Drumbeat: July 7, 2012

45 Dead in Russian Storms, Crude Oil Shipments Halted

MOSCOW - At least 45 people died and thousands of houses were flooded after torrential rains, storms and landslides hit Russia's Krasnodar region near the Black Sea, a local police spokesperson told Reuters on Saturday.

Novorossiisk, Russia's largest Black Sea port, halted crude oil shipments on Saturday, a spokesperson for oil pipeline operator Transneft told Reuters.

"In Krymsk district 34 died, 11 more bodies were found in Novorossiisk and Gelendzhik. Police is beefing up its presence to prevent mass looting," police spokesperson Igor Zhelyabin said.

The Emergencies Ministry said an average month's rain has fallen in the region within just a few hours.

Some photos here.

Crude Declines for Second Day After Employment Report

Oil fell for a second day after a report showed U.S. employers hired fewer workers than forecast in June, increasing concern that slower economic growth will reduce demand for oil.

No let up in Saudi, US oil shipments

NEW YORK (RTRS): Saudi Arabia maintained crude oil shipments to the United States in June near their highest level since 2008, data showed, despite a serious glitch that has crippled its newly expanded joint-venture refinery in Texas.

Total’s $20 Billion 2012 Investment Aided By Oil Price, CEO Says

Total SA (FP)’s plan to invest $20 billion this year and more in 2013 will be aided by oil prices at about $100 a barrel, said Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie.

The current price of oil is “good for long-term investment, for long-term vision of what we need to develop,” the executive told reporters today at a conference in Aix-en- Provence, France.

Norway Oil Unions Meet With Employers Following Government Push

Striking Norwegian oil workers and their employers will meet today at 5 p.m. in an effort to resolve a strike that threatens to halt all oil and gas from western Europe’s largest crude exporter.

“Both parties know where we are and know the issues, but we’ve accepted the minister’s appeal to discuss it once more,” Jan Hodneland, chief negotiator of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association, said in a telephone interview. Discussions may last through Monday, he said.

Turkmenistan aims to produce 449 bcm natgas in 2012-16

ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan, holder of the world's fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, plans to produce a total of 448.7 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the fuel in 2012-16, state media reported on Saturday, in a rare disclosure of such data in the reclusive nation.

Peak theories 'trashed'

PEAK theories - peak phosphorus, peak oil, peak potassium - are, in the words of Mick Keogh, being "trashed by the cold, hard and ruthless rules of economics".

We are nowhere near hitting 'peak oil', because we keep inventing new ways of extracting the stuff

Inventing fracking does not mean just extracting gas from Pennsylvania or oil from the Bakken. It means prospecting the whole planet again for such deposits. New technologies mean we have invented whole new planets to explore for resources.

This does not apply only to peak oil or peak gas. There are those out there who worry about peak copper, peak indium and even peak tellurium (an odd one when we use 125 tonnes a year and there's 120 million tonnes in the crust). None of these are geological problems, they are all plain and simple economic ones.

Japan mulls buying disputed islands in E.China Sea

(Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Saturday that the government is considering buying islands in potentially gas rich territory claimed by both Japan and China, in a move likely to anger Beijing.

BP excluded from onshore field bidding

"It remains unclear why BP was not invited, the sources say, but the decision will almost certainly have been approved at the highest levels in Abu Dhabi," the report said.

"Whatever the precise reason, it represents a humiliating snub for the UK major."

Libyans vote in 1st parliamentary election since Gadhafi’s ouster amid fears of violence

TRIPOLI, Libya — Jubilant Libyan voters marked a major step toward democracy after decades of erratic one-man rule, casting their ballots Saturday in the first parliamentary election after last year’s overthrow and killing of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. But the joy was tempered by boycott calls, the burning of ballots and other violence in the country’s restive east.

Iran renews threat to close vital oil route Strait of Hormuz

TEHRAN // Iran will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the oil-rich Gulf only if its crude revenues are seriously threatened, its top military commander said in remarks reported on Saturday.

"We have plans to close the Strait of Hormuz because military commanders must have plans for any situation," armed forces chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi said late on Friday, according to ISNA news agency.

Iran plans to sell oil via consortium, evade ban

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has reached agreements with European refiners to sell some of its oil through a private consortium, an official said on Saturday, a move designed to circumvent sanctions intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt its disputed nuclear programme.

Why Kenya made an about-turn on Iran oil deal

The fear of severe US sanctions forced the government to cancel an oil deal with Iran.

Although officials interviewed refused to comment on the actual sanctions the United States had threatened to slap on Kenya, the Sunday Nation has learnt that they ranged from being cut off from the American financial system and the freezing of exports and grants to Kenya with far-reaching implications for the economy.

Ex-Progress Directors Say Duke CEO Switch Was ‘Deceit’

Three former Progress Energy Inc. board members said they would have voted against Duke Energy Corp.’s takeover had they known that Duke’s chief executive officer would remain in charge of the combined companies.

North Carolina to Probe Duke Takeover of Progress Amid CEO Exit

North Carolina is investigating Duke Energy Corp. (DUK)’s $17.8 billion takeover of Progress Energy Inc. after the company unexpectedly changed its chief executive officer.

“This significant management change within hours after the merger has put the company on credit watch, so we need to get to the bottom of this to make sure we protect consumers,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said yesterday in an e- mailed statement.

Barge Flaws Delay Shell Alaska Drilling, Coast Guard Says

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s drilling off Alaska’s north coast will be delayed until August as the company waits for ice to clear and modifies a spill-response vessel to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

Trees, above-ground wires biggest culprits in power outages

Power outages, especially those that last for days, prompt anger toward companies that own and maintain electrical systems, but the industry and the people who study it say it is largely reliable and improving as utilities move toward "smart" technology that makes it easier to anticipate, identify, isolate and repair problems. Satellites provide key information. Drones and crawling robots could soon make those tasks easier.

Still, they say, the reasons many outages take days to overcome are remarkably prosaic: unpredictable weather, trees that topple on power lines and the manpower and time needed to repair them. Another factor: the high cost, passed on to consumers, of burying those lines to make them less vulnerable.

Con Edison, Union To Resume Talks Saturday As NYC Broils In Heat Wave

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Contract talks between Consolidated Edison Inc and locked-out union workers concluded late Friday while replacement crews struggled to end brownouts in Brooklyn and the Bronx as New York City sweltered in a prolonged heat wave.

Lawmaker sees Salton Sea as hub for algae program

The Salton Sea's future has one of the state's top lawmakers seeing algae-green.

Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon is sponsoring a bill to “authorize, but not require” the state Secretary of Natural Resources to establish an algae production program on the Salton Sea in Imperial County.

Calif. lawmakers OK billions for 1st U.S. high-speed rail line

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – California lawmakers approved billions of dollars Friday in construction financing for the initial segment of what would be the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Bike sharing stokes conflict between drivers, cyclists

The battle between car drivers and bicyclists is becoming more pronounced as bike-sharing programs spread across the country.

The programs, in which people rent bicycles for short periods of time from self-service kiosks, have grown in Portland, Washington, D.C., Miami Beach and other metropolitan areas. And in each of those places, city officials say the influx of new bikers — including many tourists and first-time riders unaccustomed to local traffic patterns — can lead to safety problems that are hard to blame on just bicyclists, pedestrians or motorists.

Making Way for More Bikes in National Parks

The service’s stated aim is to promote a healthy way to explore park areas where motor vehicles are not allowed. As the rule in the Federal Register noted, bicyclists already use “trails, fire roads, abandoned railroad right-of-ways and canal towpaths.”

The Park Service said the new rule would expand bicycle access “while preserving the service’s responsibility to prohibit bikes in wilderness and other areas where they would have significant impact on the environment or visitor safety.”

First casualty of greenhouse gas rules may be Texas plant

Developers targeted 2013 to begin operating a new power plant fueled by the carbon-rich leftover from nearby oil refining in Corpus Christi.

The Las Brisas Energy Center will not be ready by then, however, and there are doubts the project will be built at all, making it the latest flash point in a long fight between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Soot Pollution Standards Pose Challenge to Cities

HOUSTON — In a laboratory at Rice University, a small machine hums, drawing in outside air through a tube and analyzing its soot content.

“We can tell when someone walks by with a cigarette,” said Robert Griffin, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering.

Nonsmokers also breathe in soot, sometimes known as particulate matter. It is a type of pollutant that increasingly concerns scientists as they uncover new links to heart and lung problems.

Getting Crops Ready for a Warmer Tomorrow

Given that most rice grows in hot countries, fiddling with its genes to make it into a C4 plant could boost its yield by 50% and cut its nitrogen needs, transforming world food supply. This is the goal of the C4 Rice Project at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. It takes heart from the fact that C4 "technology" has emerged naturally in many different lines of plants, so why not put it in rice, too?

Mohamed Nasheed, Former Maldives President, Calls For U.S. To Embrace Climate Change Reality

Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, has some words of climate change warning for the United States: "You can't pick and choose on science."

How Climate Change Is Worsened by Attacks on the Public Sector, Science and Regulation

The real difference between the Global South and the North in facing this problem is that, in the Global South, government — the public sector — has been systematically dismantled, on the orders of the IMF and the World Bank through structural adjustment programs, state assets have been privatized, and state capacity has been diminished. And so, people fall back, in the face of extreme weather, on their own devices, which in places like Kenya and Afghanistan are cheap AK-47s and raiding your neighbor’s cattle or turning to the drug trade. But in this country, there is still, despite a generation-long assault on the public sector and on government, which is picking up pace now, as we all know—there still is a public sector.

And at these moments, another thing that’s missing from these discussions is not just the word "climate change," but the words "public sector." I mean, who’s out there fighting these fires? It’s the public sector, you know? Where do people go when there are these cooling centers? It’s the public sector. It’s public schools, which are currently being privatized in Philadelphia. This assault on the public sector must be linked to climate change.

Peak Oil.com has a great article out this morning: Another critique of Monbiot

There has been “a boom in oil production” of late, Monbiot says. Wrong. Global production has been essentially struggling along a plateau since 2004, as Bob Hirsch, an ex-Exxon advisor to the US Department of Energy describes. Hirsch expects the descent to begin in one to four years.

Monbiot is correct that there has been a small increase in oil production in the United States in recent years. But can that continue, as he infers? Gas-industry whistleblower Art Berman describes how the shale gas gold-rush of recent years, now extending into shale oil, may well be a giant ponzi scheme: decline rates in wells are unexpectedly fast, meaning more and more have to be drilled at ever more expense, meaning ever more money has to be borrowed against cash flows from production that fall ever further behind.

Ron P.

I like reading Dave Cohen when I'm in the mood for something dyspeptic, here's his headline for Maugeri's latest: Optimistic Lunatic Says We'll Soon Be Swimming In Oil. Maugeri has inspired Monbiot to declare this resource limits stuff a non-issue, you'll recall.

Maugeri's been tooting this horn forever, nb. From 2004: Oil: Never Cry Wolf—Why the Petroleum Age Is Far from over | Energy Bulletin He brings up the same tired old example of Kern River to highlight reserves growth.

So did TOD/peakoil.com member "ReserveGrowthRulz," remember that guy? I wonder if that wasn't Maugeri himself futzing about.

