't require large inputs of fuel and fertilizer.

As you said, the weather has been a blessing/curse, though mostly beneficial so far. We're already harvesting cukes, squash, and huge sweet onions (grown on plastic mulch for our first time; OMG! We'll immediately put in a second crop. The tomatoes look gorgeous, beginning to produce, and I've devoted more time to refining and implementing my pruning methods, especially the in-determinants. Bush beans coming in early as well, and we've made 10 gallons of sauerkraut to be canned when its ready; the cabbages are on their way out; and brussel sprouts are almost ready, a bit late. Peppers are slow out of the gate, waiting for hotter weather. The asparagus bed we installed last year is doing well and we'll start harvesting next spring. Lots of garlic and leeks almost ready, though the shallots are struggling so far this year. Having success with rhubarb this year, something I haven't done well with in the past. They seem to prefer the raised beds. Coming online: Melons, okra, more beans, determinate tomatoes (canning!), black and raspberries (jam!), summer squashes, more. The apple and peach crops failed this year.

S-T: As for your bug/slug problems, you may want to try "Surround", made from kaolin clay, it drives pests away and provides other benefits; used extensively by Johnny's Seeds and others. A bit pricey, but a little goes a long way. Also, slugs hate pinestraw.

Work, work, work, but a labor of love and sustenance. Just a Sunday update from Western Carolina :-)

Wow - sound like things are going pretty well in Western Carolina ! I'm only just getting flowers on the squashes and tomatoes. I lost the apples, but peaches and apricots did fine, also the cherries. Likewise, peppers and eggplant are slow. The cool season items went to flower way too early. Mustard greens and spinach were a bust. I had to reseed the beans - the late cold snap got them. Looking good now, though, as well as the berries. Strawberries and raspberries have been great. It's been very dry now, for some weeks, and I have to water every day.

Anyway, small herbs seem to be a good seller year round, as well as salad greens. Funny - no matter how many heirloom tomato varieties one has, people ask for the ones one didn't grow. Oh well...

Funny how what could, or should, or was promised to be done isn't always what is done. And even funnier is people keep falling for it.
"Oil drilling has sparked a frenzied prosperity in Jeff Keller's formerly quiet corner of western North Dakota in recent years, bringing an infusion of jobs and reviving moribund local businesses.
But Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, has seen a more ominous effect of the boom, too: Oil companies are spilling and dumping drilling waste onto the region's land and into its waterways with increasing regularity."

"What is more important, owls or the people of Tombstone?"
The answer is obvious: owls. People spew toxics and chemicals of unknown effect all over, voraciously consume raw materials, kill and maim each other and other species by the thousands each year. We are the most destructive species that has lived on the earth. Why would you want to conserve such a species - if it weren't your own?

Rephrase the question like this: "What is more important, oxygen, or the people who breathe it".

We are sitting on the branch, we should not cut it off.

Tombstone "is minutes away from going up in smoke" because it is "a wooden town in the middle of the desert in the middle of a drought."

I suspect this problem will resolve itself.

No credits due as forests plundered

Even in theory there are problems with a developed country claiming carbon credits for forest retention in a less developed country. On a global scale it does not absorb more CO2 than before if the forest is mature so it is in long term CO2 equilibrium. In other words there is no extra CO2 absorption. In practice there is also the tendency to exaggerate both the gross amount and the net amount if say forest fire puts CO2 back in the atmosphere.

Foreign carbon offsets are a convenient copout for nations that don't want to make a serious effort at reducing primary emissions, notably coal burning. The problems Australia is having with Indonesia mirror the problems between Norway and Bolivia where the forest next to the carbon sink forest got razed. The money paid achieved nothing. If as certain Australia fails to be 'on track' for projected emissions decline by 2015 then billions of dollars will be paid to Indonesia for forest preservation. While I expect the payment won't be billions no doubt the PR will use pictures of baby orangutans for maximum effect.

This raises the question why doesn't Indonesia save its own baby orangutans without blackmailing other countries. Apparently it has something to do with Kyoto Annex II. In my opinion the whole subject is both deluded and sleazy.

From up top, "NRC acted hastily in concluding that spent fuel can be stored safely at nuclear plants for the next century or so in the absence of a permanent repository"
So should Real Estate within a 200 (?) mile radius of the 104 (?) Spent Fuel Pool sites be reassessed 50% (?) of current value? Think Real Estate is over valued now.

Fairly big oil spill in Alberta. Will likely add fuel for opponents to the proposed pipeline out to the west coast. I just hope that it all gets contained before it hits my drinking water (my city of 90,000 is just a few short mile downstream and we get our water out of the Red Deer River).


Looks like things have been contained. There is speculation that the floodwaters may have uncovered the 50 year old line and ruptured it.

