Drumbeat: July 25, 2012

The Dawn of the Great California Energy Crash

California, which imports over 25% of its electricity from out of state, is in no position to lose half (!) of its entire nuclear power capacity. But that’s exactly what happened earlier this year, when the San Onofre plant in north San Diego County unexpectedly went offline. The loss only worsens the broad energy deficit that has made California the most dependent state in the country on expensive, out-of-state power.

Its two nuclear plants -- San Onofre in the south and Diablo Canyon on the central coast -- together have provided more than 15% of the electricity supply that California generates for itself, before imports. But now there is the prospect that San Onofre will never reopen.

Will California now find that it must import as much as 30% of its power?

Oil Trades Below $90 a Barrel a Third Day on Supply Gain

Oil fell for the third time in four days in New York on speculation an increase in U.S. crude stockpiles signaled slowing demand in the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity.

Futures slid as much as 0.8 percent after the industry- funded American Petroleum Institute said inventories rose 1.35 million barrels last week. An Energy Department report today may show supplies dropped 1 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg News survey. The International Monetary Fund said China’s slowing economy faces significant downside risks and relies too much on investment.

Natural gas prices surge 70%

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Natural gas prices have surged over 70% during the past three months, fueled by increased air conditioning use, a switch from coal in power plants, and declining production rates.

The price for natural gas at Henry Hub, a junction of pipelines and storage facilities in Louisiana, has gone from $1.85 per million British thermal units in April to $3.14 Tuesday -- a seven-month high.

New talk of power link for Egypt and Saudi Arabia

Egypt and Saudi Arabia took another step towards their plan to swap electricity in an effort to avoid shortages, according to Egypt's energy minister.

Spanish utilities step up tax fight, fear losses

(Reuters) - Top Spanish energy groups Iberdrola, Endesa and Gas Natural have stepped up a last-ditch campaign against new taxes looming for the sector, warning the government that the reforms could wipe out their profits in the country.

Is peak oil dead?

One might think so, judging by a slew of optimistic new forecasts for oil production. Even George Monbiot, notable for his thoughtful previous coverage of peak oil in The Guardian, threw in the towel with his July 2 mea culpa, “We were wrong about peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all.”

Monbiot reversed his position after reading a new report by Leonardo Maugeri, an executive with the Italian oil company ENI and a senior fellow at a BP-funded center at Harvard University.

Fool me twice, shame on me: The oil industry repackages the fake abundance story (from the late 1990s)

The industry's purpose is transparent: To ensure that the world remains addicted to fossil fuels by convincing all of us that our energy sources--more than 80 percent of which are fossil fuels--don't need to change. It's a winning strategy even if the industry's premise is wrong since the oil companies still have huge inventories of fossil fuels underground that they want to sell at top prices. And, they are only going to get those top prices if government, businesses and households fail to convert to alternatives and thus remain hostage to fossil fuels.

Is peak oil a non-event?

The idea the peak oil might recede shouldn’t be a surprise. Higher prices encourage consumers to reduce demand and switch to substitutes like renewables and shale oil. They also encourage further exploration and make previously marginal reserves viable.

The era of really “cheap oil” that prevailed in the post-war period up to around 2000 is probably behind us, according to the report. But “it is still uncertain what the future level of oil prices might be. Technology may turn today’s expensive oil into tomorrow’s cheap oil.”

Peabody Forecast Misses Estimates After Coal Price Drop

Peabody Energy Corp., the largest U.S. coal producer, fell the most in more than three years after its third-quarter forecast missed analysts’ estimates on falling coal prices and rising costs in Australia.

Exxon May Lead Drop in Global Oil Profits on Lower Prices

The world’s largest oil companies are poised to report a drop in second-quarter earnings after crude prices declined for the first time in three years.

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s biggest oil company by market value, will probably say tomorrow net income dropped 13 percent from a year earlier to $9.3 billion dollars, based on the average of five analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s top oil producer, is expected to see profit decline 4 percent after adjusting for certain gains and losses.

ConocoPhillips 2Q profit falls 33 pct

NEW YORK (AP) — ConocoPhillips says net income fell 33 percent in the second quarter as oil prices fell and it shed its refining and pipelines business.

Its results still beat Wall Street estimates, and the company's stock price rose slightly in premarket trading.

Suncor keeps a lid on oil sands costs

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Suncor Energy Inc.s’ earnings slumped this quarter, plummeting to $333-million, versus $1.457-billion last quarter and $562-million during the same period in 2011.

But strip out the serious problems in Syria, which led to after-tax impairment charges and write-offs of $694-million because the company hasn’t produced anything in the war-torn country this year, and Suncor suddenly looks much better.

Transneft Shares Buoyed as Cash Rises as Spending Slows

OAO Transneft probably will produce what investor Ivan Mazalov calls “massive” cash this year as the pipeline operator delivers Kremlin-backed projects supplying oil to Asia and the Baltic Sea. That may return investors to one of Russia’s cheapest energy stocks.

Rosneft Starts Talk BP to Buy Stake in Russian Venture

OAO Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil producer, began talks to buy BP Plc (BP/)’s stake in TNK-BP as the U.K. oil company seeks to exit the venture jointly owned with a group of billionaires.

Li Ka-shing Doubles U.K. Gas Networks With $1 Billion Deal

Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing agreed to pay 645 million pounds ($1 billion) cash for Wales & West Utilities Ltd. to almost double the size of the gas transmission businesses his companies control in the U.K.

Shell Revises Agreement With CNPC To Boost Tight Gas Output

Tight gas is an unconventional natural gas that is harder to extract because the deposit is surrounded by rock and sand.

Under an amended production-sharing contract, Shell and CNPC will develop tight-gas sands in addition to its already producing main reservoir and boost output beyond a current peak of 320 million cubic feet per day, it said in a statement.

CNOOC’s Nexen Bid Shows How Far Goal Posts Have Moved

CNOOC’s blockbuster deal for Nexen, if nothing else, is a stark indication of how far the goal posts have moved not only for Canada’s oil patch, but also for world oil demand. Only four or five years ago, the notion that a state-owned Chinese company could buy—lock, stock and barrel of bitumen—one of Canada’s premier oil names was politically unthinkable. Any such deal was sure to be turned down by Ottawa under its Foreign Investment Review Act (not to mention the hue and cry that would come from Alberta’s provincial government).

Today, that’s all changed. CNOOC’s $15-billion offer for Nexen follows a number of major foreign transactions in Canada’s energy sector. Among others, Malaysian energy giant Petronas is paying $5.5-billion to get at Progress Energy’s natural gas reserves in British Columbia. Earlier this year, PetroChina completed a two-pronged deal for Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. that tallied $2.5-billion. In 2010, Sinopec paid $4.65-billion for a 9 percent stake in Syncrude, which runs Alberta’s largest oilsands mine.

Iran builds first oil tanker for Venezuela

Iran has completed construction of the first of four oil tankers to be sold to Venezuela for a total 230 million euros, the official news agency IRNA reported on Tuesday.

The Aframax-category tanker -- capable of carrying 113,000 tonnes of oil, the equivalent of 750,000 barrels -- was built over the past two years by the Iranian shipbuilding company SADRA, which was put under US sanctions in March because it is owned by Iran s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

Iran's supreme leader says Western-led sanctions, pressure, won't force policy shift

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's Supreme Leader says Western-led sanctions and pressure will not force Iran to change its policies, voicing confidence that the country can beat the latest moves to block its vital oil and banking industries.

In remarks broadcast on state TV Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says some countries partaking in the U.S.-led sanctions will not continue them over the long term because of economic drawbacks.

Official: Syrian rebels brace for showdown in Aleppo

(CNN) -- Leaders of Syrian rebel forces ordered their fighters to attack hundreds of government troops heading toward Aleppo, the country's largest city, a Free Syrian Army official told CNN on Wednesday.

The Syrian regime withdrew about 2,000 fully equipped troops, along with their tanks and artillery, from Idlib and sent them to Aleppo, the official said.

Syria violence forces thousands from country

BEIRUT – Om Jamal crossed into Lebanon from her home in the Syrian village of Ain Al-Tennour, where forces loyal to dictator Bashar Assad ransacked homes and terrorized residents.

Her village is part of the region of Reef Qusayr, where people of different faiths have lived together since antiquity until Assad's campaign to crush an uprising turned the region into a bloody battleground. Villagers refuse to surrender, fathers bury sons hurriedly every day and doctors struggle to save children sliced by shrapnel.

Five Syria Nightmares: The Middle East Can’t Live with Assad, but Living Without Him Won’t Be Easy

Nobody's expecting a happy ending any time soon to Syria's civil war. Here are just five things that could go badly wrong when the Assad regime falls.

As Syria Teeters, So Do Decades-Old Assumptions About the Middle East

The conflict is testing the brittle bonds of a national identity in states carved out of old Ottoman provinces at the end of World War I.

A Syrian Stalemate?

What would Syria look like if the Assad regime retreated to its ancestral homeland?

Baghdad flexes muscles to bar Chevron over Kurdish oil deal

Baghdad has barred the US oil company Chevron from bidding for Iraq government contracts after the super-major bought into the Kurdish autonomous region's oil sector.

Chevron last week acquired an 80 per cent stake in two Kurdish oil fields from India's Reliance Industries. It followed a similar move by ExxonMobil - the world's biggest oil company by market capitalisation -which bought the rights to six fields in November.

US, China threaten Southeast Asian peace

The Chinese government is taking a dual approach to consolidating its territorial claims in the South China Sea. A recent softening of the country's diplomatic line amid a simultaneous deployment of military assets reveals a nuanced carrot-and-stick approach.

Was the Shell oil hoax ethical?

Many sympathize with the intent of the Greenpeace-Yes Men protest. Yet, as much as one might disagree with a particular corporate action, the honest choice demands either engaging in civil protest and accepting the consequences, or staging a symbolic protest (such as culture jamming, parody, or satire) that is clearly identifiable as an act of protest.

The Shell Oil hoax did not announce itself as a parody (though a discerning viewer could detect it), and so neglects the second standard. Satire or parody should be obvious -- maybe not immediately, but soon -- or it is in danger of becoming little more than misrepresentation.

University of Texas Will Review Gas Study After Conflict Questions Raised

In a statement distributed to journalists tonight, Steven Leslie, provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas at Austin, said the study of gas drilling impacts would be reviewed by independent experts in the next few weeks and criticized Groat’s failure to report income from his relationship with a drilling company.

Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.

Rules intended to limit pollution from ships raises concerns in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska has sued to block enforcement of rules intended to limit pollution from large ships, saying the rules will result in higher freight rates and pricier cruises that will hurt the state's economy.

A Low-Key Debut for a New N.R.C. Leader

Dr. Macfarlane, a geologist with extensive experience in nuclear waste questions but not reactor operations, seemed to strive for a collaborative and inclusive tone on Tuesday. Appearing with three of her fellow commissioners before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees, she said her colleagues were “all talented professionals.’”

Nuclear vision for UAE and Korea

A group of South Korean and Emirati officials poured the first concrete for the UAE's nuclear plant last week. Now Seoul already hopes to broaden that partnership.

Once the UAE's four planned reactors are completed by 2020, the two countries will have built up a nuclear expertise that they can bring to other nations by co-bidding to build plants, said Kwak Seung-jun, the chairman of the South Korean Presidential Council for Future and Vision, an advisory group to the president.

North Korea Wants to Open Rare Earth Treasure Trove

North Korea may not have many smartphones, laptops or electric cars, but the "hermit kingdom" does have huge deposits of the rare earth minerals necessary for making such high-tech gadgets. Such minerals could end up supplying South Korea's high-tech industries — but only if the Koreas can overcome decades of wartime footing.

Most people waiting up to 10 years to buy a new car

"What is most compelling is that longer ownership has become an embedded habit for car owners, regardless of what the economy does," said Brian Hafer, a vice president at AutoMD.com. "This significant lengthening of the ownership cycle looks like it is here to stay."

Tesla Model S review: A good first impression

I have driven the $100,000 version of the car, albeit it briefly, and I'm amazed. The car would seem worth the price, or maybe more, if it were powered by a gasoline engine. (Cheaper versions will be largely the same but with shorter driving ranges.) If there's sleight of hand here, I haven't been able to find it yet.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

RelayRides has integrated its service into General Motors’ OnStar roadside assistance service. This means that any of the 6 million OnStar subscribers across the country can now make their vehicles sharable on RelayRides. The new feature also makes it easy for people to rent a car. In the past, you’d often have to get the keys from the owner, but with OnStar—which connects the car to a central dispatch service by satellite—you can unlock the car with your phone.

U.K. Boosts Gas While Cutting Support for Wind, Biomass

The U.K. government granted tax relief for natural gas drilling and cut subsidies for renewable energy, signaling more reductions in the months ahead as it balances demands for cheaper electricity against a goal to lower pollution from fossil fuels.

Interior Names Solar ‘Hot Spots’ Out West

After more than two years of study and public comment, the Department of Interior on Tuesday identified 17 sites on 285,000 acres of public lands across six Southwestern states as prime spots for development of solar energy. Agency officials said the government would fast-track applications for large-scale solar energy installations at those sites in the hope of speeding construction of thousands of megawatts of renewable, non-polluting electricity generation.

Microhydro Drives Change in Rural Nepal

BAGLUNG, NEPAL — In Rangkhani, a remote mountain village in western Nepal, a 12- hour walk on steep dirt roads from Baglung, the district’s chief town, families until a decade ago used kerosene and butter lamps to banish the darkness when dusk fell.

Communication and health care were poor. Work, apart from traditional farming and small trade, was scarce.

But since 2001, a microhydro project has harnessed the tumbling waters of the nearby Kalung Khola river to provide electricity for Rhangkhani and neighboring villages.

Win-Win: How Farmers Benefit from the Drought

But while everyone from restaurateurs struggling with higher prices to the global poor paying more for their daily bread will absorb a hit from the drought, the Midwestern farmers whose crops are wilting in the fields will likely weather the weather far better than you might expect. That's because price increases from dwindling yields boost farmers' per-bushel income, perhaps significantly. The price of corn in the spring — when farmers would have begun planting — was close to $5 a bushel, so there's plenty of room for profit if prices remain above $8.

Of course, high prices at the market will help farmers only if they have any crop to harvest — and plenty of farmers in the hardest-hit states, like Indiana and Illinois, have been all but wiped out. But that's where crop insurance comes in. This year, 85% of all planted acres in the U.S. — up from 75% a decade ago — are covered by some form of insurance policies that pay farmers in the event that a portion of their crops can't be harvested because of bad weather or if prices for cash crops fall precipitously between the spring and the fall.

Clean eating meets food where it grows

The term generally refers to the eating of food as close to its natural state and point of origin as possible, and the movement is a reaction against the health problems caused by our growing fast food-oriented diet.

It's also a rebellion against some of Big Agriculture's controversial practices regarding beef, poultry and genetically modified crops. While eating fresh is preferred, canning and home-preserving are generally welcomed, too.

Robert Ehrler revives door-to-door delivery of high-quality dairy products

At 5:40 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning, Robert Ehrler double-checked 20 plastic coolers loaded with eggs, bagels, cheese, yogurt, cream and milk in glass bottles. Outside in the pre-dawn darkness, the temperature was already over 80, but inside Ehrler’s walk-in refrigerator it was a chilly 40 degrees.

After adding ice to the coolers, Ehrler loaded them onto his cow-spotted milk delivery truck. By 6 a.m., he rolled out of the parking lot, embarking on a delivery route that winds through the Highlands, hauling the full coolers up to customers’ doors and carrying back the previous week’s empty coolers and glass bottles.

Farming Without Machines: A Revolutionary Agricultural Technology

Originally published in 1974, How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine remains a vital resource for farmers, agricultural researchers and planners, sustainability activists and home gardeners, as the world confronts the challenge of feeding a global population of 7-9 billion without access to the cheap fossil fuels that have run “industrial” agriculture for the last century.

Why Gun Control Is So Contentious in the US

Regularly interacting with people whose views oppose one's own has a moderating effect, Markman explained. "When you have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you, your opinions become more similar, just because you have to take their perspective for a moment in order to understand what they're saying."

Today, thanks to cable TV and the Internet, one can easily avoid the unpleasant but valuable experience of disagreeing with people. "I can choose my TV news network on the basis of my beliefs. I can subscribe to email lists, websites, chat groups full of people whose opinions are quite similar to my own," he said.

Yelling into echo chambers about issues such as gun control, instead of engaging in conversations with those who disagree, has led each of us to spin toward extreme views, Markman said.

Travel companies save energy through sunshine, ocean breezes

Perhaps Bob Dylan was right: maybe the answer really is blowing in the wind.

At least that’s the hope at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, which is tackling the issue of high-energy costs by installing 40-foot wind turbines on its high-rise roof. Hoping to generate 5 to 10 percent of its energy needs, the Florida resort is part of a trend that’s seeing travel companies turning to wind and solar power to cut costs and appeal to environmentally-conscious travelers.

Maps spark concern over corporate water grab

As competition for clean water grows, some of the world's biggest companies have joined forces to create unprecedented maps of the precious resource that flows beneath our feet.

The Aqueduct Alliance, which allows users to create maps by combining hydrological data with geographically specific details, gives companies and investors unprecedented detail of water availability in some of the world's largest river basins.

The promoters say the data should help companies use water more responsibly while helping them to manage their exposure to risk.

But critics fear the data could be used to cash in on an increasingly scarce natural resource - two thirds of people are expected to face water shortages by 2025.

Thirsty South Asia's river rifts threaten "water wars"

KANZALWAN, India-Pakistan Line of Control (AlertNet) - A s the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian labourers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world's most heavily militarised borders into Pakistan.

The hum of excavators echoes through the pine-covered valley, clearing masses of soil and boulders, while army trucks crawl through the steep Himalayan mountain passes. The 330-MW dam is a symbol of India's growing focus on hydropower but also highlights how water is a growing source of tension with downstream Pakistan, which depends on the snow-fed Himalayan rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture.

FACTBOX-Regions where water disputes are fuelling tensions

(AlertNet) - Disputes over water are common around the world, exacerbated by climate change, growing populations, rapid urbanisation, increased irrigation and a rising demand for alternative energy sources such as hydroelectricity. Following are a few of the regions where competition for water from major rivers systems is fuelling tension.

The Recycling Reflex

A drive to make the act of recycling as automatic as stopping at a red light.

Wet Climate May Have Fueled Mongol Invasion

To put it in perspective, each Mongol warrior had 10 horses at his disposal. Just right there, that's a huge amount of biomass that is required. In addition to that, when the Mongols expanded their range in their traveling and marauding, they brought with them large numbers of livestock that they used to feed themselves. Their whole military operation was basically predicated on the fact that they had large numbers of grazing animals. These climate conditions would have given them more energy to fuel their empires.

Dazzling Map Reveals Rising Menace of US Fires

A new map, done up in blazing color, plots more than a decade's worth of the massive fires that have hit the United States, offering a revealing portrait of an increasingly common menace.

On a stark black background, complete with topographic features, the map shows not only where fires have burned between 2001 and July 2012, but also shows their intensity, veering from a wash of purplish dots for the smallest fires, up through stipples of red and smears of searing yellow for the mightiest blazes.

EU CO2 Plunge Reignites Criticism About Market Disclosure

The biggest two-day decline this year for European carbon permits has reignited criticism that the Brussels regulator needs to improve how it releases key information to the market.

Stripping air of CO2 may become unavoidable

Emerging techniques to strip the atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2) and store it away to stabilise climate may become unavoidable, as our planet tips into a state of potentially dangerous warming.

Researchers from Columbia University's Earth Institute argue that upfront costs of directly taking carbon out of the air will be expensive, but such technology may become more affordable as it develops and is more widely used.

Real emission cuts tough until technology catches up, says report

“Nothing short of a technological revolution will be required to sufficiently cut emissions,” the report says.

Midwest cities see increase in dangerously hot weather: report

(Reuters) - Dangerously hot summer days have become more common across the U.S. Midwest in the last 60 years, and the region will face more potentially deadly weather as the climate warms, according to a report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday.

Shade trees under assault in St. Louis County

The iconic 145-foot Sugarberry Tree in Kirkwood Park has weathered a lighting strike, rotor wash from a Marine helicopter and more than 150 years of unpredictable St. Louis weather, but the recent heat wave was the last straw in its battle to survive.

Just as the sun was rising above the Missouri State Champion tree on July 6, a large portion of the tree gave way.

"It broke around 6:20 in the morning with no wind," said Curt Carron, Kirkwood Parks superintendent. "It was paper dry to the core."

Having Defied the Nazis, Islanders Take On the Sea

With increasingly rough storms and a global rise in sea levels of 0.14 inches per year since the early 1990s, the existence of the island — just five feet above sea level, on average — seems increasingly at risk.

“There is a growing probability that the island may be hit by a bigger than usual storm,” said Denis Bredin, who is part of the government office that is charged with protecting seacoasts in Brittany and based in the nearby port city of Brest. “We know that it will happen, but we can’t say when.”

Rare Burst of Melting Seen in Greenland’s Ice Sheet

While scientists described it as an “extreme event” not previously recorded from space, they hastened to add that it was normal in a broader historical context.

Ice core samples taken from the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet that shed light on 10,000 years of its history show that a similar large-scale melting event has happened roughly every 150 years, said Lora Koenig, a glaciologist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who has also studied the satellite imagery. Because the previous vast melt occurred in 1889, this year’s is more or less on schedule, she said.

During the event, the surface ice on the sheet’s summit was always within a degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) or so of refreezing, Dr. Koenig added. Around July 14, the ice loss began to reverse, she said.

With Warming, Peril Underlies Road to Alaska

The Alaska Highway, built in haste during World War II, is facing big challenges, including the effects of climate change on the underlying permafrost.

A pretty juicy lineup today, Leanan. Thanks, as always!

Yes, we need to thank him, so much work to collect all that information!

Thank her you mean.

"The leanan sídhe is generally depicted as a beautiful muse, who offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for their love and devotion; however, this frequently results in madness for the artist, as well as premature death."

Her. Otherwise ditto.

Assigned to TOD by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

I mentally warped back to the end of the movie 'Murder by Death'.

thanks Leanan from me as well. i've been reading here everyday since feb 08 and really appreciate all your efforts. i also want to thank all who post here for all the information and perspective everyday, this site is unsurpassed in quality,bar none.
i finally signed on recently and will do my best not to make a nuisance of myself-cheers

me too, that. Besides Leanan's valuable collection of drumbeat items, I always enjoy reading the comments here, especially on the "drumbeat".

You have another reason to cheer for having registered: you can use this nifty greasemonkey script, if you use firefox: http://www.andante.org/tod/ I find it really useful to collapse viewed comments.

Another newbie here, been following along since 2010. Thanks Leanan and all, for the mind expanding conversations. Forgive my likely errors, I don't do a lot of blog posting.

fubar: from your "tunnel under the rails" post a few days ago, it seems we live in the same town in western Washington. Fun to see someone local on TOD. I had exactly the same thought, "wait, that tunnel will be below sea level!" I guess you and I are the only two in town thinking about that little detail.

hi kas,there's a coalfreeNW/sustainable edmonds meeting 8/1

Yes - many thanks from me too Leanan :-)

Greenland ice sheet surface melt.
There is a timeseries in a slide show from NASA climatologist James Hansen:


February 2008: Climate Tipping Points: The Threat to the Planet. Slides for presentation given Feb. 19 at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Ill.
Slide 24

By the way we had this post from Stuart Staniford on the oildrum Jan 29th, 2007

Greenland, or why you might care about ice physics

And now it looks like the Arctic ice loss is definitely down to us:


...I'm hoping the reord melt this year will be a wake up call.

Good to see another article attributing these disasterous changes to AGW.

A lot of people might only come away with this part though:

The loss of ice around the Arctic has adverse effects on wildlife and also opens up new northern sea routes and opportunities to drill for oil and gas under the newly accessible sea bed.

See, it's not so bad! /sarc

While I agree with AGW theory, I believe it is important to keep context. The item posted above at
is careful to note that this is a recurring phenomenon, known to occur every 150 years. And to caution that what we need to watch for is that it is happening more frequently or for a more extended period that it has in the recorded past. If so, then we can infer something... until we have a few more years behind us, this is simply an event that takes place from time to time. As the deniers will be certain to note while attacking other events that are not cyclical, or are in fact contracyclical.




Wow... no sooner said...


My emotional reaction is "to hell with them!", but I do understand your caution.

It really is hard to remain calm knowing the amount of sea ice melt and glacier loss that is occurring. And, having spent much time in the arctic back in the 80s mapping ice extent and concentration, it is just incredible to see what is happening today.

Yes, we could have a year here and there with less anomaly that will give the skeptics ammunition but we really do need to get the word out about the critical nature of the situation at this point. Right now almost all of us are like frogs slowly being boiled alive and it is already too late to remove the pot from the stove. We need to prepare for the consequences.

I agree, but... the current sea ice melt situation is in some areas hat they used to be in the september minimum. And we got almost 2 months left on the melst season. We don't need one heckovayear melt season to prove it is warming up. The 2 decades of continous trends is evidence enough. For those who care to see.

In reference to the article about farmers still doing OK during the drought:
"That's because price increases from dwindling yields boost farmers' per-bushel income, perhaps significantly."

However a great many farmers nowadays lock in the prices they will receive early in the year (this protects them from price declines later on). So the farmers who did this don't get the increased prices, but still suffer the yield declines.

Unless crop insurance has acess to deep government pockets, after taking huge loses this year you can bet insurance companies raise rates next year.
So maybe many farmers can dodge the economic bullet this year, but they will eventually be forced to pay.

Is peak oil dead?
Chris Nelder does a good job of calling out Maugeri for using the word capacity instead of production.

I wonder what the "capacity" of the US is for corn production compared to actual production of corn?

