Drumbeat: December 1, 2012

Saudi-Led Oil Lobby Group Financed 2012 Dark Money Attack Ads

The “American” in American Petroleum Institute, the country’s largest oil lobby group, is a misnomer. As I reported for The Nation in August, the group has changed over the years, and is now led by men like Tofiq Al-Gabsani, a Saudi Arabian national who heads a Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) subsidiary, the state-run oil company that also helps finance the American Petroleum Institute. Al-Gabsani is also a registered foreign agent for the Saudi government.

New disclosures retrieved today, showing some of API’s spending over the course of last year, reveal that API used its membership dues (from the world’s largest oil companies like Chevron and Aramco) to finance several dark money groups airing attack ads in the most recent election cycle.

Luxury cars sold for a song after bubble bursts in 'China's Dubai'

BEIJING -- With miles of freshly paved roads, little traffic and some seriously avant-garde architecture, the Chinese city of Ordos provides a driving environment most car enthusiasts can only dream of.

Yet rich Chinese who have invested in the resource-rich city are now frantically rushing to sell off their new luxury toys to stem the excessive bleeding that has come with a steep decline in coal prices.

As the boom turns to bust, some luxury car owners are said to be asking for as little as 10 percent of the typical asking price.

Oil Caps First Monthly Gain Since August on Economy

Oil capped its first monthly increase since August on signals that economic expansion in the U.S. is accelerating.

Futures rose 1 percent after the MNI Chicago Report’s business barometer showed activity in the U.S. grew in November for the first time in three months. Investors also weighed developments in U.S. budget talks as Democrats and Republicans discussed how to avoid more than $600 billion a year in spending cuts and tax increases known as the fiscal cliff.

Senate Votes to Add Iran Sanctions as White House Objects

The U.S. Senate approved new economic sanctions on Iran, overriding objections from the White House that the legislation could undercut existing efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Senate voted 94-0 yesterday to impose additional U.S. financial penalties on foreign businesses and banks involved in Iran’s energy, ports, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, and impose sanctions on metals trade with Iran.

Nations May Keep Sanctions Exemption for Cutting Iran Oil

Oil-importing nations are continuing to cut back their purchases from Iran, making it likely those countries will earn a new round of exceptions from U.S. sanctions next week.

Two U.S. officials said yesterday that publicly available oil trading figures indicate that the seven nations whose waivers are up for renewal on Dec. 8 have continued to significantly reduce their Iranian oil imports over the last 180 days.

Thousands support Egypt president in rival rally

CAIRO (AP) — Tens of thousands of people waving Egyptian flags and hoisting large pictures of the president are demonstrating across Egypt Saturday in support of him and Islamic law.

Good Morning! It’s The 70th Anniversary Of The Start Of Nationwide Rationing At The Pump

On December 1, 1942—70 years ago today--nationwide gasoline rationing went into effect in the United States. By the end of that year, half of the vehicles in the U.S. were issued “A” stickers, which allowed owners to purchase 4 gallons of gas a week. “B” stickers were issued to vehicle owners such as industrial workers whose driving was considered essential to the war effort. They were good for 8 gallons a week. “C” stickers were given to others considered essential to the war effort including doctors, ministers and mail carriers. VIPs including members of Congress received “X” stickers, which allowed for unlimited amounts.

Mexico Oil Monopoly and Drug War Head New President’s Agenda

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto takes office today vowing to bolster Latin America’s second- biggest economy by ending a seven-decade oil monopoly and improving security in a nation wracked by drug violence.

Energy Policy Must Be Stable to Be Sustainable, Council Says

Global energy policies must be stable to contribute to sustainability as demand for energy rises, the World Energy Council said.

The group interviewed 40 executives from the energy industry for its World Energy Trilemma report about what they would like from policy makers. The group defines sustainable energy systems as those that have security of supply, social equity and can mitigate the impact on the environment. The executives said they wanted predictable policies, incentives for long-term investments and a greater encouragement of research and development.

Making the right energy choices for rural communities

With the intermittency of renewable energy sources, there is also a need to look into cleaner energy options which could support renewable energy production. For instance, currently used coal and heating oil could be easily replaced by decentralised and lower-carbon fuels. A full switch from coal and heating oil to LPG in the five biggest EU Member States would result in a reduction of 7.7 Mt CO2-eq in rural households and services: emissions from over 7.5 million inhabitants.

Fracking 'exploitation' report dismissed by energy department

The energy department has dismissed a report that "60% of the UK countryside could be exploited" for fracking, the controversial gas extraction method.

Pressure mounting on Obama over pipeline decision

WASHINGTON (AP) — Embarking on a second term, President Barack Obama faces mounting pressure on a decision he had put off during his re-election campaign: whether to approve the $7 billion proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada.

Americans are giving diesels a second look

After years of trying, automakers are again taking a stab at selling diesel-powered cars in North America.

U.S. gas boom could kill eco cars

If the automotive revolution — EVs, hybrids and four-cylinder econoboxes — they have been promising is to occur, it will be promoted on pump prices, not saving the environment.

Operating Silver Line could cost Metro millions more than expected

Metro may have to spend millions more than anticipated to operate the new Silver Line because trains will have to travel farther east than planned, according to two people with knowledge of the problem.

Transit officials originally expected eastbound Silver Line service to end at the Stadium-Armory stop, according to the two sources. But officials have since concluded that the tight turning space near the station would make it difficult for trains to reverse course there. Instead, trains will travel five additional stops to Largo before turning around to head back toward Virginia.

Chairman of Utility Under Fire Resigns

The chairman of the Long Island Power Authority resigned on Friday, continuing an exodus from the troubled agency, which has received harsh criticism from customers and elected officials for its response to Hurricane Sandy.

LA oil company faces criminal charges for spill

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles city prosecutors have filed criminal charges against an oil company for a 245-gallon crude oil and water spill last December.

The city attorney's office said Friday that Brea Canon Oil Co. violated state regulations and unlawfully discharged crude oil and contaminated water into a flood channel.

New View from Inside Fukushima: Chaos and Uncertainty

Even in the early days of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March of last year, as the reactors spiraled out of control, the terse statements issued by the operator felt like an exercise in denial. Radiation readings were “higher than the ordinary level” (about 100 times higher), and a “loud noise and white smoke” had hit the No. 4 reactor (a possible hydrogen explosion).

Now, footage released by the operator from the crisis’s early days – the second set of recorded teleconferences between the command center of the tsunami-hit plant and the company’s headquarters in Tokyo – demonstrates just how little those announcements reflected the chaos and uncertainty on the ground. The gap between the initial assurances given by company and government officials, and the ultimate scale of the nuclear disaster, has helped fuel a crippling public mistrust of government.

Another suit filed to halt reactors at Kepco's over Oi nuclear plant

FUKUI — A lawsuit was filed Friday by 154 people in Fukui and other prefectures seeking to shut down the only nuclear reactors now in operation in Japan, at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, contending Kepco had the two units restarted before their safety was guaranteed.

The elephant in the room

Despite the catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the issue of nuclear power has been given lower priority in the runup to the Dec. 16 Lower House election. But the launch of a new party, Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), by Gov. Yukiko Kada of Shiga Prefecture, a veteran environmental studies scholar, will not only help deepen discussions on the subject but also offer a concrete option for voters who are concerned about the problems posed by nuclear power. The new party's main theme is "graduation from nuclear power generation," meaning the eventual abolition of all of Japan's nuclear power reactors.

U.S. regulators grill Edison on bid to restart part of San Onofre

The utility wants to fire up one of the two reactors at 70% power for five months, before taking it offline for inspection. Edison says the procedure would be safe.

How To Make a Bundle on Energy Efficiency

This is a potential energy revolution of the back-office sort. It’s about developing new business models rather than developing new metal. It’s wonky, opaque, and largely untested. It’s just beginning, and it still could fizzle, because scaling it up would require resolving a thicket of thorny technical and financial questions. But if it works, it could make some investors a lot of money. And, theoretically at least, it could do more for the planet than a roomful of futuristic energy-saving devices that sit, sparkling and unused, on a shelf.

Seeking to Start a Silicon Valley for Battery Science

The Energy Department will establish a research hub for batteries and energy storage at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., and spend up to $120 million over the next five years, the department announced on Friday.

Federal Government to Sell Wind Farm Leases

The federal government plans to sell leases for wind farms off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia, the first time it has sold competitive leases for wind energy on the outer continental shelf, officials said Friday.

Denmark Moves To Cool Its Red-Hot Solar Energy Market

Denmark’s energy minister introduced legislation earlier this month that would cool the country’s red-hot solar market. The new rules trim generous subsidies that in conjunction with the falling price of panels had triggered exponential growth in the number of residential solar energy systems added to the grid this year.

Solar Industry Borrows a Page, and a Party, From Tupperware

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The neighbors had gathered on the patio of a sun-baked ranch here, eager to hear the party’s hosts talk about their products and how they could enhance their lives. But in place of the timeworn arrangement of plastic storage containers or cosmetics on the coffee table, the couple was showing off an array of a different sort: the 32 solar panels on the roof.

World’s First Open-Ocean Farm An Unfettered Success

The Velella Project Beta-trial tested the world's first open-ocean, unanchored fish farm — a drifting "Aquapod" fish pen entrained in eddies in the lee of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Inside Germany’s Bold Plan to Tap Deep-Sea Resources

Thirty-five hundred meters beneath the surface of the ocean, hydrothermal vents are spewing minerals from mid-ocean ridges, creating billowing plumes of photogenic “black smoke” and providing chemical energy for one of the most unique and unexpected ecosystems on the planet. This flocculent flow ultimately settles on the seafloor, producing metal-rich sulfide rock deposits that have begun to attract attention from mineral-mining companies.

Calif. agency to buy desalting plant's entire output

SAN DIEGO - A regional water agency approved a contract Thursday to buy the entire output of what would be the Western Hemisphere's largest seawater desalination plant, clearing the way for construction to begin early next year.

Great Desert Garbage Patches

Ocean garbage patches get a lot of attention, but a lot of trash is blowing across some of the most treasured and remote parts of America's desert wilderness, according to a new study out of the University of Arizona.

Biologist Erin Zylstra mapped and added up all the wind-dispersed plastic trash bags and latex balloons in two protected parts of the Saguaro National Park in Arizona. She was surprised to discover that these particular kinds of very mobile trash outnumbered desert tortoises and western diamondback rattlesnakes. Like in the oceans, the bags and balloons pose potential threats to wildlife.

Army Vows to Speed Eforts to Keep Mississippi Open

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responding to pressure from Midwestern lawmakers, has agreed to speed up measures to keep the drought-shrunken Mississippi River open to barge traffic.

With falling water levels threatening to halt traffic on the nation’s busiest waterway within weeks, a contingent of heartland senators met with Army Corps officials yesterday to press for the release of more water from a major tributary and the blasting of submerged rocks that obstruct traffic.

Some wish Islam would inform climate debate

The Quran, Islam’s holy book, is filled with more than 1,500 verses to nature and Earth. Yet the voice of Islamic leaders is missing from the global dialogue on warming.

That disappoints Muslim environmental activists, who believe the powerful pull of Islam could be the ideal way to change behavior in both poor countries, where many people’s main source of information is the mosque, and in some wealthy countries like Qatar where Islam remains important even as rapid growth has made it the world’s top per capita emitter of carbon dioxide.

Qatar permits rare protest for workers' rights

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar permitted a rare protest for workers' rights on Saturday at a government-approved rally of about 300 activists demanding action to combat climate change.

Marchers, mostly foreigners attending the November 26-December 7 talks among 200 nations on slowing global warming, chanted "Arab leaders, time to lead" and "climate action now" as they marched along the waterfront past skyscrapers in central Doha.

Gulf states quiet on climate change pledges

Doha, Qatar - Over the course of millions of years, heat and pressure deep underground blessed this sweltering nook of the Middle East with some of the biggest fossil fuel deposits in the world.

Depending on one's point of view, it's either ironic or a propos that the pint-sized state of Qatar - whose hydrocarbon reserves have made it among the richest countries in the world - is hosting this year's annual UN climate change conference.

UN climate boss: No support for tough climate deal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The United Nations climate chief is urging people not to look solely to their governments to make tough decisions to slow global warming, and instead to consider their own role in solving the problem.

The Hidden Connection Between Medieval Land Parceling and Modern American Psychology (http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/how-a-quirk-of-medieval-farm-shapes...)

An interesting article about how Ribbon farms, as practiced in France, where farms are long and narrow, are better for transportation than American "square" farms. The author's argument is that with narrow farms, you are closer to the road, your neighbours, and towns and cities. He suggests that square farms have led to the American belief that transportation should come to you rather than you placing yourself where the transportation is.

I seem to recall that early farms/plantations in Louisiana are long and skinny, at right angles to the river. The reason being that in those days, the river was the only practical transportation route to get crops to market. When dad died, his will divided his land between his sons, which made them even skinnier. Makes for challenging work for landmen to lease for drilling.

Maybe Rockman or someone else with direct experience in that area could elaborate?

Louisiana - France ... There may be a connection (Looking into the name of the state, thinking about the Louisiana Purchase). I'm not being snarky - I don't really know if this is responsible for the long, thin farms leading out from the rivers in Louisiana, but this same historical connection does explain the shape of farms (still) in Quebec.

The French long-lot system was used in Quebec because the only transportation was by canoe. Every farmer needed a frontage on the river so he could travel to and from his farm, so they gave everybody a short frontage on the river and then extended the farm for a long distance at right angles to the river. It also meant the farmhouses, which were on the waterfront, were quite close together, which was good for defense. When the British relocated the Acadians to Louisiana, they probably took the long-lot system with them.

In the Midwestern US rivers were few and far between, and they were subdividing land quite rapidly as the population grew, so they just surveyed it out in a 1-mile grid, and then divided the square miles into quarters. It was the quickest way to do it.

The thirteen original colonies used the Metes and Bounds system, which had been used in England for centuries. In this system a starting point is defined, then a description of a route defining the boundary, the route leading back to the starting point. The Wikipedia link gives an example: "beginning with a corner at the intersection of two stone walls near an apple tree on the north side of Muddy Creek road one mile above the junction of Muddy and Indian Creeks, north for 150 rods to the end of the stone wall bordering the road, then northwest along a line to a large standing rock on the corner of John Smith's place, thence west 150 rods to the corner of a barn near a large oak tree, thence south to Muddy Creek road, thence down the side of the creek road to the starting point."

While simple in concept, this system can be cumbersome for large tracts. Stone walls get knocked down, streams shift their banks, John Smith sells to Jones, etc.

As settlement spread westward, a better methond was needed. After the Revolution, in 1785 the Public Land Survey System was implemented. Starting from an initial point in an area, an east-west baseline and a north-south principle meridian are defined. A rectangular grid of townships and ranges are surveyed. These are divided into one square mile sections, which are divided into quarter sections, etc etc. See also the National Atlas article for more info.

