Drumbeat: December 24, 2012

German Utilities Pay Power Users as Warm, Windy Christmas Looms

Day-ahead power in Germany turned negative for the first time in at least five years as utilities prefer to pay users rather than halt plants amid low demand, mild temperatures and higher-than-average wind generation.

Baseload next-day power, for supplies delivered around the clock, fell as low as minus 15 euros (minus $19.84) a megawatt- hour, compared with 22 euros a megawatt-hour on Dec. 21 for power delivered today, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the first time the day-ahead contract has been negative since Bloomberg started collecting the data in 2007.

Germany seeks to generate more than a third of its electricity from renewables as the country exits nuclear energy. Utilities including EON SE and RWE AG may prefer to pay users rather than halt fossil fuel-fed plants when turbines and solar cells push power supply above demand.

Brent Crude Declines a Third Day Amid U.S. Budget Talk Impasse

Oil slipped for a third day in London because of concern that U.S. lawmakers may fail to avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases that threaten the economy of the world’s biggest crude consumer.

Brent crude fell as much as 0.4 percent, while futures in New York traded near their lowest level in a week. Republicans and Democrats probably won’t reach an agreement on a budget deal by year-end to avoid triggering more than $600 billion in measures known as the fiscal cliff, Senator Joseph Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Gas prices slide, but the decline won't last, survey says

(CNN) -- Gas prices have fallen nearly 12 cents over the last two weeks, continuing a "price crash," the publisher of a new survey said Sunday.

The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.26, down 58 cents over the past 11 weeks, the Lundberg Survey found.

But that good news at the pump is unlikely to continue, says publisher Tribly Lundberg.

"Higher crude oil prices are translating into higher wholesale gasoline prices," and retailers will need to pass them through, she says. Expect prices to jump 5 or 10 cents per gallon soon.

Oil and gas return to the world stage

Not surprisingly, energy issues featured high on the regional and global agenda this year, with tensions over the Strait of Hormuz, the emergence of shale oil and gas in the United States and Iraq's rise all making headlines.

Here is a look back at some of the main talking points in 2012.

Bullish Wagers Drop to Six-Month Low on U.S. Budget

Investors cut bullish commodity bets to the lowest in almost six months as U.S. budget talks stalled, increasing concern that lawmakers’ failure to reach an agreement with push the world’s biggest economy back into a recession.

Bangladesh fixes fuel import contracts

(Reuters) - Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation has concluded first half 2013 term negotiations for refined oil products at mostly stronger premiums than current contracts, a senior BPC official said on Monday.

BPC will also buy 700,000 tonnes of Murban crude from Abu Dhabi National oil Company and another 700,000 tonnes of Arab Light crude from Saudi Aramco in 2013 for its refinery.

Petrobras CEO Sees Fuel-Price Increase, But Unsure When -Report

Petroleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras, expects to get approval for another round of fuel-price hikes, but Chief Executive Maria das Gracas Foster told O Globo newspaper that she doesn't know when the much-needed boost to offset heavy imports will come.

Petroceltic Plans Oil Exploration in Greece, CEO O’Cathain Says

Petroceltic International Plc, an oil and gas company with operations in Egypt and eastern Europe, plans to explore for oil in Greece.

The company has made an application in the country for onshore and offshore blocks with Hellenic Petroleum SA and Edison SpA, Brian O’Cathain, chief executive officer of Petroceltic, said in a Dec. 21 telephone interview from Dublin.

Siemens, Korea Electric May List Units in Nigeria, Oteh Says

Nigeria’s sold-off state power companies may be required to list on the nation’s stock exchange within five years, the head of the market regulator said, as the bourse targets a $1 trillion market value by 2016.

Lanco Griffin Unit Defeats Bid to Block Sale of Assets

Lanco Infratech Ltd.’s Australian coal-mining unit defeated a bid by a fertilizer maker in a A$5.8 billion ($6 billion) suit to block the sale of energy assets needed to move the miner to profitability.

Security fears dogged Canada debate on China energy bid

OTTAWA (Reuters) - In September, two months after China's state-owned CNOOC Ltd made an unexpected $15.1 billion bid for Canadian energy company Nexen Inc, Canada's spy agency told ministers that takeovers by Chinese companies may threaten national security.

The rare warning from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which was disclosed to Reuters by intelligence sources, did not stop the takeover. That was approved by Canadian authorities earlier this month.

Rosneft Agrees to Five-Year Oil Supply Deal With Glencore, Vitol

OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, agreed to a prepaid long-term supply deal with Glencore International Plc (GLEN) and Vitol Group as it seeks to raise funds for its acquisition of TNK-BP.

The deal is for as much as 67 million metric tons of crude for five years from the start of next year, Rosneft said in a statement posted on its website. That’s 270,000 barrels a day or about 11 percent of the Russian producer’s current output.

Rosneft Obtains $16.8 Billion in Loans to Finance TNK-BP Deal

OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, signed loan agreements for $16.8 billion to finance the acquisition of TNK-BP.

Rosneft will borrow $4.1 billion for five years and $12.7 billion for two years from a group of international banks. The cash will pay for BP Plc (BP/)’s 50 percent stake in Russia’s third- largest oil producer, the Moscow-based company said in a statement today.

Russia clashes over energy with Belarus, Ukraine, EU

(Reuters) - Russia plunged back into the disputes over energy with Ukraine and Belarus that have repeatedly disrupted oil and gas supplies to European Union countries, and it also termed EU energy policy as "uncivilized".

Russia on Friday denied remarks by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko that it had agreed to increase its crude oil supplies to Minsk, vital for the Belarus economy, and said that it still intended to cut them next year.

Freezing Kyrgyzstan to sell its gas company to Gazprom

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan will sell its state gas company to Russia's Gazprom early next year, to ease a crippling energy crisis, its president said on Monday.

Gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan's north via its leading supplier Kazakhstan have sputtered due to mounting unpaid bills. Tens of thousands of residents of the capital Bishkek have suffered night temperatures at minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

Russia, which like the United States runs a military air base in Kyrgyzstan, is keen to strengthen its economic foothold in the mountainous country neighbouring China.

LUKOIL says "no" to Iraq's West Qurna-1

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's second-largest crude producer LUKOIL said on Monday it had decided not to join the development of Iraq's West Qurna-1 oilfield, citing high risks, paving the way for Chinese companies to enter the project.

JX Nippon plans UK splurge

JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration’s “significant investment” in the UK continental shelf in the next number of years could be around the $2 billion mark.

The Japanese company’s UK offshoot is gearing up for the investment drive after agreeing to a set of significant asset purchases in the region from Italy’s Eni.

Iran says it has enough oil for 150 years

Tehran: Iran has enough petroleum to last for 150 years, allowing it to be one of the world's main exporters of crude, Petroleum Minister Rostam Ghasemi told the Fars news agency Sunday.

"The country has petroleum reserves for about 150 years and during that time ... it can be one of the principal exporters of hydrocarbon resources," Ghasemi said.

"Iran has reserves of nearly 600 billion barrels of petroleum," Ghasemi said.

Iran Ends Fuel Subsidies for Passenger Cars With 1,800cc Engines

Iranians driving cars with engines of 1,800cc and bigger will stop benefiting from a rationing plan that supplies subsidized gasoline, Iran’s Oil Ministry news website reported, citing an energy official.

Iran will stop supplying fuel at a cheaper price to “all new locally produced as well as imported passenger cars” with engines of that size, Mohammad Royanian, head of Iran’s transportation and fuel management office, said in today’s Shana report. Iranians with cars pay 4,000 rials (33 cents) a liter for a monthly allowance of 60 liters and 7,000 rials a liter for larger volumes.

Iran launches international insurance company to insure its oil tankers

Iran oil industry has launched an international insurance company to insure the tankers transporting its crude oil across the globe.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi was quoted by English.farsnews.com as saying that after international sanctions, the country decided to set up its own insurance company for oil tankers.

UN Syria Envoy to Meet Assad as Death Toll Rises

A top United Nations official met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today to discuss the 21- month uprising, a day after an opposition group said government warplanes bombed a bakery and killed 94 people.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Special Envoy on Syria, met Assad in Damascus to discuss international efforts toward a cease- fire. During the meeting, Assad told Brahimi that the government backs any effort that is in the interest of the Syrian people, state television reported. The talks were “constructive,” it said.

4 foreign sailors kidnapped off Nigeria coast

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen attacked a supply tug boat off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, kidnapping four foreign sailors in the latest attack in the West African region that is increasingly dangerous for shippers and oil companies, officials said Monday.

The attack happened 40 nautical miles off the coast of Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta on Sunday night, as the gunmen stormed the moving vessel, the International Maritime Bureau said Monday in a warning to other shippers. The gunmen seized four workers and later fled, the bureau said. Those remaining onboard safely guided the ship to a nearby harbor, the bureau said.

Sandy Legacy Has Utilities Opening Wallets for Drones

One slice of Hurricane Sandy’s $80 billion in economic damages was $3.3 billion just to repair the New York-New Jersey electrical grid -- a casualty that’s inspiring utilities to re-engineer their disaster plans.

The worst-ever U.S. storm has power companies including Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG), New York and New Jersey’s largest, considering flying drones to get fast snapshots of destruction, reinforcing power poles with concrete and building “self-healing” networks that reroute electricity around damaged circuits.

In fracking culture war, celebs, billionaires and banjos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Not so long ago, fracking was a technical term little known beyond the energy industry. Now it's coming to Hollywood, as the fierce battle between environmentalists and oil firms is played out in several forthcoming films.

Egypt seeks land auction to generate 600MW wind energy in Gulf of Suez

The Egyptian Electricity and Energy Ministry has announced its plans to conduct an auction to allocate land in the Gulf of Suez for the development of wind power generation in the region.

Egypt is seeking to utilize the land for sustainable energy generation and will invite investors to construct wind power plants with a potential capacity to generate 600MW, Bloomberg quoted the Ministry as saying.

Energy from willows comes of age in upstate NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Energy from willows is moving out of the experimental stage and into commercial production in New York.

Farms are growing willow shrubs and selling them to a utility, a nursery sells them commercially and plans are being made for refineries.

Pest Control in the Sky, Courtesy of a Raptor

Known as the “sport of kings,” falconry is thought to date back to 2,000 B.C. In medieval Europe, falcons were popular with hunters and served as a status symbol among the aristocracy.

Now, a falcon that once might have graced a king’s wrist could be helping a blueberry grower ward off hungry starlings, or the owner of a landfill contend with a siege of sea gulls.

Scientists Report Faster Warming in Antarctica

West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists had thought over the last half century, new research suggests, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea levels.

A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

“The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”

Study: Home air conditioning cut premature deaths on hot days 80 percent since 1960

As winter begins to tighten its grip on much of the United States, air conditioning doesn’t seem like much of a survival strategy. But a new study has found that home air conditioning played a key role in reducing American death rates over the past half-century, by keeping people cool on extremely hot days.

The installation of air conditioning in American homes is the reason why the chances of dying on an extremely hot day fell 80 percent over the past half-century, according to an analysis by a team of American researchers.

