Drumbeat: November 17, 2012

Data shows East Coast gas shortages were inevitable

FORTUNE -- Hurricane Sandy may have been the perfect storm, but gasoline shortages on the East Coast were apparently a disaster waiting to happen, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy's statistics branch, the Energy Information Administration.

To put it simply, the East Coast was – and is – sorely underprepared for any supply disruptions. A deep dive into the data released late this week show gasoline inventories on the East Coast hit a low not seen in the month of November for at least 10 years.

November is a popular month for hurricanes in the Northeast, so the seasonal comparison is noteworthy. The reason why Sandy's sting was so much greater than in past storms? Gasoline inventories on the East Coast have been below the average range since July. In the latest data for the week ended last Friday, total gas inventories for the region fell to just above 45,000 barrels, hitting their post-hurricane nadir.

Oil Rises as Middle East Tension May Disrupt Supplies

Oil rose on concern that the clash between Israel and Hamas will escalate into a wider conflict that would endanger Middle East crude shipments.

Futures advanced 1.4 percent as Israel extended its bombing of Gaza while Palestinian missiles struck areas around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil visited Gaza today and called for an international effort to end the violence. Israel’s army said it has deployed tanks near the Gaza border and called up reservists.

Ex-CIA chief Petraeus testifies Benghazi attack was al Qaeda-linked terrorism

Washington (CNN) -- Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.

Israel Extends Gaza Airstrikes After Rocket Barrage

Israel extended air strikes on the Gaza Strip today, destroying Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s headquarters, and approved the call-up of additional reservists to end a barrage of rockets that have been aimed its cities.

Israel finds Arab Spring has complicated its move against Hamas

As violence escalated between Israel and Gaza on Friday, with many anticipating a weekend order to invade, a realization was growing across Israel’s political and military echelons that the Arab Spring had changed the equation in Israel’s dealings with Hamas-run Gaza: Unlike four years ago, the Hamas Authority is no longer an isolated entity, estranged from its Arab neighbors.

Four years ago, Hosni Mubarak, then Egypt’s president, quietly shut Egypt’s border crossing with Gaza at Rafah. Morsi has thrown it open 24 hours a day so that any wounded Gazan could seek treatment in Egypt.

In the wake of Kandil’s visit, Tunisia’s foreign minister announced that he, too, will visit the besieged enclave. Oil-rich states in the Persian Gulf announced that they will provide support and backing to the people of Gaza. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah Party has long battled with Hamas, expressed support. The largest anti-Israel demonstration in Egypt in decades drew tens of thousands into the streets of Cairo on Friday.

Factbox: Sierra Leone, a rising African star?

OIL FRONTIER: Aside from its rich iron ore, gold and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is also in one of the most promising regions for offshore oil exploration. Anadarko Petroleum Corp said in February it struck oil, but is still studying whether the deposit is commercially viable. Oil exploration off West Africa has surged since Ghana found its giant Jubilee field in 2007.

China Likley to Raise Subsidy for CBM

China plans to triple its current subsidy for coal bed methane gas production to 0.60 yuan per cubic metre to encourage the development of the sector, Reuters reported citing a news item in the Shanghai Securities News. The Ministry of Finance in 2008 gave coalbed methane companies a production subsidy of 0.20 yuan per cubic metres.

Shell's Chinese Shale Project Development to Start in 2014

Royal Dutch Shell said its shale gas project in China will require billions of dollars in investment from 2014 before it can supply the domestic market.

Aust investments in doubt after Indonesian court ruling

Indonesia is becoming increasingly hostile to foreign investors, putting Australians with interests in the country on notice following a series of high-profile ownership disputes that resulted in the dissolution of Indonesia's independent oil and gas regulator, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Raymond J. Learsy: The Appointment of Our Next Energy Secretary

With the departure of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary the new Obama administration has a golden opportunity, given the vast gas and oil reservoirs under American soil, newly accessible by the exploitation of alternative and newly applied drilling technologies. It is an opportunity to reposition the Energy Department as a force for national energy independence, an economic force for national security, and as a monitor and sponsor of rational energy pricing thereby husbanding a mighty engine of economic growth.

New Technologies Drive Oil Boom in U.S.

Oil production in the U.S. is increasing, often driven by new ways of getting the black stuff out of the ground. Start-up companies are trying out new techniques, while larger, established players are giving a second look to older methods that weren't profitable years ago.

The high price of fuel is one reason. The late 1990s saw a glut of oil, with the average (inflation-adjusted) price dropping to about $17 per barrel. In 2012, the average has hit $93, and could go higher.

Peak oil theory has a flaw and U.S. oil independence isn’t set in stone

“U.S. oil production has entered a renaissance, likely with other mature regions to follow,” said Michael Peterson, managing director of energy research at MLV & Co.

But the “renaissance in unconventional oil production hasn’t changed the theory of peak oil, just exposed its weakness,” he said. “The global demise envisioned by peak oil theorists fails to account for improved recovery rates, which are driven by the combination of technological advances and higher prices.”

A Contrarian on Shale Gas

In other words, by focusing on shale gas resources, people assume that reserves are much higher than they actually are. Reserves have been substantially overstated, he said.

Berman’s math: If you divide the “technically recoverable resource” of about 1,900 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of gas, as identified by the Potential Gas Committee’s (PGC’s) report by annual U.S. consumption, you come up with 90 years. However, the PGC’s report also says the “probable recoverable resource” is only about 550 Tcf—approximately one fourth of the “technically recoverable resource.”

Peak Oil? More like Peak Canada

Canada, for a while, went mad. We believed we were above the laws of economics and politics and energy – a country that had magically resisted the First New Depression of 2008, and had an export so desirable that we could ignore ecological warnings and well-established international partnerships and blacken the good name Canada had earned the previous century. Our leaders bossed around the world, believing everyone wanted their controversial oil and would ignore its many serious problems if they simply branded it “ethical.”

Ordinary Canadians embraced the hubris, spending far beyond their means, believing that our oil-boosted economy was permanent and invincible. In November of 2012, the peak of the Great Hubris, Canadians reported record levels of personal non-mortgage debt, piling on expensive cars and credit card bills – everyone believed theirs was a rich petro-state and it would last forever.

Well doesn't that just kill the Peak Oil idea then?

But there's something else much more interesting here. This idea that we must not, indeed cannot, use all of the fossil fuels we already know about. Fossil fuels that are embedded into the stock market values of a number of companies. If we all believed that these fuels would never be used then they would be valued at nothing (or perhaps a small option value). They're obviously not so we don't so believe.

The Peak Oil Crisis: Alternative Futures

A paper published recently by the IMF gives us some insight into how oil prices and availability might affect the global economy in the next decade. The paper, entitled Oil and the World Economy: Some Possible Futures, starts with the statistic that global oil production grew by 1.8 percent annually from 1981 to 2005, then stagnated with production remaining essentially flat thereafter. In the last seven years what is called global “growth” in “oil” production has come largely from substitutes for crude such as natural gas liquids, tar sands, and biofuels. While these substitutes do have important uses, they do not have the versatility of conventional oil and in the long run, falling supplies of normal crude can and probably are acting as a brake on economic growth.

Coast Guard continues search for 2 after Gulf rig fire

NEW ORLEANS -- The eruption of a fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico - which left two workers missing and four others badly burned - is a vivid reminder of the dangers involved in offshore drilling and the risk it poses to the gulf's ecosystem and shoreline.

The Coast Guard was searching early Saturday for two workers missing after the fire broke out Friday, sending an ominous black plume of smoke into the air reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that transformed the oil industry and life along the Gulf Coast.

BP settlement a boon to conservation group

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has operated on a modest budget in relative obscurity for nearly three decades. Then it won the lottery.

Oil giant Chevron's $19 billion assets in Argentina frozen over rain forest damage charges

NEW DELHI: A court in Buenos Aires has frozen up to $19 billion worth of assets owned by Chevron, one of the world's largest oil companies, following its refusal to pay that amount as penalty for damaging Ecuador's rain forests.

Commuter: MTA hikes may require big lifestyle changes

For the sixth time (by my count) in 10 years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking to hike its fares. This round will take effect next March with a proposed increase of 9.71 percent that brings the tab for a monthly ticket between Poughkeepsie and Manhattan to $486 and a not-so-grand total of $5,832 a year.

Google to use wind energy for Oklahoma data center

Google is going green at a data center in Oklahoma.

The search giant announced today that it has signed a deal with the Grand River Dam Authority to transition the energy supply for its Oklahoma data center to wind energy. According to Google, the supply will be powered by 48 megawatts of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind Project in Oklahoma. The Project is slated to come online later this year.

A North Dakota Man Reinvents the Tractor: Autonomous Tractor Corporation’s “Spirit”

Is this the future of tractors? “Spirit” is a diesel-electric tractor modeled after a diesel locomotive engine.

The Rise and Fall of Stalin's Atlantis

This area of Azerbaijan has been famed for its rich oil resources since ancient times. The "liquid fire" with which Constantinople drove the Arab besiegers from its walls in the seventh century consisted largely of oil that bubbled to the surface unaided along the coasts of the Black Sea and the Caspian. The Persians called the area the "Land of Fire," where priests lit their temples with oil from these natural sources.

The petrochemical industry didn't take off here until 1870 after Russia conquered the territory. In the years that followed, industrialists like Ludvig Nobel and the Rothschild brothers transformed the capital Baku into an oriental version of the French Mediterranean jewel of Nice. In 1941, Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union, was already supplying 175 million barrels of crude oil a year -- 75 percent of the country's entire oil production. That's why German forces fought so hard to try to seize the city and the surrounding Absheron Peninsula. They failed.

Energy Efficiency Directive

This Directive establishes a common framework of measures for the promotion of energy efficiency within the Union in order to ensure the achievement of the Union’s 2020 20 % headline target on energy efficiency and to pave the way for further energy efficiency improvements beyond that date. It lays down rules designed to remove barriers in the energy market and overcome market failures that impede efficiency in the supply and use of energy, and provides for the establishment of indicative national energy efficiency targets for 2020.

Australian scientists find excess greenhouse gas near fracking

Environmental researchers have detected excess greenhouse gas levels near the site of Australia's biggest coal seam gas field, prompting calls for halting expansion of hydraulic fracturing until scientists can determine whether it might be contributing to climate change.

The reported findings of methane, carbon dioxide and other compounds at more than three times normal background levels have stirred new controversy in eastern Australia over the pros and cons of boosting natural gas output by "fracking," a process that blasts sand, water and chemicals into deep underground wells.

McKibben: Take action against fossil fuels

It’s time to squarely face the facts — Hurricane Sandy is just the latest example of the terrible toll being wrought on communities around the U.S. by extreme weather supercharged by climate change.

This summer we experienced record ice melt in the Arctic. By summer’s end, with more than half the ice gone, it was fair to say we’d broken one of the largest physical features on the planet. The drought and heat that wracked the Midwest drove up global grain prices 40 percent, bringing hunger to hundreds of millions. And, as we survey the damage from Hurricane Sandy, it’s already clear that the human and financial costs are stark.