Since discovering Germany's renewable energy hero (or renewable energy Nazi if you're opposed to his ideas), I've been trying to figure out how he could justify the expense of pushing for large amounts of renewable energy and specifically solar PV as part of the electricity generating mix. The first thing I've taken into consideration is that, while FF fuelled plants can be called on to supply electricity at any time, solar PV only generates electricity while the sun is shining. That means under the best of circumstances, about 6.0 sun hours per day averaged over a year, a 1 MW solar PV system can only generate about a quarter of the energy (MWh) that 1 MW of FF plant is capable of generating. What is even more baffling in the case of Germany is that, the average sun hours in Germany is about 2, which means that that the annual output of a 1MW solar PV set up would be about one twelfth of an equivalently sized FF fuelled plant!

Using price per watt data from the website solarbuzz.com of $7 per watt for a residential system including batteries, allowing the system to deliver electricity around the clock, one could come to the conclusion that a system capable of delivering the same amount of electricity as a $1 per watt FF fuelled plant would cost 28 times as much in a location with 6 sun hours per day and 84 times as much in location with 2 sun hours per day! No wonder Germany needs their feed in tariffs to provide incentives! The logical question that follows is why would anybody invest in PV if the costs are so high?

For the purposes of figuring out the scenario for my island I decide to do a spreadsheet to show how long it would take for the FF costs to exceed the cost of a solar PV set up capable of delivering the same amount of energy over 1 year. I used the figures from this EIA web page and assumed that the 1 MW FF plant will run without any breaks for the whole year generating 8760MWh per year to arrive at an annual fuel consumption for coal, NG and oil. I looked up the prices for each of the FFs and encountered a challenge. Coal can vary in price from $40 to $200 per short ton depending on quality(energy content?). I just chose the cheapest coal to make coal look as good as possible. Similarly I tried to find a price that would reflect what Jamaica might have to pay for NG delivered as LNG and settled on $11,000 per Mcf ($11 per 1,000cF). For oil I chose $100 per barrel. The spread sheet shows the fuel cost per year for each fuel type and the difference between the accumulated cost of a FF plant plus the fuel and a $28 million solar PV set up. In the following table I increased the cost of fuel by 7% per year (doubling in ten years).

Table: Difference between a $28 million Solar PV installation and the accumulated cost of FF plants capable of generating the same amount of electricity plus their fuel. Costs in millions of dollars.

Year Coal vs PV Fuel LNG vs PV Fuel Oil vs PV Fuel
0 -$27.00 -$27.00 -$27.00
1 -$26.82 $0.18 -$26.03 $0.97 -$25.60 $1.40
7 -$25.42 $0.27 -$18.64 $1.45 -$14.87 $2.10
13 -$23.33 $0.41 -$7.53 $2.18 $1.23 $3.16
17 -$21.38 $0.54 $2.81 $2.85 $16.23 $4.14
36 $0.13 $1.95 $116.92 $10.32 $181.72 $14.96

From the above table, in 13 years an island like Jamaica (or Hawaii) using oil as its fuel will have spent as much on plant and fuel as it would have cost to buy a solar PV set up capable of generating the same amount of electricity. With NG, it would take 17 years to have spent the same amount and with really cheap coal it would take 36 years. I think that my figures for coal are very optimistic but, I'm not sure how easy it would be to come up with a more accurate annual fuel cost.

I guess Herman Scheer's take on it is that continued investment in FF fuelled electricity will never break the cycle of dependence and that the only way to break free is to bite the bullet and invest in renewables despite the much higher initial costs. For those regions that do not have access to cheap FF, that is FF at prices below typical world market prices, it seems to me that not making a big push for renewables is a serious mistake.

Alan from the islands

Are your batteries going to last 36 years?

How do the figures look if you have to pay interest on the up front investment? If you don't where does the capital come from? Who misses out on the other uses of that capital?

Valid points. I deliberately avoided considering the cost of maintenance for all the options since the only one I could hazard a guess for is PV. I guess ignoring financing costs is a much larger omission for PV than for the lower cost options. Maybe instead of having the two the columns in my original spreadsheet that have the accumulated costs of the PV system as a static $28 million with zero fuel costs each year, I should replace the fuel column with a financing column which would then increase the accumulated cost over time.

As far as "who misses out on the other uses of that capital", there are gargantuan transfers of wealth from oil importers to oil exporters happening these days. On the street level it manifests itself as people just not having as much disposal income any more. At least when investments are made in renewables, at some point the financial haemorrhaging that results from buying fuel should subside.

Also, at some point, when the financing costs have been paid off, money spent on electricity will stay in the country/region and the benefits will accrue to the people of the country/region, if they own the renewable energy infrastructure.

Alan from the islands

one of the problems with PV at he moment is that people look just at the costs and not what benefits are, some of those benefits can not be put into monetary terms as I will explain, take a look at this website and you might just start to get an incline of some of the benefits.