The findings, based on a comprehensive analysis of U.S. mortality records dating from 1900, suggests the spread of air conditioning in the developing world could play a major role in preventing future heat-related deaths linked to climate change.

From link above: Iran says it has enough oil for 150 years

"Iran has reserves of nearly 600 billion barrels of petroleum," Ghasemi said.

The last entry in Wikipedia says that Iran's declared reserves are 175 billion barrels. It appears that Iran's declared reserves have now been inflated by a factor of around 10.

The funny thing is, even if this were true, it would not be 'Game Over' for PO concerns.

The perception of unconstrained supplies would likely lead to increased consumption. making that 150 years into something less.

Even if the flow did last 150 years, then what?

The best good news from that is that we would have 150 years to plan and implement a post-oil future.

Yeah, except for the fact that in 150 years we'll already be knocked back to isolated tribes by global warming. Other than that, it sounds great!

As a follow up to yesterday's discussion, this seems like a pretty good example of gratuitous doomerism. It may or may not be true, but you could post this identical comment in every single single discussion about the future and add a total of nothing.

Oh, sorry -- I neglected to post the zillions of pages and links to support my position.

My point was that the post above was addressing the issue in a vacuum, as if it were an isolated problem. It is not. I was gently reminding the poster of this.

I have lately been posting from my phone, and as I am not a two-thumbed texting machine, my posts tend to be abbreviated. I leave it to you, gentle readers, to fill in the blanks.

Maybe you should instead not post from your phone.

With all due respect, Leanan, would you really restrict posts like that? What if I am not in the same location as my high-powered Alienware computer? What if I'm out with a friend checking fences? Or any number of things that leave one sitting idle out in the boonies?

As a side note, I am shocked, Shocked I say, that you would have me use more energy by posting from a large desktop computer when a phone has such a small energy footprint.

(semi - serious)

I actually don't care what you post from. My objection is to posting short, trivial comments that don't add anything to the discussion. I really don't want this to become a place where text-message type one-liners become the norm.

If you're out with a friend checking fences, by all means read TOD if your friend is boring you. But you don't have to post, do you? You could wait until you have time to make a real contribution. Like the old saying goes...say nothing, unless you can improve upon the silence.

I don't mean to pick on you. You're far from the worst offender. But I do want everyone to think before posting. Is your comment really worth saying? Worth pushing other comments down the page?

Leanan, thanks for replying so quickly.

Firstly, I am with you on comments that do not advance the conversation. I want to contribute, which is why I post. I agree that some posts are unnecessary, and I have been guilty.

However, I like to think that my "one-liners" are backed by substance, and may even make someone think twice...

I don't think anyone here needs the additional food for thought. While we may all come to different conclusions in our projectioneering, we are all of us here on The Oil Drum ultimately dealing with empirical data as presented in this forum and share similar concerns vis-a-vis the future availability and costs of the energy necessary to maintain our technological society, the ability of our world to sustain a higher degree of prosperity for all, in particular the least prosperous, and the potential sociological and environmental implications of any or all of the above.

Doomsaying, while cathartic for some, does little to contribute to the body of evidence of our current situation or advance the possible technological, social, and economic adaptations that will be required of humanity if we are to achieve our collective goals of a more prosperous and equitable future for all without wrecking our planet to the point where any mention of such future is grimly nullified.

This is the challenge of our times and the times of several generations hence. If you believe the outcome is already assured, then why study the matter at all, much less "contribute" to a forum who's sole purpose is to define the problem(s) and propose potential solutions?

The future will require cool heads, due diligence, and far more intellectual and physical effort than most of us well-fed, privileged first worlders are accustomed to. But above all this, it will require a realistically hopeful attitude that doesn't include such masturbatory defeatism.

I hear what you're saying, Dan, and whole-heartedly agree.

However, the issue for we Doomers/pessimists/whatever (as I see it anyway, albeit with a limited understanding) is today's *mainstream* reality: that discussion/enactment of any potential solution(s) are, relatively and globally speaking, miniscule. I see very little evidence of my fellow Joes or Janes "doing their bit" and ultimately it's we, the mob, that drives policy (and perhaps cynically, the quest for votes).

It's Boxing Day and I'm couch-potatoeing, flicking between the Sydney-Hobart yacht race and cricket test here in Melbourne. I wonder how many faces on the screen worry for their kid's future? When they return to work in the New Year, what are their plans to reduce dependence on FF, or at the very least, consume less? It's just so damn hard to imagine voluntary change of attitude from we, the middle-class. Heck, I'm no saint myself!

Will the cool heads in the background save the day? I genuinely hope so. Coz most folks don't give a rats. For many of us who've been struck by the limits-to-growth bolt of lightening, sadly (and reluctantly, after some consideration) doomerism feels like the default position. :(

Regards, Matt
Melbourne, Australia

Like Joe Average, I am sitting in Melbourne on a beautiful Boxing Day - flicking between the cricket and the yacht race, snacking high up the food chain indeed.

Doomsaying, while cathartic for some, does little to contribute to the body of evidence of our current situation or advance the possible technological, social, and economic adaptations that will be required of humanity if we are to achieve our collective goals of a more prosperous and equitable future for all without wrecking our planet to the point where any mention of such future is grimly nullified.

I have a lot of difficulty with this analysis, perhaps even more than gratuitous and repetitive doom-saying.

There is already a great deal of scientific and empirical evidence in relation to climate change, peak oil, peak resources, food issues, over-population, and environmental degradation.

There are no "collective goals" - there is class warfare and warfare between nations - fighting increasingly over oil, food, land and water.

Further, there is little evidence that those in a position to do something about these issues are committed to an equitable future at all. The world is ruled by ruthless self-interest, backed by vast military machines, a captured media, and a compliant populace who only get worried it seems if Checkout 7 at Wal-Mart is closed.

Dan, I hear what you are saying but unlike Joe I don't agree at all.

For starters, "doomsaying" is not what we are doing. What we are saying is "If you expect to be among the survivors of the coming collapse you had better get off your butt and start preparing." And be sure we are not trying to deliver this message "for all" as you put it. We are already wrecking the planet had have been for many decades already. So there is just possible way we can deliver a more prosperous and equitable future for all. And even more prosperous? Don't you think that is overreaching just a tad?

There is indeed a challange for this generation but not for future generations to come, as you put it. Future generations will have a much tougher challenge on their hands, that of trying to survive in a hostile dog eat dog world.

Masturbatory defeatism? What is that? You mean holding the opinion that the world cannot continue to support seven billion people in a world of declining natural resources is masturbatory defeatism? Seeing this beautiful world laid to waste by the effort to continue to support several times the long term logical carrying capacity of the planet and saying "this cannot possibly continue for very long" is masturbatory defeatism?

There is no possible "for all" answer to the problems this planet faces. Cheap and abundant fossil energy has enabled our population to explode. And civilization as we know it will not survive the demise of fossil energy. Or as the late Dr. David Price put it:

Or it may prove impossible for even a few survivors to subsist on the meager resources left in civilization's wake. The children of the highly technological society into which more and more of the world's peoples are being drawn will not know how to support themselves by hunting and gathering or by simple agriculture. In addition, the wealth of wild animals that once sustained hunting societies will be gone, and topsoil that has been spoiled by tractors will yield poorly to the hoe. A species that has come to depend on complex technologies to mediate its relationship with the environment may not long survive their loss.

Notice the paragraph begins with "Or", meaning that this is Dr. Price's second scenario. His first is far more optimistic. That scenario has survivors.

Ron P.

I agreed with Dan's proposal. However, I didn't think it reflected reality.

Cheers, Matt

Doomsaying, while cathartic for some, does little to contribute to the body of evidence of our current situation or advance the possible technological, social, and economic adaptations that will be required of humanity if we are to achieve our collective goals of a more prosperous and equitable future for all without wrecking our planet to the point where any mention of such future is grimly nullified.

Here's how I see it, our global industrial civilization is currently on course to plow into a brick wall at 100 mph! Yes, it might still be possible to slam on the brakes or radically change course. However I see little to any indication that most people understand how radical that course change needs to be or how hard the brakes need to be applied. As for possible technological, social or economic adaptations, non of them will matter one bit if we don't somehow figure out a way to stop runaway human population growth. It is patently ridiculous to claim that it is possible to plan for a sustainable future with 9 or 10 billion people! And even if it were why would any sane society want to?!

So far all I've heard and seen is a never ending promotion of business as usual with the ultimate goal being more 'economic growth'! Well that is simply no longer possible! Disclaimer: after many years of not owning a TV I spent some time with friends who watch non stop. I also accompanied them on shopping sprees for Christmas shopping at the local malls. There isn't much that is positive that I can say about this recent experience! IMHO, Americans at least, it seems, have completely lost their collective sanity... and civil discourse about gun control is the least of our problems.

So count me among the pessimists who think that hitting the brick wall will have rather unpleasant consequences.
Seems to me a lot of people keep thinking that a large hole will somehow 'Magically' appear in the brick wall, moments before impact and we will all sail through unscathed to some newer and better version of BAU. My hunch is that we won't.

My personal plan of action is to power down as much as possible and keep my expectations of technological and social utopias on the low side.


I think his comment was worth saying, but of course that is just one man's opinion. Frankly, I don't think it was really necessary to expand much on his comment given the state of knowledge here about the trajectory of climate change. And as we know, it appears to be changing faster than we thought just a few years ago. Not just we, but the experts in the field have underestimated the speed of impacts. The peer review process is not quick enough for the significance, speed, and extent of the changes.

If it's not necessary to expound on, then maybe it's not worth saying? I mean, if it's something everyone already knows, why say it?

Ulan's comment was quite measured. He noted that there probably isn't 150 years worth of oil, and that it wouldn't solve the problem even if there were. It deserved better than a sarcastic slapdown.

And even for those who fear climate change will be much worse than predicted...that doesn't necessarily mean "isolated tribes" in 150 years. Is it really necessary to be so over the top?

The reason I dislike these short, jokey, extreme comments is they pretty much end the discussion. I think it's disrespectful, at least when in reply to someone who put some thought into his comment and meant it sincerely.

Earthbound Misfit wrote: "Yeah, except for the fact that in 150 years we'll already be knocked back to isolated tribes by global warming."

Jack replied: "this seems like a pretty good example of gratuitous doomerism."

Well no, there is a very strong and logical argument that backs this up. Except that the argument is that it will be the decline of fossil energy that drives us back to living as isolated tribes, not global warming.

Energy and Human Evolution

Even if world population could be held constant, in balance with "renewable" resources, the creative impulse that has been responsible for human achievements during the period of growth would come to an end. And the spiraling collapse that is far more likely will leave, at best, a hand full of survivors. These people might get by, for a while, by picking through the wreckage of civilization, but soon they would have to lead simpler lives, like the hunters and subsistence farmers of the past. They would not have the resources to build great public works or carry forward scientific inquiry. They could not let individuals remain unproductive as they wrote novels or composed symphonies. After a few generations, they might come to believe that the rubble amid which they live is the remains of cities built by gods.