Because of the way the US was settled, various other systems were used, to varying degrees, in various regions. The Lousianna long lots are one example, Spanish land grants in the southwest are another example. Texas uses a hybrid of sorts between Spanish land grant and Public Land Survey.

Most of the inhabited area of Western Canada is surveyed out on the Dominion Land Survey, which is similar to the Public Land Survey System, except there is only one Principle Meridian (in about the middle of Canada) and one First Base Line, the 49th Parallel. From there they surveyed west until they hit the Pacific Ocean, and north until the hit the 60th Parallel. It is the largest survey grid laid down in a single integrated system in the world.

They put in a numbered meridian every 4 degrees of longitude with the 1st or Prime Meridian just west of Winnipeg, and the 7th Meridian east of Vancouver. They counted townships north from the US Border until they reached Township 127 at the Northwest Territories.

An example of The full legal description of a particular quarter section would be "the Northeast Quarter of Section 20, Township 52, Range 25 West of the Fourth Meridian", abbreviated "NE-20-52-25-W4."

In the oil industry, we went a step further, divided the sections into 16 legal subdivisions of 40 acres, and used them to name our wells. If it was in LSD 12, our well's official name would be "12-20-52-25-W4". Unofficially, we would refer to it as the "Dogpound 12 of 20 well", meaning it was in LSD 12 of Section 20 in the Dogpound Oil Field, and since it was probably the only 12-20 well in the Dogpound oil field, anybody in the field office could find it. They already knew what township it was in. Any farmer could find the right section.

It was also easy to plot wells on a map because we had algorithms that converted DLS survey points to latitude and longitude. Since the meridians ran along the longitude lines and the 1st Base Line was the 49th parallel, it was dead simple. If we knew the well name, we could plot it. Conversely, if we knew the lat. and long. of a well we drilled, we could just back-convert it and come up with the official name.

English boundary descriptions from the Anglo-Saxon period survive - and there are a few of them where a current farm or parish boundary can still be traced using the description from a 1,000 years back.

We've got an 800 year old hedgeline just down the road (and the field which started the English Civil War).

Come to think of it, I saw a TV programme which traced a house's property frontage along a road to an Iron Age field boundary (about 2,900 years old).

christie - I don't beleive so. Those skinny tracts only occur along waterways. But in general all Louisiana laws are based upon Napoleonic code unlike English common law in the other states. Mineral right laws are unique also. In Louisiana mineral rights are transferred under very special conditions and only when a property is sold. The seller holds the mineral rights for 10 years from the date of sale or the last date of exploration or production of minerals, at which time the rights are transferred to the buyer.

This process differs from other states where mineral rights may be severed from the surface rights, which can occur under two different scenarios. In the first scenario, the landowner maintains the surface rights while some other entity holds the mineral rights. Under the second scenario, the surface rights are sold while the seller retains the mineral rights. Depending on activity minerals rights can sell for 10X what the surface sells for.

It leads some odd lease acquisitions. Even stranger unitization rulings. La. has forced pooling laws. Someone may drill a good well on a tract of land they leased. But offset landowners have the right to partician for a piece of that well. Both side present geological arguments to defend their interests. But I've seen the La. authorities draw a unit boundary 20' inside the end of 20 or so of those skinny tracts that might only be a 100'. It's not much a matter of fairness but by doing so 20+ voters are going to get a little mailbox money. More checks = more votes.

One more tidbit: by La. law I would have been classified as black when I was born. Until someone sued the state about 40 or 50 years ago if you were 1/32 black or more the state could classify you as "colored". Given my Irish daddy I could have been correctly call "Black Irish" at one time. LOL. Nawlins is a tad different than many parts of the country. In the olden days there were many "free blacks" that were affluent and held high social status in the city. Such status ended at the city limits.

Given my Irish daddy I could have been correctly call "Black Irish" at one time.

Except that the "black" in Black Irish is actually Spanish (Iberian) rather than negroid in both versions of the story. Folk mythology credits the occasional dark hair and eyes to survivors of the Spanish Armada, some of which was wrecked by westerly gales while NW of Ireland. Modern genetic analysis has largely discredited that theory, but points to a substantial migration from Iberia in prehistoric times, which people were pushed to the NW part of Ireland by subsequent migrations.

Of course, I've got no room to criticize what anyone wants to call themselves. Most of my ancestry is British, but almost all of that came out of the dockside parish in Liverpool at different times. So I could have almost anything mixed in.

I used to sail with a family of Black Irish, a father and his 4 children, and they were really black - and really Irish - except for the blond girl, who the father said looked exactly like his ex-wife. However, she wasn't a normal blond because she could sit out in the sun all day without getting a sunburn.

The rest were so dark that even people from India mistook them for people from India. They believed the theory that they were descended from sailors on the Spanish Armada who swam ashore after their ships sank. I think that probably wasn't true. I subscribe to the theory that the original Irish were very dark people, and the modern Irish light skin comes from the Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invaders. The real Black Irish are those who haven't inherited any of the light-skin genes the invaders brought.

I believe the Celts had Middle Eastern origins.

We had the sub-contract for supplying stone to Stonehenge, when were you thinking about?


Back to third millennium BC. Just repeating what I was told repeatedly when living in Wales a few years back - but apparently if you check online in various spots, Celts or Keltoi are a diverse people with ME, Central EU, Eastern EU and Iberian roots. Lots of brunette genes fer sure. All over the UK and Ireland, you often see families with both brunette and olivish skin / brown-eyed members and their siblings with ginger hair and blonds with fairer skin and blue eyes. Of course you know this, as you're from the UK living in Mexico, no?

Well, we Welsh are a bit of a mixed bunch. Wikipedia has the Celts as starting out in the middle of Europe several hundred years BC but there was a good population in Wales and the rest of the UK going back several millennia. It keeps getting pushed back but Stonehenge started out about 5k BC and the Blue Stones were transported from Wales. There is an interesting article in the Current National Geographic that shows how the land changed after the ice age.


I'll have to read it, thanks for the heads-up. I have some Welsh in my Heinz 57 background. I do recall reading a recent article in NatGeo about the Blue Stones - perhaps a year ago.

I feel fortunate to have done a lot of travel up and down coastal Wales - very magical and one of Britain's best-kept secrets, methinks.

Strange idea since there are a lot more internal transports within a farm then external transports. I rather have all buildings in the middle of the farm.

"have all buildings in the middle of the farm."

That could be a mistake, Mag.
Farmers (and especially their kids) have to "go to the road" for dozens of reasons (getting the mail, going to school, heading to town, contacting a neighbour, etc.)
Doing fieldwork at the back of the farm is seasonal: sure, it's a long way back but usually we are back there for some intense, sustained activity (cultivating, seeding, weeding/spraying and harvesting) and we may go back only 6-20 days a year.

Also, simply installing a year-round driveway (one that can take heavy equipment as well as light vehicles) requires a great deal of stone (we are on clay soil). Plus you have to maintain it and clear the snow all by yourself.
Better to locate on a high spot reasonably close to the township road, which everyone contributes to.

Hope we will get some summaries on how the ASPO USA conference went.

Thanks a lot for the link, interesting, do you see anything getting through in the big national papers ?

Bonjour, Yves

I'm watching for info from ASPO-Dallas as well. In particular, I would like to know what Michael Kumhof (lead author on those recent IMF oil studies) had to say, and how it was received.

ASPO-USA did upload their talks from their 2011 and 2010 conferences, but my guess is that it will be delayed, somehwat. In the meantime, it would be interesting with some reports as you said, preferably from a blogger or someone who can devote time into the matter.

Livestock falling ill in fracking regions

After drilling began just over the property line of Jacki Schilke’s ranch in the northwestern corner of North Dakota, in the heart of the state’s booming Bakken Shale, cattle began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves, they lost from 60 to 80 pounds in a week and their tails mysteriously dropped off. Eventually, five animals died, according to Schilke.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene – and well testing revealed high levels of sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium.

Now that is some real nasty stuff to find in the atmosphere. And other stuff has been found in the water. I was a doubter of fracking problems at first, but almost every day I read things that are gradually making me a believer.

Ron P.

On my previous job, I spent two weeks spray painting some engine covers we made for a quary. Cleaned the paint equipment with xylene. Then I was educated on that particular chemical compound. Aparently it is addictive, and industrial painters often drink alcohol during weekends to cover the abstinense. Also, the chmical after longer exposure is a personality changer; you become more violent. And lo and behold; industrial painters are over represented among men who beat their wives.


To go to a time, click near zero then click near time.

At 00:13:00

At 00:58:00

Air (one instance, more at other times)
At 00:49:00

Why did they have to bypass the EPA clean water act?
At 00:30:00

Check out this jumped-up lying hippie freak co-conspirator dupe!
At 00:37:00

It almost sounds like the fracking cocktail is a new and improved way to get rid of industrial waste...

"Energy Policy Must Be Stable to Be Sustainable, Council Says"

A good point that often gets overlooked. It takes years to make changes at an industrial scale. You won't get anywhere chasing after the trendy news release of the moment. An especially not the "Technology Y is 0.3% more efficient than technology X, so abandon X immediately in favor of Y!" approach to operations.

On a related topic, Hankook Tire and Silicon (Hankook Tires is the first thing to come up, I'm not certain it's the same company, but it could be.) is bankrupt. They were 6% of global polysilicon supply.


In April 2011 they went for an IPO worth $370 million dollars.


Last June they sprung a leak. Apparently they have been shutdown since, and they just plain ran out of money.


Whiting Petroleum Explored Sale?

Whiting Petroleum Corp. explored selling itself earlier this year but decided not to proceed after buyers balked over the oil producer’s asking price, according to people familiar with the sale efforts.

Whiting is very active in shale oil developments in the Bakken (Sanish) formation.

Regarding How To Make a Bundle on Energy Efficiency, above:

Earlier this year, Vierengel began eyeing the possibility of applying the securitization model to a different kind of loan: loans to consumers who invest in home energy-efficiency improvements, from better-burning furnaces to insulated windows. He expects the first round of this newfangled debt to hit the market early next year. He won’t disclose the amount he’s targeting for the first offering, but he says he hopes the market soon will grow to the point where, every year, it issues four or five pools of securitized energy-efficiency debt...

"Securitized energy-efficiency debt"? Jeez, maybe I'm missing something, but this seems like case of needing wrong reasons for doing the right (necessary and critical) things. They own your car, they own your home, now they want to own your efficiency. Since energy efficiency is tantamount to deleveraging, I suppose they need a way to releverage people's reduced consumption.

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. -- Mark Twain"

In this case replace majority with Wall Street.

Energy efficiency saves money in the long run, but does require cash up front. Some additional forms of financing for it may be a good thing. Depends on the details. I would prefer local financing, from small banks or credit unions, and/or financing through the municipalities, secured and paid for via tacking it onto the property taxes ("PACE") or the utility bills.

Hi VT,

Utility ratepayer schemes are another option. Efficiency Nova Scotia, which is funded through a surcharge on electricity bills, will pay up to 100 per cent of the cost of approved retrofits and the participant's co-pay, if any, can be repaid over twenty-four months, interest-free on their Nova Scotia Power account. Thus, there's no upfront payment or out-of-pocket expense; the materials and labour are supplied at below market rates; the work is done professionally and to code by certified installers, and is backed by a comprehensive no-quibble warranty; and the investments generate net positive cash-flow from day one.

We're witnessing a fairly healthy decline in provincial electricity demand. The weather and local economy are key factors, obviously, and higher electricity rates have had a dampening effect as well, but a concerted effort to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient beginning back in '08 deserves at least some credit. For the period spanning January 1st through October 31st:

2007 - 10.36 TWh
2008 - 10.18 TWh
2009 - 9.81 TWh
2010 - 9.89 TWh
2011 - 9.94 TWh
2012 - 8.42 TWh

This, even though nine out of ten new homes built in this province are all-electric and many homeowners such as myself having converted from oil to electricity.


Awesome trend there. Although I'd love to see the numbers for the whole year, as Nov-Dec are high months for lighting. For me, they are also high months for propane use, since it's cold enough to need heating but not cold enough to bother with a fire in the wood stove, most of the time.

For serious home weatherization upgrades, a 2-year repayment would not be a "net positive cash-flow from day one", need to stretch it out over a longer period. And I was talking about an unsubsidized arrangement. As a society, at this late time, we have limited resources, but a huge number of houses needing such work. And the homeowner will personally gain from the work, eventually. Thus I suggest that we concentrate on arranging the financing but ask for most of it to be paid back eventually. Except perhaps for the neediest. That's my view. Meanwhile here in Vermont they keep raiding the low-income weatherization fund to provide direct assistance with paying the heating bills, as the federal funds for that have been dwindling. Talk about the Energy Trap. Or eating the seed corn.


I asked before about your work and you declined to self promote. Do you have a website or blog? You could put it under your user name without being self promoting.

Those decreases are an average rate of about 4 % over 5 years. Also the 15 %drop in the past year indicates that the rate of decrease may be increasing, though this may be due, in part, to the relative warmth last winter. Thanks for the info. Under an optimistic scenario, at historic HDD levels how low do you think it could go, say 10 years from now?


Hi DC,

It's hard to say where provincial electricity demand will end up ten years hence. Our population and workforce have remained relatively stable over the years and so too our local economy (economic growth generally falls between 0.5 and 2.0 per cent per annum). I don't expect that to change appreciably within the foreseeable future. Electricity rates have been steadily rising as we transition away from coal, and this upward pressure will likely continue over the next ten years (e.g., we can expect a fairly sizeable hit once the Lower Churchill Falls comes on-line in 2017/2018). Higher rates negatively influence demand, as one would expect, and make investments in energy efficiency more compelling. And our winters have become noticeably milder, so that too has had some bearing as well.

Nova Scotia Power's June 2012 System Outlook projects the utility's Net System Requirement to fall an average of 0.3 percent annually over the next ten years due to Efficiency Nova Scotia's various DSM initiatives; in their absence, the NSR could be expected to grow an average of 1.0 per cent annually.

As for a personal blog or website, I'm afraid I would be hard pressed to find the time to properly attend to one. I'm struggling to keep up with my workload which literally doubled a few weeks ago. I'll continue to post on the TOD from time to time, but probably not with the same regularity.


Last paragraph, good news/bad news. Keep it up, with what you are doing up there we won't mind, all those poor electrons out of work :(. BTW, have you seen the latest on plastic lights? Plastic that can light up with the spectrum of the sun at LED efficiencies. Sound like they have 10 years of testing behind it and may be a cost effective competitor. I won't hold my breath waiting for it to come into the shops though.


I am in the process of approving a lighting replacement contract for my company. The replacement cost is $4,423. The power company pays $1548 from a (rate payer funded) conservation fund. The remainder we pay, with zero interest, over three years with our electric bill. Annual savings are estimated at $1,287. The majority of savings comes from replacing 19 high bay 8' T12 fixtures with T8. Seems like a no-brainer if the savings come even close to the projected.

First read on that I was like "that's pretty good"...second pass - YIKES!

