Drumbeat: September 29, 2012

U.S. Pumps Most Oil Since 1997 as Energy Independence Grows

U.S. oil production surged last week to the highest level since January 1997, reducing the country’s dependence on imported fuels as new technology unlocks crude trapped in shale formations.

Crude output rose by 3.7 percent to 6.509 million barrels a day in the week ended Sept. 21, the Energy Department reported today. America met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of the year, department data show. If the trend continues through 2012, it will be the highest level of self- sufficiency since 1991. Imports have declined 3.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Oil Caps Biggest Quartely Gain This Year

Oil capped the biggest quarterly increase this year on concern that escalating Middle East tension will disrupt supplies and as gasoline surged to a five- month high.

Crude gained 0.4 percent as the White House said President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in “full agreement” on preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Gasoline rose on worries supplies are tightening. Prices rebounded after falling more than $10 to $89.98 on Sept. 26 from an intraday high above $100 on Sept. 14.

Natural Gas Pipelines to Expand U.S. Supply Glut: Energy Markets

Natural gas pipelines coming into service by year end may boost deliveries from the Marcellus shale deposit in the U.S. Northeast by 30 percent, extending a supply glut that helped send prices to decade lows.

As much as 2 billion cubic feet of gas a day are set to flow from the lines in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, bound for markets along the Eastern Seaboard, based on government and pipeline-company projections. About 1,000 Marcellus shale wells sit uncompleted, mainly because of a lack of pipeline infrastructure, according to the Energy Department.

China mulls spur shale gas exploitation

BEIJING -- China's natural resource watchdog is considering preferential fiscal and tax policies to spur the country's shale gas exploitation as part of efforts to optimize the country's energy consumption structure.

Petrobras oil output falls to 22-month low in August

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Petrobras' oil and natural gas output fell to its lowest level in 22 months in August, slipping 0.3 percent from July to an average 2.54 million barrels a day from fields in Brazil and abroad, the company said in a statement on Friday.

Crude oil output in Brazil, the company's principal source of production, fell to an average of 2.07 million barrels a day in the month, its lowest in three and a half years.

CFTC Rule Restraining Speculation Rejected by U.S. Judge

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission rule restraining speculation was rejected by a federal judge, handing a victory to two Wall Street groups that challenged the constraints.

U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington today ruled that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act is unclear as to whether the agency was ordered by Congress to cap the number of contracts a trader can have in oil, natural gas and other commodities without first assessing whether the rule was necessary and appropriate.

Hackers infiltrate Calgary-based technology firm

A leading international expert on computer hacking says cyber-attacks are increasingly targeting the heart of Canada’s infrastructure, including oil pipelines and major public utilities.

CBC News has confirmed a recent cyber-attack successfully breached a Calgary-based supplier of control systems for electrical power grids, municipal water systems, public transit operations, and most of Canada’s major oil and gas pipelines.

Nigeria to Increase Share of Offshore Oil Profits, Minister Says

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, plans to increase its share of offshore oil profits because of “prevailing realities” in the industry, Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke said.

The Petroleum Industry Bill, which was sent to Parliament in July, proposes to boost the government’s share to 73 percent from 61 percent, Alison-Madueke said today in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Abuja.

Iran to export gas to Iraq by mid-2013, official says

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran expects to begin exporting natural gas to neighbouring Iraq by the summer of 2013, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Iran has completed more than 25 percent of a pipeline to Iraq that could carry up to 25 million cubic metres per day of its natural gas to Iraq, Javad Owji, managing director of the National Iranian Gas Co., was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

China delivers first of new VLCCs to Iran

A Chinese shipyard has delivered the first of 12 supertankers to Iran, giving Tehran extra capacity to transport its oil to Asia, but it is unclear if the ship has the permits necessary to call at global ports, Business Recorder reported.

Venezuela signs new oil deals with Russia

Caracas (IANS/EFE) Venezuela and Russia have signed a new round of energy-cooperation deals, including an agreement to create a new joint venture between Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA and Russia's Rosneft.

Total to bid for more Uganda exploration blocks

KAMPALA (Reuters) - French oil firm Total SA will be bidding for more exploration blocks in Uganda when the country conducts a new licensing round, a company executive said on Friday.

US to Iran: Stop shipping arms to Syria

(CNN) -- The United States warned Iran to stop providing arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even as it announced millions of dollars in non-lethal support for the opposition attempting to oust the government.

U.S. Intelligence Finds Organized Terrorist Attack in Libya

The intelligence community has shifted from its initial judgment that the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans began as a spontaneous reaction during protests against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S., according to a statement issued yesterday. Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for providing that assessment in the days after the Sept. 11 attack.

“As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the Director of National Intelligence, said in an e-mailed statement.

Gas Drilling Jitters Unsettle Catskills Sales

Coveted for its pristine water, pastoral landscapes and relative proximity to New York City, the Catskills region has long been second-home territory for urbanites. But brokers say many listings are languishing — and not just because of the lag in the nation’s economic recovery. The prospect that New York State will open the region to hydraulic fracturing, a controversial gas drilling process known informally as fracking, has spooked potential buyers.

Chevron Pays Fine Over Brazil Oil Spill

SAO PAULO—Chevron Corp. has paid a multimillion-dollar fine for several "irregularities" in connection with last year's oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's National Petroleum Agency said.

Brazil's Petrobras wants ban on oil driller Transocean lifted

Brazil's Petrobras on Friday asked courts to lift a ban on operations of rig owner Transocean in connection with a major ocean oil spill last year.

Environmentalists oppose PG&E plans for undersea air blasts

PG&E plans to use underwater 'air cannons' emitting 250-decibel blasts every 15 seconds for 12 straight days to map earthquake fault zones near Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

Oil industry calls for environmental groups to be disbanded

Canada’s energy industry is calling for government to disband two organizations involved in monitoring and mitigating the environmental impact of the oil sands.

But, in a surprising twist, a leading environmental group is largely backing the call for change by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which laid out its proposal in a Sept. 7 letter to federal environment minister Peter Kent and Alberta environment and sustainable resource development minister Diana McQueen.

Gas-tax equivalent coming for electric cars?

Pennsylvania, which faces a crucial shortage in road- and bridge-repair revenue, has a mechanism in place to collect a gas-tax equivalent from those driving Leafs and Volts, but as yet no definitive means of collecting it. Owners recharge the vehicles using either a standard household outlet, or by having a dedicated higher-voltage line installed that can slash charging times by two-thirds. The problem is, there's no way to segregate the juice used to "fill up" the car from that used to heat the house and run the refrigerator. A separate electrical meter could be installed, but there's no requirement for owners to do that.

California Issues 10,000th Rebate for Zero-Emissions Incentive Program

Start undressing California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a program intended to spur the sales and leases of zero-emission vehicles, and front-page topics come into view — reduction of greenhouse gases and job creation chief among them. So when the program recorded its 10,000th rebate earlier this month, it merited some pomp.

Georgia Finally Getting Some Solar Energy

Just days after an aspiring utility filed plans to develop 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar in the state, Georgia Power is proposing to triple its use of solar electricity.

The utility, which has thus far shown little if any interest in renewable energy, usually pushes for coal and nuclear. Georgia is regularly ranked among the top 10 states for solar resources (such as available sunlight).

Some drivers not sitting idly by

This summer the village installed 160 idle-free signs at District 25, District 21 and two District 214 schools, as well as at area parks, village facilities and in front of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and in its drive-through, according to village manager Bill Dixon. The program intends to reduce automobile carbon emissions and improve air quality, though Dixon said the village was not an official member of the national Cool Cities movement, whose slogan is "solving global warming one city at a time."

"What do you do in the winter when you have a 2-year-old in the car, freeze?" asks Gilda Orta, who has second- and fourth-graders at Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights and sometimes waits in line up to 20 minutes before the 3:35 p.m. bell just to get a good spot outside the school. "We've been turning (the car off) and rolling down the windows, and in the winter I guess we'll put our coats on."

Japan: Oil, coal, natural gas subject to green tax from Oct. 1

The government will introduce an environmental tax in October, a move likely to trigger broad-based price hikes on products such as electricity and plastic.

The tax, to be imposed on oil, coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels, is designed to help curb emissions of carbon dioxide, a key heat-trapping gas that causes global warming.

Green deal: insulate your home from rising energy bills

If you are fed-up with living in a cold house or paying huge heating bills, and can't afford expensive home improvements, could the government's long-awaited green deal help? Unveiled in 2010, and promoted with the promise that "every British home will be able to install energy-saving technologies such as insulation at no upfront cost", this much talked-about scheme finally kicks off on Monday.

Paper or Plastic? Some Communities Say Neither

Bill Hoffman, owner of Aptos Jewelers in Aptos, Calif., sells bracelets, rings and pendants for thousands of dollars each. He balks at the notion of charging customers an extra 10 cents for a shopping bag, but Mr. Hoffman has no choice. It is the law.

Not just in Santa Cruz County, where Aptos is, but similar rules apply in more than two dozen California cities. Grocery stores, pharmacies and sometimes other retailers are no longer allowed to use plastic shopping bags and must charge customers for paper ones. Fees typically are 5 or 10 cents, and are aimed at nudging people to carry reusable bags when they shop.

Asian carp DNA found in Lake Erie, raising concerns

Officials with Michigan and Ohio natural resources departments announced Tuesday that Asian carp DNA had been found in three water samples collected from Lake Erie's Maumee Bay near Toledo, Ohio.

The results raise concerns whether the Asian carp may have invaded Lake Erie.

Not So Hot

The new climate-change study getting all the headlines is deliberately misleading. Too bad so many in the media got fooled.

Clinton Urged to Support ‘Robin Hood’ Tax to Fund Climate

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace joined 61 other charities, unions and campaign groups to urge U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support a financial transaction tax to help fund the fight against climate change.

A transaction levy, or “Robin Hood Tax,” could help fund $100 billion of climate change aid that developed countries have pledged by 2020, and extend to health care and education as well, the 63 groups said in a letter yesterday to Clinton that was e-mailed today by Friends of the Earth.

Re: Not So Hot

An article by BJORN LOMBORG? He does note:

Let's be clear. Global warming is real and man-made, and it needs an effective response. But unfounded alarmism and panic are unlikely to engender good and effective policy.

Has Lomborg decided to retract the claims in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist? Well, he does put in a plug for his later work, Cool It. His analysis in the article points to several possible sources for error in the referenced study, but those problems may also show out how difficult it is to calculate the long term impacts of climate change. Since I haven't taken the time to study the report, I can't comment about it's accuracy.

He continues:

If we want to leave the world a better place, we need to carefully focus on the places and policies where we can do the most good. To tackle the biggest impact the DARA study identifies -- to avoid 3 million people dying from indoor air pollution -- people in the Third World need to have access to modern, less-polluting fuels to cook and keep warm. They need kerosene, pressurized gas, and other forms of modern energy. It is about getting more fossil fuels, not fewer. (emphasis added)

I think Lomborg needs to think a bit further about whether all those fossil fuels will actually be available in increasing quantities in 2030. I think he's right to point out that people in developed nations are taking for granted our access to easily available energy at low prices...

E. Swanson

"But unfounded alarmism and panic are unlikely to engender good and effective policy."

Yeah, gotta keep those frogs in their pots... and as for getting more fossil fuels, Bjorn seems to be a bit conflicted. Global warming needs an affective response with more fossil fuels? Anyway, his POV is always quite anthrocentric, as if we can keep divorcing ourselves from our biosphere.

"I think Lomborg needs to think a bit further about whether all those fossil fuels will actually be available in increasing quantities in 2030. I think he's right to point out that people in developed nations are taking for granted our access to easily available energy at low prices..."