This shows the amount of electricity generated by PV in Germany today It topped out at about 13 Giga watts which would be about 15% at a guess for a quiet Sunday in Germany. Now I think that has cost about 20 billion in subsidies to get too such a point. What people don't look at is that that means that the Germans are not buying in fossil fuel from abroad, which means a better balance of payments. There are about 300,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector in Germany 300,000 jobs that would not have been there if it hadn't have been for the subsidies. these are well paying jobs and the people are paying tax and not living on the dole. The Germans are cutting subsidies but these benefits will still be there in 30 years time. There are other benefits as well that never get mentioned the fact that you energy source is free the fact that once you put up PV you sign a none binding contract with the sun too supply you with free energy from now to eternity and with no political strings attached, and at a fixed price of 0$. The price of you fuel is edged against inflation. Less money is sent too the sheet people who have less to spend subsidising mosques and buying your politicians to try and destroy your society. I live on the Dutch side of the boarder in fact if it drive out of my Garage and turn left I only have about 20 yards to go before I am in Germany and I can assure you that the PV industry is still booming, a few weeks ago I was talking to a small PV installation firm in the Village just over the boarder. It was started a couple of years ago by two brothers in there late twenties he had not noticed any fall off in work and didn't think there would be any. His price was 2 Euros a watt installed cheaper if you did it yourself.

Yep. Some of the benefits are slow to recognize such as the fact of having your energy source freed from the shackles of inflation. If you take a loan out to buy a PV system, you'll end up paying more per month at the start than you paid to utility for electricity. But as inflation increases monthly utility bills and your loan payment remains constant, you'll eventually find yourself saving a lot of money.

Other often forgotten advantages:
-Relatively close following of peak power requirements
-lack of transmission lines needed since Solar can be installed right where the electricity is consumed.

2 Euro's per watt is well under $3. Thats pretty impressive. I bet we are double that here. Thats the true gain -if they can figure out to leverage their experience getting the price down like that (i.e. make money exporting their new specialty skills).
Of course its not growing in Germany at the rate it was before (the industry was increasing capacity by >60% per year), and a big slow down in the biggest market has created quite a difficult time for the manufacturers. Smaller higher growth rate markets like the US and south America and India just aren't large enough (yet) to take up the slack.

Are your batteries going to last 36 years?

What part of any energy producing infrastructure does?

How do the figures look if you have to pay interest on the up front investment?

Perhaps we need a completely new economic system where we eliminate the parasitic load of those who charge interest on projects for the common good?

If you don't where does the capital come from?

Hanging Gardens


Are your batteries going to last 36 years?

http://www.zappworks.com/ Nickel Iron batteries "That can last 100+ years" The Zappworks ppl show up on podcasts and have made mention of needing a 500-800 deg furnace and a multi ton press to take the powder and make plates. 5 Gal plastic buckets are easy to get as your battery case but make the storage harder - upside more electrolyte and one can play with the discharge capacity via magnetic stirs in the bottom :-).

Downside to NiFe - they self discharge "rather quick" - but the zappworks people claim that the plastic case stops that VS the olde metal cases of Edison placed 'on the ground'. (thus explains the granddad saying "never store a battery on the cement floor" vs the old man "Gramps is full of it")
The watts in -> watts out of a NiFe is not as good as other batteries.

http://forum.opensourceecology.org/discussion/441/nickel-iron-battery-ch... has some links
http://edison.rutgers.edu/battpats.htm - this is supposed to go from "here's your nickel" to "now its a battery Ta Da!"

What point are you making with
"Who misses out on the other uses of that capital?"

There are others that need capital, but you seem to be implying that this would be a violation to them somehow.

Would you see it as somehow harmful to the common good to have durable, distributed and non-polluting energy infrastructure in place?

"will the batteries last 36 years?" I visited one of the world's largest open pit lignite mines in Poland last year. This mine feeds a complex of power plants that together are Europe's largest thermal power producer, and one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters.

It has about 22-26 years of coal left in its mine.

The mining operation and conveyor belt transport alone consume currently 120-170 MW of electricity. In 20 years this will likely grow significantly as the mine deepens, the height of tailings mounds rises and water removal requires more pumping capacity.

This power plant is land locked, and all the best lignite mines in the area will be empty in 30 years.

There may be coal power plants there 30 years from now, but it will expensive as all h_ll to run them by then.

What will those PV panels cost you 30 years from now? And the cost of new batteries then?

Lignite power has no future after the current fleet retires.

Lots of questions, comments and derisions, yet most people do not want to work out the real numbers in the real world.

In Alans example he compares a $1 million investment in power generation plus the ongoing costs of fuel to a $28 million development in PV and associated electrical storage (batteries), with no ongoing costs. Both systems to produce 8760 Mwh per year at a rate of 1 Mw per hour constant

I believed his figures incorrect in the real world.

Looking just at coal at year 36 the overall costs are the same, assuming no maintenance on either system, nor replacement of batteries, nor a cost for the money. If we add just the cost of money, say 7% (which is way below what you could borrow money at in Jamaica), then after 36 years the costs look like this....

Coal interest $2,520,000 plus fuel $26,455,000 Total = $28,975,000 plus an outstanding loan of $1,000,000

PV interest $70,560,000 plus replacement batteries Total = probably over $80,000,000 plus an outstanding loan of $28,000,000.

"What point are you making with
"Who misses out on the other uses of that capital?""

If the above scenario, based on borrowed money seems too expensive, then the capital to purchase the system has to come from somewhere. If we assume it is a government, then what they spend on the PV system is not available to be spent elsewhere, say a new hospital, school, road, bridge etc. In the world we live in, the extra $27,000,000 spent on the PV system to provide the same outcome as the $1,000,000 coal system (8760 Mwh/yr) is an extravagance to those who need or perceive to need other infrastructure.