Let me re-post your numbers as a list for impact:

Total cost of project: $4,423
Total cost to you: $4,423 - $1,548 = $2,875

Cost per year over three years, zero interest: $958
Estimated saving per year: $1,287

Cost to you per year (for the first three years): $958 - $1,287 = Negative $329

Payback is instantaneous because of amortization. Every year thereafter is putting $1,287 in your pocket. They could have overestimated the savings by $329 and you'll still have no liability for the first three years and be getting close to 1000 back thereafter.

And still most people won't "invest" $2 in a CFL.

Jeez. Aren't you overreacting. They are trying to enable people who wouldn't otherwise do efficiency to do it. Since there are tons and tons of low hanging fruit, that 90% of the public won't harvest, partly because they don't want to spend cash now, to do so. That the enabler gains something as well, is fine with this left leaning commenter. You don't have to partake of their services, but if you don't have the cash, you can still reap some (most I hope) of the benefits.

I don't think he's overreacting.

There's no reason not to get some loans to take on the high threshhold for greening up, but this article is titled very clearly for what they've got in mind.. 'How to make a bundle..' They're Ambulance-chasing.

They’re designing complex financial instruments to bankroll energy-efficiency improvements in houses and other buildings across the country. And they’re setting themselves up as the middlemen.

I think the guy is genuinely interested in doing good. But, he has to market the concept to financial engineers/investors. You can be an investor, and still not be a robber-barron. I think the difference is primarily one of attitude, trying to offer your clients a good deal, and only taking a reasonable fee for your services. If they are faking the numbers, "this magic window will save you a thousand dollars a year (when it fact it won't)" that would be simple old fashioned fraud.

What happens if you stop paying your installments? Do they come and rip your self-tinting windows out of your walls?

Efficiency isn't just about the engineering, it's also about a change of mindset. Efficiency via the debt route is not the right approach. They are if I interpret correctly trying to commoditize efficiency, trying to turn it into something that you buy in the market, it isn't. If any investments are to be made they need to be made from savings ensuring that consumption is toned down first.

Orlov mentioned that some people think they are attempting conservation when what they are engaged in is just consumerism with different stuff. They buy all kinds of solar panels and never install them. Buy fancy power saving gadgets and then make no active attempt to reduce power consumption.

"Efficiency via the debt route is not the right approach."

Don't completely throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's a place where this can actually work out quite well - a new house. If there were more emphasis given to loans to energy efficient housing and energy producing housing - but without ripping people off and jacking up the rates - then those loans would benefit both the lender and the borrower.

Though the borrower would take on additional cost which would be charged interest by the lender, when efficiency is built into a new home it is lower cost than a retrofit (do it right the first time) and will have a shorter "payback" period. That shorter payback should give a rate of return on monetary investment greater than the percentage of the loan. Also, since the borrower/home owner has effectively narrowed variables - as the less one uses of electricity, nat gas/propane, etc the less "exposure" one has to cost fluctuations - they represent a lesser risk.

To further that explanation, if a home owner who was on the border of making the mortgage payments with heating-oil at $1/gal sees the price go to $3 per gallon and they use a lot of it...they're up feces creek and the bank is too. If that same homeowner is getting their heat from hot air panels and SHW panels - they're unaffected by the changing price of heating-oil. The variable, and the risk, is removed.

So if the rate of interest on the loan is lower than the rate of return of the improvements, the homeowner's housing cost is effectively lower and the lender gets to make a bigger and less risky loan.

You are right. Maybe not all debt is bad, it certainly has it's uses. But I get skeptical whenever I see a wall street analyst and I have valid reasons for that.

There's a place where this can actually work out quite well - a new housemulti-unit urbanized complex.

Demographic Trends

The traditional building styles and development patterns persevere, but generations X, Y and Z — primarily Y, which includes those born between 1982 and 1995 — aren’t as interested in yesterday’s housing styles and suburban living. They prefer choice, collaborative cultural environments, diversity and are more purpose-driven than their parents.

This is being discussed in Baton Rouge; where progressive, forward-thinking ideas are routinely downtrodden. Notice that the 13 comments have been hidden. Would have been interesting to see the reaction to the article.

An interesting trend if it continues.

However, those born in 1982 just turned 30, so they are just entering the peak child-rearing years, especially for this bunch who have been later than usual (by historical standards) to settle down. So we'll see if this trend continues to hold up in another 10 years.

It could go either way, they could go back to the suburbs of their childhood, or they may decide that the suburbs combine the worst of both rural and city living, and want to stay out.

Steven Vierengel, a Citigroup director and Wall Street veteran, is among the pinstriped new promoters of this energy-efficiency push. For some 15 years, he has worked at Citigroup securitizing debt, on everything from cars to industrial equipment. The drill: Citigroup finances pools of loans from the original lenders, slicing up the loans based on their different levels of default risk and then reselling the slices to institutional investors. Everyone gets a piece of the action: The original lenders receive new cash to make more loans; the institutional buyers earn interest; Citigroup gets a fee.

1. Citibank is one of the banks that caused the subprime crisis using securitization.

2. This plan has nothing to do with getting more money to the bank to lend to people to improve energy efficiency in their buildings.

3. This plan has everything to due with slicing and dicing Citigroup's bad loans into a security to sell to some foolish investor.

4. If this security is successful, then it will lead to irresponsible loans, false promises about efficiency gains and falsified energy savings. Citibank will use bogus estimates of money savings from improved efficiency to qualify loans to people without sufficient collateral. No one will mention how the improvements will increase the homeowner's property tax negating the savings from energy efficiency. The ability of Citibank to dump its loans onto investors is the formula for irresponsible lending.

5. This is what happens when commercial banks are allowed to act like investment banks. About every decade the bankster's shenanigans will blow up the U.S. economy until the Glass-Steagall Act is reinstated.

3. This plan has everything to due with slicing and dicing Citigroup's bad loans into a security to sell to some foolish investor.

Could you explain how they are going to do this?

Could you explain how they are going to do this?

Jack, in case that is not a sarcastic rhetorical question, perhaps you just managed to sleep through the 2008 financial crisis...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For Securitization in International relations, see Securitization (international relations).

Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling said consolidated debt as bonds, pass-through securities, or Collateralized mortgage obligation (CMOs), to various investors. The principal and interest on the debt, underlying the security, is paid back to the various investors regularly. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).

Critics have suggested that the complexity inherent in securitization can limit investors' ability to monitor risk, and that competitive securitization markets with multiple securitizers may be particularly prone to sharp declines in underwriting standards. Private, competitive mortgage securitization is believed to have played an important role in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.[1]

In addition, off-balance sheet treatment for securitizations coupled with guarantees from the issuer can hide the extent of leverage of the securitizing firm, thereby facilitating risky capital structures and leading to an under-pricing of credit risk. Off-balance sheet securitizations are believed to have played a large role in the high leverage level of U.S. financial institutions before the financial crisis, and the need for bailouts.[2]

The very last people that I would like to see allowed to get involved in promoting energy efficiency through securitization would be the bankers from Citigroup. There is zero doubt in my mind that they are up to no good! Talk about handing over the task of guarding the hen house to the foxes. The entire concept just makes my skin crawl.

And since we are now entering the Holiday Season: http://i289.photobucket.com/albums/ll225/Fmagyar/Banksters.jpg

Citibank may be the devil and as you say, up to no good. However, the poster is making a specific claim that appears to be baseless and inaccurate, that the purpose of Citibank's energy efficiency effort is to repackage existing bad loans and foist them off on customers.

Since this appears to me to be something that would be impossible to do, and since Blue Twilight seems so certain, it seems reasonable to ask how he/she was claiming it could be done.

I do know there is a practice on TOD to make ridiculous claims about entities that are disliked, then rather than defending the initial inaccuracy, fall back on repeating over and over again all the things they don't like about the subject.

For example a commenter could say that Goldman Sachs is putting RFID chips in people's heads. When pressed on the source of the strange claim, they just say Goldman Sachs would do that, GS is evil, etc.

All that may be true, but that doesn't change the fact the the commenter is presenting inaccurate information, falsehoods, lies, etc.

So my question is not rhetorical. Citibank is not trying to repackage existing bad debt as energy efficiency loans and wouldn't, in my view, be able to do it if they wanted to. This does not imply anything good about Citibank. It is an effort to get BT to support what appears to be a false statement.

You may think that lies are fine if the liars are lying about people you don't like. I disagree.

If you or BT have any evidence to support the original point, please present it.

Securitization of cash flows from energy savings are a pretty old concept and one not created by Citibank or other bankers.


These include off-balance sheet vehicles which own a range of applicable equipment configured in such a way as to reduce the holistic energy cost of a building.

Off balance sheet means that the debt is secured by cash flows of the project, not the balance sheet of the corporation.

So my question is not rhetorical. Citibank is not trying to repackage existing bad debt as energy efficiency loans and wouldn't, in my view, be able to do it if they wanted to.

OK, point taken and I agree that since no one has as yet taken out loans to implement energy efficiency from Citibank or other banks The banks can't possibly be trying to repackage bad debt from those nonexistent loans. However that is not the point I was trying to make. So I'll even agree not to find Citibank guilty of crimes they supposedly can no longer commit.

I simply agree with the gist of the criticism that: " the complexity inherent in securitization can limit investors' ability to monitor risk, and that competitive securitization markets with multiple securitizers may be particularly prone to sharp declines in underwriting standards." Also that: "In addition, off-balance sheet treatment for securitizations coupled with guarantees from the issuer can hide the extent of leverage of the securitizing firm, thereby facilitating risky capital structures and leading to an under-pricing of credit risk."

You may disagree with the culpability of banks for the financial crisis of 2008 but given the fact that they almost certainly engaged in less than transparent practices with regards securitization of mortgage loans many of which ended up being unservicable and leading to defaults and foreclosures, thereby initiating the bursting of the housing bubble and requiring massive bailouts to the banks, leads me to be somewhat wary of trusting them in this particular venture.

I just think it is generally bad policy to put the newly declared vegetarian foxes in charge of security at the hen house even if they are planning to finance the insulation of all the chicken coops for the benefit of keeping the chickens warm...

I don't disagree that banks clearly played a major role in the financial crisis and that securitization, particularly in cases where the instruments were sold on to third parties, proved to be risky and problematic.

Citibank may well be planning to create sellable assets through securitization of energy efficiency loans (which I hadn't previously considered). However, I doubt they could achieve anywhere near the scale required to cause much damage.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have actually worked on training programs for commercial banks in developing countries to enable them to lend to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Part of this did involve helping banks to understand cash flows from energy efficiency projects and to be able to secure these as loan payments.

From my experience with banks and ESCOs, the problem is not so much these types of loans turning into another credit bubble, but that they are so hard to make that they are not as powerful a tool as they could be in promoting energy efficiency.

As an added bonus, I will also agree with the gist of KaimankuDenku's post below about large portions of the finance industry acting more like a casino than a functioning part of the economy. I think this is the most obvious in credit default swaps and other complex traded derivatives, but mortgage backed securities probably qualify as well.

I think the key here is tightening up regulations and enforcement at the source, that is, at the initial point of the loan between the original lender and borrower. Having just gone through the loan process for a new house, I have personally experienced the new rigor on loans as opposed to loans I obtained in the past. It is like night and day, and, if anything, the process has become extreme on the other end. Underwriters have become rigorous on lending practices to the point of paranoia. In the past, the required documentation was minimal. In the present, the requirements for documentation have become absurd. Maybe that is just my personal experience but I have heard the same thing from other people, realtors, and title companies.

Certainly, if you start with a loan to an unqualified borrower for an amount of money that he/she cannot possible repay over a sustained period, then you end up with a catastrophe down the line when these bad loans are passed through the system and end up being securitised.

I don't think the problem is securitisation. I think the problem is the loans that were securitised in the past. Lenders have become extremely risk adverse and may have gone too far in the other direction.

Regardless, it appears that the loan industry is much more regulated in the past and, hopefully, this will continue. However, the goal should be to strike some sort of balance when assessing borrowers for their ability to repay loans.

As for the investors in securities related to loans, they are or should be aware of the risks. This is the stock market and fortunes are gained and lost every day. Buyer beware. The thing that should be avoided is bailing out security firms and investors when things go south. They should experience the downside of their risky behavior. And that is what pissed off most people about the wall street bailouts as they privatized the profits but socialized the losses.

The other thing is that the investment banks of the world knew damn well that they were engaging in risky behavior but then had the gall to ask for a bailout. They were judget too big to fail which is why they should be broken up. Nobody should be so big so that their failure risks imploding the entire economy.

The problem with mortgage securities is that the rating agencies looked at historic data with regard to mortgage defaults without considering how the act of creating a security would change the behavior of all the participants in the chain.

Consider the role of the appraiser - when a bank plans on holding the mortgage they are looking for the most conservative appraisal - after all its their money on the line. When they are going to sell the loan they look for the most aggressive appraisal- that is what maximizes their fee. The rating agencies should have been able to figure that the default rate on loan based on a valuation that was 10% above market value was going to be significantly greater than a loan that was based on a valuation that was 10% below.

I think the same kind of analysis could have been applied to each participant in the chain- which is additive. Bottom line the risk post MBS is nothing like the historical data. My guess is that the initial loans used to fund energy efficiency are going to be of very high quality and very beneficial to consumer and investor alike. It is the second generation of loans that I would worry about. The early deals would have done well (probably an article in Business Week) peoples guard will be down and most important originators would have figured out how to game the system.

The Wiki article you referenced, Energy service company, does not mention securitization. When the lender (an ESCO in this case) holds the loan through maturity and guarantees the financial savings from the efficiency gains, then the financial shenanigans will not arise. The bank could even include the teaser of waving loan payments if the financial savings are not realized because the increase in property tax due to the home improvements would not be covered by the guarantee.

For example a commenter could say that Goldman Sachs is putting RFID chips in people's heads. When pressed on the source of the strange claim, they just say Goldman Sachs would do that, GS is evil, etc

Do you have a link to this claim of headchips made here on TOD?

So my question is not rhetorical.

But your example seems to be rhetorical.

Yes, the example is rhetorical. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as it's clear it's rhetorical. And it is.

Could you explain how they are going to do this?

Simple. Get the ratings agencies to issue a AAA rating and sell it to a pension fund!

And while we are at it set up a triple leveraged inverse derivative on it and sell it to another third party, so that we have people betting on both sides with nothing but the taxpayer and hot air to back'em up. Even Houdini wouldn't be able to pull off a trick like this.

At the end of the day, it's just money. Regulate it and enforce the regulations. In the mean time, I am more interested in seeing more energy conservation and renewable energy projects that will help us and the planet in the future. If we are going to have a few bad loans along the way, then it is worth it.

And then insure the instrument to make another instrument that eventually represents ten times the original. Take the taxpayer's bailout to cover the mess and pay yourselves billions in bonuses. Hide the true state of affairs by manipulating indicators like the LIBOR rate to the benefit players like Citigroup.