Ron P.

We will not be isolated tribes because of PO. We were not before the oil age, we will not after. In China, archeologists found a stone age european in a grave tomb. Marco Polo was not the first visitor. We can walk. I can easily do 100 Km in 3 days, and that was when I was still using heavy backpacks.

Global warming OTHO will leave only a handfull of habitable places, separated by vast areas of dead land. Those will be isolated and possibly to small to support the gene pool in at least some cases.

Okay, "isolated" was just a figure of speech and I only used it because that was the word in the post I was replying to. I really have no idea whether the tribes will be isolated in the post collapse world or not.

I think you are wrong about global warming leaving only a handfull of habitable places. The world has undergone massive global warming several times in geological history. The flora and fauna were changed but the world has never in geological history became mostly a desert because of global warming. In fact exact the opposite has been the case. The northern and southern latitudes turned into lush green forests and dinosaurs roamed as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Antarctic Circle.

Ron P.

I hope you are right Ron. It's just that I am to pessemestic on climate change. Given the 3 to 5 decades of lag between emission and climate change, dangerous feed back loops which we may already have programmed in to happen, and how terribly slow we are at beginning the cuts in emissions - while the evidence of global warming get stronger, emissions are increasing - I fear we are heading in to uncharted territory. I fear this is something new.

We will not be isolated tribes because of PO. We were not before the oil age, we will not after

There are parts of early Human history where isolation did happen.

Would the isolation happen just because of PO in the lifetime of any presently alive today Human genetic material - I doubt it strongly.

But isolation did happen in the past.

leave only a handfull of habitable places, separated by vast areas of dead land.

Historically the Earth has been an iceball VS no-go heat zones for plants. As the Sun ages that should change.

Rather than supporting ideas like http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/sandstone.html - using bacteria+sugar+Calcium in an attempt to recreate the green the plan looks to be "Carbon Credits" and the transfer of 70% of the wealth into the pockets of the same groups that brought you the GW crisis.

We will not be isolated tribes because of PO.

I admire your certainty.

I am guessing things will not be 100% isolated, but mostly so, except for some trade. I am also guessing things will revert to Renaissance Age society for Europe, Frontier times (pre railroad lines) for United States, and feudal societies for China, and Japan.

So far I am only up to Chapter 7 of "Collapse" by Diamond ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse:_How_Societies_Choose_to_Fail_or_S... ), but seems for all societies he has so far presented, none ever have created a plateau of population of a civilization. All I have read about (admittedly island societies so far) had die-off.

The future will not be symmetrical with the past. It will not be like regressing to the eighteenth century. For several reasons:

1) Much huger population

2) Much different skillsets, that will not be changed out quickly. Hence many people will cling to the lifestyles they know and will oppress others, severely, to maintain them for as long as possible.

3) Pollution will be vastly more widespread. Areas around nuclear plants might become wastelands.

4) Resource depletion. After the industrial age ends, which may take this whole century since every scrap will be harvested, it will be far harder to mine for ores. Mines already run thousands of feet to miles deep. Without fossil fuel technology, it's unlikely our descendents centuries from now will be able to extract anything from those mines, because they'll only have picks, not huge machines. So after the age of scavenging off the ruins of industrial civilization has scattered the salvaged metals, it's unlikely our descendents will be able to procure new resources of those metals.

I find it odd that even many peak oilers are now afraid to talk about such obvious things as what I've mentioned above.

By the way, "isolated" is a relative term. Yes, the future will be very isolated compared to today. It probably doesn't mean "absolutely isolated tribes" in the sense of ethnically bonded distinct tribes that never experience any contact with outsiders. Rather, outsiders will likely trickle through from time to time, but the societies that exist centuries from now won't be super integrated with outsiders in complex diplomatic and economic arrangements.

We're heading into a Dark Age. The hamlet will be the center.

I find it odd that even many peak oilers are now afraid to talk about such obvious things as what I've mentioned above.

I don't see any indication that anyone is afraid of discussing any of these topics. In fact, I see many of them covered here every day, although your synapsis is useful. Changing skillsets requirements in particular seem to have been covered extensively.

The reduction in population is the one that I would expect most people would find scary. To get down to the level of tribes, isolated or not, would seem ti imply the death of billions of people, even if a lot of the reduction were to come through lower birthrates. In this regard alone, it would be a horrific transition.

I meant Leanan and others taking such offense to the proposition that in a century or so, what people there are will be living in isolated tribes. It seems some people commenting here are frightened of this prospect, hence the very hostile reaction.

I think that as things get worse, even most die hard peak oil and global warming advocates will turn hostile toward those who point out where things are likely heading. Even they'll bury their heads in the sand and join the mob that could easily be swayed to persecute those who speak or write unwanted words.

I did not take offense at the idea that we would be living in isolated tribes in 150 years, and I don't think anyone else did, either. Heck, not that long ago I argued that climate change might cause the extinction of the human race - an even more pessimistic view.

What I want is a better signal to noise ratio. A lot of people have complained about it lately, including some who would be considered the doomiest of the doomers. Too many trivial comments, too much idle chit-chat, too much chaff and not enough grain.

I've been blaming it on the lack of exciting news on the peak oil front, but now I am seriously wondering if the problem is people are posting from their iPads and smartphones, and it's just too much trouble to write a thoughtful comment or provide a link.

Bingo. Technology helping determine outcome/product.

I do think much of the general population is ignoring or taking offense to this sort of suggestion. But that is not what is happening here. The issue that Leanan and others (such as me) are protesting are the snarky, dismissive, and barely considered posts that seem to aim to shut down, rather than advance the discussion.

I think she said it best here:

The reason I dislike these short, jokey, extreme comments is they pretty much end the discussion. I think it's disrespectful, at least when in reply to someone who put some thought into his comment and meant it sincerely.

and here:

I do want everyone to think before posting. Is your comment really worth saying? Worth pushing other comments down the page?

Humans have a lot of trouble processing issues such as the possibility of collapse or doom. I bet that if you surveyed the scientists who are projecting a 4 degree rise in temperature, you would find that they have not adapted behavior consistent with this expectation. I am sure they are still heating their homes, driving cars, investing their savings and otherwise going on as usual.

But I disagree with your conclusion. I think that as things get worse, which may already be happening, people will start to abandon the denialists as their version of reality becomes discredited. In fact, it seems as if we are already seeing this as mainstream and rightwing figures such as Bloomberg, Business Week, and even Pat Robertson seem to be "facing the facts".


I actually think it may well be true. My point was that..."you could post this identical comment in every single single discussion about the future and add a total of nothing."

His comment was not as irrelevant as people here seems to think. Supposed all that oil is there, there is no way we could burn it. We do not have the emission budget to emit all that CO2. No where near.

We arguably don't have the financial budgets, either. Just because carbon is in the ground doesn't mean it will ever be economical to produce relative to the costs of other energy sources. Economics matter in the climate-change equation and I think the evidence suggests that the non-carbon alternatives can or will get cheaper while the needed methods to extract carbon will only become more sophisticated and, hence, costlier.

It's all about the EROEI and we're already seeing it play out: the only thing keeping some fossil fuels alive in some parts of the world is subsidy and infrastructural bias.

Economics of extraction versus economics of flow based energy, aren't just about the cost per BTU. Oil for instance commands a premium, because of its portability and storability, as well as the fact that a lot of infrastructure is built around it. If all you have is a gasoline powered car ......

I hope you're right. A lot of people thought the economics of the tar sands wouldn't work, and that seems to be incorrect.

I was on a beach in Homer, Alaska when I saw someone collecting black rocks.

I talked to him, and found that they weren't rocks. They were pieces of coal, worn smooth by the sea. Apparently, there's a huge coal bed out there somewhere, and chunks of coal wash ashore every day. In the old days, families would send the kids to the beach to pick up "sea coal" daily, and that's how they cooked and heated their homes.

Of course I started wondering if there would ever be deep water coal, like deep water oil. Probably not actual mining, but I could see some kind of coal gasification thing. Weren't they talking about doing that in the North Sea?

Swedens second largest lake is Vättern. (By a geologic freak event, our two largest lakes are in size and shape nearly identical to our two largest islands, to the amusement of us all.) Under the lake there are some ore, iron I think. They are now discussing under-lake mining. I have done some scuba diving in that lake. It is 90+ meter at its deepest, having formed as a geologic crack there are no "slow decline" on that topology.

Of course I started wondering if there would ever be deep water coal, like deep water oil. Probably not actual mining, but I could see some kind of coal gasification thing.

I am sure they will try, there's already talk of mining methane hydrates.

They could blast it on the sea floor then skim it when it rises to the surface.

They could blast it on the sea floor

I am sure that will go as intended /sarc

Interesting, about the "sea coal."

Not energy related, but this reminds me of a Michener novel, "Alaska", which described how it was in Nome when it was first explored by non-natives - one could just walk down the beach and pick up "thumb-sized" nuggets of gold. These days, there's a TV series, "Bering Sea Gold" (Discovery Channel) whereby rickety dredges compete with each other - divers go down and vacuum up gold-bearing silt from the seabed and run it through a sluice. Fascinating stuff ...

I wonder how it was for the natives; did they see the beach as a natural beauty strewn with golden colored "stones"?

Read the book if you get a chance - it is a real page-turner.

They were pieces of coal, worn smooth by the sea. Apparently, there's a huge coal bed out there somewhere, and chunks of coal wash ashore every day. In the old days, families would send the kids to the beach to pick up "sea coal" daily, and that's how they cooked and heated their homes.

The coal one finds on the beach at Homer mostly washes out of the cliffs above the beach. If you look closely at those cliffs you will find many thin coal beds. The Tertiary rocks in Cook Inlet are very coal rich. At one time there were some small scale mines near Homer.

Besides the fact that Iran probably doesn't have 150 years of oil, whatever than means, the previous poster implied that we would have 150 more years to plan. Well, the fact is that this kind of oil supply would exacerbate the problem of too much carbon in the atmosphere. The luxury of 150 years of planning seems a bit misplaced if, in the mean time, we may the planet largely uninhabitable in the mean time. Your implication is that we should evaluate increased oil supplies without regard to their effects or the fact that this increase will be cold comfort for those who are otherwise suffering because of global warming.

Regardless of how you characterize it, it is perfectly valid to point out the fact that global warming will either be increased by additional supplies or make the availability of additional supplies largely irrelevant for the well being of future generations. If you want to call it gratuitous doomerism, fine, but it was still a relevant comment.

Yes. And even if Iran or some other source did give us 150 years more to plan, would we? We've had about 150 years to plan for the end of oil already. But did we? There's a disconnect between the simple logic than any finite resource, no matter how large, will ultimately be gone, and what we collectively do with that irrefutable information. I almost wrote 'irrefutable knowledge' - but that's the issue. We don't turn readily available information into knowledge, much less wisdom, and then act accordingly. We ignore, hope and deny. It's how our brains are wired - especially collectively. I think that's a reason that many of us are here. Individually we can see the problems predicaments and the collective disconnect. Being here and commenting is at least some form of 'doing something' - of raging against the machine. I know I'm guilty of that, but I also try to share pertinent thoughts and powering down info. Look back to the early years and you'll find precious little discussion of EROEI on here, and when it came up, it was often disparaged. Myself and a few others hammered on it, and now it's become commonly accepted on here. Now how to carry that to the culture at large? Just a little Christmas day musing...