The above scenario is also why corporations need huge subsidies and guaranteed higher tariffs for "Green" energy. All the calculations of Discounted cashflow, Net present value etc used in finance can be brought back to the simple concept of 'near money is dear money'.

Could the people who suggested all sorts of different batteries, energy storage system please come up with some numbers of how much there desired system will cost to implement in 2012.

The reason for Tariffs, put another way, is that renewables have a short-term disadvantage to disastrous but cheap burnt fuels, and both corporations and individuals need to create mechanisms to get over the initial hump of setting them up.. and thereafter the renewables will steadily, but somewhat slowly pay for themselves in energy provided and pollution averted, and volatile fuel prices avoided, and a greater level of resilience against fuel supply interruptions.

The hard numbers for that set of advantages has so many variables, surprises and unknowns that it is probably incalculable, but it is exactly these varibles, surprises and unknowns that would/could be throwing the worst costs at us from any other energy source.

If that loan is too big, take out the smaller loan and put up a smaller system for starters.. but any argument that says this money unfairly undermines other investments only holds water if this investment is not beneficial and meaningful to that society. So far, you've kept comparing it to coal power.. so I don't think I need to replay that competition..

"If that loan is too big, take out the smaller loan and put up a smaller system for starters."

You can change the parameters all you like, I was just going through the numbers put up by Alan in comparing the same electrical output from different sources.

"but any argument that says this money unfairly undermines other investments only holds water if this investment is not beneficial and meaningful to that society"

What is beneficial and meaningful to the society is the 8760 Mwh of electricity produced. One method of production costs $1,000,000 now and $182,000 for fuel now. The other method costs $28,000,000 now or $1,960,000 in interest now (at 7%, yet in Jamaica current interest rates are much higher).

If we were in a world with unlimited funds to do things, then the altruistic approach would always come first. However as our borrowing from the future catches up to us then the choices become more austere, as seems to be happening in much of the world.

Hide_away, thank you for your comments. They have helped me focus a great deal since yours are exactly the kind of criticisms that I will face when advocating that my island attempt to achieve energy independence. With no indigenous FF resources, all FF must be imported resulting in the situation outlined in the following local newspaper story.

JA’s oil bill was US$2.4b in 2011

Export earnings increased from from US$1.37 billion in 2010 to US$1.66 billion in 2011 — hardly enough to meet the foreign exchange requirements for oil imports much less the total import bill.

In 2011, Jamaica’s total import bill was US$5.9 billion.

A more salient point would have been made if the headline read " JA's export earnings only enough to pay 60% of oil bill, 28% of total imports"

That total import bill includes flat screen TVs, US style 18cf+ two door refrigerators, luxury German automobiles, SUVs and lots and lots of cheap Chinese manufactured plastic (non)durable goods. Everything on that list except most of the plastic goods contributes to the islands energy requirements and I suppose make up what some would consider the "necessities" of a comfortable and desirable (fun) life.

I find something wrong with a system that allows people (nations) to borrow money to p!$$ away on things that won't help them save or make any of the money to pay the loan back. Sure, some of the import bill goes to cover inputs to agriculture and production as well as food, clothing and shelter but, how about if instead of spending money on German luxury autos, Jamaica found a way to encourage the buyers of these same cars to buy German grid tied inverters instead? How about buying solar panels instead of flat screen TVs?

There are those that will say that I am advocating interfering with the individual's right to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but the liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are only possible because the system allows nations to spend more than they earn. If Venezuela had not set up Petrocaribe and nobody would extend credit to Jamaica to buy oil TS would HTF and I'm not sure even the right to life could be guaranteed.

Jamaica's situation with regards to oil importation is dire but switching to NG just kicks the can down the road, with coal kicking the can WAY down the road. The problem is that dependence of imported FF will never go away in either case. Let's call this the "Energy Trap". The only way to break free from the energy trap is to develop renewable energy resources and strive for as close to 100% renewable energy as possible.

The above applies if one does not subscribe to the idea of Peak Oil (NG or coal). If as most members of this web site do, one subscribes to resource limits then it's game over for FF and the prudent energy importing nation would do everything in it's power to get off FF ASAP. A tip of the hat to Germany!

Incidentally, I made the changes to the spread sheet to try and account for interest charges on the cost of PV. I ignored the interest charges for FF plants since my assumptions make the PV plant more expensive by a factor of 28 and I am standing by that factor for an apples vs apples comparison, that is, 24/7 electricity availability. It makes the grim outlook for PV even worse.

Don't get me wrong, I am desperate to find some logical explanation that would fly with ordinary people, for why people/nations should invest in renewables but, I just can't put my finger on it. This is very depressing. I suppose that, in 10 or 20 years time with the benefit of hindsight, I could plug in accurate data into my spreadsheet that would validate the support fof renewables.

The problem is, as always, predicting the future and unfortunately my super accurate crystal ball is on indefinite back order while all the existing ones seem to be putting out conflicting information!