Now the nobles have their media screaming Fiscal Cliff! to cow the peasants into accepting austerity... into paying for the noble's capering.

Better, sell it to a utility. Tell them the money they lose on not selling electricity they make up in interest on energy-saving loans.

You appear to be looking for a premonition which I do not have the magical power to conjure. Because the article is speculative, about a security being created, my analysis of their intent for and eventual effect of the security is the same. I could state a scenario which I summarized in my fourth point, but you already know what I was alluding. Because investors are wary of mortgage backed securities due to the financial crisis in 2008, Citibank has to find another form of security that investors are willing to buy. Target the investors who like pro-environmental investments in their mutual funds.

The Financialization of Capitalism

"capitalism... becoming inefficient by devoting its surplus capital increasingly to speculative, casino-like pursuits, rather than long-term investment in the real economy."

The bean-counters realized that there isn't nearly as much money to be made in making something as there is in just playing games with the money.

"playing games with the money". Verified by my highly "successful" nephew, a wall street capitalist swine, who tells me exactly that is what he does. He then adds that while he feels guilty about it he cannot break his addiction. I tell him that guilt doesn't count when us unrewarded saintly geniuses go unfed who could otherwise save the world, he retorts that, most obviously, from my own words, sainthood and genius don't count.

Genius, of the non-evil variety, is an exploitable resource.

It's fun to note that the makers are earning thirty cents an hour in places like Bangladesh while the takers scheme only to concentrate the wealth to themselves.

Neither the Glass-Steagall Act nor the Dodd- Frank Act will ever be
implemented because all the segregated accounts held by the various
financial institutions are currently being used as leveraged collateral in the
derivatives market (somewhere north of 10/1 against around a
quadrillion dollars of notational value!!)

Any attempt to implement the "Volker rule" portion of Dodd-Frank
would result in the largest "margin call" in history. That is why there
are so many "exceptions" to this rule being granted!!!

Everything (including debt) is being leveraged and
collateralized in the derivatives market (see MF Global)!!!!!!

In an otherwise standard-issue American hotel room recently, I found a normal looking Eljer brand toilet. However, when flushed, it responded not with the contemporary 1.6 gallon gravity-fed dribble, but rather with a very effective high intensity burst of water. I was a bit startled at first, but soon realized that they must be leveraging the water supply pressure to get that result. It was sort of a “Wow, what a great idea” moment; a 1.6 gallon flush design that actually works.

Figuring there must be a pressure tank of some sort inside the conventional looking outer tank, I pulled off the lid and sure enough, inside was an aluminum and plastic cylindrical tank, labeled “Sloan Flushmate.” Online I found that this is a very effective and popular system, and the Flushmate is offered in models by several major toilet brands. Apparently 2+ million of them are installed in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the earlier models used a molded plastic pressure tank consisting of two parts, upper and lower, “welded” together, and several hundred of these have experienced seam failure. When that happens, the top portion blows off, pushing up the outer tank lid, which crashes back down onto the tank and/or toilet proper, causing varying degrees of shattering. There have been a dozen or so injuries. Of course this has led to a recall, accompanied by the obligatory “exploding toilet” videos on YouTube. The first attempt at remediation was a do-it-yourself rework kit, which turned out to be impractical for the average Joe or Jane to install. Eventually it was determined that a proper correction would require having a plumber install a new pressure tank in each toilet. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could bankrupt a company, no matter how successful, that made only flushmates. I have no inside information, but would assume that Flushmate was “rescued” or salvaged by Sloan, which is a major plumbing supply and valve company.

The other day “proper” engineering vs. “overdesign" was being discussed here, and I wonder how that had played out in this case. Just looking at the two designs intuitively, I can see how the one that failed could fail, while it’s harder to imagine the one that I found in my hotel room blowing up. Did they believe that the original design could not fail? Did they figure that a 0.015% failure rate, which is all that was actually experienced, was acceptable? Did they not understand the possible consequences of a failure? Did they underestimate the potential cost of the mandated rework that could result?

I know there are those here who condemn flush toilets in general, and I don’t disagree. It’s hard to imagine having a problem like this with a composting toilet (unless there was an inadvertent build-up of methane). It should also be noted that with the Flushmate system, the host toilet trap design is different from a conventional one, and may not lend itself to a gravity flush (i.e. in the event of a water service failure, you may not be able to successfully toss in a pail of water to do the job). Would this be “The Revenge of the Water Closets”?

We have used two of them for a decade with no trouble. Nice satisfactory getoutahere sound. Our water comes from a cistern, and I have set the pressure about half the usual city value, so that helps on stress.

No problem dumping a bucket down it when the pump has problems, but you have to do it all at one go, not just a namby bamby dribble.

but next year, all poo goes into the biogas generator pit, the next step in getting off carbon.

How about extending it? See the following and the next few images for example



Yep, thats the idea. Gets rid of graveyards, too--all in a good cause.

I first saw these things at a hotel near Lake Tahoe about 15 years ago. I did the same thing, took the lid off to see what the heck was going on. Monstrous noise in a hotel room with several weak bladders. I'm not sure if any of us got much sleep with the loud noises.

Flushing is quite an art. I've been bucket flushing for months because I'm too lazy to fix the toilet, and I found it an interesting challenge to develop a good bucket flushing technique.

Out of interest I measured the amount of water I used. Around 1.75 US gal. More for a big dump. I'm impressed that a standard toilet can do it in 1.6 gal.

My 1.6-gal toilet has a passageway through the molded ceramic structure that directs a significant part of the water flow so it emerges from a hole near the bottom of the bowl, in the front, flowing towards the rear. That gets the flow in the rear trap going, and also moves any solids forcefully into the outlet to the trap. It seems very effective, and does not require a pressure tank - just gravity flow from the normal tank. I've sometimes wondered how they came up with the design, did they use hydrodynamics computer simulations, or hand-built a whole bunch of prototypes?

After much research, for our new toilet we purchased a Toto Drake. It has two flush modes. Hold the handle down for the tough flushes. I am not sure where the plunger has wandered off to... It REALLY works!

Our Bureau of Standards must approve all flushing toilets sold here. I know they are very proud of developing an artificial turd that emulates precisely the real thing. Don't know what it's made of.

UK toilet flush testers routinely use a standardised portion of Dundee Fruit Cake...

It's quite interesting and amusing how flush toilets differ from region to region -- there are drastic differences of course between "thrones" and squats, but the flushing mechanisms vary a lot by country. In Australia we've had a "half flush" option on all new toilet cisterns for a couple of decades thanks to water shortages. Almost invariably the flush is by gravity feed, using a valve in the base of the cistern, but because of the angle of the flush there is rarely a problem with small volumes being adequate. By contrast in the UK the gravity feed is done by siphon : there's no valve, but a loose plunger that lifts water over an upside-down U and then lets the entire cistern-full siphon over. In the USA the volumes tend to be far larger, the angle of attack shallower, and the speed of the water rather slower. I'm glad to hear that low-volume, high-velocity flushes are catching on.

Rail best for Bakken, Enbridge says

Canadian energy company Enbridge says rail deliveries from the Bakken oil play in North Dakota to refineries in Philadelphia are its best option.

Enbridge Rail, a U.S. subsidiary of the pipeline company, announced it signed an agreement with Canopy Prospecting Inc. to form the Eddystone Rail Co. Both sides will work on a rail system and associated infrastructure near Philadelphia that can handle up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken play.

"Rail is the fastest way to provide increased export capacity out of the Bakken, creating a near-term solution to transportation bottlenecks and the resulting crude oil pricing differentials," Stephen Wuori, president of liquids pipelines at Enbridge, said in a statement.

Enbridge said the project's initial capacity could double to 160,000 bpd by mid-2014. Enbridge said it estimated the total cost of the project at around $68 million.

CN Rail, CP Rail Surging With Crude Oil Moving by Trains

Study will determine feasibility of Fort McMurray oil transport by rail

Tracking Bakken oil movement: 40 percent of SW North Dakota crude leaves via railway

Two Minnesota refineries resist Enbridge pipeline charge

A Canadian pipeline company’s plan to add a surcharge to all North Dakota oil piped into Minnesota has drawn objections from key energy interests.

Two Twin Cities oil refineries and others are protesting Enbridge Energy’s plan to add the surcharge, which would pay for an additional $2.5 billion pipeline to carry even more oil.

The major complaint: All oil shipped from the Bakken fields into Minnesota would pay a $1.45 per-barrel surcharge, even if it didn’t travel on the new line to Superior. Another concern is that the new pipeline — designed to eliminate a bottleneck in northern Minnesota — may not be fully utilized if other rail and pipeline projects are built in North Dakota.

Petitioning for a National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change

National Intelligence Estimates provide the consensus view on a particular intelligence/security issue among all the US intelligence agencies.

The most significant thing about the National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change is that there isn't one. No issue will be more critical to the national security of the United States during the next several decades, no issue will have more profound effects on the behavior of other countries and populations, but we're doing next to nothing to prepare for it because the Obama administration is leery of the politics involved.

... There's a blueprint for the effort, though; in 2008, members of Congress requested and received a less authoritative intelligence analysis on climate change in the form of a National Intelligence Assessment: specifically, the National Intelligence Assessment on Climate Change to 2030. (This is a summary of the unclassified portions delivered to Congress by the supervisor of the effort.)

Global Climate Change: Preparing for World War III

... In June 2009, A White House task force produced "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States." Among its 10 key findings, two relate to where we should live: "Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge." "Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems;" for example, the "Dust Bowl" region will become more vulnerable to drought and wind. Three findings relate to food and safety: "Climate change will stress water resources." "Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged." "Risks to human health will increase. Harmful health impacts of climate change are related to increasing heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents." Many Americans will have to move away from coasts and storm areas to locations where food and water are available and safe.

"The most significant thing about the National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change is that there isn't one. "

Well there should be. You don't even have to blame humans first. Just read the history books. The Pleistocene has not been known for stable climate, nor has the Holocene. So, what happens if things heat up 2, 4, or 6 degrees C, and what happens if things cool down 2, 4, or 6 degrees C.

Ofcourse intelligence agencies, but also the millitary, are interested in Climate Change. Look at what's going on in the Arctic, all that open water is a major security issue and geopolitical minefield to boot with all that oil/gas/minerals. You can bet your mortgage that intelligence is looking closely at future climate change impacts.

E.g. look at the millitary:

Or intelligence:

So they may not release public reports on CC, that doesn't mean they don't take it very serious!

The following link is to something a bit fresher, Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security 2012 NRC report (300MB PDF conclusions and recommendations section). It is written in heavily generalized beauracratize. All you can really tell by reading this section is that every entity mentioned or implied is looking to get a piece of the intelligence/defense budget. Well that and that all involved in this National Academy of Science's report believe social stresses caused by climate change will have major implications to national/world security.

Another preamble to war based on faked data ...

Fake AP Graph Exposes Israeli Fraud and IAEA Credulity

That Associated Press story displaying a graph alleged to be part of an Iranian computer simulation of a nuclear explosion — likely leaked by Israel with the intention of reinforcing the media narrative of covert Iranian work on nuclear weapons – raises serious questions about the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA) claim that it has credible evidence of such modeling work by Iran.

The graph of the relationship between energy and power shown in the AP story has now been revealed to contain absurdly large errors indicating its fraudulence.

... The graph shown in the AP story plots two curves, one of energy versus time, the other of power output versus time. But Butt and Dalnoki-Veress noted that the two curves are inconsistent. The peak level of power shown in the graph, they said, is nearly a million times too high.

After a quick look at the graph, the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cal State Sacramento, Dr. Hossein Partovi, observed, “[T]he total energy is more than four orders of magnitude (forty thousand times) smaller than the total integrated power that it must equal!” Essentially, the mismatch between the level of total energy and total power on the graph is “more than four orders of magnitude”, which Partovi explained means that the level of energy is 40,000 times too small in relation to the level of power.

Former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley, who has challenged the accuracy of IAEA reporting on Iran, told Lobe Log in an e-mail that “It’s clear the graph has nothing to do with a nuclear bomb.”

Did you post this on TOD, wondering just how fast someone would recognize it as the logistic equation and its derivative?

It is the base equation for studies in depletion, whether it be food for yeast in a petri dish, oil reservoir depletion, or modeling other phenomena based on resources and a population consuming those resources.

I have to agree that "k" is the Boltzmann Constant (1.38E-23 J/K) and "T" is temperature in Kelvins making the total energy about 2.8E-17 J.

No, no. kT most likely means kilo Tons of TNT, not a usual measurement unit in physics, unless one is working on nuclear weapons.

Some observations:

The curve is not symmetrical, the rise time is faster than the fall time.

kt is the usual symbol for kilotonne, not kT

99.9% of the energy in a fission bomb is released in well under 100 nanoseconds; the 300 nanosecond time scale is too long for such a bomb.

A 20kt chain reaction goes through 50-80 generations of neutrons and is over in less than a microsecond. Unclear what t=0 would correspond to if the graph were in fact a fission yield.

However, assuming k is the Boltzmann constant, 40kT is the energy corresponding to a signal-to-noise of 10 in a variety of physical systems, e.g. reading out a single bit from flash memory.

The power starting at 1.8 microseconds would be very slow for electronic circuits, but about right for conduction of an action potential to the end of a nerve axon.

Resistance is Futile ...

(U//FOUO) U.S. Army – Marine Corps Unmanned Ground Systems Presentation

Unmanned Ground Systems consist of a powered physical system with no human operator on aboard the principal platform, which can act, either operated remotely or with some degree of autonomy, to accomplish assigned tasks. Unmanned Ground Systems may be mobile or stationary, can be smart learning, self-adaptive, and includes all associated supporting components such as Operator Control Units (OCU).

Kuratas, Mechanized Robot Made By Japan's Suidobashi Heavy Industry, Now For Sale (w/Video)

Domo arigato, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, for building "Kuratas," a 13-foot-tall mechanized robot with rocket launchers for shoulder pads and machine guns embedded in its arms.

Kuratas is a four-wheeled, 30-joint exoskeleton that can be piloted from its cockpit or remotely with a 3G touch-screen phone.

Communication channel between cells and machines paves way toward bio-hybrid robots

While some advanced humanoid robots already look eerily lifelike, robots in the future may actually become partly alive. Currently, researchers are working on integrating living cells and other biological components with electronic components in an attempt to create bio-hybrid robots. These robots could act autonomously, imitate some animal behaviors, and have the ability to self-replicate some of their parts. [Borg?]

Spaun, the new human brain simulator, can carry out tasks

I do not see the difference between being killed by a human programmed to kill or by a robot programmed to kill. Yes, the human has to be bought off with a small share of the loot where the robot does not. But so what.

There is only the same difference that comes with any automation, and that is that the moments of decision are not going through a human who has at least the potential for some of his/her other basic nature and earlier programming to override it, and the ability for machines to be built in phenomenal numbers, to work 24 hours a day and to exceed other normal bounds that constrain human actions..