"We" prove over and over again we're unable to plan ahead with nuclear energy. When it comes times to decommission a reactor there's much hand-wringing as the costs escalate beyond the "original estimates" that were tailored to be attractive to the utilities commissions and bondholders. And that's just in the "responsible" countries - try the ones that just abandon the poisonous remains with plans to take care of the problem later which means when the cancer rates escalate and seepage crosses some boundary. In these cases, the rest of the world has to help cough up what should have been allocated in the first place.

Human greed and energy are not compatible where the environment is concerned.

You must take a course in Officialese. Official numbers must to be divided by 10 if they are on the optimistic side and multiplied by 10 if they are on the pessimistic side. This is official speak for "emigrate now".

The even funnier thing is that the headline immediately below the one being discussed reads "Iran Ends Fuel Subsidies for Passenger Cars With 1,800cc Engines"! Not exactly the sort of thing one would normally do right after announcing that one has 150 years worth of reserves! Somehow, I don't think they are motivated out of a concern for global warming but, then maybe I'm a "faith based" doomer.

Alan from the islands

No, No, Alan! You don't get it. They have so much oil and gas will now be so cheap that it would be completely ridiculous, almost an insult, to subsidize fuel for cars with such MINISCULE engines. Only huge gas guzzling SUVs in the 4,000 cc plus will still need some subsidies and even these, just barely...


Oil-Qaeda has enough BS to last twice that long. What is it with oil and BS?

The CIA fact book says January 2011 est.

1 Saudi Arabia 262,600,000,000
2 Venezuela 211,200,000,000
3 Canada 175,200,000,000
4 Iran 137,000,000,000
5 Iraq 115,000,000,000
6 Kuwait 104,000,000,000
7 United Arab Emirates 97,800,000,000
8 Russia 60,000,000,000
9 Libya 46,420,000,000
10 Nigeria 37,200,000,000
11 Kazakhstan 30,000,000,000
12 Qatar 25,380,000,000
13 United States 20,680,000,000
14 China 14,800,000,000
15 Brazil 12,860,000,000

This is probably just terminology. There are Economically Recoverable Reserves (which depends on price)which are less than Technically Recoverable Reserves (dependent on current technology where money is no object) less than Total Reserves (or resources, all the oil in place which has not been extracted already) less than Original oil in place(OOIP, all oil in the ground before extraction begins.)

My guess is that 600 Billion barrels is the OOIP and 175 billion is the URR or ultimately recoverable reserves (based on current price trajectory). Usually the OPEC nations do not deduct extracted oil from their estimate of URR, in 2011 Iran's cumulative output was about 66 Billion barrels so their reserves are probably about 110 billion barrels.

This would assume about a 30 % recovery rate of the 600 billion barrel original resource, which is not unreasonable. A 100 % rate of recovery is clearly not reasonable.


I'm not sure if there's a better place to post this, but I've started a blog on the political economy of energy. The first post runs counter to a lot of peak oil discussions, but I would be very much interested in feedback from people on this site and beyond.


m – Skimmed thru your site. I think it’s always beneficial to look at alternative views so they can be refuted or, in some cases, causes us to modify one’s position. Unfortunately due to a lack of documented “facts” pushes much of the debate heavily into suppositions and opinions.

You make a number of valid points. But I do sense some weaknesses. As far as the supply/demand dynamics you don’t seem to grasp the change in OPEC production capabilities over the last 30+ years. Also: “Although we often assume that oil companies are desperately searching for every last drop, you might be amazed to discover how much oil companies want to leave oil in the ground to await the right “price environment” for extraction (The US Congress has wrung it hands for years trying to force companies to actually develop leases on US public lands – the Department of Interior claims 2/3 remain idle).” You may be aware I’ve been a petroleum geologist for 37 years. Not once in all that time have I seen management decide not to drill a VIABLE project while waiting on prices to increase. I have seen many projects rejected due to poor economics. On the contrary I’ve seen a great many wells drilled that weren’t justifiable IMHO based on the then current oil price. Additionally I have not personally witnessed one company cut their oil production to wait for higher prices. Just the opposite: I’ve seen many companies try to raise rates in the face of declining oil prices. A few, like mine, have done it with NG production. But we are in the minority.

Lack of drilling on public lands? Idle fed leases? Very misleading to the point of perhaps being an intentional fib. Fed leases have been heavily drilled for decades and account for many billions of bbls of oil and many trillions of cu ft of NG. Even today a significant percentage of US production comes from fed leases. And many sources are projecting significant production gains from fed leases currently being explored. The disconnect? There are huge tracts of ONSHORE and OFFSHORE fed leases. Most of the attributes I just described were from the offshore regions especially the GOM. Most of the fed onshore leases exist in the western states. The reason for the difference is simple: there’s very little potential on those onshore leases. Add that to the remoteness and lack of infrastructure (especially NG pipelines). For those who don’t want to accept this proposition they’ll have to explain why the industry has spent $trillions over the last 40+ years developing reserves offshore if there were an equivalent potential onshore. Onshore where drilling costs are significant lower than offshore.

Perhaps some would like to focus on those millions of acres of fed leases that aren’t being developed today in the GOM. Many politicians have countered the complaints about the feds not leasing lands in other offshore regions by pointing out how many tracts in the GOM aren’t being developed. There’s’ a good and verifiable explanation: it’s called PO. Every county, parish, state, region and country will eventually reach a peak in production. No one can deny the simple fact that there is a finite amount of oil/NG on the planet. Offshore GOM shelf production peaked in May 2002 at about 52 million bbls of oil per month. Thanks to DW GOM drilling the GOM again peaked at 54 million bbls of oil per month in July 2009. Since then all GOM production has declined in Sept 2012 by 35% to 35 million bbls of oil per month. So the argument would be that companies held back GOM drilling during the last 4 years because $100/bbl wasn’t enough incentive? Good luck selling that idea.

Companies are desperate to develop oil reserves today. So desperate they are throwing tens of $billions at developing the low yield production of the fractured shale plays. So again the argument would be that companies are chasing prospects that significantly deplete in a few years instead of developing those long life conventional reserves on onshore fed leases because they are waiting on higher oil prices? Again, good luck convincing folks of that. But don’t give up the fight m. That which doesn’t hurt the acceptance of PO only strengthens it once the fallacy of the counter arguments are exposed.

just posted a comment ("waiting for moderation")

From the linked article "Study: Home air conditioning cut premature deaths on hot days 80 percent since 1960"

Matthew E. Kahn, an economics and public policy professor at UCLA’s Institute of Environment, called the study “a very strong paper” that could show one strategy for adapting to increasingly frequent bouts of warmer weather. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report this year linking the increase in heat waves to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, predicting the frequency of these events will increase in the coming decades.

“We have to begin to wake up to the new normal,” Kahn said. “Rational people have to learn how to duck and take action so we don’t get rolled by Mother Nature.

Except of course that increasing that air conditioning use, if it is not powered by non fossil fueled energy, will probably cause feedback loops that will increase those human-generated greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the heat waves in the first place... rinse and repeat!

Sheesh! They really do need to start teaching some physics, chemistry and systems thinking in economics courses!

"Mother Nature can't be fooled!"
Richard Feynman

Happy Holidays to all!

Sheesh! They really do need to start teaching some physics, chemistry and systems thinking in economics courses!


Irony can sure be ironical! I had a recent (heated) argument with an academic economist who swore up and down that systems thinking IS taught to economists. As best I can tell, however, the system he was talking about is the closed loop of firms and households with no consideration for resources or sinks. He even advanced the SYSTEMS reason why perpetual growth was possible and good. And, as an aside, he had taken a course in chemistry as a freshman in college. So naturally he knew what he needed to know of the sciences.

So, if economists are convinced they use systems thinking, then what?

Well there is systems thinking, then there is systems thinking. At least they've taken the first step, thinking that systems thinking matters. Then the second step is to encourage the upgrade to the second form.

So, if economists are convinced they use systems thinking, then what?

Hmm, let think about that for a moment. Ok! Then I guess that as the demand for air conditioners increases due to AGW the price for air conditioners will plummet due to the market being flooded by cheap Chinese air conditioners! Am I Right? I can haz econumiks degree now? /sarc

Let me get back to putting the finishing touches on my perpetual motion growth machine...

I have a love-hate relationship with academia, precisely aligned with the Twain quote about..

"What gets us in trouble ain't what we don't know, but what we know for certain, that just ain't so!"

The adamant defense of a line of thought that has a lot of 'the literature' that can justify and ennoble it seems to become intensely and ideologically immune to conflicting views.

Unfortunately, I think the awareness of this exact schism is what makes so many climate skeptics sure that the climate science community is 'just wrong' and in an unquestioning echo chamber.

Tough conundrum..

Except of course that increasing that air conditioning use, if it is not powered by non fossil fueled energy, will probably cause feedback loops that will increase those human-generated greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the heat waves in the first place... rinse and repeat!

Which leads on to wonder how much CO2 can be attributed to the use of air conditioning in the first place and how much of the annual budget of CO2 is a result of air conditioning. It might then be possible to figure out how much cooler the world might have been were it not for air conditioning. Oh, the irony of it! A real argument for non FF powered air conditioning if you ask me.

P.S. Not that I am qualified to act as the english language police but, I thought the double negative "not powered by non fossil fuelled energy" was a little clumsy. "Powered by fossil fuelled energy" would have worked just as well!

Alan from the islands

P.S. Not that I am qualified to act as the english language police but, I thought the double negative "not powered by non fossil fuelled energy" was a little clumsy. "Powered by fossil fuelled energy" would have worked just as well!

Ok. Point taken. How about: "Unless powered by alternative energy!" Which is really what I had in mind. >;-)

Well, now. AC- powered by alternative energy. Hm, haven't I got something in my head about that? Ah yes, I do, and since I am old and old people tend to repeat themselves because they can't remember that they have already repeated themselves, I shall now repeat myself.

Long ago when I was masquerading as a university prof, a guy from the gas industry came and asked me if I could suggest a way to do domestic AC from natural gas. I of course pointed out that the tech to do that was well known, and all he had to do was do it.

But no, he wanted me to think up a new way, so I did, and he gave me money to make a demo, which I did, and everybody faked happiness until the boss, a not-engineer, but the quietus on the whole game because, as always to such folk, it was "not economic".

As a feeble attempt to grasp straws before the plunge, I mentioned that the same hardware could work well on solar, and since AC and solar seemed to be related, maybe they would like the solar version better.

Nah, not economic compared to coal and such stuff.

So, where has that got us since all those years?

Or, have I said all this before?