Well, if you used Maugeri's type of assumptions, and assumed you could convert all the Western rangeland and desert to cornfields, the "capacity" for corn production would be several times as high as now.

It runs into the technical issue that there isn't enough water in the West to grow all that corn. That's similar to the technical issues surrounding Maugeri's estimates of future oil production.

He also does a good job of calling out Maugeri for confusing decline and depletion. If I understand correctly, a better than 10% depletion rate is good because it means your daily production is high. A better than 5% decline rate is bad, very bad, because it means your field is going to be exhausted much sooner than you would like.

More drilling can mask higher decline rates, but that has been compared to running faster and faster just to stay in place.

Many EOR techniques boost depletion rates at the cost of higher decline rates, thus not significantly raising URR. Offshore fields, especially deepwater, also show this profile due to the high costs of operation in those environments. There is good evidence we will see the same thing in the hydrofrac'd plays.


I don't know if they are having some unusual production problems in Alaska, but in any case, the combined crude oil production from Alaska + North Dakota (EIA):

January, 2012: 1.15 mbpd
April, 2012: 1.16 mbpd


And then we have the continuing question of the EIA/RRC discrepancy for Texas.

The RRC is promptly updating the statewide production reports at the following link:


I am going to see what kind of monthly updates we see for 2011 annual and for January, 2012 throughout the year.

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

The July RRC update puts 2011 annual Texas crude oil production at 1.14 mbpd, and January, 2012 at 1.23 mbpd.

Meanwhile, currently the EIA puts 2011 annual Texas crude oil production at 1.47 mbpd, and January, 2012 at 1.71 mbpd.

So, January, 2012 Texas crude oil production:

EIA: 1.71 mbpd
RRC: 1.23 mbpd

Difference: 480,000 bpd

To put this gap in perspective, following is what the EIA shows for January, 2012 crude oil production for selected states:

Alaska: 612,000 bpd
North Dakota (all pay zones): 535,000
California: 531,000
Oklahoma: 224,000
Louisiana: 191,000

In any case, the EIA is saying that the RRC, in January, missed more than the combined crude oil production from all of Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The gap between the TX RRC production data and the US EIA production data is HUGE - it's nearly half a million barrels per day!

This needs some explanation. One would assume the TX RRC numbers are reasonably accurate since it is collecting the data directly from the oil companies on a monthly basis - and misreporting the numbers would involve jail terms for the company execs.

The EIA needs to explain how it came up with its numbers.

The EIA samples Texas producers, and then extrapolates to get an estimate of total Texas production.

RockyMtnGuy, I have attempted to explain this before, but every time WesTexas brings up the huge "discrepency" between the TRRC and the EIA data, he neglects to point out that the TRRC ITSELF says the initial monthly production numbers it gives out will go up with time. Every time WesTexas brings up this "huge" difference and doesn't explain how the TRRC's initially reported production will rise over time, it gets everyone convinced at TOD that there is a conspiracy afoot.


Note this wording:
"In an effort to estimate actual monthly production more accurately, the Commission will calculate a supplemental production adjustment factor each month to be applied to the preliminary, reported statewide total of oil and gas well gas. The production adjustment factor, multiplied by the preliminary production total, is the Commission's estimate of the expected, final statewide production for a given month."

Note that for May it expects the initial number to rise over 18% in the next 12-24 months as delayed and updated reports come in.

Will a rise of 18% fill the gap between the Jan. TRRC and EIA numbers?

No, but it will fill a lot of it, and maybe the EIA ends up adjusting it's estimate down. But constant reporting of the monthly intial production number without explaining how that number will rise over time seems an effort to find a spectacular difference when only a small difference may exist.

Back to lurking again.

Note that for May it expects the initial number to rise over 18% in the next 12-24 months as delayed and updated reports come in.


In any case, I am not really focused on the most recent data. I am primarily focused on 2011 annual and January, 2012 (in order to get a couple of months past the initial reports for 2011 and for January, 2012, and I am keeping track of monthly updates, from June on. I will show the percentage increase, by month, relative to the June, 2012 update.

But let's just look at what the RRC showed for crude oil, gas wells and total gas for January, 2012, in June and in July, 2012:

June Update (to the link down the way):

Crude: 1.21 mbpd

Gas Wells: 16.1 BCF/Day

Total Gas: 18.8 BCF/Day

July Update (to the link down the way):

Crude: 1.23 mbpd (+1.7%)

Gas Wells: 16.4 BCF/Day (+1.9%)

Total Gas: 19.1 BCF/Day (+1.6%)

Note that it is a pretty good assumption that the late reports are coming from smaller producers, which will tend to have a smaller and smaller effect, with time.


So, again,the EIA is asserting that the RRC--which has been keeping track of Texas crude oil production since the Thirties--is missing, as of July, 2012, more than the combined crude oil production of all of Oklahoma plus all of Louisiana (regarding the January, 2012 production numbers).

But constant reporting of the monthly intial production number without explaining how that number will rise over time seems an effort to find a spectacular difference when only a small difference may exist.

Incidentally, did you not understand what I wrote? What part of the following was not clear to you?

The RRC is promptly updating the statewide production reports at the following link:


I am going to see what kind of monthly updates we see for 2011 annual and for January, 2012 throughout the year.

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

The July RRC update puts 2011 annual Texas crude oil production at 1.14 mbpd, and January, 2012 at 1.23 mbpd.

And here is what I wrote down the way (emphasis added, since we seem to have some comprehension problems here). Again, what part of this was not clear to you?

The latest RRC monthly reports are subject to (generally increasing) revisions, but having said that, check out the magnitude of the recent reported declines in Texas natural gas well production:


Art Berman noted that about 40% of the current natural gas well production in Texas & Louisiana comes from wells put on line in the past 12 months. An interesting question is once the shale players slow down their drilling (which they have done), and the overall decline rate really kicks in, will they ever be able to catch up?

I'm used to the Alberta system, in which there is a reporting deadline calender showing when companies are required to enter their data into the government databases. As a service to oil companies, the Alberta government is actually reconciling all the production data for the whole industry - and of course it is collecting royalties and taxes on it all.

Companies start putting their data into the databases immediately after the production month closes, on a staged basis, until the whole process closes on about the 25th, which is Payment Day.

There are clauses written into intra-company contracts detailing the penalties that will be paid if the data is late. If companies don't get their data into the government databases by Payment Day, they don't get paid by their buyers that month and have to wait until next month for their money, which tends to keep them on their toes.

We used to charter a Lear Jet to fly one floppy disk from one remote oil facility into head office every month, at a cost of $5000/flight, just because we couldn't get it there by car in time to meet the accounting deadline. Eventually we put in a satellite link because it was cheaper.

The result is that the provincial government has good, solid numbers at the end of the month after the production month, and the National Energy Board just collects the data from all the provinces and adds it up. The numbers are usually very current and very accurate.

Here is a table, Texas Monthly Oil and Gas Production (2003-2012) (PDF file).

year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
ANNUAL TOTAL (bbl) 347,342,640 342,808,232 353,373,525 349,607,371 368,679,755 422,150,329 194,443,460
Mb/d .95 .94 .97 .96 1.01 1.16 1.28

The historical data from TRRC shows a progression of slowly changing crude oil production in Texas. Because the data for 2012 continues that trend, I find it quite unlikely there will be a massive, discontinuous revision on the order of 500,000 b/d to bring this data in line with the EIA data.

Since Elmo continues to misrepresent what I have been saying, I am beginning to wonder if he has a dog in the hunt, with some kind of vested interest in the credibility of EIA's sampling methodology.

At the recent energy conference in NYC, I asked Ed Morse, with Citigroup, about the EIA/RRC discrepancy, and he mischaracterized my question. He replied that (selected) company data show increasing production from Texas, therefore the RRC must be wrong. Of course, an increase in Texas production is not the issue. The issue is the size of the increase.

In any case, we shall see what RRC monthly updates show throughout 2012.

WesTexas, how long has the TRRC been in business? Do you honestly think they don't have a clue how much their initial monthly production numbers will rise over time? Do you think they are not experts on their own data after decades? My point is that every time you bring up a TRRC production you should point out that the TRRC expects it's data to go up 18% if it expects it's data to rise 18%. First adjust that number up by x% and THEN talk about the discrepency. I am happy to see that you are following the increase over time, but in the mean time not pointing out the TRRC expectation for that number seems an attempt to make a mountain out of a possible molehill.

Enough said. I have had my say on the TRCC. Everyone can make their own judgement on the TRRC/EIA discrepency.

My point is that every time you bring up a TRRC production you should point out that the TRRC expects it's data to go up 18% if it expects it's data to rise 18%.


If you will note the asterisk on the RRC link that I constantly provide, the RRC itself notes that the initial data are preliminary, so it's not like anyone is trying to keep the revisions a secret. From the RRC link:

* Preliminary Crude Oil & Gas Well Gas Monthly Production Total - See Production Adjustment Factor for Estimated Final Production.

Re: "a mountain out of a possible molehill."

After (I believe) three relatively small monthly upward revisions, the gap between what the RRC shows for January, 2012 crude and what the EIA shows is more than all of Oklahoma + Louisiana's January crude production. The discrepancy is important because it bears directly on the Shale Play model that the Shale promoters are pushing.

I suspect that a lot of people have a vested interest in turning a mountain into the perception of a molehill. I frequently use the "Lying Eyes" metaphor. A woman walks in and finds her husband in bed with another woman. He denies that he is in bed with another woman and asks, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Although I suppose it's possible that the EIA's sampling methodology is more accurate, I don't know anyone who is experienced in Texas oil production who believes it is likely, e.g., the Rock, yours truly, Art Berman (and many others).

But if the RRC data are more accurate, then it seems that increased shale oil production is basically serving to offset declines elsewhere. And in any case as noted elsewhere, the increase in North Dakota's oil production from January to April only served to offset the decline from Alaska (EIA in both cases).

And as noted elsewhere, using only one data base (RRC), three years of increasing annual natural gas production (2008 to 2011) from the Barnett Shale could not keep total Texas natural gas well production on an upward slope.

See a pattern here?

RE: Natural gas prices surge 70%

What's the price point it needs to hover around to match the capital frenzy for natural gas expansion?

Is that common knowledge among the observers here?

Sorry if this was answered before. It just seems like an NG bubble to a non-expert.

The latest RRC monthly reports are subject to (generally increasing) revisions, but having said that, check out the magnitude of the recent reported declines in Texas natural gas well production:


Art Berman noted that about 40% of the current natural gas well production in Texas & Louisiana comes from wells put on line in the past 12 months. An interesting question is once the shale players slow down their drilling (which they have done), and the overall decline rate really kicks in, will they ever be able to catch up?

From the numbers it looks like NG production in Texas has been in decline since August of last year - one would assume because of less drilling due to lower prices.

This will impact the natural gas liquids production, too, since NGL's are extracted from NG. And that will affect the EIA's oil production numbers for Texas because the EIA laughingly considers NGL's to in some sense be "oil".

The annual data show three straight years of declines in Texas natural gas well production, from 2008 to 2011.

The weekly natural gas storage volumes continue to be about one-third of the five year average.

Note that the RRC shows three straight years of annual declines in Texas natural gas well production, while the same RRC data base shows three years of increasing natural gas production from the Barnett Shale. In other words, increasing natural gas production from the Barnett (and other shale plays) could not keep total Texas natural gas well production on an upward slope.

I suspect that the Texas natural gas well data may have been providing an early warning signal that the natural gas market could really turn, perhaps as soon as this winter.

Also, what does the Texas experience with shale gas plays tell us about the overall Shale (oil & gas) Play model?

Also, what does the Texas experience with shale gas plays tell us about the overall Shale (oil & gas) Play model?

If Texas shale gas plays started out earlier I would expect them to say quite a lot and detailed geological knowledge may fill in the rest.

If no geological explanation is available why other plays would be better why would any reasonable person expect them to be better? Increase production faster, put up a graph and extrapolate. With such a projection it seems to make economical sense to invest ... a nice "fizzle" it must be a good steak.

What's the price point it needs to hover around to match the capital frenzy for natural gas expansion?

It varies, depending on the play but it is somewhere in the $4-$6/mmbtu range for most plays.

Check out figure 10) in Gas Boom Goes Bust.


n_s - That number is going to float around a bit depending on the play. Back in '08 I was on contract with Devon when they were drilling the E. Texas shale gas play as fast as possible. But once prices dropped below $6/mcf their interest fell quickly: they dropped 14 of the 18 rigs they had drilling and paid a $40 million cancellation penalty to do so. My private company spent $180 million during its first 2.5 years drilling mostly deep conventional NG in S. La. and Texas. But once NG prices fell below $3.50/mcf we started cutting back significantly. So far we've drilled only one well in 2012. I have 4 wells to drill at the moment but they are all oil prospects. We had already reduced our NG production by 50%. With the new higher prices we might start thinking about raising that rate but it's going to take at least $4 -$4.5/mcf to get us thinking about drilling again.

Sounds good.

I'm just curious. It seems that the land-owners are more apt to sell rights when the prices are wild like that. For example, they hold out, then the price tanks, but they saw their neighbors make some cash. So when it pops back, they get all excited.

That's just based on my observation of my ex's extended family and some of my old friends in East TX and West LA. They all see it much like "I could win the lotto." I just tell them to read this site and others.

Lots of heresay down that way, at least among that bunch.

Gas prices will drive reduced gas substitution for coal (turn existing power plants back on) before expanding gas supply becomes economic. While gas in storage is still higher YoY than at any time in the past decade, the gap is now narrowing rather than increasing. The April gas price for power producers was the lowest in the past decade, rebounding prices reflect strong demand, due to power sector fuel switching (at the market, not plant level) placing price pressure on coal producers and railroads to beat gas, but there is no contest in price fundamentals, in the medium turn coal will take back much of the power producer market share it lost during the recent price slump for gas. In the longer term coal faces bigger challenges; chiefly regulatory efforts to force coal to internalize externalities.

$3/mmbtu natural gas is not a bubble when the price was $12 four years ago.

There's a supply bubble, not a price bubble. Prices are lower than long-run fundamentals.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending July 20, 2012

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 15.8 million barrels per day during the week ending July 20, 258 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 93.0 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging about 9.3 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 4.6 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.6 million barrels per day last week, up by 696 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.0 million barrels per day, 516 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 162 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.7 million barrels from the previous week. At 380.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 4.1 million barrels last week and are in the lower half of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week and are below the lower limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.3 million barrels last week and are near the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 10.1 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged nearly 19.0 million barrels per day, up by 1.0 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged 8.8 million barrels per day, down by 3.2 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged nearly 3.5 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, up by 0.1 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 2.9 percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.

Per the article in the Globe Mail linked to in Leanan's excellent as always review:


These policies, and reduction targets in general, failed because they put the chicken before the egg, say a group of economists writing for the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

That is, emissions-reduction targets came before the technological developments that would have made reaching those targets a reasonable possibility.

The ways to deal with Peak Oil and Climate Change were outlined some years ago by Lester Brown's excellent "Plan B" :

As Lester Brown argued in the Plan B I read a few years ago, we KNOW what has to be done, and it is not pie in the sky uber-technology, it is a question of the political will to do it!
An excellent summary is from the YES organization :

The US is so energy and resource wasteful it boggles the mind.
Green Transit, LED bulbs, insulation, energy efficient furnaces are some high end items.
But there are just some basic wastes of energy built into the US lifestyle like the flotillas of landscape trucks pulling trailers full of gas-guzzling, highly polluting overpowered riding lawnmowers. A manual rotary mower run by a local teenager can do the same job for zero oil, zero pollution, and a boost in the teen job rate. Likewise leaf-blowers should either be banned ot taxed out of existence, electric towel dispensers, stores which just open their doors to spill their Air conditioned air into the street, the list goes on and on.

But none of these are waiting for high-falutin technological whiz-bang solutions!

They're just waiting for higher prices and lower incomes.

Great post. I haven't read thru the links yet but I will.

I have used a manual rotary lawn mower for the the past 40+ years and enjoy the clickety-clack sound and the fact that it stops once you stop pushing and grab the grass catcher to empty it into the compost bin. I also appreciate the bit of exercise it provides.

The ubiquitous gas-powered leaf blower drives me crazy. Air pollution and noise pollution all to save a few minutes over using a rake or broom. I guess the local lawn care guys are looking for every extra job they can squeeze into a workday.

A minor quibble but I believe what some of you guys have been referring to recently as a "manual rotary" mower is actually a "reel" mower (push powered with multiple blades rotating about a horizontal axis). Humorously referred to in a column I once read as an "acoustic" mower. "Rotary" mower typically refers to one with an engine driving a rotating blade on a vertical axis.

I have one but it only seems to function if the grass is short and thick. Most of my grass is neither. Forget about dandelions, plantain, chicory or anything else that would be considered weeds for that matter.

I have only used a reel manual mower for 20 years and it seems to do just fine cutting the dandelions and everything else coming up in my small yard. The key is you cannot let the grass get too high or it tends to just push it over. Otherwise it works just fine...
If it is not perfectly even - who cares? Its lawn which actually began to be grown in
England's early stages of industrialization and the foreclosure movement in order to
prove that the middle-class yard owner was wealthy enough not to need to plant food!

I'm regularly contacting all appropriate politicians to encourage banning gas leaf blowers. Some cities in California have banned them, unfortunately not mine yet (San Jose). I'd love to see California pass a state-wide ban on them. Perhaps this would encourage other states and eventually the entire USA and world (think big) to ban them.

The two-cycle engines burn a gas-oil mix and are highly air polluting. Noise, particulary the throttling up and down banshee wail of leaf blowers is a constant irritant to people and animals and is a stressor and health compromiser.

In a time of Peak Oil we waste this resource blowing leaves and debris around and should conserve this resource for critical uses.

I encourage all to contact their politicains and encourage bans on gas leaf blowers.

I'd love to find out how/if gas leaf blowers are used in other countries besides the USA. I would imagine a city like Paris, France would find their use unthinkable.

Don't ban them - license them - then charge a $200 annual fee for the license. Suddenly a rake will seem like a good idea. And the cities will have a new revenue stream.

I'm sure gas leaf blowers are annoying, but that predicament fades to utter insignificance when compared to the liquid fuel requirements of automobiles, motorcycles, mopeds, semi-trailers and airplanes. A ban on fossil fuel powered leaf blowers is tantamount to banning plastic bags, it won't be conducive to anything. If it were up to me, liquid fuel usage would be the privilege of police forces, fire departments, ambulances, army purposes and the like (ie. only critical services, not the personal amusement of the wealthy). Impossible to institute, but it'd definitely be superior to the paradigm in which obese, sedentary people are transported in their own separate automobiles. That could shave a few years off until the doom.

The thing about leaf blowers is there's this called a rake that does their job just fine.

Also, at least in Canada, plastic bags are a dying breed and banned in some municipalities, nearly everyone I know uses reusable bags for shopping anyways.

Anyways, I'd argue its changing people's minds on little issues that are required to really change any paradigm, ween people off their gas leaf blowers today and hopefully it'll be easier to implement further changes in lifestyle (like driving less) tomorrow.

But it's fun watching someone use a leaf blower as they walk into the wind.


In Europe all two cycle engines have been banned for decades. The air is much cleaner for that. Incidentally, there are concerns about air quality for the start of the Olympic games in London, with ozone smog drifting in from central Europe. I suspect it will be nothing compared to the green skies of Beijing.

Nonsense. Stihl and Husqvarna are the two major chainsaw manufacturers, they're both European, and all chainsaws are 2-stroke.

Sorry - not banned, but for most applications regulated out of the market with unmeetable emissions requirements. You can no longer buy 2 stroke outboard motors or lawn mowers. I expect that they will get around to smaller and smaller power units like chainsaws and leaf blowers in a few years.

Leaf blowers would be easy to deal with. I think the death penalty for anyone using one would be appropriate.

A new Olympic event. Two 10x10 square (meter I suppose) fields of play separated by obligatory white line. Each participant's field of play is covered with leaves of varying origin. One minute rounds where contestants must fuel and start their leaf blower. And then proceed to try to blow all leaves off their filed of play on to their opponent's. Leaves outside the filed of play will not be counted.

Could even be singles and doubles competition.

Boring. Add land mines under the leaves - now that would be exciting!

Not land mines- Cobras!

Just as exciting and all natural.


Now that I'd like to watch!

My use for a leaf blower is drying my car after washing reduces mirror drip and speeds the process.All leaves go to beds and compost.

You wash your car? :-0


I have small landscaping rock, and you can't get leaves off with a rake (not if you want to keep the rocks). My electric blower does the trick. I measured the high power setting at 650watts. I think is cost something like $30bucks. there is no need for gas powered blowers. I normally use the blower to push the leaves onto the grass, then use a rake. When I do my annual spring paint coat for the deck, I also use it to preclean the deck before painting. there are a few things for which high speed air is the best way. Getting leaves off of grass isn't one of them however.

2-stroke outboards live on ...

Evinrude E-Tec Outboards are:

* lighter than 4 stroke
* no maintenance (e.g. oil changes)
Think about that for a second - complicated procedure
* more powerful
* fewer moving parts
* pollutes less than the 4-strokes!
* BUT is significantly more expensive

As swedish as I am, Stihl is the better brand in my opinion. I once told that to a then-neighbour who had a Husquarna chainsaw tattoed to his arm. He did predictably not agree.

What is the difference between 2-cycle and 4-cycle fuel? The exhausts smell very different I can assure you of that.

2 Cycle fuel has lube oil mixed in it. With all due respect, if you don't know the difference of the fuels you are hardly qualified to judge the best brand. The reality is that chainsaws are commodity items and it really doesn't matter.

This was years ago. I no longer remember what I based my assessment on. Either way, they use the same fuel so what difference does that make?

Newer oils (synthetic) I think burn cleaner. Also, depending on the details of the oil injection (not all 2-strokes require pre-mix), they may burn less oil.

I learned to drive in a 2-stroke Saab 96, and owned it around the time that synthetics started to hit the market, and they did seem a little cleaner. It's not just about the pollution; that gunk builds up in the muffler part of your exhaust system and eventually screws up your performance. We would cook mufflers on trash fires to burn off the gunk, then shake out the carbon.

One more vote for Husqvarna, if you just use the chain saw as a hobby Stihl might of course be a better choice.

2-Cycle engines are very cheap and inefficient. They end up blowing a lot of unburned fuel and oil straight through into the exhaust and hence the smell & gray exhaust. Newer ones are better but they just are not very good.

There are some recent (rather clever) developments that actually address the unburned fuel issue fairly well, which of course has always been the main problem with 2 strokes.

The new direct injection two-stroke engines wait until the intake and exhaust valves are closed before injecting the fuel, so they have much reduced pollution emissions compared to the old carburetor two-strokes.

However, they still retain the weight advantages of the two-stroke engine. Each cylinder still fires once per crankshaft revolution, compared to once every two revolutions for a four-stroke.

Of course this means they need a separate oil supply for the engine since you can't mix the lubricating oil with the fuel any more.

I'm not familiar with 2-strokes that have valves, but I may have missed it - I know there are some new concepts out there. I was actually thinking of what is called strato charging, which is quite simple. At the end of the part of the cycle where fuel is pulled into the case, fresh air with no fuel is loaded into the transfer ducts. Then, when the piston comes down and the new charge is pushed into the cylinder, the first thing in is fresh air with no fuel in it, so that is what gets blown out with the exhaust rather than fuel. Combined with feedback carburetors to better control the mixture, it makes quite a difference.

There are valves in a two-stroke but they may not be anything like the valves in a four-stroke.

In any case, it is intrinsic in the two stroke design that the intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time, which with a carburetor means the fuel may go in the in the intake and right out the exhaust unburned.

In the direct injection two-stroke the intake mixture is just straight air, so it doesn't matter if some goes out the exhaust. The engine waits until both valves are closed before it injects the fuel directly into the cylinder, which means none escapes without being burned.

It also means that the lubricating oil cannot be included in the fuel like the old type of two-stroke, so the engine needs to have a separate oil supply.

This means that the engine is not as simple as the old two-strokes because of the injection and oiling systems, but it has far lower exhaust emissions.

Back in 1968-70 I had a Kawasaki 350 (actually and American Eagle) motorcycle which was a 2 cycle with a separate oil tank. The fuel and oil were not mixed in the gas tank, so I'm assuming it was injected. It also came from the factory with "no gap" spark plugs. And my neighbor gave me an electric leaf blower. I still rake leaves the old fashioned way. Never thought about using it as a car dryer.


As I understand it a two stroke that doesn't use the crankcase as a "suction" stroke, then you need a super charger, as per the old GM diesels. Not sure if your direct injection two strokes uses the crank case or not but then it would require a dry sump with oil feed direct to the bearings.

The advances in direct injection in all forms of IC engines does seem the way the technology is headed.

Two stroke engines can have crankcase compression, as in lawnmower and chainsaw engines, or super/turbochargers, as in big locomotive and marine diesels. The former is really cheap and the latter is really expensive, so two strokes basically come in two sizes - really small and really big.

The small engines used oil in the fuel to lubricate the engine, but that was a bit of a compromise and the engines didn't last as long as they could. You don't really care about long life in a lawnmower or chainsaw engine, but in cars short engine life would be a problem, which is why you don't see two stroke cars any more.

The big diesels have much more sophisticated oiling systems, and diesel fuel is a natural lubricant anyway. Diesels have always used direct injection, so the two strokes always had reasonably good fuel economy.

2-strokes on hand held outdoor power equipment use ports instead of valves - they function as a valve of course, but with much less mechanical complexity. Gasoline direct injection is a significant improvement in engine efficiency on 4-stroke engines, especially when combined with a turbo, but adding this level of complexity and weight to a saw, for example, would be prohibitive. Conventional ported 2-stroke engines in hand held OPE have very few moving parts (crank, connecting rod and piston). Some of the new 2-stroke development you're looking at is not targeted at hand held equipment, nor would it be suitable.