It may not matter whether you or I die from this cause or that cause, but it matters what broad systems we allow to be developed, and how many lives and how much liberty and humanity is sacrificed in doing so.

We've also seen plenty of Sci-Fi plots where civilizations are killed off, but their automated military machines are still roaming around looking for victims. We already have that in a small way, with dumb "automatic" weapons, such as landmines and booby traps, but this potentially brings it to a whole new order.

There is also the human perception, that at least with non-remote human operators at least the operators (not necessarily the culpable decision maker) have some skin in the game, i.e. the victim -or his buddies just might get him instead.

matters what broad systems we allow to be developed

"we" allow? Pray tell what real, practical effect can "we" the masses have on what the Military develops?

Or the Military deploys?

Chalmers Johnson wrote about the economics in his 4 book trilogy. If the US of A stopped cold turkey on the war machine - what would be the unemployment rate?

Chalmers Johnson is one of my heroes. But is "4 book trilogy" a typo, or is there one that goes with his 'three examinations of the consequences of American Empire: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic'? (from Wiki)

a typo

He wanted to do a trilogy but a 4th one was done Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope.

So not a typo.

The problem is that the humans making the decisions to fight care about human casualties (because of politics), but not so much about robot casualties. So if you let robots do the fighting, they are much more likely to be used excessively than if real people were risking their lives. See, for example, the drones that are killing dozens of people a day all over the middle east, mostly in countries that the US isn't even ostensibly at war with.

Double the development and fielding timelines and triple the price, then expect the result to be nowhere near as capable as even a much weaker, much less versatile, much less survivable and lethal, dumbed-down terminator.

Unlike the Terminator and other 'Skynet' autonomous vehicles/humiforms, in the real World our creations will be first and foremost limited by their energy sources...energy sources which must be compatible with compact volume, odd shapes, great desire for mobility and autonomy.

These machines would not last long in the killing fields of human opponents, especially in urban terrains.

Automaton machines will be useful for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, limited precision strike (especially/predominately from the air)and a few other specialty tasks, but as a replacement for an infantryman/human dismounted combatant, not so much.

I recommend not losing too much sleep over military press releases based on 'PowerPoint Engineering'.

I can see ground-based robots being used in static locations as perimeter guards or as the front line of defense in case of attack, but as autonomous roving killing machines, no.

Drones, on the other hand, are nearly there.

aardi - Been following the chat and waiting for someone to mention the obvious: we've had those "robots" you've decribed for many decades. Fully autonomous but stationary killing machines. And not just for perimeter defense but deployed in areas where enemy movement is anticipated. I.E. land mines. Might not be as sexy as some Star Wars robot but very effective at killing anything and everything: the enemy, your troops, civilians, live stock. Been a while since I've read the reprt but something on the order of 100 million such robots already deployed around the world. I beleive the S./N. Korean border has the honor of being the heaviest land mine cluster ever assembled on the planet.

And there is the UN Land Mines treaty to ban these automated killers which can kill for decades which the US, per usual, in its futile pursuit of Empire, refuses to sign.


But what do you expect from the Nobel Peace Prize winner drone executioner in chief?

On the other hand, I have been reading Jonathan Schell's excellent book written in 2003 "The Unconquerable World"

As usual Schell does a masterful job laying out the philosophical underpinnings of nonviolent revolutions and backs it up with facts. What is especially interesting is that this book was written just as Bush was revving up for the Iraq War debacle which would seem a particularly inauspicious time to be pointing out the limits of massive violence. Yet Iraq's popular resistance actually fended off the world's largest superpower and handed it yet another defeat in its efforts to control Iraqi Oil for US oil companies. And now a few years later the Arab Spring sprang up.

The same is bound to happen eventually in the heart of the Empire itself.

Last year I picked up a $50 digital camera on sale since I had need of a small one for a project. I noticed that in the 3" LCD viewfinder, it "recognizes" human faces and draws little moving boxes around them to shift focus as they move. It can track multiple faces at once and is quite accurate about following them around the screen in real time, all powered by a couple of penlight batteries. I couldn't help but think "targeting chip". If one hooked such a cheap circuit to an automatic gun, it could place a bullet in multiple foreheads pretty effectively. I wonder if future soldiers will wear bags over their heads while carrying pix on poles. I wonder if a $200 camera could analyze the difference between human male faces and female/child faces, in principle.

Asimov's "laws of robotics" are seeming pretty quaint about now...

Then again, a well-written targeting algorithm might actually reduce deaths of non-combatants, by being able to tell the dif between an adult male and a child in a fraction of a second in the dark. Certainly, that's how they'll be sold.

ED-209: [menacingly] Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply.
Dick Jones: I think you better do as he says, Mr. Kinney.
[Mr. Kinney drops the pistol on the floor. ED-209 advances, growling]
ED-209: You now have 15 seconds to comply.
[Mr. Kinney turns to Dick Jones, who looks nervous]
ED-209: You are in direct violation of Penal Code 1.13, Section 9.
[entire room of people in full panic trying to stay out of the line of fire, especially Mr. Kinney]
ED-209: You have 5 seconds to comply.
Kinney: Help me!
ED-209: Four... three... two... one... I am now authorized to use physical force!
[ED-209 opens fire and shreds Mr. Kinney]

Back in the late 90s the first web cam was pointed at a coffee pot which I once drank from. A few months later I encountered a web cam in Germnany which operated a model railway in real time via a simple web form. A couple of months later someone had linked a web cam to the sights of a hunting rifle and was proposing to set it up with a web-controlled trigger in the local deer reserve.

I never did hear if that one went live.

The online web-guns have definitely been done, set up at these 'game park' places.

'Idle hands are the devil's playground..' no?

If that technology becomes adept at distinguishing btwn adult male and female/child faces, it will just provide incentive for combatants to 'enlist' women and children...

In some conflicts, that's already happened and is still happening.

Yes. I had meant to say 'additional' incentive.

Edit - War Dance is an excellent doc that illustrates just one such child-warrior conflict...

"it will just provide incentive for combatants to 'enlist' women and children..."

...or wear clown masks.

Double the development and fielding timelines and triple the price

The price seems to be low enough. Once you address the graft and corruption. (Say, back in 2001 the Pentagon could not find a couple of trillion dollars. Did they ever find that missing money?)


http://therumpus.net/2012/07/the-diy-sentry-gun-scene/ - Costing only $110 and all your free time (according to its makers), it seems likely that independent sentry operations are the way of the future.

Ah, let the neo-Luddite wine flow!

Oil and the 'fiscal cliff'

Gail Tverberg explores the connection between changes in the oil market and growing concern of the 'fiscal cliff.'


Combining Chart 2 and Chart 7 of "A Citizen's Guide to the 2011 Financial Report of the U.S. Government", we see that the US Treasury is absolutely counting on a steep cut in government expenditure and a steep rise in government income very soon.

Even with these measures, the interest portion of the national debt is going to become astronomical.


Also of interest to many here at TOD (myself included) is this statement: "After 2035, the projected primary deficit-to-GDP ratio slowly declines as the impact of the baby boom generation retiring dissipates."

i.e. Die, you bastards, die!

we see that the US Treasury is absolutely counting on a steep cut in government expenditure and a steep rise in government income very soon.

You can see what the political establishment is counting on by downloading the Congressional Budget Office Projections. I have been doing this for years and they consistently always project that the next 18 months will remain low growth but that 18 months out and forever thereafter economic growth returns to "normal" (normal ~4.4 % per year). There are no future recessions and unemployment is healed. They never explain what will restore that growth but assume that healthy economic growth is our destiny. It would actually be amusing to read their annual report, except the consequences of that belief are not going to end well.

Yes it _is_ a cliff, except that we're hitting it from _below_, at 90 mph.

Unfortunately Gail fails into the typical trap of totally ignoring the effects of
$1 Trillion per Year wasted by the US on the costs of War. Although this is mentioned it is only mentioned in passing. It is fundamental if we want to save energy and resources to stop the endless Wars. The military consumes 5% of the US gargantuan thirst for oil.

Also when it comes to Medicare, we could save 30% by simply changing 2 words in current Medicare Law: "under 65". Just rollout Medicare single payer for all and we will save
billions siphoned off by the HealthCare denial for profit industry and its CEOs and the huge bureaucracy it requires. Every Dr.s group has to have a specialist just for fighting the private for profit HealthCare Deniers. This is ludicrous!

I agree with Gail that the Social Security payroll tax cut was bad for revenues.
If you have a job why would you not want to insure Social Security's long term health by paying into it? The payroll tax cut should be terminated and then the cap removed on
Social Security taxes so even the rich pay the same %age as everyone else into the system. That would easily insure Social Security's fiscal viability.

The payroll tax cut should be terminated and then the cap removed on

shhhhhh....that is the increase in tax rates most feared by the wealthy and even more so by those approaching wealthy. Of course dumping the income cap does far more for social security solvency than reducing social security benefits paid to those with high incomes so we will only hear talk about the latter for the foreseeable future.

Japan’s Energy Plan

... Given that Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, was originally planning to expand nuclear from its pre Fukushima 26% to 45% of total electricity, a shift to zero would be very significant, and would involve major changes, especially since the aim is still to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 23-25% by 2030 from 1990 levels. However Japan’s industry minister Yukio Edano suggested it was possible. According to The Financial Times, he told reporters in Tokyo ‘We can do it,’ when asked about the impact of abandoning nuclear: ‘I don’t think the zero scenario is negative for Japan’s economy. On the contrary, it can create growth as efforts to develop renewable energy and improve energy-efficiency could boost domestic demand.’

However it will cost. Under the zero nuclear option, Japan would need to invest 43.6 trillion yen ($548 billion) on solar, wind and other types of renewable energy and 5.2 trillion yen on power grids, according to the government. But at least 26.1 trillion yen in spending on renewables would be needed even if Japan stayed with nuclear power. But the costs could also be seen as an opportunity. According to early reports, the governments could create a 50 trillion yen ($628 bn) green energy market by 2020 through deregulation and subsidies to promote development of renewables and low-emission cars. Market liberalisation, to break the monopoly of energy giants like Tepco, is viewed as a key factor, with regional monopolies being forced to spin off transmission assets from generation.

Tank explosion prompts Chevron to shut down wells producing 15,000 barrels a day

Chevron has responded to Thursday's oil tank explosion in Lost Hills by shutting down oil and gas production equivalent to almost 15,000 barrels per day, or about 9 percent of its total California output.

The explosion, which county firefighters estimate caused $10 million in damage, destroyed a 5,000-barrel oil tank used to separate oil from water and other substances that come up during pumping.

From Chatham House ... What Next for the Oil and Gas Industry?

The oil and gas industry is under pressures that will transform it. The effect of other industries on oil demand, the increasing opportunities for non-conventional oil and gas that offset perceptions of limits to conventional resources, and the shift of growth to Asia will all compel the industry to look for growth in value rather than volume, to distinguish between the expanding markets of developing countries and the declining markets of the private sector in developed countries, and to target technologies to a diversity of resource opportunities outside the state sector and to specialized partnerships within it.

This report focuses on several critical challenges facing the industry:

•The effect on the demand for oil of the substitution of oil-avoiding technologies (such as in energy efficient vehicles) and the use of alternative fuels;
•The resulting split between growth and no-growth downstream markets and its consequences;
•The changing role of OPEC;
•The uncertainties facing gas producers in markets defined by government policies towards alternative fuels for power;
•The perception that limits to the expansion of oil production have weakened;
•The continuing role of national oil companies;
•The financial challenge from investors in the private-sector companies;
•The geopolitical connotations of the shift in oil trade to Asian developing countries

Download paper here

Download Executive Summary

An "Order of Magnitude", is 10X not 1000X

You're both wrong
4 orders of magnitude are 10000X

I was interviewed by Chris Laidlaw about Systems Science today on
New Zealand public radio's Wayne Brittenden's Counterpoint:

Wayne Brittenden has been Radio New Zealand?s correspondent in several
capital cities over the years. Each week he gives fresh insights into a wide
variety of topics of national and international concern, followed by Chris
Laidlaw?s discussion of the issue with guests. Today, representatives of
nearly 200 governments gathered in Dohar, Qatar, last Monday for two weeks
of UN-sponsored talks aimed at forging an agreement on climate change. Wayne
looks at the obstacles and contradictions of the event, and Chris follows
up with Dr George Mobus, a University of Washington-based expert on
cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding complex adaptive systems.

You can hear the interview at: New Zealand Radio if interested. Discussed peak oil as well as climate change.

Question Everything

seems the plastic "discovery" on mars was a bit, shall we say, unrealistic. but so was the "one for the history books" what ever that means.

big update on dec 3rd:

just spacecraft porn as far as i can tell.

but not withstanding disinformation, there are hydrocarbons on titan and very probably on mars. i still say missions will be launched to recover them. pundits say advanced technological cultures on earth need 3 earth's resources for everyone to have an uhmerikan lifestyle of profligate waste. we already know of another world (titan) we can rape and i bet mars will be raped too.

and a means of getting there?
"Researchers test novel power system for space travel
The research team recently demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and power a Stirling engine."

applications on earth?

meanwhile, back on big blue marble:
"PAULSBORO,nj —Evacuations, relocations and investigations were the call of the day Saturday for officials and residents dealing with the aftermath of the train derailment and bridge collapse that left a toxic chemical leaking into the Mantua Creek from a Conrail freight tanker."
"--- vinyl chloride — a toxic, colorless and flammable gas that causes irritation, headache, shortness of breath and dizziness — in the air. In extremely high concentrations, the gas can cause death."

EIA World Crude Oil And Lease Condensate Production January 2000 to August 2012

EIA World Crude Oil And Lease Condensate Production January 2000 to August 2012 Chart Graph

The record high production now exceeds 76 Mb/d in April, 2012, at 76.03698 Mb/d. Since the EIA's prior release with data through June, the following revisions have been made with the data through August:

date revisions from June 2012 to August 2012 releases
2000 through 2005 no change
2006 all months increased 2.00 kb/d
2007 through 2008 all months increased 3.00 kb/d
2009 all months increased ranging from 5.84 to 11.43 kb/d
2010 Feb. -3.46 kb/d, other months increased ranging from 8.38 to 9.90 kb/d
2011 July -125.31 kb/d, other months ranging from -94.23 to +8.37 kb/d
2012-01 +125.05 kb/d
2012-02 +318.72 kb/d
2012-03 +229.18 kb/d
2012-04 +164.28 kb/d
2012-05 +92.40 kb/d
2012-06 +254.13 kb/d

The sanctions against Iran which fully began on July 1, 2012, did not decrease world crude oil production through August implying that some other countries were able to increase production to compensate. Since June 2012, Iran's production has decreased by .250 Mb/d to 3.1 Mb/d and has decreased about 1 MB/d from a near term peak of 4.12656 in June 2010. Because .250 Mb/d is within the noise of EIA data, it appears their production has not measurably changed since sanctions officially began.