I thought Honeywell had put a concentrating collector up on the roof and fed that heat into a lithium-bromide AC unit, and this several years ago.

15 PSI steam is all you need to run a lithium bromide unit, so about 250 degrees F,, and enough total heat to boil the water out of the brine for whatever the size of the unit. It should be easy with a concentrating collector.

"Unless powered by alternative energy!"

Because it was *SO* popular in a previous Drumbeat I'll mention the idea of using non-fossil Carbon sources
No need to change the AC - just burn the dead plant material around ya!
And from their website:

The GEK is designed to run on waste biomass.

Now, if ya wanna use photons as the basis -

An electricity-free alternative to refrigeration and air-conditioning, solar icemakers use the sun's heat during the day to drive a chemical reaction that separates a liquid refrigerant from a solid absorbent.


I like that gasifier, very similar to the one I made for my wood fired stirling I use to boost my PV on days like this one. Works real good. Cheap, easy to make. Can be used as effective space heater as well as gas power. Would run an absorption AC easily.

Bottom line, IF we put the real cost on things, including the environment and the opportunities for future generations, THEN all the tech we already know about would get out doing good stuff instead of just lying around on the web.

But no, even the good people here talk a lot about costs- but only a fraction of them. The costs, I mean.

Written by FMagyar:
... increasing that air conditioning use, if it is not powered by non fossil fueled energy, will probably cause feedback loops that will increase those human-generated greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the heat waves in the first place....

At the current efficiency of crystalline PV, PV panels cause more sunlight to be absorbed than without them. Wind tends to be calm on hot days eliminating that power source. It might not be practical to design a system in which both the waste heat from the power source and the air conditioners leave the heat content of Earth unchanged.

Well, if there's a worry about the lower albedo of a pv panel compared to the roof it goes over, one can always paint the rest of the roof white pretty cheaply, and have an albedo-neutral roof. And that also lessens AC needs.... as do the panels. The panels do it by being 2-4" off the roof so the heat isn't transmitted into the attic.

Of course, even if that wasn't true, the theoretical benefit of PV is the amount of CO2 which isn't thrown into the air. The thousand-year heat-forcing effect is grossly more significant than what the panel itself soaks up. Since I stuck up my initial set of panels in July, the meter says I've generated 3.42 megawatt-hours, which has flowed into the grid and allowed less oil to be burned at the generating plant. (In theory, they have a pretty good load-following algorithm here since it's oil-fired). This is a lot more power than we use, but it's nice to give back a bit.

here's the system - https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/fTfF96479

Unless I miss the gist of what's being said, I'm a bit out of it this week...

Totally agreed. The local heating effect of a panel isn't a big deal, but the CO2 from NOT having one is. Besides if your panel turns 15% of the light into electricity, then it saves almost three times that at the power plant (depending upon its thermal efficiency), so even in immediate direct heating, it is probably better. But the heat trapped from the CO2, thats hundreds of times greater.

It might not be practical to design a system in which both the waste heat from the power source and the air conditioners leave the heat content of Earth unchanged.

We could at least start by eliminating the wastes from a conventional power source!

The point of using solar Air Conditioning is to eliminate CO2 waste being pumped into the atmosphere from FF power plants. There are highly efficient, conventional compressor based, direct current voltage units, that are designed for off grid PV systems. However there are more than one ways to skin a cat...

Solar thermal air conditioning actually works quite well. http://www.solarpanelsplus.com/commercial/solar-cooling/
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with this company, I cite them purely for illustrative purposes.

The solar air conditioner / solar heater is powered by solar energy collected in the evacuated tube solar thermal panels (right). The thermal energy collected is then delivered to the solar powered chiller using a Corn Glycol (antifreeze) solution and a simple but carefully designed system of pipes, pumps, and controls.

In the winter, even at below freezing temperatures outside, our evacuated tube solar thermal collectors still produce an abundance of heat. The system can be designed so that this heat is then transferred into your building, either reducing or nearly eliminating the operation of your existing heating system. This means free solar air conditioning in the summer, and free heating in the winter.

FM, i knew eventually i would come across solar AC, by being patient!
It seems too easy but i'm sure the coal/utils could pt. out major flaws.
(But 40% usage in japan for comm.AC is telling)
To me this system is also like its own battery in that the cooled air
produced in day will linger until warmed up.

HEADING FOR AIR CONDITIONED HELL Who knew air conditioning could add another 20% to the world's emissions? High power use and nasty refrigerants. Stan Cox, author of "Losing Our Cool". Guus Velders, Netherlands Environment Agency, expert on ozone and climate. Michael Sivak, U. of Michigan, on global expansion of air conditioning. Music: "Mercy" by The Dave Matthews Band. Radio Ecoshock 120919

12th show down at the moment here: http://www.ecoshock.org/audio-on-demand/2012-radio-ecoshock-show/

Edit - To remain true to my claim of 'sharing powering down' strategies from my post above: Used to live in Durham, NC. Not the hottest place on the planet or in the US, but damn hot & humid. Bought a standard raised ranch. A/C strategy was to open all windows at night, allowing house to cool naturally. Avg summer night time low is 68-70. Then close all windows and shades during day to keep heat out. Largely worked, but we had mildew issues. So came to running A/C for an hour a day for dehumidification. Which hour? Around 7 a.m., when outside temps are lowest, so unit runs most efficiently. Run A/C during heat of 95f days? Never needed. Along with other strategies, this brought our electric use down to 5-6 kWh/day, whereas pvs. owners averaged 35. Of course this strategy requires thought, planning and attention to conditions. Aye, there's the rub...

I use the same strategy, and have the same daily electricity usage, but, don't have any AC at all, instead a lot of hoggish water pumps, am in process of replacing them all with PV. Also a fair bit farther north.

Target this year is to get nearer to zero carbon, and there are lots of obvious ways to do this. Current favorite is wood gas/PV hybrid vehicle to get rid of transport ff. Modify a small pickup. Endless fun!

"So came to running A/C for an hour a day for dehumidification."

A/C may not be the best choice for dehumidification. Another scheme that has been proposed is to circulate interior air through dessicants. This does not cool air but reduces humidity to comfortable levels. The dessicant is regenerated by using heat to bake off the absorbed water while flushing outside air through the dessicant. Heat can be supplied from a variety of sources such as natural gas, electricity and solar ovens. Use two containers of dessicant, one to absorb water while the other is losing water in the bakeoff cycle. I am way too lazy to calculate the limiting thermodynamics for this scheme.


Darwin in tropical Northern Australia is one of the hottest and least comfortable cities on earth, at least where Europeans are the majority permanent populace. It runs 90F+ almost every day of the year and 90% humidity for more than half the year. Overnight minimums rarely fall below 75F. It's a tough environment.

Our home of ten years there had no AC but was liveable - the house was made mostly of asbestos sheeting half-walls (with a few strategic double-brick walls to offer cyclone protection). The upper half of all walls were large louvre windows that were permanently open - they had flyscreens to keep out mosquitoes, and the pitch roof had 900cm over-hanging eaves to keep out the fierce sun and torrential rain.

Mold and mildew were constant issues ... we helped minimise them by running the large ceiling fans in every room more-or-less permanently at very low speeds - certainly during the wetter half of the year. We thought the house was a very good design, simple and cheap, and representing effective architectural adaptation to the challenging climate (it was built in 1972).

Now the city is richer, and therefore covered by vast brick McMansions ... with split-system AC units bristling from every wall ... it's very disheartening.

Thx for the idea. Now live in VA Blue Ridge, a bit cooler (65ish summer nights) No A/C in this house. Natural cooling works better here, but still have mildew issues by late summer, so may one day work on a system such as you describe, which I would only consider heating with solar ovens - or more like solar dehydrators, as I'm envisioning it. As I sit here looking out at the snow/sleet/freezing rain mix coming down, I'm still actually more concerned/motivated to increase our solar heating capacity as yet. Building a collector out of scrap/salvaged packing crates, HDPE plastic, flashing and glass to add heat to the radiant system I put in our earth floor - an adaptation of Gary Reysa's under $1k solar hot water system as described at 'Build it Solar'.

Germany strives for 80% of its energy needs provided by renewable energy sources, along with a phaseout of nuclear power, by 2050?


This seems ambitious. I wonder what assumptions are made about population and per-capita energy use?

UB wrote: "This seems ambitious. " Strictly speaking, no! The expert group of the German Bundestag for environment (Umweltrat) has published last year a 400 page document for a 100% transition to renewables until 2050, the same goal is found in a serious study of the Fraunhofer Instut (German counterpart of the MIT).



The 80% goal allows a lot of flexibility and avoids the (ugly?) discussion of large scale storage facilities for energy.

In Germany, the largest contribution to the primary energy demand comes from the heating of buildings, here we can simply reduce demand with higher isolation level (today's avarage 18 kWh/m^2; mandatory ~8, average of new building ~6, passive house ~3), this demand covered with heat pumps would reduce primary energy by more than80%. The conversion rate of buildings is IMHO a little bit too slow, but the goal can be reached with available proven technology.

Production of electricity is more or less on track, during the next years the reduced output of the nuclar power plants can be substituted with reneables, esp. PV and wind. Wrong in the current approach is the use of biogas in base load production. Thuis is a political problem, not problem of technology.

The real unknown is the replacement of ICE based transportation with alternatives, here I do not see how the primary energy redcution goals for 2030 and later could be achieved.

The real unknown is the replacement of ICE based transportation with alternatives, here I do not see how the primary energy redcution goals for 2030 and later could be achieved.

You may want to discuss this with Hans-Josef Fell (Bundestag). He spoke in Berlin at Podcar City 6 in September. The Solarevolution in transportation is happening in Sweden and Silicon Valley. It can happen in Germany too.

Strassebahnen? Radfahrer? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

As long as many people can afford buying fuel do you think we can reach the reduction without many EVs? And the rate of replacement is very low, therefore, my scepticism. Bicycle and tramway have been fine for me and my family for many years, but this model is not very common. :-)

Not to suggest that 'all is well', far from it.. but don't forget that rates change, and trends change.

As my natural history teacher loved to keep saying, "The only thing that stays the same is change."

The needs and awareness are far out of balance, but for not insignificant chunks of people, the changing numbers and intensity of economic, maybe biosphere and climatic events gives them new reasons to look at options they hadn't before.

I don't bother looking at EV sales of today and that sort of thing. It's like staring at your kids to see them grow. Nothing Happens. Look away and back to life for a second, and the toddler is in High School.

As Longfellow said,

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

'Psalm of Life'

I like interesting maps.

Just ran across this one:


~110 miles is as far as one can get from the nearest McDs in the contiguous United States.

Ugh...Maybe I'll fast today.

Seriously, people might want to consider the old religious/spiritual discipline of fasting abit more. My non-Christian Mohawk cousin persuaded me to try it a little. So I did and he's onto to something. It feels like a nice statement/antidote to all the disgusting excess. There are many ways it can be done to suit your health conditions: just figure out what is appropriate for you.