Kazakhstan launches the start of emission trading system from 2013

The Ministry of Environmental Protection of RK has developed the National Allocation Plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan is a mechanism that regulates internal trading of greenhouse gas emission allowances.

Obama on Climate Policy: Not Just Now, Thanks

Environmental advocates have expressed frustration with the lack of discussion of climate change in the presidential race this year, a reticence that persisted even after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. On Wednesday, in his first post-election news conference, President Obama offered his most extensive remarks on climate change in months. They did not particularly thrill environmentalists.

Gov. Brown Makes Plea To Fight Climate Change At SF Conference

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown told a green building conference in San Francisco on Friday that if the world doesn’t address climate change more aggressively, future generations may have to consider moving to other planets.

California's grand experiment in greenhouse gas regulation

It probably wasn't happenstance that California's historic – good or bad, it's historic – experiment in greenhouse gas regulation was delayed until after an election in which voters would be deciding on new taxes.

Any debate over the consumers' costs of greenhouse gas reduction could have, at least theoretically, negatively influenced voters on tax increases – and there will be costs.

California Tackles Climate Change, But Will Others Follow?

California has a knack for spurring broader U.S. environmental action. The state adopted the first automobile tailpipe emissions in the nation in 1966, four years before they were enacted by Congress. After the Arab oil embargo, California acted more quickly than the U.S. government to cut the waste of energy-hogging appliances, with efficiency standards signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1974. California's standards were the model for the deal President Barack Obama forged with carmakers to double fuel economy to 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

Norfolk houses will have to rise

For years, Norfolk has struggled to find ways to mitigate flooding from even minor storms in low-lying neighborhoods like Larchmont, Pretty Lake, the Hague and Mason's Creek. Norfolk has made flood mitigation a legislative priority, and the city plans to ask the federal government for money for flood walls, pump stations and drainage system improvements.

Those big-ticket items, with price tags in the tens of millions of dollars, will help to keep neighborhoods drier. But the city cannot lift each endangered house out of water's way any more than it can hold back the ocean, the Chesapeake or the rivers.

If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month

If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That’s beyond astonishing.

Re: The Peak Oil Crisis: Alternative Futures

I think Tom Whipple has been reading Drumbeat lately. Some of the stats in his latest commentary appear to have come from TODers. It's probably a good thing that he is helping to spread these data to a wider audience, to counter all the cornucopian nonsense from the rest of the MSM after the IEA report this past week, such as the latest from Learsy linked to up top...

E. Swanson

I just read his article over at EB (moving to Resilience.org).

I agree that such an article should be published in more mainstream media outlets as a counterpoint to the various irrational exuberance oil independence stories we have seen.

...much like how Raymond J. Learsy insists that a new energy secretary and policy changes can defy hard limits, legislate OPEC away,, and did he suggest price controls?!

"It is an opportunity to reposition the Energy Department as a force for national energy independence, an economic force for national security, and as a monitor and sponsor of rational energy pricing thereby husbanding a mighty engine of economic growth."

Funny how the big hand of Govt is OK when it suits one's agenda. I wonder how the big OilCos will feel about that, especially since the current prices for oil mostly reflect actual supply/demand, and the real world costs of producing and bringing their oil to market.

Wow, Raymond is completely out of touch with reality.

I imagine his readership market potential is HUUUGE!

Yeah, luv this reality-based suggestion:

"-To break OPEC's death grip on oil markets, to lead the fight for the passage of the of the oft rebuffed and lobbied to oblivion NOPEC (No Oil Producing Exporting Cartels Act) statute that would have withdrawn the sovereign rights exemption from OPEC national oil companies permitting the Justice Department to institute legal proceedings holding them accountable for their collusionary behavior and their cartel inspired market manipulation."

Imperial-speak at its finest.

Besides, isn't OPEC somewhat irrelevant now since the member states are all producing flat-out, and therefore lacking the spare capacity to manage prices? Price controls can exist, outside of government fiat, only by managing excess capacity.

I suspect that Learsy pretty much represents the mainstream point of view.

A short article on the Chevy Spark:


We could have a real improvement in efficiency if we could somehow implement rigorously enforced surface street speed limits of 30 mph and then be able to operate cars of the size of the Tata Nano or SMART but with a body shell built out of something like fiberglass.,,,maybe a 'belt' wrap-around bumper made out of some kind of plastic crushable honeycomb...make the cars speed-governed to 30 mph. Light, slow, electric, simple, without a lot of flashy add-on options, and relatively inexpensive to buy and operate. Again, that vision completely depends on segregating these city commuter cars from the F150/250/350/SUV behemoths on the city surface streets, and rigorously enforcing speeding ans reckless driving rules. So...my daydream.

I also day dream about having several dedicated bike ways across town in both the E-W and N-S directions, with no motorcar grade crossings...but some of the BAU-ers in my city pitch fits about building a pedestrian bride over one of the major motorcar arteries as a 'green extremest' waste of tax dollars. Building several city-spanning dedicated bikeways would require a lot of eminent domain actions/house and commercial building demolition...this is not currently feasible.

Maybe if the price of go-go juice gets up to, and above, 10 bucks a gallon...

With fuel economy, hybrids, bio synthetic fuels, car pooling, telecommuting and other methods, we can reduce our use of oil and reduce imported oil to the U.S.

I would rather DO something about OPEC and our dependence on imported oil than sit around and take bets about when it will run out. There may be oil reserves left in the world, but it is access at an affordable price the makes the difference.

Ok - on this "do" topic ... why not make a FPP explaining what to "do" given the present demands?

You've been here long enough to have seen the responses to "do" - tell the responders who say it can't be done why they are wrong.

And in any case the real do is first and foremost smaller, lighter, less powerfull.

And to get to this do the best policy is volume based taxes on gas, will that policy be "done" ?

What about delivery vehicles, buses, contractors, construction, etc? Low speed limits alone would help, but even those we have now aren't enforced. In town, two lanes here are posted 40, but many go 50. In the country, it would be 60.

For local travel, gas is a pretty small cost. Even at $10/gallon, a current Prius is only $.25 per mile in fuel cost, so a 10 mile trip would cost $2.50 but take almost a half-hour. If you're going to the store to buy a week's groceries, the travel cost is small compared to the total. I'm not sure that going to 100mpg would make much difference, nor would going to 20mph help much or 40mph hurt much.

For many of us, the time spent in cars is a bigger issue than the cost. Time is money too, and life only has so many hours in it. So, the argument for faster travel AND less of it makes some sense.

delivery vehicles etc can all follow the same speed limit.

Of course my hypothetical, and unachievable, example would allow for cars smaller, lighter, simpler, cheaper, and with a higher energy efficiency than the Prius, due to an iron-clad low speed limit which would allow smaller power sources and less structure to absorb impacts from accidents.

I commute 12 miles per day one-way. The posted speed limit for the vast majority of this commute is 40 mph. Thanks to traffic signals, traffic slowdowns, etc, it generally takes me 25 minutes door to door. Assuming the same delay factors (lights, etc), the same commute would take me ~ 33 minutes at 30 mph. The cumulative energy savings from everyone driving in fiberglass very small, simple cars over years would be well worth the extra 16-20 minutes per day.

If I was really bunged by my commute time, I would move to within a few miles of my work.

Seems like all I do is work anyway...

(Some) Jaguars sold in England come with limiter buttons - what they do is prevent the driver from exceeding a set speed so that they're not snagged by the many automatic speed cameras thereabouts. The fines for exceeding the speed limit, even by a hair, can take your breath away.

I believe most Citroens and Renault cars have had this for the last few years. Times I use the car I like to set my limiter at fifty mph and bask in 85 mpg rather than the 65 ish it does at seventy. It's just a case of getting pleasure from a different readout dial. I am still amazed that they can produce 100 bhp from a 1.6 diesel and get from 55 to 85 mpg from it

55 to 85 mpg...in U.S. or Imperial gallons?


45.8 - 70.8 mpg (US gallons) - not too bad ;-)

using the volumetric energy density ratio for gasoline and diesel from the wiki

34.2 MJ/l / 37.3 MJ/l = .916

I get
42 - 65 mpg (US gallons, gasoline) - not that much different than a Prius.

gasoline at a cheap station in Reno, NV was $3.60, diesel $4.00 (per US gallon) last I saw.
ratio is about .9, about the same as the energy density difference.

has some even cheaper prices...

not that much different than a Prius.

I think the Prius has a different sweet spot, low speed and/or lots of starts/stops. If your driving is mostly high speed highway, the diesel will do better.

Times I use the car I like to set my limiter at fifty mph and bask in 85 mpg rather than the 65 ish it does at seventy. It's just a case of getting pleasure from a different readout dial.

Well, that just ain't cool or maybe suicidal enough in Texas...


Driving America’s 85-mph toll road before the fun gets old

It grew closer: a mile and a half, a half mile, a quarter mile. I eased into the left lane, put on the turn signal, jacked the transmission into six-speed paddle shift mode, and hit the on ramp going forty. And then I was on the magic highway, doing 65, 70, 75, 80. When I saw the first sign that read "Speed Limit 85," I gave the pedal that little extra nudge and broke into the blue.

The ATS purred gratefully and smoothly, glad to be meeting the challenge for which it was engineered. It felt glorious to be going that fast, without fear of punishment. Naturally, I tested the limits. Wouldn't you? I went 90. And then I went 95. After that, 97 seemed natural. And so did driving 100. Even 110 wasn't out of the question, but when I reached that, I thought about the ticket I'd get if I got caught, not to mention the near-certain death I'd face if I crashed, so I eased back to a leisurely, and almost-legal, 88 mph.

I think it may be time to legalize heroin!

At the end of that item on Texas 130 appears the following:

South Central Texas needed a drag strip, and I needed to run it, especially because,strong. after Nov. 11, it would no longer be free.,/strong.

It seems that between the cost of fuel, the cost of EVs and imposition of tolls, the hoi poloi are being triaged out of the picture. Our future will be the masses on buses, middle classes on trains, and the 2% [redacted] driving their ICE vehicles at 90+ mph.



With the smart for-two you can buy an aftermarket cruise control that you can also set a 'max' speed in it. When set and activated the car will go no faster than that speed no matter how hard you press the accelerator pedal. Now all you need to do is link it with a gps nav unit that has speed limit information and make it so that the device can.
1, accept the input from the gps device about speed limits.
2, change the car's acceleration limit on the fly.

New Orleans street speed limits are 25 mph on most streets, and 35 mph on divided streets.

However, we lead the nation in fewest miles driven by residents (NYC is #2) so the oil savings are relatively minimal.

Good for bicyclists though ! (We are #6 there)



Above there is a post about a robotic tractor. The diesel/electric drive train portion is what intrigues me. Is this a new use of locomotive tech.?

Your TOD approach is a systems solution to the problem of transit.

Once localized, our lives can support transportation other than cars. Until then, anything that isn't pretty much like today's cars doesn't fit very well. Slow cars don't fill the bill. Not needing cars is the solution.

In many towns with tight small single-family homes, if you look at the layout you have a house backing a house (sometimes with a narrow alley in between). In front you have a tiny hard, a sidewalk, a street wide enough to park along both sides, and then the pattern repeats. Really, houses take up a pretty small fraction of the space. If you look at shopping areas, the roads are much wider and the parking is immense -- the ratio of useful space is worse still.