Such a ban would mean electric blowers would begin to replace gas based in California. While I am all for quieter and more efficient machines, did you see the looming electric shortage for California as the lead reference in Drumbeat? Unlike the "time of Peak Oil", the possibility of blackouts in California are real, the California electricity shortfall is real, and self imposed BTW.

Hype. California's electric supply is actually in pretty good shape, not to mention the fact that we are building massive amounts of transmission and generation.

Massive relative to a 30GW average load? Where and what type would that be? New fossil is out.

On April 19,[2012] the California Public Utilities Commission decided the state has enough electricity generation capacity to meet demand through 2020, so it banned construction of new fossil fuel plants (coal, natural gas or oil) for at least the next two years—and, based on the PUC’s 46-page declaration on the issue, maybe forever.

Clearly no new nuclear will be built. California is intent on demolishing some existing hydroelectric IIRC, and certainly not build any more. The vast majority of solar and wind still have no storage, setting up the possibility of night time or wind lull caused outages. What does that leave? Massive biomass generation?

Just because the "California Construction Trucking Association" declares fossil fuel plants have been "banned", that doesn't mean it is true. I go to their source and do "ctrl-F 'bann'" . . . nothing. All they said was that there was no current need to built a new fossil fuel plant so they don't plan to build one. That is not a 'ban'. The article is nothing but a financially interested party whining about those dirty tree-huggers taking away their 'jerbs.

There are 6495MW under construction under CEC jurisdiction according to this.

This doesn't count the transmission upgrades being created to allow increased exports from plants being built just out of state.

That is a substantial amount of new generation, even if a quarter of it is variable solar.

FYI, some of that solar is solar thermal with natural gas connections and is dispatchable in an emergency. Shh! Don't tell.

"What does that leave?"

Higher electricity rates!

From PG&E (serving 2/3rds of California):

Beginning November 2012, many PG&E small and medium business customers are moving to an electric rate structure called Time-Varying Pricing. This is part of a statewide plan, including other California utilities, to ensure a better energy future and healthier environment.

One Time-Varying Pricing rate option is called time-of-use. On time-of-use, rates will be higher during summer weekday afternoons when electric demand is higher, typically noon to 6 p.m., May through October. In return you’ll pay lower rates at all other times. This means that when you use energy, is just as important as how much you use.

end quote.

Not many people realize this is happening. When they see their bills they will be shocked. I think the plan is to put everyone on TOU rates eventually.

#2 biggest reason for "smart" meters in my personal opinion was to easily allow TOU pricing for all. The interesting thing is that because of conservation advertising, a lot of consumers think that their personal bill is based on the time of consumption already!

PG&E by area (70,000 square miles or about 43%), by population served (~15M on 5.1M electrical accounts or about 39%) or by load (22936MW projected 2012 peak or about 37%).

Excellent! TOU for all! That will get people interested in getting solar and will get them to behave better. Perhaps they'll learn how to use that 'delay' function on their dishwasher and washing machine. And EVs will be more attractive with nice cheap overnight charging rates.

TOU for all will likely lower average rates but increase night-time rates (still lower than non-TOU).

Yes. My electric blower probably runs 5minutes per year. At that rate it would take about twenty years to consume a KWhour! You'd save more power unplugging the kids nightlite!

Pre-power crisis, as a 19 y.o. entry-level utility engineer I and one of my co-workers calculated that the utility made money giving away free incandescent nightlights to non-TOU customers!

Not to defend leaf blowers, but yes, California seems to be in pretty good shape lately even with the San Onofre nuke down. Here's a link to the caiso (California Independent Systems Operator) graph for today's electricity consumption vs production covering most of California. Predicted max today around 35,000 megawatts, production available around 44,000 megawatts>


Of course today is another nice well below normal July temp day. Check again when the heat is on. My net meter should log a few negative KWhours this 24hour period, as there was zero need for the AC.

True story. I lost 14% of my peak load in the economic bust and haven't hit that level since. So far this year my area peak is July 11th, at well below 90% of my normal year (50% probability of exceedance), peak level.

...did you see the looming electric shortage for California as the lead reference in Drumbeat?

Not to worry, I have a hunch there will be a shortage of leaves in much of California as well!


My younger brother purchased a used reel mower and posted ads for reel lawn mowing services, letting people know he had a reel mower. Some who called asked if he had a rider mower and when he said only a reel mower they were not interested.

The few people who had him cut the lawn wanted him to use their gas mowers, haul away the grass clippings, and then spread fertilizer around which he did. I suppose they need the fertilizer to compensate for taking away all the organic matter?

The market has spoken, turns out most people prefer noisy power equipment along with the fuel cans, oil changes, air and noise pollution.

"The market has spoken, turns out most people prefer noisy power equipment..."

Case in point: the unnecessarily high noise level of most vacuum cleaners. But if it makes a lot of noise, it must be Doing Something.

FOR ALL: "Technology may turn today’s expensive oil into tomorrow’s cheap oil.”

Once again some folks have difficulty understanding cause and effect. The tech being used in the oil patch today will add to our future supplies. Maybe significantly... maybe not. That's a different discussion. It's not the tech that will drive oil prices. It the rise in oil prices over the last several years that has made it viable to use well established tech that was just as available in the later 90's when oil was selling for 1/3 of what it is today. If there were sudden and significant surge in oil production the cost of the tech won't fall. If oil prices aren't high enough to justify the cost of the tech it won't be utilized.

Also:" To ensure that the world remains addicted to fossil fuels by convincing all of us that our energy sources don't need to change." I'll disagree agree with the presumed motive but not the results. IMHO the oil patch doesn't need to make any effort to keep the public addicted to oil...they, and the politicians, have done a fine job of doing that all by themselves. I think the prime motive of the pubcos is to convince folks their stock are good long term investments and they'll always be able to increase their reserve base. Wall Street values reserve growth much more than profitability so even though we may see higher oil prices for the long term a company won't be able to capitalize on that situation if they don't have the reserves to produce. ExxonMobil might be able to make a larger profit per bbl but if the public thinks they only be producing 1/2 of their current production in the future there won't be as much interest in owning their stock IMHO.

Also about the Tesla: "The car would seem worth the price ($100,000), or maybe more, if it were powered by a gasoline engine. I'm sorry. Maybe it's because I'm not a car person but to me no car is ever going to be worth a price that's so close to what I paid for my home. LOL.

Also about the Tesla: "The car would seem worth the price ($100,000), or maybe more, if it were powered by a gasoline engine. I'm sorry. Maybe it's because I'm not a car person but to me no car is ever going to be worth a price that's so close to what I paid for my home. LOL.

Agreed! I paid $12k for the car I've driven for 13 years now, and it's been as close to flawless as I can imagine, and gets 33mpg in mixed mode commuting. That anyone would pay that much for an automobile is sad - it's an expendable item that will wear out.

The reason that the first EV they made was a high priced toy is because it was so much easier to do that. It's OK to use expensive materials and have no luggage room in such a toy, it is so much harder to do it in a practical low priced passenger vehicle.

... to me no car is ever going to be worth a price that's so close to what I paid for my home

Maybe, if it had a flush toilet ;-)

S - Actually I had a full size Dodge van I used for well site work and it had a flush toilet. And it only cost me $21,000. LOL

You're just not in the right income bracket. For the Tesla's target market, $100k simply isn't a lot of money.

BC - Actually, thanks to PO, I am in the right income bracket. But even more fortunately I'm not in that ego brackets. LOL

Exactly. The Tesla is a rich man's toy, and as such is utterly irrelevant in regards to transportation systems.

Also, I'm comfortable enough with myself not to need the ..... augmentation, as it were.

.. and the car you've been driving for all those years has been efficiently and constantly sucking gas, putting more pollution into the air, maintaining all the military and trade relationships tied in with World Oil.. which I'd say is more sad, in no small part because nearly everybody on this board and everybody who can read in the developed world is sucking gas and breathing and paying for the consequences every day.

The reason they start with pricey toys is so they can gamble that a bunch of rich early adopters will help to most quickly justify their R&D. Meanwhile, there are a range of other companies trying to thread the needle in other ways, with ultralights and conversion kits.

EV's are not a silver bullet.. but they are one of the next steps.

Agreed. The EV was going to expensive at first, got to target it to price insensitive customers. Of course we've seen that a major car corp (like Nissan) can try to build an EV for the masses (well almost) and absorn loses for several years. But, a smallish startup, no way.

Of course it does, it's a gasoline powered vehicle and I obvious never claimed otherwise. As such, it is a part of the problem and I dearly wish there was some other way for me to get to work, such as some form of mass transit. That said, the cumulate fuel I didn't use compared to typical vehicles for all that time is significant. But what was your point - that $100k electric sports cars are a viable alternatives?

You apparaently believe that the Tesla was actually a step on the path to practical EVs, which I do not. It was an easy to do stunt to get investors who think they're really on to something.

Getting a lot of power out of an electric motor is pretty easy, they're good for that. Expensive sports cars already use lightweight expensive materials, have expensive low production engines, and are not expected to have much in the way of luggage or passenger capacity. Add more seats, more cargo space, more doors, more glass, use lower cost (heavier) materials, design it for mass production, and increase the range and suddenly the design problem becomes much more difficult. Which is why the Leaf is only viable as a second vehicle for those who can afford such a thing, and that is from Nissan who know what they're doing. It is not at all clear if Nissan is making any money on them.

Electric trains and trolley systems require no technology development and are far more efficient.

Tell me where your graphics card would be in price and performance were it not for a couple generations of eager Video Game Fanatics and other select customers willing to shell out handsomely for each stage of boost?

Whether it's the Tesla or one of the others making the high end EV's, it's pretty likely that the 'performance' designs will be creating some of the solutions that will become standard parts for the mainstream production lines.. and building Enthusiasm for Electrics. Yes, I do think this kind of product is one part of a familiar process whereby the advancements come at the fringe areas before some of them migrate into the boring middle, and the fringe areas, like the space program are set up with Huge Viewing Areas for the pocket-enthusiasts.

As for the toughness of engineering the mainstream EV, I think much of it is trying to design a car that investors know will have to fight the API bylines, and only tepid enthusiasm in the public. They don't just want the Dreamcar for its customers, but also its admirers who become the waxing market for the EV that they CAN buy. I think the original Rav4 EV and EV1 showed how possible it was to create the vehicles themselves, while the subsequent advances will bring them closer to crossing the line into feasability for the middle of the market.

I also think that there will be a number of conversions that will possibly become more than niche products, and that FAR more people will downscale in size to scooters and velo-type rides instead of 'rolling from the wreckage into a brand new car', as Mr. Costello put it.

Yes Trolleys and Light E-rail are fabulous.. and guess what? They aren't going to replace all wheeled traffic.. so what ELSE will be in our tank?

The purpose of performance vehicles has always been primarily marketing for the manufacturers - establishing reputation and attracting customers and investors - and for the customers it's about helping men get laid. The Tesla did not advance the state of EV technology, nor did its development help to solve the thorny issues associated with making a practical passenger EV that have been vexing engineers for a hundred years.

But we've been over this too many times. I do not see the EV as a significant part of a future transportation system, and you do. It's unlikely another go at it will change any minds.

Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker - "Rockpile"

'Cause When I'm Disconnected From The Driving Wheel,
I'm Only Half The Man I Should Be.
But Metal Hitting Metal Is All I Feel,
And Everything Is Good As It Possibly Could Be.

Crawling From The Wreckage, Crawling From The Wreckage
You'd Think By Now At Least That Half My Brain Would Get The Message
Crawling From The Wreckage, Crawling From The Wreckage
Into A Brand New Car

The CRX is old and inefficient at 42 MPG highway and 35 mpg around town.

Since Tesla (or Honda) is not making the $25,000 pocket rocket that I require, I should seriously consider an EV conversion kit.

Maybe I'd have my dream car... no navi, no electric windows, no airbags, great frame, 0-60 in around 5 seconds and tops out at 115 or so with a 100 mile range. How much could it cost me?

20 large? And the alternative would be spending this money on a new car? I don't think so.

Hell, maybe I could even put in air conditioning, and turn the Miata into the neighborhood zipcap for weekend getaways.

"The car would seem worth the price ($100,000), or maybe more, if it were powered by a gasoline engine."

WTF? Really . . . WTF?!?!

No explanation for that quip. Is there some desperate need for the smell, vibration, noise, pollution, higher fuel cost, lower torque, and higher maintenance cost of a gas-burning engine that I just don't understand? WTF?!?!

I think the reviewer meant that it's nice enough that it's worth the price, even if it weren't electric.

He can buy a gas burner like the Tesla for much less than 100K.

I'd have him start with a Lotus Elise, not as refined, but also lighter. There's also the Exige and Evora.

They share some of the same DNA :-)

The review is about the Model S, not the Roadster.

People misunderstand the Tesla. One authority said its function is not transport, but panty removal. The same is true for all six-figure sports cars, but the Tesla is reputed to be more effective than most. Tesla Motors seems to understand this. Their goal is to fund development of practical EVs.

Their goal is to fund development of practical EVs.

That's the assumption, but I don't buy it. Their goal is to attract investors. As I said upstream, the Tesla was a much easier problem to solve precisely because of what it is. It does little to help development of more practical EVs.

Considering that Tesla is one of the few companies that even makes EVs that are practical for modern conditions, I'd say they're doing a good job. Everyone, even the car sites, has been complaining about them, but you know what? They made a fast and sexy EV roadster and actually produced it. Then they did the same with a sedan. They've done more for the profile of EVs than almost any other company.

Almost any way of sucking up money is more efficient than setting up an auto company, which is highly likely to fail spectacularly - witness the endless near-death of Lotus, or what happened to TVR. If the goal is purely money, they could have not made the car, or done the easy thing and made a few, failed, and ran with the rest of the money. Instead... they're making cars. Not only that, but Musk already made his fortune with PayPal, so if anything, Tesla is more properly seen as a "fortune divestment vehicle". It's a way to get rid of money.

They've done a lot for the image of the EV. Maybe they'll eventually make an EV passenger vehicle that is relevant, but not so far. The kinds of vehicles they are producing have zero impact in terms of displacing ICE powered automobiles in our transportation system. They are expensive novelties for a small number of wealthy people, because they have not solved the problems inherent in producing a high volume practical family passenger vehicle, and the stuff they are making is not a step along that path.

re: Microhydro Drives Change in Rural Nepal

I've been in Nepal before. I'm never going back again. The whole country is falling apart.

It used to be a mystical Himalayan kingdom, but that was before the realities of excessively high birth rates and overpopulation took hold. Now the resources of the country are completely inadequate to support the people it has, and there are more mouths to feed every day. The government is incompetent, corrupt, and ineffectual. All the politicians do is fight among themselves. No decisions get made and thing gets done (shades of the US government).

The international organizations are trying to help, but all they are doing is turning Nepal into a welfare state in which everyone is living on foreign aid. There is no incentive for the Nepalese to do anything to solve their own problems, so no problems get solved.

This microhydro project is typical - it is totally inadequate to meet the demand in Nepal. The national capital of Kathmandu has grown from about 100,000 people a few decades ago to 2 million today, and the power is out 8-12 hours per day because there is insufficient hydro capacity.

It's sad, because as the article said, the country has at least 83,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential. The huge rivers falling from 5000 metres elevation in the high Himalayas to 100 metres at the Indian border have an unbelievable amount of energy in them, which could easily be tapped. Unfortunately, it's not micro-hydro, it's mega-hydro. It would take huge construction and advanced engineering to capture it, but it could be done.

Money, of course, is a problem because Nepal doesn't really have any. However, that's not necessarily an insurmountable problem. In the nearby mystical Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, which still severely restricts the entry of foreigners and charges $200/day for going there, payable in advance, the Bhutanese swung a deal with Indian companies. They built a 1,000 MW run-of-the-river power station near the national capital, the Indians paid for all the the construction and got most of the power, and the Bhutanese got enough power to run the country, more or less for free. It seemed like a good deal to them, but they are much sharper than the Nepalese. There are potential sites for three more 1,000 MW power stations downstream of the first, and negotiations are ongoing.

But the main thing is that Bhutan only has about 600,000 people, and the birth rate is much lower than Nepal's, which makes life much easier for the people. Their mantra is Gross National Happiness (GNH), not GNP, and they are really happy people. If you are homeless, the king will give you a house, so who wouldn't be happy? (Well, some people complain that it's only a small house and they have to sweep the road in front in return).


I was curious about your population statistics and, after a quick look at the Population Trends databrowser saw something very interesting:

After a quick inquiry, it seems the Bhutanese government has not always been focused on Gross National Happiness. From the wikipedia article:

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country expelled or forced to leave nearly one fifth of its population in the name of preserving its Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist culture and identity.

And yes, over 100,000 refugees relocated to Nepal.

Checking the US Census Bureau Internal Data Base we see the following statistics:

Demographic Overview - Custom Region - Bhutan
Demographic Indicators	                        1995	2005	2012	2015	2025
   Midyear population (in thousands)	        566	655	717	742	820
   Growth rate (percent)	                -1.9	1.4	1.2	1.1	0.9
   Total fertility rate (births per woman)	4.8	2.9	2.1	2.0	1.8
   Crude birth rate (per 1,000 population)	30	22	19	18	15
   Births (in thousands)	                17	15	13	13	12
   Life expectancy at birth (years)	        58	64	68	70	74
   Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births)	90	60	42	36	20
   Under 5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births)	133	83	56	47	25
   Crude death rate (per 1,000 population)	11	8	7	7	6
   Deaths (in thousands)	                6	5	5	5	5
   Net migration rate (per 1,000 population)	-38	0	0	0	0
   Net number of migrants (in thousands)	-22	0	0	0	0

Demographic Overview - Custom Region - Nepal
Demographic Indicators	                        1995	2005	2012	2015	2025
   Midyear population (in thousands)	        21,877	27,094	29,891	31,551	36,623
   Growth rate (percent)	                2.9	1.3	1.8	1.8	1.3
   Total fertility rate (births per woman)	5.2	3.1	2.4	2.2	2.1
   Crude birth rate (per 1,000 population)	39	26	22	21	19
   Births (in thousands)	                847	703	653	651	681
   Life expectancy at birth (years)	        58	64	67	68	71
   Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births)	78	54	43	39	28
   Under 5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births)	109	70	55	50	35
   Crude death rate (per 1,000 population)	11	7	7	7	6
   Deaths (in thousands)	                233	200	202	207	229
   Net migration rate (per 1,000 population)	1	-5	3	4	0
   Net number of migrants (in thousands)	25	-139	77	122	16

So you are correct in stating that Nepal is overpopulated compared to Bhutan. It has ten times the people per square mile. And I don't doubt that the government is no help or that it is an unpleasant place to visit compared to Bhutan.

But it seems a little unfair to blame the Nepalese for their birth rate. Nepal has always had a much larger population than Bhutan and for decades the Bhutanese birth rate was higher than Nepal's. I expect that if Nepal expelled one fifth of its population (6 million) it would also have fewer resource issues than it does now.


How would they know what the population of Bhutan was in 1950? The country only conducted its first census in 2005 (and discovered that it had far fewer people than it thought.) They're just making a wild guess. My perception was that there were a lot fewer kids running around the streets in Bhutan, although that might just be perception. Maybe the people kept their kids from playing in traffic, unlike Nepal.

In any case, the key issue is that the population density of Bhutan is far lower than Nepal. It is a country of subsistence farmers, but subsistence farmers with a lot of resources at their disposal. This makes it different from Nepal which is full of subsistence farmers who are living on the edge.

For instance, in Bhutan, red rice is a staple of the people's diet. Everybody grows it and eats it because they like it better than ordinary rice. In Nepal they said, "Yes, we grow red rice, but we sell it to other countries because we can't afford to eat it ourselves."

Bhutan is a much more controlled place than Nepal - much like Switzerland. The Bhutanese think like the Swiss, and their houses even look like Swiss chalets. Nepal, in contrast, is sheer chaos, with Maoists running around everywhere and demanding money from tourists under threat of injury (speaking from personal experience).

The problem back in the 1980's was that a large number of illegal Nepalese immigrants showed up in Bhutan. Like the Swiss, the Bhutanese don't like people coming into their country without authorization (including Westerners like you and I), although if you are authorized, everything is okay.

The Bhutanese officials asked the illegal Nepalese immigrants for proof that they were citizens, but many of the Nepalese insulted them and refused to provide documentation (probably because they were illegal immigrants). So, the Bhutanese kicked the Nepalese who refused to provide proof of citizenship out of the country on the grounds that they weren't citizens.

Now, the Nepalese who were able to prove they were born there are still there and going well, but the ones who refused to cooperate are gone. Bhutan is a country where if you follow the rules, everything is wonderful, but if you don't, they kick you out. If you're a Maoist rebel, they might well shoot you. There were a bunch of Maoist rebels from India who took refuge in Bhutan, and the Bhutanese army kicked them out in a rather nasty military confrontation.

Ultimately the 100,000 Nepalese who were kicked out of Bhutan were redistributed to other countries by the international community, and are probably better off than they would have been in Bhutan or Nepal. There are many here in Canada, in fact, and many more in the US.

The government organizations can see the point of the whole illegal immigrant issue and moved to resolve it because many countries, like the US, have similar problems with illegal immigration. The only thing is that some non-government organizations don't think the Nepalese should have been kicked out of Bhutan just because they were illegal immigrants. The Maoists in Nepal are particularly PO'd at the Bhutanese due to their Indian compatriots having been shot up by the Bhutanese army.

Thanks for the additional info RMG

As always, things were/are complicated and there is always a more detailed story behind any "facts".

Regarding the IDB estimates -- I don't know specifically how they estimated the historical population. But I have a reasonable amount of respect for the work and integrity of agency scientists and statisticians (if perhaps not economists). I'm assuming they are making the most educated guesses they can from the best available data. In the case of Bhutan, their historical data did tip me off that there was an unusual exodus in the early 1990's. That's better than no data at all.



I don't see how scientists could count the number of people until the Bhutanese did a census. There were few foreigners and no roads in Bhutan until recent decades, and if the Bhutanese didn't do a count, nobody did. There were no satellites, and nobody flew over the country, so where did the data come from?

You have to realize that Bhutan was one of the most isolated countries in the world until recently. In fact, many Bhutanese didn't hear about the second world war until after it was over, because nobody told them about it. Nobody bothered them and they were happy that way.

Other than that, the Bhutanese people are ethnically related to the Tibetans, although with something of a Swiss attitude and Swiss-like architecture (which probably comes from the mountain environment). They have had the advantage that, although they were in an absolute monarchy, they had a string of very smart and competent kings who looked after their people. They're now a democracy with a constitutional monarch because the previous king turned it into a democracy and then abdicated in favor of his son.

Bhutan is a country with a dress code - people have to wear their native costumes to visit temples and government offices, although foreign tourists are exempt (however, they really like it when the foreigners wear their native costume). They are generally rather tolerant, but don't get along at all well with the Nepalese who don't like rules.

The Bhutanese have a lot of rules and they like it that way. If you don't like the rules, you can leave. One of the reasons they are happy people is that they are running things the way they like it, and if other people don't like it, they can kick them out. That's enough to make most people happy.

By the way, I was trekking through the mountains, and found a lot of rocks that looked like spear points - big, mammoth-sized spear points. The rocks were flint, perfect for making spear points, and someone had been doing that on a massive scale. Someone really needs to do an archaeological dig in those mountains to find out what was going on in pre-historic times. Nobody has, of course.

I think the comparison and contrast with the Swiss is interesting. Both are very stable, rule based and seemingly happy societies, but the Swiss are now hopelessly unsustainable, for all their electirified railways. They have a high fossil fuel high resource intensive lifestyle, and any hint of rural idyl is entirely manufactured. A major source of their wealth is from being bankers to the unscrupulous leaders of resource-ravaged countries world wide. Come the financial collapse and their customer base will shrink dramatically.

Bhutan has a highly sustainable life-style. No farm machinery, no railways, and very few roads. There is one airport in the country, one airline (the national airline) flies into it, and it only has two airplanes. Going through customs at the airport is very efficient because they are expecting you and know who you are. You can't get a ticket on the airline unless you have been cleared and paid your $200/day in advance. Some people get paranoid about this, but it's a very small country and very well organized.

They used to have one stoplight in the country, in the main intersection in the national capital. The people didn't like it, so the king took it out and put it in his garden. They didn't really need it because there's not enough traffic in the city to warrant a stoplight.

They have a team in the Olympics this year - two archers (their national sport) and a women in the air rifle competition. They've never won anything, but it's not about winning, it's how you play the game for the Bhutanese. Their archery competitions are quite something - teams have to compete in native costumes and shout ritual insults at their competition on each shot. Cheerleaders dance to support their local team.

I remember seeing a film about the competition for last place in the world football (soccer) competitions between Bhutan and Montserrat.

On June 30, 2002, the day of the final match of the 2002 World Cup, Montserrat, then the lowest ranked team in the world, played against the second lowest team, Bhutan, in a friendly match known jokingly as "The Other Final", but lost 4–0 to become the worst team in the world.

The Montserrat team was at somewhat of a disadvantage because half the island had been destroyed by a volcano and they couldn't practice because of the volcanic dust. Also they were from sea level and the Bhutanese stadium was at several thousand metres elevation. The Bhutanese recognized their problems and loaned them several players to even things out, but Montserrat lost anyway.

This was one of the more entertaining posts of yours I ever read. Thanks.

The Bhutanese recognized their problems and loaned them several players to even things out, but Montserrat lost anyway.

5:th colloners?

Seems to be a very friendly match, anyway.

Reminds me of the first youth soccer league my kids were in, a couple of times an opposing team didn't have enough players, we would lend them one. When ever this happened we always lent a player who was well above average. [We were still undefeated that season].

It's sad, because as the article said, the country has at least 83,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential. The huge rivers falling from 5000 metres elevation in the high Himalayas to 100 metres at the Indian border have an unbelievable amount of energy in them, which could easily be tapped. Unfortunately, it's not micro-hydro, it's mega-hydro. It would take huge construction and advanced engineering to capture it, but it could be done.