In Canada you could be more than 110 miles from a Mcdonalds while driving down a branch of the Trans-Canada highway! There is a Mcdonalds in Hearst, Ontario. I'm 99% sure the next Mcdonalds would be another 520km down the highway in Thunder Bay. As most of Canada's population live fairly close to the US border, well over half the country would be more than 110 miles from a Mcdonalds.

I passed through Hearst while heading west on a transcontinental bicycle trip a few years ago. IIRC, the next anything after Hearst is ~135 miles up the road in Longlac, ON. There are some wide expanses up there.

Well, Alaska easily wins this one (at least with respect to the US states). Unless someone has opened one recently, there is no McD's in Barrow Alaska. The nearest one would probably be in Fairbanks, which is around 500 miles (800 km) as the Raven flies. If one were at the far end of the Aleutian chain, it would probably be well over 1000 miles to the nearest McD's (probably the one in Soldatna).

EDIT: Of course I should add that one can't drive an auto to either Barrow or out to the end of the Aleutians. You could drive a snow machine to Barrow, however. Or drive your pick up (with snow machine on a trailer) from Fairbanks up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, then snow machine across the tundra to Barrow. Getting to the Aleutians would be somewhat more challenging.

I live in California on the border with Nevada. The 3 nearest McDonalds from here are each over 140 miles, all in different directions.

In 1991 I traveled 11,800 km for my first McDonald's burger: from Cape Town to Auckland, New Zealand. There was no McDonald's in South Africa during the apartheid years.

Now they are everywhere. There is one 2 km away from me.

FUN FACT: I have eaten only two McDonald's burgers in my entire life; one in Auckland, the other in Cape Town.

This is a very interesting look at the risks facing the global financial system, which touches on much of what we discuss here.

Ending the Era of Ponzi Finance


Fortunately, there is still time to act. But leaders from all social sectors—government, business, organized labor, environmental and other stakeholder groups—need to act decisively and quickly in order to secure future economic prosperity, social cohesion, and political stability. It is in the nature of Ponzi schemes to collapse suddenly, without warning. No one knows what event may send the developed world and the global economy as a whole back into crisis.

this publication simply aims to highlight the painful dilemmas that the developed world faces, to define the necessary steps toward a genuine solution, and to create a sense of urgency for rapid action.

"No one knows what event may send the developed world and the global economy as a whole back into crisis."

Funny, that... the perception that a crisis has been averted.

Looking past the present 'merriment' to the 'happy' new year, here's Steve's
prognostications. Seem realistic to me.

When the central banks take on all the private sector unsecured loans or they offer their own loans in excess of collateral they become super-sized, insolvent commercial lenders. The consequence is no effective lenders of last resort. Depositors look to remove funds from banking system which in turn accelerates system insolvency. Nobody wants to be caught where the only effective collateral is deposits (currency) and where claims exceed them.

We're at that point where there isn't anywhere to fall back on if centralized banking should fail. Also, can't lower interest rates much either. We may have averted collapse, but how long can we maintain this state? Or a better question may be; Are we desperately holding on to the idea high growth prosperity will return (in spite of dropping eroei, massive accumulated debt, and high oil prices) to decentralized banking with higher interest rates to in part support a reasonable return on deposits? I for one would love to get 5% on savings! But for some reason I'm just not expecting it anytime soon.

Peak energy will force us into a steady-state economy. At that point, there is no reason why money that sits around should expect to magically get bigger. One can even make the argument that that expectation is the root cause of all our problems, from inequity to global warming.

"there is no reason why money that sits around should expect to magically get bigger"

Magical thinking, growth based "prosperity" (mainly for the 0.01%) and something-for-nothing is the basis for our entire modern Ponziconomy. You're talking doomer heresy here, comrade.

Well a lot of countries are indeed experiencing growth in spite of the plateau primarily because they are starting from such a low base in the first place. It's also part of the wealth flow from west to east through globalization, assuming it that could continue for sometime I'd say that you(people in the west) have not seen the worst yet. However I envy you guys in the long term because you still have access to resources the rest of the world is running out of.

"I'd say that you(people in the west) have not seen the worst yet."

I'd say that's an understatement. In the US I think we're operating very near the "coffin corner." There's still a way out - but as our politicians are completely bought off by monied interests that's not going to happen.

We're running massive deficits just to stand in place and the debt pile is starting to look extremely large and get people's notice. Because our politicians are bought they want to rob everyone blind to give to the rich - by cutting Medicare and raising the age of Social Security, while continuing pointless tax cuts for the rich and absurd spending on military contractors. Social Security and Medicare are two programs that are self funded and show up separately on someone's paycheck in taxes. By raising the SS age two years they, on average, steal about $28,000 from each person. As they've been robbing from the SS trust fund for over 30 years at this point, that lets them off the hook for some of it and may let them rob it a little longer (use the money in the general fund).

So there's a situation where the debt and deficit is catching people's attention, but if we reduce spending - we go into a recession. Where's the way out? Stop the male-bovine-feces "investments" - aka tax cuts for the rich, military spending, and corporate welfare. It's money that's being flushed down the drain - there's no return on those investments and it would be better spent helping the poor (who are likely to spend the money and actually create jobs - "monetary velocity"). Better yet spending the money on programs employing people to reduce the US's over-use of energy, and increasing it's production of renewable energy (not bio based). This has multiple effects: first freeing up money that rich people are just parking in the bank, second it directly employs people who will then put that money into the economy, and the people who's energy bills are lowered then have more money themselves to put into the economy. It could start as a sub-program in the DOE, mail out cards to every house and apartment and they can mark a check box as to yes or no to get a free energy audit. After that an energy reduction plan will be drawn up for that house and given to the owner with 100% of certain low-hanging-fruit items covered, and matching funds or such to cover lower return items.

Summary: Stop subsidizing the rich and flushing money down the military toilet, pay people instead to find and reduce energy waste.

What will likely happen: Poor people will suffer more cuts, there will be more money flushed down the military toilet, the rich will get more tax cuts...and "mysteriously" things will get worse.

" There's still a way out - but as our politicians are completely bought off by monied interests that's not going to happen."

I don't see any way out of this mess beyond individuals avoiding debt? I think Fred remarked awhile ago that individuals had to live below their means, and not simply within their means. Great distinction. Can you imagine in times past looking at the future with nothing in the cupboards? Where did this idea come from that people can have so much without any regard for personal preparations or accountability? We can't blame the advertisors forever for our own lack of reasoned consumption and practical outlooks.

I had some friends that were so in debt they had to get a consolidation loan. This was back in the early 80s. They got the loan, but were ushered into the back loans office and had to cut up their Sears card and Visa before the loan was issued. This kind of accountability has not been the case for a long while.

I had another friend that worked in a pulp mill. I remember him flying friends and relatives to Hawaii for his second wedding. I have other friends that think it is absolutely an entitlement to spend a few weeks every year at an all-inclusive in Mexico or other warm spots. These are working guys. When did a working man get the idea they require/deserve a luxurious tropical vacation...not just once in their lifetime, but every winter? I'm no puritan, but without a sense of recent history it is no wonder our host countries have also succumbed to the 'you can have it all', baby. Nuts.

Somehow, all countries with massive debt will have to reset their futures. There will be some folks that get screwed. And there will be some folks that will want to get even. It should not be our children. Interesting times loom.


I had another friend that worked in a pulp mill. I remember him flying friends and relatives to Hawaii for his second wedding. I have other friends that think it is absolutely an entitlement to spend a few weeks every year at an all-inclusive in Mexico or other warm spots. These are working guys.

That's some pulp mill! I'm an embedded systems engineer designing firmware for use in our custom DoD electronics. I get paid a wage that is all but spoken for at the end of the day. I've never even been to Hawaii (though admittedly by choice, but spending $4K to fly someplace and lie in the sun instead of camping locally for much less seems wrong), but good god, a pulp mill working hauling his friends to hawaii must have a Very Effective Union Rep!


80, 90 + K was the norm while most of us earned 50 in other industries. Of course now the mills are no more. Too costly to compete. Imagine that!! Lots of OT, shift differentials, and very strong unions including premium pay for sundays, etc.

So there's a situation where the debt and deficit is catching people's attention, but if we reduce spending - we go into a recession. Where's the way out?

Here's how it goes:
- Plummeting eroei (as more non-conventional oil is tapped)
- Rising oil price (as flow must be maintained or increased in spite of depleting conventional sources)
- EUCD country's must borrow more money than is received in revenue (due to reduced profits/shrinking economy from increased oil price)
- Wealthy hold stake via political influence to keep their taxes low (shifting local negative economic effects of lower growth on to the middle & lower incomes)
- Govt. borrowing of huge amounts of money is not enough to maintain BAU (so printing money to infuse into the monetary system is veiled as quantitative easing, or simply easing)
- Govt. 'hopes' printing money will not lead to hyperinflation (because there is no other fancy financing trick left)

The way out? Cheap oil, but it's all gone.

People on all sides of the political spectrum want a way out. Given the distinct possibility that there is no way out in the conventional sense, it is past time for people to view our economic system in a different light. The sheeple simply accept the way things are. Those who suffer from our seemingly permanent recession accept the fact that there are winners and losers and that is the way it should be. The majority accept the meme that growth is always the answer and is always the cure for those who are not doing well economically. Simply prime the pump or find some other way to grow and those in the middle and the bottom will reap the benefits as they will get some of the leftover crumbs from growth. This worked to a certain extent when we had a healthy middle class where people could actually make a decent living by doing such things as working in the auto sectors or other factory based industries.

Today, the economy is dominated by the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. Those who have found a way to skim money of the top can continue to prosper. Most of everyone else gets the hindmost at best.

A new model for distribution of income is needed which is not heavily dependent upon whatever income distribution is determined by the market. Call it socialist. Call it what you will but we have lost the ability to provide a decent living for the masses. Attempts to solve this problem with growth just leads to gross resource depletion, pollution, and most importantly, massive carbon emissions. But we are stuck on stupid as if nothing has changed or needs to change.

I've been pondering westexas' DPB function of POD:
But, the DPB for Available Net Oil Exports is only part of the total DPB equation.
What about the Debt Per Barrel of all World's Liquid Fuels Supply(combined)?
Another fascinating function of POD..

There's hope. Exactly what you advocate is getting a lot of local attention as some people who are in fact living a lot below their means in my community have scheduled a meeting early in the new year to think about doing just those things, starting here and now, and not even considering government beyond the mayor.

Our plan- bring our money back from wall st. put it into local projects that add real value, give anybody at least a minimal chance at a minimal income, and in sum, start acting like a community. We don't think this requires any thing near a majority, just enough people with disposable income just doing it, to start the ball rolling.

We shall see.

On Christmas eve I thought I'd post this.


Tell me, do you spend too much money during the holiday season? Do you drive yourself into tens of dollars of debt with the purchase of mere gimcracks and geegaws? Also, are you an upstanding lady ready to angrily shake your umbrella?

Then, gentle reader, you are a SPUG—or once would have been.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, a lost player in the history of political progressivism. Now largely buried in century-old newspapers, theirs is a heartwarming story that puts War back into the War on Christmas.