Alan from the islands


The overall problem appears to be overconsumption in the past. For Jamaica to change to renewables would mean large import bills for PV panels, then to replace oil, import of EV cars.

Neither seems possible as the import bill goes up for both. My opinion is that there is no answer. We have overshot the planets carrying capacity by using millions of years of stored energy in a couple of hundred years because it was cheap and easy.

Every attempt at an answer to our (as in the worlds) situation, seems to be 'more, more, more' of something with the expectation that someone else will go without for our renewable future.

My point in mentioning flat screen TVs and German luxury automobiles is that, there is a degree of opulence in Jamaica that defies logic. In stark contrast to the sickening poverty that is the lot of those 10% living below the poverty line, the wealthiest Jamaicans live in houses that would put the average Mcmansion to shame. The hills around the capital city are littered with houses, some of which have retaining walls with costs exceeding the cost of houses of normal people.

An incredible amount of wealth has been spent (squandered?) on luxuries for the wealthy, increasing rather than decreasing the nations thirst for energy. If we could continue BAU it wouldn't be a big deal but, who believes we can? If things play out as I suspect they will, these wealthy people are going to be very sorry they didn't spend their wealth on gifts that keep on giving (renewable energy) but, it will be too late and many of their expensive possessions will have lost much of their value.

The cry will be, "why didn't anybody tell us this was going to happen?". Problem is, nobody wants to hear so, what's the point of telling? I'm feeling very hopeless at the moment.

Alan from the islands

Herman Scheer has passed away. But I do wonder what he would say today. All the solar power could easily be absorbed when the number of systems was limited. But when PV prices dropped like a rock and the generous subsidy remained, an installation frenzy has made the situation much different. They need to focus on other systems that provide power in the winter such as more wind systems.

One of the last interviews Hermann Scheer did was sometime around the middle of September, 2010, about a month before he died. At the end of a year when Germany was on track to install 7.5 GW of solar PV, he did not seem to be outwardly alarmed by the rate and the rate was brought up in the interview. I just watched a program on youtube from July 2011, "BBC World Debate - Powering Development in the 21st century" and Hermann Scheer's successor as President of Eurosolar, Peter Droege appears no less committed to the cause.

Germany has in fact shifted some of it's focus to offshore wind farms. So far, they have installed mostly on shore, an average of more than 2 GW per year since 2000, going from 6.1 GW in 2000 to 29 GW in 2011. I suspect that were Hermann Scheer alive, he would be busy trying to shift the incentives towards technology that complements the intermittent renewables that are already established. In particular, hydro, biogas and energy storage technologies of all types. He is on record as saying that a 100% renewable Germany is possible and in fact an imperative over the next few decades.

Alan from the islands

I think current costs in Germany (without batteries) is about half your figure. Without clouds your six hours per day would be more like 12, so you've undetestimated the PV output. It still is pricey, but not near as bad as your calculation. The key is avoiding batteries. This is feasable for current levels of penetration. Any storage added is not likely to be batteries, they are too expensive.

Nice Typo. I'm keeping it!

I think there are lots of people (Senate panel on energy and commerce) who have Overdetestimated Solar PV.. at least when they're not Misunderdetestimating it!

“Peak sun-hours” are not the same as “hours of sunlight". I must remember to use the correct term "peak sun hours" since that is technical term used in the solar power industry. For a complete explanation of Peak Sun Hours see this web page from the homepower Magazine web site. Basically Peak Sun Hours is a term that describes the average daily solar power available for a period, usually a month or a year and accounts for cloud cover as well as low incident angles in the early morning and late evening. There is a theoretical maximum but, even the best (desert) locations in the world only come in at about 7 peak sun hours. See this map at:


There is a cell for Peak Sun Hours in my spread sheet so I can easily alter the results for different locations depending on their PSH.

The problem is that not many load profiles fit well with solar energy. A source of mine was able to show me an example of a load profile for three separate substations in Jamaica, one obviously industrial/commercial, one mixed and one rural/agricultural. The best fit for solar was the commercial/industrial with a distinct peak in the middle of the day with the worst fit being the rural/agricultural with a sharp peak just after dark. For solar to be relevant for domestic purposes some peak shifting (storage) technology will be necessary or lifestyles will have to change.

Alan from the islands

Jamaica has mountains and rain.

Sites for two or four small pumped storage plants, preferably in different areas of the island, should not be hard to find.

And a hundred small hydro installations should alos be possible.

Add hydro to solar and a bit of wind, and the storage requirements should shrink.

Solar is nice, but hydro is better. It lasts longer (centuries with good but optional refurbishment every 50+ years vs. 20-25 yeas for solar PV) and is often dispatchable.