Anyway, this "boom" in oil production in the US can largely be chalked up to boring old ultra deepwater production, not this fracking shale. Fed Offshore brought on 407 kb/d in 2009, when you take that out the ascent in the production curve isn't so dramatic. The gains made in the subsequent two years out of TX and ND have been remarkably sharp, though, I'll admit that. The gains made by the country as a whole 30 years ago in the wake of that era's price shock weren't as steep, either, but the price was slowly deflating, not constantly rising as is the case now. UDW tech wasn't quite in place, either.

Regarding the RRC/EIA discrepancy for Texas production, the RRC seems to be promptly updating the production reports at the following link:


I am going to see what kind of updates we see through the year.

The June update put 2011 annual Texas crude oil production at 1.13 mbpd, and January, 2012 as 1.21 mbpd. The July update puts 2011 annual at 1.14 mbpd and January, 2012 at 1.23 mbpd.

Meanwhile, the EIA puts January, 2012 Texas crude oil production at 1.77 mbpd (2011 annual at 1.47 mbpd).

I don't understand why many of these writers are from England. Monbiot, Worstall should understand their own predicament, and not cast about to the USA.

Export model points to inward looking concerns not external.

That's a good point. British North Sea oil production has gone into a steep, terminal decline, and unlike the US it doesn't have a stable full of expensive old oil fields like the Bakken which have never been fully developed. The consequences for the British economy of becoming a major oil importer again, and of paying for all that oil, are severe, but it seems to be a topic that escapes their writers. Even if the US has shown a recent uptick in production, that doesn't do much good for Britain.

Perhaps they are getting too much of their information from the US mainstream media.

Yes, over the past decade the updates from http://omrpublic.iea.org/supply/uk_to_ts.pdf have been increasingly alarming. Our production declines for gas and coal are worse still. Upcoming developments won't stop the decline, at least over the next 5 years (though after that it gets a bit hazy).

Peak Oil, Peak Gas & Peak Coal are clearly-established historical events for Britain. AS RMG says, it's remarkable that so few have noticed. It's not surprising that the oldest of the industrialised nations is the first to use up all its fossil fuels, but there will be uncomfortable consequences.

Sorrell responds to Maugeri

One English analyst who thoroughly understands the British predicament is Steve Sorrell.
He and Christophe McGlade have a few things to say in response to Maugeri:

I think it’s occasionally useful to look at the big picture of US oil production just to keep the numbers in perspective. It’s great that we’ve stopped the decline which has taken us from our oil production peak of 9.64 million bo in 1970 to 4.95 million bo in 2008. So for grins let’s take a closer look at the truly unprecedented growth in US production prior to our peak. It took 23 years to go from 4.95 million bo to our peak of 9.64 million bo. So if we can match the growth rate in US production during the time when almost all the giant onshore oil fields as well as the majority of very large fields were discovered then we’ll be back to our peak by 2035. During this recent not so unprecedented rise in oil production we’ve increased rates a tad less than the 900k bopd increase during the late 70’s boom when we had more than twice as many rigs running as we do now. BTW, speaking about this great “new frac technology” compared to the 70's boom: I did my first ½ million pound frac of a shale reservoir in 1978. Just like others began doing thanks to the rise in oil/NG prices.

Of course, as pointed out, much of our current no – so - unprecedented oil production increase has come from our GOM Deep Water fields. I find it odd that folks who are hyping our recent “surge” in production are more focused upon the shale plays than the DW. DW drill permits are back to normal and there are more fields to find out there…I’ve seen the maps. Maybe a guilt factor over the Macondo blow out keeps them from bragging about the DW. Of course, every trend eventually plays out. I can’t predict the future of the DW or the shales if for no other reason than the rig count will be controlled by oil prices.

I do think it’s worth pointing out that much of the current DW oil production was initially pursued when oil prices were much lower than now. The oily shales didn’t take off until prices climbed high in the last several years. As I’ve pointed out too many times we knew the oil was in those shales (and how to frac and drill them hz) long before we proved there were huge DW fields to develop. We could have just as easily chased after those shales in the late 90’s. Except for those oil prices in the low $20’s, of course. But that low oil price dynamic didn’t stop companies from budgeting many 10’s of $billions for the DW. Something seemed flawed in the logic of being all rah-rah for the shales and not saying much about the DW.

Not that I expect it to happen but what if we do recover to our 1970 peak oil rate should we expect to be “independent” as some of the more optimistic folks like to toss out? We weren’t independent when we did peak and since then our population has increased 50%. So even with a huge increase in production and a huge increase in efficiency and a significant increase in the alts it seems like BAU may still be in great doubt IMHO.
But, hey, anyone can predict what they want since we’ll never know who was

Anybody starts talking about "Energy Independence," just point out that President Nixon's a bit of a pie-eyed optimist. ;) Was, I should say. Follow that up with the fact that the US ceased being a net exporter back in 19 Frickin' 49 and they'll shut up. Independent in the oil world just doesn't happen.

Newt Gingrich titling his book "$2.50 a Gallon" is pretty funny when you read headlines from a decade howling for Big Oil to be strung up from the nearest derrick for forcing prices up that high, too. How about $2/bbl, like in the good ol' days? Which was pretty much where the price sat for decades on end, too.

Anybody starts talking about "Energy Independence,"

An oldy, but still oh, so good...

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me 8 times, what am I a f*&@! idiot?

Link is broken

try this link

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me 8 times, what am I a f*&@! idiot?

I actually used that quote in my book for the chapter that covered the energy policies of the past eight presidents. For me, this was the most interesting chapter to write, but the themes across all of them were very similar (as were the results for the most part).

Glad I could give you a chance to plug your book. I've been meaning to pick up a copy. No quote better represents America's love/hate relationship with profligate energy use and our reticence to implement effective energy policies.

Hi Rockman,

As always great post. A quick question for you. I know you don't like to make predictions (unless they are about the past ;) ), but if we assumed that oil prices remained about where they are now (close to $100 for Brent) or climbed slightly higher (say to $115 in 2012 dollars so we are talking real prices adjusted for inflation), how much oil do you see coming from DW as far as a maximum rate in barrels per day? (Assume also that these prices do not crash the world economy and that we continue the slow worldwide growth in output that we have seen since 2010.) These assumptions are clearly optimistic, but I am looking for a best case scenario and I have not seen the maps of the DW oil fields. Thanks.


DC – Since my DW work was on the operational/safety side and not exploration I’m probably not the best source. But maybe the best source on TOD so you’re stuck with me. LOL

Here’s quick and dirty sense of magnitude from Uncle Halliburton: “Having produced over four billion barrels of oil in the past eight years, the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico remains one of the world's most prolific producing areas. Halliburton has worked… on more than 50 high-profile GOM deepwater drilling projects and helped drill more than 100 wells. They have also completed more than 350 deepwater wells in the GOM.” I wonder how many folks appreciate how much activity there has been over such a short time.

The play covers a large area with many structures yet tested. And dozens of wildcats on the board to be drilled in coming years. That’s the bright side. The not so bright side: Companies have been shooting 3d seismic out there for over 10 years. Lots of successful wells drilled but also a lot of dry holes. The last well I worked was a $148 million duster that completely destroyed the potential of a very large structure. Maybe another 4 billion bo and maybe several times that much. And I suspect what’s left will be found relatively quickly: Big Oil is loaded with capex and more desperate than ever to book big reserves. And what will be developed are big chunks at a time because the smaller fields can’t be developed do to the high infrastructure costs. Again the good/bad news: high initial flow rates at the expense of URR.

The existing fields will deplete quickly but new fields may hide that dynamic and give a sense of longevity to the play that is undeserved.

Thank you Rockman,

So to make things simple, let's assume the 4 billion barrels over 8 years was produced at a uniform rate (my Math skills are limited) giving us about 0.5 billion barrels per year or 1.4 mb/day. Let's also assume prices stay between 100 and 115 per barrel without the world economy crashing (I am an optimist today) so that the oil companies have some demand for their product. We will assume your 4 billion estimate was conservative and say the 2P estimate is 8 billion barrels which will be depleted over an 8 year time frame with a max output of maybe 4 mb/d, more likely about 2 to 3 mb/d because all fields will not start producing at the same time or have the same production profiles. Do these DW projects usually take 5 to 10 years until they reach full output? When they get to their max output, do they usually decline pretty quickly, say in 5 to 7 years?


DC – I don’t like quantifying situations when I don’t have a solid data base so let’s keep it qualitative. When companies started significant drilling/development efforts in the DW GOM oil prices were significantly lower. One might think they rolled the dice on a big price jump but in general we don’t do that. Maybe a very modest inflation but just as often go forward flat at whatever the then current might be. The real economic advantage is the size potential of DW reserves. While it can be very expensive (a couple of $billion) and take 5 to 8 years to bring a new discovery on line these aren’t the critical metrics. It’s still about reserve additions, cost per produced unit and ROR…roughly in that order. Consider a simple model: total cost to produce 1st bbl = $2 billion; total net reserves = 100 million bbls (not really considered huge by DW standards. That yields a per unit cost of $20/bbl. And if they find 300 million bbl – now you’re under $10/bbl.

And oddly enough the huge price tag for DW development is considered an advantage. Even small privately owned companies like mine can’t spend our budget for lack of viable prospects. I’ll probably turn back more than $50 million this year. It’s very negative for a big public oil to sit on a huge cash reserve. So being “forced” to spend $billions on viable DW projects is a blessing even if the returns aren’t very high.

I suspect the DW/international plays will handle lower oil prices much better than the resource plays. Simple math: if Play A gets to grease to the surface for 25% of the cost to do so in Play B that’s where the capex will concentrate. The problem for many companies will be that there isn’t room for them in Play A so they are stuck with B because they have to add reserves somehow. Players in A also a have big advantage over the B players: they may have 100’s of $billions in PROVEN UNDEVELOPED RESERVES as a credit line. For all the grand numbers thrown out about reserves in the resource plays they money lenders consider very little bankable proven reserves. Consider the billions of bbls of oil some consider Chesapeake to have under their leases. Yet the banks will only loan them a few $billion when their capex requirements easily exceed $15 billion. One reason is that they borrowed huge sums to put their plays together and begin drilling efforts.

Well, oil gas and oil shale are becoming a classic bubble, and it is starting to turn into a Ponzi scheme.

People see an exponential growth curve, and assume it will go on forever. That never happens.

They think they are following the red curve on the chart above. In actuality, they are following the green curve for non-renewable resources.

Here's a link to a good peak oil video called Oil Crunch produced by ABC Radio Australia. I apologize if it's been posted already.

That article is from Jeremy Leggett's blog at the Guardian. The original link was posted in Wednesday's Drumbeat. There are several links addressing Monbiot's article in Wednesday's Drumbeat.

I usually have a lot of respect for Monbiot. However,in this article he confused shale oil with oil shale. Inexcusable.

Monbiot is clear on the difference, saying:
"Investment... will concentrate on... shale oil (which, confusingly, is not the same as oil shale). Shale oil is high-quality crude trapped in rocks...."

When he says "confusingly" I think he wanted to highlight the fact that shale oil and oil shale are often confused, which is certainly true.
For example, Lawrence Solomon has been examining energy issues for many decades, yet he wrote this earlier this year:

Good. Maybe I confused him with someone else. My bad.

Global production has been essentially struggling along a plateau since 2004, as Bob Hirsch, an ex-Exxon advisor to the US Department of Energy describes.