From what I have observed, climate change skeptics get more upset by this kind of statement than the consensus scientists who might want to see their theories pan out. And they are the ones accusing the scientists who predict AGW as having the agenda. Therein lies the hypocrisy.


I am sure you know this, but it is always appropriate to point out when discussing Lomborg that he is NOT a climate scientist at all. He is an economist. He has no meaningful expertise in physics. He clearly does have an agenda of some kind (making money is my bet), but whatever it is it is not performing sound science.


He's also not an environmentalist. When his Skeptical Environmentalist appeared our ecology lab sat down and took turns ripping it to shreds. If you searched you could find similar reviews published in the ecology literature. I do remember that he was basically using just species numbers as a metric of ecological health. Basically he was saying that severely human disturbed ecosystems were just as healthy as the original if the species numbers were similar. So an ecosystem composed of trash generalist species such as kudzu, rats, roaches, magpies, wild hogs etc is as healthy as an undisturbed Galapagos Island ecosystem. I'm sure that everyone here can see the difference between the two. He's in it for the money and notoriety, I'd say.

Lonborg's credentials are one thing, the memes he propagates are another. These are all half-baked ideas that others will pick up and run with, with the attribution lost.

And here is just one of them:

At $40 a barrel (less than one-third above the current world price), shale oil can supply oil for the next 250 years at current consumption. And all in all there is oil enough to cover our total energy needs for the next 5,000 years.
- Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, Page 135

He is talking about the Green River Shale here of course. Those words were written in 1998, when that was the only kind of shale in the news.

Ron P.

$40 a barrel

Did Bjorn "show his math" on how he justified the $40 a barrel cost.

Talking about "Current consumption" is mostly irrelevant since our global economy is based around growth. Without growth it dies. And since efficiency can only goes so far this means energy consumption will increase.

If Bjorn was trained a economist though its quite possible he has also been trained to assume natural resources are essentially infinite. Which would explain a lot of his quotes, like those about how the world has to keep burning more and more fossil fuels to "lift people out of poverty". Its quite possible that once energy depletion kicks in whole swathes of the world are going to instead be sinking back into poverty.


You said " Without growth it dies.".

Where does this idea come from? Is there an identifiable school of economics, or a good well written website with an explanation for it?

Without "growth" interest on debt cannot be paid, and the current system of creating money via loaning it out collapses as any pyramid scheme. That's what's happening now in front of our eyes, in Europe especially, while the US banks are temporarily in "remission".

That's not the only way to do things, but that's the way we've had it set up for now, and the vested interests will pull the whole world down with them before reforming that system.

Sources? There are many, check out for example Chris Martenson - and Herman Daly.

Interest on debt can certainly be paid. Just consume less. Generate "savings" (income > expenses) and give that to the bank or other source of the loan.

The issue is when the debtor expects a good, growing economic environment to pay back the debt - and the economy is not as good as expected.


But consuming less shrinks the economy which causes job losses which cause debt defaults.......
A lot of jobs now depend on others consuming a lot.

Adjusting to that is part & parcel of adjusting to a no growth economy.

But interest can be paid in a no growth economy. A no growth economy will be different in myriad ways from the growth paradigm that we are used to - but it can function without collapse.


I do agree with this. But, getting there will be quite a trick.

One thing neglected in this subthread is population growth. Even if you discount the aspect of debt requiring a growing economy for repayment, a growing population requires a growing economy just to stay in the same place or there will be a decline in per-capita share of that economy.

I live in a country with a shrinking population. No civil wars or oppression resulting in famine. No chronic alcoholism or die-off from genocide....

But still, a shrinking population. It is Japan. As far as having babies is concerned, I see very few people having them, and young people seem to be so stretched just to make ends meet and keep up a lifestyle that is even moderately comfortable that having a baby is out of the question.

The women I know who have had babies here over the past few years have been 35 or even over 40. So it is too late to be young and healthy and have more than one or two.

Now with Fukushima, millions of woman here are wondering if it's a good idea to have a baby. I am 47, and no longer in the years when I would think about having a child. But if I were 10 years younger, I am sure that I would see no point in having more than one or at the most two. I might feel so depressed and downbeat about the future that i would decide to have zero (Many young couples are deciding this way.)

So the young women who used to have kids now don't. And older women have very few because they are exhausted, poor and uncertain about the future.

Population growth can come to an end like this too----mass depression, stagnation, questioning of fundamental premises, poverty, crisis. It might happen where you live too....

Japan presents an interesting example because of the relatively homogenous population and community-minded nature. With Japan's decline it appears that everyone is, for the most part, helping each other out and making sure at least basic needs are met. There's some generational tension, but no racial tension. In the US - when times get tough, we go looking for scapegoats. "Welfare queens," muslims, Iran, China, Mexican cartels/marijuana...calling President Obama the "Food Stamp President" because he wants to take from YOU to give it to THEM. It's all racially charged language to get people riled up to fight one another and distract from actual problems. Police have been militarized, peaceful protests are being met with violence by police, laws are being written to destroy even peaceful dissent let alone violent dissent. It's a growing powder keg, creating masses of people with futures that have been stolen from them and no valid outlet for their increasing anger. Absent some sort of miracle, decline for the US is more likely to be a violent one than a peaceful slow down.

There are some rough spots around the edges of Japanese society: from Wikipedia, Ethnic issues in Japan. Those issues are certainly small compared to what is happening in many countries.

To be able to consume less, and pay back debt, requires some very serious restructuring of our economic paradigms. Without making fundamental changes, simply consuming less will look like austerity, the more you do, the more the cure for the debt problem recedes. I don't think people are ready for root and branch radical change yet. I'm not even aware of any coherent body of work that says how it might work.

I don't think people are ready for root and branch radical change yet

Nope they are not, they are not ready for anything that doesn't involve them or their kids conquering the world.

We can get more energy and resource efficient maintaining a comparable lifestyle. Some of these cuts do not require any decreases in jobs, some will require increases in other jobs and some will require changed jobs. For example, in the past few years I have installed triple-pane windows, a new energy efficient furnace and improved insulation which has cut my natural gas usage 50% with the same heating comfort level. This temporarily provided jobs for all the installers. In the long run it will reduce the need for fracking natural gas and its jobs but how many jobs is that really and how productive versus destructive?

On the other hand the Crescent Corridor Freight Rail project by Norfolk Southern is a different energy/resource efficiency tradeoff. In the short term it is creating jobs as it is built and it will save huge amounts of energy, greenhouse emissions and Auto Addiction infrastructure in the long run as it takes a million trucks off the Interstates onto freight Rail. But of course taking a million trucks off the road means a million less trips for long distance truck driver jobs. The amount of people required to run freight is far less than long distance trucking.

Overall I would think that we will have less hours to work if we eliminate Waste for Wars, Auto Addiction and endlessly conspicuous consumption of throwaway goods. Which means we need to divvy work up and reduce from the 40 hour workweek which has not been reduced since the Labor movement achieved it in the 1940's and 1950's.

That will provide more time for other activities likely to be more time-consuming like bicycle-riding or walking instead of driving, hanging clothes to dry instead of popping them in the dryer, composting, growing vegetables etc.

Mike Hearn has an explanation of sorts, in his essay here.

The delusion runs deep these days. I suspect Bjorn is merely telling people what they already want to hear, the zeitgeist being "nothing to worry about folks, everything gonna be fine, pay no attention to the gloomy doomers".

For example, I'm participating in an online course titled "Intro to Sustainability" taught by Prof. Tomkin at University of Illinois. This week the subject is energy and peak oil. What, you may ask, was the wisdom imparted to us humble students by the esteemed professor? Why nothing less than the astoundingly good news that the world has supplies of fossil fuels so abundant we will have natural gas flowing out our ears for 200 years, and supplies of oil so ample we will maintain current rates of extraction until the end of the century.

I kid you not, he even went so far as to show graphs of N. American and N. Sea oil peaking, then immediately followed with the incredible conclusion that world oil has not peaked yet, so Hubbert must have been wrong!

I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or puke on my shoes. There is an active forum at the website for the class, but I didn't post anything in rebuttal. Why bother? The fallacies and omissions in just a few minutes of video lecture were so thick and numerous it would take a post the size of a phone book to challenge them all one by one.

To his credit he did include a discussion of EROEI, but it was in a separate lecture and thus out of context with his other views.


Hi Jerry,
I almost registered for that course in Coursera, but changed my mind because I didn't care for the professor and it is rafting season for me. There were many interesting courses to choose from. Coursera is an excellent free online resource for people looking to educate themselves at a low cost.
Enjoy your class,

Thanks for mentioning Coursera. I just signed up for two classes now and three for 2013.


I think the "sustainability" in the title of the course had to do with maintaining his career.

LOL Good call Web!

Hi Jerry,
Perhaps you should hijack the class via the forum. Lotsa work, though. I totally understand your reluctance.

I was tempted, but unfortunately I gave up on the discussion forums weeks ago. It's actually been an interesting experience, but not because of the course content which is practically worthless.

At first the participation rate was extremely high, I think someone said 25,000 people signed up. This had the perverse effect of making the forums a madhouse of activity, and thus almost impossible to use in any meaningful way. Any post, no matter how well thought out, would quickly disappear as it immediately got buried under hundreds of other threads.

The fascinating part was that people generally responded to this overwhelming volume by only following a small number of threads. No particular rhyme or reason, just a handful of seemingly random threads which would literally get thousands of hits while all the other many hundreds of posts were largely ignored.

Now, we are 5 weeks into the course and the participation rate has fallen off a cliff, with only a few hundred people at most still active. Even if we generously assume 10 times as many lurkers that still works out to a drop out rate of well over 90 percent.

Either way, most of the people active in the forums are firmly on the delusional side of the spectrum anyway. For example, in one of the few threads I posted in I was treated to an argument from someone who insisted, with all sincerity, that the solution to our problems was a massive build-out of nuclear so that we could use the electricity to create NEGATIVE net energy liquid fuels from very low quality sources. Brilliant!


Thanks for this report, Jerry. It's what I expected of online courses. Net negative knowledge generated by a shouting match.

Computers have potential in education, but not this way, and as yet the potential is still only potential. When educational software comes with built-in "tutors" that can keep tell when your attention is wandering, can bring it back, can drill you and drill you, and can go over material in different ways until they're satisfied you "get it": then the potential will start to be realised.

Coursera and its ilk are blind alleys in the development of computer based education.

What do you think of Kahn Academy?

Based on my experience so far it really depends on the course and who is teaching it, which I guess is not so different from traditional education. This is the second Coursera offering that I have participated in, the first was titled "Model Thinking" and that one was actually quite good. I learned quite a bit, the professor packed a lot into the lectures, the math was rigorous but not too difficult, and the quizzes were difficult but not impossible.

Maybe that's why I'm so disappointed in this "Sustainability" course, it is the exact opposite on all of those points. The lectures are awful, I'm not learning anything and I'm actually quite appalled at the amount of misinformation, and the quizzes are so poorly designed it's almost impossible to get a passing score.

You are right that online education has a long way to go, but there is potential to learn something for free if the teacher is competent. The most painful thing by far in both classes have been the quizzes.

Considering that the quizzes are most if not all of the metric used to measure progress towards completion of the course it is amazing how poorly designed and executed they can be.