Very good points. I know of at least one location where a natural formation should be able to provide the basis for some decent pumped storage. By the way Alan, as something that touches one of your pet subjects and is relevant to hydro power in Jamaica, did you know that:

In 1897, another company, the West India Electric Company, established an office in Kingston at 151 Orange Street. They built the hydroelectric plant on the Rio Cobre River at Bog Walk, which consisted of three machines, each with the capacity to deliver over 300 kilowatts of energy. West India Electric not only extended electricity service to other areas, but also introduced a new element to the city scene – electric tramcars. Tramcars later replaced the horse drawn cabs, which had been providing public transport, and remained in service until 1948.

from the local electric utility's history page. I may have linked to this before but just in case I didn't, there is a great article on the history of trams in Kingston, with lots of great pictures at:


The point is that first public transit systems in Jamaica was powered by hydroelectricity! The dam is still there as are the ruins of the turbine house but not a single word about trying to use the dam as a source of electricity again.

Alan from the islands

That site was probably undersized for Peak flow, but even 0.9 MW (1+ MW with modern efficient equipment) will be a useful offset to burning oil.

Who owns the site ?

Perhaps a "Jamaica Hydroelectric Company" should be started up. The avoided fuel cost alone is worth a lot.

Best Hopes,


With all types of renewable energy you need storage, here are three websites that have to do with electrical storage, one is selling its product now the others most likely will come on stream in a couple of years


Check out the website very carefully they seem to have cracked the battery problem. here are the other two


This is my favourite argon gravel and a heat pump with an all round efficiency of about 80% not High tech abundant materials gets cheaper when scaled, and for our American readers


Interesting. They all look like they could be game changers!

I have been aware of Kolibri Power Systems AG ever since this article at autobloggreen.com was posted back in October 2010 when they were known as DBM Energy. I actually linked to them in a sarcastic comment I posted on the TOD article:German Power Grids Increasingly Strained.

It's strange how, having made a splash demonstrating their technology in an automotive application, they have gone on to produce storage solutions for stationary applications where two of the attributes of their technology, power density and stability/safety do not offer any particular advantages over their competition. At the same time automotive applications are screaming out for smaller, lighter, more powerful, safe and affordable batteries. Weird!

It sort of explains why I'm a bit jaded. I've seen these stories about breakthrough technologies only to see nothing come of the in the long run. Sometimes I have to wonder if the not so invisible hand of entrenched interests is at work but, TOD is not the place for conspiracy theories.

Alan from the islands

"Sometimes I have to wonder if the not so invisible hand of entrenched interests is at work but, TOD is not the place for conspiracy theories."

After a century+ of entrenchment of fossil fuels, hydro, nuclear, et al, the bar has been set pretty high, as have expectations. With a combination of accepting somewhat higher costs, powering down, modifying expectations, even using simple lead-acid batteries, some of us have gotten past that for the most part. No longer looking for the next big thing.

No longer looking for the next big thing.

This is something that people have to get their heads around. At some point you have to start actually doing stuff whether it is perfect or not. I can name any number of things around my place that "aren't perfect" but they function well enough to make a difference.

Waiting until you are forced to make a commitment to an action is likely to result in either not being able to accomplish your goal or you may be fighting all the other people who are trying to do the same thing.


"...all the other people who are trying to do the same thing."

Right on, Todd, people who don't realize they're being led around by the nose, not even considering the price they pay for what they consider important. Slaves to their smart phones and their 72 kW power drops. How far we've fallen...

I'd suggest taking a good look at Aquion. They seem to have a competent team and a new technology that can be a drop in replacement for lead acid with improved performance. Mind you, in this day and age, who knows?


"$7 per watt for a residential system including batteries"

The question of storage is a really fascinating and it appears to be even more controvercially discussed than any other topics in renewables. If you want to achieve 100% coverage with PV and wind, then you clearly need storage, but the question of which percentage total electricity generation PV + Wind can achieve before you need any storage is much more complex.

In Germany PV achieves about 1000 kWh / kWp or a capacity factor of about 15% (in northern parts of Germany more like about 800 kWh / kWp ). Given that at a country scale production pretty much never goes above 70% of installed capacity, you can probably get about 15% - 20% of electricity generated in Germany before needing any significant storage capacity. (Assuming you have a flexible ff power generation park) .

Furthermore, plain PV panels now-a-days only costs 1$ / kWp. So you can fairly cheaply add more PV panels and then throw away the peak production when you don't need it. For example if you cap an individual PV system at 70% peak you supposedly only loose 5% of energy production, as most of the time PV produces less than the rated peak capacity. So throwing away some peak power is likely cheaper than storing it.

Wind complements PV fairly well (at least in Germany) so you can probably get another 20% electricity production, totaling somewhere between 30 - 40% without needing any storage.

It obviously depends quite heavily on the local climatic conditions (and the load profile), but an optimal combination of wind and PV should be possible much cheaper than you calculated for the first 30 - 40% of total electricity consumption. As your numbers show that even with expensive storage, PV amortizes it self in its lifetime at least compared to LNG and Oil (and that ignores inflation), it seems rather sensible to install those first 30 - 40% of wind and PV, after which one can see how best to deal with the then required storage and if it is still worth it.

Beyond that, the ratio of PV to wind is pretty critical to keep down storage requirement. E.G. Dr. Popp calculated in his dissertation work, that to get Germany to 100% renewable energy just from PV, you would need a storage capacity to bridge 104 full days of load from storage. If instead one would generate 100% from wind, you would still need 61 full days of load from storage. In contrast, with the optimal combination of wind to PV, the storage requirements goes down to about 14 days of full load. This of cause is still a gigantic storage requirement especially given that currently storage exists for only about a single hour of full load, but still an order of magnitude better than with only PV.