Here is what I had written before Monbiot came out with his article:

The data show that global oil production grew between 1965 and 2011 by 163%, which represents an average annual growth rate of 2.1%. While many were convinced that crude oil had peaked in 2005, production in 2011 was around 2.7% higher than the 2005 production level. However, the average annual growth rate from 2005 to 2011 was only 0.4%, far below the historical average.

The data clearly show that production has struggled to increase in the face of record oil prices. I personally don't know where he is coming up with his belief that there has been this dramatic expansion of oil production.

Russia flash floods: Dozens die in Krasnodar region

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18751198
  • He said, quoted by the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, that "no-one can remember such floods in our history. There was nothing of the kind for the last 70 years

    Seems were getting a lot of 'once in a century' storms lately...

    - Two weeks ago Minnesota

    - Yesterday UK weather: flood warnings as torrential rain hits - as it happened


    - Indian flood toll tops 100

    - Seventy dead, 200,000 stranded in Bangladesh floods

    New bill could send flood insurance rates soaring

    ... thanks to changes underway in Washington, flood insurance premiums are on track to double over the next four years.

    ... Brenda and Kenneth could see their premium jump all the way to $4,000 a year. They say they wouldn’t be able to keep living in Sopchoppy. But they may not be able to sell, either.

    The congressional bill would raise the cap on rate increases from the current 10 to 20 percent a year. Owners of vacation homes could see the cap on their rate hikes climb to 25 percent.

    Can they not just outlaw floods, so the insurance costs can be kept down?

    U.S Gold Net Exports Increased Substantially During First Quarter 2012


    Looks like there is a great deal of Gold heading toward Europe that is being purchased by the Chinese. At some point in time the US DOLLAR will have gone the way of the DODO BIRD.

    What does this have to do with floods and the cost of insuring against them?

    It seems to be little more than the routine gold sales pitch.

    It may have already been pointed out, but if so I missed it. That is the Leonardo Maugeri article published by Harvard's Kennedy School, Oil: The Next Revolution was funded by British Petroleum.

    Harvard Kennedy School: Peak Oil Not An Issue?

    A new report funded by BP and published by the Kennedy School asserts that we're in for a long plateau of conventional and unconventional liquid fuels.

    And this is the article that caused Monbiot to change his mind and declare: We Were Wrong on Peak Oil. There’s Enough to Fry Us All. Anyhow, this is a great article, one of many that effectively trashes the BP funded report.

    Ron P.

    Maugeri is up-front re. BP funding of his paper, saying in Acknowledgements (p.4):
    "I owe a special thanks to BP for its funding of the Geopolitics of Energy Project that made my study possible."

    Belfer's Geopolitics of Energy Project is funded jointly by BP and by the Dubai Initiative:

    More on Dubai Initiative here:

    But since Maugeri makes no mention of DI, perhaps his paper was funded by BP alone.
    In any event, the BP connection is something which you'd think Monbiot might have noted (esp. given his previous suspicions re industry, government & IEA positions re. peak oil).

    Wonderful, thanks Darwinian. I wondered who was funding this article when this was discussed before. Now we know.


    Heat wave: Midwest plain 'out of whack' as records shatter

    It's not that the Midwest hasn't been extremely hot before, and it's not that it hasn't been incredibly dry.

    But it's unusual for a vast swath of the Midwest to be so very hot and so very dry for so very long -- particularly this early in the summer.

    Temperature records are being broken and residents are suffering in what Keeney called a "corridor of extreme heat," generally through Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into western Kentucky.

    also Dozens of deaths tied to heat wave over last 2 weeks

    also Dozens of deaths tied to heat wave over last 2 weeks

    I finally figured it out. Climate change is the conservative solution to reduce medicare and social security costs. Genius! ;-)

    This is how the 'smart grid' will deal with 'heat waves' ...

    No, peak, no shortage — so what’s the deal with power alerts?

    As a major heat Midwest wave hit a crescendo Friday, Iowa’s major utilities weren’t expecting new electric demand peaks or power shortages.

    Consumers might have thought so, however, by the way utilities were acting. MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy were remotely powering off air conditioners at thousands of Iowa households and curtailing power supplies at large customers with interruptible service.

    I would tend to agree that it is inappropriate to use demand response in non-emergency conditions, but this is all voluntary.
    Everyone participating in demand response is compensated for participation. Customers can choose to leave these programs if they so desire. The MidAmerican SummerSaver program doesn't actually power off the air conditioner, it limits the duty cycle of the compressor, leaving ventilation fan power intact, and allowing the compressor to run part of the time. Also, day-ahead notification is provided, and cycling is limited to between 2pm and 7pm. An intelligent participant with a programmable thermostat will lower the setpoint of their AC prior to 2pm to pre-cool the house on days when cycling will be used, and then raise it gradually between 2pm and 7pm so that comfort does not suffer and power demand is shifted rather than curtailed.

    Per chance you have this set-point adjustment graphed out ? I'd like to see where it falls on a net energy usage basis. Maybe you have that in a graph, too ?

    I'm asking, given:

    I'm a supervising senior engineer at a major investor-owned utility.

    I work in California, not at MidAmerican.

    The homeowner scheme I mention will differ in its particulars for each home and air conditioner, as well as with the specific duty cycle employed by the utility AC cycling scheme. This is a common homeowner scheme for use with time-of-use rates (my Dad uses it in Phoenix). It will slightly increase metered electrical usage if the top temperature allowed is the same as for a level setpoint (though a higher top temperature is tolerable since the duration will be shorter), since the average heat gain from outside will be slightly higher during the times the house temperature is lower than the top temperature. Depending on the particulars of the utility system, it may still reduce fossil fuel use and total energy use, since part of the point of demand shifting is to avoid use of generators with high heat rates (low fuel efficiency).

    As an example, suppose that your home is well insulated with plenty of thermal mass, so that for a 40 degree delta between inside/outside temperature during full sun, your home temperature rises just 2 degrees per hour in the first hour with no air conditioner. Typical in A/C areas would be more like 4 degrees. Certain people here will laugh at this as being well insulated, but not all of us have to live with polar conditions! Now let's suppose your air conditioner was sized to maintain a significantly lower temperature than you need to maintain, and before you added insulation, such that it needs to run only 50% of the time to maintain temperature on a peak day during peak. Without A/C cycling your A/C runs 50% of the time during peak. If the utility implements cycling limiting it to 25% of the time, the temperature in your house will rise about 5 degrees over 5 hours. If you start those 5 hours 5 degrees below your desired top temperature, you will suffer no discomfort from the A/C cycling. You will end up increasing the delta between indoor and outdoor temperature by between 0-5 degrees over about 8 hours, for about a degree day increase in cooling load. If it increases your electrical consumption by 3-5% but shifts that load from a 25% efficient peaking plant to 55% efficient combined cycle plant, it saves energy and ratepayer money (it may or may not save you money depending on how you are compensated for participating). You can reduce this additional consumption dramatically (~80%) by only lowering temperature by 3 degrees, shortening the cooldown period, and allowing 2 degree overshoot before returning to the usual setpoint. I'm not doing calculations, just SWAGs.

    I'm not doing calculations, just SWAGs.

    Thanks for the honesty. That's is the problem I have - if Utilities are doing 'just SWAG's'. This all can be approached empirically.

    For example, your hypothetical 'well insulated' scenario is likely an outlier in the US market. I don't find it wise to use presumed outliers to develop utility policy.

    So, do you by chance, have links to utility policy built on a foundation of empiricism ?

    Or is this too much to ask of Utilities ?

    My reference to SWAG's related to my conversation here, not to my job. My point was that I hadn't done exact calcs within the example I was providing. My company doesn't use AC cycling demand management in the way discussed, we use it only when the grid is actually threatened by generation reserve shortages, in which case the first order valid empirical comparison is to the cost of additional peaker generation (energy use is near irrelevant, given the rarity of the event). The details will vary dramatically by utility/area at any rate (different building mix, load profile, and generation mix). My job does not involve rate design, but I am confident there is significant empirical research on residential load profiles, weather normalization, residential thermal time constants, A/C cycling, and TOU rates. You might try google or rate case testimony on various utility commission sites.

    Please note that early adopters of this type of tariff are highly unlikely to be typical.

    As a major heat Midwest wave hit a crescendo Friday, Iowa’s major utilities weren’t expecting new electric demand peaks or power shortages.

    Huh? That would be exactly the situation I would expect to lead to an electric demand peak. And the response was their attempt to prevent power shortages. I assume the customers have some sort of agreement with the utility to allow control over their individual A/C systems for the greater good. Presumably they are turned off for reasonably short periods and on a rotating basis so not everyone is off at the same time. Remember, utilities make money by supplying demand, not by eliminating it. But they are now seriously using grid management tools, techniques, and procedures to eliminate blackouts and even brownouts.

    My employer in upstate NY is a somewhat heavy electric power consumer. But we have an agreement with our utility to curtail our demand when asked to do so. And we have periodic practice exercises just to ensure that we can comply. We have had one real curtailment so far this season. We think it's usually to free up power to ship downstate to NYC, but regardless, this is much better all around than spontaneous power reductions or outages.

    I live next door to a lady who is in her 80's.

    I would not object to my utility turning off my AC remotely if it will keep us from having a rolling blackout that will turn off her AC and probably hasten her death.

    The trouble is that the utility will turn you both off with no regard paid to the individual situation anyway.


    In that heat wave, a 5 month old kid died in a car when the parents went doing stuff. Not all deaths are related to heat, some are to stupidity.


    Regarding tbe article about the costs of burying underground lines- this is not an outrageous costs (about $250 per customer)and with loans the impact can be spread out over years. But the point being missed in so many of these articles is that there is a great cost to losing power each time the lines go down. Businesses must close, work hours are lost, overtime for repair crews, repair costs to utilities, repair costs to consumers, damaged food lost due to lack of cooling, costs of generators, extra gas for them, and this is a short list! But it gets even worse- these storms will continue throughout the years and increase as global warming intensifies. These costs will keep repeating over and over and over.

    It is laughable to hear people talking about how renewables are not as desirable due to intermittency- yet they have no problem with power lines going down on a regular basis. Blackouts happen far more frequently then is generally reported- we hear mainly about the massive blackouts but there are many many small ones that occur each year. Business owners I talk to also complain about micro power losses that regularly occur during the day that mess up the manufacturing processes- these often last a second or two but can happen up to 5 times a day and really cut into manufacturing profits as machines and chemicals are affected and things have to be reset and restarted.

    So to sum up: solar and wind- bad / power outages, rolling blackouts and micro-blackouts of fossil fuel generated energy- good

    I think we are entering a period where energy is going to be less reliable due to:

    1. aging infrastructure breaking down (pipelines, processing plants, etc.)
    2. political unrest (middle east, africa, other places)
    3. deregulation of utilities and profit maximization (cutting back on maintainance to make profit targets)
    4. worsening climate causing more damage to infrastructure via storms, floods, etc.
    5. increased heat overtaxing capabilities of existing systems causing blackouts and brownouts

    have I missed any other causes?

    It is laughable to hear people talking about how renewables are not as desirable due to intermittency- yet they have no problem with power lines going down on a regular basis.