Ties in with the discussion on previous threads.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Remind yourselves not to spend too much time in front of the computer :)


It sounds like the person described would not be a SPUG, but should consider becoming one. It would appear that I am a SPAG, not a SPUG as I am a candidate for the Society for the Prevention of Any Giving. I will admit, however, to giving money this season to The Brady Foundation. So maybe I am a SPUG.

Happy Holidays everyone. I have put together a summary of 15 major energy stories of the year, and you can vote on which ones you think were the most important:

Vote for the Top Energy Stories of 2012

Thanks, Robert. I'm a little miffed that EPA rejects RFS waiver request isn't higher on the list. It's a perfect example of the sort of traps we've set for ourselves and our future.

14 out of 15 options involve the US. You don't think there is some type of bias in the choices?

I have a suspicion that if half of the US population had been without power for a significant period of time, it would be a no-brainer what was the top energy related story.

$110/bbl oil price average for the year despite all the economic problems is also a big story not mentioned as a choice.

14 out of 15 options involve the US. You don't think there is some type of bias in the choices?

Actually 13, because China in the oil sands involves Canada. Sanctions on Iran is only partially about the US. But I agree that the blackouts in India were the biggest story. That is what I would have ranked #1 (and it is currently tied for 1st place).

I counted as 14 with the attempt to take over the US company to get there, but 13 still a high US dominance.

A big story also unreported, is the declining growth rate of both solar and wind energy buildout on a world wide scale. This is related to the high oil price as governments reduce incentives for them because of budget constraints, plus of course FF companies fighting to maintain profitability.

thanks. I would add:
- yellow sea territory dispute (oil/gas field claims)
- destabilisation of syria (caspian-mediterranean resource corridor)
- arctic sea-ice melt, bringing closer future resource exploration

Good choices. That South China Sea thing was looking pretty alarming for awhile there.

Robert – Interesting exercise…thanks. Ran thru the list yesterday thinking it would be an easy call. It wasn’t. I had another few hours of concentrated thought as I drove to a well site at 2 AM this morning. (Yes…Santa did go zipping by me headed for the Rio Grande Valley). I do some of my best thinking watching those white lines whip by.

I can’t come up with one story line that’s the most important. They all seem equally important. Or maybe equally unimportant relatively speaking of what needs to be done to address the PO situation in a meaningful way IMHO. Yes…convoluted thought but that’s what happens when you’re jacked up on caffeine. LOL. Certainly some were beneficial but not to a significant degree IMHO. Some were tragic but will they lead to meaningful changes? Not to a degree that would produce a game changer IMHO. But are there any real potential game changers? Many TODsters have offered such potential moves that might have such impacts. OTOH these “fixes” tend to have a common hurdle: little chance of implementation. Some will likely be forced upon society but little chance of them happening any sooner IMHO. An example: who could argue that a significant increase in motor fuel tax wouldn’t produce greater conservation and a movement to higher mpg ratings as well as increased economic advantage of EV’s.

I’m curious what a TODster thinks would be the 3 most important theoretical PO stories not seen on your list. A difficult mental puzzle also since it assumes doing what has been so strongly resisted so far. Maybe some limit to what’s physically possible regardless of how politically unlikely. Fusion electricity too cheap to meter might be a tad outside the scope of the list. To take blatant advantage of the day it might be called a Christmas PO wish list.

A merry (and safe) Christmas to you, Rock. as for "I’m curious what a TODster thinks would be the 3 most important theoretical PO stories not seen on your list...", the US is on track for another record in solar installations this year:

U.S. Solar Installations Hit Record In Third Quarter

The U.S. solar boom rolled on in the third quarter with installations jumping 44% over the previous year to 684 megawatts and is on track to end 2012 with a record 3,200 megawatts, according to a report released Tuesday, a 70% spike from 2011...

...“With costs continuing to come down and new financing options, solar energy is affordable today for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military,” Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group that prepared the report with GTM Research, said in a statement...

As for the whole holiday thing... Orlov, today: Escape from the Merry Christmas Zone

...the big holiday here [Russia] is not Christmas but the New Year, which I much prefer. Actually, I would prefer to celebrate Winter Solstice, which is an actual observable astronomical event rather than an artificial date on an artificial calendar. That is what these holidays really were before the priests co-opted them: celebrations of light. Christmas was Winter Solstice, and Easter was Spring Equinox. And so, for once, I don't feel compelled to even pretend that Christmas exists.

When one lives largely on a solar budget, "observable astronomical events", especially the winter solstice, assume a more historical (and real) place in our lives. Since we keep more to the Jewish calendar for such things, Christmas doesn't interfere too much. Our 'solstice presents' to ourselves this year all went to energy efficiency: new, more efficient refrigerator; new, more efficient washer/dryer; ordered 4.2 Kw of additional PV, new controller, etc..

Virtually our entire extended family travelled somewhere else (beach, skiing...) expressing a bit of guilt that they left us alone on their holiday. In reality, they left us with the gift of peace and quiet solitude (HUMBUGs acepted here). My wife was greatful, though she's not quite sure how to express this to the rest of the clan.

Best hopes to all for good health, more resilience, and common sense in the new year.

Happy return of the light . . .

I've always been an unwilling Christmas participant and fan of natural cycles, and avoid Christian holidays whenever possible, which is hardly ever possible with kids and grandkids. I'm fine with others loving it and not a grinch!

My favorite holiday is Losar, Tibetan style - somehow, early Feb seems just the right time for a new start and a winterish holiday.

My body tells me to hibernate otherwise!

PS - My apologies to our Leanan for the unnecessary conversation. Sometimes my work online is isolating!

Best to all today and always,

I've quit participating.
We have enough of a Nature Deficiency Disorder to empathize even more disconnect from our natural cycles.

I think Christianity is a great Borrower.. and Christmas is simply the Christian Church leaning quite fully on the real seasonal rite of solstice.

Why else would Magically Generous Elves, Evergreens under Starlight and Flying Reindeer continue to overwhelmingly dominate the iconography of the festival? Where is this really resonating with people?

(While the materialism must not be ignored either.. but it is to my eye an inevitable deviance when we silly yeasts are given unreasonable doses of cheap sugar and oil ..) Whoops, I'm out of cookies! I'll be back!

"Good artists borrow. Great Artists steal."

Happy return of the light . . .

This artificial one is not too shabby, and very much in keeping with Japan's new found commitment to transition away from nuclear and fossil fuel based energy generation !


Japan's amazing Nabana no Sato winter light show

Millions of solar-powered light bulbs make this small botanical garden the hottest spot this winter

Dubbed the best annual light show in Japan, the Nabana no Sato botanical garden has sprouted 7 million LED lights this winter.

The theme of this year's display is nature. The tunnels of millions of LED lights encased in flower-shaped bulbs create amazing natural scenes, such as Mount Fuji at dawn and a rainbow across the sky.

A large area of the park is powered by solar panels.

Hey Paul in Halifax, eat your heart out >:-)

Interesting, Fred, to compare this to what the United States was experiencing thirty-nine years ago:

Christmas 1973

At that time, over half of Florida's electricity was oil-fired and the situation was worrisome, to say the least.


I had not been familiar with Losar, and now see that the dates vary a lot. But early Feb makes sense to me. Having had various solar thermal installations in marginal conditions due to partial shading, it has become clear that a notable uptick in performance occurs reliably around Feb 5-10. This coincides with the end of 'Solar Winter', which is the quarter of the year at the bottom of the solar cycle - 13 weeks centered on the Solstice. 6 1/2 wks after the solstice is early Feb - definitely a time to celebrate the growing strength of the sun. Must be a link there to Groundhog Day I s'pose...

When one lives largely on a solar budget, "observable astronomical events", especially the winter solstice, assume a more historical (and real) place in our lives.

I have had a personal epiphany with regards to astronomical events and Christmas theses past couple of weeks. It started late one night, with a guy on the radio playing this lecture/presentation by a pastor about the pagan origins of Christmas and other Christian holidays. It picked up a little steam with my realizing that the end of the famous Mayan calendar (winter solstice) was just 4 days before Christmas. Then last night the guy plays the presentation again and finishes by playing Wiccan versions of "Jingle Bells" and "Let it Snow" and pointing out that all this stuff is out there on the internet.

When I got back to my Netbook, I started looking the stuff up and ended up having a moment not unlike my coming to "Peak Oil". A lot more stuff makes sense now, a lot. Stonehenge, Christmas trees and their decorations, the co-opting of pagan holidays by the early Catholic(?) church and the list goes on. I feel as if the history of Christmas is being suppressed to keep the sheeple in "the matrix".

It makes sense that people living on a strict solar budget would have placed great importance in the phases of the sun and would have had reason to celebrate the winter solstice as the beginning of the return or "rebirth" of the sun. Christmas will never be the same for me again since I can now see it in the perspective of pagan rites co-opted by the Christian church. I now think I can make sense of the tendency for revelry and debauchery and the crass commercialism of the season. It has more to do with deep rooted Northern European pagan traditions than any religious stories.

It has now aroused my curiosity as to whether similar winter solstice celebrations or rituals exist in tropical regions like sub Saharan Africa, the Tropical regions of South America, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia or Australia and if they did, what was the basis for them?

I now return you to regular scheduled programming. Merry Christmas to all >;-)

Alan from the islands

Actual history puts religious stories in perspective. The church has a neat story that runs from Adam, Abraham, and Moses to Jesus, Paul, and the Church. But human beings began to spread over the earth about 60,000 years ago, civilization (writing) began 10,000 or so years ago, and the major religions began around the 6th Century BCE. Christianity didn't become a world-wide religion until the 1500s, driven by colonialism. For a faith with universal pretensions, it left out a lot -- two continents and a few millennia. Not to mention dinosaurs and a universe.

There's no archeological evidence for Abraham, Moses, or even David and Solomon. King Josiah in the seventh century BCE and scribes in the later Babylonian exile seem to have constructed an epic history to give their little tribe an imposing identity. In that, they were successful. The Jewish reform movement begun by Jesus seemed to have been dissipating into various gnosticisms (not helped by Paul, who replaced the reformer with a demigod to be worshiped) when the emperor Constantine adopted the Christian religion, called the bishops to Nicea to give him a coherent story to sell, and imposed the result as the official religion of the Empire. The local variations were labled heresies and suppressed. The church served well as the empire morphed into Europe and Europe into The West. It's fading now as the remnants of empire crumble. You can believe a lot of unlikely things as long as you hear them constantly from officialdom and your peers all around you. The echo chamber is breaking and rationality coming in. (Taking longer in Oklahoma.)

People want a common story, a tribal history. Maybe "Love your neighbor" can be expanded. One way or another, the old order ends. Solstice, community, myths, continue.

As most people here knows, I am an evangelical christian (european though, I like to point that out here). And I have to stretch my mind a long way to call christmas a "christian" holliday. As the Bible tells us, Jesus was born in the summer. It is all a "let's smack a christian logotype on it, and keep up the party". I do not consider the hollyday a christian one, and if I do, it is the most minor on my list.