If you only need 80 - 90% of electricity production from PV + wind, storage requirements again go down significantly. It really is the tails of the distribution that drive up the costs and requirements. But so far I don't think there is any grid of significant size yet, that has sufficiently high penetration rates to have to worry about storage yet.

On small Islands you can probably reach that penetration much faster than in e.g. Germany that is part of the pan european grid, and then do have to worry about storage. But you would need some pretty detailed modeling with multi year historical weather patterns and grid load patterns to find the optimal ratio between PV, wind, storage and over provisioning. Only then can you really judge the costs.

You can reduce the demands at the tail significantly by accepting a degree of cutailment demand response as well. If you insist on storage capability to cover full for a once in five year string of unfavorable weather -it will cost you a lot. If you allow some applications can be shut down occasionally, then the system storage cost will go down a lot. The current mentality seems to be that we have to have enough storage for any contingency. Buts, thats just being unreasonable.

Demand is pretty rigid that is true. There could be a lot of flexible schemes, how about weather-based energy prices?

Since solar is subsided and apparently the way things are the peak energy at sunny summer days is so high it basically gets thrown away, adjust prices to reflect that.

The kw/h on a sunny day at noon is almost nil, cloudy days are expensive. Make hay while the sun shines and all that. Same goes for wind.

I dare say many things can be arranged to profit of that, preparing food is an obvious one. For business the question becomes, can I pay the price for my work at all times? How many off time can I afford, how much do I have invest in local storage to keep me working when I need it?

Also, since every other business will be affected by the same pricing scheme there should be a baseline somewhere where it is unprofitable to work at all. Or buy at premium prices.

Hell, you could even have smartphones and apps to tell you how high the price is for the moment and the next few hours when looking outside the windows doesnt cut it.

There are several line items that are State or local specific - such as property taxes and bonds issued and paid off (net $16.5 billion borrowed). And these state & local specific items fall into what I think are the State & local columns.

I have not looked at the Excel version though.



Using groundbreaking nanotechnology advancements scientists from the University of Stanford announced in a research paper they have created next generation of solar cells which can be manufactured for 50% to 75% less than current solar cells.

Two questions:
1) How long will they last? What is the decay curve for their exposure to the light?
2) Nano - given small bits of Carbon cause damage or if they are buckyballs - mass fish death,......what's the effect of these nano-things if in the biosphere?

And an obvious statement:
Look! A use for the gold horde of the gold bugs! (perhaps this explains the large imports of Gold by China?)

And the below - welcome to the Nanny State.

THREE-YEAR-OLDS will be screened for early signs of mental illness in a new federal government program that uses behaviours such as sleeping with the light on, having temper tantrums or extreme shyness as signs of possible psychological problems.

(Is your child "willful" or "non-compliant" or tell an "authority figure" that was bad touching? Mental Illness!)

Speaking of 'Mr. Bad Touch' and being an "authority figure":

A friend sent me a link to this OPED by Yergin in the NYT:


An optimistic article. Is there anything in it that anyone here would disagree?

Thanks; I was looking for a segue.

Dan Yergin’s Dilemma: Energy ‘Reality’ Vs. Climate Reality

By Joe Romm

Another day, another piece in the New York Times ignoring climate science by someone who knows better.

This time it’s Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World and chair of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Yergin piece, “ America’s New Energy Reality,” is a big wet kiss to oil and gas, which would be a mixed metaphor if America’s — and Yergin’s — hydrocarbon-philia was not a self-destructive relationship (see “ An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Yet while Yergin’s book has 6 chapter — 100 full pages (!) — devoted to climate science and policy, this op-ed is utterly silent on the energy issue of the century, which is also the human issue of the millennium.


W.R. He's probably figured out who is gonna butter his toast (Oil & Gas interests). As has the times.

Meanwhile climate chaos continues, yesterday was pretty amazing if you consider my siblings, and siblings in law. Brother in law is at Pensacola, they had 13inches of rain yesterday and a lot of flooding. My sisters can only dream of rain, one is in Larimer county Colorado with a raging ten thousand acre fire clearly visabble. The other is in Ruidoso New Mexico, with another ten thousand acre fire threatening. Hope they will be alright.

Escambia County, Florida Flooding 2012: Heavy Rains Force Evacuations In Panhandle


More than 600 inmates at the Escambia County Jail in Florida were without power and air conditioning after the rains left more than 5 feet of water in the bottom floor, which also houses the laundry and kitchen facilities

JWS – I didn’t see much that was pushing the facts too far. Typically Yergin is cheerleading again but not with as much fervor as most of his spin. But a far bit of pertinent omissions of equally valid facts IMHO. But in general, this is actually one of the least positive pitches I’ve seen Mr. Yergin toss out.