    Methinks that going forward all of us are going to need to adapt to intermittent power. Those of us who are willing to learn to live with alternative off grid sources of energy such as wind and solar might actually be slightly ahead of the curve.

    Best hopes for learning to live outside the 24/7 paradigm!

    For those of you who don't know, I'm a supervising senior engineer at a major investor-owned utility. The typical American loses grid power a few times a year for a few moments. Relatively small numbers of people lose power for more than an hour, more than once per year. Typically this small group of folks is largely composed of different people each year. A few folks, typically in isolated areas, have dramatically worse reliability than average. The American grid is actually quite reliable, although deregulation has definitely hurt this. In general the costs of outages are dramatically less than the costs of preventing outages. Where this is not true there is room for improvement, and virtually all utilities have capital programs which aim to improve reliability.

    In the course of my duties, I have been involved in investigation of hundreds of cases of the 'micro power losses' or 'power spikes', or 'bad power' causing process interruptions, damage, or unexpected operational behavior. In almost all cases, these reflect the failure of the process designer to harden the process against commonly expected events or the failure of installers to properly execute the design. The most common cause found is over-sensitivity to momentary voltage dips, which are a regular and expected feature of power system function (if there is a fault somewhere electrically nearby in the system, which is properly cleared, there will be a short voltage dip during the few cycles to few seconds between the fault and its interruption). Several different types of industrial process equipment are known to be sensitive to this type of event, and there are usually cheap and easily implemented approaches to harden them against dips. For an expensive process, fixing this is usually cheaper than the cost of a single process interruption. As an example, if your multi-megawatt process is controlled by a PLC, or several PLC's, certain models of which trip for short shallow dips, mitigating the dip seen by the 1kva-scale control power system may solve the vast majority of problems. I have made successful recommendations in <$100 to <$10,000 range to many companies suffering losses in the millions of dollars due to poor process design or bad installations. My utility offers free beyond the meter investigations of these types of problems, because they are so common and generally so easily solved, and if not solved they are usually perceived as utility problems.

    Another extremely common issue (2nd most commonly seen in industrial complainants) relates to incorrectly installed grounding systems in premises wiring. This is an area of design/installation practice imperfectly understood by many practitioners, and rife for error. I suspect I have probably told 50 different machine shops that the odd behavior and/or electronics damage they are seeing from a CNC machine will go away if they fix their grounding practices (usually in those cases, almost for free). I did electrical service for machine/saw/cabinet shops in a previous job working for my father, and we often fixed such errors at that time. I can also think of dozens of cases where telecom equipment, instrumentation, etc failed repeatedly due to 'bad power' where fixing the problem was as easy as making or breaking a ground/bond connection. I remember a medical imaging facility (MRI/CT, etc) where there were half-a-dozen different customer side transformers for which the neutral and ground connections had been creatively connected. The doctors and medical equipment vendors and their power consultants had spent 100's of thousands of dollars trying to 'condition' the 'bad utility power.' It took me less than an hour to determine the root cause, and only a few hundred dollars in labor for the facility to implement the corrections needed.

    Another extremely common scenario is pump or chiller trips due to improperly set customer 'motor savers.' A cheap device which aims to save the customer the cost of failed motors and/or prolonged process interruption, if improperly set, can result in repeated process interruption for events which are well within the design parameters of the motor. I have often seen these set so that the parameters for transient events were tighter than the normally allowed steady-state variation of the power supply.

    It's also fairly common for motor flicker to cause enough of a dip in the control power supply that the motor contactor coil drops out or chatters, if the initial steady state voltage is somewhat low in the permissible range. Very cheap mitigation is usually possible. It is also common for a neighbor to install equipment without consulting the power company which causes impermissibly high flicker, affecting their neighbors. Soft-start or VFD technology is typically required.

    VFD's (with a passive front-end) used to control the speed/inrush of AC motors may suffer frequent trips due to high DC bus voltage. If this usually occurs at regular times, when the drive is unloaded or lightly loaded, it is typically due to transient voltage events typical of utility capacitor switching (a several times per day event on almost every distribution feeder). This is easily resolved by placing a cheap line reactor in front of the drive.

    High EMF fields or stray voltage are often caused by wiring errors or bad connections on the customer-side. In one case I remember there were about 300PC's with CRT's in a room which were experiencing display problems. The customer and electrician were convinced this was due to 'bad power'. Investigation revealed a high magnetic field in the room, due to net current in the building feeder which passed under the room. The net current was traced back to a loose neutral to ground bond in the main panel, combined with a neutral bus which had been improperly electrically connected to the panel case thru the mounting screws. All of the neutral current was returning to the utility transformer thru the case of the panel and the building grounds. The phase currents on the feeder exhibited net current in the full amount of the building neutral load. Tightening a few bolts on the bus link fixed the problem, and complete correction involved only a few dollars in mounting hardware for the neutral bus.

    I live in central New Hampshire. I lose power at least once a month, usually for 2-3 hours. Yesterday someone took out a utility pole, and three towns were without power for several hours.

    My company has about 5M meters. Reliability as bad as you describe is seen by less than 0.1% of my customers.

    A 2008 assessment of publicly available utility reliability data http://certs.lbl.gov/pdf/lbnl1092e-puc-reliability-data.pdf shows data for IOU's covering 99% of the IOU-served load in New England. The average SAIFI (a measure of how many sustained outages customers see in a year) was 1.44, slightly better than the 1.49 shown for the U.S. Although definitions of SAIFI differ slightly, any outage longer than a few (typically 5) minutes is included. The average annual duration of sustained outages was 198 minutes for New England. Municipal, PUD, and co-op utilities were not included in that survey so only 68% of New England's total retail load was included.

    In my experience, the averages are skewed upward by outliers. A lot of my customers will have no outages in a given year. On the flip side of that, an inability (usually legal) to restore power to an area for months after a fire or avalanche is possible for a few folks.


    The situation you have described may not be reflective of the nation as a whole. In Ohio, industrial customers have actually left the state partly as a result of repeated outages raising manufacturing costs due to restarts, lost materials, etc. About once every three weeks the power of residential customers interrupts- this is very noticable as clocks start flashing and have to be reset, etc. Even a medium storm can leave hundreds or thousands without power for hours. This is generally well covered by the weather people and news anchors.

    In the paper I linked, East North Central, which includes Ohio, had more than double the national average outage duration among the utilities reporting. Momentary outages are not as widely tracked. I know what they are at my utility and the typical customer should expect only 1 or 2 a year. I don't see them as a big deal to a residential customer if it's less than one every couple months, but large industrial customers should typically be situated so as to expect better than average reliability performance. I have trouble imagining a case in an urban area where it is cheaper to move a factory than to improve the reliability sufficiently to stay.

    I'd be interested to know how you see EV's impacting the grid.
    San Francisco which has time of use facilities and rates keeps almost all charging off peak, starting at 12 pm and peaking at 1 am.
    Other areas where this is not used have a steadily rising charge use during the day, peaking in the early evening, so part of the issue is obviously trivial.

    Some take the argument further though and argue that V2G can greatly smooth the grid.
    I am doubtful about this save in the case of fleets, where the facilities for V2G are more easily set up and monitored.

    The overall investment needed to provide for EV's also somewhat disputed, primarily due to how much is off-peak.
    Some investment in transformers and so on will undoubtedly be needed, but my own position is that with incentives to charge off peak even without extensive V2G the grid can become both more energy efficient and provide power rather more cheaply per kwh, as assets will be used more of the time and better amortised and the move to combined gas turbines encouraged.

    Your insights into the issues involved would be valuable.

    I don't see V2G as desirable (A bunch more tiny inverter sources on distribution is not what we need). Off-peak charging is obviously preferable at present, demand response is needed as penetration increases. I think TOU rates should be mandatory for EV. For the most part impacts will be on the margin. As capacity factor of small distribution transformers goes up, overload capacity onpeak will go down (less off peak cooldown), leading to requirements for larger transformers. If penetration got quite high, such that off-peak loads at the subtransmission level were much higher, it might become difficult to get outages on subtransmission to do maintenance (most subtrans is not worked hot), leading to a need for more subtransmission lines. Increased load factor on underground subtrans lines would also shave peak ratings (less soil cooldown). As load profiles flattened, the desirable generation mix would shift toward base load and away from peaking plants. As the proportion of load which was subject to demand response increased, higher penetration levels of intermittent generation could be more easily integrated.

    I wonder how well the differences line up with population trends over the past 20-25 years? Ohio's population has increased by less than a million, from a base of 10.6 million, over the last 30 years. In the paper, the Mountain region has much better reliability than anyone else. Over the last 30 years, Colorado's population has increased by more than two million from a base of three million. Nevada's population from 800,000 to almost three million. Arizona from 2.7 million to 6.4 million. How much of the greater reliability is due to a large part of their plant being newer in order to meet the demands of growing population?

    I live in one of the inner-ring suburbs to Denver's west. Over the almost 25 years that I've lived here there have been large changes to the distribution plant to handle growth. New and upgraded substations, lots of aerial plant moved underground, most areas (according to what I've been told) now served by more than one substation. And over those 25 years, the number of power outages has decreased steadily.

    I suspect that Ohio, by contrast, probably has much the same plant today that they had 30 years ago.

    benamery21: "I have trouble imagining a case in an urban area where it is cheaper to move a factory than to improve the reliability sufficiently to stay."

    Try rereading my post a little more carefully: "In Ohio, industrial customers have actually left the state partly as a result of repeated outages"

    In other words- it was one of many considerations that tipped a decision

    The owners of the factory don't have much ability to alter the reliability. That's up to the utility, and indirectly it's also up to the politicians who, ultimately, regulate it. IOW it's up to two immovable bureaucracies - the utility and the government - both of which may care a lot more about self-preservation, self-perpetuation, and keeping their own nice juicy salaries and benefits, than about mundane matters like quality of service.

    Actually, you are wrong, which was rather the point of my initial comment where I described the kinds of process interruptions I typically find in industrial customers who are complaining about their reliability. Most 'reliability' problems at my industrial customers are on the other side of the meter. We help them anyway, because twits insist on perceiving all power problems as the utility's responsibility. In one example, a large industrial baking facility had had only a single outage in 10 years, but insisted that they were seeing about 1 per week. Each time they had a process interruption it cost them about two hours to restart their oven lines, plus lots of lost product. A review of their control systems made it readily apparent where the problems were, and that these could be fixed for less than the cost of a single interruption. Extended brangling ensues, as they attempt to get other ratepayers to pay to fix the innards of their process.

    Full facility UPS and generator backup is typically going to be less expensive than relocation although rarely justified. Also, most utilities would be happy to use customer money to provide reliability upgrades to those desiring premium service(perhaps a loop feed?)


    I live in northern VA and our power company goes by the acronym of NOVEC.

    We typically have power losses of at least 1 to 15 hours at least 4-5 times a year. Just finished a 15 hour one and we had a 5 hour one earlier in the spring. We have intermitant outages (enough to necessitate clock resets) with about 50% of the thunderstorms which hit us (so at least a dozen times a year).

    The big outages are always trees coming down due to wind or ice build up.


    My total knowledge of these folks is their website. NOVEC is a co-op, which means you own it. They just pushed thru a rate decrease. They state their reliability as 55 minutes of outage average per meter in 2011 (excluding major storms), and appear pretty proud of it. It's a pretty small utility and most co-ops are very member oriented. A politely worded written inquiry seems appropriate. However, you should be aware that 80.6% of their revenues go to purchasing power, which doesn't leave a lot for running the wires business.