  • The questions are often infuriatingly vague
  • The multiple choice answers can be so nuanced it is impossible to pick just one as "right"
  • Inappropriate use of radio buttons when more than one answer can be selected, and vice-versa
  • Incorrect scoring of right answers as wrong
  • Extremely intolerant and error prone scoring of typed in answers

It is that last one that is probably the most painful for people, each quiz has a few "open" questions with a simple text entry box that asks the student to type in an answer. Unfortunately there usually is never any hint, not the slightest clue what the expected format is. This is made much worse by the fact that the machine scoring is very intolerant and people are scored wrong if they don't type in EXACTLY the expected answer in EXACTLY the expected format. One word too many, or a decimal instead of a fraction, or too many decimal places? Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Being scored wrong for no good reason on a question you know the answer to is a source of intense agony among the students and spawns numerous bitter complaint threads in the forums. A situation that has been made even worse in this case by the professor and his staff generally not responding to any of the complaint threads, which may be one reason why this course has such a high drop out rate.


I began a course on Coursera last night in science writing and ran into the problems you mention in quiz scoring, highly ironic in a writing and editing class in which the instructor points out that there is no one correct answer in the process of revising a phrase or a sentence . . . The only saving grace is that you can repeat the quizzes.

However, I'm finding the course to be a good review of what I already know and then some. The instructor and the presentation are excellent.

A criticism of online courses is that they don't fit everyone's learning style. Of course, that is also true of classroom delivery, which can also be done a few different ways with varying effectiveness depending on students learning style and teacher effectiveness.

Perhaps the largest effect of changing to online courses will be that a somewhat different subset of the population does well academically.

In a classroom, the teacher, if skilled, has the oppurtunity to adapt to the diffrent learning styles of the students. I have seen one guy act out on a stage with thousands in the audience, and everyone got his message, because he was good at it. This is much harder on an online platform.

Actually, that's correct. Overbuilding wind, solar and/or nuclear and using the surplus to generate low-efficiency liquid fuels makes enormous sense.

The key is that 95% of energy would be used as electricity, and only 5% would be liquid, used in niche areas like aviation, the 10% of car travel which is long distance, and a portion of very long-distance water shipping.

Sorry, Nick, not seein' it. It sounds okay in principle, but so do a lot of things. One of the main sticking points is the buildout itself -- too many bottlenecks, both financially and logistically. And of course there's the NIMBY factor...

One of the main sticking points is the buildout itself -- too many bottlenecks

Just put all the windfarms on farmland - the farmers love it, and there's more than enough resource.

Put the solar on industrial/commercial roofs - the companies love it, and there's quite a lot of I/C rooftop.

Have you read below ?
One has to put down numbers at one point ...

Yes, I have.

I also provided the author with comments on an earlier draft.

So not sure how this "overbuilding" and surplus would occur then, especially considering the required amount to cover needs already brought much down from current consumption...

I'm not sure I understand your question.

Wind, solar and other renewables would be built as other generation has been.

Please note that the US grid is about 150% overbuilt: 1,100GW capacity for an average of 440GW consumption.

The challenge is meeting peak demand, not average.

I see subsidized grid-tied solar as a subsidy for air conditioning, as peak solar corresponds (approximately) to peak demand on hot summer afternoons. If it wasn't for the high true cost of all peaking power sources at those times, the utilities would have used their lobbying power to defeat "net metering".

The older generation capacity was built on cheap oil and a still-functioning money system. The future will be different, and financing renewable energy (which is all paid for up-front) will probably be a major problem. Watch European countries slashing solar subsidies as we speak.

The same issue, financing, will prevent the dreams of having enough PHEVs on the grid smoothing out the peak demand.

There are of course ways of cutting down the AC demand that are more cost effective than PV. Most obviously insulation and white roofs. But also add on window coating and/or window overhangs. Using vegetation to create shade. Especially in dry hot climates, I've reduced my AC annual load to a small fraction (maybe to a quarter of what I started with), by this methods. But, like almost all forms of negawatts, the missing ingredient is human attitudes and understanding.


A biophysical analysis tells us that there's more than enough energy to power the economy and it's financial systems.

Besides, utilities don't *have* to have massive financing for wind and solar, due to the ability to build incrementally with internal cash flow.

A biophysical analysis tells us that there's more than enough energy to power the economy and it's financial systems.

Energy isn't the full story by any means!


Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy

Mathis Wackernagel*†,
Niels B. Schulz‡,
Diana Deumling*,
Alejandro Callejas Linares§,
Martin Jenkins¶,
Valerie Kapos¶,
Chad Monfreda*,
Jonathan Loh‖,
Norman Myers**,
Richard Norgaard‡‡, and
Jørgen Randers††

Edited by Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved May 16, 2002 (received for review January 17, 2002)


Sustainability requires living within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. In an attempt to measure the extent to which humanity satisfies this requirement, we use existing data to translate human demand on the environment into the area required for the production of food and other goods, together with the absorption of wastes. Our accounts indicate that human demand may well have exceeded the biosphere's regenerative capacity since the 1980s. According to this preliminary and exploratory assessment, humanity's load corresponded to 70% of the capacity of the global biosphere in 1961, and grew to 120% in 1999.

Emphasis added.

If you look carefully, you'll see that fossil fuels account for the majority of the "absorption of wastes" category, and that if FF were eliminated that numerically we'd within the capacity of the biosphere.

I'm not confident that we'll eliminate FF, but we could...

The fascinating part was that people generally responded to this overwhelming volume by only following a small number of threads. No particular rhyme or reason, just a handful of seemingly random threads which would literally get thousands of hits while all the other many hundreds of posts were largely ignored.

IME, that is fairly typical. When the volume is that overwhelming, people deal with it by assuming that the best threads are the ones other people are reading and posting to.

Even if we generously assume 10 times as many lurkers that still works out to a drop out rate of well over 90 percent.

That seems to be typical as well. Very few who start these free onlines courses finish them.

On the one hand, this isn't so bad. It's kind of nice that people have the opportunity to "play" like this, with no consequences if they decide it's not for them. OTOH, it does impact other students who may be seriously interested.

I'm starting to think that people don't value something unless they have to pay for it. Freecycle has been ruined by a flood of people who say they want something, but never actually show up to get it. So people stop offering things. (I guess this also tells me that the economy isn't all that bad.)

a flood of people who say they want something, but never actually show up to get it.

Craiglist has the same problem, even for things sold for actual money. Too many flaky people.

a flood of people who say they want something, but never actually show up to get it.

Craiglist has the same problem, even for things sold for actual money. Too many flaky people.

I hear from various sources that this is actually an Earth-wide problem... ;)

Have you heard about the herd effect?

"Ah, THAT restaurant. Nobody goes there any more. Too crowded."

Hi Jerry,

This is sad, especially if it's this Tomkin: http://www.geology.illinois.edu/people/tomkin/index.html. He's a "Research Assistant Professor" in the Dept. of Geology.

I've seen similar presentations by people who should - if not "know better" - at least know enough to do a little bit of homework. It sounds like he may have WRT EROEI.

re: "Why bother?"

Because it matters. The truth matters.

IMVHO, to actively mislead people - not only about "peak oil"/global oil supplies, but about what it means to take a scientific approach to a critical question - is unethical in the extreme.

Also, we are talking about a context for this question and topic, namely, a trajectory that is on track to result in the suffering of countless human beings. Also, although it's not the most important point, Prof. Tomkin is getting paid (one presumes) for putting across this double travesty.

My suggestion is not to post on the forum, which you don't want to do anyway.

My suggestion is: to contact him directly and to express your concern.

There are scientific, peer-reviewed studies being done by the Aleklett group at Uppsala U. Also, I can (if you write me) send you my list of references. I'm also willing to help you (if you like), since I'm suggesting this.

I would copy everyone who is in a position of authority WRT his position, and also the head of this online division, whatever it is.

This is not a joke. It's quite serious. (Please feel free to send him this post, as well, if you like.)

BTW, I believe the topic "Hubbert" has been covered here on TOD.

May I recommend posting the following reference for further study:
Charles Hall & Kent Klitgaard
Energy and the Wealth of Nations, 2012 Springer ISBN 978-1-4419-9397-7

So an ecosystem composed of trash generalist species such as kudzu, rats, roaches, magpies, wild hogs...

, skunks, humans, opossums,

The amount of fossil fuel required to displace the indoor cooking fires in the tropical third world to which Lomborg refers is tiny compared to the amount used in the modern first world with its cars, jet planes, and summer air conditioning.

These guys are working on a significantly less polluting wood/biomass stove. It's an interesting concept. You want to look at the HomeStove. They were referenced here in DrumBeat.


Secret to efficient burn of any biomass- brute force, aka, a blower. You use a very small fraction of the system generated power to blow the hell out of the fire, just like the old smiths under the spreading chestnut tree did with their bellows, That does it for any crummy fuel. I have been working all summer on a wood burning stirling, that generates around 1kW, and that is what finally worked, after a lot of wasted time fooling around with simple gravity feed and chimney draft. You would'a thought I would have known better.

BTW, small home cogen (CHP) is far too little appreciated around here. It can give some serious power, not mere cell phone charger stuff.

AC takes serious power - but to do something that should not have to be done. I don't have AC and am more comfortable than my less incredibly clever friends who do.

There are a couple of different forced-draft stoves on YouTube.

I can't help thinking that adding a battery-operated fan to a campfire is a step backwards.

I like the idea of being able to charge small electronics with it, though. Seems like that would be convenient in emergency situations.

Tom Reed achieved 40% efficiency in his woodgas stove - compared to 10-12% for 3 stone fire. His good design with a fan is VERY important to efficiency.

The issue of indoor air pollution is already being solved, without any fossil fuel - here's just one of many links to web postings about efficient/clean stove programmes in Africa etc.


There's also a 'haybox' (haybag) device being produced for Africa.

Did Lomborg look for current solutions before making his proposal?

Regarding the Guardian article chosen by Leanan - Green deal: insulate your home from rising energy bills


If you are fed-up with living in a cold house or paying huge heating bills, and can't afford expensive home improvements, could the government's long-awaited green deal help? Unveiled in 2010, and promoted with the promise that "every British home will be able to install energy-saving technologies such as insulation at no upfront cost", this much talked-about scheme finally kicks off on Monday.

Negawatts are the best household investment a person can make as it provides benefits in the short, medium and longterm.

By making the housing stock more energy efficient we are in fact investing in our own pension and lessening the load that our children and future taxpayers must bear looking after each one us as we age.

We are also taking solid steps to lower the future cost of living, instead of borrowing from the future as we do under Business As Usual, we are investing in our own future and that of our children.

Negawatts forms the bedrock on which one community that I am involved with are building their future. The Aran Islands are a small group of islands situated in the Atlantic ocean off the west coast of Ireland and renewable energy resources are the only energy resources at their disposal.


Hopeful initiative.
A test-bed for all the technologies, especially the negawatts, could do Ireland some good, and many places elsewhere, and I am glad to see your government is behind it. A place of ancient civilisation sets an example. Just driving around loses its point, if there ever was one, on a nice place like Aran.

Phil, the hope is that many more communities and towns will also be inspired and at this early stage that hope is beginning to turn into a reality.

In the oildrum we are used to speaking about entire countries becoming energy independent however if we stop for a moment and think about it from a practical point of view, surely it is easier for a country to become energy independent from the bottom up rather than top down.

Ireland as a country already regularly supplies up to 50% of its electricity from wind, has enormous reserves of wind and ocean energy available and is now beginning to export both renewable energy and the techs which enable such a high degree of renewable penetration.

But without large amounts of Negawatts Ireland will never achieve energy independence.

This is also the case in America.

Pat, your comment that 'Ireland as a country already regularly supplies up to 50% of its electricity from wind' is somewhat misleading. According to Wikipedia, 'As of July 2012, 14.8% of irish electricity is being generated from renewable sources, up from 5% in 1990. Wind is the main source of renewable energy production, increasing from less than 1pc of total renewable production in 1995 to over 40pc today.' So, it would seem to be somewhat less than 7%. Please correct me if I'm wrong. And by the way I am a supporter of wind energy.