I think you could argue that TOD would be a no-brainer for businesses and shopping, even if residential wasn't quite feasible. Why not start with park-n-rides near transit stops? Push the parking garages (which are common in dense areas already) out to the edges, and make the core transit-only. Seems like many approaches work best with gaining a beach-head first. Maybe start with a bus-and-taxi (and delivery trucks off-hours) business district, then streetcars, then light rail, all fed by an expanding network of park-and-ride?

Yes, it is a systems approach :-)

I prefer a more drastic approach with fewer steps (time is now of the essence).

I am in the later stages of developing a Phase II plan for the Washington DC area with one of the original planners for Phase I, Ed Tennyson, 1962-64 when the lines for future Metro were drawn. It will illustrate, once finished, what I endorse. I also endorse a later Phase III (one essay has some left over concepts).

One shocker is that Silver Line parking garages are coming in at $30,000/space. Affordable only by subsidizing from older lots that are almost paid for (30 year bonds). At $4.50/day and ~200 revenue days/year (free weekends, national holidays, etc), $900 can easily cover operating expenses, but paying off bonds !?!

So we went with a minimal car parking strategy, but heavy bicycle parking, light rail & streetcar service, bus service, "Kiss % Ride" drop-offs and walk-ups.


Best Hopes,


PS: Someone plotted aerial maps of Phoenix AZ and found that over 50% of the land area was devoted to cars (auto repair & body shops, gas stations, car dealers, etc. were included). The big #s were for parking lots, roads and driveways.

That is an amazing cost per spot! Nix the notion of parking garages.

Many areas do have some wide open areas near highways, so I guess a traditional park-n-ride can work in some locales. I'm not so much thinking the big cities like you are, but sprawling central states with mid-size cities. The densest traffic is the shopping centers, plus downtown areas.

Surprisingly, where I work there are now multiple carpools for long commuters. 2 to 4 people per car, here in the middle of the heartland. Times they are a changin'. More surprisingly, the new "shovel ready" road work includes bridges with decking plans for light rail.

Good !

The French are installing trams (light rail) in almost every town of 100,000 & larger. THAT is a barrier we have yet to cross in the USA.

My main blog profiles trams in almost a dozen French towns.


Best Hopes,


I frequently see TOD used here to refer to something other than The Oil Drum, but can't figure out what it is. I am sure a lot of other people are experiencing the same thing.

Edit: OK. Probably Transit-oriented Development, which is likely to be known by about one in a thousand people.


Did you have a hiatus in your long stay here? TOD was big here a few years back, when Alan's ideas were gaining traction.

Bad choice of acronyms, my brain drops a cog when I see it.


I also get confused. Call it TODEV or something else distinctive.

There is a very large body of literature that uses TOD. The discipline of urban planning is becoming more and more centered @ TOD. The number of people that know TOD as Transit Orientated Development is thousands of times the number that know it as The Oil Drum.

And they got there first.


That may be true Alan, but it still confuses people (eg me) when you use it on TOD!

I pushed for a different acronym for this site (not only is it confusing, tod = "death" in German), but nothing else ever caught on. "OD" has its own bad connotations.

Are you somehow implying that there's a language other than English? Next thing you know you'll be telling people there are countries outside of the United States! Preposterous! ;)

Okay then, TOD development. Sorta like PIN number.

I will try :-)


Have you heard about the Renault Twizy ?

Wikipedia says it's the top selling electric vehicle in Europe in first half of 2012, but this doesn't necessarily mean a lot of units.

Yes there start to be quite a bit of them in Paris streets, but really not that many yet.
An interesting thing is that Matthieu Tanenbaum, the guy that headed the program was one of the guys fired in this strange "chinese spying" saga (which ended up as them being innocent) :
There is a recorded audio of the meeting where he is told (by some HR exec) that he is a spy and fired, a truly amazing thing, surrealist.

A short article on the Chevy Spark:

I'm glad to see GM dip their toes into the the pure EV market. But they appear to have been right, the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) has been the best way to get the USA moving toward electrics. The Volt has been the biggest selling plug-in car, selling more than the Leaf, Teslas, Mitsubishi-i, Coda, and Ford Focus Electric COMBINED.

But the Spark EV is going to be a limited availability "compliance car" as they derisively called by EV supporters. A car merely built to help meet the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) requirements of California and a few other ZEV states. I hope it is a good car, they offer it at a decent price, and people snap it up such that they consider opening it up to wider sales.

One thing that has disappointed me about these all electric vehicles (Leaf, Spark, Focus, Tesla..) is the ICE thinking behind their layout. They have good reasons for for keeping them "normal" looking, especially Tesla, but disappointing nonetheless considering the possibilities allowed by an all electric drive train. I think the Twizy is neat but it only represents a kind of slightly more usable motorcycle - the doors don't seal and there's no heater. The aerodynamics are also quite sub-optimal. It's still neat though.

Why renewables will remain unfeasable for a longtime?

1) fossil fuels are too cheap and there's the argument that renewables will always
cost more when you take in the cost of manufacture (which is FF intensive)
In light of news such as the IEA (usa oil output) most people don't need to worry (until the next calamity)

2) Climate disturbances aren't that severe. (By changing the terminology from global warming
to climate change has to be a joke to make the average joe smirk that's beyond the experts.
Rising temperatures & CO2 are fact so the renaming instills the experts own doubts.
climate disturbance is a better term than change)
Katrina,Sandy,etc.., raise awareness but nowhere near to the point of the pain of change.

3) We aren't serious about implementing them effectively. (My main purpose & inquiry )
It's been pointed out on Oil drum that around a third of energy is for heating. What great
news! This should have made it much easier for renewables to have captured more than a mere < 1% over a generation.
It seems that if the billions spent on hitech was used in implementing passive solar a small dent
could have been made. In the following article passive solar is up to 65-70% efficient in this area.

(Not sure efficiency number of classic passive solar panel w/ tank but this seem easiest to install)
Yet we havent even attempted the most obvious. In glancing at the article on german renewables it seemed
most of the initiative is with PV's and turbines. Are they using passive? Maybe the potential 65% efficiency hasn't lit up the grey cells yet.

I don't know enough of all the technical difficulty of passive vs PV's but I know the Oil drum is. (Please enlighten me)

Maybe average people who might be oblivious to PO, are more adept at these issues than business, government, or experts:

Passive Solar Power - American Preppers Network

There is a group that believes we will all drive electric cars real soon now and they will be charged with solar panels on our roofs and wind turbines in the country.

We have 200 million cars in the U.S. that run on liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Judging from the sales of electric cars the last few years, it could takes us a LONG time to replace all those cars with EVs.

I don't think we have a LONG time, I think we need alternatives. If we can get even 10% of our fuel made from synthetic stock, we can reduce oil imports. Let's not take an all or nothing at all approach.

If we can get even 10% of our fuel made from synthetic stock,


Good one :-)


We already have 10% ethanol, so I do not understand your attempt at ridicule.

Yair . . .

"We already have 10% ethanol, so I do not understand your attempt at ridicule."

I will stand correcting but as far as I can see creating ethanol is a means of turning perfectly good diesel and fertilizer into a substance that will run relitively inefficient spark ignition engines . . . there is not a lot of gain.


1)Corn based ethanol is a bad public policy choice. 40% of our corn makes 10% of our fuel - the only saving grace is that some of the waste can be used for feed (in very limited proportions).

2) Corn growing is based on two centuries of infrastructure & experience and over a century of scientific breeding. Look for a graph of corn yields over the last 100 years. Many corn farmers are in their fifth or longer generation of corn growing.

BTW that 500 million acres of pasture is used for food growing. Mainly cattle - dairy & beef.

From a practical/realistic POV, your proposal will take multiple decades - if it is worth doing. And like corn ethanol, very likely not. All to fill our cars.

I strongly suspect that you do not have a strong personal connection to agriculture.

Best Hopes for Practicality,


PS: I have developed proposals to electrify & expand our freight railroads - 1 to 2 million b/day
And to to allow up to 30% of Americans to move to TOD and more to use urban rail - Maybe 2 million b/day
And to make bicycling safer & easier - 250,000 b/day in a decade, more over longer periods.

Corn ethanol on the scale it is being done in the U.S. today IS bad policy. It was meant to be a stop gap, not a way of life.

We can start making synthetic gasoline from natural gas. Methane gasification to synthesis gas to DME to gasoline is a way to make synthetic fuels in smaller more modular units.

Mean while we can plant acreage in Miscanthus, which takes several years to come to harvest maturity. Mow it, gasify it to synthesis gas and use with the methane synthesis gas.

It can be done, it has been done, there is nothing to it but to do it. We will have all sort of naysayers and doomers whining endlessly, then it will happen and they will fade into the background as if they were for it all along.

Natural gas to gasoline is a bad idea as well. Several articles here on TOD examining the one in Qatar.

Just because it "can be done" hardly means that it should be done.

OTOH, Copenhagen is above 40% of trips by bicycle (walking, transit many more) and about 20% by private car.

This means it can be done - and in this case means it should be done.


Biomass gasification works, but has proven very difficult to scale up.


To create a synthetic product, say synthetic fuel, you have to destroy or degrade something natural, usually a great deal of the natural. The major problem our species face is that we may all die if the natural resources that we depend upon are destroyed or degraded. So, its hard to understand how essentially making things worse, makes things better?

... Because it keeps things running just like they are.

Just getting tar-sands oil into a pipeline involves ruining a lot of water and burning a lot of natural gas to deliver a liquid fuel precursor... and it's not even a synthetic liquid fuel... but it is a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

A car based on plasma gasification would allow just about anything organic to be burned as a fuel and thrown into the air as exhaust: all the old tires, plastics, sneakers, wood, roadkill, the homeless and all their possessions, unsold food... still in the wrapper, foreclosed houses, furniture, art, books, even the asphalt itself.

Tire pile

But yes, all this just makes things worse.

I like the ammonia thing, Solid-State Ammonia Synthesis, SSAS: combining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen from water and releasing oxygen in the making of a liquid fuel that burns in air to make water and nitrogen: A currency to transport, store, and use electrical energy, say wind energy, in vehicles like today's. It is a hydrogen fuel that liquifies at the same low pressure as propane. It is synthetic. It doesn't beat gasoline's ease of handling. Nothing beats gasoline when exhausting into the air for free. That's why we use gasoline and diesel.

Total oil power: 4 trill kwatts/yr? Pv's would cover wv.
On drum I saw 1/4 of califor. For USA? 4x area for wind!
in any case building this would be daunting compared to
Building shell type midget cars and conservation( ulan b.. Previous post)
Also acres taken away for biofuel , food.
Flushing precious resources only makes sense for short lived thingees)


Many empires existed for thousands of years using only renewable resources (Civilizations Like Our Own Without Oil).

Our finite fossel fuel civilization is of recent vintage and will not last as long as some of those other cultures did (The Peak of Sanity).

"2) Climate disturbances aren't that severe. (By changing the terminology from global warming
to climate change
has to be a joke to make the average joe smirk that's beyond the experts.
Rising temperatures & CO2 are fact so the renaming instills the experts own doubts.
climate disturbance is a better term than change)
Katrina,Sandy,etc.., raise awareness but nowhere near to the point of the pain of change."