    They have 303 employees, and during the January 2011 storm had 576 outage locations affecting 20% of customers (that's about twice as many outage locations as I'd expect in a year under normal weather for a utility that size). If half of the personnel are line crew (high for the industry), and just 8 manhours were needed for each outage location (very optimistic) that's 30 hours each. I expect it was actually several days for a lot of folks and that it took nearly a week to get all load up.

    I must admit I am amazed at that high rate of outage. I live in inner Melbourne (Australia) and have not had a power outage for the seven years I have been here. New Hampshire has been settled for hundreds of years - should this not be sorted by now? There again, my SIL lives out of Westminster Maryland - it's also been settled since the 17th Century - but they still have no reticulated water, and very dodgy electricity. What is wrong with you people?

    I'm not sure, but I've seen several articles claiming that the grids in Europe and Japan are far more reliable than in the US. Like this one:

    Some reports indicate that as many as 90% of all US power outages occur in the distribution system. The US grid operates at an average of three nines (99.9%) reliability. Compare that to Japan’s grid, which performs at five nines (99.999%) reliability. The difference is several hours of outage in the USA (8 hours, 46 minutes) versus a few minutes of outage in Japan (5 minutes, 15 seconds).

    Or this one.

    The U.S. electrical grid has been plagued by ever more and ever worse blackouts over the past 15 years. In an average year, outages total 92 minutes per year in the Midwest and 214 minutes in the Northeast. Japan, by contrast, averages only 4 minutes of interrupted service each year.

    The second article blames not enough spending on R & D. I'd guess other factors are our low population density, a lot of old equipment (we electrified so early), and customers who prefer "cheap" to "reliable."

    I especially think it is the fact that you electrified early, and there are a lot of legacy systems in place that are hell to maintain (in particular all that above ground). Same with TV - anyone who grew up with the later PAL System finds USA NTSC very hard to watch - it is like looking at it through a jar of honey.

    "Never Twice the Same Color"

    Here in Los Angeles, there are transformers dating back to 1900-1920.

    Some of the houses have knob-and-tube wiring in the attic. Some have power wiring running through the old gas pipes that fed the gas light fixtures as these were being converted to electric light. Now we're screwing LED lights shaped like incandescent bulb vacuum-envelopes into the old high-voltage sockets that replaced the gas burners... Hmmm...

    Up on Mount Wilson, the 100" telescope still has electrical panels in-use dating back to 1915. They are slabs of marble with the components mounted to them. There are many solenoid T-bar relays. Above some of these panels are big scorch marks. Standard astronomer procedure for dealing with balky electrical controls for the viewing platform, dome rotation, shutters, and positioning was to splash a bucket of kerosene over the relay panels.
    Panel image:
    (Some of my work is in the adaptive optical system shown.)

    The 1914 line to Mt. Wilson was steel guy wire, and could support only about 300kw. It was functionally replaced in 1948 if I remember correctly. The most recent rebuild of power to the mountain, initiated in 1998 in response to DTV, lasted until last year. I got funding approved after a multi-year battle which included a joint letter to our CEO from 5 TV station heads (instigated by me and the station engineers), and the high level concept of the upgrade was mine, but I changed areas and lost any control in 2001, and cut all ties to the project in 2004 (new boss didn't want me spending time on it). Do you ever go to the annual picnic?

    BTW, I still have OH conductor in service dating to 1893. Lots of UG stuff from the 20's, too.

    That's pretty good fun! There's still power on all that original workmanship. The radiations from the television transmitters get loudly into the dome when the shutters are opened. It's an interesting site to visit and work on... coyotes check you in in the early mornings!

    BTW, I still have OH conductor in service dating to 1893. Lots of UG stuff from the 20's, too.

    That is what you can call good for a lifetime.

    Re the cheap v. reliable tradeoff: Here's a recent international comparison of electricity prices.


    One other factor may be where the point of change of ownership of the system is. In Japan, step down transformers typically belong to the customer above 50kw, and thus transformer failure is not counted as a long utility outage.

    Japan has a fair amount of above-ground too, sometimes even in densely populated areas. But for reliable service, one has to keep the trees off the lines.

    This problem has nothing to do with R&D. It's just that the USA has not believed in maintenance for a very long time. For one thing it costs money. For another, the crooked politicians who appoint boards to formulate countless reams of utility and business regulations don't often get invited to photo-ops and ribbon-cuttings for mere maintenance. So they don't give a stuff, and they don't even pretend to except when the TV cameras are around. Not so long ago "they" finally got around to a local street reconstruction (more precisely, converting a mass of crudely filled potholes back into a street) project a few miles from where I live. One of the big tree limbs had actually grown completely around a (telephone) cable. It couldn't be pulled out so it was cut away. For a few weeks, a slab of wood about 14 inches in diameter hung in the air. During long span of time the limb took to grow to that size, the tree was evidently never trimmed. No maintenance.

    It also costs money to replace rotting wooden poles now and then, before they topple over if it gets even a little windy. But the "Citizens' Utility Boards" and other loudmouth lobbies concern themselves only with rates and with obstructing construction and maintenance.

    Also, trimming the trees, and/or removing the diseased ones preemptively, not only costs money, but engenders strident NIMBY-type obstructionism. The public can't have that one both ways either. But they won't pay to bury the lines instead.

    It's not all just byzantine get-rich conspiracies by the Illuminati, as some seem to think.

    The lack of maintenence doesn't sound like corruption, but rather politicians doing their job -enacting the will of the people (save as much money as possible (short-term). Sometimes the people get just what they wished for.

    I live in very rural NH. We have lots of trees and lots of weather - wind, rain, snow, ice. The backlog on line-clearing is enormous. If you have a tree overhanging a powerline, the utility won't pre-emptively take it out - it has to actually touch the line...

    As far as putting lines underground, that's just completely impossible given the nature of the terrain (rocks) and the sparseness of the population.

    Yes, NH has been settled for hundreds of years - that might be part of the problem. Old infrastructure in many areas...

    It doesn't seem cost effective to bury ALL the power lines but a very large percentage of Americans live within a small urban geography. I think burying will be very cost effective over the long run for urban areas. Again, these storms will only increase in frequency in a warming world. I also wonder if there is something that would be an alternative to burying- like laying the lines on the land but in protective housing.

    Has the deployment of smart meters helped you adjust your grid by installing some buffer such that frequency regulation is less of a problem?

    Not yet, but I certainly speculate that at some point in the next few years we will start using our capability to remotely interrupt individual customers via their smart meter as an integral part of load shedding contingency plans. Right now we are using it to remotely disconnect non-payers.

    I can't disagree.. part of why I advocate for keeping a separate PV (or whatever independent) system for the house as well.

    Mine keeps some tiny chunk of my loads off the meter and so serves us in ongoing needs, plus I'm always set up for a bit of AC or DC regardless of whatever nuttiness is going on beyond my meter there.

    Excellent contribution. Amazing how many seemingly complex problems have fundamentally simple yet not obvious causes that really just need to be carefully and logically diagnosed, isolated, identified, and then corrected. And meanwhile there are always the forces wanting to go in the faster, seemingly more expedient direction of piling more complex and expensive "fixes" on top of the original problem. Of course experience helps a lot. Ben, you are to electrical systems what Rockman is to the oil patch.

    I worked at a water plant that experienced the problems you describe. Over about two years the genset would start and transfer power. At times it only ran for 30 min., sometimes longer. When we called the local utility the response was there were no outages.

    This is the simplest way to increase reliability. Just claim there are no problem.

    I live in Sweden and in the cities there are no power poles and almost all of the low voltage power grid is put into the ground. The power grid is actually very reliable even in the country side.

    Sometimes I could see pictures from cities in USA hit by hurricanes with broken power poles. It is a little bit confusing to see these kind of pictures from cities which are expected to hit be by hurricanes regularly. It might be because the power companies could charge for all riscs and a higher risc means more money to earn.

    Alternative explanation -- there was no outage and the generator transfer settings needed calibration. In the U.S. most investor owned utility rates are regulated and utilities are allowed a rate of return on capital invested. In other words, infrastructure replacement is good for the bottom line. Maintenance, on the other hand, is not...it's a pass-thru cost.

    "infrastructure replacement is good for the bottom line. Maintenance, on the other hand, is not...it's a pass-thru cost"

    In other words, there is very economic little incentive for a utility to cut back trees, etc. Maintainace costs are passed on to the consumer? Am I reading this right? Does a utility then really lose very much money or any money at all when a storm knocks out power? Consumers sure lose a lot (food loss,work loss, hotel, etc.)

    Here, it is the council that trims the trees. We have a lot of ficus and the cutting crew is constantly going around trimming, whether you like it or not. When we had a hurricane landfall, the CFE cut the power to the whole town grid. They figured it was safer and would prevent electrical damage to the system during failures and limit it to mechanical damage. Power was restored as each area was made safe.


    Regarding the article about the costs of burying underground lines- this is not an outrageous cost (about $250 per customer)and with loans the impact can be spread out over years.

    The way these power companies talk, you would think that:
    a) They don't actually turn a profit.
    b) That "improving" their service is not part of their duties.

    That $250 is probably much less than the profit made off most customers over the years. So, where is the service that you have "already" paid for?

    Chernobyl's radioactive trees and the forest fire risk

    Much of the 30km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant is pine forest, and some of it so badly contaminated that a forest fire could create a devastating radioactive smoke cloud.

    If ignited, one expert likens the potential effect to setting off a nuclear bomb in Eastern Europe. Wind could carry radioactive smoke particles large distances, not just in Ukraine, but right across the continent.

    I remember an article on decontamination of towns in Japan. The fear was that even if they got the town clean, the wind would blow through the surrounding forests and bring radioactive dusts back to the town. The trees acted like giant dust-mops gathering and storing radioactive fallout.

    The trees acted like giant dust-mops gathering and storing radioactive fallout.

    There is now a fear about Chernobyl having a forest fire . . . when it eventually happens, it will send up a big radioactive smoke plume that will pretty much be the same as dropping an atomic bomb there.

    Much of the 30km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant is pine forest, and some of it so badly contaminated that a forest fire could create a devastating radioactive smoke cloud.

    A while back I read of an analogous situation in which a forest fire near Los Angeles 'resurrected' clouds of automotive pollution that had settled there for years. This stuff doesn't go away, just gets recycled, I guess, until it finds its way to the bottom of the ocean.

    Smog Components Sent Into Air by Test Fire

    ""Tremendous amounts" of pollutants from automobile exhaust, deposited over decades in brush around Los Angeles, may become airborne during brush fires..."

    Nitrogen Oxides
    Sulfur Dioxide

    ""spectacularly high" levels of nitrates--another type of nitrogen-containing pollutant--have been found in runoff from chaparral-covered slopes after rainstorms. But no one anticipated that such high levels would be found in smoke..."

    In the article Peak Theories Trashed the following quote brings up a good point about resources:

    'While the known extent of reserves has grown since the price spike of 2008, just how much extractable phosphorus is available to agriculture is largely shrouded in commercial-in-confidence secrecy by mining companies.'