As a parallell, we have a midsummer holliday also. Church tried to make it christian by somehow linking it to John the batist, but it did not realy catch on, and remained a pagan festivity. I think it was the dancing around an erected phallos symbol that gave it away.

Check out this random swedish blog for how we still celebrate it, year 2012.


Also note how they tried to make it christian by adding a bar so it became a cross, but we then added to rings on it, just directing the phallos symbol downwards instead of upwards. The kids on the picture have no idea what they are dancing around.

Hey, Jedi, watch where you point that Lightsaber, eh? The Tomten are getting a little nervous and running back to the woods!

Kidding.. I appreciate your comment! I think it's easier for many people to see the Tree, the Candle, even the odd Flower-draped Phallus as a holy and powerful connection with life ** and the earth, while the parts of the Gospel that matter to me keep getting undermined or upstaged by groups that seem to clearly work from more fear than love in their Ministry, and openly seek power.

Jesus is just alright with me, as the Doobie Brothers put it.. but not when I'm told I have to regard him as a Lord or a King. Brother makes more sense to my ear.

** Remember 'Life day'?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXcb7VPw59s

Reply in this OT subject in your mailbox.


When one lives largely on a solar budget, "observable astronomical events", especially the winter solstice, assume a more historical (and real) place in our lives.

And hopefully we can live through the daze of Agnotology to reach a time when we see the value of possibly the most advanced calendar yet conceived.

Ghung - A valid point but is it happening fast enough to be a game changer (whatever the heck that really means)? Now make up your own best story of the year that reports various govt policies that will increase the annual generation of alt energy many times than what we've experienced in the lasy few years. That's sorta what I meant by being equally unimportant: any imporvement is good but what improvements are growing fast enough to change our path significantly.

Folks seem to focus much more on how bad the future may manifest itself in the face of PO and not on what we've already experienced. Maybe we've become numb to the $trillions spent and lives destroyed as a result IMHO of our response to these early days of PO. The expensive/bloody history of the last decade hasn't been incentive enough to make big changes. Our response by drilling more and an increasing focus on coal has greatly exceeded all the alt developments.

And the percentage increase? Yeah...and if I make $6,000 this tear compared to the $3,000 I made last year than I've had a 100% increase in income. YAHOO...I'm rich now! Shame on you. LOL. Yes, yes, yes...the increase was good but not enough to impress me. But remember how familiar I am with the amount of capex going towards non-alt energy these days. It ain't even close to being a contest IMHO.

An energy non-story would be the failure of the COP18 Doha climate change conference to clamp down on global FF use. They basically kicked the can down the road to 2015.

Licenses to develop the last giant oil fields in Western Siberia have been auctioned off by the Russian government:

Lodochnoye, 300 Mb - TNK-BP, $0.15bn
Shpilman, 600 Mb - Surgutneftegaz, $1.5bn
Imilorskoye, 1 400 Mb - Lukoil, $1.66bn

With respect to "German Utilities Pay Power Users as Warm, Windy Christmas Looms", how exactly does that work? How much demand can be induced by paying consumers to consume? My assumption is that most consumers are already consuming all of what they need and most of what they want. How does paying them to consume make consuming more possible without an established framework for modulating consumption as the grid requires (smart grid?)?

This may mark the beginning of the end for non-load-following FF power plants in Germany. As Germany moves towards 80% renewable energy by 2050, it will be necessary for FF generators to go offline more and more frequently while, at the same preserving the ability to pick up the slack during lulls in renewable electricity production.

I seem to remember seeing something recently that one issue with the German renewable energy laws was that no provision has been made to differentiate between dispatchable sources like hydro and biomass and non dispatchable sources such as wind and solar. It would make sense to devise a mechanism for making dispatchable sources shut down during periods of oversupply and make up for the lost revenue during times of high demand or lulls in the combined output of solar and wind.

One thing is certain, the status quo will not be able to continue much longer.

Alan from the islands

It is indeed interesting the effect renewables will have on future electricity pricing. Here we have peak rates and off peak rates, both related to consumption of electricity.

As more and more renewable electricity becomes available, the times of day when maximum availability of electricity will vary, a different pricing model will be introduced. It is possible that sunny windy afternoons will become the time for cheapest power, while still winter nights will have expensive power.

I can imagine the disruptions to economies as models for returns on investments get thrown out the window with different pricing introduced. Plus of course all the people who want to charge their EV overnight on the off-peak rates will be given a wake up call.

"..to devise a mechanism for making dispatchable sources shut down during periods of oversupply "

Hi Alan;
I'm not a 'free-market Uber Alles' kind of guy, but I do think that in this case, the mechanism you seek is the price of that power and how is going to function in just this sort of situation. As long as it isn't maliciously distorted, it seems this is a realistic function of renewable power, giving it pricepoint priority over sources that have to spend for fuels in order to generate. The burners are at a clear and completely natural disadvantage when there is a lot of solar or wind resource, and those utility providers should be made aware that this will become the new reality in utility generation.

They can call the shots, name their price (perhaps) when it is dark and becalmed, but they are out of luck when one of the natural sources is online and able to produce power without the Fuelling Costs that they have to carry. It's exactly opposite the constant refrain that says that 'Wind is completely dependent upon its backup sources in order to be a viable provider.' (IE, 'Each WT install forces a matching Gas Plant to go in for backup'..) In fact, it seems to me that the backup sources will be the ones whose existence soon depends upon enough intermittency from the renewable portions of the Utility's portfolio, and lack of demand flexibility and storage options in order to have the chance to sell their goods. And MANY storage schemes are already able to be implemented by end-users, such as Timed Appliances, Stored Heat and Coolth and soon Vehicle Charging.. so that their window, while still wide, will continue only to shrink and shrink. Probably will not go away entirely.. but it will be a whole different ballgame.

EV owners, to look to Hide-Away's point, will surely find ways to charge from the cheapest sources, and if that isn't working with Nighttime Tiered Pricing in their area, if those hours start to become Peak Purchasing hours instead, then they will charge at work, while the sun shines and somebody else is able to provide those watts for less. No?

Sure enough, the subsidies do provide some distortion, and have all too likely shifted the place where German power goes from positive to negative pricing at the moment, but above, I DID say 'malicious manipulation' of that balance. I am of the mind that this particular distortion is productive in the long run.


I'm sceptical of the solar solution but these thin films seem interesting. I could see a cheap glut of them in the hands of DIYers perhaps affecting utils revenue (also home owners assoc police)


While others have been successful in fabricating thin-film solar cells on flexible substrates before, those efforts have required modifications of existing processes or materials, notes Lee. “The main contribution of our work is that we have done so without modifying any existing processes, facilities or materials, making them viable commercially. And we have demonstrated our process on a more diverse array of substrates than ever before,” Lee says.

(Wow, I guess we just aint serious. I wonder if the thin films could lay atop these passive arrays.
it seems most of our problems are just gluttonous waste)

Reposted from FMagyar:
Absorption chiller AC units are also very popular in Asian countries like Japan, where the high cost of electricity make them very desirable. Chillers constitute up to 40% of all installed commercial air conditioning tonnage.

To respond to 'we just ain't serious'.. it becomes useful to consider there are a bunch of different We's at that point.. (With Fred as a fine example that we should avoid painting a homogenous view of the field)

In fact, there are many who are getting it more and more, which is why I'm not really skeptical about solar, while I don't expect it to prevent us hitting a great many disasters in coming decades.

But the 'as a society' WE is missing any number of opportunities for doing obvious and known things that would make their lives and predicaments better. Sugar alone, (which I just ate a bunch of this week) is the cause of just horrendous volumes of economic pain in the west, where we think we are brighter and better prepared because of science and economic strength.. but we're completely at the mercy of our medical communities, considering the state of our dentation, bone development and Calcium/Magn balances, while we each could probably find a recent immigrant in our communities from East Africa or other developing places, where they don't have dentists BECAUSE THEY DON'T LOSE THEIR TEETH.. and where they don't eat refined sugar and flour. I just asked one of my Dad's nurses who is from Abyssinia, and she says over there, elders regularly have ALL their teeth till death.. and there are NO dentists. Not because of paucity, but that there would be no work for a dentist there. When they move here, their teeth very predictably fall quickly to hell. I've personally heard witness to this several times now.

Point is, we have solutions to so many problems that we 'buy' our way out of, but very inefficiently, with enormous waste.. but it's apparently great for the economy. Smarter choices often look like 'poor economic indicators'.. alas!

(Now that I've long since stopped drinking OJ and Soda and such, my teeth/gums are doing well, so I hope the occasional week's Xmas cookies will show to be within reason..)

How do you know you are becoming another strange energy/PO/lighting person?

By the sensitive gift you received at Christmas. Hey Paul in Halifax, my wife gave me an led lantern that runs on a tea candle/thermo couple. It is quite beautiful and casts a very pleasant light. It will be more than enough to read by when the power is out. It is called a JOI model 8310 and can be viewed at www.thermologi.com Supplied by Lee Valley, I know it was probably expensive but I don't want to ruin the gift by checking on the price. Like those heat fans on top of your stove, sometimes it is just nice to have something functional and beautiful at the same time.

I guess I'm going to have to make some straight functional ones to sit on the wood cookstove. Get the stove hot enough to cook on, and have the light to see to cook with. What satisfying fun!!

Seriously, it is a wonderful light for power failure backup. I like it so much more than my functional led lanterns and other 12v lights. Worth checking out. The workmanship is quite good and as I said it is beautiful to look at on or off.


That's a pretty awesome Christmas gift, Paulo, and if you can adapt it so that it can also be powered by your wood stove, even better. Congratulations.

No Christmas presents were exchanged in our household, just gift cards for my business partner and our staff. Actually, that's not quite true; I'm ashamed to admit this, but I bought a couple packages of these single serving brewing cups that my domestic partner can take to work. As I was lifting them off the shelf I thought, "what you hold in your hand represents everything that is so very wrong in this world".


Oh, you can even add another awful layer to that mire, if so inclined.. as the Dinosaur Toy said in Toy Story.. "GREAT!, Now I've got GUILT!"

Dare to be truly happy, it's revolutionary!

(or the way Oscar Wilde put it, "Love yourself, it'll be the beginning of a lifelong romance!".. no oil required.)

Actually, my daughter, the audacious designer, was insistent that there be NO lights on the tree this year, and I was happy to concede, as she had been forced to lose the argument on where the tree was to be set up.. but my wife was equally adamant that she DID expect the tree to be well-lit.

I let them work out a compromise and stayed somewhat neutral.. but it was definitely a reminder of how hard it is for some of us to make compromises and to 'do without' as a basic piece of self-discipline. It's frequently seen as anathema to our having 'a good life' when we are told we should refrain, abstain or sacrifice. (or as Oscar also had said.. "I can resist anything but temptation!")

Let the learning continue!


When you have fur heads a tree is out of the question, let alone lights. I suppose I could nail it to the ceiling but that kind of changes it and makes me feel it should be a gum tree.