The hidden power behind the Republican party's framing...from "Climate Change" to "Death Tax"...

Please delete. This post has errors. I will repost a corrected version later.

The OECD and Non-OECD charts at least show peaks at the 2020 bar, although their numbers are certainly debatable.

The estimated dramatic rise in OPEC production is quite remarkable...extraordinary predictions demand solid proof.

I wonder if the 'bumpy plateau' of all liquids will extend out until the mid-2020s or so.

At one time there were quite a lot of predictions of the 'oil production cliff' occurring around 2010...that roll-off in oil/liquids production may happen a decade or two later...

...but cornocopians will blow this one last gift of time crowing that oil shall last even longer, rather than planning for the inevitable production fall-off and 'what comes next'.

Corrected version of the post I posted earlier.
Changing crude oil equation

The graph below is liquids and not C+C. And the lions share of any increase in world production in the future is supposed to come from NGLs and not crude. However even the chart published below in the "Hindu Business Line", I believe is highly inaccurate. Notice that OECD production is supposed to go from 18.1 mb/d in 2011 to 22.1 mb/d in 2020. Their data comes from the IEA World Energy Outlook 2012.


The below chart is from the seven largest OECD producers, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States. Only very small producers like Germany are not included. But in 2011 their total C+C production was 14.568 mb/d. And the average was even less for the first six months of 2012. There is just no way that these nations will increase production by 3.2 mb/d by 2020 even counting increased production by Canada and the USA. The decline in the other five OECD nations are more than the increase in these two.

OECD nations Australia, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States in kb/d of Crude + Condensate. The data is from the EIA and the 2012 data is only for the first six months of the year.

OECD Production

Of course I think the rest of the data in the first chart above is a little absurd also, especially the expectations of OPEC production.

Ron P.

Your graph shows an OECD production decline of more than 3 million barrels/day since its peak 15 years ago. It reinforces the point that big gains in tight oil and tar sand production have, to date, not kept up with declining conventional oil fields.

Yeah, I think somebody is denying reality. If OECD and the US are not near peak, why does it look so much like they're past it? Really, this is just a temporary downturn like the FSU had, for EVERYONE, and we will all reach new highs?

This is getting to be like a bad joke. The voices saying that peak oil isn't an issue, from agencies like the IEA and the media, not to mention those misrepresenting peak oil... All the while the evidence of there being a problem is staring us in the face every day. At what point is it beyond denial?

Of course I think the rest of the data in the first chart above is a little absurd also, especially the expectations of OPEC production.

I have to wonder if members of the IEA are also automatically barred from this competition...


World's Biggest Liar 2012 Contestants Return To Bridge Inn Pub

...Politicians and lawyers are barred from entry, as they are considered to have an unfair advantage.

Professions with 'most psychopaths' revealed

The top 10 most psychopathic professions:

1. CEO
2. Lawyer
3. Media (TV/radio)

... The leadership, their guardians/enforcers, their mouthpieces.

Thanks - interesting.

Here's the author's (of the reviewed book: The Wisdom of Psychopaths) direct link:

Glad to see that our legislators are nowhere on this list. There just writing laws to protect us from those evil CEOs. /sarc

I remember after a particularly bad week telling my supervisor that in some ways, I felt much more psychotic than my clients. For example, my dreams are far more bizarre and disturbing than my clients' dreams, and yet I simply wake up, have a cup of coffee, and have a laugh about it with my colleagues at work while my clients are immobilized with panic from their nightmares.

She just laughed, and said that it's really about functioning, and noted that many very successful lawyers and surgeons are mad as hatters.

I do think high-paying, culturally celebrated occupations tend to attract psychopaths, but this is not always the case, and while this is usually a problem, there are conspicuous exceptions. I noticed "surgeon" was high on the list, and I remember a friend telling me about needing brain surgery, and being terrified because the surgeon was rude to the point of cruelty to his patients. 25 years later, she is fine, and has no loss of function, like the vast majority of his patients.

I kind of prefer some sort of model (discussed in other threads here) where leadership positions confer no special social or economic status. Where, essentially, being a plumber is as glamorous an occupation as being a senator.

That's probably because I have two toilets which break every 60 days and defy all attempts to fix them. I am actually hiring a handyman to show me how to repair them, because I am convinced the plumber has no incentive to actually fix them permanently. He has more incentive to make sure that we make another call in two or three months.

But can your senator clear your drain? Then you get to tell.


Misfortune strikes again for Shell Oil rig returning from Arctic

A drill rig involved in Shell Oil's inaugural season of Arctic oil exploration briefly caught fire Friday morning in Dutch Harbor, an international port in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, according to the Unalaska Fire Department.

Firefighters responded to calls of a fire at the U.S. Coast Guard docks at 10:22 a.m. Friday, where a plume of black smoke was seen coming off of a vessel, according to Unalaska Fire Chief Abner Hoage. As firefighters approached the docks they received reports that there had also been an explosion aboard the Noble Discoverer, Hoage said.

Corps orders water release

ST. LOUIS -- A top Corps of Engineers official has ordered the release of water from an upper Mississippi River reservoir in an effort to avoid closure of the river at St. Louis.

Corps Major General John Peabody says the release from a reservoir in Minnesota will eventually add 3-6 inches of depth at St. Louis. However, that will fall well short of offsetting the projected drop of up to 3 feet when the corps reduces the flow of the Missouri River starting next week.

The drought has left both the Missouri and Mississippi dangerously low. Barge traffic at St. Louis could come to a halt starting next month. Businesses that work and ship on the Mississippi are seeking a presidential declaration to stop the corps from cutting the Missouri River flow.

Tornado strikes southern Portugal

Violent winds hit south Portugal's Algarve region on Friday, overturning cars and vans, some with people inside, blowing rooftops off houses and smashing windows. ... Television footage showed a funnel-shaped rotating column of air approaching the shore from the Atlantic near the town of Lagos.

Tornadoes are not common in Europe, but do occur occasionally in the northwest and south of the continent.

Torrential rains flood Spanish tourist city

Television footage showed torrents of water plunging rapidly downhill through streets and the city's main shopping quarter chest-deep in muddy water with hours more heavy rain still expected to fall.

The rain caused large traffic jams as tunnels and boulevards flooded. Local media reports said the coast had also been hit by a mini-tornado.

Extreme weather ends Europe’s cheap-wine era

Drought, frost, floods and heavy rain this year have hammered grape harvests in Europe’s biggest wine-producing countries, prompting a spike in grape prices and marking an end to almost a decade of extremely cheap wine from the Continent.

World cereal production in 2012 down 2.7 percent from the 2011 record

This season’s world cereal supply and demand balance is proving much tighter than in 2011/12 with global production falling short of the projected demand and cereal stocks declining sharply. However, the tightening is not uniform across all cereals. While this season’s maize and wheat supplies are compromised by disappointing harvests, supplies of rice are ample, which is prompting a further build-up of inventories.

... Severe droughts this year in the United States and across a large part of Europe and into central Asia have been the main cause of the reduced wheat and coarse grains crops.

Drought persists in High Plains despite recent rain

... The persistent drought has hindered growth of the new winter wheat crop in many U.S. Plains states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that wheat in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana has shown very poor emergence and is well behind the average pace. Texas and Oklahoma, also key wheat growing states, continued to struggle with drought.

Overall, the new winter wheat crop is rated 36 percent good to excellent, below last year's rating at this time of 50 percent. Kansas wheat is rated 21 percent poor to very poor. Wheat in Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, and Oklahoma is struggling with more than 30 percent of it in each of those states rated poor to very poor, according to USDA.

Pork at the grocery store I was at yesterday was on sale for a third of its regular price. The 2012 livestock cull in action. You have to sell off some of the herd if you can`t afford to feed it.

Prepare for high egg, pork, chicken and beef prices next year. That said it would not hurt us in the West if we ate less meat.

"Prepare for high egg, pork, chicken and beef prices next year."

Next year? The turkey was 69 cents/lb this year, and 49 cents/lb last year. Milk is up 50 cents a gallon in the last month too.

Bill Moyers ... Naomi Klein on Capitalism and Climate Change

NAOMI KLEIN: ... And on top of that, you have, we've had this concerted campaign by the fossil fuel lobby to both buy off the environmental movement, to defame the environmental movement, to infiltrate the environmental movement, and to spread lies in the culture. And that's what the climate denial movement has been doing so effectively.

BILL MOYERS: I read a piece just this week by the environmental writer Glenn Scherer. He took a look and finds that over the last two years, the lion's share of the damage from extreme weather, floods, tornadoes, droughts, thunder storms, wind storms, heat waves, wildfires, has occurred in Republican-leaning red states. But those states have sent a whole new crop of climate change deniers to Congress.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, someone's going to have to explain Oklahoma to me, you know?

Glenn Scherer

Spring 2012 saw over 26,000 heat records shattered. By summer, two-thirds of the country was gripped by epic drought. Then came Hurricane Sandy. All this followed on the heels of an apocalyptic 2011, with Hurricane Irene, the record Texas drought, city-killing waves of tornadoes, and Biblical floods on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

If not today, then tomorrow, political candidates bankrolled and influenced by the fossil fuel industry will likely wake up to find themselves blamed by global warming embattled constituents who have seen towns, businesses and homes, farms and ranches wrecked by hundred-year floods, droughts and heat waves occurring every 3 to 10 years.

When this happens, all the politicians will find themselves under the same ire. They won't care so much how they got into a fix, but that nobody got them out.

I think people believe the multi-national oil companies to be more powerful and influential than they are. For every ex-pat earning $200K in Saudi, there are hundreds of folks earning $60 or $80K working domestic fields for smaller companies. Find them a better job in alts and you might have an interested audience....until then, the fossil votes will follow the jobs.

You might be right, the 200 some millions spent by in the 2012 election by PACs with large fossil fuel interests (which includes other corps as well), is now widely regarded as wasted money.

I'm with Klein. I can't figure out Oklahoma either.
If some right-wing terrorist murdered 168 men, women and children in my state there'd be hell to pay in the next election.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."

-- from the movie "Blazing Saddles"

Arundo donax to be used for biofuel?


Best thing since Kudzu?

If only we could turn Kudzu, salt cedar, fire ants, and other invasive species profitably into biofuel!

I love nature, but do not harbor love of the fire ant!

I love nature, but do not harbor love of the fire ant!

Well then, you're probably really gonna love these guys!


Like the one commenter on the video said: "Fly, my pretties!"

Hopefully introduction of fire ant predators as described in the video will bring the fire any population in check.

There is the specter of unintended consequences...but hopefully our best minds are on it...

I love nature, but do not harbor love of the fire ant!

Fire ant mounds seem to me to be looking for a solution where one places a heavy twine one can vibrate that leads to an electric grid where the shocked bodies can fall into a collection container.

One then takes the dead bodies and adds them to the plants you are growing for food where the chitin of the insect skeleton helps the plants repel insect attack.

Reading James Hamilton's post on IEA WEO 2012 I noted this comment by energyecon...