    The issue being that as resource companies have gotten larger and countries have nationalized resources, it is becoming more difficult to predict the timing of price points for new technology. International cooperation to encourage more transparency would help to avoid some of the extremes of the boom and bust cycle as companies and investors could better predict the timing for investments in new technology or new mines, wells, etc. Large price swings end up destroying capital in investments that are stranded and abandoned which just serves to further consolidate industries which is good for corporate profit margins but not so good for consumers or the health of the economy over the long term.

    In the absence of more transparency, it may be prudent for some countries to impose import taxes that form a floor under critical resources and encourage domestic investment. Just the threat of this might be enough to encourage some countries to be more forth coming in proving the extent of their reserves and guaranteeing access to these resources over the long term. In turn, importing countries may need to guarantee access to their capital markets and allow ownership of capital to encourage exporters to produce more than is needed for there immediate needs. Forcing sovereign wealth funds into debt instruments that may have questionable value isn't a good way to encourage excess production over the long term.

    Let's Talk Infrastructure! Reports From Brooklyn, Berkeley, and Kentucky

    ... We are used to comparing GDP levels for different countries, and often compare GDP per capita. But consider a different metric: GDP per unit of land area needing infrastructure.

    Take South Korea, for example -- the poster country for fast internet service. Its GDP is 7.4% of our own. But South Korea is only 1.0% as large in area as the U.S. -- about the size of Indiana. That makes for a ratio of GDP in billions of dollars to land in millions of sq. miles of 30.2.

    For the U.S., that ratio is 4.1 counting Alaska or about 4.9 excluding it.

    For infrastructure-rich Switzerland (4% of our GDP, 1.4% of our land area) the ratio is 11.8. Can't we think that with even 2-3 times more GDP per square mile we'd surely enjoy some actual high-speed rail service and a lot fewer crumbling bridges?

    If that metric truly is the decisive one, it surprises me that Sweden, with its lower population density and lower GDP per capita, has excellent infrastructure. It surprises me that Iceland has excellent infrastructure. It's almost like geography isn't the decisive factor, but something else - like, say, public policy.

    I think the key part of the metric is GDP per unit of land area needing infrastructure.

    Boreal forest, glaciers, or deserts would not be included.

    Public policy is surely an important variable.

    In the US the decision has been made to reserve wealth for important purposes like the Romney family purchase of multiple Cadillacs, car elevators, and $4 million dollar summer homes, rather than wasting that money on infrastructure, health care, and education.

    The real reason for declining US infrastructure is the individualistic US ideology and aversion to taxes, plus the diversion of scarce public revenues to maintenance and expansion of empire. Iraq and Afghanistan would have financed US rail and renewable energy generation systems many times over, but those $trillions are now gone, and only the debt remains.

    Great post tommyvee - I completely agree! I had a friend in college and who said to me one day, "I don't mind paying taxes. Look at all the infrastructure there is - roads, street lights, sidewalks, sewers, etc. Go down to Tiajuana, look at the lack of infrastructure, then cross the border and you'll notice a huge difference. I can't understand why people are so averse to paying taxes."

    Many in America have 'rugged individualism' on the brain. Their idea is, if the individual pays a little as possible in taxes the whole system will work better. No, it may look better at a rich guy's estate, but society as a whole will suffer.

    I think they should call those politicians on their no govt. rants by putting up a bill to abolish all govt, national, state and local. Write into the bill to eliminate their jobs as congressmen, senators, mayors, with zero taxation nationwhide and stick it in front of their faces to sign. "Ah, well, we didn't mean absolutely no govt.?" "Well, what did you mean then? "We meant tons of money in taxes for wars and as little as possible taxes on the wealthy - let everyone else starve and die from lack of healthcare." "Oh, really?!"

    We did start with a very strong individualism meme, but it didn't get as overwhelmingly dominant as it is today without help. Many multi-billionaires let their success go to their heads, and support organizations with the above political agenda. They have been very effective. They carefully focus-test their messages, and relentlessly deploy them. One of those memes we've been brain-washed infected with, is the one where we'd rather the entire world burn then let one red cent of our hard earned money go to someone undeserving. I think we all have that one, a few of us are able to recognize that this is a meme/reaction that is doing us more harm than good, and try to resist. But, the vast majority simply echo it, and do as the sheeple-masters want.

    I wouldn't mind paying taxes if the politicians were honest, but what if you see all your money being spent on graft,corruption,make work projects, cronyism, etc? It's going on all over the country in small towns and big cities, so what came first, the money mismanagement or my cynicism?

    Are including DoD, DOE (NNSA), DHS, CIA, NSA, etc. Military Industrial Complex spending in your cynicism?

    You have much greater transparency available to you for most non-MIC spending than you do for most MIC spending.

    ...and in my opinion much MIC spending is not nearly as necessary, and/or efficient/waste-free, than you or I would like.

    That is a bit bogus of an argument. We are not stringing internet connections to the top of the Rocky Mountains or to the middle of Nevada deserts. Most people living in cities & suburbs like everywhere else. Thus, they should have the same speeds as other places with similar conditions. I don't expect farmers in the middle of nowhere to have the best internet service but major cities should have good service.

    Actually, we are stringing fiber to the middle of the desert so we'll have reliable high speed comm for solar projects, LOL. I'm involved in another fiber project over 10,000 feet above sea level running to existing hydro assets, too.

    Of course, the reason we don't have broadband everywhere is public policy and regulatory capture.

    Sure . . . but we don't expect to have (or need) the lowest latency for a solar project in the middle of a desert.

    If the fiber is used to communicate protection data, low latency may be important (milliseconds). For instance, it may be used to trip the generation off, or determine that facilities elsewhere need to be tripped to avoid destabilizing the grid.

    We are not stringing internet connections to the top of the Rocky Mountains

    Oh, I don't know about that. The communications companies have lots of wireless internet antennas on top of a lot of the Rocky Mountains around here.

    The key word is "wireless". Put it on top of a high mountain and it has a tremendous range.

    Of course, most (though not all) wireless sites have a hardwired grid connection for power. A lot of them are also hard-wired on one side of the comm. Some of my most remote distribution lines run to the tops of peaks to support comm sites. In a particularly crazy, albeit not that remote, example, most of the broadcast TV antennas serving the #2 DMA in the U.S. are on a peak which has had grid power from my company since 1914. Many of these stations do not have even backup generation.

    I am currently in the process of building a distribution line extension and fiber line up the side of a small peak in Nipton to serve a future microwave tower.

    I think it's highly unlikely that many of the mountaintop transmitters around here have a grid connection. These are serious mountains and a power line to the top of a mountain would likely be wiped out by avalanches, rockslides, and lightening strikes.

    As far as I can tell by climbing up the mountains and looking at the towers and their associated equipment, they mostly use fuel cells. They flew all the equipment to the top of the mountain by helicopter, and they fly in the fuel the same way.

    I definitely know of some like that (they usually ask what the cost of a grid connection will be before deciding to go off-grid), but it's pretty amazing where grid power goes and what kind of weather overhead lines can be built to withstand.

    I can see a tower on a mountain across the valley, but I don't see any power lines leading to the top. It's a 9,000 foot mountain, and near the top it is covered with broken rock which is gradually moving downhill and falling over cliffs, so I think keeping a power line operational would be a challenge.

    The tower is sitting on solid rock at the top, but the rock leading to the top is anything but solid. We call it scree.

    Scree: a slope of loose, large angular rocks broken away from the mountainside by freeze-thaw weathering.

    Walking on scree is a bit of a challenge, but we are up to a challenge. After a while you give up on walking and start running down the slopes as fast as you can, which is a lot of fun. It's a lot like skiing, but not as forgiving if you fall. However, you certainly can't build anything on it.

    Wireless communications. You may be interested to read about the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network, HPWREN.

    Web cams US pacific time (UTC -7).

    Most people living in cities & suburbs like everywhere else.

    Using the Census Bureau's definition of rural (more than 25 miles from a city/town of >25,000 in population), the western US is statistically less rural than the eastern parts of the country. Numerous reasons, but what it basically comes down to is that in the US West, the big empty spaces between cities are really empty.

    From Worldwatch Institute Vital Signs ...

    Growth in Global Oil Market Slows

    Global oil consumption increased by 0.7 percent in 2011 to reach an all-time high of 88.03 million barrels per day, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. This rate of increase was considerably slower than in 2010, when oil consumption rose by 3.3 percent following a decline of 1.3 percent in 2009 due to the global financial crisis.

    China’s oil consumption increased by 5.5 percent in 2011, and China accounted for about 85 percent of global net growth in oil use. An increase in oil consumption of 5.7 percent in the former Soviet Union contributed another 37 percent of net growth. But these increases were offset by declines in the United States and European Union, where oil consumption fell by 1.8 and 2.8 percent respectively.

    'Nuclear energy is perfectly environmentally friendly'

    Interview with Sergey Kirienko, head of Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom

    ... we have been mining uranium not only in Russia for a long time now. You’ve mentioned the United States – well, we’re the largest owner of uranium deposits on US territory. Rosatom owns 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves. We are presently mining in the state of Wyoming, for example. We own a controlling stake in Uranium One, the world’s largest corporate owner and miner of uranium resources.

    Who won the cold war again?

    Oh right. War is Peace, Cold is Hot and Invisible is Clean. Sorry.. brain fart.

    Interview with Arnie Gunderson on the Japanese report on Fukushima. Aspects of the questionable steam generators at San Onofre are also covered. The cultures are at fault.


    Interestingly, the steam generator replacement costs at San Onofre and the crude unit replacement cost at Motiva Port Aurthur add up to $2,000,000,000 -two billion dollars- worth of blown plumbing. Humans just aren't as clever as advertised.

    MOTIVA REFINERY DEBACLE: Caustic – the same thing that blew up Norco. Lock-out, Tag-out, the most basic safety rule, strikes again. The same thing that blew-up Piper Alpha. Unbelievable

    "Might as well melt it all down and start over…"


    How One Drought Changed Texas Agriculture Forever

    ... "The first year ... nah, not too bad, you know. And then a little dry the next year," Whittley says. "By about the third year, it was beginning to get really interesting, and then it got really serious, and from then on it was just tough."

    ... "A cow'd get down and they'd be layin' there bawlin', you know, and those wild hogs be eatin' on 'em. They just started eatin' on her while she's alive," he recalls. "I fell out with hogs right there."

    In 1957, in the seventh year of the drought, the rains finally returned. As it happened, the drought broke immediately after President Dwight Eisenhower flew into San Angelo in late January on a drought inspection tour.

    They say San Angelo has been voting Republican ever since.

    Pennsylvania city workers introduced to Mr. Minimum Wage

    Scranton's Public Workers' Pay Cut To Minimum Wage

    Mayor Chris Doherty has reduced everyone's pay — including his own — to the state's minimum wage: $7.25 an hour.

    Doherty says his city has run out of money.

    After paying workers Friday, the city had only about $5,000 left in the bank.

    The firefighters' union, along with the police and public works unions, have taken the city to court. Lackawanna County Judge Michael Barrasse issued an injunction, essentially agreeing with the unions that the city was breaking the law, but Doherty says he doesn't have another choice. Despite the injunction, he had the city send out paychecks based on minimum wage.

    That's not the way it works. The city must borrow money for the banks. Then the banks will take ownership of everything in Scranton at pennies on the dollar as partial re-payment.