“A dozen years ago, shale gas amounted to only about 2 percent of United States production. Today, it is 37 percent and rising. Natural gas is in such ample supply that its price has tanked.” Again, true but the oil patch knew about these plays many decades ago. I drilled and frac’d my first Eagle Ford well over 25 years ago. The oldest NG play in the US is the New Albany Shale. NAS NG was fueling street lights in KY by 1900. Deep Water NG has also been a major contributor. In one day several years ago 1 BCF/day was added to our supplies due to the Independence DW Hub coming on line. Such a short term bump will likely never be seen again from the trend. There are additional DW oil/NG fields to be developed but the trend is slipping into a mature status. And good to point oil that offshore fields are engineered to produce very high volumes for relatively short periods. Most of those fields that contributed to that 1 BCF/day increase will be depleted in just a few more years.

NG has always been a vital and large source of our energy mix. Many folks don’t realize that the US is not only a huge consumer of NG but we have often been the greatest producer of this fuel for many decades. The title slips back and forth between the US and Russia. These two countries account for almost half the NG produced on the planet. But much the NG increase came from the dry NG shales boom that began about 6 years ago. And the following bust of this boom when NG prices collapsed put many companies out of business and almost eliminated two of the biggest US independent companies: Chesapeake and Devon. Collectively the industry and investors lost 100’s of $billions in the process. Mr. Yergin doesn’t bother to point out that such boom/bust cycles are normal in the oil patch and that the busts are always followed by low commodity prices such as when oil fell to $10/bbl in 1986. If one doesn’t take into account the lag time between boom/bust it’s easy to make overly optimistic projections.

Thanks to the activity in the oily shale plays we’ll see additional gains in NG production. But we should also consider a significant factor in the driving force behind this expansion: public oil company requirement to keep expanding their reserve base regardless of profitability. How long can the pubco’s keep this push going? I don’t know but there are indications that a growing deficit of capex to keep this expansion going may be developing. And the current decrease in oil prices can only inhibit the situation. Chesapeake may become a poster child for this situation but I wouldn’t push that too hard. They seem to be suffering from some self inflicted wounds.

“…tight oil. That is the term for oil produced from tight rock formations with the same technology used to produce shale gas.” A very minor quibble on my part. The Bakken is a tite oil play for the most part. But the shale plays aren’t “tite oil” as the oil patch normally uses that term. They are fracture pressure depletion reservoirs. But that’s an involved geek conversation which isn’t very important to the subject at hand IMHO.

“At the same time, Brazil is developing its huge offshore reserves and could become one of the world’s powerhouses in terms of oil production,…” Once again, true but goal of that statement seems to imply significant oil imports to the US are on the horizon. There are huge UNDEVELOPED oil reserves in Brazil’s Deep Water. I know because I worked them for a short time. But it will take decades to fully develop that production. And expecting much, if any, of that production will be exported to the US may be a bit premature. Brazil has a huge population with a strong desire to become a major industrial power. They may decide to focus those resources on expanding their economy than ours.

I haven't looked in detail at the facts to see if he is twisting the facts but the spin he puts on it is erroneous, IMHO. If we have this great new bounty of oil then why aren't we enjoying nice cheap oil? Well because even though domestic oil production has gone up, it has gone down elsewhere. And China & others having increasing demand such that the price of gasoline is high. He points to increased efficiency as reason for less consumption, but if you look at the efficiency of the fleet, it has barely moved up at all. Instead, we have lots of unemployed people not driving to work and people driving less because it is too expensive.

These are no doubt great times for U.S. oil producers and that is his main viewpoint. Oil production is up and oil prices are pretty high. But for workers and consumers . . . it kinda sucks. Gasoline prices are high and economy is weak because of it. But you sure wouldn't know it from reading his article.

Check out this misleading sleight of hand:

The oil story is also being rewritten. Net petroleum imports have fallen from 60 percent of total consumption in 2005 to 42 percent today. Part of the reason is on the demand side. The improving gasoline efficiency of cars will eventually reduce oil demand by at least a couple of million barrels per day.

Interesting logic there Mr. Yergin . . . effects precede causes. Really? Maybe if we start putting flux capacitors in our cars. But no, he just didn't want to admit that demand is down because the price is high and people just can't afford to burn as much oil.

He just won't say it . . . the fundamental thing underpinning this whole new North American resurgence as an oil producer is high prices. If the high prices were to go away, the domestic oil production would drop. And it is those high prices that are hurting the consumer . . . not where the oil comes from.

Article reporting that U.S. gasoline prices dropped nearly 16 cents/gallon over the last three weeks:


I hope that improves the economy. :-) I also wish gas prices would drop here on the West Coast, we seem immune to lower oil prices translating to lower gas prices.

I hope that improves the economy. :-)

Yeah, because once the economy picks up
that increases transportation usage
causing demand for oil to rise
which increases oil price
and at the pump
reducing demand that slows the econ.
in turn dropping oil price
but then we can hope
that improves the economy...

Speculawyer you're on to something - we're caught in a peak oil rundown between bases:-< arghh!

Prices in at least this portion of California have dropped a lot this past week. We are now below $4. I haven't heard any news about the status of west coast refining, but refining issues were holding up our prices the past several weeks.