Good info, BT

re. global production of conventional C&C, I believe that EIA includes production of tight/shale oil and bitumen in its C&C stats. Can someone confirm this?
If so, then the new 'record' is somewhat misleading because there are qualitative differences in how unconventional liquids are produced (in terms of EROEI and financial costs).
It would be interesting to see what the curve/plateau looks like when it's only for conventional, "pumpable" C&C (if this is the case).

From the EIA Glossary C:

Crude oil: A mixture of hydrocarbons that exists in liquid phase in natural underground reservoirs and remains liquid at atmospheric pressure after passing through surface separating facilities. Depending upon the characteristics of the crude stream, it may also include 1. Small amounts of hydrocarbons that exist in gaseous phase in natural underground reservoirs but are liquid at atmospheric pressure after being recovered from oil well (casing head) gas in lease separators and are subsequently comingled with the crude stream without being separately measured. Lease condensate recovered as a liquid from natural gas wells in lease or field separation facilities and later mixed into the crude stream is also included; 2. Small amounts of nonhydrocarbons produced with the oil, such as sulfur and various metals; 3. Drip gases, and liquid hydrocarbons produced from tar sands, oil sands, gilsonite, and oil shale.

Liquids produced at natural gas processing plants are excluded. Crude oil is refined to produce a wide array of petroleum products, including heating oils; gasoline, diesel and jet fuels; lubricants; asphalt; ethane, propane, and butane; and many other products used for their energy or chemical content.

Lease condensate: A mixture consisting primarily of hydrocarbons heavier than pentanes that is recovered as a liquid from natural gas in lease separation facilities. This category excludes natural gas plant liquids, such as butane and propane, which are recovered at downstream natural gas processing plants or facilities.

The EIA most certainly includes tight oil because it is light sweet crude oil.

Thanks for clarifying, BT

Since Cdn bitumen is around 1.6 and shale oil is around 1 mbpd, I think we can assume that global production of conventional C&C has gone down during the past few years, not increased (perhaps even below 73 mbpd?).
If so, this should be front-page news....

Here is a notation from the EIA about the International Energy Statistics released through August 2012:

Note: In November 2012, 4 new countries have been added to the list of OECD countries in IES. These countries are Chile, Israel, Estonia, and Slovenia. All of the OECD totals for oil data now include these 4 new countries. (Chile had already been included in OECD total oil consumption for a number of months; this month, we are adding Chile to the OECD data for supply, stocks, and imports.)

Currently the C+C production of these 4 countries is small. For August 2012, they produce:

Chile     6.000 kb/d
Estonia   0.000 kb/d
Israel     .100 kb/d
Slovenia   .005 kb/d
total     6.105 kb/d

Article up top on Denmark's solar..


For perspective this massive 200Mw equals .0002Tw, if producing for 3hrs/d X 365 days/year = 0.219Twh/year, yet the world uses ~150,000Twh/year of primary energy and growing.

Some other interesting facts. In 2012 global solar capacity is expected to rise by 31Gw according to this article..

The growth looks impressive until you look at the trajectory of the growth rate. Using the numbers from European Photovoltaic Industry Association (2012), via wikipedia here...

...you get the following..


Governments are reducing the incentives for PV and the growth rate is declining even though prices of panels have fallen.

Current total solar power produced from the installed capacity, 85Twh, is just 1/1750 of total world primary energy production in 2011, yet the IEA expect that number to grow by 40% by 2035 IIRC.
To get to one third of current energy use by 3035 for solar would mean building 2600Gw of capacity each year over a 15 year period starting from 2020. Considering 2012 has a record contribution of 31Gw of capacity, it is difficult to see solar offering anything other than a minor role in future energy production.

All these positive solar stories fail to look at the big picture.

OTOH you simply should forget Europe as important PV market in future, Europe brought down the prices of PV that was its most important contribution.
The real important markets are China, Turkey, USA, India, Pakistan, Arabia, norther Africa, South America...

We will see very likely an annual installation of >50 GW around 2015 and > 100 GW after 2020.

The developement in Europe, esp. Germany is a result of changing business models from investment with full feed in of the electricity to one of optimized self consumption, in 2013 we will see a lower PV installation, then an increased one.

For me the advantage of PV (and to a certain extend wind too) is that it can be done locally and by the consumer, it attracts money other alternatives would not get and in countries like India or Pakistan with a quite high corruption the consumer has the production under control. It does not need huge transmission capacities with long construction times as alternatives. Build up of PV power ist very fast.

PV will not save the world but will contribute an important share and with 5GW PV = 1 nuclear power plant you can check in the next years which technology will contribute more. I fear, most new power plants in the next two decades will be coal, therefore, I support the developement of more efficient coal power plants.

PV will not save the world

I think we agree as this was my point.

In the past I have shown a similar decline in the growth rate for wind as well over the last couple of years. All this happening as high oil prices squeeze economies. I'm expecting the growth rate in both PV and wind to continue to fall as oil remains highly priced and gets scarce (imports) over the next few years.

Using your numbers of say 100Gw added every year over 20 years will give the world 2000Gw PV capacity (assuming 20 year life). This gives the world a yearly total of 2518Twh of energy. Considering the world currently uses 150,000Twh of primary energy, then this gives 1.6% of current energy use.

For some other depressing perspective, this 2518Twh of PV provided over 20 years, will only equal ONE year of current growth in total energy use.

What these numbers tell us is that we will use all the coal and gas after oil goes down the backslope of the peak curve and certainly cook the planet, if civilization does not collapse first.

I think we can assume that after 2020 we see a increasing installation this means much more than 100 GW p.a. in the long run and we can expect that 1 kW(p) in southern countries gives more than 1500 kWh p.a. High oil will enforce energy efficiency. Here developing countries may have as their citizens are not used to high energy consumption a real advantage. In contrast many western countries have to size down and the politicians do not sell this message as their voters do not want to hear it. :-)

As many people use diesel generators for production of electricity (IIRC around 8% of the global electricity comes from oil), which are much more expensive with 100 USD per barrel oil than PV, I assume a high pressure for migration to PV, this would also decrease primary energy consumption, one unit energy from PV replaces three units of oil.

Another different aspect is, that many people and insurance companies in western societies have huge savings or cash but no good conventional investment opportunities, here energy - esp. reneables- are some kind of immune to inflation and quite sexy. :-)

While I agree that PV will not save the world, I still think it is a very good idea to invest even more, if possible, in locations with good solar resources..

Here are a few points to consider:

A lot of PV has been installed in locations with poor to mediocre solar resources. Take Germany for example. Using data from this SMA web page, the record for single day PV energy production was on May 25, 2012 with 179 GWh and a peak power production of about 22GW (out of close to 29GW installed at the time). I visit that web page regularly and do not recall anything close to that figure, except for the day before that record was set, with typical values during the summer months being below 18GW IIRC. Looking at the same web page today shows the peak power production at 1.9GW (out of 29 GW plus the amount installed since the end of June). Face it, the solar resource in Germany sucks, at between 2 and 3 Peak Sun Hours! The same capacity in really good locations, with more than 7 Peak Sun Hours will be capable of producing about three times as much total energy.

There are still significant amounts of incandescent and other low efficiency lights in use around the world and particularly in North America where consumers are used to low electricity prices. I have no idea how much can be saved by using more efficient lighting, that being the domain of Paul(hereinhalifax) but I'm pretty sure the potential savings are huge (>75%). There are also savings available from newer, energy efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and heat pumps. Case in point is my less than 6 month old, "made in China", 1.7 cu.ft. fridge that according to the box, "uses less energy than a household light bulb" and "Superconductor cooling brings aerospace technology to your home". This supposedly energy efficient fridge is using more than 1 kWh per day or 365 kWh per year while, according to this UK based web site, there are several 4+ cu.ft. models that consume less than 200 kWh per year with the most efficient model consuming less than 100 kWh per year. According to another view at the same web site, the most efficient "American style" refrigerator, a 18.7 cu.ft. model, uses less energy than my 1.7 cu.ft.! (Note to North American readers how this site categorises more than 9cu.ft as a large fridge). The point is that, when it becomes important, I expect energy consumption to plunge fairly rapidly. Right now energy efficiency is not a priority in all the regions that still have cheap electricity including North America.

I really don't see how it is going to be possible to continue growing economies and populations over the next 20 years. I had to deliver some stuff to the down town (inner city/ghetto/market/commercial) area of Kingston (capital city of Jamaica) yesterday and the place is teeming with very poor largely under employed people, lots of children (including a very pregnant girl who looked no older than 15!), who depend on cheap energy to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, transportation and entertainment. Prognosis for these large amounts of folks post peak, not good. I felt very gloomy driving through this bustling area of Kingston, with everybody getting ready for the big orgy of consumption that is Christmas. I think that the assumption of growth, based on growing economies/populations is extremely flawed/optimistic.

It is my considered opinion that renewables are going to be a much, much more important part of the energy mix by 2035 and in some parts of the world, are going to be all we've got.

Alan from the islands

I still think it is a very good idea to invest even more, if possible, in locations with good solar resources..

Alan, while I agree with you wholeheartedly, the problem is the people who have the capital to invest in PV are usually in the poor solar locations aka Germany. Generally speaking the nations closer to the equator are the poorer ones.

I really don't see how it is going to be possible to continue growing economies and populations over the next 20 years

What is also clear from the growth rates of PV was the fall in 2009 as a result of the GFC. Unfortunately if we don't have the growth going forward then investment in PV is also likely to suffer.

To purchase all the new efficient devices you mention, people have to have money to do it. If general economies go downhill because of excessively high oil prices due to ELM, then there will not be the money for the goods.
We have basically painted ourselves into a corner by using cheap FF.

On the other hand PV costs are now dominated by Balance Of System costs. Most of the BoS will be satisfied by the local labor market, rather than be sent to remote high tech corps. This should translate into the cost of the whole system being much lower in low wage countries.

Hi Alan,

As you know, I've been discussing commercial lighting retrofits for several years now, but the potential savings are staggering. Here's another example to illustrate the point... the lighting load at the hair salon shown below was originally 6.4-watts per sq. ft. (69.2-watts per m2) and we got that down to 1.5-watts by swapping out the original 4-lamp T12 fixtures for new Lithonia volumetric parabolics on a one-for-one basis.

See: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/TCHS.jpg

The space is actually noticeably brighter even though we cut their lighting load by more than 75 per cent (the original fixtures were fitted with mini-cube parabolics that are woefully inefficient). This space is heated and cooled by a roof-top heat pump, so the client will save on their air conditioning and heating costs, in addition to the reduction in their lighting load.

BTW, I audited this facility on a Thursday, presented our proposal to the client later that evening, got the materials ordered and couriered on-site the following day (Friday) and our crews started and completed the work Monday morning before their first customer walked through the door.


It is my considered opinion that renewables are going to be a much, much more important part of the energy mix by 2035 and in some parts of the world, are going to be all we've got.

I agree and I think a lot of it is going to look like something like this:

And this:

Paul, eat your heart out >;-)

How much the sun may suck in Germany, it's already good enough to shave the gas peak generation each day and even starts to nibble at the baseload at times..

it's already good enough to shave the gas peak generation each day and even starts to nibble at the baseload at times.

for a few months in the summer. At this time of year, for example, it is pitiful. That's why Germany has an average Peak Sun Hour figure of between 2 and 3. The Peak Sun Hour figure for the summer is probably decent but, the winter figure is tiny. For regions like North Africa and the south western US the average Peak Sun Hours figure is closer to 7 mainly because there is not that bid a difference in the seasons. Summer production is greater but, more importantly, "winter" figures aren't half bad.

The point I was making is that, if the PV systems were located in locations with higher average Peak Sun Hour figures,They would produce two to three times more total energy over the entire year.

Alan from the islands

Of course solar insolation is much less in the four winter months. However in november and february the influence of PV on gas generation is clearly visible. And the combination solar+wind is working really well. See some detailed (day to day) data in this PDF from the Fraunhofer institute.

Heh, last time I did put an EU energy forecast in here was in 2008 and based on pre-Lehman input.


Even if it was intended at the time as a semi-humorous slab at the crystal balls of the IEA, the comparison with the actual 2010 data and my present guess for 2020 is quite interesting. Units are million tons of oil equivalent.

Year Fossil Solids Fossil Oils NatGas Nuclear Ren.
2010 280(-27) 617(-20) 442(-35) 206(-2) 255(-1)
2020 229(-40) 510(-47) 428(-52) 165(-2) 453(-33)
2020* 229(-40) 460(-97) 458(-22) 165(-2) 468(-18)

(*) 25% CNG fuel penetration with max biomethane, ho hum.

Will research if I did beat the IEA for 2010 when I get a lost moment:-)


Worldwide shares of electricity from non-hydro renewable sources and solar since the signing of the Kyoto protocol:

Year Non-hydro PV+ST
1997: 1.37 0.01
2004: 1.99 0.02
2008: 2.85 0.07
2010: 3.62 0.19
2011: 4.19 0.34
2012: ~5.1 ~0.53

The big jump for this year stems from a slower increase in total consumption (21739TWH to ~21980).

Quite a few freely available references in there, but i suspect that anyone having bought the IEA data compendium will find very similar numbers in there.


A history of global PV capcity developments from here:

Installed PV capacity globally:
2007: 8 GW
2008: 16 GW (+ 8 GW)
2009: 23 GW (+ 8 GW)
2010: 40 GW (+17 GW)
2011: 70 GW (+30 GW)

Expectations for 2012 is >+31 GW

So while subsidies and FIT's have been greatly reduced in the past year, PV growth rate has remained at all-time record high. To me this signals that PV, thanks to ongoing cost reductions, will increasingly become it's own growth fuel, much less dependent on varying stimulus schemes by swinging governments (boom&bust).

PV growth rate has remained at all-time record high

As I showed above the growth rate has gone from 73% in 2010 to 69% in 2011 and down to 46% in 2012. How is this not a fall in the rate of growth? Your own numbers show the same!!

To me most of the comments on my original post show what people want to believe, not what the numbers actually show.

Hide_away, you see the irony in your comments?

1) You use Denmark (!) to make a point inrespect to PV! That is a good joke.

2) You use numbers which are determined to a large extend (>30%) by the developement in Germany and some other European countries, countries which will be only minor players, as they have reached the level which is sustainabel and useful.

3) You simply ignore the numbers from the really important countries, you know which these are in the next years? Your short terme oberservation is correct but completely useless to answer the question where the projected increases will come from in future. But at least you are right that " people want to believe, not what the numbers actually show". :-)

AFAICT, the in biggest market Germany concerns about how quickly the grid can be adapted to increasing levels of PV have motivated faster than would otherwise have been the case reductions in FIT rates. So Germany, and apparently Denmark have already reached growth rates that are worrisome, and those concerns mean the biggest customers have gone from exponential growth to flat rate of increase. As stated that simply isn't the case in most of the rest of the world, which looks to be in the exponential phase. It will take a couple of years before these currently smaller markets demand catches up, then its not unlikely the exponential will reassert itself.

I think that "growth rates that are worrisome" for PV is a great problem to have!