    According to the article, the workers have been drawn into a fight between the mayor and council. And the pay cut is a temporary measure; they will be repaid in full once it's settled (probably with interest, if it goes the way these things usually do).

    Curiously, Scranton PA was featured not long ago in a CNN segment on where to move if you're looking for a job. Supposedly, their economy was booming despite the recession. There was also a kerfuffle this spring over a $40 million dollar renovation of the stadium of the minor league Scranton Yankees. Though I believe it was the state and the county that ended up paying, not the city.

    Looks like it's a very complex situation. This editorial argues the crisis was at least partly caused by the state.

    Interesting idea...goes along the lines of American self-reliance /and/ community organizing...becoming more connected with one's neighbors....


    However, the realist part of me starts to enumerate the potential problems which could arise:

    Folks culling the collection of books which offend their political, moral, etc. sensibilities...'think of the children!'...

    ...and plain ole mindless vandalism...

    ...then my mind wanders to 'would the neighborhood home owner association, association of residents, and municipality zoning ordinances let the air out of this tire?'

    yard/garage sales, and perhaps the occasional semi-organized neighborhood fair/even/book swap might serve the same need...and might somewhat mitigate issues with unattended boxes...and increase neighborhood face-to-face interaction.

    Reading further into the article, I like the idea of small businesses volunteering to host a rack or racks of swap books...then I realized that I live in a sterile modern American housing tract (albeit with rather nice houses), where the zoning prohibits mixed-use neighborhoods, such as the ones I lived in in a small (~60,000-person) town in central PA...no '1st Avenue Pizza, or corner bar, or corner 'dairy store', or Frank;s Barbershop...etc anywhere in sight or walkable distance...gotta drive to get to any shops/businesses...it is amazing how we have constructed our cities to require longer car rides on ever-busier streets and highways to go to smaller numbers of larger stores...concentrated in small commercial-business-only strips and zones.

    Folks culling the collection of books which offend their political, moral, etc. sensibilities...'think of the children!'...

    The global open source community might be a bit of an antidote to that...


    Massimo Banzi helped invent the Arduino, a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller that's inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine -- from toys to satellite gear. Because, as he says, "You don't need anyone's permission to make something great."

    I'm not worried about people having small libraries aligned with their worldviews, I'm really expecting that would be the case.. including those whose worldviews are eager to include challenging and difficult voices within their shelves, knowing that you can benefit having both poisons and cures in your chemistry set.. keep your friends AND enemies all close at hand and understand them as well as you can.

    It's kind of like the ideal of have a free and independent press.. there ARE lots of viewpoints, and the more we have that fact out in the open, the more it actually challenges the conceit that one's orthodoxy is the only option. Corporate Media and Political News control is sort of the opposite of this, of course.

    I was reading some Paparazzi fluff this morning, looking at the Tom & Katie divorce, and what the church of Scientology has bred with it's baffling and shuttered approach to 'Religion/Sci-Fi', and how it needed to avoid the views of the rest of the world in order to make it's own arbitrary and zany philosophy sort of hold together. The comments were rich enough, too, with people likening Ol' Papa Hubbard's Faith to 'All Religions'.. which I'm sure would be just barely amusing to the Dalai Lama or Thich Nat Han, and also hardly worth much of their worry.

    Lots of little libraries.. no problem. Central Ministry of All Books.. kinda scary.

    "The Index Librorum Prohibitorum (English: List of Prohibited Books) was a list of publications prohibited by the Catholic Church. A first version (the Pauline Index) was promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1559, and a revised and somewhat relaxed form (the Tridentine Index) was authorized at the Council of Trent.... The final (20th) edition appeared in 1948, and it was formally abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope Paul VI."


    Surely, that one started a few decades after Martin Luther pinned up his 95 Theses.. I wonder how much the Vatican monitored just how well their list was inspiring the opposition to stock up?

    "What IS your fascination with my forbidden closet of mysteries?" Chief Wiggam, THE SIMPSONS

    “Monsters exist because they are part of the divine plan, and in the horrible features of those same monsters the power of the creator is revealed.”

    ― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

    Scientology has been trying to control what's said about them for a long time. Back in the newsgroup days, they tried to delete the newsgroup devoted to discussion of scientology. More recently, Wikipedia blocked a bunch of known scientology IPS addresses, to keep them from making self-serving edits to their Wikipedia page. That's not something Wikipedia does lightly.

    Todays news-batch at svt.se was interesting. Removing sport related:

    More than 40 dead in american heat wave.

    Barney Frank first congressman to enter one-sex marriage

    The liberal alliance leading Libyan elections

    National mourning announced in Russia [after 150+ dead in rain]

    Trafic problem in Västerås [Swedish town] after heavy rain

    Norwegian more proud [and more pro-immigration] after July 22


    Most of this stuff is drumbeat material.

    Here's how our cozy little backwater is staying in the National conversation today..


    "You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo -- the I.R.S."

    .. what a charmer!

    LaPage sounds like a real piece of work...it is a wonder he didn't run for the Presidential candidate nomination...maybe he will be the next Grover Norquist and future politicians will take an oath of fealty to him...

    The decision is a distraction. Heads, they win.... Tails, they win: A giant industry of middlemen remains. You and your family can't just receive medical attention if you are citizens.

    The real action is in the liberation of the states from having to meet requirements in order to continue receiving government funds.


    Page 5

    Amusing: and here "we" had Northeasterners tidily bundled together as liberals-in-the-US-sense, denizens of the bicoastal "blue" states — as opposed to, oh … wicked "red"-state Texans. Who knew? It makes that whole color-coding thing all the more confusing, and it's confusing enough when one recalls that "the people's flag is deepest red".

    Just backs up the old saw,

    "All generalizations are wrong, including this one.."

    "To Generalize is to be an Idiot" [itself a generalization, of course, and Blake was very fond of making them]
    - William Blake (c. 1805)

    Here's another of his pronouncements:
    "Commerce is so far from being beneficial to Arts or to Empire, that it is destructive of both, as all their History shows, for the above Reason of Individual Merit being its Great Hatred. Empires flourish till they become Commercial & then they are scattered abroad to the four winds."
    Public address, Blake's Notebook c. 1810

    Interestingly, the election maps used to alternate the assignment of red/blue every election cycle. Then some pundit started talking about red/blue states, and it was no longer possible to alternate the color scheme.

    And the political orientation of the red and blue parties ended up being the reverse of what it is in the rest of the world.

    Red = Communist
    Blue = Conservative

    Yes, that is the really confusing bit, another minor case of US exceptionalism. And "The People's Flag Is Deepest Red" gives some people in the UK a problem with "O Tannenbaum" at Christmas time...

    Yeah, that clearly makes Santa Claus a commie as he wears red and gives away presents instead of selling them.


    Worse than a commie, a hippie advocating (and practicing) the "gift economy"!

    Yeah, that is what really sucked about Nazis . . . government healthcare. WW2 could have been avoided if they had just stayed out of healthcare.

    Brazil’s Wealthiest Man Takes Fall in Dicey Oil Game

    It was a dizzying height from which to drop. Eike Batista is the quintessential high-achieving, alpha male entrepreneur. He's the richest man in Brazil, with a group of companies active in everything from mining and shipping to oil and real estate.

    The fall was the biggest anyone could remember at the Sao Paulo stock exchange, according to its chief executive officer, Edemir Pinto. No company among the five most traded had ever lost half its value in the market in just two days, as Batista's oil concern OGX did in the final days of June.

    The implosion occurred after OGX announced that production from its first two wells would be half what the company -- and the market -- had anticipated....

    ...With much fanfare, OGX began production this January in a field now called Tubarao Azul in Brazil’s Campos Basin. Expectations were high. Last year, CEO Paula Mendonca, a former Petrobras executive known as "Dr. Oil," had predicted the field could produce as much as 80,000 barrels a day. This past May, he had forecast 40,000 to 50,000 barrels a day from four wells by 2013.

    But in a carefully worded announcement June 26, OGX revealed that its first two wells were bringing in just 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, half of what the CEO -- who was summarily fired -- had projected less than a month earlier.

    The bigger they are,...

    Sourced via: Hubris Before The Storm (TAE). My Canadian friends may enjoy this one :-0

    Amidst all the hype a few years ago about how the Brazilian offshore discoveries were going to save us all from Peak Oil, I don't think many commentators realized how difficult they would be to develop. Apparently Brazil's richest man didn't either, so he's a lot less rich now than he used to be.

    Commentators who are hyping the recent shale oil production in the US and think it will solve all of America's energy problems should be informed that it isn't quite as good as advertised, either.

    As for the Canada Pension Plan's $1 billion investment in Australian office towers, I'm not sure what they are up to either, but this is really just spare change for them. They have over $160 billion in their investment fund and the amount is increasing fast. Most likely they are trying to diversify away from North America, or at least away from the US. It's just spreading the risk. They don't want to have too much money invested in any one country, including Canada.

    Stoneleigh weighs in on Monbiot-- Peak Oil: A Dialogue with George Monbiot

    Oh my!
    Poor Monbiot.
    A crushing weight befalls.

    I sincerely hope this fool's butt spontaneously explodes in a fiery display on National Idiot's Lantern....

    George Will On Climate Change: It's Just 'Summer ... Get Over It'


    And recently we have been exposed to a large number of TV commercials from Exxon-Mobil lamenting the U.S. student performance in math and science and stating that we need to join together (with E-M's guidance I suppose) to 'fix this' and 'do better'.






    I found these commercials fascinating, since the political right in the U.S. seems to be against science knowledge...at least any such knowledge which debases its cherished viewpoints...

    The E-M motto here is 'Let's invest in our teachers and inspire our students' and 'Let's solve this.'

    When I get a chance I will see about researching their web site and see the details of their solution. I am curious if they support and condone open and impartial climate research?

    "I am curious if they support and condone open and impartial climate research?"

    This raises an interesting question IMO. Just as there may not genuinely be an identifiable societal "we", is there really an E-M "they"? Or has intense and sometimes contradictory external political pressure fixed things so no one dares speak clearly in an "official" voice, and fragmented the "they" among the marketing, scientific, and engineering departments, and the advertising agency?

    Hmmm...Exxon-Mobil's name is on the commercials as the commercials' sponsor...

    And, if I am understanding your comment/question correctly, I doubt that some portion of E-M has 'gone rogue'...I am certain that these ad campaigns are utterly vetted by the E-M corporate structure, and would be shot down/terminated if not toe-ing the corporate line.

    I understand Rockman's answer below...

    Corporations are NOT democracies, but top down autocracies. The official direction is set by the top executives, not by the general culture of the employees. That is especially true for expenditures on media.

    Corporations are democracies, but only for shareholders. The employees work for the shareholders, and the top executives are employees of the shareholders, too. Sometimes they forget that fact.

    Yes, this is the theory of a corporation. The reality of most badly managed corporations is the senior management tries to steal everything that is not nailed down.

    Rarely do the shareholders have much real power. Mostly all they can do is sell (or use). They can be uncooperative voting for board members, but there is very little actual accountability. Especially now that large institutions, who often don't own the shares for long enough to care about the companies actual prospects are so important.

    Clearly in day to day operation the corp is a dictatorship, the CEO tells the employees to jump, and either they jump -or they are fired.