He's referring to peak production during minimum demand periods.

I think his point is that the grid can handle that level of wind input.

Ok so.

I have to say that when it's worded like that, I find it very clear that, because it's wind, it means that this refers to periodic events and isn't supposed to be confused with a running average.

Even being the case, I find it very encouraging that this source gets to such a penetration. Very interesting that Ireland and Spain have been regular mentions in this. Is Greece ready to go heavy into Solar yet?

We'll certainly see the utilities required to find more ways to adjust to such incursions of excess power, but as we've offered in the conversations here many, many times, there are already several ways to store large quantities of power where it can allow for later lulls, such as building home and business water heating to greater volumes and much higher insulation standards, and similarly doing this with freezers and refrigeration systems.

Electric cars are the really easy, effective way to use peaks of power.

Turning freezer, refrigeration and A/C thermostats down, (and modulating heat pump space heating and water heater thermostats) to make use of peak power is a close second - minor disadvantages include the need for new controls, and that "coolth" and heat losses will increase.

Seems like we would want to discourage heat generated by resistance heating...

Heat can be generated from heat pumps just as well as Resistance. Resistance has an enormous advantage with its sheer simplicity, beyond which its nearly 1:1 efficiency is hardly a disaster in energy terms, while Heat Pumps, as long as they're working and servicable gain the advantage of an even higher CoP. Either way, heat and cold are storable in vast quantities, requiring only some very ordinary materials and skills.

I'm not against the EV storage option either, but when it comes down to 'bulking up on storage capacity', combined with the fact that almost every modern building has heat and refrigeration requirements and equipment already installed, the expandibility of such a program is immense.

I think you'll find that the losses incurred with battery charging, vehicle inefficiencies and self-discharge will force EV storage to take second place in this category. Heavy Insulation for a fixed system is far easier to increase.

the losses incurred with battery charging, vehicle inefficiencies

Aren't important because EVs need to be charged in any case - the only question is the timing.


of li-ion batteries is much, much smaller than heat losses.

its nearly 1:1 efficiency

I think resistance heat is one of the few systems in the world that's theoretically 100% efficient: everything ends up as heat.

Still, there's a lot of resistance heating in the world that needs to be replaced by heat pumps.

almost every modern building has heat and refrigeration requirements and equipment already installed, the expandibility of such a program is immense.

Got any numbers for that? How much can be done without additional expense? A freezer that's normally kept at zero can be dropped in temp how much? And, at what additional cost in heat gain?

'How much can be done without additional expense' ???

Where does that demand come from? When would any of these adjustments be assumed to come for free? I don't have numbers for what it takes to make watertanks and put 12" of foam around them, but I do know that we don't have to invent a whole new chemistry in order to make it happen, that it can involve minimal precious materials, that it's potential lifespan and security far outweighs a road vehicle.

'Battery Losses and Charging inefficiencies don't matter'

If you're comparing systems, of course those efficiencies matter.. the car charging only has to be done 'anyway' if you're insisting that the car/fleet is inevitable and entitled to that charge.

Signing off.

Where does that demand come from?

It's not a demand, it's a normal requirement for a cost analysis. If you want to educate people about new things, you need to have a few figures on hand.

the car charging only has to be done 'anyway' if you're insisting that the car/fleet is inevitable and entitled to that charge.

Uhm, yes, I think EVs of various sorts are indeed inevitable.


Nick was correct when he stated that my point is that the Irish grid and its computerised dispatch tools have been developed and improved since 2006 to enable up to 50% of instantaneous demand to be supplied by wind in 2012.

As of today there is just under 2 GW of wind farms connected to either the Transmission on Distribution Networks and Ireland's average demand is circa 3.5 Gw

EirGrid the operator of the grid, expect that by 2017 the Irish grid will be technically capable of dealing with up 70% wind penetration, that is a large achievement and some nodes are already upgraded to this level.

The next step for Ireland is to upgrade grid capacity along the western Atlantic coast of Ireland where the best wind conditions are, the major demand centres are in the south and east.

there's also this UK-Eire electricity interconnector which just opened:


Plus there are some plans to construct wind farms in eire to export wind power to the UK - some details here:


Probably good for UK - I hope its a good deal for Eire?


The trading system is now being negotiated by the two governments but there is an interesting detail to this story, in a world where it has become normal for renewables to expect government subsidy, the Irish Minister for Energy has let it be known that he is considering placing a small tax on Irish renewable exports to Britain.

The local authorities will also bank a lot of money in local taxes.

And then there is the real gamechanger http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/02/turning-irelands-water-and-wind-i...

But without large amounts of Negawatts Ireland will never achieve energy independence. ...This is also the case in America

In the area of electric power generation and the fuels driving electric power the US is mostly independent (greater than 90% anyway). Transportation is the sector that depends heavily on imports, since the 1970s.

Falstaff, surely the concept of Negawatts extends to the entire energy signature of a country although transportation is indeed the cutey which just keep on giving :)

However taking your statement at face value surely if American homes were to be become highly energy efficient, many of the fuel savings in the electricity generating side could then be applied to transportation.

I drove an LPG powered car in the 1980's and it was fine with very little difference in the driving experience except that the fuel density of LPG meant that I visited the filling station a little more frequently.

As I remember a fill of gasoline would last me a week or so and a fill of LPG lasted perhaps 5 days but the LPG was cheaper than the gasoline.

urely the concept of Negawatts extends to the entire energy signature of a country ...

Sure, as you like. In your earlier post you were specifically discussing electric generation.

Re: article Nigeria boosting profit share

......from 61% to 73%

I have to ask why Canada's?Alberta's % share of the sands revenue on processed bitumen is so low? Sure, Provinces control mineral rights, but when Ed Stelmach proposed a very modest royalty increase the majors pretty much shut the Province down and the politicians caved.

As I understand it the town of Fort Mac is strained to the breaking point trying to provide services and infrastucture, but has no way to generate increased revenues from local production.

RMG, can you shed light on this topic and what is your opinion?

Thanks in advance....Paulo

Paulo – That’s the never resolved question, eh? What’s a fair royalty? What’s a fair price? What’s a fair salary?

Is the term “fair” even a reasonable qualifier? Let’s start at the extreme ends: Alberta gets 100% of the revenue. But no companies would drill. But still an option: the citizens of Alb. could fund their own POC (Provincial Oil Company) and spend $billions of their own money on development. All profit stay in the hands of the people. The other extreme: zero royalty…all the revenue goes to the companies who are all for it. But the Albertans…not at all.

Obviously the answer is between the extremes. But what’s the fair split? IMHO the fair split is what the two parties agree to. Alberta isn’t obligated to offer a low royalty and the companies aren’t obligated to drill. It’s a negotiated split the two parties agree to. IMHO that makes it fair. But what if the companies make a huge profit? Should Alb. demand a bigger split? What of a company isn’t very successful and ends up with a poor profit? Should Alb. be required to reduce the royalty? In both cases my answer would be no. There was a mutual agreement in the beginning.

Of course Alb. can change the royalty on new eases anytime they want. If oil/NG prices drop they can lower the royalty to encourage more drilling. Or not if they refer to keep the reserves in the ground. Some years ago the US govt lowered royalty on some DW GOM tracts to encourage drilling in his new trend. Big potential but also very expensive. Wells were drilled and fields discovered. But eventually oil prices rose and some citizens were unhappy. Should the govt break the deal? But what if prices had fallen? Should the govt reduce royalties?

Again my answer is no to both. A deal is a deal. You don’t like the how a deal may turn out than just don’t make deals.

Alberta royalties on bitumen are 2% before payout (BPO), but 25% after payout (APO), so the comment that they are low is only true until the capital costs of any given project are paid for. After that, the royalties will be at the 25% level, and eventually most of the production will be at the 25% level.

In addition, these are take-in-kind (TIK) royalties, so Alberta is collecting them in the form of raw bitumen. It is also subsidizing the construction of a bitumen to diesel upbrader that will turn half of it directly into diesel fuel.

Alberta has a number of objectives in this royalty program, but they may be too sophisticated for most casual observers to understand.

Nigeria may be collecting higher royalties, but the production csts are lower, and most of the money is being skimmed by corrupt politicians and generals.

Thank you. I have been out of town and just got to your replies RMG and Rocky.


Link up top: Oil Caps Biggest Quartely Gain This Year

OPEC Output
OPEC oil production was 32 million barrels a day in September, near a four-year high, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The group’s spare production capacity climbed 11 percent this month to 5.531 million barrels a day, the highest level since October, according to Bloomberg data.

This contrast with: OPEC oil output falls in September: survey

Supply from the 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has averaged 31.09 million barrels per day (bpd), down from 31.53 million bpd in August, the survey of sources at oil companies, OPEC officials and analysts found.

Okay, Bloomberg says OPEC oil production gained about half a million barrels per day in September while Reuthers says OPEC oil production fell by about the same amount. Someone don't know what they are talking about and I am not sure who it is. I guess we will have to wait until the OPEC OMR comes out on October 10th to find out.

But the real astonishing thing in the Bloomberg report was this: "The group’s spare production capacity climbed 11 percent this month to 5.531 million barrels a day." Astonishing, they know to within 1,000 barrels per day exactly what the OPEC spare capacity is. And I did the math and that comes to an increase in spare capacity of 548,000 barrels per day. Production increase plus spare capacity increase comes to about one million barrels per day. How do they know?

And it is not only that one Moming Zhou of Bloomberg knows to within 1,000 barrels per day what OPEC's spare capacity in, he/she says it is about two and one half times what the EIA says it is:
Libya Oil Halt Would ’Probably’ Cause Price Surge, EIA Says

A halt in Libya’s oil output would probably cause prices to soar because OPEC’s spare production capacity is limited to about 2 million barrels a day, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

I think this all just proves that no one has any idea what OPEC's spare capacity really is. I think that OPEC production has been flat out since April of this year. They have zero spare capacity, in my opinion anyway. But the idea that some reporter working for Bloomberg thinks he/she knows within one thousand barrels per day what OPEC's spare capacity really is, and it is in fact two and a half times what the EIA says it is, is really beyond the pale.

Ron P.

Hey, it's an election year. The fossil fools in the R camp need all the good news they can dredge up to bolster their optimism regarding the potential for fixing the economy. Take a quick look at the top story, which is also from the Bloomberg web site:
U.S. Pumps Most Oil Since 1997 as Energy Independence Grows

In that story we are told:

Crude output rose by 3.7 percent to 6.509 million barrels a day in the week ended Sept. 21, the Energy Department reported today. America met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of the year, department data show.

The first sentence addresses only oil production. The writer must have combined all energy sources in calculating the fraction for the second sentence. Mixing apples and oranges makes it look like the US is making great progress to "energy independence", when the problem is oil production and use. Don't worry, everything will be alright, keep moving...:-)

E. Swanson

Plenty of fossil fools can be found in both the D and R camps.

Dog – I’m sure you and many TODsters know but for those who don’t: the US has been 100% energy (NG) independent for many, many decades. The US is the largest NG producer on the planet with Russia right behind us. If fact the two countries produce about 50% of all NG in the world.

So the math is easy: average 100% of an orange with a small percentage of an apple and you end up with a nice composite orange/apple. Not bad if you use apples to fuel your car.

The EIA seems to disagree with that NG independence statement:

For many years, the USA imported about 15% of it's NG from Canada, and exported some to Mexico.

Recently, Canadian NG imports have been dropping.


Alberta NG production peaked around 2000 and has been declining since. In addition Alberta has been curtailing exports and diverting the diminishing production to the oil sands for fuel.