Who would have thought 5 or 10 years ago that PV would become a major player on the electricity market in Germany? This is a testimony to the EEG and those who created it.

La. Sinkhole Update

What’s that old saying: a rumor makes it around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. I was logging (running electronic measuring devices at the end of an electric cable) in our well 5 miles from the sinkhole over the Thanksgiving weekend. The following week it was reported in the Baton Rouge newspaper that our hole had collapsed and that this was the cause of earthquakes at the sinkhole. Earthquakes that weren’t felt at the surface but picked up by very sensitive geophones. I suspect our situation was reported by one of our landowners who had been hanging around our location or one of the drill crew.

The facts: I couldn’t get the logging tool down the last 200’ of our 12,000’ hole because rock cuttings had settle to the bottom of the hole. We cleaned the hole out and last week I relogged the hole to bottom without a problem. Running casing on our new oil well right now. As I’ve mentioned before we’re not a public company and don’t care at all about foolish rumors...so no reponse from us. The La. Regulators monitoring us (had one with me at the time) and they know the truth. But even if we were a pubco and put out a press release with the facts I have no doubt the vast majority of the public will still believe the rumors

Hide-away is measure a percentage rate of change.

Styno is measuring by actual capacity installed.

As the capacity expands the amount of future increase needed to get the same percentage change increases as well. So event though growth in GW per year increases, the percentage change from last year decreases, unless GW/yr goes up a lot.

This is normal and what should happen for systems that are not in exponential growth, also known as thermal runaway in chemical engineering, and prompt criticality in nuclear engineering.

The same thing has happened with the human population, annual percent increase has become much smaller than decades ago, but the absolute increase each year is still huge. More than 200,000 per DAY net increase.

Well, as usual, you're also showing us what you want to believe, and how you choose to interpret the data, with two year's investment showing drops, one of them after 2008.. and using that to conclude that PV isn't going to be a successful tech going forward. Those data points have a lot of other factors around them, and they hardly conclude that PV is a dead-end.

One would easily see how a massive, Global Financial Contraction would hit this kind of investment hard, especially when most mainstream folks have hardly taken in the idea that our long-term energy sources might be at risk at all, so of course investment dollars will get shy.. but as people start to cotton to what's going down with all our burned sources, PLUS our climate's response to any carbon fuel, then there will also be a bounceback as people realize that it's one of those 'we can barely afford to DO it, but absolutely cannot afford NOT to..'

Meanwhile, I'm seeing solar heating and PV going in all around me in MAINE, which has tepid if any support for such investments, and not the best latitdude for it. People are seeing our lights on, when theirs go out, and they are pretty quick to put Two and Two together..

Talking about 'saving the world' is falling back on hyperbole. Like my friend used to say..

"I don't want to buy happiness. Just a boat and some other stuff."

Let me get this straight. Here on the oil drum where the statistics of what is happening with oil are believed over the hype shown by the media, when it comes to something else, like solar PV, we all have to believe the hype not the numbers? Sorry I don't buy it.

Could someone please come up with some statistics to show I'm incorrect, instead of hyperbole.

The facts clearly show that the amount of PV energy produced, when compared to total energy used, is nothing more than tinkering at the edges of whats needed. The facts are that PV may already running into growth limits because of lack of incentives/lack of feed-in tariffs/lack of investment dollars/lack of will to accomodate fluctuating output by grid utilities etc.

Going back to numbers, just looking at growth in the additions, not growth in total PV, we get the following..

Year......new Gw.......%growth over previous years addition

Remember that a huge portion of "what's needed" is waste.

No, PV will not provide the high-waste version of "what's needed", but it really can provide what we need if we get rid of the waste.

We have 12 KW of PV on the roof, and we are essentially at zero net energy, including 2 electric cars (Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt). So when people say "you can't do it with PV", my response is "we've already done it."

For the cost of about 2.5 years of gasoline for an average gasoline car, you can buy PV that will provide the same number of miles of driving per year in an electric car for the rest of your life. This is because the electric cars are 7 times as energy-efficient as a gasoline car.

We only have 5kw of PV on the roof, and I make my own biodiesel for the car from used cooking oil. I also heat my house with wood from my own land. This however means squat when looking at the big picture of what's happening world wide.

I live nearly 200km from a major city, without rail anywhere near me. When I load up the old diesel Merc with a few hundred kg of produce and the missus, I can use ~45 litres of biodiesel for the trip roundturn. I'll also be using either the airconditioner or the heater depending on weather. Which electric vehicle can I do this with? The old Merc cost $5k when I bought it. How much will the EV cost me?

Yes, efficiency means different thing to different people. This links with the thread above, some efficiency plans will work out, some will fail.


Here's one scheme for comment. Get a good strong EV, put a trailer behind it with the best steady state biodiesel you can find. Use energy from PV for local things, put on the biodiesel trailer when you go a long distance, but the diesel is not following demand, just running steady state doing nothing but keeping the batteries up.

Would also work with wood gas.

Then go out and buy a lot more PV from your local energy cooperative.

My Plugin Prius owners manual says "do not charge from a generator". I guess they are worried about the quality of the AC input.

How much PV does it take to "offset" the embedded energy in the batteries? (Batteries in the electric cars, in this case. Batteries in off-grid PV systems is also a big issue.)

PV has surprised on the upside so often that it may well pull off another round of that. Potential demand is nowhere near saturated except in a very few locations and pickups tend to be fast and mighty when they do happen. Module prices were still predicted to go down recently, even if some say that silicium will start to go up. Also some producer balance sheets were not good, not the least some Chinese ones, but we still seem not to have come to a situation where one producer can impose a price.

The Eurobserver report for 2011 for instance indicated a tendency towards 80 GWc for 2015 from 51.4 after 2011 for the EU. That may well happen in 2013 by now.

Anyway what I wanted to say was that the installation data for 2012 at country level will be available shortly. That and the evolution of PV cell production by location during 2012 should allow for more informed guesses.


Staring at percentages in a growing market with real world politics is a wrong choice anyway. Expecting exponential growth for any power generation source can hold only a few doublings (which PV has). There are real world constraints that prevent continued exponential growth for everything.

It's much more interesting to see how market conditions evolve and how this impacts growth. Last year there was a huge boom because investors expected much lower FIT's. The result is that a lot of PV investment was done in 2011 that was planned for 2012. Also FIT's in 2012 were much lower (per IEA report). So you'd think that PV investment would naturally be lower in 2012 then 2011. But instead we see that 2012 not only matches 2011 but surpasses it.

My conclusion is that PV increasingly is capable of self-supported growth, which will open vast areas of untapped potential to grow further.

Please note that there are few people who expect PV to supply most power in a few decades, let's focus on reality instead of straw men.

Please note that there are few people who expect PV to supply most power in a few decades, let's focus on reality instead of straw men.

As I have stated elsewhere in this thread that is my belief also, based on the numbers and direction energy production is heading.

What do you expect to be the major supply of energy in a few decades, say well past peak coal?

Even past peak coal there will be a lot of it around and I don't expect humanity to be as rational to head away from it at great speed. So, count me in on coal still being the major player.

Looks like exponential plus noise to me. The real question is how long we can maintain the exponential growth phase. So far this is pretty Moores law like doubling is roughly 18months. We need quite a few doublings before it starts making a big dent.


Hello- I am living in my wife's new suburban utility bill McNightmare with 30 double pane windows- one concession I got was that I get to insulate the crap out of it and restrict heat and AC to space units as much as possible. Anyway- I am buying solid 1 or 2 inch insulation sheets to insert into the windows but I have some questions:

1. During the day, when the direct south sun is shining in- does the sunlight coming in heat the house more than the heat transferring out though the glass due to its material convection? My guess is "yes" since this seems how passive houses are designed but I want to make sure.

2. At what point does the sun's radient heat from rays become weaker than the heat lost by glass convection? When the sunlight is no longer direct and on the other side of the house?

3. Is there a practical inexpensive device that you can buy or rent and point at a window or near it that would tell you that you are now losing more heat than you are gaining at its the time of day to put up insulation for the day?


It's not quite what you're asking for, but I've played around with an inexpensive ($10 from Harbor Freight) gizmo that measures temperature in a small spot remotely. You point it at something (within a range of 10 feet or so), it has a laser pointer to help you aim, but I believe it uses passive measurement of the infrared "light" to determine the temperature. May be useful for detecting places in a house wall where heat is lost. Anyway, I used it to compare the temperature of the insides of windows' glass while it's rather cold (and dark) outside. The most recent window I had installed, which is made with rather expensive coated glass (2 panes) that is supposed to be optimized for solar heat gain while not conducting much heat from the inside to the outside, measured at about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5 centigrade) warmer on the inside than another window that I replaced not long ago with a generic double-pane sealed insert.

The fancy window did not qualify for the federal tax credit BECAUSE I chose the glass type that maximizes solar gain. This is on the South side of the house, and I had an overhang built on the outside, above the window, to block the summer sun. But the feds seem to assume that air conditioning, not heating, is the only energy issue worth worrying about, and that windows don't have overhangs, so they require the solar heat gain coefficient to be BELOW some threshold to qualify for the tax credit.

The IR thermometers don't do a good job measuring glass, which is partly transparent/reflective/absorbent in those wavelengths. They are great for most surfaces, but glass is problematic. I also measured a clearly liquid puddle on morning at 20F! So clearly water also partially reflects the cold sky temperature.

I think double pane glass probably exhibits net solar gain, single pane maybe not. Many of my SW facing windows I have I have thermal curtains that I close at night, and this helps. The drapes are also white facing the window and reduce the solar gain. My big SW windows are above a deck, last summer I build some pergola like seasonal shade structure. It seemed to make a huge difference. I'll put then back up come May.

When I finished my strawbale house I used an IR thermometer for weeks checking out walls, ceilings, doors, windows, everything. I love it!

For surfaces like glass, metal, etc. where the emissivity is ambiguous, just stick on a piece of masking tape, and aim the laser so it lands on the tape. Conductivity isn't great, but temperature is right after a few seconds.

When I designed my house, I used double-glazed windows, but I built it with wide roof overhangs (4 feet) on the south side. It is laid out so that on midsummer's day (June 21), no sun at all shines through the south windows at midday, which prevents overheating in summer. On midwinter's day (December 21) I get full sunlight through the windows as long as the sun is up, which gives full solar heating.

The east windows are not shaded so I always get a nice fast warmup in the Master Bedroom and east side of the Living Room in the morning, and the west windows have big spruce trees to block them so the Kitchen and Dining Room don't get overheated in the summer afternoons. It doesn't matter that much in winter because the sun doesn't come that far around. There are no windows on the north side at all, although I framed in a couple and sided and drywalled over them just in case I change my mind. A few minutes with a reciprocating saw and I could have a couple of new window openings.

I also planted deciduous trees on the south and east sides to shade the house in summer, and evergreens on the north and west side to block the prevailing northwesterly winds in winter. They're getting about 30 feet tall now, so they're doing a good job. The deciduous trees drop their leaves in winter so they don't block the solar heating.

When the main picture window failed due to a seal break, I replaced it with one of the new low-e windows, and I also put a new low-e window beside the front door to give some light in the entrance. They didn't have that technology when I built the place.

In your case, I would suggest putting a low-e film on the windows to control the heat loss/gain. Strategic planting of trees is also a good idea if you are expecting to be there a long time. I'm a big fan of using trees for climate control. I would also suggest sitting down with a pencil and paper and calculating the hourly sun angles on all your windows for every month of the year. If you can't find an app that does it, it can be a lot of work, but ultimately worth it.

Good luck with the project. When my (second) wife and I retired, we sold our two houses in the city (we each brought one to the marriage) and moved into the modest mountain chalet I built by myself (no mortgage), and it has worked out really well (especially financially). The only hard part was giving away all the surplus furniture, appliances, and housewares we couldn't fit into our cozy little mountain retreat. Many of our friends are really happy about all the good stuff they got, as are not a few clients down at the thrift store.

Rocky Mountain Geezer.

What I realized when I did the rough calculations was that it's a compromise, since the sun is as high in September as it is in March. Thus, if you want solar heat input in March (and I certainly do) you'll end up with some unwanted heat on the hotter days of September.

Besides the sun angles, take local climate into account. Here in Vermont, for example, November is usually extremely cloudy, so expect almost no solar gain (nor direct-sun PV power). December is almost as bad. OTOH by February is gets much sunnier - albeit a lot colder. This didn't impact my window design much. But it did lead me to mount the extra PV panels I got last spring (can't refuse $1/watt) right down flat on the slightly-sloped roof, rather than up at 45 degrees like my first set of PV panels. The cost of the mounting hardware (relative to the now cheaper panels), and the extra vulnerability to wind damage, did not seem worth the small amount of extra solar power I would have gotten from a more upright orientation. In fact, the more horizontal panels may collect more power in cloudy conditions than the sloped ones.

There is a web site I found with actual historical solar input data, for specific locations (including Burlington Vermont), for various angles including vertical (windows). Sorry no link.

It's always a compromise, so you can't create a perfect system. I just looked at the weather averages for this town. Then I did a little geometry and calculated the sun angles at various times of year, related them to the roof angles, and determined when the sun would come though the windows and when it wouldn't. I also chose my trees based on when they leafed out and dropped their leaves. However, it's not a perfect science and very day and every year is different. You just go for the best average.

However, I don't need an A/C because the house never gets too hot, and while I do need heat because it reaches 40 below here in winter, I don't need to heat for most of the year. I have a 97% efficient gas furnace, a natural gas fireplace, and a wood fireplace, and any one of them can keep the whole house warm at 40 below. Natural gas here is cheap (the gas fields are only a short distance away) and I can cut my own wood for free. I also put some electric heat in the bathroom floors and walls, but that is just a comfort feature because it is the most expensive heat source available. Warm toes and a warm butt in the morning are worth it.

PV is not good here, first because there are some 9000 foot mountains cutting the solar day short in this valley, and second because there are 2 mid-size hydroelectric plants in this town and 5 more down the valley, and they can produce power cheaper than I can. Those are the minuses and pluses of living in the Rockies.

Do a little research on Interior storm windows.There are home DIY plans and also manufactures.Not only energy savings they are the biggest bang for the buck compared to exterior storms or replacement windows it also reduces sound.

If you want as accurate response. I suggest you go and get RETSCREEN. It is a free software to do energy analysis. As a rule of thumb, good quality double windows would be enough unless the climate is quite cold. However, on the orientation without sun, it might worth the trouble to go to triple glazing. It is really a matter of local climate.

Hi C8,

The go to guy for building energy issues is Martin Holladay at Green Building Advisor.

This 2010 post will answer a lot of your questions.

Choosing Triple-Glazed Windows
Balancing U-factor and solar heat gain

For more of what he has written with respect to windows you could do a site specific Google search: site:http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings window

What RMG wrote above about siting a house is bang on. But the house your in is already built so not much you can do now, except plant some trees and wait patiently. That said, you could also look at storm windows. See if the manufacturer of your windows makes storms specifically for them.