No there is lot of micro-hydro as well, I don't know how much of Himalayas you saw but the entire range from Kashmir to North-East India is filled with small rivers, tributaries, rivulets, streams and falls. A lot of it doesn't require sophisticated construction and can help with the local economy and probably already does. I know of only one river which makes such a drastic fall and that is the Brahmaputra also known as Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet when it makes a hairpin bend right before entering Arunachal Pradesh. The chinese have already decided to dam that with a run of the river dam.

The big rivers are the ones which have the big hydroelectric potential and the ones on which the most efficient to build hydro plants on, but on the rivers I saw it would require a major engineering effort to build them. It would be very difficult terrain to build in.

When I talk about a vertical drop from 5,000 metres to 100 metres, that's the total drop across Nepal from Tibet to India. In order to develop that, they would have to build a series of hydro projects along the entire length of the river. It would be like the Columbia River in North America, which has 33 separate dams from the headwaters to the ocean, many of which are absolutely huge.

I'm speaking about hydroelectric power from the Canadian perspective. Canada is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world, and hydro accounts for 60% of its electricity production. Most of the power comes from very large hydro plants and only a little from smaller plants.

There are a lot of remote villages in Canada, Alaska, and the islands that'd be mighty pleased with small hydro. Doing micro-hydro in remote areas is often smarter than trying to transmit and distribute power to them. This has little or nothing to do with the lack of sufficient power in urban areas which is a problem in much more developed countries than Nepal. India and China, for instance.

Why is it the basket case problems in Nepal must be due to overpopulation and not the 1996 Maoist insurgency that led the current communist government, one of the last on earth?

Nepal is a basket case for a variety of reasons, including,
1) Overpopulation and insufficient resources to support its population,
2) The Maoist insurgency,
3) The fact the government is totally non-functional.

It really doesn't have a communist government, it doesn't have a functional government at all. It's just chaos.

The international community is trying to help, but in the face of the Nepalese inability to establish a viable government which can make decisions, it's very much an uphill struggle. And then there's the fundamental issue that there are too many Nepalese for the country's food and other resources.

I think you have have cause and effect reversed. Overpopulation leads to extreme poverty, leads to the popularity of extreme revolutionary movements. (Which can often worsen already poor government, and lead to a feedback).

I didn't address the issue of cause and effect at all.

Another difficulty with Nepal is that it is between India and China, so it is a bit of a pawn in their contest for regional power.

Visibly the examples of the various poor and not so poor countries are poorly correlated with population density and are more correlated with the local political situation. There are several countries with vastly higher population density then Nepal (e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong) or slightly higher (the UK, Germany) that are not basket cases with Maoist gangsters running the country. Similarly in the Western Hemisphere Haiti is the poorest country but with a relatively low population density (relative to, say, S. Korea). North and South Korea have similar population density but the North starves, is run by near megalomaniacs, and so on.

You make a somewhat valid point, as far as it goes, meaning it is not the be-all end-all explanation.

There are contributory factors from both population density and how a country is managed.

Hong Kong and Singapore are very small city-states with special circumstances leading to their wealth and perhaps are not great examples for the spectrum of countries in the World.

India and China face huge challenges and likely negative circumstances in the future no matter what systems govern their counties (one is ostensibly Communist and certainly authoritarian, and other ostensibly democratic and somewhat less authoritarian). Both are in deep overshoot.

What about Cuba? How do they stack up with countries of similar population density.

What about comparisons of Norway and Denmark with Greece and Italy?

Japan and South Korea...if your premise was authoritarian vs Libertarian...there are no 'free and unfettered' libertarian dream market economies in any country on Earth I know of...just a broad spectrum of mixed economies with various levels of personal freedoms.

I'm a fan of Gregor's work but this is a hacky/sensationalist:

California, which imports over 25% of its electricity from out of state, is in no position to lose half (!) of its entire nuclear power capacity. But that’s exactly what happened earlier this year, when the San Onofre plant in north San Diego County unexpectedly went offline. The loss only worsens the broad energy deficit that has made California the most dependent state in the country on expensive, out-of-state power.
Its two nuclear plants -- San Onofre in the south and Diablo Canyon on the central coast -- together have provided more than 15% of the electricity supply that California generates for itself, before imports. But now there is the prospect that San Onofre will never reopen.

So only 75% of the power is generated in California right now. Only 15% of that is nuclear. Only half that may go away. So (0.75)(.15)(.5) = 5.6% of the power may go away. Meh . . . not such a big deal. Build another gas turbine, keep putting up PV panels (which work GREAT in California), lots of negawatts as people toss out CRTs and use LED back-lit LCD displays, etc. Not exactly a crisis.

And so what if we 'import' more . . . this is the UNITED states of America. It is not like importing from Nevada or Oregon has currency, national trade imbalance, or national security implications. Let's build some more concentrated solar installations in Nevada . . . they need the jobs and they have great sunny empty desert great places to build.

Or . . . they can just replace the troubled heat exchanger with one exactly the same as the one that worked fine for decades instead of trying to squeeze a little more power out of the plant.

Also, this article seems to spin a great achievement by California . . . the ability to operate efficiently using less electricity due to our decoupled rate-paying structure and tiered electricity rates as a negative. The fact that we are able to operate just fine on less electricity is a triumph not a problem.

I've driven through the states around California, and they all seem to have a lot of huge power plants in them, and all the transmission lines seem to lead in the direction of California.

I was walking through the Selkirk Mountains about a mile above Revelstoke, British Columbia a few years ago, and noticed that the reservoir behind the Revelstoke Dam was empty. It had been planted to grass so the wind didn't cause dust storms. The Columbia River downstream of the dam was a mere trickle. However, every day about 5:00 pm a panic call would come from California, BC Hydro would open the gates, crank the turbines up to full whine, and run the Columbia River at full flow for an hour or two. And then they would shut it down and let another day's worth of water accumulate in the reservoir.

California depends on power that comes from a long, long way away, across a vast stretch of Western North America, and I don't think people there realize it. Especially not you.

BC is a net importer of electricity from the U.S. these days. The fact that hydro makes more money if it makes peak power, and that we are willing to buy B.C. power onpeak, doesn't mean CA needs BC hydro power (absent Texas O&G companies playing games with our electricity market).

Really? Lake Revelstoke is dry? Then what do they release through the dam at 5:00... hamsters?

The Revelstoke Dam

The Revelstoke Dam is a hydroelectric dam that runs across the Columbia River. The Revelstoke Dam is the second largest power generating facility in British Columbia. The reservoir behind the dam is called Lake Revelstoke. The dam has five power generating units. BC Hydro, which operates the dam, plans to add a new generator so that the power generating capacity of the dam can be increased by 500 MW, bringing the total power generating capacity to 2880 MW.

And they just shut it down after feeding California for an hour, you say.

Revelstoke Dam holding back its reservoir, Lake Revelstoke:

Picture it with grass behind the dam and a trickle of water flowing down the middle.

That year was a dry year and they seeded the lake to grass so the wind didn't blow the dirt around. They would shut down the power station and accumulate one day's worth of water in the reservoir, then at 5:00 pm they would open up the intakes and run the turbines at full power for an hour or so. Then they would shut them down and wait another day to accumulate another day's water.

The Bonneville Power Authority had similar problems that year. The power shortage in California wasn't completely about corporate manipulation of markets.

I know whereof I speak. There would not have been a single rolling blackout in California during the 'power crisis' absent deregulation. The low water year allowed bad actors to create problems, it did not cause or require those problems.

The partial deregulation prevented the price signals from begin sent to the ultimate consumers - if Californians had been stung with the true cost of electricity, they would have cut their consumption drastically.

Neither BC Hydro nor the BPA wanted to sell electricity to California because they were short of electricity to supply their own customers, but they felt they should meet the emergency needs. Regardless, California stiffed them and only paid for a part of the electricity it got from them.

No. Powerex was directly involved in market manipulation. California overpaid.

BC Hydro and the BPA weren't involved in market manipulation. They were price takers rather than price makers. However, they made higher profits from the California power crisis than any of the private companies, just because they had the power available when it was needed.

However, making big profits wasn't intentional, and they didn't really want to sell power to California if they could avoid it.

Powerex is a directly owned subsidiary of BC Hydro. Powerex engaged in illegal and fraudulent market gaming activities during the crisis which had no physical purpose and no other aim than to generate illegal gains.

So, where are the court decisions ruling it to be illegal?

Maybe it wasn't illegal. Maybe it's just one of those things that happen to you if you're really dumb.

Powerex Calls California Lawsuit 'Legal Blackmail'

Powerex, a wholly owned subsidiary of B.C. Hydro in Canada, expressed outrage last week over California Attorney General Lockyer's latest lawsuit seeking US$850 million in refunds from Powerex for power deliveries that kept California's lights on during the 2000/2001 power crisis.

“It is frankly the height of bad faith for California to seek to welch on its contracts and demand money back, when it still owes Powerex more than $280 million for the power that was delivered during 2000/2001,” said Doug Little, vice president, Powerex. “We responded to the entreaties of the California government in their time of need, and this suit proves that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Powerex was a major supplier to California during its power crisis. Even though Powerex was a net importer to B.C. and had no surplus available, Powerex was able to purchase and deliver large quantities of electricity by drawing on the capability of the B.C. Hydro system. These supplies were delivered on short notice and kept California's transmission grid in balance. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has thoroughly examined Powerex's conduct regarding sales to California, and has consistently rejected California's claims of market manipulation and other misconduct.

Now, keep in mind that I was watching the Revelstoke power plant from the nearby mountaintops when this was going on. They had no water in the reservoir and had seeded it to grass to prevent dust storms. They had no surplus to sell and their own customers were short of power. They were delivering power to California on an emergency basis for an hour or two per day - they'd turn the Columbia River on full blast, run it for an hour or so, and then shut it off again. Naturally the prices in California were astronomical at the time, because California had no other supply available.

Next time their response to the panic phone call might be, "You don't have any power? If we don't send any the lights are going out down there? Tough luck, man! *CLICK*"

You can believe what you want to believe. I have personal knowledge that this occured. Powerex (sharp lawyers) paid a $1.3M FERC settlement in 2003 disgorging all revenues from certain trading activities. They got what amounted to a get-out-of-jail free card which has covered activities not then 'known' to FERC (it was early enough that FERC staff was still protecting market abuse, before a lot of the more egregious evidence became public). They also hid behind the crown. They are still involved in related FERC proceedings to this day.

I'm reminded of Groucho Marx's quip, "Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own lying eyes?"

BC at that point in time was short of electricity and didn't want to sell it to California. After the crisis was over, California thought it was unfair that BC should charge high prices just because it didn't want to sell.

It's kind of a subjective interpretation depending on whether you are the desperate buyer or the reluctant seller.

Because BC is in a different country, California didn't have a lot of leverage to force it to do what it didn't want to do. The only lever it had was money, and after the fact it felt that was unfair.

Any references?

I've looked and looked and I don't see anything about Revelstoke being dry or any hiccup in power.

Any references?

Yeah, me. I stood on a nearby mountain, about 1 vertical mile above the reservoir, and looked down into it. There was very little water in it and they had seeded most of it to grass.

Then I had to walk that vertical mile down into Revelstoke, and you would be amazed at how hard it is on your knees walking down a vertical mile of steep mountainside carrying heavy pack. Not only that, but it was hot and the mountainside was covered with thorn bushes. Wearing shorts, your legs get cut to ribbons.

The reservoir was not dry, it just didn't have very much water in it, and there were no hiccups in the BC power supply (not enough to get them excited, anyway). The hiccups were in California, which ran out of emergency fallback sources of power. California has more people than Canada, so it is hard for Canadian power plants to provide backup for it.

No references. Having pointers to such a history would be of general interest.

There was a bold and confident but unreferenced statement about glaciers that appeared on The Oil Drum recently. It has, seemingly, now disappeared.

There were numerous news items at the time mentioning the water shortage in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Some of them are probably archived in various places. Here are some examples of what was going on:

BC Hydro Electricity Self-Sufficiency Backgrounder

While BCH was able to take advantage of California’s predicament by selling it capacity at very high prices, BCH faced an energy crisis because of projected low reservoir inflows in 2001. Fortunately, the low snowpack and corresponding inflows, which were mitigated to some extent by extremely heavy spring rainfall in the Peace basin, turned out to be a one year phenomenon and much shorter in duration than the critical period in the 1940s, which also occurred across western North America. The consequences of this type of longer term drought would have been dire to BC Hydro.

Water shortages could bring an end to fish aid.(Bonneville Power Administration)
International Water Power & Dam Construction | April 1, 2001

A WORSENING WATER SHORTAGE in the northwest US is pushing the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to make further cutbacks on salmon-saving measures. BPA's acting administrator has told the Northwest Power Planning Council (NPPC) that unless all plans to cut electricity production to help fish are suspended, the Agency would be at serious risk of defaulting on its power supply obligations.

Normally at this time, BPA would store water in federal reservoirs for release in spring and summer as an aid to migrating salmon. Instead of generating power BPA diverts water over the spillways to aid migration.

I am notorious for remembering obscure details about things I read about years ago, so most of my friends use me as a one-stop archival service for this kind of information. I never have to look anything up, I just remember it forever.

I never denied the low water year. It wasn't extraordinary. Resource levels were within resource planning assumption scenarios. As I noted, the low water year provided the leverage for the bad actors.

I noticed that the point had passed unquestioned amid so many others.

There would not have been a single rolling blackout in California during the 'power crisis' absent deregulation.

The problem was that retail electric rates were not deregulated and wholesale prices were deregulated, a ridiculous approach.

"The problem was that retail electric rates were not deregulated and wholesale prices were deregulated, a ridiculous approach."

Yeah that wouldn't work very well. It's kind of like when Louisiana capped the price of fuel during Hurricane Katrina and Rita, but the surrounding states allowed the price to float according to the free market. Because gulf coast refiners were hit hard the gasoline that Louisiana needed was in other states with higher retail prices. So if you have a tanker truck full of fuel in a state with $3.00 gasoline why would you drive that truck to Louisiana with a regulated cap of $2.50 gasoline?

We had rolling blackouts at the gas station due to regulation during Katrina, but the gasoline we couldn't buy was cheaper then anywhere else!

Facile nonsense blaming the police for theft.

There was not a physical generation shortage. Retail rates were already higher than they would have needed to be to serve load in a vertically integrated model. A properly functioning wholesale market would theoretically have resulted in lower, rather than higher prices. Infrastructure did not exist for real time pricing at the consumer level, it would have been some version in which inflated prices were passed thru post-facto. The kind of sophistry that insists that forcing consumers to empty their wallet and then self-curtail to avoid forced curtailment (while a cartel witholds supply) would have been a 'properly functioning' market is nuts.

Electrical merchant generators and certain utilities acting in that role withheld physical supply from the wholesale market to artificially inflate prices. This is not speculation, it is simple fact. This is clearly and totally illegal. They also colluded in order to coordinate this.

Electrical generators and traders bid supply into the market at prices which were orders of magnitude higher than cost, knowing that they had market power. In most contexts that's not illegal (although there are antiturst implications due to the market power). In the U.S. power market under the FPA it is, even after deregulation.

Power was also withheld illegally by the pretext of scheduling it out of state and shutting down out of state plants and lines.

Electric generators and natural gas companies and pipeline companies withheld physical gas supply and published fradulent natural gas index prices to inflate power prices under certain contracts and inflate apparent energy costs, while moving money between shell corps.

Electrical generators played similar games with emissions markets for similar reasons.

Enron and others played all sorts of games by committing fraud with respect to scheduling of generation and mythical flows over transmission.

Many honest market participants received illicit profits as price takers in manipulated markets.

Some have suggested that political motives were in play as well--California governor Gray Davis was beginning to look like a formidable presidential candidate looking forward to the 2004 elections. He was ruined politically by the California power debacle. "Coincidentally" it was Karl Rove who master-minded the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a recall candidate for California governor.

Article describing some Enron California power market tactics...


And yet even with the illegal profits raked in by Enron, they were still a financial house of cards waiting for the slightest breeze to collapse.

A shell, in fact.

They Colluded. Hmmm. I guess that would be different from a conspiracy, or manipulation. Can't happen, of course. " impossible to achieve on a large scale " Right ? LOL

There was not a physical generation shortage.

No? Then why was BC Hydro seeding its hydroelectric storage reservoirs to grass? It was a drought of course - droughts and hydroelectric power are somewhat incompatible.

The Pacific Northwest was in similar shape, and the Bonneville Power Authority was similarly short of power. There was no spare power anywhere in the grid.

People tend to ignore the obvious when they think that California has no shortage of electricity. It currently imports 25% of its power from other states and Canada. Much of this power is hydroelectric, and if there is a drought, the other states and Canada are short of power, too. California has more people than California, so backstopping its power system is a major effort for the other generators.

Coal or NG is the only fallback in the other states in a drought, but California is trying to prevent imports of coal power. Canadian and Western US NG production is falling, too. See how well that works in the long run.

Supply was tight, supply was not actually short absent gaming (record numbers of generators offline for 'maintenance'). I'm well aware that CA imports power, so does BC. We built and own or owned many of the plants from which we import (Palo Verde is 27.4% owned by california entities, Navajo 21.2%, 4 Corners 35%, IPP 75%, Mohave was 66%). In other cases, states have significantly overbuilt power plants in order to sell to us, and we have joint transmission projects with them. Imports from the Southwest (AZ, NV, and UT) are significantly larger than those from the Pacific Northwest. Those states are not dominated by hydro. AZ produced 153% as much electricity as they consumed in 2010 (55% of CA with about 1/6th the population).

I'm not going to argue that resource planning has been well done the past 20 years. Deregulation is a big part of why.

Supply was tight, supply was not actually short absent gaming (record numbers of generators offline for 'maintenance').

Like heck it wasn't. One of the power utilities in Alberta had one of its main powerplants trip during one of California's panics, and it had to pay $5000 per MW/h for replacement power until it got its power plant back on line.

My brother, who was managing the biggest gas plant in North America at that point in time, managed to negotiate a negative power rate with the utility. All he had to do was agree that if the utility made a desperate, emergency phone call to his plant, he would shut down his processing, fire up his rows and rows of 30,000 horsepower gas turbine backup generators, and dump enough power back into the grid to save their butts.

The utility paid HIM to use its power - a negative cost. In return, he agreed to bail them out if things went to heck in a handbasket. His plant was processing 80% of the gas going to Eastern Canada, and he could rely on line pack (the gas already in the pipeline) to keep his customers supplied for several days if he shut down the plant. He had 100% backup and his backup generators could replace one of their powerplants if they had to. The utility was in not nearly such a comfortable position.

Yes, a lot of industrial customers were among the honest bystanders who made illicit profits out of the illegal actions of others. Alcoa made more money not running their aluminum plants and selling their firm contract power, than running them and using the power. I'm not claiming BC Hydro turned off plants when they needed to be running. I am claiming that owners of plants in the States (primarily Texas based O&G owners of California merchant plants, previously utility-owned) did that, which is why the entire Western grid was short, NOT because there was an unpreventable shortage in December in summer peaking parts of the grid. I am also claiming that Powerex participated in illegal schemes to game the CAISO transmission system (for a small fraction of which they paid settlements), as well as 'laundering' U.S. power to avoid U.S. regulations, illegally. I'm confident neither BC nor Alberta lost money on the California "power crisis." Note that these utilities belong to the WECC, and are required to provide power to the rest of the WECC when margins are short.

During the California power crisis, aluminum smelters discovered it was far more profitable to shut down their smelters and sell the power to California than use it themselves. The big Canadian producer, Alcan, did the same thing - however, Alcan generates its own power from its own dam.

Kitimat asks court to resolve Alcan feud

District wants firm to use power to smelt more aluminum

According to the petition, Alcan shut down 20 per cent of its aluminum production in 2000 in order to sell power to BC Hydro under an agreement it had made with the crown corporation in 1990. Then, in June 2001, when California was suffering from a shortage of power, Alcan sold power to the United States through BC Hydro's subsidiary Powerex, while reducing production at the Kitimat smelter to about 50 per cent.

Wozney said the cutbacks in production have caused Kitimat's population to drop by 2,000 to 3,000 while schools and businesses closed.

Note that the next time this happens, the BC government may order Alcan to keep the smelter running and let California bake in the dark. This is a different country, after all, and governments don't have to play by American rules.

1)You are right that sovereign nations are allowed to take their ball and go home, but if they agree to rules, they are supposed to play by them. Powerex didn't. The electric grid is not Calvinball. The main reason much bigger refunds were not obtained from Powerex was the successful strategy of their lawyers in obtaining immunity to many later claims thru an early settlement...

2)BC Hydro's 2012 Integrated Resource plan relies on imports from the U.S. until major generation is built in B.C. The shoe may well be on the other foot next time.

Powerex was set up to export BC's surplus power, if any, at a profit, and if there wasn't any surplus, they weren't supposed to export it. Neither Powerex nor the BC government, which owns it, had agreed to play by California's rules.

I think that is the fundamental misconception that Californians had. It wasn't their game, and it wasn't their marbles.

The power that BC imports will come from Washington and Oregon. California is still 25% short of generating the power it needs, and still needs to bring it in from nearby states.

Electrical merchant generators and certain utilities acting in that role withheld physical supply from the wholesale market to artificially inflate prices. This is not speculation, it is simple fact. This is clearly and totally illegal.

Refusing to sell into a market is illegal? Collusion on prices is illegal, not refusing to sell for whatever reason. Where was the prosecution for these acts you deem illegal? Was that all covered up under some kind of conspiracy?

How soon we forget. This stuff is still unwinding, (I saw another FERC settlement in March), but $B's in settlements and judgements have occurred, and people went to prison. Electricity is not just another widget, legally. Yes, it is illegal (under certain circumstances) to refuse to sell and yes, pricing power orders of magnitude above cost is illegal. FERC is charged with enforcing the FPA, which among other things involves setting power rates.

Great for sellers of wholesale. Once you get a shortage started, with no price signal on the consumption side, there is no upper limit to the price. Whoopie!

Electricity demand is price inelastic, anyway. Most people have very little idea how their behavior affects their power bill.

Yes, once a very small select group of large companies in a specific special market under the near total jurisdiction of FERC as to their rates, decide to price power illegally, the market breaks--if the regulators also refuse to act.

Electricity demand is price inelastic, anyway. Most people have very little idea how their behavior affects their power bill.

It's only inelastic when you don't allow the costs to flow down to the end user. Once someone gets that astronomical power bill that exceeds their monthly mortgage payment, they will run around the house turning off lights and unplugging appliances with great enthusiasm. All of a sudden the ambiance of candlelight seems really attractive.

The problem in California was that they didn't allow the results of deregulation to flow down to the consumer level. It only got to the company level, and the companies had no way to force consumers to reduce their power demand short of blackouts.

It was half-baked deregulation.

ALL U.S. electric utility deregulation is half-baked. That's my point. You seem to think we just needed to do it better/harder. It is based on a flawed premise.

Electricity demand is price inelastic, anyway. Most people have very little idea how their behavior affects their power bill.

Retail electric demand is sticky. Send price shocks and demand moves.

It's only inelastic when you don't allow the costs to flow down to the end user. Once someone gets that astronomical power bill that exceeds their monthly mortgage payment, they will run around the house turning off lights and unplugging appliances with great enthusiasm.

Yep, thought the first go-to and largest impact is the thermostat. The thermostat is readily available, and most people are well aware of the impact on the power bill of a 5-10 degF change on the thermostat in summer.

You don't think turning power off leads to conservation too? More than 20% of my demand went away during parts of the crisis. It doesn't matter what the demand is when the supply constraints are artificial.

I doubt turning off the power leads to the dictionary definition of "conservation", as in turning back the thermostat from a high electric bill is conservation. I think turning off the power leads to the *cancelling* of entire production shifts in industry, and leads to Intel making the promise that it will never build another factory in California. Such measures surely lower demand, but not due to what's commonly called "conservation".

Because of the (fulfilled) threat of rolling blackouts and relentless advertising, residential areas in the San Gabriel Valley reduced loading by more than 20% (from that otherwise expected) on a sustained basis. Similar conservation occurred across SoCal. Demand was LOW. This was truly not a valid physical problem.

Large industrial customers were primarily on an interruptible rate (I-6 at my utility) which provided substantially lower kwh rates for many years but required them to curtail consumption/demand (with very stiff penalties on the order of $9/kwh) on 20 minutes notice during very rare "grid emergencies." Declared grid emergencies resulting from physical withholding arose MANY, MANY times more often than actual rolling blackouts occurred, making it virtually impossible for some customers to do business ('voluntary curtailment' due to price signals). The indirect costs to the CA economy were MUCH larger than the ~$40B revenues extracted by the vandals who created the artificial shortages and the price takers who also benefited.

California gets some of its power from Hoover Dam. The Colorado River has not been flowing amply due to drought for the last decade, and the water level in Lake Mead is dropping. The minimum intake elevation for the hydroelectric station is 1,050 feet (320 m). Currently the lake is at 1115 feet and leveling out.

Lake Mead Water Level

How long before drought closes this 2.1 GW hydroelectric station?

Not soon. Wanna bet?

FYI, there's nearly 3 years system storage above deadpool between Powell and Mead, if NO runoff occurred into Powell. Even with 5 consecutive years, starting now, repeating this year's historically bad runoff, it'd be over 5 years before we hit deadpool. We'd feel a lot of pain before then, but 6 consecutive years at 46% of mean runoff aren't going to happen soon.


The folks who built this thing may not have had very modern sensibilities, but they weren't short-sighted or bad engineers.

P.S. Mead's higher than last year at the same time despite the horrid water year. If I remember correctly, I predicted that here about a year ago.

It is unwise to bet on the weather.