Consider the WEO forecast global production growth rate and the implicit global GDP growth rate associated with that

2011: 87.4
2035: 99.7

yields a production CAGR of ~0.6% and ballpark global GDP growth of ~1.2% annually (ignoring compositional changes of that production profile).

Seems like a bigger story in some ways.

That is a lower growth rate than Kumhof at the IMF used in the model that arrived at a (near) doubling of the price of oil by 2020.

Michael Kumhof, with the IMF, and Mark Lewis, head of global commodities research at Deutsche Bank, will be participating in what I think will be an excellent session on Global Production & Net Export Scenarios at the 2012 ASPO-USA conference in Austin, Texas on 11/30 and 12/1.


The Era Of Cheap Food Is Over

There are only a few people who get it: the era of cheap food is over.

Global net population growth creates over 200,000 new mouths to feed ever single day. Yet supply of available farmland is diminishing each year due to development, loss of topsoil, peak production yields, and reduction in freshwater supply.

Then there’s bonehead government policy decisions to contend with… like converting valuable grains into inefficient biofuel for automobiles. Paying farmers to NOT plant. Banning exports. Etc.

Sources of potassium and phosphorous fertilizer may also limit global population.

Re: Data shows East Coast gas shortages were inevitable

It takes a lot of inventory to fill a few million cars before the storm hits. (I filled both of mine.)

It takes a lot of gas to run emergency generators 24 x 7. (I don't have one, but they were continuous in the neighborhood.)

It takes a lot of gas for chainsaws, pumps, yard equipment, etc. being used for cleanup. (Why people were concerned about blowing leaves off their patios is beyond me.)

Besides attempting to commute by car instead of mass transit, there seemed to be a lot of traffic involved with visiting friends and relatives to see how they were, with touring areas that sustained the most damage, and hauling used clothing to distribution centers which soon were turning it away.

If people would just be calm for a week, it would have been much better.

It takes a lot of gas to run emergency generators 24 x 7. (I don't have one, but they were continuous in the neighborhood.

Also beyond me why they would need to run their genny 24/7? I have a little one that I used the last time we had a major power outage. But I only ran it an hour or so at a time, a couple of times a day, just enough to keep the freezer and frig cold. A gallon of gas goes a long way then. If it were winter I would have to run it longer to keep the boiler and pump going for our hot water baseboard heat, but even then just enough to keep the house above freezing.

During a major disaster when it might be a long time before resupply was available, it would seem logical to stretch ones supply of fuel as long as possible. As you said, "If people would just be calm for a week, it would have been much better."

That is the advantage that he act of using a Prius hybrid vehicle as an emergency power source for the home begins to address: The hydrocarbon-fueled engine automatically starts when it is needed to charge a storage-bank of batteries from which the home draws its power. The small loads for a bit of lighting, cell-phone charging, entertainment, and "news" are served continuously as are the big intermittent demands like starting the refrigerator and heater blower motors... all with the engine running only once-in-a-while.

"Outback" and others offer only pieces. A good product would be a packaged consumer-grade system.

Portable Hybrid Power Generator Systems
Image: http://www.militarysystems-tech.com/files/militarysystems/Portable%20Hyb...


DC HPU (Hybrid Power Unit) an Off Grid Energy Power System (Direct Current for telecommunications equipment)

Second Life for Old Electric-Car Batteries: Guardians of the Electric Grid

Imagine a future in which old electric-car batteries are deployed in neighborhoods as energy-storage systems that guard against power outages, while paving the way for wind and solar power—and more electric cars. The idea has moved one step closer with the demonstration of a boxy unit of used Chevy Volt batteries capable of providing enough electricity to power three to five average American homes for up to two hours.

Developed by General Motors and ABB, one of the world's largest electric-technology companies, the device features five lithium-ion battery packs from plug-in hybrid Volts, strung together in a new arrangement and cooled by air instead of the liquid used in their former lives on the road. The batteries are degraded below acceptable performance levels for cars, but the companies say the batteries have enough life to serve the grid for at least ten years in this device, a community energy storage unit.

For the utility, CES:

•Levels load at the station and circuit,
•Corrects power factor,
•Improves operations including reduction of cold load pickup,
•Lowers resistive loss in wires and
•Integrates into circuit voltage control.

I ran across this Youtube video the other day:

Although it puts out only 1800W, its battery-Inverter arrangement allows the gen-set to run in silent-mode (engine shut down). I have about 600Ah extra capacity I can add, so at 900W load, I can run on batteries for about 6 hours (conservatively), and about 10 hrs at 500W load, before the engine need to be restarted to charge the batteries.

The engine, alternator, inverter, and generator frame were all found new on eBay. The Alternator, in case you didn't hear in the video (lots of noise) is a 140A OEM unit, and the engine is a Briggs & Stratton 6.0hp vertical-shaft, electric start. Xantrex makes the inverter (a Pro-Sine 1800 with 12V input, hard-wired 120VAC output), and the frame was from a Coleman 6500 generator. Wheels are pneumatic, and the steering mechanism turns via custom-made brass fitting.


If you're handy, all the pieces are available to build one.

Perhaps a consumer version would be sold with recommendations as to what batteries to mount.

Nice setup, now if it had automatic engine starting/shutdown and speed control. That's asking a lot of a do it yourselfer.

Don't know where he lives, here in Florida I would have paid more attention to rainproofing, esp. the inverter.

He has an electric start on that one so you just need a way of tripping it. Could probably put together a little breadboard with a TL431 to open a FET to activate the starter solenoid when the voltage drops to X.XX. Turning it off might be a little trickier, but another TL431 to disconnect the ignition would probably work. Hopefully there's a governor on the throttle already to control RPM or variable load would do bad stuff to the engine - set it at whatever RPM you want it to stay at and it should auto-adjust.

"Xantrex" offers auto start/stop:
"Xantrex's Automatic Generator Start is a stand-alone unit that provides automatic On/Off operation for your generator... Starts and stops your auxiliary generator automatically"
"After running for two hours, the system will automatically stop the generator." ...Bleh...

"Designed for use with System Control Panel (SCP), the NEW Xanbus Automatic Generator Start... Automatically start and stop a generator as needed."

"Outback" can be configured:

New Jersey railway put trains in Sandy flood zone despite warnings

New Jersey Transit's struggle to recover from Superstorm Sandy is being compounded by a pre-storm decision to park much of its equipment in two rail yards that forecasters predicted would flood, a move that resulted in damage to one-third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars.


Among the damaged equipment: nine dual-powered locomotive engines and 84 multi-level rail cars purchased over the past six years at a cost of about $385 million.

I would really want to know the exact sequence of events and the thinking process that led these people to simply deny reality.

A Reuters review of information disseminated before the storm found detailed maps issued by the National Hurricane Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, all warning that both the rail hub in Hoboken and the Meadows complex in Kearny would flood. Asked if NJ Transit executives saw those maps and factored the predictions into their decision-making, Weinstein said the agency considered the storm surge predictions but also relied on history and experience.


"Our experience and all of the information we had led us to conclude that our equipment was in the safest possible place," Weinstein said. "There was no reason for us to think that the kind of flooding that we actually experienced would happen there."

What the heck? REALLY? NO REASON?!! Absolutely fascinating. That they could say that with a straight face, points to a profoundly flawed risk assessment process.

...But this time, the weather forecasters proved right, and history proved wrong. Maps of the forecasters' predictions, compared with those of the actual storm surge, show the computer models were remarkably accurate. Tides added another 4.5 feet of water to the storm surge in the area, said Philip Orton, research scientist in physical oceanography and specialist in storm surges at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Given the value of the equipment stored at the Meadows yard during the storm, it is hard to imagine why NJ Transit executives gambled that history would repeat itself, said Alain Kornhauser, director of the Transportation Research Center at Princeton University.

I think that those in positions of making decisions need to get a better understanding as to why it was that NJ Transit executives ended up discounting the possibility of a very real and substantial risk

Perhaps the very same criticism that Richard Feynman levied against NASA management, during his review of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster can be applied here. The gist of which was, that management tends to engage in unrealistic wishful thinking and discounts real risk!

I think there might even be a lesson or two in there for pseudo skeptics and climate change denialists as well...

Nate Silver (the 538 blog guy who accurately predicted the election outcome) talks about uncertainty versus risk in his book "The signal and the noise."

I just started his book today, just finished the 'Moneyball' section.

Maybe you and some of the other top dogs in the independent oil production/consumption forecasting interest sphere could invite Nate in to help with an independent look from his angle...since he probably doesn't have a dog in this fight, and since the oil forecasting arena is probably not yet in his interest domain, and since he seems to take pains to be objective (A fox, not a hedgehog), maybe he could offer some valuable insights, if he could parlay a new book from the collaboration.

Maybe you and he can be co-authors, and you can make a few bucks off the deal while partnering with someone whose name will sell books and get the PO story out more into the mainstream (interviews on the TV machine, etc).

The problem may be that he would say that there is a paucity of open data, at least on OOIP/resources/reserves...too much data behind the curtain in country-owned oil enterprises, oil company proprietary data, etc.

NJ Transit management is noted for a lack of imagination and "problem solving" ability.

Most transit management is sadly lacking today, unlike a "mixed bag" of good & bad in the past (from my conversations with Ed Tennyson, now 90 years old).


If this is a company on the stock exchange a shareholders meeting to vote in new leadership should take place based on destruction of value.


Now that is amazing! They can probably all be cleaned and restored...but at considerable expense. Can't see it being close to a write-off at least. I wonder how well insured?

The feds pay 80% of the cost to repair public infrastructure damaged in a natural disaster.


Don't know if this has been mentioned, but solar is booming in Hawaii. Maybe too much:


Pumped hydro can even out the power flow. During times of high output you pump water uphill and during times of high demand you generate power releasing water downhill. It has been done for a long time.

However, the Second Law beats one up quite a bit on that strategy.

Pumped storage has 70% to 81% cycle efficiency (out/in).

Pumped storage can also provide spinning reserve and extremely fast (60 - 180 seconds) response from a cold start, faster when operating and asked to increase or decrease production.



Thank you for your rational and correct reply. Pumped hydro has been done for a LONG time. There is a great example from the 1920s in California at Castaic Lake. It provides power and water for L.A.

Maybe it is time for people to stop shooting from the lip on here and listen to some alternatives. The charter of this site is "discussions about energy and our future". It is NOT about reading the tea leaves in EIA reports and betting on when we will run out of oil.

Just about all the long time regulars know of my support for pumped storage (amongst other viable technologies - I am best known for electrified rail).

Pumped storage is very well known here.


Alan- I think you know my view of most dams----
they should be removed.
But we will stay inside the box.

Pumped hydro can be diverted into lakes behind dams, into natural ponds and lakes, or into storage tanks for that matter. I agree that some dams may be a problem, but am concerned with a suggestion that "most dams" should be removed. I suppose you include beaver dams in your admonition? It is easy to get carried away when you have what I call the "nature epiphany." It is easy to see a man-made dam as an 'evil' (it changes the 'natural' way of things or some such). On balance, I think that 'most' dams probably have done a pretty good job at controlling floods, evening out water distribution during dry years, and allowing for barge transportation (in fact, as far as I can tell, 'most' dams are done for that reason).