Not that you are, but I wouldn't consider replacing your windows, at least they shouldn't be a top priority. There are usually a lot of other things you can do first for less money that will lead to a greater reduction in energy demand.

And I agree with others here, an IR imaging won't tell you anything meaningful or useful that you don't already know.


Not sure if it is quite what you want but the maximum air space between glazing panes is about 3/4" (depending on source of information) before convection cuts in and the insulation level drops. 1/2" is about the maximum that is practical for saving vs cost.


Thanks to all for input- my windows are double pane but only 12 years old so I don't see replacing them- I wouldn't make the money back (although one has already failed!) I usually just buy styrofoam sheets and pop them in and out as needed- its a little work but the time the family is home after work on weekdays is only 3-4 hours before bedtime and then the heat is shut off for the night (blankets take over then). I also use the styrofoam to block sun from windows in the summer in the afternoon to take the load off the AC and fans. I will look into the window film and see if it is cheaper, better insulating or less hassle than styofoam. Maybe I'll just tape a ribbon thermometer to a represtative window. I'll also check out the site referenced.

A couple thoughts.

First a caution. With internal Foam Window Plugs, leave a space or perfs at the top, or make SURE you don't leave a window plugged up on a sunny day. It could break the panes with the heat that builds up. I've had it happen. (And gaps at the top won't cost much in heat-loss, if the sides and bottoms are tight, all the cold will 'bucket' in there and remain pretty static, as long as the window isn't also drafty. A perk to this is that a sunny window that remains closed can work to thermosyphon warmth INTO the house WITHOUT most of the corresponding losses, when the sun is heating that panel..

Second, Radiant heat losses through windows are significant, and you can do much with 'window-quilts'... My mom was even fully convinced that even a very simple layer of drape, like bedsheet cotton, over windows removed the sense of chill she'd otherwise get passing dark cold glass on a winter's night, while I'm likely to go for a thicker solution anyway.. You usually will want to make drapes that you can likewise to the above, seal at the sides and the bottom, to keep the drafts from thermosyphoning down and cycling through the living space.

I've used the films, but built them into wooden frames that install into many of my windows, and have the plastic on both faces, so I get an additional static air barrier. Making them tight and sealed is at that point, one more crafty challenge to take on..


The optimum gap depends on what you put in it. I have old sash single glazed sash windows and have retrofitted some with thin double glazing units with a 6 mm air gap (you have to bulk up the sash weights to move the windows). With low-e glass these have an estimated U-value of about 2.7 (SI units) - W/(m2 K-1). The current UK Building Regulations require a U-value of 2 which means a 12 mm gap with argon filling and low-E glass.

This can also be achieved in a 6 mm gap unit if it is filled with a krypton/argon mixture.

This report by Scottish Heritage
is all about retrofit options for listed buildings but contains an interesting chart near the end (circa page 57) about U-values vs gap width for different gas fillings.


Yes, I've done that in sash windows I replaced. Shame they didn't take that graph out further to the convection zone but it does tend to show that 12 is a rough limit for the non-exotic fill, I don't think those were available when I was looking last and I am not into DG now unless it is for sound.


Written by C8:
1. During the day, when the direct south sun is shining in- does the sunlight coming in heat the house more than the heat transferring out though the glass due to its material convection? My guess is "yes" since this seems how passive houses are designed but I want to make sure.

It depends mostly on the inside temperature of your house, the outside air temperature and the wind. You mentioned that your house has double paned windows, so unless it is particularly cold outside, like less than -10 C and windy, direct sunlight shining through the window will add more heat than escapes.

Written by C8:
2. At what point does the sun's radient heat from rays become weaker than the heat lost by glass convection? When the sunlight is no longer direct and on the other side of the house?

Yes, when direct sunlight is no longer shining through the window and the outside air temperature is lower than the inside house temperature, then the heat loss will exceed the heat gain through the window. This condition will be reached while a little bit of sunlight shines through the window.

As for your insulated inserts, styrofoam deteriorates when exposed to sunlight. Paint it or put some protective layer over it. If your windows have an infrared reflective coating, your insulated insert needs to be a light color (white). If it is a dark color and the sun shines on it when it is installed in the window, the heat can be sufficient to peel the infrared reflective coating off of the glass. However, you may be trying to maximize insulation too much because the windows also illuminate your house during the day. The simple rules to follow for houses in the northern hemisphere are:

1. For north facing windows leave the insulated inserts in the windows all winter.

2. For south facing windows remove the inserts at or after sunrise and install them at or before sunset.

3. For east facing windows remove inserts at sunrise and install them when they enter shadow or, if you want the light in the room, at sunset.

4. For west facing windows remove inserts when sunlight shines on them and install them at or a little before sunset.

5. If the day is especially cold, leave them in the windows until the outside air warms up

For summer aluminum foil is a great reflector of sunlight. Use foil faced styrofoam in place of paint or some other covering for the styrofoam. However, you really need the light from Sun entering your windows, so insulated inserts are best installed during the night and removed during the day.

As for painting inserts, purchase foil backed 4'x8' Styrofoam 1" panels.
Place the foil side next to window, they fit nicely into old sliding glass door tracks.
UV won't damage the foil side..

Note: One doesn't even need to cover the whole door to get some benefit. Protecting just the bottom 4ft will turn an R-1 Sliding glass door into a a R3.8 door. (Big savings for less the 10$.)

I also use Nashua aluminum foil tape to protect the edges.
These panels have saved me a bundle over the last couple of years.
Break even ..ROI... just a couple of months.

I am buying solid 1 or 2 inch insulation sheets to insert into the windows

I use this trick and it works great. I like the 1" boards because they let in a little light, and I edge them with packing tape.

But be sure to take them down every day or you'll have some nifty little window gardens from the condensation. The only way to leave them up for the season would be to have a good vapor seal all the way around. Even then, you might want to have a squint at them once in awhile.

I store the panels flat against the ceiling using a couple small shelf brackets above the window, and a plastic latch from a childproof cabinet kit on the ceiling. The main restriction is the need to keep some clear space in front of every window. On the larger windows I cut the panels in half for easier handling. Once in a blue moon the wind will blow hard enough to push one out, so my next trick will be velcro buttons.

Remote operated outdoor insulated shutters are the way to go if you have the spare change on hand--kind of a wish list item for me. Triple glaze helps us out but in these frosty parts with low angle sun we know all windows will be costing us heat a lot of the time. However a bright naturally lit house is good for the moral, which is good for the immune system. All aspects must be balanced ?-)

Even at the moment, an hour and half past sunset, it still cheers me to see the last light glowing over the hills. I know I could shutter things up and go outside see it better, but its a tad nippy out there and I just came in?-)

Your method sounds very practical.

Frozen landslide threatens to devour Dalton Highway (North Slope haul road)

One more manifestation of climate change. According to the article at its current rate it could reach the Dalton Highway in 5 to 10 years. It will take another 20 years to reach TAPS, which is on the other side of the road.

A mysterious blob of frozen soil, rocks and trees is creeping toward the Dalton Highway, threatening to block the haul road that serves as a lifeline for Alaska's oil and gas industry. It could happen as soon as end of the decade.
The wave of frozen mud, snow and plants slowly spilled from the mountains within the past 5,000 years, researchers said. It is now within about 150 feet of the highway. Moving at a average rate of more than a centimeter a day, it could swamp the Dalton within five to 10 years, said Institute of Northern Engineering hydrologist Ronald Daanen.
"Our results indicate that frozen debris-lobes have responded to climate change by becoming increasingly active during the last decades, resulting in rapid downslope movements," the researchers wrote.
What makes the formation unique from traditional landslides is that parts of it are frozen and parts of it are thawed as it moves downhill, Darrow said.Based on historical aerial photos, the formation appears to have seeped from a hollow in the mountain slopes toward the highway. Set in motion by gravity, it's been moving for at least 10 years but wasn't close enough to the road to draw any great concern from the Transportation Department, said Billy Connor, a former DOT research manager and head of the university's Alaska University Transportation Center.

Build a really strong tunnel and let the mess roll over the top.

A cm or two a day, couldn't you bulldoze that off?

That just makes the problem worse:

Digging away the face of the lobe might cause it to move even more quickly toward the highway -- a problem common to efforts to combat landslides, Darrow said."If you take out the toe, you remove the part that's holding it back and it just makes it go even faster," she said.

For small slides, engineers will often weight the toe, to resist movement. If you've ever seen a big pile of heavy boulders against a road cut, that is often what they are doing. However, I suspect this mother is much too big for that approach.

That's a lot of material in that lobe,

Photo by Guido Grosse The debris flow is visible from the Dalton Highway. The lobe (middle of the frame) is moving toward the highway, picking up debris and toppling trees. 2012

Sound like some like an active layer slide on super steroids. I've seen more than a house or two slowly and unevenly slide down a permafrost underlain hillside around town, a bit more every thaw season.

You really have to drive it once to have a feel for how slender and tender the sole supply road to the North Slope is. I tried to get Duncan to give a rough number on just how much truck traffic full implementation of the Great Bear's 192 well a year development proposition would generate, but he ducked around that adroitly.

Yeah, the Dalton seemed like a very slender thread when I went up it. Interesting regarding Great Bear. I hadn't thought about that, but if Duncan ever does go to full production that would be a lot of additional traffic.

The additional traffic trucking 7BCF of LNG from the slope to Fairbanks bounced around conversations some when the proposal first surfaced--it really isn't that much averaging a bit over 27 trucks each way a day, but of course the LNG demand is much higher here during the winter (know locally as the long season) so likely it would be more like 40-50 LNG tankers each way half the year, about a couple an hour in each direction.

But I've seen huge numbers for the trucking requirements of shale plays--these include the 80,000 barrels of frac fluid per well. If the Bear operation ever gets going the plan is to recondition the brackish water from the huge reservoir a few thousand feet above the oil that extends over pretty much the whole potential play. But the build up phase would have a lot of big loads heading up. Materials for the new oil and frac fluid handling facilities, all new drill rigs are required (I assume one per pad). The build out to full production is only supposed to take a few years.

During and after that every year lots of gravel for the eight new pads and about 50 miles of new connecting service roads for them. Most of those loads are relatively local--but still north of the Brooks the distances between tractor-trailer bumpers could really shrink with a shale operation. There is a chance somebody else might be planning to do some work up there as well. You think road maintenance and upgrades required to handle that truck load might create the 'occasional' bottlenecks. Not sure all the bridges have been brought up to the current standard yet.

I really couldn't tell if Great Bear really plans to try and develop those leases themselves if the numbers pan (they are a very small company) or if their real plan has been to get in first, tie up the leases with the best pipeline/road access, drill a couple exploration wells, then get those through a simplified permit process so they can convert them into producing wells to get real production data and finally if the numbers come in as expected unload it all on one of the big boys (Repsol comes to mind) that has recently come to play in the neighborhood.

Luke, FYI Ed Duncan of Great Bear will be giving a talk to the Alaska Geological Society on "Unconventional Oil Reservoirs on the North Slope of Alaska" on December 13. AGS talks are in Anchorage, but they usually send the slide pack to Fairbanks and dial in for the audio. I think they do the remote meetin over at at UAF.

Thanks, I emailed the AGS to see if I could get specifics, though there is a good chance a presentation meant for professionals will blow well over my head.

At 1 or 2 cm/year the short answer is to tamp down some gravel and drive over it.

I think you misread

Moving at a average rate of more than a centimeter a day, it could swamp the Dalton within five to 10 years,

I assume some sort of diversion scheme will be looked at--but who knows what sort of permitting nightmare will be entailed in that neighborhood.

Global CO2 Emissions Hit Record High in 2011
Why are we not surprised? but wait, there's more! some 1200 new coal-burning plants are in the planning or construction stages right now. 2 degrees C global temp gain will look like a distant dream, not too far in the future. We are likely passing 400ppm CO2 concentration right now.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide were at a record high in 2011 and are likely to take a similar jump in 2012, scientists reported Sunday — the latest indication that efforts to limit such emissions are failing.

Emissions continue to grow so rapidly that an international goal of limiting the ultimate warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees, established three years ago, is on the verge of becoming unattainable, said researchers affiliated with the Global Carbon Project.

Josep G. Canadell, a scientist in Australia who leads that tracking program, said Sunday in a statement that salvaging the goal, if it can be done at all, “requires an immediate, large and sustained global mitigation effort.”

Dick Lawrence

We are likely passing 400ppm CO2 concentration right now.

I researched it - we'll hit 400 ppm in May 2014.

"Immediate, Large, and Sustained" (caps added), in other words, Not Gonna Happen. We are doomed.

I grew up in the rural south in the 1930's. Things that were not gonna happen were a-plenty-- we worry the least bit about our water or air, we cut out selling tobacco to kids and smoking it everywhere, we let them N"s have a chance to vote, and so on and on and on. And by far the biggest notgonnahappen was anybody with even a semi-black skin getting to be president of the USA!

ABSOLUTELY notgonnahappen!!

NGH. Hear that?

So now we are faced with what we faced before to the 5th power. So start where we started with all that other stuff. Do it yourself.

Do it yourself. Do it now, Do it for real, Keep doing it. And make yourself impossible to ignore while you are doing it.


a beet of hiztory for oil conundrummers every whare!


"Suicide by gas didn't go out of style - it just became a whole lot less convenient. The gas piped into your house these days is not your grandfather's gas. "

Goodbye, fluorescent light bulbs: New lighting technology won't flicker, shatter or burn out

The lighting, based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology, also gives off soft, white light.

This new lighting solution is at least twice as efficient as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and on par with LEDs, but these bulbs won't shatter and contaminate a home like CFLs or emit a bluish light like LED counterparts.

FIPELs also are long-lasting; Carroll has one that has worked for about a decade.

Don't get your hopes up because according to the abstract it uses Iridium which is very rare on Earth (about 8 times less than gold).

Effect of multi-walled carbon nanotubes on electron injection and charge generation in AC field-induced polymer electroluminescence, Yonghua Chena, Gregory M. Smitha, Eamon Loughmanb, Yuan Lia, Wanyi Niea, David L. Carrolla; Organic Electronics, v14, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 8–18.

Recession Left Baby Bust as U.S. Births Lowest Since 1920

The U.S. birth rate fell to a record low last year, driven by a decline in the number of babies born to immigrant women, who have led the growth in the nation’s population for at least two decades.

The country’s birth rate fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a Pew Research Center report. The rate dropped 6 percent for U.S.-born women and plummeted 14 percent for foreign-born females since 2007, the onset of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The decline continued last year to the lowest point since records began in 1920.

The U.S. birth rate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, according to preliminary numbers. That’s down by almost half from a peak of 122.7 in 1957 during the postwar baby boom.

Good grief!

A low birth rate could be a recipe for mass poverty and isolation...The birthrate among Mexican women in the U.S., the nation’s largest immigrant group, fell 23 percent...

It makes it sound like the USA will be a howling wasteland by 2050. According to Wikipedia the population growth in the US is among the highest in industrialized countries.