There are several years in the graph, Lake Mead High/Low Elevation Graphs, Line graph with text data, when the elevation of Lake Mead decreased by more than 50 feet/year.

I'd be happy to bet (at evens) any sum up to $1K that Mead will not hit deadpool in the next 5 years. I don't gamble, but that's a sure thing.

Is deadpool at 1075 feet? And did the level come within 7 feet(1082), November 2011?

I'm making a note of your bet.

Edit: 1075' is the current level of the Las Vegas water intakes. If generation is curtailed to insure Las Vegas has water, would that be considered deadpool?

I cannot find a definition for "deadpool". Hence no bet.

Dead pool is 875', the elevation at which water does not flow thru the dam -- SNWA intake #1 is 1050', intake #2 is 1000', intake #3 is being built. Reductions in allocation ("shortage condition") for NV and AZ start at 1075'. 1075.01' is within the 'normal' range. Mead elevation is largely controlled as long as there is water in Powell.

There are still 2.5maf in Lake Mead at deadpool. There are an additional 4.475maf between 875' and 1000' There are an additional 5.126maf between 1000' and 1075'. There are an additional 3.563maf between today's elevation and 1075'. There are 14.85maf at Powell above deadpool which can be released to Mead.

I think deadpool is the minimum elevation for the intakes for the hydroelectric stations at Hoover Dam: 1,050 feet (320 m).

Abstract for When will Lake Mead go dry?, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce; Water Resources Research, v44, W03201, 10 PP., 2008:

A water budget analysis shows that under current conditions there is a 10% chance that live storage in Lakes Mead and Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50% chance that it will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made. This startling result is driven by climate change associated with global warming, the effects of natural climate variability, and the current operating status of the reservoir system. Minimum power pool levels in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be reached under current conditions by 2017 with 50% probability.

An elevation for Lake Mead of 1075 feet is the Critical Shortage Level that triggers more mandatory water rationing. Lake Mead Water Levels — Historical and Current

Minimum power pool of 1050' (as currently rated) and deadpool are different things. Flow into the Hoover intake towers is possible down to dead pool. Below minimum power pool, power production is not possible, as the reduced head is incompatible with the existing construction. USBR is in the process of upgrading the plant to allow operation at lower head. This will result in the minimum power pool elevation being lowered. Very little of the work being done is 'extra' work, it primarily involves design changes in already ongoing equipment replacement.


Between 1075' and 1050' the Lower Colorado allotment is cut by 333kaf or just 4.44%.

The seasonal variation in lake level drops like a stone in 1966, and stays low until 2011, when it rises back to the previous norm. During the period of low variation, the time of the lowest level looks somewhat random, whereas previously it was mostly in late summer to early winter.

Does this all indicate that we're coming out of a period of abnormally wet summers, and that what we have come to call "drought" is actually "normal" - or, less judgmentally, "typical"? Or were there radical changes in the operating rules in those two years? Does anybody here know?

The big drop in 1964 was slow to recover due to the filling of Lake Powell, which took 17 years.

Glen Canyon Dam takes the seasonal extremes out after 1966.

Also, as of 2005 changes have been made to the Operating Criteria, in no small part to address concerns about the possibility of deadpool at Mead while there is still active storage at Powell, as well as formalizing triggers for changes in operations mode based on levels and inflow.


And so what if we 'import' more . . . this is the UNITED states of America. It is not like importing from Nevada or Oregon has currency, national trade imbalance, or national security implications.

There are always provide-for-your-own first implications. The California electric crisis of 2000 had several fundamental homegrown causes, but it was triggered because of California dependence on imported NW hydroelectric. Along came a NW drought in 2000 and that surplus NW hydroelectric power went away, or became extremely expensive.

Also, while the average import may be 25%, it is not everywhere in the local sense 25% as the transmission system can not move all the power (say) in the North to the South. S. California is for instance much more dependent on nuclear than the North.

Re: Dazzling Map Reveals Rising Menace of US Fires

It's a neat map, but I believe that parts of the article are misleading. In particular, the author writes

Although some of the burns captured on the map could be so-called prescribed burns — controlled blazes that officials set to clear out flammable tinder from fire-prone areas — all but the tiniest fires are almost undoubtedly wildfires...

For some of the areas that appear to have been totally burned in relatively low-level fires, it seems more likely that the fires are not wildfires as most people would use the word, but rather the burning of crop residues in the fields.

For example, the map suggests that most of the area in a large strip of Arkansas and SE Missouri immediately west of the Mississippi River "burned". This paper (PDF), on the use of MODIS satellite information to identify field burning, indicates that most of that area is cropland, much of it planted in wheat and rice, and that the stubble in thousands of km2 are burned off annually. Other parts of the map have the same issue. Yes, California has large intense wildfires (mostly in mountainous terrain burning trees and brush); it also has widespread low-level burning across much of the Sacramento Valley that is crop residue.

If you just look at the biggest brightest fires, though, it helps explain this bit I wrote recently about differences in attitudes toward fire east and west of the Great Plains.

Not quite as pretty, but with lots of info about the wildfires and prescribed burns going on.


also, the sort feature doesn't seem to work very well.

Michigan governor declares emergency over fuel shortage

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday declared an energy emergency in the state due to temporary shortages of gasoline and diesel fuel in parts of the Upper Peninsula caused by the shutdown of a pipeline in Wisconsin.

The emergency declaration suspends state and federal regulations that limit hours of service for motor carriers and drivers transporting gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel to address the shortages, Snyder said in a statement.

related http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9368#comment-907342

and http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57577-283134--,00.html

EIA says:

Residual fuel oil: A general classification for the heavier oils, known as No. 5 and No. 6 fuel oils, that remain after the distillate fuel oils and lighter hydrocarbons are distilled away in refinery operations. It conforms to ASTM Specifications D 396 and D 975and Federal Specification VV-F-815C. No. 5, a residual fuel oil of medium viscosity, is also known as Navy Special and is defined in Military Specification MIL-F-859E, including Amendment 2 (NATO Symbol F-770). It is used in steam-powered vessels in government service and inshore powerplants. No. 6 fuel oil includes Bunker C fuel oil and is used for the production of electric power, space heating, vessel bunkering, and various industrial purposes.

EIA provide data for all resid consumption, and resid used for bunkers; when that is subracted we're left with the following:

Total Bunkers Remainder Bunkers % of Total Remainder % of Total
United States 622 284 338 45.72% 54.28%
Singapore 619 540 79 87.21% 12.79%
China 584 145 439 24.76% 75.24%
Japan 536 92 443 17.24% 82.76%
Africa 431 74 357 17.17% 82.83%
Eurasia 401 9 392 2.19% 97.81%
Saudi Arabia 365 52 312 14.38% 85.62%
Korea, South 332 15 316 4.67% 95.33%
Iran 329 285 44 86.61% 13.39%
United Arab Emirates 307 0 307 0.00% 100.00%
Russia 264 2 262 0.69% 99.31%
Mexico 264 253 10 96.05% 3.95%
Netherlands 257 56 201 21.89% 78.11%
Italy 246 0 246 0.00% 100.00%
India 241 31 210 12.75% 87.25%
Taiwan 216 133 82 61.75% 38.25%
Spain 214 70 144 32.82% 67.18%
Brazil 213 0 213 0.00% 100.00%
Iraq 192 161 31 83.81% 16.19%

"Eurasia" is the EIA's peculiar term for the FSU. These are 2008 numbers, the most recent year the EIA provide complete consumption data. Noteworthy is the fact that the leading consumers of resid have been moving away from oil for power for decades, yet still consume a great deal of it - even more so in Japan's case since the quake, of course. It is useful as a drop-in fuel; also remember China's attempts to clean up Beijing for the Olympics.

Distillates are also used in power generation, and the EIA used to have a clearly marked set of numbers for dist used in bunkers; now it seems to have been replaced by "Total Consumption of Refined Petroleum Products for Bunkering," so more recent numbers for marine diesel would have to be extrapolated. The quantity of resid still used for power is quite steep; Henry Groppe once suggested that global burning for power may be as high as 20 mb/d.

Total Bunkers Remainder Bunkers % of Total  
World 9,324 2,897 6,427 31.07% 68.93%
Asia & Oceania 3,194 1,094 2,100 34.25% 65.75%
Europe 1,785 882 903 49.43% 50.57%
Middle East 1,639 376 1,263 22.94% 77.06%
North America 994 298 696 29.95% 70.05%
Central & South America 880 164 716 18.65% 81.35%

re: The Dawn of the Great California Energy Crash

It sounds like California is the US prime candidate for Failed State status, which the recent bankruptcy of two moderately large cities would seem to confirm. Its credit rating is the lowest of any state for good reason.

As the graphs show, California oil production peaked in 1985 and has been in steep decline ever since. I was surprised to see that it was a net oil exporter of petroleum as late as 1995, but it is now a very heavy oil importer.

I think the roots of California's decline started when it abandoned its interurban and street railway systems after WWI, and built freeways in their place on the assumption that oil production would go up forever. They even converted the subway tunnels under Los Angeles into sewers, or put building foundations through them. How many people there even remember that Southern California once had the largest interurban electric railway system in the world, or that LA had subways?

Abandoning the urban rail systems was a very serious strategic mistake in urban planning, and one that will be almost impossible to recover from. They don't have the money to do built new rail systems to replace the ones they abandoned, and the housing density is too low to support public transit.

Of course, many people believe that electric vehicles will arrive and bail them out, but, no, it ain't gonna happen. I can see why the Doomsters in California think the way they do. I'm just glad I'm not them.

The roots have more to do with California embracing a high population growth rate. Try squeezing the entire population of Canada into a few counties and this is what you end up with.

That's true. California has more people than Canada, crammed into an area smaller than the average Canadian province, and that population is mostly in the southern half and crowded close to the coastline.

In reality, the part that is populated is populated at European densities, but without the European public transportation systems or the European attitudes to living in densely packed communities. The Europeans have been doing this for a long time, whereas a lot of Californians probably thought they'd never experience it when they moved there.

Keep in mind that California's population started going nuts in the 70s and 80s when the car was dominant and the freeway system had lots of capacity. Population growth rates over 2% have a way of overwhelming infrastructure faster than the public can perceive a need for change. Growth and the mitigations for growth tend to be incremental. In the 70s when life was pretty easy in California, it would have been very difficult to get the public to envision what a doubling of the population in 30 years would look like. Of course, the folks that benefited from the growth weren't too interested in the public contemplating that idea either.

In spite of this, BART was built in the SF Bay Area, light rail systems were built around the state, bus systems were improved and LA expanded the metro.

Well, they obviously thought the good times would roll forever, but let's always keep in mind that US oil production peaked in 1970 and started declining after that. People should have looked around and said, "Maybe this whole car oriented culture is going to come to an end in the foreseeable future. What are we going to do then?"

Of course they didn't think about that and blamed all the problems on other people. BART, light rail, and the LA Metro are all well and good, but they're just trying to get back to where they were before WWII. Coping with the modern age of peak oil is going to require some SERIOUS adjustment.

I'm talking about urban densification, making cities walkable, and putting in public transit everywhere. It's not going to be easy if you didn't plan for it in the first place.

The demographics of California are interesting:


The growth rate seemed to hit a crescendo in the 1940s-1950s of sustained ~5% p/a for almost 20 years. But from the 1960s onwards the growth rate has been declining overall. 2000-2010 was the lowest growth rate on record, "only" 10% which is about 0.9% p/a. I suppose to business and civic leaders this "low" growth rate must be a worrying sign, but to me its a small sign of hope. It needs to go down much further though of course (preferably to zero), especially considering the population is now over 40 million.

It sounds like California is the US prime candidate for Failed State status, which the recent bankruptcy of two moderately large cities would seem to confirm. Its credit rating is the lowest of any state for good reason.

See . . . this is exactly the kind of hysterical nonsense that I thought the overblown article would inspire. About 5% of our electrical supply goes down because some Japanese contractor screwed up and that means California is a failed state? Seriously? Go see my post on this story above.

Yeah California is a failed state . . . if only we had some business like Intel, Oracle, Google, Apple Computer, Hollywood, Cisco, Facebook, eBay, . ... wait . . . they are all based in California. Never mind. California certainly has budget issues but we are working through them. Prop 13, reduced sales taxes from Internet purchases, economic down turn, and lots of tax avoidance have hurt revenues. Over-generous government programs and government employee contracts have hurt spending. Both are being modified and hopefully things will get back on track.

About that list of businesses... you may have inadvertently revealed the root of the problem. By using the infrastructure, off-shoring, and avoiding taxes to boot, one can only wonder the net impact on California.

Here is just one case in point:

"Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains."

this is exactly the kind of hysterical nonsense that I thought the overblown article would inspire. About 5% of our electrical supply goes down because some Japanese contractor screwed up and that means California is a failed state?

No, it's not yet a failed state, but these are preliminary warnings. The canary in the coal mine keeled over and stopped breathing. What does that mean? I don't know, let's keep on digging ourselves in deeper.

I said that California is the FIRST candidate for failed state status - there are others. What are the chances of California failing, i.e. going bankrupt, stiffing all its creditors, and laying off all its employees? Disconcertingly high, if you are willing to believe the credit rating agencies.

Hysterical is about the right word.. 'Failed State' is not.

Here are the general definitions offered into Wikipedia,

loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein,
erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions,
an inability to provide public services, and
an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

.. further detailed..

"Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline."

Maybe 'fingerpoke' is actually a better understanding of the comment than hyperbole..

Note that I wasn't using "failed state" in its Foreign Policy Magazine definition, I was using it in the sense of an American state which failed to provide adequate government services and security to its population. However,

loss of its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force,
erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions,
an inability to provide public services, and
an inability to interact with other states
little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline."

Would tend to describe the direction that California is going in. The budgetary problems that California faces are a major factor in this.

if only we had some business like Intel, Oracle, Google, Apple Computer, Hollywood, Cisco, Facebook, eBay, . ... wait . . . they are all based in California.

Their corporate HQs are in California, for now. That does not mean those firms are adding most of their new jobs there.

86 companies reducing California presence
Apple builds $1 billion plant in North Carolina
Apple to spend $304M on new Austin, Tex., campus, creating 3600 new jobs

Intel Corp., a pioneer of Silicon Valley, soured on its home state years ago. During the rolling blackouts of 2001, the semiconductor giant pledged never to build another plant in California.

It kept that promise. Over the past decade, even as it downsized some operations, Intel spent $11 billion on plants in Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico. It closed its last California plant, in Santa Clara, last June, although it closed plants elsewhere, too.

California certainly has budget issues but we are working through them.

May 12, 2012:

The state budget shortfall in California has increased dramatically in the last six months, forcing state officials to assemble a series of new spending cuts that are likely to mean further reductions to schools, health care and other social programs already battered by nearly five years of budget retrenchment, state officials announced on Saturday.

Gov. Jerry Brown, disclosing the development in a video posted on YouTube, said that California’s shortfall was now projected to be $16 billion, up from $9.2 billion in January.

Far and away the most damaging:

"Apple, which is now the world’s most valuable company, has created more jobs overseas, approximately 700,000 through a network of suppliers that make iPhones, iPads and other products.

Apple Study on Job Creation

RockyMtnGuy said:

I think the roots of California's decline started when it abandoned its interurban and street railway systems after WWI, and built freeways in their place on the assumption that oil production would go up forever. They even converted the subway tunnels under Los Angeles into sewers, or put building foundations through them. How many people there even remember that Southern California once had the largest interurban electric railway system in the world, or that LA had subways?

There is a sinister side of the story, which tends to support your hypothesis quite well.

Well, that's the old General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy, which actually involved GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron), Phillips Petroleum (now ConocoPhillips), and Mack Trucks. They conspired to buy up and shut down the electric streetcar systems systems of the US in favor of petroleum powered buses, and were convicted in court of doing that.

Of course, what they actually were convicted of was not allowing OTHER companies to buy up and shut down American streetcar systems, but that is just one of the vagaries of the American justice system. They fact is they did buy up and shut down streetcar systems.

This is the basis of the plot in the movie, "Who Killed Roger Rabbit", although no rabbits were killed in the original conspiracy, only streetcars.

It should probably be standard school textbook reading in the schools of California, although I'm sure the aforementioned companies would have screaming fits if someone actually taught it in school.

"How many people there even remember that Southern California once had the largest interurban electric railway system in the world, or that LA had subways?"

Not very many. The closures started before World War II and completed in 1954. Those old enough to remember will also remember how much Henry Huntington was despised for his real-estate shenanigans. In the early 20th century, he monopolized a combination of real estate and transportation, and used that to give people the shaft. So when cars came along on a major scale, people emphatically said goodbye and good riddance, from now on we'll live where we choose instead of under your thumb. I encountered that attitude from Angelinos when I was in college, despite the Pacific Electric already being history which they had never directly experienced.

A "good riddance" attitude towards railroads more generally is not uncommon, especially west of the Mississippi. Cornelius Vanderbilt is just as despised as Henry Huntington, only for the way he shafted (especially) farmers. Memories like that, acquired in the course of family business, tend to be passed down the generations.

As to whether electric cars are actually impossible to build, or whether people will happily jam themselves on a major scale into airless, noisy and ruinously expensive European-style micro-apartments stacked up in tenement buildings, both those questions remain to be answered. Despite some breathless recent reports, suburban population is still growing six times faster than city population in absolute numbers. The number of affluent young singles without responsibilities, seeking unremitting noise and excitement, may prove as finite as many other numbers.

For everyone else, well, the pounding, thumping high-powered audio amplifier was invented long after medieval European city layouts became entrenched, and it will not be uninvented; ditto for unending business hours and the accompanying traffic and noise. Most people may wish instead to live where it is actually possible to get some sleep, so they can work their day jobs without keeling over, or so the baby isn't constantly screaming from repeatedly being awakened by the pounding and thumping.

Then there's the really big puzzle - a picture that doesn't seem self-consistent on its face. If people are cramming into hyper-expensive megacities out of energy poverty - a proposition that by itself seems intrinsically oxymoronic - what on earth would they be doing for a living? After all, many of the jobs that can even be done in tiny, costly downtown offices are what Taleb calls "scalable". Examples might be entertainment and pixel-pushing, intangible work product duplicated out to ever more customers at ever less cost. Maybe the scaling will continue to where the whole USA really needs only one such downtown, just as it (almost) needs only one Hollywood.

Well, given that Henry Huntington sold the Pacific Electric Railway in 1911, retired in 1916, and died in 1927, the people in LA must have awfully long memories. I suppose the fact that he built the largest interurban railway system in the world counts for nothing in their estimation.

The trouble with building freeways and not controlling development is that it allowed California cities to sprawl in an uncontrolled fashion. The trouble LA has now is that it is very difficult to retrofit a rapid transit into the vast sprawling suburbs that were built by the real-estate developers because they are not oriented to transit accessibility. Unlike the early days, California is not an exporter but an importer of petroleum, and the prices of fuel are going to rise too high to permit people to drive everywhere they want to. They will want to take public transit but they will not have it. I wouldn't count on electric vehicles because I don't think the future California electrical grid will be able to handle the load.

whether people will happily jam themselves on a major scale into airless, noisy and ruinously expensive European-style micro-apartments stacked up in tenement buildings

That's generally not how European cities are built, except for the densest parts of the biggest cities. If you want to live in a simple and not very expensive house in a small town in Europe, you can do that.

If people are cramming into hyper-expensive megacities out of energy poverty - a proposition that by itself seems intrinsically oxymoronic - what on earth would they be doing for a living?

What people generally do in big cities - work in the manufacturing or service industries or in an office. However, there is nothing about energy shortages that forces people to live in mega-cities - in fact medium-sized cities are probably more energy efficient. All they have to be is walkable and be big enough to support public transit, which in the European context means a city of only 100,000 or more. You don't really have to have populations in the millions.

Well, given that Henry Huntington sold the Pacific Electric Railway in 1911, retired in 1916, and died in 1927, the people in LA must have awfully long memories. I suppose the fact that he built the largest interurban railway system in the world counts for nothing in their estimation.

Ummm... yeah, they do. They remembered his name as a matter of history, and likewise they remembered having to live where Huntington dictated, through the 1940s, and paying through the noise for the privilege. Abundant affordable cars finally freed that up. And really, even with the traffic jams, and despite cherry-picked exceptions, a typical trip, door to door and counting scheduling, waiting and walking, will usually be quicker by car than it ever was on the Pacific Electric, or is on the current buses and trains. (This can be true even for Manhattan; a properly run company van pool may be the quickest way in to work despite the truly awful traffic.)

And yeah, the fact that Huntington built the largest system counted for little. This should be no surprise. Not only was there the cost-of-living and quasi-imprisonment aspect, but consider also the abundant Drumbeat comments expressing resentment and occasionally hatred over anything that could be even remotely considered to be large and corporate.

If you want to live in a simple and not very expensive house in a small town in Europe, you can do that.

Right, but then you're going to be wanting transportation since it's not the 18th century any more and few will be fully satisfied with the limited amenities a small town can provide. But public transportation in less-populated areas of Europe, where inexpensive houses might still be found, often isn't much better than in the States or anywhere else - a desultory bus now and then, scheduled for whenever the authorities happen to have felt like it, maybe going where you want to go, or maybe going only someplace else altogether. So you'll probably be wanting a car, which is why cars are so abundant in Europe (and the UK) despite the expense, and the way they're driven fewer miles since things are jammed together (compared to the States) even in the less-populated areas.

What people generally do in big cities...

Of course. But under the kind of comprehensive poverty that prevents people from even, say, driving electric commuter vehicles, I still wonder about need for great gobs of abstract office work, most of which strikes me as being on what Westexas has called the "discretionary side of the economy." Poverty might interfere with discretionary business. Plus, there's Taleb's scalability issue, and there's enough communications technology to allow much of that stuff to be outsourced overseas.

The "abstract office work" that people do in head offices is basically making the key investment and operating decisions - i.e. running the company. OTOH, manufacturing jobs are the "optional" ones - they can be automated out of existence, and are being.

Much of the head office work can be handled at home by telecommuting, rather than having the workers go to the office every day. This obviates the need for EV's.

Observers have been commenting on the tendency for the younger generation to not own cars, or even learn to drive these days. In the era of telecommuting, young professionals have less need to do so. Once they have eliminated the need to drive to work, they can then start looking for a place where they never have to drive anywhere - i.e. where the services they want are close to them, rather than them having to drive to the services.

And they find the smaller, European-sized apartments and condos quite comfortable. It's not an issue of poverty. It's a life-style they prefer.

Young and carless: Dealerships try to win Gen-Y buyers

While people under 35 accounted for 24.4 percent of car acquisitions in 2001, that number dropped to 12.7 percent in 2010

young people with jobs or who live in households with annual incomes above $70,000 used public transportation 100 percent more, biked 122 percent more and walked 37 percent more in 2009 than in 2001,

Well I am not sure of the sentiments in Southern California about Green Transit but I do
know about my mother's pleasing memories of the trolley systems in Washington DC when she grew up in WW II. My mother always complained after our family moved to the suburbs that she was forced to drive the kids everywhere - from the age of 12 she was able to get anywhere she wanted in DC by taking transit which gave her mobility I never had growing up in the suburbs. She did not even have a driver's license when she moved to Falls Church.
She did not need one in DC. Now of course Falls Church has 2 Metro stops....

Abandoning the urban rail systems was a very serious strategic mistake in urban planning, and one that will be almost impossible to recover from. They don't have the money to do built new rail systems to replace the ones they abandoned, and the housing density is too low to support public transit.

As an LA area bicycling and transit advocate living in Santa Monica I absolutely agree it was a terrible strategic mistake. However Los Angeles is making up for lost time from it's time out from rail. Since the 80's LA has been rebuilding local rail service, adding one light rail and a subway line first, and in more recent years projects have been accelerated, due in part to a willingness for the region to tax itself for transportation spending despite the prop 13 2/3 hurdle to doing so. Unlike many cities just asking for national handouts, LA is putting up it's own money and moving both with and without federal support.

The entire LA MTA bus fleet is off of diesel fuel, predominately now running on natural gas, and is also the biggest bus system outside of NYC, and scores high on ratings of transit to job connectivity. A few months ago the Expo Line light rail opened between DTLA & Culver City, phase II of Expoto Santa Monica and the beach, all following the same right of way as the old Air Line trolley, is well underway. I am on the public appointed committee overseeing bikeway development along the adjacent right of way for that project.

The Orange Line bus rapid transit line has just been extended in the Valley (also with a bikeway corridor) to reach the Chatsworth Amtrak and Metrolink station, an opening a weeks ago. The Gold Line LRT is being extended further east, and work just started on the Crenshaw line to reach through South LA and finally bridge the light rail gap to LAX. Soil sampling work has begun on extending the purple line subway. A regional connector project that will allow more seamless flow between lines going through DTLA is also under way. Metrolink is also adding more double tracking in certain corridors to improve broader regional service.

In other words, the Mayor of Los Angeles is biggest advocate of public transit projects in the United States right now, and no other city in the country is working harder and doing more at once to advance it's rail system by leaps and bounds. Getting rid of the rail system and going wild on freeways was a strategic blunder for the region, but thankfully the rail rights of way were bought and held onto by various multiplicities along the lines, allowing todays development to avoid a lot of costly land acquisition.

I think it's important to realize in this discussion that LA, despite popular myth, has the highest population density average in the country, and certain neighborhoods like Korea Town are more dense than anything in San Fransico. The conditions to make mass transit work are in place. LA county if it were it's own country has a GDP equivalent to the Netherlands by itself. LA has problems, no doubt, and some will become especially challenging over time, but it still has the muscle to get big things done and has demonstrated a willingness to do so and spend it's own money to do it.

I give it another 5 years of development and it will finally seep into national realization that the birth place of car culture will have one of the most developed rail systems in the United States (largely retracing it's former steps), and many will wonder where the hell that came from.