I would say it is more rational to suggest that 'some' dams should be removed. On the other hand, I submit that some should be adjusted, some reinforced and others should be built for pumped hydro storage.

After all, nature does pumped storage onto higher elevations all the time.


Alan, for pumped storage to work well you need two reservoirs at different heights. Both must be able to contain the total volume that needs to be transferred. Although Hawaii has mountains that could be used I believe most are very steep, and have little reservoir capacity in the valleys. The ocean could be used for the lower reservoir, but then you need to have the high mountain reservoir filled with salt water. This may play havoc with the hydrologic system of the islands.

Several sites have been identified for pumped storage in Hawaii. I think all involve using fresh water and volcanic cones for the upper reservoir.


It's not the fault of solar power that the grid is outdated, or that the utilities don't want to upgrade it and allow competition in. HECO also wants the state to pay for the undersea cable mentioned in the article as well. Frankly, I think if the state is going to buy it the state should run it.

Still, it is certainly a big problem. If the grid is going to continue to exist as the normal way to distribute power, at some point it must be radically redesigned (and include some storage) to deal with this kind of intermittent power. In any case, LOL at solar overwhelming the grid - of course, renewables just aren't viable, no, never, not even in the tropics... sure... /sarc

Hey, maybe if Hawaii builds enough solar, wind and geothermal we can put in an aluminum smelter ala Iceland!

I don't think anyone is claiming solar is not viable in the tropics. Just that it's not (yet) competitive with fossil fuels. Note what's driving the boom in Hawaii:

friendly tax credits, the highest average electricity rates in the nation and the most aggressive renewable energy program adopted by any state

Hawaii gets most of its electricity from oil, like many islands. Transportation issues mean coal and natural gas aren't feasible.

A big part of the "problem" is that those solar tax credits are draining the state budget. That's one reason they want to put on the brakes.

FWIW, this happened back around 1980 as well. Tax credits meant an explosion of solar energy, wind farms, etc., then oil prices went down and the tax credits disappeared. Without the tax credits, few people were interested in solar any more.

Seems like Hawaii is the perfect lab test for solar. Between their abundant sunshine and high energy costs solar shoukd work there before most places on the mainland. It also appears to be a good model of what can/can't subsidize by the govt/tax payers. If they can't make it work there now it doesn't bode well for the rest of us.

Right. What I was thinking, lotsa sun and low cost PV and, to boot, lotsa hills and lotsa water to pump storage. Wot are they waiting for, the angel gabriel?

Nah, they are waiting for things to "make sense economically"- while at the same time ignoring the biggest cost by far- the ruination of the only planet we are gonna be getting in this cycle of the universe.

Grief! Back to the bike transmission.

Nah, they are waiting for things to "make sense economically"

Nahhh, Its worse than that. It already makes sense economically for most homes and small businesses, we are waiting for it to make economic sense (i.e. maximize their own rent seeking activity) for the big corps, such as HECO.

No. Wimbi is right. They are waiting for it to make sense economically. You can argue that this is the wrong way to look at it, considering externalities. But the idea that big corporations are somehow stopping a solar revolution that is otherwise ready to roll is propaganda.

The US, and many other parts of the world, have been very generous to solar, providing giant subsidies for power sales prices, capital costs, and dispatch arrangements. This has also included huge investments in the grid to accommodate the lower quality power.

If any state in the US should subsidize solar, it has to be Hawaii, based on both availability of solar resources and much higher base rates. But solar is not close to competitive with the grid, even in there.

Several tropical countries including Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand, which have excellent solar resources and huge demand for power have had to provide very generous feed in tariffs to get solar on line.


I do hope solar prices continue to drop and the technology becomes a viable alternative without subsidies. But it is obvious that for now, this is not the case. And as we like to say here there is no free lunch. The subsidies to solar are very large. In the linked Philippines case, increasing generation for solar to 10% of total production would increase electricity bills (or government budgets) by close to 10% of the cost of suppling the entire national power demand.

Rockman: Most islands on the mid latitudes do not NEED any cooling or heating to speak of. They are not really very good tests for solar.

If costs get sufficiently high, open up the windows and allow the steady breezes to moderate your temperature. When energy costs get high enough, heating and cooling will not be that big a deal there.

Now, Texas and Florida are not so lucky. Even where there is a sea breeze along the coast, in the Summer it gets pretty danged hot and uncomfortable. When things get dicey, my expectation is an exodus to better climes. That, or grin and bear it.

Remember Philip Sheridan's comment about Texas.


I understand that part, but notice the other thing in the article - permit and study costs. In order to hook it to the grid, you have to pay for them to figure out how/if they can take the electricity. And in what other case are the customers expected to install their own power plant? Why doesn't HECO use its profits to put up solar?

It's really a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing as much as anything else. The energy policy here seems to be very much "throw things and maybe something will stick". Every type of power is advanced by a different company - or rather, different companies. HECO owns the oil plants and controls the grid. Ideally, you would have one agency operated as a public concern overseeing this, which would have a long term plan to transition the grid to renewables and put in whatever storage is required. But the system that we have is very complicated, with the state, HECO, other utility companies operating plants, and solar companies selling to individuals who hook up to the HECO grid all in the mix. It's hard to see how this haphazard approach will pan out.

I agree that the tax credits should be phased out - but I also think the system is ultimately a rather foolish mish-mash of for-profit and public concerns overseen by a state government that ends up being the man in the middle (and who is asked for favors on all sides). Power generation tends to form a natural monopoly, and as a fundamental part of the infrastructure it also demands a great deal of state involvement. I am not sure the current approach is best.

Hopefully it will self-organize to some extent, but what I see with power is a lot like what I see with transport here - there is a vauge "desirable goal" but progress tends to be in fits and starts and there are too many interests on all sides fighting over it. Progress has to be fought for tooth and nail - every attempt to improve things runs against entrenched interests. Perhaps its just the nature of democracy? But it's almost enough to make you wish for a monarchy!

A big part of the "problem" is that those solar tax credits are draining the state budget. That's one reason they want to put on the brakes.

I'm a PV advocate but if it is affecting the state budget then they should drop the program. The high electricity rates and the Federal tax-credit are more than enough incentive.

You want incentive programs that put solar on a level playing field . . . you don't want people installing solar just because of tax-credits.

I don't think anyone is claiming solar is not viable in the tropics. Just that it's not (yet) competitive with fossil fuels.

Oahu residents are currently paying 32 cents/kWh (average), Big Island is 42 cents!

(some were paying $0.50/kWh at peak oil prices!) (pdf)

That's high. With panels at a buck a watt, PV is now competitive,
often even without subsidies (but people like "free" money).

If one would calc the value of the power via PVWatts (or other calculators),
a PV system is pretty sensible.

Using PVWatts V2, a 4kWp (DC) system on the big island makes $2,368.58 of electricity a year (at the default 0.344/kWh).
At $4/Wp construction estimate, $16,000 / $2,368.58 is 6.75 years to payoff.
If one is getting any subsidy, it's just that much faster.
Over a 20-30 year system life, that seems pretty competitive to me.

A factor to look at is people's awareness and motivation for action.
How many people do you know who are aware of Peak Oil and motivated to act and have acted in some way? How many people are familiar with PVWatts (the calculator), PHEVs, the oil window, shale oil vs. oil shale and the like? If people aren't aware and comfortable with a direction of change, they tend to keep on doing what they're doing.

Same same for Hawaii and electricity - for a long time it was easy to complain about high rates, but hey, you're living in paradise, everything costs more - whatever.
But when people (1) got hit with sudden sky-high rates in 2008, and (2) now see neighbor after neighbor after business after school putting up PV -
(a) "me too" out of shear ego, and/or
(b) what the heck is that? - oh, how does it work/what does it cost? - oh, hey - that makes sense - "me too".

PV as a disruptive technology, threatening the traditional electric distribution business model, see:


The thesis of the presentation is panel price is getting so low at a time when retail electric utility rate are getting high (particularly in California, 0.32/kwh for the top tier rates), that anybody with a suitable rooftop will be doing PV.

The result is a death spiral for the current business model for electric utilities. High margin residential customers go away with PV and net metering; all that is left are the poor which can't afford panels, apartment and condo dwellers, poor exposures, etc. Because everything remains grid-tied, infrastructure costs remain while margin dollars from energy sales drop.

Slides 17-18 compare what happened to the telcom wireline business as cellular disrupted communications. His thesis is PV will do much the same to electric distribution utilities.

In Germany he said permitting an installation takes 3 days -- there is a national standard. Installation can take place in as little time as a week after a customer signs up. The labor component for installation is HALF of what it is in the US, even with higher labor rates in Germany.

What more do we need to better understand the US is a third-world country?

Just for the record, telecom had issues besides cellular, and some of those were more profound since in general the same companies run the cell networks.

The advent of VoIP decimated the long distance revenue stream, especially the most lucrative overseas trade. Then conferencing went from expensive 3 or 6 way phone company options to VoIP-based solutions. Business revenue moved to upstarted competitive companies and cable companies with converged voice + data solutions.

The move to cell "solved" a major issue from the previous decade -- too many teen lines and modem/fax lines. Then it just kept going, eating into primary lines. But DSL has helped limit the wireline slide, and the telco fiber (and copper, but decreasingly) network provide back-haul for the cell towers as well.

The late 90's were a glorious time of technology in telecom. An industry exec, from Lucent, very sagely said to a VoIP proponent (paraphrased from memory), "Your path will turn a $10B market with profitable suppliers into a $500M market where nobody will make a profit." Lucent and other major suppliers did indeed go bankrupt, and the industry did contract. Cell generations have eaten still more capital, but the excessively high data contract prices will throw off free cash and slow the transition away from wireline.

Personally, I think the market is ripe for an upstart like Google to create a new nationwide data network and cloud-based apps that relegates PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones to being portals to hosted apps. Then nickel-and-dime subscribers for content and applets.

Personally, I think the market is ripe for an upstart like Google to create a new nationwide data network and cloud-based apps that relegates PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones to being portals to hosted apps.

Not really because installation costs are very high. Verizon tried FTTH (Fiber To The Home) and then stopped because the cost of nationwide installation is extremely high. Perhaps Google can target a few high population density areas.

It actually may get ugly even for those who have already installed it. There are delays in closing permits, and any system which has not closed permits by Dec 31 will be considered installed in 2013. This could happen to my family, causing a loss of about 10k in promised rebates on a large system which is already installed and producing power in 2012. If so, it will be a large unplanned hit to our retirement savings.

Ouch. I hope you have some kind of recourse. Any class action lawyers reading this?

Oh, don't worry about me. I pretty much always find a way to get things done. But a number of people will wind up entirely hosed. I know of some who will.

Since posting the morning, I've been busy playing with permit stuff. Should work out. And I have already discussed a class action suit with the necessary parties a couple weeks ago, should it go that way. No style points for that, though; the class-action possibility is what you use to get them to do the right thing for those who invested in good faith based on state representations.