I have morbid fascination to watch as tipping points happen (or recently happened) to individual FF exporting countries.

For example using http://mazamascience.com/OilExport/ and choosing to look at graphs for oil in a few countries like

Egypt, or
Argentina, or
UK, and so on.

Perhaps it is my equivalent to those motorists that slow down to look at a traffic accident, but I do notice I do!

Didn't we pass the 50% mark of the oil we use being domestic? If you round that down then we have achieve oil independence! Huraaah!

Paleoclimatology: Roots of Empire

The tree-ring data collected by Hessl and Pederson show that in the late 12th century, around the time Mongolia was wracked by intertribal warfare, the area did experience a cold, dry period. But a few decades later, as Genghis Khan began consolidating power, weather conditions appear to have substantially improved—and to nomads who rely on access to lakes for watering animals, that would have made all the difference. In times of abundant rain, pastoralists thrive, Hessl says: Very little human effort is needed to “create large amounts of meat that is mobile, that can be used for war, and that can be used to transport things.” Whole herds can be tended by children—leaving the men free to fight.

If more rainfall boosted grassland productivity and overall energy output, that could help explain why the Mongols were able to transition from a “chieftain society, where positions are hereditary” to managing a complex state covering a vast empire, Di Cosmo says: “A centralized state requires more resources.” The horses and food accumulated on the steppe would have enabled the Mongols to set out for China in pursuit of gold and silk—and from there on to more distant lands.

For its scale and grandeur, the expanded Mongol Empire was remarkably short-lived. Climactic shifts may help explain why. The preliminary tree-ring record suggests “a rapid change that was sustained for a few decades, and then that was it,” Hessl says. Around 1258, after an unidentified volcano unleashed a massive eruption that spewed sulfur and ash into the stratosphere, a cool, dry climate returned. Kublai Khan moved the Mongol capital to Dadu, now Beijing. Thereafter, he ruled as emperor of China, founding the Yuan Dynasty. But outside the region, the Mongols' power had begun to wane.

The link between climate change and the rise and fall of dynasties was also noted back in 2008

Dry spells spelled trouble in ancient China: Weakening of summer monsoons to blame

Chinese history is replete with the rise and fall of dynasties, but researchers now have identified a natural phenomenon that may have been the last straw for some of them: a weakening of the summer Asian Monsoons. A lack of rainfall could have contributed to social upheaval and the fall of dynasties.

Such weakening accompanied the fall of three dynasties and now could be lessening precipitation in northern China.

... The researchers discovered that periods of weak summer monsoons coincided with the last years of the Tang, Yuan and Ming dynasties, which are known to have been times of popular unrest.

Conversely, the scientists found that a strong summer monsoon prevailed during one of China's "golden ages," the Northern Song Dynasty.

US Banks Hit By More Than a Week of Cyberattacks (Update)

U.S. banks have been buffeted by more than a week of powerful cyberattacks, but the mystery surrounding their perpetrators lingers.

... at least half a dozen banks—including the Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Citigroup—have witnessed traffic surges and disruptions. Not all have confirmed they were the victims of an online onslaught, but such surges are a hallmark of denial-of-service attacks, which work by drowning target websites with streams of junk data.

... To get hold of all the servers necessary to launch such huge attacks, the organizers needed to plan for months, Alperovitch said. The servers had to be compromised and linked together into a network called a "botnet."

That level of pre-planning is a deviation from the kinds of denial of service attacks launched at banks in the past by so-called "hacktivists."

and Major banks hit with biggest cyberattacks in history

Stalling Science Threatens Every Domain of Modern Life

The looming "sequestration," across-the-board budget cuts that were never really meant to happen, could cripple key areas of science by slashing federal investment in research and development by an estimated 8.4 percent between now and 2017. That is not good for science, but it is also bad for an economy whose growth is driven by advances in science and technology.

... Slowing scientific progress seems a particularly bad idea for the United States at the same time that other countries are rapidly increasing their R&D investments. Since 1999, China's support for science, for example, has grown 10 times faster, as a percentage of its economy, or gross domestic product, compared with the United States. We also now invest a smaller share of our economy on R&D than Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and Finland.

Science is for those godless atheists who want to try to convince our children that they come from monkeys.

We don't need no science...we need more megachurches and pastors. And we should spend our money on war so the terrorists don't come over here. And we should subsidize big corporations so they can get wealthier and create more jobs.

I am a godless atheist and very much pro-science and the scientific method, but my skepticism applies to my own side too.

I am bored to death of these "The science lobby says the government isn't giving enough hand outs to scientists" stories, alway replete with quotes from government contractors scaring us about how the Chinese are going to crush us if we don't funnel cash to government contractors.

US government contractors and their lobbyists are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The interests of science and the interests of companies that get government funding for science aren't always the same thing.

Besides the wonderful VooDoo Economics, one of the other wonderful things Reagan bestowed upon America was a vast expansion of government contracting. Supposedly this would reduce the cost and size of government...and like Trickle-down has also proven to do the opposite of its hype. It costs more, or the same, and has the added benefit of taking money out of communities and funneling it instead towards large contracting agencies - who then use the money to pay lobbyists and get more contracts and more money and pay more lobbyists...to infinity and beyond.

With that being said...we're right now busy once again parading around what we used to be able to do (parading the space shuttle around while US astronauts ride Russian rockets to space) while China's going full bore on it's space program. The crowning glory of US innovation is now purely military...and we seem to love showing it off.

I agree 100%

Science is important and the US needs to stay in the game.

I've just spent enough time around US government contractors to know that management is only concerned about looting the US treasury, whether they claim it is for science, protecting us from terrorists, national defense, etc.

I remember when Scientific American was a real magazine.

How Streams of Water Can Be Used to Create Analogues of Electronic Tubes and Circuits

Helium shortage deflates cross-country balloon race

Every fall since 1995, competitors lift off from the New Mexico city and drift as far as Maine, Florida and even Canada, reports CBS News affiliate KRQE. But times have changed for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and one of its biggest attractions, the America's Challenge race.

"Helium was pretty abundant and reasonably inexpensive," the race's founder, Mark Sullivan, told KRQE. "Until just recently you could fill a helium balloon for about $3,500."

Helium, the only gas used to compete in the race until 2005, has become rare and expensive. Sullivan said that a helium-only balloon would now cost a competitor about $15,000.

This year, only hydrogen balloons are participating in the race.

This ran on NPR yesterday: The Weird Story Of Why Helium Prices Are Going Through The Roof

Why is the price of helium skyrocketing? Experts say that there's not a shortage of helium. They say the part of the problem is a government helium program that most people have never heard of, the Federal Helium Reserve. The U.S. government stores vast amounts of helium deep underground in the Texas Panhandle.

The problem is, the government has decided we don't need a strategic reserve of helium anymore. There are many private companies that make the U.S. the largest helium producer in the world. So the government is selling off almost all the helium is has stored. Now, you might think the U.S. government flooding the market with helium would drive prices down.

According to the story the private producers are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the Federal Helium Reserve to empty its tanks, so the price is going up until the reserves are sold off. The rate of draw-down isn't fast enough to fully supply the market, but the private companies are holding off production for now.

Anybody here have a better understanding of what's going on?

Whatever the money-related shenanigans are, nobody is "producing" helium (outside of stars), and any of it that we waste on party (or other) balloons is lost forever. Since helium is mostly found mixed with natural gas, its supply will decline after peak NG. And there are many important scientific and industrial uses for it that cannot be done with substitutes. So party on like there's no tomorrow.

Melting icecap puts Europe’s woes in perspective

My Italian instructor, Simona, put the European crisis in fine perspective a while ago, as Italy tripped headlong into another recession and its hapless Mediterranean colleagues, Greece and Spain, redecorated their economies in stunning Titanic motif.

“We’ve seen worse,” she said, pausing for dramatic effect. “The fourth century was pretty bad.”

Thanks Seraph, reading the article this jumped out at me:

Not only is the ice disappearing, but also the snowpack on land. Canadian scientists have warned that the snow is vanishing evening faster than the ice in some Arctic areas.

This was recently a revelation to me, yet another "uh oh" moment. I recall reading reports earlier in the year that the snowpack had been low last winter, but I had no idea just how bad the overall trend is for the northern hemisphere:

Record Arctic Snow Loss May Be Prolonging North American Drought

Hold onto your butts folks, this roller coaster ride is just getting started.


Yikes 6 million square KM! Thats more than the sea ice decline, and its in the most important sunshine month of June.

A recent columbia U report notes that temperatures in the high Arctic are hotter than they've been in 1800 years. In addition, a growing number of scientists predict an ice free Arctic by summer's end within the decade.

All those frogs in boiling water -- them's us!

I came across this...thought I'd share

Surviving Alone in Alaska

It's an indie documentary about a family living in ANWR.

Heimo Korth is the last man standing in 19 million acres of Alaskan wilderness. His neighbors are polar bears and caribous. Say good bye to civilization and see how they do it in the arctic circle on the last frontier in America.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaskan Interior, cutting off 19 million acres of prime boreal wilderness from the mitts of fur trappers, oil tycoons, and would-be lodge owners alike. Only six families of white settlers were grandfathered in and allowed to keep cabins in the refuge—of them, only one still stays there year-round living off the land. His name is Heimo Korth, and he is basically the Omega Man of Americas Final Frontier.

The video is interesting and well done, however the accompanying note has a few misconceptions. Heimo clearly lives on the south side of the Brooks Range (there are no trees north of the divide). His neighbors would therefore not include polar bears (the bear he killed in the video was a grizzly). While his nearest neighbors may be a long way away, he is hardly the "last man standing" in ANWR, since Native Alaskans also live there (Gwich'in on the south side where Heimo lives, and Inupiat north of the divide). ANWR is a very large place.

Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Program at Savannah River Site Hit with Major Setback

... “Given Tennessee Valley Authority’s [TVA] reluctance in pursuing MOX and the fact that DOE has no customers to use experimental MOX fuel is reason to put the brakes on the entire MOX program and halt construction of the $6-billion MOX plant to nowhere,” said Tom Clements, Nonproliferation Policy Director with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. “It appears that the MOX program continues to degrade into a big-government program with a singular mission: transfer of tax payer money into the pockets of the plutonium industry.”

MOX fuel contains plutonium blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium, or depleted uranium.

Why not mix plutonium with thorium ?

The spent MOX fuel (if I have my breeding cycles right from memory) will have burnt more Pu and not have breed any more of the long lived Pu isotopes.


I found Kirk Sorensen's YT videos to be very informative of Thorium Molten Salt Reactors.He lives and breathes the stuff and wants to evolve Thorium Reactors.Kirk was able to get 2 older Men Dick Engel & Syd Ball {Thorium Molten Salt Reactor Experiment Researchers} who worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory back in the day to sit down and talk about Thorium Molten Salt.Interesting.

Main Video List:


Interview With Dick & Syd:




My suggestion was not an entirely new type of reactor, but just mixing Pu & Th in the fuel (perhaps in separate pellets). The Pu would be the primary fuel "burned" with some Th bred to U233 (memory) as a secondary source of fuel.

The idea is to rid the world of some Pu without making more.


I'm certainly no expert, but my understanding is that there are neutron management issues associated with mixed Th/Pu fuels. Nothing insurmountable, but a big pile of expensive details to be resolved: exact mixes of Th/Pu, fabrication of the fuel elements, modification of procedures, relicensing of reactors to operate with a different fuel, etc. It's unclear (at least to me) who would foot the (possibly large) bills for all of that.

Unexploded bombs lurk in U.S. offshore oil patch: experts

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Millions of pounds of unexploded bombs dumped in the Gulf of Mexico by the U.S. government after World War Two pose a significant risk to offshore drilling, according to Texas oceanographers.