How Recession Will Change University Financing

As higher-education quantity has soared, quality has dropped. Many institutions are mere diploma mills, graduating students of limited capability. Wall Street companies and management consultants fawn over MBAs from Stanford and Harvard, but won’t even interview the legions of night-school MBAs, who were taught by poorly paid adjunct professors at lesser institutions.

The realization that many recent college graduates were poorly prepared for nonexistent jobs, that they will be burdened for years with crushing student loans along with the resulting frustration, may be bringing about a great revelation: Going to college doesn’t make you smart and ready for a good, well-paid job. There’s little causal relationship between going to college and financial success despite the statistical link. And you can’t prove causality with statistics.

A valid point IMHO and very sad. And the stats don't give a very good flavor of the reality. Individual anecdotes don't make good stats either but do add some color to the canvas. I'm sure many on TOD know someone like my step-son: wasn't a great student and had little interest in college. But ambitious and a not lazy. Started training as an electrician. Today he's in his 30's and a Master E with a nice steady middle income life.

His sister was a top student and got her law degree in Texas. Got a very high paying job with a Houston firm doing international arbitration. Then the crunch came and, though one of the last of the younger lawyers to go, was still laid off. Never really enjoyed the work especially the 70 hour weeks. Now she works with the State Dept at an embassy in Africa. Just enjoying the heck out of it even while making less than half of what she had been. And her next gig is Greece...that should be very interesting in another year.

And jumping back into the Way-back machine I decided to major in geology when there was no real career future in it. I had to do something to escape the old neighborhood since my plan as career military didn't pan out due to an injury. Even my first professors warned me about the lack of a future. Then 6 years later getting out of grad school in 1975 my career prospects changed drastically. And I do think that change was a result to some degree of US PO in the early 70's. So the moral to my story is that sometimes it's better to be lucky than smart. LOL.

So what would be the smart move for a high school senior today? Alt energy? Maybe but even though there may be a need to move in that direction will the economy have the capex to do so meaningfully? Medicine seemed at one time to be a good choice but with changes in the wind is it now? And will it be in 20 years? Even a military career may not be a good long term plan.

I'm glad there is no one currently asking for such an opinion.

The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER...

Beginning scene of the new HBO series The Newsroom explaining why America's Not the Greatest Country Any Longer... But It Can Be.

Now that was refreshing! Jolt people out of that false mantra which has become ingrained as unsupported fact for so long. Sure, it probably was true at one time, but he's right - not anymore. "The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing there is one." Well, maybe that video will help move the country in the direction of accepting we aren't #1 for many of the reasons he mentioned.

I'm highly skepical that even 1% of the pop will be alowed to get it. Rather the author will be tarred with the brush of unpatriotism, and then people will rufuse to watch his stuff.

I don't know... the show has been seen for a month on television.


HBO’s ‘Newsroom’ Takes Aim at Koch Brothers
The billionaire Koch brothers, known for giving liberally to conservative causes, are becoming political piñatas on TV. ... For the second week in a row, Charles and David Koch were strafed by HBO’s show “The Newsroom,” the one-hour drama about a fictional cable TV news show and its volatile anchorman.



'Pinatas' and 'strafed' imply a totally different power balance than actually exists between the parties. "Throwing rocks and bottles at tanks," or "poking a snake" might be more apropos.

Ah, yes... but in an extreme laziness of that moment, I quoted The Wall Street Journal, a Rupert Murdoch enterprise, as is Fox News. I knew it was The Wall Street Journal, but I used it anyway... let this error be seen as an example and a warning to others.

I don't watch much TV (I don't have one), but I have caught showings of each episode so far (too many hotels lately). I've found it entertaining.

Ocean renewable energy

CSIRO modelling predicts that wave energy could play a large part in Australia’s future energy mix. Ocean energy extraction is an emerging technology and research is required on the nature of the resource, technology, performance and understanding the wider impacts.

The multi-disciplinary analysis tells us that there is a great opportunity for wave energy to be part of Australia’s energy mix, possibly providing up to 11 per cent of our power by 2050. This could power a city the size of Melbourne.

Ocean current, tidal and ocean thermal energy, have some potential to supply niche markets (near populations) as the resource is more limited compared to wave energy.

ConocoPhillips By The Numbers: $5.2 Billion in 2012 Profits, $21 Million Lobbying Congress In Past 18 Months

Here is a glimpse what else ConocoPhillips is funding:

•ConocoPhillips has already spent $1 million lobbying Congress this year. In 2011, ConocoPhillips spent over $20 million on lobbying Congress, making it the top spender of the oil and gas industry.
•Conoco has contributed nearly $400,000 to federal campaigns this year, with 90 percent of the contributions going to Republicans.
•Conoco is sitting on $1 billion in cash reserves.
•The company spent 35 percent more than they earned this quarter — or $3.1 billion — buying back its own stock, which enriches the largest shareholders and executives.
•Conoco paid an 18 percent effective federal tax rate in 2011. This is nearly half of the 35 percent standard top corporate tax rate.
•ConocoPhillips’ outgoing CEO James Mulva received over $15 million in yearly compensation, earning nearly $80 million over five years

S - Sounds like ConocoP is a good company to work for and to own stock in. Thanks for the heads up.


ConocoPhillips has already spent $1 million lobbying Congress this year. In 2011, ConocoPhillips spent over $20 million on lobbying Congress, making it the top spender of the oil and gas industry.

That's down in the noise level. The pharmaceutical industry has spent around $300 million over the same period, with Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America leading the list. Over the last 15 years the oil and gas industry is only the fifth largest in lobbying expenditures, just slightly ahead of the education lobby in sixth place.

There is lobbying. Now there are also superPACs. How do the oil companies stack up on superPAC donations?

From NSIDC: Sea Ice Continues To Track at Low Levels

Arctic sea ice continued to track at levels far below average through the middle of July, with open water in the Kara and Barents seas reaching as far north as typically seen during September. Melt onset began earlier than normal throughout most of the Arctic.

Pollution weakens monsoon's might

One-fifth of the world's population calls South Asia home. The summer monsoon rainfall is a major source of fresh water for their crops and ground water reserves, and is a vital life source for the region's people. On a global scale, the monsoons are a major source of energy driving the planet's atmospheric circulation, which can affect the wheat crops in Kansas, as well as the rice fields in India. Increasing industrialization and population growth in South Asia means more human-caused pollution, the major source of emissions in this study. This research points to pollution's ultimate effects on food and water supplies around the globe.

"We found that increased local and remote pollution sources slow the monsoon circulation and suppress summer rainfall," said Dr. Dilip Ganguly, atmospheric scientist at PNNL and lead author of the study. "This will have untold impacts on the global climate, ultimately affecting the precipitation patterns for the entire planet."

War and Debt: Commodities Trading Houses Cash In

After years of backroom work focused on the dry business of building out storage, shipping and logistics operations, a small club of trading houses has jumped at the chance to land some old-fashioned big-profit deals.

They have had plenty of choice over the past year: war or unrest in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, sanctions on Iran, Greece on the brink of default.

"Trading houses are not shying away from places with high risk profiles if these profiles also lead to higher profit margins. It's about risk versus reward," said Ton Schurink at Geneva-based Commodity Finance Trading Advisory Services.

Vitol, Glencore, Gunvor and Trafigura in oil and Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Bunge in grains have demonstrated that, for some at least, the security, credit and reputational risks are worth taking if the rewards are big enough.

Estimates from rivals suggest a trader who dares to sell grains to sanctions-straitened Iran could pocket $2 million profit per Panamax-size cargo as opposed to $200,000 if the cargo is sold to a low-risk buyer.

... reminds me of the philosophy in Lord of War

Runaway Population Growth Often Fuels Youth-Driven Uprisings

In fast-growing countries, many young men are unable to find employment or pay dowries. Frustrated ambitions can be an explosive force — and a reason for joining the Taliban.

A young man can earn far more working for the Taliban than for the Afghan army or the police, according to Western intelligence reports and researchers. Planting a roadside bomb can pay 20 times more than a day's manual labor.

About 80% of the world's civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International.

A youth boom contributed to the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany and to Japan's military ambitions in the Pacific.

More recently, demonstrators crushed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China were part of a generational bulge, as were young activists and rioters in the U.S. in the 1960s and '70s.

Similar youth bulges have emerged in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories — part of what security experts call an "arc of instability" reaching across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

We are literally going to see 1 billion young people come into the populations in the arc of instability over the next two decades," said Jack Goldstone, an expert on demography and revolutions at George Mason University in Virginia.

also Fertility rates fall, but global population explosion goes on

... "We're going to have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have the last 10,000," he said. "Some people say we'll just add more land or more water. But we're not going to do much of either."

Can the planet survive 10 billion people?

The brainchild of Emmott and director Katie Mitchell at the Royal Court Theatre, 10 Billion is a daring one man show in which Emmott desperately strives to pull together into one grand and devastating portrait the many ways we are impacting the planet. Standing on a set that he admits eerily resembles his office in Cambridge, UK, where he is the head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research, Emmott takes theatregoers on a brisk and bracing tour through our own history and use of Earth’s resources, before offering a glimpse of what the future might look like if the population reaches 10 billion.

It isn’t good.

Official: Israel will act if militants raid Syrian chemical or biological weapons stocks

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that the government would not tolerate seeing Syria's chemical weapons fall into militant hands as tensions rise along his country's northern border.

"For us, that's a casus belli, a red line," he said.

System for stopping an oil spill is tested in Gulf

NEW ORLEANS — The first deep-sea test of a state-of-the-art containment system for stopping an oil spill akin to BP's catastrophic 2010 spill began on Tuesday, regulators said.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said the Houston-based Marine Well Containment Company was to move a capping stack system it has developed onto a ship and carry it out to where a test wellhead has been placed on the bottom of the Gulf. The stack will be lowered by wires onto the test wellhead sitting 7,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf.

This new capping stack is capable of containing up to 4.2 million gallons of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, according to MWCC.

also BSEE Launches Deepwater Oil and Gas Containment Exercise

Explosion rocks PGE power plant in southern Poland

A coal dust explosion hit Poland's top utility PGE Turow lignite power plant late on Tuesday, sparking a fire that caused a shutdown of three out of eight blocks of the plant responsible for 7 percent of the country's power supply.

"If the coal transportation system for blocks 5 and 6 is damaged then there might be a problem in southwestern Poland and the power shortage may by large," Walkowiak added.

I'm just throwing this out there for consideration by the members of the Oil Drum. Sometimes I wonder if the concerns raised in this article and by this author are glossed over or on the radar of some of TOD's esteemed commentators:


A taste of the book is here:

Dividing his argument into three sections, provocatively titled “The Seduction of Disaster”; “The Anti-progress Progressives”; and “The Great Ascetic Regression”, Bruckner scorns the peddlers of the “propaganda of fear”.

For my part, I think that what will unfold, will unfold. Humans are radically changing the world. I do not believe that we are more powerful than the asteroid that created the Chixulub crater and destroyed approximately 75% of all lifeforms on Earth 165 million years ago. In any event, even if we are that powerful (which remains to be seen), the planet bounced back the last time. I see no reason to believe it won't bounce back this time as well.

He looked over the brink, didn't like what he saw, and recoiled in fear. So now he is angry at the messengers. It happens from time to time.

Then he pats himself on the back for bravely going against the flow, as if the environmentally concerned people of the world are some massive force that rolls over everything in its path. Instead of the intelligent, alarmed, but impotent-in-the-face-of-the-techno-corporate juggernaut group of people that they really are.

What will unfold will unfold - yes, that's a good one.

If you're saying that it doesn't matter what we do, because "the planet" (WTF?) will "bounce back", well, I'd say that's a pretty inhuman view. That's tantamount to saying you've totally given up on the whole thing.

The long view of our planet's history and future is mostly inhuman. We humans were only likely to bring humanity to the planet for a brief time (geologically speaking) in any event. It may sound grating, harsh and inhuman, but so is nature. Thus, what will be, will be. We can try to avoid extinction, but until we can get off this rock and colonize the galaxy, sooner or later, some calamity (man made or otherwise) will extinguish us.

My goodness. This conversation sure went there quick.

What about the ideas that the author speaks about? His characterization of environmentalists and their thinking? Is it a new religion of doom and gloom?

I have to admit, despite reading TOD for the last 4 years, other than rising gas prices, I haven't really noted much in the way of the potential horrors that I was exposed to when I first arrived at the TOD. Does this mean that the prognosticators at the TOD were wrong? I don't think so. Oil's decline is unquestionably a sure thing. Will it be as bad as some expected? So far, it hasn't been for me in my neck of the woods.

I have grown somewhat skeptical of the alarmists, despite agreeing in principle that there is something to be alarmed about. Maybe this dichotomy is a luxury that only the economically, geographically lucky and somewhat informed (or so I believe of myself) can enjoy.

Anyways, let's avoid end of the world talk. As Leanan has noted many times, it's off topic and adds nothing.

" His characterization of environmentalists and their thinking? Is it a new religion of doom and gloom?"

No. It's a very reasonable evaluation of where we are and where we're headed - nothing to do with religion.

"Will it be as bad as some expected? So far, it hasn't been for me in my neck of the woods."

Well, in that case, all is obviously going just fine!

"but until we can get off this rock and colonize the galaxy, sooner or later, some calamity (man made or otherwise) will extinguish us."

So let's not worry about it? (By the way, we are never going to get off this rock and colonize the galaxy. "This rock" is our home.)

And nobody is talking about the end of the world except for you.

There are man-made problems facing all of us, and potentially there is something we can do about it, to at least mitigate the worst of it. Maybe not. But let's try, and not blow off the very real pressing problems with "sooner or later some calamity". That's just a cop out. And most of the points made by the author of the article were similarly just that; cop outs, strawmen, red herrings, and so forth. And none of them were original.

Nah, that sounds like too much work. Let's go with the extinction or just deny the whole thing.

So impatient. 4 years is just 120~ billion barrels at current consumption..

Colonize the galaxy? Surely, you are joking. As far as physics is concerned, there's no way this can happen, from what we presently know to be possible.

Alone in the Void

But, you write:

Will it be as bad as some expected? So far, it hasn't been for me in my neck of the woods.

Perhaps because you have "bought" the great propaganda delusion spread by the US Radio/TV/Movie media which can create new worlds in front of a camera that have no basis in reality. Maybe that HDTV screen delivered luxury vision represents The End of the World as We Knew It. Do you really think things will be great if Spain or Italy's economies go under?..

E. Swanson

This made me think of Tom Murphy's post about the possibilities for space colonization. I'm myself guilty of thinking it probable before coming to terms with the state of the world.

Read it here http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/why-not-space/

Will it be as bad as WWII if Spain or Italy's economies go under? I don't think so. Humanity recovered.

I wonder if things will be as bad as forcast. Luckily for me (or unluckily as the case may be), I'll at least get to see the next 30 or so years of the unfolding of the Anthropocene barring an unfortunate lethal incident. I will get to see at least that far into the future how humankind manages the changes that we know are coming. Will they be as bad or worse than predicted or were the greens of today being alarmist? We don't know yet. I look forward to finding out.

"I will get to see at least that far into the future how humankind manages the changes that we know are coming."

Humans aren't managing anything. They are reacting to their own disfunctional constructs. The very evident fact that 7 billion humans are for the most part either involved in damage control or doing damage should get your attention.

I'm not sure what you're waiting for; perhaps you should move to Greece or Spain and look for a job; book a tour of Libya or Syria; buy a ranch in west Texas (I hear they're going cheap).

I suspect its possible -but not like in StarTrek. If a civilization could form sustainable colonies on Kuiper Belt like objects ( icy planetoids), which would have to obtain their energy from fusion of the ice, then over time some of these would drift off into interstellar space, and maybe these drifters could populate other star's Kuiper Belts. It would be an incredibly slow process, but after many millions of years such a civilization may spread far and wide. Of interest is that the rate of diffusion is slow compared to typical evolutionary timescales. But I don't see physics getting in the way.

Sort of like bacteria over millions of years?
So far civilisations have demonstrated very short life spans; if lucky centuries. Though I guess parts of India and China might until recently have still been recognisable to a time-traveller from the Roman Empire.

You just gave me a vision of eternity trapped on a smallish rock with a bunch of other greedy humans and too few resources. Even take your coworkers or family as a prospective group - think we'd want to kill eachother off in short order (good thing astronauts are selected for social stability, right?). Anyways, then I realized I was describing our current predicament; rock's just a bit bigger ;)


Do you really think things will be great if Spain or Italy's economies go under?...

I wonder if all the Gorillas, Orangutans and Chimps still remaining in the wild give a flying a f@ck!


In fact, the number of human beings born each day — some 350000 — is greater than the current populations of all other great apes combined

Colonize the galaxy? Surely, you are joking. As far as physics is concerned, there's no way this can happen, from what we presently know to be possible.

Why should this be generally physical impossible? Because of finite fossil fuels or our actual shortcomings?

Don't get me wrong, i do not belive we will make it in our current civilization cycle (modern industrial age) if even ever before going extingt. But to simply declar it impossible is a flaw. It is even not necessary to lift our very limitid (on the other hand of course perfect for our "world") biological bodys into space.

Assume the overall intelligence level of the world would not be about 90-95 (IQ points after classical definition) but 125-130 with all consequences like many people over IQ 150. This could leed to immediate extinction through a technological singularity. But than it would in principle be possible to build a cybernetic far advanged creature who could do much better in harsh environments like our earth-adapted existence. It is not immpossible by physical limits but the invisible barrier is very high for any biological species in the Universe and there are several severe feedback loops working against it (fossil fuels depeltion, climate chance, complexity, Dysgenetics, ...).

"Why should this be generally physical impossible? Because of finite fossil fuels or our actual shortcomings?"

Here's a good explanation:

Why Not Space - Do the Math

Yes it seems impossible. It is hard to predict future technology. 100 years ago no one expected to be able to fly around the world on jet airplanes and once you get up to a good fraction of the speed of light, time slows down, so it doesn't take as long from the travelers perspective. On the other hand, if it's possible then it seems like some life form should have done it already and the galaxy should be full of aliens - but we see no sign of that.

We don't even know what space is.
The Higgs boson adventure is a quest for a cause of mass.
Dark matter?
Dark energy?
String theory invokes at least 10 dimensions or more to make the math of spacetime work at all.

    The main argument of the article is exatly what i said could be adressed:

It is not necessary or reasonable to "colonise" space with our current biological bodies which are adapted to our evolutionary environment (landmamal on earth).

When our species or an following one with superior intelligence will colonise space it will do this with bionic kybernetic or even non-biological creatures or so-called strong KI- "machines".

I totally agree on the fact that our actual bodys given our current restrictions and negative feedback loops will never "conquer space"!

One thing to remember is, if you're in a country with a sheltered, corporatized neocolonial economy (they know who they are), you might be unnaturally shielded from many of the obvious effects of those big changes. Also, what ever big effects are going on around us can always be blamed on any number of possible causes.

What to ascribe the Euro Crisis to? The World Trade Center Attacks and the subsequent wars? What about the almost subtle erosion of savings in American households over the last thirty years, and the consequent cooling of the average Working Middle Class earnings capacities?

These might be much more serious and accurate harbingers of what is slowly 'tipping the car off the edge of the cliff' than those images of Jason's scary mask and a crooked, bloody dagger that we had once painted for ourselves as the 'way it would happen'.

Maybe in hindsight, just those wierd 50/50 elections and 8 years of Bush/Cheney will reveal themselves to have meanings and implications we can hardly imagine ('shocked, I say, shocked!') today.

That said, anybody who claims to know what's coming is still fully full of it, and if they drop some near you, feel free to toss it back to them.

Written by The Wet One:
... other than rising gas prices, I haven't really noted much in the way of the potential horrors that I was exposed to when I first arrived at the TOD.

Apparently you have not lost your job yet or savings yet. For those who manage to remain employed, an economic depression is not a big deal, but those who lose their jobs and can not get another find themselves in a whole new world of hurt. A series of oil price shocks that beat the world economy down play out over decades. Do you remember the Stair Step Descent Model? It is consistent with what has happened so far.

There was an Arab Spring uprising last year that might have been sparked by heat in Russia that diminished their wheat crop in 2010. Have you heard about the drought and heat wave this year? I wonder about the upcoming effect on the price and availability of food. Maybe you are not looking hard enough.

He's not an ecologist, just a left-leaning social commentator who decided to kick the beehive by ranting against his fellow greens for trying to take the fun out of everything. On that score I don't really disagree, greens can be a clueless bunch. Such as those who wail about climate change even as they enjoy obscenely high standards of living fueled by, you guessed it, burning tons of carbon.

As for humans impact on the planet, well, you need to do some homework. They don't call it the Anthropocene for nothing.

Will the planet bounce back? Sure, maybe in a few million years, but that's not really the problem is it? It's the current high speed nosedive down to rock bottom that has some people worried.


This is exactly what the author is talking about.

Is it a " current high speed nosedive down to rock bottom that has some people worried"?

That sounds a touch alarmist to me, even Chicken Little-ish.

I concede that there are serious problems (both environmentally and peak-oil related) coming down the pipe. However, I am not seeing the disasters unfold as predicted.

I'm as decently informed about these things as one can be reading TOD for 4 years (you tell me how well informed that makes me) but I continue not to see the calamities predicted. I definitely see the world changing (both economically and environmentally). Are environmentalists a bit too doom and gloom? Maybe they are. Are humans doing enough? I rather doubt it, but it is unclear that something must be done because the forecast harms aren't being seen sufficiently by the bulk of people (which does not include the scientists and observers who actually watch and study these things who are alarmed and are calling for something to be done).

For my part, as an observer who expects change to occur, I'm not sure that calamity is upon us. Change is definitely in the air and it is happening fast. Potential pitfalls abound. However, I am not seeing the disasters that some predict. Life seems to be going on (though not for those species going extinct). Is it actually as bad as some greens think or are they overly excited? I wonder about that.

That's my whole point. If you aren't alarmed then you clearly are NOT paying attention.
Climatologists are alarmed,
Ecologists are alarmed,
Petroleum Geologists are alarmed,
Sociologists are alarmed,
Marine scientists are alarmed,
and the list goes on.

And yet, you're frantically splitting hairs about greens being "alarmist"? Hmmm, well, whatever floats your boat.


First time I watched Albert Bartlett's talk on youtube was the first time I got a little sick to my stomach. That was when things quit sounding alarmist to me. That and the bloody methane cauldrons in the arctic, that was pretty visceral for me. We're just all overexcited waiting for the train wreck. Be patient, I should be here with you for the fireworks. These things take time to get rolling, and the status quo always has the power of inertia behind it. I'd also agree with those who say if you're not in north america, the ball probably looks to be rolling a bit faster than around here in cozy BAU land. Unless you've lost your job, and entered the 'not-looking' demographic, that is.


The excerpt from this diatribe does not consider the factually reality of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Limits to Growth whatsoever. In a typical denialist fashion Pascal Bruckner simply evades dealing with reality finding it inconvenient to fit with his market-based obsession. NASA just discovered Greenland is already melting way ahead of any projections? That is just an inconvenient fact I suppose.
But also in his glorification of the reified market and simulated commodification of every aspect of life it is noteworthy that Marcuse, Habermas and other 20th Century Marxist critics of the artificiality and inauthenticity of soulless Capitalist materialism, atomized suburban lifestyles are never mentioned either. Just shut up and go shopping like George Bush Jr so glibly told us...

Why must we renounce all the joys of life under the pretext of global warming?”

Contrariwise why must we continue to destroy all life itself, let alone its joys for rampant consumerism, the excesses of billionaires in the 1%, the atomized impersonal market in which all life becomes a mere commodity?

There will be plenty of joy in music, the arts, dancing, theater, conversation and a return to Community without destroying the planet. While returning to walkable communities we might actually begin to meet and get to know our neighbors as more than just metal machines impeding our ability to get somewhere as quickly as possible. We might preserve the glorious wonders of the Grand Canyon, Alaska, the coasts instead of mining them for uranium or continue with gruesome mountaintop removal.
But this will only be possible if we do not consume all the Earth in a paroxysm of greed.
It is no surprise this is published by a mouthpiece for the bankster Capitalists desperate to put some philosophical gloss over their bloody destruction.

The Wet One,

"165 million years ago"

Typo, it was only 65 million years ago ("K-T extinction boundary" or "K–Pg boundary"), when the dinosaurs were made extinct by the meteorite (asteroid).

We are now, today, in the "Sixth Mass Extinction", which means our "bounce backs" are not as guaranteed as we would hope. About 200 species per day, 73,000 per year become extinct now.

We trap the equivalent heat of 400,000 Hiroshima nuclear explosions each day (146,000,000 per year) due to green house gases.

That is, but for those human placed greenhouse gases the planet would not be warming because that heat would radiate into space.

Reality and fear are two different things. It is reasonable to fear certain things, irrational not to.

Oops. Quite correct on the 65 million years.

As for the 73,000 species going extinct per year, I have wondered for some time about how we know that. I understand that only fairly recently (say last 10 years or so) has an effort been undertaken to catalogue all the species on earth. This seems to me to be necessary to learn what all is going extinct with some certainty rather than some WAG.

I have also tried to note reports of species going extinct and while there have been a few, there have only really been a few. I have read reports from biologists and other scientists about the species they note disappearing, but somehow those dicussions never lead me to believe that 10's of thousands of species a year are disappearing.

Which isn't to say that they aren't or that I don't believe that they aren't disappearing. It is only to say that I have not seen enough evidence to be entirely convinced that 73,000 species a year are disappearing.

I think that once a biological survey of life is complete, and a second survey is completed, the difference between the two will give a good indication of the rate of extinction.