You can believe that new PV permits are hitting the building department like a swarm of locusts, and the overshoot population of PV firms - soon to be out of business here - will be trying to lock up every available 2012 inspection date in a feeding frenzy, and looking for immediate inventory of parts. I'll be adding 14 more panels, but I ordered all parts from the mainland over a month ago.

I feel a little silly since this state move is exactly what I predicted would happen early in 2012, for exactly the reasons I predicted then, and right when I said it'd happen... except (d'oh!) I blithely assumed that eligibility would be determined by when your building permit was issued, not when it was closed out. That's the problem with having foresight... you can be entirely right in all ways but one & lose out.

Still... solar is cool even without subsidies.

It seems the issue is with grid-tie systems, where energy produced in excess of residential load goes back into the utility.

Perhaps we'll all see future systems not pass back excess power to the grid, but instead to storage, or self-throttling.

The most non-BAU evolution would be that PV powered places become off the grid completely.

I see either do it yourself storage or throwing away excess power as greatly raising the cost. There are clearly plenty of customers who can't possibly generate enough PV to cover their daytime needs. Short term these should be the best early prospects for installing PV, as all they are doing grid-wise is reducing their draw. Longer term, those with excess daytime power can sell their excess (with the grid operator getting a cut) to these energy intensive premises. I really think storage will be far economical in utility scale systems.

Italy schools 'occupied'

With youth unemployment more than three times the national average and Prime Minister Mario Monti's austerity policies biting into education spending, high school and university students have moved to the front of anti-government protests.

In a speech this week at Milan's Bocconi University, where he was an economics professor before becoming prime minister, Monti expressed sympathy, saying young people were paying for "serious errors accumulated over the past decades".

[wow, that's admitting something!]

Italy's young people are among the hardest hit by an economy that has been dipping in and out of recession since 2008. The youth unemployment rate is 35 percent.


Concern increased last week when the head of the association representing local governments said planned cuts to regional spending would force schools to extend Christmas holidays.

"We do not have the money to pay to heat the classrooms," Antonio Saitta told a conference.

This is what peak oil looks like. And not just in Greece.

"There are toilets that haven't worked for months. When it rains, in some classrooms the water comes in," Giordano said. "We want to show the government that this is unacceptable."

Wow. This is in Italy ?? I thought these things only existed here.

"We do not have the money to pay to heat the classrooms,"

Perhaps the lesson here is to rethink what education is. From an economic POV I can't imagine its cheaper to get and ship kids to "the school" VS having electronics and software "do the teaching".

From an economic POV I can't imagine its cheaper to get and ship kids to "the school" VS having electronics and software "do the teaching".

First, the link you provided doesn't support your hypothesis (unless there's an article about it buried in an issue from the past, in which case you should give a url or title.)

More to the point, the question of the cost of schooling by traditional methods vs. some unspecified computer/telesystem raises broad questions about the nature of what schooling is and it's place in our society. There are lots of companies working on this problem (and just to be sure you know where I stand, I'm of the opinion the majority are idiots, philistines, or misinformed.)

How much would your teaching system cost? Is there a system that exists that will replace the current paradigm? How was it tested and for how long? Would you trust the use of such a system on your child before extensive testing and comparison with conventional teaching methods? What about the informal interactions that happen in the classroom? I am a graduate student at the moment, and find that there are a wide range of informal types of communication that occur with other students and teachers that enrich and inform the school experience that can't be adequately transferred to the computer or the phone.

What about the displaced teachers and facilities? What if acceptable broadband were not available for some students? What if the wide usage of such a system overloaded the net?

How quickly can you implement such a system and train teachers to transfer their curricula? What about payments for curriculum development, something usually worked into teaching salaries? (I used to teach part time at a Community College, and based my curriculum development time on being able to teach the same course 4 times, front-loading the development time on the first round.)

It would also be cheaper to have unqualifed minders sit at the front of picnic tables in the local park and watch students read and make notes. Not necessarily effective.


One problem is, the electronic alternatives to course material are just so attractive. I've had the experience of teaching engineering drawing to a class with laptops open on their desk. Half of the students are playing computer games. The games have got bright colours, movement, heroic characters, and sound effects. Much more interesting than some grey-haired old man discussing the difference between first and third angle projection. If they are studying on their own they need to be very self-disciplined to resist the lure of Angry Birds. And self-discipline is not a characteristic you associate with youth.

Another benefit of classroom instruction is the students get the chance to measure themselves against their fellows. They can see if everyone is struggling with the work, or it's just them. And for the person presenting the courses, it's a chance to assess if the material is presented in a way the students understand.

I'm reminded of Malcolm Gladwell. He says you need ten thousand hours of deliberate practice to develop expertise in a cognitively complex subject. That means, as he puts it, studying piano with an old man from Vienna looking over your shoulder and rapping you on the knuckles when you make a mistake and making you do it over. Instruction, feedback, and repetition.

I don't see how an iPad for every student will provide that.

Yes precisely. Most people, of any age, are pretty terrible at self learning. They need someone looking over their shoulder motivating them, and they need to test themselves against their fellows. Classroom style learning is the best for most people from primary school to university level. But there is no need for extravagant facilities. Schools and colleges can be pretty spartan and still do their job, which is something many people have forgotten. And barebones facilities are cheaper to maintain should things go down the gurgler, as has happened in parts of Europe.

For a long time education was done in village schools or in monasteries run by monks. There were no school education boards or public schooling. I feel industrial society has largely outsourced the job of educating the young to private entities and government. For example the system of the 'master and the apprentice' is more or less dead. The reason being that 'certification' makes it easier for corporations and other employers to pick out applicants.

I think that will have to change going forward, of course we cannot go back in time but if education has to continue in a meaningful way and youth kept busy with useful jobs (of which there are plenty) a compromise between the old and new systems must be reached. I think more and more kids will have to be home schooled, later on they can take 'standardized tests' (the way they do today). This would put less burden on governments strapped for cash and open a lot of part time unstructured work for adults currently out of work.

We could build schools to the Passive House standard and use the money saved because of the very low heating demand on something else... like teachers. We could, seems sensible - just saying!

Passive House schools

Passive House school buildings are particularly interesting. Several school buildings have been realised using this standard and experiences gained from their use are now available: The Passive House Standards allows for energy savings of around 75% in comparison with average new school buildings - and of course there is no need for an additional heating or cooling system. The additional investment costs are within reasonable limits. What is important is the know-how - which can be obtained by every architect thanks to the “Passive House Schools” Protocol Volume, funded by the Hessian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Alert - Above link contains English that has been written by German engineers and scientists.  :   )

You can retrofit old schools, with some effort, to meet the standard too.

There is a school built to the Passive House standard in the U.S. (see also this: PDF)

If I read it correctly then according to an EU directive all new public buildings from 2019 have to comply with passive house standards.

It would be nice if it were prior to 2019 and it doesn't address existing buildings, but it still seems like a significant step in the right direction.

In the Australian outback it used to be common for parants to have HF radio sets for their children to do their school work with the teacher based in the nearest town, I'm not sure how it's done today. Remote teaching is not new.

I tried doing a few courses with the University of South Africa back when it was postage and paper-based. I soon gave up. They were unexciting and unstimulating, and I couldn't motivate myself. But thousands have managed to graduate.

Unisa is the largest open distance learning institution in Africa and the longest standing dedicated distance education university in the world. We enrol nearly one-third of all South African students.

We offer an unparalleled range of study choices, ranging from short courses and certificate programmes to three-and four-year degrees and diplomas, to over 350,000 current students.

firstly, although parts of my state were completely wiped out the fact is most of it wasnt. i have seen with my own eyes the parking lots of the malls in bergen county,nj at capacity as well as the roads leading into them. 2 weeks ago there were lines at the gas stations, on the 16th there were lines on interstate 287 and state 208 for 10 miles or more. i submit that things are BAU. no fecal matter has hit the fan.

i ordered a 3.25 kw generator online from a well know tool distributor and it arrived within 5 days! checking the big retail chains all online orders were to be shipped between 10 to 40 days. there were none in stock within 50 miles of my zip code.

do i want to buy a generator, even a 300 dollar one? no. i have to buy a generator. why? because goobermint and corporations cannot be relied to fulfill their duties (unless that duty is to maximize profits and only maximize profits).

most supermarkets allow a consumer to purchase a certain amount of product over a certain time period and qualify for a "free" turkey. many corporations hand out "free" turkeys at thanksgiving. i got a free turkey and a free lasagna this year. of course the freeness of these items is hidden in higher costs and lower wages as the case may be. now all i need is some pie in the sky.

the solar panel array has generated 5.16 kwh today as of 1 pm so i "saved" myself about a buck from the evil electric company. i fart in their general direction, maybe the methane i released will help warm the planet!

Another voice--Kevin Anderson--has pointed out that six degrees C is likely by the end of the century--4 degrees by 2050.


Well worth a listen, if you're up to it.

Add this to PWC, NASA, IEA and MunchRE...

The Earth Is Warming And Human Activity Is The Primary Cause: The Climate Science Paradigm Grows Stronger

Scientists do not disagree about human-caused global warming. It is the ruling paradigm of climate science, in the same way that plate tectonics is the ruling paradigm of geology. We know that continents move. We know that the earth is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause. These are known facts about which virtually all publishing scientists agree.

If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature.

... By definition, 24 of the 13,950 articles, 0.17 percent or 1 in 581, clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming.

"Don't talk to me about aesthetics or tradition. Talk to me about what sells and what's good right now. And what the American people like is to think the underdog still has a chance."
George Steinbrenner

Given that 99% are underdogs, that's good economics.

Thanks wili ...

Here's Kevin Anderson's Real Clothes for the Emperor, Facing the Challenges of Climate Change presentation of the audio

Powerpoint presentation [PDF, 1.6 MB]

Thanks for this one, Seraph, I sent it to my state representative, who is smart, energetic and wise--and she has a little daughter who is way smarter--. Maybe there is a little hope.

4 degrees by 2050? That's basically curtains for most of the planet's human population. In 38 years... the end.

Yeh, but the focus at the top anyway is that we must achieve a resurgence of economic growth before we should ask people to even think about getting serious about global warming. And by the way, I think and have always thought that the use of the term climate change is a stupid characterization of what is happening. It is about the fact that the planet will become too hot for any semblance of a decent life if things continue as they are. It is about the heat, stupid.

Short term growth versus long term survival. May be a no brainer but apparently most brains think it is worth having the short term growth part.

EVERYTHING -- dealing with climate change, unemployment, government deficits -- seems to be tied to a resurgence of economic growth. As most people on this forum understand, we`ve reached resource limits, especially in regards to oil, and going back to a steady 3-4% growth rate every year is an impossibility. We need to start tackling these problems now.

Yes, as Kevin Anderson suggests up above, we need to power/consume down now because we're already in "too late" territory......Now, good luck convincing fat slobs like this that that's the case.

Yes. Politically any of the things we need for the transition are seen as frivolous luxuries if there is widespread unemployment. So we maybe have reached a tipping point whereby, we can't reach those growth targets because we have hit limits, and because we can't have our pony, we can't spend any resources on the things we will need to thrive in a resource limited world. I think it is a ponies, before seed corn mentality.