As technological advances allow oil companies to push deeper into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, these forgotten hazards pose a threat as the industry picks up the pace of drilling after BP Plc's deadly Macondo well blowout in 2010 that lead to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Unexploded ordnance has been found in the offshore zone known as Mississippi Canyon where the Macondo well was drilled.

The oil industry is no stranger to leftovers from the World War Two.

Last year, BP shut its key Forties crude pipeline in the North Sea for five days while it removed a 13-foot (4-metre) unexploded German mine found resting cozily next to the pipeline that transports up to 40 percent of the UK's oil production.

I don't understand why they did not just pileall those bombs up in one big pile in the desert and detonated it? The problemwould be gone. What would the negatives be with the method?

Disposing of unexploded ordinance is tricky and dangerous. Bombs and artillery shells are designed to withstand fairly rough handling without exploding (artillery shells, after all, are not supposed to explode until after they have been shot out of a cannon). Some bombs and shells fail to explode even when used as designed. So, if you just pile up a bunch of bombs and shells and set off an explosion under them, many of them will simply be scattered across the landscape.

The nitrate compounds in explosives tend to rearrange themselves over the decades, which gives a "use by" date. After 70 years, a very small fraction could change to a less robust explosive compound. But that fraction could trigger a larger explosion if handled roughly.


Of course, bombs don't have to be 70 years old to explode under rough handling (see Port Chicago disaster), but it is pretty rare under standard handling procedures. I will point out that the question was about an alternative to dumping the bombs and shells in the ocean 60 or more years ago, when they first became surplus. On the one hand, I would not want to be around any attempt to "pile up" bombs and shells. On the other hand, I think many bombs and shells would be scattered by an explosion in such a pile without exploding themselves.

Such devices are designed to cope with a thrust from the end rather than a shockwave from the side. The problem is usually solved by placing a very adequate amount of plastic explosive over and/or against the sides of the devices to provide sufficient bang to do the job. The area inspected for remaining rounds that can be dealt with by a lump of plastic explosive added to the side.


When I was in Vietnam, the main III MAF ammo dump near Da Nang blew up. We were told it was caused by a brush fire that started in part of the dump and got into some infantry ordinance, which set off some rockets....which started a chain reaction and eventually blew up most of the dump. Stuff exploded up all day long. I was about 10 miles away and we could see the shock waves propagate through the clouds of smoke like ripples in a pond. After it was all done there were still tons of unexploded stuff scattered all around the dump. The EOD guys spent months cleaning it up. I was told some pallets of artillery shells had exploded, but some shells in the pallets didn't explode and were driven down into the ground.

Kind of off topic, but my earlier post send me down memory lane. I found a website with photos and other accounts of THE DAY THE DA NANG AMMO DUMP BLEW.

Seems so long ago....wait a minute....43 years....I guess it was a long time ago!


I was at Long Binh then, but I don't remember hearing about this. I had a very selective awareness of what was going on in-country. Interesting point in one of the sections on that site about how half the ammo didn't explode, but was often cooked enough to become extremely dangerous to handle.

Here is another one: Pile it all up in a desert nuclear test site. If the shell/bomb did not deonate on the nuke blast, it deserves to kill or mutilate an innocent civilian.

JW – I suspect the primary problem isn’t disposal but finding them. But I suspect the govt and companies rate the risk as extremely low for a number of reasons. First, such munitions wouldn’t survive very well in salt water. Second, the actual seafloor footprint of drilling operations compared to the size of the GOM is extremely small. Thus the odds of setting down on a bomb is tiny. Third, the feds require a very detailed seafloor analysis before issuing a permit. This utilizes a variety of methods including a magnetic survey. Not sure if such a survey would be sensitive enough to pick up a single bomb casing but is sensitive enough to pick up strewn field of bombs.

Bottom line: there are many potential causes of catastrophic events with much greater probabilities. Just my WAG but I suspect the odds of a commercial jet crashing into an offshore drill rig are much greater. And also consider the consequences if a rig did drill into and explode a bomb that’s a mile or so below sea level. If it did happen it would occur at the very beginning when there’s nothing down there but the riser, drill pipe and BOP. They probably wouldn’t even feel it on the rig. With all the potential nightmares in the world today if this is a serious concern for someone they should take a pill…maybe two. LOL.

It seems like the MSM is following the same philosophy as stock brokers: they don’t sell the steak…they sell the sizzle. IOW the actual significance of the story is what’s important. It’s a headline that catches the attention of the readers that is the priority…not imparting knowledge.

Granted that the GOM is not likely to be as thickly strewn with castoff munitions as the Baltic, and that a pipeline occupies much more of the seabed than any one well, but the story I linked to below refers to multiple explosive devices found in the path of the Nord Stream pipeline. The threat is not just that of drilling into a bomb. Having sat on the bottom for maybe 60 years, it is hard to say what would set off a bomb. The vibration of drilling operations might set off a nearby bomb at any time. It's a small, but probably finite chance.

I suspect these rounds are now deeply buried in mud, and corroding. The chemistry of the HE is probably also being gradually changed. So maybe some have rusted/decayed in such a manner as to be very sensitive.

Regarding the NS PL they did expect, and found, several WWII ammo dump sites. Also old mines, barrels of toxic waste and general piles of crap. For the construction, they cleared a strip 400 meters across from port to port along the entire stretch of the bottom of the Baltic. A rather good clean up operation in one of the most poluted seas in the world.

Third, the feds require a very detailed seafloor analysis before issuing a permit. This utilizes a variety of methods including a magnetic survey. Not sure if such a survey would be sensitive enough to pick up a single bomb casing but is sensitive enough to pick up strewn field of bombs.

In shallow waters the feds also require a side scan sonar survey. I believe high resolution side scan sonar could definately pick up an individual bomb. However, I don't know if they require that for deep water drill sites?

Dredging has been used to replenish beach sand that was washed away by winter storms for years in South California.
It can help prevent further erosion and helps to attract more tourists, and keep beach front property owners happy.

It seems that an unwanted byproduct of a plan to have the Navy dump sand dredged from San Diego Bay onto sand-deprived beaches has been to litter ammo hither and yon.

The ornery ordnance is stuff that was submerged for years at the entrance of the bay, possibly tossed overboard by World War II sailors and Marines more interested in rushing ashore for liberty than getting bogged down in a tedious inventory process.

Dredging continues apace, but onshore dumping has been halted while civilian and military officials hunt for solutions. On the civilian side of the equation, patience is wearing thin.

Civic officials are grumbling that the Navy should halt the dredging until it can find a way to sift out the explosives. The Navy says it has to continue dredging to make way for the arrival of the nuclear carrier John C. Stennis in August.

The project ended up dumping the sand five miles off-shore.


I don't understand why they did not just pileall those bombs up in one big pile in the desert and detonated it? The problemwould be gone. What would the negatives be with the method?

The negatives would be that they would have to transport the munitions to the desert. This would involve additional cost, plus people along the way might object to having obsolete ordinance transported through their towns.

They dumped it in the ocean for the same reason lots of places did and still do dump raw sewage into the sea. It was cheap and convenient. Plus the perception that the ocean is so vast and deep that it wouldn't hurt anything. Out of sight, out of mind.

The U.S. is not the only country to dispose of obsolete or surplus munitions in this way.

Back in about 1946 the Australian military dumped a lot of surplus war material in "deep" water off Brisbane, thinking it would never be disturbed.

But by the 1960s prawn trawlers were moving into deeper water. A fisherman retiring recently recalled retrieving over the years 500 pound bombs (most recently in 1984) and "two cases of Owen guns from 72 fathoms" (Queensland Seafood 2011 Number 1, p.16).

The latter find was the more sensational. The Australian Owen gun was designed to remain functional after being buried in mud, and apparently a couple of decades at the bottom of the sea left them fully operational. While some fishermen reported their findings and handed in the weapons, others did not. Arguing that they needed some compensation for the damage to their nets they sold Owen guns on the black market. They showed up in bank robberies, etc., in subsequent years.

And in the Baltic, the debris includes poison gas ordinance:
Making Way for the Pipeline: A Treasure Trove in the Baltic Sea

CVR Wynnewood, Oklahoma refinery boiler blast kills worker

HOUSTON (Reuters) - One worker was killed in a boiler explosion on Friday at CVR Energy Inc.'s 70,000 barrel per day (bpd) Wynnewood, Oklahoma, refinery, a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

Rhodes says the refinery had been shut down earlier this week for planned maintenance and that the boiler was being brought back online when it exploded.

The sheriff said the investigation will be turned over federal safety inspectors and to CVR Energy Inc. of Sugar Land, Texas, which owns the refinery.

About CVR Energy, Inc.

Headquartered in Sugar Land, Texas, CVR Energy, Inc.'s (NYSE: CVI) subsidiary and affiliated businesses operate independent refining assets in Coffeyville, Kan. and Wynnewood, Okla. with more than 185,000 barrels per day of processing capacity, a marketing network for supplying high value transportation fuels to customers through tanker trucks and pipeline terminals, and a crude oil gathering system serving Kansas, Oklahoma, western Missouri, southwestern Nebraska and Texas. In addition, CVR Energy subsidiaries own a majority interest in and serve as the general partner of CVR Partners, LP, a producer of ammonia and urea ammonium nitrate, or UAN, fertilizers.

That's unfortunate. Either the purge cycle failed to work, or the operator tried to bypass it after a failed start. Waiting for a boiler that failed to start to purge out so it can begin the whole start cycle over takes a long time. I can well understand the frustration of "I have to wait X minutes for that little hiccup? I've already fixed it!" Especially if Management is screaming "what do you mean it's not running yet?" Way too tempting to force the restart attempt.

And then we have a disaster.

What do people think of the following? Please note that I don't see any discussion of oil in the article, so he seems to exclude oil prices from his projected collapse.

"For the past two years, as regular readers know, I have been bearish on hard commodities. Prices may have dropped substantially from their peaks during this time, but I don’t think the bear market is over. I think we still have a very long way to go.

There are four reasons why I expect prices to drop a lot more. First, during the last decade commodity producers were caught by surprise by the surge in demand. Their belated response was to ramp up production dramatically, but since there is a long lead-time between intention and supply, for the next several years we will continue to experience rapid growth in supply. As an aside, in my many talks to different groups of investors and boards of directors it has been my impression that commodity producers have been the slowest at understanding the full implications of a Chinese rebalancing, and I would suggest that in many cases they still have not caught on.

Second, almost all the increase in demand in the past twenty years, which in practice occurred mostly in the past decade, can be explained as the consequence of the incredibly unbalanced growth process in China. But as even the most exuberant of China bulls now recognize, China’s economic growth is slowing and I expect it to decline a lot more in the next few years.

Third, and more importantly, as China’s economy rebalances towards a much more sustainable form of growth, this will automatically make Chinese growth much less commodity intensive. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with my expectations of further economic slowing. Even if China is miraculously able to regain growth rates of 10-11% annually, a rebalancing economy will demand much less in the way of hard commodities.

And fourth, surging Chinese hard commodity purchases in the past few years supplied not just growing domestic needs but also rapidly growing inventory. The result is that inventory levels in China are much too high to support what growth in demand there will be over the next few years, and I expect Chinese in some cases to be net sellers, not net buyers, of a number of commodities.

This combination of factors – rising supply, dropping demand, and lots of inventory to work off – all but guarantee that the prices of hard commodities will collapse. I expect that certain commodities, like copper, will drop by 50% or more in the next two to three years."


Nick - Pettis's reasoning seems sound enough if the numbers are correct, particularly for the two big commodities, iron ore and copper. As he says, if all the planned projects go ahead, the amount of copper on the market will double by 2020 and the amount of iron ore will triple. China can't soak up that increase in supply whether or not there is "rebalancing" away from construction and exports in the Chinese economy. Its export markets can't grow that fast, nor can its internal construction.

But I doubt that things will be as bad as Pettis says. BHP Australia has already laid off workers in at least one mine, and abandoned development plans for another, three years into the project. I expect that the other big miners are doing similar things, so supply will not expand as quickly. I expect prices to fall, but not to crash. Except possibly for copper, in the event that China reforms its banks.


It certainly suggests that we're not looking at supply limits for these commodities any time soon.

Find a map that shows where banded iron formations are located. We are not going to run out of iron.

Solution mining has greatly expanded the amount of copper that is recoverable too.

Zinc would be my guess to run out of first. It's not really that common, and it recycles relatively poorly given it's use in corrosion resisting coatings and paint.

And you can extract gold and uranium from sea water. The question is, how much energy do you need to do so? Some processes are possible, but far too expensive to actually use.

I have the impression that gold from seawater is impractical, but that uranium is not: the concentration of uranium is much higher.

Pipeline Violations Poorly Enforced: Engineer

Former TransCanada employee says rupture risk is widespread, files safety complaint to PMO, regulators. A Tyee investigation, part one.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, TheTyee.ca

Evan Vokes, a 47-year-old Calgary-based engineer and former TransCanada employee, has filed complaints with the National Energy Board, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA is a self-regulating professional group that represents engineers) and the Prime Minister's Office documenting repeated violations of standard safety regulations and codes.
     --- snip ---
"When you sign onto engineering ethics you have a duty of care to the public before you do to your employer."

Melting icecap puts Europe’s woes in perspective

ERIC REGULY - ROME — The Globe and Mail

Historically speaking, the crisis (formerly the “debt crisis”) is a bump on the road, a pea under the mattress. Somehow, Europe and its people will survive. Simona decided instead to worry about remodelling her apartment. Me? I worried about climate change. My worry wins.

Climate change was always one of those amorphous blob concepts, vaguely threatening, but only vaguely, because you could not stick your head out the window and see it. For most people, at least for those in the wealthy parts of the world, where food comes from supermarkets and air conditioning means bursting thermometers can be ignored, climate change was someone else’s problem.

Eric Reguly is a business columnist! He's PO aware and recognizes the dismal economic consequences of climate change.

The effects of a linear climate change are bad enough. Unfortunately the ever increasing and powerful human forcing combined with a large number of known and unknown amplifying feedbacks makes the risk of catastrophic, non-linear events far too high for rationality. The best solution is a rapid reduction in carbon emissions. But the world seems poised to take another enormous leap in the wrong direction.

The best solution is a rapid reduction in carbon emissions.

This is one of the problems of what we have done to the climate. The only solution mentioned is to stop burning FF, yet there is no evidence that this will mitigate the damage. Most likely the cessation of burning FF will only be a start of solving climate change.

IMHO the course of climate change has been set in motion by the burning over the last couple of hundred years. A cessation of burning today would still leave the atmospheric CO2 levels where they were 15 million years ago when the temp was 5-10'F hotter and the sea 75-120 feet higher than today.

If you drill a hole in a dyke and water starts coming in, stopping the drilling does not solve the problem.

The article below found on Google news today is more remarkable for what it does not state than what it does. After painting a dire picture of the US economy it goes on to suggest we are headed for a recession in 2013. However, it never mentions the high cost of oil in it's influence to lower growth, increase debt or how it may have caused the failure of various forms of stimulus to spur higher GDP.

'Economic Signals Point to a 2013 Recession'


The following snipet is fascinating in relation to oil price during a period of much cheaper oil:

The Reagan recovery—built on sound money, low tax rates, limited government and trade liberalization—achieved 8% real growth rates after traumatic inflationary recessions in 1980 and 1982.

What is not mentioned is the oil embargo during the Carter presidency had lifted, oil price dropped back down and the US economic recovery hit a whopping 8%, making it look like Reagen was a genius.

Thatcher is another politician that benefitted from cheap oil from the North Sea.

Are we beginning to see a pattern here? Maybe Paris Hilton (if elected in some bizarro world) would be considered a great president if oil was about 30 dollars a barrel for all of her term. People would say they don't know how she did it, but growth jumped to 6% and unemployment dropped to 4%! They would exclaim who would have thought Paris could do such a great job as President?!

In my opinion, the only thing that has held Obama's camp together enough during this difficult time is boatloads of borrowed money and Ben's printing press.

RE: Obama's Camp - 'borrowed money and Ben's printing press'

.. Maybe that plus the fact that he can speak in complete sentences?

Really, there ARE reasons to keep our inner cynics fit and alert, but this situation is nothing if not complex and nuanced. We have to keep our understanding of it balanced, if we are going to be nimble enough to respond well to what develops..

I don't think it is nuanced, instead it seems simple. If oil is cheap, growth is high and if it's expensive growth is low or recessionary, irrespective of who is president. So I'm not faulting Obama. Actually under the circumstances he's done an admirable job. In fact, we just refinanced our under water mortgage for a Harp II at a much lower interest (fixed) rate. He's trying to do as much as he can for distressed homeowners and is pushing Congress to help more, with the idea that if housing can get a foothold again the economy will do better. But it's still an uphill battle against oil priced right at the margins of what the economy can handle (as long as it's helped along with huge borrowing and now an open ended QE).

Should be very interesting to see after the election on Jan. 1, how the debt reduction plays out.

That's fair.

I'm probably chafing a little at the professional cynicism tone of our political discussions.. I'm not trying to justify them or a system that is still hurtling towards the cliff.. but even still, I think even the worst of them are laboring heroically in their efforts to achieve their goals.. which usually just happen to be in the direction of that cliff, where the prettiest mirage has been projected on the clouds.

To paraphrase STAR WARS III

PEAK OIL! (War!) The Republic is crumbling
under attacks by the ruthless
Sith Lord, Count BOE. (Bowie?)
There are heroes on both sides.
Evil is everywhere.

...a system that is still hurtling towards the cliff..

Headlong, full steam ahead!

"the oil embargo during the Carter presidency had lifted"

This "oil embargo" joke again, quite "funny" really.
For sure the strangest enduring American MYTH in this oil story.
The embargo lasted 3 months (and only towards a few countries, Holland in Europe)
Wasn't even effective from Saudi Arabia to the US (tankers kept on going from KSA to the US (army in vietnam in particular))
In other words was almost a complete non event in an oil industry and market sense, but was clearly one in a public relationship sense, and on both sides :
-for the US to cover up the peak to its public opinion or western one in general
-for Arab OPEC producers and Saudi Arabia in particular to show the "Arab street" that they were "doing something for the palestinians")

The first oil shock is about the price of oil going through a kind of quantum transition towards a new plateau.
The root cause for this is simply the US peak in 1971, the need for western majors for a higher barrel price to develop new more expensive plays : Alaska, GOM, North Sea, and keep a higher "market share" in the process (ie less dependency on foreign oil for the US), and US Diplomacy (James Akins in particular) SUGGESTED/PUSHED FOR the price rise, and this beforee the embargo, in 1972 in Algiers in particular, see below second part for instance :
(unfortunately in French and interviews dubbed but starting around 19:00 Akins interviews should be understandable, also availabe in German)
And with of course in the background the will (that started much before) of OPEC countries to get a bigger revenue share of each barrel extrated form their soil (compared to the seven sisters cartel period).

As to the oil glut or counter oil shock, it is also a lot about the Reagan administration dealing with the Saudis in order to bring the USSR down (or put the last blow), and it worked. But it also hurt the domestic US oil industry quite a bit, see below for instance :
(extract of "houston we have a problem")
And G Bush (the 1st) put an end to it when still Reagan vice president (more or less on his own).

Not to forget that Bretton Woods was also dropped right after US peak, and the credit bubble started soon afterwards and accelerated under Reagan.

Had this myth or label not been set up, ie the first oil shock simply called "US production peak oil shock" maybe things would be a bit different today (starting with making it a bit more difficult to publish articles about the US now being an oil exporter like the series of it some weeks ago(by equating refined products to oil)), or grand promises regarding future production ...

The Dresden CarGo Tram

The CarGoTram is a freight tram in Dresden. It supplies Volkswagen's "Transparent Factory" with parts for their automobile production.

Hat Tip: Master Resource Report

I posted a link to a newspaper editorial column on Friday's DB. I submitted a comment that remained the only one until a response to my comment appeared yesterday. The text of the response suggests that it was written by a TOD member. The sentence

Were such a black swan moment to occur, one whereby a new mega-Ghawar-like deposit is found, we will still need to change our ways unless we want to breathe through respirators

The use of "black swan" was a dead give-away added to which, it is an extremely small proportion of the public, outside of TOD members, who even know what Ghawar is.

In response to the editorial (and my comment?), the Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica has written a letter, published today (Sunday)

LETTER OF THE DAY - Forge ahead with oil exploration

In light of this, now is not the time to retreat from oil exploration. On the contrary, the positive indicators from scientific surveys should serve to strenuously emphasise that this is the time to forge ahead, particularly in light of our need to end our costly dependence on foreign oil.

As the agency tasked with addressing the country's energy needs, it is the duty of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica to vigorously promote Jamaica's potential as an oil producer and to aggressively seek business alliances that will result in the full exploitation of this potential for our economic and social development.

As is often the case when countries venture into uncharted territory, the initial discourse can be coloured by limited or even incorrect information. We would, therefore, welcome the opportunity to broaden the dialogue on these matters.


Group Managing Director


I must be getting better at crafting my comments since my response to this letter was published in short order. I made the point:

If the prospects were as good as Mr. Anderson appears to be implying, we would not have to be applying any pressure at all for interested partners to start drilling. Why is Shell, for example, willing to disregard the balmy Caribbean waters preferring instead to risk exploring in the remote and harsh conditions of Alaskan Arctic waters, conditions that are so unfavourable as to stymie their attempts to begin drilling this past summer. They will now have to keep very expensive equipment in storage until winter in the northern hemisphere has ended. What does Mr. Anderson know that all the all world's major oil companies do not?

I would to hear the take of some of the oil patch folks here on TOD (ROCKMAN, RockyMtnGuy, Westexas?) on this situation. What would be even more interesting is a comment from somebody "in the know" as a response to this letter!

Alan from the islands

Alan - I don’t know anything about the potential there but dug this up. Doesn’t sound too encouraging:


“Four dry holes were drilled in Jamaican territory between 1981 and 1983. These results, combined with the seven dry holes recorded between 1955 and 1973, would suggest that conditions did not favour the generation, accumulation and preservation of petroleum in Jamaica. Most of these wells penetrated thick sections of Cretaceous and Early Tertiary sediments but no significant shows were encountered.

A review of the petroleum geology of Jamaica would suggest that conditions for the generation, accumulation and preservation of commercial deposits of petroleum were not ideal. Perhaps the most obvious negative factors are the apparent lack of adequate reservoirs and the relatively active tectonic history, particularly since the Middle Miocene.”

But these folks seem more optimistic. But read their site and you'll see they make their living by convincing folks about potential and then selling data and their services.


“MDOIL's purpose is to assist overseas governments secure international investment to open up neglected oil and gas exploration acreage and frontier acreage. This is achieved by helping build new investment vehicles, the analysis of vintage data sets; providing new geochemical and geological analysis; bringing in technologies and new geological understanding and modern digital data packages for license to oil companies.”


All in all doesn’t sound too good. But I fall back on what I read years ago: the first major N. Sea field was found after 90 wells were drilled.


All in all doesn’t sound too good. But I fall back on what I read years ago: the first major N. Sea field was found after 90 wells were drilled.

Why'd they keep drilling with so much disappointment? They're must have been some indication of possible success to keep drilling programs going.


Only about 1 in 10 wildcat wells is successful, even in areas where oil has been found before, so you have to be a perpetual optimist to make big oil discoveries in new areas.

The first big oil discovery in Canada was made after 133 consecutive dry holes were drilled in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin between the end of WWII and 1947, when they hit the Leduc Reef. Once they knew the Devonian Reef trend was there, though, they were off to the races because there were a lot more of them to be found.

That being said, this doesn't usually pay off. Companies also drilled 176 wells at a cost of billion$$$ in the Canadian Arctic and found nothing commercially viable.

They kept drilling in both areas because the geology was favorable for oil formation and they had a good chance of getting lucky. OTOH, as Rockman says about the paper he linked to, the geology of Jamaica does not look favorable, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a big discovery.

Andrew – same reason folks keep buying lottery tickets year after year of losing: the potential big payoff. And then there’s the self serving aspect of getting a paycheck: throw your hands up and say there’s nothing left worth drilling? Not a good approach unless you’re in the mood to change your career path. LOL.

There’s no way to document the reality but I wouldn’t be surprised if the oil industry is at a net loss today…at least in the US. Folks look at the huge annual income that ExxonMobil posts and get mad. But for all they know the drilling that generated that income might have been a money loser. IOW how much has XOM spent to get where they are today. Here’s a stat that I doubt many American would believe: revenue distribution from govt offshore leases. Consider there are 3 revenue streams: the lease bonuses paid by the companies to the govt, the royalties paid by the companies to the govt and the revenue the companies earn. Add it up and how much did the govt and companies get? 90% to the govt and 10% to the companies. With the royalty rate typically less than 20% how could this be? $trillions of lease bonuses have been paid for tracts that have produced little or no hydrocarbons. Years ago just one eastern Gulf lease sale earned the feds over $1 billion…just that one sale. And how much oil/NG has produced from those leases? Zero…nada…zilch. Years ago at Mobil Oil we paid the feds $220 million fr just one lease track and spent tens of $millions drilling dry holes.

Again I can’t document it but I would bet lunch that the fed offshore leases have been a net loss for the oil patch. So how has the oil patch survived? It hasn’t: there have been many thousands of companies and joint ventures that have failed over the years. The NG price collapse of ’08 came close to destroying two of the largest independent companies…Devon and Chesapeake. There are many operations failing now despite high oil prices. As said before the price a company sell its production for doesn’t determine profitability…it what it cost them to get it out of the ground.

It would be interesting to pull energy out of this graph, see what happens. Housing, transportation, food is where I've been investing my negabucks and negawatts; traveling less, growing my own (AMAP), getting the homeplace free and clear, and much less expensive to live in and maintain.

(slide the bar at the bottom to see how these costs vary with income level)

It's pretty clear where we need to invest in efficiency.

No data source listed.
Are taxes included or excluded?
No savings, personal or retirement listed.
Weak stuff for a data-driven chart.

A quick audit of my own energy use indicates (roughly)
10% electricity
20% home heating
70% commuting

Probably from the BLS...

Kay at BPA covers the release of 2011 numbers...

What Did the Average U.S. Household Spend for Food and Transportation in 2011?

The BLS has reported average U.S. expenditure rates for 2011.

As compared to 2010:

Average incomes went up 1.9%
Food at home expenditures went up 5.9%
Transportation expenditures went up 8%

Gosh, not sure whether to laugh or cry...

Iran's news agency portrays satirical Onion story as its own

(CNN) -- Add Iran's news agency to the long list of those hoodwinked by the satire of The Onion.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency published a story Friday claiming that a Gallup poll found that rural white Americans prefer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over President Barack Obama...

..."TEHRAN (FNA) -- According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than US President Barack Obama."

(The Onion story used a Charleston, West Virginia, dateline.)

The article went on to quote a West Virginia resident as saying he would rather grab a ballgame or a drink with the Iranian leader than with Obama.

The phony resident then lauded Ahmadinejad: "He takes national defense seriously, and he'd never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does."

If that weren't enough, Fars continued, "According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn't try to hide the fact that he's Muslim."

Without breaking from its farce, Onion Editor Will Tracy wrote in an e-mail that Fars is a subsidiary and has been "our Middle Eastern bureau since the mid 1980s, when the Onion's publisher, T. Herman Zweibel, founded Fars with the government approval of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

I suppose that's the Farce News Agency.

IIRC Fars, is another word for Persian. As to the fact that heavily right leaning people could think that way, I have no difficulty imagining it. A rightwing buddy of mine sure wished we could draft V. Putin to be president of the USA! These sorts of folks like a powerful authoritarian, as well as someone with strong fundamentalist religious beliefs. Usually they can't get past the fact that the religion in question is at odds with their own.



I think you guys are missing my "farce" :-)

Of course it's Fars as in Farsi, the Persian language. But the fictional agency set up by The Onion founder is the Farce. :-)

;) did get it but it made less sense without the Farsi so popped it in for others.


PetroSA says it’s crunch time on R82bn refinery

Delays in the implementation of the R82 billion [about $10 billion] crude oil refinery at the Coega industrial development zone (IDZ) in Port Elizabeth could plunge the country into a “fuel crisis” similar to the energy crunch currently facing Eskom, according to national fuel parastatal PetroSA’s chief executive, Nosizwe Nokwe-Macamo.

Last year, government approved the project, but has not given the official go-ahead to start securing funding.

Now there is a joint study between PetroSA and Sinopec, a Chinese state-owned energy company, to finalise the refinery’s projected capacity, configuration and costing.

It is estimated that by 2020 South Africa will have to import 180,000 barrels per day of gasoline and diesel if there is no significant investment in local refining capacity.

Another Week Brings More Pessimistic Drought News

As has been the case throughout the month of September, the latest weekly drought update shows that drought conditions have tightened their grip on the Plains States and Western U.S., and the overall drought footprint expanded to encompass 65.45 percent of the lower 48 states, up from 64.8 percent on Sept. 18. This represents the highest areal coverage in the 12-year history of the Drought Monitor analysis, topping last week's record.

As of Sept. 25, the worst categories of drought — extreme to exceptional drought conditions — encompassed nearly one quarter of the lower 48 states. Nearly all of Nebraska, with the exception of a sliver in the southeastern corner of the state, is suffering under extreme to exceptional drought conditions — 98 percent, to be exact.

There is a load of adjustment to that which arrived just after that, via us down here. Got pretty wet here. Don't know how much of a difference it made there.


Venezuela increases oil products imports substantially after Amuay Disaster

Updated September 28, 2012, 10:57 p.m. ET

Venezuela Ramps Up Fuel Imports Ahead of Election

State energy monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela SA bought at least 2.5 million barrels of fuel from around the U.S. Gulf Coast since the beginning of September, according to one person at a local shipping company, who asked not to be identified because the company receives contracts from PdVSA, as the state company is known.


We don't import gasoline," Mr. Ramirez said. But oil traders and shippers familiar with Venezuela's foreign fuel purchases suggest differently. A U.S.-based oil trader said fuel cargos are heading from the U.S. to Venezuela to avert shortfalls, and long-term supplies are being looked at even though the rush to secure fuel has slowed down a bit from the immediate aftermath of the deadly Amuay refinery explosion.


Keep in mind many energy 'experts' a month ago said Venezuela would have little impact on US gasoline supplies, and most expected that US gasoline prices would decline in September. But instead this: Spectacular Gasoline Price Superspike Marks Monthly Close of Futures Trading.

August 25, 2012

The Amuay Disaster

The huge and deadly blast at the Amuay refinery may have a great impact on US gasoline supplies. Coming only a few weeks after the large Richmond, CA refinery fire, the impact of these twin refinery disasters will ripple worldwide through the oil product supply chain – especially for gasoline.

Note that even before the Amuay refinery blow up, Venezuela, which formerly exported gasoline to the US, is now importing gasoline from the US. Now in the aftermath of Amuay, Venezuela may make heavy demands on US gasoline and diesel supplies.


According to EIA data world C+C production has been sustained between 75 Mb/d and 76 Mb/d for 7 months. If the EIA data is believable and not revised downward in the future, then production has risen above the plateau.

EIA World Crude Oil And Lease Condensate Production

BT – Good point. OTOH depends on how one defines the limits on a plateau. Rather arbitrary IMHO but it’s obviously on an uptick that may continue for a while. But it also makes my point how the PO date, as well as the plateau, are not very relevant. Yes…back to the POD…Peak Oil Dynamic. Some folks point to such upticks and new field discoveries, Canadian tar sands and rig counts in the Bakken/Eagle Ford as good news.

I see just the opposite. Oil prices on a yearly average have reached an all time high. Our economy looks to heading downhill again. High unemployment. $trillions being spent by our govt for military efforts in oil producing regions. US public companies spending $trillions on drilling and yet showing relatively little market cap gain. Continuing efforts by NOC’s, such as China and India, to tie up overseas ff reserves. No indication of when (if ever) Brazil will be exporting any of those billions of bbls of DW oil. Increased territorial conflicts over potential ff resources. Govts spending huge sums to foster alternatives. Significnt amount of former food resources being converted to motor fuel. Iranian oil embargo and the threat of war with Israel. Increasing internal oil consumption by exporting countries in particularly the KSA. Expansion of drilling efforts in one of the most svere envoronments on the planet...the Arctic. Little or no serious efforts to deal with AGW. Increased potential expansion of coal consumption. Etc, etc, etc.

This is the POD and all its associated problems. And this is happening in the face of all the “good news”. Again folks can argue about the exact date of PO, plateau or no plateau and where current production trends are or aren’t heading. But who wants to argue that with respect to energy these are good times with better to come? I suspect it’s a short list. IOW with all the recent positives on the energy front what has changed with respect to the POD? IMHO the best that can be said is the situation hasn't gotten much worse. At least not yet.

All together now: POD! POD! POD! LOL

In Finland, TVO who ordered the new nuclear plant from AREVA is now suing AREVA for 1.8 billion in damages for the delays in construction. The case is likely to take several years.


Water fueling regional conflicts in India

Hundreds of Indian farmers in Karnataka state are protesting against a court order for the release of water from a disputed river to Tamil Nadu state.

Train and bus services between the state capital Bangalore and the city of Mysore have been partially disrupted by the protesting farmers.

Tension is high between the two states over the ongoing long dispute over sharing water from the Cauvery river.

Most suggestions for energy saving proposed by TOD readers are applicable to the domestic sector. I wonder what's available in other sectors.

You need to package the energy-saver as a product and sell it to a business as something they can install and forget, not as something extra they have to worry about.


Sector Summary (Energy Flow*)

Sector Name Description Major uses
(30.11 Quads)
Facilities and equipment used for producing and processing goods. 22% chemical production
16% petroleum refining
14% metal smelting/refining
(27.52 Quads)
Vehicles which transport people/goods on ground, air or water. 61% gasoline fuel
21% diesel fuel
12% aviation
(22.11 Quads)
Living quarters for private households. 32% space heating
13% water heating
12% lighting
11% air conditioning
8% refrigeration
5% electronics
5% wet-clean (mostly clothes dryers)
(18.17 Quads)
Service-providing facilities and equipment (businesses, government, other institutions). 25% lighting
13% heating
11% cooling
6% refrigeration
6% water heating
6% ventilation
6% electronics

*Energy Flows from Lawrence Livermore/DoE chart "Estimated U.S. Energy Use in 2010: ~ 98.0 Quads". Waste energy of electricity generation added to sectors pro-rata their electricity consumption.