In any event, I am satisfied that a mass extinction event is ongoing at the present and that humans are the agent of change. However, I do not see how this much differs from an asteroid landing on earth 65 million years ago. Humanity as a whole is, in my view, just as much a force of nature as the asteroid. There are those who say that humanity has the capacity to be a mindful, directed force of nature, but I have serious doubts about that idea. In any event, it is clear that to the extent that humankind is a mindful, directed force of nature, the mind that directs it on the whole, changes slowly at best. After all, it's only quite recently that the mind even recognized that a mass extinction event was even occuring even though that mass extinction event has probably been occurring for a long long time (1,000's of years at least if not longer).

The Wet One,

Some folks were convinced of global warming induced climate change and wrote about it well before any of us heard about it. And so many of us that hear about it now are not convinced, even though they long ago predicted it based on their scientific studies.

Many do not believe this:

According to the UN Environment Programme, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. This is nearly 1,000 times the "natural" or "background" rate and, say many biologists, is greater than anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65m years ago. Around 15% of mammal species and 11% of bird species are classified as threatened with extinction.

(Guardian). Many do not believe that:

The global decline in amphibian diversity has become an international environmental problem...

(Shoot, Aim, Then Roundup The Damage). Each to his or her own beliefs, but there is only one ultimate reality.

PS: Your assertion that an asteroid caused all that was scientific heresy for many years, having only been resolved recently in favor of the way you now see it. Your view is mainstream science now.

There is indeed only one actual real reality as opposed to the realities that humans tend to exist in, in their own minds. The influence of ideologies, religion, perspective, point of view, education etc. heavily influence the reality of humans as experienced in any given human's mind. Notwithstanding this, there is something out there called the real world and it really is the real world, unlike the world that humans live in. Sounds kinda bizarre, but I'm pretty sure most of you appreciate what I'm getting at.

The question is, what exactly is reality? Show me and I'll believe. At least to the extent that I can trust my lying eyes and fit it into the conceptual framework that exists in my mind. Sometimes what my brain tells me is coming into my eyes is not actually what my eyes are seeing. Or is it the other way around? In any event something called reality is out there. Whether or not it can get into my mind or my reality, is another question altogether.

Epistemological problems abound.

"As for the 73,000 species going extinct per year"

Maybe someone here has the list of extinct species or a link to it for say,,,2011, then The Wet One can read it as he eats a large portion of crow. We do still have crows around, right?

Wet one, I would disagree with on some of your comments. I do think we have economic crisis coming for many reasons, the catalyst for the nosedive is what I wish was foreseeable. I for one would have thought that peak oil would have had more of an impact by now in America, but our lower economic growth slowed fuel consumption, so no fuel lines, no 10 dollar a gallon fuel prices, quickly followed by price controls and eventually rationing that I saw in my crystal ball. I've now turn back to my majic 8 ball for clarity in answering these questions.

I also think that we are taking the punches much better as a society then we previously thought we could. Humans adapt!

For my part, I would appreciate seeing that link to the list of species that has gone extinct. To my knowledge, no such list exists to which to link. Which calls into question the supposed fact that so many creatures are going extinct. I'm happy to eat crow, if eating crow is warranted. However, show me that eating crow is warranted first. That's all I ask.

I don't disagree that economic crises are coming and are upon us. But wasn't that baked into the cake anyways? The economy goes up, the economy goes down. It was ever thus wasn't it? Was the present mess caused by energy? Could well be. No doubt higher fuel costs had an impact. But there were other factors. It's hard to draw rock solid conclusions from the many factors at play. The impact and certainty of knowing what caused what will only be visible in hindsight (if at all), and if peak oil and peak energy come to fruition as stated, they will only be known with certainty in the rear view mirror (as has been oft stated here before).

Will endless growth come to an end? Maybe, we'll see. There's a strong argument based on peak energy that endless growth can't happen (forget peak energy, just try logic. There's a finite world, how can anything grow forever on it that consumes actual physical resources? Obviously nothing can.) To date, I haven't seen the effects as strongly as suggested. Time will tell if the effects will be seen as strongly as believed.

I suppose I posted this link for another reason. Namely to test whether TOD'ers are particularly self aware and self reflective. Based on the responses I've seen to the author of the piece saying the greens and catastrophists have some weaknesses in their argument (namely that the argument is overstated in light of the evidence that has accrued to date) in light of experience and recent history. I'm not entirely sure I agree with the author, but as I have mentioned before, the harms that have been detailed have not seemingly come to pass as expected. In any event, I have not seem the humility and rectitude to go with the humility I had expected and hoped to see. So it goes...

In time, I think that the world's situatoin will change adn the direction of the change will be undeniably apparent. But so far, the ride hasn't been that bad. I don't think that this state of affairs will last (what state of affairs does?), but so far, definitely not as bad as expected.

That said, some real casualties of our economic issues have arisen. E.g. space exploration is dead and is unlikely to ever be revived. http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.ca/2011/08/elegy-for-age-of-space.html This is a most sorrowful death in my view. Human achievement will forevermore be trapped in the gravity well of Earth and Sol. Not the end of the world (for sure), but it's a hard limit that will more likely than not, never be breached or surmounted by human striving. I had some aspirational eggs in that basket, and that basket will bear no fruit. I'm a bit heartbroken over it.

Anyways... Onto the next Drumbeat!!!

European Central Bank Paper: Shadow Banking in the Euro Area

This paper presents a preliminary investigation of the size and the structure of shadow banking in the euro area, as a contribution to the international and European debate on this issue. In broad terms, shadow banking refers to activities related to credit intermediation, liquidity and maturity transformation that take place outside the regulated banking system.

This paper also addresses the interconnection between the regulated and the non-bank-regulated segments of the financial sector. Over the recent past, this interconnection has increased, likely resulting in a higher risk of contagion across sectors and countries. Euro area banks now rely more on funding from the financial sector than in the past, in particular from other financial intermediaries (OFIs), which cover shadow banking entities, including securitisation vehicles. This source of funding is mainly shortterm and therefore more susceptible to runs and to the drying-up of liquidity.

Image: http://publicintelligence.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/us-shadow-banki...

Why things aren't going to change ...

If The Public Knew - Corporate Media Helps GOP Sneak In Plutocrat Agenda

... Go try it for yourself. Go explain to someone who doesn't follow the news what the Republican budget contains. See what their reaction is. They will think that you are some kind of extremist or nut, for trying to tell them people would actually do this. But this budget has already passed the House.

WHY Don't People Know?

Go try to find information on what's in the budget that House Republican have already passed. I challenge you. I just did that, and it was not easy.

Why doesn't our media make it easy for people to learn about things like the contents of the already-passed Romney-Ryan budget? Here is a possible explanation:

Just 232 Media Executives Decide What We Can Know About (Very Interesting Infografic)

From the chart, "232 media executives control the information diet of 277 million Americans."

232 media executives decide what's in 90% of the news media. What do you wanna bet those 232 people are paid? What do you wanna bet the worldview of those 232 people is?

Just 196 People = 80% Of Campaign Spending

A tiny number of Americans -- .26 percent -- give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent -- 196 Americans -- have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

232 + 196 = 428 ... probably some double counting

Remember, it's a Republic, not a Democracy. Not that it's any better anywhere else in the world. Canada has a similarly small group of people that own most of the media outlets in the country. I suspect its the same everywhere. After all, the way to rule humans is to rule their opinions. Why do you think the TV is so widespread and that we have a mass consumer society? And that the two came into existence in tandem? But we all knew this already so I'm preaching to the converted here.

If the standard pattern persists, enough Democrats in the U.S. Senate will cave in by voting for it and President Obama will sign it into law.

It was Bush 2 who deregulated the media industry allowing those few corporate types to own and manipulate the U.S. media.

Modern media deregulation started with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. That was the first term of Mr. Reagan's presidency.

Secondly, and perhaps just as important and expensive to the nation, was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was probably one of the biggest examples of the theft of public resources in our history (as time goes on, we'll see). This was signed into law by Mr. Clinton. Edit! Who can forget repeal of Glass-Stegal then too.

Mr. Bush (43rd President) deregulated many things. But media deregulation was beyond responsible well before he came to office. What he (and others) did and continue to do, elected or unelected, is take advantage of the environment created, essentially starting in the late 1960s.

(Watch: "Orwell Rolls in His Grave" it's probably on a free stream or linkTV, and then check out Shock Doctrine. It wasn't all planned, no. But it was executed as if it was.)

Revisionist history to disguise Republican policy?


The decision is among the most far-reaching deregulatory steps taken during the Bush administration. It will permit a company to own up to three television stations, eight radio stations, a daily newspaper and a cable operator in the largest cities. It will also permit the television networks to buy more stations.

This decision turned the U.S. media into a corporate controlled propaganda machine. I remember it because I realized it would at the time.

Antarctic: Grand Canyon-sized rift 'speeding ice melt'

"We know that the ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is governed by delivery of warm water, and that the warm water is coming along channels that were previously scoured by glaciers," said Prof David Vaughan of BAS.

"So the geology and the present rate of ice loss are intricately linked, and they feed back - if you have fast-flowing ice, that delivers ice to the edge where it can be impacted by warm water, and warm water makes the ice flow faster," he told BBC News.

I am getting tired of reading articles like these. When is "it" going to happen? By "it", I mean:

1. Iran gets bombed or closes the Strait of Hormuz in response to sanctions and terrorist attacks on its scientists. Hezbollah attacks Israel and widespread war breaks out. Many oil importing countries that rely on middle-eastern oil collapse.
2. A financial collapse shuts down stock markets & banks or turns paper money into confetti.
3. A sudden collapse of the ice sheet causes sea level to rise by a couple of feet in a few days or weeks thereby making most coastal real estate worth a lot less.
4. Peak oil makes oil very expensive and causes some societies to collapse as there are widespread fuel shortages.
5. Oil production finally starts declining making peak oil obvious to everyone.
6. Monsoon fails in South Asia making Ethiopian famine look like a picnic.

Obviously I am not looking forward to "it" but everywhere I look I see a system under a lot of stress (drought and heat wave, expensive gasoline, a lot of threats issued by and against Iran, deficient monsoon in India, etc) but still functioning. In better governed parts of the world it is still BAU, making peak oilers and climate change catastrophe advocates look like fools.

So when is "it" going to happen? If "it" is several decades away then a majority or wealthy and powerful people living today simply don't care.

Everything has to be a horse race in modern media. If it isn't a horse race, they can't call it like one. If they can't call it like one, they run out of content. This is true for niche / or single topic media too, but to a lesser extent than what's done by large-market corporate news.

Check out media critic Jay Rosen's blog(s) for some exceptional examples.

The universe is not obligated to package it up in one neat catastrophe. "It" started happening quite some time ago and will be continuing for a very long time, with some moments of stark terror in various places and times thrown in for effect.

So when is "it" going to happen?

That's kinda like having a third class 'steerage' ticket on the Titanic and asking when are we going to hit the iceberg. Be careful what you wish for.

(... unless you're implying that you are one of the 'wealthy and powerful people living today' who simply don't care)

Obviously I don't wish for it. What gave you that impression?
I am neither wealthy nor powerful.

When is it going to happen?

I live in the UK, so I'm going to put a contrary view here and say the UK and Europe could very well weather 'peak oil', given we are already putting so much effort into CO2 reduction, not only in electricity but also heating and transport (Or we can rapidly expand or bring forward what is already in the pipeline).

That leaves aside economic effects from impact on our trading partners (and assuming we don't torpedo ourselves meanwhile over the euro crisis).

I realise that's a very broad and perhaps simplistic view.... but we are doing something.

Really I'm asking: we're doing a lot in Europe - is it good enough - and soon enough?

Here's my take on your list:

1. Iran gets bombed or closes the Strait of Hormuz in response to sanctions and terrorist attacks on its scientists. Hezbollah attacks Israel and widespread war breaks out. Many oil importing countries that rely on middle-eastern oil collapse.

Some oil importing countries that rely on middle-eastern oil are already collapsing. (see Greece, Spain, Portugal)

2. A financial collapse shuts down stock markets & banks or turns paper money into confetti.

Why not deflation instead of inflation?

3. A sudden collapse of the ice sheet causes sea level to rise by a couple of feet in a few days or weeks thereby making most coastal real estate worth a lot less.

Never going to happen that fast. Think years and decades not "days or weeks".

4. Peak oil makes oil very expensive and causes some societies to collapse as there are widespread fuel shortages.

Already happening. (see Nepal, Pakistan, even Kenya)

5. Oil production finally starts declining making peak oil obvious to everyone.

"Crude oil" production, as normally defined, has already started declining. But today's "oil" is defined to include all sorts of other things. And no matter what, I doubt peak oil will ever be obvious to "everyone". To an increasingly large minority, perhaps, but probably not a majority until several decades from now.

6. Monsoon fails in South Asia making Ethiopian famine look like a picnic.

There are degrees of "failing" and it is unlikely that OECD nations would let India simply fall into failed state status over one season.

If you want to see evidence of doomer fantasies come to life you need look no further than countries like Niger, Yemen, Nepal and Pakistan. Then of course there's Syria. There's more than enough tragedy in the world already.



Just a thought though about Spain. Spain's economy (GDP) is 'only' 4.2% below 2008 peak (UK is now 4.5% below) though Spain's youth unemployment is horrendous 50%. Latter is not sustainable one might think. We won't starve in Europe but the view is looking very odd and unpredictable.

"It" . . . as in a sudden massive world-wide catastrophic collapse, is not going to happen. Those things make for great copy and get eyeballs but they just don't happen.

There are regional disasters. That tsunami that killed 200K a few years back. The recent Japanese tsunami that killed 25K. We did have a world war 60+ years back.

But unless we get hit by massive asteroid (extremely unlikely), there will be no big collapse. As Greer says "Apocolypse Not".

Err, yes they do.

Only when they do, to society affected isn't around to talk about it.

The systems of our society have a certain level of resilience, but also particular avenues of vulnerability. Certain 'hits' can be dealt with, usually when there is an 'outside' for support to come from. However other 'hits' can chop out the legs everywhere, at once.

Look very carefully at anyone who says apocalypse cannot happen, they probably don't accurately understand the structure of the systems of society.

I agree. I'd like to compare the complexity of the world system to that of the complexity of an individual large mammal's body. Mammal bodies can perform amazing feats: it can heal, it can reproduce, it has a super complex immune system, it can adapt to new conditions and it can even starve for a pretty long time. But there are Tipping points. Also, the tipping points can be dictated by something like Liebig's law (law of the minimum) where the most critical sub system can fail to lead to a fast unravelling of large parts of the system. For instance, the complete failure of an important bone can quickly lead to the death of the organism due to lack of locomotion. I like comparing to locomotion because it is super vital to existence and peak oil is going to primarily affect locomotion. But again, if we're expecting death of the organism over a few seconds, we may be mistaken. At the same time, its not going to take a year of the organism's life to die, especially when there is no help available.

Let's also recollect the graph of how an exponentially increasing population collapses.

population graph of reindeer observed at St.Matthew's island

I'm also reminded of a factoid I once saw, not sure if it is accurate but it makes sense: If you inflict random damage to a complex organism it can be as much as 96% intact before it ceases to be viable and dies.

And we in the wealthy industrial world have built a VERY complex organism indeed.

I could easily see large swaths of our car dependent infrastructure quickly becoming what is euphemistically called "stranded capital" if liquid fuels become prohibitively expensive, or if our industrial economy otherwise becomes impaired. Largely intact, but left to decay by people who no longer have use for it.

Picture Detroit, or any of a number of other ghost towns that rose and fell with the fortunes of some easily extractable but finite non-renewable resource.


As seen on Desdemona Despair

Check Out The Massive Chinese-Built Ghost Town In The Middle Of Angola

Angola's Chinese-built ghost town


Failed products are quite common. At least these Chinese built towns are quite expensive and very few could afford to live there, I guess some of the ghost towns will be populated once the price is affordable.

It is worse with assets that have to high operatinal costs and these will be worthless even if they are available for free. If fuel become to expensive the car, the roads used by the cars and the buildings located in the wrong place will all be worthless including a lot of the equipment used to build these assets.

Some of those pictures reminds very much of miniature cities that you find in some amusement parks. Unreal and lifeless.


These maybe some failed projects by the Chinese in Angola, but at least they have left something behind. The American oil companies have been in Angola since at least the 1960's, and dutifully paid taxes. This money took a one way first class ticket direct to Switzerland, with no benefit for the country. Sorry a fair bit of it went to buying Russian weapons to fight the rebels that were being supported by the US, with Cuban and South African troops being used as proxies, but that is another story.

Since the Chinese arrived they have not only built these ghost cities but the have rebuilt roads, footpaths and schools and generally cleaned up the place. That is what a have seen, having worked there during the 1990's and then later in the late norties, and this done with Chinese labour strangely enough.

Apart from taking up all the limited number of seats on flights into the country the Chinese have made a positive impact on Angola. Of course you can ask what is their long term aim, but to me in 5 or 6 years they have improved the place a lot more than 50 years of American oil company involvement.

USA is a capitalistic country and the American oil companies have been there to get the oil for the least amount of money and succeeded quite well with their aim. At least until now the western capitalistic system have proven to be very efficient or to put it another way greed is a very efficient driving force.

Greed make the capitalistic system work and the communistic system fail.

Greed has done wonders for the management and owning classes of any number of economic systems, and whatever names they find the most palatable to put on their flags.

There are always going to be people willing to take and cadge and manipulate, and they will find ways to create systems that justify their success. We need to integrate systems that inspire creativity and drive, but don't form the kinds of extreme imbalances of the richest to the poorest.

Not to worry, though. Mrs. Nature still rules and if there's enough unwatered, dry brush laying about, a good fire is on its way and the rebalancing will be imposed from the top down, by the OverMistress.


Don't take the American comments to much to heart, I can tell you some stories about how Elf and the French have controlled countries in the area to gain the advantage in oil production as well and not left anything behind of value. But I can never work out the wonders of cold war times, when American workers, working for an American oil company were landing at an airport guarded by Cuban troops manning machine guns, that were being paid by the USSR, in defense of the MPLA, (Angolan Government). To protect the oil workers from Unita (Angolan rebels), who had South African troops fighting their cause on behalf of the USA. The MPLA were financed by oil, Unita financed by diamonds.

But that is Africa, and unfortunately it will be a long time before it will change. But to give credit where credit is due, from eyes the Chinese are actually leaving something of value behind. Then again the Chinese do play a long game.

7. Responding to the immiseration caused by the combo of PO and/or peak oil, a madman takes over a major military power, and starts trying to conquer others.

When is "it" going to happen?

Think of it like a sound system with a multitude of adjustment levers. Each day tiny adjustments are made, but all of them are never reduced to zero all at once. This way it's much more interesting as we can see collapse occurring in slow motion and how different people with varying capabilities to survive are put to the test. How hot can people take it? How long can crops last in a drought? How high can the price of oil go before demand destruction sets in and the price drops? What's the tipping point of a mass release of methane from the arctic circle? If you had a sudden collapse, all those fascinating human induced experiments would never get tweaked to that fine point in which we can draw conclusions from watching them play out. If there is going to be widespread degradation it needs to occur incrementally so we can learn from it, so those squeezing through a bottle-neck are crystal clear on what to do and what not to do in the future.

I think the majority of humans have great difficulty understanding things that unfold slowly, over decades or a lifetime. Instant gratification seems to be the meme.

On Zeno's Arrow Paradox

"If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless."


"So when is "it" going to happen?"

12/21. There it is, have a blast!

Be careful what you wish for..

India's monsoon season is already several months overdue..
Normally starts in May, but no sign of it in late July..

US crop/drought situation continues to deteriorate..

Only Three Years of Offshore Oil in the Arctic

Recently released US government documents show there is a scant 3.3 years worth of oil sitting off the shores of the Arctic -- one of the last pristine places left on the planet.

According to the US Geological Survey in a report titled "An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska," there is an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of oil that is "risked, undiscovered, technically recoverable oil" in the Arctic seas.

Sounds like a lot right?

The United States consumes around 7 billion barrels of oil a year. The math is simple now. We use 7 billion barrels of oil a year and there are 23.6 billion barrels in the Arctic Seas, so we come to just over three years worth of oil. And these numbers are conservative because I am assuming consumption of oil over the next decade remains the same and doesn't go up.

From IEA ...

State of play: New IEA statistics publications highlight latest global and OECD trends across major energy sources

In 2011, global coal production grew for the twelfth straight year, global natural gas consumption increased by over 2%, but nuclear electricity production dropped by more than 4% due to a 9.2% decrease in OECD countries.

Total global coal production increased by 6.6% in 2011 – the twelfth consecutive year of growth – according to the latest official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

While coal production only increased by 0.8% in OECD member countries, non-OECD production climbed by 9% with China taking over from Japan as the world’s largest importer, and Indonesia becoming the world’s largest exporter, surpassing Australia.

From GAO ...

Projects Improve Transit Service and Can Contribute to Economic Development

The bus rapid transit [BRT] projects we reviewed generally increased ridership and improved service over the previous transit service. Specifically, 13 of the 15 project sponsors that provided ridership data reported increases in ridership after 1 year of service and reduced average travel times of 10 to 35 percent over previous bus services.

Capital costs for bus rapid transit [BRT] projects were generally lower than for rail transit projects and accounted for a small percent of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New, Small, and Very Small Starts’ funding although they accounted for over 50 percent of projects with grant agreements since fiscal year 2005. Project sponsors also told us that BRT projects can provide rail-like benefits at lower capital costs


BRT projects can be built for a lower capital cost than rail systems but tend to have higher operating costs because of the need for more drivers and the higher maintenance and fuel costs of buses versus electric rail vehicles. In fact, driver wages tend to be the biggest operating expense item. Rail systems don't necessarily need drivers at all, although eliminating drivers completely doesn't really save any money.

BRT systems will run out of capacity much quicker than rail systems, since the rail systems can just run multiple unit trains to increase the number of passengers, while buses are limited to single units.

The best strategy I have seen is to use BRT to build ridership without high capital expenditures, and then once the BRT system starts running out of capacity, replace it with an LRT system. The cutover point for this to be cost effective is actually rather low, only about 2000 passengers/hour.

In fact, driver wages tend to be the biggest operating expense item. Rail systems don't necessarily need drivers at all, although eliminating drivers completely doesn't really save any money

BRT is ideal candidate for driver-less technology (drive in a straight line with a dedicated lane).

You still have to figure out the details of how to guide it, and the devil is always in the details. For example, the Google car couldn't be deployed "in the wild" for the time being due to obvious liability issues. And on account of obvious issues with vandalism and (in many places) snow, you aren't going to just paint a white line down the middle of the lane, tie a camera to the steering and point it at the white line, and call it done. There's a major difference between a product that's fit for public sale and use, and a cool corporate or university prototype.

Rail vehicles are much more ideal for now because it's already known how to guide them, and the liability issues are already known and dealt with. And if TPTB have already decided to trade off road space for BRT lanes, they can almost as well trade it off for rail.

You underestimate the tech. Maybe it's not ready for prime time (that's because of legal reasons) but it's there. I work in automotive and vision software. I don't know what you mean by "in the wild" but Google cars have driven for hundreds of thousands of miles on city streets without any intervention till now(Google has a restricted license to drive in Nevada). They even had a rally across the desert in driver less cars. BRT is not that big a deal.

Rail vehicles are much more ideal for now because it's already known how to guide them, and the liability issues are already known and dealt with

I am not advocating building this or building that, just saying that the tech exists, people have a choice.

Drive less train already exist and must be a lot easier.

My experience as a software developer is that no one seems to care if odd things might happen under rare circumstances. Safety critical systems have requirements on maximal allowed complexity and so far I have met very few who cared about trying to reduce complexity.

It is usually a lot harder to figure how to write software with low complexity but if figured out it usually pay of well in reduced development time and quality. Basically if it can't be explained how a program work why would it be expected to perform the task it is supposed to do? It is actually quite common with software specifications there the tools and implementation details are given but the task the software should perform is more or less left out.

Driverless trains are a lot easier to monitor and control than driverless buses.

They have to follow the tracks (unless they derail). You know exactly where the train is going to be, so you can put transponders by the side of the tracks sending information such as speed limits, and the train can easily detect them.

You can detect the presence of a train on the tracks simply by putting a signal on one track and sensing it on the other track. If it appears on the other track, then there is a train on the track at that point. (Or something metal is lying on the tracks, which is something you should stop for anyway.)

Even for trains with drivers, it is common to enforce speed limits and red lights. The train reads the speed limit and refuses to go faster, and if it runs through a red light, the brakes come on automatically and the driver has to file a report. Trains can stop much faster than you might expect because they can use magnetic track brakes which basically grab the tracks magnetically, and they're never going to skid out of control in a hard stop no matter how much ice is on the tracks.

There is also a legal issue in that trains have the right of way, so if the train hits somebody, it's that person's fault, not the train's. A driverless bus might be expected to stop or swerve for something lying in the roadway, but not a driverless train. The legal precedents for this were set over a century ago.

However according to LightRailNow which admittedly has an ax to grind LightRail almost ALWAYS exceeds ridership projections, costs less to maintain and winds up replacing BRT anyway if BRT has any success. See:

I have also heard the same thing from longtime Rail/Transit advocates in NARP, NJARP and the Lackawanna Coalition who have years of experience in the technical aspects of public transit. So if we have limited resources why waste them on a more expensive to maintain and operate BRT for a limited period? Why not just build LightRail from the gitgo?
LightRail systems have a big advantage for Transit-Oriented Development by having fixed permanent stations which attract development like a magnet.
Here in New Jersey there were many pessimists about the Hudson-Bergen LightRail which goes from Bayonne to Jersey City to Hoboken, Weehawken and Bergen Tonnelle Avenue. That system has had 3 times projected ridership and revived all the places along its line. Jersey City was a poor slum area and is now thriving. Unfortunately a bad side is that many people have been displaced by sky-high rents now in redeveloped sections of Jersey City.

But that is another issue which should be addressed in some fashion for equity purposes.

BRT is useful for building transit ridership in new suburbs which don't have the population to support LRT. Once there are enough people, they can put down the tracks and convert to a higher capacity LRT system.

However, this has to be planned properly. You don't want to do like Ottawa did, and build a grade-separated BRT system that costs as much as an LRT but doesn't have nearly as much passenger capacity. Ottawa ran out of capacity almost immediately, and despite their original claims, they didn't plan to convert it to rail. The conversion would cost more than building an LRT system in the first place.

Having hundreds of noisy, polluting diesel buses running through the middle of the downtown core is very unpopular, and running underground tunnels for buses would cost billions. LRT tunnels could be put under downtown for maybe $500 million, but there is heavy resistance to scrapping the huge investment in the BRT system.

There's a very simple solution to Ottawa's transit problems -- move the national capital from Ottawa to Calgary! If Canadian Pacific can move their corporate headquarters from Montreal to Calgary there is no reason why the country can't move its headquarters away from Ottawa. I'm not sure if Calgarians would appreciate having all those federal civil servants but that would just be one of the costs of success.

From the city of Graz (Austria), which still has a nice public transport system consisting of tramway and bus.
Graz has 300.000 citizens and around 35 km double tracked tramway.


From the data the transport company publishes and which are also part of studies of the Technical University of Graz on get the following picture:

1) Operating tramways is much cheaper than operating the equivalent number of busses because more passengers are transported per driver, fuel costs are lower, maintenance is lower, replacement of the rolling stock is cheaper in the long run.

2) The acceptance of tramways by passengers is almost three times as high as the acceptance of busses, so "simply" replacing bus routes with tramways is a good starting point for for higher passenger numbers and reduced costs.

3) The political climate has been becoming much more tramway friendly during the last 10 years, old tracks, that had been shut down in 1951-1971 in order to provide a more car friendly city, have been reconstructed.

4) New routes are build, that is quite expensive in the inner city (20 million per km, 2016-18) as some plots have to be purchased by the city of Graz. However, the new routes are essential as some of the current tracks in the inner city are running at full capacity during rush hours. With these bottlenecks disappearing there is a good chance that cheaper projects, which are already in the pipeline, will become reality after 2018.

For my family of four - we live in one of the outer districts of Graz but have a tramway station near our house - the tramway is perfect as everybody commutes to the inner city for job and school (6.5 km), the annual costs are with 900 EUR for the whole family -less than 1.5 percent of our net income- dity cheap as we do not need/have a car. During rush hours we have one train in 5 minutes.

Wind power: What do you do when the wind don't blow?


You diversify and distribute. Solar and wind tend to be complementary; and if wind is distributed over a broad geographic area the wind will be blowing somewhere when you need it. And the sun is probably shining on those hot days that lead to high electricity demand.

Can't say much for the article that was linked to, it was typical anti-renewable tripe.

Solar and wind tend to be complementary; and if wind is distributed over a broad geographic area the wind will be blowing somewhere when you need it.

That's a common misunderstanding of the statistical nature of wind and solar power. Statistically, it is almost a certainty that there will be some days of no wind and no sunshine over a very large geographic area, and it can go on for quite a long time. The power production will fall close to zero for extended periods of time regardless of how much diversification you have.

You have to have backup power to carry the load during those days. Natural gas peaking units are a good choice because they can be brought on-line fairly quickly during a shortage. Hydro is perfect because it can be brought on-line in less than a minute, and you can store months worth of water in the reservoirs. However, hydro is not universally available. For that matter, neither is natural gas.

If you have backup though, wind and solar power are great because you can save the hydro and/or NG for when you really need it.


Our motto is “Leading the debate. Beating the Street.” We publish on the Web to help you understand the key issues in the energy sector and to help you make money in the energy business. We believe our news and analysis, combined with our various stock lists and indices, will allow you to do just that.

We publish because we have strongly held beliefs about energy. Here are a few of them: ...

San Onofre being off is a huge deal, but more for San Diego and South Orange County than for the state. Without San Onofre, California has significantly better summer generation reserves (including dedicated imports), than Texas. The region around the plant, however, has been trying to build additional major transmission to import power for over a decade, with limited success due to politics (a not inconsequential factor in the San Diego blackout, though that was avoidable absent any additional transmission). Note that part of the response to this outage (offsetting 40% of the shortfall from the 2nd unit outage) was to bring back online several of the ancient (non-utility-owned) gas-fired units at Huntington Beach, which were in the process of being dismantled (the gas lines had already been cut and boilers had holes cut in them), but luckily not quite beyond retrieval. Score another "win" for deregulation (there's no incentive to keep old generators in place as backup to grid problems, so the grid is constantly being weakened by projects coming and going which stress it to the edge). Several planned small transmission projects were also accelerated to beat summer.

About that out of state generation, note that CA utilities built and own or owned a lot of it as well as transmission in AZ, NV, and UT prior to deregulation. Transmission to OR was also heavily invested in by California. Think of it as similar to building the power plant outside of town and importing the power from the countryside.

Deregulation can be good and can be bad. The deregulation of the California electricity market was disastrously bad. It was just stupid . . . fixed prices on one side and crazy floating prices on the other side. If that wasn't bad enough, throw in unscrupulous people that manipulated the market. It was a recipe for destroying the electricity system.

It is kinda like Greece today . . . they've gotta crappy economy but they no longer control their currency so they can't devalue it to bring in business. It is just not easy to design these complex systems. They just don't always react the way people expect them to.

It is kinda like Greece today . . . they've gotta crappy economy but they no longer control their currency so they can't devalue it to bring in business.

This is exactly the problem with a common currency in europe. The languages are different so people can not just move. It is my personal belief one currency is needed for each language or the system will not work.

Basically either people move or the salaries need to change but changing the salaries is only practically possible if the value of the currency is allowed to change.

Well, I see what you are getting at, but in fact people in Europe do move about quite a lot - the UK has many, many Polish people working here for example.

Electrical utility deregulation as implemented in the various states has been a net negative everywhere, in my opinion. 'Success' stories are paint over rust.


Caltex closes Kurnell refinery

There were a variety of factors at play in Caltex's decision, she said.

"This is a refinery with ageing capital," the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

"By the standards of the world it's really quite a small refinery so not at an efficient scale.

"Obviously the higher dollar has paid a role as well."


Union pleads to save jobs at Caltex's Kurnell Refinery

Mr Howes said fuel from Singapore would also be dearer because they refined a different type of crude oil, meaning higher prices for Australian motorists.

One of our union leaders got half the story correct, about Singapore refines a different type of oil. The Australian refineries were set up to refine Australian Bass Strait oil during the late 60's. In fact they were forced to buy the expensive Aussie oil and built the refineries to suit. The oil companies stopped complaining after 1972 when expensive aussie oil became cheap aussie oil, but the mandate to buy it was still there. Therefore the incentive to investment to refine heavier mid east oil was never made.

So now as the Bass strait oil is in decline, the refiners are forced to buy Tapis oil, which if not the most expensive oil in the world, it must come very close. With the Singapore refineries operating plant up to 4 times the size of Kurnell, plus being set up to refine cheaper heavy crude oil, they have a distinct price advantage, along with the other points mentioned in the articles.

Where did all that cheap oil go?

Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Bucklinge


Makes driving quite exciting!

Looking at all the comments that are increasingly showing up here where EVs are going to solve problems or "our country is being responsible by exporting coal/oil/natural gas" and so on makes me want to paraphrase Upton Sinclair a bit.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when maintaining his present lifestyle depends on not understanding it”

I don't think anyone here says that EVs are a miracle magic bullet solution. They are not. Better public transportation is definitely needed, better housing development planning is needed, etc. But EVs will be an important part of the future.

But anytime people mention EVs other people mischaracterize the discussion as some strawman silver bullet being proposed. I find that very annoying.

I'm having a very hard time seeing how a BAU EV sold by a BAU company to a BAU consumer to drive in a BAU lifestyle has any purpose but to maintain that BAU lifestyle. Major changes are needed and this isn't going to do it. And, yes, I saw Todd's rant that was deleted several days ago. He's right.

I also get why nobody is going to stop exporting/burning coal/oil/gas, but that's what is needed. As long as money can be made or BAU lifestyle can be maintained by selling/burning it, that's what will be done, to hell with the long-term consequences.

I say this while watching homegrown fig preserves simmer in a solar cooker. No fossil fuels or fertilizers. My wife and I have been massively slimming down from BAU for years.

Eagle Ford oil play hotter than Bakken, study says



"Eagle Ford production, from shale wells that span across counties in south Texas averaged 226,000 bpd in the first four months of the year, according to Texas Railroad Commission data. That compares with the over 570,000 bpd from Bakken wells in May."

So the "hotter" Eagle Ford play" is currently producing half as much oil daily as the Bakken?

"A typical well in the Eagle Ford averages 300 to 600 barrels-per-day (bpd) in its peak month of production, compared with 150 to 300 bpd for a Bakken well, according to the study."

I'm not sure what metric one should use to judge which play is "hotter" or if that distinction has any real significance anyway. I don't have access to details of the Bakken but to add a little more clarity to their "300 to 600 bopd" peak month production from the EFS: after 12 months of production the latest batch of 92 EFS wells were averaging 176 bopd. During the first 12 months of production they recovered 6,930,988 bo. Thus for the first 12 months these newest wells averaged 206 bopd. Again, I don't have info to compare to the productivity of the latest 12 months of drilling in the Bakken. But tossing out "300 to 600 bopd" of peak monthly production seems somewhat deceptive when in reality they've average closer to 200 bopd the first year. And even more so when you consider those wells will average significantly less in the next 12 months.

Fortunately both the EFS and Bakken are adding to our reserves and will continue to do so as long as the higher oil price holds. But IMHO there's no point in over hyping either plays when there are sufficient facts available to clearly characterize what's going on.

Young People not into Cars - or they cannot afford them .


Small impact of zipcar and the like.

Could be that they are just buying used cars out of the classifieds and thus are invisible to the stat collection methods of the dealers and auto makers.

They also suffer from disproportionately higher unemployment.

Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

This is a true story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of various farming tasks during the historic drought years of the mid-1930s.

For corn, the fields had to be plowed and harrowed, and then the rows were set. The implements used to plow, break up and smooth the soil and form rows were horse-drawn. After the fields were prepared for planting, corn planters were also hitched to horses. A container on the corn planter was set to click open every three feet or so, and release three kernels of corn to the soil. So far, we are talking about mechanization.

The mechanization ended after the planting of the kernels. The next task involved human hands that belonged to kids, for the most part. Once the corn plants were about two inches tall, the kids in the community crawled up and down the corn rows, inspecting each three-plant corn hill, taking visual inventory. We crawled down each row with a knife and a bucket of kernels, to see if three plants were in each cluster. Less than three plants in a hill meant that there was a cutworm in the soil, dining. We dug and chopped the worm, and replaced the eaten kernel with the new kernel. This task was called "replanting the corn," and if you were a kid, you got that assignment. Replanting the corn was labor intensive and ritually performed every year. In church, farmers would ask each other, "Did you replant your corn yet?"

... the utility of a large family

Yet having large families is not sustainable long-term. This is something I've struggled to understand. I see many mentions of how large numbers of children is good for labor-intensive farming, but this produces rapid population growth which is unsustainable for more than a few generations. America may have been a special case being relatively underpopulated until very recently. But in the older agricultural regions of the world, where populations were stable until recently, they must have managed to get by having fairly small families.

It wasn't sustainable in the Great Depression, either. Kids were useful labor, but as they grew up, many of them ended up kicked off the farm to make their own way in the world, at ages that seem shockingly young to us now. There's a limit to how many people a farm can support.

The Amish are facing the same problem today. About half of them work in jobs other than farming, because there's just not enough land to go around.

You bet. My great-grandfather (1880's) left the farm (in the old country) at age 8 to work on the other side of the country in a common arrangement for the time. He worked for room, board, and training. While "kicked-off" certainly describes the circumstances of many, don't discount the extent to which this is and has been voluntary. Kids growing up in circumstances which create maturity at younger ages are readily capable of realizing when they impose more of a burden than a help for parents and younger siblings. I paid my own way from age 11. This is still a primary motivation for dropping out of high school in the U.S. among low-income families.

Report: Offshoring Of Manufacturing Capacity Leaves America Vulnerable, Unprepared

A new report says American is too dependent on non-US suppliers. If there were to be a catastrophic event or serious emergency -- or war -- our country could not respond quickly enough, because of the offshoring of critical manufacturing sectors and a reliance on foreign suppliers.

The Report, Preparing For 21st Century Risks: Revitalizing American Manufacturing to Protect, Respond and Recover ... is is the first comprehensive analysis of America’s growing reliance on global suppliers, and its effect on our national preparedness and security.

The report says that our increasing reliance on foreign suppliers for steel, cement, batteries, and critical high-technology components and even every day medical supplies such as antibiotics and penicillin results in risks to our preparedness and security. These risks include insufficuent access to or delays getting needed materials and products. Right now, no U.S. plant produces key ingredients for antibiotics, leaving us more vulnerable to pandemics and possible bioterrorism attacks.

also Reliance on imports leaves U.S. vulnerable to disasters, report says

and New Report: U.S. Too Dependent on Foreign Suppliers in Crises

China, for example, produced five times the amount of steel that U.S. companies did in 2008, and Chinese cement was used in construction on half of American home foundations prior to the recent recession. Today, no U.S. plant produces the key ingredients for antibiotics, making the nation more vulnerable to pandemics and bioterrorism attacks.

... expect those foundations to start cracking pretty soon.

Wait - this is news? I mean, that cow left the barn years ago and the barn doors rotted and fell off and the barn is about to fall down (to beat an analogy to death), and now people are noticing? Heck, we don't need to make things, we've got dot comms - oh, sorry, last bubble, I get so confused.

The cost to try to re-create that manufacturing infrastructure would be absolutely staggering, and at the same time we have to bail out our banking system, invest enormous sums in expensive fossil fuel sources, build a new electric grid and some sort of replacement transportation system, and fight ever more expensive wars to maintain the imperial wealth pump. OK then.

Oh, but there's a guy on here that keeps expounding that it's all a myth that the US doesn't make anything anymore. He's always saying that we manufacture more than ever. Just because you can't actually find anything that we make isn't evidence that we don't make anything!

I had read some stats (it was a few years ago), that showed the actual volume of stuff we manufacture had not decreased (the percent of course is way down). So rather than (for the most part), moving production overseas, its we move any increases overseas. It is possible this is still true.

I've read some of that too, but it flies in the face of what I see, both in the products I buy and my experience as a manufacturer. I've been working at a small firm that designs and manufacture electronic equipment for 25 years. We're similar in size to what we've always been, and we used to be a small but useful account to the parts distributors. They fight over us now.

Over the years they've consolidated many times over, and most of their staff has been let go and former managers are on the road selling. And we, while basically not changing, are now something like a circus freak. People walk in and see a small, integrated design and manufacturing facility and and are almost shocked. At most they hope to get a design win but are very surprised we still manufacture in house.

That is my experience, and I am highly skeptical of the data that runs counter to that.

It also flies in the face of the current account deficit which, even without oil imports, would still be about $300B. Since a lot of US exports are of the intellectual type, it would mean that the goods deficit is even higher. I suspect the manufacturing number has been kept up by the energy sector with oil refining, plastics, petrochemical manufacturing and the like.

We don't make consumer goods very much.

The heat exchangers at work are built in Texas. The distillation columns came from Oklahoma. Most of the pumps are from the US. All but four of the pressure vessels are from the US. The compressors are mostly from Germany though and the other pressure vessels are from Holland.

And some of the consumer goods we do make are politically incorrect, as in Harley-Davidson, Remington rifles and Smith and Wesson handguns and the like. But the general low-end consumer economy Krugman et. al. is so fond of is mostly imported.

Both things are true, our consumption has grown even faster than our production.

Statistics are vulnerable to manipulation. For example, reclassifying fast food from the food service industry to the manufacturing industry allows MacDonalds to manufacture a hamburger instead of serving one effectively hiding the decline in U.S. manufacturing.

Good rant, Twilight.

Severe Storms, Derecho Possible in Northeast Tomorrow Today

A derecho, the kind of storm that knocked out power to millions in Washington last month, may accompany bad weather forecast for New York City and the rest of the Northeast tomorrow, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said.

There’s a moderate chance the rare windstorm will develop in an area from Indiana to Massachusetts, the center said on its website. The region is also at risk for severe thunderstorms, hail and possible tornadoes after noon, according to John Hart, a meteorologist at the agency’s Norman, Oklahoma, offices.

“The environment is going to be favorable for considerably severe weather right across the area even if we don’t get a derecho,” Hart said by telephone

also Major severe thunderstorm outbreak expected; U.S. drought intensifies

and National Drought Summary -- July 24, 2012

July 22 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports indicated that 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, breaking last week’s record. In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1369 counties across 31 states.

The five months with the greatest percent area in moderate or greater drought, since 1895, now look like this:

1) Jul 1934, 80%
2) Jul 2012, 64%
3) Dec 1939, 60%
4) Jul 1954, 60%
5) Dec 1956, 58%

If we consider the area of the contiguous U.S. covered by severe or greater drought, drought conditions as of July 24, 2012 now rank in 3rd place:

1) Jul 1934, 63%
2) Sep 1954, 50%
3) Jul 2012, 46%
4) Dec 1956, 43%
5) Aug 1936, 43%

Weather Journal: A Rare Super Storm This Way Comes

A severe-weather outbreak could arrive on New York City’s doorstep Thursday evening, in an event that might prompt comparisons to the meteorological conditions prior to Washington D.C.’s derecho last month.

A look at forecasted atmospheric profiles for Thursday evening in New York City yield some intense meteorological variables for the area — on the order of those more typically found in tornado alley. One model carries values that argue for the local formation of Midwestern-scale supercell thunderstorms, with readings normally found during tornado outbreaks

The storms will be over central Pennsylvania and upstate New York sometime after 1 p.m., while rain, lightning and hail may reach New York City after 4 p.m., in time for the evening rush hour, said Tim Morrin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York.

Animated Radar: Derecho now moving across Pennsylvania

also U.S. Storm Prediction Center

and http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/md/md1603.html

15:30 This radar down and another in the area?

Try Binghamton NY

or New York City, NY (the storm hasn't reached the radar yet 15:45 but it will by 16:30)

also Severe Outbreak: Continuous, Live Updates

3:52 Dr Greg Forbes has just projected that the line of severe thunderstorms will reach New York City just before 9pm EDT. We will refine that estimate as the event progresses. He's also upped parts of New York state to a 4 on the TOR:CON Index.

3:35 TORNADO WARNING for Jefferson County in west-central Pennsylvania until 4:15pm EDT. Local law enforcement reports a tornado near Brookville moving southeast at 35mph. Take cover in that area!

3:58 Dangerous rotation in a severe t-storm near Elmira, NY. TAKE COVER there and points east in Chemung and Tioga Counties. Damaging winds are a certainty! Binghamton...watch closely and be prepared to take cover.

4:02 Tornado warning for southeastern Chemung County and southern Tioga County in New York, and northeast Bradford County in Pennsylvania, until 4:45pm EDT.

Try out Weather Underground's mapping tools...

Here's the link to New York with the radar on, turn on the animation and watch the storm head east!

Here's the short link... http://wxug.us/b175

Thanks for the link. Time to get fuel for the generator.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, canceled routine events to be on alert for possible action because of the storm.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Cuomo warned of the possibility of widespread power outages.

Best of luck!

Governor Cuomo Urges New Yorkers to be Prepared for Severe Storms and Possible Tornadoes

Governor Andrew Cuomo today urged New Yorkers to be prepared as severe thunderstorms storms pass through the state tomorrow. The storms are forecasted to bring heavy rain, high winds, and possible tornadoes, and may cause widespread power outages.

•Charge your cellphones and important electronic devices

4:34 Caton NY: Power out, phones out, trees down all over, even huge trees scary

4:44 Radar indicates a possible tornado near South Williamsport, PA, moving east at 65 mph! These storms are flying! Straight-line wind damage likely even if there is no tornado.

4: 56 In Vestal, NY (near Binghamton), Broome County emergency management reports trees down into a house with people trapped

5:00 Endicott, NY (also near Binghamton) reported 55-60 mph winds for 10 minutes as the storms passed through around 4:40pm.

5:01 Severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metro area until 6pm EDT. Destructive winds over 70 mph are expected with this line of storms - take cover!

5:03 New York City update - Dr Greg Forbes has revised his estimated time of arrival for NYC... line of severe thunderstorms now expected to arrive around 7:30pm EDT.

Quite something! The line of storms goes from Chihuaha to Vermont.


As compared to previous periods of Earth's history, man's ascent including the building of our civilization has occurred during a period of very stable weather. Wouldn't it be ironic if we were the ones that jogged it out of that pattern into something much more unstable?

As I recall from the book 'Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet', one of the hallmarks of the Permian extinction was the erosion of the landscape down to bedrock due to 'Mega Storms?'. All that soil and biomass was flushed into the seas killing the productivity of both land and sea.

Something to be avoided, I would think.

Always wondered how the Grand Canyon came to be. Erosion just seemed like such a slow process with the weather I grew up with. But you juice the rainfall up a notch or two with climate change and then that kind of erosive force is a little more understandable.

The canyon is much much younger than the Permian (255 or so million years ago). The canyon is in the single digits millions. The high desert canyon country currently has very high erosion rates -not much vegetative cover, but the rains that do fall as often downpours. Also lots of wintertime freeze-thaw to break up rocks.

The Grand Canyon was formed by the uplift of the Colorado Plateau by about 5,000 to 10,000 feet due to tectonic forces associated with the creation of the Rocky Mountains. This steepened the gradient of the Colorado River and allowed it to cut through the rock much faster.

It was aided by increased rainfall during the various ice ages, which increased the amount of water in the Colorado River and thus its erosion rate, so in that sense climate change was involved.

It was assisted by the formation of the Gulf of California, which reduced the Colorado River's base level and allowed it to flow faster.

Security flaws could taint 2012 US election: report

Security flaws in voting technology in a number of US states could taint the outcome of the 2012 election, a study concluded Wednesday, saying it was "highly likely" some systems will fail.

Report: ELECTION 2012: Will Voting Machine Failure Affect the Final Count?

See Something, Say Something, Uncover NYPD Spying

He saw something. He said something. And he inadvertently uncovered a secret spying operation that the New York Police Department was running outside its jurisdiction.

In June 2009, a building superintendent at an apartment complex near the Rutgers University campus opened the door to unit 1076 to conduct an inspection. Tenants had been notified of the inspection weeks ago and the notice was still stuck to the door.

He turned his key, walked in and immediately knew something was wrong. A colleague called 911.

"What's suspicious?" a New Brunswick police dispatcher asked.

"Suspicious in the sense that the apartment has about — has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios," he replied. "There's computer hardware, software, you know, just laying around," Sheth continued. "There's pictures of terrorists. There's pictures of our neighboring building that they have."

"Really?" the dispatcher asked, her voice rising with surprise.

NYPD = 36,000 officers, 15,000 auxillary police and agents
Australian Army = 30,235 regular, 16,900 active reserve

Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD, with training and guidance from the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and far beyond.

Storms Threaten Ozone Layer Over U.S., Study Says

Strong summer storms that pump water high into the upper atmosphere pose a threat to the protective ozone layer over the United States, researchers said on Thursday, adding that the risk of damage may increase as the climate warms.

In a study published online by the journal Science, Harvard University scientists reported that some storms send water vapor well into the stratosphere — which is normally drier than a desert — and showed how such events could rapidly set off ozone-destroying reactions with chemicals that remain in the atmosphere from CFCs, the now-banned refrigerant gases.

“This problem now is of deep concern to me,” said James G. Anderson, an atmospheric scientist and the lead author of the study. “I never would have suspected this.”

and Summer Storms to Create New Ozone Holes as Earth Warms

also Ozone hole UV impacting marine life: study

Ultraviolet radiation has caused a steep increase in deaths among marine animals and plants, according to an international team including scientists at the Oceans Institute of The University of Western Australia.

"The experiments included in this research involve organisms and species that have survived after the erosion of the ozone layer caused by CFCs. Therefore, the results suggest that an increase in UVB radiation could have a heavy impact on marine biota. A clear evidence of this impact is the reduction of mortality rates of up to 81 per cent when reducing exposure to UVB present in larvae of commercial fish such as cod, anchovies and other organisms.

"Our results strongly suggest that increased UVB radiation over the past four decades may be a hidden driver of the widespread decline of marine life, from corals to fish, often attributed to other pressures, such as climate warming, overfishing and other impacts."

Drought diminishes mighty Mississippi, puts heat on Congress

One year after its waters swelled to historic proportions, the lower Mississippi River now sits so low that barge operators hauling some $180 billion in goods must lighten their loads for fear of getting stuck.

If water levels drop any lower, industry insiders say, prices could rise on the raw commodities commonly shipped by boat -- coal, grain, petroleum and steel, to name a few.

"The main thing that they're doing now is voluntarily reducing the size of their tows ... so they're having to take more trips to carry their normal volume of commodities," said Ann McCulloch, spokeswoman for American Waterways Operators, a national trade association representing tugboats, tow boats and barges.

"This will drive up transportation costs if it continues over a long period of time," she said.

Kirby Corp, the largest U.S. inland tank barge operator, said Thursday it is adding more capacity to its fleet that carries petrochemicals, gasoline and fertilizers.

We face a worldwide glut of oil, with profound economic and geopolitical implications, most of them good

So much for peak oil. According to a fascinating new study by Leonardo Maugeri of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the the John F Kennedy School of Government, we should stop worrying about when the oil runs out and get ready for $70 a barrel prices

Some have also queried the depletion rates Mr Maugeri uses for existing sources of production, which appear to be about half the level assumed by the IEA Assuming roughly 30Mb added production (optimistic?) and a decline of 17Mb/day in the study. If the actual decline is at least as much as that 30Mb addition, then I think it's very unlikely to see much net capacity if at all and this is likely to be lower flow rates, EROEI etc