Indeed, we've already seen cases where municipalities have reduced transit service in an attempt to deal with a funding shortfall at the same time that more people were trying to use public transit. Most governments are struggling with revenue shortfalls but few governments understand that they must increase spending on some things like public transit that will provide a benefit well into the future and cut funding to things that won't be sustainable such as road construction.

Ponies... Ah yes... It's all coming back now...
Little Suzie Newsykins!

Walmart's Internal Compensation Documents Reveal Systematic Limit On Advancement

... The company website declares that "a job at Walmart opens the door to a better life" and "the chance to grow and build a career." But interviews with 31 hourly workers and one former store manager reveal lives beset by paychecks too small to handle the bills, difficult to manage part-time schedules with hours subject to constant change, and little reason to hope for career advancement. Citing fear of losing their jobs, most spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The testimonials of these workers are confirmed by Walmart’s official compensation policy, an internal company document obtained by The Huffington Post, titled the "Field Non-Exempt Associate Pay Plan Fiscal Year 2013." The plan details a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages

... "In order to deal with competition from Walmart, other retail outlets have been forced into a reduction in wages and benefits across the board," said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley.

My neighbor's kid works at the Big W; an "Electronics Associate". She applied for a store credit card to try and build her credit, and my neighbor wasn't surprised that her card was approved,, until he found out her credit limit exceeded her gross annual pay.

""I owe my soul to the company store"...

Gives new meaning to the term 'wage slave' :-(

conspicuous consumption...that is why folks run their emergency gnerators 24/7. besides, it's what folks (uhmerikans) are used to, power on demand-and everyone else be damned.

i myself have recently purchased an emergency generator and i fully expect to have to use it. gaz-o-lean is expensive and i will have to be one of those who will husband that resource. expect for heat i may only have to run the generator a few hours a day.

my well tank supplied enough pressure for 24 hours even without pumping water. the hot water stayed hot, well, warm for 24 hours. heat is another issue. i bought a few portable propane heaters, the no-vent type.

back in the 1980's when the electric was out for 5 days i used my propane stove oven to heat the house. not 24/7 but a few hours a day to take the chill out. so the new fangled emergency propane heaters will do that chore. of course i can run the generator to power a few oil filled electric radiators at the low setting.

thanksgiving is in a few days and i never heard of anyone dying from cooking the bird with a propane or natural gas stove and all 4 burners on. usually, if it is cold the cooking is welcome warmth and a window is cracked usually near the end of cooking because the house got too warm. but then maybe everyone gets drowsy after eating not from the amino acid tryptophan but from CO poisoning. has anyone every had the CO detector going off from thanksgiving cooking?

kurt vonnegant wrote a sci fi story about how all the paper in the various presidental libraries was burned to run a generator to power a computer to give everyone an extended family. it's a good read rich in satirical irony. prophetic?

Unfortunately there have been many cases of people dying from fumes when using a cooker to heat the house. Maybe there are less in the USA due to their houses poor insulation and sealing.


"...has anyone every had the CO detector going off from thanksgiving cooking?"

I have. It was quite startling. Decided to open the door for a bit and do a purge, then afterward leave the window open a smidge.

"maybe everyone gets drowsy after eating not from the amino acid tryptophan but from CO poisoning?"

The thought crossed my mind that day :) The detector has to reach a certain ppm to trip, but you're still being exposed below that...and over the short course its a cumulative effect.

German surface mines expanding

A year on from the German chancellor's historic decision to renounce nuclear power within 10 years, one of the big winners so far is coal.

One of Germany's biggest power companies is now producing 12% more electricity from coal than in 2011. It comes as old, traditional mines are closing, while surface mines are expanding.

Here is a potential coal surface mine...fortunately it is inside a wilderness study area.


The fluid running down the middle of the gully is from an oil seep.

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area

I and my love might visit this site soon...it is one of a number of out-of-the way badlands areas we want to hike...including the Bisti Wilderness area...BLM land...no ranger stations, no marked trails, no bathrooms, no parking lots, very few people. Interestingly, it is popular with some German hikers who have built websites with travelogues and photo galleries of these places...in German...fortunately Google translate works pretty well.

As I researched the trip/hikes, I discovered that there is an oil field nearby.

This area is remote...who sez we aren't drilling all over the place?

A path not chosen [yet]...

Concepts for Protracted War - Boeing Contract DNA 001-80-C-0163 (13.7M pdf)

This study is a preliminary investigation into the concepts and requirements of a protracted war which would continue after a counter military nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The exchange envisioned for this study represents a near "worst case" for a military only attack. But stops short of escalating into direct industrial and population attacks. It seeks to gain insights into the many different ways that the military can be stressed and the post-attack environments with which they must cope.

The DUCC [Deep Underground Command Center] and Decision-Making Under Nuclear Attack

Because of the way the winds are modeled as simply blowing from west to east across America, it looks like living near the west coast has an advantage in this scenario. Because of the siting of the targets 30 years ago, maybe so.
Pages 54 and 65 of the PDF

Today's winds:

Aging nuke plants add to Europe's economic woes

... Ignalina's delays and massive cost overruns offer a cautionary tale for the EU, which aims to dismantle dozens of nuclear facilities over the next two decades.

In the poor nations of Eastern Europe, some fear offline nuclear reactors left in limbo pose extraordinary risks.

"Lithuania cannot continue the decommissioning process for an unlimited period and risk creating another Chernobyl in the middle of Europe," Zigmantas Balcytis, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, has said.

It looks like maybe the Germans are on to something with their closing down nuclear reactors. As GDP and incomes diminish, the financial ability of the various nuclear powered nations to stand the costs of decommissioning is going to be declining. It is staggering to consider the impact of dozens of Chernobyls, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

Our crises are nearing at a rapid pace; one is climatic, involving AGW; one is economic, involving PO; and one is demographic, involving both political and agronomic changes. Needless to say, they play one into the other, in a synergistic way.

Thanks for the link, Seraph.


Saudi Arabian Oil Exports Rise on Refinery Cuts, JODI Data Show

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports rose in September to 7.28 million barrels a day as local refineries cut processing by 14.6 percent, according to the Joint Organizations Data Initiative.

The world’s largest crude exporter shipped 2.9 percent more crude while producing 0.3 percent less oil than it did in August, according to data posted today on JODI’s website. Saudi Arabia pumped 9.72 million barrels of crude a day in September, the data showed.

Refineries in the kingdom processed 1.68 million barrels a day, down by 287,000 barrels a day from August, JODI said, citing statistics the Saudi government submitted to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

A question or two for the oil guys, I am being put on a spot by someone. What is the tar sands equivalent for the post of 'worm'? What would a typical entry wage be for someone with no experience?

Thanks if you can help.


If someone wants a job in the oil sands, they need some kind of applicable skill - companies don't have any jobs for unskilled workers. What they really want are welders, heavy equipment mechanics, and truck drivers - but the trucks are 400 ton units. When they are looking for a "shovel operator", they mean a 100 ton power shovel.

Also keep in mind that Alberta has one of the top secondary school systems in the world, so a high school diploma is equivalent to a year or two of college in the US. Oil companies won't normally hire anyone with only a high school diploma. They want a technical school diploma at a minimum.

And then they have to be willing to work long, hard hours in a place where it gets colder than -40 in the winter. But if they like that kind of thing (and some people do), the pay is very good. The average oil sands worker makes a six-digit income (including overtime).

Some of the laid off strip miners of Kentucky should look north. Mountain top removal without the mountains in Alberta. Similar skills in shovel operation and "Uke" trucks (Euclid).


At one point in time, the oil sands companies were employing laid-off miners from the interior of BC. Every Monday morning a Boeing 737 would pick them up in their home town, and every Friday evening it would deliver them back home. The oil sands companies have their own airports near their mines. I don't know if they are still doing it, but it was a reasonable solution to labor shortages at the time.

There are also regular direct flights from St John's, Newfoundland to Ft McMurray, Alberta. After the Newfoundland cod fishery (once their biggest industry) collapsed some years ago, so many Newfoundlanders found work in the oil sands that they started calling Ft McMurray, "Newfoundland's second largest city", which I believe is numerically accurate given the number of Newfoundlanders working there. It went a long way toward mitigating the Atlantic provinces' unemployment problem.

Thanks, just the information I need.


A railroad link from Alberta to Alaska?

Awhile back I recall that AlanfromBigEasy had some comments about a potential railroad connection to carry oil from the Alberta oilsands to feed into TAPS.

Alberta-Alaska railway: Will it be built?

The proposed railway would run more than 1,600 miles from Fort McMurray, Alberta, to Delta Junction, Alaska, where the trans-Alaska pipeline is enroute from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Oil could be pumped into the pipeline there.
For an estimated cost of $10.4 billion, the 1,632-mile track would be able to transport 4 million barrels per day of oil products, according to InterBering, which cites “conservative” revenue estimates at $3.5 billion a year.

A Railway From Canada To Alaska: Ready To Be Built In Six Years

A double-track, 1,632 mile purpose-built railway would be built from Canada to Delta Junction, Alaska capable of transporting over 4 million bpd of oil products at a total estimated cost of $10.4 billion. The conservative revenue estimate is $3.5 billion per year, with $2.5 billion of this based solely on oil transport at one million barrels per day. Near Delta Junction, a Canadian railroad would be connected with the single-track Alaskan railroad which is itself now under construction by Kiewit Infrastructure Group. This firm is presently also erecting a bridge over the Tanana River as a part of an 80-mile Northern Rail Extension Project of Alaska Railroad, from the city of North Pole.
A rail connection will also allow for oversized, super-heavy dimensional loads of specialized oil sands upgrader cargo, through Alaskan ports such as Seward, Whittier, Anchorage and Port MacKenzie. This is a troublesome bottleneck issue for critical equipment en route to Alberta. For example, port access in Alaska will allow Asian shippers to unload their cargo bound for U.S. and Canadian markets closer to the point of origin—greatly speeding up delivery and turn-around times. Furthermore, connection of rail to Alaskan ports will greatly enhance the economic viability and development of vast mineral deposits located on First Nation and Alaska Native lands along the rail corridor. The economic, social, and strategic value of this project cannot be overstated; this rail-line will be the key factor in development and economic sustainability for peoples along the entire route.



I found a great essay by Ran Prieur about the conundrum of advocating a primitive life while living with modern necessities, it's also a commentary on binary thinking. Great read. Would definitely interest some people here.

Beyond Civilized and Primitive

Western industrial society tells a story about itself that goes like this: "A long time ago, our ancestors were 'primitive'. They lived in caves, were stupid, hit each other with clubs, and had short, stressful lives in which they were constantly on the verge of starving or being eaten by saber-toothed cats. Then we invented 'civilization', in which we started growing food, being nice to each other, getting smarter, inventing marvelous technologies, and everywhere replacing chaos with order. It's getting better all the time and will continue forever."

Western industrial society is now in decline, and in declining societies it's normal for people to feel that their whole existence is empty and meaningless, that the system is rotten to its roots and should all be torn up and thrown out. It's also normal for people to frame this rejection in whatever terms their society has given them. So we reason: "This world is hell, this world is civilization, so civilization is hell, so maybe primitive life was heaven. Maybe the whole story is upside-down!"