    I think you should try explaining that to the former CEO and Directors who were recently fired by the shareholders at Canadian Pacific Railway. The shareholders revolted and replaced them with a new group, led by the former CEO of CN Rail. Shareholders can do that if they really want to, you know.

    CP has been the worst-performing of the Class I railroads in North America, and the shareholders didn't like that. CN has been one of the best, so a dissident shareholder group brought in Hunter Harrison, the guy who turned CN around.

    CN used to be owned by the government of Canada, and before it was privatized, lost billions of taxpayer dollars. Now it is one of the most profitable railroads in the world, with tracks running from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Oil Sands to the Gulf of Mexico. My, how things have changed.

    Corporations are democracies like Soviet politburos were democracy. Yeah, there is voting but except in very rare circumstances, we all know what the results are going to be before the vote.

    I too doubt the part about 'going rogue' at least deliberately. Such a company is indeed not a democracy internally. But often enough in big bureaucracies the left hand doesn't quite know what the right hand is doing, and it would hardly be the first time that an ad campaign went a bit off-message or committed a bizarre gaffe. And once it does, an internal PR question will always be whether to try to fix it publicly, or just tread softly, softly, away from it.

    H - "I found these commercials fascinating, since the political right in the U.S. seems to be against science knowledge" You're viewing XOM improperly as many do. They are not pro-conservative any more than they are pro-liberal. They are pro-XOM. If making Mary Jane legal and aborting every fetus in the country would improve their stock value you would see those ads put out by them. If they thought their bottom line would be improved with a White House and Congress fully controlled by the D party they would throw every penny they could behind those campaigns. Yep…lots of conservative types in Big Oil management but I haven’t met one who would support any liberal cause if it improved their bottom line. It’s never personal…just business.

    XOM needs a skilled work force. Other than that many of them couldn’t care less about teachers or our youth. I’ve broken bread with them and know what they say when the cameras aren’t there.

    I grok what you are saying...but I guess I need to go to their site and see the details of what they mean by 'supporting teachers and inspiring students'...what exactly does this mean with respect to policy?

    Will XOM train and provide science and math teachers to schools across the nation? Will XOM provide educational web services a la the Khan Academy? Will XOM sponsor more scholarships/internships?

    Inquiring minds want to know...talk is cheap, and the problem is wide and deep.

    If XOM simply wants a well-educated work force for itself, it can set up a number of XOM private academies, fed by a select number of XOM-funded charter/magnet schools, combined with a robust scholarship program.

    I suppose other industries could follow this example, but what other industry besides silicon valley has the deep pockets?

    The DoD/MIC 'industry' could perhaps do more of that...but do not think that that tribe holds the keys to our longer-term successful/useful societal adaptations to Limits-To-Growth trends.

    H - I have no doubt you'll find tens of $millions (if not hundeds) contributed the last decade towards edcation by XOM et al. And many of the big companies contribute to education by supporting employees continuing education efforts. There are thousand of interns employeed this summer by the companies..,especially the service companies.

    Good PR and helps with the manpower situation. Just the cost of doing business.

    But more general education, that's a tough one, if you are worried about your bottom line. Few of the students will become contributors to your corp. Some will end up working for your competitors.
    Generally American rightists (conservative actually means to minimize change, which is not what the current American "conservative" movement is about.) tend to support engineering and business education, but are against science, because it tends to encourage the questioning of things. There are always more jobs in engineering than science.

    Well, American conservatives might be different from the rest of the world. In general, in the global context, conservatives are pro-science, pro-mathematics, but distinctly unenthusiastic about liberal arts.

    I think the most revealing way to consider the American religious conservative's conflict with science is via their view of materialism. Where science might intervene with a materialistic explanation that is in conflict with a transmitted religious explanation, the materialistic explanation is rejected. This plays out in such fields as evolution (re creation), psychology and sociology (re free will), and climatology (re God's covenant). Some Christians, of course, have no issue reconciling these materialistic explanations with their religion. But for many, rejection is not only easier than reconciliation, but also more worthy, since renouncing materialism strengthens their theism, places them in a position of doing God's work.

    Evangelical religion is a living "ism" and powerful cultural and political force in America in a way that is almost unimaginable in the rest of the Western world.

    my 2c

    I think you're overgeneralizing. You won't find many Creationists in the oil company executive offices, although they may not admit that in church.

    When they drill an oil well, they are drilling back in time looking for the remains of the extinct critters that made the oil, or are at least marking where it is now. The geologists will have a very good idea what these creatures look like, going back to the start of the Cambrian period, 540 million years ago, and know that they don't look much like the creatures roaming the Earth nowadays. They know for a fact the Earth is considerably more than 6000 years old.

    They will also know with a great deal of accuracy what the climate was like and the sea levels were in any particular age, and they won't bear a lot of relationship to the way things are now, either.

    Oh it is pretty clear. If it comes to supporting a politician with tax-cuts for them but supports creationism in schools or a politician trying to eliminate their tax-breaks buy trying to teach real science in schools, we all know who they are going to donate to.

    spec - Exactly. Any coincidence of religeous or political view points is just that...coiincidence. For instanace almost 100% of geologsts I've worked with are conservatives who beleive in evolution. And probably the vast majority were atheists like me. Goes for engineers to a large degree also. So what does that make most oil patch hands: pro-science non-beleivers who don't care for most liberal phiosophies. So what would the generalized handle for us?

    XOM needs a skilled work force. Other than that many of them couldn’t care less about teachers or our youth. I’ve broken bread with them and know what they say when the cameras aren’t there.

    That's it in a nutshell, Rockman. US schools aren't cranking out enough graduates with the academic skills needed to operate an oil well. It is a serious problem.

    We used to talk about this all the time at strategic planning meetings. It is a serious problem for oil companies. It isn't as serious in Canada because at least in the West the schools produce a better product that can at least Read and 'Rite and do 'Rithmetic as a result of the British Colonial Past, but for the American branch of the company having illiterate and innumerate high school graduates working at jobs was a real problem. There are really no such things as unskilled jobs at an oil company, and even for an oil pumper the math gets tough at times.

    There's plenty of underemployed STEM graduates in America. I'm leery when industries start pleading skills shortages. Its often a case of them being unwilling to pay decent wages to attract the talent, or being unwilling to spend anything on training and only wanting perfect applicants. Its probably not the case here, but America's schools aren't as bad as some people think. If there's so many un- or underemployed graduates, from high school up, its often because the economy is in a real mess, not because they are unemployable.


    STEM is a uniquely American acronym that isn't used elsewhere, e.g. in Canada.

    Low wages are not usually a problem in the oil industry - its wages tend to be higher than most industries. The usual problem is insufficient science and math education to handle the jobs, plus lack of the specific skills needed.

    America's schools ARE as bad as some people think, and in fact they're worse than most Americans think. They are unaware of how bad they are because they haven't been exposed to the school systems in the higher ranking countries. See the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

    PISA Mathematics Scores 2009

    1. Shanghai, China 600
    2. Singapore 562
    3. Hong Kong, China 555
    4. South Korea 546
    5. Taiwan 543
    6. Finland 541
    7. Liechtenstein 536
    8. Switzerland 534
    9. Japan 529
    10. Canada 527
    11. Netherlands 526
    12. Macau, China 535
    13. New Zealand 519
    14. Belgium 515
    15. Australia 514
    16. Germany 513
    28. United Kingdom 492
    31. United States 487

    I deleted the lower-scoring countries from the list (except the US and UK) and boldfaced the English speaking countries to give you a feel for what is going on (I could have highlighted the Chinese-speaking ones in red to make you feel even worse, but decided not to.)

    From your Huffpo link:

    "I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning. What is so unusual about this?"

    This week's weather has resulted in at least 35 deaths. In some parts of the country, the temperature hit triple digits more than once.

    Houston, we have a serious messaging problem here, at the absolute minimum. This Alana Horowitz seems to think the second part of this bit is an obvious, even snide, reply to the first. Maybe the short post didn't have room for more or better, but 35 is small beer; there were around 750 deaths in the 1995 heat wave in Chicago alone, a fact that has been getting lots of publicity at least in the region around Chicago. Nor is it exactly the first time it's hit triple digits (one assumes Fahrenheit of course) "more than once" in "parts of the country". It does so routinely in, say, Palm Springs, CA. Surely she could find ammo that's more than duds?

    No, whatever case there is to be made, it certainly won't be made convincingly by one-liners as silly as that. Horowitz comes off like just another insular pundit preaching to her own choir, not caring about being heard by anyone else. Since this seems to be the norm for climate commentary in general forums, it's no wonder that once the bloviation is done for the day and the backdrops and TV cameras are packed up, the politics continues to go pretty much nowhere.

    Sorry my one liner didn't come up to your high standards.
    It was aimed at the obviously contemptuous, arrogant dismissal of any thought of there being a problem with the climate on the part of Will.
    If you want to shift attention to the pieces author for just stating stat's without achieving a ferocious take down of Will, fine, go ahead.
    Hardly my point.

    "The most important tools of the magician are diversion and timing." ~ Anonymous Victorian conman...

    All hat, no bunny?

    I was referring to Horowitz's one-liners about the deaths and temps, in the quote. When there's a heat wave, and the best Horowitz can do is to complain about a wholly unremarkable instance of what happens every time there's a major heat wave, then there's no argument capable of changing anyone's mind. It might have been just as well for her not to try to improve on silence.

    More generally, I would anticipate yet more jokes about shoveling "X" inches of global warming come next winter. And I expect we'll be seeing this sort of futile seasonal tit-for-tat until something happens that's clearly unprecedented (and is also inconsistent with North American conditions merely returning to normal - the discussion a couple of days ago tells us that the last century has been exceptionally wet, so that droughts, even mega-droughts, and the heat that accompanies them, should be expected and planned for even if one could switch off AGW altogether tomorrow morning.)

    Asian Forest Fire Smoke Reaches the Pacific NW

    I wonder what would happen if Japan has a large >8 aftershock (similar to the one after the Boxing Day Earthquake in 2006) and the spent fuel pools collapsed and caught fire at Fukushima and were unapproachable. Chances are the US and Canada would lay in the path of any plume.

    Also, we can expect this from all the coal burning in Asia. Especially after we ramp up our coal exports, currently at 6 to 20 coal trains per day.

    William Shakespeare seems to have predicted a difficult economic situation facing mankind stemming from a systemic return to using only the sun (after using up depleting fossil fuels, especially coal)


    Where did you run across this, Pi?

    I am having fun reading it, in any case.


    EDIT: I had to read Act II, Sc II .. just to see some of the author's claims for myself, and see if indeed "Juliet is the Sun" .. pretty compelling, to whit..


    Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
    That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--


    O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
    That monthly changes in her circled orb,
    Lest that thy love prove likewise variable. ...

    ...My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
    My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
    The more I have, for both are infinite.

    Reefs in Rapid Decline

    From the article:

    In the Caribbean, for example, 75-85 percent of the coral cover has been lost in the last 35 years.

    Even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the best-protected reef ecosystem on the planet, has witnessed a 50 percent decline in the last 50 years.

    More than 85 percent of reefs in Asia's "Coral Triangle" are directly threatened

    Rising ocean acid levels are 'the biggest threat to coral reefs'

    "The speed by which the oceans' acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change's "equally evil twin""

    Nice two-armed robot action: